This week brought news of a whole slew of upcoming whiskey, brandy, vodka and gin releases, along with word that American craft distilling is expanding at a dizzying rate. The yearly fall Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection release—or shall we say releases—is here. Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection Select American Oak Bourbon also is making its debut alongside Oat Grain Kentucky Bourbon. Let’s get into it!
The American Craft Distilling Industry Is On Fire. Good Fire.
Last week The American Craft Spirits Association, Park Street, and the IWSR presented highlights from the 2018 Craft Spirits Data Project at the Third Annual Craft Spirits Economic Briefing. What did we learn? Well, for starters, the American craft distilling industry is absolutely booming.
Photo Credit: Westland
The craft distilling industry sold almost 7.2 million cases in 2017, up nearly 24% in volume from 2016. That accounts for $3.7 billion in sales. The number of active distilleries in the US grew by 15.5% last year to reach 1,835 in total. A huge chunk of this growth is centered around a few key states, namely California, New York, Washington, Texas and Colorado. California is home to 156 craft distilleries, New York has 134, Washington has 122, Texas has 108 and Colorado has 99.
What does this all mean for you? Higher quality products, a larger quantity of products, and no end in sight to the craft distilling boom in the United States.
Two New Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection Releases
Every autumn Woodford Reserve announces new Master’s Collection releases. These limited edition releases showcase Woodford’s innovation while honoring the past industry leaders Oscar Pepper and James Crow. They also seem to be an excuse for Master Distiller Chris Morris to have some fun in the lab. The series always highlights one of the five elements used in whiskey production: water, grain, fermentation, distillation and maturation.
With this release, the focus was on maturation. The bourbon matures in Ozark oak, a particular type of American oak known for its fast growing characteristics. It is bottled at 45.2% ABV and will become available in the fall of 2018. SRP is $129.99.
As you probably guessed from the name, this bourbon focuses on the grain. For this release, Chris Morris included oats in the mash bill and reduced the rye content normally used. It is a no age statement straight Kentucky bourbon and is bottled at 45.2% ABV. Like its counterpart, it becomes available in fall of 2018, but this is a US exclusive release. SRP for this bourbon is also $129.99.
Starting back in 2012, Angel’s Envy began releasing yearly limited edition cask strength bourbons. Each year the brand selects barrels to be blended and further aged in Portuguese port wine casks. This year’s expression is available in select markets as of October 1st.
“Every 100 barrels or so, we find one that truly stands out. We’re always looking for those special barrels to put through our extended finishing process” says Wes Henderson, Co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer at Angel’s Envy.
It comes in at 62% ABV with a suggested retail price of $199.99.
Kikori Whisky Releases Kikori Ten
You’ve probably heard of Kikori Whisky. It’s a no age statement Japanese whisky made from 100% rice in Kyushu. While that release uses some oloroso sherry in its maturation, this whisky aged for ten years exclusively in a former oloroso sherry butt. Kikori Ten is a single cask release, so only 312 hand-numbered bottles were produced. Expect it to start hitting shelves mid-November 2018. It is bottled at 41.2% ABV and has an SRP of $179.99.
This is the third release in the limited edition cognac series from Hennessy. This is also the first time this release was created by 8th generation master blender Renaud Filloux de Gironde who succeeded his uncle Yann Fillioux.
In Cognac, managing and ensuring the consistency of the brand’s marques is the main responsibility for a master blender. However, the Master Blender’s Selection series is a selection of single batch cognacs that are not meant to be duplicated. It serves as the ultimate expression of the master blender’s creativity, imagination and predilection for certain eaux-de-vie. This release uses eaux-de-vie that is aged at least seven years. It will become available exclusively in the United States starting in October of 2018 with an SRP of $110.
So Much New Gin!
Sometimes it might seem like whiskey dominates the conversation, but there are new products from all categories making their way into the market on a seemingly daily basis. This week there were multiple notable gin releases to cover!
Beefeater Pink Comes to the US
Luxardo Sour Cherry Gin
Luxardo Sour Cherry Gin starts as the brand’s standard gin distillate used to make Luxardo’s London Dry Gin. That recipe contains nine botanicals, including juniper, coriander, iris, angelica, sedge, licorice, cinnamon, cardamom and bitter orange. For the Sour Cherry Gin release, it is infused with Luxardo’s own Marasca cherry juice. These Marasca cherries are cultivated exclusively by the Luxardo family in the orchards of the Euganean Hills in Veneto. It is bottled at 37.5% ABV with an SRP of $35.
Malfy Gin Brings Rosa & Con Arancia To The States
Until recently, the only Malfy gin products you could find in the United States were Originale and Gin Con Limone. That changes in October of 2018 with the introductino of Malfy Gin Rosa and Malfy Con Arancia from the Italian gin maker.
Malfy Gin Rosa is made using the peels of sun-ripened Sicilian pink grapefruits. The peels combine with Italian juniper and infuse in Italian grain spirit for 36 hours. It also contains five additional botanicals: lemon peel, grapefruit peel, angelica root, orris root and coriander. Additionally, Malfy adds a rabarbaro (rhubarb) distillate post distillation, giving the gin a pale pink color. SRP $29.99.
Malfy Con Arancia is made with Sicilian blood oranges which have been awarded Protected Geographical Status. It follows the same distillation method as Rosa with those five additional botanicals. The result is a vibrant, dark orange-colored gin bursting with zesty, citrus notes. SRP $29.99.
Suntory Brings Roku Gin To The U.S. And Introduces Haku Vodka
Suntory originally launched Roku Gin in the UK, Germany and Australia back in July of 2017. Until now it wasn’t available at all within the United States. As of October 2018, that changes. The name “Roku” is Japanese for “six” which refers to the six Japanese botanicals used. Along with eight traditional gin botanicals, Suntory utilizes sakura flower (cherry blossoms), sakura leaf (cherry leaf), sencha tea (green tea), Gyokuro tea (refined green tea), sanshō pepper, and yuzu. SRP $27.99.
Suntory uses 100% Japanese white rice to create Haku Vodka. The rice is fermented with koji rice to create a mash, then is distilled in a pot still. It is distilled a second time through two different processes in a pot and column still. It is blended then filtered through bamboo charcoal and proofed to 40% ABV. Haku Vodka is exclusive to the United States and is available starting in October of 2018 with an SRP of $27.99.
Dan Aykroyd Releases a Terrifying Limited Edition Version of Crystal Head Vodka
Have you ever wanted to enjoy a nice vodka that came from a terrifying bottle? Then you’re in luck! Dan Aykroyd teamed up again with artist John Alexander to create Crystal Head Vodka The John Alexander Artist Series No. 1.
The limited edition bottle commemorates the 10th anniversary of Aykroyd’s vodka brand. Alexander designed the original Crystal Head vodka, a design that’s an exact rendering of a human skull. This special bottle finish is derived from the artist’s 1988 oil painting entitled “Dancing on the Water Lilies of Life” which currently hangs in the Dallas Museum of Art.
The vodka inside the bottle is the original Crystal Head Vodka, made with the Peaches & Cream corn variety. Only 25,000 bottles were made, and less than 5,000 will be available in the United States. It is bottled at 40% ABV with a suggested retail price of $149.95.