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Catoctin Creek Distilling Announces $1M Production Upgrade

Leading Virginia craft distiller Catoctin Creek Company will triple its capacity with a $1-million distillery production upgrade.

Delayed due to COVID-19, expansion plans have been underway for over a year, and are set to be finalized in late June.

“As we continue to grow Catoctin Creek as a national brand, we must ensure we have enough whisky inventory to support future demand,” says Scott Harris, co-founder and general manager. “This equipment expansion will guarantee our production capacity keeps up with sales for the next few years, at least.”

Constellation Brands invested in Catoctin Creek in 2017. The Purcellville, VA distillery is known for its rye whiskey releases.

Consistent with Catoctin Creek’s commitment to distilling pot-stilled whiskies, Scott and wife Becky Harris, Catoctin Creek co-founder and chief distiller, invested in a 2000-L copper pot still from Specific Mechanical Systems in British Columbia, which replaces their 12-year-old still, nicknamed “Barney.”

Additional new enhancements include a glycol cooling system, a new 2000L mash tank, six new 2000L fermenters and concrete floors to replace the existing 100-year-old floors.

Originally built in the second year of Prohibition, 1921, the historic Case Building located on Main Street in downtown Purcellville has been home to Catoctin Creek since 2013. The Harris’ originally spent more than $750,000 on the restoration and renovation project, turning the former Buick dealership into Purcellville’s first legal distillery.

Anyone interested in purchasing the existing 400-L electrically powered Kothe pot still, ‘Barney’, 300-gallon electrically powered mash tank or six 300-gallon fermenters can contact Scott at (540) 751-8404.

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Niche Import Changes Name to Marussia Beverages USA

Niche Import will now be known as Marussia Beverages USA.

Niche Import Co., a member of the Marussia Beverages Group, has  changed its name to Marussia Beverages USA.

The change, announced by its parent company at the beginning of the year, takes effect immediately.

The new name is meant to strengthen the global footprint of The Marussia Beverages Group, which was founded in 2004 by Dr. Frederik Paulsen and is headquartered in The Netherlands. Today the Marussia Beverages Group includes nearly 1,000 employees in 10 markets working with importers in 40 countries.

“It has long been our mission to build and develop distribution channels in the highly lucrative U.S. market that can pave the way for high quality imported brands,” says Etienne de Salins, CEO, Marussia Beverages Group. “Our new name not only reflects the strength, business acumen and passion for our industry that is indicative of the Marussia Beverages Group, but is also a signal to the market that we are an important part of a global network of specialty spirit, wine and sake brands.”

The Marussia Beverages Group portfolio.

In the U.S., Marussia Beverages USA will represent Hatozaki Japanese Whiskies, Mozart Chocolate Liqueurs, Barenjager Honey Liqueurs, Mamont Vodka, Mossburn Scotch Whiskies, STROH Rums, Schladerer Fruit Brandies, Lenz Moser Wines and Akashi Tai Sake.

“We are confident that our U.S. team will continue to shape Marussia Beverages USA into a national player,” Salins adds. “It is fueled by an exceptional sales and marketing team with extensive experience in the spirits industry. Their proven track record of launching and building brands has built deep relationships with our customers, an important factor in growing our portfolio.”

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10 American Whiskey Trends in 2021

While Covid-19 shut down most of the world in 2020, whiskey aged in rickhouses all the same. The market for American brown spirits hardly cooled off. The boom in consumer interest continued throughout the pandemic, fueled in part by so many people staying home and needing a drink. This affected American whiskey trends.

The category was already red hot before the health crisis. We remain in a new golden age for brown spirits, which has fueled massive expansion in craft distilling and innovation.

So what will consumers want next? As always, many emerging trends have already showed signs of growth in years past. With that in mind, here are ten whiskey trends to watch in 2021.

Store Pick Single Barrels

These special whiskeys, selected by retailers or clubs as one-off bottlings, enjoyed a banner year in 2020. Which may seem odd, since sampling barrels was no easy task in the middle of a pandemic. But the industry evolved, and store pick single barrels trended as they connected more with the mainstream consumer.

We expect this to continue in 2021. One reason is because store pick single barrels are rare spirits that are easier to find than the “white whale” whiskeys that drive the secondary market. 

“Chasing the unicorn whiskeys has become frustrating,” says Nick Conti, a Connecticut retailer whose three stores include Sav-Rite Liquors, Greens Farms Spirit Shop and Ye Olde Wine Shoppe. “People are bidding up the prices of the unicorns, which have become almost unobtainable. Whereas store pick single barrels are even more limited — there’s only 150 barrels or so from each pick — but they’re actually available.”

“These are trophies that I can have at home right now,” Conti adds. “And they help create camaraderie among whiskey friends. You want to share these bottles with friends, tell them to buy the same store pick bottles as you, rather than brag about a unicorn bottle that your friends cannot find.”

Single barrels also allow stores to offer limited-edition bottles that other competitors cannot. It’s a simple, fun, creative way to differentiate. Retailers pick their own bottles while flexing their whiskey palates.

“It’s become a very busy business,” says Woodford Reserve Master Distiller Chris Morris. “I’ve heard that these bottles are flying off of shelves. Even on-premise accounts have continued to purchase these bottles from us.”

“It’s nice networking for us, too,” Morris adds. “We really appreciate barrel picks because they let us know more retailers personally, which I value, because that way I can get input personally.”

“These bottles are flying off of shelves,” says Woodford Reserve Master Distiller Chris Morris, of store pick single barrel selects. “Even on-premise accounts have continued to purchase these bottles from us.”

Store picks truly are about individulization.

“Consumers are excited about American whiskey and are hungry for one-of-a-kind products,” says Kaveh Zamanian, founder of Rabbit Hole Distillery. “The craft distilling movement sparked an incredible renaissance, but retail shelves remain packed with sourced whiskey. More often than not, it’s the same liquid in a different bottle, different name, Old Brand X or Old Brand Y, promoting nostalgia and the illusion of differentiation. So, in the backdrop of this monotony of sourced liquid, single barrel picks offer enough differentiation to seduce and intrigue.”

“Also, in an ever-expanding American whiskey category that is yet to clearly define the nomenclature/language and terms of the category for consumers, single barrel expressions are easy to understand and promote at the retail level,” Zamanian adds.

As this trend grows, so too does the creativity of the retailers behind the bottles. Dominic Aprea, owner of Tippins Market in Ann Arbor, MI, is considered a pioneer of single barrel store picks. He believes the next evolution in this category could be small-batch barrel finishes.

“One batch for one [retail] customer,” Aprea explains. For instance, Tippins recently purchased a Cognac cask for single barrel use. The store also recently worked with Mammoth Distillery, a boutique supplier, on a 14.5-year-old, 134-proof Alberta rye finished in an ex-Bordeaux red wine cask.

“It’s one of a kind,” Aprea says. “I think more independent distilleries like Mammoth will start making one-off finishes to give it a subtle dynamic flavor and still keep the mass intrigue. Because it’s all about how interesting a whiskey sounds to people.”

Cask Strength Whiskey

In the same year that low-cal alcohol and no-ABV beers took off, cask strength whiskeys also gained ground in 2020 among consumers. How does 140-proof bourbon find a home with so many consumers drinking 4%-ABV hard seltzers?

“Cask strength is one of those trends that started out from the premiumization movement,” explains Susan Wahl, vice president of American whiskeys for Heaven Hill Brands. “Straight from the barrel, uncut and unfiltered have all become so important to the consumer. The consumer wants to be able to taste all the esters and fatty acids.”

This is convenient for distilleries positioning for growth.

“Cask strength is one of those trends that started out from the premiumization movement,” explains Susan Wahl, VP of American whiskeys for Heaven Hill Brands.

“We’re looking to expand our whiskey portfolio with cask strength as another labeling opportunity,” says Alan Dietrich, CEO of Crater Lake Spirits. Consumers filling out their whiskey shelves now have another bottle to buy from their favorite brands. 

The pandemic also made it easier for producers to create these expressions.

“Because of the slowdown in some markets due to Covid, we now have more barrels that we can do cask strength with, because we’re not immediately selling every drop of whiskey that we make,” says Dietrich. “Sitting on barrels during the pandemic has allowed us to catch up.”

As more consumers add these flavorful cask strength whiskeys to their collections, one problem does arise.

“Cask strength can be hard because it’s not federally regulated,” says Nicole Austin, general manager of Cascade Hollow Distilling Co, maker of George Dickel Tennessee Whisky. “There’s no set definition. It’s still open season for what ‘cask strength’ might mean. And that can create consumer confusion.”

“I certainly think that expressions with minimal dilution are interesting,” she adds, “but cask strength can also be used to mask errors.”

Bottled in Bond

Created by the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897, this style is all the rage in 2021. Law requires that a BiB spirit be made during one distillation season, by one distiller at one distillery, and then aged in a federally bonded (i.e. supervised) warehouse for at least four years, before bottling at 100 proof.

How many consumers can repeat all that offhand? Probably a fair amount of true whiskey nerds, but the broader drinking populace may omit a few details of the 19th-century legislation. Yet, Bottled in Bond whiskeys are growing in number. Why?

“The Bottled in Bond category was originally created to address consumer mistrust,” says Austin of Cascade Hollow Distilling. “And consumer trust is still just as relevant today.”

In the past few years, Autsin has created and launched two very well received George Dickel Bottled in Bond whiskies.

“Bottled in Bonds also reflect good value,” Autsin says. The last two George Dickel Bottled in Bonds came out with suggested retail prices between $35.99-$39.99.

Bottle in Bond also taps into the “significant interest today in whiskey history,” says Wahl of Heaven Hill. And she agrees with Austin that the category “resonates with consumers, because transparency matters: who produced it, who bottled it, the age and the proof.”

“The Bottled in Bond category was originally created to address consumer mistrust,” says Austin of Cascade Hollow Distilling. “And consumer trust is still just as relevant today.”

‘Taters’ and the Secondary Market

What does “Tater” mean? This pejorative term describes whiskey fans who will wait in any line, drive any distance and spend any amount of money to buy the absolute trendiest of whiskey brands.

We all know diehards like that. And we know that these folks — fueled by social media and showing off their collections, or “hauls” — have multiplied to become a rising influence in whiskey culture.

By why “tater”? What do potatoes have to do with whiskey? Or is it because the term rhymes with “hater”? The answer is that nobody really knows. As with many memes, tater’s derivation remains a mystery. Probably it sprouted as in inside joke in an online community, and then blossomed into a full-blown, well-known term — and a prominent group.

“It’s impacted pricing, you can’t deny that,” says Wahl of Heaven Hill. “But it’s not across the board. It’s mostly affecting allocated products, and at the retail level.”

Which has given rise to retailers pricing their bottles with a hefty markup to begin with, matching the secondary market.

“I don’t blame the retailer,” Wahl says. “When you only get one or two bottles of an allocated product, and it’s a supply-and-demand situation, it makes sense that you sell it for what you think you can get for it.”

As for the secondary market itself, which operates through (barely) coded language and images on Facebook and other forums, many distillers take it as a compliment.

“I love that it exists and that so many people care that much about whiskey,” says Austin of Cascade Hollow Distilling. “There’s room for all those people in whiskey.”

The retailers are more mixed.

“A lot of our single barrels end up on the secondary market, and there’s nothing we can do about it,” says Aprea of Tippins. “It is an honor as a store to see our stuff on the secondary market, but we always do try to get bottles to actual drinkers who can appreciate them. We try not to sell to people who are going to just flip them on the secondary market.”

Tippins knows fellow Michigan retailers who sell whiskeys at secondary market prices.

“You’re still not eliminating secondary market pricing, because the person who buys that bottle of Weller Full Proof will still just sell it for more,” Aprea says. “So you’re still fueling the fire.”

“It’s a tricky game to play,” he adds. “Retail margins are small. So if you’re selling a $65 bottle that becomes $200 on the secondary market, maybe you should just sell it for $200. You’re burning bridges but making money. We don’t do that, because we’re a long-term business, and we treat people like family.”

Conti in Connecticut also refuses to retail at secondary prices, but points out how there has always been a secondary market for other popular items. “Sneakers, watches, cars, game consoles and more” he says. “It’s just newer in whiskey. And there’s always been a big secondary market in wine. Nobody says boo about the secondary market in wine.”

“So I’m not bothered by the secondary market,” he adds. “It’s unfortunate when you see some people take advantage of it, but I love seeing when my store picks get flipped.”

More Innovation in Barreling

Elijah Craig Toasted Barrel is reflective of the modern style of barrel innovation.

The modern wave of whiskey innovation has included an explosion in creative barreling. At first, this presented as a nearly infinite array of finishes. Now, more distilleries have dialed into barrel production.

“Distilleries are still marrying different kinds of casks across the categories, but I think you’re now seeing less of that and more nuanced takes on using barrels,” says Wahl of Heaven Hill.

For instance, the popular 2020 launch of Elijah Craig Toasted Barrel. This is Elijah Craig Small Batch dumped and then re-entered at barrel proof into a second, custom-toasted new oak barrel designed with Independent Stave Company. Made with 18-month air-dried oak, the finishing barrel is first toasted and then flash-charred using a moderate toast temperature and time.

“The point is to make the bourbon sing with more complexity of flavors,” Wahl explains. “Elijah Craig Toasted Barrel is a great-tasting whiskey with another layer of flavor, but without losing any original bourbon flavor. I think that sort of barrel-finishing is a shift and a change.”

Agreeing with her is Rob Arnold, master distiller at Firestone & Robertson, producers of TX Blended Whiskey.

“If we can move away from just Char 3 or Char 4, and as we get into different seasoning barrels vs. just kilning or the standard six-to-nine months, we’re going to create more diversity of flavor,” Arnold says. “Our barrel program uses a variety of chars, seasoning lengths, toasted and lightly charred. The idea is for barrels to be less commodity-like. Any little variable you can add will have flavor impacts.”

TX also runs an extensive barrel-finished program.

“Moving forwards, we’re going to focus on wineries like Kenwood in Sonoma.” Arnold says. “We’re going to explore expressions like single-vineyard barrels, tap into that, ways to innovate while maintaining the traditional part of the process.”

To that end, Arnold “worries about people who put whiskey in every type of barrel that they can buy. I don’t want whiskey to look like craft beer, where the soul of a beer can be lost with over-innovation, like too many adjuncts going in. We can have the same issues. At some point, you start to risk something with too much innovation.”

The threat of over-innovation — which caused problems in craft beer with product oversaturation, and brews moving too far from their core flavors — has become a recent refrain among spirits industry veterans. But that will not stop distilleries from flexing their creative muscles in 2021.

“There are some limits to barrel finishing and what some might consider the novelty of it,” says Paul Hletko, founder of Few Spirits. “While there will continue to be barrel finish releases, some of the hype surrounding it may die down, while the truly wonderful releases will just get better and better. Even as brands hustle to capitalize on the trend with their own releases, brands whose finishing goes beyond gimmicks to focus on adding flavor will continue to excite aficionados.”

“Even as brands hustle to capitalize on the trend with their own releases, brands whose finishing goes beyond gimmicks to focus on adding flavor will continue to excite aficionados,” says Paul Hletko, founder of Few Spirits.

More Innovation in Blended Whiskeys

“Blended” is no longer a dirty word in American whiskey. As brands like High West and Barrell Craft Spirits release premium blended whiskeys to high praise, consumer sentiment has shifted. Look for this to continue in 2021, as more people clue into blending as a whiskey art form.

“Blending is mission critical for quality and concept, especially for smaller producers,” says Austin of Cascade Hollow. “In the past, blending was the real missing piece for American spirits. It’s become the lynchpin in helping the industry deliver high-quality spirits in the small-to-middle size.”

Consumers are catching on.

“Five years ago, there was not enough consumer understanding for blending to be relevant,” Austin says. “Now, people are more aware of the entire process of creating the final spirit, how through maturation and blending you can create a lot of different whiskeys.”

Morris of Brown-Forman sees a new blending trend emerging. “World blends, global blends, made from many whiskeys across different countries,” he says. “I’ve seen big players doing it.”

Woodford itself has experimented with premium blends in recent years.

“A number of years ago blended whiskey had a bad reputation because the U.S. used neutral grain spirits in these products,” Morris says. “But this is a changing landscape again. We’ve been doing that well with our Distillery Series, including our Four Grain release in 2020, which blends bourbon, rye, malt and wheat. In our Five Wood release this year, we blended together different finishes: Oloroso sherry, Amontillado sherry, Ruby port and Tawny port. [Editor’s note: The fifth ‘wood’ was the original American oak used to age the whiskey, pre-finish.]

“Anyone can put whiskey in a barrel and then blend it,” Morris adds. “Now we’re starting to get into more finesse.”

Helping fuel this rise in blended whiskey is another sea change in consumer sentiment. Hardly anyone seemingly cares anymore whether a whiskey — or parts of it — were sourced.

“People originally thought that sourced whiskey meant lesser quality,” says Aprea of Tippins Market. “That’s been put to rest. What’s helped is more companies listing on the bottle where the whiskey was sourced. Transparency is more sought after by consumers, and those companies will excel.”

In another twist, consumers have come to embrace those distilleries that put out the best sourced spirits. “There’s more appeal now for MGP,” says Aprea.

Some distillers do believe that consumers will become more aware and sensitive to sourced products.

“As consumers become more educated and discerning, I believe they will care,” says Zamanian of Rabbit Hole. “At this point in time, probably not, because the average consumer doesn’t know the difference between DSP (distillers who actually produce whiskey at their permitted distillery), NDP (Non-Distilling Producers) or CDP (Contract-Distilling Producers) and there are no federal guideline requirements for a DSP designation on the bottle, as is with NOM designation on bottles of Mezcal or Tequila.”

“Right now, we’re in the wild west phase of American whiskey,” he adds. “Everyone wants to get in the game and sourcing is an easy and relatively inexpensive way of doing it, but in time, discerning consumers (the key word being discerning), discerning consumers who care about originality and quality are going to demand diversity of flavor and differentiation.”

More Growth in Whiskey Cocktails

Mixology was a huge movement before Covid-19. Then the pandemic moved and accelerated this trend. Rather than imbibe cocktails from their favorite bartenders (a sad loss from the health crisis), consumers whipped up their own mixed drinks while stuck at home.

Naturally, this affected the whiskey industry. More people became fluent in cocktails in 2020, expanding the amount of brands that consumers felt comfortable mixing. In other words, the good stuff was no longer for sipping only.

“A lot of tried-and-true whiskey drinkers have gotten into cocktails and have gotten sucked down that rabbit hole,” says Aprea. “More people are realizing how different whiskeys are elements of cocktails, how whiskey really shines in cocktails. And so they’re drinking better whiskey in cocktails.”

This will continue in 2021 as mixology continues to move into the home. Savvy brands will tap into this trend.

“Emphasizing whiskey cocktails is so important to the industry and to our distillery,” says Rick Edwards, national ambassador for Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey. Like many leading whiskey brands, Stranahan’s employs a head mixologist, Lucas Townsend.

“You have to lean into your whiskey cocktail program,” Edwards adds. “You have to keep creating different flavors to attract in different whiskey consumers.”

“You have to lean into your whiskey cocktail program,” says Rick Edwards, national ambassador for Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey. “You have to keep creating different flavors to attract in different whiskey consumers.”

Distilleries will also release new products that reflect this consumer movement.

“It’ll be super interesting to see who steps into the space with barrel-aged cocktails,” says Aprea. “The idea makes sense: ‘Let’s bottle a cocktail ourselves and get more exposure for our brands while reaching the non-whiskey drinkers.”

For instance, High West recently released two premium bottled, barrel-aged cocktails.

Younger Whiskey Tasting Better

Common knowledge was that younger whiskeys typically tasted worse than those aged at least five years. In immature spirits you’re apt to find grainy flavors with a raw bite. These are hardly palatable, not worth bottling. Not if you want consumers to return to your brand.

But this stigma has changed in recent time. Many craft distilleries have released whiskeys on the younger side that taste well beyond their age. What’s behind this magic?

“As the industry grows, and smaller distilleries and organizations develop, the educational base, the level of research, is growing as well,” says Morris of Woodford Reserve. “And these are growing to levels that did not exist in the early days. A lot of people newer to the industry have found their legs. Their institutional knowledge has grown.”

“Experience is growing, too,” he adds. “When you’ve had your doors open for five, six, ten years now, you know how to run your equipment better.”

In other words, production has improved as newer distillers perfect their methods. We see no reason for this movement towards quality in younger whiskeys to slow anytime soon. Especially as more newer distilleries seek profits during earlier stages of their lifecycle.

Whiskey Terroir

Wine has terroir. Beer has terroir (hops taste differently across the world). Why can’t whiskey?

This remains among of the more-argued topics in American whiskey. Expect more brands to explore whiskey terroir in 2020, marketing it as a point of differentiation. At the same time, those who oppose the concept (like veteran whiskey journalist Robin Robinson) will unlikely back down.

“I think you’re going to see a lot more brands focus on grain variety and origin,” says Rob Arnold, master distiller at Firestone & Robertson.

“I think you’re going to see a lot more brands focus on grain variety and origin,” says Arnold of TX, which highlights the Texas terroir of its grains. “We’re still in the early stages of a program we’re calling ‘Seed to Sip’. It’s a platform that provides the full transparency and characteristics of the grains that go into our whiskey. You can’t have terroir without the transparency side.”

Momentum seems to be on the side of distillers who are pro-terroir, as their numbers multiply.

“Your climate and environment have a huge impact when it comes to aging,” says Dietrich of Oregon-based Crater Lake Spirits. “People understand that Oregon whiskey is different than Kentucky whiskey, so why not understand that western highlands whiskey is different than the more-humid lowland American whiskey?”

This can include the angel’s share from heat and humidity — plus local ingredients.

“Whiskey terroir approaches the level of detail and artistry that wine has,” Dietrich argues. “But we’re still in the beginnings of recognizing how different climates have different impacts. We’ll be spending years figuring out the impact and how detailed it really is.” 

Perhaps signaling a broader shift in sentiment, even the larger distilleries have gotten behind the idea.

“There’s terroir even here at Heaven Hill,” says Wahl. “We’ve always been transparent about our mash bills, but nobody can take those and reproduce whiskey exactly the same way as we do it here. That’s what it’s all about. Our grains, soil, equipment: it’s can’t just be reinvented as a mash bill that’s out there somewhere else.”

Wahl also sees another reason behind the emergence of the terroir trend.

“The trend of regionality in whiskey — especially in Kentucky, Tennessee and Texas — it’s as much about whiskey as it is tourism,” she says. “It’s also about getting more people out to those areas.”

But not every distiller is onboard.

“I understand why people want to talk about terroir, because it connects a whiskey to a place,” says Austin of Cascade Hollow. “But when you say ‘terroir’, the assumption is a direct line between place and flavor, and I don’t think that’s applicable when there are too many processes in between with whiskey.”

“We’re distilling,” she adds. “That’s a separation process. And I think it’s going to be a struggle to make terroir relevant to consumers if you can’t say that a certain soil creates a certain flavor.”

American Single Malt

The fight continues for this burgeoning category to achieve definition at the federal level. While some industry members are skeptical of the mass appeal of American single malt, the sheer number of distilleries producing this style — and producing it well — speaks to a level of consumer demand.

“You can now find American single malt being made in almost every state,” says of Edwards of Stranahan’s, a pioneer in this space.

The question is: when will mainstream consumers embrace this category?

“I don’t think that American single malt will ever be the leader of all whiskey categories, but with the historic popularity of global single malts, that’s what’s driving the category in the U.S.,” says Dietrich of Crater Lake Spirits, which produces the American malt Black Butte Whiskey.

“I think eventually we’ll see the American Single Malt category with smaller sub-categories within it,” Dietrich says. But first, “I’d like to see sections at liquor stores specifically for American malt and single malt.”

“I think eventually we’ll see the American Single Malt category with smaller sub-categories within it,” says Alan Dietrich, CEO of Crater Lake Spirits. But first, “I’d like to see sections at liquor stores specifically for American malt and single malt.”

Likely that would require the TTB to finally approve official definitions for American single malt, something that the category currently lacks. “We’re likely two years away from that right now,” Dietrich says. Delays are due to Covid-19, and the industry working to make permanent their federal excise tax reduction.

Efforts torwards the latter proved succesful. As part of end-of-the-year legislation approved by Congress and signed into law by President Trump in 2020, the Craft Beverage Modernization & Tax Reform Act officially became permanent. This keeps distillers on the same financial footing as wineries, breweries and importers in regards to the federal excise tax, whereas before, the distilleries paid a higher tax, comparatively.

It’s another big win for a category that has enjoyed a lot of winning in recent years. 2021 should be no different, as brown spirits continue to boom in America.

Kyle Swartz is editor of Beverage Dynamics magazine. Reach him at kswartz@epgmediallc.com or on Twitter @kswartzz. Read his recent piece Why Single Barrel Store Pick Whiskeys are Gaining Popularity.

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Rogue Ales & Spirits Releases 2021 Product Calendar

Rogue Ales & Spirits headquarters in Newport, OR. | Photo by Joel Jacqui.

Leading craft brewer Rogue Ales & Spirits has announced its 2021 Product Release Calendar.

This year, Rogue focuses on their core portfolio while adding ten new products and eight new packages.

“I couldn’t be prouder of our 2021 products,” says Dharma Tamm, Rogue president. “We are adding Colossal Claude, a monstrous, flavor-forward Imperial IPA, to our core year-round lineup. Some of our favorite beers are getting a new look, and we’re brewing some really fantastic seasonal products and limited-time offerings. 2021 will also be our first year with a nationwide 12-pack variety pack, which includes Dead Guy, Dreamland Lager, Newport Daze and Batsquatch. This is something our fans have asked about for years and we’re excited to see this variety pack on shelves across the country!”

New beer products Rogue will offer in 2021, along with brewery-provided tasting notes, include:

Colossal Claude Imperial IPA (8.2% ABV) — Their biggest launch in 2021, Colossal Claude is a Northwest Imperial IPA that offers citrus and floral hop aromas on the nose and finishes a touch on the bitter side with soft pine and resinous hoppy notes. Available year-round.

Shakespeare Stout Nitro (5.7% ABV) — The addition of nitro to this oatmeal stout adds a depth of flavor that creates a balance of rolled oats, roasted barley and malt sweetness. The non-nitro version of this is one of Rogue’s original beers. Available year-round.

Rolling Thunder Imperial Stout (13.5% ABV) — The 2021 version of Rolling Thunder Imperial Stout aged for nine months in Rolling Thunder Barrel Works barrels previously used to age Dead Guy Whiskey. Available February.

Rolling Thunder Imperial Stout Finished in Chipotle Whiskey Barrels (13.9% ABV) — A twist on the traditional Rolling Thunder Imperial Stout, the chipotle version is finished in barrels previously used to age the company’s Chipotle Whiskey. Available February.

Raspberry Tartlandia (4.9% ABV) — This gose is brewed with raspberries and sea salt that was harvested from the Yaquina Bay in Rogue’s backyard. Available May–August.

Jam Sesh (5.5% ABV) — This Strawberry Ale is made with Oregon fruit and locally made, up-cycled organic bread. Available September–December.

Cotes du Rogue Sour Blonde with Fruit (ABV TBD)
 — This limited-edition sour blonde made with fruit is part of a foeder-aged sour series. It offers a tart flavor with hints of oak, lemon, vanilla and apricot. Available April.

Cotes du Rogue Sour Kriek (ABV TBD) – This foeder-aged sour beer with cherries is part of a foeder-aged sour series.

Cotes du Rogue Oud Bruin (ABV TBD) – Another addition to the foeder-aged sour series, this foeder-aged sour brown ale is tart.

2021 Santa’s Private Reserve — Each year, Rogue creates a unique Santa’s Private Reserve based on year’s events. Stay tuned for the 2021 recipe. Available Nov–Dec.

Rogue will also update packaging in 2021. Honey Kolsch and Hazelnut Brown Nectar will both receive new can designs in 2021. Shakespeare Stout Nitro, Double Chocolate Stout, Pumpkin Patch Ale and Dead ‘N’ Dead will all be available in a new 16-oz. 4-pack can format.

Rogue’s package designs are all created in house.

“Having an in-house design team for packaging development is a key asset because it gives us flexibility, consistency, shortened lead times and greater output,” says Hagen Moore, VP of marketing & creative. “You’ll see the results this year in the redesign of our Honey Kolsch and Hazelnut Brown Nectar, two long time Rogue favorites. Still fantastic beers but everything needs a fresh coat of paint or some new duds now and then and for these two it was their time. We also brought our limited-time-only offerings into the 16oz format and with that came some new designs, so lots of exciting products and packages coming out this year. Keep an eye out for them and I hope you enjoy.” 

Rogue highlights from 2020 included Rogue Ales & Spirits Morimoto Single Malt Whiskey, Rogue Ales Coast Haste IPA and Pumpkin Patch Ale, Rogue Ales Côtes du Rogue, Rogue Spirits Canned Grapefruit Vodka Soda and 2020 Rolling Thunder Imperial Stout and Stouted Whiskey.

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Mind & Body Wines

Pinot Grigio from Mind & Body Wines.

Mind & Body Wines is a new brand created with wellness in mind, with a lineup of three low-calorie, low-alcohol wines.

These wines are 9% ABV, with 90 calories per serving. The initial lineup includes Mind & Body Pinot Grigio, Rosé and Cabernet Sauvignon. Each is also vegan, gluten-free, non-GMO, keto-friendly, paleo-friendly and made from California grapes without any flavor additives or added sugar.

“The millennial moderation movement has taken hold, and consumers in search of balance are here to stay,” says Brie Wohld, vice president, marketing for Mind & Body Wines. “This new wine brand answers the call of consumers everywhere who have been resoundingly reaching for a low-calorie, low-alcohol wine that better fits their lifestyles and helps them reach their wellness goals.”

Mind & Body uses traditional winemaking methods to achieve flavor, texture and balance across its portfolio, the company says. Starting with wine from California vineyards, Mind & Body uses a spinning cone column to remove alcohol from a small amount of the wine, while preserving the wine’s aromas and flavors. Mind & Body then blends the dealcoholized wine with traditional wine to create a finished product.

All three wines are now available nationwide for a suggested retail price of $13 per 750-ml. bottle.

Mind & Body Wines is backed by Trinchero Family Estates.

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Kōloa Rum Company New Rums

Kaua’i’s Koloa Rum Company recently debuted two new rums.

Kōloa Kaua’i Reserve Five-Year Aged Hawaiian Rum is the brand’s third aged rum release, a single-barrel rum, aged in charred American oak barrels and bottled at cask strength. The barrel-aging process imparts an amber color with notes of cinnamon, orange, roasted almond and charred oak on the nose, the company reports. On the palate is sweetness from the sugarcane, offering flavors of toasted vanilla, orange zest, brown butter and honey. Bottled at cask-strength, from 110-124 proof depending on the barrel, Kōloa Kaua’i Reserve Five- Year Aged Hawaiian Rum is available for an SRP of $99.95. Additional barrels are scheduled to release in April 2021.

Kōloa Kaua’i Cacao Rum is a chocolate-flavored rum that incorporates Hawaiian-grown cacao from Lydgate Farms, a fifth-generation Kaua’i family farm known for its chocolate production. Kaua’i Cacao Rum is created by steeping Lydgate Farms’ roasted cacao nibs in Kōloa Kaua’i Gold Rum from 9 to 18 days, depending on the batch. During the process, the rum extracts natural flavor and color from the cacao to offer a chocolate rum with notes of creamy mocha highlighted by subtle spice, the company reports. The suggested retail price is $32.99 per 750-ml. bottle.

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Balcones Announces New American Single Malt, Lineage

Balcones Lineage.

Balcones Distilling, an American single malt pioneer based in Waco, TX, has announced its newest release: Balcones Lineage.

Lineage marries traditional Scotch single malts with “innovative approaches to grain and maturation to celebrate Texas provenance,” the company says. This American single malt is made from both Scottish and Texas-grown barley, and aged in both refill and new oak barrels.

The nose is sourdough starter and cream soda, mulled cider, bruised bananas and peaches, tea tree, the company reports, before a palate of caramelized sweetness, soft oak, manuka honey, chestnuts and hint of red wine reduction. On the finish is more tea tree, black tea and hint of cinnamon.

The suggested retail price for Balcones Lineage is $39.99 per 750-ml. bottle.

This follows news that Balcones Distilling has expanded its single barrel program.

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TTB Approves New Sizes for Canned Wine

The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau has added three new can sizes to the standard of fill for packaging canned wine: 200-ml., 250-ml. and 355-ml.

This comes as alternative packaging continues to gain popularity in the wine industry.

Winemakers can now sell individual cans in the popular 250-ml. size, as well as the common European size of 200-ml. Also, wine can be packaged in the 355-ml. size, which is the traditional 12-oz. beer can.

This final rule amends the TTB regulations that govern wine and distilled spirits containers to add seven new standards of fill for wine and distilled spirits. Although TTB had originally proposed to generally eliminate the standards of fill for wine and distilled spirits, TTB is not adopting that proposal at this time.

The amendments described in this final rule will provide bottlers with flexibility by allowing the use of the added container sizes, and will facilitate the movement of goods in domestic and international commerce, while also providing consumers broader purchasing options.

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Luxco Launches Ezra Brooks 99 Bourbon

Ezra Brooks 99 Bourbon Whiskey, from Luxco.

Luxco has unveiled the latest addition to its Ezra Brooks family of products: Ezra Brooks 99.

This is Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey bottled at 99 proof. Charcoal filtered, the new Ezra Brooks 99 features the same spicy, high-rye mash bill as the rest of the line.

“With Ezra Brooks 99, our goal was to create a higher-proof bourbon without sacrificing the rich notes Ezra Brooks is known for,” says John Rempe, master distiller at Lux Row Distillers. “And we achieved that with 99. The result is a smooth, drinkable bourbon with hints of caramel, vanilla, chocolate and spice. We’re thrilled to introduce Ezra Brooks 99 to bourbon lovers everywhere.”

Ezra Brooks 99 comes in a bottle that matches the line’s branding, with a natural cork closure. The packaging features “99” prominently, along with a deep “Lux Row Distillers” embossing on the bottle’s shoulder.

“When you see Ezra Brooks 99, you’ll see an elegant, upscale bottle that stands out on the shelf,” says Eric Winter, brand manager for Ezra Brooks. “We believe the refined style and honest flavor of Ezra Brooks is amplified in Ezra Brooks 99, giving consumers of the brand even more to connect to.”     

Ezra Brooks 99 will be available in a 750-ml. bottle nationwide beginning in January 2021. The suggested retail price is $24.99, though the final price may vary per market.

This follows the company’s recent release of Blood Oath Bourbon Pact No. 6.

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Devils River Whiskey Partners with 375 Park Avenue Spirits

The Texas brand Devils River Whiskey is now working with 375 Park Avenue Spirits.

375 Park Avenue Spirits, a division of the Sazerac Company, will entered into a supply-and-distribution agreement with Devils River Whiskey.

The move is effective April 1, 2021.

Under this new partnership, 375 Park Avenue Spirits will assume responsibility for all sales and operational functions and will support the brand’s marketing efforts. 

“Devils River is an emerging whiskey brand, but one that’s made quite a bit of noise since entering the scene back in 2017,” says Jason Schladenhauffen, president and CEO of 375 Park Avenue Spirits. “The brand has established a clear stronghold in its home market of Texas, and has steadily expanded that U.S. footprint over the last 12-18 months. We expect to take the baton from the Devils River team and increase the pace as we embark on the next leg of their growth trajectory.” 

Devils River Whiskey launched in Texas on April 1, 2017.  The brand is already available in 29 states, and selling over 125,000 cases to date, the company reports.

Industry veteran Jeff Colbert recently joined the Devils River Whiskey leadership team as the company’s new COO. Reporting to the company’s three co-founders, he will oversee the company’s day-to-day operations, as well as the transition with 375 Park Avenue Spirits.

“Jeff brings a significant track record of commercial leadership, and we are confident that he is the right person to lead the company into its next phase of growth,” says Devils River Whiskey President and Co-founder Mike Cameron. “He has a successful track record of cultivating and leading a strong performance-oriented culture, and we believe his reputation for execution and achieving results makes him the right choice to lead our organization.” 

Devils River will be available from 375 Park Avenue Spirits beginning on April 1, 2021. The SKUs include: Devils River Bourbon 1.75-L, 750-ml. and 50-ml., Devils River Barrel Strength, Rye and Coffee 750 and 50-ml. and Single Barrel and Barrel Select 750-ml.

“We are extremely excited to be entering into this strategic partnership with 375 Park Avenue Spirits,” says Colbert. “The collaboration will strengthen Devils River Whiskey’s brand development, and provide the competitive edge we need to more effectively compete in today’s competitive whiskey category through the strength of 375 Park Avenue Spirits sales and distribution network.”

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