Just as much as you hate distilleries taking age statements off of whiskey bottles, know that distilleries hate it more, but it’s not a new thing. Whiskey making is an exact science, however, predicting the market and laying in whiskey stocks is another story. People think distilleries take age statements off just to make more money or because of a contrived devious reason. But it’s just a supply and demand issue. I’ll try and use an example to illustrate.
The T-Shirt Inventory Theory
Have you ever had what you thought was a great idea for a T-shirt? You design it all up, and it looks amazing. You then go to the T-shirt guy that I will call Bob, and tell him to screen print them. But wait, Bob has several questions.
Bob asks you what sizes you want and what colors. Now you have decisions to make. I mean you KNOW this is a kickin’ T-shirt….but it looks good in red and blue, so you decide to go with both colors.
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Now for sizes. Some people like to sleep in them, or like them very loose, so you decide to go with a dozen XXL, but Bob says there’s an extra charge, so you go with 6 XX-Large in each color instead. X-Large seems to be the most popular so you order 24 in each color. You don’t think Large is a mover, but you get 12 each of those, and only six each of Medium and of course Small. Now you’re set…
Time to Sell Your Kickin’ T-Shirts
You set up at the weekend flea market, and there’s real interest in your T-shirt. People buzzing around. The XXL’s are almost gone right off the bat as well as the larges. Women are asking you if you have women’s style and sizes…you say just try a small. Most don’t buy them but some do…at the end of the day you have 16 X-Large, 10 Medium, 6 Small, and 16 Large leftover and you sold out of XX-Large. The blue sold better than the red.
Time to Re-Order
You reorder from Bob and stock up on XX-Large, restock the rest, and even order a whole new complimentary line of women’s sizes; and are even thinking of green instead of or in addition to the red.
All Stocked Up and Ready to Sell Again
You can see where this is going right? Next weekend, no one buys the XX-Large, and the women this week seem to like the Men’s Small, and whatever you seem to restock.
Now Try This with Bourbon and Whiskey Brands (Not to mention aging 4 to 21 Years!)
Think of the sizes and styles as different bourbon and whiskey brands. As whiskey stocks age, new brands are created because you don’t want to “give away age” so you create a separate brand from say your 4 year old bourbon. You create a 6 year old bourbon with another name since those stocks taste different than the 4 year old. On and on, and now you have a nice array of brands and ages…until word gets out, demand sky rockets and people buy them all up. Since you can’t make it today and sell it tonight and you have to ramp up production (cost of millions of dollars) and then wait the 4, 6 or more years to get those stocks to their ages, and hope demand is still there, and if not, you’ll have even more brands to consider at different ages and proofs, depending on your inventory.
So before you raise Holy Haiti’s to the distilleries, just imagine all that it takes to get a product to market, and then to every liquor store in the country, and bar, and the logistics of all that, and then a sales force that isn’t even yours (the law requires distillers to sell to a distributor and then their sales staff sells the brands) having to sell your brands along with your competitors and then not only do they sell whiskey, but every spirit in the world.
So take it easy, take a breath, stop blaming distillers and be a little understanding…and for goodness sakes please don’t hoard brands or expressions when a whiff of a rumor comes around that a brand is changing, that just compounds things.
There are more choices for bourbons, ryes, and American Whiskey now than ever before. It’s time to rediscover the great old/new brands that DON’T have 15 or 20 years age on them. My dad used to tell me that he didn’t “trust” a bourbon over 6 years old. He drank Ten High (When it was a bourbon, and a monster brand) and he loved Heaven Hill Green Label 6 year old 90 proof.
So pick up some Evan Williams Black Label, Devils Cut, Jim Beam Black, Evan Williams 1783, Wild Turkey, Fighting Cock, and a few others, and just rediscover and appreciate just how good they are. They’re younger versions of the gold dust that you reach up and try and grab on the top shelves. Don’t step on the gold bricks just to reach up and grab the gold dust. But when you step on the gold nuggets to grab the gold dust, pick up the gold nuggets and buy them too.