Southern Comfort isn’t whiskey at all—but it really, really wants to be

Becoming legit.
Becoming legit.
Image: Reuters/Sophie Knight
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We all aspire to something. For Southern Comfort, it’s to be whiskey—a booze it has masqueraded as for years.

But as it turns out, the label will finally shed its “whiskey-flavored” ulster and join the ranks of real whiskeys. Just one year after buying Southern Comfort and Fireball from Woodford Reserve maker Brown-Forman in a $544 million deal, Sazerac Company has decided to recast Southern Comfort as a fully fledged whiskey drink.

The move is a bid by the company to scrub the brand of its reputation as an alcohol for irresponsible university students. As The New York Times (paywall) astutely put it, the last time Southern Comfort was cool might have been “when Janis Joplin made a show of swigging it day and night.” But that means switching up the recipe.

So, then, what exactly is Southern Comfort?

The recipe has been kept a secret since its inception, but the alcohol in the bottle isn’t whiskey. Rather, it’s a mix of neutral grain spirit (not unlike vodka) and fruit and spice flavors. Now, Sazerac is looking to dip into its stores North American whiskey to rebrand the drink as actual whiskey.  And all this is because whiskey is what Americans want to drink at the moment. Sales of the darker liquor are outpacing others as younger consumers, especially, search for that craft feel.

Vodkas, by contrast, have spent the last decade coming out with flavors—peanut butter and jelly?—which ultimately cheapened their brands.

So Sazerac plans to ditch the flavored versions of Southern Comfort , including bottles of “Lime Comfort” and “Caramel Comfort,” and  will also start Southern Comfort Rye and Barrel Select brands.