On MGPI and Rye Whiskey

While it won't come as a surprise to many of our readers, there are still whiskey consumers who don't know their favorite products are distilled and matured in Lawrenceburg, Indiana at the 168-year-old former Seagram's distillery known as Midwest Grain Products of Indiana. For some background/history on MGPI, you can read Fred Minnick's 2013 article about the distillery here. You may have noticed that a relatively old whiskey article about MGPI went somewhat viral last month. In July 2014, Eric Felten published an article for The Daily Beast entitled "Your 'Craft' Rye Whiskey is Probably From a Factory Distillery in Indiana"' and it seems to be popping up on Facebook everywhere. 

Felten's article omits any mention of MGPI's master distiller, Greg Metze, who is possibly the most significant distiller in the American whiskey industry. Metze was hired by Seagram's in 1978 a week after he graduated from the University of Cincinnati's undergraduate chemistry program. He learned the basics from distillers Jack Pytleski and Larry Ebersold and rose through the ranks to become the master distiller. When craft whiskeys began to proliferate, hundreds of new companies called on Metze to fill their bottles with quality bourbon and rye whiskey. From 2007 to the present, the number of rye whiskeys available has gone from about ten to over 100, but many of those new brands are simply whiskey made at MGPI.

These days, practically everything aging at MGPI is under contract. Despite the fact that we all know MGPI provides small operations with whiskey to sell as their own, it's supposed to be a secret. But there is some confusion with regard to who demands the confidentiality. MGPI's vice president of research and development, Don Coffey, told Minnick that MGPI contracts do not contain anonymity clauses ("Keeping the distillery a secret is the customer's preference"). However, MGPI's president and CEO Gus Griffin told Eric Felten that it's the company standard ("[MGPI] signs non-disclosures with all...clients and keeps the lists confidential").

Regardless, the list is hardly confidential. Steve Ury at Sku's Recent Eats compiled the list below, and it has been cited by others like Blake at Bourbonr and Bernie Lubbers at Whiskeyprof. I know of three other brands from MGPI that are not on Sku's list, and I am certain there are others. I've bolded the names of whiskeys you are likely to see from coast to coast. 

31 N 50 Bourbon (Dry Diggings)
4 Spirits Bourbon and American Whiskey (4 Spirits)
1888 Bourbon (Diversa Brands)
99 Bottles Bourbon & Rye (PA Private Label Spirits)
Angel’s Envy Rye (Louisville Distilling Co.)
Aztec Spirits Whiskey Distilled from Bourbon Mash (Aztec Spirits)
Backbone Bourbon (Crossroads Vitners/Strong Spirits)
Batchers’ Bourbon (Litchfield Distillery)
Bearded Lady Bourbon (Vok Beverages)
Belle Meade Bourbon (Nelson’s Greenbriar)
Big Ass Bourbon (Diversa)
Big Bottom Bourbon (Big Bottom)
Big House Bourbon (Underdog Spirits)
Big Y Rye (PA Private Label Spirits)
Bone Snapper Rye (Strong Spirits)
Bourbon 30 (Glenns Creek Distilling)
Bower Hill Rye (Meier’s)
Breaker Bourbon (Ascendant Spirits)
Bulleit Rye (Diageo)
Cadée Bourbon & Rye (Cadée Distillery)
Chattanooga Whiskey 1816 Reserve (Chattanooga Whiskey Co.)
Clarion Bourbon and Blended Whiskey (Distilled Spirits Epicenter)
Cleveland Rye Whiskey (Cleveland Whiskey)
Coney Island Carlo Bourbon (Terresentia)
Copper City Straight Bourbon (Arizona Distilling Co.)
Corn Star Corn Whiskey (Bardstown Barrel Selections)
Cougar Bourbon & Rye (Foster’s)
Country Smooth American Whiskey (Speakeasy Spirits)
Defiance Whiskey (Defiant Spirits)
Doubleday Bourbon (Cooperstown Distillery)
Eighteen 33 Bourbon (Boone County Distilling Co.)
Filibuster Bourbon Rye (M.S. Trading LP)
George Dickel Rye (Diageo/George Dickel)
George Remus Bourbon & Rye (Queen City Whiskey/Strong Spirits)
Henderson Rye (North Texas Distillers)
High Liquors Bourbon & Rye (High Liquors)
High West (an element of many of their whiskeys blends)
Homestead Bourbon (Homestead American whiskey)
Hooker’s House (some of their bourbons and their rye; Prohibition Spirits)
Iowa Distilling Company Caribbean Cask Rye
J. Green Bourbon and Rye (Shadow Beverage Group)
James E. Pepper 1776 Bourbon & Rye (James E. Pepper/Strong Spirits)
James Oliver Rye (Indio Spirits)
J.R. Revelry Bourbon (La Bodega Internacional/Speakeasy Spirits)
Joint Bourbon (Temperance Distilling Co.)
Joseph Magnus Bourbon (Jos. A. Magnus & Co.)
Knotter Bourbon & Rye (Blaum Bros.)
Krofters Double Barreled Bourbon (Litchfield Distillery)
LeMont Rye (PA Private Label Spirits)
Lost Republic Bourbon & Rye
Mosswood American Light Whiskey (Mosswood Distillers)
O.K.I. Bourbon and Rye (New Riff Distilling)
Old Hickory Bourbon (Meier’s)
Old Scenter Bourbon and Rye (Strong Spirits for R. Griesedieck Distilling)
Pinhook Bourbon (CJS Beverage Corp.)
Prichard’s Rye (Prichard’s)
Rebel Yell Rye (Luxco)

Rebellion Bourbon (Market Street Spirits – newer batches)
Redemption Bourbon & Rye (Bardstown Barrel Selections)
Riverboat Rye (Bardstown Barrel Selections)
Rough Rider Bourbon & Rye (Long Island Spirits)
Sagamore Spirit Rye (Distilled Spirits Epicenter)
Seagram’s 7 Blended Whiskey (Diageo)
Single Track Rye (Range and River Distilling)
Smokin’ Joe’s Bourbon & Rye (PA Private Label Spirits)
Smooth Ambler Old Scout Bourbon, Rye and Corn Whiskey (Smooth Ambler)
Smuggler’s Notch Rye
Spirit of America Bourbon (Hobson & Roberts)
Spring Mill Bourbon (Heartland Distillers)
Stoutheart Bourbon (Hobson & Roberts)
Taos Lightning (KGB Spirits)
Temperance Trader (Bull Run Distilling)
Templeton Rye (Templeton)
Temptation Bourbon (Bardstown Barrel Selections)
The Saloon Bourbon & Rye (PA Private Label Spirits)
Tin Cup Whiskey (Proximo Spirits)
Troubadour Bourbon (The Original Texas Legend Distillery)
Untitled No. 1 Whiskey (One Eight Distilling)
WH Harrison Bourbon (Tipton Spirits)
Whistlepig Old World Rye
WhiteHeart Bourbon (Hobson & Roberts)
Widow Jane Rye (Cacao Prieto)
Willett Rye (Indiana ryes)

Winghart’s Bourbon & Rye (PA Private Label Spirits)

Bourbon historian Mike Veach recently published an interesting article suggesting that, in addition to many positives, MGPI has had some negative impact on the rye whiskey market too. With so much MGPI rye in your local liquor store, other great styles of rye are being neglected. He cites Wild Turkey rye, Pogue's Five Fathers rye, Jim Beam's rye and Old Overholt, Heaven Hill's Pikesville and Rittenhouse ryes, and Buffalo Trace's Sazerac ryes. In our opinion, there are even more non-MGPI ryes that are worth the money:

- New England Distilling's Gunpowder Rye;
- Sonoma County Rye;
- Lot 40 Canadian Rye;
- Willett's 2-year-old Rye;
- Woodford Reserve Rye;
- FEW Rye;
- Michter's Barrel Strength Rye (sourced from somewhere);
- Catoctin Creek's Roundstone Rye;
- Colonel E.H. Taylor Rye;
- Copper Fox Rye;
- Corsair Ryemageddon;
- Dad's Hat Pennsylvania Rye;
- Leopold Bros. Maryland Style Rye;
- Woodinville Rye.

Pretty soon we'll publish our Top 10 Obtainable Rye Whiskey List, akin to our Top 10 Obtainable Bourbon List. Oh, and if someone wants to sample swap with us so we can taste some of MGPI's limited edition, Metze's Select bourbon, email us at bourbonscout@gmail.com!