On The Nightcap: 23 September edition this week we report on whisky made with botanical-infused barley, why Gordon Ramsay’s gin got in hot water with the Advertising Standards Authority and a Kentish vineyard has a novel answer to a shortage of grape pickers.
The idea of autumn is very compelling with its amber tones and thoughts of being curled inside with a Hot Toddy and the latest issue of The Nightcap. That is until you remember how much it rains in this country during this season and how drenched you get going to the office to write, among other things, The Nightcap. So here’s the latest, seasoned with good old-fashioned British rain.
That was the week that was
We report a lot on the blog about all the exciting whisky news coming out of Islay these days so it was interesting reading this article in the Wall Street Journal about how all this development isn’t popular with some in the local community. Sticking with whisky, those crazy cats at Smokehead got their knuckles rapped by the Advertising Standards Agency for implying that whisky was therapeutic. Read all about it in the Press & Journal. We haven’t had time to get to grips with it properly but in Britain, we have just had a mini-budget from chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng. Friend of the blog Miles Beale from the WSTA picked out a few highlights on Twitter: “all wine between 11.5% alcohol by volume (ABV) and 14.5% ABV will be taxed at 12.5%.” But only for the next 18 months. You can read the whole report here. Meanwhile, those pesky EU bureaucrats are at it again according to Wine Searcher, with a plan to control which countries can use certain names of grape varieties. It sounds implausible though something similar already happened when Prosecco producers changed the name of their grape variety to Glera to prevent people using the magical p-word. And finally over on Spirits Beacon we were very tempted by a cocktail book round-up especially Alice Lascelles’ Cocktail Edit which we will be covering in more detail soon.
On our own blog, meanwhile, we marked Negroni Week by whipping up the classic cocktail and launching a competition offering lots of free drinks with Azaline Vermouth. We also had the pleasure of checking out a new blend of Islay and Speyside, a host of Canadian whiskies from Hiram Walker, and all the flavoured spirits you could shake a Curly Wurly at before Ian Buxton reported on the revival of rum.
And now we have The Nightcap: 23 September edition!
Glenmorangie creates whisky with barley kilned with botanicals
Glenmorangie has made a very interesting new whisky, its first made with barley kilned with botanicals. Inspired by the woodlands near Glenmorangie’s director of whisky creation Dr Bill Lumsden’s home, he decided to make a dram that would evoke the scents, sounds, and sights of the forest. Kilning barley with botanicals used to be a common practice and its one Glenmorangie revived after a series of experiments, before settling on juniper berries, birch bark and heather flowers, as well as a little peat to create a Glenmorangie “as lush and leafy as the forest itself”, in Dr. Lumsden’s words. In order to allow the spirit’s flavours to shine, he aged the whisky in bourbon casks including many refill casks. It’s called A Tale of the Forest, and the packaging was designed by Thai illustrator Pomme Chan who both ran with the forest theme and tried to echo the flavours and botanicals of the whisky. A special cocktail menu and venue takeover of the Green Bar at London’s Café Royal will also be running from the 12 October until the end of December 2022, and we’ll be in attendance to taste the new curious creation. We’ll report back soon and what we learn.
The Last Drop releases rare blend of Kentucky straight whiskeys
Another new whisky to report on is The Last Drop Distillers’ second Signature Blend, which is no joke as usual from the London brand that specialises in the spectacular. This one costs almost $4k, there’s only 1,458 bottles, it cannot be replicated, and it was put together by Sazerac master blender Drew Mayville, a founding member of The Last Drop Assembly’s panel of spirits industry experts, using vintage straight bourbon and rye whiskeys. It’s called Release No 28: The Last Drop Signature Blend of Kentucky Straight Whiskeys. The name, like the whiskey, is a bit of a mouthful. Mayville has supposedly always been interested in making ultra-rare whiskey for the most discerning of connoisseurs and so, since he got the gig of master blender in 2004, he’s been preserving extremely small quantities of his favourite whiskeys at Buffalo Trace Distillery to make his unparalleled blend. That’s what we have here. “As a master blender, I wholeheartedly believe that one can take individual components that are already exceptional to create an extraordinarily-beautiful end product,” says Mayville. “As with music, a clarinet can be beautiful in its own right. However, when you combine it with other instruments in an orchestra you create a symphony – a masterpiece. This blend fully epitomises this notion, and it’s been a dream come true to create this truly one-of-a-kind spirit for my friends at The Last Drop.” We were fortunate to try a drop earlier this year and agree wholeheartedly with his musical metaphor. It is indeed a very special whiskey.
GlenAllachie debuts its first peated whisky
Our last new release of the week comes from GlenAllachie, with the launch of a four-year-old peated single malt, the first distillate produced under GlenAllachie Distillers Company’s ownership. The bottle marks the conclusion of the distillery’s The Past, The Present & Future Series, created this year to mark master blender Billy Walker’s 50-year tenure in the Scotch industry. The GlenAllachie Billy Walker 50th Anniversary Future Edition 4-Year-Old Peated Single Malt Scotch Whisky, to give it its full and frankly ridiculous title, was made with mainland peat from St Fergus, Scotland and then matured in former rye and bourbon barrels, as well as in virgin oak casks. Described as “young and punchy” by the brand, it’s said to boast sweet and smoky notes of oak, cinnamon apples and chocolate-covered hazelnuts. Only 10,000 bottles of the new release are available, which are sure to sell like hotcakes as people flock to taste both distillate actually produced under GlenAllachie Distillers Company as well as peated GlenAllachie spirit. “It’s beyond exciting to release our very own whisky distilled since we took over this hidden gem of a distillery in 2017,” Walker said. “I eagerly await the reaction amongst whisky fans to this first glimpse at both our own distillate, and our peated work. The response will unquestionably influence where we take things next.”
Rampur Indian single malt whisky launches Jugalbandi Series
Ok, this is the final new whisky launch. Promise. This one concerns Rampur Indian single malt whisky, which is launching a new Jugalbandi series of eight Indian Single Malt whiskies. The range will make its debut at WhiskyLive in Paris this weekend with Rampur Jugalbandi #1 and Rampur Jugalbandi #2. The full series will become available in 2023 in the UK and the theme references an ancient musical art form. Jugalbandi translates to “entwined twins”, and refers to a duet of two solo musicians and instruments that own the stage in perfect partnership. So, Rampur Jugalbandi #1 is matured in ex-bourbon barrels in the north Indian climate to attain the classic characteristics of the distillery which are then paired with the sweetness and spice of the Moscatel casks from Portugal. Hence we have a Jugalbandi-esque blend. Get it? Yeah, it basically just a theme to attach to cask finishing, isn’t it? Still, it sounds lovely, as does Rampur Jugalbandi #2, which is made using the same process but instead utilises the honeyed fruitiness of Calvados casks from Normandy, France. Terrific stuff. If you’re in Paris this weekend, be sure to head on over to the Rampur stand.
Douglas Laing reveals seasonal limited-edition whiskies
Alright, I’m going to stop lying about how many whisky releases there as this week. There’s loads. Douglas Laing, in particular, has gone crazy for the upcoming seasons, releasing spirits from across its Campbeltown, Islay, and Speyside brands. We start with the “spooktacular” (boo!) The Gauldrons Cask Strength Edition, released to be “the ultimate dram to be enjoyed this spooky Halloween season and beyond,” according to marketing director Cara Laing, whose fingers must be sore from typing press releases this month. It was bottled at a 53.4% ABV, which was cask strength if you didn’t guess, without colouring or chill-filtration and is said to be “classically Campbeltown in style, with waves of sea air, puffs of gentle smoke, sugary manuka honey and a mouth-coating cask strength depth.” There’s also Big Peat Christmas Edition and Scallywag Winter Edition. This is Douglas Laing, so the bottles have no additional colouring or chill-filtration and are bottled cask strength, with Big Peat Christmas at 54.2% and Scallywag Winter at 54%. Big Peat is a marriage of Islay single cask single malts that are said to be “bursting with burnt caramel, wafts of Hebridean sea air and rich earthy notes, balanced by a toasted marshmallow sweetness” and has lots of festive-themed packaging, as does Scallywag, which has a mini, green and red striped woollen scarf round the bottle neck. The Speysider was matured exclusively in a combination of oloroso and Pedro Ximinéz sherry butts, selected for its “rich and full-bodied flavours that complement the season”. They all sound delicious, but honestly we’re most excited about the mini scarf.
You pay to pick grapes at one Kentish vineyard
Traditionally workers in vine-growing regions have been paid to pick grapes but one Kentish vineyard has turned centuries of tradition on its head. At Yotes Court you pay them to help with the harvest. It’s a fiendishly clever plot as producers across the country are struggling to find enough labour thanks to a combination of the lingering effects of Covid restrictions, Brexit and a Europe-wide lack of skilled viticultural labour. To join in the fun at the Maidstone vineyard on Saturday 8 October will cost you £35 and for that you not only get “a morning in the vineys with lots of grape-picking” but also breakfast, lunch and a bottle of the “wine made from the grapes you picked when it is released.” Admit it, you’re tempted.
And finally… Gordon Ramsay gin advert banned
Adverts for chef Gordon Ramsay’s gin have been banned. Back in March, Eden Mill Distillery, trading as Ramsay’s Gin, posted on Instagram and Facebook promoting the nutritional value of the spirit’s honeyberry ingredient. Claims such as them having “more antioxidants than blueberries, more potassium than bananas, and more vitamin C than oranges” were challenged by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). Eden Mill said the ads had been posted only once, had been deleted, and have now provided the ASA an assurance that it would not happen again. The company also said it had not previously distilled with honeyberries and, excited by the opportunity to work with Ramsay, had neglected to conduct its usual due diligence. A spokesperson said they had been an “idiot sandwich”. Ok, not really. But the crux of the issue is that the only permitted nutrition claims that can be made in relation to alcohol are “low alcohol”, “reduced alcohol” and “reduced energy”, so all the bragging about vitamy goodness breached the Code. Although, the ASA doing this has probably promoted those properties more than original social media posts. And raised awareness that there’s such thing as a honeyberry. It’s also not really anything to do with chef Ramsey, and yet it’s his name that’s in all the headlines. What a funny old game.