Mila Vanilla? No, thanks – I’ll have some bourbon

Mila-Kunis

Mila Kunis/Beam Suntory

What do you think women like to drink?

I suppose I’m aiming this question at all men, but I’m mostly interested in responses from the men in R&D at distilling companies — and my question is prompted by the release of Jim Beam Vanilla, a blend of Madagascar vanilla bean liqueur and Jim Beam Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey.

Jim Beam Vanilla is the latest entry into Beam’s flavored whiskey line, which began in 2015 with Jim Beam Apple and also includes Jim Beam Honey, Kentucky Fire (cinnamon), and Jim Beam Robitussin – I mean Red Stag.

Social and digital advertising for Jim Beam Vanilla will feature actress Mila Kunis, Beam’s “global brand partner.”

“I’m thrilled to collaborate with my friends in Kentucky to debut Jim Beam Vanilla,” Kunis is quoted as saying in a Beam press release. “If you’re like me, you love the taste of bourbon but are sometimes looking for something a little different. Jim Beam Vanilla is perfect when I want a touch of flavor.”

OK, hold it right there. “A touch of flavor”? When I, and those in my bourbon-drinking sisterhood, want a touch of flavor, we drink… bourbon. Because unlike vodka, which must have flavors added to it in order to have any flavor, bourbon already has plenty — a whole spectrum of it, in fact.

This is not just anecdotal; I have proof (to use another bourbon term). In addition to being The Bourbon Babe, I’m a board member of Bourbon Women, a group that formed here in Kentucky in 2011 and has since spread across the nation. Bourbon Women is devoted to giving women educational, behind-the-scenes bourbon experiences and to giving the bourbon industry feedback on what women are pouring into their Glencairn glasses.

A graduate student at Anderson University recently surveyed our membership on their bourbon preferences. Here are the results, based on the choices given:

  • Drink straight or mixed with water only: 68%
  • Old Fashioned: 16%
  • Mint Julep: 4%
  • Bourbon Slush: 4%
  • Whiskey Sour: 4%
  • Flavored Bourbon Drinks: Chocolate, Honey, Maple, Vanilla, etc.: 3%
  • Bourbon Sidecar: 1%

Jim Beam Vanilla is bottled at 70 proof, or 35% alcohol by volume (ABV) – 5% less than the minimum ABV the law requires for a whiskey to be labeled bourbon. This is also not good news if Beam is going after women: At every blind tasting we have ever conducted at a Bourbon Women event, the women have selected the highest-proof offering as their favorite — in one recent instance, Wild Turkey Rare Breed with a proof of 108.

Of course, as stated above, Jim Beam Vanilla is not bourbon; it’s flavored whiskey. And maybe women aren’t the target market. After all, Kid Rock repped Red Stag, and he doesn’t exactly speak to me, and most of the reaction to the new product that I’ve seen on social media so far has been of the “Mila Kunis is so hot” variety. Well, boys, you enjoy your Mila Vanilla. We women will be over here drinking the real thing.

 

 

One Response to Mila Vanilla? No, thanks – I’ll have some bourbon

  1. Jim Wooldridge says:

    I’m as much a purist as anyone, but it’s hard to deny that flavored liquor is all the rage right now. Just go to any liquor store and look at the flavors of just about everything. As you mentioned, there’s a flavor of vodka for just about any occasion, and some that can’t find an occasion to represent. Peanut Butter and Jelly Vodka? So I can understand why bourbon and whiskey want in on the action. Although, I, too, am perplexed why they watered it down to 70 proof.

    Maybe it’s not all bad. When I was younger, I used to drink a lot of flavored coffee. Irish Creme, Vanilla, Hazelnut, etc. Gradually, I started moving away from the flavored coffees and into better coffee and espresso (Jamaican Blue Mountain, anyone?). Perhaps flavored Bourbon and whiskey will do the same thing. Someone starts with 50 proof Hubba Bubba Grape Bubble Gum whiskey and eventually graduates to Elijah Craig 12. It could happen.

    And in the meantime, I don’t care who a Mila Kunis is marketing to, as long as she keeps marketing (which probably means I’m the target demographic).

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