Monday, March 8, 2010

More Than You Ever Wanted to Know About the Knob Creek Bourbon Shortage

This month, I make my debut in Malt Advocate, the nation's leading whisk(e)y magazine, with an article on last year's Knob Creek shortage. The article's probably the closest I've come to a piece of quasi-investigative journalism in a while, and it was fun to put together, and a please to talk to (and in some cases, visit) the folks at Knob Creek, George Dickel, Jack Daniel's, Maker's Mark, Buffalo Trace and Heaven Hill. 

In the table of contents, I'm referred to as "new writer Robert Simonson." Funny to be called "new" after 20 years in the biz. But I'm new to MA, I guess. And who knows? Maybe people will think I'm 26 or something and start hiring me "youth-oriented" articles.

In order to give the folks over at Malt Advocate a chance to sell a few magazines, I'm just going to print a teaser of the full article here. Once the next issue is out, I'll print the whole thing.

When Knob Creek Went Dry
By Robert Simonson
Press is hard to come by in the whiskey trade. Unlike wine, which has a new vintage to talk about every single year, spirits, once established, get few opportunities to net additional ink. "Jack Daniel's: Still Here" does not a headline make. So publicity opportunities must be created. The most common way to do this is to release a limited edition whiskey—a strategy that has become increasingly prevalent in recent years. 
There's a new technique in town, however, and it draws on the inverse phenomenon: instead of a new product making its debut, an old one goes missing. 
In June 2009, Knob Creek had it's biggest media splash in years crowing over a temporary shortage of its 9-year-old, Jim Beam-produced bourbon. Full-page, full-color print ads in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal showed an upturned bottle of Knob Creek dispensing its last drop. "You may experience may experience something of a shortage at your local liquor store very soon," read the copy. "But not to worry, the next batch will be bottled and on the shelf in November." Some liquor journalists were sent empty Knob Creek bottles in expensive packaging, and consumers could buy t-shirt bearing the line, "I survived the drought of 2009." The news resulted in a wealth of stories, both in print and on the web, and the Knob Creek website reportedly saw a 69% increase in traffic from June through September 2009 over the same period the previous year.

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