OT Excursion -- Bean Counter
Exposure to that expression is apparently more a function of environment than time. I first heard it in 1974 at Hughes Aircraft Company in Los Angeles, California, USA. It was directed at me.
I recall the year because that's when I switched from being a field engineer to doing program planning and control for the development of specialized test equipment to support our mainline products. Part of that job involved setting down detailed task schedules and then monitoring actual accomplisments. The engineers I worked with came to appreciate the assistance I, an engineer myself, was able to provide in breaking down complex tasks.
The other part consisted of planning the manpower and labor costs, and then monitoring the actual expenditures and preparing variance reports. It was that part of the process that evoked the appellation, "bean counter". At first I resented the obvious intent to trivialize a function that was necessary to the success of the business. Eventually I came to hold it as a reminder that cost/schedule control is a function that must be applied at just the right level of detail if it is to realize its goal. A practitioner who attempts to establish more control than is cost-effective deserves to be called "bean counter."
I don't know enough about the whiskey business to understand the management process. I just hope that the so-called "bean counters" in that industry take a sufficiently long-term view. For example, if the folks in charge of Wild Turkey revamped Russell's Reserve as part of a plan to ensure the long-term profitability/survival of the enterprise, then I'm all for it. If it was done to increase profits in the next reporting period without regard for the long-term effect, then a term even more disdainful than "bean counters" is appropriate.