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« Failed States, Right Here In River City | Main | Where Did Bourbon Get Its Name? »


David Tufte

There's one good comment on this over at Marginal Revolution from Ryan. If I can riff on that:

I do like Ryan's explanation of Beam's pricing decisions (lots of brands and price points, so a change isn't a bid deal). But I'm more inclined to think this idea didn't come from them. Rather, I think it came from the Samuels COO at Maker's Mark, and that Beam Inc. viewed it as win-win. If it's a good idea, Beam makes more money, if it's a bad idea it allows them to push for fresh blood at Maker's Mark.

mike shupp

The thing fascinating me is that once upon a time (before the internet) American bourbons were routinely bottled at 100 proof (i.e., 50% alcohol), and this seems to have slipped down to the 90 proof level without much objection. Scotch whiskey used to be 86 proof as a regular thing, but has fallen to 80 proof and no one seems to have noticed or objected.

I THINK what happened is that there was much anti-alcoholic sentiment in the USA in the 1970's and 1980's (remember the Mothers Against Drunk Driving?) and the drink manufacturers responded by reducing the potency of their products (while leaving prices unchanged, of course). Amusingly, social intoxication (andd public tolerance for the same) has rebounded, but manufacturers are still pursuing profits by watering down their booze.

Let's drink to that!

David Tufte

I have noticed the same diminution of alcohol content over the years, and it has seemed rather odd to me. But ... I don't buy enough of the stuff to really notice price changes either.

I wonder if part of it was the lapse in the ability to make a cocktail, that seemed to sweep the nation in the 80's and 90's. People went from being able to mix something palatable (following the basic formula of a lot of mixer, some liquor, and a little something to cut the taste) to ... really ... not being able to make a cocktail at all. Nowadays, it seems like you should be afraid to ask anyone under 55 to make you a cocktail, unless they have experience in some high-priced establishment. So, perhaps liquor makers were able to get away with changing the content because no one knew what to do with the content they had.

Michael Stack

I think most of the complaining came from folks who do indeed drink it straight - drinking straight bourbon is much more popular now than it was even a few years ago.

Dave Tufte

That's kind of what I wonder. I think they have a basis to complain.

But, there a signal extraction problem here: how should we separate out the signal from non-diluters from the noise made by people who will dilute this spirit anyway?

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