What was it that Churchill said about the battle of El Alamein in 1942? “It’s not the beginning of the end, it’s the end of the beginning.” Something like that. Well, that’s how winter feels in England at the moment. It’s not over, not by a long shot, but the end does feel in sight, the days are getting longer and we’re contemplating leaving the house without a hat. Exciting times! Having said that, we’ll probably have one of those school-closing, travel-disrupting March cold snaps so let’s not get carried away. You thumb your noses at the climate gods at your peril. But whatever the weather, the booze news doesn’t stop, so we’ve rounded it up into one handy blog post which we call the Nightcap.
But first a quick look at what happened on the blog this week. We woke up on Monday morning to the news that India had overtaken France as the largest export market for Scotch whisky by volume. So Adam wrote a story about it. Then there was more whisky fun as we looked at the latest batch of Diageo’s Distillers Editions. There was more whisky action as Adam tasted Talisker 18 Year Old, took a look at Michter’s, and had time to tell you about the Fife Whisky Revolution. Blimey! So much content, we’re not quite sure how he does it. We have heard stories of a basement of whisky-loving pixies with typewriters but we must stress that this is just a rumour. Then Jess got out the spreadsheets and worked out what the biggest drink trends were. Proper data-led content here. And after all that industry, we put our feet up and had a Margarita. Didn’t you know it’s Margarita day on Wednesday 22 February? Right, that’s enough bloggery, you can’t hold back the news.
The Nightcap: 17 February edition!
Buffalo Trace doubles its whiskey production
Pappy Van Winkle, Eagle Rare, Blanton’s – you can expect more of all these in the future as Buffalo Trace will be doubling its production capacity in the coming days as its new stillhouse gets up and running. Of course, it will be a fair while before you taste anything made in this still, and the rarest and popular (should that be papular) will be a long way off in particular, but it means that good things are in the pipeline. The newly commissioned column still, a duplicate of the existing one, is 40 feet tall and can produce 60,000 gallons per day. It follows a huge round of investment last year, with a $1.2 billion expansion bringing 14 new warehouses and 12 fermenters, as well as tripling the size of the visitor centre. “We are really looking forward to starting up our new still so we can make more bourbon whiskey for our fans,” said master distiller Harlen Wheatley. “The new stillhouse is adjacent to the existing stillhouse. We put a lot of work into matching our existing still to ensure the whiskey we produce remains consistent. We will be in full production with both stills in the coming days.”
Port Charlotte launches new Islay Barley 2014 vintage
More good news from Bruichladdich, which is launching a new vintage Port Charlotte. Islay Barley 2014 is the latest from its series which uses exclusively barley grown on the island from eight separate farms located within 15 miles of the distillery. Islay Barley 2014 is peated to 40 ppm and has a maturation profile (swanky) of 84% in first-fill bourbon casks, 8% in second-fill virgin oak, and 8% in second-fill Bordeaux wine casks before being bottled at 50% ABV. It’s said to showcase the delicate balance of fruit and smoke with notes of malty digestive biscuits, crème brûlée, barbeque smoke, and a medley of apricot, peach, and ripe melon. “Our Port Charlotte Islay Barley expressions encapsulate everything an Islay whisky can and should be, and the latest 2014 vintage is no different,” says head distiller, Adam Hannett, who also paid tribute to the farmers. “Growing on Islay is no mean feat. Our location on Scotland’s rugged west coast and unpredictable weather, coupled with grazing wild geese and deer, means a successful harvest is never a given. But it’s a risk worth taking”. He added that using Islay-grown barley goes beyond just the pursuit of flavour: “This is a whisky which evokes a true sense of place, helps support Islay’s agricultural economy and celebrates our island community.”
Captain Morgan has a new look
Captain Morgan is looking a whole lot different. The rum brand is rolling out a new design across its entire portfolio in March. It’s building on a campaign called ‘Spice On’, which celebrates the flavour of Captain Morgan’s liquid as well as “the individuality people bring to social situations”. Whatever that means. The flavour and the spice of the liquid are at the forefront of the design, which includes a refreshed version of the brand’s famous Captain icon. There’s the usual things in the press release about on-shelf appeal, back bar presence, and engaging new consumers. We’ve also spotted, if you look closely, there’s a pirate on the bottle. Delightful.
Edinburgh’s Scotch Whisky Experience plans £3m upgrade
The Scotch Whisky Experience has begun a £3 million upgrade. The Edinburgh-based visitor attraction, located at the top of the Royal Mile, is working on enhancing its experience to reflect the “premium nature of Scotch whisky”, including the introduction of “technology not yet seen at a visitor experience in the UK”. We’re hoping it’s a time machine but Susan Morrison, chief executive of the experience, is being coy. She said that they will be creating a “theatrical and magical experience to tell the story of Scotch whisky production”. She continued: “Excitement is building. We can’t tell you more yet, but we promise that what we have in store will be breathtaking and truly unique.” Work is underway and is due to be completed by the summer at the tourist attraction which welcomes more than 8.5m visitors from around the globe. We’re behind any experience that wants to celebrate and showcase whisky in all its glory, so we’re very much looking forward to seeing what this never seen before technology might be. Fingers crossed it’s a time machine.
New distillery opening in Edinburgh
Edinburgh can also expect to see a new distillery soon. A planning application for Jupiter Artland’s new art centre and craft distillery in West Edinburgh has been submitted to the City of Edinburgh Council. Jupiter Artland, home of Scotland’s most important collections of site-specific sculpture, has proved popular enough to require a purpose-built centre to secure its long-term sustainable future. The proposed site from Organic Architects, a Scottish-based architectural firm that specialises in sustainable design, includes an integrated micro-distillery that will help fund the attraction, allowing it to continue its work to engage Every Child in Scotland with exceptional art through the Jupiter Artland Foundation.
William Grant & Sons’ 1887 Collective returns
The 1887 Collective is back. William Grant & Sons are inviting 26 talented bartenders from across the nation to join its 12-month programme to develop their skills through a series of talks and educational experiences. The advocacy programme is now in its sixth year and offers career days, distillery visits, wellness & outdoor adventures as well as a graduation event at the end of the year. “It’s great to see how the 1887 Collective initiative has grown and we’re thrilled to be kicking off this year’s programme. Our aim is to build better connections within the bartending community,” says Bryony Ritchie, senior advocacy & events manager. “We hope that those who take part will not only walk away with new skills but also new friends and connections that will stay with them throughout their careers.”
And finally…. Work for your whisky with Glengoyne
Glengoyne is giving whisky fans the opportunity to get their hands on a bottle free of charge. Great! How? Well, there is a bit of a catch, you have to work for it but it’s for a good cause. The Highland single malt is asking consumers to pledge one volunteering day with the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT) – Glengoyne’s long-standing charity partner – and as thanks participants will receive a bottle of the Highland distiller’s new 15-year-old single malt. It’s a fine reward for assisting with wetland-sustaining activity at one of WWT’s UK sites, including coppicing trees, clearing vegetation, and removing invasive plant species to create a mosaic of biodiverse wetland habitats. Glengoyne was the first Scottish distillery to adopt a wetlands facility for 100% of its liquid waste back in 2011. This helped the distillery reduce waste by 25% and provides a home to 14,500 plants and abundant wildlife, fostering biodiversity and encouraging wildlife in the local area. Katy Muggeridge, brand director at Ian Macleod Distillers, Glengoyne’s owners explained “by donating just one day of your time to WWT, whisky fans will be able to help protect carbon-capturing wetlands, aid the conservation of migratory geese, and take home a bottle of this excellent new dram!” So not only will you be doing good, but you’ll be drinking good whisky. Sometimes life isn’t so bad.