Friday has finally arrived, and you know what that means! It’s time to pour yourself a dram and catch up on another busy week of boozy news with The Nightcap.
This week we received some devastating news. Fungie, the world’s oldest solitary dolphin, has not been seen in his 37-year Dingle Harbour home for over a week. The unlikely local celebrity appeared in the seaside town in Kerry, Ireland, in 1983 and he’s been a mainstay of Dingle ever since, becoming a major tourist attraction who even has his own Wikipedia page. News like this really makes you appreciate how quickly things can change and why we take comfort in the things that are always there for us. Like a weekly round-up of news from the drinks industry. Never leave us, sweet Nightcap. Speaking of which, let’s get on with it, there’s plenty to get your teeth into this week!
The MoM blog was jam-packed with boozy goodness, as usual, this week, including the launch of a new #BagThisBundle competition, this time with five bottles of delicious James Eadie whisky, aged up to 26 years, up for grabs. Ian Buxton then returned to outline how your taxes help small distillers, Henry learnt about why it’s been a difficult vintage in the Douro valley and Annie marked 20 years of Compass Box. Adam then continued our Sober October coverage by casting a spotlight on the mimic masters, Lyre’s, tasted the first single malt from the Milk & Honey distillery and recommended some devilishly delicious drinks for Halloween. Jess, meanwhile, welcomed Silent Pool’s shiny new Rare Citrus Gin, while our Cocktail of the Week is a real labour of love which Aaron Wall, co-owner of London bar Homeboy, talks us through.
Wolfcraig Distillery appoints Richard Paterson as master blender
Fresh from announcing the plans for its upcoming £15m distillery, Wolfcraig has dropped another huge news bomb: Richard Paterson has been appointed as its master blender. Whyte & Mackay fans need not panic, however, as he will continue his commitments to the brand he recently celebrated his 50th anniversary with. The press reveals that it was Paterson’s “continued passion for Scotch Whisky” that drew him to the Wolfcraig project, which will allow him to play “a leading role in the foundation of a new distillery, in the heart of Scotland”. Paterson, a third-generation master blender who followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, is one of the most highly regarded greatest whisky makers of his generation, even being nicknamed “the nose” for his olfactory skills, so it’s quite a signing for Wolfcraig. How did they do it? Well, Wolfcraig co-founder Michael Lunn is the former chairman and chief executive of Whyte & Mackay Group, so maybe this appointment wasn’t so out of the blue after all. “This will be an opportunity for me to use all the knowledge I have learned over 55 years in the business to create a truly exceptional Highland single malt, one that can be enjoyed the world over,” Paterson said. We look forward to seeing what you create, sir. If you need anyone whose free for taste tests, you know where we are…
Guinness launches non-alcoholic beer
Ever longed for the taste of a fresh (properly poured) pint of Guinness but didn’t want to consume alcohol. Well, you’re in luck, because Diageo’s colossus Irish stout brand has announced the launch of a new expression this week: Guinness 0.0, “the Guinness with everything, except alcohol”. Apparently, it was made using the same ingredients as the original; water, barley, hops and yeast, except that the alcohol is then removed using cold filtration. This process is said to avoid the pitfalls of presenting thermal stress to the beer, “protecting the integrity of its taste and character”. You’d like to think the brewers at St. James’s Gate got this one right because the press release says this zero-alcohol beer was made following a four-year process led by the technical and innovation teams at the brand’s home. “Guinness has always had an unwavering commitment to quality and our entire brewing team is hugely proud of the care and effort that has been put into the four-year development process for Guinness 0.0,” says Aisling Ryan, innovation brewer (sweet job title) at St James’s Gate. “We have created a taste experience that we believe is truly unrivalled in the world of non-alcoholic beer and we can’t wait for people to finally be able to try it!” Guinness 0.0 will be available in pubs across Ireland and Great Britain from Spring 2021 and in more markets throughout the world later in 2021.
Rosebank releases 30-year-old whisky from 1990
We’ve been eagerly following the revival of the legendary Rosebank distillery in the Lowlands so we were very pleased to be given a sample of a very special single malt from before the distillery closed in 1993. Called Release One, it’s a 30-year-old single malt with only 4,350 bottles made. Every year, Ian MacLeod, the distillery’s now owners, will release a vintage until the whisky from the revived Rosebank is available. As you can imagine, it’s quite expensive, £1,600, but is it any good? Well, in a word, yes. It’s very pale and for such an old whisky, the wood is in no way overpowering. There are delicate peach and lemon fruit all wrapped up with crème brûlée, cinnamon and almonds, with a finish you can taste ten minutes later. Truly, a dram to savour. Robbie Hughes, group distillation manager explained a little further: “It was matured in 62% refill sherry butts and 38% refill bourbon hogsheads for decades, patiently waiting to be awoken, and delivers layers of incredible flavour that you won’t find in other whiskies.” Furthermore, the first 200 buyers to scan a QR code on Release One will be able to enjoy a dram of Release Two at certain outlets (to be confirmed) as well as an early chance to buy a bottle of it. And that’s not all! To celebrate this release, Ian MacLeod has produced a video of top whisky writers including Felipe Schrieberg and Alice Lascelles talking about Rosebank. You are really spoiling us now! At the moment, Release One is only available directly from the distillery but we will let you know if MoM is lucky enough to get any in.
2020: a quality year for English wine
This year English wine has snatched triumph from the jaws of defeat. In spring it looked like the vintage would be a disaster with severe frosts damaging delicate buds. But the day was saved by an unusually warm summer (remember that?) and a September heatwave leading to one of the earliest harvests on record. While there hasn’t been a repeat of the bumper grape crops seen in the last two years, there’s an air of excitement among producers with a harvest described as “corking”. Ian Edwards, co-owner of Furleigh Estate in Dorset said: “The quality of the grapes this year is excellent. It’s the ripest fruit we have had in 15 years of growing.” This quality harvest has coincided with a huge increase in visitor numbers to English wineries which, in the midst of difficult economic conditions, has given producers a much needed dose of positivity. Adam Williams, sales director at the Hush Heath Estate in Kent commented: “The increase in visitors to our cellar has been extremely encouraging… all our tours, tastings and dinners remain fully booked. A positive story amongst all this doom and gloom! One can only hope all this adds up to a big boom in English wine!” We are pretty sure it will.
Rock band Kiss releases debut rum
Get set to rock and rum all nite – iconic and heavily made-up brand Kiss has released its first expression! Kiss Black Diamond Premium Black Rum is made using Caribbean liquid aged for up to 15 years and references the closing song on the band’s eponymous debut 1974 album. Swedish spirits producer Brands for Fans is behind the release and says the bottling offers apricot, date, vanilla fudge, cinnamon and chocolate notes, along, interestingly, with arrack vibes. The zazzy label references the band’s costumes and aforementioned make-up from the early days, making it a nostalgic treat as well as a tasty one. “It’s an amazing match for a band who were pioneers both musically and visually in the world of rock ’n’ roll,” said Brands for Fans’ Sari H. Wilholm. “When I taste this rum by KISS and look at the bottle, I feel proud of what we’ve achieved with this product. It’s damn good. Listening to Black Diamond still gives me the chills, and the rum makes me just as excited!” It’s available in Sweden now for the equivalent of £33, and it should land at MoM Towers soon!
Takamaka Rum announces distillery expansion
Takamaka Bay Rum will unveil a slick new look in November as it completes a major expansion of its Seychelles-based distillery. The family-owned brand, which has also launched a brand redesign, new bottle and an increase in its international distribution, has added new stainless steel and copper column stills to facilitate the production of molasses rum. Takamaka already makes traditional pure cane sugar pot still rum at its facility in La Plaine St Andre, but can now make 250,000 litres per annum of molasses rum. Given there’s no sugar industry in the Seychelles, the molasses is sourced from East Africa. A new visitor centre will also allow visitors the chance to learn about the rum’s production and the 228-year-old heritage site the distillery is located in, “This expansion is a pivotal part of our plans as a business,” says Richard D’Offay, Takamaka co-founder. “Not only will it allow us to showcase our amazing rum, and how it is produced, to guests visiting the Seychelles, it has also been designed to be scalable to allow for larger production as we increase our international distribution and emerge into new territories.”
Cotswolds latest whisky is sherry heaven
Cotswolds Distillery has just announced its richest whisky yet. How rich is it? Well imagine Bill Gates marrying the Queen, and you’re nearly there. It’s fully aged in sherry casks, both American and Spanish oak hogsheads and butts, seasoned with both Oloroso and PX sherry. It’s then bottled at a mighty 57.4% ABV. So how does it taste? Pretty rich, as you’d expect. The nose is all about muscovado sugar, dark cherries and chocolate, and the palate is so thick you could stand a spoon up in it, but, paradoxically, that big ABV keeps the richness under control. The finish is all sticky toffee pudding, dark chocolate and pungent gingery spice. Head of production Nickolas Franchino commented: “I love a sherry cask whisky as it is one of the truly iconic single malt whisky styles. Good sherry casks give rich, fruity, spicy and nutty flavours that marry perfectly with the underlying malt character and are a joy to savour.” Available only direct from the distillery, you don’t need to be an oligarch to buy a bottle, all this richness comes in at a very reasonable £64.95.
And finally… Fake news is so 2016. This year, it’s all about Fake Booze
You may have seen some rather surprising headlines doing the rounds on drinks social media: “Shock find at Jerez dig proves that dinosaurs ‘invented sherry’”, “Bacardi Bat latest victim of Coronavirus” or “Rum celebrates 100 years as ‘next big thing”, and thought that the world has gone mad. Well, it has, but these headlines are in fact creations of a new site that describes itself as the “world’s first satirical drinks magazine”. Called, naturally, Fake Booze, and with the motto “Like Truth – But Better”, it is dedicated to mocking an industry that can sometimes take itself a bit too seriously. It’s the creation of former Imbibe editor, booze enthusiast and all-round amusing human Chris Losh. He told us: “It’s basically a chance to raise an eyebrow at the world of drinks – the inconsistencies, the misplaced ego and the well-intentioned plans that go awry. Sometimes it’s sharp, sometimes it’s whimsical – but I’d hope that it comes from a place of affection not anger”. Thank you, Chris! In these dark times, what we need is a good dose of Fake Booze.