Death’s Door White Whisky

This story was recently published (in German) in the latest issue of Mixology Magazine.

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Let’s say I placed two glasses in front of you. In one glass I poured some vodka, and into the other, some newly distilled whisky.

Could you, without tasting, tell me which was which?

Of course you couldn’t – as all newly distilled spirits are colourless – a fact that surprises some. There are those who do not realize that whiskies (unless artificially coloured) gain all of their colour from the oak casks in which they are aged.

And interestingly, while the oak maturation is the main factor in creating the flavours of aged whiskies, newly distilled whisky (called “New Make Spirit” and often referred to as “White Dog” by American whiskey distillers) have flavours which are distinctive to the ingredients with which and process by which they were distilled.

New make spirits are often floral, fruity, slightly sweet and show a distinct graininess. Many are pleasantly surprised to find that new make spirits (when properly constructed) can be quite enjoyable – while often bearing little resemblance to the whiskies they will become.

In the UK, where whisky must be aged a minimum of 3 years before it is eligible to be sold as whisky, start-up distilleries often turn to bottling and selling new make spirit as a short term solution to bridge the gap between start-up costs and profitability.

These new make spirits are something of an oddity – rarely achieving wide distribution – often only available at the distillery.

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Singlemalt TV brings you the Bourbon Festival

If you didn’t get a chance to get to the Bourbon festival this year, don’t fret. SMTV was there.

Here’s one of the reports.

Last week Singlemalt TV took their full show on the road, working round-the-clock from
a historic former library in downtown Bardstown as preparations for the 18th Kentucky
Bourbon Festival commenced. Camera crews worked to capture all the offerings of
Bourbon Country, shooting at distilleries and on Louisville’s Urban Bourbon Trail in the
days leading up to the festival.
After filming a live webcast each morning, camera crews set out on assignment to
various locations around the region. Upon returning from each location, crews turned
over their footage to a video editor working from the Bardstown headquarters who
meticulously cut each segment for a nightly show. For six days and nights Singlemalt
TV’s on-location staff worked to deliver exclusive up-to-the-minute coverage of the KBF
as it unfolded, maintaining their exacting broadcast-caliber standard throughout.

Tempest in a (tea) pot (still).

According to a story in yesterday’s Telegraph US urged to boycott Scottish products after Lockerbie bomber’s release there is a movement afoot to “boycott Scottish Goods”

“US citizens are being urged to stop buying items ranging from Scotch whisky to kilts and petrol sold at BP-owned outlets as well as to cancel planned holidays in Britain to register their protest.”

I must point-out the obvious – that BP is based in London – a city which is NOT part of the Scottish empire. Yet.

While the large global Haggis conglomerates are worried, the Scotch companies aren’t phased at all.

And they shouldn’t be. I haven’t heard ANYTHING about this boycott movement – until I read it in a UK newspaper.

Is this a manufactured story? They point to an obviously amateur single page web-site called BoycottScotland <http://www.boycottscotland.com/>.

And best I can tell, THAT domain is registered out of Canada – So maybe this is simply ANOTHER Canadian plot to drive a wedge between the UK and the US.

I’m pissed about the guy being released, but i don’t see the usefulness of calling for a boycott – and have no expectation that this one will in anyway be even remotely successful. But it’s obviously a slow newsday around the world with the pick-up rate of the story  – but no evidence of any impact of this boycott.

Disclosure: I went to Syracuse University and had friends and acquaintances who died in that bombing – including a good friend from High School, Denice O’Neil.

Great Malt Whisky Race

WHAT: An open forum examining the history of the globalisation of malt Scotch whisky and other world whiskies/whiskeys, and a debate around the future flavours of Scotland’s finest.

WHY: This year is the 100th anniversary since Scotch whisky was first defined in UK law and much has changed since 1963, when William Grant’s descendents took the brave decision to repackage Glenfiddich and market it around the world – a step recognised as having started the worldwide popularity of single malt Scotch whisky.

Today, malt distilleries are now found all across the globe as entrepreneurs capitalise on discerning drinkers’ demands for the ultimate ‘water of life’.

To complement its support of the Scottish Diaspora Forum at the Scottish Parliament (www.scottishdiasporaforum.org), Glenfiddich is hosting an open forum examining the history of single malt Scotch whisky’s popularity abroad and how new malt whisky producing nations have been inspired by one of Scotland’s greatest gifts to the world.

While the Scotch whisky industry is governed by strict laws to ensure the integrity of Scotland’s national drink remains intact, many other malt whisky producing nations don’t have the same heritage to protect and so more relaxed legislation allows them innovate further.

As such, the evening’s talks will look at the benefits the single malt Scotch whisky industry enjoys from its protection, the innovations taking place beyond Scotland and debate what we can learn from them for the future development of our own industry’s flavours. The evening is for whisky novices as well as enthusiasts.

WHO: Panel members include: Whisky Magazine Japan editor, Dave Broom; SWA’s Campbell Evans; Glenfiddich’s Ian Millar and is chaired by Whisky Shop’s Ian Bankier.

WHERE: The Raeburn Room, Old College
University of Edinburgh
South Bridge
Edinburgh
EH8 9YL

WHEN: Friday 24th July
5.00pm Registration
7.15pm Ends

HOW: Free, although places are limited. Reservations in advance through www.glenfiddich.co.uk


Picture: Pioneers of world malt whisky – Glenfiddich; its founder, William Grant; forefather of Japanese whisky, Masataka Taketsuru; ‘godfather’ of Australian whisky, Bill Lark – illuminate Edinburgh’s Salisbury Crag.

Hey Canada

On behalf of the SWA, Glenfiddich wants to apologize to all of Canada with some free whisky.

OK, not really.

But Glenfiddich will be hosting a series of “exclusive private tastings” in and around the Canada metro area. Yeah, that’s a joke. I know Canada isn’t a city.

The first of these “Taste and Talk” events will take place on June 24th at Six Steps Lounge in Toronto.

Guests will have a chance to meet modern-day world explorer Colin Angus and taste a range of single malt Scotch whiskies from Glenfiddich, the most awarded single malt Scotch whisky in the world. Please see the evite below for more details on the event, Colin or the Glenfiddich brand.

I know the graphic is bigger than the site and is cut off, so right click and view the image in a new window, luddite.

Anyone interested in attending the event can RSVP to glenfiddich@ddbcanada.com to reserve a ticket – but do it quickly as space is limited for this exclusive event.

The Whole Scottish/Canadian Situation

I’ve basically stayed out of the debate over Glen Breton, because I think it’s silly and was a dumb fight for the SWA to pick.

My gut feel is that they had to see it through simply because they could not afford to appear to be picking on India over their use of Scottish sounding names, whilst letting the Canadians off with a free ride.

The biggest downside for the SWA is the potential for the Governments in countries where they are bringing action basically tell them to bugger off…which is what happened here. This reduces their moral high-ground and reduces their ability to pursue in other countries. These start to look like “nuisance suits”.

My friend Mark Reynier at Bruichladdich always has his own view on what is going on in the world of Whisky and, in this case draws the very keen connection that you can’t say you are attempting to save the world from confusion over names, while, at the same time creating additional confusion with the use of the unfortunate term “Blended Malt”. A term to which I have been a staunch opponent.

Pot Kettle Black
by Mark Reynier
The owner of The Glenora Distillery in Cape Breton is celebrating the end of a long legal battle with the Scotch Whisky Association.

Glenora Distillers International Ltd., won a major victory when the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear an appeal by the SWA that could have blocked the company’s trademark Glen Breton Rare. For nine years and through four levels of court challenges, the Scotch Whisky Association has fought to protect the Scottishness of he word “Glen”.

“We have no objection to the production of single malt whisky in Canada,” said the SWA’s David Williamson. “What is of concern, though, is any product that tries to take unfair advantage of Scotch whisky’s international reputation by adopting a Scottish-sounding name.”

Unsurprisingly the word “Glen” figures in an area colonised by Scots. Glenora, whose main product Glen Breton Rare single malt takes its name from its hometown of, er, Glenville, a small hamlet just south of um, Inverness – in, er, Nova Scotia.

Williamson said: “We’ve been working to protect Scotch whisky around the world for many, many years. There is evidence that the market was confused by [Glen Breton’s] trademark. Consumers thought they were buying a Scotch whisky, but they were really getting something else.” So really no different in principle to the SWA’s own blatantly deceptive title ‘Blended Malt’ where consumers are apparently not at all confused as to whether they are buying a Single malt or a Blended whisky.

The legal costs have hurt the small company (no doubt an intentional tactic) and more costs may be on the way as the SWA sourly seek to continue the affair: “We’ll be opposing applications to register the marque in any country where confusion is likely in the future.”

Of course Glenora Distillers International Ltd does not need to register its trademark in every country that it wishes to trade in. Perhaps the company’s owner should trademark his own name instead – now THAT would really cause consternation: Scotts Single Malt Whisky.

Reader Question: American Whiskey Tasting

Kevin, 

I have been a reader of your blog for the last few years. First of all thanks for taking the time to do it. I have a question that I thought you might have some opinions on, and might be interesting for your readers as well.
First a small bit of background, I live in DC and some friends and I have been organizing small (15-20 attendee) Scotch tastings about every 6 months, we’ve been picking regions and having 4 or 5 different scotches to sample (usually 2 or 3 $40-$50 bottles and 1 or 2 $70-$90 bottles). It’s been a lot of fun, and I think we and our friends have gotten too snooty for our own good, and the good of our pocket books.
So, for this next time around we decided to be a little cheap/patriotic and have an American whiskey tasting. Myself and a few of my roommates have begun some private research, and I have had real difficulty finding whiskies that stand out. Do you have any recommendations? I’d just like to find a few whiskeys that are complex enough to discuss as well as enjoy.
Thanks so much for your time, 
Nathan C.
My short list response:
  • Maker’s Mark is one of my favorites…and different than most Bourbons in that it uses wheat and no Rye.
  • Bulleit is a fantastic Bourbon at a good price.
  • Buffalo Trace and it’s slightly more expensive older brother Eagle Rare are both fantastic whiskies.
  • Stranahan’s (Colorado Single Malt) is really really good.
  • Jim Beam Black is a great whiskey for the price
  • Russel Reserve and Russle Reserve Rye are tops and I suggest that you include a rye whiskey in the tasting.
  • If you DO choose only one Rye – select Sazerac…the 6 year old. It is amazing and I use it a lot.

And don’t give me crap for leaving your favourite off the short list . . . there are so many American whiskies available that this was not meant to be an exhaustive list of excellent whiskies – but it was a list of readily available, priced right whiskies that anyone looking to explore American whiskies should try.

Of Course there are a number of other American Whiskies I enjoy – Pappy Van Winkle 15 year old Family Reserve; Four Roses, Bernheim, Woodford Reserve, Basil Hayden, Old Forrester – are among my favourites, but availability can be sporadic or,  to be completely honest, didn’t spring to mind immediately.

Anyway, feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments for the good of Nathan, his friends and other American Whisky drinkers.

Innovative Irish

Today’s article appears not here, but on BehindBars – the site that is used to complement the articles I write for various on and off-line publications.

The story is much more mixology focused, as I wrote it for Mixology magazine a german magazine for Mixologists, but aren’t we all mixologists at heart??

If you are a German speaker and interested in some of the world’s best writing on bartending and mixology, you should pick up the magazine.

INNOVATIVE IRISH
By Kevin Erskine

Originally published in German in Mixology Magazine Issue 6/2008

The best cocktails are the ones that offer flavour complexity – built by using individual components – with each ingredient shining on its own. Fresh fruits, creams, juices, spices and herbs are being used in growing numbers – replacing the premixed mixes unfortunately clung to by the lesser bartender. More mixologists are experimenting with unusual flavours – using a wider variety of ingredients, which, at first blush, seem incongruent – but when combined in the appropriate manner prove to create new and unique flavour profiles.

However you may agree that the basis for these cocktails is far too often the same old white spirits – with mixologists tending to stick to the more neutral of these liquors. It’s the real daredevils who are branching out into more strongly flavoured spirits – including brown spirits – such as aged rum and tequilas.

Where many of these experimentalists fail is that instead of complementing these strong flavours, the mixologist tends to minimize and cover them. An over-abundance of sweet is the lazy-bartender’s way to try to subdue tequila (e.g., the Margarita). To my mind, the best bartenders are those who can create a delicious cocktail from the most flavoursome of spirits – and none are more flavourful (or varied in flavours) than the whiskies of the world. But, if the concept of a whisk(e)y cocktail sends shivers up your spine, might I suggest you consider, perhaps, Irish whiskey.

Read the rest of the article in English

Here’s a link to the german article

MY next article for Mixology is about the resurgence of Rye Whiskey.

Green Spot On the Move

I’m in Ireland, so why not some Irish Whiskey news?

This courtesy of David Havelin of Irish Whiskey Notes

The home of Green Spot whiskey, Mitchell & Son on Kildare Street, is moving to the CHQ retail building in Docklands. The shop has been living on borrowed time since the end of 2005 when it was sold to the owners of the Shelbourne Hotel.

Go to Irish Whiskey Notes for the rest of the story.

More BIG changes at Glenmorangie – Breaking News

HAPPY CANADA DAY!

Today Glenmorangie announced some changes which equal the scale and scope of their recent repackaging/reformulation.

A two-year plan which includes:

  1. They are moving headquarters to Edinburgh. The existing Broxburn HQ will (apparently) be sold to Diageo. Does the bottling facility go with HQ sale? No word yet.
  2. Glenmorangie (Tain) & Ardbeg (Islay) distilleries will be the recipients of a combined £45 million investment.
  3. They are selling the Elgin-based Glen Moray distillery. Glen Moray is used primarily for Blended Scotch whisky.

This heralds the 2nd step in LVMH’s move away from commodity blended whisky and firmly entrenches them as a premium Single-malt only concern.