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Distillers vs. Bottlers
July 28, 2014 10:06 AM   Subscribe

Your ‘Craft’ Rye Whiskey Is Probably From a Factory Distillery in Indiana. The Daily Beast covers the phenomenon of a large list of whiskey brands serving only as bottlers, purchasing their spirits from a "hulking factory in Indiana". Thirdhand hattip to blogger SKU for leading the charge on this.

This is my first post, so please be gentle.
posted by staccato signals of constant information (167 comments total) 41 users marked this as a favorite

 
We need some sort of rebellion against this kind of thing.


But what to call it?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 10:09 AM on July 28 [40 favorites]


The Rye Rebellion?
posted by grouse at 10:11 AM on July 28 [4 favorites]


The Whiskey Angry Shouty Thingy.
posted by maxsparber at 10:13 AM on July 28 [9 favorites]


The Whiskey Kerfuffle.
posted by knuckle tattoos at 10:13 AM on July 28 [11 favorites]


I saw the OP and immediately thought "Hey! A story about Lawrenceburg!"
I was not disappointed.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:14 AM on July 28 [8 favorites]


Templeton is okay, *whew*.
posted by The Whelk at 10:17 AM on July 28


I saw a McDonald's ad for "artisanal rolls" the other day. Words have lost all meaning.
posted by desjardins at 10:18 AM on July 28 [33 favorites]


Templeton's the opposite of OK! It's the worst offender.
posted by knuckle tattoos at 10:19 AM on July 28 [3 favorites]


BUT TASTY
posted by The Whelk at 10:20 AM on July 28


Templeton is okay, *whew*.

No, it's one of the not-distilled-here factory products, just one with a really elaborate (and probably fictional) marketing story:

"the official “Production Process” somehow fails to mention that Templeton doesn’t actually do the distilling.

Dig around enough on the Templeton Rye website, and you’ll find acknowledgment that their whiskey is factory-made in Indiana."
posted by jedicus at 10:20 AM on July 28


Templeton is okay, *whew*.

Bad news...


(about two-thirds of the way into the article, near the quote in white on black)
posted by echo target at 10:21 AM on July 28


All 'artisanal' ever really meant was 'prepare to be overcharged.'
posted by jonmc at 10:22 AM on July 28 [10 favorites]


Anywhere there is money there is this. See: macro "craft" beers.
posted by OmieWise at 10:23 AM on July 28 [2 favorites]


Old Overholt 4-eva. Produced at the Jim Beam distillery in Clermont, Kentucky. Moderately priced. Yet consistently highly-rated. When I lived in New Orleans, it was almost always the go-to rye for the legendary sazarac.
posted by maxsparber at 10:24 AM on July 28 [11 favorites]


*checks back of bottle located a bit too close to desk*"distilled and bottled in Kentucky." okay then Knob Creek I belive you ( doesn't Jack Daniels own this brand or something?)
posted by The Whelk at 10:24 AM on July 28


But what to call it?

I guess the "We All Learn A Valuable Lesson About How Easily Subjective Taste Experience is Manipulated by Unconscious Expectations Extravaganza" is too much to hope for.
posted by yoink at 10:24 AM on July 28 [12 favorites]


How about the Drunken Brawl Learning Experience?
posted by elizardbits at 10:26 AM on July 28 [4 favorites]


Artisanal labels.
posted by el io at 10:26 AM on July 28 [2 favorites]


Similarly, at Subway they advertise "we bake our own bread". But that bread is shipped to the restaurants as frozen dough from one of 11 production centers.
posted by beagle at 10:26 AM on July 28 [3 favorites]


Oh man I want to get in on this racket. Except instead of giving it some sort of quirky name and fancy story, I'd just sell it in big bottles with a black-and-white Repo Man style label that says "WHISKEY" on it.
posted by griphus at 10:27 AM on July 28 [47 favorites]


I actually think the motivation is a little different from "macro craft beers" - the good actors doing this are trying to build a business w/o needing the massive working capital of aging spirits. Getting outside investors with a pitch of "we're gonna start distilling now and we won't even have sample bottles for 3-4 years, and if it turns out we've got a hit, it'll take us another few years to ramp production" is a tough sell.

Of course there are other actors who are just craft-washing or whatever you want to call it.
posted by JPD at 10:28 AM on July 28 [2 favorites]


Subway, "Where we make our own sandwiches right before your very eyes"
posted by 724A at 10:28 AM on July 28 [1 favorite]


Craftroturfing?
posted by maxsparber at 10:29 AM on July 28 [7 favorites]


A blog from a few years ago about this "artisan" stuff: That is not artisan
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:29 AM on July 28 [2 favorites]


Ok, here is the question I have had for some time. Let's say a good whiskey is aged 15 years. How did they know 15 years ago what the demand would be today? Do you just make as much as you can afford? Keep it small for a few years to build the sense of scarcity?
posted by 724A at 10:30 AM on July 28 [1 favorite]


Not you too, Bulleit Rye. Not you too...
posted by inigo2 at 10:31 AM on July 28 [11 favorites]


the good actors doing this are trying to build a business w/o needing the massive working capital of aging spirits

This is why a reputable microdistillery should start with gin, vodka, rum, or other spirits that don't need extensive aging. There's just no sense in starting a "distillery" that doesn't distill, and as the article says: “There’s no reason to think anyone knows how to make whiskey or can learn how to make whiskey based on buying whiskey.”
posted by echo target at 10:31 AM on July 28 [4 favorites]


I was surprised at a few of the brands mentioned. High West is really well regarded for their unaged spirits (vodka and gin, and maybe others). On one hand it's surprising to me that they would compromise their brand. On the other, with the explosion of the demand I suppose this was inevitable. I've often wondered about this, particularly since whiskey is being purchased in such high volume, I was amazed that anyone could have predicted the upswing.

I'm more of a scotch guy, but I was pleased to see that Rittenhouse (produced by Heaven Hill) seems to be legit.
posted by staccato signals of constant information at 10:32 AM on July 28 [1 favorite]


SKU isn't making any value judgements but just listing the bottlers and distillers.

Not all bottlers are bad guys and not all distillers are producing generic quality spirits. That is, there's nothing wrong with being an independent bottler and it happens with Scotch Whisky too.
posted by vacapinta at 10:32 AM on July 28 [4 favorites]


There's just no sense in starting a "distillery" that doesn't distill...

I'm going to disagree; based on this article it sounds like a distillery that doesn't distill is easy money with low overhead.
posted by griphus at 10:33 AM on July 28 [1 favorite]


How did they know 15 years ago what the demand would be today?

Probably just misplaced it. I have about 400 gallons of whiskey in sherry casks somewhere that I completely forgot about until just this moment. You know, you bury something 25 years ago, it tends to slip your mind.

Where the fuck did I hide those casks. Here? (Digs.) No. Maybe here. (Digs.) Fuck.
posted by maxsparber at 10:33 AM on July 28 [4 favorites]


Craft/artisanal is kind of the new free range/organic.

This needs a "Not what it says on the tin bottle" tag ...
posted by carter at 10:34 AM on July 28


Vacapinta, I agree and tried not to suggest judgment in the FPP, but maybe I missed the mark. I don't think it is as simple as being automatically good or bad, but I do think truth in labeling would be a reasonable step.
posted by staccato signals of constant information at 10:35 AM on July 28 [2 favorites]


I had a nice chat with a bartender the other day about how much we both enjoyed Bulleit Rye. And now I feel like kind of a doofus. I'll have to show this article to him so we can both savor the doofus aroma together.
posted by 1adam12 at 10:36 AM on July 28 [2 favorites]


okay then Knob Creek I belive you ( doesn't Jack Daniels own this brand or something?)

According to the bourbon family tree, Beam makes Knob Creek
posted by Thorzdad at 10:37 AM on July 28 [6 favorites]


Why would you be a doofus for enjoying a product produced under these conditions? Bulleit is tasty, it doesn't stop being tasty because of who made it and where.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:38 AM on July 28 [16 favorites]


Artisanal just means "homemade, but not by someone who looks like Paula Deen, which is what that word makes you think of, right? More like someone who looks like Bradley Cooper in a leather apron and a faded gingham shirt."
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:38 AM on July 28 [14 favorites]


I had a nice chat with a bartender the other day about how much we both enjoyed Bulleit Rye. And now I feel like kind of a doofus. I'll have to show this article to him so we can both savor the doofus aroma together.

But who cares who makes it? It's a great rye. Why should you enjoy it any less because it wasn't distilled by a crusty old guy in a shack in Kentucky while muttering about how the South should have won the Civil War?
posted by The Michael The at 10:39 AM on July 28 [6 favorites]


I thought that this was common knowledge, but then again I say that as someone who doesn't drink the products listed.. (Well, OK, gin, but not the rest).

I'd swear it was a MeFi post from 5+ years ago that mocked the advent (and advertising) of all the new high-end vodkas coming out and the drinkers thereof (ie the person who'd order a vodka drink with, uh, "grey goose" called out, or whatever a top shelf vodka brand is). The same article mentioned how pretty much all industry does this, just easiest with vodka to get near pure ethanol from industry, water it down, add your "taste profile" stuff and ship it.

Not unlike the great "fresh squeezed" OJ conspiracy.
posted by k5.user at 10:39 AM on July 28 [1 favorite]


Craft/artisanal is kind of the new free range/organic.

This needs a "Not what it says on the tin bottle" tag ...


More food/drink regulations, protected definition of what a label means. Good idea.
posted by vacapinta at 10:40 AM on July 28 [1 favorite]


Alcohol is a drug. Setting and expectation matter.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:41 AM on July 28 [1 favorite]


But who cares who makes it? It's a great rye. Why should you enjoy it any less because it wasn't distilled by a crusty old guy in a shack in Kentucky while muttering about how the South should have won the Civil War?

Because paying a premium price for a good factory product isn't something that most people enjoy.
posted by OmieWise at 10:43 AM on July 28 [4 favorites]


People make drinking alcohol into too much work. Pick a tasty liquid. Add Everclear. Done.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:43 AM on July 28 [5 favorites]


Why would you be a doofus for enjoying a product produced under these conditions? Bulleit is tasty, it doesn't stop being tasty because of who made it and where.

My question is, does it taste the same as any of the other ryes distilled at Midwest Grain Products Ingredients (MGPI)? And if so, which is the cheapest one? Bulleit's gone up in price as it's become more popular; so tastiness per dollar may have gone down, and there may be a near-1:1 replacement for cheaper.
posted by inigo2 at 10:44 AM on July 28 [8 favorites]


Isn't there some thing where Bulleit was forced to change sources and the quality dramatically declined?
posted by JPD at 10:45 AM on July 28


But what to call it?

Call it what it is. A pack of lies. Then shutter the fuckers.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 10:45 AM on July 28 [2 favorites]


Alcohol is a drug. Setting and expectation matter.

This is true. I read about a study where they gave people placebo shots, and they acted "drunk".
posted by thelonius at 10:45 AM on July 28 [1 favorite]


Isn't there some thing where Bulleit was forced to change sources and the quality dramatically declined?

Bulleit is owned by Diageo, a $76 billion multinational. I am amused by the "deception" of their using MGP whiskey, which is practically a craft operation in comparison to MGP Ingredients' $140 million market capitalization.
posted by exogenous at 10:47 AM on July 28 [7 favorites]


The interesting to me part is distillers like George Dickel, that make their own whiskey, but also purchase from MGP, to bottle and sell under their name. And it's a Diageo brand, so it's not like they don't have the backing or capacity.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:48 AM on July 28


I had to mail this off to some artisanal drinking friends (that makes them sound really terrible, but they're nice people). I'm expecting either shock and horror or "I thought everybody knew that", more likely the latter.

It's sort of like when I learned a lot of Samuel Adams' beermaking was farmed out: I was bummed but not entirely surprised.
posted by immlass at 10:49 AM on July 28


Bulleit isn't a premium priced product though, it's priced essentially like any other name brand spirit. There might be an identical tasting product that's cheaper(to the extent that "identical tasting" means anything, which isn't much), but it's not like you shelled out $50 bucks for a bottle of Bulleit.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:49 AM on July 28 [2 favorites]


dancing the ol' whiskey tango foxtrot
posted by threeants at 10:49 AM on July 28 [8 favorites]


This has been on the Templeton wikipedia page for years.
posted by cjorgensen at 10:50 AM on July 28 [1 favorite]


I'd like to see somebody assemble a collection akin to the Jim Beam Small Batch Bourbon Collection (Knob Creek etc) or that Glenlivet tasting sampler, except that instead of putting together bourbons with different mash bills or scotch whiskies aged for different periods, they'd just pour MGP into different pancake syrup bottles and put wax over the top.
posted by knuckle tattoos at 10:50 AM on July 28 [2 favorites]


An internet friend of mine is a whiskey blogger, so I fell down this trail about a year ago.
posted by JPD at 10:51 AM on July 28


Yeah, Bulleit as a bottler is fine by me: good product and not overpriced. I do acknowledge that I'd rather have Old Overholt, which is my go-to rye and ridiculously cheap when you consider its competition, but I never considered Bulleit "artisanal" nor expensive so eh, it's cool. Now Templeton, I'm sadly disappointed.
posted by linux at 10:52 AM on July 28 [2 favorites]


The interesting to me part is distillers like George Dickel, that make their own whiskey, but also purchase from MGP, to bottle and sell under their name.

I was about to post the same observation. Given that Dickel is owned by Diageo (and Diageo does a lot of business with MGP) it may be only a matter of time before their whiskey goes the same route.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:52 AM on July 28


If you already have a distillery in good working order and inventory stocks, the economic rationale for outsourcing all of your production is probably not so exciting.
posted by JPD at 10:54 AM on July 28


artisanal drinking friends

Man. I can only afford the mass-produced drinking friends. But wait, are you sure those friends really are hand-made in small batches? You might want to open some of them up and look at how they're made.

Wait...this has gone to a darker place than I thought it would...
posted by yoink at 10:55 AM on July 28 [6 favorites]


My question is, does it taste the same as any of the other ryes distilled at Midwest Grain Products Ingredients (MGPI)? And if so, which is the cheapest one? Bulleit's gone up in price as it's become more popular; so tastiness per dollar may have gone down, and there may be a near-1:1 replacement for cheaper.

That's kind of a key question for me (being someone who thinks small or large amounts of production do not in any way signal quality level.) Are we talking generic whiskies with just labels to distinguish the branding or contract distilling original recipes from the company buying the product? If it's just generic then yeah, someone point me to the cheapest.

I don't really see anything wrong with Sam Adams contract brewing their beers elsewhere. Beer is in some ways best viewed as an industrial product, in my view, and all craft brewers should aspire to make beers so good they will have to meet as much demand as Sam Adams does.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:59 AM on July 28 [1 favorite]


Not you too, Bulleit Rye. Not you too...

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO now I'm sad even about the thing that helps me cope with the sadness in the world. WHY WORLD WHY.

I was sad when I found out all my favorite scotches were owned by huge conglomerates, but at least they're still like distilled in Scotland. (If they aren't now please no one enlighten me. I prefer ignorance and bliss).
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:59 AM on July 28 [1 favorite]


I think there is a opportunity here. Knockoff Whiskeys- "Same as [insert whiskey name here] but cheaper!" Undersell Templeton, Bulliet, etc. with the exact same whiskey. It's not like they can sue, it's the truth.
posted by Hactar at 11:01 AM on July 28


I know of some expensive wineries that do this, so I'm not surprised that distilleries have also figured out that the real money is in the labeling. Every part of the process up to then is basic ag and production; it's the marketing and labeling where a cheap commodity can take on value.
posted by Dip Flash at 11:03 AM on July 28 [1 favorite]


Ok, here is the question I have had for some time. Let's say a good whiskey is aged 15 years. How did they know 15 years ago what the demand would be today? Do you just make as much as you can afford? Keep it small for a few years to build the sense of scarcity?

You bottle what you can sell at 3 years (or 5 or whatever) and that might give you an idea of future sales. Then you take the rest of it out of the casks at 15 years and you keep it in bottles until it sells. It's not like it goes bad, right? Maybe they try to line up distributors well in advance?

(And this will end the wild guess portion of my day.)
posted by ODiV at 11:03 AM on July 28


Taking the opportunity here to promote Dillon's, a craft distiller here in Ontario that makes everything in house (I've tasted their in-process mash alcohol) and wisely subsidizes their whisky sales - which haven't even started yet because they're not selling whisky until 2015 - with gin, vodka and other quicker-to-produce spirits.

I especially recommend the rose gin, which is quite fine, as well as the white rye, which serves as an interesting substitute for tequila.
posted by mightygodking at 11:05 AM on July 28 [1 favorite]


Anyone else remember the Noka Chocolate scam?
posted by leotrotsky at 11:07 AM on July 28 [6 favorites]


Yeah, I was reminded of that too. (mefi fpp)
posted by ODiV at 11:09 AM on July 28


Here in Wisconsin, we have the Yahara Bay Distillery. They're a pretty small distiller, and are able to experiment with some fun lines. They also do a lot of contract work with other labels, like The Cider Farm, which makes a nice apple brandy from local apples. The Cider Farm does the apple growing part, and Yahara Bay does the distilling part.

I'm a fan.
posted by wormwood23 at 11:10 AM on July 28


The same thing has been largely true for Irish whiskey for many, many years.
There is a few new distilleries now that have been established over the last 5 years or so but most of them have not yet started to release product (still aging) or even to distill whisky at all.
Almost all Irish whiskey out there right now has been produced at only 4 distilleries: Cooley (Beam), New Midleton (Pernod Ricard), Old Bushmills (Diageo) and, to a lesser degree since it's still relatively new, Kilbeggan (also Beam).

Yet Irish whiskey comes in the form of hundreds, almost thousands of brands. Not 100% sure but I think that at least for a few years there were more brands of Irish whiskey than brands of whisk(e)y for any other nation including Scotland. This includes many lesser known store, travel and gastronomy retail brands alongside the familiar ones seen on store shelves.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 11:10 AM on July 28 [2 favorites]


So are all these using the same recipe or not?
posted by entropicamericana at 11:11 AM on July 28


Knockoff Whiskeys- "Same as [insert whiskey name here] but cheaper!"

People do it in their homes, kinda. Pappy Van Winkle is made by W.L. Weller using the regular Weller Grain bill so people have figured out how to make Poor Man's Pappy using Weller products. (The difference between the two recipes in that link is amazing. The additional experiment is definitely better. Not having ever been able to taste Pappy, I don't know about accuracy and I don't particularly care. If I have something that tastes good, regardless of price, that's what I tend to drink. Old Overholt for the chap but good rye win.)
posted by Seamus at 11:11 AM on July 28 [2 favorites]


I get my meth hand-crafted by a grizzled biker gang in a shack in the Sierra Foothills. It costs a little more, but they often make clever hipster jokes with their baggy logos (typewriters!) and the product just has a certain je ne sais quoi that the Mexican mega-cooks lack.

That's what I thought, anyway. If my walrus-mustachioed friends have really just been buying and rebagging Sinaloa bulk-meth I'll be really upset. I won't say anything, as they'd kill me, but I'll be sullenly fidgeting for quite a while.
posted by Blue Meanie at 11:12 AM on July 28 [9 favorites]


It's sort of like when I learned a lot of Samuel Adams' beermaking was farmed out: I was bummed but not entirely surprised.

That seems a bit different though - Contract breweries are following the recipe provided by the brand; theoretically there should be no difference between the relatively small amount of beer Sam Adams makes in Boston and the Sam brewed in other facilities.

In this case, everyone is buying the exact same product (even if some of them further age or otherwise flavor it).
posted by jalexei at 11:14 AM on July 28 [1 favorite]


So are all these using the same recipe or not?

If its Rye and its from MGPI its the same mash bill, although the chosen ABV and age can be different
posted by JPD at 11:14 AM on July 28


I'm just glad that I am already supremely satisfied with Jim Beam Black.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 11:15 AM on July 28


People make drinking alcohol into too much work. Pick a tasty liquid. Add Everclear. Done

Add Everclear to Whiskey?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:15 AM on July 28 [9 favorites]


You mean a Kentucky Iced Tea?
posted by griphus at 11:16 AM on July 28 [15 favorites]


The sad part about this is that Seagram had been distilling all this tasty rye whiskey for decades, but was only using it for blending.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 11:18 AM on July 28 [5 favorites]


Templeton wasn't always this way.

About 12 years or so ago, I remember being at a friend's house, that friend being from near where Templeton, the real stuff, is and was made. They brought out a bottle that looked a lot like the current Templeton bottle, except that the label was handwritten. Inside was strait up bootleg Templeton Rye, unlicensed and unrepentant. I was skeptical of the quality of the stuff until I tasted it, and while it is no single malt scotch, in the category of rye, it was pretty exceptional. I've heard stories, but can't verify, that production never really stopped for those that knew the right people, something decidedly not on the official Templeton timeline.

Fast forward to when Templeton first started legitimate production. Once word spread, it was impossible to find except in Iowa, and there in limited quantities. It wasn't unusual to be gifted a bottle from someone's private stash upon a special occasion. The label slowly changed, but you'd see there was still handwritten notes and numbering from the good folks in Iowa.

Now jump again to a few years ago. Templeton magically starts appearing everywhere, and I picked up a bottle, but it didn't taste right. Previously Templeton had announced it was expanding, but there was no way they could have jumped to meet demand that quickly. Then the news hit - the new stuff was most likely from Indiana, not Iowa. Since then I've heard promises of bringing it all back to Iowa once they build out production, and for now I wait.

I have about a half case of the Iowa produced stuff stored up, and that will last me quite a while. Sadly, meanwhile, the new Indiana made Templeton is not nearly as good and is ruining the brand. I would have rather had scarcity than what has happened, but I'm sure Templeton is making money hand over fist.

So, for those of you only tasting Templeton of new, have heart, maybe somehow, someday, you'll have that which was made in Iowa, and it will be oh so much better.
posted by Muddler at 11:26 AM on July 28 [4 favorites]


The sad part about this is that Seagram had been distilling all this tasty rye whiskey for decades, but was only using it for blending.

Untrue. Many of the ryes used for Canadian blended whiskeys, not just Seagram's, have been individually available in Canada. Just not for export. I have bottles of Hiram's, Alberta Premium 25 y/o, and Alberta Springs, among others.
posted by Dreidl at 11:27 AM on July 28 [1 favorite]


I actually think the motivation is a little different from "macro craft beers" - the good actors doing this are trying to build a business w/o needing the massive working capital of aging spirits.

Yes, it does seem a different thing. The "macro craft beers" -- Shock Top, Blue Moon -- are more about the big brewers trying to capture some of the craft beer halo for their products.

The craft beer revolution relied very heavily on contract brewing -- using spare capacity at established breweries to brew your recipes, rather than paying the large capital costs of building your own brewery. The Audacity of Hops has a lot of interesting history on this.

But the whiskey business here does seem more unambiguously simply bottling, labeling, and marketing. Are the "artisanal" brands here adding anything to the raw product from MGP?
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 11:28 AM on July 28 [1 favorite]


Beer is in some ways best viewed as an industrial product

Craft beer in the 90s was an "artisanal" product. Finding out your local craft brewer was making big industrial beer and that you were not drinking a small-batch (or at least smaller-batch) local product was a similar kind of disappointment. Nothing wrong with Sam Adams (or Yuengling, or Shiner Bock, or your local larger brewery of choice), but it's not craft/artisanal beer.

are you sure those friends really are hand-made in small batches?

I'll have to double-check the next time I see them!
posted by immlass at 11:29 AM on July 28 [1 favorite]


Beer is in some ways best viewed as an industrial product, in my view, and all craft brewers should aspire to make beers so good they will have to meet as much demand as Sam Adams does.

Not to hate on Sam Adams, but I don't think their continued growth has as much to do with their absolute product quality as much as marketing and distribution. Maybe in 1984, yes, they were one of the few alternatives to a cold Bud, but now they just enjoy the advantages of scale while still pitching their "scrappy little guy" image.

I like a good factory beer too, but I appreciate there are places like Jester King that brew using rain water and native yeast. Even the smallest upstart brewer following cookie-cutter recipes -- it gives you a reason to visit places and shoot the shit about making stuff, you know?
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 11:30 AM on July 28


there are places like Jester King

Jester King was exactly the kind of place I was thinking about with craft beer, fwiw.
posted by immlass at 11:33 AM on July 28


Thanks for that story, muddler. I had Templeton when they first launched their revived legal business and I thought it was marvelous. I don't often drink liquor, but I would partake when it was around. I hadn't had any in a few years, but I did sort of raise an eyebrow when it abruptly went from "that whiskey you could maybe get in Illinois or Iowa if the bar owners were cool and you were lucky" to "thing on every shelf everywhere."

I appreciate your clarifying anecdote because it both: a) verified I wasn't crazy for thinking it was something special when I first had it; and b) saved me from disappointment as I was planning on restocking my bar soon and would have been disappointed to find it wasn't what I remembered.

Probably, I'll just track down a bottle of Few Rye Whiskey from nearby Evanston. Word is, that's the new good stuff around these parts.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:33 AM on July 28


Hoosiered! (A la Seinfeld's "Newman!")
posted by rhizome at 11:35 AM on July 28 [1 favorite]


Not to hate on Sam Adams, but I don't think their continued growth has as much to do with their absolute product quality as much as marketing and distribution. Maybe in 1984, yes, they were one of the few alternatives to a cold Bud, but now they just enjoy the advantages of scale while still pitching their "scrappy little guy" image.

Sam Adams is a weird one, because their fame and ubiquity is because yeah, they make a lot of nonthreatening macro-micros that are well-marketed. But their acclaim, their "scrappy little guy" image," as you put it, comes from Jim Koch, who essentially treats the commercial end of Sam Adams Brewing as a revenue stream to fund the making of an endless parade of smaller beers in quirky and less marketable styles, many of which are actually very good.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:36 AM on July 28 [1 favorite]


Isn't this sort of a little bit like Foxconn and all the big name companies like Apple, Sony, MS using Foxconn to put all the parts together then stamp their label on it?

Yahara Bay (A local company in Madison) makes some (vodka/gin) to be bottled by others, and then bottles whiskey from RJR, apparently - so, that's... weird? It's kind of incestuous if they're all doing that.
posted by symbioid at 11:36 AM on July 28


Whiskey is Beer run through a refinery. If Beer is an "industrial" product, so is Whiskey...
posted by JPD at 11:37 AM on July 28 [2 favorites]


Craft beer in the 90s was an "artisanal" product.

And the reasons for that were mostly social/economic. There was a hole in the marketplace for diverse beer styles with more taste and the big brewers were not filling it. There isn't any particular benefit to brewing beer on a small scale unless you are doing real artisan stuff like RVP mentions or just enjoying the process of doing something for yourself or wanting to support local producers. You can scale up beer production without reducing quality. It's harder with something like fine wine that depends heavily on local terroir. I feel like whiskey is in kind of a middle area between those sorts of extremes but I can't quite explain why I think that.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:39 AM on July 28


i think maybe I like straight MGP rye. is there anyway to get it cheap?
posted by ennui.bz at 11:39 AM on July 28 [1 favorite]


(Maybe the impact of the aging and blending on the process?)
posted by Drinky Die at 11:40 AM on July 28


Rather than be upset about this (not at all new) revelation, you should all use this as empowerment to buy cheap bourbon and rye and feel good about it. I recommend Ezra Brooks.
posted by mcstayinskool at 11:40 AM on July 28 [4 favorites]


The internet tells me that in the 00s Bulleit was made at the Four Roses distillery in Lawrenceburg, KY. I'm not sure when or how completely they switched to the other Lawrenceburg but regardless it's been owned by Diageo (before that Seagrams) and produced on an industrial scale for most of its lifespan as a brand, is obviously widely distributed, and is at most a few bucks more than (ugh) Jack Daniels so I'm having a hard time being shocked by that one.
posted by atoxyl at 11:41 AM on July 28 [1 favorite]


Loosely related factoid: while working in the restaurant biz, my partner and I were invited to a spirits event, with various tastings, demos on cocktail mixing, etc. The most memorable part was when we were given four small tastes of vodka. We all tasted (blind) and rated them, taking some notes. After we finished, the emcee took a poll. Something like 90% of us said Sample #2 was the best one. People extolled its virtues as the best-tasting, cleanest flavor, etc. Sample #4 came in dead last.

"You know what's weird?" the host asked. "Sample #2--the one nearly all of you liked best--is plain old Smirnoff. Sample #4--that came in dead last--that was Grey Goose. You know what's even weirder? This is pretty much what always happens when audiences taste these blind."
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:42 AM on July 28 [4 favorites]


you should all use this as empowerment to buy cheap bourbon and rye and feel good about it. I recommend Ezra Brooks

I've drank way more Old Crow than any human should in a lifetime.

This is the true artisan high quality unique stuff: the current Old Crow product uses the same mash and yeast bill as Jim Beam, but is aged for a shorter period of time and mixed to a more lenient taste profile before bottling
posted by Drinky Die at 11:42 AM on July 28 [4 favorites]


Similarly, at Subway they advertise "we bake our own bread". But that bread is shipped to the restaurants as frozen dough from one of 11 production centers.

But it's baked on-site, just like they advertise! ;-)
posted by JoeZydeco at 11:43 AM on July 28 [1 favorite]


Ok, but this does not explain why it would make a difference where a whiskey is distilled. I get that the ingredients and how it's distilled matters, but I don't see the significance of where.
posted by borges at 11:43 AM on July 28 [2 favorites]


maxsparber: "Old Overholt 4-eva. Produced at the Jim Beam distillery in Clermont, Kentucky. Moderately priced. Yet consistently highly-rated. When I lived in New Orleans, it was almost always the go-to rye for the legendary sazarac."

The only real Old Overholt was made in Western Pennsylvania before it got bought out by Suntory.
posted by octothorpe at 11:44 AM on July 28


What I'd really like to do is tell y'all how great Pappy Van Winkle is. But getting a bottle of that is like getting a lunch date with Bigfoot, so I don't have any idea.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:44 AM on July 28 [2 favorites]


Speaking of craft beer, the repeated use of the word "factory" in the article (eleven times by my count) as a sort of slur reminded me of my recent tour of the giant new Lagunitas Brewing Company facillity in Chicago. "Factory" was the first thing that came to mind when I saw the place. It encompasses eight acres with a planned capacity of half a million barrels a year, and the company is still privately owned as far as I can tell.
posted by exogenous at 11:44 AM on July 28 [1 favorite]


i think maybe I like straight MGP rye. is there anyway to get it cheap?

They say Redemption Rye is straight up MGP rye. I personally quite like it. Price is middle-of-the-road.

The internet tells me that in the 00s Bulleit was made at the Four Roses distillery in Lawrenceburg, KY.

Are you sure that's their rye and not their bourbon?
posted by aubilenon at 11:45 AM on July 28


Are you sure that's their rye and not their bourbon?

I don't know I was kind of assuming both.
posted by atoxyl at 11:46 AM on July 28


Lagunitas is from Chicago? I didn't know that. But then, most of my local-beer buying money is hopelessly tied up in Half Acre and Revolution anyway.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:46 AM on July 28


Ok, but this does not explain why it would make a difference where a whiskey is distilled. I get that the ingredients and how it's distilled matters, but I don't see the significance of where.

There is a theory that says the climate for aging matters. Also for malted spirits fuel source matters. Pretty hard to find peat for malting in the US.
posted by JPD at 11:47 AM on July 28


1970s Antihero:
"The sad part about this is that Seagram had been distilling all this tasty rye whiskey for decades, but was only using it for blending."
It's similar elsewhere: over 90% of Scotch single malt production goes straight into blends.

It's a real problem for people like me and my friends (I actually run a smallish whisky tasting society/purchasing coop) because the increasing popularity of whisky in general and Scotch single malts in particular has been putting massive pressure on supplies and driving prices through the roof. Yet even though single malts are quite profitable for the most part those kinds of sales are a mere blip on the spreadsheets of the likes of Diageo etc. The vast majority of their whisky-related profits comes from blends (hence their drive to own all component distilleries) and it's simply not worth it for them to allocate additional volume to the single malt market. It's a real bummer and it's been making it tough for independent bottlers like Rattray, Signatory et al. to source anything interesting of late.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 11:47 AM on July 28


Ok, but this does not explain why it would make a difference where a whiskey is distilled.

The water whiskey is made from is critical. This is why so much of the best whiskey in the US is made in the areas of Kentucky and Tennessee where all of the water comes from limestone aquifers.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 11:48 AM on July 28 [3 favorites]


Lagunitas is from San Diego. But they are opening a new brewery in Chicago. Stone is opening a new brewery in Germany, I think.
posted by mbd1mbd1 at 11:50 AM on July 28 [1 favorite]


Indiana has those limestone acquifers too. It is right next to Kentucky.
posted by borges at 11:53 AM on July 28 [2 favorites]


They say Redemption Rye is straight up MGP rye. I personally quite like it. Price is middle-of-the-road.

a had a bottle of Redemption a while back which I liked, and I don't usually like whiskey, but I tried it recently and it seemed like it had gotten sweeter.... which i don't like.

also, someone tell me that potato vodka is just the same tainted industrial ethanol as the rest, because i swear it tastes different...
posted by ennui.bz at 11:53 AM on July 28


Lagunitas is from San Diego.

Eh? No. Lagunitas is from Lagunitas; and now headquartered in Petaluma.

But yeah, they did suddenly become ubiquitous on the shelves.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 11:56 AM on July 28 [2 favorites]


over 90% of Scotch single malt production goes straight into blends.

There are something like 30 or 40 individual distilleries in Strathspey, Scotland. While there are a few big name distillers who sell their own product directly, you can only buy many of the individual malts right at the distillery. Otherwise, it all ends up in the various grades of Johnny Walker.
posted by bonehead at 11:57 AM on July 28 [2 favorites]


Indiana has those limestone acquifers too. It is right next to Kentucky.

Yeah, but Lawrenceburg, IN could be anywhere. And there's really no way to ever find out, so we'll never know.
posted by yeti at 11:58 AM on July 28 [6 favorites]


The water whiskey is made from is critical.

This is very probably true. Still, it always seems odd to me that people don't realize that the real take-home from scandals like these is that so much of the things we think are "critical" to our enjoyment of a particular taste experience (the same lessons seem to be learned and forgotten over and over in food, drink, music, art etc. etc.) is often, in fact, irrelevant. Stradivari don't sound any better than other well-constructed violins in blind tests. Monster cables don't make any difference to the sound of the music from your hi-fi. There is no consistent agreement in blind tests by trained wine tasters about which vintages of a given wine are "good" and which "bad." In blind taste tests virtually everyone preferred "New Coke" to "Classic Coke." Etc. etc. etc. So, sure, it may well be that water is a crucial ingredient separating "good" whiskeys from "bad" whiskeys, but until you've done seriously controlled double-blind tests to establish that finding, it has exactly the same status as the no-doubt fierce arguments people used to have (and are probably still having) about which of two artisinal whiskies are better which now turn out to be exactly the same drink with different labels on the bottle.
posted by yoink at 12:00 PM on July 28 [9 favorites]


Yeah, but Lawrenceburg, IN could be anywhere. And there's really no way to ever find out, so we'll never know.

It could even be directly across the Ohio River from Kentucky, BORDERING on Kentucky and we would never know!
posted by Seamus at 12:01 PM on July 28 [6 favorites]


Yeah, I may have answered the question about "Why does it matter where?" in a more general way than it was asked. I wasn't trying specifically to say ______makes Kentucky better than Indiana, just speaking generally on why location matters.

The weirdest example of this that I know of is that in Romania, beers like Stella Artois and Heineken are manufactured in Bucuresti for the local markets, using the same ingredients, processes, and machines. They taste substantially different though, thanks to the differences in mineral content of the water, though.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:04 PM on July 28


So it's a question of whether you prefer a hint of coal slurry pond or fracking chemicals? Why choose, that's what blends are for.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:05 PM on July 28 [4 favorites]


Damn I forgot "pig shit lagoon runoff". Some connoisseur I am.
posted by George_Spiggott at 12:06 PM on July 28 [3 favorites]


In the south, we frequently prefer the run-off from the chicken sheds in our lickers.
posted by Seamus at 12:08 PM on July 28 [2 favorites]


Would that be considered "barnyard," George_Spiggott? That's what they call that in wine, right?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:08 PM on July 28


The weirdest example of this that I know of is that in Romania, beers like Stella Artois and Heineken are manufactured in Bucuresti for the local markets

Belize's Belikin Brewery brews a bigger, bolder, more bitter 8% ABV Guinness Stout according to the original recipe.
posted by mcstayinskool at 12:26 PM on July 28


I loved that NoKa chocolate story from 2006, and I think of it often. It looks like they are out of business at this point.
posted by OmieWise at 12:34 PM on July 28


So I take it that MBP isn't just distilling but also aging the rye as well? Is that the issue? Because otherwise I don't see what the huge deal is. I've had so-called white lightning before and most of what I apprecaite comes from the barreling I'd assume.
posted by Carillon at 12:52 PM on July 28 [1 favorite]


I only recently discovered there's an absolutely massive distillery in Edinburgh itself, North British, which is owned by Diageo/Eddington and just makes stuff that goes into Smirnoff, Famous Grouse, JW and so on. It has no brand and does no bottlings of its own, although there are some by Cadenhead, Signatory and so on. It's a single grain distillery, but that grain is French maize - a fact you'll see promoted exactly nowhere. It is, by any measure, a chemical plant, and clearly an insanely profitable one (Eddington is reputed to be Scotland's most profitable private company).

In all this stuff, it's best to ignore the marketing as far as you can (you can't, I can't, it's there because it works) and find what you like at the price you think fair.
posted by Devonian at 12:53 PM on July 28 [3 favorites]


But Redemption had little handwritten numbers for batch and such. And they were different on different bottles. You mean they *don't* have little old people making it by hand and marking the labels? What's the world coming to??????
posted by jasper411 at 12:58 PM on July 28


I loved that NoKa chocolate story from 2006,

YES SAME, I am so glad to see it linked again because I couldn't remember the details and was nevertheless trying to describe it to someone recently and all I could come up with was "IT WAS CHOCOLATE MADE OF LIES".
posted by elizardbits at 12:59 PM on July 28 [2 favorites]


NB Sam Adams is craft beer as defined by the Brewers Association guidelines.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:06 PM on July 28


To be fair, that's because they essentially define craft beer as anything Sam Adams or smaller out of respect for Jim Koch.
posted by Carillon at 1:08 PM on July 28 [1 favorite]


The definition of 'craft' by the BA has nothing to do with size and everything to do with process.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:11 PM on July 28


I've drank way more Old Crow than any human should in a lifetime.

thank you Drinky Die. old crow reserve is possibly the cheapest+best bourbon. I will not attempt to compete numbers with you on that front - I think I've even extended mine by pre-embalming - but I would happily share a bottle of crow.
posted by dorian at 1:12 PM on July 28 [2 favorites]


They define it as being under a certain number of barrels too. To be craft it has to be small, independent and traditional. Under the small category it's number of barrels of beer. Not that I mind of course, big tent and all that.
posted by Carillon at 1:14 PM on July 28


fwiw, the Sam Adams brand accounts for just under 1% of the total US beer market. It may be the 800 lb gorilla of craft brewing, but it's still a tiny gnat in terms of the overall market.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:16 PM on July 28 [1 favorite]


It's hard to age bourbon past 15 years without screwing it up. You can get plenty of 8-12 year whiskies for around 30 bucks for 750ml. Recommendations include Elijah Craig 12 (Evan Williams), Evan Williams Single Barrell, Buffalo Trace and its old sibling Eagle Rare.
posted by aydeejones at 1:19 PM on July 28


bulleit is pretty cheap all things considered and seems obvious to me that it was a big production. i would have never considered thinking of it as a premium artisanal whiskey. it is damn tasty, though, and goes on wicked low sale at the local liquor store.
posted by nadawi at 1:22 PM on July 28


Would that be considered "barnyard," George_Spiggott? That's what they call that in wine, right?

I had some wine recently (a French Syrah I think) that tasted intensely of chicken manure. It was really good, but the first sip was quite the unexpected experience.
posted by Dip Flash at 1:24 PM on July 28


I took the Evan Williams Artisanal Distillery Tour in Louisville a few weeks back on vacation. It's not a spot on the tours in actual distilleries, but it had its moments. They were refreshingly frank about how, why they legitimately were making artisanal whiskey there, they didn't have any for you to taste. Because they'd just started see, and it'd be years before the first batch was done.

Anyway, yeah: Elijah Craig 12 is good.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:24 PM on July 28


I couldn't remember the details [...] "IT WAS CHOCOLATE MADE OF LIES".

Yeah, I couldn't remember the details either, which is why I googled around after it was linked today and found out the place was closed.
posted by OmieWise at 1:25 PM on July 28


They define it as being under a certain number of barrels too.

Well, that's true. You have to be less that 6% of US sales, which Boston is well under.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:30 PM on July 28


I thought this was pretty old news.

Anyway, I agree with those who say it doesn't particularly matter where a spirit is distilled so long as the right ingredients are there for a quality spirit. But it does matter, in my book, when a brand spins a long yarn about barley stalks blowing in the wind and whatnot in order to create the strong impression that they are crafting the spirit from soup to nuts. What really matters, though, is that all the whiskies made with LDI distillate taste more or less the same. This is especially true of the high rye formulations, in my opinion. This makes good sense, of course, because the only things that differentiate these brands are aging time, aging regimen and bottle proof. That said, it is interesting to note just how much difference these things can make.

Personally, my take on LDI-derived spirits is "meh." I don't see much reason to spend 40 bucks for a bottle of Templeton when Rittenhouse is better and higher proof for 25 bucks.
posted by slkinsey at 1:31 PM on July 28 [4 favorites]


My favorite ryes are: Knob Creek Rye (beefiest / toughest for me so far, 100 proof and all that), Wild Turkey Rye (smoother) and then Templeton (doesn't seem all that peppery-rye-like but I like it). I think Knob is Jim Rye and not sure what Wild Turkey does. I can't believe I haven't tried Leopold Brothers yet. Or Sazerak.
posted by aydeejones at 2:05 PM on July 28


Knob Creek is, I think, pretty much "whatever they have lying around at the appropriate age." It seems closer to higher proof Old Overholt with some more age than it does anything else, but still not quite (and certainly nothing like the bonded Old Overholt of lamented memory).

It's interesting to hear someone describe Wild Turkey as "smoother," since I have always thought of all their main offerings as fairly rough and ready (which is something I like about it). But it just goes to show what an effect bottle proof can have. Wild Turkey Rye used to be 101 proof, but they lowered the proof in order to stretch the aged product they had ready. Supposedly they will offer it at 101 again at some point in the future.
posted by slkinsey at 2:30 PM on July 28


Muddler, I accept that you may have had some homemade (bootleg) Templeton rye at some point, as I've had some myself, although it arrived in a used schnapps bottle and was obviously cask strength.

That said, the commercially available whiskey branded "Templeton Rye" has never been distilled in Iowa. Never. They are working on some whiskey at their Iowa factory, and you can see some barrels there, sure, but it's always been Indiana product. When it first came out in the Iowa market, it was about $28/bottle and was tasty stuff, and yes, it was hand-numbered (which a ton of whiskeys are, really, just as Makers bottles are hand-dipped in wax) but it was distilled in Indiana.

After a short period of time, their stock ran low over several years at the same time the brand recognition ramped up, creating a great collaboration between low supply and an increasingly higher demand. I do remember the first couple years being really nice, but you know what? Almost all whiskey will taste slightly different across production and aging years. All whiskey. This is more noticeable in single barrel vintages, since variations can disappear in mixing, but it definitely can vary.

This doesn't mean Templeton or Bulleit or anything else is less of a quality product, it just means that if you like particular flavors or want to get your money's worth, it pays to be an educated consumer. In reality, a handful of companies own a handful of distilleries that produce a myriad of brands, and there's nothing wrong with that. The whole of Beam, Inc. (including their Makers Mark holding) are now owned by Japanese brand Suntory. Wild Turkey is owned by Pernod Ricard. These are excellent products and it doesn't matter.
posted by mikeh at 3:10 PM on July 28 [4 favorites]


The Templeton Rye marketing materials are reeeeally good at not disabusing people of the notion that they made their commercial stuff in Iowa, though. Really good.
posted by mikeh at 3:13 PM on July 28


Whew, my favorite rye isn't on the list. Whiskey cachet preserved- for now!
posted by KathrynT at 4:56 PM on July 28 [1 favorite]


I drank a fifth of Jim Beam rye once by accident in about 2005 and have felt terrible ever since.
posted by turbid dahlia at 5:16 PM on July 28 [1 favorite]


Whew, my favorite rye isn't on the list.

Bad news. It's 100% sorghum whisky.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:19 PM on July 28 [1 favorite]


(It turns out that is a thing and it actually looks pretty good.)
posted by Drinky Die at 5:23 PM on July 28


Alberta Premium is the only whisky worth a shit, Randy.

Seriously, it's 100% rye mash and aged for 5 years, but costs the same as any bar rail whisky. It has enough of the spicy rye kick characteristic of American "craft" ryes that it sells in bulk to some of those distilleries.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 5:40 PM on July 28 [1 favorite]


You really cant go wrong with any of the Buffalo Trace/Sazaerac and their derivative brands
posted by T.D. Strange at 5:59 PM on July 28


(the favorite rye in question is distilled like six miles from my house. I was terribly afraid that this was all part of a HORRIBLE LIE but no! it is true!)
posted by KathrynT at 6:31 PM on July 28 [1 favorite]


I have a nice bottle of Evan Williams Single Barrel here from 2004 that was under $30 and has some very nice hand-numbered dates and barrel numbers on it!
posted by mikeh at 6:36 PM on July 28


"Rye whiskey, rye whiskey, rye whiskey!" I cry
If I don't make rye whiskey, I surely can buy
Gonna go to Indiana, to the MGP still
Get corporate whiskey, jack prices at will

Take an old-timey photo of barrels on a raft
Bottle up that corp liquor, and call it my "craft"
All BS & Marketing, all story & front
That "hands-on" distiller's just a negociant.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 7:13 PM on July 28 [2 favorites]


and now for a musical interlude....If i don't get rye whiskey/I think I might die.
posted by vespabelle at 7:37 PM on July 28


Where and how you age whiskey is important (even after taking into account that these are all in new, charred oak barrels). Whiskey blenders - from those blending a small batch to those blending from a variety of distillers - are also very important.

The article doesn't mean that George Dickel Rye, Templeton Rye, Redemption Rye, Willet Family Estate Bottled Single Barrel Rye and Bulleit Rye (my pick) have the same end product.

But they all are 95% rye and 5% malted barley [well, all Templeton says is "more than 90% rye grains (and malted barley for the remainder)" and Redemption does not say what the other 5% is]. So there is more to this than I expected.

I tried to look up how much rye was in the mash for Rittenhouse Rye and Sazerac Rye but have come up empty. If anyone can point me somewhere I'd be very interested!
posted by mountmccabe at 7:43 PM on July 28


Rye whiskey makes the band sound better
makes your baby cuter
makes itself taste sweeter....Oh, boy!

posted by entropicamericana at 8:40 PM on July 28 [2 favorites]


If we've reached the musical portion of this thread, we must allow Peter Seller and some Muppets to bestow on us a Preachment on John Barleycorn, Nicotene, and the Temptations of Eve: Cigareets, and Whiskey, and Wild, Wild Women.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:32 PM on July 28 [2 favorites]


It's been interesting seeing rye get more and more popular -- I had thought the introduction of "Ri" had marked the zenith but clearly I was (very) wrong.

I'm not such a big fan of most of the LDI/MGP ryes out there, but the 120-proof Old Scout bottlings are quite nice if you can find them.
posted by Standard Orange at 10:17 PM on July 28 [1 favorite]


I have a nice bottle of Evan Williams Single Barrel here from 2004 that was under $30 and has some very nice hand-numbered dates and barrel numbers on it!

Me too! Barreled 8-13-04, Barrel # 374, Bottled 2-27-14.

Mine is nearly gone and I wanted to compare it to older sibling Elijah Craig 12 year (having only tried that recently, in another state) but they didn't have EC 12 at my local store in CO, and I was on the way home not looking to shop around. Incidentally the Hi-Time store I purchased EC 12 at in California charged $24/750ml while my local store charges the same for Evan Williams Single Barrel.

I love the economics of decently-priced bourbon especially in the Beam and Heaven Hill (Evan Williams) families, where a handle of "basic" booze (Old Crow for Beam, Evan Williams Green for Heaven Hill) is around $17-22, and then its older ancestors command $20-30 for a 750, sometimes with no rhyme or reason to the pricing structure (in other words, priced on economics rather than simply charging more for a 12 year vs. 8 or 10). I learned this through a recent thanksgiving thread... I like plain-old Evan Williams (4 years aged if I recall) but have not tried Old Crow, since Old Granddad is from the same source and has a glass bottle where I live. I have plastic-bottle-PTSD perhaps after some youthful indiscretions involving Gilbey's and what have you.

I think for most market segments there should be quite a bit of regulation in truth in labeling / sourcing ensuring that customers aren't just getting flat out screwed...no need for Fox News "HOW FAR WILL THEY GO PROVING WHERE EVERY MOLECULE OF CORN COMES FROM" hyperbole but just straight up protection of our history. You can't call Velveeta "Cheese," you must say "Cheese Food," and can't call a whiskey "rye" unless it's at least 50% rye in the mash bill. Them's the breaks, suck it up, but man it would be nice as a consumer to know when you're just buying re-packaged stuff that can be had cheaper elsewhere. Unfortunately that's a big part of consumer-capitalism, just re-packaging and re-branding stuff and something else might have to replace it first...

Buffalo Trace more quickly throws you into the $50/750ml category jumping to Eagle Rare, but it's a great price for a 17-year-old bottle. I find it more challenging and slow-sipping than the Buffalo Trace, since it is a single barrel and I'm guessing the more aggressive barrels do better with that much aging with more "edge" to wear down. The single barrels have to be selected and tended carefully so a blended whiskey is more likely to be smoothed and averaged out, while a single barrel can be amazingly smooth or quite firey.

I picked up Basil Hayden's for the first time instead of the EC 12 for $36/750ml, with Basil being in the Beam family tree. It's cut to 40% vs. the more "natural-ish" 43% of Evan Williams, and the EW has a stronger bite, in part because of that but also being a single barrel. I had a single bottle of 2003 EWSB right when I got into bourbons, and it was markedly smoother than any of the 2004s I've had. Not necessarily a bad thing, but I wish I could find another 2003 since I only tried the one...

Vintage dates (and bottling dates) aren't so common with spirits and it's interesting to have that information. The number of years aged is still real information and it can't be "averaged out" without dropping the actual word "year" from the name. I.e. I believe there's a "Joe Schmoe 8" out there that used to be "8-year" but is now a blend that averages around 7 years old (like CAFE MPG standards almost).
posted by aydeejones at 12:14 AM on July 29 [1 favorite]


Yup. Alberta Premium is the way to go. According to wikipedia only available in Canada, eh? Pity. . .
posted by fimbulvetr at 7:51 AM on July 29


aydeejones, if the plastic is a non-starter for the old crow, up to old crow reserve. I've seen it priced the same as old crow, but if not then it's only a buck or two more for the handle. The reserve in in glass so you feel all fancy like!
posted by Carillon at 8:49 AM on July 29 [1 favorite]


"The Rye Rebellion?"

Rye-bellion, surely.

I can be a bit of a crank on this issue, since I started proselytizing for rye about a decade ago after a liquor store in Cambridge near my girlfriend went out of business and we bought a slew of whiskey at insanely low prices, like $5 a fifth. Part of that was Jim Beam Rye, which is actually pretty good — especially as a mixer. Unfortunately, at the time that was about the only rye that was widely distributed. We had to make special trips to a regional distributor just to get Old Overcoat or Rittenhouse. So when Bulleit, Sazerac and Ri(1) started showing up, I was chuffed. I mean, I remember one of the most exciting things about visiting Vancouver was that I could buy Alberta's without having to smuggle it over the border.

Right around that time, Leopold's started distilling their own whiskey — they made a lot of fruit liquors first, including a Michigan cherry brandy that was amazing and will never happen again. But then they moved out of my hometown (true story — I helped them design their first logo when I worked third shift at Kinko's, and it was a long couple years until I was legal to drink any). And back then, it was only a bourbon-style whiskey that they were making. BUT THEN THEY MOVED TO COLORADO and I couldn't get any. I had to content myself with their gin (also fantastic) that they got to distribution volume with much quicker.

The reason that this makes me cranky is that I'm often buying whiskey in a place where I don't have the ability to do things like take a long look at the label, searching for their real distillery, and that I like to try new ryes when I travel. So the bullshit marketing means that I end up having more samey-samey stuff (which is part of what I started looking for rye to avoid), as well as a generally sweeter rye profile than I prefer, at a price point that means that I can't try as many options. That annoys me, and I find it dishonest.
posted by klangklangston at 9:35 AM on July 29 [1 favorite]


I stand corrected as to the ownership of Wild Turkey, now. It turns out that Campari bought it from Pernod Ricard in recent years -- if anything, proof that ownership is fleeting.
posted by mikeh at 11:27 AM on July 29


It's time to switch to whiskey, we've been drinkin beer all night
We're all half dead & them that's left is spoilin' for a fight
Now who'da thunk we'd get jackass-drunk, now boys don't spare the rye
It's time to switch to whiskey, we've been drinkin beer all night
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 6:50 PM on July 29


But they all are 95% rye and 5% malted barley [well, all Templeton says is "more than 90% rye grains (and malted barley for the remainder)" and Redemption does not say what the other 5% is]. So there is more to this than I expected.

They are all made from the same mash bill because they are all using the LDI high-rye distillate. Personally, I find that most of what might make LDI high-rye whiskies interesting effectively disappears in a cocktail. The only one of the LDI high-ryes that I find worth buying is Willett, and I suspect it's because it's the best combination of age, proof and price.

I tried to look up how much rye was in the mash for Rittenhouse Rye and Sazerac Rye but have come up empty. If anyone can point me somewhere I'd be very interested!

Rittenhouse and Wild Turkey are about 65% rye, although they are distilled to different profiles (WT being run out at a lower proof). Plenty of other ones, such as Old Rip Van Winkle, Old Overholt, Jim Beam and Sazerac are just north of the legal definition at around 51% rye.
posted by slkinsey at 7:55 AM on July 30


In case anyone needs another voice in favor of Alberta Premium it's Mr. Lahey of Trailer Park Boys favorite beverage.
posted by zenon at 7:58 PM on July 30


So it appears the amazing WhistlePig Rye is Alberta Premium too, in which case I wholeheartedly endorse AP and may have to take a trip up north and stock up if it is less than $90 bucks a pop like WP!
posted by SpookyFish at 8:22 AM on July 31


How Rye Came Back
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:24 AM on August 14


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