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  1. #11
    Connoisseur
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    Re: Direction of the industry

    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

  2. #12
    Connoisseur
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    Mentor, Ohio, USA
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    837

    Re: Direction of the industry

    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

  3. #13
    Taster
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    Jan 2005
    Location
    Nara, Japan
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    98

    Re: Direction of the industry

    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.

    [rant]

    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.
    [/rant]

  4. #14
    Enthusiast
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    Mar 2004
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    virginia
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    441

    Re: Direction of the industry

    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!!

  5. #15
    Apprentice
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
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    48

    Could go either way, depending...

    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 , 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. 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.

  6. #16
    Virtuoso
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    Apr 2005
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    Chicago SW 'burbs
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    1,178

    Re: Direction of the industry

    Not that I dislike marketing people, they put their pants on just like we do, one tenticle and a time


    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.

  7. #17
    Virtuoso
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    Re: Could go either way, depending...

    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 for bourbon reviews.

  8. #18
    Bourbonian of the Year 2004 and Guru
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    Jul 2000
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    Nelson County, Kentucky
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    2,735

    The Great Bourbon Industry

    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 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" The "Bourbon Trail" is one of the "don't miss" things when you visit our beautiful state Those two are perfect examples of success, Bourbon has given us

    A new dump room, is being added...and new cistern building is being added 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"

    As for venturing into other spirits, we are there too ...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 I am proud to be part of it and most proud that my family of distiller's played a major role is this "Great Bourbon Industry"

    Ohhhhhhhhhhhh Yeahhhhhhhhhhhhh

    Bettye Jo Boone
    Line Mechanic
    Heaven Hill Distilleries, INC.
    Bardstown, Ky.

  9. #19

    Re: Could go either way, depending...

    ...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 :
    Attached Images Attached Images

  10. #20
    Connoisseur
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    Mentor, Ohio, USA
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    Re: Could go either way, depending...

    However, if it's successful, that also possibly means that bourbon as a whole will get more expensive. 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.
    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

 

 

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