Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Whiskey Wednesday: Knob Creek and the Greatest Drought That Never Was

It was with great fanfare that Jim Beam announced last week that the great Knob Creek drought of 2009 was finally over. What? You never heard about the Knob Creek drought? How could you possibly have lived through this tragic moment in whiskey without realizing it?

For those of you who are living in a bubble, I will explain. In early July, Beam announced with great fanfare that there was a shortage of its Knob Creek Bourbon. Knob Creek is a popular, nine year old Bourbon made by Beam as part of its overhyped "small batch" collection. In announcing that it had not made enough Knob Creek to meet orders, the company press team sent out T-Shirts saying "I survived the drought" and empty bottles to customers and the press (not to me, I might add). Undoubtedly, the tongue-in-cheek freebies were aimed at encouraging articles about the shortage, to make sure people would, um, know that this dire shortage existed.

If you didn't see one of these articles, chances are, you never knew there was a "shortage" of Knob Creek. Most stores in my area carried healthy quantities of Knob Creek the entire time. Last week, Beam announced that the drought was finally over.

Now, while I appreciate the humor that Beam used in this ploy, it was one of the sillier marketing campaigns I've seen. Admittedly, my own cynicism may be enhanced by the fact that I live in Southern California, and when we hear about droughts, it tends to mean something a bit more serious than a slight production blip in your favorite Bourbon.

Even had there actually been some sign of depleted stocks or limited availability, I highly doubt that there is any person so committed to Knob Creek that they couldn't live with it for two months. After all, most of us Bourbon geeks wait all year just to get our hands on the latest Buffalo Trace antique collection or other limited editions, so a few months gap in a pretty standard Bourbon, just doesn't impress me.

So chalk one up to marketing silliness and let's all hope that the H1N1 vaccine shortage is as artificial as Beam's Knob Creek shortage.


Chuck Cowdery said...

One aspect of the proliferation of new media is that there are many new places to have your press releases reprinted by writers and editors who have neither the time, interest, knowledge nor inclination to view them critically. The Knob Creek shortage was legitimate to a point and the people at Beam Global who decided to make it an event were in for a penny, in for a pound, in terms of milking it for all the publicity they could get. Personally, I got tired of writing about it long before the story ended.

sku said...

Chuck, one of the reasons I linked to your piece here is that you were one of the few writers who, in reporting on the "shortage," actually wrote some intelligent commentary explaining what it really meant. As you note, most internet source (even "old media" sources like the LA Times blog I linked to above) just reprinted info from the press release.