Author Archives: Rob Theakston

Drinkhacker Reads – 10.29.2014 – Fireball Is Not Being Extinguished

With the latest hubbub surrounding Finland’s removal of Fireball whiskey from its shelves, an international frenzy has started to sweep social media under the rumor that the phenomenon is being pulled around the world. Of course this sent many a frathouse and wedding party into stockpile mode. Sazerac Company, makers of the world’s most beloved Cinnamon Whiskey, reached out to us with the following statement:

Fireball Cinnamon Whisky assures its consumers that the product is perfectly safe to drink. There is no recall in North America. Fireball fans can continue to enjoy their favorite product as they always have.

Late last week Sazerac, the makers of Fireball, was contacted by its European bottler regarding a small recipe-related compliance issue in Finland.

Regulations for product formulation are different in Europe, which explains why recipes for products like soft drinks, alcohol/spirits and even candies and confections are slightly different than their North American counterparts. Fireball, therefore, has a slightly different recipe for Europe.

Unfortunately, Fireball shipped its North American formula to Europe and found that one ingredient is out of compliance with European regulations. Finland, Sweden and Norway have asked to recall those specific batches, which is what the brand is doing. Fireball anticipates being back on the shelves for fans in these countries within three weeks.

The ingredient in question was propylene glycol (PG). PG is a regularly used and perfectly safe flavoring ingredient. PG has been used in more than 4,000 food, beverage, pharmaceutical and cosmetic products for more than 50 years. Most people consume PG every day in soft drinks, sweeteners, some foods or alcoholic beverages.

The ingredient is “generally recognized as safe (GRAS)” by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration up to 50 grams per KG. In Canada, its use is limited to “good manufacturing practice” with no defined numerical limit. It is used in the Fireball flavor in very small quantities, less than 1/8th of the amount allowed by US FDA regulations.

All Fireball formulas are absolutely safe to drink and the use of PG in Fireball creates no health risk whatsoever. There is no recall in North America. Fireball fans can continue to enjoy their favorite product as they always have.

So rest easy, college bars and internet rumor distributors. Fireball isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Other quick links for today:

Fox News takes a look at how millennials are changing the wine world. [Fox News]

Forbes posts an op-ed on how wine lovers should be embracing new technology. [Forbes]

Glen Grant has announced the release of its 50 year expression in a limited edition of 150 bottles. [Harper’s]

Diageo is delaying plans for new distilleries due to global slowdown in demand. Is the bubble about to burst? [Reuters]

The Ardbeg aged in space for 3 years has returned home. [Popular Mechanics]

Recipe: Halloween Cocktails, 2014

Probably more than any other holiday in recent memory, our inbox has been overflowing with Halloween inspired cocktail recipes from various folks. It’s been quite tough to muddle (no pun intended) through all of them, and even tougher to narrow down our favorites. Here are but a few that we’ve tested and enjoyed for your consideration.

milkshakeBourbon Pumpkin Pie Milkshake
2 cups vanilla ice cream
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup cream or half and half
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup pureed pumpkin
1/2 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1/3 cup graham cracker crumbs
2-3 ounces of bourbon
frosting + sprinkles (or cinnamon sugar) for glasses

Add all ingredients to a blender and mix until combined. Rim glasses with a light coating of frosting then dip in sprinkles. Pour in shake and sprinkle cinnamon on top. Top with whipped cream if desired.

image001Harvest Spiced Cider
(Courtesy of Sons of Essex)
2 oz Bacardi Gold
2 oz apple cider
1.5 oz canned 100% pumpkin puree
Dash of cloves

Combine in a shaker with ice the ingredients listed below. Shake vigorously and strain in to a tumbler filled with ice. Garnish with a large orange peel.

image001Oaxaca Chakas
2 parts of Milagro Anejo
¾ parts agave nectar
1 part heavy whipping cream
2 parts milk
1 part oaxacan chocolate powder
freshly whipped cream

On medium heat, combine all ingredients except for the whipped cream, stirring casually until the mixture comes to a boil. Pour heated mixture into a coffee cup and top with whipped cream. Garnish with a stick of cinnamon.

Pernod Asinthe Green BeastThe Green Beast
1 part Pernod Absinthe
1 part simple syrup
1 part fresh lime juice
4 parts water
Thinly sliced cucumber wheels (for garnish)

Build in a Collins glass or punch bowl over ice. Garnish with cucumber slices

Zombie Breakfast
3/4 oz. Wild Turkey American Honey
3/4 oz. SKYY Blood Orange
1/4 oz. coffee liqueur
1/4 oz. cherry liqueur

Combine the American Honey, SKYY Blood Orange and cherry liqueur into a shaker over ice. Shake well and strain into a shot glass. Top with the coffee liqueur. (NOTE: Normally we don’t get all excited about shot based cocktails, but this one was surprisingly good.) Continue reading

Drinkhacker Reads – 10.27.2014 – Fireball GoPro Goes Viral, Vodka Distillery Goes Fireball

San Antonino firefighters were called to an East Bexar vodka distillery explosion at 8 am this morning. A propane or ethanol leak is currently the theory investigators are working with, but won’t have anything confirmed until looking at the distillery footage. Thankfully, only one worker was on the premises at the time, and he was treated and released with minor injuries. [KSAT]

No marketing firm could do better than this: It’s the sort of priceless advertising companies dream of. Someone stuck a GoPro camera onto a Fireball bottle and took pictures of a wedding party celebrating. Congrats to the happy couple, and congrats to Fireball for the readymade viral campaign. [Business Insider]

We all know that liquor store prices may vary upon quantity available, store location, and innumerable other variables. Gizmodo takes things a step further with an informal, unscientific survey of how much a bottle of Jack Daniels costs in each of the 50 states. [Gizmodo]

In science news, light alcohol consumption may help to retain memories in the elderly, neurologists are closer to figuring out why some drinkers become alcoholics and others do not, and spirit companies are not keeping their word about limiting alcohol advertising exposure to youth.

And finally today, Lucasfilm — that fine company that created and subsequently ruined the Star Wars saga — is suing New York’s Empire Brewing Company for the Empire Strikes Bock lager it serves at its brewpub, under the grounds it intentionally causes confusion between the two companies. Though the beer has been around for seven years now, there have been no reported cantina brawls because of it. May the farce be with you. [SFist]

Review: Speakeasy Bourbon

speakeasySo this is an interesting one. Quietly released in a limited batch in September, the label reads that this was made by the Bardstown Club Distilling Company. However, a quick Google search reveals that this is indeed the handywork of none other than Willett, under another one of its noms de plume. This made Speakeasy all the more intriguing, given its recent string of quality offerings. And at a price tag of $30 what did I have to lose?

Not a lot, and thankfully there was plenty to gain. This is one of the most easygoing bourbons I’ve had in quite some time. It’s light and simple, with a nose of butterscotch and gratuitous amounts of vanilla, with a touch of crisp apples on the palate. Really ideal sipping for the transition from summer to autumn — and it’s a decent value. Not exactly sure how many bottles were made in this batch (or much more about it), but if you see one it may be worth picking up — especially if you’re not one who likes to pay top dollar for bourbon this time of year.

94 proof.

B+ / $30 / kentuckybourbonwhiskey.com

Drinkhacker Reads – 10.22.2014 – The Golden Age Of Bourbon?

Bourbon’s doing well. So well, in fact, that the Governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky is serving Beam Black and donuts at a press conference praising the bourbon boom. So well that the Kentucky Agricultural Development Fund issued a 67 page report on Tuesday to celebrate its success. Just a few quick facts:

• Bourbon now contributes $3 billion in gross state product to Kentucky’s economy every year, up from $1.8 billion just two years ago, a 67 percent increase.
• More than 15,400 people owe their paychecks to the bourbon industry, compared to 8,690 in 2012, an increase of 77 percent.
• Barrel inventories are at their highest levels in 40 years, with more than 5.3 million aging currently in Kentucky.
• Production levels are up 53 percent in the last two years and 150 percent in the last 15 years.
• Distilleries plan to spend $630 million in capital investment over the next five years as the ad valorem “barrel tax” is offset by a corporate tax credit that distillers are required to reinvest in their Kentucky operations. This will create an additional 1,500 jobs, $43 million in payroll, and $5 million in tax revenue.
• Total capital investment will surpass $1.3 billion in projects over a 10-year period starting in 2008.
• Kentucky distillers source approximately 40 percent of all of their grain from Kentucky farms.
• The number of licensed distilling companies has tripled – from 10 to 31 in two years. That’s the most distilleries in Kentucky since the repeal of Prohibition.
• Distilling remains one of the state’s top job creators with a 4.35 spin-off factor, meaning every distillery job helps create four other jobs. Distilling now ranks second in total employment and job multiplier out of 245 industries (only animal processing ranks higher).
• Distilling industry employment is up 21 percent since 2000.
• New craft distilleries employ 127 people with salaries totaling more than $4 million. They have invested $30 million already, and plan to spend another $25 to $30 million in the next five years.

So one would think with all of these great numbers they would serve something a bit more upscale than Beam Black at a press conference. But this is Kentucky. Upscale ain’t what we’re about. But let’s enjoy the celebration like it’s the jazz age and the roaring twenties, when nothing bad ever happened to the U.S. economy.

Speaking of the roaring twenties, here’s something only rich people do: take a bath in red wine. We suppose grabbing a bunch of Two Buck Chuck and pouring it in the bathtub could also do the trick, but probably wouldn’t produce the intended results. Someone try this and tell us how it goes. [NY Mag]

On Monday, we featured a link to an interview with Balcones founder Chip Tate explaining his side of his legal travails to journalist Fred Minnick. Yesterday, Balcones ownership responded, on Fred’s blog, regarding Chip’s statements. Poor Fred. He must feel like a weird whiskey marriage counselor at this point. [Fred Minnick]

A few weeks ago we talked about this new sticklike gizmo on the market trying to Kickstart its way into the hearts of drinkers everywhere. Allegedly, the product ages whiskey faster. Overnight, actually. Gizmodo took it for a test drive, and much to no one’s surprise, Mother Nature was not fooled yet again. [Gizmodo]

And finally today, word reached us via press release that three professional golfers are, ahem, driving their way into the beer business. Freddie Jacobson, Keegan Bradley, and Graeme McDowell will launch a series of easy-drinking craft beers through their new company, GolfBeer Brewing Co. How they came up with such an inventive name — and such an underserved audience — we have no idea. Anyways, each craft beer was craftily crafted to suit each golfer’s taste profile. We’ve got the Freddie Jacobson Scandinavian Blonde Ale, Keegan Bradley’s New England Style Lager, and G-Mac’s Celtic Style Pale Ale, all of which will allegedly be on par in terms of price with other craft beers, and won’t be in the rough, with a smooth, easy finish. No word on whether Dorf will be the brand’s pitchman. [GolfBeer]

Drinkhacker Reads – 10.20.2014 – Chip Tate Opens Up and Other Legal Matters

We’ve been reading a lot about the recent turmoil surrounding Balcones distillery, its owners, and distillery founder Chip Tate. Now Chip comes on the record to speak with Fred Minnick over at Whisky Advocate to tell his side of the story. Judging from the look of things, this feud is just getting warmed up, and it’s going to get ugly quite quickly. [Whisky Advocate]

In other litigious news, the Wall Street Journal publishes an overview of the court battle currently in process against the folks at Tito’s Handmade Vodka. The suit is claiming Tito’s is made under false pretenses and is not really “handmade” as the brand claims. [Wall Street Journal]

Three folks have been arrested in a £80 million alcohol fraud bust by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) officers in London. Details are developing as of this post time, but officers believe the three to be part of a major booze diversion and laundering deal. We’ll follow up as more information becomes available. [Telegraph UK]

And finally today, just a heads up: Pappymania is almost amongst us. The Chicago Daily Herald runs the gratuitous profile piece on how folks can’t keep up with demand, and the Lexington Herald Leader follows up one year later on the now famous Pappygate heist (we still maintain it’s with Jimmy Hoffa). Bourbonr also has created a Pappytracker update application, so users can determine when Pappy arrives in their state. Oh yes, and if that wasn’t enough, there’s a new site dedicated to all things PvW: Pursuit of Pappy. So here we go!

The Drinkhacker Shopping List – 10.19.2014

It’s the weekend, and time for another edition of the Shopping List, our bi-weekly look back at the best and worst of new products we’ve reviewed. Lots to choose from this time, including a healthy survey of pumpkin flavored beers and some tequilas and whiskies receiving high marks. Whatever your palate may call for, we’ve something for everyone. We even have something for San Francisco Giants fans, who will no doubt be in need of a chaser to mix  salty tears as their beloved team suffers defeat at the hands of the Kansas City Royals in six games or less. [Heresy! -Ed.]

TheList101714

Drinkhacker Reads – 10.15.2014 – Scotch-Inspired Chairs, Steve Jobs and Tax Adjustments

Good news for lovers of Scotch: the Balvenie has announced the arrival of three new expressions just in time for the arrival of the holiday season stateside. Retiring the Tun 1401 series, master distiller David Stewart is now turning his attention to Tun 1509: 35 traditional American oak barrels and seven European oak sherry butts will arrive married and bottled at the natural strength of 47.1% abv. The first bottles will appear on shelves mid-October with a price tag of $350. If that’s too thin for your blood, there’s also The Balvenie Single Barrel Traditional Oak Aged 25 Years, available in a limited edition of no more than 300 hand-numbered bottles drawn from a single cask, with a suggested retail price of $599. Or, there’s also The Balvenie Fifty, Cask 4567 which will only see 15 bottles arrive in the states, each of which will set you back a mere $38,000.

Better news for lovers of Scotch and/or fans of mid-century modern furniture: The Glenlivet has designed a chair inspired by its Nadurra range. Each chair is individually made and designed by British furniture maker Gareth Deal using Aberdeen Angus leather that’s been steeped in oak bark. No tasting notes supplied, but you can see the chair for yourself in this video.

Failing a takeover of SABMiller, Anheuser-Busch InBev is now fueling rumors of a potential merger or takeover of PepsiCo. [Seeking Alpha]

Following Monday’s allegations of tax evasion in South Korea, Pernod Ricard executives have dismissed the accusations. In a brilliant turn of phrase, Pernod executives spoke to Just Drinks and insist it was a matter of “tax adjustments,” and not a fine. [Just Drinks]

The Atlantic features a small profile piece on Samuel Adams figurehead Jim Koch, elevating his status in the craft beer industry with the unofficial title, “The Steve Jobs of Beer.” This poses the question: if Koch is Steve Jobs, who is the Steve Ballmer of the beer world? [Dan Gordon -Ed.] [The Atlantic]

And finally today, Johnnie Walker has announced the wide release of another new limited edition expression. John Walker and Sons Private Collection 2014 is the inaugural release in what is slated to become an annual event. Originally released earlier this year at select travel outlets, it is pulled from 29 casks and is set to be a limited edition of 8,888 bottles with a retail price of about $850.

Drinkhacker Reads – 10.13.2014 – Monday Roundup Edition

Lots of links to major items hit the inbox over the weekend, so let’s get on our way!

Pernod Ricard was fined $9.3 million for tax evasion in Korea. This on top of declining sales for many of its flagship brands over the last year. [Korean Times]

The newspaper of record offers up an op-ed piece on the beer monopoly, and renders a verdict in favor of small businesses. [New York Times]

In other beer news, Business Insider takes a look inside the marketing of beer to ladies, and how everyone hates pink colored beer. [Business Insider]

Good news for Bordeaux fans: France’s wine volume is expected to grow 10% thanks to a harvest recovery in the Bordeaux region. [Bloomberg]

Bad news for Bordeaux fans: Grape-rotting flies have been found in the region, and may damage future crop harvests. [Decanter]

The Financial Times is reporting that Diageo has a growth problem. Expansion has been rather limp lately, and there’s no magic pill to alleviate the situation. [Financial Times]

Apparently, removing age statements and short stocks are the best possible thing to happen in the Scotch sector. [The Spirits Business]

Sku posts about a bunch of new products coming down the pipeline that are receiving approval from the TTB, including potentially a new rye from Beam. [Sku’s Recent Eats]

And finally today, congrats to Whiskycast on making it to 500 episodes! If you’re not listening, you’re missing the best podcast on whisky that’s available. [WhiskyCast]

Drinkhacker Reads – 10.08.2014 – Scotch Sales Decline, Wine Lot Hits $1.6 Million

It’s not just the Irish. We’re also drinking less Scotch. While not as brutal as the dip in sales for Irish whiskey, which felt the pain of a recent 20% sales decrease, worldwide Scotch sales recently fell 0.8% according to a report released by report wizards Just Drinks. 14 of the 25 major markets saw a decline in Scotch consumption, but growth continues modestly in the United States, as well as in emerging markets like Russia and India. [Just Drinks]

Main Street’s Jason Notte goes inside the numbers and shows consumers just how much they are overpaying for each beer they drink. Presented as a counter argument (of sorts) to Notte’s article: a recent article in Forbes regarding the potential pitfalls of data journalism. [Main Street]

The protests in Hong Kong may have slowed things down for the general population a bit, but there were no signs of it at Sotheby’s auction, where the world’s most expensive lot of wine was auctioned off for $1.6 million yesterday. The 114-bottle set of Romanée-Conti wines date from 1992 to 2010 and were sold to an unidentified buyer, proving once again that not even government upheaval can stop wine lovers from getting what they want. [Forbes]

In the world of weird whisky news, the public battle between Templeton Rye and consumers still lingers on, and a Texas judge has found Balcones founder Chip Tate in contempt of court for violating a temporary restraining order against him by Balcones. No idea on how either of these stories are going to turn out in the end, but you can bet both of them are just hitting their respective strides.

And finally today, let’s end on a high note. The recent drought in California may have hurt many a agricultural crop, and when you combine that with the earthquake in Napa earlier this summer things aren’t exactly going the wine industry’s way. However, the Wall Street Journal is reporting a silver lining: that this year’s crop of grapes may produce some of the most flavorful fruit the region has yielded in some time. Only time will tell, but at least there’s something to look forward to in a few years. [Wall Street Journal]