Lots of big whisky news this week as casks of Port Ellen and Brora sell for big bucks, Bowmore and Aston Martin combine to launch a 52-year-old whisky, and the Irish Whiskey Association takes on a small New York distiller. It’s all in the Nightcap: 17 June edition.
So, Father’s Day. The big day literally no dad in the world asked for is upon us. This is something of a last reminder if you haven’t sorted it, and an opportunity to pat yourself on the back if you’re the organised kind. Maybe an extra little gift you could get the old man would be to introduce them to the joys of The Nightcap? We’re sure they’ll love our irreverent little newsy round-ups, but if not then the old adage of ‘it’s the thought that counts’ will suffice.
You could also tell them about all the stellar content we had on our blog this week, where we welcomed Macallan’s oldest whisky to the site, uncovered the craft behind Craigellachie whisky, and launched a new competition with Redbreast to help you win a bottle of the latest Dream Cast expression. We also pondered if spirits qualifications are worth the investment, made a Dry Martini for World Martini Day, had a taste of a super fancy gin that has taken America by storm, and whipped up a fresh batch of Father’s Day gift ideas, like ideal BBQ booze and ten top wines. But most of all, we said goodbye to the funniest man at Master of Malt, no, probably the funniest person in the drinks business, Sam Smith, who is leaving after eight glorious years. Goodbye Sam, you made us laugh a lot.
Right, we’re wiping back the tears, holding back the years, because the show must go on, it’s The Nightcap: 17 June edition!
IWA takes on US distiller over ‘Irish-style whiskey’
It’s all hotting between the US and Ireland as the Irish Whiskey Association (IWA) has sent a cease and desist letter dated 1 June to Kings County Distillery over its Irish style American whiskey claiming it is “misleading to consumers”. Irish-style in this case means a mixed mash bill and triple-distilled. Rather than acquiesce, the New York-based producer hit back with a public statement on Twitter. “How is ‘distilled in Brooklyn’ or ‘wholly produced in New York from local ingredients’ misleading? How could any consumer read the statement on the bottle or our website and reasonably be confused?” Co-founder Colin Spoelman also added that their label had been approved by the TTB (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau). “We answer to our government, not to any foreign trade organisation,” he added. Yee haw! It’s not clear how this one will play out: whether the IWA will double down on this, SWA-style, or let it go which sets a dangerous precedent. The irony is, as many have pointed out, that many Irish whiskey labels are far more misleading and the IWA doesn’t crack down on those. Furthermore, the ‘Irish-style whiskey’ which was distilled for St. Patrick’s day is only aged for one year so by Irish, British and EU standards, isn’t even whiskey. This one is likely to run and run.
The Glenlivet relaunches its 21 and 25 Year Old whiskies
The Glenlivet has revamped its 21 and 25 year old whiskies. The two expressions, from the Sample Room Collection, have been finished in different types and combinations of casks to create two expressions. They also have a new bottle and box design, but you really want to hear about the liquid, right? The 21 Year Old was triple finished in first-fill Oloroso sherry, Troncais oak Cognac and colheita Port casks, which apparently creates a spicy, fruit profile full of notes like caramelised pears, juicy sultanas, and warming ginger. As for The Glenlivet 25 Year Old, it was also finished in Troncais oak Cognac casks (they must have had a few lying around), as well as PX sherry. We’re told to expect a rich and intense dram here, “enticing flavours of sweet fig and blood orange, deriving from the sherry influence, are complemented by the Cognac casks’ warming notes of ginger, toasted oak and a hint of charred pineapple”. You’ll be able to find out for yourself soon, as the full Sample Room Collection will be available in the UK from July.
Bowmore and Aston Martin collaborate again to launch 52-year-old whisky
The ongoing collaboration between Bowmore and Aston Martin has produced another whisky, this time one of our oldest ever released form the Islay distillery. Bowmore ARC-52 is, as its name suggests, a spirit matured for a remarkable 52 years in a marriage of two cask styles, 50% American oak hogshead and 50% from a European oak sherry butt, which is said to have created a spirit that’s creamy and fruity with notes such as vanilla, custard cream, kumquat, mandarin, eucalyptus, peach melba, hazelnuts, and subtle peat ash. Love a bit of subtle peat ash. Aston Martin’s contribution is to “bring the design to life” which basically means you can expect very extravagant packaging. Techniques from 3D printing to hand-crafted clay modelling have been used here, and you can expect all kinds of extras like a magnetic key which releases the aluminium top. Once again, we’re always going to be more interested about what’s inside that hand-blown glass. But this is one of those releases few will taste, as you no doubt guessed from that age statement. There’s just 100 decanters available at an RSP of £65,000 (ex VAT/duty), and we’re told to expect it from late summer 2022. If you do get to try it, let us know what it’s like. And don’t forget to say “vroom” when you lift the glass up.
Rare Port Ellen and Brora casks go for £1.75m the pair.
When you mention distilleries like Brora and Port Ellen, you know what’s coming next. Rare whisky for big prices. This week a cask from each was auctioned at Sotheby’s in London on Tuesday. And the big number was £1.75m, that’s £875,000 each which is actually a little disappointing as the estimate was £700,000 to £1.2 million each. Still, that’s a hell of a lot of bacon Frazzles. The auction was a collaboration with Diageo, which describes the casks as “the rarest and most valuable in the world”. The Brora cask dates from 1982, while the Port Ellen example is from 1979. If you’re terribly bored of the auction market and its silly prices, you might at least get some joy from the news that the company will donate 5% of the total sale price to help with the Ukrainian crisis. So that’s something. As for what will happen to the casks? We wouldn’t hold out much hope of anybody tasting the liquid in them anytime soon.
We taste new Prima & Ultima collection containing both Brora and Port Ellen
We might not to get to taste those rare casks, but we were lucky enough to attend a tasting this week of the new Prima & Ultima with master blender Dr Craig Wilson and brand ambassador Ewan Gunn last night. This is likely to make whisky fans very jealous as this year’s collection contains both Brora and Port Ellen. And not just any from these former ghost distilleries but the last casks of Brora 1981 and the oldest ever release from Port Ellen, 1980. These were both extraordinary whiskies but we were also captivated by a mellow spiced Royal Lochnagar from 1981 which was aged in special casks designed to limit the angels’ share, a ridiculously youthful-tasting Talisker from 1984, a cherry blossom-scented Singleton of Glen Ord 1987 from refill casks, a hugely-sherried Lagavulin 1993, an off-the-scale spicy virgin oak Mannochmore, and last but not least, a Cragganmore from 1973, the first year steam-heated stills were in use. Somehow this last one tasted of mint choc chip ice cream. Time does strange things to whisky. Stunning whiskies and, we’re afraid, the price is pretty stunning too: 317 sets are available £36,500. But for the first time individual bottles will be on sale. Go here to register your interest. We reckon the Singleton of Glen Ord might be the bargain of the bunch. Though such things are relative.
Sustainability the focus for World Whisky Forum
Next week, 21-23 June, the fourth World Whisky Forum will be taking place at Stauning Whisky Distillery in Denmark, where sustainability will be the key topic of discussion. The Forum, which brings together distilleries and stakeholders from around the world, will examine how sustainability can affect production, distribution and consumption, to the sustainability of cereal crops and supply of wood, to the design of next-generation whisky distilleries and the future of packaging. Scene setting and a keynote speech from Tommy Rahbek Nielsen of sustainable energy provider Vestas Wind Systems is on the agenda, as is a presentation from Whyte & Mackay master whisky maker Gregg Glass, Magali Picard from Demptos Cooperage Research and James Brosnan from the Scotch Whisky Research Institute entitled ‘The Use of Finite Resources’. The likes of Annabel Thomas from Nc´nean Distillery, Alex Bruce from Adelphi Distillery, Bastian Heuser from Stork Club Whiskey, Mr Lyan himself Ryan Chetiyawardana, and Peter Kreiner from Noma will also be offering input at the forum, which was co-founded by Jan Groth, Ingvar Ronde and Dave Broom. The latter will moderate all panel discussions, and comments that “No topic is more important than sustainability and navigating this complex area successfully will only be achieved by collective action and debate. I am looking forward eagerly to see what emerges at Stauning and encourage anyone interested to either attend in person – or virtually.” For the first time, attendees can purchase tickets to participate virtually, to watch panel discussions and even tour the distillery.
… and Midleton Distillery and Bruichladdich make steps in that direction
Speaking of sustainability, a couple of big brands have already demonstrated their intention to do their bit. Irish Distillers has announced its flagship Midleton Distillery will become carbon neutral by 2026. Just a week on from the Irish Whiskey Association announcing big plans to make the category the most green around (as in from an environmental perspective, not more Irish), the country’s biggest producer has pledged to invest €50 million, the largest-ever investment by an Irish distillery in pursuit of a carbon neutral ambition, over the next 4 years to fund several projects. These include the reduction of overall energy use by improving on-site energy generation efficiency and recycling waste heat in the distillation process, before eventually fulfilling any remaining energy requirements by generating power from renewable sources (green hydrogen and biogas are being considered). Investment in highly efficient boilers which will require less fuel to operate is the part of the initial phase, while Mechanical Vapour Recompression (MVR) technology is being implemented to create a closed looped system capture, compress and recycle waste heat distilling process. The first three phases of the roadmap alone are expected to reduce emissions by up to 70%. Bruichladdich, meanwhile, is removing outer packaging across its core single malt brands starting with Port Charlotte single malt whisky. It’s a step to reduce unnecessary packaging to save carbon emissions, weight and waste.
Controversy in English wine as Sussex gets its own PDO
Big news for English wine as the application from a group of producers for Sussex to have its own Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) has been ratified by the EU following approval by DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs). Only one sentence in and already three abbreviations. But keep reading because it does get more interesting. This means that only wine from Sussex qualifies. Furthermore, according to Mark and Sarah Driver from Rathfinny, the driving force behind the PDO, “Wines labelled as ‘Sussex’ must pass a stringent analytical test and qualitative analysis by an independent tasting panel. As Simon Thorpe the CEO of WineGB stated, “This is a great step forward for English Wine. This PDO application is a nod to the future of PDOs in England and Wales.” But not everyone is so impressed. Victoria Moore writing in the Daily Telegraph thought “it wasn’t the best thing for British wine or the right thing for wine drinkers” and went on to point out that as yet there were no discernable differences in wine between counties. Furthermore many of Sussex’s best-known producers like Nyetimber and Ridgeview don’t qualify for the PDO as they source grapes from outside the county. The new rules come in on 5 July. It will be interesting to see how many Sussex producers join the PDO and whether other counties lobby for their own.
And finally… Cricket fan’s beer goes for a six
One cricket fan got the shock of her life when there she was, minding her own business, enjoying a day at Trent Bridge, when a cricket ball landed in her pint. It occurred when New Zealand allrounder Daryl Mitchell hit a ball for a six, over the boundaries and into the stands, landing in a full pint belonging to Susan Friday. See the footage on the Barmy Army Twitter feed. “Well, it just went straight in, I didn’t really have time to think!” she explained. “It just went straight into the pint.” The story has a happy ending as following an innings of 81, Mitchell apologised to the fan, Susan Friday, and bought her a replacement pint joking that: “You have got to catch it next time with your hands instead of with your beer!” Though actually it was cider, not beer. Still, what a nice chap.