Military Spirits

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More than six years in, many labels reflect the US at war. Above is Jim Beam “Operation Homefront” Bourbon. The idea is to “provid[e] physical and emotional support for military families in your community.” The label doesn’t really say how, but the website does.

Brave Spirits was early to link spirits with supporting the military. TTB approved their Valor Vodka back in 2007. Brave donates $2 per bottle toward the military. Valenzano Sangria is the only one that outright shows the American flag; TTB does not usually allow it, but this one is restricted for sale in New Jersey only. Valenzano donates $1 per bottle to “Operation Troop Aid.”

The Intoxicologist recently said this form of marketing is tacky. What do you think?

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14 Responses to “Military Spirits”

  1. April 20th, 2009 at 9:32 am

    The Intoxicologist says:

    I hesitate since my words have been misunderstood by some, but what I want to clarify is what I think is tacky is putting inferior or lower quality liquor in a bottle at an elevated price with a patriotic looking label. The men and women who serve our country deserve to be represented by premium spirits. In my opinion honoring the service personnel of our country with their own spirits should be about completely giving back to them as they give their all to the country.

  2. April 20th, 2009 at 7:50 pm

    Anthony Valenzano says:

    Call it tacky or not, this product will raise tens of thousands of dollars each year for Operation Troop Aid. I’d like to know how money people who consider this ‘tacky’ donate to our troops overseas. Will this help our bottom line as well? I hope so, but that is what is great about the free market system; everyone can benefit from a quality product and a good idea.

    As far as the quality… This product is made from 100% locally grown fruits and contains NO artificial flavoring or coloring. Its is a blend of ‘true fruit’ wines and makes a perfect summer sangria.

    Again, I’d like to compare notes on how much money ‘The Intoxicologist’ has raised for the troops. Rather than ask a wine snob why not go to Fort Dix and McGuire AFB and ask our men and women in uniform what they think once we start sampling the product this Memorial Day.

  3. April 21st, 2009 at 4:00 am

    Japhet Bower says:

    I agree with The Intoxicologist.

    Putting out cheap booze at an inflated price while not donating more of the profits to organizations that help citizens serving in the military is a bit of a slap in the face and reeks of tacky advertising.

    How about a distillery that makes an annual donation to a veteran’s fund?

  4. April 21st, 2009 at 6:25 am

    admin says:

    What is the basis for the assumption that any of these are low quality or cheap? Would Japhet feel better if these brands raised their prices while holding to the same contribution?

  5. April 21st, 2009 at 8:33 am

    Anthony Valenzano says:

    A true connoisseur is capable of determining the ‘quality’ of a product simply by looking at its label:) They can also review books based on their covers and Hollywood blockbusters based on their trailers.

  6. April 22nd, 2009 at 1:18 am

    Radical Centrist says:

    Or he could take even the most cursory glance at reviews on the internet, which suggest that the products in question are for the most part mediocre at the very best.

    I actually don’t object to this form of marketing as long as it’s a form of spirit that the troops themselves wouldn’t find embarrassing. I suspect that Jim Beam would pass muster, but that the other no-name alcohols, which look to be a midgrade vodka and a wine made from cranberries and blueberries, would have a much harder time. I don’t think we’d really need super-patriotic labeling and markups on Stranahan’s or Old Potrero, ‘cuz let’s face it, those just aren’t going to do much good. But plain old Jim Beam, or Jack Daniels… that’s got some potential.

  7. April 22nd, 2009 at 6:19 am

    admin says:

    Or, taste them.

  8. April 22nd, 2009 at 9:16 am

    Vincent Vincent says:

    “Or he could take even the most cursory glance at reviews on the internet, which suggest that the products in question are for the most part mediocre at the very best.”

    That’s as useful as reviewing a book by others who have only looked at the cover. I doubt that a fraction of a percent of the people who have tasted these products have reviews on the Internet yet you seem to be able to make broad based judgments with absolutely no facts or knowledge. Its this kind of baseless judging that I think would embarrass the military.

    Unfortunately it seems your opinion far exceeds your knowledge base and that you are so far removed from the enlisted personnel that you have absolutely no clue what we find ‘quality’ or what they would find ’embarrassing’.
    I can tell you for certain that if there is one thing the enlisted find embarrassing are people who make judgments on circumstances, world events and other things which people simply have no base of knowledge in.

    I’m sure you know a lot about Iraq by people who review the situation but have never been on the ground.

  9. April 24th, 2009 at 5:58 am

    Japhet Bower says:

    Most reviews of Brave Spirit’s products are either negative or compare them favorably to mainstream brethren (their rum is similar to Bacardi White apparently).

    A bottle of Bacardi runs what, $15 in the States? Minus the donation, BS rum sells for $18. I’d feel a whole lot better if they donated more money and it was clearly outlined on the site where the money went, what it accomplished with some kind of feedback.

    Mr. Valenzano, you can state all you like that your products are terrific but the reviews don’t bear you up. At the end of the day, the deciding factor for myself and many other enthusiasts is the quality of the product. If you like, send me a bottle and I’ll offer my honest opinion.

    As the admin said, all I need to do to determine whether it’s any good or not is to taste it.

    No one on is linking the quality of your product with the label. Plenty of people don’t like it but just as many or more will probably think it’s fine.

    Labelwise, opinion will probably skew in favor of any support of “the troops” regardless of impact but that’s a knee-jerk reaction that many folks seem to favor anyway.

    A more visually-educated, vocal minority will take issue with the cheesiness of your product descriptions, the boxy, ungainly bottle and awkward marriage of a cause to an unknown product.

    I would argue that at the end of the day, a product that has proven credibility (and, dare I say it, quality) like Jim Beam or Jack Daniels will have a greater potential for coinfluencing people’s purchasing decision with their desire to support a cause.

    I also think that Vincent has a good point. How many service personnel would support this product in the abstract sense but find the actual execution “embarassing”?

  10. April 24th, 2009 at 8:39 pm

    Anthony Valenzano says:

    “but the reviews don’t bear you up” What exactly does that mean? No one who has ever tasted our ‘Red White & Blueberry Sangria’, other than trial tastings we hosted at the base and as far as I am aware none of those tasting notes are posted online. If you are talking about our other wines I’d be happy to post a hundred positive reviews of our wines for any negative reviews that you may be able to find written by people who haven’t even tasted our wines.

    “No one on(sic)is linking the quality of your product with the label. Plenty of people don’t like it but just as many or more will probably think it’s fine.” And plenty more will absolutely LOVE IT! Our concern is not what wine critics or the general population thinks about our packaging. Our only concern is what the men and women in the military think about the product and packaging. I believe I have much more detailed information on this than you do.

    “A more visually-educated, vocal minority will take issue with the cheesiness of your product descriptions, the boxy, ungainly bottle and awkward marriage of a cause to an unknown product.” Again, you incorrectly assume the product is being marketed to people of your mindset or subjective tastes. If I could sum up the success of our business in one statement and explain why our success continues to grow while so many others are struggling it is “because of our focused intent to offend the ‘visually-educated, vocal minority of hooty-tooty yupyups’:)

    “I also think that Vincent has a good point. How many service personnel would support this product in the abstract sense but find the actual execution “embarassing”?” I also think Vincent has a point and that is the reason Vincent was sent to the base to do a test trial of the product. I’d be happy to show you the results but it might be embarrasing for you to be proven completly wrong on your own forum.

    Valenzano Winery grew in 10 years from an upstart, 500 gallon per year winery to one of the largest producers on the east coast producing and selling almost a half million bottles annually. We didnt accomplish this by ‘offending’ or ’embarassing’ our customer base. Honestly, if we listened to the ‘wine experts’ like many that I see in this forum we would still be producing 500 cases a year and hardly be profitable.

    Thank you for your critical analysis but I’m fairly certain that your opinion far exceeds your knowledge base:)

  11. April 24th, 2009 at 11:57 pm

    Vincent says:

    “your opinion far exceeds your knowledge base:)” LOL,, thats my quote.. thats copyright infringement.

    I think what the topic here comes down to is the fact that ‘A good deed never goes unpunished’. There are two mindsets in our world today. One group will look at this product and say “Hey, thats great… Valenzano Winery is going to raise a lot of money for Operation Troop Aid and our soldiers are going to benefit”. Another, less secure and more coveting group will say, “This is capitalist exploitation and a business has no right to market this way regardless of how many military members receive care packages, it’s simply tacky and below my standards, blah, blah blah….”

    I think what Mr. Valenzano is getting at is that he simply doesnt give a heck about the later group; especially since he is fairly certain that these critics probably have never written a substantial check to this cause (actually thats what I believe) which he very much believes in. I say we wait a few months and then ask a troop living in the sand in the Middle East who receives a care package from Operation Troop Aid whose opinion they favor more – Japhet’s or Mr. Valenzanos?

  12. April 26th, 2009 at 11:22 pm

    Japhet Bower says:

    My apologies. I got a bit mixed up and confused your product with those of Brave Spirits.

    A premixed sangria could work very well; as far as I know there’s only one sangria mix selling in Ontario; the add-fruit-and-go approach is fairly popular.

    In the end, it doesn’t really matter how good your product tastes. There are hundreds of poor-quality examples that people will always buy and despite an increase in public awareness when it comes to alcohol in general, there will always be people who just don’t give a shit.

    I checked out the PDF and while your label isn’t quite as bad as Brave Spirits, it’s pretty cheesy. However, critiquing the packaging, your use of ra-ra patriotism, the quality of your product and the causes your company supports can be addressed separately or in terms of the product overall ie. I could hate your label but really love the way the sangria tastes. (Coincidentally, what kind of wine did you use?)

    I think Operation Troop Aid is a great cause but using patriotic imagery on a label is a bit disingenuous and completely unnecessary. A simple blurb on the bottle should suffice with an accompanying page on your website stating your goal. Corby Distilleries Ltd. in Canada supports the Ontario Food Bank through sales of its holiday gift packs but they don’t vomit supposed patriotism all over their products.


    Using patriotic symbolism in a product confers a vague approval of said product by the government. The US Flag Code…United States Code, Title 36, Chapter 10 (Patriotic Customs), Section 176 (Respect for Flag)…specifically prohibits using the flag on apparel or to sell products. No one ever gets prosecuted for this. But exercise your constitutionally-protected right to free speech by using a flag in an art installation (US v. Dread Scott, 1989) and see what happens.

    If your research shows that military personnel like your branding (and you need their support to develop credibility), that’s great, and if the general public responds positively to the product and you end up raising a lot of money for Operation Troop Aid, that’s even better.

    I for one would be interested in seeing the results of Vincent’s trial at the base. I’d also be interested in seeing the parameters of the study as well.

    One thing I do appreciate is that you clearly state who you’re raising money for and it’s very easy for anyone to find out what they do. I find the Brave Spirits position more questionable in light of their decision to provide no lists of charities or NFPs they support.

    I’m not against supporting causes; I am against the linking of patriotic labeling with said support. I believe that one of the best ways corporations and wealthy individuals can give back to their communities and nation at large is through charitable donations. For poor individuals such as myself, I have to stick with volunteering my time.

    You may not care about my opinion but I’m certainly not pretentious. I’m sure that using a phrase such as “visually-educated, vocal minority of hooty-tooty yupyups” might endear you to certain segments of the population but reverse-classism is just as backward as elitism.

  13. October 11th, 2009 at 11:44 pm

    Anthony Valenzano says:

    $30,300.00 donated to date. I think the public has clearly voiced their opinion. I’m certainly glad I didnt listen to the naysayers; and so are many men and women in the military overseas who have sent their thanks and appreciation.

  14. April 10th, 2012 at 6:06 am

    Robert says:

    What all you fine wine enthusiast forget is that alot of us military men and women who drink drink Jim Beam because unlike you we cannot afford high end booze and for the price it is just fine with me and I served for 24 years in the U.S. Air force and wish I had 1 of these bottles for my collection. Any American company showing pride in our troops is fine by me. Yes we would prefer Jack Daniels but that cost twice to 3 times as much and I do not recall Jack Daniels doing anything to support us. I never saw this before and wish I had since there probably is no way to get this bottle now for a retired vet on a fixed income. Please don’t bash any company that shows support for our troops. I realize my post is old now but still wanted to say something even if no one sees it.

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