Don Papa goes for big bucks to Diageo, a distillery swaps Copenhagen for New York, and Glenfarclas launches a half-a-century-old whisky. It’s all in The Nightcap 20 January edition!
January is almost done already, which is apparently how time works. We reckon time has actually been sneaky and scoffed a few days while nobody was looking, like a greedy badger that found its way into the bins round the back of the McVities factory. But until we can prove that, we’ll have to take the calendar’s word for it. Still, we can at least take a moment to pause and enjoy the latest from the world of booze. Let’s crack on with The Nightcap: 20 January edition!
On the blog this week it was all about Burns. Not C. Montgomery, but Scottish hero Robbie. We got to show off our new Burns Night Blend, whip up a terrific Burns Night supper with the brains behind Edinburgh’s Tipsy Midgie bar, enjoy some of the finest quotes on whisky the Scottish bard didn’t pen, mix a celebratory Bobby Burns, and recommend some superb Scotch whiskies to enjoy on the night. Excellent. An edition of Johnnie Walker Blue Label marking the Lunar New Year also hopped onto our shelves, we tasted Mortlach 12 Year Old because you asked us to, and the people at Glenfarclas decided that they would give away all kinds of great goodies, including a massive clock and exclusive Master of Malt whiskies, like a 40-year-old single cask. Which you can win by picking up another exclusive, the new 10-Year-Old that only we have. Isn’t that some great news? Good thing it doesn’t stop there, because there’s Nightcapping to do.
Glenfarclas launches 50 year old whisky
Glenfarclas has released a 50-year-old single malt Scotch soon, everyone. Prepare to stare longingly at the half-century-old whisky that’s been launched to mark the 50th anniversary of its chairman, John Grant, as there’s only 836 bottles at 50% ABV and it’s priced at £9,000. The liquid was selected by distillery manager Callum Fraser, and managing director Douglas Belford to salute the contributions Grant has made to the company as part of the fifth generation of the family to run the Speyside distillery, having begun working there all the way back in 1974. Regardless, those who do get to taste it will apparently enjoy a palate of dark chocolate, leading to notes of treacle toffee, mixed peel and a slightly smoky, sweet taste, and a finish that is said to be gentle and smooth. “I’m proud of everything we’ve achieved together as a distillery team over the last 50 years and look forward to releasing even more exquisite drams together in the future as Glenfarclas continues to evolve,” said Grant, while Fraser commented that the whisky is “exquisite” and says it has “an incredible depth of character and showcases every element of the whisky making process – from the earthy smell of the dunnage warehouse through to the light, natural smokiness of the Speyside peat that was used back then and the unique taste of the water we use in our production process.” He added that he hopes the distillery manager in 50 years time is as impressed as he is by the quality of the spirit Glenfarclas is laying down for the future. It’s hard to imagine they won’t be.
Diageo buys Don Papa Rum for €437.5m
Diageo obviously believes in the rum hype because the drinks giant has just spent a cool €437.5 million on buying Don Papa Rum. It will pay an initial €260m, with the potential to pay up to €177.5m depending on performance. The acquisition is being funded through existing cash reserves (that’s walking around money) and is expected to close in the first half of this year. Don Papa Rum was only founded in 2012 but has soared in the last decade, reaching 30 countries, with France, Germany, and Italy being its largest markets. Diageo said the “super-premium plus” segment of the rum category that Don Papa Rum has huge potential, with a compound annual growth rate of 18% in Europe and 27% in the U.S. between 2016 and 2021. Over that same time, Don Papa Rum outperformed the Europe market, with a compound annual growth rate of 29%. Did everyone get enough marketing speak for one day there? Well, then we’ll spare you the quote from John Kennedy (not that one, obviously), president of Diageo Europe and India, who said things about attractive margins, high growth, premiumisation, and a growing super-premium plus segment. But that’s enough of that. Rum is meant to be fun, isn’t it?
Diageo workers strike over pay
In less good news for Diageo, workers are set to go on strike over an ongoing pay dispute. In news that will shock you, people feel they are being undervalued by their current employer and see industrial action as the most logical response. Have you ever heard of such a thing? This isn’t exactly new news in that Diageo’s Scottish production sites have faced union disputes since 2019. A recent strike at the plant in the Scottish town of Leven took place on 14 January and lasted for 48 hours, with further stoppages planned for the coming months. Unite the Union are representing workers at the facility and claims Diageo has introduced a lower rate of pay for workers starting at the site, without any consultation. It also says that members who work as engineering support are set to lose around 6% of their pay when they move to the lower rate. A spokesperson for Diageo responded to the news by telling Just Drinks that “This dispute is with ten of our weekend shift engineers in relation to the number of night shifts required and associated shift premiums. We are not introducing a lower rate of pay for new starters.” The spokesperson added: “This group of ten employees has rejected our proposal.” Honestly, what do the workers expect? It’s not like Diageo has at least €437.5 million in existing cash reserves.
Rums sets record after selling for $30k
If Diageo is one theme of this week’s Nightcap, then pricey rum is another. This time it’s not a whole brand that has fetched big bucks, however, but just one bottle. Harewood Barbados Rum from 1780, to be precise. You didn’t read that date wrong. This rum is genuinely almost as old as the United States of America. It was sold by the Miami-based Old Liquors for $29,999 (or $30k if you’re not a big nerd), a significant rise on its last sale price, which was $9,500 back at a Christie’s auction in 2013. This bottle is part of a remarkable discovery made inside Harewood House in 2011, which were authenticated by Guinness World Records as the oldest bottles of rum in existence. The company said of the discovery, “Halle Berry! This is as dark as Guinness, and almost as impressive”. Ok, not really. But you’ll be pleased to know that not all of the rum initially found at Harewood House was sold at auction. You’ll be channelling your inner Indiana Jones, however, when you find out that someone thought it was a good idea for a few drops to be incorporated into a watch design from Speake-Marin — the higher-end option of which will set you back €20,000. They put priceless rum in a watch? Seriously? It belongs in a museum! Or in my glass.
Empirical swaps Copenhagen for New York
Empirical Spirits has been one of the highlights of the exceptional Scandinavian spirits explosion in recent years, but the distillery has revealed this week that it will be closing its Copenhagen site and setting up shop in New York. A 5,000 square feet distillery complete with house bottling and canning lines, a research-and-development (R&D) centre, and a tasting room are coming to North Bushwick, Brooklyn, New York, with the original site in Copenhagen aiming to meet demand in the interim period before it winds down operations at the end of June 2023. The brand says the move was prompted by a strategy to prioritise the US market and decentralise production, with chef/distiller, co-founder, and CEO Lars Williams returning to his home state after 14 years in Denmark. There will still be an R&D facility and tasting room, in Copenhagen, with co-founder Mark Emil Hermansen remaining there to focus on investor relations. “Now that we have trusted relationships and track records with partner distilleries around the world, we can transition to a new decentralised model where production is closer to local sources and markets,” Williams explains. “It is the fulfillment of a plan that was set in motion two years ago, with capacity in Northern California, Wisconsin, and now, New York. Our goal, ultimately, is to capture local terroir and create unique products in each market.” We look forward to seeing what they come up with.
Enjoy your Burns Night celebrations in style
With Burns Night coming, it would be remiss of us not to cover some Burns Night stories. We know the blog has already been Burns-tastic this week, but you’d surely like to know about Berry Bros. & Rudd hosting an exclusive whisky tasting alongside Gillray’s Steakhouse & Bar on the 25th, wouldn’t you? The night promises a journey of discovery through the whisky regions of Scotland, with whiskies paired with canapés inspired by the Scottish landscape like mini cranachans with Islay whisky. Also in London, Skylight rooftop bar, guests can enjoy whisky, bagpipes and a highland dance performance with views of the dramatic skies, Bethnal Green’s Sun Tavern is going Caledonian in partnership with Aberfeldy 12-year-old. There are three cocktails on offer as well as a Beer and Bump (a shot of Aberfeldy and a ginger beer), and renditions of some of Burns’ poetry. Manchester’s confusing named The Edinburgh Castle in Ancoats (which is one of the city’s oldest pubs dating back to 1811) is hosting a Burns Night on 25 January, complete with an eight-course supper, whisky flight, and poetry recital. Scotland has too many events to name and the Scots don’t need help celebrating Burns Night, but you’re a tourist there for the night just soak it all up, you’ll only be down the road from something great. If you want to celebrate at home you have options too, like Pipers Farm and Nc’nean’s Burns Night Box. The home recipe kit includes handmade, small batch Pipers Farm’s Haggis made with 100% grass-fed lambs’ offal and pastured Saddleback pigs’ offal, oats, and an array of beautiful herbs and spices and a mini bottle of Nc’nean’s organic single malt whisky to toast Robert Burns.
Half of UK adults plan to reduce alcohol consumption in January
A new study commissioned by Budweiser Brewing Group UK&I – a subsidiary of Anheuser-Busch InBev – found that a lot of people have very different objectives, and are seriously embracing Dry January. Nearly half of UK adults they surveyed said they wanted to cut out or reduce their alcohol consumption this month, with 49% making plans to do so. The numbers reveal a lot of typical responses from the survey of 2,169 adults living in the UK, which was carried out in December. Respondents’ top non-alcoholic alternative was mocktails, with 34% saying they would drink a cocktail alternative, while 21% said they would drink a non-alcoholic beer at social gatherings. Meanwhile, over a quarter (27%) said that going to pubs, clubs, and bars was “tough” when not drinking alcohol. “There is a clear interest in no-and-low alternatives and, as the category continues to grow, we are seeing more and more beer drinkers look to moderate their alcohol consumption without giving up beer entirely,” said Marie Fukuura, future growth brands director at Budweiser Brewing Group.
London’s first zero waste experiential bar opens
Is there anything more Notting Hill than the words zero-waste Mexican Japanese cocktail bar? This week Viajante87, an underground spot from the founders of Los Mochis, opened its doors and it’s promising no waste, all taste. A dedicated mixology lab will be devoted to creating cutting-edge cocktails using super swanky techniques led by Panos Kanatsoulis, formerly of the Clumsies in Athens, and Zuma Dubai. The menu features 100% agave-based signature cocktails that will be served alongside all the classics, including drinks like the Cherry Blanco, a mix of blanco Tequila, sour cherry marmalade, and clarified coca-cola, as well as the Viajante Martini, made from reposado Tequila, bell peppers, fermented mead, green tea sherry. They have got us very intrigued with that Martini. We might have to check these zero-waste credentials in person. For science, and stuff.
And finally… Tom Hanks creates the Diet Cokagne
Tom Hanks stars in The Nightcap this week as ‘celebrity who makes bad drink’. It’s a Champagne cocktail that he enjoys at Christmas, called the Diet Cokagne (or a Cali-motxo. Right? Guys?) The A Man Called Otto actor revealed all during an appearance on CBS’ The Late Show with Stephen Colbert to promote his latest film. He described a happy accident while drinking at New York City jazz bar Café Carlyle with his wife, Rita Wilson, when a bottle of Champagne was brought to them. Hanks, not “a big drinker”, was enjoying a Diet Coke, but relented and said, “Oh, give me a shot of Champagne in there for crying out loud!” The actor said his eyes had been opened to a new beverage experience, remarking “Stephen, it was delicious.” Colbert then recreated the drink, using approximately three parts Diet Coke to one part Veuve Clicquot and described it as being “like an American Aperol Spritz”. We’re certainly intrigued and will be trying it for ourselves, but plenty have already done the same on social media and it’s safe to say that the reviews aren’t great. In many ways, this drink is like a box of chocolates. In that, they’re not improved by pouring Champagne over them either.