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!
September 27, 2013 – Frank Sinatra was the number one fan of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey, so much so that he insisted on being buried with a bottle of Jack when he died in 1998. Last year, Brown-Forman returned the adulation with a special Sinatra Select edition of Jack Daniel’s available through travel retail outlets and the distillery’s White Rabbit Bottle Shop in Lynchburg, Tennessee. The limited-edition release has been a success in both travel retail and the “secondary market.”
In an email to WhiskyCast’s Mark Gillespie, Jack Daniel’s Master Distiller Jeff Arnett explained the difference between the Sinatra Select and the standard Jack Daniel’s Black Label expressions.
“The Sinatra Select has a number of handcrafted grooved barrels that effectively double the interior surface area and produce a bolder character. These grooved barrels are married together with our toasted and charred barrels to produce a whiskey that is both bold and smooth; much like the man it designed to honor. This results in a different whiskey than our normal Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey.”
Now, Brown-Forman has decided to expand the Sinatra Select edition’s availability to selected retailers in the U.K. starting in October, and will also make it available to U.S. retailers starting in December. The rollout is being timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Sinatra’s birth on December 12, 2015.
In addition, the company has decided to make the Jack Daniel’s Master Distillers Series available in the U.S. market with the initial release honoring Jack Daniel starting this fall. The second bottle in the series, which honors Jess Motlow, has already been released in the travel retail market. Plans are to release bottles honoring each of the distillery’s seven master distillers, with a new release expected each year.
Note: This story was updated on October 1 with additional information.
Links: Jack Daniel’s
September 27, 2013 – Laphroaig’s revamping of its travel retail range is complete with the release of An Cuan Mór. The 18-year-old single malt joins Laphroaig’s QA Cask release last April and the 2012 PX Cask expression to round out the lineup.
The name “An Cuan Mór” means “the big ocean” in Gaelic, and reflects the distillery’s location on the shore of Islay facing into the Irish Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. The whisky itself was matured for 18 years in ex-Bourbon casks, with a final maturation in European Oak casks, and is bottled at 48% ABV.
The new expression will initially be available at World Duty Free, Heinemann, and Aelia airport locations in Europe, with additional distribution expected in the coming months. It’s priced at €95 ($129 USD).
September 26, 2013 – The Glenlivet is jumping on the “crowd-sourcing” bandwagon with plans for a new single malt to be created with help from members of its Guardians affinity group, made up of whisky lovers worldwide.
Members of the Guardians will be asked to pick from three different expressions created by Master Distiller Alan Winchester, and named for their flavors: Classic, Exotic, and Revival. The expressions will be available for Guardians members to taste at upcoming whisky festivals and tastings in the UK, USA, Australia, India, Japan, and South Africa, along with other countries. Guardians members will be able to cast their votes at a special section of The Glenlivet Guardians web site until December, when the votes will be counted and a winner named.
The winner will be bottled as “The Guardians’ Chapter,” with 2,000 cases to be bottled and sold starting in February of 2014.
Links: The Glenlivet
September 26, 2013 – The annual Distilled Spirits Council of the United States fundraiser at Virginia’s Mount Vernon helped raise $350,000 on Tuesday evening. $75,000 from the “Spirit of Mount Vernon” dinner and auction will benefit the Wounded Warriors Family Support Program, while $275,000 will help support the new Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon.
The auction’s highlights included Bottle #22 of the original 24 bottles of George Washington’s Straight Rye Whiskey, distilled in October of 2003 by a group of master distillers using George Washington’s original rye whiskey recipe. An anonymous bidder paid $23,000 for the bottle of whiskey, Washington’s estate distilled rye whiskey for sale in the area around Mount Vernon from 1797 until the distillery burned in 1814. It was restored with support from the Distilled Spirits Council between 2000 and 2006.
September 26, 2013 – Islay’s youngest distillery is about to release its oldest single malt yet. Kilchoman Distillery will release a 6-year-old 2007 vintage on October 7, with 10,000 bottles to be available globally. The whisky was distilled just three years after Anthony Wills started work on the first new distillery to be built on Islay in 124 years. In a news release, Wills called the release an exciting development:
“Although we’re a relatively young distillery our Vintage six-year-old shows a level of maturity normally associated with much older whisky. We predict that this will sell quickly and hope Kilchoman followers share in our excitement in the development of our malt.”
The distillery is one of the few in Scotland that controls its own process from grain to glass, using barley grown on the farm where the distillery is located for its 100% Islay expression and bottling all of its whiskies on site. The 2007 Vintage will be available at 46% ABV, and is bottled without chill-filtering.
September 26, 2013 – Hankey Bannister’s first 40-year-old expression was released to excellent reviews in 2007, and Master Blender Stuart Harvey has been given a second bite of the apple with an updated version that will be available in very limited amounts. Just 1,480 bottles will be released over the next three years, with the first 500 being made available now through selected retailers and travel retail outlets.
Harvey created the new 40-year-old Hankey Bannister from Highland malts dating as far back as 1967, along with rare Lowland grain whiskies from the same era. The resulting blend was bottled at barrel-strength 44.3% ABV in a bespoke crystal decanter, and will be priced at £800 ($1,285 USD) each.
Links: Hankey Bannister
September 26, 2013 – Kentucky’s Bourbons are legendary, but Woodford Reserve has been working on an experiment that may make some Kentucky whiskey purists blanch — a pair of single malt whiskeys for the 2013 Woodford Reserve Masters Collection edition.
“We’re not going to claim to be the first,” Woodford Reserve Master Distiller Chris Morris told WhiskyCast’s Mark Gillespie in an interview at Brown-Forman’s Louisville headquarters on September 20. “We started working on this project over nine years ago, so we’re confident we were making malt whiskey before anyone else was.” Technically, Alltech’s 2010 release of Pearse Lyons Reserve single malt from the Lexington Brewing & Distilling Company holds the claim of being the first single malt whiskey produced in Kentucky since Prohibition. However, that whiskey was distilled starting in 2007, while the Woodford Reserve malts were distilled in 2004.
There are two single malts in the 2013 Masters Collection release. Woodford Reserve Straight Malt Whiskey was aged in new American White Oak barrels, while the Woodford Reserve Classic Malt was matured in used barrels. Both are bottled at 45.2% ABV, and will be sold in 700 and 750ml bottles depending on the market. Unlike the previous Masters Collection release of a two-bottle Rye set in 2011, this year’s collection will be sold separately. “There was a pushback from retail about that presentation, so instead, we’re going to answer the demand of the consumer…each will be available in a full-size 750 bottle, and it’s up to the individual to purchase one or both,” Morris told WhiskyCast.
However, the trend started in 2011 of exporting Masters Collection releases outside the U.S. will be expanded this year, with the single malts to be available in Canada, the United Kingdom, Belgium, France, Sweden, Spain, Germany, New Zealand, and Australia, along with travel retail outlets. “There’s a tremendous demand for the Masters Collection, which means as a result, there will be less available in the United States,” Morris said. “We have huge demand in Australia, demand in France, demand in Europe, and we only have so much.”
Both whiskies were distilled in the copper pot stills at Woodford Reserve Distillery in Versailles, Kentucky, and will be sold at a recommended retail price of $99.99 per bottle.
Links: Woodford Reserve
September 25, 2013 – A new study by the University of Louisville’s Urban Studies Institute links the Kentucky Bourbon industry to at least 4,200 jobs in the Louisville Metro area, with an estimated annual economic impact of at least $300 million. The study cites payroll impacts of $263 million, along with annual tax revenue of $32 million. That doesn’t include at least $50 million in new capital projects, including downtown visitor attractions for Heaven Hill and Michter’s and the new Louisville Distilling Company distillery on the east end of Main Street.
“It means growth in jobs, it means growth in underlying sectors that are affected…transportation, warehousing,” Dr. Janet Kelly of the Urban Studies Institute told WhiskyCast’s Mark Gillespie following a news conference at Brown-Forman’s Louisville headquarters on September 20.
“It’s probably one of the purest punches for economic development that we have because it’s a net export industry. We sell most of the Bourbon that’s produced outside the region, and that has a powerful economic multiplier effect.”
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer praised the study as confirming his city’s status as the “Bourbon Capital of the World,” with no apologies to Bardstown, Kentucky — which has claimed that title for many years. “40% of the Bourbon industry’s jobs – direct and indirect – come out of Louisville, so it’s a big thing for us,” he said in an interview. “It’s also very important in terms of cultural tourism, Bourbon heritage really helps drive our restaurant industry, our hotel industry, our tourism industry as well, and the businesses in this industry are tremendous corporate citizens…a lot of philanthropy flows out of them, and they’re also world-class in terms of their business techniques…a lot of the great leaders in our city come from the Bourbon industry.”
The study was commissioned by the Kentucky Distillers Association, and was the KDA’s first study on the industry’s economic impact on a local region of the Commonwealth instead of the statewide impact. While the region has lost approximately 10% of its jobs over the past five years, the distilling industry has increased its work force by 10%, and the increase in Bourbon-related tourism has helped preserve jobs in the city’s hospitality industry. While the Kentucky Derby remains Louisville’s single biggest tourism attraction, the study found Bourbon-relatred tourism generates a year-round impact.
“We’ve seen a surge in visitors, and not just more visitors, but more visitors that are genuinely interested and more visitors that are traveling great distances to soak up the culture of Kentucky, and a big part of that is Bourbon,” Maker’s Mark president and KDA board member Rob Samuels told WhiskyCast. While the Maker’s Mark Distillery is located south of Louisville in Loretto, the company’s management and sales teams are based in Louisville.
The growth in Louisville was one of the key reasons for Louisville Distilling Company to locate its new distillery at the east end of the city’s historic “Whiskey Row” along Main Street, according to company president Wes Henderson.
“It was really kind of a no-brainer for us,” Henderson said of the decision to build in downtown Louisville. “When we started looking at the different locations, I was a little fascinated originally with some of the historic locations like the Old Taylor Distillery and other romantic abandoned properties, but when we looked at the dynamics that were happening in downtown Louisville and the sheer numbers of people that were coming here, it just really made sense to locate it here.”
The distillery is expected to begin production for Angel’s Envy Bourbon by the end of 2014 in what previously was an abandoned warehouse and industrial complex on Main Street near Louisville Slugger Field. In addition, the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience visitors center will open on Main Street in November, and restoration work continues nearby on the historic building slated to become home to a micro-distillery and visitor attraction for Michter’s. An announcement is expected soon on another micro-distillery project for the downtown area as well.
September 25, 2013 – The president of Edinburgh-based Glenmorangie PLC, Paul Skipworth, has taken a leave of absence from the LVMH-owned whisky company for personal reasons. Skipworth became president and managing director in 2011 when Paul Neep retired, and has overseen significant sales growth worldwide for both Glenmorangie and Ardbeg single malts.
Marc Hoellinger has been named acting president, and will continue to serve as marketing strategy director at Moët Hennessey while overseeing operations at Glenmorangie. He served as the unit’s marketing director under Skipworth for three years before being named to his present position.
September 24, 2013 – Several months after leaving Glenglassaugh, distillery veteran Stuart Nickerson is making public the plans for his next venture. Nickerson hopes to succeed where a previous attempt has failed — building a distillery on the old RAF base at Saxa Vord in the Shetland Islands.
Shetland News reports Nickerson has teamed up with the Strang family, which bought the Saxa Vord site from the Ministry of Defense in 2007. Their Shetland Distillery Company has filed an application for planning permission with the Shetland Islands Council, and Nickerson told the site he hopes to begin distilling by the end of 2014. His initial plans are to build a micro-distillery capable of producing 30,000 litres of spirit annually, along with a maturation warehouse, bottling facility, and a small visitors center.
Nickerson led the team that revived Glenglassaugh Distillery in 2008, but left after the distillery’s owners sold Glenglassaugh to Billy Walker’s investor group that also owns GlenDronach and BenRiach distilleries. His bid is the second attempt to build a whisky distillery at the Saxa Vord site. Blackwood Distillers tried to develop a distillery at the site, but the Caroline Whitfield-led effort failed to attract enough support from investors and was eventually dropped in 2008.