Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Buffalo Trace Addresses Rampant Rumors About Portfolio Changes

This may come under the heading of 'no good deed goes unpunished,' for them and for me, but here goes. Buffalo Trace has issued a press release to address some of the rumors that are going around. It follows but, first, a brief commentary.

Buffalo Trace makes more different bourbon and rye brands than anyone else in the business. All of those brands have increased in popularity in recent years That is mostly good -- for them and us -- but a little bit bad, because Buffalo Trace has had a worse shortage problem than anyone else in the business. They also rely on the serious bourbon enthusiast market more than anyone else in the business. And they do a better job than anyone else of showing love to that audience. That's why they take chances and put out announcements like this:


After providing a recent update to its fans about the bourbon shortage the Distillery currently faces, the rumor mill spun into overdrive as a few folks speculated on why it was difficult to find their favorite Buffalo Trace bourbons on liquor store shelves.

"Many people dismissed the warning about our bourbon shortage, speculating that this was a publicity stunt we conceived to sell more bourbon. That's simply not true. We only provided the update to consumers, retailers, and bartenders in an honest and forthright attempt to explain why bottles seem so scarce these days. Many liquor stores across the country may have empty shelves, and we felt an obligation to explain why," said Kris Comstock, bourbon marketing director.  "While we cannot speak for the bourbon industry as a whole, our bourbon shortages are a very real problem, driven by increased demand for the brands. Every single one of our bourbon brands is currently on strict allocation. While we are, and have been, making more over the last several years, bourbon takes a long time to age in oak barrels. As we wait for barrels to mature, there will be temporary periods in which bottles are hard to find."

Once people started to see empty shelves at the local store, rumors started flying. Here are some of the most popular rumors:

Rumor #1: Weller 12 Year-Old-Bourbon will be being discontinued.  False. There are no plans to discontinue Weller 12 Year. In fact, we have increased production by a considerable amount for future sales.

Rumor #2: All of the Weller Bourbon is now being shipped to Japan.  False.  None of the Weller Bourbons (Special Reserve, Old Weller Antique, 12 Year-Old, and William Larue Weller) are shipped to Japan.

Rumor #3: Buffalo Trace is shipping most of its bourbon to China and Japan. False.  While a modest amount of bourbon is sent to those markets, the quantity is very small as we ensure the overwhelming majority is made available here in the United States.

Rumor #4: Eagle Rare Bourbon is now aged only six or seven years. False.  Eagle Rare Bourbon is still aged for 10 years and there are no plans to change this. The age statement remains on the back of the bottle.

Rumor #5: Elmer T. Lee is being discontinued. False.  We have been making Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel for nearly three decades and have no plans to stop.

Rumor #6: Elmer took the recipe for his bourbon to his grave, so it will never be made again. False. Fortunately and thankfully, we have the recipe for Elmer T. Lee Bourbon and are continuing to make more.  Additionally, we have a very full archive library of samples of his favorite picks to ensure consistency for the future.

Rumor #7: Elmer T. Lee is becoming part of the Antique Collection. False.  We are very happy with our current lineup of the Antique Collection (George T. Stagg, Sazerac 18 Year, Eagle Rare 17 Year, William Larue Weller and Thomas H. Handy Sazerac) and have no plans to change this lineup or discontinue any of the offerings.  Furthermore, our Antique Collection whiskies are only released once annually and we want to offer Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel more regularly throughout the year.

Rumor #8: Buffalo Trace is taking advantage of this bourbon shortage to raise prices. False.  Our prices to our customers have and will remain relatively unchanged. We strive to offer consumers award-winning whiskey at a great value. Although a minority of stores may now be charging a premium for these limited brands, we are not asking them to do so. Our commitment to quality and pricing will remain consistent now and in the future


Jon Hill said...

'Nuff said.

Quintilian B. Nasty said...

Regarding Rumor #8, the key words might be "relatively unchanged." Regular prices for BT around my area have risen a little over the past few months, but I got a bottle of BT this week at CVS on sale. I wonder, however, if certain retailers are using the BT shortage as a way to jack up prices.

Regardless, that distillery makes some outstanding bourbon.

jonnyd said...

Good enough for me!

Eric Witz said...

I think it's most likely a case of retailers jacking up prices in response to the shortage. For instance, one of the largest liquor stores in my area is now selling Eagle Rare for $39.99, a full $10 more than they sold it for this time last year. But other stores are stocking it at the same price as always, and those are the stores that will continue to get my business.

Chuck Cowdery said...

Buffalo Trace addresses that in #8 but soft-pedaled it so as not to offend their retailer customers. What they mean to say is they're not advocating it, nor can they control it. They stopped short, however, of condemning it.

Funky Tape said...

If everyone believes something to be true, it's probably false.

I hope the BT mania goes into another gear this fall-winter because that leaves more of the other, frankly better stuff passed over yet again.

M. Rond said...

No comment on Rock Hill Farms? It's no longer listed under the "Our Brands" section of the main BT website.

Chuck Cowdery said...

That might mean it's already gone but there are a few very small brands they don't put on the web site.

Ryan Lewis said...

Rumor #4: Eagle Rare Bourbon is now aged only six or seven years. False. Eagle Rare Bourbon is still aged for 10 years and there are no plans to change this. The age statement remains on the back of the bottle.

The one thing that has changed, at least on the labeling, is that Eagle rare is no longer a lingle barrel. So it's still 10 year, but they are dumping batchs together.

Anonymous said...

Last week my local liquor store offered me a 2013 bottle of George T. Stagg for $199.

I placed an order at my other liquor store and got the same bottle for $71. But the owner was looked really ticked off when he sold it to me. I wonder why.

Anonymous said...

Linked and sent to my local spirits manager, himself a monger of Rumor #8. Thank you Buffalo Trace for giving me proof to call bullshit on a greedy retailer.

Funky Tape said...

Rock Hill listed here along with the rest under the Sazerac brand umbrella: greatbourbon.com/great-bourbons

Chuck Cowdery said...

You are correct, Sir. There is more about it here.

Unknown said...

Rumor #4: Eagle Rare Bourbon is now aged only six or seven years. False. Eagle Rare Bourbon is still aged for 10 years and there are no plans to change this. The age statement remains on the back of the bottle.

As pointed out by Ryan above, this is no longer SB and it is interesting that BT did not reiterate this. You can look up an earlier blog by Chuck as to the way ER is now bottled. I respect the BT distillery and appreciate the "growing pains" the company has gone through. But I think they have been pretty sneaky in what they have recently done with ER. Whether or not a whiskey is SB does not matter all that much to me- most of the time I like to go for the consistency of a batched bourbon. But the SB designation does matter to a lot of folks, and it obviously commands a higher price in most cases. If BT wants to continue to appeal to bourbon "enthusiasts" (I don't like that term, but in other words people who actually care how their bourbon is made, then I would advise the company to be a lot more transparent and forthright about any such changes in the future.

David D said...

Before everyone jumps to shit all over "greedy" retailers, remember that these retailers went from getting as much Buffalo Trace whiskey as they wanted, to one case every two months. You have to make up that difference somewhere. You can't keep the lights on selling 12 bottles of Buffalo Trace every two months.

Unknown said...

Pursuant to what David D just said, don't be so quick to blame retailers for rising prices on BT and other distillers' stuff, though that is happening. A lot of the price hikes are happening at the distribution level, which retailers really can't help but pass on. Sometimes it's because of a money grab by the distributor, which I know because as a retailer I buy from several distributors who all have different pieces of the BT portfolio. Some have maintained their pricing, others have shot up quickly and sharply. They're getting those inflated prices too, because what as retailers are we to do? Say no to buying whiskeys that still sell briskly even at a much higher price?

It must also be said that it's not always due to distributor greed. In the past, retailers got significant discounts for multi-case drops of these bourbons (and continue to get them for other, non-limited products). Since these quantities are no longer available, obviously the discounts aren't either, so retailers have to adjust their markups to reflect paying full frontline cost for these whiskeys.