Sunday, February 28, 2010

Who Or What Is Jeremiah Weed?

About a year ago, when Beam Global announced Red Stag, I speculated about the risk of category confusion. I need not have bothered, as that cat is long since out of the bag.

Consider Jeremiah Weed. The brand, a Diageo product, has been around since the 1960s. (Get it, ‘weed,’ heh heh heh.) It is a bourbon liqueur, which means it combines a little bit of bourbon with other flavors, neutral spirits, and sweetener. It is 50% alcohol. Wild Turkey American Honey, Southern Comfort and Yukon Jack are similar products.

Since the Federal government must approve all labels but has fewer controls on advertising, Diageo can get away with calling Jeremiah Weed ‘bourbon’ in a casual way, at jeremiahweedbourbon.com, for example. It is okay as long as the ‘mandatory copy’ (the small type at the bottom of the page) is accurate.

That original liqueur product has a cult following among American fighter pilots, not a bad endorsement to get, where it functions much like Jagermeister or Malört or just about any tequila, in that it is drunk ceremonially in shots, not because it tastes good, but specifically because it does not. It’s not a big seller, but steady and predictable.

So far, so good, but recently Diageo has decided to see if the brand has legs, so they’ve introduced new Jeremiah Weed-branded products that are classified, not as liqueurs, but as flavored vodka, blended whiskey, and flavored whiskey.

The vodkas are Southern Style Sweet Tea Flavored Vodka, Country Peach Sweet Tea Flavored Vodka, Sweet Tea Flavored Vodka & Bourbon Whiskey, and a ‘Half & Half’ that combines the Sweet Tea flavor with Lemonade. They’re all 35% alcohol. The web site jeremiahweed.com is dedicated to these products, not to the original bourbon liqueur.

Then there are the two new Jeremiah Weed Blended Bourbons. A blended bourbon is half bourbon, half vodka, but entitled to call itself whiskey. The Jeremiah Weed line now includes a blended bourbon and a flavored blended bourbon. Both are 45% alcohol. The flavored version (pictured) is, not surprisingly, cherry flavored.

Since the original Jeremiah Weed is not a big brand, these new expressions seem unlikely to set the world on fire, but they give people who already buy into the Jeremiah Weed image something else to buy, and that’s what line extensions are all about. The philosophy of companies such as Diageo is that consumers buy brands, not categories, so category confusion isn’t their concern.

Maybe they’re right, but I get a lot of “what is this stuff?” questions from consumers.

At least some people want to know what they're drinking.

Friday, February 26, 2010

It's Brandy, For $15,000 A Bottle.

One of the distilled spirits classes I teach for I Wish is about cognac. I did one just two nights ago.

In the class, I talk about how cognacs are almost always a blend of spirits of different ages. As prices go up, you get more of the older stuff. A cognac designated XO, for example, must contain no brandy less than six years old, but the fine art of cognac blending is about flavoring the drink with small amounts of older spirits, sometimes much older. The big cognac houses have inventories of barrels going back decades, some as much as 100 years old.

Obviously, the very old brandy is in short supply and used sparingly.

Again as a general rule, the more you spend the more of that older brandy you get. So what do you get for $15,000 a bottle? "A blend of 1,200 ultra-exclusive cognacs aged between 40 and 100 years," according to Luxlist. Remy Martin is the producer. Naturally, no ordinary bottle will do. This one is Baccarat crystal.

Don't look for it at your neighborhood Liquor Barn. London's Harrods Department Store has the exclusive.

What Else I Do.

Here on the blog I write about whiskey mostly. The other kinds of freelance writing I do are generally anonymous and mostly internal to my clients, so I don't often have the opportunity to share them with friends and family. Here is one I can show you.

Walgreens is a drug store chain, as you know, but it's a lot more than that. Recently, Walgreens has been moving to bring some of the other businesses it owns under the Walgreens umbrella and this video is part of that effort. It runs about 4 1/2 minutes.

Everything like this is collaborative. My role is as the primary scriptwriter. Hope you like it.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

More On Garrison Brothers.

Last Friday, I told you about next week's very limited release of the first Texas bourbon from the Garrison distillery.

Patrick Beach, a writer for the Austin American-Statesman, visited the distillery on the same day I did and his article about it is here. I'm pointing you to it because, at the end, he conveniently provides the names and telephone numbers of the limited number of retailers who will be carrying the first batch.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

DISCUS Offers Craft Distillers Affiliate Membership.

The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) today announced a new Craft Distiller Affiliate Membership program designed to organize the growing number of small distilled spirits producers across the nation and alert them to public policy issues affecting the industry at every level of government.

In the last decade, the number of small distillers in the U.S. has grown from a few dozen to more than two hundred, making an array of products from white spirits such as vodka and gin to liqueurs, aged whiskeys and brandies.

“The rapidly growing number of craft distillers in states across the nation represents an important grassroots base for communicating substantive messages about industry modernization, our strong marketing code and the important role distillers play in the hospitality industry,” said DISCUS President Peter Cressy. “Together, we can educate public officials and pursue positive public policies that advance the interests of the hospitality industry and the jobs we create.”

The new membership group will be headed by an eleven member Advisory Council of distillers chaired by Fritz Maytag of San Francisco’s Anchor Distilling. As a leadership body, its role will be to coordinate communications with the DISCUS policy teams, and engage and activate small distillers in their respective regions.

Other members of the Advisory Council include: Scott Bush, Templeton Rye (IA); Robert Cassell, Philadelphia Distilling, (PA); Jess Graber, Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey (CO); Ted Huber, Huber Starlight Distillery (IN); Brett Joyce, Rogue Spirits, (OR); Marko Karakasevic, Charbay Distillery (CA); Brian McKenzie, Finger Lakes Distilling (NY); Guy Rehorst, Great Lakes Distillery (WI); Jorg Rupf, St. George Spirits (CA); and Rick Wasmund, Copper Fox Distillery (VA).

“I have long believed it is critically important for distillers of all sizes to work together to highlight the important and positive role we play in our communities,” said Chairman Maytag. “With the support of DISCUS’ public policy experts, small distillers can help ensure fair and equitable treatment for distilled spirits at the federal, state and local levels.”

The new craft distiller membership will be offered to producers under 40,000 nine-liter cases annually. They will receive numerous benefits, including a compendium of State Laws and Regulations; legislative newsletters; action alerts; consultations with DISCUS legal and regulatory experts; opportunities to showcase products at DISCUS-sponsored tasting events; ability to participate in the annual gala “Spirit of Mount Vernon” event; access to the annual industry economic briefing; and ability to participate in DISPAC. DISCUS will also organize an annual Public Affairs Conference on Capitol Hill in Washington featuring briefings, Congressional visits and a reception featuring their products.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Older Is Not Necessarily Better.

Many people learn the hard way that very old bourbons are not necessarily better, they're just older. This is different from scotch, where older generally does mean better. (Though, even there, not always.)

Very old bourbons have a distinctive taste that is wood-heavy and not to everybody's liking. I like them okay, but generally in very small doses.

The other thing a lot of noobs don't understand is that the profile of very old bourbons--good ones and not-so-good ones alike--is very different from the profile of standard bourbons. If you go around mostly trying very olds, you don't know what bourbon really tastes like.

Sometimes, people come to the bourbon category and want to try 'the best,' so they gravitate to the most expensive bottles, which generally are the very olds. They are often disappointed.

For example, the Old Rip Van Winkle 23-year-old. If you are very familiar with Stitzel-Weller whiskey then you might enjoy tasting an example of that whiskey at 23 years, and what the family thinks is a really great example of the whiskey at that age. You can appreciate it and be glad you tasted it, even if you don't particularly like it. If you come to it without that experience, you don't have a basis for enjoying it and instead experience all the reasons why bourbon producers normally don't leave their spirit in the barrel for 23 years.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Cognac Class Wednesday.

Just a reminder that I'm teaching a Cognac class on Wednesday, February 24, at Stretch Run (544 N. LaSalle). The class will include tasting. It lasts about a hour.

The next Bourbon class is Monday, March 8th, at Rocks Lincoln Park.

All of these classes are "an introduction to..."

I'm doing this through I Wish Lessons. To attend, or get more information, go to their web site and click on "Drinks Around the World."

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Texas Bourbon, On Sale Soon.

Garrison Brothers Distillery has been around for several years but they have yet to sell anything except bumper stickers and t-shirts.

That is about to change.

If you did what I suggested Wednesday you already know the news. People in the neighborhood of the Hye, Texas, micro-distillery will get their first taste of Texas Bourbon Whiskey in a few days. This isn't the Garrison Brothers Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey that Garrison will start to sell this fall. This is a special pre-release, one-of-a-kind bottling to set the stage and say thank you to friends and neighbors.

As Dan Garrison announced yesterday in the newsletter, just 2,000 bottles will be filled. “The first 500 bottles are for the Blanco and Gillespie County electricians, plumbers, masons and construction workers who have helped us build the distillery,” said Garrison. “They deserve the first taste. We’ll give these away as gifts.” A dozen or so are being given to Garrison’s key mentors and friends in Kentucky. The whiskey is 100° proof, unfiltered, and will come in a 375-ml bottle with a suggested retail price of under $50.

The bottles that aren’t given away will be distributed to liquor stores in Blanco and Gillespie Counties in the Texas Hill Country. If you want a bottle, contact a liquor store in Blanco or Gillespie County (the towns of Blanco, Fredericksbrug, Hye and Johnson City), but act fast. Many of the stores already have waiting lists.

Is this just a bunch of hype? Of course it is, but hype can be fun, especially when there's a good product behind it.

When will the pre-release bottles be in stores? On Texas Independence Day, which is March 2, in case you didn't know.

At Tuthilltown Spirits, Three And Twelve.

A few days ago, I wrote here about the use of smaller barrels for aging spirits such as whiskey. Tuthilltown Spirits, in Gardiner, N.Y, is one of the pioneers of the micro-distillery movement. They initially created their Hudson Baby Bourbon and other aged products in three gallon barrels and are now using twelve gallon casks, essentially the quarter casks Finger Lakes uses as well.

Among the handful of small distillers who are serious about whiskey-making, it looks like some consensus is emerging around barrels in the ten to fifteen-gallon range. There are a lot of factors to consider, including how you are going to wrangle them from place to place.

It's hard to explain exactly why this looks like the ideal size, there are many factors to consider. One of the intangibles is the basic organization of your barrel inventory and how you are going to use it to create products. I'm talking about people who are going into production, at any scale, not people who are just filling a barrel or two to see what happens. Remember that you lose volume over time through absorption and evaporation, maybe up to 10 percent in the first year. If you start with ten to fifteen-gallons, you're still going to have something to sell after months or years of evaporation and sampling, but the unit size is small enough to be manageable.

Back to Tuthilltown, they came up with an interesting idea when they created their whiskeys. U.S. regulations say a bourbon whiskey or rye whiskey has to be aged in new, charred oak barrels, but it doesn't say for how long. Is three months long enough? The feds approved it, but is long enough for legal purposes the same as long enough for drinking purposes? 

I haven't tasted all of Tuthilltown's whiskeys but I have tasted their Hudson Baby Bourbon. Does it taste like bourbon whiskey that has aged in a barrel for five or six years? Of course not. Is it a product worth tasting? Absolutely! Yes, it's more like white dog than mature spirit, but there's nothing wrong with that. Jumping into the micro-distillery pool is all about opening yourself up to new tastes and new ideas. (Yes, guys, I'm learning.)

You can read more about Tuthilltown here. (The site is SmartMoney.com, their Small Business sub-site.)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Garrison Brothers News.

If you have not yet signed up for the Garrison Brothers Distillery's email newsletter, do so immediately. That's all I can say until Friday.

And Red Stag By Jim Beam Begat...

...Seagram's 7 Golden Honey.

Seagram's 7 is the leading brand of American Blended Whiskey. It is a Diageo product. (Seagram's no longer exists as a company.)

Jim Beam started this with Red Stag, Jim Beam bourbon flavored with black cherry concentrate, just about a year ago. It has been a huge success so, naturally, others want to try their luck. Seagram's 7, as an inexpensive blend, is a natural vehicle for a flavored whiskey. I haven't had it yet but I'm told the dominant flavors are honey and cinnamon, and it tastes pretty good if you like that sort of thing.

Here's how its makers describe it: "Harness the excitement of the night with blended whiskey with a dark honey finish. Perfect on its own or mixed, tempt your guests with a chilled shot or combine with cola over ice. It’s a whole new smooth."

For more information, go to thebar.com which, just so you know, is a Diageo web site. You can also read about it on LiquorSnob.com.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Save DOD.

I don't know Kyle McHugh personally but he is widely known and well regarded in Chicago's hospitality community. (Doesn't that sound better than 'booze community'?)

A year or so ago, McHugh opened a wine and spirits boutique in the River North neighborhood (at least I think 650 N. Dearborn--at Erie--is considered River North). It's called Drinks Over Dearborn (DOD). The name refers to the fact that the store is on the second floor, hence 'over' the street. That he put a retail store in a second floor location tells you McHugh does things differently.

McHugh first announced that DOD was in trouble back in September. I wrote about it here. Today he sent out an email that begins, "I'm now out of money, out of credit, and out of time."

In the email is a new "Save DOD" appeal. It's a clever idea and a good way to help an innovative boozehound (his preferred title) keep his dream alive. He figures he has $50,000 worth of inventory, so he's asking people to open an account with at least $100 in it. Ideally, he'll get 500 people to do that and it will give him the cash flow to keep going. You can think of it as a loan. Technically, it's a sort of pre-payment.

You can use the funds in your account at any time for anything the store sells, plus you get some discounts and other benefits for being in the 'club.'

Naturally, he's using his email address book and other social networking tools to get out the word.

I'm not touting this or encouraging you to do it. I'm reporting it mostly because I found it interesting and innovative, and as a struggling entrepreneur I can relate.

You can learn all about it here. Click on "500 Benjamins or Bust."

Sunday, February 14, 2010

What Effect Smaller Barrels?

The standard American whiskey barrel holds 53 gallons. Why the odd number? Because that works out to almost exactly 200 liters.

These are the barrels all of the big American whiskey distilleries use.

Today, more and more micro-distilleries are making whiskey and most of them are using smaller barrels. Barrels can be made in literally any size you want, but some of the standard smaller sizes are 5 gallons, 10 gallons, 15 gallons, 20 gallons and 30 gallons. It isn't just distilleries. Wineries use barrels too and some of them prefer the smaller barrels as well.

The cooperages claim smaller barrels don't make a difference, but that's both counterintuitive and counter to most anecdotal evidence.

Size isn't the only consideration. Other variables include source of the wood, how and for how long it was seasoned, how heavily it's charred, even how thick the staves are. I'm told that some of the very small 'presentation' barrels that some people are using for aging have very thin staves (the dimension from the inner surface to the outer surface, the depth not the width) that may not be able to withstand high temperatures. They literally pop when it gets really hot.

In Texas, Garrison Brothers uses 10 gallon barrels primarily, but they're experimenting with 20 and 30 gallons as well. Finger Lakes in Upstate New York uses 'quarter casks,' which I assume are in the neighborhood of 10-15 gallons.

Barrels Unlimited is a company that sells barrels in a wide range of sizes and you can order them directly from their web site. Note that the 5 gallon barrel is $210 but the 30 gallon barrel is $235. If you're trying to do something commercially, you have to consider that the barrel-cost-per-gallon can range from $8 with a 30 gallon barrel up to $42 with a five gallon barrel. Like everything, the advantages of smaller barrel aging come at a price.

The reality is that three things happen in the barrel that affect the whiskey: evaporation, absorption, and oxidation (and some other chemical changes). Absorption happens pretty quickly and can be accelerated by using smaller barrels. Being in a warmer climate also accelerates absorption. Evaporation tends to concentrate flavors and I'm not sure what effect, if any, a smaller barrel or warmer climate has on that, but I know humidity is also part of that equation. Oxidation, which tends to round things out, is strictly a function of time.
 
So what? A lot of mirco-distilleries are afraid to make whiskey because they find the 4- to 10-years (or more) that most American whiskeys are aged overwhelming, but it's starting to look like some pretty tasty tipples can be made in two years or less using small barrels.

Some people will say things like, "we aged it for 18 months in a ten gallon barrel and it tastes like a five or six year old whiskey." It's not really about finding a faster way to make Jim Beam. It's about crafting something original and tasty, and marketable. Smaller barrels appear to be part of the answer.

Scotch Class Tuesday.

Yes, I know a few things about scotch too. In fact, I'm teaching a Single Malt Scotch class this coming Tuesday, February 16, at the Bar on Buena (910 W. Buena Ave.). The class includes a tasting of four single malts. It lasts about a hour.

I teach these classes through I Wish Lessons. To attend, or get more information, go to their web site and click on "Drinks Around the World."

Friday, February 12, 2010

Japanese Cocktails.

This month, Suntory and Chronicle Books are releasing a new book called Japanese Cocktails, by Yuri Kato. Born and raised in Japan, Ms. Kato's book explores Japan’s cocktail heritage, near mystical spirits, traditions, travel destinations and more. Two chapters are dedicated to whiskey, the history of Japanese whiskey and Japanese whiskey cocktails.

One Japanese-originated trend that is becoming popular here is the ice ball. In the U.S., the ball is usually molded, but most Japanese bars stay true to tradition by hand carving each ball with a pick from a large block of ice. This is usually done by apprentice bartenders, who almost always start at the carving board. The large, round ice balls are great for whiskey drinks because they melt more slowly than cubes, thus preserving the flavor profile of the whiskey.

The book's official release date is February 17, but it is apparently available now on Amazon.

Suntory, which is underwriting the publication, is the largest distilled spirits producer in Japan.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Potemkin Craft Distilleries.


Thanks to High West Distillery & Saloon, I have coined a new term: Potemkin Craft Distillery. It’s a play on the term ‘Potemkin Village,” which is defined as "something that appears elaborate and impressive but in actual fact lacks substance."

The original term refers to Grigori Aleksandrovich Potemkin, who allegedly had elaborate fake villages constructed for Catherine the Great's tours of the Ukraine and Crimea, in an effort to show his colonization efforts there were successful. It came into common usage during the Cold War, to refer to similar Soviet efforts to portray living conditions in the USSR as better than they actually were.

I call High West a Potemkin Craft Distillery because the company’s most highly touted products, its Rendezvous and Rocky Mountain Ryes, are whiskeys High West did not make but, rather, merely bought and bottled. In the fine print, High West explains that they “sourced the whiskey from back east while we are waiting for our own whiskey to age."

I am skeptical in part because no one who has taken this approach has subsequently replaced their third-party product with a house-made one.

In High West’s case, the High West Distillery & Saloon in Park City, Utah, just opened in December of 2009, but High West has had a still and a distilling license for four years. They could have a four-year-old whiskey of their own creation on the market right now, but they don’t.

The splash page of High West’s web site talks about "award winning small batch mountain crafted spirits." Another page talks about how "High West Distillery & Saloon started with one man’s passion to make a great Rocky Mountain Whiskey." It doesn't mention that his dream is, so far, unrealized.

Finally, on the product page, after the words, "High West Distillery crafts products for people who want great taste and appreciate quality ingredients, small batches, and the distiller's personal touch," comes the admission that the whiskeys were made somewhere else by someone else. It is hard not to conclude that High West’s intention is to fuzz the distinction.

Why do I keep harping on this? Because I have repeatedly had the experience of someone raving to me about this terrific whiskey made by this little distillery in Utah. When I explain that the whiskey was most likely made in Indiana, not Utah, they express disbelief and disappointment. Until High West calls its business "High West Distillery, Saloon & Rectifier," I will continue to call them a Potemkin Craft Distillery.

There are micro-distilleries such as Finger Lakes, Dry Fly, Garrison Brothers and others who have eschewed the course of buying spirits for resale and have, instead, found a business model that allows them to only present products of their own manufacture. I tend to regard those companies more highly than I do companies that take the other approach. That's my prerogative as a consumer.

So while I commend High West for making some exceptional orphaned whiskeys available to the marketplace, I continue to find the company's Potemkin Craft Distillery pose disingenuous.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Bourbon and Catholics.

The Rev. William Francis Medley's ordination as bishop of the Diocese of Owensboro takes place this afternoon.

This blog does not ordinarily report news of the Roman Catholic Church, but Father...soon Bishop...Medley's last name caught my eye. In his new diocese, his family is best known for making whiskey.

I don't know Bishop Medley's family background, but he hails from Marion County, Kentucky. He served at several churches in Bardstown, including St. Joseph Proto Cathedral. Most recently he was pastor of St. Bernadette Parish in Prospect, a suburb of Louisville.

The Medley family has been in the Bardstown area (Washington, Marion and Nelson Counties) since the early 19th century, when John Medley brought his family there from Maryland. That state had been founded by Lord Baltimore as a haven for English Catholics. Other early Catholic settlers in that part of Kentucky included the Beams, Wathens, Haydens and other prominent names in Kentucky whiskey history. In 1901, George Medley took his branch to Owensboro. Several different Medley-owned or Medley-led distilleries dominated the whiskey industry in Owensboro thereafter until the last one closed down in 1992. That distillery, now called Charles Medley Distillers Kentucky, is trying to make a comeback under new ownership.

The Owensboro Diocese has 79 parishes and approximately 52,000 believers.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Yum!

Last night I was in Austin, Texas, and looking for something to eat. During the day, I had heard how Austin has seen a boom recently in food wagons, including some operated by legit chefs. It is a lot cheaper than starting a new restaurant and in a city that holds its weirdness as a point of pride, why not?

Typically, it's a trailer in a parking lot. The trailer is both kitchen and sales counter. It's strictly carry-out unless you want to sit on the curb.

The one I happened upon last night was about where Fifth Street meets I-35. I had been promenading east along Sixth Street, naturally, where there is a large concentration of drinking establishments, and had just turned around to head back west when I spotted it. The operation wasn't all in the trailer, as the BBQ cooker was out back. It was conveniently located next to Twins Liquor Store.

I got the two meats plate ($8), with brisket, beef sausage, potato salad, pinto beans, dill pickles, raw onions, and two slices of white bread (all the appropriate fixings), then picked up a 375 ml of J.T.S. Brown bourbon at Twins ($5.99).

The brisket was a little fatty but had great flavor. That flavor just came back to me as I was thinking about what to have for dinner tonight. There is plenty of good Q in Chicago, but not in my neighborhood, and it's pretty miserable out tonight, so foraging in the fridge will probably be my dinner strategy.

Street food is always a roll of the dice, but I had a good feeling when I saw the people hanging around the Night Ministry free coffee wagon parked on the same lot. This one came up a winner.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

New. Reader. Mailed.

I just now walked across the street and dropped the latest issue of The Bourbon Country Reader (Volume 12, Number 5) into the mailbox.

This time we remember the proud whiskey-making history of Peoria, Illinois. Don't laugh. In 1880, Peoria led the nation in distilled spirits production (most of it whiskey). Peoria distilleries made more than 18 million gallons, compared to just 15 million for all of Kentucky.

Speaking of Kentucky, the Kentucky Distillers' Association has just released a report about bourbon's economic impact on Kentucky. We share some highlights.

And we review the Woodford Reserve Master's Collection Seasoned Oak release.

The Bourbon Country Reader is published six times a year. Subscriptions are $20/year for U.S. addresses. $24.50 for Canada, and $28.50 for everybody else. Click here to subscribe with PayPal or any major credit card.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Sazerac Explains, Sort Of.

When I heard that Sazerac had withdrawn from the KDA, I sent a note to Sazerac spokesperson Angela Traver asking why. Here is her reply:

"After being a member of the KDA for a long period of time, we elected to evaluate that membership and decided that it is in the best interests of all our distilleries to chart a course independently of the KDA. Tours at Buffalo Trace and Tom Moore will continue. We have even added some new and fun stuff to our Trace Tour—a Cooperage Display provided by Independent Stave and a trip into Warehouse D, which has a few surprises. We also will be opening some riverfront hiking trail and the Firehouse Café this spring. Lots of good stuff!"

That may be all the explanation we are going to get for now. I won't speculate, but it's worth noting that the primary work of the KDA isn't tourism promotion, it's lobbying the Kentucky legislature and other parts of state government. Buffalo Trace is the only distillery in Frankfort, the state capital. There clearly is some kind of disagreement at work here, although no one so far is saying what it is.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Sazerac Quits KDA, Bourbon Trail.

On New Year's Eve, the Kentucky Distillers' Association (KDA) received a letter from Sazerac, Inc., notifying it that Sazerac was withdrawing from the KDA effective immediately. No reason was given.

Since it is no longer a member of KDA, Sazerac's two Kentucky distilleries--Buffalo Trace and Tom Moore--are no longer part of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

The people at KDA have not subsequently received an explanation, and have not announced the resignation as such, but today they put out a routine press release about the election of officers and directors (Chris Morris is the new Chairman), and Sazerac's name was notably absent. Upon being asked, they confirmed the facts above.

No explanation has been given by Sazerac.

The KDA, organized in 1880, now includes Beam Global Spirits & Wine (Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark); Brown-Forman; Diageo North America; Four Roses; Heaven Hill and Wild Turkey.

We'll know eventually what this is all about. For now, don't read too much into it. It certainly does not mean Sazerac is planning to stop offering tours at either of its distilleries. What is does mean remains to be seen.