Jim Beam Adds Flavor

June 3/Orland, Fla./Orlando Sentinel -- Cocktail drinkers have become used to flavored vodkas, from grapefruit to mango to pepper, but will they go for a flavored whiskey? Cherry whiskey, to be specific?

Jim Beam is about to find out, as it launches Red Stag, one of the first flavored whiskeys rolled out on a national scale. Red Stag infuses black cherry flavors into four-year-old Jim Beam bourbon.

With Red Stag, Beam is trying to bring more drinkers into the whiskey fold, particularly women and younger consumers of legal age, said Rory Finlay, Beam Global Spirits' chief marketing officer.

"We found this appeals to quite a lot of women," he said. Indeed, flavored vodkas have succeeded partly because they have broadened vodka sales to women, analysts say.

As for the youth angle, Beam has brought in Kid Rock as Red Stag's primary pitchman. The new whiskey will sponsor Kid Rock's 25-city summer tour.

"He will be the real voice of the brand," Finlay said.

Can a flavored whiskey succeed like a flavored vodka? After all, vodka has no innate flavor, but whiskey certainly does, and a lot of drinkers like it just the way it is.

Derek Leckow, an analyst at Barrington Research, said he thinks Red Stag has a good chance of boosting Beam's sales.

Right now, there is not a lot of innovation in the spirits business, "and innovation leads to positive sales trends," he said.

John Hansell, editor and publisher of Malt Advocate, a publication for whiskey fanciers, said he thinks Red Stag will draw consumers who normally do not drink the stuff.

"How it fits with whiskey purists is something still to be determined," he said. "I had a sample, and I enjoyed it."  

From the June 8, 2009, Prepared Foods E-dition