Diageo, micro-distilled

Craft as bandwagon for a giant


During an investors conference held last November, Larry Schwartz, President of Diageo North America, announced to the world the multinational’s ambitions for becoming ‘the number one craft distiller in America.’

Citing Buffalo Trace’s Pappy van Winkle as perfect inspiration for its Orphan Whisky Distilling Company, vehicle for the ongoing release of a series of old and rare American whiskeys, he gave as reason for the move into craft as being rhetorically self-evident: ‘Why? Because we have the whiskies.’ Schwartz also let it be known that while he agreed that Crown Royal forms an overtly significant chunk of its North American whiskey portfolio, Diageo are ‘very fortunate’ in that ‘a lot of people don’t know it’s a Canadian whiskey.’ In fact, most Texans ‘think it’s a Bourbon.’

We will connect all Diageo dots in a bit. For now, the facts:  Orphan Whisky is based in Tullahoma, Tennessee. The whiskies planned for release will be bottled at nearby George Dickel. The first two were ‘discovered’ in warehouses in the currently mothballed Stitzel-Weller Distillery. They are the 20 year-old and 26 year-old Kentucky Bourbons Barterhouse (45.1%) and Old Blowhard (45%), both due for US-only release on 14th March. A 19 year-old nominally named Rhetoric (45.35%) will follow.  All three have a mashbill of 86%, 6% rye and 8% malted barley. Initially coy as to the source of the whiskeys, Diageo has since confirmed that Old Blowhard was distilled at the Old Bernheim Distillery, while Barterhouse was distilled by Ed Foote, when at the New Bernheim Distillery. Entry proof for each whisky was 125. The barrels were coopered at Bluegrass, Louisville.  I haven’t had the opportunity to taste the whiskies.

<For full text, see Whisky Magazine>