|Master Distiller Greg Metze|
Asked about the naming of a successor, an MGP spokesperson said this: “MGP has developed a solid base of talent, including a team of other master distillers and experts within the company who have greatly benefited from Greg’s many years of mentoring. We will be making an announcement in the future about specific personnel moves.”
Metze spent all 38 years at the Lawrenceburg, Indiana, distillery which makes whiskey, vodka, and gin. He was named a master distiller in 2000. As he said in a 2013 company press release, “As in my case in Lawrenceburg, this position has always been achieved through on-the-job training and a lengthy internship under a master distiller mentor. I had the privilege of studying under Larry Ebersold, who was a master distiller here for 20 years. Learning all aspects of the facility, equipment, processes and quality control measures is extremely important since making quality spirits and whiskey is an art and science that depends on this knowledge. Additionally, although a background in chemical engineering is not an absolute requirement, it is extremely beneficial.”
Metze has been an MGP employee only since 2011, when MGP bought the distillery then known as LDI from its owners, CL Financial. CL bought it in 2007 through its Angostura subsidiary, which also bought the shuttered Medley Distillery in Owensboro, Kentucky. CL Financial collapsed during the 2008 worldwide financial crises and LDI was on its last legs when MGP bought it. Industry sources say MGP bought the whole distillery for just the value of its inventory.
MGP’s timing could not have been better because now the distillery is thriving.
Before Angostura and CL, Metze was an employee of Pernod Ricard, which acquired the distillery as part of the Seagrams break-up in 2000. Pernod never really wanted the facility and began to shop it almost immediately. In 2006 it announced that if the plant could not be sold by 2008, it would be closed.
Originally, Metze was a Seagrams employee. Seagrams bought the Lawrenceburg distillery during Prohibition and rebuilt it substantially after repeal. All of the buildings still bear the Seagrams name in gigantic letters and most locals still call it by that name. Seagrams used it to make a variety of products, primarily Seagrams Seven Crown American Blended Whiskey and Seagrams Gin. Pernod began the practice of selling its whiskeys, including its now highly regarded 95% rye, on the open market in about 2004. Some of the first customers, such as High West in Utah, learned about the whiskey’s availability through Jim Rutledge at Four Roses, himself a long time Seagrams master distiller.
In the post-Prohibition era, Seagrams always had a reputation for producing first rate distillers because of its exceptional distiller training program. In addition to Metze, Ebersold, and Rutledge other well-known graduates of the Seagrams program include Ova Haney, David Scheurich, and Glenn Glaser.
According to Metze (in that 2013 release), the master distiller monitors production schedules, product quality and multiple steps in the production process including yeast propagation. Other day-to-day tasks involve making sure all standard operating procedures are followed and that all product specifications and organoleptic standards are met. There is considerable interaction with distillery operators and other internal colleagues to provide assistance and expertise in coordinating logistical issues.
“Many customers rely on the expertise of the master distiller to ensure the creation of products that are superior and unique to others in the market,” said Metze. “Producing what are considered to be among the finest spirits and whiskeys in the world is very gratifying. Customer satisfaction is the purest form of a compliment. As such, I take great pride in being able to utilize my background and experience to directly assist in delivering the results customers want. While challenging at times, solving equipment and process issues can also be uplifting experiences. Additionally, being able to perform an active role in developing unique and innovative techniques, distilling methods and mash bills is extremely rewarding.”