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View Full Version : Sazerac marketing debacle: happening with any bourbons or only rye?



BigBoldBully
03-12-2013, 15:38
Or maybe this should be titled "When Straight Becomes Crooked"

A couple of nights ago, I was in the chat and mentioned Fleishmann's Rye, which everyone understood to be a straight rye. I noted that I'd discovered the labels on my bottles actually say (in that fancy cursive that you have to stare at to read) "Mash" instead of "Straight." Mash RYE whiskey (the rye in clear caps) -- what the heck is that? Yet the Sazerac website has continued to display it as Straight. What's more, the hang-tag said the product is Fleishmann's Straight Rye Whiskey. But with a label that actually says Mash instead of Straight, can I have any real confidence about what I was sold? Checking the TTB website, you can see they were approved for the new "Mash" label a year ago. I started feeling crotchety, and sent them off an email (which appears below).


At first they promised to look into it and to send me a refund if I simply tendered my receipt. However, after I did that, they tacked on other conditions including a requirement that I first ship the bottles back to them so they could supposedly have their lab analyze the contents. (Analyze the contents? The issue brought to their attention is that their marketing does not match their subtly-changed labels). I guess they cannot tell me whether the product they are putting out is still a Straight, despite the label change they sneaked in, unless I send my particular bottles back to them. :hot: Gotta say this is starting to give me a bit of a negative association with the scores of Sazerac products in my cellar, and making me less likely to buy so many in the future. I will update with any future progress in my correspondence with the company.

So now I am wondering if anyone knows of similar bait-and-switches (or just incredibly negligent marketing campaigns) taking place amongst bourbons. Any Mash BOURBON Whiskey or the like making a stealthy appearance? Only thing I can think of at the moment is I saw some report OGD has a font for its 80 proof that they believe looks a lot like 86.

On the flip side, any companies who seem never to have engaged in such shenanigans and whose integrity is beyond reproach? :bowdown:


My email to Sazerac:

March 10, 2013
Dear Mr. Mudd/Sazerac representative:

I write to describe my experience with the marketing of your product, Fleischmann’s Rye. Recently, I purchased two bottles of this product based on my understanding that it is a straight rye whiskey and after reviewing the rebate tag hanging on it, also referring to it in clear type (and in at least two different places) as a straight rye whiskey. Yesterday, after retrieving a bottle from the cellar, I looked closely at the fancy cursive lettering on the label. It appeared that instead of "straight" the word "mash" has been substituted in its place.

Research led me to a TTB label approval from back in March 2012. Rather than the longstanding 102, straight rye whiskey code, the application for the label used code 142. Although this change was applied for and approved at that time, bottles featuring the new, subtly modified label have continued to be adorned with hang-tags that directly lead consumers to believe the product remains a straight rye whiskey--hang-tags that refer to a period significantly post-dating the label change approval. Moreover, even as of today, your website still represents the product as a straight rye whiskey, with a photo of a bottle that closely resembles mine but whose label upon inspection reads Straight RYE Whiskey.
(http://www.sazerac.com/BrandPortfolio.aspx?parent=FY&PCID=8&FID=72&NBid=5)

In short, I feel cheated. As a heretofore frequent purchaser and extoller of Buffalo Trace whiskies and other Sazerac-associated products, my sense of trust has been shaken. Therefore, I write to ask for information about what Fleischmann’s Rye currently contains, and what steps if any will be taken toward repairing damaged trust and loyalty.

Thank you for your time and attention

 

wadewood
03-12-2013, 17:31
Wahoo watch out the TTB will be all over this to ensure compliance........NOT.

I do agree that you where mislead in hang tag and label state contrary whiskey types.

White Dog
03-12-2013, 17:44
You're right! I just checked an unopened bottle that I bought in Jan. and it states 'mash' whereas a bottle purchased 6 months ago is 'straight.' hey Saz, thanks for nothing.

squire
03-12-2013, 17:47
I wouldn't read too much into it, there's a recent trend to drop the word 'straight' from the label because modern consumers don't know what it means. Beam does the same thing to it's Rye whisky label for the same reason. The emphasis is on the Rye.

LostBottle
03-12-2013, 18:33
For me, the bigger issue is Sazerac being d!©ks about the whole thing. They offered him a refund with proof of purchase (the right move) before telling him he needed to send in the bottles to have the contents analyzed by their lab (the wrong move). Analysis? Really, Sazerac?

I am betting they never intended to do a lab analysis and it was a brush off - I would call their bluff and ask them for a prepaid shipping label and a copy of the final lab report.

BigBoldBully
03-12-2013, 18:40
I wouldn't read too much into it, there's a recent trend to drop the word 'straight' from the label because modern consumers don't know what it means. Beam does the same thing to it's Rye whisky label for the same reason. The emphasis is on the Rye.

Squire, I hope your hunch is right and that they have not in fact changed the product to something that wouldn't qualify as a straight whiskey. It is unsettling to me that getting away from labeling that comes with a higher level of obligations and assurances may be a trend. I had thought the trend was actually toward more educated consumers demanding more transparence. But if you want to hear the extent of my naivete, a few years ago I expected a big increase in both organic spirits and provenance on multiple levels. (I still think it's coming, just more slowly. One of my favorite tequilas is organic, btw.)

I will post if Sazerac gets back to me about any content change.

BigBoldBully
03-12-2013, 18:57
For me, the bigger issue is Sazerac being d!©ks about the whole thing. They offered him a refund with proof of purchase (the right move) before telling him he needed to send in the bottles to have the contents analyzed by their lab (the wrong move). Analysis? Really, Sazerac?

I am betting they never intended to do a lab analysis and it was a brush off - I would call their bluff and ask them for a prepaid shipping label and a copy of the final lab report.

Yeah, the lab analysis thing really got me steamed. At best, it seemed they were not actually bothering to read my email and were invoking some knee jerk protocol. On that front, they have now backed down (after I sent an exasperated reply asking why it would be necessary and noting legal concerns about being involved in the interstate shipping of liquor) and are saying it will no longer be necessary to ship the bottles.

One of us really should ask them if they wouldn't mind pulling a bottle from the line, analysing it, and furnishing the lab report. That might be an interesting read!

cowdery
03-12-2013, 19:57
Would someone please post a photo of the label or a link to the COLA? For someone who has both, a side-by-side old and new picture would be great.

This change could just mean they want to avoid an age statement even though it's younger than 4 years. Or it may mean it's no longer rye whiskey, aged in new charred barrels, but 'whiskey distilled from rye mash,' aged in used barrels. Just be grateful they didn't make it a blended rye, like they did with Ten High (making it a blended bourbon).

You have to remember that Fleischmann's Rye is weird in that it is only sold in a small part of Wisconsin, only in 1.75 liter plastic bottles, and is very cheap. Like many of the changes we've seen lately, to proofs and age statements, this may have been done to increase profitability or cover rising costs without raising prices. Because whiskey is suddenly so valuable, producers have to cheapen their cheapest products to keep them cheap.

They didn't change the label for no reason. They changed the product too, or are planning to.

BigBoldBully
03-12-2013, 20:13
"Would someone please post a photo of the label or a link to the COLA? For someone who has both, a side-by-side old and new picture would be great."


https://www.ttbonline.gov/colasonline/viewColaDetails.do?action=publicDisplaySearchBasic&ttbid=12060001000056


for the old label, I hereby cite your own handywork:

http://chuckcowdery.blogspot.com/2010/09/find-it-if-you-can.html

(can't show a side-by-side as I only have the new)

T Comp
03-12-2013, 20:28
As to the response, call me an apologist but remember...it's harder than ever to stray from the script and most want to keep their job...unless you man the desk at Nordstrom :grin:.

cowdery
03-12-2013, 21:03
The response sounded like equal parts ignorance and CYA.

Thanks for the links, BBB. That Cowdery guy's blog is pretty handy.

The class/type description says rye whiskey, not straight rye whiskey. That's the change. I'm going to assume the choice of 'mash' as the substitute word was arbitrary and not intended as a proxy for 'whiskey from rye mash,' as it would probably say that under 'class/type description.'

This means it is aged in new, charred oak barrels but you have no idea for how long.

TheNovaMan
03-12-2013, 22:15
Just be grateful they didn't make it a blended rye, like they did with Ten High (making it a blended bourbon). My understanding was that Barton made that decision before they were bought by Sazerac.

squire
03-12-2013, 22:20
My first thought is get a case of the pre-mash label stuff and my second thought is I might not like it.

p_elliott
03-13-2013, 09:32
My guess would be it's not old enough to be called straight any more IMHO.

squire
03-13-2013, 09:34
Oh it shouldn't matter to me anyway, I only wanted it because I couldn't get it.

higgins
03-13-2013, 09:52
Disclaimer: This thread is not recommended for those exhibiting symptoms of Whiskirexia Nervosa.

cowdery
03-13-2013, 11:18
My understanding was that Barton made that decision before they were bought by Sazerac.

That's correct. It was shortly before. Sazerac endorsed the decision and continues to offer distributors both a straight bourbon and blended bourbon expression--but you can't have both.

This sort of thing happens all the time with these small brands. A few years ago, it was Beam getting labels approved for their blends that said 'cane neutral spirit' instead of 'grain neutral spirit,' just in case they wanted to start using cheap GNS from USVI.

Fleischmann's is peculiar in having its little coven of fans here on sb.com, and of course the influence of Whiskirexia Nervosa sufferers.

cowdery
03-13-2013, 12:11
I queried Sazerac about this and received a reply. It is pretty much as I assumed but I did learn one interesting thing. Fleischmann's was briefly discontinued but there was enough outcry in its one market that they brought it back. Here's what I wrote:

"The pitchforks are out on sb.com over the new Fleischmann’s Rye label. Instead of ‘Straight Rye Whiskey’ the label now reads ‘Mash Rye Whiskey.’

"I see on the COLA that the class/type description just says rye whiskey, not straight rye whiskey. This means it is still aged in new, charred oak barrels but we have no idea for how long. Presumably this was done not so you could start to sell it at less than two years old, but so that you would have flexibility in the minimum age and wouldn’t have to post any age statement.

"I’ve also concluded that the choice of 'mash' as the substitute word was arbitrary and not intended as a proxy for 'whiskey from rye mash,' a class/type in which the spirit could be aged in used barrels.

"How right is my interpretation and what was the reason for the change?"

They confirmed my analysis and said that flexibility, as I assumed, is the reason for the change.

higgins
03-13-2013, 12:41
How would the TTB distinguish between a "rye whiskey" aged just one year in new, charred oak barrels versus a "whiskey distilled from rye mash" aged in used barrels? It appears to me that they use the same code for both of these products - 142, Rye Whiskey. Perhaps I am misunderstanding, but as long as it isn't a straight rye whiskey I don't see how anyone can determine the types of barrels used from the information on COLA.

For example, the High West 21 year rye whiskey that has been aged in used barrels is legally "whiskey distilled from rye mash", but uses the same 'Rye Whiskey' designation from COLA as the new Fleischmann's.

Attached for reference:

Fleischmann's - https://www.ttbonline.gov/colasonline/viewColaDetails.do?action=publicFormDisplay&ttbid=12060001000056

High West - https://www.ttbonline.gov/colasonline/viewColaDetails.do?action=publicFormDisplay&ttbid=08310001000255

Brisko
03-13-2013, 13:04
The class/type codes seem to be used semi-arbitrarily. There is a code for straight bourbon, fore example (101) and a code for bourbon bottled in bond (111), but bonds tend to be entered as 101 anyway. I have seen straight ryes listed as 142, which isn't wrong, just not as specific as 102.

Short version, you can't go by the class/type code exclusively. You have to go by what is on the label, and even then we're largely relying on the producer to label it correctly.

BigBoldBully
03-13-2013, 17:48
Chuck, good work in getting something of an explanation/confirmation from them as to the motive--which certainly seems likely to be accurate. Did anything happen to come up about their failure to coordinate their advertising with this significant label + category change? Personally, that is what seduced my pitchfork from the barn and set me worrying about the torch supply. I assume it will be something along the lines of "oops" although a rather convenient "oops" it is. Of course, if they follow through on their promises to me including some sort of pardonable explanation, I will be happy to return the rusty trident wannabe to its usual home.

Another thing I am wondering, though, is whether this change has opened the door to any other forms of degredation. As you mentioned on your blog when praising the "straight" designation, "it shouldn't be necessary to memorize the Federal Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits just to buy a good bottle of hooch . . . ." My hurried glance at the 2008 edition of the regs linked through wikipedia triggered lots of preliminary questions that I would rather not research at this point. Last thing I want to have to turn into is a grouchy whiskey lawyer! (That's what we rely on you for.)

White Dog
03-13-2013, 19:04
14945

Here are the 2 labels. Tasting them side by side makes all this talk about flexibility and such sound like just so much Corporate Weasel-Speak.

The "straight" is leaps and bounds better that the "mash" version. In fact, the "mash" version tastes like it may be 2 years max, while the old straight version was always way better than it's price. The "mash" version is barely palatable, and I'm left wondering what to do with the rest of the bottle. This move has clearly been done so that they can sell Rye whiskey that has been aged for way less than 4 years.

When Chuck reports that most of the majors are still operating at less than full capacity, I would state that the majors continue to let the memories of the past glut guide them on a short-sighted path that will hurt them in the long run. The move towards more flavor in whiskey is not going away, just as the move towards better food is not going away either.

I was raised on white bread and canned vegetables in the 1970's, and those days are over. Do they think we're gonna go backwards on that? There's a reason that Bourbon is booming, and they should capitalize on that for god's sake.

Squire, it's a shame that you never tasted Fleischmann's Straight Rye. Knowing your tastes(at least from your posts), my guess is that you would have loved the old version.

cowdery
03-13-2013, 19:09
The best explanation for the advertising is simply that it's a very small brand and things like updating the web site are a very low priority. This is common with all of the producers. They'll change a label or discontinue a product and it's not reflected on the web site until the next full redesign.

As for will we be seeing more of this sort of thing, the answer is unquestionably yes and from everybody, not uniquely Sazerac. The very lowest priced brands are where we'll see it most and, in fact, it has been going on for a couple of years now.

These options are always out there and companies use them all the time. This does not represent some new labeling strategy by Sazerac.

As for "how they know," the TTB doesn't have people who go out and inspect. They take the producer's word for it. I've suggested that "Rye Mash Whiskey" or "Mash Rye Whiskey" means the same thing as "Whiskey from Rye Mash," but TTB doesn't endorse that suggestion. They are very particular about what word follows what word, so if you have 'rye' followed immediately by 'whiskey,' then it's the <160 proof, new charred barrels requirement, even if the word 'mash' is in the mix.

White Dog
03-13-2013, 19:13
I would recommend to anyone interested in this product to stay away from the "mash" version. Then Sazerac/Barton could disco the label as they wanted to do so in the first place.

Hey Sazerac, are you happy now?:hot::hot:

compliance
03-13-2013, 19:31
When Chuck reports that most of the majors are still operating at less than full capacity, I would state that the majors continue to let the memories of the past glut guide them on a short-sighted path that will hurt them in the long run. The move towards more flavor in whiskey is not going away, just as the move towards better food is not going away either.

I was raised on white bread and canned vegetables in the 1970's, and those days are over. Do they think we're gonna go backwards on that? There's a reason that Bourbon is booming, and they should capitalize on that for god's sake.

Well said White Dog. Consumers continue to become more informed. Put out bad product and people won't keep buying (unless your name is Jack).

BigBoldBully
03-13-2013, 20:25
"The best explanation for the advertising is simply that it's a very small brand and things like updating the web site are a very low priority."

Do recall however, it is not merely a matter of website neglect. They have taken affirmative steps to continue advertising this as Fleischmann's Straight Rye Whiskey subsequent to the change, including through a rebate campaign and hang-tags that use the old designation in no fewer than 3 places. Could still be an oversight, but it is more than a failure to update the website.

One other thing, that I am hoping not to feel compelled to look into, is the possibility they view the oddball designation of Mash Rye Whiskey (which could actually be interpreted by a reasonable consumer as saying Rye Mash Whiskey given some labeling conventions I have seen) as a way to avoid even the relatively minimal restrictions that would come with extremely similar terminology.

After reading several favorable reviews, I had rushed out to buy my handles of this little local secret. Now, having made this unpleasant little label discovery and seen White Dog's side-by-side appraisal, it does look as though I missed out on what I intended to buy and thought I actually was buying. I concur with those who view these sorts of moves as short-sighted profit plays that will probably cost the companies dearly in the long run.

TheNovaMan
03-13-2013, 20:31
That's correct. It was shortly before. Sazerac endorsed the decision and continues to offer distributors both a straight bourbon and blended bourbon expression--but you can't have both. If I yell at National Wine & Spirits enough, will they change back to the straight expression in MI?

cowdery
03-14-2013, 08:26
When it comes to brands like Fleischmann's Rye and Ten High Bourbon (sometimes Blended), we're not the market they care about. The market they care about is the guy who has bought a bottle a week, or two bottles a month, of the brand and has been buying it that regularly for years. That person is not reading labels. That person is taking it home, and mixing it with ginger ale or something, not writing tasting notes, not opining about it on sb.com, just drinking it, day in and day out. That's why brands like that continue to be made, because their drinkers are on auto-pilot. That person doesn't notice a label change, probably doesn't notice a flavor change unless it's really profound, but immediately notices a price increase and will abandon the brand in a heartbeat. That person then finds something else acceptable at an acceptable price and falls back into the pattern, never giving another thought to the former favorite. That's the reality. They're not killing the brand, they're keeping it on life support.

TheNovaMan
03-14-2013, 10:36
I was that guy, except I noticed the change when it happened because I sometimes drank it neat or on the rocks. I even considered calling Sazerac/Barton to tell them they might have a bad batch, but at the time it didn't occur to me to check the label.

VAGentleman
03-14-2013, 12:33
Hate to drift off subject but people continually calling Jack bad and thinking people only buy it for the marketing really drives me crazy. Its like the beer snob who talks condescendingly to people who are drinking a Bud or Coors, it really doesn't make someone want to try other beers. You may not like it but that doesn't make it bad. It has its place. I love the JDSB and have the Black label on occasion and like it. Others may not like it and thats OK. People saying something is bad and can't believe people drink something only serves to drive people away. Being welcoming and acknowledging everyone has different tastes can help introduce people to other whiskies.

Sorry for the rant and I didn't mean to call you out Compliance as Im sure it was meant as a joke.

White Dog
03-14-2013, 13:00
The way we keep losing age statements and proof, I'm fine with keeping people away from Straight Whiskey.:lol:

squire
03-14-2013, 13:09
White Dog I wish I could get my hands on some as it seems right up my alley.

I agree with Chuck's assessment, we are not the target market. The guy who buys a plastic 1.75 liter of blended whisky or young rye will notice price before anything else.

unclebunk
03-14-2013, 13:21
Very interesting thread. Wish I had scored my handle of the "straight" sooner, given White Dog's assessment of the "mash." Such is the life of a whiskey fiend...

squire
03-14-2013, 13:27
Should still be some on the shelves for awhile.

MauiSon
03-14-2013, 13:30
The way we keep losing age statements and proof, I'm fine with keeping people away from Straight Whiskey.:lol:

Really! Let's rally to the defense of the good-to-great mid- and top-shelf selections and let the bottom shelf continue to support our lower-volume favorites. Though I sample the bottom shelf, I don't usually go back to it (although I did bunker a few 4yo OOs and <$10 EWBs).

squire
03-14-2013, 13:59
I would start a 'Save the Straight' campaign but lack the energy to follow it through.

BigBoldBully
03-14-2013, 16:08
Should still be some on the shelves for awhile.

Not that I have seen, although I have only checked a dozen or so places. A couple of the retailers I have spoken with said there was a period last year when it was out of stock and no one could get any (and then apparently when it "returned" it was in its current form). Given that this is apparently a volume seller, it may be quite hard to find a straight "dusty"--possibly as hard as finding an age statement EWB.

squire
03-14-2013, 16:11
Oh well, it was a thought.

ohiobourbon
03-14-2013, 19:17
I like the idea of the "save the straight" campaign. I would even be happy with a "look for the straight" campaign, so that people had a better idea of what they were buying.
With regard to Fleischmann's, Chucks comment that the change is probably to keep the cost down (and save the brand) seems right-on, but my guess it is that the reason the word "straight" was removed does not have as much to do with the age of the whiskey. If I understand the rules correctly, if the whiskey is under 4 years old then the label needs an age statement, regardless whether it is straight or not, so removing the "straight" modifier would not help much, unless they were planning to sell the whiskey under 2-years old and put that age statement on the label (which, it sounds like, some Fleischmann's drinkers might not notice).

But, with the word "straight" removed, the producer is free to add caramel coloring and some flavoring materials (like sherry), and not disclose those additions to the whiskey on the label. Why would they do this? If Sazerac were planning to put their lower-quality rye in the Fleischmann's bottle, so that they could save their better rye for their other higher-priced products, maybe Sazerac believed the coloring or flavoring addition would help cover-up the product change.

Grain Belt
03-15-2013, 06:00
[QUOTE=VAGentleman;329444]Hate to drift off subject but people continually calling Jack bad and thinking people only buy it for the marketing really drives me crazy. Its like the beer snob who talks condescendingly to people who are drinking a Bud or Coors, it really doesn't make someone want to try other beers. You may not like it but that doesn't make it bad. It has its place. I love the JDSB and have the Black label on occasion and like it. Others may not like it and thats OK. People saying something is bad and can't believe people drink something only serves to drive people away. Being welcoming and acknowledging everyone has different tastes can help introduce people to other whiskies.

This is a great post VAGentleman. I am also a beer enthusiast and try many kinds but still respect some of the old tried and trues. I have friends that are always onto "the next big thing" with micro-brews. I too like to taste different kinds but I always keep my staple American lager Grain Belt Premium on hand. When I reach for one the beer snobs say something like "my grandpa used to drink that swill." It's like they only like a beer if it is "underground" and then when too many people like it they stop liking it because it is not "cool" anymore. I have seen this with music too. "I liked that band until they got too big." My question always is, "Is it a good product (insert beer, wine, booze, food, music, movie etc.) and do I like it or not?" I always have a bottle of Jack and Jim on hand. Also when I go out to a concert with not a lot of whiskey choices I know I can order a Jack or Jim on the rocks and enjoy myself. I can't imagine it would go over very well if I go see one of my favorite bands at a cool venue and then have a spastic fit because they don't have a quadruple oaked experimental bourbon waiting for me. I don't think I'm a hypocrite to be writing this with two bottles of Stagg sitting in my basement. I really think all bourbons are good. Some are just better than others.

callmeox
03-15-2013, 06:11
Please keep on topic. It is easy to open a new thread if you wish to discuss something else.

cowdery
03-15-2013, 07:21
I like the idea of the "save the straight" campaign. I would even be happy with a "look for the straight" campaign, so that people had a better idea of what they were buying.
With regard to Fleischmann's, Chucks comment that the change is probably to keep the cost down (and save the brand) seems right-on, but my guess it is that the reason the word "straight" was removed does not have as much to do with the age of the whiskey. If I understand the rules correctly, if the whiskey is under 4 years old then the label needs an age statement, regardless whether it is straight or not, so removing the "straight" modifier would not help much, unless they were planning to sell the whiskey under 2-years old and put that age statement on the label (which, it sounds like, some Fleischmann's drinkers might not notice).

But, with the word "straight" removed, the producer is free to add caramel coloring and some flavoring materials (like sherry), and not disclose those additions to the whiskey on the label. Why would they do this? If Sazerac were planning to put their lower-quality rye in the Fleischmann's bottle, so that they could save their better rye for their other higher-priced products, maybe Sazerac believed the coloring or flavoring addition would help cover-up the product change.

It's 'straight' that requires the age statement. No 'straight,' no age statement is required. If straight and less than four years, an age statement is required. If not straight, no age statement is required. It's still 'rye whiskey,' however, which means proof of distillation <160 proof, aging in new charred oak, and no coloring or flavoring, i.e., it's not a blend. The change is what it is but don't make it something it's not.

The odd thing about Fleischmann's has always been that as small as it is, it's the only brand that's using the rye whiskey distilled at Barton, so presumably they didn't do this to make more liquid available for another brand.

squire
03-15-2013, 07:36
Who knows Chuck, Sazerac has other ryes, Canadians too for that matter.

HighInTheMtns
03-15-2013, 07:56
Who knows Chuck, Sazerac has other ryes, Canadians too for that matter.
Squire, maybe they're saving up the Barton rye to give you your dream bottle from that other thread.

squire
03-15-2013, 08:08
If only that were so.

Rutherford
03-15-2013, 10:04
My guess is that they made the decision to stop producing rye 3-4 years ago at Barton, probably because it was their only rye and only sold in 1 market at low prices (and accordingly low margins)

When the stopped production manifested itself in a discontinuation of the brand, they would have had very low stocks of sufficiently old rye, and probably had to scrape the brand back with BT rye, sourced rye, underaged rye, etc.

jburlowski
03-15-2013, 14:32
My take on it is a little different:

Barton was producing a 100% rye that was almost ready for market when BT acquired them. I think those stocks will be used in the ongoing CEHT rye bottlings.

The recent change in the Fleischman brand is simply BT's way of squeezing some more profit out of a small niche brand.

squire
03-15-2013, 15:54
To rye or not to rye, that is the question.

cowdery
03-15-2013, 16:14
I don't think people grasp how small Fleischmann's is, yet in that small market they must sell a lot of it to justify making it. Unlike a small bourbon brand, which is just a matter of slapping a label on a standard bottle, they have to actually make this stuff.

Of course, before Sazerac bought them, Barton was active in the contract distilling and bulk whiskey markets. Some of the High West ryes were Barton. Yet Fleischmann's has long been a 36-month whiskey. In the whiskey business, that's practically just-in-time manufacturing, being able to sell something three years after it's distilled. The fact that they discontinued then brought it back shows how borderline it is.

About the smallest batch a distillery can make is the contents of one fermenter, but the start-up and shut-down for one fermenter is the same as a whole day's production, so one day's production seems to be the smallest practical unit. Even today, with rye production up, a distillery like BT might do three or four days of rye in the spring and three or four in the fall, but back in the doldrums it was one day in the spring and one day in the fall. I imagine Barton has been doing that, or maybe just one day for the whole year, and that has been enough for Fleischmann's, for their blends, and for contract/bulk sales.

When BT bought Barton they were shut down for rather a long stretch, about 18 months, because Sazerac felt they had been over-producing. When the rye ran out because of that gap, that may have been when they discontinued it. At some point in there they decided to make it after all, and probably went right back to what they had been doing, production-wise.

I don't have the sense that Sazerac is doing much if any robbing of Peter to pay Paul, that is making BT brands with Barton juice and vice versa. That would be inefficient. That's not to say they wouldn't, but there is no reason to assume they have and several good reasons to imagine they haven't. BT and maybe both distilleries are sending product to Owensboro for aging and bottling. BT may also be using some of Barton's warehouses, but there's no good reason to send Barton juice to Frankfort. Alternatively, they might have decided to make rye only at BT and Fleischmann's is or will be BT juice, but I think it's just as likely they left things as they were.

Another fact that some may not know is that Fleischmann's Rye itself was nothing special. It was decent and cheap, and a charming novelty due to its extremely limited distribution. There's a raw pleasure in a well-made young rye but that's all it ever was. I'm quite sure nobody was champing at the bit to slip some of it into T. H. Handy.

Products like Fleischmann's Rye are what is known affectionately in the industry as 'cats and dogs.' I don't know the derivation, but it means brands, usually on the bottom shelf, that have a loyal customer base for some unknown reason, and sell their 10 or 20,000 cases a year without anybody having to work very hard. Sazerac has a lot of cats and dogs, and acquired a bunch more when it bought Barton. It's a low margin business so 'squeezing profit out of it' is probably the right terminology, because there is so little profit to be had.

That's Sazerac's business, to operate in as many niches as possible and extract a respectable profit from each, without investing very much in things like brand building.

Bourserker
03-15-2013, 17:53
I am bummed by this news. I like rye, and I go to WI once a year to visit family. I was going to pick up a couple bottles of this stuff on my trip this year, but based on White Dog's comments I think I'll pass unless I happen across a stray bottle that has "Straight" on the label.

MauiSon
03-15-2013, 18:33
Yeah, this was always in my 'fun to try' category. I never intended to shlep or ship a bottle home. So, now I don't even have to try it, I suppose. ;)

squire
03-15-2013, 18:40
We can only do what we can to Save the Straight, I will only pay for the real stuff.

MauiSon
03-15-2013, 19:43
I'm always trying to fill a straight, maybe 'Sav[R] the Str8' might be more fitting.