Here we go again.
Another Potemkin Craft Distillery has appeared with the usual load of misleading or flat-out-false claims.
This one is called W. H. Harrison Indiana Straight Bourbon Whiskey, from a new company called Tipton Spirits. The whiskey debuted about two weeks ago. They have a fancy new web site, Facebook page, etc.
What they don't have, so far as I can tell, is a distillery. They don't claim to, but look at the web site and the rest and see if it doesn't seem like they want to give you the impression they're a little distillery tucked away in some corner of rural Indiana.
The actual maker is probably Lawrenceburg Distillers Indiana (LDI), a bulk producer in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, near Cincinnati. LDI is the source (usually undisclosed) of whiskeys sold by High West, Templeton and other Potemkins.
LDI was owned and operated by Seagram's for about 70 years. The plant made whiskey and other spirits for various Seagram's brands. Pernod got it in 2001 when Seagram's was broken up. Angostura, the present owner, bought it in 2007. They strictly sell in bulk and are just about the only spot market source for aged whiskey these days. They are surely the only one in Indiana.
So by all appearances, Tipton is just a marketing company. They bought existing bulk whiskey from a bulk whiskey producer, invented a name, designed a package and contracted with someone to bottle it for them. There is nothing wrong with that, but they are working overtime to create buzz about a 'new' and seemingly 'special' whiskey that is really nothing special at all. It is an 80 proof bourbon that is less than four years old and priced at around $30. Jim Beam, an 80 proof bourbon that is more than four years old goes for less than $20, and there are some lesser known fully-aged Kentucky bourbons that sell for $10-$12.
I admire the chutzpah, but you deserve to know what's really going on here. Potemkins depend on people not looking past the pretty facades.
Their big claim is that Harrison bourbon is "the first Indiana Bourbon since Prohibition." Not so. There were four distilleries making bourbon just in the Greendale/Lawrenceburg area right after Prohibition ended. One closed not long after it opened. Two more were merged by Schenley to make the company's popular Old Quaker bourbon. They made Indiana bourbon until the late 1980s.
The fourth, previously known as Rossville Union, was acquired near the end of Prohibition by Canada's Joseph E. Seagram & Sons, which expanded it into one of the largest distilleries in the U.S. Eventually they shifted a large part of their production to neutral spirits, primarily used for Seagram's Gin, but they also kept and operated a small whiskey distillery. That's today's LDI. They have made an ocean of bourbon over the years.
There was also the Park and Tilford Distillery in Tell City, Indiana. It operated from the end of Prohibition until the late 1960s. The distillers there were members of the Beam family. They made lots of Indiana bourbon too.
But no one called it 'Indiana Straight Bourbon Whiskey." If what Tipton means is that Harrison is the first bourbon made in Indiana since Prohibition to admit it, then that may be true. From the 30s through the 60s, bourbon was made in many states other than Kentucky, not just Indiana but also Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Missouri, and probably a few others. The Kentucky producers did a good job of convincing people that Kentucky bourbon was superior and when the industry contracted in the 70s and 80s, most (though not all) of the non-Kentucky producers shut down.
Harrison also brags about its Indiana corn. That's for real Most of the corn in Kentucky bourbon is from Indiana too and LDI is unique in being the only American whiskey distillery that owns its own grain wholesaler, in Rushville, Indiana. That's LDI, though, not Tipton/Harrison.
Less credible is their claim that "much of the oak used to make bourbon barrels is actually grown in Indiana." They made that up. Neither ISC nor Brown-Forman sources any significant amount of timber from Indiana and they represent about 99% of all whiskey barrels made in the USA, so no, this whiskey was not aged in Indiana oak.
There is both a Harrison Bourbon web site and a Tipton Spirits web site but neither one tells you very much. The Tipton site says the company is made up of people who used to work for the big liquor companies but it doesn't name a single name or even give an address of where the company is located.
As they say in Texas, all hat, no cattle.
It would be neat if a company like this took the opportunity to brag on LDI, the actual producer. Or found something else that is actually true to brag about. I worked in marketing and advertising for many years and always believed the objective was to tell the truth about the product in the most flattering way possible. But that's hard work. It's easier to just make stuff up.