For all the latest on Conor McGregor’s big whiskey sale, a Prosecco-infused Easter egg and the world’s smallest(ish) Irish pub, you’re in the right place. It’s the Nightcap!
The Nightcap is full of Easter and St. Patrick’s Day cheer this week. Which reminds us how much there is to look forward to. Sitting in a beer garden and just whiling the hours away. Making friends for life in the smoking area. Finally giving Future Nostalgia the respect it deserves by dancing to every minute of it with other people. But we can’t get too ahead of ourselves. There’s still plenty to enjoy at the moment. Like all those new pets. And, of course, some light reading regarding the drinks industry’s latest shenanigans. Let’s get on with it. It’s The Nightcap: 12 March edition!
This week you might have noticed that things were a little different in the blog as we marked International Women’s Day by celebrating the women behind the drinks you love. We were delighted to be joined by brewer and broadcaster Jaega Wise, Widow Jane head distiller Lisa Roper Wicker, Maker’s Mark diplomat Nicole Sykes, Diageo coppersmith Kirstin Neil and The Story associate director Tarita Mullings. Elsewhere, Adam recommended some sensationally smoky spirits, while Henry explained how the Negroni became a classic and then enjoyed a sherry-soaked treat from the Cotswolds distillery, and our occasional MoM Loves partnership series was back with a lesson in foraged cocktails from The Botanist Gin. Oh, and if you’ve left it to the last minute to sort out Mother’s Day don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.
Wine world pays tribute to Steven Spurrier
The wine world lost one of its most important and colourful figures in Steven Spurrier this week. There aren’t many wine writers who have been played by Alan Rickman in a film but then few, if any, have proved as influential as Spurrier. He was best known for organising the 1976 Judgement of Paris wherein a blind tasting by French judges, the best wines of Burgundy and Bordeaux lost out to some upstart producers from California. It’s a story that has resonated down the years but there’s so much more to Spurrier than that. He was born in 1941, and had a varied career as a wine merchant, publisher, writer and entrepreneur. In his later years, when most people would think about retiring he was involved in founding a publisher, Acadamie de Vin, and planted a vineyard at his home in Dorset to produce a highly-regarded sparkling wine, Bride Valley. Jancis Robinson wrote about him yesterday on her site, JancisRobinson.com: “For someone who achieved so much, he acted with such extreme modesty and politeness that there was always a danger of his not being accorded his due”. Adam Lechmere in his touching obituary for Club Oenologique added: “Generations of wine lovers would claim him as their own.” He is survived by his wife Bella and children Kate and Christian. Thank you Steven, we’re raising a glass or two to you this week.
Redbreast delves into the past for its newest expression
There’s a new Redbreast out there. But before you deluge the MoM switchboard, of whatever the internet equivalent is, we have to say that this limited edition cask strength 10-year-old version is only available from the Birdhouse, the Redbreast members club. Right, got that out of the way. Is it any good, you’ll want to know? Yes, it’s fabulous. If you like traditional Irish pot still whiskey then you are going to love this because it’s perhaps the pot stilliest whiskey out there. What do we mean by that? Midleton Distillery makes three types of pot still new make, light, medium and heavy. The light and medium go into younger expressions, whereas the heavy is saved for heavily-aged versions where it’s blended with some light. This is the only Midleton that contains all three levels, and the only young expression to contain heavy. It was inspired by the original Redbreast which came from Jameson’s Dublin distillery but was aged and bottled by Gilbey’s wine merchants. To celebrate 30 years of the rebirth of the brand, archivist Carol Quinn collaborated with blenders Billy Leighton and Dave McCabe to produce this tribute to the original. It was aged in a mixture of ex-bourbon barrels and Oloroso sherry-seasoned butts, and bottled at 59.1% ABV. It’s a gorgeous drop with big sweet-spicy flavours, a drop of water reveals a fruitier side with fresh peaches and dried apricots as well as wood tannins. It’s available from today and costs €100 but you’ll have to register at the Birdhouse for a chance to buy a bottle. 7,000 have been filled. It was such a hit on the online tasting that there was a clamour to make it part of the core range. Sadly Leighton confirmed that it was a one-off. Boo!
Conor McGregor bought out of Proper 12 Irish whiskey
Big news in Irish whiskey this week came from Becle, which bought Conor McGregor’s shares in Proper 12 Irish whiskey. The Mexican beverage company, which owns Jose Cuervo Tequila, Kraken Spiced Rum and Bushmills Distillery, revealed it had exercised an option to acquire 51 per cent of the equity interests of Eire Born Spirits, a company founded by McGregor and his manager Audie Attar. Becle initially had a 20% share of Proper 12, having helped EBS get the brand off the ground, and it had already increased its stake to 49% last year. Now it retains full ownership of the brand that McGregor launched in 2018. We’re sure he’s netted a very handsome fee for the sale (reports suggest he Attar will split £112 million), but it does raise the questions over how the Becle will now market Proper 12 without McGregor as the face of the brand. His regular championing of Proper 12 on his social media profiles and at press conferences certainly helped sales. But Becle may be happy to wash its hands of the controversial former UFC featherweight and lightweight champion, who will have put some people off the brand. Certainly, our customer reviews paint an interesting picture of Proper 12 as a divisive product. This month alone there’s a range of comments, with one person describing it as a “great tasting whisky that is only hated on by people who don’t like McGregor”, while another calls it “the worst Irish whiskey at the price point”. Of course, you won’t know on what side of the fence you sit until you find out for yourself…
Tariffs on rum and Cognac suspended
Remember last week when the US and the UK decided to shake hands and let sense prevail by suspending those silly tariffs on goods like Scotch whisky? Well, a similar deal has now been struck between the US and the EU. A four-month suspension of tariffs on products from both nations is now in effect, which is very good news for us booze fans. Gone are the 25% EU tariffs on US rum, brandy and vodka. As are the 25% US tariffs on liqueurs and cordials from Germany, Ireland, Italy and Spain, and certain Cognac and other grape brandies from France and Germany. European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen spoke to US president Joe Biden to agree to a temporary removal of the tariffs in relation to the Airbus-Boeing dispute and says the news was excellent for businesses and industries “on both sides of the Atlantic”, adding that it sends a “very positive signal for our economic cooperation in the years to come”. Trade group the Distilled Spirits Council of the US (Discus) were similarly pleased with the breakthrough in the long-running spat, saying it “left much destruction to the spirits sector in its wake” and that it comes at a key time for the US hospitality sector. However, Discus also said there was plenty left to discuss (sorry), as the EU and UK continue to impose a 25% tariff on American whiskey, which is due to double on 1 June this year. Discus called the tariff ‘unfair and not sustainable’ and has urged the Biden administration to find a speedy resolution that eliminates these “debilitating tariffs on spirits for good.” We can but hope. At least, for now, things are finally moving in the right direction.
New report highlights gender disparity in whisky
An alarming, but sadly not that surprising report was published by Our Whisky this week which found that leading whisky brands’ Instagram accounts posts are sorely lacking when it comes to representing women and people of colour. The Women and Whisky: Female Representation in Social Media Marketing, which analysed the Instagram accounts of the world’s 150 largest and most influential whisky brands, reveals that men outnumber women by 228%, with women accounting for just 36% of people represented in 2020. Meanwhile, non-white ethnicities were represented in just 17.9% of posts that featured people. Becky Paskin, the co-founder of OurWhisky, says the study demonstrates we’re still far away from achieving gender equality. “Whisky brands have the power to normalise the fact women make and drink whisky by what they choose to show in their advertising and marketing,” Paskin explains. “They don’t need to feminise their brands, but by simply being more inclusive they can change the narrative and appeal to a wider demographic of potential customers, which has obvious business benefits as well.” With International Women’s Day this week, we’ve seen brands highlight some of the incredible women in our industry. But, while Paskin appreciates acknowledging female achievements, she adds that to really honour these women and make whisky truly inclusive, brands should consider how their year-round marketing is representative of today’s drinkers.
Pernod Ricard acquires majority stake in La Hechicera Rum
Pernod Ricard’s considerable portfolio continues to swell as after it bought a big chunk of La Hechicera Rum. The purchase, for an undisclosed size and sum, is expected to be completed in the coming weeks and will give Pernod Ricard a majority stake in the Colombian rum brand which was launched in 2012 by Miguel and Laura Riascos along with their friend Martamaria Carrillo. La Hechicera’s flagship rum, as well as the Experimental expressions, will join Havana Club in Pernod’s rum ranks. It’s a move that’s pretty familiar to anyone who knows the drinks industry, as the French drinks giant made similar purchases of Monkey 47, Smooth Ambler and Ojo de Tigre. This obviously appeals to La Hechicera Rum co-founder and marketing director Miguel Riascos, who says that thanks to these previous successful collaborations, “Pernod Ricard has shown itself to be the partner of choice for La Hechicera”. He adds that the company’s “passion for terroir and its extensive distribution network will ensure that our brand remains true to its Colombian roots and the vision of its creators, while reaching new consumers.” If it means more people get to discover this delightful rum, then we’re behind the move. Of course, you could always just check the MoM blog instead…
Irish whiskey brands mark St. Patrick’s Day
As well as a new Redbreast whiskey, we’ve also been inundated with Irish whiskey brands excitedly informing us about St. Patrick’s Day festivities. The Irish patron saint’s day, (next Wednesday 17 March), is usually a major celebration but Irish whiskey’s finest have had to be a bit more creative thanks to lockdown. The Sexton has created a nocturnal cocktail kit, made of ingredients that thrive in the night-time and designed to be enjoyed in the dark, while Slane will host an online gig this weekend starring Damien Dempsey and Irish rock band THUMPER on the Hot Press YouTube channel. Elsewhere, Tullamore D.E.W got around the fact that we can’t get into pubs in time to celebrate by opening The World’s Smallest(ish) Irish pub. It invites virtual visitors to curate their own experience, with choices including comedy musings from Irish comedian Alison Spittle, traditional Irish toasts, music singalongs, and various Tullamore D.E.W. cocktail making masterclasses. Jameson, meanwhile, decided that a month-long series of virtual events was the way to go. To find out more about the Irish whiskey giants other plans, which include a competition to win a “once-in-a-lifetime” St. Paddy’s experience for 2022, you should visit the Jameson Connects platform or its social media pages. As long as there’s not a Fabergé egg in sight, we’re happy to spend the day with a dram of something Irish and delicious, but it’s nice to know there’s options a-plenty if we fancy making a bit more of a fuss.
The Last Drop creates new booze with worldwide spirits experts
If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to drink booze created by an Avengers-style worldwide coalition of some of the best and brightest the industry has to offer, then you’re in luck. The Last Drop has created pretty much that with ‘The Assembly’. Featuring an independent panel of experts, innovators, and leaders drawn from across the spirits industry, the plan is that they will create a series of new signature blends. This is exciting because it marks a big change for The Last Drop, who you’ll have known best as curators but not creators. It includes the legendary Colin Scott, current master blender for The Last Drop, we well as JJ Corry Irish Whiskey founder Louise McGuane, the cellar master for Domaine de Sazerac Cognac, Denis Lahouratate, as well as Richard Seale, Drew Mayville and Michael d’Souza of Foursquare Rum, Sazerac and Paul John Whisky fame. The first release will be a limited-edition aged blended Scotch whisky created by Scott, who previously worked at Chivas Brothers for 43 years before joining The Last Drop. The brand’s managing director, Rebecca Jago, says it’s a hugely exciting milestone for The Last Drop and that The Assembly will play an “instrumental role as we develop, given our common focus on extraordinary quality and our shared philosophy of celebrating the remarkable”. She added that Last Drop is “delighted and immensely proud that such respected figures from across the industry have agreed to join us.” The only issue we can see is that “The Assembly, assemble!” is a proper rubbish call-to-arms. That will need some work.
GB Diageo World Class competition finalists announced… virtually!
Despite locky d’s, the annual Diageo World Class bartending competition has been taking place this year. Back in September three bartenders Stevie Kane, Kuba Korzynski and James Rawcliffe were chosen during London Cocktail Week. Now five more have triumphed. Their brief was to make a cocktail with The Singleton of Dufftown 12 year old. The winners were Alexa Farrow and Mark McClintock both from London, Stefanie Anderson and Murray Drysdale from Edinburgh, and Matt Arnold from Birmingham. All the judging was done virtually by Jo Last, World Class and malt whisky ambassador, and Pippa Guy, World Class and Tanqueray ambassador. Last commented: “Taking World Class virtual this year has been a new experience, but we’re overjoyed with its success so far. It was important for us to stay connected with our community of bartenders and to innovate, by adding new challenges to match the increased standards of competitors.” Pippa Guy adds: “We have really enjoyed being able to spend time with each of our competitors albeit virtual, and pleased to have been able to continue showcasing the amazing talent that the GB hospitality and drinks sector have to offer.” These eight will now go into the final that takes place in April. Virtually, naturally. The prize is a 12-month contract with bartender talent agency, Global Bartending, and a place on a WSET Level 3 Award in Spirits course. Good luck to all the finalists.
And finally…. Have an eggstravagant Easter with Prosecco-infused chocolate
Last week it was beer made with Cadbury’s Creme Eggs. This week our chocolate/ booze mash-up is a little more up-market. It’s a chocolate Easter egg infused with real Prosecco. Hang on, that doesn’t sound that classy. What about Champagne? But this isn’t any Prosecco. It’s Asolo Superiore 2020 from The Emissary. According to top chocolatier William Curley, the wine is “low in sugar, fresher and more versatile than most other sparkling wines, it pairs effortlessly with Amedei’s dark, rich and smooth chocolate flavours, without being overpowering.” He should know as he used to work in Michelin-starred restaurants and was the youngest ever chef pâtissier at The Savoy. As well as Prosecco, the eggs is made with a mango and passionfruit dark chocolate ganache. So a Yorkie bar, this ain’t. The price is pretty fancy too, £59 for a 400g egg. You’d be pretty eggcited to find one of these in your Easter basket.