By Richard Thomas
Beam Suntory’s December 9th announcement that it’s popular Booker’s line of cask strength, approximately six year old bourbon would see a price hike of 66%, from $59.99 to $99.99, was met with widespread derision in the enthusiast community.
With price hikes, scarcity of certain brands, and the elimination of age statements becoming almost regular features of the bourbon business these days, such complaints are equally common place. Even so, the response to the word that Booker’s would go up to $100 a bottle seemed especially severe. Although hardly a scientific study, most of the commentary I saw on the matter was in the vein of “I have bought my last bottle of Booker’s if it goes up to $100.”
In addition, Beam Suntory’s announcement that they would hike prices on Booker’s starting with the initial batch of 2017 prompted some retailers to raise the price on their existing stock of previous batches, still officially priced at roughly $60.
Beam had already repositioned Booker’s as a more premium bourbon by reorganizing it into discrete, specifically named and limited edition batches, and releasing six such batches per year. In the two decades since its introduction, Booker’s had previously been a premium, but essentially regular product. As part of the price hike, Beam Suntory also announced it would reduce the yearly number of batches from six to four.
Beam Suntory has responded to the criticism and price gouging by taking half a step backward. The company will reportedly now raise the recommended price on Booker’s to between $70 and $75. Booker’s will still be released in just four annual batches, however.