Sunday, November 23, 2008

Do You Have Whiskirexia Nervosa?

Whiskirexia nervosa is a whiskey buying disorder characterized by a distorted whiskey inventory image and an obsessive fear of running out of whiskey. Individuals with whiskirexia nervosa tend to already own more whiskey than they can ever drink, even as they continue to buy more.

Sufferers can typically be told repeatedly that they have plenty of whiskey, really more than enough, by persons who they ordinarily would trust, and they may even in moments of coherence acknowledge that fact intellectually, but they can't stop buying.

What can you do if you think you may have this condition? A support group appears to be forming here, although I'm not exactly sure what they support. (I suspect they're all really enablers.)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Buffalo Trace Warehouse Supervisor Ronnie Eddins Honored.

Although the Master Distillers get most of the attention, there are many other people who make major contributions to the production of the whiskey we all love.

That's why I was so pleased to see Buffalo Trace Warehouse Supervisor Ronnie Eddins honored last week at Malt Advocate Magazine’s WhiskeyFest New York. Eddins was one of three individuals to receive Malt Advocate’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Lifetime is right. Ronnie Eddins has logged 47 years of service to Buffalo Trace and made countless contributions to the distillery and its Experimental Whiskey Program.

"I’m just thrilled," said Eddins after the ceremony. "It was such a surprise and an incredible honor. I couldn’t be happier."

Eddins is responsible for managing more than 300,000 barrels of aging whiskey and is also one of the driving forces in the Buffalo Trace Experimental Whiskey Program. He has headed up numerous experiments for more than 20 years. Some of the experiments include using different chars and woods for aging whiskey. He has even visited the Ozarks to hand select trees for barrels, based on their growing location.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Jim Beam a Top 50 Brand Says Ad Age.

Every year about now, Advertising Age magazine runs this somewhat misleading feature. The 50 brands so honored are selected for doing something noteworthy in the last year or so and not, as you might imagine, for being the most successful or powerful brands generally.

As in most Ad Age features, someone is being stroked. The strokees are identified as "the brains behind" the brands. In Beam's case it is Rory Finlay, chief marketing officer of Beam Global, whose mantra is "building brands people want to talk about."

The full Jim Beam profile is here.

What Ad Age liked so much is what it calls Beam's "brand-as-activist approach," including ads Beam ran to protest the sale of Wrigley Field naming rights. It's all part of Beam's 'Stuff Inside' campaign.

I expressed my admiration for the whole campaign several months ago, here. I probably would not have identified the two ad campaigns that the magazine cites as the most noteworthy or original parts of it, but both did involve conventional media advertising and that's usually another common denominator with anything Ad Age finds worthy of glory.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The New Bourbon Country Reader Is Here.

After a three-month delay, the long-awaited new issue of The Bourbon Country Reader has dropped.

I'm supposed to put it out every other month, but I make no promises. Other things came up. The dog ate my homework. It wasn't my fault.

In this new issue we devote ourselves entirely to examining the future of American whiskey, including the possibility that we will be drowning in the stuff in just a few years. The story is entitled, "The Next, Great Whiskey Glut Could Be Sooner Than You Think."

The Bourbon Country Reader is the exclusive source for everything you need to know about American Whiskey. It is the only publication devoted exclusively to American whiskey. Always idiosyncratic, we accept no advertising, have no distillery affiliation and serve enthusiasts of American Whiskey like no other publication.

A six-issue subscription is just $20.00. Click here for a free sample issue (PDF format). Click here to subscribe. Click here for more information. Back issues are available. There's also a free, downloadable guide to all past issue contents.

How Much Is This Bottle Worth?

Maybe it’s the fault of Antiques Roadshow, or eBay, but everybody seems to think their house is full of hidden treasures. The most common question I receive, after, "what’s the best bourbon" is, "I found this old bottle of such-and-such, how much is it worth?"

Unfortunately, the true answer to either question does not usually satisfy the person who asked it. I like to say that the best bourbon is free bourbon. My answer to the second question is equally as oblique but not as witty. It contains a lot of 'maybe' and 'it depends.'

The secondary sale of American whiskey and distilled spirits in general is a rapidly changing field, complicated by the fact that, in the United States, it is illegal to sell alcohol without a license. There are collectors, they do buy and sell, and prosecutions for such transactions are rare, but the at-least-technical illegality of it all keeps the marketplace from being more orderly and transparent than it is.

At present, most of the action is on the auction web site eBay and perhaps on some of its many imitators.

Because of these difficulties, it is almost impossible to appraise a particular bottle of American whiskey. A precondition for assessing the resale value of anything is a sufficiently active and open secondary market for the type of object being assessed. The appraiser has to have knowledge of recent sales of the same or similar objects in order to estimate what a future sale might bring. It’s no more complicated than that but without that market information you can’t make appraisals with any confidence.

At present, the secondary market for American whiskey is too small and fragmented for anyone to be able to make an accurate assessment of any potentially collectible whiskey’s resale value.

My information regarding prices is based on personal contact with actual collectors. The most desirable and valuable whiskeys are pre-prohibition, prohibition-era medicinal, and post-prohibition whiskeys from distilleries that are now closed. A fourth category is limited editions from present day distilleries. Bottles in all of these categories re-sell for between $100 and $1,000 each. Although pre-prohibition whiskey is generally the rarest and most valuable type, hundreds of dollars have been paid for bottles produced as recently as the 1970s.

When you are paying hundreds of dollars for something, as opposed to thousands, you usually just trust your instincts and take your chances. It’s hard to justify much investment in authentication at those prices. In the world of Single Malt Scotch collecting, where prices are much higher, fakes have been a problem.

In American whiskey there are two very active but equally idiosyncratic subsets, Jack Daniel’s collectors and Maker’s Mark collectors. Both producers encourage collecting (but not, of course, any illegal activity) by issuing many limited edition commemorative bottles.

It might be fun if the law made it easier for collectors to openly engage in the buying and selling that is the essence of collecting, but that seems unlikely given prevailing attitudes about alcohol.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Can You Drink on Election Day?

Because I live in Illinois, if I want to go to a bar and have a drink tomorrow after I vote, I can. But if I still lived in Kentucky, I could not.

Seventy-five years after the Repeal of Prohibition, archaic Election Day alcohol sales bans continue to inconvenience consumers and hurt small businesses in a handful of states across the country.

The only states that still cling to statewide Election Day sales bans of alcohol at restaurants, bars and package stores are Kentucky, Indiana and South Carolina. Utah and West Virginia still ban the sale of alcohol at package stores on Election Day. Alaska and Massachusetts also ban Election Day alcohol sales, except that local governments are authorized to provide an exemption from the ban.

Delaware and Idaho repealed their bans earlier this year. Utah relaxed its ban and now permits Election Day sales in restaurants and private clubs.

Before Prohibition, a favorite political tactic was the practice of "treating," in which political operatives would round up people who would rather drink than vote, ply them with alcohol, and then lead them to the polling place, sometimes going into the booth with them to make sure they voted correctly. In the 43 states, plus the District of Columbia, where these bans are no longer in place, this practice does not appear to have been revived in the absence of the sales ban, so perhaps the remaining states can feel secure in bringing their laws up to date too.