The Nightcap has returned for 2020, and with it a fresh batch of boozy news, including an alcohol-free bar, a £1m crowd-funding campaign, and the UK’s ‘highest’ whisky distillery.
After a few weeks in a regenerative cocoon made out of Stilton and Yule log, The Nightcap has emerged with wings and those weird bug antlers that are actually eyes, ready to chow down on all the news from the booze world. That was a long-winded way to say that The Nightcap is back after a bit of a Christmas break, but the enthusiasm remains the same. We’re excited to see what drinks news this new year (and new decade) will behold – and it all kicks off… Now!
The blog was still full of fabulous features even throughout the festive period. We announced the winner of our Where’s #WhiskySanta 2019 competition the same week our supernatural, omniscient, festive, heavily-bearded sadly went on his holibobs. We then looked back at 2019: the delightful drinks we enjoyed (bartenders also had their say), the most read posts on our blog and an honest review of our trend predictions, before cracking out the crystal ball and to do it all again for 2020. Not always that seriously.
Our Dry January coverage kicked off at the Small Beer Brew Co., before Fiona Beckett and Claire Warner dropped by for a chat. Annie then explored the world of no-ABV cocktails, embraced #veganuary and the use of plant milk in cocktails and even looked to the future of AI in booze. Elsewhere, Adam enjoyed some warming rums, cast a spotlight on Micil and then Luxardo Distillery, while Jess brushed up on her Armagnac knowledge, and Henry reported on the developments at Port Ellen Distillery. Even among all that content, there was still time for a couple of new arrivals, including Bob Dylan’s own whiskey and a single malt from Yorkshire, as well as a fruity little number for Cocktail of the Week. Oh, and Dram Club returned for 2020.
Phew, talk about blog-mageddon! Now, for the first time in 2020, let’s enjoy the Nightcap!
Funding secured for UK’s ‘highest’ whisky distillery
There’s another new distillery on the way, folks! This one’s got a pretty cool story, too. Take one historic pub, The Cat & Fiddle, situated 1,689ft above sea level in the Peak District. It’s beautiful but didn’t do so well as a pub (the whole driving a long way to it thing wasn’t really working…). It opened in 1813, but ‘reluctantly’ closed its doors in 2015. Business was far from booming. But step in the Forest Distillery team! Eager to expand production, and to find a space for casks to mature, it teamed up with the pub’s Robinson family to kick off a crowdfunder to refurbish and transform the pub into a whisky distillery. An initial crowdfunding exercise raised £55,000, and now the team says it’s well on the way to reaching its eventual £250,000 goal. The site will be renamed The Cat & Fiddle & Weasel, after the adorable motif on the Forest Gin bottle. As well as the pub and distillery, there will also be an onsite shop with takeaway options for picnics and a visitor centre. And the best bit? The Forest Distillery team reckon the new site will be ready to open come August! We’re VERY excited. Wondering the elevation of the current highest whisky distillery in the UK? That title goes to Dalwhinnie, perched at an altitude of 1,164ft. The only way is up!
BrewDog launches ‘world’s first’ alcohol-free beer bar
Sound the ‘Dry January’ sirens, folks, we’ve got a big one here. BrewDog has launched a bar dedicated to alcohol-free beer. A whole bar. 15 taps of pure draft zero-ABV goodness. Launched this week in Old Street, London, it’s the first time the independent Scottish craft brewer has featured a line-up solely devoted to drinks without alcohol at a bar where visitors will be able to enjoy activities such as Hip Hop Karaoke, Dabbers Bingo, Famous First Words, and more. But, perhaps most excitingly for the thrifty among us, BrewDog will also be running the ‘Drink All You Can Jan’ programme across all its bars, which will offer drinkers unlimited refills of its alcohol-free beers for the entire month. BrewDog previously dipped its toes into low-ABV waters with the release of Nanny State in August 2009, which is now the UK’s best-selling alcohol-free craft beer. It followed that up with an alcohol-free version of the flagship Punk IPA, Punk AF, and two new additions, Wake Up Call, a coffee stout, and Hazy AF, an alcohol-free take on its existing New England IPA, Hazy Jane. BrewDog referenced a UK Beer Market Report from Mintel in 2018 that said that 24% of beer drinkers are choosing more low- or no-alcohol options, and that 28% of beer drinkers are cutting back on consumption because of health concerns, so the brand clearly feels this is a timely initiative. “Drinkers opting for low- or no-alcohol are in danger of compromising on quality, taste and experience. And that’s just the beer – forget about places in which to enjoy it,” said James Watt, who is apparently the ‘captain’ of BrewDog (lame). “We are going to change that. We exist to be a point of difference, and our first BrewDog AF Bar is just that. It is a beacon for anyone in London after an alcohol-free alternative. Alcohol-free does not need to be synonymous with taste-free. ‘Drink all you can Jan’ is our anti-Dry January. Whether you have cut alcohol out or are cutting back, we want to show that alcohol-free doesn’t mean compromising on quality or taste.”
Powers Irish Whiskey unveils new look
Powers Irish Whiskey has revealed a new bottle design for its range of premium Irish whiskeys, which will debut on core expression Powers Gold Label in the USA from March 2020. The makeover was undertaken to reach a new generation of drinkers to the classic Irish whiskey brand, which is made by Irish Distillers at Midleton Distillery, and follows the launch of Powers Old Fashioned, the brand’s first-ever pre-mixed cocktail and the Powers Quarter initiative, a collaboration between six Dublin bars to tell the story of Powers and its history. The updated design for the bottle shape is inspired by the distinctive pot still silhouette from the brand’s historical home at John’s Lane Distillery and the label is styled on the Powers ‘diamond P’, which was one of the first-ever trademarks registered in Ireland. Each whiskey will also have a different colour label, with Powers Gold Label in red as an homage to the original red Powers diamond marque, Powers Three Swallow in blue as a nod to the bird’s feathers and Powers John’s Lane Release in metallic ink, to reflect the industrial nature of the original distillery established in 1791 on John’s Lane, Dublin. “Powers sense of identity has always focused on the diamond P; that became very clear to me as I worked my way through the historical archive. The diamond P was everywhere; on the casks, stationery, on bills and receipts, emblazoned on everything that left the distillery, and notably on the wonderful Powers mirrors that still hang in Ireland’s pubs today,” says Carol Quinn, archivist at Irish Distillers. “Workers at the old John’s Lane distillery even took to wearing a diamond P pin on their lapel, such was their pride to be part of the Powers family. For me it’s wonderful to see the diamond P front and centre on this new label, symbolising all the history of this great whiskey since 1791.” Conor McQuaid, chairman and CEO of Irish Distillers, added: “We are excited to introduce this new look to the world and inspire a new generation with the unique history and personality of Powers.”
Cotswolds Distillery raises £1m in crowdfunding campaign
The award-winning Cotswolds Distillery has been feeling the love this week at it delightedly reported that its recent fundraising had already raised £1 million. In early December 2019, the producer of delicious English spirits (we’re big fans of its whisky) launched the campaign through its Angel’s Share 2 fundraising platform in order to “maximise whisky production and continue its brand-building programme”. It’s little surprise that the initiative attracted such interest from investors, as back in 2018 the distillery successfully raised £3m of equity which was subsequently invested in building the brand and senior management team. “We pride ourselves on creating award-winning English whiskies that are enjoyed across the world, and, are always looking for new investors to join us on this journey,” says Dan Szor, founder and CEO of the Cotswolds Distillery. “It is a very exciting time for them to be involved with the company and we’re hoping that this new investment will carry us through the next chapter in the distillery’s evolution and help support us in creating even more delicious whisky!” If you fancy investing yourself, you can do so here before 13 January 2020.
The Balvenie kicks off Stories tour
Single malt Scotch whisky brand The Balvenie is poised to take its Stories tour of bar takeovers on the road, with stops including London’s Lyaness (Sunday 12 January) and The Artesian (13 January), as well as Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Café (15 January). And there’s an antipodean twist: six of Australia’s leading bartenders are coming along for the ride. Alicia Clarke of Jangling Jack’s in Sydney; Jessica Arnott of Foxtrot Unicorn in Perth; Nicola Dean of Maybe Mae in Adelaide; Kayla Reid of Nick and Norah’s in Melbourne; Chelsea Catherine of The Black Pearl in Melbourne; and, Alissa Gabriel of Mjolner in Sydney will all make drinks using The Sweet Toast of American Oak 12 Year Old. Serves have been based on stories shared with the group of bartenders by Kelsey McKechnie, The Balvenie’s apprentice malt master, and creator of the expression. “I’m thrilled to be welcoming such an incredible cohort of bartenders onto UK shores to share stories and these special drinks with UK consumers,” said Alwynne Gwilt, UK ambassador. “Our new whisky series, The Balvenie Stories, is all about connecting through storytelling and I’ve no doubt this latest event series at these leading bars will give us some great tales to tell as the year goes on!” It’s not just about the booze – 10% of drinks sales from the tour will be donated to charities fighting the devastating bushfires in Australia. So what are you waiting for? If you’re in London or Glasgow, head on down!
Symington Port launches environmental initiative
2020 has seen Port producer Symington Family Estates off to a flying start, celebrating some rather impressive milestones with the 200th anniversary of Graham’s Port and the 350th anniversary of Warre’s Port. To celebrate, the Symington family didn’t just throw a massive party and sip on the delicious fruits of their own labour (who wouldn’t?), but created a force for good in the world! The family has created a new Impact Fund with an initial pledge of a whopping €1 million euros. The purpose of the fund? It’s threefold: community wellbeing and health, environmental protection and conservation, and cultural heritage and education, all in the Douro and Greater Porto regions as well as the Alto Alentejo. They’re currently working with Volunteer Emergency Services of the Douro region (they’ve donated 13 ambulances so far) and Bagos d’Ouro, a charity that provides education and opportunities for underprivileged children in the Douro. “We have always sought to run our family business in a way that benefits people – be they our employees or the wider community. We are also committed to protecting the beautiful natural environments where we produce our wines,” said Rupert Symington, CEO of Symington Family Estates. “We have consistently reinvested in the Douro region and have a long history of supporting social initiatives in the areas where we work. The Symington Impact Fund is a way of formalising this commitment and ensuring we support projects which are most aligned with our values and where we can have the maximum positive impact.” What a way to celebrate!
The King of Beaujolais dies at 86
This week the wine world lost one of its greats: George Duboeuf, known as the King of Beaujolais. Duboeuf was a marketing genius who took the annual release of the young wine, generally enjoyed only in local bars, and made it a global news story in the 1970s and ‘80s. On the day the wine was released, always the third Thursday of November, there were races to be the first to bring that year’s vintage back where it was sold with the slogan: ‘Le Beaujolais nouveau est arrivé!’. At a time when in Britain wine was still seen as something elitist, Duboeuf made it unpretentious and fun. He was born in 1933 into a vine-growing family in Burgundy and set up his own merchant business in 1964. It came to dominate the region through its own-label wines, with the pretty flowery labels, and by producing wines for retailers. Dominique Piron, head of Inter Beaujolais, commented: “Through his vision and his work, he gave life, colour, aromas and joy to the wines of Beaujolais. He was a catalyst, taking with him other merchants and other winemakers which made Beaujolais the first vineyard in France to make the headlines in newspapers and televisions, in France and around the world.” He went on to say: “The family business is in good hands with his son, Franck Duboeuf, at the helm and the adventure will continue.” Au revoir, Monsieur Duboeuf, and thank you for all the wine.
English start-up chosen for final of $1m Chivas Venture Fund
A London-based company WASE, which makes wastewater treatment systems, has won the England & Wales heat of this year’s Chivas Ventures. This annual competition run by the Scotch whisky company gives away $1 million to help with worthwhile businesses around the world. So far, Chivas has given away $5 million and, according to its figures, benefited over two million lives. WASE will now compete with 25 other companies in the global final in June. Before that, all 26 competitors will go to London for an intensive three-day training programme with experts and industry professionals. Founder Thomas Fudge commented: “I’m super excited and honoured to be representing England and Wales in The Chivas Venture global finals. Can’t wait to show the rest of the world what WASE has to offer and fight for my spot in the finals. Watch this space!” According to the press release: “WASE develops decentralised wastewater treatment systems that embrace a circular economy to recover energy, nutrients and water in wastewater – providing sanitation and energy in under-served communities.” Sounds very worthwhile. Good luck to WASE for the grand final in June!
The Coral Room and MEDA kick-off 2020 with CBD-infused zero-alcohol cocktails
The Coral Room is getting its zeitgeist on in 2020 by kicking off the new year with a range of cocktails made by head mixologist Stefan Pohlod that are CBD-infused and non-alcoholic. The core ingredient in each serve is a drink from lifestyle brand MEDA’s range, GLOW, CALM, RECOVER and Espresso Medatini SKUs, which were created by blending of 5-15mg of liposomal CBD (cannabidiol) with synergistic ingredients. The offerings include the Glow Spritz which combines lime juice, cardamom bitter and elderflower syrup, the Calming Coral which features lemon juice, peppermint cordial and strawberry purée, the Recover & Revive which mixes Seedlip grove with grapefruit and lime shrub and the Wake Up Call which sees caramel cream, chilli bitters and coffee tonic paired together. The cocktails are priced at £10 each and the brand claims that they are “the perfect way to detox after the prolonged festive celebrations whilst restoring the balance of both body and mind through the inimitable benefits that CBD has to offer”. Apparently. Essentially they should appeal to anybody partaking in an alcohol-free start to the new year and those who are buzzed about CBD cocktails.
🍺 Introducing #OneOfOurOwn, a collaboration beer produced by our Official Craft Beer Supplier, @BeavertownBeer, available in time for our first home game of 2020!#THFC ⚪️ #COYS pic.twitter.com/tzFT6mKxEy
— Tottenham Hotspur (@SpursOfficial) January 10, 2020
And finally… Tottenham Hotspur and Beavertown launch collaboration beer
Tottenham Hotspur’s ‘Official Craft Beer Supplier’ (I didn’t even know that was a thing. Is this a thing now?) Beavertown has launched a new beer in collaboration with the club just in time for the first home game of 2020. Fans of the club (ok, my dad) have described the development as “much needed”, given the team’s performance so far this season. The beer is called One Of Our Own, a name chosen by Tom Rainsford, a Spurs fan who recently joined Beavertown as marketing director, presumably inspired by the North London side’s chant for star player Harry Kane. A Tottenham fan (again, my dad) has described the timing as “typical”. Jokes aside, One Of Our Own is a significant launch as the classic British IPA was crafted with purely European hops (Callista, Mandarina Bavaria and Barbe Rouge) in the microbrewery operated by Tottenham-based Beavertown inside the Club’s new home – a world-first for any football stadium. The beer is said to have notes of stone fruit and malt-sweetness, matching the flavours thirsty supporters have favoured since the stadium opened last April. “Beavertown’s Neck Oil is already a half-time favourite, and we wanted to add to this by offering something new at the start of 2020,” says Rainsford. “Supporting a club is in your bones, and this beer feels the same. It’s familiar, yet distinct. A satisfying pint that makes you feel at home. We see Spurs as the beating heart of the Tottenham community, a central hub for football fans and residents alike. We both share values of bringing people together, creating revolutionary experiences and even world firsts like our microbrewery inside the stadium.” One Of Our Own will be sold exclusively at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, and will be available at tomorrow’s huge Premier League clash against Liverpool. Will it bring them luck?!