First 'Tasting Notes' posted for the new year

Screen shot 2014-01-01 at 6.33.13 PMI just posted reviews of the latest, brilliantly-conceived single malt Scotch from Glenmorangie's Private Edition series and for a bargain-priced Rkatciteli wine from the Republic of Macedoni.

Just click here to go to my DOWD'S TASTING NOTES blog where you will find those reviews and dozens of others on wines and spirits from around the world.

And, please, feel free to comment on reviews of any products you've personally sampled.

Scottish distiller makes big move for attention

Most distilleries roll out new offerings one at a time. The BenRiach Distillery, one of Scotland's internationally lesser known operations, is trying for the spotlight with a four-item rollout to U.S. markets.

The company, founded in 1898, this week announced the marketing move. The BenRiach, meaning “The Hill of the Red Deer” in Scots Gaelic, distillery is located in the foothills of the Grampian mountains in the northeast Speyside region of Scotland. It was acquired in 2004 by Billy Walker, a veteran of the Scotch whisky industry. It has an inventory of casks that date to 1966.

Here are Walker's descriptions of the four expressions, being imported by Anchor Distilling Company of San Francisco:
• The BenRiach Horizons 12 Year Old Triple Distilled (50% ABV, suggested retail price $79.99) -- Distilled three times before it is aged for 12 years. The resulting spirit features a nose of roasted almonds and Brazil nuts, hot freshly buttered scones topped with clotted cream, and sweet heather honey; on the palate, Horizons has huge nutty characteristics balanced by a slice of sweet, creamy oak and honey.

• The BenRiach Solstice 2nd Edition 17 Year Old (50% ABV, SRP $99.99) showcases the distillery’s ability to distill whisky from both styles of malted barley – peated and non-peated. Like the first edition, it has been distilled from heavily peated malted barley before it is matured in ex-bourbon casks and finished in tawny port casks. On the nose, this Solstice features an aroma of stewed strawberries, blackberries and red currants, locked together by a muscular peaty blast, lending traces of fortified wine and grape qualities; on the palate, dry roasted nutty notes give way to heavy peat with subtle hints of dried raisins and candied fruit, culminating in a smooth, long finish.

• The BenRiach Septendecim 17 Year Old Peated Single Malt (46% ABV, SRP $79.99) is the latest addition to the distiller's peated range. It is non chill-filtered and matured in ex-bourbon casks to create a bold and intense expression. On the nose, Septendecim is a robust mix of fresh peaty aromas constructed around a central core of apples and toasted nuts dowsed in wild mountain honey; on the palate, the peaty heart is united with honey-infused raisins, roasted nuts and a luxurious leather impression.

• The BenRiach Authenticus 25 Year Old Peated Single Malt (46% ABV, SRP $249.99) completes the peated range in full-bodied, audacious style. On the nose, Authenticus exhibits elegant aromas of ripe pineapple, fresh mountain herbs and a profusion of sweet peat, producing a pungent blast of peat smoke; on the palate, the fusion of rich peat and smoldering embers are bound together by fresh herbs – oregano, aniseed and chicory – concluding with a rush of sweet, wild honey for a powerful, long-lasting impression.


Proposals aim to change Oregon's liquor sales scene

From the StatesmanJournal.com
Grocery stores could start stocking their shelves with liquor next year or liquor store agents could start earning more more if a set of proposals pushed by Oregon’s Liquor Control Commission gains traction in the February legislative session.

The four-member group voted unanimously Friday in favor of asking lawmakers to either invest in or reform Oregon’s liquor system.

“We didn’t formalize yet what we are going to ask,” OLCC Chairman Rob Patridge said. “We think it’s important that the legislature makes at least one of these items a priority.”

Liquor stores in Oregon are privately owned, but the alcohol on their shelves is owned by the state with retailers getting a percentage of each sale. Most of the state's 248 OLCC stores can only sell distilled spirits, but a decision by the commission in September allowed store owners to apply for licenses to sell wine and beer.

That upset grocery and convenience store owners, and the Northwest Grocery Association floated a ballot measure for 2014 to privatize Oregon liquor sales. The group unsuccessfully pushed for similar privatization legislation during the 2013 session.
Go here for the full story.


Flavored whiskies are picking up steam

The aroma of a spirit can be a real fooler. Take the new Jack Daniel’s Winter Jack Tennessee Cider, for example. Nosing a just-poured sample, I could have sworn it was simply a delicate apple cider that would quietly touch my palate and quickly dissipate.


Go to Dowd's Tasting Notes for my take on this new product.

Meanwhile, here's the latest on the flavored whiskey front. Beam Inc. has released a Red Stag Hardcore Cider. It is infused with natural flavors of apple cider and vanilla to target, says the company, “those who haven’t considered bourbon before.”

Other recent flavored spirits releases include Knob Creek Smoked Maple Bourbon, Paddy Irish Whiskey BeeSting and Devil’s Apple, and Smirnoff Wild Honey and Cinna-Sugar Twist.

The new Hardcore Cider joins the Beam portfolio that includes Red Stag Black Cherry, Spiced Cinnamon and Honey Tea.

 “Since its history-making introduction in 2009, Red Stag has helped fuel rapid growth of flavor innovation in the category,” said Chris Bauder, general manager of whiskies at Beam Inc. ” … [T]he Red Stag line … has seen double-digit growth every year.”

 It is bottled at 80 proof (40% abv) and sells for a suggested retail price of $17.99 for the 750ml bottle.


Distilling icon Lincoln Henderson dies

The late Lincoln Henderson
LOUISVILLE, KY -- Lincoln Henderson, a master distiller who helped create the Woodford Reserve brand, has died.

A statement from Angel's Envy, which Henderson came out of retirement in 2006 to help launch for Brown-Forman, said Henderson had died. It did not mention a cause of death.

A statement from Brown-Forman said Henderson worked for the company nearly 40 years and was a "titan of the Kentucky bourbon industry." It said he tasted more than 430,000 barrels of bourbon to determine whether they were ready for bottling.

Henderson was an inaugural member of the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame.


Absolut distributing a wood-aged vodka

Picture 5Absolut, like just about every vodka manufacturer, has a loooong line of flavored spirits to keep up with the incredibly competitive market.

Its latest release, however, is an offbeat one: Absolut Amber, aged in a variety of woods.

The company began limited U.S. distribution in April, but now says it will roll it out across North America by the end of this month.

Absolut Amber is an 80-proof (40% abv) vodka that has been aged for a minimum of six months with a variety of wood, including ex-bourbon barrels, American oak and Swedish oak.

To kick it up even more, a variety of roasted American and French oak chips is added to the aging barrels.

"Absolut Amber will create a whole new category of spirits and has been developed to appeal to vodka, whiskey and rum drinkers,” a company spokesperson told The Spirits Business.

However, it must be noted that this is not the first wood-aged vodka, although the number of distilleries producing it is infinitesimal.

Amber has a suggested retail price of $30 for the litre bottle.

Grand Marnier releasing a raspberry peach version

Grand Marnier is the go-to liqueur for many cocktails, and the House of Marnier Lapostolle is about to add to its arsenal.

The company plans to launch a limited edition Grand Marnier Raspberry Peach nationwide this month.  It is made with the basic Grand Marnier orange-flavored liqueur with natural raspberry and peach flavors infused. 

The maker suggests not only using it in a cocktail, but simply over ice or trying a splash in a sparkling wine.

The new product will be sold in a 750ml bottle at a suggested retail price of  $39.99. It is expected to remain available through the holiday season.

Buffalo Trace's Antique Collection going to market

Some Buffalo Trace products.
Some Buffalo Trace products.
Buffalo Trace Distillery earned a gold medal at the last year's International Wine and Spirits Competition for its 2012 Antique Collection. Late this month, whiskey aficionados will be able to sample its latest candidate when the Frankfort, KY, distiller releases its latest collection.

The Antique Collection was introduced more than a decade ago and has become a favorite among whiskey collectors. The 2013 whiskeys will be available in limited quantities starting in late September or early October at a suggested retail price of $70 each.

Once again, the collection features five limited-release whiskeys of various ages, recipes and proofs. They are:  

Eagle Rare 17 Year Old
The 2013 edition of this bourbon was distilled in the spring of 1993 and has been aging since then 19-year-old white American oak barrels.

George T. Stagg
The 2012 release of this perennial favorite was named the “World’s Best North American Whiskey” at the 2013 World Whiskies Awards. This year's release of uncut, unfiltered bourbon was distilled in the spring of 1997. It is 128.2 proof (64.1% abv), not as strong as some years. It has been stored on lower floors of the aging warehouse, which means cooler temperatures there kept the proof down slightly.

Sazerac Rye 18 Year Old
Last year’s release was awarded a 95 rating and Liquid Gold Award in Jim Murray’s 2013 Whisky Bible. This 2013 rye whiskey release is considered dry and mellow.

Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye
This is an uncut and unfiltered straight rye whiskey. The 2012 edition was named “World Whisky of the Year” in Jim Murray’s 2013 Whisky Bible. This year’s Handy was distilled in the spring of 2007, and comes in at 128.4 proof (64.2% abv).

William Larue Weller
This is the collection’s uncut, unfiltered, wheated recipe bourbon. The previous edition was named the “Second Finest Whisky in the World” in Jim Murray’s 2013 Whisky Bible. The 2013 offering was distilled in the spring of 2001 and registers at 136.2 proof (68.1% abv).

Buffalo Trace Distillery is a family-owned company with a tradition that dates to 1786 and includes such distilling legends as E.H. Taylor, Jr., George T. Stagg, Albert B. Blanton, Orville Schupp, and Elmer T. Lee.


NYC distillers getting innovative in many ways

Picture 10From the New York Daily News

Here’s something New Yorkers can drink to.

Just three years after the city’s first distillery since Prohibition opened, they’re now popping up all over the area and branching out with new batches, partnerships, services and books.

Cacao Prieto, which makes makes high-end chocolate and distills Widow Jane whisky, just partnered with Nat Sherman, a brand that’s been making cigars since the 1930s. A new pop-up shop near Cacao Prieto in Red Hook employs experts to match cigars with whisky.

“Pairing an old-school brand with this new-school whisky, people really didn’t see it coming,” says Michael Herklots, executive director of retail and brand development for Nat Sherman. “But these are both brands from New York City that focus on the product, making sure things are done naturally to a really high standard.”

Tirado Distillery, operated by a doctor from the Bronx, just launched online shipping across the nation. New Jersey Artisan Distilling, based out of Fairfield, started selling their rums this month. And Kings County Distillery, the first to open in New York City since Prohibition, is releasing a book this fall.

“It’s wild and exciting,” says Allen Katz, who co-founded the New York Distilling Company in Williamsburg. “It’s hard to keep up with how many there are in the borough or in New York City. It goes hand in hand with the acceptance and acknowledgment of New York City as one of the great cocktail centers in the country and in the world.”

Go here for the full story and photos.


Craft distilling taking off in NJ

From South Brunswick Patch
Over the past five years, an intense national interest in artisanal spirits has taken moonshine mainstream.

And, as of this summer, New Jersey is no longer regulating its commercial distilling industry according to laws written just after the United States repealed Prohibition.

Encouraged by the recent easing of laws governing wine- and beer-making, several pro-alcohol legislators, with the help of a few loosely affiliated handcrafted liquor enthusiasts, lobbied their peers in Trenton to lower barriers to entering the distilling business.

They succeeded more quickly than observers anticipated. 
Go here for the full story.


Forget the Tom Collins, try a Carlos Danger

Untitled-1There are so many things that come to mind when one hears the name "Anthony Weiner" -- liar, pervert, disgraced (except in his own mind) congressman ... and former college roomate of Jon Stewart, for what that's worth.

During some of his self-exposing sexting, Weiner used the name “Carlos Danger.”

I know, it's pathetic. But, we might as well have more fun with the whole situation than he is having.

A bistro called Buttermilk Channel, located at 524 Court Street in Brooklyn's Carroll Gardens neighborhood, is. It has come up with a new cocktail called, what else?, a Carlos Danger.

“We were messing around with cocktails," manager Richard Murphy told WCBS 880. "We had some mezcal laying around, so we designed a mescal cocktail. It’s fruity, it’s juicy, it’s kind of dangerous. And, the Carlos Danger name stuck.

“People like it. They have a chuckle, and then they try it and realize it’s a really good cocktail. So it’s been going pretty well for us.” he said. (He also said he plans to vote for Weiner in the mayoral election in which it has become increasingly shown that many New Yorkers don't care about a candidate's character.)  


2 ounces mezcal 
½ ounce grapefruit juice 
½ ounce honey syrup 
½ ounce fresh lime juice 

Combine all ingredients but the Campari, shake vigorously in a shaker with fresh ice cubes. Serve with grapefruit juice and a sugared rim, with a small float of Campari for color.


The Bloody Mary can carry a heavy load

A San Francisco Bloody Mary
San Francisco has always had a strong claim to being the center of the cocktail universe, especially if that universe exists between the Pacific Ocean and the Mississippi River.

So, it is no wonder that we keep seeing über imaginative concoctions popping up there all the time.

At the right is the latest wild version of the humble Bloody Mary, this one from Cafe 21.

Count the garnishes:

  • Lobster
  • Lemon
  • Celery
  • Cocktail onion
  • Cherry pepper
  • Red bell pepper ring
  • Mushroom
  • Olive
  • Herb sprig

Most reliable accounts tell us the drink itself was originated in Paris in the 1920s by bartender Fernand Petiot, although it began as just tomato juice with a shot of vodka and called the Red Snapper. After he moved to the U.S., he perfected the drink by adding dashes of both Worcestershire and Tabasco sauces.

Not to be outdone by any West Coast cocktailery, the Edison Hotel in New York City -- located at 228 West 47th Street between 8th and Broadway -- has its own excellent portfolio of imaginative Bloody Marys:
  • The Classic (Polish vodka, Worcestershire sauce, horseradish, tomato juice and hot sauce, garnished with a celery stick).
  • The Caesar (like The Classic except this is the Canadian version, so Clamato juice is used instead of tomato juice).
  • Con Sangre (tomato juice, tequila or mezcal, habañero hot sauce, garnished with a pickled carrot).
  • The Andrew Jackson (White Rye whiskey, smoked paprika, tomato juice, garnished with hot salami and olives).
  • The Colonial (tomato juice, gin, sriracha hot chile sauce and basil, garnished with cucumber).
  • The Rum House (tomato juice, white Haitian rum, ginger, allspice and a pickled pepper; garnished with a piece of candied ginger).

    I'd go on, but I'm suddenly very thirsty.

Apparently he's not yet rich enough

Travolta hard at work.
From E! News

Has someone been testing the product?

John Travolta looked in his element Wednesday, gleefully cutting a rug on the Rio de Janeiro set of a commercial he was shooting for a Brazilian rum maker.

Barefoot on the beach and wearing striped lounging pants and a black T-shirt, the smiling Oscar-nominated actor showed off his dance moves for the camera.

And while those moves weren't quite the caliber of the ones that launched his career in "Saturday Night Fever" and "Grease," Travolta seemed to be having a ball.

The 59-year-old "Killing Season" star also was photographed  kicking around a soccer ball around with the trio of hunky surfers who costarred with him in the ad's beach scene. The ab-tastic gents appear to get a quick dance lesson from the Hollywood legend in the ad as well.

Travolta was also spotted on a street corner in Rio earlier in the day sharing camera time with a lovely young lady.

So, while this commercial may be specifically for Brazilian television, we can only hope that it makes its way online -- it looks kinda awesome!


Elmer T. Lee, bourbon icon, dead at 93

Picture 3
Elmer T. Lee
Elmer T. Lee, 93, the iconic master distiller whose name graces one of the bourbons made at Buffalo Trace, died Tuesday after a brief illness.

He was a pioneer in making single-barrel bourbons, and brought his first -- Blanton's -- to market in 1984. He retired in 1985, but was convinced to return to work as brand ambassador and master distiller emeritus for Buffalo Trace.

"We have lost a wonderful friend today, and he will be missed terribly," said Mark Brown, president and CEO of Sazerac, parent company of Buffalo Trace.

"In the world of making really fine whiskey, the role of master distiller is pivotal, but Elmer's meaning to those he met, came to know, and worked with closely extended far beyond that of a master distiller," Brown said.

"Elmer defined, in the simplest terms, what it means to be a great American: hard working, self-made, courageous, honest, kind, humble and humorous."

Lee was born in 1919 on a tobacco farm near Peaks Mill, Franklin County, KY. During World War II he served as a radar bombardier on a B-29, flying missions against Japan through 1945. In 1946, he was honorably discharged and returned home to study engineering at the University of Kentucky, where he graduated with honors in 1949.

In September 1949, Lee began working in the engineering department of the George T. Stagg Distillery in Frankfort. By 1966, he became plant superintendent, then plant manager in 1969. In 1984, he introduced Blanton's, the world's first single-barrel bourbon.

Lee was inducted into the Bourbon Hall of Fame in 2001, received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Whisky Advocate magazine in 2002, and a Lifetime Achievement Award and Hall of Fame induction from Whisky Magazine in 2012.

RI approves in-store liquor tastings

PROVIDENCE, RI -- Another blue law bites the dust.

Rhode Island on Tuesday became the 11th state since 2009 to legalize spirits tastings at liquor stores, when Governor Lincoln D. Chaffee signed legislation into law. That brings to 38 the number of states allowing such activity.
“States across the country are updating their liquor laws to reflect modern convenience and demand,” said Jay Hibbard, vice president at the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S. (DISCUS). “Spirits tastings are a responsible marketing tool that generates revenue for the state by boosting consumer interest in premium products. We applaud Governor Chafee for signing this bill which benefits consumers, small businesses and the State Treasury.”

The joint file bill (Senate Bill 477/House Bill 5795) gives adult consumers the opportunity to sample spirits during a controlled, pre-planned tasting event -- allowing up to two quarter-ounce samples of up to two products at any one tasting event. The bill passed the Senate by a 37-0 vote and the House by 72-0.


Gin, flavored vodka added to Prairie portfolio

Phillips Distilling Company, which has made a very good organic vodka for a number of years, has added two new products to its portfolio.

The Minneapolis company on Monday unveiled a gin and a cucumber-flavored vodka to its Prairie Organic spirits portfolio. The suggested retail price for both new products is $19.99 for a 750-ml bottle.

In 2008, Phillips partnered with a co-op of more than 900 Minnesota farmers, who are all stakeholders in the Prairie Organic brand, to create the line.

“The purpose of our farmer-owned distillery is to utilize sustainable production to handcraft superior organic spirits domestically and support Minnesota’s agricultural economy,” Pedro Caceres, Phillips president and CEO, said in a statement.

Phillips produces more than 70 different brands, including UV Vodka, Revel Stoke Spiced Whisky, and SourPuss Liqueurs. Last fall, Phillips introduced its UV Vodka line of flavored vodkas in Spain, its first venture into Europe. More recently it debuted a candy bar-flavored vodka in its dessert-flavored category.

Sugar-, gluten-free vodka expands lineup

Devotion Vodka, the New Jersey distiller, this week introduced a line of domestic vodkas it claims is the "first full line of sugar-free and gluten-free flavored vodkas."

The four-year-old company already had Blood Orange, Black and Blue and The Perfect Cosmo flavors. On Monday, it unveiled its Wild Cherry and Coconut flavored vodkas.

Devotion teamed up with Allen Flavors, maker of Arizona Iced Tea, to develop a process to eliminate sugars as a flavoring agent in its vodkas.

The expansion of its line of 100% corn-based vodkas is being termed "a major breakthrough for a small company like Devotion, which is battling the marketing muscle of the global brands for shelf space," according to Drew Adelman, Devotion Spirits founder and CEO.

“There continues to be a shift in consumer priorities, and products that maintain gluten-free and sugar-free attributes have become very popular across many categories. Other flavored vodkas are packed with sugars, while our innovative flavoring process was developed with the image-conscious adult in mind.”

The Devotion products carry a suggested retail price of $19.99 for the 750ml bottle. Just ignore any of its posters that feature the simpleton from "Jersey Shore" called "The Situation."

Angel's Envy: First the spirit, then the distillery

Lincoln Henderson at the announcement.
In a bit of reverse engineering, Angel's Share Brands LLC -- which already sells its Angel's Envy bourbon in nearly 30 states -- plans to build its own distillery.

The company, headed by Wes Henderson, on Tuesday announced a $12 million project that would convert a century-old building in downtown Louisville, KY, into a distillery and visitors' center.

"We're going to come up with some really neat stuff as soon as we get the distillery operating," said Lincoln Henderson, the brand's master distiller who came out of retirement four years ago to help his son, Wes, create the brand.

The new distillery is expected to begin production in December 2014, opposite the city's minor league baseball stadium.

Angel's Envy bourbon is aged in white oak barrels, as required by statute, for four to six years, then is finished by aging in used port casks for several months. Its rye whiskey ages for at least six years in oak barrels before finishing in Caribbean rum casks for up to 18 months.

The Angel's Share -- the name comes from the traditional reference to the amount of whiskey that evaporates in the aging process -- project is just the latest in Louisville.

Michter's Distillery, a maker of premium bourbon and rye, is in the process of transforming another historic building into a distillery that will offer tours and tastings. It is targeting a spring 2014 opening.

And, Heaven Hill Distilleries Inc., which makes Evan Williams bourbon, plans to open a small downtown distillery, open to tours and tastings.

Buffalo Trace unveils 'Experimental Collection'

Picture 3

There is much more to a good whiskey than simply its bottled alcohol percentage.

Buffalo Trace Distillery is going beyond the usual debate over whether it is preferable to have a higher entry proof, especially for wheated-recipe bourbons, or use a lower entry proof to produce a mellower finish.

Its latest Experimental Collection, released Tuesday, release is the result of four of the experiments coming off the still at a consistent 130 proof, but put into the barrel for aging using four different entry proofs. All of the barrels then were aged together for 11 years, 7 months and bottled at 90 proof (45% abv). Here are the details, as supplied by Buffalo Trace:  

Wheat 125 – At 125 proof, this was the highest entry proof used, which also resulted in a high evaporation rate of 71% in the 11-plus years it was in the barrel. The high entry proof of this wheat recipe bourbon resulted in a well-rounded flavor with the taste being a balance of cooked berries mingled with sweet honey and slight hints of spicy cloves and pepper.  

Wheat 115 – This wheated recipe bourbon was put into the barrel at 115 proof and lost the highest percentage due to evaporation, at 73%. Tasting notes for this bourbon say it is a well-balanced spirit, which was rated the best tasting by the quality analysis team at Buffalo Trace. The upfront taste is sweet and fruity, with buttery toffee notes that follow. A dry oaky finish completes the taste.  

Wheat 105 – At an entry proof of 105, the angels were particularity generous with their share, taking the lowest amount of all four experiments with a rate of 62%. The 105 entry proof produced a bourbon that is a nice balance of sweet caramel, vanilla, and dry oakiness.  

Wheat 90 – At an entry point of 90, this bourbon had a 64% evaporation rate as it aged alongside the other four experimental wheat barrels in Warehouse K. The result was a bourbon with more wood characters and slight sweet notes. It is mellow with hints of cedar and other wood flavors.

“This was an interesting experiment for us to conduct, and by keeping all of the variables consistent such as the proof off the still, aging time and placement next to each other in the warehouse, we were able to focus just on the entry proof into the barrel and see how it affected taste and evaporation rate,” said Harlen Wheatley, master distiller.

“We were pleased that what we consider the ideal entry proof for a wheated bourbon, at 114 proof, was pretty close in proof to what we evaluated to also taste the best in this experiment – which was the 115 proof experiment. It was gratifying to see that we have been on the right track this whole time with our entry proof for our wheated recipe bourbons. Another point of interest is the higher entry proofs, the higher the evaporation rates, which is something we’ve always suspected but now know for a fact.”

The wheated-recipe barrels are part of the more than 1,500 experimental barrels of whiskey aging in the warehouses of Buffalo Trace Distillery, located in Frankfort, Franklin County, KY.

Some examples of these experiments include unique mash bills, type of wood and barrel toasting levels. To further increase the scope, flexibility and range of the experimental program, an entire microdistillery, named The Colonel E.H. Taylor, Jr. “OFC” Micro Distillery, complete with cookers, fermenting tanks, and a state-of-the-art micro still has been constructed within the main distillery.

The latest Experimental Collection will be packaged in 375ml bottles, 12 to a case, with three bottles of each entry proof in a case. Each label will include all the pertinent information unique to that barrel of whiskey. These whiskeys will retail for approximately $46.35 each and should be available in the next few weeks.


Woodford Reserve expanding to tune of $35 million

Woodford Reserve distillery (Bill Dowd photo)
Bourbon is such a huge seller in the U.S. that distillers are raking in the cash. But, is the market becoming saturated, given all the craft distilleries that have jumped on the bandwagon?

The folks at Brown-Forman Corp. don’t think so. They announced on Thursday they plan to boost bourbon production at the Woodford Reserve Distillery, where an expansion topping $35 million will add stills, double bottling capacity and increase storage space where the whiskey matures.

The investments at the distillery, located near the village of Versailles in Kentucky’s thoroughbred country, come on the heels of a record 250,000 9-liter cases and a 28% increase in net sales in the fiscal year that ended April 30, according to B-F spokeswoman Elizabeth Conway.

“We believe that strong consumer interest in bourbon will continue, and we’re expanding our production to meet this demand,” she said.

Overall, Kentucky’s bourbon distillers have invested $265 million — the largest expansion since Prohibition ended — in new and expanded production facilities, warehouses where the bourbon ages, visitor centers, bottling lines and other upgrades, according to Eric Gregory, president of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association.

Kentucky is home to 95% of the world’s bourbon production.

Tapatio tequila portfolio introduced to U.S.

Carlos Camarena  
(Bill Dowd photo)
Another tequila line is being introduced to the U.S. market, this one a venture of La Alteña Distillery and importer Charbay Distillers.

The 75-year-old brand is including its 110-proof Tapatio Blanco, available only in the U.S., in the portfolio of Tapatio-branded spirits.

Since 1937, Tequila Tapatio has been distilled by the Carlos Camarena family from estate-grown blue agaves in the Arandas Highlands of Mexico, using the family's traditional methods and small-batch distillation that date to the 1800s.

Back in 2007, I was invited to take part in a 70th anniversary party at the distillery in Arandas, getting an opportunity to spend some time with Camarena, who also makes the El Tesoro line. His intensity in every phase of the operation showed great care in creating new spirit expressions.

The Tequila Tapatio collection (with suggested retail prices for the one-liter bottles):

• Tequila Tapatio Blanco (aged 6 months in stainless steel), $34.
• Tequila Tapatio Reposado (aged 8 months in aged oak barrels) $38.
• Tequila Tapatio Añejo (aged 18 months in first-fill ex-bourbon casks), $44.
• Tequila Tapatio 110-Proof Blanco (aged 6 months in stainless steel), $48.

The 110-proof Blanco, also called B110, was inspired by Carlos Camarena’s plan to distill a tequila that is very smooth and flavorful, at the same time bottled at the maximum proof allowed by U.S. law.

“Since tequila consists of water, alcohol and flavors, reduce the water and you’ve increased the alcohol and flavors,” explains Marko Karakasevic, Master Distiller of Charbay Distillers. “B110 has huge florals and spicy cinnamon, plus chamomile and rich agave.”

The agaves are selected for ripeness and slow-baked for four days. After being shredded and run through a modified sugar cane mill for de-juicing, the agave "mosto" is fermented in small wooden fermenters using their proprietary 75-year-old yeast culture. The "mosto muerte" (fermented mosto) then is distilled in a stainless alambique still, which produces "ordinario." It then is distilled in copper alambiques pot stills before aging.

By the way, don't be confused about the name Camarena. There is a tequila that bears that name, but Carlos Camarena isn't involved in it. In the Camarena family lineage, three generations ago there were three Camarena brothers, each of whom founded a tequila company of his own -- El Tesoro, Cazadores and Casa Casco Viejo, the latter of which was renamed  Casa Camarena. They are separate business entities.


What was in that drink?

The lowdown on the lovely spirit of cachaça

The iconic Caipirinha cocktail.
The iconic caipirinha cocktail.
Today is International Cachaça Day.

Big deal, you say? Every day is designated as something or other?

Well, true, but cachaça -- pronounced kah / SHAW / sah -- is a very special, and generally under-appreciated, distilled spirit.

I'm especially mindful of it after spending much of yesterday with a delegation of five young Brazilian business people on a month-long visit to New York's Capital Region as part of a Rotary International Group Study Exchange.

One of Brazil's major exports besides beef (Intermission factoid: There are more beef cattle than people in Brazil, according to our visitors) is cachaça. Although often misidentified as rum, it actually is a distinctive spirit distilled from raw sugar cane juice, whereas rum is made from sugar cane byproducts, primarily molasses. Curiously under Brazil-U.S. trade agreement, it nevertheless is labeled "Brazilian rum."

Much of the familar "heat" rum supplies is not present in cachaça, which at least in the higher priced versions is very smooth, with a long finish, and stands up beautifully to all sorts of herbs and fruits in mixed cocktails.

Cachaça is the base for the caipirinha cocktail that has so enamored tourists to South America in recent years that they demanded it when they returned home. That demand has been answered in many of the better cocktail lounges and bars throughout the U.S.

In my view, that means those consumers should be able to know the source of the cachaça is held to certain standards in purity and safety rather than being just anything tossed together and put in a pretty bottle. After judging several cane spirit competitions, I can attest to the fact that the latter has been the case too often and that quality has often been wildly erratic.

There are as many as 2,000 different names for cachaça in the vernacular, according to one authoritative Brazilian publication. Many cropped up over the years as illicit distillers sought to call their distilled sugar cane something that would not attract the attention of government tax collectors and regulators or even back in the days when the spirit was banned.

Now, the matter of quality seems to be addressed by an exchange of trade letters between the two nations meant to increase trade in cachaça -- the bulk of which is made in Brazil -- and bourbon and Tennessee whiskey. Brazil is a potentially huge market for U.S. distillers since it is South America's largest nation (Intermission factoid: If you subtract Alaska from the U.S. land mass, Brazil is larger) and has more than 200 million inhabitants with a booming economy.

Here's a recipe for the iconic, and easy to make, caipirinha:


½ lime, quartered
1 teaspoon white sugar
2½ ounces cachaça
1 cup ice cubes


Squeeze, then drop two slivers of the lime in a large rocks glass.
Add the sugar, crush the lime and sugar and mix with a spoon.
Pour in the cachaça and plenty of ice. Stir well, serve with a lime garnish.

Distiller releasing Connecticut's first aged whiskey

Onyx Moonshine aging in small barrels.
EAST HARTFORD, CT -- Connecticut is getting in on the craft distilling craze.

Onyx Spirits Company has announced plans to release the state's first aged whiskey, although it bears a name similar to many unaged whiskies now on the market.

What they are calling Onyx Moonshine is presently resting in nearly three dozen charred American white oak barrels sealed in organic beeswax, the standard method for aging American bourbons and rye whiskies.

Don't start scrambling for your liquor store if you don't live in the state, however. The distillery says it will limit distribution to stores and restaurants in Connecticut, with only one barrel allowed per location.

The total release is expected to be just under 1,000 bottles, with a suggested retail price of $60.


Glenfiddich releases newest Cask of Dreams

A program that began two years ago culminated today with the launch of Glenfiddich Single Malt Scotch Whisky's 2013 Cask of Dreams Limited Edition Bottling, exclusive for the U.S. 

The release is the second, and final, installment of a program that began in 2001 to honor William Grant, who in 1887 declared his dream to create “the best dram in the valley.”

The 2012 Cask of Dreams campaign encouraged Americans to visit the Glenfiddich website and share their ultimate life goals for a chance to win a grant toward making it a reality. In addition to these entries being written on the actual cask, two individuals were selected each month to have their name and dream featured on an exclusive edition of Glenfiddich Cask of Dreams. One grand prize winner was awarded $15,000 as an incentive to get started. This year’s edition brings those stories to the public by having all of the winners featured on the bottle’s packaging. 

Cask of Dreams is a special marriage of Glenfiddich whiskies taken from a selection of American oak barrels holding matured whiskies of a variety of ages, with the youngest at 14. This whisky was decanted by Master Distiller Brian Kinsman into virgin American oak barrels to bring an intense vanilla sweetness.

The blend is limited to 6,660 bottles, with a suggested retail price of $99.

Hillrock Estate releasing two new whiskies

Picture 1
Hillrock Single Malt
ANCRAM, NY -- Hillrock Estate Distillery today announced the release of two new whiskeys, timed for Father's Day shopping.

The fledgling Columbia County operation, which launched its Solera Aged Bourbon last October, has released Hillrock Estate Distillery Single Malt Whiskey, the first sustainable product handcrafted at the distillery, and George Washington’s Rye Whiskey – Estate Edition.

Picture 2
Washington's Rye
The Hillrock team will celebrate the launch of the two new products with an open house event on Saturday, June 15, from noon to 5 p.m. at the distillery. Master Distiller Dave Pickerell will be on hand to discuss whiskeys and sign purchased bottles. Products from local farmers will be available for sampling.

The single malt is a 100% barley golden amber whiskey, sold at 96.4 proof (48.2% ABV) for a suggested retail price of $125 for the 750ml bottle. About half the production has been pre-sold.

The barley was grown on the estate using organic practices, and after harvesting, was malted on site in New York’s first purpose-built malthouse on-premise at a distillery since before Prohibition.

Danielle Eddy, the marketing guru at Hillrock, notes, "Hillrock is the first field-to-glass distillery in New York State since before Prohibition, and is the only distillery malting estate grown grains on-premise. With no peat, this limited edition single malt has no smoke on the nose or palate, but does exhibit the clove and cinnamon notes indicative of the terroir of the estate."

The George Washington's Rye is a pot distilled whiskey produced following Washington’s original recipe at Hillrock Estate Distillery by Pickerell, who also is the master distiller at Mount Vernon, VA, where Washington's distillery was recreated several years ago.

I have had the pleasure of lending a hand during several distilling projects at Mount Vernon, and can attest to Pickerell's knowledge and exacting standards. Add to that the talents of Hillrock Head Distiller Tim Welly and you have a potent team.

Each bottle contains a portion of whiskey made at Mount Vernon. The 86 proof (43% ABV) unaged rye has a suggested retail price of $70 per 375ml bottle. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this whiskey will go to supports the educational programs at George Washington’s Mount Vernon.

• If you'd like to get an inside look at Hillrock as it was being created, go to my illustrated report

• And, if you'd like to get an inside look at the Mount Vernon facility, go to another of my reports here.


Nashville distiller's whiskey headed for NY State

Picture 4Whiskey from a fledgling Tennessee distiller soon will be available in at least 10 other states.

Collier and McKeel, a Tennessee whiskey distilled in Nashville by a company founded in 2011, is expanding to as many as part of an agreement with Virginia-based distributor The Vintner Group, according to a news release.

"This whiskey will only get better with age, and we're proud to be sharing it with our customers in several states," Clay Farmer, director of marketing for The Vintner Group, said in an announcement.

Collier and McKeel will be sold in stores and restaurants in Washington, DC, Delaware, Maryland and Florida immediately. In a few months, it will expand to retailers and specialty bars in New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, Illinois and Indiana.

The whiskey is made from a sour mash of corn, rye and malted barley plus limestone-filtered water. It is filtered via something called the Lincoln County Process through maple charcoal to give it the genre's distinctive smoky flavor that differentiates it from bourbon. It then is aged in small barrels, which means more of the whiskey is touched by the wood during maturation.

As a neat little touch, the master distiller puts his fingerprint -- his actual fingerprint, not a stamp or printed version or someone else's print -- on every bottle produced.


10 Cane becoming a Barbadian rum

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados -- Drinks giant Moët Hennessy is moving production of its flagship rum brand 10 Cane here from Trinidad & Tobago.

The Paris-headquartered company will be distilling, blending and bottling its rum at the Foursquare Rum Distillery here.

The Barbados government said the location shift, which will mean a new facility for distilling, blending and bottling the rum is expected to bring in as much as $50 million in foreign exchange.

"Rum is a distinct Barbadian product, and I believe that we are the home of rum, and that is something that I don’t think we have fully capitalised on as yet," said Donville Inniss, Industry Minister of this Caribbean island nation.

“This is very exciting because this brand having been established world-wide, it has a track record, so we are not starting from zero," said Sir David Seale chairman of Foursquare. "We are starting from a point that it is a guarantee amount that we can produce ... . Our sums will say that it is quite possible that we will earn in excess of $100 million (Barbadian dollars, which are 50 cents per American dollar) in foreign exchange over the next five years."

Inniss said Barbados is not a low-cost location for manufacturing. As a result "we have to tap into the niche areas and rum is a product that is synonymous with Barbados and, therefore, we have to exploit fully the rum industry. This means ... making use of an ultra-modern plant distillery and creating niche products."


This month's cocktail suggestions

The Standing Stone
The Standing Stone
From Eric Henry, The Whistler, Chicago

Henry, whose recipe was featured in Esquire magazine, decided to do this take on a whiskey sour by using Scotch and combining it with Don's Spices, which originated at the old Don the Beachcomber's tiki style pubs from the mid-20th Century cocktail culture.

1½ oz. MacGavin's Single Malt Scotch (or any Highland single malt)
¾ oz. fresh lemon juice
 ½ oz. B.G. Reynolds Don's Spices #2 Syrup
¼ oz. Angostura bitters

Shake with ice. Strain into coupe. No garnish necessary.
The Envy

From Colleen Graham, AOL.com columnist  

Graham, a spirits writer and bartender, included this recipe in her 2012 book "¡Hola Tequila!" (Sellers Publishing).

1½ fluid ounces blanco tequila
¾ fluid ounces blue curaçao
¾ fluid ounce pineapple juice
Dash of orange bitters

Pour the ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake well and strain into a frozen cocktail glass filled with cracked ice. Garnish with a pineapple flag or a single maraschino cherry.
Triple Orange Margarita

From Americano restaurant, San Francisco  

Mixologist Ronaldo Colli came up with this cocktail when asked to whip up a drink containing Gran Gala.

1½ ounces ultra premium tequila
¾ ounce Gran Gala Triple Orange
1 ounce orange juice, freshly squeezed
½ ounce lime juice, freshly squeezed
¼ ounce agave nectar
1 lime wheel
1 orange peel

Pour Gran Gala, tequila, orange juice, lime juice, agave nectar and orange peel into a shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled glass filled with ice. Strain into a chilled margarita glass if you prefer your margarita up. Garnish with a lime wheel and the same orange peel on top of the cocktail. Salted rim is traditional, but optional.


Robot bartender moves like ballet dancer, literally

It seems we may be running out of old-fashioned ways of doing many things. Such as making cocktails.

Don't believe it? Take a look at the video from the folks who invented the Makr Shakr, a gadget they showed off at the recent Google I/O conference in San Francisco.

It cuts up fruit, measures out drink components and serves them like a human bartender. Its motions are based on those of Roberto Bolle, a dancer with the American Ballet Theatre.

The project was run by the Senseable City Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, with support from Coca Cola and Bacardi. Carlos Ratti, an MIT dirctor, said it is a "great example" of how technology is being used to change how humans interact with products.


New Bacardi ads revives Cuba Libre history


Through all sorts of societal changes and over several generations, the Cuba Libre has endured as a very popular cocktail.

The recipe is a simple one: Light rum, Coca-Cola and a squeeze of lime.

Where it came from is, as is the case with so many cocktail origins, a matter of opinion.

The most popular version matches that told in a soon-to-be-released Bacardi USA TV commercial -- that it was created in Cuba in 1900 as Colonel Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders helped fight for the island's independence from Spain -- and takeover by the U.S. They toasted the victory with the cheer "Free Cuba!" or "Cuba Libre!" in Spanish.

The spot, reports Advertising Age, is the first in a series of ads showing historical events that shaped the 151 year-old brand, which has links to the creation of other rum cocktails such as the Daiquiri and Mojito. However, Coca-Cola won't be getting a free ride on the Bacardi advertisng dollar. The ad will refer to the drink as "run and cola."

The historic theme may well be in response to competitors' rum ads featuring historic personalities. Diageo has recast its once silly Captain Morgan as real-life privateer Captain Henry Morgan of the 1600s. William Grant & Sons is pushing its Sailor Jerry rum by using Norman "Sailor Jerry" Collins, a renowned American tattoo artist and Navy man of the mid-1900s.

Last year, both brands gained market share on Bacardi, although it remains the top-selling U.S. rum with 35.4% share in 2012, according to Euromonitor International which measures volume of liters sold. Captain Morgan is No. 2 with 23.2%, and Sailor Jerry No. 7 at 2.6%.

Bacardi's campaign is timed to coincide with Cuban Independence Day on Monday. Interesting, considering both Bacardi and Coca-Cola left the island nation after Fidel Castro came to power. Bacardi now is made in Puerto Rico; Coca-Cola in plants all over the world -- except Cuba and North Korea where the product is not sold.


RI juggles its by-the-bottle interpretation

From the Providence Journal
PROVIDENCE, RI -- The Rhode Island state liquor regulator has reversed a longstanding interpretation of the law on selling a bottle of distilled spirits in a bar or nightclub.

A whole bottle may be sold for on-premises consumption, according to a recent order by the state Department of Business Regulation, which oversees liquor licenses.

The order notes, however, that the drinks must be poured by a "certified server."

City of Providence officials say it is a misinterpretation and that the city will sue to stop its enforcement. The city's licensing board has been cracking down on the practice.

"Bottle service," as the term generally is used, refers to the sale of a whole bottle of a distilled spirit, usually in a nightclub's VIP section. Clubs often require the purchase of a bottle as a prerequisite for VIP seating.


Have you visited 'Toasts & Crumbs'?

The late Mr. Carson
“Happiness is having a rare steak, a bottle of whiskey, and a dog to eat the rare steak.”

-– Johnny Carson

Interested in more of this sort of silliness, perfect for cocktail parties, bar bets and the like? Me, too.

One of the fascinating aspects of writing about adult beverages is coming across bits of rhyme, free verse and just plain doggerel devoted to one’s favorite tipple.

For several years now, I have maintained a blog called “Toasts & Crumbs,” replete with bits of language fun from around the world. And, no matter how old some of them are, they keep striking responsive chords with readers. Some are just plain fun. Like the humorist Dave Barry’s comment:

“Without question the greatest invention in the history of mankind is beer. Oh, I grant you that the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with pizza.”

Some are more of a philosophical bent, like this quote from the Bible’s Ecclesiastes 9:7: “Eat thy bread with joy and drink thy wine with a merry heart.”

Join me there and, if you come across anything you think would make a good addition to the blog, just send it along.

Kilbeggan not just for the Irish anymore

Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey, which comes from Ireland's oldest operating distillery, is making its first-ever true U.S. marketing push.

Kilbeggan this month launched a national multi-media campaign. One of the more entertaining aspects of it is a six-part video series featuring humorous antics undertaken by Kilbeggan residents distraught over their beloved Kilbeggan no longer being just for the Irish. The series can be accessed on YouTube.

"Irish Whiskey is quickly becoming the popular spirit of choice for many Americans, so now is the perfect time for us to let our secret out," said Bob Gorman, director of marketing for World Whiskeys at Beam Inc. "With our new campaign and packaging, Kilbeggan is now primed to contribute to the continued growth of the category."

Kilbeggan Irish Whiskey is an 80-proof blended whiskey made from grain and barley. Unlike other Irish whiskeys, it is double distilled to retain more flavor. Its new packaging features a new label with a copper color and shape are representative of the 180-year-old pot still used to make the whiskey. An image of the distillery and its iconic water wheel are the focal point of the design, along with the year the whiskey was founded, 1757.

Dewar's to debut first flavored Scotch in April

A Dewar's portfolio.
Flavored whiskey is an emerging niche category in the spirits industry, but until know tradition-bound Scotland has not entered the field.
  Now, Dewar’s has announced it will roll out a honey-flavored whisky in the U.S. in April, targeting younger and female drinkers.

“When you look at what’s happening in bourbon and the overall flavor trends in the U.S., we figured it was time to create an offering that is still truly Scotch, but gives those who play with flavor trends an option to play within Scotch,” said Arvind Krishnan, brand managing director for Dewar’s.

“Younger consumers are migrating to bourbon because of all the energy and excitement the flavors have created, and I think Scotch brands can do the same for their category.”

Wild Turkey American Honey has been particularly successful, with sales up by 45% during last year. Other flavored whiskies have been introduced by Beam (Jim Beam Honey, Red Stag), Brown-Forman (Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey), Diageo (Bushmills Honey, Crown Royal Maple Finished). Look for even more to come, especially from craft distilleries.

Smirnoff adding an espresso flavored vodka

Startling news from the London-based Diageo alcoholic beverages company: a new flavored vodka.

Espresso Smirnoff will be rolled out in April to join the tsunami of flavored vodkas already on the market.

That competition doesn't scare Diageo, however. No wonder, considering that flavored vodkas account for 18% of total vodka sales in the U.S.

Espresso Smirnoff is a blend of Smirnoff Red and espresso coffee. The brand's other flavored vodkas already on the market are lime, green apple, vanilla, blueberry and -- honest to god -- fluffed marshmallow.

Iowa distiller marries local grain with magic

SWISHER, IA -- Iowa is the nation's leading grain-producing state. Now, someone finally is putting the stuff to good use.

Jeff Quint, owner and distiller at the Cedar Ridge Winery and Distillery near Cedar Rapids in Johnson County -- the state's only winery/distillery, is producing whiskey from 100% malted Iowa barley, believed to be the state's first legal such whiskey.

 If the stuff were being made in Scotland, he points out, he would be able to call it single malt scotch.

His initial goal is to produce just a few barrels of the scotch-like spirit to handle local demand, with releases planned for August and November.

Quint already has been producing such spirits as Cedar Ridge Iowa Bourbon (70-75% corn, with the remainder split evenly between rye and malted barley), Clearheart Triple Distilled Fruit & Grain Spirits and Griff’s Cowboy Whiskey.

Quint says of the Cedar Ridge Single Malts: "Almost every barrel will be unique because we finish each cask differently. First of all, every 'barrel' of our Single Malt will actually have aged in at least two different barrels. As our Single Malt matures, we dump it from the first barrel we age it in and transfer it to another barrel for finishing.

"We use a variety of different casks for this process –- ex-bourbon casks, ex-port casks, ex-rum casks, ex-brandy cask, ex-wine casks, even ex-sherry casks we are shipping in from Europe. Secondly, we are experimenting with different styles of malts. We use two-row, peated, six-row –- whatever we can get our hands on, as long as it is malted. This allows us to establish a unique pedigree, or history, for each finished barrel."

'Sensorium' studies effects of ambiance on tasting

Go here for a sensory slideshow.
From BBC News

Does the same whisky taste different in different surroundings?

Professor Charles Spence, from the department of experimental psychology at England's Oxford University has teamed up with The Singleton whisky distillery to find out. He has been carrying out a multi-sensory science experiment, exploring the senses and the taste of whisky in a bar known as "The Singleton Sensorium."

"We are looking for competing flavors and notes so you can draw people’s attention to those notes and their surroundings," says Spence. "So we have three rooms: grassy, woody and sweet."

The grassy room features a green light, real grass, foliage, the sounds of lawnmowers and sheep and the smell of the countryside, which evoke the nose of the whisky, says Spence. Participants have to taste the whisky and score it in each room in the sensorium.

"In a real environment, when I went from one bar to another, and I say 'I want that drink I had the other day', but it tastes different, why is that? I think it’s the environment."

"Everyone thinks I am just tasting the food or drink, I wouldn’t be fooled. But people are contradictory, and say this wouldn’t work on me. But they say this wine, it tastes great, I had it on holiday in the sun –- so they buy the wine which tasted great, and they open it on a cold winter night and it tastes horrible. We've all had a version of that experience," he says.

The sensorium's red room, which tests the taste of the whisky, is "all round, red, with lots of roundness and lots of tinkling notes from the ceiling," says Spence, which studies have found represent sweetness.

"Sweetness is about a taste, but also sweet smells like vanilla and caramel. The taste of The Singleton is described as dark berries and dried fruits."
Red lights in the room help set the tone for participants, who are asked to rate how much they like the whisky, and the room, on their scorecards.

Spence says the modern deconstructed food movement known as molecular gastronomy was "all about technology in the back of house, in the kitchen, you didn’t see it but tasted the results of it." He thinks in the next five to 10 years the focus will be on technology in restaurant dining rooms and bars, with more "things like directional soundscapes, and harnessing mobile technologies at the table."

In the woody room, tasters noted their perceptions while enjoying the whisky's finish, described as a "the lingering finish" which "reveals the specially chosen wood in which it matures."

The results of participants' sensory perception of whisky in different environments will help inform hosts in the future, says Spence. "Maybe people will use it in bars, or maybe it is in the home environment."

Spence says the sensorium experiment ties in with other work he is doing around embedding sound while dining or drinking.

"We are thinking about clever designs where you can link the music or a soundscape to food or drink and have it in responsive mode, so it plays in real time when put the fork to your lips or glass to mouth."

Three hundred people took part in the experiment, which is part of a wider scientific study titled "Tasting Notes: Assessing the effect of the multisensory atmosphere and ambiance on people’s perception of whisky." It is scheduled to be published this summer.

WhistlePig expansion plans fuel 2-pronged debate

SHOREHAM, VT -- The very old line about whiskey being great for medicinal purposes led most people to believe that spirits can sterilize anything.

The reality is, not so.

Take the case of entrepreneur Raj Peter Bhakta and his pricey craft whiskey called WhistlePig (another name for a groundhog or woodchuck).

He began bottling his Canadian-distilled whiskey at an old 500-acre dairy farm here several years ago and has achieved quite a reputation within the trade, but isn't winning over all state officials and neighbors with his plans for changes.

He wants to begin making whiskey on-premises from rye grown on the farm. That has set off a debate on whether his property -- located near Lake Champlain opposite Ticonderoga, NY -- still qualifies as a farm, which would subject it to different developmental and operational regulations than those governing other businesses.

 In addition, some neighboring fruit and berry growers are concerned about the possible threat of whiskey mold, a black fungus that flourishes in areas with lots of moisture, such as distilleries.

Vermont Public Radio has a thorough report on the controversy you may find of interest.

Cape Cod's first distillery is in the works

Skip Wrightson at Kilchoman Distillery, Islay, Scotland
HYANNIS, MA -- Locals and regular visitors to Cape Cod are familiar with the traffic jams near the Airport Rotary. It's a place people try to avoid.

Not so for Skip and Rick Wrightson, the son-father entrepreneurs who hope to renovate a vacant building near the rotary to create a distillery they call the Cape Cod Distilling Co.

They would use the former Western Tools Supply building at 411 Barnstable Road as their production facility, and give public tours once work is completed on what is projected to be a $3.2 million renovation and retrofitting.

No whiskey would be sold on the premises, although small tasting samples would be available to visitors. Their plans are scheduled to go before the town planning board on April 8. If the town approves the project, applications must be made for state and federal licenses.

Skip Wrightson said he expects one of the company's core products would be a four-year-old "American single malt" whiskey. No brand name has yet been chosen for the Wrightsons' proposed products. He and his father will use Scottish-made copper pot stills in the operation of what will be the first distillery on the Cape.


Fledgling Albany Distilling debuts its first rum

New distillery's newest product.
ALBANY, NY -- The latest product from the fledgling Albany Distilling Company goes on sale this Saturday, March 23.

Quackenbush Still House Original Albany Rum, a small-batch creation, is made following the tradition of colonial-era distilling with a recipe from that era and molasses from the Caribbean. It is the company's first rum product.

"Albany has a long history of rum production which dates back to the 18th Century, when the Quackenbush Still House produced rum for both local residents and wayfaring soldiers," says an announcement from partners/distillers Johnny Curtin and Matt Jager.

"Back then, Caribbean molasses was mixed with water from the Hudson River and allowed to ferment with wild yeasts in huge, open wooden vats -- the remains of which can still be seen at the New York State Museum -- before being distilled and bottled. Our original Albany rum follows this tradition, with a recipe from that era and molasses from the Caribbean - but with an updated production line -- and different water."

A spiced version of the amber rum is expected to be introduced in the fall.

Albany Distilling opened last October, and already has produced a bourbon, a new-make   whiskey and a rye whiskey.

The operation is located downtown at 78 Montgomery Street, adjacent to the Albany Pump Station brewpub behind historic Quackenbush Square. Phone: (518) 621-7191.


Maker's Mark cuts proof, not price

Maker's Mark, the premium bourbon with the iconic red wax seal, has reduced the alcohol level of its product from 45% to 42% -- i.e., from 90 proof to 84 proof.

That notification comes in a letter from Rob Samuels, chief operating officer, who says the decision was made because "demand for our bourbon is exceeding our ability to make it, which means we're running very low on supply."

Samuels, who succeeded his father, Bill, as COO in 2011, said the brand's growth over the last 18-24 months has been "significantly greater than we had ever experienced as a brand." He said sales of Maker's to consumers grew about 18% last year.

Bill Samuels said Monday on the company's website that he and his son never considered raising the price of the bourbon even in the face of greater demand.

"We don't want to price Maker's Mark out of reach," he wrote.

What about dropping the price now that the alcohol level has been lowered?

"The value of Maker's Mark isn't set by alcohol volume," Bill Samuels wrote.

Maker's Mark, which is distilled in Loretto, KY, made no mention of changes in its Maker's 46, a more expensive 94-proof offshoot of the main brand that is aged longer inside barrels containing seared French oak staves after the aging in new charred American white oak barrels as required by law to be a true bourbon.


A. Smith Bowman master distiller dies

Truman Cox
FREDERICKSBURG, VA -- Truman Cox, master distiller at the A. Smith Bowman Distillery, died Saturday after a short illness.

His death was announced by Sazerac, the company for which he worked since he joined it in 2004 as lead chemist at its Buffalo Trace Distillery. He became master distiller at  A. Smith Bowman in 2001.

"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," the company said in a statement.    

"Truman will be sadly missed by his many friends at Sazerac and in the industry.  Please keep Truman, his wife Susan, and daughter Emmy in your thoughts and prayers. Funeral arrangements have yet to be determined."


Malacca gin making a brief return

Gin lovers who may be nostalgic for a special product from the '90s will be glad to hear Tanqueray is bringing back its Malacca gin.

Malacca was introduced in 1997, but ceased production in 2001. That was to the disappointment of some leading cocktail experts, who liked the fact the lower-alcohol product was softer and with fewer juniper nuances than the popular London Dry style and, thus, was more versatile in mixed drinks.

The return of Malacca in February is for "a limited run" will carry a suggested retail price of $33 for the 750ml bottle.

By way of explanation "limited run," the company has created just 16,000 cases for the U.S. UK and Western Europe markets.