So The Whiskey Wash reported yesterday the acquisition of Kentucky Owl by Stoli Group USA, parent company S.P.I. Group. I’m not a real journalist I just play one online, but after surfing around on all of the S.P.I. Group related websites; this appears to be the first whiskey related brand for the company based in Luxembourg. That is saying something considering S.P.I. Group owns over 300 brands. Stoli group is best known for flavored vodka, not a “super-premium bourbon” as their press release describes Kentucky Owl. I like the Kentucky Owl that I have tried. It’s good. It’s overpriced for what it is, but it is good. One problem for me is that Stoli Group USA plans to take this from 15-20 barrels per batch that are sourced and aged distillate to national and international distribution. Where in the world are they going to find that much “super-premium bourbon” you may ask?
I certainly asked that question, and the answer is they won’t find it anywhere. This is a company that sells flavored vodka in droves. They know how to market horse piss. And they apparently peddle horse piss all over the world, so I am sure they can craft a story that will be compelling in the far corners of the world. So for all of you people in Azerbaijan that may be reading this post in 2020 after seeing “The Wise Man’s Bourbon” for the first time…Stoli Group USA is buying shit barrels and screwing with them to try and make them palatable, or they are flat out lying to you that the whiskey is “super-premium.”
I can’t blame the owners of the Kentucky Owl brand for selling. They pulled out some old pictures of a hundred-year-old, defunct, family-owned brand. They did some updating to the label. They bought some barrels from somewhere and dressed them up. Bottled and released them and the height of the bourbon boom in a limited release only in Kentucky at barrel proof. And S.P.I. probably offered them enough money to take care of multiple generations down the line. Bravo, Kentucky Owl.
This whole story reminded me of California Vineyards Inc. You probably know them better as the brand they started and owned: Black Maple Hill. Back in the 1990s bourbon wasn’t a big deal. Excess production was laying around aging because no one was buying it. So for a few thousand bucks, a bottling company connection, and a few TTB filings, you could bottle up some really old whiskey that tastes amazing and sell it for $100/bottle on retail shelves as “super-premium whiskey.” Has anyone asked Drew Kulsveen if he’ll sell a barrel recently? Will you make sure to record a video on your phone of his response? I’m assuming there will be some frothing at the mouth and throwing of things.
YOU CANNOT BUY REALLY REALLY RIDICULOUSLY GOOD WHISKEY ANYMORE. Not on store shelves. Not in gift shops. Sure as hell can’t buy it by the barrel. Donald Trump himself can’t negotiate to buy it in enough quantity for national and international distribution. So whatever they distribute whenever that Stoli backed brand spits something out, steer clear. I don’t speak many foreign languages, so I thought a picture will help our international whiskey friends get the gist of this post. I do speak smartass and English, so here is a smartass timeline graph in English of both the Black Maple Hill and Kentucky Owl Brands since 2000:
Raised in the great state of Tennessee, Matt has a hard time admitting the native spirit of the Bluegrass neighbor to the north captured his obsession (& most of his wallet). Having progressed through the red solo cup days to a passion for a barrel-proof wheated bourbon, neat, Matt is always on the hunt for the next bottle. When he is not scouting or sipping bourbon, Matt spends time with his wife and four children. When he needs money for the next trip to Bardstown, Matt manages a wealth management firm. He always buys bourbon to drink and believes nothing should come between friends except two rocks glasses and a three-finger pour.
Read Matt's full profile.