Bob Baffert, The Triple Crown Trainer Suspended For Allegedly Doping Horses, Mocked on Controversial Bourbon Label
The Louisville Bourbon Club created a limited-edition sticker label placed on Pinhook bourbon bottles. The sticker pokes fun at Hall of Fame horse racing trainer Bob Baffert, who was suspended from Churchill Downs and the New York Racing Association after his 2021 Kentucky Derby-winning horse, Medina Spirit, failed a drug test.
The label reads “Bobby’s Secret Horsey Stuff” — a play on “Mike’s Secret Sruff” from the 1996 film “Space Jam” — and depicts Baffert holding a syringe. The text next to the depiction of Baffert reads “Just let Ol’ Uncle Bobby blend ya up a batch of that good-good stuff.”
Bottles featuring the label are not available at stores.
Is this just good humor or is this taking it too far? https://t.co/f5aERrWeqp
— Bourbon Pursuit 🥃 (@BourbonPursuit) July 7, 2022
This jab is especially interesting considering the bottle it was placed on. Pinhook has close ties with the horse racing industry. Pinhook works with a horse stable that could be considered a rival to Baffert’s and even names each of its whiskeys after a horse in its stable.
So, from an outside perspective, this may appear to be Pinhook taking a shot at its rival, Baffert. It is important to understand, however, that this label was created by the Louisville Bourbon Club and placed on Pinhook bottles in collaboration with Louisville retailers Cox’s and Evergreen Liquors.
Pinhook hasn’t made a statement saying one way or another whether it approved this label, but groups often print and use these stickers without clearing them with the brands. A prominent example of this practice came in January 2020, when a New Riff bottle was covered with a sticker lampooning college basketball coach Rick Pitino following his stripper scandal at Louisville University.
— Ed DeRosa (@EJXD2) January 20, 2020
The Pitino label was polarizing, with many consumers finding it hilarious and many fans of Pitino or the basketball teams he has coached finding it appalling. New Riff’s public relations team did its best to inform the public that the brand had nothing to do with the stickers, but it’s likely many Pitino fans were left with a grudge toward New Riff.
The Baffert sticker could have a similar impact on Pinhook, especially taking into account the brand’s proximity to the horse racing industry. Racing fans and industry members alike are sure to have mixed views on this depiction of Baffert, a highly famous and successful trainer. And many won’t understand that Pinhook (probably) had nothing to do with this sticker.
Some distilleries, Four Roses and Woodinville among them, have taken to regulating these stickers so as to avoid a situation such as this one. Because these stickers often aren’t internally cleared, if they bear offensive or problematic art, that can be viewed by the public as implicit endorsements of whatever is depicted on the label by the whiskey brand, despite that brand usually having no knowledge or say in the label’s artwork.
It’s a slippery slope in the bourbon industry: What once used to be simply fun or information has become a PR nightmare waiting to happen for brands as the interest in single barrel programs continues to explode. We’ve reached out to Pinhook Bourbon and will cover their thoughts on the scenario as it unfolds if they choose to comment.
Here at Whiskey Raiders, we do more than write about current events in whiskey. We are the only media property reviewing whiskeys and aggregating the scores and reviews of other significant voices in the whiskey world in one place. If you’re interested in getting a shot of whiskey in your morning email, sign up for our Daily Dram Gram!