About this Blog

Welcome to Po'Nutrition Fax! This blog is about alcohol - it has nothing to do with health or wellness, and the only relationship between this and Edgar Allen Poe is that he was an alcoholic.

I used to work in a liquor store and developed a taste for all different types of booze. As my collection grew, I felt the need to share my knowledge of, interest in, and experiences with my purchases - from the standards (e.g. whisk(e)y, gin) to the less-than-standard (e.g. kirschwasser, raki). You'll also find a lot on beer (another love of mine).

This is not about how much I can drink nor do I promote over-excess of alcohol. As with most blogs, there is some self-reflection included with most of the reviews. The point is to encourage everyone to reflect on what they drink.

Leave comments or ask questions! Also, "follow" me if you like what you read - I am not making money from this blog but if I see more interest in this and hear some feedback, it will encourage me to write more.


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Big, Fake Whiskies

"Enhanced" or "Artificial"? 

Earlier today, one of the fine gentlemen who contributes to this great, award-winningBuffalo sports blog posted this article from The Atlantic Wire on his FB page. Basically it's about the growing market for flavored whiskies and the demographics of said market.  Part of his comment to the article was as follows:

"Anyone who calls people with different palates "horrible" or "not real drinkers" need to reevaluate how they prioritize things in their world..."

Seeing as how alcohol is a high priority to me, I felt the need to comment.  However, I do not disagree with him.  Here is what I said:

"I take my alcohol pretty seriously but these flavored spirits are not to be taken as seriously as some 'real drinkers' take them. Those who do drink them can most certainly be considered 'real drinkers' but the spirits themselves should not be considered 'real whiskies/vodkas/brandies etc.' I too enjoy the Wild Turkey honey liquor [sic] but I just don't consider it a whiskey. The flavoring additives, normally created in a laboratory, are not a part of the fermentation process or the interaction between the spirit and the barrel it is aged in - the 'real' spirit. These sweeter blends are like a woman with big, fake breasts: sure, they're cool but I'd prefer the real thing. So yes it comes down to preference but I prefer my spirits sans silicone but I don't think less of anyone who prefers otherwise."

Since it has been awhile since I wrote something here on PNF, I was inspired to expand on my comment above with the post below.

I'm a bit of a purist (or maybe a minimalist?) when it comes to my spirits.  I generally prefer to drink spirits straight.  I don't "do shots" but I sip my drink slowly and take the time to enjoy what I'm drinking.  Therefore, I like something well-made with a lot of complexity.  However a lot of these "flavored whiskies" are excessively one-sided and/or cloyingly sweet.  Sure I like sweet (anyone that says otherwise is a liar) but sometimes "sweet" is not enough and I want more than one other flavor (e.g. honey, cherry).

Flavored whiskies aren't necessarily a new thing.  Drambuie is one such flavored whisky (which I've previously reviewed) that has been around since the early 20th century - and I happen to enjoy quite a bit.  However, that is not marketed as a "flavored whisky" but as a liqueur.  If the State-Side distillers marketed these as liqueurs, then I'd have no problem (and I wouldn't drink them very often), however I take exception to the 'flavored whiskey" category.  To be fair, the labels on American Honey and Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey (not to single only these two out) do classify them as liqueurs but they are not marketed as such.  My exception with the category is related to my purist/minimalist attitude towards my alcohol.  For a category like liqueur, I know that there will be various flavoring additives - it's just how that category is defined (for lack of a better term). Nevertheless, I don't drink liqueurs very often yet my only concern when I choose one is how complex it is (multiple flavors and/or not-just "sweet").  However for things like vodkas, brandies, and whiskies I like to think that the final product is born from only from the processes of fermentation, distillation, and (for brandies and whiskies) aging.  Therefore, "flavored whiskies," with their flavoring agents added after aging are not whiskies in my mind.  Granted, some distillers will age the spirit with certain natural additives (e.g. whole fruits, herbs, spices) that do alter the flavor but these generally only add to the complexity of the final product and don't become over-powering or turn the spirit into a syrupy concoction.

Lastly, I feel it is also necessary to look at the sexism of this drink category.  The Atlantic Wire article that started this whole thing talks about how this category was made basically to get women away from flavored vodkas and into flavored brown spirits:

"Flavored whiskey, as a category, is not meant to create new whiskey drinkers, but to make flavored-vodka drinkers feel like grown-ups," one Manhattan bar owner told the [New York] Times's Simonson. The implication being that flavored vodka drinkers — traditionally women — aren't "grown-ups," while flavored whiskey drinkers — sage old white men, apparently — are the big kids of drinking.

Really the sexism goes beyond this category and is just sexism within the industry in general.  It also leads me to apologize, in part, for my "big, fake breasts" comment and the image at the beginning of this post.  As these "flavored whiskies" were originally created with women in mind, my equating these spirits to breast implants is sexist too and I apologize for the propagation.  I say my apology is only "in part" because generally breast implants are just an artificial enhancement usually for some sort of mass appeal - like these "flavored whiskies."  There are other reasons to get breast implants that are not for mass appeal (i.e. post-mastectomy plastic surgery) but those instances are excluded with my use of the word "generally" - I still like the parallel I've drawn between the two.  Nevertheless, I think there is a great discussion to be had about sexism in the alcohol industry - specifically why it is assumed women only want sweet, flavored things.

I think they realized more men were drinking this stuff when they thought of this ad campaign, otherwise Wild Turkey has some bad info on what most women like to see in advertising...
As I finish up this post, I'd like to go back to the closing paragraph of the Atlantic Wire article:

Of course, it's ridiculous that a beverage could just be for boys or girls. People should drink whatever they like [I agree!]... Sorry if that makes some of you staunch whiskey advocates feel a little less cool about yourselves, enough so that you need to make fun of people with different palates than yours.

What's with the attack on "staunch whiskey advocates"?  As a "staunch whiskey advocate" my problem is not with the drinkers but the drinks and how they are marketed.  Liqueur v Flavored Whiskey?  This may seem like semantics to some people but as I said earlier, I take my alcohol pretty seriously.