Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Size Matters


A 42-inch diameter column still at Diageo's Bullit Distillery.
The previous post was long and covered a lot. Here I want to give more attention to the "Size Matters" story in the new issue of The Bourbon Country Reader, my old-school, paper-in-the-mail newsletter.

About a decade ago, I began to keep track of all the column stills making whiskey in the United States. Why? Because the size (i.e., diameter) of a column still tells you that distillery's production capacity, not how much it will produce, or does produce, but how much it can produce. In the story "Size Matters," I go into some of what I've learned from that project. 

I've written about this subject here on the blog. This post from 2017 continues to be one of the most-viewed. 

In 2014, eight companies distilled virtually all of America’s whiskey at thirteen distilleries. Three years later, there were ten companies operating fifteen distilleries. The additions were at the low end of the scale. Today there are 16 companies operating 26 distilleries. Those companies control about 94 percent of America’s whiskey production capacity. 

Again, the new companies are coming in at the low end. The biggest producers have only gotten bigger. The new guys are nowhere close to knocking out the old guys, despite what some folks out there seem to think.

The 16 companies, more or less in order (best estimate), are Brown-Forman, Beam Suntory, Sazerac, Heaven Hill, Campari, Kirin, MGP/Luxco, Diageo, Bardstown Bourbon Company, Whiskey House of Kentucky, Pernod Ricard, Bacardi, Tennessee Distilling Group, Michter’s, Jackson Purchase, and Castle & Key.

As the inclusion of Whiskey House of Kentucky suggests, the database includes current capacity and scheduled (not speculative) near-future capacity.

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