Posts Tagged ‘Bulleit’

More About Diageo’s Kentucky Distillery Plans

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

Author - Fred MinnickDiageo still doesn’t have a name for its new Shelby County distillery, but the liquor giant somewhat revealed its American whiskey strategies at a public gathering at the Shelbyville Country Club on June 10.

Diageo officials said they’re investigating the possibilities of moving its Stitzel-Weller stills from Shively to the new location. These stills have not been used since the early 1990s, but produced some of the greatest bourbon ever made. Meanwhile, Diageo has tapped Vendome to build a 60-foot-tall column still, and Fluor Engineering to construct single story warehouses, which will be 27 feet tall and 55,000 square feet, with slight heat in the winter to keep the fire protection sprinklers from freezing. The heat will not influence aging, officials said.

The "Before" shot

The “Before” shot

The 300 acre, $115 million distillery will yield a projected 750,000 9-liter cases or 1.8-million proof gallons annually, but the officials were quick to point out that this volume is just an early estimate and the selected site—Benson Pike—offers growing room.

As for the upcoming master distiller, well, Tom Bulleit, founder of Bulleit Bourbon, had something to say about that. “It wouldn’t be me. I’m just the founder, just the business guy like Bill Samuels [of Maker’s Mark],” Bulleit said. “It will take two or three years just to get going. There will be a great national distiller here, a representative of Kentucky.”

Whether Diageo recruits a current master distiller from another company or pulls in George Dickel master distiller John Lunn (who has been known to be looking over Stitzel-Weller) remains to be seen. But all indications point toward this new facility being solely an American whiskey producer.

Diageo spokesperson Alix Dunn said the distillery will be used to make Bulleit and “innovative products in the pipeline.” It will most certainly not be used for distilling or aging George Dickel Tennessee Whiskey, Dunn said, adding “we can’t do that.” Diageo recently proposed a Tennessee whiskey law change that would allow the use of used barrels. Brown-Forman, the makers of Jack Daniel’s, said this was an effort to age George Dickel in Kentucky, among other things. Tennessee lawmakers said they will study the issue after the summer legislation ends. [UPDATE: the Tennessee legislature’s investigation into this matter ended abruptly last night after Lunn testified that the liquor stored in Kentucky would be blended with other spirits and not used for George Dickel.]

As for why Diageo chose to build a new distillery instead of repairing the historic Stitzel-Weller facility, Dunn said, “It made the most sense for the future to start fresh on a new site that allows for more options as needed.” It’s also worth pointing out that the closest residential area to the proposed single story warehouses is about one mile away with the surrounding areas zoned for agriculture. This puts the new facility at a significant distance from potential whiskey fungus litigants.

“We’re not right on top of other people,” Dunn said of the proximity of the distillery. “[Whiskey fungus] is not something we’re in agreement with, but it remains to be seen what the courts have to say about it.”

Tom Bulleit (left) talks with local folks at the meeting

Tom Bulleit (left) talks with local folks at the meeting

It also remains to be seen what the future holds for Bulleit. Diageo has not named the Shelby County distillery, though the founder tipped his hat to the fact he might be campaigning for it to become the Bulleit Distillery.

Bulleit bourbon has been one of the most important growth brands, especially in the cocktail culture, and owns the wells in core markets like San Francisco. Bulleit Bourbon sold 600,000 cases last year. Bulleit says his immediate goals for the brand is to roll out a private barrel selection program this fall at Stitzel-Weller, where Bulleit bourbon and rye are currently aged, as well as at two other locations. Neither he nor the other Diageo officials knew exactly how much Bulleit would be aged at the new location, saying there are many steps left to be taken.

The Diageo facility has received the support of the Kentucky governor as well as local and county politicians. A public hearing will be held on June 17 at 6:30 pm in Shelbyville.

At the June 10 gathering, during the first two hours, nobody opposed the distillery. In fact, most locals seemed incredibly enthused, including the Radcliff Farm owners who grow corn for one of Diageo’s competitors. (They didn’t say who.) “It’s going into a beautiful area, very peaceful,” said Jim Tafel, the farm owner. “They’ll have nice neighbors.”

Diageo Announces Restoration Project at Stitzel-Weller Distillery

Friday, 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.

My Informal Thoughts on New Whiskies (Part 2)

Monday, October 15th, 2012

Here’s the second half of my post that began on October 5th (with a WhiskyFest summary in between).

So, about the new Ardbeg Galileo. Interesting stuff, this. Here’s my take on it. Ardbeg, for most people is a “mood” whisky to begin with, meaning that you have to be in the right mood for it. (I know, there are some of you out there who could drink Ardbeg all day long, including with your sausages at breakfast.) The fact that Galileo contains some Ardbeg matured in Marsala wine casks makes it even that much more of a mood whisky. So much to the point where I am currently struggling to find a mood where I would prefer Galileo to even another Ardbeg. Let’s face it. There have been so many great Ardbeg releases that the bar is set pretty high. Maybe too high for Galileo. And I am just not sure if the wine flavors play well with the other more traditional Ardbeg notes. This is a “try before you buy” whisky.

And while I’m still scratching my head a little, I might as well bring up Jack Daniel’s Unaged Rye. Okay, I know that many of the craft distillers have come out with essentially unaged whiskeys, and yes, some of the big boys have released some “white” whiskeys too. I also appreciate that many talented mixologists have created some interesting cocktails with unaged whiskeys. Personally, I would prefer to wait another several years or so after this whiskey has aged and mellowed out a little.

Speaking of aged Tennessee whiskeys, there’s going to be a new George Dickel Rye ($25). All the whiskey in this new bottling is at least 5 years old, and for this reason alone I am enjoying it more than Jack Daniel’s Unaged Rye. It’s made from 95% rye, like many other rye whiskeys on the market, including the another Diageo-owned bourbon label, Bulleit Rye. (Some Whisky Advocate readers out there might have a pretty good idea where these 95% rye whiskeys are sourced, because we’ve written about it recently.)

I thought it quite a coincidence that Jack Daniel’s Unaged Rye was introduced just days before George Dickel announced their new rye. A wry rye, perhaps? :)

On to another product which, at this time, is more of a curiosity now but, like Jack Daniel’s Unaged Rye, could blossom into a very nice whisky. I have a sample of the new Glen Moray Peated Spirit (Batch #1). It a 200 ml sample, hand-bottled, from a single cask at barrel proof (60.6%). It’s not old enough (3 years minimum) to be called whisky, but it shows a lot of promise. Time will tell.

Two new whiskies I like very much, and we don’t have to wait another 5 years to drink them are from Compass Box. They are the Great King Street New York Blend and the most recent version of Flaming Heart. The NY Blend of Great King street is bolder than the original GKS: it’s maltier and smokier. John Glaser did a great job matching the personality of the whisky with the great city of New York. And the Flaming Heart kicks ass, as always. Well done John.

Finally, I’d like to make a quick mention of another new whisky I am enjoying. It’s the Glenfiddich Maltmaster’s Edition. It’s matured in bourbon casks and then finished in sherry casks. Compared to, say, the standard 12 year old bottling, this one is richer, fruitier and spicier. This whisky is for those of you out there who keep telling me that Glenfiddich 12 year old is just not interesting enough for you. ($80)



Review: Bulleit Rye Whiskey

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

Bulleit Rye Whiskey, 45%, $28

No age statement, but it includes 4 to 7 year old whiskeys. The mashbill is 95% rye — much higher than most standard rye whiskeys out there. It’s brisk, vibrant, and loaded with spice (crisp mint, warming cinnamon, cocoa, hint of anise). Fruit — ripe nectarine, apricot, golden raisin — drizzled with maple syrup. Dry oak rounds out the finish. Bold enough for cocktails. Mature enough to drink neat (or on the rocks).

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 85