« Week In Review #3 | Main | K&L Best of 2010 Awards: Whisk(e)y of the Year »

Young Whisk(e)y, High Price Tag

This is a subject I could dwell on for some time, but for now I just want to clear up a few points regarding some articles I've been reading lately.  Because we're at the end of the year, there is a myriad of opinion about the best of 2010, the worst of 2010, and what we can expect for 2011.  One theme that remains a constant thread in these posts is the growing number of young whiskies being released and the high cost that many of them demand.  I think Chuck Cowdery was saying that none of these craft whiskies are better than Jim Beam White and this feeds into the majority opinion out there seems to fomulate the matter as such: if it isn't better than the standard 12 year old single malt or 10 year old bourbon, then why pay such a premium?

Here's why I pay what I pay - the quality of the grain, the uniqueness of the flavor, the support of a local industry, the quality of the distillation.

Personally, I find Jim Beam white rather boring.  I find most run of the mill 12 year old single malts to be boring.  I would drink our Steve McCarthy Oregon Single Malt over Glenlivet 12 any day of the week and I would pay the $90 to drink it because it tastes more explosive than Glenlivet 12.  Is Glenlivet 12 a better made dram?  Probably.  But that doesn't mean anything to me.

I like Rittenhouse Rye, but I'm currenty drinking Davorin's sample from Old World Spirits and loving it.  His is only 2 months old and is going to cost $35.99 when it finally gets released (nearly twice what Rittenhouse costs), but it's so much more fun.  Is Rittenhouse a better made rye?  Yes, because it's more mature.  Which would I rather drink?  Davorin's.  And I'll pay the premium because I know how much it cost him to make it with 100% rye.  Rittenhouse is not 100% rye.  If that's not important to you, then great.  To me it is. 

Don't get me wrong, there are some ridiculously bad young whiskies out there charging a high price.  We all know who they are.  But I don't think the fact that a whisk(e)y is young disqualifies it from being expensive.  Look at Charbay!  They distilled expensive IPA to make their whiskey.  It's expensive, but there's a reason.

-David Driscoll


Reader Comments (8)

David, I posted a comment on Chuck's blog where I did bring up a point that my issue with the micros is their charging 3 and 4 times what a Jim Beam standard entry offering might cost. And while the Jim Beam was simply an example only and taken from Chuck' example, for the most part I believe it to be true. Jim Beam is not exciting admittedly. NOT IN THE LEAST. But let's insert Elmer T. Lee or Elijah Craig 12 year into that equation. It just so happens they are older products, but in most cases, they are also better.

I agree and get your point that some of what we're seeing from the micros is exciting stuff. Some of it really brings out fantastic grain quality and nicely integrated, but not overpowered oak. I love that, i really do. But when something calls itself a bourbon, I'm comparing it to bourbon.

And does age equate to better? Heck no. But I would bet that if you asked a micro producer that's bottling a year old whiskey or bourbon if he/she wishes it were 4 years old, they'd say yes. And that's just a guess. In my experience older does not mean better, but when compared to younger whiskeys I personally have preferred the older ones almost every time.

In the end I think your best point is we need to support a fledgling industry, enjoy what they are producing for what it is - a younger expression of whiskey. And also for the chance that we'll get an opportunity to sample whiskeys and spirits of an age and/or quality that does match or best currently available products. But I'd darn sure like them to be a lot more realistic with their pricing. It would also help them in the long run.

December 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJason Pyle

"I would drink our Steve McCarthy Oregon Single Malt over Glenlivet 12 any day of the week" - Amen to that.

December 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSamuel Muindi

Thank you very much for your thoughtful comment, and for taking the trouble to post

December 30, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterakigsh


I think the point that's missing from your rebuke is the fact that many craft whiskies are expensive to make because many are using high quality mash bills. I don't think anyone would argue that an aged whiskey from these distilleries would be preferable, but then we're talking an even higher price because these guys don't have warehouse space to age these things. They need cash ASAP. Steve McCarthy has had plenty of time to age a whiskey long term but the demand is too high and his warehouse space too small.

December 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDavid D

David, I realize that economies of scale are far far in the big boys favor. That's a given. But let's look at Tuthilltown's Baby Bourbon vs. say one of the sub $30 offerings I mention above. While a near 10 year old company, the availability on the market could be considered "new" given the micro status it has. That whiskey, in my opinion, doesn't come close to the ones I mentioned above. And a 375ML bottle costs $50. Is it different, exciting, and good? Yep it sure is, but it's overpriced.

Also I would agree that SOME micros are using better grain but that's a myth to say that most are. That's just not the case. The mash bill from one of those I mention and the mashbill from Baby Bourbon is far more likely to be of equal quality. What is cool is that Tuthilltown is using a locally grown corn for their whiskey. I love that. Doesn't mean it's of better quality. And as an aside, I love what Tuthilltown has done and commend them for it. But that's just one example of a product that I feel is WAY overpriced.

I don't want micros to go under and I want them to get the cash they need. But it's a balancing act for consumer dollars. At the end of the day it's about what's in the bottle. Everyone's perceived "value" is different. To me, and based on what I've had, the micros have a long way to go.

December 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJason Pyle

Let's not use bourbon as an example because I haven't tasted any good bourbon from a small distillery, and certainly let's not use Tuthilltown as an example. I personally do not like anything they make and agree with every one of your points regarding their stuff. Let's use Charbay, Germain-Robin, Old World Spirits, St George, and Clear Creek as examples. Charbay - using drinking-quality IPA as a mashbill. Clear Creek - importing peated barley from Scotland and distilling it on a small copper pot still, aging it in expensive new Oregon oak. Old World Spirits - using 100% rye and distilling it on an alambic pot still in tiny batches (not easy). Germain-Robin - making 100% bavarian wheat on a Cognac still in teeny-tiny amounts. These producers do not have the capacity, the time, or the resources of the big boys. Davorin at OWS has to watch the still for 10 straight hours because he cannot leave it alone. Even when I was there with him the rye foamed over and it was a mess. Time is costly and high-quality, small batch distillation from high quality grains isn't easy.

December 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDavid D

David, point well taken. I need to try these. The sad reality of where I reside is my access to these products is limited. Add to that the whole, "State of Tennessee" shipping issue and that further complicates things. I plan on being out you way in the coming month. I need to stop by and put a box of great things together and bring them back with me on the plane. That's the only way to speak from an informed position. Cheers David and Happy New Year to you!

December 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJason Pyle


At some point I am going to put together a care package for you and ship it out clandestinely! Happy new year and happy drinking!

December 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDavid D

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>