5 Things You Don’t Know about MGPI, America’s most misunderstood distillery
When I requested an interview with MGP Ingredients master distiller Greg Metze, I imagined I’d be turned down to view this secretive Lawrenceburg, Indiana, distillery.
Imagine my surprise when the MGPI publicist granted my request. The full story will appear in the Spring Issue of Whisky Advocate and reveal all. In the meantime, here are five factoids to pique your palate about MGPI, formerly Lawrenceburg Distillers Indiana (LDI), formerly Pernod Ricard, formerly Seagram’s, formerly Rossville Union Distillery.
5. Distillery Disclosure: Customer’s Choice. MGPI says its contracts do not require anonymity clauses. Keeping the distillery a secret is the customer’s preference, says Dr. Don Coffey, MGPI’s VP of research and development. “We have a lot of customers who say, ‘Please don’t talk about us.’ And some put [Lawrenceburg, Ind.] right on the label,” Coffey says. “If somebody puts it on the label, that’s fair game. But, we’ve been asked by a lot of customers to not disclose; it’s just safer for us not to.” Plant manager Jim Vinoski says this non-disclosure strategy is a part of the company’s business model. “We are not marketers,” Vinoski says. “That’s their world.”
4. Sticking to History. Established in 1847 as the Rossville Union Distillery, Joseph E. Seagram and Sons Inc. purchased the facility in 1933. When Seagram’s folded in 2000, Diageo and Pernod Ricard split the beverage division, with Pernod taking the Lawrenceburg facility. Pernod sold to CL Financial in 2007 to form LDI. When publicly traded MGPI purchased the LDI group in 2011, MGPI made a strategic decision to fondly remember its Seagram’s and LDI history. “That’s our heritage,” Vinoski says. Blogs, magazines and social media still refer to it as LDI. Many publicly traded companies would use trademark lawyers to correct such errors. But, Vinoski says: “Call us Seagram’s or LDI. It doesn’t bother us.”
3. The first LDI customer was…Templeton Rye Whiskey or High West. Both came in came in around the same time, Metze says. (According to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Trade Bureau label approval records, Iowa-based Templeton received label approval two months before Utah-based High West in 2007.)
2. Only 2012 stocks are left. As soon as LDI created a website, suitors came for the whiskey. From 2007 to 2011, dozens, maybe hundreds, of new whiskey brands appeared on the market using LDI-produced whiskey. There were so many that nobody really knows how many brands the company supplies without looking at a computer. Thus, with the popularity of its rye whiskey and bourbon, MGPI’s oldest available rye or bourbon whiskey is 2012. Everything else is under contract.
1. LDI almost started its own brands. “CL Financial bought the distillery with the intention of launching their own brands,” Metze says. “We were developing some bourbon brands.” CL also purchased the Old Medley distillery (in Owensboro, Ky.) in 2007, so there were high hopes for the CL’s Angostura portfolio to add its own bourbon brands. But CL Financial collapsed in January 2009 amidst the global financial crisis and those bourbon dreams were gone. What would liquor shelves look like today if CL Financial had remained solvent?
Photos by Fred Minnick