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Virginia Distillery Co. Launches Courage & Conviction American Single Malt

Virginia Distillery Co. Courage & Conviction American Single Malt Whisky

Virginia Distillery Co. has announced the launch of its long-planned Courage & Conviction series of American single malt whiskies.

Courage & Conviction expressions are distilled using 100% North American malted barley. The newly released flagship whisky matured in old world sherry casks, traditional bourbon barrels and re-coopered cuvée wine casks.

Additional releases will feature individual bottles of each casks, slated for later this year.

Aged a minimum of three years, this American single malt line is produced at the distillery’s 100-acre property in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Nelson County, VA.

As an ode to the company’s founder, the first batch of the flagship offering of Courage & Conviction is dedicated to Dr. George G. Moore. “Our new line sets a new standard for American whisky and we believe it rivals the finest whiskies in the world,” says Virginia Distillery Company CEO Gareth Moore, son of the founder. “But most importantly, I know it’s a whisky my dad would be proud of.”

The first batch of Courage & Conviction has notes of caramel and butterscotch, the company reports, and evolves on the palate with hints of raspberry, cocoa, barrel spice and vanilla. Additional nuances of the Dr. George G. Moore batch include aromas of salted caramel and milk chocolate, with orange zest and notes of toffee and cinnamon.

Bottling for the inaugural batch took place between February and March of this year. A total of 9,600 bottles were produced.

Each bottle in the Courage & Conviction line features a removable magnetic medallion keepsake representing the distillery’s seal of approval.

Virginia Distillery Company’s Courage & Conviction flagship batch retails for $74.99 per 750-ml. bottle.

Consumers who want to learn more about Courage & Conviction are invited to join Virginia Distillery Company on Wednesday, April 15, from 5:30 to 6 p.m. EST for a virtual tasting with Moore. The tasting, which will take place on Facebook Live, is a part of a Whisky Wednesday series the distillery is conducting every Wednesday throughout the month of April. The distillery will share more information about the tastings on its social media channels.

Coinciding with the rollout of the Dr. George G. Moore batch of Courage & Conviction, Virginia Distillery Company is premiering batch.info, a website hub that includes distillate and cask data, as well as bottling and process information for consumers.

Absolut Juice Pear and Elderflower

Absolut Vodka continues to tap into the ready-to-drink (RTD) trend with this week’s release of Absolut Juice Pear & Elderflower.

This new sip-with-a-spritz blend is made with Absolut Vodka and 5% real fruit juice.

Absolut Juice Pear & Elderflower has the sweet and juicy taste of ripe pear and sunny elderflower, the company says.

Reflecting the healthier drinking trend as well, this RTD contains only 99 calories per serving.

The newest Absolut Juice flavor launches nationwide this month. The suggested retail price is $19.99 per 750-ml. bottle.

Other Absolut Juice flavors include Strawberry and Apple.

Campari America Donates $1M to Hospitality Industry

With the on-premise industry decimated by the COVID-19 lockdown, global drinks company Campari America has donated $1 million to Another Round, Another Rally. This nonprofit is raising emergency funds for hospitality workers to support bartenders facing economic hardship due to the COVID-19 emergency.

Along with the donation, Campari America has encouraged its community to join the #AnotherRoundChallenge via AnotherRoundAnotherRally.com. Bar patrons can “tip their servers” by donating to Another Round, Another Rally’s virtual tip jar, and then challenge friends on Instagram to do the same using the hashtag.

As the U.S. hospitality community bands together to support their bartenders and servers, virtual tip jars have replaced their main source of income.

Campari America brands — including Wild Turkey Bourbon, Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum, Espolon Tequila, SKYY Vodka, Aperol, Bulldog Gin, Grand Marnier, Cabo Wabo Tequila and Campari — posted the call to action on their social channels to promote the cause and rally support.

“The impact bartenders have on our industry is immeasurable. With this unprecedented crisis upon us, now more than ever, we need to band together to support hospitality workers in their time of need,” says Ugo Fiorenzo, managing director of Campari America. “At Campari, we are urging communities and bar patrons to join us in virtually tipping our bartenders and restaurant workers and serve them as they served us.”

Another Round, Another Rally provides reimbursement grants, immersive educational scholarships to further the education of underrepresented voices in the community, and supply emergency assistance to those employed in restaurants, bars and hotels who have fallen on unexpected hardships.

Another Round, Another Rally is fiscally sponsored by JoyBus, a 501(c)3 tax-exempt organization. 

To support COVID-19 first responders, the Wild Turkey team in Kentucky has also worked with local government officials to donate 25,000 liters of neutral grain spirit, which will transferr to a certified processor that will denature, produce and bottle hand sanitizer. These will then distribute to workers performing essential services, with a priority for those in health and primary care.

On March 14, the Campari Group donated €1 million to public healthcare institution ASST Fatebenefratelli Sacco in Milan, center of national excellence in the research and treatment of highly contagious and dangerous diseases, for patients critically affected by COVID-19. The sum will be used to finance an Intensive Care Operational Unit.

Buffalo Trace Unveils Fourth Bourbon in Old Charter Oak Series

Buffalo Trace Old Charter Oak Chinkapin Oak

Buffalo Trace Distillery continues its exploration into different wood varietals with the release of Old Charter Oak Chinkapin Oak.

This species of oak is native to the Midwest U.S.

This is the fourth release in the Old Charter Oak Collection, and the first in the species series. Previous releases included Mongolian Oak, French Oak and Canadian Oak. The Old Charter Oak Collection explores the taste profiles of barrels made from trees grown in different countries, climates and soil.

For this new expression, Buffalo Trace obtained a number of barrels with staves air dried for 24 months (before assembling them into barrels). Most staves air dry for three to six months.

“The extra seasoning of the wood allows it to break down and we then capture the flavors when the barrel is charred,” explains Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley. “The extra time caramelizes wood sugar and reduces some of the tannic flavor.”

Buffalo Trace traditionally burns the inside of their barrels for 55 seconds, a number four char. However, these Chinkapin Oak barrels were charred slightly less with a number three char, which lasts only 35 seconds.

After the Chinkapin barrels filled up with Buffalo Trace Mash #1, they aged for nine years before being bottled at 93 proof.  

Tasting notes describe this bourbon as having a nose of cherries and spearmint with hints of floral, the company says. On the palate are fresh herbs and honey, before a finish of warm baking spices, followed by dark chocolate.

The suggested retail pricing for Chinkapin Oak is $69.99 per 750-ml. bottle. Like other releases in this series, supplies are limited.

Packaging for the Chinkapin Oak also remains consistent with other releases: an upscale look consisting of a glass bottle with a cork finish. Each bottle has an oak medallion on the front depicting the Charter Oak tree.

Old Charter Oak Chinkapin Oak is available in limited quantities starting this month.  

Subsequent releases in the series are planned a few times each year, indefinitely.

By federal standards, bourbon is required to be aged in a new, charred oak container. While there is no specification these containers must be American white oak barrels, nearly all bourbons made today are aged in white oak barrels.

The Old Charter brand dates back to 1874 and has changed owners a few times. Buffalo Trace Distillery bought the brand in 1999. The existing Old Charter Bourbon is still produced by Buffalo Trace’s parent company Sazerac, and there are no plans to discontinue it.

The Old Charter Oak series is an upscale brand extension, like what Buffalo Trace has done with its E. H. Taylor, Jr line. 

Kyle Swartz is editor of Beverage Dynamics magazine. Reach him at kswartz@epgmediallc.com or on Twitter @kswartzz. Read his recent piece, What’s New at Buffalo Trace, Bulleit, Barton 1792 and Michter’s.

Laws Whiskey House Bottled in Bond San Luis Valley Rye

Laws Whiskey House has released its 6-Year Bottled in Bond San Luis Valley Rye.

This new whiskey is available this month at retailers in California, Colorado, Illinois, New Jersey, New York and Texas. 

This rye expression was first released after aging four years, and Laws now presents it again after two additional years of aging. San Luis Valley Rye was made from Colorado Malting Company’s San Luis Valley rye grain harvested from a single season, shaped by Laws as the sole distiller, and then aged in the company’s federally bonded rack house for six years.

“The world-class quality of our whiskey stems from the grains we get from the Cody Family Farm in Alamosa,” says Distillery Founder Al Laws. “The heirloom San Luis Valley rye varietal is a standout as it distills into a distinctive spirit that gets better every year.” 

On the nose is sweet grass with honey, the distillery reports, plus notes of fennel, followed by deeper accents of sea salt, orange tea and brown sugar on the palate. It finishes with a buttery mouthfeel, accompanied by tobacco notes.  

In addition to the newly released 6-Year Bottled in Bond San Luis Valley Rye, Laws Whiskey House also has a number of bonded single grain expressions, including 6-Year Bottled in Bond Four Grain Bourbon, Henry Road Bonded Malt Whiskey, Bottled in Bond Centennial Straight Wheat Whiskey and Bottled in Bond Straight Corn Whiskey.

Rolling Stone and Elysian Brewing Release Craft Beer Collaboration

Rolling Stone magazine has partnered up with leading craft brewer Elysian Brewing for a new collaboration project, now hitting store shelves nationwide.

Elysian Rolling Stone Lager marks the first time that Rolling Stone has co-created and licensed their brand to a craft beer.

 “The fact that Elysian has supported and been inspired by music and musicians since their beginnings makes this partnership a natural fit for Rolling Stone,” says Gus Wenner, Rolling Stone’s president and COO. “We’re excited and proud to share our first venture into craft beer with our fans — we put a lot of passion into this project and we know they’re going to love it.”

Elysian Rolling Stone Lager is crisp, smooth and sweet, the companies say, with hints of caramel and orange marmalade. It has a moderate hop profile from Cascade, Crystal and Mandarina Bavaria hops, giving the beer an orange zest and Manuka honey finish.

With an ABV of 4.8%, Elysian Rolling Stone Lager is meant for the warm days of spring and summer. Its relatively light body makes an ideal pairing with pizza, brats and washing down heavier foods.

Elysian Rolling Stone Lager is available in a six-pack of 12-oz. cans, as well as in 16-oz. cans. This beer will also be available on tap nationwide. 

“Like a musician creating a timeless masterpiece, we took our time with this brew to perfect a beer that pays homage to the indescribable emotions that only music can evoke,” says Josh Waldman, Elysian brewmaster. “Essentially, we wanted to create a beer you’d want to drink when you jam out.”   

Splash Mixers

Splash Mixers is a non-alcoholic, women-owned beverage company. Their products are made with natural ingredients and are low calorie (25 g or less), low sugar (5 g or less), low sodium (5 g or less), low carbohydrate, gluten free, non GMO, vegan, keto and Kosher certified.

Splash Mixers come in five flavors: Margarita, Moscow Mule, Cosmopolitan, Mojito, and Bloody Mary. Just add alcohol and mix. These can all be purchased at retailers nationwide, and through Amazon and Splashmixers.com.

The suggested retail price is $9.99-$12.99, depending on the market, per 750-ml. bottle.

Splash has supported the bartender and restaurant community during this time of coronavirus pandemic. The company will donate a percentage of each purchase made on their website to CORE (Children of Restaurant Employees) and The United States Bartender Guild. Also, Splash will host its own “Bartender Cocktail Contest,” in which they will give away $500 to a bartender who lost their job due to COVID-19. 

Vinitaly Postponed Until April 2021

Another major alcohol expo has canceled its 2020 event as COVID-19 sweeps destructively across the globe.

At the beginning of March, in agreement with major wine industry institutions, Vinitaly had decided to postpone the 54th edition of its annual expo until mid-June.

Unfortunately, the health crisis has further worsened over the last two weeks, and the decision to postpone the dates for Vinitaly became inevitable, the organization says. The 54th edition of Vinitaly is now scheduled for April 18-21, 2021.

This follows the news that ProWein has also postponed its 2020 expo until 2021.

How Liquor Stores Adapted to the COVID-19 Crisis

Alcohol remains essential. As states across the country reacted to the coronavirus outbreak by locking down businesses — devastating on-premise — liquor stores wondered whether they, too, would have to shutter. So far, with rare exception, the answer is no.

The result has been a boom in sales as customers rush out to buy alcohol as the pandemic engulfs America. While this shopping spree has ebbed in recent days, many liquor stores still report higher-than-usual numbers.

Such a rise in customers complicates efforts to maintain safety. Retailers have needed to adapt. Nationwide, stores have implemented new practices that better protect customers and staff from the spread of COVID-19.

In this Part 1 of a two-part series on alcohol retail during the coronavirus, we look at these safety measures, current trends in consumer purchases, how else stores have adapted, and what all this means for beverage alcohol retail sales moving forwards.

The Initial Sales Boom

The week of March 9 was when many Americans first grasped the true extent of the pandemic’s threat. In a rash of troubling news, the NBA suspended its season, President Trump barred a litany of foreign flights, and “America’s Father” Tom Hanks tested positive for COVID-19.

Consumers reacted with panic and preparation, flocking to stores to stock up. Sales skyrocketed.

“For our New Jersey locations, during the week ending March 15, we saw a 62% increase in overall sales, a 20% increase in overall in-store foot traffic and a 300% increase in local delivery and pickup orders,” says Gary Fisch, founder and owner of Gary’s Wine & Marketplace.

This trend continued into the following week, as lockdowns took effect nationwide. At Caesar’s Wine & Liquor in Tennessee, during the 18-day period of March 12-29, total sales were up 71%, year over year.

Items per sale grew 20%, reports Caesar’s President Gary Gordin, while the average dollar amount per sale increased 41%. Customer count grew by 21%.

“Sales started leveling off Thursday, March 26, but dollar sales have continued the increase by 20%,” Gordin adds.

Womply, a data science company, reports a national weekly revenue climb of 145%, year over year, for liquor stores during that first week of the pandemic. This includes a spike of 278% on Monday, March 16.

“The data reveals what many have heard about or seen first hand,” says Dallin Hatch, Womply director of marketing communications. “COVID-19 is driving panic buying of liquor.”

Hadley Douglas, co-owner of the Urban Grape in Boston with her husband TJ, says that their sales have increased 130% these last two weeks.

For Peco’s Liquor Store in Wilmington, DE, this past week has seen a 15-20% sales jump, reports Owner Edward Mulvihill. And the week before that at Peco’s — as America settled frantically into its new reality, and the neighboring state of Pennsylvania closed down all liquor stores — sales were up 300%.

Taking Safety Precautions

With liquor stores experiencing numbers like another round of holiday season shopping, except during a spreading pandemic, additional safety measures were necessary. Retailers began these slowly at first, and then expanded.

“We ran our usual public tastings that first weekend [March 14-15], and then realized that we could not do that again,” says Douglas of The Urban Grape. “The news was getting progressively worse. We began reassessing what felt safe on a constant, almost hourly, basis.”

Safety precautions at a Minnesota liquor store. | Photo courtesy of Paul Kaspszak, Executive Director at the Minnesota Municipal Beverage Association.

Boston being one of the first U.S. cities hit hard by COVID-19, The Urban Grape quickly adapted. On March 19, Douglas and her husband decided to shrink store hours. They no longer opened on Sundays, and also moved up closing time by three hours on the other days.

The Urban Grape is a boutique wine store in Boston’s trendy South End. “We decided that we would not open the store unless one of the owners was present,” Hadley says, “for the safety of our clients, employees and business.”

Now, only one customer is allowed in the store at a time. They cannot bring in kids or pets. They cannot touch product. They must sanitize their hands upon entering. After customers leave, The Urban Grape sanitizes door handles and the POS register touchpad.

The store also offers curbside pickup, and digital delivery.

“Most of our customers have moved to delivery,” Hadley says. “We don’t use a third party for delivery, so we’ve been able to give delivery shifts to industry people who otherwise were out of a job.”

Liquor stores can remain open in Minnesota, but many city-owned liquor stores have shut down as the cities close public buildings, says Tom Agnes, liquor operations manager at the two-unit Brooklyn Center Liquor in Brooklyn Center, MN.

“Some stores are staying open with some rules: steady sanitizing, distancing required, credit cards only, limiting 15 customers in the store at a time, no carry out or show-floor help, and one store put up Plexiglas shields,” Agnes adds. “We are considering the idea of opening with a parking lot delivery option.”

Safety precautions at a Minnesota liquor store. | Photo courtesy of Paul Kaspszak, Executive Director at the Minnesota Municipal Beverage Association.

Delaware does not allow alcohol delivery sales, so Peco’s has implemented curbside pickup. People call in orders and the boutique store packs them up and runs them out to the customer’s car.

“That’s been very popular,” says Mulvihill. “A lot of people are traveling to our store because other stores aren’t doing pickup yet.”

Peco’s has limited the number of customers in their store to 10. Tape on the floor keeps people six feet apart while queuing at the register. After finding bulk hand sanitizer in the back, Peco’s put up hand washing stations throughout the store, but had to move these upfront after discovering that people were stealing the product.

Staff wear gloves, and sanitize the store whenever there’s a free moment. The sink for the growler station behind the register has made washing hands convenient for employees.

Gary’s Wine & Marketplace in New Jersey — another state walloped early on by the virus — took an even tougher approach.

“On March 21, in order to ensure the health and safety of our team and community, we decided to offer local delivery and curbside pickup only, closing our stores to in-store shopping in an effort to protect our employees and community, despite being deemed an essential business,” says Fisch. “Since this change, our team has successfully converted 100% of our in-store foot traffic to local delivery and curbside pickup orders that are placed through our mobile app and a new temporary website, www.garyslocal.com.”

This move, plus the inevitable decline in consumer panic purchasing, has impacted sales.

“For the week ending March 29, we began to see sales flatten,” Fisch says. “Our customer count was down 46% year over year, but this was offset by a 125% increase in basket size, year over year. The increase in basket size was largely driven by a doubling of our shipping business, where we tend to see larger basket sizes in general. We expect to continue to see a decrease in both customer count and basket size in the coming weeks.”

As expected, Gary’s already has a plan in place to deal with these large and evolving changes. In Part 2 of this series, coming early next week, we will examine how liquor stores have adapted strategy-wise to the coronavirus crisis, while also looking at what beverage alcohol products have sold best as America grapples with COVID-19.

Kyle Swartz is editor of Beverage Dynamics magazine. Reach him at kswartz@epgmediallc.com or on Twitter @kswartzz. Read his recent piece How Can Craft Distilling Survive The Coronavirus?

The Dangers of Driver Theft for Beverage Alcohol Retailers

Theft by delivery drivers is a threat to any beverage alcohol retail business. This problem can take on many forms, and often appears as every-day procedure.

On our sister publication Beverage Wholesaler, which covers the distribution tier of the industry, we recently interviewed Barry Brandman, president of Danbee Investigations. For more than three decades his company has worked with wholesalers, uncovering more than $22 million in illegal activities committed by company insiders – many of who were long-term, “trusted” employees. This includes delivery drivers stealing product from retail stores.

For a deeper dive into how this happens, and how it affects the retailer-distributor relationship, we have reposted here a snippet of the interview from the original story:

Why is theft so common?

Barry Brandman, president of Danbee Investigations.

Barry Brandman: Why? Because you’re dealing with a highly desirable commodity. Whether beer, wine or spirits, alcoholic products keep their value better on the secondary market versus other goods. Many goods, you sell them on the secondary market for 10-to-15% of their original price. With alcohol, you can still get as much as 50-60% of their original value.

Let’s talk about driver thefts. What are the big issues there?

BB: Distributors like to see that their drivers take care of the same customers over and over along their routes. Distributors know that their retailer customers don’t want to see new guys all the time coming in with the deliveries. Customers like to develop rapport with their drivers. While most drivers are honest, unfortunately, a small percentage is not, and they take advantage of the trust placed in them by their distributor employers and their retailer customers.

Some drivers who commit theft are really slick about when they visit a customer. They will learn what times during the day that their customers are the most preoccupied. They’ll know what times they can go in when the customers cannot thoroughly check what’s going on out back.

These drivers will take back product, even sometimes cherry-picking products that have already been delivered. Or they’ll give a customer 12 cases instead of 15 they ordered and will be invoiced for. The drivers will then take these products and sell them for cash. Sometimes they’ll even sell these products to other customers, discounting by around 35% for customers who ‘love a special’.

How dangerous is this kind of theft for wholesalers and retailers?

BB: Let me tell you a story. I was describing this whole scenario to one wholesaler CEO. This wholesaler said, ‘If my people are stealing from me, then it’s my problem. But if my customer gets screwed, then it’s their problem, because they do not run a tight building’. So this wholesaler was not as worried about figuring out who his dishonest drivers were.

Three years later, this CEO got contacted by their biggest retailer, who had put a freeze on all the receivables due to that wholesaler. The retailer wanted to have a serious conversation with the wholesaler, and said that they were bringing in outside counsel, because some of the wholesaler’s staff could get indicted. The wholesaler contacted me and asked if I could attend the meeting with him.

We showed up, along with the wholesaler’s VP of Operations and head of transportation. They had had a great relationship this the retailer customer for 24 years. But when we walked into the room, there were six people on the other side of the table, and they were all dead serious. They didn’t even want to shake the wholesaler CEO’s hand.

The retailer said, ‘We know that some of your drivers are screwing us on a regular basis. Are you aware of it?’ The wholesaler said, ‘no’. The retailer said, ‘Our GP is off in a bunch of our stores for the past year and a half. So we decided to put covert cameras in our receiving areas. What we found is that your driver has been short-delivering us almost every day’.

The wholesaler CEO said he was very embarrassed. ‘You don’t even have to show me the video’, he said. ‘Tell me how much is your shortage, and I’ll cut you a check and will terminate the driver and look to have him arrested’.

The retailer said, ‘No. We figured out how much our GP is off, and that’s the reimbursement number we expect for that driver. But you have eight other drivers. We’re working on the assumption that they’re also screwing us, unless you can prove otherwise. So we expect a reimbursement for each and every one of them.’

Altogether, the number they quoted for reimbursement was over $800,000. The retailer said that unless the wholesaler paid it, they would deduct it from what they owed him, and then take him to court so everybody in the industry would know what had happened. That would ruin the wholesaler’s reputation.

On the way back, after the meeting, the CEO turned to me and said, ‘please don’t say I told you so’, which I didn’t. Considering what he was now dealing with I didn’t want him to feel worse than he already did.

The fact is, just because theft takes place at a customer’s location does not absolve [the wholesaler]. Driver theft can erode profitability, destroy trust and ruin reputations.

Kyle Swartz is editor of Beverage Dynamics magazine. Reach him at kswartz@epgmediallc.com or on Twitter @kswartzz. Read his recent piece How Can Craft Distilling Survive The Coronavirus?

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