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Whiskey producers should NOT follow in the steps of WhiskeyFest
Just as Burnetts Vodka has a massive consumer base with college students, whiskey has strong holdings in the Jewish population.
The New York Times recently examined why the Jewish population have been drinking more whiskey; Whether Jewish whiskey drinkers prefer whiskey that is kosher by nature, or whiskey that has the “extra insurance of a hechsher,”companies such as Glenrothes, Bowmore, and Auchentoshan, have made the effort to accommodate to the Jewish consumer. And unlike wine, which can contain some hidden ingredients that aren’t kosher, whiskey is straight-forward in listing its ingredients. This makes it a very popular, and safe, drink for the Jewish community.
And whiskey producers are learning to not piss off their devotees. After a controversial move from Tuesday to Friday and Saturday last year, the New York sponsors of WhiskeyFest, got a taste of reality. Falling on the eve of the Sabbath, the event could no longer host a large portion of the regular attendees, the Jewish whiskey drinkers. Keen not to miss out on the whiskey celebration, the Jewish Whiskey Company created Whisky Jewbilee, a successful pop-festival, whose popularity allowed it to return this fall, with a larger venue and a second date. With Whiskey Jewbilee only a few months away, the event already has new contributors knocking on its door, requesting to be apart of the event.
Whisky Barrel Storage 101: All About Warehouses
By some estimates, up to 70% of a whisky’s flavor comes from the barrel in which it’s aged, and hence, much attention is paid to the most minuscule details of the barrel, from the provenance of the wood to the depth of the char to what liquid it formerly held. But what’s often ignored is how the barrels are stored, a variable that can have profound effects on the whisky’s final flavor. There are three main types of barrel storage: rickhouses, palletized warehouses, and dunnage warehouses. Each has its benefits and drawbacks the same whisky aged in different environments can turn out tasting quite different by the end. And that can actually be advantageous.
How Do You Like Them Apples?
On Rosh Hashanah, every apple is special. Still, when it comes to baking, some work better than others. The two golden rules for baking with apples are: stick to in-season varieties and use an apple that is hearty enough to hold up against oven heat. &ldquoThere&rsquos nothing so disappointing as serving up a good-looking apple cake or tart, only to find that the apples are not juicy inside, or rock hard [or complete mush] after prolonged baking,&rdquo warns Marcy Goldman, author of A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking. Goldman wisely suggests consulting an apple chart (like this one), or visiting a nearby farmers&rsquo market and experimenting until you find your perfect match.
Jeffrey Morgenthaler Bartending and Cocktail Advice Since 2004
My South Side Irish Chicago Dad always told me that Jameson was the Catholic whisky and that Bushmills was the whiskey made by “the damn Protestants”. Now this character I met at the bar is trying to tell me it’s the other way around. Help! Who do I believe, the man who raised me, or some drunk I met in a bar? You can see why I am confused.
I was wondering when someone would ask this question. The truth of the matter is, the age-old faux-pas of ordering Bushmills for fear of supporting English aggression and offending the Republic of Ireland is about as Irish as corned beef – which is to say, not very Irish at all but rather Irish-American (Sorry, kids, corned beef is a Jewish invention).
Anyway, both of your sources are wrong, but at least your father got the order right. The widely-accepted Irish-American version is that Jameson is Catholic whiskey and Bushmills is Protestant whiskey. But that’s merely based on geography: Bushmills is from Northern Ireland (a predominantly Protestant region) and Jameson is from Cork – Catholic country.
Jameson was pretty much founded in 1780 when John Jameson – a Scottish guy – purchased the Bow Street Distillery, which at the time was one of the biggest distilleries in Ireland. Now, it’s important to note that the Scottish Reformation occurred in 1560, so odds are in favor of the founder of the Jameson distillery, being Scottish, was a damn Protestant.
Bushmills, on the other hand, was officially licensed in 1608 by King James I (of Bible fame) and despite of its location deep in the heart of Protestant country (and this next bit is straight from my local Bushmills rep, so take it or leave it) has a Catholic as a master distiller.
According to everyone I’ve spoken with on the subject, you only really find this debate in the States, where Irish-American support of the Republic can sometimes be blind and often fueled by the very product we’re speaking of. But none of it means much, anyway: both distilleries are owned by huge international entities: Jameson by French liquor conglomerate Pernod-Ricard, and Bushmills by the English firm Diageo.
As for my preference, I tend to like the lighter Bushmills as it’s the first Irish whiskey I discovered years ago, and I’ve certainly enjoyed my share of Jameson from time to time. But my personal preference is Redbreast, a twelve-year pot still Irish whiskey produced at the Old Midleton Distillery and a real delight to sip while enjoying a late-night Irish breakfast of sausage, egg, pudding and soda bread. Delicious.
Japanese Distilleries Discontinue Premium Whiskies Due to Overwhelming Demand
Nikka and Suntory have both put a hold on some of their aged expressions.
In October, Nikka Whisky announced that it would have employees working both day and night shifts for the first time since the late 1990s, one of several changes it has made in an attempt to meet the increasing demand for Japanese whisky.
According to Bloomberg, sales of Japanese whisky are expected to increase by seven percent in the next two years, which means that distilleries owned by Nikka and Suntory have been scrambling to increase their whiskymaking capabilities. But without creating working time machines, it also means that they can&apost possibly keep up with demand for their most popular aged whiskies. As a result, even the biggest distilleries have had to pull some products from the market Suntory has previously been forced to discontinue its Hibiki 17 and Hakushu 12 whiskies.
Earlier this week, Nikka told its Japanese suppliers that it will be suspending the sales of three more of its age-statement malt whiskies in March. The discontinued whiskies will include the 17, 21, and 25 Year Old varieties of Taketsuru Pure Malt, although Nikka will continue to sell a no age-statement version of its Taketsuru Pure Malt.
The Taketsuru line was named in honor of Masataka Taketsuru, the founder of Nikka and the man who has been called "The Father of Japanese whisky." Nikka&aposs Taketsuru Pure Malt is a blend of whiskies produced at both of its distilleries, Yoichi on the island of Hokkaido, and Miyagikyo in Sendai.
The Drinks Business reports that Nikka made this decision for the sake of "stable and effective conservation of whisky reserves." This isn&apost the first time that increased demand has marked the end of one of Nikka&aposs brands: in early 2019, it discontinued Nikka 12 and "temporarily suspended" its Nikka Coffey Malt, and Nikka Coffey Grain. It also discontinued its age-statement Yoichi and Miyagikyo single malts in 2015.
In addition to reinstating a second shift, Nikka has also put 6.5 billion yen ($61 million) toward increasing its production of raw whisky. It has already announced that it would be adding tanks at its Yoichi distillery and constructing a new building to house additional barrels during the aging process. It hopes that, by 2030, it will have enough inventory to meet consumer demand.
That more or less echoes what Takeshi Niinami, the CEO of Suntory, has previously said. "[W]e can&apost supply enough to the market requirement. But in 10 years&apos time, we will gradually be able to respond to the market need," he told The Spirits Business in late 2016. "We have to maintain the current momentum for as long as more than a decade, but we are very much confident."
"The availability of products will vary depending on the market," the company writes on its website. That&aposs so much more humble than "The market is thirsty for our whiskies, which is why we keep running out of them."
Stop Wasting Your Money on Bourbon That’s Too Old
Distillers and whiskey experts generally agree that bourbon doesn’t need to be aged for decades. So where did the myth of older whiskey is better come from?
The biggest difference between Scotch and bourbon isn’t where they’re made, what they’re made from or even the use of peat smoke.
It’s the new, charred oak barrel that bourbon legally must be aged in. That’s why a 10-year-old bourbon is ruddy and brown, full of vanilla and caramel, and wrapped round with firm oak spice and a hint of tannic structure.
On the other hand a 10-year-old Scotch is aged in a used barrel. While some brands use old sherry casks, most Scotch is aged in used bourbon barrels. Either way, the barrel’s influence has mellowed, with its robust colors and strong flavors already pulled out of it.
That 10-year-old Scotch is just coming of age, but the 10-year-old bourbon may be at the crest of the hill. Ten Kentucky summers have hammered it deep into the fresh wood of that barrel, and ten ice storm filled winters have pulled it back, carrying vanillin, tannin and other flavors with it.
Most bourbons don’t even go that long in the wood. Sure, the flagships, like Jim Beam White, Evan Williams and Old Forester are under 10 years, but so are whiskies that get wide critical acclaim, like Booker’s, the Thomas H. Handy Rye from the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection and Wild Turkey Rare Breed.
Because of that new barrel and the hot Kentucky climate, bourbon gains color and flavor quickly. If aging goes too long, it will become almost undrinkable. The trick is finding the sweet spot.
Seven years ago, I talked with Jimmy Russell, the iconic master distiller for Wild Turkey, at WhiskyFest New York. In front of 400 steaming whiskey geeks (who couldn’t wait to get their lips on a promised 21-year-old Stitzel-Weller sample that looked dark as espresso), I asked Russell how he felt about the age of bourbon. Right around eight years was best, I recall him saying, and no real need to go past 12 after that, the wood takes over.
I called him recently to confirm his feelings about that sweet spot for bourbon. “Anywhere from 6 to 12 years old,” Russell said. “You see where the Russell’s Reserve is: 10 years. I like anything from 8 to 10 years, maybe 12. No older than that.”
“When we’re tasting,” he continued, “if we taste something that’s aging well, we’ll put [those barrels] aside and keep tasting them. When they start getting that woody taste, we’ll start moving them down to the [cooler] bottom floors. We can’t move thousands, but 100 to 150 barrels, we can control the aging of it. We’ve always done that. At the perfect age, we’ll bottle them.”
That made me think of something that Fred Noe, Jim Beam master distiller, told me his father, bourbon legend Booker Noe, used to say about making bourbon by taste, not age. “Dad said it’s like being the guy that owns the orchard you want to pick the apples when they’re ripe. We pull the barrels when they’re ripe.”
If Russell’s sweet spot for bourbon is 6 to 12 years (and pretty much everyone else I talked to agreed), what are you looking at on either side of that range?
When Wild Turkey is younger than that, Russell doesn’t want to use it. “To me, it hasn’t matured yet,” he said. “I call it a grain taste, a yeasty taste. I get a grainy yeasty taste in 4- to 5-year-old whiskey. It takes a little longer.”
And so, what does “too old” taste like? “I like to tease,” Russell said, and chuckled. “If it’s over 12 years old and it wasn’t controlled, you could just get a stick of white oak and start chewing on it! That’s that woody taste, and I just don’t like a lot of woody taste. I like the combination of the wood and the whiskey.”
Russell is what we call a practical distiller, who learned the art of distillation by observation and apprenticeship.
Over at Heaven Hill, master distiller Conor O’Driscoll is much more a scientific distiller. He will tell you about esters and acidification, numbers and compounds. But he’s also practical. I asked him about bourbon aged for more than 20 years. “Expensive whiskey that tastes like a dirty old stick?” he asked with a hoot. Mind you, this from the master distiller/blender at a company that has put out a 27-year-old bourbon. So I asked him about that.
“The 27 we brought out was interesting. The most interesting thing is that it was 27-years-old, and it was still decent,” he said. “But of all the 27-year-old barrels we had, we bottled a third of them. The other two-thirds were not drinkable. We have younger barrels that taste a lot better.
“Look at Elijah Craig: 8 to 12 years old, and nailing that sweet spot,” he explained. “Elijah Craig was designed to showcase how we mature. We have 1.9 million barrels in 61 warehouses. The [warehouses are] old, new, in the city and country, made of brick, wood, whatever. As we build a batch of Evan Williams, Elijah Craig, Henry McKenna, we have all those levers to pull.”
Catch a bourbon too young, and what is it like? “The easiest answer: it’s raw,” O’Driscoll said. “There might be multiple different flavor components, but they’re episodic. You’re going to taste grainy whiskey, green apple, barrel character, but they’re not going to be a complex harmonious whole, they’re going to be one after another, not the mellow blend we expect from good bourbon.”
And on the other side? “Too much wood extraction, first,” he said. “You’ve gone through the red and toasted layers, and now you’re getting those raw wood notes. You’re getting more oxygen, and you’re getting acetone. It’s one of the last stages of the degradation of complex organics. That’s where that nail polish remover [aroma] comes from. All those critical components that make a good bourbon great have gone too far. You’re getting dirty old stick flavors, breaking alcohols into acetone, and it’s getting thicker and thicker, and concentrating stuff that might be better at a dilute concentration.”
That sounds nasty. So, when did we decide we wanted really old bourbon, and why?
“American whiskey wasn’t really aged at all until the 1850s,” says Chuck Cowdery, author of several books on bourbon and publisher of The Bourbon County Reader. “James Crow was the first person to sell only aged whiskey that was his distinction, besides perfecting the sour mash process. It probably wasn’t even two years old, but it had gone into a new barrel. New make, what they called ‘common whiskey,’ was selling for a dime a gallon, and Crow was getting a quarter. Through the 1850s, you might see advertising for whiskey advertised as 1 year old, or two years old.”
Even after this lightly aged whiskey caught on, government policy led to younger whiskey being the common product. Before 1894, according to Reid Mitenbuler, author of Bourbon Empire, bourbon was sold younger because distillers had to pay taxes after it was aged for just a year in a bonded warehouse. While they could age it longer, thanks to the angel’s share—the annual loss of whiskey to evaporation—there was no incentive to go past one year.
“Distillers thought, ‘I paid my taxes, but the liquid I paid taxes on is going to evaporate, so I’m going to sell it.’” he said. “In 1894, John Carlisle got the bonding period pushed to 8 years.”
That’s Secretary of the Treasury John Carlisle, a Kentuckian, and one of the conservative Democrats who were known as the Bourbon Democrats. With the bonding period set at a maximum of 8 years, there was no advantage to aging whiskey any longer than that. “After 8 years, you had to take it out of bond, pay the taxes and sell it,” said Michael Veach, author of Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey An American Heritage. “If you put it back [in the warehouse], you were losing money.”
Eight years of aging worked for the industry, for the government and for the happy drinkers, for about 20 years. Then came Prohibition, followed relatively quickly by World War II, which left bourbon brands scrambling for whiskey to sell. After running through the terribly woody whiskey that had been made before Prohibition and somehow survived, they sold desperately young whiskey at cheap prices, barely staying afloat. Bill Samuels Jr., the emeritus head of Maker’s Mark, told me his father used to refer to those sales as “swapping dollars,” with suppliers, distillers, and retailers making just enough to pay each other.
When the Korean War exploded in 1950, distillers were determined they wouldn’t get caught short again. They made bourbon as fast as they could, stuffed it into warehouses and congratulated each other on their wisdom. But the Korean War didn’t last long enough to have anywhere near the impact that World War II had on the industry. Now the distillers were on the other end of a supply problem.
“They had all over-produced,” said Mitenbuler. “It was enough for eight years of consumption at the time. It was way more whiskey than they knew what to do with. and all that tax is coming due in eight years.”
After intensive lobbying, the bonding period was extended to 20 years in 1958, giving the industry more time to sell the whiskey before the tax was due. (“It also allows you to just let it evaporate out of existence so you never get taxed on it,” Mitenbuler shrewdly noted.)
That’s when age became a selling point for bourbon. “A lot of industries are moving to luxury at this point,” said Mitenbuler. “How can we improve the image and get more money for it? Age. Scotch sells on ‘older is better,’ and so does wine.” That’s when you started seeing premium bourbons at 10 and 12 years old. The image of bourbon changed from a Southern guzzle to America’s spirit, a noble drink. Everything was looking great for American whiskey.
Then Americans gradually stopped drinking bourbon. Not entirely, of course, but the volume dropped by half, which was catastrophic for the industry. Once again, brands had a glut of whiskey to deal with that would last for years.
What to do? The answer was starting to appear on liquor store shelves: single malt Scotch with age statements, building the idea that ‘older is better.’ It had pulled Scotch whisky out of their glut situation in the early ’80s maybe bourbon could do that, too. We soon had “small batch,” “single barrel vintage” bourbons that were 7, 10, 15 and 20 years old. And it worked! Older bourbon sold for higher prices and it burnished bourbon’s image.
But it led drinkers, in our inexperience, to think bourbon should be compared to Scotch and to Scotch’s age in the barrel. Again: bourbon isn’t Scotch. There’s a lot of difference between 20-year-old single malt and 20-year-old bourbon, and folks, for bourbon, it ain’t a good difference. I can remember when I first realized that the reason bourbon wasn’t as old as Scotch wasn’t because it wasn’t as good, or because it was cheap it was because it was fundamentally different in how it was made.
I’ve talked to a number of distillers, blenders and brand ambassadors about this, and off the record, they almost uniformly will tell you that whiskey aged in a new barrel should rarely go past 15 years. But we got the idea that older is better from Scotch whisky, and we ignore the very different aging regimens: new, charred oak barrels aging in hot warehouses in hot summers. We want 20-year-old bourbon, dammit!
Well, if that’s what the market wants, maybe there’s a way to make a whiskey that tastes consistently great at 15, 18 and even 22 years old. Buffalo Trace is taking a radical approach with what it calls Warehouse P. It’s a simple proposition. The company aims to create a 50-year-old bourbon by aging the whiskey at a constant 45° F.
It’s not as simple as you’d think. It turns out that the whiskey is aging in ways that are not just slower, but significantly different. Master distiller Harlen Wheatley isn’t ready to release details yet (he notoriously keeps his cards close to his chest), but he did say that the aging has taken different pathways. “It has introduced different interactions that have developed the flavors. We are still reviewing the evaporation, but it appears that it is similar to the standard evaporation rates. However, we know that it will be altered along with the flavor.”
Coopers have been doing a lot of experimenting with treatments to oak barrel staves—deep toasting, flash-charring, slow-roasting—things that sound almost culinary. Maybe there is a way to make a barrel that could age a great 20-year-old bourbon, without pounding too much tannin and such into it?
I asked Andrew Wiehebrink about that. He’s the director of spirit research and innovation at Independent Stave Company, the outfit that makes the barrels for much of the bourbon industry. He started his explanation at the other end of whiskey’s sweet spot.
“There’s all sorts of things we can do to make bourbon taste better at 4 or 5 years,” he said. “That’s the normal aim. Take that char profile and set it closer to the inside surface of the stave you get all the complexity of a char number 4, but you just get it sooner.” That gets you good-tasting whiskey sooner, and more of it, with less evaporation.
But what about the far end? Can you make a slow-aging barrel?
“The question is,” Wiehebrink said, without quite making it sound like I was nuts,“why do you want to create a 30-year-old bourbon if the 12-year- old tastes good? For some reason, this concept of making a 30-year-old bourbon has taken hold. It’s kind of a strange goal. It costs more money, it takes more time and for what? It tastes great at 8 years old.”
He laughed then, and said, “it does make my job really interesting, so that’s good.”
I’ll leave the last word to Fred Noe. I got in touch with him because it had occurred to me that unlike some of the other distillers, you rarely see anything older than 12 years from Beam. One such whiskey that they did release was the Booker’s Rye at 13 years old. He allowed that Beam’s rye, typically, is not as beautifully balanced as that one was at such an advanced age. (Okay, I added the “beautifully” part, because it was.)
“Can we do it again?” he wondered. “We don’t know. We looked at it. When you’re looking at wood, barrels, seasons…you can put the same whiskey in the same warehouse and it might not come out the same. There are variables you can’t control 100 percent. They all come into play in creating something special.”
And then he said, “more times than not, old bourbon is just old bourbon.”
3- Sugar Shine
Heat 2 gallons of water (to no more than 120 degrees) and add sugar a few pounds at a time. Stir until dissolved and add more sugar. Keep adding sugar until all sugar has been added / dissolved. Dump this mixture into a fermenter and add 3 more gallons of water. Shoot for a final temperature of 96 degrees an adjust heat of additional water accordingly. Add yeast once final liquid temp is 70 degrees. Aerate by dumping back and forth between two buckets a few times. Shoot for a constant fermentation temperature of 70 degrees for the shortest fermentation time and highest alcohol yield. If your house / garage / basement / wherever / isn't this warm, wrap your fermenter in a blanket and use a heating pad if necessary. Leave it sit for a week to ferment and another week to settle. Siphon into still, being careful to not overfill (the vapor cone should not contain any liquid).
Regarding bread: One of the three special mitzvot assigned to women is the law of challah, removing a token amount of dough (the size of an olive) from a yeast batter, and throwing it into the oven fires while reciting the proper blessing. This is a residual practice, symbolic of ancient Temple rites of gift offer­ings to God from nature&rsquos bounty. The law of challah is binding only upon Jews thus, the bread of a bakery owned by non-Jews, whose products are kosher and have rabbinic supervision, does not require challah to be taken. A Jewish-owned and rabbinically supervised bakery will take challah as will a woman or man bak­ing bread at home.
One of the bonuses of living in an intensive Jewish neighbor­hood is the presence not only of a kosher bakery but of a Sabbath observant (shomer Shabbat) one as well. This means the owners are personally observant of halacha. Accordingly, they close the bakery before sundown Friday and don&rsquot reopen until early Sunday morning. There is never any worry whether or not challah was taken or whether Sunday morning&rsquos bread or Monday morn­ing&rsquos cookies were baked by another Jew on Shabbat (which would not be permitted).
The author&rsquos list of symbols of approved kashrut laboratories has been replaced with a hyperlink to a more up-to-date list, for which the author is not responsible. Reprinted with permission from How to Run a Traditional Jewish Household, published by Simon & Schuster.
Top 5 Irish Whiskeys For Under $60 (2021)
St. Patrick’s Day 2021 is just a week away, and with the pandemic still raging one can’t recommend hitting an Irish pub and draining (a few) pints of green beer. Perhaps the best thing to do, should it be sunny, is take a flask of Irish whiskey out to enjoy the crisp air and the coming of springtime. If it isn’t sunny, take that same Irish whiskey as a brace against weather more typical of the Emerald Isle.
The last time The Whiskey Reviewer tackled this subject was October 2016, so it is time for a fresh look. Prices have changed, new brands have entered the market, and some items have been discontinued. However, the $60 mark continues to hold as a point that includes many mid-ranged, premium Irish whiskeys, as well as the best picks from the bargain category.
Top 5 Irish Whiskeys For Under $60
5. Jameson Black Barrel ($45): Jameson introduced this expression more than a decade ago, originally as Jameson Small Batch and then rebranded as Black Barrel. Whereas normal Jameson is a blend of the Irish whiskey trinity — pot still, malt and grain whiskeys — this is a blend of pot still and grain. Thus, it is more akin to a premium take on Powers than Jameson. In this particular instance, the last time I checked the folks at Midleton used pot still whiskey approximately 12 years old and grain whiskey about 5 years old, aged in either toasted Sherry casks or charred ex-bourbon barrels. Hence the “black barrel” part.
Since its introduction, Black Barrel has come up in price, but remained my go-to choice for getting real bang for your buck in Irish whiskey. It’s a very reasonably priced choice, offers excellent value, and is just plain, all-around good. Fans of Powers in particular should take note and snag a bottle for St. Patrick’s 2021.
4. Writer’s Tears Double Oak ($60): Whereas two of the whiskeys described above blend pot still and grain whiskeys, this Walsh Whiskey creation is based on pot still and malt whiskeys. This 2020 brand extension to the arguably best named of Irish whiskeys takes that blend (drawn from ex-bourbon barrel stock) and finishes it in ex-Cognac barrels. I found this particular choice of finishing cask brought out the best in Writer’s Tears, with the Cognac polish rounding out the malty honey and pot still spices nicely.
3. Knappogue Castle 12 Year Old Single Malt ($50): Knappogue Castle is a sourced brand made by Castle Brands, and their 12 year old is a solid entry level example of Irish single malts. Several years ago, most Knappogue Castle single malts were supposed to have been sourced through Bushmills, but don’t think you are getting a slightly improved take on Bushmills 10 Year Old. Knappogue 12 is a quite different character, and one well worth becoming acquainted with.
Need to try pot still whiskey for the first time? Reach for Green Spot.
(Credit: Irish Distillers)
2. Teeling Single Grain ($50): Grain whiskey is often perceived as a cheaper, lighter spirit than pot still and malt, and thus is the least loved among Irish whiskeys … at least by those who know just enough to be snobby, without rising to erudition. So, why not put a twist on those folks by trying something underrated, a little different, and quite excellent this St. Patrick’s Day: Teeling Single Grain. This is one of the most accessible single grain whiskeys around, and you can tell just by looking at the bottle that the rich, golden liquid inside is not cheap or light on flavor.
1. Green Spot Single Pot Still ($55): Pot still whiskey, a type based on a mix of malted and unmalted barley, is a unique signature of Irish whiskey. In recent years, the category has seen a revival that has turned it into the crown jewel of Irish whiskey. Green Spot is a 7 to 10 year old single pot still whiskey, aged in first- and second-fill bourbon barrels and ex-Sherry casks. That mix yields a personality distinct from the more Sherry oriented style embodied in Redbreast.
During the dark days of the Irish whiskey industry in the 1970s, it almost disappeared from production, but the New Midleton Distillery (makers of Jameson and Powers) made a firm commitment to keep on making their pot still whiskey. They later spearheaded the revival with the introduction of two brands: Redbreast and the Spots. Nowadays, Green Spot is the only one of the lot that can be reliably had for less than $60, so if you are looking to get a handle on Ireland’s most distinctive style of whiskey-making for a reasonable price, this is where you must go.
U.S. Whiskey Sales Up in 2020 Thanks to Liquor Stores, Online Orders
By Bruce Schreiner &bull Published January 28, 2021
American whiskey absorbed some setbacks but showed resilience in the face of pandemic-related clampdowns on bars and restaurants as liquor sales benefited from enduring demand for a good stiff drink.
Despite plunging sales from bars and restaurants, the American whiskey sector still rang up increased revenues in 2020. Liquor store and online sales surged. And some restaurants offered new twists for thirsty customers, serving cocktails-to-go in response to pandemic restrictions.
As a result, combined U.S. sales for bourbon, Tennessee whiskey and rye whiskey rose 8.2%, or $327 million, to $4.3 billion in 2020, the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States said Thursday. Domestic volumes rose 7% to 28.4 million cases, with strong demand spanning various price ranges.
The pandemic performance reflected the industry's durability, the distilled spirits trade group said.
"We often romanticize the past, but when it comes to American whiskey the golden age is today,” said David Ozgo, the council’s chief economist.
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Industry wide, overall sales and volumes grew for U.S. spirits suppliers, and the spirits industry increased its share of the total beverage alcohol market, the council said.
But restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 took a toll. The spirits industry's on-premise sales from U.S. restaurants and bars collapsed by 44% last year, the council said.
An 18% surge in off-premise sales at liquor stores and other retail outlets helped offset those losses, as consumers increasingly mixed their own drinks while cooped up at home.
At Barret Liquors in Louisville, Kentucky, sales surged 30% to 40% last spring as the pandemic took hold, store owner Manoj Uppal said this week. Each spring day resembled a weekend, and the rush at times left him without some brands, he said. But customers unable to find their favorite spirits didn't leave empty handed. "They ended up buying something else," he said.
Demand eventually slowed somewhat, and the year ended with sales up about 15% over 2019, Uppal said. Sales so far this year are up about 5% from a year ago, he said.
Ozgo said national trends also showed an initial spike in liquor store sales as consumers stocked up early in the pandemic, but the the growth rate decelerated as the months passed.
Meanwhile, as the pandemic raged, online happy hours spread as ways to maintain the social connections of drinking. Some mixologists took to social media to share recipes and tricks of their trade for home bartenders.
“American whiskey has always been a key staple of any bar and with an increase in home mixology . the growth in this category remained strong," Ozgo said.
Spirits industry revenues were bolstered by increased demand for super-premium products that fetch the highest prices. Super-premium volumes rose 17.4% in the bourbon, Tennessee whiskey and rye segment last year, the trade group said.
Many states relaxed rules temporarily to allow cocktails-to-go and expanded delivery options for restaurants struggling to stay afloat amid COVID-19 clampdowns.
In at least 18 state legislatures, bills have been filed to make cocktails to-go a permanent fixture, the council said. Also, some states are considering allowing direct spirits shipments to consumers.
“Permanently enacting marketplace modernizations introduced in response to COVID-19, from online delivery to cocktails-to-go, will aid in the recovery of restaurants, bars and craft distilleries,” said the council's president and CEO, Chris Swonger.
Meanwhile, American whiskey producers continue to suffer from trade disputes that sprang up during Donald Trump's presidency, the trade group said.
The value of American whiskey exports to the European Union has dropped by 38% since the EU imposed a retaliatory tariff in 2018, the council said. American whiskey exports to the United Kingdom, a key overseas market, have plunged by 53% during that time, it said.
The EU targeted American whiskey and other U.S. products in response to Trump’s decision to slap tariffs on European steel and aluminum. The council has long called for an end to the dispute and will look to President Joe Biden to revisit the issue.
“We are hopeful the Biden administration will clearly recognize the widespread damage being caused by the escalation of these trade disputes," said the council's public policy chief, Christine LoCascio.