Category Archives: News

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!

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]

Drinkhacker Reads – 10.06.2014 – Drink It Like Beckham, Irish Whiskey Plummets 20%

Retired Manchester United icon/Spice Husband David Beckham stars in a new ad with a bunch of A-List friends to promote his new whisky, Haig Club. Look for it to arrive stateside in the next few weeks. [Daily Mail]

The Spirits Business reports that even though there’s been substantial investment in the Irish whiskey sector, sales have dropped an astounding 20% in the past year. Once the widely touted “fastest growing spirits category in the world,” industry experts attribute the recent dip to excise tax increases. [Spirits Business]

Elsewhere in the Scotch world, a new consulting firm has been established for investors considering a jump into the rare whiskey world. Rare Whisky 101 will feature breakdowns, forecasts, and all of the other tools necessary for the informed investor, as well as a brokering service for matchmaking. [Telegraph UK]

In science news: data journalism is taken to task, Venezuelans are drinking more rum than ever, drinking 5 drinks a week can reduce the quality of one’s sperm, a new super yeast could tolerate heat and alcohol, a new pill could curb alcohol intake, and drunk men apparently have more fun than drunk women. We know a few ladies who would aggressively argue against this last finding.

And finally today, Shanken has a short interview with one of the nicest men in the Bourbon industry, Wild Turkey master distiller Jimmy Russell. Russell is currently enjoying his 60th anniversary at Wild Turkey, and offers up some quick insights on the state of bourbon and its future growth. [Shanken News Daily]

Celebrating 60 Years with Wild Turkey’s Jimmy Russell

Hey, look who dropped into San Francisco on the eve of WhiskyFest! It’s Jimmy and Eddie Russell, the co-master distillers at Wild Turkey. Over toasts and samples of a variety of WT expressions — including the Diamond Anniversary edition, which is now making its way to the west coast — the duo talked Old Time Kentucky, ponies, houseboats, and, of course, Bourbon-makin’. (Did you know: Eddie Russell claims Wild Turkey is the only major distillery not using GMO grains? That the inventor of Bourbon, Elijah Craig, was a Southern Baptist minister? That Wild Turkey has used the same yeast strain since 1954?)

While Eddie vowed that after his storied father finally retires, “I promise I will never change Wild Turkey 101,” he did speak about some new products coming down the pipe. Among them are Sting, a (likely) limited edition version of Wild Turkey American Honey infused with ghost pepper. As well, Russell Jr. notes that they didn’t use up all the 16-year-old casks to make the Diamond Anniversary bottlings — so watch for a possible 17-year-old expression of Turkey come 2015.

Congrats, Jimmy!

Drinkhacker Reads – 10.01.2014 – Quick Links Edition

Many stories to pull from today! Let’s get right to it:

A class action lawsuit against Templeton Rye has been given a green light to proceed. [USA Today]

Spirits Business reports UK craft distilling is predicted to double in 2014. [Spirits Business]

New statistics show that the top 10% of American drinkers consume more than 50% of the alcohol Americans drink annually. You’re welcome? [24/7 Wall Street]

Alcohol makes men smile more, and with good reason: because they’re drinking alcohol. [Daily Mail]

Researchers at UCLA believe antioxidants found in wine could lead to a new treatment for acne. [Westside Today]

Following a trend initiated by the Dutch in 2013, Germany is now paying alcoholics in beer to clean its streets. [VICE]

Labatt gives grain silos a facelift, then proclaims it to be the world’s largest six pack. Whatever makes them happy and gets them through the winter. It certainly won’t be the city’s hockey team.[WNEM]

Four Roses opens up a second visitor’s center on the Bourbon trail. Which is a great thing because one visit with Four Roses is just not enough. [Herald-Leader]

And finally today, Gizmodo looks at a barrel char at the Yoichi distillery and thinks it resembles a portal to hell. [Gizmodo]

Drinkhacker Reads – 09.29.2014 – Of Pie Holes and £9000 Drinks

Shanken reports that the flavored spirits trend continues to migrate from vodka to whiskey with brisk speed. Those zany folks at Diageo are really amping things up with Sasparilla and Spiced (cinnamon & clove) flavored Jeremiah Weed bourbons, a new flavored whisky line called Pie Hole (Apple, Cherry and Pecan Pie flavors), and a Gala Apple Crown Royal expression in the coming months. [Shanken News Daily]

Is Beam master distiller Fred Noe considering a retirement? Not so fast. He’s starting a very slow transition into the phase, and Business Week takes a look at what he’s been up to, what’s next and what the Jeter-like final trip around the distillery might look like. [Business Week]

In other bourbon news, Brown-Forman is looking to break ground on a new $30 million distillery in downtown Louisville. The Courier-Journal is reporting that the new Old Forester distillery will contain a visitors center, fermentation, distilling, barrel-making, filling and dumping, and bottling. Look for it to be open around the fall of 2016. [Courier Journal]

Two long reads for consideration: The Chicago Reader takes an in-depth look at the recent controversy surrounding Templeton Rye, transparency, and whether or not it matters (it does). The second comes from the Denver Post discussing local craft spirits, popularity, and (again) transparency.

If you had any question about how little that football team in Washington DC thinks of its fans, consider this: they sold expired Budweiser to its fans at the game on Thursday night. Someone get the Goodell bot up and running for commentary. [CBS Sports]

And finally today, for those who are a fan of nighclubbin‘, pull up to the bumper for this one: a cocktail created in London for a mere £9,000 (that’s about US$14,000) named after legendary singer/artist/Bond villain Grace Jones. Consisting of a 1990 vintage Cristal and 1888 Samalens Vieille Relique Vintage Bas Armagnac brandy, the drink is topped off with gold leaf, Angostura bitters, and sugar. No word on whether or not the drink comes served in a coozie made of warm leatherette. [Daily Independent]

Drinkhacker Reads – 09.24.2014 – Red, White And Pabst

Despite recent rumors to the contrary, Pabst Blue Ribbon, that iconic brand of beer and bearded hipsterdom, is not moving to Russia. In a press release issued Monday, Pabst spokesrobots reiterated:

Eugene Kashper and TSG Consumer Partners have made a major commitment to the Pabst Brewing Company and its iconic brands such as Pabst Blue Ribbon, Lone Star, Old Milwaukee, and others. The goal is for the company to remain vibrant through consistent product and marketing innovation.

We look forward to working with our new colleagues and to continuing our 170-year old tradition. PBR is a very strong brand with a rich heritage and authentic American values. Our new colleagues will remain vigilant in staying true to the brand’s identity and will look to loyal customers for guidance.

Rest easy, Pabst patriots. We haven’t been invaded and your beer is still safe to drink.

So it seems as if with its aggressive new push in the Scotch market, Bacardi is getting ready to buck a contemporary trend. The Spirits Business reports that Bacardi and its global manager for malts, Stephen Marshall, are pledging not to release expressions without an age statement (also known to booze nerds by the acronym “NAS”). It’s a refreshing change for sure, but it will be interesting to see how long the pledge lasts. [The Spirits Business]

Front Master 2nd Vers 212x300 Drinkhacker Reads   09.24.2014   Red, White And PabstIn other scotch news, Glenlivet’s first series of rare 50 year old malts is here. The Winchester Collection will start off with Vintage 1964 and can be all yours for $25,000 — or about 35,000 cans of PBR. It will be available in a limited edition of 100 bottles per expression through global luxury shops such as Harrod’s starting in October.

In science news, it appears that our genetic makeup also determines our flavor and drinks preferences, more people are drinking on days when they exercise, the ancient people of Teotihuacan drank a milky alcohol substance, and Consumer Reports publishes another article on the science behind what happens during hangovers.

And finally today, a new study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology suggests that four out five heart attacks could be prevented by adopting a healthy lifestyle including maintaining a healthy weight and diet, exercise, not smoking, and moderating alcohol intake to 1-2 standard drinks a day. We’ll drink to that. [DISCUS]

Drinkhacker Reads – 09.22.2014 – We’re Drinking Less Scotch?

Prices are going up, and we’re drinking less scotch. According to an article published in Harper’s, scotch exports declined 11% in the first half of 2014, with “economic headwinds and uncertainty” being cited as the main reason. Has the bubble burst? We’ll see if scotch rebounds in the second half of the year. Elsewhere in the pages of Harper’s, advertising icon Sir John Hegarty takes some pretty harsh shots at advertising in the wine industry, claiming that the means by which the wine industry communicates to consumers are “pathetic” and “daft.” [Harper's UK]

The Filson Historical Society in Louisville is about to open up some of the world’s rarest and oldest bourbons in celebration of Repeal Day. Most of the bottles to be opened were manufactured during the era of Prohibition. Hopefully this will bring more attention and money in the direction of what Mike Veach and crew are doing to preserve a rapidly fading piece of important history. Because we’re drinking it! [Business Insider]

Lately there’s been much ado surrounding transparency (or lack thereof) and Templeton Rye, which has resulted in a flurry of criticism and threats of a class action lawsuit being filed on behalf of consumers. Richard Thomas and his intrepid band of reporters at Whiskey Reviewer offer up this excellent summation of events thus far, and Cowdery chimes in on flavoring in whiskey in his own inimitable way.

In other legal news, Diageo has settled its lawsuit with the Explorers Club of New York. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed, but this finally ends the year and a half long dispute between the two. Diageo will be able to continue to sell whiskey under the Explorer’s Club name and no doubt the Club itself will be getting a share of the profits. [The Spirits Business]

And finally today, a special shout out to Mark Gillespie of WhiskyCast, who is getting ready to celebrate his 500th podcast in the coming weeks. Doing 500 episodes of any show, let alone one based on spirits, over the stretch of a decade takes a heck of a lot of sweat equity and love. If you don’t have his podcast earmarked for regular listening, you most certainly should. Sláinte, Mark! [Whiskycast]

Drinkhacker Reads – 09.17.2014 – Rapid Fire Links Edition

Lots of stuff to pass on today, so let’s just get to it:

Flavoring in whiskey? It’s possible. [Bourbon Truth]

Chuck Cowdery is calling out several distilleries as of late. The latest: 1835 Bourbon and Breckenridge. [Cowdery]

Chip Tate from Balcones Distillery finally breaks his silence regarding the current fracas going on down in Texas. Things are a bit “he said/they said” at the moment. No doubt deposition transcripts will make for interesting reading. [Whiskycast]

Tullamore Dew opens up its €35 million distillery. [Spirits Business]

Microbiologist switches careers, starts a distillery. [NPR]

Six colleges offering majors in the brewing sciences. Let the next generation of craft beers begin! [Blisstree]

An updated PDF of this weekend’s Kentucky Bourbon Festival. A web friendly version can be found here. [KY Bourbon Festival]

An update on the potential mega-merger between InBev and SAB Miller. Looks like the Beam-Suntory merger could be eclipsed as the biggest brand collision of 2014. With Heineken rebuffing SAB’s takeover move, look for this to become more of a possibility. [CBS News+Shanken]

Scottish secession updates: Washington Post and Financial Post go a bit more in depth on the economic ramifications distilleries may face and ABC News frets a bit more.

Bloomberg posts on how one of the billionaire Koch brothers is leading the crusade against fake wine. See also: Bill Koch crying on ABC News after being duped into buying “dish water or moose piss.” [Bloomberg]

GQ Magazine names Chicago the best city in America for drinking. [GQ]

And finally today: new labels from the Federal TTB database courtesy of blogger/NPR celebrity Sku: a generous amount of Scotch coming to America, and the label eventually replacing Jim Beam Black. [Sku's Recent Eats]

Drinkhacker Reads – 09.16.2014 – Diageo Succeeds, Scotland May Secede

Yesterday Diageo celebrated the grand opening of its succinctly named Bulleit Frontier Whiskey Experience at Stitzel-Weller in Louisville and announced that the mythical distillery will once again produce a limited amount of bourbon annually, presumably at an equally mythical price tag. Meanwhile across the pond, the Fool reports that Diageo may be the target of a takeover or merger with fellow mega conglomerate SAB. Of course this talk is always happening by speculative, murmured analysts so it’s pretty much here-say at this point. Investors are also a bit sour on the level of bonuses being awarded to Diageo executives, with shareholders feeling the company was a bit too generous in its compensation of upper brass.

In two days, Scotland will vote (at near 100% participation levels) on whether or not to remain a member of the United Kingdom. Members of the media as varied as Vice, CNN, and the Telegraph all offer up analysis on what will happen to the Scotch industry, should Scotland secede. Press representatives of The Scotch Whisky Association have also been making the rounds in the media, forewarning that Scotland’s independence could make the market unstable and hard to predict price points. Some readers in well trafficked forums are already beginning to horde hooch in artificially induced panic, but we’re adopting the position of that overused poster slogan now gracing everything from cosmetics to yoga pants: keep calm and carry on.

2014Queen QueenVodka Press 150914 300x200 Drinkhacker Reads   09.16.2014   Diageo Succeeds, Scotland May SecedeAnd finally today, legendary rock band Queen is releasing a vodka paying tribute to its former frontman Freddie Mercury. Available starting tomorrow in select areas, Killer Queen is produced by Stoli and had they been alive to taste it, would have been a fine remedy for Kruschev and Kennedy. Early reports state that it has hints of gunpowder, gelatine, and dynamite with an aftertaste of laser beam. No word on whether or not its guaranteed to blow your mind, anytime.

Drinkhacker Reads – 09.12.2014 – Blurb-on Edition

Normally we don’t offer up a Reads post on Fridays but with the number of news items in our inbox and on the fax machine, we figured it warranted an additional bonus post for the week. So without further ado…

Marge Bill Sr  300x288 Drinkhacker Reads   09.12.2014   Blurb on EditionMarge Samuels of Maker’s Mark will become the fifth woman and the first woman directly connected with a distillery to be inducted into the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame September 17th at the Bardstown Country Club. The Co-Founder of Maker’s Mark, her contributions to the development of the brand are enormous. She was responsible for the name, the distinct bottle design, the label (an excellent marriage of old fashioned typography and calligraphy work), the trademark, and most importantly… the iconic red wax. Mrs. Samuels was also a pioneer in designing the distillery visitor center and foresaw the tourism potential long before the competition did. Here’s a very well designed website tells the tale of their bourbon love story, and it’s definitely worth the time to read.

Jimmy and Eddie with Diamond Anniversary 300x216 Drinkhacker Reads   09.12.2014   Blurb on EditionAlso in the kudos department, congrats to Wild Turkey Master Distiller Jimmy Russell who celebrated exactly 60 years on the job on Wednesday. In a letter, his son and co-Master Distiller Eddie wrote “his career has taken him to the farthest corners of the world spreading the gospel of Bourbon, and now, at 80 years old, he’s still working hard. In fact, he’s the longest-tenured, active Master Distiller in the world.” A celebration of his tenure was commemorated in an excellent bourbon, and in a documentary.

The Kentucky Bourbon Festival is right around the corner. As per usual, this year is full of events that would get even the most diehard of bourbon fans excited for its arrival. On top of everything this year, Bulleit is sponsoring a program offering folks free rides to and from the festival! Those who wish to take advantage of the free rides service during can call 270-765-7297 to schedule a ride during festival hours. We’ll be posting more about individual events next week!

If you still need convincing to get down this way for the festival, author/blogger/ascot authority Fred Minnick provided Conde Nast a very thorough listicle on 10 reasons to celebrate Bourbon Heritage Month. Fred’s still on a roll, touring and promoting his award-winning Whiskey Women book, and will be at the Festival autographing copies. In other book news, Chuck Cowdery has released his long awaited sequel to Bourbon, Straight. Bourbon, Strange is a compendium of short stories detailing the weird and wild history of bourbon. — stuff off the beaten path.

Finally, WDRB is reporting that Angel’s Envy is finishing up its downtown Louisville facility and is planning to expand into two more warehouses in Shivley, just outside the city limits. And finally today, the always reliable Janet Patton gives an update on the fall bourbon onslaught that is now getting underway.

Drinkhacker Reads – 09.10.2014 – Politics, Courts, and Whiskey Edition

With recovery efforts from the Napa earthquakes still in process and the full extent of the damage to the wine region still being assessed, now comes word from Italy that wine production will be down 14% due to a rainy summer season. These factors as well as a significant drop in Spanish production now means the French could possibly once again take over as the world’s leading wine producer. However, those French folk can’t rest easy: it seems as if those surly New Yorkers might have your number in short order. [Bloomberg]

What do the American Beverage Licensees, The Beer Institute, Brewers Association, Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, National Association of Beverage Importers, National Beer Wholesalers Association, The Presidents’ Forum of the Distilled Spirits Industry, WineAmerica, Wine Institute, and the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America all have in common? Other than sounding quite official, they have collectively banded together in a letter addressed to those overachieving go-getters in the United States Congress, urging Congress to honor the Obama Administration’s request and fully fund the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). The letter highlights the importance of a properly functioning TTB stating

“We need a well-funded TTB to be able to process label requests quickly in order to get new products to market in this highly competitive global marketplace. We also need a well-funded TTB to prevent and guard against unscrupulous actors from entering our marketplace who otherwise could harm the public with dangerous products, which has occurred outside of the United States with counterfeit alcohol,”

There’s also need a fully functioning TTB to cut down on a few other problems as well. No official Congressional response yet (they’re still gridlocked on what to say), but the TTB said it would gladly review any funding request forms and would respond anywhere from 14 to 45 days from now (they’re really busy).

Paperwork submitted on behalf of Balcones board of directors in a suit against brand creator Chip Tate have been published courtesy of the website Whisky File. Like all business matters reaching legal levels of intervention, the story is complex and convoluted. There’s no real narrative becoming clear yet — something about Tate not cooperating with the board — as Tate’s side of the story has yet to be presented. Whisky File does an excellent job breaking down the details and providing some much needed analysis. [Whisky File]

And finally today: Shanken gives a brief overview at the challenges currently facing bourbon producers in Kentucky, and how they’re trying to find solutions to keep up with demand (both global and domestic) for the supply. [Shanken News Daily]

Drinkhacker Reads – 09.08.2014 – William Grant Acquires Drambuie

A follow up to an earlier story: William Grant and Sons have finally pulled the trigger and acquired the Drambuie brand, according to the BBC. Details on just how much this will cost the Balvenie bosses have yet to be revealed, but the Glenfiddich gang is currently riding high on the horse, reporting a 10.6% increase in operating profits from 2012 to 2013. [Press and Journal]

The last couple weeks have been most certainly dramatic in the bourbon/American whiskey world, with the volume on the “What is Craft?” debate being turned all the way up to 11. Now consumer advocacy groups are encouraging class action lawsuits against those who feel they’ve been wronged by the terms “small batch” or “craft.” Many companies have been called for accountability and transparency in their product’s origins, something that they ought to be doing legally anyways. However, distilleries have skirted the issue, and a small group of online scribes led by Wade Woodard and bourbon expert Chuck Cowdery are starting to speak up. In fact, Cowdery devoted a full post this weekend to uncovering facts about Widow Jane bourbon. It’ll be interesting to see if the groundswell and consumer demand for transparency grows, or if the marketing-savvy companies will roll out the “age/location/process ain’t nothin’ but a number” argument and keep selling their usual narratives.

And speaking of age being nothing but a number, Cowdery also is reporting that one of the best bourbon values available is losing its age statement. Via his Facebook page, he announced that Jim Beam Black is being stripped of its 8 year status. This was confirmed courtesy of a Tobacco Trade and Tax Bureau filing for a new label and product: Jim Beam Black XA (link courtesy of the always diligent Sku). We reached out to a Beam spokesperson, who offered us the following response:

Our bottle was recently refreshed to even better represent the premium product – one that stays true to the Beam traditions dating back to 1795 but remains as current as ever. We can assure you that the liquid in the bottle (what matters most) will continue to deliver on the qualities and attributes that are expected from Jim Beam Black, such as its richer aroma, darker color and smoother, more complex flavor profile.

image001 Drinkhacker Reads   09.08.2014   William Grant Acquires DrambuieSo there’s that.

Finally today, in things you probably can’t afford news (and if you can afford it, drop us a line): Balvenie has announced two new 50 year old expressions from different casks at a price tag of $42,690.44 each, Rémy Martin is also introducing a limited edition LOUIS XIII Black Pearl Anniversary Edition this month which will retail for a mere $16,000. If anyone needs us, we’ll be in the back room drinking a dram of bourbon with no age statement on it.

Drinkhacker Reads – 08.27.2014 – More Napa News

With estimates of the recent Napa earthquake damage now topping the billion-dollar marksome wineries are starting to re-open, while others are irreparably damaged. However, it does seem as if some federal aid may be available to those struggling. Hopefully no aftershocks will bring further major damage. While speculators are already chomping at the bit to see if wine prices will rise over the news, a few analysts are confident the impact on cost will be minimal.

Normally we don’t pay attention to “best of” lists, but when someone crafts an article declaring they have determined the 8 best bourbons in the world, our curiosity gets the best of us. While we can’t disagree with some of those picks (Blanton’s Straight From The Barrel is pretty heavenly), we were surprised that every single bottle on the list came from Buffalo Trace. Perhaps Andrew Meola needs to expand his horizons a bit more. If only there were websites reviewing bourbons other than those from Buffalo Trace… [The Street]

Add one more to the already crammed fall calendar of new bourbon releases: a Jim Beam Bonded expression. Sku’s reported on this last week, and while no definite date has been set, look for it on shelves sometime in the coming months. What does the term “bonded” or “bottled in bond” mean? Wikipedia sums it up nicely with a basic explanation. [Sku's Recent Eats]

And finally today, Shanken is reporting that Diageo is re-opening the mythical Stitzel-Weller distillery for bottling for the first time in decades. This announcement comes on the heels of a $115 million Bulleit distillery groundbreaking in nearby Shelby County last week. No word on what will exactly be bottled or warehoused in the facility (probably more “orphans”), but it seems as if Diageo is digging its heels into Kentucky and is ready to begin competing on a larger level for a share of the American Whiskey market. Whiskey scribe and ascot aficionado Fred Minnick interviewed Diageo VP Guy Smith recently, who was less than forthcoming about details, but who did offer Fred a job. [Shanken News Daily]

Drinkhacker Reads – 08.25.2014 – Napa Recovery Continues

Following yesterday’s 6.0 rated Bay Area earthquake residents of the region are continuing clean up efforts, especially in the Napa Valley wine region. Thankfully there appears to have been minimal injury to the citizens of the region, but the loss of physical property seems to be pretty extensive. A commonplace sight is store owners who are reliant on summer holiday tourism now brushing broken bottles into piles. Several winemakers in the region were hit pretty hard during a crucial time of the year: the harvest. No exact figures yet on how much was lost, but some vineyards are reporting losing up to 50 percent of inventory, including many high-end and prized vintages. No doubt we’ll have more on this later in the week.

New York Times columnist/author Clay Risen once again files an excellent article on the American craft distillery movement, this time focusing on F.E.W as a primary subject. American craft distillers seem to have the hot hand at the moment, second maybe only in demand for Japanese Whisky. Risen’s article is outstanding, and much like his recent book it’s an easy read. [New York Times]

In other “craft distillery” news, Diageo recently announced that its new $115 million distillery will bear the Bulleit name, proving once again the company is putting all its eggs in Tom Bulleit’s basket for bourbon success. However, the best article covering the press junket goes to Insider Louisville’s Steve Coomes, whose mildly snarky tone proved to be just the thing for a bourbon reception where ginger ale was served. [Insider Louisville]

First they banned Kentucky Gentleman. Now they’re taking on Jack Daniel’s: Russia’s Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Rights Protection and Human Well-Being (pretty awesome name, comrades) is now banning Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey for allegedly containing traces of insect repellent. The Russian agency has been on a roll as of late, shutting down four McDonalds and going after other American-based companies. We’re fairly certain this has nothing to do with recent sanctions against the nation, and that no one is playing politics. Russian president/potential NHL all star Vladimir Putin is way above those sorts of measures. [Bloomberg]

And finally today, Time magazine files a report highlighting the seven strangest beers laws currently on record in the United States. Unsurprisingly, the straight-laced state of Utah once again comes through with one of the most peculiar (patrons can not have alcohol without ordering food in restaurants). [Time]

Drinkhacker Reads – 08.12.2014 – Bogart Gets His Own Gin

Following in the footsteps of Duke bourbon and Jack Daniels’ Sinatra Select, we now have Bogart gin. We’ll skip the obvious “gin joints” joke to be made here, but we’ll just say it’s being made with the blessing of the Bogart estate, and should arrive later this year. No word yet on the long-awaited Sammy Davis Jr. Manischewitz or the Peter Lawrence Cotton Candy Vodka. [NY Daily News]

The Telegraph UK posts an article arguing for better labeling on alcohol products, specifically listing caloric content and health warnings a la cigarette packaging. [Telegraph UK]

Teeling has commenced work on its new whiskey distillery in Dublin’s Newmarket in The Liberties. This is the first new distillery in Dublin in well over a century and aims to pay tribute to the distilleries of yesteryear. Equipment is slated to arrive in October, and a full commissioning of the distillery should occur by year’s end. [Teeling Press Release]

And finally today: Shortie, the Jack Russell which serves as the distillery mascot for Ardbeg, has been commemorated in his very own crop circle in northwest England (Cheshire) as a thank you to the astronauts aboard the international space station. The scientists have been conducting a series of events involving zero gravity maturation, with samples of Ardbeg orbiting in the heavens since Fall 2011. The experiment is set to conclude and return to Earth later this year. [Ardbeg PR]

image002 Drinkhacker Reads   08.12.2014   Bogart Gets His Own Gin

Drinkhacker Reads – 08.07.2014 – Boycotts and Bourbon Edition

Just days after declaring that Kentucky Gentlemen are no longer welcome within borders of his empire, Russian hockey superstar/project manager/mega dictator Vladimir Putin is now introducing a series of bans on imported foods and goods. How great of an impact this will have on America’s agricultural industry has yet to be fully ascertained, but experts agree it will have some significance. Amusingly, wine is still an acceptable import (for now). Will this hurt the growing American whiskey industry? Possibly, especially with demand elsewhere in the world suddenly running slightly lower vs. last year. Regardless, trade sanctions on anything never help economies and in the end no one really wins. Here’s hoping for a change of heart soon. [BBC]

A New York court has ruled that Diageo must change the name of its Johnnie Walker Explorer’s Club range of whiskies, as the brand runs too close in premise and spirit to the established Explorer’s Club of New York, which features some of humanity’s most well known adventurers as its members. Of course Diageo is disappointed by the ruling, but says it’s excited about a new product line soon to be released, Johnnie Walker MENSA. [Wall Street Journal]

The exhaustive and expansive campaign known as the Single Oak Project is starting to wind down, with the 14th batch in the series slated to be released later this month. This is the first of what will be a very heavy upcoming release schedule for Buffalo Trace, with new E.H. Taylor offerings, new editions from the experimental collection, and of course the always in-demand Antique Collection coming out within the next few months. Our review of batch 13 is up now. [Single Oak Project]

And finally today, BevNet reports that Wild Turkey is partnering with the United States Bartenders Guild (USBG) to promote an intensive course in the bourbon-making process. Behind The Barrel will be a series of events with Wild Turkey Master Distiller Jimmy Russell with the aim of providing a thoroughly educational experience and with the hopes of establishing a bourbon expert certification program in the future. Potential students can apply for the program on Wild Turkey’s website. [BevNet]