An Introduction to Taking Whiskey Global


This summer I am interning at Cleveland Whiskey through The Ohio Export Internship Program. My main project has been to create a “standard operating procedure” for exporting Cleveland Whiskey. I have been working on this in hopes that, when the company receives international inquiries, they will have a standard protocol to follow.

My work has primarily consisted of researching potential markets, creating document templates, and attempting to make sense of legal regulations. I’ve also been working local events and learning as much as I can about the business and the industry.

One of my favorite things about working for Cleveland Whiskey has been seeing people react positively to the brand.  It’s been exciting to work for a small company that has such a tremendous amount of potential. The current state of the global market for whiskey shows the implications of this potential for the work I’ve been doing.

Cleveland Whiskey is a newcomer in the twenty-five billion dollar premium whiskey industry.  Whiskey is an affordable luxury, not just in North America, but throughout the world. Bourbon and whiskey markets are flourishing and the demand for premium spirits is outpacing growth. In 2013 alone, bourbon demand increased by approximately 7%. Numerous suppliers have publicly stated that their supply will not be able to keep up with this growing demand. Cleveland Whiskey has a solution to this problem.

Typical whiskey production takes eight to twelve years to produce a class of properly aged bourbon. Cleveland Whiskey can produce comparably proper bourbon in less than one week using an accelerated aging process. This allows Cleveland Whiskey to increase their production to meet immediate needs while other companies must wait for their bourbon to reach a birthday before they can meet demands.  The ability to produce virtually unlimited amounts of high quality bourbon enables the company to be positioned well not only throughout the United States, but through many markets across the world.

With an impending international whiskey shortage due to increases in consumption and lagging production, Cleveland Whiskey has serious potential to penetrate new markets using its disruptive technology.

As exciting as all this information is, my focus has been on finding the best way to get Cleveland Whiskey ten feet outside of the distillery door. Exporting is a complicated business. Between the regulations, documentation, and complex logistics there are a lot of things to consider before committing to an international offer. The challenge so far has been to patiently prepare for a calculated entrance into the global whiskey market without getting distracted by all the enthusiasm surrounding the industry.