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Phillips Distilling Launches First Bourbon, As Prairie Organic Continues To Surge

May 22, 2018

Minneapolis-based Phillips Distilling Co. is entering the Bourbon category with the launch of its new Douglas & Todd brand.Produced in partnership with Minnesota’s Panther Distillery, Douglas & Todd Bourbon is made with 83% corn and 17% wheat and aged for over four years. The 93-proof whiskey ($40 a 750-ml.) is initially rolling out across Minnesota, Illinois, Colorado, Oregon, Texas, Florida, North Dakota, Wisconsin, and New York.

“Douglas & Todd is positioned as a craft offering,” says Scott Meek, vice president of marketing for Phillips Distilling Co. “We believe that as craft Bourbon becomes increasingly fragmented, having a brand with a different provenance or unique mash bill will be key to growth.”

The Bourbon launch comes as Phillips’ similarly craft-positioned Prairie Organic vodka (around $20) enjoys continued success. The brand—which offers a core vodka and cucumber-flavored offshoot—has struck a chord among the growing number of consumers who shop organic, expanding from about 25,000 cases in 2012 to nearly 175,000 cases for 2017, according to Impact Databank. Looking to further fuel progress, Prairie Organic unveiled a packaging update earlier this year, highlighting its farm-to-bottle approach.

While Prairie Organic has been expanding within the highly competitive vodka space, flavor-focused portfoliomate UV vodka—Phillips’ largest brand—has faced an uphill battle. UV ($10) slipped 5% to just over 1.1 million cases in 2017, but according to Meek, the brand has returned to growth this year, thanks in part to a recent package refresh and pared-down flavor lineup. UV’s stable now includes 10 labels, down from 21 expressions previously.

“As we’ve focused on a core set of flavors, we’ve seen a massive trend improvement,” notes Meek. UV’s top seller remains its raspberry-flavored Blue expression, but its 80-proof unflavored vodka is now a close second. “We’ve put the emphasis on our straight vodka, and with the new packaging we’ve made the brand more relevant for our 22- to 28-year-old consumer.”

Also seeing gains from a smaller base is Phillips’ Canadian whisky Revel Stoke ($12). The brand, which was up 6.5% to 66,000 cases last year, is adding to its flavored lineup with a new Smoked Vanilla offshoot this month. The company likewise sees upside for several higher-end boutique brands, including Tomatin Scotch ($28-$1,000), Mezcal Marca Negra ($55-$200), and La Hechicera rum ($50).—Christina Jelski

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