As Thanksgiving approaches, I am grateful to drinks giant Diageo for giving me so many interesting subjects to write about this past year. I love absurdity and Diageo never disappoints. Case in point is this announcement of three new products in the Jeremiah Weed line.
"It’s show time for Jeremiah Weed as the makers of the brand unveil a new line of American whiskies (sic) blended with hand-selected secret spices and natural flavors. Each variant is sure to bewilder and amaze as they take the stage as either a shot or mixed with cola. With these releases, consumers craving more curiosity and excitement from their whiskey will be provided additional options to be enjoyed responsibly."
The three new products are Jeremiah Weed Spiced Whiskey, Jeremiah Weed Cinnamon Whiskey, and Jeremiah Weed Sarsaparilla Whiskey. ("It's like root beer," the press release helpfully advises.)
Diageo is also the company behind the new Pie Hole brand, another trio of flavored whiskey products. The Pie Hole line has a Canadian whisky base. Jeremiah Weed is an American Blended Whiskey with flavoring. Unlike whiskey whiskey, flavored whiskey can be sold at less than 80° proof (40% ABV). The new Jeremiah Weed products are 70.6° proof (35.3% ABV), 71.2° proof (35.6% ABV), and 70.4° proof (35.2% ABV), respectively. Why three different proofs? Probably just for added bewilderment.
Speaking of which, it may be hard to understand why a producer wants to call something that tastes so little like whiskey by that name. Imitation, of course, drives much of the packaged goods industry and the big dog in sweet, flavored alcoholic drinks right now is Sazerac's Fireball, which calls itself 'whiskey' with the same minimal justification and likewise tastes nothing like whiskey as most whiskey drinkers understand the term.
You should drink whatever you like but if you drink these products, just understand that they have nothing to do with whiskey. Due to a political compromise made more than a century ago, the United States alone in the world allows products that contain very little actual whiskey to be labeled as whiskey if the proper modifiers are used. American blended whiskey (the base for these Jeremiah Weed products) can be as much as 80 percent vodka and usually is. Spirit whiskey can be as much as 95 percent vodka. The base for Canadian whisky, while not quite vodka, is whiskey distilled just a jot shy of neutrality. It's a fine line. Hit 95 percent alcohol or more off the still and it's vodka. Anything less than that is legally considered whiskey.
In Canada and Scotland, while blending whiskeys are nearly neutral off the still, they are all aged in oak, usually used bourbon barrels. The blending spirit in American blended whiskey is straight neutral spirit, i.e., vodka.
In contrast the products whiskey drinkers call whiskey, such as bourbon, rye, and single malt scotch, come off the still at less than 80 percent alcohol and therefore retain more flavor from their base ingredients.
The Jeremiah Weed line contains one product, Jeremiah Weed Blended Bourbon, that is 50 percent bourbon and 50 percent vodka. Every other product in the Jeremiah Weed line contains more vodka than whiskey.
Jeremiah Weed is one of Diageo's smallest brands and they use it as an experimental platform. The current line includes a 'sweet tea' product too. In the UK, Diageo sells a line of Jeremiah Weed hard ciders. Despite Diageo's might, they haven't been able to make Jeremiah Weed a player. It is, however, fascinating to see the kinds of products and themes Diageo thinks consumers might buy.
"When it comes to whiskey, a little bit of mystery always provides a lot more excitement.” So says Patrick Hughes, Innovation Director at DIAGEO. “Jeremiah Weed Whiskies were developed to bring a sense of fun and intrigue to the world of whiskey and to entertain the most curious legal drinking age consumers,” he said.
The original Jeremiah Weed (which is no longer made) was created in the late 1960s, hence the name. It was a nasty-tasting herbal liqueur, similar to Jagermeister, that contained a little bit of bourbon. It became a cult favorite among American jet fighter pilots, who drank it ceremonially. Like Jager and Chicago's own Malort, guys get their friends to drink it just to watch them gag.
'Adult' and 'mature' are not synonyms.
By the way, Diageo, the plural of 'whisky' is 'whiskies.' The plural of 'whiskey' is 'whiskeys.' Happy Thanksgiving.