If rain makes corn and corn makes whiskey, then whiskey is definitely making the economy a little frisky.
That’s because both locally and nationally, whiskey sales are on the rise. In 2014, over 19 million 9-liter cases of bourbon and Tennessee whiskey were sold in the United States, generating nearly $2.7 billion in revenue for distillers. That’s compared to 13 million 9-liter cases sold a decade ago, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, a Washington, D.C.-based trade organization that represents distilled spirits makers and producers in the United States.
In Baton Rouge and across Louisiana, distilleries, bars and stores are reaping the benefits of the resurgence of whiskey lovers as marketing, pop culture and an increase in women whiskey drinkers fuel the liquor’s resurgence.
Arthur Lauck is the co-owner of Lock and Key on Corporate Boulevard, which serves more than 350 different types of whiskey. The bar celebrated its two-year anniversary in December. Lauck says whiskey is so popular—especially craft drinks—that the bar’s sales have increased 65% from its first to second year.
“What makes whiskey so cool is that each one is different and every experience is different,” Lauck says. “There’s no definite to whiskey and no rules that makes one better than the other. It’s all about taste and nostalgia, and whiskey drinkers are discovering new whiskey every day.”
And women are at the front of that movement. Lauck’s partner, Brandalyn Tabor, says industry statistics indicate 38% more women are drinking whiskey now than they were six years ago. To cater to the burgeoning demographic, Lock and Key offers “Women and Whiskey” events every third Wednesday of the month, where the bar discusses the history and science of whiskey and offers three different flavor tastings. Fifteen women attended the first event; last month, 80 women turned out, Tabor says.
“They like the uniqueness, the nostalgia and the social media aspect of it,” Tabor says. “Whiskey is all encompassing. And when we have women come to our Women and Whiskey events, they build friendships in a safe and social environment.”
‘WHISKEY FANATICS ARE INSANE’
To tap into that authenticity, those new to the dark liquor are swapping their Screwdrivers for Sazeracs and loud, club-like bars with large dance floors for dark-paneled, jazz-filled whiskey bars complete with dim table-top lighting, dark-paneled walls and deep leather couches.
“I always thought whiskey was manly,” says Kasey Henry, 36. “But I discovered my love of whiskey through the Old Fashioned [cocktail]. I had them on a work trip, and fell in love.”
This increase in whiskey enthusiasts has also created a demand for more distilleries. In 2000 there were 24 craft distilleries across America, but now there are more than 430 and the majority of them either make or are planning to make whiskey, according to Forbes magazine.