Had quite enough love-themed media to last the rest of 2019? Good, because there is no room for emotions here – time to get down to cold, hard, newsy facts with The Nightcap!
Valentine’s Day has been and gone. All the vibrant pink balloons and ribbons in the shops have all been replaced by some very early Easter displays. While the shape of the novelty chocolate may have changed from hearts to eggs in your local supermarket, one thing doesn’t change – The Nightcap and its dedication to bringing you weekly bundles of booze news! This may have been one of the most tenuous ways to introduce The Nightcap yet, and honestly, I’m OK with that.
So, what’s been going down on the MoM Blog this week? Well, Kristy gave us some insight into what happens when you take part in American Distilling Institute’s 2019 Judging of Craft Spirits. Henry chatted to one of the Asterley Bros. about his upcoming Britannica London Fernet, delivered good news from HMRC on the growth of British gin exports, and showed us how to make a great punch with a kick of orange for the Cocktail of the Week. Annie looked at the big, wide world of minimalist cocktail bars from across the globe. Tequila was the order of the day on Wednesday for Adam, and he also found out about a new batch of cask strength Jameson…
Phew! Best crack on with The Nightcap.
MBWS waves goodbye to turbulent 2018 with 6% sales decline
French drinks group Marie Brizard Wine & Spirits (MBWS) has had a sorry time of late, as regular readers of The Nightcap will know. After a 25% profits slump and ongoing troubles in its home market, we’re sure the company won’t be sad to see the back on 2018. A sentiment surely underlined by its full-year results, released this week, which showed that sales fell 6.3% over the course of the year to €389 million (about £342 million). But while the French market continued to slow, there was at last some good news in the fourth quarter: sales climbed 17.1% in Poland, signalling a “progressive recovery”, and there was “solid sales growth” in Spain. Let’s hope the tide has now turned for the Sobieski, William Peel and Gautier Cognac-maker.
A fancy Johnnie Walker store is coming to Edinburgh!
Earlier this week, Diageo formally submitted plans for a flagship Johnnie Walker visitor centre in Edinburgh, the focal point of Diageo’s £150 million investment in Scotch whisky tourism. Well, we’ll certainly drink to that. Johnny Walker’s new home will be a rather remarkable seven-floor space on Princes Street. The project will see the grand building renovated, with heritage features preserved wherever possible. David Cutter, chairman of Diageo in Scotland, stated that they hope to “restore it to its former glory as a cornerstone of the city”. The exciting space is set to include a multi-sensory immersive experience across three floors, allowing visitors to experience the 200-year history of the brand. As well as a flexible events area for music, theatre, arts and more, at street level there will be a retail space. Its interior is inspired by the stunning Johnnie Walker retail flagship in Madrid, which opened in November. Meanwhile, there will also be rooftop bars (yes, plural) so you can enjoy some of the best views of Edinburgh while you sip your Scotch. Excuse us, we’re just off to book some flights…
Big Peat celebrates 10 years with commemorative bottling
Independent bottler Douglas Laing & Co had a big birthday this week. Big Peat is now a decade old. Where does the time go? The family firm behind the blended malt from Islay, made with whiskies from Caol Ila, Bowmore, Ardbeg and Port Ellen, marked this occasion with a new, commemorative 10 Year Old bottled without colouring or chill-filtration at a punchy 46% ABV. According to the brand’s tasting notes, you can expect “peat smoke, damp earth, smoked barley, BBQ ash, streaky bacon, tobacco, toasted marshmallows and a sea-salt tang balanced by a leathery sweetness”. The label features a collection of emblems, stamps and hand-drawn illustrations inspired by a vintage scrapbook in honour of Big Peat’s Islay home. A platinum-foiled (no expense spared here) book telling the legend of Big Peat and his whisky adventures will accompany each bottle. Fred Laing, chairman at Douglas Laing, said: “Back in 2009, I dreamt up a feisty Ileach fisherman who would later become Big Peat, a brand that would grow at an average of 29% year on year, and subsequently be joined by Scallywag, Timorous Beastie, Rock Oyster, The Epicurean and The Gauldrons to deliver what we so modestly designate our ‘Remarkable Regional Malts: The Ultimate Distillation of Scotland’s Malt Whisky Regions’.” Just 850 cases of Big Peat 10 Year Old will be available globally, priced at around £65.
Legendary Duke’s bartender Alessandro Palazzi, honoured at CLASS Awards
On Tuesday night, the cream of the British booze world met for the annual CLASS Bar Awards. The winners were chosen by the CLASS Collective, a group of over 70 bar experts from all over the country. Lots of well-known venues scooped awards including Callooh Callay, Three Sheets, the American Bar at the Savoy, Coupette and Dandelyan. Individuals honoured included Max Venning, who won Bartender of the Year, and Declan McGurk from the Savoy, who picked up Bar Manager of the Year. But the biggest cheer of the evening went to Alessandro Palazzi from Duke’s Bar in London who won the Lifetime Achievement Award. Anyone who has experienced the Palazzi magic knows what a fine bartender he is, mixing great drinks, but also making one feel like the most important person in the world, if only for half an hour. His fearsomely strong Martinis were described by the San Francisco Chronicle as the “best in England”. We hope that he let someone else make the drinks on Tuesday night. Congratulations Alessandro!
WSET and IWSC seek out awesomeness in booze with The Future 50
Are you an incredible human-type under the age of 40 who works in booze? Know someone who is? If so, the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) and the International Wine & Spirit Competition (IWSC) want to hear from you! To celebrate their coinciding 50th anniversaries, the organisations have palled up to create The Future 50, an initiative that champions the next big things in wine and spirits. The list, set to be revealed in November, aims to recognise people from across the industry, from product development, design and distribution to marketing, journalism, hospitality, and everything else. As such, WSET and IWSC are calling on folk to nominate themselves and their talented colleagues! The judging panel includes the likes of Joe Fattorini (off of The Wine Show), Stephanie Macleod (Dewar’s master blender), Christine Parkinson (group head of wine at Hakkasan), Richard Paterson (Whyte & MacKay master blender), and Xavier Rousset MS (restaurateur), so there are some big names to impress. “As 2019 marks 50 years of success for each of our organisations, it offers the perfect opportunity to emphasise the importance of developing new talent through education and awards to secure an equally prosperous future for the industry,” said WSET chief executive Ian Harris. “At WSET we are delighted to be looking to the future and showcasing the next generation of talent in the wines and spirits industry through our joint Future 50 project.” For more information or to submit a nomination, head to future50.wsetglobal.com.
Asia continues to dominate wine auctions according to Sotheby’s
Auction house Sotheby’s has just released its 2018 market report which shows the auction market for fine wine is in robust health. It was a record-breaking year for Sotheby’s, with auction sales up 50% on the previous year. Total sales of wines and spirits topped $100 million for the first time. The Asian market continues to expand, up from a 58% share in 2017 to 63% of the market this year, followed by North America and Europe. This is reflected in Hong Kong’s dominance with 53% of sales, followed by New York at 29% and London at 18%. Of the big names in wine, the number one producer by value was Burgundy’s Domaine de la Romanée-Conti at $24 million with 21% of sales. Indeed, one bottle of Romanée-Conti sold for $558,000 last year at auction in New York. Wine is all very well but Master of Malt readers will be pleased to hear that the most expensive bottle sold was a whisky, a Macallan 1926 with a label by Sir Peter Blake which went for $843,200. Yeah, whisky!
D&D London Launches My Hospitality World
Starting on Monday 25 February, restaurant group D&D London will launch a two-week initiative called My Hospitality World, to encourage young people into the industry and demonstrate that opportunities are not confined to front of house or kitchen staff. This is in response to the industry’s growing skills gap. The initiative aims to encourage talented youngsters to see hospitality as a viable career path by offering a series of events in D&D London restaurants. There will be a full restaurant takeover of the Blueprint Café by students from London South East College, giving students an authentic taste of what goes on in the professional kitchen. There is even a dedicated event in support of International Women’s Day (8 March), to inspire more young women to become professional chefs! D&D London chairman & CEO Des Gunewardena commented: “Working in restaurants is viewed by many people as not being an occupation to aspire to and we want to change that.” Good luck to them!
Hendrick’s seduces travellers with LOVE Campaign
Love is in the air! Well, almost – love is in the airport! The Hendrick’s LOVE Campaign is taking place throughout February and, in some places, into March in bars and shops at airports in the UK, Europe and across the Middle East and Asia. Under the headline, ‘Sublimely SIMPLE, yet curiously COMPLICATED – a gift much like LOVE’, Hendrick’s is charming travellers with a giant sharing teacup, a heart glorifier (thing that shows off the bottle), and copious amounts of rose petals and cucumbers. A surefire way to anyone’s heart. However, the most exciting part of the campaign is the exclusive airport serve named ‘A Rose Story’: a delightful combination of Hendrick’s gin with rose and elderflower syrup, and tonic, garnished with – to nobody’s surprise – rose petals and a cucumber slice. And there’s more potential Hendrick’s-themed fun on the horizon because on the 14th June, it’s World Cucumber Day. We’re rather intrigued to see how Hendrick’s will celebrate its favourite green salad fruit.
Visit Britain’s first Gin Garden
Gin distillery tours are two-a-penny these days. You know the drill: admire the gleaming copper, try the gin and then buy a bottle. One distillery though, The Old Curiosity in Edinburgh, has come up with something a little different. From 23 March, you can visit its Gin Garden, located by the Pentland Hills to the south west of the Scottish capital. There you will be able to smell all those wonderful living botanicals that go into gin, witness the entire process from picking to distillation, and, of course, try the gin (it would be a pretty poor gin garden if there was no gin to drink). Not only is it a fun day out, but for gin nerds, it’s a great way to train your palate. The distillery has produced a video with distillery owner and top herbologist Hamish Martin that explains everything. It sounds like this Scottish distillery has raised the bar for gin-based experiences in Britain.
And finally… Bitter-loving people are cleverer, say scientists
We lovers of bitter things like Campari or IPA have always felt ourselves to be somewhat superior, but now research by actual scientists shows that our tastes might not only show sophistication, they might also be linked to intelligence. Research into tonic water by Dr Daniel Hwang from the University of Queensland and published in New Scientist suggests that how people perceive bitterness is linked to brain size: “Researchers scanned the brains of 1,600 people and asked them to rate the bitterness of a quinine solution. Those who found the drink less bitter tended to have a bigger left entorhinal cortex”. In other words, if you like bitter things, you probably have a bigger brain. So next time someone tells you that adding Fernet Branca to your Negroni is neither big nor clever, point them to this study, and assume your genius face.