Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Unavoidable Maker's Post

Edit 2/17 makers has apparently reversed their decision. I don't think this materially changes my thoughts or relevance of this post. Though you have to admit that, at least belatedly, Beam listened to their customers.Thanks to Coffee Guy for the heads up.

I thought I could avoid it, but everyone is asking me for my thoughts: my father, my wife, the dude I met at Joe Canal's, and this morning, Scott, a fellow blogger who wrote a thoughtful open letter to the Samuel's Family. Sadly, I suspect that if the company listened to consumers, they never would have dropped the proof to begin with.

One of the things I like best about this hobby is how friendly and positive most people are and how little snobbery there is. I also enjoy that while distillers are certainly trying to earn a living, many are truly passionate about their craft and genuinely want to share their knowledge and enthusiasm with their consumers. This latter quality is what draws me to certain brands and makes me feel pretty lukewarm about others.

Look at Jim Rutledge, the master distiller at Four Roses. When he participates in an 8-part interview with Greg at BourbonDork, you get an overwhelming feeling of someone who cares deeply about what he does, loves sharing all he can about it and is not for one moment trying to BS anyone for the sake of profit. It makes me want to go buy more 4R just to support his lifelong effort.

By contrast, look at this shambles of a "Q&A" with Tom Bulleit on Bourbon & Banter. The man is blowing smoke through the whole interview and sounds more like a lawyer or politician than a "master distiller." That's because he does not distill anything. He and his coporate partner, Diageo (a world leader in commodity whiskey, and sadly also the owner many fine single malts) buy their Bulleit Bourbon from Four Roses and their Rye from LDI. It's a nice bottle and bullshit story, but if you like the taste of Bulleit, just buy some Four Roses, water it down and read the interview with Jim Rutledge again.

On the positive side again, we have Heaven Hill, the second-largest maker of bourbon in the world. This interview with Larry Kass on Drink Spirits is unusually informative and interesting, as well as it is transparent. Contrast this with Drew Kulsveen of KBD having a tantrum on straightbourbon when forum members theorize that, as he sells only sourced whiskey, that some of it may come from Heaven Hill (a half mile away).

There are many other examples of this. Julian Van Winkle III, god of the bourbon enthusiast world, is totally transparent with where his stuff comes from, he participates on the straightbourbon forum and recently weighed in on this Maker's business himself. Overall, with consumers he is nothing but cordial and as honest as you could expect a businessperson to be; you get the feeling that he loves what he does, and wants you to love it too.

So, I think we have a choice when we are ready to spend our money. We can either spend it to support people that are dedicated to their craft and as enthusiastic about this hobby as we are, or we can fork over cash for some purchased or watered-down alcohol and a bullshit story about old Kentucky families, rolling hills and creeks.

So what are my thoughts about Maker's? I really have almost none. I don't think about it, because it is a boring, commodity product that is not even a good value. They long ago stopped being an enthusiast/luxury brand (though they've kept a relatively high price) and there is no reason to spend time, thought or money on them when there are producers like Buffalo Trace, Heaven Hill and Four Roses that continue to reliably produce whiskey of incredible quality while respecting the consumer and involving them in the process.

(Edited for spelling 2/16)


  1. Glad I asked for your opinion, I learned something new about Bulleit and Four Roses. If I am a fan of Bulleit's Rye, what would recommend for me to try for other brands?

  2. Though they are very popular, the LDI ryes are not really to my personal taste, at least not neat. For the $25-30 that the Bulleit goes for, I would have to recommend Rittenhouse (made by Heaven Hill) and Sazerac (BT, review will be upcoming). Though I think I like ryes that also have some corn, so LDI fans will likely disagree with me.

  3. Thanks for the head up. Was out all day.