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View Full Version : Noob question - So how many active distilleries are there, really?



BtownBourbonite
03-18-2009, 22:39
Howdy,

Ok, so I need some edumucation, if y'all don't mind. I just learned from you fine folks that indeed Ezra B is a name only, and was never a person nor an actual distiller. I also have come to know that the same goes for Evan Williams....and to top it off, a lot of the stuff on the market is simply repackaging or specially selected barrels from the same damn place and slapped in different bottles - i.e. the Buffalo Trace effect....

SO, with that said, how many active distilleries are there, really? And on top of that, how do places like Buffalo Trace make so many variations of bourbon for distribution on such a large scale while maintaining the illusion of exclusivity?

I guess what I'm really asking for is a comprehensive analysis of what the bourbon distillery scene looks like here in 2009. I :bowdown: to all of you keepers of knowledge! Can anybody help?

Thanks y'all!

Lost Pollito
03-18-2009, 23:01
First of all, Welcome to this great of SB.com. A list that I can think of:
Bt, 4Roses, Wt, HH, Bernheim...I think, BF, and Woodford, The Texas Fellar's... can't recall the name, Hudson Bay, Tom Moore, someone in Cinci as well I think, and the folks in Mt. Vernon, and The Gentleman fron Va., via initial distillation at Bt. That's Bourbon. Others making whisky... Wasmund's, Clear Creek in Oregon, Stranahans in Co, Charbay , St. George, and Anchor in NOcal. That's all I got. I know I missed someone, but it's late and I can't think. Oh add, Medley/ Agnostura, and single malt at all-tech in nicholasville. Who'd I miss? Also add in the old Seagrams plant in Indiana.

barturtle
03-18-2009, 23:57
It's all really simple.

Buffalo Trace has 5 different mashbills at last known count (two rye recipe bourbons, 1 wheat recipe bourbon, 1 rye whiskey and a vodka)

Heaven Hill has at least 5 as well (rye recipe bourbon, wheat recipe, rye whiskey, wheat whiskey, corn whiskey) Though their rye whiskey is currently distilled at Old Forester/Early Times.

Jim Beam has at least 3 ( 2 rye recipe bourbons, 1 rye whiskey)

Maker's Mark (owned by Jim Beam) has 1 wheat recipe bourbon

Tom Moore has/had at least two (1 rye recipe bourbon, 1 rye whiskey)

Wild Turkey has at least 2 (1 rye recipe bourbon, 1 rye whiskey)

Old Forester has 1 rye recipe bourbon (I ain't countin' Early Times until they start selling a straight bourbon under that label in the USA)

Woodford Reserve has 1 rye recipe bourbon

Four Roses has at least 10, all rye recipe bourbons.

Add in the two Tennessee Whiskey distillers Jack Daniel's and George Dickel for one recipe each.

The rest of the small microdistillers produce so little at this point as to barely merit mention.

You may not wish to refer to the selling of many brands of very similar whiskies as the "Buffalo Trace Effect" they are most likely not the biggest practitioners of that. Many members of this site could easily list 90%+ of their brands without trying too hard, whereas even management at one of the other distilleries would have a hard time naming more than 25% of the labels they sell.

Here's a quick overview of how all this came about:

At one point in time there were many, possibly hundreds of small distillers spread around the country (okay, mostly in KY and points north and east, but some even as far as Arizona) at some point these distillers were told they had to shut down and that they couldn't sell their whiskey...I think this was called Prohibition...anyway...all this whiskey had to get moved into designated "concentration warehouses", some of the distillers were able to make business work for them during this time, others folded and got bought up by those that didn't. As the dark ages ended some of the distillers produced both the brand they did before and the brands they purchased. As time went on and the taxation levels that affected the distillers became more and more oppressive, the only way to remain in a viable, money making business was through "economy of scale" more small guys closed up shop, brands and remaining stock was bought by those still operating and so on and so forth until most distillers own dozens or hundreds of brands, most of which are not being used by anyone, but several of which are. Add in new brands that are created to fill a certain price level/market niche and you can see how this can get to be the way it is with nearly every distiller producing multiple brands.

Now the question becomes "How can they produce so many different whiskies from so few recipes?"

Well the answer is simple to this question as well:

Each label they produce has a certain taste profile that it must meet and this taste profile varies from brand to brand, even when those two brands are produced by the same distiller and the same mashbill. They achieve these profiles by varying the age/proof and barrel selection. As whiskey ages it develops many different flavors and where a whiskey is in a warehouse during its aging has a profound effect on what flavors develop, even in the same warehouse, much less moving to a completely different warehouse that has a distinctly different microclimate. Even if they were to roll out 10 barrels from the exact same row in the exact same warehouse, every barrel will have developed distinct personalities. So while the whiskey may have been the same coming out of the still, by the time it gets to resting in the barrel on a rick, what's in this barrel, ain't the same as what's in that barrel. The distillers then take advantage of this fact to create the different flavor profiles of each bottling they sell.

Get it? Got it? Good!

Rughi
03-19-2009, 00:04
Timothy
Is this an amalgam of posts?
I could swear I hear Chuck in some sentences and Ken Weber in others.

Pieface
03-19-2009, 00:06
Thank you Barturtle for a most informative post :)

*EDIT*
Rughi...perhaps it's a distillation ;)

barturtle
03-19-2009, 00:07
Timothy
Is this an amalgam of posts?
I could swear I hear Chuck in some sentences and Ken Weber in others.

I'm not sure if that's a compliment or not, but nope, that's all me, ripped straight outta my gray matter.:lol:

Lost Pollito
03-19-2009, 00:08
Got it. Good. Nice post Timothy. Can't believe I missed MM, and JB.

Rughi
03-19-2009, 00:37
...that's all me, ripped straight outta my gray matter...

Yep, my bad.

I fear that I didn't come across well, sorry.

Roger

barturtle
03-19-2009, 00:53
Well, I admit I was really surprised to read you dismissing microdistillers as barely meriting mention. I've never heard that sentiment from you before.

Roger

Well, I just kinda considered them to be a bit out of the discussion of "how can bourbon producers sell the same whiskey under so many labels" None of them, that I know of, have gone about picking up old brand and labels to sell their whiskey under, and they tend to keep the few labels the produce very distinct and are quick to point out the differences between the products. That is much less confusing than a company plopping five different single barrels on a shelf with no age statements and varying prices, or sliding 5 different 4yo BIBs on the shelf at the same price point.

smokinjoe
03-19-2009, 06:29
Nice job, Timothy. I'm going to print that out, and put it in my Bourbon Bible.
Thanks!
:toast:

kickert
03-19-2009, 07:32
I have to agree with the others. That has to be one of the best single posts I have ever found on SB.com. I am confident it will be pointed to for years to come.

funknik
03-19-2009, 07:32
Tim, you have done us all an excellent favor -- thank you, my friend!

:bowdown::bowdown::bowdown::bowdown::bowdown::bowd own::bowdown::bowdown::bowdown::bowdown::bowdown:: bowdown::bowdown::bowdown::bowdown::bowdown::bowdo wn::bowdown:

sku
03-19-2009, 10:58
Fabulous list. I didn't realize that HH ryes were distilled by BF. What's the deal with that? Also, you say currently distilled; does that indicate a plan to move that operation over to HH?

By the way, I'm working on a list of all US distilleries, including micros, (it's long) that make whiskey.

barturtle
03-19-2009, 12:21
Fabulous list. I didn't realize that HH ryes were distilled by BF. What's the deal with that? Also, you say currently distilled; does that indicate a plan to move that operation over to HH?

By the way, I'm working on a list of all US distilleries, including micros, (it's long) that make whiskey.

Honestly, I have no answer on their plans for the ryes. The fire at HH caused production to move to other distilleries while they worked out what to do and they finally purchased Bernhiem from UDV. It was rumored that there was a lengthy process of getting the distillery to produce product that satisfied them, and BF continues to produce the rye for them for whatever reason, possibly capacity related.

sailor22
03-19-2009, 13:19
Nicely done Timothy - excellent post - thanks. Just the sort of thing us noobs need.

Clarify a couple things for me please - I assume you are referring to in house brands when you described building taste profiles from selected barrels.
If an independent (like VW) wants to create a line of product does he bring his mash bill and production requirements to a large capacity distiller and then work with them to get a product he wants? That is a different process than only selecting barrels from specific warehouses to match a taste profile isn't it?
How does an independent protect his personal mash bill recipe and family yeast from the large corporate distillery if he has it distilled there? Or is too much made of those things?

cowdery
03-19-2009, 13:45
HH has had various issues at Bernheim, chief among them its capacity. They should be just about finished with an effort to increase its capacity so they may reduce or eliminate the production being done on their behalf by others soon, but that's the reason for it, capacity limitations.

When discussing American whiskey producers I tend not to include the micros, as their volume is so tiny. I like to start with companies and the facilities they operate:

Beam Global -- three active whiskey distilleries, all in Kentucky.

Brown-Forman -- three active whiskey distilleries, two in Kentucky, one in Tennessee.

Sazerac -- two active whiskey distilleries in Kentucky (Buffalo Trace and Tom Moore), honorable mention for a redistiller in Virginia (A. Smith Bowman).

Pernod -- one active whiskey distillery in Kentucky. (Wild Turkey)

Kirin -- one active whiskey distillery in Kentucky. (Four Roses)

Diageo -- one active whiskey distillery in Tennessee. (George Dickel)

Heaven Hill -- one active whiskey distillery in Kentucky.

Angostura -- one active whiskey distillery in Indiana, one being restored in Kentucky.

I have a small quibble with Tim, blaming taxation for the industry's consolidation. Mature industries of all kinds tend to consolidate, regardless of their tax burden. With whiskey, the inevitable boom-bust cycle caused by the long aging cycle periodically puts the industry into profit-killing price wars. Diversification into spirits products that do not have to be aged is part of the remedy, which has led to worldwide consolidation.

barturtle
03-19-2009, 14:08
I had purposely left Angostura off my list due to not knowing of any existing brands on the US market of bourbon coming out of that facility, therefore adding even less to the brand confusion then the micros do.

I will admit that making it look like the tax burden was the only issue causing the consolidation is a bit misleading, but then the sales revenues are not the only tax burdens distillers see; payroll taxes, mandatory insurance, bonds on warehouses, property taxes, etc. all make it harder for smaller operations to be viable economically and compete with the big boys.

sku
03-19-2009, 14:21
Alright, so here's my current list of micros making and selling whiskey in the US. I did not include projects that may be making or planning to distill but are not yet selling their own whiskey (Dryfly, High West, etc.)

California

Anchor Distilling: Old Potrero Single Malt Rye

C&C Shine: Monterey Rye Spirits (not really whiskey until you age it at home); they also make Clear Madness California Moonshine, a corn-based spirit.

Charbay: two releases - a single malt and a hop flavored whiskey.

St. George: St. George Single Malt

St. James: Peregrine Rock single malt.


Colorado

Colorado Gold: Corn whiskey with plans for Bourbon.

Stranahan's: Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey, a single malt.


Kansas

High Plains Distillery: Most Wanted Kansas Bourbon; in the past, they have also made a single malt, a rye and a wheat whiskey, though I'm not sure if they are still making any of those.


Massachusetts

Triple Eight Distillery: Notch (i.e., Not Scotch) single malt. They also have made Nor'Easter Bourbon, though I don't know if that whiskey is still in production.


Michigan

New Holland Brewing Co.: Zepplin Bend Straight Malt Whiskey.


New York

Tuthilltown: Hudson Baby Bourbon, Hudson Four Grain Bourbon, Hundson Manhattan Rye, Hudson Single Malt and Old Gristmill Corn Whiskey.


Ohio

Woodstone Creek Distillery: A Cincinnati winery recently turned distillery, Woodstone Creek makes a Bourbon, a malt whiskey and a blended whiskey.


Oregon

Cascade Peak Spirits: This organic vodka distillery has released a rye whiskey and is also working on Bourbon and corn whiskey.

Clear Creek: McCarthy's Oregon Single Malt.

Edgefield: Hogshead single malt and Devil's Bit rye whiskey.

Rogue: Rogue Dead Guy Whiskey, a four grain whiskey.



Virginia

Copper Fox Distillery: Wasmund's single malt whiskey and a new rye whiskey.

Virginia Moonshine: Makers of Virginia Lightening corn whiskey and Kopper Kettle three grain whiskey.


West Virginia

West Virginia Distilling Co.: They distill corn whiskey to use in their Mountain Moonshine Spirit Whiskey.

barturtle
03-19-2009, 14:36
Excellent list, sku.

However you missed those guys in Cincinnati. Products on the shelf, can't think of their name though.

sku
03-19-2009, 14:47
Excellent list, sku.

However you missed those guys in Cincinnati. Products on the shelf, can't think of their name though.

Not Woodstone Creek?

barturtle
03-19-2009, 14:55
Not Woodstone Creek?

Sorry , missed it on your list:rolleyes:

cowdery
03-19-2009, 15:37
I had purposely left Angostura off my list due to not knowing of any existing brands on the US market of bourbon coming out of that facility, therefore adding even less to the brand confusion then the micros do.



Probably the most notable brand Angostura makes whiskey for is Seagram's Seven Crown American Blended Whiskey. The only problem with the whiskey, including bourbon, that they make at Lawrenceburg, IN, is that they can't call it Kentucky bourbon, but that doesn't matter for the whiskey component of blends. Lawrenceburg is very low profile. They do make whiskey that finds its way into the marketplace, but they are strictly producing on behalf of others. They have no American whiskey brands of their own.

sku
03-19-2009, 15:42
Probably the most notable brand Angostura makes whiskey for is Seagram's Seven Crown American Blended Whiskey. The only problem with the whiskey, including bourbon, that they make at Lawrenceburg, IN, is that they can't call it Kentucky bourbon, but that doesn't matter for the whiskey component of blends. Lawrenceburg is very low profile. They do make whiskey that finds its way into the marketplace, but they are strictly producing on behalf of others. They have no American whiskey brands of their own.

They make Cougar for Foster's, right? Who else do they make whiskey for?

barturtle
03-19-2009, 16:06
... The only problem with the whiskey, including bourbon, that they make at Lawrenceburg, IN, is that they can't call it Kentucky bourbon...

I would tend to agree, Jim Murray in his World Whiskey Guide (2000) mentions some of the whiskey being produced there to be wonderful, including a 35%rye 60% corn, that he refers to as "easily the most full-flavoured, steel-riveted bourbon it has ever been my good fortune to find". Also mentioned are the 75%corn/20%rye that makes up Sam Cougar Black, and three ryes "One was an exquisite sweet-spiced, all-malted barley {say that again Jim? rye, right?}, another was just 52% rye and the other was 95%rye to 5% malted rye {sign me up for some of this}"

He lists the still as being quite small, just four feet in diameter, but the doubler "was a monster, easily the largest in the USA. Both stills were, significantly, made entirely from copper"

cowdery
03-19-2009, 16:10
It's probable they made the rye whiskey being sold by High West and Templeton, and maybe others such as Michter's. Their whiskey is probably used in other blends, including some Canadians. There is also a good chance that any store brand or distributor brand of bourbon that doesn't say "Kentucky" on the label, or anything just labeled "whiskey" came from them.

The intention with Medley is to be able to control and monitor either distillery from either location, so they will only have one master distiller controlling both facilities. The Indiana facility primarily makes gin, but has a separate still in which whiskey is made.

Attila
03-19-2009, 18:18
I was under the impression that KBD started distilling again and would have KSBW available in the next couple of years. This is wrong?

craigthom
03-19-2009, 20:02
If an independent (like VW) wants to create a line of product does he bring his mash bill and production requirements to a large capacity distiller and then work with them to get a product he wants? That is a different process than only selecting barrels from specific warehouses to match a taste profile isn't it?
How does an independent protect his personal mash bill recipe and family yeast from the large corporate distillery if he has it distilled there? Or is too much made of those things?

I don't think this got answered, but maybe it did and I missed it.

The answer is that there aren't any independents contract distilling their own whiskey at large capacity distilleries, at least as far as I know. They don't use their own mash bills or yeasts.

The process is exactly selecting barrels that match the desired flavor profile. This shows how much variation there is in the barrel.

sku
03-19-2009, 21:23
I don't think this got answered, but maybe it did and I missed it.

The answer is that there aren't any independents contract distilling their own whiskey at large capacity distilleries, at least as far as I know. They don't use their own mash bills or yeasts.

The process is exactly selecting barrels that match the desired flavor profile. This shows how much variation there is in the barrel.

What about Bulleit. That's essentially this situation, no?

cowdery
03-19-2009, 22:26
Bulleit was always a recipe Four Roses was making anyway. It is one of the ten.

Some contract distilling is done using a proprietary recipe, but you're better off with a recipe that's already been proven in that distillery. The distillery, the water, that's all part of the whiskey, but it's specific to the place, not the recipe.

Some people have whiskey made to their specifications, others buy one of the distillery's standard recipes as new make and age it themselves, others buy aged whiskey and bottle it, others buy aged whiskey in bottles, ready for market. All kinds of transactions happen.

A good word that covers all types is bulk whiskey sales.

Only Angostura is only in bulk sales. Heaven Hill probably does the most bulk sales, followed by Tom Moore, Brown-Forman, and Jim Beam. Buffalo Trace used to be way into it, not so much now, but they do have some relationships that are similar to bulk sales contracts, such as they have with Van Winkle. Four Roses still has on-going contractual obligations to Diageo from the sale. Anybody might sell bulk on occasion, as I said.

barturtle
03-19-2009, 22:48
Bulleit was always a recipe Four Roses was making anyway. It is one of the ten.



This is at least partly inaccurate, as Bulleit was first produced using Ancient Age/Buffalo Trace stock (I'm not sure if it was before or after the renaming)

cowdery
03-19-2009, 23:20
I was replying in the context of the question, referring to it as contract distilled to Diageo's specifications, when in reality Diageo is buying one of the standard recipes Four Roses was making before Bulleit got there, which is I think the context in which most people would have chosen to regard the answer, and not as a reference to Bulleit's previous life as a completely different whiskey in a completely different package, when neither Seagrams nor Diageo was in the picture. I mean, come on. Don't do me like that.

sku
03-19-2009, 23:21
I was under the impression that KBD started distilling again and would have KSBW available in the next couple of years. This is wrong?

Is this true? Did they used to distill? If so, what did they make and where?

cowdery
03-19-2009, 23:23
Is this true? Did they used to distill? If so, what did they make and where?

I have seen no evidence that it is true. They have reportedly done some test runs with some of their equipment. I haven't heard anything even remotely reliable about them going into production, let alone having something they made ready to sell.

Wishful thinking.

Remember, that distillery has been just about ready to start producing again ever since it stopped producing more than 20 years ago. I genuinely wish them all the best, but don't hold your breath.

In this economic climate, remembering how much the category's growth depends on exports, even something like CMDK reopening is hardly a sure thing. You just can't say. Once you start a distillery, you have to keep it going. That takes cash, lots of it.

barturtle
03-20-2009, 00:36
I mean, come on. Don't do me like that.

Normally, I wouldn't, but there was that word "always" which is nearly always a bad idea:cool:

Josh
03-20-2009, 07:56
Alright, so here's my current list of micros making and selling whiskey in the US. I did not include projects that may be making or planning to distill but are not yet selling their own whiskey (Dryfly, High West, etc.)


Michigan

New Holland Brewing Co.: Zepplin Bend Straight Malt Whiskey.



I had no idea that New Holland makes a malt whiskey! That's very cool. I'll have to make it over there some time, or find somewhere closer where they sell it.