In this week’s edition of The Nightcap, we lament tariffs again, celebrate the arrival of some charming new booze and try to comprehend how delicious Bordeaux wine made it to space and back without being drunk…
Welcome everyone, we hope you’re keeping safe and warm during Lockdown III: Lockdowner and enjoying the outdoors when you can. We’re trying to stay chipper ourselves, although we were irked when we noticed in our dictionary that the definition of the word ‘nightcap’ was somewhat lacking. There were references to an alcoholic drink taken at the end of the day, a cloth cap worn with nightclothes and the final race or contest of a day’s sports. But what there wasn’t any word of was this perfectly suitable definition: a charming weekly round-up of all things boozy and newsy, best enjoyed with a dram in-hand. Clearly an oversight. Step-up your game Merriam-Webster. Anyway, here’s another edition of the Nightcap. Perhaps you could pop a jaunty little cloth cap on while you read it?
On the blog this week we announced some good news regarding shipping to Northern Ireland as well as two new competitions: one being our magnificent Burns Night poetry competition, back by popular demand, and the other offering you the chance to win a VIP trip to Benriach Distillery. Ian Buxton returned to cast an eye on a new generation of distillers who are creating whisky with all sorts of uncommon grains, while Adam also embraced the weird and wonderful by enjoying some tasty new baijiu. Elsewhere, we rounded up some of the most delicious low- and no-alcohol drinks on the market for Dry January, showed you how creating your own cocktail ingredients is easier than you might think and enjoyed the marvels of vermouth by welcoming a new expression that honours the father of mixology, Mr Jerry Thomas and using another impressive creation in our delightfully simple and sublime Cocktail of the Week.
Now, on to The Nightcap!
US tariffs to remain on Scotch whisky
We reported last month that the UK would be dropping the tariffs on American whiskey now that it was out of the EU. We finished by anticpating that the Americans would reciprocate by dropping their 25% tariffs on Scotch but it seems that this won’t be happening in the foreseeable future. It was hoped that a deal could be pushed through in the last days of the Trump administration but it seems that the president has more pressing concerns. According to a story in The Times, the British team don’t hold out much hope that Katherine Tai, the incoming US trade representative, will be prioritising ending the tariffs. Karen Betts from the SWA commented: “Tariffs remain on Scotch whisky: A missed opportunity to straighten out subsidies to aerospace and lift hugely damaging tariffs on Scotch Whisky. There’s certainly deep disappointment across the industry. Over £400m in losses and counting.” And there was us hoping that 2021 would begin on a positive note.
Torabhaig to auction two rare whiskies for charity
There’s already plenty of excitement around the launch of Torabhaig’s first whisky, but that hasn’t stopped the brand from generating even more anticipation by announcing that it will auction two rare signed bottles of Torabhaig Single Malt ahead of its general release in February. The auction, which will start on the 31st January on Whisky Auction, includes a single cask bottle from the Torabhaig Family Reserve (future expressions from the Family Reserve will remain in a private collection and unavailable to purchase normally) as well as a bottle of the ‘Legacy Series 2017’ peated single malt, both of which have been signed by all nine Torabhaig distillers. All proceeds of the sale will go to the National Centre for Gaelic Language and Culture, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig and the Dr MacKinnon Memorial Broadford Hospital. Given the upcoming launch is from the first whisky distillery to be built on Skye in 190 years and only the second legal whisky distillery ever to operate on the island (after Talisker), many of us whisky lovers are understandably very excited to get our hands on its inaugural whisky. Good thing we can reveal that the Legacy Series 2017 will be available from MoM Towers, but keep in mind that this is a limited single distillation vintage issue with just over 3,000 bottles available for distribution in the UK and 6,000 in the USA so demand is likely to outstrip supply.
UK government votes in favour of hospitality minister
Given the state of things right now we’re always delighted to welcome some good news in our industry and we got some this week after MPs voted in favour of creating a minister of hospitality in the UK. The notion was debated by the UK government after an online petition secured more than 200,000 signatures and following a 90-minute debate in Westminster on Monday 11 January, the vote gained the support it needed. While this doesn’t guarantee the role will be created, the hospitality industry has welcomed the government’s recognition of the sector’s importance, with issues like extending the VAT cut and the business rates holiday and often forgotten parts of the sector like nightclubs, wedding venues, conference centres and the industry’s critical supply chain receiving attention. This has raised hopes the debate will prompt senior leadership within the Conservative Party to seriously consider the proposal. “It was incredibly positive to hear so many MPs being vocal advocates of the hospitality sector. There was unanimous recognition of our importance economically and socially. It is striking that, in the end, the petition got more than 200,000 signatures,” Kate Nicholls, UKHospitality chief executive, said, in her second Nightcap appearance in as many weeks. “We all understand the importance of what we do and it is good to see the government recognise the importance of working closely with the sector to ensure that we are properly supported, not just during this crisis but more generally.”
Our Macallan auction raises £36k for Hospitality Action
We always knew that the Macallan Red collection, consisting of whiskies of up to 78 years old, would be seriously in demand with Master of Malt customers. That’s why when we received our allocation, we decided to sell them through a charity auction, as we do for all in-demand whiskies. Well, the whiskies went quickly, no surprise there, and we’re delighted to announce that we have raised £36,510.00 for Hospitality Action, which offers a crucial lifeline to people of all ages, working and retired, from the hospitality industry. Justin Petszaft, Atom Group CEO, commented: “It’s been a hard year for everyone, but particularly those in the hospitality sector, so we’ve been looking for ways to help them weather the storm until they can fully re-open in the summer. Macallan is always highly collectable, so we knew demand for this collection would be high, and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to help raise some much needed funds for our friends in the on-trade. When we set this live none of us could have imagined how much it would raise: £36,000 is a huge amount of money and will make a real difference to so many people’s lives who desperately need our help right now. I’d like to thank both Macallan for providing such a fantastic set of bottles for us to auction, and our incredible customers for being so amazingly generous in their bids. As ever, you guys rock.”
Distilleries go green with government initiative
The winners of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Green Distilleries Competition were announced on Friday 8th January 2021, with 17 distilleries receiving the first phase of £10 million government funding to go green, including Bruichladdich, The Orkney Distillery and Highland Park. The government initiative aims to find ways of decarbonising the distilling sector and the fund will assist distilleries in the search for lower-carbon alternatives to generate heat for processes such as malting and distilling. Bruichladdich revealed last week that more than £70,000 has been awarded to its project partner, Protium Green Solutions, in order to complete a feasibility study on incorporating innovative hydrogen combustion technology as part of ambitious plans to decarbonise its production process by 2025. Highland Park and The Orkney Distillery, in Kirkwall, are also set to take part in a £58,781 research project led by the Stromness-based European Marine Energy Centre (Emec), along with industrial decarbonisation experts from Edinburgh’s Napier University. The HySpirits 2 project in Kirkwall follows research completed last year by Emec at The Orkney Distillery, which investigated the feasibility of using a hydrogen-fuelled thermal fluid heating system there. “We understand that there is real potential for a hydrogen‐based solution to decarbonise our industry,” says Allan Logan, production director of Bruichladdich. “We are thrilled to have the support of Protium, Deuterium and ITPEnergised to help us assess the feasibility of employing a green hydrogen fuel switching solution for our distillery – a move we hope benefits the broader industry”. It’s terrific to see that, despite everything that’s going on, there are those who are focused on planning for a better future.
Thomas Lowndes creates RTD cocktail range
The ready-to-drink (RTD) market is booming at the moment, which is understandable given you can’t turn to bartenders to provide delicious and convenient complex serves at the moment. In fact, RTDs are forecast to remain the fastest‐growing alcohol sector over the next five years, according to the IWSR Drinks Market Analysis. As the category widens and develops new products naturally follow and this week learned that Edrington-Beam Suntory UK has made a serious step into this market with the launch of the Thomas Lowndes 1826 range of RTD products. The Glasgow-based firm Thomas Lowndes has been part of EBS UK since 2015 and has named its new range after the year Mr Lowndes founded the business. It comprises four bottled cocktails: an Old Fashioned and a Mint Julep made with Maker’s Mark bourbon, a Cognac Espresso Martini that features Courvoisier and a Smoky French Martini made using Laphroaig whisky instead of vodka or gin, all of which are available from us (just give those links a click). “This exciting new range by 1826, associated with premium whiskies, Cognacs and bourbons gives us the perfect opportunity to showcase how easily bar-quality cocktails can be created in the home,” Moira Jacques, general manager of Thomas Lowndes, said. “We want to show customers that you can create premium, top-quality drinks in the comfort of your own home.”
Beefeater gin unveils sustainable bottle
Beefeater London Dry Gin has announced this week a plan to reduce the amount of plastic it uses by unveiling a more sustainable packaging design. The new bottle is made entirely from recyclable glass and is said to save the Pernod Ricard-owned brand 410 tonnes of plastic every year. The previous plastic cap has been replaced with an embossed, aluminium cap and the label has been changed from PVC to paper and the bottle, the shape of which you might have noticed was inspired by London bricks, was also designed with bartenders in mind as it makes pouring the gin easier. “Whilst our packaging has evolved our award-winning gin remains the same, with every drop distilled in the heart of London. The design of the bottle, from its shape to its label, paints a picture of what the liquid inside will taste like,” said Murielle Dessenis, global brand director of Beefeater. “The new design has performed well with bartenders and consumers alike, and we’re proud to have designed this new iteration of Beefeater’s iconic bottle with sustainability in mind, taking the brand on to the next step in its journey with a natural evolution for today’s gin enthusiasts.” The new design will be rolled out globally from this month and will cover the whole Beefeater range, with the exception of Beefeater 24.
And finally… Bordeaux wines return from space, undrunk!
If you were floating around on the International Space Station and there was a case of wine lying around, you’d crack open a bottle, wouldn’t you? Well, miraculously a case of Bordeaux that spent a year in space landed in the sea this week off the coast of Florida, completely intact. Not a drop had been drunk. The package also contained 160 canes each of Cabernet and Merlot. No, this wasn’t a psychological experiment in resisting temptation, it was part of a research project by a company called Space Cargo looking into the effects of extreme conditions on vines and wine to understand the stress they might endure from climate change. This isn’t the first time Bordeaux has been into space, a bottle of Chateau Lynch Bages 1975 went up on the space shuttle in 1985, and also came home intact because nobody had drunk it. Amazing willpower these astronauts.