This article is the first in a new concept where we pose questions and issues to our Patreon supporters pledging $1 or more per month to seek feedback and generate discussion in order to build the content you see here. In this first edition, we’re addressing the topic of value - an element we’ve included in our reviews from the beginning. Value receives a good portion of attention and also its own individual barrel rating within our reviews. Ultimately, we try to normalize value to the best of our ability relative to stated MSRP, though we all know availability and price can vary by bottle and geographical location.
The fact of the matter is, value is difficult to assess. It’s subjective, and even then what relative metrics an individual takes into consideration will impact their own interpretation. While bourbon is not a necessity by any means, it also isn’t a commodity like milk or gas - all bourbons are not created equal so comparing one to the next can be challenging. A $20 bourbon can look identical to a $100 bourbon...that is except for its packaging and marketing in most cases. Even then, individual taste preference will be the ultimate determining factor and there is only one way to find out.
To further complicate the matter a bourbon’s MSRP is not necessarily even a point at which supply and demand meets. We know this because there are those that sit on the shelves versus those that never see them in the first place and go for much more than MSRP. Producers position their brands in the marketplace strategically, often setting the MSRP where they want consumers’ perception of their product to be and marketing accordingly to help create the demand they desire. Is it then not unreasonable to believe that a $100 bourbon is better than a $20 bourbon...after all shouldn’t it be?
But therein lies the dilemma, as those of us with enough buying and drinking experience know, a higher price does not always equate to a better bourbon. Often times fantastic bourbons are right there in front of us within reach for an affordable price, while those we’d be better served to take a pass on are much more expensive or elusive than they’re worth. Fear of missing out, or “FOMO” as it’s called, takes control and we just can’t pass up the chance to snag something that everyone else seems to want for some mystical reason.
It begs to ask the question what does value mean? Is a good value simply a low cost bourbon that tastes like it should cost more? Is it a bourbon that you or someone else is willing to pay more than MSRP for? And then why would that person even do that...is it for a financial gain due to current market demand or simply because the whiskey is just that good and its MSRP is too low?
We wanted to dig into the topic to see what readers think, and to that end we surveyed our Patreon supporters on various aspects of the topic to build some ideas and collaborate to develop a reader survey. We shared the topic with supporters with the following introduction:
When it comes to whiskey, what does value mean? We’ve made it a point to include a value discussion and rating in our reviews. We consider the whiskey from a drinker’s perspective, and analyze it against MSRP and other factors, like how much of it will there be and is it always available or a one time release. We don’t generally analyze whiskeys from a collector’s point of view, and we recognize that our discussion and rating is nothing more than an opinion.
But not everyone agrees that value should be part of the discussion. We’re sometimes challenged on our assessment, and other writers have completely removed any value consideration from their reviews and discussion.
This introduction was followed by a survey, which included numerous questions. We’ve highlighted a few questions and responses:
Q: What does “value” mean to you?
To me, value is relative to the contents in the bottle. It might be hard to get Pappy 12year for example, but is it really better than Weller 12 year? I saw a bottle of 12 year Pappy auctioned for $375 last night. I can buy 12 year Weller for $29.95. For me I would rather spend the extra money on a variety of other bourbons. More value for the contents in the bottle. - Darren F.
Q: Is it helpful to read an assessment of value?
Yes, if I can't find a whiskey you all review or afford the aftermarket price what good is the review? Bottom line is it it good and then is it worth the cost? I'm not sure how you can review a product without assessing the metrics associated with its worth or in this case, value. Let's face it, a positive review of a limited quantity product gets the reader excited and on the hunt but it also drives the price through the roof. Look at the Barrell Bourbon reviews. Batch 8 and 11 doubled in price as a result of respected reviews like BB. However, reviewer value statements like the one below really sums it all up! It's worth it or it's not. That's what I want to know when you review products that are rare, hard to find, allocated or just priced more than $50! - Mike A.
Finally, we asked supporters to help us build a new reader survey on the topic - what questions would they want to see answered? The survey we developed with the help of our Patreon supporters is below. Once you complete it, you’ll be given the option to see the cumulative results.
You can check in on the current results of this ongoing survey here.
Our next survey has already gone out to Patreon supporters and it asks them to help us decide which bourbons we prioritize and review. You can help shape Breaking Bourbon's content by becoming aPatreon supporter for as little as $1 a month.