As we pass the midway point of 2018, the bourbon world is still in a golden age of growth. We are even seeing the beginnings of what happened in the craft beer movement – new competition and experimentation. Leading the movement and carrying the flag is none other than “The Nicest Guy in Whiskey,” Ed Bley.

Last year, using stock from a small producer in Georgetown Kentucky, Ed took an opportunity to create his own blended whiskey now famously known as Old Baldy. Ed already had earned renown in the industry working as Spirits and Beer manager at Cork ‘N Bottle in Northern Kentucky, but working with Jeff Mattingly on two successful releases of his Old Baldy blend got him thinking about the future. Well, the future is here and we would like to announce that Ed Bley will be moving on from Cork ‘N Bottle and beginning a new journey under his own label, named Rising Tide Spirits.

In a private interview we were invited to attend, Ed mentioned he would be ending his legendary run as Spirits and Beer Manager at Cork ‘N Bottle September 1st and will graciously hand the wheel over to Eric Bollman, who is in turn ending an epic 15-year run as Store Manager at DEP’s Fine Wine & Spirits. For those who know Eric, I think we can all agree he’s the perfect person to keep things sailing over at Cork ‘N Bottle.

Rising Tide Spirits

Ed laid out his blueprints and says that he wants to focus on sourcing barrels and possibly dabble in contract distilling in the future. He’s more interested in playing with what comes out of the barrel instead of focusing on what goes into it. “We are going to be focusing on filtration, proofing, and releasing the product into the bottle at its absolute best tasting form. The goal is to basically start in Kentucky the first year and expand from there.” Ed will set out the first year releasing bourbon, rye, and blends integrating rum. Each type of product will have its own brand under the banner of Rising Tide Spirits.

Ed identifies that one of the main problems with the spirits industry is the focus on distilleries themselves and the mystique of a history that may not really have anything to do with the product they currently produce. With Rising Tide Spirits, the transparency will be as clear as glass and the product will be represented by taste alone.

As for the name, Ed went with Rising Tide for several reasons. When Ed first started looking into starting this company, a conversation between him and Damon Klesa at Northern Row Brewery & Distillery sparked the name. He couldn’t stop thinking of this one phrase that Damon uttered, “A rising tide raises all ships.” In other words, Ed has a unique opportunity in this high tide of the American whiskey industry to launch his new venture and to help “raise all ships” by creating many new opportunities for passionate individuals within the industry itself. A big part of Ed Bley’s personality is his passion for helping out others and banding together to create positive change. Add his passion for spirits and you have Rising Tide.

What’s Happening with Old Baldy?

The big question is what will become of Ed’s brainchild, Old Baldy. Ed will be leaving that brand with Jeff Mattingly at Bourbon 30 Spirits. Whether Jeff will continue to release more batches of the blended whiskey is unknown, but we can only hope that if he does it will rise to the standard of the first two batches. The unique aspect of creating Old Baldy was it allowed Ed to test the waters, research the market and gain confidence before deciding to set sail with Rising Tide. What Ed will be doing at Rising Tide Spirits won’t be more of the same, especially as Jeff had his own method to finishing the whiskey that went into the Old Baldy blend. But that just means the secondary price for both OB batches just went up! Yay!

Will Ed Be Hiring?

Not yet.

Potential Challenges With Rising Tide Spirits

What seemed like an obvious decision for Ed to start his own company didn’t come without potential risk factors. When starting any company there is always a fear of failure. Fortunately for Ed, the two successful releases of Old Baldy and his run at Cork ‘N Bottle were all he needed to gain the confidence to take the risk – plus, he has so many fans and people supporting him, I think he will be fine.  Growing bigger and making a nationwide impact will be tricky. But, in the scotch world, the model of blending product from other distilleries is a common occurrence.  So will Ed disrupt the American whiskey industry or raise a new standard? With the bourbon boom still in full effect and no end in sight, many believe the future of the spirit is blending and highlighting the brilliance of people who blend.  Ed has set his new product’s course precisely in that direction.

With all this talk of rising tides, opportunities and changes, I believe a change in the industry is exactly what we need and is completely up for grabs at this very moment. Much like a chef creates a signature dish, Ed is in a unique position to do the exact same thing, but with spirits. Either way, we’re excited and happy for Ed in this venture and cannot wait for his first release. As we say goodbye to Ed Bley “The Bourbon Guy” at Cork ‘N Bottle we say hello to Ed Bley “The Head Bourbon Guy” at his own company, Rising Tide Spirits. Those of you who can, stop by and give him your congratulations and try to pick up one of his last barrel picks. He has had 3 private barrel selections (OWA, Full Proof, and Maker’s Private Selection) and he might still have some left. Congratulations, Ed! Don’t forget we have first dibs on your first barrel selections! 

Michael Inglima

Michael Inglima

Michael Inglima is a full time Graphic Designer, amateur writer and Creative Director of Superfly Bourbon Club. He has been a long-time bourbon enthusiast and advocate based in the San Francisco Bay Area. His number one goal in the bourbon universe is to educate new-comers and develop a unique brand of like-minded individuals.

View all posts by Michael Inglima

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *