Saturday, February 19, 2011

Value Isn't The Same As Cheap.

I don't write much about awards. I have nothing against them, I pay attention to them. I just don't find them very interesting to write about.

But John Hansell wrote something terrific on Wednesday as he bestowed the Malt Advocate Best Buy Whiskey of the Year Award on Evan Williams and Very Old Barton Bottled-in-Bond. I wholeheartedly agree with the choice but I particularly appreciate what he wrote by way of introduction to the category:

"Best Buy is always a touchy category. It’s not cheap whisky, and it’s not barely endurable whisky -- there are plenty of both, but we’re not interested —- it’s about whisky that’s a great combination of flavor and price."

Value is never just about price, it's about the intersection of price and quality. Yes, value is intangible and subjective. So is love. That's why it's so touchy. If I say a product isn't worth its price, that's not the same as saying it's bad. And if I say something is a good value, rarely does that mean it's the cheapest bottle in the store.

It also shouldn't be lost that there are really two awards here, not just two winners. Before they narrowed it down to these two products, the Malt Advocate judges decreed that American whiskey is where the best whiskey values are to be found. That may be slightly less true outside the USA than it is here, but it's still true.

I'm also intrigued by Artisan Whisky of the Year going to a very young Islay malt. Maybe awards are getting more interesting.

(By way of transparency, I should tell you that while I write for Malt Advocate I do not participate in the judging for these awards.)


Lew Bryson said...

Thanks, Chuck. I actually wrote that one; good to know we're thinking alike on that one.

Ryan said...

I agree wholeheartedly with your distinction. I think that "value" whiskies are ones that bring something significantly different or better than other whiskies at the same price. In other words, value whiskies are ones that you would pay more money for. That said, it's probably harder to call more expensive whiskies "good value" because in that range they're all good, but value primarily depends on your taste preference, and so is more subjective. At the cheaper end (like Evan Williams), value is more objectively measured because if a cheap whisky is drinkable and not harsh or off-putting, that's something that everyone will agree upon, as we've all had cheaper whiskies that we'd rather not drink neat.