This week on the Nightcap: The Macallan turns its distillery into a festive wonderland, register to vote and you’ll get a free drink, and stop worrying about your hangover: you’re only making it worse.
We don’t know about you, but we’ve spent most of this week scavenging for firewood around the Master of Malt warehouse. At the first sign of a broken pallet out came the kindling vultures to squabble over scraps of pine and medium-density fibreboard to be hoarded and turned into life-giving heat later in the day. What a life! This is just a roundabout way of saying that it’s been properly cold this week. But it’s also the perfect weather to curl up by the fire with a dram of something rich and smooth, and revel in this week’s Nightcap.
The blog went competition crazy this week with a chance to win tickets to see singer songwriter Jarrod Dickenson with Balcones whisky and with #WhiskySanta is giving away a bottle of Hennessy Paradis worth nearly £1,000. In non-competition news, our Jess tried The World Whisky Blend from That Boutique-y Whisky Company, and went to Seville to discover the Royal Salute 29 Year Old Pedro Ximénez. Meanwhile, Annie got acquainted with Dutch spirit genever, and spent five minutes with Dr Kirstie McCallum, the new head of whisky creation at Glen Moray. Adam tried a bourbon with a Japanese twist courtesy of Beam Suntory, and, clearly in a Kentucky frame of mind, spoke to Jackie Zykan, master taster for Old Forester. Kristy peered into her crystal ball to look at rum’s future with Lucy Cottrell from Dead Man’s Fingers; and Henry brought us news on the revival of Rosebank distillery and cooked up a hot cider cocktail to keep the cold out.
That’s the week that was. On with The Nightcap!
Whisky collection smashes record with £10m valuation
How much is your whisky collection worth? A few hundred quid? Maybe into the thousands? This week, Guinness World Records confirmed a Vietnamese collector was the delighted owner of the most valuable whisky collection in the world – weighing in at a mighty £10,770,635! The haul belongs to Mr Viet Nguyen Dinh Tuan of Ho Chi Minh City, and it was valued by the team at Rare Whisky 101. They reckon the figure could top £13,032,468, when you add on the 21% buyers’ premium if it was sold through a UK auctioneer. The collection features 535 bottles, including the only known complete Macallan Fine & Rare set, complete with three 1926 bottlings. Only forty were ever released! There are also 12 bottles of the oldest and most expensive Bowmore ever released (it fetched £300,000 at auction recently), and one of only 24 bottles of the 1919 vintage Springbank. Phew. Mr Viet has been building his collection for over 20 years. “For me, whisky collecting has been my life’s passion,” he says. “Every spare I moment I get, I’m searching auction sites and trading websites to find famous and rare whiskies from around the world. Clearly this requires a lot of patience and no shortage of tenacity, but I’m proud of my efforts. As for my collection, I have no intention of selling any of it. Not one bottle. In fact, I’ll continue to hunt for more old and rare bottles and add to and enrich it.” Wowzers!
Buffalo Trace Distillery completes second Warehouse X experiment
Cask ageing is still a perplexing business, but the team at the Buffalo Trace Distillery is attempting to break the process down using the specially-designed and mysteriously-monikered Warehouse X. The second experiment at the facility, which began in 2016, has just been completed. It focused on how temperature affects the ageing process. The warehouse’s four chambers were used to determine how barrel activity correlates with temperature changes, keeping two chambers constant and varying the other two chambers and leaving the breezeway unchanged. Buffalo Trace tracked temperature fluctuations, monitored barrel pressures and collected a total of 9.1 million data points. As a result, the distillery was able to confirm how temperature affects pressure, colour and flavour over a period of three years. After leaving Warehouse X, the barrels were rolled into a traditional warehouse to continue ageing, as was done with the first experiment. Built in 2013, Warehouse X was created to study the many variables that affect the bourbon maturation process, and Buffalo Trace is now almost a third of the way through a 20-year project to monitor numerous atmospheric elements, including natural light, temperature, humidity and air flow. The first experiment, which ended in 2016, focused on natural light. The next two-year experiment will begin soon to expand on the most recent findings, focusing on how temperature swings affect whiskey activity in the barrel. We’re intrigued to see what they find.
The Balvenie unveils final DCS Compendium instalment
In brilliant but bittersweet news, Chapter Five of The Balvenie DCS Compendium has been unveiled. Why bittersweet? Because it’s the last of the series, so for one final time we all have the opportunity to gaze longingly at five unique and intriguing single-cask Balvenie expressions that none of us will ever taste. Titled ‘Malt Master’s Indulgence’, the rare vintages were selected by David C. Stewart MBE (hence DCS) for their significance to his career. Aged between 16 and 56 years, the selection includes The Balvenie’s oldest-ever bottling, the fragrant and sweet 1962 expression taken from a European oak oloroso hogshead, which commemorates Stewart’s very first year at the distillery. The longest-serving malt master in the whisky industry, who started the role back in 1974, commented on Chapter Five: “It takes a good deal of time to understand how each cask differs and how whisky maturation is affected by various wood types. You need confidence to select casks and know which are likely to achieve greatness. Working for a family company, I’ve been lucky enough to have been given the freedom to make stock decisions based on my preference and vision, with the free rein to pick casks and hold on to whisky, not always knowing what I’m going to do with it, for no other reason than thinking one day it will be extraordinary. For me, this is indulgence in its truest form.” As with past Chapters, Chapter Five is presented in a handcrafted, individually-numbered frame, with just 50 sets available worldwide. It also features The Balvenie DCS Compendium book depicting rare archive imagery from the distillery, along with information on each of the five chapters, which documents Stewart’s thought process in curating the Compendium. The Balvenie is also planning a series of celebratory events throughout 2020 to mark the completion of the project.
Bottle your own 40-year-old at Aberfeldy Distillery
Heading up to the charming Aberfeldy Distillery? You can now hand-bottle the delightful Aberfeldy 40 Years Old! Directly from the cask. In the warehouse. Yes, that’s the oldest whisky the Highland whisky-makers have released to date. If that doesn’t get you excited, nothing will. In total, three single cask editions will be launched, all of which were first filled on 22nd August 1978 and matured in American oak, ex-bourbon hogsheads. “To find one cask at this venerable age, is extraordinary but to find three, is exceptional. Just think of the four decades of history these casks have slumbered through,” said malt master Stephanie Macleod. “The single cask is something that we at Aberfeldy bottle rarely – to have the honour of filling your very own bottle of our oldest and most exclusive whisky yet, is a truly special opportunity. The golden hallmarks of the distillery are evident; beautifully-balanced, elegant and well-mannered with peerless texture, perfectly expressed by these 40-year-old bottlings.” The whisky will be on sale for £2,500 a bottle, exclusively from the Aberfeldy Distillery.
Barbados distillery honoured with inaugural World Foursquare Day
Rum lovers of London descended on Trailer Happiness in Notting Hill last Sunday (17 November) for the inaugural World Foursquare Day. The day was the idea of Facebook group Foursquare Rum Appreciation Society to celebrate the much-loved Barbados distillery. According to Foursquare brand ambassador Peter Holland, they chose 17 November because it “was the day that Foursquare Distillery and Heritage Park was officially opened by Sir David Seale [father of the owner, Richard], and the Prime Minister of Barbados Mr. Owen S. Arthur in 1996.” Holland organised the London event; there were rum cocktails, bottles from Holland’s own collection (including the ultra-rare Foursquare Triptych), and even a surprise appearance from the Seales themselves. There was also a well-attended event in Milton Keynes. Holland told us: “Next year, I think we will look to grow the event, and, perhaps in conjunction with the UK importers, see if we can get a few more bars involved across the UK. Increase the celebration, but try not to make it crass and commercial.” So put 17 November 2020 in your diary now.
Top whiskies shortlisted for Spirit of Speyside Awards
Awards and whisky go together like bread and butter, and Speyside is about to get its fair share! Eight Speyside single malts have been shortlisted as finalists in the international Spirit of Speyside Whisky Awards. The initial judging process took place earlier this month in the heart of Speyside (well, where else could it be?), where a panel of leading whisky experts carried out a blind tasting of 41 entries. A tough job, but somebody’s got to do it. However, it’s not the experts who get the final say. The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Awards are the only industry awards in the world to give consumers the final vote. Over the next six months, the two finalists in each category will be put forward for judging by whisky drinkers all over the place, from the UK and Europe to India and Canada. Spanning four categories, this year’s finalists are Aberlour 10 Year Old and Cardhu 12 Year Old, Benromach 15 Year Old and Glenallachie 15 Year Old, Glenfiddich Grand Cru 23 Year Old and Glenfarclas 25 Year Old, and finally Tamnavulin Sherry Cask Edition and Cardhu Amber Rock. “It was almost impossible to pick just two finalists in each Awards category this year – the standard of whisky produced here in Speyside by our local craftsmen and women is truly exceptional,” said James Campbell, Chairman at The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival. “We’re very much looking forward to opening up the judging to consumers over the next six months before celebrating the winners at what we believe is the finest whisky festival in the world.” You’ll have to wait a few months for the results, as the category winners will be announced at the opening of the 2020 Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival in late April.
The Macallan Distillery goes festive
The team at the Macallan are pulling out all the stops to turn the award-winning distillery into a festive wonderland this Christmas. As you’d expect from such a luxury brand, this will be a little more lavish than neon Santas, plastic holly, and M&S mince pies. Instead, the decorations have been inspired by the character of the single malt with golden acorns, dried berries and “a palette of sienna, gold, copper and black, colours traditionally associated with The Macallan”, no less. At the centre will be a “towering” 15 ft Christmas tree. But that’s not all. There will also be a special Christmas menu in the restaurant, seasonal Macallan cocktails like the Speyside Flip and the Clootie to be sipped, and a special after-hours dinner on Thursday 5 December. Stuart Cassells, general manager, commented: “We are incredibly proud of the success our new distillery experience has enjoyed since opening 18 months ago. But we want to be more than a fantastic visitor attraction. Our ambition is to become a key Speyside destination, a place where people from the local community and further afield want to return to again and again. We’re extremely excited about the exclusive experiences we are offering, from unique gifting options to our new brasserie and bar menus. We hope to attract visitors old and new and look forward to providing a warm welcome to The Macallan Estate this festive season.” Sounds magnificent, though we’d have been just as happy with M&S mince pies as long as there was some Macallan to wash them down with. Don’t tell #WhiskySanta…
Free drink if you register to vote
Here’s a good way to combat voter apathy (and we are being asked to vote a lot more than normal). A free drink when you vote. Brilliant! Why did no one think of this before? Well, of course they did. In elections past, unscrupulous politicians would ply the electorate with booze to get them to vote the ‘right’ way. But this new initiative from the Lollipop group of venues around London, is not trying to corrupt, just get people to vote. Simply turn up at a Lollipop bar, like Journey on the King’s Road or Dear Sunny in Hackney, prove that you have registered to vote before 26 November (the closing date), and a free drink will be yours (full details and list of venues here). Founder Seb Lyall had this to say: “We know how important it is for people of all ages and backgrounds to get out there and vote on December 12. These elections will have a significant impact on our industry and we want as wide a group of voices to be heard as possible.” Make sure, however, that you vote sober, or you never know who we might end up with.
Are we heading for a baijiu shortage?
Kweichow Moutai is one of the biggest baijiu brands on the planet – and this week, at its overseas distributors conference, the company suggested that the Chinese spirit is gaining such a following internationally that stock shortages are becoming a reality for the first time. “It’s one of the most significant changes we have seen in overseas markets since Moutai rebounded in the domestic market in 2016,” said Moutai Group chairman and party committee secretary Li Baofang. Baijiu is the most consumed spirit category in the world, although the vast, vast majority is drunk in China. This looks to be slowly shifting though – and from 2017-18, we saw a 650% uptick in sales here at MoM Towers, albeit from a teeny base. Keep an eye out for more baijiu in 2020 – if international supply can keep up with demand!
And Finally… Worrying about your hangover ‘makes it worse’
We’re all about responsible drinking here at MoM Towers. Remember – sip, don’t gulp! But sometimes, a little overindulgence can happen. And new research from the University of Salford this week appears to confirm something we’ve had a little inkling about: worrying about a hangover makes it worse. It’s all linked to whether someone is likely to “catastrophise pain” or not. What’s that, we asked. Apparently it’s when you worry too much about the threat of pain, which makes you feel like you can’t manage it, and then dwell on how much something hurts. 86 people ages from 18 to 46 were quizzed about a recent time they’d had a drink (more gulping than sipping. Just don’t). The results showed a “significant relationship” between all that catastrophising and the severity of the hangover. Turns out there are actual dehydrated-related symptoms, but also stress-related ones, too – and the stress ones were more likely to get on that catastrophising. “These findings suggest the importance of cognitive coping strategies in how people experience hangovers after drinking alcohol,” said lead researcher, Sam Royle. “This may have implications in understanding behavioural responses to hangovers, and also for addiction research.” Good work, Sam. But the best way to avoid that hangover? Keep the booze consumption sensible in the first place!
And with that in mind… Happy weekend, folks!