This week on the Nightcap: a packed programme from the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, a record-breaking private whisky collection, and a gin that’s so green it’s both ‘carbon negative’ and made from peas.
It’s Friday, which is always a good thing, especially given that it’s Margarita Day Eve (definitely a thing). There’s no better way to enjoy a fresh batch of boozy news than with a good cocktail in hand, so get making those Margaritas and prepare yourself for the weekend. A weekend which may entail more Margaritas. Perhaps with margherita pizzas. Now that’s a Saturday. But before all that there’s Nightcapping to do, so get together your lime, salt and Tequila and proceed. It’s a corker this week.
On the MoM blog, Adam revealed the exciting news that Midleton Distillery had launched Ireland’s oldest ever whiskey collection, before chatting with Patrice Pinet about Cognac’s prospects in 2020, recommending some delicious agave-based spirits in time for World Margarita Day tomorrow, and enjoying a Dominican rum finished in casks that formerly held a peated Speyside whisky for our New Arrival of the Week. Kristy, fresh from her American adventure, presented 10 great bars to check out in the Big Apple, before Annie explored how pre-mixed cocktails turned premium. Henry then showed off our sublime video footage from our visit to the Isle of Wight to meet the team behind Mermaid Gin, before picking a drink for Cocktail of the Week that’s neither French or really a Martini: The French Martini!
But there’s still more boozy brilliance to come. On to The Nightcap!
Spirit of Speyside whisky festival unveils its programme
This week tickets went on sale for the fabulous Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival. As you’d expect from Scotland’s richest whisky region with over 51 distilleries, there’s a lot going on. The programme contains over 700 events (see the festival’s website for more details). Highlights include an archive tasting at The Balvenie, a blending masterclass with Billy Walker at Glenallachie, and an event called ‘The Silent Stills of Speyside’, put on by Gordon & MacPhail. For us, perhaps the most exciting thing is a chance to look round and taste at famous distilleries like Mortlach that aren’t usually open to the public. There are also food events, tastings galore, chances to fill your own bottle, and no less than five ceilidhs from Wednesday 29 April until Sunday 3 May. If you’re feeling really active, there’s a run around the region ending up with a well-earned tasting and brunch at The Macallan Distillery. For lazier folks, there are tours by train or chauffeur-driven car. Something for everyone.
‘Largest’ private whisky collection breaks records
Perth-based Whisky Auctioneer saw the first part of its ‘The Perfect Collection’ sell for £3.2 million, with a Macallan 1926 Valerio Adami bottle setting a new record. The “world’s largest” private whisky collection to be offered at auction contains more than 1,900 bottles of mostly single malt Scotch, which was built up by the late American private collector Richard Gooding. The auction, which saw 1,642 bidders from 56 countries take part, achieved US$4,277,000 and featured more than 1,932 bottles before it closed on Monday (17 February). The highlight was the bottle of the highly coveted Macallan which sold for £825,000, breaking the current world record for the bottle set at £702,347 in October 2018. The bottle attracted bids from 11 countries, with the winning offer hailing from Europe. A bottle of The Macallan 1928 Anniversary Malt 50 Year Old achieved a hammer price of £92,000, overtaking a previous record of £72,246 in October 2019, while a large offering of 201 bottles from The Macallan reached a total hammer price of £1,979,555. So it was a good auction for Macallan, as usual. “We always knew that The Perfect Collection by Mr Gooding could make whisky history, but with auctions, anything can happen,” said Iain McClune, founder of Whisky Auctioneer. “Not only was the highest ever sale price for Macallan 1926 Valerio Adami achieved at over a million dollars, but Whisky Auctioneer became the first online whisky auction to sell a million-dollar bottle, with multiple other lots achieving hammer price world records.” The remaining bottles in The Perfect Collection will be sold during the second part of the auction, which will run from 10 April until 20 April. Bottles include The Macallan 1926 Fine & Rare, a Glenfiddich 1937 Rare Collection 64 Year Old, and The Balvenie 1937 Pure Malt 50 Year Old.
London celebrates International Margarita Day
Tomorrow, Saturday 22 February, is International Margarita Day, and London’s bars will be celebrating in style, mainly by offering lots of variations on this much-loved cocktail. To help you navigate around all the excitement, Patron Tequila has created a special Margarita map. Simply put your postcode into the computer thing, and the magic of science will direct you to an establishment serving special Patron Margaritas. You can also enter a prize draw for the chance to win a trip to Mexico! If you don’t win that trip, and let’s face it, you probably won’t, then don’t worry as there’s a little bit of Mexico in East London. You’ll find it at specialist agave bar, Hacha! Bartender Deano Moncrieffe has come up with a series of twists on the classic cocktail, like the colourless Mirror Margarita, plus there’s food from Mission St Tacos. There will also be special Ocho Tequila cocktails at Callooh Callay in Old Street and the Racketeer in Kings Cross. And finally, you don’t even need to leave the house to get in on the action. Jose Cuervo is offering a free Margarita delivery service today and Saturday. You can enter here and if you’re lucky, a special Jose Cuervo Margarita Rider will come to your house (London only, sadly) and mix up some cocktails for you. You don’t even have to get dressed!
Rare rum found in Charles Metcalfe’s cupboard is sold for £12,000
Top wine writer and collector Charles Metcalfe made a pretty penny this week after he sold 11 bottles of rum for £12,000. Metcalfe inherited the 11 bottles of Lemon Hart rum, bottled in the 1940s, from his late father who saved them as a souvenir from his time spent working with Lemon Hart & Sons in 1946-48, following his return from a prisoner of war camp where he was held during the Second World War. The famous British brand has a long history and is best known for its appointment by the Admiralty as the supplier of rum to the British Royal Navy in the late 18th century. The rum had been kept in a cupboard for years after his father died, but Metcalfe recently made the decision to sell the majority of the collection and had bottles valued by a specialist team at www.whisky.auction. Each bottle has sold for around £1,000, some as high as £1,450, in the online auctions since September. There is one more bottle to sell which will be made available on 1 March. “As a wine collector, I’m well aware of the value that old wine can fetch at auction, but I hadn’t imagined that my father’s rum would be worth quite so much,” Metcalfe told the West Sussex County Times. “It shows how valuable a quick look into the back of your spirits cupboard can be!”
Australian distillers donate spirits to raise money for bushfire relief
The Australian bushfires still burn, with over 18.6 million hectares of land destroyed to date. However, over 100 Australian distilleries have joined forces in order to help Bushfire Relief, donating over 200 bottles of Australian spirits, including whisky, gin, rum, moonshine, vodka, liqueurs and more. You’ll find tasty spirits from brands such as Four Pillars, Starward, Archie Rose, Brookie’s Gin and Manly Spirits among the names. It’s not just pre-existing bottlings either, with a new whisky having been crafted for the cause dubbed The Aussie Spirit. The “godfather of Australian whisky”, Bill Lark, will oversee blending and maturation of five different casks of whisky at Old Kempton Distillery utilising new make from 13 distilleries around the country. If you want to get your hands on some of this while supporting Bushfire Relief, then you can head over to the online charity auction, with 100% of funds raised from going straight to Rural Aid, one of Australia’s largest rural charities.
Big Drop Brewing Co. Reveal New Design
The wonderful folks at Big Drop Brewing Co., dedicated solely to bringing delicious alcohol-free brews to our doorsteps, have gone and revealed a brand-new design for their tasty creations! It’s bold and colourful, with each expression’s design taking inspiration from the liquid within. Each of the designs is based on an environment that is linked to the individual beers’ style, and which inspired the names, illustrations and colourways. To create the new designs, the folks at Big Drop teamed up with London-based design agency Foundation, rolling out the new packaging onto the full range including Uptown Craft Lager, Paradiso Citra IPA, Pine Trail Pale Ale and Galactic Milk Stout. For example, Uptown Craft Lager‘s design is inspired by hot summers in London, with the pattern taken from a section of concrete at the city’s Barbican Estate, the colours reflecting a dramatic orange sunset. Meanwhile, Paradiso Citra IPA’s green design mirrors the depths of a jungle, with green leaves and exotic fruits, reflected in the flavour profile as well. “Working with Foundation on this re-packaging project has been brilliant and the results speak for themselves,” says co-founder James Kindred. “2020 is a big year for the brand, and this bold new design direction starts us off in a fantastic way.” We know you can’t judge a book by its cover and all that, but we can’t argue with bright colours and tasty booze-free beer!
Diageo Reserve’s World Class competition returns!
Diageo Reserve’s World Class is back and open for entries in the UK. Organisers expect to receive the highest number of entries yet from the country’s bartending community following a record attendance for the UK-wide bartender training tour. The annual competition, which is now in its twelfth year, encourages bartenders to submit a digital entry of one or two serves to be in with the chance of making it into the top 100. The two modules bartenders have been asked to submit to are ‘Acid House’ and ‘Heritage Highballs’. The former challenges contestants to replace the fresh citrus that forms an integral part of Diageo’s gin brand, Tanqueray No. Ten with an alternative acid of their choice and the latter challenges entrants to produce their own highball serve using Johnnie Walker Black Label and a range of ingredients with an interesting backstory. Bartenders will need to submit a cocktail to one or both of the challenges by midnight 9th March at www.theworldclassclub.com and share a photo of the drink on social media using #WorldClassGB2020. Competitors will then be invited to share a Ketel One ‘One Square Mile’ serve online for the judges, consisting of previous GB winners and Diageo BAs, to taste-test. Just 20 of these contestants will then be shortlisted to compete to be crowned GB World Class Bartender of the Year 2020 at the final which is taking place in the New Forest in June at the first ever GB ‘Camp World Class’. The overall winner will get opportunity to tour with the World Class team hosting events and workshops and Diageo-owned distilleries across Scotland, get a budget for bar tools, equipment and custom serve creation and a guest bartending shift at one of Europe’s best bars, as well as the obligatory nationwide exposure and dedicated PR throughout the year. Oh, and a place to represent GB in the World Class Global Final hosted in Sydney, Australia this autumn. Entries for Diageo Reserve GB World Class Bartender of the Year 2020 are now open, closing on 9 March.
Historical Johnnie Walker artefacts to go on display
A collection of Johnnie Walker artefacts are set to go on display before the public for the first time, thanks to a partnership with the Dick Institute museum in Scotland. The John Walker exhibition in Kilmarnock, Scotland, will feature historical ‘crown jewels’ from the Johnnie Walker archives that have never been available for public viewing, until now. Visitors can also see a John Walker stock book from 1857, a hand-written inventory from John Walker’s grocery store dating back to 1825. It’s the oldest existing record from the shop and details things such as teas from China, spices from Jamaica, and Scotch. There’s also an 1819 hand-written inventory from the sale of Todriggs Farm near Kilmarnock, which is the oldest item in the Johnnie Walker Archive collection. It records the sale of the farm after the death of John Walker’s father, which funded the founding of his grocery store. “These items really are the crown jewels of our collection. They are remarkable historical documents that give us a fascinating insight into the roots of Johnnie Walker,” says Christine McCafferty, chief archivist at the Johnnie Walker Archive. “I’m delighted that to celebrate the 200th anniversary of John Walker starting out in his business we are able to put these items on display to the public in the town where the story began.” The Johnnie Walker exhibition will be a permanent feature at the Dick Institute, with artefacts rotated on a regular basis. The current loan items will be on display at the museum until October 2020.
Diageo pays $5m fine over ‘misleading’ sales
It was a difficult week for spirits giant Diageo, which was fined US$5 million by The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) after its North American arm created a “misleading picture” of its financial results. According to the US securities regulator’s charges, the North America division at Johnnie Walker and Lagavulin owner Diageo “pressured” distributors to buy excess inventory in order to meet internal sales targets in the face of declining market conditions in its 2014 and 2015 fiscal years. Diageo failed to disclose the excess stocks to investors which created a “misleading impression” that it was able to achieve their sales targets through normal customer demand. The charges found Diageo failed to disclose the positive impact “over shipping” had on sales and profits, but also the negative impact this would have on future growth, according to an SEC statement. “Investors rely on public companies to make complete and accurate disclosures upon which they can base their investment decisions”, Melissa R Hodgman, an associate director in the SEC’s division of enforcement, explained: “Diageo pressured distributors to take more products than they needed, creating a misleading picture of the company’s financial results and its ability to meet key performance indicators.” Diageo hasn’t admitted or denied the SEC’s findings but has agreed to pay a US$5m penalty and to cease and desist from any further violations, which the SEC has accepted. “Diageo is pleased to have resolved this legacy matter, which relates back to fiscal years 2014 and 2015,” commented a Diageo spokesperson. “Diageo regularly reviews and refines its policies and procedures, and is committed to maintaining a robust and transparent disclosure process.”
And finally… There’s now a ‘carbon negative’ gin made from peas
Arbikie Distillery in Scotland has just launched what is claimed to be the world’s first carbon-negative gin, and it’s made from peas. Can’t get greener than that. It’s called Nàdar, meaning ‘nature’ in Gaelic. According to the accompanying study, the amount of carbon produced during its distillation and packaging is more than offset by using peas as a base instead of wheat. Not only do the clever green vegetables fertilise the soil, thus saving on nitrogen fertiliser, but leftovers can be used to feed animals too, thus saving on livestock food, predominately made from soya beans. It’s the product of five years of research by master distiller Kirsty Black in association with Abertay University in Dundee and The James Hutton Institute. She commented: “Peas are a part of a unique set of plants known as legumes that are able to source nitrogen, which is critical for plant growth, from the air. This removes the need for synthetic nitrogen fertilisers and, therefore, avoids the negative environmental impact its production and use has on our waterways, air and soils.” According to Arbikie each bottle produced means 2.2 kg CO2 that won’t be released into the atmosphere. John Stirling, director of Arbikie Distillery added: “Our ethos at Arbikie from our inception has been to try and create world-class premium spirits where all ingredients are grown on our single estate farm. Minimising our carbon footprint and working with the wonderful homegrown ingredients to create one of the world’s most sustainable distilleries. Our Nàdar Gin goes one step further and looks to make a positive, instead of neutral impact, in terms of long-term sustainability. It also tastes fantastic, which is a credit to our distilling team.” Let’s raise a glass to peas in our time.