Each week, we bring you the latest whisky news on WhiskyCast. Now, we’ll be bringing it to you as it happens here on our News Updates page!
August 1, 2014 – New York has been a hotbed of craft distilling for the last decade, but tiny Coppersea Distillery in the Hudson River Valley has done something none of its competitors have been able to do yet. For the first time, New York State-produced barrels are being used to mature Coppersea’s Bourbon and rye whiskies.
No cooperage in the state had produced barrels for wine or spirit maturation since Prohibition until Coppersea started working with U.S. Barrel Company in Wilmington, New York. The company had been producing so-called “slack cooperage” designed for outdoor saunas and dry goods storage, but has turned its attention to producing barrels for maturing whisky and other spirits. In a news release, U.S. Barrel owner and head cooper Bob Hockert described the challenge of producing barrels designed to hold liquids for decades without leaking.
“Our team has been creating slack barrels [which are not designed to hold fluids] for ten years, so we began this project with a good amount of expertise. Tight-barrel cooperage has its own challenges, though. We’ve had to build our own equipment, develop an understanding of whisky distilling, and forge relationships with New York State loggers in order to build barrels that meet the highest standards.”
In a telephone interview with WhiskyCast’s Mark Gillespie, Coppersea master distiller Angus MacDonald said the distillery had been hoping to find a local source for barrels for some time. “We’re very in touch with our state heritage where it comes to whisky,” he said. “We love the fact that, for example, there hasn’t been New York State cooperage since the designation of Bourbon actually existed as a legal definition, so our Bourbon that’s in New York State barrels made from New York State grain by New York State distillers is the very first 100% New York Bourbon, and that’s an amazing feeling.”
Listen to Mark Gillespie’s entire interview with Angus MacDonald:
MacDonald says the first batch of casks will be left to mature for at least a year before being evaluated for bottling. In the meantime, he and his colleagues are hoping to find a source for the final missing piece of the puzzle. Their bottles currently come from outside the state, and MacDonald hopes to have a New York-based source of bottles by the time the whiskies from the first batch are ready for bottling.
July 28, 2014 – Isle of Arran is releasing the third and final edition in its Devil’s Punch Bowl series of single malts. The annual releases are named for one of the geographical features of Arran, and this year’s is known as the “Chapter III: The Fiendish Finale.”
In a news release, Master Distiller James MacTaggart described the whisky as a combination of malts matured in Oloroso Sherry butts and French Oak wine barriques. “Personally this is my favourite of the trilogy and it is a fantastic expression of the Arran Malt,” he said. “The whisky is bottled without chill filtration at natural strength (53.4 ABV) and is unpeated making it approachable and enabling lots of flavours to be discovered.”
6,660 bottles will be available worldwide through whisky specialist retailers and Arran’s online shop, with a recommended retail price of £76.99 ($130 USD).
Links: Isle of Arran
July 26, 2014 – For the first time in more than a century, Adelphi is distilling its own malt whisky with the commissioning of the new Ardnamurchan Distillery on Scotland’s Ardnamurchan peninsula. The distillery has been running for several weeks, but was officially opened on Friday in a ceremony attended by the Princess Royal, along with Adelphi’s executives and invited guests.
Ardnamurchan is the westernmost distillery on the Scottish mainland, and uses 100% renewable energy in its production process. The distillery’s boilers are fueled by wood chips supplied from local forests, and all of the waste products are recycled for use as animal feed and fertilizer. In a news release, Adelphi director Donald Houston said the need to be environmentally responsible was a key goal from the beginning.
“A key element of the project since its conception has been that the distillery should be run by sustainable, renewable and environmentally benign means. With a great deal of planning and complex design work, we’re proud that we have achieved this objective. The distillery represents a significant milestone in the long term plan for the development and improvement of the socio economics of Ardnamurchan and will provide enormous opportunities for the development of tourism and the direct and indirect provision of jobs in this very remote and isolated part of Scotland.”
Distillery manager Graeme Bowie supervised construction at the site after joining Adelphi from Balblair, where he was the assistant distillery manager. On this week’s WhiskyCast, he’ll discuss how the distillery was designed and built, along with plans for the future.
July 25, 2014 – Distilleries and cats have gone together for decades, and most distilleries have had a special “distillery cat” around with the stated purpose of chasing mice away from the grain bins. Of course, the biggest part of the distillery cat’s job generally wasn’t pest control, but to keep an eye on the humans running the place. This week, Woodford Reserve announced on its Facebook page the passing of Elijah, the 19-year-old tabby cat who prowled the distillery – when he wasn’t sleeping in front of a warehouse door.
“We’re deeply saddened to announce the passing of Elijah, our beloved Distillery Cat-in-Residence. Elijah called the Woodford Reserve barrelhouse “home” for two decades – often taking the night shift to keep watch over the barrels, ensuring the angels never took more than their share.”
In a post on the Woodford Reserve Facebook page, Katie Hecker Carney described how she and her brother found the kitten when they were living near the distillery:
I still remember the day that my brother, Patrick Carney, and I found him at the end of the driveway, next to the creek, and brought him home to the house at the top of the hill. That was probably in the fall of 1995 and he was the tiniest kitten we ever had. I was so worried that our dad wouldn’t let us keep him since I had recently promised not to bring home anymore cats. Patrick assured me that he would take care of Dad and insist that it was all his idea. I was so happy when I heard that Zeppelin had taken up residence at the distillery after the family moved to the other side of the farm and you guys adopted him there as Elijah.”
Carney was later reunited with Elijah while working in the distillery’s catering department.
According to the Lexington Herald-Leader, Elijah died June 30, and the distillery lowered its flags to half-staff in mourning. There are plans to place a plaque honoring Elijah at the distillery.
July 23, 2014 – William Grant & Sons has released a new batch of Kininvie single malt, and once again, Taiwan is the launch market for the 17-year-old expression. Last October, the first official release of Kininvie on record made its debut in Taiwan as a 23-year-old malt. Unlike that initial bottling, though, the 17-year-old will be available in other travel retail markets around the world.
Kininvie was the “secret distillery” on the William Grant & Sons campus in Dufftown that is home to Glenfiddich and The Balvenie. Kininvie had its own stillhouse, but shared mash tuns and washbacks with The Balvenie, and has been used occasionally as needed to produce malt whisky for use in the Grant’s blends. Until last October’s release, malt from Kininvie had never been bottled as a single malt, though a small amount was bottled under the Hazelwood label for the limited-edition whiskies honoring the late Janet Sheed Roberts, the last surviving granddaughter of William Grant.
The 17-year-old release is a blend of 80% ex-Bourbon barrels and 20% ex-Sherry casks, and has been bottled in 375ml bottles at 42.6% ABV. Pricing was not announced.
Links: William Grant & Sons
July 22, 2014 – Maker’s Mark plays both sides of the Bluegrass State rivalry between the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville down the middle, releasing Kentucky-themed commemorative bottles annually to benefit the University’s Gill Heart Institute and Louisville-themed bottles to support the Cardinals’ Academic Center of Excellence student-athlete support center. Of course, both colleges have had their share of NCAA Championship commemorative bottles as well. However, the latest Cardinal commemorative coming out of Loretto honors a man who works in the shadows of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino – even though he’s Pitino’s boss.
Louisville athletic director Tom Jurich will appear on the third bottle in the annual series of Maker’s Mark Cardinal commemorative bottles. Jurich has been in charge of the university’s athletic program since 1997, and helped mastermind the university’s departure from the Big East for the Atlantic Coast Conference this year. The previous bottles in the series honored former Louisville football coach Charlie Strong, now the head coach at Texas, and Pitino’s induction last year into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
8,500 one-liter bottles with the Jurich label will be available at retailers in Kentucky and Southern Indiana starting Friday, July 25. Jurich, Maker’s Mark President Rob Samuels, Chairman Emeritus Bill Samuels Jr., and Master Distiller Greg Davis will appear at a bottle signing scheduled for August 13 at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville. Tickets for the signing will go on sale July 30, and details are available through the Cardinals’ web site.