Author Archives: Rob Theakston

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]

Drinkhacker Reads – 03.17.2014 – Diageo Vs. Brown-Forman Square Off Over Barrels

2014 is certainly shaping up to be the year of drinking drama.

So there’s this thing that’s been happening over the past few days over in Tennessee. Brown-Forman, owner of Jack Daniel’s, is accusing fellow spirits giant Diageo of putting Tennessee whiskey “under attack.” This is in regards to legislation currently under consideration in the Tennessee State Assembly as to whether or not to allow the reuse of barrels when making Tennessee whiskey, an idea which would be verboten (and illegal) in Kentucky. Brown-Forman alleges Diageo is attempting to diminish the quality that’s synonymous with Tennessee, and hurt the reputation of distilleries statewide. The booze bloggerati is weighing with different theories. Chuck Cowdery is calling this a move out of fear, as Jack Daniel’s is about to surpass Diageo’s franchise player, Johnnie Walker, in sales. Fred Minnick takes the more pragmatic, economic route , claiming this to be a product of a barrel shortage and weak state laws.

Diageo for its part, is making no bones about lobbying for this legislation:

(Republican state Rep. Bill) Sanderson acknowledged that he introduced the measure at Diageo’s urging, but said it would also help micro distilleries opening across the state. Diageo picked up on the same theme.

“This isn’t about Diageo, as all of our Tennessee whiskey is made with new oak,” said Diageo executive vice president Guy L. Smith IV. “This is about Brown-Forman trying to stifle competition and the entrepreneurial spirit of micro distillers.

“We are not sure what they are afraid of, as we feel new innovative products from a new breed of distillers is healthy for the entire industry,” he said.

So in essence we have two liquor giants framing themselves to be on the side of the little guy, who will — if both parties are correct — suffer one way or the other. This is starting to sound more and more like the rhetoric from some poorly managed political campaigns. WhiskyCast has been on the job and has provided the text of the amendment to the bill in question, and is waiting to hear back for a potential interview.

This won’t be over any time soon. A cursory glance of the Senate and House calendars show that it’s not scheduled to be brought to the Senate floor for debate today, and if we’re understanding this committee meeting video correctly, won’t be brought up until next week. We also found a video on the matter of the House State Government Subcommittee from last week.

Also: Happy St. Patrick’s Day. Just a kind reminder to avoid the green beer.

Recipe: St. Patrick’s Day Cocktail’s 2014

Without question, one of the busiest recipe holidays of the year for us is St. Patrick’s Day. For those content in drinking watered down beer with green food coloring or a straight shot of Jameson, the answer is simple: Keep doing what you’re doing. However, for those desiring a bit more in their festivities and libations, we’ve collected the best of the bunch for you to enjoy.

NOHO Fresca 167x300 Recipe: St. Patricks Day Cocktails 2014NOHO Fresca
2 oz. gin (Note: We used Russell Henry Dry for this, but any decent gin will do)
1 oz. elderflower liqueur
1 oz. cucumber water
1/2 oz. lime juice
Float 2 oz. NOHO

Shake all ingredients with ice. Serve in Collins glass. Garnish with a cucumber slice (optional).

Herradura Green Agaveimage001 214x300 Recipe: St. Patricks Day Cocktails 2014
1 ½ oz. Herradura Silver
1 oz. melon liqueur
fresh lime juice

Shake tequila, melon liqueur and lime juice with ice for 15 seconds. Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a Shamrock carved lime (good luck!). Shake and pour into martini glass.


Honey Smash Recipe: St. Patricks Day Cocktails 2014Bushmills Irish Honey Smash
1.5 oz. of Bushmills Irish Honey
2-3 mint leaves
3/4 oz. simple syrup
2 pieces of lemon
1 oz water

Muddle the lemon, mint, water, and simple syrup in the bottom of a mixing glass. Add Bushmills, shake, and strain into a glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with a sprig of mint and serve.

The Montserrat
(courtesy of Irish Whiskey historian Tim Herlihy)
2 parts Tullamore D.E.W.
1 part cloudy apple juice
1 brown sugar cube
1 dash Angostura Bitters
large orange ‘Horses Neck’ twist

Muddle brown sugar cube, bitters and small amount of Tullamore D.E.W. in bottom of rocks glass. Fill glass with cubed ice. Stir to dilute, adding Tullamore D.E.W. slowly. Add more ice as necessary. Afterwards, add apple juice and garnish with an orange twist.

BloodyMaria 215x300 Recipe: St. Patricks Day Cocktails 2014Green Bloody Maria
2 oz Milagro Silver
1 tomatillo
1 oz lime juice
.5 oz agave nectar
4 cucumber slices
1 pinch cilantro
1 slice jalapeno
1 pinch minced garlic
1 pinch salt

Blend all ingredients without ice. Shake and strain into a tall glass with ice. Garnish with cucumber.

Lepearchaun Recipe: St. Patricks Day Cocktails 2014Lepearchuan
1 oz Berentzen Pear
1.5 oz Irish whiskey
(Note: While the recipe doesn’t call for an exacting brand, we used Tullamore D.E.W in this instance)
.25 oz fresh lime juice
2 oz ginger ale

Combine Berentzen Pear, Irish Whiskey and lime juice over ice in an Old Fashioned glass. Top with ginger ale. Garnish with slice of pear.

Ciroc 239x300 Recipe: St. Patricks Day Cocktails 2014CÎROC St. Patty
3 basil leaves
1 jalapeño
1 oz lime juice
.75 oz agave nectar
1.5oz CÎROC Vodka

Build in shaker, muddle, add vodka and ice. Shake and fine strain over a couple glass garnish with basil leaf and jalapeño.

Review: Booker’s 25th Anniversary Edition Bourbon

Bookers 25th 525x1187 Review: Bookers 25th Anniversary Edition Bourbon

If Colonel Blanton is the Louis Armstrong of the bourbon world, there is no question that that bellowing, boisterous Booker Noe is its John Coltrane. His larger-than-life presence dominated the bourbon world during a time when personalities were less idolized than today. So it is most appropriate that on the silver anniversary of creating the small batch bearing his name, an amplified version of the original Booker’s arrives for consideration.

(Before we begin, it should be mentioned that in 2012 our editor in chief recently placed kindred bourbon Baker’s above Booker’s in a blind taste test. That would not have happened with your faithful author. Booker’s is easily my favorite thing to originate from Team Beam, and one of my top go-to bourbons went introducing new folks to the spirit. Chris’s comments on Booker 25 are at the bottom of the review.)

What’s different? Whereas most Booker’s hovers around the 6-7 year mark at about 125-127 proof, this 25th anniversary edition clocks in at 10 years, 3 months and 130.8.  These were the last of the barrels Booker personally oversaw, and Beam master distiller/son-of-a-Booker Fred Noe wished for something special: an uncut, unfiltered no frills beast of bourbon with a deluxe upgrade in packaging and presentation. The dark colors, gold ornamentation, and wooden box are equally enjoyable to stare at while taking everything in. The presentation does the product justice.

However, it’s what’s on the inside that counts, and this certainly delivers. The extra years of aging certainly make a difference, with a nose heavier on the oak and a bit of pepper to make its presence felt. The taste is straightforward and demanding, very hot with resonant notes of cinnamon, cayenne, leather and tobacco all mixed in leading up to a smoky finish which holds for quite some time. Actually, it really doesn’t hold. Much like a good Coltrane solo, it keeps the listener braced and gripped attentively, while waiting patiently for the eventual rest in the hope of starting the experience all over again.

The only real drawback is the cost of admission. I found my bottle at a local store for a whopping $100 plus tax. The price point is questionable. Four Roses 125th Anniversary edition and the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection are priced lower. That bit of trivia aside, it stands head and shoulders above any new product Beam has introduced in recent years. Making a separate annual release at this age and proof would be another welcome addition to an already growing, soon-to-be Suntory stable. However, at an edition of around 1000 cases, this will be here, gone and on black market auction sites before too long, so if you’re hesitating: Don’t.

This is Booker’s masterpiece.  It’s a beautiful sun-setting encore — a time-released final farewell from one of the greatest titans to ever run a distillery, and a heartfelt love letter from a son to a father.

Chris says: As Rob alludes, this is remarkably different stuff than standard-grade Booker’s. While Booker’s pours on the heat and never lets up — even with water — Booker’s 25th Anniversary Edition is full of nuance — even without water. In lieu of the brash chocolate-covered-plum character (how I’m describing it today) of standard Booker’s, Booker’s 25 comes across as nuanced and layered. At proof I get notes of rich caramel, cinnamon toast, cafe au lait, and Fred Noe’s flop sweat (just kidding!). A little water amplifies the wood notes, particularly on the finish. I’m with Rob on his rating, and might even kick it up to a full A, even at $100. (GOOD LUCK!) And I still love Baker’s. -Ed.

130.8 proof. Edition of 1000 cases.

A- / $100 / smallbatch.com

The A-List – February 2014

The February roundup of our best and brightest of the past month found scant pickings, but there are still some exceptional picks at reasonable prices here, including the latest Evan Williams Single Barrel and Laphroaig Triple Wood. Happy hunting!

AListFeb14 525x768 The A List   February 2014

Drinkhacker Reads – 03.13.2014 – Master Distiller Jimmy Russell Celebrates 60 Years On The Job

jimmy 300x190 Drinkhacker Reads   03.13.2014   Master Distiller Jimmy Russell Celebrates 60 Years On The JobWe’re about to celebrate one bourbon legend with a review of Booker’s 25 in a hot second (review forthcoming), and now we’re going to toast another. Wild Turkey Master Distiller and all around great guy Jimmy Russell is celebrating his 60th year in the business. The Lawrenceburg, Kentucky native started at the distillery in 1954 and has been working nearly every day since then. A year long celebration is being planned at Wild Turkey, beginning with the grand opening of its brand new visitor center on April 15th. We’re also equally excited about the announcement of a Wild Turkey Diamond Anniversary expression, created by Jimmy’s son Eddie. This limited edition will only be available at the visitor center at first, and then rolled out nationwide later this year. Jimmy will also be the subject of an upcoming feature-length documentary detailing his time at the distillery, featuring appearances by a who’s who in the industry. Kudos to 60 years on the job!

fire 300x162 Drinkhacker Reads   03.13.2014   Master Distiller Jimmy Russell Celebrates 60 Years On The JobJack Daniel’s is putting out a new flavored whisky. Hooray! The company announced it will test a new red hot cinnamon-flavored spirit called Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Fire, beginning in April. It will blend Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 whiskey with a “proprietary red hot cinnamon liqueur.” Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Fire will be available in three states – Oregon, Pennsylvania and the distillery’s home state of Tennessee – before a potential nationwide rollout. [Press Release]

In other news, the Idaho Steelheads hockey franchise is being sued by fans for allegedly misleading them into thinking there was more beer in the $7 cups than in the $4 ones. Which there was not. [ABC News]

Wine Searcher enters the conversation as to whether or not wine critic Eric Asimov’s new “virtual wine school” venture with the New York Times will have the power to be sustainable, and whether or not it really differs from the other sites out there. [Wine Searcher]

Shanken News Daily is reporting that Jimmy Russell’s Wild Turkey was a significant factor in contributing to Gruppo Campari’s 6% growth in the 2013 calendar year. Wild Turkey was up 10% last year with 590,000 cases sold. Its American Honey edition jumped an impressive 17%. [Shanken]

Lastl, in celebration of the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day holiday, Gizmodo did an Ask Me Anything with Gerry Graham from Bushmills yesterday. Nearly 200 comments were left — some informative, others amusing, and some just typically downright trolling. [Gizmodo]

Drinkhacker Reads – 03.10.2014 – New Game Of Thrones Beer In Time For Season 4

GameOfThrones1 300x225 Drinkhacker Reads   03.10.2014   New Game Of Thrones Beer In Time For Season 4Ommegang brewery is getting ready to launch the next offering in its Game of Thrones-inspired beer line. Launching at SXSW this week, the Fire and Blood Ale is the third in the series and slated to be on shelves right in time for the season 4 premiere of the HBO hit series. [USA Today]

In other beer news: AB InBev (makers of Spuds Mackenzie and Budweiser) is preparing to launch a test run of rum-flavored beer in the UK later this month. Foodmate reports that Cubanisto “is a brand waiting to be discovered by tech-savvy trend setters, and enjoyed when socializing and celebrating with friends.” Perhaps we’ll put this in the cooler right next to the bourbon-flavored-not-bourbon-flavored Miller Fortune. [Foodmate]

The always excellent Becky Paskin over at the Spirits Business files a long form article on the website’s 2014 Rum Masters competition, and its expansive list of winners includes many we’ve given high marks to over the years. [The Spirits Business]

The Sacramento Bee is warning grape growers that after several fruitful summers of productivity, this summer may be different. Reports of drought-like conditions are already being predicted for the region. [Sac Bee]

And finally today, a pretty run-of-the-mill profile piece on Julian Van Winkle, discussing the phenomenon behind the brand, future allocations, and how we could all be smoking weed in about 10 years time. [Charleston City Paper]

Recipe: Booker’s Bourbon Cocktails

Bookers 450x1200 Recipe: Bookers Bourbon CocktailsWhen we approached Beam for a few ideas for mixing Booker’s Bourbon in a cocktail, they were caught off guard. Apparently, no one’s really requested them before. So Beam got together with resident mixologist Bobby G, who hit up a few friends to contribute some ideas. All of these recipes aside, we’re going to side with Fred Noe, who believes the best way to drink Booker’s is “any damn way you please.”

Clermont Smash
Courtesy of Tony Abou-Ganim
1.50 oz. Booker’s Bourbon
.75 oz. falernum syrup
10-12 spearmint leaves
3 dashes Fee Brother’s Peach Bitters
1.50 oz. fresh lemon sour

In a mixing glass muddle the spearmint leaves with falernum syrup, add remaining ingredients and shake with ice. Strain into a double Old Fashioned glass filled with crushed ice and stir. Rub a wedge of pineapple around the rim of glass and garnish with pineapple wedge and a sprig of mint.

Dalton Cocktail
In honor of Jerry Dalton, Former Master Distiller Jim Beam
1.25 oz. Booker’s Bourbon
.50 oz. Laird’s Applejack
.25 oz Grand Marnier
1.50 oz. fresh sour
.25 oz. falernum syrup

Shake all ingredients with ice until well blended. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish with a burnt orange peel and drop a cherry into cocktail. Cut a small half dollar size piece of orange peel with as little pith as possible. Hold peel between thumb and forefinger about 4” above cocktail. Hold match between peel and cocktail squeeze peel sharply to release oils into flame.

The River Styx
1.50 oz Booker’s Bourbon
.50 oz Noilly Prat Dry Vermouth
4 1″ pieces of fresh pineapple
3” sprig of fresh rosemary (stripped of the bottom 2”)
.50 oz blood orange or pomegranate syrup

In a mixing glass muddle the pineapple and the rosemary. Add all remaining ingredients except the syrup and shake vigorously with ice. Double strain the cocktail over the ice in a double Old Fashioned glass. Garnish with a half moon slice of orange and the remaining 1” of the rosemary sprig.

Tangerine Julep
1.50 oz. Booker’s Bourbon
½ fresh tangerine cut and muddled with peel
6-10 fresh mint leaves
.50 oz simple syrup

Muddle the mint and tangerine with the simple syrup in a double Old Fashioned glass. Fill glass with cracked ice and add Booker’s Bourbon. Stir to combine, garnish with a mint sprig.

Kentucky Lemon Drop
1.25 oz. Booker’s Bourbon
.50 oz. limoncello
2.0 oz. fresh lemon sour
5-6 fresh spearmint leaves

Shake all ingredients with ice until well blended. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass with an optional sugared rim. Garnish with a lemon wheel. The little pieces of mint that should be floating around in the cocktail are little bursts of flavor that is considered good luck if you get one.

Booker’s Apple
1.5 oz. Booker’s Bourbon
2.0 oz. fresh pressed apple juice
1.0 oz. fresh lemon sour

Build over ice in a tall glass. Garnish with a lemon wedge.

Drinkhacker Reads – 03.05.2014 – Hudson Whiskey Looking for a New Brand Ambassador

Looking to spice up your career trajectory a bit? Need something that’s not exactly the average clock-punching, 9 to 5? Well, Hudson Whiskey may have the answer for you. It’s looking for a new brand ambassador to take the company to the next level. Their current brand ambassador also happens to be master distiller Gable Erenzo, who is looking to head back to the distillery full time. More information in the video, or on the company’s website.

Brown-Forman is reporting its third quarter profit increased 12% following increased global demand on its brands such as the flagship of the portfolio, Jack Daniel’s. The company, which has been subject to takeover rumors from Bacardi in recent weeks, attributed much of its global growth to the success of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey. [WSJ]

Over in the world of wine, Business Insider lives up to its name by giving tips on how to pay less for a high quality bottle of wine. [Business Insider]

Over in the world of “what?”: a company is claiming it has manufactured a machine with the ability to turn water into wine, just like that one guy did a few thousand years ago. No word on whether or not this is a prank like the hoverboard video which stormed the internet yesterday. [Fox St. Louis]

Recipes: Mardi Gras Cocktails 2014

While a good portion of the United States is currently digging itself out from a rather harsh winter filled with ice, sleet, snow, power outages, and traffic accidents, the folks down in the Big Easy (where our intrepid Editor-In-Chief recently spent some time) are gearing up for Mardi Gras. We’ve collected a few recipes to help folks come in from the cold and celebrate the warmth that is Fat Tuesday. These drinks are best paired with your favorite flavored paczki — avoid the prune ones.

PurpleBasil 197x300 Recipes: Mardi Gras Cocktails 2014

Purple Basil Gimlet
2 oz Hendrick’s Gin
½ oz fresh lime juice
½ oz simple syrup
4-6 leaves purple basil
(Note: if you can’t find purple basil, regular basil leaves will do nicely. The purple adds a nice effect though.)

Press purple basil leaves with simple syrup and fresh lime juice, add gin and shake well, strain up into a stemmed glass, garnish with a sprig of purple basil.

Ragin Cajun 300x200 Recipes: Mardi Gras Cocktails 2014Ragin’ Cajun
1 part Hornitos Plata Tequila
2 parts lemonade
3-4 dashes of green hot sauce
Salt/smoked paprika rim

Rim shot glass with salt and smoked paprika. Mix chilled lemonade, chilled Hornitos Plata and hot sauce in mixing glass and pour into shot glass.

Tequila Tuesday 300x200 Recipes: Mardi Gras Cocktails 2014Tequila Tuesday
1 part Hornitos Plata Tequila
1 part concord grape juice
½ part lemon juice

Build over ice in a tall glass.

Drinkhacker Reads – 03.04.2014 – More Mortlach, M’Lady

Mortlach 25ans FACE RVB 200x300 Drinkhacker Reads   03.04.2014   More Mortlach, MLadyMortlach 18ans FACE RVB 200x300 Drinkhacker Reads   03.04.2014   More Mortlach, MLady
Last year Diageo announced its intentions to relaunch the dormant Mortlach brand. Those plans are now firming up. The Speyside single malt will be available in four expressions, due to arrive at select global travel outlets in early summer and in “cosmopolitan” cities in the Asia-Pacific region and New York/San Francisco in late summer. We’ve received images of the new packaging for the 18 and 25 year old expressions. [Mortlach Distillery]

Here we go again: another month, another lawsuit over likeness and images. Sazerac is taking Minnesota-based Crosby Lake Spirits to court over similarities between Crosby’s Bison Ridge and Sazerac’s Buffalo Trace brands, which may cause “confusion” with consumers. We’ve broken it down for consideration. What do you think? Does Sazerac have a case? Did Bison Ridge come too close to the ridge’s ledge? Is it headed for extinction?

TaleOfTape 525x423 Drinkhacker Reads   03.04.2014   More Mortlach, MLady

Finally today, if any of our readers has $500 million to $1 billion to spare: Pabst Blue Ribbon could be all yours. Reuters is reporting that the infamous Beer du Jour of both working people and Brooklyn trust fund kids is looking for a new captain to steer its ship. As a bonus, the new owner will also get Schlitz and Old Milwaukee as part of the bargain. [Reuters]

Recipes: 2014 Oscar Night Cocktails

This year Ellen DeGeneres hosts the 2014 Oscars, and thankfully Seth MacFarlane lowered the bar so low in the expectations game that DeGeneres has nowhere to go but up. In fact, she did a great job in 2007 and presuming no disasters she’ll be great again this year.

Meanwhile, we’ve received a few recipe ideas for Oscar-themed cocktails, many of which will be served at several of the A-list after parties around town. Try them yourself tonight! (Meanwhile: Follow our sister site, Film Racket, with an evening-long live-tweeting of the entire affair @filmracket!)

Baileys Vanilla Cinnamon Glamour Shot 167x300 Recipes: 2014 Oscar Night CocktailsBaileys Glamour Shot
1 oz. Baileys Vanilla Cinnamon
1/2 oz. Goldschläger Cinnamon Schnapps
edible gold flakes for garnish

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake well and strain into a chilled shot glass rimmed with edible gold flakes.
(Note: We don’t stock gold flakes in our arsenal, and this drink is just fine without them. You can also get creative like we did and crush up some Frosted Flakes.)

CÎROC Coco Light Martini
1 1/2 oz. CÎROC Coconut
1 1/2 oz. unsweetened coconut water
1 oz. pineapple juice
1/4 oz. fresh lime juice
lemon twist for garnish

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake well and strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with lemon twist.

The Patrón Red Rose
1 ½ oz. Patrón Silver Tequila
1 ½ oz. Patrón Citrónge orange liqueur
2 oz. mango juice
1 oz. watermelon juice
red rose (for garnish)

The Ultimat Blue Orchard
1 ½ oz. Ultimat Vodka
¼ oz. Patrón Citrónge Orange Liqueur
2 oz. fresh blueberry juice
1 oz. fresh raspberry juice

(Note: along with the Patrón Red Rose, we are being told these two recipes are on the menu for Sir Elton John’s annual after party.)

Johnnie Walker Blood and Sand 200x300 Recipes: 2014 Oscar Night Cocktails

Johnnie Walker Blood and Sand
3/4 oz. Johnnie Walker Black Label
3/4 oz. sweet vermouth
3/4 oz. cherry liqueur
Orange peel for garnish

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake well and strain into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with an orange peel.
(Note: this recipe was created in homage to the classic 1922 silent film Blood and Sand which can be viewed in its entirety online for free.)

The Drinkhacker Shopping List – 02.28.2014

Welcome to our semi-regular Shopping List, where we detail the best and worst of our reviews in one compact, printable, easy-to-use informative graphic. February appeared to be Irish whiskey month, with an unusual amount of new releases headed our way. We also hung out in the big easy for a spell and received an incredible amount of new recipes to check out. Another solid month of quality indulgence in the books!

TheList022814 525x855 The Drinkhacker Shopping List   02.28.2014

Drinkhacker Reads – 02.26.2014 – A Night Of Brora-mance Will Cost You $12k

Brora 264x300 Drinkhacker Reads   02.26.2014   A Night Of Brora mance Will Cost You $12kDiageo has entered the single malt super-luxury-one-percenter market with its latest release, a 40 year Brora retailing for $11,690. Bottled in the obligatory crystal decanter, this expression comes nestled with love in a wooden case courtesy of the Queen Mother’s personal cabinet maker, N.E.J Stevenson. Of course, if you’re one of those peasantlike two-percenters or someone who doesn’t have excessive money to burn on such frivolities, you could always go for the 35 year old Brora for a fraction of the cost. [Press Release]

Over the past few days there have been murmurs of a potential takeover of spirits producer Brown-Forman by mega-global corporation Bacardi. While there’s been no confirmation either way on the matter, the Lexington Herald Leader‘s incredible spirits scribe Janet Patton is reporting that the story originated months ago and began simmering louder this past weekend, when Bacardi’s CEO made comments regarding its desire to strengthen its whiskey portfolio. Now the question becomes: will they or won’t they? Could get interesting. Stay tuned. [Lexington Herald Leader]

In science news: researchers in Spain think they are getting closer to figuring out how microbial bacteria influences the taste of wine. [Wired]

We’re not exactly sure what’s going on here, but it appears that the staff of the “Model Collectorate of Customs Preventive, Anti-Smuggling Organization” (sounds pretty official) in Pakistan has confiscated 1000 bottles of whisky as part of a smuggling crackdown. Details of the initiative are incredibly sketchy at best, but perhaps someone in Frankfort, Kentucky may now have some answers as to where some misplaced inventory might be residing. [Observer]

Pernod seems to be keeping busy with its genius marketing idea of creating Absolut bottles based on regions. Up next: The Drinks Business reports Absolut is teaming with director Baz Luhrmann for Absolut Oz, and The Houston Chronicle reports of the arrival of Absolut Texas later this month.

In tequila news: a dignified portrait of tequila and the art of the process at Casa Noble. And then there’s Paula Deen riding horseback on an employee and slamming back the anejo.

And finally today, happy 107th birthday to Qualicum Beach’s Gertrude Kay. When asked about the secret to her longevity, she replied that it involves enjoying a glass of rye every evening before bedtime. We’ve had our suspicions that a long and happy life was somewhere in a good bottle of whiskey. Cheers to discovering the fountain of youth, Ms. Kay! [Parksville-QB News]

Drinkhacker Reads – 02.24.2014 – Red Rockers, Dead Rockers and Irish Folk Songs

Here’s one of the weirder celebrity endorsements we’ve seen in a bit: according to the anonymous press officer from Proximo Spirits, “Fans of Elvis Presley know how much his ‘Hawaii’ years molded him into the superstar icon he is today.” Which gives us pause, considering his early years seem to weigh more iconically on the walls of Cracker Barrel gift shops than the Hawaii years, but that’s for hardcore fans to debate. Nevertheless, Three Olives vodka is issuing a “coconut water” flavored vodka in tribute to The King. Why this $21 flavored vodka is “coconut water” as opposed to simply “coconut” is also a bit of a head scratcher. Maybe the company could shed some light on this matter. [via press release]

In other head scratching news, geriatric rocker Sammy Hagar was once synonymous with his long time love of tequila. Long before other heavy metal stars fashioned their own tequila lines, the former Montrose singer was crooning ballads professing his love for the spirit. According to Gawker, he’s now switching teams and hawking rum as his spirit of choice. We’ve reviewed one expression of Sammy’s rum to date; another is coming up. [Gawker]

Forbes profiles the latest trend in craft winemaking: using ancient amphorae as opposed to barrels. [Forbes]

Keeping with its trend of nice looking, easy to read infographics, Quartz offers its  latest update profile of where the world’s biggest vodka drinkers are located. [Quartz]

The Independent is reporting that thieves have stolen almost $30,000 worth of Bombay Sapphire from a truck in Northhamptonshire, UK last week. Authorities are asking that anyone offered cheap, large quantities of the gin to contact local authorities immediately. [Independent UK]

The Guardian UK takes a survey of beers endorsed/branded by UK rock stars, and picks the best of the bunch. [Guardian]

And finally today, in what has to be the most Irish advertisement most Americans will see all year, Tullamore Dew has supplied us with a gorgeously shot ad with a twist worthy of one of Joyce’s Dubliners short stories. The inclusion of the traditional Irish song “A Parting Glass” aids in telling the (short) story of four friends sending one of their own off with a fond farewell. It’s stark, dignified, and wonderfully Celtic through and through.