When I really want to punish myself, I read the work of Ezra Klein. It’s not that I have anything in particular against the Washington Post blogger and MSNBC talking head. Okay, maybe it gets my goat just a bit that he founded JournoList, a now-defunct private listserv for lefty journalists and academics whose members seemingly conspired to bury stories unflattering to then-candidate Barack Obama. And yes, it was rather smug of Klein to claim that he excluded conservatives not to foster liberalism, but to avoid a flamewar. “The emphasis is on empiricism, not ideology,” claimed Klein, because we all know that liberals have a monopoly on the facts. And maybe this last one is petty, but it makes me somewhat jealous that Klein was featured in GQ‘s 2011 list of the 50 Most Powerful People in Washington. Granted, I have never resided in Washington, but it still has a nice ring to it. While I rarely, if ever, agree with him, however, his work is still crucial to understanding contemporary progressive thought. Plus, who doesn’t enjoy some cathartic “rage porn” every once and so often?
So it was particularly bitter gall to learn from Klein’s blog that Americans are not the number one, not the number two, but pitifully the number three consumer of the world’s finest distilled spirit—whiskey. Klein helpfully points out that the data, complied by Quartz, indicates that we are not even the leading consumer of American whiskey! And in other big whiskey news, we learned that the venerable American brand Jim Beam, along with its corporate cousins such as Maker’s Mark, are to be purchased for $13.62 billion by the Suntory Holdings Group, based out of Japan. These two are not necessarily unrelated. You see what happens when we don’t drink our native spirits? Other nations step in to enjoy them for us!
I particularly enjoyed a weekend trip this past October to Kentucky Bourbon Country during which I toured several stills along what the tourism bureau has termed “The Kentucky Bourbon Trail.” The Jim Beam tour is perhaps the most informative owing to recent renovations which created a veritable Disneyland of bourbon. My wife on the other hand was impressed by the facilities at Woodford Reserve, which she aptly described as the “Pottery Barn of bourbon distilleries.” One thing I learned on that trip is that the Japanese beer company Kirin purchased the Four Roses distillery back in 2002 in order to capitalize on demand for our native spirit in the Land of the Rising Sun. Kirin actually reintroduced Four Roses straight bourbon into the U.S. market in the process, as the previous owners had focused only on exports.
While we may or may not raise a glass to seek solace from the dismal news, we can at least find comfort in knowing the United Kingdom and Ireland—the other two leading sources of excellent brown liquor—lie at a shameful seventh and eighth on the list, respectively. It also couldn’t hurt to watch this scene from the 2003 film Lost in Translation in which Bill Murray’s character acts in a ridiculous mock commercial for Beam’s new owner.