For some reason, whenever an alcoholic beverage is marketed directly to women, it’s not a beverage. It’s a lifestyle.
“Oh, you thought that was wine in your glass? Oh no, it’s actually the conglomeration of many months of marketing and product-testing, a liquid encapsulation of the kinds of values, challenges, and life experiences we’re certain—to within a 3 percent margin of error—you, our target demographic, can relate to…Another glass, or are you running late for yoga?”
Gross, yes, but it happens aplenty. We’ve seen it in wine, and we’ve even seen it in beer (remember that collagen-enhanced Japanese light lager? “Guys can tell if you’re taking collagen or not.”). But never, ever did we think we’d see the day when whiskey went the way of genderized production. And yet, here we sit, anxiously awaiting the arrival of Clear Cut—the first, and pray god last, whiskey made specifically for women.
Note we say “made” and not “marketed,” since there was at least one bourbon-for-the-ladies ad campaign that came before. Woodford Reserve aired a commercial in 2014 that had a female narrator waxing poetic about the kind of guy who drinks bourbon: “I expect he could be the kind who could build me a bookshelf.” After clarifying she doesn’t mean a “ready made” IKEA type bookshelf—which are tough to put together, just for the record—she goes on: “He will let me use the saw, and not find it cute that I don’t know how to use it. We love your Woodford Way.” Basically implying that “we” (aka ladies) don’t drink the bourbon, but we do spend a lot of time writing free verse about the fascinating hipster carpenters who do. (After a bit of searching, we found at least one site where the ad is still viewable.)
Unlike Clear Cut, Woodford Reserve held “true” to the presumed masculinity of bourbon whiskey (there’s fire, woodworking, fancy velvet bags…er, what?). Clear Cut goes the opposite direction, engaging a presumably neglected female clientele with a clear “ultra-premium whiskey spirit” in clear bottle—it’s from France, y’all—engraved with peacock feathers. As for the clarity of the spirit itself, which we typically don’t see outside of white dog whiskey, the idea is to be able to enjoy whiskey without the burn. Because, presumably, women can’t handle the burn.
Not that Clear Cut says as much. Their understandably Spartan website (the product launches this spring) sticks to vaguely encouraging pseudo self-help whiskey talk. “A new spirit is emerging: confident, bold, self-aware, and independent.” (That’s from the website, not the poster for Hope Floats.) “Clear Cut is more than an ultra-premium whiskey spirit. It is”—wait for it—“a lifestyle…it is a pursuit.” (You mean like having it all??)
Again nothing here overtly says “Hey ladies, put down your washing and come try some fancy liquor! It won’t hurt you! We took away the burn!” But then that’s kind of the subversive beauty of modern advertising, like when you don’t realize the article you just read is sponsored content, or that every commercial you’re watching is now a hilarious 30 second sitcom. (South Park does a pretty great job tackling the subject, so we’ll leave it to them.)
Then again, advertising that Clear Cut is “ultra low-sugar and Gluten-free” kind of tugs at the dieting heartstrings that are attached to all women at birth, strengthened by egregious magazine airbrushing, and presumably removed only once we emerge from the Matrix. And then there’s the fact that Clear Cut finishes its poetic incantations with the invitation to “come see our new spirit take flight and emerge bold and beautiful.” Hmmm. Hard to imagine any other whiskey qualifying its success as “flight,” or bros being sold sauce on the promise of it, or them, emerging “bold and beautiful.”
Of course, we don’t need to guess. Clear Cut GM Jeff Sangalli admitted as much to InsiderLouiseville. “The growth in the industry is women consumers.” Interesting, since those numbers has been growing without a chivalrous whiskey like Clear Cut on the market.
We’re not saying the stuff isn’t good—whatever comes out of a bottle does its own talking, and most of us won’t know until this Spring. But at $60 a pop, and—apparently?—no aging, we’ve gotta wonder what exactly to expect from this stuff. Beyond a lifestyle, that is.