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!

New Releases from Wemyss Malts & The Maltman

July 15, 2013 – Two of Scotland’s independent bottlers have released new ranges of single cask bottlings.

Wemyss Malts is shipping 6 new whiskies this week to distributors in the UK, Europe, and Asia:

“Apple Pastry” – a 1991 single cask from Linkwood (Speyside),
“Salted Caramels” – a 1991 single cask from Glen Scotia (Campbeltown),
“The Smokery” – a 1980 single cask from Caol Ila (Islay),
“Maritime Embrace” – a 1989 single cask from Bunnahabhain (Islay),
“Melon Cocktail” – a 1994 single cask from Aberfeldy (Highlands),
“Spiced Chocolate Cup” – a 1997 single cask from Clynelish (Highlands).

All six were selected by the Wemyss tasting panel led by Charles Maclean, and were named for their unique aromas and flavors.

Meadowside Blending Co., owned by Donald and Andrew Hart, is releasing five new single casks in its flagship “The Maltman” range:

Glenturret 30 Years Old – a single Bourbon cask bottled at 46% ABV (Highlands),
Glenrothes 18 Years Old – a single Bourbon cask bottled at 50.8% ABV (Speyside),
Isle of Arran 16 Years Old – a single Oloroso Sherry cask bottled at 46% ABV (Highlands),
Caol Ila 10 Years Old – a single Bourbon cask bottled at 46% ABV (Islay),
Ledaig 7 Years Old, a single Bourbon cask bottled at 46% ABV (Highlands).

The Maltman bottlings are available at whisky specialist retailers in North America and Europe.

Links: Wemyss Malts | Meadowside Blending

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Kentucky Distillers Join Forces for Parker Beam Tribute

Heaven Hill's Parker Beam (R) and Wild Turkey's Jimmy Russell (L) chat during the 2012 Kentucky Bourbon Festival.

July 15, 2013 – Kentucky’s Bourbon distillers may compete with each other to see who can sell the most whiskey, but when a member of the family needs help, they all come together in a spirit of brotherhood. Now, seven of the Commonwealth’s largest distilleries have agreed to blend their whiskies together to create 12 special bottles of Bourbon to raise money for Parker Beam’s Promise of Hope Fund.

Earlier this year, the longtime master distiller for Heaven Hill was diagnosed with ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease), and Heaven Hill created the Promise of Hope Fund to benefit the ALS Association. The company plans to donate $20 from each bottle of the upcoming Parker’s Heritage Collection annual release, and several of Heaven Hill’s regional distributors have pledged to match the donations in hopes of raising more than $250,000.

Now, the Lexington Herald-Leader reports that Parker’s colleagues have agreed to create Master Distillers’ Unity, which will blend whiskies from Four Roses, Woodford Reserve, Buffalo Trace, Maker’s Mark, Wild Turkey, and Jim Beam together with whiskey selected by Parker from Heaven Hill’s stocks. Two bottles will be sold at the Bonhams auction in New York City on Sunday, October 13, with all proceeds to go to the Promise of Hope Fund. The bottles will be sold together, so that the winning bidder can keep one and drink one. The remaining ten bottles of Master Distillers’ Unity will be opened earlier that weekend during a special tribute and toast to Parker Beam On October 12 during WhiskyFest New York.

In addition to the distillers, Saxco Industries, Walsen International, and Promotional Wood Products have donated the custom packages and bottles for Master Distillers’ Unity, and Bonhams will waive all commissions on the two bottles to be auctioned. This ensures that all proceeds from Master Distillers’ Unity will go to the Promise of Hope Fund.

Heaven Hill has not officially released details on this year’s Parker’s Heritage Collection whiskey yet, but the Herald-Leader reports it will be a 10-year-old whiskey to be named Promise of Hope and bottled at 48% ABV. More details on the Heritage Collection release will be posted as they become available.

Links: Heaven Hill | Parker Beam’s Promise of Hope Fund

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Isle of Jura Underwater…According to Google Maps

Google's map with the missing Isle of Jura in Scotland. Image courtesy Google Maps. July 13, 2013 – More than a week after initial news reports that Google’s online mapping feature had consigned Scotland’s Isle of Jura to the same fate as Atlantis, the wreckage of the Titanic, and perhaps even the body of Jimmy Hoffa, Google Maps continues to show the island as underwater.

It’s hard to make an island nearly 31 miles long with the Paps of Jura standing nearly 800 meters above sea level disappear beneath the waves, but a check of the Google map for Jura shows the island’s main road from the Islay ferry dock to just north of Craighouse…and nothing else.

Obviously, the Isle of Jura is not really underwater. A newsletter from the Jura Distillery this week proves that, and according to news reports, Google Maps engineers are trying to solve the problem. Clicking on the “Satellite” option in the map display shows the island in all of its glory.

However, with only a few hundred year-round residents, clicking on the “Traffic” option doesn’t yield much…except for the occasional herd of deer.

Links: Google Map of Jura | Jura Distillery

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Slane Castle to Build Ireland’s Newest Distillery

July 12, 2013 – More than a year after his supply of whiskey for Slane Castle Whiskey was cut off, Lord Henry Mount Charles has received approval for his plans to build a distillery at the castle in County Meath. Slane Castle Whiskey was introduced in 2010 using whiskey sourced from Cooley, but the supplies were cut off in early 2012 after Beam acquired Cooley and started terminating bulk sales of whiskey to independent bottlers without long-term contracts. The family was forced to withdraw its whiskey from the market at that point, and started looking at the possibility of building its own distillery.

Now, the Mount Charles family has received approval from county officials for a €12 million ($15.7 million USD) distillery that will be built on the stable grounds at Slane Castle in partnership with the family-owned Camus Cognac of France. The two families have pledged just under 50% of the total projected cost, and according to the Irish Times, will be seeking additional investors to join the project. A visitors center is projected to draw 50,000 tourists annually, and the facility is expected to create 25 full-time jobs.

The distillery is scheduled to be completed in 2015, and the first whiskey from Slane Castle is likely to be a blended whiskey that will hit the market in 2018, according to Lord Alex Mount Charles, Lord Henry’s son and the managing director for Slane Castle Whiskey. The distillery will use barley grown on the castle’s grounds and get its water supply from a river that runs through the estate.

Editor’s note: More information on this story is available in Episodes 365 and 366 of WhiskyCast from April, 2012.  

Links: Slane Castle Whiskey

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Angel’s Envy To Build New Distillery in Louisville

An architect's rendering of the Angel's Envy Distillery to be built in downtown Louisville. Image courtesy Louisville Distilling Co. July 9 , 2013 – Lincoln Henderson will finally have another distillery of his own to work with. The longtime Brown-Forman master distiller and original master distiller at Woodford Reserve helped break ground today for the new Angel’s Envy Distillery in downtown Louisville. Henderson created the Angel’s Envy brand with his family and a team of investors using whisky sourced from other distilleries. In a news release, Henderson expressed relief after spending the last two years looking for a site to build the distillery.

“I feel blessed to do what I truly love to do. It is a dream come true to have my own distillery on Main Street in downtown Louisville.”

The site is on the eastern end of Main Street near Louisville Slugger Field, and was formerly the site of Vermont American and Baer Fabrics. Angel’s Share Brands, LLC, the Chicago-based parent company of Angel’s Envy, purchased the site from the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and the project will also receive economic development incentives from the Commonwealth. The $12 million dollar renovation project will include not only the distillery, but a visitors center that will become part of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

Angel’s Share Brands, LLC also announced a significant investment in the company from Blue Equity, LLC, a Louisville-based private equity firm. The amount of the investment was not disclosed.

Links: Angel’s Envy


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Diageo to Discuss Whyte & Mackay’s Future with UK Regulators

July 9, 2013 – Diageo executives spent the better part of a year negotiating and then trying to close the deal for a majority stake in India’s United Spirits, only to wind up with management control and a 25% stake in the company. Now, they face another round of negotiations over the fate of Whyte & Mackay, the United Spirits-owned Scotch whisky producer.

During the United Spirits share tender process, several news organizations reported that the U.K.’s Office of Fair Trading (OFT) had privately expressed reservations over the merger. Diageo already controls about 38% of Scotch whisky production, and while outgoing CEO Paul Walsh has said that Whyte & Mackay would be surplus to the company’s needs, that’s believed to apply to the four Whyte & Mackay malt whisky distilleries (Dalmore, Jura, Tamnavulin, and Fettercairn). The OFT is said to be concerned about Whyte & Mackay’s Invergordon grain whisky distillery near Inverness and the impact on competition. There are seven grain whisky distilleries in Scotland producing whisky to be used in Blended Scotches, and Diageo already owns 100% of Cameronbridge and 50% of the North British Distillery in a joint venture with The Edrington Group.

In May, the Times of India reported that Whyte & Mackay was considering the sale of Invergordon as a way to satisfy the regulatory concerns. While the Office of Fair Trading has not responded to requests for comment, a Diageo spokesperson issued this response in an email to WhiskyCast’s Mark Gillespie:

“Now that we have closed the deal, we will be engaging appropriately with the OFT and anticipate filing in due course. It would be inappropriate to comment further at the moment.”

The email did not respond to questions about whether the entire unit would be put up for sale or whether management changes are planned.

Whyte & Mackay has referred all questions about the merger to United Spirits executives in India, and a United Spirits executive has told WhiskyCast that the company does not respond to “market speculation”.

This story will be updated as new information becomes available.

Links: Diageo | United Spirits | Whyte & Mackay | Office of Fair Trading

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Buffalo Trace Experiments With Wheated Bourbons

Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection Wheated Bourbons. Image courtesy Buffalo Trace.July 9, 2013 – Bourbon distillers have their own unique ways of making America’s native spirit, and each one will tell you a different tale — if you can get them to tell you at all. Some distillers swear that putting spirit into a barrel at a high entry proof (the percentage of alcohol) makes the end result better, while others claim using a lower entry proof leads to a smoother whiskey.

Why not put spirit straight off the still into the barrel, undiluted? First off, it’s not legal. U.S. law requires that Bourbon be matured in new oak barrels with an entry proof of no more than 125 proof (62.5% ABV), and at most distilleries, the spirit comes off at a much higher proof level. Second, there’s the issue of consistency. Stills can generate spirit at slightly different strengths depending on the time of year, and when one’s looking to create a whiskey with a consistent taste, it helps to start creating that consistency early in the process and use a consistent entry point. There are other reasons, but they would require a degree in chemistry to explain.

Buffalo Trace’s latest Experimental Collection release tests the various hypotheses on entry proof, especially when it comes to wheated Bourbons such as the W.L. Weller and Pappy Van Winkle whiskies. Back in late 2001, the distillery took a wheated Bourbon mashbill coming off the still at 130 proof (65% ABV), and split the spirit four ways when it was filled into casks:

125 Proof (62.5% ABV), the maximum allowed under U.S. law;
115 Proof (57.5% ABV), very close to what Buffalo Trace uses for wheated Bourbons;
105 Proof (52.5% ABV),
90 Proof (45% ABV).

The casks were matured under identical conditions for 11 years and 7 months, then bottled at 90 proof (45% ABV) for the latest Experimental Collection release.

The key finding: the higher the entry point, the more lost to evaporation over time during maturation. The casks filled at 62.5% ABV lost 71% of their contents to evaporation, while the casks at 57.5% ABV lost 73%. By comparison, the casks filled at 52.5% ABV lost 62% of their contents and the 45% ABV casks lost 64%. However, Buffalo Trace’s internal quality analysis panel rated the 115 Proof (57.5% ABV) casks as the best-tasting spirit. In a news release, Buffalo Trace master distiller Harlen Wheatley said the study helped confirm his team’s suspicions:

“This was an interesting experiment for us to conduct, and by keeping all of the variables consistent such as the proof off the still, aging time and placement next to each other in the warehouse, we were able to focus just on the entry proof into the barrel and see how it affected taste and evaporation rate. We were pleased that what we consider the ideal entry proof for a wheated bourbon, at 114 proof, was pretty close in proof to what we evaluated to also taste the best in this experiment – which was the 115 proof experiment. It was gratifying to see that we have been on the right track this whole time with our entry proof for our wheated recipe bourbons. Another point of interest is the higher entry proofs, the higher the evaporation rates, which is something we’ve always suspected but now know for a fact.”

All four recipes will be available in limited quantities at whisky specialist retailers in the U.S. in 375 ml bottles, with a suggested retail price of $46.35 each.

Links: Buffalo Trace 

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Kilchoman Releases Latest 100% Islay Single Malt

Kilchoman Distillery on Islay. Photo ©2010 by Mark GillespieJuly 8, 2013 – Islay’s smallest distillery has released the third edition of its 100% Islay single malt Scotch whisky. Kilchoman is unique among Islay’s eight distilleries in that it’s located on a farm, and that’s where the barley is grown for each annual 100% Islay release. The distillery also has a small malting floor where the farm’s barley is prepared for the distilling process, and each of the three 100% Islay releases so far has also been bottled on site at Rockside Farm.

The 2013 release uses whisky matured for four and five years in ex-Bourbon barrels, and is bottled at 50% ABV. 10,000 bottles will be available through Kilchoman’s web site and whisky specialist retailers worldwide.

Links: Kilchoman 

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GlenDronach Releases New Batch of Single Cask Bottlings

GlenDronach's 1971 Single Cask Whisky. Image courtesy GlenDronach. July 5, 2013 – GlenDronach has released the eighth batch of single cask bottlings from the Aberdeenshire distillery. All 8 were selected by Billy Walker, GlenDronach’s managing director and master blender, and were matured in a variety of ex-sherry casks for up to 42 years.

The batch includes the following bottlings:

1971 Cask #1246 (42 years old ), a Pedro Ximenez Sherry Puncheon at 44.6% ABV (shown here);
1990 Cask #2971 (22 years old), a Pedro Ximenez Sherry Puncheon at 50.8 % ABV;
1991 Cask #5409 (21 years old), a Pedro Ximenez Sherry Puncheon at 49.8% ABV;
1992 Cask #145 (21 years old), an Oloroso Sherry Butt at  58.1% ABV;
1993 Cask #3 (20 years old), an Oloroso Sherry Butt at 52.9% ABV;
1994 Cask #101 (19 years old), an Oloroso Sherry Butt at 58.4% ABV;
1996 Cask #1490 (17 years old), a Pedro Ximenez Sherry Puncheon at 53.1% ABV;
2002 Cask #1988 (10 years old), a Pedro Ximenez Sherry Puncheon at 55.6% ABV.

All eight whiskies in the batch will be available at whisky specialist retailers in Europe, with limited availability in other global markets.

Links: GlenDronach

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Diageo Completes Deal for Control of India’s United Spirits

July 4, 2013 – Diageo has completed its third and final tender offer for shares of India’s United Spirits, and will take operational control of the Vijay Mallya-led company. However, the tender offers resulted in Diageo holding just 25% of United Spirits’ outstanding shares, instead of the 53.4% stake the world’s largest alcoholic drinks company intended to acquire when the deal was first announced last year.

The final tender offer cost Diageo around 31.3 billion rupees ($521 million USD), according to Bloomberg News, and netted Diageo an additional 14.98% of the company’s shares. While Diageo will be the largest shareholder in United Spirits, it will depend on agreements with Mallya’s UB Group to give it day to day control of the the company. UB Group has pledged to vote its shares at Diageo’s direction until 2018 or until Diageo acquires 50% of United Spirits shares.

The original plan for a majority stake collapsed when investors holding some of Mallya’s United Spirits shares as collateral for loans to his troubled Kingfisher Airlines refused to release them for sale to Diageo. In addition, many shareholders declined to sell their holdings in Diageo’s mandatory tender offers, since the offer price of approximately $23.96 USD per share was well below the company’s current price of $42.54 per share on Indian markets. Mallya will continue as United Spirits chairman and a non-executive director, while Diageo will name a new executive team led by Ashok Capoor as CEO.

Still to be resolved is the future of Whyte & Mackay, the United Spirits-owned Scotch whisky unit based in Glasgow. As reported previously on WhiskyCast, U.K. competition authorities are looking at possible remedies to resolve concerns over the deal’s impact on grain whisky production. Whyte & Mackay owns the Invergordon grain whisky distillery near Inverness, while Diageo owns the Cameronbridge grain distillery and a 50% share of the North British grain distillery. Competition authorities are reported to have expressed a concern that Diageo will wind up with an anti-competitive share of the grain whisky market as a result of the United Spirits acquisition.

Links: Diageo | United Spirits


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