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”.
Mickey Heads retired recently after 13 years as Ardbeg’s distillery manager and four decades of work at distilleries on Islay and Jura. Now, Ardbeg has released a special whisky in Mickey’s honor, and the label for Arrrrrrrdbeg features him as a pirate! We’ll catch up with Mickey Heads on this week’s WhiskyCast In-Depth and share tasting notes for his whisky, too. In the news, U.S. tariffs on single malt Scotch whiskies have cost Scotland’s distillers £500 million in lost sales, and industry leaders are looking to the Biden Administration for help. There may be help on the way for struggling bar and restaurant owners in the U.S. to cover costs from the Covid-19 pandemic, and on Behind the Label, we’ll look at one of whisky’s oldest questions: Was whisky invented in Ireland or Scotland?
Links: Ardbeg | Scotch Whisky Association | Rosebank | Redbreast | Tales of the Cocktail | New Riff Distilling | Distilled Spirits Council | Whisky Magazine | Bowmore | Compass Box | Widow Jane | Tullamore D.E.W.
Hong Kong has become a key center for the world’s whisky makers, and we had more evidence of that this week. Gordon & MacPhail’s new 72-year-old Glen Grant single malt won’t hit the market until the end of March, but one bottle went on the auction block Friday at Bonhams in Hong Kong. We’ll talk with Hong Kong whisky importer and retailer John Rhodes about that whisky and the growing role Hong Kong plays in the whisky business on WhiskyCast In-Depth. In the news, the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival is joining the growing list of spring whisky events either being postponed or cancelled because of the Covid-19 pandemic, with plans to move this year’s festival to November. We’ll also have the latest data on how the pandemic and tariffs combined to cut into global whisky sales this year, and why the U.S. market may have been an outlier…and on Behind the Label, some sage advice on how we could all learn a lesson from the help distillers give each other.
Links: Caskells Hong Kong | Bonhams | Gordon & MacPhail | Spirit of Speyside Festival | Diageo | Distilled Spirits Council | Koval Distillery | Brown-Forman | Beam Suntory | Bowmore | Suntory | Buffalo Trace | Lagavulin | Balcones | BenRiach | Berry Bros. & Rudd | Scotch Trooper’s GoFund Me Campaign
For the second straight year, Islay’s biggest party of the year has been cancelled because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Fèis Ile, the Islay Festival of Malt & Music, will be replaced this May by a series of virtual events because of the uncertainty created by the pandemic and travel restrictions within the United Kingdom. We’ll talk with Ben Shakespeare of Islay’s Fèis Committee about the decision to cancel five months before festival week, along with the threat going ahead with the festival could pose to the island’s residents. In the news, MGP is buying Lux Row Distillers owner Luxco and all of its spirits brands for $475 million, while business leaders from both the U.S. and Europe are calling on the Biden Administration and European Union leaders to end their trade disputes. Finally, January 25th is celebrated worldwide as Burns Night honoring the Scottish poet Robert Burns, and we’ll take a look at how he might have fit into today’s world on Behind the Label.
Links: Islay Festival of Malt & Music | MGP Ingredients | Scotch Whisky Association | Laphroaig | Whisky Auctioneer | Ardbeg | Dewar’s | Douglas Laing & Co. | Rock Town Distillery | Bruichladdich | Islay Resilience Fund | Glasgow Girl
It’s been a little more than three years since Billy Walker and his partners acquired Scotland’s GlenAllachie Distillery from Chivas Brothers. What had previously been single malts destined for blending use are now on store shelves and bars around the world…with Walker’s own unique touch honed by years of making and blending whiskies. Now, the GlenAllachie team is turning to two legacy brands that were part of the distillery deal, McNair’s and White Heather, with plans to make them relevant once again. We’ll talk with Billy Walker on this week’s WhiskyCast In-Depth.
In the news, whisky industry leaders are hoping the change in U.S. administrations will lead to a removal of tariffs on whiskies and other spirits, along with economic help targeting the nation’s hard-hit bars and restaurants. A Virginia distillery and its founder are facing felony charges after being indicted by a grand jury for allegedly dumping distillery waste water into a stream following a two-year investigation, and on Behind the Label, we’ll solve the mystery of a ghostly “whisky mist.”
Links: The GlenAllachie | American Distilled Spirits Alliance | U.S. Bartenders Guild Foundation | Filibuster Distillery | Virginia Attorney General’s Office | Catoctin Creek Distilling | Kentucky Distillers Association | Bourbon Women | Westland Distillery | Cooper Spirits | Coalition Whiskey | Tomintoul | Teeling Whiskey Company | Killowen Distillery | Suntory Whisky | Duncan Taylor & Co. | The Presidential Dram | Balblair | Single Malts of Scotland | Maverick Drinks
Irish Whiskey makers once dominated the world with their single pot still whiskies, but the collapse of Ireland’s whiskey industry a century ago closed dozens of distilleries and consigned their unique recipes to history. Irish Whiskey historian Fionnán O’Connor has been working with Boann Distillery in County Meath to produce spirit using many of the recipes he’s uncovered as part of his doctoral degree research at Dublin’s Trinity College. Those recipes will be put to the test in the coming weeks in blind tastings with today’s Irish Whiskey distillers, as Fionnán tells us on this week’s WhiskyCast In-Depth. We’ll also have the week’s whisky news, tasting notes, and some of your unique ways to describe your favorite whiskies, too!
Links: Boann Distillery | Lindores Abbey Distillery | Whisky.Auction | Aberlour | Ezra Brooks | Filibuster Distillery | George Dickel | Cask 88 | Oban | Glenfarclas
Welcome to a new year, fans of the Water of Life! That’s exactly what we’ll be talking about on this week’s WhiskyCast In-Depth. “The Water of Life” is a new Scotch Whisky documentary film that will debut later this month online after having its premiere delayed because of the pandemic. Director Greg Swartz joins us to discuss plans for the premiere, including tasting kits geared to specific parts of the film. In the news, 2020 ended with a busy week whisky-wise as the U.S. Food & Drug Administration tried to hit distillers who produced hand sanitizer during the pandemic with a $14,000 fee – only to get slapped down by the Trump Administration…while the TTB opened up the U.S. whisky market by allowing imports of Europe’s standard 700m whiskies for the first time. We’ll have all of the news, including a royal honor for “The Nose.”
Links: “The Water of Life” | Distilled Spirits Council | St. Augustine Distillery | American Craft Spirits Association | Catoctin Creek Distilling | Tax & Trade Bureau | Douglas Laing & Co. | Heaven Hill | Whyte & Mackay | Michter’s | The Dalmore | Booker’s Bourbon | Firestone & Robertson
2020 will not be remembered well by many people, but there have been a few bright spots for whisky lovers. One is the arrival of the first official distillery bottling from Kentucky’s Castle & Key Distillery, the 3-year-old Restoration Rye. The historic Old Taylor Distillery had been closed since 1972 and left to fall into ruins when Will Arvin and Wes Murry bought the 113-acre site in 2014. Six years, millions of dollars, and a new name later, one of the early landmarks of Kentucky Bourbon is back. We’ll talk with Wes Murry and Will Arvin, along with Brett Connors and Jon Brown from the distillery team on this week’s WhiskyCast In-Depth. In the news, U.S. President Donald Trump has now signed a massive federal spending and Covid-19 relief package into law, including a permanent reduction in federal excise taxes for small-scale distillers. We’ll have the details and the rest of the week’s whisky news, including the passing of a Scotch Whisky icon.
Links: Castle & Key | American Craft Spirits Association | Brough Brothers Distillery | The Macallan | Sailor’s Home | Big Nose Kate Western Whiskey | Alberta Premium | M.B. Roland | William Grant & Sons | Pinhook Bourbon | Johnnie Walker | The Glenrothes
Johnnie Walker is marking its 200th anniversary in 2020, and Diageo’s Dr. Nick Morgan joins us to discuss his new book on the history of one of Scotch Whisky’s most popular brands worldwide: “A Long Stride.” We also have breaking news heading into the holiday week, as it appears the U.S. Congress will make a federal excise tax break for distillers permanent. The details are still tentative, and we have the latest as of air time. We’ll also have tasting notes and the answer to a trivia question – which country has more whisky distilleries: Ireland or France!
Links: Johnnie Walker | Distilled Spirits Council | WhistlePig Whiskey | Lindores Abbey Distillery | Tipperary Boutique Distillery | Hunter Laing & Co. | Douglas Laing & Co. | Compass Box | Barrell Bourbon | Glenfiddich | “The Water of Life” | “The Man Who Walked Around the World” | Crown Royal | Frey Ranch Distillers | Alfred Giraud French Malt Whisky | French Whisky Federation
85 years ago today, the five Shapira brothers and their partners opened Heaven Hill Distillery in Bardstown, Kentucky. The Shapira family is still in charge today, with second-generation company president Max Shapira leading the company. We’ll talk with Max about Bourbon then and now, including the company’s recent expansion into Canadian Whisky with last year’s purchase of Black Velvet and its distillery in Lethbridge, Alberta. In the news, the clock is ticking more loudly as the deadline gets closer for Congress to extend a critical federal tax break for small-scale distillers, and we’ll talk with one distiller who says the damage may already have been done. There’s also hope that a move in London might help ease some of the trade tensions affecting the whisky industry, while new data shows a significant decline in alcohol sales worldwide this year because of the Covid-19 pandemic. We’ll have the rest of the week’s news and much more on this week’s WhiskyCast!
Links: Heaven Hill | Black Button Distilling | The IWSR | Just-Drinks.com | Karuizawa Distillers | Booker’s Bourbon | Gordon & MacPhail | Tomintoul | Royal Mile Whiskies | Alberta Premium | Maker’s Mark | The Lee Initiative | Far North Spirits | Ironroot Republic | Paul John Whisky
With more people looking at rare whiskies as investments, more of the world’s top auction houses are adding spirits experts to their in-house wine teams. That was just one of the moves Sotheby’s made over the last two years after whiskies and other spirits started making up a larger share of bidding at its wine auctions around the world. Now, Sotheby’s holds separate whisky auctions in London, New York, and Hong Kong – with three auctions last month combining for more than $4.6 million in bids. Jamie Ritchie heads up the Sotheby’s wine and spirits team, and joins us on this week’s WhiskyCast In-Depth.
In the news, whisky makers around the UK and Europe are just as nervous about New Year’s Eve as their American counterparts, since the arrival of 2021 means the final split between Great Britain and the European Union. As of now, there’s no trade deal between the two sides once the final Brexit split happens, and that could lead to all kinds of issues for whisky makers. We’ll have that story, along with a new report on what’s been a history-making decade for the Irish Whiskey industry, the week’s new whiskies, and December’s Whisky Club of the Month.
Links: Sotheby’s | Drinks Ireland/Irish Whiskey Association | Walsh Whiskey Company | Elixir Distillers | Heaven Hill | James B. Beam Distilling Co. | Kentucky Bourbon Festival | Woodford Reserve | The Glenturret | The Balvenie | Victoria Caledonian Distillery | Dingle Distillery | PM Spirits | Luca Mariano | That Boutique-y Whisky Company | Single Cask Nation