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!
May 14, 2013 – Chivas Brothers and William Grant & Sons whiskies took top honors in the annual Spirit of Speyside Festival Whisky Awards. Both companies accounted for all six finalists that competed in the knockout round at Knockando Distillery on May 5. The finalists were decided earlier this year in a preliminary competition at the Knockomie Hotel, and the final voting was done by festival attendees at a series of tastings around the Speyside region during the week-long festival.
In the category for single malts 12 years and younger, voters picked the Aberlour A’bunadh over the Strathisla 12-year-old in a battle between two Chivas Brothers whiskies. In the competition for whiskies between 13 and 20 years old, The Balvenie 17 defeated the 15-year-old Distillery Edition from sister distillery Glenfiddich by just 9 votes. Two Glenlivet expressions competed as finalists for the 21-and-older title, with the Glenlivet XXV beating the Glenlivet 21 by just two votes.
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May 13, 2013 – 35 Maple Street, the California-based spirits company with ties to the Sebastiani wine family, is developing a new Tennessee Bourbon brand that will make its debut late in 2013 or during 2014. 35 Maple Street’s success has come from Masterson’s Rye, a Canadian whisky produced at an Alberta distillery and bottled by 35 Maple Street, and the company is hoping to repeat that success with Bib & Tucker Bourbon.
“A bib and tucker, in the Western days, was your Sunday finest clothing,” Richard Zeller of 35 Maple Street told WhiskyCast’s Mark Gillespie Saturday (May 11) at the Spirit of Toronto whisky festival. “It’s going to be in an amber cartouche glass, and we’re sourcing the amber glass…it’s not going to be a painted bottle – it’s going to be a real special mold…it’s be really a work of art.” Issues in sourcing the bottles are the reason for the uncertain release date, and Zeller indicates that Bib & Tucker could be released by the end of this year if the bottles can be produced in time.
“The Bourbon is a work of art,” Zeller said without disclosing which Tennessee distillery will be supplying the 8-year-old whiskey. “I’ve been sworn, unfortunately, to secrecy…I’m sure you can imagine, but I can’t tell you.” However, there are only three Tennessee distilleries capable of supplying 8-year-old Bourbon whiskey: Jack Daniel’s in Lynchburg, George Dickel in Tullahoma, and Prichard’s in Kelso. None of the three will admit to offering bulk whiskey for sale, and in fact, George Dickel has faced shortages for its whiskey in recent years and currently sources its George Dickel Rye from MGP-I in Lawrenceburg, Indiana.
Purists will note that the term “Tennessee Bourbon” may seem to be an oxymoron. However, it should be noted that Tennessee Whiskeys traditionally meet all of the U.S. requirements for Bourbon, and the use of the “Lincoln County” charcoal-filtering process does not preclude a whiskey from being labeled as a “Bourbon”. Tennessee legislators are considering a proposal that would require any whiskey labeled as “Tennessee Whiskey” or “Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey” to meet the federal standards for Bourbon and use charcoal filtering.
35 Maple Street will also be expanding its Masterson’s line later this year with the addition of a 12-year-old 100% wheat whisky and a 100% barley whisky. Both will come from the same Alberta distillery where Masterson’s Rye is produced. While Zeller has not confirmed the name of that distillery, it’s believed to be Highwood Distillers in Calgary. Zeller also confirmed that the company is moving forward with plans to build its own distillery, most likely in California. However, that facility would be used for different products and both Masterson’s and Bib & Tucker would be sourced from their current suppliers on a long-term basis.
May 13, 2013 – Sweden’s Mackmyra Distillery has released the 10th and final single malt in its “Specials” series of limited-edition whiskies. Special #10 is a coffee-influenced whisky created by Mackmyra’s master blender, Angela Forsgren D’Orazio, that had its genesis in a whisky liqueur she created last year.
“I was playing with some freshly roasted coffee beans, espresso coffee beans. I was throwing them into whisky, and I just realized that was a very good harmony, the coffee and the whisky together,” she told WhiskyCast’s Mark Gillespie Saturday (May 11) in Toronto. “I did some coffee whisky with the espresso beans, and then I took that coffee whisky — that was simple, it was just macerating the coffee beans in some very good mature whisky for some hours…I took out the beans and took that coffee whisky and seasoned some casks with it for a couple of weeks.”
Those casks were then used to finish the whisky for Special #10, while the coffee-infused whisky went into Mackmyra’s liqueur. Special #10 will be available in Sweden and most of Mackmyra’s export markets.
May 9, 2013 – University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino has had a pretty good year…so far. His Cardinals won the NCAA men’s basketball tournament last month, and he was named to this year’s class of inductees for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Now, he’ll be featured on a Maker’s Mark Bourbon bottle…for the second time. Pitino first appeared on a Maker’s Mark bottle in 2002 as part of an annual series of bottles sold to raise money for the Boy Scouts.
Pitino’s 2013 bottle will list his achievements over the years, including his second NCAA championship (his first was at the University of Kentucky in 1996). The bottle design has not been unveiled officially, but has been approved by the Treasury Department’s Tax & Trade Bureau.
While the details have not been announced, 12,600 Pitino bottles will be available. Proceeds from the sales will go to the University of Louisville’s proposed Academic Center for Excellence, which will provide support services for the University’s student-athletes. Maker’s Mark has pledged $500,000 toward the center, which will be built at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium. This is the second of three bottles that will benefit the center, with Louisville football coach Charlie Strong being featured on the first bottle. No plans have been announced for the third bottle in the series.
May 9, 2013 – While Heaven Hill’s new Evan Williams Bourbon Experience won’t open in downtown Louisville until this fall, it’s already become the starting point for the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. The visitor attraction has become the 8th stop on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, and will be the first in Louisville.
“This has kind of been the missing link and something we’ve been waiting for for years to happen,” Kentucky Distillers Association President Eric Gregory told WhiskyCast’s Mark Gillespie in a phone interview.
“A lot of people use Louisville as the jumping-off point for their Kentucky Bourbon Trail adventure because they’ve got a lot of things to offer there. They’ve got great restaurants, great hotels, and a lot of other amenities and attractions like the Louisville Slugger Museum and so much more, so to have a Kentucky Bourbon Trail distillery stop right in the middle of downtown Louisville on Whiskey Row to offer an immersive experience is just fantastic – we couldn’t be prouder today.”
At a news conference in Louisville today, Mayor Greg Fischer noted the historical importance of Louisville in Bourbon history. “Bourbon is important to Louisville, and Louisville is important to Bourbon”, he said at the ceremony in front of the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, which is located on the “Whiskey Row” section of West Main Street. The Heaven Hill attraction will include an artisanal distillery and Bourbon educational experience for tourists.
Until now, the nearest stop on the Bourbon Trail to Louisville was the Jim Beam Distillery in Clermont, about 30 miles south of the city. The Trail includes seven distilleries between Clermont and Lawrenceburg, home to Four Roses and Wild Turkey. More than 500,000 tourists visited the Bourbon Trail’s stops during 2012.
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May 9, 2013 – Whyte & Mackay’s Jura single malt whiskies are getting a new package design, along with names for each of the expressions in the range. The new boxes will feature images of the Isle of Jura, along with a half-outline of the Jura bottle — when lined up properly on a retail shelf, the outlines on adjacent boxes will form a complete outline of the Jura bottle design.
In addition, the three age-statement Juras in the range have also been given unique names to go alongside the existing Jura Prophecy and Jura Superstition expressions. The Jura 10-year-old will be known as the Jura Origin, the 12-year-old will be called Jura Elixir, and the 16-year-old version has been named Jura Diurachs’ Own. Diurach (pronounced “Jurr-ach”) is the Gaelic word for the people of Jura.
The announcement comes as Jura celebrates the 50th anniversary of the distillery’s revival in 1963, with special events planned for the Jura Whisky Festival on May 29 and 30. The Festival will include a preview tasting of the upcoming Jura 40-year-old single malt to be released in the near future.
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May 8, 2013 – Ardnamurchan Distillery, currently under construction on the Ardnamurchan Peninsula in northwest Scotland, has named its first manager. The Herald reports veteran distiller Graeme Bowie is leaving Balblair, where he was assistant manager under John MacDonald, to take up project management at the construction site in Glenbeg and will run the distillery when it begins operation.
Ardnamurchan is being built by Adelphi, which has been producing independent bottlings of Scotch Whisky while developing plans for its own distillery. The company’s Alex Bruce told The Herald that foundation work for the distillery is complete, with the steel framework scheduled to arrive next week and construction to be complete by September. Bowie will be coordinating with the contractors and Forsyths, which is building the stills and equipment for the new distillery. The installation is expected to be complete in time for the first still runs to be produced in December.
This story will be updated.
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Updated May 13, 2013 – One of the questions surrounding last year’s acquisition of Bruichladdich by Rémy Cointreau focused on the future of Murray McDavid, the independent bottler that was founded by Mark Reynier, Simon Coughlin, and Gordon Wright in 1996. The company was part of the Bruichladdich acquisition in 2000 by a Reynier-led investment group, and released many bottlings during the decade from 2000-2010, but the number of releases declined in recent years amid speculation that the brand was being wound down.
The questions were answered today (May 8) when Bruichladdich and Rémy announced the sale of Murray McDavid to Aceo Ltd., a Gloucestershire-based whisky broker and industry contractor. Aceo owns and manages its own cask inventory and manages cask inventories, along with blending, bottling, and logistics services for customers.
In a news release provided by Bruichladdich, Aceo director Edward Odim expressed delight at being able to acquire the Murray McDavid brand.
“We have enjoyed excellent relations with Murray McDavid in the past and have always admired its pioneering and irreverent spirit as well as its position in the vanguard of independent bottling. Our intention is to continue the legacy of Murray McDavid by staying true to its founders’ vision and principles such as bottling carefully selected single malts without chill-filtering or adding colour and continuing and developing the tradition of Ace-ing casks. Aceo Limited and Murray McDavid Limited will be run as separate companies. Murray McDavid will be independently managed by individuals previously involved in its running, who understand its roots and are committed to building on its achievements.”
The announcement was not specific on who those individuals would be. Simon Coughlin replaced Mark Reynier as Bruichladdich’s managing director after the sale, and indicated that one member of Bruichladdich’s sales team would be moving over to Aceo as part of the transition. The new company will not have any ties to Reynier, who has left the whisky industry behind. Wright owns his own independent bottler, Alchemist Beverage Company, and cut his ties with Murray McDavid several years ago.
Jim McEwan was responsible for selecting casks for Murray McDavid bottlings under Bruichladdich’s ownership. However, there’s no word on whether he will continue to have a role with Murray McDavid in the future.
May 7, 2013 – Wine Enthusiast Magazine has named its annual “Top 40 Tastemakers Under 40″ – honoring rising young Americans in the world of wine, spirits, and beer. Two whisky makers made the list, Marko Karakasevic of California’s Charbay Winery & Distillery, and Andy Lewis of Rock Town Distillery in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Karakasevic (profiled in WhiskyCast Episode 179) is a 13th-generation distiller specializing in unusual whiskies made from fully-hopped and stout beers at his family’s distillery in St. Helena, California. Lewis has won awards for his handmade small-batch vodka, and has produced Rock Town’s Arkansas Young Bourbon and Arkansas Hickory Smoked Whiskey
Also named to Wine Enthusiast’s list were Manhattan Cocktail Classic founder Lesley Townsend Duval, who previously ran wine and spirits education classes at New York City’s Astor Center, and veteran New York City bartender Jason Littrell, former president of the U.S. Bartenders’ Guild New York Chapter and co-creator of the infamous “Pickleback” cocktail (whisky and pickle juice).
May 7, 2013 – In a move that had been anticipated for some time by drinks industry observers, Diageo CEO Paul Walsh has announced his plans to step aside on July 1, clearing the way for his top lieutenant to take the reins of the world’s largest whisky maker. Ivan Menezes was named Chief Operating Officer in 2012, and was tipped then as Walsh’s heir apparent.
The Indian-born Menezes spent ten years running Diageo’s North American operations before he was named COO, and also chaired the company’s Asia-Pacific, Latin America, and Caribbean operations. While around 40% of Diageo’s sales come from North America, those developing regions are forecast to become a major revenue base for the company.
Walsh spent 13 years as Diageo’s CEO, and also served as chairman of the Scotch Whisky Association, where he continues to sit on the SWA’s Council. He will stay on with Diageo for a year to assist with the transition, but will give up his seat on the Diageo board in September and retire completely from the company at the end of June, 2014. His future plans have not been announced, and there has been no word on when Menezes will replace him on the SWA Council.
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