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Which brands to use? David vs. Goliath?

I just read today a newsletter of Jörg Meyer (owner of the amazing bar Le Lion Café de Paris), that he has silently taken almost all products of DIAGEO from his shelves - as well as other brands of multinational spirit companies. And I can very much sympathize with that.

Unfortunately if you are in Dubai, it isn’t that easy - as these companies co-own the liquor suppliers (hence getting support as well as reasonable pricing is without the brands basically impossible). I also don’t have exactly the same pragmatism as Jörg. I am not necessary against brands only because they are owned by multinationals. Except of course, that these companies reasonably bad screwed up...

But I do agree, that if companies are managing with their red pencil and do quality downgrades, because of profit efficiency it really pisses me off.

These are my points I do consider:


  • Several expensive ultra-aged rums (e.g. Ron Zacapa) using sugar, to smoothen out the palate.
  • Deceptive labeling (e.g. Zacapa’s “23 sistema solera"
  • A lot of liqueurs are just shadows of their former selfs, as companies changed to cheaper ingredients (aromas, HFCS, cheaper neutral alcohol) - think about Southern Comfort...
  • Sneaky reduction of alcohol contents
  • Sneaky reduction of bottle sizes) from 750 ml to 700 ml
  • If the product is subpar (look at you Carta Blanca)
When Bombay Sapphire reduced their alcohol content from 47% to 40% in Germany, I was for sure a very firm critic. However now, that I am in Dubai, where I get still the 47% gin - I am rather ok. 

Cost is for sure also a very important point! In Europe, bartender can use “fancy” products, without damaging the profitability too much - due to 50% income tax, additional charges/margin of the 2 main suppliers plus 30% consumer tax, less expensive brands are profitable - more expensive products tend to be rather unreasonable. In this climate, you try to understand, if a good quality gin (or other spirit) of a multinational, is so different than the fancy product which costs about 3 times more. Or Mr. Meyer's mentioned Bulleit Rye - I knew about the “re-labelling” and that the products was made of MPG in Indiana - but on the other hand it is a quite good product and as said, it comes at an acceptable price point (and to be absolutely frank: in Dubai, there aren’t a lot of choices, when it comes to Rye).

I think Jörg Meyer’s stance for local and small producer is great. And his attitude, that he is just keeping it for his own bars, is even better. It is a personal opinion, where he wants to take his business.

For my “opinionated” self - I just don’t have that much choice - and I am less pragmatic.

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