Rock, rye and Bristol – that’s what The Nightcap is about this week (among other things. There are many, many other things, too). Time to dig in!
Spring is here. Kinda. Meteorological spring has been here for a while, but astronomical spring is kicking off next Wednesday. Also, the weather has still been a bit grim. We’re in a bit of a weird mini-season, which we’re going to call wing, partly because it’s the words winter and spring smooshed together, and partly as an homage to Wings, the band The Beatles could have been. Anyway, kick start your wonderful wing weekend with our weekly round-up of booze news – it’s The Nightcap!
Here’s what has been happening on the MoM Blog this week. Our Annie chatted to Knappogue Castle Irish Whiskey’s Tony Carroll and then showed off our Cocktail of the Week – The Shallow Negroni. Henry started up a new weekly feature for the blog focusing on exciting new arrivals at MoM Towers, and then did a spot of reading (whiskey-related reading, of course). Kristy caught up on all things Irish whiskey with Irish Distillers master blender Billy Leighton, and had a look at the plans for Gordon & MacPhail’s upcoming distillery. Adam then checked out the new series of photogenic whiskies from Berry Bros. & Rudd. Good stuff all around.
Now. On with the news!
Is Pernod Ricard about to sell its wine brands?
This week, we’re kicking off The Nightcap by dipping our toes into the world of reports, speculation and rumour – but if true, this development could significantly shape the structure of the global wine industry. On 13 March, Bloomberg reported that Pernod Ricard, best-known perhaps for its Jameson, The Glenlivet, Beefeater, and Havana Club spirits brands, is thinking about selling off its wine division. Why is this significant? Because its wine portfolio includes the likes of Jacob’s Creek and Campo Viejo, some of the biggest wine brands in the world. Pernod Ricard itself is tight-lipped, but if it does decide to sell up, it wouldn’t be the first spirits-maker to sharpen its focus on spirits by sacking off the wine. In 2015, Diageo offloaded its Chateau and Estate wine brands to Treasury Wine Estates, and in 2017, Campari Group sold off the Château de Sancerre winery, its final foothold in wine. Will Pernod Ricard follow suit? We’ll have to wait and see – probably with a glass of wine in-hand.
WSTA ‘delighted’ by apparent Brexit delay
If you’ve had one eye on UK politics this week, you’ll know there’s been a right load of drama. Votes left, right and centre, rebellious MPs, and more confusion than how and why Stonehenge was built – it’s been a palaver and a half. One group who have some sort of handle on what it all means for drinks is the Wine & Spirit Trade Association (WSTA). On Wednesday, the day after Theresa May’s deal was thrown out (again), Miles Beale, WSTA chief exec, said the drinks trade faced “deeper uncertainty, and for longer”. He continued: “We welcome the decision that there would be a temporary suspension of tariffs on wine and most spirits under ‘No Deal’,” adding that more action was needed to keep the booze industry flowing. He was in chirpier spirits on Thursday though, when he said the WSTA was “delighted” to see ‘No Deal’ off the table. But is it actually? Beale said it was “imperative” for the government to pass emergency legislation before 29 March, the UK’s current leaving date. Still confused? Us too. “The wine and spirit industry still lacks clarity as to what the trading landscape will look like when we do leave the EU,” Beale continued. Can we have some of that clarity too, please?
Foo Fighters named Bourbon & Beyond headliners
Like your bourbon with a side of rock and folk? Then you’d better head on down to Louisville, Kentucky from 20-22 September. Annual festival Bourbon & Beyond, founded by whiskey author Fred Minnick and music exec Danny Wimmer, is a celebration of bourbon, music and food (throw in cats and you’ll have our top four all-time favourites), and this week the line-up was announced. Top of the bill? The Foo Fighters! Other acts include John Fogerty, The Flaming Lips, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, and loads more, including one big name yet to be revealed. The bourbon line-up is also pretty impressive. Festival-goers will be able to sample more than 40 brands, including the likes of Blanton’s, Buffalo Trace, Coopers’ Craft, Evan Williams, Four Roses, Jim Beam, Knob Creek, Maker’s Mark, Michter’s, Old Forester, Wild Turkey, WL Weller, and Woodford Reserve. Blenders and distillers will be on hand to dish out info about their brands, and there’s a full programme of masterclasses, too. Tickets go on sale today, 15 March! Time to book some flights…
Aber Falls distils Wales’s first rye!
Rye whisky fans, we bring you glad tidings: Aber Falls has distilled its first ever rye whisky! It seems that Aber Falls is a distillery of firsts, as it is also the first whisky distillery that North Wales has seen for over 100 years. The distillery has been producing new-make malt spirit for just little over a year, since January 2018. Of course, the rye whisky will only be available from 2020, once it’s mature. Though it appears rye is the first of many plans, as the distillery is aiming to put itself on the world whisky map, building a portfolio fit for the next 20 years. Innovation is key to the distillery and James Wright, managing director at Aber Falls stated that this addition of a rye whisky “allows us to bring into the fold whisky drinkers beginning their journey of experimentation”. For both new and seasoned whisky drinkers, this is fantastic news from those Aber Falls folks.
Meet Legent, a bourbon where ‘East meets West’
When Japan’s Suntory Holdings snapped up US-based Beam, Inc. in 2014, it was a very stark union of East and West. And this accord is now playing out in actual whiskey! Behold Legent (pronounced ‘lee-jent’), an unusual bourbon developed jointly by Fred Noe, seventh-generation Jim Beam master distiller, and Shinji Fukuyo, the chief blender at Suntory whisky, and only the fifth person to ever hold the role. Legent starts life as a Kentucky straight bourbon made with a classic Beam recipe. It’s then aged in wine and sherry casks, before being blended with more straight bourbon for a “perfectly balanced yet complex and layered” tipple. Takeshi Niinami, Suntory Holdings CEO, described the expression as “the perfect articulation of the amazing things that can be achieved when two great cultures come together as one”. We’re intrigued – but might have to wait a bit to taste it. Legent is due to land a MoM Towers later this year.
Circumstance distillery releases saison yeast spirit
You want innovation? The team at Circumstance Distillery in Bristol has it coming out of their ears. Not content with offering pre-sales with their very own cryptocurrency, the team is now pushing the envelope with the first release. Called Circumstantial Barley, it will be made from 100% British malted barley. Doesn’t sound so crazy does it? The interesting thing is the fermentation process. In addition to distillers yeast, the team is using a French saison beer yeast, and the whole lot ferments for nearly two weeks. Most distilleries are all done within two days. The resulting wash is packed full of flavour. It’s then put through a short column still and, according to head distiller Mark Scot, aged for “six months on a combination of charred bespoke oak spindles and first-fill bourbon casks”. The result? “A beautiful raw spirit, and our short ageing techniques allows the quality of the raw spirit to shine through,” he continued. Co-founder Danny Walker added: “We have thrown out the rule book and are focusing on flavour over tradition and experimenting with every step of the process to make a ‘new world’-style spirit.” It will be bottled 45% ABV and cost £44 for 700ml bottle. Circumstance has a rye and an “unashamedly funky” (who is ashamed of being funky?) white rum in the pipeline. We want to try them all!
Waterford Distillery successfully makes spirit from heritage Hunter barley
Those barley- and terroir-obsessed Waterford folks are at the grain experimentation game again – this time with a spirited outcome! This week the distillery successfully distilled 10,000 litres of spirit – 50 barrels-worth – from a barley varietal that’s not been available to distillers for 40 years. The grain in question is called Hunter, named after a chap called Herbert Hunter who worked in barley breeding at Ireland’s Cereal Station (cool name, vital work). Hunter (the barley, not the person) was introduced in 1959, but was last used in 1979 when it fell out of favour as other strains provided better yields. So why bring it back now? It’s all part of efforts, led by the Waterford team, to take a flavour-focused approach to barley selection, rather than solely focusing on how much booze it generates. “Contrary to what much of the industry is telling drinkers, flavour starts with the grain and the terroir in which it’s grown,” said Neil Conway, Waterford’s head brewer. “Hunter is an old favourite, a very successful variety, so much so that it dominated for 20 years. That’s why we’re working with Minch Malt and our growers – we’re on the hunt for profound sources of flavour, even if that means going back decades to find these forgotten treasures.” Good luck to them! The Hunter development at Waterford follows the production of the ‘world’s first’ biodynamic whiskey at the distillery last year.
Kestin Hare x BenRiach collection arrives
We knew that whisky was fashionable, but combining whisky and fashion? That’s new! Scottish menswear designer Kestin Hare has joined forces with BenRiach distillery for his Spring Summer 2019 Collection! It features five different garments inspired by the whisky itself, the Speyside landscape and architecture of BenRiach distillery. The clothing has been dyed with peat, each shade representing a different aged single malt from BenRiach. Peat isn’t the only influence for the collection; inspired by the whisky casks themselves, Hare created a digital print that reflects the colours and patterns seen on the wood. What’s more, the pieces are fully functional for a trip to Speyside! They’re made from water-resistant fabrics inspired by golfing and fishing garments, while the colour scheme, full of golden sand, grass green and peaty tones, is sure to help you blend into the natural surroundings. Or camouflage into a wall full of BenRiach whiskies. It’s up to you. The SS19 collection can be found in store, online and in selected global retailers from today.
Francois Badel and Aldrick John Baptiste named Mai Tai Champions
How’s that for a title – Mai Tai Champion? Well, we now have two new ones following the conclusion of the Chairman’s Reserve Mai Tai Challenge 2019. What is such a challenge? The Saint Lucian rum brand whisked a whole host of talented bartenders to the island’s Rodney Bay (aka, paradise) to put them through their paces. This was after heats in France, the UK, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Switzerland, Canada and the US, so we know we’re dealing with the world’s best here. Each bartender was then paired up with a local St Lucian bartender to collaborate on creating an incredible original Mai Tai-like serve using local ingredients and Chairman’s Reserve as a base. Each pair then had to present their creation to a panel, demonstrating the culture of St Lucia at the same time. And France’s Francois Badel and St Lucia’s Aldrick John Baptiste were named champions! “I was taken aback by the passion these skilful bartenders had for Chairman’s Reserve,” said Margaret Monplaisir, St Lucia Distillers managing director. “Their attention to every detail, their enthusiasm, and knowledge of Chairman’s Reserve was remarkable.” Mai Tai, anyone?
And finally… Joss Stone performs in North Korea as part of ultimate bar crawl
Yep, you read that right. Pop singer Joss Stone, best known for early noughties tunes such as Fell in Love with a Boy and You Had Me, has taken to the stage in a North Korean bar, of all places. Two questions: why; and, surely this isn’t newsworthy?! Bear with us. Stone is embarking on a literal world tour, or in her words, “to bring loveliness in the form of music to every single country on our planet”. It’s a noble effort. She’s already sung in Syria. And why is it newsworthy? We all have ambitions: to drink in every watering hole in town (responsibly, of course); visit as many breweries as possible; enjoy a dram at every Islay distillery. We reckon performing in every country in the world, taking in its many myriad bars as you go, is the stuff of dreams. It’s something we’d certainly sign up for if we could hold a tune. And the more adventurous of us would include North Korea in that…
On that note, have excellent weekends, folks!