The bourbon boom of the last decade has seen many distilleries trying to create a consumer frenzy around their brands. But few have succeeded like Buffalo Trace. This cult-like following seemed to come out of nowhere, taking Buffalo Trace from a solid but unremarkable distillery to a whiskey giant. So I ask the question that was so graciously given to us by a former Above The Char submitter, would bourbon be popular without Buffalo Trace? Other Sazerac-owned brands like Eagle Rare and E.H. Taylor have also benefitted from the company’s popularity. But is it all manufactured hype? Buffalo Trace insists they simply can’t keep up with demand, yet they continually make headlines for holding back new releases. And all this frenzy has been created with minimal advertising. Whether it’s real scarcity or strategic rationing, Buffalo Trace has created a thirst that no other bourbon company can match.
- Above the Char with Fred Minnick (@fredminnick) talks about the end of bourbon hunting
- What other bourbon companies were trying to get a consumer ground swell?
- Why has the entire Buffalo Trace portfolio turned into something people chase?
- Was Buffalo Trace ever on your radar?
- Is this attributed to tying Weller to Pappy?
- Did Buffalo Trace create a FOMO line to draw people in?
- Are other brands benefiting from the Sazerac popularity?
- Is there a scarcity play or do they really not have the stocks?
- How are they making national headlines for not releasing bottles?
- Where has Buffalo Trace advertised because it hasn’t been much?
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The Last Drop Distillers is known for acquiring extremely old and rare spirits from across the world. We chat with Rebecca Jago, Managing Director of The Last Drop Distillers, to hear their story. It’s an interesting history of generational knowledge and their release of the 1980 Buffalo Trace is what caught our attention. We even got a chance to try it on a past Whiskey Quickie and it blew us away. Listen to hear about their partnership with Sazerac and how they plan to sustain their business model.
- This week’s Above the Char with Fred Minnick talks about used rye barrels.
- What is on your bucket list?
- What is The Last Drop Distillers?
- Do you have an emotional standard when tasting a rare whiskey?
- How do you grow and sustain a business like this?
- Do you seek out sellers or do they seek you out?
- How do you determine if something is really unique or rare?
- Talk about the 1980 Buffalo Trace.
- Tell us about the rationale behind the pricing.
- Do you think bourbon is deserving or price point like this?
Joshua Steeley, Marketing Director for Bourbon at Buffalo Trace, joins the show to cover the Old Charter Oak series. It’s a line extension that focuses on the effect different types of oak have on the bourbon. We’re talking oak harvested from all over the world and some of the oak being hundreds of years old.
- This week’s Above the Char with Fred Minnick talks about decanters.
- What’s the most ridiculous thing someone has tricked you into doing or believing?
- Tell us about your role at Buffalo Trace.
- Any brands you are putting more effort behind?
- Are you going to have a part in Early Times?
- How did you get into bourbon and end up at Buffalo Trace?
- Let’s talk about Old Charter Oak.
- How do you decide what bourbon goes into each brand?
- Tell us about your experimental process.
- Old Charter Oak Tasting.
- Where do you source your barrels from?
- Talk about what went into the packaging design.
- How hard is it to find this brand?
- What is the price point?
- Any failed experiments?
Freddie Johnson is bourbon. You are going to hear that, among many other praises for one of the most well respected people in the industry. He’s a never short on stories and makes any experience together memorable. Of course, Freddie talks about tours and his impact at Buffalo Trace, but then answers questions about bottle flipping and the secondary market. It’s great insight into Sazerac’s approach on this issue. Make sure you attend the Kentucky Derby Museum’s Legends Series next season.
- This week’s Above the Char with Fred Minnick talks about the latest deal between Brown-Forman and Sazerac.
- Discussion about white dog.
- Tell us about giving tours 12 years ago.
- Talk about the promise to your father.
- How do you customize the tours?
- What do the people of Buffalo Trace mean to you?
- Do you have to buy your own bottles?
- What is your favorite part of a tour?
- How do you feel about seeing the high aftermarket prices for Buffalo Trace products?
- Do you ever get challenged about your products on the tours?
- What do you think about flipping bottles?
- What was the most special drink you’ve shared?
Many of us have heard of A. Smith Bowman, which is owned by Sazerac, but we really don’t know much about them. We sit down with their Master Distiller, Brian Prewitt, to learn about the inner-workings of their operation and how the relationship with Sazerac works, as it pertains to the bourbon. With more than 20 years of brewing and distilling expertise, he tells us how he dialed in their stills to create a unique product and what the future entails for growth. We may or may not talk about gin for a few minutes as well. If you’re a fan of A. Smith Bowman, let us know your favorite bottling in the comments.
- This week’s Above the Char with Fred Minnick talks about Texas.
- How did you get into bourbon?
- What has been your favorite spirit to work with?
- Did your parents influence you to get into the alcohol industry?
- Tell us the history of A. Smith Bowman.
- Does it ever make you mad that Kentucky gets all the glory for bourbon?
- What year did the operation start?
- Tell us the history of Master Distillers there.
- Is it hard to dial in flavor profiles?
- Are you able to make your own imprint on the product?
- What did you tweak during the process?
- When did it become part of the Sazerac portfolio?
- What resources did you gain from Sazerac?
- Do you distill or does Buffalo Trace contract distill?
- Is it aged in VA?
- Are higher age releases sourced or made in house?
- What is your capacity?
- How many states are you available in?
- Is there a flavor profile difference from Kentucky bourbon?
- Tell us about your products.
- What makes your gin unique?
- Tell us about your single barrel program.
- Where do you see the market in the future?
- How has Virginia embraced you?
- Do you have a lot of competition visit?
- Has bourbon tourism grown in VA?
- What are your plans for growth?
167 – EXCLUSIVE: 2018 Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame featuring Freddie Johnson, Matt Shattock, Pearse Lyons, and Max Shapira
- This week’s Above the Char has Fred Minnick discussing friendships and choosing that right bottle to celebrate
- The show starts off interviewing Fred Noe, Freddie Noe, and Matt Shattock of Jim Beam on the red carpet
- Transitions to the ceremony where Eric Gregory, President of the KDA, introduces everyone
- Louisville Mayor, Greg Fisher, gives an introduction of Matt Shattock
- Matt’s speech is delivered unedited
- We transition back out to the red carpet to interview Freddie Johnson
- The ceremony then kicks off with Eric Gregory talking about Freddie’s history
- A.J. Hochhalter, Film Producer of NEAT, introduces Freddie
- Freddie delivers his speech and talks about his dad and family – completely unedited
- The red carpet is alive once again talking to Mark Coffman, Master Distiller at Town Branch
- The ceremony resumes with Eric Gregory giving a history of Dr. Pearse Lyons of Alltech
- A short story from Jerry Summers, HOF 2017 inductee, about Pearse Lyons
- The final red carpet appearance features Andy Shapira talking about his father Max, as well as Larry Kass with a brief history of Rittenhouse 21-25 year single barrels
- The ceremony begins the wrap up with Eric Gregory giving Max Shapira’s resume
- Donn Lux, Chairman and President of Luxco, shares some funny stories of Max’s attention to the bottom line
- Max Shapira talks about his family, the history of Heaven Hill, and that growth will continue
- Listen to all of our Buffalo Trace, Heaven Hill, Town Branch, and Beam podcasts
Freddie Johnson has a long resume. Previous guest on episode 59, 3rd Generation Employee at Buffalo Trace, and Tour Guide Extraordinaire. He joins to talk about Bourbon Pompeii, who was Thomas H Handy (THH) and other tidbits of random knowledge you only get from Freddie.
- What’s been going on since the last time we talked?
- You haven’t been getting a bigger head by reading all those 5 star TripAdvisor reviews have you?
- Lets give everyone a little refresher about you and your family history at BT
- So who’s going to continue the family tradition and be the 4th generation?
- What are the ABCs of bourbon?
- What is the origin of “the shot”?
- Who was Thomas H. Handy?
- Alright, this Bourbon Pompei, lets talk about it.
- For some other geeks out there besides whisky geeks, you also took part in a new Buffalo Trace virtual reality tour. talk about that.
112 – All You Need to Know About Private Barrel Picks at Buffalo Trace with Beau Beckman, Single Barrel Select Manager
Beau Beckman, Barrel Select Manager at Buffalo Trace, is now a 2nd time guest! We talk about how the program has matured, why you only get to taste 4 barrels rather than more, how the barrels are chosen for the program versus the regular blend, and how you can get your own.
- So what’s been happening since the last time we chatted back on episode 009?
- You’ve managed to stay off the news radar it seems like except there was a good article Forbes put out recently and our good friend Bourbon Truth was talking about good private barrels and said you basically had to lick someone’s balls (especially Beau beckman) to get anywhere
- So we just did a pick and you said you can have the barrel or we can send it off to Mexico
- For anyone that doesn’t know and didn’t catch them up to speed on your family heritage that you bashfully don’t like to talk about
- I was actually out here today doing a barrel selection of Buffalo Trace, talk me through the process of what I experienced today
- The numbers have been dwindling at every place for barrel selections. Where it was once fruitful to try 12 or more barrels, sometimes it’s down to three. Is this just lack of mature whiskey?
- Or is it lets dwindle down these remaining barrels for single selections and then we will pull out new ones
- How often does it happen someone will pass on a barrel and then the next group or the group after says something ridiculous like “oh man, that’s the honey barrel!”
- speaking of honey barrels, do you really believe there are such a thing and how often do those go to single select?
- how are the barrels chosen for single select, randomly? by a group of tasters?
- I’ve had some very off profile barrels too
- Coming and doing a barrel pick for new whiskey geeks is like the ultimate experience. What do you attribute to the success of a single barrel program?
- Any advice for those stores who are itching to get on the program or know of a shortcut?
104 – Jim Beam, Barrell, Rabbit Hole, Smooth Ambler, 1792, Art Eatables, Balcones, Cooper’s Craft and Jack Rose in 10 Interviews from WhiskyLive Louisville 2017
A combination of 10 interviews all done at WhiskeyLive in Louisville. This podcast features Fred Noe and Beth Burrows of Jim Beam, Joe Beatrice of Barrell Bourbon, Brian Gelfo of Rabbit Hole, John Foster of Smooth Ambler, Josh Hollifield of Barton 1792, Kelly Ramsey of Art Eatables, Winston Edwards of Balcones, Greg Roshkowski of Cooper’s Craft, and we wrap it up with Bill Thomas of Jack Rose.
- Thanks to WhiskyLive during the Bourbon Affair for letting us come and record these interviews. Make sure you attend a future WhiskyLive event.
103 – Do Master Blenders Get The Recognition They Deserve? With Drew Mayville, Master Blender at Buffalo Trace / Sazerac
Drew Mayville, Master Blender at Buffalo Trace / Sazerac, has one of the most important jobs and that’s making sure the blended products meet a flavor profile. We dive into the differences between tanked and non-tank Sazerac 18 year and even talk about his involvement with the Old Rip 25 year.
- Talk about your past because I did some LinkedIn sleuthing last night and come to find out you’re no spring chicken.
- Talk about what it means to be a master blender because we talk to master distillers all the time but we don’t get to see this side very often
- Talk about the panel and the process
- Would you say blenders are under appreciated in this business?
- Talk about some of the labels you are blending for
- Let’s take Eagle Rare as an example, what are some of the characteristics you are looking for to have it’s consistency?
- Are you using a previous batch or set of samples and comparing that to new samples?
- Did I read somewhere that BT’s Buffalo Cream is your baby?
- What else are you or your team responsible for?
- Harlen has his vodka. If you have your way, what sort of spirit do you want your name across?
- Everyone knows that warehouse X is part of the experimentation projects. Do you have some of your own things over there as well?
- Don’t you think experimentation of everything has been done already? Many consumers are just looking for good bourbon from a good distillery with a rich history.
- Personally, the EHT 4 Grain was a way to build the EH Taylor hype but, of BT knew the 4grain bourbon was better than 3, then all bourbons would have been 4grain from the beginning. am i wrong?
- Is the single barrel, barrel proof explosion going to put you out of business?