Texas is one of two states in the US that has what is commonly referred to as a fourth tier, meaning bars and restaurants buy their spirits directly from off-premise liquor stores. The unique Lone Star model provides motivated off-premise liquor stores the ability to stay on top of up-and-coming trends and engage in brand the building process.
Twin Liquors, for instance, is an Austin-based regional liquor store chain with 80 locations, and a reputation built on community engagement and willingness to provide valuable feedback to suppliers.
"For most companies it can be hard to get a hold of anybody," says Sandra Spalding, director of marketing & events at Twin Liquors. "We all get calls, and will take the time to sit and talk to them, taste the product, give advice." She adds that building the relationships with the right suppliers is important, "We like to know what the brand [or] company is about."
But listening to a pitch is just part of the equation. Sandra continued with a story about a regular customer who loved to travel to Italy and fell in love with limoncello. At the time, Tito's had begun making some headway in the market, so she had the idea to enter the spirits business with her own limoncello. When she ran the idea by a Twin Liquors' store manager, he suggested she try a Texas cello, telling her "Yeah, limoncello is fun, but we have one SKU of limoncello on the shelf and it doesn't sell that fast. But check out how fast Grand Marnier and Citronge and Triple Sec are selling." Paula's Texas Orange was born as a result of that tip.
"The landscape was so new and fresh that [craft suppliers] needed our advice because we were the ones on the front lines fielding the questions from the customers," Sandra tells WSD. "So it's those kinds of conversations, and knowing our customer, and having relationships that allowed that to incubate with Paula and turn into something else."
Now, more than a decade into the craft boom, Twin Liquors' vp Eric Dohanich says their consumers' priorities are experimentation and new local items. "No, craft is not in their vocabulary. It's more 'What do you have that's new or where's your Texas bourbons? Where's your Texas vodkas? They will ask those kind of questions." (Though, it's worth noting that Texans have an unusually high degree of state loyalty.)
The tricky part is that the more Texas brands--or the more craft brands there are--the more the category's lines get blurred. For instance, Eric said Twins used to have a designated "Texas Bourbons" section in the store, but now that there's so many, they're all mixed in with the rest. "I think as it gets more crowded, it will be perceived less as craft," says Eric, but, "I don't think I would say it's 'overcrowded.'"
So what should suppliers do to stand out, particularly in their local markets? "The advice I give them is get involved in local events in town. There are many ways to do that, whether that's distributors pushing it on-premise or events, local media, anything like that," says Eric.
WEST COAST FIRES IMPACT WINERY TOURISM
While parts of the South/Southeast of the country are underwater, the West Coast is on fire, literally. No vineyard damage has been reported, but tourism on the West Coast has slowed down thanks to the fire and smoke, per a local publication.
"We're one of the larger-trafficked wineries in the area because we have such sign visibility from the highway," says Jocelyn Bentley-Prestwich, marketing manager of Cathedral Ridge Winery in Hood River, Oregon. But with a main interstate shut down because of the fires, Cathedral Ridge is seeing less than half the number of visitors a day than they typically see in September (normally about 150).
Luckily, it seems the smoke hasn't tainted the grapes, but the region is on high alert. "This is something that everybody is taking very seriously," says Jocelyn.
In addition, a heatwave swept through California over Labor Day Weekend. The SF Chronicle reported that the triple-digit temperatures may have dehydrated some grapes.
BARDSTOWN BOURBON CO. RELEASES FIRST ORIGINAL PRODUCT
Bardstown Bourbon Co. and Copper & Kings American Brandy Co. have announced the release of Collabor&tion. This marks the "first of many original releases" from BBCo, per a release.
The Collabor&tion release is actually two separate products made with 10-year-old straight bourbon whiskey, with one finished in Copper & King's barrels for another 18 months and the other in Muscat Mistelle barrels for the same time period. The bourbon used was made at MGP Ingredients with a mash bill of 75% corn, 21% rye and 4% malted barley.
It is a very limited release and will only be available in select Kentucky retailers, at the BBCo and Copper & Kings gift shops and a few retailers across the US.
WHOLE FOODS HIGHLIGHTS FRENCH WINES IN NEW PROMOTION. In collaboration with the French Ministry of Agriculture, Whole Foods kicked off a retail promotion called "Wines and Cheeses from France" to highlight its 12 new French wines, per a release. The promotion includes tastings in more than 320 Whole Foods locations across 42 states, pairing the wine with French cheeses and preserves, and significant case displays in-store. "Whole Foods is on a mission to provide shoppers with interesting, delicious and high quality wines, and provide a sense of discovery in the process," says Whole Foods senior global coordinator of beverage Doug Bell. The promotion will last until October 31.
PATRON ADDS FIRST NEW PRODUCT TO CORE RANGE IN 25 YEARS. Patron Extra Anejo is aged for more than three years in a combination of new and used American, French and Hungarian oak barrels. It joins the core portfolio alongside Patron Silver, Patron Reposado and Patron Anejo. Patron Extra Anejo is available nationwide for approximately $90 a 750 ml. It will also be available in a 375 ml.
CRYSTAL HEAD VODKA RELEASES AURORA. Crystal Head Aurora vodka is made from English wheat, distilled five times and packaged in a glass skull bottle similar to the original, which you may recall, was involved in a lengthy trademark dispute [see WSD 03-30-2017]. Aurora retails at $60 a 750 ml.
MGP INGREDIENTS TO DEBUT GEORGE REMUS REPEAL RESERVE BOURBON. Remus Repeal Reserve Bourbon is a high rye style made from a medley of two mash bills from 2005/2006. It is 50% 2005 bourbon (21% rye), 15% 2006 bourbon (36% rye) and 35% 2006 bourbon (21% rye) and bottled at 94 proof. It will be available starting November 13 for about $75 a 750 ml in IN, IA, KS, KY, MN, MO, NE, OH and WI.
DIAGEO BRINGS BACK PUMPKIN SPICE BAILEYS FOR HOLIDAYS. It must be fall because pumpkin spice everything is back. Last year, Diageo introduced Bailey's Pumpkin Spice and because of the "overwhelmingly positive response" they decided to bring it back this year, says director of Bailey's and liqueurs Nicola Heckles. It will be available nationwide while supplies last with a suggested retail price of $25 a 750 ml.
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