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  1. #1
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
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    Standards of Identity

    The question was asked about whether "Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey" can be a combination (we dare not say "blend") of straight bourbons from different distilleries. The answer is "yes." Somewhat obviously, to be called Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, all of the whiskey must be straight bourbon made in Kentucky, but it can be made at any Kentucky distillery. In fact, even if the word "Kentucky" were not used, all of the whiskies still would have to be from the same state, although they could be from any distilleries in that state.

    The question was asked in reference to Corner Creek and although I don't know where Corner Creek's whiskey comes from, and I am a little skeptical about their claim that they are mixing rye-flavored bourbon and wheated bourbon, it is possible, for purposes of this explanation, that they are using wheated bourbon made by United at Bernheim and rye bourbon made at Heaven Hill's Bardstown distillery. They can do that and still call it "Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey."

    This is not a common practice (mixing straight whiskies from different distilleries). A much more common practice is mixing whiskies from the same distillery but different seasons, i.e., improving some 4-year-old by adding a barrel or two of 8-year-old.

    To be assured that you are drinking the product of a single distillery made during one distillation season, you need to buy either a single barrel product or a bonded product.

    As for some of the categories we seldom see, a blended whiskey containing not less than 51 percent on a proof gallon basis of one of the types of straight whiskey can use the name of that specific type of straight whiskey; for example, "blended rye whiskey" (or "rye whiskey--a blend"). This is, however, still a blend and can contain green whiskey, high proof (above 160) aged whiskey, or GNS, as well as colorings and flavorings.

    The term "a blend of straight bourbon whiskies" would describe a mixture of all straight bourbons that does not conform to the definition of "straight bourbon whiskey" which, presumably, would mean a combination of straight bourbons from different states. As I read the regs, this is the only time the word "blend" is used to describe a combination that is actually 100 percent straight whiskey, so this term is an oddball. Usually if the word "blend" appears in any construction you are talking about a product that contains green whiskey, high proof (above 160) aged whiskey, or GNS.

    Why state of origin is important I can't explain, but note that these terms are seldom used so their application as a practical matter probably has never been fully explored.


  2. #2
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    Re: Standards of Identity

    Chuck,
    John and I had this same discussion one night at D Marie's about 2 years ago. We looked at the bottle and it did not say "straight" bourbon, just bourbon. We theorized they did that because they used a whiskey made from another state - possibly something made in Lawrenceburg, Ind by either Seagrams or some of the whiskey left over from the Old Quaker distillery. I know U. D. had barrels of whiskey from Old Quaker in their warehouses at Bernheim, moved there after they closed that plant.
    Mike Veach

  3. #3
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    Re: Standards of Identity

    Thanks for this additional detail, interesting indeed.

    It would sound as if Corner Creek is a combination of a rye-recipe and wheat-recipe bourbon. That or it was sourced from a distillery which (maybe as an experiment) used a four grain mashbill.

    Gary


  4. #4
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    Re: Standards of Identity

    Gary,
    I would say that it is the former. If a distillery made a 4 grain bourbon and if it was not some horrid concotion, then they would keep it and bottle it themselves rather than selling it to a third party.

    Just to let you know, Chris Morris was telling the people at the Bourbon Academy at L&G last month that they have a 4 grain bourbon ready to market. It was made at L&G is expected to be out this spring. They have everything ready except a name - remember they have been debating this matter for several years and they still have not decided. I will guess that they will decide on the "Woodford Reserve Four Grain Bourbon" in the end, but I could be wrong.
    Mike Veach

  5. #5
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    Re: Standards of Identity

    Thanks, Mike. If this is "of the moment" maybe another company toyed with the idea earlier and did not like the results and sold the product to a broker.. Hard to say. The mention of wheat and rye on the Corner's Creek product always struck me as odd, coy as it were. Anyway I look forward to this new product you mentioned. I would not think a measure of wheat in a rye-type (i.e., regular) bourbon would hurt and maybe it will add some of that softness the vodka makers claim is an attribute of vodka made from wheat.

    Gary

  6. #6
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
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    Re: Standards of Identity

    Nope. If it's bourbon, it's straight whiskey. Bourbon is a type of straight whiskey. You can't call it "bourbon whiskey" unless it is, in fact, "straight bourbon whiskey." Therefore, the word "straight" in that phrase is actually redundant, which may be why they didn't use it on the label.

  7. #7
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    Re: Standards of Identity

    Chuck,
    This brings me back to the discussion with John. If they can call it Kentucky Bourbon, then why didn't they (at least on that bottle)? I did not care much for it myself and I have not had any since so I have not looked at a label for a couple of years. Is it still just "Bourbon Whiskey" on the label?
    Mike Veach

  8. #8
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
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    Re: Standards of Identity

    When I reviewed Corner Creek in February 2003, Ted Kraut, who owns the brand, wasn't able to tell me how he arrived at a four-grain bourbon but said he did specifically want wheat, because he had a past association with Stitzel-Weller. I don't think he was being coy. I think he genuinely doesn't know. My suspicion is either that (a) it's a wheated bourbon and in fact contains no rye, the mention of rye on the label being in error; or (b) it's a combination of some rye bourbon and some wheated bourbon.

    I doubt it was made from a four-grain mashbill for a couple of reasons. If you were going to do that as an experiment, you wouldn't do it in sufficient quantity to support a brand, even a relatively small brand such as Corner Creek. You would make just enough to fill a couple of barrels. If you liked the result, you would repeat it in a commerical quantity. You wouldn't necessarily be talking about a 8-10 year development cycle. You might decide the experiment was worth replicating after the whiskey had aged six months to a year, for example. That's not long enough to release, obviously, but a good distiller can tell what he has in that length of time.

    What the distillers have told me is that the practical reason no one has messed around with a four-grain is that their milling operations are set up for three. To do four would require an expensive retrofit of the milling operation or a separate hand milling of the fourth grain, which probably is what Woodford Reserve did.

    As for Corner Creek, if I had to bet I would bet my alternative (a) above is correct. If you look at the Corner Creek label, you will notice that it mentions wheat, rye and corn, but not barley malt. This tells me it was written by somebody who didn't know what they were talking about. I think if they actually had gone to the trouble of deliberatley combining wheated bourbon and rye bourbon they would have made a bigger deal about it, that being unique.

    How could they mislabel the bottle? Although regulators do review and approve labels, that is the sort of thing they likely would miss. It isn't the sort of thing they're really looking for. An actual distller, like Heaven Hill, probably wouldn't make that mistake, but a non-distiller might.

    According to the KY Sec. of State, "Corner Creek Distilling Co." is an Even Kulsveen dba, so he definitely bottled it.

  9. #9
    Bourbonian of the Year 2002 and Guru
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    Re: Standards of Identity

    It says "Reserve Bourbon Whiskey" in large type, then "distilled, aged and bottled in Kentucky" in small type. It probably was mostly a design decision not to use "straight" or "Kentucky" in the formal name.

  10. #10
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    Re: Standards of Identity

    Maybe whomever wrote the label meant barley malt when he or she stated rye..

    Gary

 

 

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