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Tough review


John McKee

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I'll not offer any disparaging comments, but this is a classic case of we run "marketing companies that make hooch." My guess is that his marketing firm looked for a target audience, worked hard on crafting a message, and that is ultimately what he hung the fortunes of his company upon.

I'm interested to see how this plays out. One bad review doesn't sink a product, but it does give us all a reason to remind ourselves that message is king, product quality is queen. I say this because I haven't tried the product, I'm assuming that most of us have not, but we all probably have a more negative association of his product that we did before. Even if he makes angel tears and puts them in the bottle, the court of public opinion is a tough one in which to mount an appeal.

My best to him and hopefully if someone writes this kind of article our products, I'm prepared to handle it. Good learning.

Cheers.

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How do people here feel about the product itself, marketing aside? Until this came out, I wasn't even aware of the 'spirit whiskey' classification. Five percent whiskey, 95 percent vodka, and you can call it whiskey. The whiskey component doesn't even have to be bottled-in-bond, as with blends. It can be anything that meets the definition of whiskey.

Canadian Club is Laphroiag compared to this stuff.

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While this is written in the negative, I must say it's popular to be unpopular.

What I mean is, I'm going to do something that others will complain about to get a crap ton of press and then change my mind because my very important customers didn't like it... now everyone feels loved. Oh and I just got more advertising than my annual budget will ever provide.

Sounds familiar doesn't it.

The girl that has the same opinion of whiskey as the wife quoted will now go buy this stuff because the reviewer doesn't appreciate her opinion. Don't underestimate the value of bad reviews. Figure out how to make it work or improve it.

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Kristian, you are an optimist!

Spirit drinkers who don't like whiskey like other things, like gin or vodka.

So how are they going to be persuaded to get into this weird no-man's land drink? By being excited about it tasting only a little bit of something they dislike?

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Perhaps I didn't say it correctly, but isn't this Exactly the same as Canadian Club ? It's not a negative comment, it's the difference between how the US and Canada defines and allows for the production of whisky/whiskey.

The Canadian whiskeys are allowed to be distilled up the azeotrope, and then blended for "flavor". A small amount of corn/rye lower proof distillate is blended with NGS / NSG, and it produces what is known worldwide as light whiskey. Whereas in the US it can't be done that way and called "whiskey".

This guys "new idea" is just re-branding a 150 year old process, for Snookie :)

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I see this as being somewhat akin to light beer. The product will not be flavorless, and not exactly whiskey as most on this forum think about it, but it will be "whiskey" nonetheless, and it will likely be fairly smooth and easy to drink, much like some of the Canadian whiskeys. And the marketing, while off-putting to whiskey enthusiasts will appeal to a large cross-section of spirit drinkers who might typically shy away from whiskey. Think of how they market light beer, they claim "all of the flavor, and half the calories", and yet anyone with a modicum of exposure to beer knows this is BS. But they aren't marketing to people with beer knowledge. And FAB is not marketing to ADI members. Check out their website, it hit's all the right notes.

I can't tell you how many people I've offered Scotch to who refuse it based on horrible memories of drinking cheap, vile scotch in their younger years. And I'm offering them very easy-to-like Scotch (Highland Park, Balvenie, Glenfarchs). FAB is targeting these people..trying to get them to believe that all whiskey is harsh..except theirs. I'm guessing many on this forum are fans of craft beer, but even more are likely to have a case of Miller Lite in their fridge for when company comes over. As the craft spirit industry follows in the craft beer industries footsteps, expect to see more and more of this. And even though it's kinda of an upside-down version of the craft beer response to light beers, it is a void to be filled. And while we don't like seeing them fill a void that we think shouldn't exist, they are capitalizing on an opportunity..credit them for trying.

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There is no NGS/GNS in Canadian whisky. It's essentially the same as blended scotch. American blends can be up to 80% GNS and American Spirit Whiskey can be 95% GNS. Only the USA allows mixtures of whiskey and GNS to be called whiskey.

To me spirit whiskey is most like light whiskey, something no one wants. Unless enough people want their vodka to be called whiskey.

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There is no NGS/GNS in Canadian whisky. It's essentially the same as blended scotch. American blends can be up to 80% GNS and American Spirit Whiskey can be 95% GNS. Only the USA allows mixtures of whiskey and GNS to be called whiskey.

Puzzling comments, only correct on the technicality that NGS is a USA/TTB defined term.

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TTB defines Canadian whisk[e]y as -

Unblended[in the USA] whisky manufactured in Canada in compliance with it laws

And the Canadian Food and Drug Regulation (C.R.C., c.870) defines Canadian whisky without respect to the distillation proof (often above 90%ABV reportedly) and then must be aged for at least 3 years in "small" barrels (often used). It also "may contain caramel and flavouring", and some do in significant quantity (up to 9% I've read). And it is typical in Canada to create barrels of whisky with a mostly corn vs rye mash bills, age these separately, then blend.

So obviously with no legal upper bound on the proof of distillation, the Canadians are completely free to blend within a nominal "whisky" that is indistinguishable from NGS. This Canadian blended product can be sold (without further US blending) in the US as "Canadian Whisk[e]y".

So overall the minimum requirement for a "Canadian Whisky" are much lower than for an American(USA) Whiskey. They could create a corn based NGS aged for 3yr in used oak, add some caramel etc, and then legally sell it as Canadian Whisky. If made in the USA this might be categorized a 3yo "Light Whiskey". Thankfully most Canadian whiskies are much better than that, and some quite laudable.

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Blended Scotch whisky certainly does contain 'grain whisky' which is not distinguishable from NGS. For example the Cameronbridge grain whisky distillery (Diageo) and the Girvan (WmGrant&Sons) distillery produces high proof alcohol from wheat and a little malt, and this finds it's way into many blended Scotch whiskies a well as the base for Hendrick's gin, and Diageo Vodka. Their grain whisky would not be whiskey at all if made in the US but would be NGS (after barrel aging). Note: This is categorically distinct from Blended malt or vatted Scotch, which is just a blend of single malts.

So Johnnie Walker Green label is a blended malt and is therefore a blend of single malts, but Johnnie Walker Black or Red are blended Scotches containing 'grain whisky' or NGS in US parlance.

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In the US "Blended Whiskey" must be 20% Straight Whiskey, but if you want a more specific name ("Blended Bourbon Whisky" or "Blended Rye Whisky") then it must contain 51% of the good stuff.

To me spirit whiskey is most like light whiskey, something no one wants. Unless enough people want their vodka to be called whiskey.

Well you and I and likely most here wouldn't want these beverages, but maybe it appeals to a certain audience, or as a stepping stone product. There are a lot of potential customers out there, raised on simple, bland, sweet foods like MacD's who just don't accept a challenging flavor or aroma as something interesting. We can either offer something approachable to their stunted sense of tastes, or leave them to the superbly flavorless vodkas and one-dimensional gins.

Taste is a learning process for all of us - no one starts seeking out Bowmore or Woodford Reserve from the cradle.

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Kristian, you are an optimist!

Spirit drinkers who don't like whiskey like other things, like gin or vodka.

So how are they going to be persuaded to get into this weird no-man's land drink? By being excited about it tasting only a little bit of something they dislike?

It might be weird but I think there is going to be a lot of these weird no mans land drinks coming from small producers, at least I can hope we don't just continue to make the same old thing because we are scared to market it or fear bad reviews.

My point here was strictly from the press side of things not so much about the product itself. If 10 people see your name then 10 people know you when they go to the liquor store or bar. Good or bad they may try it just out of curiosity or they may not but they know who you are. So 10 guys who drink whiskey know who you are and that you make this vodka-ish whiskey. Then they have a jack and coke cause they are from the trailer park but they order this and coke for their girl because its cool for her because she can't handle your manly whiskey. I don't think they will have any problem hitting their desired market. More people drink vodka than whiskey, and these people will try a whiskey that is marketed as "easier to drink, like your vodka."

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Cowdery - Have you tried it? I've not, so I can't comment on the product itself, but putting myself in the consumer seat, I feel pandered to, and I don't like the message. For all I know its no different than a "whiskey" vodka, and not all that different than, say, "Whipped Cream Vodka"?

I wonder if TTB would allow a "WHISKEY FLAVORED VODKA"? Not that I want to make that, sell it, or even drink it, but, if you can have a "JUNIPER FLAVORED VODKA", rather than "GIN," then why not let the market decide.

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It reminds me of the "rum" flavored vodka that Ian Burrell was promoting last year around this time (http://www.thedrinksbusiness.com/2012/03/rum-flavoured-vodka-to-hit-uk/). The only difference is that his was an April Fool's Joke. If you've got time, check out the links and pay attention to the process and packaging. I think he manages to hit every point the big vodka folks play with. Quite amusing.

American Spirit Whiskey is another group putting out a Spirit Whiskey. Their marketing is somewhat less brash.

Todd

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It might be weird but I think there is going to be a lot of these weird no mans land drinks coming from small producers, at least I can hope we don't just continue to make the same old thing because we are scared to market it or fear bad reviews.

My point here was strictly from the press side of things not so much about the product itself. If 10 people see your name then 10 people know you when they go to the liquor store or bar. Good or bad they may try it just out of curiosity or ....

Wise words. But the big question is - will they try these experimental 'no mans land' drinks a second time, or buy a second bottle ?

Like you, I *think* the 5%whiskies+95%vodka have a much better chance than fundamentally unlovable beverages like the white dog products.

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I thought in my past research somewhere I read that prior to prohibition, light/white whiskey was the number one drink in the US, and was primarily the "mixing spirit" of choice. Sometime after or around the time prohibition ended, vodka, perhaps it was Schmirnoff was sold to a new buyer who sold it hard into the US market, and it replaced light whiskey as the predominate American mixing spirit. White / light whiskey never recovered its market position as a universal mixer spirit.

Seems like a market that's waiting for good product and associated smart marketing.

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Light whiskey and white whiskey are completely different animals.

"Light whisky' is whisky produced in the United States at more than 160[deg] proof, on or after January 26, 1968, and stored in used or uncharred new oak containers." It was essentially an attempt to create an American version of what the Scots call grain whiskey. It bombed.

"White whiskey" is a modern term for unaged (legally, very lightly aged) whiskey, essentially whiskey 'white dog,' and so typically distilled below 160 proof. Good article in Slate today on that subject. What the pioneers drank they called 'common whiskey,' which was unaged and probably closer to 100 proof off the still. It was dominant until probably the Civil War. Thereafter aged whiskey because dominant, even though most of it was counterfeit, i.e., compound whiskey, the ancestor of modern blends. By Prohibition, straight whiskey was dominant, as it is today.

As for Scottish grain whiskey and Canadian blending whiskey being whiskey and not vodka, they are distilled below neutrality--not by much but typically a few points below 95%--and they are aged at least three years in wood, hence whiskey (albeit nearly neutral) and not vodka.

As for spelling, as an American, I spell whiskey with an 'e' and only honor the preferred spellings of other nations when stating brand names, so I might write about Scottish whiskey but would give Johnnie Walker Blended Scotch Whisky as an example. Sometimes I do write 'scotch whisky' in the generic sense, just to avoid trouble. I don't spell 'tire' as 'tyre' just because a particular tire is manufactured in the United Kingdom, why should whiskey be any different?

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  • 1 month later...

The question of what is "good" and what is not is too subjective to rely on the "type" name as a guide to flavor and appeal. The test is if an experimenting consumer is inclined to buy it a second time. To the questions about age, filtering, barrel type, char level, grain source, brix, and every other question posed at tastings by aficionados in the "stump the distiller" Q&A session, I usually respond, "Do you like it?"

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