It’s the final Nightcap of the year and to round-off 2020 we’ve put together one last batch of bonkers boozy news, a fitting tribute to the year that was.
There’s just one week until Christmas and only two weeks left in the whole year. How, exactly, has that happened? This truly has been the strangest, suckiest and most surreal collection of 12 months most of us have ever experienced. The good news is that this decade can only get better. Right? Well, we can confirm that The Nightcap will return in 2021, so that’s at least one positive thing in the bag already. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. 2020 still has some time on the clock and it’s chosen to spend some of its last moments making the world of booze a whole fresh batch of news to report on.
As we get ever closer to the big day #Whisky Santa has been ramping things up with his super wishes, giving away a bottle each of Dalmore 35 Year Old and Port Ellen 35 Year Old 1983, while those of you working your way through your Whisky Advent Calendars will have helped yourself to a feast of Scotch, American and World whisky thanks to the selection of drams that were hidden behind doors number #12, #13, #14, #15, #16, #17 and #18.
Elsewhere on the blog, we welcomed a new range of tasty spirits from, well… us! Then we reported on the incredibly exciting return of whisky distilling to Karuizawa in Japan, learned from Nate Brown what it’s like to launch a cocktail company during COVID and tasted the first whisky from Copper Rivet Distillery. We also found time for a quick chat with David Turner, Bowmore distillery manager, managed to pick out some delightful fortified wines to drink across the festive season, sample a peated Irish whiskey and make a delicious steaming hot cocktail.
Now, onto the last Nightcap of 2020. We hope all our lovely readers have a safe and Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Johnnie Walker to launch new whisky: Johnnie Blonde
News on Johnnie Walker is rarely in short supply but this week’s announcement is particularly exciting. The Diageo-owned Scotch whisky brand has revealed its plans to launch a new whisky in 2021 called Johnnie Blonde. The new expression was made to “appeal to current and new whisky drinkers alike” and is designed to be consumed in long serves, with the brand suggesting lemonade as its go-to mixer. Johnnie Blonde, which is a blend of bright wheat whiskies matured in sweet American oak and fruity malt whiskies, is very much a response to the evolving way Scotch is being consumed, with Michael Ward, head of innovation at Diageo commenting, “Johnnie Walker has always been built on progress, on a desire to constantly push boundaries and explore new flavours, experiences and serves. Johnnie Blonde is borne out of that same philosophy”. The expression, which has already won an International Spirits Challenge Gold Medal, isn’t getting a full rollout and instead will be piloted in a small number of cities around the world, including Monterey (Mexico), Curitiba (Brazil), Bangkok (Thailand), Sofia (Bulgaria), and Houston (USA) as well as with a number of partners throughout Germany, in March 2021, priced at RRP US$24.99. We look forward to seeing how it does. While we wait, we might as well make a nice long drink with one of the brand’s other delicious whiskies, right?
Tariffs on Scotch whisky move closer to removal
Things appear to be going in the right direction for those of us who want to see an end to the damaging 25% tariff on single malt Scotch whisky that was set by the U.S. over a year ago as part of a wider trade war between the U.S. and European Union. Following last week’s update on the study, new reports suggest that the U.K. government and the outgoing Trump administration are currently in negotiations to secure a ‘mini’ trade deal. In an interview with the BBC, US trade representative Robert Lighthizer said: “It’s extremely likely that we have an FTA, free-trade agreement, with the United Kingdom before long,” and, when asked specifically about lowering tariffs on certain products including Scotch whisky, added “we have the advantage in that both the US and the UK – particularly the current government of the UK – are not big subsidisers, where some other countries are more inclined to subsidise. So it would be helpful if we could come to some kind of agreement. We are in discussions, we’ll see how that works out.” Trade body the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) said it was “encouraging” to hear Lighthizer indicate that a UK-US ‘mini deal’ could be achieved to remove Scotch whisky tariffs. Karen Betts, chief executive of the SWA, also remarked that she would like to see the US reciprocate by suspending tariffs, commenting: “Suspension on both sides would, we believe, create a positive environment for intensified settlement talks to take place. A settlement would enable everyone – aircraft manufacturers, Scotch whisky and other industries caught up in this – to focus on economic recovery rather than losing revenue to punitive tariffs”.
Guinness releases first new TV ad in 12 years
It’s always an event when Guinness releases a new television advert. This brand is synonymous with wonderful advertising, just think of those ‘80s adverts featuring Rutger Hauer or, of course, the ‘Surfers’ advert from 1999, judged the greatest TV advert of all time in a poll conducted by The Sunday Times and Channel 4. The new advert highlights the beauty of Draught Guinness in a can, something we’ve all been having more of us since the pubs were closed. Neil Shah, head of Guinness GB explained: “People love to savour delicious Guinness Draught and we wanted to remind people that they can enjoy the smooth and refreshing taste whether they choose to drink it in a pub or at home. The popularity of Guinness Draught beer in a can has naturally increased in recent months, and we wanted to celebrate that despite Christmas being different this year, Guinness Draught doesn’t have to be.” The 20-second film titled “Pull. Pour. Settle. Enjoy.” was created by agency AMV BBDO with director Scott Lyon, and is rather functional. Yes, it makes you want to have Guinness, so it works, but it also makes you long for the sheer artistry of its forebears. Must try harder.
Whistlepig sells minority stake
Whistlepig has revealed that it has sold a minority stake to Moët Hennessy in a bid to help the brand expand internationally. While financial terms of the agreement have not been disclosed, we do know that the Vermont-based rye whiskey producer has been exploring options to help build its whiskey brand outside of North America, so it would be safe to assume we’ll be seeing more of Whistlepig thanks to the new partnership. “The arrangement with Moët Hennessy marks a significant moment for Whistlepig,” said Jeff Kozak, Whistlepig CEO. “We could not be more pleased to align our brand with the leader in luxury wines and spirits and are excited about future collaboration with Moët Hennessy’s team in the international market.” According to IWSR 2019 data, Whistlepig holds the top position in the ultra-premium and luxury rye whiskey category (sold at US$45 or over) in North America, so it’s a move that comes with a lot of for Moët Hennessy, the wine and spirits division of LVMH. “We are convinced that Whistlepig fits well within Moët Hennessy’s portfolio,” said Philippe Schaus, president and CEO of Moët Hennessy. “This rye whiskey house has done a remarkable job distinguishing itself among the emblematic and iconic craft distilleries in the United States with an ultra-premium standing in terms of identity, quality and price positioning.”
Bushmills unveils its oldest single malt whiskey
When Bushmills launched its Causeway Collection earlier this month we were very excited. Firstly, because it comprises of 10 cask-finished single malt whiskies that vary in age from nine to 30 years old. But also because the Irish whiskey brand is only releasing details of one bottling at the time. Which makes it even more exciting. Particularly when Bushmills follows up the debut of a single malt matured in Oloroso sherry butts and bourbon barrels for 17 years before being finished for two years in a rare Burgundy cask with the launch of its oldest single malt whiskey. The second expression in the range, the 30 Year Old New American Oak Cask single malt was initially matured in Oloroso sherry butts and bourbon barrels, and finished in new American oak casks for an ‘unprecedented’ 16 years. The non-chill-filtered single malt was bottled in September 2020 at cask strength (48.4% ABV) and is said to have notes of honey malt with the virgin oak providing ‘intense flavours of vanilla, chocolate and warm wood’. “It’s a privilege to work with such rare whiskeys in The Causeway Collection. This 30 Year Old New American Oak Cask, our oldest single malt to date, is a truly special Irish single malt,” says Bushmills master blender Helen Mulholland. “I’m immensely proud of how we’ve been able to create such sensational waves of flavour in a 30-year-old whiskey. Like the whole Causeway Collection, it’s a celebration of our passion for single malts, our rare and unique casks and our 400 years of whiskey-making heritage.” Sadly, getting your hands on this is going to be pretty tricky. Firstly, because only 100 bottles of the single malt have been released (the remaining 332 bottles are coming next year.). Secondly, because it’s available exclusively at The Irish Whiskey Collection at The Loop in Dublin and Cork airports in Ireland. Still, it’s a welcome boost for travel retail and a window in the kind of delights that lie in Bushmill’s warehouses…
Glenmorangie’s new ad campaign is very colourful
Dig out your sunglasses because Glenmorangie has unveiled a new brand campaign and it’s not what you would call subdued. It was created by DDB Paris agency with top photographer Miles Aldridge and features six scenes of people enjoying Glenmorangie with the tagline, “It’s kind of delicious and wonderful”. And did we mention the colours? Holy moly, they are bright, awash with the boldest oranges and vivid blues. These technicolour dreams will be appearing on social media and various billboards across London this month. Alexander Kalchev, chief creative officer at DDB Paris, explained: “We set out to reimagine everyday experiences – a camping trip or a train journey – all made more wonderful, to reflect Glenmorangie’s perspective. Inspired by the brand’s signature orange colour, we decided to use colour as a metaphor to open up the whisky’s world. And of course, as a master of colour, Miles Aldridge was the obvious talent to bring our vision to life.” Louise Dennett, global head of brand at Glenmorangie, added: “We make whisky because we want people to enjoy it. There are many technicalities as to how we make it taste so good. But ultimately, what matters is that our single malt is delicious, and we think there’s a simple joy in that. Through our collaboration with Miles Aldridge and DDB Paris we have created a visual feast of a campaign. We hope it will welcome more people into our delicious and wonderful world.” But that’s not all: as well as being striking, the images contain little jokes including references to giraffes (the distillery’s mascot) and anagrams of the word Glenmorangie, like ‘A Ginger Lemon’ in the train and ‘Mango Reeling’. Endless fun!
British gin sales hit hard by lockdown
For the final news round-up of the year, it seems fitting to include the man who has graced more Nightcaps than anyone… Miles Beale! According to Beale, CEO of the WSTA, “Gin has proven to be a real tonic for shoppers wanting to enjoy a bit of downtime at home during a turbulent 2020. It’s fantastic to hear that some distillers will have benefited from a boost in retail sales, but we have to look at the bigger picture which shows overall gin sales are down by £400 million following the hit taken by the hospitality sector due to the pandemic this year.” He was commenting on news that because of the enforced closure of much of the on-trade, gin sales declined from £2.6 billion in 2019 to £2.2 billion this year. Retail was up 22%, worth £1.2 billion, but it wasn’t enough to make up for the lost business. As you would expect from Beale, he had words for the British government: “British spirit makers, many of whom are SMEs, need greater support from government to continue to grow and recover from the loss of hospitality sales. That is why, as a first and easy step, we are calling on the Chancellor to cut duty and boost British business at the spring Budget.” You tell ‘em, Miles.
And finally. . . Shock horror! People enjoying alcohol during the day
Data produced by the health and safety software company Protecting.co.uk shows that more than 90% of workers say that they have been consuming alcohol while working from home. Hardly surprising, many of us enjoy a glass of wine or a pint with our lunch. The problem with the survey is that it doesn’t differentiate between responsible and heavy drinking, seeing both as problematic. Mark Hall from Protecting.co.uk commented: “It ranges from just a glass for two with lunch, to getting through a whole bottle of wine a day, but the health implications are clear.” He goes on to say: “It’s alarming to employers to hear that staff feel like they can get away with all kinds of behaviour while they are out of office.” It’s health and safety gone mad! We would hardly describe having a drink on a lunch break as ‘alarming’. Before lockdown, if you visited any town or city in the country you would see people enjoying an alcoholic drink with their lunches before returning to work. The press release from Protecting.co.uk goes on to say: “Most workplaces will have a robust alcohol and substance abuse policy to keep staff in check when they are at work.” Perhaps, but this is irrelevant in this instance. Unless you’re operating heavy machinery or conducting brain surgery, then a small amount of alcohol, a pint or a Gin & Tonic, is not a problem for most employers or employees. Lockdown has been hard for everyone, and if you are worried about your drinking, then you should seek professional help (DrinkAware is a really great place to start). But we see nothing wrong with some responsible daytime imbibing. Cin cin!