...where distraction is the main attraction.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Two paragraphs on Booker's bourbon

Hmmm......just glancing at current international business and political news and......oh look, the Western world has officially entered the GREED IS FUCKING GREAT AND PEOPLE ARE FUCKING* SHEEP era. Of course, the world whisky industry has been in that mode for at least four years now, and I don't see any chance of it stopping until there is no world whisky industry. In the most recent occurrence of customers-be-damned behavior in the whisky world, Booker's bourbon will see its retail price double. The online bourbon community had some feelings about it, to put it mildly.

For those of you who are Booker's fans—though I am not amongst your number—I understand your frustration. Suntory has done a crap job with many of their brands for some time now. I'm sorry to see this habit bleeding over into American whisky. But for those of you who keep raving about what a great business maneuver this is, all I have to say is...Who cares? Seriously. Who cares if it's great corporate strategy? Do you have considerable financial investments in STBFY? Are you an employee of Beam Suntory? If the answer to the previous two questions is "no", then why do you feel the need to cheer this avarice? This price bloating has no positive effect on your life, but will have very negative repercussions on your purchasing power, and (if you even are a whiskey fan you may want to be concerned that this) will have more destructive long term effects on the bourbon industry than whatever short term gains Suntory may hope to achieve. Or maybe you just want to see the whole whisky industry collapse. I wish I could join you in that endeavor, but I can't. There are millions of people employed by these companies and peripheral industries. When the whisky boat sinks, it ain't the corporate officers who drilled the hole that suffer. It's the blue-collar workers who don't have a lifeboat.

In honor of this latest cheerful news, I will review the following whiskies this week:
Wednesday - Booker's bourbon, batch C05-A-12
Thursday - Booker's bourbon, batch 2015-06 Noe's Secret
Friday - Baker's 7 year old bourbon

*adjective or verb?


  1. While any product held in high regard from Buffalo Trace was simply vanishing from store shelves, I always wondered how Jim Beam kept something as outstanding as Booker's (clearly you and I disagree strongly about its merit) everywhere. Well, scarcity (diminishing stocks) has finally hit Jim Beam, and maybe it makes perfect sense that it took so long to do so, because Jim Beam is a much larger operation than Buffalo Trace. Jim Beam isn't just raising the price for Booker's -- they are cutting back on the number of annual batch releases by a third. This is pretty basic economics: scarcity leads to shortages and higher prices. If anything Jim Beam's choice to tackle the scarcity problem with a BIG mark up in price may mean that Booker's doesn't meet the same fate as so many Buffalo Trace whiskies and people will actually be able to find it somewhere other than the secondary market at prices FAR exceeding $100 a bottle. I neither cheer it nor deplore it. I understand it, and since I'm not made of money, I'll be more likely to buy something else. Maybe when Jim Beam stops practically giving away Old Grand Dad for free (relative to my level of enjoyment of it) I'll be inclined to complain.

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    2. I definitely get the economic argument for raising prices when stocks go down/demand goes up, but it doesn't seem like there's a shortage of Booker's at all. It seems to be a genuine shelf turd in most areas in the U.S. Stores around me still have bottles from 2014 and 2015 on the shelves, and I've heard many other people report the same thing. To me it seems like Beam Suntory is trying to utilize the Veblen effect to paradoxically increase demand for Booker's by jacking up its price. And cutting the supply of it (artificially I would argue) and subjecting it to allocation will likely increase this demand even more. And the furor over Booker's Rye at $300 probably only reinforced the viability of their strategy in their minds. Jim Murray giving it whisky of the year almost certainly played a role in this decision as well.

      I know Beam Suntory is out to make money like any company, but let's call a spade a spade. I believe they're trying to cash in on the bourbon boom/bubble while the getting is good and angering whisky enthusiasts is the price that they're willing to pay in order to do so.

      P.S. Beam is (somewhat) going to stop giving away Old Grand Dad, they've announced that the 114 proof version will soon be discontinued (if it hasn't been already)

  2. Like I said, I have been amazed at how much Booker's there has been around the last few years. But old bottles of it not selling in certain places doesn't mean Jim Beam wasn't ever going to start running out of BARRELS of stock to create NEW bottles of Booker's. The biggest reason I don't believe that Beam is creating artificial or imaginary scarcity to justify a price increase for Booker's is that we already knew that Knob Creek was having to go NAS, and that's with no price increase. That was the "canary in the coal mine." And of course the discontinuation of OGD 114 was the next sign of scarcity issues. The news about Booker's is just continuing the theme. The bourbon boom may have struck Buffalo Trace a lot sooner, but it was bound to eventually catch up with Beam.

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  4. I'm hopping up and down on my chair wanting to comment on this discussion, but I'm really trying to keep my two cents to two paragraphs. We'll see how long that lasts. In the meantime, here are two writeups by gentlemen who know more about the bourbon world than I:
    Monsieur Cowdery
    Monsieur Bryson

    Richard, it's likely that we do have different opinions of Booker's in general. And that's all good. It keeps me less frustrated about the news. On the other hand the Reddit fans are pissed. Anyway, I did think the Booker's rye was excellent, ignoring the price.

    Fletcher, a few years ago I heard a strong rumor that OGD 114's days were numbered. Luckily that didn't come to pass. I'm afraid this one will. If they instead bumped OGD 114's price up 25%-30% rather than killing it off, they'd control sales quite well while turning a good profit off it. (Sort of like what happened with Highland Park 18) And I'd even consider buying a bottle. (Though, I'm not buying HP 18 at $140.)