Prohibition started on this day (17th January) one hundred years ago

17 January 2020

Prohibition in the US started on this day, 17th January, one hundred years ago. Prohibition was a nationwide constitutional ban (in the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution) on the production, importation, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages from 1920 to 1933.

The legal ban led to criminal gangs gaining control of the beer and liquor supply of many cities. By the late 1920s, a new opposition to prohibition mobilized nationwide. Prohibition ended with the ratification of the , which repealed the Eighteenth Amendment on December 5, 1933. Some states continued the statewide prohibition, marking one of the last stages of the Progressive Era.

Obviously, prohibition had a devastating effect on the alcohol industry in the US, especially Kentucky, home of bourbon, but also had a devastating effect on Irish whiskey which was, at the time, the whiskey producing leader of the world (Dingle distillery gave the best overview of the downfall of Irish whiskey I’ve heard).

Prohibition ended in 1933 and alcohol production in the US is now a booming industry. When I visited Kentucky in 2016, I visited 21 distilleries (22 making whiskey and one making brandy (Copper & Kings) and hope to visit a few more new ones which have opened for tours since.

What visits will 2020 bring?

31 December 2019

I stated the other day I had visited 53 distilleries in 2019, but later realised I had not added Tullamore to my timeline so I have actually visited 54.

I have started planning my visits for 2020 and, based on current plans, I will be visiting distilleries in the following regions:

  1. South Carolina
  2. North Carolina
  3. Tennessee
  4. Kentucky
  5. Scottish Islands
  6. Campbeltown
  7. Islay

As I travel around, I also hope to pick up a few distilleries in the following countries:

  1. England
  2. Republic of Ireland
  3. Northern Ireland

The majority of the distilleries will be whiskey or rum, but there may be a few other types sneak through.

2019 Distillery Tours – The Perfect 10 in Northern Ireland

30 December 2019

There aren’t many distilleries in Northern Ireland, but I visited three of them this year with only one scoring a perfect 10 for the tour.

Killowen Distillery

Killowen Distillery is located up a single track road near Warrenpoint in Country Down near the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. Like Louch Mask, Killowen is a new craft distillery. Being based in the UK different rules apply to how they can make whiskey which is interesting to hear, especially when you also hear the differences between Irish and Scotch whiskey making processes.

I am pretty sure that Killowen is the smallest distillery I have visited in Europe (only Barrel House and Old Pogue in Kentucky were of similar size when I visited them in 2016) and the tour is conducted by the founder, Brendan.

I’ve had a few tours delivered by the distillery founder and you’re basically guaranteed a detailed tour from someone who is passionate about the distillery and the spirit they make. Killowen have some interesting stuff going on and it was really good to see everything up close and to hear about where the distillery had come from and what their future plans are.

The island of Ireland isn’t very big so weather you’re in Belfast or Dublin, Killowen is quick and easy to get to. Tours typically take place on Saturdays and Sundays, but make sure you book in advance to make sure Brendan is available for the tour.

2019 Distillery Tours – The Perfect 10s in Ireland

29 December 2019

I visited seven distilleries in the Republic of Ireland in 2019, experiencing eight tours with two of them scoring a perfect 10.

Powerscourt Distillery

The first of them was Powerscourt Distillery in Co. Wicklow which opened for tours during late spring; I visited within the first couple of weeks of their opening and was very impressed with the standard of the tour. Being located on the Powerscourt Estate they expected to be quite busy with visitors so if you’re going for a tour, I’d recommend booking.

The second distillery was one of the last I visited in 2019 is located in Co. Mayo in the west of Ireland. I arrived at it from the south west along very narrow country roads. Lough Mask struck me then as the most remote distillery I’d visited and that is perhaps true, but when I left and drove north east I reached main roads quite quickly. I’d recommend making sure you have SatNav maps downloaded as their is little signal at the distillery if you are using Google Maps and it wants to download some maps.

While Powerscourt and Lough Mask distilleries are both new they are both also very different. Powerscourt is a small distillery, whereas Lough Mask is a craft distillery. This is a distinction first made to me by New Riff in Kentucky who are on the Craft Bourbon Trail, but call themselves a small distillery and not a craft one.

A small distillery usually has a large financial backing and is built in a shiny new building with shiny new equipment looking like a finished factory, whereas a craft distillery tends not to have that same level of financial backing so look a little more rough and ready. A craft distillery is usually smaller and you’re more likely to meet one of the founders, which happened at Lough mask where Eoin arrived part way through the tour and I had the opportunity to talk to him.

I’m not knocking either of these types of distillery as both are capable of producing great spirit and delivery a great tour, as both of these distilleries do. If you want to experience two great tours and see the beautiful scenery of Ireland, then you couldn’t do better than visiting Powerscourt in Co. Wicklow and Lough Mask in Co. Mayo.

2019 Distillery Tours – The Perfect 10s in Scotland

28 December 2019

In 2019 I visited 35 distilleries in Scotland; one rum distillery (Meadow Road, home to Wester Spirits) and thirty three Scotch whisky distilleries spread across the Lowlands, Highlands and Speyside regions.

Seven of these distilleries had tours which got a perfect 10 rating.

The GlenAllachie Distillery

Those distilleries are (in order of visit):

  1. Fettercairn
  2. Tomintoul
  3. The GlenAllachie (pictured above)
  4. Ballindaloch
  5. BenRiach
  6. Knockdhu
  7. The Balvenie

I also visited the Speyside Cooperage to do the VIP Tour which I’d also rate as a 10.

2019 Distillery Tours – The Perfect 10 in England

17 December 2019

In 2019, I only visited two distilleries in England and only one of them scored a 10 after my visit. That was the City of Manchester Distillery where I visited to do the Rum Experience.

City of Manchester Distillery

The distillery wasn’t the easiest to find, in part because Google Maps places it on the wrong side of the street, and partly because I expected it to be a building rather than built into the arches under a railway bridge.

The rum experience is a comprehensive one which covers the history of sugar cane agriculture as well as the history of rum. You’ll try several different rums and almost always have one in your hand. From the painkiller cocktail when you arrive to the zombie at the end.

This isn’t just a tour, but an experience where you get to distil your own rum and then bring it away to age in a little oak cask.

The City of Manchester distillery currently only sells the Manchester Three Rivers Small Batch Dry Gin, but I look forward to tryingtheir rum when it launches.

2019 Distillery Tours – The Perfect 10 in Wales

7 December 2019

Coles Distillery was the fourth distillery I visited in 2019 and is set in south-west Wales. I had originally intended to do a two-week trip around Scotland, but failed to do any planning so changed it last minute to a week in Wales.

During that week, I visited three other distilleries in Wales, but Coles was the stand out tour and the only one in Wales which I rated a 10. Coles Distillery is set in the beautiful Carmarthenshire country side in the village of Llanddarog, the dark timber clad building no different to a large garden shed behind the White Hart Inn.

Coles Distillery looking inwards

The distillery is owned by the same family who run the White Hart Inn and uses a lot of custom designed equipment giving the distillery a unique feel. The tour needs to be booked in advance and is conducted by one of the distillery founders meaning you not only get to see the distillery, but also hear about its founding and the equipment used within.

The distillery makes a range of different spirits which you get to sample at the end of the tour, after which you can purchase bottles if you want; I opted to go for bottles of a few of their rums and a plum brandy.

The tour is nicely timed so that you can then take in a very nice lunch in the family pub.

2019 Distillery Tours – The Perfect 10s

6 December 2019

In 2019 I have visited 53 distilleries across five countries. The quality of tours has been somewhat mixed, but I thought as we come to the end of the year, I’d highlight those which scored a perfect 10.

I’ve done a mix of tours over the year, from the standard 40 minute mass-tourist tour to the in-depth tour for the real enthusiast. My ratings are based on the type of tour and how well it meets it’s market.

This does mean that an in-depth tour which doesn’t compare to the best of it’s competitors in that market won’t be included, even though it might be a better tour than one aimed to the mass market, whereas the mass-market one will be included if it exceeds expectations for its market.

Over the coming days, I’ll be doing a post per distillery which met my criteria this year for a perfect 10 rating.

2019 Distillery Tours - The Perfect 10s
2019 Distillery Tours - The Perfect 10 in Wales
2019 Distillery Tours - The Perfect 10 in England
2019 Distillery Tours - The Perfect 10s in Scotland
2019 Distillery Tours - The Perfect 10s in Ireland
2019 Distillery Tours - The Perfect 10 in Northern Ireland

UK signs deal with African trade block for zero tariffs

14 September 2019

Following the UK referendum on European Union (EU) membership, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is scheduled to leave the EU on 31st October 2019. This has the potential to disrupt many businesses, but a new trade deal has been struck by the British government which will allow all UK businesses to continue to trade on preferential terms with the Mozambique and the Southern African Customs Union (consisting of South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Eswatini and Mozambique) following the UKs departure.

Much of the coverage of this deal has been focused on Irish whiskey, but it is actually a much broader deal.

Echlinville Distillery

The focus on the deal with regards to Northern Ireland (NI) is because without this deal, Irish whiskey from Northern Ireland would have faced a tariff of 154 cents per litre post-Brexit, plus additional taxes, which it currently doesn’t face and would mean a sharp division in costs in the Irish whiskey industry. This would have had an immediate impact on large distilleries such as Bushmills as well as smaller, newer distilleries such as Echlinville and Killowen as they grow and expand into new markets.

William Lavelle, head of Drinks Ireland and the Irish Whiskey Association, said:

“South Africa is currently the fifth largest export market for Irish whiskey while sub-Saharan Africa is proving to be a major growth region for our category.

“Thanks to the existing EU agreement with the Southern African Customs Union, there are currently zero tariffs on Irish whiskey exports to South Africa and other markets in the union.”

Sliabh Liag whiskey distillery gets permission

13 September 2019

In late August, Sliabh Liag announced that they had received permission for the construction of a new distillery in Ardara, Donegal.

Sliabh Liag distillery

According to ,a href=’https://www.thespiritsbusiness.com/2019/08/sliabh-liag-gets-green-light-for-whiskey-distillery/’>The Spirit Business, construction will begin later this year, with distilling operations expected to commence in 2020.

The site will incorporate a visitor experience covering the history of Poitín and include a tasting bar and shop although there will be no cafe or restaurant, with visitors encouraged to make use of local businesses.

The facility will have the capacity to produce 400,000 litres of pure alcohol annually, which equates to around 1,700 filled casks, and more than 1.2 million bottles of whiskey when sold.

With additional good news for Donegal, the new distillery will create jobs for at least 40 people.

Irish whiskey gets legal protection in world’s largest market for whiskey

2 September 2019

The Irish Whiskey Association has been awarded legal protection known as geographic indication status in the Indian market (the largest whiskey market in the world. This means that only whiskey produced in Ireland can carry the Irish Whiskey label in India.

Old Bushmills Distillery

Old Bushmills Distillery

Carleen Madigan, the Irish Whiskey Association’s legal adviser:

“Securing the geographical indication for Irish whiskey in India is another landmark for the Irish whiskey category.

“Like similar registrations achieved earlier in the year in Australia and South Africa, this is another major success in our efforts to protect the integrity of Irish whiskey on a worldwide basis

“We will now be able to take much tougher enforcement action against fake Irish whiskey products on sale in India.

“This protection will also enable us to maximise opportunities to increase sales in this crucial whiskey market as it is an important selling point for the Indian consumer knowing they can enjoy Irish whiskey confident in the quality and authenticity of the product.”

Whiskey Rebellion Trail Launched

12 August 2019

There is a number Whiskey Trails, in a number of countries, and a new one has been launched in the USA. Spanning a number of states, the Whiskey Rebellion Trail has been launched. The Whiskey Rebellion Trail is made up of four cities, including Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington, and Baltimore, in addition to towns and rural areas in-between.

The Whiskey Rebellion Trail was created by a group of craft distillers and visitors’ organisations throughout the region to highlight the contributions of the region to the history of American spirits and the exciting rise of award-winning craft distilleries in the area over the last several years.

The Whiskey Rebellion insurrection in Pennsylvania in 1794

The Whiskey Rebellion insurrection in Pennsylvania in 1794

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First single malt distillery in the heart of Edinburgh for almost 100 years opening for tours

18 July 2019

For the first time since 1925, there’s a single malt distillery in the centre of Edinburgh; Holyrood Distillery and visitor experience sits in a 180-year old building next to Holyrood Park and within easy walking distance of Edinburgh’s main attractions.

The distillery has just announced they are open for tours in their new visitor centre.

Holyrood Distillery Whisky Tour

There are four experiences available:

  1. Holyrood Distillery Tour which is approximately 60 minutes long, and is a fully guided and immersive experience of the entire distillery. You will be introduced to a world of flavour, testing how well you taste, getting hands-on with botanicals, learning about both malt whisky and gin production, and enjoying spirit samples along the way.
  2. Holyrood Gin Experience which is approximately 60 minutes long, and is led by an expert guide. You will be introduced to the process behind gin distillation, to the world of flavour-packed botanicals, and to the particular approach of Holyrood in the production of their own gins and gin liqeuers.
  3. Holyrood Whisky Experience – The Holyrood Whisky Experience is approximately 60 minutes long, and is led by an expert guide. The experience takes place in the whisky distillery and maturation room, where you will be introduced to the world of single malt whisky, but particularly to the process, ingredients and equipment used in Holyrood’s approach to single malt whisky production. You will also enjoy opportunities to sample from their specially selected whisky range.
  4. Jack Mayo’s Whisky Masterclass – This two-hour masterclass has been developed, and is led by, the Head Distiller Jack Mayo. Jack will guide you through the whisky distillery, including the behind-the-scenes production area, and will introduce you to Holyrood’s approach to production and distillation. After the tour, Jack will lead you through an exclusive tasting experience of Holyrood’s specially selected whisky range, and newmake spirit.

I’m going to see about booking a tour very soon; I’m just waiting to see if a couple of friends want to join me on a distillery day split between Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Missouri Bourbon Whiskey regional designation signed into law

13 July 2019

On the 11th July 2019, Missouri Governor Mike Parsons signed into law a Missouri Bourbon Whiskey regional designation. The new law, House Bill 266, goes into effect on 28th August 2019.

Bourbon barrel made in Missouri

There are three key requirements for distillers to meet if they wanto label their product Missouri bourbon or Missouri bourbon whiskey:

  1. The product must be “mached, fermented, distilled, aged and bottled” in Missouri.
  2. The bourbon must be aged in oak barrels manufactured in Missouri.
  3. All “corn used in the mash must be Missouri grown corn”.

The first two rules come into force on the 28th August 2019, but they have until 1st January 2020 before the third rule comes into force.

The St Louis Today has full details on the story; unfortunately, they region lock so the article isn’t accessible for potential readers in Europe.

45,000 barrels of Jim Beam in Versailles, Kentucky on fire

3 July 2019

Three Jim Beam warehouses in Versailles, Kentucky, caught fire last night after a suspected lightning strike. This was first reported by WKLY (a CBS Affiliate who blocks traffic from the UK).

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Leith Distillery stillhouse open for gin tours

3 July 2019

The Leith Distillery has today announced that they are open for tours of their stillhouse

There are four tours available in August and I imagine they’ll sell out fast; I’m going to hold off for the moment as the current tour is of the gin distillation.

Leith Distillery Gin

I’ve been following the story of Leith Distillery as they plan to be producing Scotch whisky and this is the main type of distillery I like to isit (along with rum and brandy).

Pernod Ricard acquires Rabbit Hole Distillery in Louisville, Kentucky

29 June 2019

Pernod Ricard recently announced the acquisition of a majority share of Rabbit Hole Distillery in Louisville, Kentucky.

Rabbit Hole produced an an award-winning range of Kentucky spirits and is recognised for its “iconic, state-of-the-art distillery” in the heart of Louisville, Kentucky. The brand’s Straight Bourbon and Rye whiskeys are crafted with a mix of carefully selected grains, distilled in copper Vendome column stills and aged in native oak barrels by Louisville’s hot summers and cold winters.

Rabbit Hole Distillery Spirits

Pernod Ricard is one of the large global drinks companies and already has a strong presence in Scotland, where it owns Aberlour, Strathisla (under the Chivas Brothers brand), The Glenlivet and Scapa, and in Ireland where it owns Jamesons (Midleton) as part of the Irish Distillers subsidiary.

Rabbit Hole is currently open for tours which I would not expect to change as the Scottish and Irish distilleries mentioned above are also all open for tours. Pernod Ricard has a wealth of experience to draw on so I expect to see Rabbit Hole continue to progress under the new ownership.

Scotch Whisky tourism has best year ever

26 June 2019

The Scotch Whisky Association last week reported that Scotch whisky tourism had reached an all-time high of 2 million visitors in 2018.

The Balvenie Distillery

The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) conducted it’s annual survey which revealed visits were up 6.1% year on year and 56% more than in 2010; spending at visitor centres was up by 12.2% to £68.3m with an additional £7.4m compared with 2017 and 154% more than in 2010. This is put down to the continued industry investment in world-class tourist centres.

Over 20 different nationalities visited distilleries last year, with Germany and the USA providing the largest number of Scotch Whisky tourists with increased visits from France, Spain, and the Netherlands were also reported, as well as India and China.

I’ve been visiting distilleries since 2012 and it is noticeable that there are both more distilleries with visitor centres and that the general standard of distillery tours has improved. I’ve been doing my part with continued visits too; I toured 22 Scotch Whisky distilleries last year.

The full story from the Scotch Whisky Association can be read here.

68 Scotch whisky visitor centres open to the public

21 June 2019

According to a recent infographic posted by the Scotch Whisky Association, there are 68 whisky distillery visitor centres open to the public:

Scotch Whisky Tourism 2018

I’ve been to a, current total, of 68 Scotch whisky distilleries, but not all of them (thinking Knockdhu, amongst others, have a visitor centre). Tours at these distilleries need to be prebooked.

Visiting distilleries has never been more popular than it is now and , even from 2012, tours are getting better and more consistently better year after year.