Spirits

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Update Your Margs with Mezcal and Sotol

Update Your Margaritas with Mezcal, Sotol, and More!

by David Klemt

Contraluz Cristalino Mezcal bottle on a drinks tray

We all know how to make a classic Margarita, so for this National Margarita Day we want to put some new recipes and ingredients on your radar.

The cocktail recipes below swap out the tequila for mezcal and sotol.

For a quick refresher, all tequila is mezcal in a technical sense. Mezcal is made with agave plants. Tequila producers use a specific agave plant, Blue Weber. Further, tequila must be produced in one of five Mexican states: Guanajuato, Jalisco, Michoacan, Nayarit, or Tamaulipas.

Then we have sotol. You may have seen sotol thrown in with agave spirits on cocktail or spirits roundups. To clarify, however, sotol is a typo of shrub known as the desert spoon, and it’s not an agave plant.

So, all tequila is mezcal, mezcal is agave, and sotol is…sotol.

Swap Out the Tequila

Being National Margarita Day, you certainly need to have a classic Margarita on your menu. It’s all the better if your bar team makes them so well and so consistently that really, your top-selling Marg is one of your signature cocktails.

That said, it’s also a good idea to play with classics to give your guests new drinks to discover. The two recipes below are two great examples of riffs on the classic Margarita that should get your and your bar team’s creative wheels turning.

Allow me to introduce you to Contraluz Cristalino Mezcal and Nocheluna Sotol, if you’re not already acquainted.

Contraluz lays claim to the title of “world’s first cristalino mezcal.” Made from 100 percent espadín agave, this is a crystal-clear, small-batch reposado mezcal. On the nose, expect aromas of agave, along with citrus and floral notes. You may also detect smoke, cedar, and honey. In terms of flavor, Contraluz delivers notes of vanilla, clove, cacao, and cooked agave, with a sweet, long finish.

The second cocktail below is made with Nocheluna Sotol, which is crafted using 100-percent wild sotol from Chihuahuan desert. This particular sotol is the result of a collaboration between a fourth-generation master vintner, and a master distiller.

A unique spirit, Nocheluna delivers a delicate balance of sweet, herbal, dried fruit, and mineral notes. These notes come through via both the aroma and taste, although you may detect oak and smoke as well. Interestingly, Nocheluna says the finish may include a taste of pecan wood, along with wet earth.

 

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A post shared by Nocheluna Sotol (@nochelunasotol)

But Wait, There’s More!

Along with Contraluz and Nocheluna, you’ll see three bottles that may be new to you below. The Light and Soul cocktail calls for Alma Finca Orange Liqueur, Nixta Licor de Elote, and HAGAVE Spiced Nectar.

The first is an orange liqueur produced by the same company that makes Montelobos Mezcal. The second liqueur, Nixta Elote, is essentially liquid elote seasoning, and it comes in a fantastic corn-shaped bottle. Finally, HAGAVE is exactly what it says on the label: a premium, spiced agave mixer.

I don’t know about you, but I definitely plan to get my hands on each of these bottles. Just imagine what you can do to engage with your guests by introducing them to a crystal-clear, artisanal mezcal, an expertly crafted sotol, and liquid elote in a corn bottle.

Cheers!

Contraluz Cristalino Mezcal, Light and Soul cocktail

Light and Soul

  • 2.0 oz. Contraluz Cristalino Mezcal
  • 0.5 oz. Alma Finca Orange Liqueur (or a triple sec or different orange liqueur if unavailable)
  • 0.5 oz. Nixta Licor de Elote
  • 1 oz. Lime cordial
  • 0.5 oz. HAGAVE Spiced Nectar

Place a large ice cube or sphere in a rocks glass. Add all liquid ingredients to a shaker filled with ice. Shake well, and strain into the prepared rocks glass. Garnish with a dehydrated lime wheel.

Nocheluna Sotol cocktail, the Sotolita

Sotolita

  • 1.5 oz. Nocheluna Sotol
  • 1.0 oz. Triple sec
  • 1.0 oz. Fresh lime juice
  • 1.5 oz. Apple juice
  • Apple slices to garnish
  • Chiltepin salt for rim (sea salt blend with chiltepin peppers)

Prepare a rocks glass by adding quality ice and rimming it with chiltepin salt. Add ice to a shaker, then add all liquid ingredients. Shake well, then strain into the prepared glass. Garnish with an apple-slice fan.

Images provided by LaFORCE

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2023 KRG Recap: Top Bar Hacks Episodes

2023 KRG Recap: Top Bar Hacks Episodes

by David Klemt

Gold number 10 on a teal or aqua background

For your listening pleasure and convenience we’ve rounded up the top ten Bar Hacks episodes of 2023, also known as season four of the podcast.

Every year we reflect on the caliber of the guests who take time out of their busy lives to come onto the podcast. And every year we’re grateful for the honor of helping to share their stories and insights.

Below are the top ten Bar Hacks episodes of 2023. We’re presenting them in numeric order—no playing favorites here! To make it easy to enjoy these conversations, we’ve embedded the Spotify version of each episode.

And if you’re curious, these ten only just edge out the rest of this year’s episodes. We thank our loyal listeners for giving all of our guests and episodes a listen.

Cheers!

Episode 89 with Doug Radkey

Doug Radkey, co-founder and president of KRG Hospitality, stops by the Bar Hacks podcast. Not only is Doug the co-founder and president of KRG, he’s also the author of the book Bar Hacks and its followup Hacking the New Normal, and the creator of the Bar Hacks podcast.

During his visit, Doug and David talk about their expectations for 2023, what KRG is working on in the new year so far, the importance of technology in hospitality, and dynamic pricing versus dynamic menus. Doug also shares his thoughts on what operators can work on starting today to position themselves for success in 2023 and beyond.

Episode 90 with Mark Sansom

Mark Sansom, content director for the World’s 50 Best Bars, drops by the Bar Hacks podcast to share some big news. After years of dialing in the process and waiting out the pandemic, the World’s 50 Best Hotels will be revealed at a ceremony in September 2023! If you haven’t watched or attended a World’s 50 Best Bars ceremony, they truly take great pains to ensure they’re the Oscars of bar awards. So, we expect the World’s 50 Best Hotel awards ceremony to blow us out of the water.

This list and its accompanying specialty awards completes the hospitality and travel puzzle. Restaurants and bars, after all, are inextricably intertwined with hotels and resorts. Mark shares the details of the World’s 50 Best Hotels Academy Chairs, voting panel, and voting process in this episode. As a bonus, you’ll also get to hear host David Klemt try and fail to say “inaugural awards” without any issue!

Episode 93 with Adrián Michalčík

In September 2022, Adrián Michalčík earned the title of Diageo World Class Global Bartender of the Year. Colloquially, this achievement is known as the Best Bartender in the World. That’s a bold and weighty mantle but as you’ll learn during this conversation, Adrián is humble and focused on his team and guests.

Adrián is the director of mixology at the award-winning Pier 42 inside the Amerikalinjen hotel in Oslo, Norway. The bar has been recognized by the World’s 50 Best and has won Best Bar of Norway twice. In addition to taking home the title of 2022 Diageo World Class Global Bartender of the Year, Adrián has won several bartending competitions throughout the years.

He popped by the Bar Hacks podcast to chat with host David Klemt about his bartender journey. Adrián has worked in several types of bars and each helped him develop the skills that allowed him to elevate his skills behind the bar. Mentors, his endless quest for knowledge, his passion for hosting others, and his focus on empathy have informed his approach to team building, delivering top-level hospitality, and tapping into his creativity to develop Pier 42’s cocktail menus.

Adrián shares the three pillars he believes great bars are built upon, what he looks for in bar team members, transforming people from guests to friends, the importance of storytelling, and much more.

Episode 95 with Bob Peters

We know it’s been a few weeks. Between client projects and trade shows we had to take a little break. But we’re back!

And to make our absence up to you, our loyal listeners, we’re bringing you a great chat with an awesome guest. Bob Peters returns to the Bar Hacks podcast for episode 95!

Bob has big news to share, and you can hear in his voice how excited he is to share it with everyone. He’s taking on the perfect role. In fact, he calls it his dream job during this episode. Cocktails and cuisine are about to get even better in North Carolina and South Carolina…

But it doesn’t stop there! Bob also shares his approach to bar training to make sure everyone is engaged; his assessment of the Charlotte dining and drinking scene; a simple step all restaurants and bars can take today to improve operations, team engagement, and the guest experience; a very cool project he’s taking on; and more.

Episode 97 with Dragos Axinte

Dragos Axinte, the founder of Novo Fogo Organic Cachaça, returns to the Bar Hacks podcast. Axinte and Novo Fogo have been very busy since, his first appearance on the pod.

On this episode, Axinte shares the details and stories behind three important Novo Fogo initiatives and partnerships: Tree-keeper, with Seattle Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei, the Un-endangered Forest, and the brand’s new Chief Alegrias Officers (ChAOs), Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern, also known as SOFI TUKKER.

The two also discuss Axinte’s approach to partnerships—a philosophy that will serve operators and entrepreneurs very well—as well as distillers “discovering” amburana wood finishing. And, of course, Axinte shares product news and insights. If you’re headed to Tales of the Cocktail this year, you’re in for some incredible news. This conversation spans several topics and Axinte always imparts wisdom when he speaks in approachable and helpful ways.

Episode 99 with Michele Mariotti

Bartender Michele Mariotti leads an illustrious career. He has worked behind the bars at some of the best hotels around the world, including the Savoy in London and Mandarin Oriental in Singapore.

As of 2020, Michele has held the title head of bars at the Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire, Scotland. In this role, he heads the programs at 11 F&B venues on the property, overseeing dozens of bar professionals.

On this episode, Michele and Bar Hacks podcast host David Klemt talk about mentorship, interviewing potential bartenders, menu development, using a flavor map when assigning new cocktail builds to bar team members, finding inspiration, interesting hotel guests, bespoke glassware, investing in platforms and programs that boost staff retention, and more.

Episode 101 with Ryan Chetiyawardana a.k.a. Mr. Lyan

Ryan Chetiyawardana, also known as Mr. Lyan, is one of the bar world’s true visionaries. He opened his first bar, White Lyan, in 2013 and the venue immediately achieved its intended purpose. Beyond being an award-winning bar and one of London’s best places to grab a drink, White Lyan started a much-needed conversation about sustainability in the industry.

Dandelyan, Lyaness, Super Lyan, Cub, and Silver Lyan would follow shortly after, making an even bigger splash not only in London but also Amsterdam and Washington, DC. All Mr. Lyan venues, while showcasing incredible innovation, accomplish something just as important: each bar is a place people to want to spend their time and money, and where professionals want to work.

During this fantastic conversation, Ryan shares insights into the menu programming processes at each venue; discusses seasonality; provides a look into hiring and engaging each team; the reissue of his book and his foray into the RTD cocktail space; and much more. Cheers!

Episode 102 with Jordan Bushell

Thank you for being patient during our summer hiatus. We’re back with a great conversation with an awesome guest.

Global Hennessy brand ambassador Jordan Bushell returns to the Bar Hacks podcast. While Jordan may know people with more Cognac knowledge, we don’t know anyone who knows more about this spirit category. More importantly, he’s as generous with his time as he is knowledgeable about Cognac. If you have a question about the spirit of Hennessy you can reach out to him and he’ll answer you.

On this episode of Bar Hacks, Jordan talks about special Hennessy releases, initiatives, collaborations, and what sets the maison apart from others in the Cognac region of France. He also talks about how operators can introduce guests to Cognac and Hennessy, including paying attention how they price their menus. Cheers!

Episode 104 with Simone Caporale

Simone Caporale, an internationally renowned bartender and operator, swings by the Bar Hacks podcast to talk spirits, branding, the guest experience, and operations.

Noticing a gap in the industry and seeing a way to lend his expertise to help grow spirits brands, Simone and Luca Missagli founded Cocktail Concierge, a brand-building agency focusing on craft spirits brands. One of the most recent brands Cocktail Concierge has helped introduce to the world is Amaro Santoni.

Of course, Simone is also one of forces behind SIPS Drinkery House, number three on the World’s 50 Best Bars list, and the World’s Best Bar according to Tales of the Cocktail. Simone shares his thoughts on what he thinks makes SIPS so successful, why he views service as a privilege, three tips operators can implement today to plant the seeds for long-term success, and more!

Episode 107 with Anne Becerra

When it comes to curating a beer program, creating a complementary cocktail program, and delivering an incredible beer program, we can’t think of anyone better than Anne Becerra. And lucky for us, she stopped by the Bar Hacks podcast!

Anne is the first female Certified Cicerone in New York City and has been working in beer for more than a decade. More importantly, however, she’s as passionate as she is educated about beer. Anne’s also passionate about hospitality, which comes across in this conversation. Truly, she loves hospitality, the beverage world, and how the two pair to make people feel amazing.

On this episode Anne talks introducing guests to beer; serving beer aficionados, beer neophytes, and the beer wary; how to make guests feel comfortable in a beer-centric concept; what she’s excited about in the beer world; tips for operators who want to succeed with a beer-forward venue; and much, much more. Cheers!

Image: Miguel Á. Padriñán on Pexels

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by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Canadians Preparing for NHL Opening Week

Canadians Preparing for NHL Opening Week

by David Klemt

Vintage tabletop hockey game toy

Now nobody can accuse me of showing any NHL teams favoritism. Go Knights Go!

As one should expect, Canadian hockey fans are preparing for the 2023-2024 NHL season opener, and those preparations include on-premise visits.

On Tuesday, October 10, three teams will face off to start the regular season.

First, the Nashville Predators take on the Tampa Bay Lightning. Then, the Chicago Blackhawks will face the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Finally, after raising their brand-new, first-ever Stanley Cup championship banner, which they won just six seasons after their founding, the fastest an expansion team has accomplished this feat, the Vegas Golden Knights will welcome the Seattle Kraken to T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

According to on-premise data from CGA by NIQ, Canadian hockey fans are planning to celebrate the start of the season at bars and restaurants. That means operators have less than two weeks to finalize plans to attract these guests to their venues.

In particular, operators in four provinces need to ensure their NHL opening week plans and promotions are good to go. Per CGA’s data, consumers in Québec are showing the greatest interest in watching this season’s opening games in bars and restaurants. Following and driving on-premise interest are British Columbia, Ontario, and Alberta.

Of course, operators throughout the provinces who serve sports fans should be ready to welcome hockey fans.

For our Canadian readers, the Montréal Candiens will take on Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday, October 11. On that same day, the Ottawa Senators face the Carolina Hurricanes; the Edmonton Oilers face off against the Vancouver Canucks; and the Winnipeg Jets will battle the Calgary Flames.

Click here for the full opening week schedule.

Why Does this Matter?

I may catch some flack for this but technically, any bar with televisions events can be a sports bar.

Yes, I understand that’s a very simplistic view. And yes, of course that comes with the caveat that sports should be authentic to a given concept. Also, showing sports should take into account the expectations of bar or restaurant’s guests.

In other words, most bars and restaurants can benefit from sports but they’d likely be a hindrance to some high-end cocktail bars and fine-dining concepts.

With that out of the way, operators who want to establish themselves as the go-to spot for sporting events need to nail opening week. That means having all of their ducks in a row.

Do they have the proper business TV packages in place? Will promotions and programming appeal to the target audience? Are the screens and audio system high quality for the best viewing experience? Does the menu offer sports fans what they want for great value? Is the team pulling out all the spots to make viewing fun?

Regarding the menu, CGA by NIQ has a couple of valuable insights. First, beer is the top beverage alcohol category among those planning to celebrate NHL opening week on-premise. Second, among those who plan to consume spirits, tequila is the top pick. Sounds like offering beer and tequila shot pairings could perform well.

However, operators should certainly take into account their own data. What F&B items are selling the best? Which items performed the best this same time last year?

Between 15 and 16 million Canadians follow hockey. That’s a vast pool of potential customers to convert to loyal guests. The importance of becoming their sports home base, their third spot, cannot be overstated.

This coming opening week, lay the groundwork to become the go-to place for hockey fans, fantasy sports competitors, and sports bettors.

Image: cottonbro studio via Pexels

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by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Drinkee: Novo Fogo x SOFI TUKKER

Introducing Drinkee, Novo Fogo x SOFI TUKKER

by David Klemt

Novo Fogo Organic Cachaça Drinkee passion fruit cachaça

A month after announcing the reformulation of their award-winning cachaça-forward RTDs, Novo Fogo is proud to announce the launch of Drinkee.

Drinkee, the first Brazilian passion fruit cachaça made for the American market, is a direct result of a new partnership.

Listeners of our Bar Hacks podcast will recall that Novo Fogo founder and CEO Dragos Axinte was our guest for episode 97. It’s on this episode that Axinte discusses Novo Fogo’s partnership with Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern, known globally as SOFI TUKKER.

Axinte shares his thoughts on partnerships and collaboration when talking about teaming up with Hawley-Weld and Halpern. While the partnership “felt right to both sides,” the parties still went through a “complex, long negotiation” before finalizing their deal. The Novo Fogo and SOFI TUKKER teams may have known deep down that the partnership was right but they took the time to prove that feeling was good for business and a long-term relationship.

In addition to SOFI TUKKER serving as global ambassadors for Novo Fogo, Hawley-Weld and Halpern are also co-owners of the Brazilian brand. The dance music duo was heavily involved in the development and launch of Drinkee.

 

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A post shared by SOFI TUKKER (@sofitukker)

The newest addition to the Novo Fogo lineup is essentially Brazil in a bottle. Start with Novo Fogo Silver, infuse it with authentic Brazilian flavors, and you get Drinkee. This new expression is named for SOFI TUKKER’s debut song of the same name, and delivers notes of Brazilian passion fruit, orange peel, vanilla, pure cane sugar, and oak.

To learn more about Novo Fogo Drinkee, please read the press release below. While we’re eager to spend time with this new bottle, we’re excited for more collaborative Novo Fogo x SOFI TUKKER products to enter the market.

Cheers!

NOVO FOGO ANNOUNCES A PASSION FRUIT CACHAÇA NAMED DRINKEE

Developed with SOFI TUKKER, Drinkee is the first Brazilian Passion Fruit Cachaça made for the American market

SEATTLE, WA (Aug. 21, 2023) Novo Fogo announces a new product to their lineup of USDA-certified organic Brazilian cachaças: Novo Fogo Passion Fruit Cachaça, fancifully named after SOFI TUKKER’s hit song, “Drinkee.” A first for the American market, this all-natural sugarcane spirit culminates months of product development among the Novo Fogo distillery team in Morretes, Brazil, and the multi-Grammy-nominated dance music superstars SOFI TUKKER, who are co-owners and global brand ambassadors of Novo Fogo.

The partners’ ambition was to share the beloved flavors of Brazil in a bottled, full-proof spirit that drops a beat of fresh tropical flavor into any cocktail. To achieve this, they experimented with various infusions of tropical ingredients to harmoniously complement the rainforest flavors of Novo Fogo Silver Cachaça. The resulting spirit amplifies the beloved notes of Brazilian passion fruit and fresh cane distillate, supported by background rhythms of orange peel, vanilla, pure cane sugar, and oak. Drinkee stands proudly when sipped neat or on the rocks, but it really starts to dance in cocktails of all kinds. Few things match the perfection of a Caipirinha made with the pulp of a fresh passion fruit, sipped under a backdrop of tropical birdsong and Brazilian rainforest, but a Caipirinha simply shaken with Passion Fruit Cachaça, lime, and sugar is a close second, wherever you enjoy it.

Tucker Halpern, half of the eponymous duo SOFI TUKKER, says of this cachaça: “I am beyond proud of where this product ended up. It feels surreal to have been in the Atlantic Rainforest in Brazil testing the different ingredient combinations to make the perfect Passion Fruit Cachaça. It truly tastes the way our song ‘Drinkee’ sounds, and the way Brazil makes us feel. We’re so excited for everyone to try it!” 

Novo Fogo Passion Fruit Cachaça was created to be as inclusive as SOFI TUKKER’s music: it is an approachable introduction to cachaça newcomers, and simultaneously an elegant base spirit for bartenders and enthusiasts to supercharge their cocktails with bold tropical flavors. Drinkee will pair perfectly with another upcoming Novo Fogo x SOFI TUKKER collaboration named after their song “Energia.” That future product is inspired by Sophie Hawley-Weld, who enjoys alcohol-free drinks and is passionate about Brazil’s rainforest environment and the plant-based beverages that grow therein. 

Like all Novo Fogo’s handcrafted Brazilian spirits, Passion Fruit Cachaça is an emissary of Brazilian culture and rainforest conservation, and a symbol for the shared values that connected Novo Fogo and SOFI TUKKER in the first place. The duo says of the partnership: “We have a lot in common with Novo Fogo – we share a core love of Brazil, fun, and environmentalism. Cachaça is Tuck’s favorite drink and Soph doesn’t drink alcohol, but she’s still at the same party… both having the best time. This partnership works because Novo Fogo is so much more than cachaça and spirits; they are a powerful rainforest preservation steward, and we’re enthusiastic participants in the reforestation project The Un-Endangered Forest™. So if you do decide to drink, we hope you’ll drink Novo Fogo because you’ll be planting trees in the Brazilian rainforest at the same time! We’re excited to help introduce this classic Brazilian drink to more people around the world.”

Novo Fogo Passion Fruit Cachaça is sold to distributors nationwide by 375 Park Avenue Spirits. It is now available for pre-order on www.novofogo.com.

About Novo Fogo

A passionate advocate for sustainable practices in the spirits industry, Novo Fogo is a carbon-negative company that produces USDA-certified 100% organic cachaças at its zero-waste distillery in the heart of Brazil’s Atlantic Rainforest. Its production methods prioritize human and environmental sustainability; the company is proud of its all-female distiller team and its legacy reforestation project, The Un-Endangered Forest, which seeks to restore 44 species of threatened native trees. Extending this ethos to its cocktail audience, Novo Fogo has been a trailblazer for sponsoring health and wellness initiatives for spirit industry members. The company’s product line intersects traditional Brazilian culture with modern cocktail trends of healthier drinking, such as low carbs, low ABV, and low calories. Seeking to build a business that can last 100 years, Novo Fogo has partnered with multi-Grammy-nominated global dance music duo SOFI TUKKER to foster increased awareness towards its brand of conscientious capitalism. Find Your Own Brazilian Zen™ by visiting https://www.novofogo.com.

About SOFI TUKKER

SOFI TUKKER – best friends Sophie Hawley-Weld & Tucker Halpern – have a global reputation as the most vibrant, positive and community-driven dance music group out there. The duo met senior year at Brown University, where Tucker was a basketball jock and Sophie studied conflict resolution and Brazilian Portuguese. In 2015 they put out their debut single “Drinkee,” which was nominated for a GRAMMY, followed by a 2nd nomination for their debut album Treehouse. They have since earned Platinum & Gold record sales, several #1 records, over a billion streams, and campaigns for Apple (“Best Friend”), Peloton (“Purple Hat”) and Smartwater (“Wet Tennis”). 2023 saw Tucker & Sophie as the faces of colorful G-Star Raw & Baboon to the Moon collections, and the continuation of their own fashion label, WET TENNIS. Their new single “Jacaré” is a celebration of Brazil and the LGBTQ+ community, with lyrics by the Brazilian poet Chacal. SOFI TUKKER have collaborated with artists around the world, such as Amadou & Mariam, Mahmut Orhan, Bomba Estéreo & Pabllo Vittar. In the first half of 2023, the duo released “Sacrifice” with Kx5 (Kaskade & Deadmau5) and contributed two songs to the debut album from LP Giobbi. Meanwhile their versatility as a live act has them packing festival fields, selling out headline tours and returning to Vegas for their DJ residency. They debuted their immersive new live show at Coachella, followed by Governors Ball, Bonnaroo, Electric Forest, Lollapalooza, Osheaga & more. 

Image: Novo Fogo Organic Cachaça

KRG Hospitality. Bar Consultant. Nightclub. Lounge. Mixology. Cocktails.

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Maker’s Mark Debuts Age-stated Bourbon

Maker’s Mark Debuts Age-stated Bourbon

by David Klemt

Maker's Mark Cellar Aged bourbon bottle

The team at Maker’s Mark, one of the most iconic and respected names in bourbon, is proud to introduce their oldest-ever expression.

Maker’s Mark Cellar Aged is making its introduction to the world in time to celebrate National Bourbon Heritage Month. As a quick reminder, we honor America’s native spirit in September.

This innovative expression is, in my opinion, an exercise in restraint. As decadent a whiskey as Cellar Aged may be for one’s senses, this bourbon shows that the team at Star Hill Farm is disciplined and deliberate.

While many other whiskey producers have been using age statements to pull focus from competitors, grab headlines, make splashes among collectors, and otherwise use aging to move cases, Maker’s Mark has stayed their course.

That is to say, Maker’s Mark takes their time when implementing a new process. If the team can’t figure out how to do something in a distinctly Maker’s way, they don’t do it.

Take, as an example, their limestone cellar, introduced in 2016. This maturation environment is Star Hill Farm’s approach to aging. The team doesn’t have an interest in simply stacking on years—age must adhere to Maker’s Mark flavor vision and leverage terroir.

Inaugural Annual Release

The 2023 release of Cellar Aged is a blend of 11- and 12-year-old Maker’s Mark. The percentage breakdown is 13 percent of the former and 87 percent of the latter.

The liquid that will eventually become Cellar Aged is first aged for six years in the Maker’s Mark warehouse before being moved to the maturation cellar.

For those wondering, this innovative expression will be an annual release. In fact, it appears Maker’s Mark plans to mark each National Bourbon Heritage Month going forward with Cellar Aged.

This year’s expression is bottled at cask strength—115.7 proof—and comes with a SRP of $150. Sources state that there are 30,000 bottles of the 2023 release, and more may be produced each year.

And for those curious about when they can wrap their gums around a dram, the wait shouldn’t be long. In response to a comment underneath an Instagram post, Maker’s Mark says the following:

“Thanks for asking! Cellar Aged will leave Star Hill Farm in the next few weeks and start making its way across the country!”

 

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A post shared by Maker’s Mark (@makersmark)

So, be on the lookout and let your Maker’s rep know you need this bottle on your back bar.

Tasting Notes

The KRG Hospitality team has yet to taste Maker’s Mark Cellar Aged. Therefore, the tasting notes below are from the Maker’s website.

Aroma: Dark stone fruit, caramelized sugar, toasted oak

Taste: Balanced with big oak, dark vanilla and fruit

Finish: Velvety texture, long and complex with caramelized barrel notes and baking spices

For more information, please review the official Maker’s Mark Cellar Aged press release below.

Introducing Maker’s Mark® Cellar Aged, an Inspired New Take on Older American Whiskey

Matured in a Limestone Whisky Cellar, Maker’s Mark Cellar Aged is Aged to Taste, Not Time

LORETTO, Ky., Aug. 16, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Maker’s Mark® is proud to debut Maker’s Mark® Cellar Aged Bourbon, an annual, global limited-release expression that proves whisky aging is about more than just a number. Featuring a marriage of 11- and 12-year-old bourbon, Maker’s Mark Cellar Aged delivers the distillery’s highly anticipated oldest release, stemming from the question: What if age isn’t just about time, but instead about how you use that time to evolve, develop and mature?

Since its founding in 1953, Maker’s Mark has aged its whisky to taste – not time – to achieve the vision set by its founders: bourbon without the bite that’s always smooth, soft and creamy. Maker’s Mark Cellar Aged stays true to this philosophy, delivering a richer, deeper and more complex older bourbon, free from the harsher tannic effects commonly found in extra-aged American whiskies, as a result of our innovative maturation process that starts in traditional Kentucky warehouses and finishes in the distillery’s one-of-a-kind limestone whisky cellar.

“For more than 65 years, aging our whisky for a decade-plus wasn’t something we did,” said Rob Samuels, 8th generation whisky maker and grandson of the founders at Maker’s Mark. “It’s not that we didn’t believe in it; we simply hadn’t found a way to do it that didn’t compromise on our taste vision – until now. Cellar Aged embodies an older whisky that’s distinctly Maker’s Mark. One rooted in challenging convention, delivering new flavor experiences from the environment that surrounds us, and building on a taste vision that’s been generations in the making.”

To become Maker’s Mark Cellar Aged, barrels of the distillery’s classic distillate first spend approximately six years aging in traditional bourbon warehouses, where they endure the Kentucky climate and its temperature swings season after season until they reach full maturity and can be called “Maker’s Mark.” Barrels are then moved into the distillery’s proprietary whisky cellar for an additional five to six years of aging before being blended to taste and bottled. Built into the natural limestone shelf of the Kentucky hills, the cellar’s consistently cool environment slows down the tannic impact that occurs during maturation, while allowing the bourbon to develop a deeper, darker flavor with hidden depths, but no bitterness.

This innovative and taste-led approach in pursuit of an older Maker’s Mark expression continues the boundary-pushing mindset that has shaped the brand since the beginning. Founders Bill and Margie Samuels challenged category norms when they burned their 170-year-old family recipe, choosing to use red winter wheat instead of rye in their mashbill for a softer, smoother bourbon. This spirit of asking “what if?” was present in the introduction of Maker’s Mark 46, which is crafted using a proprietary wood-stave finishing technique, and in Maker’s Mark Private Selection, which became the industry’s first custom barrel program upon its launch in 2016.

Cellar Aged will be an annual, limited release available in specific markets around the world. The unique maturation approach of Cellar Aged will be consistent every year, but the specific blend of aged bourbon will vary based on which barrels are ready, by taste. The inaugural release of Cellar Aged is a marriage of 12-year-old and 11-year-old whisky – 87% and 13%, respectively – bottled at cask strength (115.7 proof). Cellar Aged will be available for a suggested retail price of USD $150.00 in the United States in September 2023; in London, Munich and select Global Travel Retail accounts in October 2023; and in Tokyo and Singapore in early 2024.

For more information about Maker’s Mark Cellar Aged, please visit www.MakersMark.com.

Image: Maker’s Mark

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The Year of Pineau des Charentes?

The Year of Pineau des Charentes?

by David Klemt

A dock and door in the Charente-Maritime department of France

A pier and door in the Charente-Maritime department of France, home of Pineau des Charentes.

Take Cognac’s eponymous and legendary brandy, add grape juice or grape must, mature the blend, and you get Pineau des Charentes.

Pineau, a less unwieldy name for this vin de liqueur, comes in white, red, and rosé styles. Unfortunately, owing to Pineau not being as famous as Cognac, these fortified wines aren’t very well known to the general public.

However, bartenders and bar owners are trying to turn that around. In fact, the iconic Ivy Mix theorized last week that 2023 could become the Year of Pineau.

 

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A post shared by Ivy Mix (@ivymix)

Toward the bottom of her post, Mix says it’s “[t]time to [p]lay with Pineau!” She also includes a recipe for a Pineau-led version of the Saturn cocktail.

Pineau is excellent for hot summer days, and it plays well in tiki or nautical drinks and other cocktails.

Of course, Mix’s post got me thinking: Do enough people know about Pineau to help guide their guests in discovering it and adding it to their beverage rotation?

So, below you’ll get a crash course in Pineau des Charentes, your and your guests’ new favorite fortified wine.

Mix has been a guest of the Bar Hacks podcast, featuring on episode 54 and episode 58 if you’d like to learn more about her approach to hospitality.

A Happy Accident?

If you know anything about me, you know I love a good drink origin story. This is mainly due to the fact that there are either disputes or we’re simply perpetuating a guess or theory.

Well, Pineau des Charentes has a bit of a “foggy” origin itself.

From what I can find, this vin de liqueur traces its roots back to a winemaker in the late 1500s—supposedly. Rumor has it that he put grape must—freshly crushed grape juice—into what he mistook for an empty barrel. In reality, the barrel, which was put to rest for a few years, contained Cognac.

Bippity, boppity, booze, Pineau was born. In 1921, a winemaker in Burie, a commune in Charente-Maritime, commercialized Pineau.

How it’s Made

Production, while controlled, is straightforward.

In most cases, a single house handles production on their own. They grow the grapes that become brandy, they make the juice by pressing more grapes, and they add the juice to the eau de vie.

For the curious, the grapes most often used in the production of Pineau are:

  • Cabernet Franc
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Colombard
  • Folle Blanche
  • Jurancon
  • Merlot
  • Merlot Blanc
  • Meslier St Francois
  • Montils
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Semillon
  • Ugni Blanc

Many people are probably familiar with the term for blending eau de vie with juice: assemblage. However, they may be less familiar with the result of assemblage: mutage. This step simply stops the fermentation process.

With assemblage completed—the ratios are highly controlled—the blend is matured. A white Pineau must spend 18 months maturing, 12 of those months in an oak barrel. For a red Pineau, those numbers are 12 months and eight months.

Then, the Pineau is bottled. As mentioned at the start of this section, Pineau is controlled; it’s subject to the rules of the vin de liqueur Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée, or AOC. So, Pineau must be bottled within its AOC region.

Types of Pineau des Charentes

At the top of this article I mention that there are white, red, and rosé Pineaus. In other words, there will be a familiarity with Pineau from the wine drinkers amongst guests. This can, of course, make it easier to introduce it to them.

White Pineau, the most widely known style, is broken down into:

  • blanc, minimum aging (18 months, 12 in oak barrels);
  • vieux blanc, spending at least five years in oak casks; and
  • très vieux blanc, resting for at least 10 years in oak.

That brings us to red Pineau and its age breakdown:

  • rouge, minimum aging (12 months, eight in oak casks);
  • vieux rouge, resting for a minimum of five years in oak; and
  • très vieux rouge, spending at least 10 years in oak barrels.

Red is the most popular style of Pineau in its home region.

Now, when it comes to rosé Pineau, the aging is very similar to red or rouge. However, the line of separation, based upon maceration time, is quite thin.

Speaking of familiarity, by the way, many well-known Cognac houses also produce Pineau. This means guests should recognize names like Rémy Martin, Pierre Ferrand, and Hardy.

How it Tastes

All of this leads us to the big question that will be on your bar team and guests’ minds: What does Pineau taste like?

Generally speaking, Pineau is sweet. However, it’s not sweet in an overwhelming way. Rather, your guest-facing team members can explain that Pineau is described as having a natural sweetness. Older styles also tend to deliver more complex profiles, including flavors such as honey and nuts.

Of course, the best way to know how to describe a given Pineau in your inventory is to taste your team on each expression.

Pineau is most often enjoyed chilled and served in a tulip-shaped glass. However, as Mix and other bartenders will tell you, Pineau performs very well as a base or modifier in cocktails.

And at 16- to 22-percent ABV (most often 17 percent), Pineau is similar in proof to Sherry and Port. In fact, I recommend creating a fortified wine flight (premium price for premium products and a premium experience) that allows guests to compare Sherry, Port, and Pineau.

To get things started, Mix’s Pineau-based Saturn recipe is below. Cheers!

Venus’s Point

  • 1.5 oz. Pineau de Charentes White ​(Mix uses Pierre Ferrand in the Instagram post above)
  • 0.5 oz Agricole Rhum (Mix uses JM in the Instagram post above)​
  • 0.75 oz. Fresh lemon juice​
  • 0.25 oz. Passionfruit syrup​
  • 0.25 oz. Orgeat​
  • Lemon wheel​ to garnish

Simply shake, strain, serve up, and garnish.

Image: Les Argonautes on Unsplash

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Tales Reveals Top 4 Awards Finalists

Tales Reveals Top 4 2023 Spirited Awards Finalists

by David Klemt

Cocktail with orange peel garnish resting on glossy white bar top

We’re one month away from the 17th annual Spirited Awards ceremony and the top four nominees in each category have been revealed.

Over the course of the past few months, the Tales of the Cocktail Foundation have been hard at work to narrow the field. They first announced this year’s honorees. Not long ago, they announced the top ten nominees.

Now, we know the top four nominees in the running for each of the Spirited Awards. You can check them out below, with each award organized into one of four main categories: US, International, Global, and Writing & Media.

Congrats to the finalists! We’ll know the winners in just a month.

Cheers!

US Categories

US Bartender of the Year presented by Pernod Ricard USA

  • Caer Maiko Ferguson, DrinkWell / Daijoubu (Austin, Texas)
  • Kapri Robinson, Allegory at the Eaton Hotel (Washington, DC)
  • Masahiro Urushido, Katana Kitten (New York, New York)
  • Christine Wiseman, Marygold’s Brasserie / Broken Shaker (Miami, Florida)

Best US Bar Mentor presented BarSmarts

  • Anu Apte
  • Colin Asare-Appiah
  • Nectaly Mendoza
  • Chris Patino

Best US Brand Ambassador presented Libbey

  • Kiowa Bryan (Spiribam)
  • Chris Cabrera (Bacardi USA)
  • Cameron George (Ardbeg Single Malts)
  • Vance Henderson (Hendrick’s Gin)

Best US Bar Team presented by William Grant & Sons

  • Happy Accidents (Albuquerque, New Mexico)
  • Nickel City (Austin, Texas)
  • Pacific Cocktail Haven (San Francisco, California)
  • Yacht Club (Denver, Colorado)

Best US Cocktail Bar presented by Absolut Vodka

  • Century Grand (Phoenix, Arizona)
  • Double Chicken Please (New York, New York)
  • Overstory (New York, New York)
  • Service Bar (Washington, DC)

Best US Hotel Bar presented by Grey Goose

  • Allegory at the Eaton Hotel (Washington, DC)
  • Dear Irving on Hudson at the Aliz Hotel (New York, New York)
  • Hey Love at The Jupiter (Portland, Oregon)
  • Little Rituals at the Residence Inn/Courtyard by Marriott (Phoenix, Arizona)

Best US Restaurant Bar presented by Amaro Montenegro and Select Aperitivo

  • Café La Trova (Miami, Florida)
  • Cleaver Butchered Meats & Seafood (Las Vegas, Nevada)
  • Kumiko (Chicago, Illinois)
  • Palomar (Portland, Oregon)

Best New US Cocktail Bar presented by Diageo Bar Academy

  • Chez Zou (New York, New York)
  • Martiny’s (New York, New York)
  • Milady’s (New York, New York)
  • Pacific Standard at the KEX Portland (Portland, Oregon)

International Categories

International Bartender of the Year presented by The Busker

  • Gina Barbachano, Hanky Panky (Mexico City, Mexico)
  • Giorgio Bargiani, Connaught Bar (London, England, United Kingdom)
  • Daniel Schofield, SCHOFIELD’S BAR (Manchester, England, United Kingdom)
  • Luke Whearty, BYRDI (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia)

Best International Bar Mentor presented by Tales of the Cocktail Foundation

  • Simone Caporale
  • Danil Nevsky
  • Agostino Perrone
  • Christina Veira

Best International Brand Ambassador presented by Tales of the Cocktail Foundation

  • Caitlin Hill (Rémy Cointreau)
  • Daniyel Jones (House of Angostura)
  • Dave Mitton (Lot 40 / J.P. Wiser’s)
  • Nicola Riske (The Macallan)

Best International Bar Team presented by Angostura Caribbean Rum

  • ALQUÍMICO (Cartagena, Colombia)
  • Atwater Cocktail Club (Montréal, Québec, Canada)
  • Jigger & Pony at the Amara Hotel (Singapore)
  • Paradiso (Barcelona, Spain)

Best International Cocktail Bar presented by Patr​​ón Tequila

  • 🔶🟥🔵 (London, UK)
  • ALQUÍMICO (Cartagena, Colombia)
  • Atwater Cocktail Club (Montréal, Québec, Canada)
  • SIPS (Barcelona, Spain)

Best International Hotel Bar presented by Perrier

  • ARGO at the Four Seasons (Hong Kong)
  • BKK Social Club at Four Seasons Bangkok (Bangkok, Thailand)
  • Botanist at the Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada)
  • Jigger & Pony at the Amara Hotel (Singapore)

Best International Restaurant Bar presented by Tales of the Cocktail Foundation

  • Analogue Initiative (Singapore)
  • ARCA Restaurant & Bar (Tulum, Quintana Roo, Mexico)
  • Bar Kismet (Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada)
  • Danico (Paris, France)

Best New International Cocktail Bar presented by Diageo Bar Academy

  • Last Word (Singapore)
  • Line Athens (Athens, Greece)
  • Mahaniyom Cocktail Bar (Bangkok, Thailand)
  • Night Hawk (Singapore)

Global Categories

Best New Spirit or Cocktail Ingredient presented by Lyre’s Non-Alcoholic

  • Martini & Rossi Floreale Non Alcoholic Aperitivo
  • PATRÓN El Alto Tequila
  • Saint Benevolence Aged Rum Clairin
  • The Fords Gin Co. Sloe Gin

World’s Best Cocktail Menu presented by Diageo Bar Academy

  • ALQUÍMICO (Cartagena, Colombia)
  • Double Chicken Please (New York, New York)
  • Handshake Speakeasy (Mexico City, Mexico)
  • Panda & Sons (Edinburgh, Scotland)

World’s Best Spirits Selection presented by Tales of the Cocktail Foundation

  • Baba Au Rum (Athens, Greece)
  • In Situ Mezcalería (Oaxaca, Mexico)
  • Raised by Wolves (San Diego, California)
  • Swift Soho (London, England, United Kingdom)

Writing & Media Categories

Best Cocktail & Spirits Publication presented by Tales of the Cocktail Foundation

  • CLASS Magazine
  • Difford’s Guide
  • Punch
  • The Cocktail Lovers Magazine

Best Broadcast, Podcast, or Online Video Series presented by Tales of the Cocktail Foundation

  • Black and Brown Podcast
  • Radio Imbibe
  • Shōshin Art Club
  • The Speakeasy Podcast

Best Cocktail & Spirits Writing presented by Tales of the Cocktail Foundation

  • “The Drinks Industry Has an Ageism Problem” by Betsy Andrews, for SevenFifty Daily
  • “The Great Mezcal Heist” by Emma Janzen, for Eater
  • “The Secrets to the Best Dry Martini You’ll Ever Have” by David Wondrich, for The Daily Beast
  • “This Is What Decolonizing a Spirit Looks Like” by Adaorah Oduah, for Punch

Best New Cocktail or Bartending Book presented by Tales of the Cocktail Foundation

  • Mindful Mixology: A Comprehensive Guide to No- and Low-Alcohol Cocktails with 60 Recipes by Derek Brown
  • Modern Classic Cocktails by Robert Simonson
  • The Bartender’s Manifesto by Toby Maloney with Emma Janzen
  • The New York Times Essential Book of Cocktails – Elevated and Expanded, edited by Steven Reddicliffe

Best New Book on Drinks Culture, History, or Spirits presented by Tales of the Cocktail Foundation

  • A SENSE OF PLACE: A Journey Around Scotland’s Whisky by Dave Broom
  • Doctors and Distillers: The Remarkable Medicinal History of Beer, Wine, Spirits, and Cocktails by Camper English
  • Modern Caribbean Rum: A Contemporary Reference to the Region’s Essential Spirit by Matt Pietrek and Carrie Smith
  • Unreasonable Hospitality by Will Guidara

Image: cottonbro studio on Pexels

KRG Hospitality. Bar Consultant. Nightclub. Lounge. Mixology. Cocktails.

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Own Your Team’s Excellence

Own Your Team’s Excellence

by David Klemt

 

Martinis at Bemelmans Bar inside the Carlyle hotel in New York City

If you and your team are producing an incredible food or drink item, don’t just be proud—make it your signature and own it.

As Chef Brian Duffy says during his demos and speaking engagements, people can eat and drink anywhere. Further, with just a handful of major food suppliers operating throughout North America, operators are using much of the same ingredients.

With that in mind, then, it’s crucial that operators and their teams innovate. Doing so ensures that hospitality professionals are staying current on consumer demands and trends; constantly seeking be educated and share information; and making sure their business stands out from others.

A commitment to standing out can also motivate a team to elevate their techniques. In turn, they can truly “own” an item. Creating something incredible—and replicating it order after order consistently—can become a brand and team’s calling card.

Does your kitchen team turn out a fantastic signature burger? Has your business become known as the place for chicken wings because of your kitchen team?

Has your bar team perfected the Margarita? Are they so good at crafting Frozen Irish Coffees that your bar is on Glendalough Distillery‘s radar?

When you identify what your team is producing at an extraordinary level, you need to make certain you loudly own it.

A Real-world Example

For a high-level example of what I’m talking about, we can look at the Carlyle in New York City.

This landmark Rosewood Hotel is known for delivering peerless service. However, a venue inside this sophisticated resort is known for a specific item.

Bemelmans Bar, an escape from the hectic streets of New York, is known for the Martinis the bar team produces. (They’re also known for their red jackets, but those aren’t for sale.)

It may be a bold statement considering the level of bars and cocktails in the city, but Bemelmans Bar (and therefore the Carlyle) owns the Martini in NYC. In fact, the bar serves a staggering 1,000 Martinis a night. More often than not, the Martinis that cross the bar or leave the service well are dirty or extra dirty. This has been the case since at least 2021.

So famous are the Bemelmans’ Martinis that the Carlyle sells an at-home kit, yours for just $395. It’s their latest promotion, though, that makes it evident Bemelmans and the Carlyle are taking ownership of the Martini.

Guests of the Carlyle can now book their Martini Retreat, a two-day experience that centers around their signature cocktail. If, perhaps, you think that $400 is a bit steep for their Martini Box, prepare for true sticker shock. The Martini Retreat experience starts at $4,895 for two guests.

However, the package is rather impressive and encapsulates the Carlyle’s ownership of the Martini. The Carlyle Martini Retreat includes:

  • a two-night stay in a Madison Room or Premier Suite;
  • a Bemelmans Bar Martini Box;
  • enrollment in the Bemelmans Master Martini Class (valued at $495), a 45-minute experience during which guests learn how the bar team crafts multiple variations of vodka and gin Martinis, and their new Madeline’s Vesper cocktail;
  • a two-course Martini lunch at Dowling’s at The Carlyle; and
  • a curated list of where to go to try other great Martinis throughout NYC, put together by Dimitrios Michalopoulos, bar manager at Bemelmans.

Takeaway

So, am I suggesting that operators create an experience that costs thousands of dollars? Well…I mean, if your concept can succeed with such a promotion, absolutely. If doing so would resonate with enough guests to make it feasible and become a steady (and impressive) revenue stream, go for it.

However, what I’m really attempting to drive home here is the power of becoming known for even a single signature item. And, hey—your item, in your market, may be the Martini.

Owning an item means screaming from the rooftops and hills that it’s yours. That your team’s version is the one to have; the one people in the know have to have. Taking ownership of your team’s excellence translates to becoming a destination for it, to driving repeat visits once people have experienced it.

Of course, with that ownership comes the responsibility to elevate all other elements of your business. Every other item on the menu must be produced and served at the highest level. This ensures the entire guest experience wows the guests, and the signature item is essentially a driver and the cherry on top.

It’s time to review what your team produces so well that your brand owns it. Should this introspection yield no results, it’s then time to see what other operators are known for and discover what item or items you and your team can improve upon. What’s something that works with your brand that you feel confident you and your team can own?

There’s power, money, and long-term success in something on your menu. It’s time to uncover it and take ownership.

Image: The Carlyle

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2 Big Bourbons: High Proof, Heavy Flavor

2 Big Bourbons: High Proof, Heavy Flavor

by David Klemt

Bib & Tucker Double Char Bourbon bottle and cocktail

Be on the lookout for two innovative, big bourbons that are heavy on flavor and boldly offer striking drinking experiences.

One of these whiskeys, luckily, is available now. That means if you can get your hands on it, this particular bourbon has arrived in time for National Bourbon Day and National Old Fashioned Day.

And, of course, it’s also here in time to help celebrate Father’s Day.

Agonizing as it is, the other bourbon will make its appearance in August. However, it’s big, bold flavors will be an excellent way to end summer and start fall.

Let’s take a look at these two dramatic drams.

Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection Batch Proof 124.7

Let’s start with the bourbon available today.

The latest release in the Master’s Collection is Batch Proof 124.7. This limited-edition Woodford Reserve release is, as the name suggests, a high-proof heavy hitter.

Master Distiller Elizabeth McCall and Master Distiller Emeritus Chris Morris worked on this release to showcase their incredible proficiency in coaxing a complex array of flavors from blending whiskeys from different barrels.

However, they didn’t stop there. McCall and Morris bottled this year’s limited edition Master’s Collection expression at 124.7 proof. For comparison, standard Woodford Reserve expressions—Straight Bourbon, Double Oaked, and Rye—are bottled at 90.4 proof.

 

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According to tasting notes provided by Woodford Reserve, guests can expect Batch Proof 124.7 to pour a burnt orange color. On the nose, nutty toasted almond, cherry, and overripe banana, plus hints of oak, citrus zest, and, unsurprisingly, pepper.

“The trademark flavors of Woodford Reserve are even more pronounced—and more bold—in this celebrated annual release,” says McCall. “It’s a high-proof bourbon with complex flavors.”

Those lucky enough to locate a bottle will be treated to peppery baking spice, cardamom, and pine on the palate, finishing with leather, dry vanilla, and cedar.

No word on how hot this bourbon sips, but I expect Woodford’s trademark smoothness. Suffice to say, however, this isn’t a beginner’s bourbon.

Batch Proof 124.7 retails for $129.99 and is available now at the Woodford Reserve distillery, so it’s time to hit up your reps, call in favors, or take a trip to Versailles, Kentucky.

Bib & Tucker Double Char Bourbon

Above, the high-proof heavy hitter. Now, the innovative heavy flavor release.

They’re making us wait for it but this Bib & Tucker Small Batch Bourbon release certainly appears to worth our collective patience. Something savory, smoky, and smooth this way comes.

The inspiration for this unique bourbon comes from the rustic corners of the culinary world. Double Char is meant to evoke the sensory experience of enjoying food cooked on open fire.

“I can’t wait for consumers to try this delicious expression,” says Tom Steffanci, president of Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits. “Double Char spends just the right amount of time in the second heavily charred barrel, creating a savory, smoky character that adds a whole new dimension to the bourbon.”

This innovative Tennessee bourbon is rested for six years in new white American oak barrels. Double Char is then aged for at least five months in a new barrel that was heavily charred and smoked.

Notes provided by Bib & Tucker reveal, as expected, smoke and toasted oak on the nose. However, those notes are balanced by cinnamon, clove, and dulce de leche.

On the palate, Double Char delivers white smoke, vanilla, sugar maple, sweet corn, and toasted cinnamon. Oak, white smoke, and vanilla stand out on the medium to long finish.

Personally, I can’t wait to get my hands on a bottle.

Click here to listen to episodes 32 and 59 of the Bar Hacks podcast. The former features Woodford Reserve, while the latter features Bib & Tucker.

Images courtesy of Bib & Tucker and Woodford Reserve

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Nikka Age Statement Whiskey Returns to US

Nikka Age Statement Whiskey Returns to US

by David Klemt

Nikka Whisky Yoichi Single Malt 10 Year Old bottle

After an eight-year hiatus, Nikka is bringing age-statement whisky back to the United States, starting with Yoichi Single Malt 10-Year-Old.

Operators with robust whisky programs, their guests, and collectors will recall what happened back in 2015. That was the year that Nikka’s Yoichi age statement whisky line was shelved. The Yoichi portfolio’s stars—10, 12, 15 and 20 Year Old whiskies—were replaced by an expression labeled “No Age Statement.”

Interestingly, we can trace the withdrawal of age-statement Japanese whisky and disappearance of iconic bottles to the 1980s. In response to a slowdown in demand, Japanese distillers reduced production. While that move helped deal with the drop in demand and sales, there would be consequences decades later.

Eventually, the world discovered some of the most iconic whiskies on the planet: Hibiki 12 and 17, Yamazaki 12 and 18, and the aforementioned Yoichi 15 and 20.

Of course, the rabid demand for Japanese age statement whiskies resulted in an extinction event, of sorts. The reduced production that gave the world some of the most amazing luxury whiskies ever known, coupled with intense (and likely unforeseen) demand, eventually put distilleries in dire straits.

Simply put, Japanese distillers needed time to replenish their precious liquids. So, for several years, whisky lovers have been waiting for new aged-statement whiskies from Japan. Around 2017, articles and blog posts started sounding the alarm. Whisky experts told us we’d have to wait at least five years to see the return of age-statement expressions. And, as Nikka’s announcement shows, they were right.

To be clear, no-age-statement expressions have proven themselves compelling portfolio-mates during our wait. However, seeing a bonafide return to age statement whiskies is exciting.

Yoichi Single Malt 10-Year-Old

Not only is Nikka returning to age statements, they’re paying tribute with this 10-year-old release, a brand-new addition to the portfolio. Yoichi Single Malt 10-Year-Old commemorates Yoichi Distillery attaining “Important Cultural Properties” status.

More specifically, ten buildings on the grounds of Yoichi Distillery earned this important designation. Ten buildings, ten years of aging.

“We are honored for the Yoichi Distillery to receive this designation from Japan’s Agency for Cultural Affairs. This designation helps ensure we will pass on the history of Japanese whisky to future generations,” says Emiko Kaji, Nikka Whisky global marketing and sales general manager. “To celebrate this special honor, we welcomed the return of Nikka Whisky aged statements and released the Yoichi Single Malt 10-Year-Old, a new expression created by the current blenders.”

 

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A post shared by Nikka Whisky (@nikkawhiskyusa)

This new, 45-percent ABV expression will be available in limited quantities. However, Nikka says the production will be “ongoing” and release on an annual basis. The suggested retail price is $175.

“A momentous moment for Nikka Whisky, we are so excited to bring the release of Yoichi Single Malt 10-Year-Old to the US,” says Dan Leese, CEO and president of Hotaling & Co. “As Nikka Whisky looks to celebrate its 90th anniversary in 2024, this release is a testament to their historical significance in the world of whisky and a preview of what’s to come as they continue to build and enrich their traditional range.”

Momentous, indeed. I’m eager to see more age-statement expressions become available throughout North America. Yoichi 10 is a fantastic start.

Image: Nikka Whisky

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