Thursday, March 3, 2011
Diageo May Be Dissing Me.
One of their itty-bitty brands is Bulleit Bourbon, which is soon to be joined by Bulleit Rye, but you didn't hear it from me. Why? Because it appears that TBG is boycotting me, maybe just with regard to Bulleit Rye, or maybe with regard to everything from now on.
The Shanken Combine is all over it but I can't get my calls returned.
If TBG is boycotting me, I think I know why. It's because they don't want to talk about what I want to talk about, which is their source for this whiskey and their relationship to Lawrenceburg Distillers Indiana (LDI), the Angostura-owned distillery that makes and bottles this rye on Diageo's behalf. Lawrenceburg, Indiana is clearly identified on the label as the source.
It's no scandal that Diageo is buying its whiskey from someone else. Diageo hasn't made a drop of bourbon or rye whiskey in more than a decade.
No, I want somebody to talk to me about LDI because it's interesting. LDI is known-to-be or believed-to-be the source of many recent whiskey releases, all on behalf of other people, none of whom are talking about the real distillery where it was made. LDI whiskey is being sold as Templeton, High West, Harrison, Redemption, and probably others.
LDI is identified as the producer of Bulleit Rye on the TTB label approval form and, of course, it says Lawrenceburg, Indiana on the label. There is only one active distillery in Lawrenceburg, Indiana. (Lawrenceburg is near Cincinnati, by the way.)
The label also says Bulleit Rye has a 95 percent rye mashbill, which is a LDI hallmark.
LDI is owned by Angostura Holdings Ltd. Angostura and LDI are mysterious. I can't get anyone at either place to talk to me. LDI returned my call and referred me to my regular Diageo contact. I had already reached out to her. She usually is great but suddenly doesn't know who I am. (Or maybe she's on vacation.)
We do know this. Angostura is based in Trinidad and Tobago. Yes, it's the company that makes Angostura Bitters, but they're a big rum and vodka producer too for the Caribbean market. Twenty months ago, Angostura Holdings Ltd was suspended from trading on the Trinidad and Tobago Stock Exchange (TTSE) because the company had failed to submit audited financial statements for 2008 and 2009. The stock resumed trading last month. About 75 percent of Angostura is owned by the CL Financial Group, which is now under the control of the Trinidad and Tobago government as a result of the 2008 worldwide financial meltdown.
So it's understandable that they haven't been very interested in publicity, but now they're trading again, and their chairman says in the latest financials that "there is a bright future ahead for Angostura," so why won't they talk about their American business interests, which also include an active distillery in Florida and a silent one in Kentucky?
If I can get someone at TBG to talk to me, maybe I'll also ask why they're still saying Bulleit Bourbon is made at Four Roses even though the owners of Four Roses say, no, it's not.
The Four Roses Distillery is in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, and the Bulleit Bourbon label says "Distilled by the Bulleit Distilling Co., Lawrenceburg, Kentucky."
But here's the story. TBG got Four Roses in the Seagram's break-up. When TBG sold Four Roses to Kirin Brewery, the deal included a contract to supply TBG with whiskey. That was more than ten years ago and the amount Four Roses is obliged to supply has decreased in each year of the contract. The exact terms are secret but eventually that sales agreement goes away.
No one is willing to talk about this on the record but I have it from reliable sources that the amount Four Roses is supplying now is way below the amount Bulleit is selling. Similarly, I know Kirin has done chemical analysis and determined that while some of the whiskey in a typical bottle of Bulleit Bourbon was made at Four Roses, it wasn't all made there.
I also know that TBG has been buying bourbon white dog from Brown-Forman, Jim Beam and Tom Moore, in quantities amounting to millions of gallons a year, and aging it at the former Stitzel-Weller Distillery in the Louisville suburb of Shively, Kentucky, which TBG owns.
There is nothing wrong with any of this. It's all a perfectly legitimate way to do business.
What's weird is that I can't get anyone to talk about it, any of it. People are particularly interested in LDI, this major distillery (previously owned by Pernod-Ricard, briefly, and for a long time by Seagram's) that nobody knows much about. I know a few things, but it's mostly pieced together from different sources, some of them dated, most of it vague and incomplete.
There's no reason somebody can't spend 20 minutes on the phone with me or, heaven forbid, give me a tour.