Arts & Entertainment

Dowd on Drinks: New Product, New Partners

So far Soju for Anheuser-Busch, a company you can’t accuse of rushing into the spirits field.

I reported on the brewing giant’s first liquor effort way back in November 2005 with Jekyll & Hyde, a dual-drink effort. Now, at last, its second drink effort beyond beer and non-alcoholic drinks is soju, an ancient Korean sweet potato distillation loosely classified as a vodka.

A-B is teaming up with Ku Soju Inc. of Laguna Hills, Calif., to test market and distribute its soju, distilled by Doosan of Seoul, South Korea.

Among soju’s selling points are that it has about one-third fewer calories than a standard grain or potato vodka and, at 48 proof, contains only a little more than half the alcohol. The lower proof will help in marketing the drink because it can be sold by A-B’s network of nearly 700 distributors to stores licensed to sell beer, wine and beverages with no more than 24 percent alcohol.

"There’s huge potential," Ku Soju President Norman Suh told Brandweek magazine. "This is a mainstream brand for everybody. It’s much smoother, and if you compared Ku against any super premium vodka on the market — Grey Goose, Belvedere, Chopin — we’ll come out on top in any taste comparison."

Of course, not everyone is interested in a straight drink. Soju mixed with

Sprite and various kinds of syrup is popular in Korea, especially among women and young people in general, as is a concoction of one part soju, two parts Sprite plus lemonade powder.




The Tommy Bahama brand has added Barbados distilled, blended and bottled rum to its product line. It’s a joint effort of Foursquare Rum Distillery and the Sidney Frank Importing Co. The latter is the company that created and propelled Grey Goose Vodka into marketing legend status. The rum comes in two aged blends — Tommy Bahama White Sand, a clear, light-bodied rum, and Tommy Bahama Golden Sun, a bolder amber rum.

Malibu-Kahlua International has unveiled new flavors for its Malibu Rum and Kahlua Coffee Liqueur lines. A new tropical banana flavored rum has been added to a line that already included coconut, passion fruit, mango and pineapple flavors. Kahlua has added French vanilla and hazelnut to its liqueurs.

Coconut brandy is such an unusual product — its creators at the W.M. Mendis & Co. Ltd. distillery claim it’s the first such item in the world — it is being accompanied by a million-dollar marketing gimmick.

The company is putting the first bottle of the product ever made up for auction for $1 million. All sorts of perks come with it, like a special distillery tour, airfare to a Maldives island resort in the Indian Ocean, and so on.

Mendis, which is targeting New York for its initial U.S. rollout, makes its 80-proof distillation from the essence of the coconut flower in French pot stills and matures it for two years in wood casks.

Kmart is adding 32 new private label non-carbonated beverage products to its lineup under the American Fare brand name. They include vitamin water, bottled green iced tea, Free Fall and Loop energy drinks, and Fruit FX fruit-flavored water and a 10-pack of juice pouches. They’ll be available in all Kmart stores by mid-April.


              (William M. Dowd covers the world of beverages at


  c.2007 Hearst Newspapers