The End of Industry Talk

I spent the better part of 2012 talking about the whisky industry on this blog - how companies are raising their prices, how shortages are affecting the market, how demand is going through the roof, and about how producers are looking to exploit all of the above for their own profit. I've voiced my own frustrations, provided satirical dialogues about real-life altercations, and stirred the pot as much as I possibly could to bring all of these subjects to light. However, I think I'm done with it all. I'm done talking about all of these problems because I don't see any way to fix them and I hate it when people sit around and bitch without trying to improve their situation. The past month has given me a glimpse into what 2013 will bring and it only looks like more of the same, which means that my writing trajectory is not going to change unless I make an effort to change it. I'm bored of this. I'm bored of myself.

Here is a summary of what happened in 2012 that should explain why I have nothing more to say about the inner-workings of the booze industry.

- May 5th - we talked about how every new craft producer is now "artisinal" - While I continue to support the smaller American distilleries wholeheartedly, nothing annoys me more than some crappy new craft spirit that wants us to carry their whisky simply because they made one. Nevertheless, I get emails from customers all the time who want us to carry more $70 one-year-old whiskies.

- June 27th - we talked about price increases - While I've continued to be vocal about price increases, people seem to have no problem paying them. I have spent so much time telling people NOT to pay more for the same whisky (which goes completely against my livelihood and profession), yet we continue to sell these same whiskies at a record pace.

- July 17th - we talked about NAS whiskies - While many enthusiasts continue to vocalize their discontent for non-age statement whiskies, we continue to sell them at K&L without explanation. Hooker's House, Black Maple Hill, Old Weller Antique, Rock Hill Farms, etc. Most people don't care about age if the whiskey tastes good to them.

- August 30th - we talked about whiskies that deliver - In the midst of all this industry mayhem, there continue to be producers who simply offer great whiskies at great prices that you can buy all year round. However, who wants a whiskey that anyone can get?

- October 18th - I wrote a three-part play about my frustrations with whisky companies - This one didn't go over very well with the empire. Yet, it's all true and it all happened. My readers seemed to enjoy it, however. We had some great feedback here.

- November 28th - we talked about liquor laws and distribution - This might have been the most important post of the year. When I hear people talk about how competition will eventually bring down the price of whisky I have to sigh. There is no real competition in the U.S. because all of the markets are protected. We can only ship liquor to nine states, so how are we competing nationwide? We're not selling books, or electronics here. There are laws in the United States that prevent the flow of alcohol between states and therefore prevent competition. Costco's liquor prices in Washington state are through the roof. Why? Because they managed to oust the government liquor stores and stepped in to replace them. The citizens thought they were getting a free liquor market, but instead they got a new dictator. In California, they sell liquor at a loss with prices so low that no one can compete. When local stores go out of business as a result, they won't have to worry about competition anymore. But that's a whole 'nother conversation, isn't it?

That's all I have to offer. I've got nothing more to say. I've given you everything I have. Plus, I've found that telling customers about the mess we're in concerning booze only infuriates them even more. We won't have Pappy on the shelf ever again. We have one bottle limits on Black Maple Hill. Laphroaig 10 is now $43 instead of $30. These conversations usually end in frustration, defensiveness, or anger.

I don't see anything changing in 2013. What will change, however, is my train of thought. I can't change the whisky world. I can't stop companies from raising their prices. I can't please everyone. I can't get everyone the bottle they want at the price they want it. All I can do is offer great customer service, advice, exciting new products, and education. That's where we'll be taking the Spirits Journal in 2013. More information you can use. Less information about a trend that none of us can stop.

The only way anything changes is when people stop spending, but that's not happening - not here, at least. If you're upset about the rising price of whisky, the only thing you can do is stop buying it. I heard from some customers today who told me about their plans to stop purchasing whisky in 2013 as a protest. That being said, if you're no longer buying whisky, then why should the whisky companies care about what you think? Kind of a Catch 22. You want the companies to make more whisky that you like, yet you've pledged to stop giving them your money. Meanwhile, millions of new drinkers have taken your place. What can you really do?

My advice for 2013 is to find a whisk(e)y you can still enjoy and start enjoying it. Stop worrying about what you can't get and can no longer afford. There's always something else, believe me. Focus on the positives and let the negative aspects of this business slide off you. I love writing. I used to love writing this blog. It's time to stop writing about all of these problems so I can start enjoying it again. It's time to work harder in the name of good booze.

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll