20060130

Lack in the (ex) USSR


Nyet, nyet, a thousand times nyet.

Yet, it's true. Russia is running out of vodka. Stock has been depleted at many distilleries.

”As of today, some branches of Rosspirtprom (the state alcohol company) have sold all product made (in the) past year. Moscow Cristall has terminated the shipment as well, as its warehouses are empty,” Rosspirtporm's Dmitry Dobrov told Interfax, the Russian business and general news service.

At the start of the year, the distilleries were selling vodka they had produced in late 2005. Very quickly, they ran through stocks. Production has been idled because of a controversy over government failure to properly introduce a revised act on the state control of alcohol turnover, which took effect Jan.1 of this year.

Desperate buyers, such as those seen here at the EuroSpar store in Nizhny Novgorod, have been snapping up whatever domestic vodka they can find.


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20060125

Martini & Rossi 'honors' Spirits Notebook


Really? Well, let's make that assumption. Otherwise, I'd have to say Martini & Rossi pilfered an original drink -- or at least its name.

M&R has sent out CDs to news media everywhere boosting a drink it calls the "Pom-Pom." It's part of a Winter Olympic Games-related push to remind consumers of M&R's Italian heritage. However, back on Nov. 26, 2003, I unveiled the "Pom Pomme," a drink I created for the holiday food section of the Albany (NY) Times Union. Here's the story, verbatim:

HERE'S A NEW DRINK TO CHEER ABOUT
By William M. Dowd


Traditions have to begin somewhere. It's often difficult to trace them to their origins, but this one is a snap. It's The Pom Pomme, and it's brand new.

Challenged to come up with a new cocktail for the holidays, I hit on the idea of combining the fruit of the moment -- the pomegranate -- with the alcohol of the moment -- vodka; in this case, Chopin, a quadruple-distilled Polish vodka made from Podlaise region potatoes.

Pom from pomegranate, pomme de terre from the French for potato. Thus, The Pom Pomme.

One could, of course, really get into the holiday spirit by adding a touch of apple juice and a touch of apple liqueur to create a Pom Pomme Pomme Pomme, pomme by itself being French for apple. Or, a drop of rum and it's Rum Pom Pomme Pomme Pomme for Christmas parties. But that would be silly.

The new cocktail has many elements of the holiday feasting table -- the bittersweet tang of the pomegranate juice reminiscent of cranberry flavor, the rosy pink of the mixed ingredients, a touch of orange from the fruit often found on Thanksgiving tables or in a Christmas stocking.

Putting together a Pom Pomme is easy. Just have a tall cocktail shaker on hand, with plenty of crushed ice.

Pom Pomme
( Makes 2 drinks)


1 ounce pomegranate juice
1 medium orange
6 ounces Chopin or other potato vodka (Blue Ice, Luksusowa, Teton Glacier)
2 teaspoons superfine sugar
2 ounces Triple Sec

Directions: Cut orange in half. Use fruit reamer to squeeze juice of half the orange into the cocktail shaker half-filled with crushed ice. Add 1 ounce of pomegranate juice and stir slightly. Add vodka, superfine sugar and Triple Sec. Shake briskly, then strain into a chilled, stemmed cocktail glass. Drop a couple of seeds into the glass and garnish with an orange slice. Note: Pomegranate juice is available in the produce section of most supermarkets.

Here's the M&R recipe for its version:

3 parts M&R Extra Dry Vermouth
1 part pomegranate super juice (sweetened, otherwise you will need to add sugar)
1 part POM Wonderful or fresh pomegranate juice.
Orange twist
Directions: Build ingredients over ice, garnish with orange twist.

Your choice on which version you prefer. But, for the benefit of cocktail historians, remember where you read it first.

By the way, I'm not the only "victim" here. When I whined about this travesty via e-mail to Doug Blackburn, a newspaper colleague who writes on beer (among many other things), he responded:

" ... and today the august paper of record, the nyt, introduces its readers to barley wine. maybe they're simply following up on ... (this).

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20060120

Tequila war ends with a toast


U.S. liquor bottlers who wanted Mexico to continue allowing them to import tequila in bulk for bottling later in the U.S. have gotten their way.

Mexican government officials in 2004 accused U.S. bottlers of adding lower-cost alcohol and selling the blend as "tequila." As a result, they threatened to require that the spirit be bottled in one of the five Mexican states -- Jalisco, Guanajuato, Nayarit, Michoacan and Tamaulipas -- that make up the tequila region and where the blue agave plant is grown to make tequila.

The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) and other trade groups vociferously objected to the claim and the threatened prohibition, calling them a violation of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Their opposition is understandable since 73% of the $400 million worth of Mexican tequila imported in 2004 was shipped in bulk form.

The Mexican government issued a release on Jan. 17, saying a new agreement that guarantees the authenticity of tequila sold in the U.S. is proven by the creation of a registry that identifies approved U.S. bottlers.

Tequila has become a staple of the U.S. liquor market, particularly in such popular cocktails as margaritas. Sales volume in 2004 increased by 8.3% to $3.3 billion in retail sales, according to DISCUS.

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20060118

Baileys briefly branching out


Baileys Original Irish Cream, the creation that found a use for two old, underutilized Irish products by combining them into one new product that clicked with consumers internationally, is at it again.

In addition to the original drink that helped use Irish cream and inexpensive Irish whisky, we now will see Baileys Caramel and Baileys Mint Chocolate in a few months. Baileys Brands is planning to hit the market in time for St. Patrick's Day (March 17) and sell the new flavors for a limited time.

The new flavors are being test marketed in Arizona, and will be sold nationally at $18.99 for a 750ml bottle.

Baileys was launched in Ireland in 1974. It is now available in 180 markets worldwide. It is the No. 1 selling liqueur in the world and No. 6 among all distilled spirits sold worldwide.

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20060116

New beverages from Heaven



Heaven Hill Distilleries Inc. is hitting the market with several new offerings.

First, the Bardstown, KY, company is releasing a pomegranate liqueur called PAMA that it has been testing in New York, Miami, Chicago and Southern California. The sweet/tart flavor comes from the use of all-natural California pomegranates.

Then, it will add Two Fingers Lime and Two Fingers Berry to its tequila-based Two Fingers Gold and Silver line. The beverages, which are 35 percent alcohol volume, are made of tequila distilled from agave plants from Mexico's Los Altos region in the Jalisco Province where farmers have grown agave for more than 100 years. Natural flavorings are added to the mix.

"The groundswell of interest in the pomegranate, combined with consumer's desire for new, mixable and colorful spirits, made this the perfect time to launch PAMA Pomegranate Liqueur," said Kate Latts, Director of Marketing for Heaven Hill marketing director.

Heaven Hill Distilleries produces and markets a portfolio that includes such brands as Evan Williams Kentucky Straight Bourbon whiskey, Hpnotiq liqueur, Whaler's rum and Burnett's gin and vodka.

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20060113

A gin-vodka duo


Distilling doesn't have to be big business. Ask Derek and Sonja Kassebaum of Lake Bluff, IL.

The 30something couple are the co-founders of North Shore Distillery, the state's first bonded and licensed distillery they founded 14 months ago. Quite a leap from their homebrewing beer days. Their new enterprise produces Distiller's Gin No. 6 and North Shore Vodka.

"We looked at over 25 spices for the gin before settling on the final recipe," Derek told the St. Paul Pioneer Press's online reporter.

Both the gin and the vodka are made from the same spirit base-liquor purchased from a regional producer and business partner. The base is boiled in a German-made copper still.

In one of the most flowery descriptions of a distilled spirit I have ever read, the Pioneer Press correspondent described the Distiller's Gin No. 6 as the firm's "flagship product (that) tastes like a mini-symphony in one's mouth: The prologue is an anise smell quickly followed by a scherzo of cardamom, a rondo of lavender and then back to a coda of juniper. Sonja refers to the flavor as 'complex.' The blended botanicals are a special combination of cardamon, lavender and cinnamon. Juniper berries are required to call the product gin."

Good lord, hand me the bottle, Mathilda.

The same spirit base-liquor used for gin is purified through a charcoal filtering system to produce the vodka.

The vodka label has a martini glass with skewered olives in a see-through bottle. The gin label has a frosted cutout panel on the front with the same martini glass on the bottle back.

Bottles are priced at $30.69 for a 750 liter bottle. Availability? As Derek told me, "Our products are difficult to get outside of the Chicago area except, thanks to this wonderful Internet, our gin and vodka are available on-line."

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20060112

Grey Goose creator, 86, dies


Toasts no doubt will be raised today to the memory of Sidney Frank, the multimillionaire entrepreneur credited with touching off the super-premium liquor revolution with Grey Goose vodka.

Frank, 86, died Wednesday in San Diego. His publicist said the cause was heart failure. He was ranked No. 164 on the Forbes 400 Richest Americans list in October, with a net worth of $1.8 billion.

Frank got his start in the liquor business selling Dewar's White Label and Ancient Age for Schenley Distillers, then pushed the German liqueur J├Ągermeister to the under-30 market niche. Nine years ago, he created Grey Goose, such a hit that it shattered the $30-a-bottle price barrier for good.

For a full rundown on Frank, check Forbes.com.

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20060110

On the Cutty-ing edge


If the label on your Cutty Sark begins looking different, it's not the impact of the whisky inside.

Berry Brothers & Rudd, the company that owns the Scotch whisky brand, is launching its first packaging redesign in seven years.

The project will include a new bottle design (seen here) as well as packaging changes. The new container has a taller, leaner shape, available in 70cl and 75cl, 1l and 1.75l sizes.

The changes are in response to a falloff in Cutty Sark's market share. It failed to make the top 10 list of best-selling Scotches in the United Kingdom, its home turf, in 2005 and has been seeing increased competitive pressure globally.

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20060104

Fighting counterfeit Scotch


More Scotch is produced and consumed in India than in Scotland. That kind of market size can lead to many problems, including counterfeiting, in India and other countries.

Not currency, mind you, but fake Scotch production. Two members of the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) -- Richard Burrows, director of French spirits giant Pernod Ricard, who is the new chairman, and Paul Walsh, chief executive of Diageo, the world's biggest spirits company, who becomes vice chairman -- are leading the battle against such chicancery.

SWA estimates that the level of counterfeit Scotch bottles in countries like India "could be as high as one in 10," with figures approaching that in France, Belgium and Australia.

He said: "In any one day we [SWA] are prosecuting 50 cases around the world with people trying to pass products off as Scotch whisky," the group said in a statement.

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