In bourbon country, it's rare for a distillery to launch a new recipe, so to launch six at once--as MGP will do this month--is unprecedented. How do you do it? Here is an explanation from Don Coffey, Ph.D., MGP’s Vice President of Research, Development and Innovation.
"MGP’s development of the new mash bills was initiated in response to customer interest combined with our desire to provide a broader selection of specially-made premium whiskeys and bourbons," said Dr. Coffey. The announcement earlier this week, that MGP will begin to make six new mash bills at its Lawrenceburg, Indiana, distillery, is the first new products announcement since MGP bought the distillery in 2011. "This expanded portfolio of product offerings enables our customers to further distinguish their brands while satisfying a growing diversity of consumer preferences and tastes," said Coffey.
The development phase required planning and teamwork among various personnel and departments, including research, development and innovation, sales and marketing, operations, sourcing and logistics, and the master distiller in Lawrenceburg, Greg Metze.
"In preparation for actual production runs, and to make certain the mash bills possessed the distinct qualities being sought, each was piloted and thoroughly checked in a laboratory setting," Dr. Coffey explained.
"Scale-ups are planned to occur throughout April. However, production of the six mash bill additions will not be launched simultaneously, but are scheduled at different intervals during the month."
They have already started, with the new rye whiskey made from 51% rye and 49% barley malt.
"At this time, precise dates and the order of preference have not been assigned to production scale-ups for the remaining five mash bill formulations," said Coffey. "To make this determination requires that a number of variables, including maintaining optimum production scheduling efficiencies for all of our products, undergo thorough consideration so as not to disrupt operations as a whole, as well as our ability to effectively and consistently supply ongoing customer needs."
MGP, which sells no brands of its own, makes distilled spirits for a wide range of customers, from Diageo (the world's largest drinks company) to many of today's new micro-producers. In addition to whiskey, MGP is the largest gin producer in the U.S., and also makes vodka.
And here's a note about MGP of Indiana's two current bourbons, which they universally refer to as "25% bourbon" and "40% bourbon." Turns out, that's not the rye percentage, it's the total percentage of small grains, i.e., the percentage of the mash bill that's not corn. The mashbill for the 25% bourbon is 75/21/4 and the mashbill for the 40% bourbon is 60/36/4. I regret any confusion this may have caused and I hope they do too. (It's a weird way to state it.)