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 10, 2013 – With construction progressing on the new Tullamore Dew distillery in County Offaly, an element in Tullamore’s coat of arms has unique significance today. The people of Tullamore added a Phoenix to their crest following a hot air balloon accident in 1785 that caused a massive fire which destroyed much of the town. Of course, the Phoenix is the legendary symbol of revival, and especially appropriate given that the town’s long history of whiskey production is scheduled to resume in 2014.
Now, the William Grant & Sons-owned brand has released a new Phoenix expression through The Loop’s Irish Whiskey Collection shops in Dublin and Cork airports, along with their co-owned stores at airports in Bahrain and Cyprus. Phoenix is bottled at 55% ABV, and will be sold for €49.95 ($66.25 USD). The whiskey will initially be available exclusively through The Loop through September, with wider release expected in other global markets after that.
Construction continues on the new Tullamore Dew distillery, with traffic in the area affected by the construction of a new roundabout connecting the distillery site to the N52 highway.
Links: Tullamore Dew
September 10, 2013 – Just as the leaves start to turn colors, hunters gear up for deer season, and football fans scream at the referees…mid-September also means the annual release of Buffalo Trace’s Antique Collection range of whiskies. As in past years, the 2013 releases are similar to — but still very unique from their predecessors.
The flagship whiskey in the Antique Collection is the George T. Stagg Bourbon, which will try to defend the 2012 edition’s World Whiskies Awards trophy as Best North American Whiskey. While still un-cut and un-filtered, the 2013 edition is slightly less strong than many of the previous Staggs, with an ABV of 64.1% (128.2 Proof), and was distilled in the spring of 1997. In a news release, Buffalo Trace Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley attributed the lower strength of this year’s version to the spot in the warehouses where many of the barrels were matured.
“It just so happens this year, most of the barrels had been stored on lower floors. The temperature remains cooler down low where it balances the mature flavors from the wood and in turn the proof climbs slowly from the entry proof.”
While Stagg is expected to remain fairly scarce, it may be easier to find this year than in previous years. Buffalo Trace started laying down additional barrels in 1997 intended for future Stagg releases, and this year’s edition is the first under that program.
For the first time in recent years, the Stagg is only the third-strongest whiskey in the Antique Collection. The William Larue Weller wheated Bourbon is bottled at 68.2% ABV (136.2 Proof), and like the Stagg, is un-cut and un-filtered. It was distilled in the spring of 2001. The Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye is the youngster of the series, distilled in 2007 and bottled un-cut and un-filtered at 64.2% ABV (128.4 Proof).
The Antique Collection also includes the Sazerac Rye 18 Year Old straight Rye whiskey, which has won numerous awards in recent years. This year’s Eagle Rare 17 Year Old Bourbon was distilled in the spring of 1993, and is actually 19 years old.
The entire range is expected to be available at whisky specialist retailers by the end of September. Watch for Mark Gillespie’s tasting notes on all five whiskies in the coming weeks.
Links: Buffalo Trace
September 10, 2013 – With hunting season coming soon, sportsmen (and women) are getting a different choice of camouflage gear for their drams. Early Times Kentucky Whisky is releasing a special Hunter’s Edition bottle covered in camouflage, giving hunters an option other than stainless steel flasks that can reflect sunlight and scare off one’s prey.
Early Times came up with the idea as a way to celebrate the American tradition of hunting, according to Therese McGuire, brand manager for the Brown-Forman brand. The 750 ml bottles will be available starting this month throughout the U.S., with a suggested retail price of $11.99.
Links: Early Times
September 6, 2013 – When Fred and Stewart Laing agreed to split up the assets of their family’s Douglas Laing & Co. at the end of April, both brothers pledged to have new lines of whiskies ready for the market as soon as possible — to make up for the brands each one agreed to give up to the other in the split. Now, Fred Laing and his daughter Cara have released the first batch of bottlings in the new Douglas Laing’s Old Particular range of single cask bottlings.
Cara started working on the range in January after leaving her position as a brand manager at Morrison Bowmore. “When we took up the baton, the pair of us here together, we were fairly far along the road,” Fred Laing told WhiskyCast’s Mark Gillespie in an interview. “But, there’s quite a long gestation period putting a pack together and getting the right samples that we could either accept or reject for what, for us, is a particularly important launch.”
The name comes from one of the old Douglas Laing brands, and Laing said a discussion among staff members led to the decision to revive the name.
“Old Particular, we felt, was particularly nice because we’re trying to make a particular claim and a particular indication that the stock we’ve got, the packaging we’ve brought, is particularly appropriate, not to bore you too much with such particulars.”
The range will launch with about 20 new bottlings each month, starting in September with a 16-year-old Laphroaig, a 31-year-old Port Ellen, a 20-year-old Tomatin, a 15-year-old Braeval, a 16-year-old Clynelish, and a 25-year-old Bowmore, along with bottlings from Arran, Bladnoch, Blair Athol, and other distilleries.
The Laings plan to announce a new small batch series coming on October 1, and a new Speyside version of their Big Peat Islay whisky on November 1.
Links: Douglas Laing & Co.
September 6, 2013 – Bruichladdich stayed out of travel retail sales for most of the time following the distillery’s revival in 2001, only making a few limited forays into the market in the last couple of years. Now, Rémy Cointreau’s sole whisky distillery will be making a major move into the travel retail arena, according to Just-Drinks.com. The site reports Bruichladdich will offer four new expressions as travel retail exclusives over the next six months, including Octomore 6.2, Port Charlotte 11, Bere Barley 2006, and a one-litre size Bruichladdich Organic bottling.
The distillery will rely on Rémy’s extensive travel retail experience to build its presence in the sector. Decisions on which regions will get the initial bottlings are still being made.
September 6, 2013 – Port Ellen bottlings are becoming scarcer, 30 years after the Islay distillery was closed and its stills removed. Now, a rare bottling from 1980 has taken top honors at the September McTear’s whisky auction in Glasgow.
The 12-year-old bottling was produced to commemorate Queen Elizabeth’s visit to the distillery on August 4, 1980, and brought a winning bid of £4,800 ($7,500 USD). The winning bidder’s name was not released.
Runner-up honors went to a 1946 Macallan Select Reserve and a 1955 Bowmore, with both bottles receiving high bids of £4,000 each. A Dalmore 50-year-old distilled in 1926 brought a high bid of £3,200. Two 1964 Black Bowmores sold for £2,600 and £2,200, while a trio of 1964 Bowmores brought bids ranging from £3,200 for the Fino cask edition to £2,300 for the Oloroso cask and £2,200 for the Bourbon cask edition.
Complete results are available at the McTear’s web site. The next McTear’s auction is scheduled for October 9, 2013.
September 5, 2013 – Tomatin’s mainstream single malt releases have never been known for their peatiness in recent years, so when the distillery decided to introduce a lightly peated single malt, it needed to stand apart from the rest of the range.
Enter Cù Bòcan (pronounced “koo bok-uhn”), a malt matured in a combination of Virgin Oak, ex-Bourbon, and ex-Sherry casks. The name is said to come from a mythical beast that reportedly prowled the Highlands near the village of Tomatin, and distillery manager Graham Eunson describes it in a news release as “light smoke intertwined with rich citrus and exotic spices.
The malt is bottled at 46% ABV, and will be available worldwide in limited amounts. Tomatin intends to produce 60,000 liters of Cù Bòcan each year, with a suggested retail price of £43.99 ($69 USD) per bottle.
September 4, 2013 -A year and five months after breaking ground on the expansion of Midleton Distillery, Irish Distillers held a dedication ceremony to officially open the new Garden Stillhouse. Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny spoke during the ceremony, as he did during the groundbreaking ceremony in April of 2013.
“It’s a €100 million (Euro) investment in what has traditionally been a brilliant Irish product, which is now increasing in sales, volume, reputation, and competence,” Kenny told WhiskyCast’s Mark Gillespie in an interview following the ceremony. “This development here is a €60 million injection in the local economy, and that wouldn’t have happened without belief in the competence and professionalism of the product that’s produced here.”
The Garden Still House will be dedicated exclusively to Pot Still Whiskey production, with three stills that will be used along with the four stills currently used in the original Midleton still house. A new column stillhouse is under construction, with completion and commissioning expected in November, and the current column stills in use at Midleton will be mothballed.
The new stills will allow Irish Distillers to dedicate more production capacity to Single Pot Still whiskies, including Redbreast, Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy, and Powers John’s Lane. With the global demand for Jameson, most of Midleton’s pot still production has been needed for the Jameson blends. “It means that we can continue the success story that Jameson has been,” Irish Distillers CEO Anna Mahlmake said in an interview. “It also means that we can now start showing even more of the breadth of Irish Whiskey to the world through brands like Powers, Paddy, and so on. It means the world to us to be able to do this.”
As part of what Irish Distillers called “The Housewarming”, a private ceremony was held late in the afternoon to rename the original Midleton stillhouse in honor of retiring Master Distiller Barry Crockett on his final official day with Irish Distillers. The “Barry Crockett Stillhouse” honors Crockett’s 47 years at Midleton, with the last 31 as Master Distiller following in his father’s footsteps. With no son to continue the family tradition, Crockett spent the last ten years tutoring his successor, Brian Nation.
“I will miss the excitement of the distilling operation here,” Crockett said in an interview. “Having said that, there comes a time in everyone’s life when you’ve got to realize that it’s time to hand over the mantle, hand over the reins, to another generation. I’ve had my day in the sun.” Crockett will continue to be seen around the distillery, as he is taking on a personal project working in the Irish Distillers archives while pursuing a master’s degree in industrial archaeology at University College in Cork.
For more on this story, listen to this weekend’s episode of WhiskyCast.
September 3, 2013 – The annual release of limited-edition single malts from Diageo’s Scotch distilleries includes a 37-year-old Lagavulin, along with nine other rare bottlings. The Lagavulin expression was distilled in 1976, and is the oldest distillery bottling on record from the Islay distillery.
Only 1,868 bottles will be released, with a suggested retail price of $3,000 (USD) per bottle. In a news release, Lagavulin distillery manager Georgie Crawford called her whisky “probably the most sought-after single malt whisky in production today.”
“For many years we have been unable to supply sufficient mature spirit to meet worldwide demand. So bottlings of old Lagavulin are exceptionally rare, and this year’s 37 year old is the oldest that we have ever released.”
In addition to the 37-year-old Lagavulin, a 12-year-old cask-strength (55.1% ABV) expression will also be part of the 2013 series. Caol Ila, the company’s other distillery on Islay, will have a special release honoring retiring distillery manager Billy Stitchell and his entire family. The Caol Ila Stitchell Reserve is an unpeated malt with no age statement matured in a combination of refill and rejuvenated American Oak casks and ex-bodega Spanish Oak sherry casks. Billy Stitchell’s father, both grandfathers, and a great-grandfather all worked at Caol Ila, and Billy has been a fixture there since 1974. He is scheduled to retire later this year.
The annual Port Ellen release is a 34-year-old bottling from 1978 matured in refill American and European Oak casks, with just under 3,000 bottles to be available at a recommended price of $2,350 each.
Other releases include a 36-year-old Convalmore single malt from the Dufftown distillery that closed in 1985, a 35-year-old Brora from 1977, and a 28-year-old expression of The Singleton of Dufftown. Talisker will be represented by a 27-year old expression matured in refill American Oak casks, and Oban is contributing a 21-year-old cask-strength (58.5% ABV) expression.
The only one in the series that will not be available in the U.S. is a 21-year-old Cardhu expression. 6,000 bottles will be available in other markets. All ten malts are scheduled to be available this fall in Northern Europe, selected Asian markets, and the United States.
September 2, 2013 – Powers Irish Whiskey, often thought of as “the Irish whiskey the Irish drink,” is getting a new addition to the range with its second single pot still release. As first reported on WhiskyCast earlier this year during an interview with Powers ambassador and family member John Ryan, Powers Signature Release had a sneak preview during WhiskyFest Chicago in April. It is the second single pot still release for Powers in recent years, along with the Powers John’s Lane release two years ago.
In addition, Powers Gold Label will also get a new format with a higher ABV level (43.2%), along with a new label design coordinated with Signature Release and the other whiskies in the Powers range. Signature Release and the new Gold Label will be available in the US and Ireland starting this month. The announcement follows last week’s release of Paddy Centenary from Irish Distillers to celebrate that brand’s 100th anniversary.
Powers was created by the Power family at the John’s Lane Distillery in Dublin, but when the family merged its company with Ireland’s other family-owned distilleries in 1965 to form Irish Distillers, the decision was made to focus on Jameson as the new company’s main export brand. Powers remained largely a domestic brand with limited exports over the years, and became one of the leading whiskey brands in Ireland. As with all of the Irish Distillers whiskies, Powers is distilled at the Midleton Distillery in County Cork, Ireland.