Flavored whiskeys are on fire. Fireball has been leading the charge but there are a number of strong contenders and the segment is expanding rapidly.
“When we introduced Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey in 2011, there were about a dozen flavored whiskeys, and very few large ones. Today more than 200 new products have been introduced, many of which have done very well,” says Casey Nelson, flavors brand director.
Jack Daniel’s portfolio also includes Tennessee Fire, a spicy cinnamon flavored whiskey, as well as the seasonal Jack Daniel’s Winter Jack. The brand’s ready-to-drink products Country Cocktails recently launched a new flavor, Southern Peach.
“Performance is strong for our brands in this category,” says Kristie Wooldridge, communications manager for Sazerac Company, Inc. The company’s portfolio includes Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey and Southern Comfort. “Our brands have healthy consumer pull, and we see strong trends in both on- and off-premise,” she adds.
“Jack Fire has more sales coming from the on-trade, compared to Jack Honey which tends to be more of an at-home occasion,” Nelson says.
On the off-premise side, each retailer seems to be taking a different approach to shelving when it comes to flavored whiskeys. Some of the variation comes because while some flavored products are extensions of a whiskey brands, other flavored whiskeys don’t have a parent brand.
“We would prefer to see Jack Fire and Jack Honey next to Jack Daniel’s in the highly shopped whiskey aisle,” says Nelson.
But some retailers choose to stock flavored whiskeys in the cordial section, so customers can explore.
Southern Comfort has officially found its way back to New Orleans with a revamped package and new positioning, called “The Spirit of New Orleans,” a nod to the brand’s 140-plus year association with the city, says Mark Treichel, marketing manager for Southern Comfort.
“In addition, the brand will once again include whiskey in the blend, which over time had been phased out prior to Sazerac’s purchase of the iconic brand in 2016.” Those changes are reflected in new labels. Plus, the bottles are taller and slightly narrower and retain their longstanding iconic fluted shoulders plus the signature of creator, M.W. Heron.
Recently the brand added a robust, whiskey-forward black label expression to its lineup. “We are intent on playing in the whiskey space and felt it was critical to have a profile and proof that is well anchored within the global whiskey landscape for the foreseeable future,” Treichel says.
Thomas Henry Strenk is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer with over 20 years experience covering the beverage and restaurant industries. In his small apartment-turned-alchemist-den, he homebrews beer kombucha, and concocts his own bitters and infusions.