Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Bourbon Bigotry: Suntory/Beam Deal Brings out the Worst in Beam Fans

I was pretty unmoved by the big news that got the whiskey world humming yesterday.  If you've been sleeping under a whiskey stone, Japanese drinks giant Suntory is buying Jim Beam.  There were very good articles about the sale by Chuck Cowdery and Janet Patton.

I sympathize with many critiques of global capitalism as it's practiced these days, but one big multi-national corporation buying another big multi-national corporation just isn't that exciting to me.  It seems pretty par for the course in the world of business.  And, of course, I'm not much of a Jim Beam fan.  I even named them as a runner up in my Worst Whiskey Company of 2013 award.

These days, corporations don't really have nationalities in any real sense of the word. Both Suntory and Beam own multiple properties around the world.  Beam owns three Scotch distilleries including Laphroaig, the Cooley Distillery in Ireland, Canadian Club, Courvoisier Cognac and Sauza Tequila.  Suntory owns a number of Scotch distilleries, including Bowmore, along with its Japanese distilleries.  No big deal, money traded back and forth between really rich people.  And it's not like you can outsource bourbon.  It's a unique product of the United States that must be made here.

What I found surprising was the reaction of Jim Beam drinkers, at least as displayed on the Jim Beam and Maker's Mark Facebook pages.  A shocking outpouring of xenophobia was on display, complete with racial epithets.  As shouldn't be surprising, many of these folks were not too bright and clearly knew very little about Beam, Suntory, the whiskey industry or anything else.  Here are a few of the genius comments, all of which are copied verbatim.

  • Yall got some nerve. Where are the american made products??? I vote to boycott every american made product that has sold out. Yall should be ashamed if yourselves. It is now a Japanese whiskey. Whiskey is an American drink! Now im switching to knob creek. They are still American! Everyone boycott with me until they bring great whiskey back to the states!!!! Sound off in the comments section. Oh and make known you'll be drinking Fukushima.liquid.

Whisky is an American drink?  It was invented by the Irish.  And I hate to burst your bubble, but Knob Creek is made by Jim Beam.


  • who the hell wants to buy bourbon from Japan. i am disgusted.
I do!  It's called Four Roses and it was crap until it was bought by a Japanese company that cleaned it up.  It now makes among the best bourbon around.  Beam should be so lucky.


  • Omg wth I just heard y'all sold out to the chinese I will no longer buy or drink jim beam. I'm am sorry cannot support china

I. am. speechless.

  • Sell out! How could you sell out to a Japanese company! I am no longer supporting this product. You could have atleast kept in the states! I am truly disgusted!!!!!

This was on the Maker's Mark page. Before it was owned by Beam, Maker's Mark was owned by a British company, and before that, a Canadian company.  I don't remember a lot of outbursts about those sales.


  • Maker's - now owned by the Japanese. unlike. Check out Bullet or Blanton's for tasty alternative burbons at a similar price point

USA! USA!  USA!  Oh, and FYI, Bulleit is owned by Diageo, a British company.  Blanton's is owned by Age International....a Japanese company.

In her excellent article about the sale, Janet Patton pointed out that Maker's had previously been British owned, to which one commenter responded, "At least the Brits were our allies."  Um, last time I checked the Japanese are our allies.  It's true that the we fought a war against Japan, a war which ended nearly 70 years ago, but I think we fought some wars against Britain too.  Oh, and Wild Turkey is owned by an Italian company...you know Italy, that country that fought with Japan in World War II.  It's funny, I can't recall any outcry at all a few years ago when Campari bought Wild Turkey. 

It's easy to make light of this type of idiocy, but I don't mean to make light of the sentiment behind it. A huge number of these comments referred to selling to "the Japanese" or "the Asians" as if a whole race were purchasing the company.  It is a disturbing "yellow peril" type of reaction that feels more like something from the 1940s than today. I guess I naively thought we were beyond this type of blatant bigotry, and it's jarring to have it so clearly on display.  I guess we still have a long way to go.

I think I'll drown my sorrows in some Four Roses...Japanese owned, American made, and delicious!


Jordan said...

The guy complaining about Makers could have at least made a coherent point by name-checking Weller instead. It'd still be dumb, but at least it would make sense.

AaronWF said...

With fans like that, it's no wonder Beam was sold - I wouldn't want to be responsible for getting the kind of people mouthing off on those pages drunk. Stupidity is one thing, stupidity + alcohol is destruction.

David D said...

This is a big reason why I have stopped reading most comment fields -- they're often a reminder of how far we haven't come as human beings. Whisky sites can be pretty bad. News sites are the worst.

I do read yours though!

bear toe said...

Another point - I have a great deal of difficulty thinking of any public company as having a nationality or being suitable for national pride/loyalty/jingoism/whatever.

A brief perusal of the Morningstar report tells me that Beam, Inc. was already owned by a bunch of foreigners, as well as a bunch of locals and lots of people who secretly invest for others; hell, I wouldn't be surprised if Suntory wasn't already a major shareholder.

Also, do these people really think that their beloved company should be run by Bill Ackman (currently controls 13% of the stock through Pershing Square) who just spent three years destroying JC Penney?

Anonymous said...

this is typical of ALL Facebook posts, not just about this one deal. the majority of people just run their mouth without even the slightest modicum of thought or intelligence behind it.

Eric Burke said...

You summed up my thoughts better than I could have. Spot on.

Justin said...

Celebrating with a dram of Knob Creek!

Lazer said...

I was seriously looking for the commedy tag at the end of the post. Another great sku satire. Sadly it wasn't there. Unbelievable.

sku said...

Sadly, these are all real, and it was on Facebook so they posted under their real names (or made up FB handles). I considered including the names, but I thought that would be going overboard.

Anonymous said...


I may have had one too many, but isn't Blanton's made by Buffalo Trace, who is owned by Sazerac, which is based out of LA?

Just curious. I may be wrong.

sku said...

Blanton's is indeed made by Buffalo Trace, but it's owned by Age International. Age owns all of the BT bourbons made with their mashbill #2 (the high rye mashbill) which also includes Rock Hill Farms, Ancient Age, Elmer T. Lee and Hancock's Reserve.

Chuck Cowdery wrote a good article about the somewhat mysterious relationship between Buffalo Trace and Age International.

Anonymous said...

Sku, the world needs more people like you buddy, but xenophobia and bigotry suprises no one from one of the Southern States where Robert E. Lee's birthday remains a State holiday that coincides with the Federal observance of Martin Luther King's birthday:


But, there's always hope. As Dr. King himself once said, "The time is always right to do what is right." Hopefully someday soon all of us will.

Anonymous said...

SKU why are you such the American hater? No patriotism whatsover. Kind of puzzling that you even live here. If you hate US so much go to China or Russia. Nobody is forcing you to live here.

Anonymous said...

@Anon: "The tragedy of our day is the climate of fear in which we live, and fear breeds repression. Too often sinister threats to the bill of rights, to freedom of the mind, are concealed under the patriotic cloak. Unreason and anti-intellectualism abominate thought. Thinking implies disagreement; and disagreement implies nonconformity; and nonconformity implies heresy; and heresy implies disloyalty — so, obviously, thinking must be stopped. But shouting is not a substitute for thinking and reason is not the subversion but the salvation of freedom. Men who have offered their lives for their country know that patriotism is not the fear of something; it is the love of something."

NP said...

SKU the semi-pro is no patriot, he probably doesnt even like whiskey....damn, that's a lot for one man.

Please tell me that at least you have a gun rack on your Impala otherwise I don't know if I am comfortable keeping reading your blog anymore sir.

sku said...

How about a ski rack on my Prius? Does that count?

Anonymous said...

I am reminded of a passage from Blazing Saddles:
What did you expect? "Welcome, sonny"? "Make yourself at home"? "Marry my daughter"? You've got to remember that these are just simple farmers. These are people of the land. The common clay of the new West. You know... morons.

Randy P

Anonymous said...

I suppose the Japanese will be blamed for the price increases announced a few weeks before the sale. Jim Beam 4yr increase is 10 percent. February 1. Heard from distributors Makers and rest of the lines to closely follow.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
"SKU why are you such the American hater? No patriotism whatsover. Kind of puzzling that you even live here. If you hate US so much go to China or Russia. Nobody is forcing you to live here." on January 16, 2014 at 4:06 PM

Tell you want, Mr. Stars & Stripes - your horrific grammar is only matched by your simple-minded view of the world. If you're indicative of the average American then the whole country is overdue for a shakeout.

Anonymous said...

"Tell you want, Mr. Stars & Stripes - your horrific grammar is only matched by your simple-minded view of the world. If you're indicative of the average American then the whole country is overdue for a shakeout."
Wow brainless "grammar queen" incapable of making an intelligend sentece. Just sad.

sku said...

Alright folks, let's try to avoid name calling and stick to substantive posts please. Thanks.

Geoff said...

Let's not forget.......if it wasn't for the Japanese.....there might not even be any decent bourbon being produced in the first place.

The Japanese market practically saved the bourbon industry and is partially responsible for the creation of higher end bourbon.


Anonymous said...

HA! Sku, you're a genius! This article most certainly made me laugh. You surely have a black belt in verbal assassination. At any rate, I've been meaning to ask you ...have I ever seen you at any whisky tastings? i feel as though you're a magical unicorn and often times I hear your name being thrown around during whisky tastings and all I can think is, "Where IS SKUUUUU???" I hope one day you will formally introduce yourself to me. I know I'm not cool or baller status enough to be in LAWS, so that group is out of the question, but perhaps I will see you at some whisky event. Gosh. I sound like a creeper. Really trying not to be...but at any rate, I HOPE TO MEET YOU ONE DAY :D :D :D