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Master of Malt Blog

Category: News

The Nightcap: 12 July

It’s Friday which means it’s time for the news. This week we’ve go a celeb booze special with Jon Bon Jovi, Breaking Bad, Charlie Sheen and cocktails named after your…

It’s Friday which means it’s time for the news. This week we’ve go a celeb booze special with Jon Bon Jovi, Breaking Bad, Charlie Sheen and cocktails named after your favourite Tory politicians. Plus two Johnnie Walker stories. Double trouble.

As the country gets steamier, the need for high quality refreshment increases. So, we hope you’ve prepared a suitably delicious drink to accompany this week’s Nightcap. Without wishing to blow our own trumpets, there’s some particularly interesting, amusing and surprising stories, so do read to the end. Maybe make yourself another drink. But first, let’s have a recap of the week on the blog:

We announced the winner of our Spirit of America competition! Elsewhere, Ian Buxton was on hand to ask some questions over a recent claim by Glenfiddich Distillery, while Annie enjoyed some British apple brandy and looked at the science behind the dreaded hangover. Meanwhile, Adam reported back from a a sobering Imbibe 2019, then talked the Sexton Single Malt whiskey with its creator Alex Thomas before kicking off our Rum Month coverage by picking a bold, spicy rum as our New Arrival of the Week! Henry then made the delightfully refreshing Slingshot his Cocktail of the Week.

Johnnie Walker Blue Label

The snappily-titled Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost and Rare Glenury Royal will be available soon

New Johnnie Walker Ghost & Rare release revealed

The third release in Johnnie Walker’s  Blue Label Ghost & Rare series highlighting lost distilleries is here (well, nearly, you’ll have to wait until October to get your hands on it). This latest edition celebrates Glenury Royal, a distillery that was founded in 1825, by Captain Robert Barclay (for some reason there are a lot of Captains in Scotch whisky history), but closed in 1985. It’s not the only lost distillery in the blend, there’s Cambus, a grain distillery that closed in 1993, and Pittyvaich, a Speyside malt distillery that was demolished in 2003, too and five non-ghostly distilleries, Glen Elgin, Inchgower, Glenlossie, Cameronbridge and Glenkinchie. Master blender Jim Beveridge said: “We have waited patiently for that moment when we turn our thoughts to this exceptionally rare whisky, carefully watching over our maturing casks until the time was right to explore its uniquely indulgent character”. Some single malt purists might think it a crime to blend such rare whiskies but having tried a little sample, we have to disagree; it’s absolutely sumptuous with layers of dark chocolate, dried apricot, orange peel and fudge. All this for £275 for a 70cl bottle.

Bendict Ainsworth

Benny Ainsworth at the head of the table declaiming a little Shakespeare

Shall I compare thee to Santenay? 

Wine and food matching is old hat and putting drink with music so last year; the latest thing is booze and poetry. Coin Events and Shelved Wine are putting on a series of events called ‘Shakespeare and Wine’ which unsurprisingly consists of someone reading Shakespeare while you drink specially-chosen wine. Not just anyone though, at each event the lines will be declaimed by a trained actor alongside wines chosen by a top sommelier, for example Valentino Minotti from the Hakkasan Restaurant and Benny Ainsworth (who you will be pleased to know, has played the Dane.) The creator of the series of events Adam Burak said: ““We recognised with disappointment that all the wine tasting experiences are almost the same. They have their essential elements and sophisticated art, but we were eager to give more. We aimed to explore a brand new multi-sensory experience. ‘Shakespeare and Wine’ is a joyful conversation between actor, sommelier, and the guests about love, wine, passion, and poetry.” The evenings start in August and will take place twice a month in a variety of “secret locations” around London. Oooh mysterious! Perhaps after Shakespeare, the company could turn its attention to other poets such as Burns: “my love is like a red red rosé ” has a certain ring to it.

Breaking Bad

Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul from Breaking Bad

Celebrity agave rush with Charlie Sheen and Breaking Bad 

Move over Chris Noth and Clooney and co, there’s a new Tequila player in town – and it is none other than celebrity bad boy Charlie Sheen. The tee-total actor surprised us all when he announced he’d taken a stake in Don Sueños and joined the team as co-owner. Founded in 2017, the brand offers a range of Tequilas, all made from Blue Weber agave. Sheen joins Kumiko Zimmerman as co-owner.“As a native of Japan, where fine spirits are quite popular, I’m well aware of what goes into making a superior product, as well as the importance of having a strong team to promote the brand and tell our story.” she said.  “We believe Charlie will be a great addition to team Don Sueños.” said Zimmerman. Sheen himself added: “When the company reached out to me with an opportunity to get involved with their organisation, I was instantly interested and excited, as, in the past, Don Sueños’ Tequila Blanco was one of my favorite sipping spirits due to its superior taste and quality. While I am proud of my sobriety for over 19 months now and am firmly committed to living a clean and sober lifestyle, I chose to become a part owner of Don Sueños because I know their tequila is of the highest quality. I’m excited to be able to work with Kumiko and the team to help Don Sueños continue to grow and to bring awareness, both to its outstanding products and to the charitable organisations it supports.” There we go. But that’s not the only celebrity agave story this week, as we have just learned the Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul from Breaking Bad have launched their own brand of mezcal called Dos Hombres. Those Hollywood types sure do love Mexican spirits.

Look how tall the Cambridge agave flower is!

Cambridge agave plant flowers for the first time in 57 years

Forget Mexico, nowadays if you want to go and see a flowering agave you only have to travel as far as Cambridge! Cambridge University Botanic Garden has been nurturing an agave plant since 1962, and it began flowering on 19 June. The flower is already three feet tall, growing 12cm in just 24 hours at one point last week, and is showing no signs of stopping. Wild agave can grow up to six feet tall when flowering. The folks tending the plant are even planning to take out the top glass panels from the greenhouse. Its growth rate is literally through the roof! The bad news is once the plant has flowered it will die, though horticulturalists over in Cambridge reckon it could be another month before it fully blooms. Of course the real question is, can we make mezcal from it? Nobody can be sure exactly what species it is until it flowers, they believe it may be the Agave heteracantha species, but alas, the garden did confirm that this particular agave can’t be used to produce any tasty spirits. Even so, that’s one impressive plant.

Macallans

Rare Macallans go under the hammer tonight!

Rare Macallans go under the hammer

Starting from 5pm today a bumper quantity of rare whiskies will be up for auction on the Just Whisky website. This includes a 72 year old Macallan in a Lalique crystal decanter that was released to celebrate the opening of the company’s new distillery last year. Other notable Macallans include the aptly-named ‘The New Range Rover’ which was bottled in the 1990s to commemorate the launch of a new Range Rover; a 50 year old 1949 in a Caithness Glass Millennium decanter; the 1948 Select Reserve and a 52 Year Old, which recently went for £58,000 on Just Whisky, a record for the company. Graham Crane, director at Just Whisky, said: “Every now and then an auction line-up comes along that has collectors and aficionados on the edge of their seats with excitement. This is one of those times. We are delighted to offer such high quality lots in July’s auction and includes some incredibly rare bottles which you won’t find at retail or in the resale market for years. The price for Macallan has gone through the roof with demand resulting in new, age statement releases being sold for tens of thousands of pounds more than the original retail price and non age statement selling for up to 800% more that the retail price within a month.” The auction runs until Sunday 21st July. Better start collecting those pennies now.

The Clean Vic

A Seedlip cocktail

An alcohol free pub, whatever next?

In a move that is sure to have booze traditionalists muttering into their real ale, a new pub has been announced that will sell no or low alcohol drinks, and nothing else. On the 24 and 25 July the Old Crown in Holborn, London will only be serving drinks containing less than 0.5% ABV. It’s a takeover by Sainsbury’s who are calling it the ‘Clean Vic’, geddit?, and will be serving drinks by Seedlip, and the world’s first alcoholic ‘whiskey’ Celtic Soul. Anne Cooper, buyer at Sainsbury’s, said: “We’re seeing a really exciting spike in the no and low alcohol category, which has been growing since 2001. From speaking to customers, we know there is still some uncertainty about what these no and low alcohol products taste like and how they are made. So, our specially curated workshops in the Clean Vic will help customers learn more about these drinks, providing key tasting notes given by the experts.” So put on your most sensible trousers and get down to Holborn this July. You know it makes sense.

Jon Bon Jovi

Jon Bon Jovi and son enjoying some rosé

Jon Bon Rosé launches in the UK

Top soft metaller Jon Bon Jovi’s pink wine produced in collaboration with his son Jesse Bongiovi and Gérard Bertrand launches in the UK this week. And for some unfathomable reason it’s not called Jon Bon Rosé nor is it called Bed of  Rosés (after the band’s 1993 power ballad). Instead it’s been named Hampton Water, apparently that was Jesse Bongiovi’s idea, after the Hamptons where rich New Yorkers go on holiday. So the name is a bit rubbish but the wine, as you might expect from one of France’s top winemaker’s is excellent. It’s a blend of Grenache, Cinsault and Mourvèdre from the Languedoc and has already picked up some rave reviews in the States. MoM were given some to try and we give the contents a big thumbs up. Though someone should tell the Bongiovi family what a Hampton is in Cockney rhyming slang so Hampton Water sounds a bit like. . .  oh, never mind. You can work it out for yourself.

Johnnie Walker highball collection

Serving suggestion

Are Highballs the future? Johnnie Walker thinks so

Refreshing, easy-sipping and oh-so delicious – the Highball is certainly a versatile serve. And now Diageo’s blended Scotch behemoth Johnnie Walker is hoping to ‘elevate’ the drink through a new global campaign. “The popularity of the whisky highball is soaring right now – and it’s easy to see why,” said John Williams, Johnnie Walker global brand director. “It’s where the ease and refreshing taste of a cool beer meets the colourful, visceral world of cocktails. And for those who think they ‘won’t like whisky’ it’s a real game-changer.” So what is the brand going to be doing in its quest for Highball domination? There’s a focus on mixing the whisky with five key flavours: peach, lemon, green tea, elderflower and ginger, in the Johnnie Walker Highball Collection. It’s designed to appeal to non-Scotch drinkers, but, to be fair, they all sound pretty good to us, too. Expect to see loads of ads across, digital activity and experiential goings on, alongside in-bar and in-store activations. And if you live in a “trendsetting neighbourhood”, to quote the release, you’ll be first in line to see the campaign. “We’ve celebrated the highball at Johnnie Walker for the last few years, but with the trend for longer drinks on the rise, it feels like now is the right time to really explode the amazing possibilities which this category can offer,” Williams added. Highball, anyone?

The winning bidder Rogan Chester with his prize

Gin created at the top of Mount Snowdon becomes one of the UK’s most expensive

The award-winning Aber Falls Distillery has made history this week with the first gin to be distilled at the top of Mount Snowdon after it was sold at a charity auction for a staggering £1,085 (which, fittingly, is the same height in metres as Mount Snowdon). The sale has made it one of the UK’s most expensive gins, and given that of the three bottles made there was only bottle made available for the public, it is also one of the rarest gins in the world. The first distillery of its kind in North Wales for more than 100 years produced the bottle of Summit Gin: Mountaineers Cut using botanicals picked from the side of Mount Snowdon, which had to be specially approved by the local government given the area’s protected status. “It’s not my usual thing to spend this much money on a rare bottle of alcohol but I was fortunate to have a little win on the Grand National and was looking for an investment,” said the winning bidder, Rogan Chester, a 29-year-old man from Porthmadog. “To be the owner of the most expensive bottle of Welsh gin, and one of the most expensive in the UK is a surreal feeling, but I’m a proud Welshmen and hopefully it will be worth a bit more in the future.” Congratulation to Mr. Chester, who we are not even remotely jealous of. Nope. Not at all. Not one bit. Nada.

Dark'n Tory

This is a Dark N’ Tory, looks rather nice actually

And finally, Dark n’ Tory anyone? 

For those who like a little satire in their drink, the Blue Boar Bar at the Conrad London St. James’ is offering cocktails inspired (that’s not quite the right word, is it?) by the Conservative party. The menu will be launched on Thursday 18 July with a special evening with cartoonist David Lewis in the house to do caricatures of guests. Customers at the bar, a well-known politicos hangout, will be able to choose between a Maygarita, a Boris on the Rocks and a Dark n’ Tory. Hurry, they won’t be around for long. The cocktails that is, what did you think we meant?

No Comments on The Nightcap: 12 July

The Nightcap: 5 July

Tune in to The Nightcap this week for news about new distilleries, very old Talisker, and… Oh, tariffs again. Great. It’s been a busy ol’ week here at MoM Towers,…

Tune in to The Nightcap this week for news about new distilleries, very old Talisker, and… Oh, tariffs again. Great.

It’s been a busy ol’ week here at MoM Towers, only somewhat hindered by the sunburns acquired in a field in Somerset. However, with plenty of after-sun lotion at hand, we have made it all the way through to Friday, and we’re ready to provide you with all the news from the world of booze, because it’s once again time for The Nightcap!

On the blog this week we went competition crazy, announcing a Spirit of America edition in time for the 4th of July, while also declaring the winners of our VIP Bombay Sapphire and Mortlach competitions. Elsewhere, Nate Brown returned to shine a light on two distilleries doing something a bit different with new-make spirit, before we talked all things barley at Bruichladdich. Henry had an action packed week, enjoying an old favourite as his Cocktail of the Week, a new Starward expression for his New Arrival of the Week and four special iterations of Johnnie Walker Black Label inspired by key Scotch whisky regions. He even checked out all the good work the clever clogs at Circumstance Distillery are doing. Adam then reported on the major blaze that engulfed a Jim Beam warehouse facility, while Annie was on hand to spill the beans on Chivas Brothers’ Secret Speyside single malts  before telling us all about the return of Jigger Beaker Glass. If all of that wasn’t enough, we also showed you what Master of Malt Dram Club members will be receiving in July!

Phew. Catch your breath for a moment, we’ve not even started with the rest of the booze news yet…

The Nightcap

Not the Scotch, please anything but the Scotch…

Scotch whisky targeted by new US tariffs

The US continues to play the role of the Darth Vader of the drinks world. This week, Scotch whisky was named among a list of imported products in line for possible new tariffs. Just to underline how significant this is, here are some numbers. They are really big. The US is the world’s largest export market for Scotch whisky by value, snapping up £1.04 billion-worth in 2018. It’s also the second largest by volume, with 137 million 70cl bottles heading its way last year. Scotch also makes up 12% of the total American whisk(e)y market. While we don’t know yet when the tariffs could be imposed, we do know that they could affect European Union imports worth up to $4bn (£3.2bn) including luxury goods: think cheeses like Parmesan and Gouda (please no), pasta (hold me), olives (they wouldn’t dare) and Irish whiskey (now they’ve gone too far). The issue stems from a 15-year long dispute at the World Trade Organization between the US and EU over subsidies given to plane-makers Airbus, from Europe, and the US’s Boeing. It was only back in April that the US announced proposed a whole different set of tariffs on $11bn-worth of EU goods. “Exports of Scotch whisky to the US have been zero-tariff for 20 years, so it is disappointing that Scotch whisky has been drawn into this dispute,” a spokesperson for the Scotch Whisky Association commented. “The Scotch whisky industry has consistently opposed the imposition of tariffs, which harms economies on both sides of the Atlantic which depend on trade for their continued prosperity.” Scotland’s devolved government also weighed in on this issue, stating it was “deeply concerned” that Scotch whisky was being implicated in the dispute. “We are calling on the UK government to make urgent representations to the EU to ensure that Scotch whisky is not collateral damage to this long-term dispute between the EU and the US,” a spokesperson said. The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States was equally condemning of the move, warning that it may harm both jobs and consumers in the country. Hopefully, sense prevails and we can report some good news on this issue soon.

The Nightcap

You can get yourself a bottle of hemp rum here

Dead Man’s Fingers creates CBD-infused rum

The buzz around hemp and spirits just keeps on growing. That’s right, what is said to be the first CBD Hemp Rum has been brought into existence by Dead Man’s Fingers! The original rum has been infused with hemp, which naturally contains around 20% CBD (cannabidiol). Most importantly though, it definitely doesn’t contain any THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, try saying that five times fast), which is the psychoactive compound in the plant. “Flavoured and spiced is the fastest-growing rum sub-category, driven by penetration of younger consumers, yet almost a quarter of rum drinkers are frustrated with lack of choice, the highest out of all spirits categories”, says Lucy Cottrell, brand manager for Dead Man’s Fingers. “Dead Man’s Fingers Hemp Rum is an exceptional spirit that pushes the boundaries where others haven’t dared, and fulfils rum drinkers’ very clear expectations for something more exciting and experimental. With this launch, Dead Man’s Fingers will bring fun back to a category which has become stale in recent years.” The rum weighs in at 40% ABV, and is said to have notes of “cola, coffee, hops and pine with a grassy herbal back note”. We rather enjoyed the suggestion of a twist on a classic, a ‘Dankuiri’. If you fancied giving it a go, you’re in luck, because you can nab a bottle from your favourite online retailer!

The Nightcap

Look! It’s all new and shiny and wonderful!

New Lagg Distillery opens on Arran

Good news, everyone: Lagg Distillery has officially opened its doors to the public and is now welcoming visitors to the brand new site! The second distillery on the Isle of Arran, Lagg has already begun whisky production, with the first middle cut of spirit recorded on 19 March 2019. The spirit is expected to mature into a rich, smoky, heavily-peated (50ppm) single malt, a departure from the style produced at the original Isle of Arran Distillers site in Lochranza, which opened in 1995. Both distilleries are expected to draw over 200,000 visitors by 2020. The visitor centre includes a shop, an interactive video showcasing Arran’s whisky history, a café and restaurant, with ingredients sourced locally, as well as two new copper stills and four wooden washbacks. Within the same room. The experience means visitors can be guided through every stage of production, and highlights Arran’s place in the story of Scotch, with frequent references to past distillation in the island, both legal and illicit. Production will be overseen by both distillery manager Graham Omand, an Islay native who has spent the past eight years at the Lochranza distillery, and master distiller James MacTaggart, who has over 40 years of experience in the industry. “We’re all thrilled to be celebrating the opening of our spectacular new Lagg Distillery and to bring production back to the heart of whisky-making on the Isle of Arran,” Omand said. “We can’t wait to start writing the next chapter of this story and welcoming whisky-lovers from around the world to Lagg.”

The Nightcap

It might be small gin, but it packs a big taste!

Hayman’s launches Small Gin as low ABV alternative

Hayman’s of London made its mark on the low-to-no alcohol market this week with the launch of Small Gin, a full-strength tipple with stronger botanical flavours designed to reduce the amount of spirit required to serve a Gin & Tonic. The small 20cl bottle is theoretically so intensely flavoured with botanicals that you need just 5ml of Hayman’s Small Gin to make a balanced G&T, in theory reducing alcohol consumption by 80%. Having tried a cheeky G&T at Imbibe, we can confirm that it does indeed work. It’s one small G&T for us, and perhaps one giant leap for low-alcohol drinks. “Many consumers are actively looking to reduce their alcohol consumption but are keen to continue enjoying that classic gin flavour they have grown to love,” fifth-generation family member Miranda Hayman said. “Small Gin is the perfect solution – a real gin that allows you to mix a true G&T with just a fraction of the alcohol.” Distiller Sam Pembridge added: “We based the flavour profile for Small Gin on a classic London dry and getting all that wonderful botanical character into such a small serving size was an incredible challenge. We are working at the outer limits of what can be achieved but the flavour profile is spot-on. In blind tastings completed at our distillery, even the most experienced of gin drinkers were unable to tell the difference between a Small Gin & Tonic and a London dry Gin & Tonic.” Small Gin will available to pre-order at haymansgin.com for delivery in August, and is priced at £26 per 20cl bottle.

The Nightcap

The impressive second expression from the Bodega series.

Talisker releases oldest official single malt as part of Bodega Series

The Talisker Bodega Series, a range we’ve previously enjoyed in the past, has added a second stunning Scotch to its selection. Are you ready for this? It’s a 41-year-old expression. A 1978 vintage. Matured in Manzanilla sherry casks. Bottled at 50.7% ABV. The oldest official single malt to date from Skye’s oldest distillery. Limited to just 2,000 bottles. All of what you just read there should be said out loud in that sultry voice from those M&S food adverts. It will set you back £2,900 per 70cl bottle, obviously. Nothing can be perfect in this world. The bottling continues Talisker’s exploration of sherry cask finishes on some of its most valuable stock. In this case, the 41-year-old was finished in Manzanilla sherry casks from Delgado Zuleta, the oldest Sherry producer in the famed Sherry Triangle in the Marco de Jerez region. It’s also where Talisker historically enjoyed a trading connection, dating all the way back to 1900. Talisker’s master blender Dr Craig Wilson worked alongside the sherry masters at the bodega to craft the precious liquid. He hand-picked only six casks for finishing, all of which once held La Goya, the Bodega’s flagship wine and a very fine Manzanilla aged in casks for more than a century. The result is said to be a remarkably rich whisky, with notes of sultanas, orange peel, sandalwood, salty sea air, smoky raw sugar. “This is a magnificent example of Talisker, which initially holds back on the nose, but blossoms with spice in the mouth,” whisky writer Charles MacLean said. “It is a privilege to be able to taste such a memorable dram.”

The Nightcap

The new Black Rock Tavern, an izakaya inspired whisky pub

Black Rock becomes London’s first whisky hotel

Many a fellow whisky fan has enjoyed the odd dram at the award-winning Black Rock. A visit will see you sampling cocktails and expressions from its considerable range, and imbibing from its enormous 185-year-old oak tree table because, well, when in Rome. Very soon we’ll also get the chance to extend our experience as the whisky-centric bar is set to undergo a five-floor expansion of its Christopher Street location over the course of the summer! The new space will include a tavern, a blending room and a three-room hotel. Hurrah! The subterranean bar, which was launched in 2016 by spirit enthusiasts Tom Aske and Tristan Stephenson, will extend through the four-storey building above it, but don’t worry – the stripped-back decor and ace soundtrack will remain. And the tavern part opens today! A more casual alternative to the original bar, it will serve five beers on tap alongside a library of 40 to 50 whiskies. The decor will feature Japanese-inspired twists, including a reclaimed oak bar, bamboo ceiling panels and graffiti wall art by artist Ryan Gajda. The upcoming blending room, meanwhile, will host tasting experiences in which guests can enjoy a cocktail and blend their own 500ml bottle of whisky using a flight of single malts. And the best part? You can take your own blended whisky home with you. As for the three lodging rooms, they will be situated on the second and third floors, with two compact lodgings and one larger suite, the style of which will be “minimalist but luxurious”. It sounds fantastic, but good luck getting a reservation. We may have to book up the whole summer for err… research purposes, of course.

Redbreast’s new look has landed

Irish whiskey brand Redbreast is clearly feeling chipper after showing off the results of a makeover for its entire range. The refreshed look includes raised ‘Redbreast’ lettering at the base of the neck and ‘Single Pot Still’ on the reverse, while the labels are now a lighter cream colour with an embossed, textured background. The highlight is the reimagined classic – and let’s face it, adorable – robin redbreast, which is now represented in hand-drawn form by celebrated Irish illustrator Denise Nestor. Nestor, whose work has been published in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Variety and more, reinvented the bird in different flight positions for each whiskey expression. The idea is to represent the evolution of the brand over time and “the continuous journey of discovery that Redbreast drinkers find themselves on”. To complement the illustrations, Redbreast has also introduced a new colour palette of red, copper, navy, green and steel blue to distinguish each variant; with Redbreast 21 Year Old presented in a premium, handmade wooden box. You’ll also find tasting notes on the front labels, presumably with the words ‘delicious’ or ‘yum’. The new designs will be released initially on Redbreast 12 Year Old, 15 Year Old and Lustau in July and August, but you’ll have to wait until autumn to see the revamped Redbreast 21 Year Old and Redbreast 12 Cask Strength.

The Nightcap

Inver House MD, Martin Leonard

Old Pulteney propels Inver House to ‘significant’ growth

Old Pulteney, Balblair, Knockdhu, Speyburn and Balmenach parent company Inver House Distillers submitted a financial glowing report this week, with 2018 sales climbing 7.4% year-on-year. The stand-out superstar? Old Pulteney, which enjoyed bumper 20% growth for the 12 months to September. Caorunn gin also notched up double-digit growth, according to the chief bean counters. Seems fitting, interest in Scottish gin, in general, is definitely on the up. “This is the result of having consistently invested in our people, in production at our distilleries, in the quality of our spirits and in their sales and promotion,” said Inver House MD, Martin Leonard. “We also now have the channels in place to grow our brands in markets around the world, so our focus is very much on rolling out some exciting plans and building further success in 2019 and beyond.” If that means more delicious whiskies, we are well on board.

The Nightcap

Delamain Cognac will cultivate its own vines after more than century

Delamain Cognac returns to grape growing after more than 100 years

Big news from on-trade booze fest Imbibe this week. Cognac house Delamain announced it has bought 20 hectares of vines within the Grande Champagne region. The firm, which makes the legendary Pale & Dry XO, used to own vines until 1910, but since then has made its reputation with bought-in eaux-de-vie. This new venture guarantees the firm’s access to some of the finest grapes in Cognac. Charles Braastad, managing director of Delamain, said: “After over a century, we are very pleased to once again be cultivating vines. We originally abandoned the practice in 1910 upon the sale of our “Bois Clair” property in Saint-Brice which, at the time, allowed us to focus on selection, blending and ageing of Grande Champagne Cognacs. From 2019, the house of Delamain is re-committing to the very first moments in the lives of our Cognacs, to their birth and growth in the vineyards. We are certain that this decision to tend such extraordinary vines will permit us to continue creating ever more exceptional Cognacs for future generations.” It will be interesting to see whether, with its own vineyards, Delamain is tempted to follow Hine with a single vineyard and vintage bottling. That would be really exciting.

The Nightcap

Best of luck to Tim Etherington-Judge!

And Finally… Healthy Hospo’s Tim to run 42 marathons in 42 days

We like a more unusual or outlandish story for And Finally… and this week is no exception. The founder of on-trade wellness initiative Healthy Hospo, Tim Etherington-Judge, is about to undertake an especially ridiculous challenge. He’s preparing to run 42 marathons over 42 consecutive days in the year he turns 42 (a marathon is also 42 kilometres long. All the 42s). It’s a ludicrous feat – but also an incredible one, for an incredible purpose. He’s hoping to raise £42,000 for industry charity The Benevolent to build a brighter, better future for those working in drinks, and especially to shine a light on mental health. Etherington-Judge was diagnosed with severe depression after attempting to take his own life in 2016. Ever since, he’s been an advocate for better mental health across the on-trade and in society in general, and 424242run is a huge part of that. “On January 9 2019 I turn 42 years old, conveniently the same distance as a marathon and I plan to take my mission to the next level, to create as much attention, support and money as I can for improving the mental health of the hospitality industry by putting it all on the line and pushing my mind and body to the very edge,” he writes on Healthy Hospo. “Why am I doing this? Because I can and because we need to take the mental health of people in our industry seriously.” The challenge kicks off at industry event Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans on 20 July, and also takes in New York, Amsterdam and London. To find out more and to support Etherington-Judge, either as a sponsor or to pledge to run with him, check out the 424242run site. Godspeed, sir!

No Comments on The Nightcap: 5 July

Jim Beam loses 45,000 whiskey barrels in warehouse fire

Unfortunate news came from Kentucky this week: Jim Beam suffered a major warehouse fire that needed multiple fire service crews to bring it under control. 40 firefighters from five counties…

Unfortunate news came from Kentucky this week: Jim Beam suffered a major warehouse fire that needed multiple fire service crews to bring it under control.

40 firefighters from five counties were called to help battle the blaze that erupted around 11:30pm on Tuesday. The fire totally destroyed one of Jim Beam’s warehouses, estimated to hold around nine million litres of ageing whiskey. A second warehouse also caught fire, but that fire was quickly dealt with. It’s been reported that the flames generated so much heat that fire truck lights melted.

 

First things first: no one was injured in the incident, so that’s a huge relief.

The bad news is that about 45,000 barrels filled with whiskey were lost, potentially costing the brand millions of dollars in lost stock. Parent company Beam Suntory has not yet specified the exact financial loss and was quick to explain in an email that the spirit that went up in flames was “relatively young whiskey”. The company added that “given the age of the lost whiskey, this fire will not impact the availability of Jim Beam for consumers”. The losses are also insured, and total just 1.4% of spirit maker’s product in the state, so it’s not a total disaster.

The world’s top-selling bourbon brand said it was grateful to the “courageous firefighters” who brought the blaze under control and kept it from spreading. The cause of the fire has not been confirmed, although weather may well have been a factor, with some suggesting that a lightning strike was responsible.

The focus has turned to the environmental impact of the leaking bourbon, with state officials worried that whiskey running off from the site could seep into nearby waterways and kill fish. The distiller has hired an emergency clean-up crew, and state environmental officials were coordinating efforts to control bourbon runoff.

major fire at Jim Beam

Jim Beam is the world’s best-selling bourbon brand

The Beam fire was the latest warehouse loss suffered by Kentucky distillers, who collectively produce 95% of the world’s bourbon, according to the Kentucky Distillers’ Association. A warehouse belonging to OZ Tyler collapsed on 17 June, while back in June 2018 half of a warehouse collapsed at the Barton 1792 Distillery in Bardstown. The other half came down two weeks later.

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A first taste of Johnnie Walker Black Label Origin

Last week we met some of the blending team at Johnnie Walker to try four very special iterations of Black Label inspired by four key Scotch whisky regions: Johnnie Walker…

Last week we met some of the blending team at Johnnie Walker to try four very special iterations of Black Label inspired by four key Scotch whisky regions: Johnnie Walker Black Label Origin.

Blender George Harper described the four elements in Johnnie Walker Black Label as “smoke, fresh fruit, rich fruit and creamy vanilla. No one flavour can dominate.” But with four new blends, his brief was to do the opposite. “The idea was to pull it apart, focus on one element, and accentuate the regions,” Harper said. Master blender Jim Beveridge described it as an “amazing brief to be given”. 

Diageo, as we have reported, is putting £150m into Johnnie Walker tourism with a new HQ under construction in Edinburgh, and upgraded facilities at four distilleries, Caol Ila, Clynelish, Glenkinchie and Cardhu, that will carry the flag for their region. 18 months ago, Harper, who created the successful White Walker release earlier this year, was given the task of creating four new whiskies to represent these four corners of Scotland. 

And so, how could we refuse when we were invited up to Edinburgh for a tasting and discussion with Harper, Jim Beveridge, brand ambassador Tom Jones as well as the managers of Caol Ila and Cardhu, Pierrick Guillaume and Andrew Millsopp? These new, limited edition whiskies span three blended malts and a Lowland malt/grain blend, and bridge the gap between traditional multi-region blends and single malts. According to Harper, the hardest one to get right was the Highland because of the sheer variety of styles in the region. Beveridge said, “you’ve done a great job, George!” And he really has. The other blends were more straightforward: the Speyside was based around Cardhu, and the Islay Caol Ila; whereas the Lowland was a mix of Glenkinchie and Cameronbridge. 

Johnnie Walker Black Label Origin

Cocktail hour!

Jim Beveridge said that they are “aimed at Johnnie Walker drinkers and people wanting to know more about Scotch. More and more people are interested in flavour, they are increasingly very open-minded. Knowledge is the new currency.” Whereas in the past, Beveridge continued, “blends tended to be secretive. Now the story is opening up more.” Guillaume told me that many visitors to his distillery have no idea that they have already drunk Caol Ila, in Black Label.

The Origin series encourages traffic between blend and malt customers, but the team at Diageo also sees them as breaking down barriers in other ways. These are meant to be as happy mixed in cocktails as in dram form. To prove the point, we tried them in a series of cocktails made by bartender Joey Medrington: the Islay in a Highball with Fever Tree orange and ginger; the Highland in a Rob Roy made with PX sherry, the Lowland in an Old Fashioned with honey syrup, and the Speyside in another long drink with elderflower and soda water. I was particularly taken with the Islay Highball, but there’s no doubt that the Lowland with its creamy profile is particularly cocktail-friendly.

All four whiskies are 12 years old and bottled at 42% ABV. They are great tasting whiskies, and a testament not only to the skill of the blenders at Johnnie Walker but the amazing palates they have to play with. But the best thing about them is the price: they will sit just above standard Black Label. We expect them to be very popular. 

Johnnie Walker Black Label Origin Islay 12 Year Old

Johnnie Walker Black Label Origin Islay 12 Year Old

Johnnie Walker Black Label Origin Islay 12 Year Old 

Blend of Islay malts with Caol Ila as the base, some Lagavulin in here too.

Aged in refill casks. 

Nose: Iodine, toffee, orange, you’d swear there was some sherry here though apparently there isn’t. 

Palate: In the mouth it’s peppery with dried fruit, fresh red fruits and honey, with the smoke lingering but not dominating. Meaty and full.

Finish: Smoke and a little toffee.

Johnnie Walker Black Label Origin Highland 12 Year Old

Johnnie Walker Black Label Origin Highland 12 Year Old

Johnnie Walker Black Label Origin Highland 12 Year Old

A blend of Highland malts including Clynelish. 

Mainly aged in European oak ex-sherry casks.

Nose: Fruit cake nose, marmalade and fresh wine notes, takes on some tobacco with time.

Palate: Very fruity, both dried and fresh fruit, winey tang to it like a Cognac.

Finish: Marzipan and dried apricot.  

Johnnie Walker Black Label Origin Lowland 12 Year Old

Johnnie Walker Black Label Origin Lowland 12 Year Old

Johnnie Walker Black Label Origin Lowland 12 Year Old

Blend of malt from Glenkinchie and grain from Cameronbridge.

Aged in ex-bourbon casks. 

Nose: Light on the nose, some floral and toffee notes.

Palate: What a treat on the palate though: creamy vanilla, toffee, butterscotch, very smooth and sweet, then some wood spiciness with pepper and even a little chilli. Rich and round.

Finish: Vanilla, quite short. 

Johnnie Walker Black Label Origin Speyside 12 Year Old

Johnnie Walker Black Label Origin Speyside 12 Year Old

Johnnie Walker Black Label Origin Speyside 12 Year Old

Blend of Speyside malts with Cardhu providing the base. 

Aged in refill casks and ex-bourbon.

Nose: The smell is all about fresh fruit, apples and pears, with a spiced apple pie quality.

Palate: Vibrant and fruity on the palate, more orchard fruit, with some toffee and cloves.

Finish: Warm spices, cinnamon, cloves and lingering apples.

The Johnnie Walker Black Label Origin Series will be available in travel retail later this month, with an RRP of £35 / $46 USD for a 1L bottle. We’re hoping they’ll be available to us next year, but, of course, if they arrive at MoM Towers sooner than that we’ll let you know!

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The Nightcap: 28 June

Well, it feels like summer might finally be here to stay. We were up in Edinburgh this week and the city was bathed in sunlight. Everybody seemed a bit surprised….

Well, it feels like summer might finally be here to stay. We were up in Edinburgh this week and the city was bathed in sunlight. Everybody seemed a bit surprised. This weekend the lidos, paddling pools and beaches of Britain will be full of cheery people eating ice cream and sipping cold drinks. And the main topic of conversation among those over 18 will be… booze, of course! You thought it would be something else beginning with ‘b’ didn’t you? And so, to make you king of the conversation, we’ve rounded up the most interesting stories of the week. Simply read, learn and regurgitate to your friends and they will be amazed at how ‘with it’ you are. Though perhaps don’t use the phrase ‘with it’.

On the blog this week there was even more delightful Fèis Ìle 2019 coverage to enjoy as we put your questions to Ardnahoe, Ardbeg, Bowmore, Kilchoman, Bunnahabhain and Jura. Meanwhile, we announced the winner of our Game of Thrones competition! Ian Buxton then looked into the drinks industry’s flirtation with cannabis, while Annie enjoyed five minutes with the founder of Native in Singapore, Vijay Mudaliar, before shedding some light on Mexico’s most popular plant, agave. Henry’s New Arrival of the Week was a collaboration between That Boutique-y Gin Company and a Yorkshire distillery that rose phoenix-like from the ashes, while his Cocktail of the Week was an old school favourite, the Sherry Cobbler.

Right, let’s take a look at those stories. 

 

You can carry this on Eurostar, but you can’t drink it

Eurostar booze crisis resolved

There was panic among Britain’s booze enthusiasts this week when it was discovered that Eurostar had changed the policy on carrying bottles on its trains. Previously travellers were free, unlike on planes, to carry wine, spirits or beer in their hand luggage, but the new rules limited passengers to one bottle of wine, four bottles of beer and no spirits whatsoever. The drinks world was up in arms. Joe Fattorini from The Wine Show said: “This new rule from Eurostar officially ends the whole point of Eurostar for any wine producer coming to the UK.” When people asked for clarification, Eurostar commented the rules had changed to “maintain a pleasant environment on board for all our travellers”, and that passengers could pay to have their baggage checked, at £30 per item. Suddenly all the money you have saved on that bottle of Cognac has disappeared. But thanks to a concerted effort from, among others, travel writer and campaigner Mark Smith, aka. the Man in Seat 61, Eurostar clarified its rules: passengers are only allowed one bottle of wine, four beers and no large spirit bottles, to drink on the train, but “we are happy for customers to bring unopened bottles of alcohol to take on to their destination”, it now says on the site. Problem solved. Thank you, Eurostar, for listening to your passengers. 

 

Laphroaig 1995 (2)

This Laphroaig 1995 could be yours via new online auction site, Cask 88

New online auction site launches for whisky in cask

There can be few whisky lovers who haven’t dreamed of owning their own cask of the good stuff. Now acquiring your dream barrel has got that bit easier with the launch of a new online auction site especially for whisky in casks, called Cask 88. Just register with the site and you’re ready to go. Casks are listed with a photo and information about distillery, age, cask type, ABV and roughly how many bottles you could get out of it. So, for example there’s currently a cask of Laphroaig at £25,000 which was distilled in 1995. It weighs in at 55.4% ABV and you should be able to get 186 bottles of delicious smoky goodness. The site takes a 10% commission and offers two years storage free, after that it will cost £50 per year. And when the time comes to bottle your cask, you will have to pay VAT and duty. Auctions will take place monthly, including valuable old whiskies like that Laphroaig as well as young casks that should, hopefully, grow in value. And of course, don’t forget that even if you don’t make any money, you do have whisky. Which you can drink.  

 

Cooper Smith new make

One day this will be whisky

Yorkshire’s self-built distillery begins whisky production

The wonderful Cooper King Distillery over in Yorkshire has officially announced the start of distillation of its inaugural single malt whisky! Clearly everyone is just as excited as we are, as the distillery sold out of its pre-order whisky casks after just 10 days. Locally-grown Yorkshire barley will be traditionally floor-malted in England’s oldest working maltings, before it is mashed and fermented at the distillery itself. It will be distilled in a unique Tasmanian copper pot still, and matured on-site. “We may be one of the smallest whisky distilleries in England, but what matters to us is not the quantity of whisky produced, but the flavour of that whisky, its provenance, and the story behind the spirit,” co-founder Abbie Neilson commented. “Sourcing great barley, working with a superb master cooper, and carrying out mashing, fermentation, distillation and maturation under one roof allows us to truly celebrate terroir.” The new spirit will be “robust, flavourful, and unlike any other in the country”, and influenced by the founders’ work with award-winning Tasmanian whisky distilleries. “Five years ago Abbie and I quit our jobs, flew to Australia, and fell in love with the Tasmanian way of making whisky,” added fellow co-founder, Chris Jaume. “Since then we have worked incredibly hard to realise our dream of distilling an English whisky underpinned by craftsmanship, honesty and adventure. We are thrilled that the day has come, and malt spirit is flowing at the distillery.” We, along with many others, eagerly await the day that the spirit will come of age, and be enjoyed as whisky. May the countdown begin!

 

There’s no added sugar in Pinkster gin (though there is in the tonic)

Tabloids take aim at sugar content in gins

Gin fans have been on a bit of a rollercoaster ride the last few days. Yes, we’re in the midst of Negroni Week (more on that shortly). That’s always a winner. But we’ve also seen a raft of press coverage around the unexpectedly high sugar content in gin – with contemporary pink gins very much highlighted (just have a search on social if you want to see the article(s)). Whether you would just rather not know, or reckon that being well-informed is the best course of action (the side we come down on), there was a WHOLE load of chatter. Pinkster Gin even weighed in. “The report on sugar levels in flavoured gins makes for disturbing reading as many gin-lovers will simply have no idea that they’re playing sugar roulette,” said MD Stephen Marsh, stressing that there’s no added sugar in its production. That Boutique-y Gin Company was also in the social spotlight for its ‘no added sugar’ claim when Chocolate Orange Gin went viral. Do you care whether or not your gin has added sugar? What about your tonic water? Or would you just rather kick back with a refreshing G&T and forget about all the nutritional deets? Let us know on social or in the comments below. 

 

Circolo Popolare

Circolo Popolare is Italian booze heaven

Circolo Popolare throws open its doors

We love a good shindig at MoM Towers, so when we were invited to the launch night of new Italian bar and restaurant Circolo Popolare, we knew we were in for a treat. The save-the-date said there was 400 litres of spritz to get through, for goodness sake! What we weren’t quite prepped for was the exuberance of the flower-filled space, the chandeliers, the general opulence. This is a Sicilian embassy in the middle of Fitzrovia, complete with a terrace! The banquet was incredible – if the initial impression of the burrata, pizza and gelato is anything to go by, one could happily feast there for days. And there was a Negroni bar (a tip-top way to celebrate Negroni week). AND the alabaster walls were lined with 20,000 bottles of Italian spirits! No need for a passport, Circolo Popolare brings all the celebratory summer vibes we need. London folk: get in there quick. 

 

Smooth AmblerJPG

This is what’s known as a ‘cookout’

Smooth Ambler Cookout comes to London

Diaries out, folks 4 July is approaching, and US whiskey brand Smooth Ambler is determined to get Londoners in the mood for all things Americana. On Sunday, the Smooth Ambler Cookout is coming to East London! Strongroom Bar’s outdoor terrace is playing host, and guests can expect bourbon, bluegrass and barbeque food aplenty. So what is a ‘cookout’? Basically it’s the word for the whole event – we Brits might refer to the whole shebang a ‘barbeque’, but in Smooth Amber’s West Virginia, a ‘cookout’ encompasses it all. Want in? Tickets are £10, and include a Smooth Ambler cocktail, and unlimited access (mmmmmm, unlimited access) to the barbeque from 3-5pm. More info is available here. Time to start working up an appetite!

 

Kraken's Perfect Storm,

Kraken’s Perfect Storm, frankly it looks terrifying

Kraken Rum launches restaurant inside a thunderstorm! (Literally)

You’ve heard of 4D cinemas, but how about a 4D dining experience? The Kraken Black Spiced Rum has taken the phrase ‘cooking up a storm’ quite literally to the next level, with a brand new immersive 4D restaurant where you are, indeed, inside a storm. It’s called ‘Dining in a Perfect Storm’, inspired by the tumultuous waters home to the mythical Kraken. You’ll be subjected to state-of-the-art technology, recreating extreme stormy weather indoors. Expect real rainfall (1,000 litres of rain will fall from the ceiling every minute), howling cyclonic winds, flashes of lightning and booming thunder. You’ll be given a raincoat, though perhaps skip on the blow-dry for this dinner date. It all sounds rather intense, though we’ve been assured that The Kraken cocktails are best without a hefty serving of rain water, so perhaps it’s not as bad as it sounds. After the worst of the (indoor) weather, slightly damp diners will enter the ‘eye of the storm’, where the winds drop and the rains subside. Luckily it’s during this time that dinner is served, with a jet-black menu of dishes crafted using naturally black ingredients and natural black food colouring, with options such as squid ink linguini or even The Kraken black ice cream. Better be snappy though, it’s only running for two days on 12 and 13 July. 

 

Tokyo Mule at Kurabu

Tokyo Mule at Kurabu

Cocktails at Chelsea’s Kurabu

There’s a new addition to Chelsea’s plethora of cocktail bars and restaurants; we headed over to Kurabu (which means clubhouse in Japanese) at Dinings SW3. Up on the mezzanine, it’s cosy and modern while still retaining a somewhat traditional feel. We started the evening with the super floral and delicate Kurabu Spritz, containing Umeshu plum sake, Tio Pepe Fino sherry, rhubarb, cardamom and R de Ruinart Brut. Quite literally perfect for a summer’s evening. Then there was the super zesty Haru Gimlet, with Roku Gin, lemongrass, elderflower, ginger and fresh lime. It must be said, the food was also exquisite. The standout dishes for us were the fabulously innovative Crispy Rice, deep fried sushi rice with fish tartare alongside, and the deliciously decadent Mini Buns, homemade and soft steamed burger buns filled with either teriyaki wagyu beef or shrimp tempura dressed with spicy sweet chilli and sesame. Truly mouthwatering. We then finished with a Kurabu Negroni (well, it is Negroni week after all) and a delicious Tsuyo Old Fashioned with Nikka From Barrel, chocolate bitters and fig leaf liqueur. Truly outstanding drinks, and while the Tokyo Mule also caught our eye, with Hennessy VSOP, MUYU Vetiver Gris and blueberry shrubs, topped up with ginger beer, you can’t have ‘em all. We’ll try them all one day!

 

Balcones Single Malt - Batch 2 - 3 Year Old (That Boutique-y Whisky Company) (1)

Balcones – wonderfully experimental

Balcones Distilling launches legendary Texas independent bottlings

In exciting whiskey news, four fabulous new bottlings have been announced, the products of a partnership between the wonderfully experimental Balcones Distilling in Texas and That Boutique-y Whisky Company. As you would expect, they’re wonderfully experimental. Firstly, there’s the first batch of  Balcones Two Year Old, a two-year-old single malt finished in a Balcones brimstone cask, said to have notes of smoky bacon, hickory, mesquite and camp fires. Then,  Balcones Three Year Old, and this single malt that has been part-aged in a Tequila cask for 24 months. Super exciting and interesting stuff. Finally, there’s  Balcones Two Year Old, another single malt spirit, though this one has been finished in an oloroso sherry cask, making it the third sherry cask matured single malt from Balcones. Dave Worthington, That Boutique-y Whisky Company’s brand ambassador stated, “Balcones has a special place in my heart as the first ever whisky festival I worked was for Balcones, so I’m so happy to see some of their Texan spirits wrapped up in our Boutique-y labels. Y’all gonna love this y’all (in my best Texas accent).” Finally, there’s also a mysterious fourth spirit which has yet to be released, made exclusively from Balcones’ signature corn grain, blue corn. You’ll have to wait until September for this one, though, which has been finished in Pedro Ximénez casks. “We are delighted to partner with our friends at That Boutique-y Whisky Company to release these rare and special spirits, all of which are a nod to our passion for exploration and testing the waters of what’s possible,” said Balcones’ head distiller, Jared Himstedt. “We wanted to share some single casks that showcase some of our fun experiments and finishes, alongside the versatility of our blue corn spirit, which we’ve not release in sherry casks before.” Oh, and would you look at that, the first three bottlings are available at your favourite online retailer right now! (That’s us, by the way.)

 

 

And finally. . . Moretti launches Deliver-A-Nonna, an Italian grandmother delivered to your door

Wouldn’t it be great if you when you were hungry an Italian grandmother would turn up at your house and cook for you? So much better than Deliveroo. Well, dream no longer because next month Birra Moretti is launching ‘Deliver-A-Nonna’. This will operate between 22 and 27 July in Brighton and London. Izabela Glodek from the Italian beer company said: “Our team of nonne will be ready and waiting to jump in to their Moretti motors and head to people’s houses to cook up a storm this July.  Our knowledgeable nonne will not only provide a delicious feast but also pass on valuable skills and recipes that have been around for generations inspiring people to get together for home cooked meals around the dinner table more often.” I wonder if they’ll do the washing up as well. You will be able to sign up from 7 July for a chance to have a real Italian grandmother delivered to your door. Mamma mia! Or maybe that should be nonna mia!

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The Nightcap: 21 June

Record-breaking distillery visits, 100 years of the Negroni, and Sex on the Beach – it’s all here in the latest edition of The Nightcap! It’s sunny outside. Not that fake…

Record-breaking distillery visits, 100 years of the Negroni, and Sex on the Beach – it’s all here in the latest edition of The Nightcap!

It’s sunny outside. Not that fake ‘sunny but when to step outside you’ll curse the sky for tricking you into leaving a jacket indoors’ kind of sunny. It’s actually warm. Frankly, it’s taking all the power in our hearts to not distractedly write “MILPOOL” on the blog and scamper off into the sun, ice-cream in hand. Do you know why we’re so determined? Because it’s Nightcap day, and you people deserve to know all the stories that happened this week in the booze world. But just know that some of us may have been wearing big, floppy sun hats while putting this blog post together.

On the blog this week our Fèis Ìle 2019 coverage continued as we put your questions to Port Ellen, Lagavulin, Bruichladdich, Caol Ila and Laphroaig. Elsewhere, we announced the winner to our Teeling #BagThisBottle competition, while Nate Brown used his guest column to champion the art of slow drinking. Annie had a busy week, discovering the joys of urban foraging with Bushmills, kegged cocktails and Tequila and tonic. Adam then made J.J. Corry The Battalion, an Irish whiskey with mezcal and Tequila cask influence, the New Arrival of the Week, before Henry chose The Bronx to be our Cocktail of the Week.

Now, let’s take a look at the news!

The Nightcap

There are now 68 Scotch whisky visitor centres open to the public and you had plenty of fun checking them out!

Scotch whisky distillery visits top record 2 million

Did you visit a Scotch whisky distillery last year? If so, you’ve officially helped to set a new record! The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has just released its annual report which shows distillery visitor numbers soared by 6.1% year on year, pushing the total count to more than two million for the first time. That’s a lot of us seeking out Scotch! It’s good news for distilleries, too: the average spend at each one climbed by 12.2% to a combined total of £68.3 million – that’s a lot of whisky, branded Glencairns, hats, cheeses and the like. More than 20 different nationalities were Scotchland-bound last year, with the most whisky tourists coming from Germany and the US. Numbers were up from France, Spain, the Netherlands, India and China, too. As a whole, Scotch distilleries are the third most-visited attraction in all Scotland. “We’re delighted that Scotch whisky distilleries have become such popular places to visit,” said Karen Betts, the SWA’s chief exec. “The growing number of visitors to distilleries reflects in part the growth in tourism in Scotland in general, and people coming to Scotland want to see our local crafts and sample our local food and drink.” She continued: “Distilleries offer something of an antidote to today’s fast-paced world, where visitors can see the slow, careful craft, rooted in a distinct sense of place, that creates Scotch whisky. The growth in whisky tourism is also playing a crucial role in Scotland’s rural economy, with more stays at hotels, more bookings at restaurants, and more customers for local businesses, helping communities to grow and prosper.” Which is your favourite distillery to visit? Where’s top of your dream travel itinerary? Let us know in social or in the comments below!

The Nightcap

Scott McCroskie, Edrington chief executive

Highland Park-owner Edrington celebrates “strong” year

Edrington, which produces and sells the likes of The Macallan, Highland Park, The Glenrothes and The Famous Grouse whiskies, as well as Brugal rum, has released its financial results for the year. And the bean counters are happy! Core revenues from its products climbed by 9% to £679.8 million, while it spent an extra 7% on brand investments (to the tune of £137.3m). The all-important profits were up 4% on 2018 (quite a big deal really when you consider the £140 million cost of that distillery build). Most brands are doing well, with Highland Park and The Glenrothes recognised for their “strong” growth. While The Famous Grouse posted some declines, Edrington said in a statement it increased its market share in a number of places, including the UK. But Brugal was really the star performer, posting “double-digit” growth, mostly through successes in its native Dominican Republic. “The business has delivered strong international growth that reflects continuing consumer demand for our products, particularly in China, South East Asia and the USA, which is the world’s largest market for premium spirits,” noted Scott McCroskie, Edrington chief executive. All systems go at Edrington!

The Nightcap

Congratulations, Cameron!

Cameron Attfield named Diageo Reserve World Class GB

This week, Diageo bestowed the title of Diageo Reserve’s World Class Bartender of the Year 2019 upon Cameron Attfield of Disrepute, London. The competition spanned two days, and the first challenge saw competitors showcase a British ingredient through techniques of flavour extraction or manipulation, creating a serve with Ketel One Vodka as the base spirit. The second challenge required a Singleton whisky serve taking inspiration from a chosen country, using ideas of travel and adventure for the drink. Moving onto the second day, competitors had the chance to take over the World Class bar at Taste of London for the final challenge, the speed round. Let us tell you, it is speedy indeed, with the task of making a round of five cocktails for the judges in just four short minutes. Just imagine if it was always that quick to secure a cocktail! Each serve was drawn from fifteen bespoke World Class classics, ranging from a Don Julio Blanco Paloma to a Bulleit Bourbon Boulevardier. Just to mix things up, one of the five drinks was also selected by an audience member, while the bartenders were asked to tailor the drink to them. Now that’s a true test of audience engagement and hospitality. “We’re absolutely delighted to crown Cameron World Class GB Bartender of the Year 2019 and have every faith in a fantastic performance at this year’s Global Final in Glasgow,” said Jack Sotti, World Class GB Brand Ambassador at Diageo Reserve. Attfield himself added: “I’m over the moon to be crowned this year’s 2019 World Class GB winner. But, it’s not over yet and now my focus will turn to preparing to represent Great Britain in the global final in Glasgow – game on!” Huge congrats, Cameron!

The Nightcap

Swift Bar’s Bobby Hiddleston creating a wood smoke cocktail

Ardbeg launches Masters of Smoke programme

Islay distillery Ardbeg has kicked off a new global campaign to spread the good word about the “delicious possibilities” of smoke. Named Masters of Smoke, the bartender education initiative will deliver training designed to break down the science of smoke with help from a whole range of experts, from barley maltsters to barbecue chefs. We were lucky enough to attend the launch event, which was really something (and, obviously, held in a room filled with smoke). Each component part of the smoke was broken down into a category, including medicinal, coal, herbal, savoury and wood, with each getting their own stand to show off a prepared cocktail and food pairing. It was delightful stuff; you might even go as far to say it was ‘smokin’’ The Mask style (we stand by this joke). “Whisky lovers have long appreciated the peaty power of Ardbeg, but we think there’s an opportunity to further explore the intricacies of smoke as a flavour,” said Ludo Ducrocq, Ardbeg education and advocacy director. “Through Masters of Smoke, we hope to spread the word about the delicious possibilities of smoke through rich, in-depth training which is really rooted in science. From Port Ellen, to Portland, we want to unleash the power and potential of smoke in the on-trade, working with bartenders worldwide to lead a glorious smoky revolution.” Masters of Smoke training sessions will begin from September 2019 and bartenders can register their interest at ardbeg.com/en-gb/mos.

The Nightcap

An artist’s impression of the revamped Clynelish Distillery

Planning permission granted for Clynelish visitor centre

Exciting times at Clynelish as planning permission has been granted for the expansion of visitor facilities at the distillery. This is part of Diageo’s £150m investment in Scottish whisky tourism and as a key part in the Johnnie Walker blend, Clynelish is a natural choice to grow visitor numbers. It sits next to the legendary Brora distillery that Diageo is bringing back into production, so a visit to this part of Scotland will soon be a must for whisky lovers. Jacqueline James-Bow from the distillery said: “This announcement is very exciting and we wish to thank the Highland Council and all our neighbours for their continued support.” Other parts of Diageo’s master plan for whisky tourism include a flagship Johnnie Walker experience in Edinburgh and upgraded facilities at 12 distilleries in total. Clynelish, along with Cardhu, Caol Ila, and Glenkinchie, has been chosen to represent “the four corners of Scotland”, Highland, Speyside, Islay and Lowland. That’s some responsibility.

The Nightcap

London’s Coral Room created an exclusive Negroni menu

The on-trade marks 100 years of the Negroni

In case you haven’t heard, Monday 24 June begins the most exciting week of the year: it’s Negroni Week, of course! What were you thinking? Celebrations are taking place all over the world – unfortunately, we can’t cover them all, so we’ve picked three of our favourites. Firstly, London’s Coral Room has teamed up with Italian dry gin VII Hills to create an exclusive Negroni menu, complete with seven serves. Of course, you can grab a Negroni Classico, or if you’re fancying a twist then perhaps the Negroni Tropicale is for you (it combines coconut and dried pineapple-infused VII Hills Gin with Italicus Rosolio di Bergamatto and Chazalettes Extra Dry). Meanwhile, L’oscar’s The Baptist Bar is launching the Homage to Negroni cocktail menu based around L’oscar’s attributes: Passionate, Theatrical, Bohemian, Seductive and Lavish. The five serves include the Bohemian Americano, made with yoghurt-washed Classic Bitter, Seedlip Spice, Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, soda and bay leaves; as well as the Lavish Cardinale, with VII Hills gin, Campari, Procrastination (you can bottle that stuff?), and Cardinale wine finished off with a beet rim. They are the creation of head bartender Luca Rapetti, and the even better news is that these cocktails aren’t just available for Negroni Week but until the end of 2019! Finally, Giuseppe Gallo’s Italspirits has created the Negroni Experience, a four day pop up at Six Storeys in Soho, London, from 23-26 June. Names such as Martini Riserva Speciale, Italicus Rosolio di Bergamotto, Amaro Montenegro, VII Hills Gin (again!) and Peroni have come together for the event, complete with cocktails masterclasses. There’s also a tasting flight inspired by the Italian flag, sporting a classic, a white and a green version of the cocktail. An entire seven days dedicated to the iconic Negroni, aren’t we lucky?

The Nightcap

There’s plenty to see, including the new Bulleit Visitor Experience Cocktail Bar

Bulleit opens newest visitor experience on The Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Next week will see the opening of a brand spanking new visitor centre for Kentucky’s Bulleit Distilling Co.. From 25 June, it will be the 17th stop on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, and the 11,570-square-foot site will boast an immersive and intense multi-sensory tasting experience, complete with olfactory balls and a timed light-and-soundscape to enhance the whiskey flavours. Reassuringly, the new centre is also heavily focused on sustainability, having partnered with Oceanic Global to ensure the tasting experience and cocktail bar aligns with The Oceanic Standard (TOS), committed to eliminating single-use plastics. There’s also an organic cocktail garden developed in partnership with The University of Kentucky, to integrate local and sustainable ingredients and garnishes for the in-house cocktail bar. What’s more, the distillery has committed to sourcing 100% renewable electricity by 2030 and is home to the first industrial solar array in Shelby County, which runs most on-site exterior lighting. It even boasts an eco-friendly, green fuel-powered graffiti bus for the Visitor Experience Tour. “We wanted the Bulleit Distilling Co. Visitor Experience to be reflective of our approach to flipping the script on the whiskey category by curating an immersive, personalised consumer journey steeped in design, technology and of course, our delicious family of high rye whiskeys,” said Sophie Kelly, Sr. Vice President of Whisk(e)y at Diageo North America. What exciting news, an interactive visitor centre which is kind to the environment!

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Ruth Spivey, the founder of Wine Car Boot

Take your dog wine tasting as Wine Car Boot returns to London

Think wine tastings are all about spittoons, white tablecloths and red trousers? Well, think again because Wine Car Boot is back this summer. Now in its seventh year, Wine Car Boot was invented by wine impresario Ruth Spivey in 2013 as a way of introducing interesting wines and merchants to the general public in an informal manner. This summer there are three events, Saturday 29 June, Saturday 17 August (both at Coal Drops Yard near King’s Cross Station) and Saturday 14 September (at the Bloomberg Arcade in the City of London). There’s not just wine from quality merchants such as Berry Bros. & Rudd and the Sampler, but also beers from London breweries like Redchurch and exciting liqueurs from south London’s finest, Asterley Bros. Entry is free, though you do have to pay for tasters. Children and especially dogs are welcome.

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The swanky new Macallan Boutique at Dubai International Airport

The Macallan launches distillery-inspired Boutique series in Dubai

Fancy heading to The Macallan distillery but not up in Scotland? Well, something similar could be coming to an airport near you (or your holiday destination). The single malt Scotch brand has kicked off a programme of fancy new Boutiques with a shiny store at Dubai International Airport, in partnership with Le Clos. It’s the first in a “multi-million-pound investment” that will see the brand open a number of stand-alone stores and experiences around the globe. Everything from the architecture to the materials used in the construction and even in-store features are inspired by the mega £140 million new distillery that opened in Speyside last year. But back to Dubai. There’s an oak lattice centrepiece which echoes the distillery roof, display cases that give a museumy vibe, and it’s all super-sleekly done. And, as well as all the posh bottlings you might expect, there are Boutique-exclusive expressions, too. “It has been a year since we opened the doors of our new distillery and visitor experience, which was one of the most exciting moments in our history as a brand,” said Suzy Smith, Edrington Global Travel Retail managing director. “The next chapter in our story is the launch of our Boutique programme, which will bring whisky-lovers across the world even closer to our home on Speyside. Each store will be a gateway to the world of The Macallan, from the stunning cinematography of the Easter Elchies estate to the exceptional whisky available to taste.” Dubai not on your itinerary? We’ve got a whole bunch of Macallans right here!

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SEMrush provided the world with this vital data. Sex on the Beach? C’mon people!

And finally. . . the British are searching for Sex on the Beach, the cocktail that is

Data analytics company SEMrush has released figures for the most searched for cocktails last month and they make interesting reading. Tied in first place are the Manhattan and the Cosmopolitan with 135,000 searches each. Sounds like the ‘Sex and the City’ favourite is back (or maybe it never went away; it’s been joint number one all year). Looking at those yearly figures, the Old Fashioned spikes in December and January but then drops out of the top five in May, suggesting that it’s a winter cocktail. Whereas more summery serves, like the Americano and the Sex on the Beach, have moved up the league table in May. In fact, when you look at the stats for the UK on its own, Sex on the Beach moves up to the number one slot in May. We are so classy!

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Unusual Scotch ahoy! SWA widens permissible cask types

Good news if you like your Scotch on the esoteric side of things, or felt the rules on cask maturation were too restrictive. The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has announced…

Good news if you like your Scotch on the esoteric side of things, or felt the rules on cask maturation were too restrictive. The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has announced a broadening of allowable cask types, and the changes are already in law!

If you thought the days of ‘innovation’ in whisky solely referring to cask types were over, think again. The floodgates are about to open: the legal requirements for Scotch have been amended to include more cask types, and we sense there’s a wave of experimentation about to hit the warehouse shelves.

Essentially, there is now a list of casks that distilleries can’t use. Before, whisky-makers could only use casks types that came with evidence of ‘traditional use’ in the industry – a pretty vague definition that left many scratching their heads.

The rules now state that:

The spirit must be matured in new oak casks and/or in oak casks which have only been used to mature wine (still or fortified) and/or beer/ale and/or spirits with the exception of:

  • wine, beer/ale or spirits produced from, or made with, stone fruits
  • beer/ale to which fruit, flavouring or sweetening has been added after fermentation
  • spirits to which fruit, flavouring or sweetening has been added after distillation

and where such previous maturation is part of the traditional processes for those wines, beers/ales or spirits.

It’s an exciting development, and one that opens up possibilities for the likes of Tequila and mezcal cask finishing, and even experiments with things like Baijiu, Calvados and some fruit spirits (none of those with pesky stones, though). It means that previously unreleasable experiments (or those that simply couldn’t be labelled ‘Scotch’) may now see the light of day. It’s really is a big development.

There is a note of caution in the Technical File, however:

Regardless of the type of cask used, the resulting product must have the traditional colour, taste and aroma characteristics of Scotch whisky.

So no lurid colours or out-there aromas – the rules do still set out a standard expectation for Scotch whisky, which should keep more traditional folks happy, too.

SWA’s chief exec days the new rules provide ‘clarity and some additional flexibility’

The move comes after a consultation with the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (aka, DEFRA), the official Technical File has been updated, passed through the European Commission, and is now law.  

“This amendment provides clarity and some additional flexibility on the range of casks in which Scotch whisky can be matured,” said Karen Betts, SWA chief exec. “The change is consistent with Scotch whisky’s heritage and traditions, and strengthens our foundations into the future.”

Alan Park, legal director at the SWA, added: “The global reputation for the quality and origin of Scotch whisky has been built over many decades, aided by strong legal protection. The legal requirements are vital to protecting the reputation and quality of the world’s premier spirit which millions around the world know and love.

“A wide range of wine, beer and spirit casks have been used over the years to mature Scotch whisky and clarity about what is allowed under the law should be provided in the Scotch Whisky Technical File.

“The amendment is consistent with the continued use of all those categories of casks where there is evidence of longstanding traditional use in the industry. But it will also create more flexibility, particularly in the range of spirits casks which can be used, subject to a number of safeguards which protect the reputation of Scotch whisky.”

What do you think about the development? Is there a type of whisky maturation or finish you’d like to see? Are you worried that the traditions of Scotch whisky are being eroded? Let us know in the comments below, or on social.

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The Nightcap: 14 June

Cheesemongers, distillery expansions and cucumbers – all this and more in the latest edition of The Nightcap! Right, before we get to the usual incredibly tangential reference that somehow links…

Cheesemongers, distillery expansions and cucumbers – all this and more in the latest edition of The Nightcap!

Right, before we get to the usual incredibly tangential reference that somehow links our weekly round-up of booze news stories to something like aliens being late for a dentist appointment or whatever, we figured we’d just remind you yet again that Father’s Day is this weekend. You haven’t forgotten to get that father figure of yours a present like some of us, have you? (Don’t ask how we did that while continuing to shout about Father’s Day, we have no idea). If you’re in the UK, check our weekend delivery options for your address in the checkout if you have forgotten and send some superb spirits to your dad! Anyway, you ever meet an alien who’s late for a dentist appointment? Me neither. Aliens don’t have teeth. You know what they do have, though? An appreciation for the latest stories from the world of drinks!

On the blog this week we launched a new #BagThisBottle competition where the prize is the delightful and delicious Teeling 24 Year Old – Vintage Reserve Collection! Ian Buxton then talked whisky and honours in his guest column in light of Johnnie Walker master blender Dr Jim Beveridge receiving an OBE, while Kristy reported on the news that Diageo’s €25 million Roe & Co whiskey distillery has started production in Dublin. Annie had a busy week, starting by looking at booze from celebrities who are less ‘Who’s Who’ and more ‘Who? No, seriously, who?’, as well as ways to combine your cuppa with a cocktail and pair whisky with food. Elsewhere, Henry spoke to Karyn Noble about her Global Distillery Tour book, made Fortunella Golden Orange liqueur our New Arrival of the Week, and The Mellow Yellow our Cocktail of the Week, while Adam sat down for a chat with Wild Turkey’s master distiller Eddie Russell.

On with the news!

Buffalo Trace ‘marches ahead’ with huge distillery expansion

Did you know Buffalo Trace Distillery was investing an enormous US$1.2 billion in its distillery? Yep, to counter stock issues, the producer has been on it. The whopping project started back in 2016 and has already seen the construction of four new barrel warehouses and a $50 million bottling hall that’s almost finished. Next up? Three more warehouses (insulated and heated during winter months for prime maturation conditions); a new cooling tower to manage the temperature of the mash; four new 92,000 fermenters, and new handling equipment in the dry house. The visitor centre is also primed for expansion after a record 231,523 passed through the distillery gates in 2018. Phew. “We’ve been increasing production for many years now. We’ll fill more barrels this year than ever before in our 246-year history,” said senior marketing director, Kris Comstock. “Many of our bourbons are aged for eight years or more, so although we have far more than a decade ago, demand continues to outpace our supply of mature bourbon. There will be more available every year, but it will be a while before bottles are readily available on liquor store shelves. While we’re flattered these brands have become so popular, we do understand the frustration our fans are experiencing when they see empty store shelves. We promise we are doing everything we can, but we can’t speed up the ageing process, so we just ask for continued patience.” We reckon it’ll be worth waiting for.

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Fords Gin joins impressive range of spirits at Brown-Foreman

Brown-Forman to acquire Fords Gin

The Brown-Forman Corporation announced this week that it has reached a definitive agreement to purchase The 86 Company which will add Fords Gin to a growing portfolio that includes brands like Jack Daniel’s, Woodford Reserve and GlenDronach. The 86 Company’s Simon Ford and 8th generation master distiller Charles Maxwell of Thames Distillers created Fords Gin together using a blend of nine botanicals including juniper, coriander seeds, lemon, bitter orange, grapefruit, cassia, angelica, jasmine and orris root. Pleasingly, Ford and The 86 Company team will remain in key roles building and crafting of Fords Gin. “Brown-Forman is a great partner to bring Fords Gin to more bartenders and consumers in the U.S. and around the world while keeping our commitment to producing a unique, high quality, mixable gin,” said Simon Ford, “We’re extremely thankful to all our supporters who have been championing the brand since the beginning and look forward to seeing what the future holds with our new collaborators.” Lawson Whiting, president and CEO of Brown-Forman, added: “Fords Gin is a unique brand with terrific momentum in one of the fastest growing categories in spirits. We look forward to building Fords Gin into another iconic brand in our portfolio.” The purchase is subject to ‘customary closing conditions’ (if they don’t ask for a replica of Scrooge McDuck’s Money Bin from DuckTales it’s a wasted opportunity) and is expected to be completed within 30 days.

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Edrington-Beam Suntory’s Bowmore Distillery is one of many who will enjoy this news

Raise a dram! Whisky is set to grow by 6% by 2022

The Edrington-Beam Suntory UK soothsayers have been hard at work: the company has just published its Whisky Yearbook, and the numbers make compelling reading. According to those running the sums, the UK whisky category will be worth a whopping £2.44 billion by 2022, up by more than 6% on 2018 levels. More specifically, an increase in “accessibly priced” expressions will propel Scotch single malt growth by more than 11%, while American whiskey is expected to climb by almost 8%. But it’s “emergent” sub-categories that are primed to soar. The value of Irish whiskey as a whole is projected to advance by almost 21% to 2022, with single grain predicted to explode by a whopping 96%. Japanese whisky can expect a 44% boom, while Canadian whisky, from the smallest base of the four, is set to see a 36% increase. “Irish and single grain whiskies have been real success stories over the past twelve months – sharing rapid growth on an already strong base of both volume and value in the market,” said Mark Riley, Edrington-Beam Suntory UK MD. “We expect both to play a greater role in shaping the wider market in the coming years. The supply challenges that have arguably held back growth in Japanese and Canadian whiskies have eased. While there remains a challenge securing enough liquid from leading brands from both nations to satisfy UK demand, there is far greater supply forecast and we predict we will see growth as a result.” More whisky to go around? Tip top news indeed! Let’s hope the number of consumers continues to grow too.

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Eight Lands Organic Speyside Gin and Eight Lands Organic Speyside Vodka

Eight Lands organic Speyside Gin and Vodka launches

The newly-built Glenrinnes Distillery has announced the launch of its first products: Eight Lands Organic Speyside Gin and Eight Lands Organic Speyside Vodka, both made from 100% organic ingredients and Speyside spring water. Eight Lands, set at the foot of the Ben Rinnes mountain in Speyside and named after the eight different counties that are visible from its top on a clear day, is a family-owned and run business developed by the father and stepson team of Alasdair Locke and Alex Christou. The purpose-built 5,400 sq/ft distillery contains a bespoke 1,000-litre pot still and a two ten-plate rectifying columns built by local specialists, but there are currently no plans to make whisky as the team wants to focus on making quality white spirits. Speaking of which, Eight Lands’ first gin will be a London Dry with a juniper-forward profile which is complemented by locally-foraged botanicals, while its vodka was made using organic barley and wheat, a combination of pot and column stills and an unusual two-stage fermentation process. Both are available directly from the distillery and its website (www.eight-lands.com). “I genuinely believe that we have created something special with our organic vodka and gin, and I’m really proud of the team at the distillery for the hard work and passion that they have put into this,” Christou commented. “We have ambitious plans to build the Eight Lands brand globally in the months ahead and I know that my family and our production team are incredibly excited about sharing our spirits with both the UK and other markets.” Glenrinnes Distillery is open for tours and tastings with the distillery team, so go check it out for yourselves, folks! We’ll be doing the same thing very, very soon…

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Only ten bottles of this stuff are available outside Mexico,

World’s most expensive Tequila (probably) goes on sale in London hotels

Only ten bottles of Maestro Dobel 50 1•9•6•7 Extra Añejo Tequila are available outside Mexico, and Master of Malt got to try one. It might be the world’s swankiest Tequila, it is certainly extremely expensive. Just a measure will set you back around £200. The other nine bottles (sorry, we finished the tenth with help from assembled bartenders and journalists) will go to some of London’s choicest hotels: the Lanesborough, the Rosewood, the Mandarin Oriental and the Connaught where they will sit “the shelf just above the top shelf”, as brand ambassador Oliver Pergl put it. So why is it so expensive? Well, it is extremely rare but it’s not 50 years old. It was created for the 50th birthday of Juan Domingo Beckmann (born in 1967), from the family who own Jose Cuervo, who started the Maestro Dobel brand. It’s a blend of five to seven-year-old spirits aged in a mixture of new American and French oak, blended and finished in sherry casks, though heavy hints were dropped that it contains some much older spirits from Beckman’s private cellar. It certainly tasted extremely mature and opulent, very creamy and smooth with dried fruit sherry cask notes. At times it was like a Cognac, sometimes like an old Latin American rum, but always with that vegetal agave note as the spine. The Maestro Dobel 50 demonstrates a mastery of wood that would impress a Scotch whisky blender. We were lucky enough to drink it alongside a feast especially designed to go with Tequila by Brazilian chef Rafael Cagali from Da Terra in Bethnal Green. So, if you’ve just sold your screenplay to Steven Soderbergh, we’d recommend you give it a go. But if you haven’t, which is most of us, the Maestro Dobel Diamante is pretty delicious too.

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There are few sites more beautiful than this

St-Rémy Brandy launches collaboration with cheesemonger Rodolphe Le Meunier

We all know the joys of a classic cheese and wine pairing (if you don’t, remedy this situation immediately), but how many of us realise how well cheese goes with brandy? Well, we certainly do here at MoM Towers, thanks to the French brandy experts St-Remy, who kindly invited us to enjoy them both at Le Pont de la Tour in London last night in the company of Neil Ridley and Joel Harrison, St-Rémy’s master blender Cécile Roudaut and international cheesemonger (amazing job title) Rodolphe Le Meunier. He’s a big cheese in the world of, err… cheese, having received awards such as Meilleur Ouvrier de France (Best Craftsman of France) and Meilleur Fromager International (Best International Cheese Maker) in 2005 and 2007 for his milk-curdling work and recently setting a Guinness World Record for the largest ever cheeseboard (imagine the party that night). The gastronomic collaboration was brought to life by Roudaut and Le Meunier, who worked closely to distinguish the perfect pairings, developing delights such as St-Rémy XO paired with Old Mimolette (superb), St-Rémy XO with wood-smoked goat cheese (inspired) and St-Rémy VSOP with Swiss Gruyere (I would happily murder a human person for more of it). “France is well-known for its diversity of cheeses, but up until now, nobody has thought to associate them with brandy. It’s truly an entirely new tasting experience,” Roudaut said. “Working with a ‘World’s Best Cheesemonger’ as well as ‘One of the Best Craftsmen of France’ has been a fantastic experience. Rodolphe isn’t any ordinary cheesemonger. I’ve discovered in him someone extremely creative, and so full of ideas. It was really exciting to work on associating cheese with St-Rémy brandies.”

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It would have been rude not to have a sample, or two…

MoM tastes Bimber Distillery’s upcoming expressions

We had a little nose around London’s Bimber Distillery this week in the name of brand new whisky, with a tour from brand ambassador Lukasz. The distillery was founded in 2015 by Dariusz Plazewski, a third-generation Polish moonshiner; Bimber is actually the Polish word for moonshine. We arrived just in time to catch spirit coming straight off the two direct-fired copper pot stills, Doris and Astraea. We started off by trying both peated and non-peated new make spirit, both of which weighed in at around 60% ABV! Hardcore. Although it was surprisingly easy to drink, little surprise that Jim Murray scored it 96.5 in his bible. Then, very excitingly, we previewed three of the single malt whiskies which are expected to be released in September this year. There was the sweet, vanilla and toffee heavy Re-Charred Cask, super Christmassy Sherry Cask and tropical fruit-filled Bourbon Cask. Each expression was somebody’s favourite, and they were all delicious. We even got a sneaky taste of Fortunella liqueur and Da Hong Pao Tea Gin, just for good measure, and life is all about balance, right? This truly is a craft distillery with everything done by hand, including the labelling and bottling. Not an automated machine in sight. It’s an incredibly exciting time for this relatively small distillery, having recently launched its Founder’s Club and just months away from its first London single malt. Watch this space!

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Movies & Malts: a perfect combination

Laphroaig launches partnership with Picturehouse Cinemas

Picture this: Laphroaig has launched a collaboration with cinema network Picturehouse Cinemas. The partnership plans to push the Islay distillery’s profile to a host of new consumers as part of the brand’s ‘Opinions Welcome’ campaign, which invites people to discuss and share their opinions of the distinctive whisky. A very brave thing to do in this time of internet comment sections (everyone who writes on ours is lovely, of course). Previous opinions include “the perfect gift for someone you love or hate… or haven’t made your mind up about” and “smells like medicine. Tastes like soil. My whisky of choice”. The collaboration will entail #OpinionsWelcome content and advertisements shown on-screen. But the really cool part? Laphroaig will be available to be sampled by cinema-goers who visit the 25 Picturehouse venues across the UK and bar staff will receive training in all things Laphroaig so they can create cocktails like the Popcorn Old Fashioned or a Laphroaig & Ginger. A peaty dram/cocktail while watching a film? The people’s voice (or maybe just mine) has finally been heard. “Partnering with Picturehouse Cinemas is a fantastic opportunity for Laphroaig as it gives us the chance to put our much-loved but divisive whisky into the glasses of new consumers, encouraging them to share their unique thoughts,” Nick Ganich, head of Beam Suntory Brands at Edrington-Beam Suntory UK said. “Cinema always stokes healthy debate, so it felt the ideal match to include Laphroaig, which instils similarly strong but divided opinion. Luckily, we welcome them all and we can’t wait to hear what people think.” The partnership between Laphroaig and Picturehouse Cinemas will start in June 2019 and continue throughout the year.

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The flagship bottling is a 1994 vintage Springbank, aged in an antique ex-sherry hogshead

Douglas Laing unveils Super-Premium XOP ‘The Black Series’

Douglas Laing has been busy, as this week it revealed a brand spanking new extension to the Xtra Old Particular range. Behold, XOP The Black Series. The flagship cask in the series is a 1994 vintage Springbank, aged in an antique ex-sherry hogshead and bottled at cask strength, 47.7% ABV over 24 years later. According to Douglas Laing, the bottles house “dark fruited, subtly smoked, leathery and chocolatey spirit within”. It sports quite the decadent packaging too, with a monochrome scheme alongside gold foil detail. Each bottle is hand-filled with an embossed metallised label, glass stopper and even the signatures of Fred and Cara Laing, and, naturally, comes in a luxurious black moleskin case with a certificate of authenticity. Regarding the new series, Cara Laing, director of whisky, noted: “The maiden release in this new Single Cask Series certainly sets an exceptionally high benchmark for future bottlings, and we are poised to rise to that challenge!” Considering that, we eagerly await future bottlings. The 1994 Springbank is expected to retail for £800 throughout Europe and Asia, so definitely keep a lookout on your favourite online retailer. Mind you, there are only 148 bottles, so you’d better be snappy.

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You’ll have to get down there yourselves to see the brand ambassadors dressed in ‘cucumber collectors’ outfits

And finally… Hendrick’s goes bananas for World Cucumber Day

Whereas most gin brands get behind World Gin Day (8 June) or National Martini Day (19 June), for Hendrick’s it’s all about World Cucumber Day on 14 June, that’s today! At airports around the world including Changi, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Schiphol, Frankfurt, Munich, Barcelona, Madrid, Dubai, Dublin, Istanbul, Vienna, Brussels, São Paulo, JFK, Bogota, Rio and IGL Canada, Hendricks will be putting on eccentric displays to celebrate its signature botanical and garnish. There will be cucumbers specimens displayed in special jars, as well as gifts when you buy a bottle of Hendricks and interactive experiences. Oooh modern! The thing that really caught our eye, however, was the promise of Hendrick’s brand ambassadors dressed up in special ‘cucumber collectors’ safari outfits complete with ‘cucumber collector catchers’ ie. nets. Sounds completely bananas, sorry, cucumbers.

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Roe & Co kicks off Irish whiskey production

Exciting news out of Ireland – Diageo’s €25 million Roe & Co whiskey distillery has started production in Dublin! Located inside the former Guinness Power Station at St James Gate,…

Exciting news out of Ireland – Diageo’s €25 million Roe & Co whiskey distillery has started production in Dublin!

Located inside the former Guinness Power Station at St James Gate, Roe & Co houses three copper stills, which will run both double and triple distillation.

Up until now, the Roe & Co blend has been developed by master blender Caroline Martin, who used fruity malt whiskey blended with grain, matured in first-fill ex-bourbon casks.

The new site will produce 14,000 litres of malt spirit each run, up to an annual maximum capacity of 500,000 litres each year. In all, the distillery will provide direct employment for 18 people.

On opening, Roe & Coe becomes Ireland’s 27th operational whiskey distillery – at the start of the decade there were just four.

The building housing the distillery was renovated to offer an industrial feel. The vibe is reflected through all kinds of design elements, from the staff uniforms, to a contemporary tiki illustration on the barware, based on the original pear tree which stood in the grounds since the 17th century.

Roe & Co

Roe & Co opens to visitors next week

Roe & Co will open to visitors later this month, with guests treated to an immersive, 75-minute experience spanning Irish whiskey history, the old power station building, and of course, the operational distillery, which can be viewed from an elevated glass walkway.

Visitors can explore whiskey blending in Room 106, while in the Flavours Workshop they can experience sweet, sour, bitter, salt and umami flavours to work out their preferred cocktail profile. Meanwhile, the Power House Bar will offer seasonal signature serves based on Roe & Co and Irish wildflowers, made with home-grown ingredients. Tours cost €25 per guest, including a whiskey taster, flavours workshop and complimentary cocktail.

The launch of the distillery has been led by an all-female team, including Gráinne Wafer, Roe & Co global brand director; Caroline Martin, Diageo’s master blender; Lora Hemy, Roe & Co’s head distiller; Fiona Sheridan, Roe & Co’s assistant distiller; Tanya Clarke, general manager Diageo Reserve and Incubation Brands; Hayley Millner, marketing manager, Roe & Co Irish Whiskey; and Shannon Green, project engineer.

“Our master blender, Caroline Martin began the journey of reimagining Irish whiskey, but we didn’t stop the reinvention there,” said Wafer.

“Today we are launching a state-of-the-art distillery and experience like no other, led by our extremely talented distiller, Lora Hemy. This boutique experience, which will have a maximum of 16 guests per tour, will ensure visitors can get up close and personal with our remarkable distillery and whiskey, focusing on the five pillars of flavour.”

Inside Ireland’s 27th whiskey distillery

Speaking at a lunch to officially open the distillery, Diageo CEO, Ivan Menezes, added: “I am proud to be standing here today in one of the most iconic buildings of the Dublin skyline, which has been reimagined and regenerated into this world-class distillery and experience for Roe & Co.

“I am proud that we are here because of Diageo’s most valuable assets, its employees. We encourage them to be the best they can, to achieve great things, to be inclusive and diverse. We have focused on gender and today you see the progress we’ve made, because we are here now in this Roe & Co Irish whiskey distillery and experience because of the amazing team of talented women. You should be so proud, Gráinne, Lora, Fiona, Caroline, Tanya, Shannon and Hayley.”

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The Nightcap: 7 June

As we recover from another outstanding Fèis Ìle, the influx of booze news flowed in as usual – it’s The Nightcap! It’s Friday again, and, like always, we’ve got a…

As we recover from another outstanding Fèis Ìle, the influx of booze news flowed in as usual – it’s The Nightcap!

It’s Friday again, and, like always, we’ve got a fresh batch of news stories from the world of booze ready for you to drink up as we enter summer. That’s right, it’s summer already and, of course, it’s raining. But we won’t let that dampen our spirits, it’s the weekend for goodness sake! And we’re going to start this weekend the same way we always do. With another smashing edition of The Nightcap!

On the blog this week Jake regaled us with tales from Ardbeg, Bunnahabhain and Jura as Fèis Ìle 2019 concluded, while our June 2019 dram club also launched. Adam then found some fab treats to spoil the old man with on Father’s Day, Jess explored the world of fermented tea drinks with her New Arrival of the Week and Nate Brown played a game of booze-branding buzzword bingo in his guest column. Annie explained why the right glassware matters before casting her eye over 10 bottlings created with a chef’s sensibilities, while Henry met with the queen of rum, Joy Spence, enjoyed a Talisker video masterclass and picked The Toasted Nut Boulevardier as his Cocktail of the Week.

Now, to the news!

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Interesting times for Loch Lomond

Loch Lomond sold to Asian investment firm in $500m deal

Big Scotch whisky news! The Loch Lomond Group will be sold to Hillhouse Capital Management, an investment firm with offices in Beijing, Hong Kong, Singapore and New York. The distillery is unique in Scotland in producing its own single malt and single grain whiskies; it also produces the Glen Scotia whisky, Glen’s vodka and Ben Lomond gin. The distillery, which had been in the hands of the Bulloch family since 1834, was acquired in 2014 by UK-based Exponent Private Equity who very successfully concentrated on the export market. Overseas sales went up from 10% to 70% of business. The new owners are now looking to capitalise on this especially in the Asian market. Wei Cao, partner at Hillhouse Capital, said: “We are so excited to help Loch Lomond realise the potential of its outstanding brands in huge new consumer markets, such as Asia.” The deal is still to be finalised but is said by Scottish Field to be worth somewhere in the region of $500m. The current distillery’s management headed up by Colin Matthews will stay in place and will keep a minority stake in the business. Matthews commented: “Over the past five years we are proud to have transformed the Loch Lomond Group into a premium international spirits business with a strong focus on innovation and a portfolio of award-winning brands.” We look forward to seeing what comes next from one of Scotland’s most idiosyncratic distilleries.

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The US allowing these little guys is great news for small European distillers

America may allow 70cl bottles – huge news for small European distillers

Good news from America! You don’t often hear that one. The TTB (Tax and Trade Bureau), the people who regulate alcohol among other things, are proposing to change the rules on bottle sizes for spirits. In a move that smacks of good old-fashioned common sense, the release says, “TTB is proposing to eliminate all but minimum and maximum standards of fill for distilled spirits containers in order to provide industry members greater flexibility in production and sourcing of containers, and provide consumers broader purchasing options.” At the moment full-size spirit bottles have to be 75cl as opposed to 70cl in the European Union, so producers have to produce two separate bottlings. No problem, of course, for Diageo but prohibitively expensive for smaller producers. If this proposal goes through, and that’s a big if, then it could potentially open up the American market to some boutique spirits. If the EU would reciprocate to allow 75cl spirit bottles, or maybe just agree on a common standard, what a wonderful world it could be.

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No fancy packaging here

Glenlivet 1946 goes under the hammer in Chiswick

In these days of hand-blown decanters, boxes inlaid with mother-of-pearl and specially-commissioned books, it’s nice to be reminded of a simpler time when whisky just came in a bottle with a plain label on. Take the Glenlivet 1946 that’s going under the hammer at Chiswick Auctions wine and spirits sale on 11 June. It was distilled when rationing was still going on after the war, only a tiny amount was allowed to be made for the export market. Most would have been sold as soon as possible but some were kept in cask and bottled by Gordon & MacPhail of Elgin in the 1980s, so this is a roughly 40-year-old whisky. It’s been sourced by the new wine and spirits team at Chiswick Auctions Sam Hellyer, Chris Burr and Christopher Cooper. Look at that admittedly not terribly good label and compare it with the recent 50 Year Old Winchester Collection release from The Glenlivet. The latter will set you back $25,000 whereas this 1946 is only expected to sell for £800-1000. You don’t get a fancy box, but you do get a slice of history and at that price, someone might even drink it.

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A delightfully pink taste of history

Drink the original Pink Gin this World Gin Day with Angostura Bitters

Unless you’ve been living under a very large rock, you’ve probably noticed a little trend called pink gin. However, in reality, these sweet and fruity tipples are a far cry from the very first pink gin to pass our lips, which was created courtesy of Angostura bitters. As the story goes, back in 1824, Dr J.G.B Siegert created Angostura bitters as a kind of healing elixir for soldiers fighting in Venezuela. At the time, it was safer to drink alcohol on ships, as stagnant water was a rather perilous affair. Would you believe it, it took a whole 24 years for someone to mix these bitters with gin! It was in the year 1848 when a Royal Navy surgeon added the bitters to try and help with seasickness. Luckily, this happy accident of mixology also coincided with the rise of cocktail culture in the 1850s. The sailors returned from sea, and brought with them Pinkers, as they now affectionately called this pink gin. Health concerns went out the window and people simply loved the taste of it. Seeing as it’s World Gin Day this weekend, why not have a taste of history and make your own Pinkers? Tastes even better if you can find a ship to drink it on, though it’s not essential.

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Caskshare allows whisky lovers to reserve ‘shares’ of whisky casks from their favourite distilleries

Craft Whisky Club launches Caskshare

It goes without saying that anything which makes whisky more accessible is most definitely a Good Thing. So, great news for whisky geeks this week, as Craft Whisky Club (part of Edinburgh based whisky-technology company Uisge Tech Ltd) announced the launch of Caskshare. In a nutshell, Caskshare allows whisky lovers to reserve ‘shares’ of whisky casks from their favourite distilleries, and once matured the single cask bottlings will be sent directly to the lucky recipient – or as Caskshare calls them, ‘shareholders’. This is a brilliant new initiative, described as Crowdfunding for whisky casks, which will hopefully allow consumers to explore and buy a whole host of cask variations without breaking the bank. The first casks to feature on the platform are from the Raasay Distillery, and you can choose to age either your peated or unpeated spirit in ex-bourbon, Chinquapin (a type of oak native to North America) virgin oak, or Bordeaux red wine casks. Such choice! The first bottling will be ready in 2022, after its required three years of ageing. “Caskshare offers whisky fans a way to get closer to their favourite distilleries and wood types”, says co-founder David Nicol. “What’s more, you don’t need to part with the vast sums of money required to purchase a full cask.” It’s said that a few new distilleries are set to join Caskshare in the next few months, and these won’t just be limited to Scotland, so keep your eyes peeled!

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A record-breaking rum!

Wray & Nephew President’s Reserve breaks rum auction record fetching £31,500

A very rare Wray & Nephew rum has set a new world record for an individual bottle of rum sold at auction after it fetched £31,500 (just under $40,000). “We had high hopes for this stunning bottle but with so little sales history to reference it was difficult to predict how it might perform,” said Iain McClune, director at Whisky Auctioneer. “I think it is fair to say that it has exceeded expectations, however, the price achieved is more than deserving considering the historical significance and incredible rarity of this rum”. J. Wray & Nephew President’s Reserve rum, the fourth of 12 bottles created, went on sale in Whisky Auctioneer’s inaugural Rum Auction last month. The rum, which contains liquid from 1906, honours US president Ronald Reagan and his first and only visit to Jamaica in April 1982. The label bears the late president’s seal, and it is believed that two bottles were presented to Reagan with further bottles given to dignitaries and industry professionals in attendance during the visit. This particular bottle is thought to be the only known example to have come into the secondary market, with another bottle previously selling for £1,213 (US$1,542) at a Bonhams auction in New York in 2013. A representative from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum said: “The first family received this wonderful gift commemorating their trip to Jamaica in April 1982. The bottle that we have is #1 and bears the Great Seal of the United States. The current locations of the remaining bottles are not known.” More than 50 bids from across the world were made for the historic bottling, with the winning bid coming from Italy. It’s sickening, isn’t it? There’s a person out there who gets to drink rare rum and live in Italy. Life isn’t fair. Anyway, we digress. . . The President’s Reserve was one of more than 600 rums sold in the auction and wasn’t the only big hitter. A pair of casks from the closed Caroni distillery in Trinidad fetched £25,000 (US$31,793) each.

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It’s hard to say what was better, the cocktails or the view!

London in the Sky with Cocchi

We headed down – or should we say up – to North Greenwich to London in the Sky for a spritz masterclass with Team Cocchi. London in the Sky is, in essence, a great big table on a crane which rises 100 feet into the air, giving you truly some stellar views of the Big Smoke while you sip. For those of you who think that may sound slightly hellish, fear not, as you’re securely strapped into a seat which looks a little like one you would find in a racing car – super safe. Once we had risen above the O2 Arena, we made (and tasted) four cocktails. First up was the Cocchi Rosa Spritz, made with Cocchi Rosa, tonic, fresh strawberries and basil, full of bittersweet pink berry notes. Next, a Cocchi Rosa Negroni, a take on the classic made with Cocchi Rosa, Pink Pepper Gin and Campari. Then, we moved (metaphorically) into the evening with the Vermouth di Torino Spritz, combining Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, rosemary and olive tonic water and a fresh sprig of rosemary. This was less fruity, and brought more of a spicy note, hence why it was more of an evening drink. Finally, a classic Negroni graced the floating table, made with Sipsmith gin, Campari and, of course, Cocchi Vermouth di Torino. If a spritz in the sky sounds good to you, then you’ll be thrilled to hear that Cocchi Spritzes are permanently on the menu for all of London in the Sky’s flights. However, the best part is, that with each cocktail only containing three ingredients, these are simple drinks to make, whether you’re 100 feet in the air over Canary Wharf, or just relaxing in your garden.

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A week of Negronis? We’re in

Campari unveils #N100, a week devoted to the Negroni

This year it’s the hundredth anniversary of that fateful day when a barman in Florence accidentally poured gin into Count Camillo Negroni’s Americano (a mixture of Campari and vermouth) instead of soda water, and created a classic. Or so the story goes (we’ll be looking into the drink’s history very soon). As you can imagine we’re quite excited, but not as excited as Campari: the Milanese company is launching #N100, over a week of events around Britain to celebrate the Count and his creation. It begins at the Vinyl Factory in London on 20 June and continues into Negroni Week beginning 22 June with events in Edinburgh, Manchester and London. To spice things up a little, the venues won’t just be offering the standard Negroni. At Hoot the Redeemer in Edinburgh, for example, you’ll be able to try the tastefully-named Skagliato made with Campari, Irn Bru and Buckfast! Sounds fierce. It looks like June is going to be sweet this year, and really really bitter.

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Gold has just opened on Portobello Road and we’re all very excited to see how they do

Notting Hill bar Gold opens in a blaze of talent

A swanky new bar and restaurant that goes by the name of Gold opened on Portobello Road this week. The new venture has drawn quite the host of talent, with head chef Theo Hill of The River Café, and front of house team Alex Ghalleb of Pizza East and Arez Akgundogdu of Soho House. The drinks don’t look bad either: Gold’s unique cocktail menu has been put together by Weapons and Toys, aka. Matt Whiley and Rich Woods, the fellas behind Hackney’s Scout. It’s already off to a flying (and talented) start. So, what to expect? Raw bohemian decor, with exposed brickwork, lots of indoor trees and the like, colourful seasonal sharing plates inspired by local produce and uncomplicated, delicious cocktails. All the cocktails look delicious, but we’re pretty sure we’d be hard pressed to choose between the Market Stall Spritz, comprised of raspberry-infused Hennessey brandy, crème de cacao, sweet tomato shrub, rosé and soda, or the Baklava Fizz, combining Don Julio Tequila, fig shrub, London honey, almond milk and soda. Gold will span over four floors, and will even boast a garden room with a retractable roof, perfect as we began our descent into summer. With such a great team in place, we can’t wait to see what other seasons will bring.

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Yep. That’s a shoe. With a cocktail inside

And finally. . . . a cocktail served in a shoe

Cocktail silly season has arrived in London early this year as the Ace Hotel announces a new cocktail menu at the Lobby Bar. The two that caught our eye were the Bangers and Daq’s, a Daiquiri with a salami (yes real salami, not some sort of dried fruit fangled to look like salami) and red wine twist, and the Drella’s Milk Punch, made from cornflake milk and vodka which sounds like the sort of thing Ozzy Osborne would have had for breakfast. However, these beverages are paragons of classical good taste in comparison with what the people from Filipino joint, Romulo Cafe in Kensington, are serving. It’s called the Imelda and it’s been designed in honour of former first lady of the Philippines, Imelda Marcos, who was famed for having a lot of shoes when most of her people didn’t have a lot to eat. The cocktail contains Stolichnaya vodka, crème de framboise, crème de mure and strawberry puree, and served, naturally, in a shoe. It’s all done in the best possible taste!

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