bourbonv wrote:It would be a mistake to think that a distiller could set out to make 300 barrels of bourbon and turn them all into a 20yo product. There are simply too many variables in the barrels for this to happen. When I was at United Distillers they decided that they were only going to sell "premium" bourbons and they sold off all of their "bottom shelf" products. This was their first big mistake. Not every barrel of whiskey they made was worthy of the "premium" classification. This does not mean that they made bad whiskey, but they made some that simply did not age well.
So, in effect, it sounds like the JBW's, WT 101s, Evan Williams's, Weller's, etc. have to exist in order to have a pool of barrels from which the premiums can be hand selected. If you get 30 premium barrels out of three hundred, you've still got to sell the other 270 to stay in business. Am I understanding your point correctly? It is a subsidy of sorts, I guess.
I guess the only question is how good can you get your non-premium, bottom shelf to be in (typically) 4-8 years? Personally, I see WT 101 as the yardstick there.
Stitzel-Weller under the Van Winkles had the perfect system. They made a single mash bill of a wheated bourbon. They sold Cabin Still at 4 to 5 yo at 90 proof. Rebel Yell was 5yo and 90 proof. Old Fitzgerald was bonded and usually 5 or 6 yo. W.L. Weller Special Reserve was 7yo and 90 proof with Weller 107 (the original barrel proof) was also 7yo. Old Fitzgerald 1849 (originally Weller 1849) was 8yo and 90 proof. These were their base products. From the whiskey made for these products they were able to pick barrels for Very Old Fitzgerld, or Very, Very Old Fitzgerald or Very Extra Old Fitzgerald or the Very, Very, Extra Old Fitzgerald. They needed all of these other products to have the "honey barrels" needed to bottle these premium brands of Old Fitzgerald.
It sounds like WT does this on a smaller scale (with the exception of doing the rye also, I guess) and BT currently tries to do this on a grander scale with multiple mashbills. Would you agree with that comparison?
It sound like the Stitzel-Weller model combined a good "bourbon business" model (the simplicity of one mashbill and vary proofs/age for the different products based on the decisions of able experts to provide a wide range of bottom shelf to super premium offerings) with the "...but always fine bourbon" philosophy.