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cowdery
09-10-2008, 15:20
Yes, I'm plugging my blog (http://chuckcowdery.blogspot.com), but I only do it when there is a long post I don't want to re-post here, that I think Straight Bourbonians will want to read.

The post "Who Makes Bulleit Bourbon?" is here (http://chuckcowdery.blogspot.com/2008/09/who-makes-bulleit-bourbon.html).

The gist of it is that Four Roses makes Bulleit, or so we've long been told, originally for itself when both the Bulleit brand and the Four Roses Distillery were owned by Seagram's, and since 2002 on behalf of Diageo.

Now sources at Kirin/Four Roses are saying maybe not. Diageo takes their whiskey but they don't have any way to know what Diageo does with it, and, they say, organoleptic testing confirms that Bulleit is not 100 percent Four Roses-made whiskey.

But there's a lot more to it than that. If you want to comment, feel free to do so there or here.

mozilla
09-10-2008, 16:30
Chuck,

the first time I tasted Bulleit was in 2004. I was not impressed by the industrial quality to the nose and flavor of the product. It did not leave me with many reasons to revisit my first impressions. After having refined my pallet a little since then...I can theorize that the rye was young and one dimensional...I don't remember there being much barrel flavor to tame the young grain, either.


After having visited Four Roses I can say that it is my opinion that it is not fully Four Roses distillate, though I have not tasted every individual distillate that Four Roses produces, which number 30, if you take into account the three barrel proofs that they barrel to.

Four Roses has really wonderful flavors that don't seem as harsh as the Bulleit. If we could find out more information regarding how the bourbon was transfered between the two companies...I think we could narrow down the options as to age, yeast, barrel proof, and other factors. I do know that they (Diageo) receives the bottom 40% of the distillate made at the facility. Also, Four Roses has not produced any bourbon recently that graded below 3 on their scale of 4. So, they have really made their product consistently good in the recent past. Diageo was receiving 2 before the improvements were made to consistency.

So, has anyone tasted a flight of Bulleit? How consistent has the product been made in the past? I know of two distilleries that have produced Bulleit....how many are their really? What is the real recipe for Bulleit...there has to be a list of specs, right?

I'll let some others chime in....while my fingers rest.

wadewood
09-10-2008, 18:30
Chuck - great info and thanks for sharing. I just set up a Google Reader for tracking some Blogs and yours was the first I subscribed.

"organoleptic" - I had to look this one up. I agree with Jeff - with all the combinations Four Roses can produce, it would seem hard to pinpoint the source using organoleptics.

mozilla
09-10-2008, 18:50
"organoleptic" - I had to look this one up. I agree with Jeff - with all the combinations Four Roses can produce, it would seem hard to pinpoint the source using organoleptics.


I figured that organoleptic was fancy talk fer swillin sum down yer gullet?

barturtle
09-10-2008, 19:08
Chuck - great info and thanks for sharing. I just set up a Google Reader for tracking some Blogs and yours was the first I subscribed.

"organoleptic" - I had to look this one up. I agree with Jeff - with all the combinations Four Roses can produce, it would seem hard to pinpoint the source using organoleptics.

I tend to agree. With all the differences between the aging locations, possible barreling proofs, water used for the cut at bottling...it'd be hard to say whether they were the same base white dog or not.

BourbonJoe
09-10-2008, 19:10
I was not impressed by the industrial quality to the nose and flavor of the product. It did not leave me with many reasons to revisit my first impressions.

I agree and also have not tasted it in quite some time.
Joe :usflag:

cowdery
09-10-2008, 20:52
Not counting its original production at Buffalo Trace, Bulleit when it was a Seagram's product was 100 percent Four Roses whiskey. Since 2002, 4R has been selling a portion of its production, by contract, to Diageo. Either the contract is for a set quantity and as 4R has gradually increased production the share going to Diageo has gone down, or the contracted quantity decreases each year, or maybe both. I was told not long ago but I don't recall by whom that everything Four Roses supplies to Diageo is going into Bulleit, which is why Diageo is also buying from Beam, Tom Moore (formerly Barton), and Brown-Forman.

The original Seagram's Bulleit and even some of the post-sale product was entirely aged at 4R's Lotus, but more recently Diageo has taken white dog and done the barrel entry and aging at Stitzel-Weller in Shively. This isn't true just for the Four Roses distillate but for everything they buy.

The people who are telling me it's not all Four Roses whiskey in the Bulleit bottle are people who are in a position to know. I can't say any more than that.

The logical explanation is that 4R will only sell them so much whiskey and the Bulleit brand has grown to the point where that's not enough, so they're mixing in enough non-4R whiskey to make up the difference. It's Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, so there's nothing illegal being alleged. It might even be the same formula, as presumably Diageo, and not Kirin, owns the yeast strain, but maybe that was transferred too. At any rate, the people they're buying from can make Diageo's recipe, that's not a problem.

I know those yeasts were proprietary yeasts developed and owned by Seagram's, and obviously Four Roses has the right to use them, but I don't know who actually owns them. There's no way for me to find that out unless somebody slips a copy of the contract under my door.

ThomasH
09-10-2008, 22:30
Diageo has never really made much sense to me. The bourbon business is skryocketing, you already have an idle distillery that everyone would foam at the mouth to see reopen, your bottling line is bottling not only yours but others products and now your buying from multiple other sources and aging the new make in your own warehouses. If all of this weren't enough, you own 27 malt and 3 grain distilleries in Scotland which are in the midst of at least $200 million worth of expansion amongst them that I have personally read about, not to mention all the other brands you own/produce that are at or near the top of their category. If you, Diageo, are such a brilliantly run corporation, why in the hell hasn't it yet occurred to you to spend some money, get SW enviromentally up to standard and open it back up? Every time I drive by the place and see it sitting idle, it makes me want to totally puke!

Thomas

cowdery
09-10-2008, 22:37
The most I've gotten anyone at Diageo to say to me is, "Before long we're going to have to do something."

The kicker is, when they sold out in 1999 it didn't necessarily seem like a bad decision, mainly because their brands were not world beaters. But now they have Bulleit, and even though Seagram's Seven and Crown Royal don't contain much bourbon (about 37% and 9%, respectively), they're both growing too. They've also got a good I. W. Harper business overseas and that may be growing too.

Apparently getting SW up again is more expensive than it might otherwise be because there is an asbestos abatement issue in the distillery part, but that's one of the options. It wouldn't surprise me if Dave Pickerell suddenly showed up as the guy Diageo hires to put SW back in business, because that's always been a dream of his.

On the other hand, maybe they won't do anything and all the people stoking up their bourbon production right now won't look so smart in 9 or 10 years either. You never really know for sure.

HighTower
09-10-2008, 22:47
I have commented on this before...and how I have some 90 proof bottles that I got from Australia, and it isn't bad bourbon.
The stock we have now is 80 proof, has a screwcap, and is bottled in the UK.
I am wondering if the bourbon is cut to 80 proof with water out of the Thames, as it sure tastes like it.

I once emailed Jim Rutledge about it and he commented they (FR) didn't know what Diageo did with their whiskey once they had it, but always wanted more than they were getting. He said they probably cut it to 80 just to make it go further....

Scott

ThomasH
09-10-2008, 23:08
I think that Asbestos abatement cost excuse is a joke. I work for a steelmaker that has an annual gross of about $5 billion. Diageos annual gross is $14-15 billion. My company has undertaken asbestos abatement at ALL of its facilities. The transite siding on the building I work in was abated a few years ago. This one building is bigger than all of SW's complex, including the land it sits on. There is no way on earth that SW's stillhouse could contain as much asbestos as the outer walls of the mill I work in. Diageo could easily afford to abate SW and start it back up!

Thomas

barturtle
09-10-2008, 23:26
I count 26 open, 1 mothballed, 4 closed and 10 destroyed Scotch distilleries (plus three grain). Diageo is the devil as far as enthusiast whiskey drinkers are concerned, they buy up valuable brands and rape and pillage them and shut them down when they are no longer profitable. I'm sure it is far cheaper for them to simply buy stock from whomever will make it for them than it is for them to be bothered to fix up some of their most respected properties, staff them worry about income and pensions and unions and OSHA requirements and whatever else...

3 out of 4 of their closed distilleries in Scotland made wonderful drams, the other I'm not familiar with, Several of their destroyed ones did as well.

They also own Guinness and have threatened to shut down the world famous St. James Gate Brewery...only massive public outcry managed to save it.

ThomasH
09-11-2008, 07:13
Around my area, if a building is being demolished, all the asbestos has to be abated first. Same if the building is being sold for redevelopement. Many times, there is grant money available to use for abatement either from the state or federal government. Maybe if they would get SW listed as a Historic landmark, they could get money for abatement. Even if they would choose to demolish the stillhouse and start over, they would still have the abatement expense. I fully understand what Diageo has done in Scotland. The big problem with scotch is, most of it ends up in blends, even though single malt sales are rising. Some of these distilleries just hit hard times after someone tinkered with the recipe of the blend they make and decided a particular malt didn't fit with the plan. Diageo was way ahead of its time when it bought into the bourbon market and they messed up big time. They don't even seem to want to market Dickel globally, how crazy is that. I still think they can rehab SW and start it back up, they just have to want to do it!

Thomas

cowdery
09-11-2008, 09:49
The asbestos abatement issue at SW has mostly been an deal breaker for independents who were looking at acquiring the place and getting it going again, but trying to do it on a shoestring. Asbestos abatement is just one more item on the budget. For Diageo, if they did decide to reopen the place, it also would be just an item on the budget and not a huge one, just part of the equation. The much bigger risk is the investment in inventory that anyone operating a whiskey factory undertakes.

ThomasH
09-11-2008, 10:18
Chucks point about about the risk of investment in inventory makes total sense. I would think that if any shut down distillery would have any chance at restarting and making it, this would be the one, mainly due to its history and the fact that part of it is already being used. This would be the perfect chance for Diageo to right something that is currently wrong, at least IMHO!

Thomas

boss302
09-11-2008, 11:09
The most I've gotten anyone at Diageo to say to me is, "Before long we're going to have to do something."

The kicker is, when they sold out in 1999 it didn't necessarily seem like a bad decision, mainly because their brands were not world beaters. But now they have Bulleit, and even though Seagram's Seven and Crown Royal don't contain much bourbon (about 37% and 9%, respectively), they're both growing too. They've also got a good I. W. Harper business overseas and that may be growing too.

Apparently getting SW up again is more expensive than it might otherwise be because there is an asbestos abatement issue in the distillery part, but that's one of the options. It wouldn't surprise me if Dave Pickerell suddenly showed up as the guy Diageo hires to put SW back in business, because that's always been a dream of his.

On the other hand, maybe they won't do anything and all the people stoking up their bourbon production right now won't look so smart in 9 or 10 years either. You never really know for sure.


Why don't they buy the Michter's distillery? No asbestos issues that I know of, and the family has been trying to keep up with the maintenance issues...

And I have yet to run across any bourbon drinker who didn't like A.H. Hirsch!

boss302
09-11-2008, 11:13
3 out of 4 of their closed distilleries in Scotland made wonderful drams, the other I'm not familiar with, Several of their destroyed ones did as well.


I'm assuming you are referring to Rosebank, as one of said closed distilleries. Which other ones are you referring to?

barturtle
09-11-2008, 11:21
I'm assuming you are referring to Rosebank, as one of said closed distilleries. Which other ones are you referring to?

The other three:

Brora
Port Ellen
Coleburn

I've had and enjoyed the first two on that list (along with Rosebank), but have yet to cross paths wit the third.

The mothballed location is Mannochmore, producer of the infamous Loch Dhu.

OscarV
09-11-2008, 12:55
If you, Diageo, are such a brilliantly run corporation, why in the hell hasn't it yet occurred to you to spend some money, get SW enviromentally up to standard and open it back up? Every time I drive by the place and see it sitting idle, it makes me want to totally puke!

Thomas

Yeah, what he said!!

This is an interesting idea.
From what little I know about S-W I understand that their still is the only one like it, except for the Maker's Mark still that the S-W distiller built for Mr Samuels, and that is one reason their whiskey was so good.
If Diageo would fire it back up or Maker's would start concentrating on bourbon instead of bottles we'd all be in heaven from what they could produce.

OscarV
09-11-2008, 12:58
, and is bottled in the UK.
I am wondering if the bourbon is cut to 80 proof with water out of the Thames, as it sure tastes like it.



Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

barturtle
09-11-2008, 13:09
Yeah, what he said!!

This is an interesting idea.
From what little I know about S-W I understand that their still is the only one like it, except for the Maker's Mark still that the S-W distiller built for Mr Samuels, and that is one reason their whiskey was so good.
If Diageo would fire it back up or Maker's would start concentrating on bourbon instead of bottles we'd all be in heaven from what they could produce.

The still could be another issue unto itself...it could be in need of refurb/replacement...I'm sure Diageo/UDV had a good reason for putting a ton of money into Bernhiem instead of rehabbing one or two of its existing plants.

mozilla
09-11-2008, 13:20
From what I have been told...Diageo did not make the best decisions back in those days. They could have very well...screwed the pooch on this one. Just think, Yellowstone, SW, Glenmore, Medley and Bernheim were under their control at one point. Seems to me like they royally F'd up, to me. If all those plants were sold off to other companies....we could have a real boom going on right now. If everything else was held pretty constant.

barturtle
09-11-2008, 14:51
From what I have been told...Diageo did not make the best decisions back in those days. They could have very well...screwed the pooch on this one.

While I tend to agree with you (see my previous post about them being the devil) they were likely solid financial decisions...just not something the enthusiast crowd likes very much.

cowdery
09-11-2008, 15:24
SW does need major refurbishment in addition to asbestos abatement. Whether or not the still can be saved I don't know. It's a Vendome still, so they could either restore it or duplicate it. They've already duplicated it twice and soon will be doing it a third time. I'm speaking of the two (soon to be three) stills at Maker's Mark.

When Bernheim was built, the plan was to retain that still, but apparently there were unforeseen problems, because they didn't.

I'm told that they kept SW operating near the end with spit and bailing wire. They had two distilleries in Louisville and chose to refurbish the one that had better access to the interstates, at least I assume that was the reason. The city services generally may be better there, in Louisville, than they are in Shively. There could be a number of reasons.

The "significance" of Stitzel-Weller probably didn't enter into their consideration, although the last plant manager at SW told me that his office (i.e., Pappy's office) was a lot nicer than the CEO's office in the UK.

It may have been as simple as "SW is operating, Bernheim isn't, so let's rebuild the distillery that's already closed and keep SW going until the new one is ready."

They also, at Bernheim, built a fully modern plant, which none of the other three were (the third being Medley in Owensboro). It was modeled after their big grain whiskey distillery at Cameronbridge (http://www.whisky-distilleries.info/Cameronbridge_EN.shtml). That's probably why Heaven Hill had to change so much stuff when they bought it. The Scots have never understood the difference between Scottish Grain Whiskey and Bourbon Whiskey.

Ed Foote, who was the last Master Distiller at SW and the first at New Bernheim, tried to tell them. So did Dave Pickerell, who was a consulting engineer on the project.

SW stopped producing in 1992. There were still a lot of barrels in the warehouses, so there was usually activity around the place. As the warehouses emptied out, there was less and less going on until the place became more-or-less deserted, although not abandoned (i.e., they kept all the gates and fences in good repair, so people couldn't get in.)

I don't know if it ever emptied out completely, but eventually Maker's Mark started to use it. I think they were hauling new make up in tankers and doing barrel entry and aging at Stitzel. I don't know if Maker's still has anything there, but pretty soon Diageo started to do the same thing.

The whole Diageo USA archives is still there, where Mike Veach used to work. All of the bottling equipment was removed and moved to Owensboro, to the plant they ultimately sold to Constellation (Barton). So they also have a lot of empty space in what would have been the bottling house and finished goods warehouse, big pre-fab steel buildings, but they're not whiskey warehouses.

craigthom
09-11-2008, 16:36
But they are using the whiskey warehouses over there for their current bourbons, right? If I read all this correctly, they are buying white dog from Four Roses and whoever else, putting it in barrels, and storing it at S-W.

They can take all the time they want getting S-W up and running again, then, without worrying about how long it will be before they can sell whiskey they make. They can just start buying less, or barreling more, and in four years they can start selling I.W. Harper and Bulliet with some of their own juice in it.

cowdery
09-11-2008, 16:38
But they are using the whiskey warehouses over there for their current bourbons, right? If I read all this correctly, they are buying white dog from Four Roses and whoever else, putting it in barrels, and storing it at S-W.

Yes, that's it exactly, which apparently the sofware would like me to say in more words.

barturtle
09-11-2008, 18:31
They can take all the time they want getting S-W up and running again, then, without worrying about how long it will be before they can sell whiskey they make. They can just start buying less, or barreling more, and in four years they can start selling I.W. Harper and Bulliet with some of their own juice in it.

Actually, not likely. They would likely never match the flavor profile of the white dog made at other places. So they would have to keep buying from their sources to maintain those products as they are. Sure transitions do happen, but they, with few exceptions, only seem to happen often when a brand is sold.

ThomasH
09-11-2008, 21:50
When I came through Louisville in April on the way to the sampler, I went by SW and there was a MM semi trailer parked outside one of the warehouses, which by the way looked like it had been covered in vertical metal siding of some sort. I definitely think MM is still storing barrels there!

Thomas

cowdery
09-11-2008, 23:44
Those are steel clad warehouses. The structure of the building is the wooden rick system. The exterior walls are just a thin skin of corrugated steel panels, arranged vertically. That's how they've always been, since they were built in 1935. There is no universal warehouse design, but that's a common one, although sometimes it's aluminum, rather than steel, and sometimes the panels are arranged horizontally.

BourbonJoe
09-12-2008, 04:56
When I came through Louisville in April on the way to the sampler, I went by SW and there was a MM semi trailer parked outside one of the warehouses, which by the way looked like it had been covered in vertical metal siding of some sort. I definitely think MM is still storing barrels there!

Thomas
Tom
Last year, we had a tour of SW by Mike Veach. We went into Warehouse No.4 and, sure enough, it was almost entirely filled with Makers Mark barrels.
Joe :usflag:

mozilla
09-12-2008, 06:36
I can confirm that barrels of Barton bourbon are stored there as well.

cowdery
09-15-2008, 18:02
I can confirm that barrels of Barton bourbon are stored there as well.

I wonder if those aren't barrels that Diageo owns. Barton has plenty of warehouse space and doesn't need to rent space from Diageo.