Monday, May 4, 2015

Stop it Already!

Sometimes things catch on in the whiskey industry that I just don't understand or that piss me off. The big ones, of course, are dropping age statements, reducing proof, raising prices through the roof and being dishonest about whiskey provenance, but there is more. Here are a few things I would like the industry to just stop doing.

1.  Pretending a new product was an accident. Wow! we just found 500,000 barrels we had no idea existed!  OMG, you got your bourbon in my rye...and it's delicious!  Please stop this incessant bullshit. Try this: "Here's a new product. We hope you'll like it."

2. Using the name Stitzel-Weller if the whiskey wasn't distilled there. Sorry, but I don't care if your whiskey was aged in Stitzel-Weller barrels at the old Stitzel-Weller warehouse after Pappy himself sneezed on it. If it wasn't distilled at Stitzel-Weller, that name has no business being on your label.

3. Pretending you can speed up aging. How many times do we have to hear this before realizing it's all BS? You really want to know how to make your whiskey taste aged?  Leave it in the damn barrel! 

4. Calling things small batch. Can we please put a moratorium on this stupid, meaningless term. It is not legally defined so literally anything can be called a "small batch" whiskey, and it seems like nearly everything is these days.  For once, I'd like to see someone label their whiskey a "large batch."

Alright folks, it's your turn.  What other things would we like to see the whiskey industry stop doing?


Anonymous said...

Excellent post.
Here's my list.

If you remove age statement, also remove the age statement number from the bottle? (see: Very Old Barton BIB "6" on the neck.)

If you source your juice, say so, and say where you get your juice from! Jefferson's is the worst offender on this at this point.

If you are a new distiller and you're just releasing your first bourbon, state the age clearly on the bottle and don't charge more than a bottle of Four Roses Single Barrel!

If you're selling white dog don't charge more for it than Four Roses Single Barrel!

If you're making and selling American Single Malt, don't charge as much or more than a bottle of Scotch!! Hello!!

General Rule for new-to-the-market producers/distillers: Please be more aggressive in your pricing! If you charge more than a bottle of Four Roses Single Barrel for your new bourbon that's been aged in small barrels for 6 months, you can bet it will likely sit on the shelf... forever. Not much of a business model, that.

General Rule: If you charge more for your new stuff than for a bottle of Four Roses Single Barrel, I will ALWAYS get the FRSB.


Anonymous said...

Putting bold face age-implied numbers on the bottle.

"Ocean aged" anything.

In fact, just shut the f*ck up about barrels and warehousing altogether. Ditto any/all unfortunate or miraculous events that befall either.

Enough with the obituary branding. Sinatra... or any other dead distiller, celebrity, villain, president or historical figure.

Old-timey historic dates (1776, 1792, 1780) totally unrelated to production.

Pride. Quit pretending you're innocent in the shitstorm of vanity bottles destined to feed secondary markets. Everyone sees you cashing-in, just f*cking fess-up and own it.

Steffen said...

I have to say I disagree with -dan

Small producers will have a higher cost per bottle than big ones.

So you should be ready to pay slightly more for those products.

Where -dan's point get clear is that the quality of the new peoducers liquid is not as high as FR Single Barrel

The thing I think the producers should stop udsing the word "unique"


sku said...

Great comments folks.

Another one I would add is names on single barrels. Does every Willett really need its own name? To be fair though, those seem to be driven more by consumers than the companies.

Keith W said...

This list hits most of my red flags. Removing the age then putting a big "8" or whatever where the age statement used to be really bugs me. I would contribute:

A former stockbroker/banker/real estate guy who opens a distillery and calls themselves "master distiller."

Yet another distillery started by someone whose grandfather/great grandfather/whatever was a moonshiner/bootlegger/whatever. Not only is this usually not true...WHO CARES? The ability to make whiskey is not genetic.

"A hundred year old family recipe"

"X's first legal distillery since Prohibition."

Peter said...

- I'll second the inclusion of relatively meaningless dates on bottles or with marketing. "1787 - Our distillery has functioned off and on (mostly off) since 1787 when someone, possibly or possibly not named "X" started making his own whisky, or beer, or had a farm there! Quality!"

- The invocation of time periods renowned for a lack of quality booze as way to point out the quality of one's booze. Just by way of an example, "frontier whiskey". Oh, yours is a frontier whiskey? So it's barely-aged rot-gut colored by tobacco juice, sold to depressed, violent, lonely men? Sold!!!

- These sad little pay-to-play whisk(e)y competitions. Stop paying attention to them. Stop participating in their bullshit. Especially you, Diageo.

Anonymous said...

Nail on the head, Peter! Savvy consumers couldn't give a shit how many publication Points or Medals some producer generated by distributing free media samples and lubricating publications/blogs/competitions with advertising dollars or entrance fees. No bigger turnoff than seeing/hearing a producer or retailer parrot Spirits ratings.

Anonymous said...

Additionally... reviewer writes golden praise of brand "barrel #1", or a "gift shop only" edition of a brand and producer/retailers disingenuously tie-in that highly specific praise to the non-specific standard release versions of the same brand made available to the rest of us plebes.

sku said...

Great one Peter. No more medals!

Scott Spolverino said...

Please stop calling it "moonshine". White corn whiskey doesn't automatically mean it's moonshine. If it's sold at a store (as opposed to out of the bed of a RealTree camo painted Ford F150 in the middle of Georgia) you're paying taxes on it and it's not moonshine.

Funky Tape said...

Wax tops. Well unless its bikini wax and edible, then get that crap out of here. Screw tops on everything. Get your damn groove on!!

Handmade. The only hand in 'handmade' is the one in your pocket stealing valuable whiskey money.

Ever notice that the review bloggers that get the most free samples are the ones that cannot taste. Orly, that bourbon has hints of caramel, vanilla, oak and maple syrup? Back up, you're saying that scotchy scotch is 'peaty?!?' Well, F me sideways - what an epic, mind blowing palate you have. What frauds.

Anonymous said...

New distillers: learn how to make booze FIRST instead of disguising your incompetence as "a new style".

And wait until you've been around long enough to actually release a straight whiskey before you open a goddamned distilling school.

Anonymous said...

Totally with you on the screw caps, Funky Tape. Don't care about churched-up bottles with t-cork stoppers. Shutdown the packaging secondary revenue concern and honor customers by bottling the best product inventory into the lowest cost screw cap bottles available.

tms_508 said...

New Rule: stop using the words "ultra premium whiskey" to describe anything that costs more than a bottle of 4R single barrel but isn't half its age. Its still just whiskey and we know its a lame marketing attempt to grab a piece of the product stratosphere which the contents of such advertised bottles invariably do not warrant.

two-bit cowboy said...

Do away with the too-high-priced marketing geeks and departments that add nothing to the whisky except cost. A great whisky sells itself.

Put master distillers in control of every aspect of whisky: create, age, determine when it's ready, and bottle it with an age statement. Honest, reliable, consistent.

No free samples.

Eliminate the plethora of awards competitions. There's no single competition that tastes every whisky so the results are skewed and therefore irrelevant.

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't it be great if they fired 90% of the Marketing department and spent that budget making great whiskey. I don't need someone to tell me how good it may (or likely may not) be; I can taste it!

Anonymous said...

Along these lines, the following legal ruling was posted to Cowdery's site today:

morlock said...

Chatham's Michters = bottom of the scum pile for brand name stealing, most lately Bomberger brand snatch lawsuit. The Sacramento horse breeding lady lawyer snaking Stitzel brand name because she's got the Very Olde St. Nick franchise sits on their face six fathoms down.

Sam Komlenic said...

Speaking of medals, the results are in from this year's San Francisco World Spirits Competition. Of 1,580 spirits entered 1,430 medals were awarded.

How exclusive? How useless!

Anonymous said...

Sam, isn't that how things work today even in our schools? Every student gets a medal or trophy for participation, in other words -- just for showing up. We do not want anyone to feel poorly about themselves.

Personally, I think these competitions should be run like the TV show Survivor. Perform poorly and you get voted out, prevented from participating for two years at a minimum.

Sam Komlenic said...

Anon, yes, that's what we've come to, and in wanting no one or nothing to sink below average we make it harder for anyone or anything to truly excel.

I can't imagine how truly substandard the very few non-medal-winning spirits are...I hope they're not feeling too lonely and left out! :^D

We have met the enemy and he is us. (With thanks to Walt Kelly)

VT Mike said...

It would be refreshing to see a company admit that their whiskey is small batch because they can't afford a bigger vatting tank.

Anonymous said...

That sums things up perfectly for those two. Bravo!