Monday, December 30, 2013

Sku Awards: Worst Whiskey Company


'Tis the season for whiskey awards, and like every blogger, I want to make sure I get mine in.  This year, there was stiff competition for our Worst Whiskey Company award with lots of cynical marketing ploys, ridiculous pricing and other shenanigans, but there can only be one winner!

First, the runners up:

  • Jim Beam.  Year after year, Beam is contender for this award. This year, they put in a solid effort with their attempt to charge their loyal customers more for less by cutting the proof of Maker's Mark.  Only in the face of a huge public backlash did they relent, but hey, it's not their fault that there isn't enough whiskey around; they've got to meet the insatiable demand for Red Stag.
  • Diageo.  Another major heavyweight in this category, Diageo was clearly playing to win this year.  I won't go into detail here; just read Whisky Advocate's recent post naming them Distiller of the Year.  That post pretty much summarizes all of the reasons why they should get the Worst Whiskey Company award (and thanks to Whisky Advocate for saving me the effort!)
  • Dewar's (Bacardi Inc.).  A good rule of thumb for companies is not to alienate half the planet, but Dewar's managed to do just that with an ill advised commercial about their character "the Baron."  Aside from being a boring imitation of the advertising personalities for Captain Morgan and Dos Equis' Most Interesting Man in the World, the Baron's heroics involved rescuing a friend from being approached by an overweight woman in a bar (apparently, Dewar's commercials operate in a bizarro-opposite world in which men in bars are in constant danger of getting approached by women they find undesirable).  The blogosphere immediately pounced, and Dewar's ended up withdrawing the ad.  They may have even used the same form apology that Maker's Mark used.
Congratulations to all the runners up, but there is only room in the world for one Worst Whiskey Company, and this year the award goes to:

Michter's (Chatam Imports).  Michter's has long been a Worst Whiskey Company contender both for their mediocre whiskeys and constant stomping on the grave of the true Michter's Distillery in Pennsylvania, which they have nothing to do with.  This year, though, they were not satisfied to rest on their laurels.  No, this year they rose from the ranks of whiskey mediocrity to pure evil with the release of Michter's Celebration.

Before Celebration, no one thought it would be possible to charge $4,000 for a bottle of American Whiskey.  Just doing that would have put Michter's in the running for this award, but they didn't stop there.  They went above and beyond in their effort to insult the intelligence of consumers.  This $4k marvel isn't a bourbon or a rye; it's a "sour mash whiskey," a classification which means...nothing.  It has no age statement, and it's not even labeled straight.  In short, this crap could be anything.  Though media reports mention that it contains whiskey up to 30 years old, it could contain whiskey that is much younger. It could be any type of whiskey.  It could even have added coloring.  And as with all Michter's whiskey, we have no idea what distillery or distilleries made the whiskey. We don't know anything. 

Of course, as the old saw goes, none of that matters if it tastes great, except that no one is going to taste it.  They only produced 273 bottles of this whiskey.  Based on my own observations, I would estimate that only 99.9% appear to remain on the shelf.  Given that and the fact that there appear to be no reviews on-line, perhaps we can take heart in the fact that whiskey consumers aren't as gullible as Michter's may think (they should have put a picture of Pappy on the bottle - then it would have been gold!).

So for shameless cynicism and chutzpah which knows no bounds, I'm honored to declare Michter's the Worst Whiskey Company of 2013!  (Note to Michter's, feel free to list this honor on your website in place of your current headline "Wine Enthusiast Distiller of the Year" since, you know, you're not actually a distiller).

Congratulations to Michter's and better luck next year to all of our other competitors.  Oh, and if I left anyone out who deserves a mention, just let me know in the comments.


33 comments:

Steffen Bräuner said...

I think Dalmore purchased Michter's

Tim Read said...

At least Dalmore distills their own whisky, Steffen.

David D said...

The Michter's 30 year showcased one of the many moments this year when David OG and I said to our sales reps: "Are you fucking crazy?"

Adam H said...

I hadn't seen Jonny McCormick's puff piece on Diageo. He's the same guy who tried to tell us that Bonham's notorious auction blunders were understandable because, you know, they were in a hurry and stuff.

Does that guy do any straight journalism? Serious question.

Josh Feldman said...

Meanwhile, Michter's 20 (at $400) is probably the Bourbon of the year for me, personally... Did you get a taste of the Celebration? I assume it's overblown. How could it not be. But I'd love to get a sip once and see for myself.

risenc said...

For what it's worth, I tried Celebration, and it was pretty solid. $4,000 great? I don't even know how to judge that. But it certainly wasn't caramel-colored firewater.

sku said...

risenc, at that price, it should be about 32 times better than Pappy 20.

Jose Avila said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
risenc said...

But how could that be possible? Everyone has already decreed PvW20 the greatest bourbon of all time!*

* And yes, I realize I'm part of that club ...

Anonymous said...

Sku, you have no vision. Michter's Celebration is funding the future of Chatam Imports: supper weird Claire Forlani ads where she runs around half-naked through a moonlit corn field in an IU Hoosiers jersey pitching Michter's Single Islay-Malted Corn Grain Wheated Sour Mash Whisky. Of course the ad will imply it's the real-deal, Indiana distilled and aged stuff; but I hear it's actually sourced from North Korea.

And hopefully Diageo can grow a real pair of horns and finally release a cask strength "George Dickel Celebration" that can only be purchased at the distillery and only for 1 Kilogram of 99.99% pure gold bullion.

Also, Beam should pay special attention and finally give bourbon connoisseurs what we all have a serious case of blue barrels for: 375ml 23-year-old Jim Beam Pink Devil Strawberry Limeade - 40% ABV and $666.

Anonymous said...

*super weird. but i agree w/predictive text, supper is super.

David D said...

I too have tried it. I would put it on qualitative par with the Smooth Ambler 14 year Old Scout.

Anonymous said...

Being related to a retailer of these spirits I was able to chuckle and laugh it off until they stopped me cold and said they could easily imagine either some Hollywood high roller or newly minted millionaire Asian chasing brands laying out the requisite bucks to name drop the Michters' label. Forget how it tastes. You say there's only X amount of bottles? P. T. Barnum has them lining up.

Florin said...

Sku, great idea with this award, especially in a year like 2013. However, you're unfair to Jim Beam. I know you don't like their peanutty whiskey, but just let them be! That Maker's Mark ABV business is such minor stuff in the big order of things! Do you drink Maker's Mark? I didn't thnk so! And they are one of the few companies that didn't raise prices on their main whiskey brands.

More importantly, let's remember that they own Laphroaig, and that in this day and age you can still buy Laphroaig 10yo cask strength for $60, stuff like pink Cairdeas for $70, or Laphroaig 18yo for $80 (well, not in California).

If you keep upsetting them one day they'll throw up their arms and sell to Diageo. Is that what you want?

Steffen Bräuner said...

I don't really know Michter's, only tasted a 10yo in bar once that didn't really come to my likings.

I don't understand Whisky Advocates award to Diageo, I understand this one a lot more. Diageo, who do hold and make a lot of good whiskey, is the biggest case of lost opportunities in the world of whisky. With 30+ distilleries they should be able to at least bottle 2 bottlings I would put on a purchase list, but they don't

Steffen

Robert said...

Seriously? You don't like Lagavulin, Caol Ila, Talisker, Clynelish, Brora, Craggamore, Cardu, JW, etc??? What scotch do you like? For all its warts, Diageo does own some great distilleries.

Steffen Bräuner said...

Hi Robert. If you read my post above, I actual write that they make a lot of good whisky of which you name several I agree with. For me to get a bottle of Lagavulin of my likings I have to meet up at the distillery to get a cask strength version or be lucky to find the 12yo somewhere(which is now double price what I paid for my last purchase, so getting overpriced) They have million of casks, but don't really bottle anything for the more experienced whisky entusiasts. If you want to know how it should be done, look at what Glendronach/BenRiach and Four Roses do

Steffen

sku said...

Keep in mind that my list is worst whiskey companies, not worst whiskeys. Many of these companies make good, even great whiskeys, but that's not the point here. It's about the company's behavior.

Anonymous said...

I know of one bottle of the Michters 30 being sold for RRP. It was being given out as a corporate gift along with a bottle of sweet vermouth. Not a joke.

Anonymous said...

We all love many of Sazerac's products but I think they should at least get a dishonorable mention for the removal of the 6 year old age statment form VOB, while continuing to have a 6 on the neck. Also for discontinuing AAA 10 year, Old Charter 10 year and then going and releasing an over priced NAS like Stagg jr.

Jason Thomas Cammarata said...

I think Beam should be commended for offering affordable age stated and cask strength bourbons as part of their regular lineup.

Steffen Bräuner said...

"I know of one bottle of the Michters 30 being sold for RRP. It was being given out as a corporate gift along with a bottle of sweet vermouth. Not a joke."

He or she is probably a Manhattan fan

Steffen

Josh P said...

For the expansion projects, upgrading older distilleries, installing green technology in distilleries to help keep Scotland the beautiful place it is, creating new jobs and even testing an on-site bio-energy plant I applaud Diageo. At least they are looking to the future of their distilleries.

For the unbelieveable price increases and opportunistic price gauging of their customers (us) they can go to hell. To justify it through "we're doing this for your own benefit" is even worse and insults the intelligence of the consumer. I know prices will go up over time, but that's the rub. It's supposed to be a gradual inflation that rises with relative economics. It's not supposed to be this dramatic spike that alienates your loyal customers and has them wondering if they can afford the same products they've been buying for years. For the opportunistic pillaging of their customers trust they don't deserve that award and deserve runner up for worst of the year.

morlock said...

"Straight" scribes don't get sent free liquor from crooked transnational beverage corp. marketing depts.

morlock said...

ISO JBPDSL 23y half FS/FT, serious offers only.

Anonymous said...

Good to see that Marvelous Marvin is operating at the same low standard in the spirits world as he has long conducted himself in the wine world. Give the guy credit for consistency.

Mark said...

Can we make a permanent spot for Edrington on this list for the ridiculous HP warrior (or whatever it's called) series and continuing to unashamedly gouge people for Macallan?

Jose Avila said...

I also second that. Especially since Macallan is moving into overbranding overkill now with nas whisky. I mean they actually believe color will tell people quality. Sure Ardbeg has succeded with nas but then they give you natural color, ncf, and higher abv in trade. What does macallan do? Nas on an already very branded whisky.

Trudy Mcguffin said...

It saddens me that so many of your readers waste their time complaining that a high quality product comes with a high price. If they had spent their time working and earning on honest living instead of writing comments about how Celebration is too expensive, they'd be a that much closer to being able to afford a bottle that is a must for every whiskey lover, and whisky lovers alike. Shame.

Florin said...

Sku and Trudy - spotted a guy looking just like Sku but more Japanese-like, in the first episode of Justified, Season 4, name is Hiram. (Thanks again Robert Parker for the tip, great show, especially with a bourbon in hand!)

Danny Wallette said...

I can only hope that Trudy's comment is made with tongue firmly implanted in cheek. A $4000 NAS bottle of some form of "whiskey" from an NDP is a "must have". That's just crazy talk.

Anonymous said...

Trudy is either being sarcastic or she's a shill for Michter's. Or maybe she's just a dimwit. Anybody who gives money to the charlatans at Michter's deserves zero respect.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I'm sure she's probably a very nice person - but has she shelled out the four grand for a bottle? :-/