Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Whiskey Wednesday: The Kentucky Distilleries

As as service to the whiskey-drinking readership, over the next few weeks, we will be doing our best to identify every American distillery which makes and sells whiskey as well as many of the brand names those under which those whiskies are sold. We will start today with the big boys, the Kentucky Bourbon (and Rye) distilleries. We will then proceed to cover the whiskey distilleries outside of Kentucky, including the growing category of microdistilleries, and then, we will list the major independent bottlers. Our goal is to make it easier for you to figure out where your bottle of whiskey was actually made.

Not all of this information is easy to come by and I'm grateful for the work that's been done by Chuck Cowdery and the good folks at the Straight Bourbon forums, Barturtle in particular, in revealing some of the harder to find tidbits.

Below is a list of the nine currently operating Kentucky distilleries, along with their corporate owner and their most prominent brand names. All of the brands are Bourbon unless otherwise stated. The list of brand names is not exhaustive as some of these distilleries produce regional brands, blended whiskies and other products; the aim was to cover the biggest brand names.

Brown Forman's Shively Distillery: Brown Forman owns three distinct American whiskey distilleries (Shively, Woodford Reserve and Jack Daniel's). Their Shively, Kentucky plant makes Old Forester Bourbon and Early Times Kentucky Whiskey. They also make rye whiskey for Heaven Hill (see below).

Buffalo Trace (Sazerac Co.): Formerly known as Ancient Age, the Buffalo Trace distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky is one of the most loved by whiskey aficionados. They market their whiskey under one of the most diverse collection of brands, including:

Ancient Age
Buffalo Trace
Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection
Eagle Rare
Elmer T. Lee
George T. Stagg
Hancock's Reserve
Old Charter
Rock Hill Farms
Sazerac and Thomas H. Handy Rye
Van Winkle and Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon and Rye
W.L. Weller

Four Roses (Kirin): Lawrenceburg, Kentucky based Four Roses only recently began bringing their Bourbon back to the US. Aside from their own Four Roses label, the distillery makes Bulleit Bourbon for Diageo.

Heaven Hill: The last family owned distillery in Kentucky, Bardstown based Heaven Hill's diverse brand portfolio includes Bourbon, rye, Kentucky's only straight wheat whiskey and nearly all of the American corn whiskey brands. To make it more confusing, Heaven Hill's rye whiskies are actually distilled at the Brown Forman Shively distillery (see above).

Cabin Still
Elijah Craig
Evan Williams
Fighting Cock
Heaven Hill
Henry McKenna
Old Fitzgerald
Parker's Heritage Collection

Pikesville Rye
Rittenhouse Rye

Wheat Whiskey
Bernheim Wheat Whiskey

Corn Whiskey
Dixie Dew
Georgia Moon
JW Corn
Mellow Corn

Jim Beam (Beam Global/Fortune Brands): Jim Beam is the biggest name in Bourbon. The brands made at their signature operation, with facilities in Clermont and Boston, Kentucky, include:

Basil Hayden
Jim Beam Bourbons and Rye
Knob Creek
Old Crow
Old Grand-Dad
Old Overholt Rye
(rī)¹ (Rye One)

Maker's Mark (Beam Global/Fortune Brands): Simplicity reigns at this Jim Beam owned distillery in Loretto Kentucky. It makes only one brand - Maker's Mark.

Tom Moore/Barton Brands (Buffalo Trace/Sazerac Co.): Constellation Brands recently sold this Bardstown gem to Buffalo Trace. Beloved for their Bourbon in Kentucky and for their rye in Wisconsin but little known outside those states, they are the makers of:

Fleischmann's Rye
Kentucky Gentleman
Kentucky Tavern
Ten High
Tom Moore
Very Old Barton
Ridgemont Reserve 1792

Wild Turkey (Pernod Ricard/Campari): News recently broke that drinks giant Pernod Ricard is selling this venerable name in American whiskey to the Italian Campari company. Most of the Bourbons and rye whiskies made at this Lawrenceburg distillery carry the Wild Turkey name, though they have recently begun to market Russell's Reserve as a separate brand.

Woodford Reserve/Labrot & Graham(Brown Forman): Brown Forman's second Kentucky distillery in Versailles, Kentucky, makes Bourbon marketed under the Woodford Reserve brand.

Along with the big nine, there is a new microdistillery in Bowling Green called Corsair. As with most new microdistilleries, they are only marketing unaged spirits right now, so no Bourbon yet, but they do have something called Wry Moon Unaged Rye Whiskey, which is distilled from 100% rye. (Technically, if it wasn't stored in oak for some portion of its life, they cannot call it rye whiskey, so they must have done some minimal storage of the spirit if they are within the regulations). They have plans to make Bourbon and a regular rye whiskey.

Next week we will look at the whiskey distilleries outside of the Bluegrass State, including a complete list of whiskey producing microdistilleries.


augustgarage said...

Does Heaven Hill provide the whiskey that is bottled by the Kentucky Bourbon Distillers (e.g. Noah's Mill, Rowan's Creek, Pure Kentucky XO, etc)?

augustgarage said...

Also, do you know what the current DSP numbers are, and how they correlate with the above 9 distilleries?

sku said...

AG, I'll be dealing with the bottlers including KBD in a couple of weeks. Heaven Hill is known to sell to various bottlers including KBD, but there is no telling which whiskey is in any given bottle of a KBD Bourbon or whether it is the same whiskey from bottle to bottle.

As to DSP numbers, here is what I have for the current numbers, though some could be out of date:

Brown-Forman - 414
Buffalo Trace - 113
Four Roses - 8
HH - 1
Beam - 230
Maker's Mark - 44
Tom Moore - 12
Wild Turkey - 67
Woodford - 52

augustgarage said...

Thanks, Sku.