Big news this week as Heineken buys Distell, Gordon’s Gin has a new look, and there’s been a Fok Hing mess for a Hong Kong gin brand whose brand name was deemed offensive. It’s the Nightcap: 19 November!
November continues to speed along but we’re not racing to Christmas just yet because there’s plenty to enjoy. Getting to wear big coats again. Eating casserole after casserole. And learning what the world of booze is up to this week. It’s always something and it’s usually entertaining. This week is no different. Let’s get stuck in.
But first, we had #WhiskySanta back on the blog to give you the chance to Super Wish your way to a bottle of Bunnahabhain 40 Year Old, before we had our own giveaway for The Macallan 25 Year Old Sherry Oak. We then gave you the opportunity to take a virtual tour of Pernod Ricard’s new whisky distillery in China, heard Dr. Nick Morgan’s warning about whisky investment firms, and learned from Lauren Eads that bourbon is more dynamic than you might think. We also tasted the world’s first biodynamic whisky, mixed up a winter classic, cast an eye on the new Wine Cask series from That Boutique-y Whisky and That Boutique-y Rum, and enjoyed some warming whiskies with a distinctly smoky profile.
But we’re not done yet. Now it’s time for The Nightcap: 19 November edition!
Heineken buys Bunnahabhain parent, Distell
Big news came from Heineken this week who revealed plans to buy South African wine and spirits maker Distell Group Holdings in a €2.2 billion deal. If approved, the transaction will include an internal restructure of Distell to create two new businesses: Newco and Capevin. The former will combine Distell’s portfolio of spirits, wine, cider and ready-to-drink beverages with Heineken’s Southern Africa and export markets business, which includes Namibia Breweries and South African whisky distillery James Sedgwick. Capevin will include the company’s remaining assets, including its Scotch whisky business, consisting of the Deanston, Tobermory and Bunnahabhain brands. As part of the agreement, Heineken will own a minimum 65% stake in Newco, while Distell’s largest shareholder Remgro will retain control of Capevin. “Together, this partnership has the potential to leverage the strength of Heineken’s global footprint with our leading brands to create a formidable, diverse beverage company for Africa,” says Distell CEO Richard Rushton. “I am excited for what lies ahead as we look to combine our strong and popular brands and highly complementary geographical footprints to create a world class African company in the alcohol beverage sector.” We’re intrigued what effect this move will have on some of our favourite single malts.
“Know when to stop” warns Diageo this Christmas
Diageo’s latest campaign is a long way from the clever and witty adverts of the past (see some of our favourites here). It’s called “know when to stop” and it consists of a series of short animations warning people of the dangers of over indulgence over Christmas. Not just with booze but online activity, eating and home decorating. They were created by the exquisitely-named Cari Vander Yacht, an award-winning illustrator. She explained, “I wanted to visually capture the sort of manic nature of ‘too much of a good thing’ which was central to the overall idea of moderation.” Kate Gibson, global director of Diageo in society (where do they come up with these job titles?) added: “We know the holidays are an important time of year for people to be getting together and celebrating. This campaign is a fun, festive reminder that there’s a happy limit to everything and the holidays are best enjoyed in moderation, be that drinking, eating, or binge-watching.” The global campaign refers viewers to Diageo’s DRINKiQ site. It’s part of the company’s Society 2030 plan, to suck all the joy out of life, sorry, “to educate people on the risks of the harmful use of alcohol.” All very laudable, the trouble is the films are just not terribly memorable and become irritating after just one view, especially with the Peppa Pig-esque music. We worry they might have the opposite effect to the intended.
Kinahan’s brings you digital brand ambassadors
During lockdown, digital tastings proliferated. We all got used to tasting whisky and chatting with brand ambassadors like Boutique-y Dave or Georgie Bell from Bacardi, virtually. Now Kinahan’s has had the brain wave: since we don’t need to meet BAs IRL, then why not cut out the human entirely? Fiendishly clever and more than a little sinister. This week the Irish whiskey brand unveiled some “digital brand ambassadors”. These frankly rather rubbish-looking creations (see photo) will start appearing on digital platforms from this week. Irish whiskey writer Bill Linnane caught the look when he said “Lawnmower Man but whiskey.” At the moment, it all seems very much in the development stage but apparently they will become fully interactive thanks to the magic of AI. Director Zak Oganian tried to explain: “Building meaningful relationships with consumers is an integral part of our brand longevity. For Kinahan’s, implementing new technologies is going to be a journey of trial and error. Once we get it right, the next generation of whiskey drinkers will enjoy a new enriched reality”. But what we want to know is: will these digital BAs be able to go off on a tangent like Colin Dunn from Diageo?
The Clumsies pop-up coming to London this December
Do you fancy visiting one of the world’s great bars, The Clumsies, but can’t face the ever-changing rules about air travel? Well, you’re in luck because the award-winning Athens bar will be putting on a London pop-up at Hotbox Spitalfields on Wednesday 8 and Thursday 9 December. There you can try The Clumsies trademark “perfectly imperfect” cocktails such as ‘X-tasis’, a sweet and sour mix of buttered aged rum, passion (fruit we assume though it might just be raw Greek passion), pineapple, fermented milky oolong tea, or ‘Intimacy’ which features Tequila blanco, mezcal, beetroot kvass, pandan, turmeric, and London Essence Rosemary and Grapefruit Tonic. The team has also prepared its own interpretation of the Negroni called ‘Eden Garden’ containing London dry gin, sandalwood Campari, Mancino Sakura vermouth, and eden flower. In fact everything on the menu sounds delicious. Bookings are recommended though you may be in luck if you turn up on the off-chance. And if you can’t get in, then at least you haven’t travelled that far. That’s assuming London is closer to you than Athens.
Gordon’s Gin reveals new bottle
Gordon’s Gin has a new look. The updated bottle design pays homage to the rich history of Gordon’s and emphasises the flavour experience of each variant with highlighted taste cues. It’s also made from up to 85% recycled glass as part of owner Diageo’s commitment to making its packaging widely recyclable by 2032. This is a big deal as 40% of gins purchased in Britain are Gordon’s core expression, at least according to the brand. Some things haven’t changed, however, the Royal Warrant, the same scripted Gordon’s font on a green glass bottle since the inception of the brand in 1769, and the classic boar’s head. “We are incredibly proud to launch the latest fresh and stylish design for Gordon’s gin, which builds on our rich history and familiarity whilst highlighting the taste cues and making the bottle even more attractive,” says Mark Jarman, global head of Gordon’s Gin. “On top of the eye-catching aesthetics, this bottle is also part of our journey towards our wider sustainability targets, ensuring all packaging is widely recyclable by 2030. So, we are incredibly proud of this latest development.” The brand new bottle design has already started to be rolled out globally, so expect to see it sooner rather than later.
Lyaness launches brand new menu
London bar Lyaness has a habit of producing menus that are full of drinks that sound so good we want to try them all (not in one night, drink responsibly). Its new cocktail list, featuring five house-made ingredients and a culinary-driven approach, is no different. Named the ‘Lyaness British Cookbook’, it is the first new menu since the pandemic and has a particular focus on iconic flavours which have global resonance, looked at through a British lens. Ingredients such as green sauce liqueur, oyster honey, and blood Curaçao, an ingredient inspired by the fruity richness and body which blood can bring to a dish – think black pudding. The process behind each of them will take a cook’s approach to flavour and focus on ingredients rather than drinks themselves. The 15-serve menu was designed by the bar team, who are sure to wow guests with their usual brand of unusual and unique processes. Expect delightful creations like the (Im)perfect Martini (Discarded Grape Skin Vodka, grass amazake, Fierfield birch, overripe ‘nectarine’), the Chestnut Rabble (Hendrick’s Gin, green sauce liqueur, St Germain, beeswax, chestnut orgeat, pineapple leaf soda), and the Brackish Rickey (Martell VSOP Cognac, smoked passionfruit, oyster honey, ocean soda). It launches next week so we highly advise you to check it out.
Scottish vermouth brothers hit crowdfunding target in two days
Gone are the days when the choice of vermouth came down to French or Italian. There’s Regal Rogue in Australia, Asterley Bros. in England, and representing Scotland, Valentian. Now this award-winning Scottish brand is expanding. Thanks to the magic of crowdfunding, it has raised £120,000 from 170 investors in just two days. Valentian Rosso was created by the Dominic and David Tait (what is it with brothers and vermouth?) in 2019 and blends Scottish new make spirit with Italian wine and botanicals. The extra money will go to hiring a full-time staff member, launching new products, a secco and a bianco, and there are plans to open a brand home in the Borders region. Dominic Tait commented: “Our post-crowdfunding plans are well under way, and it’s incredibly exciting to be looking at locations for our HQ. We are looking forward to bringing our first full-time employee on board in January with a focus on the west of Scotland, where we see huge opportunities in Glasgow in particular. This will augment the significant strides we have already made in Edinburgh and the east. We are beyond pleased with the plans for our new brand home, and very optimistic about the sites we have identified. Once the feasibility study is complete, we will then look to move onto the next stage with planning. It’s too early to say exactly when it will open, but we will have an update soon.” Exciting times for Valentian.
Poppy Delevingne announced as the face of Batch & Bottle
Did you think you’d get through an edition of The Nightcap without a celebrity booze project? Think again! The latest famous face is Poppy Delevingne, British model, actress, and, according to the press bumf, ultimate dinner party hostess, who was announced as the face of the Batch & Bottle range of pre-bottled cocktails. “I love nothing more than having my friends over for cocktail parties or intimate dinners. Having hosted a few in my time, I know how daunting it is when all eyes are on you, which is why I am always looking for simple pleasures that can easily elevate any occasion and make your guests feel special,” Delevingne said. “That’s why I’m so excited to be partnering with Batch & Bottle, the cocktails are delicious and add a bit of glamour to any party. Each offers something slightly different – from the sweet Reyka Rhubarb Cosmopolitan to the dry but elegant Hendrick’s Gin Martini, it’s almost impossible to pick a favourite. It’s like having your very own bartender in a bottle. What cocktail dreams are made of.” The range is made of four pre-bottled cocktails, completed by the Glenfiddich Scotch Manhattan and Monkey Shoulder Lazy Old Fashioned. Now you too can truly party like the stars – though we reckon we probably won’t be waiting until an extravagant dinner party to crack these out.
And finally… Hong Kong gin name ruled offensive
A Hong Kong gin has been forced by the Portman Group to change its name after it was deemed offensive. It was previously called Fuk Hing Gin. Stop giggling at the back. According to the brand, the name pays homage to Fuk Hing Lane, a street in Causeway Bay, on Hong Kong Island. Nevertheless, the producer, Incognito Group, changed the name to Fok Hing Lane after consultation with the industry watchdog. But the story doesn’t end there because a member of the public complained about the new name, stating: “Personally I wouldn’t want to see this product on family supermarket shelves or being promoted in an environment where children have access — such as most social media sites.” The complaint was made in relation to rule 3.3 – that a drink’s name, its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not cause serious or widespread offence, according to a statement on the Portman Group website. The brand went on the attack on its social media pages, addressing “the Karen who got offended by our name …” It continued: “We have agreed to update the reverse label to be more descriptive of the details that inspired our brand, and look forward to introducing our UK fans to a little bit of Hong Kong history whilst they enjoy Fok Hing Gin during the forthcoming festive season and beyond.” Too Fok Hing right.