The recent social media rumors about Booker’s increasing MSRP are true. An official Jim Beam spokesperson confirmed today that Beam Suntory is increasing Booker’s from its national MSRP of $59.99 (sells in Ky. in mid $40 range) to $99.99 and will reduce in batch releases from six to four.
I initially Tweeted confirmation.
Beam also commented on other rumors. Baker’s is not going away, per a spokesperson. Old Grand-Dad 114’s fate is unknown at this time and the Booker’s price hike is not a “part of a broader pricing strategy. It’s an isolated situation based on supply constraints and the value we place on the product.”
Retailers leaked the Booker’s price hike to consumers, who posted on social media, leading to a frenzy of comments in various forums.
The spokesperson said the company thought the barrel proof small batch product was undervalued and is highly scrutinized internally for quality.
Heaven Hill successfully increased prices and remains in demand, while non-distiller producers charge twice the former amount of Booker’s. Beam Suntory likely saw people willing to pay $90 for NDP whiskey and decided to increase based on quality and demand of Booker’s.
There’s also the psychology of pricing.
I’ve noticed new-to-bourbon consumers believe price equals quality. When randomly helping a family buy their Thanksgiving bourbon, I told the woman to buy Four Roses over Rabbit Hole, a new distillery that contract distilled elsewhere for the past 2.5 years. And she didn’t want Four Roses, because, “it’s cheaper, so it must taste cheap.”
That sentiment is common enough it’s been heavily studied.
In 2015, a German study showed that people choose the higher price tag when considering identical products, such as wine or chocolate. Most people are trained to think expensive is better.
Does that mean Booker’s will taste better at $100?
Fred Minnick is the author of Bourbon: The Rise, Fall & Rebirth of An American Whiskey.