20121206

Looking for a perfect Christmas gift?

The perfect gift. Honest!
Making a list, checking it twice, and hoping to find an interesting item to attach to the names?

May I humbly (OK, blatantly) suggest a copy of my book, "Barrels & Drams: The History of Whis(e)y In Jiggers and Shots"?

It's available at local bookstores such as The Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza in Guilderland and Market Block Books in Troy. It also is available via the usual online sources, such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Walmart and so on.

"Barrels & Drams" is the culmination of a project I conceived, co-wrote and edited for the New York publishing house Sterling Epicure. It deals with the history, major characters, global reach and other aspects of whiskey through the centuries.

Other contributors to the book are such industry luminaries as James Rodewald, a former editor at Gourmet magazine; Daniel Okrent, a 1964 Pulitzer finalist in history; David Wondrich, a founding member of the Museum of the American Cocktail and a drinks writer for several publications, and "the writer in white," the iconic storyteller Tom Wolfe.

In addition, the unusual design of the book and its cover was honored with a design award this year from the Book Industry Guild of New York.

20121203

Adult beverage sales: Up and still rising

From Nation's Restaurant News

Sales of adult beverages in the U.S. increased in 2011 and will continue to rise, according to a study by restaurant research firm Technomic. 
Technomic's 2012 BarTAB (Trends in Adult Beverage) report showed that sales of beer, wine and spirits in restaurants increased 4.9 percent in 2011, reaching $93.7 billion and are trending up for 2012 and 2013. 
One reason for that sales growth and its predicted continuation may be pent-up demand left over from the recession, said Technomic senior director Donna Hood Crecca. “Now that we’re into the recovery and consumer confidence is improving, they’re giving in and going for that affordable indulgence,” she said. 
According to the report, one third of consumers say that alcoholic beverages at a restaurant influence their decision to go there, meaning that adult drinks are becoming a competitive differentiator. “Operators are also doing a great job promoting [drinks],” Crecca added.
 “They’re doing beer dinners and tequila dinners. That generates excitement among consumers.”
The study also found that when it comes to beverage sales, beer is, by far, the largest on-premise category, accounting for more than four-fifths of all beverages sold. Imported and craft beers are growing in popularity. Craft beer volumes increased 11 .4%  during 2011, while imported beers grew about 1%, Crecca said.
Go here for the rest of the story, which puts the craft vs. import beer situation in perspective.

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20121119

Glenmorangie and its effervescent distiller on top

Bill Lumsden, not-so-mad scientist
In the two decades or so I've known Dr. Bill Lumsden, I have never witnessed his enthusiasm for his beloved Scotch whiskies reach anything but the highest levels.

Whether he is experimenting with many different woods for aging, trying different blends, glad-handing industry folks around the globe, hosting visiting distillers and spirits journalists, working with his team to create sales campaigns for his heavenly whiskies, tramping around the white oak forests of Missouri -- as we did together a few years back -- to select special trees to be turned into whisky kegs, or any other myriad activities, the director of distilling and whisky creation for Glenmorangie is one of the industry's leading lights.

He has even gone so far as to take part in an experiment now going on in outer space. Really? Yep. He supplied samples of unmatured malt and charred oak of the sort used to age whiskies to be taken to the international space station and mixed together in October of last year. The results will be revealed when the materials are returned to earth next year.

Says Lumsden, “This experiment will throw new light on the effect of gravity on maturation. We are all tremendously excited. Who knows where it will lead?”

Not that he doesn't have his off-balance moments now and then. I recall some years ago standing with him on the bank of Tarlogie Spring, the natural water source for Glenmorangie in Tain, Ross-shire, Scotland. Lumsden, with his usual enthusiasm and ultra-thick accent, was extolling the pristine qualities of the water when I noticed a couple of local kids gamboling in one of the rivulets feeding into the spring and observed that such play might tend to taint the water.

"The little bastards," Lumdsen muttered, then louder as he recovered his equalibrium, "The distillation process gets rid of any impurities. It's all part of the plan."

The Glenmorangie Company and Lumsden were the stars of the just-completed International Wine & Spirit Competition (IWSC) in London where Glenmorangie was named "2012 Distiller of the Year" and, for the second straight year, "UK Spirits Producer of the Year."

In addition, Glenmorangie’s 25 Year Old was the winner in the category for "Best Single Malt Over 15 Years Old."

Paul Skipworth, managing director at The Glenmorangie Company, said, “Being crowned the Distiller of the Year is the icing on the cake in what has been a highly successful 2012 for Glenmorangie. This is the top prize for the whole international spirits industry. This award recognizes the extra mile that Glenmorangie goes to deliver an exceptional quality of whisky. The IWSC judges have recognized the efforts made by everyone in our team and we are absolutely delighted.”

Lumsden added, “This accolade makes me very proud to be a part of such a highly regarded whisky company and its contribution to such a vibrant Scotch whisky industry. The superb quality of our whiskies has always been my top priority together with my team, and it is great to receive independent validation from the highly respected IWSC.

“Our attention to detail from the selection of raw materials, through careful distillation to the use of the finest quality oak casks for maturation, helps to ensure that all our whiskies provide an unparalleled taste experience.”

Glenmorangie Company whiskies have won 32 "Best in Class" and "Outstanding Gold" medals over the past six years at the IWSC, the most internationally-recognized awards body.

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20121107

Another legal moonshiner opens in Tennessee

The newest moonshine.
The continually expanding white spirits niche has gained another player.

The East Tennessee Distillery, the ninth distillery opened in Tennessee since liquor laws changed in 2009 to allow production, has opened in Piney Flats, TN.

It is producing and selling Mellomoon, a 100-proof unaged white whiskey.

Partners Gary Melvin, Byron Reece and Neil Roberson went into business to take advantage of the popularity of the white spirit in East Tennessee.

Melvin, who began as a home distiller, says "Everybody around here has got a recipe. They all really involve the same type of fermentables -- corn, rye, barley, sugar, corn syrup."

The newcomers are starting slowly -- one still and one product. But, with so many recipes floating around the region, that may change. Melvin notes his research into moonshine recipes has turned up some that date to the 1700s.

Of the nine distilleries that have opened since the law changed, about half produce moonshine. The first was Ole Smoky Moonshine, which is located in Gatlinburg.

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'Your Whiskey, Your Way' at new craft distillery

Having your own wine made isn't unusual. There are any number of wineries in many states that will tailor a batch to your specifics. But a new craft distillery that just opened over the weekend in Washington state may be the first to allow customers to help create their own spirits.

Heritage Distilling Company, which just opened to the public in Gig Harbor on scenic Puget Sound, is Washington's -- and perhaps the nation's -- first distillery to have a do-it-yourself component.

Owners Justin and Jennifer Stiefel are offering a program like called "Your Whiskey, Your Way." Customers can order a cask of spirits made to their specificatiopns, or can even take part in the process under the distillery's supervision.

The process is a bit tricky. State regulations do not allow unlicensed individuals to produce spirits without the proper federal and state licensing and permits. Heritage Distilling gets around that problem by doing all but the final stage of the distilling. Customers are allowed to selec a recipe and, later on, run one of the distillery's six micro-stills to complete the process.

"We are the ones licensed. We own all the equipment and have all the responsibility. It only becomes the customers’ product when they pay for it at the end," Justin Stiefel told The Business Journal.

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Kentucky-Ireland whiskey connection strengthened

A Vendome copper still.
Irish whiskey is known worldwide, but there are only four producing distilleries in Ireland. That number now is about to be bumped up by one.

The Alltech all-manual craft distillery has just finished installing pot stills at its Carlow Brewing Company in Bagenalstown, County Carlow.

The stills, made in Louisville, KY, by Vendome Copper & Brass Works Inc., are about to go online to begin the process of creating Alltech's first made-in-Ireland whiskey to be released some time in 2015.

"Our whiskey is 100% malt, made with only two other ingredients -- water and distiller’s yeast," said Pearse Lyons, president and founder of Alltech and a native of Ireland.

"As yeast technology forms a large part of our core business, we have developed our own distiller’s yeast to use in the whiskey making process. Once the distillation process has finished, the whiskey will then be aged for three years in barrels from Alltech’s Lexington Brewing and Distilling Company in Lexington, Kentucky. ... This way we will keep the Kentucky-Ireland connection alive."

Alltech’s Town Branch Bourbon and Pearse Lyons Reserve Single Malt Whiskey, both made in Kentucky, won gold medals in the 2012 World Spirit Awards.

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'Whiskey fungus' probe cloaked in silence

The Millers Lane facility.
From the Louisville (KY) Courier-Journal:

LOUISVILLE, KY -- Diageo Americas Supply Inc., a subsidiary of a British company that makes Bulleit Bourbon, had a November 4 deadline to respond to a Louisville Metro Air Pollution Control District enforcement action against a so-called "whiskey fungus" that authorities blame for covering cars and homes with dark spots.

But district officials aren’t saying whether the company met the deadline, and they are withholding all correspondence from the company to the district related to the enforcement action.

The secrecy -- for now, anyway -- is allowed under the Kentucky Open Records law because the district’s enforcement action is still ongoing, officials said in a response to a request of mine to review the records.

Back in September, the violation notices sent to the company cited air-quality infractions at whiskey warehouses at 2349 Millers Lane, and were the first since the district began looking into the vapor problem in the mid-2000s.

The case could be called high profile because it involves a signature Louisville industry -- bourbon. Mayor Greg Fischer, in a response to a reporter’s question, at first questioned the science behind the enforcement action of his own agency, but later withdrew from the matter, citing a potential for the appearance of a conflict of interest. A business partner is among those suing the company over the fungus.

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20121027

Getting satisfaction, at $6,300 a bottle

The Rolling Stones, who seem to have been on the public scene forever, are celebrating their 50th anniversary as a rock band this year.

To mark the occasion, Suntory Liquors of Japan is creating a special-edition whiskey to mark the occasion.

There should be little problem identifying the bottle, shaped in the form of the Rolling Stones' tongue and lips emblem.

Six whiskies -- with each selected from a significant time in the band's history -- are being used to create the spirit. Production was limited to a mere 150 bottles, priced at $6,300 each.

A 1962 Yamazaki represents the year the band was formed. A 1971 whiskey pays tribute to the introduction of the tongue and lips logo. A 1972 Yamazaki malt will mark the year of release of the album “Exile on Main St.” The other whiskies will be a Hakushu malt and a Chita grain, both from 1990, when the Stones made their first trip to Japan.

The limited edition will go on sale this week.

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Alcohol-free ‘whiskey’ hits the store shelves

The inherent silliness in something called alcohol-free whiskey goes on.

A report on a website called North America Business Review touts "the world's first, alcohol-free whiskey-flavored drink ... seen now on grocery store shelves by the name ArKay."

The ArKay process, according to spokesperson Sylvie Seguinaud, has the appearance, taste, and aroma of traditional whiskey.

"Traditional whiskey," presumably means actual whiskey. ArKay, however, is "produced with no alcohol at all in the first place."

So, it's alcohol free, right?

Well, not exactly..

Seguinaud told the website that ArKay's "de-alcoholized liquid may still contain fragments of alcohol, so it is not always the right answer for people with medical conditions, with certain religious beliefs, or with other personal reasons."

So, it's "de-alcoholized" even though it is "produced with no alcohol in the first place"? Right.

Seguinaud says it took five years of research and tastings to create the whisky-flavored alternative, and the proprietary recipe follows U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations. The 32-ounce bottle sells for $15 and is available online.

ArKay Cola, a pre-mixed version, is scheduled to be on store shelves within a month or so.

Whoopie!


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20121025

Woodford releases seventh in Master's Collection

Woodford Reserve this week unveiled the seventh release in its limited edition  Master's Collection, which will be released in early November.

This release, called Four Wood, is a unique batching of mature Woodford Reserve bourbon which has been aged in American Oak, as required by law for all bourbons, and finished in barrels made from maple wood, and from those used to mature both sherry and port.

Woodford Reserve began to experiment with wood finishing in 1999. Notes master distiller Chris Morris, "The batching ratios of the three finishing barrels were painstakingly chosen so that no one character dominated the final product. Instead, Four Wood is so balanced that the palate effects of each of the four woods plays a discernible role in the final flavor presentation."

With each release, one of the five sources of flavor is changed for the Master's Collection expressions. The sources -- grain, water, fermentation, distillation, and maturation -- are unique to bourbon whiskey, and altering just one of them creates a totally new flavor profile.

Previous Master's Collection releases were Four Grain, Sonoma-Cutrer Finish, Sweet Mash, Seasoned Oak, Maple Wood Finish and Rare Rye Selection. They are released periodically at the master distiller's discretion, and are bottled only once.

Each bottle is individually numbered and presented at 94.4 proof (47.2% abv). Limited cases are available with a suggested retail price of $99.99 for a 750ml bottle.


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Jack Daniel's Sinatra Select begins slow rollout

Sinatra, and Jack, in concert.
Frank Sinatra's long love affair with blues, broads and booze, as he often phrased it, was well chronicled during the iconic singer-actor's lifetime. Now, 14 years after his death, his favorite brand of whiskey is honoring him.

Jack Daniel's Sinatra Select was unveiled this week, the first step in a drawn-out marketing plan.

Sinatra Select, bottled at 90 proof (45% abv), is matured longer than the standard Jack Daniel’s, in "Sinatra barrels" that have carved interior grooves to expose the whiskey to more wood. That results in a faster maturing spirit.

The new expression will be launched -- with an initial suggested retail price of $150 -- at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas Airport in December. It then will be rolled out to about 200 other airport locations around the world in January.

The marketing plan calls for selling Sinatra Select at the Jack Daniel's distillery in Lynchburg, TN, beginning in 2013, and eventually being made available in other domestic markets.

Why the delays?

“We hope people will both collect it and consume it,” said Jim Perry, managing director of Brown-Forman Travel Retail. "The year 2015 will be Frank Sinatra’s 100th birthday. Over the next couple of years, we’ll be building up to that moment."


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George Dickel's new rye a bargain price

George Dickel turns out a very nice Tennessee whiskey. But, like a growing number of distillers, it's putting the spotlight on a new rye.

George Dickel Rye is a straight rye whisky matured in new charred oak barrels for at least five years. The mash bill is 95% Indiana rye and 5% malted barley. It is bottled at 90 proof (45% abv).

Besides the Dickel reputation, another drawing card is the suggested retail price: $25 for the 750ml bottle.


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Johnnie Walker debuts 2 new high-end blends

Johnnie Walker may be the world's top seller of blended whiskies, but the company isn't resting on its laurels.

The Scottish distiller, best known for its Red Label and Black Label versions, has unveiled a pair of pricier blends -- Gold Label Reserve and Platinum Label.

The target market is affluent Scotch drinkers, many of whom are single-malt purists who like such brands as Lagavulin and Talisker, which Johnnie Walker also makes. Market research says that consumer group has steadily been growing by about 5% per year.

Gold Label Reserve will be priced at $78.95 a bottle, Platinum Label at $119.95.

Ewan Gunn, Diageo's global Scotch whisky ambassador for Diageo which owns Johnnie Walker, "To make a good single malt, you make one good product, you distill it, you mature it, you bottle it and your job is done.

"When you're making a good blended Scotch whisky, you have to do that 30, 40, 50 times with entirely different whiskies. Then you have to bring them together in perfect harmony and only then is your job done. So for me, it's a testament to true skill to be able to make a really good blended Scotch whisky."

The Gold Label Reserve blend is highlighted by the inclusion of malt whisky from the casks of the Clynelish Distillery, which traces its roots to 1819. Platinum Label contains single malt and grain whiskies from all parts of Scotland for a blend matured for at least 18 years.

The new expressions replace the Green Label and Gold Label 18.


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20121020

Glengoyne expanding its whisky portfolio

The Glengoyne brand has been repackaged and expanded.

Three new malts have been added to the holdover lineup.

The new malts are a premium 15 year old, a cask strength that replaces the current 12-year-old cask strength, and a new 18 year old replacing the current 17.

The whiskies, which will come on the market in November in the UK and presumably in the U.S. soon after, are finished in Oloroso sherry casks.

Neil Boyd, UK commercial director for Ian Macleod Distillers which owns the brand, said, "We’ve been working on the enhancement of the Glengoyne range over a long period of time. At a time when the industry is squeezing every last liter out of their distilleries, we hold true to our craft ... by distilling slower than anyone else in Scotland."

The suggested retail prices are $75 for the cask strength, $77 for the 15 year old, and $120 for the 18 year old.


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20120902

City distillery to join Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Photo: Kentucky Distillers' Association
LEXINGTON, KY -- The Kentucky Bourbon Trail is getting a new member from an unusual venue.

Alltech’s Lexington Brewing & Distilling Co., maker of Town Branch bourbon, will join the Trail in October when it opens its new $6 million distillery. The bourbon name is a nod to the stream that runs under downtown Lexington.

The 13-year-old Bourbon Trail currently is dominated by high-volume brourbon producers such as Jim Beam, Maker's Mark and Woodford Reserve, all located in rural spots.

Alltech also produces beer and malt whiskey, and for several years has been making its small-batch bourbon at a location opposite the new facility. Its other spirits brands are Pearse Lyons Reserve malt whiskey and Bluegrass Sundown, a bourbon-infused coffee drink. And, its brews include Bourbon Barrel Ale, Kentucky Light and Kentucky Ale.

Distilleries along the trail have recorded more than 2 million visits in the past five years, including 450,000 last year, according to Eric Gregory, president of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association. Kentucky produces 95% of the world’s bourbon supply.

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20120901

Are spirits gluten-free or not?

My previous posting about a new New York State distillery preparing a gluten-free vodka prompted one reader to say he had heard that all distilled grain spirits are gluten free. Knowing that proper distillation can remove the glutens in such common ingredients as barley, rye, wheat and spelt would seem to support his observation. However, the matter remains in dispute. Probably the most succinct explanation of the pros and cons was posted on Ask.com earlier this year by writer Jane Anderson, whose work was reviewed by Ask.com's Medical Review Board.

By JANE ANDERSON
Ask.com

Most authorities say that people with celiac disease can safely drink distilled alcoholic beverages, even those that are made with gluten grains. That's because distillation supposedly removes all of the gluten protein molecules responsible for our reactions, rendering the drinks gluten-free.

The National Institutes of Health's Celiac Disease Awareness Campaign makes a point of saying all distilled alcohol is gluten-free, regardless of its original source.

The Canadian Celiac Association concurs, saying in part, "Distilled alcoholic beverages such as gin, vodka, scotch whisky and rye whiskey are made from the fermentation of wheat, barley or rye. Since they are distilled, they do not contain prolamins [i.e., gluten proteins] and are allowed unless otherwise contraindicated."

However, the Celiac Sprue Association does not necessarily agree. When it comes to alcoholic beverages, the association recommends celiacs consume tequila, rum and potato-based vodka -- all made from non-gluten grain sources -- along with preservative- and dye-free wines and brandies and gluten-free beer.

Why such a difference in opinion between celiac experts on distilled alcohol?

In truth, no study has actually considered whether people with celiac and gluten intolerance can safely enjoy alcoholic beverages distilled from gluten grains without damage. A few researchers have tested gin, whiskey and gluten grain-based vodkas for gluten content, with mixed results. Some have found gluten in them and some have not.

Theoretically, distillation, if it's done properly, should remove all the gluten. But not all makers of alcoholic beverages distill enough times to purify their beverages completely. In addition, some add in a little of the grain "mash" (which does contain gluten) following distillation to improve color and flavor, and there's always the possibility of cross contamination from gluten grains in the manufacturing facility following distillation.

Regardless of the expert opinions on the safety of gluten-grain-based alcohol products, many people have reported getting serious gluten symptoms after drinking them. I'm one of them. While I can drink other alcoholic beverages without issue, I cannot tolerate alcohol made from gluten grains.
[You can read the remainder of her column here.]

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20120830

NY's newest distillery making gluten-free vodka

Just a decade ago, craft distilleries were practically non-existent in New York State. Now, with 22 it is behind only California and Colorado in the number of them.

The newest is the Adirondack Distilling Company, which is making an unusual product after recently receiving its state license.

The microdistillery is located in Utica, where distiller Jordan Karp is making gluten-free vodka from locally-grown corn, quite different from most craft vodkas which are made from wheat or other grains.

Karp told a local TV interviewer he and co-founders Bruce Elwell and Stee Cox "did a lot of research, took a few classes, visited some distilleries and what started out as an idea two years ago is very close to completion.

"Our vodka will go from farm to bottle in two weeks. We hope our sales will help local farmers as well and again the money that people spend here stays here."

The company is using Herkimer Diamonds, a locally-mined, semi-precious quartz, to filter the vodka, made in a custom-crafted German still.

Its spirit, under the brand name ADK Adirondack Vodka, will debut in liquor stores in the region this fall as well as being sold at the distillery, on Varick Street in the former Metro building.

The company is setting aside the first 1,500 bottles of its inaugural batch. Details on how to reserve one are available on the website.

Plans call for eventual production of Varick Bourbon and Black Diamond Gin, the latter using Alpine Bilberries.

REMINDER: The new Hillrock Estate Distillery in Ancram, Columbia County, opens to the public this Saturday. See my earlier stories here and here.

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20120710

Whiskey sales up, down ... depending

Different populations allocate their spending in different ways. Take these two items that showed up in my in-box in consecutive postings:

KOREA: Whiskey sales have declined by over 10% from a year ago due to the economic recession. According to the whiskey industry on Monday, a total of 1.06 million boxes of whiskey were sold in the first half of this year, down 10.1% from a year ago. One box consists of 18 500-ml bottles.

Sales seem to have been hit by the trend to economize on entertainment costs amid the recession, as many companies have scaled back their budgets for wining and dining business partners and clients. (Chosun Media)  

POLAND: The first half of 2012 was an extremely successful period for distributors of whiskey in Poland, with demand for more expensive brands rising year-on-year. “After a couple of years of expansion of the whiskey market in Poland, the Polish consumer is more educated and ready to purchase the best-known brands but is also up for experimenting with novelties,” Jarosław Buss, president of Tudor House, which imports and distributes luxury alcohol in Poland, told Rzeczpospolita.

Diageo, the owner of Johnnie Walker, presented research by Nielsen showing that during the first four months of 2012, their sales in terms of volume grew 77%, and in terms of value by 83%. (Warsaw Business Journal)

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20120707

She goes where her nose leads her

Rachel Barrie
From The Wall Street Journal

No one has ever said that women are overrepresented in the beaker-and-Bunsen-burner world of science, though at least they have had more chances there than in the tweed-and-testosterone world of Scotch whisky.

This makes Rachel Barrie a double anomaly -- a chemist whose work crafting celebrated Scotch malt whiskies has earned her the rare rank of Master Blender. Science is crucial to the distiller's art.

One has to know how to measure the "physical parameters" of the whisky -- hydrometers to determine the percentage of alcohol, pH meters to test acidity. And then there are the more elaborate modern technologies of analytical chemistry, such as "gas chromatography" and "high-performance liquid chromatography," which Ms. Barrie said can map the chemical makeup of malts thoroughly enough "to provide a 'fingerprint' of our whiskies for quality and authenticity purposes."

Yet trying to understand Scotch whisky with a gas chromatograph is like trying to plumb the mysteries of consciousness with an fMRI brain scan: interesting -- even helpful -- but woefully insufficient. Whiskies from the island of Islay are known for being briny -- the distilleries are all but in the sea -- but lab instruments can't nail down that oceanic quality.

When it comes to assessing the interaction of hundreds of "aroma compounds" that shape how we taste, said Ms. Barrie, "the most sophisticated measurement tool remains the human nose."

Taste buds are a clumsy substitute and would never survive the gauntlet of casks that must be gotten through every week. It was Ms. Barrie's nose that sniffed out a new career. With a degree in chemistry from the University of Edinburgh, she landed a gig testing the chemical makeup of Newcastle Brown Ale. In 1991, she won an internship at the Scotch Whisky Research Institute on the strength of her ability to identify scents.

"Part of the interview was nosing 20 little bottles," Ms. Barrie recalled. "I had to detect, recognize and describe" the various aromas, which included classic scotch overtones ranging from phenol, birch tar and camphor to eucalyptus, lavender and juniper. Before acing that test, she had never realized that she had an extraordinary sense of smell.

[Go here for the full story.]

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Push resumes for KY election-day alcohol sales

From NKY.com

FRANKFORT, KY -- A proposed law would allow Kentuckians to buy alcohol on election day for the first time since at least the 1930s.

State Rep. Arnold Simpson, D-Covington, next week will discuss before lawmakers in Frankfort a bill he’s tried to get passed in some form or another for four years to make alcohol sales legal on election day.

Kentucky is one of only two states that still bans alcohol on election days, with South Carolina being the other, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS). The laws trace back to the early 20th Century when saloons also served as polling places. ...

The state doesn’t need to worry as much about people buying votes with liquor but does need to worry about the loss of both tax revenue for the state and business revenue for restaurants and liquor stores, said Simpson. "Most jurisdictions have done away with this prohibition. We need every dollar in taxes we can generate and permit businesses to work.”

The Kentucky Alcoholic Beverage Control does spot checks on the primary and general election days to ensure businesses are compliant, said spokesman Nathan Jones. The state law bans alcohol sales on the days of the primary and general elections when the polls are open. It also requires businesses to keep alcohol under lock and key. ...

Simpson will speak before the Interim Joint Committee on Licensing and Occupations on Friday, July 13 ... . The bill has died in committee each of the previous four sessions.

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20120702

Minnesota's first distillery open for business

Panther (top) and Grinager
OSAKI, MN -- Panther Distillery, the first -- and only -- legal distillery in the state -- has opened for business.

The distillery, founded in 20120 by Adrian Pather, took two years of planning, work and obtaining state permits to officially open.

He and head distiller Brett Grinager will host the public at a grand opening event set for 1 to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday this week.

The Panther Distillery team uses a 500-gallon copper still and fresh, local ingredients from area farmers. They now are barreling their signature whiskies, which will be aged for two years. Meanwhile, they're producing a clear, unaged spirit called White Water Whiskey. A gin, a rye and a rum are planned as well.

The distillery is located at 300 East Pike Street. Its website has other details.

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20120623

Celebri-quote: Christina Hendricks

Men, do you think you have no chance of getting close to "Mad Men"  siren Christina Hendricks? Well, that probably is true -- if you don't drink whiskey. Here's what she had to say on the subject in an interview with The Sun of London.

"I love it when a man orders Scotch. Most women find it a big turn-on.

"I've always been attracted to men who exude confidence and a sense of purpose in life. A man is much sexier when he is able to project a very clear impression of who he is and can take charge of situations.

"Women like to feel a man can protect us when we need that or feel vulnerable. A bit of swagger mixed in with a good sense of humor is important."

[Go here for an archive of celebri-quotes.]

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20120622

Dowd on drinks ... on radio ... on demand

Wm. Dowd graphic
I made another appearance on WAMC Northeast Public Radio today, this time discussing rums with "The Roundtable" host Joe Donahue and news maven Ray Graf.

If, for some inexcusable reason, you missed the show, all you have to do is click here to tune in to the 25-minute program. The trio of rums under discussion today were markedly different from each other:

• Serralles Don Q Añejo (Puerto Rico)
• Ron Miel Guanche Arehucas (Canary Islands, Spain)
• Banks 5 Island Rum (Various Caribbean countries)

Incidentally, if you want to hear an earlier program I did on WAMC concerning the history of whiskey, just click here.

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20120619

MA partners making beer-based whiskies

Berkshire's spirits line.
Two Massachusetts adult beverage makers are teaming up to create a pair of craft beer-based whiskies.

Berkshire Mountain Distillers Inc., located in Great Barrington, and the Boston Beer Company, brewer of Samuel Adams, on Monday announced their collaboration in a multi-year project.

The two brews -- Samuel Adams Boston Lager and Samuel Adams Cinder Bock -- will be triple distilled in Great Barrington, then barrel-aged in wood. The collaboraters said because whiskey aging is a very complex and multi-faceted process it is difficult to pinpoint an exact release date. The projected timeline is for 2015.

Representatives of both companies tasted several beer styles and their distilled products from trial distillations before deciding which Samuel Adams brews to use. The two brews have markedly different taste profiles. The hopes are to create two whiskies just as different from each other.

"There are many parallels between making spirits and brewing beer," said Jim Koch, founder of Boston Brewing. "Marrying the two not only makes sense, but will also produce a drink that beer- and spirits-lovers alike can enjoy."

Berkshire Mountain Distillers was created in 2007. It produces Greylock Gin, Ethereal Gins, Ragged Mountain Rum, Ice Glen Vodka, Berkshire Bourbon and New England Corn Whiskey in the Berkshires' first legal distillery since Prohibition.

The Boston Beer Company was founded in 1984 and has become an iconic craft brewing brand. It brews more than 50 styles of beer.

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20120617

Wooden it be lovely

Barrel-making in a Louisville, KY, cooperage. (Dowd photo)
A few years ago I embarked on a journey called “From Forest to Flask.” It was part of an assignment for a UK drinks magazine to track the path of wood that adds the aging nuances to the best Scotch whiskies.

The project took me from the timberlands of the Ozark Mountains to a sawmill in Missouri, a cooperage in Kentucky and a distillery in the Highlands of Scotland. If I had been patient, I could have saved a lot of travel wear-and-tear.

A proud Governor Robert Bentley of Alabama has just announced a new job-creating enterprise in his state. Considering that he does not drink, it’s interesting he is so enthusiastic about it.

The project is the development of a 200-employee cooperage that is targeted to begin turning out American white oak barrels in the spring of 2014 for Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey, made and bottled just 200 miles away in Lynchburg, TN. By comparison, the distance my magazine assignment covered between the Louisville cooperage and the Scottish distillery was 3,800 miles.

“It doesn’t mean I’m going to partake what’s in the barrels, but we’re glad to make the barrels,” Bentley said upon making the announcement of the project to be located midway between Florence and Decatur in lightly-populated Lawrence County. Brown-Forman, Jack Daniel’s parent company, already has a mill that cuts barrel staves in neighboring Jackson County.

American white oak is, by law, the only type of wood that may be used in bourbon barrels. It also is popular for making barrels that mature Tennessee whiskey, ryes and some blends. Most non-bourbon distillers, as well as some winemakers, like to acquire used white oak bourbon barrels because the process of spirits aging already has taken place and the wood readily exudes grace notes of color and flavor to their maturing liquid.

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,” Bill Lumsden of the iconic Scottish brand Glenmorangie told me. “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 several years back his title was broadened to “head of distilling and whisky creation.” That’s a fancy way of saying he is Glenmorangie 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, wood can continue to be Lumsden’s playground for a long time to come.

By the way, my entire “Forest to Flask” journey is included in my book “Barrels & Drams: The History of Whisk(e)y in Jiggers and Shots” (Sterling Epicure), available in bookstores and through online booksellers.

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20120609

New Bacardi rums are revealing items

For quite some time, distillers have been very particular about both the flavors in and the designs of their bottles and packaging materials as they fight for space on increasingly-crowded store shelves.

Bacardi, the world's top-selling rum, now is showing its attention in both areas as it rolls out its two newest flavored clear rums, Bacardi Wolf Berry and Bacardi Black Razz.

Wolf Berry is a blend of blueberry, rum and wolf berry (sometimes known as goji berry), which gives the spirit a sweet and tangy taste. Black Razz is a mix of raspberry, rum and black sapote, a Central American fruit.

New packaging features temperature- and light-activated bottles. When chilled, Wolf Berry reveals a red claw mark across the label; Black Razz reveals a large brilliant red berry logo.

Both the new flavors are available in 50ml, 200ml, 375ml, 750ml, 1l and 1.75l formats at a suggested retail price of $14.99 per 750ml bottle.

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World's largest gin collection in UK hotel

Duplessis (l) accepts the award.
OXFORDSHIRE, England -- The Feathers Hotel in Woodstock has officially been proclaimed the holder of the largest collection of gin in the world.

A Guinness Book of World Records adjudicator visited the hotel to count the 161 different varieties of gin stocked by the hotel bar as a crowd of guests and employees looked on for the entire 45 minute inspection.

Jeremy Duplessis, hotel general manager, said, "It's absolutely fantastic to be crowned a world record breaker. We have been building on the collection for three years and have picked up gins from all corners of the world -- from Holland, Spain, the U.S.A. and Germany as well as Britain, home of the famous London Gin, so it's great to have our efforts rewarded."

The hotel also stocks some of the world's most exclusive gins. For example, a bottle of Vincenzi 1950 comes in at US$348; a single glass of Burnett's White Satin 1960 will set drinkers back US$30; and, a seven-course dinner paired with gins is US$116.

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Followup (2) on Five Wives Vodka flap

In the face of widespread opposition, the Idaho State Liquor Division (ISLD) has reversed its earlier edict banning the brand Five Wives Vodka from being sold in the state.

The vodka, made in neighboring Utah, found favor with the Idaho drinking establishment, many of whom voiced objection to the ISLD decree. The distiller itself threatened a lawsuit against Idaho if the ban were not reversed.

The original ruling came in a nanny-state type of pronouncement from the ISLD that the ban was being instituted because the brand might be taken as a reference to the former Mormon practice of polygamy and that might offend someone. Both states have a significant Mormon population, although polygamy has been outlawed since the 1800s.

You can catch up on the nuances of the controversy on my earlier postings here and here.

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Drinking scene rejiggered in Kansas

TOPEKA, KS -- The Jayhawk State's drinking scene is in the midst of major changes.

Under a bill signed into law by Governor Sam Brownback, changes effective July 1 include:

• Liquor stores will be allowed to offer free wine, beer and liquor tastings as of Sunday, July 1.

• Dinner railway cars can obtain a liquor license. State Rep. TerriLois Gregory, R-Baldwin City, said the measure was aimed at luring a Nebraska dinner train business to operate between Baldwin City and Ottawa.

• Drinking establishments may offer "happy hour” specials. Previously, could offer special drink prices, but those charges had to last all day.

• Micro-distilleries will be allowed to to sell and serve their products on their premises.

Another provision of the law, that went into effect on May 31, allows visitors at wine tasting festivals to taste samples and buy bottles of those same wines at the event. Previously, wine tasting visitors had to go to the individual wineries to purchase those same wines.

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20120603

Maker's Mark gets court seal of approval

The first time I visited Maker’s Mark bourbon in Loretto, KY, I was invited to dip a just-filled bottle in the distillery’s iconic melted red wax.

In my enthusiasm, I plunged the neck of the bottle into the molten vat a bit too vigorously, and wound up with dripping wax coating the neck, half the bottle and my hand up to the wrist. My face was as red as the wax.

That embarrassing moment has always stayed with me, so when I saw a legal decree involving the wax seal, it naturally caught my attention.

From now on, if you see a whiskey with a dripping wax seal on its and it doesn't say Maker's Mark on the label, you may be seeing something illegal.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has held that the red, wax seal that covers the stopper on bottles of Maker’s Mark bourbon is a protected trademark that must be used exclusively by that brand. The ruling follows a lawsuit in which Maker’s Mark Distillery Inc. sought to prevent a similar seal from being used on bottles of Jose Cuervo tequila.

It's not the use of a wax seal, per se, that is the problem. Lots of distillers use wax seals -- Knob Creek, for one, and even Cuervo for years. Rather, it is the design of the seal that Maker's Mark worries about.

Until 2001, Cuervo bottles had been crowned with a straight-edge seal, then the design was changed to an uneven style that made the wax look as if it were dripping down the bottle neck, a la Maker's which was trademarked in 1985.

Judge John Heyburn II of the District Court for the Western District of Kentucky ruled in favor of Maker’s Mark on the dual points of infringement and trademark validity. This was upheld on appeal at the Sixth Circuit.

In their ruling, the three appeal judges noted: "The company has bottled bourbon for commercial sale under the Maker’s Mark name, and has used a red dripping-wax seal on its Maker’s Mark bourbon bottles, since 1958. Maker’s Mark -- and craft bourbon generally – garnered national attention when The Wall Street Journal published a front-page article about the bourbon, the red dripping-wax seal, and the family behind it ['Maker’s mark goes against the grain to make its mark,' by David P. Garino, 1980]." Furthermore, the appeal judges noted, a 2002 Business Week report declared the dripping-wax seal "one of the most recognizable branding symbols in the world." Six years later, the "CBS Sunday Morning" show referred to the factory process for applying the feature as the "famous dip in red sealing wax."

These findings, said the judges, "support the district court’s ultimate conclusion regarding the breadth of market recognition of Maker’s Mark’s trademarked, red dripping-wax seal."

Also, the judges wrote, "There is more than one way to seal a bottle with wax to make it look appealing.

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Dubonnet: Fit for a monarch

Vintage Dubonnet poster.
The salespeople at Dubonnet have had their hands full supplying their aperitif to PR-savvy pubs across the United Kingdom this week.

It is a blend of fortified wine, herbs, and spices with fermentation being stopped by the addition of alcohol. And, it is the drink favorite of Queen Elizabeth II, who this week is marking her diamond jubilee on the British throne.

Dubonnet was first sold in 1846 by Joseph Dubonnet, his entry in a competition run by the French government to find a way of persuading French Foreign Legionnaires in North Africa to drink quinine, which is part of the Dubonnet recipe. Quinine combats malaria, a disease prevalent in most places the Legionnnaires were posted, but is very bitter and, thus, not drinkable on its own.

 The brand-name Dubonnet was taken over by Pernod Ricard in 1976. It is available in Rouge (red), Blanc (vanilla) and Gold (orange) varieties.

The late queen mother, Elizabeth, was a noted imbiber of a cocktail that was 70% Dubonnet and 30% gin. QE II also has been photographed enjoying a Dubbonet-and-gin, which she has before lunch nearly every day.

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Followup on Five Wives Vodka flap

A few days ago, I reported ("Idaho joins ranks of the nanny states") that the Idaho Liquor Control Division has banned the sale of Utah-made Five Wives Vodka because its title may offend Mormons whose religion once allowed polygamy.

Part of the fallout from that ludicrous position -- polygamy has been outlawed since the 1800s -- was the possibility that the distiller, Ogden's Own Distillery, was considering withdrawing as a sponsor of the upcoming Boise Music Festival.

However, the distiller reconsidered after seeing a lot of public support for their product in Idaho. More than 1,000 T-shirts emblazoned with "Free the Five Wives" have been sold in the past few days. The company said it will use the proceeds to help underwrite the music festival at the original level of commitment. It will continue selling the T-shirts online.

"We are absolutely humbled by the support of the people in our neighboring state," said Steve Conlin, partner and vice president of marketing for Ogden's Own Distillery told the Idaho Statesman. "We've sold so many T-shirts to Idaho residents that we think it is only fair to give those proceeds back in sponsorship dollars. We feel bad that we can't get the shirts out fast enough."

Due to many state laws, the company cannot ship directly, but is hoping to have an online distributor available in 26 states early next week.

Ogden's Own is a micro-distillery located in Ogden, UT, the city's first licensed distillery since the 1800s. Its first product, Underground Herbal Spirit, won a Double Gold award at the 2010 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

Incidentally, the vintage photo used on the label of Five Wives is of an old, scandalous vaudeville group, not a group of Mormon wives. The Salt Lake Tribune did some digging to get the background on the story. A fun read, available here.

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20120601

Idaho joins ranks of the nanny states

While Mayor Mike Bloomberg is busy trying to extend his nanny-state proclivities by banning sales in New York City of sugary drinks of 32 ounces or more, the entire state of Idaho is being protected from imagined offense by a Utah distiller.

Here's the story:

Because the majority of the populations of Utah and Idaho practice the Mormon religion that long ago allowed polygamy, the Idaho Liquor Control Division (ILCD) has decided that the Utah-manufactured Five Wives brand vodka has the potential to offend. Thus, the vodka has been banned from Idaho.

A letter signed by Howard Wasserstein, deputy director for procurement, distribution and retail for the ILCD, says, “We feel (the) Five Wives vodka concept is offensive to a broad segment of our population and will not be carried.”

 Odgen's Own Distillery, maker of Five Wives, reportedly has been in touch with the attorney who won a 2011 suit that overturned a Michigan ruling that the Flying Dog Brewery's Raging Bitch Beer was offensive and could not be sold.

Curiously, a Utah-brewed beer named Polygamy Porter is available in Idaho.

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20120529

Sneak peak at bourbon maker's rye

The Knob Creek brand is well-known among consumer of premium bourbons. But, how about Knob Creek Rye Whiskey?

That's a new whiskey, scheduled to be released nationwide in July by the Clermont, KY, distiller.

I received a pre-release bottle of the 100-proof spirit to sample. If you're curious about my review, just go here.

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20120528

Diageo buys Brazilian cachaça maker

Financial Times of London

With the World Cup and Olympics heading for Brazil in the next four years, it looks an opportune time to buy into Brazil’s national spirit.

Diageo, the globe’s biggest spirits company, has bought Ypióca and some production sites from Ypióca Agroindustrial Limitada for US$453 million, giving it a foothold into the world of the caipirinha.

Ypióca is a premium version of cachaça, which is distilled from fermented sugar cane juice and forms the base of Brazil’s national cocktail.

Ypióca has around 8% market share of the total cachaça market, ranking second by value and third by volume in the category. So is it a good deal? At around five times pro-forma net sales, it’s at a similar multiple to the company’s dramatic purchase of Turkish spirit Mey Içki in February 2011. And although the sales of Ypióca have declined slightly recently, the brand fits with Diageo’s general “premiumisation” strategy.

Ypióca leads the premium cachaça segment with a 62% share, and sells at 1½ times the usual cachaça price.

[Go here for the full story.]

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Irish whiskey big profit center for Pernod Ricard

From Irish Central

Irish whiskey sales are thriving, so much so that the country’s biggest producer has paid over $100 million in recent dividends to its French parent.

The Irish Distillers Group, producers of big name brands Jameson, Paddy and Powers, made the dividend payment to Pernod Ricard on 2010 and 2011 sales figures.

The Irish Times reports that the payment was made through an Irish-registered company called Comrie Ltd. which owns 92.89% of IDG. The payment ... was made by the company in 2010 and 2011, according to the paper which says the figure reflects the highly profitable nature of IDG, a private unlimited company which does not publish any financial information about its business activities in Ireland.

According to the Irish Times, Comrie’s latest accounts appear to value IDG and related entities at over $5 billion, making it the company’s main financial asset.  

[The full article can be accessed here.]

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Shame on Sears!

I interrupt this blog to vent.

On this day put aside to honor the memory and the service of our military men and women, some idiot from a Sears call center telephoned me to (a) delay the start of her blather by giggling with her co-workers after I said hello, (b) mispronounce my name twice, then (c) try to give me a sales pitch about appliance warranty protection.

On this day dedicated to the likes of my father, a GI who died on a French battlefield in World War II; my stepfather, who served in the Navy in both WWII and the Korean War; my son, who spent four years in the Marines serving on three continents; my son-in-law, who spent eight years in the Marines …. all the way back to my great-great-great-great grandfather Colonel Samuel Miles who fought in the French and Indian War then commanded troops in the Revolutionary War, I couldn’t put up with such crass, unthinking commercialism.

As I said to her “You have the nerve to call me on this holiday when we are remembering the sacrifices and sometimes the deaths of people protecting our country? Shame on your company, and shame on you.”

And, as far as I, a decades-long customer of Sears, am concerned, that chain has gotten the last penny out of me. Sears, go to hell.

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20120518

A good sell for whisk(e)y

Craig Ferguson
Fettercairn is a Scottish whisky distiller.

OK, so who said it isn't?

Regrettably, "The Late, Late Show With Craig Ferguson" on Friday night called it a "whiskey" distillery, throwing in the " e" eschewed by the Scots.

Also regrettably, the show that featured a heavily edited and only mildly diverting account of the late-night show's visit to Ferguson's native land (his trip to Paris last year was much more entertaining on all levels) had very little mention, besides joking comments, of Scotland's No. 2 industry that trails only North Sea oil drilling.

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Irish prison to become distillery

The former prison.
Distilling is coming back to the capital of Northern Ireland.

Peter Lavery, a lottery millionaire who last year launched two whiskies being distilled in the Republic of Ireland, is heading a group putting up £5 million ($7.9 million US) to create a distillery in the notorious Victorian-era Crumlin Road Gaol that has been closed since 1996.

Lavery, a former bus driver who won US$16 million in 1996, heads a local consortium called Belfast Distillery Company. Once created, their distillery will produce the Titanic and Danny Boy brands now being made at the Cooley Distillery in County Louth.

Jim Beam, the U.S. bourbon maker that recently bought the Cooley distillery, will provide the technical support for the new project, which will produce 5- and 10-year-old malt whiskey.

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A cocktail shaker for the ages

Norpro cocktail shaker
It's excusable when people mix up events that happen close to each other. But, when they're a dozen years apart ...

Example: In the current issued of Chilled, a pretty good magazine about all things having to do with spirits and their trappings, its "Cool Products" page features a Norpro Penguin Cocktail Shaker.

As a collector of cocktail shakers, my eye was drawn to this one. However, as an avid reader of history, I was take aback by the text accompanying the picture:

" ... looks like it's straight out of the 1930's when post-war party-goers were flooding speakeasies excited to get their flap on and order a trendy mixed drink."

Grammatical goof aside ("as if," not "like"), it was the use of the phrase "post-war" that threw me. World War I ended in 1918, so the 1930s can hardly be referred to as post-war, a phrase that usually designates no more than 5 or 10 years. As to getting "their flap on," one must presume that is a reference to the flapper era, which actually was the Roaring '20s, not the '30s.

Now that I've gotten that out of my system, a few details on the shaker itself: Made of stainless steel, has a built-in strainer, holds 24 ounces and is dishwasher safe. Price: $39.95. You can get details here.

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20120517

American Spirit 'white whiskey' expands market

A new craft white whiskey.
Just last fall, partners Jim Chasteen and Charlie Thompson created a white whiskey they called American Spirit Whiskey. Now, they've opened a new whiskey blending and bottling operation in North Charleston, SC, to support the growing distribution of the craft brand in the Southeast.

American Spirit Whiskey label is being introduced to several markets in South Carolina this week. It already had been distributed to more than 250 restaurants and stores in Georgia, where the company was founded.

“We look forward to showing South Carolina residents that our product is one that can be sipped on its own as well as easily pulled out of the liquor cabinet at home or local restaurant to make a quick mixed drink,” Thompson said in a news release.

Chasteen said the company, which is headquartered in Atlanta, hopes the label can change the perception of whiskey as a quality drink.

“Southern culture and nostalgia for classic Americana are at the root of our whiskey, which makes it appealing to a broad range of spirits drinkers,” he said in the news release.

Unaged white whiskies form a fast-growing market niche that in my experience vary greatly in quality and character. Chastee and Thompson say their small-batch product is ASW is made in using bourbon-quality, un-aged whiskey -- 95% grain neutral spirits, 5% spirits from corn, rye and barley, bottled at 80 proof. They use a "specialized" filtering system that removes the bite typical of unaged whiskey.

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'The Imbiber' debuts new satellite radio show

Dunn behind the mike.
Dan Dunn, who writes about adult beverages under the title of "The Imbiber," will debut his new SiriusXM Satellite Radio show this evening.

"Dan Dunn's Happy Hour" will be heard from 7 to 8 p.m. (Eastern Time) on SiriusXM Stars Too (channel 104) every Thursday, then rebroadcast on Friday at 10 p.m. and Saturday at 5.

Dunn, an unrepentant wise guy and darned entertaining at it, notes, "Over the years, people have often told me that I have a face for radio. I, in turn, have kicked those people in the junk as hard as I could. But now that I'm going to be on SiriusXM ... the company's lawyers have advised me to let that clichéd, yet inexplicably irresistible insult slide. Such restraint is a small price to pay, I guess, for a shot at the BIG TIME! After all, anyone who's paying attention knows that radio is the up-and-coming new medium."

The debut show tonight will be broadcast from inside the 10 Pound Bar at the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills, CA.

"We're going to do the show remotely from different locations every week: bars, lounges, wineries, distilleries, festivals... anywhere, really, where the management insists you show a valid ID to gain entry," Dunn said.

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20120428

Connecticut House OKs Sunday sales bill

HARTFORD -- Connecticut has moved closer to ending its ban on Sunday alcohol sales, among other actions involving the industry.

House Bill 5021 was passed this week, allowing sales on Sunday and certain holidays. It also calls for increasing from two to three the number of liquor stores a retailer may own. The vote was 116-27.

The bill now moves to the Senate where it must be approved my midnight May 9, the final day of the current legislative session.

If approved, Sunday sales would immediately be allowed, with any other aspects of the bill going into effect on July 1.

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20120412

Independent slams Beam for withholding Irish spirit

Lord Henry Mountcharles
From the Irish Independent

A decision by the new owners of Cooley Distillery not to supply whiskey to independent operators has been slammed as "anti-competitive" by Slane Castle owner Lord Henry Mountcharles.

An angry Mountcharles said he had to cut short a U.S. marketing trip for his own-label brand when he discovered that the international Beam group would not sell him any more whiskey.

"It is not what they have done, it's the way they did it. It feels like we've been cut off at the knees," he said.

Former Cooley director Willie McArthur, now working in a marketing role for Beam -- producers of the Jim Beam bourbon brand -- said the own-label sellers were unwitting victims of the "runaway" success of Irish whiskey.

"The speed at which sales are growing caught everybody by surprise, including the new owners of Cooley. They have done a full review and the sales people say we may need more whiskey than we actually have.

"We aim to create another Jameson -- we are thinking at that kind of level. We have to make sure we do not run out of whiskey in three years' time," he said, explaining that this potential shortage explained the abrupt nature of the withdrawal.

He added, "We have contracts with a few customers but most, like Lord Henry, would just place orders as required and we cannot accept new orders."

Slane Castle Irish Whiskey was launched in 1999, targeting the premium U.S. market, with Irish prices of €50 a bottle, or about $65 American.

"We were about to sign a large distribution deal in the US when we learned our supplies would be cut off," Mountcharles said.  "I told Beam I regard their actions as anti-competitive. We won't take this lying down and I'm considering whether it could be referred to the Competition Authority."

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