Bourbon Whiskey becomes consolidated and independent.

It leaves John Wayne and the Far West behind, and is now an elegant, universal drink that has conquered new generations.

Change is everywhere: the variety in whisky, the number of distillers, experimental whiskies.

Large and constant investments, the reputation of Bourbon, the age and savvy of the average consumer, have still to know the pains of growing up.  We await you.

Bourbon and Tennessee are writing their own story; they’re not just walking onward, they’re running.

They’re going so fast, several at the same time that an X-ray of American whisky would come out blurred, because they’re all moving.

I call a Bourbon specialist, M.H. Veach who is familiar with the history and evolution of the sector. He’s written books, directs tastings, and is a consultant in the specialty.

In Scotch and Single Malt Whisky we share publications.  In Japanese whisky, we’re divided, he in his trench hole, I, in mine.  I believe the Japanese have a problem at present; not all Japanese whisky is Japanese.

In the note I wrote for MEGALIQUORS – I state – the X-ray is not clear.  It prevents a diagnostic of the trends.

All brands are moving, the large, middle sized and artisanal.

In order to move – I reason – it’s necessary to have money besides will.  Where is the capital shaking up Bourbon and torturing some traditional Scotch Whisky markets coming from?

From America, Scotland, and England, and much from Japan, he tells me.

I take note of emblematic examples: the Japanese group Suntorybought Jim Bean and Maker’s Mark for US$ 16 billion in January 2014.  In the first semester of 2018 it announced it would invest some US$ 917 million more in order “to increase the Bourbon production in the next 5 years”.

Diageo (first drinks conglomerate in the world), for its part, invested at the beginning of 2018 US$ 115 million in Shelbyville, Kentucky in order to produce Bulleit Bourbon, with the latest available technology in storage and distillation.

Without giving me time for assimilating the importance of these facts, Veach mentions other facts that evince the speed of the changes “within” Bourbon:

Right now there’s someone waiting to become the largest bourbon distillery in the world.  The “Bardstown Bourbon Company” in Kentucky has increased its capacity three times during the past 3 years.

Whisky exports from Kentucky have increased 99% during a four-year period from 2009 to 2013.

In 2001 there were a dozen independent distillers, now (2018) there are more than 700 within that style.  Artisanal distillers are also growing, and will reach one hundred shortly.

At the same time, large Kentucky producers spent the last decade expanding.  They have hired and placed new alembics and are building new ageing storages.

At present, Bourbon and Tennessee Whisky represent almost 20 million boxes per year.  This Bourbon boom has had a “huge” impact on Kentucky’s agriculture industry. Purchase of corn by distiller companies has increased 65% during the last two years.

Bourbon leaves John Wayne behind

With the facts and scenario that is known today, the reader has already become aware of the force and speed at which Bourbon is moving. But that isn’t enough, he wants to take side, savor the change, steer his everyday purchases.  Then he asks these key questions:

  • Where are Bourbon and Tennessee headed?
  • It shakes off John Wayne (1907-1972), and its Hollywood friends with films about the Far West.
  • It abandons the brandless whisky from the Far West, and heads towards the construction of a Premium culture.
  • It doesn’t go about screaming, because John Wayne is well known and Premium culture isn’t.

LVMH MOET HENNESY has announced that it bought Woodinville Whisky Company in Washington State. The financial terms of the transaction were never revealed.

Woodinville was founded in 2010 by life-long friends Orlin Sorensen and Brett Carlile, who will continue to supervise WWC operations. WWC has become a name in the world of artisanal whisky; at present it is focused only on the Washington State market.

Albeit not being a stranger to whisky with our own Glennmorangie and Arbeg malts, we do have a lot to learn from Orlin and Brett on American distillation and look forward to this new, important association.”

WWC Rye and Bourbon whisky are aged for at least five years. Depending mostly on the sale of its Bourbon and rye Micro Barreled, the company was able to launch its five-year bourbon in 2015, crowned as “Whisky of the Year” for 2016, by the American Distilling Institute.  Its five-year rye followed in 2016 and was named “Best Rye Whisky in 2017”, also by the American Distilling Institute.

For the most part, it’s been good, but not in its totality, and there have been growing pains in the way.

“American whisky scenario couldn’t be any more exciting than it is at present” says Liza Wisstuch, independent whisky author.

“There’s a perfect storm of tradition and innovation.

Small distilleries are increasing exponentially in numbers, and although there has been some scandal due to lack of transparency in its products, there seems to be a Darwinian effect and the most fit – the honest and most authentic products – will survive.  Consumers are savvy; they don’t like being fooled.

“But with an increasing, non-stop interest –with new consumers and experienced drinkers alike –producers are ready for the future, and the American industry is at a good place for success.”

Kentucky Bourbon inventory reaches at the most 44 years.

September 13, 2017, by Anne Hayes

More than 6.8 million barrels of Bourbon are ageing in Kentucky; this is equivalent to 1.5 barrels per person living in the state, according to Kentucky’s Distillers’ Association.

More than 6.8 million barrels of Bourbon are ageing in Kentucky.

This 8, 500 million dollar Bourbon industry KDA says has had a “tremendous” impact on the agriculture in Kentucky; local corn purchases by the distillers has increased by 65% in the past two years.  With projects for US$ 1,200 million in the recently finished, or about to be finished distilling and storage equipment of the state are also competing to keep up with the rate of expansion.

“The notorious growth of the distinctive spirit of Kentucky has had an extraordinary expansive wave effect on the adjacent industries”, said KDA president, Eric Gregory.

“The industry is using local farmers, researchers, producers, architects, builders, engineers and workers.   Kentucky Bourbon is clearly the new Bluegrass economy fuel.”

Kentucky Bourbon Trail and Bourbon Trail Craft Tour distilleries notified that the number of visitors exceeded the one million mark in 2016.

KDA expects this milestone will be topped this year, thanks to “emblematic” reforms in tourisms of the Senate Bill 11, which makes allowances for sale and cocktail programs by Bourbon Trail.

“Thanks to this new legislation, our members are investing money and energy in making each visitor’s experience a unique, memorable one”, Gregory added.  “Now the guests can relax, enjoy a cocktail and the genuine hospitality of Kentucky Bourbon as part of their tour.”

Before the Kentucky Bourbon Festival this week, the governor of Kentucky, Matt Bevin praised the industry for its contribution to the state’s economy,

“Historic Bourbon industry in Kentucky is at present enjoying a huge expansion”, said Bevin. “Love for Bourbon is rapidly becoming a global phenomenon.  This harvest success story is a testimony to our proud tradition of excellence in engineering and manufacture.”

“Our administration endeavors every day to create a more favorable environment for business in the Commonwealth, and we hope the best days of economic growth in Kentucky are soon to arrive.”

The American Spirit Conquers New Territories Once More

Bardstown Bourbon Co duplicates its capacity for the third time in three years

September 7, 2017, by Anne Hayes

Kentucky Bardstown Bourbon Co (BBCo) is going to expand its production capacity for the second time this year to six million test gallons, becoming sone of the largest Bourbon distilleries in the world.

Programmed for July 2018 the expansion will complement the “collaborative” whisky of BBCo, the wholesale distillation program for Bourbon and rye which allow artisanal distillers, brand owners without distillation, and existing brand owners to work with Bardstown in order to launch personalized brands.

The construction process will be carried out by Buzick Construction, Bardstown, Kentucky, the company that built the distillery, expanded it to its present capacity, and built two deposits for 22.5k barrels in the property.

BBCo plans to begin the construction of its third barrels storage in October, 2017, and will install a second, personalized, 36 inch Vendome Copper & Brass Works, an additional 12.5k gallon kitchen and even 16 additional fermenters as part of the work.

Enabling an annual production capacity of almost 100,000 barrels, the project will allow the distillery to take additional cupovers, “a few”, to satisfy the needs of its own brands.

“The rapid growth of Bardstown Bourbon Company is extremely exciting”, David Mandell, president and CEO said.  “We are really helping to remodel the American whisky market, and the success of our collaborative distilling Program shows the massive demand for authentic, tailor-made whisky, bourbon and rye.”

A few months after the announcement of the collaborative distilling Program in 2016, BBCo sold its total capacity of 1,5 million testing gallons.  In 2017, the company duplicated it capacity to three million testing gallons, which is depleted at present until 2018.

“We have also exceeded all expectations,” said master distiller, Steve Nally.  “Our personalized production program has attracted some of the best brands in the country, as well as worldwide; we’re proud of producing some of the best Bourbon for them.!

BBCo is also developing a “destination experience” that comprises a “Napa Valley state style” with an educational experience, integrated visitors’ center, space of events, a boutique hotel, liquor store, bar, restaurant and convention center.

The company is in the process of developing its portfolio of Bourbon, whisky and rye, and anticipates that its brands will be ready for the market before the year’s end.

Beginning this week, the firm named John Hargrove, ex main distiller of Barton 1792 of Sazerac distillery, as its executive operations director.

United States

American whisky must be made, according to the national law, based on corn in a concentration superior in at least 51%, and generally 70%, although some distilleries use 80’50% corn in the mix.  Other added ingredients are typically wheat, rye, or malted barley.  As in Irish whisky the letter “e” is added to the word whiskyto the point that only one distillery in the States calls whisky its Whiskey (Makers Mark).  The most common are:

  • Bourbon whiskey: This Whiskey must have a minimum of 51% corn and must be distilled and aged in Kentucky for the denomination Bourbon to appear on its label.  In any case, Bourbon can be made legally in any part of the territory of the States, hence, legal production is not restricted to the area near Kentucky, in spite of the fact that the drink is associated with the distilling communities of this part of the country.
  • Rye Whiskey:must have a minimum of 51% rye.
  • Corn Whiskey:must have a minimum of 80% corn.

These types of whisky cannot be distilled at more than 80% alcohol per volume and must age in new, carbonized oak barrels, except for corn whiskey which cannot be aged; however, if it’s done, it must be in new or used oak barrels.  Ageing corn whiskey usually lasts two or more years; furthermore, the adjective “straight” is added, as in straight Rye Whiskey.

Mixed American Whiskeys combine “straight whiskey” with non-aged whiskeys, besides tastes and colors.

Tennessee Whiskey, which is not defined by law is very important in the market, Jack Daniel’s being the most famous brand. The method of distillation is identical to the bourbon in practically everything, but the most notable difference is that Tennessee whiskey is filtered in carbon from sugary maple, giving it a unique taste and aroma.

Thirty-nine distilleries opened in the United Kingdom last year, due to the fact that demand of artisanal drinks keeps growing, according to the national accountancy group UHY Hacker Young.

The figures, which include whisky producers and micro distilleries which produce gin, bring the total number of distilleries to 315.

Altogether, 201 new distilleries have opened in the United Kingdom in the last five years.

According to UHY Hacker Young, 18 new distilleries opened in Scotland, as a result of the growing demand for Scotch whisky.

James Simmonds, partner of UHY Hacker Young said, “More artisanal distillers of gin, rum and whisky are establishing a trend towards mixed drinks and cocktails, especially among the young.

“Many new and innovative distillers are experimenting with new and adventurous forms of producing these spirits.

Alberto Soria  Writer / Journalist specialized in Gastronomy, Wines and Spirits / University Professor

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