It’s The Nightcap and we’ve got stories on a Valentine’s jellyfish tasting menu, a big departure from Lagavulin, and a Brit Award being turned into a beer pump!

Valentine’s Day. If you’re not tragically alone forever (people, who needs them?), you’ll be well aware the day of organised love is just after this weekend. This means it is this weekend, basically. For those partaking, it’s time to get your presents, cards, and excuses together. For those who aren’t, or just need a break from the stress of it all, we’ve got just the tonic. Lots of gin! Oh, and the Nightcap!

On the blog, there was cause for awe/pointing-and-laughing as Macallan released its oldest-ever whisky, an 81-year-old bottling priced at £92k that’s presented on something straight off the Addams family’s mantlepiece. We then had the pleasure of tasting Crabbie’s new single malt and enjoying a classic Valentine’s Day cocktail, before whipping up some last-minute gift ideas, as well as recommendations for The Queen as she celebrates her big landmark (first monarch to kill 50 swans, or something). Elsewhere, Ian Buxton kept that theme going (monarchy, not swanicide) by walking us through the history between Scotch whisky and the crown in a feature on Royal Warrants, and Alex Badescu joined us for the first time to make Paddington’s favourite: marmalade cocktails! Of course, if you want some orangey goodness without the fuss, then you can always indulge in the new Jaffa Cake Negroni.

So, all that’s left to do now is to enjoy The Nightcap: 11 February edition!

The Nightcap: 11 February

Au revoir M. Guillaume

Pierrick Guillaume to leave Lagavulin 

Whisky news doesn’t come any bigger than a manager’s vacancy at Lagavulin. Ok, maybe an 81-year-old Macallan in a creepy fantasy sculpture. That’s pretty big. But nevertheless, we were all ears when we learned that everyone’s favourite Frenchman (er, what about Ludo Ducrocq? Ed.) in Scotland Pierrick Guillaume is leaving the Islay distillery after less than a year and a half at the helm. We asked Guillaume for a comment but he just referred us to a statement from Diageo:  “Pierrick has provided great service to our Scotch whisky business in his time at our distilleries, including the great island distilleries of Lagavulin, Caol Ila, and Talisker. We will miss him but we wish him the very best for the future.” We’ve heard rumours that he’s off to make whisky in France, of all places. Guillaume’s short reign at Lagavulin seems to be something of a trend for Diageo. His predecessor Colin Gordon was only there for just over two years. Meanwhile, Stewart Bowman recently left Brora for Isle of Arran, and Georgie Crawford was poached by Elixir from her job as manager at Port Ellen. These are ‘three of the most coveted jobs in the Scotch whisky industry‘ according to Diageo. Is there something going on at the spirits giant or is this just the nature of today’s competitive whisky industry?


Americans can’t seem to get enough of this

Irish whiskey could be bigger than Scotch in the US by 2030

Figures just released by the Distilled Spirits Council in the US will make very happy reading for Ireland’s distillers. Irish whiskey has had another bumper year with sales to America now standing at 5.9 million cases, up 16% by volume and 10.2% by value on the previous year. The vast majority of those sales are in the ‘high-end premium category’ which we think basically means Jameson. What is extraordinary is that 20 years ago Irish whiskey was selling less than ½ million cases in the US, and that the category is still expanding so rapidly. It’s the third fastest-growing category behind pre-mixed cocktails and Tequila/ mezcal. It still has some way to go before passing Scotch whisky which sells 9.7 million cases per year but if the current rates of growth continue for both categories, Irish should pass Scotch by 2030. “We’re bigger than Jesus!” commented William Lavelle from the Irish Whiskey Association. Only joking. He actually said: “With more supply coming available of age-statement, super-premium brands – from both established and newer distilleries – it is clear that Irish whiskey is going to be an increasingly competitive player in the higher-end whiskey market, taking on Scotch single malts.” They’ll be partying responsibly on the streets of Cork tonight. 

The Nightcap: 11 February

It doesn’t look 1200 years old

‘Britain’s oldest pub’ forced to close after 1,229 years

Ye Olde Fighting Cocks in St. Albans has been serving drinks for 1,229 years, but sadly it might have served its last pint after the landlord, Christo Tofalli, says it has gone into administration. The pub was already struggling to turn a profit for several years due to tax hikes and rising costs, but it would seem the effects of the coronavirus pandemic has proven to be the straw that broke the camel’s back. Ye Olde Fighting Cocks is said to date back to 793 and lays claim to being Britain’s oldest, although it gained its current name when it is thought to have hosted cock fighting in the late 19th century. The pub reputedly has a tunnel leading to nearby St Albans Abbey that was used by monks, and Oliver Cromwell is said to have spent a night there. “It is with great sadness that I have to announce that today, after a sustained period of extremely challenging trading conditions, YOFC Ltd has gone into administration,” Mr Tofalli said in a statement. “Along with my team, I have tried everything to keep the pub going. However, the past two years have been unprecedented for the hospitality industry, and have defeated all of us who have been trying our hardest to ensure this multi-award-winning pub could continue trading into the future.” Whether the pub is truly the oldest or not in the country, it’s gutting to see another great site go down, we’ve lost too many in the last couple of years. Let’s hope there’s a solution here somewhere.

The Nightcap: 11 February

This could be you. As long as you like jellyfish, of course

Kraken creates Valentine’s Day jellyfish tasting menu

If your Valentine would like the world’s most unusual dinner this year, then you’re in luck because Kraken Rum has created a gelatinous gastronomic adventure you won’t forget. Or probably want, to be honest. Developed by professional chefs, the three-course dinner is available to Valentine’s diners to experience at home and comes complete with a complimentary cocktail and Kraken’s new ‘Unknown Deep’ limited-edition bottle. The starter is jellyfish salad with sesame and peanut dressing; the main is teriyaki jellyfish with squid ink noodles and bonito flakes, and the dessert is a seafood pudding of the wobbliest proportions – jelly infused with jellyfish and Kraken Rum. There’s actually a method to this madness, because the jellyfish has been touted as the sustainable seafood of the future due to its large numbers and unique renewable life cycle. The kit also includes custom Kraken plates, an ocean projector (to recreate an underwater ambiance at home), and a special bioluminescent cocktail. The brand says that, though designed for the dinner table, if diners wish to serve the jellyfish dinner in their bathtubs “this is not discouraged”. Those up for a romantic night of jellyfish were able to get a kit through The Beast’s online portal The League of Darkness. If you miss out we wouldn’t be too disheartened, though. There’s surely no chance your loved one was expecting to get this.

The Nightcap: 11 February

Get down to the Merchant House bar in London on Valentine’s Day

Or celebrate Valentine’s Day, Hungarian style, with Seven Hills Tokaj gin

One of our favourite gin producers will be in London on Monday 14 February. Yes, on Valentine’s Day, Seven Hills Tokaj gin from Hungary will be taking over the Merchant House bar in the City of London with brand ambassador Rico (like Madonna or Beyonce, he only has one name) shaking up some suitably sexy cocktails. The award-winning gin is made in the Tokaji region, home to the legendary sweet wines, and uses Linden Leaf grapes as one of its botanicals. Cocktails include the ValenTea made with Tokaj gin, blackcurrant tea cordial, and kewra (a kind of flower) water; Strong Stephen Smash which includes gin, amaro, grapefruit juice, and spicy pickled pepper jam; and a Rick Collins, made up of gin, clairin communal, Green Chartreuse, lemon juice, syrup, and soda water. The event kicks off at 7pm but if you’re a bartender, get down earlier for a special trade-only event, and see what all the fuss is about with Seven Hills Tokaj gin.

The Nightcap: 11 February

Bacardi’s previous initiatives include biodegradable bottles

Bacardi rum to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50%

Bacardi is celebrating its 160th anniversary by looking towards the future as it steps up its commitment to cut greenhouse gases by 50% by 2025. By next year its GHG emissions will be halved when a Combined Heat & Power (CHP) system goes live at its distillery in Puerto Rico, which will replace heavy fuel oil with propane gas. This 50% reduction represents a 14% cut in the total emissions globally for the company, according to The Drinks Business. It’s part of the brand’s pledge to a corporate responsibility programme called ‘Good Spirited’ and is also in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. The ultimate goal wasn’t just to halve greenhouse gas emissions, but also reduce water consumption by 25% at Bacardi production sites; as well as to make sure that 100% of key raw materials and packaging are sourced sustainably; 100% of product packaging is recyclable, use 40% recycled content in product packaging materials and be working at contributing zero waste to landfill at all Bacardi production sites. Noble aims that we support. 

The Nightcap: 11 February

Think you can win? Anyone can enter…

Equiano Rum creates cocktail comp to champion inspiration 

Equiano Rum is launching its own cocktail competition, inviting both professional bartenders and enthusiasts (hometenders?) from around the world to create a unique drink inspired by Africa and/or the Caribbean. That could be the story behind the drink, the method, the ingredients etc. As long as they use Equiano Original or Equiano Light, of course. The competition is called The Interesting Narrative Cocktail Competition after the memoir, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of  Olaudah Equiano, the writer, entrepreneur, abolitionist, and freedom fighter who is the company’s inspiration, Entries will be judged by a panel led by Equiano co-founder Ian Burrell as well as the Cocktail Lovers’ Sandrae Lawrence, Monica Berg of Tayēr + Elementary, and Trailer Happiness owner Sly Augustin. Prizes for the five eventual finalists from the bartender include a £2,000 cash prize for the winner, a year’s supply of Equiano Rum and the chance to be recognised amongst the global bar community and be featured in The Equiano Rum Co Cocktail Book set for international release in 2022, while those who enter as ‘hometenders can secure a complimentary night out with all their friends at a world-class bar in their country, where their winning cocktail will be made for them throughout the evening. To find out more about the competition and submit entries just head here.

The Nightcap: 11 February

Fender back in 2019 creating his first award beer pump

Sam Fender to turn his BRIT Award into a beer pump

If you’re the kind of person who wins lots of awards, you’ve probably had that internal dilemma of what to do with them. Display them in their full glory, knowing guests will probably roll their eyes at your trophy cabinet? Keep them somewhere discreet and employ a dollop of false modesty when somebody mentions your success? Both solid options. Singer-songwriter Sam Fender, however, has surely had the best idea. He’s turning the BRIT Award he won this week into a beer pump at the local pub. The Low Lights Tavern in North Shields is a place that’s special to him as it’s where he used to work and was first discovered. The Best Alternative/Rock Act winner has form, the Critics’ Choice gong he picked up in 2019 is already serving as a beer pump. So if you want a pint pulled by a shiny award, you know exactly where to go. And do check out Fender if you haven’t already, he’s really very good.

The Nightcap: 11 February

The cat is out of the bag. Oh, hang on, that’s a dog

And finally… Don’t mention the English Whisky Association

We’re not meant to talk about it but apparently, there are plans for an organisation of English whisky distillers. On a recent trip to Circumstance in Bristol, which will be launching its first whisky in September, head distiller Mark Scott (above right) mentioned something about distillers forming a group to discuss possible regulations for the industry. This was followed by frantic lip buttoning gestures from founder Liam Hirt (above centre). When questioned, Hirt then awkwardly elaborated that “all the important ones were involved”, which begs the question, who are the unimportant ones? Apparently, various distillers will be talking to DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) and there will be an announcement later this year. This story was corroborated by Max Vaughan from White Peak in The Drinks Business. He said that “everyone around the table is a founder of a distillery, who has invested very heavily, personally and financially.” Another anonymous distiller described a possible English Whisky Association as “the worst kept secret in the industry.” Sounds like the cat is very much out of the bag.