Monday 26 September 2016

This week in whisk(e)y #35 - The Last Drop Distillers acquired by Sazerac, Experimental Scotch blends from Johnnie Walker, Drambuie relaunch, Dan Murphy returns to Prahran home, Diageo partners with top HK bars

As you might know if you read this blog regularly, we get a fair few interesting press releases and news articles here at TimeforWhisky, and usually try to feature them with our own spin, experiences or comments. Sometimes though, they come thick and fast, and we just don't have time to do them all justice.

So we've decided to take a leaf out of some other excellent whisky blogs, and feature a "PR roundup" every now and then - basically a wrap-up of relevant press releases we've received in the previous week or so (including other interesting whisk(e)y news Steph, Hendy & or I think you might enjoy). So on with it then...

The Sazerac Company acquires The Last Drop Distillers
Considering their scarcity, we've tasted more than our fair share of whiskies from The Last Drop Distillers over the past few years. Whilst each one has been a treat (who's going to say no to a 48-50 year old whisky?), the real treat comes from just how fantastic each whisky has been. 
The Last Drop Distillers are not a company who bottle whatever they can get their hands on - they make sure they only bottle whiskies of extremely high quality (not easy when your releases are in the 48-50yo range).

We've met Rebecca and Beanie before, and we've seen first hand how passionate they are about the business, which tells us that for them to sell up, it would only be to a company they truly mesh with - a good corporate fit.

Which is what it seems they've found in Sazerac...
"The world’s most exclusive spirits brand, The Last Drop Distillers Limited, is today announcing its acquisition by Sazerac – one of the world’s top selling global spirits brands, and one of New Orleans’ oldest family-owned, privately-held companies. 
The investment that will be injected into the craft spirits brand through the acquisition will accelerate its ambitious growth plans whilst also allowing the existing Last Drop Distillers team to continue to run the business autonomously, with the small, personal operation remaining intact. The Sazerac Company portfolio includes a range of global spirits brands: this acquisition will allow the company to extend its portfolio into the super-premium, craft market as well as expand its European footprint. The Last Drop Distillers is a family-run company dedicated to discovering and bottling some of the most exclusive spirits in the world. Spirits pioneers James Espey and Tom Jago founded the company in 2008 after long and successful careers in the industry. Between them they created some of the world’s best-loved spirits brands, including Johnnie Walker Blue Label, Chivas Regal 18 Year Old, The Classic Malts, and, with Malibu and Baileys Irish Cream, two of the most original and successful new drinks categories in the world. Today, the company is run by their two daughters, Beanie Espey and Rebecca Jago.
Mark Brown, president and CEO of The Sazerac Company said: “We are very excited to be partnering with such industry legends as Tom and James.  Equally, we are looking forward to working alongside their daughters Rebecca and Beanie as well as the rest of The Last Drop Distillers team in bringing some of the rarest spirits available to the global consumer market.  As a family owned company we fully appreciate the value of a small, engaged and passionate team in a venture such as The Last Drop Distillers and look forward to continuing the excellent progress the business has made since its inception.” James Espey, Co-Founder and Chairman of The Last Drop Distillers said: “This acquisition marks the next stage of The Last Drop Distillers story that will see us take the brand into the next phase, while retaining and building on our core values of exclusivity, craft and excellence. The existing team of passionate and experienced spirits pioneers will continue to steer the direction of the brand, while the investment allows us to grow our international footprint and broaden our opportunities to search for the rarest spirits in the world.”
We wish TLD all the best under Sazerac, and we look forward to seeing many more releases to come (like their recent "100 Years of The Last Drop", which sees a miniature of their 50yo Double Matured and 50yo Blended Scotch Whisky packaged in a leather case with a pewter quaich - available through global stockists).

Introducing "Blender's Batch": A series of limited-edition, experimental Scotch blends from Johnnie Walker
It wasn't that long ago that we heard about the Johnnie Walker Rye Cask Finish (see TWIW #34) being available in Australia. Now a series of limited edition experimental Scotch blends, dubbed the Johnnie Walker Blenders' Batch, are being released around the world.

The Blenders' Batch series will showcase different experimental Scotch blends with the first experimental release from the series being the Red Rye Finish; a blend bottled at 40% ABV which exclusively uses malt and grain whiskies from first fill ex-bourbon casks - a blend that is then finished for around six months in ex-rye whiskey casks.

Quoting the press release:
"Johnnie Walker®, the world’s No. 1 blended Scotch Whisky[1], is releasing a range of limited edition, experimental whiskies: Johnnie Walker® Blenders’ Batch.  
The Johnnie Walker Blenders’ Batch range lifts the lid on the skill and never-ending pursuit of flavour that drives the blending team, led by master blender Dr Jim Beveridge, a man whose personal journey making whisky began over 40 years ago.  
The ongoing flavour experiments that Beveridge and his team study are a crucial part of their work, focussing on developing and understanding alternative flavours including wine, coffee and chocolate.  
Jim Beveridge said: “At any one time, there are hundreds of experiments into flavour being carried out by our blenders which involve making adjustments to atmospheric conditions, the types of wood and grain used, cask finishes and other elements of whisky-making in the pursuit of exceptional new flavours.”  
The first release in the series, Johnnie Walker® Blenders’ Batch Red Rye Finish, is the result of experiments into the influence of bourbon and rye whiskey flavours on Scotch, inspired by the time Dr Beveridge spent blending bourbons and ryes in Kentucky in the 1990s.  
Jim Beveridge said: “For the first release, we wanted to focus on what happens when the intensely sweet flavours that can be found in bourbon and rye whiskies are brought together with the depth and subtlety of carefully crafted Scotch”.  
Available in limited quantities from September 2016 Johnnie Walker® Blenders’ Batch Red Rye Finish includes whisky from now-closed Port Dundas and has been created using an incredibly small number of malt and grain whiskies, exclusively drawn from first fill ex-bourbon casks. Following this, the whisky is finished up to six months in ex-rye casks for a perfect balance of intense sweetness, layered fresh fruit and spice. 
The Johnnie Walker® Blenders’ Batch Red Rye Finish will be available in the Australian on-trade from 15 September and off trade specialist stores from early October. The release of other whiskies in the series will be announced in the coming months."
We look forward to trying this soon, and will have our tasting notes up in October.

Drambuie celebrates relaunch
Drambuie, an elixir that's part of the William Grant & Sons portfolio is making a comeback with an official relaunch of the brand (last week in Sydney), and revival of the famous Rusty Nail serve. Unfortunately, we were not able to join in on the celebrations, though the night appeared to be a success, complete with fantastic cocktails and live jazz to 'jazz' up the iconic brand.

To continue the celebration, a Drambuie-themed evening will be hosted every Thursday for 3 months at The Swinging Cat (44 King St, Sydney NSW) where everyone can join in to sample The Rusty Nail, along with a range of new Drambuie cocktails.

Here's the official press release, including the recipe for the famous 'Rusty Nail' serve.
"Drambuie, the infamous Scotch Whisky Liqueur, has announced an official relaunch of the brand including the introduction of a 3-month bar activation, ‘A Night with the Nail’, hosted each Thursday at The Swinging Cat located on King Street in Sydney’s CBD.
Launching on September 8, the activation will involve a recurring ‘Drambuie-themed’ evening to promote the revival of its most famous serve, The Rusty Nail, along with a range of new Drambuie cocktails. Bar-goers will be treated to an exclusive Drambuie experience and live jazz music as they enjoy the flavour and energy of the New Orleans inspired underground bar that is The Swinging Cat.
The Rusty Nail is a timeless whisky cocktail born in the infamous New York nightclubs of the early 60s and served at the renowned ‘21 Club’ frequented by Hemmingway, Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra and JFK 12. At a time when the legendary carousing of the Rat Pack came to prominence, the Rusty Nail was adopted by the scene, confirming the drink's iconic status and establishing its place in pop culture history. 
More recently, the cocktail was the drink of choice of Saul Goodman and featured in the very first episode of Netflix’s TV series Better Call Saul. 
With one part Drambuie, two parts Scotch Whisky and a lemon twist over ice, it’s a simple yet rewarding cocktail that sits alongside the Martini, Negroni and Old Fashioned as one of the classics of the cocktail world. Oozing timeless cool, each sip conjures up the image of those smoky lounges, iconic characters and the free-living optimism of the 1960s. 
Bar-goers will also be in the running to win a Rusty Nail Kit including a bottle of Drambuie, a bottle of Monkey Shoulder Scotch Whisky, a mixing spoon, ice mould and tumblers, by uploading a social pic of themselves enjoying a Rusty Nail with the hashtag #nightwiththenail. 
  • 1 part Drambuie 
  • 2 parts Monkey Shoulder Scotch Whisky 
  • Build over ice in a rocks glass and stir.
  • Garnish with a lemon twist  
For more information visit: or"

Dan Murphy’s returns to its spiritual home at 282 Chapel St, Prahran
Whilst this blog's focus is on whisky and whiskey, occasionally we also feature other related news from the industry, such as the news of the new Dan Murphy's original cellar in Prahran, Victoria. 

The cellar will house rare and superb wines and spirits -- including some old and rare whiskies; Pappy Van Winkles, Old Rip Van Winkles, Glenfarclas 60yo, Macallan M (tasted by Martin recently - notes up soon), Port Ellen 32yo and 35yo and the highly coveted Gordon & Macphail Mortlach 75yo bottling which we saw being sold through a Dragon 8 Auction in HK in February.

Some interesting stats have also been released to preview the extent and diversity of the cellar collection, with a mention of the 2015 Yamazaki Single Malt (we assume they're referring to the 2015 Limited Edition):

The press release is as follows:
"Australia’s leading drinks retailer is returning to its roots with the opening of Dan Murphy’s Cellar right where it all began in the 1950s in the iconic Prahran Arcade at 282 Chapel Street.

Originally built in 1890, it was here that Daniel Francis Murphy realised his dream of running his own wine and liquor store. Dan Murphy leased the building from the 1950s through to the 1980s and on 1 September 2016, the basement of the historic site will re-open once again as Dan Murphy’s Cellar.

True to Dan’s vision, the Cellar will be a destination retail experience housing the finest wines and spirits sourced from all over the world. 

The journey through Dan Murphy’s Cellar will be revelatory – like walking through one of the world’s best wine and whisky libraries.

At first glance customers will spot a rare 1959 Dom Perignon Oenothèque and Sullivans Cove Double Cask Whisky. To the left they’ll spot a collection of Para Liqueur Port dating back to 1885, and to the right a Remy Martin Louis XIII Cognac.  Down at basement level a full set of Penfolds Grange is there to discover, as well as rare vintages such as the 1971 Penfolds Bin 333 and a 1983 Cyril Henschke Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Cellar is a beautiful and breathtaking space. The heritage listed building retains many of its original features including exposed brick walls, masonry piers, and some of the earliest surviving examples of prismatic pavement lights that give the basement level a touch of natural light.
September’s exclusive My Dan Murphy’s member events include:
  • Prestige Champagne: The fascinating world of Dom Perignon & Krug Champagnes
  • Louis Roederer Champagne Event
  • Meet the Maker': David Vitale from Starward Whisky 
  • 'Journey of Chandon' with winemaker Dan Buckle
For more information on Dan Murphy’s Cellar visit:"
So if you are in Victoria and are passing through Prahran, drop by the Dan Murphy Cellar. Alternatively, you can also browse the selection online

Diageo partners with top HK bars and restaurants at HK Wine & Dine Festival 2016
HK has its fair share of spirits, wine and food festivals each year, but the HK Wine & Dine Festival is always one of the better ones. Over the years we've seen more and more whisk(e)y representation at HK's "wine" festivals, and that looks set to continue this year, particularly with Diageo taking both The Singleton and Haig Club to the event in a big way, by pairing with well-known HK bars and restaurants...
"This year, The Singleton Single Malt Scotch Whisky and Haig Club Single Grain Scotch Whisky will be pairing up with top restaurants and bars over the four-day event with engaging and innovative mixology and gastronomy, inviting visitors to embark on a sensory tasting journey, including savoring the exceptional whiskies neat, paired with food and in cocktails.
A new addition to the event this year features Hong Kong inspired cocktails from emerging bartending talents of Angel’s Share, Fu Lu Shou, The Envoy and Stockton, celebrating Hong Kong’s most iconic and nostalgic flavours. Using The Singleton of Glen Ord 12 Year Old, The Singleton of Glen Ord 18 Year Old, Haig Club Single Grain Scotch Whisky and Zacapa 23 Rum as their base, the bartenders will represent the vibrant nightlife of the city through specially crafted cocktails, with culinary offerings from their respective kitchen teams to pair signature dishes.
Visitors can savour the creations and pairings throughout the Festival, at The Singleton booth located at Discovery Zone-E501 and E502 and Haig Club booth at Discovery Zone-E701 and E702."
Can't wait.

Until next time...

Martin & Hendy. 

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