Each week, we bring you the latest whisky news on WhiskyCast, but a lot can happen during the week. Now, you can keep up with whisky news as it happens here on WhiskyCast.com!
February 19, 2015 – Whisky Magazine has named three new inductees to its Hall of Fame, with the inductions coming at next week’s North America Whisky & Spirits Conference in New York. This year’s North American inductees include Maker’s Mark Chairman Emeritus Bill Samuels, Jr., longtime Four Roses historian and Brand Ambassador Al Young, and Diageo Master of Whisky Steve Beal.
The magazine’s editorial staff created the Hall of Fame several years ago as an evolution of its lifetime achievement awards, with three inductions annually for honorees in Scotland, the US, and the rest of the world. Longtime Ben Nevis managing director Colin Ross and recently-retired Gordon & MacPhail Managing Director Michael Urquhart were previously named to the Class of 2015 representing Scotland.
Samuels, of course, grew up around Maker’s Mark, which was created by his parents when he was young. He took over day-to-day management of the brand in 1975 and was responsible for growing it from a small regional brand to one distributed worldwide. He stepped aside as president and chief executive in 2011, turning the Beam Suntory-owned brand over to his son Rob and assuming the title of Chairman Emeritus while continuing to serve as the distillery’s ambassador-at-large.
Al Young is the principal brand ambassador for Four Roses, and has 48 years of experience at the distillery in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. He was inducted into the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame in 2011, and wrote the distillery’s definitive history, “Four Roses: The Return of a Whiskey Legend” in 2010.
Steve Beal is Diageo’s Senior Master of Whisky on the US West Coast, and has been a leading figure in training on and off-premise bar and retail staff for many years, along with serving as one of the lead brand ambassadors for Diageo’s whisky portfolio. He was inducted into the Keepers of The Quaich in 2010, and serves as a director for the US Bartenders Guild Master Mixologist program.
February 19, 2015 – San Antonio’s Ranger Creek Brewing & Distilling took top honors in the American Craft Spirits Association’s second annual spirits judging, with its .36 Single Barrel Texas Straight Bourbon taking Best of Show honors, along with Best Bourbon Whiskey and Best in Class honors among whiskies. The awards were announced during the association’s annual conference this week in Austin, Texas, following blind judging conducted several weeks ago at Huber’s Starlight Distillery in Indiana.
Ranger Creek’s winning Bourbon was released in late 2014, and is the distillery’s first Straight Bourbon. In an email, Ranger Creek co-founder Mark McDavid explained that the whiskey came from the first 14 full-size barrels filled when the distillery started making Bourbon in late 2010, and he and his partners thought it was so good that they decided to bottle it as single barrels. Approximately 1,400 bottles were released for sale, primarily in Texas, though it may also be found in other US states.
In all, 29 gold medals were presented in the whiskey category, with 26 silvers and 25 bronze medals. A complete list of medal winners is available at the ACSA web site.
February 19, 2015 – Following up on the 2013 launch of The Macallan M, Edrington has expanded what will now be known as The 1824 Masters Series with two new luxury expressions.
The Macallan Reflexion is a no-age-statement single malt matured in first-fill hogshead casks, and will sell for a recommended retail price of £900 ($1,385 USD) per bottle. The Macallan No. 6 also carries no age statement, and the name is a reflection of the brand’s “Six Pillars” heritage. The whisky was matured in Sherry casks, and is bottled in a Lalique-crafted decanter similar to the one used for The Macallan M. It will carry a price tag of £2,800 ($4,317 USD). Both follow last fall’s introduction of The Macallan Rare Cask, and were initially announced at that time with releases set for now.
This makes the third Macallan range branded with 1824, the year the distillery opened across the River Spey from Craigellachie. The 1824 Series is the mainstream range available in many markets around the world, with the Amber, Ruby, Siena, and Gold expressions. The 1824 Collection is the travel retail range, with the Whisky Maker’s Edition, Select Oak, Estate Reserve, Oscuro, and the Limited Edition MMXII.
The new expressions are initially available at whisky specialist retailers in the UK and other markets.
Links: The Macallan
February 16, 2015 – After four years of annual releases, Highland Park has completed its Valhalla Collection of limited-edition single malts with the release of Odin. As with the previous Thor, Loki, and Freya editions, Odin is a 16-year-old single malt bottled at cask strength (55.8% ABV).
The Valhalla Collection honors Orkney’s ancient links to Nordic mythology, in which Odin was regarded as the father of all other Gods. While the Orkney Islands were originally settled by the Picts, historians say Vikings invaded the islands many times before finally annexing them to Norway in 875 AD. Scotland finally gained control of the islands in 1468.
Highland Park Odin will be available in limited quantities at whisky specialist retailers in Europe and the UK, as well as the Highland Park Distillery on Orkney, with a recommended retail price of £180 GBP ($277 USD). A US release (750ml bottles) is expected during March, according to Stephanie Ridgway of Edrington Americas.
Editor’s note: This story was updated with new information on the US release for Odin.
Links: Highland Park
February 16, 2015 – Nips, tucks, and facelifts aren’t a part of the current makeover craze in Bourbon Country, but new labels, bottles, and even new names are.
Sazerac’s 1792 Barton Distillery is home to the latest makeover, with its flagship 1792 Ridgemont Reserve Bourbon receiving a new bottle design and a new name. “Ridgemont Reserve” is gone from what will now be known as 1792 Small Batch, along with the burlap trim on the neck. The basic bottle remains the same, as does the whiskey inside, and no change is planned in pricing.
Sazerac inherited the original name and packaging when it acquired the former Tom Moore Distillery in Bardstown from Constellation Brands in 2009, along with more than 40 other whiskey brands. In a news release, Sazerac’s Elizabeth Hurst explained the reason behind the makeover. “Many bottles in the bourbon category have quite a traditional look, but we realize some bourbon consumers are looking for something different, perhaps more contemporary,” she said.
Traditional is one of the first words that comes to mind when describing Beam Suntory’s Old Grand-Dad, one of the heritage brands in Bourbon history dating back to 1882 when Col. R.B. Hayden decided to name his family’s Bourbon in honor of his grandfather, Basil Hayden. Basil Hayden created the original recipe for the high-rye content Bourbon and passed it on to his son and grandson.
The “bottled in bond” version of Old Grand-Dad has also been given a slight makeover, while maintaining the brand’s traditional style. It’s now being called “Old Grand-Dad Bonded”, with a cleaner label that gives Hayden’s legacy more prominence. The screw-cap has been replaced with a cork closing on the new traditional-style bottle. As with the 1792 Small Batch, the whiskey inside remains the same; four years old, distilled in the same bottling season, and bottled at 100 proof (50% ABV). Recommended retail pricing for 750ml bottles is $24.99 USD.
February 11, 2015 – Another week, another batch of new Bourbons.
Jim Beam is returning to a place in Bourbon history with the release of Jim Beam Bonded, a 4-year-old Bourbon that takes some of its heritage from the US Government’s “Bottled in Bond Act of 1897.” That law reserves the labeling of “Bottled in Bond” for whiskies at least four years old, bottled at 50% ABV (100 proof) and produced at a single distillery in a single distilling season. It’s not one of the more widely-known facts about American whiskeys, but distillers work with a two-season year: Spring season is January 31 through June 30, and Fall season runs from July 1 through December 31.
Jim Beam Bonded made its debut Monday night with a launch party at Bourbons Bistro in Louisville, Kentucky. It will be available at selected US retailers starting this month in 750ml and 1-liter sizes with a recommended retail price of $22.99 USD (750ml).
In addition, Beam is kicking off a special series of limited edition Booker’s Bourbon releases featuring labels inspired by the late Booker Noe. The year’s first batch of Booker’s has a label showing Noe sipping Bourbon in his famous rocking chair with his dog Dot at his feet. The scene is similar to Booker Noe’s memorial statue at the Jim Beam American Stillhouse in Clermont, Kentucky, and carries the name “Big Man, Small Batch.” Batch 2015-1 follows the Booker’s tradition of being uncut and unfiltered, and the 7-year-old batch is bottled at 64.35% ABV (128.7 proof).
Meanwhile, Diageo is releasing Forged Oak, the fifth edition in its Orphan Barrel series of Bourbons. As with the previous four editions, the 15-year-old Forged Oak was matured primarily in the warehouses at the Stitzel-Weller Distillery in Louisville, and was distilled at the nearby New Bernheim Distillery in 1997 and 1998 from a mashbill of 86% corn, 8% rye, and 6% malted barley.
Forged Oak will be a limited release, though there are plans to release future editions as more whiskey reaches maturation. It is being bottled at 45.25% ABV (90.5 proof), and will carry a recommended retail price of $65 (750ml bottle).
Tasting notes for Forged Oak will be available soon here at WhiskyCast.com.
Editor’s note: This story was updated to include details on the new release of Booker’s Bourbon.
February 11, 2015 – Chivas Brothers is rolling out a new expression of The Glenlivet in approximately 60 markets worldwide this spring, with the no-age-statement Founder’s Reserve slated to replace the flagship 12-year-old Glenlivet expression in a number of countries. A Chivas Brothers spokesman has confirmed a February 6 report by Thijs Klaverstijn of the Words of Whisky blog that the new expression will replace The Glenlivet 12 in the UK and Germany as early as next month, but declined to be more specific about the plans in other key markets. The announcements are being made in emails to members of The Glenlivet Guardians affinity group in each affected market.
Founder’s Reserve was officially announced last October with plans to release it starting in March. However, the October 30 news release described it as being “priced alongside The Glenlivet’s 12 Year Old expression,” with no indication that it would replace that expression in some markets. In other markets, the 12-year-old will remain the primary offering, while a number of key markets will offer both versions. As reported on this week’s WhiskyCast, The Glenlivet Canadian brand manager Taryn Denman confirmed that both versions will be available in Canada. Pernod Ricard USA’s Lauren Nodzak confirmed Wednesday afternoon that the US market will keep the 12 Year Old, with Founder’s Reserve coming this autumn.
The Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve is blended using a higher percentage of first-fill ex-Bourbon casks than the recipe for The Glenlivet 12. “It’s a product that we think will really give everyone a classic Glenlivet that they’ll love,” the spokesman (who asked to not be recorded or identified by name) said. “Really, why we’re doing it is to continue hopefully supplying all our fans with the classic Glenlivet style in the future.” He denied rumors circulating on the Internet that the move is linked to shortages of aged whisky, but said that bringing out the no-age-statement version now will give Chivas Brothers flexibility to deal with supply problems that may develop in the future as global demand increases. The Glenlivet’s most recent distillery expansion was completed in 2010, and planning permission was recently granted for another expansion that could potentially triple the distillery’s output from its current level of 10.5 million liters of spirit annually.
Chivas Brothers and Pernod Ricard executives made the decisions on which countries will get Founder’s Reserve and which will lose The Glenlivet 12 Year Old at the corporate level, based on what the Chivas Brothers spokesman described as “markets where consumers have a thirst for new products” and are “used to getting new and different products.” The move will largely bypass the Asia-Pacific region, where a slightly different version of The Glenlivet 12 Year Old is sold.
We have asked Chivas Brothers to make a representative available for a broadcast interview in time for this week’s episode of WhiskyCast. This story will be updated as more information is available.
Editor’s note: This story was updated with additional information on the US market and a response from Pernod Ricard USA.
February 10, 2015 – Heaven Hill Brands marked two milestones at a ceremony today in Bardstown, Kentucky: the company’s 80th anniversary and the filling of its seven millionth Bourbon barrel. The celebration comes just 23 months after the filling of barrel number 6,500,000 — meaning that Heaven Hill is laying down approximately 250,000 barrels of whiskey each year.
Master Distiller Emeritus Parker Beam joined Co-Master Distiller Denny Potter and Artisanal Distiller Charlie Downs to “bung off” the ceremonial cask along with members of the Shapira family, which founded Heaven Hill in 1935 shortly after the end of Prohibition. In a news release, Heaven Hill President Max Shapira called the dual celebration a momentous achievement for the company.
“To think, my father and four uncles rolled out Heaven Hill’s first barrel 80 years ago. Here we are, eight decades later, filling our seven millionth barrel at the height of the greatest Bourbon boom since Prohibition. And, the Shapira family is still at the helm of Heaven Hill. Our founders would certainly be proud to see this day.”
The ceremonial cask was signed by Heaven Hill employees and will be placed alongside previous milestone barrels in Rickhouse Y at the company’s Bardstown campus. The rickhouse is part of the tour for visitors to Heaven Hill’s Bourbon Heritage Center.
Links: Heaven Hill
February 9, 2015 – With Lunar New Year celebrations underway in many parts of the world, Johnnie Walker is releasing its second in a series of special Blue Label bottles for collectors. Johnnie Walker Blue Label Year of the Ram comes in a special ceramic decanter with etched artwork featuring three rams, in what the brand describes as a “traditional reference to the Book of Changes signifying a New Year of great fortune.”
In a news release, Diageo North America Scotch Whisky Director Brian Cox described the release as a blend of the best of Chinese ceramic artwork with the finest of Scotch whiskies. “The Lunar Year is an incredibly exciting and significant holiday in the Chinese tradition. We are proud to honor it with our finest blend—Johnnie Walker Blue Label—so that people can enjoy the Lunar New Year responsibly and with quality.”
The special edition will be available throughout the US, with a recommended retail price of $258. Separate special gift packs for Johnnie Walker XR, Black Label, Gold Label Reserve, Platinum, and Blue Label will be available in the Asia-Pacific region.
Links: Johnnie Walker
February 9, 2015 – Wemyss Malts is releasing six new single cask Scotch whiskies for the UK, European, and Asian markets. The casks were selected by the company’s tasting panel under the direction of veteran whisky writer and consultant Charles Maclean, with names that reflect the character of each cask.
“Kirsch Gateau” – 1988 Bunnahabhain (Islay)
“Cacao Geyser” – 1998 Bowmore (Islay)
“Snuffed Candle” – 1999 Aberfeldy Distillery (Highlands)
“Dark Treacle Fondant” – 2002 Craigellachie (Speyside)
“Honeysuckle Bower” – 1995 Linkwood (Speyside)
“Caribbean Crème” – 1988 Invergordon single grain
Recommended retail prices for the six bottlings range from £65 to £130 GBP ($99-$200 USD).
Links: Wemyss Malts