Distiller’s Friday Roundup – June 14th, 2019

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June 14, 2019

Pat yourself on the back, you’ve made it to Friday. To ease you into the weekend we’re here with everything you might’ve missed during the work week. To begin, Brown-Forman is adding the first gin to its portfolio by acquiring the parent company of Fords Gin. Diageo’s new female-lead Irish whiskey distillery has begun distilling and opened its doors to visitors. For the bourbon fans, details of the forthcoming Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2019 are here. Also, Compass Box and Rebel Yell have new limited-release whiskies hitting shelves soon. Finally, Diageo just teased two more Game of Thrones whiskies through the brand’s partnership with HBO. What are you waiting for? Let’s get started with the Friday Roundup for June 14th, 2019!

Brown-Forman Acquires The 86 Company and Fords Gin

Adding to the growing list of high-profile craft spirit brand acquisitions over the past few years this week’s news that Brown-Forman is buying The 86 Company, the brand behind Fords Gin. Before this deal, Brown-Forman, maker’s of Jack Daniel’s and Woodford Reserve, did not have any gin brands in its portfolio.

Diageo acquires 86 Co. & Ford's GinFord’s Gin / Photo Credit: 86 Co.

Together with Fords Gin, The 86 Company produces Aylesbury Duck Vodka, Caña Brava Rum and Tequila Cabeza. Fords Gin is distilled at the Thames Distillery in London and is the result of a partnership between master distiller Charles Maxwell and Simon Ford, co-founder of The 86 Company.

Simon Ford and The 86 Company team will remain on board with the brand after the acquisition is complete. All four brands are included in the deal by Brown-Forman, which is expected to close within 30 days. The purchase price was not disclosed.

Roe & Co Begins Distilling and Opens Doors To Visitors

In 2015, Diageo exited the world of Irish whiskey when it sold off Bushmills to Jose Cuervo’s parent company. Then two years later the brand announced its return to Irish whiskey with the launch of Roe & Co. The brand pays homage to George Roe, who in the 1800s ran and expanded the distilleries that his family founded in the 1700s.

During this time it was estimated that the largest of these distilleries, the Thomas Street Distillery, was one of the largest distilleries in the world. In 1827 it produced an estimated 244,000 gallons of whiskey per year. By the late 1800s, however, the distillery faced serious competition from the Scotch whisky industry. When American prohibition hit, and was then followed by the Anglo-Irish trade war in the 1920s, the financial burden became too large. As a result, the Roe’s were forced to close all of their distilleries.

Roe & Co Begins Distilling and Opens Doors To VisitorsRoe & Co. Begins Distilling and Opens Doors To Visitors / Photo Credit: Diageo

The new Roe & Co. distillery is based in the newly renovated Guinness Power House on Thomas Street. It will distill 14,000 liters of whiskey per run, resulting in an annual maximum of 500,000 liters, or 132,086 gallons. It is helmed by a team of talented women including master blender Caroline Martin and distiller Lora Hemy.

Starting on June 21st, 2019, the distillery will welcome guests. Visitors can take part in an in-depth 75 minute tour of the distillery, followed by cocktails in the Power House Bar afterward. This marks the 27th whiskey distillery to open in Ireland, as well as the fifth to open in Dublin.

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2019 Announced

First released in 2002, Old Forester Birthday Bourbon is a limited-edition bottling which marks founder George Garvin Brown’s birthday, September 2nd. Its release is scheduled on this day each year. Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2019 was distilled on May 15th, 2008 and aged on the second floor of Warehouse I for 11 years.

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2019Old Forester Birthday Bourbon / Photo Credit: Brown-Forman

“September is a special month for us at Old Forester,” says Campbell Brown, Old Forester’s president. “We get to mark, in a public manner, through a carefully curated expression; the bourbon my great, great grandfather founded. It is a wonderful way to celebrate the legacy George left behind.

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2019 is bottled at 105 proof, which is also the highest proof to-date for Birthday Bourbon. Approximately 2,200 six bottle cases are expected to be available nationwide starting on September 2nd, 2019. Though the suggested retail price is $99.99 you can expect it to be much higher, if you can find it at all.

Compass Box The Circle Created by Winner of Bartender Program

Compass Box is set to release a new limited-edition expression named The Circle No. 1, after the Scotch whisky brand’s bartender program.

“It is our way of bringing together like-minded creators who love to do things differently, ” says Compass Box Founder John Glaser.” But this isn’t about industry experimentation behind closed doors. These expert bartenders are set a range of challenges to test their creativity.”

Compass Box The Circle No. 1Compass Box The Circle No. 1

The winner of the program was London’s Three Sheets bartender Rosey Mitchell, who was thus given the opportunity to craft her own limited Compass Box expression. This blended malt scotch whisky includes a base single malt from the Tamdhu distillery which matured in ex-bourbon barrels.

Only 6,151 bottles of Compass Box The Circle No. 1 have been released. It will hit the UK and select international markets in June 2019, and later in the United States in July 2019. It is bottled at 46% ABV and has a suggested price of £120 ($150 USD).

Rebel Yell Announces French Barrel Special Finish

This week, Rebel Yell announced Rebel Yell French Barrel Special Finish, a bourbon the brand intends to debut in the United Kingdom this October. Notably, this marks the first time the brand has released a bourbon that it doesn’t plan to release in the United States.

Rebel Yell French Barrel Special FinishRebel Yell French Barrel Special Finish

“We wanted to create something unique for the growing number of bourbon connoisseurs in the UK, which is why we decided to launch this whiskey outside the U.S,” says Master Distiller John Rempe.

The bourbon was finished in toasted French oak wine barrels for 6 months and is initially limited to 6,000 bottles. Rebel Yell French Barrel Special Finish will first hit the UK in October 2019, followed by releases in France and Italy. It is bottled at 45% ABV and has a suggested price of £30 ($38 USD).

Johnnie Walker Teases Two New Game of Thrones Whiskies

Game of Thrones may have come to an end as a TV show, but that doesn’t mean that the brand partnerships are meeting the same fate. Diageo has just announced two new Game of Thrones whiskies titled Johnnie Walker A Song of Ice and Johnnie Walker A Song of Fire.

Johnnie Walker A Song of Ice & A Song of FireJohnnie Walker A Song of Ice & A Song of Fire / Photo Credit: Diageo

Johnnie Walker A Song of Ice depicts a direwolf, and A Song of Fire depicts a dragon. Not much has been shared about either of these blended scotch whiskies. However, Diageo says that details will be released in the coming months. For now, fans can pre-order the whiskies, which are available on a first-come, first-served basis, at reservebar.com. A Song of Ice is bottled at 40.2% ABV, while A Song of Fire is bottled at 40.8%. The bottles are available for $43 each.

Together with these two releases in Diageo’s HBO Game of Thrones partnership are White Walker by Johnnie Walker and the range of eight Game of Thrones single malts branded as Westeros Houses as well as the Night’s Watch.


If you’re not in the market for Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2019, we can still hook you up with plenty of great recommendations.

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