Beam Gets Evil in Debut Ad for Newest Bourbon

'Devil's Cut' Is New Take on Old Distilling Tradition

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Beam Inc. is going straight to hell with its debut ad for "Jim Beam Devil's Cut," a first-of -its-kind bourbon that puts a decidedly evil spin on an old Kentucky tradition.

Launched nationally last summer, the bourbon is made by extracting and bottling the last drops of liquid trapped inside wooden bourbon barrels. In the old days this was called "sweating the barrel," as distillers filled empty barrels with water and then rolled them in the heat to release the trapped liquid.

Beam has found a way to do that on a larger scale with a proprietary process, freeing what it says is a deeper, darker bourbon with notes of wood, oak and vanilla.

The devil analogy is drawn from bourbon-making lore: As bourbon ages, the portion lost to evaporation is called the "Angel's Share." So Beam decided to name the liquid left behind in the wood the "Devil's Cut."

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The ad, by Strawberry Frog, tells the product's story by following a man who first appears reading a book in a heaven-like setting. The book bursts into flames as the man follows an attractive female to a distillery and ends up at an underground bar. All the while, Devil's Cut is described as a "slightly sinister" bourbon that "ain't for choirboys." At 90 proof, it's stronger than regular Beam and costs more -- $23.99 a bottle. (Regular Beam is usually priced at $15.99.)

Beam is putting more marketing muscle behind the line extension after beating early sales expectations. "Given the initial success that we've had with Devil's Cut and the distribution build that we've had, now is the time for us to capitalize on the momentum and introduce Devil's Cut to an even wider audience by leveraging TV," Rob Mason, Beam's senior director for U.S. bourbon, told Ad Age .

The investment follows the 2009 launch of another Jim Beam line extension, Red Stag, which is infused with black-cherry flavoring. Such innovations have helped spur the whiskey and bourbon category to solid growth in the U.S. and globally, where America's so-called native spirit is gaining a foothold in new markets.

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