The Rise of Bourbon and the Impact of Kentucky Owl
Whiskey and bourbon are some of America's leading spirits. They are rich in history and helped shape the country into what we know it to be today. The origins started in Ireland and Scotland, but as people began to settle in the U.S., they brought the production with them. With new crops at their disposal, they were able to modify and re calibrate a unique spin that is all-American. The drink made a lot of appearances. It helped George Washington assemble his first batch of troops, it was on the hip of almost every pioneer who set out to explore the new territory, and it was the spirit of choice during the Civil War.
Since its inception, the spirits have seen a fluctuation of popularity. Over the past five years, growth in this sector of the market has grown exponentially.
Whiskey and the Millennial Generation
Millennials are contributing actively to the increase in bourbon popularity. They are doing so in a couple of different ways. Since the economy is improving, there is a little more money to burn. But, millennials have a penchant for handcrafted, authentic products. They might have a little more disposable income, but they aren't just going to spend it anywhere. It's essential that the products they purchase have a story, a history. Bourbon ticks all those boxes; American made and crafted by some of the finest distillers. There's also the proclivity for mixed drinks. Another skill set that leans towards "craft." And, the mixologists are doing a great job to keep the public interested. Thanks to the widespread use of social media, the trend is taking over across the globe.
Whiskey Trend Statistics
95 percent of bourbon is made in Kentucky
Between 2012 - 2017 sales exceeded $3.3 billion
Two dozen distillers have opened in the past five years to keep up with consumer demand
In 2017, American whiskey grew 8.1 percent
In one year, $1.63 billion worth of spirits were exported from the U.S. around the globe.
Crafting Bottles of Bourbon
A highly sought after bourbon is Kentucky Owl. It originated in 2014 and was the mastermind of Dixon Dedman. Until its establishment, the high-end cost of a bottle was roughly $50. Kentucky Owl flipped this concept on its head by offering theirs at a $170 price tag. What's shocking about this is the fact that Dedman isn't a distiller nor does he own one. The success of his bourbon is from purchasing barrels and blending them to perfection.
Achieving this success was only possible once Harrodsburg, Kentucky was no longer a dry county. Dedman grew up in Harrodsburg and worked for his family's inn. The bourbon culture was showing a lot of promise, and many tourists were flocking to Kentucky for samples and tours. The only issue was guests at Dedman's inn weren't able to drink alcohol due to the laws. So, when a vote was presented to change these rules, Dedman decided to jump on the wagon and help push it through. After, the success it was only a matter of time before he started selling bourbon in the main dining room.
In 1879, Dedman's great-great-grandfather opened a distillery on the banks of the Kentucky River. The name was Kentucky Owl. It was profitable and nick-named "the wise man's bourbon." However, during Prohibition, it was forced to close and never reopen. However, Dedman saw an opportunity to reprise the name and bring about more chances for financial stability. He utilized the help of Jim Rutledge, a master distiller at Four Roses, to help him sample blends. He gave less than stellar reviews, so Dedman went back to the drawing board.
It took four years of sourcing, blending, and tasting before the final combination was selected. It was bottled and marked with a large price tag. Thanks to the rumor mills and social media, the name began to circulate quickly. The first batch contained 1,400 bottles and sold out so fast it never made it out of Kentucky.
“It has the potential to get up and stay among the world-class, luxury brands — it has that kind of cachet,” said Jeff Hopmayer, a strategic adviser in Nashville who has worked closely with several bourbon producers, including Kentucky Owl. “When I bring a bottle to a party, everyone freaks out.”
SPI Buys Kentucky Owl
Not long after the first batch sold out, Dedman received a call from Yuri Shelfer. He's a Russian businessman and the owner of the SPI Group. They are a global drinks company known for Stolichnaya vodka which was sold off in 2001 to the Russian government. Looking for another hot item to improve his portfolio, Shelfer became increasingly interested in Kentucky Owl. Under advisory from Brindiamo Group, Stoli Group® USA, LLC was able to acquire Kentucky Owl and invest in logistical improvements. SPI Group's president said:
"Kentucky Owl is a great next step for our portfolio of premium and luxury brands. Bourbons have been experiencing impressive growth recently, and we see a strong opportunity in the super-premium sub-category, in particular."
Part of the deal includes Dedman staying on as corporate ambassador and blender. There are plans to develop a wide range of whiskeys produced in Kentucky and ranging in price.