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cowdery
02-22-2007, 19:21
My enjoyment of any whiskey is diminished when I can't answer the fundamental question "who made this?" Having to guess about something so fundamental is wrong and I hold it against products that won't tell me. That is why I have never been able to muster much personal interest in Black Maple Hill, even though I respect what they have accomplished in the marketplace.

jeff
02-23-2007, 05:40
Having to guess about something so fundamental is wrong and I hold it against products that won't tell me. That is why I have never been able to muster much personal interest in Black Maple Hill...

That's a character flaw that I share with you Chuck:lol:

However, having tried the 16yo and now the 21yo, they are some of the best bourbons I have tasted. I'm starting to come around to the idea that whoever "made" the bourbon is not as important as who selects the barrels that are to be bottled. I assume (:skep:) that in this case it was Even and/or Drew and, judging by this and other labels that they bottle for themselves and on contract, they have well-trained palates and know good bourbon when they find it. Unfortunately, I think current market conditions will/are making it harder to find the good stuff; enter the BMH "small batch."

My usual practice for selecting "bottler brands" is to wait a while and let others spend their money, and then I evaluate several opinions before I drop the bucks.

Hedmans Brorsa
02-23-2007, 09:56
Well, eventually the debate went in the direction i desired. :)

Needless to say, I agree wholeheartedly with Chuck. With all due respect, Jeff, I do not care about minor changes in taste profile. It just doesn´t turn me on, y´know?

I think this is what so great about the Scotch industry. There are so many distillers that you don´t have to choke yourself on a small bunch of distilleries. I simply don´t need to taste every single bottling of Springbank that there is. Nor do I yearn for it, either. There are so many other Scotch products out there begging for exploration that the need never arises.

I also think this is the main reason why so many here whine like crazy when a WT 14yo happens to be sold on the Fiji Islands only. If we had as many distillers in the bourbon industry as in Scotland, people would never had the time to moan, simply because there would be so many great products out there waiting to be discovered.

What we need, of course is MORE DISTILLERIES!

jeff
02-23-2007, 10:23
Lennart,

Good bourbon is good bourbon, regardless of who bottles it. That is my only argument. Any prejudice against a particular label doesn't change what's in the bottle. But one must be cautions when trying something new that is unfamiliar, but that goes for products of a known source as well.

cowdery
02-23-2007, 15:28
The great thing (well, one of many great things) about the independent bottling of single malt scotch is that while the distilleries may grumble, the bottler's ability to reveal the whiskey's maker is undeterred. American independents usually aver that the producers prohibit them from advertising the whiskey's maker, presumably by making such a pledge a condition of sale. I can see Max doing that.

However, if the distillery that made the whiskey is now silent, who has an interest in supressing the information then? Only the bottler, who would rather create the illusion that he is a distiller.

Sometimes a bottler will tell you verbally who the producer was, but they won't put it on the label, or a hang tag, or post it in public view on their web site. Why not?

Even the "can't" situations would be negotiable if the bottlers would acknowledge and honor the interest of consumers in having that information.

Buffalo Trace does those fact sheet for the Antique Collection, and they're so geeky, and I feel so geeky when I read them, but God I love them. I want everybody to do them for everything and that would make some of these products a lot more interesting to me than they are.

But I have to say, I'm like you, Jeff, in all things, but in particular in that if you hear a lot of people saying a particular line or expression is A+, then by all means buy and enjoy it. That has been the case with Black Maple Hill. A lot of people whose palates I listen to say Black Maple Hill usually gets it right.

CrispyCritter
02-23-2007, 20:44
I think this is what so great about the Scotch industry. There are so many distillers that you don´t have to choke yourself on a small bunch of distilleries.

Overall, I'd agree, although there are Scottish distillers that have tried to suppress independent bottlings through the legal system (example: the Leapfrog (http://www.murray-mcdavid.com/gossip/_disc1/00000004.htm) controversy). Grant's, on the other hand, uses a different tactic: when they sell malt whisky from one of their distilleries for blending purposes, they add a shot of whisky from one of their other distilleries to each cask, specifically so that it cannot be bottled as a single malt.

Even so, it's unfortunate that there are few enough US distillers that independent bottlers usually can't state their sources.

Of course, what with currency fluctuations and supply vs. demand problems driving the price to insane levels, not to mention that I found I love bourbon and rye, Scotch is no longer my first choice, even though I love it too.

Hedmans Brorsa
02-24-2007, 01:17
Enjoy your bourbons, Jeff! :) I was only trying to explain my stance.

I was born and raised on the British music press, which may explain my occasional penchant for going for the throat. Believe me, I´m a real sweetie compared to some of those writers. :grin:

As for Chuck´s last post: isn´t it a question of totally opposed problems? In Scotland, the independent bottlers desperately want to put the original distillery´s name on their labels. In the US, on the other hand, it seems to me, that they, more often than not, attempt to make the product appear as their own. Sometimes using morally questionable tactics.

smokinjoe
02-24-2007, 07:59
Enjoy your bourbons, Jeff! :) I was only trying to explain my stance.

I was born and raised on the British music press, which may explain my occasional penchant for going for the throat. Believe me, I´m a real sweetie compared to some of those writers. :grin:

As for Chuck´s last post: isn´t it a question of totally opposed problems? In Scotland, the independent bottlers desperately want to put the original distillery´s name on their labels. In the US, on the other hand, it seems to me, that they, more often than not, attempt to make the product appear as their own. Sometimes using morally questionable tactics.

Companies buying product from other manufacturers (and service providers), and rebranding as their own, is nothing new, and quite widespread in our world today. Automobiles, electronics, tools, call centers, you name it...it's standard practice. Same goes for whiskey. Nothing "morally" questionable about it at all, IMO. Just efficient use of manufacturing/service capabilities and capacity.

JOE

cowdery
02-24-2007, 10:18
I agree with Hedmans. The "morally questionable" part is when they try to make it appear that they are the distiller that made the product. Virtually every independent bottler does this to a greater or lesser extent and to call the practice "morally questionable" is the mildest way of putting it.

Gillman
02-24-2007, 11:37
I have a friend who likes Knob Creek and he thought it was made by a small company. The label reads, Knob Creek Distillery, Clermont, Kentucky. He had no idea it was made by liquor giant Beam Brands. The hang tag does refer to the historical Jim Beam through its reference to Booker Noe and Baker Beam being descendants of Jim Beam. That is kind of a suggestion that the small batch line has a Beam connection. I wonder how many people would read that hang-tag, or get the connection, but then most don't really care I am sure. For those who do, a careful reading of the tag will twig them to the origin of the bottles. I guess I just expect a bit of creativity and salesmanship in this area (far from limited to the liquor business). Isn't all advertising about trying to create an image, or aura? There are boards like this one where people interested to learn can find out more...

Gary

nor02lei
02-24-2007, 12:48
I agree with Hedmans. The "morally questionable" part is when they try to make it appear that they are the distiller that made the product. Virtually every independent bottler does this to a greater or lesser extent and to call the practice "morally questionable" is the mildest way of putting it.

I do also agree with Hedman Chuck. Here in Sweden were we have probably one of the highest interest in single malts in the world American straight is no big thing. However I am sure that the bourbon boom will hit Sweden sooner or later. This said I am sure that American whiskey will never ever be nearly as big as single malt here as long as this stupid label policy continues.

Leif

jeff
02-24-2007, 13:00
I do also agree with Hedman Chuck. Here in Sweden were we have probably one of the highest interest in single malts in the world American straight is no big thing. However I am sure that the bourbon boom will hit Sweden sooner or later. This said I am sure that American whiskey will never ever be nearly as big as single malt here as long as this stupid label policy continues.

Leif

Leif,

Are you saying that people in Sweden will not buy a bourbon from a private bottler? How would they know the difference? I'll add to Gary's post that many people over here don't even know, or care, that Knob Creek belongs to Jim Beam, and they certainly wouldn't know that BMH isn't it's own distillery somewhere. I know we're all bourbon connoisseurs here, but we make up a small fraction of the overall market. I doubt anything will change any time soon without some kind of legislation to force the issue.

Gillman
02-24-2007, 13:03
Leif, the scotch blends including the famous luxury names (Johnnie Walker, etc.) achieved great success in Europe and the world for 100 years before the malts had a resurgence. No one knew where the components of those blends came from (and still don't).

How is it different with private label bourbons?

Gary

smokinjoe
02-24-2007, 13:10
What about the actual producing distillery, who has product made for them by another? Even in a time of need? Would we call this producer morally questionable? Or a supermarket that private labels their canned green beans? Or an auto manufacturer who basically buys a car from another producer, changes the sheet metal on the outside (read repackage) and sells as their own? Or, going the other way, Gary's KC example is a great one. How many times, when learning the origin of a product, have you gone "Huh, I didn't know this was made by ABC MegaCorp. It doesn't say it on the label."? I could go on, and on, and on. It all doesn't matter to me, if the product is good. If it's not, then I won't buy it. The marketplace has a way of working these things out (See Old Crow).

I just don't see a "morality" question in this. This is standard practice in business, and life. We all project things to the world that aren't 100% genuine. There's alot of immoral crap in this world, I just don't think that a bottler putting his name on something that someone else knowingly produced for him, is one.

JOE

nor02lei
02-24-2007, 13:26
Leif,

Are you saying that people in Sweden will not buy a bourbon from a private bottler? How would they know the difference? I'll add to Gary's post that many people over here don't even know, or care, that Knob Creek belongs to Jim Beam, and they certainly wouldn't know that BMH isn't it's own distillery somewhere. I know we're all bourbon connoisseurs here, but we make up a small fraction of the overall market. I doubt anything will change any time soon without some kind of legislation to force the issue.

[quote=jeff;82882]Leif,

It is a culture matter Jeff. People who are in to whisky here (and that is many) want to know what they drink. Most of them love to bay from private bottlers as long as the label say were it is distilled. There are people here that can name every working distillery in Scotland and maybe at least 25 silent ones just by pure interest. If the interest in bourbon were as big as in single malt of cause everybody with an interest would know that Knob Creek is a JB product and that BMH isn’t a distillery.

Leif

Gillman
02-25-2007, 00:40
Just to explain my view more fully, I would prefer (no question) to be told the origins of the products I buy. More info is better than less. That is my personal preference, but it seems a marketplace reality that in practice there will be wide variation in what we know or are told.

I suppose too, in the classic era when the blends were building share, there was no inquisitiveness amongst consumers about origin. Now there is, as exemplified by the single malt craze. So that is the other side of it although I still think most buyers of these products aren't greatly affected by origin information. E.g. my friend I mentioned in relation to KC still buys it, he was interested that it was made by a big company but it didn't put him off the brand.

Gary

cowdery
02-25-2007, 02:15
It goes back to what I said in the post that now starts this thread: "My enjoyment of any whiskey is diminished when I can't answer the fundamental question 'who made this?' Having to guess about something so fundamental is wrong and I hold it against products that won't tell me."

I'm not saying I can't enjoy or won't drink such products, or that they can't be very good, but my enjoyment of them is diminished by not knowing who made them.

This isn't necessarily true of everything. I don't really care who made my toothpaste. But I don't participate in a bulletin board about toothpaste either. And if there is a bulletin board about toothpaste, I bet one of the things they talk about is who makes what.

I know who makes Knob, but you're right that's it's the same in principle and it's the same to someone who falls for the dba. Even many people who know Jim Beam makes Knob Creek think they make it in a tiny, little still out back.

Ideally, yes, if I was king, every bottle would say truthfully where it was made. If it was a mix of whiskeys made at several places, or might be whiskey made at any of several places, it should tell me that. That's what I want. Yes. That's what I want.

Hedmans Brorsa
02-25-2007, 02:59
Well, I can´t add much more than Chuck and Leif already have said.

Only, the tendency of some to put an equation mark between whiskey and just about any other business might be part of the problem? Just like in Scotland, there is growing tendency in the bourbon industry to promote bourbon as the national treasure it is. More of that, please.

Also, there seems to be a tendency to discuss two entirely different things. The Knob Creek example is certainly relevant if we discuss the potential success of isolated brands. For my part, I was more keen to explore the possibilities of bourbon world domination, and in that perspective I see the issue of clarity in terms of who-made-what as fundamental. But, as Leif, pointed out, it might all be a matter of cultural differences. I hope not.

Finally, Gary, your point about Johnny Walker was certainly valid in the past, but I don´t think it is now. The premium blends have, at least here in Europe, since long, been overtaken by the single malts. Isn´t it more or less the same in North America? I think it is only in certain Asian markets that the premium blends still reign supreme.

Gillman
02-25-2007, 05:43
Hedmans, in relation to scotch whiskey blends, what I meant was, they had tremendous growth at a time when their origin was simply the company that produced them and in essense was the trade mark the brand was sold under. That was its guarantee. People were not put off by not knowing where the constituents were from or indeed how the product was made.

I think this model can continue to apply for many kinds of liquor products including bourbon. It is true (as I myself said in a comment after my initial one) that single malts have since become very popular but it is still a minority market. Worldwide I believe blended scotch represents some 95% of total sales of scotch whisky. Still, I take your point and certainly in enthusiasts' circles, knowledge of origin counts for a lot for many.

This applies e.g., to many specialty coffees today, whether estate-grown, the specific type or genus, fair/free trade, etc., and many other consumer products (cheese, some bread, etc.).

I guess there are many potential markets out there. Some in this discussion are in the part that would like to know origin and whose buying habits are influenced by that. Fair enough, and as I said, I always want to know the origin if I can be told it. If I can't though, I will still buy the product if I like it enough. "Different strokes for different folks", as the saying goes here, but I wanted to explain the other view, both from the consumer's standpoint (many are not concerned about origin, probably most are not) and the producer's, as I see it.

Gary

jburlowski
02-25-2007, 07:17
Lennart,

Good bourbon is good bourbon, regardless of who bottles it. That is my only argument. Any prejudice against a particular label doesn't change what's in the bottle. But one must be cautions when trying something new that is unfamiliar, but that goes for products of a known source as well.

This pretty well sums up my feelings.

While it would be great to eliminate the silly / strange US bottling / labeling rules, it doesn't change the quality of the whiskey. Big, well-disclosed companies make both very good and very bad products. So do indepenednt bottler-only companies.

It's what is inside that counts.

full_proof
02-25-2007, 10:42
Ideally, yes, if I was king, every bottle would say truthfully where it was made.

Well, you have my vote :bowdown: :lol:

Stu
02-25-2007, 12:55
I don't believe there is as much difference in single malt scotch and bourbon as you think. Two brands that immediately come to mind are Finlaggan and McClelland. There is no Finlaggan distillery on Islay, every bottle of Finlaggan that I have tasted says "Caol Ila"on both nose and pallet, and I'll continue to buy it as long as it's 1/2 the price of a bottle labeled Caol Ila. McClellan has an Islay, a highland and a lowland. There is no McClelland distillery anywhere in Scotland. I have had McClelland's Islay that came from Bowmore, Lagavulin, and Laphroaig. When I got the one from Laphroaig I returned to the vendor and bought him out. A third example is Smokehouse. The nose said Lagavulin (maybe Caol Ila?) the color said Lagavulin, but the pallet and finish said Ardbeg. I know the bottler and he told me (in confidence) which it was. There is nothing on any of those three single malts which tell you where it was distilled, but I enjoy them and will continue to drink them. If I wanted to buy a few barrels from Laphroaig, move them to Glasgow and age them for three years, I could bottle them labeled as Glen Stewart single malt Islay whisky and be within UK law.

CrispyCritter
02-25-2007, 16:37
DBA's aren't always a bad thing - take Van Winkle, for instance. Even though we know that various bottlings have come from S-W, Bernheim, and BT, and some from sources that have been kept confidential, I've never been disappointed by Van Winkle bottlings.

As much as I'd prefer a little more transparency, I'm enough of a realist to recognize that this isn't always possible.

cowdery
02-26-2007, 12:19
The bottled-in-bond rule in this regard is interesting. A BIB has to give the DSP number of the distillery where it was distilled. The producer can use a dba but must use the actual DSP number, so bottles of Rittenhouse Rye BIB say "Continental Distilling," which is Heaven Hill's dba for the brand, but they correctly identify the distillery as DSP 354, which is Brown-Forman.

The fact that truthfully identifying "who made this" is part of the BIB law supports both the general principle and the vitality of the BIB designation.

Pharaoh
02-26-2007, 13:32
My enjoyment of any whiskey is diminished when I can't answer the fundamental question "who made this?" Having to guess about something so fundamental is wrong and I hold it against products that won't tell me. That is why I have never been able to muster much personal interest in Black Maple Hill, even though I respect what they have accomplished in the marketplace.Great thread here Chuck.

Maybe somebody already hit on this, I did see someone mention the MM "Leapfrog" and the subsequent back and forth with Laphroaig over the said whisky...

By my guess both in the scotch & single malt trade as well as American whiskey, a portion of the secrecy is controlling price and other aspects. with less emphasis really being on one wanting to take credit or hidde the original crafter of the products etc.

If you can get a distillery to off you discount whiskey that you can sell under their staple product base-line, or that has a tendancy to taste better than the brands they support, it definitely isn't in the interest of the distillery to let it be known - is it?

I hope no-one will take this personally but Heaven Hill is an example that only puts out so many products I gravitate towards. Some may agree, some may not but to me a lot of the products tend to have a certain component with-in the profile that I can identify as HH whiskey. Some people like that component and thus they aren't going out of business.

Now on the flipside they obviously sell whiskey to IBs, and NOT all of that whiskey seems to have the component I pick up in a lot of labeled HH product. It's obvious to me, by the barrel, it's possible to avoid the common component I'm not fond of with a lot of HH product.

So I ask you guys, in the reality of the [X] factor like myself, Is it to Heaven Hill's, ( or any makers for that matter), benefit or advantage to announce that they supply brand Y and risk being confronted by someone like myself who asks the logical question, how is it brand Y's cheaper or smaller pool tastes so much better (to me) than it's maker's products. Or worse, the private bought tastes awful and a backlash ensues towards the known original maker.

Maybe it's just me, but I'm guessing the: "See no evil - Speak no evil" concept is probably considered the wiser, safer approach. This allows the whiskey to be sold off, without prejudice towards the purchaser or original owner, probably fends of a great deal of comparison shopping & other comparison factors, and keeps us all confused and in need of another drink!

What do you guys think?

P.S. Chuck I agree with your point wholeheartedly. I'm just taking my own stab at what might be driving the wedge.

jeff
02-26-2007, 13:37
I believe you are correct Pharaoh, and that's why nothing will change without force of legislation, because it isn't in the interest of the distilleries to do so. IMHO.

cowdery
02-26-2007, 14:23
Another point that Pharaoh's post sparked in my mind. If my business is primarily contract distilling, then I have a business incentive to give my customers my best product at every opportunity.

But if my business is primarily my branded products and my contract or bulk business is secondary, then what is my incentive? Is it to put the best whiskey I have in my own bottles or is it to sell that whiskey to other people?

I guess what I'm getting at is that the independent bottler would like to give the impression of being able to shop around and buy gems, but especially in the US market, considering the limited number of producers and the limited amount of whiskey that is even available on the spot market, do you think what the distillers are making available is their best or their worst?

Pharaoh
02-26-2007, 14:53
Another point that Pharaoh's post sparked in my mind. If my business is primarily contract distilling, then I have a business incentive to give my customers my best product at every opportunity.

But if my business is primarily my branded products and my contract or bulk business is secondary, then what is my incentive? Is it to put the best whiskey I have in my own bottles or is it to sell that whiskey to other people?

I guess what I'm getting at is that the independent bottler would like to give the impression of being able to shop around and buy gems, but especially in the US market, considering the limited number of producers and the limited amount of whiskey that is even available on the spot market, do you think what the distillers are making available is their best or their worst?On that note or the flipside Chuck I think it goes both ways, a distillery with a zillion gallons of whiskey is going to want to sell at least a brazilian of those gallons :cool: . An indie is likely able to be more selective, even in the trash a distillery might force them to sort through - no?

In that regard, here, I think it's a two way street and thus you get the mutual cooperation on both ends.

Pharaoh
02-26-2007, 15:49
To better elaborate on why I believe distilleries are somewhat happy to accomodate indie bottlers more so than we might believe...

I seriously doubt 25 years ago Julian and all the big boys sat around the campfire and conspired with each other to distill whiskey that would be in a barrel 20 some odd years later. What do you think? Especially when it seems like their target was often under 10 years of age.

No, I think it's much more likely the bulk of all the well-aged whiskey before us right now is whiskey that simply was not SOLD based on a lack of takers - thus it aged and got older and older. Were it not for a recent shift in domestic consumers taking to old whiskey - you'd find the said highly aged whiskey available on the Japanese market like it use to ONLY be (what 4-5 years or so ago?).

Again, I think you are right, Chuck, in that the distillery is gonna try or want to hold back on what it let's indies buy, but based on my guess on things, the well-aged and in many instances OVER-aged whiskey on the market right now sorta' telegraphs how bad some distillieries NEED IBs and rightfully couldn't care what a bottle claims as long as it disassociates itself from distillery of origin and culpability.

At some point I believe it comes down to selling what you can, even your best to an Indie... or hoarding it and having a large supply of 20+ year old whiskey that desperately needs to be unloaded (just like some of the good stuff and of course the not so good crap in our laps now).

Question, do you think all that 20 year old rye floating today was by design, or a design flaw that's just happening to work out for the better right now as we speak? And do you believe if an indie came along 10 years ago and wanted to buy it up (essentially what Julian did) the distiller would have said, nahhh we'll be keeping this until it's so old it's eligible for social security?

I'm betting they'd have offed it even the better portions rather than be stuck with it 23 years and risk total loss. Just a guess though.

I hope what I said makes some sense, it's still early and I haven't had a drink - yet, so excuse my incoherence! lol

bluesbassdad
02-26-2007, 17:19
Chuck,

Another question of possible interest: How has the situation changed over time, during periods of glut and paucity?

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield

Gillman
02-26-2007, 17:35
I think that all distilleries generally have stuff they want to off-load. It might be regular stock that can't fetch a sale (how many people in business can sell all they have when they want to sell it?).

It might be stock that is very drinkable but doesn't meet their current brand profiles (say e.g., for HH, 14 year old whiskey with enough in stock to age into EC 18).

Maybe a distillery has some stock felt less than ideal for its regular brands (sub-par if you will).

These are all good reasons to sell to independent merchants. If a distillery is concerned that its name remain secret, it can stipulate that in the supply agreement. Maybe it doesn't care. Maybe it will stipulate that the buyer must mingle the whiskey with other lots of its own sale or sourced from a competitor - that would remove any argument that its regular-line products are being discounted.

If the consumer likes what is in the bottle, he will buy it again.

Who can lose under these arrangements?

Gary

TNbourbon
02-26-2007, 18:12
I don't think I've seen mentioned in this thread yet custom distilling. I've been led to believe that at least one or two of the larger independent bottlers have some of their whiskey distilled to their specificiations. True? And, if so, is that in some way better than simply buying excess whiskey to age and bottle at a later date?

cowdery
02-26-2007, 18:47
To answer both Pharaoh and Dave, we're talking about this precisely because of what Pharaoh describes. There are a number of brands out there that were built on the Great Whiskey Glut. Without going into that whole story, the bottom line is this: that stuff is just about all gone and many if not all of the independents are struggling to keep their current age-stated brands supplied with whiskey of the stated age.

To answer Tim, yes, there is such a thing as contract distilling.

Distilleries can sell whiskey a couple of different ways.

1. Through their own brands.

2. Contract sales. In some cases this is a "special recipe," but more often than not it's the distillery's standard recipe, but the contracting party is buying the whiskey when it is distilled, then either taking delivery of it to age it themselves or, more typically, paying the distillery to age it. Heaven Hill even sells its own brands this way to distributors. It's like buying futures. The distributor owns 10,000 cases of Evan Williams black label to be delivered in 2010, for example.

3. Bulk sales. This differs from contract sales in that it is generally fully-aged whiskey, ready to be bottled and sold. Even Heaven Hill, which has long been known to be in this business, doesn't like to talk about it. Everybody has sold bulk whiskey at some time or another, just to even out their stock.

Right now, if you want to make a contract deal with somebody, and you have enough money, you probably can make that deal. There's enough capacity out there to get that deal done somewhere. If you want to buy bulk whiskey at, let's say four years old, you probably can get that deal done too, although you'll probably pay more for it than you would have a few years ago.

But if you want to buy bulk whiskey that's older than 8 years old, there is a good chance you won't be able to do that deal at any price. Obviously there's always a price, but the point is that there isn't much available and it's not cheap.

A decade ago, and certainly 20 years ago, if you wanted, say, 15-year-old whiskey, they were practically giving the stuff away. You probably would have paid less for a barrel of 15-year-old whiskey than you would for a barrel of 4-year-old whiskey.

No more. Those days are over and most of that whiskey is gone.

Could it happen again? Sure. The good news, for me, anyway, is that considering how long this stuff takes to play out, it probably can't happen again within my life time. (but then, I'm old, and I drink too much.)

TomH
02-27-2007, 06:53
I guess I come down right in the middle on this one. I don't have any problem with a "hidden" distiller marketed with a DBA or bottler name as long as the product comes from the same source.

Where I have a problem is where a bottler fills the same label with 2 completely different products without providing any means of allowing the customer to know which product they are getting. When I buy a Pappy 15 I would really like to know whether it is SW or Buffalo Trace before I purchase it.

Tom

Hedmans Brorsa
02-28-2007, 14:30
Where I have a problem is where a bottler fills the same label with 2 completely different products without providing any means of allowing the customer to know which product they are getting. Tom

Good point, Tom!

I would also, somewhat belatedly, like to adress the Finlaggan issue. I know about Finlaggan (and many others, too). It is sold under various names in different countries. Here in Sweden it is called The Ileach.

The main difference, as I see it, is that very rarely, if ever, do these "mystery malts" come with an outrageous price tag. On the contrary, as you yourself point out in your post, they are more often than not firmly placed in the low budget department.

Nor are they being promoted as major players. This is also, to me, a big difference. It was a while since I last visited the Whisky Magazine forum (they have introduced spyware some six months ago) but if you look there you will probably find that posts about Finlaggan are few and far between. Black Maple Hill, on the other hand, is discussed extensively on this forum.

Lastly, if you are familiar with Finlaggan, you have probably noticed that there are no attempts whatsoever to make it appear like an own product. This is also true of at least the other "mystery malts" that are sold here in Sweden.

Gillman
02-28-2007, 15:02
"The main difference, as I see it, is that very rarely, if ever, do these "mystery malts" come with an outrageous price tag. On the contrary, as you yourself point out in your post, they are more often than not firmly placed in the low budget department.".

Good point Lennart, but it must be remembered too that few mystery malts are sold at 16, 18, 21, 23 years ...

Gary

Pharaoh
02-28-2007, 15:57
"The main difference, as I see it, is that very rarely, if ever, do these "mystery malts" come with an outrageous price tag. On the contrary, as you yourself point out in your post, they are more often than not firmly placed in the low budget department.".

Good point Lennart, but it must be remembered too that few mystery malts are sold at 16, 18, 21, 23 years ...

GaryGary,

While your point is perfectly clear I'd suggest perhaps considering it stated: few mystery malts are sold AS... rather than at, given that often all we know is the minimum guarantee.

There are some significant differences between the current Scotch whisky and American whiskey market. Chuck touched upon one which is the limited number of players with American whiskey stock sufficient to prop up phantom brands (at least ones that want to sell 12+ year old whiskey). Which leads to a different set of issues and circumstances.

Gillman
02-28-2007, 20:07
You are right, thanks, but this means the higher-priced (in relation to mystery malts) American phantom brands would justify their price even more since they offer often a longer-aged product than what is stated on the label. That of course assumes older is better, something which is not always true, but I think the general consumer perception is to that effect no matter what many of us here believe.

But Lennart's point is still valid in general in that most malts not specified to a given distillery or group of them are sold at a moderate price. Yet a number of phantom bourbon brands of no great age often command a relatively higher price here, or so I believe.

Gary

Pharaoh
03-05-2007, 09:48
You are absolutely right Gary. Again I find much of this goes to Cowedry's earlier contribution in this thread, which in comparison there is no great shortage of single malt whisky just around the bend on the Scottish market.

There are many clues presenting themselves in front of us. I look at a brand like Jefferson's Reserve, and watch it go from 15 years old to (smoke and mirrors) 14.5 years old if you buy that 12-17 year old line in the manner they're attempting to sell it. Why? Because they have an abundance of 17 year old whiskey to get rid of, or because they haven't enough 15 year old whiskey available to keep the statement?

What's equally interesting to me and maybe this is just imagined on my part but it seems to me that several entities that release these whiskies have tried to hide or at least disguise the facts from the unwitty by doing things like leaving their ages purposely understated etc.

On that same note, I notice the specific age related information has now disappeared from certain other sought after bottles released annually. One might wonder why, but then again if the distilled / bottled dates remained, wouldn't it become painfully obvious that a couple of things had to take place, particularly when the distilled year suddenly stopped increasing?

That, to me, would signify that (A) the supposed maker suddenly and unexplaineably stopped producing the spirit or (B) the supposed maker bought its whiskey from the same well aged spirit glut we've been discussing - which explains away the (now hidden) finite distillation year issue - don't it?

JRomain
03-05-2007, 23:29
I couldn't agree more, Chuck. If they're ashamed to tell you who made the stuff (for crying out loud!), then something instantly raises a red flag. There's simply no excuse for it and, frankly, there should be a law to prevent this sort of stuff. Just as there should be a law to prohibit the use of caramel coloring in scotch whisky. It's a blatant lie/false advertsing/duping the consumer. Bullocks.

cowdery
03-06-2007, 01:13
Gary raised something a while back that just struck me. Do distilleries unload whiskey they won't use in any of their brands to independent bottlers who will?

Don't be too quick to answer either way. I know bad whiskey can be sold to a redistiller, who will distill it out to GNS, but the amount you get for that is the price of GNS less the cost of redistilling it, i.e., not much. It's considered the last resort.

I'm not talking about something that's dangerous or even clearly faulty. I'm just asking, is it ethical to sell on the bulk market whiskey you would not sell as your own, assuming someone wants to buy it for a better price than the "last resort"?

I think it is. It's appropriate to have higher standards for the consumer market, where the buyer is trusting you, than for the trade market, where the buyer is trusting them.

Of course, you can learn to trust an independent too which, essentially, means trusting a brand. If Old Weatherproof has been keeping you dry, by all means keep buying it, but if lately it has failed to impress, at least now you have a better idea why.

Unfortunately, a lot of these brands were made possible by the old whiskey glut and without it, I don't see how all of them can keep going.

As many of you know, Four Roses makes ten different bourbons, by matching up five different yeasts with two different mash bills. The standard 4R is all of those bourbons, and some at more than one age. 4RSB is, naturally, one recipe. The interesting one is 4R Small Batch, which says on the label that it is "Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Crafted from Four Select Bourbons."

Now obviously in this case, Four Roses made all four of them, but if independents could get different whiskeys and come up with good mixtures (can't say "blends") of them, that would be an interesting role for them to play that is sustainable.

Shame on me, but I'm more interested in whiskey that tastes good than I am in whiskey with a big number on the label.

Gillman
03-06-2007, 02:31
I think this is a relative matter though because I have had whiskey sold under regular brand names that, in my opinion, was sub-par or that diverted from the brand profile. No doubt the distillery would not agree, but I believe I can tell when something is not quite right.

Independents might have certain challenges, e.g., ensuring currently a continuous supply of well-aged whiskey, but they can also mingle whiskeys from different distilleries, of different ages and tastes than one distillery might offer, perhaps altered through additional aging or marrying in their own facilities. This can turn a seeming disadvantage into an advantage.

Gary

Pharaoh
03-06-2007, 11:39
Again Gary no disagreement out of me there.

However I'd like to highlight what this has all led up to (for me - at least) is in Chuck's initial post, the concept was somewhat frustration with the deception perpetuated by Indie labels & bottlers.

One of the points I believe lost in this was that we'd quickly label an Indie propped marquee 'phanton', but if a big time legitimate distillery like, I dunno... Buffalo Trace bought some of the very same whiskey and didn't exactly put up a billboard and FDA disclosure announcing the whiskey's true provenance etc., we'd more than likely simply assume and respect it as Buffalo Trace distilled whiskey.

Really what I heard in Chuck's original post is: Bring back more 'Bond' like rules or requirements that might limit the ability to deceive.

To go back to the major differences between privately labeled single malt scotch whisky and private labeled American whiskey:

First the water is not running from the shore in Scotland - so there is no sunami warning issued. The water here is definitely receeding.

Second, because there is an abundance of choice of origin in Scotland there isn't the same sort of pressure on all parties involved to hide as much of the details as possible.

With-in the second point, In all honesty how well do you think indie bottlers A-Z would do if it were known that all the whiskey they were selling is likely derived from one of the same two or three sources... is all pretty much the same age, was matured in the same condition barrels... matured for great periods in the exact same manner, same housing etc. etc. all the same.

To some that would eliminate the need for CHOICE as I'm sure the less sophisticated palate and those that bought whiskey primarily on "how old is it" would simply buy the CHEAPEST of what's available since "it's all the same anyway - right?"

Third, the specific segement I think Chuck was referring to in the indie single malt trade differs significantly from most of the American indie labels / bottlers' trade.

If you pay close attention, the single malt scotch brands that are indie bottled but built on a perpetual brand specific item with a continuous profile - those do not typically disclose specific distillery origin. At best they often give sketchy hints that to the untrained eye are meaningless (as intended).

OTOH, to get more to why Chuck's comparison sort of differs (though I truly feel his frustration), you take Murray McDavid's or Cadenhead's (just to name two) - can you honestly pin a profile or even a region generically on either??? No. Therefore the distillery disclosure becomes much more the requirement on the bottlers end - the actual distllery probably doesn't care for it though.

Four, following point #3, the whisky typically bought by these indie bottlers is by the cask (or several casks) from a multitude of distilleries NOT warehouse size stocks of the same one or two source run-offs from a 3 or 4 year, production window. Because of the variety available the supression of data on the bottler's end in Scotland is a liability more often than an asset. On this side of the Atlantic, the detail supression is an asset.

Five, those Indie purchased casks (again what I believe was the specific market segment Chuck was referring to), are destined to be sold as single malt whisky making it impossible to marry outside of the original distilling source.

There's more, but I figure I'm certainly already talking to myself here by now, as the average reader likely dozed off around the second paragraph or so.:lol: