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!
October 7, 2013 – Single grain Scotch whiskies can often be thought of as the stepchildren of the whisky industry. They’re absolutely essential for the blending process, but often get hidden under the stairwell (to use a Harry Potter analogy) when company comes to visit. Very few ever make it to the market, but can be absolutely wonderful whiskies in their own right.
Bottlings of Girvan single grain whisky from William Grant & Sons’ Girvan distillery on the southwest coast of Scotland are rare, and mainly available through independent bottlers. However, Grant’s has now released what may well be only the second official bottling of Girvan, the Girvan Patent Still Single Grain 25 Year Old Scotch Whisky, and Just-Drinks.com reports that it’s just the beginning for a new line of Girvan single grain bottlings.
The original Girvan patent still (also known as a Coffey still) was installed in 1963 by longtime Grant’s icon Charles Gordon, and the release of this whisky celebrates the distillery’s 50th anniversary. Girvan’s output to this point has been used exclusively for blending purposes by the company, with the exception of a one-off bottling of the first production run from 1964. It is being bottled at 42% ABV, and will be available exclusively through UK whisky specialist retailers starting in November at a suggested retail price of £250 ($400 USD).
In the Just-Drinks.com story, Kevin Abrook of William Grant and Sons acknowledged plans to expand the Girvan range in 2014 with a no-age-statement bottling as well as a 30-year-old version. The company views single grain Scotch whiskies as a natural way for single malt enthusiasts to increase their repertoire, according to the story, and plans to price Girvan’s bottlings at a similar level with their single malt counterparts.
Note: This story was edited on October 9, 2013 to include additional details from the Just-Drinks.com report.
Links: William Grant & Sons
October 4, 2013 – Talisker Storm has hit the U.S. market, a year after it was introduced in Europe. The single malt from the Isle of Skye made its U.S. debut Wednesday night at Whisky Live Boston, in a debut that surprised even the brand’s ambassadors on-site.
Talisker Storm is a smokier and peatier version of the standard Talisker expressions, and will be available as a permanent part of the Talisker lineup in the U.S. market. Storm carries no age statement, allowing Master Blender Jim Beveridge access to younger whiskies in the Talisker cask inventory.
Tasting notes will be available soon here at WhiskyCast.com.
October 4, 2013 – King Car Distilleries has reached an agreement to export its award-winning Kavalan single malt Taiwanese whiskies to the United States.
The Lee family-owned company will work with San Francisco-based Anchor Distilling to distribute its whiskies in the U.S. market, with an initial launch expected in time for the holidays. King Car’s master distiller and blender, Ian Chang, confirmed the deal in an email to WhiskyCast’s Mark Gillespie, along with plans to pour his whiskies for the first time in the U.S. at WhiskyFest New York next weekend.
T.T. Lee and his son, Y.T. Lee expanded their family’s food and drinks business to whisky production after Taiwan ended its state monopoly on liquor production when it joined the World Trade Organization in 2002, and the first casks were filled three years later. In 2010, a two-year-old bottling of Kavalan beat three-year-old Scotch whiskies in a taste test organized by the Times of London, and Kavalan’s whiskies have gone on to win numerous awards in international competitions. The name “Kavalan” is derived from the indigenous people who populated the area around Yi-Lan, where the King Car Distillery is located next to the family’s bottled water production plant.
October 1, 2013 – Paddy Flaherty was a legendary Irish Whiskey salesman for the Cork Distilleries Company at the turn of the last century, traveling around Ireland to promote what was then called “Cork Distilleries Company Old Irish Whiskey.” The name was just a bit unwieldy for many pub owners, who just referred to it as “Paddy’s Whiskey” — and the Murphy family took the hint. They renamed it “Paddy” in 1913 in honor of Flaherty. While Paddy’s distribution was limited to Ireland for many years after the Murphys, the Power family, and the Jameson family joined forces to create Irish Distillers in 1966, the brand has been slowly introduced to the U.S. and other export markets.
Now, Paddy is getting new packaging, along with two flavored variants (the first for Irish Distillers). The core expression remains a triple-distilled and triple-blended whiskey with Irish Pot Still whiskey, Irish Grain whiskey, and Irish Single Malt whiskey blended by Master Distiller Billy Leighton. However, the bottle now makes more reference to Paddy as “The Paddy Flaherty Whiskey”, while still retaining the traditional map of Ireland on the front label.
Leighton has created two additional variations on Paddy with honey and apple flavorings. The U.S. and France will be the launch market for both expressions, but will have different names and labels for each market. In the U.S., the apple version will be branded as “Devil’s Apple,” while it will carry the “Spiced Apple” moniker in France. The honey version will be called “Bee’s Sting” in the U.S. and “Irish Honey” in France. Both versions will be available in each country starting this month.
October 1, 2013 – Glenfiddich is releasing a new range of three single malts for the travel retail market. The lineup uses Glenfiddich’s Solera-vatting process for all three malts in a dramatic change for the distillery, which has traditionally only used the Solera vats for its 15-year-old expression. The lineup also eschews age statements, in another major change for Glenfiddich.
Glenfiddich Select Cask uses a combination of ex-Bourbon, European Oak, and red wine casks. The Glenfiddich Reserve Cask uses Spanish ex-Sherry casks exclusively, while the Glenfiddich Vintage Cask brings together a combination of European Oak and ex-Bourbon casks with a rare touch of peatiness. All three will be available at 40% ABV.
In a news release, Glenfiddich Malt Master Brian Kinsman described the reason for skipping age statements with the new range:
“Creating whisky isn’t only about age, it’s about personal taste and flavour, and the Glenfiddich Cask Collection has evolved to give Glenfiddich drinkers the perfect combination of quality, satisfaction and choice. Glenfiddich has a long and illustrious history of innovation within the single malt category and these latest additions to our no-age range allow us to offer single malt aficionados the best of both worlds – whiskies crafted for their flavour, alongside whiskies bottled by their age.”
The Select Cask and Reserve Cask expressions are being rolled out now in travel retail outlets worldwide, while the Vintage Cask will be available in April of 2014.
September 30, 2013 – Berry Bros. & Rudd, the London-based wine and whisky merchant, will export an edition of its Blue Hanger blended malt Scotch whisky to the US market for the first time. The 7th edition of Blue Hanger will be available only in the U.S. market , with 3,088 bottles to be available at a suggested retail price of $99.99.
The whisky is named after William “Blue” Hanger, the Third Lord Coleraine. It was created by Berry Bros. & Rudd spirits manager and whisky blender Doug McIvor initially in 2003, with five subsequent editions available only in Europe. The 7th edition contains whiskies from Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain, and Miltonduff, and is bottled at 45.6% ABV.
Links: Berry Bros. & Rudd
September 29, 2013 – Diageo has reportedly been working on a plan for reopening the long-closed Stitzel-Weller Distillery in Louisville, Kentucky. Now, WhiskyCast has learned that those plans may need to be accelerated in order to provide a source of whiskey for the company’s Bulleit Bourbon brand.
Bulleit Bourbon has been distilled at Four Roses Distillery in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, on a long-term supply contract first negotiated when Tom Bulleit founded the brand in 1987 using a recipe handed down by his great-great-grandfather. Diageo inherited that supply contract when it acquired the brand from Bulleit, and has continued to source its whiskey for Bulleit from Four Roses ever since. However, reliable sources indicate that Four Roses has exercised a six-month notice clause to end the supply contract at the end of March, 2014.
Four Roses master distiller Jim Rutledge declined to comment on the report Wednesday at Whisky Magazine’s Icons of Whisky luncheon in Louisville, but acknowledged that his team is working on plans for an expansion of the distillery’s capacity to meet the long-term needs for Four Roses. When the original contract was negotiated, Four Roses was still under Seagram ownership and only sold in export markets. The brand’s current owners reintroduced Four Roses into the U.S. market starting in 2006, and sales have grown at double-digit rates over the last three years.
Two years ago, Diageo invested in the Bulleit Experience education center at the Stitzel-Weller complex, turning the distillery’s main office building into a showcase for the brand. While currently used only for trade education, Tom Bulleit has said that the facility was designed so that it could eventually be open to the public at some point. Diageo matures the whiskey it sources from Four Roses at the Stitzel-Weller warehouses, but the distillery itself has been closed because of asbestos contamination and other environmental issues. Sources have indicated that there are plans in the works to resolve those issues and reopen the distillery, but Diageo spokesmen have declined to comment on those reports.
The company has no other distilleries in Kentucky, and with all of the other major distilleries in the state running at capacity, it’s not clear where Diageo would be able to source whiskey within the state and still be able to call the final product a “Kentucky Straight Bourbon.” U.S. law requires that whiskey be distilled and matured entirely within a single state to be allowed to carry the name of that state on its label. In fact, Bulleit Rye does not carry the name of a state for that reason — it is produced at the MGP-I (formerly LDI) distillery in Lawrenceburg, Indiana.
Our attempts to reach Tom Bulleit, who remains the key spokesman for Bulleit Bourbon, have been unsuccessful. This story will be updated as more information becomes available.
September 27, 2013 – In the first major move for Black Bottle since South Africa’s Distell acquired Burn Stewart Distillers this spring, the Islay-based Blended Scotch has been re-formulated with a new recipe. While not giving specifics of the changes in the blend, Burn Stewart indicates the new recipe created by Master Blender Ian MacMillan adds “another layer of depth” to Black Bottle.
In addition, the brand returns to its traditional black glass bottle after being packaged in green bottles for nearly 100 years. The original Black Bottle came packaged in black glass, but wartime glass shortages during World War I forced the Graham family to switch to green glass. The green glass bottles became part of the brand’s image, but will be phased out as inventories are depleted.
Black Bottle will continue to be bottled at 40% ABV, and no immediate changes are expected in its availability in the UK, the US, and other export markets where the brand is currently available.
Links: Black Bottle
September 27, 2013 – Redbreast has long been prized by Irish whiskey lovers for its classic pot still whiskey taste, but until now, the 15-year-old expression was the oldest available. Thursday night, Master Blender Billy Leighton unveiled a new “old” Redbreast with the debut of Redbreast 21 Year Old at a tasting in London. The whiskey will be available for its first public tasting at this weekend’s Whisky Live in Paris.
The release is part of Irish Distillers’ goal to revive the Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey category, which started in 2011 with the release of Powers John’s Lane and Redbreast 12 Year Old Cask Strength. The Pernod Ricard unit plans to release two new Single Pot Still whiskeys each year, and the Redbreast 21 follows the release earlier this year of Powers Signature.
Billy Leighton created the Redbreast 21 from a triple-distilled mash of malted and unmated barley using the pot stills at Midleton Distillery, then matured in a combination of American White Oak ex-Bourbon barrels and European Oak ex-Oloroso Sherry casks. In a news release, he described the result as one of which he is immensely proud.
“Once my team and I tasted the 21 Year Old whiskey, there was never any question about whether we should release a younger expression – the older whiskey showed such stunning levels of depth, flavour and taste, we just had to bring it out for the growing army of Redbreast and Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey fans around the world. We’re really excited to see how Redbreast 21 Year Old is received and we hope Irish whiskey fans will find it as delightful and rewarding to drink as it was for me to craft.”
The whiskey has been bottled with no chill-filtration at 46% ABV, and will be available starting in October at select retailers in the USA, France, Germany, the UK, and of course, Ireland. It carries a recommended retail price of $180 USD.
Listen to this weekend’s episode of WhiskyCast for more details on this whiskey. Tasting notes will be available soon.
September 27, 2013 – Frank Sinatra was the number one fan of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey, so much so that he insisted on being buried with a bottle of Jack when he died in 1998. Last year, Brown-Forman returned the adulation with a special Sinatra Select edition of Jack Daniel’s available through travel retail outlets and the distillery’s White Rabbit Bottle Shop in Lynchburg, Tennessee. The limited-edition release has been a success in both travel retail and the “secondary market.”
In an email to WhiskyCast’s Mark Gillespie, Jack Daniel’s Master Distiller Jeff Arnett explained the difference between the Sinatra Select and the standard Jack Daniel’s Black Label expressions.
“The Sinatra Select has a number of handcrafted grooved barrels that effectively double the interior surface area and produce a bolder character. These grooved barrels are married together with our toasted and charred barrels to produce a whiskey that is both bold and smooth; much like the man it designed to honor. This results in a different whiskey than our normal Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey.”
Now, Brown-Forman has decided to expand the Sinatra Select edition’s availability to selected retailers in the U.K. starting in October, and will also make it available to U.S. retailers starting in December. The rollout is being timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Sinatra’s birth on December 12, 2015.
In addition, the company has decided to make the Jack Daniel’s Master Distillers Series available in the U.S. market with the initial release honoring Jack Daniel starting this fall. The second bottle in the series, which honors Jess Motlow, has already been released in the travel retail market. Plans are to release bottles honoring each of the distillery’s seven master distillers, with a new release expected each year.
Note: This story was updated on October 1 with additional information.
Links: Jack Daniel’s