Malt Resistance

Narrating the Rise and Fall of Single Malt Scotch.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Marketing Geniuses

Here’s a quote I came across more than a decade ago. Though not specifically on Single Malt, noir writer Lawrence Block illustrates rather well the mentality that’s behind the changes which are affecting our favored drink:

"I went over and picked up the bottle and read its label. It was eighty proof. All the popular-priced bourbons had been eighty six proof for years, and then some marketing genius had come up with the idea off cutting the proof to eighty and leaving the price unchanged. Since the federal excise tax is based in alcohol content, and since alcohol costs the manufacturer more than plain water. The distiller increased his profit while slightly boosting the demand at the same time (…)"

This is why the proof of SMS has gone from 86 to 80 in many countries, and explains bottles ‘mysteriously’ getting smaller (from 75 to 70cl) a few years back.
It is precisely because the Whisky industry is run by the above-mentioned “marketing genius” that we can forget about Single Malts improving or maintaining their current level of quality. Our time is the dawn of an accidental and short-lived golden age of single malt whisky which began in the late 1980’s.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Crispy Critter said...

I don't quite agree with that. As far as I can tell, the 700 ml size is an EU standard; bottlings for North America are almost always 750 ml (some blends come in 1.0 l and 1.5 l sizes as well, and I've seen 375 and 200 ml bottles of a few malts). I've never seen a 700 in the US, at any rate.

As for the watering-down of single malts, it seems to me that the trend is going the other way, with "unchillfiltered" having become a marketing plus. Unchillfiltered bottlings need to be at leat 46%, and cask-strength bottlings have become more and more common.

While a certain Tennessee whiskey has become infamous for being watered down, there are still plenty of bourbons that haven't followed suit.

12:40 PM  
Blogger Nestor said...

Well, there used to be a time in France and in England, when all whisky botttles were 75 cl. Is this to blame on the E.U.? Well, if this is an EU decision, lets venture that liquor industry lawyers and lobbyists made sure the new law or directive ensured the consumer would be getting less than the previousl standard 75cl. Check Michael Jackson's 1st edition of his book: all malts are 75cl.
In the US, granted, I have not seen the dreaded 70cl. bottles (a few exceptions: the Macallan Gran Reserva is one).
But the bourbon proof is steadily going further down. Of recent note, Jack Daniels just lowered the proof of its whisky --citing health reasons no less!!
Also check a number of distillers, most notably The Macallan who for every cask strength offering fill the shelves with two reduced strength bottlings (for example the "travel series' and 'gran reserva')

The cask strength bottlings, and non-chill filtering of some malts, is, to be sure, a developement which I welcome.

2:14 PM  
Anonymous josh said...

Unless something has changed legal-wise, 70 cl bottles are not approved for import to the United States. 40% seems to be the standard for most spirits nowadays in the U.S., at least for the mass market bottles.

6:55 PM  

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