Bourbon And Boots? Why Fashion May Be Beverage Companies’ New Growth Market

Wolverine’s 1000 Mile Old Rip Van WInkle Boot surrounded by bottles of Pappy Van Winkle 20 YO … [+] Bourbon Photo, courtesy Old Rip Van Winkle Bourbon and boots? Old Rip Van Winkle one of the expressions in the Van Winkle family’s iconic whiskey range has teamed up with footwear […]

Bourbon and boots? Old Rip Van Winkle one of the expressions in the Van Winkle family’s iconic whiskey range has teamed up with footwear and apparel maker Wolverine to produce a limited-edition boot that celebrates American craftsmanship.

American whiskey brands have co-branded items other than beverages before, but this is one of the first times that an American spirits brand has ventured into the world of luxury fashion.

Is this just an isolated case inspired by a good cause or is it indicative of a nascent trend that may see beverage companies move further into the world of co-branded luxury fashion goods? Could this the next big thing in the spirits industry?

Over the last several decades the emergence of ultra-expensive expressions has steadily expanded the luxury goods segment of the beverage business. Bottlings that sell in the thousands if not the tens of thousands of dollars are no longer unheard of, even though they are still the exception.

Edrington, the owner of The Macallan, has been positioning the brand as a luxury item, defining its growth market not as the customers of other whisky companies but as buyers of luxury goods. Taking a page from high-end fashion retail, it has opened up specialty boutiques, The Macallan Boutique, to showcase the brand.

To French fashion conglomerate Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy, (LVMH) the fusion of beverages and luxury is nothing new. It’s a strategy that LVMH has been pursuing for decades.

The company has shown itself a master at co-merchandising its beverage and fashion brands, sponsoring tastings at its luxury fashion boutiques or having its beverage and fashion brands co-sponsoring stylish events.

But even LVMH, arguably the best merchandiser and manager of luxury brands in the world, has stopped short of crossing its beverage brands into the fashion world. You may be offered a flute of Krug Champagne when you visit a Louis Vuitton store, but you cannot buy Hennessy silk scarfs or a Dom Perignon handbag. At least not yet.

Which brings us to Old Rip Van Winkle’s first foray into luxury fashion. The Wolverine 1000 Mile Old Rip Van Winkle boot is handcrafted in the USA and is expected to sell for approximately $400.

The boot features a heel with a wooden layer that is fashioned from the same American white oak barrels that Old Rip Van Winkle bourbon is aged and is made from Horween Cavalier Squash leather. It includes a special edition metal fob, and comes with gold hardware throughout. The packaging mimics the red packaging that Old Rip Van Winkle uses.

Paradoxically, Old Rip Van Winkle’s foray into luxury fashion is for a cause that’s far removed from the world of haute couture.

All of the proceeds from the sale of the boot are earmarked for the mikeroweWORKS, a foundation organized by Mike Rowe to fund scholarships for vocational education. According trained or willing to do them.

Or as Mike Rowe succinctly put it:

America is lending money it doesn’t have to kids who can’t pay it back top to train them for jobs that no longer exist. That’s nuts.

Recently I sat down with Preston Van Winkle to discuss the collaboration between Old Rip Van Winkle and Wolverine.

JM: Is fashion a potential growth area for upscale spirits brands like Old Rip Van Winkle?

PVW: The worlds of fashion and spirits pair well together, especially when consumers are looking for lifestyle brands that align with their interests. We are excited about this collaboration with Wolverine and highlighting American craftsmanship and supporting a charitable cause via Mike Rowe’s scholarship foundation. The limited-edition collaboration boot blends the worlds of bourbon-making and boot-making with features that represent both sides.

JM: What was the origin of the collaboration with Wolverine and how did the mikeroweWORKS foundation end up as the beneficiary? Who approached whom?

PVW: The Wolverine X Old Rip Van Winkle collaboration was born as a celebration of American craftmanship. Both of our brands are making quality products in the same fashion we’ve done for the last 100+ years and the partnership was a great opportunity to highlight that specifically as it relates to the craftsmen and women that make it all come together.

Wolverine approached us with the idea to partner – they had the idea that boots and bourbon pair well together and we wholeheartedly agreed. Their existing relationship with Mike Rowe and mikeroweWORKS had a natural fit into what we were trying to achieve as we had further discussions about the longstanding heritage both our brands have in the market – the shared mission to raise awareness about the skilled trades and help to close the skills gap brought the three of us together.

JM: What can the spirits industry do to support vocational education?

PVW: The spirits industry and many other related industries can help support vocational education by providing resources and opportunities for the next generation of trades workers – we need to drive awareness to these career paths and help open them up to more people.

The bourbon making process is led by skilled experts in the trade space and is something we have highlighted in this partnership – from the farmers that grow our corn to the coopers that craft our barrels to the distillers that make the bourbon – all of these skilled craftspeople are necessary to bring some of the finest bourbon to consumers.

Wolverine is a longtime supporter of the skilled trades, and as a brand that is heavily influenced by the hands and hearts of craftsmen across many different paths, we are excited to bring this partnership to life.

The boots retail for $400 and can be ordered to order on the Wolverine website. Wolverine and Old Rip Van Winkle are also auctioning off three pairs of boots on eBay along with autographed copies of But Always Fine Bourbon. One hundred percent of the proceeds from the auction are also earmarked for the mikeroweWORKS scholarship foundation.

Fans can bid on this one-of-a-kind collaboration boot that is a celebration of American craftsmanship and a commitment to the handcrafted work that goes into the making of quality goods like Wolverine boots and Old Rip Van Winkle bourbon.


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