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The hunt for rare geo-targeted whiskeys

For whiskey collectors the fall is the it’s time to go shopping with a long list of special and limited versions going down.

Most of these bottles are available across the country in very small quantities, spreading some whiskey glory all around.

But there are also even more focused versions, available in a single state or even in a single city.

Of course, there are a lot of whiskeys that are only for sale in a limited area, but this is usually because the distillery is small and does not make a huge profit. But it’s different when a distiller or a nationally distributed brand decides to take out the Sharpie and circle the map, and say, “Only here. Nowhere else. ”It’s a bit special, and the reasons often make it even more so.

For example, a new Old Overholt 11-Year-Old Rye Whiskey, which I recently mentioned, is only sold in Ohio and Pennsylvania to pay homage to the brand’s roots in the Ohio River Valley.

Sometimes it’s just about brand loyalty and home territory. Heaven Hill has traditionally kept some regional brands alive, such as Stephen Foster Rye in Wisconsin, Henry McKenna Bourbon in the Carolinas, and Pikesville Rye in Maryland. I remember buying good, cheap Pikesville in Maryland years ago (one black and white label, and it was under $ 20 for a 1.75 liter bottle).

Those days are gone and these brands have burst into a much wider distribution. But Heaven Hill has not forgotten the steps of the dance. They recently released the excellent new Elijah Craig Rye in just four states – Georgia, Oregon, and the Carolinas – with a bigger release possible depending on its reception. When you see this whiskey arriving in your state, don’t hesitate to grab a bottle. (Its suggested retail price is $ 30.)

You will, of course, find many of these “national territory” marks in one state: Kentucky. All of the major bourbon makers are still in the Bluegrass State. You can count on finding only Kentucky bottles on the shelves of liquor stores (and some at distilleries and visitor centers). These are mostly low-cost brands that offer a powerful value proposition, so try the bottom shelf every time you visit.

Every now and then, a distiller will release a Kentucky-only bottling out of respect for the history of the distillery or brand or to thank their workers, farmers, and truckers. And sometimes it’s just Kentucky, dammit, like Brown-Forman’s latest version of King of Kentucky, which debuted in September. This third annual edition of the relaunched legacy brand will see a small number of bottles in Illinois and Ohio, but the majority will remain in the “kingdom.”

King of Kentucky 2020 is a 14-year-old single cask bourbon, made from 37 barrels that were raised in Brown-Forman’s ‘cycle’ warehouses, gently reheated by steam in a continuous cycle of weeks throughout the period. year. Master Distiller Chris Morris notes that this whiskey “continues to teach us about the impact of long-term thermal cycling maturation on barrel yield and flavor presentation.” As a result, the bourbon is complex and flavorful, but not over-oaked. A real treat for Kentucky drinkers, as it brings in $ 250 a bottle.

Geographic targeting is often the result of a collaboration between a distiller and a non-manufacturer of whiskey. That’s what lies behind Westland’s Cask Exchange program, which is only available in the hometown of Seattle’s pioneering craft distiller. Cask Exchange involves Westland lending a few used whiskey casks to a local brewery, where they are filled with beer (at the brewer’s discretion) and then sent back to Westland who uses them one last time to age the whiskey.

The cask swap with Black Raven Brewing, for example, started with two of Westland’s single malt casks and two bourbon casks, which then aged coffee stout and a kriek-type sour cherry. These barrels were then used to finish a five malt whiskey. A Cask Exchange with Seattle’s beloved brewer Holy Mountain will be released at the distillery in December, and then available throughout Seattle and Washington in January. Exchange bottles retail for $ 123.

And sometimes the specific market the whiskey is intended for is across the country from the distillery. I recently called FEW Spirits founder Paul Hletko to talk to him about the unique barrel bottling he does for target markets. One of them was a special version of FEW’s Cold Cut Bourbon, which is a proven bourbon with cold brew coffee instead of water.

“I’m friends with Chris Campbell at Chameleon Cold-Brew,” Hletko said. “The goal was to have everything in Austin. Chameleon is the cold beer of the hometown. They sent us a [container] of coffee. We harvested bourbon and put the coffee in the barrel, then returned the bourbon to finish it. It was good! We put the Chameleon logo on it and sent it back to Texas, where it continues to be sold. “

FEW also did special bottling for an account in California who “just wanted something that no one else had,” Hletko said. “We sold them a special whiskey finished in maple syrup called Breakfast Whiskey. I also sent a smoked malt whiskey to the UK ”

Hletko took a moment to talk about the purpose of these geo-targeted releases. “Strategically, it’s about finding places where [a product] will have better engagement. If you do a collaboration with a local brewery, a local coffee company, it probably won’t have the same impact in another city. They won’t care the same way.

Blackened Whiskey, the collaboration between Metallica and the late master distiller Dave Pickerell, is available in 26 states, but the group recently decided to release a geo-targeted bottling. Batch 106 is the first in a new Blackened Cask Strength program, and uses the album “S & M2” (another collaborative project, bringing together Metallica and the San Francisco Symphony) as a playlist for its Black Noise sound improvement process. Black Noise uses ultra-low hertz sounds to create “acoustic cavitation” in the whiskey; creating and collapsing thousands of tiny bubbles that launch whiskey “microjets” deep into the barrel wood.

Lot 106 ($ 55) is bottled at 110.7 proof and is only available at select Kroger stores in Kentucky and Luekens Wine & Spirits in Florida. Why there? Kentucky is whiskey country. “It does not hurt!” noted Blackened master mixer Rob Dietrich, and the state is also the site of the heavy metal festival Louder Than Life which was due to take place earlier this year and which Metallica was going to make headlines. The Tampa area has an exceptional group of Metallica and Blackened fans, so they have the rest.

My favorite reasons for geo-targeting came from the Aberlour Scotch Whiskey Powerhouse, which recently made two. They teamed up with the Design Museum of Chicago for a competition to create packaging for a 15-year-old Aberlour single cask ($ 250) matured in first-fill bourbon casks. Each piece was put on Illinois shelves in charred wood boxes (made by Midwestern artisans) with gold accents, believed to symbolize the Chicago Fire and brassy horns of the city’s rich jazz history.

Aberlour also released a 19-year-old single cask whiskey at the end of 2019 in California. The first fill sherry cask gave the whiskey rich aromas of spices and oranges. It seems to have got the people of Aberlour to think about the Golden State and the decision to market the whiskey there. It is also an excellent reason.

The terroir, or provenance, concerns the effects of a place on the making of whiskey, on the taste of a whiskey. It’s fun to speculate on the effects of a place on the way a whiskey is sold, enjoyed and remembered. This whiskey, this place, this time because not all whiskeys are suitable for everyone, which is another useful lesson in whiskey appreciation. And sometimes you get lucky!

#hunt #rare #geotargeted #whiskeys

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