Distiller’s Friday Roundup – February 1st, 2019

February 1, 2019

It’s officially February and our inboxes are brimming with news coming out of the spirits world. To begin, Diageo revealed plans for the revived Port Ellen Distillery. Also in scotch news, Glenmorangie announced the debut of its tenth Private Edition whisky which highlights wild yeast. At the same time, Svedka joined the pink spirits fray with its latest flavored vodka release. Meanwhile, in American whiskey news, Heaven Hill announced a new master distiller, and Uncle Nearest released two new premium single barrel whiskeys.

Lastly, on a more personal note, to the friends of Distiller in the midwest and on the east coast of the United States, we hope you and your loved ones are able to stay safe and warm.

Now, onto this week’s news.

Diageo Unveils Plans For The Restoration of Port Ellen Distillery

Back in October of 2017 Diageo announced its decision to revive the “lost” Scotch whisky distilleries of Brora and Port Ellen as part of a £35 million project. Both closed in 1983 without much fanfare, as the whiskies they produced at the time were mainly used in blends. However, years later their single malts were included in Diageo’s annual Special Releases lineup and well, the rest is history.

Renovated Port Ellen Distillery Renderings

This past Thursday, January 29th, Diageo finally unveiled its plans for the Port Ellen restoration. The company will fully restore the remaining buildings—which date back as far as 1824—while also constructing a new still house containing four copper pot stills. While the first two stills are meant to replicate the distillery’s original stills, the other two will be used to experiment with “new whisky styles”.

Pending approval of its plans, Diageo plans to open the newly restored Port Ellen in 2021.

Heaven Hill Announces New Master Distiller

This week Heaven Hill Distillery named Conor O’Driscoll as its new master distiller. He began his career in the whiskey business as Operations Manager for the Brown-Forman Distillery in Shively. From there he moved to Woodford Reserve, then later Angel’s Envy. Notably, O’Driscoll will become only the fifth master distiller in the brand’s 84-year history.

Conor O’Driscoll, Heaven Hill’s new Master Distiller

“I’m very proud to be a part of Heaven Hill’s storied whiskey legacy,” says O’Driscoll. “The trust of the Shapira family is humbling. And I am excited and honored to carry on the traditions of the Master Distillers that helped establish Heaven Hill’s place in the industry. I am especially honored to carry on the legacy of Parker Beam, whose expectations for quality and consistency live on today.”

Svedka Debuts Svedka Rosé

The growing popularity of rosé wine has caused Svedka to throw its hat in the ring with their take on the pink wine. Like other rosé vodka brands, this one incorporates actual rosé wine (5%) in its production. Significantly, Svedka released this flavored vodka in a clear bottle to showcase its pink color, a first for the brand.

Svedka Vodka Rosé

Beginning February 2019, the new Svedka Rosé will be available across the United States in various sizes from 50ml-1.75L bottles. Bottled at 30% ABV, you can expect a standard 750ml to set you back $12.99.

Glenmorangie Marks Tenth Anniversary of Private Edition Series

Every year for the past decade, Glenmorangie has released a new limited-edition single malt as part of its Private Edition Series. Glenmorangie Allta, Scots Gaelic for “wild”, is the first single malt whisky created from yeast that grows wild on the distillery’s own barley.

Glenmorangie Allta / Photo Credit: Glenmorangie

Several years back, the late whisky writer Michael Jackson informed Glenmorangie’s Dr. Bill Lumsden about a unique house yeast strain that Glenmorangie supposedly possessed. Consequently, this story inspired Dr. Lumsden to collect some Cadboll barley in the fields near the distillery. After analysis he discovered Saccharomyces diaemath, a previously unidentified yeast strain. Then the yeast was cultivated then brought together with the distillery’s barley as part of the whisky-making process.

Allta aged in ex-bourbon barrels, including many second-fill casks. It is bottled at 51.2% ABV with a suggested retail price of $99.

Uncle Nearest 1820 Nearest Green Edition Single Barrels

Uncle Nearest hit the scene back in July of 2017. The brand is named in honor of Nathan “Nearest” Green, a former slave who taught Jack Daniel how to distill. Its first offering, Uncle Nearest 1856 Tennessee Whiskey, received a lot of attention in the industry and from the media. Now, a year and a half after the brand launch, it’s back with two new premium single barrel offerings.

Uncle Nearest 1820

Uncle Nearest 1820 Nearest Green Edition Single Barrel US 1 and Uncle Nearest 1820 Nearest Green Edition Single Barrel US 2 were announced on January 31st, 2019, 154 years after the US Congress passed the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery. Sourced from an undisclosed distillery, these two single barrel Tennessee whiskeys are bottled at 57.64% ABV and 55.33% ABV respectively.

The brand plans to release additional barrels in the coming months in limited markets including Tennessee, Georgia, California, Illinois and Texas. SRP $119 each.

Kingsbarns Distillery Releases Its Flagship Single Malt

Kingsbarns Distillery opened on November 30th, 2014. Since then its team has been hard at work crafting what would become the flagship single malt: Kingsbarns Dream to Dram. This no-age-statement Lowland whisky was distilled using only barley grown in East Fife. Dream to Dram finished its three year minimum aging period in March of 2018.

Kingsbarns Dream to Dram / Photo Credit: Kingsbarns

Furthermore, 90% of this single malt was aged in first-fill bourbon casks from the Heaven Hill Distillery, while the remaining 10% matured in shaved, toasted and re-charred wine casks. This release follows the release of Kingsbarns’ Founders’ Reserve whisky, the first in an annual limited edition release series bottled for members of Kingsbarns’ Founders’ Club.

It is bottled at 46% ABV and has a suggested price of $59.


Coopers’ Craft Barrel Reserve is the second release for Brown-Forman and its Coopers’ Craft line-up. This follows the Coopers’ Craft Straight Bourbon released back in 2016. Coopers’ Craft celebrates the role and heritage of the coopers who meticulously construct and repair barrels for whiskey making. The Brown-Forman Cooperage, operating since 1945, is the only American brand to have its own cooperage for making new barrels.

Coopers’ Craft Barrel Reserve / Photo Credit: brown-Forman

Barrel Reserve isn’t just a higher proof version of the first release, but rather a unique expression. It matures in new American white oak barrels which are chiseled and charred, allowing more contact with the liquid. Available beginning January 2019 in 12 markets in the US including Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Florida, among others primarily in the south. SRP $30.

Buffalo Trace Releases 22nd Experimental Collection Bourbons

Starting in 2006, Buffalo Trace began releasing experimental whiskeys several times a year. Marking the brand’s 22nd experimental release is a duo of bourbons which focus on extended seasoning of oak staves. Although each aged for over nine years, one did so with staves seasoned for 36 months and the other for 48 months. Typically, the brand uses staves which are seasoned for just nine months. The bourbon itself is made with Buffalo Trace’s mash recipe #1, a low rye recipe used to make many of its flagship brands, including Buffalo Trace bourbon.

Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection Bourbons

“Although the taste difference is slight between the two experiments, these whiskeys taste different than our flagship Buffalo Trace bourbon. The 48 month seasoned stave barrels created a more mellow taste and holds less flavor from the wood. The 36 month seasoned stave bourbon is a little more flavorful with oak notes and caramel present,” says Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley.

Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection Seasoned Staves 36 Months and Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection Seasoned Staves 48 Months will be sold together in a two pack case in 375ml bottles starting in late February 2019. They are both bottled at 45% ABV. As is the case with all Buffalo Trace Experimental Collection releases, availability will be very limited.

Whether you’re hunting for Glenmorangie Allta or the new Uncle Nearest 1820 releases, we wish you the best of luck!

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