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 VersIn 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_150914And 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_Marge 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-AnniversaryAlso 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.

image001So 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]