Vol. 26 No. 11

The Luxury Behind Luxury

What's a luxury brand? Here are some examples.


The term ‘Luxury’ has so many definitions that it makes it virtually impossible to define what luxury really is. The concept of luxury as a market has most often to do with branding. 

The message that branding sends to the buyer, and, more importantly, to those who observe the buyer getting the message and being able to afford the product, says they have arrived. The perceived message is that the product is actually a higher quality product – but what is more important is that you ‘believe’ it is better than the ‘mass market’ items enough so that you are willing to pay the premium, which is likely well in excess of the actual ‘cost’ of any premium craftsmanship if it even matters.

I think back to a conversation I had with a friend who works in the wine auction business, trying to understand how people pay so much for certain wines, like those from Bordeaux and Burgundy – especially people who have no real knowledge of wine. He said that for some, it sits on their table at a restaurant, and the looks they get from others like, ‘oooh, look what they are drinking, that person must be so rich or so successful,’ – that is luxury.

It may also be for the person – ‘let’s splurge on this wine because we are celebrating something special,’ or to mark a special occasion in our memory bank. It’s something to talk about.

If this were our regular daily wine, it wouldn’t be special.

As far as spirits go, I think it’s the price that people know that you paid for the bottle. I certainly expect it’s better quality and not some basement bathtub variety. ‘Premium’ ingredients are a premium distillation process that makes it seem better than those that are otherwise mass-produced – special packaging too. A bottle that I would want to display on my shelf. Things that help rationalize the higher price if, in actuality, the difference is in taste to the discerning palate. Maybe the bottle contains a very special, hard-to-find ingredient? Maybe it’s the love and personalized attention the spirits maker had that tells me this product will be better than average. Triple distilled subtle tastes of XYZ. No need for a mixer. It’s a conversation piece.

Then luxury is about how I should feel when drinking the spirit or wine. That is what advertisements do. As I make my drink, it helps transport me to that place. The transporting qualities of alcohol, physical and mental. Luxury is in my mindset. 

Most people are pretty uneducated and don’t have a refined enough palate to know the difference between quality or not or even what it should taste like. So, they often look to those whom they believe are more knowledgeable to tell them what is good or not, and from there, they decide if they like it. With liquor especially, most people drink what those in their circle drink if they can tolerate it. 

The luxury aspect has more to do with sending a message to others that you are successful and now you can afford to drink the ‘good stuff.’ It is about what others think about us and how we think about ourselves. 

Does it really matter which ‘premium’ brand? I don’t think so. 

It is easy to recognize products that have elements of superiority in their product class. Many seem well underpriced and overly affordable versus the ‘cream de la crème’ we have come to expect as true luxury items. 

We have compiled a small list of items that could be included in the ‘Affordable Luxury’ category. Location, like Napa Valley for wine, Jalisco, Mexico for Tequila, and Highclere Castle for gin, are paramount to the desirability of the product. Small production like Ehret’s Sauvignon Blanc, with 170 cases, make another argument.

Our choices for ‘Affordable Luxury’ include:


SeaBird 2019 Poseidon Cabernet Sauvignon, 

Rutherford, Napa Valley.

A brand inspired by a commitment to conservation and philanthropy. A terroir-driven, premium, sustainable maritime powerhouse made by a passionate winemaker and family that gives back to society. Highly rated. –


Ehret 2021 

Sauvignon Blanc, Sonoma County, Citrus zest, white stone fruit, minerality, and a dash of floral. Fresh and vibrant acidity with peach, grapefruit, melon, and minerality blended in..

170 cases produced –


Diora 2020 Chardonnay , La Splendeur Du Soleil, Monterey. Oaked beautifully. High on the alcohol spectrum. Round, zippy with some great wheaty and grassy notes under yellow fruit. Great!

– $18

Francis Coppola 2019 Chardonnay, Sonoma County,

Appealing and approachable. Soft with good acid and complex – $20


Highclere Castle

Gin, England. Botanicals are grown on the property.,

Slightly thin mouthfeel with bright florals. Very refreshing with natural aromas, not pinesol. Could use a little more oomph in the mouth, but great.!

87% ABV – $40

Branson V.S.O.P.  (Very Superior Old Pale) Grande Champagne Cognac, France. Notes of caramel, beautiful bouquet of nuts, caramel, and white blossoms. Wow! –.


Camarena Tequila

Anejo, 100% Blue Weber Agave, Jalisco, Mexico. 

A gem! Bright nose and peppery finish. Very nice. Complex aromas and flavors, peppery. –!


Don’t miss Features, Reviews, News, and Recipes from top Restaurateurs!

Suggested roles: Restaurateur (e.g. manager, owner, cook, chef, sommelier, bartender, mixologist), PR (e.g. PR agency), Producer (e.g. winery, distillery), Marketer (e.g. ad buyer), Consultant, Journalist

Suggested interests: wine, spirits, food, recipes, cocktails

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