Distiller’s Friday Roundup – October 8, 2021By Amanda Schuster
Happy Friday, spirits fans! The leaves aren’t the only thing going through a major change this season, so are some of the most anticipated releases of the year.
We begin with the Buffalo Trace’s 2021 Antique Collection, which will be missing a key player this time around. We detail this, uh, stagg-ering development below. The Diageo Special Releases are also out, but the focus this year is on regional representation rather than old juice from ghost distilleries.
Also, from Scotland, Macallan is debuting a new expression to celebrate the new year (we’re ready for that now!).
In the US, Good Deeds Whiskey, a blended malt with liquid from 9 distilleries, makes its debut to benefit Stepup Foundation. Meanwhile, Lost Lantern celebrates its first anniversary as an American independent bottler with new single cask expressions. Also, more Widow Jane Decadence is available now, and Eastside Burnside Black Barrel Strength Rye, benefitting tree conservation, has been released. Then there’s new bourbon and vodka from Village Garage Distillery in Vermont, and Middle West Spirits has debuted its Double Cask Collection.
Out of Texas, Milam & Greene Distillery Edition Batch 2 is out in super limited quantities, and TX Whiskey Straight Bourbon Cognac Cask Finish has been released.
The cask-finished tequila trend continues to gain momentum, and now there’s Patrón Añejo Tequila Sherry Cask Aged.
But let’s start in Kentucky, where Buffalo Trace has some disappointing news.
Buffalo Trace Distillery Releases 2021 Antique Collection Whiskeys, With A Twist
This week Buffalo Trace Distillery announced the release of the 2021 Antique Collection. This annual collection, more than two decades running, features American whiskeys of various ages and proofs, ranging from uncut and unfiltered whiskey to whiskeys as old as 17 and 18 years.
But, as if life’s disappointments weren’t enough these days, the 2021 Antique Collection is missing George T. Stagg, the highly coveted, uncut, unfiltered 15-year-old whiskey. The distillery says Stagg will not be part of the release because the 15-year-old barrels were simply not up to snuff to represent the Stagg brand.
“Before any barrel can be dumped and bottled, it goes through rigorous testing procedures numerous times to ensure it is meeting the quality standards set forth for that brand,” said Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley. “Unfortunately, this crop of barrels earmarked to be Stagg back when it was put in the barrel in 2006 did not meet the Stagg profile today. We discussed at great length how to proceed, and ultimately decided we did not feel right about lowering our standards or the age, by dipping into next year’s supply of barrels. We know fans will be disappointed, as are we, but we could not release a bourbon that we did not feel was up to par with the flavor profile expected of George T. Stagg.”
Putting the whiskey to the test
Buffalo Trace’s bourbon goes through several types of quality testing — everything from checking turbidity (cloudiness) and testing samples using gas chromatography. The distillery says the most discriminating test of all is the human palate. There is a team of taste testers, who have all gone through sensory analysis training, who taste each barrel sample brought to the laboratory to ensure each barrel matches brand standards before bottling. Apparently, even if only one taster disagrees, the barrel is sent back to be aged longer.
“Quality is always paramount for our products,” said Drew Mayville, master blender and director of quality. “If the taste doesn’t match our expectations, then we will not release it to our customers. And unfortunately, this year’s yield of Stagg did not meet our expectations. Good news is, we’ll have the barrels we put up in 2007, which are on track so far for a 2022 release, barring anything unforeseen changes.”
The members of the 2021 Antique Collection left standing — William Larue Weller, Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye, Eagle Rare 17 Year and Sazerac Rye 18 Year — will be released and available at retail starting later this month. Here are details of each:
William Larue Weller
The 2021 release was distilled in the winter of 2009 and aged in Warehouses C, D, K, L and Q. It is bottled at 125.3 proof.
Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye
Handy is the uncut and unfiltered straight rye whiskey. This year’s Handy was distilled in the spring of 2015; aged in warehouses I, L, O and K and weighs in at 129.5 proof.
Eagle Rare 17 Year
This 101 proof whiskey was distilled in spring of 2002 and aged on the first floor of Warehouse P.
Sazerac Rye 18 Year
The barrels for the 2021 release of this straight rye whiskey were filled in the spring of 2003, and it rested on the second and fourth floors of Warehouses K and P. It is bottled at 90 proof.
The 2021 Antique Collection whiskeys, minus George T. Stagg, will be available in limited quantities starting in late October. The SRP is $99 each.
Diageo Announces the Launch of “Legends Untold,” the 2021 Special Releases Whisky Collection
Diageo has unveiled “Legends Untold,” the annual Special Releases Single Malt Scotch Whisky Collection. According to Diageo, this year the theme of the collection is to “share the untold stories of the distilleries in new and unique ways.”
As always, the collection represents one-of-a-kind bottlings of Diageo’s reserves that have been maturing in Scotland. For the first time, the bottles will feature illustrations and design work from renowned digital illustrator Ken Taylor.
The whiskies were chosen by Master Blender Dr. Craig Wilson, who says, “We have delved into the core characteristics of several classic distilleries, exploring the elements and reimagining the liquids for the Legends Untold collection. The mythical creatures of this year’s collection represent the true expressions of the distilleries. Taking inspiration from them, we have revealed new depths of flavor and embraced the essence of each of the whisky’s unique flavor profiles revealing the legend it brings to life. This year’s collection is just the very beginning of the story.”
The pack comes with a QR code to unlock what Diageo promises is a “multi-sensory experience” that “begins with a narration of the cask-strength Single Malts’ tale.”
The collection includes:
– Cardhu 14 Year aged in refill American oak and finished in red wine casks. (SRP $149.99)
– Mortlach 13 Year aged in virgin and refill American oak. (SRP $124.99)
– Lagavulin 12 Year aged in refill American oak casks. (SRP $149.99)
– Lagavulin 26 Year aged in PX & Oloroso sherry seasoned first-fill casks — only 7,542 bottles are available. (SRP $2,399.99)
– Oban 12 Year aged in freshly-charred American oak. (SRP $114.99)
– Royal Lochnagar 16 Year aged in American oak & European oak refill casks. (SRP $249.99)
– The Singleton of Glendullan 19 Year aged in refill American oak, finished in cognac casks. (SRP $174.99)
– Talisker 8 Year aged in heavily-peated refill casks. (SRP $114.99)
The 2021 Special Releases collection will be available in limited quantities from specialist Scotch whisky retailers and malts.com.
Legends Untold 2021 Special Releases Whisky Collection /Photo Credit: Diageo
Introducing The Macallan A Night On Earth In Scotland
The Macallan has unveiled A Night On Earth In Scotland, a single malt whisky, which the brand says “reveals the story of Scotland’s world-famous Hogmanay festivities and captures the universal joy of celebrating the change of year.”
This is the first in a new limited edition gifting series. It is a collaboration with acclaimed Japanese-French illustrator Erica Dorn, who has previously created designs for luxury brands and whose artwork has been featured in director Wes Anderson’s films. The abstract illustrations are inspired by the historic fire rituals used in New Year celebrations around the world, as well as some of the distinctive good luck customs of Scotland’s Hogmanay.
This single malt was created from a selection of The Macallan’s sherry seasoned American and European oak casks, along with American ex-bourbon barrels. A Night On Earth In Scotland is bottled at 40% ABV. It will be available globally starting in October 2021 for an SRP of $90.
A Night On Earth In Scotland /Photo Credit: The Macallan
Good Deeds American Malt Whiskey Makes Its Debut
Good Deeds Spirits is proud to announce its debut release, Good Deeds Malt Whiskey, a malt whiskey blend from 9 distinct craft whiskey producers. This 1,000 bottle release will be sold via Seelbachs on October 15, with 100% of proceeds to benefit STEPUP Foundation, the diversity and inclusion initiative founded by the American Craft Spirits Association (ACSA).
Established as an unofficial group of distillers back in 2017 (then as a Facebook group of 100 distilling industry friends called “Good Guys Distillers”), the group formally set up a DBA as Good Deeds Spirits in 2021. They did this with the intention of creating interesting, collaborative spirits releases with the goal of raising money to benefit important industry causes.
Good Deeds Malt Whiskey has a mission to increase inclusion and diversity in the drinks industry. This bottling was created using whiskey supplied by some of the country’s most respected craft distilleries. Fellow distilleries and industry suppliers including Saxco and Tapi further supported these efforts by donating bottles, closures, labels, and their expertise.
The Deets on Good Deeds
The whiskey was created in February, 2021 from a blend of 9 donated whiskeys from the following distilleries:
– Balcones Distilling (Waco, TX)
– Bently Heritage Estate Distillery (Minden, NV)
– FEW Spirits (Evanston, IL)
– Headframe Spirits (Butte, MT)
– Rogue Spirits Distillery (Newport, OR)
– Santa Fe Spirits (Santa Fe, NM)
– Sonoma Distilling Company (Rohnert Park, CA)
– State Line Distillery (Madison, WI)
– Thornton Distilling Company (Thornton, IL)
Blenders Johnny Jeffery (Bently Heritage Estate Distillery), Randy Hudson (Triple Eight Distillery), Reade Huddleston (Headframe Spirits), and John McKee (Headframe Spirits) blended over the course of two days in Butte, MT. All of the whiskey was blended on-site, then placed in ex-bourbon barrels to marry for five months before proofing down to 46% for bottling and release.
The effort’s leader, Johnny Jeffery, general manager at Bently Heritage Estate Distillery, said, “As an industry, we’ve come to realize that we need to do more to change the face of distilling. We believe this is an important first step we’re taking together. As a group who says our mission is to do good, we felt this was a great start and a tangible way to put our skills to good use and show what a group of friends can do when they care enough about a mission.”
Good Deeds Malt Whiskey is bottled at 46% with an SRP of $75.00. Significantly, 100% of the bottle price will benefit the STEPUP Foundation. The whiskey will be available exclusively via Seelbachs. Public sale begins on October 15, 2021, with 1,000 bottles available.
Good Deeds Malt Whiskey /Photo Credit: Good Deeds Spirit
Lost Lantern Celebrates First Anniversary by Announcing Fall 2021 Single Cask Collection
Lost Lantern, an independent bottler of American whiskey that launched in late 2020, has announced its Fall 2021 collection featuring five limited edition single casks.
Since their debut last October, Lost Lantern has released ten single casks from around the country and four new distilleries have joined the roster.
Beginning October 15, the Fall 2021 single cask collection will be offered for presale via the Lost Lantern website, with a later release available via Seelbachs.com. All offerings are bottled at cask strength, are non-chill-filtered, and have natural color.
The Fall 2021 Lineup
– Cedar Ridge Iowa Single Malt finished in a 500-liter sherry butt imported from Jerez, Spain. (SRP $110)
– Watershed Ohio Straight Bourbon is made with a five-grain mash bill that includes corn, rye, spelt, malted barley and wheat. (SRP $100)
– Boulder Spirits Colorado Straight Bourbon is made with a high-malt mash of 51% corn, 44% malted barley and 5% rye. It undergoes 5 years of aging in a 53-gallon new American oak cask at over a mile in elevation. (SRP $105)
– Spirit Works California Straight Rye is a 5-year-old straight rye whiskey aged in a 53-gallon new American oak cask and made from a mash bill of 70% organic rye, 10% malted rye, and 20% malted barley. (SRP $80)
– St. George Spirits California Single Malt, aged for 3 years in a 228-liter cask with a medium toast and toasted heads. (SRP $150)
In addition, Lost Lantern has introduced a new cask numbering system. Every front label now includes the release year, cask number and alcohol by volume written by hand.
Fall 2021 Single Cask Collection /Photo Credit: Lost Lantern
Widow Jane Decadence Bourbon Returns For Fall 2021
Widow Jane Distillery has announced that once-sold-out Decadence will return to retail shelves and back bars across the US beginning this month. The expression begins with the brand’s signature 10-year bourbon, blended in small batches. The whiskey is finished in American oak barrels that once held Upstate New York’s Crown Maple artisan maple syrup.
The Brooklyn-based distillery introduced the first 550 case batch of Decadence in April 2020. The second batch of another 550 cases followed in October of that year, and both sold out in a matter of days!
Widow Jane Decadence is bottled at 45.5% ABV (91 proof) with an of SRP $89.99. The fall and winter 2021 batches will collectively yield around 2,000 cases, or 12,000 bottles, and will be available in most major whiskey markets beginning in October, 2021.
Widow Jane Decadence /Photo Credit: Widow Jane Distillery
Eastside Distilling Launches New Premium Burnside Black Barrel Strength Rye Whiskey
Portland craft distillery Eastside Distilling has announced the national release of Burnside Black Barrel Strength Rye Whiskey, a bourbon-casked double barrel rye.
As with the other expressions in the Burnside portfolio, Burnside Black was rested in select Oregon white oak (Quercus Garryana) barrels. What makes this one special is that it was also bourbon cask-matured. As with all the releases, the Burnside Black uses pure Mt. Hood, Oregon water for proofing.
Additionally, Eastside Distilling has planned an in-store promotion: for every bottle of Burnside Whiskey purchased, they will plant an Oregon white oak tree. Burnside Black Barrel Strength Rye Whiskey is bottled at 55% ABV with an of SRP $69. It’s available in OR, WA, CA, ID, MT, WY, CO, AZ and TX.
Middle West Spirits Unveils New Double Cask Collection
Middle West Spirits has announced the launch of its new Double Cask Collection whiskeys. Available in 32 US markets on October 1, this collection features three whiskeys: Sherry Cask-Finished Bourbon, Oloroso Wheat Whiskey and Ported Pumpernickel Rye Whiskey.
Sherry Cask-Finished Bourbon is aged for a minimum of six years. First it aged in heavy-toasted American white oak barrels from Ohio. Then it matured in sun-blackened Spanish solera sherry casks. It is bottled at 97.25 proof.
Oloroso Wheat Whiskey starts with Middle West Spirits Wheat Whiskey, aged for five years in lightly toasted Ohio-made American White Oak barrels. Then the whiskey finished its aging in Spanish oloroso sherry barrels. It is bottled at 100 proof.
Ported Pumpernickel Rye Whiskey spends at least five years in medium-toasted local American white oak barrels before it is moved to French tawny port casks. There, it develops soft notes of stone fruit and nutmeg, punctuated by spiced rye. It is bottled at 99.5 proof.
The Double Cask Collection bottles will be offered at $99-$125. A single-bottle decanter gift set will sell for $125 and a gift set featuring all three spirits, plus a decanter, retails for $330.
Sherry Cask-Finished Bourbon /Photo Credit: Middle West Spirits
Vermont’s Village Garage Distillery Debuts Bourbon and Vodka
Village Garage is a newly-opened distillery in Bennington, Vermont. Its first two releases are Village Bourbon (contract distilled at another Vermont distillery), made from Vermont corn and rye and aged 5 years in American white oak barrels (45% ABV, SRP $50) and Village Vodka (40% ABV, SRP $22). Village Garage is co-founded by Glen Sauer and Matt Cushman, who seek to shine a spotlight on Green Mountain-made spirits.
The spirits are now available for purchase at the distillery and throughout Vermont. Direct-to-consumer availability is set to come to villagegarage.com in late November. Village Garage says it will open a restaurant specializing in local fare later this year. It is currently open for distillery tours and tastings.
Village Bourbon /Photo Credit: Village Garage Distillery
Milam & Greene Whiskey Releases Second Distillery Edition Batch
Milam & Greene Whiskey is releasing an extremely limited Distillery Edition Straight Bourbon, a Certified Texas Whiskey produced in Blanco, Texas. This second annual distillery edition is pot-distilled by Master Distiller Marlene Holmes in a 300-gallon copper still. Additionally, the bourbon is non-chill-filtered and is bottled at barrel proof. Only nine barrels were used in the blend.
Batch 2 is produced completely onsite at the distillery in the heart of Texas Hill Country with a mash bill of 70% corn, 22% malted rye and 8% malted barley. Furthermore, it’s made using a proprietary yeast recipe and was barrel aged for three to three and a half years. It is bottled at a barrel proof of 57.5% ABV.
Milam & Greene Distillery Edition Straight Bourbon Batch #2 is available while supplies last at the distillery in Blanco, Texas, and at select retailers in Illinois and Texas for $119.99.
Distillery Edition Straight Bourbon Batch #2 /Photo Credit: Milam & Greene
TX Whiskey Launches Bourbon Finished In Cognac Casks
TX Whiskey has announced the launch of TX Straight Bourbon Cognac Cask Finish. This is the third and final expression in TX Whiskey’s Barrel Finish Series. Additionally, this is also the last expression from TX Whiskey’s Master Distiller Rob Arnold who will be stepping down after a decade at the distillery.
Arnold hand-selected the cognac casks for this expression to finish two-year-old Texas Straight Bourbon over 17 months. This is the first TX Whiskey expression distilled at Whiskey Ranch, the brand’s new 112-acre artisanal distillery experience in Fort Worth, Texas.
Incidentally, Master Blender Ale Ochoa and Head Distiller Evan Brewer have been selected by Arnold to lead distillery and production operations following his last day on Oct. 8th.
TX Straight Bourbon Cognac Cask Finish is a limited release with an SRP of $64.99. It’s available at Whiskey Ranch in Fort Worth and at select Texas retailers.
TX Straight Bourbon Cognac Cask Finish /Photo Credit: TX Bourbon
Patrón Releases Sherry Cask Aged Añejo Tequila
Patrón has announced the release of its latest aged expression, Patrón Sherry Cask Aged Añejo. Originally conceived by former Master Distiller Francisco Alcaraz, this limited-edition tequila matures for more than two years in ex-oloroso sherry Spanish oak barrels. Since each barrel is unique, current Master Distiller David Rodriguez was called on to blend the tequila from each cask in order to achieve the desired quality.
Patrón Sherry Cask Aged Añejo Tequila is bottled at 40% ABV. It’s available now exclusively in the US while supplies last for an SRP of $79.99.
Patrón Sherry Cask Aged Añejo /Photo Credit: Patrón
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