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Pandemic Whiskey Boom Turns to Hangover

Yeah, the other night I laid sleeping

 And I woke from a terrible dream

 So I caught up my pal Jack Daniel's

 And his partner Jimmy Beam

 And we drank alone, yeah

 With nobody else

 Yeah, you know when I drink alone

 I prefer to be by myself 

~George Thorogood

I poured hundreds of “Jack and Cokes” when I tended bar from the late 70’s to mid 80’s. It was beyond me how anyone could tell the difference between Jack Daniels Old No. 7 and anything else when mixed with coke or whatever carbonated cola was coming out of the gun. 

Turns out Dr. Fauci and the Center for Disease Control did Brown-Forman, the makers of Jack, a solid by shutting down America and cooping everyone up. More than some whiled away the hours with their old pal Jack Daniels. People may have had to work from home, but without the boss breathing down their necks plenty figured “why not have snoot-full and have fun.” It’ll make the day go by faster. Besides, no customers would be banging on the door. No one will know the difference.

“The phenomenal sales growth we saw during the pandemic was unprecedented and unpredictable but also unsustainable, and now, the spirits market is recalibrating,” Chris Swonger, the president of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, said last month. Those stimulus checks could buy a lot of Jack Daniels, or cause the more frugal drinker to pay more for Jack, instead of cheaper brands. 

Jennifer Maloney writes for the Wall Street Journal, “Some drinkers of Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7—often used to make the cocktail Jack and Coke—are trading down to cheaper alternatives while others are trading up.”

Price inflation affects consumers differently. For those drinking their whiskey with Coke, just about any will probably do, but for those imbibing theirs neat or on the rocks may spend a few more cheaper bucks for smoothness. 

Even Jack and Coke drinker Brian Moran, a tile-setter who lives in the Chicago suburbs, told the WSJ that a client paid him to tile a kitchen backsplash with five pricier bottles of bourbon, including Stagg, Eagle Rare and E.H. Taylor. “From his first sips, Moran was enthralled,” writes Maloney.

“I don’t know anyone who even drinks it anymore,” he said of Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7, which has a national average price of about $22. “You spend an extra $10 and you get something that’s so much better.”

Brown-Forman reported dismal sales over the winter holiday season and the hangover has lasted into 2024. “Christmas stunk,” Chief Executive Lawson Whiting said on a call with analysts in early March. 

Brown-Forman is trying to entice younger legal-age drinkers to Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 with a TV commercial set to the AC/DC song “Back in Black.” However, that song was a hit more than 40 years ago. Also the company is selling Jack and Coke in a can, attempting to appeal to young drinkers and females. The canned cocktail contains about 5% alcohol depending on the market. Reportedly there is a no sugar version. Which hardly seems possible. 

Chairman Campbell Brown, a great-great-grandson of founder George Garvin Brown, told investors that the company has weathered Prohibition and the Great Depression, steadily building the Jack Daniel’s brand since acquiring it nearly 70 years ago. 

It was not reported whether he has thanked Dr. Fauci. 

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