Bottled In Bullshit Header

Bottled In Bullshit

In Banter by Bob Bennett18 Comments

A whiskey using a new barrel aging concept has taken double gold at the International World Whiskey Awards. Smith and Johnson's Small Batch Bourbon took home double gold in the bourbon category and was named "Best Overall Whiskey" in the Small Batch American Whiskey category. A surprising win for a whiskey that was distilled just 72 hours before entry into the competition.

Smith and Johnson's patent-pending "barrel tunnel" approach to aging takes the new make distillate through a 300-foot-long charred oak "tunnel" that's 28 inches in diameter. Half the barrel tunnel is level 3 char, with the final half being a level 4 "alligator" char. Changing the char level midway through the whiskey's journey brings out additional wood and chocolate notes.

The tunnel rotates at a speed of 60rpm while the whiskey travels through it, giving it maximum interaction with the charred surface of the tunnel. The entire aging process takes a mere 45-minutes, and the finished product is then dumped and held for 2 days to "rest" and for sampling to ensure quality. Each Small Batch bottling contains 5 runs of 265 gallons each, 1,325 total gallons per batch. To date, the brand has seen limited distribution outside its home state of South Dakota, but with the IWWA awards, expect to be seeing it in more markets soon.

If you read the above and thought, "Wow, I haven't heard about this. I'll have to check it out." it illustrates the ridiculous bullshit that has become an everyday part of the whiskey community. It seems like countless awards are being handed to ANYONE with enough money to buy one. That's right, BUY ONE.

"Patented" methods to make whiskey using sound waves, quick aging, and other gimmicks are heralded as being able to "extract more flavor" or "drive the whiskey deeper into the barrel." Old family recipes are being discovered after lying dormant for decades, and brand backstories are filled with tales of yore and barrels that have been "discovered." It's all bullshit, but most people will believe anything you tell them, so it has legs.

I'm unsure what particular brand of BS is leading the charge in today's whiskey world, but I think the insanity of awards can encompass everything else underneath it. With all the pay-to-play awards out there today, I think it's time we step up and create the Bourbon Bullshit Awards. No money is needed. We're not taking submissions from brands. Their prior actions are all the necessary evidence to highlight the ridiculousness we are constantly surrounded by. In other words, it's time to call this crap out.

I can't wait to get everyone's feedback on what award categories we should consider for the BBSAs, but if it were up to me, here's where I would start with awards.

Bourbon Flavor Wheel & Tasting Mats

Makes the perfect Fathers' Day gift. Click, Download, and Give.
Image

Most Ridiculous Bourbon Backstory

We've all heard them, read about them, and thought, "who the hell believes this?"

Some people have even been sued for their ridiculousness – I'm looking at you Templeton Rye.

We see barrels that have been "orphaned" in an old distillery, miraculously found years later, that surprisingly all taste like Dickel (or worse). Historic mines yield water that proofs the whiskey down, which is made in another state, and THAT'S what makes it good and worth $80 a bottle.

Or it's a decades-old recipe that was found and is now being distilled…by MGP. Rolling fields and farm animals may even abound the land surrounding the distillery whose flagship bottles come from Indiana and Canada. Whatever it may be, there's plenty of BS in brand storytelling.

"Open the bottle up, and the whiskey inside has an uphill climb to mediocrity at best."

Best Use Of A Fancy Bottle To Hide Subpar Bourbon

When you insist on releasing mediocre whiskey or want to charge an insane amount of money for mediocre whiskey, you'd better have yourself a distinguished-looking vessel to hold it so the consumer thinks, "ooooh, it must be good, just look at the bottle!"

People will freak out for bottles that look like a pot still, posting their finds on Instagram or their Facebook bourbon groups. Open the bottle up, and the whiskey inside has an uphill climb to mediocrity at best.

Then you have your craft distillers who charge $200 for their "Limited Editions," going as far as to put a medal around the neck of the bottle. Not an award, just a medal. Not surprisingly, the whiskey leaves a lot to be desired, and at $200, the medal should be used to beat the person who decided to charge $200 for it.

Maybe you're a legendary songwriter who could never sing but got into whiskey. Now you're giving your diehard fans a $500 bottle of sourced Dickel that comes in a leather-bound box that looks like a book. The perfect accessory to smack whoever paid $500 for this over the head. Take that old-timey, dark glass bottle and throw a "rugged" stopper in it, and it looks like it came right out of a scene in Deadwood. Until you open it and realize that the corner of your living room where your cat decided to piss has a more appealing nose on it.


Listen To The most honest podcast in bourbon

Trust issues? See what others have to say & listen for yourself.


Absolutely the most honest podcast in bourbon
I love the B&B podcast and look forward to it each month. The pure honestly and candor is much appreciated in a world full of hype and allocated products. My only issue with this podcast: that it isn’t more frequent!

CEOLSON7


F*%king Awesome.
You say the things I can’t. Keep on, keeping it real.

KY BOURBON GAL


Enjoying a pour - Enjoying the CONTENT MORE!!
I recently crossed paths with Bourbon and Banter in a Mastermind group - AND CANNOT GET ENOUGH! I keep an episode queued up for any time I need a bit of creativity/inspiration… It has not failed me yet! Keep em’ comin!!

JOSHRHODES8

Most Ridiculous Marketing Campaign

Where do we even begin? How do you sell bad whiskey? Marketing.

How do you hype mediocre whiskey? Marketing.

How do you appeal to newbies? Marketing.

What pisses off experienced bourbon drinkers? Marketing.

Some of this falls into the brand backstory discussed above. Still, others may have a legitimate story but then choose to undertake something that a focus group said, "ooh, that's nice!"

The one campaign that seems to stand atop the hill for this one involves not just one, not just two, but TWO HUNDRED FLAVORS to be discovered in JUST ONE BOTTLE of bourbon. Then you have others who don't have a marketing plan, so to speak but announce themselves as the Pappy Van Winkle of a state outside of Kentucky. It then becomes the pull quote for that brand.

Let's not forget that when you take a brand that bourbon enthusiasts covet, that people continually shower with praise and roses, and blatantly rip-off their concept to sell a different brand, it's going to rub everyone the wrong way.

"You got any in the back?"

Most Overhyped Bourbon

You got any in the back? What else needs to be said here? We all know which bottle wins this category. I don't even need to say the name. This one wins the (horse) race by a mile.

Most Annoying Habit By The Bourbon Consumer

They're all annoying, so it's hard to pick just one. This could be a three-way tie between crotch shots, gunshots, and watch shots. Where is the logic even at with those?

Who the hell thinks, "ooh, let me get my firearm and my liquor together because what could possibly go wrong?"

The watch shots make me think, "What time is it? It's time for you to sit down and act like an adult."

The crotch shot thing, though, who even started that?

Who said, "I'm gonna put this here bottle between my legs in the driver's seat of my car and make sure everyone knows I got it."

Who cares? Go home, open the bottle, have a drink, take a picture of said drink, post wherever you want. Why the need to do it the moment you get in the car? Unless, of course, you're going to defile the bottle in the same position after you snap the picture, which wouldn't surprise me with some of you.

Then you have photos of bottle collections that are 90% unopened. Hundreds of bottles on the wall, but try to find more than 10 that are opened. There should be a bourbon police force that comes around and confiscates those unopened bottles. I'll be the chief.

Where do all these photos show up, though? In Facebook groups and on Instagram. The FB groups get more of the "hey, found (insert standard Buffalo Trace product here)!"

I'm sure liquor store employees would vote for the "do you have any Blanton's?" moron coming in five times a day. "Got anything special back there?" You, who have never stepped in this store before, expect the staff to give you an allocated bottle (if they have one) because you asked?

No, now go home and drink your Cleveland Whiskey.

"This could be a three-way tie between crotch shots, gunshots, and watch shots."

Celebrity Endorsement Of A Product

When whiskey grows in popularity, you'd better believe celebrities will get in on the action. Some of them have done it right, like Sammy Hagar. But let's face it, when it comes to celebrities and liquor, NOBODY has ever come close to hitting the home run that Hagar did.

Now more than ever, celebrities are getting into the game by putting out their own whiskey. Retired football players, whose insanely annoying commentary has ruined many a Sunday morning pre-game, can be found with their own bourbon brand that they launched because they wanted it "be smooth and so forth." Then there's the previously mentioned songwriter who could never sing, taking a bunch of sourced Tennessee whiskey and putting it in a fancy bottle. 

But the winner here has to be Coach Jason Brown, whose Slapdick agave whiskey has made recent headlines not because of anything positive. 

When a respected whiskey blogger and industry veteran, A Lil' Dab of Bourbon, posted an image of the bottle, label front and center, with the caption "Well… this is quite the start to the week," Brown started harassing and bullying her online. At least until she called him out for his BS and EVERYONE in the whiskey community came to her defense and criticized the brand and the coach. Then one state's distributor dropped the product and canceled all orders. That was in 48-hours. 

Since then, more has come to light on additional harassment by the coach and his fans, all of it wholly ridiculous and disgraceful. Sor for Coach JB, I think he deserves not just a Bourbon Bullshit Award but a Jackass of the Year award as well.

A full report on what happened with this situation can be found from Jay West over at Whiskey Radiers here, and you can watch our interview with A Lil' Dab of Bourbon here.

After co-hosting the Bourbon & Banter podcast for the past 18 months, I've come to realize just how much bullshit is happening in today's bourbon and whiskey world. As such, this has become a bit of a soapbox for me. But you know what? We talk about it all the time, so it's time we all call it out!

I encourage you to reply below or reach out to us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Let us know what categories we missed or who you think should win a Bourbon Bullshit Award. You know, if they were real. 😉


ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Podcast Editor / Sr. Contributor |

The fifteen months Bob Bennett spent living in Lebanon, KY, as a child may have laid the groundwork for what would happen years later (something in the water…literally). Originally from Corning, NY, he grew up in a household where happy hour was celebrated every night. Surprisingly, Bennett didn’t start drinking until he was 23 years old. He quickly made up for lost time, gravitating to bourbon as his preferred libation immediately, and proudly filled the bar that was passed down from his father. In the years that followed, not only did he develop a deeper appreciation for bourbon, but began to cherish the opportunity to talk about the spirit he has grown to love. As the Artistic Director for Jazz St. Louis, Bennett has become the unofficial bourbon ambassador of jazz, spreading the gospel of good taste to musicians everywhere. It also helps endear him to the St. Louis community, which is needed, as bleeding Dodger Blue tends to rub those Cardinal fans the wrong way.
Read Bob's full profile.

About the Author

Bob Bennett

Twitter

The fifteen months Bob Bennett spent living in Lebanon, KY, as a child may have laid the groundwork for what would happen years later (something in the water…literally). Originally from Corning, NY, he grew up in a household where happy hour was celebrated every night. Surprisingly, Bennett didn’t start drinking until he was 23 years old. He quickly made up for lost time, gravitating to bourbon as his preferred libation immediately, and proudly filled the bar that was passed down from his father. In the years that followed, not only did he develop a deeper appreciation for bourbon, but began to cherish the opportunity to talk about the spirit he has grown to love. As the Artistic Director for Jazz St. Louis, Bennett has become the unofficial bourbon ambassador of jazz, spreading the gospel of good taste to musicians everywhere. It also helps endear him to the St. Louis community, which is needed, as bleeding Dodger Blue tends to rub those Cardinal fans the wrong way. Read Bob's full profile.

  • Scott Perlman says:

    Outstanding column. Excellent.

  • Lee HAMMONS says:

    Great piece and so very true!

  • Scott Shaddy says:

    Hit the mark on that one Bob. That’s been needing to be said publicly for a long time. Thanks, Scott

  • The Woodbutcher says:

    Thank you for exposing this shit! I’d love to see something more than just the Bullshit Award…. Maybe a “Shithead of the Month” article, and then have your readers vote (holding 50% sway) for Bullshitter of the year….. just sayin…

    • Bob Bennett says:

      Check out the Bourbon & Banter podcast, we close each episode with our Bourbon Bullshit segment, which does exactly what you’re asking for. As for the biggest BS of the year, I’m pretty certain Coach JB is going to run away with that one.

  • Tim says:

    Bob, it just goes to show you that bullshit artists and fake connoisseurs are present in abundance. The true measure of quality is ongoing sales.

  • Yati says:

    Great article. Wish I had found Bourbon&Bantor a few years ago when first fell in love with bourbon. Started reading other “experts” and went down a rabbit hole trying out certain bottles and trying to figure out all those dozens of tastes in different parts of the pallet. Now I have a handful of faves (one courtesy of a recommendation from Pops and its available!) and whatever makes my taste buds happy make me happy and I don’t try to over think it. Cheers

    • Yati, glad I was able to point you in the direction of new favorite. Makes all the abuse I put my liver through worth it. Keep on spreading the bourbon gospel. Cheers!

      • Yati says:

        Hey Pops. I’ll try to remember to make a toast to your liver whenever drinking some JDSBBP that u recommended…its my #2 fave followed by some WT’s, 1920. BTW, there’s some vitamins out there to help ur liver that u can research…I take em.
        That brings me to a BIG confession of where I’m willing to pay way over “suggested” retail, which that msrp designation is also sometimes part of the hoax…it’s my belief the following certainly is not meant to be $70 or nearly in that class!
        Awhile back, broke down and tried Stagg Jr.15 for the bumped up price of $200. I can drink that everyday and have ordered a few more bottles as well. [I’m surely blessed I can afford it]…even at that price because its amazing and checks off all my boxes to date. It may not be 3 X better than some $60-$80. bourbons I have tried but its just much much better for my taste buds. One can argue its worth a bit less, but if one, for all practical purposes can’t find it, whats the point. I’ll be eagerly awaiting ur review of Stagg jr 16.
        So, other than that JDSBBP, do you have anything to compare that realistically/accessible that can be found under $200. in that taste profile…as would love to find some?? On a side note, my wife is worried I’m squandering her inheritance and she won’t be able to sell unopened bourbons. Of course will try to time it so won’t have any leftover. lol
        As always, love ur podcasts and now own one each of those “Drink American…” t-shirts and imprinted glencarrin glasses.
        Yati

  • Fred says:

    This is so very true I have tasted bourbon that cost someone I know almost $200.00 and it is no better than my $25.00 bottle which I found somewhat surprising but then after thinking about it he is one of them that falls for what this article covers. I have never paid more than $30.00 for a bottle of bourbon mainly because there are so many great choices in this price range and see no reason too based on some I have had costing 5X more.

  • Todd says:

    For the bourbon newbie and uninitiated here, could you fill in a few of the “you all know this bottle” blanks? After reading reviews here and elsewhere, I’ve tried to practice a “taste first, buy the bottle if I like it” approach because of what you have written in this article, which you covered well. But, I have bitten on some because of reputation – mostly Trace products, but not all. Some I’ll never buy (tasted a delicious Sazerac 18 but wayyy too expensive, for example). Some specifics might help me avoid wasting time and money on these gimmicks. Thanks!

    • Bennett Wood says:

      He’s talking about Blanton’s.

      • Todd says:

        Thanks Bennett. Thought so, but wanted confirmation. I used to pick it up any day at $60 just a few years ago, then the “craze” set in. I chuckle when retailers call it allocated now. I buy it now to use as a trade bottle.

  • Robert Zimmerman says:

    Saying Bob Dylan “can’t sing” is like saying Thelonius Monk “can’t play piano.”

  • Ray Olah says:

    The very sight of Kentucky Owl irritates me. Its label conjures up the idea of antiqueness, as if it has been around for 150 years, but I never saw the stuff on the shelf before about five years ago and I’ve been a whiskey drinker for more than four decades.

  • Eric says:

    Wow. Spot on.