Flavor added to Jim Beam

Maker seeks broader appeal

CHICAGO – 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, available this week, infuses black cherry flavors into 4-year-old Jim Beam bourbon.

Beam is the biggest brand in the spirits business of Deerfield, Ill.-based Fortune Brands Inc., a mini-conglomerate that also makes Titleist golf balls and Moen fixtures.

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.

But 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.

John Hansell, editor and publisher of Malt Advocate, a publication for whiskey fanciers, said he thinks Red Stag will draw consumers who normally don’t 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.”

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