Last summer I was sitting in one of my regular drinking establishments enjoying a quality brewed beverage when I spied a bottle of whiskey on the shelf behind the bar that I didn't recognize. The bartender fetched it over for me and said, “It's bourbon from Harrison County.” Really, how cool! A quick glance at the label quickly establish the untruth of that statement. But where was Lawrenceburg, Indiana I wondered?
Over the next several months I experience exasperation several more times as other customers noticed the whiskey and were also misinformed about its origin. I politely corrected the error a couple of times and then I just gave up. What was the point really? Ignorance is bliss.
Last month I was in a chain liquor store in French Lick checking out their large selection of quality bourbons, Scotches, and other whiskies. The clerk seemed fairly knowledgable and when she told me that the owner's favorite was a new bourbon named Spring Mill my interest was piqued. She said it was from Indianapolis. When I got home I decided to check it out.
At first it seemed that Heartland Distillers founded in 2008 and located in Indianapolis was indeed the producer. The web site http://www.heartlanddistillers.com/Brands/Indiana+Bourbon.html
links you a separate page that announced that Spring Mill Bourbon is Produced and bottled by Colglazier & Hobson Distilling Company, Indianapolis, IN. The web site states “The 90 proof bourbon is aged for four years in new charred oak barrels, decanted, and then transferred to a second set of new charred oak, delivering unique sweet oak and ripe fruit flavors on the palate, with a clean, spicy finish.
While it doesn't say how long the whiskey was aged in the second set of barrels, since the company was only founded in 2008, it would seem impossible for this company to have distilled this product and aged it for more than four years.
A further search for independent reviews established that this whiskey also originated at the Lawrenceburg Distiller, Indiana facility (LDI). Now it suddenly seemed not so special to me. This bulk distilling thing has apparently been going on forever and while there is no negative aspect of the practice that I'm aware of, it does seem misleading to me for these reseller's, who also claim to be distillers themselves, to claim the whiskey as being produced by themselves. Finished and bottled would seem more accurate.
The event that finally got under my skin enough to prompt this post was an argument I had with a friend after we left Manny and Merl on Friday. My friend had asked to see yet another bottle of unfamiliar whiskey. It was called Beer Barrel Bourbon and it carried a label from the well-known beer brewer New Holland. The minute I saw it's label I predicted it was an LDI product however, the bar tender insisted it was from Michigan. I asked her to bring it over and I showed her where it said on the bottle that it was distilled in Indiana and bottled in Michigan. This seemed clear enough.
Later my friend, who apparently had not been paying attention when I clarified the issue for the bar tender, started calling me out for being wrong about the origin of the bourbon. I told him he was full of fecal matter and if he was dumb enough to drink bourbon aged in beer barrels then he deserved to stay blissfully ignorant. The rest of us don't have to be.
Whiskey blogs have been discussing this issue for some time now. Below are a couple of links that describe LDI (now MGPI/LDI) at length as well as at least a partial list of products they produce. Some of these products are widely recognized for their quality. I have a few of them myself. I will continue to enjoy them – just not so blissfully.http://chuckcowdery.blogspot.com/2012/12/more-news-about-that-distillery-in.htmlhttp://sourmashed.com/american-whiskey-database/mpg-ingredients-aka-lawrenceburgdistillers-indiana/Lawrenceburg Distillers Indiana is the dirty secret of the American whiskey establishment. For every 30 new craft distilleries that open, there is an operation like Lawrenceburg Distillers Indiana. Now owned by MPG Ingredients, LDI produces a huge amount of whiskeys that are then labeled and sold under an enormous amounts of other brands. Some of these are mass market efforts like Seagram’s Whiskey. Others are seemingly artisan small batch products like Templeton Rye and Smooth Ambler Old Scout Bourbon that are instead off a distillery assembly line and are nothing more than a marketing endeavour.
4 Spirits Bourbon (4 Spirits)
Backbone Bourbon (Crossroads Vitners)
Big Ass Bourbon (Strong Spirits)
Big Bottom Bourbon (Big Bottom)
Bulleit Rye (Diageo)
1816 Reserve (Chatanooga Whiskey Co.)
Cougar Rye (Foster’s)
Filibuster Bourbon (M.S. Trading LP)
Filibuster Rye (M.S. Trading LP)
George Dickel Rye (George Dickel)
High Liquors Bourbon(High Liquors)
High Liquors Rye (High Liquors)
High West Whiskey
James E. Pepper 1776 Rye (James E. Pepper)
Redemption Rye (Dynamic Beverages)
Redemption Bourbon (Dynamic Beverages)
Riverboat Rye (Dynamic Beverages)
Seagram’s 7 Blended Whiskey (Diageo)
Smooth Ambler Old Scout Bourbon (Smooth Ambler)
Smooth Ambler Old Scout Rye (Smooth Ambler)
Spring Mill Bourbon
Templeton Rye (Templeton)
Temptation Bourbon (Dynamic Beverages)
WH Harrison Bourbon