Monday, January 27, 2014

Sazerac's Funny Numbers


As we all know, there is a shortage of old whiskey.  Whiskey producers are dropping age statements left and right.  Sometimes age statements just disappear, other times they are replaced by something else, like Macallan's color scheme.  Lately, however, it appears that a deceptive new tactic is being practiced by Sazerac, the parent company of the Buffalo Trace, Barton and Bowman distilleries.

Very Old Barton is a popular six year old bourbon available in Kentucky and adjacent states.  It's known and loved for being a high quality, affordable bourbon.  New bottles of Barton no longer say 6 years old, but they still prominently display a 6 on the neck label.  Similarly, this newly approved label for Old Charter, formerly an 8 year old bourbon, now simply shows a number 8 without stating it is "8 years old."   This is similar to what Sazerac did a few years ago when they introduced Ancient Ancient Age 10 Star. There is a 10 year old Ancient Ancient Age which is quite popular but getting harder to find.  It is very easy to mistake the 10 Star for the 10 year old.

I contacted Sazerac and they had the following comment:

We have moved some brands away from age declared statements because delivering a consistent taste profile is more important than the age statement to our customers. In the case of Old Charter, sometimes that means 8 years old, sometimes 9, sometimes 7. We were finding that we had barrels that were 7 years and 10 months old that tasted closer to standard than barrels at 8 years and 3 months but could not use them due to the age statement and consequently in these tight inventory times we were running our customers out of stock. That issue is now solved. That being said, Old Charter will continue to average 8 years old for the foreseeable future and the same can be said about VOB, it will continue to be a 6 year old whiskey for the foreseeable future.
They also told me, "At this time, we do not have plans to remove age statements from any other brands."

I'm not thrilled with the growing scarcity of age statements, but I understand it and appreciate the dilemma that distillers are in.  However, replacing the age with just a number is dishonest and unworthy of a company like Sazerac.  It's true that there are other whiskeys that use number designations, but most of them, such as Jack Daniel's Old No. 7 and Maker's 46, never had an age statement.

If  Sazerac wants the flexibility to use younger whiskey, they should take the number off the bottle altogether. What they are doing is deception pure and simple, and they should knock it off.  Then again, maybe they were just sore at being left off of my Worst Whiskey Company of the year award for 2013 and are trying to get an early start for this year's competition.


15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Age statements are silly. A whiskey is ready when it's ready. When you order a steak and they serve it to you, are you more concerned about how long they applied heat to it? Or that it came out the way you wanted it?

Kevin said...

Thanks, SKU, for calling Sazerac out on this. It's misleading, pure and simple, and sad they believe their customers aren't discerning enough to notice or care.

Harry said...

We'll see whether the taste is close. VOBBIB6yr disappeared from my favorite sellers in WashDC last week & I'm told the VOB100proof"6" should be on them soon.

weller_tex said...

Anyone who used to love Weller Special Reserve and Old Weller Antique when they were both 7 years old know what a crock that flavor profile nonsense is. Those whiskeys are not even close to what they used to be and I would bet are barely 5-6 years old. Within a year or two you won't even recognize Old Charter (not that I liked it anyway) and VOB (which I did like).

Anonymous said...

C'mon BT, no more of these sissy NAS half-measures. Give us the deluxe d*ck-move Diageo treatment and release a $1,000 Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey 10.12.15.20.23 "Old Rip" Limited Edition Single Small Batch

Anonymous said...

When I order a steak I would like to know if it has been dry aged/wet aged and for how long.

Anonymous said...

The only number I trust on a bottle is the one on Bacardi 151.

T Comp said...

Having a bigger platform than many of us, thank you Sku. Now if only there are enough other disgruntled who let it be known with their wallet.

Anonymous said...

Picked-up a bottle of the 6 at Binny's recently. Sazerac suckered me into thinking it was an age statement. This is not their only deception although it's the last on me.

Mark said...

Thanks Sku. Now if only Tim Read will lay in to them like he did Parker :)

I feel a bit conflicted about BT - on one hand I love some of their usually very affordable products, but crap like this makes me want to stick to 4 Roses/WT. Heaven Hill already pulled the D*** move of jacking up the price replacing EC18 with the increasingly expensive 20, 21, etc., but at least they were honest about it - and put out the great, and afforable ECBP.

As popular as some of their stuff is though, taking it out on them with my wallet feels about like the Simpsons when Moe steals Homer's "Flaming Homer" drink idea, when Homer has to yell over a horde of thirsty people with their money out to Moe that Moe just lost himself a customer. At least I can't find the 2 items I'd pick up regularly (Weller 12 and ET Lee).

Max said...

Fight the Good Fight Sku. The dropping of age statements, and the substitution of numbers is just another way to sell inferior product for the same or more money. The BS about "flavor profile" is just another way of calling the customer stupid -- ie too dumb to know the difference.

EllenJ said...

The problem, Steve (and the other one; you know who you are), is that there are really only three kinds of people who buy bourbon whiskey...

(1) Really stupid people who believe whatever the label says, or even implies.

(2) Really stupid people who believe that only the most expensive and impossible-to-obtain bourbon is real bourbon anyway.

and

(3) You 'n me

Happy 2014, dude!

Justin said...

Ellen J, if that is true then I guess I am in your exclusive group of understanding bourbon.

I feel better about myself already!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for saying what needs to be said. The whole parsing of words and dodgy use of numbers reeks of dishonesty. If it smells funny, don't put it in your mouth.

Anonymous said...

here in oregon the very old barton is listed on the state web site as being a 6 year old, and the label in the stores makes the same claim.

only problem is, the damn bottle doesn't give an age statement!