I love whiskey geeks. Whenever there’s a juicy story, they fill my inbox up with tips.
That’s what happened when a social media forum shared the 2015 public label approval for a “Stitzel Distillers” by Frank-Lin Distillers, a decent size company that owns nine bourbon brands, including Wathen’s. But Diageo owns the Stitzel trademark.
Thus, the whiskey geek concern. After all, they love a good legal drama, as if bourbon is a chapter in Day’s of Our Still.
At any rate, the label no longer exists. According to a Diageo spokesperson, the company pursued legal action and “resolved” the issue.
It appears Frank-Lin attempted to tap into the A. Ph. Stitzel history, which existed before the Stitzel-Weller Distillery located in Shively. Frank-Lin likely thought it had a shot at this label since other Stitzel-Weller brands exist outside of Diageo. Frankly, Stitzel-Weller is very complicated.
Sazerac owns Weller of the Stitzel-Weller fame and works with the Van Winkle family, who once owned Stitzel-Weller. Diageo regularly discusses Pappy Van Winkle in its Stitzel-Weller tours, and Heaven Hill owns Old Fitzgerald, which was a core Stitzel-Weller brand. These brands are a part of the messy United Distillers (now Diageo) strategies of the 1990s. When this company shifted whiskey gears, that put all the amazing Sitzel-Weller stocks on the open market and everybody (it seems) claims to have a drop of Stitzel-Weller bourbon, creating the conspiracy theories questioning how much is left in this world. (That’s practically an entire chapter in my book, Bourbon: The Rise, Fall & Rebirth of An American Whiskey.)
Let this saga be a lesson for companies attempting to resurrect trademarks for brand recognition. Sometimes a simple name like “Barrell” is better than a label from the 1800s.