Record-breaking distillery visits, 100 years of the Negroni, and Sex on the Beach – it’s all here in the latest edition of The Nightcap!
It’s sunny outside. Not that fake ‘sunny but when to step outside you’ll curse the sky for tricking you into leaving a jacket indoors’ kind of sunny. It’s actually warm. Frankly, it’s taking all the power in our hearts to not distractedly write “MILPOOL” on the blog and scamper off into the sun, ice-cream in hand. Do you know why we’re so determined? Because it’s Nightcap day, and you people deserve to know all the stories that happened this week in the booze world. But just know that some of us may have been wearing big, floppy sun hats while putting this blog post together.
On the blog this week our Fèis Ìle 2019 coverage continued as we put your questions to Port Ellen, Lagavulin, Bruichladdich, Caol Ila and Laphroaig. Elsewhere, we announced the winner to our Teeling #BagThisBottle competition, while Nate Brown used his guest column to champion the art of slow drinking. Annie had a busy week, discovering the joys of urban foraging with Bushmills, kegged cocktails and Tequila and tonic. Adam then made J.J. Corry The Battalion, an Irish whiskey with mezcal and Tequila cask influence, the New Arrival of the Week, before Henry chose The Bronx to be our Cocktail of the Week.
Now, let’s take a look at the news!
Scotch whisky distillery visits top record 2 million
Did you visit a Scotch whisky distillery last year? If so, you’ve officially helped to set a new record! The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has just released its annual report which shows distillery visitor numbers soared by 6.1% year on year, pushing the total count to more than two million for the first time. That’s a lot of us seeking out Scotch! It’s good news for distilleries, too: the average spend at each one climbed by 12.2% to a combined total of £68.3 million – that’s a lot of whisky, branded Glencairns, hats, cheeses and the like. More than 20 different nationalities were Scotchland-bound last year, with the most whisky tourists coming from Germany and the US. Numbers were up from France, Spain, the Netherlands, India and China, too. As a whole, Scotch distilleries are the third most-visited attraction in all Scotland. “We’re delighted that Scotch whisky distilleries have become such popular places to visit,” said Karen Betts, the SWA’s chief exec. “The growing number of visitors to distilleries reflects in part the growth in tourism in Scotland in general, and people coming to Scotland want to see our local crafts and sample our local food and drink.” She continued: “Distilleries offer something of an antidote to today’s fast-paced world, where visitors can see the slow, careful craft, rooted in a distinct sense of place, that creates Scotch whisky. The growth in whisky tourism is also playing a crucial role in Scotland’s rural economy, with more stays at hotels, more bookings at restaurants, and more customers for local businesses, helping communities to grow and prosper.” Which is your favourite distillery to visit? Where’s top of your dream travel itinerary? Let us know in social or in the comments below!
Highland Park-owner Edrington celebrates “strong” year
Edrington, which produces and sells the likes of The Macallan, Highland Park, The Glenrothes and The Famous Grouse whiskies, as well as Brugal rum, has released its financial results for the year. And the bean counters are happy! Core revenues from its products climbed by 9% to £679.8 million, while it spent an extra 7% on brand investments (to the tune of £137.3m). The all-important profits were up 4% on 2018 (quite a big deal really when you consider the £140 million cost of that distillery build). Most brands are doing well, with Highland Park and The Glenrothes recognised for their “strong” growth. While The Famous Grouse posted some declines, Edrington said in a statement it increased its market share in a number of places, including the UK. But Brugal was really the star performer, posting “double-digit” growth, mostly through successes in its native Dominican Republic. “The business has delivered strong international growth that reflects continuing consumer demand for our products, particularly in China, South East Asia and the USA, which is the world’s largest market for premium spirits,” noted Scott McCroskie, Edrington chief executive. All systems go at Edrington!
Cameron Attfield named Diageo Reserve World Class GB
This week, Diageo bestowed the title of Diageo Reserve’s World Class Bartender of the Year 2019 upon Cameron Attfield of Disrepute, London. The competition spanned two days, and the first challenge saw competitors showcase a British ingredient through techniques of flavour extraction or manipulation, creating a serve with Ketel One Vodka as the base spirit. The second challenge required a Singleton whisky serve taking inspiration from a chosen country, using ideas of travel and adventure for the drink. Moving onto the second day, competitors had the chance to take over the World Class bar at Taste of London for the final challenge, the speed round. Let us tell you, it is speedy indeed, with the task of making a round of five cocktails for the judges in just four short minutes. Just imagine if it was always that quick to secure a cocktail! Each serve was drawn from fifteen bespoke World Class classics, ranging from a Don Julio Blanco Paloma to a Bulleit Bourbon Boulevardier. Just to mix things up, one of the five drinks was also selected by an audience member, while the bartenders were asked to tailor the drink to them. Now that’s a true test of audience engagement and hospitality. “We’re absolutely delighted to crown Cameron World Class GB Bartender of the Year 2019 and have every faith in a fantastic performance at this year’s Global Final in Glasgow,” said Jack Sotti, World Class GB Brand Ambassador at Diageo Reserve. Attfield himself added: “I’m over the moon to be crowned this year’s 2019 World Class GB winner. But, it’s not over yet and now my focus will turn to preparing to represent Great Britain in the global final in Glasgow – game on!” Huge congrats, Cameron!
Ardbeg launches Masters of Smoke programme
Islay distillery Ardbeg has kicked off a new global campaign to spread the good word about the “delicious possibilities” of smoke. Named Masters of Smoke, the bartender education initiative will deliver training designed to break down the science of smoke with help from a whole range of experts, from barley maltsters to barbecue chefs. We were lucky enough to attend the launch event, which was really something (and, obviously, held in a room filled with smoke). Each component part of the smoke was broken down into a category, including medicinal, coal, herbal, savoury and wood, with each getting their own stand to show off a prepared cocktail and food pairing. It was delightful stuff; you might even go as far to say it was ‘smokin’’ The Mask style (we stand by this joke). “Whisky lovers have long appreciated the peaty power of Ardbeg, but we think there’s an opportunity to further explore the intricacies of smoke as a flavour,” said Ludo Ducrocq, Ardbeg education and advocacy director. “Through Masters of Smoke, we hope to spread the word about the delicious possibilities of smoke through rich, in-depth training which is really rooted in science. From Port Ellen, to Portland, we want to unleash the power and potential of smoke in the on-trade, working with bartenders worldwide to lead a glorious smoky revolution.” Masters of Smoke training sessions will begin from September 2019 and bartenders can register their interest at ardbeg.com/en-gb/mos.
Planning permission granted for Clynelish visitor centre
Exciting times at Clynelish as planning permission has been granted for the expansion of visitor facilities at the distillery. This is part of Diageo’s £150m investment in Scottish whisky tourism and as a key part in the Johnnie Walker blend, Clynelish is a natural choice to grow visitor numbers. It sits next to the legendary Brora distillery that Diageo is bringing back into production, so a visit to this part of Scotland will soon be a must for whisky lovers. Jacqueline James-Bow from the distillery said: “This announcement is very exciting and we wish to thank the Highland Council and all our neighbours for their continued support.” Other parts of Diageo’s master plan for whisky tourism include a flagship Johnnie Walker experience in Edinburgh and upgraded facilities at 12 distilleries in total. Clynelish, along with Cardhu, Caol Ila, and Glenkinchie, has been chosen to represent “the four corners of Scotland”, Highland, Speyside, Islay and Lowland. That’s some responsibility.
The on-trade marks 100 years of the Negroni
In case you haven’t heard, Monday 24 June begins the most exciting week of the year: it’s Negroni Week, of course! What were you thinking? Celebrations are taking place all over the world – unfortunately, we can’t cover them all, so we’ve picked three of our favourites. Firstly, London’s Coral Room has teamed up with Italian dry gin VII Hills to create an exclusive Negroni menu, complete with seven serves. Of course, you can grab a Negroni Classico, or if you’re fancying a twist then perhaps the Negroni Tropicale is for you (it combines coconut and dried pineapple-infused VII Hills Gin with Italicus Rosolio di Bergamatto and Chazalettes Extra Dry). Meanwhile, L’oscar’s The Baptist Bar is launching the Homage to Negroni cocktail menu based around L’oscar’s attributes: Passionate, Theatrical, Bohemian, Seductive and Lavish. The five serves include the Bohemian Americano, made with yoghurt-washed Classic Bitter, Seedlip Spice, Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, soda and bay leaves; as well as the Lavish Cardinale, with VII Hills gin, Campari, Procrastination (you can bottle that stuff?), and Cardinale wine finished off with a beet rim. They are the creation of head bartender Luca Rapetti, and the even better news is that these cocktails aren’t just available for Negroni Week but until the end of 2019! Finally, Giuseppe Gallo’s Italspirits has created the Negroni Experience, a four day pop up at Six Storeys in Soho, London, from 23-26 June. Names such as Martini Riserva Speciale, Italicus Rosolio di Bergamotto, Amaro Montenegro, VII Hills Gin (again!) and Peroni have come together for the event, complete with cocktails masterclasses. There’s also a tasting flight inspired by the Italian flag, sporting a classic, a white and a green version of the cocktail. An entire seven days dedicated to the iconic Negroni, aren’t we lucky?
Bulleit opens newest visitor experience on The Kentucky Bourbon Trail
Next week will see the opening of a brand spanking new visitor centre for Kentucky’s Bulleit Distilling Co.. From 25 June, it will be the 17th stop on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, and the 11,570-square-foot site will boast an immersive and intense multi-sensory tasting experience, complete with olfactory balls and a timed light-and-soundscape to enhance the whiskey flavours. Reassuringly, the new centre is also heavily focused on sustainability, having partnered with Oceanic Global to ensure the tasting experience and cocktail bar aligns with The Oceanic Standard (TOS), committed to eliminating single-use plastics. There’s also an organic cocktail garden developed in partnership with The University of Kentucky, to integrate local and sustainable ingredients and garnishes for the in-house cocktail bar. What’s more, the distillery has committed to sourcing 100% renewable electricity by 2030 and is home to the first industrial solar array in Shelby County, which runs most on-site exterior lighting. It even boasts an eco-friendly, green fuel-powered graffiti bus for the Visitor Experience Tour. “We wanted the Bulleit Distilling Co. Visitor Experience to be reflective of our approach to flipping the script on the whiskey category by curating an immersive, personalised consumer journey steeped in design, technology and of course, our delicious family of high rye whiskeys,” said Sophie Kelly, Sr. Vice President of Whisk(e)y at Diageo North America. What exciting news, an interactive visitor centre which is kind to the environment!
Take your dog wine tasting as Wine Car Boot returns to London
Think wine tastings are all about spittoons, white tablecloths and red trousers? Well, think again because Wine Car Boot is back this summer. Now in its seventh year, Wine Car Boot was invented by wine impresario Ruth Spivey in 2013 as a way of introducing interesting wines and merchants to the general public in an informal manner. This summer there are three events, Saturday 29 June, Saturday 17 August (both at Coal Drops Yard near King’s Cross Station) and Saturday 14 September (at the Bloomberg Arcade in the City of London). There’s not just wine from quality merchants such as Berry Bros. & Rudd and the Sampler, but also beers from London breweries like Redchurch and exciting liqueurs from south London’s finest, Asterley Bros. Entry is free, though you do have to pay for tasters. Children and especially dogs are welcome.
The Macallan launches distillery-inspired Boutique series in Dubai
Fancy heading to The Macallan distillery but not up in Scotland? Well, something similar could be coming to an airport near you (or your holiday destination). The single malt Scotch brand has kicked off a programme of fancy new Boutiques with a shiny store at Dubai International Airport, in partnership with Le Clos. It’s the first in a “multi-million-pound investment” that will see the brand open a number of stand-alone stores and experiences around the globe. Everything from the architecture to the materials used in the construction and even in-store features are inspired by the mega £140 million new distillery that opened in Speyside last year. But back to Dubai. There’s an oak lattice centrepiece which echoes the distillery roof, display cases that give a museumy vibe, and it’s all super-sleekly done. And, as well as all the posh bottlings you might expect, there are Boutique-exclusive expressions, too. “It has been a year since we opened the doors of our new distillery and visitor experience, which was one of the most exciting moments in our history as a brand,” said Suzy Smith, Edrington Global Travel Retail managing director. “The next chapter in our story is the launch of our Boutique programme, which will bring whisky-lovers across the world even closer to our home on Speyside. Each store will be a gateway to the world of The Macallan, from the stunning cinematography of the Easter Elchies estate to the exceptional whisky available to taste.” Dubai not on your itinerary? We’ve got a whole bunch of Macallans right here!
And finally. . . the British are searching for Sex on the Beach, the cocktail that is
Data analytics company SEMrush has released figures for the most searched for cocktails last month and they make interesting reading. Tied in first place are the Manhattan and the Cosmopolitan with 135,000 searches each. Sounds like the ‘Sex and the City’ favourite is back (or maybe it never went away; it’s been joint number one all year). Looking at those yearly figures, the Old Fashioned spikes in December and January but then drops out of the top five in May, suggesting that it’s a winter cocktail. Whereas more summery serves, like the Americano and the Sex on the Beach, have moved up the league table in May. In fact, when you look at the stats for the UK on its own, Sex on the Beach moves up to the number one slot in May. We are so classy!