BlogSpirits & Wines

Introduction by: Peter Marshall

This week the USA celebrates Independence Day, so what better timing than to publish a feature on one of America’s most iconic companies, Brown-Forman.
In May of this year, the newly-designed Brown-Forman exhibition stand at TFWA Singapore was a major statement by Brown-Forman, showcasing many of its brands and it served to underpin Brown-Forman’s super premium strategy for the global travel retail market. I met up with David Rodiek, Vice President and Managing Director GTR to discuss the brand portfolio in some detail. The interview defines the business. But first, take a quick look at the 90 second video that we filmed.


Peter Marshall (PM): David, that short video speaks volumes about Brown-Forman’s super premium strategy for global travel retail. Please expand.
David Rodiek (DR): Yes, our booth at TFWA in Singapore greatly reflected where we are today and where we are heading as a company, with our continuously growing super-premium portfolio and individual brands. To describe Brown-Forman’s journey, let me first take a brief look at  our roots.
Brown-Forman has a rich corporate history that goes back more than 150 years. The basis of our success has remained largely unchanged to this day and is still evident in every brand in our portfolio and in our high quality standards. When it comes to quality, our company has never compromised. Our commitment was instilled by founding father, George Garvin Brown, back in 1870, is part of our DNA and continues to drive us today. George Garvin Brown was the first to fill whiskey – the still well-known bourbon Old Forester – into sealed bottles and provide them with a label. In so doing, he created a branded product of high and, above all, reliable quality. Still today, Old Forester bears the quality promise of “Nothing better in the Market” on every bottle.
Our quality standards are expressed today in each of our (super) premium products, as well as in our striving to give our best every day.
PM: So where do you see your future growth coming from?
DR: Our future growth is based on two pillars. First, we are investing in the continued development of our world-renowned Jack Daniel’s family of brands. Our exciting innovation of Jack Daniel’s American Single Malt (presented in Singapore) allows us to enter a new drink space, stretching the price point  and prestige level of Jack Daniel’s. It brings a different taste profile, is aged in charred oak barrels and finished in Oloroso Sherry Casks.
Additional momentum for Jack Daniel’s, which is the world’s most valuable spirits brand according to Interbrand, comes from our partnership with McLaren Formula 1. This brings two global brand icons together and this partnership features a Limited Edition Jack Daniel’s bottle featuring the Mclaren branding.
Another outstanding initiative announced last year was our global agreement with Coca Cola for Jack Daniel’s and Coca Cola RTD. Launched in Mexico in November 2022, it has been successfully rolled out in many markets worldwide, including the U.S, Japan, the UK and other European markets. The global relationship holds huge potential for both brands and is an important strategic step to significantly expand and grow our geographic footprint and brand awareness.
As a second strategic pillar, we are investing in building our super-premium brand portfolio, such as Woodford Reserve bourbon, the Scotch single malts Benriach, The GlenDronach and Glenglassaugh, el Jimador and Herradura tequilas, Fords Gin, Slane Irish Whiskey, and our most recent acquisitions, Gin Mare and Ron Diplomatico.
PM: And what about the single malts category? There has been much activity over the last year and Singapore heralded the introduction of a brand new and quite stunning portfolio from Glenglassaugh. 
DR: In our Scotch single malts category in 2022 we launched the GTR exclusive Benriach range, the most recent launch being the Benriach The Forty Octave Cask Matured. This Speyside single malt Scotch whisky is an exceptionally rare, limited release and a testament to the distillery’s cask expertise and history of creativity. For the creation of Benriach The Forty Octave Cask Matured the spirit laid down in 1976 was moved into three octave casks in 2011 for a final maturation. These three octave casks were crafted from the staves of American oak bourbon casks, bringing out flavours of indulgent orchard and dark fruits and a flawless, silken finish. Benriach The Forty Octave Cask Matured was bottled in 2017 and preserved at the peak of its maturation.
And yes, more great news comes from  our Glenglassaugh Distillery, presenting a new portfolio and complete rebranding. Staying true to  the essence of Glenglassaugh, the new design was inspired by the coast. It entices us to slow down, stop for a moment to appreciate our surroundings. The historic milestone has been marked with the release of a flagship 12 Year Old statement, matured in bourbon, sherry and red wine casks for luscious waves of ripe fruit carried on an ocean breeze.
The second speciality, Glenglassaugh Sandend Bay, is matured in bourbon, sherry and manzanilla casks. Glenglassaugh’s neighbouring harbour village of Portsoy inspired the deep maritime flavour of the third variant, Glenglassaugh Portsoy, a richly peated single malt, matured in sherry, bourbon and port casks.
PM:  This is a good moment for us to take a brief look at Glenglassaugh’s excellent tasting video.


PM: Great stuff. But it seems the business dynamic does not stop there. You are also taking some bold steps in previously uncharted waters, aren’t you?
DR: Yes, indeed. With Slane Irish Whiskey and Fords Gin we entered two spirits categories that were completely new to us. At the same time, their brand founders came on board as global ambassadors at Brown-Forman. They brought an extraordinary attachment to their brands, along with an incredible amount of expertise and knowledge. This means a lot to us. The passion for our brands, along with our commitment to quality, is the foundation of our long-term success.
PM: And then, of course, Brown-Forman has also been on the acquisition trail.
DR: Absolutely. The latest acquisitions of Gin Mare and Ron Diplomatico are also new categories for us and further expand our global Brown-Forman super-premium portfolio in two very high growth segments and in the ultra-premium segment.
PM: So how would you then define your brands’ overall ethos?
DR: We ensure we bring the right stories to life, powerfully and with emotion. Consumers today are experience-seeking – they want to be surprised by unique and impressive experiences and stories.
Recently we had an exciting activation at New York JFK Airport in T4 with our Woodford Reserve Sensory Lounge. This was a pop-up that offered a spectacle of the senses through tasting experiences of Woodford Reserve’s portfolio. Tastings changed daily and included high-end, limited releases such as the Master’s Collection.
We partnered with some of New York City’s best bars – Eleven Madison Park, Employees Only and Pebble Bar – for the cocktail menu available at the pop-up. And – what consumers are paying more and more attention to with sustainability in mind – cocktails were served in keepsake Govino glasses to reduce waste.
PM: Well, sustainability is certainly on everyone’s lips, isn’t it? But there’s still a lot of greenwashing about. What is Brown-Forman’s position?
DR: Underlying all of the brand development is a big focus on sustainability. We are banning single-use plastic from promotions in 2023, and we’re reducing our gift packaging by 50% by 2027. And we’re also conscious that the packaging we use is recyclable and reusable. We also care for our Brown-Forman team travel and work with a specialised agency that helps to compensate for the impact which our travelling causes to the environment.
It’s just great to reflect on where we come from, where we are today – and where we will go in the future. After 150 years – and for many more years to come – we continue to believe in our founder’s unyielding commitment to premium quality. Brown-Forman is premium from our beginnings, to today, and for the long term.


Peter Marshall

Founder: Arts
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