Women in whisky, eco-friendly brands, and a party for dog mums who love vermouth. All this and more in the Nightcap: 11 March edition. Pour a glass and dive in.
For some people, a great day means they saw a particular train or bird, for others, it’s the joy of seeing people react to your carefully crafted meme. Whatever floats your boat, we say. For people like us, getting geeky about the world of booze is our idea of a good time. And that means keeping up to date with all the latest happenings. Which is exactly what The Nightcap is for.
But before we dive in, first a recap of what was on the blog this week. We got our International Women’s Day groove on with a host of fantastic whiskey makers, founders, and more including Fawn Weaver, Allison Parc, Stephanie Macleod, and Annabel Thomas. We also got into the spirit of Speyside by celebrating the return of its whisky festival, made a right Hanky Panky of our Cocktail of the Week series, considered the way Irish whiskey can embrace a whole new world of wood maturation, and had a bourbon that drove us bananas. Phew! What a week, and there’s more to come.
So, let’s get on with it. It’s The Nightcap: 11 March edition!
Stills arrive at the revived Rosebank distillery
We’ve been eagerly following the process of Ian MacLeod’s distillers’ project to rebuild the Rosebank which began back in 2017. Now it looks like the legendary distillery which closed in 1993 will be open by this summer as the stills have just arrived from Forsyths of Rothes. You can see a video of the stills arriving here. The original ones were stolen from the derelict site in 2008. The three new stills have been made according to the original blueprints from Abercrombie Coppersmiths. Richard Forsyth Senior, managing director of Forsyths, explained the process: “To this day, we still use our forefathers’ hand hammering techniques to shape copper into carefully crafted pot stills. Of course, we’ve tried to mechanise it as much as possible, but the finishes we produce are still very much hands-on, and it’s a very physical job.” According to distillery manager Malcolm Rennie they are “quite different from your average still.” He continued: “The wash still in particular appears to have its traditional swan neck lopped off and capped and the lyne arm attached to the side of the neck, while the Spirit still is on the shorter dumpier side. All these variations in shape and size are what ultimately contribute further complexity to the Rosebank spirit.” The unique Rosebank character comes from a combination of triple distillation and worm tub condensers to create a fruity but rich new make. Rennie describes the process as “a nonsensical jigsaw puzzle” that nevertheless produced some of the most prized whisky in Scotland, and now will do once again.
Stolichnaya vodka renamed ‘Stoli’
The Stoli Group has officially changed the name of its Stolichnaya vodka brand to ‘Stoli’ due to Russia’s decision to invade Ukraine. The brand’s billionaire owner Yuri Shefler said it was his “vehement position” on Putin’s regime that was behind the switch. “While I have been exiled from Russia since 2000 due to my opposition to Putin, I have remained proud of the Stolichnaya brand,” Shefler said in a statement. “More than anything, I wish for ‘Stoli’ to represent peace in Europe and solidarity with Ukraine.” Because of the brand’s complex history, however, it actually exists in two different guises. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, both ex-Soviet and Russian companies continue to make a version of the vodka So there will still be a spirit manufactured and marketed in Russia under its original name Stolichnaya. However, the version that we’ll see throughout much of the rest of the world is Shefler’s product: ‘Stoli’. It’s manufactured and bottled in Latvia, which means it can avoid the fate a growing number of Russian businesses which are facing boycotts over the war in Ukraine. This isn’t actually the first time the Stoli Group or Shefler have sought to distance the brand from perceptions of continued ties to the Russian government. After Putin enacted a number of draconian laws in 2013 cracking down on the country’s gay community, the vodka makers publicly condemned Putin.
Gin and vodka worth £85k stolen in raid
It seems booze theft is becoming an increasing problem as more than £85,000 of gin and vodka has been stolen from the Yorkshire Dales Distillery. Co-founder Tony Brotherton, who set up the business in Catterick Garrison with his wife Sarah five years ago after leaving the army, says the raid had “cleaned out” months’ worth of work after around 5,000 bottles were taken on Saturday. Mr Brotherton said two “suspicious vehicles” were spotted outside the distillery on Saturday and the theft was discovered the following day, adding the robbers used a chain attached to a lorry to pull open shipping container doors where the alcohol was stored. North Yorkshire Police has asked for anybody who saw anything suspicious over the weekend to get in touch, in particular for any of the products being sold “in an unusual location or circumstances which don’t seem right”. As you can imagine, it’s been a devastating week for the distillery. Brotherson says the theft had left him feeling “absolutely gutted”, adding that he feels “sick to the pit of my stomach. They’ve literally cleaned it out. This is our money, our hard work. It’s six months’ worth of stock, in practical terms. We’ve got to find the time and money to replace it all,” he said. If you’d like to help them out, you can always support the distillery by picking up and enjoying its tasty drinks.
Ex-Macallan whisky maker teams up with Craigellachie Hotel
The Craigellachie Hotel is developing a new collection of spirits and sodas with the expertise of former Macallan whisky maker Sarah Burgess. After nearly 25 years in whisky, managing the likes of Glenkinchie and Clynelish before leading projects such as The Macallan Genesis and collaborations with Pantone and Sir Peter Blake, Burgess left the Edrington-owned single malt brand in January 2022 after nearly five years. Now the Aberlour native has returned home to collaborate with one of the world’s oldest whisky hotels to lead the creation of The Craigellachie Collection, a new range of sodas that tell the story of Speyside. The line of sodas has been created to “change the way people think about whisky”, Burgess says, who adds that she wants to approach whisky “in a positive and inclusive way”. The flexibility of these sodas mean you can mix them with whisky, gin or Tequila.” The collection will include a sparkling water, a still water, a tonic water, a light tonic water, a ginger ale, and a grapefruit soda, made with botanicals from Speyside, as well as Highland Spring water. The first reveal will be at the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival (27 April-2 May) before going on general sale, while follow-ups are in development. This includes a second six-strong range of sodas, a Speyside gin and vodka, and a limited edition line of whiskies, a beer, and a cider. Busy times ahead for Burgess and The Craigellachie Hotel!
Shannon Tebay to leave American Bar
In the Washington Post last week award-winning drinks writer Will Hawkes exclusively revealed that Shannon Tebay was leaving the American Bar at the Savoy after less than a year in charge. Scoop! Tebay arrived in August last year in a blaze of publicity including an interview on this very blog. “I hope to honour the historical significance of the bar and modernise bartending culture, championing under-represented perspectives and re-evaluating best practices. I want to diversify the staff as much as possible. It is the responsibility of hospitality leaders to make positive changes in our industry,” she said at the time. It’s not clear why she has now decided to leave. A spokesman for the Savoy commented: “Shannon decided to move on from The Savoy in January. She thanks the team for their time, and contribution and hard work. Her decision has been nothing to do with them or the Savoy; but she is choosing to move on for personal reasons.” Hawkes’ interview, however, suggests that this might not be the whole story as he quotes her talking about “a cultural mismatch” in her job. Whatever the true reason is, we look forward to seeing what Tebay does next.
Our Whisky launches foundation to back women in whisky
Our Whisky has been relaunched as a non-profit organisation in support of women in the whisky industry. Unveiled to coincide with International Women’s Day on 8 March, the Our Whisky Foundation will offer qualification and internship schemes, a mentorship programme plus seminars and workshops. An annual summit and awards will also be held, featuring key speakers and industry leaders, while an online magazine called The Cut, edited by our own Millie Milliken, has been launched to cover career advice, diversity and inclusion initiatives, interviews and more. There is also a whisky subscription service, also called Our Whisky, which has been unveiled alongside. The person behind all this is spirits writer Becky Paskin who started Our Whisky in 2018 as a social media movement to champion diversity among whisky drinkers and those within the industry, but felt that now was the time to evolve. “By working in collaboration with the global whisky community, the Our Whisky Foundation’s aim is to challenge whisky’s outdated gendered image and help women to thrive in their careers,” Paskin explains. “This is such an exciting time to be a woman working in whisky, and it’s my ambition that the foundation will be a positive driver in ensuring the current and next-generation reach their potential, and be celebrated as part of the wonderful world of whisky.”
Pernod Ricard teams up with Ecospirits
Pernod Ricard is teaming up with spirits distribution system Ecospirits to improve its environmental credentials with closed-loop packaging technology. Brands like Absolut Vodka, Beefeater Gin, and Havana Club Rum will soon be sporting the packaging, which appears as a box, is machine washable with a screw top, and features a QR code for tracking. The partnership, said to be a first of its kind for a global brand portfolio, will kick off first in up to 80 bars, restaurants and hotels in Singapore and Hong Kong, before expanding the programme to other key markets and brands in Asia and beyond. Using the Ecospirits carbon calculator, the initiative is projected to reduce the carbon emissions of packaging and distribution for the participating Pernod Ricard brands by an average of 66%, when compared with the traditional format of single-use glass bottles. It forms part of our Bar World of Tomorrow initiative, and promotes more sustainable and responsible bar practices through the training of bartenders. “True to our vision, we strongly believe in working with others across the industry to strengthen what we do collectively,” says Hermance De La Bastide, vice-president, corporate affairs and sustainability, Pernod Ricard Asia. “Ecospirits is a wonderful partner to help our industry minimise waste and its carbon footprint, while also protecting our natural resources.”
Avallen launches innovative new paper bottle
And Pernod Ricard isn’t the only one getting its green on. Since it was launched, Avallen has made a commitment to creating environmentally friendly Calvados and its new FrugalPac paper bottle is its latest innovation. Made from 94% recycled paperboard with a food-grade pouch, has less than 1/5 of the CO2 emissions of a standard glass bottle and weighs only 85g, with lower transportation emissions as well. This results in less carbon footprint, while also being less fragile (nothing is 100% Hermes proof, sadly). “Packaging is an area where there is room for improved environmental performance. Spirits have almost always come in single-use glass bottles, with large embodied carbon emissions, as well as the raw material extraction of sand,” says Avallen’s co-founder Tim Etherington-Judge. “The FrugalPac bottle wins on lower carbon emissions as well as being robust, is great for outdoor events, and is visually stunning with wrap-around branding. We are very excited to get our new bottle out into the world”.
Andrea Montague becomes head of advocacy at Edrington UK
You know you’re goddamn good at what you do when someone creates a role, especially for you to do your thing. That’s what has happened for Andrea Montague, who has become head of advocacy at Edrington UK. In a new position for the business, Montague will lead brand advocacy, education, and training, which means taking care of stuff like bartender engagement activities and industry events, across the company’s wide portfolio of brands. If you’ve not checked it recently, it’s bananas. Edrington has The Macallan, Highland Park, The Glenrothes, Brugal 1888, House of Suntory, Courvoisier, Laphroaig, Maker’s Mark, and more, all under one umbrella. That’s even better than the one Mary Poppins had that could fly and stuff. Anyway, Montague has over 15 years’ experience in the drinks industry, working in both prestigious establishments and for big brands, and will now be whipping all the brand ambassadors, whisky specialists, and serve specialists into shape. We wish her the best of luck and hope she helps all kinds of people discover the delightful world of dark spirits.
And finally… ‘Apawritif Hour’, anyone? El Bandarra hosts Mother’s Day party for dog mums
Mother’s Day isn’t that far away (27 March, don’t panic you still have plenty of time) and so now we can expect all the usual promotional activity from brands who want to help you pay tribute to your mums. But not everyone is celebrating the occasion the same. El Bandarra is planning to treat a different type of mother: dog mums. By teaming up with Mama Shelter, the aperitif brand from Barcelona is asking you to join the ‘Apawritif Hour’ on Tuesday 29 March (6pm – 7.30pm) to hang out and enjoy drinks and nibbles in the company of many furry friends. Tickets are £19.99 per person and can be purchased via Eventbrite, and include two El Bandarra Spritzes as well as small tapas plates of Manchego, Catalan Tomato Bread, Olives, and cured Spanish meats. El Bandarra brand ambassador Alexa Farrow will also be shaking up cocktails inspired by wild ingredients you’ll find on a dog walk. “Because good mums go to heaven, dog mums go to parties!” Apparently. Cat mums presumably have Disney+ accounts and great snacks. Choose your fighter.