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From Cannes to the Loire Valley might seem a short hop from south to north through France, but for those of us who made the trip at the end of TFWA World Exhibition last week, the contrasts could hardly have been sharper.
The balmy weather of the French Riviera was replaced by late autumnal chill, fog and rain; the bustling streets close to the Croisette gave way to the quiet country lanes of rural France, and modernity in the form of Cannes’ waterfront hotels gave way to centuries-old history and heritage in the greatest of French royal châteaux, dotted throughout the Loire region.
The welcome though was true southern – southern US, that is. Myself and a group of journalists were guests of Louisville–based Brown-Forman Travel Retail, who introduced us to the charms of this beautiful part of France, home to the company’s Chambord black raspberry liqueur. Our hosts were Brown-Forman Travel Retail Managing Director Jim Perry, Marketing Director Tim Young, as well as Rick Bubenhofer, Kristy Brown and Dennis Boyd from the in-house PR team.
Although Chambord has only been produced since the 1980s (it was bought by Brown-Forman in 2006) it’s got a terrific back story that fits its surroundings neatly. According to legend, in 1685 King Louis XIV visited Château Chambord (a magnificent palace we visited on our trip, pictured top), where he enjoyed a fine liqueur made from wild raspberries. That liqueur is said to have inspired the spirit that today is known as Chambord Liqueur Royale de France.
Regardless of the legend’s truth, today the liqueur is a staple feature of many a mixologist’s shelf, and hugely popular in the cocktail culture of the major US cities in particular. In travel retail though, it has plenty of room for growth. The company has been raising awareness of Chambord as part of its portfolio promotions, and sees a place for it too in cross-category campaigns, with sparkling wines and Champagne, or even (given the orb shape of the bottle and its appeal to women shoppers) as an item with a merchandising opportunity in the P&C section of the store.
“One of our stated priorities is to grow the rest of the portfolio faster than Jack Daniel’s in the years ahead,” said Jim Perry. “That’s challenging and ambitious, given Jack’s recent growth, but we are committed to it, and Chambord will be part of driving that growth.”
We’ll be covering Brown-Forman’s ambitions for Chambord in our titles very soon. For now, it’s time to reflect on a fitting end to Cannes week – a heady cocktail of French flair and southern US hospitality.
Brown-Forman’s Rick Bubenhofer and Tim Young at the chateau on the Chambord property this weekend