20080929

Cointreau + Rémy is the new Noir

Cointreau is a common ingredient in cocktail recipes. A new iteration of it, however, already is a mix.

Cointreau Noir, just being launched in the U.S., is a blend of the sweet/bitter orange Cointreau liqueur and Rémy Martin cognac. An intriguing combination, indeed, given that Cointreau is made from a 160-year-old recipe and Rémy from a 280-year-old one.

Both spirits are owned by the same company. The Noir (French for "black") carries a suggested retail price of $60 for 750ml bottle, and probably will go for $15 to $18 a glass in bars and lounges.

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Knappogue Castle adds on

Castle Brands Inc. is releasing its first "special edition" bottling of Knappogue Castle Whiskey, its founding brand.

The Knappogue Castle line is a series of vintage-dated Irish single malt whiskeys. The newest is Knappogue Castle 15 Year Old Irish Single Malt Whiskey. It is the result of marrying one cask each of single malts distilled in 1990, '91 and '92. The whiskey was not chill filtered and was bottled at 86 proof. The three casks produced 600 bottles.

The new expression will be on the market in time for the holiday season at a suggested retail price of $100.

Castle Brands is a developer and international marketer of vodka, rum, whiskey and liqueurs.

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20080928

$20K for Martha's 3-year-old rum

What's in a name?

Well, Martha Washington's may not have the caché of husband George's, but it's not bad.

A 750ml bottle of Martha Washington Colonial Rum, distilled at the George Washington Distillery in 2005 as one of just a dozen such bottles, got a winning $20,000 bid at the annual Distilled Spirits Council (DISCUS) heritage dinner at Mount Vernon, VA, this week.

The winning bid was submitted by Diageo, the giant spirits company.

Also, at the same event DISCUS inducted five people into the George Washington Spirits Society, which was founded in 2002:

• Tom Harkin, Democratic U.S. senator from Iowa
• Frank Keating, former governor of Oklahoma
• Patrick Ricard, CEO of Pernod Ricard
• Esther Vassar, Virginia Alcohol Beverage Control Board commissioner
• Bennett Glazer, CEO of Glazer's Family of Companies.

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Sweden sets first whiskey auction

The national economy in Sweden is about as rocky as that in the U.S., but organizers of an October 7 whiskey auction in Frihamnen -- the first ever in Sweden -- think what they have to put up for bids will be strong enough to overcome that.

Systembolaget, the state-run alcohol retailer, will put about 400 bottles up for sale, including a bottle of Macallan Scotch from 1946 which will carry a starting price of $3,620 US.

" ... Demand for whisky is substantial and, with the emergence of clubs and whiskey tasting, has become something of a people's movement," said Soren Nylund of Systembolaget in an interview with The Local.

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20080927

'Demon Rum' ruled off the ballot

• I don't often read the Batesville, Arkansas, Daily Guard-Record -- in fact, I'd never heard of it before today. However, I found myself smitten with its reporting style on this particular topic:

By Larry Stroud
Guard Associate Editor

"ASH FLAT, AR — When District Judge Phil Smith handed down his ruling Thursday saying the wet-dry issue in Sharp County should be stricken from the November ballot, Batesville attorney David Blair was thrilled.

“ 'The judge has ruled I have saved Sharp County from demon rum,' Blair said jokingly.

"Smith based his ruling on the signatures being insufficient, said Blair, who represented Yota Shaw in one of two civil lawsuits challenging petitions used to get the issue on the ballot until Smith’s ruling changed things.

"The other suit was filed by Morris Street of Cherokee Village. Shaw is from rural Strawberry.

"The suits were combined for a circuit court trial that covered most of three days earlier this week.

"Smith noted that state law sets mandatory requirements for the gathering and notarizing of petitions for local option elections.

"The law, he writes, 'clearly sets out certain prohibited actions regarding the signing and verification of local option petitions ... '

"Prohibited actions include, but are not limited to, signing any name other than one’s own to a petition; knowingly making a false statement on a verification form when acting as a canvasser; and when acting in the capacity of a notary, knowingly failing to witness a canvasser’s signing at the bottom of the petition forms.

"Smith also gave great weight to testimony of expert witness Dawn D. Reed, a forensic document examiner who testified that 238 signatures appeared to have had common authorship (were written by the same person).

"Smith tossed those 238 names and also declared the signature of Charlotte Harrell to be invalid and to not be counted toward the total of needed signatures.

“ 'Mrs. Harrell’s husband signed her name and the canvasser made a marginal notation of that before signing the verification,' Smith wrote in the ruling. 'Therefore, only her name and not the entire page should be excluded.'

"Smith declared an additional 222 signatures invalid because notary Linda Thompson notarized about 85% of the petitions brought to her by Save Energy Reap Taxes president Ruth Reynolds although Reynolds’ signature was already on the petitions. She observed Reynolds sign the other 15%.

"Reynolds, the primary canvasser for the wet-dry vote petitions, testified earlier this week that she signed about 85% of the petitions she took to Thompson beforehand, rather than in front of Thompson.

"Thompson, on the stand, gave the same percentage figure.

"Smith, in the ruling, noted that Reynolds testified 'she would sign a group of the petitions and then take them to Ms. Thompson for notarization to try to save time.

Smith counted the number of petitions Thompson had notarized for Reynolds, which came to 31, and tossed 85% of those petitions.

“ 'The total of signatures declared invalid ... is 461,' Smith wrote. 'Deducting this number from the 4,620 signatures previously validated by the county clerk leaves 4,159 legally valid signatures on the local option petitions submitted by SERT — 210 short of the 4,369 required (by law) ...

“ 'Therefore, the petition for the local option in Sharp County must fail and the issue shall not be decided at the November 8, 2008, general election.'

"Since ballots have to be prepared well in advance, the question may actually appear on the ballot. If time is not sufficient to remove that wording from the ballot, any votes cast for or against the wet-dry issue will not be counted, Smith said.

"A message left at attorney R.T. Starken’s office this morning as to whether Reynolds and Save Energy Reap Taxes plan to appeal Smith’s ruling was not returned by press time. Starken represented SERT.

"A call to Reynolds’ home number was not answered and no answering machine picked up."

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Unusual vodkas trickling into U.S. via stores, Web

Attention consumers in Florida and Michigan. You have been selected from among all 50 of these United States to get Alexandar Vodka from Macedonia.

For the moment, the rest of the country will just have to be content with the 2,756 other new vodkas introduced every week. Or so it seems.

Liquor Group Wholesale, (LIQR), a publicly-traded specialty alcohol beverage distributor headquartered in Jacksonville, FL, has signed an agreement with Kazbo Imports to represent the new import which its PR people describe as "a five-star quality product, without the premium price. From the first class grains, to the soft, clean mountain water, to the 4 column distillation, 7 times filtered, and even the stunning imported Italian cobalt blue bottle, Alexandar Vodka is a dedication to craftsmanship, resulting in vodka of unparalleled taste and smoothness."

Whew. That's just great. As in, Alexandar. The Great. Of Macedonia. Nudge, nudge.

Florida and Michigan, by the way, were selected as the initial U.S. markets for Alexandar because of their sizeable Macedonian and Greek populations. (Suggested retail price: $42.)

LIQR is no newcomer to importing vodkas specialty drinks to the U.S.

Among its vodka products is a vodka called Firestarter, made in the former Soviet republic of Moldova.

It's another premium product, with a touch of honey added to smooth the finish. The bottle itself looks like a fire extinguisher, complete with a locking pin, trigger and a nozzle through which the vodka is poured. It's the latest rage on the California club scene, where fads are fast and furious. (Suggested retail price: $24.99.)

Or, how about Jazz Vodka? The Polish grain vodka is packaged in a trumpet-shaped bottle and marketed for the jazz lover as well as the vodka aficionado. (Suggested retail price: $22.99.)

Or, Pshenychna Vodka? It's a Russian grain vodka packaged in a rifle-shaped bottle and rated “Exceptional” by the Beverage Tasting Institute. (Suggested retail price: $22.98.)

Or, Debowa Polska Vodka? It's a rye-based product infused with a touch of "natural extracts" (?) and oak chips. (Suggested retaikl price: $28.99.)

The list goes on, not only from this importer, but from literally dozens of others. It is rare that one store can stock all the brands you can read or hear about, given their proliferation and the death struggle over shelf space in most stores. Luckily, online sales venues are numerous and government regulations are not as cumbersome as they are for wine sales and shipment.

So, if you're in the mood to invest both some shoe leather and some keystrokes to do your shopping, give the brands I've mentioned a look. Or, add to your list the likes of Han, a Chinese barley vodka infused and blended with polished rice rather than water ($20.99); Pinky Vodka (not to be confused with p.i.n.k. vodka), a Swedish winter wheat product blended with rose and violet petals and 10 other botanicals -- which, in my mind, puts it in the gin category ($25); Blavod Black Vodka from the United Kingdom, which adds color from the catechu herb of Africa and Asia ($15.99), and Boomerang, a chardonnay grape vodka from Australia ($19.99).

These are just a few of the flood of vodkas now on the world market, something you'll note as you do your own research.

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Competition on ice in Vegas

The glass-walled vodka vault at Red Square has always gotten a lot of press coverage for the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. Now there's something else to be cool with.

It's the new Minus 5 lounge that opened this week adjacent to Mandalay Bay. It is one of a chain of such novelty drinking spots started by Craig Ling who also has two each in Australia and New Zealand, and one in Portugal. Ling said he plans to open ice lounges in New York, Miami, Los Angeles and Hawaii.

"The art of ice," as Ling calls it, is central to the theme of his bars. "We have our own ice carvers who change the lounge and sculptures every six to eight weeks." A life-sized ice statue of Elvis Presley was on display for opening day of the 2,000-square-foot place. A hunka-hunka not-burning love.

Ling apparently comes by his fascination with ice in an honest way. He is a great-grandson of Buck Rockwell, a 19th Century explorer and adventurer from New Zealand who endured a one-man expedition to circumnavigate the North Pole.

The lounge temperature, by the way, is kept at 23 degrees Farenheit; the -5 of the name actually is on the Celsius scale, so it's not as cold as one might think. Nevertheless, visitors are offered boots and parkas if they so desire. Kids are welcome, too, and the loung has a "mocktails" menu for them.

Minus 5 also has ice glasses from New Zealand, clear ice for various purposes from Canada, as well as ice couches for relaxing. Admission to the establishment is $30, which includes one cocktail and a parka, and reservations are recommended (702 / 632-7714).

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20080925

Controversial p.i.n.k. scores in Australia

It was just over two years ago that I reported on a new vodka called p.i.n.k.

Since then, it has been meeting with mixed market response, but it certainly has prompted a large share of controversy. In Australia, for example. Here's the latest update on the battle Down Under as reported on the PerthNow.com site:

"Perth's hottest socialites will go pretty in pink when The Court hotel hosts the launch of a new vodka drink that the Australian Government tried to halt.

"p.i.n.k. vodka comes infused with caffeine and guarana, providing an alcohol rush without needing to be mixed with energy drinks like Red Bull. In the U.S., it is known as the ultimate party spirit and is popular among celebrities including Beyoncé, The Pussycat Dolls and Pamela Anderson. The premium vodka drink is used mainly in cocktails.

"The premium vodka drink is used mainly in cocktails. (Its) makers ... had originally planned to launch the drink in capital cities around Australia during July but had trouble getting the product into the country. There were concerns that the spirit could encourage young females to binge drink because of the pink packaging and energy mix.

"But, the vodka will be available in Perth from today."

Go here for the rest of the story.

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20080922

Sneak peek at a new Brit gin

The newest spirit to be loosed upon the bar and club scene in the UK will come out in November.

It's Brockmans Gin, which is intended to be drunk neat with ice. No frou-frou cocktails for this one.

Insiders say the design consultant firm Us was involved in its development, from concept creation and naming to branding, packaging and communications. It worked with brand development agency Ten 100 to develop the brand positioning and strategy for the product.

Its primary target demographic: young bar or club drinkers. Check out its sleek Web site to get an idea of how it's being portrayed.

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Introducing a new feature

William M. Dowd photo illustration

So many distillers around the globe are coming up with special limited edition expressions of their craft that I'm hereby introducing a new occasional category to this site.

If you haven't guessed by the icon at right, it's called "Gotta Have."

I'm basing this item on the belief that many people interested in the spirits world are continually on the hunt for special items for their collections -- sometimes for the fun of collecting them, sometimes for the fun of showing them off to their friends and acquaintances.

Here's the first entry:

Bundaberg 101

Diageo Australia, distributor of Bundaberg Rum, is investing more than $170,000 US in the launch of the new Bundaberg 101 limited edition rum. It has been created to commemorate 101 years since the Queensland distillery was nearly destroyed by a mysterious fire on Feb. 7, 1907.

The Bundaberg Rum brand is Australia's sixth largest alcohol beverage brand. It is made from sugar cane grown in North Queensland. The company's rums are matured for at least two years.

The 700ml bottle is packaged in a gift box featuring singed edges from the lick of flames and a reproduction of a newspaper article reporting the distillery fire. Suggested retail price is $42 US. Unless you're headed to Australia, I'd suggest purchasing online after doing some comparison shopping.

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20080920

New Bowmore whisky truly exclusive

Morrison Bowmore has launched a new Scotch whisky expression from its Islay distillery, Bowmore 16 Year Old Wine Cask Matured.

The single malt is bottled at its natural cask strength of 53.5% ABV (107 proof). It has been aged principally in Bordeaux wine casks.

North American consumers will have to pull some strings to obtain a bottle. Bowmore is selling it exclusively through specialist retailers in the U.K.

Recommended retail price: $107.80 U.S.

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From forest to flask (2.0)

For a pictorial timeline of this story published earlier, click here.

William M. Dowd photos

In most of life’s undertakings, patience is a virtue. In whisky making, it is a requirement.

And, in this era of worldwide efforts to improve the sustainability of the environment, it is becoming an absolute necessity.

It was a gray day as we stood on the Victors Point ridge high above a gentle curve in the Mississippi River not far from the boyhood Missouri home of the iconic writer Mark Twain. Dr. Bill Lumsden picked up an acorn, held it between two fingers and observed to me, “Just think, in a hundred years or so this could be part of Glenmorangie whisky.”

Now, that is long-range thinking. It also is part of The Glenmorangie Co.’s corporate mantra: sustainability of the forests, a zero-waste production stream, and a continued excellence of product.

We were in the mostly-rural U.S. state of Missouri -– far from the state’s two true population centers of St. Louis and Kansas City. It was part of a Lumsden-guided tour for a small international group of beverage journalists to more fully understand the yin and yang of Scotch whisky and wood.

The tour itself offered a study in smalltown Americana surrounded by heavy oak-growth woods in the Ozark Mountains. There, Glenmorangie works with the Missouri Conservation Department as well as private commercial loggers to select white oak trees for the barrels that eventually will hold its new whiskies -– after, of course, they have been seasoned by helping American bourbon mature for four to eight years.

The wood cannot be discounted in the whisky-making process, no matter whether it is Scotch, American, Irish, Canadian or anything else. Most in the industry concur that aging in wood accounts for perhaps 60% of the taste of the finished product and, of course, for all of the beautiful hues of gold, amber and copper that result from the chemical interaction of spirit and wood.

“I’ve experimented with putting new-make whisky into various woods,” said Lumsden. “You never know when something pleasing will come out of it.”

Lumsden had the opportunity in the mid- to late-1990s to try swamp, burr, chinkapin and post oaks in prototype barrels that had been air-dried for 18 months.

“There’s a high degree of spiciness in the swamp oak, and the burr oak has a pleasantly oiliness, almost buttery. The others didn’t provide much difference from American white oak.”

Most people refer to Lumsden as the master distiller for the highland distillery located in Tain, Ross-shire, Scotland, but his title recently was broadened to “head of distilling and whisky creation.” That’s a fancy way of saying he is Morangie whisky.

Any complaints from traditionalists about his experimentations?

“Oh, some, but I put it down to jealousy,” Lumsden said with a twinkle.

While the vast bulk of wood used for aging Glenmorangie whiskies is American white oak, German Black Forest oak also is used. With perhaps 90 different types of oaks in the world, plus the fact that numerous distillers also employ second-use sherry oak casks for aging some products, wood can be Lumsden’s playground for a long time to come.

The process for taking wood from the forests to the whisky aging warehouses is as straightforward as it has been for centuries: Select the right tree, cut and shape it into the proper dimensions for barrels, assemble the casks, toast or char them, seal them against leakage, and send them on their way.

What has changed tremendously, however, is the quality and precision of each step in a world that only in recent decades has become attuned to the necessity for preserving natural resources.

Kristen Goodrich is a resource forester with the state of Missouri who supervises, among other tracts, the Edward Anderson Conservation Area outside the little town of Hannibal where Mark Twain created the immortal characters of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. I met her on the Lumsden trek.

“We have to manage the forests or they’ll die out in wide patches,” she explained. “That’s why we cut on maybe a 15-year cycle, during which we can track growth of various trees, thin out the stands of wood where we need to so the proper amount of sunlight can get through to the stronger trees, and so we can prevent disease. Luckily, this area is fairly pest- and disease-free.”

The foresters attempt to encourage slow growth in trees, which results in fewer large holes in the wood and thus stronger, less porous wood for barrels. In addition, slow growth oak has more vanillins and oak lactones that help flavor the whiskies, and white oak contains a substance called tyloses that naturally blocks the sap-conducting pores of the wood.

Nutrient-poor soil is an inherent growth inhibitor, but the amount of competition among trees for growing space, water and sunlight is managed by selective cutting and trimming.

Once the trees are felled, they’re shipped off to sawmills, such as a large facility in nearby Novelty, Missouri, one of three mills owned by the Cardwell Lumber Co., and located about 20 miles from nowhere in particular.

It’s a state-of-the-art complex, opened in December 2007. Leroy Cardwell, founder and owner of the mills, explains it this way:

“The saying is that you have to build three houses before you really get it right. Well, this mill is our third one and I think we absolutely got it right.”

Much of the automated equipment was designed and built on the grounds by Cardwell’s son, Mark, an obviously gifted craftsman. Sawing, trimming, pressure fitting … virtually everything is guided by computers, although a sizeable workforce continues to be needed to coax and prod and direct the wood through the maze of steps, a good thing in an area with few opportunities for employment.

Some of the less mechanical steps are done by a group of Amish workers. Those men, distinguished by the plain clothes, straw hats and beards in their sect of what generally is known in the U.S. as “Pennsylvania Dutch,” are among the best workers because of their closed society’s widely praised work ethic.

Nevertheless, the smoothness of the operation is guided by the custom-built machinery.

“Mark crafted everything in that building up there,” said Bob Russell, pointing to an unprepossessing metal structure on the edge of the sawmill yard. “They hauled the pieces down here to the main mill and everything fit perfectly.”

Russell is manager of mill operations for the Blue Grass Cooperage Co., the largest barrel-making facility of its kind in the world. The 63-year-old Louisville, Kentucky, company -– owned by Brown-Forman -- works with Moet-Hennessy-owned Glenmorangie to meet barrel specifications. Russell is a walking encyclopedia of wood cutting techniques and wood waste management processes.

“One of the things that has saved a large percentage of wood is the thinner, sharper saw bands that have been installed here at Cardwell,” he explained. “With a narrower cut, there is less sawdust and fewer splinters, and consequently fewer pieces of wood wasted.

“Actually, in the final count there is zero waste overall because even scraps, splinters, chips and sawdust have other uses such as for fuel, animal bedding, and other products.”

At the mill, logs are cut into manageable lengths, stripped of bark to reduce the amount of blade-dulling dirt and pebbles, cut in half and then in half again in what is known as a quarter-sawing technique rather than flat sawing. It exposes the grain in the proper direction to promote good leaching during whisky aging. Those pieces then are run through devices that shape them into barrel-length staves for the 50-gallon casks.

Some shorter scrap becomes “headers,” the name used for both the tops and bottoms of the barrels. They are planed to create tongue-in-groove edges, pressure-squeezed into squares, then cut into circular shapes with the guidance of a laser-light circle.

Then it was on to the Blue Grass Cooperage where a half-million barrels are turned out each year. It is where the actual barrel shape comes into existence, with an assembly line of younger workers arranging rings of 32 staves with such grace and economy of movement the process appears almost dance-like.

“This is a job for young men,” explained a supervisor. “It pays better than a lot of other jobs, but it’s physically difficult and after six or eight years you often move on to other stations.”

Indeed, as we moved through the process it was apparent that the less physically wearing tasks were handled by older workers -– things like moving barrels on and off conveyers, driving forklifts, stacking headers that had been coated with beeswax then run through a charring flame.

The charring of the barrels in huge gas-fired ovens is a mesmerizing sight. Rows of open-ended barrels are shuttled through the chambers on steel conveyer belts, pausing long enough for roaring tongues of flame to leap through them in controlled bursts that impart the charred interior that will release the characteristics of the wood into the aging whiskies.

As the barrels come out of the oven, the pop and hiss of burning wood can be heard, showers of tiny sparks quickly cooling as the ambient temperature of the factory floor counteracts the 500°F (260°C) atmosphere the barrels had just left.

Just as the wood that went into making the barrels has had its provenance coded, stamped and logged, each barrel receives a serial number and can be tracked for its entire useful life.

So, in the final analysis, is all this maneuvering really worth the effort?

To quote the aforementioned Mr. Twain, “Too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough.”

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20080919

Everything a kid needs for college

This ironic layout from the home page of the Drink Fink:



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Let the battle of the bubbly (vodkas) begin

William Dowd photo

Ah, bubbly vodka. The folks who got there first are not exactly welcoming any competition.

Phillip Maitland, president of International English Distillers Ltd., which introduced 02 brand sparkling vodka to the U.S. market in January, has taken the offensive against hip-hop mogul Dr. Dre and his plans to release a sparkling vodka drink ('Rap star gets the spirit') in a joint venture with Drinks America.

"I am very complimented that Dr. Dre has recognized how innovative and special our sparkling vodka is, and is trying to copy it," Maitland said. "My concern is that it isn't produced by our patented method and may well turn out to be a very poor imitation. I hope that consumers will not be swayed by the celebrity endorsement of a copycat product by Dr. Dre.

"There are a lot of mixed messages going on," he added. "Dre's unreleased album (which will go on sale at the same time as the drink) is even called 'Detox,' to add a bitterly ironic twist."

No word yet on Dre's response to Maitland, but rest assured one will be coming.
Go here for my tasting panel's thoughts on O2.
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20080918

How to really pour vodka

News item:

Police have smashed a smuggling operation that used a pipeline to pump vodka from Russia to Estonia. The mile-long pipe saved smugglers a fortune in duty.

Estonian officials said 11 suspects had been charged after a four-year wrangle with Russia. They claim four Russians were the ringleaders.

Prices of vodka in Russia are a third cheaper than in Estonia, which has been in the European Union since May 2004.

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20080917

Spirits of Mexico results unveiled

El Perdido Reserva Extra Añejo was named "Best of Show" among 70 entries in the 2008 Spirits of Mexico Tasting Competition.

The competition, sponsored by The Polished Palate, took place in San Diego, with co-hosts Jack Robertiello and Robert Plotkin leading a group of industry professionals in judging the tequila and mezcal entries.

The winning El Perdido is coming on the market this year. It is the creation of Phillip Soto Mares, and is made in the highlands of Jalisco state in Mexico.

A range of "best of category," gold, silver and bronze medals were awarded. The entire list is available here. Meanwhile, here are the "best of category" and gold medal winners:

• BLANCO/SILVER/PLATINUM/PLATA
Best of Category (tie): Clase Azul Plata, Don Ramon Platinum.
Gold: Clase Azul Plata, Corrido Blanco, Corzo Silver, Don Ramon Platinum, Don Tepo Blanco, El Perdido Blanco, Milagro Silver, Milagro Silver Select Barrel Reserve, Oro Azul Blanco, QV (Querido Viejo) Blanco, Senor Frog’s Plata, Suavemente Blanco.

• REPOSADO
Best of Category: Cristeros Reposado.
Gold: Cazadores Reposado, Cristeros Reposado, El Perdido Reposado, Gran Centenario Reposado, Herradura Reposado, Oro Azul Reposado, QV (Querido Viejo) Reposado, Senor Frog’s Reposado, Suavemente Reposado.

ANEJO
Best of Category: Gran Centenario Añejo.
Gold: 374 Añejo, Chinaco Añejo, Don Eduardo Añejo, Don Ramon Añejo, Don Tepo Añejo, Gran Centenario Añejo, Milagro Select Barrel Reserve Añejo, QV (Querido Viejo) Añejo, Suavemente Añejo.

• EXTRA ANEJO
Best of Category: El Perdido Reserve Extra Añejo.
Gold: Chinaco Negro Extra Añejo, Corrido Extra Añejo, El Perdido Reserva Extra Añejo, Herradura Seleccion Suprema Extra Añejo, Suavemente Extra Añejo.

LIQUEURS/CORDIALS/FLAVORS/CREAMS
Best of Category: Casa 1921 Tequila Cream.
Gold: 1921 Tequila Cream, Tanteo Chocolate Tequila, Tanteo Jalapeno Tequila, Tanteo Tropical Tequila.

• MEZCAL EXTRA ANEJOS
Beneva Reserva Especial Extra Añejo
Scorpion Reserva 5 Year Old
Scorpion Gran Reserva 7 Year Old

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20080916

A celebri-quote: Audrey Sanders

Audrey Sanders, owner of the Pegu Club, one of New York City's leading cocktail spots, speaking at her workshop on "Gin, the Other White Meat" on the attributes of gin vs. vodka:

"Everyone is pooh-pooing vodka, but it’s not a bad spirit. It’s a great distillate. It pairs really well with caviar. Vodka enhances and fortifies flavors, but it doesn’t bring anything new to the table. It doesn’t offer any dimension to your drinks. ... I look at gin as a liquid spice rack.”

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Bourbon Hall to induct 7

The Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame will bump its membership to an even 30 during an induction ceremony scheduled for Friday in Bardstown, KY.

The hall, founded in 2001, is part of the Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History (shown at right) in Bardstown.

Members of this year’s class are:

• Evan Williams, a bourbon producer often called Kentucky’s first distiller.
• Brad Boswell, president of Independent Stave Co.
• Jimmy Wickham, director of customer relations and quality assurance for Independent Stave Co.
• Owsley Brown, former president of Brown-Forman Corp., and a grandson of company founder George Garvin Brown.
• Thomas J. Flocco, president and CEO of Beam Global Spirits & Wine Inc.
• Edwin S. Foote, retired master distiller at Old Fitzgerald Distillery;
• Rita L. Greenwell, retired administrative assistant at the Kentucky Distillers’ Association;

Candidates are nominated each year by Kentucky Distillers’ Association member distilleries and the Kentucky Bourbon Festival. Enshrinees are chosen by the KDA board of directors.

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20080913

Not all drink mixes are created equal

William Dowd photo

Consumer Alert: This entry contains opinions that may be contrary to those of cocktail purists, among whose ranks I usually place myself. However, the times they are a'changing, so broaden your horizons.

A recent story in The Wall Street Journal by one Eric Felten began like this:

"Williams-Sonoma, geared though it may be to ambitious amateur cooks, seems to think that its customers aren't up to the rather limited culinary demands of making cocktails. Why else the prominence the store is giving to a new line of bottled cocktail mixes? ... .

"The infantilization of drinkers remains the top marketing point for the prefabbers. The flacks for that supermarket standby, Rose's Cocktail Mixers, sent out a press release for their Mojito mix this summer touting it as 'a solution to complicated drink-making.' Complicated? Crush some mint in sugar syrup and fresh lime juice; add white rum, club soda and ice; stir. Is it supercilious to suggest that those for whom this is a task of surpassing complexity are better off not dulling their wits further with alcohol?"

Ye gods, Felten. I know you wrote the book "How's Your Drink?: Cocktails, Culture and the Art of Drinking Well" (Agate Surrey), but lumping all such "prefabs" into one bucket of distasteful slop is neither accurate nor of any practical use to consumers.

I do agree that many of the pre-made drink mixes are loaded with ingredients one neither wants nor may even understand, but as in all things culinary there are exceptions. One such, in my view, is the line of Stirrings drink mixes. I actually like them. A lot.

As one whose cocktail-making resume dates from my mid-teens ("Oldies can still be goodies"), I understand and value the idea of fresh ingredients. I squeeze my own lemons and limes, wash and dry my own fresh berries, clip and macerate my own herbs, use different fresh ice in the shaker and the glass ... . But when I have tossed away the gazillionth lime because the only way I find them affordable is to buy a large bag at a discount grocer and can't use them up, or don't want to bother whipping up a batch of simple syrup (hint: agave syrup works just as well), or it's not growing season for my mint and thyme and basil, or if unexpected company drops in and expects a yummy cocktail or three, I see nothing wrong with using certain mixes if they have been pre-tested and found suitable.

Thus, Stirrings. I've tried the Fall River, MA, company's margarita, mojito, peach bellini and apple martini mixes. Excellent, all, with none of that "What's in this?" wrinkly-nosed result. Not yet tried: blood orange martini, bloody Mary, chocolate peppermintini, cosmopolitan, lemon drop, lemonade, pear martini, pomegranate martini, spiced apple and wild blueberry martini. Some of the latter I'd never try, simply because such concoctions do not appeal to me no matter whether they're made from a mix or made using ingredients just shipped from farm or factory. I refer specifically to the likes of a chocolate peppermintini and a wild blueberry martini. Blecch.

Stirrings was founded in 1997 by Bill Creelmann and Gil MacLean. Their philosophy is on every label: "We believe in using only the best ingredients -- fresh juice, triple-filtered water and a touch of imagination -- because after all, better ingredients make better cocktails."

The company has grown to include a line of cocktail rim garnishes, cocktail sodas, bar ingredients and a brand-new line of organic drink mixes that includes "The Dark & Stormy," a ginger mixer to pair with rum; "The Bellini," that includes apricots, lemons, limes, oranges, agave and natural bitters, and "The Gimlet," a sour mixer using organic lemons, limes, oranges, cane sugar, agave and natural bitters. Orders for that new line will begin being shipped in late September.

If the new line, and the originals I have yet to try, match up in quality to the ones I have tried, they're something to be anticipated. In addition to exposing people to cocktails they'd probably never otherwise attempt making themselves, they provide a nice assortment of alcohol-free drinks ready to be poured from the bottle over ice.

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Cocktail World Cup produces tasty results

42 BELOW photo



A few months ago, I outlined the upcoming 42 BELOW Cocktail World Cup competition plans for Queenstown, New Zealand. Today, I am pleased to outline the results of the fifth annual event -- and some tasty ones they are.

All, of course, must use the sponsoring vodka which, for its distillers, is the whole point of the exercise and expense. Entrants qualify for the finals in regional heats. This year, teams came from England, the United States, Scotland, France, Italy, Ireland, Southeast Asia, China/Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand.

The three-man London team (above) walked off with top honors in the five-day event with their "Ale of Two Cities."

The winning recipe combined 42 BELOW feijoa-flavored vodka (feijoa is a citrusy, sweet fruit), punt e mes (a dark, bitter Italian vermouth), apple juice, nettle cordial, malt syrup, fresh lime juice and Angostura bitters that was shaken and strained into a classic beer pint glass. The team also fried traditional English pub "chips" to accompany their cocktail.

Second place went to the Central USA team for its "Wisdom of the Ages" cocktail combining vodka, sauvignon blanc wine, chamomile syrup, fresh white grapefruit juice and sage leaves.

Third place went to Team Scotland for its cocktail using feijoa-flavored vodka and Pure, Grand Marnier, blood orange juice, lemon juice, star anise, ginger, apricot marmalade and rosemary.

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20080911

A celebri-quote: Bridget Albert

Bartending star Bridget Albert, director of mixology for Southern Wine and Spirits, head of the Academy of Spirits and Fine Service and author of the new book "Market-Fresh Mixology, Cocktails for Every Season" (Agate Publishing, $17.95), commenting on the increasing popularity of pairing fresh cocktails with fresh food:

"It's the same thing chefs have been doing in the kitchen forever. It's no different. Just taking that time and care and pride. ... You never want [the cocktails] to be supersweet or supersour. There has to be a happy medium. It's a lot like being a chef, just knowing balance. ... Think about what you love to eat. It's really no different."

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A special Balvenie for a special retailer

The Balvenie Distillery has released 151 bottles filled from a single cask of The Balvenie laid down in 1964.

If you're interested in getting it, you'll have to go to the Sky Connection duty free retailer in the Hong Kong International Airport. That's who the limited edition was bottled for.

Oh, one other thing that will help guarantee its exclusivity. It sells for $14,200 a bottle.

The Balvenie 1964 Single Malt Scotch Whisky comes from cask number 10378, and was matured at the distillery in Speyside, Scotland. Malt master David Stewart, who selected the whisky, told the Moodie Report:

"It is only a few special casks of The Balvenie single malt that continue to improve beyond 40 years. Each cask has a unique influence on the spirit it holds and the fine balance of flavours in The Balvenie 1964 can never be repeated."

It was bottled at cask strength of 41.3% alcohol by volume (82.6 proof). Each individually hand-numbered bottle is presented in a cherry wood box.

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They're No. 1 -- at selling the No. 1 whiskey

Jameson is the No. 1 selling Irish whiskey in the world. Any guesses which establishment sells more of it than any other in the world?

It's an Irish pub and restaurant, of course, but this one is called The Local and is located in the Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis, MN, of all places.

Representatives of Jameson this week visited The Local to present a plaque honoring it as the top seller of their product, for the second consecutive year. In 2006, The Local sold 397 cases to win the title. In 2007, for which it now is being honored, it sold 530 cases. That translates to 6,360 bottles, an average of 17.5 bottles a day.

How does it sell so much? A specialty drink called "The Big Ginger" is a huge seller. It's a mix of Jameson and ginger ale over ice, with lemon and lime wedges, and goes for just $6.

The Local, not so incidentally, also is a gorgeous place with an authentic upscale Irish pub feel. Go here for a photo tour of the establishment.

Note: If tequila is more your thing and you're in Minneapolis, try Barrio restaurant and bar in the same mall as The Local. It offers a selection of more than 100 tequilas, and serves them by the shot or in a wide-ranging cocktail menu.

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How to take the romance out of gin

From Chemical & Engineering News:

SEPTEMBER 10, 2008

FLAVOR SCIENCE

Gentler Process Yields Better Gin

High-vacuum, low-temperature distillation preserves appealing flavors

By Sophie L. Rovner

A superior gin results when the liquor is produced under distillation conditions that are milder than the conventional method, according to Derek M. Greer and colleagues at Bacardi-Martini Product Development in Jacksonville, Fla., and Clemson University (J. Agric. Food Chem., DOI: 10.1021/jf801308d).

To compare the two methods, the researchers created a "model" gin made with spirits derived from wheat and flavored with dried juniper berries, coriander seed, angelica root, and dried lemon peel. They found that gin produced through their high-vacuum, low-temperature distillation (0.1 mm Hg, –15 ºC) retains the natural flavor of the botanicals better than other distillation methods, which are carried out at atmospheric or slightly lower pressure and require heating to 50–80 ºC. Also, degradation products including α-pinene and α-phellandrene are 10 times higher in the traditional, still-made gin.
The new type of gin is "cleaner, and the flavor more crisp and refreshing," says Greer, who is now with Sensient Flavors & Fragrances in Indianapolis. Bacardi is testing the technique for commercial-scale production, using a special blend of ingredients that create a gin that Greer says is "quite extraordinary, superb really."

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20080909

First French 'Scotch' comes under fire



Bercloux: Nowhere near Scotland.

Bercloux, maker of France's first single malt whisky, is under fire from the always-vigilant Scotch Whisky Association.

Bercloux is a brewery that produces artisanal beers and a Cognac beer. The company claims its spirit is a Scotch whisky because it begins with raw whisky imported from Alexandria, West Dunbartonshire, Scotland, but then is matured in the Poitou-Charentes region of western France. And, it plans to sell it as such.

The SWA consistently opposes any attempts by distillers in other countries to market any whisky as "Scotch." One of the most recent instances involved a Canadian product called Glen Breton.

As Campbell Evans, head of government and consumer affairs for the SWA, told a group of us spirits writers during a tour of Scotland early this summer, "We have five lawyers who would sue anybody, anywhere. We have 60 to 70 court cases going on at any one time around the world."

(For a Q&A with Evans conducted by my colleague Joe Ray, a Paris-based writer and photographer, click here.)

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Mrs. Washington joins the crowd

Everybody is getting into the act. Even if they've been dead for a very long time.

Martha Washington's Colonial Rum will take its place alongside a whiskey created at the reconstructed George Washington distillery in Mount Vernon, VA.

The limited edition spirit, produced in 2005, will debut at Mount Vernon on Monday, Sept. 15. Commemorative bottles of the rum will be auctioned at a Sept. 24 event to benefit Mount Vernon’s educational programs.

The colonial-style rum, handcrafted by a group of master distillers from some of the nation's top distilleries, was fermented from black strap molasses imported from St. Croix and distilled in an 18th-century pot still over an open fire at the site of the George Washington Distillery. It has been aging on the grounds since then.

The distillery is located at 5513 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway (State Route 235), three miles south of Mount Vernon’s main entrance.

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20080906

Old Forester bourbon: A timeline tasting

William M. Dowd photos

The content of this 1938 bottle of Old Forester actually was distilled in 1916.


LOUISVILLE, KY -- The average person doesn't live long enough to sample the total range of output of a long-time whiskey distillery. That's what made a tasting of Old Forester bourbons held here this week so special.

The occasion was put together by Chris Morris (below left), master distiller who is behind today's expressions of Old Forester (as well as Woodford Reserve) from the Brown-Forman company, in honor of the 162nd birthday of its founder, George Garvin Brown.

More than 100 bourbon connoisseurs gathered in the Victorian richness of the Filson Historical Society headquarters to sample a selection of six Old Forester whiskies in a timeline tasting that ranged from 1916 to 2008.

Such a lineup would be difficult enough to arrange for any brand, given the scarcity of old whiskies, but it was accomplished with the assistance of Michael R. Veach, Filson's Special Collections Assistant and a member of the Bourbon Hall of Fame since 2006 who said he has found rare whiskies through auctions and private sales.

Old Forester was founded in 1870 by Brown. His company survived Prohibition when his son, Owsley Brown, obtained one of only 10 federal licenses to continue selling whiskey — for medicinal purposes. Thus, Brown-Forman is the only existing U.S. company in the spirits and wine business that has spanned pre-, during and post-Prohibition periods. Since 1902, Old Forester -- which began as a blend of other people's whiskies -- has been distilled by Brown-Forman at three successive facilities.

The yeast strain used today was isolated in 1929 when Brown and his cohorts needed to restart fermentation after other strains died out during Prohibition.

Here's a brief look at the timeline tasting:

1916 Old Forester: This bourbon was distilled in 1916, the year before George Garvin Brown died, but languished in wood barrels for 22 years, forgotten during Prohibition. After so long in the wood, it was truly a unique bourbon: 100 proof, a very dark color with a smell of molasses and lots of oak. Heavy in tannins, with notes of prune and bittersweet chocolate but none of the signature caramel and vanilla for which bourbon is known. Surprisingly, it was quite palatable.

1933 Old Forester President's Choice: This single barrel expression was the first post-Prohibition bourbon from Brown-Forman. It carried a golden color and spicy notes with the expected caramel and vanilla notes. Rich and oaky, in the classic dry bourbon style.

1992 Old Forester: This is the Old Forester that dipped to 86 proof and came from the present distillery in Shively, KY. A milder, softer flavor profile and light amber color differentiate it from the long-time run of Old Forester bourbon. Brown spices, wood, caramel and tobacco notes are prevalent and this expression tastes more of rye than its predecessors.

Today's Old Forester 86 Proof: Even more amber in color than earlier versions. Soft and sweet yet with a pleasant bite of spice carried along with the traditional vanilla, caramel and oak notes.

Old Forester Signature: This is the 100 proof modern expression that Chris Morris calls "a salute to the original." It is a blend of mingled seasons and goes back to the dark orangey color and less sweetness, leaning instead toward more spice, wood and fruit. It's a cool, calm bourbon with no burn.

This is a historic creation, marking the 75th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition with a new version of the first whiskey brand ever to be bottled (1870). I had a preview tasting of it although it won't go on sale until November.

Old Forester Repeal Bourbon: This one-time, limited-release expression created to mark the anniversary of Prohibition's repeal, is a classic bourbon with its vanilla, caramel and brown sugar notes and orange-amber coloring, but it is much more complex than that. A definite note of chocolate and berries gives it a chocolate-covered cherry characteristic. Orange notes that are suggested by the coloring begin to come through as the whiskey opens up, and the well-oaked liquid carries hints of spice and mint. This is, overall, a warm, crisp, satisfying bourbon.

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20080904

Celebration delays birthday bourbon

William M. Dowd photo

LOUISVILLE, KY — Master distiller Chris Morris has been releasing Old Forester’s vintage-dated Birthday Bourbons each September since 2002. For those anxious about this year’s edition, be patient.

Chris told me during a special tasting event here this week (see entry above) that the 2008 version will be delayed until probably late fall. Right now, marketing and production attention is being lavished on the introduction of a one-time-only Old Forester Repeal Bourbon that is in the pipeline for early November release as part of the festivities marking the 75th anniversary of Prohibition’s repeal.

Old Forester (originally spelled Forrester, and named for a local Civil War hero) is the historic brand created by Brown-Forman, a company founded in 1870 by pharmaceuticals salesman George Garvin Brown.

Brown was the first to bottle bourbon, marketing a blend he made of whiskies from several distilleries as part of his plan to maintain an even quality product. Eventually, he launched his own distillery.

His company survived Prohibition when Owsley Brown, George’s son, obtained one of only 10 federal licenses to continue selling whiskey — for medicinal purposes.

Brown-Forman used its existing stock of bourbon to fill prescription orders, then in 1923 bought the Early Times brand and its bourbon inventory. By 1929, all supplies of pre-Prohibition whiskey were exhausted and the government allowed the specially licensed companies to make more whiskey — at a Louisville distillery operated by the federal government.

Thus, Brown-Forman is the only existing U.S. company in the spirits and wine business that has spanned pre-, during and post-Prohibition periods.

Just in case anyone might think the 162nd birthday of George Garvin Brown was not honored this month, it was. A special birthday cake was presented after the tasting event at the Filson Historical Society in Louisville to honor the man who created what went on to become the dominant company in Louisville economic history. (For a look at the Brown-Forman portfolio of brands, go here.) And, appropriately enough, the candles on the bourbon bottle-shaped cake were blown out by two recent retirees from the Old Forester distillery.

By the way, for a look at my tasting notes on last September’s birthday bourbon, just click here. And, for a sneak preview of the Repeal Bourbon, go here.

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Addressing the State of the Bourbon

April L. Dowd photo

I originally wrote this industry update for Whisky Magazine.

In tradition-minded industries, any change can be cause for surprise. In the extremely traditional world of American bourbon, many observers are agog over the wave of changes washing over it this year, ranging from new master distillers to new ownership, production facilities and product portfolios.

It all is part of a suddenly vibrant spirits niche that has seen solid sales growth in recent years after a comparatively fallow period during which white spirits stole much of its thunder.

In 2007, 14.9 million 9-liter cases of bourbon were sold in the U.S., generating more than US$1.7 billion in revenue for distillers, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S. which includes Tennessee whiskies in its bourbon statistics. (They’re essentially the same except that Tennessee whiskies go through a charcoal filtration process.)

Projections are for sales of at least that level this year despite the sagging U.S. economy, which would extend a bourbon upswing that has seen sales of 9-liter cases rise from 13.1 million in 2002 to nearly 15 million last year.

“Reflecting American’s desire to drink better, high-end premium and super-premium brands drove growth,” DISCUS’ analysts say. “High-end premium revenues were up nearly 6% in 2007 and super-premium over 15%. … Bourbon’s increasing popularity in overseas markets allowed exports to grow to almost $713 million in 2007.”

That means such small-batch, often pricey, sometimes celebrity-branded labels as Booker’s, Booker Noe’s, Elijah Craig, Blanton’s, Knob Creek, Bulleit, 1792 Woodford Reserve and Russell Reserve are getting growing acclamation and sales along with the more established brands.

Drinks Americas Holdings Ltd., as just one example of star branding, recently announced that sales of its Willie Nelson Old Whiskey River Bourbon business are tracking 48% ahead of last year. DAH has shipped more than a half-million dollars in bourbon sales with the music icon’s name attached through April 30 of this year. Not exactly in the same volume league as the Jim Beams of the world, but an interesting sidelight.

Among some of the major changes behind the scenes:

• Maker’s Mark master distiller David Pickerell recently left the job after 14 years, a company announcement citing no reason except for that euphemistic catch-all phrase "to pursue other interests." He has been replaced by Kevin Smith, who joined the company in 1998 as a master distiller in training.

Pickerell was the second major American master distiller to step down in a four-week period. Jimmy Bedford, 68, who headed up Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey creation, left after spending 20 of his 40 years with the company as head distiller and was succeeded by understudy Jeff Arnett, 41.

It later was revealed that the company asked Bedford to “retire” after a female employee filed a US$3.5 million sexual harassment lawsuit against him. Phil Lynch, vice president and director of corporate communications for Brown-Forman Corp., the parent company of Jack Daniel's, was quoted by the Associated Press as saying, "We investigated it thoroughly and took strong action. He soon left the company."

• Angostura Ltd., the Trinidad company best known for its rum, purchased Charles Medley Distillers and announced plans for a $10 million renovation project that will re-open Medley’s Owensboro, Kentucky, facility. It has been closed for nearly 16 years. The upgrade will include making it a barrel-manufacturing site as well.

The $3 million purchase price for the distillery included 23 acres, five warehouses and the still house, but not Charles Medley's private label -- called Wathen's Kentucky Bourbon, a label his late father, R. Wathen Medley, once owned. Medley said he will continue to bottle that brand himself. For its part, Angostura plans to create a new Charles Medley Kentucky Bourbon label.

But out in the real world, bourbon eventually boils down to what’s in the bottle and what the consumers like.

Small craft-distilleries are popping up with regularity around the nation. And that includes enterprises producing bourbon outside “bourbon country.”

The American Distilling Institute is a growing organization of what it refers to as “the new generation of progressive beverage, medical and aromatic distillers.”

Its 129 small-distillery members spread throughout the U.S., along with a handful of members from Canada, are making everything from simple vodkas to more adventuresome whiskies that require sufficient investment capital or sales of other spirits to support them while the premium spirits age.

One such example is Tuthilltown Spirits. It is making a line of liquors in a distillery along the shores of the Hudson River north of New York City, one of the few such operations in a wine-centric state.

Although Tuthilltown’s portfolio included corn liquor, rum, rye, vodka and single malt whiskey, it has added a smooth, spicy Four-Grain Hudson Bourbon Whiskey and a mild Baby Bourbon Whiskey made 100% of New York corn. Both are 46% abv.

Among the major bourbon producers, several new releases particularly stand out in the bustling field. A few were released in some markets late last year to catch the holiday sales period, they have really been making their mark in 2008.

Here are some top-of-the-line examples:

Four Roses Barrel Strength 120th Anniversary Limited Edition Single Barrel Bourbon Whiskey: This expression, which may be vying for the title of longest bourbon name, was issued in May to mark the company’s 120th anniversary. Aged 12 years, uncut and non-chill filtered, 58% abv. It has a robust spiciness with delicate, fruity notes and hints of autumn flavors -- nutmeg, toasted almonds, baked apples and cocoa. Approximately 3,000 bottles were produced under the eye of master distiller Jim Rutledge, a member of the Bourbon Hall of Fame.

Old Forester 2007 Birthday Bourbon: This orange-brown treat, aged in oak since 1994 and 47% abv, marks the 161st birthday of George Garvin Brown, founder of Old Forester and the first person to bottle bourbon. It follows the last few annual releases in offering a cinnamon-caramel nose that sets one up for even more caramel, leavened by a bit of vanilla and apple. A hint of mint also is detectable in the clean but lingering finish. Go to Dowd's Tasting Notes for my observations on this release.

Evan Williams Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey: This is the 13th annual edition of the expression from Heaven Hill of Bardstown, Kentucky. As with the previous 12 vintages, each bottle is marked with the exact date it was placed in oak and bottled, plus the serial number of the single barrel from which it was drawn. The 43.3% abv spirit, with crisp apple, caramel and brown sugar notes, was matured under the supervision of the father-son team of Parker and Craig Beam.

Old Forester Repeal Bourbon: This one isn’t out yet, but Woodford Reserve master distiller Chris Morris is planning to release it in the autumn to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of Prohibition in the U.S. Advance word from Morris describes it as “similar to the Old Forester that was bottled during Prohibition.” Curious, since not many folks are still around who might actually remember what that is. (Go to Dowd's Tasting Notes for my observations after sampling this release.

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New tequila is hot stuff

If you don't feel like whipping up a spicy tequila drink, here's one you can just open and pour over ice.

It's Tabasco Spicy Tequila, a joint effort of Heaven Hill Distilleries and the McIlhenny Co. of Avery Island, LA, makers of Tabasco brand pepper sauces. It is being introduced in test markets this month, with an eye toward national distribution early in 2009.

Although its has long been a component of many cocktails, this is the first time in Tabasco's 140-year history the McIlhenny family has licensed its sauce in the distilled spirits category.

Heaven Hill, located in Bardstown, KY, is having the tequila made in a Jalisco, Mexico, distillery. It will carry a suggested retail price of $21.99 for the 750ml bottle.

The company, founded in 1934, is the nation’s largest independent, family-owned marketer and producer of distilled spirits products. Among its portfolio brands: Evan Williams Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Christian Brothers brandies, Dubonnet aperetif, HPNOTIQ liqueur; and Burnett's gin and vodkas.

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Urine cocktails, mini-Candy Stripes ???

What's new in St. Paul, MN?

Besides the current Republican National Convention -- or perhaps because of it -- we have the case of a special party at the Chino Latino night spot, where hostesses in abbreviated Candy Striper outfits served an endless supply of urine-themed cocktails (the foamy, golden liquid served in little plastic cups actually was a mixture of vodka, champagne and pineapple juice).

The event, “Anatomy of a Party,” was open to people of all political persuasions, but the majority of the crowd was part of the medical industry.

While this doesn't do much for the cause of those trying to make the cocktail party a respectable institution, it does offer a certain fascination -- of the sort that makes rubberneck drivers slow down to look at a car accident.

You can get the full details on the CityPages site here.

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20080901

Star distillers create new special whiskies

William Dowd photos

Two of the best distillers in the whiskey game, separated by the Atlantic Ocean but connected by an insatiable curiosity about new expressions of their art, have come out with new products that will go on sale later this year. Both should create a lot of industry buzz.

They are Dr. Bill Lumsden (left) of Glenmorangie in Scotland and Chris Morris of Old Forester and Woodford Reserve in Kentucky.

Lumsden has come up with Glenmorangie Signet, an unusual Scotch blend he has been tinkering with for a decade. Morris has come up with a one-time-only bourbon called Old Forester Repeal Bourbon that was created to mark the 75th anniversary this year of the repeal of Prohibition.

I had the opportunity to sample both whiskies in advance of their going to market. You can get the details on "Dowd's Tasting Notes."

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What will they think of next? (September edition)

Few among us likes to let go of summer. And the calendar is on our side until Sept. 21 when we experience the autumnal equinox and it's officially fall. So, in the waning days of the Summer of '08, enjoy these refreshing drinks I've collected from a variety of sources.


Blood & Sand

It sounds like old Hemingway, but it actually is one of the cocktail recipes available on the Apple OS X iPhone. You can purchase "Cocktails" from the iTunes Store or the App Store (search on “cocktails”) on your device. The program costs $9.99.

1 part Scotch whisky
1 part orange juice
1 part sweet vermouth
1 part cherry flavored liqueur

Put all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with fresh ice. Shake vigorously and pour over new ice in a cocktail glass.

• Blushing Dragon

The XXIX Olympics are over, but you still can't get enough of things Chinese? Then try this cocktail from the famous Lobby Bar of the Intercontinental Hong Kong hotel which overlooks Victoria Harbor.

1½ jiggers vodka
¼ jigger Cointreau
⅓ jigger lemon Juice
½ jigger simple syrup
4 strawberries
6 raspberries
6 blueberries
½ a fresh mango

Blend the liquor and fruit with ice then pour into a tall glass. Garnish glass with half a strawberry with its leaf and float a chopped strawberry, blueberry and raspberry in the drink.

A Day at the Beach

This one comes from the recipe collection of DrinksMixer.com.

1 ounce coconut rum
½ ounce amaretto almond liqueur
4 ounces orange juice
½ ounce grenadine syrup

Shake rum, amaretto, and orange juice in a shaker filled with ice. Strain into a highball glass over ice. Add grenadine and garnish with a pineapple wedge and a strawberry.

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