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!

Kentucky Bourbon Trail Sets New Record

Visitors tour a warehouse at Stitzel-Weller Distillery in Louisville as part of the Bulleit Frontier Whiskey Experience September 15, 2014. Photo ©2014 by Mark Gillespie.January 29, 2015 – With interest in Bourbon-related tourism at an all-time high, Kentucky distillers are reporting another double-digit increase in visitors during 2014. The Kentucky Distillers Association reported today that 723,503 guests visited the 18 participating distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour in 2014. The results continue a five-year tourism boom that has seen a 62% increase in visitor traffic over the period, according to KDA President Eric Gregory. “Some of our distilleries are up 200% in attendance over the last five years, which is great news for local communities that are reaping the tourism benefits,” Gregory said in a news release. “And that best news is that we keep adding more and more distilleries.”

Nine sites currently make up the Kentucky Bourbon Trail following the 2014 addition of the Bulleit Frontier Whiskey Experience at Stitzel-Weller Distillery in Louisville. The Trail is expected to add a 10th site during 2015 when the Jim Beam Urban Stillhouse opens in downtown Louisville’s Fourth Street Live entertainment district. The Trail includes all of Kentucky’s major distilleries, with the exception of Sazerac-owned Buffalo Trace in Frankfort and the 1792 Barton Distillery in Bardstown.

The still at Corsair Artisan Distillery in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Photo ©2013 by Mark Gillespie. In its second year of operation, the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour featuring nine craft distilleries recorded a 56% increase in visitor traffic with 96,471 guests. Corsair Artisan Distillery in Bowling Green, Silver Trail Distillery in Hardin, and Wilderness Trace Distillery in Danville all doubled their visits during 2013, while the other six distilleries all reported double-digit increases. The Craft Tour also added a new site during 2014 when New Riff Distillery in the Cincinnati suburb of Newport joined the group. Adam Johnson of the KDA, who oversees the Bourbon Trail and the Craft Tour, noted in the news release that there is a waiting list for new distilleries to join the tour.

In the past ten years, every one of Kentucky’s major distilleries has either expanded existing visitor attractions or built new ones to capitalize on the growth in Bourbon-related tourism. A recent study by the University of Louisville’s Urban Studies Institute for the KDA estimated that Bourbon Trail tourism accounts for at least $7.5 million in economic impact on the state each year.

Links: Kentucky Bourbon Trail | Kentucky Distillers Association


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Whisky Magazine Announces World Icons of Whisky Winners

January 29, 2015 – South African-based Distell has taken top honors as Distiller of the Year in the third round of Whisky Magazine’s 2015 Icons of Whisky Awards. This round honors what are called “Rest of The World” whiskies and distilleries based outside of Scotland or the United States, which were honored in the first two rounds previously announced.

Distell is best known for its James Sedgwick Distillery in Wellington, South Africa, where its Three Ships and Bain’s Cape Mountain whiskies are produced under the guidance of Master Distiller Andy Watts. Both whiskies have been honored with multiple World Whiskies Awards presented by Whisky Magazine. Japan’s Nikka Whisky received the “Highly Commended” award presented to the runner-up in online voting by industry members and the magazine’s editorial panel.

Ian Chang of Taiwan’s King Car (Kavalan) Distillery was named Distillery Manager/Master Distiller of the Year, with Etienne Bouillon of The Owl Distillery in Belgium receiving “Highly Commended” honors. Kavalan/King Car was also named the Whisky Brand Innovator of the Year, with Compass Box receiving “Highly Commended” honors.

Australia’s Tasmania Distillery, which produces the award-winning Sullivan’s Cove single malt whiskies, was named Craft Whisky Producer of the Year. Japan’s Hombo Shuzo Company was the runner-up. Jack Teeling of Ireland’s Teeling Whiskey Company was named Brand Ambassador of the Year, followed by Ichiro Akuto of Japan’s Venture Whisky. The English Whisky Company’s Andrew Nelstrop took top honors as Visitor Centre Manager of the Year, with Tullamore Dew’s Mary  Hensey receiving “Highly Commended” honors.

Among retailers, Berry Bros. & Rudd in London took Single Outlet honors, followed by the Kensington Wine Market in Calgary, Alberta. La Maison du Whisky in Paris was the Multiple Outlet honoree, followed by Dan Murphy’s in Australia. The Whisky Exchange was named Online Retailer of the Year, followed by Master of Malt. Whisk-E of Japan was named Importer of the Year, with Dublin’s Celtic Whiskey Shop as runner-up. The Really Great Brand Company of South Africa was named Distributor of the Year, with the UK’s Maverick Drinks receiving “Highly Commended” honors.

The winners will go up against the previously announced winners from Scotland and the United States for the Global Icons of Whisky Awards to be presented on March 19 in London on the eve of Whisky Live London.

Links: Icons of Whisky Awards

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Scotch Whisky’s UK Economic Impact Estimated At £5 Billion

A still and warehouses at Royal Brackla Distillery in Scotland. Photo ©2014 by Mark GillespieJanuary 29, 2015 – A new report released Wednesday by the Scotch Whisky Association estimates the whisky industry’s economic impact on the UK at £5 billion ($7.52 billion USD) annually, with the impact being felt not only in Scotland, but in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. The study was done by the research firm 4-Consulting, and puts the direct impact at £3.3 billion, with secondary impacts such as packaging, logistics, and tourism accounting for around £1.7 billion.

“I think anybody who visits Scotland and visits the Scotch Whisky industry understands just what place it has in terms of Scottish society and the Scottish economy,” said the SWA’s David Williamson. “You don’t have to go very far on Islay or in Speyside to see the evidence of that positive impact.” The study puts total industry employment at 40,300 jobs, with 10,900 of those jobs directly within whisky-related businesses and the remainder employed indirectly through agriculture, logistics, manufacturing, and related industries. As a result, each whisky industry job supports 2.7 additional jobs in the UK economy.

Listen to Mark Gillespie’s entire interview with David Williamson:

Additional impact comes from the location of many distilleries in rural areas, with around 20% of the whisky industry’s work force located outside major cities and providing an estimated £250 million of income to rural communities. The study places Scotch Whisky as Scotland’s third-largest industry, trailing only energy and financial services, with whisky accounting for 70% of the Scottish food and drink sector. The findings are based on data from the UK’s Office of National Statistics and the SWA.

While 2014 export data will not be available until this spring, data from 2013 shows Scotch Whisky generates 1.4% of all UK exports but has a larger impact on the UK’s trade balance. Since almost all of the industry’s raw materials come from within the UK (except for imported casks, barley, and some capital equipment), 2013’s £4 billion in Scotch Whisky exports made it a larger contributor to UK exports than the aviation, pharmaceutical, auto, steel, and all other industries except for mechanical equipment. The report estimates the UK’s trade deficit for 2013 would have been 16% higher without the impact of Scotch Whisky exports.

The report’s release comes as the SWA and other spirits industry groups are pushing for a cut in taxes on whisky and other spirits. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne is scheduled to release the coalition government’s next budget on March 18, and the industry wants more than just a second straight year of freezes on excise taxes and duties. The goal is a 2% cut in taxes on whisky sold within the UK, where taxes currently make up 78% of the average price of a bottle of whisky.

The SWA’s Williamson cites economic studies showing that the 2% cut would generate an additional £1.5 billion each year in economic impact across the UK, but admits that the odds of getting a cut are long. “If you’re paying four pounds of every five in tax to your Finance Minister, you can see that that is going to have an impact on your ability to compete,” he said.

The entire SWA report is available to download.

Links: Scotch Whisky Association




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Wild Turkey Elevates Eddie Russell to Master Distiller

Wild Turkey's Jimmy and Eddie Russell during the dedication of Wild Turkey's new distillery in June, 2011. Photo ©2011 by Mark Gillespie.January 26, 2015 – For nearly 34 years, Wild Turkey’s Eddie Russell has worked alongside his father, legendary Master Distiller Jimmy Russell. Now, he has the same title as his famous father after being promoted from Associate Master Distiller to Master Distiller – though he’ll still be working alongside his father. In a news release and letter to members of the Russell’s Reserve Legacy Society affinity group, Jimmy Russell said “after 34 years, I think he’s finally earned it, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to go any easier on him – or that I’m going anywhere anytime soon.  Eddie and I will work side by side as the industry’s only father/son Master Distillers.”

Reached in Brazil, where he is currently doing promotional work for Wild Turkey, Eddie Russell told WhiskyCast that his father had been planning the move for some time. “He really was going to do it last year, but for us it was about the Year of Jimmy Russell with his 60th anniversary, so we didn’t want to take anything away from that.” He created the Diamond Anniversary Bourbon released in 2014 to mark his father’s anniversary at the distillery, and has been instrumental in all of the distillery’s releases over the last several years. “34 years ago, I realized that I wanted to follow in his footsteps, and the footsteps of not only him, but all the other great master distillers,” citing the late Booker Noe and Elmer T. Lee as just two of those who helped mentor him during his career.

Listen to Mark Gillespie’s interview with Eddie Russell:


Eddie and Jimmy Russell have been collaborating on a new Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Rye expected to be released later this year, along with a 17-year-old Wild Turkey Bourbon that fits into what Eddie described as his more experimental nature. “Jimmy didn’t really like the older whiskies, but I’ve really worked with it and moved it around…it’s had a pretty good journey to make sure it doesn’t get too oaky and too woody, which is his concern about older whiskies.” Specifics on both whiskies will be announced at a later date.

Meanwhile, the next generation has already started on the path. Eddie’s son Bruce received his degree from the University of Kentucky last month, and joined Wild Turkey on January 5. “He’s going to take a little different approach to it…we’re going to send him to Texas, which is our biggest domestic state, and be a brand ambassador for a couple of years,” Eddie Russell said. “He’s really interested in marketing, so he’s going to learn the sales and distribution end of it, and eventually he’ll come back to the distillery.”

Editor’s note: This story was updated with additional information following an interview with Eddie Russell. Also, Jimmy and Eddie Russell are featured in a WhiskyCast HD episode answering questions from listeners.

Links: Wild Turkey



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Woodford Reserve Adding Rye to Range

Woodford Reserve Straight Rye. Image courtesy Woodford Reserve/Brown-Forman.January 22, 2015 – Woodford Reserve is jumping on the Rye whiskey bandwagon with the release of Woodford Reserve Straight Rye next month. The whiskey uses a mashbill with 53% rye grain developed after years of work by Brown-Forman Master Distiller Chris Morris, and will be available in selected US markets.

In a telephone interview, Morris described the process that began in 2006. “I’m proud to say we were looking at making Rye whiskey before Rye whiskey was cool again, before its current popularity,” he said. “You could count on one hand how many Rye whiskey brands were out in the marketplace…we thought we were going out on a limb taking a risk in making Rye whiskey, so we didn’t make a whole lot for a number of those early years.” As a result, availability of Woodford Reserve Straight Rye will be limited for the first several years while stocks of aging rye catch up.

The pot stills at Woodford Reserve Distillery in Versailles, Kentucky. Photo ©2011 by Mark Gillespie. The new whiskey, like all of the Woodford Reserve expressions except for the Master’s Collection releases, uses a blend of whiskies distilled at the Woodford Reserve Distillery in Versailles, Kentucky and the Brown-Forman Distillery in Louisville. The mashbills are identical at both distilleries, but the Versailles facility triple-distills its spirit using three pot stills, while the Louisville facility double-distills with column stills. There is one difference between the two, according to Morris, who said the difficult nature of distilling rye grain required one slight change. “We’re using the same recipe, our unique strain of yeast, extra-long fermentation at both distilleries…it’s still the same sticky substance, we just have to have a little more water in the beer flow in the column still production versus the pot still,” he said. The pot stills in Versailles produce a more robust spirit than the lighter flavors produced by the column stills in Louisville, and blending the two creates a consistent flavor.

Listen to Mark Gillespie’s interview with Chris Morris:


Woodford Reserve Straight Rye will carry a recommended retail price of $37.99 (750ml), and Woodford Reserve brand manager Jason Kempf said in a news release that he hopes it will satisfy the demands of Woodford consumers. “Time and time again, we kept hearing requests for a rye. Woodford Reserve has always maintained a commitment to the spirit of innovation, and the rye is no exception,” he said. “We’re excited to give our fans something they’ve been so vocal about for so many years, and that is finally ready to share with them.”

Links: Woodford Reserve

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Glenmorangie Releases 2015 Private Edition Selection

Glenmorangie Tusail. Image courtesy Glenmorangie.January 21, 2015 – Glenmorangie has revived a once-popular strain of barley for use in its 2015 Private Edition series release. Tùsail will be the sixth edition in the series, which began in 2010 with Sonnalta PX and has continued each year through last year’s Companta. The name comes from the Scots Gaelic word for “initial” or “original”.

The whisky was produced using Maris Otter barley, which was widely used in the 1960’s but later fell out of favor as brewers and distillers switched to more efficient barley strains. Maris Otter was at risk of becoming wiped out by cross-pollination with other barley strains and the use of uncertified seeds in the 1980s, but was preserved and purified by seed merchants to prevent its extinction. Glenmorangie’s Dr. Bill Lumsden ordered a batch of Maris Otter several years ago and arranged to have it malted using a traditional malting floor instead of the conventional commercial drum maltings.

Tùsail carries no age statement, and has been bottled at 46% ABV. It will carry a recommended retail price of £75.99 GBP ($114 USD).

Links: Glenmorangie

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