Whisky from Ardbeg, Johnnie Walker, Lagavulin, and Starward makes the headlines this week, as does Baz Luhrmann and a mystical snake man. It’s The Nightcap: 14 October edition!
Why did we call The Nightcap, The Nightcap? Well, because a Nightcap is the last drink you have and our little weekly round-up is the last word on what occurred over the last few days. Not a terribly interesting reason, to be honest, but a simple one. Sometimes the obvious answer is the correct one, as Occam and his shaving tools always said. Anyway, here it is. The Nightcap. Not the drink. Did we just make that more confusing?
On our blog we had a busy week, offering you hot new Master of Malt exclusive whiskies as well as £2,000 worth of legendary Cognac, then reporting on peated malt shortages on Islay, the revival of single pot still Jameson Irish whiskey, our own Green Spot exclusive whisky, and a new bottle from The Lakes Distillery. Elsewhere, we whipped up some of MoM’s good ol’ home cooking, paired The Singleton whisky and macarons, and made Rhaenyra Targaryen’s favourite: the Negroni Sbagliato (ooh, stunning!).
All that good blogging, and yet there’s even more to come! It’s The Nightcap: 14 October edition.
Ardbeg launches Hypernova: its smokiest whisky
Ardbeg is taking things up a notch by creating its most powerfully peaty whisky. The phenol levels (the way you measure how peaty the barley being dried is) are in excess of 170 ppm, a malty magnitude never seen before in an Ardbeg. What does that mean you can expect from this one? “Hypernova turns on the afterburners and hauls our spirit into smoky new depths,” says Colin Gordon, Ardbeg’s distillery manager. “Highly experimental, this whisky is peaty and intense, with a taste that’s totally surreal. This spirit is not just a slice of Ardbeg history, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime event… not to be missed!” Ardbeg’s director of distilling and whisky creation, Dr Bill Lumsden, added that this is “without a doubt the smokiest Ardbeg ever” and says that the distillery “wanted to really push the boundaries this time and boldly go where Ardbeg has never ventured before”. He continues: “A hypernova is a collapsing star explosion so powerful it threatens the fabric of the galaxy – while I don’t think this whisky will tear a hole in space and time, it’s certainly bursting with fantastically peaty flavour.” The brand says that on the nose, this one has “pungent notes of creosote mingle with soot and tar”, while on the palate you can detect “a most curious juxtaposition of flavours – sweet chocolate, cooling peppermint, peat smoke, bitter almonds, and then a hugely long, lingering burst of spices like aniseed and clove”. Ardbeg says the finish then “collapses in on itself with enormous, heavy smoke, before returning to earthy notes of roasted coffee and smoked heather”. Blimey! Sadly this one is only available to members of the Ardbeg Committee. So you’ll have to let us know if the peaty power overwhelms you.
Nick Offerman makes Lagavulin whisky for steak
We have a new Lagavulin Offerman Edition. Is everyone still excited about this partnership? Well, Diageo and the Parks and Recreation star have been brand buddies since 2014 so we’d forgive you if this doesn’t quite get you going. Fans of the show will appreciate this latest whisky we reckon, though. It’s designed to be eaten with steak, and anyone who watched Parks and Recs will know Scotch whisky, wood, and steak are pretty much all of Offerman’s character Ron Swanson’s favourite things. And it’s very obvious those traits were chosen because the actor loves them too. So it was only natural this creation would surface at some point. Lagavulin Offerman Edition: Charred Oak Cask is aged in American and European oak casks that are shaved down then heavily re-charred, and is said to be the “perfect pairing for well-barked, medium-rare steak” with Offerman recommending a seared ribeye. It’s the third whisky in the series following an 11-year-old whisky finished in Guinness beer casks in May 2021, and Lagavulin Offerman Edition Aged 11 Years which kicked things off back in October 2019. There’s also a new My Tales of Whisky video (above), entitled Nick Offerman’s Smokiest Adventure Yet which follows the actor on a quest to bring a pairing of steak and Lagavulin to whisky lovers and depicts the ‘epic lengths’ he will go to protect the new whisky. Lagavulin also has another exciting release on the radar, make that two more. For the first time, the Islay distillery is releasing a pair of limited-edition bottlings to celebrate the Lagavulin Islay Jazz Festival, entitled The Lagavulin Jazz Festival Exclusive and the Lagavulin Jazz Distillery Exclusive 2022. There’s a whole lotta Laga going on this week!
Johnnie Walker goes Blonde
There’s a new iteration of the world’s best-selling whisky about to hit the shelves. It’s called Johnnie Walker Blonde and it’s a lighter take on this classic Scotch. The blend has already been trialled in some markets including select cities in Brazil, Mexico, USA, Bulgaria, Germany and Thailand, and has gone down a storm. It also won a gold medal at the International Spirits Competition. Whisky maker George Harper explained the idea behind it: “We’ve used amazingly bright Scotch from Cameronbridge and fruity whiskies from Cardhu, which have been matured in American oak to add sweet toffee and caramel notes, brought together with fresh, fruit flavours from across Scotland. This has allowed us to push the brightness and vibrancy of this Scotch further than ever before.” It sounds like the perfect cocktail whisky. We’ll let you know when it lands at Master of Malt. We can’t wait to get mixing.
Starward celebrates 15 years with Vitalis
Australian distillery Starward was founded 15 years ago. Where does the time go? While we responded to the news by struggling to comprehend the passage of time, Starward took the much more celebratory route of releasing a commemorative single malt whisky: Vitalis. Eagle-eyed readers will have noticed the single malt’s name bears a striking resemblance to that of the distillery’s founder, David Vitale, but actually, the Latin name refers to a most brilliant star that only appears in the night sky every 15 years and… yeah obviously we’re joking it was named after David. He took the Melbourne-based company down the route of ageing its whiskies predominately in Australian red wine barrels, rejecting the industry standard of ex-bourbon or sherry. “It feels like only yesterday when I was inspired by Australia’s farmed wine regions and asked myself the question: ‘Why aren’t people maturing whisky in red wine barrels?’ This is the thought that catapulted Starward into the bold and award-winning distillery it is today,” Vitale explains. Naturally, Vitalis has been matured in a mix of red wine barrels, as well as tawny Port, ex-bourbon, first-fill and second-fill Apera casks (an Australian equivalent to sherry), and rum barrels. We were fortunate enough to attend a tasting of each of the component parts and the ex-bourbon fascinated us as you don’t usually get to see Starward distillery character (stone fruits, coffee fudge, biscuity malt) out in the open like that. But it was also clear tasting the ex-red wine element that the spirit loves its chosen home. We then got to taste the final blend, Vitalis, and can assure you it’s a worthy celebration and a very impressive blend of so many elements. But don’t take our word for it, pick one up yourself when it arrives at MoM Towers in November.
London’s ‘first Tequila farmacia’ is coming with Cazcabel
Did you know that London has never had a Tequila farmacia before? While you’re busy reeling at that information, we’ll explain. It translates to ‘Tequila pharmacy’ (I know, we’re good) and basically it’s a Tequila bar serving cocktails inspired by the supposed medicinal properties of traditional Mexican ingredients. It’s all courtesy of Tequila brand Cazcabel, which is named after a legendary medicine (and snake, he loved a good rattler) man called Don Cazcabel, which is bringing remedial cocktails to a drawing room bar hidden within the BFI at Southbank from 2 to 14 November. Expect to see antique medical journals, dried botanicals, and all kinds of funky serves such as one made with a herb called Epazote, traditionally used in cooking and medicine to aid digestion, which was blended with Cazcabel Blanco, Green Chartreuse, elderflower, and lime. There’s also a drink made by combining xocolatl (cacao) with Cazcabel coffee, chilli and almond, which sounds pretty amazing. The perfect antidote to chilly winter evenings. Though we are legally bound to point out that it isn’t actually medicine.
And finally… Bombay Sapphire hires Baz Luhrmann as creative director
Bombay Sapphire has a shiny new campaign to show off and it’s enlisted none other than Moulin Rouge and Elvis director Baz Luhrmann to help them. It’s called ‘Saw This, Made This’ and it welcomes people to capture and share on social media what they see in the world that creatively inspires them, and what they have subsequently made, using #SawThisMadeThis. Big Baz will then share the submissions he finds most creatively inspiring, explaining that “by partnering with Bombay Sapphire, I want to encourage people everywhere to think about how they can turn the ordinary into the extraordinary and share this inspiration to make the world a more creatively nurturing place”. This will also be celebrated in an evolving online gallery. How this relates to gin is explained by references to bartenders like Julia Momose of miko in Chicago being inspired by organic details in the trees in Chicago (who isn’t?) to create new drinks. Fun fact: Baz Luhrmann’s real name is Mark Anthony, he was nicknamed Baz because his school friends said his hair reminded them of ‘80s fox comedian Basil Brush. Not particularly relevant, but fun all the same.