Thursday, April 24, 2008

Independant Mingling

As I mentioned yesterday, I am seeing a trend form in Independent Spirits where new producers are vatting/blending purchased barrels and selling them under their own label as forerunners to their own spirit which is still aging (or in some cases yet to be made.)

Everyone that I have seen has made a point of letting the consumer know exactly what is going on and where the juice is coming from. High West Distillery (see yesterday's blog) won't say which distillery made the barrels for their Rendezvous Rye, but does give the ages and mash bills a good break down. On Islay, the boys at Bruichladdich have just released The second Port Charlotte, PC6, which states clearly on the label that it was distilled at Bruichladdich, then moved a few miles down the road to age at Port Charlotte where the distillery is still being rebuilt. I can personally attest to the truth of this statement and I think that it is a beautiful thing they are doing.
Another the latest pre-release I have come across is probably the most interesting. In Virginia, there is a second Single Malt distillery in the works (the first being the bold Mr. Wasmund at The Copper Fox Distillery in Sperryville.) The Virginia Distilling Co. is led by a Brit named Chris Allwood and is currently building their facility in Eades Hollow, just south of Charlottesville , VA in one of the most beautiful parts of the world I have ever seen. In advance of their own malt being ready, which is a good 6 or 7 years away considering the won't even run the still till this New Years Eve, Allwood created his Anticipation Series. Working with Jim McEwan, Bruichladdich popping up again!) they have coined the term 'Double Malt' and creating vattings in 3 regional styles with a 4th in the works. The Highland, the Speyside and the Islay are each comprised of malts from 2 regionally representative distilleries that then then ACE'd (Additional Cask Enhancement, a term I really want to catch on) in an ex-wine barrel.

In actuality, these anticipatory bottlings will have very little in common with the whisk(e)y that will follow. Even in the case of Port Charlotte where it will be the same water, malt and aging conditions, the still going in is of a very specific style and quite different from the beautiful ladies at Bruichalddich. I think that they exist purely for economic reasons. I personaly would find it pretty scary to start a company and build a distillery with no hope of cash flow for at least 5 years. The other move would be to use the stills for something that does not need to age like Gin (and Vodka...but we are not going to talk about that.) This is what is happening in Oregon right now at House Spirits. Their Aviation Gin (BEAUTIFUL!!!) and Medoyeff Vodka are paying the rent their Rum and Single Malt age.

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