Welcome to the Straightbourbon.com Forums.
Page 1 of 5 123 ... LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 42
  1. #1
    **DONOTDELETE**
    Guest

    Seagram\'s and Sazerac

    Ken, I have a history question that you may be able to answer. Or at least have some fun trying to find out...

    Once upon a time, way back before single barrels and small batches, there were basically two "premium" bourbons. They were the same two that most dull, uninteresting bars still stock as their only premium bourbons to this day -- Wild Turkey and Maker's Mark. Three, actually, if you count Jack Daniel's as a bourbon, which virtually all of these bars did (and still do).

    Now sometime in the late '60s I believe, Seagram's began marketing blatant knockoffs of these popular brands, or at least two of them. The marketing was directed toward the same people who buy imitations of well-known designer cologne brands. Eagle Rare 101 (their alternative to Wild Turkey) was a good one and Benchmark (their version of Maker's Mark) was, well, not. At least that seems to be true of those brands today. Seagram's sold them to Sazerac at some point and production moved to Buffalo Trace (Ancient Age then) from the Old Prentice distillary outside of Lawrenceburg (well, they called it the Old Prentice; I imagine it was really the Spanish mission distillery where they make Four Roses now). Both brands are still being made and sold by Sazerac, but there doesn't seem to be any attempt to associate them with other brands anymore. In fact, the single-barrel version of Benchmark isn't bad at all, and the recent release of Eagle Rare 17-year-old has brought new (and well-deserved) attention to this fine brand.

    Please don't think I'm being derrogatory here. What I casually call "knockoffs" are just clever marketing (at least they were at that time) of what still needs to be decent bourbon if it's ever going to last. Which these have. And it should also be mentioned here that Seagram's has long had a reputation for, shall we say, inventive use of brand names in marketing that goes beyond what other bourbon distillers seem to feel is really necessary.

    So my questions are,

    (1) Just when did Sazerac purchase the brands from Seagram's?
    (2) Is the 17-year-old Eagle Rare from the old Seagram's stock?
    (3) Will anything like this be done with any remaining Benchmark stock?
    (4) Did Seagram's ever release a similar knockoff of Jack Daniel (like just about everyone else did)? If so, whatever happened to it? Did Sazerac buy that one?
    (5) What can you tell us about a Buffalo Trace brand called "Kentucky Rain"?

    =John=
    http://w3.one.net/~jeffelle/whiskey

  2. #2
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
    Join Date
    Sep 1999
    Location
    Chicago
    Posts
    12,605

    Re: Seagram\'s and Sazerac

    It has never occurred to me that Benchmark and Eagle Rare were supposed to capitalize on the popularity of Maker's Mark and Wild Turkey. I'm not even sure the timing is right. I don't know if Maker's was really a factor when Benchmark was introduced. I recall that introduction, i.e., the advertising for it. I don't recall the introduction of Eagle Rare. Do you know them to have been introduced at about the same time? I do recall hearing that Bechmark was the last new major bourbon brand until Booker's, Blanton's and their ilk were coined in the late 1980s. My recollection of that period is that Daniel's, Turkey and Old Grand-Dad were the leading premiums; with Jim Beam, Old Crow and Early Times being the leading popular brands.

    Of course it is well known (and pretty obvious) that Evan Williams and Ezra Brooks were conceived as Jack Daniel's knockoffs. Jeremiah Weed was one of many Southern Comfort knockoffs.

    According to my records, Sazerac acquired Benchmark and Eagle Rare from Seagram's in 1989, when Seagram's unloaded quite a number of its lesser brands. I believe Heaven Hill acquired Henry McKenna and others in that same sale.

    --Chuck Cowdery

  3. #3
    Enthusiast
    Join Date
    Nov 2000
    Location
    Frankfort, KY
    Posts
    499

    Re: Seagram\'s and Sazerac

    I have spoken with Sazerac president, Mark Brown, and can report the following.
    1. Sazerac bought Eagle Rare and Benchmark from Seagram in 1989.
    2. The Eagle Rare 17 was made here from Mash Bill Rye-1 (1981).
    3. Benchmark, recently awarded the Best of Show at the International Spirits Challenge 2000 (London), will continue to be released under the same name.
    4. Seagram's did release a knockoff of Jack Daniel's - #1 Bourbon Street. It did not live up to expectations. Perhaps Benchmark was also intended to battle JD, however, we can't verify that. Seagram had been trying to break into the premium bourbon category and they apparently thought a contempory package was the answer. It was not. Also, we did not buy it.
    5. Kentucky Rain was a bourbon that was introduced primarily because we wanted to legally protect the name "Rain". You see, we are the only distillery in Kentucky that also produces vodka, namely, Rain Vodka. This product is made of 100% organically grown corn and is consistently rated in the top 10 internationally. It is generally rated as the #1 vodka produced in the states.

    Some general information. Seymour Leikind ran Austin Nichols and was then hired by Seagram's to run General Wine and Spirit. This outfit introduced Eagle Rare. So, my assumption is that Eagle Rare was to compete with Wild Turkey. We have changed that strategy. Not only is the eagle a distinct American icon, it also flys better than a turkey.
    Old Prentice is the original name for the "Spanish Mission". Originally owned by J.T.S. Brown, when we bought Eagle Rare from Seagram, they sold us the name. I can't say when Four Roses was first made there.
    Finally, Benchmark was introduced in the 60s and Eagle Rare in the 80s.

    Ken


  4. #4
    **DONOTDELETE**
    Guest

    Re: Seagram\'s and Sazerac

    I have been tracking the home of Bulleit, wonder if you might have some info. I went to Buffalo Trace for a tour on the day after Christmas-- thought a tour would enlighten me. Unfortunately they were closed, so I headed down to Wild Turkey for a tour. Our hostess there did not give up any info on where it is made, though she mentioned something about Four Roses Distillery. I have read several postings at this site which gave Bulleit negative remarks. My research leads me to believe it is owned by Seagram's or was until lately.


  5. #5
    Connoisseur
    Join Date
    Aug 2000
    Location
    Bloomington, IN
    Posts
    784

    Bulleitt

    I hate to post this without actually checking my facts but I'm pretty sure it has been a Seagrams product (based on my reading about Seagrams a couple of weeks back). I'd expect it may be up for grabs as Diageo/Pernod sells off some brands.

    Greg


  6. #6
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
    Join Date
    Sep 1999
    Location
    Chicago
    Posts
    12,605

    Re: Bulleitt

    Here's what I know about Bulleit:

    Bulleit bourbons debuted in late 1995. There were two expressions, Bulleit and Thoroughbred. They were the brainchild of a Lexington, KY, tax lawyer named Tom Bulleit Jr., who grew up in Louisville and as a kid worked at the old Bernheim Distillery during summer vacation. Making his own bourbon was a lifelong ambition.

    In 1989, a 4,000 case batch of bourbon was made by the Ancient Age Distillery (now called Buffalo Trace) on Bulleit's behalf. It was dumped and bottled in the summer of 1995. The Thoroughbred expression was 86 proof and the Bulleit expression was 90 proof.

    Bulleit touted his brand as "re-engineered bourbon." He said it was aged using a special process that allowed it to gain the equivalent of eight to ten years of age in only four to six years. Though he would not disclose the process, he obviously was talking about the common practice, when bourbon is aged in masonry warehouses, of periodically heating the warehouses during the winter to simulate the heating and cooling of summer.

    I reviewed the Bulleit expression at the time and found it undistinguished, possessing an industrial solvent aroma that was, needless to say, pretty unpleasant and distracting.

    I didn't hear much more about Bulleit until a few months ago, when someone on this board reported seeing it at WhiskeyFest in New York, at the Seagram's table.

    That's everything I know.

    --Chuck Cowdery

  7. #7
    Connoisseur
    Join Date
    Aug 2000
    Location
    Bloomington, IN
    Posts
    784

    Re: Bulleitt

    Chuck, I found a quote about Bulleit in a London newspaper -- though I could not find it this morning to verify. It was reported as a Seagram product in the UK. I'll check again.

    Greg


  8. #8
    Enthusiast
    Join Date
    Nov 2000
    Location
    Frankfort, KY
    Posts
    499

    Re: Bulleitt

    Chuck pretty much hit the nail on the head. I was really never impressed with the initial bottling of Bulleit, nor the Seagram's version. It just didn't have the body, or depth. I do like the "re-engineered" line. You can tell this came from a marketing type! The special process is well over a century old, and as Chuck points out, it consists of heating the warehouses in the winter to encourage additional cycling of the bourbon.
    Seagram has owned the brand for the last few years and it has contained their bourbon.

    Ken


  9. #9
    **DONOTDELETE**
    Guest

    Re: Bulleitt

    Thankyou so much for the information. I am learning that there is alot to learn about Bourbons. But it is fun researching. This board has given me lots to ponder and read.


  10. #10
    Connoisseur
    Join Date
    Aug 2000
    Location
    Bloomington, IN
    Posts
    784

    learning about boubon

    Glad you "discovered" us. You'll find a lot in the old threads here and some great links on the main pages of this site. As you can see, we try to provide in depth and accurate information. And you're absolutely right. There is a lot more to bourbon than most people realize (I've found most bartenders can't even correctly define bourbon) and learning plus tasting is a lot of fun! Welcome aboard.

    Greg


 

 

Similar Threads

  1. Seagram's Lawrenceburg,IN plant to close by 2008
    By ThomasH in forum General Bourbon Discussion
    Replies: 12
    Last Post: 04-24-2006, 14:55
  2. Seagram's 7 Crown
    By Gillman in forum Other American Whiskey
    Replies: 2
    Last Post: 12-27-2004, 16:45
  3. Seagram's VO Gold
    By Gillman in forum Foreign Whiskey
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 10-25-2003, 14:08
  4. Seagram's Sale
    By kitzg in forum Industry News
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: 09-17-2001, 08:19
  5. Seagram's Lawrenceburg, Ind.
    By **DONOTDELETE** in forum General Bourbon Discussion
    Replies: 4
    Last Post: 09-10-2000, 16:34

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  
Back to top