Behind the misleading claims fueling America’s bourbon boom – The Empire of MGP

Drawn to the “little batch” or “handmade” bourbon at your alcohol shop? Turns out, those phrases could not imply much.

Widow Jane’s front runner 10-year-old straight bourbon is an usual view in hip Brooklyn bars and also, according to the business, it can currently be found in more than 30 states and also 15 nations. Component of its appeal can be attributed to its supposedly artisanal New York qualifications: “The pure, special waters of the Widow Jane Mine are what distill our craftsmen spirits in Red Hook, Brooklyn,” its site proclaims.

There’s just one problem with that said claim– it isn’t specifically true.

Widow Jane does not actually distill its most widely known item in all. Rather, they acquire it wholesale from a distiller in Kentucky. And the unique water they highlight on every container, in many interviews and on all their advertising materials– it doesn’t originate from the actual Widow Jane Mine itself, just from nearby.

Widow Jane is not the only one on either matter. Several well-known and artisan American whiskey brand names resource their product from a large wholesale distillery or take innovative liberties in how they market their item.

” A shady company”

In just the last 10 years, the variety of craft distilleries in this country has actually ballooned from around 100 to greater than 1,400. That growth is a product of customer demand, yet it’s likewise due to the easing of state distillation legislations and also the accessibility of sourced scotch from distributors like MGP in Lawrenceburg, Indiana.

Bulleit “Frontier” Bourbon, as an example, is owned by multinational spirits conglomerate Diageo. For many years, it sourced much of its bourbon and also rye from MGP, a wholesale distiller. Just after the brand name came to be developed did Diageo open up a distillery in Kentucky, where the item has actually been made considering that 2016.

Templeton Rye– marketed as Al Capone’s favored bourbon as well as pleased product of Templeton, Iowa– is also distilled by MGP. Tincup Whiskey, a self-described “mountain scotch” brimming with commercials invoking a frontiersman image and Rocky Mountain values, is primarily MGP, also.

Those brands aren’t alone in their Indiana provenance. Also super-premium brands like High West as well as Whistle Pig have actually sourced from MGP at some time in their corresponding histories. And the listing goes on.

” In the spirits service, traditionally, there’s just a lot of shadiness.”

COLIN SPOELMAN, KINGS COUNTY DISTILLERY
However, unless you’re well-versed in the industry’s lingo, it can be “very difficult to determine that’s in fact distilling their own scotch,” according to Colin Spoelman, founder and also master distiller of Kings Region Distillery, which distills all its own spirits in Brooklyn, New York City.

Terms like “little batch,” “craft,” and also “hand-crafted” have actually no established lawful meaning– they’re simply marketing terms. Also, brand names are cost-free to announce “made by,” “created by” or “bottled by” on their tag, even if they didn’t boil down the actual spirit that remains in the bottle.

” In the spirits organisation, traditionally, there’s just a great deal of shadiness,” Spoelman concluded. “It’s just an unethical service.”

The largest bourbon brand name you have actually never become aware of

MGP isn’t a home name in bourbon, yet it’s well known among industry insiders as well as aficionados. With distilling operations headquartered in the old Seagram’s Distillery in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, MGP is one of the largest bourbon sourcers in the industry.

Sourcing scotch, or “barrel trading” as it’s been called traditionally, is a core company method to the spirits sector. Brands buy wholesale liquid to meet unexpected demand, bolster supply chain shortages, or sell excess supply when a distiller makes too much in a provided year, for instance.

Kings County Distillery shows the modification in color as spirits age gradually longer in charred oak barrels.
Yet sourcing plays a specifically huge function with bourbon, due to the fact that unlike clear spirits like vodka or gin, bourbon has to age for years before it makes it to market. So a production problem or an inaccurate market projection made four or even more years back doesn’t pertain to fruition until it’s far too late to treat it without aid.

That’s where MGP is available in, as an example. The business does not launch its result openly, so it’s hard to validate, however its CEO Gus Griffin stated MGP is “one of the five largest bourbon manufacturers. … We supply over a million instances of bourbon a year to the sector.”

So why do so few people understand MGP’s name?

For one, it maintains rigorous discretion agreements with all of its customers; the purchasing brand name just needs to reveal MGP as its source if it wishes to– an option lots of decrease.

Furthermore, classifying laws only call for that the bottler listing in which state the liquid was distilled– conveniently performed in tiny print on the back of the container.

Widow Jane does simply that: Its 10-year-old bourbon tag proclaims “Kentucky Bourbon” on the back in tiny letters. That indicates it’s not from MGP in Indiana, but there’s no other way to know which distillery in Kentucky made it unless Widow Jane launches that details.

When backstory hemorrhages into myth

In an ever-crowded market, it can be difficult for brand names to identify themselves on their product alone– particularly if they’re sourcing from a massive, common distributor like MGP. Yet it’s something to construct a brand name identification with an archetype in mind, it’s an additional to stretch the fact or outright deceive.

Templeton Rye, as an example, cleared up a class-action claim in 2015 for $2.5 million, accepting “currently feature words ‘Distilled in Indiana’ on the back and get rid of words ‘Little Batch’ as well as ‘Restriction Period Recipe’ from the front” after customers sued for “misleading advertising and marketing.”

At MGP’s distillery, huge rackhouses hold tens of thousands of whiskey barrels as the spirits age into maturity.
Widow Jane advertises its link to the rich background of the New York concrete market, the community of Rosendale and the Widow Jane mine therein. On its web site, it states, “In 1970, the last Rosendale limestone mine folded. Its owner, A.J. Snyder, was as difficult as the product he quarried and was called a cruel employer and also an even crueler partner. On the other hand his spouse, Jane, was a sign in the Rosendale community and precious by all for her generosity and pure spirit. Thus when Snyder passed, the Rosendale Limestone Mine became understood to all as the Widow Jane Mine.”

The Century Residence Historic Society has the Snyder estate and also the Widow Jane Mine. Its present president, Henry Lowengard, and also the Rosendale Collection archivist, claimed that telling of the tale is traditionally incorrect. Of both A.J. Snyders that owned the mine, neither were ever before married to a lady named Jane.

And also despite Clark claiming they have a “tap” right into the Widow Jane Mine to extract water, Lowengard disputed that as well: “The resource of their water, Turco Brothers’ mine, is still not attached to the water of the Widow Jane Mine, as well as we have no link to Widow Jane Whiskey.” An agent of Turcos Brothers water also validated Lowengard’s declaration, saying Turcos doesn’t have accessibility to the Widow Jane mine itself.

Clark disputed that characterization, claiming that the business instead has access to a “shut part” of the mine, as opposed to what she says is the open area of the mine under the purview of the historic culture. She additionally claimed Widow Jane has a supportive connection with the company, an assertion that Lowengard claimed is not the situation.

The residential or commercial properties are close in closeness, nonetheless, so it’s secure to assume Widow Jane is sourcing limestone-rich mineral water from Rosendale, simply not from the name mine as advertised.

When it comes to generating the well-known 10-year-old straight bourbon, it’s easy to understand why Widow Jane resources that– opened in 2012, the distillery isn’t old adequate to generate a 10-year varietal.

To lots of consumers, sourcing and tales could not matter. “There’s people that are happy to purchase whiskey that tastes actually, really good. A great deal of these whiskies that are being sourced are simply excellent bourbon,” stated Jeffery Lindenmuth, executive editor of Whisky Supporter Publication.

He included that, on the various other hand, those looking for neighborhood products may be avoided by misleading advertising.

” Everything relies on your motivations,” Lindenmuth stated. “The individuals that we see that have produced excellent whiskey as well as been actually clear and claimed that they have actually sourced it … they have actually done actually well. I believe it’s not the criminal activity, it’s the cover-up.”