Shanken is reporting today that flavored whiskeys were the fastest-growing spirits type in the U.S. market in the first quarter of 2012—rising 154.8% to 94,000 cases.
The category is defined as flavored whiskeys and
whiskey-based liqueurs. They were already doing pretty well. For 2011, its introductory year, Jack Daniel’s
Tennessee Honey sold 320,000 cases. In its second year, Jim Beam Red Stag sold 300,000 cases. Veteran Wild Turkey American Honey sold 230,000 cases.
The original two Evan Williams-based liqueurs, Honey Reserve
and Cherry Reserve, sold about 100,000 cases combined. The honey and cherry expressions of Seagrams 7 Crown sold about 80,000
If you're reading this, these products are not intended for you, but they may be intended for someone close to you. They're for people who want to belong to a particular brand family but who don't like straight whiskey.
The guys are drinking Jack and Coke, and the girls are drinking Jack Honey and Coke.
We're told these products are good because they introduce new consumers to the whiskey category, though it's more likely that most of these consumers have already rejected whiskey and this is their alternative.
Another rationale is that anything which causes more whiskey to be produced and consumed is good. That's better. It's a testament to how popular whiskey has become that so many people want to launch new, arguably non-whiskey products using a whiskey platform.
Honey is the most popular flavor, with cherry second. Several brands are launching hot cinnamon versions. Can whipped cream be far behind?
It's hard to experiment with whiskey when the aging cycle is involved. Flavored products avoid that problem so they are relatively low risk. It remains to be seen if flavored whiskey will have any real staying power.