In 2014, whiskey (which in this context includes bourbon and rye) displaced vodka as America’s most popular spirit. There were over 130 new brands created last year but critics note there were not 130 new distilleries built over the same period. Controversy is brewing about whether companies are deliberately giving consumers the impression they made the whiskey, even when they do not.
Whiskey purists are up in arms and CBS conducted an investigation. Here are the highlights of their report:
“Templeton Rye Whiskey’s label, for example, says it’s “produced” in Templeton, Iowa using a recipe dating back to Prohibition. But in fact Templeton, and many other brands, are actually made at a massive plant in southern Indiana, where each barrel holds about 63 gallons of aging bourbon. A former Seagram’s distillery, it’s now owned by MGP Ingredients, which sells its whiskey, in bulk, to dozens of smaller companies who then add their own finishing touch. MGP sends out nearly 300 barrels every day.
I talked with MGP CEO Gus Griffin about the process and asked if it gives the false impression that the smaller company made the whiskey. “I prefer to think of it as them taking our product cause we make a good product and using it as the backbone for their product,” Griffin told me. “So what they do with it is really up to them.”
Federal regulations require accurate labels but they’re often vague and there’s little enforcement. When the words “bottled by” appear on a label, it means it was bottled by the company but doesn’t necessarily mean they made the whiskey.
Templeton recently said they will change their label to make it clearer. But in the murky world of whiskey, Tomaszewski says consumers would be wise to take what’s written on some labels with a grain of salt.”