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Master of Malt Blog

Category: News

The Nightcap: 21 May

Bob Dylan gets collaborative, Annandale invites you to be a distiller for a day and a puppy finds gainful employment in whisky in another smashing edition of The Nightcap. Happy…

Bob Dylan gets collaborative, Annandale invites you to be a distiller for a day and a puppy finds gainful employment in whisky in another smashing edition of The Nightcap.

Happy Friday everyone. We hope you all got to spend some time inside one of the many fine hospitality venues and had a nice drink away from all the wind and rain. While there’s something reassuringly British about somebody trying to sip from a pint glass while they get battered by a storm, I think we all agree that things are better this way. Inside it’s warm, there’s music and there’s wi-fi so you can load the latest version of The Nightcap, settle in and enjoy. That sounds lovely, doesn’t it? Good thing we’ve got another new edition to read. Here it is.

People who love a good competition will have been delighted to see us launch a brand new one with Redbreast. Just find the golden cork and you can win a bottle of Redbreast Dream Cask whiskey! If gin and vodka are more your speed, then make sure you throw your hat in the ring for a chance to win a VIP trip to the Boatyard Distillery. Elsewhere, we welcomed the news that Brora is back (!) after 38 long years, understood how distilleries have coped launching during Covid, and asked 10 drinks industry experts what they were toasting the grand reopening with. We also heard from Sandy Hyslop on the art of blending whisky and Jon Darby on how to create a brand as unique as Sin Gusano while enjoying five great gins from around the world, a delicious bottle of Argentine red, and a cocktail that brings together bourbon and cider.

Don’t forget to join us on the Clubhouse App at 3pm where you can hear us greedily feast on another week of brilliantly boozy stories and embrace our inner mixologist by insisting on the joy of a whisky cocktail. Now, to The Nightcap!

The Nightcap: 21 May

This dram comes Bob Dylan approved

Heaven’s Door and Redbreast make whiskey together

Clearly, Redbreast Irish Whiskey felt it wasn’t on the blog enough this week what with our new Dream Cask competition and so revealed that it has teamed up with Bob Dylan’s Heaven’s Door whiskey for the first time. The collaboration has produced a limited-edition 10-year-old straight bourbon finished in Redbreast Single Pot Still Casks for 15 months called The Master Blenders’ Edition, in honour of the two people who hold the role at Heaven’s Door and Redbreast respectively, Ryan Perry and Billy Leighton. Apparently, Dylan too is actively involved, sampling over a dozen blends before settling on the final selection. Leighton says the legend is a “perfectionist” who “knows his whiskey”. Dylan also created a new gate design in his Black Buffalo Ironworks studio, which was nice of him. The press release believes the end result of this Irish-American marriage is a taste profile “unlike any American whiskey” which Perry says “blew them away”. We’ve been told to expect plenty of nuts, spice, and leather, as well as the influence of “sherry, citrus, dark fruit, and a subtle sweetness of Yellow Man from the Redbreast casks”. The Master Blenders’ Edition is being released in the U.S. for Father’s Day but will also be available in limited quantities in September in the UK and Ireland. Be warned folks: once it’s gone, it is gone for good.

The Nightcap: 21 May

Fancy running things around here for a day? Now’s your chance.

Become a distiller for the day with Annandale

Have you ever dreamed about being a Scotch whisky distiller, even just for a day? Well, now you might just get to live the dream thanks to Annandale. The independent distillery in Dumfries and Galloway, which was first established in 1836 and ‘reborn’ in 2014, is giving people the chance to do just that after listing on Airbnb this summer. The stay is available on the site as part of a new campaign to encourage people to visit the Scottish Lowlands and promises an “immersive two-night stay” in which guests will shadow Annandale’s distillery team and sleep in cottages next to the distillery site. And this isn’t simply pressing a button or tasting a sample at the end. You’ll actually witness each stage of the process, from meeting the malt delivery, to milling and mashing the barley, fermentation, firing up the stills, and filling the casks. Thrown in is a whisky tasting and evening meal at The Globe Inn, Dumfries, a historic pub dating back to 1610 and once frequented by Robert Burns, with two chefs with Michelin star experience at the helm. Plus when you check out you’ll get a bottle of Annandale’s Single Malt Scotch Whisky. And the knowledge of exactly how much work and love goes into making whisky. The stay will be available to book for £480 for two people and you can see which dates are available when you visit airbnb.com/annandaledistillery.

The Nightcap: 21 May

Last Drop hasn’t made its own booze before, so this is quite the entrance

Last Drop Distillers launches first signature blend 

You might remember The Last Drop Distillers was gearing up to create all kinds of delicious booze. Well, the first of the impressive new signature blends range has been unveiled. The creatively titled The Last Drop 50-Year-Old Signature Blended Scotch Whisky was made by esteemed master blender Colin J.P. Scott, who presumably put all his knowledge and experience to good work. He joined Last Drop after a distinguished career with more than 50 years at Chivas Brothers as one of the six founding members of The Assembly, although to put this whisky into context this is just the second 50-year-old blend he’s made in nearly half a century in the industry. The release, just the 22nd in The Last Drop’s history, marks the brand’s first foray into the creation, as well as curation. The whisky began as a new distillate of single malts and grains, which were filled into sherry and bourbon casks more than 50 years ago. But few will get to taste it sadly because as you can imagine for a whisky this old and prestigious, there’s not a lot of it (just 500 bottles worldwide) and it will cost you an arm and a leg (priced at RRP £3,250). Scott says he’s “immensely proud both of the complexity of the whisky and of its significance: as The Last Drop’s first Signature Blend, and as my inaugural release with them”. He adds that he “sincerely hope everyone who tastes it will take as much pleasure in this whisky as I did in blending it.”

The Nightcap: 21 May

Lots of mead awaits if you’ve got what it takes

Help bees, grow sunflowers, win mead

As we’re sure you’re aware, yesterday, 20 May, was World Bee Day. To celebrate these magical pollinating honey-making little creatures, Gosnells Mead, distributed thousands of packets of sunflower seeds across Peckham in south London. The idea is that ‘guerilla gardeners’ plant them in all sorts of places to help bees. And also sunflowers look splendid too. As the founder of London’s only mead producer Tom Gosnell put it: “There are so many patches of bare earth in cities just waiting to be loved, and we hope that our packs will bring an irregular army of smiling sunflowers to urban Peckham and beyond.” He went on to say: “We are doing our bit to enrich biodiversity, something we started in April by making our new Mead Garden & Bar into a flowering jungle. It is a pretty unlikely sight in an industrial estate in Peckham SE15: And now, we’ll be giving out thousands of sunflower planting kits to the likes of community groups, churches, local gardens, shops and care homes.” What’s more, Gosnells is happy to send seeds to people in the UK to grow their own sunflowers. The person who grows the tallest will win the height of the flower in Gosnell’s cans. What a prize! Let’s hope we get some sunshine. 

New #LooksLikeGuinness advert makes us want a pint

England’s pubs opened fully this week and to celebrate/cash-in Guinness unveiled a new campaign called #LooksLikeGuinness. The 40-second advert is based on how when you want a pint, everything from socks on a washing line, to a white cat napping on a black bin looks like a pint of Guinness. The song playing is, naturally, ‘Always on my Mind’. Head of Guinness GB Neil Shah commented: “We want to do all that we can to make sure that the opening week of indoor hospitality is as successful as it can be. We’re pleased to be able to mark this momentous occasion with the #LooksLikeGuinness campaign – the reopening of the pubs has been a long time coming but as we say at Guinness, ‘Good things Come to those who wait’” The advert was created by Jack Watts and James Cambridge at ad agency AMV BBDO, and we think it’s a worthy successor to the great Guinness adverts of old.  Just watch it because it will make you smile and make you want a pint of Guinness – so job done ad people.

The Nightcap: 21 May

Get yourself off the grid. Just as soon as you, errr.. go online first

Go off-grid with Shackleton whisky

We don’t know about you, but being permanently online as many of us have been in the past year has been exhausting. Wouldn’t it be nice to go somewhere with no Twitter, email, Slack, Zoom, Instagram, spreadsheets, Clubhouse, or Whatsapp? Well, Shackleton whisky has the answer with its #GoOffGrid interactive map of the best off-grid destinations in the UK. From hidden caves in the Lake District to a shepherd’s hut on the Welsh hillside, these are places where there is no mobile reception or wifi. So you can switch off your phone, enjoy the company of friends and family, get back to nature or appreciate a fine whisky without having to post about it on Instagram. Kenny Nicholson from Shackleton Whisky explained: “After more than a year being stuck indoors, our need to get in touch with our adventurous side and to enjoy quality time with others has never been stronger. When we step outside and put our phones down, we free ourselves of distractions – and that’s why we wanted to build on the map and to give people some inspiration to have longer off-grid adventures through these staycations this year.” To launch the #GoOffGrid campaign, Shackleton is offering a prize for up to six people to stay at a mystery destination over the bank holiday weekend (28-30 May). Sadly, you do have to go online to enter, via the brand’s Instagram channel. If you want to see what you could win, Richard Rankin from Outlander visited the secret location and, erm, recorded his experiences on Instagram. Doesn’t that defeat the whole point of the exercise?

The Nightcap: 21 May

There’s some big brand beef to get stuck into this week

Bacardi avoids £51m claim in Brown-Forman lawsuit

There was some big brand drama in the news this week after a London court determined on Wednesday (19 May) that Bacardi UK has escaped a £51.5 million lawsuit raised by its former distribution partner Brown-Forman. The duo first formed a UK distribution alliance in 2002 and officially ended the relationship in April 2020, after 18 years, severing the alignment between the considerable portfolios which includes brands such as Bombay Sapphire gin (Bacardi) and Jack Daniel’s whiskey (Brown-Forman). In a written argument to the court, Brown-Forman stated the companies decided to go their own ways after Bacardi brought on a new global chief executive who sought structural changes and sued them citing payments owed from a cost-sharing agreement inked with a Bacardi subsidiary in 2016. The Bacardi subsidiary responded with its own cross-claim seeking remuneration for its work as a commercial agent. Now both claims will move forward to arbitration. So this isn’t over yet. Brown-Forman has declined to comment on the ruling, while a spokesperson from Bacardi told The Spirits Business the company was “pleased” with the court’s decision and that “the ruling demonstrates we have acted properly and with integrity”. We suspect this won’t be the last we hear of this.

The Nightcap: 21 May

Everyone, meet Rocco!

And finally… Girvan Distillery hires sniffer dog

News from Girvan Distillery emerged this week regarding possibly the most important story we’ll ever cover. The distillery has hired a dog. Yes, you read that correctly. The Ayrshire-based site does not have a new pet. It has an employee. One-year-old cocker spaniel Rocco has been brought in as a full-time sniffer dog, tasked with nosing any imperfections in wood used to make the distillery’s casks. He’ll then report back to his boss should he detect any issues with the barrels at the cooperage. And what would be his boss’ name, I hear you ask? Why, it’s associate global brand director Chris Wooff. The dog works for a guy called Mr. Wooff, folks. Speaking about the new appointment, Mr. Wooff (hahaha, how is this a real story?) said: “The sense of smell of a dog like Rocco is 40 times stronger than a human’s, and we’ve specially selected and trained Rocco to pick up the scent of anything that’s not quite right as the whisky matures.” Rocco was trained for the role for six months in Pembrokeshire by dog expert Stuart Phillips and reports suggest he is indeed a good boy. Team leader Lianne Noble says the atmosphere lifts wherever Rocco is working, and that people “can’t help but smile in his presence”, adding: “He’s a working dog rather than a workplace pet, so we have guidelines in place to make sure he doesn’t get disturbed when he’s taking a break between shifts, but the boost in morale has been a joy to see.” What a tremendous story this is, and it’s made us realise that it’s vital that we hire a dog as soon as possible. If you know any good candidates tell them to chuck a CV our way. We do require that the pup is toilet-trained and can shake and sit, however. So no timewasters.

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Brora is reborn: ‘ghost’ distillery fills first cask in 38 years

Today, Brora is reborn as the first cask in 38 years was filled. After a four year refurbishment to return the legendary Scotch whisky distillery to its condition in 1983, …

Today, Brora is reborn as the first cask in 38 years was filled. After a four year refurbishment to return the legendary Scotch whisky distillery to its condition in 1983,  Brora opens its gates and is once again distilling. 

At 11 o’ clock this morning, a slumbering giant reawoke. Yes, Brora is reborn as it opened its gates and filled its first cask. We would have been there, but Covid restrictions meant that the whole thing had to be done virtually.

Stewart Bowman rings bells

Brora is officially open

First cask filled since 1983

Still, there was not a dry eye in the house as various Diageo types waxed lyrical about the rebirth of Brora. The film starts with master distiller Stewart Bowman opening the famous wild cat gates at the distillery. He oversaw the filling of the first cask this morning and rolled it into Warehouse Number One, where the dwindling reserves of Brora single malt Scotch whisky are kept. The reborn distillery will produce around 800,000 litres a year and aims to be carbon neutral, powered entirely by on-site renewable energy.

It’s been quite a journey since we announced back in 2017 that Diageo was spending £35 million to reopen both Brora in the Highlands and Port Ellen on Islay. Unlike with Port Ellen where much of the distillery including the stills were destroyed when it closed, Brora had just been left to decay after it filled its final cask in 1983.

Archivist Joanne McKerchar explained, “When we first opened the doors at Brora we walked into a time capsule. As a historian and an archivist for malts, I had never seen anything like that before. It was unbelievable just how untouched it was: as if the guys had just finished their shift and walked out – but, of course, nobody then came back in.”

Painstaking restoration

Yet, it was far from a working distillery. The whole place has been completely refurbished to exactly recreate the conditions of the old Brora right down to the traditional rake and gear mash tun and is using malted barley from Glen Ord maltings, just as before. Stewart Bowman said: 

“We have gone to every effort to replicate, as closely as possible, the conditions, equipment and processes from Brora in 1983 in order to recreate the spirit for which the distillery is famous. The original pair of Brora stills travelled 200 miles across Scotland to Diageo Abercrombie Coppersmiths in Alloa where they were refurbished by hand; we raised up the original pagoda roof to conduct intricate repairs, and rebuilt the stillhouse brick-by-brick using original Brora stone to restore this historic Victorian distillery.” 

But the rebirth isn’t just about using the right equipment, as master blender Dr Jim Beveridge OBE explained: “When I heard of the plans to bring Brora back, I recalled tasting Brora stocks of the 1980s – one of my early jobs at Diageo many years ago. By sampling remaining old stocks of Brora and using historic tasting notes, we slowly built a picture. With my colleague Donna Anderson, we were able to make this vision of the liquid a reality by reverse-engineering the production process.”

Stewart Bowman and family at Brora

Stewart Bowman welcomes his father and two other old Brora hands back to the distillery

Family connections

So once again Brora is distilling. And it’s particularly fitting that Bowman is overseeing it all as his father was Brora’s last exciseman. He explained: “In 1983, my father wrote in an old distillery ledger ‘Commencement of Brora Distillery silent season (undetermined period)’. Growing up in the village we often wondered whether Brora would ever return, but today we filled the first cask. It is with great pride that I can now say to my father, the Brora community, and all the ‘old hands’ that worked at Brora and helped to craft a legendary whisky, that the stills are alive and we are making Brora spirit once again.”

All this misty-eyed romanticism can’t hide the fact that the reopened Brora should be extremely lucrative for Diageo, long before any whisky comes on the market. The distillery will be open to the public from July with two distillery tours available, one costing £300 or you could go for the premium option at £600. Ouch! A reflection of the value of the dwindling stocks of mature Brora. Then there’s the recently-released Triptych, a snip at £30,000. The whisky world has changed considerably since 1983.

 

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The Nightcap: 14 May

On The Nightcap: 14 May edition we’re raising a can for our grans, taking a look at some shiny new Welsh whisky developments and looking at the curious case of…

On The Nightcap: 14 May edition we’re raising a can for our grans, taking a look at some shiny new Welsh whisky developments and looking at the curious case of the Chernobyl apple brandy.

It’s a brave new world, folks. Today we’re going live with our first Master of Malt Clubhouse room at 3 pm. It’s called The Nightcap (because it wasn’t broke, so why fix it?) and we’ll be discussing all of the below and anything else that has caught our eye over the last week. Each week we’ll have special guests joining us to talk about another topic as well. Today it’s our wonderful former editor and now head of spirits at Fine and RareKristiane Sherry and Blair Bowman, drinks writer and founder of World Whisky Day (which is tomorrow). So, if you have the Clubhouse, just search for the Master of Malt club and join us for a fun afternoon of chat.

The MoM blog was as busy as ever this week as we launched a new competition with the fab folk at Zespri kiwis, featured a new contributor in the form of booze sage Richard Legg (who demystifies one of Japan’s lesser-known spirits) and we tackled some big issues such as chill-filtration and how distilleries can become more sustainable. We also celebrated the upcoming World Whisky Day with a range of delicious drams, a new spectacular Talisker release and a weighty cocktail. There was also time to enjoy a refreshing gin Spritz and to run the rule on our favourite bars with a view

Now, let’s get Nightcapping!

Aber Falls first whisky is here, or nearly here

Aber Falls first whisky is here, or nearly here

Aber Falls’ first whisky is (nearly) here!

We were fortunate enough to join an online tasting to try the much-anticipated first whisky release from Aber Falls. It’s North Wales’ first whisky in over 100 years. But not only did we get to try the whisky, more on that at the moment, but managing director James Wright was joined by top Welsh chef Ellis Barrie who cooked with Welsh ingredients. There was definitely a Welsh theme to the tasting so you won’t be surprised to learn that Aber Falls’ whisky is made from only Welsh barley. You can read about the whole process here. The first three-year-old release was aged in a combination of European oak first-fill PX casks with some virgin American oak. So far so conventional, but the team are also using some European oak casks that once held orange wine (a liqueur-like beverage made from oranges). The result is a young whisky that’s just packed with flavour. There’s a distinct orange and toffee note on the nose, a full body and it’s bottled at a nice punchy 46% ABV. Excitingly, there’s an all orange wine cask strength whisky on the horizon. Wright said the aim was to “put a bit of love in the glass, so when you try it everybody loves it.” The first release will be coming to Master of Malt soon but we don’t think it’s going to hang about for long as only 2,000 bottles have been filled. Keep watching that New Arrivals page.

The Nightcap: 14 May

You know it’s a Penderyn distillery when there’s a Faraday still there!

Penderyn opens new £5 Million distillery

A big week for Welsh whisky just got even bigger with the news that on Monday Penderyn will open the doors to its new £5 million Lloyds Street distillery in Llandudno, North Wales. The brand is expanding its operation with the opening of the second site, which has plenty of history. It’s housed in the Grade II listed Old Board School built in 1887 and receives natural spring water from a reservoir that once served the Victorian lighthouse on the Great Orme headland. But what whisky fans will be most excited to know is that it will be the first modern Welsh distillery to focus on creating peated single malt whisky. A new Faraday still (unique to Penderyn) has been installed too. The distillery is also a bonus for Wales’ modest whisky tourism scene, which might explain why the project was assisted by a £1.4 million Welsh Government grant from the ‘Tourism Investment Scheme’ and the ‘Food Business Investment scheme’. According to Penderyn Distillery’s CEO, Stephen Davies, while Penderyn has always had a “loyal following in North Wales, with the South separated from the North by mountains and lakes, Penderyn has finally brought the country together”. He added, “By opening in Llandudno, visited by 9.6 million tourists every year, we’re saying ‘Welcome home to Wales and to Penderyn’. Tours of Penderyn’s new distillery in Lloyd Street, Llandudno will commence from the 1st June 2021 and once everything is truly back up and running, expects to invite about 60,000 visitors a year. We’d love to be one of them.

The Nightcap: 14 May

Chivas Brothers employs a lot of staff across its multiple distilleries, like Strathisla

Chivas Brothers faces strike action

A dispute over pay has led workers at Chivas Brothers to vote in favour of industrial action after talks between the unions and the distiller collapsed. The GMB and Unite unions claim Chivas’ parent company, Pernod Ricard, has been unwilling to lift a pay freeze in Scotland while awarding pay rises to its workers in France earlier this year. Strike action could begin before the end of May, unless Chivas came up with an improved offer, with 84.4% of members backing strike action and 92.7% supporting action short of a strike. The situation wasn’t exactly helped by Pernod Ricard announcing promising financial results at the end of April. Scotland union organiser Keir Greenaway said: “Chivas workers across Scotland have kept the profits rolling in throughout this pandemic, but also against the headwinds of Brexit and a tariffs war with the US. They deserve much better than a real-terms pay cut.” The Scotch whisky giant, whose brands include Glenlivet, Ballantine’s and Royal Salute, employs about 1,600 workers in Scotland, including at the Kilmalid bottling hall, Strathclyde Grain Distillery, Glenlivet and maturation sites in Speyside, Clydebank and Ayrshire. Chivas chairman and chief executive Jean-Christophe Coutures the firm is “deeply disappointed” with the move and that the current proposals are “fair”, and recognise the “hard work of our teams whilst responsibly managing our business for the years ahead”. He added the brand is committed to seeking a resolution. Let’s hope a satisfactory solution is found soon.

The Nightcap: 14 May

An artist’s impression of the revived Rosebank distillery

Rosebank seeking distillery manager

If you’re a fan of Scotch whisky, you’ll almost certainly know Ian Macleod Distillers (IMD). The third-generation family-owned whisky and spirits business owns brands such as Glengoyne, Tamdhu, Edinburgh Gin and Rosebank Distillery, which it bought in 2017, Since then the brand has been working hard on bringing the ‘King of the Lowlands’ back to life. Those plans are clearly accelerating as a job advert inviting people to apply for a new distillery manager was posted recently. The brand is looking for someone with experience, leadership and “an appetite and desire to support bringing personality and a human ‘face’, to our exquisite brand”. In the application, there’s a whole list of ‘key outputs’ and ‘role capabilities’ outlined, including the requirement for a degree level or equivalents such as BSc in Brewing and Distilling. “The distillery manager will be the production leader for our entire Rosebank site, and the success of the production at Rosebank will rest squarely on this person’s shoulders… what an exciting opportunity for an experienced distillery manager to bring back to life this beautiful spirit (well we think so anyway!).” You can apply here if you fancy throwing your hat in the ring, but we’d imagine this will be going to a name we all know. 

The Nightcap: 14 May

Grab a pint and celebrate our golden oldies!

Raise a can for your gran with Brixton Brewery

The pandemic put a strain on a great many services, as Age UK Lambeth knows all too well. Over lockdown, it saw a 233% growth in demand for its services, from 21,000 people to 70,000 people. To honour the key role the local charity plays and to raise money to help with future endeavours Brixton Brewery has created a new beer. The IPA, Generation Pale Ale, is a celebration of the older people, “who are as likely to enjoy a great night out in a pub with a pint as any young whippersnapper”. All proceeds are going to Age UK’s vital services and the beer has been officially approved by its members. The ingredients were donated to the brewery by Charles Faram Hop Merchants and Simpsons Malt to reduce costs and increase proceeds. The beer name and design feature a shopping trolley/boom box for “kickass grandmas and granddads”, and the campaign champions the many faces (and ages) of beer drinkers. Among them is Peter Beaumont, 68, who was model scouted at 65, and has worked with Vivienne Westwood and Vidur Dindayal, 86, who is aiming to pip Justin Bieber to top spot in the charts. Founder of Brixton Brewery Xochitl Benjamin said: “We wanted to create a beer for everyone, that could bring together people of all ages after a long lockdown, and pay tribute to the generation that has helped make Brixton one of the most diverse, inclusive and friendly communities in the country. Brixton wouldn’t be what it is today without them. Every can sold supports long lives well lived in our community.” To purchase Generation Pale Ale in aid of Age UK Lambeth, visit the Brixton Brewery website or head to their taproom in the heart of Brixton and get ready to raise a can for (or with) your gran!

The Nightcap: 14 May

Edrington and Beam Suntory have agreed to some significant swapsies

Beam Suntory and Edrington switch distribution firms

Big trade news came from Edrington and Beam Suntory this week, who have agreed to swap equity stakes in their jointly-owned distribution firms in the UK and Spain. An equity swap is essentially a transaction in which the obligations or debts of a company or individual are exchanged for something of equal value. Like that equity stuff. Lots of lovely, shiny equity. The move means The Macallan owner Edrington will take full ownership of Edrington-Beam Suntory UK, while Beam Suntory will become the owner of Maxxium Spain. The agreement is effective from 2 August 2021, subject to regulatory approval. The new agreement will see Edrington-Beam Suntory UK become Edrington UK Distribution, known as Edrington UK. Which is handy as the previous name was quite a mouthful. The press release reckons the move will allow both firms to “reduce complexity, improve agility, make decisive investments and expand opportunities for employees as both businesses become part of larger international companies”. Which are all good things. Right? This kind of marketing isn’t really our speed, to be honest. We do know that it’s great that when the deal is done Edrington will employ more than 1,200 people in the UK, mainly in Scotland, with 35 workers based in London. Folks who love a bit of trade detail will also note the deal marks the first time that Beam Suntory will have full ownership of its route to market in Spain. Hopefully, all this means we’ll have plenty of new and delicious booze to enjoy. Because that’s what we’re all in it for in the end.

The Nightcap: 14 May

200 bottles of wine were sunk off the Kent coast in the name of experimental ageing

English wine merchant ages wines underwater, for some reason

Last week it was wine aged in space, now it’s wine aged underwater. Is there no end to the craziness of the wine trade? This later venture is from online retailer The English Vine, no prizes for guessing its speciality. The company has sunk 200 bottles of wine including some from Ridgeview, Nyetimber and Chapel Down off the Kent coast. The idea is to see how ageing underwater affects the wines. They called in the help of the Whitstable Oyster Company to help get the gyrating palate of wine out to sea on 23 April. With wine sometimes recovered intact and drinkable from shipwrecks, there’s interest in how a dark, high-pressure environment might change the wines. Neil Walker, founder of The English Vine explained: “We were all inspired by the shipwreck Champagne bottle story and the underwater wine ageing process felt like something we wanted to investigate and really get to the bottom of. Is this a myth, or really something which could work? We can’t wait to get the results in spring 2022, whatever they may be, when we’ll have expert tasters and scientists working together to find out what it’s all about”. Walker is inspired in particular by a haul of Veuve Clicquot that spent 70 years beneath the Baltic before being recovered in 2010. We can’t help thinking, however, that only a year beneath the waves is not going to make a noticeable difference. Still great PR for The English Vine!

The Nightcap: 14 May

Whisky fans from Turriff to Tokyo to celebrate Speyside

Fans across the globe celebrate Spirit of Speyside festival

We think it’s fair to say the virtual Spirit of Speyside Festival which ran from 27 April to 2 May this year was a success. 688 guests from 15 countries from around the world logged into the online event, joining virtual booths hosted by distillery managers, brand ambassadors, and whisky experts to chat with like-minded whisky lovers. The festival saw 2,877 visits to the 20 available booths, with guests using a total of 2,254 emojis and enjoying drams from 836 tasting kits. Of all the events, Benriach’s ‘World of Flavour’ proved to be the top pick of the festival as global brand ambassador Stewart Buchanan led a tasting of the core range and gave views a sneak peek behind the scenes of the new visitor centre in Elgin. Virtual distillery tours were also high on the agenda for visitors, with tours of Benromach and Tamdhu distilleries being the second and third most popular events. “This year’s Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival might have been very different from years gone by, but the distilleries rallied to create one of our most engaging and internationally visited events in our 21-year history,” says James Campbell, chairman of the festival. “With guests from every corner of the globe from Australia to the Philippines, Canada, Germany, Mexico and across the UK, whisky lovers rubbed shoulders with some of the biggest names in the whisky industry”. We also attended a few events and very much enjoyed ourselves. Although we’re certainly still looking forward to being there in person when it runs again from 3-8 November 2021… . In real life! Imagine that.

Thomas Aske and Tristan Stephenson

Tristan Stephenson and Thomas Aske, they ain’t afraid of dragons

Whisky Me wows Dragon’s Den

A whisky subscription service looks set for the big time after it secured backing from all three ‘dragons’, Deborah Meaden, Peter Jones and Tej Lalvani, on BBC1’s Dragons’ Den this week. It’s called Whisky Me and it was set up in 2017 by drinks biz stalwarts Thomas Aske (Black Rock and other bars) and Tristan Stephenson (aka the Curious Bartender). When we spoke to Stephenson earlier this year, he said that business has been booming during lockdown so seeking outside investment was the logical next step. Meadon, Jones and Lalvani have taken 15% of the business in return for £75,000 worth of investment. Apparently, this is only the sixth time when all three ‘dragons’ (do we have to keep calling them ‘dragons’?) have come in on the same deal. Meaden praised the boys’ pitch, Peter Jones said he’d “been waiting for a great whisky business”, while Lalvani said that he shared “a passion for whisky with the guys.” So it sounds like a good fit. Stephenson commented: “We are incredibly excited to have three dragons on board. The expertise that Deborah, Peter and Tej bring to Whisky Me will help take the business to the next level, enabling us to further develop our UK market and expand the club internationally.” And Aske added: “We’ve seen a huge shift in the last year towards better drinking at home, which is a natural reaction to many of our favourite bars and pubs being closed. With this investment we can grow Whisky Me further, introducing amazing whisky to a bigger audience of curious drinkers everywhere.” Sounds like we haven’t heard the last of Whisky Me.

The Nightcap: 14 May

There’s no more than just castles in these rolling hills

Archaeologists find illegal whisky stills 

Archaeologists have discovered 30 sites that they believe were used to produce illegal whisky in Aberdeenshire and Wester Ross this week. According to the Evening Express, the illicit stills found at Mar Lodge and Torridon date back to the 19th century and would have produced whisky for smuggling, selling and stocking unlicensed private houses, known as shebeens. Researchers were able to use old accounts of excisemen to help them find the sites which were well-hidden in hills, deep in the countryside. “Landscape is absolutely key to the illicit distilling process – it provides barley and water as ingredients, and peat and timber for fuel, stone and turf to construct bothies,” says Derek Alexander, head archaeologist at the National Trust for Scotland. “But also the more broken-up and rugged the landscape the less easy it is to find where the bothies have been built and where equipment might be stored or hidden.” It’s Alexander’s belief that whole communities were involved with these illegal stills to spread the cost and minimise risks. It is also thought that, while 30 sites have been uncovered, hundreds more exist in those rolling hills. Let’s hope they find them and uncover their ancient secrets!

The Nightcap: 14 May

This might just be the most bonkers bottle ever featured on The Nightcap. And that’s going some.

And finally… Chernobyl brandy seized by authorities

A brandy made from apples grown near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant has been seized by Ukrainian authorities according to the BBC. It’s all a bit mysterious but it seems that it has been held up on its journey to the UK not because of its atomic provenance but for bureaucratic reasons. Professor Jim Smith from the Chernobyl Spirit Company commented: “It seems that they are accusing us of using forged Ukrainian excise stamps, but this doesn’t make sense since the bottles are for the UK market and are clearly labelled with valid UK excise stamps.” This isn’t the first time Prof. Smith has hit the headlines, as we reported on the release of Atomik Vodka back in 2019. According to Smith, it was made from “slightly contaminated” rye but after radioactivity levels are “below their limit of detection.” Chernobyl Spirit Company conducts research into whether the contaminated area about the plant can be used for safe agriculture and helps communities in Ukraine that are still affected by the economic consequences of the 1986 explosion. It seems though, that the team is not finding it easy to sell its atomic spirits. We cannot think why.

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The Nightcap: 7 May

It’s been a shorter week thanks to the Bank Holiday weekend but there still was plenty going in the world of drinks. It’s The Nightcap: 7 May edition! We hope…

It’s been a shorter week thanks to the Bank Holiday weekend but there still was plenty going in the world of drinks. It’s The Nightcap: 7 May edition!

We hope you all spent the long weekend as far away from office desks (or wherever you work) as possible, and are nice and refreshed. It went quickly though, didn’t it? We can’t believe it’s already Friday and time for a new Nightcap. It dawned on us while enjoying our time off that if the powers-that-be made every working week just four days, then there’d be numerous benefits. Chief of which would be that it would feel like The Nightcap had arrived surprisingly early every week. And what a treat that would be. Right? Anyway, let’s get on with it. 

On the MoM blog this week, we launched a new competition perfect for those who want to whip up some delicious Irish whiskey cocktails. We also had the pleasure of celebrating Dennis Malcolm’s incredible 60 years in the whisky business, enjoying an authentic English rum, some of the finest Mexican spirits for Cinco de Mayo, and a Tequila cocktail that celebrates the life of the late, great Tomas Estes. Elsewhere, Ian Buxton found out why you’re nowhere in the celeb world unless you’ve got your very own booze brand, Millie uncovered the divine truth behind the angel’s share and Lucy showed why English wineries should be high on your list of staycations options this year. 

The Nightcap: 7 May edition

This bottle honours the man who arguably did the most to put single malts on the map

Gordon & MacPhail launches 67-year-old whisky

If you love a bit of ultra-rare single malt coverage then you’ll be pleased to know Gordon & MacPhail has something very impressive for you to enjoy this week. It’s a 67-year-old Scotch whisky distilled on Christmas Eve 1953 that was matured in a single, first-fill sherry butt and bottled at a cask strength of 59.4% ABV, which is incredible given the age of the whisky. You might be wondering why Gordon and & MacPhail have bottled it now given this fact, but it’s because the company is currently enjoying its 125th anniversary and saw fit to honour the man who contributed arguably the most to the brand: George Urquhart. Known by whisky legend Charlie MacLean as the “father of single malt” or as ‘Mr. George’ to his friends, he oversaw the filling of this very special cask during a period in which he was busy championing Scotland’s single malts while most were concerned with supplying spirit for blends. Just 355 bottles are available of the Gordon & MacPhail Mr. George Legacy 1953, which was distilled at Glen Grant. Stephen Rankin, the grandson of ‘Mr. George’ and Gordon & MacPhail’s director of prestige, says Mr. George held a particular fondness for the Speyside distillery, adding that the new “Legacy series allows us to explore some of these stories, providing some exceptional whiskies in fitting tribute to ‘Mr. George’s’ life’s work.” So, expect more rare, single cask drams in the future. They’ll set you back a pretty penny (the RRP for this one is £5,000), but if Maclean seems to think it’s worth it, noting: “This is a remarkable whisky. It is full of the complexity that long maturation can bring, yet it remains astonishingly vivacious. Frankly, as good as it gets!”

The Nightcap: 7 May edition

The high life awaits…

Want to get paid $20k to drink Miller High Life beer?

If you’re a beer lover who would love to visit Milwaukee and pocket $20,000, then today is your lucky day. Because this week Miller High Life beer has announced that it is hiring for the role of ‘Champagne of Beers Region’ ambassador. You see, the beer brand is currently petitioning the Milwaukee Common Council to create an official Champagne of Beers region in Wisconsin. And Miller High Life believes that it will need an official ambassador to help champion this noble cause. The scarcely believable role comes with a year’s supply of free beer, some High Life swag, and an all-expenses-paid trip to explore The Champagne of Beers region in addition to the compensation package. The brand’s petition asks, “If Champagne can only come from Champagne, France, why is The Champagne of Beers any different? [erm, we can think of a couple of reasons] We’re petitioning the Milwaukee Common Council to establish an official Champagne of Beers region, and declare that only beers invented within its strict borders – around the Miller Brewery – will be considered The Champagne of Beers.”  Applications opened yesterday and to apply just head over to the website and explain in 50 words or less why you’d be the perfect ambassador.

The Nightcap: 7 May edition

Space wine will surely appeal to the kind of people who’ve got $1m spare

Christie’s selling first-ever space-aged Pétrus 2000

It seems there’s an awful lot of sending wine into space going on, but if you’ve ever wondered what the result of wine gracing the final frontier is then you’ve got a chance to find out now thanks to Christie’s. The auction house is selling a bottle of space-aged Pétrus 2000, which spent 14 months aboard the International Space Station (ISS). This is the first time wine has travelled to the ISS and returned to Earth and the aging took place in a carefully monitored and controlled environment. The wine will be presented in a trunk made by the Parisian Maison d’Arts Les Ateliers Victor, alongside a decanter, glasses, and a corkscrew made from a meteorite. Tim Triptree, a master of wine who works at Christie’s, says a regular bottle of Pétrus 2000 will also be included alongside the space-aged bottle, “so the lucky buyer will be able to compare the two”. This is the only bottle from the case that was sent to space, as three were opened for the tasting and the remaining eight will be kept back for future research. We wouldn’t get your hopes up about winning this particular lot, however, as Christie’s estimates a sale price of $1m (£720,000). The good news is that the proceeds of the sale will go towards funding future space missions. So, if you do have that kind of cash sitting around and would like to acquire a piece of vinous and space history while also contributing to ongoing research then head to Christie’s now.

The Nightcap: 7 May edition

You can wish McEwan a fond farewell over some quality drams

Enjoy a ‘last chat’ with Jim McEwan 

Jim McEwan is retiring… again. You may remember back in 2015, Jim McEwan retired from Bruichladdich only two years later to be lured back with a production director job at new Islay distillery Ardnahoe. Since then he’s appeared in two films: The Water of Life and The Golden Dram, done a book: A Journeyman’s Journey, and launched his own range of whiskies with Dramfool, Jim McEwan Signature Collection. Oh, and helped out at Cape Byron distillery in Australia. Makes a change from playing lots of golf. But now he really is retiring and he’s doing what’s billed rather ominously as a “last chat”. It’ll cost you £185 to take part with £25 going to Scottish charity Air Ambulance. For this you’ll receive access to The Water of Life, a copy of The Journeyman’s Journey with a signed letter from McEwan, plus a Gold Collection tasting kit with rare drams from notable McEwan distilleries including Bowmore, Bruichladdich, and his last gig, Cape Byron. Most importantly, you’ll also get access to a Zoom link to join a chat with McEwan on Sunday 23 May. If that’s a bit steep for you, there’s a £50 ‘Silver Collection’ option (£10 going to charity) with no book and less fancy whiskies but you still get to chat with the man himself and bid him a fond farewell. Or is it au revoir?

The Nightcap: 7 May edition

Vic Galloway invites you to enjoy his picks. And we invite you to make your own…

SMWS and BBC radio DJ pick music and whisky pairings

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) is getting its groove on with long-standing BBC Radio Scotland presenter, Vic Galloway, by pairing music with whisky flavour profiles. The DJ has been broadcasting weekly on BBC Radio 1, BBC Scotland and BBC 6 Music for over 22 years and also happens to be an avid whisky fan and a member of the SMWS. Examples from the full SMWS pairing list, which can be found here, include Society’s ‘Young & Spritely’ flavour profile being likened to the genre ‘Dream Pop’ (whatever that is), with its “effervescent and sweet, joyous and uplifting exuberance that seems utterly timeless and forever young”. The Scottish broadcaster said: “Music and whisky go together like, well, music and whisky! There’s nothing better than sitting back with like-minded friends and sharing experiences. And that is what The Scotch Malt Whisky Society is all about.” He added that there are some surprises in his selection and recommends folks become members of the SMWS, which he describes as the “world’s most entertaining whisky club”. Galloway will also chat all things music and whisky on the SMWS ‘Virtual Pub’ being streamed tonight, one of the many events in the calendar to look forward to for members. We’d love to hear your suggestions on genre and whisky pairings you’d like to see. Liquid funk and Lagavulin? Garage rock and Glenlivet? Let us know in the comments below.

The Nightcap: 7 May edition

It turns out there’s an ever big rip-off than space wine. Who knew?

“Counterfeit” $1,000  bourbon discovered

One of the dangers of buying very old spirits is the rise of counterfeiting. It appears that one such bottle was discovered recently in New York. Reporters from US publication Inside Edition bought a bottle of Colonel E.H. Taylor Four Grain Bourbon from Acker Wines, America’s oldest wine merchants, for $1,000. This whiskey was released at around $100 a bottle but such is the demand that bottles have been going for up $3,000. They sent it to where it was made, Buffalo Trace in Kentucky, for authentication where it was pronounced a fake, and not a very convincing one, with the proof on the bottle not matching the contents, a backwards strip stamp, and it was missing the correct lot code. This isn’t the first time that Acker Wines, previously known as Acker, Merrall and Condit, has run into problems with counterfeit goods. The firm was at the centre of the Rudy Kurniawan wine counterfeiting scandal outlined in the 2016 film Sour Grapes. It sold millions of dollars of rare wines that turned out to be fakes. The moral of the story is always do your homework before buying rare boozes.

The Nightcap: 7 May edition

The only real question is, how did this move not happen sooner?

And finally… UB40 releases an actual red, red wine

We’ve just put a story up on the blog about celebrity boozes, and it’s already out of date because we have just learned that the lads from top light reggae outfit UB40 will soon be releasing their very own wine. It’s called… yes you guessed it… Red, Red Wine after their biggest hit (though the song was actually written by Neil Diamond who had a hit with it in 1968). It’s a Merlot-heavy Bordeaux Supérieur priced at an extremely punchy £28.50 – you can get some seriously tasty claret for that money. Nevertheless, it’s been described as “a good blend: a rich wine with fine tannins and attractive fruits.“ Not our words, but the words of Wine Enthusiast magazine. For those who don’t want to pony up nearly £30, you can save a massive four quid with the £24.50 version which is an organic vegan Merlot/ Petit Verdot blend though we’re not told where it’s from. Both wines are made in conjunction with a company called Eminent Life. Astro (above right) from UB40 commented: “Red, Red Wine has great balance and is really satisfying to drink. Like our music, we are always looking for balance and harmony. The Red Red Wine has both.” So there you go.

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The Nightcap: 30 April

It’s a Bank Holiday weekend and to kick things off in the right direction we’ve got a whole week’s worth of smoking hot booze news. It’s all in the Nightcap:…

It’s a Bank Holiday weekend and to kick things off in the right direction we’ve got a whole week’s worth of smoking hot booze news. It’s all in the Nightcap: 30 April edition! 

We’ve got a long weekend ahead of us as the May Bank Holiday has arrived, in the UK at least, everyone else is thinking, what the hell is a ‘bank holiday’? Anyway, we’re all hoping for a sliver of sunshine so that we’re not shivering in pub gardens or in those makeshift tent type things outside restaurants. Maybe bring a blanket, just in case. Of course, you don’t have to venture out if you don’t want to. You can always kick back and relax with a good dram and enjoy The Line of Duty season finale. Or some light reading. Like a round-up of all the interesting things that happened in the world of booze this week. Good thing there’s a new edition of The Nightcap here!

This week on the MoM blog we paid tribute to the remarkable Tomas Estes, who has sadly passed away. Be sure to raise a glass to the Tequila pioneer tonight.

Elsewhere, we launched two new competitions, one a #BagThisBundle which gives you a chance to stock up on some Duppy Share Rum and the other promising an amazing adventure to the Lakes District courtesy of the Lakes Distillery. We also helped you explore the world of rum with some of our favourite bottlings, made a classic cocktail that features in Charlie Chaplin’s Caught in a Cabaret, enjoyed the latest vintage of a great Champagne, uncovered the story behind Don Julio Tequila and found out what the heck a swan neck is.

Now, let’s enjoy what the drinks industry had to offer in the last seven days. It’s The Nightcap: 30 April!

The Nightcap: 30 April edition

It’s likely this whiskey was distilled sometime between 1763 to 1803!

‘World’s oldest whiskey’ to be sold at auction

If you want a chance at owning a whiskey billed as “the oldest currently known bottle” then put 22-30 June in your diary. Because that’s when you’ll be able to bid on a legendary bottle of Old Ingledew bourbon. Skinner Auctioneers are selling the remarkable spirit, which was originally thought to be from 1850. However, when Skinner rare spirits expert Joseph Hyman used a needle to extract a small sample of the liquid to be sent off for carbon dating, the results were even more incredible. It was revealed that the most likely date this bourbon was distilled (with 81.1% probability) was between 1763 to 1803. It’s impossible to place a specific age statement. But historical records confirm that it’s among the oldest distilled whiskey remaining on the planet today. We know a little bit about the history of the bottle thanks to a press release from Skinner Auctioneers. It was purchased by John Pierpoint Morgan (Yep, that J.P. Morgan) in Georgia in the late 19th century. It was originally stored in demijohn so Morgan paid a visit to a speciality grocer in LaGrange to have several decanters worth of the whiskey bottled. His son Jack eventually ended up with some bottles, giving a few away including to US Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman. Another recipient was James F. Byrnes, who subsequently gave the bottle to close friend and whiskey lover Francis Drake, who knew the value of what he had and for three successive generations, his family kept a cork in it. This is why we have this incredible, roughly 250-year-old, bottle now. Although we wouldn’t hold out too much hope that you’ll get your hands on this one. We imagine demand will be pretty high… 

Rémy and Usher team up to celebrate their roots

It wouldn’t be a Nightcap without a celeb/booze mash-up and we’ve got a particularly good one this week. Cognac house Rémy Martin has produced a video called “Team Up For Excellence” starring ‘00s music ledge Usher. The video, put together by composer Raphael Saadiq, director and choreographer Jake Nava, and Oscar-winning costume designer Marci Rodgers, tells the story of the links between Cognac and American music. “I was really inspired by creating the historical music scenes in a way that felt true to the spirit of that moment, but also relevant and eye‐catching to a young contemporary audience,” Nava explains. “This dual priority informed my direction of all the music, dance and Usher’s performance.” The video opens with Usher as a GI in World War I liberating France, moves to a jazz club and through the ages, taking in different musical genres. “Music doesn’t need Cognac to exist, and Cognac doesn’t need music to exist,” Usher said, “but what is beautiful is that they were meant to meet and when they did, they created cultural harmony.” The video is a cut above most spirits adverts and well worth five minutes of your time. 

The Nightcap: 30 April edition

If anyone does manage to get a taste of his let us know if it’s as good as it looks

Loch Lomond unveils 45-year-old whisky 

It just wouldn’t be The Nightcap without a remarkable and rare Scotch whisky to stare at longingly. And this next beauty will surely appear in auctions itself in the not too distant future. It’s a 45-year-old single malt from Loch Lomond Distillery, distilled in 1973 and matured in American oak casks, before finishing for one year in a first-fill Oloroso sherry cask. It’s bottled at 42.2% ABV without chill-filtration and there are only 200 individually-numbered bottles to be released out in the whisky wild, which goes some way to explaining the £3,450 price tag. It’s one the first of three releases in The Remarkable Stills Series of single malts, a collection that will shine a spotlight on the Alexandria-based distillery’s unusual straight neck pot stills. The stills are unique to Loch Lomond and give the distiller more control of the type of spirit produced, allowing for greater separation of flavours, helping to create the distinct fruity characters that Loch Lomond has become famous for. The launch of the significant Scotch follows a branding refresh and extension of the Loch Lomond Whiskies portfolio, which includes the introduction of a 21 and 30 Year Old to the range. A new webpage was also made to detail exactly how the liquid was created. So you can at least live vicariously through that info, because the sad reality is that most of us won’t be tasting this whisky.

The Nightcap: 30 April edition

The distillery is one of the most picturesque in the country

Glasgow Whisky buys Tromie Mills Distillery

Those of you familiar with Glasgow Whisky will know that, since being founded in 2007, the company has plied its trade in selling award-winning independently-bottled Scotch whisky like Speymhor and Cailleach. But now the company is venturing into the world of distillation after purchasing its first distillery site. Glasgow Whisky, not to be confused with The Glasgow Distillery Co., has bought Tromie Mills Distillery Limited, owner of the site in Drumguish, Kingussie, which is currently occupied by Speyside Distillers. The latter will continue to operate from the Drumguish site until its lease expires in Spring 2025 (and already has another distillery on the way) and then Glasgow Whisky will refurbish the building, working with local suppliers. While we’ll have to wait a while to see them take advantage of the new venture, we imagine owners Graham Taylor and Stuart Hendry will be excited to run one of the most picturesque distillery sites in Scotland in the magnificent Cairngorms National Park. The duo is said to be committing significant investment to build a sustainable, energy-efficient and contemporary distillery that will acknowledge the heritage of the site. “Our plans for the distillery will give us the opportunity to celebrate an established and known site, whilst bringing it into the 21st century in terms of distilling innovation, sustainability and production methods. We are extremely excited to have this opportunity to evolve our business,” says Hendry.

The Nightcap: 30 April edition

The swanky new distillery will be home to the creation of rum, gin, vodka, sambuca and more

English Spirit to open cutting-edge distillery

And in more distillery-based news, the folks over at English Spirit are set to open their new state-of-the-art distillery this summer. Over the past three years, the team has been converting a disused agricultural building in the ground of the historic Treguddick Manor in the rolling Cornish countryside. At the heart of the distillery will sit a custom 2,500-litre copper still, engineered by Dr John Walters, master distiller and owner of English Spirit, based on the original 200-litre alembic stills he designed for Great Yeldham Hall. And the team expects to produce 50,000 bottles of tasty booze by the end of 2021, so that still is going to be kept busy. When the distillery officially opens later this summer, tours and tasting experiences will invite the public to see how English Spirit produces its wide varieties of spirits from scratch. Walters says the brand wanted to open another site to “further our place in England’s high-quality food and drink industry and to show off what we do best, via educational tours, tastings and even cooking with spirits”. If you’d like to learn more about this unique brand, you can read all about our visit last year here!

The Nightcap: 30 April edition

We’re sad to see the lager go

Diageo calls last orders on Guinness spin-off Hop House 13

Fans of the Guinness-made Hop House lager might want to stock up on any bottles they can find because Diageo is calling time on the brand in the UK. As reported by Daniel Woolfson in The Grocer, the Guinness spin-off has been delisted and will soon disappear from supermarkets, pubs and bars. Diageo launched Hop House 13 in 2015 to ensure it wasn’t being left out of the craft beer boom and was an initial success. But sales have slumped during the pandemic. According to data from Nielsen, Hop House lost 8.7% of its value over the 52 weeks to 5 September 2020, falling £2.5m to £26.7m, with volume down by 12.5%. The drinks giant says it had undertaken a review of its beer portfolio and “taken the strategic decision to prioritise the main Guinness trademark in Great Britain”, adding that it was “a difficult decision to make, but one that we believe is right for Guinness in the long term”. The good news is that Guinness itself is still going strong. The good folks over at Nielsen revealed much more joyous stats about the classic Irish stout, showing that it added £27m to its value, rising to £104.5m over the same period – a 35% gain. If you’d like to get your hands on either, you can find them both here.

The Nightcap: 30 April edition

What a beautiful sight

The Craigellachie Hotel to re-open its doors

As pubs and bars all over the UK continue the glorious process of opening their doors once again we were delighted to learn that The Craigellachie Hotel in Speyside will be doing the very same. The 26-room hotel stands at the heart of the largest whisky region in the world and home to the Quaich bar, one of the world’s leading whisky bars, will open its famous Copper Dog Pub and new outdoor terrace area. A brand new menu created by newly-appointed executive chef and general manager William Halsall (of Le Caprice, 34 Grosvenor Square, and The Ivy fame) will be available, as will a take-away menu. Halsall says that the team has gone through “vigorous training in preparation for reopening without compromising our friendly, home from home experience”. The upgraded outdoor dining experience will offer seating for an additional thirty guests and there will be hand sanitising stations at every entrance and social distancing in place, as safety remains an obvious concern. Reservations are mandatory and can be made through sevenrooms.com or by calling 01340 881204, while the Copper Dog pub is open seven days a week between 10am-10pm. Accommodation will then open from 17 May and guests will be able to book online here. Just in time for the return of distillery tours too. It’s all coming together!

Stewart Buchanan Benriach

If you’re lucky you might find Stewart Buchanan behind the bar at Benriach

Benriach opens to the public for the first time

And talking of visiting Speysdie, there’s now a new distillery to visit, Benriach. Well, it’s not new as such, the distillery dates back to 1898, but from 21 May is the first time it’s ever been open to the general public. Brown-Forman has put a lot of thought and money into the refurbishment: there’s a bar, shop, and tasting lounge, and two ‘tasting experiences.’ You can book here. Beginners can enjoy the ‘Sense of Flavour’ while more experienced whiskiests can explore the flavours of cask maturation with ‘Barrels, Butts, and Barriques’, which includes a dram of Benriach 21 Year Old. Visitor centre manager Jennifer Proctor explained: “From cask tastings to cocktails, we’ll initially be offering two flight-style tasting experiences that allow customers to explore Benriach’s flavour spectrum. When restrictions allow, we will reveal our full distillery tour offering and announce the next phase of the distillery visitor centre development. Whether a local to Speyside or visitor from further afield, we look forward to welcoming guests from near and afar to discover Benriach’s world of flavour.” If you’re in the area, it’s well worth a visit.

Terrace bar at Clynelish

Nice view from the terrace bar at Clynelish

Johnnie Walker brand home opens at Clynelish 

Another day, another renovated distillery opens up. Must be something in the air. As part of Diageo’s £185 million investment in ‘Four Corners’ whisky tourism, Clynelish Distillery will be opening to the public as ‘Highland home of Johnnie Walker’. Glenkinchie opened up last year with Cardhu in Speyside, and the Princes Street location in Edinburgh both due to open later this year. Opening date for the revamped Caol Ila is TBC. The renovation at Clynelish includes an ‘interactive story room’ (whatever that is), a ‘modern retail space’ (shop), and a ‘terrace bar’ (we know what that is) overlooking the Highland scenery. The team has worked closely with disabled charity Euan’s Guide to make sure the place is as accessible as possible.  Barbara Smith, managing director of Diageo’s Scottish brand homes, commented on what we could expect from the visitor experience:  “We can guarantee that Clynelish won’t disappoint. We know that visitors and locals will be blown away by the distillery – by a visitor experience that is unlike any other.” Crikey! What could she possibly mean? Naturally, there’s a limited edition commemorative bottling, a 50.6% ABV 16 Year Old. Only 3,000 bottles at £195 each have been filled and you’ll have to visit the distillery in order to buy one.

Britannia, Boston Lincs credit: batemans

The Britannia, in Boston Lincs Photo courtesy of Batemans Brewery

And finally…. Get paid to go to the pub

In a bit of news that sounds too good to be true, Lincolnshire County Council is offering a £28,000 salary to someone to research the county’s historic pubs as part of its ‘Inns on the Edge’ project. The year long job will involve visiting various pubs along a 50 mile stretch of coastline from Grimsby to Boston. But it’s not all beer and skittles, the perfect candidate should be “someone who can interview people and get stories from them, but also collect photographs, historic photographs of the pubs and the activities that used to go on in and around and associated with the pub,” as Ian George from the council explained. The purpose of the project is to record a living history that is rapidly disappearing as pubs around the county (and the country) close. A process exacerbated by the pandemic. So not quite such a funny story to end on as it initially appeared. The moral is, don’t neglect your local, even if you have to stand outside shivering a bit.

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Industry pays tribute to Tequila pioneer Tomas Estes

We celebrate the life of Tequila pioneer Tomas Estes who died on Sunday 25 April. He was the man behind Pacifico Mexican restaurants, which did so much to introduce high-quality…

We celebrate the life of Tequila pioneer Tomas Estes who died on Sunday 25 April. He was the man behind Pacifico Mexican restaurants, which did so much to introduce high-quality Tequila to Europe, as well as the superb Ocho range of terroir-driven spirits.

Last night, we learned that the drinks industry had lost one of its great, Tomas Estes, from Ocho Tequila. The brand’s Facebook page said: “Dear Friends, it is with great sadness and a heavy heart that we share the news of our Founder Tomas Estes’s passing. He died peacefully in his sleep on Sunday 25th April, surrounded by family in Southern Oregon.” It’s fair to say that nobody has done more to introduce high-quality Tequila to Europe than Estes.

Despite his Spanish-sounding name, Estes’ family was of English and Welsh descent. But the area where he was born in 1945, East Los Angeles, has a strong Mexican community. He truly fell in love with the culture when he first visited Mexico. While at college in LA, he spent much of the time south of the border visiting bars and, according to this interview, getting into trouble. 

Cafe Pacifico in London

Cafe Pacifico in London

Pacifico

He had a varied career after graduating in 1967 as a teacher and wrestling coach. But his life changed when visited Amsterdam in 1970 and eventually opened a Mexican restaurant in the city in 1976 called Pacifico. 

This was at a time when Mexican food, drink, and culture was virtually unknown outside the Americas. He opened a London branch of Pacifico in Covent Garden, the first Mexican restaurant in Britain in 1982, which is still going. It proved a hit with celebrities, Queen (the band) and Hunter S. Thompson both photographed there. At one point there Estes had 17 restaurants in Holland, England, France, Germany, Italy, and Australia.

Tequila ambassador

All the time, Estes was visiting Mexico learning about Tequila and bringing that knowledge back to Europe. His bars sold a huge range of high-quality agave spirits at a time when Tequila was just seen as a party drink, if it was known at all. He wrote a book on the subject, The Tequila Ambassador, in 2012, and was honoured by the CNIT (Camara Nacional de la Industria Tequilera) who made him  official Tequila ambassador for the EU.

In 2008, he began his own drinks company Ocho Tequila with Carlos Camarena, an award-winning third-generation Tequilero. It pioneered vintage, terroir-driven Tequila which at first he only sold through his bars. But gradually, people recognised the quality and it’s now recognised as one of the world’s great spirit brands. 

Jesse and Tomas Estes

Tomas and Jesse Estes with Ocho Tequila

Industry pays tribute

Estes senior inspired everyone he met as the following tributes from around the industry attest:

Master of Malt buyer Guy Hodcroft said: “‘Great’ is not an epithet to be used lightly, but Tomas Estes was truly a great man. So wonderfully generous with his time, knowledge, and love. Myself and countless others across the world have been inspired by his deep passion for Mexico and Tequila. I’ve met some of the most important people in my life in the bars he created or owned, and I know just how sad many of them are today. Tequila may just have lost the best friend it ever had.”

Meanwhile, Dawn Davies at The Whisky Exchange described him as “a man who taught us all so much and who inspired us to learn and discover more about the world he was so passionate about.”

Financial Times drinks columnist Alice Lascelles said: “You taught me everything I know about Tequila and opened my eyes to Mexico. But way, way more than that, you were a joy to be around….. Or and you made bloody good Tequila too – the best.

Drinks writers Joel Harrison and Neil Ridley described him as: “A true force of nature: an educator, a writer, a pioneer; an innovator and above all else, a genuinely lovely guy. His contribution to the world of spirits will never be forgotten.”

Alessandro Palazzi from Duke’s Bar in London said: “Tomas was one of a kind, he will never be forgotten… I will celebrate his life with a strong Margarita.”

Stuart Ekins from Cask Liquid Marketing who distribute Ocho in Britain paid tribute: “Your passion for Mexico, for life, for travel, for people and their different cultures, and of course Tequila, brought people together across the world, who you captivated with your knowledge, your stories, your mischief, and your fun.”

#RememberingTomas

Estes was married twice and had four sons, one from the first marriage, and three from the second including Jesse who continues in the family business. We were fortunate enough to taste through the Ocho Tequila range with Jesse in 2019.

The brand is encouraging people to share their stories of Estes: “If you wish to commemorate Tomas’s life by posting your favorite photo(s) or stories of him, please use the hashtag #RememberingTomas so that we can see and share your memories.”

RIP Tomas Estes, we’ll raise a glass to you this evening.
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The Nightcap: 23 April

On this week’s Nightcap there’s new Ardbeg and Talisker to drool over, the ‘world’s first Tequila board game’ and a man pouring a pint of lager over his head. Its…

On this week’s Nightcap there’s new Ardbeg and Talisker to drool over, the ‘world’s first Tequila board game’ and a man pouring a pint of lager over his head. Its all in The Nightcap: 23 April edition.

Happy St George’s Day, everyone! We hope you’re having something delicious and English to celebrate, whether it’s whisky, gin, rum, sparkling wine, or whatever takes your fancy. Personally, we’re very much enjoying The Oxford Artisan Distillery’s first rye whisky. Sadly, there’s very little of it about, so you’ll have to enter our latest lottery for a chance to buy a bottle. But you don’t have to slay any dragons to get involved. So that’s something. 

Elsewhere, the MoM blog was the place to be if you love Japanese booze as we uncovered the philosophy of Suntory and recommended seven of the finest Japanese whiskies available now. Australian whisky was also on our mind as we unveiled That Boutique-y Whisky Company’s new series of delightful expressions, as was the role of the Scotch Whisky Association and the news that Elixir Distillers snapped up Georgie Crawford in a surprise transfer from Diageo. The forgotten Prairie Oyster, Glen Scotia’s special Campbeltown Festival release, Canaïma’s cause-led gin and the simple but sublime Cuba Libre also caught our attention in a packed week.

But we’re not done yet. It’s The Nightcap: 23 April issue!

The Nightcap: 23 April edition

The fearsome fire-breathing limited edition will be arriving at MoM Towers soon…

Fearsome fire-breathing Ardbeg Scorch unveiled for Feis Ile

Fèis Ìle might not be taking place IRL, but the distilleries are still doing plenty to keep the fans spending money. Sorry, happy. We’ve just heard the news that Ardbeg will be releasing a limited edition in time for Ardbeg day on 5 June. It’s called Ardbeg Scorch based on a dragon that apparently lives in Dunnage Warehouse no. 3. No this isn’t a St. George’s Day fool, the team really is releasing this whisky (though the dragon thing sounds unlikely, imagine the health and safety implications with all that flammable whisky.) It’s aged in heavily-charred ex-bourbon casks and bottled with no age statement at 46% ABV. Dr Bill Lumsden described it as “a fire-breathing beast of a dram!” The tasting note is quite something: “A long and heroic finale, with a subtle tarry aftertaste. A finish that will drag on, well into its happily ever after.” Blimey! Colin Gordon, Ardbeg’s new distillery manager, said: “This year will be my first Ardbeg Day ever: a baptism of fire! It’s a shame we Ardbeggians can’t enjoy it together in person, but the online event is shaping up to be tremendous fun. With a whole virtual world to explore, including fantasy inns, campfire tales, medieval feasts and live tastings, there’s plenty for people to be excited about this year.” Sounds fun! Ardbeg Scorch will be available from 27 May for £100 from your favourite online retailer. And it’s been a busy week for Dr Bill and team as they also unveiled X by Glenmorangie, a whisky that’s “made to mix.” Full feature on this mixable malt coming soon…

The Nightcap: 23 April edition

A remarkable liquid with a story that’s… well, it’s a story alright.

Talisker releases its oldest expression to date: 43 year old Xpedition Oak

In what might be the most convoluted bit of coopering ever, the latest release from Talisker called Xpedition Oak The Atlantic Challenge was finished in casks containing staves that sailed across the Atlantic. James Aiken took the unusual cargo on his yacht, the Oaken Yarn, for a 3,264 journey following the route of the rowers in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge from La Gomera in Spain to Antigua. The staves were then sent back to Scotland and made up into barrels which were used to finish a 43-year-old Talisker in. We’re not quite sure why. Still, 1805 bottles were filled at 49.7% ABV and should cost you around £3500. Bottle number one will be auctioned to raise money for conservation charity Parley for the Oceans. Brand ambassador Ewan Gunn commented: “This whisky is a sublime single malt that captures the pinnacle of the key aromas of Talisker – spice, sweetness, waxy and creamy, with a sense of the sea salt spray the morning after a storm. The four decades of maturation have given a full flavour, yet a softness to this bold dram resulting in a rounded and elegant experience.” We were given a little sample and can only agree with Gunn, that Talisker DNA just shines through even after 43 years with an incredible lingering creamy sweetness. What a treat, though what effect the Atlantic voyage has on the flavour is not obvious to us.

The Nightcap: 23 April edition

Arnett is moving on to exciting new pastures

Former Jack Daniel’s master distiller to found $20m distillery

When Jeff Arnett left his role at the world’s biggest American whiskey brand back in September 2020, I think it was pretty clear to all of us that he was going to put his experience to good use. This week, the former master distiller of Jack Daniel’s revealed he’ll do just that at a new distillery being built in Tennessee. Following a US$20 million investment, Arnett’s Company Distilling project will open a 4,000 sq ft site with a tasting room and restaurant in Townsend, Tennessee in autumn 2021. It will be followed by the opening of a multi-functional ‘family-friendly’ facility in Springbrook Farm in Alcoa, Tennessee in 2022, which shows you how serious this plan is. The latter 20,000 sq ft site will eventually be home to the main distillery and manufacturing operations and will also include a tasting room, restaurant, brewery, and retail store with outdoor activities and entertainment hosted in 31 acres of space. There will be live music and games such as corn hole and pickleball (we have no idea what these but are guessing they are something Cletus from the Simpsons would play). Arnett is not the only significant figure in American whiskey at the centre of this project. It’s collaboration with Kris Tatum, former president of the Tennessee Distillers Guild; Heath Clark, founder of Tennessee-based H Clark Distillery; construction management professional Corey Clayton; and Clayton Homes CEO Kevin Clayton. Arnett is understandably excited about the project. He commented: “For years now, we’ve had this spirit in the back of our minds. It’s straight bourbon whiskey finished with maple wood to produce a sip like no other. It’s hard to believe it’s finally real. And it’s better than we ever imagined.” And there pickleball too!

The Nightcap: 23 April edition

It was quite the return to the world of in-person events for us this week

Bowmore and The Savoy team up to open Solas

This week did something truly amazing. We went to a bar for an event. Frankly, we’d have bit your hand off for an evening at Moe’s Tavern but we got to enjoy some a little more sophisticated at The Savoy. The London landmark was celebrating the launch of Solas (which means light, joy and comfort in Scottish Gaelic), an pop-up outdoor dining space in the historic Savoy Court that takes advantage of this age of outdoor hospitality. It’s a collaboration with Bowmore, which helped put together quite the menu. There’s an array of sublime cocktails that we got to taste as well as a raw seafood bar (mmmmm, raw seafood bar) that serves oyster selections, lobster rolls, gravadlax and scallop ceviche. The venue is a feast for the eyes too, but as you might imagine, it was the cocktails that really sold it for us. Standouts include the Pursuit For Perfection, a light, refreshing and elegant combination of Haku Vodka, peach, rosebud cordial and Champagne and Timeless, a rich, deep and complex mix of Bowmore 15 Year Old, Chezakette Bianco, Averna, Angostura, aquavit and sugar. It’s a truly impressive experience, to be honest. It looks great, the cocktails were delicious and the food? Well, Gordon Ramsey was there and he seemed perfectly happy. Solas is now open seven days a week until 21 June 2021 and I’d imagine reserving ASAP would be a good idea. 

The Nightcap: 23 April edition

The distillery has always had sustainability at the core of its business

Flor de Caña Rum to plant one million trees by 2025

With it being Earth Day yesterday, many brands have put the PR machines into overdrive in order to shout about how environmentally friendly they are. There are a few that aren’t simply greenwashing however, like Flor de Caña. It’s a sustainably-produced rum distilled with 100% renewable energy that’s carbon neutral and Fair Trade certified. It also has its own reforestation program, which has led to the planting of nearly 750,000 trees since 2005. Now it’s ramping up those efforts by pledging to plant more than one million trees by 2025. By partnering with One Tree Planted, its global campaign aims to raise awareness on the importance of reforestation and inspire consumers, bartenders and the general public to donate through the One Tree Planted platform. This guarantees that one tree will be planted for every dollar received. In turn, Flor de Caña will then match all donations received in order to have a greater impact. The global campaign, titled ‘Together for a Greener Future’, will also see the launch of several events with retailers, bars, restaurants and on social media (#TogetherForAGreenerFuture) to engage eco-conscious consumers. “Trees are essential for biodiversity and a healthy climate, so it’s great to work with a brand so committed to making a positive impact for reforestation and sustainability overall,” said Diana Chaplin, canopy director at One Tree Planted. Keep up the good work, guys!

The Nightcap: 23 April edition

Congratulations Mark!

Mark McClintock is Diageo World Class GB Bartender of the Year

Congratulations to Mark McClintock who fought off stiff competition to be crowned last night as Diageo World Class GB Bartender of the Year. The test consisted of two challenges. The first dubbed ‘Alive with Freshness’ used Tanqueray No. Ten and was judged solely on flavour and balance. The second was more complicated and involved contestants designing a dream whisky bar along with two cocktails, one made with Talisker and one with Johnnie Walker Black Label. World Class ambassador Jo Last praised McClintock’s “impeccable skills and hospitality throughout both challenges”.The judging panel was led by Pippa Guys who commented: “Mark has demonstrated a consistently high quality of drinks, knowledge, and personality ever since he stepped into the World Class programme.” McClintock himself said: “I am genuinely shocked and so honoured to go on and represent GB on the global stage”. In addition to the glory of going to the final 4-8 July (virtually), McClintock wins a 12-month contract with Global Bartending, WSET Level 3 spirits course, a personalised Cocktail Kingdom kit, and photoshoot. We wish him the best of luck for the final.

The Nightcap: 23 April edition

Loser has to sing The Champs – Tequila on karaoke.

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with Cazcabel’s ‘world’s first Tequila board game’

Last week we heard about Jose Cuervo’s plans to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, now Cazcabel has revealed how it will mark the event. The brand has launched the ‘world’s first Tequila board game’, La Lotería. A hand-illustrated version of the Mexican classic bingo-style game, the aim is to be the first to match all the pictures on the sheet, La Tabla, with those called out by the host from the deck of cards. Each La Lotería game, comes in a magnetic box complete with a deck of cards, eight reusable La Tabla sheets and pens, a rule sheet, and a Spanish translation guide. Cazcabel Tequila is also hosting a Mexican Fiesta two-hour virtual event filled with tequila cocktails and La Lotería at 6:30 pm on Thursday 6th May. It will be hosted by the brand’s global brand ambassador Nate Sorby, with tickets available via Design My Night for £25 per person. It also sounds great, but to be honest the idea of mixing up some Margaritas whilst playing a Tequila board game sounds hard to beat. You can pick one up from the brand’s website and grab your Cazcabel Tequila here

And finally… man celebrates end of lockdown by pouring a pint over his head

Here in England, we’ve unable to contain our excitement that the pubs are opening again so we can have a delicious pint of beer in the garden. But not as excited as one St Helens man who was so overcome with emotion at the thought of that first pint, that rather than drink it, he poured it over his head. 45-year-old Charlie Richards commented: “My mate was just doing a video showing everyone there really enjoying the day and it went onto me, and well I got a bit excited and ended up rubbing the beer on my face before pouring it over my head for a few laughs. I didn’t think too much of it really, but my mate posted it on Facebook and now it’s gone everywhere.” So this St. George’s Day, we raise a glass to a true Englishman. Cheers Charlie!

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Elixir Distillers lands Georgie Crawford

There’s big news in the Scotch whisky transfer market! Elixir Distillers has just signed Georgie Crawford from Diageo to be the manager for the brand’s forthcoming Islay distillery. Today we…

There’s big news in the Scotch whisky transfer market! Elixir Distillers has just signed Georgie Crawford from Diageo to be the manager for the brand’s forthcoming Islay distillery.

Today we learned that Georgie Crawford will be bringing 14 years at Diageo’s Scotch whisky distilleries to a close soon as she moves on to pastures new and joins Elixir Distillers this summer.

A distillery with no name

She’ll oversee the construction of the distillery site (still without a confirmed name) on Islay’s south coast next to the town of Port Ellen, not far from Lagavulin, Laphroaig and Ardbeg

Elixir Distillers is a creator, blender and bottler of spirits founded by Sukhinder Singh and Rajbir Singh (you know, from that other site. What’s it called? The Whisky Shop?). It’s the name behind brands such as Port Askaig Islay single malt and Black Tot Caribbean rum but until now it’s never had its own distillery.

Getting Crawford on board is something of a coup for the brand, as she brings with her nearly two decades of experience to the role. Most recently, she was manager for the Port Ellen Distillery Revival project, so she has plenty of know-how when it comes to Islay distilleries. 

Her career in Scotch whisky began at The Vaults in Edinburgh, the home of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society in 2002. Crawford has since worked for the likes of Talisker, Glen Ord, Teaninich and Lagavulin.

GeGeorgie Crawford Elixir Distillers

It’s Georgie Crawford!

Sukhinder Singh comments

Sukhinder Singh, co-founder of Elixir Distillers, commented: “Having grown up on Islay, attending school a stone’s throw from our distillery site, Crawford’s love for the island and all its distilleries is unrivalled. She not only shares our passion for Islay whisky, but also our vision for the future and I know that she will bring both exceptional expertise and a fresh approach to a new Islay distillery.”

The plan is for the distillery to produce one million litres of alcohol a year and use floor maltings to process just over half of the barley needed. There will also be on-site housing for distillery workers, a visitor’s centre and a multipurpose educational facility, with further initiatives to support the local community and an apprentice programme for aspiring distillers to be pursued further down the line. 

Elixir Distillers revealed in February that the Argyll & Bute council planning committee granted planning permission for them to go ahead with the project, which was first announced in 2018. Now with Crawford joining the team, things should be moving fast. Perhaps she can help them come up with a name.

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The Nightcap: 16 April

It’s Friday and that means The Nightcap cometh. What has caught our eye from the world of booze this week? Read on to find out what’s in The Nightcap: 16 April…

It’s Friday and that means The Nightcap cometh. What has caught our eye from the world of booze this week? Read on to find out what’s in The Nightcap: 16 April edition.

You may have seen the news already, but this week is a big one here at Master of Malt as we’re saying a tearful goodbye to our wonderful editor, Kristiane Sherry who is moving on to pastures new. This humble blog wouldn’t be what it is today without her contribution and we hope you’ll join us in wishing her all the best in her new role. Thanks for everything, Kristy.

Elsewhere, we launched two different competitions, each one offering you a chance to get your hands on some delicious booze. So, if you’re a fan of Darkness and/or River Rock whisky, be sure to check them out. Adam then cast our MoM-branded spotlight on Black Cow Vodka, Henry spoke to Lady Armagnac herself, Amanda Garnham, Kristy heard from Jake Burger about his new book and how the bar trade will endure and Scott Davidson from Glencairn Crystal spoke to Lucy Britner about 40 years of making exceptional glassware. We also enjoyed new Kilchoman whisky, the El Presidente cocktail and ten delightful drinks from independent distillers

Now, on to the Nightcap!

The Nightcap: 16 April Edition

5/10, it’s the Mitre in Holland Park,

These are London most mediocre pubs

We’re used to listicles outlining people’s favourite venues; we’ve even seen round-ups of worst places, but The Fence Magazine (an extremely funny newish magazine that we’d highly recommend subscribing to) has come up with an entirely new kind of clickbait when this week it published its top 25 most mediocre pubs in London. The thinking behind it was that the capital’s best pubs would be rammed, what with lockdown restrictions easing in England, so here are some places that nobody in their right mind would queue to get into. The list included such legends of mediocrity as the Mitre in Holland Park, “an archetypal non-place”, the Zetland Arms in South Kensington, “the kind of place you end up going to regularly for a few months, never develop feelings about and, occasionally, go again”, and the World’s End in Finsbury Park, “an adequate place to drink a few pints.” It might be because we’ve been deprived of pubs for so long, but the mention of these ordinary boozers made us feel moderately nostalgic. 

The Nightcap: 16 April Edition

This is one for the gin lover in your life

Beefeater celebrates 200 years with snazzy new book

The Beefeater story begins in 1820 when James Burrough began distilling in Chelsea. Since then, the brand that became Beefeater gin has stayed true to its London roots being based since 1958 in Kennington. To celebrate 200 years, Joel Harrison and Neil Ridley, the Ant and Dec of drinks writing, have produced a lavish new book. Murielle Dessenis, global brand director for Beefeater, explained “This book is not a time capsule but a creative visualisation of Beefeater’s history, and its future, told by those who have helped shape it.” We were fortunate enough to see an advance copy and it’s very snazzy indeed as it’s laid out as ‘triptych’ so the book opens up three ways. But it’s much more than a pretty face, the book contains a history of the company, insights from master distiller Desmond Payne MBE and evocative old adverts and photos from Beefeater’s long history. The lads commented: “It is London, this city of contrasts, that has provided the backdrop for Beefeater’s greatest moments and achievements. This was a fantastic project to work on as we were able to take a look at what gin means to the people behind Beefeater and to the location in which it is crafted.” It’s something that no gin lover should be without so you’ll be pleased to know it’s available from the Beefeater shop for £50.

The Nightcap: 16 April Edition

Fining dining comes to Chatham’s historic dockyard

Copper River Distillery in Chatham opens fine dining restaurant

You don’t often hear the words ‘fine dining’ and ‘Chatham’ in the same sentence but all that is about to change as the Copper River distillery has just announced that it will be opening a fancy new restaurant. Called the Pumproom, after the beautiful Italianate building (above) housing the distillery in Chatham’s historic dockyard, it’s first service will take place today, Friday 16 April, with diners distanced on a deck overlooking the historic River Medway. Copper Rivet Distillery’s commercial director, Stephen Russell, explained a little about what to expect: “Outstanding food creations by head chef Will Freeman are complemented by expertly curated wines from Kent and from around the world, as the Russell family has had expertise as wine buyers for over 40 years.” And maitre d’ Dom Schefferlie added: “Our team at the Pumproom will be using seasonal ingredients to maximum effect and, in keeping with the ethos of the distillery, will be taking a keen interest in provenance – using local ingredients wherever possible, be they locally grown-vegetables, locally-reared meat or locally-landed fish such as Rye Bay cod. Both the restaurant and the distillery count food miles and the minimising of waste as key deliverables.” There’s both tapas and more formal dining. We have to say that the menu sounds delicious with the thought of a starter of bone marrow, chicken crackling, smoked eel, cockles, radish & toast really getting our juices going. Sounds worth a visit.

The Nightcap: 16 April Edition

Great Islay whisky and delicious Scottish beer have come together in a joyous union once more

Innis & Gunn launch Islay whisky cask beer with Laphroaig Distillery

Any fan of Scottish brewer Innis & Gunn will know it loves to do a bit of innovation and its new limited-edition beer demonstrates just that. Islay Whisky Cask is a 7.4% amber ale aged in ex-Laphroaig 10 Year Old casks. During its 12-week maturation in barrel, the beer is said to have extracted some hallmark Laphroaig notes of peat smoke and brine, as well as cask influences of vanilla and floral aromas. Combine that with the rich, warming malty flavours from the malted barley and it sounds like something that’s right up our alley. Like when Ardbeg made peaty beer. Dougal Gunn Sharp, founder of Innis & Gunn, says the collaboration is a perfect example of the “quality that can be achieved when you work innovatively with your craft and unite with other complimentary talents”. He also comments that the beer “truly evokes the island that inspires both our brew and the iconic Laphroaig” and that the result is evident “even before you take your first sip, as you open the bottle, you’re welcomed with the distinctly peaty, complex aroma that defines Laphroaig”. Just 3,400 bottles of Islay Whisky Cask have been available to buy in the UK from today via the Innis & Gunn online shop, so you might want to hurry if you want to get your hands on one.

The Nightcap: 16 April Edition

The research project which could inform future barrel experiments.

Buffalo Trace Distillery begins oak research project

This week we learned that two Kentucky giants, Buffalo Trace Distillery and the University of Kentucky, are teaming up to learn more about white oak. This is handy, seeing it’s the wood bourbon is matured in. The two are joining forces on a 15-year research project called the White Oak Initiative. The idea is to ensure the long-term sustainability of America’s white oak by studying the genetic responses of trees from various regions to different white oak forest establishment techniques in a rural field application. The study kicked off with the planting of 1,066 trees on the farm at Buffalo Trace Distillery this week featuring seedlings from 40 different parent trees from Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. Dennis Walsh, homeplace manager for Buffalo Trace Distillery, explains further, “We’re excited to partner with University of Kentucky on this project. It’s important that we look towards the future and how we can contribute to the sustainability of the white oak industry. The project will also assess the cost per board foot required to maintain a sustainable supply of new white oak long into the future”. Buffalo Trace is considering adding tours in the future of its farm, which would include education about its participation in the White Oak Initiative. Long term, Buffalo Trace may be able to use some of the oak trees it has planted for future barrel experiments.  

The Nightcap: 16 April Edition

Anyone else hungry?

Jose Cuervo helps you celebrate Cinco de Mayo at home

With the Mexican holiday Cinco de Mayo coming up (5 May in case your Spanish is a bit rusty), you can expect to see a host of Tequila and mezcal brands marking the event in the next few weeks. For Jose Cuervo, 2021’s festivities will include teaming up with award-winning chef James Cochran to launch the Around the Cluck X Jose Cuervo Cinco de Mayo at-home-kit. Featuring Cochran’s signature Around the Cluck fried chicken, his favourite Sauce Shop condiments, and exclusive Margarita pairings from Jose Cuervo, the restaurant kit looks like ideal way to celebrate at home with loved ones. The Twisted Piña Margarita combines Jose Cuervo Especial Silver Tequila, with pressed pineapple juice, fresh lime juice, coriander, jalapeño and agave nectar with garnishes of cracked black pepper and a fresh lime wheel. Oli Pergl, Tequila educator at Jose Cuervo, says: “Cinco De Mayo is an important date in the Mexican calendar so what better way to celebrate than a partnership between award-winning chef, James Cochran, his restaurant 12.51 and Jose Cuervo Tequila. Delicious food complemented with perfectly paired cocktails will transport you, figuratively not literally, to Tequila Valley… enjoy!” The kits are available to order from this week until the 3rd May at https://www.1251.co.uk/

The Nightcap: 16 April Edition

Is it madness or brilliance?

And finally…. Crisp-flavoured beer??! WTF?!

Crisps are wonderful things. We’re particularly partial to salt & vinegar flavour Chipsticks here at MoM. And beer is brilliant too. These are things we can all agree on. But what about if you put them together? No, not beer-flavoured crisps, that would be too straightforward. We’re talking crisp-flavoured beer. It’s taken an all-Yorkshire partnership of Seabrook’s crisps and Northern Monk brewery to make this unholy creation come true. The idea was first aired on 1 April so was widely thought to be a joke, but they did the old switcheroo and made their joke a reality. There’s two versions: a 5.4% ABV Cheese & Onion lager which is said to have “notes of cheese and onion”, and a 5% Prawn Cocktail Gose “with the tang of prawn cocktail.” Northern Monk founder Russell Bisset commented: “After one of the most challenging periods in recent history, we decided to take this quest into uncharted territory, creating an experience that would make people laugh – or grimace actually – as lockdown lifts.” We’re not going to knock them until we’ve tried them but, let’s face it, they sound horrible. We’ll stick with a pint of Landlord and a packet of salt & vinegar Golden Wonder, thank you very much.

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Hasta mañana…

From whisky festivals to distillery visits, and even the odd award or two, editor Kristiane Sherry reflects on her time at Master of Malt as she gets set to depart…

From whisky festivals to distillery visits, and even the odd award or two, editor Kristiane Sherry reflects on her time at Master of Malt as she gets set to depart for pastures new.

Usually, when you sit down to start writing a piece, you know exactly what’s going to happen. You’ve usually interviewed someone brilliant, or there’s some breaking news. Or perhaps you’ve tasted something so fabulous you want to tell its story – philosophy, production, palate. This piece is more like a full stop. Today is my last day at the family home we’ve come to call MoM Towers.

It feels tired (and indeed tiring) to focus on the sadness, anxiety and frustrations of life over the last 12-14 months. But I will say that it’s been soul-affirming to go through it all with the wonderful team here. From all the features and guides to video content and Instagram Lives on social, we’ve entertained ourselves (and hopefully some of you!) through the tough months with the wonder of content, drinks storytelling, and most importantly, community. It’s that last part I’m going to miss the most.

(L-R) Kristiane Sherry, Ken Evans, Jake Mountain and Laura Carl at the Port Ellen Maltings. Safety first!

Instead, I want to focus on some of the more joyful moments over the past almost-four years. Because it’s been quite the riot! For all the Islay fans, I’d like to draw your attention to our coverage of Fèis Ìle! The Islay Festival is (was – but I am sure it will be back!) a celebration of the island’s whisky and music, that saw us undertake a whistle-stop tour of each distillery. Want something shorter with added lolz? The 2019 highlights reel pretty much sums it up!

Highlights don’t just include what we do here at Master of Malt. In the last few years, there’s been a seismic change in terms of diversity, inclusion and representation in the drinks industry. While there’s still a long way to go, and it feels like the focus has so far focused solely on binary gender, I’m cheered by the increasing sense that whisky (and indeed wider spirits) really are for everyone, regardless of ethnicity, sexuality, age, or anything else. I’m delighted that our International Women’s Day coverage this year reflected this. If you’re in need of celebrating the progress we have collectively made as a sector, have a read right here! But let’s not revel too long – we’re not there yet, and we all have a part to play in changing that.

Kristiane Sherry at WhistlePig distillery

Kristiane at WhistlePig distillery

There’s not enough space (even digitally!) to celebrate all the incredible distillers, bartenders, strategists and beyond that I’ve met and been personally inspired by during my time here. And a heartfelt thank you to everyone who has taken a call, met for a drink, or hosted me – grateful doesn’t even come close. It’s dangerous to shout out individuals, but some of the greatest learning curves came on visits to Balcones, Milk & Honey, Kyrö, St George Spirits, WhistlePig, Isle of Raasay, and Cooper King. Whisky is incredible, but it’s nothing without the passion and approaches of the people behind it. 

Sticking with people, and the team here at Master of Malt… there are no words. The editorial, content and PR team – names you may know, like Henry, Adam, Jess, Sam, Jon and Mariella – are talented, witty voices that aren’t afraid to challenge and change the game. But these qualities extend deep behind the scenes, too. The incredible customer service team, the army of web developers, innovative folks across marketing, buying, merch, fulfilment and beyond – Team MoM are a truly marvellous bunch. We’ve collectively scooped a bunch of awards over the years; the two that mean most to me are Best Blog at the UK Social Media Communications Awards, and In-House Team of the Year at the Digital Growth Awards. Team MoM is a team of superstars, and I shall miss everyone terribly. 

But perhaps this is less of a full stop and more of a semicolon. In a joyful twist, I’m going to remain co-hosting the Pour & Sip twice-monthly live tastings. Not familiar? It’s a whisky subscription service, and more. It’s a proper community of whisky geeks, new and (cask?) seasoned. And we have fun. Check it out – and come and join the fun.

Until we meet again via the written word, a virtual tasting, or perhaps, one day soon, over a dram, keep sipping, folks! 

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