Much weirdness has infiltrated the world of spirits since our last update: 6′s are now 9′s, hypothetical press releases and other stuff that has left us scratching our heads a bit and accelerated our hope that the weekend will soon be upon us.
Let’s start in New Jersey, where 29 bars were the subject of a recent sting operation (awesomely code named “Operation Swill”) involving owners replacing premium alcohol with cheap stuff, with one bar even mixing rubbing alcohol with food dye and calling it scotch. Over 1,000 bottles have been seized for further testing, and this doesn’t look like it’s going to end well. It also begs the question: How many other bars out there are replicating this hideous practice? [ABC 6 News]
Most devotees of bourbon are well aware that the recent global demand has spiked overall sales through the roof. This has presented a bit of a conundrum in that demand is now outpacing supply. Buffalo Trace has taken it upon itself to issue a press release forewarning folks of the potential and possibility of an impending shortage. In it, representatives pledge not to excessively raise prices or lower the proof on their brands which include the already hard to find Van Winkle and Weller 12 year, but it is also proactively warning folks that there may be shortages just around the bend. While getting in front of the story is always a good idea (and something we applaud), it questions the necessity of putting such a story out when no drastic shortages are occurring. So in sum: everything is okay. For now. But something could happen soon. No one knows just when. [Buffalo Trace]
Vodka continues to be one of the fastest growing categories, along with American whiskey and tequila not too far behind. With its 5.8% increase, vodka now commands roughly one-third of all spirits volume and is the largest category.
The smallest category, Irish Whiskey, posted an incredible double-digit gain in sales of 21.6%.
Diageo continues its lead as the largest spirit producer, seeing a 1.1% increase in volume to retain a 22% overall market share. Beam continues to hold strong in second place, with Sazerac doubling its market share with a 4.2% increase; jumping ahead of Bacardi and solidifying a third place position.
Memorial Day is coming up soon, and with it the kickoff of the summer travel season. Zagat profiles 8 must-see stops along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and its kindred spirit, the American Whiskey Trail. [Zagat]
Last year Jefferson’s Bourbon conducted a wacky experiment involving aging barrels of bourbon at sea to see if the air and water quality had an effect on the final product. As the resulting product was so limited in quantity, few people got to taste the results and final verdict of this project. Along these lines, Mira Winery is about to retrieve four cases of its 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon from a three-month stay in the Charleston Harbor. Their mission? To determine whether or not light, tides, waves and temperature have an effect on the chemical breakdown of wine. They are slated to raise the wine on May 21, wherein they’ll announce the second phase of this experiment. We’ll bring you the latest as soon as news is delivered to us. Stay tuned. [PR Newswire]
The blogs were buzzing these past few days as Robert Parker has made the shift from wine critic to taking a stab at reviewing whiskies. Naturally, opinions on the results have varied; from the measured “wait and see”, to the frustrated and confused all the way down to the flat out irate. Although time will tell on just how much of an impact Parker will have on the whiskey world, reviewing something called “Rollins Creek” (pretty sure he means Rowan’s Creek) and comparing Hudson to Pappy suggest poor form at the start. Stay tuned.
CELEBRITY PRODUCT OF THE WEEK: Renee Zellweger’s ex-husband and country star Kenny Chesney is tossing his cowboy hat and horseshoes into the spirits world. Later this month he’ll launch his own line of rum, Blue Chair Bay. The line will come in white, Coconut, Coconut Spiced, and Chewing Tobacco flavors (just kidding about the last one), and will be promoted via an 18 city tour and numerous tasting events nationwide. It’s five o clock somewhere, y’all… [Blue Chair]
In bourbon news, MSN Money reports that Beam saw a hefty spike in sales during the first quarter of 2013, much of that attributed to the drama surrounding Maker’s Mark and the reduction of its alcohol content. Many theories abound if this was all just a business ploy, or a bad marketing decision, or a really good marketing decision made to look like a bad one. Whatever the case, Beam (which owns Maker’s) brought in the dough to the tune of a 44% sales increase. Not too shabby for something that sort of did but didn’t happen. [MSN]
Everyone coming off a cinco-hangover take note: Tequila is actually good for you. Or so says Forbes, who attempts to make folks feel better by delivering five different reasons tequila can be beneficial to a person’s constitution. [Forbes]
The Kentucky Distiller’s Association has announced that bourbon production topped over 1 million barrels in 2012. The 1,007,703 barrels filled tops the previously recorded record of 1,004,877 barrels filled in 1973, according to the article published in the Lexington Herald-Leader. Bourbon production is up 120% since 1999, with absolutely no signs of slowing down. This comes on the wings of an announcement earlier this week that the Kentucky legislature is attempting to find new ways to generate tax incentives for bourbon distillers. [Herald-Leader]
With the trend of bourbon barreled beer showing no signs of slowing down, Anderson Valley Brewing Company and Wild Turkey Bourbon announced yesterday that its has begun bottle production of Anderson Valley Wild Turkey Bourbon Barrel Stout. This once draft-only product was released in the fall 2012 as part of an exclusive partnership between the two companies. [PR Newswire]
One of the most intimidating hitters in major league baseball is trading bats for hops, as retired Chicago White Sox great Frank Thomas is getting poised to move his Big Hurt Beer into the big time. Crain’s Chicago catches up with five-time all star, two-time MVP to talk about his adventures in the craft beer world. [Crain’s Chicago]
This week features two of our favorite holidays literally back to back this week: the running for the roses in the Kentucky Derby this Saturday, and Cinco De Mayo on Sunday. Of course we’ll be giving recipe suggestions later this week for all of the fantastic parties you’ll be throwing. But just a heads up for those collectors looking for the Four Roses limited edition Secretariat decanter: it’s just not happening. Four Roses has cancelled this year’s decanter because the quality wasn’t up to standards. Folks who have already paid for one will be entitled to a full refund. [WHAS]
The world’s oldest and rarest Japanese whisky is now available to the general public for a cool $19,000. Bottled in 1960, this 52-year-old Karuizawa was aged in sherry oak and comes in a case fashioned with pieces from the original cask’s head. It’s available in an extremely rare edition of 41 and only at four locations around the world. Time to get that second paper route. [via press release]
A bottle of Macallan 1962 bearing the signatures of actors Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, and Berenice Marlohe recently fetched $14,692 in an auction at Sotheby’s. The bottle played a small but important role in last year’s Bond blockbuster, Skyfall. The single malt, distilled the same year Bond made his debut in Dr. No, was donated by Macallan. Proceeds from the sale will go to charities supporting British security and intelligence services. [PR Newswire]
Good news for Johnnie Walker fans: Diageo has announced plans to make the Johnnie Walker Double Black edition a permanent fixture in their U.S. line. Originally launched as an exclusive to duty free shops, the demand and response for Double Black has been positive enough to make it a full-fledged member of an already stacked team. [PR Newswire]
This item’s for fans of Michigan beer: Beerpulse is reporting that beer baron Larry Bell has purchased a sizeable chunk of land in the upper peninsula of Michigan, specifically the Escanaba region near the Michigan-Wisconsin border. According to sources, he’s planning on developing a new brewery for the long-fabled Upper Hand label he’s been rumored of starting for some time. Spokespeople for Bell’s have declined to comment for BeerPulse, and we’ve asked for a comment as well. We’ll report back if we receive any word other than a continuing silence. [Beerpulse]
Becoming a tradition itself alongside the Kentucky Derby, Woodford Reserve is once again issuing its $1,000 limited edition mint julep cup set, with this year’s theme being “gold.” What does $1,000 get you? Ice made of gold-filtered mineral water sourced from the easternmost coast of Nova Scotia, mint leaves dusted with gold, Woodford Gold sorghum, and a hand-engraved cup featuring a thoroughbred. 79 cups will be available for auction starting at $1,000 each, 9 cups will start bidding at $2,000 and feature a cup cut with diamonds, and one special package will start at $5,000. The lucky winner of that auction will present the trophy at the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic on Kentucky Derby Day, enjoy a private tour and dinner of Woodford Reserve, and get a private tour of Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement Center with a Hall of Fame jockey as your host. You can place your bids at Woodford Reserve’s Mint Julep website. [Woodford Reserve]
Chivas and Italian design firm Pininfarina have teamed up together to present “The Drop,” a series of conceptual cases inspired by air and liquid. The Drop will be available in three editions, each of which will feature Chivas 18 inside. The first edition will feature a streamlined case, limited to 1,500 units at a price of $140. The second edition will be a more upscale rendition: 120 editions at $495 each. And for the drinker who truly has everything, a limited edition hand made 7-foot-4-inch sculpture will be commissioned in an edition of five, each at a cost of $100,000. [Chivas]
Elsewhere in vodka news, Absolut has teamed up with legendary Mexican visual artists and tattoo icon Dr. Lakra to design a limited edition Absolut Mexico bottle, celebrating the rich visual history of Mexican and Mayan cultures. The bottle, which has been available in Mexico for some time, will be ready to ship stateside shortly, and will retail for $19.99 for a 750ml bottle. [PR Newswire]
In its ongoing quest to find the “holy grail” of bourbon, Buffalo Trace announced on Friday it has broken ground on the enigmatically christened Warehouse X, a comparatively small warehouse only able to hold 150 barrels at capacity. This facility will be able to test for such factors as natural light, temperature, airflow, and humidity and how all of this impacts barrel storage. Slated to be complete by August, fans can watch the progress and see BT’s vision and renderings on Buffalo Trace’s microsite. [Warehouse X]
Spring in Kentucky can mean many a splendored thing: out of control allergies, basketball championships (but not this year), Keeneland and the Kentucky Derby. So what better way to kick off spring than the announcement of yet another high-end Beam product? Using the arrival of horse racing season as the kick-off, the ultra limited edition Jim Beam Distiller’s Masterpiece is extra aged (no age statement is given in the press release), finished in PX Sherry Casks, clocks in at 100 proof, and comes packaged in a high end wooden case. It will retail for $199 and will only be available at the Beam American Stillhouse in Clermont, Kentucky. Hopefully a review will be forthcoming shortly. [Added. -Ed.]
Drink your big black cow, and get out of here: a British dairy farmer has perfected the process of turning cow’s milk into vodka. The process involves turning the milk into curds and whey, separating the two and then distilling the whey, which has been fermented into beer. Black Cow’s already winning over plenty of celebrity endorsements, and while it’s currently unavailable stateside, Vermont Spirits Distilling Company has been making something similar using milk sugars for years. [New York Daily News] Continue reading →
A study from the University of Oxford has revealed that the environment in which one drinks whisky can alter taste perceptions by as much as 20%. In the study to be published in September, Professor Charles Spence and his colleagues observed drinkers in the world’s first multi-sensorium tracking bar to discover that one’s environment — namely the colors around you and the ambient sounds — can heighten and enhance the drinking experience. No doubt this research will be ingested by every single beverage company in the world and will potentially have serious ramifications on how environments such as bars and clubs are designed. More on the experiment can be found here. [Singleton Sensorium]
Popular Science asks the question so many beer drinkers have asked throughout the ages: are hops addictive? While the modern day drinker would respond in kind with a dismissive “duh,” researchers searched for hard evidence on the issue. [Popular Science] Continue reading →
Simply not content with confusing the hell out of beer drinkers with its Bud Light Lime-A-Rita brand, Budweiser is poised to introduce the Straw-Ber-Rita later this month, mixing the flavor of Lime-A-Rita with Strawberry. Just to clarify for everyone who thought this was a beer mixed with a margarita in a can: there is no beer in here whatsoever. It is a flavored malt beverage. The only thing it shares with Bud Light is the brand name. [Bud Light Lime-A-Rita]
Whisky Mag’s Whisky Live will be making its way to New York’s Chelsea Piers on Wednesday, April 3rd. Attendees will be treated to the opportunity to meet Master Distillers, brand ambassadors, and industry experts while sampling a wide variety of single malts, bourbons, ryes and other surprises. You can register via the website, but when you do, enter the code “wlmedia” for 15% discount off the price of your admission. [Whisky Live NY]
Speaking of incredible contests, we were hipped by Patron tequila to this one where folks can win $10,000 for coming up with the best idea and recycling their Patron bottles into functional works of art, lamps, clocks and any other ideas your mad, bad, creative self can think of. Simply do your thing, submit it to the Art of Patron website and wait for the money to roll in. As we know Drinkhacker readers are some of the most creative, intelligent, innovative people on the planet (we have the demographics and research to back this up), we fully expect one of you to win the bar goodies from Dickel and another to win the $10K from the good folks over at Patron. So get to your workbenches and start prototyping! [Patron]
The winners for this year’s Ultimate Spirits Challenge were announced via press release today, the result of a week-long tasting competition which started March 11th. Among the champs were Tahoe Blue for best vodka; Hop Head Pot Stilled Hop in the flavored vodka category; Ford’s took home honors for best gin; and Blanton’s for best bourbon. A full 100 points was given to Highland Park for its 25 Years Old single malt expression in the best Scotch category, the highest score of any spirit in the competition. A complete list of winners can be found on the USC website. [Ultimate Spirits Challenge]
In a move that virtually no one saw coming, Hood River Distillery has acquired one of the world’s leading brands of absinthe for an undisclosed sum. Lucid Absinthe now joins such spirits as Pendleton, Monarch, Yazi, and Broker’s in the Hood River family of brands. A bold move, and one that signals Hood River has no intention of being acquired any time soon, but rather to continue acquiring and building to compete on the global stage. [Press release]
As everyone who was Irish for the day is recovering from what was no doubt a magically delicious 24 hours of revelry, might we suggest trying out the Irish Kentucky Java from the cocktails we posted last week?
If Irish coffee isn’t your thing for recovering, real estate blog Movoto has designed a catchy infographic based around five cocktail recipes inspired by cities (other than Manhattan) that they love. We tried the Boston Minute Man yesterday (minus the coffee pecan bitters, because they were simply not to be found at our local Liquor Barn) and it was fantastic. Worth the click-through to get some great cocktail ideas! [Movoto]