Tune into The Nightcap this week for news on Ardbeg’s Mickey Heads retiring, literature-based libations, and giraffes. Yes, giraffes.
Everyone is being told not to touch their own faces, or other people’s faces. Some people are even being very specific and saying not to touch other people’s eyes, or touch other people with your eyes. That last one is generally a good bit of advice at any time. If that has drastically freed up time for your eyes, then direct them towards this edition of The Nightcap, our weekly round-up of the news from the booze world. Stay safe, folks. And for goodness’ sake, wash your hands.
On the blog this week, Ian Buxton returned to cast an eye at the biggest whisky market of all, before Kristy reminded us Mother’s Day is on the horizon. Don’t panic, though, she’s got you covered with this selection of delightfully boozy gifts. Adam was then on-hand to make sure you squeeze in some St. Patrick’s Day celebrations next week, and was feeling so patriotic that he even recommended a new Irish whiskey that has just landed at MoM Towers for our New Arrival of the Week. He then found time to talk Johnnie Walker Highballs with whisky ambassador Ali Reynolds, who was joined on the MoM blog this week by Scottish singer Kerri Watt and then Cointreau master distiller Carole Quinton. Annie then picked out five unmissable audiophile bars, while Henry suggested a great serve for those who like a cocktail that’s simple but sublime: The Kir.
Don’t forget you’ve still got time to enter our competition to win an incredible VIP trip to the home of J.J. Corry! Now, onto The Nightcap!
Former Bruichladdich manager Duncan McGillivray passes away
Incredibly sad news to open The Nightcap with this week. Duncan McGillivray, the man who worked at Islay’s Bruichladdich for almost half a century and was a compelling force in bringing the distillery back to life, passed away aged 68. He dedicated so much of his life to Bruichladdich and the wider island, and his loss will be felt keenly across the whisky world and beyond. He first joined the distillery as a trainee stillman back in 1974, then became a brewer in 1977. The distillery was mothballed in 1994, but he re-joined the team in 2001 when it was reopened by its new owners. “Looking back to 2001, the Bruichladdich re-birth seemed a dream too far; this was a time when distilleries where still being closed, a far cry from today,” said Simon Coughlin, a friend of Duncan’s, a Bruichladdich founding member, and now head of whisky for parent company, Rémy Cointreau. “If it was not for the patience of Duncan and his unwavering commitment to the cause (even if he thought we were mad sometimes!) we would not be here today.” He also said: “His influence and association with the distillery go back almost 50 years and, put simply, the resurrection of Bruichladdich and much of the success that has followed would not have been possible without the dedication of Duncan. Selfless, hard-working, gentle, determined and funny… and that’s just for starters. Everyone at Bruichladdich and those that enjoy any of our spirits can raise a glass today to thank this wonderful man.” We have our own memories of Duncan. On a 2015 visit to the distillery, our Kristy recalls a warehouse tasting with him. “He had such an incredible energy, was full of passion for the whisky, and was just so generous with his knowledge. And with the whisky… he filled our Glencairn glasses almost to the brim straight from the cask with a valinch. It was hilariously impractical. Let’s just say the pours were not delicate, but Duncan’s glee to be sharing these samples was clear to see. He was such a character.” We know what will be in our glasses this evening. Here’s to Duncan.
Mickey Heads from Ardbeg retires
Sticking with Islay for a moment, and there’s double Ardbeg news this week: the distillery has released its first beer, and we have just heard that the much-loved and admired manager at the distillery, Mickey Heads, will be retiring in October. We’ve been assured that the two events are not related. Under his watch, Ardbeg picked up more Whisky of the Year and Distillery of the Year accolades than any previous manager. He has spent his whole working life on Islay and Jura, taking on the coveted role at Ardbeg in 2007. Mickey Heads said: “Being at the helm of Ardbeg for 13 years has been a great privilege. The whisky we make here is of wonderful quality, and being part of the team that creates it is fantastic. Ardbeg has such a long history, I’ve always seen myself as a custodian carrying it forward for the next generation. So, you just do it as well as you can, and with as much passion as you can.” Thomas Moradpour, CEO of The Glenmorangie Company, said: “Mickey Heads is a hugely respected figure in the world of single malt whisky and will be sorely missed by Ardbeggians everywhere. There cannot be many distillery managers who combine such a wealth of knowledge, depth of passion and warmth of welcome. On behalf of everybody who has had the pleasure of meeting or working with Mickey, I want to express gratitude for all his hard work in maintaining the quality and reputation of the Ardbeg brand. His successor will have a hard act to follow.” Thanks for all the whisky, Mickey!
Johnnie Walker launches Master’s Ruby Reserve
When you’re an OBE-honoured master blender with a remarkable career spanning four decades, there’s really only one way to celebrate your legacy properly, with delicious whisky! That’s exactly what Johnnie Walker has done for Dr. Jim Beveridge’s with its latest release, Master’s Ruby Reserve. Said to be made from “some of the finest Scotch in the Johnnie Walker reserves”, the expression is composed of eight rare whiskies that are at least forty years old from ‘ghost’ distilleries of Cambus, Carsebridge, Pittyvaich and Port Ellen as well as Talisker, Royal Lochnagar, Glendullan and Cragganmore. The good doctor personally selected all the whiskies and chose ones that evoked his earliest whisky-making memories in an attempt to create a Scotch whisky that provides a window into his distinguished career. “Every whisky that has gone into the creation of this new expression holds a special place in my heart. I worked at each of these distilleries during various points of my career and the flavours and smells of those whiskies transport me back to very happy times throughout my career at Johnnie Walker,” said Beveridge. “The ‘ghost’ whiskies from Cambus, Carsebridge and Pittyvaich bring layers of rich fruit flavour. We’ve combined this with the flavours of dark chocolate, plums and cherries found in the wonderfully aged expressions of Royal Lochnagar, Glendullan and Cragganmore and the soft aromatic sea salt notes of Talisker and Port Ellen – creating a beautiful, full-bodied whisky.” The celebratory limited-edition was bottled at 43% ABV and will retail for £15,000 exclusively through DFS duty free stores, so if you’re in the market, you’ll have to pack your bags. Only 398 bottles are being released in hand-crafted golden-red Baccarat crystal decanters as a tribute to Beveridge’s ruby anniversary. Fancy stuff.
Save the giraffe, drink Glenmorangie
The giraffe is the mascot of Glenmorangie on account of its enormously tall stills. Now, the distillery is doing something to help preserve these most majestic of creatures whose numbers have fallen by 30% in the last 30 years. Glenmorangie has announced a three-year partnership with the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF) and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) which will help protect them in the wild, but also provide a place for them at Edinburgh Zoo. Much of the work will be focused in Uganda where half the world’s critically-endangered Nubian giraffes live, and will include protecting the animals from poaching and loss of habitat. Thomas Moradpour, president and chief executive of The Glenmorangie Company and back for a second turn in the Nightcap this week, said: “For 175 years we have created whisky, in stills as high as an adult giraffe, the tallest in Scotland. Over time, this majestic animal has become a beloved symbol of our brand. It seems only right that we should channel our passion for this animal into our new global conservation partnership with GCF and RZSS. Together, we will work to protect giraffes in the wild and shine a light on their predicament before it’s too late.” So your dram will be doing good as well as tasting good.
Diageo Reserve reveals World Class GB bartenders… just 9% are women
It’s that time of year again – Diageo Reserve’s World Class bartender competition is ramping up! After a record-breaking digital entry stage (more than 450 people threw their hat into the ring), The World Class GB Top 100 has been revealed – and it’s a glittering who’s-who of the current UK bartending scene. Those on the list are now required to submit their next online entry by 6 April, ahead of an in-bar judging stage. This is when stuff really gets serious, as the 100 are whittled down to 20. But there’s one small problem. We say small, it’s actually pretty sizeable, and blindingly obvious when you take in the list. Just nine people in the top 100 are women. To put that in context (as if any more is required), there are more men on that list named some variation of Matthew or Michael (we counted. There’s 11.). Clearly something has gone amiss. Could it be that for some reason, significantly fewer women bartenders decided to take part? It’s definitely possible. And it may be the sole explanation. Or are women not progressing in cocktail competitions? If not, why not? We asked Diageo Reserve Talisker and World Class ambassador Jason Clark for his take: “Now in its twelfth year, World Class was created as a platform for everyone. Our aim is to educate and encourage all bartenders to become part of our community, to challenge themselves and compete to be the very best they can be. All entries for the competition are judged blind and based purely on the drink submission. Last year we had women finishing in third and fourth place overall and, over the GB competition’s history, we’ve had many exceptional female bartenders enter and reach the finals. We continue to look at ways to celebrate women in the industry and we can’t wait to see what the next stage of the competition holds.” One thing’s for sure – if we want to see more women reach the top of the game in the bar industry, something’s got to give.
Pernod Ricard splashes out on Italicus aperitivo
Just last week drinks mega-group Pernod Ricard got its wallet out to invest in Japan’s first gin producer, The Kyoto Distillery. Well, it’s a case of another week, another transaction! This time it’s bergamot-infused aperitivo Italicus that’s joining the Pernod portfolio. The 20% ABV product is described as ‘distinguishable yet versatile’, and has already become a bartender favourite since it was founded by Italian spirits expert Giuseppe Gallo in 2016. Pernod Ricard hasn’t shared the financial details of the deal, or whether the ‘strategic partnership’ – as they call it – includes any level of acquisition, but Gallo will remain the active CEO going forward. “Since its launch, the brand has experienced success with both the on-trade and consumers, and it is now time to consolidate with this heavyweight strategic partner in order to accelerate our global distribution,” he said. “We have an ambitious plan to build Italicus into one of the world’s most successful aperitivo brands.” Gilles Bogaert, chairman and CEO of Pernod Ricard EMEA-LatAm, added: “We are thrilled to add Italicus to the Pernod Ricard portfolio and for the Group to help drive its future development.” The future’s bright, the future’s bergamot-scented.
Teeling bring St Paddy’s Celebrations to London
You may have heard of the luck of the Irish, now it’s time to show your love of the Irish! This St Patrick’s Day, Teeling Whiskey is bringing the Spirit of Dublin to London, in a special all-Irish celebration at Milroy’s of Spitalfields. And what a night it promises to be, with Irish fiddlers, food for the nibblers, Celtic cocktails, and of course some delicious Irish drams. And the best part of all (apart from the whisky of course…) is that the entry is free! Milroy’s doors will open at 6pm, we’ll see you there! Obviously in the current environment do check back nearer the time for confirmation that the event will go ahead. But you can still mark your diaries for St Patrick’s Day. Pop a bottle of Teeling in your basket now to make sure you can still sip along and celebrate, even if it’s at home, on 17 March!
Drinks industry reacts to duty freeze
It’s been a tough year for the drinks industry with trade tariffs, Brexit uncertainty and now the Coronavirus, but there was some good news as Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announced a freeze in alcohol duty rates in Britain, a country with some of the highest drink taxes in the world. Joe Fattorini, wine merchant and TV presenter, who has been campaigning for a lowering of such taxes, commented: “The recognition by the Chancellor that wine is the nation’s favourite alcoholic drink and therefore shouldn’t be singled out for tax rises is welcome news for the 33 million wine fans in the UK. Now it’s time to go one step further and cut back wine tax in the coming year.” But it wasn’t just the wine trade celebrating (responsibly, natch). Dayalan Nayager from Diageo said: “We welcome the Chancellor’s duty freeze which will provide much-needed stability in these difficult times for the industry. We are delighted that he announced his intention to reform the duty system to bring fairness for gin and Scotch whisky, which should ensure that these iconic homegrown products no longer face punitive levels of tax.” But Karen Betts, chief executive of the SWA (Scotch Whisky Association), thinks that more needs to be done: “Our industry needs continued support, through the upcoming review of UK alcohol taxation and while our exports remain subject to US tariffs. The fact remains that duty on spirits in the UK is already very high and puts Scotch whisky at a competitive disadvantage to wine, beer and cider, with £3 in every £4 spent on an average-price bottle of Scotch whisky going to the government in tax”. Regular readers, however, will only really want to know what Nightcap favourite Miles Beale thinks. Well, the chief executive of the WSTA had this to say: “While he has not cut duty, it is reassuring to see that in his first Budget as Chancellor, Rishi Sunak MP, has taken steps to address the UK’s excessively high duty rates. He has shown he is in touch with British consumers – from all walks of life – who want to enjoy a drink without getting stung by further tax hikes. We will all raise a glass to the Chancellor tonight, who has recognised that everyone benefits from a freeze, including the Treasury.” We’ll raise a glass with you, Miles!
Millennials and Gen Zers’ perfect pub revealed?
It’s fair to say that in the last half-a-century or so, quite a bit has changed. We can carry our phones with us wherever we go, fax machines are something of an urban myth, and you can’t even smoke indoors anymore! Despite this (or perhaps because of it), a recent study by SpareRoom found out that, when it comes to pubs, millennials and Gen Zers are most fond of your traditional boozer. And you can wave goodbye to millennial pink. 60% of 18 to 34-year-olds prefer your traditional wooden interior, complete with fireplaces and period fixtures, with 70% preferring wooden flooring to the carpet (though we don’t think it’s just millennials that feel this way…). But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. It’s not a total step back in time that the younger generations are after. 62% prefer speedy card payments to cash, and 41% want free wifi along with their wooden beams. The humble pint has even lost its place as the drink of choice, with 49% saying that spirits are their go-to tipple. Perhaps even more interestingly, 45% say that low-alcohol serves are their top choice when taking a trip to their local! It just goes to show that even though younger generations value a trip down memory lane, if there’s not a charging point then… you’ve gone too far.
And finally. . . . literature you can drink at the Academy Hotel
Books and booze go way back, from the Bible through to Shakespeare, not forgetting Dorothy Parker’s quip about her favourite drink: ‘I like to have a Martini, two at the very most. After three I’m under the table, after four I’m under my host’. Now the Academy Hotel is celebrating this special relationship with a series of cocktails inspired by that most literary part of London (and the hotel’s location): Bloomsbury. There’s The Lighthouse to honour Virginia Woolf made with Tanqueray Gin, one for her husband called the Old Fashioned Leonard made with Woodford Reserve bourbon, and, keeping it in the family, a Belloni, a take on the Negroni paying homage to her sister, the painter Vanessa Bell. According to the press bumf all the drinks are “created especially using the finest ingredients and hand-selected garnish”. No machines picking the garnishes at the Academy. No sir!