Bourbon is back, and it's booming. You can thank young, urban bartenders making traditional drinks like Manhattans and Old Fashioneds for its renaissance, said Eddie Russell, master distiller at Wild Turkey.
"They have turned our industry from an older gentleman drink to a young consumer," said Russell. "Now you have 25-year-old males and females drinking bourbon. They start out with mixed drinks, and then they want to know what is in that drink."
Appointed Master Distiller at Wild Turkey in 2015, Eddie Russell, the son of legendary Master Distiller Jimmy Russell, is now celebrating his 35th anniversary at the distillery. In 2010, Eddie joined his father and other greats in the bourbon industry when he was inducted into the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame. Wild Turkey is owned by Italy's Campari Group (DVDCY) .
Bourbon and American whiskey sales in the United States were up 7.8%, to $2.9 billion, in 2015, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S.
Sales of American whiskey abroad were up 4% by volume, although the value fell 2.7%, to about $1 billion, putting total sales of American whiskey at just less than $4 billion for 2015.
About 95% of all bourbon is made in Kentucky with the majority of Tennessee whiskey sales coming from Brown-Forman's (BF.B) Jack Daniel's family, according to the Kentucky Distillers' Association.
"What I've been seeing around the world, in Poland and in the U.K., is that they want to do what is happening here in America, and it's those bartenders making those mixed drinks," said Russell, adding that Wild Turkey is sticking with premium offerings as opposed to expanding his line through flavored brand extensions.
Wild Turkey is changing with the times when it comes to marketing the brand, however. Russell said Wild Turkey now relies heavily on social media to get the word out.
"Everything is Twitter and Facebook and things like that. You have to do that to be able to reach out to the young millennial that is growing our industry," said Russell. "That is definitely a big change."