Each week, we bring you the latest whisky news on WhiskyCast, but a lot can happen during the week. Now, you can keep up with whisky news as it happens here on WhiskyCast.com!

Diageo Releases Second Edition in Johnnie Walker Explorers’ Club Series

Johnnie Walker Explorers' Club: The Gold RouteMarch 7, 2013 – The second edition in the Johnnie Walker Explorers’ Club series of travel retail releases is now available worldwide. “The Gold Route” joins “The Spice Road”, which was launched in November.

The Gold Route (not to be confused with Gold Label or Gold Label Reserve) was inspired by voyages taken by the Walker family and its agents through Central and South America, with a blend emphasizing tropical fruit flavors in balance with the traditional Johnnie Walker smokiness. It will be available in 1-liter bottles (40% ABV) at a suggested price of $95.

The third and final release in the Explorers’ Club Series, “The Royal Route”, will be available this summer.

Links: Johnnie Walker

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Jefferson’s Presidential Select Bourbon Reaches “Legal Age”

Jefferson’s Presidential Select, produced by Castle Brands, is releasing a new 21-year-old Bourbon with limited availability starting April 1, 2013. The whiskey comes from an unspecified distillery and casks ranging in age from 21 to 24 years old.
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Heaven Hill Unveils Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Bourbon

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof BourbonHeaven Hill is shipping a limited-edition release of its Elijah Craig Bourbon to retailers in the U.S. this month. Elijah Craig Barrel Proof will be at cask-strength and not chill-filtered, and while ABV levels will vary from batch to batch, the initial release will be bottled at 67.1% ABV (134.2 proof), making it one of the strongest Bourbons on the market.

In a news release, Heaven Hill’s Susan Wahl said the new Bourbon will hit the right sweet spots for Bourbon lovers, with barrel-proof bottling, 12 years of maturation, no chill-filtering, and very small batches of barrel dumps.

Links: Heaven Hill | Elijah Craig

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Ichiro Akuto’s Japanese Whiskies Coming to U.S. Market

Japanese whisky maker Ichiro Akuto has reached an agreement that American whisky lovers have been waiting for for years. In an email exchange this weekend, he advised that he has agreed to an import agreement with Chicago-based Tenzing Wine & Spirits.

(Update: Tenzing’s Ken Frederickson told WhiskyCast in an email that his company will assist with the rollout, but the actual importer of record will be New York City-based Domaine Select Wine & Spirits. )

Akuto’s family has made sake in Japan for four centuries, and his family opened the Hanyu Distillery in 1941. The distillery’s owners stopped producing at Hanyu in 2000, and dismantled the stills in 2004. Akuto was able to acquire the remaining stocks of Hanyu single malt and the distilling equipment, and opened his own Chichibu distillery in 2008.

In 2011, he released the last expressions from the Hanyu stocks, along with Ichiro’s Malt: Chichibu the First One, the initial 3-year-old single malt from his new distillery. Pending U.S. label approval, he advises that that will be the first of his whiskies to be available in the U.S. market.

To hear Ichiro Akuto’s interview from the autumn of 2011, listen to WhiskyCast Episode 342. For tasting notes on Ichiro’s Malt: Chichibu the First One, please check the Tasting Notes section.

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Ranger Creek to Release Rimfire Smoked Texas Whiskey

San Antonio-based Ranger Creek Brewing & Distilling will release Rimfire Smoked  Texas Whiskey on March 21, with a series of tasting events in San Antonio, Austin, Houston, and Dallas. Rimfire is the second release in Ranger Creek’s Small Caliber Series of whiskies.

The single malt whiskey is a lightly-smoked whiskey using mesquite wood supplied by a local cattle farmer in exchange for Ranger Creek’s spent grains. Ranger Creek converted a 20-foot-long shipping container into a giant smoker to hand-smoke its barley before mashing. Ranger Creek uses the smoker to make its Mesquite Smoked Porter beer, and uses the same recipe for Rimfire without the hops.

Fewer than 500 cases of Rimfire will be available in various Texas markets. Details on the Rimfire tasting events are available in the Calendar of Events.

Links: Ranger Creek Brewing & Distilling

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Jim Beam Launches Jacob’s Ghost White Whiskey

Jim Beam has entered the “white whiskey” category popular with bartenders by launching “Jacob’s Ghost”, named in honor of Jacob (Boehm) Beam, the Beam family’s founding distiller.

Unlike other white whiskeys, which are primarily “new make” spirit straight off the still with minimal aging in wood, Jacob’s Ghost is matured for a year in new charred oak barrels, then filtered to remove the color while leaving the taste of slightly more mature whiskey intact.
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Dickel Reality Show Hits Hulu

Diageo’s George Dickel Tennessee Whiskey has teamed up with the producers of reality shows “Deadliest Catch” and “Ice Road Truckers” for a reality series to be shown on the subscription-based online video service Hulu.com.

“Raising the Bar” will feature six teams of craftsmen from the Kansas City area trying to build unique bars, with the projects ranging from a bar crafted from thousands of metal washers to one using the front end of a vintage car. The goal is to build a bar ready to pour a shot of George Dickel in eight hours or less.

The series is produced by Original Productions, and hosted by Diageo Master of Whiskey Gerry Graham and former Cincinnati Reds pitcher turned radio talk show host Rob Dibble.

Links: Diageo | George Dickel

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Scotch Whisky Industry Boiling Over Proposed Water Limits

The Scottish Parliament has approved legislation banning industrial firms from using more than 10 million liters of water per day in an attempt to conserve water resources. However, the Scotch Whisky Association is claiming that plan could hurt the whisky industry’s ability to expand.

In a BBC News story, the SWA’s Gavin Hewitt expressed disappointment that the whisky industry was not exempted from the law, nor was it consulted on the potential impact.

Currently, no distillery uses that much water on a daily basis, but Hewitt believes it could set a precedent for future limit. Distilleries use large amounts of water in making whisky, but much of it is returned to its source almost immediately after being used for cooling.

Scottish Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon pledged to work with the whisky industry and other stakeholders as regulations to implement the new law are drawn up.

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Beam Sued for $100 Million Over Irish Whiskey Supplies

March 4, 2013 – Beam Inc. has been sued in federal court by Sidney Frank Importing Co. over a contract to supply bulk whiskey used for the Michael Collins Irish Whiskey brand. Sidney Frank is accusing Beam of breaching a contract it inherited in the December 2011 acquisition of Ireland’s Cooley Whiskey Company.

According to Law360.com, the lawsuit alleges that Beam and its Cooley unit are trying to rid the market of the Michael Collins brand in favor of its own Kilbeggan brand. Cooley supplies Sidney Frank with whiskey for Michael Collins under a long-term supply contract negotiated with the former owners of Cooley, an investor group led by John Teeling.

The lawsuit claims the Teeling group, which is not named in the suit, consistently maintained that Cooley had enough production capacity to supply whiskey for Michael Collins “well into the future.” However, after Beam acquired Cooley, that relationship changed, and Sidney Frank now accuses Beam of monopolizing Cooley’s production capacity for Kilbeggan and its other company-owned brands. The lawsuit also alleges that Beam is trying to undermine Sidney Frank’s relationships with distributors by telling them that “Michael Collins is going away.”

Beam’s Clarkson Hine told Law360.com that the company won’t discuss the claims of the lawsuit, but that Beam is confident in its position and expects to prevail. Spokesmen for Sidney Frank declined to comment.

This is not the first instance where Beam has cut off supplies of bulk whiskey from Cooley to outside producers. The owner of Slane Castle Irish Whiskey complained last year that Beam/Cooley refused to supply whiskey for his brand last year after his supply contract expired.

Links: Law360 | Beam | Sidney Frank

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Glenmorangie Invites Fans to Design New Dram

Glenmorangie is kicking off a new Cask Masters program this weekend at the Universal Whisky Experience in Las Vegas, as well as through the Glenmorangie web site.  The program will allow whisky connoisseurs to help shape the direction of a new Glenmorangie expression to be released in late 2014.

In a phone interview with WhiskyCast’s Mark Gillespie from the program’s kickoff event in London, Dr. Bill Lumsden of Glenmorangie explained “rather than always having me selecting the whiskies, which has pretty much always happened until now, I’ve got a few projects under development at the moment and they’re being offered up to consumers…and it’s up to them to make the final choice.” Participants in the Cask Masters program will select the whisky from three different choices, along with its final name and package design.
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