I've been perusing the various whisk(e)y blogs and message boards this morning, reading the comments from various drinkers all over the country. It seems that many of us are a bit sarcastic about what to expect in 2013 (me included). Most are predicting more non-descript whisky, more gimmicky BS, more costly bottles, and more frustration (me included). What can you do about this?
- Pledge to buy more booze from the little guys: This is a tough one for many of us. We look at the shelf and we know that we can buy Bulleit for $22 compared to something like the new Dad's Hat Rye for $50. I noticed a few optimisitic readers hoping for craft distilleries to start releasing older, larger barrel whiskies in the near future. This isn't going to happen if these companies go bankrupt, however. If you don't buy their whiskies now, you're definitely not going to be purchasing them later. Meanwhile, we're giving our money to Diageo (Bulleit) who is doing everything they can to undercut these little guys, while continuing to offer us more NAS whiskies! It's the whole Amazon problem. People lament the loss of local businesses, but they keep on buying from Amazon because it's less expensive (me included). When things are simply cheaper there's nothing you can do to convince anyone. I would have written a huge dossier this year about what will happen when Diageo rules the world, but I knew it wouldn't matter. We whisky blog readers are but .00000001% of the drinking public. Even if everyone of us pledged to buy local we wouldn't affect Diageo's trajectory.
- Expand your horizons: Our trip to France this year was a real eye-opener. Like the wine business, there are some really terrific spirits that are affordable coming from tiny farmers. France has a craft spirit industry (albeit not whisky) that is loaded with backstock. There are tons of great products that simply need to be bottled in 750ml, put on a boat, and shipped over the Atlantic. There's not a lot of money in doing this and it's a ton of work to promote brands that no one has heard of. Sounds like a job for us! In all seriousness, we will be heading back to France in March and we'll really be loading up this time around. If you don't think Cognac could ever excite you like whisky, check out what my man SKU had to say earlier this year about our Esteve. While $90 isn't inexpensive, most of the brandy in the Esteve CdC is from 1979. Our Glenfarclas 1979 is $300 and that's currently a deal for old single malt, so it's something to keep in mind. Start looking at rum and tequila as well. These markets are getting ready to explode and you can still find quality hooch for cheeeeeap. Zafra 21 year, anyone? Mount Gay Extra Old? These are 15+ year old, quality spirits for $35.
- Stay Involved and Support Brands That Support You: I read some enthusiasts were planning to sit out 2013 and simply drink what they have. That's a great idea because booze is don' meant to get drunk! However, you can't sit out simply because you're discouraged that times are changing. You need to push on. My grandmother is upset that people don't write letters anymore, but she hasn't stopped writing them. My Dad is upset that fish and chips costs more than it did in 1983, but he hasn't stopped eating it. The only way that more companies will evolve and populate the marketplace with more selection is if we continue to foster it and nurture it. Pay attention to who is making what. Learn about what you're drinking. Tell your friends and spread the word about products you like. Look what the internet is starting to do for Four Roses! We might not be able to stop the brands that are screwing us, but we CAN support the ones that aren't!