Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Jingo Lingo: The perils of jargon in the craft wines, beers, and spirts world from both sides

Recently Amanda Schuster, the highly respected spirits and cocktail journalist, Senior Editor-in-Chief and contributor at The Alcohol Professor, and author of the up-coming NEW YORK COCKTAILS (Fall 17, Cider Mill Press) complained of the over use and under imaginative jingoism of the craft world on her facebook page. And dozens of writers climbed on board the post agreeing.

I think the world of Amanda. And I think she is indeed correct. But I am unique in that I work both sides of the table.

The jargon that Amanda referred to is used (and sometimes abused) by small producers who want to distance themselves from mass produced product. Writers have taught them a language a list of words that signify the difference

Now the words have been overused. In some cases co-opted by larger manufactures looking to join or co-opt the craft movement itself.

These were the words that the manufactures were taught to use by the writers. These were the words the writers responded to:
Small batch.
Hand made.
Hand crafted.
Soon words like expression and release will also be passé

I want to go on the record: As a writer and a producer, I have repeated these words myself!

Hell, go to an etsy page - it's filled with this jargon! Or artisnal creameries, craft hand made bakeries, etc. The words have been befouled by almost every industry! It's cancerous!

With the plethora of new wineries and distilleries, cideries and breweries, these words have become repeated so often they have lost their effectiveness. Furthermore not to be out distanced, the big producers, the mass producers, have co-opted as many of these terms as possible, packaging new products for release caked in this language in order to lessen the distance between themselves and the craft moment which has grown in strength and eaten up market share, reviewer columns, and shelf space.

Today the writers have become immune to the words above. It has all now been reduced to just jargon. To be sure, manufacturers have abused words, repeating them so often that what one becomes numb. And so the writers have become non-responsive to these words to the point of heckling. Indeed writers pass amongst themselves endless press releases they have received packed to the point of bursting with these words to the point of hilarity. Lots of eyes rolling. LOL. LMAO. SMH. These are the accompanying comments.

From the producers point of view, the producers have always responded to the words that the writers respond to. They wanted to use the words that they knew got the writers attention. It is an endless cycle, like animals or insects eating their young.

Suffice to say two things are happening. Conglomerates like Diageo, Pernod Ricard, Suntory/Beam, Bacardi, and a host of others have created brands to compete. And These large mass producers are in fact buying craft distillers Winery cideries and breweries. It is the wave of the future.

So where is the next wave of language to come from? It is sad to say that the producers have always repeated about what they picked up from reading. Like good little grade school students they (dare I say we?) want to repeat terms, phrases, and, events, and dates that will resonate. All producers big and small repeated the magic language, the spells, that would entice the writers like sirens to their booze.

And indeed the writers created some of the words themselves, or at least imbued those terms with their sense of magic. There is no doubt that the writers participated in the creating some of this jargon. Those who disagree are lying to themselves or to each other, denying their own impact on the industry.

What then are the new words to replace the ones that we have above? What Terminology sets the craft world apart from the mass produced? How do you explain that on the label or on some marketing material?

Indeed, the bigger question is now - giant producer - small producer - how do we really explain the difference. It shouldn't be about size (god, does it always come down to size?) shouldn't it be about quality? or the difference in manufacturing? That's a whole other post....

There is no question that the craft producers in each segment of the liquor industry need to find a new set of terminology that explains the difference between them and their larger brethren. The first to do so will gain a wide birth. The last t embrace a new terminology will not only be a rotten egg, but they will end up off the shelves and out of business.

There will be a few stumbles along the way. There will be some head shaking and some eye rolling at some producer claims and silly terminology. But we must take this new plunge. It is the next evolutionary step for our industry. It will take someone with imagination. A team of people.  Perhaps even a few writers will participate. But the new language needs to emerge soon.

Last question: Who is willing to go first?