Drinkers need another spirits competition to tell them what to buy about as much as spirits makers need these medal-fests to tell them their products are great. Yet despite having several of these competitions annually, we’re getting another.
The foundation attached to Tales of the Cocktail, the annual and long-running, liquor-lubricious bartender-centric event held in the Crescent City is rolling out The New Orleans Spirits Competition. According to a news release, the goal is to create “a judging to determine the best spirits being produced today—craft brands as well as legacy brands.”
Further in, the release reads, “The judging panels will include preeminent craft bartenders, distillers, spirits journalists and others with decades (sic) experience in the industry.”
Every industry has one or two competitions that award companies for best practices or products, and most commonly, trade groups tend to host these competitions and give awards relative to unique aspects of the same industry. One contest will focus on accomplishments of industry leaders while another will recognize innovative equipment.
In the spirits industry, they’re all focused on spirits, which makes them redundant, don’t you think? Yet, drinkers and news outlets can’t get enough of them. And now there are so many competitions that their sheer number threatens dilute the value of all of them. With this new contest we have Tales wagging the dog.
If you listened to the most recent episode of the Bourbon & Banter Podcast, you heard co-hosts Pops Garrett and Bob Bennett call out some of these events for the cash grabs they’ve become. To be fair, the hosts also allow that if the money’s there, why not grab it? (Such comic cognitive dissonance is always served up in a bucket, Mr. Creosote-style, on this podcast!)
We get it: Some distilleries view the pricey entry fees (several hundred dollars per bottle entered) as cheap marketing. The cost of a hundred such entries wouldn’t rival the price of a national TV ad. So, let’s call them shrewd.
Where the double gold, gold, silver and bronze awards for these contests create problems is at liquor retailers. If a bottle medals (and do any not?), prices can soar to triple the SRP.
And despite those higher costs, whiskey fans buy them, hoard them, create false demand and force prices higher. Because of these contests, bottles that once were smartly affordable get overpriced and become fetishized. (Cue the crotch shots and “mine’s bigger than yours” bunker pics).
Admittedly, my views get a little twisted on the issue: Much as I don’t like those jacked up prices, if consumers want to pay them, who’s to tell anyone in the three-tier system they can’t raise prices? Won’t be me. It also won’t be me shelling out 3X prices for those bottles.
Fact is, much as consumers complain about low prices, we’re not entitled to them. That’s the beauty and the curse of a (mostly) free market. Those days when Van Winkle bottles gathered dust on retailers’ shelves are long gone and won’t return in our lifetimes.
But for heaven’s sake, let’s not make them any worse with another contest. Enough already.