Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Reader Poll Results: We Want Full Age and Proof, Thank You Very Much

On Monday, I asked readers if they would rather have companies face whiskey shortages by lowering age, lowering proof or not changing anything which would cause shortages.  The responses was overwhelmingly in favor of not making changes to age or proof and accepting shortages.  Some even recommended raising prices before tinkering with the product.  Between age and proof, commenters seemed most offended by lowering proof.

All the comments are worth a read, but I thought the majority sentiments were summed up well by Carlton:

Maintain age and proof. Shortages and excess inventory are inherent in any product with such a long lead time between production and sale. It seems to me that "satisfying demand" is the whiskey companies' euphemism for "selling all we can, even if it isn't as good as what we used to sell." Once a whiskey starts down the NAS road, it is too easy to chip away at quality in the name of the bottom line.

There were some contrary views.  Chuck Logsdon favored dropping age statements.

Drop the age statement.  A large number of people have have consistently shown that they will hoard when things get scarce even if they never tasted a drop of a particular bottling.  I'd rather have the product available to me than it have an age statement. 

In general, though, people felt not only that companies shouldn't drop proof or age, but that companies who do are not being straight forward with consumers.  As one anonymous commenter stated:

Retain the proper aging for the products that have been defined by that age statement. The corporate people are playing a risky game when they try to play games with educated consumers. "We age it to the proper flavor" is spin like we hear from shifty politicians. We can reasonably expect price increases and shortages when demand is up, but what we do not want is a decrease in quality while being told it is the same. There are mass produced bourbons that never had age statements that we know are being stretched because the consumer expects to see that brand on the shelf, but if your brand is based on the fact that it has always been aged a certain period of time and you change that, you've changed too much. So a few more dollars or an occasional shortage, OK, but if you produce a lesser product I believe you will find that consumers might just start looking to the guys that have made the commitment to stay true to their to their brand - and their customers.

So, whiskey companies, I hope you are listening.  Your consumers would rather have trouble finding your products, or even pay more for them, than have you fool with the age statement or proof.


Anonymous said...

What's funny about this is that it's the exact opposite of the current Whiskey Advocate comment board, where everyone is complaining about the availability and price of the new "Top 10 Buying Guide." No matter what, people are going to be mad about something.

Anonymous said...

the rise of NASs and cost is a worrisome trend. Perils of globalization. Supply & demand. sad really

G-LO said...

I couldn't agree more. Keep the ABV and age statements consistent and let the market decide what it's willing to pay. Bravo SKU!

sam k said...

I think all of the points made here are already well known to the distillers, but they'll choose their own path based on what they feel is best for their brands or companies.

Though we are definitely more passionate, the enthusiast is but a drop in the big whiskey consumer bucket.

Patrick said...

I'd love to see things stay the same with age statements and proof. However, the exploding growth of the market simply won't allow for it. Plus the reality is that the folks in the growth segment of the market are not well educated in what age statements and proof mean to a bourbon's taste and quality. As a result, educated long-time drinkers have to suffer through this as a result of the popularity of whiskey. For when it comes to growth and making money, we are not the ones being targeted.

Anonymous said...

Sam's comment is dead on. They already know all of this. They talk about it all the time. However, money talks louder than any of us do. If every single person who reads whiskey blogs were to stop buying whiskey today and never touched another drop for the rest of their lives, it wouldn't do anything to stop this movement. There are too many people who do not know, do not care, and have no interest in any of these matters that are so important to us.

Anonymous said...

And people were worried about Craft Distillers. Pffft!