With the Easter weekend on the horizon, you might have thought there would be no new round-up this week. You’d be wrong because we’re doing it a day early. It’s the Nightcap: 1 April edition.
Happy April Fool’s Day/long weekend everyone! Today we all had a good laugh when we pretended we aged some delicious whisky in a tonic wine cask. You know, like that infamous drink known as ‘wreck the hoose juice’. Expect it was no joke. Surprise! It was an April Unfool. We really did do it. The old switcheroo. It’s bonkers. It’s brilliant. And it’s totally real. What a rollercoaster.
Once you’ve gotten over our double bluff, you might also want to enjoy some of our other scribblings this week. Like our guide on how to pair chocolate and booze for Easter, our refreshing recipe for a terrific Tequila-based cocktail, our top picks of blended beauties and a review on a tasty new Tennessee whiskey. We also had drinks advertisements on the mind this week as we considered both how they evolve and who takes a starring role.
But we’re not done yet. There’s Nightcapping to do! Let’s proceed.
Diageo pays tribute to Caroline Martin
We kick things off this week by raising a glass to Caroline Martin, who is preparing to retire after a distinguished 35-year career. Since Martin began her whisky journey in 1986, she has made good use of her extraordinary whisky blending skills by working with brands like Johnnie Walker, J&B, Bell’s and Roe & Co Irish whiskey. As one of the company’s longest-serving whisky master blenders, Martin has become known for her sensory analysis skills, ability to lead training and panels, and judge prominent competitions, all while blazing a trail for women in whisky. Her achievements have led to honours like becoming a Keeper of The Quaich or winning ‘Blender of The Year’ for Roe & Co by The Spirit Business in 2019. It’s her last role at Diageo’s new Dublin-based distillery that might be her finest hour, re-launching the old brand after creating 106 prototype blends of Irish single malt and single grain to make an expression worthy of its historic name. Rhona Ferrans, Diageo whisky specialist team manager, paid tribute to Martin by acknowledging her “extraordinary contribution” and describing her as a “great example and source of inspiration to all of her colleagues”. Martin herself said, “The past 35 years have been an incredible journey and I am thankful to everybody at Diageo who have made it so memorable”. We sincerely hope you enjoy your retirement, Caroline. You deserve it.
Stephen Woodcock goes to Glen Moray
Glen Moray also has big news regarding personnel changes, announcing that Stephen Woodcock will take the helm at the Speyside single malt whisky distillery. His job title is actually ‘head of whisky creation & stocks’, and he’ll develop Glen Moray’s wide range of whiskies while also working with the other whisky brands owned by Glen Moray’s parent company La Martiniquaise-Bardinet like Cutty Sark, Label 5 and Sir Edward’s. He succeeds Dr Kirstie McCallum, who recently took up a similar role at Halewood International. There’s no word on why her stint with Glen Moray was so short, as she only joined in 2019. Regardless, Woodcock joins with plenty of experience in this industry, most recently with The Distell Group, where he was responsible for Deanston, Bunnahabhain and Tobermory single malts. Which will now be Brendan McCarron’s job. It’s quite the merry-go-round. For lovers of whisky trivia, Glen Moray is the world’s 8th biggest-selling Speyside whisky and the 16th best-selling single malt. A statement from the distillery said “we are thrilled to bring his talent and experience into the LM-B family”. Woodcock added that he’s “so excited to be joining Glen Moray” and that, together with its expert team, he hopes to build on the “legacy of maturing and marrying different casks, to craft great-tasting whiskies, which will be enjoyed by newcomers and connoisseurs alike.”
Famous Grouse changes name to celebrate the British & Irish Lions
Famous Grouse and rugby go together like Budweiser and one of those American sports that go on for hours and are baffling to non-Americans. The UK’s number one blended whisky brand has been involved with the sport for 30 years and is currently the sponsor of the British & Irish Lions. To celebrate this special relationship, the bottle has had a makeover which now reads ‘The Famous British & Irish Lions’ instead of ‘The Famous Grouse’. You see what they did there? Chris Anderson, head of Edrington brands, commented: “We are very proud to reaffirm our commitment to this great game with the launch of this limited-edition bottle. On sale throughout the British and Irish Lions tour the bottle will enable us to celebrate the pride and camaraderie we see on the rugby pitch every matchday.” This special bottle which is likely to become a collector’s item will go on sale mid-April ahead of the Lions’ summer tour of South Africa. It should be a belter.
Is Glendronach now chill-filtered?
There was a proper few Rory over on whisky Twitter this week when someone noticed the words “non-chill-filtered” had been removed from Glendronach’s packaging. One fan asked whether the whisky was indeed now chill-filtered and posted a message which appears to come from the brand saying: “We have removed ‘Non-Chill-Filtered’ from our packaging to provide the flexibility in our processes to optimise consistently exceptional quality, flavour, clarity and stability.” So sounds like a yes then. Not chill-filtering, a process to stabilise the spirit which some think removes flavour, is a badge of honour among many distilleries and highly prized by whisky lovers. We have asked Spey which looks after the PR for Glendronach and the rest of the Brown Forman stable for comment but have not heard back yet. We will be investigating further in an article coming soon.
OurWhisky virtual whisky festival returns
There’s another virtual festival to pop in your calendars, folks. The team at OurWhisky say its celebration of the water of life will be back for a second year from 29 April to 27 May. The first festival, which took place in April 2020, was made in response to the Covid-19 crisis and tried to unite whisky makers and lovers while raising money for charity. Which it did. Over £12,000 was donated to The Drinks Trust. The 2021 festival will feature another series of fun and welcoming masterclasses, spread out across five sessions with unique themes. On 29 April is ‘Who Run The World?’, then ‘Club Tropicana’ on 6 May and ‘The Ryesing Tide’ on 13 May. Then, on 20 May there’s ‘New Kids on the Block’ and finally ‘WonkaVision’ on 27 May. While those category names are highly suggestive, you won’t actually know the full details until the day of the event, as the contents of each tasting pack, as well as those presenting them, will be a surprise. There are also five Golden Tickets hidden among the tasting packs this year. Lucky finders will be able to choose a full bottle of whisky of their choice from their tasting. Whisky retailer Milroy’s of Soho will partner with the festival to offer guests an exclusive discount on featured bottles featured. All profits from the event will go to The Drinks Trust. Tickets are on sale now for £30 and each includes a tasting pack of five 30ml whisky samples. The OurWhisky Virtual Whisky Festival will be live-streamed at 7 pm GMT on the brand’s Facebook, Twitter and YouTube channels.
New drinks website launches: OOFT!
A new platform has been made to embrace making the most of drinking in as well as drinking out. Introducing: OOFT! The site went live this month with videos, recipes, articles, masterclasses, events and advice from all corners of hospitality that focus on enhancing both the at-home and drinking out experience. OOFT! was made by Leanne Ware, the founder of drinks marketing agency Distinctly Aware, in response to our altered drinking culture post-Covid-19. The idea is for it to be an evolving one stop place where you can learn to create cocktails (or get a good one delivered), see what’s happening in your favourite bars and learn about drinks that to expert contributions from the likes of JJ Goodman founder of The London Cocktail Club, Camille Vidal founder of La Maison Wellness and Hannah Lanfear of The Mixing Class. You can even find the perfect spirituous gift as OOFT! has partnered with some mighty fine retailers. Mighty fine, multi-award-winning retailers. Masters of their craft, you might say… Ok, it’s us. We’re talking about us. Anyway, be sure to check out the website.
And finally… it’s an April Fool’s or is it?
The booze world really got into the spirit of April Fool’s Day this year with some amusing japes. Top beard owner Blair Bowman and the World Whisky Day team came up with The Dunnage, a limited edition reed diffuser that’s designed to mimic the smell of dunnage warehouses. Bowman commented: “After a decade of celebrating World Whisky Day each year, we thought it was time to stop and smell the roses — and mark our tenth birthday with something special. We couldn’t be happier with the result.” South of the border, English Spirits tried to catch us out with the Cornish Pasty Rum, “rammed with sweet raisin flavours and smooth caramel notes, daringly paired with the savoury palate of a Cornish pasty.” We very nearly fell for that. Is it any sillier than a Brussels sprout gin? Meanwhile, Fake Booze came up with a whole raft of fake boozes including: ”Groanheuser Bush’s new hard seltzer Cacti in association with an American rapper we’ve never heard of. The Agave Spiked Seltzer is unique in the way it features three whole buzz words in the title.” Still, none of them are April Unfools. That takes real genius…