Straight from the Teat: A Stranahan’s Bottling Tale

As anyone who knows me can attest to, I love my birthday.  Like really, really love my birthday.  However, after a series of unfortunate events, including a birthday-spirit-crushing bout of pneumonia, I was pretty much over it.  Right up until the point when the wonderful folks over at Stranahan’s Whiskey invited me over to experience an afternoon of bottling and my birthday spirit came rushing back.

The bottlings are open to the public and a convenient and cost-effective way of getting the whiskey into the bottles without having to pay for additional staff.  The participants are well compensated via a tour of the distillery, lunch (including beer), a bottle of Stanahan’s, and a hell of a good time.  Fair trade, in my opinion.

The afternoon starts with hand writing the batch number and distill date on each label.  One of the many personal touches that Stanahan’s uses on its labels. After the labels have been dated, the day laborers are taken to the bottling line and given some instructions.  The whiskey is gravity fed into a spout system and bottled by a Stanahan’s employee, but the rest of the line is staffed by the volunteers.


Jim Halligan and Ginger Pelz Prepare the Labels

Straight from the Teat


Next up is a cork in the bottle and the label stickers, placed “like a sash; Stanahan’s up, government warning down.”  Over the cork goes their signature silver cap complete with a shrink-wrap sleeve over the top. The two are then married together at another station and onto the conveyer belt they go.


Josh Mishell and Ginger Pelz Cork and Label

Corked and Ready


The short conveyer belt takes the bottles through a heating element which quickly shrink-wraps the plastic sleeve.  The bottles come out the other end to await “quality control experts” (read: more volunteers) who make sure that the labels are placed correctly with no wrinkles. They then check the placement of the silver cap and inspect the shrink-wrapping.  These folks also attach the Stanahan’s “necktie” – the placard attached with string that goes around the bottle’s neck.



The bottles are then lovingly placed into cases and the cases onto pallets.  All told, we bottled three and a half pallets or approximately 5,000+ bottles.  Street value: one billion dollars. Hyperbolic birthday giddiness may apply.



After each drop has been squeezed from the magical whiskey teats, bottlers are given a tour of the distillery and are circled back around for lunch, beers, and whiskey.  Yes, they feed you and quench your thirst too.  But wait… As the afternoon wraps up, they then call your name and hand you a bottle of Stanahan’s for your troubles.  Some trouble!  Unbeknownst to me, they even put a customized birthday label on my bottle which caused several 12-year-old-girl screams to usher forth from my pie-hole. Yes, I am that girl.  Which, when it comes to my birthday, I guess I am basically a 12 year-old.



Stranahan’s does a really good thing here.  They open up their process to the same people that love and buy their product, thus allowing them to participate in the crafting.  Even if it is at the most elementary level.  Yes, it does save Stanahan’s from solutioning a paid bottling crew, but I think it does more for the people that participate.  They become connected to something they support and love, in ways not many products allow you to be.  I will forever be in liquor stores and liquor cabinets searching for Batch 84 knowing that I touched each of those bottles.  It’s a pretty awesome feeling.

Sign up here to be placed on the Stranahan’s bottling email list.

Special thanks to Stranahan’s employee Kristen, who upon seeing me shod in only flip flops and informing me that I would not be allowed in the bottling room per  a “no open-toed shoe policy,” loaned me LITERALLY the shoes off her feet so I could participate.  Thank you!

About Michelle Simons

Michelle likes beer, booze, bands, beards and boys. And alliteration.