Tuesday, December 6, 2011

How do you know it's LDI?

I've recently reviewed a number of whiskeys distilled at Lawrenceburg Distillers Indiana (LDI), and a few people have asked how I know the whiskey is made by LDI. Well, it's easy to figure out. First, though, some background.

LDI is a large Indiana distillery that was formerly owned by Seagram's. It is currently owned by Angostura but is in the process of being sold to a Midwest Grain Products (MGP), a large Midwestern maker of neutral spirits.

Located in Indiana just over the river from Kentucky, LDI is the only major whiskey distillery in the US that does not market anything under its own label. They operate entirely by contract. Companies pay to buy their whiskey (or vodka or gin) and market it under their own labels. The LDI website lists the different whiskeys they make, including mashbills.

Not long ago, it was not possible for a US consumer to buy an LDI-made whiskey. The closest you could come was Seagram's 7, a blended whiskey whose component whiskey was said to be made at LDI, but blended whiskey is mostly vodka and mostly crappy. Then, just a few years ago, small bottlers Templeton Rye and High West Rye put out some LDI rye (in High West's case it was part of a blend with another rye) to great acclaim. This opened an LDI floodgate and now there are a dozen or so bourbons and rye whiskeys that are made at LDI, and it seems like a new one comes out almost every day. Among the more well known are Redemption Bourbon, Redemption Rye, Bulleit Rye, Temptation Bourbon, the new series of Willett three year old ryes, W.H. Harrison Bourbon, Big Bottom Bourbon, High Whiskey, Riverboat Rye and Smooth Ambler's Old Scout Bourbon.

From time to time, people ask me how I know that a given whiskey is made at LDI, since that fact is almost never disclosed on the bottle and often not disclosed at all by the bottler.

There are lots of clues you can look for to figure out an LDI whiskey. When a new sourced whiskey is announced, the press release will usually brag about its heritage. If it's from Kentucky, they will usually say so since there is cache in releasing a real Kentucky bourbon or rye. So if Kentucky isn't mentioned in the press release, I usually assume LDI (and be aware of general staements like "bourbon country" which can include Indiana).

But the proof is on the bottle. The federal regulations of the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) require that whiskey labels disclose the state where the whiskey was distilled. If the whiskey is distilled in the state where the company is located, then the address of the company is sufficient to comply with this requirement. However, if the business address is not in the state where the whiskey was distilled, the state has to be stated separately on the label. (There are some limited exceptions to this regulation, but it applies to most whiskey). See 27 CFR § 5.36(d).

LDI is the only whiskey distillery in Indiana, so if the bottle says "Product of Indiana" or doesn't state where it was distilled but the business address is in Indiana, then you know it was made at LDI.


Keith said...

When one sources whiskey from LDI, does it come aged? It is my understanding that High West and a few others buy the whiskey from LDI then bottle it. But High West has aged whiskey. Did they age it in house or buy it aged?

I guess it boils down to this: If you are a start up distillery, what's the advantage of buying an unaged product over distilling your own?

sku said...

High West bought the aged whiskey. I'm not sure how much LDI has in terms of aged stocks.

A few of the bottlers buying LDI whiskey are start up distilleries like High West, but most are bottlers who don't distill their own whiskey at all (Bulleit, KBD - Willett, Big Bottom, WH Harrison, Dynamic Spirits - Redemption, etc.)

Keith said...

Thanks for the info. I find it fantastically interesting that LDI has barrels of whiskey aging, just waiting for someone to buy them.

Jason Beatty said...

Thanks for mentioning Indiana and I wish I had were in Bardstown right now!

Stewart said...

@sku: You are incorrect about several of the bourbons you mention.

Bulleit was never a LDI product. It has bounced between several distilleries but it has always been distilled, aged, and bottled in Kentucky. Currently by Four Roses.

Willett distilles, ages, and bottles all their own products at their family owned distillery in Bardstown. It's a great place to visit if you're ever in Kentucky.

I suggest you get your facts straight before posting in the future.

sku said...

Stewart, you are absolutely incorrect.

Bulleit Bourbon is distilled at Four Roses, but Bulleit Rye, which is what I refer to here, is made at LDI.

Willett only recently reopened their distillery and has not yet bottle any of their own product. All of their products are from other distilleries.

Please check your facts before telling me to "get my facts straight."

Stewart said...

My apologies in regard to the Bulleit Rye, I misread it was the Rye you were referring to and you are correct about that product being distilled in Indiana.

However, you are incorrect regarding Willett. I am holding two bottles of Willett in my hand right now, their flagship Pot Still Willett Bourbon and a Family Estate Bottled Single Barrel Bourbon, 6 Years Aged.

The Willett Bourbon says on the label, and this is word for word, "Distilled, aged, and bottled in Kentucky." The Family Estate Bottled Single Barrel Bourbon reads, "Distilled in Kentucky, Bottled by: the Willett Distillery, Bardstown, KY."

If these Willett products were distilled and aged in Indiana please explain how the labels read the way they do.

sku said...

Stewart, please reread my post. I never said all Willett products were distilled in Indiana. The recent series of Willett rye whiskeys are distilled in Indiana and they say it right on the label.

As I stated in my earlier response, Willett is a bottler. They buy bourbon from other distilleries and bottle it under their own label. Their bourbon is nearly all from Kentucky and is sourced from a variety of distilleries, but they have released a series of ryes from LDI in Indiana.

Barturtle said...

Stewart, when your label reads "Distilled, aged and bottled by The Willett Distillery: then you'll have something they actually distilled in their own distillery. Until then, you'll have product that was sourced from other distilleries.

Steffen said...

Hi Stewart

Why do you describe Pot Still Willett Bourbon as their flagship? I think its a bottling in the middle, quality wise, of their line up. Where I live its also priced in the middle


Cigarnv said...

Stewart, I think you will find that sku, Barturtle and many like them have been in the whiskey game for many years and rarely get their facts wrong..... they do however deal with lots of newbies who pretty much accept anything they hear from any source as gospel regardless of how ridiculous it may be.

Given ones approach the whiskey "elders" will either dedicate their time to help educate or just write you off as an ass without a clue. I have found not being an ass is much better.

Anonymous said...

As of October, 2014, the only whiskey available from LDI/MGPI is from 2012 and newer. Everything older in the aging warehouses is under contract. FWIW.

Mr Manhattan said...

So the Willett Family Estate 2 and 3 year old "small batch" ryes are distilled at KBD with an expectation that they'll release increasingly older product in the coming years as stocks continue to age. To the best of my knowledge, the only LDI rye they're selling at the present time is 7 or 8 years old and it clearly labeled as such.