View Full Version : Small Batch

02-03-2010, 12:47
For fun I looked up the term in google books. The earliest use I found is this:


Oddly (seemingly) it is used in connection with Calvert whiskey (circa-1960) to explain why its Extra blend, still sold I believe, has a particularly soft character. I wonder what element of Calvert Extra was made in a small batch. Was it the straight whiskey component? If so was it a pot still product? The term small batch can mean the latter in distillery terminology (sometimes termed "batch whiskeys"). Or was it the neutral spirit element? Anyway I was surprised to see the term used in a way quite different to how it is understood today. Perhaps they simply meant that small batches were prepared of the usual Calvert blend to get the best results.

I wonder what those 22,000 experiments were all about? That's a lot of experiments. Jim will have to keep SB going a long while before I or even those who have exceeded me in posts will ever get to that number..


02-03-2010, 12:55
Another use of the term from still earlier (early1950's): the term small batch is used to describe the original Old Crow production, to show lineage, pedigree, and not to describe the current product as such. So a use more akin to how we would view the term today:



02-03-2010, 18:55
Small batch is basically a meaningless term... of significance only to the marketing folks who are trying to sell something.

02-04-2010, 09:46
Small batch is basically a meaningless term... of significance only to the marketing folks who are trying to sell something.

I suspect there are more bottles produced per year in the Beam "Small Batch Collection" than the entire output of Tom Moore or Four Roses.

02-05-2010, 21:16
Gary, thanks for these glimpses. I think this terminology is interesting, as Beam clearly tried and quickly abandoned some other marketing copy (the "micro-distilled" Jacob's Well comes to mind). Small batch is an evocative phrase that immediately calls to mind working on a home- or cottage-industry scale ("batch" calls to mind home cooking and especially home baking). It also has more (theoretical) meaning than micro-distilled or limited bottling run or whatever. Obviously, Beam's definition of Small Batch is flexible and perhaps scaled to their huge production volume, but it remains an effective marketing tool 20 years after they launched the line and 50-odd years after it was first used in bourbon marketing. One wonders if Beam was aware of that background when they started using the term. Regardless of one's opinion of Beam, the contemporary use of "small batch" is widespread, and it originates with them.

Things like these posts make it hard to leave SB.com entirely, even if my weekly bourbon consumption is now less than I used to drink in a day.

Thanks again, Gary.


02-06-2010, 14:00
The use of 'small batch' is a marketing phenomenon worthy of further study. It seems that sometimes a term is so evocative that people don't even wonder what it means and ultimately imbue it with a meaning of their own creation. As its usage grows, they offer plausible definitions that are often accepted at face value by others.

There is even some cognitive dissonance at work, as people actually reject the true explanation because they find their fantasy more satisfying.

The producers will exploit this. Maker's Mark, for example, says it is genuinely small batch because it uses 1,000 gallon dump tanks, which are small by industry standards, so each bottling batch is about 22 barrels. At least, they said that before Jim Beam bought them.

Beam, for the record, has never misrepresented what it means by small batch. Compared to the totality of Beam's inventory, even a batch of several hundred barrels is small. The legitimate inference is that it is a selection of outstanding barrels.

In politics there are similar words. 'Change' is probably the best example. 'Hope' was used to excellent effect in the last election.

02-06-2010, 16:31
Thanks all and Tim for your kind words, I just found it interesting that the term was used at these early dates, not I believe in a contrived manner.