'Tis the season for whiskey awards, and like every blogger, I want to make sure I get mine in. This year, there was stiff competition for our Worst Whiskey Company award with lots of cynical marketing ploys, ridiculous pricing and other shenanigans, but there can only be one winner!
First, the runners up:
- Jim Beam. Year after year, Beam is contender for this award. This year, they put in a solid effort with their attempt to charge their loyal customers more for less by cutting the proof of Maker's Mark. Only in the face of a huge public backlash did they relent, but hey, it's not their fault that there isn't enough whiskey around; they've got to meet the insatiable demand for Red Stag.
- Diageo. Another major heavyweight in this category, Diageo was clearly playing to win this year. I won't go into detail here; just read Whisky Advocate's recent post naming them Distiller of the Year. That post pretty much summarizes all of the reasons why they should get the Worst Whiskey Company award (and thanks to Whisky Advocate for saving me the effort!)
- Dewar's (Bacardi Inc.). A good rule of thumb for companies is not to alienate half the planet, but Dewar's managed to do just that with an ill advised commercial about their character "the Baron." Aside from being a boring imitation of the advertising personalities for Captain Morgan and Dos Equis' Most Interesting Man in the World, the Baron's heroics involved rescuing a friend from being approached by an overweight woman in a bar (apparently, Dewar's commercials operate in a bizarro-opposite world in which men in bars are in constant danger of getting approached by women they find undesirable). The blogosphere immediately pounced, and Dewar's ended up withdrawing the ad. They may have even used the same form apology that Maker's Mark used.
Michter's (Chatam Imports). Michter's has long been a Worst Whiskey Company contender both for their mediocre whiskeys and constant stomping on the grave of the true Michter's Distillery in Pennsylvania, which they have nothing to do with. This year, though, they were not satisfied to rest on their laurels. No, this year they rose from the ranks of whiskey mediocrity to pure evil with the release of Michter's Celebration.
Before Celebration, no one thought it would be possible to charge $4,000 for a bottle of American Whiskey. Just doing that would have put Michter's in the running for this award, but they didn't stop there. They went above and beyond in their effort to insult the intelligence of consumers. This $4k marvel isn't a bourbon or a rye; it's a "sour mash whiskey," a classification which means...nothing. It has no age statement, and it's not even labeled straight. In short, this crap could be anything. Though media reports mention that it contains whiskey up to 30 years old, it could contain whiskey that is much younger. It could be any type of whiskey. It could even have added coloring. And as with all Michter's whiskey, we have no idea what distillery or distilleries made the whiskey. We don't know anything.
Of course, as the old saw goes, none of that matters if it tastes great, except that no one is going to taste it. They only produced 273 bottles of this whiskey. Based on my own observations, I would estimate that only 99.9% appear to remain on the shelf. Given that and the fact that there appear to be no reviews on-line, perhaps we can take heart in the fact that whiskey consumers aren't as gullible as Michter's may think (they should have put a picture of Pappy on the bottle - then it would have been gold!).
So for shameless cynicism and chutzpah which knows no bounds, I'm honored to declare Michter's the Worst Whiskey Company of 2013! (Note to Michter's, feel free to list this honor on your website in place of your current headline "Wine Enthusiast Distiller of the Year" since, you know, you're not actually a distiller).
Congratulations to Michter's and better luck next year to all of our other competitors. Oh, and if I left anyone out who deserves a mention, just let me know in the comments.