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Heads & Tails: I Wouldn’t Wish For It Edition

In Banter, Drink News, Heads & Tails, Industry News by Steve CoomesLeave a Comment

call this a "wouldn't wish for it" list

Ever played this whiskey dork game? You go to a bar or restaurant and rapid-survey the bottles while thinking, "Had it. Haven't. Have it. Hate it." When I looked at this list of 20 top-selling whiskeys in the U.S., I added a new response. "Who drinks that?"

I like several brands on this list, but I prefer their higher-proof siblings. But dang, does that mean those who spend less to drink softer spirits actually Southern Comfort—which is No. 15 on the list? I don’t even recall seeing a bottle of SoCo outside of the press sample I got a year or so ago. And Skrewball lands at No. 14? And here it comes … Who drinks that? A Heaven Hill employee I know once said to me, "I can't believe they bought Black Velvet!" Well, look closer, hoser, it’s the 13th-most popular whiskey in the U.S. (Far as my Black Velvet score: Haven't had it.)

BOURBON & BANTER'S VIEW >> The list contains four Canadian whiskeys, three Scotch whiskies, one Irish whiskey and 12 American whiskeys—only eight of which are labeled "bourbon." So, the next time you hear people say, "This bourbon boom has to bust soon," remind them that bourbon hasn't conquered spirits sales in Kentucky or even the U.S. And the global market remains barely tapped.

"everything you need to know about peanut butter whiskey"

And speaking of peanut butter whiskey, that’s the headline of an article on TastingTable.com. I’m sure I’m not the only one who read that and thought, “I already know all I want to know about peanut butter whiskey: precisely nothing.” But I swallowed the clickbait anyway and got dragged to shore for these useless nuts of info:

As a brand, Skrewball “grew by a whopping 1,976% in just two years.” Not surprisingly, there were no “before and now” comparable numbers to better understand this four-figure growth.

The answer to this question— “Is there peanut butter in peanut butter whiskey?”—the author wrote that there are “some brands, with real peanuts, peanut oil, or ingredients that contain traces of them.” Well, real peanut attributes are a bonus, but the truly good news is those attributes contain peanut allergens. And that ensures we’ll never see peanut butter whiskey on an aircraft next to the Wild Turkey 101.

The answer to the question, “What does peanut butter whiskey taste like?” came from Skrewball co-founder Brittany Yeng. It “actually doesn't taste much like whiskey or bourbon, but more like ‘drinking a liquid peanut butter cup with a hint of that whiskey bite.’” Wow, and I thought I was disinterested in it before she said that.

Now, for the “you really can make this stuff up” claim in the piece, upon mentioning that whiskey must be at least 80 proof to be called whiskey, and that most peanut butter whiskeys are, like Skrewball, just 70 proof, the author defended it this way. “Despite the fact that some may say its ABV doesn't make it authentic enough, peanut butter whiskey makes no claims of being Scotch whiskey, and isn't even produced in the EU.”

BOURBON & BANTER'S VIEW >> We're both confused and at a loss for words.

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MGP spending $12 million to build new rickhouse in kentucky

We Kentuckians have said it forever: the sun, the water, the wind—all the elements that affect and effect great whiskey are better in the Bluegrass. Looks like MGP Ingredients—a great distillery regardless of my sarcasm—has finally listened. Or maybe it just got a great deal on the dirt in Williamstown, Ky. Who knows? (Truth be known, I’d never even heard of Williamstown until reading this. Google Maps puts it about midway between Lexington and Covington. For those who’ve been to MGP’s Lawrenceburg, Ind., distillery, the site is about 50 miles south.)

And speaking of “who knows?” a news release announcing the project gave little more info than, “Listen up, y’all, we’re gonna spend $12 million on a rickhouse! That’ll be all.” Still, that’s interesting. Here’s why.

The behemoth 58,000-barrel houses built every four months at Buffalo Trace are the largest being built these days. (Not by much, though. Heaven Hill’s will hold just over 55,000.) On tours, guides tell visitors that constructing just one costs $7 million and filling it with barreled whiskey costs $22 million. So how friggin’ big is a $12 million rickhouse going to be? Let’s apply some dubious math to consider it.

If a $12 million rickhouse costs 42 percent more than a $7 million rickhouse, does that mean it’ll also hold 42 percent more barrels? (Doubtful, but let’s keep going.) If so, that would mean MPG’s new rickhouse would hold a freakish 82,360 barrels. And, if MGPs filled barrels cost the same as those at Buffalo Trace ($379 each using tour guide math), filling this mega-house would cost $31.2 million.

Granted, our inexact math won’t reflect the final number, but doubtless, this edifice will be huge.

“With the increased demand we have been experiencing for our new distillate, aged whiskey and ultra-premium brands, these investments are necessary,” Dave Colo, president and CEO, MGP Ingredients, Inc., said in the release. “When complete, the new barrel warehouse and Lux Row Distillery expansions position us well for continued, sustainable growth. It is an exciting time for our company and the spirits industry.”

BOURBON & BANTER'S VIEW >> More proof that bourbon’s boom is nowhere near busting.


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About the Author

Steve Coomes

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Steve Coomes is editor of BourbonBanter.com. A Louisville restaurant industry veteran turned award-winning food writer, he has edited and written for dozens of national trade and consumer publications including Pizza Today, Nation's Restaurant News and Southern Living over his 31-year journalism career. As a spirits writer, Steve's work can be found in Bourbon Plus, Bourbon Review, Bourbon & Banter, WhiskeyWash.com and other publications. In 2014, he authored the book, "Country Ham: A Southern Tradition of Hogs, Salt & Smoke," and has authored other titles as a private ghostwriter. Read Steve's full profile.