Records for Pappy Van Winkle and BrewDog, anniversary expansion for Aultmore, and a new distillery on the island where Whisky Galore was written make the headlines in this week’s Nightcap.

Ah, the penultimate Nightcap of the year. The edition that makes you absolutely terrified at the passage of time and fills you with deep regret at another year down the drain. Or is that just us? We shouldn’t be bringing the mood down, it’s Christmas and there’s been the beauty of snowfall here in Kent (focus on the positives) to get us in the festive spirit. There’s also a sparkling new edition of The Nightcap to enjoy, like a big shiny novelty bauble on the Christmas tree of positivity… all right, let’s get on with it.

The blog was certainly full of seasonal cheer as we gave you the chance to enter a spectacular Christmas competition with Johnnie Walker (Edinburgh, anyone?), win a bottle of Glenfarclas 42 Year Old 1977 (cask 7027) courtesy of #WhiskySanta, and to write the ultimate Christmas list with our premium spirits gift guide, our drinks accessories round-up, a fresh cohort of Master of Malt single cask whiskies, and a festive bottle of Port. There were also Christmas cocktails to make, including the classic Snowball, as well as Advent fun with Suntory Toki, Lot 40, Rumbullion!, Loch Lomond, Project #173, Hendrick’s Gin, and Nikka Coffey Grain.

Now onto The Nightcap: 16 December!


Big things are happening at Aultmore. Happy Anniversary, guys!

Aultmore celebrates 125th anniversary with £15m expansion

Aultmore Distillery is marking its 125th anniversary by treating itself to a very swanky present. The Bacardi-owned Scotch whisky brand is spending a whopping £15 million on an expansion that will double its production capacity. By 2024,  new fermenters, pot stills, and infrastructure will be in place, as well as a heat-recovering system to reduce the distillery’s energy usage and carbon footprint. The distillery first went into production in 1897 and distillery manager Ross Bremner commented on the good news by referencing its “long history and association with quality spirit”, adding that the “success of our single malt is a testament to those past and present who have played their part in crafting it.” He went on to say that, as the exciting expansion plans to increase production begin, “it’s an honour for those of us here today to play an integral part in the future of this beautiful whisky.” Of course, if you want to taste what all the fuss is about, you don’t have to wait a year. We have plenty of Aultmore whisky.


This is so in demand nearly $100m is being spent to make more

Willett plans $93m Kentucky distillery

Not to be outdone, Willett Distillery is investing nearly $93 million (about £78m using the latest exchange rates) to build a new production facility in Kentucky. The American whiskey makers, who currently operate a site in Bardstown, Kentucky, will construct a new 70,000-square-foot facility in the city of Springfield complete with barrel storage warehouses and a water storage area for fire prevention. Construction of the facility is due to begin in next month and is expected to create 35 full-time jobs. “The Springfield community has graciously welcomed us with the same warmth and attentiveness that we try to show our guests every day,” says Drew Kulsveen, master distiller and director of operations. “We are grateful for the kindness and support we have received from the Springfield community and for the continued support of our Bardstown home.”


The Morrisons, like proud parents

Isle of Barra Distillers to build £12m distillery

Rounding off a tremendous trio of big-money distillery news is Isle of Barra Distillers, who have got full planning permission to build a £12 million whisky and gin distillery and visitor centre on the island. The Hebridean Whisky Trail already counts distilleries on Lewis, Harris, and Benbecula, but soon the Inner Hebrides will welcome a new site just a mile-and-a-half from the house where Compton Mackenzie wrote Whisky Galore. The project, a boon for local tourism and employment (at least 40 new jobs, we’re told), is on track to commence in September 2023 and open in spring 2025. Projections suggest the distillery will produce 200,000 litres of pure alcohol per year, enough to fill an estimated 1,600 200-litre casks, but it’s being built with the potential to double that output and further expand the workforce. Each year, 1% of total net profits will also be donated back to the local community, with the brand aiming to establish the Isle of Barra Distillers Foundation for the sole purpose of giving back to the island. Managing director Michael Morrison, who founded the business with his wife, Katie, in 2016, said: “There is still a long road ahead, but this is a huge step forward in the construction of the Isle of Barra’s first legal single malt whisky distillery.”


The record-breaker

Pappy Van Winkle sets auction record

Few names are more significant in the world of American whiskey than that of Julian ‘Pappy’ Van Winkle, so it’s no surprise to learn that the brand has set a new auction record at Sotheby’s in New York this week. A bottle of 23 Year Old Family Reserve sold for $52,500 (about £44,100), more than seventeen times the pre-sale estimate (est. $3,000-4,000), after two collectors went head-to-head to win the coveted bottle of their dreams, pushing the final sale price ever higher. Released in 2008, the whiskey was presented for sale with its original black velvet bag and was one of 14 individual bottles of Pappy Van Winkle on offer that was sold for sums in excess of their high estimates, achieving a combined total of $396,250 compared to the estimate of $31,000-44,000. This year has seen sales of whisky at Sotheby’s in New York double, from $5.4 million in 2021 to $11.9 million in 2022, with Jonny Fowle, Sotheby’s head of whisky & spirits, North America and EMEA, commenting “It was exciting to be on the rostrum conducting the sale for this record-breaking bottle, which went far beyond anyone’s expectations. The auction marked a remarkable end to a year that has seen prices soar for American whiskey at Sotheby’s.”


Congrats to all who got their dream cask

BrewDog’s first whisky cask sale breaks records

The second record-breaking story this week concerns news we actually reported on last week regarding BrewDog Distilling Co’s first-ever whisky cask sale. It closed after just 4 days on Sunday 11 December as the best-performing whisky cask auction, to date, for a new distillery start-up. The auction, hosted by Whisky Hammer, saw all 50 casks sold, upping the starting cask price of £5,000 to an average sale price of £7,546 – with a total sale value of over £377,000. Bidders selected their choice of three different 200 litre casks, from 30 ex-Oloroso sherry, 15 ex-bourbon, and five single-grain ex-bourbon casks, which are set to be filled from BrewDog Distilling Co.’s new distillery in Ellon, Aberdeen, early 2023. Daniel Milne, managing director and co-founder of Whisky Hammer, said that the auction generated a fantastic level of interest from a global audience, with cask number one reaching “an impressive £12,500”. Steven Kersley, managing director of BrewDog Distilling Co., added the brand has been “blown away by the support, enthusiasm and the amount of interest in our whisky programme”. He continued: “We’re so proud of the work we’re doing, and it was brilliant to see that reflected in the success of the auction. We’re now looking ahead to 2023, where our focus, as always, will be instilling great flavour into our whiskies and taking as many people on our whisky journey as possible – we might even auction a few more casks.”


We reckon we could manage a dram of this

Glenturret releases new Manager’s Dram 

Glenturret has undergone a revamp since it was taken over by Lalique in 2018. There’s now a Michelin-starred restaurant on-site and the brand is aiming for the top with the packaging. Happily, the contents of those fancy new bottles are very much up to snuff. We are big fans of the latest releases from Glenturret especially the Peated 7 Year Old. If you’re planning on visiting the distillery in person, why not pick up a bottle of the latest aptly-named Manager’s Dram? This is the second edition of this expression created by distillery manager Ian Renwick. It’s lightly peated and predominantly aged in European oak sherry casks, but there’s some American oak too. Only 750 bottles have been filled at 51% ABV and they’ll cost you £165 each. Well worth a trip to the distillery we reckon, and when you’re there, why not pop into the canteen? We’ve heard it’s rather good.


The Hunter is on its way to MoM Towers

Waterford resurrects barley strain for new whisky

Waterford Distillery has resurrected a forgotten barley variety to create a new whiskey called Hunter. The Irish whiskey maker has bottled its first “Heritage whisky”, which shares the name of the rare barley used, inspired by pioneering plant breeder, Dr. Herbert Hunter who first introduced the strain in 1959. Hunter barley was acclaimed for its distinctive flavours for almost two decades before yield-enhancing varieties took preference, making it an obvious choice for a distillery committed to create new flavours in whisky through different agricultural techniques, terroirs, grains, and seeds. Costing three times as much as regular barley, Hunter seeds were upscaled from 50 grams into enough barley to produce 50 barrels from the first harvest. Waterford Distillery then extracted spirit from two other long-forgotten heritage varieties, Goldthorpe and Old Irish, to create a run of 10,000 bottles. Heritage: Hunter also has environmental benefits as the barley was grown in soil with a high humus content, which retains water more efficiently than conventional soil and therefore protects crops against periods of drought. This protection is enhanced by the fact that Hunter barley has a larger root ball than modern varieties and better access to soil nutrients. It took more than eight years of leveraging lost breeding programmes from the 1990s, working alongside partners Minch Malt and the Irish Department of Agriculture, for Waterford to discover the original flavours and when barley first evolved with, and adapted to, Ireland’s fields and climate. So let’s hope it was worth it. You’ll be able to find out for yourself soon, as Hunter will be arriving at MoM Towers soon.


You know it’s futuristic ‘cos neon and stuff

Diageo establishes net-zero glass bottles plan

Diageo and Encirc are partnering up to deliver the first net-zero glass bottles at scale. The glass manufacturer and industry partner Glass Futures carried out successful trials with an ultra-low carbon, hydrogen-powered glass furnace at a Northern Ireland-based plant with sustainable biofuels last year. 100% recycled bottles with a carbon footprint that was up to 90% lower than a standard glass bottle were made for brands including Diageo’s Black & White whisky, opening up the project for full backing. A furnace is being built in Cheshire, UK with production set to begin in 2027 By 2030, Diageo is aiming to have produced up to 200 million net-zero bottles for its Smirnoff vodka, Captain Morgan rum, Gordon’s gin, and Tanqueray gin brands. Decarbonising glass packaging is to be a key part of the UK government’s commitment to reach net zero by 2050, according to the Guinness and Johnnie Walker owner, which also reveals that the hydrogen used to power the new furnace will come from Vertex Hydrogen, a partner of the UK’s leading industrial decarbonisation project: the Hynet North West cluster. Ewan Andrew, president of global supply and procurement and chief sustainability officer at Diageo (imagine the size of his business cards), said the drinks giant looks forward to a “world where people can enjoy their favourite drinks from zero-carbon glass bottles”.


Yes. Hell yes.

And finally…. Jim Beam pyjamas are everything you’d hope for

We don’t know about you, but we are freezing here in Kent, the home of Master of Malt, and with the cost of energy prices, we’re reluctant to turn the heating up too high. Well, Jim Beam has the answer. No, not a little whiskey to warm things up, though that would be nice, instead you can now buy pyjamas from the bourbon brand. They’re made from plaid flannel and they do look incredibly warm. But that’s not all, these PJs come with something called a ‘hug simulation’ feature. We’re not entirely sure how this works, something to do with magnets probably, but according to the press bumf it’s “almost as warm and cosy as a hug from a loved one”. You’ll never want to leave the house.