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Scotchafication of Bourbon

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Last weekend Linn was making some good points about the "Scotchafication" of Bourbon. (Linn, please feel free to correct the spelling. It is your word after all.) The point being that a lot of emphasis is being placed on age and now they are tinkering with cognac and port wine barrels to finish the bourbon. What are your opinions on this subject?

I will start the ball rolling by saying that to me a bourbon is usually readty at an age between 6 and 12 years old. There are some bourbons that do age well and we all know Julian Van Winkle has a real talent for picking those barrels, but other bourbons of the same age are not as good. A prime example is the Weller 19 and the Pappy 20. Weller 19 is a good bourbon, but probably past its prime. It would have been better at 12 YO in my opinion. Pappy 20 YO is great just the way it is.

Other bourbons don't need all of that age to be great. Russell's Reserve is great at 10 YO and I still love the 8 YO Old Fitzgerald 1849 above many other designer bourbons that are much older. Age for a bourbon is subjective but a good Master Distiller is going to know when the bourbon is ready for bottling and waiting longer can often ruin a good bourbon.

Mike Veach

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Guest **DONOTDELETE**

Mike it was Ryan Stotz that first proffered that notion last year in a thread under the Single Barrel/Small Batch topic board on the second page about Elmer T. Lee bourbon. Ken Weber made his forum debut in that thread.

Stotz railed against what he called 'the Scotchafication of Bourbon'. In this case all that was involved was getting rid of the old ugly bottle and putting it in an attractive one. Stotz predicted a significant increase in price and he was correct. In my tasting last year the Lee fetched $18.99 in a Frankfort Rite Aid. This year with the new bottle, but still the same old and very good bourbon inside is $24.95! Roughly a 25% increase to the consumer. Did you get a 25% raise in your income last year? No? Well neither did I.

Another erronious notion is that older is better. This is big business in Scotch. If a 10 year old is good is not a 20 year old twice as good? Then wouldn't a 30 year old be much better than the 20? This is insane, but it makes for higher prices and higher profits. Good for the distiller. Bad for the consumer. Yet this is the very same mindset we see in today's bourbon markets.

STOP The Scotchafication Of BOURBON!

Linn Spencer

Have Shotglass. Will Travel.

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tdelling

A few general comments.

I'm makin' some pretty bold over-generalizations here, so feel free to

disagree!

1) A little experimentin' isn't gonna make the good stuff go away. I doubt that

something nice like Russell's Reserve, or even Rare Breed will be pulled to

make room for "scotchified" stuff.

2) Experminentation in general is a good thing. Bourbon has changed over time,

and it should keep changing. Think of things that helped bourbon: the sour mash

process, the use of wheat, and heck, proper warehouse management. All

innovations.

3) Great bourbon is pretty much subsidized by cheap bourbon, so further

subsidization is fine with me. What I'm trying to say here is that top notch

bourbon isn't what keeps distillers in business. The huge sales of the lesser

bourbons make possible the great bourbons. If distillers can start selling

strange stuff to scotch snobs, then good for them! If they can make money

off it, then it keeps 'em in business so that they can make the stuff I like.

4) We'll all agree that Julian knows how to pick 'em. We'd all have Julian over

for dinner and spend all day cookin' up a storm and we'd consider it

an honor. But I'll tell you, I'll be glad when everyone knows how to pick 'em,

because then there will be a lot of great bourbon out there. I have a feeling

that over the next 20 years, "old" bourbon will get better the more experience

people have with it. Right now, you might not like "old" bourbon, but in the

future, I think you will, because the product will get better.

5) For me, there is a place for spirits of all ages. I like some things at 12 years

old, and I like some things at 12 days old! My "favorite" is always changing.

I think there's a lot of room for all kinds.

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Guest **DONOTDELETE**

Wow Tim! Can I use your post (properly credited, of course) for "boilerplate" whenever anyone asks or complains about bourbon age, quality, or where the future is going? That pretty much spells it all out exactly the same way I see it. About the only thing I'd add is that just WHEN a bourbon becomes too old is quite a subjective thing. I sure wish you'd had a chance to join us this year, as we tasted examples of what some said were way too old and other said were just beginning to taste right. Julian's true genius, by the way, seems to me to be his ability to pick what his CUSTOMERS will appreciate; I don't think MY favorites of his products (RVW Rye12 and RVW 15 bourbon - and "old" Pappy20) are HIS favorites at all.

=John=

<A target="_blank" HREF=http://w3.one.net/~jeffelle/whiskey>http://w3.one.net/~jeffelle/whiskey</A>

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tdelling

>If a 10 year old is good is not a 20 year old twice as good? Then wouldn't

> a 30 year old be much better than the 20? This is insane, but it makes for

> higher prices and higher profits.

Money is cheap right now because His Majesty Alan Greenspan is

trying to stimulate the economy. But at a rational interest rate, say, 7%,

money doubles every 10 years. So in order to keep up with the cost

of money, you *have* to double the price for every 10 years of aging

or you've got a losing proposition. On top of that, you've got evaporation

to deal with, and warehouse space...

So if you're going to sell a 20 or 30 year old whisk(e)y, the price is going to

have to be high. The real question is this: is the high price worth it for what

you're getting?

I vote with my dollars and I say the Elijah Craig 18 YO is worth it!

Tim

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tdelling

>Wow Tim! Can I use your post (properly credited, of course) for "boilerplate"

> whenever anyone asks or complains...

Sure! I'm just gettin' started!

(In general, I figure that anything I post to the internet becomes community

property for the most part anyway. Linn has given me a boquet of flowers

by picking up on my "Huzzah!" and using it. I'm glad when anything I type

gets propigated! Of course, for works of art like my parody of Linn's tasting

notes, I like to get credit.)

>Julian's true genius, by the way, seems to me to be his ability to pick what his

> CUSTOMERS will appreciate; I don't think MY favorites of his products (RVW

> Rye12 and RVW 15 bourbon - and "old" Pappy20) are HIS favorites at all.

Personally, his 13YO rye might very well be my favorite whisk(e)y of all time.

It's definitely in my top 5. One of the things I wonder about aging is how attached

people get to their ideas... so if they set aside a bunch of barrels hoping that

they turn out one way, but they don't turn out that way at all, is the disappointment

so great that it's hard to honestly evaluate the barrels for what they are? The

same goes for vatting. If there's one barrel that has the perfect taste, and you

vat to try to match that, and you miss, then how happy can you be with the

final product? Personally, I might cry if I over-aged a barrel that was perfect last

year, but tastes mediocre this year!

>About the only thing I'd add is that just WHEN a bourbon becomes too old is

> quite a subjective thing.

Indeed! I like 'em grainy and woody and I prefer that they don't kick my in

the pants.

Tim

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Guest **DONOTDELETE**

Said TDelling, "...if they set aside a bunch of barrels hoping that they turn out one way, but they don't turn out that way at all, is the disappointment so great that it's hard to honestly evaluate the barrels for what they are?" and "...The same goes for vatting. If there's one barrel that has the perfect taste, and you vat to try to match that, and you miss, then how happy can you be with the final product? Personally, I might cry if I over-aged a barrel that was perfect last year, but tastes mediocre this year!"

Unlike wine, where the base ingredient (grapes) varies significantly from year to year, distillers don't usually set aside a specific bunch of barrels. The distillate comes off the still pretty much exactly the same as it always does. In fact, that consistancy is considered a mark of the distiller's prowess. Of course events can cause even the most skilled distiller to occasionally vary from the standard, but remember that, again unlike wine, the distillation process is repeated every day, not just once a year. Corrections can and are made all the time, so the profile has far less variance. Scotch distilling is very similar, of course, but bourbon is then barrelled in new barrels. The assumption (and I'm not convinced, but that's another topic) is that these, too, can be considered identical in the practical sense. Add to that the fact that most bourbon spends its entire aging career in the same barrel it was originally poured into, from which it picks up a great deal of character. Scotch, on the other hand, may be transferred to another or maybe even a third barrel, each of which imparts only subtle characteristics. And each of which must be carefully chosen in advance in the hopes of producing the desired result.

There are many ways to control the effects of aging on bourbon, but probably the most significant is warehouse environment. The range of temperatures varies enormously from one part of a typical bourbon warehouse to another (not so with scotch warehousing) and it's this variation that has the most effect on how the bourbon ages. Except for single-barrel bourbons, however, the finished product in bourbon (as it is in scotch) is a "marriage" (bourbon distillers growl and throw things at you if you use the word "blend") of (often widely) variant barrels to conform to the standard profile. Thus, a barrel that happens to have passed its prime age can be matched up with some that's too young (extreme oversimplification, of course, but you get the idea). Matching single-barrel bourbons to a standard would be more difficult of course, and closer to what you describe; but even here a barrel that doesn't meet the profile simply wouldn't be chosen for use as a single in the first place. Remember that these barrels aren't just put away until maturity the way wine is; they're being sampled often, especially as they near the time for dumping. And the final selection is (usually) made at that point and not years in advance. The one exception to this that I can think of is Blanton's, in which Elmer Lee selects early on the barrels that will be moved into Warehouse H to later become Blanton's. He does this, however, because that's the way Colonel Blanton did it and he is upholding the tradition. Elmer selects his own single-barrel, Elmer T. Lee (which he considers superior), from his favorite locations in the general warehouses.

=John=

<A target="_blank" HREF=http://w3.one.net/~jeffelle/whiskey>http://w3.one.net/~jeffelle/whiskey</A>

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Guest **DONOTDELETE**

Tim it's clear that you didn't bother to go back and read Stotz's comments, and yes you've over-generalized.

Let's get back on track and identify some of the components of scotchafication:

1) Fancy bottles and higher prices for the same old bourbon - Is there anyone who would deny that this has occured?

2) The Older Is Better bugaboo - Folks only better is better. Age is but one variable in a complex host. Is there anyone out there besides Dellinger & Lipman that just don't get it?

3) The Loss of Bourbon Heritage - This is probably the most intense component of the concept of scotchafication - The best example here would be Beam's distiller's masterpiece. Take a fine bourbon and turn it into a non-bourbon by re-casking (a scotch term) in an old sherry or port wine barrel for further aging. Then charge a small fortune for it.

Is this the direction we want the bourbon industry to go? I surely don't.

Linn Spencer

Have Shotglass. Will Travel.

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tdelling

>Tim it's clear that you didn't bother to go back and read Stotz's comments, and

>yes you've over-generalized.

I was writing a response to Veach's original post, which defined "scotchification"

as (1) emphasis on age, and (2) experimentation with cognac and port. Your

post didn't even show up until after I'd posted mine, so while I wrote, I was yet

unaware of the Stotz reference!

Now on to the scotchification debate part 2 !

>1) Fancy bottles and higher prices for the same old bourbon - Is there anyone

> who would deny that this has occured?

Well, I'm all in favor of fancy bottles! As to higher prices: I'm against them. It's

sad but true that often in America, there is stuff that doesn't sell when the price

is low, but sells when the price is high. One example I can think of is Rolling

Rock beer... in NY it's cheap, but in Chicago it's expensive, because if it were

cheap in Chicago then no one would buy it. But raise the price and it sells.

I really don't know what to do about this. I'll call it the "yuppification" of

bourbon rather than the "scotchification", although I can see how people

might equate the two.

>2) The Older Is Better bugaboo - Folks only better is better.

I wholeheartedly agree. I said "The real question is this: is the high price worth it

for what you're getting?". I'll answer my own question. Sometimes yes,

sometimes no. Is EC 18YO worth the extra money? For me the answer is

yes. Is Distiller's Masterpiece worth the money? For me the answer is no.

EC 18YO isn't better because it's older, it's better because it's woodier!

There are plenty of pretentious bastards out there with much more money than

I have who buy all kinds of expensive crap just because it's old. Those people

are idiots. But I'm glad that they keep the distilleries in business, and they

keep the distillers innovating and trying to make better bourbon. Distilleries

produce lots of lower quality cheap bourbon... so what if they produce

lower quality expensive bourbon?

>3) The Loss of Bourbon Heritage - This is probably the most intense component...

Let's go bak to the old days then. No sour mash process. Forget about proper

warehouse management. Aging wood before making it into barrels? Too

modern! Seriously, though, I think that Russel's Reserve (and Rare Breed) will not

be displaced by any innovations. These are beautiful bourbons, and they

will not be "lost" due to experimentation.

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ratcheer

Hear, hear, Linn!

The one factor that has me so interested in bourbon, now, is my perception that we are losing our southern heritage. And, whether or not I/you/we are southerners, this is important. The country is becoming homogenized. Not only are southerners disappearing, but so are Yankees (in the New England sense), midwesterners, and, to some extent westerners. And, when we all become the same, what a terrible loss.

But, anyway, as I see big multinational corporations taking over our old distilleries and, in many cases, closing them forever, I lament the permanent loss of old, long-standing heritage. Once it is gone, it can never come back.

For some reason, the one that bothers me the most is the loss of the Stitzel-Weller distillery. I guess that is because many years ago, before I knew anything, my favorite bourbon was Rebel Yell. Then, at college, a new friend from Kentucky introduced me to Old Fitzgerald - it was from the same distillery, but what a difference. That was my introduction to the good taste of bourbon. Later, I also discovered Weller Special Reserve.

I'm sorry this is getting so long. Anyway, I kept seeing these brands and assumed all along that they were coming from the same old distillery. But, as I started doing research for my bourbon tasting adventure several weeks ago, I was shocked and dismayed to find that Stitzel-Weller was sold to a conglomerate back in the 70's and has since been completely shut down. The brands are now just that - brands. The unique whiskeys are history.

And that hurts.

Tim

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Guest **DONOTDELETE**

Oh boy Tim! You've just touched a nerve that runs deep. There are some that would say that elements of what is now drinks giant Diageo bought out distillery's at very high prices for the sole purpose of ruining the brands they bottled and then shutting them down for good.On this year's Bourbon Heritage Panel Mr Thompson, formally of Glenmore, told us of his decision to sell when offered two and a half times the true value for his distillery. This same thing also happened to Stitzel-Weller and I.W.Bernhiem.

Linn Spencer

Have Shotglass. Will Travel.

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jvanwinkle

One thing you guys have to keep in mind re older bourbon and higher prices:

In the case of my 20 & 23 year "Pappys", the price has always been determined by the short supply of each. The price I get for each of those whiskeys is obviously a nice profit per case and it has sure "helped" in putting 4 kids through college, but the supply/demand has driven the price of each. When I first introduced the 20 year, it was around $40.00 per bottle and I had a good supply. As sales increased, I had to raise the price to slow sales-I did not want to run out. Makers has done this rcently to make their supply spread further. Of course, the quality of a high price bourbon should be very good or I don't think consumers would buy it.

Julian

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Guest **DONOTDELETE**

Good point Julian. Let supply and demand set fair market value. Just to let everyone know Julian does not wear a kilt nor has he been scotchified in any way. Indeed just the opposite is true. He has been able to thrive in spite of anti-bourbon bludgoning by Diageo or by scotchification marketing propaganda. His bottles of bourbon look like bourbon bottles, and he has more demand than supply. There were no tarton clad monkeys dancing in front of his booth at the festival.

Julian was kind enough to treat me to a couple of free pours. I was shocked that his new 23 year old was no woodier than a 15 year old and quite tasty, with no harsh overbearing barrel tannins. His new 20 year old "Pappy" was even better. I had bought a bottle of his 15 year old, and I really wish that I could do blind A-B test between the two.

Julian was kind enough to give me an autographed bottle, but it was an empty 100ml! We had a really good time at the "Embassy". Who's got those shots of Julian and I together? Why aren't they posted in all their bourbonic glory?

Linn Spencer

Have Shotglass. Will Travel.

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kitzg

Let's remember that there are some fine people in the bourbon industry who are still bringing us fine bourbon in the tradition of the old families.

While Julian VanWinkle does not distill, he bottles from some great barrels. And Bill Samuels at Maker's Mark, Elmer T Lee and Gary Gayheart at Buffalo Trace, and Lincoln Henderson at B-F's Woodford Reserve have brought us outstanding products. Some are less expensive than others and some are pricey and, yes, some of the bottles are fancy. But few in this forum are doing regular tastings and postings about Old Crow so we must appreciate it.

Perhaps we should look at it this way. If the industry was not going in this direction, we'd have a lot less to sample and talk about.

And if you want just plain consistency of one product (love it or not) I'd give the award to Bill Samuels! One bourbon, one way, consistently. Bill's gone to great expense to make his expansion exactly (right down to the milling) like the current process. (Okay, I must profusely thank Bill for the private tour a group of us got of the new facilities -- they are beautiful!). And the point is, Bill would not be adding on if demand was not outstripping supply.

And while I don't think D. Masterpiece is for the true bourbonian, Bookers and Knob Creek from Jim Beam brands clearly are. I don't really think you can argue about a great barrel strenght bourbon at $50 (thank you, thank you F. Booker Noe) and a very good bourbon with lot's of character at about $20 (or at least moderately priced in most markets).

So there is still a lot to smile about while we lament the death of some great old brands and while we wait to see if a new owner of Four Roses will allow that product to be sold in the US.

Greg

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jvanwinkle

Linn,

So that's where that 100ml bottle of 23-year "Pappy" went! I was signing so many bottles that night I couldn't remember them all. Wasn't someone dropping bottles also? Chris? Sure was a good time. It was worth staying up till 2:45 AM to make sure Linn was a real convert to some wheat bourbon. Yeah John, let's see those photos(I think).

Julian

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Guest **DONOTDELETE**

You might wish you hadn't asked tongue.gif, but here...

Besides Linn, you, & I we also see the smiley face of JOHNROBE

And, in light of this thread, thank you for offering an outstanding line of products. Despite the fact that they're all way too old to be good bourbon, of course. And too costly. And in those objectionably fancy bottles, too. wink.gif

=John=

<A target="_blank" HREF=http://w3.one.net/~jeffelle/whiskey>http://w3.one.net/~jeffelle/whiskey</A>

post-2-14489811033801_thumb.jpg

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Guest **DONOTDELETE**

Talk about "not getting it"... Folks, scotch isn't bourbon. They aren't made the same way, they don't age the same, they don't taste the same. In fact the only similarity between the two spirits is that they're both made from cereal grains. There is no more reason to compare bourbon with scotch than there is to compare bourbon with vodka, or rum, or tequila (all of which also happen to be marketed by nearly all the bourbon distilleries). Let's just stick to comparing bourbon with bourbon, okay? Anyway, Spencer's only real objection to scotch is that yankees drink it. smile.gif

It's really amusing to me how important the "my favorite whiskey is the REAL THING; your's is just poo-poo" idea is to some folks. Especially folks whose criteria seems to include whether they can obtain free samples.

=John=

<A target="_blank" HREF=http://w3.one.net/~jeffelle/whiskey>http://w3.one.net/~jeffelle/whiskey</A>

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jvanwinkle

John,

Yep. I'm sorry I asked. But that sure was a good time though.

See you next year, or before.

Julian

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Guest **DONOTDELETE**

Greg it's a shame that ever since Ryan Stotz moved to Louisianna earlier this year he's only made one post. Since this is really his idea I'd really like to hear his own take on this whole thing.

You follow market trends for a living. Is the scotchification of bourbon an identifiable trend or just so much bologna? I see the use of scotch packaging and over-pricing of bourbons as troubelsome. I see the loss of our bourbon heritage as unacceptable and worth fighting for.

I think that Beam's Small Batch Collection and wonderful bottlings like Woodford Reserve; Russell's Reserve and Buffalo Trace are the bourbon industry throwing down the gauntlet and tossing the scotchies out on their collective asses!

Linn Spencer

Have Shotglass. Will Travel.

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Guest **DONOTDELETE**

John Lipman has just proven just how low he will go to get revenge.

I answer his post only as a point of honor to defend my good name.

Let us look at the many faces of John Lipman that he presents us here. First he pontificates to the forum members. This is his usual manner, as John is a know-it-all. He then shows us his next face as that of the judge. He proclaims that forum members may only compare bourbons with one another. He doesn't seem to know that this is Jim Butler's forum and that he and not John Lipman sets the rules and standards of acceptable behavior.

Just seven days ago at just about this very time we where all in mine and Vickie's room at the Gen'l Nelson having a good time. John Lipman even drank some of my bourbon as it was freely offered. Little did I know then that John Lipman would launch a vicious attack against my good name and tell numerous lies about me on this very forum.

I don't like scotch because I don't like the way it tastes. Jonh Lipman lies and says that I don't like it because yankees drink it. Nothing could be further from the truth. He further tells an additional lie putting an inane statement in quotes that I have never said.

John Lipman impunes my integrity, by implying that my opinion on a bourbon can be bought for a free drink. Julian Van Winkel and I had a good time trading barbs with each other and poking fun. Julian can get all the brown nosers he wants. There is no respect in someone that will cower and suck up. I did nothing of the kind, and we respected each other for acting like the good men we are and not as some toadys.

There are also a few other faces of John Lipman from past tensions that I had thought were all water under the bridge, and that the hatchet had been buried. Little did I know that one week later he would bury that hatchet in my back in an extreme act of cowardly vindictiveness.

I don't believe such behavior should be allowed to go unchallanged. You all have now read my points of view. I shall not respond to any other post concerning this incedent, nor shall I respond to any post by John Lipman ever.

Linn Spencer

Have Shotglass. Will Travel.

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vasshopper

Way to go JOHN!!!

I totally agree with you! Glad to see you back! Life is good--Den

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tdelling

>nor shall I respond to any post by John Lipman ever.

Looks like we have our first Hatfield-n-McCoy-style Feud!

Straightbourbon.com: perserving our Southern Heritage!

(I'm just jokin', fellers. Don't shoot me ! )

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Guest **DONOTDELETE**

Oh lighten up, Linn. It's just good-natured poking. Your tail isn't any more sacred than any of the rest of us. Besides, one of the main things I DO enjoy about bourbon is that yankees don't drink it. That wasn't an insult. You're just way too sensitive.

=John=

<A target="_blank" HREF=http://w3.one.net/~jeffelle/whiskey>http://w3.one.net/~jeffelle/whiskey</A>

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cowdery

As long as single malt scotches (and fancy vodkas and tequilas, for that matter) are a bigger business than super premium bourbons, marketers will look in that direction for inspiration. Some people buy image others (the distinguished members of this forum) buy substance. Both are listened to based on how much they buy. If you want certain kinds of whiskey to continue to be available, keep talking about them but, most of all, keep buying them.

Another aspect of this is that in the nature of bourbon, the marketers can't really do much with the product itself. They have to take what the distiller gives them. The only thing they have to fiddle with is the package and other elements of marketing.

I'm not offended by Distiller's Masterpiece and at the price they're charging, it won't have much impact on the <$50 world where most of us live.

<A target="_blank" HREF=http://cowdery.home.netcom.com>--Chuck Cowdery</A>

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kitzg

Yes, I think there is a trend. I believe one could argue that current trends in bourbon are very good for members of this forum and for the business overall. But there is no 'throwing down the gauntlet." This is business.

Bourbon sellers are looking for products that consumers will drink. As has been stated in this forum, among American whiskeys Jack Daniels and Jim Beam white label are the 'bread and butter' and America's 'premium' whiskey mixers. Those brands too, as is clearly understood in this forum, are sold on image. Limestone water, the hills of Tenn and Kentucky, "Lem Motlow, Prop" - those are image builders -- and some have nothing to do with what is in the pour.

I think, there is no question that there is a clear trend toward single barrel and small batch products as well as entries with different ages to attract different niche markets. Distiller's Masterpiece is not really a true master bourbon distiller's pride and joy -- it is, as has been stated here, a play with package and something different to attract that person who just has to have 'the most expensive whiskey' on his or her shelf. As Chuck points out, that is marketing using tools that marketers can play with: package, label, and just something different. And if it ends up adding a million or two to Fortune Brands' bottom line it will be considered very good marketing. But it is likely not appealing to those in this forum. (Or to the Noe or Beam families, I'd think.)

On the other hand, the renewal of Labrot & Graham with an award winning Woodford Reserve, the renewal of the Leestown Distillery as Buf. Trace, or the proliferation of small batch and single barrel bourbons is helping to grow the bourbon industry -- and renewing its heritage in my opinion.

What I think you are calling the "scotchification of bourbon" is the search by firms to find a way to provide more products that people will pay more for. I, of course, agree with Chuck that those firms will look to growing segments of the spirits business such as single malts.

And, yes, to answer the question, I think there is a definite trend toward introducing interesting packaging along with differences in product, even older product, to provide differences for consumers who will buy the product.

This trend is far better than the trend when many of the smaller distillers were slipping away, spirits sales were down, vodka and gins were growing segments, and choices were getting few and far between among bourbon drinkers. Chuck and Mike likely have more to add about the former trend (I'm not a historian).

But I think most in this forum would rather see the trend looking to interesting trends in scotch single malts for inspiration than turning to 'white goods' (gin and vodka) as happened in the past.

How 'bout it folks? This is a democracy -- let's hear from some we haven't heard from.

Greg

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