Thursday, July 7, 2016

New Look, Life for David Nicholson 1843

St. Louis-based Luxco has been upping its bourbon game by launching new brands, refreshing and extending existing brands, and even building a Kentucky distillery that is scheduled to open next year. Two years ago, Luxco acquired a half-interest in Kentucky craft distillery Limestone Branch and transferred to Limestone its ownership of Yellowstone Bourbon, an historic bourbon brand associated with the family of Limestone's owners. 

Now it is the turn of David Nicholson, a bourbon sold primarily in and around St. Louis. The story is that David Nicholson was a St. Louis grocer who started to make bourbon and sell it in his store on North 6th Street in 1843. He probably wasn't a distiller but may have been a blender.  

David Nicholson 1843 was always a regional product and after Prohibition it was made by Stitzel-Weller for the Peter Hauptmann Company, or so said the label. Hauptmann was primarily known as a seller of tobacco products and he died in 1904. There is evidence that the company was in business until at least 1921, but nothing post-Prohibition. It is possible "Peter Hauptmann Co, St. Louis, MO" was just a Stitzel-Weller DBA, validated as a 'real' address via a P.O. box.

In modern times, the David Nicholson 1843 brand was notorious within the small circle of hard-core bourbon enthusiasts for showing its distillery as DSP-16 (i.e., Stitzel-Weller) long after the supply of Stitzel-Weller whiskey was effectively exhausted. Luxco claims the error was a simple oversight, they just kept re-printing the label as it was. This is plausible since only bottled-in-bond (BIB) products must show the producing distillery on their label, and BIBs are a very small segment of the market. Likewise, David Nicholson 1843 has always been a very small brand, even for Luxco.

As a Stitzel-Weller product, David Nicholson 1843 was a wheated bourbon, the same basic liquid as Old Fitzgerald, W. L. Weller, Cabin Still and the rest of the line, including Rebel Yell which Luxco also now owns. It continued as a wheater even after the source of the whiskey changed. The re-launched version is still a wheater and still 100� proof, although it is no longer BIB. Suggested retail is $29.99 to $34.99.

New to the Nicholson line is David Nicholson Reserve, a rye recipe bourbon, also 100� proof and also not BIB. Suggested retail is $34.99-$39.99.

Both bottles have cork tops. Neither has an age statement.

Part of the pitch for David Nicholson is that since 95 percent of brand volume comes from Missouri and Illinois, it has huge growth potential in new markets. Luxco reports that David Nicholson 1843 was up 11 percent in 2014 vs. the previous year.

Although Luxco is building a distillery in Bardstown, it is currently a non-distiller producer. Luxco used to disclose that it got most of its bourbon from Heaven Hill. These days they won't say but will say that their whiskey comes from more than one source.

Luxco was founded in St. Louis in 1958. Its portfolio includes Juarez Tequila & Triple Sec, Pearl Vodka, Everclear Grain Alcohol, Arrow Cordials, El Mayor Tequila, Ezra Brooks Bourbon, Lord Calvert Canadian Whisky, St. Brendan�s Irish Cream, Salvador�s Cocktails, and Yago Sant� gria.

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