Kentucky Owl – Dixon Dedman Q&A
Kentucky Owl Bourbon and Rye Whiskey have been creating quite a buzz lately which naturally made us curious to meet the brains behind the operation. We connected with Dixon Dedman, Kentucky Owl Master Blender to hear his thoughts on a few questions we had.
Q: Whiskey lost its popularity to vodka in the 70’s, but has surged in recent years. How has this renewed interest changed the whiskey industry?
A: This is a totally loaded question. I could answer this in a million different ways. For one, there’s the angle about how all the producers have had to adjust/manipulate their production methods in an effort to maximize production. It’s the reason bourbon of the 70s era doesn’t taste like the products we have today. They have all changed their model in addition to equipment in an effort to maximize the number of barrels they fill and eventually the number of cases they can sell as quickly as possible.
Secondly, you see the way the growth in demand has not only created scarcity, but has in turn created an entirely new market that operates outside the law. That has had such an effect that in Kentucky, legislation has been passed to essentially make the secondary market legal in terms of both on-prem and off-prem establishments being able to purchase “vintage” whiskey from individuals. No one could have predicted the change in terms of 70s to today and how drastic it actually is. And, based on all of that, the industry is in a totally weird place. The investment in the industry is through the roof, new brands are coming out every day, prices are skyrocketing, and I don’t think there’s any end in sight.
Q: How do you go about choosing a whiskey for the Kentucky Owl brand? Are there specific characteristics that you look for?
A: I choose for Kentucky Owl based on my taste and my taste only. I’ve turned down more product than I’ve purchased, and I’ve stopped in one direction or another with more blends than I care to count. I have the sample bottles to show for it. I am a lover of whiskey, bourbon in particular. I have been practicing the art of drinking it since a younger age than I’d admit in front of my mother.
I’m not by any stretch of the imagination going to claim to have some superior palate or talent for blending bourbon, but I will say that I go with what I think is the single best product I can put in a bottle each time I go about making a blend. I’m not concerned with what people liked a previous blend or what a previous blend tastes like. My only concern is the whiskey I have at hand and putting that particular blend together that I am proud to put my name and reputation behind. That’s really it. It’s a long trial and error process with the end result always the same in one regard – something I’m proud of – but completely different in the sense that the profile from blend to blend usually is completely different.
Q: How has Kentucky Owl bourbon changed since Batch 1 was released?
A: Batch 1 is a completely different profile than 2. But 2 is different than all the rest as well. I never do a blend with a profile or an end in mind. I look at the barrels I have available each time and go from there. Sometimes it lends itself to lots of spice like #1 or sometimes they end up really sweet and soft like #6. All depends on where the barrels take me.
Q: What are your plans for the brand moving forward?
A: Nothing but more of the same. Planning two smaller rye releases in 2018 as well as Batch #8 in the fall. I don’t have any plans to change anything. As long as I’m involved in Kentucky Owl, it will be more of the same.
Q: Even with more and more whiskey brands being released, Kentucky Owl remained a popular choice for enthusiasts. How do keep the brand relevant and interesting in a rapidly expanding, and increasingly discerning, market?
A: Honestly, I think it’s because I’ve been poked and prodded and vetted and people have come to two realizations: One is that they know and trust that I am truly trying to create beautiful whiskey and not concerned with just selling cases or profiting off past success. The second is that we have a history and a story and it’s real. It’s not fictional or created in some board room by marketing executives. It is my history, my legacy, my family’s story that we are sharing with people.
Kentucky Owl Rye made our Top 10 Whiskeys of 2017 amongst stiff competition. We are incredibly excited for Dixon and Kentucky Owl to continue making waves in the whiskey world because that means there’s more great whiskey for us to sip!