Archive for the ‘Tasmanian whisky’ Category

Suntory Bids For Beam

Monday, January 13th, 2014

Author - Lew Bryson

It was revealed today that Beam, the all-spirits company spun off by Fortune Brands in 2011, has agreed to be acquired by Suntory for $13.62 billion, upon approval from Beam Inc. shareholders. Suntory already distributes Beam’s products in Japan, and Beam distributes Suntory’s products in several other Asian markets. The deal is targeted for completion in the second quarter of 2014.

Given numbers from the Impact Databank, the deal will make Suntory the world’s fourth-largest spirits company, behind Diageo, India’s United Spirits Limited, and Pernod Ricard; Bacardi will now be fifth. By dollar amount, this is a bigger deal than the Fortune Brands/Pernod takeover of Allied Domecq in 2005.

Assuming the deal goes through, this will put a lot of new whiskeys under Suntory’s roof. In addition to their own Suntory, Yamazaki, and Hakushu brands, and Scottish brands Bowmore, Auchentoshan, Glen Garioch, and McClelland’s, they will now own all the associated Jim Beam brands, Maker’s Mark, Canadian Club, Laphroaig, Ardmore, Teacher’s, Alberta Distillers, Cooley, and the Spanish DYC brand. They’ll also own the still-growing Pinnacle flavored vodkas, Courvoisier cognac, Sauza and Hornitos tequilas, Gilbey’s, and Skinnygirl cocktails.

What’s this mean to you, the whiskey drinker? Probably not much. Beam CEO Matt Shattock and the current management team will be left in place to run the business. Bourbon, Irish, Canadian, and Scotch whisky are all growing strongly. Given Suntory’s record with Morrison Bowmore, it seems unlikely that they’d change anything with their new acquisitions. Should we worry about Suntory owning both Bowmore and Laphroaig, and possibly closing one Islay distillery as unwelcome internal competition? Not for now, when both are selling well, though it may become a factor if there’s a downturn; but in that case, everything is going to be in play anyway.

The deal will increase Suntory’s debt load considerably; Moody’s Investors Service indicated that they would be evaluating the company for a re-grading in light of it. Should we worry about prices going up to cover the debt? Realistically, at this point in the whisky market…would we notice?

This was a sale that everyone interested in the industry had been expecting, at least on the “Beam sold” end. As a purely spirits company that was neither family-owned nor large enough to fend off purchasers, Beam was widely considered as a very likely takeover target. The “Suntory acquired” part was more of a surprise, in that one company is swallowing them whole. That’s the only potential downside; that a richer purchaser might have been able to put more into the new brands than Suntory will, but that’s all speculation.

In the end, it looks like a ‘move along, nothing to see here’ moment. Just another swapping in the game that has gone on for decades. Suntory has a good track record; rest easy. We might even see more Suntory whiskies in the world market.

Meanwhile, in a much, much smaller deal that was also announced today, two Tasmanian distilleries are merging. Lark distillery will acquire Old Hobart distillery and the Overeem brand. Both companies will remain as separate brands and entities, Overeem becoming a wholly owned subsidiary of Lark. Perhaps more importantly, Bill Lark will be reducing his time at the distillery and becoming the Lark global brand ambassador, and Casey Overeem will be doing the same. We’ll wait to see if this means more Tasmanian whisky in America.

More new whiskies, and some disappointments

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

As you may have noticed, recently I’ve been trying to post regularly on new releases I hear about and offer my informal thoughts on review samples I receive. Do you find this valuable to you? If so, I’ll try to keep doing it on a regular pace (depending on my schedule).

Kilchoman Sherry Cask release

This is the first 100% sherry cask matured release from Kilchoman. My press release says the whisky is aged for 5 years, the box the whisky came in states 4.5 years, and the bottle has no age statement. 6,000 bottles were produced, of which 600 are destined for the U.S. and will set you back about $75.

Regarding the type of wood aging, my favorite Kilchoman releases to date are the ones where there’s a combination of both sherry cask and bourbon barrel aging. (Spring 2011 comes to mind.) My pick after that would be some of the ones aged entirely in bourbon barrels. This sherry cask matured release, is one of my least favorites. I was eagerly awaiting to try it. Now that I have, I must admit I wish there wasn’t so much sherry. Some of you reading this who love sherried Islay whiskies might disagree with me, but that’s I feel about it.

Parker’s Heritage Collection bourbon (2012 release) coming soon!

This year’s edition of Parker’s Heritage Collection whiskey, which is being released to the general public in the Fall, will be a marriage of two bourbon formulas: a wheated bourbon and a rye bourbon. It essentially bourbon made from four grains. (The other two grains being, of course, corn and malted barley.)

Straight from Heaven Hill:

The 2012 release will feature select barrels of 11 year old Heaven Hill rye-based Bourbons, used for such renown brands as Elijah Craig and Evan Williams, mingled with select barrels of the wheated mashbill Heaven Hill uses for the Old Fitzgerald line, also aged for 11 years. Bottled at cask strength, this bottling showcases not only the individual whiskeys, but also the skill of the Master Distiller in selecting and marrying them together in the right proportions.

The rye-based Bourbon was pulled from the 4th floor of Rickhouse “R” in Bardstown, while the wheated Bourbon aged on the topmost 7th floor of nearby Rickhouse “T”. Like previous Parker’s Heritage Collection releases, the “Master Distiller’s Blend of Mashbills” will not be chill-filtered as is the custom for many Bourbon brands, thereby helping to maintain the natural esters and compounds which provide a rich texture and mouthfeel. The release will comprise of 3 “dumps”, with each having a slightly different barrel proof.

I’m looking forward to trying this one! Price: $80

Balvenie DoubleWood 17 Year Old

Coming to the U.S. this October is an older expression of the long-established and popular 12 year old DoubleWood. It’s aged in American Oak casks and then transferred to European Oak sherry casks. It’s bottled at 43% and will retail for $130.

Sullivan’s Cove Tasmanian whisky: good news and bad news

First the good news. This whisky is now being imported to the U.S. There will be three different expressions: an American Oak Single Cask ($165), a French Oak Single Cask ($165), and a Double Cask bottling of bourbon and port oak ($100). The single cask bottlings are 11 years old and bottled at 47.5%, while the third one doesn’t have an age statement and is bottled at 40%.

Now the bad news. These whiskies are not setting my world on fire–especially given the hype. There seems to be a subtle note in them that is a bit off. (Or maybe its some sort of house character?) And the flavors don’t integrate as much as I would like them to. If I were to rate these, my rating on these would be in the low 80s, with maybe a notch higher for the French Oak Finish. I guess what I’m saying is that nothing is inspiring me here.

Having said this, Dominic Roskrow and Dave Broom has reviewed two other expressions previously for Whisky Advocate and rated them in the mid-80s. So, maybe you will like these better than I do? But for $165, I think your money can be better spent elsewhere.

High West American Prairie Reserve Bourbon

High West is at it again, with this new blend of two different bourbons: a six year old and a ten year old. It can be purchased at the High West General Store for $40. Ten percent of the after tax profits are being donated to the American Prairie Reserve in Montana.

Buffalo Trace releases Round Six of their Single Oak bourbon project

Here are the particulars, straight from the press release I received on Wednesday:

Buffalo Trace Distillery launches its sixth round of Single Oak Project Bourbons, known as the 105 Proof Warehouse L Release.

As the moniker indicates, all the bourbons in this release were aged in Warehouse L and entered into the barrel at 105 proof. This allows this release to focus on three other variables, the recipe, rye vs. wheat; the char level, a number three vs. a number four char; and wood grain size, tight, average, or coarse. All of the other variables such as stave seasoning, aging warehouse, entry proof, and tree cut (top or bottom) remain constant.

Warehouse L is considered by many to be the best all-around aging warehouse at Buffalo Trace Distillery. Longtime Warehouse operations Manager Leonard Riddle proudly defends Warehouse L as his favorite; the Distillery even dedicated this warehouse to Leonard in 2011. This brick warehouse with five concrete floors and concrete walls create a very concentrated aging environment.

But the most exciting part of this sixth release to Buffalo Trace’s Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley is hearing what people think about the 105 entry proof, since entry proof has always been a hot button amongst Master Distillers. “We experimented with many variables and tried to use the most profound. Entry proof is one that has been debated for decades and we are able to offer to the public different variables to get a good look at how it affects flavor.”

Miscellaneous whisky news

Friday, 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.

Coming in May: daily whisky reviews

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

The Summer issue of Malt Advocate will be out June 1st. (It will be our 20th Anniversary issue!) In it, we have a record number of whisky reviews too: almost 90! Nearly all are new releases.

I’m going to share with you a sampling of these reviews before they are published in Malt Advocate. (It’s my way of saying “thank you” for taking time out of your busy schedule to check in here.) I’ll post up at least one new review every day for the entire month (including weekends).

Stay tuned…

New whiskies heading to the U.S.

Friday, March 11th, 2011

For all of my United States readers, I thought you might like to know that there’s a bunch of new whiskies heading our way. I listed them below.

(I apologize in advance for not knowing the answers to the questions you are going to ask, like: When is it coming? Where will it be available? How much is it going to cost? With any luck, the importers will chime in here.)

For those of you coming to WhiskyFest Chicago in April, some of these whiskies will be poured there. You can find the complete WhiskyFest list here.

The new whiskies

Armorik Breton whisky (from Brittany)

Lark (from Tasmania): Single Cask, Cask Strength, Distillers Selection Single Cask

Samaroli (from Scotland): a bunch of them!

Tomatin “Decades”

Glen Garioch 1991 Vintage (extra smoky!)

Ardmore 10 year old Cask Strength

Glenmorangie Pride 1981 Vintage

Bruichladdich: “Laddie Classic”, Port Charlotte “An Turas Mor”

Michael Collins 10 year old Irish single malt

Plus something new from Dalmore (shhh!)

Sullivan’s Cove whisky coming to the U.S.

Sunday, April 12th, 2009

The people who will be bringing in Amrut Indian whisky to the U.S. will also be importing Sullivan’s Cove whisky. Sullivan’s cove is Tasmanian whisky, distilled  in a copper pot still.

The rep that I spoke with told me that new owners took over the distillery in 2001. The sample I tasted was about 7 years old and was matured in both port and bourbon casks. He also told me that there will be individual bottlings of port or bourbon.

Expect to see the whisky in the U.S. sometime around Labor day.