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”.
The global COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic took full hold on the whisky industry this week, as governments not only shut down bars and limited restaurants to take-out and delivery service, but imposed more bans on large public gatherings such as whisky festivals and even closed liquor stores in at least one U.S. state. That’s led to tens of thousands of layoffs throughout the hospitality industry globally and economic stimulus programs aimed at mitigating some of the impact. We’ll take a look at the big picture and a close-up view as well, including one Minneapolis distillery where the entire tasting room staff was laid off this week. Chris Montana of Du Nord Craft Spirits is still trying to keep production going while also fielding calls from his colleagues around the U.S. as president of the American Craft Spirits Association. Spirits producers have already donated nearly $2 million to help laid-off bartenders and bar workers, and we’ll find out where that money is going and how you can help as well.
Links: Distilled Spirits Council | Ko’Olau Distillery | Dry Diggings Distillery Sanitizer Support | U.S. Bartenders Guild Foundation | Spirit of Speyside Festival | Secret Spirits | Jack Rose Dining Saloon | Sotheby’s | Irish Whiskey Auctions | American Distilling Institute | Tennessee Distillers Guild | Old Forge Distillery | Du Nord Craft Spirits | Glenmorangie | Alistair Walker Whisky Company | Springbank | Jameson | Redbreast | Brewing & Distilling Analytical Services | Society of Distilling Scientists & Technologists
Since so many people are working from home, “self-isolating” or more because of the coronavirus crisis, we’ve decided to produce some extra content to help you pass the time.
Earlier this month during DramFest 2020 in Christchurch, New Zealand, WhiskyCast’s Mark Gillespie took part in a panel discussion on “the past and future of whisky” with veteran whisky writer Charles Maclean, Michael Fraser Milne of the Whisky Galore shop in Christchurch, and moderator Dave Broom.
Their hour-long discussion is a bit too long for one of our regular episodes, but we thought you might enjoy listening to it on its own. The panel covered everything from the collapse of the Scotch Whisky industry in the early 80’s to what the future holds given the combination of a growing craft distilling movement, global politics, and climate change.
Thanks to Michael and Stella Fraser Milne of Whisky Galore and DramFest 2020 for helping to make this special episode possible, along with the sound crew at Christchurch Town Hall and the staff at Whisky Galore.
Photos courtesy of Whisky Galore/DramFest.
Louise McGuane wants to revive a key part of Irish Whiskey’s past, but she keeps wrestling with its present-day form in a bid to change the future of Ireland’s whiskey industry. The Chapel Gate Whiskey Co. founder has become one of Irish Whiskey’s most outspoken voices in recent years, and recently spoke at the World Whisky Forum in Seattle. WhiskyCast is the only place where you’ll be able to hear her comments on this St. Patrick’s week…a week in which the COVID-19 novel coronavirus pandemic has forced Ireland’s legendary pubs to close, along with bars and distillery visitor centers around the world. We’ll have the details in this week’s news, along with updates on whisky festivals and other events cancelled or postponed by the pandemic. We’ll also honor longtime Bruichladdich legend Duncan McGillivray, who passed away this past week.
Links: Chapel Gate Whiskey Co. | Irish Whiskey 360 | Bruichladdich | Ardbeg | Mackmyra | Kilchoman | Hinch Distillery | Lambay Whiskey | Kilbeggan | Glendalough | Redbreast | Hotel Tango Spirits | Old Fourth Distillery | Shine Distillery & Grill
This week, we’re on location at Whisky Galore’s DramFest 2020 in Christchurch, New Zealand! They’ve been making whisky in New Zealand since the first Scottish settlers arrived, but after the country’s one remaining distillery closed in the early 90’s, New Zealanders had to import almost all of their whisky. That changed a few years ago with the growth of a farm-based distilling industry that’s a return to the days when farmers turned their crops into whisky. We’ll take a look at this resurgence on WhiskyCast In-Depth, taste a few local whiskies, and get some perspective from whisky lovers in Your Voice. In our Behind the Label segment, we’ll meet a Christchurch businessman with a unique hobby – he’s amassed one of the world’s largest collections of Jim Beam memorabilia!
Links: DramFest | Whisky Galore | The Spirits Workshop | Keepers of The Quaich | Redbreast | Ardnamurchan | Kilchoman | GlenDronach | Chapel Gate Whiskey Company | Dewar’s | Paul John Whisky | Ardbeg | Secret Spirits | Thomson Whisky | Auld Distillery | Lammermoor Distillery | The New Zealand Whisky Collection | TashMcGill.com | Cardrona Distillery | Beam Gallery
If you just needed a whisky-related reason to visit Iceland, we have one for you on this week’s episode. Eimverk Distillery grew out of the dreams of two brothers who just wanted to be farmers, but found it was cheaper to import grain for cattle feed than grow it themselves. There was also some whisky involved, as Eimverk production manager Eva Mariá Sigursbjörnsdóttir explains on WhiskyCast In-Depth. There were also some sheep involved in at least part of the process, since one of Eimverk’s whiskies is smoked not with peat – but with sheep dung! We’ll have tasting notes for it, too.
In the news, the coronavirus outbreak could cost Diageo as much as £200 million in profits this year and other whisky makers are preparing for losses of their own. The University of Kentucky is not only building an on-campus distillery in Lexington, but a million-dollar donation this week will fund construction of a new barrel “dormitory” as well. We’ll have that story and look at how the mavericks at Brewdog are already ruffling feathers in the Scotch Whisky industry. Finally, if you’ve ever wondered why the hoops on whisky barrels are covered with rust, we’ll explain on Behind the Label.
Links: Eimverk Distillery | Diageo | Pernod Ricard | Dekantā | Kavalan | Chivas Brothers | James B. Beam Institute for Kentucky Spirits | Independent Stave Company | Kentucky Bourbon Festival | Blanton’s | Angel’s Envy | Amrut | Wemyss Malts | Brewdog | DramFest 2020 | DramFest American Whiskey Tasting | Redbreast Ireland Competition | Yamazakura 963 | High Coast
There’s an old saying that “sometimes, you choose the whisky business…and sometimes, it chooses you.” That could be said for Victoria Eady-Butler, who retired last year after 31 years in federal law enforcement. As it turns out, the great-great granddaughter of Nathan “Nearest” Green inherited some of her ancestor’s talent. She was the first member of the Green family to pick barrels for the Uncle Nearest 1884 Small Batch whiskey last year, and was so good at it that she’s started a second career as the master blender for Uncle Nearest. She’s also made a place for herself in the history books as the first African-American woman to serve as master blender for an American whiskey brand.
In the news, another milestone in whisky collecting has fallen with the first million-dollar bid for a whisky in an online auction. We’ll have the details, along with highlights from this week’s World Whisky Forum in Seattle, the Distilled Spirits Council’s conference in Louisville, and a bunch of ba-a-a-ad puns around Ardbeg’s latest limited edition release. Yes, we’re a bit sheepish about that!
Links: Uncle Nearest | Whisky Auctioneer | Midleton Very Rare | Waterford Distillery | Overeem Whisky | Distilled Spirits Council | World Whisky Forum | Jim Beam | Lux Row Distillers | Ardbeg | Wonderful World of Whisky Show | Whisky Fringe | Spirit of Speyside Festival | Aussie Spirit Auction | DramFest 2020 | Jack Daniel’s | Coldfoot Whiskey | High West | Spirit of Yorkshire Distillery | Stauning Whisky | American Malting Barley Association | Washington State University Bread Lab
This week on WhiskyCast, we’re sharing a special story of strength. Not the kind of strength one can build in the gym, but the inner strength that comes from within. Una Green is the West Coast brand ambassador for the Dewar’s single malts, and a year ago last week, she received the kind of news no one ever wants to hear from a doctor – a diagnosis of breast cancer. That inner strength – and the support from her friends and co-workers – helped her manage the pain of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and all of the side effects. Now cancer-free, she’s preparing to return to work after spending this week in Denver for the latest round of Speed Rack’s ninth season. Una took part in the national bartending competition for women a couple of years ago, and has made it her goal to help support Speed Rack and its mission of raising money for breast cancer programs. We’ll talk with her on this week’s WhiskyCast In-Depth.
In the news, the Trump Administration is holding firm on single malt Scotch Whisky tariffs for now while trade talks continue with the European Union. There’s new data showing just how much the U.S. and EU tariffs have cost whisky makers on both sides of the Atlantic, while Kentucky saw a record-breaking number of Bourbon tourists in 2019. We’ll also take a look at just how the bottling strength of a whisky can affect its flavor on Behind the Label.
Links: Speed Rack | Dewar’s | Scotch Whisky Association | Distilled Spirits Council of the United States | Kentucky Bourbon Trail | Buffalo Trace | Fresh Bourbon Distilling Co. | Brough Brothers Bourbon | Horse Soldier Bourbon | Heaven’s Door | The Dalmore | Douglas Laing & Co. | Glendalough | Westland Distillery | Filson | Spirit of Speyside Festival | DramFest 2020 | DramFest American Whiskey Tasting | Nikka | Angel’s Envy | Phillips Fermentorium | Morgantown Whisky Guild | Woodford Reserve
World leaders will be in Glasgow later this year for the United Nations COP26 Climate Change Conference, and Scotch Whisky industry leaders plan to be ready. Not with drams, but with plans for a second decade of adapting whisky production to the needs of the changing climate while not ruining the whisky. The Scotch Whisky Association released its first environmental progress plan in 2009, and is now reviewing progress over the last decade with a goal of setting even more ambitious targets for the future. We’ll talk with CEO Karen Betts as part of our year-long look at the impact of climate change on whisky around the world.
In the news, the coronavirus outbreak in China is starting to have an impact on whisky-related events and travel – and there are fears that it could lead to lower whisky sales in the Asia-Pacific region. Ian Macleod Distillers has unveiled the first new Rosebank single malts since plans to reopen the distillery were announced. We’ll have the details and an update on construction at the distillery, along with the rest of the week’s whisky news and more!
Links: Scotch Whisky Association | The Drinks Business | Rosebank | Glenfiddich | Glenmorangie | Wolfburn | Kilbeggan | Jameson | Elijah Craig | High West | Sonoma Distilling Company | J. Rieger & Co. | DramFest 2020 Bourbon Tasting | Ardbeg | Laphroaig | “It’s Just the Booze Dancing” | Berry Bros. & Rudd | William Grant & Sons
The whisky industry has become collateral damage in the ongoing trade dispute between the U.S. and the European Union, with tit-for-tat trade tariffs making life miserable for whisky companies on both sides. This week, the Scotch Whisky Association estimated annual lost exports from the U.S. tariff on single malts could reach £100 million, and industry leaders are presenting a united front to demand that politicians on both sides work toward resolving the dispute. We’ll have an in-depth report on this week’s WhiskyCast, along with the rest of the week’s news. We’ll also announce February’s Whisky Club of the Month and take a look at why some whiskies can smell like burned matches on Behind the Label.
Links: Scotch Whisky Association | Speyside Distillery | Quest Brands | Distilled Spirits Council | Diageo | Suntory Holdings | Edrington | Goodridge & Williams | Rosebank | Angel’s Envy | Craigellachie | Yamazaki 55 | Highland Park | Jameson | Catoctin Creek | Sonoma Distilling | J. Rieger & Co. | Shelter Point Distillery | Wolfburn Distillery | Morgantown Whisky Guild | Westland Distillery | Tobermory
Is making whisky an art or a science? In “The Amber Light,” filmmaker Adam Park makes the argument that Scotch Whisky is an art as important to Scottish culture as writing, music, and other creative endeavours. Park worked in collaboration with veteran whisky writer Dave Broom, who stars in the film and wrote the screenplay. He joined us for this week’s WhiskyCast from Santa Barbara, California, where “The Amber Light” had its North American premiere at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival.
In the news, no new tariffs this week – but the aftermath of Brexit later this week could create even more concerns for whisky lovers. For Australian whisky makers, fires and drought remain very real concerns that make politics look minor – and Aussie distillers are teaming up to help rural communities affected by that country’s devastating bush fires. We’ll have details on the upcoming Aussie Spirit Auction and how you can take part.
Links: “The Amber Light” | Scotch Whisky Association | Speyside Distillery | Aussie Spirit Auction | 5Nines Distillery | Midleton Very Rare Dair Ghaelach | Tomatin | Wemyss Malts | Elijah Craig | Tincup Whiskey | Scotch Malt Whisky Society | Jack Daniel’s | Tobermory | anCnoc | Nagahama Distillery | Westland Distillery