Dan Abrams is eager to turn a burgeoning interest in bourbon and whiskey into a new line of business.
The entrepreneur and legal journalist’s Abrams Media has acquired the spirts review site t8ke.review and will use it to launch Whiskey Raiders, a new online resource that Abrams says will appeal to both whiskey aficionados and novices. The site aggregates individual reviews from various whiskey sites and uses a proprietary algorithm to assign a score for each product, with an aim to making choosing a bottle that much easier. Abrams expects to launch an e-commerce component as part of the venture.
“This serves as a nice starting point for people,” says Abrams, in an interview. “It’s not the end point. The in-depth reviews are really important, and we are going to be promoting these other sites on our site, urging people to go read the reviews. But the idea of having an aggregated number — we can use that to take all the different ways people review whiskey and turn it into a 50 to 100 score.” The site will carry advertising. and Abrams says his company has been in conversations with some potential holiday sponsors.
The launch shows Abrams expanding his company beyond its core coverage of media and legal matters. Abrams Media operates the Law & Crime Network, which produces trial coverage among other content, and Mediaite, a much-scrutinized chronicle of the ups and downs of the news business. He is a regular on ABC News properties like “Good Morning America,” and hosts a legal analysis program on Sirius XM.
He sees little overlap between Whiskey Raiders and his other sites. But he sees potential for a new line of business. “There are no sites in the whiskey spectrum right now that are dominant, and I think that presents a really big opportunity for us,” he says.
The Distilled Spirits Council in 2019 estimated sales of American whiskey in the U.S. generated nearly $3.98 billion in revenue, compared with nearly $1.83 billion a decade ago. Much of that has been spurred by interest in higher-end products that cost more than the usual brown-liquor staples.
A simple trip to a liquor store will reveal the explosion in whiskey and bourbon offerings. Some longtime producers have expanded product lines. Shelves are also likely to be stocked with bottles adorned with names like Bob Dylan, who has a “Heaven’s Door” line, or backed by a group of investors from the sports world, as is the case with “Sweetens Cove,” a premium brand from Tennessee.
As part of the t8ke acquisition, Jay West, a veteran sprits critic who ran the site, will serve as managing editor of the new operation. Abrams and West envision videos that have the expert talking with different people about a range of choices, and a regular feature that helps readers figure out which product will deliver the most satisfaction at a particular price point.
“Much of the product that has been drunk around the world has been run by conglomerates and big trust funds and venture capital, but right now we are in the age of the craft distiller,” says West, in an interview. “You can create a brand out of nothing, or you can revive an old brand with the right infusion of talent and money.” He intends to help readers make better decisions about whiskey and bourbon and determine what is worth their attention.
Abrams says he used to focus intently on wine, but got more exposed to bourbon after wrapping broadcasts of the now-cancelled A&E program “Live P.D.,” when his co-hosts would enjoy the spirit. “I found myself having to dig into each of the very good in-depth reviews, and having to go site to site to figure out the general sense of a bourbon,” he recounts. “That’s how Whiskey Raiders came forth.”