Wednesday, September 17, 2014
How Did a Product With Four Simple Ingredients Get So Strange?
A well-funded attempt to degrade bourbon winds up protecting it. A wealthy United States Treasury Secretary gives himself a valuable franchise and no one objects. A rye whiskey empire spawns a renowned robber baron. The biggest company in the business shoots itself in the foot, repeatedly. An American whiskey type is named after the king of France and no one knows why. Members of two reviled immigrant minorities save the bourbon industry. Mushrooms improve bourbon’s taste.
Those are just a few of the surprising, true stories in Bourbon, Strange; the long-awaited sequel to Bourbon, Straight, the book that helped propel bourbon whiskey’s current robust revival.
Readers of this blog may be particularly interested in Chapter 8, "George Dickel and the Trouble With Diageo." Unlike Athena, Diageo did not emerge fully-formed from the head of Zeus when it debuted in 1997. It was the sum of its parts, most prominently Guinness but also the American drinks giant Schenley. The George Dickel brand allows for an interesting case study in how bad corporate decisions can drive a good whiskey into the ground. Dickel is often mentioned in the same breath with Jack Daniel's, a laughable comparison since Jack outsells George 100 to one.
I am able to write frankly about Diageo, the world's largest drinks company, and all of the other producers because they don't provide a penny of my income. I work for you, the whiskey consumer. You pay me by buying my books and other products, and by buying tickets and showing up when I appear somewhere. I try my best to make it fun for you and me, which sometimes means making producers large and small uncomfortable. They want your money too and it's up to all of us to make sure they earn it fair and square.
There are several ways to get the new book, Bourbon, Strange. They're all explained here. If you would like to buy any of my other books, go here. To subscribe to my newsletter, The Bourbon Country Reader, go here. Those purchases are all processed by PayPal but fulfilled by me. Small business doesn't get any smaller. Everything is printed in the United States. Buy American!
Although I write the books, I consider their creation a collaboration. I get many of my ideas from my interaction with other bourbonians, in person and in social media. I couldn't do this without you. So thanks, but you still have to pay for the book.