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Kentucky Bourbon Jim Beam is Turning Japanese
Tuesday, January 14, 2014
Stream m3u
Two glasses of bourbon. (Shutterstock)
The demand for bourbon is growing around the world, and foreign companies are taking notice.
On Monday, the Japanese whiskey and beer company Suntory announced it was acquiring the owner of Maker's Mark and Jim Bean for $13.6 billion.
Will this acquisition mash up culturally speaking?
Charles K. Cowdery​, the author of "​Bourbon, Straight: The Uncut and Unfiltered Story of American Whiskey​," explains how an inherently American product is becoming an international drink-of-choice.
"It really started to pick up steam in the very late 80s and early 90s internationally," Cowdery says of the global boom in whiskey spirits. "In the United States, it started to pick up in the year 2000. In the last three years or so it's gone into another gear all together. I think this has really been the thing that's surprised people—it has gone into a stratosphere that nobody would've predicted."  
In Kentucky, the use of corn as a primary grain led to the birth of American bourbon, says Cowdery. He adds that corn provides a much sweeter whiskey than rye, which is what American colonists had been using until they crossed the Appalachian Mountains.
"That's really what got bourbon started—when they started shipping that sweet corn whiskey outside of Kentucky to points south, people said they liked it," he says. "But it was really after prohibition that bourbon came into its own."
If bourbon is a quintessential American product, what does it mean that the Jim Beam brand now falls under a Japanese umbrella?
"Bourbon has to be made in the United States," says Cowdery. "Most of it, of course, is made in Kentucky. It's not going to change where it's manufactured and it's not going to change how it's manufactured—all of those things are controlled by U.S. law. So it's really all for the good in the sense that if more of it can be sold in other countries, that's what will keep the industry robust."
"It's always going to be an American industry regardless of who owns this or that company," adds Cowdery, who's favorite cocktail is bourbon in a glass.
Do your politics line up with your drink of choice?
The political consulting firm National Media Research, Planning & Placement attempted to answer this question by examining GFK MRI survey data. Together they profiled over 50 major brands of wine and spirits according to voter registration and turnout history.
The findings are summarized in the following chart “Politics of Wine & Liquor Brands.”
                                           Click to Enlarge
           
Guests:
Charles Cowdery
Produced by:
Topher Forhecz
Editors:
T.J. Raphael
Tags:
beam
bourbon
makers mark
news
suntory
Comments [15]
Betsy Willeford from Miami
Is this the program that referenced Frank Sinatra as a Jim Beam drinker? He drank Jack Daniels.
Jan. 16 2014 02:30 PM
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RUCB_Alum
My wife and I love a very dry gin martini (Plymouth, when I can find it, Bombay Sapphire when I cannot). Poor an half oz. of dry vermouth over the ice in the cocktail glass, swirl to chill, pour out. Pour in enough gin for two drinks (4-6 oz) and TWO drops of Angostura or Fee Bros bitters. (Peychaud's works, too, but gives the drink a pink hue rather than the silvery look from Angostura or Fee Bros.) Swirl gently and serve over olives. If you favor a lemon twist, twist the peel over drink to express some lemon oil into the top of the drink. One is usually enough.
Jan. 15 2014 04:37 PM
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Tish from New York City
I like a very dry vodka martini, made with Stolichnaya, shaken, served up with a stemmed caperberry. My drink says I'm a classic New York City woman, with some stylish eccentricity.
Jan. 14 2014 03:53 PM
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Sam from Amherst, MA
Maybe this will improve Jim Beam. The best drink I've ever had was a Japanese whisky: the 18-year Yamazaki.
Jan. 14 2014 03:53 PM
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Tish from New York City
I like a very dry vodka martini, made with Stolichnaya, shaken, served up with a stemmed caperberry. My drink says I'm a classic New York City woman, with some stylish eccentricity.
Jan. 14 2014 03:52 PM
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Robert Thomas from Santa Clara
I just heard a five minute segment on the same subject on the _Here and Now_ program.
My father served Maker's Mark on the rocks or mixed Manhattans for my mother and their friends.
In younger days, in an act of rebellion, I cultivated an enthusiasm for chewy, peaty Isalys and good gin. Then I realized my buddies were often drunk. I stopped drinking alcohol.
Q: Why is this (wine, beer, spirits, cocktail culture) a popular subject in the media?
A: Many journalists are alcoholics.
Jan. 14 2014 03:49 PM
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Joe Schaedler from Minneapolis, MN
My ideal cocktail of choice (if I can afford the pricey components) is a Sazerac, made with Pierre Ferrand Cognac & Absinthe. My everyday go-to cocktail splits between a neat Jameson, or Absolut vodka & cran juice.
Jan. 14 2014 02:58 PM
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Dutch Groot from Yuma, AZ
Crappy bourbon? maybe? but it also includes some great Irish Whiskey in it's portfolio.
Jan. 14 2014 01:41 PM
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Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.
"The Devil is in the cornfield dressed as a scarecrow," that's what I said after killing a bottle of my buddies homemade whiskey.
If the Takeaway wants a taste, I can bring my buddy who will not want to be named, and a bottle by the studio.
We made popcorn whiskey that day. very buttery, great for movie night!
Jan. 14 2014 01:31 PM
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Stacey from Huntsville, TX
I love a vodka tonic made with Grey Goose Vodka and lots of limes. I think that makes me a snob.
Jan. 14 2014 12:51 PM
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Geraldine from Harrisburg PA
I drink Kir Royal: Champagne with black current liquor (cassis liquor). It tells that I'm a real Frenchie ;)
Jan. 14 2014 12:50 PM
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WebSpyder
Favorite coctail? Eagle Rare on the rocks 'cause soda is bad for you. What does it say about me? I'm simplifying my life and want to be happy QUICKLY!
Jan. 14 2014 12:30 PM
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Sarah Lenti from Seattle, WA
Last year we made a batch of orange figgy bitters - so 2013 has been the year of The Manhattan!
Jan. 14 2014 12:22 PM
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Charles Walsh from Bridgeport,CT
My favorite cocktail scotch on the rocks November thru April, gin Martini with twist May thru Oct. My uncle jack, alleged to be a former bootlegger, said good health requires "drinking dark liquors in winter and light in summer." Who am I to doubt?
Jan. 14 2014 09:54 AM
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Sam Winston from Detroit, Michigan
a crappy low end bourbon is being bought by asians? get out of here.
Jan. 14 2014 09:22 AM
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