Red Stag Bourbon sweetens Beam sales

Red Stag Bourbon sweetens Beam sales

Bourbon purists saw it as sacrilege, but Beam Global's black cherry-infused version of its flagship Jim Beam brand has been a rare success story on a tough US spirits market in the last year.

Launched in June 2009, Red Stag by Jim Beam has helped to drive Bourbon sales growth for Beam Global Spirits & Wine for the year to the end of December.

"Red Stag blew away our forecasts and became one the hottest new Bourbon products in years," said Fortune CEO Bruce Carbonari in the group's full-year conference call on Friday (29 January).

Beam Global's like-for-like net sales fell by 4% in the fourth quarter of 2009 and were down 0.5% for the year.

But, the group's fourth quarter US Bourbon sales rose by low single digits, during a recession that has put the stoppers on consumer demand for premium spirits and curtailed market growth.  

Red Stag, priced at around US$18 for 750ml, drove the rise, said the group.

Bourbon enthusiasts greeted cherry-infused Jim Beam with heavy scepticism last year, but some have been turned. The US-based Liquor Snob website and blog said in April that "we were concerned about some syrupy glop closer to Nyquil than our old standby...But we have to say, our fears were not justified".

As well as winning over a few of the old firm, Red Stag has also "attracted new consumers to the Bourbon category", according to Carbonari.

Beam Global's president in the US, Bill Newlands, told just-drinks last year that Red Stag has "proven very strong with women". 

Beam has deliberately used Red Stag to put Bourbon on the tables of young, urban adults, some of whom would probably have previously played safe with a vodka. Beam has sought to enter that space with suggestions such as Red Stag & Cola and a Red Manhattan cocktail.

It is still early days, but, by doing so, the group may have carved out a lucrative new growth avenue for the Bourbon category.