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jbutler

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

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Guest **DONOTDELETE**

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.

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Hedmans Brorsa

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 : I´m truly sorry but I do not understand your second question. As for the Japanese penchant for Bourbon. Well, while I´m 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. They´re 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).

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jbutler

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

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Guest **DONOTDELETE**

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 aren´t 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?" smile.gif

=John=

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

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Hedmans Brorsa

John,

Once again thank you for a very interesting contribution. I´m truly flattered to receive such an extensive reply.

About the brand names : this may be trivial bordering on the ridiculous but what I would like to see is a label that says : Elijah Craig 12 years old, distilled at the Heaven Hill distillery, and so on. I don´t have anything against Bourbons christened in honour of historically important persons - on the contrary, I find it charming. To immortalize the late, great Albert Blanton is no more than the proper thing to do but why on earth can´t it read : Blanton´s single barrel, distilled at the Ancient Age distillery (or is it Buffalo Trace? This is another thing that leaves me in a state of confusion)?

I may be wrong here, but I think that connoisseurs (or rather people that aspire to be connoisseurs or even people who like to think of themselves as connoisseurs)want a clear picture of the origin of the whiskey. Love it or loathe it, the single malt criteria for connoisseurship has become the all pervading one (at least in Europe, but judging from the number of american Single malt-homepages that I found, I suspect that this is becoming a reality on the other side of the pond, as well).

You are of course right about product names being as much a European phenomenon. This is even more true for the Cognac industry than the (rather small) Irish whiskey production. What is really interesting here is the way Cognac has taken a backseat to Single malt and how they (or at least some of the distillers) are trying to counter this scottish onslaught.

For ages, Cognac has leaned heavily upon established brands without any cares about stating age and (specified) origin on the bottles. There is even a weird french law that stops most of the distillers from doing this. (don´t ask me about details). A lot of the smaller Cognac-makers has realised that, part of the explanation for Cognac´s relative fall from grace (in Europe, that is) has more than a little to do with the unprecedented success of Single malt scotch. Some of these small but exclusive distillers have now been granted the rights to go into details concerning age, harvest area, aging process, barrels etc. Which, of course, on a crooked path, leads us to the point I was trying to make in my first letter. Best wishes,

H.B.

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cowdery

The best example I know of a distiller being reluctant to reveal the true origins of a whiskey when the "rightness" of doing so was starring them in the face is UDL/Guinness (now Diageo) with their "Rare Bourbons" collection of a few years ago. (But let's not get Mike Veach started about the geniuses at his former employer.)

Because UDL was formed by acquisitions, and many of the companies it acquired were themselves formed by acquisitions, UDL found itself owning lots of odd lots (i.e., small quantities) of whiskey from many different distilleries, most of which were defunct. These included both bourbon and straight rye. Many were quite old.

The normal practice had been simply to dump these odd lots into the mix for a cheap bourbon or blend, but then they hit on the idea of bottling them and emphasizing their rarity, so as to command a high price. Including the actual history of the whiskey would have been an obvious way to emphasize the genuine rarity and authenticity of the whiskeys and I know the suggestion was made, because I made it, but instead they dreamed up "brand" names that had nothing to do with the actual whiskey in the bottle. It was a terrible missed opportunity.

--Chuck Cowdery

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Ken Weber

Just as an FYI, Blanton's is produced by the Buffalo Trace Distillery and while it is named in honor of Col. Blanton, it also represents the type of bourbon he hand selected for his own use. All Blanton's is pulled from the middle floors of Warehouse H, since this is where the Colonel thought the best bourbon resided. So it not only honors the man, it also represents his work (so to speak).

Elmer T. Lee is another example. Elmer selects his own bourbon, which he thinks is the best we produce. The product honors him and he, like Blanton, are more than just marketing devices for selling spirits.

Ken

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