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!
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).
July 25, 2013 – William Grant & Sons, the family-owned company responsible for Glenfiddich, The Balvenie, and Grant’s whiskies, led trophy winners in the whisky categories at the 2013 International Wine & Spirit Competition. Trophy and medal winners were announced this week, while awards for Producer of the Year in global and regional categories will be announced at the IWSC’s annual banquet November 14th in London.
Grant’s 18 won the Independence Blended Scotch Whisky Trophy, while The Balvenie 40 won the trophy for Best Single Malt Scotch Whisky Over 15 Years and Glenfiddich 40 won for Best Cask Strength Scotch Whisky. Glenmorangie Signet won the trophy for Best Single Malt Scotch Whisky – no age statement, and Ben Nevis 15 Single Cask won the Trophy for Best Single Malt Scotch Whisky 15 Years and Under.
Taiwan’s King Car won the Worldwide Whiskey Trophy for its Kavalan Solist ex-Bourbon Cask Strength single malt, and Eagle Rare 10 Single Barrel from Buffalo Trace won the inaugural Bourbon Trophy.
All four of the Scotch whiskies honored with trophies also won Gold Outstanding ratings from the judging panel, along with these whiskies:
The Glenlivet 21 Archive
Johnnie Walker Black Label
Master of Malt 30 Year Old Speyside
James King 15
The Balvenie 12 Single Barrel
The Balvenie 30
In addition to its trophy for the Kavalan Solist ex-Bourbon Single Cask, which also won a Gold Outstanding rating, King Car received a Gold Outstanding rating for its Vinho Barrique Cask Strength Single Malt. Other Gold Outstanding ratings in Worldwide whiskies went to Three Ships Premium 5 from South Africa and Mackmyra’s Moment Glöd from Sweden. The IWSC did not award a separate trophy for Irish whiskies, but those receiving Gold Outstanding ratings included Yellow Spot 12, Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy, Kilbeggan 18, Greenore 8 Single Grain, and Tullamore Dew 12 Special Reserve.
Bourbons receiving Gold Outstanding ratings, in addition to the Eagle Rare 10, included Jim Beam Black, Hudson Baby Bourbon, and Western Gold Bourbon. This 6-year-old Bourbon is sourced in Kentucky for the Lidl supermarket chain’s UK stores.
A complete list of award winners can be found at the IWSC’s web site.
July 25, 2013 – As WhiskyCast first reported in March, Buffalo Trace plans to release a younger and more widely available version of its award-winning George T. Stagg Bourbon. The distillery unveiled Stagg Jr. today, and like the original, will be an uncut and unfiltered Bourbon. However, Buffalo Trace plans to release several batches of Stagg Jr. each year, compared to the extremely limited annual release of George T. Stagg Bourbon as part of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection.
The first batch of Stagg Jr. was bottled from 8 and 9-year-old casks at 67.2% ABV, but future batches will vary slightly. The distillery has been setting aside casks for several years with plans to release them as Stagg Jr., and the new whiskey will not affect casks already earmarked for future George T. Stagg releases.
The whiskey is named after George T. Stagg, who was one of the early masterminds of Bourbon whiskey sales during his partnership with Col. E.H. Taylor Junior. The distillery was named after Stagg in 1904, and carried his name until it was renamed Buffalo Trace by Sazerac in 1999. Stagg Jr. will be available starting in August with a suggested retail price of $49.99.
Links: Buffalo Trace
July 18, 2013 – Morrison Bowmore’s Glen Garioch Distillery has released a new single malt Scotch matured in virgin American white oak casks. Glen Garioch Virgin Oak was inspired several years ago when the distillery laid down spirit in new oak casks to see what would happen when their spirit’s character interacted with virgin wood.
In a news release, master blender Rachel Barrie described the results of the experiment:
“Glen Garioch’s intense flavour means it holds up well in a new fill cask, allowing the liquid to be fully matured in virgin oak and not just finished in the barrel. We used the inner heartwood of 100-year-old oak trees grown in the North American mountains. Each oak barrel was heavily charred to activate the wood’s vanilla and oak spices in readiness for the maturing spirit, bringing its own unique woody tones to the malt. The final result is a fusion of vanilla, caramelised wood sugars and oak spices.”
The new expression will be available initially at whisky specialist retailers in the UK, with 120 cases destined for the market. A North American release is scheduled for October, according to Morrison Bowmore’s Jamie MacKenzie.
Links: Glen Garioch
July 18, 2013 – Chip Tate and his team built the original stills and equipment for his Balcones Distillery in Waco, Texas by hand, and opened the distillery in an old welding shop under a freeway overpass in 2008. Five years later, Tate’s whiskies are winning worldwide acclaim, and Balcones has outgrown the capacity of those hand-made stills. Tate and his investors broke ground Thursday for a new distillery to be built in a historic Waco building five blocks from the original distillery.
The new Balcones distillery will be housed in a 65,000 square foot building originally constructed in 1923 as a fireproof storage building. It survived the 1953 tornado that leveled much of downtown Waco, and will be renovated to serve as a distillery between now and its scheduled opening in 2015. Tate has added a new team of investors to help fund the project, along with a temporary expansion of the current distillery to increase production capacity while the new distillery is being built.
This time, Tate and his team will only build some of the equipment for the current distillery. Forsyths of Scotland will build the stills and tanks for the new distillery.
For more on this story, listen to this weekend’s episode of WhiskyCast.
For an interview with Chip Tate on the development of the original Balcones Distillery, listen to Episode 319 of WhiskyCast.
Links: Balcones Distilling
July 17, 2013 – Retired Irish Distillers master distiller Barry Crockett was presented with the International Spirits Challenge’s 2013 Outstanding Achievement Award Wednesday night during the ISC’s annual awards presentation in London.
Crockett officially “retired” earlier this year after 47 years with the company, but has been helping in a consulting role during the past few months. Irish Distillers will hold a special celebration honoring Barry Crockett on September 4th in conjunction with the dedication of Midleton Distillery’s stillhouse expansion.
In a news release, Irish Distillers Chairman and CEO Anna Malmhake praised Crockett’s key role in the rebirth of Irish Whiskey:
“I can’t think of anyone more deserving than Barry Crockett to receive this award for Outstanding Achievement. Barry has played such an important part in Irish Distillers’ success and his contribution to the Irish whiskey category is unrivalled. Barry will be missed around the distillery by us all but with Brian Nation now taking over after years of mentoring from Barry, we are confident that our Irish Whiskeys will continue to achieve great acclaim from the industry in the years to come and will be a true legacy to Barry and his ancestors.”
The Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy expression released in 2011 won an ISC Gold Medal and Best in Class award in the 2013 competition.
The ISC also awarded trophies for whiskies scoring 90 points or higher from the judging panel:
Chivas Regal 18
The Famous Grouse 40
Invergordon 50th Anniversary Single Grain
Kingdom 30 Years Old Blended Scotch
Knob Creek Rye
Suntory was named Distiller of the Year for the third time in four years for its range of Japanese whiskies. following previous wins in 2010 and 2012.
A complete list of medal winners is available at the ISC’s web site.
July 17, 2013 – BenRiach Distillery has released its 10th batch of single cask whiskies under the supervision of master blender Billy Walker. The range includes 12 different malts from 1976 to 2005, with one cask being especially rate — a 1998 cask that was triple-distilled:
1976 Cask #2013 (37 years old) at 49.6% ABV,
1977 Cask #1031 ( 36 years old), with a Moscatel finish at 54.9% ABV,
1978 Cask #1047 (35 years old), with a Moscatel finish at 51.1% ABV,
1983 Cask #296 (30 years old) at 43.9% ABV,
1984 Cask #1051 (28 years old), peated with a Pedro Ximenez Sherry finish at 49.9% ABV,
1985 Cask #7188 (27 years old), peated with a virgin American Oak finish at 48.9% ABV,
1988 Cask #4000 (24 years old), with a Tawny Port finish at 52.6% ABV,
1992 Cask #986 (21 years old), with a Pedro Ximenez Sherry finish at 53.3% ABV,
1994 Cask #4385 (18 years old), with a virgin American Oak finish at 55.5% ABV,
1996 Cask #10306 (17 years old), with a Marsala finish at 56.0% ABV,
1998 Cask #7633 (15 years old), triple-distilled with a Pedro Ximenez Sherry finish at 56.1% ABV,
2005 Cask #3782 (8 years old), peated with a virgin American Oak finish at 58.1% ABV.
The range will be available at whisky specialist shops.
July 16, 2013 – Elmer T. Lee was a legend in the world of Bourbon. From 1949 until his “retirement” in 1985, he rose through the ranks at what we know today as Buffalo Trace Distillery, from the engineering department all the way to distillery manager. As Buffalo Trace CEO Mark Brown put it today in a brief statement, though, Elmer “never really retired”, serving as an ambassador for the distillery and visiting every Tuesday as his health allowed to taste samples for his namesake Bourbon.
Elmer passed away today after a brief illness at the age of 93, leaving behind thousands of friends worldwide and a real impact on the world of Bourbon. It could be said that his legacy is Bourbon’s worldwide popularity today, since he was responsible for introducing the first widely available Single Barrel Bourbon when Blanton’s hit the market in 1984. While the concept was unusual at that time, it helped pave the way for almost every major Bourbon producer to release Single Barrel Bourbons in the years that followed.
In November, 2006, Elmer agreed to sit down for an interview and talk about his career at the George T. Stagg/Buffalo Trace Distillery:
Below is the statement from Buffalo Trace’s Mark Brown on Elmer’s passing:
July 16, 2013
It is with a very heavy heart that I share with you that our beloved Master Distiller Emeritus Elmer T. Lee, 93, passed away today, July 16, 2013 after a short illness.
In the world of making really fine whiskey the role of Master Distiller is pivotal, but Elmer’s meaning to those he met, came to know, and worked with closely extended far beyond that of a Master Distiller. Elmer defined, in the simplest terms, what it means to be a great American – hard working, self-made, courageous, honest, kind, humble, and humorous.
Elmer was born in 1919 on a tobacco farm near Peaks Mill in Franklin County, Ky. He graduated from Frankfort County High School in 1936 and worked for Jarman Shoe Company until December 1941. He then served with the U.S. Army Air Force in World War II as a radar bombardier on a B-29. After flying missions against Japan through 1945, Elmer was honorably discharged in January 1946. He returned home and studied engineering at the University of Kentucky, where he graduated with honors in 1949.
In September 1949 Elmer began working in the engineering department of the George T. Stagg Distillery in Frankfort. In 1966, Elmer was promoted to plant superintendent, responsible for all plant operations and reporting to the plant manager. 1n 1969, he became plant manager.
But it was in 1984 that Elmer’s contribution to the bourbon industry gained him the most notoriety, when he introduced Blanton’s, the world’s first Single Barrel Bourbon. Elmer retired in 1985 but continued to serve as an ambassador for Buffalo Trace, and in 1986 he was honored with his very own single barrel bourbon, Elmer T. Lee. Of course, for those of us who knew Elmer, he never really retired. Every Tuesday we could see Elmer making his rounds at the Distillery in his trademark cap, signing bottles, posters, and other memorabilia at the Gift Shop, visiting his friends in Blanton’s Bottling Hall, and tasting bourbons (for quality control purposes!) in the lab.
Elmer was always ready to offer advice, and was a wealth of information that many of us relied on, myself included. Harlen Wheatley would inquire with Elmer when stuck on a mechanical problem, and any historical questions about the Distillery always went to Elmer, who, with his razor sharp memory, could invariably answer. To all of us, Elmer was a friend, a mentor, and a trusted advisor.
Elmer was known through the bourbon industry for his expertise and knowledge about bourbon whiskey and he received numerous awards and recognition, including induction into the Bourbon Hall of Fame in 2001, the Lifetime Achievement Award from Whisky Advocate in 2002, and the Lifetime Achievement Award and Hall of Fame induction from Whisky Magazine in 2012.
We have lost a wonderful friend today, and he will be missed terribly.
Services for Elmer T. Lee are pending and will be announced shortly.
In 1986, shortly after he officially retired, the distillery named a Bourbon in his honor. At the time, Elmer was the only living distiller to have a whiskey bearing his name, and was later followed by his longtime friends Jimmy Russell (Russell’s Reserve) and Parker Beam (Parker’s Heritage Collection).
During our 2006 interview, Elmer said the only stipulation that he made was that he be allowed to select the barrels used for his whiskey. He continued that practice until recently, visiting Buffalo Trace on Tuesdays to taste samples selected for him and giving them his blessing for bottling. In 2009, Buffalo Trace released a special 90th Birthday bottling of Elmer T. Lee Bourbon to honor him on his 90th Birthday.
Our condolences go out to Elmer’s family, friends, and his colleagues at Buffalo Trace.