If you thought the flavored spirit craze would stop with vodka and rum, you were wrong.
Spurred by the success of the various honeyed whisky brands and the booming Red Stag, by the unbridled innovation of craft distillers and the continuing American spirit consumer’s fascination with new flavors, whiskey makers have unleashed a flood of new flavored releases this fall. The impact on-premise remains to be seen, but it’s likely that some or all of these new spirits will find a place on the back bar of the country’s chain restaurants.
Even the best known whiskeys have taken on the flavor challenge. In just the last two months, brands small and large are entering the fray. This time, though, the brands tend to be full proof and potent, unlike many vodkas and rums that come in below 80 proof.
For instance, Knob Creek Bourbon has added the brand’s first ever flavor-innovation, Knob Creek Smoked Maple Bourbon, created in honor of Knob Creek founder Booker Noe. At 90 proof, this new expression adds loads of sugary sweet maple and a touch of smoke to the already robust Knob Creek.
Wild Turkey has followed up its honey flavor with Wild Turkey Spiced, intended to compete against spiced rums according to the company. Wild Turkey Spiced’s flavor profile is less sweet than Knob Creek Smoked Maple and the producer suggests it be consumed neat or with cola. The 86 proof flavored whiskey is targeted at males who already favor spiced rums.
Apple cider is getting into the mix as well. Brown-Forman has added a new seasonal variant to Jack Daniel’s, Winter Jack. A blend of apple cider liqueur, Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 Tennessee Whiskey and holiday spices, the supplier is promoting this new product as a spirit to be served warm, and calls it “reminiscent of apple pie complemented with Tennessee whiskey and seasonal spices, with a finish of toasted oak and vanilla.”
Beam is also bringing cider into the mix, increasing the portfolio of its flavored whiskey success, Red Stag, with the launch of Red Stag Hardcore Cider. It, too, is full strength at 80-proof and is targeted at the growth in cider among brew enthusiasts.
Even smaller distillers are getting into the game. Virginia distillery A. Smith Bowman recently announced the release of its Abraham Bowman Limited Edition Gingerbread Beer Finished Bourbon. The barrels previously aged Bowman Brothers Bourbon, were then used to age Richmond, Va-based Hardywood Brewery’s Gingerbread Stout for 12 weeks. The barrels returned to Bowman, were filled with aged bourbon for two months of finishing. Not technically flavored, nonetheless the company describes Abraham Bowman Gingerbread Beer Finished Bourbon as tasting of toasted graham crackers, gingerbread spice, toasted nut, cinnamon and clove and fruity nut bread.
Which if any of these will catch on? More importantly, how will they fare on-premise? Far too early even to speculate, but you can be sure this is just the beginning of the flavored whiskey explosion, and one or more of these or other iterations are in your future.