Thursday, March 6, 2014
Where Is the Bulleit Distilling Company?
As you can see, the label for Diageo's Bulleit Bourbon says the product is "distilled, aged and bottled by the Bulleit Distilling Co." It further states that the product is "distilled by the Bulleit Distilling Co. in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky." The 2013 Kentucky Bourbon Festival directory of participating bourbons gives the address of the Bulleit Distilling Co. as P. O. Box 136, Lawrenceburg, KY 40342. It also gives a phone number of 1-866-251-7200, which is answered "Bulleit Distilling Company Customer Care Center."
In light of what was reported here on February 26, you might want to call that number and ask them for the street address of the Bulleit Distilling Company in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, so you can visit the Bulleit Distilling Company's distillery. They will tell you, of course, that they can't give out that information because, unfortunately, they are unable to offer tours.
Diageo wants to have it both ways. The "distilled, aged and bottled" statement is not required by regulators. Diageo chooses to put it there because they think it is wording the consumer wants to see. Likewise the second statement. Although they are required to put on the label a city/state in which the company has a place of business, the "distilled by" part is not required. Again, Diageo presumably likes the way it looks.
Yet Diageo continues to be secretive about where Bulleit bourbon is actually distilled, aged, and bottled. We believe it is aged at Stitzel-Weller in Louisville and bottled at Diageo's facility in Plainfield, Illinois, but Diageo won't confirm. Where is it distilled? Who knows? We know it has been distilled at Four Roses in Lawrenceburg in the past.
Diageo used to confirm that but no longer will. This sudden change is strong evidence that Four Roses is no longer selling distillate to Diageo.
This doesn't mean the label is wrong, since it reflects the truth of the whiskey in the bottle, which was distilled in 2010 or earlier. What we don't know is where it is being distilled today.
The Bulleit web site says nothing about production. It does, however, offer a new story about Augustus Bulleit, who in earlier iterations was a French brandy maker who immigrated to Kentucky, where he applied brandy-making principles to bourbon-making. In the new version he is a tavern keeper in 1830s Louisville, Kentucky, "dedicated to a single goal: the creation of a bourbon unique in flavor. After experimenting with countless varieties in small-batch trials, he finally came upon a bourbon with the character he had long sought after."
That doesn't sound like a distiller. That sounds like a rectifier. No matter, because there is no evidence that Augustus Bulleit even existed. Most property owners in Louisville in the 1830s show up in some official records. Not Augustus Bulleit. Everything about him is attributed to 'family stories.'
Comments to posts like this one often run along the lines of "what does is matter if the whiskey is good?" And the whiskey is good. It matters because Diageo obviously thinks it matters to consumers, because they put the information on the label, but while Diageo carefully stays within the letter of the law it is just as carefully hiding the product's true origins. Do you like to do business with companies that mislead you? Are you suspicious when a company won't even tell you where their products are made? Does that make you feel appreciated and respected as a customer?
Furthermore, the history matters because the bourbon industry is graced with several centuries of actual, fascinating history, some of it at the very heart of the republic's own story. Making stuff up and passing it off as history dishonors the real history and tends to confuse students of it. Again, Diageo disrespects its customers.
Unfortunately, it needs to be said again. There is no shame in being a non-distiller producer and if the actual producer won't let you reveal their identity, that's understandable too.
The shame is in not being honest about it.