Friday, February 9, 2024

Bulleit's New American Single Malt Is Sourced Whiskey


Bulleit American Single Malt Whiskey is bottled at
90° proof (45% ABV). MSRP is $60 (750 ml).

Are you excited to try the new Bulleit American Single Malt? Well, here's a hot tip.

Bulleit didn't make it.

Diageo, which owns Bulleit, is the biggest distilled spirits maker in the world. They operate two large Kentucky distilleries and one in Tennessee, but they bought this whiskey from someone else.

They won't say from whom.

Here is what they will say, but only if you ask.

Fitting the American Single Malt category guidelines, Bulleit American Single Malt was distilled by 1 distillery in Kentucky. 

Due to contractual obligations with our supply partners, we cannot share specific details, but as has always been the case, we work very closely with our distilling partners to ensure that Bulleit is made to our exacting standards and specifications.

For further detail, we factor in working in partnerships with local distilleries to meet the growing demand for our whiskey that cannot be serviced by production at our distilleries in Shelbyville, KY or Lebanon, KY. Our distillers work closely with our distilling partners to ensure that Bulleit whiskey is made to our exacting standards and specifications.  

When we were first exploring Bulleit American Single Malt, the Lebanon, KY distillery was not operational and our Shelbyville, KY distillery was just getting started producing our signature Bulleit Bourbon at full capacity so we looked to an outside contractor to distill this product to our exacting specifications.  

We look forward to distilling and aging Bulleit American Single Malt at one of our world class facilities in the near future.

So where was Bulleit American Single Malt distilled and aged? Likely suspects include Beam Suntory, Sazerac, Heaven Hill, and Bardstown Bourbon Company. Another possibility is Newport's New Riff, which has been making malt whiskey since 2014 and released its own single malt last year. It seems unlikely any of Kentucky's smaller distilleries is the source, as they wouldn't be able to produce enough for Diageo's needs. 

Malt whiskey is not something American distilleries normally make, so the list of suspects is limited.

Diageo's statement mentions Shelbyville and Lebanon, but what about Cascade Hollow (AKA George Dickel) in Tennessee? Nicole Austin, distiller there since 2018, made malt whiskey in Brooklyn for King's County and at the Tullamore Distillery in Ireland. Capacity may have been an issue, as Cascade is now producing rye whiskey in addition to Tennessee whiskey, but if they really were "first exploring Bulleit American Single Malt" several years ago, as they claim, kicking that assignment to Austin seems like a natural. 

Diageo likes to sing the "made to our exacting standards and specifications" song, but it seems more likely they sought out and found whiskey that was ready to go when they decided to enter the American Single Malt space. Once again, Diageo is playing catch-up with a me-too product in a space, American malt whiskey, that all the bigs are suddenly barreling into, lest they let crafts get a leg up. Diageo is, of course, also the world's #1 scotch producer, a fact they are not touting.

Since when does America make malt whiskey? Are we at war with Scotland now?

Once again we are left with this guessing game. Bulleit Bourbon itself has been sourced whiskey since its inception, distilled initially by Four Roses, and later by others, always with oodles of obfuscation. Only recently has Shelbyville's Bulleit made its way into bottles. Lebanon is still a few years out. Bulleit Rye has been sourced from Indiana's Ross & Squibb Distillery (AKA MGP) since day one. Diageo may be the world's largest distilled spirits producer, and the world's largest whiskey producer, but when it comes to American whiskey, they are mostly a non-distiller producer (NDP). A follower, not a leader.

The last paragraph in their statement says they intend to make the single malt themselves "in the near future." That wording suggests they are not distilling malt whiskey at any of their American distilleries right now, which means Bulleit Single Malt will remain NDP for at least the next five or six years. 

As I wrote here almost exactly ten years ago, "There is no shame in being a non-distiller producer and if the actual producer won't let you reveal their identity, that's understandable too. The shame is in not being honest about it."

So, if you're interested in American Single Malts, maybe find a craft distillery near you that is actually making one, from scratch, in a still, like a real distillery.


Sam Komlenic said...

I'm guessing that Diageo regretted selling the Bernheim Distillery to the Shapiras about two months after they seemed happy to have gotten rid of it. Been playing catch-up in the U.S. ever since, but I applaud what they've done with what they've had since then. They managed to develop Bulliet into a powerhouse brand from practically nothing, even without their own major facility.

Richard Turner said...

Nice to see ya' poking the big guys as always, Chuck.
I've never been a Scotch fan, nor Irish for that matter. So, malt whisky (single or blended) won't be something I'll pursue; but, it'd be nice to know who is and who is not making it for those interested in drinking some.
Obfuscation is a poor substitute for transparency, which I've always found much more satisfying.

kallaskander said...

Hi there,

perhaps from here ?


Brian (AKA The Dean) said...

While I suppose it is possible a well-known Kentucky producer might be reluctant to have their name associated with another brand, I always suspect when the "confidentiality" clause is professed it is actually because the brand releasing the product didn't want it revealed. Not the other way around. This is particularly true for those who use/used MGP as the producer.

Andy said...

perhaps from here ?

The press release says "Bulleit American Single Malt was distilled by 1 distillery in Kentucky. " so that rules out Westward (Oregon) and Dickle (TN). Westward is also only big by craft standards, making about 1000-1500 barrels a year which isn't much so it's hard to imagine them peeling off enough barrels from their production for a permanent lineup addition.