Internet Research and bourbon

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Internet Research and bourbon

Unread postby bourbonv » Thu Mar 29, 2007 7:07 pm

I have been thinking about the role of the internet and bourbon marketing lately. I have been wondering about the researcher of the future looking into the subject and asked myself, "what would they find?" After tossing the question around some I decided that the web has three type of websites about bourbon.

The first type is the Distiller Sponsored Site. Places where consumers can go and find out about the company and its brands. Interesting information, but watch out for the marketing hype. I would toss the KDA site and the Bourbon Festival site in this category.

The second type is the fan based sites. These are places that showcase the collections of individuals and or their trips to bourbon distilleries and related sites. Very good information that can give the reader several different points of view about the subject.

The third is the forums. Places like this site, Straightbourbon.com or Whisky Magazine's forum. Once again a wide variety of information to be found.

How would you rate these types of sites in order of use and or importance to your bourbon choices or vacation plans or other related choice.
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Unread postby Mike » Thu Mar 29, 2007 8:40 pm

I like BourbonEnthusiast. com because Mike Veach (a gentleman if every there was one), Chuck Cowdery (an exceptionally astue fellow), Gary Gillman (yes, I would want him on my side in a lawsuit), John Lipman (God loves this man, as I do), and others, willingly offer their knowledge and argue, in the open, their positions. Often it is our previlige to just listen and learn. If you think what they know and care about has no relevance to you, you do not understand what it is to be human.

At the same time there are people like our one and only bunghole (whose love and knowledge of bourbon is astounding at times), and MikeK, and JoeBourbon (never met the man, but he is an exceptional fellow), who have sophisticated palates and long standing oommitments to American spirits.

And, let us not forget the people who contribute with their pictures and occasional comments.............but who love bourbon, its history, its mystery, its lore, as much as any of us..........people like BourbonHQ (aka Gayle Hack), and Brendaj and many others without whom the site would be less interesting.

And, there are people like me, Mike, (and my dog Barleycorn) who add a bit of color and humor with our take on things. I have been afforded, through the review section, the opportunity to grow in my knowledge and appreciation of bourbon and its relation to the scheme of things.

I am sure the other sites have their strengths, But, I feel a certain loyalty here. Everyting I learn and know about Chris, Mark, and Brewer makes me proud to be a participant here. Chris (the reticent one), Mark (his trust of us BE folks grows as his role as father settles on him), and Brewer (I like this man..........he, like all good human beings, reveals his vulnerablity at times), are real folks.

I visit the other sites at times and know they serve their participants well............but how could I not come home to the familiar?
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Rage, rage against the dying of the light. - Dylan Thomas
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Unread postby bourbonv » Fri Mar 30, 2007 2:17 pm

Mike,
Interesting reply, but what about other sites such as John Lipman's or MikeK's? Do you ever visit them? If so what do you think.
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Unread postby Bourbon Joe » Fri Mar 30, 2007 3:45 pm

bourbonv wrote:Mike,
Interesting reply, but what about other sites such as John Lipman's or MikeK's? Do you ever visit them? If so what do you think.


I think they are both great and both must have been a lot of work. Not being a computer wizard, I never attempted to have my own site, but I sure respect those that do.
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Unread postby bourbonv » Fri Mar 30, 2007 4:01 pm

Joe,
Do you visit them often?

I am curious as to how the internet is changing the perception of bourbon as well as adding to the marketing plans. Is bourbon's return to popularity and higher sales related to the internet? If so which web site do most people credit for this connection - the distillery sites, the forums or individual sites?
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Unread postby Bourbon Joe » Sat Mar 31, 2007 10:43 am

I don't know about anyone else Mike, but I visit the forums MUCH more than anyone's individual site or industry site. I think once you've been to an industry site you saw all you're likely to see for a long time, until such time as the site is updated (usually not very often). Individual sites are nice to gain one person's insight on various whiskey topics. I contend that it is the forums which are the driving force for any increased whiskey sales among whiskey fans. The forums provide a vast amount of information about whiskey, both history, popularity, releases, etc.
Just my take.
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Unread postby angelshare » Sat Mar 31, 2007 5:15 pm

We think we concur with Joe. Bourbon fan sites like this one and SB.com would be the most valuable to a historian of the future. They are probably more reliable resources than distillery or personal sites regarding actual facts or the lack thereof. Single memories are fallible, marketing/promotional info embellished if not deceptive. Here, dozens of consumers from all walks of life and levels of expertise relay their experiences in real time. Fact (e.g., what bourbon was available when and where for what price) is distinguished more easily from opinion and marketing spin.

Take one of Dave's favorites, IW Harper 4yo. In the year 2050, do you think you would be able to turn up any reliable info from the industry regarding how, when and why the brand disappeared from US shelves completely in the early part of the century? We doubt it. But a quick search on a fan site gets you the story, more or less unbiased. What if Stagg becomes the next Old Crow (perish the thought!)? Here you can easily find how the brand originated and what it meant to enthusiasts "back in the day."

One day, old BE posts themselves will be part of the enthusiast's library, we bet!
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Unread postby Brendi » Sat Mar 31, 2007 7:17 pm

What Joe, Dave & Tina said...
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Unread postby bourbonv » Sun Apr 01, 2007 4:47 pm

I am not sure that I agree with you Joe, Dave and Tina. What was the first bourbon site you looked at? Where did it lead you? For me it was John Lipman's site, after I met him at the Getz Museum. He led me to bourbon forums. How many other people are led to this site or Straightbourbon because of link found at another site?
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Unread postby Bourbon Joe » Sun Apr 01, 2007 8:32 pm

The first site I looked at, as I'm sure others did, was Google. When you Google the word Bourbon, SB.Com and BE.Com are glaringly there. And that, for me, was the start of it all.
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Unread postby bourbonv » Mon Apr 02, 2007 10:22 am

Joe,
I guess I am showing my age. I started with the internet before google reached its present position as a search engine. I guess most people do google their subject and if you put in 'Bourbon" Straightbourbon.com is at the top of the list and if you put in "Bourbon Reviews" Bourbonenthusiast.com is the top of the list. That probably is the most likely way people find these sites. Interesting food for thought. Thanks for pointing that out.
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Unread postby MikeK » Mon Apr 02, 2007 5:39 pm

I think the company websites would rank very low in actual effectiveness. I might visit one to get a list of brands, info about tour times, visit the gift shop, but that's about it.

I think one of the biggest ways that knowledge is spread may still be by word of mouth. Since I got hooked by good bourbon I have shared my new passion with a number of people. And I have seen some of these people turn around and do the same thing, spread the enthusiasm with their friends. And so this new found love of an old beverage spreads out exponentially.

Sites like BE and SB are huge in finding out more information and sharing ideas, thoughts, and knowledge with a wider audience. I think sites like BE would make an interesting sociology thesis.

Personal sites like John Lipmans are then the ultimate step in getting in-depth concentrated info on a particular sub-interest or topic.

So the non-commercial, fan sites are a huge influence, but good old fashioned word of mouth is still a major player.

Cheers,
Mike
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Unread postby cowdery » Mon Apr 02, 2007 6:06 pm

I'm not sure about the dates, but it was the Dark Ages in internet time when I started to participate in online forums about bourbon and when I created my first, all-text, web site about bourbon and my other interests. There was barely an internet then but there were "on-line services" such as Prodigy, Compuserve and America Online, that offered all of their own content, which included affinity group bulletin boards. This was also the era of "mailing lists," a forum-like system using email. The first bulletin board I participated in was on the Prodigy service. The topic was all alcoholic beverages, so most of it was about wine and beer, but there were always a couple of active threads about spirits, including whiskey. So bulletin boards (aka forums) have always been the thing for me and if I visit producer or enthusiast sites it's because I learned about them through a bulletin board posting, not the other way around.
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Unread postby EllenJ » Tue Apr 03, 2007 12:02 am

Although I appreciate GeorgiaMike and MikeK's comments about our website (sorry about renaming you Mike-from-Conyers, but there's just a whole lotta Mikes around here), I think I rather fall in with Joe, Dave&Tina, and Brendi (with an "i", yet?). Unlike a blog, I don't update our site regularly. It's more like a published book that I CAN rewrite and edit without having to release a new edition, but in reality I don't do it that often. More importantly, while my web page goes into some depth, it represents only a single point of view, and that's where lies a big advantage of using the forums for research.

BUT...

with an important step (which we all probably take for granted): If you don't take the time to follow the conversation thread through all the back messages, or at least a lot of them, the forums can also be a fountain of mis-information. Like any group of folks in an ongoing conversation, we tend to make statements based on the understanding of what we've been debating and asserting all along. A casual glance at a current thread doesn't let a new reader know that such and such a statement is a revelation if Chuck says it, but just the same thing he always says if Mike says it. Or maybe if it's John he doesn't really believe what he's saying so much as offering an alternative viewpoint in hopes of spurring conversation. What is a new reader (or a serious researcher a decade from now) to make of a contributor who offers almost poetic metaphors between an expression of bourbon whiskey and the blues in one posting, and simply "HUZZAH!! from Da BUNGHOLE" in the next? WE know all about it, but you gotta admit there's room for some serious misidentification there. :lol:

Of course, the best way to gain knowledge in depth (and I'm talking about history or culture research here, not tasting or evaluation - for which nothing compares to BourbEnth) is to utilize all of the venues, with each offering something important. The sponsored sites are very important, as they give one an idea of what the OFFICIAL dogma for brand is hoped to be. What is "learned" here is what the retailers and bartenders (at least the few who actually know anything about their products or craft) are being taught. Here is where you'll learn that a bartender is supposed to believe Elijah Craig invented charred barrels by accident, or that Jacob Beam made the first bourbon. Or that William LaRue Weller distilled whiskey at Leestown. Whatever. If you don't know those things are being taught, you can't understand whether they make sense or not. And you're not likely to read much about them here.

Sites such as my own are dedicated to exploring not so much the "hidden, real, secret, conspiracies" as to showing how little is really known and how much fun it can be to explore the possibilities using Sherlock Holmes' razor -- eliminate everything that is impossible, and what's left has to be the truth. I know it isn't fun for some people. We all have our fantasies and we tend to think of those who don't accept them as cynics. I do too. But I'm often surprised at how universal that tendency is, even among folks I'd not expect it of.

And forums such as this one are where you go with all that background to see how it plays against the often-conflicting opinions of people ALL of whom have a respectable amount of knowledge, even though we (yes, I'll include myself -- after all, I'm including you aren't I?) may not always admit that about each other. Actually, as far as I know, we DO always admit that, if asked. We just don't do it as part of our conversations. That's one thing that distinguishes us from say, automobile forums or sports forums, or those horrible (if aptly-named) Yahoo! investment bulletin boards.

So, to answer Mike's question, I think a researcher who wishes to include web-based information in her/his research needs to become familiar with all three types, and to understand the limitations and advantages of each. :lol:
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Unread postby Mike » Tue Apr 03, 2007 11:05 am

EllenJ wrote:So, to answer Mike's question, I think a researcher who wishes to include web-based information in her/his research needs to become familiar with all three types, and to understand the limitations and advantages of each. :lol:


Your post has many good ideas, John and is more to the point of Mike Veach's question than was my first post on this topic. Even though I have an almost Master's Degree in American History (I never completed my thesis), my approach and participation in BE is only partly from an historian's angle.

I do read and enjoy the information posted by the gentlemen and ladies who know a great deal about bourbon, its history, and its characters. It has been said that to really know America, you must know baseball. I would add that to really know America you must know the story of whiskey here. It is extremely revealing of American character (we are very, very, interesting folks, we Americans) to follow whiskey's ups and downs, its achievements, its follies, the reactions of the public (e.g. The Whiskey Rebellion, Prohibition, Repeal of Prohibition, State Alcohol Boards, tax policies etc, etc). It is likewise very interesting to see the parade of characters and their relationships, the ownership and label changes, the business management transactions, etc, etc. BE is the best of the whiskey websites that I visit for that general information. That is directly related to the quality of the gentlemen and ladies I mention in my first post.

I have participated in a few other 'special interest' forums and they contain far more BS than BE does. In fact, there is very little BS on BE and lot of what there is comes from yours truly.........although I do make no claims of my views being well-informed or anything other than my opinions.

It is very unfortunate in my judgement that Americans as a people know so little about their own history.........and foolishly display that lack. To know yourself, you must not only know about your own personal past, but also the past of your culture............without being blindly worshipful of either.

Still, my particpation here is not just about the history of American whiskey. It is also about enjoying whiskey, discussing my particular enjoyment through reviews, opinions, and discussions. Participating as I do is fun, interesting, and relevatory of myself to myself. I sometimes say things I wish I could retract (and even occasionally do retract postings), but I am egotistic enough to think that I can be an interesting fellow at times...........even interesting to that future mythical historian or researcher who might happen here and see my clap-trap.

I am blessed, or cursed (being at times gullible) as you prefer, with a very tolerant view of other humans. I think this is because I see my own flaws and must, in all fairness, allow others theirs. When I complement the people on BE for their strengths as they participate here, I am doing so because I derive pleasure from their posts and ideas and enjoy being in conversation with them. I am not often in the business of passing judgement on them, but prefer to marvel at their human-ness. Absolutely nothing, in this life, comes close to human beings as worthy of study and love. Whiskey history is about human beings, whiskey tasting is about human beings, learning to manage yourself while drinking whiskey is about living. I will always be a student of whiskey and of living..... unlikely to be the master of either.

Will future historians and researchers be interested in this forum for its information about Americans (and some distinguished non-Americans) and our whiskey? You betcha.......because whiskey making in America is alive and well and still revealing of us and our culture.

True, as John says, one must read this forum as mostly opinion and speculative and, it is not primary material on the history of whiskey........always the most important stuff for researchers and historians. And also true that it takes many sources for a clear picture to emerge.

I submit that BE can be a valuable resource for the future researcher........along with all the other sites. But to stray again from Mike Veach's original question, I, being an amatuer researcher in the now, get a lot of infomation from this site..........more infomation that is more reliable on whiskey than any other site of which I am aware.
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