Friday, March 29, 2024

From Big Cups to Big Names, American Whiskey's Next Act


Celebrate Spring with a friendly putting competition at Welter’s Folly!
Golf Season begins at Welter’s Folly on Sunday, April 14th, with the Big Cup Putting Tournament.

Welter's Folly is a 30,000 square foot, 18-hole, mounded putting green behind the Journeyman Distillery in Three Oaks, Michigan. It was named for Bill Welter, the distillery's founder. 

Scheduled to coincide with the 80th Annual Masters, the Big Cup Putting Competition will be held at Welter's Folly on Sunday, April 14th, beginning at 11:30 AM. Cost is $40 per two-player team. Bring your putter or use theirs for the 9-inch cup challenge.

Five dollars from each entry goes toward a skins game, with another $5 going toward a closest-to-the-pin competition. Cash prizes will be awarded for the top 3 scores, plus a little something for last place.

After Big Cup, Welter's Folly will be open for putting daily, Monday-Saturday at 11:30 AM, Sunday at 10:00 AM. The green closes daily 20 minutes prior to official sunset. The $9 fee includes a souvenir Journeyman golf ball. No charge for children 12 and under. Cocktails are permitted on the greens for putters 21 & over.

In Three Oaks, in addition to the putting green and distillery tour, Journeyman has a nice bar and restaurant. At their sister distillery in Valparaiso, Indiana, the American Factory, they have multiple restaurants, a brewery, rooftop bar, candy shop, karaoke, and great facilities for weddings and other private events.

As much as I'm happy to give Bill publicity, my purpose here is to highlight this latest trend in American distilled spirits, the whiskey resort. 

The epitome of this new trend is Kentucky's Log Still Distillery, out in the country about 15 miles south of Bardstown. The site has a lot of great bourbon history tied to the Dant family. It is the creation of Wally Dant, the many-times great grandson of J. W. Dant, assisted by other family members. The fact that Heaven Hill owns the J. W. Dant bourbon brand has limited their ability to exploit their lineage, but not their ambition. In addition to a distillery, tasting room, restaurant, and walking trails, Log Still has several B&Bs, a wedding venue with a 350-seat chapel, and a 2,300-seat outdoor event venue that hosts nationally-known artists such as Little Big Town, Martina McBride, Elle King, Lady A, Dwight Yoakam, and Joan Jett.

Whiskey distilleries have always attracted visitors in a way few other manufacturers can imagine. Jack Daniel's in Tennessee gets about 250,000 guests per year, an annual average that hasn't changed much in 40 years. Most distilleries in Kentucky and Tennessee now give tours. They have gift shops and tasting rooms, and some have restaurants or other amenities, but mostly they distill and age whiskey. 

Even Journeyman started, more than a decade ago, as a distillery first, adding the putting green and other amenities along the way. Many craft distilleries have parties with live music and other activities, mostly for community goodwill. This has been going on since the beginning.

Log Still is different. It started with the amenities. The distillery part was the last thing they built. They sell whiskey (sourced) and gin, but it's far down on the list of their income streams.

I tend to be someone who mostly cares about whiskey, but I also like history, and what we're experiencing now will become the history of tomorrow, for better or worse. There is another side to it, of course, as there always is. Dirtying up American whiskey's rosy picture is something that looks like dirt. 

In New York's Adirondack Park, WhistlePig Whiskey is being accused of polluting the area with whiskey fungus (Baudoinia compniacensis). Last weekend, the Adirondack Explorer reported that "New tests suggest wider spread of whiskey fungus in small Adirondack town. State requires action by WhistlePig Whiskey in Moriah; environmental impact of whiskey production under scrutiny." 

Award-winning environmental journalist Gwendolyn Craig did the Adirondacks proud with a thorough 2,100-word account, though it covered little new ground. Whiskey needs to age, and a harmless but unsightly fungus comes as part of the deal. In a 10-page report, the New York Department of Environmental Conservation said it found the fungus as far away as 1,379 yards from WhistlePig's facility. It has ordered WhistlePig to submit plans for mitigating “the effects of its operations on neighboring properties” by April 20. The Adirondack Park Agency, which oversees public and private development in the 6-million-acre Adirondack Park, has issued multiple permits for the warehouse complex.

This keeps happening and while I'm sure producers would like to head these problems off, no one seems to have cracked the code. Even in Kentucky, where Baudoinia is well known, and several cases were thoroughly litigated more than a decade ago, and producers are acquiring large tracts of land for their new maturation complexes to keep the fungus as far away from neighboring properties as possible, complaints persist. 

Airports are noisy, factories often are smelly, water is wet, and whiskey maturation facilities grow Baudoinia. Otherwise, everything is great.

1 comment:

Richard Turner said...

Hmmm. Maybe the trend toward "Bourbon Theme Parks" or whatnot will relieve a little of the pressure on the legacy distilleries' gift shops and tours . . . But, probably too much to hope for, I suppose. I recall fondly those days when one could decide which distillery to visit on the spur of the moment, and just drive over and get onto the next tour/tasting. ...Often at little of no charge. ...Including a taste or two of the available Bourbon(s).
The past always looks rosier to most folx than it actually was; but, in this case, I think it really was much more pleasant and rewarding to be a Bourbon aficionado visiting Kentucky 10-to-15-years ago.
Sorry; but, as a curmudgeon, I feel it's my duty to complain. Now, can somebody get those damned kids off my lawn!?!?