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  1. #1

    Question Noob question - So how many active distilleries are there, really?

    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 to all of you keepers of knowledge! Can anybody help?

    Thanks y'all!

  2. #2
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    Re: Noob question - So how many active distilleries are there, really?

    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.

  3. #3
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    Re: Noob question - So how many active distilleries are there, really?

    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!
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    Re: Noob question - So how many active distilleries are there, really?

    Timothy
    Is this an amalgam of posts?
    I could swear I hear Chuck in some sentences and Ken Weber in others.

  5. #5
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    Re: Noob question - So how many active distilleries are there, really?

    Thank you Barturtle for a most informative post

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

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    Re: Noob question - So how many active distilleries are there, really?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rughi View Post
    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.
    2010 Bourbonian of the Year

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    I'm no Pappyophile

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    Re: Noob question - So how many active distilleries are there, really?

    Got it. Good. Nice post Timothy. Can't believe I missed MM, and JB.

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    Re: Noob question - So how many active distilleries are there, really?

    Quote Originally Posted by barturtle View Post
    ...that's all me, ripped straight outta my gray matter...
    Yep, my bad.

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

    Roger
    Last edited by Rughi; 03-19-2009 at 00:06. Reason: Sometimes it's better to apologize and lower your voice than attempt long explanations.

  9. #9
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    Re: Noob question - So how many active distilleries are there, really?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rughi View Post
    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.
    2010 Bourbonian of the Year

    As long as you have good whiskey you're not "unemployed", you're "Funemployed!!!"

    I'm no Pappyophile

  10. #10
    Bourbonian Of The Year 2013 and Guru
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    Re: Noob question - So how many active distilleries are there, really?

    Nice job, Timothy. I'm going to print that out, and put it in my Bourbon Bible.
    Thanks!
    JOE

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    Bark less.

    "Every bottle is its own learning experience." -- Sensei Ox-sama

 

 

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