Friday means one thing around these parts: The Nightcap. Settle in for another jam-packed week of boozy news.
Good afternoon, folks. Or, we should say, good afternoon to anybody who has managed to avoid melting into a puddle on their desk chair/couch/novelty racing car bed. It’s a scorcher today, isn’t it? It’s probably about time we acknowledged that the UK is in dire need of a mass installation of air conditioning units in its residences. It can get legitimately warm here in the summer now and frankly, none of us are prepared for it. Although, you just know the moment those units were fitted the sun would run off down under again. So probably best to not tempt fate. Instead, let’s pour a cold drink, settle down and enjoy another edition of The Nightcap.
The blog was lively as ever this week as we announced a new competition that offers you the chance to win a virtual cocktail party with a guest appearance from Phil Tufnell (hell yeah). Millie then explored the phenomenon of infinity bottles, Lucy explained what gin botanicals do, and Jess found out why ice is the vital element in your drink. Henry was then in a very helpful mood, sharing a recipe for our drink of the summer, running the rule on Glenmorangie’s new mixable malt, and letting you know where to holiday in boozy style without having to travel.
Meanwhile, our Clubhouse room today will see us delve into the murky world of cask investment as we discuss the rapidly expanding market and its potential pitfalls with our guests Blair Bowman, Louise McGuane, and Kristiane Sherry. Do check it out at 3pm today.
Now, it’s on with the Nightcap: 16 July edition!
London and Kent beer historian Johnny Homer dies
We received some really sad news this week as we learned that beer writer and radio personality Johnny Homer died suddenly at the age of 56. Homer will be familiar to Londoners as a regular guest on the Robert Elms show on BBC London talking about beer and history. He was born in Clerkenwell and worked as a music journalist contributing to publications including The Face, NME, Melody Maker, Sounds, and Vox, as well as writing seven books on beer and pubs. Later he moved to Whitstable in Kent with his wife and daughter, and became head of media at Shepherd Neame Brewery in Faversham. Chief executive Jonathan Neame commented: “Johnny was a most valued member of our team. He was a fantastic ambassador for the company, for our beers and pubs, and played a significant role in promoting Shepherd Neame. He will be greatly missed. His loss is a great shock to us all, and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family at this time.” We were very fortunate enough to have been shown around the brewery by Johnny himself and marveled at his knowledge of beer and Shepherd Neame’s rich history. He also seemed like a thoroughly nice chap as the tributes on Twitter attest.
Nc’nean is first UK whisky distillery to reach net-zero Co2 emissions
Nc’nean has always placed environmental responsibility at the core of its business, but this week the business announced it ramped things up a notch by becoming the first UK whisky distillery to achieve net-zero carbon emissions in its production. Beating the official Scotch whisky industry target by a staggering 20 years, distillery founder Annabel Thomas says the move “feels like our greatest achievement so far”. The Highland distillery is 100% powered by renewable energy, and is one of the few Scotch whisky distilleries that uses only certified organic Scottish barley. A biomass boiler is powered by wood chips that heats the stills, and residual carbon emissions are offset through a sustainable tree-planting program. In an industry first, all of Nc’nean’s whisky bottles are made of recycled glass, which reduces the typical carbon footprint of a whisky bottle by 40%. The cooling water is continuously recycled via a natural pond, meaning Nc’nean uses 80% less water than a traditional distillery, and reduces energy use to cool it down. It’s an impressive operation and a great example to others on how to make meaningful change.
GlenAllachie Distillery unveils first rum
The GlenAllachie Distillers Company is no longer just home to whisky thanks to its latest innovation. For the first time, the brand has branched into rum with a range of small-batch expressions called Exploration Rum. The three bottlings will be released under The GlenAllachie’s MacNair’s brand, which has been repositioned as a Boutique House of Spirits, complete with a new-look design for its Lum Reek whisky brand. The first rums in the series are a 7 Year Old Peated, a 7 Year Old, and a 15 Year Old made with liquids sourced from Panama. Each expression was initially matured in American oak in Panama before being transported to the GlenAllachie Distillery in Speyside, and is presented at 46% ABV. The peated rum underwent secondary maturation in casks that previously held heavily peated whisky distilled at GlenAllachie, while the 7 Year Old and 15 Year Old were filled into ex-red wine, virgin oak, and ex-bourbon casks for more than two years. The process was overseen by GlenAllachie master blender Billy Walker, who says he is fulfilling a “long-held desire to explore and apply my expertise to a new spirit category”, having already made a sizeable impact in Scotch whisky. He explains that rum was a natural choice for him as, like whisky, “it allows for greater scope of innovation and experimentation, particularly in regard to maturation” and that this trio of rums will “explore the influence of wood, but also the impact of maturation in a cooler climate.” We look forward to seeing the results, which you’ll be able to taste for yourself very soon as Exploration Rum is on its way to MoM Towers as we speak…
Award-winning Hacha bar announces second site
Why have one excellent agave-focused bar when you can have two? This is the question industry veterans Deano Moncrieffe and Emma Murphy presumably asked themselves recently, as the duo have excitedly announced they are opening a second Hacha location in Brixton’s Market Row. The original location in Dalston opened in 2019 and now Moncrieffe and Murphy are bringing their unique brand of agave-based drinks and authentic Mexican food to South London. Hacha has garnered acclaim for its striking signature serve, the Mirror Margarita, and its comprehensive list of Tequilas, mezcals, and other distillates. Set to launch next month, the new venue sprawls over two floors, with a bottle shop on the ground floor, and a 50-cover bar and an open kitchen upstairs – the latter will be run by Maiz Azul, the residency behind the food at Hacha Dalston. Moncrieffe has also developed a new drink that will act as the bar’s signature: La Bandera, a twist on the classic Mexican three-shot drink. The serve features three mini cocktails, each with a different agave spirit base, in the colours of the Mexican flag. The duo also plan on contributing beyond spirits and cocktails, closing Hacha Brixton once a week to host a ‘community day’ in partnership with Equal Measures. “Community Day is all about providing opportunities for people who want to grow, learn, share and help others,” said Moncrieffe. “We will run seminars, educational courses, workshops, cooking lessons, spirits masterclasses, mentorship sessions, networking events as well as providing a venue for other Black businesses to showcase their businesses.”
Uist Distilling Co gains £2m for low-carbon distillery
It just wouldn’t be The Nightcap without news on an upcoming distillery project, and we’ve received good word this week from the Uist Distilling Co regarding its planned low-carbon distillery. The proposed £12.5 million site in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides has received a £1.99m funding boost from the Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), the Scottish government’s economic and community development agency. The Uist Distilling Company also secured more than £80,000 (US$110,000) in funding from the UK government’s Green Distilleries scheme. The reason for all this support is that the distillery, which will be located on the island of Benbecula in the Outer Hebrides off the west coast of Scotland, is that it promises to pioneer innovative low-carbon technology across its design, build, and distillation process. The company has invested £1.25m in building a green energy centre, including a high-temperature heat pump system, which will provide hot water to the distillation process. The distillery, which is the brainchild of South Uist businessman Angus A Macmillan and his son, Angus E Macmillan, plans to produce spirits with a ‘Hebridean flavour’ including single malt whisky, rum, and gin. Production is expected to start in early 2022. “The new distillery aims to be a champion of all things Hebridean and Scottish and will provide a huge boost to tourism in the area,” says Angus A Macmillan. “We want to produce whisky, rum, and gin that will put Benbecula and the Hebrides firmly on the whisky tourist trail while introducing the products we make to a national and international clientele.”
Coming soon: an immersive cocktail experience from Mr Tipsy
There’s an immersive cocktail experience coming to London in August. We have visions of being lowered into a giant Negroni or diving into an Olympic swimming pool-sized Martini, but the truth is slightly more prosaic. Instead, ‘Mr. Tipsy’s Down the Hatch!’ will be a combination of a bar and theatre taking place at One America Square in the City of London. So for example, you’ll sip Margaritas on a Mexican beach. It’s the creation of Nick A. Olivero, the man behind Roaring ‘20s experience ‘The Speakeasy”. He explains: “‘Mr. Tipsy’s sprung from my passion of fine spirits and meaningful social interactions. It blends theatre with multiple themed bars and is crafted specifically for post-lockdown groups looking to reconnect with friends in a fun, safe environment. I think it is going to put a lot of smiles on people’s faces and we can’t wait for the spectacle to begin!” The experience costs £39.50 including drinks and lasts approximately 70 minutes (tickets available here). There’s a soft launch on 19 August with the full opening on 9 September. So what are you waiting for? It’s theatre but with cocktails!
Dad sells casks of whisky for incredible £225,000
Retirement is coming early for one savvy/lucky 59-year-old bank manager, who has turned an astonishing profit on two casks of whisky. Roger Parfitt, who hails from Coventry, paid £4,700 for the casks 30 years ago and revealed this week that he’s sold them for a remarkable £225,000. In 1994, Parfitt, 59, spent £3,200 on a cask of single malt Macallan and £1,500 on a cask of Tobermory, essentially in the vague hope they might be worth a few quid someday. Parfitt does not consider himself an expert in whisky. However, his gamble worked and he plans to use the profit to pay off his mortgage and retire three years earlier than planned. According to the Daily Record, since whisky casks are categorised as a ‘wasting asset’ by HMRC, the money he has made is also tax-free. “I remember thinking, if it doesn’t appreciate in value, the worst that could happen is that you would have to get it out of the warehouse, bottle it and drink it,” Parfitt says. “It always had that fallback for me – you could drown your sorrows if it didn’t work out financially.” He now plans to buy a cask each for his children, hoping for a similar result. But the market is very different nowadays, as we’ll discuss on Clubhouse later…
And finally… Entire whisky distillery ships out to China
We’ve spoken plenty about China making moves in the whisky world. One thing we weren’t exactly expecting to write about, however, was an entire distillery being shipped out from Scotland. Today, more than 35 tonnes of equipment, including stills, flooring, control valves, and pipework, is leaving Buckie in Moray for the port of Tianjin. The shipment is part of a £3 million “design and build” deal signed between Forfar firm Valentine International and China’s Mengtai Group in 2019. The equipment will be assembled at a facility being built in Ordos in Inner Mongolia, becoming its first whisky distillery when it opens, which is expected to be at the end of this year. All of the distillery equipment was built by Forsyths in Rothes, and the firm will send a team of five engineers to supervise assembly, with a team in Hong Kong to provide after-sales back-up and services. Valentine International chairman and managing director David Valentine said the project was the brainchild of Mengtai chairman Ao Fengting, who planned to create a “globally award-winning whisky”. In a separate development, Valentine International also revealed that it has signed a “strategic agreement” with Mengtai to supply bulk whiskies for China. The whisky distiller has not been named, but Valentine did say that it is a “long-established” firm.