Friday, June 3, 2016

Who Makes America's Whiskey?

In Bourbon, Strange, published just two years ago, I wrote that, "the industry is very concentrated, with just eight companies distilling all of America�s whiskey at thirteen distilleries."

It is now ten companies and 15 distilleries.

Then and now, micro-distilleries are excluded. Nothing against them. They are out for two reasons: (1) There are too many to keep track of. (2) They have virtually no impact on industry volume because they are so small.

To accurately portray the industry today requires, first, a new definition of who I will count. New since 2014 is the emergence of what I call 'mid-majors.' These are distilleries that are still much smaller than the thirteen on 2014's list, but their output is significant. Let's put the threshold at 500,000 proof gallons per year.

Only distilleries currently in production at or above that level are included. Several more will come on line this year and even more are scheduled to start up in 2017.

The companies that operate more than one distillery are first, with the number of distilleries they operate in parens. All of the rest have one each and are in no particular order.

Beam Suntory (3) 

In Kentucky, Beam Suntory operates three whiskey distilleries, a bottling and aging site at a silent distillery, and several other satellite aging sites. They are Kentucky�s biggest producer. Two of their distilleries, Clermont in Bullitt County and Booker Noe in Nelson County, are branded as Jim Beam. The third Beam plant is Maker�s Mark, at Loretto in Marion County.

Brown-Forman (3)

Brown-Forman makes whiskey at two distilleries in Kentucky and one in Tennessee. The Tennessee distillery is Jack Daniel�s in Lynchburg. The Kentucky distilleries are Brown-Forman in Shively and Woodford Reserve near Versailles.

Sazerac (2)

Sazerac has two American whiskey distilleries, both in Kentucky. They are Buffalo Trace in Frankfort and Barton 1792 in Bardstown. They also have a large aging complex and bottling house in Owensboro, a micro-distillery in Virginia, and several other facilities.


Kirin's distillery is Four Roses in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. They also operate an aging and bottling site at Lotus.


Campari's distillery is Wild Turkey in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, with remote aging sites at Camp Nelson, and adjacent to Four Roses.


Diageo operates the George Dickel Distillery in Tullahoma, Tennessee. It has an aging site at Stitzel-Weller in Shively, Kentucky.

Heaven Hill

Heaven Hill�s distillery is in Louisville but the company�s roots�along with its corporate offices, bottling house, and most of its rackhouses�are in and around Bardstown.


MGPI, based in Kansas, operates the old Seagrams Distillery in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, which it calls MGP of Indiana.


The Michter's Distillery is south of Louisville in Shively. It started producing in 2015.

New Riff

The New Riff Distillery is in Newport, Kentucky, just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. It started producing in 2014.

Update 6/4/16

Just learned that I overshot with New Riff. They are at 450,000. Close but no cigar. If I missed anyone who is above 500,000 proof gallons of whiskey production per year, I hope they will let me know.

Update 6/6/16

New Riff re-ran the numbers, bringing them up to 500,000.

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