May 7, 2021

Are whiskey brand stories worth anything to us when deciding which bottles to buy?

Are whiskey brand stories worth anything to us when deciding which bottles to buy?

I've decided something important. At least it is important to my whiskey drinking enjoyment. I'm going to pledge from this moment forward to only judge a whiskey by the actual whiskey and how much I like said whiskey. Not by the hype. Not by the story. Not by the appropriated history. Not by the pretty label. Not by ... you get the idea.

Obviously, you say. Not so fast. I think we are all suckered in by stories of grandfathers long dead, of stills in the woods, of recipes thought forgotten even if we don't admit it. In those cases we, the whiskey sheep, will often pay outrageous prices for young, cheaply sourced, whiskies because the brand on the label was once 'the' brand in whiskey ... 105 years ago. Even when that name is the only connection to that once vaunted brand. 

For instance, Dan asked me recently if I'd had any whiskey from a brand with one of the oldest names in American whiskey which I won't mention. I had not had anything from that brand so I looked for it the next time I was in a liquor store. I came upon their rye whiskey first. 90 proof, undisclosed state of distillation, age stated as 'at least two years old', in a really cool looking bottle with a slick label containing the story about 'their' history, and $75. Really. $75 for, well I don't know what for honestly.

Next, I spied in the special, locked glass case, a 10 year old straight bourbon whiskey from the brand for $275! I'm really trying not to use too many exclamation points but man, $275 for a history that isn't theirs and whiskey they didn't produce is hard to take. 

Finally, I happened upon a non-age stated straight bourbon for $60. Maybe, if I'd found it first I wouldn't be so wound up as that isn't so odd. There are plenty of 4+ year old, sourced bourbons on the shelf for $50-70. So many in fact that it's becoming normalized in my brain and I have to remind myself that it shouldn't be normal.

On the other side of this pledge is my growing practice of discounting brands selling well aged whiskey sourced from or contract distilled in other distilleries, mainly in Indiana. Frankly, I'm just tired of MPG whiskey. I think it's one of those emperor in new clothes kind of deals. The whiskey is just mediocre to me and I don't understand the excitement. Not one single sip has ever blown me away even if a lot of it has been quite tasty but these days, I just can't pay the prices asked for the same distillate churned from that ginormous factory. 

I know that isn't a popular opinion but it's my money and my taste buds, so it doesn't really matter what anyone else thinks. However, that bias is probably causing me to miss out on some good whiskey and it is for sure clouding my judgement now when buying whiskey. I mean I like the whisky produced in Tullahoma, TN no matter which bottle it comes in so why can't I be that open about other non-distiller producer brands?

Who is with me? Let's call out the nonsense of a $75, 2 year old whiskey when the liquid in the bottle is the clearest thing about the brand. Stop buying it. Let's support any brand regardless of where they get or how they produce their whiskey when they are being transparent about their practices and - and this is really the important part - are making good whiskey even if it costs a little more.

On the other hand, I could just buy Wild Turkey products and leave the rest to y'all.