We tend to think of spring as the season for sipping lighter spirits. But this time of year is also when some of the boldest whiskey releases sprout up along with the blossoms. Last week might have been mostly quiet on the whiskey front, but this week bears news of upcoming releases and events from Ardbeg (Ardbeg Scorch!), Oban, Garrison Brothers, Wyoming Whiskey, Jura and The Macallan.
Also, always up for a go at a bit of boundary-pushing, Buffalo Trace announced it would be releasing a baijiu-inspired spirit (!) to its Experimental Collection. However, if you’re just up for relaxing with some easy-going flavors, there are a couple of springy new gin releases from Castle & Key and Citadelle to look out for too, so stock up on that tonic!
Ardbeg Scorch, Annual Ardbeg Day Release For 2021 Pays Homage To a “Mythical” Creature
First up, it’s almost time for Ardbeg Day! Perhaps some other type of smoke was happening at the peat-tastic Islay distillery when this Ardbeg Day edition was decided upon. Ardbeg Scorch is the result of what the distillery claims is the “true myth” of the resident Islay dragon that is said to dwell in Dunnage Warehouse No. 3. Fittingly, Ardbeg Scorch is matured for an undisclosed amount of time in ex-bourbon American oak that has been, “heavily charred by the fiery exhale of Warehouse 3’s definitely-real-and-totally-not-made-up dragon,” according to the press release.
The 51.7% ABV Committee Release of Ardbeg Scorch will be released on May 1 and available to purchase from Ardbeg Embassies, whisky specialists, online retailers and from the Distillery Visitor Center with an SRP of $139.00. Meanwhile, the General Release comes out June 1 at 46% ABV for $119. It should be noted that this will be the first Ardbeg Day — held virtually this year on the final Saturday of Islay’s Festival of Music and Malt (Fèis Ìle) — for Distillery Manager Colin Gordon.
“This year will be my first Ardbeg Day ever: a baptism of fire!” said Gordon. “It’s a shame we Ardbeggians can’t enjoy it together in person, but the online event is shaping up to be tremendous fun. With a whole virtual world to explore, including fantasy inns, campfire tales, medieval feasts and live tastings, there’s plenty for people to be excited about this year.”
Oban Whisky Welcomes You To Its Hometown With Postcards From Oban Campaign
The tiny town of Oban rests on the coast of the picturesque West Highlands, which has been home to the distillery since 1794. It may not be possible to travel there now, but a new docuseries, Postcards From Oban, can visually transport you there. Episodes for the series will be airing on the brand’s Instagram channel in the coming weeks.
And for when it is safe to travel there again, you can enter a sweepstakes to visit the town yourself. In fact, the brand will foot the bill for a stay at the Oban Abode located just steps from the distillery and you’ll get a VIP distillery experience. For more information and to enter, visit their site here.
Postcards From Oban Campaign /Photo Credit: Oban
Garrison Brothers Distillery Announces Release of Their Rarest Expression To Date
Garrison Brothers Laguna Madre is a high-proof bourbon first aged for 4 years in new American oak, followed by an additional 4 in French Limousin oak. This 2021 release will be limited to 2,000 bottles with the first 500 to be sold at the Hye, Texas distillery via a first-come-first-serve drive through sale on May 8 beginning at 8 AM. The additional bottles will be dispersed in limited quantities throughout the US thereafter. It has an SRP of $299.
Notably, the first release of Laguna Madre was set for a 2020 release, but when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, other plans needed to be made. Dan Garrison and his team realized this extra special bottle could serve a higher purpose. As a result, the 2020 Laguna Madre was used to launch Operation Crush COVID-19, driving donations to Good Bourbon for a Good Cause, the distillery’s 501(c)3 public charity. The 2020 Laguna Madre was only available at the distillery and earned by those who donated $1,000 or more. The organization was able to raise more than $400,000 to help American communities recover and rebuild from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Wyoming Whiskey Introduces New Collection Inspired by America’s Great Wide-Open Spaces
This year marks the inaugural release of Wyoming Whiskey’s Wide-Open Spaces Collection. Its By Air series pays tribute to the distillery’s home state, and the natural wonder of the Wyoming landscape. This series includes a 5-year-old National Parks Limited Edition American Whiskey, with 10% of sales supporting the National Parks Foundation. It is now on sale nationally at Reserve Bar, Flaviar, and select NY, GA, CO and WY retailers, for $49.99.
The rest of the By Air series consists of 4 rare single barrel selections, which were sold at an online auction co-hosted by actor and local Wyoming resident Harrison Ford on April 20th, with all proceeds benefiting the NPF (final outcome of the auction TBA).
“The By Air Collection is our tribute to the natural beauty of the very place that inspired our American Whiskey,” said David DeFazio, co-founder of Wyoming Whiskey. “We are truly fortunate to live among parks that are national treasures. It is only right that we pay it forward in preserving these wide-open spaces through this annual initiative that supports the National Park Foundation.”
The Macallan Gets Artsy
Saturday On the House is a program sponsored by The Macallan and the Guggenheim Museum. This initiative, which begins May 1, allows visitors the opportunity to experience all of the exhibitions on view on select Saturdays with free admission. The dates that the program is offered are as follows: May 1, June 5, July 3, August 7, September 4, October 23, November 6 and December 4. All visitors must reserve timed tickets in advance. Tickets will be released on Thursday April 29th at 11am EST.
Coinciding with the event, in March, one of the extremely scarce 13 Anecdotes of Ages bottles from a recent collection by Sir Peter Blake and The Macallan was auctioned with Sotheby’s New York. Proceeds benefited the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum’s diversity, equity, access and inclusion initiatives and raised funds to support Saturday On the House.
The Guggenheim Museum
Jura 12-Year-Old Gets US Release
Jura’s 12-Year-Old expression will now join the existing bottlings that crossed the pond — 10-Year-Old, Seven Wood and 18-Year-Old— as part of the core portfolio. It is matured in a combination of ex-bourbon American oak and oloroso sherry casks. Bottled at 40% ABV, it retails for $49.99 and is available now in the US.
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Buffalo Trace To Release an American Baijiu-Style Spirit
No stranger to a bit of spirits nerdery, Buffalo Trace decided to try making an American version of baijiu — one of the most popular spirits in the world. This marks the 24th release from its Experimental Collection which is usually whiskey-based. The Buffalo Trace team observed that, like bourbon, baijiu is, after all, an agricultural product made from fermented grains.
Although distilled like a whiskey, this spirit is produced using traditional Baijiu ingredients of sorghum and peas. The distillate is aged for 11 years in three separate casks: uncharred, charred and toasted white oak. Then the spirits are married together and bottled at 90 proof.
The Experimental Collection Baijiu-Style Spirit can be found in select markets and will be available beginning in late April or early May. Quantities are extremely limited. Suggested retail pricing is $46.99 each for 375 mL bottles.
Castle & Key Announces Rise 2021 Seasonal Spring Gin
Having been restored from literal ruins in 2014, Rise 2021 Seasonal Spring Gin is the latest limited-edition spirit to emerge from Castle & Key distillery, set for an April 22 release.
Quality Manager Jon Brown created Rise Gin with Castle & Key’s rye whiskey at its base, up to the barreling stage. Instead of putting the distillate into barrel, it is redistilled into vodka. Then it’s redistilled once more to allow the alcohol vapor to pass through the gin baskets, infusing the vapor with the essential oils and other flavor compounds contained in the botanicals. The vapor is then condensed back into a liquid.
Galangal root, lavender, elderberry, Earl Grey tea and wintergreen botanicals give this gin a unique spin, having not previously been used in Castle & Key seasonal releases. It is bottled at 47% ABV and has an SRP of $36.99.
Citadelle Gin Introduces Jardin d’été
Citadelle Jardin d’été is set to be a permanent addition to the Citadelle portfolio. Inspired by the gardens at Château de Bonbonne — cultivated by Debbie Gabriel, wife of Citadelle Founder Alexandre Gabriel — Jardin d’été uses melon, whole lemon, yuzu zest and orange peel, in addition to the 19 botanicals used to make Citadelle Original. The gin is meant to be like a “deliciously fragrant postcard from the Château de Bonbonnet,” claims the press release.
Citadelle Gin now cultivates several hectares of juniper trees just across the road from the Château de Bonbonnet. The juniper berries are a key ingredient of Citadelle and the flavor foundation of Jardin d’été. The gin is bottled at 41.5% ABV for a suggested retail price of $24.99.
New Releases on the Horizon
We try to keep an eye on all of the label approvals that go through the TTB (The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau). Here are a few of the most interesting-looking approval submissions we’ll likely see, hopefully, in the coming months. As always, please keep in mind that ABVs listed are also subject to change.
Upcoming TTB Releases
This four-grain straight bourbon celebrates a decade of distilling at FEW, though it’s unclear how old the whiskey will be. Regardless, Happy 10th birthday, Paul Hletko and FEW!
This will be a 100% malted rye whiskey which is non-chill filtered. It is made according to bottled-in-bond standards, but is aged for at least 6 years.
This third annual edition is an extremely rare release named after a local beach, also nicknamed The Singing Sands. It will be matured in American oak and oloroso sherry at 46.2% ABV.
The latest edition to Stranahan’s Distillery Exclusive series is made with 100% malted barley proofed with Colorado Spring water. It’s unclear at which stage the rum casks come in.
Like previous releases, this Black Art is unpeated, and aged for 29 years. It’s bottled at 44.1% ABV with just 12,000 bottles produced.
Whisky made from single variety Scottish barley grown on Orkney, distilled in 2011, was aged for 10 years. It’s non-chill-filtered or colored, and will be released at 50% ABV.
Jameson gets into the flavors game with this Irish whiskey with “natural orange flavors.” It’s bottled at 30% ABV.
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