Friday, June 9, 2017

MGP Ingredients Announces the Re-Launch of George Remus Bourbon



A lot has been written about MGP Ingredients, a company that makes commodity whiskey at a distillery in Lawrenceburg, Indiana. The company is primarily a neutral spirits distiller. It has been mentioned here a few times.

MGP is changing, gradually and not always smoothly, but profoundly. They are cautiously adding a branded products component to their commodity offering.

That is what makes their re-launch of George Remus Bourbon, announced this week, significant. George Remus Bourbon is a tiny Cincinnati-area brand that MGP acquired last year, not long after it was launched. That product used whiskey made at MGP's Lawrenceburg, Indiana distillery. The new version, according to the company, is a different formulation ("a smoother, more complex whiskey") in a new package.

Liquor brands that celebrate criminals (e.g., Popcorn Sutton, Clyde May) are inherently problematic, considering the fraught history of alcohol in both legal and illegal forms. The real George Remus was a very successful bootlegger at the beginning of Prohibition, but is that any reason to buy his namesake whiskey? Guys like Remus are only in it for the money, after all, so his standards were not very high. If it had alcohol in it, that was good enough for him.

But he was a colorful character. If you want to know more, check out William Cook's biography, George Remus, King of the Bootleggers

"We’re whiskey lovers and are very proud to offer this updated styling of George Remus Bourbon," says Andrew Mansinne, Vice President of Brands, MGP Ingredients. He is a recent hire in a brand new job. Til American Wheat Vodka is MGP's other branded product.

"This is a complex bourbon whiskey that showcases our signature, high-rye profile and the talent of our distillation team, who have artfully crafted George Remus Bourbon into a beautiful and bold spirit inspired by George Remus’ rebellious and entrepreneurial character," says Mansinne.

Available this summer in select markets (Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Minnesota), George Remus Bourbon is made at "MGP’s historic, 170-year-old distillery in Lawrenceburg, Indiana." It is good to see them featuring the "historic, 170-year-old distillery," an attribute that will have resonance long after the novelty of the brand's name fades.

Suggested retail is $44.99 for a 750 ml bottle.

6/13/17: I received this image of the new package from MGP's PR firm. It's an improvement.

25 comments:

Wade said...

Not Straight? pass

Mat Garretson said...

Happy to be MGP's wholesaler here in MN. Having spent time there as a distillery partner, it's nice to work with them again!

Anonymous said...

Wade, just curious. Why does it not being straight turn you off? Not looking for a debate, I'm just curious what enters the minds of consumers when they don't see that word. Thanks for any insight.

Bob Page - Charlotte, North Carolina said...

It feels tone deaf for MGP to celebrate a thug as "rebellious and entrepreneurial" who chased down his ex-wife, shoved a pistol in her stomach in a Cincinnati park, and shot her to death in front of their daughter. I'm glad you raise the issue in your post, and "inherently problematic" is phrasing it diplomatically.

Chuck Cowdery said...

WRT 'straight,' what is pictured above is the old label, because the crack PR team at MGP didn't provide the new one. According to the PR release, the new version is straight bourbon whiskey.

lylee loper said...

I can't help but wonder who is in charge of marketing at MGP and why they picked this brand to use as a "commodity offering" with this ridiculous name.
That being said, I enjoy their bourbon. I'll try it.

Erik Fish said...

I guess when it gets too tedious to deal with real injustice in the world, one can always work up a righteous indignation about some silly marketing idea.

Yes, Remus was both a "colorful character" in whiskey history and a murderer (although Imogene is just about the most difficult female murder victim in history to feel sympathy for). While we're at it, why don't we take the NPS to task for facilitating the sale of George Washington Rye, which was originally distilled by slaves? Or how about Luxco still using the Rebel Yell label, which started as a most cynical marketing play on Southern identity just when it felt threatened by the nascent civil rights movement?

Of course, one could also just relax and realize that to 99% of whiskey drinkers the name George Remus will mean as much as Evan Williams and Elijah Craig, namely nothing but a brand label.

Bob Page - Charlotte, North Carolina said...

It is silly marketing indeed.

Anonymous said...

They could just have well called it # 67. After the 67th fake story about a fake master's secret recipe. Whch in this case is just more commodity bourbon being blended from thousands of gallons of the same old stock that's been sitting out back for X years. Or did they really distill this "old hound dog" or whatever it's absurd name is, 4+ years ago, and wait until now to release this masterpiece? How big of a rube would you have to be to spend over $18- for this same only crap?

Sam Komlenic said...

Anon above,at least it's a long-established distillery that's making the product, and they have access to a number of mashbills with which to work.

Yes, it is the same old stuff, but at least, in this case, it's THEIR stuff.

Quintilian B. Nasty said...

45 bucks is pretty pricey for a bourbon that probably isn't aged very long.

Anonymous said...

Yes it is their stuff, and if I wanted to be just like 1/2 of the other DSP's in the country and 75% of the brands, I would buy their stuff from them at $2.50 a bottle like everyone else, and make up my own fake story and brand. While that might not sound to good to the rubes that are overpaying for this fake craft, it's the nature of the beast when you try to be all things to all people.

Brian (AKA The Dean) said...

I have to agree the branding is a bit tone deaf. But that aside, I'm not sure I understand the vitriol toward MGP.

Yes, MGP makes a lot of commodity whiskey (bourbon and rye). They make several different mash bills and age the whiskey to many ages. (They also do a fair share of contract distilling, if I'm not mistaken.) Generally, I find their product to be quite good. Actually as good as (or better than) most of the true "craft" bourbons I've tried, and comparable to the Kentucky big boys, for the most part. It isn't MGP who is at fault for most of the shady issue many have with the rebranded MGP whiskey--it's the resellers, who try to pass it off as their own whiskey.

What MGP is doing here seems very appropriate, to me. It seems to me they are trying to show off just how good their whiskey can be, with proper selection and blending. They may also be demonstrating their whiskey (properly labeled as theirs) can command a premium price. It actually seems like smart marketing, to those who may be looking for sourced whiskey.

Now, is it worth the price? No way to really know, without tasting it--or perhaps waiting until your trusted sources taste it, and report back. It's not something I'm going to rush out to buy (those whiskeys are few and very far between). But judging the whiskey before it is even released, seems a bit unfair.

Erik Fish said...

Anonymous said...
"Yes it is their stuff, and if I wanted to be just like 1/2 of the other DSP's in the country and 75% of the brands, I would buy their stuff from them at $2.50 a bottle like everyone else, and make up my own fake story and brand. While that might not sound to good to the rubes that are overpaying for this fake craft, it's the nature of the beast when you try to be all things to all people."

MGP is really the opposite of the majority of "craft" distillers; while they often produce and sell at best mediocre young whiskey at ridiculous prices (there are exceptions on quality, although not price), MGP consistently produces high quality whiskey at very low prices. The fact that MGP so far has limited itself to wholesaling the stuff and not competing at the retail level has saved a lot of "craft" distillers' bacon, not least by being the source for a lot of "craft whiskey" to help bridge the start-up gap.

So especially at the craft level, where a lot of the vitriol against "commodity whiskey" and "big ethanol" comes from, one should be grateful that MGP starts its own labels in the premium price segment. Were they to compete at lower levels, a lot of smaller labels who depend on a wide margin between MGP wholesale and their own retail price would be in deep doo-doo.

Anonymous said...

Holy crap, this thread is getting to be rediculous. For the final time: MGP is a commodity priced mega distiller. Yes they distill and age their products like everybody else. The difference is, MGP does not offer anything to you at $44- per bottle that they are not also offering for $3- per bottle.

Companies like JD , MM etc. at least have the common sense to not wholesale their product out at <$3- to every Tom Drunk and Henry DSP ,and then try to also sell the exact same thing for 15 Times that price to an unsuspecting or gullible public.

Do you really think there is a difference between their $44- bourbon and their $3- plus tax bourbon ? Wow ! Anybody out there looking for a slightly used bridge ?

Chuck Cowdery said...

Every distiller sells the 'same stuff' at different price points. Like every other major distiller, MGP has access to vast stocks of aging whiskey. Like every other major distiller, when they put together a particularly good batch, using the best whiskey in their stocks, they want to make a neat profit on it. Like every other major distiller.

Chuck Cowdery said...

Erik wrote about MGP "being the source for a lot of 'craft whiskey' to help bridge the start-up gap."

The 'start-up gap' is largely a myth. Very few distillers ever transition from sourced to house-made product. Of the distillers who talk about it, the percentage who do it is very small.

Chuck Cowdery said...

We may sometimes disagree, but I'm glad we are all not robots.

Anonymous said...

Any inference that craft distillers are somehow advantaged by MGP selling its own product at a premium price is blatantly false. It is only because the buying public at large has been exposed to craft producers, now that the states have allowed them, that MGP can pretend they produce craft spirits, that naturally carry a premium price.

Put more simply, if not for craft distillers, be they good, bad or otherwise, MGP would be selling every drop for $3- . By the way, for those of you who believe that "Old Thermos" is worth $44- becuase it's the "good stuff", What exactally does MGP sell to Angels Envy, High West, etc ...... ? The bad stuff? Yeah that's a great marketing tool. "We will sell you our bad bourbon cheap, but we keep the good stuff for ourselves"

Wake up. Craft is special like hand made kitchen cabinetry. When your kitchen comes from HD and was made by children in China, you shouldn't bay a hand made price for it.

Anonymous said...

But Anon, you are looking at this completely backwards. Custom made kitchen cabinets are clearly better than Home Depot particle board. This does not hold true in whiskey. The big boys produce better whiskey than the craft distillers in almost every example and at a much lower cost of production. There is no economic basis for most craft distillers to exist.

Anonymous said...

Latest anon, I agree, for the most part. MGP makes excellent whiskey. Some of the highest rated ryes from smaller (craft?) distilleries are actually made by MGP. Their bourbons (bottled by others) are also typically highly rated. For the most part, they are at least as good, and often much better, than what many small distillers make. They may be more "traditional", but they taste pretty damn good. If you are looking for "different" whiskey (and not simply very good whiskey), then I understand seeking out these smaller brands.

The other thing I can't understand from the earlier anon, is why in the world he/she insists on claiming they are pretending Remus is a "craft bourbon". Is there something on the label to suggest they are marketing this as "craft"? Was it in one of the press releases? Perhaps it was, but I didn't get that impression.

BTW, I've only read on review of George Remus, so far. It was very favorable. But I'm not sure the disgruntled anon is interested in the quality of the whiskey, at this point.

Erik Fish said...

"Anonymous said...
The other thing I can't understand from the earlier anon, is why in the world he/she insists on claiming they are pretending Remus is a "craft bourbon". Is there something on the label to suggest they are marketing this as "craft"?"

The main criticism, once you cut through the misspellings and bad grammar, appears to be the price point. Simple minds tend to assume a linear connection between production cost per gallon and maximum price they can morally charge per bottle. Of course that's Mickey Mouse economics, with little connection to real business.

Real prices are determined by demand, and supply as it reaches the market. Having said that, I am wondering whether MGP may indeed be aiming too high, asking an almost "craft price" of $45 for what I'm sure is great bourbon, but will land in a market where I can get great bourbons like Eagle Rare or Henry McKenna SB 10-Yr for $30, and it's unlikely it'll be THAT much better.

But that's where the marketing comes in. See Chuck's other column about Diageo :)

Chuck Cowdery said...

This is 'toe in the water' stuff for MGP, and that was the point (missed, going by the comments) of this piece. MGP is trying something new, for it, and learning as it goes.

Brian (AKA The Dean) said...

Eric and Chuck, for some reason my last post came through as an anon, and not associated with my account. Dunno why.

I agree with you both, for the most part. Is is worth the money? I have no idea if it is (to me) without tasting it. VERY few bourbons are worth that price point for me, considering what I can get for $30 and under (even under $20). Eagle Rare is a perfect example (I can't seem to find the McKenna SB around here). I bought a bottle of Elmer T Lee SB for about $30 the other day (I almost never see that around here.) But that really isn't the point, IMO. As Chuck implies, the market will eventually decide. I've tried several bourbons at the price point that don't make the grade (again, for me). But there price is still the same, so I have to assume somebody's buying them.

Brian (AKA The Dean) said...

Sorry. "...their price..."

That's what happens when I post before having a drink.