Innovation, celebrities, festivals, invisible portions of chips… It’s just another week in the bonkers world of booze. Happily, we’ve stuffed it all into another fabulous edition of The Nightcap!
As lockdown eases, I’ve noticed that a number of articles advising how we can still make the most of a prohibited summer are starting to pop-up all over the place. The recommendations for socially-distanced summer experiences include watching a film at an open-air cinema, taking a break in a remote cabin or hosting a virtual festival at home. All decent suggestions. But there’s a sorry lack of anybody acknowledging that pouring yourself a dram, finding a comfortable seat and opening up another lovely new edition of The Nightcap is the finest way to spend a Friday night. It beats going outside and being harassed by flying ants.
On the MoM blog this week, we launched a new competition with our neighbours at Greensand Ridge to give you the chance to win a VIP trip to the distillery! Ian Buxton then returned with part two of his look at how the spirits business is coping with the COVID (spoiler, there is some good news!), as Annie gave us the lowdown on cooking with booze and the philosophy behind Japanese spirit giant Suntory. Our New Arrival of the Week was a blended Irish whiskey aged in Basque wines casks from one of the country’s newest and smallest distilleries, and for our Cocktail of the Week, Henry made the ultimate Jazz Age gin serve. It’s the Bee’s Knees. Literally.
Diageo develops first 100% plastic-free bottle
Diageo has had a busy week, first announcing that it has created the world’s first-ever 100% plastic-free paper-based spirits bottle. The move comes after the makers of Johnnie Walker, Smirnoff and Guinness formed a partnership with Pilot Lite to launch Pulpex Limited, a sustainable packaging technology company. The ‘first-of-its-kind’, fully recyclable bottle is made from sustainably sourced pulp to meet food-safe standards and is said to have 30% less CO2 emission than PET (plastic bottles) and 90% less than glass. The new design will debut with Johnnie Walker in early 2021. “We’re proud to have created this world first. We are constantly striving to push the boundaries within sustainable packaging and this bottle has the potential to be truly ground-breaking. It feels fitting that we should launch it with Johnnie Walker, a brand that has often led the way in innovation throughout its 200 years existence,” says Ewan Andrew, chief sustainability officer, Diageo PLC.
… and a digital cask-filling system
The brand has also partnered with the University of Strathclyde to create a digital whisky cask-filling process that is projected to save Scotland’s whisky sector millions annually in inventory costs. The new digital design aims to tackle the problem of inconsistent cask-filling levels resulting from overspill, underfill and foaming by accounting for every drop that goes into each cask, allowing producers to achieve more than 99% fill consistently on a 200-litre cask in under one minute. Cask production accounts for 10% to 20% of the overall cost of whisky making and Diageo itself holds more than 11 million casks in maturation at one time. The new system hopes to “revolutionise” industry equipment and enable a “high degree of repeatability” as well as improvements to health and safety, and reduce waste.
Cameron Diaz releases a ‘clean wine’
Another day, another celebrity wine, this time it’s the turn of Cameron Diaz who you may remember from such films as ‘My Best Friend’s Wedding’ and ‘There’s Something about Mary’. With her business partner Katherine Power (CEO of fashion company Who What Wear), she’s unveiled a range of wine called Avaline. But these are not just any wines, according to the press bumf the wines, a white from Spain and a rosé (natch) from France are ‘clean wines’. What does this mean? The term itself has no legal meaning but looking more closely, they appear to be fairly standard commercial bottlings, though they are made with organic grapes. Production methods include cultured rather than wild yeasts, added sulphur and finings with bentonite clay, pea protein and cream of tartar (good article here looking into this more closely). All these are completely normal things in wine production and are in no way unhealthy, but it looks like Avaline are no more ‘natural’ than most supermarket wines. Still, they might taste nice and also Cameron Diaz!
The Scottish Rum Festival reveals day of virtual celebration
Got any plans for Saturday 25th July? Because there’s a lovely Scottish rum festival taking place that’s definitely going to be better than anything you have planned. The Scottish Rum Festival will feature tastings and masterclasses from the distilleries and independent bottlers in a showcase of the nation’s thriving rum scene. Expect delightful brands from all over Scotland, including Ninefold, Devil’s Point, Matugga, Rumburra Orach, SeaWolf, Banditti Club, BrewDog, J. Gow and Sugar House. The Floating Rum Shack and That Boutique-y Rum Company’s Peter Holland will host the event, leading you through a jam-packed day of talks and tastings with Dave Broom offering his expert opinion and entertainment from Glasgow’s Mungo’s HiFi sound system. The innovative virtual event, which is supported by Scotland Food & Drink, Scottish Distillers Association, Glencairn Crystal, and Alba Cola, aims to raise the profile of Scottish rum at a time when the rum category is increasingly in the spotlight and welcomes both rum newcomers and seasoned connoisseurs alike. If you’ve managed to get your hands on a ticket, you’ll get access to all the virtual rum sessions, as well as a tasting pack featuring 10 x 30ml Scottish rums, branded Glencairn tasting glass and a charitable donation to The BEN. For more information, you can go to the Scottish Rum Festival website.
Buckingham Palace gets its very own gin
Whether it’s Prince Charles with his Martinis or the Queen with a gin and Dubbonet, it’s well-known that the Royal Family is partial to a drop of (Queen) mother’s ruin. Now, the Firm has its very own gin partly made from botanicals grown in Buckingham Palace’s garden including lemon verbena, hawthorn berries, bay leaves and mulberry leaves. It’s a London Dry Gin from a mystery distiller and bottled at 42% ABV. Naturally, Miles Beale from the WSTA had something to say: “It is fantastic to hear that hot off the heels of the success of the English sparkling wine made from vines grown in Great Windsor Park we will now be able to try gin made from botanicals grown in the grounds of Buckingham Palace. We couldn’t really ask for a better ambassador for these great British drinks than Her Majesty the Queen. Last year British gin sales, at home and abroad, reached a record-breaking £3.2 billion. The new royal gin adds another jewel in the crown amongst an established collection of highly sought-after quality British gin brands.” All profits go to help fund the care and conservation of the Royal Collection. The only snag is the £40 gin, which was available only from Royal Collection Trust, sold out in a matter of hours but happily, MoM has plenty of alternatives.
Asterley Bros. cocktail service is here!
While some people are getting all excited that Nando’s has started home delivery, for us, the delicious things brought to your door news is all about Asterley Bros.’ Cocktail Club. Yes, this week South London’s finest fraternal booze alchemists announced a monthly cocktail subscription service. Sign up and each month you will receive a giant cocktail pouch containing 10 servings. Each month’s offering will be seasonal and champion small producers. First, up is a Pink Negroni containing Schofield’s Dry Vermouth and Cabby’s London Dry Gin; we were given a little sample and it’s one of the most delicious things on the planet. But that’s not all, you will also receive two 50ml samples from independent brand partners to introduce you to new tastes, plus limited edition artwork, a video of Asterley Bros. creative director Joe Schofield doing some drinks magic and some nibbles to consume while drinking that month’s cocktail. All this for under £45 a month and 10% of the profits goes to Hospitality Action. Oh, and when you sign up, you will get a unique code to share and when someone signs up with your code, you will both receive a double 100ml cocktail pack totally free. It sounds like a drinks service that really delivers.
Pernod Ricard ‘partners’ with Ojo de Tigre Mezcal
Got a taste for Mezcal? So does supersize drinks group Pernod Ricard. After taking a majority stake in Del Maguey in 2017, it’s at it again, this time forming a “partnership” with Ojo de Tigre. The artisanal mezcal producer uses sustainable Tobala and Espadín agave varietals to create joven and reposado expressions. The result is a sweet, herbal taste profile that Pernod Ricard reckons will ‘strengthen’ both its place in the fast-growing mezcal category, and its ‘Transform and Accelerate’ strategic plan. Details of the deal, including the size of the stake or its value, haven’t been disclosed, but Ojo de Tigre co-founder and CEO, Moises Guindi, thinks it will “recruit the next generation of drinkers”: “We believe Ojo de Tigre is well suited to this task and Pernod Ricard is the perfect partner for this mission.” Pernod Ricard’s chairman and CEO, Alexandre Ricard, added: “Ojo de Tigre’s authentic origins, mindful production and inviting taste contribute to its strong appeal among consumers. We look forward to a successful collaboration toward the brand’s future development.” Exciting times ahead!
Natural born quizzers
Just because the pubs were closed didn’t mean that the great British public was going to miss out on a pub quiz. No global pandemic was going to curb our passion for trivia. At MoM we put on a virtual pub quiz for customers which proved extremely popular. While in-house Zoom meet-ups were enlivened by some extremely difficult quizzing (though with rather too many questions about Star Wars, who knew there were so many films?) Well, it seems we weren’t the only ones because the numbers are in from UK commercial print company Where The Trade Buys and they are big. How big? Well, there were 1.3 million searches for ‘pub quiz questions’ in the UK this year, up 932% on last year and 229,000 searches for ‘virtual pub quiz’, that’s up 381,767% on last year. No, there isn’t an extra digit in there, an increase of over three hundred thousand per cent! Didn’t we promise you big numbers? Looking closely at the data reveals that football questions were the most searched for followed by music. And the nation’s quizzing capital? Newcastle-upon-Tyne, with a 954% increase in searches for quiz questions. Howay the lads!
And finally. . . fancy a portion of ‘Invisible Chips’?
Hospitality Action has launched a fundraising campaign to support the hospitality industry through the magic of Invisible Chips. That’s right, you, the public, can help those working in the hospitality sector by buying a portion of ‘invisible chips’, which food outlets will add to their menu at the same price as their edible counterpart, with all proceeds going to the charity. Essentially, you buy a portion of nothing to do some good. BrewDog, Hawksmoor and Gaucho have already signed up and Invisible Chips are also available to purchase online. The initiative, which has been backed by top chefs including Fred Sirieix, Heston Blumenthal and Tom Kerridge, attempts to alleviate the struggle of workers in the industry, who have seen their place of employment close or show no signs of reopening, or position has been made redundant. Official predictions suggest unemployment will hit 10% by the end of 2020, with the hospitality industry being one of the worst affected. The campaign has assured consumers that the chips are “0% fat, 100% charity” and “simple to prepare, take up zero freezer space and never go past their use-by date”. Mark Lewis, chief executive of Hospitality Action added: “To anyone who has missed eating out these past few months, I urge you to order a portion of Invisible Chips to help those people we’ve perhaps taken for granted up until now. The hospitality industry is built on resilience and creativity and I’m confident we will recover, however, the people within it need a helping hand in the interim.”