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!
August 1, 2013 – Bowmores from the legendary year of 1964 dominated the bidding at McTear’s during its July 31 whisky auction in Glasgow. In addition to the usual brace of original Black Bowmores up for bids, several bottles from the 1964 series of Fino, Oloroso, and Bourbon cask bottlings went on the block along with Black and White Bowmores from the 2007-2009 Trilogy Series.
Bottles #16, #50, and #58 (of 300) of the Fino Cask sold for £3,200 each, while Bottle #45 of the 1964 Bourbon Cask went for a hammer price of £2,800 and Bottle #133 of the Oloroso Cask brought a high bid of £2,400. Black Bowmores from the 1990′s releases went for £2,400 to £3,000, while Black Bowmore bottle #586 (of 827) from 2007 and White Bowmore #12 (of 732) from 2008 sold for £2,600 each. Other older Bowmores also did well, with a 1955-vintage Bowmore 40-year-old malt selling for £3,800, and a 1957 vintage (bottled at 38 years old) selling for £2,200.
The highest bid of the day was for a 50-year-old bottle of Yamazaki. Only 150 bottles were produced in 2011 at 57% ABV, and the hammer came down at £6,500 ($9,821 USD). A 1965 Ardbeg bottled in 2005 along with a companion miniature bottle sold for £3,800, while a 55-year-old bottle of Benromach distilled in 1949 and bottled in 2004 (#20 of 83) sold for £3,000, and a Laphroaig 40 went for £2,000.
Two 1946 Macallan Select Reserve bottles (bottled at 52 years) showed the difference original packaging can make. Bottle #2002 had the lockable wooden presentation case and outer cardboard sleeve, and sold for £3,600, while Bottle #243 was missing the outer sleeve and sold for £200 less at £3,400.
The oldest bottle up for bids was a 58-year-old Glenfarclas single cask distilled in 1953 and bottled last year for the Polish investment firm Wealth Solutions as an investment vehicle for its clients. Bottle #374 (of 400) sold for £2,800, below the pre-auction McTear’s estimate of £3,000-£4,000.
The next McTear’s auction is scheduled for September 4, 2013.
To convert these prices to USD, multiply by 1.51. To convert to Euros, multiply by 1.15.
Links: McTear’s Auction Catalog
August 1, 2013 – 2013 marks the year of The Gathering, a celebration of all things Irish worldwide. Teeling Whiskey Company has released The Gathering, a special 11-year-old single malt whiskey, at The Loop’s travel retail shops in Dublin and Cork airports to commemorate the event.
Just 1,000 bottles will be available. The whiskey was matured for more than 11 years in ex-Bourbon casks, then bottled at 46% ASV with no chill-filtration. It is available starting today at a price of €69.95 ($92.50 USD) in the Irish Whiskey Collection shops at both airports.
The Irish Whiskey Collection shops offer a range of whiskies from all of Ireland’s whiskey producers, along with exclusive bottlings like The Gathering. Travelers flying through either airport can pre-order in advance and pick up their whiskies on landing.
To hear an interview with Jack Teeling on his family’s new company and heritage in Irish Whiskey, listen to Episode 429 of WhiskyCast.
August 1, 2013 – Delilah’s, the legendary Chicago punk rock and whisky bar, marks its 20th anniversary on August 29th, and Compass Box is releasing a special whisky to celebrate the anniversary. Compass Box Delilah’s is a blended Scotch whisky developed jointly by John Glaser and Delilah’s owner Mike Miller, and is a 50/50 blend of malt and grain whiskies.
The malt whiskies came from unnamed distilleries in Alness and Longmorn, while the grain whisky came from an unnamed distillery in Fife. They were matured in a combination of new American oak casks and rejuvenated American Oak hogsheads.
In keeping with the Delilah’s tradition as a classic Chicago “shot and a beer” bar, the Compass Box Delilah’s was blended to “be perfect served as a shot with a beer”. The whisky will make its debut at the Delilah’s 20th anniversary party on August 29th and go on sale globally the next day, with 6,324 bottles to be available.
Compass Box will also release a 10th anniversary edition of Peat Monster at the end of September in Europe and in the U.S. during October. There will also be a special limited edition run of 300 bottles at cask strength to be available exclusively at Park Avenue Liquor Shop in New York City, which commissioned the first peated Compass Box whisky in 2003. That whisky was named Monster, which later became Peat Monster.
August 1, 2013 – Diageo may consider a takeover bid for Beam Inc. as a way to strengthen its position in the North American market, according to the Wall Street Journal. The world’s largest whisky producer cited strong sales in North America as one of the key reasons for its 5% growth in profits during the fiscal year ending June 30, but lacks a major foothold in the Bourbon market.
In an interview with the Journal’s Peter Evans, Diageo CEO Ivan Menezes restated his goal of a large-scale acquisition in North America following the company’s failed bid for Jose Cuervo tequila last year:
“We have the capacity and we look at how the industry may reshape and what assets may become available,” Mr. Menezes said in an interview at Diageo’s London headquarters. “For the right ones, we have the balance sheet strength to move on them.” When asked if Beam Inc. – the Deerfield, Il.-based owner of Jim Beam Bourbon-was on his shopping list, Mr. Menezes said “we look at everything.”
Beam executives declined to comment on the statement from Menezes. CEO Matt Shattock has maintained that Beam plans to remain independent following the breakup of Fortune Brands in 2011 that left Beam as a standalone spirits company.
Diageo’s one weak spot in the North American market is its presence in the Bourbon market. The company owns the Bulleit Bourbon (and Rye) brand, which has a small share of the market, but has been known to want a larger presence. As of now, Diageo’s only active U.S. distillery is the George Dickel Distillery in Tullahoma, Tennessee.
Diageo recently created a brand heritage center for Bulleit at the long-closed Stitzel-Weller Distillery in Louisville, and it’s believed that plans are in the works to revive the distillery as a long-term source for Bulleit. Those plans may become more active now that Diageo has settled a dispute with Louisville air quality regulators over fungus on buildings near its Millers Lane maturation warehouses. The company will move 185,000 casks from Millers Lane over the next 30 months, with whiskey to be sold under the Bulleit label to be moved to warehouses at Stitzel-Weller. As part of the resolution, the head of Louisville’s Air Pollution Control District stated on the record that the Stitzel-Weller facility is in compliance with air quality regulations and was not part of its investigation.
Diageo has not officially confirmed any plans to revive Stitzel-Weller, but has been looking at ways to make the Bulleit heritage center at the site more accessible to the public and possibly add it to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. The center is currently used as an education center for retailers and bartenders.
However, it should be noted that any Diageo bid for Beam would likely lead to potential competition inquiries in both the UK and Ireland. The UK’s Office of Fair Trading has already opened an inquiry into Diageo’s newly-acquired controlling stake in United Spirits and whether the addition of USL-owned Whyte & Mackay into the Diageo portfolio creates too much concentration in the Scotch Whisky industry. Beam owns Laphroaig and Ardmore distilleries in Scotland, along with the Teacher’s blended Scotch brand, and regulators would likely insist that Diageo sell off assets in Scotland to reduce its market share in the event of a Beam acquisition. Likewise, the OFT and Irish officials might have similar issues based on Beam’s ownership of Cooley’s brands and the Kilbeggan distillery in Ireland, given that Diageo already owns Bushmills in Northern Ireland. A Diageo/Beam tieup would put the three major Irish distilleries in the hands of just two companies, Diageo and Irish Distillers (a Pernod Ricard unit).
July 31, 2013 – Diageo, the world’s largest whisky producer, reported an 8% increase in profits for the 2012 fiscal year ending June 30. Overall sales rose 5%, pushed largely by a rise in U.S. sales and price increases globally.
CEO Ivan Menezes, in his first annual report since replacing Paul Walsh earlier this year, cited the strong North American performance along with sales in Latin America and the Caribbean. North American net sales gained 5%, while operating profits rose 9% on the price increases for Johnnie Walker and many other Diageo products. Sales in Latin America and the Caribbean were up 15% and profits rose 26%. Johnnie Walker sales worldwide surpassed the 20 million case mark for the first time, while single malt Scotch sales rose by 17% during the year. Other strong spots included Crown Royal, with a 17% increase in sales following the launch of Crown Royal Maple, Buchanan’s blended Scotch with a gain of 26%, and a 12% gain for Bushmills.
Europe remains a soft spot for Diageo and other drinks companies. Sales fell by 3% and profits by 7% across the region, dragged down largely by weak economies in Spain, Portugal, Greece, and Italy. Declining beer sales in the UK and Ireland cut into Guinness sales, and France suffered from what Diageo described as a weak trading environment.
July 30, 2013 – Less than a year after Allison Patel entered the U.S. market with Brenne Estate Cask single malt whisky from France, she has signed a national distribution deal with Martignetti-owned Classic Imports, the same company that handles distribution for Gordon & MacPhail and other major spirits producers. Patel launched Brenne in October of 2012 through her own importing company, Local Infusions, but saw demand for the Cognac-finished single malt exceed her ability to supply the market.
In a news release, Patel cited Classic Imports’ ability to help Brenne enter more markets in the U.S. as one of the reasons for the new partnership.
“This partnership between Brenne and Classic Imports will strengthen our ability to reach more Brenne-thirsty fans while continuing to build the momentum in our existing markets. We truly believe that Classic Imports is the perfect partner to take Brenne to the next level and are looking forward to a very long and successful partnership.”
As she explained in Episode 431 of WhiskyCast last month, Brenne is produced by a Cognac distiller in France, and matured in new French Limousin Oak casks before finishing in ex-Cognac casks used previously for maturing the estate’s Cognac. Mark Gillespie’s tasting notes for Brenne Estate Cask are available here at WhiskyCast.com, and Brenne was also part of the April 2013 episode of WhiskyCast Virtual Tastings.
In addition to serving as an importer nationally, Classic Imports also serves as a distributor in the Northeast U.S. for many of its brands, including Gordon & MacPhail.
July 30, 2013 – Heaven Hill plans to expand distribution of its Henry McKenna range of Bourbons, and is giving the namesake whiskey and the Bottled-in-Bond Single Barrel version new packaging.
The whiskeys are named after Henry McKenna, who left Ireland for the U.S. in 1837 and used his family’s whiskey recipe when he opened his distillery in Fairfield, Kentucky in 1855. The standard 40% ABV version of Henry McKenna gets a new brown label with modern graphics describing McKenna’s history, while the Single Barrel version gets an update of its traditional green labels. The 10-year-old Single Barrel is the only double-digit vintage Bottled-in-Bond Single Barrel Bourbon available, and carries a recommended retail price of $29.99 USD. The standard version retails for around $15.99 USD per 750ml bottle, and is also available in 375ml, 1 liter, and 1.75 liter bottles as well.
The new packaging comes as Heaven Hill prepares to expand availability of the Henry McKenna whiskies outside of the Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S., which has been the traditional stronghold for the brand.
Links: Heaven Hill
July 30, 2013 – The Balvenie has unveiled its second travel retail release of the year, a three-expression series of 12, 16, and 25-year-old single malts. The three whiskies will be available globally in travel retail shops exclusively, along with the Tun 1401 Batch #7 release from earlier this year.
The recommended retail prices for the range are £49.99 ($76 USD) for the 12-year-old, £64.99 ($99 USD) for the 16-year-old, and £299 ($456) for the 25-year-old expression.
Links: The Balvenie
July 27, 2013 - Diageo and Louisville’s Air Pollution Control District have reached an agreement to resolve air quality complaints filed against the drinks company in September of 2012 stemming from fungus on homes and buildings near one of the company’s whiskey maturation facilities. According to the Louisville Courier-Journal, Diageo will move around 185,000 casks of whiskey from its Millers Lane maturation warehouses on the city’s west side and vacate the facility over the next 30 months.
The original complaint against Diageo, which also included other local whiskey producers, linked alcohol vapors evaporating from the barrels stored at Millers Lane to fungus growing on homes, cars, and buildings near the site. Under the complaint, the District had threatened fines of up to $10,000 per day against Diageo, but the settlement negates those fines. A separate class-action lawsuit against Diageo and the city’s other whiskey producers is pending in U.S. District Court.
The agreement calls for Diageo to move barrels that will eventually be sold as Bulleit Kentucky Straight Bourbon to its warehouses at the Stitzel-Weller Distillery site about half a mile away, while the remaining barrels will be moved to warehouses near Diageo’s George Dickel Distillery in Tennessee. Since U.S. regulations require that a whiskey be entirely distilled and matured within a state in order to carry that state’s name, the whiskey to be moved to Tennessee is likely destined for the company’s lower-grade whiskey brands (and also means that those casks were not originally filled with spirit at Dickel).
The Courier-Journal reports that the local Metro Council member for the neighborhood is not pleased with the agreement. Mary Woolridge told the paper that the resolution doesn’t solve the problem, just moves it half a mile down the road. According to the Courier-Journal, the Air Pollution Control District’s executive director says the Stitzel-Weller site complies with air quality standards and is not under investigation in connection with the fungus problems.
July 26, 2013 – Bowmore has released a 23-year-old Port cask-matured single malt. The limited-edition whisky was distilled in 1989, and has been bottled at 50.8% ABV.
The whisky comes in a mahogany presentation box with a certificate signed by distillery manager Eddie McAffer. Around 12,000 bottles will be available worldwide through whisky specialist retailers, with a suggested retail price of £380 ($540 USD).