Distiller’s Friday Roundup – August 16th, 2019By Mikael Mossberg
We’re on the cusp of that special time of year when new release news comes tumbling out at such a frantic pace that the spirits world struggles to keep up. Of course, some of these releases are more attainable than others. This week saw some interesting new bottles making their way to shelves near you in the near future. First, Westland is back with Westland Garryana 2019 Edition 4|1. Next, Kentucky Owl’s Kentucky Straight Rye third edition is just about ready. Finally, Diageo has two new releases for you. One is a brand new Lagavulin travel retail exclusive. The other? Just a 40 year Brora single malt with a suggested price of about $5,500. Let’s dive in.
Amazon Wants To Build a Liquor Store in San Francisco
For a company like Amazon, success has meant the destruction of huge swaths of brick and mortar stores. It’s perhaps strange, then, that the company is now investing in its own brick and mortar locations. First there was Amazon Books, which launched in Seattle in 2015. Then, the acquisition of Whole Foods and all 460 of its stores. Next came Amazon Go, the grocery store without cashiers.
Now, the company is looking to open a liquor store in San Francisco. A teeny tiny liquor store. Amazon intends to build a 200 square foot liquor store located at 888 Tennessee Street in the Dogpatch neighborhood of San Francisco. Why there? It’s also the address for a giant 38,000 square foot warehouse that Amazon just happens to own.
It would appear that the liquor store is nothing more than a means to an end to help the company deliver liquor on-demand through Prime Now, rather than having to contract through other retailers in the city. They’d acquire their own liquor license and make deliveries directly from the location.
Amazon applied for the permit in December 2018 with the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control San Francisco. There is no word yet on the approval status.
Heaven Hill buys Black Velvet Canadian Whisky from Constellation Brands
This week Heaven Hill Brands announced that it is acquiring the Black Velvet Canadian Whisky brand from Constellation Brands, subject to regulatory approval. Black Velvet is the second largest selling Canadian whisky on Earth, though it’s far behind the top seller: Crown Royal. Black Velvet will sit alongside other high-volume products like Evan Williams, Burnett’s Vodka and Deep Eddy Vodka.
Along with the acquisition of the Black Velvet brand comes ownership of the historic Black Velvet Distilling facility. It is one of only eight traditional Canadian distilleries still in operation. As part of the deal Heaven Hill will also scoop up the remaining portfolio of Canadian whisky brands in the Constellation family: MacNaughton, McMasters and Golden Wedding.
“We are excited to add Black Velvet to our iconic group of brands and look forward to growing this historic brand in the months and years ahead,” says Max L. Shapira, president of Heaven Hill Brands.
Seattle’s Westland Distillery Announces Westland Garryana 2019 Edition 4|1
Westland Distillery is back again with the fourth edition of Garryana, known as Westland Garryana 2019 Edition 4|1. This American single malt whiskey is part of Westland’s Native Oak Series, which explores the use of Quercus garryana. This particular type of oak is, like Westland themselves, native to the Pacific Northwest.
This year’s release uses first-fill ex-rye and bourbon casks, though the main focus is the balance between the Garry oak and Pedro Ximenez sherry casks.
“This year’s release continues our inquiry and plants yet another marker in unchartered territory that still seems to have no horizon,” says Westland’s Master Distiller Matt Hofmann. “We sought to find out what happens when two of the deepest wells of flavor combine in one bottle.”
Westland Garryana 2019 Edition 4|1 is bottled at 50% ABV and has a suggested retail price of $149.99. Garryana is always a limited release, though this year Westland has upped the quantity of bottles. In 2018 only 1,638 hit shelves. This year, Westland is producing 3,750 bottles for limited global distribution.
Kentucky Owl Unveils Kentucky Owl 10 Year Kentucky Straight Rye (Batch #3)
Though Kentucky Owl is best known for its Kentucky straight bourbon releases, the brand also sells Kentucky straight rye. Kentucky Owl 11 Year Kentucky Straight Rye (Batch #1) first hit the market in September 2017. Now, Kentucky Owl 10 Year Kentucky Straight Rye (Batch #3) is ready. Master Blender Dixon Dedman blends a variety of sourced Kentucky straight rye whiskeys to create the final product.
“There is a lot of older juice in Rye #3, but it’s the 10-year old stocks that really give it the richer, thicker, syrupy mouthfeel, and bring the blend forward,” said Dedman. “This batch was a fun process because you have to look at it for what it will become, not what it is at barrel strength. I experimented deeply to find the right profile while adjusting the proof through blind tastings, but kept gravitating back to 114-proof – almost exactly where I started.”
Bottles of Kentucky Owl 10 Year Kentucky Straight Rye (Batch #3) hits shelves in limited quantities in August of 2019. Each bottle has a suggested retail price of $199.99. It is bottled at 57% ABV.
Diageo Launches Travel Retail Exclusive Lagavulin 10 Year
Marking the latest permanent addition to the Lagavulin lineup is Lagavulin 10 Year. Only Dufry duty-free stores in airports across the UK have this peated single malt Scotch whisky for sale. The brand plans to roll out to more Dufry locations across Europe, North and South America, the Middle East and Asia by the end of 2019.
Lagavulin 10 Year is aged in ex-bourbon, refill and freshly-charred rejuvenated casks for 10 years. It is bottled at 43% ABV and has a suggested retail price of £50 (~$60 USD) per 700ml bottle.
Brora 1978 40 Year Celebrates 200th Anniversary of Brora’s Founding
Back at the end of 2017, Diageo announced its intention to revive the “lost” distilleries of Brora and Port Ellen. Brora first opened in 1819, then closed some 164 years later in 1983. At the time most whisky aficionados weren’t too concerned, as the distillery’s whiskies mostly disappeared into blends. However, after Diageo began to include Brora single malts in its annual Special Releases series the brand’s popularity skyrocketed. Consequently, in 2020 the doors to Brora will open again.
Brora 1978 40 Year 200th Anniversary is a limited edition Scotch single malt whisky that celebrates the 200th anniversary of Brora’s founding in 1819. It is comprised of single malt whisky distilled in 1978 that matured in twelve different American oak hogsheads. At the time of distillation Brora was experimenting with a heavily-peated Northern Highland barley in its production.
As an ode to the year Brora opened its doors, Diageo produced 1,819 bottles of this whisky. The suggested price per bottle is £4,500 (~$5,450 USD). Who doesn’t have that sort of money lying around? Brora 1978 40 Year 200th Anniversary has an ABV of 49.2%.
Hunting for Westland Garryana 2019 Edition 4|1 or Lagavulin 10 Year?