The product development team in question here, shown servicing their car….
I was out shopping for rum the other day, and as I passed down the aisle of the liquor store, my eyes fell upon an eye-catching bottle that I didn’t recognize. It was in the brandy section, so I bent down to examine closer, and my eyes beheld the following product: Twenty Grand Vodka Infused with Cognac. The shelf tag, in addition to revealing that this new item was already marked down, proclaimed it to be “Good as Money.” Apparently two dollars a bottle less money than initially thought…
I squatted there in the middle of aisle, stunned. My mind whirled, trying to grasp how you could make a product that, aside from its merely tacky vessel, is stupid in nearly every possible way.
Let’s start with the marketing stuff. The name is Twenty Grand. Um. Why? Is this some magical number that the Culture has decided is the price of class?
Well, it might be.
An old guy like you would probably have missed a cultural marker like that….
Well, if so, the Culture is wrong. Unlike anyone misfortunate enough to purchase this product, I have actually had twenty grand in ready funds lying around from time to time during my long toil upon this Earth. At none of those times did the “Beautiful People”, despite my culturally significant bank balance, “Hit Up” “My Digits” with invitations to go clubbing.
Perhaps the beautiful people are not as dumb as they look.
Further, what kind of catchphrase is “Good as Money”? Have you seen money? I’m not drinking anything like that.
Shown above: Money—possibly after a night of drinking its alleged liquid equivalent.
Photo: Chicago Tribune
I’ll forgive, or at least leave aside, the bottle’s stopper, which looks like a cheap doorknob and is nearly as big, because it is not totally hideous at first glance, and because I like stoppers on liquor bottles and like to encourage the practice.
Instead, I will put on my Font Nazi hat and bitch about the label instead.
Click image for full-sized detail of this mess.
What the hell is this supposed to be, with all the background engraving, faux aged border, and “anti-counterfeiting features”, a bearer bond? Now, I will grant that, given the whole Good as Money theme, it is a clever conceit. But a bond like this should have little coupons that you tear off each time you consume an ounce of this fluid. Turn in a label’s worth of coupons and get a pony or something. Because anyone sad enough to have drunk a bottle’s worth of this is sad enough to deserve a pony.
This is the frilliest main font ever devised by man. At full size, it is nearly impossible to read, and when it suddenly changes color and shrinks toward the bottom it becomes not so much illegible and practically invisible. Then we get an abrupt, pointless typeface change for the one word on the bottle that you could read from the other side of a bar, especially in bad lighting after a round or two. You are changing the typeface and color on your label in the middle of the name of your product? Or is the name simply Twenty Grand, with “vodka infused with cognac” being the product type?
And what a confusing product type that is! Is 20K a vodka or a cognac? A dessert topping or a floor wax? As their website asks, “uptown or downtown”? It sure looks like they want it to be a Cognac. It is the only legible word on the label. The bottle and stopper, and the material inside all look Cognac-y. But it is worded like it is an infused vodka. Does half the team think that it has to be a “vodka” because that’s all the Wall Street suits who are funding them want, while the other half think the only people who will buy it want “cognac”? Perhaps the group all met in Synergy 224 while getting their MBAs. Most likely, honesty (with some help from the FTC) compelled them to call it Vodka infused with Cognac.
And now we get to the meat of the issue. The actual alcoholic beverage inside the bottle.
An important disclaimer here: This is a totally unfair post, in that I have not actually consumed any Twenty Grand myself. I am not going to. Don’t send me any. My liver only has so many miles left in it, and I won’t waste so much as one of them on Twenty Grand Avenue.
I don’t actually have to taste it, because Mr. Vuitton has. Mr. Vuitton is a YouTuber who vlogs about Louis Vuitton products from his blank-walled apartment with laundry stacked on top of his Louis Vuitton bags in the background, all while wearing Ed Hardy shirts.
His video review of Twenty G will either be the best or worst 11 minutes of your life you have ever spent on YouTube.
Whether you watched that or not, I’ll discuss it a bit as a lead back to my thoughts on Twenty Grand. First, how about that cinematography? I’ve never seen a clearly practiced and polished video style that consists of a continuous, unedited mirror selfie shot which keeps the phone unerringly blocking the view of his mouth. I genuinely admire his dedication to his craft. He held that phone up for eleven minutes! My arms would fall off. But then I’m old.
The video tells a tale actually—the tale of a man who may not have the most extensive liquor knowledge, but who does in fact appear to have a fine and developed sense of taste and smell. It is a tale of a man who is excited by a new product, who tries it for the first time on camera, only to discover that the phrase Good as Money is true in the sense that I spoke of above. Our hero doesn’t want to be mean…
You used to be like that,
didn’t you, Doug?
He doesn’t want to be mean as the stuff assaults those excellent senses of taste and smell, or perhaps he just doesn’t want to admit to himself or his viewers that he has wasted twenty seven dollars that likely tasted better than the Twenty Grand in the bottle.
Some epic, revealing quotes:
It’s a vodka, obviously. [Snif]Yeah. Ah…damn. Yeah. It’s… of course, the smell is alcohol. [grimace] Yeah… it’s, uh, it’s gonna be rough, guys! Sh*t…
[Sip]Yeah. [Forced grimace] It’s sweet. It’s, um, really, really sweet. There’s an, um, thickness to it. It’s is definitely not vodka. It doesn’t taste like vodka. Doesn’t feel like vodka.
Yeah. I can taste the vodka. More like vodka and… syrup. You could really call this “vodka, mixed with honey” or syrup…
The earnest hope in his voice when he decides to throw in some ice is endearing.
Yeah, I’m sure this will be… This’ll be definitely a lot better.
You will be shocked to watch as his hopes are dashed.
I kept thinking I’d abandon the video after each new moment of pathos, but it just kept on going so hilariously I couldn’t stop. Bear with the attempt to remove the plastic shrink-wrap from the stopper with one hand, while the other holds the phone, the rest is worth it.
Listen, I feel for the guy. I’ve searched desperately a time or two to find something nice to say about a dog product, either on this blog or in person. I just think he should learn that it is wise to know what you are reviewing before you review it, especially if you are going to act as if it is live TV.
As I said before, Mr. Vuitton appears to have a much better senses of taste and smell than I ever had, but I knew what he was going to taste before he ever opened that bottle, and I (again) have never experienced the stuff. Because old age and experience beat youth and talent every day. Before my brain had finished processing what I was looking at in that aisle, I knew. The words Early Times were flashing in my brain.
Scores of bottles in that same store that call themselves Blended American Whiskey could just as well have labeled themselves as Vodka infused with Bourbon. They look just like Bourbon, just as 20K looks just like Cognac. The marketing theory behind blended whiskies is that they are smoother and more approachable than the full straight stuff. The truth is that vodka is cheap as hell to make, and faster than it is cheap.
Twenty Grand is not vodka infused with cognac, it is cognac diluted with vodka, at somewhere between 1:1 and 6:1 vodka. But vodka is clear and flavorless, so if that’s all you served up, you’d have a very pale-looking and pale-tasting product. To get the color and flavor back, blenders add colorants and flavorants, mostly caramels of one type or another, to the mix in an attempt to counterfeit the natural ones occurring in the wood-aged product of the base premium liquor.
American blended whiskey makers have had decades of experience and the millions spent in the Lost Laboratories of Seagram’s Gone By to perfect the mix of sugars and colorants needed to make a pleasing and visually satisfying counterfeit for a light bourbon.
Twenty Grand? The color is perfect. To my knowledge, this is the first Blended French Brandy of its kind, and I doubt that the good folks at Citispiritz of Wilson, Wyoming have the kind of resources needed to reproduce the decades and millions it took to get as far as Early Times. Bravo to them for trying, I suppose. Or jeers to them for giving the Pernod-Ricards of the world ideas….
A final disclaimer: As I said, I haven’t tasted the product myself. And Twenty Grand has absolutely the least informative liquor product website to be found on the web. It consists of good photography, bad recipes, and no frigging text to speak of at all! My description of what 20K is and how it is made is merely my own informed speculation. And if you can’t get Twenty Grand Vodka infused with Cognac near you, perhaps you could find their new product: Twenty Grand Rosé. It is vodka infused with flat Rosé Champagne!