Brent Elliott was nice enough to have a phone chat with me… I have made some minor edits for time purposes, flow, continuity and because I took notes and didn’t record it… on to the interview…
NBD: Thanks for taking the time to chat with me today. So… what is your daily routine?
BE: It’s different everyday, no two are alike. When I’m here [at the distillery] I usually spend a lot of time in the sensory lab, mingling and blending different batches. We look at every batch that comes off the still for quality check. We check the distillate and 99 out of 100 are fine. After four years we check each batch again to see where it will go.
NBD: How do you define a batch?
BE: A batch is about 290 barrels, coming from eight fermenters. We make about 22 batches a month. After four years we have a pretty good idea where it will go. We test it and it gets designated for Yellow Label or Private Barrel or something different. At 6.5-7yrs we test them again and at this point we are 75% sure how long they will go for and where they will end up. From time to time we find a special batch that isn’t too astringent and still have more to go and that will often go into Small Batch Limited Edition. Most of the longer aging are from the first or second tier.
NBD: What is a tier?
BE: Our warehouses have six stories, which we call tiers, the first being the ground floor and the sixth the top floor. The first through third often produce batches that can age longer.
NBD: So… what is your daily drinker? What did you drink last night?
BE: I actually didn’t drink last night, but the night before I had FR Small Batch. When I first started out I tried everything, tried to understand the different processes, and the taste differences. And over the years lots of people have brought over bourbons, but I do not have many competitors products at my house anymore.
NBD: So, I tried to Tweet you the other day and I couldn’t find you. Are you on Twitter?
BE: I am not on Twitter… or Facebook or anywhere on social media. I do check it from time to time from my wife’s account, but I’m so busy with emails and phone calls that I do not have time for it.
NBD: So, check my math. 22 batches a month, 290 barrels a batch, so you are making over 75,000 barrels a year?
BE: If we ran for 12 months a year that would be correct, but we shut down for about two months a year. Historically we shut down for almost 4-5 months a year due to the heat in the river but now we shut down for about two months for cleanup, rebuilding and fixing the pipes, pumps and facilities. We also are in the process of doubling our production and using that time to expand.
NBD: Thank you so much for your time… if there was anything you could fix in the bourbon industry, what would it be?
BE: The price gauging on the secondary market bothers me and I also wish we have enough inventory.
NBD: Seems that if you have enough inventory, the supply and demand would be fixed and would solve the price gauging problem.
BE: That’s right…
NBD: Do you think with all the increases in production that a bourbon bubble is forming?
BE: I do think that bourbon will slow down, whether it is in ten or fifteen years, but I do not think that the bottom will fall out. This is not like cherry vodka and next week people like grape flavor more. With bourbon, the growth requires more people to be introduced and there is increased recognition; when people try it they love it. Bourbon has history, tradition, is hand crafted and has a soul; most importantly it is delicious.
NBD: Thank you so much for your time.