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!

Old Pogue, New Pogues…No Problem

The Pogues Irish Whiskey. Image courtesy The Pogues/West Cork Distillers.July 27, 2015 – There aren’t any Pogues in The Pogues, the Celtic punk rock band that got its start in London more than 30 years ago. In fact, the band’s name is derived from the Gaelic curse “póg mo thóin” which, loosely translated, means “kiss my ass”. The band now has its own Irish Whiskey, which will be released next month by West Cork Distillers with plans to take the brand worldwide.

That includes the US, where the Pogue family started making whiskey in Maysville, Kentucky in 1876. While the family’s Old Pogue Bourbon is sourced from another Kentucky distillery, they have started distilling again on the same site where the original H.E. Pogue Distillery stood.

Old Pogue Bourbon. Image courtesy Old Pogue.Given that the family was the first to use the Pogue name in the US on whiskey, one might understand if family members had said something along the lines of “póg mo thóin” when they heard about plans for The Pogues Irish Whiskey. After all, costly lawsuits have been filed over similar-sounding names for spirits before — as well as other consumer goods. In fact, some fans of The Pogues raised the question in a message board on the band’s web site.

However, while the Maysville Pogues and the London Pogues aren’t related by blood, they are related by a shared passion for whiskey. Old Pogue President Peter Pogue told WhiskyCast in an email that he has no problem sharing the name.

“We worked closely and cooperatively with the distiller of The Pogues Irish Whiskey (West Cork Distillers) to avoid any trademark issues that may arise.  As our family makes only Kentucky Bourbon and Rye Whiskey we were amenable to permitting an Irish Whiskey under the band’s name.  The package, product, and brand are very dissimilar to ours.  We did not want to try and prohibit a worthy product from availability in the U.S.”

No date has been set for the launch of The Pogues Irish Whiskey in the US market, though West Cork Distillers has already lined up an import and distribution agreement with M.S. Walker. The Massachusetts-based company already handles importing and distribution for West Cork’s own whiskeys, along with Grand Macnish Blended Scotch and other spirits. West Cork spokesman Ger McCarthy told WhiskyCast in an email that similar agreements are already being lined up for The Pogues Irish Whiskey in other export markets as well.

Links: The Pogues Irish Whiskey | Old Pogue | M.S. Walker

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New Whiskies from Tomatin, Tullamore D.E.W., & The Pogues

The 2-bottle Tomatin Contrast Highland Single Malt set. Image courtesy Tomatin.July 27, 2015 – It’s that time of year when whisky producers start unveiling their new releases for the fall heading into the holiday gifting season. Here’s a quick roundup of the latest announcements…

Tomatin has been experimenting with expressions that give whisky lovers the chance to taste the same single malt matured in different types of casks, and distillery manager Graham Eunson is at it again. Tomatin Contrasts is a two-bottle set featuring a vatting of the distillery’s whiskies from 1973, 1977, 1988, 1991, 2002, and 2006. One bottle features the whisky matured in ex-Bourbon casks, while the other has whisky matured in ex-Sherry casks. Both are bottled at 46% ABV in 375ml bottles, and the Contrasts package will be available through whisky specialist retailers worldwide with a recommended retail price of £99 ($154 USD). 5,400 sets will be available.

Cù Bòcan is the peated whisky from Tomatin, and has also been the subject of experimental releases to showcase the effect of different casks on the overall whisky. The latest release in that series is the Cù Bòcan Limited Edition Bourbon Cask. While the regular Cù Bòcan uses whiskies matured in ex-Bourbon, ex-Sherry, and Virgin Oak casks, this release uses first-fill ex-Bourbon casks exclusively and is bottled at 46% ABV with no chill-filtering or coloring. Only 6,000 bottles will be available with a recommended retail price of £49.99 ($76 USD) at specialist retailers worldwide, with the exception of the US.

The Tullamore D.E.W. Trilogy Irish Whiskey. Image courtesy Tullamore D.E.W./William Grant & Sons.William Grant & Sons’ Tullamore D.E.W Irish Whiskey is releasing Trilogy, a 15-year-old whiskey that focuses on the number three in a couple of ways. The whiskey itself is triple-distilled (at Irish Distillers in Midleton), and originally matured in ex-Bourbon, ex-Oloroso Sherry, and traditional refill casks, then blended and finished in Rum casks.

Trilogy is bottled at 40% ABV, and will make its debut at Dublin Airport’s Irish Whiskey Collection shop along with other whisky specialists worldwide. Pricing was not announced.

The Irish Whiskey Collection shop is also the only outlet with a special edition of Powers Irish Whiskey. The Powers Aviation Edition celebrates Dublin International Airport’s 75th anniversary in 2015.

The Pogues Irish Whiskey. Image courtesy The Pogues/West Cork Distillers.The Pogues have been making music for more than 30 years, and the band has teamed up with West Cork Distillers to release an Irish Whiskey bearing the band’s name. The Pogues Irish Whiskey is described as being matured for “three years and a day”, and is being bottled at 40% ABV for a release in August. The whiskey will be available in the UK at first, but West Cork Distillers spokesman Ger McCarthy told WhiskyCast in an email that distributors have been appointed in the US and other key markets worldwide. Pricing has not been announced.

While there might be some confusion among consumers between The Pogues Irish Whiskey and Kentucky’s Old Pogue Bourbon, Old Pogue’s Peter Pogue welcomed the new whiskey. In an email to WhiskyCast, he explained that West Cork Distillers worked closely with Old Pogue ahead of the launch, and since his family only produces Kentucky Bourbon and Rye whiskies, it would have no objection to an Irish Whiskey with the Pogue name.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with reaction from Peter Pogue of Old Pogue Distillery.

Links: Tomatin | Cù Bòcan | Tullamore D.E.W. | Powers | The Pogues Irish Whiskey | Old Pogue


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New Legal Protection for Irish Whiskey

A road sign in Castlemartyr, Ireland. Cork, Midleton, and Waterford all have distilleries either operating or under construction. Photo ©2011 by Mark Gillespie.July 27, 2015 – Irish Whiskey will soon have the same protected status as Scotch Whisky, Champagne, and other unique products under new regulations announced today in Dublin. Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney introduced the new protected geographical indicator status, which will also cover Poitin (Ireland’s unaged form of whiskey) and Irish Cream Liqueurs. The regulations, as with all standards for Irish Whiskey, were worked out in consultation with UK officials and will cover both the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland.

The regulations mean any product labeled as Irish Whiskey, Poitin, or Irish Cream Liqueur will have to be produced entirely in Ireland in accordance with technical specifications registered with the European Union. The new rules take effect October 30, and all spirits producers will need to certify that their products meet the specifications by that date. A ministry news release quotes Coveney as saying the move will protect the growing number of whiskey-related jobs in Ireland.

“These regulations mean that inferior products or those that do not share the uniquely Irish heritage of these protected Geographical Indications cannot be sold as Irish Whiskey, Irish Poitin or Irish Cream. They can help to protect the reputation and integrity of these products, but also to protect Irish jobs. From a consumer perspective, they will also give assurance to customers, at home and abroad, of the quality of the unique spirit products they are consuming.”

Irish Whiskey has been one of the fastest-growing segments of the global whiskey market in recent years, with exports rising worldwide. The Irish Whiskey Association recently announced a goal of growing exports from last year’s 6.5 million cases (9 liters per case) to 24 million cases annually by 2030, with 26 new or proposed distilleries to come on line over the next ten years.

Links: Irish Department of Agriculture, Food, & the Marine | Irish Whiskey Association

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Bladnoch To Resume Production Under New Ownership

July 27, 2015 – More than a year after entering administration, Bladnoch Distillery’s future has been preserved with the sale of the Lowlands distillery to an Australian entrepreneur. David Prior has purchased the distillery, which entered the UK’s equivalent of bankruptcy court after members of the Armstrong family could not agree on whether to sell the distillery or continue it as an ongoing business. Prior has pledged to keep all of the distillery’s current eight employees and create additional jobs as the distillery returns to production.

No purchase price was disclosed, and Prior will have to invest a substantial amount of capital to bring the distillery up to current standards. Prior has engaged former Scotch Whisky Association CEO Gavin Hewitt to serve as a non-executive director of Bladnoch and oversee the early stages of the renovation process. “His early idea was to establish a brand-new distillery elsewhere in Scotland,” Hewitt said in a telephone interview. “The offer of Bladnoch came up in February and he jumped at it.” Hewitt expects the renovation process to take between 12 and 18 months, and says a candidate has been identified to serve as the distillery’s manager and master blender. He declined to identify the person at this time.

Listen to Mark Gillespie’s interview with Gavin Hewitt:

In a news release, Prior said “I am delighted to have been able to purchase a Scotch Whisky distillery of such renown as Bladnoch. Scotch Whisky is the world’s foremost spirit drink and I am proud to be part of the Scotch Whisky industry.” Prior made his fortune in the food business, and sold his organic yoghurt and granola business five:am last year for £52 million ($80.7 million USD). The purchase also includes Bladnoch’s existing stocks of aging whisky, but Hewitt says no plans have been determined for how or when that whisky will be bottled.

The Armstrong family acquired Bladnoch in 1994, a year after it had been mothballed by Diageo predecessor UDV. The original sale agreement banned the resumption of whisky production at Bladnoch, but that agreement was changed to allow limited production of 100,000 liters of spirit annually starting in 2000. The distillery last produced spirit in 2009 under the Armstrong family’s ownership. According to Hewitt, the cap has been removed and Prior will be able to run the distillery at its full capacity of between 1.25 and 1.5 million liters of alcohol per year after the renovation process is completed.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include the audio from our interview with Gavin Hewitt, and clarifies his role at Bladnoch as a non-executive director instead of managing director. 

Links: Bladnoch

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Templeton Rye Settlement To Cost $2.5 Million

This Templeton Rye bottle shown on a retailer's shelf includes the language that must be changed as part of the settlement agreement. Photo ©2015 by Mark Gillespie.July 23, 2015 – Templeton Rye Spirits LLC will be on the hook for up to $2.5 million dollars in damages and legal fees following last week’s settlement of three class-action lawsuits over labeling for Templeton Rye Whiskey. While the settlement has still not officially been filed with the U.S. District Court in Chicago, the Des Moines Register reports the cap on Templeton Rye’s liability at $2.5 million, with the fund to be split proportionately among claimants if claims exceed that amount. Templeton Rye co-founder Keith Kerkhoff confirmed the existence of a cap, but declined to specify the amount in a WhiskyCast interview last week. A spokesperson for Templeton Rye confirmed the amount of the fund in an email, but projects the total cost of settling the case to come in “below that amount.”

As previously reported, the settlement calls for consumers who purchased Templeton Rye since 2006 to be eligible for a maximum of $36 in refunds. Consumers with receipts will receive $6 per bottle for up to six bottles, while those without receipts will be eligible for $3 per bottle up to six bottles. In addition, onsumers who bought Templeton Rye at a bar will be able to claim a dollar per drink with a maximum of $5 in refunds. While claimants may be eligible under all three categories, the total amount of refunds per individual will be capped at $36.

The settlement must still be approved by U.S. District Court Judge Joan Gotschall, and no date has been set for a hearing. The Register reports claims will be handled through a web site to be established within 10 days after the settlement is approved. Templeton Rye Spirits LLC will be responsible for the entire amount of the settlement after agreeing in April to a stipulation in a separate lawsuit with its insurance company over liability coverage for the lawsuits.

In addition to the refunds, the settlement requires changes to the labels on Templeton Rye, some of which were made last autumn after the suits were filed in Illinois and Iowa. “Distilled in Indiana” was added to the label to reflect the whiskey’s origin at MGP’s Lawrenceburg, Indiana distillery. The terms “small batch” and “Prohibition Era Recipe” will be removed from the label, but the company will be allowed to use the term “based on the Prohibition Era Kerkhoff recipe.” Templeton Rye is produced using a standard MGP Rye whiskey mashbill, but a proprietary compound of flavorings and water is added in Templeton, Iowa to recreate the Kerkhoff family’s original recipe. The Templeton Rye web site and other marketing materials will also be edited to reflect the labeling changes.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs have not responded to WhiskyCast’s requests for an interview. While asking Templeton Rye executives to confirm the settlement details reported in the Des Moines Register, we received an automatic response from co-founder and Templeton Rye president Scott Bush that he has stepped aside from day-to-day responsibilities at Templeton Rye, but continues to serve as a director of the company. Bush has not responded to emails at his personal address, and the Templeton Rye spokesperson says his departure was not connected to the litigation.

This story will be updated with additional information as needed.

Editor’s note: This story was updated to include confirmation of Scott Bush’s departure and additional information. 

Links: Templeton Rye

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Sainsbury’s House Highland Malt Wins IWSC Trophy

Sainsbury's Taste the Difference Highland Single Malt. Image courtesy Sainsbury's.July 23, 2015 – Ever looked at a “house brand” whisky and wondered whether it was worth buying, even at a lower price than official distillery bottlings? Sainsbury’s sells a “Taste the Difference Highland Single Malt” with no age statement for £20 ($31 USD) that comes from Whyte & Mackay, and it won the trophy for “Best Single Malt Scotch Whisky (no age statement)” at this year’s International Wine & Spirit Competition. It was the only “house brand” whisky among the trophy winners, but while Whyte & Mackay bottles it for Sainsbury’s, that does not necessarily mean it comes from one of the company’s three Highland distilleries (Dalmore, Fettercairn, and Tamnavulin). Since Whyte & Mackay also has an extensive blending operation, the whisky could have come from any one of the dozens of distilleries in the Highlands.

In addition to the Sainsbury’s trophy, seven other whisky-related trophies were awarded by the judges:

Cask Strength Scotch Whisky: Ardbeg Uigeadail
Single Malt Scotch 15 Years & Under: Bowmore Tempest 10 Year Old
Single Malt Scotch Over 15 Years: Glenfiddich 21
Blended Scotch Whisky: Ballantine’s 30
Bourbon: Blanton’s Gold
Worldwide Whiskey: Three Ships 10 Year Old Single Malt
Best Packaging – Brown Spirits: Timorous Beastie from Douglas Laing & Co.

While no overall trophy was awarded for Irish Whiskies, Kilbeggan 21, Jameson 18, and Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy each won “Gold Outstanding” medals.  Kavalan Single Malt from Taiwan’s King Car Distillery was the only other “Gold Outstanding” winner among worldwide whiskies. In addition to Blanton’s Gold, Blanton’s Original, Knob Creek Single Barrel, Jim Beam Signature Craft Soft Red Wheat, Eagle Rare 10, and Kentucky Tavern all won “Gold Outstanding” medals for Bourbons. All four Scotch Whisky trophy winners won “Gold Outstanding” medals, and 19 other Scotch Whiskies also earned the same medals.

“Gold Outstanding” medal winners:
Bowmore 25
Chivas Regal 18
Chivas Regal 25
John Walker & Sons Odyssey
Scottish Leader
Nomad Speyside Blended Scotch
anCnoc 18
Poit Dhubh 21 Blended Malt
Clan Gold 18
Monarch of the Glen 8
Monarch of the Glen 15
Glenmorangie Signet
Whyte & Mackay 13
Jura 30
The Balvenie 30
Glenfiddich Age of Discovery 19 Years Old Bourbon Cask
The Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14 Years Old

The highest-ranking Canadian whisky was Firstwatch Selected Extra Fine Imported Whisky, which is produced by South Africa-based Edward Snell & Co., Ltd. and received a Gold medal. 

A complete list of medal winners is available at the IWSC web site.

Links: International Wine & Spirit Competition | Sainsbury’s

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