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News Briefs for March 4, 2013

March 4, 2013

•Beam Inc. has officially launched white whiskey Jim Beam Jacob’s Ghost into national distribution, retailing at $22 a bottle. Beam says the 40%-abv offering—news of which trickled out last fall—differentiates itself from other moonshines and white whiskies on the market by its one-year stint of aging in white oak barrels, creating a “hybrid spirit” that should appeal to both whiskey and white spirits drinkers. In its testing, Beam found Jacob’s Ghost to be the best-performing new whiskey concept in the company’s history, with 77% of whiskey drinkers and 70% of vodka drinkers saying they would “probably or definitely” purchase the brand. Jim Beam rival Jack Daniel’s began rolling out its own white whiskey, Jack Daniel’s Unaged Rye, to select markets in December. A combination of 70% rye, 18% corn and 12% malted barley, the new Jack extension is also 40% abv, but will sell at a hefty premium to Jacob’s Ghost, retailing around $50 a bottle.

•Constellation-owned New Zealand wine brand Kim Crawford hit 1 million cases in global sales over the past 12 months, the company said. North American sales of the brand were up 20% during that period. As Shanken News Daily reported exclusively on February 11, the brand was up 23% to 555,000 cases in the U.S. in 2012, according to Impact Databank, and is the largest-selling New Zealand wine in the market, despite its upscale price point of $17-$33 a bottle. Constellation New Zealand president Joe Stanton noted that 88% of Kim Crawford exports are comprised of Sauvignon Blanc, the signature New Zealand varietal. In total, New Zealand has 20,000 hectares (50,000 acres) of Sauvignon Blanc planted and exports 150 million liters of the variety annually.

•Anheuser-Busch is fighting back against a series of lawsuits filed in recent days alleging it dilutes several of its beer brands prior to packaging. The brewing giant placed ads in more than 10 newspapers across the U.S. yesterday, offering a humorous take on the allegations. The ads depicted a can of A-B-donated drinking water, with the tagline, “They must have tested one of these.” The ad claims A-B has donated 71 million cans of water to the Red Cross and other disaster relief organizations worldwide. Lawsuits in California, Colorado, Ohio, Missouri, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Texas (with others likely forthcoming)—each seeking at least $5 million in damages—assert that, according to former A-B employees, it’s company policy to dilute the Budweiser, Bud Ice, Bud Light Platinum, Michelob, Michelob Ultra, Hurricane High Gravity Lager, King Cobra, Busch Ice, Natural Ice and Bud Light Lime brands, resulting in lower alcohol by volume than what A-B states for each respective beer. A-B contends that the charges are baseless.

•Diageo has launched a contest in which bartenders across Western Europe will compete to create a new luxury spirit. Under the program, called “Show Your Spirit,” bartenders are invited to submit product concepts to Diageo. A panel of industry experts will select the three best entries, alongside a fourth “wildcard” entry chosen by the bartending community and public. The four finalists will help develop their product concept at Diageo’s Global Technical Innovation Center, and the judging panel will announce a final winner on May 24. The winning entry will join Diageo’s high-end Reserve portfolio—which features brands like Johnnie Walker, Ketel One and Cîroc—and the winning bartender will earn 5% of the product’s net sales for the first five years of its launch.

•Proximo Spirits has partnered with the estate of Marilyn Monroe to debut Three Olives vodka’s most recent extension, Marilyn Monroe Strawberry. The new flavor will launch nationwide this month, priced at $21 a 750-ml. Marilyn Monroe Strawberry joins a Three Olives brand portfolio that already includes more than 21 flavors, including S’mores, Cake, Loopy, Root Beer and Bubble, among others. Last month, Proximo launched a $20 million ad campaign centered on British actor Clive Owen. The brand rose 3.5% to approximately 1.53 million cases in 2012, according to Impact Databank, but that represents somewhat of a slowdown after years of double-digit advances.

•Tickets are now on sale here for Whisky Advocate’s WhiskyFest San Francisco, to be held September 27; and here for WhiskyFest New York, to be held October 11 and 12.

 

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