WhiskyCast is where it all begins. Now in our 15th year, each weekly episode brings you the latest in whisky news, along with the latest events, tasting notes, comments from other listeners, and the weekly “In-Depth” segment features interviews with the people who help make whisky the “water of life”.
This week saw upcoming whisky events in the U.S., England, Ireland, Canada, and Australia either postponed or cancelled outright as the number of Covid-19 cases and deaths continues to rise in many parts of the world. The list includes the Kentucky Bourbon Festival, the Whisky Show in London, and Whisky Live events in Dublin and Adelaide. The pandemic is forcing event organizers to take not only local health restrictions into account, but the bans many whisky makers have imposed on travel and participating in live events. As a result, some festivals are going virtual so whisky lovers can meet with distillers and brand ambassadors online safely, while others are trying to figure out protocols for holding in-person events safely. We’ll have details on WhiskyCast In-Depth. In the news, the pandemic has already cost Diageo more than $2 billion in lost profits, with significant drops in its Scotch Whisky sales, while Woodford Reserve has rescheduled its annual Kentucky Derby charity Mint Julep campaign to go along with 2020’s “fastest two minutes” in September sports.
Links: Diageo | Johnnie Walker | Möet Hennessy | Office of the U.S Trade Representative | Woodford Reserve | Maker’s Mark | Bardstown Bourbon Company | Still Austin Whiskey | Douglas Laing & Co. | Arran Whisky | Whiskey & Barrel Nite | The Whisky Show | Kentucky Bourbon Festival | Whiskey Live Dublin | Spirit of Toronto | WhiskyFest | 10th Street Distillery | Woodinville Whiskey | Michter’s | Wild Turkey | Midleton Dair Ghaelach | Glendalough
There’s something about whisky that brings out the passion in many people. For David Jennings, his passion for Wild Turkey led him to start a blog and then write what may well be the definitive story of Wild Turkey. His book “American Spirit: Wild Turkey Bourbon From Ripy to Russell” was published this summer and demand from other Wild Turkey lovers has forced his publisher to start working on a second print run. He’ll join us to talk about what fueled that passion on WhiskyCast In-Depth.
In the news, there’s a unified front against the import tariffs on whiskies in the U.S. and Europe. Unfortunately, it’s the whisky makers on both sides of the Atlantic that are unified, while the politicians who will decide on whether those tariffs stay in place remain very much divided. We’ll also update the disputes between politicians trying to get the Covid-19 pandemic under control and bar owners who face threats to their business from mandated closings. We’ll also have a red tape story out of Ireland that may have you shaking your head, along with a Behind the Label that’s just a bit corny (pun intended).
Links: “American Spirit” | Wild Turkey | Angel’s Envy | Johnnie Walker | Elijah Craig | Woodinville Whiskey | Tipperary Boutique Distillery | Chapel Gate Whiskey Co. | Dewar’s | Nikka | Barrell Craft Spirits | Westward Whiskey | Beck’s Hybrids
Among horse racing enthusiasts, “pinhooking” is the name for investing in a young horse based solely on its pedigree and potential for success, then cashing in when the horse is mature and ready to race. If you can see the parallels between pinhooking with horses and with barrels of young whiskey, then you’ll want to listen to our interview with Pinhook Whiskey co-founder Sean Josephs. 10 years ago when he was the owner of Char No. 4 in Brooklyn, he and his partners decided to start buying barrels of young whiskey to mature and bottle – and when they heard about pinhooking from a friend in the horse racing game, Sean realized they had their brand name. Earlier this summer, Pinhook released the first whiskeys distilled at Castle and Key since the historic distillery site reopened in 2017, and Sean will explain how they beat the distillery’s owners to market.
In the news, the Trump Administration’s tariff on imports of single malt whiskies from Scotland and Northern Ireland is under review, but the damage to Scotch Whisky exports has already reached $250 million since the tariff took effect last October. We’ll have the details, along with projections of dim prospects for removing that tariff before the November election. We’ll also have the latest on new whiskeys, this week’s tasting notes, and on Behind the Label, we’ll find out why so many whiskey barrels used to be cut into half and turned into planters.
Links: Pinhook | Scotch Whisky Association | Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America | Office of the U.S. Trade Representative | Old Fitzgerald | Johnnie Walker | Glenmorangie | Chapel Gate Whiskey Co. | Two Stacks | Woodinville Whiskey | Frey Ranch Distillery | Tom Kimmerer
Tourism has become a major part of the Scotch Whisky industry, with two million people visiting distilleries in both 2018 and 2019. 2020, the “Year of the Pandemic,” will be much different after distilleries had to shut down their visitors centers for nearly four months because of coronavirus-related public health restrictions. As of July 15, they can reopen with strict limits to prevent a flareup of new Covid-19 cases, but only a handful have put out the welcome mat so far. The Scotch Whisky Experience on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile will not reopen until August 17, and we’ll talk with Julie Trevisan Hunter about the issues she and her colleagues around Scotland are facing.
In the news, the deadline for public comments on the Trump Administration’s latest review of tariffs on single malts from Scotland and Northern Ireland is coming up this weekend. Juice boxes are a common sight for kids, but what about a “whisky box” for adults? That’s a loosely-defined version of the paper-based “bottles” Diageo plans to test with Johnnie Walker whiskies next year, and we’ll go “Behind the Label” to look at the Texas-grown barley used in the latest Balcones Texas single malt.
Links: Scotch Whisky Experience | Distilled Spirits Council of the United States | Amrut | Press and Journal | Johnnie Walker | Royal Mile Whiskies | Scotch Trooper GoFundMe Campaign | The Macallan | Highland Park | Isle of Lime | High West Distillery | Westland Distillery | Clonakilty Distillery | San Francisco World Spirits Competition | Balcones Distilling
Edinburgh’s newest malt whisky distillery opened with a bang – or perhaps, a cough. That’s because the Bonnington Distillery had barely filled its first few casks with new make spirit before the Covid-19 pandemic forced Halewood Wines & Spirits to close the place down for a deep cleaning to comply with public health restrictions. Bonnington is the home for Halewood’s revival of the venerable John Crabbie & Co. Scotch Whisky brand, and we’ll talk with Marc Watson on WhiskyCast In-Depth. He oversees distilling and maturation at Bonnington, and started his career making gin before a certain podcast episode prompted him to focus on whisky several years ago – he’ll explain that story, too.
In the news, South Africa is reviving its nationwide ban on alcohol sales as Covid-19 caseloads start to rise, and one of India’s largest whisky distilleries could be affected by a lockdown that takes effect Tuesday while more U.S. states are closing bars again. We’ll hear how one Kentucky distillery is trying to keep a Bourbon legend safe while still allowing visitors, and catch up with the results of a special raffle to support an Irish children’s charity.
Links: Crabbie Whisky | Amrut | Ardbeg | Glenmorangie | Kentucky Bourbon Trail | Wild Turkey | Michter’s | Booker’s Bourbon | Kentucky Distillers Association | Balcones Distilling | Chattanooga Whiskey | Kilchoman | Nikka | Kavalan | Walsh Whiskey Company | Jack & Jill Foundation | Association of Halifax Regional Scotch Enthusiasts | Pinhook
Bars and pubs have reopened in some areas after lockdowns to prevent the spread of Covid-19, only to be closed again when the number of cases spikes as people try to resume a normal life that includes having a drink at the local pub. Public health officials see bars as a prime vector for the spread of the virus, and that will have a long-term impact on bar owners as well as their customers. H. Joseph Ehrmann has owned Elixir, the popular San Francisco whisky bar, for 17 years and is waiting for local and state officials to work out their differences before he reopens – though he already has plans in place to try and give his regulars something close to their pre-pandemic experience. We’ll talk with him on WhiskyCast In-Depth.
In the news, pubs have now reopened in Ireland, England, and Northern Ireland as police say it’s virtually impossible to ensure social distancing. We’ll also have details on a new distillery project in Scotland that’s moving ahead with construction after months of Covid-19 delays, the week’s new whiskies, and something special – a song from the Whisky Bard himself, Robin Laing!
Links: Elixir | Gordon & MacPhail | Diageo | Prima & Ultima Collection | The Macallan | The Lakes Distillery | Bimber Distillery | Loch Lomond | Wyoming Whiskey | Sagamore Spirit | RobinLaing.com | The Last Drop | International Whisky Competition | International Wine & Spirit Competition | Canadian Whisky Awards
Fred Noe became Jim Beam’s seventh master distiller in 2007 when his father, the legendary Booker Noe, retired. 13 years later, he’s getting closer to the day when he’ll hand things over to his son Freddie – but the Covid-19 pandemic delayed his plans for a “farewell tour” with Freddie this year. Instead, Fred’s been cooped up at home in Bardstown, Kentucky, wearing a mask when he leaves the house at the insistence of his family and hoping to be able to go on that tour of Australia and Europe next year. In the meantime, he and his team have revived the Beam family’s Old Tub Bourbon brand for a limited-edition release celebrating the 225th anniversary of Jacob Boehm’s first whiskey, along with a limited-edition 15-year-old Knob Creek Bourbon. We’ll catch up with Fred Noe on this week’s WhiskyCast In-Depth.
In the news, the trade war between the U.S. and Europe is heating up again while England prepares to reopen pubs this coming week as parts of the U.S. close bars as the pandemic flares up. We’ll have the latest on new whiskies, say goodbye and thanks to a couple of retiring friends, and look at the way whisky barrels are stored on Behind the Label.
Links: Jim Beam | Knob Creek | Distilled Spirits Council | Diageo | Old Forester | Glenfarclas | Isle of Arran | Irish Distillers | Chivas Brothers | Wild Turkey | Grace O’Malley Irish Whiskey
It would have been easy for Chris and Shanelle Montana to close Du Nord Craft Spirits after arsonists set fire to the distillery’s warehouse during riots in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis Police four weeks ago. It would have been even easier after more arsonists set fire to their apartment building the next night. They underestimated the Montanas, who not only plan to rebuild their distillery, but their neighborhood as well – and have already raised more than $560,000 with a GoFundMe campaign to help other minority-owned businesses repair their damage and rebuild. We’ll talk with Chris and Shanelle on this week’s WhiskyCast In-Depth.
In the news, Sazerac is expanding its portfolio with the acquisition of Canadian Mist and Collingwood Canadian whiskies, the Canadian Mist Distillery in Ontario, and Early Times from Brown-Forman. As coronavirus fever begins to fade, tariff talk is back in Brussels and Washington, while Beam Suntory is reviving part of the Beam family’s legacy as the company celebrates 225 years of making whiskey.
Links: Du Nord Craft Spirits | Du Nord Riot Recovery Fund | ACSA GoFundMe Campaign | Sazerac | Canadian Mist | Early Times | CanadianWhisky.org | Corby Spirit & Wine | Diageo | Westland Distillery | Jim Beam | Glen Moray | George Dickel | Glenmorangie | New Riff | Crown Royal | Bruichladdich
Recent protests over racism and police brutality against African-Americans have led to greater calls for diversity throughout American society, and the whisky industry is no exception. American whiskey’s history with diversity has not been a good one, going all the way back to the pre-Civil War era when many distilleries were run with enslaved labor – including the one owned by George Washington after his presidency. We’ll have details on several initiatives announced this week that focus on improving diversity and inclusion within the whisky industry, including plans for the Nearest Green School of Distilling at Tennessee’s Motlow State Community College that had been in the works for the past year. We’ll also talk with Black Bourbon Society founder Samara Rivers, who has just launched Diversity Distilled – with a goal of helping whisky companies recruit and develop African-American talent. We’ll also have the latest on Covid-19’s impact, including the postponement of this fall’s Kentucky Bourbon Festival and plans to gradually reopen pubs in the UK.
Links: Black Bourbon Society | Diversity Distilled | Uncle Nearest | Jack Daniel’s | Motlow State Community College | Diageo | Campari America | Kentucky Distillers Association | KDA Breonna Taylor Scholarship Fund Auction | Kentucky Bourbon Festival | USBG Foundation | Teeling Whiskey Company | Irish Distillers | A Fistful of Bourbon | Forty Creek | Still Waters Distillery | Douglas Laing & Co. | Westward Whiskey | “The Amber Light” | Woodinville Whiskey | High Wire Distilling | Stauning Whisky | GlenDronach | BenRiach
This week, we’ll wrap up our two-part tour of Gladfield Malt in New Zealand, where Gabi and Doug Mitchell have turned the family’s barley farm into one of the country’s leading malt suppliers. The Mitchells think a lot about the future, one in which they hope to see their three kids take on key roles in the family business. Gabi Mitchell will share that part of their story with us on WhiskyCast In-Depth.
In the news, fundraising campaigns for the Minneapolis distillery and its neighbors devastated by fires during the recent protests over police brutality have raised more than half a million dollars so far, while African-American Bourbon lovers are blasting one whiskey brand for posting racist comments online and other brands for staying silent on the issue. We’ll also have the latest pandemic-related event news, including a possible change of plans for this September’s Kentucky Bourbon Festival.
Links: Gladfield Malt | Du Nord Craft Spirits | Du Nord Riot Recovery Fund | ACSA GoFundMe Campaign | Black Bourbon Society | Kentucky Bourbon Festival | American Craft Spirits Association | Port Ellen | Douglas Laing & Co. | Glasgow Distillery Co. | Glen Moray | Fettercairn | English Whisky Company | Bimber Distillery | The Lakes Distillery | Kentucky Bourbon Affair Charity Auction | Buffalo Chase 5K | Writers’ Tears Jack & Jill Foundation Raffle | Blackadder | Amrut | Egan’s | Triple Distilled Blog