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    Eat & Swig

    Greg Metze: America's Unknown Master Distiller
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    One of the great things about living in Louisville during the bourbon boom is that we can learn about bourbon just about any night of the week.  One of the greatest events around is the Legends Series at the Kentucky Derby Museum, hosted by Bourbon Authority Fred Minnick.  Minnick hosts a different Master Distiller or Bourbon Legend for each event, and last night’s event featured Master Distiller Greg Metze of MGP Distillery in Lawrenceburg, Indiana.

    If you’re not familiar with MGP, it was the subject of this article recently which proclaimed your craft rye doesn’t come from where you think it does.  Marketing silliness aside, this is not exactly news.  When a new whiskey producer is getting started, they can’t make a batch and sell it the next week.  Whiskey has to age, so new companies either have to start by selling “moonshine” or they have to buy whiskey from another source.  For most new rye producers, that source is MGP.

    MGP produces rye for Redemption, Riverboat, Bulleit, Templeton, High West, Whistle Pig, Jeffersons, James E. Pepper, and Dickel.  There are many other whiskey brands that contain products distilled at MGP, and they also make multiple vodkas and at least 5 brands of gin.  In addition, MGP makes 10-12 different bourbon mash bills and they share at least two yeast strains with Four Roses, which also used to be a Seagram’s distillery.  For the most part, a customer brings MGP a recipe and MGP makes it.  MGP is America’s #1 wholesale whiskey supplier.

    Metze was hired out of college to work for Seagram’s.  He says that the distillation process is 50% science, which was his background in college, and 50% art, which he learned from the other distillers on the job.

    There are a few key differences between rye production in Indiana and bourbon production in Kentucky, according to Metze.  For starters, the dry house at a rye distillery has the ability to dictate the pace of the whole operation.  Rye is a very sticky grain and is difficult to process in the dry house.  When the dry house gets backed up, the whole distillery grinds to a halt.

    The other major difference is aging.  Metze says the warehouses at MGP are built like bomb shelters, adding they couldn’t afford to build them that way anymore.  But because of both the construction and the location, you don’t get the same kinds of extreme high and low temperatures that you would in a Kentucky bourbon rick house.  Where bourbon producers have to rotate barrels in the rick house, at MGP they pretty much stay where they put them.

    Minnick asked Metze whether he was bothered by the fact that he is not given credit for any of the products he has made.  Metze responded, “I am just a very humble person.  The gratification for me is knowing we produce some of the finest whiskey in the world.”  An audience member later asked Metze whether MGP had any plans to introduce their own product, to which Metze smiled and replied, “that’s possible.”

    Fred Minnick and the Kentucky Derby Museum definitely put together a great event.  The guest on December 4th will be Jimmy Russell.  Click here for tickets.  The guest on February 5th will be Harlen Wheatley.  Click here for tickets.  Check back for ticket sales for Bill Samuels and Mike Veach.

    Photos Courtesy of Maggie Kimberl

    Maggie Kimberl's picture

    About Maggie Kimberl

    I'm a Louisville native with a passion for traveling and homegrown tomatoes. I write the bourbon news, which keeps me plenty busy since Louisville is the center of the bourbon universe. See bourbon news happening? Contact me on Twitter @LouGirl502!

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