the use of organic corn to making sure the terroir of their soil is well- cultivated…artistry is the only correct word. Sazerac is truly in the culinary arts business. But considering the sheer number of labels in the Sazerac Company portfolio — everything from George T. Stagg to Chi-Chi’s — I askedGoldringwhether they were, to him, products…or something more? Does he have favorites? Is there a division between art and commerce? No, he answered immediately. “Every one is better than the next,” he says. Because of the overwhelming demand placed on their product, everything that the Buffalo Trace Distillery releases is on what is called “allocation.” Everything they make is a limited release. Goldring hopes to change that. “That’s why we are building those warehouses,” he says. “Business is up, and we’re selling every drop.” Because bourbon needs to age for seven years, they tried eight years ago to determine where they would be today and move away from allocation. They had no way of knowing just how profoundly the bourbon market would explode in popularity. “We think that, four or five years from now, we’ll have it figured out. You can’t put this stuff in the microwave,” he says. Consumer tastes change over time, and if there is one truism about the Sazerac Company, it is that they are obsessive about exploring new ways of distilling spirits while remaining steadfast in their commitment to the heritage of their bourbon forebearers. But they keep a close eye on the market, and Goldring was quick to walk me through the state of affairs in liquor today. “I hear a lot of people talk about growth in gin,” he says. “There’s no growth in gin. As far as scotch whiskey is concerned — it accounts for about four and a half percent of the market, and it’s not increasing.” Straight malt scotches are increasing, he adds, but blended scotches are decreasing. Rum is decreasing, he says, explaining: “Bourbon is picking that up, and tequila is increasing dramatically.” He suspects the rise in tequila is coming at the expense of vodka. One of his own products, Fireball Cinnamon Whisky, whose flavor evokes the spicy candy of the same name, has taken the market by storm, becoming the top-selling whisky in the United States. They knew they had a winner on their hands almost immediately, Goldring says. “Fireball started in Nashville. Country & western singers were drinking it, and it spread from Tennessee to Texas and all of a THE MARKET AND SUCCESSES, EXPECTED AND NOT

sudden, it’s everywhere,” he explained. “I use the expression: When the tom-toms are beating, they’re heard all over.” When millenials are drinking it in Texas, they’re also drinking it in Michigan. Still, he doesn’t think people quite understand the Fireball success story. “The fallacy is, people think it’s a young person’s drink. Fireball is now consumed throughout the universe of ages. If you go to a home for grandmothers, it’ll be the number one brand there — just as it will be in a college bar. It has a great taste.” He compares it to Coca-Cola; no one has been able to imitate it — and oh how they have tried. “Competitors have come and gone,” he says. Another astounding success for the company is Sazerac Rye 18. “There’s nothing to tell you about it,” he tells me with a laugh. “There’s about this much of it in the world,” and he holds his thumb and index fingers close together. The price reflects this; you would be hard-pressed to find a bottle of it for less than a thousand dollars. Every October, the Sazerac Company releases an antique collec- tion of spirits in limited quantities. “Eighteen years ago we didn’t even know we were going to have an antique collection,” he says. George T. Stagg has been another 18-year-old success story for the company, rated as highly as the peerless Pappy Van Winkle. This year they released what they are calling Stagg Jr., which is a nine- year-old version of the same bourbon. As for how the past informs the future, Goldring is optimistic. “We’ve grown from the smallest distiller in America to the largest. In 20 years, we think if we get into enough countries we could be the largest or the second-largest distiller in the world. We’re going to have to make a lot of whiskeys to do that.” Despite the global reach, however, Goldring keeps coming back to his pride in the Sazerac Company’s local history. “Sazerac is perhaps the oldest company in New Orleans and one of the oldest companies in Louisiana. Similar to Tabasco, Sazerac is a Louisiana company that is famous around the world.” He adds: “Mark Twain said that there are three great cities in America: New York, San Francisco, and New Orleans, and the rest of the world is Cleveland. New Orleans is known for its cocktail culture, and one of the most important things to me personally is to bring people into our great city and help its economy. And what we’ve done over the years through our foundation, and being a major benefactor of Tulane University, the Audubon Nature Institute, City Park, Woldenberg Park — all of those bring people into the city.” And with last month’s opening of Sazerac House on Canal at Magazine, it seems that Bill Goldring is just getting started.




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