Ask any bourbon enthusiast, and they’ll probably roll their eyes, scoff, or worse, get angry at any mention of MGP bourbon. You might even hear them passionately exclaim that it’s not “real” bourbon.
But what exactly is MGP bourbon, and why does it have such a bad rap in the industry? We’ll answer that question (and more) in today’s article.
What Is MGP Bourbon Means
MGP bourbon stands for Midwest Grain Products, an industry term used to describe mass-produced bourbon in Lawrenceburg, Indiana.
This distillery produces spirits for private labels to sell. It is said that the location distills most of the bourbon and rye whiskey available on the US market.
These mass-produced bourbons are then bottled and sold as the brands’ own. About 50 different “craft” distilleries and bottling companies source their spirits from the Indiana-based distillery, with Diageo being its biggest customer today.
Of course, mass-produced bourbon doesn’t necessarily mean it’s garbage, and “craft” brands and distilleries don’t often have the experience to distill spirits properly.
They also lack the funds to source quality ingredients and equipment, so they turn to MGP brands.
3 Primary Avenues For Procuring Sourced MGPs
1. Bulk Whiskey Buying
Under the bulk whiskey buying arrangement, the company or brand purchases ready-made whiskey or bourbon in bulk and simply adds their unique bottle and label.
This arrangement is probably what gripes hardcore bourbon enthusiasts.
2. Contract Distillation
This arrangement follows the buyer’s specifications on how the whiskey will be produced. This encompasses anywhere from the age of the spirit and the mash bill used.
3. Sourced Bourbon Blends
Some companies and brands blend their in-house bourbon with another sourced bourbon from MGP.
This process is extremely helpful to small distilleries who want to extend their small batches while still maintaining consistent quality.
MGP-style bourbon distilleries weren’t in play until the United States had a means of transportation effective enough to deliver the batches of spirits.
Back when MGPs were virtually unheard of, the spirits in the country came directly from the person who distilled them. In the case of retailers, they got the supply in bulk from the distilleries themselves.
The MGP distillery in Indiana was established in 1847 and was bought by Seagram in 1933.
If you see the words “Distilled in Indiana” printed on the label of a bourbon bottle, this is a clear indication that the spirit had been sourced from MGP, even though the brand did not specifically disclose it.
MGP can provide the yeast, grain, and barrels to make the spirit, or the client can bring their own.
The distillery will then ship the barrels to the customer to age, dump and ship the juice itself, or dump and blend the juices. 
MGP carries various mash bills (more than a dozen) to cater to what the brand is looking for.
Do you want a robust mash bill made from 60 percent corn, 36 percent rye, and 4 percent malted barley?
How about a smoother mash bill made from 75 percent corn, 21 percent rye, and 4 percent malted barley?
The distillery’s most popular mash bill is the rye-heavy formula, with a whopping 95 percent. It is said that Bulleit Bourbon uses this mash bill.
Distilleries That Buy MGP
- Bull Run
- Barrel Craft
- George Dickel
- Prohibition Spirits
- James E. Pepper
Why Other Distilleries Opt For MGP
Many craft distilleries opt for MGP because it is a quick and failsafe option.
Distilleries or businesses that have just opened will need a product to sell to make money while waiting for their own batches to mature. Sourced spirits like MGP bourbon will be able to fill that gap.
Is MGP now called “Ross & Squibb Distillery?”
Yes, the MGP distillery is now called the Ross and Squibb Distillery. This rebranding was after MGP acquired Luxco and turned its whiskey operations to the latter.
The name Ross is derived from one of Lawrenceburg’s original distilleries, and Squibb pays homage to the historic Squibb Distillery.
Is it important to know the bourbon you drink is MGP?
Yes, it’s important to know if the bourbon you drink is MGP.
Many bourbon enthusiasts opt to buy from brands that put care and thought into their products, which is why they steer clear of MGP bourbon. If you consider yourself one of them, it’s important to read the label carefully.
Personally speaking, we don’t think MGP bourbons are all that bad.
After all, startup brands and distilleries often need time to mature their mash bills, and they need to be able to sell something in the meantime to make sure the business stays afloat. MGP bourbons can help fill that gap.
Furthermore, small distilleries and businesses often don’t have the knowledge and resources to distill spirits effectively.
The MGP distillery is well-versed in the intricacies of bourbon making, and they can make just as great a product as other brands already in the business.