Homestead Barrel Proof Bourbon Whiskey – Is it really from Iowa?

2014 Edit:  Aside from an ad running in a local magazine that goes too far in touting the Iowa connection, I really need to give these guys more credit given the backlash created by Templeton Rye’s recent marketing misfortunes. Homestead’s bottle DOES say that their whiskey is distilled in Indiana. They deserve a gold star for that.

I was paging through an issue of Edible Magazine when I saw an ad for Homestead barrel proof bourbon whiskey. The ad, reproduced below, states: “Iowa’s one and only artisan barrel proof bourbon.”

IMG_4069 I could see from the picture that the bourbon was a fairly deep amber color. That’s odd, I thought to myself. That bourbon has been in barrels for at least four years, probably a lot longer. But there were no federally licensed distilleries in Iowa making bourbon even four years ago. I know because I have an online account with the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau and I check up on those sorts of things fairly regularly. So, how does it claim to be “Iowa’s one and only?”  While it is true that Iowa’s other distilleries don’t sell “artisan barrel proof bourbon” there is nothing stopping them. In fact, if you take any 51% corn whiskey less than 160 proof,skip the dilution stage, and drop it in a new oak “containers” for a minute at not more than 125 proof and you would instantly have “barrel proof bourbon whiskey.”

Homestead

I’m sure that Iowa’s Broadbent Distillery, Cedar Ridge Distillery, and Mississippi River Distillery are just as gobsmacked to see a six year old Iowa bourbon pop up out of nowhere.  So, what is the Iowa connection? It could NOT have been distilled here. Could it have been bottled here? I decided this deserved some investigation. First, I found a bottle on the (top) shelf at the local liquor store and studied it. Nowhere on the bottle is there any claim that this bourbon is from Iowa. That is a good thing, because the Feds tightly regulate what can be printed on liquor bottles and cans. Flipping the bottle around, I find the following:

Bottled By

Homestead American Whiskey

Bardstown, Kentucky

Distilled in Indiana

Here is a closeup of the bottle:

closeup So, what is the Iowa connection? It turns out that the owners of Homestead American Whiskey are from Iowa. As far as I can tell, that, and maybe a storefront in the Amanas, is the only connection. I know that liquor marketing is an inexact and misleading art. But guys, when we have hard working Iowans actually distilling whiskey here in Iowa it takes some balls to call yourself “Iowa’s only artisan barrel proof bourbon.” I suppose one could call it “America’s only artisan barrel proof bourbon marketed by two Iowa dudes” but that might not sound very interesting. So, who makes it? Well, the only bourbon distillery in Indiana that has been business long enough to make this particular deep amber bourbon is the old Lawrenceburg Distillers Indiana distillery, now known as Midwest Grain Products Ingredients (owned by MGP). MGP recently bought LDI out.  All this is further explained in a whiskey forum where the highly respected Chuck Cowdry goes into more detail. Basically, it appears that the Homestead company buys pre-existing barrels produced by LDI and then ships them, or the whiskey, to Bardstown, Kentucky where there are plenty of federally licensed whiskey bottlers willing to bottle the whiskey. I’m guessing that the whiskey from a lot of different LDI bourbon barrels is poured into a single large tank for use in the bottling process as that is the only way to legally test the “barrel proof” without having to make a separate label for every barrel. Note that these labels are pre-printed, not filled in like single cask or single barrel whiskeys. Is it any good? I’ve found that if a person pays a lot for a whiskey that they will really, really want to believe that it is better. Is it? I have no idea. I’m not about to pay through the nose for LDI bourbon. So, this is not a review. It is a request to stop marketing this as an Iowa bourbon. Of course, Homestead isn’t the only company buying LDI stock and selling it to gullible Iowans as an “Iowa product.” It isn’t the only whiskey company named for a small town in Iowa, either.

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11 thoughts on “Homestead Barrel Proof Bourbon Whiskey – Is it really from Iowa?

  1. If I am not mistaken, this same distillery is the one that provides most of the Templeton Rye product. They supplied all of it at first. I am not sure how much is actually distilled in Iowa these days, but this sounds very familiar.

    To be fair, TR did mention it on their website, though it was buried fairly deep.

    Anyhow, just thought I would bring that up.

  2. That was also my understanding. I heard they have a tiny still there, but it is used only for small batches and “testing”?

    Anyway, they don’t come right out and tell you that on the front page of the site but I still feel it is about the same level of deceit as this is.

    I’ve talked with people that love the stuff just for being an “Iowa product” but have probably never even tasted an actual Iowa whiskey like Cedar Ridge.

    🙂

  3. This kind of thing drives me crazy. Although I do believe that with the rising number of actual craft distillers, this kind of thing is going to become harder and harder to fake. People who are actually distilling are going to figure out a way to distinguish themselves from pure marketers like this.

  4. Thanks for the write up. This kind of BS drives me nuts, and hopefully whiskey consumers are picking up what is going on here. With that being said, I think that problems like this are going to take care of themselves due to the nation-wide whiskey shortage that we are currently in. Most of the aged whiskey stocks in the US are either spoken for or less than a year old. There are now dozens of independent bottlers buying up all the old whiskey, and eventually it will dry up for a few years while the big distilleries play catch up. Those of us making our own juice will continue to flourish, while the marketing guys will soon have no product to market.

    Kolin Brighton
    Cedar Ridge Distillery

  5. What really irks me more than almost anything is that journalists working for national publications regularly rank some of the fake labels a lot higher than the same damn whiskey from the source! It is like me buying a Ford, replacing the branding, making up my own motor car company name and then getting car of the year from Car and Driver Magazine. Insane. Scotland is experiencing the same shortage of whisky barrel supplies as well. A lot of the same foolishness was going on over there, but it is almost easier to get away with it there due to the tradition in Scotland of blending whiskys from different sources.

  6. There’s nothing wrong with blended whiskey or with someone selling product that they didn’t distill.

    The issue is when people do that and try to sell it like another product.

    As a consumer, that toasts my ass. By the way, Kolin, I have been enjoying your whiskey more and more as the years have gone by.

    Really a great product.

    • I agree. Blended whisky was actually seen as the superior product until Americans came along. From the standpoint of a lot of Scottish bleners it is sort of like just eating the flour, sugar, and eggs separately instead of the cake.

  7. Hello fellow Whiskey friends . I enjoy Homestead bourban we are lucky to have it produced in Iowa by two really well meaning people. They like Whiskey and wanted to make or market their own thats ok!So Did Tempelton . I love Cedar Ridge and Iowa river and will continue to carry there products . But This whole thing is causing negativity . Noone is trying to pull wool over any ones eyes .

    • All I can say is did you read my article? I don’t care if whiskey is made in Indiana. The old Seagrams distillery (later LDI and now MGP) in Lawrenceburg makes great whiskey. Templeton Rye cames from the same place and the proprietors had to correct its marketing story early on when people figured out it wasn’t made in Iowa. My only point is that this bourbon is marketed as “Iowa’s one and only artisan barrel proof bourbon.” But how can that be when it is distilled and surely barreled in Indiana? It isn’t even bottled in Iowa, but Kentucky. Maybe its a good product, but I know that 90% of the folks that buy it after reading the marketing will think that there is a still in Homestead, Iowa where this bourbon is lovingly crafted. Looking through more recent articles on the Homestead product it seems that the owners are fully disclosing the fact that it is made in Indiana. This ad somehow made it through the vetting process, I guess.

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