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Thread: Kentucky Brandy

  1. #1
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    Kentucky Brandy

    In the 1980s, as the rye business was drying up and all of the rye whiskey distilleries in Pennsylvania and Maryland were closing, what little remaining rye whiskey production there was shifted to Kentucky. The Kentucky distilleries had always made rye whiskey, but when the last of the Maryland and Pennsylvania concerns closed down, only Kentucky remained. Although venerable brand names like Old Overholt, Pikesville, Rittenhouse and Mount Vernon continued to be sold, the whiskey was coming from Kentucky.

    Now the same thing is happening with brandy.

    Well, not exactly the same thing.

    Brown-Forman has long owned Korbel. Heaven Hill owns Christian Brothers and Barton owns Paul Masson. Of the four best-selling U.S.-made brandies only one, Gallo's E&J, is not closely linked to a bourbon producer. All four companies use California grapes and the distilleries are there too. Gallo and Korbel also do their aging there, Korbel in used Jack Daniel's barrels.

    Heaven Hill and Barton both ship their new-make brandy to Kentucky, enter it in used bourbon barrels there, and age it in their Kentucky warehouses. Both use warehouse locations for brandy that they prefer not to use for bourbon, specifically the lower floors of Barton's warehouses, and Heaven Hill's brick warehouses in Louisville. Most of the brandy is bottled and sold after two years of aging.

  2. #2
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    Re: Kentucky Brandy

    I have a half gallon of CB Brandy that I've had for a number of years. Lately I have been having a pour or two once and a while. I must say if it has only spent roughly two years in the barrel its damn good for what it is.

    Not long ago I bought an unaged Peruvian "dry brandy"; Don Cesar Pisco Puro. I found it undrinkable. Georgia Moon is a better tasting spirit!

  3. #3
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    Re: Kentucky Brandy

    Quote Originally Posted by cowdery View Post
    Heaven Hill's brick warehouses in Louisville.
    These are just to the east of the Bernheim distillery, right? I've wondered what was in there.

  4. #4
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    Re: Kentucky Brandy

    Yes, those were part of the old Bernheim distillery. In addition to the brandy they have some contract whiskey in them, but none of their own whiskey. They also use them for general storage. I don't know this for a fact, but I assume the previous owners removed some of the ricks when the business hit the skids in the 80s. I know that was done at Buffalo Trace. Unlike the steel clad country warehouses, your masonry warehouses are real buildings, with normal floors and such, so the ricks could be removed, the lumber sold, and the space used for other purposes. BT is now putting ricks back in, as they like everyone need more barrel aging space.

    I knew Heaven Hill was using those warehouses for brandy but I knew that couldn't take much space and so I assumed that those buildings were mostly empty, but I since have learned that they're not.

  5. #5
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    Re: Kentucky Brandy

    Once again, thank you Mr Cowdery for the interesting facts.

    Pardon my ignorance, but who in the world do you guys and gals think is the target customer for this mass produced American made brandy? I may not know a lot of people, but I sure don't know anyone who drinks any!

  6. #6
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    Re: Kentucky Brandy

    I do. but then again we love bandy in wisconsin.
    "Too much of anything is bad, but too much of good whiskey is barely enough". Mark Twain

  7. #7
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    Re: Kentucky Brandy

    Quote Originally Posted by fussychicken View Post
    Once again, thank you Mr Cowdery for the interesting facts.

    Pardon my ignorance, but who in the world do you guys and gals think is the target customer for this mass produced American made brandy? I may not know a lot of people, but I sure don't know anyone who drinks any!
    Pretty much anyone who lives in southern Wisconsin....
    John B

    "Drinking when we are not thirsty and making love at all seasons… that is all there is to distinguish us from other animals."

  8. #8
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    Re: Kentucky Brandy

    A correction to my original post:

    Brown-Forman owns neither Korbel brandy nor Korbel Champagne. Korbel Vineyards is privately owned by a guy named Gary Heck. Brown-Forman handles sales and marketing for the California Champagne line only. It used to market and sell the brandy too, but turned that business back to Heck a few years ago. Brown-Forman has no relationship to Korbel Brandy except they sell them used Jack Daniel’s barrels for their aging.

    According to Korbel Brandy's web site, "a new barrel is simply too strong in the harsher oak characteristics." It also says they char the barrels. This, however, may be a misstatement. The barrels are charred, of course, by the manufacturer before the Jack Daniel's goes in. Does Korbel char them again? Maybe, but I doubt it.

    So, all of the top four U.S.-made brandies are distilled in California from California grapes. Korbel and E&J are aged in California, Korbel in used Jack Daniel's barrels. Paul Masson and Christian Brothers are aged in Kentucky in used bourbon barrels. Paul Masson and Christian Brothers also are bottled in Kentucky.

    This business, the partial production of domestic brandy (the aging and bottling part), is in Kentucky providing jobs and tax revenue because bourbon whiskey production is located there. So, whiskey production doesn't just provide the whiskey-making jobs and revenues, it also brings other business to Kentucky, business that could be anywhere and probably would be elsewhere but for the whiskey producers.

 

 

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