Whisky Advocate

Miscellaneous whisky news

July 13th, 2012

I’m still catching up on all the whisky news, being on vacation last week and then with all the Bruichladdich happenings earlier this week. (Not to mention this thing called a magazine we’re trying to put together.) You may have seen some of this information floating around, but in case you didn’t…

Sullivans Cove whisky is finally being imported to the U.S.

From the press release:

“Building on its ever-growing global success, Sullivans Cove, the multi award winning Tasmanian Single Malt, is sending its first shipment to the USA this month. Currently exporting to ten countries across Europe, as well as Singapore and Canada, the USA is the next step in the international roll-out of the brand.”

Yellow Spot is as good as I hoped it would be

I finally got a chance to taste Yellow Spot Irish Whiskey this week and must say that I was very impressed. I can’t imagine any true Irish whiskey enthusiast not liking this. (Yes, I know it’s not available in the U.S., but find a way to get a bottle.

Big brand changes at Macallan

So, this is what I’m being told my my Macallan PR contact:

” The new 1824 Series is being introduced into the UK over the next 6 months. The first expression (a UK exclusive) will replace 10 Sherry Oak and Fine Oak expressions and next three variants will be introduced in April next year to extend the range.  These will ultimately replace 12 Sherry 0ak and 15 Fine Oak in the UK, and other relevant markets in due course.

The Macallan 1824 Series is built on the principle of natural colour, one of our Six Pillars. We believe this approach is both innovative and forward looking in the Scotch whisky industry. This new range has been driven by colour first and foremost with the character derived from the colour. The idea was to look at a broad range of casks which delivered a specific colour, then work with the character these casks delivered.  This range moves us aware from bourbon cask maturation as it is 100% sherry cask matured, but we continue to use both European and American oak.

At this time we are focused on the UK element of this launch as it is the first market to take this range.Only certain markets at the  moment are slated for change but the majority of brand sales and the range in  our largest markets will remain in Sherry and Fine Oak for the foreseeable future.”

A great Bowmore most of you won’t be able to afford

Still, I feel abliged to at least mention it. It’s the new “Bowmore 1964 Fino.” The details: 72 bottles (8 for the U.S.) at $13,500. I just tasted this whisky and feel it’s up there in quality with the other high-end Bowmores (Black, White, and Gold), which means, I really liked it. If you win the lottery this week, buy a bottle or two. And then share it with your friends, okay?

And finally…Early Times Fire Eater

To balance out the ink I gave to Bowmore, I’ll tell you about this new product. Straight from my press release:

“Early Times Fire Eater combines the heat and spice of cinnamon liqueur with aged Early Times whisky to craft a warm, inviting and smooth whisky character. For enjoying as a shot, on the rocks or in a variety of cocktails, Early Times Fire Eater offers cocktails like the ‘Elephant Man’ and the ‘Stilt Walker’ to reflect various carnival acts.

‘With Early Times Fire Eater we wanted to deliver a level of curiosity and fun while ensuring the taste consumers have come to expect from Early Times,’ said Therese McGuire, brand manager for Early Times. ‘One look at a bottle of Early Times Fire Eater and you’re taken back to a time when carnivals would travel the country bringing astonishing acts of amazement to the community.’

As the bottle suggests, Early Times Fire Eater evokes an old world carnival feel and an exciting flavor experience. Additionally, the illustration of a big top carnival tent encompasses the bottle with bold red and white stripes.

‘Building on the theme of curiosity, vivid carnival imagery and language are used on the packaging for Early Times Fire Eater,’ said McGuire. ‘A silhouette of a carnival barker with an uplifted cane invites one to ‘step right up’ while the side panel warns ‘it is not for the timid’ for a lighthearted approach to this exciting product.’

Early Times Fire Eater will initially be sold in select cities of Kentucky, Indiana, Washington, Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina, Wisconsin and California with more to follow in 2012. Each bottle is presented at 66 proof with a suggested retail price of $14.99-$15.99 for a 750ml bottle.”

No, I haven’t tried it yet. Have a good weekend everyone.

No Responses to “Miscellaneous whisky news”

  1. Scribe says:

    John, that’s a huge gap between the Bowmore and the Early Times Fire Eater. Good thing there are so many quality choices in-between! 🙂

    • John Hansell says:

      Indeed. Those are two price extremes, for sure. (Probably in taste too!)

      • Rick Duff says:

        To me the Fire Easter both at proof, age, and what it is is horribly over-priced. A lot of better stuff you can find in the price range. Distillers don’t need to be thinking that $15 is cheap.. not when there is decent quality to be found in that range.

  2. Raj says:

    Purple Valley Imports is bringing Sullivans Cove to the US. We expect the shipment to arrive mid- August. We already have orders pending for Illinois, California, Minnesota, Washington, and more

  3. mashbill says:

    It would nice if B-F actually focused on making and selling good whiskey, rather than BS like Fire Starter, or the new ET Bourbon, which was simply cashing in on Bourbon’s rising popularity.

    Ironically, B-F makes one of the best Ryes on the market, but it’s a HH label.

    Oh well, when you make so much money on Jack, it’s easy to just count the dollars.

  4. MrTH says:

    So Macallan is revamping its entire line…but only in the UK. What on earth are they smoking?

    • thebitterfig says:

      sounds like they’re starting in the UK, then will expand elsewhere, once they know they’ve got it right.

    • John Hansell says:

      The hidden message here, I believe, is that the line is going from an age statement to NAS.

      • Jason Pyle says:

        Indeed. And the NAS will make its way here soon I would imagine. Any thoughts or trends as to how long that might take?

      • MrTH says:

        I get that, and I get that the change is dictated by evolving stocks, just as the Fine Oak line (now looking very much like a stopgap) was. I don’t really have a problem with that. It just seems to me that the way they make these announcements is designed for maximum alienation of the fanbase. I don’t imagine they’re dumb enough to actually believe their own marketing BS, but they obviously think we are.

    • Tim Read says:

      I’d place a small side bet on the “UK only” nature of this allowing a way out and reinvention if the current concept and rhetoric utterly bombs. Hard to guess what they’d do if they’re short on stocks, but if sales fell off a cliff there’s value in being able to run as far as possible from the appearance of the mistake, a la new Coke.

      (Remember, post-switch, Coca-Cola was HFCS and no cane sugar. Sure, the bottlers were allowed to go to 100% syrup 6 months prior to the whole mistake, but it’s also not like soft drink producers have aged stocks allowing a buffer window on transitions).

  5. Logan Mann says:

    I think it’s great that Macallan is revamping it’s whisky line. Honestly, the quality currently in the Macallan 12, Fine Oak 10, etc is not very good IMHO. I’d buy a bottle of Glenfarclas 12 or Glendronach 12 over the Macallan every time. Let’s hope there is an improvement in Macallan’s line….something more like the Macallan’s of old that everyone talks about?? Once can hope.

    • David D says:

      They’re likely revamping because they’re out of mature whisky. If they’re replacing it with younger stock they’ve got a real challenge before them.

  6. thebitterfig says:

    The slightly depressing thing about Fire Eater isn’t that it’s a spiced whisky (I’m perfectly fine with the genre, and would love to see something like a “spice islands reserve cutty sark” and not so much cinnamon but the wealth of unusual spices… yes, I know the real cutty sark was a tea clipper not a spice trader, but still…), but that it calls itself *FIRE* Eater then describes itself as merely warm. I mean, with a name like that, with this particular branding, it begs to be, say, actually hot. It’s just one my pet peeves – things identifying as hot or spicy which are fairly tame.

    • I agree with thebitterfig – the Fire Eater name seems a little misleading given the description. Not that it doesn’t sound like an interesting drink as is.

  7. Luke says:

    John, as a matter of interest what did you think of the Yellow Spot with a cigar?

    • John Hansell says:

      Tried that just last night, as a matter of fact. I’d stick to a mild-medium cigar so you don’t overpower the whiskey with the cigar. I smoked a nice Arturo Fuente Don Carlos Robusto with it and the pairing was great.

  8. John Hansell says:

    The scenario might be something like this: they want to be 100% sherry cask aged (because that was their claim to fame prior to the Fine Oak line), but they don’t have enough stocks aging in sherry casks to maintain the age line, so switching to a new NAS line might be the solution for them.

  9. NP says:

    I have no problem with Macallan using younger stocks because the older stuff is getting scarce, therefore switching to NAS. I am not drinking an age but rather a balance & a flavor/aroma profile I enjoy.

    But pretty please, with the money the company has been/is making, why cant they get some real marketing people to think hard about how to present this change to the consumers instead of serving something that says “This new range has been driven by colour first and foremost with the character derived from the colour.”

    “Driven by color first and foremost”. I mean really??…
    So far it kind of feels like you are insulting the intelligence of those out there who are buying your products. C’mon Macallan, you can do better than this.

    • Lazer says:

      Maybe Macallan is just not for us anymore. Nobody looks at Fire Eater and says come on Brown-Foreman don’t insult our intelligence. Because they aren’t. They know that we are intelligent enough to stay away from something like this and leave it for others. So Macallan is doing the same. They know that we are smart enough to lower our expectations or just not buy it and leave it for others.

  10. theBitterFig says:

    Looking around at other news on the subject, it doesn’t really look like the Macallan 1824 series has a cask-strength version. Is the CS Macallan going away entirely?

  11. Bob Siddoway says:

    I wonder why Fire Eater is only 66 Proof? You’d think something with a name like that would at least be the standard 80 Proof for whiskey, if not a tad more. Guess that’s how it goes for flavored whiskeys lately…

    • Andrew says:

      Think bar mixer and not as a product for direct consumption.

      • Bob Siddoway says:

        Yeah, you’re right, it’s likely intended for mixing or as a shooter. That’s what most people do with regular whiskey, anyway… But still, I’ll probably end up tasting it straight.

  12. Louis says:

    For Macallan to drop the age statement, it is a very high risk/high reward situation. If they can maintain the expected quality at each price point, the 1824 move can be remarkable successful. But if they just fill in inventory gaps with younger malt, it could be a disaster. That is one problem with NAS expressions, there is a credibility gap that must be bridged to get consumer buy-in, literally and figuratively.

    While I personally would miss the 12 SW, I could be happy with less sherry character, The low end 1824 duty free expression that I tried was quite good, a tad better that the Fine Oak 10, for the same price. But they would have to bump things up a bit (i.e. a bit more age, and 43-46% ABV) to get me to consider it as a replacement for the 12.

  13. Red_Arremer says:

    Edrington really screwed this one up– The luxury cache of their mid-range stuff is going to plummet.

    Most of the buyers for that stuff just want want the most shallow kind of brand-association for themselves– And folks like that tend to have a vapid dogmatic interest in age statements

    They will be unhappy when they are offered NAS in place of AS and utterly confused when they are told that they should appreciate that they’re now getting natural color.

    Which brings up an interesting point: Are Edriington’s PR people about to make caramel coloring an issue that even whisky novices preoccupy over? That would nice, actually.

    • Jeff says:

      There’s nothing vapid or dogmatic about age statements or interest in them at Macallan’s prices – it’s simply information about what you’re buying. And, if that information is not being provided, there usually is a reason – it’s not an oversight. Given Macallan’s handling of the Replica bottle fiasco, let the buyer beware!

      • theBitterFig says:

        There are still bragging rights associated with age statements (“Oh, you’re only drinking the 12 year old? I’m drinking the 15…”), and Macallan is a brand which seems to rely more heavily than many on people who want to claim them. Sure, you can make it work with NAS, Johnnie Walker Blue, for example, but it takes a lot more work, since it’s one less clue that you’re drinking Very Expensive Whisky, for those who are into that sort of thing.

        • Red_Arremer says:

          Yes, BF– Thank you. Of course I think age statements are a good thing, Jeff. But as BF says, for many they’re just another thing to brag about.

    • Mr Manhattan says:

      I do think it will be weird to not have the age statement on the bottle. For a certain kind of consumer, the age statement serves as a short-cut to having to think/know much about the product. The people at my bar buying the Macallan 18 are generally not my most sophisticated patrons. In fact they are usually just trying to show off as it’s so pricey—which is more or less the reason I stock it. Same w/ the Yamazaki 18. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

  14. Dave Baxter says:

    I have never been a big fan of Macallan as I feel that is grossly overpriced. I’d much rather purchase a Glenfarclas or Glendronach, especially now if Macallan actually goes ahead and removes the age statements from future bottlings!

  15. Jeff says:

    Absolutely there’s a credibility gap with NAS products, Louis; the quality might be there today, to establish the label, and then slide away – you can’t cry foul because no one promised you anything in the first place. We might soon enter an age where a 12 is a premium whisky – with price to match. Very disappointing, especially for Macallan, whose claimed position as the premier scotch distiller has been in question for some time.

  16. MrTH says:

    Well, I have to say that I think part of the problem here is that we tend to think that every announcement of a new line is a statement of the way it is now and ever shall be. The fact is it’s just another phase, as the Fine Oak line now obviously was. I don’t doubt for a second that when production catches back up with demand, Macallan will return to age statements. Of course, they will then tell us that age matters. Most of us would probably feel better if they were more honest about tailoring their output to reflect their stocks, but obviously they feel that the market at large isn’t really interested enough to take that onboard. The problem is that there exists a core of Macallan diehards who bought the marketing BS of a decade or more ago, and, with the FO line and now this, are realizing that they’ve been fed a lot of hooey. I guess it would be very difficult to sell the idea of whisky as an evolution, given that most of us want the comfort of reliability in the products we buy, but the disconnect between distilling reality and Macallan’s PR nonsense is becoming harder and harder to bridge. All of this is, of course, a product of their success, but it’s hard for me not to think that Macallan are not setting themselves up to be particularly vulnerable to the next whisky bust. The good news, I suppose, is that twenty years from now, Mac 25 should be relatively cheap.

    • Red_Arremer says:

      Nice perspective, TH.

      For a long time PR people have been deploying fantasies of folksy traditions, magical kingdoms, ancient heritages, and of course unfathomably sophisticated manufacturing facilities as backgrounds for their goods– And this is what consumers have come to expect. They are generally not interested in the real conditions, which support the production of the things they want to buy. They are ready for the new spin just as PR is tasked with supplying it.

      Whisky doesn’t have to work this way though. Single malt consumers, in particular, tend to be super receptive to any information that gets them closer to the source. The challenge of modern whisky PR is to cultivate this receptivity– To break the spin cycle and create consumer interest in the real details of production operation. These details can then be turned into meaningful features of and variations between releases. Today, whisky PR and product development occasionally lean in this direction, but it has to be taken much further.

      If brand loyalty is wanted, this is the way to go…

  17. Pat McCarthy says:

    John, couldn’t agree with you more regarding the Yellow Spot. Great flavor & finish. Was drinking it the other night at a bar in NJ & everyone I gave some to was equally impressed. Can’t wait for someone to go to Ireland for more……….Pat

    • John Hansell says:

      Pat, I have about two ounces left in my bottle. That’s how much I like it.

      • Luke says:

        Gentlemen, the Irish allocation of Yellow Spot is almost sold out! What the promised World-wide distribution was meant to be I don’t know, but with only 500 cases it was always going to be tight. For the record, my own stash of Yellow spot is getting some envious looks (a padlock on that cabinet I think!)
        Good Hunting Pat!

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