Campbell Brown, President and Managing Director of Old Forester is back on the show. If you’ve been a long time listener, you may have remembered him back on Episode 98. As the President of Old Forester, he oversees a lot of the brands momentum and strategy. We get his take on bourbon tariffs with international expansion along with his hope for future movie partnerships. Anyone interested in a business background, you’re going to find this one entertaining.
- This week’s Above the Char with Fred Minnick talks about Marianne Eaves.
- Talk about the Brown influence on our city because you’ve got the Brown Hotel, The Brown Theatre, the Hot Brown, etc.
- Is there pressure to keep the Brown tradition going?
- How did you work your way up at Brown-Forman?
- What got you into the Old Forester category?
- Talk about the building and distillery.
- What about the fire in 2014?
- What chapter are we in right now in Old Forester history?
- Let’s talk about international markets and tariffs.
- What was the international growth plans for Old Forester prior to all the tariffs? Did they change or are they staying the same?
- Where do you see the Old Forester brand?
- What are you doing to elevate the Old Forester brand into a premium category?
- Talk about your team and what goes into the bottle.
- Do you take a Bill Samuels approach about not interfering with what goes in the bottle?
- Is there a brand rivalry in the company?
- Do you have to fight Woodford for barrels?
- Will you ever have 100% of production here?
- What impact did the Kingsman movie have on Old Forester business?
- Do you have a strategy to do more than Statemans?
- If you could do a movie tie in, which movie past or present would you do?
- How far down the gene pool are you to George Garvin Brown?
Basically what I’m hearing is Chris and Jackie go into a room, and they’re fighting over a barrel. And Jackie’s winning the fights right now. You know, I wouldn’t say that I would say I mean, I mean if it did come down to a physical battle, I would put my money on Jackie.
This is Episode 201 of bourbon pursuit. I’m one of your hosts, Kenny. And let’s go through a little bit of news but really the big news this week, and maybe you’re living underneath a rock you weren’t looking at social media you weren’t looking at any of the news articles that came out but Marianne Eave’s the master distiller castle and key, the one that was renowned as being the first female master distiller since prohibition, in a joint press release has announced her resignation from the distillery with mixed emotions and various news articles she expresses that she isn’t done yet being a master distiller.
And we’ll continue to stay in the industry as a consultant. We recorded an episode back on I think it was actually was 18 back with Marianne and this is before castle and key the name was even ever conceived and it was being referred to as the former old Taylor distillery. So make sure you go and you check that out and kind of check out her past and her you know, everything that she had built because we started this podcast pretty much the same exact time she was coming online with castle and key. So we wish Marianne all the best and her future opportunities endeavors. And we look forward to having her back on the show. Once again. This didn’t get much publicity, but I was a part of Media Day at Churchill Downs during Derby week. And Fred along with I we got to hear Chris Morris and listen to the call talk about Woodford batch proof. And we didn’t really know all the details about it. But come to find out it’s going to be a new product line extension and will only be released one time per year at the beginning of spring which happens to be around Derby time. Of course, batch proof is somewhat like barrel proof but not exactly what’s
they do is they have their standard offering of Woodford Reserve. And then every barrel is rinsed out with a gallon of water and added back into the batch. And most of us kind of know that or we call it the devil’s cup. So just a little tidbit of information. So if you’re looking for a more higher proof version of Woodford, and it’s gonna be different every single year, go and check out Woodford batch proof
on our news pursuit series episodes 10 and 11 are now on sale this week to our Patreon community at first, you know, we’ve been talking about Episode 10 for a while and we’re super excited release it because this is a five year we did bourbon coming from Finger Lakes distilling, and this distilleries getting crazy good accolades. We featured them back on the Empire right episode, and they get good reviews from pretty much everywhere. bleak driver of bourbon or as well as and Aaron Goldfarb of hacking whiskey sold out a barrel of their Ice Wine finished bourbon in 48 hours. Michael Veatch recently reviewed their Mackenzie bottle and bond bourbon and breaking bourbon even named that
bottle and bond bourbon, one of their best Bourbons of 2018. And now we have the first ever barrel proof release at five years old. Episode 11 is right around the corner as well and it’s a short barrel. And who doesn’t love short barrels only 112 bottles were in this barrel. And it is the second highest proof we have released thus far coming in at 114.3. It’s also 10 years old. So it’s got that good middle age Eurostar, middle of the road sort of age to it. As usual, first access is to our Patreon community, so make sure that you’re checking out your emails to get your password for access. We’re excited to have Campbell Brown back on the show. If you’ve been a longtime listener, you may have remembered him being a part of the legend series partnership that we have with the Kentucky Derby Museum. And that was back on episode 98. As the president of old forester he oversees a lot of the brand’s momentum and strategy with anyone interested in a business background. This is what you’re going to find entertaining and with that,
Let’s go hear from our good friend Joe at barrel bourbon. And then you’ve got Fred Minnick with above the char.
Hi, this is Joe from barrel craft spirits. I work with a team that takes blending seriously. We spend months obsessing over hundreds of combinations until we figure out the perfect blend for you. lift your spirits with barrel bourbon.
I’m Fred Minnick, and this is above the char. When I walked into the brown Forman office to interview Chris Morris, I sat down in a nice leather chair. The PR person’s office was surrounded with like fishing photos and family photos. It felt very friendly. And then in walked a young woman I hadn’t ever met before. She was tall, blond hair, very pretty. And she extended her hand and said, Hi, Marianne Epes, so nice to meet you.
Chris looked at me and said, Marianne is our new master taster. Brown Forman had just named Marianne
To be the master taster of the Woodford Reserve brand. I later learned that she was on a path to become the next master distiller for Woodford Reserve. Imagine that being in your early 20s and having the opportunity to become the master distiller for one of the greatest bourbon brands on the market. Now, at the time I thought to myself, I never met her, and what is this young woman know? And despite my
my background and covering women in whiskey writing the book, whiskey women, I had only just met Marianne, I felt like Marianne needed to prove herself a little bit before I could officially think in my mind that you know, she is capable of being a master distiller and so I talked to her. And what I learned from her within 30 minutes, was that she was one of the brightest young minds, not just in Kentucky, but in all of
American whiskey. She could tell you everything there was to know about corn and how much starch to extract and how to distill it and what are the different distillation techniques to get whatever you need out of something. She was an engineer. And she chose to go into bourbon versus making ethanol or something else because bourbon was her passion. And when she announced her departure of brown Forman for a new distillery that would be starting up at the old Taylor facility, which is actually near Woodford Reserve. I was kind of stunned because who, after all, would leave the opportunity to become the master distiller of Woodford Reserve. And then I got to know Marianne even more. She has that entrepreneurial spirit. She wanted to do her own thing. She wanted to be a part of something new. Well, this past week, Marianne announced her departure of castle and key
It’s a little bit of a historic one from an American whiskey perspective. You see, Marianne was the first woman to take the title master distiller at a Kentucky distillery. Now don’t get me wrong, there were women in the past, who actually were doing master distiller work, but they did not take the title. And I think when you put the master distiller title on your card, you got a little bit of a target on your back. And after her departure, you saw that target, getting pelted for Marianne. There were people who were making fun of her for her how she is on social media saying things like well who will take selfies now, at the distillery there were people who were pointing out the fact that heard bourbon had not yet hit the market. How can she call herself a master distiller and I gotta tell you, all of that disappointed me greatly because here was a young woman who took a risk
And left one of the most comfortable position you could possibly be in the distilling business. She took a risk for something new. It didn’t work out. It happens to all of us. We don’t know the reasons. It could be personal, it could be professional, there could have been conflict there. She may have not gotten along with her bosses and who here has not? Who here has not been in a position where they were working for someone they couldn’t stand? Maybe that’s what it was, or maybe it was vice versa? I don’t know. I don’t know the reasons why Marianne left. But she did not deserve the vitriolic comments that she got from people on social media didn’t deserve a single one of them. But I also know Marianne rises above all that, because at the end of the day, she’s a very talented young woman, and she can do whatever she wants to include being the first master distiller and Kentucky whiskey history. And that’s this week’s above the char. Hey, if you have an idea
For above the char hit me up on Twitter or Instagram at Fred Minnick. That’s at Fred Minnick. Until next week. Cheers.
Welcome back to another episode of bourbon pursuit the official podcast of bourbon. The whole team here today recording at the I guess you could say me, the old forester studio, something like that. We’re actually in the old forester distilling tasting room, actually seeing a pretty cool behind the scenes, kitchen esque cocktail mixing sort of area. But this is going to be a fun episode because our guest today was actually somebody that unbeknownst to him, he was he was on the show before from the Legends Series, but of course,
yeah, the Kentucky Derby Museum legend series that was that’s probably my favorite of the of the legend series I’ve done because Campbell’s one of these guys have been so instrumental not just in bourbon,
But all spirits and people, people just here you know, he’s a member of the brand family and everyone thinks I just get things handed to him. This guy worked his way up, you know, worked in foreign markets did a lot of grunt work that a lot of people in bourbon royalty wouldn’t do. And so he’s one of those people I like bringing to the forefront and telling his story a little bit because he’s done a lot. He’s done a lot to help people like us. You say grunt work I also know that at some point he was the the soco Ambassador at one point right so that’s a little grunt work. This is so co by Soca we mean Southern Comfort and you know i one time that was a that was a brilliant brand. Oh yeah, absolutely. And it helped it was a part of the brown Forman family of course they sold it to SAS rack and and you know, I think we should ask him about like what was that like for him because he did have such an emotional connection to it and of course he’s also came out with soco long shots you know.
I’m not really interested.
Well you You’re always wanting to drink fireball or something comfort sounds right up my alley, you know, should we really mean should we have him on anymore? With all this like, whiskey? I don’t know. I mean, he tell you what we before we started recording, you know they offered us a drink and Ryan kind of piqued his interest so tell everybody what we’re drinking as well we got him in front of us. Well, so Jackie was in the cabinet, you know picking some selections when she said I have some president’s choice barrel she kind of whispered Campbell and he was like No, no and I was like I heard that will be like that barrel proof or appreciated Jackie. But as you can see, I think this episode will be a lot juice here then the legend series because we’ve been here boozing all day and the the research lab Yep, just kidding responsibly, we respond.
Absolutely. So with that, let’s go ahead introduce our guests. So today, we have Campbell Brown Campbell is the president and managing director of old forester for brown Forman. So Campbell, welcome to the show. Good to be here. Thank you. Absolutely. So, you know, we kind of gave you a little bit of
Have a head start of what you did and growing up into here and doing some grunt work and kind of cut your teeth in the history but I kind of want to take it back a little bit because as some of our listeners may not know, you’re from originally Montreal. I was born here in Louisville. I turned five I moved to Montreal and I turned five in Montreal. Yeah and I grew up there Wikipedia my research Yeah.
We get it right. So somebody update the Wikipedia page before I have to but I also want to give anybody that’s from out of town in in fretted already hinted at it to have the name Brown. And what that means to the city of little because you’ve got the brown hotel, you got the brown theater, I mean, you got a damn the Buddha Cancer Center, you got the brand, you’ve got all different browns, you’ve got the hot brown you got every night, right. So kind of just talk about kind of wish that one was
but kind of talk about the brown influence of just in Louisville just for anybody that’s listening. That’s across the nation.
Well, our families, you know, been a part of this city
in for generations even going back before George Garvin Brown, you know, we’ve had, you know, family in Kentucky and and i think involved in, in the state from a political standpoint from a commercial standpoint, philanthropic standpoint.
You know, it’s it’s our home. I think we’re so proud that you know, the city’s been really quite good to our family and to this business.
My, you know, my, you know, I was born here in 67. Kind of spent my early years here, but growing up in Montreal, it was all a little bit foreign. I remember, you know, coming back here in the summers for a couple weeks and just remembering how incredibly hot sweating your ass off. Yeah, yeah, it was I was like, wow, that’s, that’s a new heat that we don’t get up and can
Uh much and then,
you know farms everyone like everyone had a farm and so we would go out to my grandmother’s farm
or you know, an uncle and and you know, you just, you know, see these animals you just don’t see and in West Mountain Montreal where we grew up and then you know eating like lima beans I never really was into lima beans until I got here and frankly, I don’t think I’ve been into lima beans until about 10 years ago. That’s really an acquired taste. That’s something I never thought we would start talking about.
The lima beans is Pat Steakhouse. It does Yeah. Yeah, right.
on track. We expect a royalty check from Pat’s after the yes he
Well, he’s a cash operating business. He actually started taking credit cards. Yeah, yeah.
That’ll do it. So yeah, I mean, look, Louisville, Kentucky, obviously, you know, our family’s been around here for a number of years and generations. I
I think, you know, it’s a great city.
It’s got a great attitude. I think it’s an exciting time to be a part of the city. And I think, you know,
I like having a family here, Mike, you know, I, my eldest child was born in Annapolis, my youngest was born here in Louisville. You know,
it’s great raising a family here. It’s
good. I just I like, I like what’s happening and sitting, I want to be a part of it. And I think that, you know, most people that have been a part of this city for a lifetime, you know, we talked about our high schools and where we went to school, I mean, that I think there’s a reason for that is that we all have these great, really strong emotional connections that go back to childhood and you’ve got people that come in and out of the city. I mean, I was out of here
for six or seven years, always knowing that I was going to be coming back in so it’s, yeah, it’s a unique place. And I think we’ve been fortunate that we got into the right business at the right time, and it’s thrived for for quite some time. Now. And
gives us a chance to
kind of enjoy being in an industry that’s got so much to do with, with the city in the state. And I’ll add to, you know, a little bit of the brown legacy. You know,
Campbell mentioned politics, they’ve, they’ve had a lot of people in high places there. But to me, the brown family is really about philanthropy. And
if it was not for the brown family, I mean, we wouldn’t be talking about whiskey row today. I mean, they essentially saved whiskey row where we are right now. And they when a Louisville was crumbling from an art perspective, the brown family kind of held it up, you know, so you go around our museums here, and you’ll see a brown at the top of every one of the donors. So they’re a very, very important family for our community. Absolutely. Absolutely. And so is there like, you know, as Kenny and Fred said, the Browns are like one of the most famous families probably in the city is there like a pressure or like something to get out like, we got to keep this
thing going or How’s that feel to be a part of that tradition and keep it going?
I don’t know. I mean, I think you just, you certainly you want to be respectful to what the city represents and reflect that, you know, appropriately. I think,
you know, I don’t know if it’s pressure. I think that at all, really, I think, you know, you’re many of us have different jobs and doing different things. And I think there’s a, there’s a, I think, a bias towards staying engaged, staying interested understanding kind of the issues and the opportunities of the city and figuring out ways in which we can help, like anybody would really in our own individual ways,
you know, to help to find solutions and empower people and empower ideas. And I think that, you know, frankly, there are so many people in this city in particular that are doing that every day. I mean, I work with Holly McKnight, her husband, JK me
ignite is done a ton for this city through, you know, his Philip philanthropy, philanthropy and through his interest in music and they can throw a party party. Greg great taste. You know, so I think that and there’s, like, individual after individual like that are that are here, you know, looking I think because it’s a city that’s fairly manageable size it gives individuals an opportunity to kind of make things happen that would be much harder to do even in a Nashville certainly in a New York or Miami but I think there’s still as an economy of scale that allows a good idea or a strong individual to make something powerful happen. It’s a big small town. Yeah, yeah. So also want to kind of just talk about your, your rise with inside the ranks of brown Forman too, because little research shows that you started off in the mailroom at Brown Forman so kind of talk about the steps that you took up the ladder to to kind of where you are today. Well, I mean, we’ve got
Great internship. I mean, the internship programs gotten a whole lot better since I was a part of it.
And that’s how I got involved. You know, I didn’t know anything about really the business I grew up in Montreal, had a chance to move spent a summer in Louisville. I got a job in the mailroom. I think, you know, those types of opportunities in a mailroom gives you a real perspective on who people are in a company, what different groups do individuals do you learn about the brands, I remember walking in and to my cousin Mac Brown’s office, and I think he was part of the Jose Guarino company at the time, and was running maybe Martel and just seeing the point of sale in his office and going God, he got this job, this would be great. Look at that. I mean, you know, just some neat stuff and, and I think it’s a business that kind of captures your imagination and you see kind of neat things that you can touch and feel and and so that certainly gives you a nice kind of
you know how people get their jobs done. And it’s a beautiful campus. If you’ve ever been down to brown Forman it really is set up like a university campus. And it’s a great place to work and so that that certainly draws you in. And then, you know, I went and got a graduate degree and came back in 94 and started to work actually, we were talking you’re talking about in the intro about Sasha Sasha Mark Brown, who run says rack was hired me at Brown Forman when he was running the advancing markets group. And so I began working in that like our emerging markets group in 94. I went to Chicago for a bit of supposed to be there for a couple years and an opportunity opened up for me overseas and I got asked to come back to go over to interview for the job, but they wouldn’t tell me what the job was. And so I you know, I spent basically the better part of a day trying to figure out why
I was in what I was, what job and then I kind of figured it out. And as it turned out, they wanted me to go to India. And I think they were just nervous about telling me that while I was living in Chicago thinking I might not come for the interview, just because it’s such a far way to go. And you know, it’s a it’s a difficult market. It’s not like, you know, when you’re 2425 years old, and somebody says, Hey, do you want to go to Australia? Yes, I do. When did you want to go to India, it’s such a foreign place. And you really don’t have the same kind of immediate
interest, frankly, and kind of moving up there and go into a country that big and that vast,
and I ended up moving there. I was supposed to go there for four months, ended up spending a year and I left that place in tears. I absolutely loved it. It was one of the best experiences of my life. I got to travel all over the country helping set up a joint venture where we were local bottling Southern Comfort. So that was my first kind of
introduction into a relationship with the brand that I had off and on for over a decade at the company. And I was just great. It was fantastic. Great people great food. What was your favorite Indian food dish? Chicken Tikka Masala. Oh yeah, yeah, like Assad pioneer London on yet naan bread delicious. I mean everything about it I loved
and then I moved to the Philippines to help set up the joint venture over there also around the Southern Comfort brand, and was on my way to Thailand to be a country manager and I got
persuaded to go help open up an office in Istanbul in Turkey for regional marketing office that we had there and I went to do that and I ended up staying in Turkey for three and a half years before coming back to the US. As a US brand manager for Southern Comfort. You should have been the dosa keys and World’s Most Interesting Man
Well, yeah, maybe like some nice locations, but not nearly the exotic experiences that that guy had. For sure. Yeah. And so what got you into the, I guess the old forester category? Was it to the point where you said, I kind of want to move on or was at the sale of Southern Comfort and you said, Okay, I’m looking for a new home, you know, what it was?
I think we began to see some interesting things happening for old forester. We had we had had a great brand team that was coming up with some pretty wonderful ideas that are now we’re drinking, you know, the whole whiskey roll concept. And there was an opportunity with the, you know, with the we finally got the approval to go build this distillery at the location we’re at today.
And we wanted to bring that story together a little bit like you know, the story of a brand that’s been around for 100 and almost hundred and 50 years that’s been in our family and our company. That kind of the business we started with was old forester and
Bringing that story of our family, the business and the community together. At that point, I had about 20 years experience. So, you know, here’s a person that actually, you know, may have the, you know, commercial sense to go lead this and, and, and had the, the obvious, you know, the right DNA to connect the dots on this five generations story and so I, you know, I was asked to kind of head up the building phase of this and the capital project and then help lead the brand and tell the story of, you know, one of America’s unique alcohol products and and it’s really been a pleasure to be able to kind of have that role. Let’s go to the, the construction part of this first. I mean, first of all,
it from a business perspective. You gotta be nuts to try and build a distillery in a good little lab.
better places to do this right? I think this area burnt down yet two times. Yeah. Can you take us through that process of like?
Well, I what I loved it what makes me feel good, like smarter people than me made the decision.
So, yeah, that that location site was picked well before I started.
Yeah, I think it will I mean that but that’s what makes it so special. You know, like, here’s a location that we actually like our founder office out of, for from whatever
1882 to 1919. And, you know, we get to move back in here decades, generations later, I mean, so that’s a special thing that when you get a chance to take advantage of that you do it.
We I feel like one of our core capabilities at the company is building wonderful home places that allow us to tell
great brand stories while displaying a process.
And we worked with some great partners here in town and out of town that
you know, frankly put together a proposition that was hard to say no to and that you know, and frankly, you know, as you get into these projects, you like any kind of renovation or building you know, something happens all the time that you’re not expecting certainly the fire being a big obvious one. Tell us about that. let’s let’s let’s let’s go there because
Was it 2014 Yeah, the right one. I started right when you started so 2014 fire there’s smoke all downtown Louisville, the news crews are here. I see it on the news. That’s how I find out about it. How did you guys work because it was over you your tweet, you know through here I’m a first responder so I was I was the fights right? I actually I forgot I came on the site and I was tweeting about it. I forgot about that. But what was what was that like for you? Where were you? Yeah, what was going through your head when
When the fires when the fire hit, so I was in the office at 850 Dixie Highway and I got a phone call from a buddy of mine in corporate development who had a friend down here works for one of the law firms or one of the banks I don’t know and he was looking out his window and called my colleague and said look, I think think buildings on fire and so I got the phone calls I get Look, I just got a friend a call from a friend who says that the buildings downtown on Main Street are on fire I don’t know if it’s the distillery or not but you may want to check it out. And so I just you know, I had my computer up and I i there was this live feed on I think wave or one who is one of the stations of a helicopter and I pulled it up and
for sure, it was obvious that the block was on fire. less obvious was was it did we was it in our building or was it down the block and you knew no matter what it was going to be a problem.
And your first reaction was, it was shocking how violent the fire was how much flame there was the, the number of the amount of smoke, the amount of water being thrown at it. It was it was a big, big time fires like yeah, like watching a movie almost. And you’re kind of paralyzed. And I called Mike beach and Mike and his team are already down here. And Mike is the project manager who really is the guy that built this place, manage all the of the contractors and whatnot.
And so, you know, we had our folks down here and kind of trying to understand it and really you’re thinking about safety. I mean, what happens if somebody is killed as they’re trying to kind of put this fire out what you know, and you know, that they’re taking the right precautions, but it was pretty
it’s pretty devastating. You know,
I and my wife You know, my wife hears about it, you know, we’re then we’re later at night we’re at home, the things still burning
I begin to get a lot of phone calls, just from friends and and, you know, they’re trying to find out about it, it was pretty awful. And you know,
you we were already planning on the groundbreaking right? Like, what that ceremony was going to look like and everything else and, and so that everything gets put on hold and Now fortunately there there were no injuries. You know, we’re standing we’re sitting in the building today So look, it was it was a horrible thing when it happened, right? It’s now a chapter and a long story. And this whole block looks stunning, you know, and so I think we’re pretty fortunate and given the work it took to get it there because you a lot of people would have just let it you know, kind of tear down the facade and start from scratch. You all invested the money to actually save the the front Yep. And hold the brick in. I mean my I mean the we have braces out here for months. Yeah.
You guys are trying to protect the integrity of the bill as much as you could I mean, it was a dangerous dangerous
construction site for a long time. I mean, even as you’re trying to clean up the inside in there been so much water put on the on the on the building site to to extinguish everything that it just eroded the ground and eroded all the brick and then you know, things are loose. When you’re up front on Main Street on this side as we’re trying to kind of dig through that and brace it all things are kind of crumbling as it’s happening. And, you know,
we had to call in special engineers, it took a lot of time. A lot of smart minds looking at it, figuring out ways in which we could make it a safe environment to allow people to go back and work and so we really just had, you know, you know,
experts in there and just very few at a time and that took it just took a lot of time and you know, you kind of make these connections in the romance copy of what we do you know, we’re in a business
Uh, you know, we’re we spend our time waiting around for stuff to get ready. And so
you know, you want to you want to be you want to be quick and you want to make decisive decisions, but you also want to make the correct decisions. And, you know,
we took our time, I think we’ve got it right. You know,
this building, I think is fascinating the way that you have constructed it now, and it’s a beautiful facility, I think, you know,
whether you’re coming in here on a tour, or you’re going to George’s or you’re just here to, you know,
walk walk around Main Street, it’s, it’s been done right. And, you know,
again, the fire is a chapter of the long story. Where are we at right now in the chapter?
Yeah, I think this is that whole fun Renaissance chapter. Right? It’s,
it’s the chapter you want to be writing and, you know, we’re thrilled with what’s happening with the brand. I mean, even in Kentucky, I mean, this brand has always been a great brand for the city and for the state but to see it grow
And the out, you know, the rural parts of Kentucky, embrace old forester in a way that I mean, I just never saw in my lifetime. It’s fantastic. You know, there’s, there’s always been this core heartbeat of the brand here in town. And it’s just kind of expanding there. And then you see what’s happening in these other markets. And you know, how people are responding to some of the whiskey, the innovation, it’s exciting, you know, I think there’s a lot more to be written
with the whole category, right? I mean, we’re just scratching the surface as it relates to bourbon in an American whiskeys outside of the US. And I think that’s going to be really exciting and a lot of fun for us. I think innovation continues to kind of push the envelope of the category in a neat way. You know,
we’ve got bourbon in general, you know, it’s just, it’s, it’s, you know, it’s,
it just can be consumed in so many fun, different ways. I think it’s really really versatile. And so you bring it you bring up the international
markets and, you know, this is very, very crucial time in American whiskey history because we haven’t had this kind of export interest before. And now, we’re in addition to having that interest we have we have some trade concerns where people are pressing tariffs. And
and, and you know that I can’t think of a company that’s more vulnerable to tariffs than brown Forman. Yeah. And, you know, I think that’s, that’s one of the tough outcomes of this as as these this terror of things going on. You know, we’re an industry that’s for the most, in most cases, it’s single source production, right? We don’t, the inputs of this product are 100% American.
And so it’s an easy target for tariffs outside of the US because it doesn’t really impact
any of the
Any supply side stuff that would be occurring from a European market for instance. I mean, pretty much everything is for bourbon and American whiskeys are made in America. So it’s isolated. And so it’s the perfect target to be in the middle of a territory, unfortunately. And it’s it’s a timing couldn’t, you know, it’s it’s,
it’s not great, you know, it’s not a huge deal for old forester. Obviously, we’re, we’re a smaller brand that’s got, you know, some nice momentum.
But it’s not, it’s not, you know,
it’s not it’s we don’t have a huge footprint, a global footprint yet, but jack daniels, you’re in the sister brand that’s in Tennessee. That’s, that’s correct. It hit some hard. It does. It does. So you’re not going to think of any sort of long term effects that old forester could have on this. I mean, is it because I’m sure you’ve had some sort of international expansion and thoughts. I mean, so we’re lucky we actually have a nice
Really nice business. That’s, that’s got some great momentum in Australia. But that’s not a tariff issue. You know,
we’re in the UK.
And and that is more of a thing for us, but it’s still a small brand that’s being built in the on premise and, you know,
friends, right, I mean, this is really about the Woodford and the jack daniels of the world and and, and that that this has a real impact on on those brands and how we go about resourcing and how we go about brand building in, in in the European and Asian and Latin American market. So I’m not the best guy to talk about, you know, the, you know,
how that’s impacting those brands, but it’s obvious that I do think that like, yeah, you get the PDF every morning that says like, Oh, I will. I will say that. If there’s, if there’s a brand within the brown Forman portfolio that would survive like a tear for the countries that would be old for sure, because
It is. It is such
that powerful. Yeah, there was an article. My brother lives in London. And there was an article that came out and it was kind of a tongue in cheek thing. Okay, five things to do facing this terror floor on bourbon and American whiskey and I think one of the points was make jack daniels popsicles and last longer. I think people are coming up with ways in which to survive this period of time, I think will will survive, although i’ve i’ve screamed about it enough for the past.
So I want to ask a question is about the old forester brand and kind of where you see it.
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So I want to ask a question is about the enforcer brand and kind of where you see it. Do you see it as a
An everyday category premium category in are you doing anything to kind of elevate into a premium category? Well, for sure, I think it’s a great question. And it’s the one we wrestle with most regularly
is, you know, one of the wonderful aspects of the brand, if you talk to anybody that’s been drinking it for a while, or that’s familiar with it.
It’s so accessible, you know that it’s a great value bourbon, and, and I think that’s something that is core to that brand DNA. And so maintaining that accessibility, both in the flavor profile and the price point. It’s part of how we look at brand building for old forester so that’s always going to be a thing.
Now, recently, we’ve been we’ve had some success with the introduction of whiskey row, which allows us to play in price points that are, you know, attractive, you know, these are $40 and above price points. There’s a ton of
consumer interest in those price points and I think if you create a bourbon that’s worth that price, or even considered a value at that price, it’s a special place to be. So I think we’ll always try to look for ways even at $40 and $55, or even looking at birthday bourbon, which is basically 100 bucks. Now, that’s still a good value for a 12 year old, you know,
a highly allocated bourbon that you know, is got a recommended sales price at 100 bucks, it’s hard to find it for that, but
know that that’s, I think that’s, that’s part of, you know, what we look at and in our strategy so I’ll say that, you know, if we take a look at some of the, of the releases of the last two or three years of what’s really hit the mark, and in our community, old forester has been right there in the thick of it. The 2018 birthday bourbon, has probably the best birthday bourbon of the past decade. The
camera should have some
By the way, me a bottle. But I think you know, you never gone well you all.
But I mean, everybody really regarded the 2013 is one of the best. Yeah, it was very good. And then then the old forester 1920 is fantastic. Yes. And I look at i and i look at, you know, what has changed within your within your team.
And I think I feel like Jackie, and you may be a moral compass it like have happened. I feel like you’ve got somebody inside, you know, who’s doing a great job of selecting stuff for you. So what Yeah, and I’ve also noticed that you walk around here, this is probably the most diverse distillery in the state.
You see more diversity, see more women, more people of color here, and I applaud you for that. But talk, talk us through your team and who’s actually you know, picking
What what’s going into the bottle right now? Yeah, well, I mean, I mean so Chris Morris is the continues to be our master distiller and leads the innovation.
You know, one who works at this distillery is you know, he’s a big part of making sure what’s coming out of here. Tastes like what we’ve got at Brown Forman distillery where the vast majority of old foresters made. Jackie’s came on board I think about three years ago, right when I came on board, she was one of the first people that kind of was on our radar screen and the first person I think I hired as when I took over.
And there’s no question that she has had an impact on how we talk about these brands, how we present them both in flavor and in kind of the copy and the positioning of them. She’s allowed us to think differently about innovation. I think she’s worked really well with Chris
And helping kind of you’ve got these two characters, two individuals that are really good at what they do that have I think fairly
I mean, they I think they just have they they have very well refined palates. Basically what I’m hearing is Chris and Jackie go into a room, and they’re fighting over a barrel. And Jackie’s winning the fights right now. You know, I wouldn’t say that I would say I mean, I mean, if it did come down to a physical battle, I would put my money on jack.
But I think that they work well together now and Jackie, I mean, look, the birthday bourbon, how we proofing some of this stuff. I mean, she’s really the the brains behind president’s choice.
You know, it’s we are lucky to have her and and she had a great impact. Do you take a little bit of a bit bill Samuels approach, or at least what he used to say is like, I don’t mess with the whiskey. Do you? You let people kind of
make the decisions on what’s in the bottle and you just kind of official Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah,
I’m a great consumer. Yeah.
And and I’m proud of my, you know being a good long time responsible consumer.
But I mean, since I’ve been in this job I’ve probably spent more time thinking about, you know, my palate and like, frankly my biggest problem with you know, being like a whiskey taster is that I just don’t have the reference points like I don’t know what a scone Welcome to the crowd.
Like I can’t Fred starts revealing or like, Yeah, he’s got he’s got his t shirt on it says like got marzipan. Yeah.
I don’t know. I mean, I just so I mean, I feel like I’ve got a sense of what I like But yeah, I mean, Jackie’s I can feel it yet figured out what consumers would like. Yeah, yeah. You know,
and there’s frankly there’s just people that are you know, it’s in their DNA and
They’ve worked really, really hard to develop a palette that’s responsive to liquids that they’re tasting. And we’ve got some really good people at that, that do that here. But there’s a little bit of responsibility your shoulders because there’s another bottling called president’s choice, that kind of falls within your realm. Now, I can talk about that more involved with that. But, you know,
Jackie, narrows it down to a point where it’s hard to make a bad decision. Yeah, it really is. And will you were part of the first one I’ve leaned into, you know, a lot of really good. I know.
We all we all certainly looking around the room and look at how people are responding. But I mean, it was it was, it was interesting, you know, and, look, I’m still learning you know, frankly, you don’t want me picking going out there. And, you know, you’ve got to understand where the barrels are and why those are
barrels would possibly taste different than another barrel. Certainly as you kind of fluctuate the proofs around, you know, it’s easier for me to kind of taste stuff that’s below 110 proof and get a sense of, you know, the character of that whiskey. But
yeah, I mean, I, I’m not the whiskey.
I want to I want to talk a little bit about that culture of brown Forman, you know, so you have three really prominent, you know, arguably all three iconic American whiskeys and jack daniels, Woodford Reserve, old Forester, and it feels like within the company, it’s a little bit like University Kentucky versus University of Louisville. Like there’s like a rivalry rivalry with within the company. would you would you do you see that or are you too close where I think Fred’s creating one.
I have never
Done. Yeah, no, I I don’t look I mean, the one thing you recognize any if you’re fortunate enough to have a brand in your portfolio that’s jack daniels or anything remotely close to that. It’s a benefit. There’s no doubt about it, you know it in so many different ways it’s even hard to put into words opens a lot of doors I mean, it sure does and but they don’t have a president’s choice jack daniels you know you can hang your hat on that
they have a Sinatra Yeah, they got great they got a great portfolio I mean what if it’s got a great portfolio you have to because
Woodford does you guys kind of share some some barrels you know, they you know, the warehouses Do you ever have to fight for barrels? Or do you already have everything kind of allocated to you within the company we have we need? Yeah, yeah. When will you be closer to like 100% of production here. Never.
They’ll always be you’ll always have a little share a little still time at Shively. Oh, for sure. I mean, that’s Yeah, I mean, we have the capacity to do about 100,000 cases here. The brand’s already, you know, everything all included is over 200,000 I think and so we’re, we’re, we’re, you know,
we’re growing so the majority will continue to come out of Shively.
Another question I cannot bring up is the statesman. Right? What kind of impacted old forts or statesman and aligning yourself to a movie? kind of have it as an impact on the business?
Interesting question. Yeah, so that was a little bit out of left field, right. It’s not you know, if you look at how we’ve innovated or come up with products, it’s been basically using our, our history to drive that and we had, you know, a really unique shot, that brands of this size with the kind of awareness we have would never get and we jumped at it and it basically
We took a brand that didn’t really exist, and we put it on the market. And so that’s, you know, close to 10,000 cases in under 12 months. And it was a, it was a huge impact for us. It You know,
it got us new points of distribution, all of a sudden, we’re in all these amc movie theaters and, and around the introduction of that film when it came out, and we’re doing, you know, some menu development in those places. And so, you know,
we got, we had a great partnership going with total wine, they got behind the product, and so it opens a bunch of doors, it allows you to talk for one, it you know,
that that movie itself has such a huge following in the around the world, that I think it probably gave us an avenue into consumers that would never ever buy a bourbon, or old forester for sure. But they love the movie and they see z and the cast drinking and they’re like, well, geez, I gotta try that and wonder what that’s all about. And so you get your already
Kind of as a recruitment tool it’s wonderful market like Korea where we’re nowhere we really don’t have any product if it’s there it’s come through duty free in some way shape or form.
That’s the number King’s been was the number one movie in the country historically, it’s the biggest movie. It’s there like Star Wars. And that’s weird. You explain I know I have no idea. No idea. But I mean, and so all of a sudden, you know that our Korean markets call and say hey, we got to get some of this stuff. So we’re like getting pallets of it and flying it off to Korea. So that’s available in the market there and you know, if you look on you know, I follow whatever old forester on Instagram and so I’ll see a lot of these Instagram posts from Asia
as tax days when Yeah, exactly. Yeah. And then the kind of what you know, Campbell from,
from a historical perspective, that was very big for bourbon like I I’m glad to hear that. It in it.
was a success for you but from a category perspective, if you look back to the 1960s you know James Bond really started dictating what a lot of people would drink from a spirits perspective. You would start seeing people go to white spirits over brown spirits in large part because he wanted a martini shaken but not stirred. And so to see bourbon to continue to have this pop culture presence and madmen Boardwalk Empire the state’s been that’s a huge play for continuing to capture consumers are you will? Do you have a strategy, you know, to do more than just the statesman. I mean, are we going to start seeing you when
some TV series or anything like that? I mean, look, our strategy is like, be lucky. And and so I approached us about it. Yes.
So there’s a show that just started I think on
Amazon called the Romanovs and so they reached out to us and they needed a, you know, a period type of a decanter. So
Grab them one of our old holiday decanters. And they use that in the TV show. I have not seen the show. But I mean, you know, you’re always getting these types of opportunities. This movie came out recently called, like, father was like a huge hit on Netflix. And that movie has old forester in it and Woodford Reserve in it. And that was something that just came around because, you know, somebody knew somebody and they needed a, you know, some Bourbons for the scene and turned out that movie did really, really well on that Netflix platform. So a lot of people saw it and, and I think, yeah, you look for opportunities to do that all the time. It’s a great tool. It’s fairly inexpensive and it gives you a huge audience if it turns out to be a hit show or hit movie. Alright, so are you a movie buff by any means? I like movies. So if you were to do a movie tie in and have old forester being anything, what would it be past or present? Oh, gosh. Oh, good question, man. I mean, you already said Star Wars. So I don’t think I’m
Lucy sitting there, oh, he’s afraid that star wars are handled it. Like, you know, it’s it’s tough because movies I like are a little darker and so you don’t always want your product feature
like like Unforgiven you know, okay, I love that movie, you know, but pretty dark, you know. And and so that that’s a tough one. I mean, I look, I think it you know to me, jack daniels is the example of great products showing up in great scenes of great movies that are unforgettable. I mean, whether it’s Animal House or any Paul Newman film, I mean, that that jack daniels is by these heroes and villains by their sides, and it’s, they become it becomes part of the character and I so I think that’s what’s important that if you’re going like we’re with Matthew Vaughn and King’s Men mean he really built a big portion of his movie, around the
idea of distillers from Kentucky. And that’s pretty spectacular. I mean, each of the his characters were, you know, had a very specific trait and they were, you know, associated with a particular style or a whiskey or a tequila or whatever it was. And it made sense. I mean, the story when we got into the how we got old forester that was that is that he actually referenced as he was kind of given us the short stick on it that look, this is like 1919 pre prohibition and he goes on and fit in. So he finished his telling me the story. I was like, hey, look, you mentioned pre prohibition. Is that why? Why would you know about that? It’s like, well, I just need something if these guy if the the agency was started in 1919, Kingsman, right, you know, on the heels of the First World War, you know,
that would have been around 1919 so have been pre prohibition. So I think you need to have this, like look, the brand new want to do it with that is old forester. We’re the only brand that’s been around before
During and after prohibition is like you’re right, I’m going to do with old forester and so just fit his story and I think that’s when these things work well, and it’s something like that. I mean, do you have to
how does how does it work? are they paying you a royalty? Are you paying kind of like a get in any of that?
He’s because he’s not going away to expand the Ascot business.
By the way,
I did their main, the guy
who plays The Big Lebowski, what’s his name?
Jeff Bridges he weren’t asked God in the film. He was here for Derby. Who’s the worst Fred minute this guy?
Is that you said there’s only three people in the world. It’s still women. Yeah. So now we got two of them. Got to find that third. Yeah.
Guys, some random winemaker in France.
And so there’s kind of like one last question that we got to do and just part of the service of this is you
You know, you’d mentioned the history of this building and being able to be at the place where we’re George had his own office and stuff like that. We’re actually sitting in his office. Oh, can see that photo right there. That’s him and whether
that’s him sitting back there leaning in the chair. Oh, it’s amazing. Is there a cool windows? Is that a Samsung or an iPhone? It’s an iPhone.
I think it’s a Canadian, Blackberry.
But the how because I guess we everybody kind of wants to know is either I’m sure you’ve looked it up in the family tree like how far away You’re moved from the gene pool of George himself. I’m George Garvin.
Fifth Generation fifth generation so as your great great, great grandfather, okay. Yeah. Now the internet. The funny thing is that So Mike is gonna want to swab your cheek later
on a test we’re going around right now. So we’re going to get the 23andme this done the
So my dad was a George Garvin brown the third. I was born in 67.
My grandfather, George Darren Brown, the second passed away in I think 69. And so my brother was born in July of 69. And he was named George Garber on the fourth. So you can imagine, as the eldest child, why, how come I didn’t like Hamlet?
How come I don’t get the loom? The Roman numeral, you know, and so you end up there. I mean, the reason was, is that I think it’s a little distracting when you’ve got three gardens running around the same kind of household. And my grandfather just passed away and my my, you know, my mom, my dad had got my my brother and so that was a nice tribute to him. So yeah, we’re so he’s my great, great grandfather. real cool. Well, yeah, definitely a good story. And I want to say also
So thank you again for taking the opportunity in time to come on the show and tell us your story. The history. More about statesman. I think it was your favorite movie. Yeah, then yeah, yeah. So that movie was cinema, movie tickets, and then we’ll go watch a deep dark mystery movie or something. I would like to say that I think old force would fit very nicely in the hustler. But yeah, was actually centered around a lot of bourbon. Oh, yeah. It wasn’t here. He was a he was a wholesaler. Yeah. He was a wholesaler. And he was like a big he came down to Kentucky for tournament. Yeah, I’m getting hammered on JT is brown eight year old and it was eight year old bourbon that that drew him in. So it’s a Seattle thing. For sure what a fit there. I was thinking like Lieutenant Dan in Forrest Gump would be a perfect fit. Yeah, I know that Lieutenant Dan needed rock get stuff. Yeah, he didn’t want anything in quality. He just wanted to get hammered. Very true. Yeah, yeah, what do I know? I would just say like something like Jurassic Park, just like running through the rest of the fields at the bottom portion here and I can see it right.
Yeah something like yet the short Art Museum Park
Well, thank you i this is a lot of fun. I appreciate you guys having me always a pleasure. Absolutely. And you know people want to learn more about you they can Google apparently there, you know getting the Wikipedia and fix all the stuff that I was getting incorrect. I’m very nice if there’s anything I mean Wikipedia. You’d be surprised most of what’s good. Yeah. Most of it. 90% Yeah. But make sure you also you follow actually, you should come to the old forester distillery distilling company here downtown, go and take a tour. It’s a great experience. They’ve got literally everything here. They’ve got bottling, they’ve got Cooper fridge, they’ve got distilling, they’ve got a barrel warehouse, you mean you name it, the lady salary? As you can see, get lit on fire. It’s it’s the coolest elevator experience you’ll ever see. There’s an elevator here at the old forester distillery that I would say rivals something Disney. It’s a fantastic elevator ride. I’m going to say Charlie mention
aka flattery, something like that I was gonna rival that one too. I haven’t seen that in a while. I mean, you know, it goes up it goes, maybe it goes in there like can have like, Charlie Chocolate Factory bourbon ball with old forester. We’re thinking, now we’re thinking. So make sure you go you check that out follow bourbon pursuit, as well as Fred Minnick on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. And also, if you haven’t done so yet, subscribe to bourbon plus, because there’s a lot of great news stories that come out through their great magazine. It’s thank you again, just great imagery and everything like that. But if you also like what you hear, support the show patreon.com slash bourbon pursuit, because without you the show, it would be very tough to keep going. So we want to say thank you, for everybody that helps support the show to do that, as well as all the questions. I mean, some of the questions we asked, are actually from some of the Patreon supporters out there today, all the show suggestions, questions, feedback, we’ve listened to you all, and we asked, so we really appreciate everyone listening and keep those comments. And, Fred, good to see you, man. Always a pleasure to see you. Thank you. So we’ll see you next