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kbuzbee
07-29-2005, 13:19
I'm interested to see if people feel there will be better and better offerings.... or, whether the best bourbons and ryes have been 'hanging about' in warehouses for some time (Mitchner, some(?) of the Van Winkle ryes...) and when they are gone things will go downhill?

It's not just product, of course, but people. Booker Noe passed away last year, Jimmy Russell is passing the reigns as we speak, etc. Are there new young 'Turks' taking the industry to new heights or, once these giants are gone, they are just irreplaceable?? (it's tough to phrase that without offending just everyone but please take it in the spirit intended ;-)

What I'm interested in here are people's perceptions on the Bourbon industry over the next 10-20 years. What can we expect???

My perception (as someone who knows NOTHING about the industry) is we are seeing some wonderful new offerings. I hope that trend continues (or accelerates?).

Cheers,

Ken

gr8erdane
07-29-2005, 16:05
Well Ken, probably the same thing was said about 50 years ago before Booker, Jimmy, Elmer, and the other guys we all revere starting pumping out the bourbon. Sure some labels are shadows of their former selves, but look at the great bourbons that have just appeared in the last 10-15 years. Buffalo Trace gets lauded a lot for their new bottlings, BT, Stagg, ER17 etc (not to mention all the experiments that Ken keeps alluding to). Look at what HH is about to do in launching the Bernheim wheat whiskey. I'm excited about the resurgence in bourbon being seen all over the world. I also am finding that I spend more time these days reminiscing about the "good old days" just like my dad and his dad before used to. Someday these will be the good old days our kids remember fondly. "Remember when you actually had to type into a computer....".

To sum it all up, I raise my glass to the Grand Masters we all adore tonight, but also to those who they have been grooming to take over. Our future is in their hands. Let's just hope they remember the lessons they learned and keep those darned marketing people from making too many changes. (Not that I dislike marketing people, they put their pants on just like we do, one tenticle and a time)

ratcheer
07-29-2005, 19:19
And I believe I recently heard that Elmer T. Lee has retired or semi-retired at Buffalo Trace.

Tim

TNbourbon
07-29-2005, 19:43
And I believe I recently heard that Elmer T. Lee has retired or semi-retired at Buffalo Trace.

Tim



You're a distiller behind, Tim -- master distiller Gary Gayheart recently retired. Elmer's been 'emeritus' for a decade or more now.

Isoflex
07-30-2005, 01:17
I worry that the bourbon industry will become more and more corporate and not as much family oriented. However, I find that the industry as a whole is VERY concerned with consumer satisfaction and consistently turns out a quality product from top to bottom (try some Rebel Yell or Fighting Cock to see what I mean).

Again though, the recent reductions in the proof of many bottlings is an area of concern (more water equaling more profits in the eyes of the bean counter).

2 cents from a person who barely has 2 nickles to rub together.

BourbonJoe
07-30-2005, 04:58
I worry that the bourbon industry will become more and more corporate and not as much family oriented.




You have cause to worry, what with the Japanese, French and god knows who else running the show at most distilleries.
I'm sure the Bourbon pioneers would be rolling over in their graves if they knew that foreign interests were calling the shots. Very sad. Let's hope it does not become sadder.
Joe http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/usflag.gif

ratcheer
07-30-2005, 06:10
Well, there you go.

Tim

ratcheer
07-30-2005, 06:16
The way I see it, there is one thing we can do. Support the products (by buying them) of the remaining American family-owned distilleries. As far as I know, that means Heaven Hill and Buffalo Trace. Are there any others?

But, even that has a flip side. If those remaining American owned companies become more and more successful, it will make them takeover targets for the multi-national corporations. As we all know, a $400 million target can do little to resist a $50 billion force (or, whatever the numbers may actually be).

Tim

kbuzbee
07-30-2005, 06:58
I agree, For years (too many to count) I've enjoyed Bourbon. Though I live in Ohio I was born in Kentucky. My parents both drank Bourbon (Kentucky Tavern to be precise, Dad with water, Mom with 7up both on ice). I had my first tast around 6 (dip a finger kind of thing ;-). Dad thought I'd hate it... I never told him.... it was pretty good! But until very recently, I'd never paid much attention to the distilleries. Bourbon came from Kentucky, period. It was American.

Then I started reading about these megalith companies who own every brand in every country (play Star Wars music with loud Darth Vader breathing!). I found that more than a little depressing.... Having worked for large multinational corporations (including IBM) I have seen how even seemingly innocent cost cutting measures have destroyed entire brands, gutted departments etc. I do applaud those distilleries who remain independant. I wish I could support them more but we don't see much of their product here..... We do have some EC and EW offerings but only like one of each.

That was certainly 'part' of my thought asking the question.... Is this a real issue or just me being paranoid??? Large companies are run by lawyers and accountants, not craftsmen. I know there are lots of folks out there (both consumers, like me and distillers) who have been watching this process and I wanted to hear what people have been seeing.

Maybe we'll see a strong resurgence of the small independant distiller (although I still won't be able to buy any in Ohio ;-( similar to the coffee industry. Not long ago almost all coffee was from the megas like Maxwell House. Then small upstarts like Startbucks came along and showed savy consumers they could have a better cup (ok, at like 20X the price, but still). Now Starbucks is a mega-multinational and you see the next generation of small upstarts (we have one here in Ohio www.daybreakcc.com (http://www.daybreakcc.com)) producing incredibly high end coffee that puts Starbucks to shame.

I know it takes a lot more capital to start a distillery than a coffee roastery but the scenarios seem very similar, to me...... Could happen....

Enough paranoid ranting,

Cheers,

Ken http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/soapbox.gif

musher
07-30-2005, 07:14
But, even that has a flip side. If those remaining American owned companies become more and more successful, it will make them takeover targets for the multi-national corporations. As we all know, a $400 million target can do little to resist a $50 billion force (or, whatever the numbers may actually be).

Tim


They can only be taken over if they're publicly traded. That would eliminate, I believe, Heaven Hill and Sazerac (owner of Buffalo Trace). Other than convincing the current owners to sell (perhaps by making them an offer they can refuse), I can only imagine that they would have to resort to illegal business tactics to force them to sell.

kbuzbee
07-30-2005, 08:09
My wife and I discuss this kind of thing all the time. The problem is you lack the historical perspective and, frankly, there is no very reliable way to gain that perspective. You can get glimpses but I would be stunned if someone could get an accurate idea of what people think today based on, say, reading today's press 70 years from now.... Even talking to people who were alive in that period, their memories are colored by the 70 years they've live since then........

For example, we hate the way the courts are creating laws from the bench today. We view it as not what the founding fathers were trying to accomplish with the initial 3 headed government. 100 years ago, did people worry about the same thing??? (or something else that has now happened and we just accept as 'the way it is'???) Makes you wonder.....

Your point is excellent. Only 30 years from now will we be able to look back and say, 'Wow, 2005 was the golden age of Bourbon' or 'Can you remember that horrid stuff we used to drink in 2005??? Man this stuff is so much better!'.

In the end, you always do the best you can with what you have.....

Thank goodness we're not living during Prohibition!

Cheers,

Ken

kbuzbee
07-30-2005, 08:23
I think it's very easy for a much larger company to offer twice what a company is worth, if they want the brand OR if they just want them off the playing field. More insidious, they produce a whisky that is 90% as good for 1/2 the price until the small independant can't stay afloat (not that anything like that would ever happen in business, just saying..... ;-). Neither of these things is remotely illegal. Sure, you'll have your dedicated fan base but in the end, the whole thing seems very much like the Shop Around the Corner in You've got Mail.

Cheers?

Ken

TMH
07-30-2005, 17:33
You have cause to worry, what with the Japanese, French and god knows who else running the show at most distilleries.
I'm sure the Bourbon pioneers would be rolling over in their graves if they knew that foreign interests were calling the shots. Very sad. Let's hope it does not become sadder.



I agree it's sad that something as special Bourbon could be owned by non-US companies, but I'm not sure blaming the Japanese and French is correct.



Poorly run companies will always be susceptible to a take over because of poor profits. Sometimes you need bean counters to keep a company alive. If the French own American distilleries and keep distilleries open and Americans employed I don't see a problem. If the French ruin the bourbon and sales drop either they'll sell it at a loss or they will get bought by a better company. Remember when everyone freaked out about the Japanese buying Rockafeller center in the 1980's? They sold it at a loss if I recall correctly.

Pernod Richard, a French company, owns Wild Turkey, which makes some great Bourbon. I'm not excited about the reduction in proof of RR, but I think it is a sign of the bourbon market, not an accounting move. I'd rather see them drop the proof and get profits up than keep it the way it is and scale back or cut labels and employees.

In my opinion Brown-Forman, an American brand, has done more harm to its bourbon than the French have done to Wild Turkey. The once amazing Old Forester 100 is now simply undrinkable. I can think of other labels that were once great and have been destroyed by American owners. To me that's worse than foreigners owning bourbon distilleries.

I'm not sure which Japanese company owns an American distiller and would be surprised if its quality went down, given the fact that Japanese are more interested in quality than most Americans.

angelshare
07-30-2005, 17:47
I'm not sure which Japanese company owns an American distiller and would be surprised if its quality went down, given the fact that Japanese are more interested in quality than most Americans.
[/rant]



Kirin, if we recall correctly, owns Four Roses, and your point is well taken. At the roll out of their most excellent SB last fall, we were given the impression - embellished, perhaps - that Kirin saved the distillery from extinction. If true, we have the Japanese to thank for a new quality bourbon on the shelves.

Well, actually, not OUR shelves - we live in the all American control state of VA!! http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/lol.gif

mbanu
07-30-2005, 19:37
It's hard to say. The bourbon industry is sort of being pulled in a bunch of directions, I think.

Light liquor being easier to mix with (increasing sales) and cheaper to produce (lowering expenses) encourages distilleries to consider raising their distillation proofs, following the rum model of success.

Heavier liquors being more distinctive and expensive to produce means that they can command higher prices and work better as luxury items. This encourages distilleries to consider lowering their distillation proofs, following the scotch model of success.

Bourbon seems to be a bit stuck, though.

Although it's had some success in foreign markets, among Americans bourbon seems to struggle with image problems compared to scotch and cognac. And since quite a number of scotch and cognac drinkers are buying the drinks just for the image (unfortunately), a quality spirit with a disrespectable image will have trouble in that market, regardless of quality. (While an inferior spirit with a respectable image will get along just fine on flimflam and bullshit, like those luxury gin and vodka makers http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/mad.gif, but that's for a different rant.)

On the other hand, though, there are a couple things which I think make bourbon distillers reluctant to go chasing after rum and vodka by upping their distillation proofs and turning into light whiskey.

For one, they tried that already, and for whatever reason, it didn't work.

For another, it seems like lighter whiskeys sort of run against the sort of thing the bourbon industry has been working towards the past hundred years. Why go through all that hassle to keep blended whiskey and tennessee whiskey seperate from genuine bourbon if you're going to change the way you make your bourbon to copy them?

From the recent bottlings and the amount of money being spent on giving bourbon's image a face-lift, it looks like they're making a grab at the scotch market. How bourbon will change from now more or less depends on how successful they are, and in which ways. If it's a success, then hopefully distillation proofs and barrel proofs will go down, and the standard minimum ages and bottling proofs will go up.

However, if it's successful, that also possibly means that bourbon as a whole will get more expensive. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/frown.gif It'd be a terrible shame if in its rise to success the price of bourbon shot up so much I could no longer afford to drink it. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif

CrispyCritter
07-30-2005, 20:03
Not that I dislike marketing people, they put their pants on just like we do, one tenticle and a time



http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/smilielol.gif

Well put! As a relative newbie to bourbon (and whiskey in general!), for me the "glory days" are now. While I don't like some things I see happening (e.g. the watering down of some brands), I also see some very encouraging developments: on the bourbon front, BT seems to be on a tear of late, which is a good counterbalance against watered-down WTRR.

Across the sea, there's Laphroaig Quarter Cask and the resurgence of Ardbeg, balanced against Macallan backing away from their "exclusively sherry casked" hype.

I think we'll see some distillers rise, and others fall - the trick is to pick the risers. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif

CrispyCritter
07-30-2005, 20:18
From the recent bottlings and the amount of money being spent on giving bourbon's image a face-lift, it looks like they're making a grab at the scotch market.



I'd say that they're doing a good job, too, although I based my bourbon buying on reviews (and experimentation) rather than advertising. I started out as an exclusive Scotch drinker, but my forays into bourbon land have shown me that bourbon has a lot to offer, and lately I've been buying as much bourbon as Scotch. Just don't go to Malt Madness (http://maltmadness.com/) for bourbon reviews. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/banghead.gif

boone
07-30-2005, 20:35
The way I see it...



Bourbon seems to be a bit stuck, though.




Being in the "heart" of on Distillery, I see and know alot of what's "actually" being produced and how it's being produced. That said, I make my comments as my point of view.

Stuck is far from it...I've seen growth in leaps---huge leaps http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif In the last several years, it's been incredible. A "powerful" growth day by day. We've added the Bourbon Heritage Center, that goes hand in hand in the "promotion of Bourbon" http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif The "Bourbon Trail" is one of the "don't miss" things when you visit our beautiful state http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif Those two are perfect examples of success, Bourbon has given us http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif

A new dump room, is being added...and new cistern building is being added http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif A new "Wheat" bourbon (Bernheim Original) is being introduced. Rumor has it, that two new "long needed lines" are in the works...We are on overtime (have been for quite awhile) and it's not even close to the "Holiday Season" http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/bigeyes.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif

As for venturing into other spirits, we are there too http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif...It's amazing, what we bottle...Vodka, Gin, Rum, Brandy, Tequila, Cognac, Schnapps, Copa, Wine, Liquors in a incredible amount of flavors...

When Heaven Hill caught fire in 1996...Max called all of us to the cafeteria, the day after the fire. I thought, this is it...I am going to loose my job...Nearly the first thing he said, all of you know that, Bourbon is "NOT" the only spirit we produce...Yes, we have taken a loss, but we have lots and lots of bourbon left. We still hold the "second" largest holding of bourbon in the world. I knew then, I would be safe with him running the ship...That speech he gave, was quite inspiring...Gave me great comfort. He's a great leader, we made it thru without missing a beat...The only time off was the day of the fire.

Right now, we can't get it out the door fast enough...other's are (and have been) bottling to help relieve the backlog.

This Bourbon Industry is strong...Reason being, We have a good product and we have "the force" behind it to keep it strong http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif I am proud to be part of it http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif and most proud that my family of distiller's played a major role is this "Great Bourbon Industry" http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif

http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif Ohhhhhhhhhhhh Yeahhhhhhhhhhhhh http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif

Bettye Jo Boone http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif
Line Mechanic
Heaven Hill Distilleries, INC.
Bardstown, Ky.

TNbourbon
07-30-2005, 20:57
...It's amazing, what we bottle...Vodka, Gin, Rum, Brandy, Tequila, Cognac, Schnapps, Copa, Wine, Liquors in a incredible amount of flavors...



Here's a shot I took last April that is a visual representation of what Bettye Jo's talking about at Heaven Hill. This is from the center of HH's warehousing facility. Any way you turn -- N,S,E,W -- this is the view. And, in each case, that door you see at the other end -- it leads into yet another similar warehouse http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/ooo.gif:

kbuzbee
07-31-2005, 07:54
However, if it's successful, that also possibly means that bourbon as a whole will get more expensive. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/frown.gif It'd be a terrible shame if in its rise to success the price of bourbon shot up so much I could no longer afford to drink it. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif



Amen to that. Everyone has a price point they just can't (or won't) go beyond. I think for many years Bourbon was a pretty cost efficient spirit. The better offerings now are pushing into my 'It costs HOW MUCH?' realm. If it goes way beyond, I would applaud it's quality but would not be able to appreciate it personally.

Like many of the posters, I think this is a great age for Bourbon and it's future is bright. Only time will validate this.

Cheers,

Ken

kbuzbee
07-31-2005, 07:59
This Bourbon Industry is strong...Reason being, We have a good product and we have "the force" behind it to keep it strong http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif I am proud to be part of it http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif and most proud that my family of distiller's played a major role is this "Great Bourbon Industry" http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif




Bettye Jo, That was a great post. Thanks for your interest, your energy and your contribution to this discussion. It was very uplifting!!!

Cheers,

Ken

BourbonJoe
07-31-2005, 10:18
I agree it's sad that something as special Bourbon could be owned by non-US companies, but I'm not sure blaming the Japanese and French is correct.



I was'nt <font color="red"> blaming </font> the French & Japanese. I was extolling the fact that <u> ANY </u> foreign ownership of <u>ANY</u> part of the Bourbon industry does not sit well with me, but then I'm not that liberal a thinker.

TMH
07-31-2005, 12:36
I agree it's sad that something as special Bourbon could be owned by non-US companies, but I'm not sure blaming the Japanese and French is correct.





I was extolling the fact that <u> ANY </u> foreign ownership of <u>ANY</u> part of the Bourbon industry does not sit well with me, but then I'm not that liberal a thinker.



I'm with you 100% on that! http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/toast.gif

My comments were more to show that unfortunately sometimes Americans mess it up ourselves, which to me is worse than some foreign multinational improving a product.

I would have rather seen Old Taylor and Old Crow bought by a foreign corporation and maintained or improved than where both labels are today.

What happened to these great labels shouldn't have happened.

Marvin
07-31-2005, 15:54
Been a while since I've been on-working a lot of hours-but I couldn't agree with you more!! With Max at the helm and people like yourself, the industry can't do anything but move forward.

Cheers,
Marvin

Ken Weber
08-01-2005, 07:09
This has been a very interesting thread! I for one do not believe we have yet experienced the "Golden Age" of bourbon. Speaking with Elmer, there were several terrible bourbon brands in wide distribution decades ago. We made perhaps the largestselling bourbon at one time (during WW II), Three Feathers. Elmer said it was so bad that after the war when other bourbons became available, it dropped out of sight overnight. Likewise, there were brands we made like Cream of Kentucky that we excellent bourbons, but just faded from the market. I believe the first release of Eagle Rare 17 was actually Cream of Kentucky.

Much of the taste of early bourbon brands was a credit to the Master Distillers' experience, as well as the warehouse managers' knowledge of cherry aging locations. As science played a small role, these men were artist who pursued their craft with the passion to produce the very best. As we learn more about what makes a better whiskey, we are able to blend that artistry with technical knowledge to POTENTIALLY create a better bourbon.

Enter the huge business concerns were the primary focus is on maximizing the wealth of the shareholders. You see fine whiskies that have been aged less and less time, proof being decreased, used cooperage being used, etc. Each of these improves the bottom line in the short term, but may destroy the brand in the long run. Still, every brand has a life cycle. Jack Daniel's is currently selling 8,000,000 cases, yet it will someday go away. Just as a point of reference, if there had been a Forbes 500 list (major businesses) in 1900, only 5 of those companies on the list even exist today! So, a common thought is to milk the brand for all it is worth today, then reinvent it tomorrow with a new name, heavy advertising campaign, and some new unique selling point.

That being said, I believe that some companies are more interested in the bottom line than pursuing their passion to produce the finest whiskey they can. If I were accountable to a number of stockholders, why would I jeopardize my career by investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in an experiment that, even if it works, will take at least 10 years to make it to market, long after I have been fired because there was no immediate return of their investment?

Enough of the doom and gloom! I applaud the work being done by some of our bourbon brethern (and sisters!). Four Roses Single Barrel is a very nice expression, as is the concept for HH new wheat whiskey. While I have not yet tasted the wheated whiskey, my hat is off to the folks at HH for having the courage to give it a shot! I am chagrined that we did not think of it first!! As long as we have the people who can blend art and science together, without concern for short term profit, I am confident we will be making better whiskey well into the future. We are working with Julian to produce better tasting wheated whiskies; my big regret is that Pappy is no longer around so that we could work with him.

Boy have I rambled! Sorry about that. Bottom line, brands will continue to decrease in quality as companies strive to meet quarterly budget goals, while innovative companies will continue to produce high quality bourbons/whiskies with new brands coming on line. I think the future will bring several fantastic products that will exceed the quality of what we have today!

Ken

kbuzbee
08-01-2005, 07:44
Great post Ken. It's great to hear what folks like you are seeing. Like any industry, the folks inside have a perspective that has a lot more credibility. The rest of us are just marketing fodder (at least until we buy a bottle ;-)

http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/icon_pidu.gif

Ken

CrispyCritter
08-02-2005, 18:03
Bottom line, brands will continue to decrease in quality as companies strive to meet quarterly budget goals, while innovative companies will continue to produce high quality bourbons/whiskies with new brands coming on line.



IMHO, the worst thing that can happen to a product is when it becomes a brand. Corporations buy and sell brands as if they were trading cards. As far as I'm concerned, the way to judge a company is: do they have pride in their products, their employees, their work? Or, are they more interested in meeting some Wall Street analyst's quarterly projections?

(rant)Just look at how some of these analysts dissed Costco because they treat their employees too well. Never mind that Costco is profitable, and its CEO responded that they're in business to make money for the long haul, not next week.(/rant)

As for Brown-Forman, the destroyer of Jack Daniel's legacy, their one saving grace is that they import Ardbeg, but at least that's still a product produced with pride.

Ken, keep up the good work, and don't let the Make-Money-Fast crowd ruin it! I've said it before, but I'll say it again: I've never been disappointed by a Buffalo Trace product.

chasking
08-04-2005, 10:07
I strongly suspect that there will always be a nostalgic feeling that the whiskey (or for that matter almost any crafted product) made X years ago was better than what we have now, never mind that X years ago, they were saying the same about the previous generations product and clucking over how the current produce was not up to snuff. No doubt there was fine whiskey made in days gone by, and it is unfortunate that those brands/mashbills/etc. are no longer available, but, there is plenty of fine whiskey being made right now. And ten or twenty years hence, someone will still be making fine whiskey, as dougdog or his descendants scour the dusty shelves and celebrate finding products from 2005.

Whiskey will change over time, but as long as distilling is legal I'm sanguine that someone will be making good whiskey, and someone else will also be making good whiskey to compete with them. Corporate owners come and go, distilleries close but also open...there is enough demand for good bourbon that someone will supply it. In fact, as recently as five years ago I might have been concerned about the future of decent rye, but that appears to have made a comeback, which I find encouraging.

Gillman
08-04-2005, 10:40
Chuck, good whiskey will always be made and there is a lot of it around, but too many indicators - personal, anecdotal, and industry/professional - have suggested to me bourbon in general was better 30 years ago. I know this from my own comparative tastings of numerous whiskeys including Jim Beam White Label, W.L. Weller, Old Fitzgerald, Ancient Age, Old Overholt and others. There is no whiskey on the market today as good in its class as, say, Yellowstone was 25 years ago. It was particularly on the mid-and "lower"-shelf that the quality existed (since by definition there were few small batch products) and it is harder to find now. There are many more older products than then but older is not always better. Was whiskey much different between, say 1900-1918 to 1933-1980? I think it was the same largely except for proof differences which of themselves are not that significant. Why do I say this? Because of what Charlie Thomasson wrote in the 1960's for one thing - and his career stretched from about 1910 to the mid-1960's. And from other things I've read and heard. I think whiskey in the 30's largely (the good brands) was the same as before 1920 because they had to bring old-timers back to make it and their influence stretched until (directly and through pupils) the 1970's. But since then industrial-scale production has grown and grown - this was analysed by Thomasson who noted that the traditional palate of whiskey was changing. Maybe it was even better in the 1950's than the 1980's but it was still plenty good then. It still can be but vigilance is the key amongst both we the informed consumers and the makers. The folksy approach of certain marketing and brands is okay as long as it doesn't substitute for historical quality standards, i.e, using a decent amount of malt for body, natural aging methods, low distillation and entry proofs, and so and so forth.

Gary

dougdog
08-04-2005, 11:50
Chasking, you bring up and interesting point about finding good bourbons 10 to 20 years from now, I'm inspired to post!

Best regards, dougdog

chasking
08-04-2005, 13:28
Chasking, you bring up and interesting point about finding good bourbons 10 to 20 years from now, I'm inspired to post!

Best regards, dougdog



Heh, yeah, I can see it now:

"This week's dusty corners find is four bottles of pre-Beam Maker's Mark, with the red wax seal!" http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif

Gillman
08-04-2005, 14:05
The one imponderable is whether whiskey improves in the bottle. If it does, the whiskey of today will taste much better 20-30 years from now. If that will happen, that suggests my inferences about the whiskey of 30 years ago being better may not be true!

Actually (and I'm not trying to be cute) I think it is a bit of both. I think whiskey - in general - was better 30 years ago but I also believe it improves in the bottle. I was startled e.g., to see how good that ORVW 12 year old was that I found in Fall River recently. That rye was good 5 years ago or so when it first came out but it's better now and I know I'm not being suggestible. Maybe the change magically just affected the one bottle I bought (it happens) but it's real. I may have to bring it to Gazebo to get the opinion of the cognoscenti and maybe Julian himself! Except Monte, if you'll be there let me know since you have more bottles than I and can more easily spare one http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif

Gary

chasking
08-04-2005, 14:15
Chuck, good whiskey will always be made and there is a lot of it around, but too many indicators - personal, anecdotal, and industry/professional - have suggested to me bourbon in general was better 30 years ago. * * * It was particularly on the mid-and "lower"-shelf that the quality existed (since by definition there were few small batch products) and it is harder to find now.



Gary,

I am sure that is true---I must admit I have not had a chance to compare old to current versions of the usual suspects, but this does not surprise me at all. However, I think changes in the market explain that. I think the base-line brands have suffered because of the advent of premium brands---not because of honey barrels being siphoned off, although that might happen, but rather because the existence and success of premium bourbons has taken many of the people who care and can tell the difference out of the market for the bottom-shelf products. It only makes sense that in that circumstance corners will be cut. Taking the example of Jim Beam white label: before the advent of the Small Batch bourbons, Beam's product was aimed at both the person who liked to savor his bourbon as well as the person who was going to mix it with Coke, etc. Nowadays, the guy who likes to savor his bourbon is probably buying Knob Creek, if not Booker's. If the vast majority of your target audience is going to use a bourbon as a mixer, then there's probably no great harm if the flavor profile slips a little from where it was way back when. It's still not rotgut; I don't think anyone is going to be put off spirits by it, but now someone who likes the flavor will presumably be inspired to try one of the premiums, as opposed to becoming a devotee of white label, as may have happened in the old days.

Meanwhile, we have Knob Creek, and Baker's, and Booker's. I don't know but I suspect that they are better than the old white label was. I'd rather have those bourbons available, even at greater prices, than have JB white be a little bit better than it currently is. And I think the same argument applies to the other distilleries and their premium-vs-pedestrian brands.

(Weller presents a different situation since the Stitzel-Weller distillery is closed, but I think a distinction needs to be drawn between preferring the house style of a closed distillery and a change in quality from a single distillery over time. The consensus appears to be that the whiskey from SW was better than the whiskey from Bernheim used in former SW brands, but for the purposes of tracking quality over time, that's an apples-to-oranges comparison, even if the apple and orange both say "Weller" on the label.)

I have gathered from some of your other posts, that you are fan of younger bourbon, and unfortunately high quality young whiskey appears to have fallen through a crack in the current market. I like younger whiskies myself, especially rye, so the point is not lost on me. (In fact, at a pre-Whiskeyfest event, Fred Noe let me have a little taste of some white dog he had with him...damn! Who needs oak barrels?)

But my point was that there is plenty of great whiskey being sold right now. It's in a different market segment than it used to be, but it's there. I don't think that is inconsistent with your point, that low- and mid-level brands are not what they used to be.

Chuck King

Gillman
08-04-2005, 15:16
Good thoughts, thanks. I do feel though that Knob Creek is not a substitute for the Beam White and Beam Choice brands of the 1970's. Recently I tasted some Beam White from 1980 and I thought it was better than Knob Creek (really). I just have a feeling that the industry may be becoming too segmented and all the categories are less informed by quality than used to be the case because the old whiskey hands are leaving the scene, e.g., Booker's passing, retirement of other well-known figures. The new men surely are very talented but often have more science training - not necessarily a plus for retaining old time flavor - and have to respond to demands of cost accountants and marketers.

Well, maybe I am wrong, I hope so.

Gary

BrbnBorderline
08-04-2005, 15:54
I see it like this:

Let the distilleries have their low-end, mass market 80 proof non-enthusiast bourbons with a higher profit margin. Then they will be able to afford to market the single-barrel-proof decade old plus bourbons us enthusiasts seem to covet. It's a win-win situation.

http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/toast.gif

bobbyc
08-04-2005, 16:45
I thought I had a plan in place once, as we all know, it didn't catch on http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/frown.gif A missed opportunity (http://www.straightbourbon.comhttp://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/showthreaded.php/Cat/0/Number/11621/an//page//vc/1)