BREAKING: Your Whiskey May Be Sourced!

If you’re one of the few to several people listening to the Sour Mash Podcast (subscribe on iTunes!), you may have heard the team discussing an NBC news report about sourced whiskey. Of course, in an effort to elicit clicks and stir up a controversy, they titled the video that accompanies the story “The lies, half-truths, and guarded secrets fueling bourbon’s boom”. Ominous, huh? They even go out of their way in the text version of the story to call the business “shady”.

This so-called shadiness all boils back to the common practice of sourcing or contract distilling bourbon and whiskey. New craft distilleries source products early in their life cycle to get a product on the shelf and generate revenue while their actual distillate is aging. Even giant global conglomerates need time to set up shop and source booze while figuring out the business. Sure, sometimes brands are less than forthcoming about this and don’t put it front and center on their label, but is this wrong or just shrewd marketing? Would you be more apt to buy “Frontier Whiskey” or “Rye Purchased from the Same Distillery that makes a lot of our Competitors”?

I’ll let you read (or watch if this blog post is already too many words for one day) the story for yourself and decide whether or not it is too harsh on the king of the wholesale distilling business, MGP, and the numerous brands that utilize its distillate. That said, I want leave you with two thoughts to chew on:

·         Just because it is sourced, doesn’t make it bad. Actually quite the contrary. Turns out when a business is built on making lots of whiskey, they get pretty damn good at it. Some of the best bourbons I’ve tried in the past year came from MGP. Old Scout, High West, Wathen's, OKI – the list goes on and on.

·         If you really care about the provenance of what is in the bottle you’re considering buying, read the label. Not just the front of it, either. Products are required to let you know what state the juice came from, but most of the time this information is tucked away in small print on the back of the bottle. Anything that says something like “distilled in Indiana, bottled in Iowa” was very likely made at MGP, which, to be sure is not the only place supplying sourced whiskey. Widow Jane’s 10-year bourbon, which was at the center of the news story in question, was distilled in somewhere in Kentucky and says as much on the back of the bottle.

Andy Huenefeld