The last week of April into early May is typically a busy one one in the spirits world as we gear up for the Kentucky Derby, Cinco de Mayo and Mother’s Day. However, this year it was sadly even more significant for a different reason, because we lost both Tuthilltown Distillery co-founder Gable Erenzo and Tequila Ocho founder Tomàs Estes.
Gable was only 41, but had accomplished so much as a pioneering spirits entrepreneur. It can easily be said that he and his father Ralph largely drove the craft spirits boom with those little bottles of Hudson Whiskey. As Gable moved on to establish Gardiner Liquid Mercantile, he remained a devoted family man, and all around mensch.
Tomàs was not as young, but his grace, wisdom and rollicking spirit touched so many as he spread the gospel of tequila and other Mexican spirits throughout the world. Somehow he was in charge of 18 restaurants, notably Café Pacifico in London and La Perla in Paris. But he was never too busy to personally share his in-depth knowledge on many subjects, or simply engage in some cheeky fun.
So as we move on to take care of this week’s business — with news from Old Forester, Westland Distillery, HIRSCH, Heaven Hill, Don Julio and more — let’s not forget to pour two out for these gentle souls who are gone way too soon and we will dearly miss. Our hearts go out to their family and loved ones.
In Brighter News, Old Forester’s Kentucky Turtle Derby is Back!
Make sure you have some bourbon and fresh mint on hand, because it’s Derby Week! Even if a trip to Churchill Downs isn’t in the cards this year, you can always don a festive hat, shake up a mint julep and Derby from home with Old Forester for the second annual Kentucky Turtle Derby!
What began in 2020 as a way to provide excitement when the actual Kentucky Derby was postponed, hundreds of thousands of people tuned in to watch “the slowest two minutes in sports.” Returning on Saturday, May 1 at 4 p.m. EST, viewers can watch the Kentucky Turtle Derby live on Old Forester’s YouTube page.
Old Forester’s Kentucky Turtle Derby /Photo Credit: Old Forester
Westland Distillery Releases Colere Edition 1
Westland Distillery’s Outpost Range was first introduced in August 2020 as a reflection of the Seattle distillery’s core mission to push the boundaries of American single malt. Colere Edition 1 American Single Malt Whiskey is the second of the three annual limited editions in the Outpost Range. Only 2,893 bottles of this first edition will be available worldwide starting this month with an SRP of $149.99.
Edition 1 is made from Alba, a variety of barley that is bred and grown outside the commodity system in Washington State’s Skagit Valley, which lies an hour north of Westland in Seattle. The word Colere derives from the Latin verb meaning “to cultivate”. It represents Westland’s vision to find new territory in terms of venturing into “uncharted barley varietals whose flavor has yet to be considered.”
“Colere has been years in the making and we’re thrilled to present this first edition,” says Westland Co-Founder Matt Hofmann. “The project celebrates terroir in whiskey and takes a big step towards reconnecting our industry with agriculture, something that has been unfortunately lost over the past several decades.” The press release goes on to say, “In an industry that still insists that barley doesn’t impact flavor, Westland has worked for years with Washington State University’s Bread Lab, located in the Skagit Valley, local maltsters, and local farmers to develop new varieties of barley that prove otherwise.”
Westland’s work with its agricultural partners is intended to show breeding barley varieties and more sustainable agricultural methods impact flavor. In the past 10 years, Westland has distilled over 20 different varieties of barley (statistically more than over hundreds of years in Scotland) and has committed nearly 40% of its annual production to these unique barleys.
HIRSCH Whiskey Launches “Chase Your Horizon” Campaign in Partnership With Outside Interactive, Inc.
HIRSCH Selected Whiskeys and Outside outdoor adventure company invite consumers to join them on a journey of discovery through its new “Chase Your Horizon” campaign. Just in time for the warm weather season, HIRSCH and Outside are offering an unforgettable glamping experience at the award-winning Under Canvas — valued at $5,000.
The brand is named for founder A.H. Hirsch — a banker who left city life to pursue his dream of creating a bourbon brand — who is also the inspiration behind the Chase Your Horizon campaign. “His story is an inspiration to many out there to never settle and chase their own dreams,” says the press release.
“It’s in the spirit of the journey of our founder A.H. Hirsch and our latest expression The Horizon that HIRSCH launches the Chase your Horizon campaign. We want to encourage modern explorers to discover their own journey and share their best horizons in a style similar to how we approach producing whiskey, with a unique and discovery mindset,” says Luis Rivas Ball, head of American whiskeys portfolio at Hotaling & Co.
– Entries Open May 1, 2021 and close at 11:59 pm ET on July 10, 2021
– All entrants must be at least 21 years old
– How to Enter: Consumers enter to win by sharing an original photo of themselves enjoying the outdoors on Instagram and tagging @HirschWhiskey with the hashtag: #ChaseYourHorizonContest, or by uploading the original image on chaseyourhorizon.com
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Introducing Takamine Whiskey, the Revival of a 19th Century American Experiment
This week Honkaku Spirits announced the US debut of Takamine Whiskey. The whiskey is 8 years old, 100% barley, koji-fermented whiskey bottled at 80 proof, with an SRP of $99/750mL.
It’s named for Jokichi Takamine, a Japanese chemist living in Illinois, who was the first to apply koji fermentation (the centuries’ old Japanese technique of using naturally-occurring grain mold to break down starches to convert into sugars) to American whiskey in the 1890s. Distributed by Winebow, it is currently available for sale in fifteen markets: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Washington, Washington D.C. and Wisconsin.
Takamine whiskey is now produced at Shinozaki Distillery (Asakura City, Fukuoka, Japan). The whiskey has a mash bill of 100% pearled 2-row barley, which is 40% koji-fermented and 60% steamed. A 2-day koji propagation is followed by a 2-stage open fermentation. Then there’s a double pot-still distillation to a barrel proof of 86.7%. The whiskey is matured in virgin American oak and ex-bourbon casks with no added color.
“Winebow is honored to represent Honkaku Spirits, starting with Takamine whiskey,” says Richard Driscoll, executive vice president of spirits at Winebow. “We are thrilled to bring Jokichi Takamine’s legacy of whiskey making back to the U.S. This is an exceptional product with an incredible story, and we cannot wait to introduce it to our customers throughout the country.”
Announcing the Launch of Grayson Texas Bourbon
The first black-owned bourbon brand has launched in the state of Texas! Grayson is co-founded by native Texan, author and craft spirits professional Nico Martini, Former MLB three-time All-Star Vernon Wells, and private equity investor Brandon Davis. They “came together to create a whiskey that captures the boldness of Texas while paying homage to the Lone Star State,” says the press release.
The brand is “a blended bourbon, using three bold whiskies to create one wholly Texas spirit” using single barrels from Ironroot Republic, Lone Elm Whiskey and Balcones Distilling. The inaugural Grayson Whiskey release is bottled at 59.5% ABV with an SRP of $59.99 for 750ml. It will be available at select retail locations across the state of Texas.
“I have accomplished a lot in my life but being able to break the race barrier as the first black owned whiskey brand in Texas is one, I am most proud of,” says Vernon Wells.
“We all wanted to create a whiskey that pushed boundaries and honored the great state of Texas and the people behind the brand,” says Nico Martini. “But we also knew there were people far better at making whiskey than we ever will be, so we decided why not work with the best? Therefore, partnering with Ironroot was a no brainer. This is our way of showing the world what an amalgamation of the best whiskies in Texas can be. We’re awfully proud of the spirits coming out of this state and are thrilled to be a part of this story with Grayson as the first Black-Owned Whiskey Brand and first Texas Blended Bourbon.”
In Honor Of Cinco de Mayo, Tequila Don Julio Establishes The Tequila Don Julio Fund
To kickstart May 5 celebrations, Tequila Don Julio will introduce the Don Julio Cinco as a way of encouraging consumers to support their favorite local establishments.
Almost 80 years ago, Don Julio González founded Tequila Don Julio. As a way to celebrate his legacy and support friends and familia, Tequila Don Julio has just set up The Tequila Don Julio Fund which will commit $1 million in aid over the next four years to “charities whose missions help our community grow stronger,” according to the press release.
“To support the devoted bartenders and restaurant workers who have always made our Cinco celebrations so special, and most notably the Mexican workers who continue to keep this industry going year after year, the Fund will make its first contribution on Cinco de Mayo through a combined donation of $125,000 that will be distributed to two outstanding charities: No Us Without You LA, a nonprofit organization that provides food security for Mexican hospitality workers in the greater Los Angeles area, and Restaurant Workers’ Community Foundation, an advocacy and action nonprofit created by and for restaurant workers.”
Don Julio Cincos
With these programs, Tequila Don Julio hopes to inspire people to visit and support their favorite local establishments again. In addition, an online sweepstakes and real-world instant win game promotions will take place. The brand will release $125,000 worth of “Don Julio Cincos” — digital and physical vouchers designed by Mexican Artist Claudio Límon and inspired by Tequila Don Julio’s Mexican heritage in support of the hospitality industry. Each one unlocks $5 that consumers are encouraged to spend at a local bar or restaurant of their choice on Cinco de Mayo.
To help support their favorite bars and restaurants this Cinco de Mayo, consumers are encouraged to get involved by following the brand’s Instagram, including stories, for information on the sweepstakes from May 1 to May 5, and 3,000 Cincos will be won each day. Each Don Julio Cinco may be redeemed for $5 to a consumer’s Venmo account for intended use at the local bar or restaurant of their choice. On these 5 days, participants can enter once daily to collect a “Don Julio Cinco” for a grand total of $25.
The Don Julio Cinco /Photo Credit: Don Julio
Tidbits From Around the Spirits World
Let’s take a quick look at what else is going on around the world this week…
Barrel Proof B521 is the second edition of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Bourbon for 2021, bottled at 118.2 proof, $69.99. As with each previous edition, this is a 12-year-old bourbon that is uncut and non-chill-filtered to preserve all natural elements from barrel to bottle.
“The variance in proof from batch to batch is an exercise for true whiskey aficionados,” says the press release. “Elijah Craig Barrel Proof B521 offers an experience to taste the lowest proof yet in the series. As a reminder, the first batch from this year (A121) was 123.6 proof.”
Actors Ian Somerhalder and Paul Wesley (a.k.a. The Salvatore Brothers from the “Vampire Diaries” TV series) are now co-founders of Brother’s Bond Distilling Company LLC. Said to be “pivotal in every step of producing the bourbon,” their celebrity-propelled Brother’s Bond to have “the most successful pre-sale launch in the history of Reserve Bar (highest velocity of sales in a 24hr period) following pre-sales last fall and again in January,” says the press release.
With over 1.1 million followers on its Instagram page, Brothers Bond will be available in select markets on May 1st. The four grain bourbon (65% corn, 22% rye and the rest wheat and barley) is bottled at 40% ABV. It will sell for $39.99/750 mL and is available on May 1st in select states and via the website.
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