New Products & Promotions: October 2011 Edition

Posted on | October 28, 2011   Bookmark and Share
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Hiram Walker introduces Caramel Apple, the newest flavor addition to its portfolio of all-natural liqueurs, schnapps, brandies and triple-secs. Hiram Walker Caramel Apple complements a variety of other spirits and mixers in seasonal cocktails. The launch is being supported with trade advertising, blogger outreach, retail sampling and custom POS. SRP: $9.99


New from Red Truck for the holiday season are the “Little Trucks”—the same bold ed Truck Red table wine, now available in 187ml bottles that make perfect stocking stuffers. Red Truck is part of the Bronco Wine Company portfolio of wines owned by the Franzia family which has been in the wine business for more than 110 years. Red Truck is marketed nationally by 585 Wine Partners.



Gran Duque D’Alba XO is an artful combination of soleras of Gran Duque D’Alba and Gran Duque D’Alba Oro aged 18 years. Final aging takes place in American oak casks that previously held Don Guido, an award-winning 20-year-aged Pedro Ximénez sherry. Gran Duque D’Alba XO has received gold medals in numerous competitions and scored 91 points at the 2011 Ultimate Spirits Challenge.


Tuaca Liqueur recently launched a limited edition package featuring a sketch of the iconic Tuaca Lion designed by celebrity tattoo artist Corey Miller. The thermochromatic ink uses a unique dye that changes color based on temperature. When the ink on the Tuaca abel turns blue, it has reached the optimal chilled temperature. SRP: $21.99

TRI-VIN IMPORTS PRESENTS “TUSSOCK JUMPER” WINESTri-Vin Imports, Inc. introduces Tussock Jumper, a new premium, multi-regional brand that features some of the world’s best-known grape varieties bottled at origin. The labels vividly illustrate the link between local grapes and local animals in a simple and humorous way that encourages the consumer to explore the Tussock Jumper series. SRP: $9.99


Cu Chulainn (pronounced Koo Kullen) means “Hound of Cullen” and is named for one of the greatest heroes in Irish legend. The Irish whiskey is distilled by Cooley Distillery and blended by the Cu Chulainn Irish Whiskey Company. The result is smooth and easy drinking, with notes of spice, smoke and a hint of honey. SRP: $23.99. For more information, contact Phoenix/Beehive/Lobo Distributing.



Drambuie Liqueur first introduced its new premium expression Drambuie 15 during this year’s Tales of the Cocktail. A careful curation of old Speyside malts complement the aromas of the original Drambuie recipe and result in a drier expression with strong whisky overtones. Drambuie 15 appeals to both fans of the original offering wanting to trade up as well as those who like to experiment with malt whisky. SRP: $56


Contemassi wines, a collection of Tuscan varietals are a new addition to the Bronco Wine Company line. Wines from this new brand include a Chianti, Toscana, Chianti Classico, Chianti Riserva, Chianti lassico Riserva and Brunello di Montalcino. Contemassi is part of the Bronco Wine Company portfolio of wines owned by the Franzia Family which has been in the wine business for more than 110 years. Contemassi is marketed nationally by Domaine Napa Wine Company.



Van Gogh Vodka has added Rich Dark Chocolate and Cool Peach flavors to their portfolio. Rich Dark Chocolate Vodka packs a decadent punch of cocoa for an intense taste and aromas of coffee and spice—a departure from milk chocolate vodkas. Van Gogh Cool Peach Vodka features a combination of ripe peaches with a bright hint of mint. SRP: $27


Newcastle Werewolf is the second of Newcastle’s Limited Edition seasonal brews. Naturally blood red in color, Werewolf offers sweet berry tones and a bitter bite, and is available in 6- and 12-packs as well as 50L draught keg format. The Limited Edition offerings grew out of a collaboration between England’s Newcastle Breweries and Caledonian Brewery in Scotland.


Lucas Bols has released Bols Barrel Aged Genever, developed exclusively for the American market. Designed to attract fans of bourbon, Bols Barrel Aged Genever starts with a malt wine base that is mixed with traditional Genever botanicals, then aged in French oak for at least 18 months. Available in limited quantity starting this fall. SRP: $49.99


The Si Soave bottle may just be too pretty to toss. This holiday season every bottle of Si Soave comes with a stainless steel olive oil pourer to give the bottle an afterlife. Si Soave is a clean and fresh, unoaked white produced by Enoitalia and imported by FX Magner Selections. SRP: $9.99


New Products & Promotions: September 2011 Edition

Posted on | October 28, 2011   Bookmark and Share
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Jura is an island like no other that produces distinctive single malts. Jura 21-Year-Old is a limited edition offering created to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the distillery. The whisky is aged in American white oak and finished in 1963 Oloroso sherry casks from Gonzalez Bypass. Aromas of crushed walnuts and orange peel complement hints of maraschino cherries and licorice on the finish. SRP: $175


The 2010 White Truck Moscato is a beautifully complex, full-bodied wine. Its lively fruit aromas of orange blossoms, passionfruit and wild flowers coupled with the wine’s sweetly smooth mouthfeel make it a perfect pairing for desserts. Fruit for the 2010 Moscato was picked from select vineyards throughout California. White Truck is marketed nationally by 585 Wine Partners.



On the palate, Chocolat Razberi delivers lush milk chocolate accented by warm vanillacocoa notes; a sensual velvety texture with a clean finish enhanced by the true essence of ripe red berries. This elegantly aromatic vodka is perfect for sipping solo or as a key ingredient in inventive cocktails. Special edition Chocolat Razberi is accompanied by a distinctive bottle and packaging. SRP: 750ml, $26.99


From Domaine Drappier comes the first ever kosher product of Carte Blanche and Carte d’Or Champagnes. The Carte Blanche is made from 75% Pinot Noir, 15% Pinot Meunier and 10% Chardonnay grapes, while the Carte d’Or is a blend of 80% Pinot Noir, 15% Chardonnay and 5% Pinot Meunier. Both wines are excellent for both apéritif drinking and everyday enjoyment. SRP: $59.99


Dos Maderas Rum is made using the innovative double-cask aging process that creates beautifully aged rum from Spain. The two expressions, 5+3 and PX, are born and aged five years in the Caribbean and then shipped to Spain to rest in sherry casks for three to five years. Dos Maderas PX recently won the Chairman’s Trophy at the 2011 Ultimate Spirits Challenge. Prices vary.

The Bitter End

Posted on | October 27, 2011   Bookmark and Share
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Brandon Wise is bar manager at BEAKER & FLASK, PORTLAND, OR

 “Portland’s cocktail scene is similar to that of its food scene—two parts super talented, and one part rebel attitude,” points out Brandon Wise, bar manager at Beaker & Flask in the city’s Industrial District and VP of the Oregon Bartenders’ Guild. “There’s an underlying philosophy here that adheres to using high-quality ingredients with a focus on technique and expressing our region with local distillates and a farm-to-glass mentality.”

Enter “The Bitter End,” Wise’s refreshing libation crafted from Oregon made Ransom Old Tom Gin. It’s his signature drink for Portland Cocktail eek, held October 20th – 23rd, to celebrate “our passion for quality and our penchant for fun alongside the ever expanding bartending community from all over the globe.” The cocktail, says Wise, is “a toast to Portland Cocktail Week and the end of an era of pretentious ‘mixologists.’”

1 ½ oz. Ransom Old Tom Gin
¾ oz. Gran Classico Bitter
¾ oz. fresh lemon juice
½ oz. quinine syrup*
¼ oz. 2:1 simple syrup
3 dashes Regan’s orange bitters

Build ingredients in mixing tin; add ice, then shake and double strain into a Collins glass over ice. Top with soda and garnish with quartered cucumber and lemon wheels.

* Beaker & Flask quinine syrup adapted from Kevin Ludwig’s recipe
7 cups water
2 cups pure cane sugar
4 Tbsp. quinine (powdered cinchona bark; available in some herb stores or online)
10 Tbsp. powdered citric acid (found in the bulk section of most well-stocked grocery stores)
3 limes, cut into chunks

Stir well and simmer for about 25 minutes, until the powders are dissolved and the syrup is thin and runny. Remove from heat and let cool. Strain out the large chunks through a colander, then filter through cheesecloth or coffee filters to refine. Funnel the syrup into sterilized glass bottles, cover tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to several weeks.

The Find: October 2011 Edition

Posted on | October 25, 2011   Bookmark and Share
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Camus—the last independent, family-owned Cognac house and fifth largest worldwide—has released a range of Certified Single Vintage Cognacs, featuring: 1964, 1970, 1971, 1974, 1980, 1988, 1989 and the exclusive Pionneau 1969 (fewer than 5,000 bottles, each signed to guarantee authenticity). Priced to retail from $280-$1,250, the vintage-dated 750mls diverge from the typical Cognac practice of multi-vintage offerings, and should appeal to eau-de-vie connoisseurs as well as gift-givers with birth years in mind. The absence of additives and chill-filtering allows each vintage to maintain distinct, natural character and aromas. Camus also produces an XO Borderies, and the Elegance range (VS, VSOP, XO). Currently sold in more than 140 countries and on-board 50 international airlines, CAMUS was successfully launched in the U.S. in 2010.


Know which state was the last to vote for the 18th Amendment, repealing Prohibition? Utah.In fact, the Utah delegation wanted to cast the final vote. “No other state shall take away this glory from Utah” proclaimed the leader of the state delegation back in December of 1933. High West Distillery, based in Park City, has commemorated that erstwhile badge of honor with The 36th Vote, a barreled Manhattan. High West chose the Manhattan because of its classic appeal, drawing on a pre-Prohibition recipe of two parts rye whiskey to one part sweet vermouth and two dashes of bitters. The 74-proof mixture was “married” in the rye’s American white oak barrels for 90 days to integrate the rye’s spiciness, the vermouth’s herbs and the bitters’ complexity. SRP: $49.99


Located in southeastern Europe where the Blue Danube River meets the Black Sea, Romanian vineyards share latitudes with such great wine regions as Bordeaux, Burgundy and Piedmont. Now, branded as “Select Wines of Europe—Romania’s Finest,” six wineries have banded together to enter the U.S. The group includes Cramele Recas, Halewood Romania, Senator, Domeniul Coroanei Segarcea, Murfatlar and Carl Reh-Crama Oprisor; together they have 15,000 acres under vine. Indigenous varietal wines such as Feteasca Neagra—known for its intense ruby color and strong personality—are available from each of the six, long with wines made from international varietals.


With the October release of a five-wine lineup, House Band Wines are aiming to rock the holiday season. Patrick Krutz of Krutz Family Cellars created the new label after his music-biz friends lamented that they couldn’t get good wines by-the-glass for their music venues. The House Band quintet includes two non-vintage blends (White+3 and Red+5, SRP $8.99), plus three $10.99 varietal wines: 2009 Chardonnay, 2009 Merlot and 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon. The bold packaging is designed to “pop,” even in dimly lit bars. The brand is leveraging technology and industry relationships in both wine and music to create a loyal community and fan base, partnering with musical artists and venues, co-promoting through online editorial content, and via strategic events and projects. The brand is also committing 2% of all sales to support regional music programs and charities.

Wine Buzz: October 2011 Edition

Posted on | October 25, 2011   Bookmark and Share
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In a stroke of head-smacking ingenuity, historian and wine buff Dr. David Gissen has created a wine map of France that emulates a subway map. While not to scale, the map faithfully depicts major regions and subappellations in their relative positions, plus major grapes shown in geographical context, and even architectural landmarks. Printed on acid-free matte paper, suitable for framing; $24.95 from



Australia’s De Bortoli Wines is toasting 2012 with a quartet of new bubblies under the Emeri label. Priced at $12.99, the Moscato, Pink Moscato, Sparkling Pinot Grigio and Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc are lower in alcohol content, ranging from 8% to 12%. Emeri wines offer exactly what many Americans are looking for, according to Craig Orchard, U.S. De Bortoli’s VP of sales: “They are sweeter, effervescent and classy, while not breaking the bank.”


Medinet, the #1 selling French red wine in Germany’s food retail segment is entering the U.S., along with a white sibling, in eye-catching bulbous bottles. Sourced from Mediterranean vineyards of France, the Rouge is a blend of Rhône grapes Grenache, Carignan and Syrah; the Blanc mixes Sauvignon Blanc, Marsanne, Chardonnay and Colombard. Both are demi-sec (the red is 12% ABV, white 10.5%) and will retail for $9.99-$10.99. Niche Import Co.


Gnarly Head has a new blend, Authentic Red, based on Zinfandel and aiming to showcase its origin in Lodi, CA. Vintners have been making robust reds in Lodi since the Gold Rush, and Lodi’s gnarled vines, especially Zinfandel, are often up to a century old. For Authentic Red, Gnarly Head’s director of viticulture Bud Bradley worked with growers in Lodi’s Mokelumne River sub-disctrict to source prime Zinfandel, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. SRP: $11.99


Mercer Estates’ new Wine Out West series honors the pioneering spirit of the Mercer Estates families, who have lived and worked in Washington State for more than 125 years. The 2009 Dead Canyon Cabernet Sauvignon (SRP $16.99) from Horse Heaven Hills and 2010 Gone Fishin’ Riesling (semi-dry, SRP $11.99) from Columbia Valley are out now; two more wines will come in 2012. The labels were designed by Washington native Diane Whitehead.


Dalla Terra Winery Direct founder Brian Larky and Luca Currado, fifth-generation enologist of Vietti, have released the 2004 Villero Riserva Barolo DOCG (SRP $300). Only produced in outstanding vintages (the previous release was the 2001), this wine hails from Piedmont’s celebrated Castiglione Falletto. Just over 3,700 750ml bottles, 100 magnums and a handful of larger-format bottles were produced. Continuing a tradition of labels designed by local artists, Russian-born Leonid Sokov was tapped for the 2004 Villero.

No. 11 Cup

Posted on | October 21, 2011   Bookmark and Share
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Leo Robitschek is head bartender at ELEVEN MADISON PARK, NEW YORK, NY

“I think it’s imperative for a restaurant’s cocktail menu to coincide with the food being served,” shares Leo Robitschek, head bartender at Eleven Madison Park, the well-loved Danny Meyer establishment that won this year’s first ever Best Restaurant Bar award at Tales of the Cocktail. “At Eleven Madison Park this is present in the seasonality of both our food and cocktail menus. I feel blessed to have access to amazing local produce and a bevy of other ingredients that most cocktail bars do not, as well as the knowledge and enthusiasm of a great chef.” As summer morphs into autumn, The “No.11 Cup,” Robitschek’s sultry take on the classic Pimm’s Cup, is fitting. “I wanted a drink that was darker and more bitter for the fall,” he says, “but still light in alcohol and refreshing.No 11 Cup

1 oz. Averna
1 oz. Carpano Punt e Mes
¾ oz. lemon juice
½ oz. Demerara simple syrup (1:1)
* ½ oz. ginger lime syrup
Grapefruit twist

Muddle the cucumber and grapefruit twist with the above ingredients. Shake and strain into a highball with fresh ice. Top with Fever Tree tonic water. Garnish with a cucumber slice, mint and a grapefruit twist.

* Ginger Lime Syrup


Take two cups of water and bring to a simmer. Add ½ cup of peeled and diced ginger, the zest of three limes, the juice of three limes and 1 ½ cups of Demerara sugar. Stir and simmer for five minutes. Strain.

Green Corner: September 2011 Edition

Posted on | October 20, 2011   Bookmark and Share
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Along with their garlic-cheese biscuits, guests at Ruby Tuesday restaurants can sip on VeeV cocktails. The açai spirit finds its way into creations like a Pomegranate Martini with Cuervo Gold Tequila and the “Superfruit Cooler” with Absolut Berri Açai and St-Germain.


Renwood Winery, a member of the California Sustainable Wine Growing Alliance, has been purchased by Ren Acquisition, Inc., a privately owned company chaired by Alejandro Pedro Bulgheroni. Acting as primary wine consultant is Carlos Pulenta, who along with partner Bulgheroni, has helped elevate Argentina’s position in the premium wine market with Vistalba and Tomero wines. A revered Amador County Zinfandel producer, Renwood represents a significant international move for the company.


Maggie Harrison, former winemaker at Sine Qua Non, presides over the vineyard at Antica Terra, set on 40 acres of rocky hillside in the Eola-Amity Hills of Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Her collection of naturally fermented wines includes the 2009 Estate Grown Pinot Noir. Lush and flaunting cinnamon-stick aromatics, it debuts in November.


Guests of the Samoset Resort in Rockport, ME, can now unwind with libations featuring freshplucked herbs from the hotel’s Cocktail Garden and juices from RIPE. At La Bella Vita, the Samoset’s new Italian trattoria and enoteca, the “San Marzano Tomato Bloody Mary,” “Snipped Basil Lime Rickey” and “Italian Grapefruit Gimlet” are all on the menu.


Argentina’s Familia Zuccardi recently introduced Santa Julia [+] Wines, a new line made with organic estategrown grapes. The varietals include Torrontes, Pinot Grigio, Viognier, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon, all packaged in lightweight glass bottles that reflect the brand’s ‘Sustainable By Nature’ identity.


Wine on tap may no longer be novel, but leave it to the Tippling Bros., Tad Carducci and Paul Tanguay, to up the ante. At Tavernita—the new Spanish inspired restaurant from Mercadito Hospitality Group opening in Chicago this fall—the duo will unveil vermouth on tap and eco-friendly kegged cocktails overseen by “batchologists.”

Wine Buzz: September 2011 Edition

Posted on | October 13, 2011   Bookmark and Share
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On the heels of its December 2010 launch, Argentina’s Bodega DiamAndes has released three new varietal wines. The winery is owned by the Bonnie family of Bordeaux fame, and was established as a part of the Clos de Los Siete group in Argentina in 2005. The new wines are entirely estate-grown and include a 2010 Malbec, Chardonnay and Viognier; they will reach U.S. shores this month. The wines are imported in the U.S. by CVGB Group-Dourthe (SRP: $20).


Laurent-Perrier Champagne has unveiled its latest vintage, the Brut Millésimé 2002. Laurent-Perrier rarely declares a vintage, waiting for only exceptional years. Made with 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Noir, the Brut Millésimé 2002 was bottle-aged in its cellars in Tours-sur-Marne for nearly eight years before being disgorged prior to release. Considered the finest year in Champagne since 1996, the 2002 harvest yielded fruity, vivacious Champagnes (SRP: $69.99).


Antinori’s famed Tormaresca winery—rightly credited as helping to revolutionize winemaking in southern Italy’s Puglia region—has just released two new wines: the 2010 Roycello Fiano and the 2008 Trentangeli, an Aglianico blend. The first is made from 100% Fiano from Tormaresca’s Masseria Maìme estate and shows great acidity and lovely floral notes (SRP: $22). The modern-styled 2008 Rosso DOC is a blend of 65% Aglianico, 25% Cabernet and 10% Syrah and is produced at the Bocca di Lupo winery (SRP: $24).$100-$500


Ca’ Montini, one of northern Italy’s finest producers, launches Terra di Valfredda Pinot Grigio 2010, made by newly appointed winemaker, Riccardo Cotarella. Imported by Aveníu Brands, it is fragrant, crisp and marked by floral and citrus notes. Cotarella’s experience with Pinot Grigio comes from 12 years of experimentation conducted in the vineyard as well as in the cellar at the University of Viterbo where he is Professor of Oenology and Viticulture for three months of every year (SRP: $14.99).


Wines of Chile USA has created a Terroir Hunting Game for Facebook, where users will be able to virtually run their own winery. The game will involve virtually harvesting the grapes, then bottling, selling and exporting wines and finally having them rated by wine experts. Real Chilean winemakers will give users tips along the way. Players will learn about the details of particular terroirs and how they translate into quality wines.


Iconic Pinot Grigio producer Santa Margherita has released Chianti Classico Riserva this fall, beginning with the 2007 vintage. By law, Italian Riservas receive at least two years of barrel aging and are subjected to additional quality controls. Produced from 20- to 30-year old vines, the Sangiovese-based wine has 10% Cabernet and 5% Merlot and benefits from extended oak aging. Santa Margherita Chianti Classico Riserva is imported by Terlato Wines.(SRP: $25).


Trapiche, has a new label, “The Condor and the Andes,” which highlighs the roots of Trapiche in Mendoza, at the foot of the Andes. Trapiche adopted condor ssymbol which is said to have magical powers, inspire respect and force admiration. The Trapiche brand name is larger and more visible on the new label. The lower portion of the label represents the guardian spirit of the condor and reinforces the association between Trapiche and Argentina.


Malbec has become associated with Argentina, but the grape is originally from Cahors, France, and the famed Chateau Lagrézette is the oldest producer, having cultivated the variety since the 15th century. The estate today is owned by entrepreneur Alain Dominique Perrin, who has transformed Lagrézette into a world-class property. The newest release, the 2009 Purple, a new 100% Malbec, is made from 15-year old vines and offers a modern, fruit-forward style (SRP: $14.99).


Saphir Rose is a semi-dry sparkling wine produced by America’s oldest winery, Brotherhood. Produced in the French Champagne style; It features a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes, and is slowly cold-fermented to preserve the character of these noble grapes. With a salmon-pink color and an aroma of juicy red fruit, Saphir Rose is medium-bodied and intense with spontaneous, textured bubbles. Saphir Rose is best served well-chilled as a complement to fresh fruits, cheeses and savory hors d’oeuvres.


Vision Wine & Spirits launches a new wine brand based on popular text acronyms called TXT Cellars. The brand targets Millennial consumers, but is still approachable and relevant to all American consumers who regularly text. The line is being launched with four wines: TXT Cellars OMG!!! Chardonnay, TXT Cellars LOL!!! Riesling, TXT Cellars LMAO!!! Pinot Grigio and TXT Cellars WTF!!! Pinot Noir. In addition to brand promotion through the usual channels, TXT Cellars will be promoted through Facebook, Twitter and consumer text messaging campaigns, of course (SRP: $7.99).

Beyond The Box: New Packaging Innovations Stand Out on Shelves & Backbars

Posted on | October 10, 2011   Bookmark and Share
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Wine packaging has come a long way since novelist Ernest Hemingway first called attention to leather wine pouches in The Sun Also Rises—when character Robert Cohn takes a swig from a Basque wine pouch. While this traditional container is still popular today among the Basques—an ancient people inhabiting the rugged terrain between northwest Spain and southwest France, whose mysterious language is thought to reach back to Iberian cave dwellers 25,000 years ago-—here’s the news: Wine pouches are back, but in decidedly 21st century, non-leather decantations.

What’s more, these sleek, feather-light pouches are the leading edge of a slew of other packaging innovations in the wine and spirits trade.
From six-liter “bibs” (bag-in-box) of vintage-dated California Chardonnay to colorful 1-liter Tetra Pak cartons of Argentine Malbec to premium Japanese Saké or prepared cocktails enclosed in easy-to-grip pouch containers, wine and spirits marketers are busy introducing more lightweight, environmentally conscious formats than ever before.

These new-fangled selections are definitely not your father’s hearty burgundy jugs of yesteryear. In fact, they are not always bulk vessels, and in most cases they are not even made of glass. Case in point: Tetra Paks, created in the early 1950s by Swedish inventor Dr. Ruben Rausing, have become the world’s largest non-glass beverage package—predominantly for milk and juice, but increasingly for wine as well. Worldwide sales of Tetra Pak products topped $10 billion in 2010.

Another new player, the Astrapouch, was first developed and launched in South Africa in 2008. In the last two years alone, Astrapouch North America, based in Penfield, NY, has emerged as an innovative supplier of convenient 1.5-liter, 1.75-liter and 3-liter pouches to Glenora Wine Cellars (for its Trestle Creek New York State wines), Clif Family’s Climber line of California varietal wines, Pernod Ricard USA’s Malibu prepared cocktails and Ty Ku Premium Saké, among others. Gene Pierce, co-founder and president of Glenora, notes: “We were looking for an alternative to bag in box packaging—it has a stigma among some wine drinkers—and we found the Astrapouch is a big hit with consumers and restaurateurs, especially for picnic or outdoor events with no-glass rules. This year, our Trestle Creek business may account for as much as 15% of our total sales, and it’s all incremental, as this line is not cannibalizing our other estate-bottled wines.”
While acknowledging 750ml glass bottles are here to stay, Dave Moynihan, president of Astrapouch North America, says, “If you talk to me in two years, I think you’ll see that the pouch concept will have become more accepted by both wine and spirits marketers as well as by consumers.”

Momentum for Glass Alternatives
Brands aiming to attract open-minded retailers, restaurateurs and consumers with convenient, affordable packages include: Bandit, French Rabbit (Boisset) and yellow + blue organic Argentine wine in colorful Tetra Paks; Target’s own-label Wine Cube California varietal line presented in 1.5L equilateral boxes; and “traditional” (a strange but apt term) 3L bag-in-box labels such as Delicato Family Vineyards’ Bota Box, among others. The octagonal 3-liter “Octavin” bib format, introduced in 2010 by California-based The Wine Group, has proven so successful that the company recently spun-off its two anchor brands—Big House Red and White—from the Underdog Merchants division. Billed as a “Home Wine Bar,” the rest of the Octavin line is comprised of blends and varietal wines from California (Monthaven), Germany (R. Müller), Italy (A•Mano), France (Pinot Evil), New Zealand (Silver Birch), Spain (Osborne) and South Africa (Herding Cats). The 3Ls retail for $24, and several are also available as 750mls for SRP $10.

In the 12 months ending June 2011, approximately 6% of all wine sold in the U.S. was packaged in non-glass containers, according to Danny Brager, Vice President, Group Client Director, Nielsen Beverage Alcohol Team, New York, NY; and within that market share figure, the larger, 5-liter bag-in-box size still predominates by volume. But underlining the growth of newer, smaller packaging alternatives to both the traditional 750ml bottle and the big, 5-liter “bib” format, Brager explains, “In the last four or five years, there’s definitely been a trend toward smaller box sizes, including the 3-liter format.” In particular, he reported that Tetra Pak wine sales tracked by Nielsen of even smaller formats—1.5 liter, 1 liter, 750ml and 500ml—have been accelerating at “double-digit” rates over this same 12-month period.

What’s driving all these sales? Several factors, says Brager: Wine and spirits suppliers are looking to reduce packaging and delivery costs associated with glass. For their part, consumers are attracted to value and convenience of such packaging. And not to be dismissed, consumers feel good about buying “green,” knowing that with such purchases, they can lower the environmental impact and energy footprint relative to glass bottles. Retailers in all sales channels are also getting smarter about merchandising such novel formats. Brager observes, “When I go to stores now, I see a lot more discipline; retailers’ shelving planograms are becoming more and more sophisticated.”

True Out-of-the-Box Thinking
Describing the thinking at Purchase, NY-based Pernod Ricard USA behind its adoption of the Astrapouch for Malibu’s line of ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails that come in three flavors—Rum Punch, Caribbean Cosmo and Tropical Mojito—Brand Director Lisa McCann notes: “We see Malibu Rum as having a strong consumer franchise, so this new packaging enabled us to position the brand as a ‘summer state-of-mind’ drink with our customers; [the pouch] is innovative and convenient.”

McCann explains: “We launched our line of Malibu Rum prepared cocktails in May 2010; we took them national this past June, and we estimate that already Malibu’s RTDs have captured 2% of the entire prepared cocktail segment; and they now account for approximately 6% of the brand’s total sales.” She adds that the company expects the prepared cocktails to achieve 10% of total sales within a year. To promote the brand in off-premise accounts, Pernod Ricard USA sponsored a national in-store consumer sampling program, advertised the new line in various trade publications, and created in-store display units to support the national roll-out. The RTD line skews toward younger legal-age drinkers, according to McCann, and is especially strong among women aged 21 to 39.

Costs Less Than a Cork

The Bandit line of wines—produced as a 50/50 partnership of California-based marketer Three Thieves/Rebel Wine Company and Trinchero Family Estates of St. Helena, California—consists of three reds and three whites. The entire line is packaged in Tetra Paks, both the 500ml and l-liter sizes, according to Rebel Wine Company’s co-founder Charles Bieler, whose partners include Joel Gott and Roger Scommegna. Besides the value proposition of the brand (its most popular size, 1 liter, retails for a suggested $7.99), Bieler said it is the brand’s convenience and eco-friendliness that attract consumers.

The Bandit website—and, in fact, that packaging itself—informs consumers that Bandit’s Tetra Pak is renewable; is less costly than glass; has a lower carbon footprint in terms of CO2 emissions; is more fuel-efficient, either empty or filled; and is recyclable. Also noteworthy, Bieler explains: “Our cartons cost less than a cork in a bottle, and we don’t have to worry about printing front or back labels.” Bandit Pinot Grigio is the line’s single best-seller.

Billed as “All Terrain Wine Transport,” The Climber’s Astrapouch line of California Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay are ultra-light and ideal for wine lovers with an outdoor lifestyle, from picnic devotees to hiking and biking enthusiasts. According to the Clif Family Winery website, “With an 80% lower carbon footprint and 90% less waste than two glass bottles, the Climber Pouch is easy on the planet and the palate. It’s lighter to carry than glass, perfect for any adventure, easy to re-seal and stays fresh for up to one month after opening.”

To underscore the family’s commitment to the environment, above and beyond the advertised energy-saving benefits of the pouch itself, the site informs web viewers that the winery is a proud member of the “1% for the Planet” group, and has pledged to donate 1% of The Climber’s sales revenue to this environment-advocacy group.

Summing up the long-term opportunity such alternative packages contain (pun intended), Bieler of Three Thieves asserts, “It all started modestly, but the American consumer is much more confident; the acceptance has been significant, and it’s growing every year.”


Scotch Weathers The Storm: Primed for Expansion, Scotch Producers Tap Subtle Variations for Significant Growth

Posted on | October 7, 2011   Bookmark and Share
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 It would be reasonable to assume that as the economy continues to stagnate, a spirit category dependent on low price resistance would be in trouble. But that’s not the case with Scotch whisky in the U.S. Driven by continuing innovation, more expensive line extensions and an international demand for high-quality products, Scotland’s distillers are weathering the storm and resisting the age-old pattern of cutting prices—and quality—in the wake of economic turbulence.

In fact, Scotland is on a growth spurt that promises a steady supply of the fabled amber drams.

While blended Scotch whiskies were down slightly overall (-1.4%) in 2010, according to results supplied by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (Discus), the most expensive super-premium blended brands skyrocketed (+26.3%) and high-end premiums grew by a healthy 5.5%. Single malts showed better overall—up 11.7%, and at the super-premium level they grew 16.8%. Except for Irish whisky, single malts showed the best gross revenue growth among all spirits in the U.S. last year. (Discus defines super-premium Scotches as those priced in line with The Macallan 10-Year-Old, Chivas Regal 18 and Johnnie Walker Blue, while high-end premiums include Johnnie Walker Black, Chivas Regal, Dewar’s 12 and Glenlivet 12.)

Not only U.S. results have buoyed producers, who are currently increasing production capacity as the category expects healthy growth, particularly in emerging Asian markets, for years to come. Capacity jumped more than 25 percent from 2005 to 2010, according to UK research group Euromonitor, as key players optimistically ramped up.

Foresight Required for Growth
The three- to eight-plus years needed to develop a substantial supply of market-worthy whisky means producers must think decades in advance, and these days, the thought is continued expansion. Diageo, for example, last October opened their largest malt distillery yet, Roseisle. Pernod Ricard and William Grant & Sons, two major producers, also increased capacity in 2010 by significant volumes: Pernod Ricard by more than 10%, while William Grant raised capacity 30%.

Five other small distilleries have been built since 2005, including Kilchoman on Islay and William Grant’s Ailsa Bay at Girvan. Distilling capacity has also been increased at Glenlivet and The Macallan, and Glenmorangie has recently finished efforts to increase output by 50%.

With all that capacity, changes can be expected at every level. While producers had focused in the last two decades on developing a market for expensive brand extensions and limited releases, more attention is now being paid to improving the middle tier, says William Grant & Sons USA Category Director Caspar MacRae: “In the past there has been a lot of innovation in this top-end area as many brands competed to establish their premium credentials, with some very conspicuous offerings. Today the consumer and trade are still prepared to purchase expensive items, but the value proposition has to be much more considered. Meanwhile, we are seeing more innovation at more accessible price points.”

Grant’s malts, Glenfiddich and Balvenie, have both continued releasing new expressions: Glenfiddich with a limited edition Snow Phoenix and Balvenie with a 14-Year-Old Caribbean Cask. The latter is an example of the direction many whisky makers have taken: employing a variety of barrels used to age wines and other spirits to add a twist to a brand’s central flavor profile. Wood and wood finishes aside, distillers have only a few areas of exploration open to them, with extended aging, cask-strength and vintage bottlings being the main options.

Options Limited But Creativity Encouraged
While limited by strict laws about what can be done to tweak their whiskies, the Scotch rulemakers have made things somewhat easier, says Dr. Bill Lumsden, head of distilling and whisky creation for Glenmorangie. “The Scotch Whisky Association has made a big effort to work with member companies such that a level of innovation is possible,” he notes, “but without contravening any of the strict definitions for Scotch whisky, and most importantly, maintaining the wonderful image that Scotch whisky has earned globally.”

Glenmorangie has been at the forefront of the wood-finish revolution, and Lumsden, who frequently visits Missouri forests to select stands of interesting oaks, says they intend to continue to explore “some tried and trusted aspects of innovation (such as extra maturation, a.k.a. wood finishing), along with some rather more alternative aspects of whisky production. There are still some exciting taste experiences to be discovered, both in terms of the previous liquid which the casks have held, and also the pedigree of the oak wood the casks are constructed with.”

Other companies continue to explore the possibilities inherent in wood quality. Morrison Bowmore Distillers, owners of the repackaged and repositioned Glengarioch, Auchentoshen and Bowmore, continue to invest much time and money into selection of the right casks, says Hannah Fisher, brand manager for Auchentoshan, with a dedicated team that selects casks an investigates other maturation possibilities, including different finishes.

According to Jim Brennan—whose VP role at Remy Cointreau includes overseeing single malts The Macallan and Highland Park and the blend Famous Grouse—innovation is now built into the Scotch whisky mentality. “The economic difficulties have not changed the Scotch or single malt categories significantly,” he says. “Innovation continues to play a role. That said, most of the growth is coming from core products and especially so for The Macallan.”

Distillers with large stores of older spirit continue to supply new iterations to keep customers engaged. “Interest for new products is very prevalent in Scotch,” says Adam Rosen, Director of Scotch, Diageo NA. Diageo’s range—the various Johnnie Walkers, plus single malts Caol Ila, Lagavulin, Talisker, Oban, Cardhu and many others—gives them credibility among consumers to offer new extensions using rare expressions or different casking methods, he says.

Diageo will soon be shipping the annual Classic Malts Distiller’s Editions, half a dozen or so older single malts and a limited number of natural cask-strength single malt whiskies dubbed Special Releases. This year the company also intends to introduce a special expression of the blend Buchanan’s.

In a fairly unorthodox move, Balblair, one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland, decided to switch over exclusively to vintage bottlings. Instead of age statements, all of Balblair’s single malts are vintage-dated. Distillery Manager John MacDonald tastes each cask as it develops; they are bottled and released when he believes the character of the whisky is just right, not in any chronological order. For example, the first to hit the U.S. market two years ago were the 1991 and 1997; the 2000 and 1989 debuted last year and the 1969 will hit shelves in limited quantities
in January.

Blends Get Better
Buchanan’s is a good example of a once popular blend resurrected by demographic changes without much attention from brand owners. Tremendously popular in Mexico, it’s developing “explosive growth” among Mexican-Americans, Rosen says. Pernod Ricard’s Ballantine’s is another blended brand that has developed popularity organically, not only among Latins but significantly with the Asian-American market.

The growth of both brands shows there’s still life in blended Scotch. Keeping that interest alive recently led market leader Dewar’s to redesign packaging along their whole range—White Label, Dewar’s 12, Dewar’s 18 and Signature. “Consumers may be drinking less but they are trading up to more quality expressions and we have that portfolio for anyone at any budget,” says Gabe Cardarella, Dewar’s national brand ambassador.

Dewar’s is one of the few Scotch makers promoting cocktails—in their case the Dewar’s Smash, served during hosted “Dewar’s Discovery” tasting events held around the country, where the focus is showing newcomers how mixable the blend is. At these tastings, guests get the opportunity to taste the blend side by side with a version before it’s barreled a final time, a process Dewar’s calls “double aging.”

Diageo’s main focus in blends continues to be on the various Johnnie Walkers—Red, Black, Gold, Green and Blue—with current emphasis on recruiting new users into the blended whisky franchise through mentorship programs. Their House of Walker continues to tour the country with events and tasting sessions to introduce new whisky drinkers to the range. “Scotch is a sophisticated spirit. It’s one that is traditionally introduced to consumers through mentor relationships often through a friend, a boss, or a family member,” Rosen says. 

In addition to wood finishes, distillers have found favor among customers with powerful cask strength iterations and non-chill-filtered expressions, which are usually hazier in appearance but are admired by some for their depth of flavor. (Chill-filtering reduces the temperature of the whisky to around freezing and filters out some of the oils that will otherwise cloud the liquid when served cold.) Pernod Ricard will soon be releasing a non-chill-filtered Aberlour expression as part of a limited campaign to increase awareness of the brand through PR and social media.

Bringing In New Customers
Though there are many options for Scotch whisky buyers, not all innovations have addressed customer interests, according to JC Iglesias, marketing director of Scotch and Cognac for Pernod Ricard USA. “A lot of what passes for innovation is a distiller or blender trying something new and we then present it to the consumer,” he notes. “Going forward, we are going to try to understand what the consumer needs a little more.” New types of packaging, especially those that address different, perhaps more casual, drinking occasions, are among the ideas PRUSA is researching with consumers.

Most of all, he says, it’s important for leaders like top-selling U.S. single malt Glenlivet, which underwent a packaging makeover recently, to get more people into the category, and one of the PRUSA approaches is to try to demystify Scotch. “The industry has overcomplicated things a bit, giving people tasting notes that can scare them off, as they once were scared off by wine. We want to unlock the mystery and not be precious about it,” he explains.

For Glenlivet, they’ll continue their popular mentoring programs, with a simpler approach for malt-ready novices not active in the category. The biggest, The Glenlivet Guardians, is a global program designed to engage the novice, mid-level and connoisseur at their levels of comfort. The company will focus on four other brands—Chivas Regal, Royal Salute, Ballantine’s and Aberlour—in the near future. For Chivas, the company this fall launches The 1801 House, a series of invitation pop-up bars in different cities that Iglesias compares to a trendy hotel bar, with entertainment and guided tastings.

Some distillers find that the road to innovation continues to mean pricier products. “We have seen a significant shift towards high end, special release, limited edition releases,” says David Robertson, director of rare whisky for Dalmore. “Our success has been with rare releases ranging in price from $150 to $150,000. Clients continue to demand the rarest, the best, the most interesting, attractive and evocative releases. Small boutique releases are selling out incredibly quickly.”

With the continuing wave of interest among U.S. drinkers for rare whiskies, even smaller brands like Glenrothes have an advantage these days, says Nathalie Phillips, senior brand manager: “The Glenrothes positions itself as the preeminent vintage single malt Scotch whisky. We are one of the only single malts that release whisky based on maturity, not age.” The difference from vintage to vintage is based on cask selection and the length of time matured, and like the other limited editions, generally gets allocated and disappears soon.

It’s the popularity of whiskies like these, once used almost entirely in blends, that has inspired producers to expand and build new facilities. Some whiskies disappear from the U.S. as their popularity grows elsewhere, and there’s only so much old stuff for both blends and small bottlings. But that’s a luxury problem—one both producers and retailers can look forward to continue enjoying.

New Whiskies on the Horizon
Scotch producers seem constantly poised to issue new brand extensions and one-offs, widely awaited by fans. Some limited selections only reach a few retail shelves they are so tightly allocated. But some of the priciest iterations are rolled out for the long haul: Pernod Ricard USA has returned attention to the once popular Royal Salute with the intro of a $200K jewel-encrusted bottling called Tribute to Honor. For the slightly less well-heeled collector, October of this year brings their latest intro to the U.S. market, 62 Gun Salute, a 40-year-old blended to retail at $4,000. PRUSA will also try to ramp up interest in single malt Aberlour with a non-chill-filtered 12-year-old soon.

William Grant & Sons has seen some success among younger consumers new to the whisky world in the UK and Europe with their Monkey Shoulder blend; Grant’s Caspar MacRae says the company looks forward to introducing the brand in the U.S. soon.
One of Grant’s recent promotions promises another new whisky, involving the Glenfiddich Cask of Dreams. “We rolled 11 casks through key US cities, allowing consumers to inscribe their aspirations and dreams on the barrels, in memory of our founder achieving his dream—creating Glenfiddich. Those new oak casks have now returned to Scotland, where they are finishing a special whisky for 2012,” says MacRae.

Similarly, The Balvenie will roll out later this year a whisky—Tun 1401—made from six different barrels of varying ages, named after the marrying tun into which the barrels were emptied and aged for a few months, before being returned to barrels and then bottled. Next year, says MacRae, Balvenie is set “to unleash a treasure trove of exceptional new whiskies at a range of price points.”

Blend producers have been focusing on brand extensions, but Cutty Sark owners have plans for the near future to reinvigorate the brand, which continues to decline in the US.

Glenrothes is currently shipping for the fall two Vintage bottlings, 1995 and 1988, as the popular 1994 and 1985 become extinct.

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