On my way home from work today I stopped by Meijer's and picked up a bottle of Evan Williams 7yo so as to try and slow the emptying of my better bottles. As I am writing this I am thinking to myself that this is a pretty darn good pour. I have tried EW7 before and liked it, but for an $8 bourbon it just wasn't worth my time to contemplate its virtues.
The last couple of weeks I have been vacationing at Club Single Barrel. I have spent many hours in deep meditation discovering all of their virtues. The full-bodiedness, the delicate nuances and the taste only a premium bourbon could bring to the party. But damn, the EW7 is good.
That got me to thinking about why I seem to like the other, more expensive premium bottles better. When I look at a couple of my "prized" posessions I see elegantly designed bottles with well put together lables. My Eagle Rare Single Barrel is packaged in a classic wine bottle with a gorgeous etching of a bald eagle one the front, with all-american patriotic ramblings on the back. Who wouldn't love that? And my Jefferson's Reserve is put into a perfume-style container that you might expect to find in a French boutique. A quick look down the top shelf at the Liquor Barn reveals an abundance of eye-candy. Any number of which I would be proud to place on my cabinet. But my EW7 is packaged in a standard whiskey bottle with an all-to-familiar designed black label. And its good.
So I ask myself: Why do I like the premium bourbons more? Is it because they are better? Or is it that they are SUPPOSED to be better? How much does slick packaging and perception of quality effect my enjoyment of the bourbon? If all bourbons were packaged in the same style bottle with a white label that read "Bourbon #1", "Bourbon #2", "Bourbon #3" and so on, would that detract from my enjoyment? If the same whiskey that is Kentucky Spirit were put in both its current bottle, but also in a bottom shelf type bottle and given a different name, would we be praising the KS while reserving the "Kentucky Spiritless" for our boubon balls and our know-nothing, bourbon and coke drinking friends? I don't know. I just know that this EW7 is pretty good right now.
Don't get me wrong. I do happen to believe that there is a definate and measurable quality difference between the top and the botton shelf. I do think, however that premium packaging and style adds more to the experience than the bourbon could alone, and that ordinary packaging and lack of advertising does cause some good to great bourbons to be over-looked and under-appreciated (i.e. Old Forrester 100 and Evan Williams 7yo.)
Well my glass is empty and I have to go get another. In the mean-time, what effect does packaging and marketing have on your over-all tasting and enjoyment experience?