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!
September 26, 2013 – Kentucky’s Bourbons are legendary, but Woodford Reserve has been working on an experiment that may make some Kentucky whiskey purists blanch — a pair of single malt whiskeys for the 2013 Woodford Reserve Masters Collection edition.
“We’re not going to claim to be the first,” Woodford Reserve Master Distiller Chris Morris told WhiskyCast’s Mark Gillespie in an interview at Brown-Forman’s Louisville headquarters on September 20. “We started working on this project over nine years ago, so we’re confident we were making malt whiskey before anyone else was.” Technically, Alltech’s 2010 release of Pearse Lyons Reserve single malt from the Lexington Brewing & Distilling Company holds the claim of being the first single malt whiskey produced in Kentucky since Prohibition. However, that whiskey was distilled starting in 2007, while the Woodford Reserve malts were distilled in 2004.
There are two single malts in the 2013 Masters Collection release. Woodford Reserve Straight Malt Whiskey was aged in new American White Oak barrels, while the Woodford Reserve Classic Malt was matured in used barrels. Both are bottled at 45.2% ABV, and will be sold in 700 and 750ml bottles depending on the market. Unlike the previous Masters Collection release of a two-bottle Rye set in 2011, this year’s collection will be sold separately. “There was a pushback from retail about that presentation, so instead, we’re going to answer the demand of the consumer…each will be available in a full-size 750 bottle, and it’s up to the individual to purchase one or both,” Morris told WhiskyCast.
However, the trend started in 2011 of exporting Masters Collection releases outside the U.S. will be expanded this year, with the single malts to be available in Canada, the United Kingdom, Belgium, France, Sweden, Spain, Germany, New Zealand, and Australia, along with travel retail outlets. “There’s a tremendous demand for the Masters Collection, which means as a result, there will be less available in the United States,” Morris said. “We have huge demand in Australia, demand in France, demand in Europe, and we only have so much.”
Both whiskies were distilled in the copper pot stills at Woodford Reserve Distillery in Versailles, Kentucky, and will be sold at a recommended retail price of $99.99 per bottle.
Links: Woodford Reserve
September 25, 2013 – A new study by the University of Louisville’s Urban Studies Institute links the Kentucky Bourbon industry to at least 4,200 jobs in the Louisville Metro area, with an estimated annual economic impact of at least $300 million. The study cites payroll impacts of $263 million, along with annual tax revenue of $32 million. That doesn’t include at least $50 million in new capital projects, including downtown visitor attractions for Heaven Hill and Michter’s and the new Louisville Distilling Company distillery on the east end of Main Street.
“It means growth in jobs, it means growth in underlying sectors that are affected…transportation, warehousing,” Dr. Janet Kelly of the Urban Studies Institute told WhiskyCast’s Mark Gillespie following a news conference at Brown-Forman’s Louisville headquarters on September 20.
“It’s probably one of the purest punches for economic development that we have because it’s a net export industry. We sell most of the Bourbon that’s produced outside the region, and that has a powerful economic multiplier effect.”
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer praised the study as confirming his city’s status as the “Bourbon Capital of the World,” with no apologies to Bardstown, Kentucky — which has claimed that title for many years. “40% of the Bourbon industry’s jobs – direct and indirect – come out of Louisville, so it’s a big thing for us,” he said in an interview. “It’s also very important in terms of cultural tourism, Bourbon heritage really helps drive our restaurant industry, our hotel industry, our tourism industry as well, and the businesses in this industry are tremendous corporate citizens…a lot of philanthropy flows out of them, and they’re also world-class in terms of their business techniques…a lot of the great leaders in our city come from the Bourbon industry.”
The study was commissioned by the Kentucky Distillers Association, and was the KDA’s first study on the industry’s economic impact on a local region of the Commonwealth instead of the statewide impact. While the region has lost approximately 10% of its jobs over the past five years, the distilling industry has increased its work force by 10%, and the increase in Bourbon-related tourism has helped preserve jobs in the city’s hospitality industry. While the Kentucky Derby remains Louisville’s single biggest tourism attraction, the study found Bourbon-relatred tourism generates a year-round impact.
“We’ve seen a surge in visitors, and not just more visitors, but more visitors that are genuinely interested and more visitors that are traveling great distances to soak up the culture of Kentucky, and a big part of that is Bourbon,” Maker’s Mark president and KDA board member Rob Samuels told WhiskyCast. While the Maker’s Mark Distillery is located south of Louisville in Loretto, the company’s management and sales teams are based in Louisville.
The growth in Louisville was one of the key reasons for Louisville Distilling Company to locate its new distillery at the east end of the city’s historic “Whiskey Row” along Main Street, according to company president Wes Henderson.
“It was really kind of a no-brainer for us,” Henderson said of the decision to build in downtown Louisville. “When we started looking at the different locations, I was a little fascinated originally with some of the historic locations like the Old Taylor Distillery and other romantic abandoned properties, but when we looked at the dynamics that were happening in downtown Louisville and the sheer numbers of people that were coming here, it just really made sense to locate it here.”
The distillery is expected to begin production for Angel’s Envy Bourbon by the end of 2014 in what previously was an abandoned warehouse and industrial complex on Main Street near Louisville Slugger Field. In addition, the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience visitors center will open on Main Street in November, and restoration work continues nearby on the historic building slated to become home to a micro-distillery and visitor attraction for Michter’s. An announcement is expected soon on another micro-distillery project for the downtown area as well.
September 25, 2013 – The president of Edinburgh-based Glenmorangie PLC, Paul Skipworth, has taken a leave of absence from the LVMH-owned whisky company for personal reasons. Skipworth became president and managing director in 2011 when Paul Neep retired, and has overseen significant sales growth worldwide for both Glenmorangie and Ardbeg single malts.
Marc Hoellinger has been named acting president, and will continue to serve as marketing strategy director at Moët Hennessey while overseeing operations at Glenmorangie. He served as the unit’s marketing director under Skipworth for three years before being named to his present position.
September 24, 2013 – Several months after leaving Glenglassaugh, distillery veteran Stuart Nickerson is making public the plans for his next venture. Nickerson hopes to succeed where a previous attempt has failed — building a distillery on the old RAF base at Saxa Vord in the Shetland Islands.
Shetland News reports Nickerson has teamed up with the Strang family, which bought the Saxa Vord site from the Ministry of Defense in 2007. Their Shetland Distillery Company has filed an application for planning permission with the Shetland Islands Council, and Nickerson told the site he hopes to begin distilling by the end of 2014. His initial plans are to build a micro-distillery capable of producing 30,000 litres of spirit annually, along with a maturation warehouse, bottling facility, and a small visitors center.
Nickerson led the team that revived Glenglassaugh Distillery in 2008, but left after the distillery’s owners sold Glenglassaugh to Billy Walker’s investor group that also owns GlenDronach and BenRiach distilleries. His bid is the second attempt to build a whisky distillery at the Saxa Vord site. Blackwood Distillers tried to develop a distillery at the site, but the Caroline Whitfield-led effort failed to attract enough support from investors and was eventually dropped in 2008.
September 20, 2013 – Ta-dahhhh! That’s not quite the way to pronounce it, but voters in Glenmorangie’s Cask Masters Project have picked a very similar-sounding name for the single malt whisky to be released sometime in 2014. “Taghta” — pronounced “tuh-ta”, according to the distillery, was picked by voters from three Gaelic names selected by Gaelic scholar Dr. Aonghas MacCoinnich of the University of Strathclyde.
Taghta, which means “chosen” in Gaelic, won over Coileanta (“mastery”) and Salainn (“salt”). The selection completes the second phase of the Cask Masters Project, in which whisky lovers are being invited to help decide the next Glenmorangie single malt release. Earlier, voters selected a Manzanilla Sherry cask finish for the whisky, and the next step will be to select the packaging and label design. Voters will also be entered to win various prizes at each level, with the grand prize winner to attend the Cask Masters launch party when it is held in 2014.
Links: Glenmorangie Cask Masters
September 19, 2013 – Highland Park’s Warrior series of travel retail single malts will soon be complete with the release of the final three malts in the series. Sigurd, Ragnvald, and Thorfinn will join Svein, Einar, and Harald on the shelves at duty-free shops soon.
The three feature a growing influence of sherry cask-matured Highland Park single malt with each expression. Sigurd is bottled at 43% ABV, Ragnvald at 44.6% ABV, and Thorfinn at 45.1% ABV. The names come from ancient Viking warriors, who invaded the Orkney Islands centuries ago, and the Nordic influence has become a key part of Highland Park’s identity, as shown in a WhiskyCast HD episode from Orkney earlier this year.
Links: Highland Park
September 19, 2013 – In the first round of the 2014 Icons of Whisky Awards, Whisky Magazine has named its winners for the United States. The awards are voted on by the editorial staff of Whisky Magazine, with nominations sought from both editorial staff and the whisky industry.
Parker Beam, the longtime Master Distiller at Heaven Hill, was named Distillery Manager of the Year. With more than 50 years of distilling experience, Parker is regarded as a legend by both whiskey lovers and his colleagues. He was diagnosed with ALS earlier this year, but continues to work at the distillery each day as his health allows. His latest release, Parker’s Heritage Collection Promise of Hope, is raising funds for the ALS Association’s Parker Beam’s Promise of Hope Fund. Jim Rutledge of Four Roses was the “Highly Commended” runner-up in this category.
Buffalo Trace was named Distiller of the Year, with Four Roses again winning “Highly Commended” honors. Corsair Artisan Distillery, with distilleries in Nashville, Tennessee and Bowling Green, Kentucky, was named Whisky Brand Innovator of the Year, with Balcones Distillery of Waco, Texas, the “Highly Commended” runner-up. Balcones was named the Craft Whisky Distillery of the Year, with Corsair the runner-up.
Wild Turkey’s Jimmy Russell was named American Whiskey Ambassador of the Year, with Glenmorangie’s David Blackmore the Scotch Whisky Ambassador of the Year. The Oscar Getz Museum of Bourbon History in Bardstown, Kentucky, was named Visitor Attraction of the Year, and Kim Bennett of Jim Beam’s American Stillhouse was named Visitor Center Manager of the Year.
In the categories for distributors and retailers, New York City’s Park Avenue Liquor Shop was named Retailer of the Year for single-store retailers, while Binny’s Beverage Depot of Chicago was named the retail chain of the year. International Spirits & Wines was named Importer of the Year, while Southern Wine & Spirits was named Distributor of the Year.
The awards were presented at a ceremony on September 24 at Louisville’s iconic Brown Hotel. The winners will compete against Icons winners from Scotland and the “Rest of the World” to be named at later dates, with the global Icons winners to be announced on the eve of Whisky Live London next March.
Note: WhiskyCast’s Mark Gillespie is a contributing editor for Whisky Magazine, and both nominates and votes on selections for these awards. This story was updated on September 26 with a photo from the awards luncheon.
Links: Whisky Magazine
September 19, 2013 – Bryan Donaghey didn’t need more than a few days to land a new job after leaving his post at Diageo. The former head of Diageo’s Scottish operations was reassigned to a new role in the company’s global supply unit earlier this year, and his departure became public knowledge this week.
Now, Just-Drinks.com reports that Donaghey has been named the new CEO at Whyte & Mackay, where he will replace John Beard. Beard held the role for little more than a week in August before departing, with no public reason given. Donaghey has been a fixture in the Scotch Whisky industry for many years, and arrives at Whyte & Mackay at a time when the company is in transition.
In fact, his appointment may be seen by some as curiously timed. The UK’s Office of Fair Trading is still reviewing Diageo’s acquisition of Whyte & Mackay owner United Spirits earlier this year. Diageo has pledged to the OFT that it would have no influence on Whyte & Mackay while the review is underway, but the sudden departure of a top Diageo whisky executive to Whyte & Mackay may raise some red flags with regulators. The OFT is looking at whether adding Whyte & Mackay into Diageo’s extensive Scotch Whisky portfolio would create competition issues, primarily in the grain whisky sector, and could recommend that all or part of the unit be divested to resolve those concerns.
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.
September 18, 2013 – Longtime Scottish distillery manager John Black died today following a lengthy illness at the age of 72.
He worked at 12 different distilleries during his 55 years in the industry, and spent his final years managing Tullibardine. In a post on the distillery’s Facebook page, his colleagues paid tribute to him:
John was as passionate about people as he was about distilling whisky and always had time for anyone who visited or called in for a chat. For those of us fortunate enough to have undertaken a tour of the distillery, or to have been guided through the history and process under his passionate tutelage we are eternally grateful. He had a story for every occasion & the saddest thing is that we probably never made the most of our time with him.
During his career, John worked at Cardhu, Glenburgie, Miltonduff, Ardbeg, Glencadam, Balblair, Pultney, Auchentoshan, Tormore, Ardmore, Scapa and Tullibardine distilleries. He took a leave of absence for health reasons at the end of 2012, and at the time, Tullibardine’s James Robertson told us “his glass isn’t half full, it’s overflowing.” In March of 2006, John talked with us about his work at Tullibardine and other distilleries in Episode 29 of WhiskyCast.
Our condolences go out to John’s family, friends, and colleagues.
September 18, 2013 – Sazerac has named a new master distiller for its A. Smith Bowman craft distillery in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Brian Prewitt will succeed Truman Cox, who passed away in February.
Prewitt has more than 15 years of brewing and distilling experience, and leaves his role as Senior Distiller at E&J Distilleries in Modesto, California to join Sazerac. He previously worked at The Great Divide Brewing Company in Denver and New Belgium Brewing in Fort Collins, Colorado. He studied at the University of California, Davis in the Master Brewers Program and holds a bachelor’s degree from Colorado State University.
Links: A. Smith Bowman Distillery