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!

Polish Whisky Lovers Get Oldest Karuizawa Single Cask

karuizawa_1964bsThe oldest known whisky from the now-closed Karuizawa Distillery in Japan has been bottled exclusively for customers of a Polish wealth management firm. Number One Drinks Company acquired the final casks of Karuizawa in 2011, and Cask #3603 was matured for more than 48 years before it was bottled at Chichibu on December 24, 2012. It is said to be one of the few remaining casks of Karuizawa from the 1960’s, and was bottled at 57.7% ABV.

Wealth Solutions has acquired all 143 bottles of the 1964 Karuizawa Limited Edition for its clients. It’s the second cask the Warsaw-based firm has acquired for its clients as potential investments, following the acquisition of a 58-year-old Glenfarclas cask in 2012.

For my tasting notes on this whisky, please click here.

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Talisker Issues Storm Warning

Diageo’s Classic Malts range will be adding a new Talisker expression in early 2013, with plans to add more new Taliskers later this year. Talisker Storm will be available in selected European markets, and while it will be bottled at the distillery’s traditional strength of 45.8% ABV, will not carry an age statement.
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Maker’s Mark Changes Course

After a week of controversy surrounding plans to lower the bottling strength (ABV) of its flagship bourbon, Maker’s Mark has reversed the decision. In an email to Maker’s Mark Ambassadors members on Sunday, February 17, Maker’s Mark Chief Operating Officer Rob Samuels and Chairman Emeritus Bill Samuels Jr. apologized to the brand’s fans:
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Maker’s Mark Cuts Its Proof

For the first time since Bill Samuels Sr. introduced Maker’s Mark Bourbon more than 50 years ago, the whisky is being changed. Supply shortages have forced Maker’s to lower the alcohol by volume (ABV) level from 45% to 42%, which lowers the proof from 90 Proof to 84 Proof. In an interview with WhiskyCast’s Mark Gillespie, Maker’s Mark Chief Operating Officer Rob Samuels explains the reasons behind the move, and why he claims it won’t affect the taste of the whisky.

Editor’s note: This story was published on February 15, 2013. Two days later, Rob Samuels and Bill Samuels Jr. announced that Maker’s Mark would return to 45% ABV strength as of the next day’s bottling run. 

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A. Smith Bowman’s Truman Cox Passes Away

Truman Cox performs his barrel dance during the Kentucky Bourbon Festival in September, 2012. Truman passed away on February 9, 2013 following a short illness. February 10, 2013 – Truman Cox, the master distiller at Sazerac’s A. Smith Bowman Distillery in Fredericksburg, Virginia, passed away on Saturday, February 9, after a short illness. Truman had been at the Bowman distillery since 2011, after working as the Lead Chemist at Buffalo Trace in Kentucky since 2004.

In a statement, Sazerac officials said “Truman’s passion for our industry was evident to everyone who knew him and he left a notable and positive mark on our company in the time he was with us.”

That’s putting it mildly. Truman was one of these larger-than-life characters with a big heart and a bigger laugh. He had the ability to make you smile no matter how badly you felt, and his enthusiasm could fill an entire Bourbon warehouse, let alone a room. He performed his barrel dance routine annually at the Kentucky Bourbon Festival, even after leaving Buffalo Trace to move to Virginia, and I hope you’ll take a look at the WhiskyCast HD segment featuring his final barrel dance. It sums up Truman perfectly…full of life and joy, but making sure he shared the credit with those who helped him along the way.

Truman leaves behind his wife Susan and young daughter Emmy, and on behalf of the WhiskyCast community, I’d like to express our deep condolences to them and all of Truman’s colleagues in Fredericksburg and Frankfort.

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Maker’s Mark to Cut ABV Strength to 42%

A bottle of Maker's Mark Bourbon. Photo courtesy Maker's Mark. In what may well be the first major change to its flagship bourbon since Bill Samuels Sr. perfected his recipe for Maker’s Mark in the 1950’s, the distillery plans to reduce the bottling strength of Maker’s Mark to 42% ABV in an attempt to stretch existing supplies to meet demand.  The distillery has been trying to expand production for years, but with a lead time of around 6 years between adding production capacity and being able to bottle the final product, reducing the ABV was the final possible step, according to Maker’s Mark Chief Operating Officer Rob Samuels and Chairman Emeritus Bill Samuels, Jr.
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U.S. Spirits Sales Rise During 2012

DISCUS Chief Economist David Ozgo presents 2012 U.S. spirits sales data at a news briefing February 6, 2013.

DISCUS Chief Economist David Ozgo presents 2012 U.S. spirits sales data at a February 6 news briefing in New York City.

Spirits sales in the United States rose by 3% in volume during 2012, according to data released by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States today.  Revenue grew by 4.5%, largely on increased sales of whiskies and higher-end spirits in other categories.

The data is based on wholesale shipments from producers and importers to distributors, along with export sales. Bourbon and Tennessee Whiskies remained the largest-selling whisky category, with volume up 5.2% to 16.9 million 9-liter cases and revenue up by 7.3% to $2.2 billion. DISCUS reports 46 new Bourbons were introduced during 2012, with 3 flavored whiskeys joining the market.
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Midleton’s Barry Crockett Retiring After 47 Years

Midleton Distillery Master Distiller Barry Crockett has announced his plans to retire in March after 47 years. The announcement came days after he was named this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award winner in The Whisky Advocate’s annual awards. Editor John Hansell cited the Crockett family’s 70-year legacy in Irish Whiskey distilling, as well as Barry’s many achievements over the years.

Barry’s father Max was the longtime Master Distiller at what is now known as the Old Midleton Distillery in County Cork, and Barry was born in and grew up in the Distiller’s Cottage on the Midleton grounds. He succeeded his father in 1981, and has been responsible for shaping the entire range of whiskies for Irish Distillers, from the global favorite Jameson to the Midleton Very Rare range and the Single Pot Stills of Midleton range. In 2011, Barry was honored with his own whiskey as part of that range, the Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy (which happens to be my wife Christina’s personal favorite whisky of all time). That expression was also the first Irish Distillers expression to be named for an individual distiller since John Jameson.

Barry will be succeeded by Brian Nation, who has been Barry’s understudy for the past 10 years. Irish Distillers plans to honor Barry at a special dinner during the events surrounding the dedication of Midleton’s expansion in September.

If you’d like to hear my interview with Barry Crockett in the Distiller’s Cottage at Midleton from the fall of 2010, you’ll find it here in Episode 279 of WhiskyCast.

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Glenfarclas Releases Millennium Cask

The Glenfarclas "Last of the Millennium Cask" bottling.Glenfarclas has released a special “Last of the Millennium” bottling exclusively for visitors to the distillery in Speyside.

The cask was filled on December 31, 1999 by three generations of the Grant family:  George S. Grant, who passed away three years later, John L.S. Grant, the current chairman of the company, and George S. Grant, the sixth-generation member of the family currently serving as Brand Ambassador for Glenfarclas.

The cask was bottled at 56.8% ABV, and is available at the distillery for £59.99 per 1-litre bottle.


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Diageo Invests in Archive Expansion

Diageo plans to invest approximately $2.4 million to expand its company archives at the company’s facilities in Menstrie, Clackmannshire, Scotland.

The archive contains about 500,000 different items, ranging from vintage whisky bottlings to memorabilia and historical artifacts from Diageo’s facilities around the world.  The expansion will include a new reception and library area, along with additional storage space. The archive expansion is needed because of the need to store historical material linked to Diageo’s recent acquisitions, including the Scotch whiskies produced by India’s United Spirits. It’s not been decided whether the archive will house elements from Whyte & Mackay, since the United Spirits-owned unit is likely to be spun off as part of the acquisition and already maintains its own archives in Glasgow.

As we heard from Diageo’s Joanne McCutcher in Episode 325 (July, 2011), the Diageo archive is not generally open to the public, but is available for research by historians on an application-only basis. The archives supply historical material for the visitors centers at many of Diageo’s distilleries.

The project still requires approval from local officials.

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