Archive for November, 2008

The Wall Street Journal, Whisky Feature, This Friday

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

You might want to pick up a copy of The Wall Street Journal this Friday, November 21st. No, I don’t want you to read about how your years of hard work and savings have been cut in half by investing in the stock market. Rather, it’s something much more pleasant: a feature on whisky.

I wrote a 3,000 word article for The WSJ on “Understanding Whiskey,” and it will be published this Friday in a “Special Advertising Section.” Basically, what this means is that they hire someone like me who supposedly is an expert and highly regarded in a given field to write about that subject. (Yes, I fooled them. It’ll be our little secret.) They then use this “angle” to go and try to get ads. The section isn’t written until there are advertising commitments. No ads, no special advertising section.

Special advertising sections are nothing new to print media. However, it is pretty cool that The Wall Street Journal has chosen whisky as a theme for one of their special sections. They were able to get a few companies to advertise (not an easy task, given the current economic environment), and the whole thing will be in this Friday’s edition.

I think this is great–and not just because I am the author. Any time we can get accurate, basic whisky information to the main stream population, everyone wins. And that’s exactly what this section is all about. I cover the fundamentals: The definition of whisky, how it’s made, the difference between the major categories of whisky (Scotch, Irish, Canadian, Bourbon, etc.), appreciating whisky (nosing, tasting, etc.), conducting a whisky tasting, and reading a whisky label.

I certainly can’t help anyone out with their 401(k) plan, because my stock mutual funds have tanked just like everyone else’s, but I can hopefully turn some new people on to whisky and explain to them, once and for all, that Jack Daniel’s really isn’t bourbon.

Next Bushmills: Caribbean Rum Cask Aged?

Saturday, November 15th, 2008

Another little bird at WhiskyFest New York this past week told me what the next Bushmills release might be after the limited edition Bushmills 1608 blended whiskey runs its course over the next few months.

There’s been a Bushmills for sale at Travel Retail (Duty Free) that combines Bushmills aged entirely in pot still Caribbean rum casks with Bushmills aged in more traditional sherry and bourbon casks. I picked up a bottle at Travel Retail when I visited Bushmills back in 2007, but still haven’t opened up the bottle yet. This might be a good excuse to crack this sucker open sometime soon and taste it.

Has anyone tried this whiskey? If so, let us know what you think.

If I get any more definitive news on this, I’ll post it up.

Compass Box Orangerie is back

Friday, November 14th, 2008

Orangerie, the orange and spice-infused whisky from Compass Box is back after being absent for a few years. John Glaser let me know at WhiskyFest this past Tuesday. He said it’s already getting into markets in Europe, but won’t show up in the U.S. until sometime in 2009.

The Macallan and naked women

Friday, November 14th, 2008

Well now. I just looked through hundreds of pictures featuring a beautiful, naked, blond lounging around the Macallan distillery grounds.

What I want to know is: where was she when I spent two days at Macallan and Easter Elchies House this past April? The only person I got to see was Bob Dalgarno (fully clothed, thankfully). I don’t know if I will ever be able to look at a pot still or whisky barrel the same ever again.

Ken Grier, Director of Malts for The Macallan and Highland Park, was the guy I worked with to get the “Legends” bottles for charity at WhiskyFest San Francisco. He brought past Macallan whiskymakers out of retirement for each of them to make one unique bottle of Macallan which raised thousands of dollars for charity at WhiskyFest San Francisco.

Ken thinks outside the box. I am not too surprised to read about his new venture, which features artwork (including photos of a naked woman) on 30 year old Macallan Fine Oak bottles. Details are outlined in a press release. I included excerpts of it below. There’s a link to the photos at the end of the press release, so you can see the pictures for yourself.

Colorful whiskymakers like Jim McEwan from Bruichladdich have for decades described stills as being sexy, and I remember master blender Richard Paterson referring to Speyside whiskies as voluptuous movie stars in lingerie (or something like that), but this takes it to the next level.


The Macallan single malt Scotch whisky is today (Thursday 13 November 2008) unveiling an ambitious £1.3 million limited edition bottling produced in association with world famous, Scots born photographer Rankin.

Returning to his homeland, Paisley-born Rankin, best known for his fashion photography and portraits of everyone from The Queen to Madonna, was invited to The Macallan’s Speyside estate to interpret the iconic whisky brand through his camera lens. The result is a series of 1,000 stunning black and white images, captured on Polaroid film. Each limited edition bottle of rare 30 year old Macallan Fine Oak single malt displays a bespoke label featuring one of the Rankin images, accompanied by the original Polaroid.  This collection of 1,000 unique, individual works of art is a world first and will be sold by luxury retailers worldwide.

The Macallan is ranked number two by value[1] among the world’s top selling single malts and is recognised as being a leader within the Scotch Whisky industry when it comes to innovation. Fine Oak now accounts for one in every four bottles of all sales of The Macallan, just five years after its launch. It has been the most successful, truly new Single Malt brand launch in history and is the whisky contained in The Masters of Photography bottle featuring the label shot by Rankin.

Ken Grier, Director of Malts, The Edrington Group, said:  “Our partnership with Rankin really is something different and daring for the Scotch whisky sector due to the range of images that will be featured on the bottle labels and we believe that there will be huge demand from consumers wanting to own a Masters of Photography bottle. 

“Demand for The Macallan’s range of premium whiskies has increased by 87 per cent over the last five years, particularly in our overseas markets and we have increased our production at The Macallan distillery to keep pace with this. We anticipate that The Masters of Photography bottle will generate interest amongst a wider consumer audience and will prove highly collectible both by whisky and art lovers.”

The unique bottle comes presented in a black leather box, lined with velvet and containing an original Rankin Polaroid. Each bottle will have an individually printed label which matches the specific Polaroid contained within the box and a booklet of authenticity signed by Rankin. 

The array of images captured by Rankin is breathtaking, depicting a range of locations around The Macallan estate, including Easter Elchies House, the distillery, dedicated craftspeople and still life images of the surrounding flora and fauna.  Many of the images are further enhanced with artistic nude studies, featuring Tuuli, Rankin’s muse.

The Macallan Fine Oak is triple cask matured in a unique, complex combination of exceptional oak casks.  This triple cask maturation is exclusive to The Macallan and combines European oak casks seasoned with sherry, American oak casks seasoned with sherry and American oak casks seasoned with bourbon to deliver an extraordinary smooth, delicate, yet complex Single Malt.

The Macallan Masters of Photography Fine Oak 30 year old bottles will be available for purchase throughout the world, and will be launched in Russia, Singapore, Korea and the USA over the next few months.  In the UK, The Macallan Masters of Photography Rankin Edition can be purchased exclusively at luxury retailers for £899 (RRP). 

The Macallan Masters of Photography will be unveiled this evening at a launch party in London.  An exhibition of the images featured on the limited edition bottles will be on show from 10am – 6pm, Friday 14 to Sunday 16 November, at the Huntingdon Project Space, 28 Redchurch Street, London E2 7DP.

Tullamore Dew 10 yr. old single malt?

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

A little bird told me at WhiskyFest New York on Tuesday night that there’s a good chance we’ll see a Tullamore Dew single malt Irish whiskey in 2009. Yes, a single malt! That’s a first since I’ve been drinking whiskey.

The Tullamore Dew blended whiskeys on the market for the past few decades have come from the Midleton distillery in County Cork, where Jameson, Power’s, Redbreast and many other whiskeys are produced. Don’t look for the new Tully single malt to come from Midleton, though. That’s not their gig. Think “Cooley distillery.”

I’ll post some other WhiskyFest tidbits over the coming days. Stay tuned.

Annoucing the 2008 Malt Advocate Whisky Awards

Tuesday, November 11th, 2008

The 2008 Malt Advocate Whisky Awards were announced earlier this evening just prior to WhiskyFest New York. The awards ceremony occurred at the Marriott Marquis on Times Square.

Here is a listing of the award winners. A full write-up will appear in the 1st Quarter 2009 issue of Malt Advocate magazine, due out on January 15, 2009.

The top ten new whiskies for 2008 (listed alphabetically)
The Antiquary Blended Scotch, 21 year old
The Balvenie Vintage Cask, 1976 vintage
Black Bowmore, 1964 vintage, 42 year old
White Bowmore, 1964 vintage, 43 year old
Brora , 30 year old
High West Rendezvous Rye, Batch No. 10
Jameson Rarest Vintage Reserve Irish Whiskey
The Last Drop Blended Scotch
Parker’s Heritage Collection Bourbon, 27 year old
Willett Family Reserve Bourbon, 25 year old

Best Buy of the Year
Ancient Ancient Age Ten Year Old

American Whiskey of the Year
Parker’s Heritage Collection 27 Year Old Bourbon

Canadian Whisky of the Year
Canadian Club 150th Anniversary 30 Year Old

Irish Whiskey of the Year
Jameson Rarest Vintage Reserve, 2007 Release

Scotch Blended Whisky of the Year
The Antiquary 21 year old

Scotch Malt Whisky of the Year
Black Bowmore, 1964 Vintage, 42 year old

Microdistillery Whisky of the Year
Penderyn Welsh Whisky

Industry Leader of the Year
Dr. Bill Lumsden

Pioneer of the Year
The United States Microdistillers

Distillery of the Year
Four Roses

Lifetime Achievement Award
Willie Tait (Whyte and Mackay)
Kenny Gray (Oban)
Ronnie Eddins (Buffalo Trace)

Malt Advocate Whisky Awards: tomorrow night

Monday, November 10th, 2008

I’ll be announcing the 2008 Malt Advocate Whisky Awards tomorrow night at the beginning of WhiskyFest New York. I’ll be presenting the awards at 5:00 pm in the Broadway Ballroom at the Marriott Marquis on Times Square, where the event takes place.

This year, for the first time, VIP ticket holders will be allowed in the balcony level at 5:00 pm to watch the awards ceremony.

For those of you not attending WhiskyFest, I am programming a blog to publish tomorrow night listing the award winners.

Jim Beam introduces “The Distillers Series” with a new 7 year old

Monday, November 10th, 2008

Jim Beam is introducing a new line of whiskeys called “The Distillers Series. The first one is a 7 year old, with a new mash formula, and is bottled at 90 proof. I listed the highlights of the press release below, along with a photo.

Deerfield, Ill. – November 10, 2008 – Beam Global Spirits & Wine, Inc. [Fortune Brands, Inc. (NYSE:FO)], a global leader in premium spirits, and Jim Beam® Bourbon, the world’s number one selling bourbon, will release a limited edition, “The Distillers Series,” in October 2008.  “The Distillers Series” celebrates the seven generations within the Jim Beam family and commemorates their contributions to the bourbon industry.  The dark amber liquid inside each bottle is a new recipe, specially-crafted and aged seven years to 90 proof, and the result is a warm, lingering, mellow finish perfect for easy sipping.
beam-distilllers-series.jpgFirst crafted in 1795, Jim Beam, the world’s #1 selling bourbon, prides itself on more than two centuries of quality and integrity.  Jim Beam attributes an unwavering commitment to the classic recipe to a long lineage of family distillers who have shaped and defined American whiskey.

“Having your face on the Jim Beam label is a big honor and a big responsibility too,” stated Fred Noe, seventh generation Beam family distiller.  “Every family member featured on the bottle label—my father, Booker Noe, and all my great-grandfathers and uncles, Jacob, David, David M., Jim and T. Jeremiah Beam—all contributed to our bourbon and the Jim Beam family legacy.  As the only living distiller featured, I work everyday to uphold the legacy they’ve created.”

Premium packaging will outfit this special edition to create the perfect holiday gift for bourbon aficionados and collectors.  Shelf-talkers, along with poster and case displays, will promote “The Distillers Series” in the off-premise.  To support “The Distillers Series,” Fred Noe will travel throughout the holiday season to key markets sharing stories of his renowned family.

“The Distillers Series” will be available in 750ml bottles and available to legal purchase age consumers for a suggested retail price of $20.99.  The limited edition will be available through January 2009.

The reason for my silence this week

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

Yes, I haven’t posted in a few days, and I probably won’t for a few more. I’m experiencing a “perfect storm” of stuff going on in my life right now, all of which are keeping me very busy.

I took a little vacation the past few days down at the Jersey Shore to do a little boating and fishing. It seemed like a nice idea at the time I planned it, and I have enjoyed it. But, as it is with life, things happen that you don’t plan on. I injured my foot (before the vacation), which means wasting my time sitting in doctor’s offices last week and again later this week.

Then, The Wall Street Journal asks me to write a big whisky feature for them, which is great. But Suddenly it’s due in less than a week and I have to write about 4,000 words. That’s a lot of words! More on this at a later post.

And then, of course, WhiskyFest New York is one week from today. The week leading up to any WhiskyFest is always a busy one. And at this one I am also announcing our annual Malt Advocate Whisky Awards, the planning of which is also keeping me busy.

So, bear with me for the next few days. I’ll be back in the blogging loop after I get through this week. And if anything really important shows up on my radar screen this week, I’ll still get the word out to you.