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!

Japan’s Chichibu Distillery Adds Cooperage

Workers oversee installation of coopering equipment in Japan's Chichibu Cooperage. Photo courtesy Ichiro Alkuto. August 19, 2013 – Maverick Japanese distiller Ichiro Akuto has added a new cooperage to his Chichibu Distillery in Saitama Prefecture north of Tokyo.

He explained the decision in a Facebook post today, deciding to buy the “old but good” equipment from a cooperage whose owner had decided to retire and close the business. Akuto built a new building near the distillery and had the equipment installed. The previous owner will teach Chichibu’s workers how to make new casks later this year, and the equipment will also be used for repairing older casks.

Akuto opened Chichibu in 2008, and bottled the first single malt from Chichibu in 2011, along with the final single malt from the Hanyu Distillery previously owned by his family. The family sold the distillery in 2000 to new owners who then closed and dismantled it. Ichiro Akuto was able to acquire the final remaining casks of Hanyu after the closing, and bottled them under his “Ichiro’s Malt” playing card series to great acclaim from whisky connoisseurs and collectors. His whiskies are distributed through Number One Drinks Company.

For an interview with Ichiro Akuto on his family’s sake and whisky distilling history and the Chichibu Distillery, listen to Episode 342 of WhiskyCast.

Links: Number One Drinks Company

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Barry Crockett’s Final Midleton Very Rare Whiskey Released

Midleton Very Rare 2013 Edition. Image courtesy Irish Distillers. August 19, 2013 – The final edition of Midleton Very Rare Irish Whiskey to carry Master Distiller Barry Crockett’s signature is being released this week. The 2013 edition contains pot still and grain whiskies ranging from 15 to 24 years old (though the bottle traditionally carries no age statement) selected by Master Blender Billy Leighton, and was matured exclusively in ex-Bourbon casks.

Barry Crockett developed the original edition of Midleton Very Rare in 1984, and his signature has appeared on each annual release since then. He retired earlier this year after 47 years at Midleton, following his father as Master Distiller. Brian Nation was named Master Distiller upon Crockett’s retirement, and the 2014 edition of Midleton Very Rare will carry his signature. In a news release, Irish Distillers Global Innovation & Category Development Director praised Crockett’s work with the final edition.

“Midleton Very Rare is rightfully regarded as one of the ultimate expressions of the Irish whiskey category and each vintage is cherished by collectors and whiskey connoisseurs. It is a unique whiskey that demonstrates both the outstanding quality of Irish whiskey at the high end of the category and the immense skill of our Master Distiller, so with Midleton Very Rare and the other Prestige whiskeys in our portfolio we’re aiming to show the world that the finest Irish Whiskeys offer exceptional quality that rival the best whiskies from across the world.”

The 2013 edition of Midleton Very Rare will be available in limited quantities worldwide at whisky specialist retailers.

Links: Irish Distillers | Single Pot Stills of Midleton

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Virginia’s Catoctin Creek Distillery Relocates

August 19, 2013 – Catoctin Creek Distillery has completed its move from the original distillery to a renovated historic site in Purcellville, Virginia. Owners Becky and Scott Harris opened the original distillery in an industrial park in 2009, producing organic and kosher whiskies and other spirits.

Last year, they realized that they had outgrown the industrial park site, and acquired the historic Case Building in downtown Purcellville. Construction started in April on a $500,000 renovation project, and was completed earlier this month. Production has already started at the new distillery, which will host a Grand Opening weekend August 23-25 to celebrate the move.

Links: Catoctin Creek 

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Former Diageo CEO Paul Walsh Joins United Spirits Board

August 19, 2013 – Recently-retired Diageo CEO Paul Walsh orchestrated the acquisition of a controlling stake in Vijay Mallya’s United Spirits, and has now joined the Indian drinks company’s board as a non-executive director.

Under Walsh’s leadership, the drinks giant bought a 25% stake in United Spirits with the option to acquire more shares of the company, as well as control over day-to-day operations. The Telegraph reports Walsh will not receive any compensation for his role at USL while continuing to work with Diageo through June of 2014 assisting new CEO Ivan Menezes with transition issues. He is also slated to become the chairman of Compass Group next February, and serves as a non-executive director of Unilever, FedEx, and Avanti Communications.

Just-Drinks.com also reports that USL named former Shell India chairman Vikram Mehta to the company’s board as an independent director along with the Walsh appointment.

As a member of the United Spirits board, Walsh will have an as-yet-undefined role in the future of the company’s Whyte & Mackay Scotch whisky unit. The UK’s Office of Fair Trading is currently reviewing the Diageo/USL deal to determine whether the addition of Whyte & Mackay’s assets to the Diageo portfolio would violate competition laws. A decision is expected within weeks on whether to accept any remedies Diageo may propose or refer the case to the UK’s Competition Commission for further action. As CEO, Walsh indicated late last year that Whyte & Mackay’s assets would be surplus to Diageo’s needs, and published reports in India have suggested that USL might be willing to sell off all or a large stake in Whyte & Mackay to satisfy regulators.

United Spirits spokesmen have repeatedly refused to discuss the future of Whyte & Mackay, citing a policy against commenting on “market speculation.”

Links: Diageo | United Spirits | Whyte & MackayOffice of Fair Trading

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Wild Turkey: To Err Is Human, To Forgive(n) Divine

Wild Turkey Forgiven. Image courtesy Wild Turkey/Campari.August 19, 2013 – Mistakes don’t happen very often in the whisky business, but as with anything involving humans, the occasional error takes place.

That’s the official story behind a new limited-edition release from Wild Turkey. Forgiven wasn’t created by Jimmy and Eddie Russell in their blending lab, but by workers at the distillery who accidentally vatted together high-proof 4-year-old Rye whiskey with casks of 6-year-old Bourbon. Eddie Russell, Wild Turkey’s Associate Master Distiller, said in a news release that the final blend of 78% Bourbon and 22% Rye turned out to be a good combination.

“Much to the distillery team’s relief, Forgiven highlights the best of both worlds to create a one-of-a-kind taste that will appeal to both Bourbon and Rye aficionados. I was mad when I first discovered our crew’s mistake, but once I tasted it, all was Forgiven.”

It’s not known how much whisky was involved in the mixup, but there was apparently enough to produce around 38,000 bottles at 45.5% ABV. Wild Turkey Forgiven will be available in the U.S. at a recommended retail price of $49.99.

A similar mixup has only been admitted publicly once in recent years. In 2006, a mistake at Glenmorangie’s bottling plant in Scotland resulted in casks of older Ardbeg single malt being dumped into a tank that also contained Glen Moray single malt distilled in 1992. Rather than dump the entire tank, the whisky was bottled as Serendipity and labeled as a blended malt.

Links: Wild Turkey


Johnnie Walker Platinum Label Arrives in U.S.

Johnnie Walker Platinum Label. Image courtesy Diageo. August 19, 2013 – After months of being a “forbidden fruit” to American whisky lovers, Johnnie Walker Platinum Label is being released in the U.S. market this month. The new blended Scotch was released in many markets around the world in late 2012, but was only available in the U.S. through a limited number of travel retail outlets.

While technically not a replacement for the Green Label blended malt, which was discontinued in almost all markets worldwide during 2012, Platinum Label fills a void in the Johnnie Walker range between the new Gold Label Reserve (still not available yet in the U.S. while stocks of the original 18-year-old Gold Label are being depleted) and the top-of-the-line Johnnie Walker Blue Label. The new 18-year-old blend was created by Master Blender Jim Beveridge based on the Walker family’s practice of creating custom blends for private gatherings, and uses whiskies from 20 to 25 distilleries. By comparison, Johnnie Walker Black Label uses whiskies from more than 40 different distilleries within Scotland.

Platinum Label will be available in the U.S. in 750ml bottles for a suggested retail price of $110. For Mark Gillespie’s tasting notes, click here.

Links: Johnnie Walker

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Kentucky Distillers Honor Former Brown-Forman Executive Lois Mateus

Lois Mateus. Photo courtesy Kentucky Distillers Association. August 15, 2013 – Lois Mateus, a retired Brown-Forman executive and the first woman to serve on the Kentucky Distillers Association board, was honored by the KDA and the Bourbon Women organization in a ceremony at the Governor’s Mansion in Frankfort. She was presented with the KDA’s first “Lois Mateus Networking Award” for her ability to connect people throughout the Bourbon industry. The award will be presented annually by the KDA and Bourbon Women.

Mateus retired from Brown-Forman in 2008 as senior vice-president in charge of corporate services, as well as public relations, corporate communications, and community relations. She was instrumental in preserving several historic buildings on the Brown-Forman campus in Louisville, as well as the Labrot & Graham Distillery in Versailles, and helped lead the restoration of the distillery and its transition into the Woodford Reserve Distillery.  She also served as Kentucky’s commissioner of tourism under former Governor John Y. Brown.

In 1992, she was named Brown-Forman’s representative on the KDA board, and served as a director for two years. In a news release, KDA President Eric Gregory says his predecessors never noticed the significance of the appointment:

“Our Association and our Board didn’t recognize this pioneering achievement at the time, but it certainly made a difference in our industry and that oversight is proudly being corrected tonight with this deserving award,” Gregory said. “Today, the KDA is honored that women are in high-ranking roles as Bourbon Ambassador, Director of Governmental and Regulatory Affairs and Secretary/Treasurer of our Board. Their leadership and expertise have transformed our industry. We owe them, and Lois, our thanks.”

The award will be presented in future years to women in the industry for their work not only in professional excellence, but for their work mentoring other women and through public service and philanthropy.

Mateus and her husband, Tim Peters, live in Louisville, and have been active in educational projects as well as development of locally grown food products.

Links: Kentucky Distillers Association | Bourbon Women


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Tullamore Dew Releases Travel Retail Exclusive

Tullamore Dew 14 Year Old Single Malt Sherry Cask Finish. Image courtesy William Grant & Sons. August 15, 2014 – William Grant & Sons has released the oldest expression of its Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey currently on the market, with a 14-year-old Irish single malt exclusively for the European travel retail market. The whiskey was finished in Oloroso Sherry Casks for 8 months at the end of its maturation, and is bottled at 43% ABV.

The Tullamore Dew 14 Single Malt Sherry Cask Finish will be available only at The Nuance Group’s 64 travel retail locations in 19 European countries.

Links: Tullamore Dew | Nuance

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Golden Ticket for High Rollers in Monaco

August 14, 2013 – Willy Wonka’s “golden tickets” promised chocolate lovers a peek inside the Wonka candy factory in the movies, but whisky lovers with enough money won’t have to corner the market on chocolate bars to get a “golden ticket” for a whisky event making its debut this fall in Monaco. It’ll only take €5,000 ($6,630 USD) to get one of the 50 tickets for La Maison d”Ecosse’s Monte Carlo Whisky Conference.

The conference is billed as an event for investors, collectors, and connoisseurs, and is being led by veteran whisky writer and consultant Charles MacLean. The other panelists include Glenmorangie’s Dr. Bill Lumsden, Richard Paterson of Whyte & Mackay, Sam Simmons of The Balvenie, Ronnie Cox of The Glenrothes, and David Robertson of The Whisky Trading Company, and a Harper’s article on the event cites the collected value of the whiskies to be poured at around €500,000 .

The conference will be held from November 29-December 1, and will include an auction of rare whiskies by Bonhams.

Links: The Monte Carlo Whisky Conference

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New Bourbons from Elijah Craig & Old Forester

August 14, 2013 – Mid-August is one of the most popular times for new Bourbon releases, as Kentucky’s distillers try to get their new whiskies on the market in time for the Kentucky Bourbon Festival every September. In addition to the announcements previously reported last week from Four Roses and Buffalo Trace, Brown-Forman’s Old Forester and Heaven Hill’s Elijah Craig also announced new limited-edition Bourbons.

Old Forester 2013 Birthday Bourbon. Image courtesy Brown-Forman. Old Forester traditionally releases its annual Birthday Bourbon around September 2, the birthday of Brown-Forman founder George Garvin Brown. This is the 12th year for the Birthday Bourbon, which always comes from a single day’s production run at the Brown-Forman Distillery in Louisville, and was selected by master distiller Chris Morris.  The 2013 edition is bottled at 48.5% ABV (97 proof), and will be available at U.S. retailers for a suggested retail price of $54.99.

Elijah Craig 21-Year-Old Single Barrel Bourbon. Image courtesy Heaven Hill.

Meanwhile, Heaven Hill is releasing a limited-edition 21-year-old bottling of Elijah Craig Single Barrel Bourbon. The release follows last year’s sold-out release of a 20-year-old Elijah Craig, and will be available at select retailers and bars by mid-September.

Until now, the only way to get a bottle  of Elijah Craig 21-year-old Elijah Craig Single Barrel was to visit Heaven Hill’s Bourbon Heritage Center visitors center in Bardstown, Kentucky. Heaven Hill master distillers Parker and Craig Beam selected a batch of barrels several years ago to be reserved for the Elijah Craig Single Barrel bottlings, and this year’s release comes from those casks. The whiskey has been bottled at 45% ABV (90 proof), and will be available in 750ml bottles for around $140 each.

Links: Old Forester | Heaven Hill

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