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Scotch and Social Status

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This piece on the growing popularity of scotch in Latin America reminds me again of the connections between scotch and social status in the developing world. When I lived in Asia, wherever I was, anyone who was anyone had at least one bottle of Johnny Walker around. It was the go-to drink for any high-class social occasion the upwardly mobile attended. Now that the upper-middle class in Latin America is growing fairly rapidly, it’s hardly surprising that scotch sales are on the rise there too.

Another point. Admittedly, I am fiercely nationalistic when it comes to alcohol. The Belgians make amazing beer, but beer in the United States is of a greater variety and can be of equal or even greater quality. No other nation comes close. I will give the Europeans the gin category, both the British and the Dutch, but the Americans are closing the gap with such gems as Bluecoat and Death’s Door. Vodka, well, I’m glad Americans aren’t famous for that. And while good scotch is good, drinking overseas is consistently frustrating for me because the glories of bourbon seem almost totally unknown through most of the world. The only bourbons most bars have are brands that I have never heard of and am scared to try. If I’m lucky, some Jim Beam. Which isn’t very lucky.

Given the connection between social status and American consumer products through much of the developing world, it’s interesting that this doesn’t extend to alcohol. That includes beer as Heineken, Beck’s, and other overpriced bad European beers dominate the foreign beer market, even in Latin America.

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