When is 'bourbon-like' not bourbon? Now!

Hennessy Master Blender’s Selection No. 1H
OK, I officially am confused. Very confused.

The normally reliable Bloomberg news service recently published an online story it headlined "Hennessy Releases a New Bourbon-Like Spirit to Win Over Whiskey Lovers," with a subhead that says, " If you don’t consider yourself a Cognac drinker, consider this."

Bourbon-like? Mixing in a reference to Cognac? WTF! Has Bloomberg been hoodwinked?

Its story begins this way:
"We don't tell Yann what to do. Yann tells us what to do.”

Jordan Bushell, Hennessy’s head of mixology and education, is sitting in a glassed-in conference room at Bloomberg in New York, batting away the suggestion that executives could dictate product development to its seventh-generation master blender, Yann Fillioux.

“We had asked him for different things, and he kind of said, ‘All right, here's the blend of the moment.’ ”
In other words, as Bushnell would have the Bloomberg reporters believe, because a spirits developer has a bunch of ancestors with a track record in the field, some people should be  willing to take anything that person should be accepted as gospel.

Sorry, that is utter drivel. Bourbon did not get to be bourbon by allowing competing spirits to be "bourbon-like." True, bourbon producers cut such whiskeys as Jack Daniel's and other Tennessee sipping whiskies a bit of slack, conceding that they are "bourbonesque" before undergoing filtration through maple charcoal that puts them into their own category. But, that is as far as they will go.

The product in question here is Hennessy Master Blender’s Selection No. 1, a new Cognac expression officially announced on October 24. Professionals who tasted it when it was unveiled at the industry extravaganza called Tales of the Cocktail, held annually in New Orleans, generally judged it a slightly sweet, slightly over-proof, single-batch blend of 80 to 100 eau de vie, aged up to 16 years in two- to four-year-old French Limousin oak.

That said, the very description separates the product from bourbon by a wide margin. So, why is Hennessy pushing it as "bourbon-like" and getting some writer to go along with that label?

Sales potential, people. What else? True bourbons continue to be THE hottest-selling whiskies on the planet, so why not leap on the bandwagon. Even the Bloomberg report notes that the research firm IWSR says "Sales of super-premium bourbon increased 28.8% from 2011 to 2015. Meanwhile, comparable cognac sales increased 9.5%. To put a value on it, Euromonitor Interntional reports that $3.8 billion worth of bourbon was sold retail in the U.S. in 2015 vs. $1.3 billion worth of cognac, a 19.1% vs. 8.5% year-over-year growth, respectively."

So, in essence what we have here is yet another poseur seeking to hitch itself to the bourbon comet. I don't buy it. Stand or fall on your merits, I say. We didn't get to where we are with pure spirits categories by fuzzing the definitions and being sanguine about it.

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