Distilleries being built or reborn, a light at the end of the tariff tunnel, and the world’s oldest single malt Scotch whisky. News like this is what The Nightcap is all about. Let’s get stuck in, shall we?
Well, the UK’s grand reopening on Monday has all gone a bit wrong, hasn’t it? Good thing we have Father’s Day to keep us occupied for the time being at least. Unless you forgot… You didn’t forget, did you? I mean, it’s not like we didn’t try and help. For those of you who did remember, why not kick back with a celebratory dram and enjoy all the latest from the world of booze? You’ve earned it.
Over on our blog, we and our friends at Bunnahabhain Distillery were in a giving mood so we created a new competition to help you to get to Islay during Fèis Ìle 2022. Elsewhere, Adam paid tribute to Charles MacLean who is set to pick up a shiny MBE from the Queen, then made the simple and refreshing Gin Rickey and found out how J&B Rare became a classic blend. Henry, meanwhile, enjoyed a very special dry sherry and picked out our top ten gins for 2021. Lucy then returned to offer tips on pairing BBQ and booze before Millie recommended 12 exciting new bars to visit now that we can finally do that sort of thing again(ish).
Over on the Clubhouse App, The Nightcap returns at 3 pm today to discuss the booziest of news and the growth (and growing pains) of Irish whiskey with our guests Louise McGuane, Mark McLaughlin, and Kristiane Sherry!
Now on with The Nightcap: 18 June edition!
Gordon & MacPhail unveils world’s oldest single malt Scotch whisky
There was a lot going on back in February 1940. David Jason was born. Pinocchio premiered in New York City. Plus, you know, all the war stuff. But something seemingly unremarkable happened elsewhere. A cask of whisky was laid down. So what, right? Whisky is popped into barrels all the time. That’s how it works. But this one is special. This is cask No. 340, containing Glenlivet spirit filled under the watch of Gordon & MacPhail owner George Urquhart. And it has stayed in that cask for 80 years. Longer than any other Scotch whisky in history. And now Gordon & MacPhail is ready to unveil it to the world. The Generations range from Gordon & MacPhail has previously presented some of the longest-matured single malt Scotch whisky ever to be bottled. But this one is the daddy of them all. Bottled at 44.9% ABV, the 80-year-old single malt is said to be “full of vibrant flavour”. Well, they were hardly going to say “yeah, it’s alright I guess. A bit woody”. A total of just 250 decanters, created by acclaimed architect and designer Sir David Adjaye OBE, will house one of the world’s most precious spirits, which will be released in September 2021. Decanter number #1, meanwhile, will be auctioned by Sotheby’s in early October 2021 with proceeds going to Scottish charity Trees for Life whose mission is to rewild the Caledonian Forest. There’s no word on the price yet, but in 2015, Gordon & MacPhail sold a 75-year-old Mortlach single malt for £20,000. So that should give you an idea. It’s a fitting tribute to the man referred to as ‘the father of single malt’, as an 80th anniversary is celebrated with oak. What a shame none of us will ever taste it.
US suspends tariffs on Scotch whisky.
We’ve spoken a fair amount about the tariff war that’s been going on in booze before so we won’t go over the details again, but we can happily report that after a couple of months of things moving in the right direction, two major breakthrough have been struck. The UK and US have come to an agreement which will see the 25% tariff on Scotch whisky dropped, which is estimated to have cost the industry £600 million. Karen Betts from the SWA described it as “very good news for Scotch whisky”. And there was more good news as the US and EU have agreed to a five-year suspension of tariffs on products including vodka and Cognac. In a statement issued on 15 June, US trade representative ambassador Katherine Tai called the agreement “significant progress” towards ending the years-long Boeing-Airbus feud. As you can imagine, the suspension has been welcomed by a number of trade groups, including the Distilled Spirits Council of the US (Discus).“The five-year suspension of these tariffs on distilled spirits is happening at a critical time for the US hospitality industry,” said Chris Swonger, president and CEO of Discus. “Today’s announcement is an important building block to reset the bilateral relationship and we urge the administration to build on this positive momentum.” But Swonger wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. He says that the continued 25% tariff on American whiskey that the EU and UK both impose as part of the steel and aluminium dispute has “severely damaged” the industry and that “the United States’ largest spirits export category will remain at a serious competitive disadvantage in our two most important export market”. But, a joint statement released by the US and the EU said they “will engage in discussions to allow the resolution of existing differences on measures regarding steel and aluminium before the end of the year”. So let’s hope the good news keeps coming.
Green light for Ardgowan Distillery following £8.4m investment
Ardgowan Distillery kicks off a string of distillery-based excitement in this week’s Nightcap by announcing that work will begin this year on its new distillery on the Ardgowan Estate near Inverkip. An £8.4 million equity investment into the business will allow construction to commence on the million-litre single malt distillery and visitor centre less than an hour’s drive from Glasgow. The plan is to create first-class food, drink, and retail tourist experience to reel in tourists, while locals will be pleased to know the distillery and visitor centre is estimated to create up to 30 new jobs within five years. The first phase of the distillery will incorporate two copper stills and six washbacks, but the output can be doubled to two million litres with the addition of two further stills plus washbacks in an already-approved second phase. The new distillery will resurrect the name of the Ardgowan Distillery, a grain and industrial alcohol producer founded in 1896 and sadly destroyed in the May Blitz of 1941. £7.2m of the new equity comes from Austrian investor Roland Grain, the owner and CEO of IT company Grain GmbH who has a long track record of investment in distilleries and presumably a love of nominative determinism. His highly successful record includes chipping into the Cotswolds Distillery, the East London Liquor Company, and Manly Spirits in Australia, as well as Potstill Spirits Trading (Austria’s largest whisky importer) and UK spirits business Distil Plc. It would appear the project is in good hands.
Dictador teams up with Port house Niepoort for £800 rum
Through the magic of global telecommunications, we were beamed into the cellars Porto in the company of Dictador’s master blender Hernan Parra, winemaker Dirk van der Nierpoort, ex-Edrington head honcho Ken Grier and, Charles MacLean MBE, for it is he. They were there to mark the launch of the latest addition to the Dictador 2 Masters collection. This ninth iteration saw four vintage Columbian rums from 1971, ‘74, ‘78 and ‘80 aged for 12-16 months in Port pipes. Parra described the collaboration as “the symbol of merging family traditions, high-quality products and ever-evolving creativity.” Niepoort added: “Producing such a special rum with a good friend seems the perfect combination for such a special bottling.” The result is a rum of astonishing complexity, length, and, it has to be said, quite challenging dryness. The finishing period does not seem to have sweetened the spirit at all, which was Nierpoort’s intention. “Most rums are boring,” he said. Fittingly, each bottle of Dictador 2 Masters Niepoort proudly bears the two men’s fingerprints. Only 620 have been filled and will be on sale for £825 from Farr Vintners. Over the course of the hour-long event, Ken Grier tirelessly pointed out what a good investment this is (compare with the price of Scotch whisky of similar age), while MacLean retorted, “I’d rather people drank it.” Then made his point the best way possible, by repeatedly refilling his glass. Give that man a knighthood!
The Glenlivet shows off new visitor centre
The Glenlivet is having quite the week, seeing one of its spirits bottled as the oldest single malt in the world and then getting to reveal its newly refurbished home. After 18 months of renovations, the brand has unveiled its re-designed visitor experience that will celebrate the life and history of the Speyside area and distillery. Glenlivet has also given visitors the opportunity to discover aged, unique whiskies from the archives, including rare editions, such as the Atlantic Single Cask 40 year old and the newly released 38-year-old Cellar Collection with only 30 bottles filled, and available exclusively at the visitor experience. If that isn’t enough to entice people in, remember The Glenlivet Cocktail Collection that took the internet by storm? Well, they will be there too. “At The Glenlivet, we believe in pushing boundaries and breaking tradition, and this is certainly represented throughout this redesign,” says Linda Brown, visitor experience manager, commented. “I worked at the visitor experience when it was last refurbished 23 years ago, but this is something else! To tell the brand’s story in a truly authentic way, we have reinvigorated the original experience, striving to give whisky lovers the best possible time whilst visiting the distillery. We look forward to welcoming back our loyal fans, as well as new faces.” If you’d like to learn more about renovation you can head to www.maltwhiskydistilleries.com or follow @The Glenlivet.
New £46m grain alcohol distillery planned for St Boswells
It’s a distillery-heavy Nightcap this week but we don’t mind as it’s all so exciting. We’re now turning our attention to the Scottish Borders, which is about to welcome its first grain distillery. Jackson Distillers has announced plans for a £46 million plant, producing 20 million litres of pure alcohol a year, on the Charlesfield Estate near St Boswells. The aim is for it to meet the growing demand for grain whisky for Scotch whisky blending and a neutral grain spirit for gin and vodka. Jackson Distillers also want the distillery to be the lowest carbon and most resource-efficient grain distillery in Scotland, using renewable energy, recycling waste materials and water as well as prioritising locally-grown cereals, including from the Tweed valley, so consumers can be confident about the sustainability and provenance of the spirit. The planning application is expected to be determined by the Scottish Borders Council in July. “We are excited to bring forward this transformational opportunity for the Scottish Borders. The project will create 20 permanent high-value jobs and a further 200 jobs through the construction stage whilst providing a crucial ongoing contribution to the local rural economy,” says founder and CEO of Jackson Distillers, and owner of Charlesfield Estate, Trevor Jackson. “The distillery will play its part in helping Scotland meet its climate change ambitions, sending zero waste to landfill with sustainability at the forefront of its production practices.” We do love our grain whisky and are looking forward to seeing what the impressive-sounding site creates.
Refurbished Cardhu once again open to the public
More distillery reopening news! Yesterday, 17 June, Speyside distillery Cardhu opened its doors once more following a refurbishment. It’s the third part of Diageo’s ‘four corners’ £185 million tourism splurge. Glenkinchie and Clynelish opened earlier in the year with the fourth corner, Caol Ila, due to open in 2022. Not forgetting the Johnnie Walker brand HQ on Princes Street in Edinburgh which should be opening this summer. To celebrate the long history of the distillery, Cardhu will fly a special flag that was apparently used by Helen Cumming of the founding family to warn illicit distillers of the approach of the exciseman. The family sold Cardhu to Johnnie Walker & Sons in 1893. At the refurbished distillery, visitors can learn about the Cumming family as well as about the distillation and maturation process, and, most importantly, try some whisky. Which is what it’s all about after all. Cristina Diezhandino, Diageo chief marketing officer, said: “When Helen raised her flag, it was to warn her neighbours and the local community, but today we raise the flag in a symbol of confidence and ambition for the future of Scotch whisky and tourism in Speyside and throughout Scotland.” She went on to say: “The investment we have made creates an exciting and engaging experience that will surprise and delight visitors whether they are local staycationers in the UK or tourists from around the globe when they are able to travel.” As a further incentive to visit, there’s a distillery-exclusive 16-year-old 50.6% ABV bottling. Sounds like we should get the old MoM minibus fixed up for a trip to Speyside.
Glencairn unveils its product for the people… the Pipette
Glencairn Crystal is the go-to company when whisky companies want to package their rare offerings. It produces decanters that cost thousands of pounds – out of the reach of most whisky fans sadly. But it does make more down-to-earth, some might say, useful products. There’s the ubiquitous Glencairn glass, for example, yours for a mere £10. But now there’s something even more affordable. It’s the Glencairn Pipette! No more trying to dribble the right amount of water to dilute your single malt, the hand-blown glass Glencairn Pipette does it with style. It holds 1ml of water and, naturally, it’s the perfect length for a Glencairn glass. Scott Davidson, new product development director, explained: “We are delighted to introduce the new Glencairn Pipette as the perfect partner to the Glencairn Glass. For those who love a splash of water with their whisky, our pipette will enable the drinker to add a little drop at a time and will prevent the risk of drowning their favourite dram with too much!” At last, the answer to the question of what to buy the whisky lover who has anything. And it’s only £6. Result!
New Zealand brothers smuggle whisky across the channel
We don’t know what you did with your Wednesday this week, but we can pretty much guarantee that you weren’t as active as New Zealand brothers Alex and Nick Ravenhall. The duo swam across the Channel from Dover to Calais with a team of four other swimmers to raise money for Sea Shepherd New Zealand. They’ve been coined the ‘Whisky Smugglers’ as they each carried dram of whisky from Bimber Distillery, which was then blended back into a cask and will be sold as limited-edition whiskies later this year. The team completed the swim in a remarkable 12 hours and 58 mins, making it the second-fastest team this season. The Maori brothers support Sea Shepherd, whose project includes protecting Maui’s dolphins endemic to New Zealand, and are the founders of an ocean awareness campaign called Whisky and Waves. Both work in the drinks scene and, excitingly, are actually very much good friends of ours. Nick is now the managing director for Holyrood Distillery, but spent more than four years with Atom Brands (that’s our sister company) before heading to Edinburgh, while Alex is our head of events. This summer, the pair will undergo at least two more swims in some of the UK’s most treacherous waters, including the Corryvreckan. Both swims will be completed with smuggled whisky with the intent to release further fundraising bottlings for Sea Shepherd. Amazing work guys, we’ll raise a dram to you tonight. We might even run it under a tap first in tribute.
And finally… Paul Pogba snubs Heineken
This week at a press conference for Euro 2020, which is taking place in 2021, no idea why they didn’t just change the name, perhaps because they’d already had loads of T-shirts printed. Anyway, at this press conference, top French footballer Paul Pogba moved a bottle of Heineken from sight. It’s not the first time during this tournament that footballers have made their drinks preferences publicly known. The day before, Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo did the same with Coca-Cola before encouraging viewers to “drink water” instead. Very healthy, and effective too, with the brand losing something like $4 billion in market value. It seems that Pogba’s actions, in contrast, were motivated by his Muslim faith. However, his gesture appears a lot less powerful when you take a close look at the bottle it reads, Heineken 0.0 – an alcohol-free beer. D’oh!