View Full Version : The term "Presidentīs reserve"

Hedmans Brorsa
07-23-2005, 03:47
Time again for another chapter in the celebrated series "Stupid questions posed by HB".

I throw caution to the wind and wonder about the term "Presidentīs reserve". As far as I know this is used for two bourbons : Hancockīs P.R. and (the possibly discontinued) I.W. Harper P.R.

My question is : is this a term that carry any obligations or can you just use it at your own convenience, for instance, in conjunction with a luxury product?

In Sweden we have something called "By appointment to His Majesty the King", which coupled with the Royal coat-of-arms can be found on various products.

Is Presidentīs reserve an American equivalent to this or is it just wantonly used?

07-23-2005, 05:24
Michael Jackson (as usual) said it best in his 1987 World Guide To Whisky: "such ponderous names are beloved by marketing men". One still sees similar weighty and rather meaningless names in parts of the world including Canada, perhaps less so in modern bourbon nomenclature. "Extra special liqueur gold-labelled deep reserve" and so on and so forth... I guess whisky makers, always conscious that many in society view liquor with mordant eye, sought to enhance its social prestige (or at least lessen its negative connotations) by giving it an elegant name or one associating the product with the upper reaches of business ("Directors' Reserve") or politics/government (in the examples you cite, HB). Not that our rulers generally abjure drink (far from it I think) but it is my sense that most such naming conventions don't have much behind them (save the Royal Warrants which still must be awarded by Royal Houses, I believe) and are the clever output of marketing departments and ad agencies. I've got no issue with these names except after a century of constant use they can seem a bit dull. In Scotland, an independent blending company has recently put out whiskies with refreshingly simple and direct names such as "The Smoky Peaty One" (good whisky it is, too). I think names can be as broad as one's imagination and should not be limited to Colonel's Old Prized Priceless Stock as once was common. In fact as I said in straight whiskey today at any rate most names seem more simple, e.g. Rittenhouse Straight Rye Whiskey is named after the company that made it long ago (or after a locality near the area of production); Booker's is named after the distiller who made and selected the product; Blanton's is named after a former executive who directed the company's fortunes for a long time; simple and direct in all such cases. The odd President's Reserve (and that Hancock is very good by the way) tends to sound more like a name from the past when names suggesting pedigree or prestige were more common. Fair enough - didn't the Bard ask, "what's in a name?"? He knew it's what inside that counts. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif


Hedmans Brorsa
07-23-2005, 09:12
Thanks Gary,

I seem to recall reading an anecdote somewhere about Nixon treating Brezhnev to a shot of Harper and even though I suspected otherwise I thought that maybe som inhabitants of the White House patronized certain products which, in turn, entitled these products to carry a name like Presidentīs reserve.

Is P.R., as you imply, a term that goes way back historically and has it been used in conjunction with other products than whiskey?

07-23-2005, 13:14
Don't foget about Labrot & Grahams "President's Choice" bottling at 101 proof. Not Woodford Reserve.

07-23-2005, 14:13
That's the first time I've heard about that one.


07-23-2005, 14:35
Yes, me too. Can we see a picture??

HB, there is no equivalent here to Royal Warrant. The term President in such names would usually refer, too, to the President (Managing Director) of the company that made the spirit, not the President of the country. This is not to say some American Presidents did not enjoy whiskey. You may be right about Nixon serving I. W. Harper to his Russian counterpart. I know Franklin Delano Roosevelt served Old-Fashioneds to King George V when he and his wife (the late Queen Mother) toured America in 1939 - apparently both leaders acknowledged that their mothers would not have approved but still drank their cocktails with pleasure. But I doubt any U.S. President ever publicly expressed a preference for a brand of whiskey much less consented to his office appearing on a favored brand name - the whole whiskey question here was and is too sensitive for that, for one thing. The only time I recall reading about whiskey in connection with the current President is the story that his wife cautioned him many years ago that either he had to give up Jim Beam or her. Whether that is true or not I don't know but it is well known President Bush had difficulties with alcohol years back and gave it up for good, for which more power to him.


07-23-2005, 15:45
"such ponderous names are beloved by marketing men"

There may lie an exception, Gary and Mardee Regan report that the brand most favored by the most US Presidents, so far,has been IW Harper.

It was Nixon and Kruschev and he said, you Americans have a nice Whiskey but you ruin it, there's more Ice than Whiskey

Detante! (http://www.whiskymag.com/magazine/issue37/whsiky_in_russia/back_in_the_ussr.html)

07-23-2005, 15:54
L&G Presidents Reserve Bottle (http://www.straightbourbon.comhttp://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/showflat.php/Cat/0/Number/34688/page/fpart/fpart/4/vc/1)

It's the second bottle from the left in my Woodford Reserve picture. It's 100.4 proof, not 101 like I said in my first post.

07-23-2005, 17:57
Okay Bobby but even iced bourbon's got much more flavor than un-iced vodka (would have been a good rejoinder to him). I think Nixon liked wine more than whiskey though. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif


07-23-2005, 18:03
Thanks for posting this, I recall now these excellent photos from earlier but not the use of a name other than Woodford Reserve on an L&G bottle, good catch!


Hedmans Brorsa
07-24-2005, 02:09
Aaah! The Labrot & Graham one. How could I forget about that one? It is mentioned on page 169 in Jim Murrayīs bourbon book.

Actually, a couple of years ago I chanced upon a bottle on a russian website selling whiskey. Somewhat out of prejudice I refrained from contacting them. The idea of giving my card details to someone in Russia didnīt appeal to me. Since then, of course, I havenīt seen the least trace of it so maybe I shouldīve taken the gamble?

As for Harper P.R.: there is actually an American eagle depicted on the box which, together with the fact that it is an export bottling, sends out strong White House vibes to me.

I have actually improved lots as a digital-camera user (honest!) but I mostly take pictures of people, buildings and landscapes so please excuse the poor quality.

Ken Weber
07-25-2005, 06:19
Mr. Jackson's thoughts are right on. Hancock's President's Reserve means nothing! It was simply a brand name we inherited that some marketing person came up with. Weller Special Reserve is actually the youngest expression in the Weller line; what is so special about that!

When introducing a new brand, our goal is to communicate what we think is a special whiskey, otherwise, why just dilute the quality standards we have spent the last several years trying to cultivate? If we introduce a new brand called "Master Distiller's Personal Choice", I assure you it will be because it is in fact the personal whiskey of choice of Harlen Wheatley, our new master distiller.