Shedloads of valuable American whisky goes under the hammer, racing driver Jenson Button releases blended Scotch, and a vodka to raise money for the Red Cross Ukraine Appeal. All this and more in the Nightcap: 18 March edition.
The first rays of spring sun have reminded of a story about David Hockney’s mother travelling from her home in Yorkshire to meet her son, now a famous artist, at his home in Los Angeles. Her response to the glories of California was simply: “all this sunshine and not a washing line in sight!” Not sure what connection this has to drinks, but it always makes me laugh.
Anyway…. On the blog this week we looked at a Limited Edition Slane Whiskey and gave customers the chance to win a trip to Slane Castle in Ireland. We also announced the three lucky winners of our Howler Head competition to the UFC in London on 19 March. The Irish theme continued with a round-up of St. Patrick’s Day cocktails, a look at the great Redbreast 12 Year Old, and Millie Milliken showed us how to make a Black Velvet, a blend of Guinness and Champagne. Then Henry headed to old Kentucky for a taste of the delicious Four Roses Small Batch Select, Nick Morgan asked whether you can hurry the ageing process in whiskey, while James Evans conducted some cask experiments of his own on a rather smaller scale. We finished the week with a round-up of some delicious mother-pleasing fizz because there’s a special day coming soon.
Right, on with the Nightcap: 18 March edition!
Raise money for Ukraine with Staritsky Levitsky vodka
To help raise money for the British Red Cross Ukrainian Appeal, spirits importer Emporia has donated 40 cases of Staritsky Levitsky Private Cellar vodka. The vodka is distilled near Lviv in the west of Ukraine, and will be available to buy from Master of Malt for £50 a bottle from today (18 March) while stocks last, with all net proceeds going to the Appeal. In addition, bars including the London Cocktail Club at its venues, and various Scottish bars such as the Nightcap, Panda & Sons, Hey Palu, The Voyage of Buck and Draffens will be offering Staritsky Levitsky cocktails with proceeds going to the Red Cross Ukraine Crisis Appeal. There will also be an industry fundraiser on 20 March at The Covent Garden Social Club. Emporia CEO James Rackham’s wife Lyubov is Ukrainian and they have family still in the country. He commented: “Like everyone else, we are feeling helpless at the situation unfolding in Ukraine and my wife and I want to support in any way we can. With Staritsky Levitsky vodka we have a way to help here in the UK, which is very important to us.”
Atom’s whisky gold haul at IWSC
“Brrr brrr brrr!” – that’s the sound of various people blowing their own trumpets here at Master of Malt towers. That’s because our in-house drinks boffins, Atom Brands, have done rather well at the IWSC (International Wine and Spirits Competition) this week. We don’t tend to cover awards here at the Nightcap, mainly because there are so many of them, but when it’s the home team, how could we resist? And what a haul of medals it was: Bathtub Gin, Bathtub Gin Grapefruit & Rosemary and Rumbullion! all picked up silvers; Darkness 8 Year Old, Green Isle, and Aerolite Lyndsay 10 Year Old scored golds, while Seaweed & Aeons & Digging & Fire was awarded a ‘gold outstanding.’ Outstanding! Head of whisky Sam Simmons commented: “In a fiercely competitive set, we have not just one but TWO of the top 10 highest scoring 10 Year Old Islay whiskies Aerolite Lyndsay (Gold 97 points) and Seaweed (98 Gold Outstanding). Only one other product achieved this level of praise, Laphroaig Sherry Oak Finish 10 Year Old, and that is absolutely massive recognition.” The other sound heard reverberating around the streets of Tonbridge was the popping of Champagne corks as the Atom team partied responsibly long into the night.
Sotheby’s announces “most valuable auction of American whiskey ever”
American whiskey fans, it’s time to cash in your Premium Bonds and have a look down the back of the sofa because Sotheby’s in New York has just unveiled a mouth-watering collection of rare American whiskeys which will go under the hammer on 19 March at 10am EDT. The 750-lot auction has an estimate of $825,000-1.2 million. Sotheby’s is billing it “the most valuable auction of American whiskey ever staged.” It is based on two collections: the American Muscle Collection put together by muscle car enthusiast Rich “RJ” Gottlieb; and The Three Continents Collection Part III, the final part of a massive collection of 5,000 bottles. Highlights include Pappy Van Winkle Double Vertical 2020 & 2021 (estimate $16,000-24,000), Willett Family Estate Single Barrel Bourbon 21 Year Old “The Wheated Patriot” 1993, ($8,000-12,000) and Michter’s Single Barrel Rye 25 Year Old NV ($5,000-6,000). Jonny Fowle, Sotheby’s spirits specialist, commented: “American Whiskey stands apart owing to its strength of character, and over the last two years has shown the beginnings of a meteoric rise in the secondary market.” If all this is too much for you, we highly recommend taking a look at Four Roses Small Batch Select, a snip at under £60 a bottle.
Racing driver Jenson Button launches his own whisky
Watch out Johnnie Walker, there’s a new blended Scotch whisky in town and it comes with a celebrity endorsement. Called Coachbuilt, it’s a collaboration between amusingly-named motor racing driver Jenson Button and top whisky expert George Koutsakis. Apparently it’s inspired by the similarities between whisky blending and coachbuilding, ie. making a bespoke motorcar. Mr Button explained: “The timing was brilliant – I was in the middle of launching our coachbuilding company Radford when I got introduced to George as he was on a mission to create the ultimate blended whisky. I’ve always loved my whisky but didn’t know a huge amount about the blending world, however the more we talked the parallels between blending and coachbuilding became pretty apparent. He then sent me an early sample of what he was working on and that was that, I asked how I could get involved and two years later here we are!” Koutsakis added: “Coachbuilt began from a realisation that blended Scotch whisky does not receive the praise it deserves worldwide. With our whisky we cast the spotlight on the immense skill required to take components from dozens of distilleries across the country, and piece them together, to create a liquid defined by balance and complexity.” Coachbuilt costs £42 and is bottled at 46% ABV. At the moment it’s only available from www.coachbuiltwhisky.com but we will let you know if we get some in.
SMWS celebrates release of 150th bottling – and it’s not a Scotch
The Scotch Malt Whisky Society has gone rogue with its 150th distillery bottling because…. Prepare yourself… It’s not from Scotland! Instead it comes from a mystery distillery in south west Ireland. Named Cask 150.1 ‘Let’s Go West!’, what we do know is that whiskey from this distillery has never before been bottled as a single cask, so that’s exciting. And they’ve released it just in time for St Patrick’s Day (which was yesterday) – what lucky timing! Specifically, the whiskey is seven years old, having spent the first three years in a first-fill ex-bourbon barrel before being transferred to a first-fill ex-rye whiskey barrel. It boasts a spicy and sweet flavour profile, specifically ‘chocolate and physalis cupcake made with muscovado sugar and a pinch of pepper’ according to the press bumf. “For our landmark 150th bottling, we wanted to showcase the journey of our never-ending quest for quality and flavour,” said Kai Ivalo, spirits director. “Choosing an Irish distillery to mark this milestone occasion truly shows the adventurous spirit of the Society – celebrating our vibrant spirit no matter its source.” It’s available to members via ballot entry at £75.
UK’s first black female-owned distillery Matugga launches crowdfunding campaign
Have you tried rum from the Matugga Distillery? It doesn’t just make exceptional drinks like Matugga and Liv rums, but happens to be the UK’s first black female-owned distillery, founded by Jacine Rutasikwa and her husband, Ugandan-born head distiller Paul Rutasikwa, based in Scotland. Oh, and it’s just launched a £300,000 equity crowdfunding campaign so that they can take over the world prepare for global expansion and increase output eight-fold. It aims to become a ‘cane to cask’ producer, with Paul hoping to develop and work on a sugarcane plantation in Uganda. Clearly there’s a thirst for it, as the UK rum market grew by 37% in just two years from 2019, amounting to £1.3bn last year. Now rum-lovers can actually own part of this unique rum distillery thanks to the campaign. “When starting a business, black entrepreneurs, female entrepreneurs and particularly black female entrepreneurs face huge barriers and often struggle to get to the next phase for a number of reasons – whether its access to finance, networks, education or mentorship,” says MD Jacine. “It’s not very often that you see black-owned businesses on equity-based crowdfunding platforms, and we’re looking forward to launching our campaign to the general public. It’s an exciting time for our distillery and we’re inviting rum lovers to back our business and help us take Scottish rum worldwide.” Want a slice of the pie? You can invest in the campaign here.
And finally… Snake preserved in wine bites man
In Britain we have a drink that’s particularly popular among students called ‘snakebite’ – a mixture of beer and cider. In China, though, they do things more literally. It was reported this week that a man in Heilongjiang opened a jar of wine in which three snakes had been preserved, and one of them came back to life and bit him. According to Newsweek, he was trying to treat his son – snake wine is a popular remedy in traditional Chinese medicine. The production process involves sealing live snakes in a jar of wine. But if the jar isn’t filled to the top, then the snakes can survive on tiny quantities of air and being cold-blooded can shut down their bodies so they appear to be dead. Then when you open the jar, snakes alive! Quite literally. The man, apparently, has recovered from the incident though we have not been told what happened to the snake. The moral of the story is don’t drown snakes in a jar of wine.