Brian Nation has been the master distiller at Irish Distillers’ Midleton distillery since 2013, having joined the company in 1997 as an engineering graduate. Like a number of other distillery managers I’ve met, it seems he never intended to be a distiller. Softly spoken, but hugely enthusiastic about his whiskeys, he also became the first Irish Distiller to receive the Worshipful Company of Distillers award for achieving the highest IBD (Institute of Brewing and Distilling) exam results in the world.
Where were you born and brought up?
Born in Turners Cross in Cork City and brought up there.
So west of Midleton then. Any history of distilling involvement in your family?
No history of distilling involvement in my family, but I have a number of uncles who are partial to a drop of Jameson!
What’s the view from your office window?
I can see our fermenters and our newly built pot brewhouse (built in 2012) through some lovely trees.
Keeping an eye on the place then. Did you have a hand in designing any of that?
Yes, a major part of my role at the time was my involvement in the project team responsible for the design, installation, and commissioning of the distillery expansion.
Was that exciting, nerve-wracking, or both?
Definitely both! But a great opportunity to be involved in such a large scale project. Learning gleaned from the experience is invaluable now as master distiller.
You joined Irish Distillers as an engineer. What was the path to master distiller?
Unplanned! I didn’t set out to end up as head distiller, I initially started as an environmental engineer and then became a project engineer.
And from there?
Process engineer, engineering manager, and eventually head distiller after working under master distiller emeritus Barry Crockett for ten years.
That’s a lot of engineering. Do you get to meet your Scotch whisky distiller colleagues much? If so is there friendly rivalry or all love and harmony?
We meet up from time to time and the banter and craic is always great.
What do you like best and least about your job?
Being involved in new distillate development is without a doubt the best part of my job. I am also very interested in plant optimization.
The Distiller’s Safe, from The Whiskey Makers Series, was the new expression that I was most involved in. I worked very closely with our head blender, Billy Leighton.
How did that relationship work out?
I was like a kid in a sweet shop and Billy was like the dad who kept me under control. Thankfully he did!
Because we ended up with a whiskey that is truly distillate-driven and showcases the craft of distilling very well.
What do these new Jameson ranges offer that you didn’t have before?
They explore the brand’s rich heritage, celebrate our remarkable present, and share an insight into our innovative future.
Remind us of what they are again.
They comprise of the Whiskey Makers Series, Deconstructed Series, a range of Heritage whiskeys, and Gan Eagla.
Briefly, one at a time, what’s the difference between each range, for you? Let’s start with the Whisky Makers Series.
The Whiskey Makers Series celebrates the people behind the Jameson family of Irish whiskeys and their craft.
The Deconstructed Series explores the key flavor notes of the original Jameson Irish whiskey.
And Heritage and Gan Eagla?
The Heritage whiskeys bring to the fore over 200 years of remarkable stories and milestones from the brand’s rich history. Gan Eagla represents the future of Jameson.
Do you have a favorite among them and why?
Distiller’s Safe. It’s truly my type of whiskey as it’s heavily distillate driven. Plus, I’ve named it after my favourite piece of equipment, the distiller’s safe.
Why is that?
It highlights the importance of the cut in making the perfect pot and grain distillate used in creating Jameson Irish whiskey.
So for my Jameson-fan brother, married to an Irish lass and living in Rome – is that the one you would recommend?
Absolutely, either that or Jameson Original as from there the world is your oyster.
For a Scot, he’s consumed quite a lot of Original already. Is there as much interest in “finishing” in Irish whiskey as there is in scotch?
Innovation in the Irish whiskey sector, including maturation techniques such as finishing, is certainly on the rise.
It’s been led by Irish Distillers through the release of new and interesting whiskeys such as Jameson Caskmates or Green Spot Château Léoville-Barton. [Caskmates has been finished in stout-seasoned casks. Green Spot Château Léoville-Barton is the first single pot still Irish whiskey to be finished in red Bordeaux wine casks. Château Léoville-Barton was owned by an Irishman, Thomas Barton, whose descendants are still involved today.]
An Irish connection! Is Irish less restricted creatively than scotch or does the distilling process allow more flexibility or is more done with blending?
Irish whiskey is governed by a set of rules similar to those in the Scotch whisky industry – creativity can come in all forms.
Tweaking the grain type, distillation style, or maturation in new cask types. At Midleton we encourage our craftspeople to experiment, break down preconceptions.
In my research you said family was your main interest outside work. Are your children young?
I have three children – two girls, aged nine and seven, and a boy aged two. It’s a busy household but great fun.
So any interest in what Daddy does then?
The two girls are very interested, especially if they see Jameson as they walk through an airport or a shop.
Any particular activities you enjoy with them?
I help train the camogie (ladies hurling) teams that the girls play with. They have very busy schedules with camogie, gymnastics, karate, and soccer. [Hurling is one of Ireland’s national sports and goes back hundreds of years. It can look akin to hockey and lacrosse and is a fast and furious game played by two teams of fifteen people.]
Are you mainly a taxi driver then?
I spend a lot of time bringing them to these events. Sundays we tend to go for a family day out which is relaxing. My son is happy to play soccer in our garden – he’s great fun.
I understand you also like cooking. Any signature dish?
Yes, I find it relaxing. I like to try different recipes, but the problem is I usually take too long. Signature dish is oven baked turbot with a scallop & prawn white sauce.
I’m coming to your house. What wine, beer, or whiskey would you match with that?
I find that a Green Spot Single Pot Still Irish whiskey works quite well with this dish.
You presumably travel a lot for work; do you enjoy that?
Yes, to talk about my role and our whiskeys. I really do enjoy it – meeting people worldwide. To see their passion for Jameson and our other whiskeys is truly amazing.
Favorite place you’ve visited for work?
For work, it has to be New York – I really loved the atmosphere there; it was great and the people that I met were so passionate about what we do.
The Cayman Islands as part of a Caribbean Cruise – I can’t wait to go back for a longer stay.
Caymans, yes. Like the sound of that. Last question! Stuck on a desert island which one whisky would you have with you. Doesn’t have to be one of your own…
This is a very difficult question to answer because I like different whiskeys for different occasions or experiences!
Well, I have to be firm. Choose.
I’m going to cheat and pick two – Jameson Distiller’s Safe and Powers John’s Lane Single Pot Still.
No, it’s one only so I’m going to let you take Distiller’s Safe since you helped create it.
Brian Nation, we’re done so thanks for sharing some of your time with us.
In the current issue of Whisky Advocate, the burgeoning American single malt category was explored, showcasing not only a diverse range of whiskeys, but also that their producers were beginning to come together for the greater good.
“A lot of us have the same frustrations knowing we produce this product that gets unfairly lumped into these other categories,” says Matt Hofmann, co-founder and master distiller of Westland distillery.
“As a distiller of single malt, I think it’s a constant source of aggravation for me and everybody else that nobody really knows what American single malt is,” says Paul Hletko, founder and distiller of FEW Spirits, and newly elected president of the American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA).
In the fight for shelf space and consumer recognition, American single malts have been left in the lurch. “Right now you can’t write all four words ‘American single malt whiskey’ on the label because that category doesn’t exist,” explains Hofmann.
With this serving as a collective call to action, the meeting dubbed the “American single malt summit” was held during the ACSA conference in Chicago this March, it now appears hopeful that a potential quick payoff is on the way.
The Current Regulations & Proposed Changes
As it stands, the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) currently offers only this generic “malt whisky” category:
Whisky produced at not exceeding 80% alcohol by volume (160 proof) from a fermented mash of not less than 51 percent malted barley and stored at not more than 62.5% alcohol by volume (125 proof) in charred new oak containers.
The first problem is that the definition includes multiple categories of scotch equivalents. An American malt whisky as defined could be equated to either a scotch single malt or a scotch single grain with a mashbill of at least 51 percent malted barley.
Looming even larger for Hofmann is the statement on new barrels. “I think that’s the biggest problem right now with the current malt whisky definition,” he says. “It’s in the spirit of things to use used barrels, that’s how it’s done in Scotland and most [American] single malt producers are doing that. And even though a lot of them are using new oak as well, including us, we want the ability to use used oak barrels.”
American producers are looking to walk a more traditional path there, while elsewhere they want to retain certain key differences. At the top of that list is the ability to use column stills as opposed to pot still production alone, and while more of a formality, also retaining the American standard maximum distillation and barreling proofs of 160 and 125, respectively.
“We don’t want to limit innovation because that’s one of the great strengths of American single malts going forward,” explains Hofmann. “But there are certain things you need to protect.”
Rather than changing the malt whisky definition, they’re seeking the creation of a separate American single malt whiskey definition:
- Made in the United States at a single distillery
- 100 percent malted barley mashbill
- Must be aged in either new or used barrels
- 160 proof maximum distillation strength from either pot or column stills; 125 proof maximum barreling strength
Upcoming TTB Commenting Period Could Provide Swift Resolution
After a successful American single malt summit established the groundwork for an agreed upon definition, it was time for the next step. In early June, a cohort from the ACSA—including Hofmann, who’s newly elected to its board of directors—traveled to Washington, D.C. with the creation of the American single malt category one of a number of issues to discuss with the TTB.
“I think the ACSA’s role is to work with all of our members to help build all of us up,” says Hletko. “I think one of the things that we can do to work with all of our members is to specify and have special categories created. It kind of comes to us to be leaders in the industry to drive this consumer acceptance forward and to bring it out as a category.”
What wasn’t known when the summit was planned was that the TTB was preparing to open up a rare 120-day public commenting period for much of their coding and regulation.
“We started doing this with no understanding that [the commenting period] was going to happen,” says a laughing Hofmann. “It just happened to be really good timing. There are probably other routes of going in and doing it but that would probably cost more money than we have to spend quite frankly. So this is a right place, right time situation for us.”
The commenting period should open within a few months, after which the TTB will circle its wagons and offer its recommendations. With the blessing of dozens of American single malt producers, there shouldn’t be much standing in the way. Hofmann hopes that within a year he’ll be slapping “American single malt whiskey” on his Westland labels.
“So now it’s spreading that message to hopefully be able to get the 40 distilleries making American single malt total and get them on board with the definition as well,” says Hofmann. “One, because it’s more powerful to go to the TTB with 40 distilleries instead of ten, but two because we also want to make sure it represents what everybody thinks American single malt whiskey should be.”
The other factor that should help spur the TTB into action is the current reigning state of confusion. That isn’t good for anybody, from the TTB to the distilleries, and from the retail storefront to the bar owner.
“Part of the reason why we’re doing this is to protect the category and educate the consumer and give some sort of guidance,” says Hofmann. “Yea, it’s difficult for us, but it’s also difficult for the consumer and it’s difficult for the retailer. It stinks to have something where you don’t know where to put it. If you know where to put it and how to sell it, everything becomes much more streamlined for them.”
That’s why, should the category gain approval, the main focus will shift toward ongoing education. “We talked about doing things at WhiskyFest, like we’ll set up our booths next to each other,” says Hofmann. “We’d love to do a panel discussion at a WhiskyFest, and put four or five American single malts in front of people. Things like that that are consumer facing and get people an understanding of what it is that we’re trying to do.”
As far as potential opposition, whether it’s from the bourbon big boys or potentially Scotch whisky producers, Hofmann realizes it’s a possibility but hopes it’s not the case. “It’s possible, I haven’t heard anything official, just rumors of rumors,” he said. “So we’ll see. And we’ll fight that battle when we get to it.”
In an upcoming issue of Whisky Advocate, you’ll read about some great bourbon-related barbecue dishes, including mains, sides, and sauces. One thing I learned while writing the story is I need to start barbecuing more with the good stuff. So, I went to Louisville pit master Michael Mack, whose barbecue I eat every week at a farmer’s market, and asked for a bourbon-barbecue recipe.
At a glance, the recipe is a lot more work than I’m accustomed to and I only have basic Weber charcoal and propane grills. I lack the mounted-on-a-trailer smoker Mack uses. For my grilling weakness, I recruited Saint Louis-based amateur pit coach Eammon Azizi, whose weekly Twitter grilling photos have led to me salivating many times.
Barbecuing with bourbon comes in forms of marinades, wood soaks, sauces, and a splash here and there. I rubbed a nearly 18-pound brisket with Mack’s rub (recipe below) and added half a bottle of Maker’s 46 to the pan, letting the bourbon and spices saturate the meat. I covered it with foil and put it in the refrigerator overnight. The next morning, I sliced it into thirds. I cooked one third in the oven, another over coals and bourbon-soaked hickory, and the final third on a gas grill with a bourbon mop sauce (recipe below). My goal was to see which version of barbecuing offered the best bourbon flavor. Each portion of the brisket had the same rub and bourbon soak.
Mack’s rub recommendation:
Rinse the brisket with water then score the fat side like a checker board.
Season both sides liberally with Lawry’s Seasoned Salt, Grill Mates Montreal Steak seasoning, Grill Mates Brown Sugar Bourbon seasoning, and Trade East Classic BBQ Dry Rub.
Place in a pan and cover with aluminum foil for 4 hours or overnight.
I took the basic 1/3 of the Brisket and placed it in the oven, set to 350 degrees and cooked for four hours. Honestly, I’ve never cooked brisket in the oven before, so this was probably the most challenging. I kept going to the oven, looking in. Is it too hot? Cooking too quickly? But since so many of us face homeowner associations that ban grills or live in apartments, I really wanted to give the oven a shot.
I soaked hickory chips in 750 ml. of Old Forester Signature and water overnight then let them dry. When the charcoals were hot, I placed the bourbon hickory chips on top for flavor. I put a pan of water next to the coals and wood, placed the marinated brisket on the rack above the water, then smoked it at around 250 degrees.
If you’ve never tried to control temperature on a basic grill, it’s a great way to frustrate yourself. It went from 106 degrees to 320 with a mere quarter inch move of the top vent. I probably should invest in a smoker.
Fortunately, the coals and chips smoked the brisket to a dark black color, crisping the fat and cooking the insides. I pulled the meat after four hours, placed it in a brown-sugar rubbed aluminum pan, rubbed brown sugar on the brisket, added a cup of Maker’s 46, covered it, and stuck it in a 200 degree oven for eight hours. “The fat from the brisket, the spices, the brown sugar, and the bourbon will create a very tasty au jus, that is incredible,” Mack told me.
The Gas Grill
I placed the brisket in an aluminum pan and inside the gas grill with the temperature set at 250, where it would cook for 6-8 hours, until the internal meat reached 190 degrees.
With the gas grill method, since I used a pan for cleanliness, it was really no different than using an oven. So, every two hours, I brushed and drenched the mop sauce onto the meat. This aroma offered a competitive smell to the bourbon-soaked hickory smoking nearby.
Mop Sauce recipe:
Bourbon SOP from The Barbecue Lover’s Big Book of BBQ Sauces (Harvard Common Press)
Makes about 3 cups
1 1/2 cups inexpensive bourbon or other whiskey
1⁄2 cup white vinegar
1⁄2 cup water
1⁄4 cup vegetable oil
1⁄2 medium onion, chopped
1 Tbsp. steak sauce, such as A.1. Original
1 tsp. kosher salt or coarse sea salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper
Combine all of the ingredients in a saucepan.
Heat the mop sauce before you plan to use it initially and keep it warm over low heat between bastes. Apply to the meat about once an hour.
Each style maintained the bourbon flavor. I was pleasantly surprised by how well the Maker’s 46 held up in each dish. I’d like to tell you I had a reason for using Maker’s 46, but it just happened to be sitting by the olive oil in the kitchen. Lucky me, I suppose.
The Oven – This was really a simple taste. Juicy brisket, seasoning, and a hint of bourbon. In a pinch, I’d make this again, but I would certainly go with the grill if available.
The Wood – I was so happy with how this turned out. Although I didn’t achieve the smoke ring and it was slightly dry, the brisket was so rich with hickory and bourbon flavor I couldn’t believe it. The au jus was tangy, caramelly, and spicy. But I’m sure this dish would have been much better with a controlled temperature.
The Gas Grill – This was the juiciest, most tender, and perfectly cooked of the three. I think the constant temperature had something to do with this. The mop sauce also added an entirely new flavor profile with some savory onions.
My Favorite – The wood grilled! Look, bourbon is great for brisket, but I want to taste smoked flavor. It’s hard to beat a rich hickory taste. I paired it with Four Roses Single Barrel, and oh boy, I was in heaven. Four Roses’ spiciness cut through the brisket’s fat and complemented the au jus. As Mack said, it was incredible.
With it being the July 4th weekend, many will be barbecuing. Share your recipes in the comment section. Maybe I’ll test yours out on a new grill.
We have exciting news to share with everyone. Effective August 1st, Jeffery Lindenmuth will be joining Whisky Advocate full-time as Executive Editor, working directly with me. Jeffery has nearly 20 years of writing experience within the M. Shanken Communications organization, including Whisky Advocate, Wine Spectator, Food Arts, and various special projects. He has also written for many other drinks publications (and major circulation magazines) over this timespan.
Specific to Whisky Advocate, Jeffery has been with us from the beginning; he was actually the magazine’s first designer and art director back in the 1990s. He’s since become an excellent drinks writer and has, for the most part, traveled across the entire globe learning and writing about alcoholic beverages. He has appeared regularly in Whisky Advocate, including in our current issue with his article on summer whisky cocktails.
Jeffery’s broad drinks background, creative instinct, great reputation in the drinks industry, and excellent writing skills will help take the magazine to the next level and foster its growth. He will also be instrumental in growing the other Whisky Advocate platforms (WhiskyNotes, the Whisky Advocate blog, the Whisky Advocate website, social media, etc.). In addition to being involved in the creative aspect of the magazine’s editorial future, beginning with our upcoming fall issue, he will also be writing a whisky cocktail column for us and reviewing whiskies in our buying guide. (I’ve already read his cocktail column. You’re going to love it!)
Welcome aboard, Jeffery!
Editor and Publisher
Michter’s announced that they will not be releasing their Toasted Barrel bourbon in 2016. In a press release issued today they indicated a shortage of bourbon as the reason. Michter’s distillery president, Joseph J. Magliocco, stated that it was a difficult decision to make, but necessary, “The problem is every drop of our Toasted Barrel Bourbon that we release this year is one less drop of our Michter’s US*1 Bourbon that we have to allocate to our distributors and importers.”
Expansion is underway at Michter’s distillery to remedy the shortage. The current capacity of the Louisville, Ky. facility is 500,000 proof gallons per year. When operations resume in August, after a maintenance shutdown period, the capacity will be doubled to 1,000,000 proof gallons per year.
Read the full details here.
In 2014 Buffalo Trace distillery purchased 293 acres of farmland adjacent to the distillery property for construction of additional barrel warehouses. While awaiting construction permits corn was planted on 18 acres of the property with the idea of creating a, “farm to table “single estate” bourbon experience,” according to the press release. See the full details below.
BUFFALO TRACE DISTILLERY DISTILLS FIRST CORN CROP FOR FARM TO TABLE BOURBON
Second Year of Corn – A New Variety – Planted
FRANKFORT, FRANKLIN COUNTY, KY (June 23, 2016) A little over a year ago, Buffalo Trace Distillery quietly purchased an additional 293 acres of farm land adjacent to the Distillery, with the intention of building more barrel warehouses to meet the growing demands of bourbon. In the meantime while permits were being secured for the new construction, Buffalo Trace decided it would be “fun” to plant its own corn, with an idea of creating its own farm to table “single estate” bourbon experience.
But it couldn’t be just any corn that was planted, the Distillery wanted to plant something that had historical meaning to this 243-year-old National Historic Landmark. Research began, and soon a strain was identified that dated back to 1876, around the same time E. H. Taylor, Jr. was making his mark on Buffalo Trace. The strain originated from a White Mastodon variety and through selection techniques in isolation it became “Boone County White,” after a farmer named James Riley coined the name. Coincidentally, Harlen Wheatley, Master Distiller at Buffalo Trace, was born in Boone County, Ky., making that strain even more fitting.
After planting 18 acres of the non-GMO white corn in the summer of 2015, Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley and his team eagerly watched the corn sprout up and begin to grow, and grow, and grow! And harvest time, the stalks were well over 12 feet tall! The corn was harvested in August of last year and the grain was processed to be dried. After drying all winter, the corn was fermented and distilled at Buffalo Trace on May 31, 2016. All told, 117 barrels of the Boone County White Corn variety were distilled and are now aging in Buffalo Trace’s warehouses, to be taste tested periodically over the next few years to check on progress, and then eventually released, provided the taste profile is up to Buffalo Trace’s rigorous standards.
Now, in 2016, the cycle is beginning again, with Buffalo Trace planting its second year of non-GMO corn, this time Japonica Striped Corn, a strain originally from Japan and dating back to the 1890s. This variety will have variegated leaves of green, white, yellow and pink stripes with dark purple tassels and burgundy kernels. Typically used as an ornamental corn, this variety will be a true experiment to see how it tastes once fermented and distilled next year! In addition to both the Boone County and Japonica Striped corn being from E. H. Taylor, Jr.’s era, both are dent corn varieties, which have a high starch content and are ideal for distilling, unlike traditional sweet corn one might see in the grocery store. Buffalo Trace uses a different variety of dent corn in the distillation of the rest of the bourbons in its portfolio.
Buffalo Trace Distillery intends to plant a different variety of corn each year at its farm so each year in the future there will be a unique release. Name, age or price of this future bourbon has not yet been determined.
As reported in Whisky Advocate magazine’s summer 2016 issue, Lagavulin distillery is celebrating its 200th anniversary this year. As a tribute to the distillery managers throughout Lagavulin’s history, Diageo announced today the upcoming release of a sherry cask matured Lagavulin 25 year old. It is a limited edition cask strength bottling. Only 8,000 bottles produced, 1,200 of which will be released in the U.S. in early fall. It has a suggested retail price of $1,200.00 per 750 ml. See the press release included below for further details.
Lagavulin™ Releases 25 Year Old Limited Edition Bottling
to Honour 200 Years of Distillery Managers
2016 continues to be a year of celebration for Lagavulin as the Iconic Islay distillery marks its 200th anniversary with a limited edition release. This Lagavulin 25 Year Old release is a recognition of the contribution the Lagavulin distillery managers have made in crafting Lagavulin across the years. Lagavulin is treasured around the world as one of the most special Single Malt Scotch Whiskies and this is the first 25 Year Old release to be matured exclusively in sherry casks.
200 years ago, John Johnston & Archibald Campbell oversaw the first new make spirit distilled. Since that day the distillery managers have carried on the Lagavulin legacy, creating an acclaimed spirit on the shores of the Isle.
Georgie Crawford, distillery manager at the Lagavulin distillery said: “For two centuries, Lagavulin has been crafted through the hands of hard working Islay residents; from peat cutters to warehousemen; the characters that make Lagavulin what it is today share a passion for producing an award winning Islay dram, and I am proud to say that I am part of this passionate group of people.”
This 25 Year Old is an ode to the many craftsmen and immense skill behind making Lagavulin whisky. With the typical peaty, rich and iconic flavours of Lagavulin, this special bottling follows the earlier release of Lagavulin 8 Year Old this year, which marked the start of the #Lagavulin200 anniversary celebrations.
Dr Nick Morgan, Diageo’s Head of Whisky Outreach adds: “To continue this special birthday we wanted to release a brand new bottling to Lagavulin enthusiasts worldwide. The 25 Year Old is a sublime expression of Lagavulin, I couldn’t think of a better way to pay homage to the distillery managers. This year our aim is to bring as many people to Islay and Islay to as many people from around the globe as possible to celebrate years of craft and passion.”
Cramped and chaotic by nature, this sea front distillery can never be expanded and therefore demand often exceeds supply. Bottled at natural cask strength and with only 8,000 individually numbered bottles worldwide (1,200 bottles in the US), this extremely limited edition will become a beautiful collector’s item that will rest comfortably on any whisky connoisseur or collectors’ cabinet around the world.
Brown Forman announced the release of Woodford Reserve Five Malt, the latest expression in Woodford’s Distillery Series. Five Malt is distilled from a malt mash, aged in used Double Oaked barrels for 6 months, and bottled at 45.2%. It is available for purchase at Woodford Reserve distillery and select Kentucky retailers with a suggested retail price of $50/375 ml. See the press release included below for details.
Woodford Reserve Releases Latest Distillery Series Expression: Five Malt
Whiskey distilled from malt mash showcases continued innovation
LOUISVILLE, Ky., June 14, 2016 /PRNewswire/ — Woodford Reserve unveils the most recent release in its Distillery Series family, Five Malt. The Distillery Series, introduced in 2015, is Woodford Reserve’s line of creative expressions available for purchase at the Woodford Reserve Distillery and select Kentucky retailers. This series highlights Woodford Reserve’s ongoing dedication to innovation and craftsmanship as a leader in the spirits industry.
Following the previous Distillery Series releases, Five Malt involves the same level of ingenuity. Crafted to align with Woodford Reserve’s creativity and dexterity, Master Distiller Chris Morris has perfected Five Malt to be a one of a kind whiskey that tastes and smells unique from the initial Distillery Series releases.
Inspired by the popularity of micro-breweries to explore malted grains typically used for beers when crafting whiskey, Five Malt’s distinctive flavor profile is established within the grain recipe and aging process. To obtain the desired sensory elements, minimum wood exposure is required. Five Malt is a whiskey distilled from malt mash then aged in recycled Double Oaked barrels for a span of six months resulting in warming malt notes with a coffee flavored finish.
“Five Malt is another great example of flavor-focused innovation practiced at the Woodford Reserve Distillery. We take pride in our ability to create unique types of whiskey above and beyond expressions most commonly seen on shelves,” said Woodford Reserve Master Distiller Chris Morris.
Five Malt is available for purchase beginning June 16 at the Woodford Reserve Distillery and select retailers in Kentucky. Five Malt is presented at 90.4 proof with a suggested retail price of $49.99 for a 375ml bottle. The Distillery Series expressions are small-batch offerings ranging from finished whiskies to straight bourbons and other unique spirits.
Tasting Notes for Five Malt
Color: Pale Honey
Aroma: Rich malty coffee, caramel and chocolate notes lightly spiced with anise.
Taste: Toasted malt with traces of coffee, caramel, vanilla and soft oak explode with a burst of honeycomb sweetness.
Finish: Long warming malt notes with a hint of coffee linger on.
A Tennessee-only bottling, George Dickel 17 year old, will be available this month at select retailers and the George Dickel Cascade Hollow distillery’s visitor center in Tullahoma. It’s bottled at 43.5% with a mashbill consistent with Dickel No. 8 and No. 12: 84% corn, 8% rye, and 8% malted barley. Dickel 17 year old is a limited release and carries a suggested retail price of $75.00.
See the press release for further details.
Suntory’s newest release, Toki, will be available in the U.S. this month. Toki is a blend from Suntory’s Hakushu, Yamazaki, and Chita Distilleries. Malts from Yamazaki are typically prominent in Suntory’s blends. In the case of Toki, grain from Chita has a stronger presence, making this a unique expression for the brand. Toki is bottled at 43% and has a suggested retail price is $40.00.
See the press release for further details.
No modern distillery has influenced more American brands than the current MGP Ingredients distillery in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, which won last year’s Whisky Advocate Distillery of the Year award. They have provided whiskey to dozens of brands, ranging from Bulleit Rye to Templeton. All the while, some of the non-distiller producers (NDPs) were creating questionable marketing around the Lawrenceburg whiskey, often neglecting to include the required state-of-distillation on labels. But as indicated in our 2013 coverage, lost in the marketing backstories was master distiller Greg Metze and the whiskey.
Metze recently announced his retirement after a 38-year career at the distillery spanning ownership under Seagram, Pernod-Ricard, Lawrenceburg Distillers Indiana (LDI), and MGP. Unlike most heralded master distillers, Metze was not involved in product marketing. But Metze tells us his career is anything but over.
You’ve had a long career. What was the highlight?
The four years under LDI, that was the most challenging of my entire career. We started absolutely from scratch. When Pernod left (in 2007), they took every file. When people showed up a week later, I had a room full of operators wanting to know what we’re going to do next. I never knew, but I never let them know that. Pernod’s last day was a Friday and LDI’s first day was a Monday. LDI was like being part of a family business; we got no financial support from Trinidad (headquarters of parent company CL Financial), the plant had to stand on its own. Unfortunately, they got tied up in economic crisis. That whole transition period was the most gratifying of my career.
Since you were so fond of LDI, how did you feel about MGP becoming the plant’s owner?
It was good from many perspectives. MGP injected money into the plant and upgraded a lot of the vintage equipment.
They also put your face on Metze’s Select.
That was very rewarding. I have to thank them on many fronts for the exposure they gave me. But over the 38 years at the facility, I’ve done all I can do there, and it’s time to move on.
Your whiskey won a lot of awards and made other so-called master distillers famous. Did it bother you somebody else received credit for your whiskey?
No, not at all. People tell me I’m humble to a fault. I always got gratification knowing we produced some of the best whiskey in the world. The notoriety I got with MGP was fun, but I don’t need the notoriety. Everybody in the industry knew where the whiskey came from, and that was recognition enough. I took more pride in running the facility.
Speaking of running Lawrenceburg, I recall you mentioning your barrel involvement was minimal. Kentucky distillers typically have a say in aging, but you really didn’t. Can you elaborate on your role with aging whiskey?
The Lawrenceburg plant always had [separate] warehouse and production departments. My responsibilities ended when the [distillate] went to tanks, where warehouse begins. We brought in grain, mashed it, fermented it, and distilled it. Our quality panel, including myself and Pam Soule, would evaluate distillate every day and give a quality rating. We approved or disapproved for barreling. Once approved, it was transferred to barreling. If it was rejected, it was redistilled for neutral grain spirit. We never put away whiskey we didn’t think was worthy.
So, what are you up to now?
I started my own consulting firm. I have two clients. [He kept the clients confidential.] This has been in the works for five years now. Originally, it was laying the foundation for retirement.
What kind of consulting?
A mix of everything [for distillers]. I can help with grain purchasing, all current distillery operations, selecting/setting up new equipment, commissioning a new facility, training personnel.
Is there a type of project you wouldn’t do?
I would entertain anything. My only fear is over-committing.
Would you help make vodka?
One of the things I’m blessed with is that I’m extremely versatile because I made high-quality vodkas, gins, whiskeys, and batch light whiskeys. My portfolio is broader than most.
One of the areas you’ve been fairly insulated from is marketing. Are you prepared for consumer-facing marketing?
I would not rule that out—hanging with whiskey geeks on social media. It’s gonna be exciting.