Caol Ila opens multi-million-pound visitor centre, Highland Park and Tamdhu launch hot new whiskies, and Jameson breaks the 10 million case barrier. It’s all the The Nightcap: 2 September edition!
Call us crazy, but when September rolls around we have a thing in the back of our heads that says we should be stockpiling things. Maybe it’s left over from when humans used to be squirrels (evolution, can we get an amen?) that feeds this urge to hoard summery gubbins and jam as much food into our round little cheeks as possible. What we’re not stockpiling is boozy news. Here’s the latest from the world of drink, starting with our own blog.
It might have been a shorter week, but there was still lots going on. We launched an incredible competition with our pals Tomatin which has three (3!) bundles up for grabs, recommended some nicely affordable whiskies for autumn, and then made a cocktail with floral rum. We also had lots of Irish whiskey-based fun this week, learning the stories of a krazy kask experiment from Kinahan as well as the tale of Ireland’s secret giant, Grace O’ Malley.
In the news
Before we get into the Nightcap, we thought we’d take a quick look at some stories that grabbed our interest from the international media. Well, Britain and Ireland, at least. We were particularly taken with Bill Linnane’s look at the new Glenkinchie experience which really captured the spirit of this unsung distillery. It’s well worth a read, and the distillery a visit. Now, are you confused by biodynamics? It’s something about burying a dead crow in a field while howling at the moon, right? We recommend reading this account in Whisky Magazine of this arcane system of agriculture which is starting to feature in whisky production from Waterford and others. Meanwhile our plan to see out the energy crisis in the pub may not be so viable, as according to the Guardian thousands of establishments face closure due to soaring energy bills. And just when news for the hospitality industry could not get any bleaker, we hear from the Drinks Business that Russell Brand has bought a Cotswolds pub and plans to turn it into a vegan restaurant. Truly we live in some dark times.
Lots to enjoy, but we’re not done yet. It’s on with The Nightcap: 2 September edition!
Jameson sales exceed 10 million cases
The boom is getting boomier. Irish Distillers has just released its annual results up to the end June 2022 and Jameson is flying. Volume sales were up by 22% to 10.4 million cases. Nearly half of this came from the US market, 4.5m cases, up by 9%. Just to put that into perspective, the next best selling brand in the US, Tullamore Dew, sells around 300,000 cases. Back at Irish Distillers, premium brand Redbreast was up by 16% to reach 100k cases globally. In a recent interview Brendan Buckley from the firm commented: “Frankly, on Redbreast, demand exceeds supply. We just can’t supply enough in the U.S. market.” It was a good year for parent company Pernod Ricard too. Chivas Regal sales by volume were up by 29%, Ballantine’s by 24%, and Martell by 7%. The recovery of the travel retail sector helped here enormously. Alexandre Ricard, CEO of Pernod Ricard, said: “Our sales broke the symbolic milestone of €10 billion with our fastest growth rate in over 30 years, delivering a record €3 billion profit from recurring operations at a record operating margin of 28.3%. Growth was driven by all regions, categories, price points and channels, with a comparable contribution from both mature and emerging markets.”
Famous Grouse gets a new master blender
Being a blender for Britain’s favourite blended whisky, Famous Grouse, has to be one of the most high pressure jobs in the industry. Make even the tiniest tweak to the flavour, and you’ll have dozens of comments that it isn’t as good as it used to be. Now there’s a new person to write to in green ink if your whisky isn’t what it used to be as Craig Johnstone steps into the master blender shoes at The Famous Grouse. And what enormous shoes they are, filled in the past by Kirtsteen Campbell and Gordon Motion. Johnstone has been working in Tasmania but the offer of one of the biggest jobs in Scotch whisky was enough to lure him home. He commented: “It is a privilege to be master blender for The Famous Grouse and to be part of the team that are the current custodians of this amazing brand. This beloved Scotch Whisky has played a prominent role in my life, part of so many celebrations with family and friends – just the aroma gives me a sense of being back home. I’m looking forward to delivering the high quality and character that is expected of The Famous Grouse and continuing the legacy of this well-loved whisky.” Now to keep an eye on the comments underneath the Grouse product page.
The English Whisky Guild seeks director of whisky
We were just trawling the jobs pages on Linkedin (no particular reason) when one jumped out at us. The newly-formed English Whisky Guild is looking for a director of whisky. The EWG was announced earlier this year and represents the country’s leading whisky distillers like Copper Rivet in Kent, The Lakes, the East London Liquor Company, and many others. The job sounds like a wide-ranging one incorporating strategy, finance, communication, and many other areas. It sounds like they are looking for a director for all seasons. You can read the full description here. We reckon this sounds like an amazing opportunity to help shape the future of this exciting category. But with so many different producers, doing very different things, it also sounds like a job for someone with the diplomatic skills of Metternich. Look him up!
Caol Ila opens multi-million-pound visitor centre
The new-look Caol Ila is here. Following a multi-million-pound renovation, the revamped facility now offers panoramic views of Jura across the water, a bar with floor-to-ceiling windows, and a storytelling room. The visitor experience took four years to complete and is the seventh of Diageo’s distillery’s to be transformed as part of the firm’s £185 million investment in whisky tourism. This also marks the completion of Diageo’s work to showcase the ‘key ingredients’ in the Johnnie Walker blend, which includes Glenkinchie, Cardhu, Caol Ila, and Clynelish. “Caol Ila is the last of our reimagined brand homes to be unveiled and it’s truly something special,” said Barbara Smith, managing director of Diageo’s Scotland brand homes. “Islay is known around the world for its whisky and we’ve ensured that our visitor experience not only tells the story of the Caol Ila brand but also the major role whisky plays in the island’s history. The new building will offer something new and unique to visitors and also to locals who will be able to come for social occasions or just to simply enjoy the stunning views.”
Highland Park adds new whisky to cask strength series
Highland Park has added a new whisky to its cask strength series. Launching as a permanent addition to the range, Highland Park Cask Strength Release No. 3 uses whisky made with a higher proportion of Orkney peated malt resulting in a smokier style compared to the other single malts in the series. It was matured predominantly in first-fill sherry-seasoned American and European oak casks as well as a small quantity of refill casks, before being bottled at a cask strength 64.1% ABV. The result is said to be an “extraordinary combination of contrasting yet perfectly balanced flavours of charred oak, tropical fruits, aniseed, heather honey, vanilla cream, aromatic violet, sponge cake and peat smoke”. You can try it for yourself, as Highland Park Cask Strength Release No. 3 will be available to buy from our website soon.
Tamdhu marks 125th anniversary with single cask whisky
Tamdhu is launching a limited-edition single cask whisky to mark the brand’s 125th anniversary. The spirit was specially selected by the Tamdhu ‘Dedication Society’ following a comprehensive tasting with input from Dedication Society Members and Tamdhu’s distillery manager, Sandy McIntyre. The chosen cask was no. 5982, a first-fill European oak ex-sherry butt with an outturn of 640 bottles that was distilled on the 21 November 2003. Named the Dedication Society Single Cask, the whisky is said to have notes of warm vanilla, stewed apples, treacle glaze, liquorice, spiced fruit loaf, plum jam, dark chocolate, and waves of sherry. “For our 125th anniversary, it was imperative that we consulted our most devout fans to bottle a single cask that celebrates Tamdhu’s rich history, and toasts to its exciting future,” Sandy McIntyre, Tamdhu distillery manager explains. “The result, after much deliberation, is this Dedication Society bottling. As a whisky, it embodies all that is good about our distillation style and our dedication to full sherry maturation.” We can’t believe it’s already been 125 years. They grow up so fast, don’t they? Incidentally, if you’d love to learn more about Tamdhu, we actually put together a fab feature on the distillery recently.
And finally… fancy a ‘space-side’ single malt?
Lovers of bad puns and good whisky should head to The Glenlivet. The sign as you come into the distillery now reads “Welcome to Space-side”. No, this isn’t the work of drunken medical students, it actually celebrates the return to earth of barley seeds sent by the distillery into space in collaboration with the University of Guelph, Canada. The seeds are currently being analysed to see what, if any affect, this extraterrestrial journey had on them. But you’re going to have to wait a long time before you get to taste the results. The seeds have to be planted, harvested, malted, fermented, distilled, and aged first. Here’s predicting that the resulting whisky will have a suitably stratospheric price tag.