What’s up in the world of whisky right now? Here at NOX Express, we will provide the perfect opportunity to check in on the pulse of the industry and a few clear trends that emerged right off the bat:
- The continued growth and prominence of leading American craft distilleries. Also, brands transitioning from non-distiller producers (NDPs) to fully-fledged distilleries.
- All things barrel-finishing, with new types of oak and used casks; and a range of aging processes being put to use.
- The demand for exclusive and rare whiskies, are at the forefront. This includes the big boys of bourbon, as well as the Scotch and Japanese whisky powerhouses.
Starting with the American craft scene, there were new releases aplenty. This includes pours offered up at official tasting rooms and seminars as well as discussions and drams over dinner.
In terms of NDPs transitioning to putting out their own juice, High West is a perfect example. Most of their range on the market remains fully or mostly sourced whiskey, however, their new Valley Tan Utah Whiskey is distilled at their facility. Distilled from a wheat mash bill, Valley Tan is aged for a minimum of one year in both new and used barrels.
OLD DOGS, NEW TRICKS
Switching to larger American producers, and showcasing both the cask-finishing and premium trends, is the Maker’s Mark Private Select program. With Private Select, retailers or bars purchase a barrel and select their own unique cask finishing.
It builds on the success of Maker’s 46, which uses a very specific type of stave inserted into the barrel for a finishing process. With Private Select though, there are five different types of staves which can be selected for the process, filling a total of 10 stave slots within the barrel. That means there’s over 1,000 unique outcomes.
The stave types include the Maker’s 46 staves, as well as the following:
“Baked American Pure 2” offers more lignins and vanillins
“Seared French Cuvee” utilizes a quick radiant-heat process. produces buttery notes and a viscous mouth feel
“Roasted French Mocha” uses extreme convection heat that almost causes the staves to catch fire, produces dark chocolate and cocoa powder notes
“Toasted French Spice” touch of smoke and baking spices
The staves are used for a 9-week finishing process in cool weather conditions. And with that massive range of outcomes, the resulting selections from participants has been just as varied. “Preferences are all over the map,” says Maker’s Mark COO, Rob Samuels, as consumers have relished the customization and control they have of the process.
Super premium was the name of the game for other major American brands as well. Look no further than the stellar Knob Creek 2001 Release. It’s a 14 year, 100-proof limited edition, the first such offering under the Knob Creek range. It sells for $129.99 and will be released in a series of three batches. Also on display was Booker’s Rye, bottled at a beastly 136.2 proof and aged for over 13 years. It sells for $299.99. Both of these releases are a tribute to Booker Noe, founder of Beam’s Small Batch Bourbon Collection.
SCOTCH FOR HIGH ROLLERS
Switching to Scotch, Macallan is no stranger to super premium. Showcased at Tales of the Cocktail was the now complete four-piece 1824 Masters Series, all offered in glitzy crystal decanters. The range includes Rare Cask, $300; Reflexion, $1,400; No. 6, $4,000; and M, $5,000.
Here at NOX Express, we have also launched a new collection of old and rare whiskies which are specially curated based on their reputation, scarcity and exclusivity. As the saying goes: " The discerning wants only the best, and the collector seeks the rare. The discerning collector would then pursue only the best of the rare."
We hope to empower anyone who is looking to be a discerning collector by featuring the most outstanding vintages and limited edition bottles in our private collection.
JAPANESE: HIGH DEMAND AND HIGHBALLS
Of course, high-end Japanese whiskies have never been in greater demand.
But it’s not only exquisite, expensive Japanese whiskies which are highly sought in the market today. In fact, both of the major Japanese producers, Suntory and Nikka, have launched new entry-level whiskies.
From the Suntory folks, their latest launch was the Suntory Toki. It is a 43% ABV blend which was first unveiled at the start of the summer of 2016. It’s a light, crisp whisky meant to be deployed in craft cocktails or the ubiquitous Japanese Highball.
After all the hubbub over Nikka’s decision to pull many of their international releases off the market due to supply issues, it’s a welcome sight to see a new release from the Japanese producer. Nikka Coffey Malt is distilled from a 100% malted barley mash-bill, from their continuous column, or Coffey, still.
KNOWLEDGE IS POWER
Finally, one cannot help but notice that another trend has taken place beyond the brands. It’s occurring instead with the consumers and the bartenders. Normal consumers are geeking out over all things whiskey. From phenol levels and cask finishes to whiskey terroir, it is all up for discussion. The public wants to try more types of whiskey, and from more places around the world, which showcase different and unique traits.
Folks are craving more knowledge, and access to that knowledge. And the more people dig, the more they’re able to find. While the internet offers multiple sites where one can cram whiskey knowledge, you can explore NOX Express to learn with us by comparing flavor profiles of whiskies or reading up our NOX magazine. Passion is all about getting hands-on with a hobby or interest, and there’s no better example of that than pouring up a dram of some fine whisky and settling in for a “lesson”.