Mike Veach's Book: Repeal and After

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Mike Veach's Book: Repeal and After

Unread postby EllenJ » Fri Jan 29, 2010 10:56 am

Okay, here comes another EllenJ MONSTER POST.
Due to its nature, and to make it easier for our board moderator(s) to split it up into different threads/topics should they desire, I'm submitting this as a bunch of separate posts. Please tolerate.

In addition (or perhaps as an extension) to all great information he provides here on BourbonEnthusiast, Mike Veach (BourbonV for y'all newbies) has been working (off and on, since he has a legitimate archivist job that requires most of his attention) for nearly three years now on an actual book, a bourbon history, to be published by the University Press of Kentucky. From time to time he sends me drafts of what he's adding. A few days ago I had the privelege of reading some of what he has to say about the repeal of Prohibition and the turmoil of re-inventing the entire beverage alcohol industry. Although Mike's overall focus is on bourbon, specifically Kentucky bourbon, what he expresses can be considered an appropriate microcosm for American distillers in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Illinois, and other states.

Mike brings up some really interesting points of view, many of which I understand and agree with completely. Some I disagree with, at least to the extent of my own knowledge. And there are quite a few that I feel raise some interesting questions that beg for more detail. I asked Mike if he would mind my bringing a few of these to the forum, in order to get discussions going and he graciously said that would be fine.

I hope these points are taken in the spirit in which I've written them. That is, as an attempt to provide conversational "sparks" to promote further participation -- and not just among us old regulars who already know Mike and everything there is know about bourbon history already. And who knows? Maybe Mike will pick up that spark from someone's response and add that viewpoint to his growing chapter.

Okay, here goes with the first one...

1. As many people know, Utah had the honor of being the last state to ratify the 21st ammendment (repeal). Was Utah alone, or did several states vote for repeal at pretty much the same time and Utah just happened to be last? It is, of course alphabetically last.
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Re: Mike Veach's Book: Repeal and After

Unread postby EllenJ » Fri Jan 29, 2010 10:57 am

EllenJ wrote:In addition (or perhaps as an extension) to all great information he provides here on BourbonEnthusiast, Mike Veach (BourbonV for y'all newbies) has been working (off and on, since he has a legitimate archivist job that requires most of his attention) for nearly three years now on an actual book, a bourbon history, to be published by the University Press of Kentucky. From time to time he sends me drafts of what he's adding. A few days ago I had the privelege of reading some of what he has to say about the repeal of Prohibition and the turmoil of re-inventing the entire beverage alcohol industry. Although Mike's overall focus is on bourbon, specifically Kentucky bourbon, what he expresses can be considered an appropriate microcosm for American distillers in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Illinois, and other states.

Mike brings up some really interesting points of view, many of which I understand and agree with completely. Some I disagree with, at least to the extent of my own knowledge. And there are quite a few that I feel raise some interesting questions that beg for more detail. I asked Mike if he would mind my bringing a few of these to the forum, in order to get discussions going and he graciously said that would be fine.

I hope these points are taken in the spirit in which I've written them. That is, as an attempt to provide conversational "sparks" to promote further participation -- and not just among us old regulars who already know Mike and everything there is know about bourbon history already. And who knows? Maybe Mike will pick up that spark from someone's response and add that viewpoint to his growing chapter.

2. By the way, which was the FIRST state to ratify the 21st?

3. Of the other states -- the ones that (repeatedly) voted AGAINST ratification -- what were their motivations, and their tactics? Did they hold tea parties? Did their legislators and governors actively campaign, in other states, against repeal, as their successors would do with national issues today? Were there outraged demands to see President Roosevelt's birth certificate? More to the point, was there a feeling among those who saw repeal as a "victory for Satan over God's America" to continue "the good fight" and do whatever was necessary to see that repeal became a failure?
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Re: Mike Veach's Book: Repeal and After

Unread postby EllenJ » Fri Jan 29, 2010 11:00 am

EllenJ wrote:In addition (or perhaps as an extension) to all great information he provides here on BourbonEnthusiast, Mike Veach (BourbonV for y'all newbies) has been working (off and on, since he has a legitimate archivist job that requires most of his attention) for nearly three years now on an actual book, a bourbon history, to be published by the University Press of Kentucky. From time to time he sends me drafts of what he's adding. A few days ago I had the privelege of reading some of what he has to say about the repeal of Prohibition and the turmoil of re-inventing the entire beverage alcohol industry. Although Mike's overall focus is on bourbon, specifically Kentucky bourbon, what he expresses can be considered an appropriate microcosm for American distillers in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Illinois, and other states.

Mike brings up some really interesting points of view, many of which I understand and agree with completely. Some I disagree with, at least to the extent of my own knowledge. And there are quite a few that I feel raise some interesting questions that beg for more detail. I asked Mike if he would mind my bringing a few of these to the forum, in order to get discussions going and he graciously said that would be fine.

I hope these points are taken in the spirit in which I've written them. That is, as an attempt to provide conversational "sparks" to promote further participation -- and not just among us old regulars who already know Mike and everything there is know about bourbon history already. And who knows? Maybe Mike will pick up that spark from someone's response and add that viewpoint to his growing chapter.

4. And where did people such as Joy Perrine's family (as only one example of the entire bootlegger/moonshiner subculture) play into the process? Of course, those at the street level, such as her folks and neighbors, didn't have much pull and weren't economically significant, but there certainly were plenty of heavy political sponsors and powerful forces who stood to lose big-time, and they were not the sort to be easily intimidated. Were there "incidents"? :naughty:
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Re: Mike Veach's Book: Repeal and After

Unread postby EllenJ » Fri Jan 29, 2010 11:04 am

EllenJ wrote:In addition (or perhaps as an extension) to all great information he provides here on BourbonEnthusiast, Mike Veach (BourbonV for y'all newbies) has been working (off and on, since he has a legitimate archivist job that requires most of his attention) for nearly three years now on an actual book, a bourbon history, to be published by the University Press of Kentucky. From time to time he sends me drafts of what he's adding. A few days ago I had the privelege of reading some of what he has to say about the repeal of Prohibition and the turmoil of re-inventing the entire beverage alcohol industry. Although Mike's overall focus is on bourbon, specifically Kentucky bourbon, what he expresses can be considered an appropriate microcosm for American distillers in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Illinois, and other states.

Mike brings up some really interesting points of view, many of which I understand and agree with completely. Some I disagree with, at least to the extent of my own knowledge. And there are quite a few that I feel raise some interesting questions that beg for more detail. I asked Mike if he would mind my bringing a few of these to the forum, in order to get discussions going and he graciously said that would be fine.

I hope these points are taken in the spirit in which I've written them. That is, as an attempt to provide conversational "sparks" to promote further participation -- and not just among us old regulars who already know Mike and everything there is know about bourbon history already. And who knows? Maybe Mike will pick up that spark from someone's response and add that viewpoint to his growing chapter.

5. Much is made of the idea that American consumers had learned to prefer lighter, less flavorful whiskey, such as Canadian. And, as you point out in your opening paragraphs, there was plenty of aged Canadian and Scotch whiskey around to be legally sold while bourbon producers were sitting and waiting for their whiskey to age. But I find that to be less than completely convincing. For one thing, it's the sort of semi-dismissive explanation found in whiskey ads and on back labels, and that should be suspicious enough altready. But remember that nearly all of the American whiskey brands were owned by the same companies who were already importing the Canadian and Scotch whiskey. They weren't in any particular hurry. And of course customers who preferred Canadian and Scotch whiskies did so BECAUSE those beverages didn't have the heavy full-bodied taste found in straight bourbon or rye whiskey. The most popular Canadians, all blended of course, typically have little flavor regardless of how long their base whiskies have been aged, and the Scotch that was popular was blended Scotch, whose drinkers would gag on glass of fine Islay single malt.

More importantly -- and everyone seems to ignore this point -- virtually concurrent with the dreaded 18th ammendment was the 19th ammendment, which granted women the right to vote. But y'see, that's not ALL that ammendment was about. What it REALLY did was to acknowledge, on an official federal goverment level, that citizens of the female persuasion were no longer to be treated as second-class citizens. They were to be considered equals. And that meant they were welcome to go outside of their kitchens and nurseries and spend money for entertainment just as if they had a penis like real people. Of course, the "whammy" was that, in order to purchase and imbibe in alcohol beverages, they had to patronize the criminal establishments where such beverages were illegally sold. And so they did. And where Da Goilz went, that's where Da Guys went. And Da Goilz preferred less manly-flavorful whiskey than bourbon or rye. So did the more successful guys who wanted to impress them. Speak-easys welcomed both men and women, anyone looking to have a good time without regard for the law. They were especially appealing to younger men and women. The concept of drinking-places as saloons where men could go to drink liquor with other men was very quickly replaced with nightclubs where men met women and danced. And in those establishments, light-flavored blended whiskey was almost as popular as gin and white rum. Full-flavored whiskey remained popular only in all-men's clubs.

Bottom line:
Before Prohibition most men drank bourbon or rye, and smoked big, fat cigars, to impress other men; the stronger the better. Such men still do.
After Prohibition the sons of those men drank cocktails or light liquor (and later vodka and tequila), and smoked Marlboros, while trying to impress women.
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Re: Mike Veach's Book: Repeal and After

Unread postby EllenJ » Fri Jan 29, 2010 11:06 am

EllenJ wrote:In addition (or perhaps as an extension) to all great information he provides here on BourbonEnthusiast, Mike Veach (BourbonV for y'all newbies) has been working (off and on, since he has a legitimate archivist job that requires most of his attention) for nearly three years now on an actual book, a bourbon history, to be published by the University Press of Kentucky. From time to time he sends me drafts of what he's adding. A few days ago I had the privelege of reading some of what he has to say about the repeal of Prohibition and the turmoil of re-inventing the entire beverage alcohol industry. Although Mike's overall focus is on bourbon, specifically Kentucky bourbon, what he expresses can be considered an appropriate microcosm for American distillers in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Illinois, and other states.

Mike brings up some really interesting points of view, many of which I understand and agree with completely. Some I disagree with, at least to the extent of my own knowledge. And there are quite a few that I feel raise some interesting questions that beg for more detail. I asked Mike if he would mind my bringing a few of these to the forum, in order to get discussions going and he graciously said that would be fine.

I hope these points are taken in the spirit in which I've written them. That is, as an attempt to provide conversational "sparks" to promote further participation -- and not just among us old regulars who already know Mike and everything there is know about bourbon history already. And who knows? Maybe Mike will pick up that spark from someone's response and add that viewpoint to his growing chapter.

6. Mike writes about some of self-imposed restrictions the newly-formed whiskey marketers promoted, in hopes that prostrating themselves might stave off a repeal of the repeal. And there was certainly some justification for that, as many states, including those who ratified repeal, maintained complex and petty lists of restrictions. At least some of these were obviously aimed at making the revival of the alcohol bevereage industry so difficult and expensive as to fail, at least in their state. As an example, Mike quotes a list of advertising restrictions from a Frankfort Distilling Company's book published in 1946:

a) Drinking scenes. This restriction stems from a belief in the minds of some commissioners
that the pictures of people enjoying our products would encourage some non-drinkers
to become drinkers. In general, the liquor industry is supposed to confine its appeal to
people who already use some type of distilled spirits.

b) Price advertising. Several states forbid either the listing of bottle prices or any mention
of price, value or economy. The commissioners in these states feel that such advertising
encourages buying by people who can’t afford a luxury product, and also that price
advertising stimulates price wars in the trade.

c) Testimonials. Some authorities feel that a man’s choice of a whiskey brand has little to
do with his success as a businessman, actor or social leader and that it is unfair to imply
that it does by means of endorsements and testimonials.

d) Recipes. The ban on telling people how to make mixed drinks is apparently based on a
belief that recipe ads make drinking appear more attractive and therefore encourage
greater consumption. Most state commissioners feel that their job is to regulate rather
than to help promote the sale of liquor.

e) Holiday advertising. Few distillers would have the bad taste to use pictures of Santa
Claus or religious symbols in their advertising, but many of them use some form of
seasonal copy to promote their brands as Christmas gifts. In a number of states,
however, any use of the word “Christmas” is a serious violation of regulations, and in
some states an illustration of a Christmas tree, holly or mistletoe is also forbidden.

f) Display material. Federal regulations prohibits a distiller from having more than $10.00
worth of display material in use to advertise his brands at any one time in a single retail
establishment. Therefore expensive and attractive display devices frequently employed
by advertisers in other lines of business can not be used to promote Frankfort brands if
the cost exceeds the Federal limit of $10.00. In addition to this Federal restriction on the
value of the display material, some states limit the cost even further and many limit the
size of the display piece.


In support of that, I can personally testify that in 1976 in my former life as a "folksinger" in small East-coast country taverns, my advertising flyers could not occupy the same posting board as anything mentioning liquor, not even beer. The common custom of "Happy Hour" existed, and many taverns had signs saying that Happy Hour was, say, from 5:00 to 7:00. But the signs could not say what "Happy Hour" actually was, nor could it state what the prices were during Happy Hour, nor even that they were reduced. No alcohol beverage could be mentioned on the Happy Hour sign. I know of at least two places that were closed by the dreaded State Liquor Control Board for not heeding that. The charge? Willfullly enticing customers to drink.

The only place you could legally buy a bottle of whiskey was (and still is) from a state-licensed dispensary. Owned and operated as branches of the liquor control institution, they were called "Liquor Store", but they were not like any "store" you've ever seen. Really, they were a standalone version of the pharmacy department such as we see in a drugstore or supermarket. Except that the liquor store allowed no advertising material, nor even mention of the product. Exactly like a pharmacy, the customer approached the counter and gave their order to the dispensing agent (pharmacist?), who then went into the storage room and returned with the product, wrapped in plain brown paper. I imagine that was the same as during prohibition, the only difference being that under the Volstead laws the customer needed a prescription. In the 1970s, the customer didn't need a prescription, but could only order by catalog number. There was a printed catalog available at the counter, listing the available liquors and their numbers, and the "store" operator was not allowed to fulfill a request by name or other description. He was also not allowed to recommend a particular brand, nor to provide any information at all, including the stock number, that would assist the customer in their decision to purchase (self-prescribe) alcohol. Pennsylvania liquor stores today are more modern and offer self-service from displayed bottles and promotional materials just like other stores. But they are still owned and operated by the state government, a position that has been consistantly reinforced by the voters in election after election. The "enforced semi-temperance" concept is not an imposition of Big Government in Pennsylvania; time and again the voters have proven that it is what the people want.

In the 1980's, the congress of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania voted to raise significantly the price of wine in the state-run liquor stores. Not ALL wine was affected, however, only the very cheapest wines, plus some select fortified wines. The lawmakers proudly applauded themselves for this act, the SOLE PURPOSE of which was to make cheap wine less affordable for those for whom it was deemed inappropriate to be allowed to drink alcohol. I believe that rationale is still in place today.
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Re: Mike Veach's Book: Repeal and After

Unread postby EllenJ » Fri Jan 29, 2010 11:11 am

EllenJ wrote:In addition (or perhaps as an extension) to all great information he provides here on BourbonEnthusiast, Mike Veach (BourbonV for y'all newbies) has been working (off and on, since he has a legitimate archivist job that requires most of his attention) for nearly three years now on an actual book, a bourbon history, to be published by the University Press of Kentucky. From time to time he sends me drafts of what he's adding. A few days ago I had the privelege of reading some of what he has to say about the repeal of Prohibition and the turmoil of re-inventing the entire beverage alcohol industry. Although Mike's overall focus is on bourbon, specifically Kentucky bourbon, what he expresses can be considered an appropriate microcosm for American distillers in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Illinois, and other states.

Mike brings up some really interesting points of view, many of which I understand and agree with completely. Some I disagree with, at least to the extent of my own knowledge. And there are quite a few that I feel raise some interesting questions that beg for more detail. I asked Mike if he would mind my bringing a few of these to the forum, in order to get discussions going and he graciously said that would be fine.

I hope these points are taken in the spirit in which I've written them. That is, as an attempt to provide conversational "sparks" to promote further participation -- and not just among us old regulars who already know Mike and everything there is know about bourbon history already. And who knows? Maybe Mike will pick up that spark from someone's response and add that viewpoint to his growing chapter.

7. Mike's chapter doesn't end with repeal, of course. In fact, it really only begins there. He goes on to describe the almost-as-fatal situation that occurred only eight years later with the onset of World War II. Distilleries weren't actually required to shut down, but they were required to cease production of non-industrial alcohol. Not many had equipment that was up to the task of producing 190-proof spirit, and those that did were the only ones who could get goverment contracts to produce alcohol desparately needed for making synthetic rubber, smokeless gunpowder, penicillin, and other materials necessary to the war effort. Mike points out that such contracts "...called for the government to purchase the alcohol at production cost plus a small profit for the distillery, usually no more than a dollar per gallon. This meant that the distilleries would often hire anyone who asked for a job and simply add the new employee’s wage to the production cost". He also notes that "Schenley went as far as to consider their employees in the service as still on the clock and sent their families a small paycheck each month while they were in the military." I found those thoughts to be REALLY interesting, especially in light of today's understandings about how big business uses (and probably always has used) exactly such "creative accounting" to take advantage of government defense contracts. One wonders how much that "small" monthly paycheck (deductable from the company's federal INCOME taxes, of course) contributed to the production costs of the alcohol it was selling to that very same government. The same can be said about all those untrained new hires. It's intriguing to imagine what effect such a contractually-subsidized source of cheap labor might have had in labor union negotiations. It would also have made the distilleries (and bottling plants, distribution centers, etc) even more valuable as assets to the economy of the regions where they existed.
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Re: Mike Veach's Book: Repeal and After

Unread postby bourbonv » Fri Jan 29, 2010 12:25 pm

John,
A quick qnswer to your first question: From Wikipedia:
The following states ratified the amendment:

1.Michigan (April 10, 1933)
2.Wisconsin (April 25, 1933)
3.Rhode Island (May 8, 1933)
4.Wyoming (May 25, 1933)
5.New Jersey (June 1, 1933)
6.Delaware (June 24, 1933)
7.Indiana (June 26, 1933)
8.Massachusetts (June 26, 1933)
9.New York (June 27, 1933)
10.Illinois (July 10, 1933)
11.Iowa (July 10, 1933)
12.Connecticut (July 11, 1933)
13.New Hampshire (July 11, 1933)
14.California (July 24, 1933)
15.West Virginia (July 25, 1933)
16.Arkansas (August 1, 1933)
17.Oregon (August 7, 1933)
18.Alabama (August 8, 1933)
19.Tennessee (August 11, 1933)
20.Missouri (August 29, 1933)
21.Arizona (September 5, 1933)
22.Nevada (September 5, 1933)
23.Vermont (September 23, 1933)
24.Colorado (September 26, 1933)
25.Washington (October 3, 1933)
26.Minnesota (October 10, 1933)
27.Idaho (October 17, 1933)
28.Maryland (October 18, 1933)
29.Virginia (October 25, 1933)
30.New Mexico (November 2, 1933)
31.Florida (November 14, 1933)
32.Texas (November 24, 1933)
33.Kentucky (November 27, 1933)
34.Ohio (December 5, 1933)
35.Pennsylvania (December 5, 1933)
36.Utah (December 5, 1933)
Ratification was completed on December 5, 1933. The amendment was subsequently ratified by the following states:

1.Maine (December 6, 1933)
2.Montana (August 6, 1934)
In addition, the following state rejected the amendment:

1.South Carolina (December 4, 1933)
Voters in the following state rejected a convention to consider the amendment:

1.North Carolina (November 7, 1933)
The following states have not ratified the amendment:

1.Nebraska
2.Kansas
3.Mississippi
4.Oklahoma
5.Louisiana
6.North Dakota
7.South Dakota
8.Georgia
Mike Veach
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Re: Mike Veach's Book: Repeal and After

Unread postby bourbonv » Fri Jan 29, 2010 1:37 pm

Actually, I use the blue /silver screens to view BE and did not see John's first question, so the previous was an answer to his second question. The answer to his first question is also on the list but Utah won the honors because it is further west than Ohio or Pennsylvania and had a leter in the day vote.

To answer your third question: there was no real organized opposition because most people were simply fed up with the 18th Amendment. You will notice that North Carolina is the only state to reject the 21st amendment. Besides there are enough dry areas even today to allow the organized crime segment to make money, so why should they oppose the 21st amendment? It actually helped them shorten their supply lines by acquiring the product in the U.S. instead of having to smuggle it in.
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Re: Mike Veach's Book: Repeal and After

Unread postby EllenJ » Fri Jan 29, 2010 2:32 pm

I didn't realize that the forum software doesn't automatically correct for color when you opt for another background scheme. I've edited the colors out of all the posts. Thanks!

It does seem to me that, while South Carolina was the only state to specifically vote to retain Prohibition, North Carolina voted not to even CONSIDER such a thing! And Nebraska, Kansas, Mississippi, etc. have never put the question to a vote, since they managed to delay long enough to get out of having to do so. And, of course, in the Wonderful World of Politics, that also amounts to a vote to retain the status quo.

Can anyone from one of those states add something about how alcohol beverages are dealt with in your locality?
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Re: Mike Veach's Book: Repeal and After

Unread postby gillmang » Sat Jan 30, 2010 4:07 am

On the point of promoting lightness, which is a heavy theme in post-1933 whiskey advertising, I think it comes down to one thing: profit. I theorize that distillers saw that they could make much more money selling blended whiskey and resorted to different commercial strategies to convince consumers that blends (American or Canadian) were superior to the old straights. I found a 1930's ad recently which jokes, via a famous writer giving a testimonial, that he might not know what congeners are, but was a fan of its blended whiskey due to its not having a taste of fusel oils: the implication was that if a smart author could tell what was good even if not knowing exactly why, the average reader should follow his example. It was really turning on its head what a whiskey connoisseur would think, but they weren't marketing to them. (And in fact by then, some of these distillers probably didn't make very much straight whiskey or sell it uncut, such had the industry evolved since the mid-1800's, but matters greatly accelerated after 1933. A sub-theme in the above was selling blends of straight whiskeys, which had a vogue in the 1930's and 40's).

Probably it was fair to say the taste for straight whiskey was (and surely still is) a minority taste. This is suggested in a close-of-1933 Fortune magazine article examining the shape of the looming post-Prohibition liquor business to which I drew attention on the board some years ago. Yet, even if we allow this, producers then had a choice: they could have resolutely stressed the quality of straight whiskey, pushed gin or other non-whiskey until more aged bourbon and rye became available, or simply sold less blended whiskey and more straight whiskey (the latter necessarily for more money, but hadn't genuine whiskey always been expensive?). Surely there was a way, in other words, to return the tradition of American straight whiskey to where it had started, but I think this was not done because the incentive was not as great.

I don't think the shift can be laid to tastes changing: the producers (with clout) changed tastes, not the other way around. To be sure you see ads proudly touting many fine brands of bourbon and straight rye in the 1930's-1950's and after. But this was selling to a committed minority and one willing and able to pay more for a quality product. Whiskey became a commodity basically. You can't say that tastes changed due to cocktails being available and bootleg Canadian and scotch in the 1919-1933 era in my opinion. Scotch then was not notably light, even the well-known blends, it was a smoky rich drink. Not like straight Islay to be sure but not like an average blended American whiskey either. Canadian whisky was light, yes, but I think perhaps not all that different from a 4 year old average bourbon - it was profit that in my view caused the emphasis on blending and lightness, and sophisticated advertising was the siren call. The ultimate triumph was to sell (some) blended whiskey for more money than straight whiskey. Reading ads after 1933 one is impressed with their sophistication. The 1933 Fortune article I mentioned notes that in the 1920's Madison Avenue and American business developed highly successful and sophisticated techniques to sell consumer products. Pre-1919 ads in general were much less effective and sophisticated. Really to this day the post-1933 trend has accelerated with the apogee (nadir?) being the focus on the high-end vodkas as the ultimate in beverage alcohol - and while inroads have been made by the traditional spirits to a degree on this image, it hasn't really changed. Vodka, the ultimate tasteless spirit, is still king. The only good part is that you can buy inexpensive vodka if you choose. Perhaps that was true in the 1930's too, i.e., you could buy cheap blends and expensive ones, but I would argue that the daylight between the latter is larger than for the former. Net result: the consumer is better off today. Well, there should be progress, right?

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Re: Mike Veach's Book: Repeal and After

Unread postby bourbonv » Sat Jan 30, 2010 5:04 pm

Gary,
You as always make a very good and thought provoking argument. However in response to you thought about the industry changing tastes for profit instead of condumers changing tastes, there is an interesting document in the U D archive. It is memo to Louis Rosenstiel right after the purchase of the Bernheim distillery. In the memo the Schenley people are telling Rosenstiel that the whiskey purchased with the distillery was heavier and made in the pre-prohibition style. Since people prefer a lighter tastes they recommend that Rosenstiel have the formula changed to make a lighter tasting whiskey. This document dates to 1937 and shows that at least Schenley was reacting to consumer tastes rather than trying to change consumer tastes.

Now to answer John's question about women and the change in the taste. No John, I would not consider them a major factor. Yes women got the right to vote, but were not granted equal rights by the amendment. If you think about it John, I am sure you know this because you are old enough, like me to remember the push for the Equal Rights Amendment in the 70s. Men still had their private clubs and even in the sixties leader of such movements as the civil rights movements were saying the best position for a woman is horizontal. The right to vote and the sexual revolution of the 20s made great strides for women, but that was only a first step and I know many women who would argue today, that the end of the equal rights trail is still a very long journey.

Women were not the market and if you will re-read the chapter you will see that they were actually steered away from in the 30s - no women in advertising. No family settings in advertising, etc. The change was aimed at men because in the 1930s that was still considered THE whiskey market.
Mike Veach
"Our people live almost exclusively on whiskey" - E H Taylor, Jr. 25 April 1873
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Re: Mike Veach's Book: Repeal and After

Unread postby gillmang » Sat Jan 30, 2010 5:53 pm

Well, that is interesting, Mike. I wonder if they were doing surveys then as are so common today. I'd like to see that memo though, could it be there was a sales pitch behind it, the brand guys telling the boss what to do because they knew they could make more money making higher proof distillates (whatever kind of whiskey)...?

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Re: Mike Veach's Book: Repeal and After

Unread postby bourbonv » Sat Jan 30, 2010 7:24 pm

Gary,
I wish that archive was available to the public as well. If I remember correctly, it was not from sales, but from Wathen Knebelkamp, the plant manager and the statement was based upon his experience.

You are right though, the way they "lightened up" the flavor was raising the barrel proof to 105 from 100.
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Re: Mike Veach's Book: Repeal and After

Unread postby gillmang » Sat Jan 30, 2010 9:13 pm

Mike, it sounds to me like a way to show how to make more money with no up-front investment, but possibly it was a bit of both.

No question that many people, then as now, don't "get" straight whiskey. But it seems to me the industry took the path of least resistance here. And what happened? The wind went out of the sails for American whiskey, i.e., when you compare its position to that of vodka today. Sure, some distillers were able to switch to vodka production so perhaps they didn't mind, but the fact remains that today the bulk of vodka, I understand, is manufactured by 4 companies...

Maybe this development on a long-term basis was inevitable - after all it has happened in other countries too.

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Re: Mike Veach's Book: Repeal and After

Unread postby EllenJ » Sat Jan 30, 2010 10:54 pm

Great work, Gary. I can always count on you to express ideas and interpretations from a different angle from what others might take. Including me. And when we do happen to see the same picture it makes it even better.
bourbonv wrote:...in response to you thought about the industry changing tastes for profit instead of condumers changing tastes, there is an interesting document ... to Louis Rosenstiel right after the purchase of the Bernheim distillery ... telling Rosenstiel that the whiskey purchased with the distillery was heavier and made in the pre-prohibition style. Since people prefer a lighter tastes they recommend that Rosenstiel have the formula changed to make a lighter tasting whiskey. This document dates to 1937 and shows that at least Schenley was reacting to consumer tastes rather than trying to change consumer tastes.

Mike, I disagree. It seems to me that Schenley (which WAS Rosenstiel) was not "reacting" to anything. The presence of such a memo only shows that Wathen Knebelkamp felt a need to suggest such a change. Knebelkamp, the plant manager and unconnected with sales and promotion, can hardly be considered a reliable source of marketing strategies, and there's no reason to assume from it's existence that such a memo influenced Rosenstiel's decisions.

bourbonv wrote:Now to answer John's question about women and the change in the taste. No John, I would not consider them a major factor

OOOHHHHH MIKE. :shock:
B-I-I-I-I-I-G MISTAKE!! :naughty:

bourbonv wrote: ... Women were not the market ... The change was aimed at men because in the 1930s that was still considered THE whiskey market.

... by those whiskey companies who spent the next three decades moaning and crying about the change in public taste. Nope, I ain't buyin' that at all. They didn't get it; their corporate descendents still don't get it today, and I'm afraid you don't either.

Sociology aside, I think probably Gary has the better immediate point: The fact is that, despite loud cries of "popular demand" I, too, feel it all comes down to money. We who love straight whiskey are very much a minority cult; that's okay, most of us like to feel we're special and have a finer sense of what the whiskey is all about. But distilleries can't survive and prosper just by indulging us aristocrats with fine, flavorful, old product. Regardless what the distillers would like to think, the actual owners of those distilleries lust after all those (mostly younger) gin/vodka/rum/tequila drinkers and they want sell liquor to them. Good white rum and vodka is not very flavorful but it's quite inexpensive to make, relative to aged whiskey; and it tastes much better than cheaply-produced rum and vodka. Cheaply-made whiskey just tastes like cheap whiskey; and even so it still costs 2 to 4 years no matter high the proof you distill or barrel it at. It's just plain a whole lot cheaper to make blended whiskey, and that very real alternative would understandably be seen as a threat to those who distilled straight whiskey. How real? Well, of the Big Four (Schenley, Hiram Walker, Seagram's and National Distillers), Seagram's, dedicated provider of quality blended whiskey to the world, was by far the longest-lived, and in fact continued to be successful until Edgar Bronfman, Jr. decided to trade it for a shot at the movie and theme-park business in the early 1990s. With the exception of Eagle Rare (which they produced briefly) and Four Roses (but not in the United States), Seagram's had little use for any more than 35% straight whiskey in their finished products, at least American whiskey. One can easily see why the operators (e.g. plant managers) of whiskey distilleries might feel a need to advise alternatives. It is to Mr. Rosenstiel's credit that Schenley largely disregarded that advice and went on to market many brands of fine straight bourbon and rye whiskies, as did National Distillers.

Had he heeded Knebelkamp's memo, Schenley might have attempted to produce a lighter straight whiskey -- at least at their Bernheim plant. Those of us who have "enjoyed" the experience of tasting Crow Light or Frost/80 can testify that a decision to commit to such production would likely have left us with the Big Three. :lol:
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