Monday, March 10, 2014
Where Is the Michter's Distillery?
Bulleit Distilling Company, which we hunted for last Thursday, is hardly the only phantom bourbon distillery. The Old Evan Williams Distillery doesn't exist either, except as an assumed business name for Heaven Hill.
Each phantom distillery is different. In the case of Evan Williams, we know exactly where each phase of the production process takes place despite the fanciful name. We don't know that with Bulleit Bourbon. That's the difference.
Which brings us to Michter's. Like Bulleit, they are a non-distiller producer (NDP). The identity of their distiller or distillers is a secret, at the insistence of said distiller or distillers, which we can't confirm because we don't know who they are. NDPs either buy whiskey when it's distilled (contract), which gives them the opportunity to customize it, or they buy it fully aged and ready to sell (bulk). Michter's gets most of its whiskey via contract, although its older expressions are bulk.
Lots of bloggers write about Michter's. Two I can point you to are The Coppered Tot and What Tastes Good. They recently received virtually the same presentation from Michter's that I did. I also toured Michter's work-in-progress facility in Shively, Kentucky. We may not know where Michter's is distilled or aged, but we know where it is dumped, processed, and bottled. That is now taking place in Shively.
Michter's has appeared in this space before, most notably in 2012 when Wine Enthusiast Magazine named them Distiller of the Year. Then as now, Michter's is not a distiller. As noted above, Michter's gets most of its whiskey via contract.
With contract distilling, an NDP has significantly more control than when buying bulk product but that doesn't make them a distiller. The 'cooking in someone else's kitchen' metaphor is valid to a point but a distiller has a distillery at which it mashes, ferments, and distills alcohol. An NDP does not. Calling someone an NDP is not derogatory, it's a statement of fact. Distiller/Non-Distiller is a clear, unambiguous, and useful distinction. Let's not screw with it.
If you want to know more about Michter's, "Michter's: From Way Back When, to Not Long Ago and Today" is one of the front page stories in the new issue of The Bourbon Country Reader.
Happily, a subscription to The Bourbon Country Reader is still just $20 per year (six issues) for addresses in the USA, $25 for everyone else. The Bourbon Country Reader is always independent and idiosyncratic and has no distillery affiliation. It is published six times a year, or thereabouts.
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