November 27, 2013 – After last week’s disclosure by Diageo CEO Ivan Menezes that the drinks giant is preparing to launch two new Bourbon brands in 2014, there has been speculation on the source of the whiskies to be bottled under the Orphan Barrel and Bow & Blade brands. Diageo has only one working whisky distillery in the U.S. — George Dickel in Tennessee — and initial speculation based on label approval applications focused on Dickel as the source of those whiskies. However, Dickel has been running at full capacity just to produce enough whisky for bottling under its own brands, and sources the whisky for its Dickel Rye expression from the MGP-I distillery in Indiana — making that an unlikely possibility.
While Diageo has still not specified the source for the initial Orphan Barrel releases, a statement released today clarifies some of the questions about the source of those whiskies, and confirms that they will be bottled at the Dickel facility in Tennessee.
The goal of The Orphan Barrel Whiskey Project is to share old and rare whiskey from our barrel houses with discerning whiskey adorers. The first two whiskies to be released from the project will include the 20-year-old Barterhouse and the 26-year-aged Old Blowhard. Both are American Kentucky Bourbons, hand bottled in Tullahoma, Tennessee and are expected to begin appearing on select shelves throughout the U.S. in early 2014 under strict allocation due to limited supply. Additionally, DIAGEO is creating a separate new-to-world bourbon called Blade and Bow. Blade and Bow is anticipated to hit shelves in the second half of 2014 and is not a part of the Orphan Barrel Whiskey Project.
In theory, the whisky for the Barterhouse and Old Blowhard Bourbons could be from Diageo’s closed Stitzel-Weller Distillery in Louisville, which closed in 1993. Diageo does not routinely comment on its whisky inventories, which makes it difficult to know whether any whiskey from Stitzel-Weller remains in the distillery’s warehouses — which are still in use. It’s more likely that both whiskies were sourced from another Kentucky distillery, but which one remains unclear. U.S. regulations only require that the final bottler/producer of a whisky be identified on the labeling, and do not specify that the actual distillery be identified.
Diageo has also still not disclosed how it will resolve the upcoming supply needs for Bulleit Bourbon, which has been distilled by Four Roses under a long-term contract with Diageo. Four Roses has exercised a 6-month termination clause in that contract, effective at the end of March 2014.
This story will be updated as more details become available.