Buffalo Trace Distillery Named The World’s Most Innovative Whiskey Maker

buffalo trace statueWhisky Magazine recently awarded Buffalo Trace Distillery with the title of Innovator of the Year at the Whiskies & Spirits Conference in London. According to Whisky Magazine, the 240+ year-old-Distillery was named the World’s Best Whisky Brand Innovator due to its, “ …maintaining a continuous commitment to experimentation and research in the production of premium American Whiskeys,” said Managing Editor, Rupert Wheeler.

One clear example is Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye Whiskey, which the Distillery produces once each year. Handy won top honors at the 2015 World Whiskies Awards when the rye whiskey was named the World’s Best American Whiskey. In addition, eight other whiskeys from Buffalo Trace won awards at this prestigious competition.

Over the years Buffalo Trace Distillery has become known for innovation and experimental whiskies, including the Single Oak Project. This experiment has been called the most extensive bourbon experiment ever undertaken and examines seven critical variables which resulted in 192 unique bourbons, currently being rated by whisky connoisseurs. Results and findings are expected to be released later this year.

The Distillery also just recently built and filled Warehouse X, an experimental warehouse comprised of four independently operating chambers that will allow specific environmental factors to be tested, to determine their effect on aging barrels. Although not quite a year into the first experiment, measuring how light affects barrel aging, already the Distillery has obtained valuable data.

In addition to Whisky Brand Innovator of the Year and Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye’s World’s Best American Whiskey designation, two whiskies received three American overall awards. Pappy Van Winkle thomas_h_handy_rye_2011Family Reserve 20 Year was the overall winner for Best Age Statement Bourbon and the overall winner for Best Bourbon, and Thomas H. Handy Straight Rye Whiskey was the overall winner for Best American Rye.

For Best Non-Age Statement Bourbon, Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon received gold, Col. E. H. Taylor Jr. Single Barrel Bourbon received silver and William Larue Weller Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey received bronze.

Col. E.H. Taylor Jr. Straight Rye Whiskey won gold for Best Non-Age Statement American Rye, and W.L. Weller 12 Year won bronze for Best Age Statement Bourbon.

The 2015 World Whiskies Awards and Icons of Whisky were announced at the Whiskies & Spirits Conference in London on March 19. Whiskies in each category were subject to rigorous blind taste testing to determine the best of each category. American Icons are determined following nominations from producers, retailers, distributors and importers, which are then voted on by those in the industry before Whisky Magazine’s editorial panel reviews the votes.

To determine the 2015 World Icons of Whisky, icons in America, Scotland and the rest of the world were voted on before the Whisky Magazine editorial panel was tasked with deciding the winner for each global title in the Icons categories.

For more information about the World Whiskies Awards visit www.worldwhiskiesawards.com and http://iconsofwhisky.com/.

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Bacardi Acquires Angel’s Envy Bourbon

Family-owned Bacardi Limited, the largest privately held spirits company in the world, has expanded its portfolio of super-premium spirits with the acquisition of Louisville-based Angel’s Share Brands, its subsidiary, Louisville Distilling Co., and its ANGEL’S ENVY™ brand. This deal marks the Company’s entry into the bourbon category of the North American whiskey sector.

“We have a clear strategy aligned to meet consumer needs in premium spirits and are building an even stronger portfolio through innovation and acquisition. The purchase of Angel’s Share Brands and the ANGEL’S ENVY portfolio further reinforces our commitment to growing the super-premium spirits sector,” said Bacardi Limited CEO Mike Dolan.angels_envy_bourbon1

ANGEL’S ENVY™ Port Finished Bourbon, the flagship brand, is one of the top ten fastest growing super-premium bourbons in the United States. The American straight category as a whole has experienced a resurgence in the past five years with a nearly five percent growth rate while the super-premium American straight segment has grown nearly 10 percent during the same time.

“Bacardi has a long history of successful acquisitions of cutting-edge brands. Bacardi looks for the gems of innovation in the spirits world to complement our premium and super-premium brands, and ANGEL’S ENVY is a natural fit for our portfolio. We are thrilled to add ANGEL’S ENVY, one of the most exciting brands in the North American whiskey category today, to our highly focused portfolio of iconic brands,” said Barry Kabalkin, Vice Chairman of Bacardi Limited.

ANGEL’S ENVY will continue as a standalone operation, meaning the business structure, employee base, production, distribution, commercial and marketing activities will remain unchanged. ANGEL’S ENVY’s new distillery and brand experience center in downtown Louisville is planned for a 2016 opening and will showcase the great tradition of Kentucky bourbon-making.

ANGEL’S ENVY was created by the late Master Distiller Lincoln Henderson, one of the original pioneers of the premium bourbon and whiskey categories in the U.S. and an inaugural member of the Bourbon Hall of Fame. The brand is hand-blended in small batches of 8 to 12 barrels. Each batch, or “expression,” is allowed to develop naturally, creating nuances in the bourbon from year-to-year.

“ANGEL’S ENVY, like Bacardi, was founded as a family-owned business driven by an entrepreneurial spirit. The secrets to crafting ANGEL’S ENVY have been well preserved by three generations of the Henderson family. Bacardi is well recognized for showcasing the unique heritage and origin of our brands, so I’m thrilled that the Henderson family, under the stewardship of Global Brand Ambassador Wes Henderson, will continue to be directly involved with the ANGEL’S ENVY brand,” said Bacardi Limited Chairman Facundo L. Bacardi, a fifth generation Bacardi family member.

The three expressions of ANGEL’S ENVY are currently available in on- and off-premise establishments throughout the United States. The award winning flagship expression of ANGEL’S ENVY™ Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey finished in port wine barrels earned the highest-ever rating for a bourbon from Wine Enthusiast, ANGEL’S ENVY™ Finished Rye was awarded “Four Stars” and “Highly Recommended” by Spirit Journal, and ANGEL’S ENVY™ Cask Strength was named by Spirit Journal as “Best Spirit in the World.”

Terms of the transaction, closed on March 27, were not disclosed.

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Maker’s Mark Set to Release 2015 Keeneland Bottle Featuring Adolph Rupp

makers2015ruppbottleA new commemorative Maker’s Mark bottle is being released that features Adolph Rupp and University of Kentucky blue wax. The bottle will help raise money to expand the Center for Academic and Tutorial Services (CATS) at the University of Kentucky. CATS helps support student athletes. They are hoping to raise a total of $2 million for CATS through contributions from Maker’s Mark and Keeneland, along with proceeds from sales of commemorative bottles

The bottle goes on sale on Friday, April 3. An autograph session will be held at Keeneland Friday morning, April 10, beginning at 8:00 a.m. The signing event features four of Coach Rupp’s All American players who are also in the Naismith Hall of Fame. They are Cliff Hagan, Dan Issel, Frank Ramsey, and Adrian “Odie” Smith.

There’s no charge to attend the signing event, but you have to have a ticket. They’re available at Keeneland at the Keene Barn beginning at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, April 9, then be in line by 8:00 Friday morning.

Keeneland has pledged to match fundraising efforts, contributing $20,000 per year for the next five years.

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Buffalo Trace Releases E.H. Taylor Cured Oak Bourbon

FRANKFORT, Franklin County, Ky (March 17, 2015) – Buffalo Trace Distillery continues its homage to former Distillery owner Colonel E. H. Taylor, Jr. with a special release bourbon whiskey aged in cured oak barrels.  This 100 proof, Bottled-In-Bond, small batch bourbon was aged in Taylor’s warehouse “C” at Buffalo Trace Distillery.

The barrel staves used for this special release were allowed to dry outside in the open air for 13 months, more than twice as long as standard barrel staves. Most white oak barrel staves used for Buffalo Trace’s bourbons are placed outside for 6 months before being fashioned into whiskey barrels.  Collaborating with barrel manufacturer Independent Stave Company back in 1998, this extra aging curing process allowed the wood to dry even longer, eventually allowing the whiskey to extract more rich and complex flavors deep within the oak.

After crafting and filling these unique barrels, they were then aged inside of Taylor’s iconic brick and limestoneE.H.Taylor Cured Oak Small warehouse “C,” built in 1881.  After seventeen years of aging in the cured oak, this bourbon whiskey delivers an aroma rich with inviting tobacco and dried fruit. A complex flavor meets the mouth with well-rounded notes of vanilla, toffee, and figs, followed by undertones of dry oak. The body is medium with a long, dry finish.

This Cured Oak Bourbon is the seventh and latest release in the collection of  E. H. Taylor, Jr. whiskeys, rounding out the collection of Old Fashioned Sour Mash Bourbon, Single Barrel Bourbon, Warehouse C Tornado Surviving Bourbon, Barrel Proof Bourbon, Straight Rye Whiskey, and Small Batch Bourbon. The Sour Mash and Warehouse C Tornado Surviving bourbons were one time only releases and are no longer available.

The Colonel E. H. Taylor, Jr. collection was first released in early 2011 and several subsequent releases have followed.  Like some of the previous releases, this one-time-only bottling is very limited.   Also consistent with past releases, Cured Oak Bourbon displays a vintage label and is offered inside a distinct canister reminiscent of Taylor’s whiskey package from one hundred years ago. Uniquely new for this release, each 6 bottle case will be shipped in an impressive wooden box, modeled after the wooden crates used by Taylor to transport goods during the days before Prohibition.

Colonel Edmund Haynes Taylor, Jr.  is widely considered one of the founding fathers of the bourbon industry, fighting for the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897, nearly three decades after he purchased the distillery that is known today as the Buffalo Trace Distillery. During his time, Taylor implemented several innovative methods still used today by Buffalo Trace, such as climate controlled aging warehouses. In addition to his bourbon interests, Taylor had political ties. He was the great-nephew of President Zachary Taylor and elected the mayor of Frankfort, state representative to the Kentucky General Assembly and a member of the State Senate.

This special bottling of Colonel E.H. Taylor, Jr. Cured Oak Bourbon Whiskey will be available late March in limited supply.  The suggested retail price is $69.99 per 750ml bottle.

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Heaven Hill to Introduce Elijah Craig 20 YO Single Barrel

BARDSTOWN, KY—Heaven Hill Distilleries, Inc., the country’s largest independent family-owned and operated spirits producer and marketer, announces a new limited edition release of Elijah Craig 20-Year-Old Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. Heaven Hill, who holds the world’s second largest inventory of Bourbon and the most “extra-aged” barrels in its rickhouses, will be offering the new 20-Year-Old bottling of Elijah Craig Single Barrel in limited quantities to selected markets across the country on a one-time basis. The new bottling will retail for approximately $130 for the 750ml size, but less than 80 specially selected barrels will be dumped, yielding fewer than 1,300 bottles.

Last fall, a special one barrel bottling of the Elijah Craig 20-Year-Old Single Barrel done by Heaven Hill to mark the 20th anniversary of the Kentucky Bourbon Festival was named “American Whiskey of the Year” by Whisky Advocate Magazine. Editor and Publisher John Hansell, in bestowing the honor, called the award winner “seamless, richly textured, and impeccably balanced.”

In order to manage stock levels in the warehouses, Heaven Hill has temporarily suspended bottling of the 18-Year-Old Elijah Craig Single Barrel that it has offered for a number of years, but plans to augment the Elijah Craig line with future extra-aged single barrel limited editions.

“With literally thousands of aging barrels over 10 years old, we have a huge and one-of-a-kind resource to tap into,” noted Heaven Hill’s 7th generation Master Distiller Craig Beam. “We’ve carefully identified several hundred that are at middle to high storage in our best rickhouses, and these will be the source for these very special future Elijah Craig Single Barrel editions. These are some of the best older barrels of traditional rye-based Bourbon we have in our inventory.”

The first 20-Year-Old Single Barrel release, which will start to appear on shelves in major metro markets in 36 states in late May or early June, will be packaged in the traditional Elijah Craig Single Barrel bottle, but with a brown face label which carries the 20-Year-Old age statement. The new 20-Year-Old version will continue to be bottled at a robust 90 proof, or 45% alcohol/volume.

Aside from the recent honor from Whisky Advocate for the special 2011 release of the 20-Year-Old, Elijah Craig 18-Year-Old Single Barrel has in the past won Double Gold Medal/Best Bourbon from the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, “Top 50 Spirits” from Wine Enthusiast magazine, and a Gold Medal at the International Spirits Challenge.

“We are tremendously excited to introduce this special edition Elijah Craig 20 Year-Old into a broader market, albeit still in very limited quantities,” stated Heaven Hill Whiskey Portfolio Brand Manager Susan Wahl. “This release, and subsequent releases, will take the consumer on a tasting journey of discovery that will motivate them to move up the brand offerings, from the more widely available 12-Year-Old Elijah Craig Small Batch on through these more aged, rarer bottlings.”

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Maker’s Mark’s “Perfect Mint Julep”

It’s time to press your seersucker suit and unpack your fanciest hat because racing around the corner comes the most exciting two minutes in sports, the Kentucky Derby on May 5th! More than just a sporting event, Derby is as much about fashion and sipping mint juleps as it is horse racing. So, what exactly is a mint julep? It sounds simple – ice, bourbon, sugar and mint – but the truth is there’s a lot of prep that goes into making this iconic drink correctly.

Maker’s Mark is one of Kentucky’s finest bourbons, handcrafted at the oldest operating bourbon distillery in the world. Rob Samuels, eighth generation distiller and grandson of Maker’s Mark Founder Bill Samuels Sr., has happily offered up his family’s personal recipe for The Perfect Mint Julep

“The Perfect Mint Julep”

(Serves 14-16)

 

Ingredients:

1 liter Maker’s Mark® Bourbon

Lots of fresh spearmint

Distilled water

Granulated sugar

Powdered sugar

 

  1. To prepare the mint extract, remove about 40 small mint leaves – wash and place in a small mixing bowl.  Cover with 3 ounces of Maker’s Mark.  Allow the leaves to soak for 15 minutes.  Then, gather the leaves in a clean, soap-free piece of cotton cloth and vigorously wring the mint bundle over the bowl of whisky.  Dip the bundle again and repeat the process several times.  Then set aside.

 

  1. To prepare the simple syrup, mix 1 cup of granulated sugar and one cup of water in a cooking pot.  Heat to dissolve the sugar.  Stir constantly so the sugar does not burn.  Set aside to cool.

 

  1. To prepare the mint julep mixture, pour 3 ½ cups of Maker’s Mark into a large glass bowl or glass pitcher.  (Pour the remaining whisky from the liter bottle into another container and save it for another purpose).  Add 1 cup of the simple syrup to the Maker’s Mark.

 

  1. Now, begin adding the mint extract a tablespoon at a time to the julep mixture.  Each batch of mint extract is different, so you must taste and smell after each tablespoon is added.  You may have to leave the room a time or two to clear your nose.  The tendency is to use too much mint.  You are looking for a soft mint aroma and taste – generally about 3 tablespoons.

 

  1. When you think its right, pour the whole mixture back into the empty liter bottle and refrigerate it for at least 24 hours to “marry” the flavors.

 

  1. To serve the mint julep, fill each glass (preferably a silver mint julep cup) half full with shaved ice.  Insert a sprig of mint and then pack in more ice to about an inch over the top of the cup.  Then, insert a straw that has been cut to one inch above the top of the cup so the nose is forced close to the mint when sipping the julep.

 

  1. When frost forms on the cup, pour the refrigerated julep mixture over the ice, add a sprinkle of powdered sugar to the top of the ice and serve.

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Buffalo Trace Releases Fifth Round of Single Oak Project Bourbon

FRANKFORT, Franklin County, Ky (May 1, 2012) – One year ago Buffalo Trace Distillery unveiled its Single Oak Project and its quest for the perfect bourbon. Now as the fifth round of Single Oak Project Bourbons are released, there has been much excitement and many reviews, but still many questions to be answered.

The fifth round of experiments will focus on three variables, the recipe, rye vs. wheat; the entry proof, 105 vs. 125 proof; and wood grain size, tight, average, or coarse. All of the other variables such as barrel stave seasoning, aging warehouse, char level, and tree cut (top or bottom) remain constant.

As with the other four releases, Buffalo Trace hopes whiskey enthusiasts can continue to rate each whiskey they taste online at www.singleoakproject.com. To date, more than 1700 accounts have been created online, and nearly 1,550 reviews have been given on the four various releases so far.

The whiskey reviews have been tallied and the leading barrel after one year is…. a three way tie!! Barrels #10, 106 and 184 are all tied for first place. With all three of those barrels having different variables, it seems the only thing the three have in common is that the oak was harvested from bottom half of the tree! The other six variables of the leading barrels vary.

“Quite a mixed bag so far,” said Kris Comstock, bourbon brand manager. “It seems the only thing people can agree on so far is that they like bourbon aged in barrels made from the bottom portion of oak trees, opposed to the top half. Good thing we have 3 more years, 144 more barrels, and thousands more reviews to come!”

After a consumer reviews a bottle online, they will be availed of all the aging details and provenance of the barrel. They can interact with others who’ve also reviewed the barrel, compare their reviews, and even learn for themselves which characteristics they enjoy most, in order to help them select future favorites. Participants online will earn points after each review and most importantly, help Buffalo Trace Distillery create the perfect bourbon!

The Single Oak Project is part of an intensive research project Buffalo Trace Distillery started conducting in 1999 by hand picking 96 trees with different wood grains and then dividing them into a top and bottom piece, yielding 192 unique sections. From there, staves were created from each section and were air dried for either 6 months or 12 months. After all the staves were air dried, a single barrel was created from each tree section, resulting in 192 total barrels. These barrels were given either a number three or a number four char and then filled with either wheat or rye recipe bourbon.

To further the variety of experiments, the barrels were filled at two different proofs, 105 and 125 proof. And if this wasn’t enough, two completely different warehouses were used, one with wooden floors and one with concrete floors. In total, seven different variables were employed in Buffalo Trace’s ultimate experiment.

For eight years the Distillery continued with its tracking process, creating intricate databases and coming up with a potential of 1,396 tasting combinations from these 192 barrels!

The Single Oak Project Bourbon is being released in a series every three months from 2011 through 2015 until all of the 192 barrels have been released. The first releases hit select stores in 2011. This fifth release will reach stores towards the end of May. Like all the other releases, the quantities are very limited. Every case will contain 12 bottles, each from a different barrel. The fifth release is made up of barrel numbers 1, 17, 33, 49, 65, 81, 97, 113, 129, 145, 161, 177. All releases will be packaged in a 375ml bottle. Suggested retail pricing per bottle is $46.35.

At the conclusion of the Single Oak Project, the Distillery plans to take the top rated barrel based on online consumer feedback, make more of that product and launch it under the Single Oak Project nameplate

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Buffalo Trace Wins 3 Awards From Whisky Magazine

FRANKFORT, Franklin County, Ky (April 3, 2012) – Buffalo Trace Distillery garnered high honors during the Whisky Magazine Icons of Whisky Hall of Fame Awards ceremony held March 22, 2012 at the Waldorf Hilton in London, England.  Most special was the Lifetime Achievement Award and Hall of Fame induction given to Master Distiller Emeritus Elmer T. Lee.

Elmer T. Lee was born in 1919 on a tobacco farm near Peaks Mill in Franklin County, Kentucky. He graduated from Frankfort High School in 1936 and served in the U. S. Army Air Force during World War II as a radar bombardier on a B-29. After flying missions over Japan through 1945, Elmer was honorably discharged in January 1946. He returned home and studied engineering at the University of Kentucky, where he graduated with honors in 1949.

In September 1949 Elmer began working in the engineering department of the George T. Stagg (now Buffalo Trace) Distillery in Frankfort. In 1966, he was promoted to plant superintendent, responsible for all plant operations and in 1969 he became plant manager. Elmer retired in 1985, but continues to serve as ambassador for Buffalo Trace, educating others on the unique qualities of Kentucky’s bourbon whiskey.

It was in 1984 that Elmer introduced the single-barrel bourbon concept to the world with Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon, named in honor of Col. Albert B. Blanton. Elmer is known throughout the industry for his expertise and knowledge of bourbon whiskey and has received numerous awards and recognition.

In addition to Elmer’s honor, two whiskeys distilled at Buffalo Trace Distillery were also awarded “Best in the World” honors by Whisky Magazine at the Hall of Fame Awards:

  • Eagle Rare 17 Year Old Kentucky Bourbon
    • Best American Whiskey in the World
    • Best Bourbon in the World
  • Sazerac 18 Year Old Kentucky Rye Whiskey
    • Best Rye in the World

“It’s been such a pleasure and an honor to be able to learn from Elmer Lee,” said Harlen Wheatley, Buffalo Trace Distillery’s current Master Distiller.  “The knowledge he brings forth to our industry has been invaluable, and we’re happy everyone else in the world recognizes it as well.”

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