Whisky Advocate

Diageo Announces Restoration Project at Stitzel-Weller Distillery

February 21st, 2014

Author - Lew BrysonWe’ve heard that Diageo intended to make the fabled Stitzel-Weller distillery the “home” of Bulleit whiskey. Bulleit’s been a very successful brand, but that’s starting to become a problem, because Bulleit fans who want to go see where it’s made are finding out that there is no Bulleit distillery. It’s a pretty poorly-kept secret that Bulleit bourbon is made at Four Roses; it’s open knowledge that Bulleit rye is made at MGP in Indiana.

But Diageo had a couple options to solve that problem, and this is one of them. Although the only operating American whiskey distillery owned by the world’s largest drinks company is George Dickel in Tennessee, Diageo also owns the Stitzel-Weller distillery, even if the place has been silent since the end of 1991. So the plan became to develop Stitzel-Weller as the Bulleit home.

Wednesday we learned that Diageo would be investing $2 million to renovate the original administrative building at the distillery, “to bring to life the history of the Stitzel-Weller Distillery through artifacts from the site’s archives; a whiskey education section; an homage to the people, land and water of Kentucky; and a celebration of the heritage, brands and people behind Diageo’s award-winning collection of American whiskeys.” That would be Bulleit and what Diageo is calling their “evolving craft whiskey portfolio,” which includes the Orphan Barrel Whiskey Project.

S-W MI_Mosaic imageDiageo plans to begin the work immediately, in order to have this first phase finished in time for Derby Day, which is when Stitzel-Weller opened, in 1935. There will be a visitor center and gift shop.

All things being equal, we’d rather see Bulleit get a distillery than a gift shop, but it’s a start. It’s a bit disturbing to hear all this talk about “craft whiskey” coming from the world’s largest drinks company (they referred to this as “another step in our support of and leadership within the American craft whiskey movement”), and we suspect the country’s craft distillers are greeting it with either gloom or hysteria.

But Bulleit has a home, and we’ll be able to walk the grounds of Stitzel-Weller again.

7 Responses to “Diageo Announces Restoration Project at Stitzel-Weller Distillery”

  1. John Hansell says:

    While we are on the subject of Stizel-Weller, I would like to add one important comment to this post. It’s actually a clarification and update.

    As some of you will remember, I blogged here back in January, 2013, that Diageo would once again distill at Stitzel-Weller. As you see by today’s post, this is not the case. Not at this time anyway. My post last year was based on information I received from a Diageo manager back in September, 2012, And I do honestly believe that this was their intention at the time.

    But, as we all know, things don’t always go as we originally plan–even if you are the largest whiskey company in the world.

    I’ll leave it at that (regardless of what I now know) because, if I have learned anything from this experience, it is to wait until I have a formal announcement from a company before blogging about it, regardless of what anyone tells me. As the saying goes, “Once bitten, twice shy.”

  2. Mr. Manhattan says:

    In terms of sales numbers, mightn’t it be more correct to say that it’s Four Roses which is being distilled at Bulleit Distillery?

    (with apologies to Jim Rutledge)

  3. Can anyone clarify what building they’re talking about when they say ‘administrative building’? So far as I know, the distillery was ‘administered’ from what they previously called the ‘office building,’ the mini-Monticello where Pappy Van Winkle’s office was, which already contains most of what they’ve described from a renovation they did three years ago, to create a facility they never opened. And ‘walk the grounds,’ Lew. Don’t count on it. They’re extremely touchy about letting anyone get close enough to the warehouses to see what’s inside.

  4. Danny Maguire says:

    What will be will be, keep us posted. But don’t hold your breath.

  5. B says:

    I’ve heard, but don’t have sources, that Four Roses was supplying 40% of its output to Diageo as part of an agreement resulting in the sale of Four Roses to Kirin. Also, Four Roses has opted out of this supply contract so it will no longer supply Diageo with any whiskey as of the end of March 2014. Bulleit is aged for several years by Diageo, so the product may remain unchanged for several years after the end of the Four Roses production deal.

  6. Lawrence says:

    zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz the whole WA team is having a nap.

    No news for the readership.


    Like the 7 dwarfs on qualudes


  7. mashbill says:

    Unless Diageo begins distilling a wheated Bourbon, or any Bourbon, at DSP-16, this is a complete non-story. Merely free advertising for the Bulleit brand, which can’t hold a candle to the quality of 4R.

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