How did you get involved in the business?Tom: I became involved through Fortune Brands and worked with mergers and acquisitions getting to know how brands are built and grown. An opportunity came up to move across to the spirits side and its been as terrific ride since then. I have been Beam CEO since 2004.Can you outline the biggest sales markets for Beam?Fred: The biggest markets are US and Australia, with good growth showing in the United Kingdom. With the likes of Russia, India and China on the horizon, and the prospect of 500mill cases there can be nothing but upsides.We sell about 8 mill cases of ready to drink in Australia - leading the market. This market is holding up really well, but it is something of a unique market and these products have not taken off as well elsewhere.What do you think we will be drinking in the future?
Tom: Other avenues are opening up, and our Small Batch Collection has great potential.People are drinking better than ever before.There is the freedom to experiment with wood and age. The quartercask with Laphroaig for instance was a great way to change the taste profile. Proof is another area for experimentation. We are starting to see people not being afraid to go for something with a higher proof and appreciating the differences, similarly people are more aware of cutting their whiskies with water Fred:Rye is a big opportunity for us, also the ultra high end bourbons, premium aged like Jim Beam Black and the Small Batch Collection. Cocktails are also an amazing way forward. I was in a bar called Seven Grand in LA and it has no vodka just whisky.All the cocktails are whisky and bourbon based. They have attracted a good amount of female drinkers as well, and they were drinking bourbon as much as the men.People are happy to try new and different things now and if they like it they are telling their friends.What is the best thing about working in the whisky and bourbon industries?Tom: It is hard to pin down one thing. It starts with the brands histories and the heritage, how they have been built up over the years.In this business there are no hard fast rules.Roles of influence are changing and what they can do to educate the people. The press and bar people have a lot more power than some forms of advertising. Then there are the stories and the characters behind the brands, something which ever whisky has. I love being there when these people let their hair down and you get to hear the tales.Look at the story behind Canadian Club and the St Valentines Day massacre, and then the stories the Beams tell about prohibition.The history makes it great to be a part of the industry and we have to fine ways of keeping this alive - something that is hard to do with toothpaste.Fred: Having been on the road selling Beam one of the best things is the moment when people’s eyes light up, you know they have got it. Educating people about how to drink bourbon is important. A lady asked my dad once if it was a sin to mix a Booker with coke.He told her, if you are going to mix then you use the best bourbon. I tell people that how they chose to drink their bourbon is their choice, as long as you are drinking mine I don’t mind. It might not be to my tastes, but as long as its one of mine that’s ok.What is the biggest contribution the company and you have made to the whisky industry?Tom:The true character of the spirit is what it is all about, and what you see is what you get with Beam. We have resuscitated the way consumers look at bourbon. The Small Batch Collection opened up the ultra high end of the category and that can only be good for the industry. With Makers Mark – I think we understand the brand better that Allied did and are making, and happy to make, more investment in the brand.Laphroaig is the same, also Ardmore and Teachers. We are pushing Teachers in Brazil, which was something that was not high on Allied’s agenda. It is a different outlook that we know will pay dividends in the long term.What are some of your favourite memories of the industry?Tom: I was always a Scotch drinker before I joined Beam. I remember first coming down to Kentucky and walking round a 100 year old rick House in Clermont. The smell was fabulous. I spent that night with Booker and he taught me how to drink bourbon.Scotch: Laphroaig was always a favourite and when we went through the big brands during the Allied break up we watched it.When the deal went though I had never been to Islay. But after I got there I knew I had arrived and that this was what it was all about. I sent and email to my boss that simply said never coming back, forward my mail.Even bought my own cask.Fred: I remember when dad was developing Bookers. I picked up the lab samples in small bottles and took them over to the house. He looked at them and asked me what they were, I told him the samples for Bookers. He told me to take it all back, there was not enough to drink. Now we taste our samples in much bigger bottles.What does the future hold for Beam?Tom: With Laphroaig and John Campbell in charge we are giving him a little more licence to play.Good creative people with good raw materials and the freedom to experiment is the direction to go for. The best brands are built slowly.In the bourbon arena we have some experiments on the go - nothing to do with wine - more in the port and sherry area.Fred: We may possibly extend the Small Batch. Also we may look at experimenting with different grains, oats maybe rice, should give something different.QUICK FIRE
Favourite company whisky: Tom: Laphroaig 10 Cask Strength – its Laphroaig on steroids,a wonderful drink with a touch of water to open it up.Fred: Ihave been drinking with John Campbell and Laphroaig is an acquired tasteIam happily working on acquiring.Favourite company bourbon?Tom: Beam White for starters,but a lot of the time comes down to mood and time frame.I always find it impressive that a high percentage of people remember where they were when theyhad their first Makers.Fred: Bookers,Knob Creek or Beam Black,it depends on the situation.Favourite non company whisky and bourbon?Tom: Any of our wines? No to be honest whisky:Dalmore - I do like the older stillman’s drams,and the 1962 which Richard Paterson shared with me was great.Fred:I like some of the Wild Turkey stuff, Jimmy Russell and my dad got on well so I have a lot of respect for him. I enjoy a Dalmore as well,it has a more earthy taste than bourbon.