Guess who stars in The Nightcap this week? If you said top pop singer Paul Heaton, Ryan Reynolds’ mum, and the Fortnum and Mason’s Drink Writer of the Year 2022, then give yourself a pat on the back.
This week on the blog we were discussing the resurgence of flavoured vodka, which was all the rage back in the ‘90s. It got us thinking about which trends we’d like to see resurface. Pokemon never really went away and Tamagotchis were too hard to keep alive. Your favourite girl power and/or Britpop records live on every time you play them. As does The Macarena, which we all remember how to do. Seinfeld is on Netflix and Friends is literally everywhere all of the time. It’s hard to pick just one thing, but what we miss most might be just walking around Blockbusters on a Friday night and visually picking one film from every movie ever, all in one place. You can’t really stumble upon a random movie you end up falling in love with now, not with a load of faulty and/or cynical algorithms. It’s either that, or reviving Iced Gems.
Anyway, aside from whipping up a flavoured vodka-based cocktail, it was a week of whisky on the MoM blog. We found out what makes distilleries like Knockdhu, Teeling, and the Cotswolds so great, recommended some out-of-this-world bottles, welcomed the arrival of a certain Wise Owl, pointed out the best places in Scotland to enjoy a wee dram, and fondly remembered the Spirit of Speyside festival.
But there’s always room for more stories. Let’s crack on with The Nightcap: 13 May edition!
Our Henry wins Fortnum and Mason’s Drink Writer of the Year 2022!
You might recall that we mentioned that our editor Henry Jeffreys was up for Greatest Writer of all Time at the annual Fortnum & Mason Food and Drink Awards recently. Well, he won! Recognising his work in the Fence magazine and his platform World of Booze (the mighty Master of the Malt blog goes without saying, of course), our Henry scooped up the Drink Writer award ahead of stiff competition from last year’s winner Will Hawkes, nominated for his work in Tonic and Pellicle magazines, and Felipe Schrieberg from Whisky Magazine. If you’re unaware, the awards are like the Golden Globes, only far more glamorous, and aim to celebrate the best writers and publishers working in food and drink. In its 10th year, the ceremony was co-presented by Claudia Winkleman alongside chef and judging panel chair, Angela Hartnett OBE, while judges included Alice Lascelles, Freddy Bulmer, Georgina Hayden, Jaega Wise, Mark Diacono, and Tara Wigley. Impressing them is no mean feat. But Henry did just that and posted some words on his Instagram in response to the award. He said that he was “about 60% blanc de blanc Champagne” last night, and thanked the judging panel “for their wisdom in giving me this peculiar looking award”. He also thanked The Fence Magazine for “letting me write whimsical things” and his wife Misti “for encouraging me to enter more personal articles”. We’re proud as punch, and will insist you refer to him by his proper title in all future communications (that’s Henry Jeffreys, Fortnum and Mason’s Drink Writer of the Year 2022, if you’re having trouble keeping up).
Ryan Reynolds and his mum star in Aviation Gin ad
Nobody sells his spirit quite like Ryan Reynolds and for Mother’s Day (in the US it was on 8 May, don’t panic, our one was ages ago) he managed to rope his mum, Tammy, into the latest Aviation Gin advert. Together, they create a Punch recipe to celebrate Mother’s Day. By which we mean Reynolds tries to make some Mother’s Ruin Punch while being mothered. The Canadian actor invested in Aviation Gin in 2018, and Diageo acquired the brand in 2020, but part of the deal meant they secured the services of his incredible ability to actually sit and make you watch an advert. If you want to actually make the Mother’s Ruin Punch, just mix together half a cup (eight-ish tablespoons) of sugar and 180ml of soda water soda, and stir until the sugar dissolves. Add 350ml of grapefruit juice, 180ml of lemon juice, 180ml of sweet vermouth, and 350ml of Aviation Gin, and stir. After the mixture has chilled for an hour, top up the punch with Champagne. Garnish with a slice of grapefruit and there you have it. A drink only a mother could love.
Ardbeg returns to London for Ardbeg Day 2022
If you’re lucky enough to be going to Fèis Ìle this year then you’ll surely be heading to Ardbeg Day on the final Saturday of the festival. But for those who need an alternative Ardbeg fix, the Islay whisky brand is hosting a punk-themed event (see our Ardcore coverage in a previous Nightcap) on 21 May in London. In celebration of the first physical festivities since 2019, Ardbeg is calling “all rabble-rousers” to join them between 2-7pm at Strongroom Bar, London, where attendees will have a chance to try their hand at all kinds of punky activities, like at the supervised live graffiti wall and ‘Punk your look’ stations, to the Ardbeg Fling, or ‘welly wanging’ (no idea) and rebel portrait artists. Food will come in the form of BBQ smoky burgers and sweet treats from the customisable donut station, made to complement the smoke of Ardbeg whisky. Which includes this year’s festival bottling, Ardcore, and plenty of ‘Rock-tails’ to savour as you pogo to a live punk band to end the day. Tickets are priced at £40 and include 3 cocktails, canapes, all activities, and an Ardcore tasting session. You can find them here.
Elixir Distillers announces name of new Islay distillery
Just over six months after breaking ground, and after much speculation from whisky enthusiasts around the world, Elixir Distillers has confirmed its new Islay distillery will be called Portintruan. It’s pronounced ‘Port-nah-truan’ and not ‘purring’ or ‘puree’ or ‘portakabin’ as Irish journalist Bill Linnane joked on Twitter, and takes its name from the historic farm estate where the distillery is located and means ‘place of the stream’. The site promises to be home to both old-style production techniques and modern technology with a focus on sustainability. There’s also going to be an experimental distillery within the site – so it will be two distilleries in one. This will enable the team to produce not only different Scotch whisky styles but also rum. Plans for the distillery site also include 14 houses for Islay families working at the distillery, a visitor’s centre, a bar and restaurant, a tasting room bothy overlooking the sea, and a multi-purpose educational facility that will serve as a base for an apprentice programme to train the next generation of distillers. Work on the site is well underway and Portintruan is anticipating starting distilling from early 2024.
The Dalmore unveils new investment programme
It feels like nearly every week there’s a distillery expanding and this week it’s Highland stalwarts The Dalmore who have outlined a new investment programme. It proposes a new whisky-making facility and visitor experience featuring the classic Charles Doig-style pagoda sitting atop The Old Dalmore Kiln at the heart of the reimagined distillery. Parent group Whyte and Mackay’s sustainability strategy The Green Print, which set the objective to become net-zero by 2040, is said to be right at the heart of this reimagining, thanks to an exacting set of standards that will transition the site to a green energy solution. The brand also promises to preserve the Dalmore DNA, which has been a key factor in it becoming the fastest-growing single malt (according to them, anyway). Formal planning application has been submitted, while whisky industry authority Forsyths are consulting on the process and the whisky-making aspect of the development. We’ll keep you posted on any key updates.
Macallan’s Distil Your World New York arrives
You may have noticed that The Macallan Distil Your World series, which aims to transport whisky enthusiasts on a sensorial trip across the globe, was bolstered by the addition of a new bottling recently. This one takes us on a trip to the Big Apple (that’s New York, if you’ve never watched any TV or films in your life) through a spirit aged in a combination of American and European oak casks, selected to reflect the flavours and ingredients that define New York. “We really looked towards the quintessential tastes of New York – sweet candy, waffles, peanut brittle, chocolate, and pecans. The city’s thriving street food scene was a great source of inspirations,” says Macallan whisky maker Polly Logan. Given this is a range made in collaboration with the Roca brothers, who own the three Michelin-star restaurant El Celler de Can Roca, we’re confident they’ve hit the flavour mark. The news of this launch was actually shared a couple of weeks ago, but we held off reporting it then because we can add another exciting layer to the story. Only 1,000 bottles were produced and we’ve been lucky enough to get our hands on some. As there’s likely to be a mad scramble for these, we’re setting up a dedicated shopping page where you can register your interest in a bottle. We’ll be in touch once we have dates for the private auctions we hold. Just head here for more info.
Kraken Rum launches first flavoured rum: The Kraken Roast Coffee
When we told you that Guinness was making a coffee-based creation, you all got very excited. So you might also like to know that The Kraken Rum is launching its first new product since its inaugural launch in the form of The Kraken Roast Coffee. And we’ve already got some (hence the link on the name). Kraken Roast Coffee is described as a “fusion of spiced Caribbean rum and fine Arabica bean coffee,” and drinkers can supposedly expect “a rich, dark, and smooth taste of coffee that balances perfectly with the variety of spices in Kraken rum”. Yummy. The press release also has a perfectly reasonable story about sailors harnessing the dark aroma of roast coffee to ward off Krakens. You can have a good hearty laugh at that while making an Espresso Rumtini if you like, using a recipe the brand provided. Just shake up 50ml The Kraken Roast Coffee, 40ml cold-pressed coffee, and 10ml sugar syrup for up to 10 seconds and strain into a chilled Martini glass. Garnish with cinnamon powder and three coffee beans. Lovely. No promises it will ward off any Krakens, however…
Campari acquires cult French aperitif Amer Picon
Big news for fans of bitter drinks as the biggest name in bitterness, Campari, has just acquired one of the smallest, Amer Picon. The Italian drinks group paid Diageo €119 million for the Picon brand and related assets. The brand dates back to its invention by Gaétan Picon in 1837 and blends oranges and herbs into a deliciously bitter concoction. It comes in two varieties: Amer Picon Bière which is somewhat bizarrely used for mixing with beer; and Amer Picon Club which is essential for making cocktails such as the Brooklyn. The only trouble is that while it is widely available in continental Europe, it’s not so easy to get hold of in Britain and not sold at all in North America. Meaning that Brooklynites are unable to make a proper Brooklyn. Pity the poor people of Brooklyn! But the press release states: “With the acquisition of Picon brand, Campari Group aims to further enlarge its brand offering in its core bitter aperitifs category in international markets and increase its critical mass in France and Benelux.” We asked for further clarification about whether this means that Amer Picon will be coming to America but as yet have not had a response. American bartenders have their fingers crossed.
La Piñata Tequila & Mezcal Festival brings agave awesomeness to London
Last weekend we paid a visit to La Piñata Tequila & Mezcal Festival at London’s Tobacco Docks, and had an agave-filled adventure! With over 20 brands exhibiting, it was a fab opportunity to hear their stories and, of course, sample some products. It would be impossible to mention them all, but we particularly enjoyed trying the small-batch, one-off, single-agave expressions from brands like Sin Gusano and Pensador. The QuiQuiRiQui gang was there showing off its new range of pechuga mezcal (which was incredible!), whilst The Lost Explorer Mezcal team showed us how pairings such as olives and salted chocolate really enhanced the character of the agave in its different expressions. We ducked into a splendid masterclass with Jesse Estes from Ocho Tequila, who enlightened us on the fascinating subject of terroir in agave – it’s definitely a thing! The turnout looked good and there was a fair bit of buzz around some of the stands, so patience was required at times, but overall, this probably allowed a sensible bit of time between all those neat samples. Food stalls were on hand serving up Mexican street snacks for those who did need some extra sustenance (but queuing skills were a must here), with some additional Mexican stalls adding to the atmosphere and selling some extremely fetching alpaca patterned jumpers (yeah we bought one), an unexpected, but treasured souvenir from the day. Overall much fun was had, and our takeaway fact, which we were reminded of throughout the day – there is so much more to mezcal than just smoke.
And finally… Beautiful South singer is buying the drinks for his birthday
Drinkers at various pubs in Britain and Ireland are celebrating as top pop singer Paul Heaton, of Beautiful South and Housemartins fame, is buying them a pint for his birthday. He announced his intention on Twitter earlier this week: “To celebrate my 60th birthday (on Monday 9th May) I’d originally intended to do another bicycle tour, visiting & performing at 60 pubs across the UK & Ireland. However, due to recording delays caused by the pandemic, I’ve had to shelve these plans for the time being. Instead, I’ve decided that the next best way to celebrate this coming of age is to handpick 60 pubs across the UK and Ireland and put a given amount of money behind the bar of each one.” Go to Heatons’ Twitter feed to see if one of the pubs is near you. But you’ll have to hurry as you’ll see that people around the country are already getting stuck into their free beer. Cheers Paul! And happy birthday!