Crafting Cask & Crew Rye Whiskey: What a Ride!
By Joe Ragazzo, vice president, LiDestri Spirits
Our effort to craft an exceptional rye whiskey when we formulated Cask & Crew has been an exciting journey. And judging from the reception we’ve had to our creation—named for our eclectic “crew” and the hand-selected charred and raw casks we used we used to age the rye and whiskey respectively—it promises to get even better as we produce each new batch.
Right now, nothing can trump our joy with Cask & Crew’s track record. Batch 1 sold out to distributors in 45 days and won six major awards: three before we introduced it in January 2017 and three in its first 10 weeks on the market. Clearly, our singular blend of 51% fine three-year-old Canadian rye and 49% classic barrel aged American corn whiskey, available in a straight rye whiskey blend or two flavors (walnut toffee and ginger spice) has struck a cord.
Our most prestigious honor was a Double Gold Medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition (SFWSC) in April. It was a fierce competition with over 2,000 global entries—the organization’s largest number ever. Double Gold is not only SFWSC’s highest honor, it’s awarded to only the few entries that receive a Gold rating from all members of the judging panel. And Walnut Toffee won a Bronze Medal, which makes the unique flavor a prime pick in its category.
That same week some of our “crew” attended the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA) Convention’s Spirits Tasting Competition to witness our win. We were honored, appreciative and over the moon when we took home a Gold Medal with accolades from the judges and attendees. In another coup, we also took 1st Place at WSWA’s first-ever People’s Choice Award in the Call for Cocktails Mixology Competition (see the recipe for Sister Smokin’ Ginger here)—an especially meaningful honor because convention-goers voted for this award using a newly developed app.
And right before we introduced Cask & Crew, all three versions won Silver Medals at the 2016 New York World Wine & Spirits Competition.
JOINING THE WHISKEY RENAISSANCE
We’re proud to have this type of early success in such a growing category. We knew we had to create something that was compelling enough to appeal to both the whiskey aficionado as well as the whiskey novice, and it would require a blend of imagination and innovation. The results speak to the passionate commitment of our LiDestri “crew” that worked tirelessly for over 18 months to make this dream a reality.
We found our inspiration in Giovanni LiDestri’s favorite drink, “Caffè corretto,” the legendary Italian espresso that packs a kick of something extra. We call Cask & Crew a “whiskey corrected” to communicate the infusion of flavors that unite, yet respect, the unique blend, which Whisky Advocate calls “a new one to us.”
Our carefully considered straight rye whiskey blend has a 40% ABV and a unique profile of smoky and sweet notes with an ultra-smooth taste. The two other flavors—Walnut Toffee and Ginger Spice—both have a 35% ABV and have quickly become favorites with Millennials, women and chefs.
FULL SPEED AHEAD
Batch 2, our second run of 22,500 bottles (7,500 per flavor), is priced at $24-$26.99 for 750 ml bottles and is currently sold in New York, New Jersey, Florida, Georgia, Connecticut, Maryland, Delaware and DC and Kentucky. Cask & Crew will be available in 15 states soon, including two states where LiDestri Spirits have never been sold—Tennessee and Louisiana. To view where Cask & Crew whiskey is currently available, click here.