Thursday, February 20, 2020

Just when you think you’ve heard it all...


I’m used to criticism and catching flak. That's all part of the life of a whiskey reviewer. Some people enjoy what I write. Others don’t. My feelings don’t get hurt if someone doesn’t like my reviews. I encourage whiskey drinkers to find reviewers whose palates their own best matches. If that's not me, so be it. In the end, it is your whiskey experience that matters.



Earlier this week, a reader informed me I was "doing a half-assed job of being a whiskey reviewer." Naturally, that piqued my interest. His beef with me was that I have not been including information on justifying the price being charged on the shelf. Not Would you buy this at $X? Rather, it was more Is $X reflective of the cost to make this whiskey? At first, I thought this guy was pranking me because, as the smartass that I am, I tend to recognize a fellow smartass. But, this reader was serious.
What I didn't realize until he schooled me on it is there exists an overlooked (but apparently wildly in-demand) need for including forensic accounting in a whiskey review. He (very literally) instructed me to research and discuss a distiller's or producer's profit margin and to ensure they were not gouging and making an unfair profit at the expense of consumers. He made me aware there is a duty for a blogger to insert these things in our reviews because we should be doing everything we can to hold distilleries accountable for rising prices on the shelf.


My frank response to him was that I have zero interest in exploring anyone’s books or marketing plans. Not only am I not a stakeholder in any distiller's or producer's business, but I also possess neither the training nor the skills to do forensic accounting. I tried to explain to him that I don't write a financial blog, and made it clear I would not start including a marketing analysis in any of my reviews. He then suggested that I'm on the take and the only thing I care about is how many bottles are sold based upon my reviews.



While I understand that his expectation is an anomaly, what he accused me of is still concerning. I have always been as transparent as possible when penning my reviews as to how I acquired the bottle, if I was involved in picking a barrel being reviewed, etc. His allegation prompted me to write this next part:



My integrity is my #1 priority in everything I do, from my marriage (Mrs. Whiskeyfellow knows she can trust me) to my whiskey reviewing (my audience knows it can trust me). There is a reason you don't see any advertising or click-to-buy links anywhere on this blog. That was a very purposeful, personal decision. I could be making money off this blog, but I don't.


Likewise, I receive no income for my reviews. I don't get paid to compose them and I don't charge you a Patreon fee to read them. I write about whiskey because it is a passion. I review every whiskey I can no matter how it gets to my palate. If a distillery or store or friend is kind enough to send me a sample, that whiskey is treated exactly the same as if I spent my own money procuring it. 


There is no incentive for me to inflate any whiskey’s rating. Consider this: If a distillery puts out a bad product, and I’m honest in my assessment and the distiller takes offense, what's the worst thing that will happen? They won't send me any more bad whiskey, right? For the record, most distillers and producers I've come across appreciate an honest yet critical review because it gives them insight as to how they can improve. It is taken as constructive criticism.


Finally, if I’m rating bad whiskeys as anything other than a Bust, what does that do to my reputation? The short answer is, it causes me to lose all credibility and I might as well hang this whiskey reviewing thing up. I have way too much fun doing this to risk that. And, because I have so much fun, it is a very serious endeavor for me.


For the record, I do have a paid aspect to my whiskey consulting business. But it has never and will never creep into my reviews. I stake my entire reputation on that.


Cheers!

9 comments:

  1. txs, sounds like this complainer has too much time on his hands.

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  2. Exactly how I've been approaching this for years (of whiskey and beer reviews). I have way too much whiskey and beer sent to me now: if a bad review causes a producer to stop sending me stuff, well, okay. It conceivably hurts them more than it hurts me, because it doesn't hurt me at all.
    Keep at it, just the way you are.

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  3. Well stated, and a major strength to own it and respond to it. As bourbon, single malt and other whiskey beverages continue to become more complex and diverse it is incumbent on those of us OCD (aka whiskey geeks)
    to educate, communicate and advocate for increasing the knowledge of consumers and our sisters and brothers.
    A fundamental relook at reviews is undertaking a total enmeshment into reviewing and reeducating oneself on the massive catalog of whiskies.
    I think there are several categories of evaluating any consumable. Yes fundamental education on the vocabulary of taste, aroma, nose, palate, after lingering , price/ value/ cost, supply/ demand, blind comparison, on and on...
    Possibly Whiskey sommeliers have attained the need to subcategorize reviews- by such categories....
    Bottom line it is validation and affirmation of elite communication when U get such nuanced responses as the critique or even this one...
    Stay strong and continue with your superb reviews- Rich S

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  4. Ha ha, tell that dumb a$$ that he him self is responsible for checking prices. Price will carry what people will pay. The market is booming based on (at the very least 4 yrs ago of barreling). This boom is driving prices. The secondary market is driving prices. It's about demand. Don't buy if you don't like the price.

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  5. Distilleries aren't responsible for the shelf prices. The 3 tier distribution system specifically prevents any control over shelf price by the distillery. All they can do is set their wholesale price & suggest a retail price. The distributor and retailer are responsible for any mark-up beyond that, and are free to ignore the MSRP. Rising prices are largely attributable to that retail markup; wholesale and MSRP for even most ultra-rare whiskeys remain pretty reasonable.

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