Distiller’s Friday Roundup – January 11th, 2019By Mikael Mossberg
It’s 2019 and we’re already off to the races with news of new releases and industry happenings. As with everything these days it seems that politics have invaded even the drinks space. The government shutdown is directly affecting the products intended for shelves in early 2019. Douglas Laing kicked off 2019 with a cask strength offering of Timorous Beastie 12 Year and Tullibardine has a new limited-edition single malt for you. Kavalan has a gin now, Jameson is updating its bottles and Plantation has two new extreme rums. All that and more in the Friday Roundup for January 11th!
The Shutdown Is Affecting Your Drinks
Not to start our first Friday Roundup of 2019 on a heavy note, but the US government shut down has found a new victim: the alcohol industry. On December 22nd the government of the United States failed to agree on a spending bill and all departments deemed non-essential were shut down. One of those departments was the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, known as the TTB. Your average citizen probably isn’t all that aware of what the TTB does. People in the beer, wine and spirits industries, however, are keenly aware of just how essential they are. Put simply, if a product has alcohol in it, the TTB has to approve the label before it can be sold. What does that mean? Every alcohol brand on the planet is unable to release new products within the US if they haven’t already been approved.
The TTB has been deemed non-essential during the government shutdown
Right now the beer industry is feeling the pain most acutely as their production timeline is much shorter than that of your average distilled spirit. Brand new beers waiting to be released may have to be thrown out if they aren’t approved soon. Due to the backlog that the closure of the TTB is already causing, liquors that were originally slated for global release dates in the coming months may end up debuting internationally in advance of their US releases, or being pushed back for months. Already after three weeks of backlog, the shutdown is likely to have far reaching effects on the industry and its consumers. Liquor stores that rely on new products, small producers that already operate on thin margins and companies that can’t house their products indefinitely will all be affected.
Douglas Laing Starts 2019 With Our Favorite Mouse
In happier news, independent Scotch whisky bottler Douglas Laing is kicking off 2019 with Timorous Beastie 12 Year Cask Strength. Only 3,000 bottles are available across Europe and Asia.
It is bottled at a cask strength of 54.4% ABV and carries a suggested price of £59.99 ($75 US). For those unfamiliar, the name Timorous Beastie is a reference to famed Scottish poet Robert Burns’ famous poem “To a Mouse”. The line already contains a 10 Year, a 18 Year, a 40 Year and a NAS blended malt expression.
Tullibardine Expands Marquess Collection
The Marquess Collection from Scotch whisky producer Tullibardine is meant to celebrate the distillery’s heritage and strong link with the hamlet of Tullibardine. The latest addition is a brand new limited-edition single malt, titled Tullibardine The Murray Marsala Finish.
Distilled in 2006, it was initially aged in first-fill bourbon barrels, then finished for one year in Sicilian Marsala wine casks. The fourth whisky added to the Marquess Collection, it was bottled in 2018 at 46% ABV.
Johnnie Walker Blue Label Year of the Pig
Every year Johnnie Walker releases a new limited edition Blue Label expression that celebrates the Chinese New Year. For 2019, that means Year of the Pig. Previous editions include 2016’s Year of the Monkey, 2017’s Year of the Rooster, and 2018’s Year of the Dog.
The label art was designed by English illustrator Chrissy Lau whose design was inspired by her Chinese heritage. Inside the bottle is the standard Johnnie Walker Blue Label, one of the most widely recognized blended Scotch whiskies on the planet.
Kavalan’s First Non-Whisky Release
Award-winning Taiwanese whisky producer Kavalan has officially entered 2019 with a brand new release, and it’s not a whisky. Not only is Kavalan Gin the first gin for the brand, it is also the very first non-whisky spirit that the brand has ever released.
“We want to offer a new gin experience this new year. That’s why along with the traditional botanicals of juniper, aniseed and coriander, we are giving people a taste of Kavalan’s home in Yilan with kumquat peel, dried star fruit and red-flesh guava botanical extracts,” says Kavalan CEO Mr. YT Lee. Kavalan Gin is bottled at 40% ABV.
Plantation Rum Debuts Extrême No. 3 Collection
Last fall, Plantation Rum debuted its Extrême No. 2 Collection. Now the brand is back with a third collection. It features two rums from the Long Pond Distillery in Jamaica. The Extrême Collection is Plantation’s pedestal for unusual and special rums that Plantation creator and master blender classifies as “extreme”. These releases come on the heels of the devastating fire at Long Pond distillery back in July of 2018 which destroyed 65,000 liters of rum and all of the wood fermentation vats.
Both releases were distilled in 1996 and aged in Jamaica for 21 years in ex-bourbon barrels before traveling to France to spend an additional year in ex-Ferrand cognac casks.
Plantation Extrême No. 3 Collection / Photo Credit: Plantation Rum
The Long Pond Distillery offers different styles or marques of rums, ranging from the lightest to most intense. The HJC marque offers an ester rate of 345g/hlap and is said to have “a profile marked by rich spiced notes”. It is bottled at a cask strength of 56.2% ABV.
The ITP marque offers an ester rate of 386g/hlap and is said to have “notes of very ripe tropical fruit”. It is bottled at a cask strength of 54.8% ABV.
Siempre Tequila Adds Añejo To Their Range
Marking the first new addition to the core range of spirits from Siempre Tequila is Siempre Tequila Añejo. It is made from 100% Blue Weber Agave that is harvested roughly 8 years after planting. The agaves are slow-cooked in stone and brick ovens for around 3 days before double distillation. The spirit then spends 12 months in ex-bourbon barrels. It is bottled at 40% ABV.
Jameson Whiskey Updates Their Labels, Bottles and Story
This week Jameson announced some subtle updates to its iconic whiskey labels and green bottles. The bottle shape has changed to include a new tapered body and what the brand calls a “more generous shoulder curve”. The bottle formerly featured an emboss stating that the product was “Produced in Ireland”. That has been replaced by “1780”, the year in which the brand was established.
The IPA and Stout Caskmates bottles have also received updates. Most notably, perhaps, are the updates to the origin story on the back of the Caskmates bottles. Jameson originally worked with Franciscan Well Brewery in County Cork, but the packaging now states that the idea began “when local craft brewery Eight Degrees borrowed our casks to age their fine Irish Stout”. It should be noted that owner Pernod Ricard recently acquired Eight Degrees Brewing, so it’s not surprising that they’d be the new brewery used to season Caskmates whiskey. Still, the re-writing of the origin story is odd.
Jameson’s Updated Bottle / Photo Credit: Pernod Ricard/Irish Distillers
That does it for our first Friday Roundup of 2019. Until next week! Now off to catch a flight to Asia to buy Timorous Beastie 12 Year Cask Strength.