Thursday, October 29, 2009

Where Are The Enthusiast Bourbons From Beam Global?

Red Stag by Jim Beam is bourbon whiskey infused with a cherry juice concentrate and other natural flavors. I first wrote about it way back in February.

This post isn't about Red Stag. Let's just say that a lot of whiskey enthusiasts are viscerally offended by the very existence of Red Stag. Others are primarily offended by the advertising slogan, "A New Breed of Bourbon," arguing that Beam Global should be prohibited from calling it bourbon without a modifier like "flavored."

I'm not as hostile to Red Stag as some people are, but as I've said from the beginning, it's not for us. Red Stag is intended for people who like to think of themselves as whiskey drinkers but want it to taste like Peach Schnapps. You know, Southern Comfort drinkers.

My criticism of Beam Global is a little different. Potentially, gimmicks like the Knob Creek drought, or gimmicky products like Red Stag, can be viewed as floating the corporate boat and making it possible for them to also give us truly great products. Ideally, these things will make them a pile of money that they can invest in making something cool that we might like. I might be able to sell that rationale to the bourbon enthusiast community. Producers such as Four Roses, Heaven Hill and Buffalo Trace understand and keep that bargain. Beam Global gives us plenty of gimmicks, but they aren't giving us the esoteric products we crave.

Okay, fair is fair. Knob Creek--promotional gimmicks aside--is an outstanding whiskey. So are Booker's and Baker's. But they're all 20 years old! Where is the single-barrel Booker's? Where is the 15- or 20-year-old Beam bottling? Where are the Beam limited editions; not fancy bottles, but truly exceptional whiskey?

Beam Global owns Maker's Mark and, again, fine whiskey in itself, but their one and only expression is 50 years old. The only variation they ever give us is different colored wax.

Bourbon enthusiasts buy a lot of bourbon. We also influence a lot of people about what bourbon they should buy. We try new stuff. We fill the web with bourbon talk. That's why all of the producers cater to enthusiasts in one way or another. Beam just isn't pulling its weight.

As we say here in Illinois, ubi est mea ("where's mine?").

1 comment:

Jason Falls said...

Well said, Chuck. As you know, I had the pleasure of working with the Beam Global brands for a while. I don't speak for them (nor do I work with them any more) but one thing I think is worth considering here didn't surface in your post.

Yes, bourbon enthusiasts have influence and can sway the non-enlightened masses toward or away from one product or another to a degree, but in my experience you almost market bourbon to two different audiences: enthusiasts such as yourself, (highly concentrated in Kentucky, of course) and everyone else. For a company to win with you, they obviously have to get into intricate expressions, single barrels, etc.

But to win with the general population, you have to provide consistency. You know what you're getting with Maker's, Beam, Knob, etc. Sure, it might be the McDonald's philosophy, but for the average drinker (note, not bourbon drinker) they just want their favorite, whatever it is, the same way all the time.

Criticisms of Beam Global are just as warranted as those of other companies, certainly. I'm sure their folks are reading the post and the comments with great interest. They may even respond to you here. They may even take it upon themselves to use your ideas to make their offerings better.

But I thought it might be good to point out that for ever Chuck the Bourbon Nut out there, the spirits brands also have 100 or more folks who just want a Maker's and ginger or a Knob on the rocks.

Two cents from a dumb guy. Heh. Thanks for your wisdom.