What is in a bottle of Breckenridge Bourbon? Some say every drop is distilled and aged at the World's Highest Distillery in that ski resort town. Others say it is young bourbon from a Kentucky distillery, or maybe Indiana. Still others say it is both, some locally distilled liquid mixed with liquid made elsewhere.
But wait, here is a written statement attributed to Breckenridge owner Bryan Nolt in 2013. "Due to demand we function at max capacity but over deplete our Bourbon barrel inventory at times. When that happens we contract time at other distilleries to produce the identical mash bill, fermentation, and distillation process. And while I'd say there's a lot of KY tradition in our Bourbon, we've never made, bought, or contracted any Bourbon in or from KY."
Huh? That doesn't make sense. If he said that, what was he trying to say? Or was it deliberate doubletalk? The problem is you can't suddenly make bourbon when you don't have enough of your own to meet demand. That new bourbon still has to age. So unless you're contracting via time machine, that statement doesn't make sense.
He does say unequivocally that not a drop of Breckenridge Bourbon was made in Kentucky. That leaves Indiana unless the contractor was another micro-distillery. Micros don't often do contract, but some now have enough capacity (usually due to the addition of a column still) that they can, and a few have.
Maybe the contract distiller is another one in Colorado. If Breckenridge is getting its 'extra' whiskey from another Colorado distiller, there is no 5.36(d) problem.
But we just don't know. It's a mystery.
People have asked, but the answers are all over the map, even from seemingly official sources. One person says it's all local. Another says it used to be all sourced but now they're mixing in local-make, increasing the percentage as capacity allows, on the way to transitioning to all local-make. Still another person says their sales are growing so fast they'll never be able to make it all themselves.
That's not the only mystery. How old is Breckenridge Bourbon? Nobody seems to think it is more than two or three years old. It doesn't have an age statement on the label and it is supposed to have an age statement if it is less than four years old. So does that mean it is more than four years old? It would be nice to know.
The evidence against Breckenridge is circumstantial but here it is. The label does not say 'distilled by Breckenridge Distillery, Breckenridge, Colorado.' It says 'produced and bottled by Breckenridge Distillery, Breckenridge, Colorado.' 'Produced' is not a synonym for 'distilled.' You can use 'produced by' even if all you did was bottle it. The wording 'produced and bottled by' is often used by artful dodgers to make it look like they did more than they did. It's used because many consumers think words like 'made' and 'produced' mean the same thing as 'distilled,' but they don't.
Legally, the producer is the company that puts the product into distribution by selling it to a distributor. They don't really have to 'do' much of anything to legally say they 'produced' or 'made' the product.
The web site says the mash bill for Breckenridge Bourbon is 56 percent corn, 38 percent rye, and 6 percent barley. Since that is no one's standard mashbill, that is a point in favor of Breckenridge.
The label featured on the web site (pictured above) says "Special Release." Do they all say that? Is there a 'regular' release?
It costs $50 a bottle here in Chicago.
Much has been made about Caskers declaring Breckenridge Bourbon 'better than Pappy' when they did no such thing, they merely reported that Breckenridge scored one point higher than Pappy 23 at the Ultimate Spirits Challenge (USC) in New York City. If anybody declared Breckenridge Bourbon 'better than Pappy' it was the USC judges, not Caskers.
If you knew anything about the way those competitions are run, you wouldn't be impressed.
Based on all the evidence, the consensus seems to be that it is a young bourbon, some of which was made there, some elsewhere, that was cut from barrel proof (about 65% ABV) to bottling proof (43% ABV) with that precious Rocky Mountain snowmelt water. The water routine we've heard before from Tin Cup and Widow Jane.
What does Breckenridge Distillery owner Bryan Nolt say about all this? I've asked. He hasn't answered.
You can usually figure these things out but Breckenridge is a tough nut to crack. Ultimately all of this detective work is a pain in the ass. They should just tell us, damn it.