Whiskey welcomes you into its realm, where every drop is steeped in centuries of history. There is a fascinating storyline, spanning generations and continents, and is replete with tales of passion, tenacity, and creativity, behind every famous bottle of whiskey. Come along as we set out on an adventure to learn the history of some of the most storied whiskey labels in the world.
From the green pastures of Scotland to the vast bourbon warehouses of Kentucky, we’ll reveal the stories that have molded the whiskey industry and elevated these labels to the status of cultural icons that they enjoy today. Prepare to be engrossed in the fascinating world of great whiskey brands and the captivating tales that accompany them as you take your favorite glass, pour yourself a dram, and read on.
Fifteen-year-old Glendronach Revival
In September, fans of whiskies aged in Sherry casks were reunited with an old favorite: GlenDronach Revival 15 Year Old. The single malt, aged in ex-oloroso and ex-PX Spanish oak casks, was discontinued for three years due to a lack of supplies until making a comeback in 2009 under the ‘Revival’ label.
In 1953, Bill Samuels founded Maker’s Mark using a family recipe that had been passed down for 170 years. The distillery has been passed down through the Samuel family for generations.
Loretto, Kentucky is a beautiful location for the Maker’s Mark distillery. The distillery now makes six different kinds of bourbon, but the original blend hasn’t changed in decades. The whiskey has a complex flavor with hints of vanilla, caramel, cinnamon and apples. Maker’s Mark is the ideal whiskey for relaxing with a snifter on a cool evening.
You Can’t Assume That Everything Labeled “Japanese Whiskey” is Actually Japanese Whiskey
Japanese whiskey is more popular than ever, from the countless Highballs drunk in Tokyo’s pubs to the rare bottles of Karuizawa and Hanyu that consistently set auction records.
However, as Dave Broom pointed out in June, there is a negative side to this increased attention. Due to low supplies, brands like Hakushu 12 and Hibiki 17 have been pulled from shelves, yet new entrants continue to flood the market.
What gives? Due to the lax regulations surrounding Japanese whiskey, a wide variety of hybrid and contaminated goods can legally label themselves as “Japanese whiskey,” while arguably neither of those things. The reputation of Japanese whiskey is at stake, thus it’s important that debates about potentially tightening the rules continue.
Kentucky’s Wild Turkey
Perhaps the most significant cultural export from Kentucky to the United States is the Wild Turkey. The Ripy brothers of Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, established their bourbon distillery in 1869. Kentucky’s Wild Turkey was featured at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, forever linking the spirit with the nation’s past. The distillers produce enough bourbon to fill fourteen bottles. Original Wild Turkey is a great whiskey for relaxing with. The liqueur has a sweet, nutty, spicy, and vanilla flavor.
Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7
Jack Daniel’s, the whiskey sold in the characteristic square bottle with the black-and-white label, owes much of its identity to Jack Daniel himself, the brand’s founder and first master distiller.
Despite his small stature (he was only five feet two inches tall), Jack Daniel [picture left] put his entire being into realizing his dream of creating a quality whiskey that he could be proud to sell.
Around Lynchburg, Tennessee, Daniel faced stiff competition from other distillers who also produced whiskey after filtering it with charcoal. He aimed to have his whiskey stand for something significant. He filtered his whiskey through ten feet of sugar maple charcoal to mellow it, and he changed the charcoal out more frequently to ensure a consistent and high-quality product. The water he utilized came from an iron-free cave spring on his property.
Jack Daniel’s turned adversity into opportunity by going on allocation, but the company was still wary about permanently alienating its loyal consumer base. The difficulty lay in meeting the rising demand for a handcrafted item. The distillery staff continued working outdoors, on temporary wooden catwalks erected around the still, while Brown-Forman demolished the original structure and constructed larger facilities on the same site. Sales of Jack Daniels virtually tripled between 1973 and 1986, propelling the company to global prominence.
Jack Daniel’s increased its investment in its signature ads featuring historic Lynchburg, which have proven to be very successful as the company has expanded. It also used sponsorships to get more involved in the cultural mainstream. Since the 1980s, Jack Daniel’s has hosted a world-famous barbeque tournament. In the new millennium, Jack Daniels began supporting auto racing teams in the US and AU. In September 2010, they launched an initiative to get Jack’s birthday recognised as a federal holiday in the United States. This included a bus trip from Lynchburg to the nation’s capital.
Macallan had a banner year last year. After years of planning and construction costing £140 million, the world’s most profitable single malt launched its new distillery, setting auction records for several of its bottles and releasing several new expressions.
Macallan Genesis, one of them, was released to the public on a first-come, first-served basis at the distillery on August 14 and was so popular that it caused gridlock in the area around the facility. After receiving complaints from hundreds of customers, Macallan issued an apology and promised to change the way it sells limited edition bottles of whiskey in the future.
The Newest Ardbeg Day Release is Titled “Ardbeg Grooves”
Ardbeg, an Islay distillery, usually releases two versions of its highly-anticipated Ardbeg Day whiskies every year: one for members of the Ardbeg Committee and one for the general public, both of which coincide with the distillery’s open day during the Islay Festival.
Ardbeg Grooves was released this year, with advertising that harkened back to the ‘Summer of Love’ of the 1960s and whiskey that was partially aged in re-toasted red wine casks, which had been heavily charred to form heavy ‘grooves’ on the wood’s surface.
Both whiskies were warmly appreciated, but the Committee release was so in demand that the Ardbeg website crashed when it was made available to the public on March 14. The manager of Ardbeg’s distillery, Mickey Heads, promptly sent an email to the Committee with the subject line “Not cool, man – apologies from Ardbeg.”
The First U.S. Release of Jane Walker whiskey
The announcement of Johnnie Walker’s ‘female’ version, The Jane Walker Edition, in the United States sparked outrage even before it was available to the public.
Coinciding with Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day in March, the Striding Man was replaced by a female figure, complete with knee-high riding boots, and US$1 was donated to female empowerment charities for each bottle sold.
After being mocked by Stephen Colbert on CBS’ The Late Show and ‘Lady Doritos’ on Twitter, Stephanie Jacoby (the lady behind the Jane Walker brand) claimed that the tempest was a result of a misunderstanding of the exercise.
Conor Mcgregor Debuts Righteous Number Twelve Whiskey
The release of Irish athlete Conor McGregor’s own blended Irish whiskey, Proper No. Twelve, was our most-read story of the year because it appealed to fans of both Irish whiskey and MMA.
The whiskey was developed by McGregor and Bushmills distillery manager David Elder and is named after the Dublin neighborhood of Crumlin, where McGregor spent his formative years. McGregor had to issue an apology to dissatisfied customers less than two months after the release since supplies had run out in the United States and Ireland.