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Whiskey Hotline Hits the Road: Scotland 2016


Wolfburn Distillery

We paid our yearly visit to Gordon & Macphail to look at barrels for the fall, had a great visit with Stuart Urquhart and company. They never fail to put forth great barrels that always make our job difficult, a good problem to have! I couldn’t narrow the field down, so I brought back selections from Miltonduff, Glenburgie, Mannochmore, Craigellachie, Glen Keith, Balblair, Ardmore, and of course Caol Ila. In another bit of exciting news, they are expanding Benromach, one of my personal favorites, to meet the rising demand of single malt in general and this gem in particular.

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Whisky Hotline Hits the Road-Mexico

Had a wonderful chance to escape the polar vortex in late February and explore a number of Tequila producers.  Make no mistake, the production of Tequila is just as involved, complex, scientific, creative and artistic as the production of every other world class spirit we have the good luck of enjoying. The broad purpose of the trip was to explore the varied distilleries involved in the production of the Arte NOM series of releases that are the brainchild of Jake Lustig of Haas Imports. Just like Armagnac, Cognac and Calvados are expressions of place and materials, Arte NOM strives to differentiate based on the expression of the distiller.  Each distillery in Mexico is assigned a number by the Tequila Regulatory Council (CRT) that certifies the distillery’s compliance with the Official Mexican Standard of Tequila (NOM), with defined rules about appelation, ingredients, production, and more.


First stop was Destiladora El Paraiso (NOM 1580) located in the Rancho Sagrado Corazon de Jesus outside of Jesus Maria to see what is behind Arte NOM 1580 Blanco.  Like most distilleries in Jalisco, Paraiso produces Tequila for a number of brands available in and out of Mexico.


Sagrado Corazon De Jesus


In this case, Herencia Mexicana and Oro Azul are brands you might know. The process begins with Weber Agave Azul (blue agave) grown on the ranch, one of the highest in Los Altos (the Highlands) at over 6000 feet above sea level.  The soil in this area is extremely rich in iron, as well as other minerals, and beautiful in its distinctive red.


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Whiskey Hotline Hits the Road: Ireland


On my most recent trip to Ireland I had the opportunity to travel with Bord Bia (the Irish Food Board) and attend their Origin Green Conference focused on sustainability and green food and beverage production in Ireland. I met Ireland’s Prime Minister Enda Kenny, watched the Gaelic football championship game (Ireland’s Superbowl) in a traditional Irish pub and visited my favorite brewery, Guinness.


Day one of my trip started in the County Cork at the historic Midleton Distillery. Midleton is home to Jameson, Powers, Paddy and pure potstill Redbreast, one of the best Irish whiskeys on our shelf.  They also provide whiskey on contract to support long existing independent brands.


New pot stills in Middleton


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Perry Farrell is Coming to Binny’s




Lollapalooza founder and Jane’s Addiction lead singer Perry Farrell is coming to Binny’s South Loop to sign bottles of ultra premium tequila Maestro Dobel Tequila. The brainchild of Juan Domingo Beckmann Legoretta, heir to the Jose Cuervo empire, Maestro Dobel is a double distilled Reopsado aged in Hungarian White Oak and filtered for clarity, and one of the fastest growing tequilas in the world. Perry Farrell is an iconic musician and world renowned concert promoter whom is also passionate about fine tequila. Well, you should know who Perry Farrell is.


Thursday, August 1st, 4-6pm
South Loop Tasting Room
at Binny’s South Loop


No music CD’s or rock memorabilia will be signed.


Whiskey Hotline Hits the Road: Scotland Days 4-6


Coleburn Distillery


Been a while. Day 4 was a travel day, but we got some stuff done early. Drove the A95 to near Fogwatt and discovered the small drive that leads to Coleburn distillery. A distillery from 1897 until 1985, it was important for production experiments for DCL (now Diageo) but lost as so many others were to the economic downturn and sinking popularity of whisky in the 80’s. It’s now being renovated as a B&B/Restaurant/event space for live music by a Scottish musician called Mark Winchester. The grounds will make a beautiful resort, alas, no distilling will take place.


Next we went to Aberlour, a pretty place set at the Aber (east coast Gaelic for “opening”) of the river Lour, where it flows into the Spey. This reminded my just how good a’Bunahd (original) is. Drove all day after that to Ayr.



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Whiskey Hotline Hits the Road: Scotland Days 2 and 3



The meat of the trip starts with a Gordon & Macphail tasting. Plenty for the panel to look at, I’m bringing back the following for consideration (out of 40 whiskies):


Clynelish 1997 Refill Sherry Hoggie
Dailuane 1998 Refill Sherry Hoggie (2 casks)
Miltonduff 2004 Refill Bourbon ASB (2 casks)
Mortlach 1998 FF Bourbon ASB
Mortlach 1998 Refill Sherry Hoggie
Tormore 2000 Refill Bourbon ASB
Caol Ila 2006 FF Bourbon ASB (of course)


Gonna be no sweat getting a few out of these.



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Whiskey Hotline Hits the Road: Brett in Scotland 2013


Roseisle Distillery


First stop: Roseisle, the new Diageo monolith. This is either the largest or second largest distillery in Scotland, depending on whose marketing suits you want to believe. This place is gigantic. 13 million Liter capacity. Besides being large, it’s a technological marvel, with the ability to pump out malt with any flavor profile, by manipulating mash times, ferment times, copper contact, and so on. Theoretically, they could produce all the malt needed to construct a Johnnie Walker blend. Despite its size, you malt fans shouldn’t feel threatened – Diageo is also expanding most of their other distilleries in Speyside.


Roseisle Maltings


Next is Roseisle Maltings, which is so massive it can churn out  600 tonnes of malted barley in less than a week. This facility, plus the Ord and Brughead facilities, supply all the malt needed for Diageo’s Speyside and Highland distilleries. Another interesting note, the Roseisle Maltings is 100% energy neutral for heating needs – meaning they use the waste from the malting process to fuel the facility.


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Truman Cox

It is with great sadness I read the news of the passing of Truman Cox. He was a good friend, great father and husband and a passionate member of our whiskey fraternity.  Loved ones can never leave too late, but Truman truly left too early.  He will be missed.


Brett Pontoni
Specialty Spirits Buyer
Binny’s Beverage Depot



Truman Cox
From A. Smith Bowman Distillery / Buffalo Trace Distillery, Feb 10th


It is with deep sadness that we announce the passing of Truman Cox, Master Distiller of our A. Smith Bowman Distillery.   Truman passed away on Saturday, February 9 after a short illness.  Truman joined the company in 2004 as Lead Chemist at Buffalo Trace Distillery and in 2011 realized his dream to become the Master Distiller at A. Smith Bowman Distillery in Fredericksburg, Virginia.   Truman’s passion for our industry was evident to everyone who knew him and he left a notable and positive mark on our company in the time he was with us.


Truman will be sadly missed by his many friends at Sazerac and in the industry.  Please keep Truman, his wife Susan and daughter Emmy in your thoughts and prayers.

Scotland 2011


St. John 'O Groats in the background, at the northernmost part of mainland UKBen Rinnes

After 8500 air miles, nearly 1000 driving miles and one narrowly missed volcanic erruption, the Scotland 2011 trip has wrapped up. This year the journey began on the east coast in Aberdeen, and took us as far north as the Orkney Islands, as far south as Pitlochry and as far west as Inverness. Distilleries visited included Highland Park, Scapa, Glenglassaugh, Glenfarclas, Edradour, Braeval, Allt a Bhainne, Glenallechie, Longmorn, Glen Elgin, Glen Spey and Benrinnes. Over the next few weeks I will get into more detail about some of those stops, but since the purpose of this trip is to source casks for our single cask program, here’s a preliminary report of what is being considered for 2011:


Gordon & Macphail

Craigellachie 1993 – 17 year (refill Bourbon)

Glenallechie 1999 – 11 year (refill Bourbon)

Glenburgie 1996 – 14 year (FF Bourbon. Sorry, couldn’t find a maple syrup and butter bomb this year!)

Mortlach 1998 – 12 year (FF Bourbon)

Tomatin 2001 – 9 year (FF Bourbon)

Scapa 2000 – 11 year (Refill Bourbon)

Bunnahabhain 2000 – 10 year (FF Bourbon)

Caol Ila 2004 – 6 year (Refill Bourbon)



Linkwood 1998 – 12 year (Sherry Hoggie)

Linkwood 1995 – 16 year (Hoggie)

Braeval 1998 – 12 year (Bourbon)

Imperial 1995 – 15 year (Hoggie)

Mortlach 1998 – 13 year (Hoggie)

Mortlach 1991 – 19 year (FF Sherry Butt)

Caperdonich 1994 – 16 year (Hoggie)

Glenlossie 1992 – 18 year (Hoggie)

Tamdhu 2004 -7 year (FF Sherry Butt)

Bunnahabhain 1997 – 13 year Heavily Peated (Hoggie)

Bunnahabhain 2001 – 10 year (Sherry Butt)

Bunnahabhain 2005 – 6 year Heavily Peated (Bourbon)

Bunnahabhain 2006 – 5 year Heavily Peated (Hoggie)

Laphroaig 1995 – 16 year (Bourbon)

Laphroaig 2000 – 10 year (Hogshead)


Original Bottlings

Edradour 2003 – 8 year (FF Bourbon)

Pulteney 1995 – 16 year (3 samples, FF Bourbon)


We have plenty of great potentials as we go to round 2. That means sitting our tasting panel down, rescreening the samples brought back and gathering pricing for everything. Many barrels we don’t select exclusively for Binny’s will still make it here as general US releases; they were certainly all good enough to make it through the first round!

Drawing Barrel Samples at SignatoryGordon & Macphail Barrel Sampling

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