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Woodford Reserve nears million-case sales mark

Bourbon brand Woodford Reserve is set to join the ranks of million-case spirits in the next fiscal year following a push from its parent company, Brown-Forman.

Woodford Reserve is on its way to becoming a “big global brand”

Speaking to The Spirits Business, Lawson Whiting, CEO of Brown-Forman, said Woodford Reserve will become a “big global brand”.

He said that after launching in 1997, it took the brand 10 years to reach 100,000 cases, and last year alone grew by 170,000 cases.

“The brand was seeded in the right way, in a premium way,” said Whiting. “Then when Bourbon started to get hot, it became the leader in the super-premium Bourbon category, and we’ve had double-digit growth for nearly 20 years now.”

Woodford Reserve has enhanced its premium credentials with a number of new products in recent years. In 2018, the brand launched its US$1,500 Baccarat Edition, aged in Cognac casks and bottled in hand-cut crystal.

Whiting calls Woodford Reserve Double Oaked, which is further matured in casks that have been heavily toasted and lightly charred, the “most successful single innovation” from the brand to date.

The CEO added that he is particularly passionate about driving the growth of Woodford Reserve into the future.

“Woodford Reserve is a stellar brand,” he said. “Look, the Jack Daniel’s franchise has got to be my first priority every day. It’s so big and powerful, [and] continuing to grow; that has always got to be my first priority. But my passion really would be seeing the continued growth of Woodford Reserve.”

Tennessee whiskey Jack Daniel’s is the world’s best-selling American whiskey brand, shifting 13.3 million cases in 2018, according to SB‘s Brand Champions report.

Brown-Forman has expanded its whisk(e)y stable in recent years with the purchase of Slane Irish Whiskey and Scotch whisky maker The BenRiach Distillery Company, which Whiting said is seeing “dramatic growth”.

On Slane, Whiting said: “We are building its slowly, [with the] right accounts, and a high-end, on-premise-led brand-building strategy.

“We say we’re going to lose millions of dollars a year on Slane until we get this thing seeded the way we want, then we believe we can build it into something that can be scaled up – but it’s a slow build.”

To read our full interview with Lawson Whiting, see the July 2019 edition of The Spirits Business, out now.

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