By Published on .

The spirit of Americana and the growth of single-malt scotches convinced Jim Beam Brands there was a market for high-end bourbon. So in the early 1990s, it added three-Basil Hayden's, Knob Creek and Baker's-to Booker's, Beam's highest-end bourbon marketed since 1987.

"In the early 1990s, there was great pride in American things," says Alan Cohen, 34, group product director for whiskeys at Jim Beam. "And there's nothing more American than bourbon."

Beam's small-batch bourbons are aged between six and nine years (Jim Beam bourbon is aged four years) and cost between $22 and $45 for a hand-labeled 750 ml bottle, about 30% higher than Beam's regular bourbon.

Because of that high price, Mr. Cohen targets Beam's small-batch advertising to consumers with discriminating tastes. The print campaign from Fallon McElligott has been anchored to The Wall , but Beam recently added three new upscale titles: Cigar Aficionado, Links (a lifestyle publication for golf enthusiasts) and Wine Spectator.

He created the Kentucky Bourbon Circle, a fraternity for bourbon connoisseurs and advertised it in the along with its small-batch brands. The first day the toll-free number ran, Beam got 500 calls.

Members of Kentucky Bourbon Circle provide Mr. Cohen with a perfect database for on-site marketing events such as tasting parties. Beam has a marketing partnership with Hyatt Hotels, where it conducts tastings in major cities 12 times a year.

The result of the marketing effort: sales of Beam's small-batch bourbons grew more than 100% in 1994, Mr. Cohen says. What's more, that growth comes at a time when the bourbon category is in a serious slump. According to the Impact 1995 "Annual Distilled Spirits Study," only 14.2 million cases of bourbon were sold in 1994, down from more than 16 million in 1990.

Most Popular
In this article: