Norwegian whiskey in wings, vodka in spotlight

Call it KG Puntervold, call it Adger Brenneri. By any name. it could well become Norway's first commercial whiskey.

A distillery in Grimstad, on the country's south coast, plans to start producing whiskey this year, with the first bottles ready for market about 2010, according to distillery director Ole Puntervold (seen here).

Puntervold told the newspaper Aftenposten that his company plans to age its whiskey in used American bourbon barrels, to be delivered in May. He plans to produce small bottles of 80 proof whiskey, a different marketing enterprise in a country known primarily for its akevitt (aquavit) liquor.

Another Norwegian newspaper, Lofotposten, reports that there may be other budding Norwegian whisky producers as well. It said the marketing firm Norsk Respons has been surveying households to determine interest in a Norwegian-produced whiskey priced at around US$75 a bottle. Puntervold said his firm hasn't commissioned the survey.

Lofotposten also said a businessman in Vestvågøy has aired plans to make whiskey, but will start with beer and mead brewing.

How does the existing spirits establishment feel about the idea of Norwegian whiskey?

"I'm afraid sales would dive after collectors have snapped up the first 20 cases," said Halvor Heuch. He's with Arcus, the Oslo company that produces Liniefjord akevitt and Vikingfjord vodka.

Meanwhile, a new Norwegian vodka named Christiania is getting the spotlight.

It's made with organic Trondelag potatoes and pure Norwegian water, distilled six times then charcoal filtered and aerated. It is named after King Christian IV who, in 1602, commissioned a recipe for premium vodka. It sells for $41.99 and is currently available in the New York/New Jersey/Connecticut area before going nationwide.

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Did your hangout make the top 100?

Of all the gin joints in all the world, or at least in the country, which did the editors of Nightclub & Bar Magazine choose for this year's top 100?

Nightclubs and bars from all over the U.S. were chosen based on a number of criteria, say the editors, "including annual revenues, marketing and advertising effectiveness, promotional expertise, uniqueness to market, food and beverage programs and much more. This list is not a ranking of just the most high-end, of-the-moment nightclubs. Instead, it is a dynamic mixture of clubs, neighborhood bars, sports bars, family-oriented venues and more that for one reason or another deserve notice."

The following bars and clubs, listed in alphabetical order, made the Editors' Choice Top 100 for 2007. The city designated for each is the city in which it is located, or, if the concept has multiple locations, the city of its first location.

230 Fifth - New York, NY
40 Watt - Athens, GA
8150 - Vail, CO.
The Abbey - Hollywood, CA
AJ's Seafood & Oyster Bar - Destin, FL.
Aria - Boston, MA
Avalon/Spider Club - Hollywood, CA.
Beach Bar at the W - San Diego, CA
B.E.D. - Miami, FL
Billy Bob's Texas - Fort Worth, TX
Blue Martini - Ft. Lauderdale, FL
the bosco - Ferndale, MI
Body English - Las Vegas, NV
Bombay Club - New Orleans, LA
Broken Spoke Saloon - Sturgis, SD
Brother's Bar & Grill - Lacross, WI
Butter - San Francisco, CA
Cabo Wabo - Lake Tahoe, NV
Casbah - Atlantic City, NJ
Cherry - Las Vegas, NV
Chilkoot Charlie's - Anchorage, AK
Coyote Cantina - Santa Fe, NM
Coyote Ugly - New York, NY
Crobar - Chicago, IL
The Crocodile Café - Seattle, WA
Diablo's Downtown Lounge - Eugene, OR
e4 - Scottsdale, AZ
Eight 75 - Biloxi, MS
El Gaucho - Seattle, WA
Elements the Lounge - Seabright, NJ
ESPN Zone - Baltimore, MD
Excalibur - Chicago, IL
Fadó Irish Pub - Atlanta, GA
Flatiron Lounge - New York, NY
The Flying Saucer - Memphis, TN
Fox Sports Grill - Scottsdale, AZ
Galapagos Art Space - Brooklyn, NY
ghostbar - Las Vegas, NV
Good Hurt - Los Angeles, CA
The Green Parrot - Key West, FL
The Greene Turtle - Ocean City, MD
Ground Zero Blues Club - Clarksdale, MS
The Helix - Washington, DC
House of Blues - New Orleans, LA
Iguana's Cantina - New York, NY
Ivan Kane's Forty Deuce - Hollywood, CA
JET - Las Vegas, NV
Kahunaville - Las Vegas, NV
Key Club - Hollywood, CA
Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop - New Orleans, LA
The Library Bar & Grill - Tempe, AZ
Light - Las Vegas, NV
Lotus - New York, NY
Louie's Backyard - South Padre Island, TX
Mango's Tropical Café - Miami, FL
Mantra - Milwaukee, WI
Marquee - New York, NY
McGillin's Olde Ale House - Philadelphia, PA
Mercy Wine Bar - Addison, TX
Midnight Rodeo - San Antonio, TX
Mie N Yu - Washington, DC
MIXX - Atlantic City, NJ
mur.mur - Atlantic City, NJ
The New Crown & Anchor - Providencetown, MA
The New Sheridan - Telluride, CO
Ocean Club - Honolulu, HI
Pangaea - Hollywood, FL
Pat O' Brien's - New Orleans, LA
Pavilion Bar & Café - Charleston, SC
Pin-Up Bowl - St. Louis, MO
Pink Elephant - New York, NY
The Playboy Club - Las Vegas, NV
Pure - Las Vegas, NV
Purple Moon - Flint, MI
Rockit Bar & Grill - Chicago, IL
Ruby Skye - San Francisco, CA
rumjungle - Las Vegas, NV
Sharkeez - Huntington Beach, CA
Sherlock's Baker Street Pub - Houston, TX
Sloppy Joe's - Key West, FL
Snatch/Suite - Miami, FL
Stingaree - San Diego, CA
Stubb's Bar-B-Q - Austin, TX
Studio 54 - Las Vegas, NV
Tabú Ultra Lounge - Las Vegas, NV
Tangerine - Las Vegas, NV
TAO - Las Vegas, NV
Therapy - New York, NY
Tini Bigs - Seattle, WA
Tipitina's - New Orleans, LA
Tongue & Groove - Atlanta, GA
Tryst - Las Vegas, NV
VICCI - Austin, TX
Vine Street Lounge - Hollywood, CA
The Viper Room - Los Angeles, CA
Walnut Room - Philadelphia, PA
Whiskey Blue - Los Angeles, CA
Worship - Atlantic City, NJ
Yard House - Long Beach, CA
Zinc Lounge - Manhattan Beach, CA

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Drinking your fruit a healthy way to go

For those of us who don't eat as much fruit as we should, a study just published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture hints at a way to remdy that.

Consume your fruit in an alcoholic cocktail.

The study, a joint undertaking of Kasetsart University in Thailand and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Research Service, says that plain fruits are good for you but those combined with alcohol are able to release more of their compounds that protect against, or help combat, such diseases as cancer, heart disease and arthritis.

The researchers, who were looking for better ways of keeping fruit fresh during storage, found that treating strawberriesand blackberries with alcohol enhanced their antioxidant capacity which helps the fruit's power to neutralize destructive molecules called free radicals by a third. Free radicals are known as highly reactive oxygen molecules which damage DNA and cell membranes.

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Liqueur-and-candle sets recalled

If you gave or got a Tequila Rose Strawberry Cream candle sets, sold nationally from January through March of this year, beware.

McCormick Distilling Co., doing business as Tequila Rose Distilling Co., is recalling the sets because the martini glass containing a gel candle can break while the candle is burning, posing fire and burn hazards.

The gift sets also includes 750ml bottles of Tequila Rose Strawberry Cream liqueur.

The company, which had 60,000 of the sets on the market, said consumers should contact Tequila Rose Distilling at (800) 567-7303 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays for instructions on how to get a free replacement candle or check online.

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New products, from genteel to X Rated

Voyant Chai Cream Liqueur is a Dutch import made of aged Virgin Islands rum, Dutch cream, Indian black tea, vanilla and a variety of Asian spices.

The company has come up with a menu of "original recipes" for cocktails rather than simply substituting this cream liqueur for another one in a previously existing recipe. Click here for a PDF of that menu.

Other notes:

• 25 proof
• Category: spirits/liqueur
• Packaging: 750ml and 50ml orange bottles
• Suggested retail price: $21.99 per 750ml bottle

Twistee Shots come in twisted plastic 12ml shot glasses that deliver two separate flavors in a single shot. Each side of the container holds a different vodka-based spirit flavor, but the consumer drinks both at once.

The Twistees come in a variety of flavors: melon & vanilla, strawberry & vanilla, zambuca & banana, blueberry & vanilla, and butterscotch and vanilla.

Other notes:

• 40 proof
• Category: Spirits
• Packaging: 8-packs of 25ml plastic shot glasses
• Suggested retail price: $11.99 per 8-pack

"Sex and the City" may have been banished to reruns, but the spirit of Carrie and her friends lives on. Here's one example of how: X-Rated Vodka.

The French creation is made in copper alambic stills and distilled seven times. Its main component, after water of course, is French wheat plus a touch of roseberry grain grown on the island of Madagascar.

It already has picked up a double gold medal at the prestigious San Franxcisco World Spirits Competition.

Other notes:

• Category: Spirits
• Packaging: 750ml bottle
• Suggested retail price: $29.99

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New flavors the name of the game

There's no standing still in the drinks industry, not with new competitors and new products popping up on a nearly daily basis.

Several familiar brand names are introducing new flavors to the market. Beam Global Spirits & Wine Inc., for one, has come out with three new flavors for its Gilbey’s vodka. DeKuyper, the maker of cordials and liqueurs owned by the same company, has launched its Tropical line. Hiram Walker, owned by Pernod Ricard, is unveiling two new flavors of schnapps. And, Diageo is adding new flavors through both its Smirnoff and Captain Morgan brands.

Gilbey’s new flavors are citrus, raspberry, cherry and grape, which research says are the top flavors in the economy vodka niche. Flavored vodkas within that market grouping grew at a 22% rate in 2006, outpacing growth for the overall economy vodka category, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS).

The new 70 proof Gilbey’s vodka flavors will be available in 750ml, 1L and 1.75L bottles beginning in May.

DeKuyper is aiming for a May market debut for its new Tropical Mango, Tropical Pineapple Coconut and Tropical Papaya cordials. The Tropical line will bring to nearly 60 the number of flavors in all its lines.

The new 30-proof products will be available in 50ml, 750ml and 1L bottles. A 750ml bottle has a suggested retail price of $9.99.

According to the DISCUS figures, cordials and liqueurs represent 14.4% of total spirits growth in 2006.

Hiram Walker is introducing the industry's first pink grapefruit- and pear-flavored schnapps. That will bring to 38 the number of flavors in the company line of schnapps and flavored brandies.

Both products will be available in 50 ml, 750 ml and 1 L sizes and carry a suggested retail price of $8.99 to 11.99 for the 750 ml.

Meanwhile, Diageo is launching new flavors through its Smirnoff and Captain Morgan brands.

Smirnoff Raw Tea, which had been available only in the Northeast, is going national in May with three flavors: lemon, raspberry and the new green tea. All are non-carbonated and made from real tea with natural fruit flavors.

Smirnoff Ice Pomegranate Fusion is the latest flavored malt beverage in the Smirnoff Ice line.

Captain Morgan Parrot Bay Pineapple Colada joins a line that already offers Sunset Surf, Matava Blue and Wave Runner. the new flavor is a mix of pineapple and sweet coconut, with a malt base.

All the new Diageo products will sell for a suggested retail price of $7.49 per six-pack.

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Does chewing lead to drinking?

There is no truth to the supposition that squeezing the juice out of a piece of Orbit Mint Mojito chewing gum will result in a cocktail.

However, at least one alcohol watchdog group predicts exposing children to the new flavor might well lead them to trying the popular cocktail before they are of legal drinking age.

"It's something I'd call mildly reprehensible, and it'll almost certainly lead to others going further," said a spokesman for the Marin Institute. "It's sad they need to name it like an alcoholic beverage to sell it."

Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co., which owns Orbit, said in a rebuttal statement that mojito flavor has transcended alcohol and become a wider phenomenon, used in sauces, salsas, marinades and even scented candles. It compared the mojito to the piña colada, which is used in gum, candy bars and jelly beans by Wrigley competitors Trident, Carefree, Hershey and Jelly Belly. The latter, by the way, also offers a margarita flavor.

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Woodford Reserve: A second shot at history

William M. Dowd photos

A distillery worker rolls out American white oak barrels just filled with new bourbon whiskey prior to loading them up for placement in aging house elsewhere on the grounds.

VERSAILLES, KY -- The Labrot & Graham Distillery has something probably no other bourbon maker can boast about.

No, not the copper pot stills. True, they are reputedly the only such devices among the nation's bourbon distillers, handcrafted in Scotland by A. Forsyth & Son Ltd. And, no, not the fact that the distillery's Woodford Reserve bourbon is the only triple distilled bourbon made in these parts.

What it also has is a grave containing a human torso buried with two legs, three thumbs and no head. The missing head was the result of an industrial accident; the extra thumb came from a distillery worker who lost it in an accident, didn't think there was much sense keeping it in his pocket, and tossed it into the grave before it was covered up. That, at least, is the gist of the way master distiller Chris Morris (right) tells the tale. No doubt an archaeologist in the far distant future is going to have some strange thoughts after happening on this site. And, don't even get me started on the ghost of the girl who died in a fire in the big house on the hill.

Woodford Reserve, named for the county in which Versailles (pronounced ver-sails, rather than the French vehr-sigh from which the name is taken) is located, is only the latest name for the facility that lays claim to the title of Kentucky's oldest bourbon distillery. It has been that since 2003, although the Labrot & Graham name that preceded it still is alive in some aspects of the operation.

It is located in the heart of Kentucky's famed Bluegrass country and maintains a relationship with the thoroughbred horse racing community through various business sponsorships, including being the "official bourbon" of the Kentucky Derby (see below).

The present distillery is largely maintained on 72 acres in a series of sprawling stone buildings, such as the distillery itself (seen above), dating from the 19th century and one reason the complex has been designated a National Historic Landmark. The original distilling works was built in 1812 by Elijah Pepper, then became the Oscar Pepper Distillery, then the Labrot & Graham Distillery in 1878 through 1941. Brown-Forman, now one of the world's largest alcoholic beverage companies, bought it in 1968, sold it in 1971, but, in a burst of renewed interest in bourbon making, re-purchased it in 1994, spending more than $7 million to restore and refurbish it.

Although much of the bourbon production work remains comparatively low tech, the whiskey quickly rose to the upper echelon of the field under Brown-Forman's second go-round. The main whiskey is a small batch product, although not a single barrel. As Morris explained it, a lot of sampling goes on to ascertain the readiness of the bourbon as it ages, rather than producing it on an unwavering calendar-only basis.

The actual making of bourbon is essentially a simple four-step process: mash making, fermentation, distillation and maturation. The differences in brands lie in water quality, grain quality, the chemistry of the yeast, the filtration and the aging process.

The chemical reactions going on in this 20,000-gallon cypress plank fermentation vat results in a substance resembling cooked oatmeal.

Whereas most distillers have converted to steel fermentation tanks, Woodford Reserve is begun in old 20,000-gallon cypress plank vats where water from a local aquifer is mixed with yeast, corn, rye and malted barley. By law, bourbon must be made from at least 51% corn, but distillers usually use 70% or more. Morris told me he uses 72% corn, 18% rye and 10% barley.

The water may be as important to the finished product as any other component. The age of glaciers on mainland North America left a huge limestone shelf extending from southern Indiana down through Kentucky and Tennessee, creating a natural filtering mechanism for water that "sweetens" it by removing iron and other impurities.

Once the grain mixture, called "mash," is joined by the yeast -- itself a proprietary strain owned by particular distillers -- the chemical process takes off. Over a period of about three days, the yeast converts the natural sugar of the grains to alcohol and CO2. The result is "distiller's beer," a slightly sour, yet overtly sweet-smelling liquid with the spent grains and yeast sinking to the bottom of the vats.

Finished whiskey flows into these receivers, then is put into barrels for aging.

The "beer" then is distilled into raw whiskey by heating the liquid, creating steam, which is cooled and forms a more refined liquid. The alcohol is removed at the top, and any fiber and other solid matter is removed from the bottom. Since most distilleries recycle virtually everything, such leftover matter -- sometimes called "wet cake" -- is sold or given to farmers to be used for livestock food.

Typical bourbons are triple distilled, although the number of individual stills, the height of them, and the tubing systems make the actual number of distillations a matter of some debate since the total length run by the whiskey often exceeds a strict mathematical equation.

Morris, a native of Kentucky, has been Woodford Reserve's master distiller since 1999. He is a judge at the prestigious International Wine & Spirit Competition in London, co-chairs the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S. (DISCUS) Master Distiller's Committee, and is the only American distiller named a "Keeper of the Quaich" by the Scotch Whisky Association.

------ $1,000 julep coming up ----------------------
In my never-ending quest to keep you abreast of the latest in wildly inflated cocktail prices, here's a timely entry in the sweepstakes: a $1,000 drink in honor of the Kentucky Derby.

As the official drink maker of the Derby, Woodford Reserve has come up with a blend of ingredients from around the world to top its mint julep offering of last year. Woodford is offering 132 of the special cocktails in gold cups, some of which will be auctioned off by Christie's. Each will be engraved with the name of a Derby-winning horse.

A batch of premium bourbon from the Labrot & Graham Distillery mixed with organic sugar from Australia, mint from Ireland and ice from the Bavarian Alps.

"We did try to make the ultimate mint julep, and that's something that we're striving for again this year," Wayne Rose, Woodford Reserve's brand director, said in a prepared statement. "It'll be a little bit different taste, but that's because the ingredients are a little bit different."

The auction of 11 gold cups featuring Triple Crown winners and carrying three rubies — signifying the Derby, Preakness and Belmont legs of the Triple Crown, and of two other diamond-studded cups -- for Barbaro, last year's winner, and the first Derby champ, Aristides -- is scheduled to begin at noon Tuesday. The remaining cups can be purchased on Woodford Reserve's Derby Web site. Auction proceeds will go to the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, which helps retired horses and disabled jockeys.

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What will they think of next? (April edition)

This month's collection of cocktail recipes I've gathered from all over is headed by the delightful Seelbach Cocktail I recently sampled at the Seelbach Hilton Hotel in Louisville, KY.

The Seelbach is one of the South's "golden age" luxury hotels, opened in 1905 and since then host to nine American presidents and innumerable dignitaries. The stunning ambiance of the place, awash with oak and marble and gilded surfaces, inspired F. Scott Fitzgerald to use the hotel as the backdrop for Tom and Daisy Buchanan's wedding in "The Great Gatsby."

• The Seelbach Cocktail

4 ounces quality champagne
1 1/2 ounces bourbon
1/2 ounce triple sec
7 dashes Peychaud bitters
7 dashes Angostura bitters

Add bourbon, bitters, and triple sec first. Fill rest of glass with champagne. Garnish with orange twist, serve in a champagne flute.

Cocktail Times.com

The Balsamic Pear Cocktail is well off the beaten path. It was created by Gwen Kaiser, master mixologist for this Web site.

2 oz. freshly juiced pear nectar
2 oz. sake
1/2 oz. balsamic syrup
2 drops bitters
Pear slice for garnish

To make balsamic syrup: Simmer 2 cups sugar, 1 cup water, 1 cup balsamic vinegar for 20 minutes. Pour into final storage container, adding approximately 1 oz. vodka to aid in preservation.

Stir all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with pear slice.


The Mint Julep Martini packs quite a punch. This Web site's bartender feature admits "We have a little penchant for brown drinks (ie. bourbon) and we are sharing this addictive version with you."

3/4 cup Maker's Mark or other bourbon
1/4 cup vanilla vodka
1 teaspoon Triple Sec or Cointreau
1 teaspoon peppermint schnapps

Combine all ingredients in a shaker and, well, shake. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with fresh mint or an orange twist. Sip carefully, rinse, re-chill or re-glass, repeat.

Note: Emergency glass chilling can be done by filling the glass with crushed ice while you make your luscious, bourbony concoction. Throw out ice, fill glass.

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The Boys from Wick take on the Big Apple

Malcolm Waring (left) and Bill Dowd chat. (Photos by April Dowd)
NEW YORK -- With the United Nations building looming in the background and busy ships plying the East River, the whisky maker from Wick, Scotland, was soaking in his first visit to the United States.

"It's a bit overwhelming," Malcolm Waring, master distiller at Old Pulteney on Scotland's east coast, told me while we chatted before he unveiled his 17- and 21-year-old whiskies to an invited media preview crowd at The Water Club.

"I expected everything to be big, but it's so much bigger than I imagined. I'd like to visit a lot of places next time around, and I think there will be some 'next times.' "

The 12-year-old version of Old Pulteney, made in a small distillery that is mainland Scotland's northernmost such facility, has been selling in the U.S. for a decade, but the 17- and 21-year-old versions that employ both bourbon and sherry casks to impart different flavors have been available only in Europe. Ware's visit as part of a phalanx of brand managers, PR people and company representatives was timed to coincide with the annual Whiskey Live festivities in New York when more media attention was possible.

The hook is that media attention can be either positive or negative. Thus, distillers take quite a chance when many competitors are in town pushing their products as well. It's a long way from Wick, which is so far north it is on roughly the same latitude as Moscow, to the palates of America.

Waring, jacketless and wearing a short-sleeved white shirt, was in sharp contrast to the New Yorkie media crowd at the event, most clad in black or earth tones that are the informal uniform of such activities. But when he talks about his whisky he's as smooth as anyone in the room.

"We like to refer to it as a maritime whisky," he said. "It's part of the history of Wick as home port to a huge herring fishing industry in what otherwise was a very remote, windswept place. We even have one of the fishing boats on our labels."

Old Pulteney is one of the lesser known Scotch whiskies among aficionadoes in the U.S., but it has always been known as a quality distillation. It's made in closed pot stills, utilizing 100-meter long copper tubes. It begins with water that comes from the local source, the River Wick, then is filtered and used to begin the whiskey making process.

The Old Pulteney 12-year-old is a warm, smooth, very balanced single malt. Sampling it sets up the palate very nicely for its older siblings, both of which are markedly different and not just because of aging.

I noted the 21-year-old was drier and a touch spicier than the 17, and suspected there was a difference between the types of sherry casks used for each in addition to the ratio of whisky-to-wine barrels. Waring confirmed my suspicions, noting that olorosso casks are used for the 17 and fino for the 21. The 17 year old is aged 90% in bourbon barrels and 10% in sherry. The 21 year old is aged in 66% bourbon and 33% sherry. Both are bottled at 92 proof.

The 17 has pronounced notes of caramel and vanilla, as one would expect, but overtones of honey, citrus and apple come through as well. Once cut with a few drops of water, the nose opened quite a lot, releasing floral esters.

The 21 provides what I refer to as "full tongue," a complete experience of all the elements the tongue can detect -- sweet, salty, bitter and sour. Caramel, chocolate, honey and a touch of smoke are evident, as are lower tannins than in the 17. The complexity of the flavor range makes it a perfect after-dinner drink.

All in all, both the 17 and 21 should be well received by Scotch aficionadoes in the U.S. even at its price point: $79.99 for the 17-year-old, $99.99 for the 21-year-old. The 12-year-old has been selling here at a suggested retail price of $39.99.

The Old Pulteney lineup.

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Plenty of gold among these San Francisco treats

Vodka may have ousted gin from the top rung of the white spirits category worldwide, and tequila is making a strong move upward, but gin keeps coming up big in top-echelon competitive judging.

Plymouth Gin, the iconic English distilllation imported to the U.S. by Absolut Spirits, came out as "best of show - whites" for the second consecutive year at the prestigious San Francisco World Spirits Competition. (Click here for my column on Plymouth master distiller Sean Harrison, and here for my recent report on a possible gin comeback.)

More than 700 spirits from 51 countries were entered in the recent competition. Among major awards were distiller of the year to Highland Park of Orkney, Scotland, and importer of the year to multinational giant Diageo.

Here are all the gold medalists in all categories. Go here for a complete look at all medal winners in all categories.


Top Vodka, Double Gold Medal: Tanqueray Sterling, United Kingdom, $20.
Double Gold Medal: Diamond, Oregon, $60.
• Gold Medals: Belvedere, Poland, $32; Boru, Ireland, $32; Chopin, Poland, $34; CÎROC, France, $30; Idôl, France, $28; Khortytsa Classic, Ukraine, $18; Kirkland Signature Ultra Premium, France, $30; Lithuanian Gold, Lithuania, $15; Marani, Armenia, $30; Matrioshka Lux, Russia, $25; Stockholm Krystal, Sweden, $18; T&W V6, Florida, 40%; U'Luvka, Poland, $50; V-One, Poland, $26; Zyr, Russia, $32.

Top Flavored Vodka, Double Gold Medal: Finlandia Grapefruit, Finland, $19.
Gold Medals: Belvedere Pomarancza, Poland, $32; Herb's Aromatic Dill Leaf Infused, Idaho, $29; Kröl Lemon-Raspberry, Poland, $30.

Tequila Best in Show, White, Double Gold Medal: Milagro Reposado Select Barrel Reserve, Central, Mexico, $75.
• Double Gold Medals: AsomBroso Añejo, Jalisco, Mexico, $210; AsomBroso Silver Tequila, Jalisco, Mexico, $40; Casa Noble Añejo, Jalisco, Mexico, $80; Corralejo Reposado, Guanajuato, Mexico, $35; Don Eduardo Silver, Jalisco, Mexico, $40; El Tesoro Paradiso, Jalisco, Mexico, $121; Fina Estampa Silver, Jalisco, Mexico, $30; Herradura Añejo, Jalisco, Mexico, $55; Loma Azul Blanco, Jalisco, Mexico, $17; Olmeca Extra-Aged, Jalisco, Mexico, $35; El Agave Blanco, Jalisco, Mexico, $25; Trago Silver, Jalisco, Mexico, $40.
Gold Medals: 1800 Añejo, Jalisco, Mexico, $40; AsomBroso Reposado Bordeaux Barrel Rested, Jalisco, Mexico, $44; Cabo Wabo Uno Añejo Reserva, Jalisco, Mexico, $249; Don Eduardo Añejo, Jalisco, Mexico, $45; Don Julio Real, Jalisco, Mexico, $350; El Jimador Añejo, Jalisco, Mexico; El Tesoro Añejo, Jalisco, Mexico, $46; El Tesoro Reposado, Jalisco, Mexico, $40; Gran Centenario Añejo, Jalisco, Mexico, $50; Herradura Reposado, Jalisco, Mexico, $50; Jose Cuervo Black Medallion Añejo, Jalisco, Mexico, $20; Mascarillo Reposado, Jalisco, Mexico, $45; Partida Blanco, Jalisco, Mexico, $50; Penca Azul Reposado, Jalisco, Mexico, $80; El Agave Reposado, Jalisco, Mexico, $30; Tevado Reposado, Jalisco, Mexico, $20.

Aquavit Gold Medal: North Shore Private Reserve, Illinois, $27.

Top Gin, Double Gold Medal: Tanqueray London Dry, United Kingdom.
Double Gold Medal: Martin Miller's, England, $30; Stretton's London Dry, South Africa, $13; Tanqueray Rangpur, United Kingdom, $22; Whitley Neill, England, $25.
Gold Medals: New Amsterdam, USA, $20; Plymouth, England, $23; Whitley Neill 96 Proof, England, $30.

Soju/Sochu Gold Medal: Suntory Kuromaru Sweet Potato Shochu, Japan, $24.

Top Rum, Double Gold Medal: Pampero Aniversario, Venezuela, $30.
• Double Gold Medals: Clément XO Extra-Aged, Martinique, French West Indies, $135; Diplomatico Añejo Dark, Venezuela; Rogue Dark, Oregon, $36; Savanna Intense 55, Reunion Island, Indian Ocean, $11; Zaya Gran Reserva, Guatemala, $40.
Gold Medals: 10 Cane, Trinidad, $35; Bounty Over-Proof, Fiji, $20; Clarke's Court Spicy, Grenada; Clément Cuvée Homière Extra-Aged, Martinique, French West Indies, $85; Gosling's Black Seal, Bermuda, $18; Gosling's Family Reserve Old, Bermuda, $70; Kweyol Spiced, St. Lucia, $17; Matusalem Platino, Santiago, D.R., $17; Matusalem Clásico, Santiago, D.R., $20; Matusalem Gran Reserva, Santiago, D.R., $30; Montecristo Spiced, Guatemala, $20; Pampero Especial, Venezuela, $20.

Top Cachaça, Double Gold Medal: Leblon, Brazil, $30.
Double Gold Medal: Pirassununga P51, Brazil, $19.
• Gold Medals (all Brazil, most prices unavailable): Agua Luca, $30; Cuca Fresca Premium, $20; Fulô Ruby Wood-Aged 1827 Range; Fulô Gold 1827 Range, Ypê Wood Rested; Fulô Nêga; Moleca Gold, $40; Sagatiba Pura.


Top North American Whiskey, Double Gold Medal: Sazerac Straight Rye, Kentucky, $25.
Double Gold Medals: Booker's Small Batch Bourbon, Kentucky, $47; Eagle Rare Single Barrel Bourbon, Kentucky, $30; George Dickel No. 12 Tennessee Whiskey, Tennessee, $20; George T. Stagg Kentucky Single Barrel Bourbon, Kentucky, ] $55; Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve 20 Year Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon, Kentucky, $100; appy Van Winkle Family Reserve 23 Year Old Straight Bourbon, Kentucky, $200; Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye Whiskey, Kentucky, $55; Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit Whiskey, Kentucky, $50; Wild Turkey Master Selection Straight Bourbon, Kentucky; Baker's Small Batch Bourbon, Kentucky, $37; Blanton's Kentucky Straight Single Barrel Bourbon, 7 Years, Kentucky, $50; Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Kentucky, $23; Bulleit Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Kentucky, $25; Elijah Craig 12 Year Old Bourbon, Kentucky, $18; George Dickel Barrel Selected Tennessee Whiskey, Tennessee, $35; Jefferson's Sam Houston Bourbon, $34; Jim Beam Black Bourbon, Kentucky, $21; Old Forester Birthday Bourbon, Kentucky, $35; Rittenhouse 21 Year Old Single Barrel Rye Whiskey, Kentucky, $150; Rittenhouse 100 Proof Bottled-in-Bond Rye Whiskey, Kentucky, $13; Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon, Kentucky, $25; Wild Turkey Russell's Reserve, Kentucky, $30; Woodford Reserve Small Batch Bourbon, Kentucky, $30.


Gold Medals: Canadian Club Classic 12, $20; Canadian Club Reserve Classic 12, $17; Canadian Club Sherry Cask Classic 12, $24; Crown Royal, $25; Forty Creek Barrel Select, $22.


Top Irish Whiskey, Double Gold Medal: Redbreast 12 Year Old Pure Pot Still, $65.
Double Gold Medals: Bushmills Black Bush, $30; Bushmills 16 Year Old Single Malt, $65; Jameson 18 Year Old, $75; Midleton Very Rare Blended, $125; Tullamore Dew 12 Year Old, $34; Bushmills 10 Year Old Single Malt, $45; Bushmills 21 Year Old Single Malt, $115.
Gold Medals: Connemara 12 Year Old Peated Single Malt, $100; Jameson 12 Year Old, $30; The Tyrconnell Single Malt, $30.


•  Best in Show - Whisky, Double Gold Medal: Bowmore 18 Year Old Single Malt, $85.
• Top Blended Scotch, Double Gold Medal: Johnnie Walker Anniversary Pack, $2,600.
Top Blended Malt Scotch, Double Gold Medal: Johnnie Walker Green Label 15 Year Old, $50.
• Distiller of the Year, Double Gold Medal: Highland Park 12 Year Old Single Malt, $40.
Double Gold Medals: Aberlour 16 Year Old Single Malt Double Cask Matured, $50; Bowmore Darkest 15 Year Old Single Malt , $65; Bowmore 25 Year Old Single Malt, $250; Clynelish 14 Year Old Single Malt, $45; Dewar's Signature Blended, $225; Dewar's 12 Year Old Special Reserve, $33; Glen Ord 30 Year Old Single Malt, $300; Glenfiddich 15 Year Old Single Malt, $50; Glenfiddich 18 Year Old Single Malt, $70; Glenkinchie 10 Year Old Single Malt, $44; Glenmorangie 12 Year Old Single Malt Port Wood Finish, $65; Glenmorangie 15 Year Old Single Malt, $80; Highland Park 18 Year Old Single Malt, $86; Highland Park 25 Year Old Single Malt, $230; Lagavulin 16 Year Old Single Malt, $70; Talisker 30 Year Old Single Malt. $300; Talisker 175 Anniversary Single Malt, $100; The Dalmore 21 Year Old Single Malt, $100; The Dalmore 28 Year Single Malt, $150; The Glenlivet 21 Year Old Single Malt, $150; The Glenrothes Select Reserve Single Malt, $45; The Macallan Sherry Oak 30 Year Old Single Malt, $650; The Macallan Fine Oak 15 Year Old Single Malt, $80; Aberfeldy 21 Year Old Single Malt, $179.
Gold Medals: Aberfeldy 12 Year Old Single Malt, $45; Aberlour 12 Year Old Single Malt Double Cask Matured, $35; Ballantine's 12 Year Old, $14; .Caol Ila 18 Year Old Single Malt, $60; Compass Box, $75; Dalwhinnie 15 Year Old Single Malt, $65; Glenfiddich 12 Year Old Single Malt, $35; Glenfiddich 21 Year Old Single Malt, $120; Glengoyne 10 Year Old Single Malt, $35; Glengoyne 17 Year Old Single Malt, $65; Glenmorangie 10 Year Old Single Malt, $44; Glenmorangie 12 Year Old Single Malt, Sherry Wood Finish, $65; Glenmorangie 12 Year Old Single Malt Madeira Wood Finish; Glenmorangie 18 Year Old Single Malt, $120; Highland Park 15 Year Old Single Malt, $60; Highland Park 30 Year Old Single Malt, $360; Johnnie Walker Black Label 12 Year Old, $25; Johnnie Walker Gold Label 18 Year Old, $80; Johnnie Walker Blue Label, $200; Johnnie Walker Swing, $50; Laphroaig 10 Year Old Single Malt, $50; Laphroaig 10 Year Old Single Malt Cask Strength, $60; Laphroaig 30 Year Old Single Malt, $240; McIvor, $12; Pebble Beach 12 Year Old Single Malt, $70; Talisker 18 Year Old Single Malt, $60; Talisker Distiller's Edition Single Malt 1992, $65; Talisker 25 Year Old Single Malt, $200; The Dalmore 12 Year Old Single Malt , $30; The Macallan Fine Oak 17 Year Old Single Malt, $125; The Macallan Fine Oak 30 Year Old Single Malt, $650.


Top Cognac, Double Gold Medal: Hennessy Paradis Extra, France, $300.
• Double Gold Medals (all France): Courvoisier Initiale Extra, $291; Courvoisier Napoleon, $81; Hennessy Richard Hennessy, $1,800; Louis Royer XO, $160.
• Gold Medals (all France): Chateau Paulet Cognac Lalique Decanter, Grande Champagne, $1,400; Delamain Vesper, $170; Hennessy XO, $150; Louis Royer Grande Champagne Aged 32 Years, $500; Rémy Martin XO Excellence, $120.

Best in Show - Brandies/Armagnacs, Double Gold Medal: Chateau de Laubade Intemporel, France, $150.
Double Gold Medals (all France): Chateau de Laubade 1974 Vintage, $170; Chateau du Busca, $100; Marquis de Montesquiou 1981 Vintage, $45.
Gold Medals (all France): Chateau du Busca 1976, $170; Chateau du Busca 1985, $130; Larresingle XO, $90; Tariquet 15 Year Old Color Collection AOC, $66; Tariquet 12 Year Old Color Collection AOC, $82.

Calvados Gold Medal: Père Magloire XO, France.


Top Pisco, Double Gold Medal: Barsol Quebranta, Peru, $20.
•  Top Grappa, Double Gold Medal: Bocchino 16 Year Old, Italy, $250.
•  Double Gold Medals: Bocchino Gemme-Muscato D'Asti Grappa, Italy, $55; Paul Masson Grande Amber Brandy VSOP, Kentucky, $13.
Gold Medals: Barsol Pisco Acholado, Peru, $20; Bocchino 10 Year Old Grappa Cantina Privata, Italy, $115; Bocchino 30 Year Old Grappa Cantina Privata, Italy, $370; Conqueror Pisco Quebranta, Peru, $26; E. & J. Brandy XO, USA, $20; KWV 10 Year Old Brandy, South Africa, $25.


Best in Show - Liqueur, Double Gold Medal: St. Germain Elderflower Blossoms Liqueur, France, $33.
• Top Fruit Liqueur, Double Gold Medal: Cointreau Orange Liqueur, France, $39.
Top Cream Liqueur, Double Gold Medal: Dooley's Original Toffee Cream Liqueur, Germany, $19.
• Double Gold Medals: Chartreuse Yellow Liqueur VEP, France, $123; E.&J. Cask & Cream Liqueur, USA, $13; Feeney's Irish Cream Liqueur, Ireland, $10; Grand Marnier Cuvée Speciale du Cent Cinquantenaire, France, $215; The Macallan Amber Liqueur, Scotland, $35; Verveine du Velay Liqueur Extra, France, $45.
Gold Medals: Baileys Original Cream Liqueur, Ireland, $19; .Chartreuse Green Liqueur VEP, France, $123; Dr. McGillicuddy's Cherry Schnapps, Canada, $15; Dr. McGillicuddy's Fireball Cinnamon Flavored Whisky, Canada, $15; Godiva White Chocolate Liqueur, Belgium, $25; Grand Marnier Cuvée du Centenaire, France, $125; Navan Liqueur, France $35; Paolo Lazzaroni & Figli Amaretto Liqueur, Italy, $17; Runners/Clear Light Sorghum Molasses Spirit, California, $50; The Knot Liqueur, Ireland, $24; Ullr Peppermint Cinnamon Schnapps, USA, $25.

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Run Four (the) Roses in New York City

Long, long ago, in a market not so far away from where I now live, Four Roses was a commonplace whiskey brand. I can still recall seeing it on the bar shelves at the homes of family friends, and pictures of it in magazines and on bulletin boards.

Even today, Four Roses ads, such as the 1954 version shown here, are popular with ephemera collectors and auction house regulars.

This particular Kentucky bourbon wasn't of interest in my household, where Dad was a strict Jim Beam and I.W. Harper man, but it was available in enough places for me to sample a sip or two in my maturing years.

But Four Roses, although made in Lawrenceburg, KY, had not been sold domestically in decades and wasn't re-introduced to Kentucky's limited retail market until five years ago. Its primary market was Japan -- fittingly enough since it is owned by Japan's Kirin Brewery Co., which bought it in October 2001-- and Europe.

This week, Four Roses came back in New York City, where I first encountered it lo those many years ago.

It will be available in small-batch and single-barrel versions at a limited number of restaurants, bars and liquor stores as part of an expansion campaign.

Jim Rutledge, master distiller, said today in a statement, "The relevance of New York is important as we re-establish Four Roses in the U.S. Our barrel inventories have increased to the level that can now support the introduction of Four Roses bourbon into other select markets.”

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UK whiskies hit record sales

Whisky consumption is down in the United Kingdom, but that's not of much concern for UK distillers.

The reason: Demand is on the rise worldwide, so export volume is at a record high, according to figures released this week by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA).

Exports rose by 4% in value, reaching a high of nearly $4.9 billion, topping the previous high of $4.7 billion set in 1997. Scotch whisky now makes up a quarter of UK food and drinks exports, says the SWA.

Blended whisky accounted for the bulk of global exports at $3.7 billion, while malt exports grew 7% to $803 million.

"I'm greatly encouraged that distillers, large and small, are investing in facilities in Scotland and taking advantage of opportunities worldwide, with markets in Asia, North and South America offering strong potential for growth," said SWA Chairman Richard Burrows, adding:

"To support the industry's international competitiveness, the SWA is continuing to press the case for new legislation that will improve both the legal protection of Scotch whisky from unfair competition and help promote the positive reputation of Scotch to consumers around the world."

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New Mount Vernon whiskey off to a fast start

William M. Dowd photo

MOUNT VERNON, VA -- As the white-gloved volunteers carefully doled out tiny pours of the surprisingly golden liquid into tiny plastic cups, the tall, white-haired man regally strolled the ground accepting congratulations and handing out compliments to his staff.

Not just another spring afternoon at Mount Vernon, especially not with the presence of the Father of Our Country, in the costumed person of William Sommerfield, and his distiller James Anderson, played by a very convincing Terry Burgler who had the surreal experience of chatting with "his" own great-great-great-great-great nephew who was paying a visit.

"I can't believe how tall the family has become over the generations," Burgler remarked to me with a grin. "It must be something in the water -- or in what we do with the water."

This particular day was the one on which George Washington's rebuilt whiskey distillery was to be opened, receive its special sales license from the Commonwealth of Virginia, and receive visitors of all sorts, from media to politicians to volunteers and neighbors.

Perhaps most important were the costumed master distillers from whiskeymaking operations throughout Kentucky and Tennessee who have been working together for several years to get the historic operation up and running after an absence of 193 years following a fire that burned it to the ground.

Washington is commonly known as "first in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen." Most people don't know he also was among the first successful commercial distillers in the colonies and then the new nation.

Washington's 22,250-square-foot facility located next to his four-story stone gristmill, which itself opened to the public in 2002, three miles from the main mansion house was huge by the standards of his day. He and Anderson, a Scottish immigrant, oversaw a distilling operation that turned out nearly 11,000 gallons of rye whiskey a year compared to the average output of 650 gallons from other Virginia distilleries.

The distillery, which housed five copper pot stills that were used year-round, began operation in February 1797 and Anderson and his son, aided by six slaves, continued its work after Washington's death in December 1799 and Martha Washington's death in 1802. Washington's nephew, Lawrence Lewis, inherited the distillery and the Andersons moved away. The last recorded distillations were in 1808.

The project was largely underwritten by the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S. (DISCUS) and its member companies, with the support of the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America, to the tune of $2.1 million.

Some whiskey had been produced before the distillery reconstruction was completed, and that was what was being doled out that day. My tasting notes on the small samples showed some pleasant surprises.

"Remarkable color for something only in the wood for a year. ... Obviously, the maturation process had been sped up by using small, 10-gallon casks which surround the raw whiskey with very accessible oak. ... Fine nose, promising spiciness and herbal nuances. ... Much of the expected initial heat usually present in young whiskey was missing, leaving a warm yet palatable initial taste, along with the expected spice from the rye grain, and a satisfactory finish. ... All in all, a definitely promising young whiskey that I'd love to re-taste a year or two from now."

Virginia usually allows only stores operated by its Alcohol Beverage Control to sell distilled spirits. State Sen. Linda T. "Toddy" Puller, original sponsor of the bill that had to be passed to license Mount Vernon to sell its whiskey, was among the guests at the grand opening.

"I'm pleased to play a role in revitalizing a piece of Washington's legacy. We recognize the importance of keeping Washington's spirit alive -- in all respects," she said.

Washington's neighbors in nearby Alexandria, now a suburb of Washington, DC, were interested in his spirit and spirits as well. Much of what he and Anderson distilled was sold in Alexandria stores, particularly George Gilpin's general store. What was peddled in those days wasn't moonshine because it was a decent quality spirit -- 60% rye, 35% corn, 5% malted barley, but it was generally unaged and, therefore, colorless.

The Mount Vernon operation also turned out apple, peach and persimmon brandies, vinegar and some specialty whiskies such as a "rectified" style that was filtered to remove impurities, and a cinnamon-flavored style. The common whiskey cost 50 cents a gallon, the rectified and extra-distilled about $1 a gallon, and brandy $1 and up.

Whether the rebuilt distillery will turn out more than the basic rye whiskey will be known as the project matures. It is a completely functioning distillery, probably the only one in the world using an authentic 18th-century process, housed in a three-story brick, stone and wood structure with one floor devoted to an embryonic whiskey museum.

Everything has gotten off to a flying start on the manufacturing end, thanks to the efforts of master distillers and blenders Jerry Dalton (Jim Beam), Jimmy Russell (Wild Turkey), Chris Morris (Woodford Reserve), John Lunn (George Dickel), Gerald Webb (Diageo North America), David Pickerell (Maker's Mark), Ken Pierce (Barton Brands) and Joe Dangler (Virginia Gentleman).

While they've gone back to their real-life jobs, costumed distillers will be working at Mount Vernon each day April through October. Small bottles of Washington's whiskey will go on sale on premises, probably in mid-summer.

(ABOVE: Clear whiskey distillate runs from a collector barrel to a wooden chute leading to storage casks in the basement of the distillery.)

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The Singleton brings a new whisky to U.S.

Can't get enough imported Scotch whisky? If so, you'll be happy to know that Diageo has imported a 12-year-old single malt for tryouts in Chicago and selected sites in New Jersey before going nationwide.

Selling under the brand name The Singleton of Glendullan, the whisky is part of beverage giant Diageo's Classic Malts Selection line which already included The Singleton brand. The whisky is a 100% single malt, matured in both American bourbon and European sherry oak casks.

Glendullan Distillery was founded at the town of Dufftown in Speyside, Scotland's most famous whisky region, in 1897 and started production in 1898. The River Dullan is a tributary of the Spey.

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Tanqueray goes orange, but with limes

Tanqueray may be the top selling imported gin in the U.S., but it's not standing still. The Diageo-owned company has unveiled a new product, Tanqueray Rangpur.

It is distilled with Rangpur limes, a fruit that looks more like a tangerine in color and size.

Why the new product effort?

"The gin category is experiencing a resurgence as consumers seek more complex and interesting spirits," said Jennifer Van Ness, vice president of marketing for gins with Diageo NA, echoing an observation I made in a recent column on new gin products.

"We undertook an extensive amount of research and testing to find the ideal new entry ... .We're confident that Tanqueray Rangpur Gin, which is quadruple distilled, succeeds ... ."

Rangpur limes, native to India but now cultivated in Southern California, have a deep orange, heavily-seeded pulp. They produce blossoms and fruit year-round. One medium lime contains about 20 calories. They often are used to make marmalades or punches.

Tanqueray Rangpur is being made available in 50ml, 750ml 1L, 1.75L, 200ml and 375ml sizes. The suggested retail price for a 750ml bottle is $21.99.

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Alcoholic drinks sales keep on climbing

"The minute you walked in the joint, I could tell you were a real big spender ... " (*)

In an age in which stronger DWI/DUI laws threatened to put a damper on alcoholic beverage sales, all three segments -- spirits, beer and wine -- posted domestic gains in case volume and retail sales, according to the just-released 2007 edition of the Adams Handbook Advance published by Adams Beverage Group.

"The industry is continuing to create and market products that are finding great resonance with American consumers today, and their willingness to pay more in every category proves it," Charles Forman, vice president and group publisher of Adams, said in a statement.

As I've noted over the past several years, while consumers may be purchasing less in volume in some categories, overall they're spending more money for premium labels. At cocktail lounges, patrons tend to order one or two drinks but ignore the less expensive well drinks in favor of the premium brands.

According to Adams, a leading industry analyst, the U.S. distilled spirits industry was up for the ninth consecutive year in 2006.

Total spirits consumption climbed 3.7% to 176.6 million 9-liter cases. Wine sales continued to rise for the 13th year in a row, increasing 3.4% and reaching 283.1 million 9-liter cases. And beer, the largest beverage alcohol segment, rebounded from last year's slight decline, increasing 1.3% to 2.86 billion 2.25-gallon cases.

Says the Adams report:

"High-end products, and imports in particular, across all categories continued to outperform the business as a whole. For example, in 2005 imported spirits accounted for 38.9% of consumption. By 2006, that figure reached 39.7%.

"Flavored spirits also continued to grow, reaching beyond vodka and rum and emerging in tequila, whiskey and even the cognac segments. Of the 12 segments of distilled spirits, only blended whiskies, Canadian whiskies and prepared cocktails lost volume in 2006.

"Meanwhile, vodka continued to boom, fueled by the cocktail craze, up 6.7%, with imports leading the way (up 13.9% versus 3.6% for domestics). Vodka now accounts for a stunning 27.9% of the spirits business. Rum, the second largest category, grew for the 12th straight year, up 3.5%.

"Among table wines, which account for more than 91% of U.S. wine consumption, imports and "critter" wines, those wines with fanciful packages and named for penguins, kangaroos and other animals, were the leading gainers. Imported table wines grew at a considerably faster rate last year (+5.6%) versus domestics (+3.7%). Overall imported wine -- including champagne, sparkling, dessert, fortified, vermouth and aperitif -- grew 5.6% among imports and 2.7% among domestic wines.

"On the beer front, crafts, lights and imports advanced, while premium, popular, malt liquor, ice and flavored malt beverages sagged. Total beer consumption rose 1.3% or 31.4 million cases to 2.86 billion 2.25 gallon cases. Light beers grew 2.4% and now represent 51.1% of the whole beer market.

"Retail dollar sales for the beverage alcohol market climbed last year as well, with on-premise sales up 9.2%, or $8 billion, to $93.9 billion. Off-premise sales were up 5.6% or $4.3 billion to $82.3 billion. Total sales for 2006 reached $176.2 billion in 2006."

(* - from the 1966 Broadway musical production of "Sweet Charity.")

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Another rare, expensive whisky up for sale

This news item is interesting, but it seems that the gist of it -- a rare, expensive whiskey is expected to go at auction for a staggering price -- is becoming rather commonplace.

The current such item is a bottle of Johnnie Walker 1805, one of just 200 in existence, is expected to bring between $20,000 and $30,000 at auction at Bonhams in London.

The special edition 1805 blend was produced in 2005 to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Johnnie Walker. It is a blend of nine whiskies that are at least 45 years old and from distilleries that no longer exist. The 200 bottles were poresented to various individuals judged to have made "a significant contribution to modern life." This is the first time one will be put on the market.

The bottle comes in a handmade Victorian-style writing case together with an antique nib pen reminiscent of the ere in which Walker blended the whiskies himself. The bottle features a gold bust of Walker and the handwritten' words "The inventory of the stocks and effects of John Walker, November 1819." It is the oldest surviving handwritten document held in the Johnnie Walker archives.

The winning bidder will get a copy of an original recipe book handwritten by Alexander Walker, John's grandson. Proceeds from the auction will be donated to the National Trusts for England, Wales and Scotland.

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Chavez vs. the spirits

If you're visiting Venezuela between now and Monday, April 9, don't expect to find it easy to get a cooling gin and tonic or cachaça in the afternoon.

President Hugo Chavez has banned the public sale of such beverages before 5 p.m. until after Easter Sunday, supposedly to reduce road deaths caused by drinking and operating vehicles in the traditionally heavy Easter week traffic.

There may be something to the safety idea. Venezuelans are known as two-fisted spirits drinkers, and in 2006 ranked seventh in the world in the importation of Scotch whisky, according to the Scotch Whisky Association.

Not that imbibing has halted in the capital city of Caracas. The Reuters news service notes "It is almost as easy as ever to get a drink in Caracas, although bartenders have to be careful. In restaurants, beer or whiskey bottles are removed from tables, and some even serve wine in coffee cups."

Chavez, whose "reform" moves usually have an anti-United States angle, says whiskey drinking is an affectation of the U.S. He already had cracked down on the illegal but popular practice of selling beer and rum from trucks in public and drinking on the streets.

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Letters: WTH is sorghum?

Dear Mr. Dowd

WTH is the sorghum mentioned in the 3rd place-winning Gingerbread Hailstorm Julep? (See UK bartenders get playful with US icon.) I'm not sure I have ever seen sorghum bottled.

-- Puzzled

Dear Puzzled:

Sorghum, also known as milo and a dozen other names, is a type of grass grown virtually worldwide as a domesticated grain crop important as a food source and for beermaking.

In the U.S., most sorghum is used for animal feed although a little bit of it is made into a molasses product to be used as a sweetener.

Although over the years other products squeezed out sorghum as a mass-market swetener, it remains popular in the South and is used in baking, drinks, candies, etc.

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