Whenever I fly, I buy myself a little bottle of whiskey and drink it slowly on ice about midway through the flight. My standby is Jack Daniels, which I like but don’t love, and I’ll occasionally switch it up with Canadian Windsor or Dewar’s. I’ve learned to ask for whiskey, not bourbon (flight attendants rarely hear you right when you’re so specific), and I never ask for anything by name that they haven’t had in the past (no Maker’s Mark or Cutty Sark, sadly). All bottles on the plane are $7 for 50ml (1.7 ounces).
Lately, I’ve noticed a newcomer: Woodford Reserve bourbon in a glass, flask-shaped, bottle. If it’s alcohol by volume value you’re looking for, Woodford is 90.4 proof, a little stronger than Jack Daniels and the other whiskeys on board. It’s not as sweet as a bourbon like Maker’s Mark, but it’s quite good.
It struck me that an airplane beverage cart might be seen as a marketing tool for the brand. Next to Jack Daniels and some other common whiskeys—American, Canadian, and Scottish—Woodford Reserve looks exotic and upscale, both because of its differently shaped glass bottle (almost all others here are plastic) and its relatively unfamiliar name. And getting this brand in front of whiskey drinkers on planes may move them to try a bottle at home, or ask for it at bars. Smart move.
As a traveler, Woodford Reserve is a good value. But I’m not excited about buying a bottle at home, and I’m trying to figure out why. It’s about $32 for 750ml. But I can get Maker’s Mark for just two dollars more, or nearly two liters of Jim Beam, a fantastic value, for two dollars less. I’m in that odd consumer state wherein, prices and taste being roughly equal (and I say this because my palate isn’t professionally trained, and I haven’t tasted them all side-by-side), considerations of brand loyalty and bottle design win out. In other words, until I’m moved by pretty packaging or a great story, I’ll stick with what I know. That’s a humbling realization. I’m guessing these mechanisms are constantly at work in our increasingly commercial world.