This week’s Nightcap is drenched in whisky goodness. From Jameson to Bowmore, Waterford to Bruichladdich, this edition has it all. Even a man who built a £35,000 collection without even liking the stuff. It’s all here!

Christmas, Black Friday, New Year… It’s all on the way and each brings its own dollop of stress. Well, we reckon you make all that tomorrow’s problem. It’s Friday for goodness sake. Grab a drink, something warm to wrap in and help yourself to a big greedy portion of weekly news from the world of booze. 

Speaking of which, there was plenty going on the blog this week, with #WhiskySanta coming back to introduce another stunner of a Super Wish, us launching a competition offering you the chance to win a VIP trip to Glenturret Distillery, and Ian Buxton returning to take a look at how Scotch whisky stepped out of the shadows. Elsewhere, Millie was recalling her visit to Glen Garioch to tell us about its exciting new upgrade, Jess was shining our spotlight on our favourite boozy gift sets, Henry was making a delightful Mezcal Espresso Martini, and Adam was enjoying the fruits of Bushmill’s recent impressive labours.

But there’s still more to come from us. It’s The Nightcap: 12 November edition!

The Nightcap: 12 November

It’s the week of biodynamic whiskies!

Bruichladdich and Waterford release biodynamic whisky

Bloody typical, you wait years for a biodynamic whisky and then two only go and come along at once. Yes, this week both Waterford in Ireland and Bruichladdich on Islay have announced the release of whiskies distilled from biodynamically-grown barley. Biodynamics is a system of agriculture developed by Austrian eccentric Rudolph Steiner, who also dabbled in education. It’s a bit like organics but with added woo woo, like brewing homoeopathic teas to treat vines and burying cow horns in the soil. Despite sounding like something made up after one too many whiskies, it’s taken very seriously in the wine world, some of the world’s top estates are biodynamic. Bruichladdich’s ‘The Biodynamic Project’ was produced from barley harvested from Richard Gantlett’s Yatesbury House Farm in 2010, which at Bruichladdich’s request obtained biodynamic accreditation, not an easy process. It was distilled in 2011. Head distiller Adam Hannett explained: “The flavour of the biodynamic, from when it was first distilled through to maturation is superb. There is a wonderful elevation of the fruity character of Bruichladdich with the biodynamic malt.” He continued: “texturally there is an extra depth which carries the flavours beautifully.” 5,000 bottles have been filled at 50% ABV and they are only available from the distillery at £100 each. Waterford’s whisky, however, dubbed Biodynamic: Luna is coming to Master of Malt. We’ll have more information on Monday.

The Nightcap: 12 November

Just look at it. A thing of beauty.

Jameson launches limited-edition 21 Year Old whiskey

Jameson is seeing off this year in some style. This week it came to the attention of everyone in the whiskey world that a delightful looking 21-year-old was on the way and now we know exactly what to expect. A limited-edition release of just 2,301 bottles, Jameson 21 Years is a blend of rare single pot still and single grain Irish whiskeys that were initially matured in a range of ex-bourbon and Oloroso sherry-seasoned casks at the Midleton Distillery for 18 years. After that initial period of maturation, the whiskeys were then blended and re-casked into freshly emptied ex-bourbon barrels for an additional three years. The casks were then finally married with additional pot still whiskeys that had fully matured for over 21 years in first-fill Oloroso sherry-seasoned wine casks. The whiskey was bottled at an impressive cask strength 57.2% ABV and is said to be a spicy and full-bodied whiskey, but unfortunately, few will get to experience that themselves. It’s exclusively available to consumers through two separate online ballots at an RRP of €310. To those who do enter the ballot, note that Barrel Club members get dibs…

anCnoc 2009

They even tell you how to pronounce it on the label. How helpful

Limited-edition anCnoc 2009 is coming!

Limited-edition whiskies don’t have to be expensive, or hard to get hold of. The brand that looks like a typo, anCnoc, has just released a 2009-vintage single malt and it’s coming soon to Master of Malt. As we are sure readers are aware, it comes from Knockdhu distillery but to avoid confusion with fellow Speysider Knockando, it releases its single malts under a different name. The name is pronounced ‘a-nock’. Anyway! This new bottling is aged in first-fill Spanish oak butts and ex-bourbon barrels, but from our little sample it’s the American oak that stands out. There’s lots of vanilla, toffee and coconut, with fresh orchard fruits and orange peel. Extremely tasty. Distillery manager Gordon Bruce commented: “We’ve been waiting twelve years for this vintage and it has definitely been worth the wait. This is a dram that has all the light, fresh qualities of anCnoc that are so loved by our drinkers, but there’s also a rich spiciness and complexity from its time in the casks”. Naturally it’s bottled at a good high strength, 46% ABV with no chill filtering. And as we said, it’s not expensive with an RRP of £50, and it’s coming soon.

Chris O’Dowd teams up with Redbreast to protect “common birds”

“I love common birds”, admits Chris O’Dowd in a new film produced by Redbreast. But before you write in to complain to Irish Distillers about inappropriate language, we should point out that top Irish funny man O’Dowd is talking about birds such as robins which aren’t as common as they once were. On 12 November, that’s today, the Irish whiskey brand is launching Robin Redbreast Day, which will be an annual event to celebrate and protect the little birds that we take for granted, and will take place on the second Friday of November each year. The short film features O’Dowd sitting at a bar drinking some Redbreast and chatting with Robin Redbreast (“the brand’s iconic mascot”) as if it’s the most normal thing in the world. It’s definitely funny, both funny peculiar and funny ha ha, though not perhaps deliberately. O’Dowd commented: “Common birds all over the world are facing serious issues that we need to come together and solve, so I’m encouraging everyone to watch and share the video across social media to get as many eyes on it as possible.” For every view, Irish Distillers will donate 25 cents to BirdLife International. So get watching and help protect those common birds.

Aston Martin Bowmore

Goldfinger! Sorry, golden ratio!

Bowmore and Aston Martin collaborate again

Bowmore appears to be really enjoying its collaborations with Aston Martin, because the Islay distillery has gone as far as to create a whole new range. The Masters’ Selection will kick off with the first single malt whisky to be made by Bowmore and Aston Martin, influenced by the dual input of master whisky blender Ron Welsh and Aston Martin executive vice president and chief creative officer Marek Reichman. The latter believes in the concept of the ‘Golden Ratio’, which refers to the mathematical ratio found in nature that creates aesthetically pleasing compositions and sits at the heart of the design of every Aston Martin. The theory is that absolute beauty can be created when you achieve a perfect relationship between each proportion of the car. Welsh took on this concept himself, saying he adopted the ‘Golden Ratio’ to “inspire each of the elements bringing their own unique flavours and selecting the optimal casks to forge the desired character, taking inspiration from Marek and his team”. Welsh also revealed that working with Reichman gave him a new lens from which to explore whisky making and that first release serves as a “celebration of our unified knowledge and experience; our shared passions, values and ideas”. The whisky itself is a combination of 61.8% 21-year-old Bowmore matured in first-fill Pedro Ximenez and Oloroso sherry casks, while the remaining parts are made up of exact ratios of each other, including some Bowmore whisky matured for over 35 years. If you’re curious to see how effective the ‘Golden Ratio’ is in whisky making, you’ll be pleased to know that the first Bowmore Masters’ Selection is on its way to MoM Towers now. The price is a surprisingly un-golden £300.

The Nightcap: 12 November

Alex Thomas doing that thing with the glass that blenders do

Bushmills appoints new master blender

Irish whiskey maker Bushmills has announced the appointment of a new master blender: Alex Thomas. The Sexton creator and master blender will take over the role at the Old Bushmills Distillery in Co Antrim, being responsible for cask selection and management, and new product development. Thomas, who was born close to the distillery, has always been tight-knit with the Irish whiskey makers, joining the Bushmills team in 2004 and honing her craft over the years. She worked with them closely to develop The Sexton back in 2017. Colum Egan, Bushmills master distiller, says that over the years Thomas has demonstrated “exceptional skills in the art of blending”, and that her “passion and pursuit of excellence has truly made her one of the rising stars in Irish whiskey”. Thomas herself said she felt privileged by her new appointment, saying the distillery is a very special place and that she’s excited to explore her passion for developing new whiskeys and experimenting with different casks and flavours, “while still maintaining the iconic Bushmills taste and quality.” No word yet on where the outgoing Helen Mulholland will be heading to, but wherever she goes the distillery will be getting someone with 30 years experience in Irish whiskey. We think you’ll agree both are deserving of a toast. Sláinte! 

The Nightcap: 12 November

That looks a bit precarious

Rare 1978 Talisker cask set for auction

The first of two big auction stories in this week’s Nightcap concerns a 43-year-old cask of Talisker whisky, which is expected to fetch up to £500,000 at a charity auction next month. The cask was donated by Diageo, the world’s largest Scotch whisky producer, to The Distillers’ Charity, with the latter including the cask as the headline item in its One of One auction, managed by Sotheby’s and set to take place on 3 December at Barnbougle Castle, Edinburgh. The auction will also feature bottlings from William Grant & Sons, Beam Suntory, and more. It’s quite a coup for the charity, because the selected barrel is part of Diageo’s Cask of Distinction ownership programme, which makes rare casks available to private clients. And this will be the first time a Cask of Distinction will go under the hammer. The successful bidder will also win a visit to the home of Casks of Distinction in Royal Deeside, where they can see their cask maturing. “We are delighted to support the Distillers One of One auction with a rare cask of Talisker Scotch whisky,” commented Javier Ferrán, Diageo chairman. “We look forward to seeing our contribution to the auction generate significant funds for the Distillers’ Charity and to help enhance the life-chances of young people in communities the length and breadth of Scotland.”

The Nightcap: 12 November

Spirit could be running off the stills here as soon as 2024

New Scotch grain distillery gets the go-ahead

Scotch whisky will soon welcome its first new grain distillery in a decade after planning was approved for construction of the St Boswells Distillery at Boswell near Melrose. Work on what is claimed to be the country’s lowest-carbon grain distillery will begin in 2022 and is expected to last 18 months, with production starting by 2024. The new development, which will be designed to reduce carbon emissions and maximise recycling with its zero waste landfill, will produce 20 million litres of pure alcohol a year to use in Scotch whisky blending, and as a neutral spirit for both gin and vodka. The site will source local cereals from the surrounding area of Tweed Valley, and process them into a spirit with renewable energy, while spent cereals will pass to an adjacent anaerobic digestion plant to be converted into methane, with the remaining material being used as soil conditioner for the crops. The approved planning application will facilitate a £46m investment in the local economy, creating approximately 200 construction jobs, along with 20 permanent jobs, which will support the rural community. “This is another significant step forward in the process to create the Scottish borders’ first major grain distillery”, says Trevor Jackson, founder and CEO of Jackson Distillers, the company behind St Boswells. “We have had great support for our proposals from local stakeholders across the region and have worked closely with Scottish Borders Council to ensure we created plans that fit into the landscape, present climate change mitigation opportunities and support the local community”. 

The Nightcap: 12 November

Galia and Adrian Pike from Westwell

England takes on France at the judgement of Nine Elms 

There have been a lot of competitive blind tastings over the years where the might of Champagne has been pitted against the scrappy sparkling wine Johnny-come-latelies of England. Most of these have been judged by wine types which is all very well, but what we want to know is: what do non-pros think? Well, wonder no more because the results are in. We attended a blind tasting organised by Jérôme Moisan from Pelegrims beauty products, who we have written about before on the Nightcap. He brought together a group of beauty journalists and PR people, ie. the core Champagne market, to taste six sparkling wines blind at Sven-Hanson Britt’s (off Masterchef the Professionals) new restaurant Oxeye in Nine Elms, London. Champagne was represented by Veuve Clicquot, Laurent Perrier and Moet et Chandon, and England by Nyetimber, Hambledon and Westwell (which supplies Moisan with the leftover grape products to make his potions). All the wines were non-vintage. And the results were…. non-decisive. Joint first were Nyetimber and Laurent Perrier with Westwell second, though it was Master of Malt’s favourite by quite some way. So no patriotic tub-thumping but further proof that the big names of England stand up against their French rivals. We finished off the day with a legendary wine, Nyetimber Blanc des Blanc 1992, the first-ever release from the estate that put English wine on the map. And it didn’t disappoint. Truly, it was one of the best sparkling wines we’ve ever had.

The Nightcap: 12 November

I bet he likes whisky now

And finally… Man who hates whisky collects 4,000 miniatures worth £35,000

“I don’t like whisky, it’s horrible”. No, those aren’t the words of my mum, but Brian Marshall from Kettering, Northamptonshire. That wouldn’t usually constitute news, but it turns out Marshall has been picking up miniature bottles since the late 1980s and has now amassed a collection of more than 4,000 worth up to £35,000. The collection, which is for sale over two auctions this month, has been priced well above his own estimate of about £8,000 and is mostly made up of whisky miniatures from Scotland, although it also includes bottles from America, Iraq, Uruguay, and Australia. Highlights include a miniature Macallan 1961 commemorating Private Eye magazine’s 35th anniversary estimated at between £200 and £300. There is also a 1887 edition of Alfred Barnard’s The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom, which auctioneers believed could exceed £300. But the real question is, why would someone who doesn’t even like whisky collect it? Well, Marshall says his collection started when a colleague came back from holiday with three whisky miniatures and said “you can start collecting those”. Marshall decided to finally sell after moving in with his partner and it was only then that he realised the sheer size of the unopened stash. So there you have it. Whisky: it’s brilliant even if you don’t love the taste.