Distiller’s Friday Roundup – December 4, 2020

December 4, 2020

While the year is coming to an end, the spirit releases certainly are not. To begin with, Castle & Key Restoration Rye launched this week. Even though Castle & Key has released both vodka and gin previously, this marks the first whiskey release from the Kentucky distiller. This week has not only been a busy week for whiskey releasses, but for rum and tequila as well. As an example, the Tequila Ocho 2020 Cask Finish series was announced this week. This collection features three añejo tequilas finished in rum and/or cognac casks from Maison Ferrand.

And speaking of the French spirits house, a single cask collection from its Plantation Rum brand is hitting shelves this month. Of course there was some barrel swapping going on with these beauties too, featuring some unique spirits. Interested in a rum finished in an aquavit barrel? You’re in luck! As there’s a lot to get to, including auctions, gift boxes and more. Let’s just jump right in, shall we? Read on for Distiller’s Friday Roundup for December 4, 2020!

Stranahan’s to Auction Past Snowflake Vintages for Local Charity

This year, Stranahan’s annual Snowflake release has been postponed to February 2021. Typically, folks line up for hours in the cold in early December for this release, but collectors after this year’s release will have to wait until next year. However, in order to keep the spirit of Snowflake alive for December, this week the Colorado distillery announced its plans to auction off five bottles of five past Snowflake vintages for a total of 25 bottles.

All sales from Stranahan’s Snowflake Vault Auction will benefit the local community affected by the Colorado wildfires, with 100% of proceeds going to the Colorado Firefighters Foundation and Stranahan’s matching all proceeds up to $25,000. Available Snowflake expressions include:

2019 Snowflake Mount Bross – starting at $150.00
2018 Snowflake Mount Elbert – starting at $250.00
2017 Snowflake Quandary Peak – starting at $350.00
2016 Snowflake Crestone Peak – starting at $400.00
2015 Snowflake Longs Peak – starting at $500.00

Those looking to get their hands on a rare Snowflake can bid in the digital Stranahan’s Snowflake Vault Auction from December 5th to December 10th. Winners will need to pick up their bottle at the Denver distillery within a year as bottles will not be shipped. Interested in learning more? Check out Stranahan’s website for more info.

Stranahan’s Snowflake Vintages /Photo Credit: Stranahan’s

The Balvenie Partners with Questlove, Announce Holiday Gift Box for Charity

This week, Scotch whisky brand The Balvenie announced a collaborative partnership with drummer, DJ, author, producer, foodie and member of The Roots — Questlove. At the heart of the partnership is a new digital series called Quest for Craft that is set to premier in fall 2021. This series hosted by Questlove will feature guests that pursue craft and creativity to an almost obsessive level, much like the two partners. Premiere date, guests and streaming platforms to be announced in summer 2021.

“I have always been curious about what drives people creatively, and have used that curiosity in my own creative process,” said Questlove. “From my youth touring with my parents, to my many conversations and collaborations with diverse creatives over the years, and writing a book on the subject, there are endless stories of creativity still to be discovered. I’m excited to take this journey with The Balvenie to tell these important stories of makers and their creative processes.”

Questlove x Balvenie /Photo Credit: Balvenie

Questlove x Balvenie Holiday Gift Box

Prior to the series launch, the pair will collaborate on a number of other events and activations. To begin, on December 7th, 2020 an exclusive limited edition holiday gift box ($250) will be sold on Goldbelly (the link will go live as of December 4th at 10am EST). In it, Questlove has curated savory and sweet snacks from his favorite chefs and brands. Additionally, the pack will come with a pair of Glencairn glasses and cocktail napkins along with a set of coasters, both designed by Questlove.

A code to ReserveBar to redeem a bottle of The Balvenie DoubleWood 12 Year will also be included alongside ingredients to create a signature cocktail “Best Enjoyed Fireside” from The Balvenie Ambassador Naomi Leslie. All proceeds for each box sold will go to America’s Food Fund to help provide meals to those most in need this season.

Castle & Key Restoration Rye Debuts

This week, Kentucky’s Castle & Key put out its first two whiskey batches to be released from the distillery which was founded in 2014. According to the brand, no batch of whiskey they make will taste the same. Each of these batches uses the same mash bill: 63% rye, 20% malted barley and 17% yellow corn.

“We are more than excited to release our Restoration Rye, a spirit that is thoughtful in every detail, from grain to glass, and is a true representation of the team’s hard work and attention to detail over the past five years,” says Quality Manager Jon Brown.

Castle & Key Restoration Rye Batch #1

This batch yielded 60 barrels and the whiskey was bottled at 51.5% ABV.

Castle & Key Restoration Rye Batch #2

This batch yielded 57 barrels and the whiskey was bottled at 49.5% ABV.

Castle & Key Restoration Rye will be available as of this month in Kentucky, Indiana, Tennessee, South Carolina, Texas and Georgia for $39.99 each.

Also released this week from the distillery were Sacred Spring Vodka and Roots of Ruin Dry Gin. Each one received an updated name and packaging, but the contents of the vodka and gin remain the same.

Castle & Key Restoration Rye /Photo Credit: Castle & Key

Tequila Ocho 2020 Cask Finish Range Released

This week the Tequila Ocho 2020 Barrel Select Collection was announced. For this limited-edition series, Tequila Ocho Founders Carlos Camarena and Tomas Estes partnered with Maison Ferrand Master Blender Alexandre Gabriel. The añejo tequilas began, as always, with 100% blue weber agave from Los Altos, Jalisco that was sourced from a unique field and vintage. But instead of very used ex-bourbon barrels, the tequilas aged in rum and/or cognac casks for at least a year.

Tropical aged in rum casks from Fiji, Trinidad, and Panama. It’s bottled at 45.8% ABV.

Continental aged exclusively in Maison Ferrand Ambre Cognac casks. It’s bottled at 43.1% ABV.

Transatlantic aged in both rum casks from Fiji and Panama as well as Maison Ferrand cognac casks. It’s bottled at 44.2% ABV.

Each Tequila Ocho 2020 Cask Finish tequila has an SRP of $89.99 and is available this month.

Tequila Ocho 2020 Cask Finish Range /Photo Credit: Tequila Ocho

Plantation Rum Introduces 2020 Single Cask and Extrême No. 4 Collections

Speaking of Maison Ferrand, this week the spirits house introduced its Plantation’s Single Cask series for 2020. This year’s collection represents 12 bottles, each form a brand which participated in Maison Ferrand’s Barrel Swap Program. This rum collection goes through Plantation’s standard double aging, first in a tropical climate and then in France where it’s further aged in ex-cognac casks. Then a third maturation occurs in beer, wine or spirit to finish its maturation.

While there are 12 single casks produced, only 9 will be available in the US. You can see their details below.

Jamaica 1996 Single Cask (New York Distilling Co. Rye Whiskey Cask Maturation) SRP $130
– Barbados 6 Year Single Cask (Calvados Cask Maturation) SRP $50
– Barbados x Jamaica 9 Year (Acacia Cask Maturation) SRP $60
– Fiji 2009 Single Cask (Kilchoman Peated Whisky Cask Maturation) SRP $63
– Fiji 9 Year Single Cask (Linie Aquavit Cask Maturation) SRP $55
– Guyana 2008 Single Cask (Red Pineau des Charentes Cask Maturation) SRP $60
– Jamaica 2007 Single Cask (Sauternes Cask Maturation) SRP $60
– Panama 2007 Single Cask (Champagne Cask Maturation) SRP $58
– Panama 6 Year Single Cask (Marsala Cask Maturation) SRP $50

Jamaica 1996 Single Cask (New York Distilling Co. Rye Whiskey Cask Maturation) /Photo Credit: Plantation Rum

Meanwhile, Plantation also released its Extrême No. 4 Collection. These Extrême releases are single cask releases which are bottled at cask strength, receive no dosage and are not blended. This year, there were 8 bottles released in the series. Only two will be released in the US with an SRP of $250 each.

Plantation Extrême No. 4 Jamaica STC^E 1995

This bottling was distilled in 1995 at Long Pond Distillery in Jamaica. It aged for 25 years in total, first in Jamaica in ex-bourbon barrels and then in France for at least a year in ex-cognac. This is a US exclusive release.

Plantation Extrême No.4 Jamaica MMW 1994

This bottling was distilled in 1994 at Clarendon Distillery in Jamaica. It aged for 26 years in total, first in Jamaica in ex-bourbon barrels and then in France for at least a year in ex-cognac.


It’s time to take a quick look at what else is going on around the world this week …

Japan’s Mars Distillery Announces Three New Whisky Releases

This week Mars Distillery released three new whiskeys to its portfolio, each will be available nationwide. One is a blend and the other two are single malts including one from its new distillery on Kyushu, Japan’s southernmost main island.

Mars Iwai 45

Iwai — pronounced “E-Y” — is named for Kiichiro Iwai, “a silent pioneer of Japanese whisky.” This blended whisky is the same as the brand’s classic blue label Iwai, but this is bottled at a higher 45% ABV for cocktails. It carries an SRP of $34.99.

Mars Komagatake Single Malt Limited Edition 2020

This single malt was distilled at the Mars Shinshu Distillery in Nagano. This limited-edition was aged over 3 years in sherry and American white oak barrels. It’s bottled at 50% ABV and carries an SRP of $169.

Mars Tsunuki The First Single Malt

As the name suggests, this is the first release from Mars’ Tsunuki Distillery, located on the island of Kyushu. The single malt was distilled in 2016-2017 and it matured in ex-bourbon and ex-sherry barrels for over 3 years. It is bottled at 59% ABV. This is the first release from Mars to be both distilled and aged at sea level. It carries an SRP of $219.99.

Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection Very Fine Rare Bourbon

Very Fine Rare Bourbon falls under Woodford Reserve’s Master’s Collection series. This limited-edition release includes barrels which are 17 years of age and date back to 2003. This year is significant for Master Distiller Chris Morris as it was the first year he held this position. Morris and Assistant Master Distiller Elizabeth McCall used very rare barrels in this release, hence the name. It will be available as of December 2020 with an SRP of $129.99

Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection Very Fine Rare Bourbon /Photo Credit: Woodford Reserve

Compass Box Magic Cask

This blended malt is made from two single malts with James Saxon as the lead whiskymaker. One is from The Imperial Distillery (now closed) which aged in a first-fill bourbon cask. It comprises 92% of the blend. The other single malt is from a “distillery near the town of Aberlour” and it aged in a first-fill oloroso seasoned butt. Magic Cask is bottled at 46% ABV without chill-filtration or added color. It is available in France, Germany and the Netherlands in December 2020 and will be available in the US, UK and Canada in January 2021. It carries an SRP of $175.

Barrell Bourbon New Year 2021

Each year, Barrel Craft Spirits releases a blended bourbon in anticipation of the new year. The 2021 bottling features straight bourbons aged 5, 9, 10 and 11 years. Blended and bottled in Kentucky, the bourbons were distilled in Kentucky, Tennessee, Indiana, New York, Texas, Wyoming and Colorado. Bottled at cask strength of 113.9 proof, it has an SRP of $89.99.

Interested in Castle & Key Restoration Rye and more?

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