Mickey Meece

Top Louisville-based writer Mickey Meece has a long piece in the New York Times about bourbon. It’s a must-read if you like bourbon, and especially if you like the business of bourbon.

Which, as Mickey documents, is some business!

“Bourbon’s All-American Roar” uses a bartender “shake-off” at the Kentucky Derby Museum earlier this month to introduce numbers and trends related to the bourbon boom. Or as Insider Louisville contributor Doug Stern notes, “Nice, deep coverage.”

The shake-off was held to create more drink recipes for a spirits that just keeps getting more popular, Meece reports:

Sure, the event was as much about marketing as mixology — but then again, today’s bourbon boom represents a triumph of salesmanship. At a time when many American industries are struggling, distillers here are thriving, hiring and expanding. They are cashing in on an American renaissance in whiskey-based cocktails, as well as a growing thirst for bourbon around the world.

Mickey mixes in sales of Tennessee whiskeys such as Jack Daniel’s, Louisvill-based Brown-Forman’s biggest seller. Jack Daniel’s is similar to – but certainly not the same as – our our Kentucky bourbon. But she makes the point well that “brown goods” such as bourbon are back.

Here are a few numbers from the story:

  • Jack Daniel’s spent nearly $15 million  on advertising in 2009-10, double that spent by Jim Beam and Evan Williams.
  • Sales of flavored whiskey have risen 136 percent so far this year over last and now represent 3 percent of the $1.4 billion whiskey category.
  • Bourbon and Tennessee whiskey account for about 70 percent of the $1.1 billion of distilled American spirits that are exported.

Mickey clearly spent a lot of time interviewing, with more than a dozen sources including the son of legendary Bardstown distiller and Jim Beam descendant Booker Noe and Chris Morris, the Brown-Forman master distiller who has made Woodford Reserve a hit.

A great piece of business reporting on an exiting industry.