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Master of Malt Blog

Category: News

Port Ellen rebirth moves one step closer

Diageo has reached a new milestone in its bid to bring back Port Ellen, the iconic Islay distillery that has been silent since 1983. Hurrah! We don’t know about you,…

Diageo has reached a new milestone in its bid to bring back Port Ellen, the iconic Islay distillery that has been silent since 1983. Hurrah!

We don’t know about you, but any news about the return of famous ‘silent distilleries’ reopening gets us pretty excited. So it’s fair to say that ever since Diageo announced a £35 million investment programme to bring back Port Ellen and Brora distillery* back in October 2017, we’ve been all ears at MoM Towers waiting for updates. And we’ve got one, just as Fèis Ìle 2019 approaches. They do know how to spoil us on Islay, don’t they?

Diageo has revealed this week that Argyll & Bute Council has received detailed planning application following community engagement and pre-application consultation with key stakeholders, setting out proposals that will see Port Ellen reopened more than 35 years after its sad closure.

 

So, what can we expect from the revived Islay legend? Well, Diageo’s plan is for Port Ellen to utilise both traditional and innovative approaches to distilling under one roof, with two pairs of copper pot stills and two separate distillation regimes.

Primary distillation will take place in two stills that exactly replicate the Port Ellen originals, with the aim to recreate the original spirit character of the distillery that has made its single malt Scotch whisky among the most sought-after in the world.

The distillers at Port Ellen will also have the freedom to experiment with new whisky styles, however, thanks to the second, smaller pair of stills which will produce alternative spirit characters. It’s a best of both worlds situation, and we’re very much in favour of it. Port Ellen experimental bottlings? C’mon, people!

The second pair of stills will also pay homage to the former owner of the distillery, John Ramsay, who led Port Ellen in its formative years. Ramsay is credited with establishing its reputation as an innovative distillery in the 19th century, pioneering techniques and equipment that would become mainstays of the industry.

Port Ellen Distillery

A sketch image of what Port Ellen could look like

Distillation will take place in a combination of modern and heritage buildings, although following its most recent closure in 1983, very few of the original structures remain. What will be present is the original kiln building, with its classic pagoda roofs, and the traditional sea-front warehouses. Both will be restored as integral parts of the revived distillery, while a beautiful new stillhouse will be created to house distillation.

Georgie Crawford, the master distiller leading the Port Ellen project, commented on the news: ‘This is another hugely significant milestone on our journey to bring Port Ellen Distillery back to life. This is no ordinary distillery project, we are bringing a true whisky legend back to life and we believe our plans do justice to the iconic status of Port Ellen and will capture the imagination of whisky fans from all over the world.”

Let’s all hope the plans are approved, we want more Port Ellen!

*Both of which closed in 1983, which is also when M*A*S*H ended. Tough year.

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The Nightcap: 3 May

After one of the few weeks this time of year that doesn’t have a Bank Holiday (booo), we welcome May with news that Coca Cola is mixing it up, cocktail…

After one of the few weeks this time of year that doesn’t have a Bank Holiday (booo), we welcome May with news that Coca Cola is mixing it up, cocktail menus galore, and the realisation that Brits are buying lots and lots (we mean LOTS) of rum – it’s The Nightcap!

It’s hard to know what’s more thrilling: the upcoming long weekend or Star Wars Day. Happily, you can celebrate both with an opportune bit of punning, perhaps with a Whisky and Yoda Soda, or a Dark and Stormy (Trooper). If you’re not a sci-fi fan, or you’re one of the seven people who don’t know what we’re on about, then you can still get your content fix with a delightful helping of booze-based news.

On the MoM Blog this week, we launched a fantastic competition with The Cotswolds Distillery – you could win a VIP trip! If that wasn’t exciting enough, Nate Brown returned to talk poitín, Jess took a look at Kopparberg’s new pink gin, Annie checked out some Swedish ice cider, and Kristy celebrated Scotch whisky’s positive effect on the UK economy. Henry then cast an eye over Islay’s newest distillery, Ardnahoe, chose the fruity and fabulous Clover Club as his Cocktail of the Week, and even found time to enjoy Darnley’s Very Berry Gin, which is our New Arrival of the Week. Plus, we revealed what Dram Club members will discover in their boxes this month.

But there’s still even more news to come, so scroll on for The Nightcap, folks – and May the 4th be with you!

The love for rum is real, as bars like London’s Rum and Sugar will know.

Brits buy 35 million bottles of rum in 12 months!

Got a taste for rum? You are clearly not alone. Stats from the Wine & Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) released this week show that collectively, we’re becoming a nation of rum fans. And spiced rum alone shifted almost 10 million of those 35 million bottles in the last 12 months! The number of brands available is climbing too; in 2006 just 50 were on the market compared to 200 now! In total, the rum category in the UK is now worth just over £1 billion – hot on the heels of gin. “It’s been another great year for rum sales in the UK,” said WSTA chief exec, Miles Beale. “British drinkers have more choice than ever before when it comes to rum. Craft spirits are ‘of the moment’, and an increasing number of artisanal spirits producers are crafting their own interpretations of the spirit – often alongside their gin range.” Are you loving all things rum? Let us know your tipple of choice!

The Nightcap

The mixers will be available in smoky, spicy, herbal, and woody flavours

Coca-Cola launches Signature Mixers with top bartenders

Unless you’ve been living under a rock the last couple of years (and no disrespect intended to the vibrant rock-dwelling community, you people rock!), then you will have noticed that the market for mixers has exploded. Now, the biggest beverage of the lot has got in on the action: Coca-Cola. Yes, the soft drinks behemoth has just launched its Signature Mixers range. This consists of four variations on the classic recipe, designed in conjunction with top bartenders: ‘Smoky Notes’ by Max Venning; ‘Spicy Notes’ by Adriana Chía and Pippa Guy; ‘Herbal Notes’ by Antonio Naranjo; and ‘Woody Notes’ by Alex Lawrence. Each new mixer has been designed with specific spirits in mind. For example, Max Venning’s version is meant to go with spiced rums and full-bodied premium whiskies. Ana Amura, senior brand manager at Coca-Cola Great Britain, said: “Coca-Cola has always had a synergy with dark spirits and classic cocktails. With the rise of mixed drinks, we’re excited to announce the launch of Coca-Cola Signature Mixers, a specific range uniquely created to mix with dark spirits.” They should be available later this month. We can’t wait to try them all, and see if any can beat a good old Jack & Coke.

The Nightcap

A decade of deliciousness!

González Byass celebrates ten years of Tio Pepe En Rama

The annual release of a new Tio Pepe En Rama is now such a fixture that it’s hard to imagine that the team at González Byass were very uncertain when it first launched ten years ago. Winemaker Antonio Flores didn’t know whether an unfiltered wine would be stable, so he put ‘drink within three months’ on the label, “like yoghurt,” he joked when the 10th edition was revealed Ibérica restaurant on Great Portland Street, London, this week. “We were nervous about bottling a sherry without any treatment. It seemed very risky,” he said. Furthermore, would anyone buy it? They needn’t have worried. At one wine merchant, the first release sold out in three hours. González Byass president, Mauricio González-Gordon, thanked the UK market for getting behind this innovative wine. Before a special dinner cooked by Asturian chef Nacho Manzano, we drank old En Rama releases. Far from deteriorating in the bottle, some of the older wines had evolved beautifully – though it has to be said the younger wines, particularly the 2018 and the soon-to-arrive 2019 release, were the highlights. En Rama sherries provide a straight-from-the-barrel taste, “Jerez en una botella”, as Antonio Flores put it. They’ve also proved a great way of creating a buzz about sherry, as the packed room demonstrated.

The Nightcap

The new Spritz menu is sensationally summery, and we’re here for it

Swift kicks off summer with Spritz Menu

Forget the clocks changing or the astronomical calendar – we all know the only way to declare summer’s arrival is with a Spritz. And Soho bar Swift went all-out this week with a dedicated Aperitivo menu for summer! Not only are the serves delicious, but if you get to the bar from 3-7pm they are an absolute bargain at £5 each. The five-strong menu is light, bright, and seriously easy-sipping: we adored the Solstice, made with Martini Bitter, blood orange vermouth, passionfruit, and, of course, Prosecco. Also on the menu (and highly recommended) is the Green Liming, made with Ford’s Gin, granny smith apple, elderflower and tonic. There’s also a ‘craft’ focus all summer long; stop in and you might be able to try your hand at the likes of posy- or headdress-making. If you’re in London and in need of a refresher, you know what to do!

The Nightcap

We can’t wait to see the results of the collaborations!

The Zetter Townhouse announces new bar collaboration

We are excited to report that The Zetter Townhouse is relaunching with a new drinks collaboration for the first time in eight years! It will be partnering with Matt Whiley, aka The Talented Mr. Fox, and Rich Woods, aka The Cocktail Guy, in early June, relaunching its two award-winning cocktail bars in Clerkenwell and Marylebone. Whiley and Woods will collaborate with the Zetter Townhouse team on concept and cocktail creation, as well as ingredient and recipe development. It sounds like the joining of some rather strong drinks forces, as the team will have access to Whiley and Woods’ development lab in Hackney and the Townhouse’s own lab in Clerkenwell. We can’t wait to see what incredible creations will come from this dream team.

The Nightcap

A colourful contribution to an important cause

The Benevolent raises awareness with colourful campaign

The Benevolent is a dedicated drinks industry charity that offers a range of services to support professionals, from counselling sessions to emergency grants. And this week, it launched a new initiative called #benevolentcolours! The campaign encourages those within the trade to wear red, white or rosé (or a mix of all three) and raise awareness of the ‘It could be me’ message, which asks for members of the drinks industry to sign up online to donate £5 a month. The initiative is the result of a PR collaboration between Dillon Morrall, emma wellings pr, Limm Communications, Phipps Relations and R&R Teamwork, who will donate £1 for every picture posted on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook with the #benevolentcolours hashtag and mentioning @drinkscharityuk. The Benevolent has also specifically asked drinks folks heading to The London Wine Fair in Olympia on 21 May to show support for the campaign. “We wanted to get the best creative minds round the table to help to raise awareness of all the great work that the Charity is involved with,” said Michael Saunders, The Benevolent chairman, and Chris Porter, CEO, in a joint statement. The wine trade’s very own snappy dresser Jancis Robinson added: “I can’t wait to get rummaging in my wardrobe to find a red, white or pink outfit for 21 May (though white poses challenges for wine tasters…). £5 a month to help fund all the valuable work The Benevolent is doing is surely a no-brainer.” The Benevolent does indeed do great work, so check it out and, if you can, donate!

The Nightcap

Our MoM-tastic whiskey tasting for visitors to the Cork Book Festival

We take a trip to the Cork World Book Festival

MoM spent an action-packed two days in Cork with Anne Griffin supporting her whiskey-filled novel When all is Said. While we were there, we couldn’t not visit the home of Irish whiskey, Midleton Distillery! Our brilliant guide David Corr showed us around the old distillery where we marvelled at the old 140,000 (no there isn’t an extra zero in there) litre pot stills that were used in the old days (they now only use tiddly 80,000-litre stills). He also gave us a behind-the-scenes look at the Method and Madness micro-distillery where some of Midleton’s more experimental whiskies are made. Best of all, he was very generous with the Barry Crockett Legacy single pot still whiskey. There was just time for a quick nap before our next appointment, putting on a whiskey tasting for visitors to the Cork Book Festival. A few people said they didn’t drink whiskey and asked if we had any wine, but were soon converted by a dram of Bushmills Black Bush. Our bags were much lighter on the flight home. Thank you Midleton, and thank you Cork for making us feel so welcome!

The Nightcap

Aidy Smith, Helena Nicklin and Colin Hampden-White, who will deliver two masterclasses

The Three Drinkers head to London Whisky Weekender

Have you been following The Three Drinkers’ exploits on Amazon Prime? If so, you’ll already be familiar with this trio. Colin Hampden-White, Aidy Smith and Helena Nicklin taste their way through the world of drinks, making all kinds of discoveries along the way – and now they will host two master classes during the three-day London Whisky Weekender at London’s Kia Oval from 10-12 May! The wider event, now in its ninth year, will feature more than 150 whiskies, and, alongside the masterclass programme, there will be opportunities to get your bottles valued, and even immerse yourself in the world of gin (yep, it’s not just whisky!). For more info and tickets, check out the London Whisky Weekender Eventbrite page.

The Nightcap

Happy Anniversary to the wonderful Grosvenor House!

Happy 90th birthday, Grosvenor House!

On Tuesday, we hightailed it up to super-fancy-pants hotel JW Marriott Grosvenor House London to join in its 90th-anniversary celebrations! To mark the occasion, the team threw open the doors for a big bash, showing off not only its bulging address book (there was many a celeb) but a gorgeous multi-million-pound renovation, too. On the night, the hotel recreated neighbouring Hyde Park in its forecourt, filling both inside and out to the brim with yellow roses. It was enchanting. Once inside, we were treated to the full food and drink offering, and, naturally, we found our home-from-home in The Red Bar. It’s a cosy, atmospheric nook, filled with mirrors, cosy seats and an air of chicness. From barrel-aged cocktails to signature creations, if you find yourself in West London and in need of a treat, we can highly recommend. Here’s to Grosvenor House deliciousness for the next 90 years!

And finally… Love! Jonathan Van Ness fronts glitziest beer for Seattle Pride

Can you believe?! Jonathan Van Ness, hairdresser, figure skater and Queer Eye phenomenon, has partnered with Elysian Brewing Company to front its GLITTERis Pride Ale! Set to be released in time for Seattle Pride on 30 June, the ale is truly giving us Beyoncé. It’s made using Mandarina hops, weighs in at 4.4% ABV, and a portion of the proceeds will go to the Seattle Pride organisation. Can you handle the CON-FI-DONCE?! But there’s more! Not only is our beloved JVN the face of GLITTERis Pride, his partnership with Seattle Brewing and Elysian Brewing includes a very special competition. JVN will officiate a wedding on 4 June, and he’s searching for the magic couple! We are NOT getting basic, basic, basic. Want in? If you’re planning to get married and are part of the LGBT+ community, you simply have to check out Elysian Brewing’s site for more details. Yas queen!

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Kopparberg launches pink gin

Yes, you read that right – Swedish cider giant Kopparberg is launching its very own gin! It’s pretty in pink and showcases a flavour you may recognise… Unless you’ve been…

Yes, you read that right Swedish cider giant Kopparberg is launching its very own gin! It’s pretty in pink and showcases a flavour you may recognise…

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you may have noticed a little trend called pink gin. It’s certainly on the rise and shows no signs of stopping, especially with the release of the new Kopparberg Premium Gin. It’s infused with the brand’s strawberry and lime flavour, along with juniper, lemon zest and coriander, sporting a pink candy floss hue. Seeing as Kopparberg’s strawberry and lime flavour has proved popular since its launch in 2010, it’s perhaps not a huge surprise that it was chosen for this inaugural gin.

“We are extremely excited to be bringing our new Premium Gin to the UK. Kopparberg is famous for flavour and we’ve worked hard to create a pink gin in the iconic Kopparberg flavour of strawberry and lime, that we know the nation loves”, commented Rob Salvesen, head of marketing. “We look forward to seeing pink gin fans across the country spend many sunsets making memories with friends this summer with a glass of Kopparberg Premium Gin.”

Kopparberg pink gin

The illustration on the bottle was designed by Marcin Wolski, and takes the drinker from day to night with a pink blush sunset, and a plethora of fun summer activities scattered across the fields. It looks like quite the gintopia.

Although the gin seems to be aimed at the festival scene, with its festival debut at We Are FSTVL in Upminster on 24 May and appearing at other festivals throughout the season, we are sure it tastes just as good in more sedate surroundings like your back garden. Kopparberg has suggested that it’s best served over mountains of ice, either mixed with lemonade and garnished with fresh strawberries, or for a more traditional serve with tonic, garnished with cucumber and basil. We reckon it’s time to get those cocktail shakers out and experiment!

Kopparberg Premium Gin will initially be available at Greene King pubs and venues from the 6 May, and through selected retailers from 22 May.

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Scotch bolsters UK economy by £5.5bn

We all know Scotch is delicious – but did you know it’s also thoroughly good for the UK economy? The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has crunched the numbers, and discovered…

We all know Scotch is delicious – but did you know it’s also thoroughly good for the UK economy? The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has crunched the numbers, and discovered that it now adds a whopping £5.5 billion pounds each year!

The amount the Scotch industry adds has climbed by 10% year-on-year, as exports reach record highs (£4.7bn in 2018) and new distilleries come online. We reckon that’s as good a reason as any to raise a dram.

“This research shows the Scotch whisky industry’s huge contribution to both the Scottish and UK economies,” said Karen Betts, the SWA’s chief exec. She also praised the “consistent investment” from whisky companies, with over £500 million going into production, distribution, marketing and tourism in the last five years.

Scotch whisky

Scotch whisky, delicious, convivial and good for the economy

“Despite the challenges of Brexit, this investment continues to flow, with further projects planned and more distilleries set to open – a sign that the Scotch whisky industry remains confident about the future,” she continued.  This is great news for our many employees, our investors, our supply chain and, of course, for consumers all over the world who love Scotch.”

What does this mean for Scotch? According to the SWA, the industry contributes more than the life sciences sector does to Scotland’s finances (£1.5bn), meaning it is a vital part of the economy. It also supports more than 42,000 jobs throughout the UK, including 10,500 people directly in Scotland, and 7,000 across rural communities.

Scotch is a super-productive business to be in, too. Apparently, the sector generates about £210,505 GVA per employee, more than the energy sector at £173,511 per person. In comparison, life sciences contributes £93,735 per head, while the creative industries stands at £60,712 per person.

Some more fun stats (we know you like them): for every £100 of added value Scotch produces, another £45 is generated in the broader economy. Plus, Scotch accounted for an enormous 21% of all UK food and drink exports in 2018, and 1.3% of the value of total exports.

Hurrah for Scotch!

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The Nightcap: 26 April

Another short week, but that has not stopped the deluge of booze news occurring – get ready for another edition of The Nightcap! The super-long weekend continued into this week…

Another short week, but that has not stopped the deluge of booze news occurring – get ready for another edition of The Nightcap!

The super-long weekend continued into this week for us here at MoM Towers, meaning Monday was spent as far away from office desks as possible. However, by Tuesday, we were eager to get back to it – and clearly so was everyone else in the world of booze, as there is plenty of news to go through in The Nightcap! Let’s get to it, shall we?

On the MoM Blog this week, Ian Buxton was back to ask the difficult questions once again, this time concerning investment in whisky, before Adam championed English-made booze to mark St. George’s Day. Then he explored Scotch whiskies from Speyside, as we look forward to the upcoming Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival. Annie was busy checking out the new Super Lyan bar in Amsterdam, but still made time to acknowledge Earth Day and Patrón Tequila’s contribution to it. Henry looked into how we can tackle the Malaria crisis with gin, while his Cocktail of the Week was The Iceberg Slim. Kristy also demonstrated an affinity to a Compass Box release for our New Arrival of the Week.

That’s a whole lot of news for a shorter week, but hold on to your hats because we’ve got even more – it’s The Nightcap!

The Nightcap

Samples are flowing off the stills!

Lagg Distillery kicks off whisky production

Some very exciting news came our way this week via Isle of Arran Distillers. Distillation has begun at Lagg Distillery! The very first middle cut of spirit was recorded back on Tuesday 19 March at 14.35, to be precise. The commissioning phase has now been completed and Cask Number One, a sherry butt reserved exclusively for members of the Lagg Cask Society, was filled on Wednesday 10 April with a heavily-peated (50ppm) spirit at 63.5% ABV. So, what can we expect from the eventual Lagg Single Malt? Well, the distillery hopes it will become a rich, earthy and smoky dram, making it something of a departure from the character of whisky currently produced at the original distillery in Lochranza. James MacTaggart, master distiller, said: “It’s incredibly exciting to be taking the very first steps in producing what will eventually be a magnificent Lagg whisky and something truly unique to anything we’ve produced previously.” The news comes as construction of the new distillery and visitor centre enters its final stages, with the outer structure now complete and many of the elements of internal design starting to come together. Lagg Distillery is expected to open fully in early summer, with the brand projecting that the distillery and visitor centre will increase total visitor numbers at both sites to over 200,000 by 2020. It’s all coming together, folks!

The Winchester Distillery’s range – for now…

Winchester Distillery reveals expansion (and crowdfunding!) details

As fifth birthday celebrations go, this is a pretty exciting one. Winchester Distillery has unveiled plans to expand its Hampshire-based production facilities! There’s a new higher-volume still going in, so the team can continue to explore new categories (it’s already got rum and whisky in the pipeline). It’s also looking into using locally-grown malted barley for its gin, vodka and whisky, too! But these adventures all need money, which is where the new Crowdcube crowdfunding campaign comes in. “With Winchester Distillery’s fifth birthday in May we are delighted to be in the position, with our annual average sales growth of 82% year on year, to take the business to the next level,” said Paul Bowler, the distillery’s managing director. “Having more capacity will mean we can make more of our well-loved spirits so we can enter new markets both here in the UK and overseas. We also intend to upgrade the current space here among the watercress beds in Old Alresford so that we can host more visitors for tours and tastings, and open a gift shop.” Thrilling stuff, indeed!

The mouthwatering result of globe-spanning teamwork

Diageo teams up with baijiu producer for ‘east-meets-west’ whisky

Exciting news if you’re a fan of intriguing whiskies: Diageo, the world’s biggest spirits player, has formed a joint venture with Jiangsu Yanghe Distillery, China’s third-largest baijiu-maker, to launch something brand-new in the country. It’s a whisky called Zhong Shi Ji, and while production details are scarce, it sounds like a curious thing indeed. Diageo’s Scotch master blender, Craig Wallace, and China Alcoholic Drinks Association’s baijiu master, Zhou Xinhu, worked on the project, which included some maturation in Chinese ceramic pots. We’ve not found out much else, except the result is said to be “unique, full-flavoured” and “exceptionally smooth”. “We believe that Zhong Shi Ji can play an important role in the Chinese dining occasion, launching a new era for whisky drinkers in China,” said C.H. Chu, MD at Diageo Greater China. Zhu Wei, vice president of Yanghe, added: “I firmly believe Zhong Shi Ji will quickly become Chinese consumers’ new favourite, with its ultra-smooth taste and superior quality, created through unique processes and craftsmanship from both China and the West.” If you come across it in the wild, let us know what it tastes like!

The Nightcap

It’s about time we got to enjoy whisky on the high seas!

The Dalmore sets sail on Queen Mary 2 cruise ship

Batten down the hatches, this week The Dalmore revealed an exclusive ‘whisky flight at sea’ on board the world’s only ocean liner, Queen Mary 2! This takes whisky to a whole new level (although we suppose it’s only sea level), as the Highlander can be sipped and savoured on board the ship between Southampton and New York. At the same time, an exclusive whisky experience will be offered on board during the Transatlantic crossing. To round off the whisky experience, master distiller Richard Paterson will be giving a presentation on board the ship. “The Dalmore is celebrated in iconic locations around the world,” Paterson said. “We see celebrations of The Dalmore at Baccarat Hotel New York, at 40,000 feet on board Emirates First Class, and now a unique opportunity to savour the Cunard whisky flight at 28 knots.” Also aboard the Queen Mary 2 will be two rare expressions from The Dalmore Constellation Collection, a limited edition collection of individual rare casks released by the distillery. We’ll certainly say ‘aye aye’ to that.

The Nightcap

Delicious booze and a good cause? We’re in!

Hedgepig gives a helping hand to hedgehogs with new gin liqueur

Hedgepig has increased its range of small batch gin liqueurs to four with the launch of a new flavour, Zesty Elderflower. The reveal coincides with and will benefit Hedgehog Awareness Week (5-11 May). By donating 50p for every bottle sold to the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, the brand is doing its bit to alleviate the plight of the tiny, spiny mammals, who really don’t have it easy. Hedgepig was created by the team behind Pinkster gin, and crafts all its liqueurs from locally-grown or foraged fruits – Zesty Elderflower was made from wild elderflower. It’s said to have a ‘delicate’ flavour with subtle citrus notes and is best enjoyed cold with pudding or as a cocktail topped up with Prosecco. “We’re thrilled to be supporting the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, especially during their awareness week,” said Hedgepig founder, Stephen Marsh. “The plight of the hedgehog makes for desperate reading. In rural areas, numbers have fallen by half over the past two decades. We’re delighted to be supporting the fine work of the unsung heroes at this cracking little charity. Every little counts.” Don’t forget to check out The British Hedgehog Preservation Society, which offers help and advice to those with sick, injured and orphaned hedgehogs, if you’d like to do your bit to help those snuffly little fellows.

The Nightcap

Congratulations to Nick Savage, the new master distiller of Bladnoch!

Macallan master distiller joins Bladnoch

Lowland distillery Bladnoch has a new master distiller! Nick Savage will join the team from 1 July. This is big news, not only because the brand has replaced Ian MacMillan, who left the distillery to establish his own whisky consultancy firm in January, but because Savage has stepped down as master distiller of The Macallan to work with Bladnoch. Savage, who prior to his three-year tenure at Macallan was a distilling technical leader at Girvan Distillery and had a four-year stint at Diageo, will work alongside newly-appointed distillery manager Neil Bulloch. He explained his decision was down to “the vision and ambition shown by David Prior and the team at Bladnoch distillery”. He continued: “The opportunity also allows me a new challenge in single malt Lowland Scotch whisky from a 200-year-old distillery.” Prior, Bladnoch CEO and owner, added: “It’s a great privilege to welcome Nick Savage to the Bladnoch business. His youthful, positive and energetic approach will add great value to our team and business, as will his technical and operational skills.” As for Macallan, this announcement follows the departures of whisky maker Bob Dalgarno and former creative director Ken Grier to lead the team at Glenturret Distillery. There could be some interesting times ahead for the Speyside brand, which celebrated the opening of a state-of-the-art distillery in 2018 and seems to break numerous auction whisky records on a weekly basis. As of yet, there is no word on who will be replacing Savage in the role of the master distiller, but we’re sure it won’t take them too long to… make the call.

What time is it? It’s time to get tropical!

Laki Kane’s Georgi Radev launches tiki tome

Love tiki cocktails? Then you’ll probably already know of Georgi Radev. After managing London’s tiki outpost Mahiki for more than a decade, he opened his own rum embassy, Laki Kane, in 2018. It’s even got its own rum microdistillery upstairs (head on down and you can even re-distil your own!). Now he’s evangelising about all things rum through the written word with Let’s Get Tropical, a recipe book detailing over 60 delicious serves. The best bit? They’re all curated so we can make them easily at home! It starts with super-easy how-tos, from how to make a sugar syrup to learning to swizzle properly. Then Radev cracks on to the good stuff. He’s packed in the classics (the likes of Daiquiris and Mai Tais, with optional twists and reinventions) and then he’s treated us to some ‘Modern Tropical’ cocktails form his own imagination. There are punches, if you need to impress the masses, and even treats from the current Laki Kane menu, including the mouth-watering watermelon-based Wiki Tiki (we tasted it at the book launch. It was wonderful). If you’re prepping for a summer party, Let’s Get Tropical is essential reading. It’s priced at £9.99, and hits UK shelves in May!

The Nightcap

Introducing: Benromach Cask Strength Vintage 2008 Batch 1

Benromach launches new cask strength expression

We do love a story about more new whisky, and that’s exactly what Benromach Distillery has given us this week. The family-owned distillery has a new addition to its Classic Range, Benromach Cask Strength Vintage 2008 Batch 1. The limited-run single malt whisky was laid down in 2008 and matured in a combination of first-fill sherry and bourbon casks. It was then bottled in 2019 at a cask strength 57.9% ABV with an outturn of 5,500 bottles. According to Benromach, the rich and full-bodied dram has notes of cracked black pepper, fruits and milk chocolate, with a delicate smoky edge on the palate. The bottle itself was created to mirror the shapes and textures of the Speyside distillery and will detail the vintage year, batch number and age. “By offering the opportunity to own and enjoy batch releases, we are able to further showcase the expertise of our distilling team while determining the right time to bottle each batch to take full advantage of the remarkable single malt whiskies we produce,” said Keith Cruickshank, Benromach distillery manager. “We believe this expression will allow Benromach drinkers to understand more about the provenance of the whisky they are drinking.” We’ve got some on the way to MoM Towers so keep an eye out, folks!

The Nightcap

We think it’s safe a bottle of this beauty wouldn’t be Money for Nothing

Sultans of Gin! Former Dire Straits frontman teams up with Portobello Road

London dry gin brand Portobello Road has partnered with the legendary Mark Knopfler OBE (if you haven’t heard of him or Dire Straits, then get your act together) to make a distinctive, special edition ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ gin, Local Heroes No.3. It’s a move that’s as awesome as it was inevitable. (He had a song called Portobello Belle, folks. It was only ever a matter of time.) Local Heroes No.3 was created by Knopfler and Portobello Road Gin’s co-founder, Jake F. Burger using the nine botanicals from its Portobello Road Gin with the addition of lime zest, fresh cucumber peel and olive oil, which were distilled in the 400-litre copper alembic still King Henry, then bottled and labelled by hand. The label design is understandably guitar-themed, and each bottle even comes with a miniature version of Knopfler’s iconic sweatband from his Dire Straits gigs. “As a gin fan, it is a wonderful opportunity to work with a prestigious brand like Portobello Road Gin to craft my own blend,” said Knopfler. “It is robust in flavour and strong in spice – exactly the kind of gin that I enjoy and I hope my fans will too.” Burger added: “It is a huge honour to be able to work with Mark to create a London Dry Gin with a rock n roll edge. As expected, the flavours are totally unique and we believe the result is extremely exciting. So why not mix yourself a cocktail, turn the stereo up and listen to one of Mark’s many classic albums?”

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Founder Annabel Thomas wants to encourage more women to work in whisky

Ncn’ean offers whisky-making internships for women

Scotland’s first 100% organic whisky distillery is offering two women the opportunity to learn to make whisky, from mashing and distilling through to maturation, with two all-expenses-paid summer internships. Ncn’ean Distillery, situated in converted farm steadings on the grounds of the historic Drimnin Estate on the Morvern peninsula, will also teach interns how to forage for the local plants that are used in Ncn’ean’s Botanical Spirit and how to make cocktails. Annabel Thomas, founder of Ncn’ean, launched the initiative to raise the profile of distilling as a career option among women. “I wanted to challenge the outdated views a lot of people still have,” she explained. “The number of times people ask me ‘do you actually like whisky?’ just because I am a woman, and the lack of gender balance in the industry in Scotland, suggests we all still have more work to do.” She said she hopes women from all walks of life will apply. So, if you fancy trying your hand as a distiller then you should probably get applying! The internships are open to all women aged 18 or over and will take place from 15-20 July. All travel, accommodation and food are included. It sounds like it could be the opportunity of a lifetime!

Hannah Lanfear, Phil Duffy, and plenty of Cognac

Culture Cognac champions Cognac cocktails – we approve

This week, we hot-footed it over to East London for an educational Cognac immersion with the UK’s brand of the Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac – and it was brilliant! The UK Cognac Bureau put on the Culture Cognac workshop for the trade to highlight the spirit’s role in contemporary cocktails. Phil Duffy and Hannah Lanfear chatted through production choices (think: terroir, grapes, barrels, ageing and more) and how they influence flavour – clearly vital when it comes to cocktails. “It’s so positive to see the Cognac category continuing to grow in popularity, now more than ever, which is of course due to London’s love of cocktails being at an all-time high,” said Duffy. “Cognac is no doubt one of the most versatile spirits and is one of the hottest cocktail ingredients going.” The team from The Devil’s Darling bar helped out with the serves. Feeling inspired? Why not check out the Brandy Sour and give it a go this weekend?

Think about playing Monopoly with your Tequila-loving friends? Maybe think again…

And finally… Science suggests we shouldn’t trust Tequila drinkers

This week a mighty intriguing press release crossed our desks. Apparently, you can tell how likely someone is to cheat by their booze preference. This is from ghost-writing company EduBirdie, and is clearly Highly Scientific. Ahem. Anyway, it surveyed 18-24 year olds in the US and from more than 2,000 responses, somehow concluded that wine drinkers are by far the most reliable: only 16% admitted to cheating at school, with just 8% fessing up to cheating romantically. Whisky drinkers were less angelic; just over a third said they had cheated on a partner, and 78%(!) cheated at school. Beer drinkers were (slightly) more honest academically, with 68% saying they’d cheated at school – but almost half had cheated in a relationship. Then, we have the Tequila fans. While a third said they’d cheated at school, a whopping 81% said they’d cheated on a partner. We’re an office of whisky and agave lovers, and we’re shook.

On that revelatory note – that’s it for The Nightcap this week. Have a great weekend (and if you’ve got a date, give the Tequila a wide berth).

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FYI – we do next-day weekend drinks delivery!

Saturday night soiree and missing something critical? Got a Sunday birthday gathering and forgot the all-important gift? Fret not – we can save the day with our next-day weekend drinks…

Saturday night soiree and missing something critical? Got a Sunday birthday gathering and forgot the all-important gift? Fret not – we can save the day with our next-day weekend drinks delivery!

Our mission in life is to create amazing drinks experiences and get all manner of delicious things out into the world. And we love doing it. So much so that a while ago we introduced Sunday shipping, on top of our weekend Saturday service. All for just £8.95!

And it’s super speedy, too! If you’re on most of the UK mainland and order before 9pm on Friday night we’ll reach you on Saturday. If you want your boozes on a Sunday, just order before 3pm on Saturday afternoon. (Sorry, Highland and Island-dwellers. We can still reach you but we’ll need a little more time. We’ll need to summon the ferries, extra delivery folks and the like, they’re not always nippy. Not sure? Pop your postcode in at the checkout.)

This isn’t anything particularly shiny and new. But now spring has finally sprung and barbecue weekends might actually be A Thing again in the UK, we thought we’d give it a mention. Consider it a public service announcement, if you will. If you need next-day deliciousness, we can help. Even at the weekends!

If you’re not the sort to plan ahead, it now literally doesn’t matter. Weekend drinks delivery is here! Although that does mean you’ve got one less excuse for turning up at Sunday lunch empty-handed…

Weekend drinks delivery

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The Nightcap: 18 April

Tomorrow is a Bank Holiday here for your friends at MoM Towers, so The Nightcap is coming to you a whole day early! Wait a minute. It’s not Friday. This…

Tomorrow is a Bank Holiday here for your friends at MoM Towers, so The Nightcap is coming to you a whole day early!

Wait a minute. It’s not Friday. This is an imposter Friday. A pseudo-Friday. A fake Friday. Does that mean that all the booze news in this edition of The Nightcap will be “fake news”? No, of course not! It’s simply just arriving in your eyes a day early as we won’t be here tomorrow due to the bank holiday. Expect to see us on the beach, surfboard and parasol in hand.

On the blog this week, Annie talked desert island drams with Joe Hall of Satan’s Whiskers, while Adam looked at sweet treats for Easter and imbibed some delicious English whisky for our New Arrival of the Week. Henry’s Cocktail of the Week was a Martiki, a delicious blend of the exotic and the classic. Kristy then looked at Pernod Ricard’s latest purchase, Malfy Gin and guest writer Nate Brown pondered why so many bars don’t serve good coffee.

Right. Let’s get on with the show!

The Nightcap

Look – it’s the ‘world’s first’ Scotch cross bun!

Now you can enjoy Scotch cross buns this Easter!

Reading this in London or New York? Then you are in for a right treat. Noted chef Rory Macdonald, off of NYC’s Patisserie Chanson has teamed up with The Dalmore to create a ‘world-first’ Scotch cross bun! “We’ve used a nutriglaze, which means the whisky is heated but not to the point where the alcohol evaporates,” Macdonald himself explained. “This means the buns aren’t whisky flavoured – it’s a pure whisky glaze – so these Scotch Cross buns are the real deal.” The whisky in question? Dalmore 12 Year Old. A spokesperson from Whyte & Mackay, which owns the Scotch brand, added: “When Patisserie Chanson came to us with the idea of elevating the humble hot cross bun, we knew that they would produce something really special.” Due to the booze content, you do have to be over 18 (21, we presume in New York) to enjoy them. They’re available in the cities from 19-21 April – baked goodies and Scotch? Count us in.

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An artist’s impression of a swanky new visitor centre

English Spirit plans a boozy visitor centre in Cornwall

Live in Cornwall or got it on your travel list? If English Spirit gets its way, there will soon be another essential stop for visitors to the county. The distillery has submitted plans for a swanky new visitor centre at Treguddick Manor in Launceston. The new space, which will open in Spring 2020 if the team gets the green light, will give guests an insight into spirits productions. Plans also include a café bar, an event space, and a shop. The idea is that other local businesses will get involved and showcase their wares. Most of the details are still under wraps, but we’re excited about this one!

The Nightcap

We’ve had a century of delicious Aperol!

Aperol celebrates 100 years of joy

1919 was a momentous year, World War One was over and the Barbieri brothers, Luigi and Silvio launched a new drink called Aperol at the Padua International Fair. The drink quickly became popular in the nearby city of Venice in the form of the Spritz Veneziano but it’s only in the last 10 years that the drink has gone truly global: according to Drinks International magazine the Aperol Spritz is the 9th bestselling cocktail in the world. To celebrate the anniversary, naturally Aperol has a few things up its sleeves (if drinks can be said to have sleeves). These include the not entirely grammatical Together We Joy global campaign featuring a video; limited edition bottles with labels based on works by Italian artists Lorenzo Mattotti; a graphic novel by Tito Faraci with illustrations by Sergio Gerasi; and a summer tour around the Med with DJ’s, pop-up bars and amphibious vehicles. Finally, there will be something called ‘Grazie Veneto’ where Aperol thanks the region where it was born with three artists, one from Italy, England and America, who will be creating artwork to be exhibited in the town square in Padua. In short, this summer’s colour will be orange.

The Nightcap

A selection from the new High Coast range

FMV brings High Coast Swedish whisky to UK

Fields, Morris & Verdin (Berry Bros’s wholesale arm) announced this week that makers of delicious Swedish whisky High Coast has been added to its extensive spirits portfolio. Which in layman’s terms means more delicious Swedish whisky, folks! One of a handful of Swedish distilleries to be founded in recent years, you might know the brand from its original name, Box Distillery, it was renamed High Coast after Compass Box raised concern. Fresh from its rebrand, High Coast has launched a range of whiskies to show off all aspects of what the distillery is capable of. The first whisky in the selection is Älv, a single malt whisky crafted from 100% unpeated malt and matured in bourbon casks for 6 years. There’s also Hav, a blend of 20% peated, 80% non-peated malt whisky aged initially in 40-litre virgin American, Hungarian and Swedish oak casks for 3-4 months before it was transferred into bourbon barrels for 3-6 years. Timmer is the only 100% peated malt whisky in the selection and was matured in bourbon casks for 5-6 years. The last drink in the range is Projekt 63, an experimental dram that was aged for 63 months in 63-litre first-fill bourbon casks on the 63rd parallel, 63 decimetres above ground. We’re looking into why it was named Projekt 63. Berg, a 100% unpeated single malt matured in bourbon casks for 2 years then finished in PX casks for another 2 years, will join the range from September 2019. Berry Bros & Rudd’s spirits buyer Doug McIvor commented on the news: “I have been following the emergence of High Coast over the past few years after tasting new make spirit from the distillery a while back. My thoughts on tasting the spirit back then were that this was a world-beating whisky for the future. Everything I’ve tasted from High Coast since then has confirmed this to be true.” They will be coming to MoM Towers, so get excited Swedish whisky fans!

The Nightcap

The scenic Smoke & Mirrors, which boasts a pretty good view we’d say…

Smoke & Mirrors presents new head bartender and menu

Singapore bar Smoke & Mirrors has certainly been busy this week. Not only has the rooftop establishment got a new head bartender, Jorge Conde, but it has also launched a cocktail menu, ‘Illusion of Flavours’. Conde previously worked in bars in Spain and London over the last fourteen years and has experience in graphic design, which has come in handy already in menu influenced by Dalí, Picasso and Van Gogh. ‘Illusion of Flavours’ is divided into six categories: Fizzy & Elegant, Sour & Neat, Long & Refreshing, Strong & Neat, Fruity & Punchy and Savoury & Umami, and features Conde’s first creation for Smoke & Mirrors, La Fumata Bianca, which means ‘the White Smoke.’ This is a twist on the Negroni, smoky agave-based raicilla replaces gin, gentian liqueur stands in for Campari and, a blend of Bianco and quinine vermouth takes the place of sweet vermouth in his debut drink. “For this menu, my goal was to reimagine classic cocktails, focusing on traditional flavour profiles and exploring new ways to create them,” says Conde, “I find that people often have preconceptions about how a drink will taste, and I wanted to challenge those expectations with our drinks. While the presentation may appear to be simple, the flavour profiles are quite complex and layered, evolving as you enjoy the drink. As you may expect from the name, there is more than meets the eye.” So if enjoying creative cocktails while taking in spectacular panoramic views of Singapore’s skyline sounds like your thing, you know what to do. And if it doesn’t, have a word with yourself for goodness sake.

The Nightcap

Founder Deano Moncrieffe has plenty of experience with agave spirits

New agave spirits bar Hacha opens in London

Fans of all things agave will be delighted to know that a specialist agave spirits bar (or ‘agaveria’) has opened on Kingsland Road, Dalston, London. Hacha, pronounced ‘acha’ and named after the axe used to cut agave pinas, was founded by Deano Moncrieffe, the luxury Tequila ambassador for Diageo Reserve who has worked on its Tequila and mezcal portfolio for over a decade. Moncrieffe’s bar will serve an evolving menu of 25 different Tequilas, mezcals and lesser-known agave spirits, including fine and rare bottles that would otherwise be hard to find in the UK. Each drink will be available to order individually or as part of a tasting flight, which will pair the chosen spirit with a flavour enhancer, for example, añejo Tequila and rum-soaked grilled pineapple. Of course, no good bar would be worth its salt without a good selection of cocktails, which Hacha has in abundance. The bar’s signature drink is the Mirror Margarita, which is served on tap from a striking glass piña on the bar. Latin-inspired small plates, decor and music also feature. Any new establishment that champions agave-based spirits in an innovative, accessible way sounds like a winner in our books.

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The delicious Anna Pavlova cocktail at Swingers

Swingers: where golf and cocktails meet

We swung on down to Swingers West End crazy golf club for a fabulous evening of cocktail tasting with the head bartender Leo Glé. We were treated to six outstanding cocktails, including three creations that are completely unique to Swingers, named Anna Pavlova, Put The Lime In The Coconut and Elderflower Spritz. When he presented us with Put The Lime In The Coconut, which marries Havana Especial, coconut syrup, lime, passionfruit, mint, Glé told us that if we closed our eyes it would be just like we were on a beach somewhere. Of course we obliged, and, of course, he was right! Then, there were three which threw a twist on a classic, including a tonka bean Espresso Martini, a Clover Club, and an XXX Martini, which was basically a Pornstar Martini with the nutty addition of frangelico. All of the cocktails were absolutely beautiful and outrageously delicious, so a huge thanks to the talented guys behind the bar at Swingers. Glé has been working with Swingers pretty much since the original site opened back in 2016, and it is an understatement to say that his creations are well above par. Unlike our golfing skills.

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Glen Moray master distiller Graham Coull and Scottish rugby star Jamie Ritchie enjoyed a dram

Glen Moray masterclass at Murrayfield

Last week Speyside distillery Glen Moray released a special rugby-inspired whisky called the Edinburgh Rugby Private Edition. Just 312 bottles of this 52.8% ABV whisky have been produced. Each will cost £100 with all profits going to a charity, Hearts and Balls, which raises money for injured rugby players. The whisky comes from a cask chosen by Scotland internationals, John Barclay (the captain, no less) and Damien Hoyland. And what better way could there be to launch this whisky than with a masterclass at the home of Scottish rugby, Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh. It was hosted on Friday 12 April by Glen Moray’s master distiller Graham Coull and Scottish international player, Jamie Ritchie, popped in for a wee dram.

The Nightcap

Cocktails with just two ingredients are all the rage at Artesian Bar now

Artesian Bar launches new minimalist cocktail menu

The Artesian Bar at the Langham Hotel in London has won more awards (including World’s Best Bar) than you can shake a stick at. We know because we’ve tried to shake a stick at all the awards and failed. It used to be famous for its elaborate cocktails but no longer because now at the Artesian less is more. A new minimalist menu has been created by bar manager Anna Sebastian and head bartender Remy Savage, who both joined the Artesian in 2017. The new menu which was introduced this week consists of a series of cocktails containing only two ingredients. And to make things even harder for themselves, these new cocktails aren’t exactly what you would call classic pairings: there’s Perrier Jouët Champagne and cream, Star of Bombay Gin with golden beetroot, and St Germain Elderflower Liqueur and red carrot. Elderflower and carrot? It all sounds a bit mad but if anyone can pull it off it’s this team. We’ll be visiting soon and will report back. Watch this space.

 

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A Brad Pitt-ed olive would go nicely with this. Right? Because… Oh never mind.

And finally… Waiter! There’s a George Clooney in my drink

How much do you like George Clooney? Do you think he’s a good actor but hasn’t done anything really great since Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? in 2000? Well, then you probably won’t be ordering a special new cocktail at Bassment bar in Chicago. This drink could not be any Cloonier: not only is it called The Clooney but it contains Clooney-brand Tequila, Casamigos Reposado, and a giant ice cube featuring the face of Clooney himself smiling up at you as if to say: ‘you really love me, don’t you?’. It’s part of a series of cocktails based on famous people including Beyoncé, Elton John and Adele. The other ingredients in The Clooney are Carpano Antica vermouth, crème de banana, vanilla bean simple syrup, honeyed apricot and smoked hickory. Actually, that sounds rather nice. I wonder if they’ll do one but with a Jeff Goldblum ice cube instead.

No Comments on The Nightcap: 18 April

Beefeater parent Pernod Ricard snaps up Malfy Gin

Pernod Ricard has got a taste for juniper! The drinks group released a statement this morning confirming it’s about to buy Italy-based Malfy Gin, growing its gin portfolio to six….

Pernod Ricard has got a taste for juniper! The drinks group released a statement this morning confirming it’s about to buy Italy-based Malfy Gin, growing its gin portfolio to six.

“This acquisition is true to our long-standing strategy of investing in brands with strong potential in growing categories,” said Christian Porta, MD of Pernod Ricard’s Global Business Development arm.

Malfy Gin is made by the Vergnano family in Moncalieri, and is available in four varieties: Originale, Con Limone, Con Arancia and Con Rosa. It’s produced using genuine Italian ingredients including juniper, coastal-grown lemons, Sicilian blood oranges and pink grapefruits.

It has already proved popular in big drinks markets around the world, including the US, Germany, and here in the UK.

Pernod Ricard hasn’t said how much it has paid for the brand, which will join the likes of Monkey 47, which it partnered with in 2016, and Ungava, a 2018 acquisition, once the transaction goes through.

“We are excited to see Malfy Gin move to the Pernod Ricard family of brands,” said Elwyn Gladstone, founder of Biggar & Leith, which launched Malfy in 2016.

“We believe that with their stewardship and expertise in building super-premium spirits brands, Malfy will continue to flourish.”

The deal is expected to close shortly – and it seems likely we will see more brand-buying from the drinks giant. “In line with the launch of our ‘Transform and Accelerate’ strategic plan, we will continue actively managing our fantastic portfolio of brands,” Porta added in the statement.

Malfy Gin Pink Lemonade

Malfy Gin Pink Lemonade

Malfy is pretty popular here at MoM Towers. If the news is giving you a bit of a hankering for a gin cocktail, why not give this super simple Pink Lemonade a go, made with Malfy Gin Rosa.

Take an ice-filled Highball glass and mix two parts Malfy Gin Rosa with one part Limoncello. Top with three parts soda water and garnish with a slice of lime and a raspberry (if you’re feeling fancy). Enjoy!

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The Nightcap: 12 April

A meeting of master distillers and blenders, $1,000 Mint Juleps and secret whisky history – The Nightcap has all these stories and more! It’s Friday once again, and, like clockwork,…

A meeting of master distillers and blenders, $1,000 Mint Juleps and secret whisky history – The Nightcap has all these stories and more!

It’s Friday once again, and, like clockwork, we’ve got another batch of news stories from the world of booze ready and waiting in The Nightcap. In fact, it’s almost as if we assembled a team of engineers and bribed them with the tastiest cocktails they could ever imagine to build us Nightcap-bot 3000 to produce these stories. Of course, that’s simply hogwash. We definitely have not done that, and we absolutely don’t disguise Nightcap-bot 3000 as a fridge when people visit the editorial team’s realm within MoM Towers to make it look like we’re very busy. We’re also not scared that Nightcap-bot 3000 will one day replace and potentially eat us all.

On the blog this week, guest writer Ian Buxton pondered whether whisky could crash in his first post for us, while Annie explored cocktails that have a way with words, then talked to Talisker about its new bartender competition Wild Spirit. Henry’s Cocktail of the Week was the classic Gin & Tonic in celebration of National Gin & Tonic Day, and Martini & Rossi’s new super fruity vermouth Fiero caught his eye for New Arrival of the Week. Kristy explored a fancy new Scotch from Glenmorangie, while Adam tasted a 47 Year Old Mortlach expression, then looked at Littlemill’s historical claim. If that wasn’t enough, here’s the rest of the week’s news!

The Nightcap

Take a look at Islay’s first new distillery for nearly 15 years!

New Islay distillery Ardnahoe opens its doors

The opening of a Scotch whisky distillery is always an event, but there’s something particularly special about a new one on Islay. Today Ardnahoe, the first new distillery on the island since 2005, was officially opened by the Rt Hon Lord Robertson of Port Ellen. Stewart Laing, managing director of Hunter Laing, the family-owned company which has invested £12m in the project, commented: “Since working as a teenager at Bruichladdich Distillery over 50 years ago, I have had a huge affinity with Islay and its malt whiskies. When we decided to build our own distillery, there was only one possible location. We have built a great team to manage the distillery and run the visitor centre and in a few years’ time we will be able to drink a great whisky in the classic Islay style, staying true to the island’s heritage with a heavily peated malt.” The spirit should be full of character as it will be made using wooden washbacks, Scottish-made lamp glass stills and worm tub condensers (the only distillery on the island to use them), and it will be aged in ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks. The great master distiller Jim McEwan advised on the project. With such pedigree, it’s no surprise that Hunter Laing has already pre-sold 400 casks of spirit. Team MoM is flying out to Islay on Monday to bring you the full story. Watch this space.

Jameson unveils new commercial for Taste, That’s Why campaign

Jameson Irish Whiskey unveiled the next instalment of its sassy Taste, That’s Why advertising platform this week. New commercial The Bartenders’ Gathering is set in Dublin in 2016, and tells the true story of 200 global bartenders at the brand’s annual three-day immersive and educational summit of the same name. It all looks very trendy and fun, with shots of distilleries, whiskey, bars, food, music and some lovely Irish countryside, as well as an unexpected twist. Some of the bartenders interrupt a distillery trip to go to a library (we’re just kidding, that isn’t it). “As we unveil the next chapter in the Taste, That’s Why story, we wanted to highlight Jameson’s revered position among bartenders as they have been instrumental to our success in the USA and around the world over the past 29 years,” said Simon Fay, international marketing director at Irish Distillers. “The new spot conveys the true spirit of the annual Bartenders’ Gathering in a high octane but light-hearted manner with a twist of Irish humour – it’s exactly what you’d expect from Jameson, and will help us to further build the profile and personality of the brand supporting equity growth into the future.”

The Nightcap

The wonderful Joy Spence of Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum

Campari launches Meet the Master, bringing together four drinks luminaries

Where can you see the master distillers and blenders behind Wild Turkey, Appleton Estate, Grand Marnier and Glen Grant all in one place? At Carlton House Terrace in London’s Mayfair from 14-16 May, when Campari UK launches Meet the Masters. The event will bring together more than 140 combined years of talent and expertise in one location. The line-up includes Joy Spence of Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum, the first woman master blender in the spirits industry; Eddie Russell of Wild Turkey Bourbon, the third generation Russell to work at the distillery; Patrick Raguenaud of Grand Marnier, whose family has been involved in the Cognac industry since 1627; and Dennis Malcolm of Glen Grant, who has worked at the distillery for over five decades. The event will offer tasting sessions with each master, panel discussions, and an opportunity for guests from the drinks industry and beyond to get the masters’ view on the latest industry trends. “With over 140 years of shared experience in the spirits industry between them, Meet the Masters is a must-attend for those who are serious about spirits, the stories behind them, and hungry to know more, in a unique and intimate setting,” said Brad Madigan, managing director at Campari UK. Sounds enlightening!

The Nightcap

The Fèis Ìle 2019 Limited Edition!

Douglas Laing unveils 2019 Fèis Ìle Big Peat bottling

Here at MoM we’re getting very excited about Fèis Ìle, the Islay Festival of Music and Malt that runs from 24 May to 1 June. To celebrate this year’s bash, Douglas Laing will be releasing a very special whisky called Big Peat’s Pals. It’s a blended malt containing whiskies from Ardbeg, Bowmore, Caol Ila and even Port Ellen! So rare. Only 3,300 bottles will be available globally. It’s the 10th anniversary of the much-loved brand and so the packaging of this special edition features the photos of 400 “pals” from all over the world. “By marrying together a fine selection of our preferred single malts, only from Islay, we truly believe we have created the ultimate taste of Islay in Big Peat,” said Douglas Laing director of whisky Cara Laing. “His latest limited edition, the Fèis Ìle 2019 release, pays homage to his friends the world over, over 400 of whom feature proudly on the gift tube. This year, we celebrate 10 years since my father dreamed up Big Peat, and our extensive plans will ensure our Big Islay Pal celebrates in style all over the world!” These plans include a Facebook tasting during Fèis Ìle for members of the Big Peat community, so that fans who can’t get to the island can join in the festivities. Very modern.

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This man is basically Indiana Jones, as far as I’m concerned

Whisky distillery archaeology gets under way in Scotland!

It’s been quite the week when it comes to whisky history. First we heard evidence that Littlemill was Scotland’s ‘oldest’ distillery. Now we’ve got some archaeological goings on at Blackmiddens, an old steading on the border between Moray and Aberdeenshire. It was one of the first distilleries to nab a licence after the Excise Act of 1823. Now, The Cabrach Trust, which preserves the history of the area, is excavating the site to figure out exactly what went down when, with help from Forestry and Land Scotland and Historic Environment Scotland. “For decades local farmers secretly distilled whisky and smuggled it away under the noses of excisemen. Then, when the law was changed to make small-scale whisky production profitable, Blackmiddens was one of the first farms to take advantage of this,” said Anna Brennand, Cabrach Trust chief exec. “Despite the fact that farms like this were famous for their fine quality spirit, whisky production at Blackmiddens stopped just eight years after it began and the farm fell into ruin. We hope to uncover some of the secrets of early whisky making in the Highlands with this exciting dig.” We can’t wait to see what they discover!

The Nightcap

Small-batch Serata Hall gin, anyone?

Serata Hall comes to Old Street

Just a stone’s throw away from Old Street station, a new establishment called Serata Hall opened its doors this week, which we know because we attended the launch party! The new site is Albion & East’s fourth offering alongside sister sites Martello Hall in Hackney, and Canova Hall and Cattivo, both in Brixton. Like its siblings, Serata Hall will make all of its food on-site (we can personally recommend the pizzas), serve tap wine (the biggest selection outside the United States), and provide guests the option to either create their own cocktails or ‘Book a Bartender’, where mixologists conjure up inventive cocktails. There’s also a DJ booth, a daily bakery and hot-desk spaces. But the thing that stands out most for us here at MoM Towers? The in-house distillery. That’s right. Serata Hall features a bespoke still, called ‘Agnes’, which makes small-batch Serata Hall gin, available for visitors to drink at the venue and buy on-site. You can even sign up to gin blending masterclasses, where the master distiller will show you how to blend, bottle and hand-wax two gins, which you then get to name and take away. You also learn how to make three gin cocktails, too. Sounds like a good time to us!

The Nightcap

Move over coffee machines, at-home booze machines have arrived!

Can this at-home booze machine change how we drink?

The future is now, folks. Smart Spirits – a company that produces different types of spirits by mixing water, ethyl alcohol and flavour – has come up with an at-home dispenser designed to make more than 30 different drinks spanning all the major spirits categories using capsules. A bit like those coffee tabs but with actual booze. How does it work? The so-called ‘Taste Of’ flavour capsules mix with neutral grain spirit and/or water to mimic the flavours of different whiskies, gins, rums, vodkas and liqueurs. You can choose the alcohol content (0-40% ABV), and there’s even Bluetooth connectivity, so you can control the whole thing from your smartphone. “We’re delighted to introduce to the market an innovative new way to drink at home,” said Ian Smart, one of the Smart Spirits co-founders. “Smart Spirits taps into the desire of the increasingly sophisticated and tech-savvy consumer to have control of the alcohol in their drinks, at the same time also choice and convenience.” On the one hand, you’ve got an entire drinks cabinet in one. But we reckon we’d miss the sound of the cork popping out of the bottle… the jury’s out on this one. Let us know what you think!

The Nightcap

This is a $1,000 Mint Julep. No, really.

Woodford Reserve unveils $1,000 Julep for the Kentucky Derby

What’s the most you would spend on a cocktail? £9? £15? £21? Well, Woodford Reserve is hoping some punters will be prepared to spend significantly more. To celebrate the 145th Kentucky Derby on 3 and 4 May, the bourbon producer, which is also the race’s official sponsor, has unveiled a $1,000 Mint Julep. Yes, one thousand clams. For that money you’d expect it to contain unicorn tears or at the very least powdered griffin beak. But in reality it’s made with standard Woodford Reserve, a honey syrup that was aged in oak for 145 days, and mint grown at Churchill Downs racetrack where the Derby takes place. The packaging, however, is seriously swanky. For the money you get a silver cup alongside a flask of bourbon, and the whole thing is presented in a wooden box lined with jockey silks. If that’s not lavish enough, there’s a gold version available for $2,500. Only 125 silver and 20 gold will be made. You will be pleased to know that this is not just about conspicuous consumption, all the proceeds go to the John Asher Memorial Scholarship Fund to provide an education for deserving students at Western Kentucky University.

The Nightcap

I defy you not to imagine yourself drinking something wonderful and Japanese here

Nobu and Suntory team up for Hanami experience

How does a showcase of contemporary Japanese craftsmanship with a menu of exclusive cocktails, bespoke dishes and afternoon tea sound to you? Pretty great, right? Well, good, because that’s exactly what Nobu Hotel London Shoreditch and The House of Suntory have put together with Hanami. It’s a celebration of the annual bloom of the Japanese Cherry Blossom, or Sakura, inspired by the ancient practice of dining beneath the blossoming flower. Millions of people from all over the world travel to drink, dance and dine beneath the blossom, but Hanami will bring the spirit of this tradition to London at the newest Nobu restaurant. The bar team at Nobu, led by beverage manager Wilfried Rique, has worked closely with The House of Suntory to create an exciting original menu inspired by its range of premium Japanese spirits, including Toki and Chita Whisky, Roku Gin and the newly-launched Haku Vodka. These are presented with Japanese ingredients, teas and house-made infusions in a menu of seven bespoke cocktails, alongside Nobu-style bar snacks and world class sushi. Visitors to the terrace also have the opportunity to indulge in an exclusive Sakura-inspired Afternoon Tea menu, offering a twist on the classic British tradition. It’s open to the public now, so if this sounds like your cup of tea, then be sure to check it out.

The Nightcap

Marcos Ameneiros Zannone, who will presumably be looking to replace that sticky shaker…

And finally… Bartender gets stuck at Cointreau Margarita contest

There was a hairy moment at this week’s Cointreau Margarita competition at Century House in London, when one of the contestant’s cocktail shaker got stuck. Not an unusual occurrence when mixing cocktails, but after some frantic banging and jimmying from poor Marcos Ameneiros Zannone from Berners Tavern, it became clear that it was well and truly jammed. Meanwhile, the ice inside was slowly melting and diluting the cocktail. And so, the cream of British bartending stepped in and everyone in the room had a go at opening the bloody thing. But nobody could. It was like the sword in the stone from Arthurian Legend. Just in the nick of time, in stepped one of the barmen from Century who managed to prize the recalcitrant shaker open. Zannone poured out his Susanita (which was inspired by Crêpes Suzette), and won the competition. Our Henry was one of the judges, alongside Sandrae Lawrence from The Cocktail Lovers magazine, award-winning bartender Carl Anthony Brown, and Alfred Cointreau himself. The panel also picked a winner from outside London, with Nathan Larkin from Manchester’s plant-based bar Speak in Code taking the title with his Sicolo Mayahuel, a smoky complex drink with an Aztec twist. The two runners-up were Dean Railton from Feed in Leeds, and Leonardo Baggio from Mr Fogg’s Residence. The two winners won lots of Cointreau and a trip to Cannes. Congratulations to all who took part – the standard was sky high – and especially to Zannone for keeping his cool.

That’s it for The Nightcap this week, team. Have awesome weekends!

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Littlemill revealed as Scotland’s ‘oldest’ licensed distillery

We finally have an answer. Historical documentary evidence has provided us with proof. Or as much proof as we can get. Scotch whisky now has an oldest distillery! It’s a…

We finally have an answer. Historical documentary evidence has provided us with proof. Or as much proof as we can get. Scotch whisky now has an oldest distillery!

It’s a question you’ve probably asked yourself (or let’s face it, straight up Googled) before. Which distillery holds the claim to be Scotland’s oldest? There hasn’t previously been a conclusive answer, and the debate has gone on for so long it could be the oldest argument in Scotch whisky.

Now, thanks to fresh evidence unearthed from archives, we may finally have an answer: Littlemill Distillery.

Littlemill distillery

Littlemill Distillery from above, in the good ol’ days.

Rumours that Littlemill is Scotland’s oldest distillery, possibly even the oldest in the world, have long persisted. It was hard to say for certain if this was true, despite the distillery’s extensive and fascinating history.

The Littlemill Distillery was established in 1772 on the banks of the River Clyde near Glasgow, on the site of an old brewery that was founded during the 14th century. There are suggestions that illicit distilling took place there from 1750 when the site was bought by George Buchanan, a malt master. Renowned whisky historian and writer Misako Udo in her book The Scotch Whisky Distilleries even suggested that distilling may have happened there many centuries before.

But it was a date stone carved with ‘1772’ on the gable end of one of the distillery’s warehouses that offered the best clue as to the age of this Lowland distillery for over 220 years. That was until Loch Lomond Group, the current owner of the Littlemill brand, commissioned a study of Littlemill’s origins. Behold – new evidence has come to light!

Littlemill distillery

The Littlemill distillery, shortly before it was sadly closed

The research uncovered the local Justice of the Peace’s records for Dumbarton, dated 2 November 1773, which stated that ‘Robert Muir of Littlemiln’ was granted the first-ever license by the Government of King George III to “retail ale, beer and other excisable Liquors”.

That’s not all. In 1772 accommodation was built next door to the distillery to house the Excise officers who represented the King. This measure ensured any distillation was duly recorded and the relevant taxes calculated and paid. There would not have been an excise officer on site had the distillery not been licensed to operate.

This suggests that something was already afoot onsite before 1772, and could well make Littlemill the oldest licensed distillery in Scotland. The distillery is sadly no longer in operation after it fell into perpetual silence in 1994 and was subsequently destroyed by fire in 2004.

Littlemill distillery

The original Thomas stills at the Littlemill Distillery

“It has often been rumoured that Littlemill was the oldest licensed distillery in Scotland, which until now have been only rumours,” said Colin Matthews, CEO of Loch Lomond Group.

“We have now uncovered conclusive documentary evidence to confirm these rumours and claims as reality, having commissioned detailed research to establish the facts. We are thrilled and excited to have discovered these clear and unambiguous documents dating back to 1773 that confirms that Littlemill was indeed the very first Scottish distillery to obtain a licence to sell ‘excisable liquors’.”

Charles MacLean, whisky historian and author, added: “The wrangle about ‘the oldest distillery’ has been running for ages, so this is a significant find. There have been several claims before, based on the fact that illicit distilling took place on the site prior to a license being granted. The Dumbarton Justice of the Peace records, referencing Littlemill, does not refer explicitly to distilling, since prior to 1781 private distilling was perfectly legal so long as the spirits were not offered for sale. So, this license to sell excisable liquors amounted to a license to distil as we understand it today. What a shame Littlemill itself burnt down in 2004, but thankfully some limited stocks remain!”

It’s good of MacLean to look on the bright side, and we’ll join him there ourselves. While it’s true another drop won’t be produced, the remaining stocks from Littlemill continue to be released by Loch Lomond Group.

In late 2018 the brand launched the Littlemill 40 Year Old Celestial Edition, the oldest expression ever to be released from the lost distillery and a celebration of the life’s work of former Littlemill owner Duncan Thomas. His innovative take on the distillery’s stills helped create three styles of single malts from full-bodied to light (seen in the above photo).

The latest addition to the Littlemill range will be released in September 2019. The third release from the Private Cellar Collection, Littlemill 29-year-old will be housed in a Glencairn crystal decanter etched with an illustration of the River Clyde and a silver star signifying the Littlemill distillery’s location. The whisky will be accompanied by a 5cl miniature of the liquid, a piece of an original Littlemill cask, and a booklet sharing the fascinating history of the Littlemill distillery along with tasting notes from Master Distiller Michael Henry. It sounds delightful, but there will only be 600 bottles released across the world, so you’ll need to be quick. You have been warned.

If you do manage to get your hands on a bottle, be sure to boast that it’s from Scotland’s oldest licensed distillery.

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