The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Busy weekend

Just a few things in the news:

And hey, summer begins in three days.

Brew...stills? Take my money!

Brewpubs, but at distilleries and serving their own spirits, may be coming to Illinois:

Legislation approved Thursday by the Illinois House would license craft distillers similar to the way craft brewers are regulated, with the aim of giving a boost to the burgeoning community of artisan spirits makers in the state.

The bill, which still faces a vote in the Senate, would create a license that allows small distillers to self-distribute some product, removing a major hurdle for unknown brands trying get on store shelves, and another license that allows distillers to open up to three satellite locations where they can serve their house-made spirits as well as other alcohol in a pub environment.

The changes would allow craft distillers to build brand awareness and new revenue streams, helping them grow and encouraging new distillers to set up shop in the state, said Noelle DiPrizio, who co-owns Chicago Distilling in Logan Square.

FEW Spirits already has something like this in the form of a tasting room. But this would be a much more all-encompassing experience. I'm looking forward to it.

Three nights, three hotels

I'm traveling this weekend, starting with a night about a block from my office. Tonight is WhiskyFest Chicago, starting in about 90 minutes (though they let us start gorging on cheese and crackers at 5pm). For easily-understood reasons, I'm staying at the same hotel tonight, then heading to my college radio station's 60th anniversary party tomorrow morning. Not my first choice of timing, but I had no control over either event.

Sunday I head into Manhattan, and coincidentally the Yankees are in town...

The view from my room today fails to suck:

Stuff to read on the plane

Just a quick post of articles I want to load up on my Surface at O'Hare:

Off to take Parker to boarding. Thence the Land of UK.

Pas de Bourbon pour l'Europe

Craft distillers in the U.S., like home-town FEW Spirits, are getting creamed by the European Union's retaliatory tariffs:

Following the European Union's June implementation of a 25 percent tariff on bourbon, the popular U.S. whiskey variety, the impact has been clear. One American producer said his exports have "dropped to zero" as a result. Last year, they made up 15 percent of revenue.

"Every U.K. buyer backed off," said Paul Hletko, the owner of Evanston-based Few Spirits. "They may want to buy it, but if they can't sell it at the right price, that's not doing us any favors."

Small distillers cite the drought as proof their fears of a global trade war are coming to fruition. Europe had been blossoming as a source of new revenue — but this market has been effectively cut off for producers that lack the clout or brand recognition of titans like Brown-Forman and Diageo. Now they've been sent back to square one.

Remember: we didn't want these tariffs, we didn't need the tariffs that prompted them, and we are all (European and American alike) suffering because of them. So why did the president start this fight? Does he even know?

Lunchtime reading list

While trying to debug an ancient application that has been the undoing of just about everyone on my team, I've put these articles aside for later:

Back to the mouldering pile of fetid dingo kidneys that is this application...

Good ol' Indiana spirit

Chances are, that bourbon you're drinking came from an industrial distillery in southern Indiana:

In just the last 10 years, the number of craft distilleries in this country has ballooned from around 100 to more than 1,400. That growth is a product of consumer demand, but it’s also due to the easing of state distillation laws and the availability of sourced whiskey from suppliers like MGP in Lawrenceburg, Indiana.

Templeton Rye — marketed as Al Capone’s favorite whiskey and proud product of Templeton, Iowa — is also distilled by MGP. Tincup Whiskey, a self-described “mountain whiskey” replete with commercials conjuring a frontiersman image and Rocky Mountain ethos, is mostly MGP, too.

Those brands aren’t alone in their Indiana provenance. Even super-premium brands like High West and Whistle Pig have sourced from MGP at some point in their respective histories. And the list goes on.

MGP isn’t a household name in bourbon, but it’s well known among industry insiders and connoisseurs. With distilling operations headquartered in the old Seagram’s Distillery in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, MGP is one of the largest whiskey sourcers in the industry.

So why do so few people know MGP’s name?

For one, it maintains strict confidentiality agreements with all of its customers; the purchasing brand only has to reveal MGP as its source if it wants to — an option many decline.

In addition, labeling regulations only require that the bottler list in which state the liquid was distilled — easily done in tiny print on the back of the bottle.

This is why I've got Trader Joe's $15 "Kentucky Bourbon" at home instead of $60 Whistle Pig. It's the same whiskey.

Single-malt Scotch, on the other hand, is by UK law exactly what it says on the bottle.

Whisyfest 2018 summary

I mentioned physical items on my desk that needed sorting. My tasting notes from Whiskyfest comprise some of them.

I'm not going to go into details about the whiskies I tasted; here, instead, is a summary table:

Distillery Expression Verdict
Ardbeg 10 year Drink
Ardbeg An Oa Buy
Ardbeg Dark Cove Committee Release Buy
Ardbeg Kelpie Committee Release Drink
Ardbeg Grooves Committee Release Drink
Balvenie 21 year portwood Buy
Balvenie Peat Week Drink
BenRiach 10 year Buy
BenRiach 10 year Curiositas Drink
BenRiach 21 year Drink
BenRiach 21 year Temporis Buy
BenRiach 12 year Triple-Distilled Horizons Drink
BenRiach Cask Strength Batch 2 Drink
BenRiach 2005 Peated Port Single Cask #2683 Buy
Bowmore 18 year Manzanilla Buy
Bowmore 25 year Buy
Four Roses 2017 Limited Edition Small Batch Skip
Glenmorangie Spios Rye Cask (2018 private edition) Buy
Lagavulin Distiller's Edition 2001 Buy
Laphroaig 25 year Buy
Laphroaig 27 year Buy
Linkwood 19 year cask strength Skip
Maker's Mark Cask Strength Skip
Maker's Mark Private Select Skip
Oban Distiller's Edition Buy
Old Rip Van Winkle Pappy 20 year Skip
Old Rip Van Winkle Pappy 23 year Skip
The Tyrconnell 15 year Madeira cask Buy
The Tyrconnell 7 year Drink
The Tyrconnell Madeira cask (no age) Drink
The Tyrconnell Sherry cask Skip
The Tyrconnell Port cask Skip

It's important to note that while I tasted all of these whiskies, but I did not drink all of these whiskies. I went with a friend, and we shared tastes; the pours were generally very small; and we went to seminars for three distilleries, spreading those tastings out over 45 minutes each. The whole event lasted four hours.

Also, Whiskyfest provides a metric shit ton (a shite tonne) of food. Good food. Heavy, fatty food.

But now you have more context for why I did nothing of commercial or professional value over the weekend.

And yeah, as much as I want to buy some of these, I'm not likely to shell out the $1,000 for the Laphroaig 27 next time I'm at Binny's.

Quick update

Whiskyfest was Friday evening, so I spent yesterday doing quiet things around the house, including starting some projects for an upcoming staycation.

Today will be a little more running around, including possibly a vet visit since Parker has been staying off his right hind leg completely since yesterday evening. He had trouble getting up the stairs after his evening walk, but he doesn't seem to be in any active pain and the leg has full range of motion. I gave him an NSAID; we'll see if that helps.

In other news, Loyola advanced to the NCAA Final Four yesterday, and Duke plays Kansas tonight for the possibility.

As time permits today I'll have updates on Whiksyfest (i.e., which whiskies I'll be looking for), Duke, and Parker.

No, that is not Scotch

Diageo, the international beverage behemoth that owns about a quarter of Scotland's distilleries (including Caol Ila and Talisker) is investigating how to produce horrible shite that isn't at all Scotch under its existing brands:

First, Diageo is considering creating “scotch whisky infusions,” low-alcohol and/or flavored alcoholic beverages sold under the same name as existing single malt or blended whisky brands. Secondly, Diageo has sought permission from the [Scotch Whisky Association trade group] to finish some of its single malts in Don Julio tequila barrels, a move that the association did not approve.

“Scotch infusions” as described in the article would fail to meet two criteria for Scotch whisky. First, scotch must be bottled at a minimum of 40% ABV—so anything lower than that would disqualify it as whisky. Secondly, nothing can be added to scotch other than water and caramel coloring.

But there’s another issue at stake here: the use of existing Scotch whisky brand names on non-scotch products. An infusion made with scotch as a base and then bottled under a new name likely would not be an issue, but using the name of an existing single malt or blended scotch brand could lead to confusion among drinkers who think that what they’re buying legally qualifies as whisky. In the U.S., bourbon, straight rye, and other straight whiskeys can’t have anything added either. Yet brands like Jim Beam offer flavored whiskeys under the same brand name as their straight products, using language like “Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Infused With Natural Flavors” (Jim Beam Red Stag).

That move doesn’t fly in Scotland, where the regulations seem to prohibit producers from using their existing brands on drinks that don’t legally qualify as scotch. Section 6 (2) reads: “A person must not label, package, sell, advertise or promote any drink in any other way that creates a likelihood of confusion on the part of the public as to whether the drink is Scotch Whisky.”

The second issue at stake with Diageo’s plans—whether or not scotch can be finished in Don Julio tequila barrels—is a less clear-cut example of violating the rules.

One clue is that Diageo requested to use Don Julio tequila barrels specifically. Diageo owns Don Julio, and if the company wanted to use the Don Julio brand name on its whisky labels, then it’s no surprise the request was turned down. The SWA is notably more wary of listing a distillery than a wine region on a label....

Diageo is a big company, and it wants to make a lot of money for its owners. But it's also a cautionary tale about how scaling up craft products doesn't work for consumers. Sure, people will probably buy "Johnnie Walker Don Julio-finished Honey Chipotle Scotch Infusion" and claim to like it (especially if they put a lot of sugar in it), but that won't be Scotch.

I just hope they continue leaving Talisker alone. That's from the island of my forebears, Skye. In fact it's about the only thing produced on Skye that anyone's heard of (other than loads of wool).