Arts & Entertainment

Dowd on Drinks: The International Ownership Game

As consumer preferences increasingly favor the spirits segment of the adult beverage industry, to the detriment of beer sales, there is increased interest in gaining control of quality brands that sell.

There also is a push in some areas to find uniquely American products. While consumer tastes are pretty much locked in unless a new product can find, or create, a niche to fill, the public seems willing to eschew buying imported drinks if given a decent alternative.

Franklin Arcella, a Las Vegas businessman who spent nearly three decades launching new products for Seagram’s, is hoping to catch lightning in a bottle with his new 65-proof Redcliff liqueur.

Arcella is perhaps best known in the liquor industry for the creation of Corazon Tequila. He has been working for several years with flavor chemist Win Adler to come up with what he terms "a true American liqueur."

The bottle is shaped similarly to a cowboy’s saddlebag flask, has an original image label by Colorado artist Stephen Reaves and a logo that Reaves created with a palette knife.

Inside, the cola-based liqueur is a flavor first in the industry. While Arcella won’t reveal the formula, he will expound on it.

"The flavor of cola is something with which everyone can identify. However, there are a total of 15 ingredients in Redcliff which makes it very unique. Redcliff is both full bodied and complex. The first taste will be different from the next. The flavor is user friendly and mysterious."

Despite the cola base, Arcella says Redcliff has lower sugar content than most liqueurs.

How do you drink it?

"Some people like to drink it straight while others enjoy the mixability with rum, bourbon or their favorite soft drink, especially Red Bull.

Because Redcliff is a very complex beverage, it is best to experience it in three stages. First, a small sip will adjust the palate to the unique blend of spices. A second, longer sip will linger on the tongue to expose the rich, warm flavor of vanilla. And thirdly, a shot of Redcliff leaves an intriguing cola finish."

The target market for the California-made product is the 21 to 35 age range. Pricing for a 750ml bottle is in the $23-$26 range.

At an industry tasting event I attended in Manhattan, the buzz was all about the impending purchase of another tequila maker by industry giant Brown-Forman Corp., which is headquartered in Lexington, Ky.

Brown-Forman agreed last August to pay $876 million to buy Casa Herradura, as the Guadalajara company is commonly known. It has about 1,100 employees and is the third-largest tequila manufacturer, behind Cuervo and Sauza. It reported revenue of about $200 million in 2005, with about 80 percent of its sales volume in Mexico, the rest primarily in the United States.

When the deal is completed, Brown-Forman will own Herradura and El Jimador tequila brands plus Mexican sales and the distribution company that imports and distributes brands such as Red Bull, Skyy Vodka, Don Q Rum, Disaronno Amaretto and Osborne Brandy.

In a smaller scenario, but one that bears watching because it is part of the huge but volatile global vodka market, keep an eye on Danziger Gold Vodka.

When American-born Harry Lee Danziger set up a small vodka company in Ireland, he was hoping to cash in on the international popularity of the iconic liquor. Now, the North-West Oil Group (NWOG) of Moscow has purchased Danziger Gold Vodka for an estimated $20 million.

The company bottles its gold leaf-flecked product in Waterford, the center of Ireland’s crystal glass industry. It also produces a liqueur version and a single-malt whiskey called John Ireland.

Danziger died last year. His son, Nick, a well-known photojournalist, has been running the operation on an interim basis since then along with Stephen Duffy, a friend of the Danziger family and a business consultant who is know to have been the driving force behind the brand.

In a statement, NWOG said it plans to invest heavily in the brand to increase sales up to 12 million bottles a year. Danziger Gold currently sells a fraction of that amount, and is available only in duty free outlets around Europe.

             

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