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  1. #1
    Bourbonian Of The Year 2013 and Guru
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    Quality/Profits Discussion

    Much of the discussion on SB of late has been in response to the actions that we are seeing from the bourbon distilleries that are resulting in potentially troubling outcomes for us bourbon enthusiasts. We have seen age statements dropped, products dropped, shortages, proofs dropped, price increases, etc., on some of their brands. Throughout these discussions, several have commented that this is indicative of the distilleries "Lowering the quality" of the whiskey. It is also being suggested at times, that the reasoning for the lowering of quality, is so that the distilleries may see "Increased company profits".

    My question to this board: Do you think that the distilleries are indeed, "Lowering the Quality" of our bourbon? If so, in what ways throughout the process? Also if you think they are, do you feel it is being done simply so the distilleries may see "Increased profits"?

    Incidentally, I'm only talking about changes that we are seeing currently, and not some of the changes that have taken place in bourbon production over the decades. That's worthy
    JOE

    Wag more.
    Bark less.

    "Every bottle is its own learning experience." -- Sensei Ox-sama

  2. #2
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    Re: Quality/Profits Discussion

    I don't think we're seeing a lowering of quality, the quality is very good and quite consistent. What we are seeing though is less refinement and that is due to efforts on their part to increase profit. That's nothing new though and has been going on since the first distiller got big enough to buy grain in bulk, lower his production costs and undersell his competitors.
    We're Bourbon Geeks, it's who we are, it's what we do.

  3. #3
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    Re: Quality/Profits Discussion

    Honestly, I'm a bit torn. I don't think this is a "one size fits all" thing. You see HH adding the age statement to Bernheim, selling ECBP at a fraction of what they COULD sell it for (and they know it too!) ECBP is one of the best whiskies I've had in recent years, so can't knock a quality decrease there either.

    I think that the age statement drops are for two reasons.

    1. If a distillery drops an age statement and can use a little younger whiskey in the final product while still hitting "close enough" to their flavor profile - they certainly stand to make more money (since younger whiskey has a higher yield in terms of volume, and is produced - faster!) Does it lower the quality? Not always. But it certainly impacts perception (and if they try to do it really sly-like, it can really impact perception - ala Barton 6 but not 6 yrs).

    2. If a distillery has been bottling something at 10 yrs, but due to climate change bottling the same whiskey (aged in the same locations for the same amount of time) would arguably change from their target flavor profile. If they want to deliver that same, consistent flavor - they may have no choice other than to lose the age statement (and for those who don't subscribe to "climate change", think of it as just "recently warmer than usual summers" if that helps). So, one could argue that the dropping of age statements is a necessary evil to continue to deliver what customers like! Would many of us be happy if over the next couple of years the flavor of Weller 12 came across with markedly more wood despite them doing everything exactly the same way? I guess they could try some climate control - but I can see a tidal wave of whining about that being "not how it was done in the old days".

    Personally, I don't buy into the notion that age = quality. But I do believe a lower age = more profits. I don't see dropping products as being a drop in quality either. Hell, if you don't have enough stock to distribute 25 labels at the same level of quality, isn't it better to distribute 20 at that same level than 25 at some questionable quality? Does cutting labels improve profitability? Sure, but if enough were buying it - they wouldn't be cutting it.

    Your last line means I can't mention the increasing the barrel entry proof, doesn't it? Because I have no idea when they started doing that, but it would be hard to argue that is a big factor in why some dusty bourbon tastes better than the same stuff they make today (and certainly cost them more to make).
    Gary
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  4. #4
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    Re: Quality/Profits Discussion

    Its a business. Everything they do is to increase profit. I dont blame them either. A lot of us have done a sbs with a bourbon that has recently "changed". I personally taste no difference. SO, I dont think there is a lowering of quality. Even if a few changed slightly from the old profile, there are still so many to choose from at each shelf level. Does it suck if one of my favorites ceases to exist? Sure, but my gosh, most bourbon is so damn good, that I can easily find a suitable replacement.

  5. #5
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    Quality/Profits Discussion

    I have been thinking about recent events such as dropping of AS, moving older or better quality product into a different offering/label that fetches more money, etc. I'm not sure if I'm off base here but I think we have ourselves and the NDP and the craft producers to thank.

    The reason I say that is because we have shown these larger producers that the market is willing to pay more. Most of us prefer to pay less but the reality is that we are willing to pay more. Several business methods/strategies have been proving to work really well over the past several years. So, in a way...we've created this situation
    Last edited by hn4bourbon; 02-17-2014 at 16:49.
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  6. #6
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    Re: Quality/Profits Discussion

    I'm not sure there is any "right" answer Joe, only us being hypothetical. Of course we are seeing age statements dropped, but that is not a new phenomenon. So, has this lowered the quality? ? Only time will tell...we know it won't be the same, but lower quality?? We'll see.

    And we are seeing prices going up, but I'm not sure this goes to " increased profits". I'm sure the cost of doing business goes up almost every day, so the cost of the product has to go up also, at all the levels involved in getting the product to us.
    Last edited by Phil T; 02-17-2014 at 17:44.
    I may be drunk, but in the morning, I'll be sober and you'll still be ugly...WC

  7. #7
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    Re: Quality/Profits Discussion

    Quote Originally Posted by smokinjoe View Post
    ... My question to this board: Do you think that the distilleries are indeed, "Lowering the Quality" of our bourbon? If so, in what ways throughout the process? Also if you think they are, do you feel it is being done simply so the distilleries may see "Increased profits"?
    I can't really say I have been able to find enough high end bourbon to tell if the distilleries are lowering the quality. However, given the pressure to make a quick buck in the current bourbon mania, it is hard to believe they are not giving in to the temptation to cut corners, which has shown up in several objective ways as noted: dropped age statements, proof and impossible to find products like the age stated Wellers.

    Will cutting corners give the distilleries "increased profits"? I think the answer in the long run is no. Eventually people will get bored of the mania and find something else to chase and people will remember the corner cutting and price gouging, and not fondly.

  8. #8
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    Re: Quality/Profits Discussion

    Two thoughts that I believe impact this subject... in opposite directions, I guess.
    Think back a couple decades or even three. The famous 'Bourbon Glut'. There were some fabulous whiskeys being sold as 4-year old stuff that really had much older and fuller flavored liquid in those bottles. Wonderful, eh? ... But, the distilleries were getting killed! Well, now we have pretty much the opposite situation. Bourbon is suddenly (well, ...over the last several years) become "THE" drink of popular culture, and "THE" whiskey for mixologists. So, the distilleries suddenly are finding themselves short of many previously predicable stock brands at their previously stated ages. What to do??? Lose the age statements! Well, no surprise there. What else could they do; while still supplying their distributors the quantities needed to satisfy our thirst? Does this increase their profits? I suppose it does; but did the previous glut impact those profits in the opposite direction? Hell Yes! This is the market forcing adjustment on businesses that rely on a fairly long lead-time to produce sale-able products, within a fairly short cycle of big change. Personally, I think they are doing the best they can. If they're making more money per-day, or per barrel... Good! We all want healthy distillery businesses, right?

  9. #9
    Bourbonian Of The Year 2013 and Guru
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    Re: Quality/Profits Discussion

    Quote Originally Posted by darylld911 View Post
    I don't see dropping products as being a drop in quality either. Hell, if you don't have enough stock to distribute 25 labels at the same level of quality, isn't it better to distribute 20 at that same level than 25 at some questionable quality? Does cutting labels improve profitability? Sure, but if enough were buying it - they wouldn't be cutting it..
    I like this. I'm of the thinking that the age statement dropping is really a step in the more efficient reallocation of resources. Like the OldCharter 8 year age statement drop. I'm sure there's a guy named Charlie at BT who banged his spoon on the table like crazy, fighting to keep the last age stated iteration of the beloved OC line going, because it was important, and he's been selling it for 40 years...the Answer? Sorry Charlie. We need that whiskey somewhere else. And, "somewhere else" makes $6 more a bottle. If no shortage, Charlie still has his 8yr (heck, and probably the 12 and 10, to boot).
    JOE

    Wag more.
    Bark less.

    "Every bottle is its own learning experience." -- Sensei Ox-sama

  10. #10
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    Re: Quality/Profits Discussion

    Charlie also gets to keep his job.
    We're Bourbon Geeks, it's who we are, it's what we do.

 

 

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