Not the usual purview of the Nashville Bourbon Examiner and about as likely that you will find the tasting notes of a good Kentucky whiskey ‘above the fold’ on the front page of the New York Times, but we will for a brief moment swerve into the arena of the 2012 Presidential Competition. A light hearted, tongue in cheek swerve anyway.
Heaven Hill Distillery has announced the release of Red State and Blue State bourbons to coincide with 2012 election cycle. The contents of the two distinct bottles are identical, containing Heaven Hill’s Straight Bourbon, which for all practical purposes is Evan Williams. The differences come in the packaging. The Red State Bourbon has a red label (obviously) and is emblazoned with the GOP moniker for the Republican party, the elephant. The Blue State Bourbon (blue of course) features the hind kicking donkey, the symbol for the Democrat Party. For the history behind the animal symbols you’ll need to go elsewhere. The same goes for how the parties got there colors.
Heaven Hill’s intent is for politicos and poll watchers who regularly entertain, to offer their guests who enjoy bourbon, a choice and to be able to make a political statement. Partiers can monitor which bottles are being favored (the empties) and so perhaps get the local take on how the vote tallies are likely to go. It should be referenced here that this is an unscientific polling method and Rasmussen, Gallup, and Pew are unlikely to adopt it.
From Heaven Hill’s official press release:
“During this topsy-turvy election year, we wanted to launch a fun and unique bourbon brand that will be the life of both parties, as the race begins for the next President of the United States. What better way to, not only show your patriotic spirit, but kick back, relax and watch the action as the success of each brand becomes an entertaining results indicator of election 2012.” (Kate Latts, Director of Marketing, Heaven Hill distilleries).
As light hearted as this promotion is, it is not Heaven Hill’s first dance in Presidential politics. In the 2008 competition loyal Kentucky bourbon patriots were dismayed when Presidential contender and former Senator Hillary Clinton, at a photo op - ‘meet and greet’ in Crown Point, Indiana at a local bar, knocked back with a beer a shot of Crown Royal, wait for it, a Canadian Whisky. As a reaction to the backlash that ensued over Crown Royal-gate, Heaven hill’s Master Distiller, Craig Beam, good naturedly sent autographed bottles of their flagship bourbon, Evan Williams, to all the Primary contenders to ensure that the faux pas wouldn’t likely occur again in the next Primary contest which happened to be in Kentucky.
If you thought the story ended there you’d be wrong, whiskey politics can be brutal. Rival bourbon maker Jeremiah Weed immediately panned the stunt and accused Heaven Hill and Craig Beam of trying to influence Kentucky voters by trying win the favor of Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Barack Obama. Beam shot back “They fail to mention that we also sent a bottle of Evan Williams to Senator (John) McCain (the presumptive GOP nominee), specifically to make the gesture evenhanded and bi-partisan. So clearly the only favor I’m trying to win is preventing the appearance of a bottle of Canadian whisky on the Kentucky Campaign trail.”
End of story?…nope. Perhaps sensing a little industrial espionage as well as a personal slight, Beam peeled back some of the protective layers of the corporate whiskey world by announcing that the parent company of Jeremiah Weed, spirits giant Diageo, also owns the Canadian brand Crown Royal. Also questioning the existence of the “shadowy figure” of Mr. Weed’ Beam said “…my family has been laboring in distilleries since the 1780’s. Even if Weed does exist he is trying to blur the line between real straight Kentucky bourbon whiskey, declared America’s native spirit by a 1964 act of congress, and a bourbon liqueur, which adds sugar and flavorings to the whiskey…and on top of it all, Evan Williams is a product of a family owned American company. Jeremiah Weed is owned by a British based company!”
Red State and Blue State Bourbons are available now and should be on most whiskey shelves. Expect to pay in the $15 to $20 dollar range. A good choice for mixing and cocktails or sipping over ice. 40%ABV. In Nashville try Frugal MacDoogal or Cool Springs Wine and Spirits in Cool Springs.