One evening this week, I found myself in a hotel room scrolling through Twitter reading the latest ‘news’ in the whiskey world when I came upon a post from a Twitter follower from a site called Bourbon Weekly. While the title of the article looked ‘odd,’ the content suggesting that MGP, everyone’s favorite mass producer of whiskies bought and rebranded by craft distilleries and large conglomerates alike was beginning to run low on stock was eerily believable. I live in northern KY only a matter of miles from the nearest distilleries and a mere 15-20 minute drive from the behemoth former Seagram’s distillery in Lawrenceburg that MGP calls home. While they don’t conduct public tours, a Twitter presence with 3000+ followers has afforded us some interesting opportunities not available to the general public. One of those within the past 12 months was the rare chance to peak behind the MGP curtain at the workings of their massive whiskey factory. My tour guide for the day was one of many distillers (they seem to employ master distillers, asssistant distillers and a variety of other folks with distiller in their title). At one point in the afternoon, the topic of conversation shifted not toward production…they seem to have that down to a fine art but rather to their existing supply. My fearless guide, while not revealing any propriety information or trade secrets, shared that MGP has millions of barrels of whiskey aging in their warehouses. He offered that these range in age from day 0 of production to whiskies in the 10-20 year range and hinted that there may be some ‘old’ choice barrels aging well into their senior years in places. I’m sure it comes as little surprise to our followers that if you are a new distillery, recently opened and beginning to produce your own whiskey, that in the meantime, you may work to become profitable by selling a label whose bottle contains ‘juice’ from a mass producer like MGP. Also, it’s not difficult to believe that you likely don’t want 2 year bourbon, you want something aged longer. My guide’s commentary on the whiskey boom (beyond his seeming love for the new and increasing demand for MGP product or what he referred to as job security) also made reference to the bourbon boom having taken its toll on MGP’s supply of aged bourbons.
Fast forward to my discovery of the Bourbon Weekly article. Besides some interesting use of grammar to imply MGP was running low on bourbon, the article seemed believable as the details dovetailed so nicely with a personal account of the bourbon boom’s impact on MGP that my intrepid tour guide had shared. In my fatigued stupor, I retweeted the link to an interesting and awkward response from our followers. “The satire is evident” they wrote. Others suggested that “we thought you were playing into the satire.” I guess the key to good satirical writing is some basis in fact or, at a minimum, some presumption that people may be true. I admit, they got me!
I spent some time today during my travels reading past posts from Bourbon Weekly and enjoyed several of their posts that, while humorous, do reflect the reality of the bourbon craze these days. But, the question remains, is MGP running out of bourbon? The truth is likely somewhere in between fact and fiction. Given their rampant production, there is no question that MGP is barreling tons (literally tons) of bourbon from a variety of mash bills but bourbon doesn’t age over night. I’m sure they have staff dedicated solely to knowing how many barrels are aging where and for how long at any given moment in time…it’s a fine science of balancing the demand for product on the available supply. If you sell 10,000 barrels of 10 year aged bourbon, you can’t replace that over night. We have to wonder if we really will see a slowing of new distilleries acquiring MGP bourbon for bottling over the next few years or a shift toward very young product. Only MGP knows for sure but Bourbon Weekly, you win this round! I believed it because the MGP staff told me they were starting to run out of aged bourbon! Next time, I’ll be a better judge of source material. After all, we at BourbonScript have a reputation to protect as conveyors of accurate information…and the occasional rumor! 😉