Each week, we bring you the latest whisky news on WhiskyCast. Now, we’ll be bringing it to you as it happens here on our News Updates page!
July 19, 2017 – Wth Parker Beam’s passing in January of complications from ALS, this year’s release of Heaven Hill’s annual Parker’s Heritage Collection whiskey takes on a new meaning. The eleventh release in the series will be out in September, and will be an 11-year-old single barrel Bourbon produced with barrels from some of Parker Beam’s favorite warehouses in Deatsville, Kentucky.
“We have six different warehouse locations,” said Heaven Hill Master Distiller Denny Potter in a telephone interview. “It was certainly Parker’s favorite location…he picked a lot of good barrels out of that, so we thought that would be the best thing for us to do is to do the same thing, try to pick some really good barrels out of the Deatsville warehouse site, which is not a hard thing to do…but it was certainly in honor of him as well.” The Deatsville warehouses are located on the site of the old T.W. Samuels Distillery along Deatsville Road about halfway between Clermont and Bardstown in Nelson County.
As with all of the Parker’s Heritage Collection releases since 2013, Heaven Hill will make a donation for each bottle sold to the ALS Association in Parker Beam’s honor. When the company’s longtime master distiller was diagnosed with ALS in 2o13, Heaven Hill established the “Parker Beam’s Promise of Hope Fund” to raise funds for ALS research and patient care. Since then, the annual release of Parker’s Heritage Collection whiskies has raised more than $500,000 for the ALS Association.
The 2017 edition is bottled at 61% ABV (122 proof) with no chill-filtering, and will carry a recommended retail price of $129.99 when it reaches retailers in September. Previous editions have included the “Promise of Hope” Bourbon, along with a wheat whiskey, a straight malt whiskey, and last year’s dual bottlings of a pair of 24-year-old Bourbons.
Links: Heaven Hill
July 17, 2017 – Quintessential Brands has sold a 25 percent stake in its Irish Whiskey subsidiary to Stock Spirits, the London-based drinks company with an extensive presence in Eastern Europe. The €18.3 million ($21 million USD) investment in Quintessential Brands Ireland Whiskey Limited (QBIW) will allow Stock Spirits to take advantage of increasing global demand for Irish Whiskey, one of the fastest-growing segments of the whisky industry.
In a news release, the two companies said the investment will be used to finance completion of work on the Dublin Liberties Distillery, which is currently being built in Dublin and scheduled for completion in the spring of 2018. Funds from the investment will also be used for advertising and promotion of QBIW’s The Dubliner and The Dublin Liberties Irish whiskies, which are currently blended by Quintessential using whiskey stocks sourced from other distilleries.
This is not the first venture into whisky for Stock Spirits, which distributes whiskies produced by Diageo, Beam Suntory, and Distill in select markets. In 2010, the company released its own Hammer Head Czech single malt distilled in the former Czechoslovakia at the state-owned Pradlo Distillery. That whisky was distilled in 1989 shortly before the end of Communism, and was discovered nearly 20 years later when Oaktree Capital Management acquired the distillery’s owner, Stock Plzeň, and merged it into today’s Stock Spirits. Hammer Head’s 21, 23, and 25-year-old bottlings can still be found to this day, primarily in the travel retail market.
Quintessential was founded in 2011 by former Campari CEO Enzo Vision and former investment banker Warren Scott. The company’s Irish unit also produces several brands of Irish cream liqueurs, while its G&J Distillers unit in Great Britain produces a range of gins and its L&L unit in France makes liqueurs and brandies.
July 12, 2017 – Another major spirits company has entered the American artisan distilling market, as Möet Hennessy has acquired the Woodinville Whiskey Company in Washington. Founders Orlin Sorenson and Brett Carlile agreed to sell their distillery in Woodinville, a winery-filled suburb northeast of Seattle, for an undisclosed amount. Both will continue to oversee daily operations at the distillery.
“The company that we’re joining is second to none, and couldn’t be a better fit for us going forward,” Sorenson said in a telephone interview from New York City, where the deal was announced at Möet Hennessy USA’s annual conference. “We’ve been approached as the category’s grown and become interesting to the larger players in the industry…with Möet Hennessy, the way that they were so aligned with our vision, how we aligned with leadership and where they wanted to take things, and looking at their portfolio kind of spoke to us…lip service is easy, but when you look at the brands that they hold, these are brands that have been around for hundreds of years. They’ve never done anything in the U.S., let alone American whiskey, so it was just one of those opportunities that we felt was right,” he said.
Sorenson and Carlile founded Woodinville Whiskey in 2010 under the tutelage of veteran master distiller and consultant Dave Pickerell, and their first 5-year-old straight Bourbon took top honors in the 2016 American Distilling Institute competition. Until now, their whiskies have only been sold in Washington, but Sorenson said the acquisition will allow them to begin spreading distribution into other markets.
“We have more whiskey coming to market…five, six years ago when we were starting to lay this stuff up, we were slowly increasing production, and so every quarter we have more and more whiskey coming to market,” Sorenson said, admitting that they have an eye on some specific markets they want to expand into without naming names. In a news release, Möet Hennessy CEO Christophe Navarre cited Woodinville’s potential for expanded distribution through the company’s domestic and international networks as a key reason for the acquisition.
Möet Hennessy owns Glenmorangie and Ardbeg distilleries and their single malt Scotch Whisky brands, Belvedere Vodka, and some of France’s legendary wine and spirits brands, including Hennessy Cognac, Dom Pérignon, Möet & Chandon, and Chateau d’Yquem. It is the wine and spirits unit of LVMH Möet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE, the Paris-based luxury goods conglomerate led by the Arnault family. LVMH owns 66 percent of the drinks unit, while the remaining 34 percent is owned by Diageo.
This is the second major deal involving a Washington craft distillery and a French partner in the past year. In December, Rémy Cointreau acquired Seattle’s Westland Distillery and its portfolio of American single malt whiskies.
“It’s a special day for us, but it really is kind of a special day for Washington whiskey,” Sorenson said with a laugh. “People are starting to think this is for real.”
July 12, 2017 – It didn’t take long for Scotch Whisky veteran Billy Walker to get back to work after turning over blending responsibilities at Brown-Forman’s distilleries in Scotland to Rachel Barrie this spring. Walker has formed The Glenallachie Consortium with longtime colleagues Trisha Savage and Graham Stevenson, and they have reached a deal with Chivas Brothers Pernod Ricard to acquire the Glenallachie Distillery in Speyside for an undisclosed amount.
Savage was a key member of the team Billy Walker assembled at the BenRiach Distillery Company after he and a pair of South African investors first acquired BenRiach Distillery from Chivas Brothers in 2004. They later went on to buy GlenDronach and Glenglassaugh distilleries before agreeing to sell the company to Brown-Forman last year for £285 million GBP (around $416 million USD). Stevenson has been the managing director for the Inver House Distillers unit of International Beverage since 2000, and confirmed in an email that he will be leaving Inver House at the end of September to join the new venture on a full-time basis.
“It will be a wrench but the time is right and this is an opportunity which I simply couldn’t turn down. It will be great fun being a part of a newly created boutique Scotch whisky company, owned and controlled by Scots passionate about the category and starting with an almost blank canvass,” Stevenson said.
The sale also includes the McNair’s and White Heather blended Scotch Whisky brands and an undisclosed inventory of Glenallachie’s casks, according to a news release, which defined the inventory as relevant to “support future development of those brands.” The deal is subject to regulatory approval, and is expected to close by the end of the year.
With the sale, Chivas Brothers will own 13 malt whisky distilleries in Scotland, remaining second only to Diageo’s 28 malt distilleries. Glenallachie is located near the Speyside town of Aberlour, and its whisky is used primarily for blending purposes with a key role in the Clan Campbell blended Scotch brand. It has been available in limited amounts as a single malt through independent bottlers, and occasionally turned up as a part of the Chivas Brothers Cask Strength series of bottlings available at the company’s distillery visitors centers in Scotland.
Chivas Brothers did not make anyone available for interviews, but provided this statement from a company spokesperson by email:
“As part of our commitment to operational excellence we undertake continual reviews of our production and manufacturing capabilities. Wherever it makes business sense to do so, we will rationalise our estate and in this instance we have taken the decision to sell our Glenallachie distillery. We will continue to focus our investment across our estate, and currently have significant expansion projects in progress at The Glenlivet Distillery and our Kilmalid manufacturing site in Dumbarton. Throughout this process our employees have been our first priority, and we can confirm that all existing permanent employees will remain contracted to Chivas Brothers if they wish to do so.”
This story will be updated with more details as necessary.
Editor’s note: This story was updated with comments from Graham Stevenson of The Glenallachie Consortium.
Links: Chivas Brothers
July 11, 2017 – The future of Nant Distillery appears to be clearer now that a tentative agreement has been reached between the distillery’s receivers and Australian Whisky Holdings for the remainder of the distillery’s assets. In a news release issued through the Australian Stock Exchange, Australian Whisky Holdings (AWY) announced that it plans to acquire Nant’s distilling equipment and intellectual property for $1.7 million AUD ($1.3 million USD) from Eclipx, the industrial finance firm which forced Nant into receivership in March. Eclipx had provided financing to Nant founders Keith and Margaret Batt for the equipment when the distillery was originally built, and was one of many creditors left holding outstanding debts from Nant.
The terms of the agreement require other secured creditors to agree on the sale of the distillery’s assets, with Australian Whisky Holdings required to make its initial payment of $880,000 AUD on July 31 and the balance due over the next two years. Australian Whisky Holdings acquired the Nant Estate in Tasmania from the Batts’ Nant Group/NAWParties in February, but the two sides walked away from a separate deal for the distilling equipment and assets, leaving AWY in the position of owning the distillery’s real estate without any ownership of the equipment on the site. According to the news release, the terms of the deal between Australian Whisky Holdings and Eclipx’s receivers was very similar to the original agreement for those assets that fell apart in February. In an email to WhiskyCast, FTI Consulting receiver Quentin Olde said that “this is a commercial settlement to a complex matter.” “We’re pleased to have reached agreement, and look forward to the transaction completing at the end of July.”
The agreement will allow Australian Whisky Holdings to resume whisky production at the distillery, including the use of barrels filled with whisky purchased by investors as part of Nant’s barrel investment program. As previously reported, Nant offered investors the opportunity to buy barrels filled with new make spirit and sell them back to Nant at maturity with a guaranteed 9.5% compounded annual interest rate.
However, Australian Whisky Holdings CEO Chris Malcolm disclosed that an audit of the barrel inventory found at least 700 barrels that had been sold to investors but never filled with whisky, an accusation that Keith and Margaret Batt denied at the time. Since then, AWY has been negotiating with individual barrel investors to acquire the rights to that maturing whisky. The task has been complicated by the fact that those investors own the spirit in the barrels, but the physical barrels are actually owned by an outside company and leased to yet another Nant Group corporate entity (NAW Barrel Holdings Pty Ltd) under separate receivership.
The agreement for the distillery’s assets also appears to clear up one outstanding question about Nant’s future. In the news release, Australian Whisky Holdings indicated that it intends to keep selling the whisky distilled at the Nant Estate under the Nant brand. Earlier this year, Malcolm had suggested that future bottlings might be sold under a different brand because of the controversy surrounding the Nant brand name.
WhiskyCast has reached out to Australian Whisky Holdings and the Batts for interviews. This story will be updated as necessary.
Links: Australian Whisky Holdings
July 7, 2017 – U.S. President Donald Trump’s threats to imports of European-produced steel could spark a backlash against Bourbon and other American whiskies by the European Union. The president is in Germany for this weekend’s G20 summit, and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told reporters the bloc will fight back if Trump moves forward with new tariffs on steel imports. “We will react with counter measures within a few days, we do not need two months,” Juncker said.
According to the Financial Times, American whiskies are one of the potential targets if EU officials retaliate, along with orange juice and dairy products. Since the U.S. is not a major exporter of steel, the Times reports Europe would target politically sensitive exports, and most Bourbon exported to Europe comes from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s home state of Kentucky. European officials in Hamburg for the summit declined to comment on specifics in the Financial Times report, according to CNN, which quoted Juncker as saying he and his colleagues are in “battle mood.”
“Global markets are increasingly important to Kentucky Bourbon,” said Kentucky Distillers Association president Eric Gregory, who has already reached out to members of Kentucky’s Congressional delegation to discuss the European threat. “We worked hard over the past ten years at least, if not longer, to enact free trade agreements, remove barriers and discriminatory tariffs and other policies that really have put Bourbon for years at a competitive disadvantage,” he said in a telephone interview.
In recent years, Bourbon and other American whiskies have benefitted from free trade, with Bourbon specifically making up 20 percent of the $654 million in U.S. spirits exports to the European Union last year, according to data from the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States. Four current European Union members – Germany, Spain, Great Britain, and the Netherlands, are among the top ten export markets for Bourbon, Tennessee Whisky, and other American-made spirits. In a news release, the Council argued against any targeting of spirits in a trade dispute over steel, saying that “any efforts to impose retaliatory tariffs on U.S. spirits exports to the EU will harm consumers, producers and the U.S. and EU spirits sectors.”
The Trump Administration is considering punitive tariffs on imported steel, claiming that relying on foreign steel for military and infrastructure projects threatens U.S. national security. Previously imposed anti-dumping sanctions have largely targeted Chinese-made steel, and imports from China have declined in recent years according to the Financial Times report. European Union members account for around 11 percent of global steel production, and shipped 3.2 million tons of steel to America last year.