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!

Orphan Barrel & Stitzel-Weller Featured in Neiman Marcus Christmas Book

Bourbon barrels in a warehouse at Stitzel-Weller Distillery in Louisville. Photo ©2014 by Mark Gillespie.

October 7, 2015 – Someone at Neiman Marcus really likes Bourbon, if the annual Christmas Book of high-end luxury gifts is any indication. Bourbon-related experiences have been a regular feature of the Christmas Book over the years, and this year’s catalog features a $125,000 (USD) exclusive experience at Diageo’s Stitzel-Weller Distillery in Louisville featuring the Orphan Barrel Collection of whiskies.

The $125,000 package includes a three-night trip to Louisville for six people and the chance to go “barrel hunting” in the Stitzel-Weller warehouses. The group will taste barrel selections (presumably pre-selected by the distillery’s staff) and get the chance to blend two different bespoke Orphan Barrel bottlings. The purchaser will receive 24 bottles of each of the six Orphan Barrel whiskies released so far, along with 24 bottles of each of the two bespoke blends, and the package also includes a handmade whisky cabinet created by local craftsmen from wood salvaged from the Stitzel-Weller warehouses.

The six Orphan Barrel whiskies in the package include the Old Blowhard 26-year-old Bourbon, the 20-year-old Lost Prophet, Rhetoric 20 and Rhetoric 21-year-old Bourbons, Barterhouse 20-year-old, and Forged Oak 15-year-old Bourbon. All six were distilled at other Kentucky distilleries, but matured in the warehouses at Stitzel-Weller, which closed in 1992 but continues to serve as a maturation site for Diageo’s range of whiskies. Stitzel-Weller became the site of the Bulleit Frontier Whiskey Experience in 2014 and serves as the “brand home” for both Bulleit Bourbon and the Orphan Barrel whiskies, and distilling resumed at the site earlier this year with the opening of a microdistillery producing around one barrel of whiskey a day.

Links: Neiman Marcus | Orphan Barrel

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Diageo Names New Finance Chief

New Diageo CFO Kathryn Mikells. Photo courtesy Xerox. October 5, 2015 – Diageo has completed a shuffling of its executive ranks with the appointment of Kathryn Mikells as the drinks giant’s new chief financial officer. Mikells currently holds that post at Xerox, and will join Diageo’s London headquarters November 9.

The hiring clears the way for current CFO Deirdre Mahlan to move to her new role as head of Diageo’s North American Unit. That position opened up when current Diageo North America head Larry Schwartz announced his retirement earlier this year. In a Diageo news release, CEO Ivan Menezes cited Mikell’s experience in cost-cutting and efficiency as a key factor in her selection.

“Diageo is focused on driving performance from our core and on improving productivity to drive out cost to invest in growth. Kathryn has the experience of working with teams to drive disciplined performance management which will contribute to the achievement of our performance ambition. We are starting to see the benefits of the changes we have put in place and I am confident we are uniquely positioned to take advantage of this growth sector.”

Mikells joined Xerox as CFO in 2013 after leaving a similar role at ADT, where she helped guide the security company’s spinoff from Tyco Corporation into a standalone business. She spent most of her career at United Airlines and served as UAL’s CFO from 2008 to 2010, but left the airline following United’s 2010 merger with Continental Airlines along with a number of other top United executives.

Mikells will also join Diageo’s board of directors, while Mahlan will give up her seat on the board as part of the transition to her new role in New York.

Links: Diageo


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What’s In a Name? A Potential Controversy…

Glenmorangie's "A Midwinter Night's Dram." Image courtesy Glenmorangie. October 5, 2015 – In Romeo & Juliet, Shakespeare asked the immortal question:

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

Now, a new Scotch whisky with a name that plays on another Shakespeare comedy might just spark some controversy over just “what’s in a name,” but fortunately, the debate is not likely to be as bloody as the feud between the Montagues and Capulets in Romeo & Juliet.

Glenmorangie has released “A Midwinter Night’s Dram” for sale exclusively in the UK.  “A Midwinter Night’s Dram” will be available at Sainsbury’s in the UK and online through Ocado and the Glenmorangie web site, and will sell for around £40 ($61 USD). The name is inspired by Shakespeare’s classic “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

High West "A Midwinter Night's Dram." Image courtesy High West.However, another whiskey already exists using that name. David Perkins of Utah’s High West Distillery has a trademark on “A Midwinter Night’s Dram” in the US for a version of his Rendezvous Rye finished in Port and French Oak barrels. The limited-edition whiskey has been available for more than a year in various US states. High West’s trademark rights are limited to the US, because Perkins decided to not spend the money on international rights and didn’t have enough of the whiskey in stock to make it available for export. In an email, he estimated the cost of registering the trademark internationally at around $3,000 USD.

“We were planning to register it internationally next year but I guess we got beat to the punch by the big guys! I am sure Billy Lumsden’s Midwinter dram is delicious and hopefully he will share a bottle with me.”

A Möet Hennessy USA executive has confirmed that the Glenmorangie release will not be available outside of the UK. WhiskyCast has asked Glenmorangie executives whether the company was aware of the pre-existing use of “A Midwinter Night’s Dram” but have not received a response.

This story will be updated with additional information as necessary.

Editor’s note: This story was updated with a response from David Perkins of High West Distillery.

Links: Glenmorangie | High West

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Taiwan’s King Car Distillery in Expansion Mode

The King Car Distillery in Yi-Lan, Taiwan, home of Kavalan Single Malt Whisky. Photo ©2011 by Mark Gillespie.

September 29, 2015 – Taiwan’s King Car Distillery, the home of award-winning Kavalan single malt whiskies, has started a massive expansion project that will make it one of the largest malt whisky distilleries outside of Scotland. The distillery opened in 2005 with an annual production capacity of 1.5 million litres of spirit, and has been running almost non-step ever since. Work has already begun on the first phase of the expansion, which will triple King Car’s capacity to 4.5 million litres annually by the end of the year.

The Lee family, which owns the King Car industrial conglomerate and founded the distillery after Taiwan ended its state-owned liquor production monopoly, has an even more aggressive program planned for 2016. The distillery’s capacity will be doubled again, going from 4.5 to nine million litres by the end of 2016. “They are getting very excited, and also very serious about the future in global markets,” King Car master blender and head of global business development Ian Chang said in an interview. “That’s why we think that it’s time to expand and produce more Kavalan for our consumers.”

In addition to the distillery expansions, King Car recently completed work on a second maturation warehouse at the company’s campus in Yi-Lan Province. Chang expects planning and construction to begin next year on a third warehouse to support the additional production capacity.

Kavalan won Whisky Magazine’s World Whiskies Award for the “World’s Best Single Malt” earlier this year for its Solist Vinho Barrique Single Cask Strength whisky. Chang plans to expand on the Kavalan sherry cask range in coming months with Amontillado and Manzanilla sherry cask finishes soon, with a new range of whiskies planned for late 2016.

Links: King Car/Kavalan

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Warehouse Find Leads to New Glenmorangie 1970’s Collection

The Glenmorangie 1970's Collection. Photo ©2015 by Mark Gillespie.
September 24, 2015
– Sometimes, it pays to look in the corner of an attic…or in this case, a warehouse. When The Glenmorangie Company was preparing to leave its longtime facilities in Broxburn, Scotland for new headquarters in Edinburgh, Dr. Bill Lumsden started looking around one of the warehouses and found some dusty boxes in a remote corner of the facility.

“I found some old boxes full of bottles of whisky, and there was quite a lot of them, and they were nearly all unlabeled,” Lumsden said in an interview. “I thought, gosh…how interesting.” Lumsden used the codes that had been etched into the bottles and quickly figured out that 43 bottles were from the 1963 vintage, which was released last year. After verifying the provenance through the codes and tasting, Lumsden found that the rest were all bottles of rare 1970’s-era Glenmorangie bottlings including the 1975 Tain L’Hermitage and other single malts from 1971, 1975, 1976, and 1977. All five had been previously believed to be long-gone from the market.

Listen to Mark Gillespie’s interview with Dr. Bill Lumsden:

“There were enough bottles left to make ten sets of five bottles for the 1970’s Collection,” Lumsden said. The whiskies were all rebottled with new labels, and will be sold as a set with a custom-designed case for an estimated price of $50,000 per set. Three sets have been earmarked for the United States, with the rest to be divided between the UK, Germany, France, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, and China.

On another note, Lumsden has released a new 2015 edition of Ardbeg Supernova to celebrate the findings from Ardbeg’s experiment with whisky maturation on board the International Space Station. This year’s edition has roughly the same peating levels as the first three Supernova releases in 2009, 2010, and 2014, but according to Lumsden, the recipe is slightly different with a blend of 91% ex-Bourbon casks and 9% ex-Sherry casks. It will be available in the UK, US, Germany, France, Taiwan, and Japan. No pricing has been announced.

Links: Glenmorangie | Ardbeg

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Bardstown Bourbon Distillery Progressing Toward 2016 Opening

Construction work on the Bardstown Bourbon Company site in Bardstown, Kentucky. Photo ©2015 by Mark Gillespie.

September 24, 2015 – Construction work is underway on the latest addition to Bardstown, Kentucky’s claim as the “Bourbon Capital of the World.” The Bardstown Bourbon Company’s distillery is being built on the town’s east side in the Nelson County Industrial Park, and work is progressing toward an opening in June of 2016.

Bourbon Hall of Fame distiller Steve Nally is overseeing construction of the distillery, and will serve as master distiller once production begins. “We’ve had kind of a rough winter and a wet spring that kind of slowed us down a bit, but right now it looks like we’re on schedule,” he said in an interview. The $25 million dollar project will be the third in Bardstown and the fifth in Nelson County, and has been designed to serve as a showplace and education center as well as a distillery. “When people come in, we want them to leave thinking they have an idea of how it’s done…seeing product flowing through the lines, the still’s going to have a lot of glass in the front of it, so they’ll be able to visually see product coming down through the still,” Nally said.

The distillery will also have a culinary center, but the most important recipe still has yet to be created. Nally plans to start working this winter on developing the mashbill for the distillery’s Bourbon, and plans to make something a bit different than what he made at Wyoming Whiskey and previously as Master Distiller at Maker’s Mark. “I don’t want to copycat either one of them…I’ll do similar, but different,” he said.

Links: Bardstown Bourbon Company

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