March 21, 2017

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The Best Independent Whiskey Bottlers You Need to Know

An independent bottler is a company that is sold barrels of whiskey by distillers. Many distilleries now exist solely to sell whiskey to independent bottlers, and they often sell high quality and yet little-known whiskeys that can make a perfect groomsmen gift, or even as an addition to your whiskey cupboard!

From quality and small-batch single malt whiskeys to more experimental blends, independent bottlers offer some real treats, and these are some of the very best you should know about. So sit back, get your Glencairn glass out, and see what you’re missing!

1. Wilson and Morgan

Wilson and Morgan is an Italian independent whiskey bottler that has a history dating back to the beginning of the 20th Century. The company is connected to the Rossis, a famous family of Venetian traders. In the 1960s, the company branched out from their traditional wine and oil business and into whiskey. Later, in the 1980s, the company became the Wilson and Morgan independent bottlers.

To this day, Wilson and Morgan releases a wide range of quality whiskeys, sourcing their barrels from brokers and distillers across the United Kingdom.

2. Malts of Scotland

Malts of Scotland is a German independent bottler that is best known throughout mainland Europe. Its whiskeys are sometimes available in the United States, and should you ever come across anything they release, it’s sure to be an interesting and exciting product. The company is known for releasing high quality whiskeys like the cask-matured Islay Heaven Hill, which proved exceptionally popular in the United States.

3. Old Bothwell

Old Bothwell made its name for its range of affordably-priced, yet fantastic-tasting Port Ellen Scotch whiskey. The company has continued bottling high quality whiskeys like their Port Ellen range, with many of their products being sold in regular stores, and even at auction. Unfortunately, though, the prices have increased quite significantly. If you’re lucky enough to find anything by Old Bothwell, expect to pay more than you did with the Port Ellen range.

4. The Scotch Malt Whisky Society

This society was founded back in 1983 by a group of whiskey enthusiasts, and today it has become much more than a group of fans. It is now a member’s club with branches all over the world, and every month, the society releases a new whiskey.

Originally, the whiskeys released were available only to members, but as the club has grown the whiskeys have been made available to the public. Non-members must pay more to purchase the bottles, but those who become members can enjoy these whiskeys at members-only bars across the world. So, if you’re looking for great whiskey and interesting people to enjoy it with, the Scotch Malt Whisky Society might be right for you.

5.  Mackillop’s Choice

Finally, there is Mackillop’s Choice – a range of whiskeys that have been specially selected by the heir to the chief of the Mackillop clan in Scotland, Lorne Mackillop.

After years working in the wine industry, and becoming a Master of Wine, Lorne Mackillop now works for the owner of the Tomintoul distillery, and regularly chooses his favorite whiskeys to bottled and sold.

These are just five our favorite independent bottlers. We hope the next time you’re shopping for a gift (for your friends or for yourself!) you’ll think of them and get the chance to discover a new great whiskey.
March 18, 2017

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The 8 Best Scotch Whiskies for Under $100

 

So, you’ve got your SipDark drink stones at the ready. Your cigar is lit and resting on our very special, aluminum cigar rest. It’s time to open up a fine bottle of Scotch…but what are you drinking?

It can be tough finding a new whiskey. Sure, you have the favorites and classics around, but what about when you’re looking for something new?

There are many high-quality Scotch whiskies out there for under $100, and you can find out more about them right here!

1. Laphroaig Quarter Cask

For under $75, you can get a hold of Laphroaig Quarter Cask. This is one of the smokiest and peatiest whiskies around, and it has developed quite the reputation. The unique and incredibly full flavor is achieved thanks to the time it spends maturing in a ‘quarter cask’ – a much smaller cask that exposes more of the liquid to the flavor of the wood.

It’s easy to compare the flavor of this whiskey with a campfire. It has a smoky side to it, but the vanilla and butterscotch flavors still come through.

2. Lagavulin 16 Yr.

If you’re looking for a quality single malt for as little as $57, you’ve found it. Lagavulin is a timeless whiskey, which shares a peaty and smoky flavor with Laphroaig. The whiskey also has a rich palate, with sherry and malt flavors that are perfectly complemented by a sweet, fruity flavor. The smokiness combined with sweetness is what makes this 16-year-old single malt Scotch a really great buy. For less than $60, this is one of the best buys you can make this year. 


3. Ardbeg Uigeadial 

Uigeadial is a Scottish Gaelic word meaning “Dark and Mysterious Place.” Just looking at the bottle, it’s obvious that this whiskey is very malty, and it also features black forest honey flavors and hints of sweet and ripe fruit. This dark, luxury whiskey won Jim Murray’s famous ‘World Whiskey of the Year’ award in 2009, and despite being so popular, you can pick up a bottle for less than $70.

According to Murray, every pour of this drink shows its unique character, and its offers notes of peat, espresso, tar and dark sugar. This is a classy, tasteful whiskey that’s well worth the affordable price.

4. Balvenie Caribbean Cask

Another great option for under $75 is Balvenie Caribbean Cask, a rum-finished Scotch that offers something different for Scotch drinkers. This is a new version of the Balvenie Single Barrel, which has rave reviews online. It is a year younger than the original, and has been finished in rum casks, instead of the sherry casks that made the original Balvenie so famous.

The rum flavors combine with a sherry, brown sugar and peaty taste, making this unlike every other Scotch on the market.

5. Coal Ila I2

The Coal Ila I2 is perfect for combining with a great piece of fish. This is a popular whiskey with a smoky nose and strong lemon flavors. You have probably already tried it, too – this is a popular part of the Johnnie Walker blends. Its lightness – almost so light it could be mistaken for a white wine – makes this a surprisingly easy to drink whiskey. 

6. The Glenlivet 18 Yr.

Amazingly, this 18-year-old single malt whiskey costs just $70, and it’s an all-round fantastic Scotch to keep at home. Glenlivet 18 Yr. has won a number of gold medals in the International Wine and Spirits Competition, and has been praised for its honey, oak, and walnut notes, combined with orange and apple pairings. Every sip reveals new notes that makes the Glenlivet 18 Yr. extra special. 

You’ll struggle to find a negative review for this whiskey anywhere, so if you’re looking for something high quality and affordable, you’ll be able to pick this up at most good whiskey and spirit stores.

7. Glenfiddich 18 Yr.

Glenfiddich has an 18-year-old Scotch that has proved to be one of its finest offerings. The Glenfiddich 18 Yr was matured and finished in sherry and bourbon casks, which have created a totally unique flavor profile. It’s deep and heavy, but it maintains a fruity tang.

Experts say the nose offers baked apple and grapefruit, along with cinnamon, salted toffee, and candied fruit. This is a traditional and popular single malt that is well worth the RRP of $72. For that price, it’s difficult to find anything else quite as high in quality.

8. Aberlour A’bunadh

For under $100, you can pick up a cask-strength whiskey with serious flavor. The Aberlour A’bunadh comes in a bottle with wax seals, making this look as traditional and refined as it tastes. The whiskey is a blend of Aberlour Scotch that has been matured and finished in Spanish Oloroso sherry casks, and then bottled without dilution or chill filtration. This is a super high quality whiskey that is more than 120 proof – though this depends entirely on the batch that you purchase. 

 

With a nose of citrus and vanilla and a ginger and peat flavor, this is a warm and satisfying whiskey.

Each batch is slightly different, and the A’bunadh is released in small, limited-run batches. So if you’re looking to pick up a bottle of this classic whiskey, be prepared to do some searching. You’ll likely find it for a great price, but it might not be available immediately when you need it.

Have a Great Glass Ready

At SipDark, we think it’s important that every whiskey lover has the right glass. We a have a fantastic, quality and affordable range of Glencairn glassware that helps you enjoy your whiskey as much as possible.

Designed to fit perfectly in the hand with a comfortable weight, a Glencairn glass from SipDark makes your whiskey experience the best it can be.

March 15, 2017

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Four Great Accessories for Whiskey Lovers this St. Patrick’s Day

drink stones

If there was ever a perfect time for great whiskey, it’s St. Patrick’s day. On the 17th of March, America will be celebrating this traditional Irish holiday, and what better way to enjoy the day than with a cool glass of Irish whiskey?

Today, SipDark would like to show you four of our favorite whiskey accessories and gifts.

A Classic Glencairn Glass

Sure, it might be Scottish in origin, but let’s not forget the historic links between the Scottish and Irish people!

The Glencairn glass is one of the most popular glasses used by whiskey lovers, and our $7.99 glass can even be engraved with text or images to make them extra special.

With its tapered pedestal sham, and the high-quality glass used to make this a weighty and comfortable glass to hold, this is a perfect gift for a loved one, or yourself!

Fanelli Cigar Rest and Bottle Opener

Is a glass of Irish whiskey really complete on St. Patrick’s day without a good cigar?

SipDark’s very own Fanelli Cigar Rest (and bottle opener!) is a thoughtfully designed, precision-machined aluminum accessory. During the initial design phase, it became evident that a bottle-opening feature could be incorporated without fundamentally changing the design – and it’s proven to be a hit.

Just $24.95, this quality cigar rest comes in gold, silver and black, and it’s just waiting to become a permanent fixture in your home. 

Whiskey Stones Chill Without Diluting

It’s great to have a perfectly chilled glass of Irish whiskey, but ice cubes simply don’t give you enough time to savor the flavor. Thanks to SipDark’s soapstone drink stones, you won’t have to worry about your beverage being diluted.

Made entirely from natural soapstone, our SipDark whiskey stones stay at the bottom of the glass, allowing you to enjoy the flavors and aromas without floating cubes. Each stone is rounded at its edges, too, to protect your favorite glass from scratching.

These stones don’t change the flavor or smell of your drink, and by simply placing them in your freezer for four hours or more, you’ll be able to quickly chill your whiskey.

You can add one, two, three or even four whiskey stones to your glass – which is perfect, given our popular whiskey stones gift set comes with three or six stones. They even come in an attractive wooden storage box.

Staying Comfy on the Couch This Year?

If this St. Patrick’s Day is going to be spent on the couch with a loved one, catching up on your favorite shows or watching a movie, then we’ve got something even better. Our ‘There’s a chance this is whiskey’ mug is the perfect way to enjoy a Hot Toddy.

Made from thick ceramic, this mug is the perfect accompaniment for hot whiskey. It is  also microwave and dishwasher safe, and ideal for everything from morning coffee to a hearty mug of soup.

So whichever way you’re spending your St. Patrick’s Day, make sure your Irish whiskey is accompanied by some of the very best accessories!

March 13, 2017

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Whisky Production is Returning to Leith, Scotland with £5m Distillery

£5m Scotch Distillery to Open in Leith

Leith, a district in Scotland just North of Edinburgh, has hundreds of years of distilling history. This ancient place, which is first mentioned in the Royal Charter during the construction of the Holyrood Abbey back in 1128, has since become a port town. 

The port handles over 1.5 million tons of cargo every year, but residents could soon see a return to its days of distilling thanks to a new £5 million distillery construction project. 

Two friends and entrepreneurs, Ian Stirling and Patrick Fletcher, have announced that they have purchased and secured a piece of land in Leith where they intend to build a £5 million distillery. This ends a search that took four years by the pair to locate the perfect place in the region, where they can set up and bring back this long-missed tradition.

The new distillery will be located within the port district of Edinburgh, right near the Royal Yacht Britannia – bringing together this ancient profession with the area’s latest economic powerhouse. 

A Century-Long Hiatus 

Should Fletcher and Stirling’s plan to bring back whisky distillery to Leith, it will be the end of an almost 100-year-long hiatus in the production of Scotch. Though, it is not the only proposal being put forward to bring back the industry. This will be the second malt whisky distillery that has been proposed for Leith, with David Robertson (the previous Macallan master distiller) beginning work on a Newmake Ltd distillery located just outside Holyrood Park. 

The proposed distillery is expected to produce more than 400,000 liters of alcohol every year once it has reached its operational capacity. When complete, the site is also expected to boast a shop, as well as a floating bar and restaurant which could attract extra revenue as a tourist destination. 

Talking about the plan, Fletcher explained “It took a long time to find the ideal site. Ocean Terminal bought into our vision when we had no money and only a plan. Leith was once the national hub for the Scotch industry and it’s really exciting to be restarting that tradition. Our business will boost the local economy by drawing more tourists and residents down to the harbor and providing many new jobs.”

The Race for the Edinburgh Whisky Throne

The Holyrood Park Distillery and Visitor Centre is currently well under way with its construction. Located nearby in Edinburgh, the distillery is a project being co-managed by aforementioned David Robertson, along with the founders of the Canadian Scotch Malt Whisky Society, Kelly and Rob Carpenter. 

The work on the distillery began just months ago, and when operational, the plan is for the site to produce 53,000 liters of alcohol this year. This is significantly less than the Leith-based distillery’s plan for 400,000 liters per year – but as we know, quality always counts more than quantity in the whisky world. The single malt distillery is expected to be functioning and open to the public in 2018. Assuming the project arrives on time, it could be the first single malt distillery in the region since the Glen Sciennes distillery closed back in 1925.

The Sciennes distiller was renamed the Edinburgh Distillery in 1859 by Andrew Usher, but the region became best known for its whisky blenders, including William Sanderson & Sons and their Vat 69 Blend. 

Like the Fletcher and Stirling distillery plan, Robertson intends to introduce extra attractions to the project. There is a distillery courtyard planned that may host weekend markets for local craft enthusiasts, which will bring more people to the area.

Talking about the project, Roberson said “After years of hard work, our team’s dream of bringing single malt whisky distilling back to Edinburgh is set to become a reality”. 

The game is on – whichever Edinburgh distillery completes the project first will be the first distillery functioning for almost a century, and that attention will certainly help their brand move forward in this growing global whisky market. Though whoever makes it first, we’re confident that either of their whiskies can be enjoyed with our very own Sip Dark soapstone whiskey stones.

Some Local Knowledge

    • The Sanderson Distillery was established in Leith in 1863, where it became famous for its Mountain Dew scotch blends. The distillers, in 1896, became the William Sanderson and Son Limited distillery, and its production was moved from Leith and into Queensferry.

    • As well as distilling, the area was known for its whisky storage. Wine and whisky storage in Leith and Edinburgh goes back as far as the 1500s, with the Henderson Street vaults and more than 100 warehouses locally storing a wide range of local whiskies. The storage switched from brandy and wine storage in the 1880s when the production of wine almost completely halted in Europe.

      More than 85 bonded warehouses still existed in Leith in the 1960s, which matured more than 90% of all Scotch whisky produced in the country.
    • In the Vaults of Henderson street, keen whisky-loving tourists will find the Scotch Malt Whisky Society as well as the Anfora Wine Bar. Staying true to the area’s roots and the long history of the Vaults, Henderson Street remains a key tourist attraction for the area.

      Henderson Street is also known for the stone tablet which is known as the Porters Stone – a stone carving that dates back to 1678, and visually describes the process of wine being unloaded and transported in Leith.

    • While the port is an industry that has grown to be one of the biggest economic providers for the region, Leith has a long history with shipping and shipbuilding. The area specialized in the production of hotel ships and tug boats, which meant that the building of large commercial ships was moved region in 1988.
March 07, 2017

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€11 Mil Investment Re-Opens Historic Jameson Whiskey Distillery

On March 5th, the historic Jameson Distillery in Dublin was re-opened by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Paschal Donohoe. The building has undergone a huge €11m investment as a part of local plans to attract more than 1.9 million whiskey-loving tourists to Ireland by the year 2025.

The Bow Street distillery has opened with a brand-new look and more opportunities for tourists to discover how Jameson whiskey is made, and Jameson owners Irish Distillers has said they expect to triple the current number of whiskey tourists visiting Ireland.

Renovation and construction of the historic property began in September 2016, and the new additions to the building were designed by TOTP – a Dublin-based architect firm that has worked under instruction of local government and Irish Distillers.

Speaking about the official opening on March 6th, Ray Dempsey, the general manager at the distillery since 1997, commented:

“We have had the privilege of calling Bow Street home since 1780 and we’re delighted with our makeover…Visitors can look forward to immersive storytelling where they will be invited to touch, smell and most importantly, taste Jameson.”

Minister Paschal Donohue also said, “Each year, over 600,000 tourists pass through Irish whiskey visitor centers to experience first-hand the heritage behind this time-honored spirit and hear the stories of established and emerging distilleries.”

Reinvigorating the Tourism Industry

Donohue went into further detail about the plans to boost the whiskey tourism industry in Ireland, explaining:

“The Irish Whiskey Tourism Strategy aims to treble this figure to 1.9 million visitors by 2025 and Jameson Distillery Bow St. will undoubtedly play a central role in delivering on this vision. Smithfield and its wider Dublin environs have a rich history and vibrant cultural scene which will also continue to attract and enthrall visitors from near and far.”

As well as showing visitors the vast history of Jameson whiskey, and the traditional methods of creating the beverage, the new property will use innovative technology in its tours. There will be three fully-guided tours available, including ‘The Whiskey Shakers’, ‘The Whiskey Makers’, and ‘The Bow St. Experience’. Guests will be handed a Glencairn glass and given the opportunity to taste classic Jameson whiskey, and learn more about the history of the beverage.

There will even be whiskey and cocktail masterclasses, and the chance to sample whiskey right from the cask. It is hoped that these new tours will bring people from all over the world to enjoy the 230 years of history in Bow Street.

The Chairman and CEO of Irish Distillers, Jean-Christophe Coutures, also added: “With this latest investment, we place storytelling at the core of the visitor experience, drawing on state of the art technology to bring the 230-year history of Bow Street to life, with a variety of tour options to cater for everyone – from those who may be discovering Jameson Irish whiskey for the very first time, to long-standing Jameson enthusiasts who are seeking to further their understanding of this much-loved spirit.”

This is great news for the Irish people, tourists, and all of us around the world who love whiskey. Time to get out the Glencairn glass and cigar rest and celebrate!

March 03, 2017

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‘Method and Madness’ is the Latest Super Premium Whiskey

Irish Distillers, the biggest name in Irish whiskey, is introducing a brand-new range of super premium whiskeys, called ‘Method and Madness.” The experimental new whiskeys are being produced to change how we see the beverage, and to see what can be produced using unique combinations of casks.

Method and Madness is launching as a series of whiskeys that, according to Irish Distillers, shows their continued commitment to experimentation and innovation’ at their Irish whiskey distillery in Midleton, County Cork, Ireland.

The new range of beverages take their name from that lesser known Shakespeare quote ‘Though this be madness, yet there is method in ‘t’. The range includes four different Irish whiskeys with unique twists.

1. Single Grain Irish Whiskey, Finished in Virgin Spanish Oak Casks.

This edition of Irish whiskey is left to mature in former bourbon barrels, which helps achieve a light flavor. Then, the whiskey is finished in virgin Spanish oak casks for 12 months. The casks were sourced from Galicia, in the North West of Spain.

These virgin oak casks create a more complex flavor with spicier notes, contrasting with the perfumed flavor achieved with the former bourbon barrels. This complexity and contrast is what makes the whiskey so interesting – and according to master blender Billy Leighton, it tastes of toasted oak, grapefruit and zesty wood spices. There is a sweet cereal and fresh mint finish.

2. 31-Year-Old Single Cask, Single Grain Limited Edition, Cask-Strength Bottle

The 31-year-old single cask, single grain, and Limited Edition whiskey is the star of the show. This is a single grain distillate that has been matured in a bourbon cask for 31 years, giving it an extremely deep flavor. Three options are available – all are bottled without any chill filtration, and they are 52.5%, 51.8% and 51.3% ABV.

Leighton says that the nose offers a floral, licorice scent, and the taste presents honey, melon, and wood spice flavors. The 31 years spent maturing in former bourbon casks creates a lingering fruity finish.

3. Single Malt Irish Whiskey, Featuring French Limousin Oak

This is the first Single Malt Irish Whiskey that has been released from the distillery in recent years, and it’s certainly special. Initially matured in former bourbon barrels, the whiskey has malt and biscuit flavors at its core. After being part-finished with the French Limousin oak casks for an extra year, floral notes complement those original flavors. Bottled with no chill filtration, this is a 46% ABV whiskey.

Leighton says the nose has a peanut and malt aroma, and the whiskey has a taste of cinnamon.

4. A Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey, Featuring French Chestnut

This single pot Irish whiskey was matured in both former bourbon and Oloroso sherry casks. The whiskey was later transferred to French chestnut barrels, sourced from the Isere region of the country. This is the first time ever that this combination has been tried, creating a unique sweetness and a depth of taste.

Bottled without chill filtration, this is a 46% ABV whiskey, with a nose of red licorice, rosemary mint, and root ginger. It offers a taste of sweet fruit and cinnamon, and a green tea finish.

Brian Nation is one of the head distillers at Irish Distillers. In an official press release, Nation explained the idea behind the Method and Madness series:

“At the Midleton Distillery, we are committed to innovation and experimenting with new whiskey styles. We are also invested in training and nurturing the next generation of Irish whiskey makers and this project really brings that commitment to life. The passing on of knowledge and skills is part of our DNA from our long line of master distillers, to the generations of coopers that served their apprenticeships at the Midleton Distillery. In fact, this summer our apprentice cooper, Killian O’Mahony will become our first qualified cooper in over 40 years’’.

Brian Buckley, the Director of Global Innovation and Prestige Whiskeys over at Irish Distillers, also added:

 “At Irish Distillers, we are constantly searching for new ways to bring Irish whiskey to a wider audience. Jameson has been the iconic brand which has led the way, supported by niche connoisseur brands such as Redbreast, The Spot Range and Midleton Very Rare so with METHOD AND MADNESS, we are able to not only create an outlet for our whiskey makers to really experiment but also to create a uniquely original brand which will pique the interest of spirits drinkers throughout the world”.

Price and Availability

All of these unique whiskeys will be available from April 2017, but each will be priced differently. The 31-year-old rare single cask edition will be priced at €1,500. The single malt Irish Whiskey finished in Limousin Oak is more accessible, with a recommended retail price of €79, and the Single Pot release will be just €69. The Single Grain will be €49.

Ireland’s Biggest Spirit Supplier

Irish Distillers is the leading supplier of spirits and wines in Ireland, and produces some of the most popular Irish whiskeys. The company is a subsidiary of Pernod Ricard, a French drinks firm, and is responsible for Jameson – one of the most popular commercial whiskeys on the market.

The distillers group was formed back in 1966, when John Jameson & Son, John Power & Son, and Cork Distilleries Company merged in an attempt to increase the sale of Irish whiskey. Their original Cork and Dublin distilleries were closed, and from then on, all whiskey produced by the company was to be made in the now-famous Midleton, County Cork distillery.

The Midleton distillery now operates only as a visitor center, with production having moved to a larger facility. To this day, the large Midleton facility produces popular whiskeys like Jameson, Powers, Redbreast, Midleton and Green Spot. Huzzar Vodka and Cork Dry Gin are also produced at the distillery.

Method and Madness is just the latest in a long line of interesting and experimental beverages produced by the distillery, and in just a month’s time, we’ll know really how experimental they are!

March 03, 2017

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New Irish Whiskey Distillery Set for July Launch

A Slane distillery, located in Boyne Valley in County Meath, has announced it will be fully constructed and operating by July. The distillery, on the grounds of the famous Slane Castle, is set to produce a ‘superb Irish whiskey experience’ by summer 2017.

The new Slane distillery has cost 47 million Euros (49 million USD) to build, but began construction way back in September 2015. The project is now in its final stages of development, with builders and project managers completing the last touches before they can begin producing their own Irish whiskey.

The owners – a father and son team named Henry and Alex Conyngham – collaborated with Brown-Forman, a US-based spirits company that has years of experience in the industry. This new distillery, however, will be the first that Brown-Forman has not just built in Europe, but outside the United States. 

You may already know Brown-Forman for their work producing popular spirits including Southern Comfort, Jack Daniels, and Finlandia vodka. Operating some of the largest spirit brands in the world, the company posted more than $3bn in revenue last year.

What the Owners Say

Alex Conyngham, speaking of the Slane Distillery’s upcoming launch, explained “As Slane Distillery nears its completion, it is uplifting and inspiring to see our shared vision of having a distillery become a reality.”

His sentiments were echoed by John Hayes, the chief marketing officer for Brown-Forman, who said “We are proud and excited to introduce Slane Irish Whiskey and begin production at Slane Distillery.”

Hayes continued, “As Brown-Forman expands its whiskey portfolio, we are confident that Slane will offer a superb Irish whiskey experience and taste.”

When Will it Launch?

While the new distillery is expected to launch by July, Brown-Forman is claiming that the new Slane Irish Whiskey will be launching in Ireland as soon as April. Once launched in the Irish market, the new whiskey will be released gradually to the United States (one of the largest whiskey markets in the world), the United Kingdom, and Australia in the middle of 2017.

So while you may be keen to try this latest Irish whiskey, you won’t be able to get your hands on any until later this summer, unless you live in Ireland.

What is Slane Castle?

Slane Castle is a historic 18th Century castle in Slane, in the Boyne Valley of County Meath, in Ireland. The castle is known for its ornate interior, as well as its expansive grounds, which have been owned by the Conyngham family since it was built.

The family, originally Scottish and Protestant, moved to Ireland in 1611 and asserted control over land near Donegal Town.

As well as being home to stunning grounds and now a whiskey distillery, Slane Castle has also been hosting concerts in its grounds since 1981. It uses a natural amphitheater to host 80,000 people who come to see huge stars, including The Rolling Stones, Foo Fighters, Oasis and others perform.

Where to Find the Whiskey

For more information about Slane Irish Whiskey, including its official launch date, and information about its flavor, head over to the official website.

February 24, 2017

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Single Malt Scotch Exports Top £1bn, US Increase Imports

US Imports Help Scotch Exports Top £1bn

For the very first time, the export of single malt Scotch has topped £1 billion. This huge milestone represents a massive growth for the Scotch industry, which produces 93% of its product for the export market.

The increase in Scotch exports in 2016 has surprised many, after 2014 and 2015 experienced a significant dip in sales. According to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) – Great Britain’s IRS – show that the quantity of pure spirit being exported from Britain was equivalent to 113 million bottles all at 40% ABV. HMRC also reported that the increase was close to 10% over 2015’s sum of £915 million in export income.

What Does This Mean?

The increase in the popularity of Scotch is occurring across the world, and it not only represents a boost on global economies, but also a trend towards premiumization. Single malt whisky, for instance, makes up 10% of all Scotch exports by volume, but at the same time makes up more than 25% of its total value.

The United States is the biggest market for Scotland – at least by value. The US accounts for more than £854 million in sales – an increase by over £100 million over 2015. In volume, however, France has the US beat – importing more than 189 million bottles in 2016, with a value of £424 million

Along with an increase in popularity of high quality, good whiskey, the weakening of the Pound Sterling since the Brexit vote has also played its part, as products from the United Kingdom have become much cheaper for those outside the country.

The change in the country’s economy appears to be the primary factor in the boost, as figures show that in the second half of 2016 – after the Brexit vote – export values increased by 7%, as opposed to the decrease of 1% in the first half of the year.

Other Major Markets

Markets that are buying more Scotch than ever might surprise you. India currently imports a substantial quantity of Scotch (£85 million in 2016 and £96 million in 2016). This is despite the high trade barriers for bottled Scotch in the country, which is countered by simply mixing Scotch with “Indian-made liquor” to create a beverage that can be more affordably sold.

Singapore also purchased £224 of Scotch, which was later sold on the Chinese and south-east Asian markets.

It’s All Good News for Whiskey Lovers

As Scotch whiskey sales increase, distilleries will begin ramping up production and possibly even producing brand new products. In fact, we’re already seeing this effect, with distilleries turning to whiskeys with longer maturation, stronger flavors and even new cask-strength versions to appeal to the new markets that are opening up. As the market increases and volume of whiskey sold becomes even more substantial, we could see some of the most super premium products made available, and more mid-range diversity appear.

Scotch whiskey is one of the very best whiskies around, and if the rest of the world is buying more of it, then it’s only a reason to celebrate and raise a Glencairn glass

February 24, 2017

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Johnnie Walker Unveils 4th Edition Private Collection for 2017

Johnnie Walker parent company, Diageo, has announced the release of the fourth edition of the Private Collection blend. The high-end, special release was announced earlier this month, with master blender Jim Beveridge working alongside Aimee Gibson to deliver what they call a ‘journey of flavour styles’.

Commenting on the new release, Beveridge said:

“The first two releases were examinations of distillery character. The first looked at smoke; the second examined rare fruits. Last year, we took a different approach and focused on the role of oak in helping to enhance honeyed notes.”

Each release of the Private Collection has focused on showcasing the blending philosophy of Johnnie Walker, the company said.

“This year continues that theme” Beveridge continues. “...but this time concentrated on oak-rich fruit notes. It is more about how the wood matures our whiskies”.

The Johnnie Walker Private Collection is a popular set of annual and limited release whiskies that are designed to show the famous distillery’s ability to innovate in the whiskey industry, producing blends that have previously never been created.

The 2017 release of the company’s high-end whiskey will blend three kinds of oak casks to complement the character and flavour of the spirit. Starting by filling former bourbon American oak whiskey casks, the distillery then transfers the whiskey to American and European oak casks from Beveridge’s collection of ‘experimental casks’. The result is expected to be a rich whiskey with a nose that offers vanilla and toffee, and the aromas of orchard fruits.

Beveridge explains that the palate will also offer some gentle spice, thanks to the American oak casks, as well as hints of peach, berries and stewed apples, courtesy of the Highland whiskies used in the blend.

The whiskey will be sold in individual, numbered decanters, in a run will be limited to 5,588. 

Going Beyond Classic Expressions 

Beveridge also noted, in an official press release, that the intention was to be ‘different from the classic expressions of distilleries people may know’. The release will offer customers a chance to ‘go beyond that by using whiskies matured for longer’.

The experimental casks in Beveridge’s collection originate from the ‘Matrix’ programme, an unusual trial that split 400 casks into five different groups. Most of the casks were made using American oak, but many had different shells, toasts and heads.

Other casks used to create the 2017 blend had been ‘salt-cured’. The process takes traditional oak casks and pre-conditions them with salt, permanently changing the chemistry of the wood and making it possible to produce more concentrated whiskey flavors. 

Beveridge says that, when the casks were too new, the flavors produced were simply too intense. Today, however, the casks are said to produce a ‘remarkable intensity’ which will no doubt set aside the 2017 Private Collection from its predecessors.

The Long History of Johnnie Walker 

The experimental nature of this latest limited run is by no means the first time the brand has thought outside of the box. Johnnie Walker Scotch whiskey started life as ‘Walker’s Kilmarnock Whisky’, but later became known as ‘Johnnie Walker’ as a result of the legacy left by John who sold the whiskey in his Ayrshire grocery store. 

While the Scotch quickly became popular, it was only in 1857 – after John Walker’s death – that it began its journey to becoming a worldwide brand. The son and grandson of John – Alexander Sr and Alexander Jr – established the brand and soon made whiskey sales more than 90% of their firm’s income. This was a substantial increase to the 8% during John Walker’s time.

From Single Malt to Blend 

During the early life of this popular Scotch whiskey, it was illegal in Great Britain to sell blended whiskey. So, before 1860, John Walker traded in single malt whiskeys, including his own which he called Walker’s Kilmarnock. By 1867, the first ever Johnnie Walker commercial blend was released to the public, and he called it Old Highland whisky. In order to move more product, he worked with captains of ships to carry the whiskey wherever they sailed, meaning that Johnnie Walker’s unique blend of whiskey was soon available all over the world.

The company was taken over at the start of the 20th Century by John’s grandsons, Alexander II and George. The two men built on the wide range of whiskeys that were being produced by the end of the 19th Century, and were responsible for introducing Walker’s famous color names (Black Label, Green Label and so on). By 1908, the Managing Director of the company, James Stevenson, oversaw this huge rebranding in which their Special Old Highland Whisky was renamed Johnnie Walker Black Label. 

Johnnie Walker’s Most Famous Labels 

For those who don’t have the £550 ($690) available to spend on a bottle of this extra special Johnnie Walker Private Collection, there are still many high-quality Scotch whiskies produced by the brand that are easier on the wallet. These include: 

Red Label 

80 proof, Johnnie Walker Red Label is one of the most popular whiskies in the world, and is made of a blend of 35 grain and malt whiskies. It’s intended to use as a mixer, and was chosen whiskey of Winston Churchill, who liked to mix it with soda. 

Green Label 

Green Label is 86 proof, and is a blended malt whiskey made from a number of single malts, with no grains added. This edition uses four single malts, all coming from Scottish distilleries. 

Black Label 

Black Label is a blend of 40 whiskies – predominantly Talisker and Caol Ila – which are all at least 12 years old. That makes Black Label an accessible and yet high quality whiskey blend for the mass market. 

Double Black Label 

Double Black Label builds upon the Black Label philosophy of taking quality whiskies and making them accessible, but also incorporates peaty West Coast malts for a more intense, oaky and charred flavour. 

For those who are looking to purchase the brand new 2017 Private Collection, orders will begin being dispatched by February 27th. We’ll raise a Glencairn glass to that!

February 17, 2017

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