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!
June 26, 2013 – This week’s update on new whisky releases starts with the second new single malt of the year from Talisker. Talisker Dark Storm (45.8% ABV) follows the release earlier this year of Talisker Storm, and is said to be the smokiest Talisker whisky on record. It will be available at travel retail outlets in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East with a suggested price of £42 (approximately $64.50 USD).
Meanwhile, Glenfiddich is expanding its Cask of Dreams series of single malts with a new release for the Scandinavian market.
The Cask of Dreams Nordic Oak expression is said to be the first Scotch whisky ever to be finished in Nordic Oak casks. The Cask of Dreams project started in the United States in 2011, and invited whisky lovers to share their dreams with the world. It has since spread to other Glenfiddich markets around the world.
The Nordic Oak expression will be available primarily on Viking Line cruises, with some allocation for other travel retail markets and retailers in the Nordic region. No details on pricing have been announced.
June 25, 2013 – One of the two whisky distilleries closed as a result of massive flooding in southern Alberta has re-opened. Alberta Distillers in Calgary resumed operations late Monday afternoon (June 24), according to Beam Global spokeswoman Paula Erickson. The distillery was undamaged in last week’s flooding along the Bow and Elbow Rivers, but was forced to shut down when police closed roads in the area around the distillery.
23 miles to the south, Highwood Distillers in High River remains closed as much of the town is still flooded and under mandatory evacuation orders. Highwood, which makes Centennial, Century Reserve, White Owl, Potter’s, and Highwood whiskies and supplies bulk whisky to independent bottlers, was forced to close Thursday (June 20) after electricity service failed. The distillery is located about a kilometer (.6 miles) from the Highwood River, and operations manager Jarrod Grant told WhiskyCast’s Mark Gillespie Monday that he’s waiting for police to allow him and his team to check on the distillery. The CBC reports local officials believe the town could be closed off for several days to as long as a week.
At least three people have died in the flooding, and Alberta Premier Alison Redford has said a full recovery could take up to ten years and cost $1 billion (CDN).
This story will be updated as more details are available.
June 24, 2013 – Fresh off the success of its Jim Beam Red Stag flavored whiskies, Beam will release a maple-flavored version of Knob Creek later this year. In an email sent to Knob Creek’s “Brothers of Bourbon” affinity group today, Beam announced plans for Knob Creek Smoked Maple, which will build on the original Knob Creek flavor with added “natural” maple and smoke flavoring.
While the bottle design for the new whiskey has not been unveiled, the label for Knob Creek Smoked Maple has been reviewed and approved by U.S. regulators at the Treasury Department’s Tax & Trade Bureau.
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Updated June 25, 2013 – Massive flooding along several rivers in Alberta have claimed at least three lives, caused millions of dollars in damage, and forced the shutdown of at least two whisky distilleries. Highwood Distillers in High River, Alberta shut down after the distillery lost power Thursday afternoon, and the entire town remains under mandatory evacuation orders.
“The entire town’s underwater”, Highwood operations manager Jarrod Grant told WhiskyCast’s Mark Gillespie in a phone interview Monday. “We’re on the list to try and get into town, but we don’t know what’s happened at the distillery.” Grant remains hopeful that damage will be minimal, since the distillery is on higher ground about a kilometer (.6 miles) from the Highwood River. RCMP officers in High River told the Calgary Sun they expect the evacuation orders to remain in place for several days. Mounties are conducting a dangerous door-to-door search of homes and businesses in High River to encourage people who have defied the evacuation orders to leave.
Highwood produces Centennial, Century Reserve, White Owl, Potter’s, and Highwood Canadian whiskies, along with other spirits. It also supplies whisky to a number of independent bottlers, including Masterson’s and Canadian Rockies.
Flood waters are starting to recede in Calgary, about 23 miles north of High River. The Bow and Elbow Rivers flooded most of downtown Calgary last week, forcing a temporary shutdown at Alberta Distillers after police closed roads in the area around the distillery. The Beam Global-owned distillery’s main product is Alberta Premium Canadian Whisky, and Beam’s Paula Erickson told WhiskyCast in an email Sunday that all of the distillery’s employees are safe, and the impact on production and distilling is expected to be minimal.
In addition, both of Calgary’s leading whisky and spirits shops escaped damage from the flooding. Andrew Ferguson of the Kensington Wine Market told WhiskyCast via Twitter:
“We were lucky. This place is a disaster…billions in damage to the 4th largest city in Canada and the second most important financial/business center”
Chelsey Coulson of Willow Park Wines & Spirits reports via email that the Willow Park staff is also safe and the store was not damaged.
The Oldman River is receding in Lethbridge, about 130 miles south of Calgary. Lethbridge is home to the Black Velvet Distillery, and spokesman Chris Spearman reports via Twitter that his people are all safe.
This story will be updated as more details are available.
June 24, 2013 – Diageo will release a special Alfred Dunhill Johnnie Walker Blue Label collection for the travel retail market in the brand’s latest partnership with other luxury goods creators. The initial release features a Dunhill travel trunk that holds a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label, along with four glasses, a Dunhill flask, funnel and ice tongs. The trunk is modeled after Dunhill’s classic car trunks, and will be one of two gift packs in the series.
Pricing has not been announced for the trunk gift set, which will be available in travel retail shops globally. Only 500 sets will be produced.
June 23, 2013 – Craig Daniels has claimed his third title in the Australian Malt Whisky Tasting Championship with a win in Friday night’s competition at the Australian Museum in Sydney. Daniels, a longtime member of the Malt Maniacs and the chairman of the Malt Whisky Society of Australia, took top honors in a field of more than 60 competitors. He previously won in 1995 and 2008, and has placed second three times.
The competition was organized by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society’s Australian chapter, and competitors had 30 minutes to correctly identify eight different whiskies by nosing and tasting samples and comparing them to a list of nine whiskies – with one “red herring” on the list to throw some confusion into the mix. An additional round of tasting was conducted to settle ties and determine the final winners.
As the overall winner, Daniels will receive a spot on the Society’s upcoming Glenmorangie-sponsored whisky tour of Tasmanian distilleries. James Tait finished second, and will receive $1,000 worth of whiskies from the Society. Third-place finisher Ian Titman will receive a $500 gift certificate from The Oak Barrel whisky shop in Sydney and tickets to the shop’s whisky fair later this year.
The competition was sponsored by Glenmorangie, William Grant & Sons, and The Oak Barrel.
Editor’s note: In the story on this event in Episode 430 of WhiskyCast, Craig Daniels was named as a four-time winner. This was based on our interview following his 2008 victory in which I thought he said he had won two previous times. However, he was referring to that being his second victory, and his bio on the Malt Whisky Society of Australia web site only lists previous victories in 1995 and 2008.
June 21, 2013 – Hankey Bannister, the International Beverages-owned blended Scotch brand, has a new limited-release expression that was created to remember the whisky’s original heritage and flavor. In a news release, the company cited a vintage bottle of Hankey Bannister dating back to the 1920′s found last year as the inspiration for the Heritage Blend.
The company’s master blender, Stuart Harvey, added a dash of older and smokier whiskies to his recipe for Hankey Bannister to give the Heritage Blend a flavor more reminiscent of whiskies from that time period. Hankey Bannister uses malt whiskies from the company’s five distilleries (Balblair, Pulteney, Knockdhu, Speyburn, and Balmenach), along with malt and grain whiskies from other distilleries in Scotland.
5,000 cases (approximately 60,000 bottles) of Hankey Bannister Heritage Blend will be available at specialist retailers worldwide, with a suggested retail price of £26.99 ($41.50 USD).
Links: Hankey Bannister
June 21, 2013 – The 24 Hours of Le Mans kicks off Saturday, but Scotland’s Ecurie Ecosse racing team is already making plans for the 2014 race. The legendary sports car team has completed a major sponsorship agreement with Duncan Taylor’s Black Bull blended Scotch whisky brand for this year’s British GT and European Le Mans Series races and next year’s Le Mans bid. Ecurie Ecosse won the overall championship at Le Mans in 1956 and 1957, and has had three F1 World Champions and two Indianapolis 500 winners (Jim Clark and Dario Franchitti) as drivers during its history.
The partnership kicked off with last weekend’s British GP races at Snetterton, in which the Ecurie Ecosse/Barwell Motorsports BMW Z4 GT3 retired with a brake problem in the first race, but scored a 7th place finish in the points during the second race. The team’s next outing will be in European Le Mans Series competition at Austria’s Österreich on July 19 and 20.
June 21, 2013 – There are few things that James Espey hasn’t done in the whisky industry. He’s one of the few people to hold high-ranking executive positions with both Seagram’s (now part of Pernod Ricard) and United Distillers (now Diageo), helped create Johnnie Walker Blue Label, and founded the Keepers of the Quaich as a way to honor people for their service to the Scotch whisky industry.
Now, he’s the one being honored for his service to the Scotch whisky industry. Espey was named an Officer of the Order of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth this month in her annual Birthday Honours List. The Queen traditionally issues two Honours Lists annually, one at Christmas and one in June to celebrate her birthday.
Espey’s latest venture, in addition to his management consulting practice, is Last Drop Distillers. Together with his partners, Tom Jago and Peter Fleck, Last Drop has been bottling rare casks of spirits as they uncover them. For more on their 1960 Blended Scotch whisky, listen to Episode 159 of WhiskyCast.
June 19, 2013 - Edrington Group will end its U.S. distribution agreement with Rémy Cointreau at the end of March, 2014, and will form Edrington USA as a wholly-owned subsidiary to take over importing and distribution for the company’s whisky and spirits portfolio. Remy executives confirmed the end of the partnership last week, but Edrington had declined to release specifics on its plans until after a major company-wide conference in Scotland earlier this month.
The company will also set up similar units in Southeast Asia and the Middle East to distribute The Macallan and Highland Park single malt Scotch whiskies, The Famous Grouse and Cutty Sark blended Scotches, Brugal Rum, and Snow Leopard vodka. While the US market is the largest export market by volume for Scotch whisky in general, the new units will be responsible for around 26% of Edrington’s global sales.
In the US, Edrington and Rémy Cointreau’s US unit had worked together since 1985. when Rémy’s US unit started handling distribution for Edrington’s Scotch whisky brands. Edrington had been working with Beam Global’s Asian unit in Southeast Asia, and the company’s new Singapore-based unit will take over in that region October 1. Middle East distribution will be handled in a Dubai-based joint venture with FIX Wines & Spirits, which had been handling Edrington’s portfolio in the Middle East and Northern Africa for the last five years.
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