Beam Global Spirits & Wine is looking to double exports of its Maker's Mark Bourbon this year, as part of a strategy to reduce its reliance on the US market.

Beam exported 8% of its 850,000 nine-litre cases of Maker's Mark produced in 2008 and aims to raise this to 15% in 2009, assistant master distiller for Maker's, Dennis Potter, told journalists at an event in London last night (25 March).

The UK will be Beam's main focus for increasing export sales and Maker's Mark will benefit from a GBP500,000 marketing spend in the country this year.

Beam's export strategy for Maker's is designed to reduce the brand's reliance on the US market for growth.

Potter said that the firm could be exporting more than 30% of Maker's Mark production by 2020, by which time he envisages the company producing around 2.25m cases annually.

Commenting on the global economic climate, Potter said that it remains impossible to predict how the spirits sector will hold up in 2009.

"Things are just nuts right now," he said. "We have no idea what our growth is going to to be like in 2009."

He said: "One thing I can guarantee is that we will outperform the [Bourbon] market, and really, in times like these, that's all you can do. For the first two months of this year, we have done more business than we did in the first two months of last year."

Potter added that, although Beam wants to build exports of Maker's Mark, the US market for Bourbon remains "far from saturated".

Part of the UK marketing spend for Maker's Mark has been invested in the Maker's Mark Embassy, which is a network of 50 of the UK's top bars and has been created by Beam to get the country's best bartenders promoting the Bourbon brand in a variety of cocktails.

On the UK promotion, Maker's brand manager Janice Moorfield said that bartenders would be offered the chance to attend exclusive events, meet distillers, enter a competition to visit the distillery in Kentucky and also receive POS promotional material.