Industry news: August, 2014

Industry news: August, 2014

And some headlines that caught our fancy...

  • It's that time of year!!!! Bourbon nerds can rev up their engines because Buffalo Trace has released this year's Antique Collection of bourbon, which includes George T Stagg, William Larue Weller, Thomas Handy, Eagle 17yr, and Sazerac 18yr. These are some of the most decorated and definitely the most sought-after whiskeys in the American whiskey market. People have been known to pursue delivery trucks to their destinations for the highly allocated bottles. If you see one, why you should buy it just for the prestige of the thing.

  • If you're one a member of the micro-segment of people that both attends Patriots NFL games and drinks Bacardi, then this is very bad news: the deal that would call for a 16,000 square foot Casa Bacardi pavilion a the football stadium and serve as a "year round attraction" has been foiled after Bacardi walked away. The Patriots are suing. This can't end well.

  • And then the free market has an answer. According to the Boston Globe (Callum Borchers), Prichard's Distillery is now working with New England to be a sponsor... which is weird because they're from Tennessee. But going toe-to-toe with the international giga-rum producer, "Prichard’s has launched a fund-raising campaign, called Rum Aid, to help it buy the Patriots’ sponsorship. As of Friday afternoon, the distillery had raised $76 by placing a collection basket in its visitor center. 'There’s no way I could step into Bacardi’s shoes,' acknowledged founder Phil Prichard. 'But I do make a good New England rum.'"

  • It is the same whiskey but Bernheim has redesigned its label to include a 7 year age statement, which is a healthy amount of time for American whiskey. They feel this will help differentiate it in the market. For those who like the softer flavors of wheated bourbon such as Maker's Mark, Bernheim might be an excellent choice.

  • Geoff Kleinman of took UV Sugar Crush vodka to task for crossing the line and marketing to children. Here at Proof66, we're finding the "shock vodka" category a little absurd ourselves. Kleinman convincingly argues "There’s a reason why there aren’t a lot of candy-themed spirits on the market: alcohol is supposed to be consumed by adults and marketed to adults, not children. UV Candy Crush, with its cartoon-like pastel candy on the label, is clearly meant as a nod to the extremely popular and addictive mobile game Candy Crush Saga (again, something that’s widely played by kids)... UV Sugar Crush Vodka is not okay. You shouldn’t buy it, and you should tell your friends not to buy it. You should ask your local liquor store not to carry it or other candy flavored vodkas. You should ask your local bar why they chose to carry it and ask them not to.I f you own a liquor store or a bar, you shouldn’t stock it." You know what? He's right. At least, he's enough right that we feel this shouldn't be marketed. We will not list it here at Proof66. Add our voice to the displeasure over these sorts of marketing stunts.

  • The Business Lexington announced that "For the first time since 1977 there are more than 5 million bourbon barrels aging in Kentucky warehouses according to the Kentucky Distillers’ Association." Clearly a response to the growing demand of bourbon! One wonders what's going to happen when all of the bourbon comes of age. The report also notes that it has a "tax-assessed value" of $1.9 billion. So, some back of the envelope math: most barrels are 53 gallons, which equals around 268 750ml bottles per barrel. Or, if you like, 1.33 billion bottles of bourbon or in warehouses right now. If the tax assessed value is $1.9 billion, then somehow this bourbon is being assessed at $1.42 per bottle. That's a pretty cheap bottle of bourbon.

  • God help us all but Bacardi has created a graphic novel "that charts the escapades of founder Emilio Bacardi’s son, Facundo Bacardi Masso, who was repeatedly imprisoned and exiled for his campaign against Spanish colonial rule" as reported by Marketing Magazine (Alex Brownsell). They say it is being done to add authenticity to the brand. Strange times we live in where a Puerto Rican company, exiled by Communist Cuba, can celebrate in fictionalized comic book form a semi-mythical struggle against a monarchy government to add credibility to a brand of rum.

  • Lots of people get upset about brands buying up whiskey at MPG in Lawrenceburg, Indiana (formerly LDI) and bottling it at their site. Bulleit is one of those brands but not forever. Diageo has announced they're building a new distillery for Bulleit whiskey in Kentucky (AP by Bruce Schreiner). It's said to cost $115 million and begin production in 2016. Bulleit is a top-selling brand that's also done well in the critical acclaim department; it will be interesting to see how it maintains that position as it shifts gears to its own production!

  • Yahoo, of all places, has a really nice article from the greatest of all kitchen mavens Martha Stewart about infusing your own vodka (Martha Stewart). This is an adventure we've done several times with highly neat results (yes, you can modify the adjective "neat" with "highly"). It's easy, it's fun, and why buy someone else's shock vodka when you can do your own. Notable infusion ingredients include horseradish, coriander, chestnut, grapefruit, and coffee beans. Use a nice, $10 vodka that's a bit higher proof (we like UV 103) and don't be afraid to blend down with a little simple syrup to sweeten.

  • A very long and interesting article on CNN (Jake Wallis Simmons) discussed How some whisky lovers are now making millions. It discusses the differences between "drinkers, collectors and investors" in the whisky market of greaty antiquity: spirits 50+ years and well over $40,000 per bottle. One of the more flourishes in the article is the aside that the angel's share is so great at this age that the ABV falls below 50% and "unpredictable things" happen to the taste. The tasting notes of a 50yr old scotch were hysterical: it tastes like "soap" and a "grand piano." The whisky world is a fascinating place and that it's becoming an investment signals more than anything else that it's becoming an art. It'll probably be a hedge fund soon.

  • Big Liquor is looking to collaborate with the craft spirits movement rather than fight them, which is a move we applaud. Sazerac announced the opening of their Bond & Royal Spirits Company, which will develop craft brands through marketing expertise and education. It should be very welcome news to the craft spirits movement that the same people who oversee the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection with such critical acclaim are also looking to nurture boutique brands regionally located.

  • America may be ending its ill-advised love affair with flavored vodka... or so it's reported by NABCA via Quartz. The article notes some sales statistics showing the decline of flavored vodkas. Really, it has gotten out of hand as they note " flavors like whipped cream and buttered popcorn suggested companies were starting to scrape the bottom of a previously very productive barrel." It's fun to experiment with these flavors but seriously. Nobody keeps a bottle of that stuff for any reason other than novelty and when the market gets overburdened with too many labels, then nobody feels ready to buy anything.

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