Update: TINCUP is officially MGPI
Take a quick look at the home pages of these Colorado distillery websites:
Now, take a look at the TINCUP website:
The first three are actual Colorado distilleries, loaded with high resolution pictures of custom stills, mash tuns, barrel rooms and links to tour info, addresses and contact information. Woody Creek and Peak Spirits are so new that their whiskey isn’t even for sale yet. This has not stopped them from showing off their fully functional distilleries.
The TINCUP website is a computer generated picture of a scenic Rocky Mountain overlook, a picture of the bottle, and no mention of a distillery, anywhere. The site has not one link, no contact information, no photos, and no explanation of where it came from. It does, however, mention where it is sold. Theoretically, this brand new whiskey brand was able to put out enough drinkable whiskey in its pilot run to fulfill orders for the nation’s seven largest market states. That is more distribution than any other distillery in the state.
The site also mentions that this is a project of Jess Graber, co-founder and Master Distiller at Stranahan’s. This lends a heaping dose of legitimacy to TINCUP, because Graber, Jake Norris, and George Stranahan carry Todd Helton like legend around these parts. The story of Stranahan’s is as real as it gets, and anyone that drinks whiskey in Colorado knows that these men were the spark plug that ignited the current Colorado whiskey revolution.
While some people may assume TINCUP is Jess Graber’s second act in the Stranahan’s story, it is far more like Lincoln Henderson’s retirement from Brown-Forman when he began sourcing barrels for Angel’s Envy.
We know Proximo owns the TINCUP brand. Proximo is a New Jersey marketing firm that owns brands like Jose Cuervo, 1800, and Kraken Rum as well as Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey as of 2011. If you look at the TTB, you see that Proximo registered TINCUP to the Stranahan’s Denver distillery on Kalamath Street.
If you ask a Colorado liquor store, any Colorado Liquor store, they will tell you verbatim, that TINCUP is a “Stranahan’s product”. While you cannot contact TINCUP since there is no functioning TINCUP email or phone number, you can contact Stranahan’s. After one email, I received a quick response that Stranahan’s does not distill TINCUP, only bottles it for them. Afterall, the only real claim to Denver or Colorado other than the 18 Colorado references on the bottle is that TINCUP is “Bottled in Denver,” not distilled.
The most obvious red flag that Stranahan’s (or any other Colorado distillery) does not distill TINCUP is that in order to produce that much whiskey, a distillery the size of Stranahan’s would have to completely shut down production of their own whiskey for a very long period in order to produce enough whiskey to satisfy the needs of seven large market states. Since Stranahan’s is the largest single producer of whiskey in the state, it is safe to say that no distillery in the state could produce what TINCUP put out in 2013 without their own product disappearing from the shelf.
By far the most telling characteristic about the source of TINCUP is the mashbill. TINCUP claims a 64% corn, 32% rye, and 4% malted barley mashbill. To say what most of us are thinking, MGPI is the obvious source of the TINCUP bourbon. Every mash bill has DNA style tracers in it, and the 4% barley links TINCUP to MGPI, just as the 95% rye linked many ryes to LDI a few years ago.
When I first raised the suggestion that TINCUP was MGPI, a few people emailed me pointing out that MGPI lists their mash bills, and the TINCUP 32% rye, 4% barley mash bill was not one of them.
Look at these two MGPI mash bills:
MB#1: MGPI “36% rye ” mashbill is 60% corn, 36% rye, and 4% malted barley.
MB#2: MGPI’ “21% rye” mashbill is 75% corn, 21% corn, and 4% malted barley.
If you take a MB#1 in 3 parts, and MB#2 in one part, the result is a 64% corn, 32% rye, 4% barley mash bill, identical to the TINCUP mash bill. This makes TINCUP’s mash bill a MGPI mash bill, whether they confirm it or not.
When I see a 95% rye whiskey, I think LDI. I don’t care what story of pre-prohibition ties, Al Capone lineage, or old Kentucky namesake I read in a press release. That 95% rye means LDI (now MGPI), and that 4% barley in the TINCUP mash bill is equally as telling, albeit not definitive. The fact that Proximo has not responded to my emails, the phone calls have gone months without an answer, and that their website is void of any real information is very telling indeed.
Another red flag is that a 750ml bottle of TINCUP sells for under $25. Ask any new distillery how feasible that price point is for a first run release? That is probably less than a 50% margin for take home revenue if the wholesale it for a generous $20 before paying taxes, overhead, marketing, loans, and distribution. What is more realistic is that TINCUP is so cheap because they are benefiting from the $2.50 per 750ml price structure that MGPI allows a non-distiller producer of this size.
I have no real problem with non-distiller producers, but I do take issue when the marketing is blatantly deceitful. TINCUP is marketed in to direct competition with real, honest Colorado distillers that do not have conglomerate spirit companies backing them, and whose livelihoods depend on Colorado patronage. You are told to believe that Stranahan’s “makes it”, in the hopes that you believe that Stranahan’s distills it. Look beyond the smoke, ignore the mirrors, TINCUP is not made in Colorado.