Whisk(e)y Wrap: Compass Box ‘Affinity,’ Sazerac’s ‘Mr. Sam,’ Ardnahoe’s New Distillery

By Neat Pour Staff |

The last week was yet another big one for the whisk(e)y biz. Ardnahoe opened Islay’s ninth distillery and Compass Box released a new blend of Calvados and Scotch. Across the pond, Sazerac unveiled ‘Mr. Sam,’ an homage to the legendary Sam Bronfman.

Mister Sam from the Sazerac Co.

Sam Bronfman was a trailblazer in the spirits world. In the early 20th century, Bronfman, a Russian emigré to Canada, founded Canadian spirits giant Distillers Corp. Ltd. before moving on to acquire and expand the legendary Seagram’s conglomerate. The Sazerac Co., another family owned business, later purchased many of Seagram’s whiskey holdings including the famed Seagram’s V.O., Seagram’s Five Star, and Seagram’s ’83.

Sazerac’s newest offering will pay homage to Bronfman’s contributions to their company and the industry as a whole. ‘Mister Sam’ is a limited edition blend of Canadian and American whiskeys created by Sazerac’s Master Blender Drew Mayville.

“I was thrilled to be able to work on the blend for this exciting tribute whiskey. Mister Sam was known to say ‘Distilling is a science; Blending is an art,’ and he’s right,” said Mayville in a statement. “Creating the elusive perfect blend is every bit about experimentation and precision. We’re very proud of the whiskey we’ve created.”

“Mister Sam” is slated to be an annual release. The 2019 expression clocks in with a whopping 66.9% ABV. 1,200 750ml bottles will be released for sale in North America only. MSRP is $249.99 per bottle. But, don’t worry, that price tag also includes an “elegant wooden box which will include a copy of the legendary ‘From Little Acorns’ book which Sam Bronfman penned in 1970 and which details the history of the Seagram’s company.”

Affinity from Compass Box

In the less than two decades since Compass Box’s founding, the Scotch whisky producer and blender carved out a reputation for pushing boundaries. This week, Compass Box unveiled yet another ambitious expression. ‘Affinity’ promises to be the first blend of Calvados and Scotch.

“We have been blending Calvados with Scotch whisky at home and in our blending room for years. The flavor combination is classic: apples and spice riffing off dried fruits and vanilla,” stated the company in a release. “When we were able to source Calvados of the right quality, and in enough quantities, we decided to share our private experiments with the world.”

The distiller pointed out several parallels between the French apple brandy and many Scotch whiskies including cool maritime climates; double pot distillation; maturation in French oak; and rich, sweet flavor profiles.

Affinity is non chill filtered and is bottled at 46% ABV. 6,028 bottles are available worldwide with a MSRP of $131.


Ardnahoe’s new whisky palace (Courtesy Hunter & Laing)

Ardnahoe’s New Distillery

On Friday (4.12), Lord Robertson of Port Ellen officially cut the ribbon at the new Ardnahoe Distillery. The facility represents a £12m investment from Hunter Laing & Company and will be the ninth whisky distillery in Islay.

“Ardnahoe is one of a series of new developments that will continue to strengthen Hunter Laing over the coming year,” stated Business Development Director Andrew Laing. “We have a strong development team working on new international brands and we are targeting several important new markets that will fuel our continued growth.”

The facility features the standards like beautiful copper pot stills and storage areas. However, keeping with trends, the complex’s centerpiece is a visitor’s center replete with a whisky (of course!) bar and a restaurant. Hunter Laing reps estimated the tourist-centric elements will draw 20,000 visitors a tear.

The company added that the new distillery will create about 30 new jobs.

The last new distillery to open in Islay was Kilchoman in 2005. Diageo is also currently working to reopen the old Port Ellen distillery.

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