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« More Questions - Late Night Version | Main | Octomore Affordable? »
Monday
Sep272010

Questions, Questions, Questions....

While John Hansell is using this week to sound off on all his grievances with the whisk(e)y world, I'm thinking that I'm going to use today to ask some questions (many of which are rhetorical).  These are issues that I find interesting, amusing, baffling, or confusing and I'm interested to see if anyone else feels the same.  When I am sitting at my desk these are the questions running through my head as I conduct my business with the industry:

-Is it really that much more costly for Bruichladdich to use local barley and, if it is, is it worth paying $80 for their young whiskies made from it?  Are customers going to support an independent distillery's attempt to source materials locally if it costs them that much more?

-Do people understand that Ron Zacapa tastes absolutely nothing like rum? 

-Is always having the lowest price necessary for customer satisfaction?  If so, where does one draw the line?

-Is liking heavily oaked whiskey the same as liking heavily oaked chardonnay?  If so, does that mean that Pappy Van Winkle is the same as Rombauer Chardonnay? 

-Who is still interested in Cognac and Armagnac and how do I get a hold of them?

-Why does everyone throw a hissy fit when a whisky comes in at 43% instead of 46%?  I really don't see that much of a difference and I taste every single day.  Maybe I'm the idiot.

-How is it possible to like Scotch whisky and not like bourbon?  Or vise versa?  Really, come on guys.

-Do people want innovation and new ideas with their whisk(e)y, or would they rather drink Maker's Mark over and over and over and over and over and over again for the rest of their lives?

-After tasting how freakin' awesome our St. George apple brandy barrel-aged single malt was last Saturday, could Calvados or eau-de-vie barrel influence be the next big thing?

-Are people going to buy Kilchoman this winter based solely on the fact that it's a new Islay distillery, and if so, how much do I need to buy to satisfy demand?

-When did trendy people everywhere decide that Oban and Aperol were the new "it" products? 

-How long could I keep doing this before ending this blog post?

-David Driscoll

Reader Comments (6)

Great questions. I know they're mostly rhetorical, but I thought you might be interested in some answers from the consumer perspective:

-Is it really that much more costly for Bruichladdich to use local barley and, if it is, is it worth paying $80 for their young whiskies made from it? Are customers going to support an independent distillery's attempt to source materials locally if it costs them that much more?

I'd say not worth it unless these are really high quality whiskies. Consumers don't generally care about how the whisky is made, we care about how it tastes. Even for us whisky nerds, we'll buy one bottle on novelty (special finish, huge peat ppm, distilled at an obscure or closed distillery, etc.) but if it's not good, don't count on us buying another.


-Is always having the lowest price necessary for customer satisfaction? If so, where does one draw the line?

I would say no. I like a retailer that can provide personalized service and convenience. For limited releases in particular, I'd like to know I have a bottle locked up and might pay a premium for that versus waiting for the cheapest one and hoping there is still supply left. Now of course, price plays a role and I won't buy it if it's way out of line with other retailers. Sometimes I buy at K&L even though prices may be slightly higher than other retailers because (1) you get good stock; (2) I can avoid shipping charges or a drive to the north or south; and (3) I appreciate that you guys care about your customers.

-Who is still interested in Cognac and Armagnac and how do I get a hold of them?

There are a few of us out there, but so much of Cognac (I can't speak as much to Armagnac) is either boring or extremely expensive. Unlike the whisky industry, it seems there are very few innovators in brandy and the ones that exist tend to be outside Cognac. I tend to stick to a few brands that I trust.

-Do people want innovation and new ideas with their whisk(e)y, or would they rather drink Maker's Mark over and over and over and over and over and over again for the rest of their lives?

Depends what you mean by "people." Personally, I never buy the same bottle twice, but are there enough people like me to make a business?


-Are people going to buy Kilchoman this winter based solely on the fact that it's a new Islay distillery, and if so, how much do I need to buy to satisfy demand?

I'd say yes, people will buy it on reputation, novelty and location. It will generate a lot of interest among us whisky geeks who have been waiting three years for the chance to buy a bottle. How many bottles does that equal? Well, as someone who's never had to run a store, I think I can safely say that you'll sell fewer of them than Glenlivet but more than the Last Drop.

September 27, 2010 | Unregistered Commentersku

On the issue of proof, I associate higher proofs with more flavor (and not necessarily more burn). At a certain point, the whiskey tastes watered down (I'm sure I wouldn't notice the difference between 46 and 43, though). I don't have a refined enough palate to say where that line might be, but take for example K&L's single barrel from Buffalo Trace. While I enjoyed it (one bottle only last two weeks), the flavors were a bit flat, and my first thought was that it would have been better at a higher proof.

I would be interested to know what the barrel proof was when you selected it and how you determined the final bottle proof.

September 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMike

Sku- awesome post, especially the clarification on "people" which is something that most "people" overlook, - thanks for contributing

Mike - The Buffalo Trace bottling proofs are not up for negotiation, which is why we always do a Four Roses Cask Strength bottling every year as well. I agree with you about that whiskey and encourage you to try our new Four Roses which should be in by the end of the week

September 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDavid D

Interesting questions...I will give my answers to a couple that I actually have an opinion on:

Is it really that much more costly for Bruichladdich to use local barley and, if it is, is it worth paying $80 for their young whiskies made from it? Are customers going to support an independent distillery's attempt to source materials locally if it costs them that much more?

I can really care less about where the materials are sourced from. It might be a nice advertising point, but it will not justify a higher price tag in my mind. If it is good it is good and I will buy it.

-Is always having the lowest price necessary for customer satisfaction? If so, where does one draw the line?

Definitely not. Good customer service, product knowledge, variety and enthusiasm do it for me. Don;t get my wrong though, low pricing is a factor, but it is not everything.

-Why does everyone throw a hissy fit when a whisky comes in at 43% instead of 46%? I really don't see that much of a difference and I taste every single day. Maybe I'm the idiot.

It does generally make a difference to me when it is bottled at 46% versus 43%. There tends to be a little extra umph, for lack of a more poetic way to put it. I try to take the placebo affect out of it by tasting blind.

-How is it possible to like Scotch whisky and not like bourbon? Or vise versa? Really, come on guys.

I wouldn't say I don't like bourbon, but it doesn't always do it for me. The flavor profiles are very different too me, especially the sweetness.

-Do people want innovation and new ideas with their whisk(e)y, or would they rather drink Maker's Mark over and over and over and over and over and over again for the rest of their lives?

There has been a lot of that going on, especially with the different cask finishes. I am actually getting a little tired of it and looking for more straightforward expressions.

-Are people going to buy Kilchoman this winter based solely on the fact that it's a new Islay distillery, and if so, how much do I need to buy to satisfy demand?

Probably. Its new, a novelty. Reviews on the prior releases have been generally positive. I have no idea what that means as far as demand though!

Cheers,
Chris

September 28, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterchris

Thanks Chris, great response

September 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDavid D

On a trip to NYC back in the spring I asked for a recommendation after having a negroni at Little Branch. The drink I got was an Aperol and cucumber gin drink and I loved it. I've kept a bottle around since then. I find friends who don't share my taste for Campari find Aperol a little easier to take. I feel so trendy now.

October 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa W.

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