Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Dawn of the Distillery: Reports of Zombies in Louisville

This week, reports began surfacing of life at the site of the old Stitzel-Weller distillery in Louisville, Kentucky.

"It's un-nach-ral what's goin' on there," said one local, "once something's dead, it ought stay dead."

The Stitzel-Weller distillery died in 1992 of bad marketing and corporate downsizing, but recently, there have been strange goings on at the distillery site.

Rumors of life at the distillery started last weekend when several prominent whiskey bloggers, broke the news. The Whisky Aficionado Spectator Blog reported that the reanimation had been accomplished through "some combination of radioactive spiders, frog dna, gamma rays and lightening." Several hours after a freak lightening storm, locals told of a bearded man with a cigar seen ambling around the distillery grounds shouting "Brains, brains! But always fine brains!"

This would not be the first report of a zombie distillery. In Scotland, there are many popular folk tales about distilleries with names like Ardbeg and Bruichladdich that came back from the dead, but most consider those mere legends, similar to that of the Loch Ness Monster.

Shortly after the reports broke in Louisville, concerned townsfolk gathered at the KFC Yum! Center to make plans. Several had ordered pitchforks from Amazon and were intent on surrounding the Distillery. Many were also arming themselves. Popular lore is that the only thing that can stop a zombie bourbon distillery is a bulleit made in Indiana.


Josh Feldman said...

Praised be the mighty market forces! Here are my predictions:

1) Diageo puts together a good team and makes an attempt to execute the old S-W recipes. However they industrialize the process and cut a few minor corners. The resulting bourbon is fine - just fine. In fact, objectively speaking its just as good as the vast majority of the old Sitzel-Weller juice. But early releases are roundly criticized and the accepted wisdom is that they have messed up the old magic.

2) Concurrently, while the juice ages, Diageo packages and sells the old mature juice hanging around the rick houses. They issue them as fancy packaged single cask offerings at astronomical pricing. Some of the bottlings become legendary but some are disappointing and the whisky world shakes their head and complains about the "evil empire" gouging them.

3) Down the road, the better bottlings of the new Sitzel-Weller juice turn out to be excellent - but it won't be cool to say so.

Remember old Cabin Still! Remember old Weller Special Reserve 90! Not all that Sitzel-Weller juice was the mature awesome Pappy 15 and 23 that has become our mental image.

I'm saving some dusties of this lower end SW stuff (it's all I can afford). I'm going to put it head to head with the new stuff when it comes out years from now. I'll try to judge apples to apples.

Lazer said...

The good news is, S-W is distilling again. The bad news is, they're just making bulleit.

Justin said...

Holy cow Sku! Is ANYTHING off limits for you???

Just kidding. Don't ever change. This kind of approach to this story is exactly the counterpoint we need to help remind us that until something actually "happens" at the old distillery this isn't real news yet. Diageo is nothing if not masters of marketing and this, as of yet, is nothing more.

Call me skeptical.

sku said...

Josh, I tend to agree with Lazer. This is just going to be a place to make Bulleit. I'd be surprised if they do anything like the old Stitzel-Weller. You're right on in your number 2 though about how they will package their old SW stocks (just like Diageo's Port Ellen and Brora releases).

Josh Feldman said...


Anonymous said...

Interesting news. I would really like to know more about Diageo's bourbon contract with Four Roses before I predicted that Diageo is just going to distill Bulleit at SW. If Diageo was smart they would start distilling stuff at SW similar to the stuff for which that distillery is famous--wheated bourbons. I agree with Josh, that Diageo will probably start a Buffalo Trace-esque parade of limited edition releases with SW old stock.

Tim Davis said...


I'm disappointed with your pitchfork selection. Everybody knows this one:

Is superior - and looks far hipper when chasing whisk/e/y zombies.

I suggest you revise your article.


sku said...

Sorry Tim, real mobs don't use ergonomic pitchforks.