With a couple days to spare, the March issue of The Bourbon Country Reader is in the mail. There is so much going on in American whiskey these days, it's hard to make deadlines.
But in the mail it now is, Volume 15 Number 2. The main headline: "Some Micro-Distilleries That Are and Some That May Never Be." The key word there is 'may,' because I look forward to being proved wrong. After this issue went to the printer, I went to Louisville and spent time with some of the producers in question. I have nothing to retract but there is cause for at least guarded optimism in a couple of cases.
The most disturbing part of this phenomenon is not Potemkin Distilleries as such, it is the syndrome described in the headline above. In business, it's considered a best practice to under-promise and over-deliver. The premise couldn't be simpler, delight your customers instead of disappointing them. Regretfully, too many micro spirits producers do the opposite. They claim their special aging process makes their six-month bourbon taste better than Jim Beam's best. Their own distillery will open soon and they will eventually stop sourcing whiskey from Indiana and sell their own stuff exclusively. Their bourbon recipe has been in the family for 500 years. It was Al Capone's favorite.
And, yes, the micro-producers aren't the only ones who make shit up, but isn't authenticity supposed to be their raison d'être?
As an extreme example, N-th Degree Distillery, which is under construction at the Party Source retail store in Bellevue, Kentucky, has already declared conclusively that its bourbon will be the best in the world. They did this in the invitation to their groundbreaking. They'll probably be glad to know they aren't mentioned in the new Reader, but that sort of hyperbole is certainly part of the problem.
Who is in the article?
If I told you that, this wouldn't be a teaser.
In the new Reader, we also hear from MGPI, the macro-distillery behind many of the micros, about its future plans for whiskey production at Lawrenceburg, Indiana, the distillery formerly known as Lawrenceburg Distillers Indiana (LDI). The trend toward producers cheapening their legacy brands to improve profitability is also discussed.
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