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  1. #21
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    Re: Woodford Reserve VIP

    From time to time we discuss on this forum just what is needed to bring to bourbon whiskey the respect and consumer acceptance that it so richly deserves. Of course, our viewpoint is as consumers who enjoy the product; the discussion has far more significance when it involves the distillers themselves, and it often does. Your mention of Woodford VIP illustrates this well...

    I was thinking of how much sense it would make to give Woodford VIP packages to my friends who are not already bourbon enthusiasts. A fine bourbon in a strikingly beautiful package would make a great gift, and a great introduction to this wonderful beverage spirit. Problem is, among most of my friends who don't already drink bourbon, such a gift would be very similar to giving them a nicely leather-bound collection of Hustler magazines. They might acknowledge the beauty of the package, and they might appreciate the thoughtfulness of the gift; they might even display it in their living room. But they would take pride in never actually opening and drinking it. Until we can address and reduce that attitude in Puritan America, we're not going to see American Whiskey get the sort of respect it deserves. I belive one reason that some distilleries concentrate on foreign sales instead of domestic is that consumers in foreign countries are less ashamed to buy a product that provides pleasure.

    The white spirit makers (and of course Brown-Forman sells some of the best of that as well as whiskey) don't seem to have that concern. They market vodka, gin, and rum for folks who want to have fun drinking and they just don't let the Puritans bother them at all. It's just the bourbon folks who seem to be stuck in their images of leather chairs, old money, dead distillers from 1789, "bourbon the way Grandfather used to enjoy it", and so forth. Instead of trying to make an American classic, what would happen if L&G marketed (in addition to the fine, aged bourbons we all expect from y'all) a product that was basically pot-distilled white whiskey for use in fun cocktails? Cocktails sold in chain-restaurants like Red Lobster, Tumbleweeds, and Lone Star. Would a "margarita" made with 90-proof white dog taste worse than one made with Cuervo tequila? Is the problem really that anything that increases bourbon sales would come at the expense of tequila, rum, or vodka sales and all the bourbon distillers are making more money selling those spirits than they are selling bourbon?

    P.S. - Please don't take offense at what I'm saying. It's certainly not aimed solely at Brown-Forman, and I'm personally part of your "audience" who appreciates the history and quality of fine bourbon. I think of L&G as exemplifying that; in fact, all of B-F does that. It's just that we tend to bemoan the "niche"-ness of fine American Whiskey and I think the distilleries just don't aim for the right people to make bourbon a truly popular drink. And the one outfit who really DOES do this is not a bourbon. And it's wildly successful. And it's you. Y'know, if Labrot & Graham were marketed like Jack Daniel's, you'd endure the wrath and vicious comments of most bourbon enthusiasts... but you also might just have the best-selling bourbon spirit ever distilled.

    =John=
    http://w3.one.net/~jeffelle/whiskey

  2. #22
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    Re: Woodford Reserve VIP

    An eloquent and well-written contribution providing me, as a european with an interesting domestic point of view. It strikes me, though, that there are several more obstacles in the way preventing bourbon from gaining a world-wide acceptance as the glorious spirit it is.

    From a european perspective the first that spring to mind is this american obsession with product names which in 9 cases out of 10 overshadows the origin of the whiskey. Most connoisseurs put a large emphasis on the latter - they do not want to see a lot of labels claiming to be distilled at the Elijah Craig, Blanton or Johnny Drum distillery when they suspect that there simply arenīt any distilleries like that in existence. Aficionados from the "Old World" want authenticity, product names are in their world more associated with candy and lemonade.

    This malady extends to the Internet as well. I remember a couple of years ago when I found the Blantonīs homepage. At this time this was the only Ancient Age-product I had tasted and I was delighted because I automatically thought that there would be links to a common AA-page where I could find out more about their other products. There was no acknowledgements whatsover, though. (Itīs the same case with the Buffalo Trace-homepage).

    Another hindrance for Bourbon "world domination" would be the way the rights to these product names are sold off to the highest bidder. In Europe this would be considered cheap. The Old Fitzgerald label should be laid to rest together with the Stitzel-Weller distillery. No one would dream of selling the rights to Port Ellen (a celebrated Islay-distillery which closed in 1983) to some other scotch distiller.

    Oh well, maybe this situation is a reflection of some weird american jurisdiction that Iīm unaware of. More the pity, then...




  3. #23
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
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    Re: Woodford Reserve VIP

    Well said and, unfortunately, all true. Equally unfortunate is the lack of a good solution. Someone like Buffalo Trace or Brown-Forman would be ideal to take the lead on this, but "branding" is such a deep-seated marketing concept in the U.S., I think it is sadly more likely that Europe will go more our way rather than vice versa.

    --Chuck Cowdery

  4. #24
    **DONOTDELETE**
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    Re: Woodford Reserve VIP

    Don't be so sad Chuck. Branding is a way of life in capitalist countrys. Consumers discover the brands that they like and buy them over; and over, and over again. Investors buy the stocks of companies that own brand names and earn profits; over, and over, and, over again.

    Brown-Forman has hit the jack-pot with Jack Daniels. I for one would love to see them do the very same thing with Woodford Reserve. Who owns the two most pristine showplace distilleries? Brown-Forman of course! With the historicaly significant Labrot & Graham in Kentucky to the magic mystique of Lynchburg Tennensee. Only Harley-Davidson or Smith & Wesson owns a more reveared brand.

    Good high quality products made by hard working Americans that care. Couple that with a world recognized brand name and that spells success. I wouldn't have it any other way. That's what America and our brand of capitalism is all about. Don't let anyone tell you any different! We are a good hard working people and anyone that says otherwise sucks a big commie weinnie!

    Oh pardon me! There are no such things as big commie wiennies. Only small mean commie weinnies.

    Carry on.


    Linn Spencer

    Have Shotglass. Will Travel.

  5. #25
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    Re: Woodford Reserve VIP

    Hello Linn!

    I didnīt mean to offend anyone with my letter. My language is Swedish, not english, which may lead to an inadvertent "formality" in tone, that, in turn, possibly could be misinterpreted as something dry and hostile.

    Anyway, I can assure you that I am NOT a communist or socialist. My letter was not intended as an attack on the American way of life, nor, for that matter, on any Bourbon brands. I love Elijah Craig, Blantonīs and Johnny Drum and I am also convinced that Parker Beam will do a brilliant job with the new Old Fitz. None of this, though, has anything to do with the aim of my posting.

    I interpreted J. Lipmans contribution as a discussion about the marketing potential of Bourbon, not as an opportunity to start an ideological war. I found his article very interesting and I just thought that I should some observations which reflected a European viewpoint. Please note that some of the statements in my letter do not necessarily express my own point of view - it is more to be seen as a summary of the attitudes that I have encountered in Europe.

    However, I cannot resist getting into a bit of polemics. You celebrate Jack Danielīs as a triumph for the american whiskey industry. Iīm sorry, but I have to disagree with you there. To me, the success of J.D. is the biggest disaster to hit American whiskey since the prohibition. Is it any wonder that, when talking to one of Swedens leading importers of liquor, he firmly turns down any suggestions of getting into bourbon, on the grounds that, for most people (according to him), american whiskey conjures up visions of longhaired rockstars or Hellīs Angels-members gulpinī it straight from the bottle. I wonder who the main culprit is?

    Please donīt misunderstand me. I enjoy the "rougher" Bourbons/Tennessee but that is an altogether different discussion. Live long and prosper...


  6. #26
    The Boss
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    Re: Woodford Reserve VIP

    A few of my semi-random thoughts on the subject;

    1. I'm not real quick to align myself with the "bad boy" JD image either ... I still dig Van Halen though ;-)

    2. Lately I've been asking people I meet in public to name a bourbon. They only have one of two replies -- "JD" or "JB" in that order. Now ask yourself whose advertising campaign is most aggressive.

    3. The Japanese are extremely concerned with image. They drink a lot of bourbon. Why do you suppose they arent too concerned about looking like Oakland Raiders fans?

    Cheers,

    Jim Butler
    Straightbourbon.com

  7. #27
    **DONOTDELETE**
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    Re: Woodford Reserve VIP

    No no Hedmans nothing I said was targeted at you or anyone else here. Every once in awhile I engage in some pro American nationalism. This is called "flag waving". Too often we take our country for granted. I just wanted to point out that we are a great nation, and the thing that makes us that way are the average working men and women.

    My anti-communist stance has deep roots. One of my cousins was killed in Korea by communists, and several of my friends met their deaths fighting the communists in Viet Nam. I served in the U.S. Army during the Viet Nam war but I was stationed in what was then West Germany. I witnessed first hand the terrorism of the 'Red Army Faction' and the 'Red Brigade' as they targeted and killed Americans.

    I was not calling you a commie.

    All I wanted to point out was that we have great brand products that are internationaly known and sought after. We need more of them as we have a huge trade deficit importing much more than we export.

    Bourbon is the very best whiskey made anywhere by anyone. Building bourbon brands to the point of international greatness is of paramount importance.
    Woodford Reserve is a great bourbon worthy of such aclaim.

    Linn Spencer

    Have Shotglass. Will Travel.

  8. #28
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    Re: Woodford Reserve VIP

    Linn : thanks for your clarifying reply. I totally agree with you about Woodford Reserve. When I have visitors I firmly turn down any requests for Scotch (well, at least I try) and instead offer them a Bourbon. Woodford reserve has been a notable winner - some people have become almost addicted to it. A good sign if I ever seen one...

    Jim : Iīm truly sorry but I do not understand your second question. As for the Japanese penchant for Bourbon. Well, while Iīm quite sure that there are lots of genuine whisk(e)y connoisseurs to be found in the old kingdom of Nippon, I still think that we have to accept the fact that, the vast majority of the Japanese do not buy Bourbon and/or single malt Scotch for any deeper reasons. Theyīre buying Western artifacts - no more, no less.

    I would love to see my claims refuted by a Japanese contributor to this forum, but I suspect that the above-mentioned statement represent the unvarnished truth.There is, after all, a reason why any rockband on the wane still can claim to be "Big in Japan".

    P.S This is not a music forum but I have to add that I regard the first Van Halen album as a bona fide classic. The second has some really good songs but when Sammy Hagar joined it was really all over (quality-wise, that is).



  9. #29
    The Boss
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    Re: Woodford Reserve VIP

    Hedmans, the question I asked was rhetorical in nature. My only point -- and I've got to stop posting before my second cup of coffee -- was that the "bad boy" image has been a part of the JD mystique ever since I can remember. Though I honestly cannot recall any JD ads from the 70's and early 80's, I suspect advertising played a major role in developing that image. Most people I've asked think JD is bourbon ... and of course so did I a decade ago.

    As for your comments on the Japanese, I suspect you are correct. How sad.

    To your P.S.; I am in near complete agreement. However, I prefer "Diver Down" and "1984" over thier second ;-)

    Cheers,

    Jim Butler
    Straightbourbon.com

  10. #30
    **DONOTDELETE**
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    Re: Woodford Reserve VIP

    Hedmans,

    Thank you. The points you brought up are all ones that have intriqued me as well, though I feel some comments do need to be made.

    "...this american obsession with product names which... overshadows the origin of the whiskey..."

    I wouldn't necessarily characterize this as American. Brand imaging is certainly a part of European marketing as well (look at all the "famous old" Irish brands produced at Bushmill's and Jameson distilleries)

    "...Most connoisseurs ... do not want to see a lot of labels claiming to be distilled at the Elijah Craig, Blanton or Johnny Drum distillery when they suspect that there simply arenīt any distilleries like that in existence..."

    I think it illustrates a good point that I originally responded to a message about Woodford Reserve. Labrot & Graham was very much a real distillery, and in fact was once owned by Brown-Forman. It produced bourbon under the label L&G, in addition to supplying some bourbon to be sold under the Old Forester label (how's that for a complete reversal?). When Brown-Forman sold the distillery in 1971, they kept the rights to the name. There's nothing misleading about Brown-Forman reusing it again when they bought the plant back twenty years later.

    They could, in fact, have gone even further as far as I'm concerned... the Labrot & Graham distillery itself dates from long before Leopold Labrot and James Graham took it over in the 1870's. Originally built in 1812, it was the very site where, in the 1820's and '30s, a certain doctor James Crow was distiller, and thus played a part in the very foundations of bourbon history. I feel Brown-Forman could just as easily have called their reconstruction Old Oscar Pepper and not been misleading.

    In all fairness to the other distilleries, the naming conventions really aren't as deceptive as you suggest. Of course there wasn't a Blanton's distillery (although Blanton's could honestly be said to be a unique product aged separately from the rest of the Buffalo Trace stock); it was made by Elmer T. Lee and named by him in honor of his mentor and teacher, Albert Blanton. Rockhill Farm is the name of the estate upon which the distillery is built. For reasons I've never asked, there is an easily-detected feeling of local pride among the people at the distillery, that makes them take care to let you know they're located in Leestown, Franklin County, and not "near Frankfort" (the capital). Much of Buffalo Trace's advertising copy isn't so much about the bourbon as it is about Leestown and how it came to be founded and how important it was to Kentucky's history. One of the founders of Leestown was Hancock Lee, and thus we have a fine bourbon named Hancock's President's Reserve, although there was never a Hancock's Distillery. Heaven Hill has bourbons named for Elijah Craig and Evan Williams, although neither operated distilleries that survived the 1800's, but there really isn't any attempt to mislead the consumer. The bourbons are named for these important figures in bourbon history, but no one who would recognize those names would ever imagine the whiskey in that bottle of Elijah Craig to be similar to what the good reverend may once have made (and we'd probably not like it much if it were).

    Less straightforward (and here I tend to agree with you more) is the practice of issuing standard bourbon under the brand names of once-popular-but-now-closed distilleries. This is a common practice, and too often labels are put onto these bottles that are only a few points short of outright counterfeit (legally, of course, they're not counterfeit because the current distiller owns the rights to the name and the label). But then, certainly some very high-quality products have been marketed that way as well. Old Fitzgerald comes to mind as a good example, as do Old Grand Dad (both the Wathens/National Distillers version and even the Beam version, though less so) and the Wm.Gaines version of Old Crow.

    "...Aficionados from the "Old World" want authenticity..."

    Not sure about Sweden, but the consumer demands of the other "Old World" European (and Asian) countries were a big factor in sparking the current brand wars in the first place. The biggest brand, the one they all carry, is "AMERICAN", and especially "SOUTHERN AMERICAN". Those are big "brands" here, too, and often for good reason (if there is a true "American" culture it arises from below the Mason-Dixon line, in my humble opinion). JD's INTENDED reputation, the one they spent all that money to develop, was supposed to be the Sinatraesque image of New York society people who had this stuff made special for them in some little jerkwater Tennessee town only they and their friends knew about. I think it was the same image that has been successfully used to sell Scotch for years. Where it's REAL reputation came from was as the choice for decadent blues and rock bands (especially Janis Joplin in the '60s and Southern rock bands of the '70s) to be seen swigging on stage as an anti-classist gesture. Courvoissier cognac (the Who, Led Zep, etc) was another such. Of course, the effectiveness was based on our having already associated JD with tuxedos and Aston Martins (in fact, I think James Bond drank JD when he wasn't drinking martinis). Jack Daniel, by the way, never thought of his whiskey as anything BUT bourbon -- the whole Tennessee whiskey thing came about in the 1940's as the result of a dispute between JD president Reagor Motlow and the federal government over whether the product could legally be called bourbon. The decision was that it couldn't, and Motlow (marketing genius that he was) spun that denial into a government acknowledgement of his product's "special" status as "Tennessee Whiskey" (the federal decision never actually defined Tennessee Whiskey, and to this day there is no official definition; it merely stated that Jack Daniels can only be labeled "whiskey" and not "bourbon")

    Finally, on the sidebar subject of Van Halen. I don't know if Jim picked it intentionally, but you could hardly find a better example of what we're talking about with bourbon. Was Van Halen + Sammy really the same band as Van Halen + Diamond Dave? How about Fleetwood Mac, a British Blues band along the lines of John Mayall until Ms. Perfect and Buckingham/Nicks totally transformed it? How about AC/DC? Some say the Clash can be included here as well. Should these bands NOT have continued under the name that people associated them with? Again, this isn't really about pop music; it's about bourbon. But the brand concept is very similar, don't you think?

    P.S. Thanks for your posts (not to mention that I enjoy flattery whenever it rears its lovely head).
    It's so much more fun than "what bourbon do YOU think I'll like best?"

    =John=
    http://w3.one.net/~jeffelle/whiskey

 

 

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