About a year ago, after MGP bought the former Seagram's Distillery in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, whispering began that they were going to exit the bulk whiskey business and concentrate on contract distilling exclusively.
The distinction is that with bulk sales, the customer purchases aged whiskey that is ready to sell. With contract, you pay the distillery to distill and make whiskey on your behalf, which won't be ready to sell for several years. They're two very different business models.
"There is no foundation whatsoever to any rumors or speculation that MGP is withdrawing from the bulk whiskey market," says David Dykstra, MGP's Vice President of Alcohol Sales & Marketing. "We are investing heavily in rebuilding the whiskey stocks that were depleted under prior ownership of the facility. MGP intends to be in the bulk whiskey market for both the near term and longer term."
If anything, they're going in deeper. "MGP is developing new mash bill formulations of rye, wheat and other grains that we expect to introduce to the marketplace in the coming years, as product innovation is a key component of our efforts to help customers continue to grow their distinctive brands."
Bulk whiskey from that distillery has been responsible for such brands as Templeton Rye, Smooth Ambler Very Old Scout Bourbon and Rye, High West Rendezvous Rye, Redemption Bourbon and Rye, Wm. H. Harrison bourbon, Chattanooga whiskey, and a host of others.
No doubt those micro-producers are relieved to hear what MGP intends, but bulk whiskey pickings will be slim for the next few years, especially for well-aged whiskey because the previous owner laid down very little near the end.
Many bourbon enthusiasts have wondered if MGP plans to develop and market its own whiskey brands, or continue exclusively as a commodity producer. Lawrenceburg is the only pure commodity whiskey producer in the U.S.
"We have no plans at this time to develop or purchase any branded whiskeys or other products," says Dykstra. "However, we remain open to evaluating market opportunities if any such possibilities should warrant our interest."
And what about tours? There have been distilleries on that site since about 1860, though most of what is there now was built by Seagram's in the 1930s. "MGP plans to begin tours at some point over the next 18 months," says Dykstra. "We currently are working on details to ensure the tours provide a highly enjoyable, as well as educational, experience for those who visit our Lawrenceburg facility."
One huge change has already taken effect, the new owners answer questions.