Death Of A Bourbon Generation

Value is a perception, not a calculation”

For those that have been living under a rock in the bourbon world for the last 24 hours here’s the deal. Friday, Beam Suntory confirmed a rumor that Booker’s will now be priced at $100 a bottle. It will also drop from six releases a year to four. I mentioned this in my Friday wrap-up but at that point, I thought it was nothing more than a rumor. Unfortunately, it was true. Before I dive into my thoughts on Beam’s decision it’s worth giving Chuck and Fred a read.

Is Beam being greedy? It’s hard to call this move anything but greedy. But, as Chuck pointed out, this isn’t a non-profit. Beam Suntory is a massive international company. This was an accountant (as an accountant I’d liked to blame the marketing department) move. Not a Master Distiller decision. They’re basically saying “we see people paying $100 for x, y & z. Why wouldn’t they pay that for Booker’s.” From that point of view, I can at least understand. I think moving Booker’s from six to four releases is a good idea. I also get a ton of requests from people asking for a bottles suggestion in the $100 range.

After hearing this news I started to count the number of times I’ve mentioned Booker’s as a bourbon you should buy. There were far too many to count. Anytime someone asks me for a suggestion for something to buy, I say Booker’s. It’s always the first bottles I think of when someone says they can’t find a certain limited edition bourbon. Why not save yourself some time and money and just buy Booker’s. That’s why I refer to this as the death of a bourbon generation. We’ve seen price increases before. Dropped age statements have become normal. There’s something a more incendiary about doubling the price of a product and dropping its supply. Especially, when it’s a product you love.

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Master Distiller Fred Noe at the Booker’s Roundtable I attended

There are a lot of smart people at Beam. I have no doubt that they researched and tested (probably with Booker’s rye) before making this move. I also know that there are a lot of Beam reps that were left in the dark about this decision. Some finding out the same way we did. Beam sees the broader whiskey market. The amount they’ll lose from bourbon nerds they’ll make up in new drinker’s that will be oblivious to the change. Does anyone remember when Elijah Craig 18 was $45?!

Maker’s Mark dropping their proof was the only other rival to Booker’s price in regards to a public outcry. The pushback has been loud and unanimous. Could Beam change their mind? Maybe. If they do, this will be the greatest marketing stunt of all time. Booker’s is currently flying off of the shelf. I talked with one retailer that sells about 10 bottles of Booker’s a year. His shelf was wiped clean of six bottles yesterday. I think that’s part of the confusion. Booker’s isn’t a bottle that flies off of the shelf and has allocation issues. It sits on most shelves 2-3 releases deep in most places. That’s the beauty of it. Now, if Beam announces a repeal of the pricing change in a few weeks they just pushed through all of their old inventory in time for the new year. Just a thought.

While I don’t agree with Beam’s decision, I still love Booker’s. Thankfully, I’ve loved Booker’s for a long time and have a well-stocked supply. Personally, I don’t think I’ll be paying $100 anytime soon.

55 comments

    Sad. But I can’t blame ’em. Things are worth what people are willing to pay for them. And I have no doubt people will pay $100 for Booker’s.

    As the prices continue to rise, a lot of newcomers to bourbon will buy the lower cost (and sometimes) inferior products. In the long run, this will hurt the bourbon industry since when they don’t fall in love with these lower cost products, they will move on to a different spirit.

    I myself have been known to spend $100 for a bottle, but in my current 50+ bottle whiskey collection (32 bottles of bourbon including Bookers plus a number of Scotch, Irish, Rye, and other whiskeys) I believe I have only 5 which cost over that price point. And those 3 are very special to me for a given reason (2 special occasion Pappy’s and 3 different well aged scotches from distilleries that don’t sell into the US).

    So if I am looking for a barrel strength bourbon, there are several excellent choices in the $50-$70 price range including Four Roses Private Selection, Barrell Bourbon, Elija Craig Barrel Proof, and George T Stagg – all of which I currently have. I will choose any of these over spending $100 for Bookers,

    Well there goes my go to favorite at a reasonable price. Surprised after talking with Fred one and his insistence they were not going into the money than world ever. Well, good luck sellng what readily available on the shelf for twice the money
    .

    I did a bottle count the other day and found I have 222 bottles of whisk(e)y in my home. Most are desirable bottles that were limited releases or ones which are now on allocation to retailers. The vast majority are bourbons – Van Winkles, BTAC, Parker’s Heritage, Elmer T. Lee, Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, etc. There are a half dozen or so of Booker’s. If the MSRP for Booker’s is raised to $100, I suspect our local retailers will be pricing it at least at $150, probably more. I plan to drink my stock of bourbon which was bought at reasonable prices and will not add much to my stock until the insanity stops.

    Well there goes my go to favorite at a reasonable price. Surprised after talking with Fred Noe, and his insistence they were not going into the money grab world ever. Well, good luck sellng what is readily available on the shelf for twice the money!

    Meh. These people just want it all. Booker’s sits around for a year or more in a lot of stores. I have seen a Center Cut still on the shelf lately. I won’t buy anything they make anymore. BTW, Knob Creek is probably next.

    I find it SAD. Too bad the one (and only?… I can’t think of another) good quality barrel proof Bourbon available for anything like reasonable cost … won’t be, any longer. I won’t be a buyer at a C-note. And, I’ve always had at least a few Booker’s in the closet. Just my own personal decision, of course.

    Once a month I buy a KCSB120, A Booker’s, OGDBIB, & a JBSB… NO MORE. This $100.00 Booker’s Bull Shit goes thru I’m boycotting Beam products. I still have a Booker’s Rye, 3 KC2001’s, & a MMCS to get thru, but after them, no more Beam. Wild Turkey makes great stuff. All at reasonable prices!! Beam now sits on the same stinking shit pile as Diageo. Bean can eat a flaming bag of diseased dicks!

    All wishful thinking on beams of beams end. The newbie bourbon drinker is asking more questions about what they should drink more than ever via social media. No one is going to recommend spending $100 on bookers. This is just a terrible idea imo. They have to know bookers sits on the shelf at the $50 price point. It’s going to collect dust at $100

    F U Beam. Loved Bookers but to go up double in price? Good luck with that next year. Four Roses has better bourbon, now for less. I won’t be buying this again if you go through with it. There are going to be a lot of people like me who were buying 5 plus bottles a year at $50 that now won’t buy any. You are going to end up losing on this one.

    Who is going to be next now……Honestly, the NOT worthy Pappy Van Winkle killed the great and affordable bourbon industry. Now every single one of them are coming with some kind of overpriced “very limited edition” most are not worth the money, I call it “The Greedy Edition”

    I’ve bought the occasional bottle of Booker’s when I could find it in the $50 range or when one of the local shops where it sits on the shelf for $60 has a coupon discount thing going on but at $60+ it has been an easy pass for years. $100? Hilarious. I can get two bottles of Blanton’s for that price, or three bottles of Four Roses Small Batch, two bottles of Four Roses Single Barrel with money to spare, two bottles of Stagg Jr. and on and on and on. Stupid move on the part of Beam and I hope that it bites them in the ass, hard.

    Blake says:
    “Does anyone remember when Elijah Craig 18 was $45?!”

    Willie says;
    “Doea anyone remember when Pappy 15 was about $65?!……and AVAILABLE?!”
    ((it was around 2003-2004))

    Yup ….and around the same time or a bit earlier I bought a PVW 20 for 70!! ….and decided it was not that much different than the 12 which was 35 at the time!!!

    Yes to both. And unfortunately, haven’t had either since the price hike.

    I think this is a ploy to make room in their lineup to move more Bakers and Basil Haydens. Given their close price range, both have always been in the shadow of Bookers.

    Jameson jacked up the cost of their Gold and 12 Year a few years ago by significant margins. They then marked up regular Jameson, and added Black Barrel and Caskmates (bleech!) to the lineup.

    I had empty boxes with price tags ranging from $34.99 to $44.99 with a 3% cash discount under some of those prices. In the last year I’ve paid up to $53. For Booker’s 25th I dropped something in the low $90’s for a couple bottles and it wasn’t the best Booker’s I’ve had. I might pay that if they are increasing the quality of the product significantly but they can’t. It’s just Beam. Yes, running a business, people will still buy it, but FU ! Not cool.

    I can think of at least a half a dozen bourbons still in that 50ish range I’ll drink instead. So… Nope, not gonna happen, Beam.

    The whole, I won’t pay 100 for Bookers because Blanton’s is 60 crowd had better hold on tight. Do you really think other brands won’t raise prices too? Bourbon is exploding in popularity. It’s not just us nerds in the USA driving this. The global economy is to blame too. Buckle up. Bunker what you like. Or quit drinking. The golden days are over. Have been for a while.

    My max per bottle is $40 (which I’ve broken maybe 3 times…twice for Blanton’s). I was able to find Booker’s on line for $40’ish and pair it with a couple bottles of something else to help with shipping and still come out better than if I’d bought the same three bottles in my control state and stick to my $40 budget. A month later this was announced. So…If I wasn’t buying it at $60, I’m definitely out at $100. If other premiums in the $40 range follow suit and go up, I’ll just have to learn to drink cheaper bourbon. I can guarantee you it won’t be Beam products, though.

    It was only a matter of time before the formation of OPEC’s little brother – BPECK (Bourbon Producing Economic Counties of Kentucky). We pay at the pump and now at the still.

    Its all about greed Shit I see this stuff siting liquor store shelf’s all day long for $60 a bottle now

    They will fugue out they fucked up down the road when sales go down even more. You cant generate interest in your product just by raising the price

    Bought the banjo sticker, not all that impressed with it.

    Bourbon is in a boom right now and I expect to see a battle of bourbons attempting to price one another out on the upside. When the boom began (the recognition by the buying public), there was a lot of bourbon that had been aging in barrels. Supply outstripped Demand. Now, we’re in reverse. Supply is increasing to meet perceived demand. All vices cycle as to “what’s cool” and bourbon is currently king. This will pass. International markets, looking for an alternative to scotch have turned their attention to bourbon. So it will be interesting to see if domestic demand holds, an attempt to find a higher pricing parity holds, and we’ll see it on the liquor shelves in years to come as far as what’s still offered and pricing (is bourbon more expensive or do we see a glut again?). There is so much good stuff out there at more than reasonable pricing.

    I’ll try the Booker Banjo again in a few weeks. I added a tsp of water, it opened up a little. I recently had JW Dant, Fighting Cock and Very Old Barton and I’d take all 3 above the Banjo.

    I have well over 100 bottles and not one bottle breaks the c note mark. Virtually none of them can I walk into a store and buy today and most are barrel proof. I know my private barrels are far better than the “craft” stuff being schlepped. Do you think I’ll pay $100 for bookers? Not a chance.

    Though I fear this is the beginning…if the other distillers follow suit, at least I can lean on my bunker.

    I do have a feeling they are holding something back…methinks the roundtables were a pilot. If they keep pulling bourbon celebrities in and every Booker’s is a roundtable (and likely paying participants a nice commission) they can probably pull the $100 a bottle.

    Ok, so I may be viewed as the Anti-Christ, but, here goes: I’m a Capitalist and I love America and Free Enterprise and the Private Sector.

    To my taste buds and enjoyment, Bookers is (and has been) in that league of super, super premium quality whiskeys. I never understood why it wasn’t more expensive. I’ve recommended it to everyone who will listen as a ‘BEST THAT’S READILY AVAILABLE’ bourbon for the last four years. That’s ONLY my opinion, but I try to be a student of the game (I have a “library” of over 140 currently-open whiskeys, 100+ of which are bourbon or rye (the other 40-ish are Scottish, Irish, Indian, Canadian or from Tennessee)).

    I enjoy Bookers equal to Stagg, Jr., and 90% as much as Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, Willett Family Estate Single Barrels, EH Taylor Barrel Proof and 85% as much as PPV15 (I don’t care for PPV20, PPV23, JTStagg, and all of the five different Orphan Barrel releases I’ve tried… bourbon older than 12 years almost always tastes like licking a board to my taste buds)(I totally respect the opinion of those who love really old bourbon, cigars, raw onions and coffee… you can have my share… but please don’t drink, smoke or eat those things with my taste buds, because I don’t like them). All of those other “super, supers” are ‘lottery picks’ in my neck ‘o the woods, which is only 75 minutes from Bourbon County. But Bookers has virtually always been available.

    I think Bookers is perceived by some potential buyers as ‘lesser’ or ‘unworthy’ or ‘not today’ solely because it IS pretty much always available. People always want most what they cannot have. I’m a sucker for buying something I usually can’t get.

    And, consider this: If Beam makes $10 a bottle at the current $50 price point, look at what they make if they only sell 1/5 the number of bottles at their newer $100 price point:

    ($10/profit a bottle x 10 bottles = $100 profit vs. $60/profit a bottle x 2 bottles = $120 profit).

    That’s not HillBilly math. Even Harvard and Yale grads would agree with those numbers.

    And… limiting their sales volume will allow them to maintain or even increase their quality. Fewer barrels needed to meet supply means they have the luxury of choosier barrel picking. Choosing fewer barrels for Bookers in turn increases the supply of higher quality barrels to use for their “undercard” whiskeys.

    Sorry for being a contrarian, but if you owned Beam/Suntory, would you price your whiskey to maximize profits, perceived quality and top-to-bottom brand quality, or would you price your whiskey to make ‘old fashioned’ whiskey drinkers (25% of the market?) happy? (NEW, never-drank-bourbon-until-recently whiskey drinkers are what’s driving the industry to dizzying heights… particularly the 1 Billion India Indians and the 2 Billion Chinese).

    Agree 100% with your analysis here. I do not believe the marketing bait to clear the shelves is bait. I’m not going to load up, but if you love the current supply, go get some more.

    The intent of Beam to capitalize on special releases appears obvious here. Bookers Rye was a stepping stone and I’m part of the problem for buying two bottles. However if the quality is there for future releases many of us will still buy…

    I started getting into bourbons in 2008 and no doubt things have changed, but I still love the special sauce. They have us where they want us.

    So your such a fan of capitalism that you celebrate a company charging you more money for their product. Well if that’s capitalism, then I say Viva la Revolucion! 🙂

    People may pay a hundred on the secondary 4 Bookers because it’s not available in their area but Booker’s is not $100 bottle of bourbon…period!

    I enjoy Bookers and I enjoy some of their special releases, but I damn sure won’t pay $100 for Bookers at this point. Too many other cask-strength offerings for considerably less that I’d just as soon drink!!

    I liked the remark about the Elijah 18. Paid 55 for my first bottle and would pay 100. But sorry not the Bookers no disrespect I believe its just my taste buds. Love the 18.

    I’ve tried several variations of Bookers and have yet to come across one bottle that I must have. Simply not in my preferred flavor profile. A price increase on this brand will have no affect on my purchases. Still curious to see how this strategy plays out across the industry.

    “Does anyone remember when Elijah Craig 18 was $45?!” Yep, and not many bought it back then “too oaky” they said and stuck with the 12yr.

    Remember when Booker’s was $50? Yep, and it sat on the shelves. At $100, good luck Beam, maybe this works out for them. I could see $60-$65 to be in line with other barrel-proofers out there, but $100 is just stupid.

    Seems like there will be more changes to come at Beam, the Booker’s move is just one early move in the bigger chess match for them.

    The reason people will buy Bookers and I honestly truly believe even more so than before is for the pure fact… ready…. say it with me…. “ALLOCATION”

    Bookers has never Been allocated and there are too many people out there that could give two shits what’s inside the bottle as long as it is allocated and hard to get. With the batches being cut down from 6-7 to 4 batches, this will create roughly 1/3 less bookers than before. It’s a sad world we live in but people only care about money and if there is a chance they can make money, they will buy something.

    Sadly enough, I think this is a great Bourbon and have bought every bottle left in this city. I found a chain of liquor stores that had cases of Bookers 2014-06 left and got them to give me a deal for buying all of them. For every case I bought (6 per case), they essentially gave me a free bottle of it. It was WAY too good of a deal to pass but the fact is, they had been sitting there since Jan 2015.

    Anyway, I most likely will never have to pay the $100 price tag again with my 30 bottles of it 🙂

    I bought two bottles of Bookers several years back (they came in pinewood boxes with plastic fronts) and I must say that I was not enamored by the bottle which I opened and eventually drank. I still have the second bottle (C01-A-18), unopened, on my shelf, but I really have had no great desire drink it. I feel that $100 is out of bounds for the brand.

    Hey Guys and Gals
    Come to Oz where its $100 all day every day in our bottleshops . With the exchange rate you will only pay about 72 bucanerios. That’s until the price boots in ..$200 aus …ouch!

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