Airing between regular episodes of the VinePair Podcast, “Next Round” explores the ideas and innovations that are helping drinks businesses adapt in a time of unprecedented change. As the coronavirus crisis continues and new challenges arise, VP Pro is in your corner, supporting the drinks community for all the rounds to come. If you have a story or perspective to share, email us at [email protected].
In this “Next Round,” VinePair CEO Adam Teeter interviews Campbell Brown, President of Old Forester, known for being the first bottled bourbon. As the brand and parent company Brown-Forman celebrates its 150th anniversary, Brown discusses Old Forester’s recent resurgence and the brand’s plans for the future.
About five years ago, Old Forester re-emerged as a top bourbon brand amid a general resurgence of bourbon. Brown believes that consumers wanted to move away from one-note spirits like vodkas — as well as flavored vodkas — instead preferring a product with more of a story and layered, complex flavors. Old Forester, a consistent, affordable bourbon, Brown notes, is also delicious in cocktails such as the Manhattan, or mixed drinks like whiskey and Coke.
In the midst of the ongoing pandemic, Brown says the brand has been resilient — especially as more whiskey drinkers are buying Old Forester’s premium expressions, which Brown believes is due to consumers’ desire for an escape during these challenging times. The brand has therefore been focusing on providing aid to those who are struggling — pivoting to making hand sanitizer, for example, as well as donating dollars and time to helping bar and restaurant workers.
Though times are undoubtedly tough, Brown is optimistic about the long-term potential of Old Forester. The brand is looking forward to the fall, a time when consumers are excited for seasonal releases and are more likely to buy bourbon. Brown says the brand is currently focused on the Kentucky Derby coming up on Sept. 5, for which Old Forester is a sponsor. The bourbon brand will be encouraging those watching at home to make and drink Mint Juleps, as Old Forester is the official bourbon of the Mint Julep sold trackside at the Derby.