Whiskey is all about the marketing. Every brands needs a good story that resonates with the consumer. Marketing is so critical in fact, it often takes precedent over actually making the whiskey! How so? A Spirits Company doesn't have to make whiskey to bottle it as their own. In this business model, the whiskey is produced in a mass-production distillery, aged, barreled and shipped to the Spirits Company for bottling.
The same batch of sourced whiskey can also be shipped to other sourced Spirit Companies that are in the production schedule. The result is the same whiskey ending up at multiple Spirits Companies with the only difference being brand name and price!
So how do we know if a brand is sourcing its whiskey? On the label, look for the terms bottling and distilled statement. If the label states "Bottled by..." its sourced whiskey. If "X" label states "Bottled and Distilled at "X" Distillery," it makes its own whiskey.
Let's take grab an example from the Raw office shelf: Clyde May's Alabama Style Whiskey...
At first glance, one might assume this was an Alabama whiskey....
The back of the bottle reinforces the assumption. Alabama is mentioned twice. The mention of small batch and local ingredients. Holy sweet home Alabama! I found a southern jewel that reminds of my Air Force times in Montgomery! Where is this distillery located? It would be great to stop by some time! Let's locate the Bottled AND Distilled statement on the bottle...
Bottled by Conecuh Ridge Distillery in Auburndale, Florida. Florida?! What? So, its not an Alabama product? Correct. Notice the bottle reads "Alabama Style"...which has no meaning but is really clever marketing.
Also, notice there is no mention of Distilled AND Bottled on the bottle. Thus, the "distillery" sources bourbon from another distillery (likely located in Kentucky or Indiana).
Now let's not bash Clyde May's. They bottle a good product. I also read recently Conecuh Ridge plans to actually start distilling in Troy, Alabama. In the unfortunate event someone purchased the product because they thought it was made in Alabama, they might naturally feel misled.
The practice of sourcing from big whiskey production plants and slapping historic marketing on the label is common practice...there are MANY of examples of this!
When I travel to various places, a keepsake bottle of local whiskey is at the top the to do list before hitting the airport. A check for the Bottled AND Distilled statement is a great source in finding the perfect bottle!
Boom! Another shot of knowledge!