I was pretty unmoved by the big news that got the whiskey world humming yesterday. If you've been sleeping under a whiskey stone, Japanese drinks giant Suntory is buying Jim Beam. There were very good articles about the sale by Chuck Cowdery and Janet Patton.
I sympathize with many critiques of global capitalism as it's practiced these days, but one big multi-national corporation buying another big multi-national corporation just isn't that exciting to me. It seems pretty par for the course in the world of business. And, of course, I'm not much of a Jim Beam fan. I even named them as a runner up in my Worst Whiskey Company of 2013 award.
These days, corporations don't really have nationalities in any real sense of the word. Both Suntory and Beam own multiple properties around the world. Beam owns three Scotch distilleries including Laphroaig, the Cooley Distillery in Ireland, Canadian Club, Courvoisier Cognac and Sauza Tequila. Suntory owns a number of Scotch distilleries, including Bowmore, along with its Japanese distilleries. No big deal, money traded back and forth between really rich people. And it's not like you can outsource bourbon. It's a unique product of the United States that must be made here.
What I found surprising was the reaction of Jim Beam drinkers, at least as displayed on the Jim Beam and Maker's Mark Facebook pages. A shocking outpouring of xenophobia was on display, complete with racial epithets. As shouldn't be surprising, many of these folks were not too bright and clearly knew very little about Beam, Suntory, the whiskey industry or anything else. Here are a few of the genius comments, all of which are copied verbatim.
- Yall got some nerve. Where are the american made products??? I vote to boycott every american made product that has sold out. Yall should be ashamed if yourselves. It is now a Japanese whiskey. Whiskey is an American drink! Now im switching to knob creek. They are still American! Everyone boycott with me until they bring great whiskey back to the states!!!! Sound off in the comments section. Oh and make known you'll be drinking Fukushima.liquid.
Whisky is an American drink? It was invented by the Irish. And I hate to burst your bubble, but Knob Creek is made by Jim Beam.
- who the hell wants to buy bourbon from Japan. i am disgusted.
I do! It's called Four Roses and it was crap until it was bought by a Japanese company that cleaned it up. It now makes among the best bourbon around. Beam should be so lucky.
- Omg wth I just heard y'all sold out to the chinese I will no longer buy or drink jim beam. I'm am sorry cannot support china
I. am. speechless.
- Sell out! How could you sell out to a Japanese company! I am no longer supporting this product. You could have atleast kept in the states! I am truly disgusted!!!!!
This was on the Maker's Mark page. Before it was owned by Beam, Maker's Mark was owned by a British company, and before that, a Canadian company. I don't remember a lot of outbursts about those sales.
- Maker's - now owned by the Japanese. unlike. Check out Bullet or Blanton's for tasty alternative burbons at a similar price point
USA! USA! USA! Oh, and FYI, Bulleit is owned by Diageo, a British company. Blanton's is owned by Age International....a Japanese company.
In her excellent article about the sale, Janet Patton pointed out that Maker's had previously been British owned, to which one commenter responded, "At least the Brits were our allies." Um, last time I checked the Japanese are our allies. It's true that the we fought a war against Japan, a war which ended nearly 70 years ago, but I think we fought some wars against Britain too. Oh, and Wild Turkey is owned by an Italian company...you know Italy, that country that fought with Japan in World War II. It's funny, I can't recall any outcry at all a few years ago when Campari bought Wild Turkey.
It's easy to make light of this type of idiocy, but I don't mean to make light of the sentiment behind it. A huge number of these comments referred to selling to "the Japanese" or "the Asians" as if a whole race were purchasing the company. It is a disturbing "yellow peril" type of reaction that feels more like something from the 1940s than today. I guess I naively thought we were beyond this type of blatant bigotry, and it's jarring to have it so clearly on display. I guess we still have a long way to go.
I think I'll drown my sorrows in some Four Roses...Japanese owned, American made, and delicious!