In his excellent seminar at WhiskeFest Chicago, Dave Pickerell of Maker's Mark brought forth the term "modern bourbons," which he defined as every new bourbon brand introduced since Maker's Mark was launched in 1958. Although the term is somewhat self-serving, I find it useful and may adopt it. I have been using terms such as "super-premium," "luxury" and "small batch" to describe the same thing, but "super-premium" and "luxury" are problematic because some of brands aren't particularly pricey, and "small batch" has the problem of being a Jim Beam creation, being very vaguely defined, and like "super-premium" it doesn't really describe some brands, such as Maker's and even one of the original small batchers, Knob Creek. I have also used the term "new bourbons," but I included Maker's in that set and it is nearly 50 years old. Blanton's and the Beam small batchers are nearly 20 years old. So "modern" seems better than "new."
The significance of giving the segment a name is that for the last nearly two decades, the "modern bourbons" segment has been growing at a double-digit clip (admittedly from a very small base) while the "traditional bourbons" segment has been flat or shrinking, leaving the overall American whiskey category flat or shrinking. Now, however, the "modern bourbons" segment has grown to the point where it is lifting the category and for the last couple of years, American whiskey has been up slightly but consistently.
Here are the eight "new bourbons" I described in an article as "the new face of American whiskey." I don't mean this list to be complete, but I think it represents the segment's leaders and, not coincidentally, is one per company.
<ul type="square">[*]Maker's Mark[*] Knob Creek[*] Woodford Reserve[*] Eagle Rare Single Barrel[*] Bulleit[*] Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage[*] Wild Turkey Russellís Reserve[*] Ridgemont Reserve[/list]