Bourbon Classic Weekend- Your Guide for 2018

 

Now a staple on the bourbon enthusiast’s calendar, Bourbon Classic returns for its sixth year of uniting the bourbon and culinary worlds in Louisville, Kentucky. The 2018 events will take place Feburary 28 – March 3, 2018. This is an event that transcends your run-of-the-mill whiskey tasting and, whether it’s your first or fifth time, the team behind the Classic keeps this event fresh and current.

Will you have a chance to meet master distillers? Yes. Will you get to taste fantastic bourbons? Absolutely. Will you eat like a king? Definitely. Continue reading Bourbon Classic Weekend- Your Guide for 2018

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Hard to Swallow

So, Diageo is up to its dirty tricks again… After a failed attempt to lessen the definition of Tennessee whiskey, they’ve put out a Canadian “bourbon mash” whiskey (already discontinued), and now they’re attacking the standards of Scotch whisky with a secret task force. Scotch! Is nothing sacred to this company?

Here again, Diageo defends itself with “taking up for the little guys,” citing stifling innovation as the motivation for their actions. This thinly veiled excuse didn’t work in Tennessee and it doesn’t look like the Scotch Whisky Association is having it either.

 

Secret documents outline effort by Diageo to buck long-held distilling traditions, prompting stiff opposition.

Source: If You’re a Purist About Scotch Whisky, You Might Find This Hard to Swallow – WSJ

If you can’t open the link-

LONDON—Here’s a neat story.

The documents involved are top secret. They detail a plot by a multinational company to challenge hundreds of years of tradition. Some find the suggestions so hard to swallow they are warning of rebellion.

Scotch barrel

The making of Scotch whisky has long followed a precise formula enshrined in law and precedent. Scotch must be distilled in Scotland from water and malted barley and aged in the country at least three years in oak casks. It should come out at least 40% alcohol by volume.

Now Diageo PLC, the world’s single biggest producer, wants to water down some of those rules, part of its attempt to arrest Scotch’s declining market share. Last year, it formed a secret task force to explore ways to change some industry rules about how Scotch must be made.

One idea was to finish aging Scotch in old tequila barrels instead of the sherry, cognac or port casks traditionally used. Another was to create a “Scotch whisky infusion,” a new category of flavored or low-alcohol blends sold under existing Scotch brands.

Diageo’s efforts to win over the Scotch Whisky Association, which lays down rules for distilling the spirit—at least on its tequila-barrel idea—are already on the rocks.

“There is not a single chance of a change of the rules,” says Gavin Hewitt, a former British diplomat and onetime chief executive of the SWA. “Whoever is saying that is talking through a complete hole in their head.”

The company, which makes Scotch brands such as Johnnie Walker, J&B and Talisker, and controls about 40% of the world’s production, triggered an outcry once before in Scotland, which, not surprisingly, takes its Scotch seriously. In 2003, Diageo slapped the name of one of its single-malt Scotches onto a blended Scotch. Diageo called it a “pure malt.” The SWA called it deceptive marketing.

Gavin Hewitt, then chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association, at an event in Virginia in 2012.
Gavin Hewitt, then chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association, at an event in Virginia in 2012. Photo: Mary Ann Anderson/TNS/ZUMA PRESS

 

A Scottish member of Parliament went so far as to ask then-Prime Minister Tony Blair to intervene in the “ongoing crisis.” Mr. Blair said he would “look into it.” Diageo eventually pulled the product from shelves.

Diageo didn’t set out last year to make trouble. It merely wanted to make Scotch tempting to more drinkers.

Ten years ago, Scotch made up about 60% of the world’s whiskey market, excluding a category called “other whiskeys” that consists mainly of domestic Indian whiskey, according to according industry tracker IWSR. Last year it made up 49%. The share of U.S. whiskey has grown from 19% to almost 25% over that period.

The mission of the Diageo task force, according to a document labeled “highly confidential” reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, is to explore “whether potential regulatory, technical, legal or other barriers are constraining” Scotch, and “the scope for reform.”

Drying Up

Scotch watchers say Diageo will face stiff opposition to any rule changes—something its task force acknowledges in the documents. One of the biggest obstacles is the SWA, an Edinburgh-based trade body that has long interpreted the rules and policed Scotch making.

The SWA “is a big old business that’s funded extensively through all the old whisky producers,” says Dan Jago, head of London-based Berry Bros. & Rudd, a 320-year-old wine and spirits merchant. “Anyone trying to change the rules would be fighting against the general view that it’s better to protect Scotch than expand it.”

Alan Park, the SWA’s legal-affairs director, says producers are free to innovate however they like, but “no consumer should be misled into thinking it’s Scotch when it’s not.”

Diageo said in a written statement that it works with the SWA on ideas that “seek to strike a balance between tradition and innovation.”

The first written reference to Scotch appeared in 1494, when a Friar John Cor showed up in tax records listing “eight bolls of malt, wherewith to make aqua vitae,” the water of life, according to the SWA.

Since its founding in 1912, the SWA has played a big role shaping what the country’s roughly 100 Scotch distillers can and can’t do.

The association was instrumental in writing what eventually became the Scotch Whisky Regulations of 2009, a British law that lays out parameters for Scotch production. European Union rules regulating spirits also apply.

Some of the rules are murky, and the association publishes guidelines to interpret them. It also gives advice, and approves or declines requests by distillers to try new approaches. It can’t levy fines, but does warns distillers if they are breaking the law. It has filed suit against some it said were threatening the industry’s reputation.

One of the most contested topics is finishing, which involves moving aged Scotch from its original cask to a second barrel. U.K. and EU laws don’t stipulate what kinds of casks can be used for finishing.

During the past two years, Diageo executives approached the SWA’s Mr. Park about using its Don Julio tequila casks to finish some of its Scotch, according to a person familiar with the matter. Mr. Park said no, this person says.

“Scotch whisky has a certain reputation attached to it based on traditional practices,” says Mr. Park, who declined to comment on specific conversations with companies. “That provides the framework in which we have to operate.”

After being rebuffed, Diageo’s task force recommended challenging “the SWA’s overreach,” according to one Diageo document.

Some distillers sympathize with Diageo. Paul Miller, owner of St. Andrews-based Eden Mill Distillery & Brewery, asked the SWA in 2016 to allow him to use chocolate malt to make his Scotch.

The Eden Mill Distillery in St. Andrews, Scotland, asked the Scotch Whisky Association in 2016 to allow it to use chocolate malt to make its Scotch.
The Eden Mill Distillery in St. Andrews, Scotland, asked the Scotch Whisky Association in 2016 to allow it to use chocolate malt to make its Scotch. Photo: PAUL HAMPTON

Mr. Park offered to come and taste the drink, but voiced ambivalence: “Certain processes can still be prohibited if they lead to the production of a spirit which differs from a traditional Scotch Whisky,” he emailed Mr. Miller.

“That’s like saying you can’t do anything to the spirit to make it taste any different,” says Mr. Miller.

Mr. Park didn’t stop by for a tasting, and Mr. Miller scaled back his production of chocolate malt. “Most of these rules were created to stop people passing off cheap rubbish as Scotch Whisky,” Mr. Miller says. “They weren’t set up to protect Scotch from a really exciting, creative, innovative craft whisky development that Scotland should be perfectly placed to take advantage of.”

Write to Saabira Chaudhuri at saabira.chaudhuri@wsj.com

Bourbon Bash Heats Up Leiper’s Fork Tonight

The 3rd Annual Bourbon Bash Showcase to benefit The Green Beret Foundation kicks off at 6 p.m. tonight at Leiper’s Fork Distillery. The annual event brings together Kentucky and Tennessee whiskey enthusiasts and veterans for an evening of sipping and fundraising. Bourbon author Fred Minnick and radio host Phil Valentine co-host the event. Continue reading Bourbon Bash Heats Up Leiper’s Fork Tonight

Tennessee Craft Whiskey Coming of Age

Davidson Reserve Straight Rye Whiskey from Pennington Distilling Co. Hits Shelves This Week

On the third anniversary of its first barreling of Tennessee Whiskey, Pennington Distilling Co. celebrated with a re-branding, a huge party, an expansion announcement, and the launch of their first aged spirit, Davidson Reserve Rye.

Continue reading Tennessee Craft Whiskey Coming of Age

Sometimes It’s Not Whiskey

It’s not that one gets bored with whiskey, but, on occasion, the intrigue of a spirits category like gin is too sexy to pass up. On paper.

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to join the Good Ol’ Boys over at Sips, Suds, & Smokes for The Big Gin Show. Tasting over 60 gins Continue reading Sometimes It’s Not Whiskey

Jack Daniels Gets On The Bottled In Bond Bandwagon

Book your international travel for now if you want to snag one of these “Travelers’ Exclusive” bottles from Jack Daniels! The newest line extension of the familiar Tennessee Whiskey, a Bottled in Bond expression, will ship to major international airports and points of departure in the summer of 2018.

Image result for jack daniel's bottled in bond

Continue reading Jack Daniels Gets On The Bottled In Bond Bandwagon

Kings County Release Celebrates Bottled In Bond Anniversary

100 Proof, 120 Years

kcd2February 28th, 2017, New York:  Kings County Distillery, one of the country’s leading craft distillers and New York City’s oldest and largest whiskey distillery, announces the first release of its Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon, which will be available in allocated quantities in New York, New Jersey, Maryland, DC, Delaware, Oregon, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Continue reading Kings County Release Celebrates Bottled In Bond Anniversary

Is the Fabeled Gin Boom Finally Arriving?

Gin. As a supplier and now a distributor, walking into a retail liquor store with a new brand of gin almost always guarantees an exaggerated eye roll as the particulars of the product are described.

Gin. “They’re just making this until their whiskey ages.”

Gin. And juice. Once looked down upon by retailers as only a ‘certain demographic’ bought this category, we’ve all bought into the rumors that it’s the next big category.

Gin. We’re waiting on you to explode. True that many (many) craft distillers are producing their own take on the juniper-flavored vodka, but we don’t mind as many expressions of brown water- even when the distiller’s only expression of said spirit was in the “picking” of stock barrels.

All we are saying is give gin a chance.

Gruppo Campari did. 58 million chances, in fact, with the purchase of the premium brand BULLDOG.

gruppo-campari-buys-bulldog-gin-for-58-million

New Orleans’ Sazerac Co. Joins Tennessee Whiskey Business

sazerac-logo-web

Sazerac Company, owner of Buffalo Trace Distillery, announced today the acquisition of the Popcorn Sutton Distillery in Newport, Tennessee. John Lunn and Allisa Henley, both of George Dickel background, will once again be distilling Tennessee Whiskey under the new ownership.

Expect a deluge of Tennessee Whiskey on the shelves in the next few years; over a dozen Tennessee distillers are currently producing and aging the product.

Another Dickel Distiller Leaves for Popcorn Sutton

Freedom and flexibility lure Henley away from Diageo’s George Dickel Distillery

Today marks Allisa Henley’s first day on the job in her new role as Master Blender at the Popcorn Sutton distillery in Newport, Tennessee. What’s that, you say? Henley’s departure from George Dickel, where she served as Distiller, was quiet. Deafeningly silent, even. Continue reading Another Dickel Distiller Leaves for Popcorn Sutton