Author Archives: Rob Theakston

Recipe: 2014 Kentucky Derby Cocktails

For Kentuckians, having horses take 2 minutes to fly around a track at great speed is reason enough to celebrate for roughly two weeks leading up to the main event. This of course, can lead to a large consumption of mint juleps. That can get tiresome, believe it or not, so here are some twists for your consideration. Of course, if you’re looking for the real deal Julep, we’ve got you covered there, too.

Blackberry Recipe: 2014 Kentucky Derby CocktailsBlackberry Mint Julep Margarita
2 parts Milagro Anejo tequila
1 part lime juice
1 part honey syrup
5 blackberries
6 mint leaves

Muddle berries and mint. Add rest, shake and strain over ice in julep glass. Garnish with blackberries and mint sprig.

Reviver Recipe: 2014 Kentucky Derby CocktailsSpring Reviver
1 oz. rhubarb tea
1 oz. Solerno Blood Orange Liqueur
1 oz. Lillet Rosé
.75 oz. fresh lemon juice
3 dashes absinthe
1 strawberry slice, mint sprig or edible flower (for garnish)

Shake ingredients with ice and fine strain into a chilled coupe glass, garnish with a strawberry slice and a mint sprig or an edible flower.

Dewlep Recipe: 2014 Kentucky Derby CocktailsThe Tullamore Dewlep
2 oz Tullamore D.E.W. Original
½ oz vanilla sugar syrup
dash peach bitters
12 mint leaves

Pour all ingredients into a cup. Gently muddle mint, fill with crushed ice and stir gently to combine garnish with a sprig of mint and straw.

Bailey Recipe: 2014 Kentucky Derby CocktailsMajor Bailey
(by Jon Santer)
2 oz Hendrick’s Gin
1 sugar cube
¼ oz simple syrup
8 mint leaves
1 spear cucumber (for garnish)

Muddle in julep glass. Top with crushed ice until a mountain peak of ice forms above the glass. Garnish with copious amounts of mint and a cucumber spear.

Drinkhacker Reads – 04.28.2014 – De Niro Launches De Vodka

One of the greatest actors of the modern age is helping to co-brand a new vodka. Robert De Niro, star of such cinematic classics as The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Meet The Fockers, is partnering with Artisan Spirits Merchants to create VDKA 6100. We’re not exactly sure what the 6100 means, but the Wall Street Journal landed an interview where he wasn’t asked the question. The super premium product will be available first in De Niro’s restaurants and in New Jersey. [Wall Street Journal]

In science news, Boston Beer Brewer Jim Koch reveals a trade insider secret to Esquire magazine on how to drink all night long without getting drunk. We’re not exactly sure how many college kids heading to Thirsty Thursdays at the local pub will heed these wise words, but it’s still some probiotic food for thought. [Esquire]

The Rum Renaissance Festival happened this past weekend in Miami, and the Miami New Times filed a complete report on the festival’s ongoings, complete with its 10 favorite rums sampled throughout the weekend’s events. Definitely not a bad way to spend the weekend. [Miami New Times]

In new release news, Kilchoman is releasing a second installment of its Loch Gorm whisky line, Bacardi is launching a new Aberfeldy 18 year old Scotch, and Beam has a whole mess of new expressions in their Signature Series line coming up: Rolled Oats, Red Wheat, Six Row Barley, Triticale, and High Rye. [Major hat tip to the most excellent Sku's Recent Eats for the Beam find!]

And finally today, Business Insider presents a feature on Fireball Whiskey, and how the brand jumped ahead of the pack to become one of the most successfully marketed spirits in recent decades. Which, if you think about the competition, is really kind of amazing. Or insane. Or both. [Business Insider]

Recipes: 2014 Spring Cocktails

For a least some of the nation (sorry New England and Midwest!), the brutal, crushing cold of winter has passed and things are starting to warm up and become tolerable once again. With that we’ve had a plethora of cocktail recipes heading our way over the last few weeks, and we’ve culled and tested the best of the best for your consideration:

image003 1 200x300 Recipes: 2014 Spring CocktailsMayan Mule
1 part Milagro Reposado tequila
½ part fresh lime juice
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
3 parts Ginger Beer

Place 2-3 ice cubes in a Collins glass. Add fresh squeezed lime juice, Milagro, ginger beer and bitters. Stir. Garnish with mint sprigs and a lime wheel.

Presbyterian Revenge
(Created by John McCarthy of Bathtub Gin)
1.5 oz. Black Grouse Scotch
.75 oz. Cynar liqueur
.25 oz. lemon juice
.25 oz. simple syrup
1 dash grapefruit bitters

Shake and strain into a rocks glass with ice. Top with a splash of soda, garnish with a grapefruit twist.

BlossomMule 300x193 Recipes: 2014 Spring CocktailsBlossom Mule
(Created by Mulberry Project)
3/4 oz. fresh lime juice
3/4 oz. Maraschino liqueur
2 oz. sake
4 oz ginger beer
4 dashes of Pechaud’s Bitters
cherry blossom for garnish

Pour the lime juice/Maraschino/sake into a cocktail shaker with ice cubes. Shake well. Strain contents over fresh ice, into a tall glass. Add the ginger beer followed by the the Pechaud’s Bitters, stir and garnish with cherry blossom flower.

Chandon Recipes: 2014 Spring CocktailsChandon Lavender
1 oz. lavender simple syrup (1 cup water, 1 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon lavender florets)
2 oz. fresh lime juice
3 oz. Chandon Brut Classic

Simple syrup: Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and let sit 30 minutes. Strain the syrup into a clean container and refrigerate. Discard the lavender.

Cocktail: Pour the simple syrup and lime juice in a decorative glass and stir to mix. Add Chandon Brut Classic and serve.

Mo-Coco-Jito
6 fresh mint leaves
3 fresh lime wedges
4 ounces Amy & Brian’s coconut juice
2 ounces rum
splash of club soda

For a fresh take on a refreshing mojito, muddle together mint, fresh lime, and rum in a martini shaker. Pour in the coconut juice and a splash of club soda; shake well. Strain and pour into a rocks glass filled with fresh ice and garnish with a mint leaf.

The Drinkhacker Bookshelf 2013-2014

Lately we’ve been churning out book reviews at a rather brisk pace, so we thought it would make sense to compile a list pretty much everything we’ve read over the last two years. Titles are linked to our reviews, and purchase links to Amazon are also supplied when available (note: prices may vary between formats and editions).

Recipes
Shake, Stir, Pour by Katie Loeb A/$16 [Buy]
Craft Cocktails At Home by Kevin Liu A/$9 [Buy]
Cocktails: The Bartender’s Bible by Simon Difford A-/$34 [Buy]
Ice Cream Happy Hour by Valerie Lum A-/$11 [Buy]
Liquid Vacation by P Moss A-/$28 [Buy]
The New Old Bar by Dan Smith and Steve McDonagh  A-/$14  [Buy]
Extreme Brewing by Sam Calagione A-/$16 [Buy]
The Best Craft Cocktails by Jeremy LeBlanc and Christine Dionese A-/$15 [Buy]
Market Fresh Mixology by Bridget Albert and Mary Barranco B+/$14 [Buy]
The Home Distiller’s Workbook by Jeff King B+/$9 [Buy]
Poptails: 60 Boozy Treats Served on a Stick by Erin Nichols B+/$12 [Buy]
Savory Cocktails by Greg Henry B+/$12 [Buy]
The Old Fashioned: An Essential Guide by Albert Schmid B+/$10 [Buy]
Alt Whiskeys by Darek Bell B+/$30 [Buy]
The Best Shots You’ve Never Tried by Andrew Bohrer B+/$6 [Buy]
The Big Book of Martinis For Moms by Rose Maura Lorre and Mavis Lamb B/$10 [Buy]
Dr. Cocktail by Alex Ott  B-/$13 [Buy]
The Architecture of the Cocktail by Amy Zavatto C/$12 [Buy]
The Signature Series by EGO unrated/$22 [Buy?]

Historical/Reference
Whiskey Women by Fred Minnick A/$17 [Buy]
Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey: An American Heritage by Mike Veach A/$19 [Buy]
The Drunken Botanist by Amy Stewart A-/$16 [Buy]
Uncorking The Past by Dr. Patrick E. McGovern A-/$16 [Buy]
Kevin Zraly’s Windows on the World Complete Wine Course  by Kevin Zraly A-/$30 [Buy]
Bitter Brew: The Rise and Fall of Anheuser-Busch by William Knoedelseder A-/$13 [Buy]
Drinkology Wine: A Guide To The Grape by James Waller A-/$4 (used) [Buy]
Vodka Distilled by Tony Abou-Ganim A-/$23 [Buy]
The Kentucky Mint Julep by Joe Nickell B+/$12 [Buy]
Beam Straight Up by Fred Noe B+/$16 [Buy]
The Curious World of Wine by Richard Vine  B/ $15  [Buy]
The New York Times Book Of Wine edited by Howard Goldberg B/$17 [Buy]
A First Course In Wine by Dan Amatuzzi B-/$19 [Buy]

Rating Guides/List Books
Drinking Japan by Chris Bunting A/$19  [Buy]
The World’s Best Whiskies: 750 Essential Drams From Tennessee To Tokyo by Dominc Roskrow A-/$26 [Buy]
The Smart Guide To Single Malt Scotch Whisky by Elizabeth Riley Bell  B+/$14 [Buy]
Destination Cocktails by James Teitelbaum B+/$14 [Buy]
The 40 Minute Irish Whiskey Guide by 27Press B/$3 [Buy]
Wine: A Tasting Guide by Marnie Old  B/$20 [Buy]
Bordeaux by Oz Clark B-/$23 [Buy]

Drinkhacker Reads – 04.23.2014 – “Oh No!” Edition

So remember on Monday how we linked to an article reporting on a powdered alcohol drink product? Well it turns out that the gun was significantly jumped in its approval. Backpedaling faster than Lance Armstrong, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) issued a statement saying that they weren’t sure how or why the product was approved, but it was all a big mistake. Chuck Cowdery writes that these oversights are happening a bit more frequently than normal, arguing for tighter observation and restriction, while FindLaw discusses some of the possible reasons why the product was rescinded its approval. Lehrman Beverage Law also has some fine discussion with the creators of the Palcohol and what’s potentially next. Or maybe this is just what happens when you put a taxation agency in charge of approving things that people drink. Hmmm…

The Chicago Daily Herald reports that the European Commission has approved Suntory’s acquisition of Beam, and has slated the closing of the deal for April 30. In other Suntory news, The Spirits Business reports this morning that the company has launched a new campaign with gorgeous miniature ice sculptures using cutting edge carving technology. [Daily Herald]

Meanwhile in beer world, there’s a bit of trouble brewing (no pun intended) with a new piece of legislation being proposed by the FDA that could send the price of beer up. Not a good thing to hear when so many microbreweries are just starting to thrive. [Time]

Wine Searcher is reporting that a British wine merchant is facing a hefty $25 million lawsuit after allegations were made that it was selling bottles of wine dating back to 1787. The most expensive wine sale ever could potentially also turn into one of the biggest lawsuits ever involving wine. [Wine Searcher]

Finally today, Page Six isn’t exactly the most reliable source of spirits/drinks information, but this bit was kind of awesome. Modern Family star Ty Burrell has opened a beer bar in Salt Lake City. Instead of lending his name/endorsement to another product to clog the celebrity shelf, Beer Bar (love the simplicity of the name) will serve 150 beers paired with an array of house-made bratwursts, local breads, and Belgian fries. [Page Six]

Drinkhacker Reads – 04.21.2014 – “Oh Yeah!” Edition

Remember when Kool-Aid or Tang used to be the powdered drink of choice? Now someone’s taken that idea and applied it to spirits. Simply tear open a pocket of Palcohol, add water, and voila! The Feds have given it their stamp of approval. What could possibly go wrong??? [The Verge]

And now: Beaujolais Nouveau for those who always wished to enjoy their wine in packaging shaped like a paint bucket. Tastes about the same. [ABC News]

Whiskycast gets the scoop on a new product about to hit stores: a collaborative bourbon made by four venerable micro-distilleries slated to go on sale this week at Binny’s in Chicago. In this day and age of distilleries picking fights or buying each other outright, it’s nice to see some friendly collaboration happening. [Whiskycast HD]

Meanwhile, in non-idiotic drink news: it’s been an interesting past week over in Beamworld. Beamland? Beamsville? Anyway. Beam’s chief financial officer and two other executives have announced their intention to resign within the coming months, as Beam’s largest shareholder continues to sell a large percentage of his stock to the open market. This is clearly to make way for the new Suntory executives and a smoother transition once the merger finally receives approval. In other Beam news: Fred Noe continues to be a really easygoing guy. Recently appearing in a Knob Creek television ad, the master distiller made the promise that “If you’re not completely satisfied with the big full flavor of our bourbon, just send back the unused portion and we’ll drink it for you.” It’s a nice juxtaposition against some of the baffling ads other bourbon companies have run lately.

And finally today, Fred Minnick takes on many of the rumors that have been clogging up the pipes of the internet over the past few weeks to discover the truth of what’s really going on with some of our favorite bourbons. Now if he could only work his magic and get Ancient Ancient Age back on the shelves, we’d be all set, and quite happy drinkers. [Whisky Advocate]

Recipes for National Iced Coffee Day

April 21st has been designated by those who designate such things as National Iced Coffee Day. One of these days we’ll design a calendar with all of these holidays for reference (unless someone already has, in which case please point us in that direction). As an alternative to the usual Frapuccino, we present a couple of boozy recipes to try out during your next lazy weekend.

Iced Coffee 248x300 Recipes for National Iced Coffee Day Guatemalan Iced Coffee
1 1/2 oz. Zacapa Rum 23
3 1/2 oz. Guatemalan coffee
1/2 oz. Demerara sugar syrup
cream (optional)

Pour coffee into a highball glass filled with ice. Add Zacapa Rum 23 and Demerara sugar syrup and stir well. Add cream if desired.

Boozy Biscotti Iced Coffee
(by Lisa Lavery at Yummly)

For the coffee:
4 1/2 oz coarsely ground coffee (about 1 3/4 cups)
3 1/2 oz cold water

For the cocktails:
2 cups cold water
8 ounces amaretto, chilled
2 ounces Pernod, chilled
ice and milk (for serving)

Place the coffee grounds in a 2-quart pitcher, add the water, and stir to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and let steep at room temperature for at least 12 hours and up to 1 day. Line a fine-mesh strainer with a standard coffee filter and fit it over a medium bowl. Working in batches, slowly pour the coffee into the filter until all of the liquid has passed through the strainer (the coffee will pass through in a slow stream; don’t force it through); stop when you reach the solids at the bottom of the pitcher (don’t pour them in). Discard the grounds and the contents of the strainer.Wash and dry the pitcher. Transfer the strained coffee into the pitcher. Cover and refrigerate until completely chilled, at least 2 hours or up to 5 days.

When ready to serve, add the water, amaretto, and Pernod to the strained coffee and stir to combine. Serve over ice, passing milk on the side.

(NOTE: This has been a staple in our household for quite some time now. We’ve tried to keep it around to see how long it will last in the fridge and still remain fresh, but it doesn’t last long enough. For the coffee, last week we used Gachatha AB from George Howell, but I’m certain any coffee of reasonable pedigree will serve the job well.)

The Drinkhacker Shopping List – 04.18.2014

It’s been a while, but here’s a recap of the best (and worst) of the reviews we’ve featured this month on the site. Compared to the relatively slim pickings last month, this month has been quite full with a wide variety of spirits to satisfy every taste. Don’t miss the special bottling of that 21 year old Springbank. Happy shopping!

TheList041814 525x1179 The Drinkhacker Shopping List   04.18.2014

Drinkhacker Reads – 04.16.2014 – Whisk(e)y Wednesday Edition

For an opening offering today we have two recent pieces detailing the history of bourbon: The first from SKU’s Recent Eats outlining the five modern eras of American Whiskey (sans clowning this time), and the second from Joshua Feldman over at The Coopered Tot with a long and interesting piece of history regarding the Cabin Still line.

Good news for mead maniacs among us: according to a new survey by the American Mead Makers Association (AMMA), mead sales and consumption has increased 130% from 2012 to 2013, which exceeds the rate of growth of beer, wine, and distilled spirits. The number of meaderies has also increased from 60 in 2011 to 194 in 2014, which accounts for 2.5% of all American wineries. No word on who the first mead celebrity spokesperson will be, but if history proves us correct it will most likely be Sammy Hagar. [AMMA]

BusinessWeek tells the David/Goliath tale of a small Irish Whiskey company that has taken on not one, but two spirits conglomerates in defense of its brand, Wild Geese. [Business Week]

If you’re up for it in Vegas and have about $500 to spare, Wolfgang Puck’s dining establishment Cut is offering a flight featuring three whiskies from the ’70s: a Macallan 1976, a Dalmore 1974, and a Jura 1976. [Eater]

Scotland’s whisky industry came away with a huge legal win today. Scotch has been registered as a certified trademark in Australia, which should help to prevent counterfeit brands from flooding the market. The Scotch Whisky Association has already identified about 40 counterfeit brands, and feel this may just be the beginning of their findings. [Scotsman]

Finally today, in what has to be one of the more detailed presentations we’ve seen in a bit, Whisky Science digs deep and poses the question of whether or not water quality has a direct effect on the fermentation and eventual final taste of whisky. Get ready to go to school, class is definitely in session. [Whisky Science]

Drinkhacker Reads – 04.14.2014 – Putin Gets Trolled By Vodka Company

While politics normally resides in the domain of elsewhere, Sobieski vodka has taken to trolling Russian heartthrob Vladimir Putin in a recent series of ads poking fun at recent events in the Ukraine region. While outcry to the campaign has been at a minimum thus far, Mediaite’s Luke O’Neil sums it up best with this gem: “Vodka is supposed to be tasteless, which may explain the thinking behind this new ad.” [Mediaite]

Norman Borlaug once saved an entire continent from starvation with his modern agricultural production techniques involving dwarf wheat. While nowhere near as significant or history-altering, it appears scientists are looking at barley genetics to produce larger yields of the crop and meet the growing demand for the grain. The Spirits Business reports that the Impromalt Project aims to increase crop yields considerably by 2018. [The Spirits Business]

Irish whiskey certainly has come a long way in the past few years, and now the newly formed Irish Whiskey Association is predicting growth to quadruple further within the next 20 years. Irish Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney was interviewed by Newstalk to discuss the formation of the organization, and how the industry is helping the local economy. [Newstalk]

The Scotch Whisky Association reports that growth of the spirit remains incredibly strong globally, reporting that 2013 overall sales and exports were up 3% over 2012 figures. Exports to Brazil and Mexico were up 20%, and Poland saw a 30% increase in Scotchery. This in contrast with decreased exports to Asia, with shipments to China down 30%. [Financial News UK]

The final Best In Show results for the SF World Spirits Competition have been posted, with Glencadam 21 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky taking home best whisky and Jim Beam Single Barrel Bourbon winning best single barrel Bourbon (less than 11 years old), amongst other winners. [SF World Spirits]

In advance of the upcoming celebration honoring Jimmy Russell’s 60 years at Wild Turkey, here’s a profile on his legacy at the distillery and a preview of the upcoming Wild Turkey Diamond. Turkey and diamonds, you say!? [Herald-Leader]

The A-List March 2014

Welcome to another edition of the A-List, our monthly review of the best and brightest products we’ve had the privilege to sample over the past month. Compared to last month’s (relatively) barren list, March saw a major uptick in the quality and quantity of the products that have come across our desks. Lots of quality single malts and Irish whiskies to pick from, as well as some wines surprisingly easy on the pocketbook as well as the taste buds.

AListMar14 525x890 The A List March 2014

Drinkhacker Reads – 04.09.2014 – Drink It Like Beckham

Former Manchester United punching bag David Beckham is once again lending his name to a product, this time via Diageo. In collaboration with House of Haig, the newly minted Haig Club whisky will be priced at about $65 a bottle. Appropriately enough, American Idol mastermind Simon Fuller is also involved in the partnership and the dynamic duo will be responsible for brand identity and market positioning. Hopefully Mr. Posh Spice can deliver what we want. What we really, really want. [WSJ]

The winners of the 2014 San Francisco World Spirits competition have been announced, and there are a lot of them in many categories. Thankfully, their website breaks it all down quite nicely with zoom and filter options. We’re going to have to wait a few more days for the Best In Show results, but we’ll be keeping watch for the final announcements. Congrats all around to the many winners! [SF Spirits Competition]

A new report from the subjectively-named research firm Wine Opinions poses the question of whether or not the craft beer industry is taking profits away from the wine world. While we’re sure the report is quite nice, we’re not willing to shell out the $500 to download it, so we’ll just link to the synopsis instead. [Wine Business]

And finally today, author Philip Seldon (Complete Idiot’s Guide To Wine) has lost his lawsuit in a New York court after being displeased with his purchase of 6 bottles of $12.99 wine from a local retailer. Seldon did not care for the contents of the advertised bottles, and therefore felt he was a candidate for restitution. Civil Court Judge David Cohen also dismissed a defamation claim against White Plains retailer Grapes, whose owner, Daniel Posner, called Seldon “a disgusting human being.” In his ruling, Cohen said that Seldon failed to meet minimum requirements to prove deceptive advertising took place. [New York Law Journal]

Drinkhacker Reads – 04.07.2014 – Final Four Couch Fire Edition

Just to prove the University is not all about basketball and burning couches, University of Kentucky geographer Matthew Zook recently took to twitter to discover favorite alcohol beverage choices on a state-by-state case. Unsurprisingly he found the west coast favoring wine, and the midwest enjoying tweeting about their beer. [Yahoo]

In fortune changing news, Brown-Forman, which was recently the topic of a potential takeover by Diageo, is now the subject of more takeover news. This time BF is the acquirer, reportedly eyeing Rémy Cointreau. Shanken reports that the corporation has been working with several financial advisors in a bid to make Remy brands a part of their collection. Once again, this could get interesting as more mega companies swallow one another. Stay tuned. [Shanken News Daily]

Dwars 300x229 Drinkhacker Reads   04.07.2014   Final Four Couch Fire EditionDewar’s is back and with a new look and marketing campaign. Under the banner of “True Scotch Since 1846,” Dewar’s will feature new packaging, and an aggressive multimedia campaign. [PR Newswire]

And finally today, the always venerable Whiskycast reports that Bowmore is readying the latest installments in its travel retail range. Bowmore Black Rock, White Sands, and Gold Reef will range from $75 to $130, and will be available at travel retail outlets later this year. [Whiskycast]

Drinkhacker Reads – 04.02.2014 – The Top Craft Breweries In America?

Everyone knows that lists are a fickle, subjective thing. So it should come as no surprise that there’s some pretty hefty disagreements and discussions involving the latest list from the Huffington Post detailing the The Top 50 Craft Breweries in America. The yearly list is compiled by the Brewers Association, with overall annual sales being the primary criteria from which the list is culled. [Huffington Post]

It seems as if the flavored whiskey trend really hasn’t found its fan base amongst die-hard drinkers, but for the general populace it seems to be taking off and holding steady. Shanken reports this morning that Beam is enjoying rapid and brisk sales of its Jim Beam Maple and Jim Beam Honey brands, but coming mildly at the expense of its Red Stag line, which saw a dip of 5% in overall sales from last year. Beam’s Devil’s Cut has also enjoyed a growth of 50% in sales over last year. [Shanken News Daily]

In continuing the tradition of friendly wagers between governors: Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has placed his state’s beer, bratwurst, and cheese against Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear’s fully-loaded bar of bourbon during this weekend’s NCAA men’s basketball final four game. The Wisconsin Badgers will face the Kentucky Wildcats Saturday night, and no doubt whatever happens one governor is going to walk away much better off for their flagship University’s athletic feats of conquest. [USA Today]

Finally today, kudos to both Sam Adams and Stone Brewing for their April Fool’s Pranks involving new lines of beer infusing helium as a primary ingredient.

Drinkhacker Reads – 03.31.2014 – The Empire Strikes Back

“Rather than having one company dictate for everyone, we can do this the right way and come together in an open forum to discuss how to create the best standards for Tennessee whiskey.” – Guy Smith IV, VP For Diageo

This quote from last week came from Diageo, which seemed to have accepted a ruling from the Tennessee State Legislature declining to make modifications to the official definition of what constitutes a Tennessee whisky. In doing the neighborly thing to foster good relations with the state, Diageo has… wait for it… decided to sue the state. Claiming the ruling a violation of the Constitution’s Commerce Clause and the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, the spirits mega-conglomerate has decided to endear themselves to lawmakers by seeking the ability to make their spirits in Tennessee and then age them elsewhere. According to SKU’s Recent Eats:

Things got ugly when the two lobbyists ran into each other after a press briefing. Brown Forman’s spokesman fired first, “Come on, Diageo can’t even spell the word whiskey right,” to which Diageo’s lobbyist responded, “Do you seriously think we should take direction from a whiskey brand whose founder was so dumb he died from kicking something too hard?”

We told you this wouldn’t go gently into the good night. [Courthouse News]

(Update 04.03.2014: While we were adequately April Fooled by SKU’s pre-mature March 31st, the story of Diageo taking the state of Tennessee is in fact true. The quotes from the executives are the portion of the story which are fictitious.)

For those tired of our Diageo coverage, we’ve got some other morsels for you, too.

Tequila baron George Clooney has partnered with spirits giant Sidney Frank to help boost marketing and coverage areas of his Casamigos brand. We’ve sampled their stuff and it’s good enough, but it certainly needs all the marketing help it can get if it wants to compete in the big leagues. [Drinks Report]

The 2014 edition of the World Whiskies Awards have announced its results, with a surprising best overall pick. [Just tried it. Amazing stuff. -Ed.] Which got us wondering when the San Francisco World Spirits competition were going to post its results. Our answer: April 9th. It’ll be interesting to see how much overlap there is between the two competitions. [World Whiskies Awards]

And finally today, in totally non-alcoholic news, researchers in Italy have discovered that a cup of Earl Grey could help prevent heart disease and lower cholesterol levels. Yet another reason to drink exclusively amber-tinted liquids. [The Independent]

The Drinkhacker Shopping List – 03.28.2014

Welcome to another edition of the Drinkhacker Shopping List. This week’s list features a much more diverse range of spirits than in previous weeks, just in time for the end of March Madness and the beginning of spring time. We’ve also reviewed an incredible number of books over the past month, with more reviews on the way in April. Enjoy!

TheList032814 525x1113 The Drinkhacker Shopping List   03.28.2014

Review: Diageo Orphan Barrel Project: Barterhouse and Old Blowhard Bourbon

 Review: Diageo Orphan Barrel Project: Barterhouse and Old Blowhard Bourbon

Everyone loves a good story, and to spin a good yarn around an original tale is becoming a talent synonymous with spirits industry. A brand simply can’t stand on its merits alone anymore. A successful product launch now requires no less than a multi-million dollar yacht, international release parties, the courtship of the tastemaker kings and queens, and a celebrity endorsement or five. However, nothing shines quite like a good lacquered coating of embellishment to make a product beam in the eyes of the unsuspecting and trustworthy. It is human nature and a constitutional right to amplify facts with the intent of impressing people. Once in high school, a certain writer once stretched a passing conversation with punk rock legend Ian MacKaye into a lunch of vegan tacos, Coca-Cola and a two-hour conversation about the future of his band Fugazi.

So it comes as no surprise that Diageo, dream weavers of the potentially-fictitious dream history of Bulleit, present the Orphan Barrel project: a new chapter in the company’s incredible alternate history of whiskey. If Diageo’s tale is true — some of a challenge in these dangerously murky marketing waters – these barrels were found aging in the mythological temple/warehouse known to Bourbon enthusiasts as the Stitzel-Weller distillery. According to the company, a very select and limited number of these barrels were picked to launch this new whiskey series, with more planning on being “discovered” throughout the forthcoming seasons.

Now it appears this long-lost S-W juice was actually made at the Bernheim distillery. The barrels also weren’t “lost,” they just never got used for their original intent. What was the original home intended for these barrels? Either Diageo doesn’t know (unlikely) or simply isn’t saying, which seems more likely. Why let those traveling down the yellow brick road get a peek at how the Wizard makes the sausage?

Either way, the barrels were shipped from S-W and bottled at the Dickel distillery in Tennessee, a state enjoying the attention and courtship of Diageo as of late. How many barrels? Good question. No one knows the answer to that either, but the edition numbers on the back of the bottles posted on the internet have now reached the 40,000 mark. Given how little would be left in each orphaned barrel at 20+ years of age, the number of barrels involved would have to be in the thousands, hard to “lose” and hardly qualifying as “limited edition” — unless you’re comparing it to the voluminous output of something like… say… Jack Daniel’s?

This lack of confidence on provenance combined with a balance inquiry at a local ATM were big sticking points as to whether or not we should purchase samples for review. Neither eager nor willing to shell out the $225 required for both bottles, a local establishment was pouring small samples for ladies and gentlemen who would otherwise shop the aisles for Kentucky Gentleman. $10.50 was the safer investment of the two options, it made sense to minimize risk and see what the buzz was about. As Chris is wont to say: “Thoughts follow.”

Barterhouse 20 Years Old – With more text on the bottle than a Russian novel, Diageo seems hellbent on cramming as many typographical flourishes as possible per label to remind the consumer of the epic saga they’ve purchased for their mantle, possibly to distract you from what’s inside. (It’s worth noting that Barterhouse’s mascot is a rather sly looking fox.) It’s incredibly sweet, with vanilla and butter on the nose, and soft on the palate, making it hard to even believe this is 20 years of age (with very little oak or sulfur on the taste). The finish is even weaker. Very easygoing and inoffensive, it would be a great starter bourbon for the uninitiated and those with ample money to spend. 90.2 proof. B- / $75

Chris says: I get more of a burnt toffee and considerable heat on the nose, with cinnamon and brown butter on the body. Kind of a weird balance of flavors, but a lot going on. I found this fun to explore, but difficult enough on the finish to make things a bit strange. My rating: B+

Old Blowhard 26 Years Old – A 26-year-old bourbon bearing the name of a cantankerous old man. I might be reading too much into the glass with the brand names here, but if I’m right Diageo isn’t being very subtle. It has a very strong presence right from the moment it lands in the glass. A nose of spices, cinnamon, and a touch of campfire smoke blend with a strong taste of toffee, vanilla, cloves, and a plentiful punch of oak. By comparison to Barterhouse (below), it has a much stronger and present finish with a nice burn of oak and alcohol. At $150, though, it’s hard to get excited on the cost versus quality scale of things. There are way better bourbons at this price point worth considering. That said, this is definitely the better of the two “orphan barrels.” 90.7 proof.  B / $150

Chris says: Quite a different animal. Cloves and peppermint on the nose. The body shows off big vanilla and toffee notes, but the finish turns a bit brutish, with a kind of heavily-flamed orange peel character. Becomes increasingly woody as it opens up in the glass. Intriguing. B+

With this new armada of orphan barrels, Diageo is placing bets on the casual consumer who enjoys higher end premium stuff and places as much stock on the envelope, paper, and penmanship as they do the contents of the letter. The kind of person who would purchase a $150 bottle of bourbon in order to subtly out-compete at the court of the well-heeled Keeneland’s clubhouse on opening day, or a tailgating affair at Churchill Downs in May. Much to the company’s credit, it sort of works. They’ve managed to put the fox in some very nice sheep’s clothing for the flock. However, in the end, the best consumer is one that is as well-informed as possible. Or as the song goes: “Never mind what’s been selling, it’s what you’re buying.*”

Limited Edition of Ten Frillion, or whatever number Diageo wants.

diageo.com

*The author is well aware of the thick glaze of irony created by enlisting references to the traditionally sober, straight-edged and highly anti-corporate Fugazi in a whiskey review.

 [BUY THEM NOW FROM CASKERS]

Drinkhacker Reads – 3.26.2014 – Legal Newsday

Tennessee state legislation can rest a bit easier knowing the spirit world is no longer watching their moves. State assemblymen and women have decided to table a bill asking for modifications to the official definition of what constitutes a Tennessee whisky. The bill will be re-evaluated over study sessions throughout the summer. Translation: Time for the lobbyists on both sides to sharpen their teeth and start making their moves. Of course both sides of the aisle — Diageo and Brown-Forman — are claiming this to be a massive victory:

“We stand behind last year’s law, we truly believe it’s best for Tennessee whiskey all over the world, and for the players who’ve located in the state of Tennessee, we need to uphold these quality standards.” – Jack Daniel’s Master Distiller Jeff Arnett

“Rather than having one company dictate for everyone, we can do this the right way and come together in an open forum to discuss how to create the best standards for Tennessee whiskey.” – Guy Smith IV, VP For Diageo

No doubt this isn’t the last we’ve heard of this. At least there’ll be something else to look forward to this fall besides an abundance of new bourbon releases. [The Tennessean]

Up north one state, Kentucky state Senators passed tax credit legislation on Tuesday giving distilleries a refund on taxes paid on barrels currently aging in warehouses. The Courier-Journal reports that the bill now heads to the House, where it most likely will meet its demise from politicians looking for more of an incentive to produce an economic stimulus or jobs, as opposed to giving tax breaks to wealthy companies. [Courier-Journal]

The Sarasota Herald Tribune is reporting that the Florida state legislation is currently debating a bill which could hinder the growth of the state’s craft brewing industry. The point of contention: growlers. There’s more at stake than just that, but this is the first of many battles ahead for the bill, its lobbyists and the industry. [Sarasota Herald Tribune]

Meanwhile in Michigan, Governor Rick Snyder has signed into a law a series of bills that would help grow the state’s already reputable and prominent craft brewing industry. Among the perks of the legislation: the ability to produce greater volumes of beer, increasing the number of brewpubs companies can operate, and allowing startups to self-distribute their beer with the appropriate licensing. All in all it’s a win for one of the state’s fastest-growing industries. [MLive]

Finally today, Coors Light is hosting a competition to win free Coors Light for a year. Simply do something to show them how much you love Coors Light, post it on their Facebook page and you’re entered to win. We wish you luck in more ways than one.

Drinkhacker Reads – 03.24.2014 – Diageo Gets Sued. Again.

The good times keep on coming for Diageo: the Wall Street Journal reports that the mega conglomerate is enjoying a lawsuit filed on behalf of the New York based Explorer’s Club, which owns the trademark to the name. Diageo recently adopted the phrase for its Johnnie Walker Explorer’s Club collection. This news comes on top of the announcement Diageo is planning to slash a generous amount of middle management jobs in the next few years. [WSJ]

A new study suggests that the sugar found in agave may help to lower blood pressure and prevent diabetes. There’s still more research to be done before we’re all slamming back shots in the name of good health, but at least there’s some promising news for tequila drinkers in lieu of so many horrible celebrity endorsements. [GuardianLV]

In bourbon news, it appears that Brown-Forman is getting busy in 2014. Insider Louisville reports that the company is getting ready to break ground on a new distillery in downtown Louisville on Whiskey Row. This report comes on the heels of an announcement via the enigmatic anonymous bourbon scribe BourbonTruth, which claims Woodford Reserve is readying a series of expressions based on vintage bourbon recipes later this fall. [Insider Louisville]

Penderyn whisky continues its celebration of Welsh icons with a nod to poet Dylan Thomas. The Spirits Business reports that the new whisky bearing no indicative age statement was filled in used bourbon casks and finished in sherry casks with an abv of 41%. The limited edition will be released across Europe and the UK at the end of April. It should be noted that alcohol played a special role in the life and times of Thomas. [Spirits Business]

Unless you’re some sort of polymath genius, your NCAA brackets have been absolutely decimated with the number of upsets over the past week. However, there’s one tournament you may be able to excel at with very little statistical knowhow. BourbonBlog is starting up its annual Boozebrackets tournament. The premise is simple: vote for your favorite in each match and see how well they do. No billion dollar grand prize, though, but tastier than b-baller sweat. [Bourbonblog Boozebracket]

Drinkhacker Reads – 03.19.2014 – Diageo’s Fuzzy Math

In PR speak, Diageo is in the midst of what one could qualify as a “very bad week.” First there’s the current playground-styled battle taking place in the halls of the Tennessee state legislature over which multi-national conglomerate cares more about “the little guy.” And now there’s this: at a recent press junket in San Francisco, wine scribe W. Blake Gray and Brian Kropf of Mutineer magazine attempted to get a straight answer from Diageo reps on just “how” limited the Orphan Barrel bourbon project will be. Considering there have been posts of “limited edition” numbers 41,000 and higher, it’s beginning to look like Diageo is attempting to spin another one of its infamous tall tales about a new product. Just how limited is something if it’s shipping over 40,000 bottles? (This of course, assuming they started with the number 1.) [The Gray Report]

If you can get past the excessive pop-up ads littered all over the page, Forbes has a profile of the 12 richest booze billionaires and how they’ve made their money. Some through shrewd negotiation, others through inheritance, but none of them correctly bested Warren Buffett’s college bracket challenge. [Forbes]

In scotch news, Whisky Cast is reporting that the mighty Bruichladdich is pulling its core range out of retail markets, but it will be made available online and at its own shop. In an exclusive interview with executives, the venerable Mark Gillespie discovered that supply reasons are mainly behind the move. If you’re not already signed up for Whisky Cast’s excellent podcast, you’re missing out on one of the best in the game. [Whisky Cast]

The new Glen Grant 50 year makes it debut with this video. The limited edition run of 150 bottles will be available in Hong Kong from starting this Friday and shortly following in Singapore, Seoul, Shanghai, Beijing, and Taipei. As of June 2014, it will be launched internationally in other duty free and domestic markets. So put down that Stroh’s and get those plane tickets booked! [PR Newswire]

And finally today, as if entering to win $1 billion isn’t enough, the folks at Buddha Beer have a Bracket Bash of their own for you to enter with one pretty wild grand prize: free Buddha beer for life for the best bracket! Hop on over to the site, fill your teams out (hint: one of the Michigan teams will be taking it all), sit back and (hopefully) win free brew for the rest of your days! Need help filling your bracket out? The Null family has you covered there, too. Boss man’s brother happens to run a handy dandy website called Bracket Voodoo that will give you the lowdown on the data you need to make the right March Madness calls. Which is Michigan or Michigan State. Always. [Buddha Beer]