We’ve got three words for you: Old Fashioned Trolley. Here’s two more: chocolate vodka. Where can you find them both? The Nightcap, duh.
It’s the 25 November, which means you’ll spend the whole day hearing people tell you, “it’s a month to Christmas”, in between shouting “IT’S COMING HOME”, of course. If you’d rather hear about Pappy Van Winkle being served from an Old Fashioned trolley or Ardbeg popping whisky into a manzanilla cask, then you’re in the right place. Well navigated. Let’s get Nightcapping.
First, we head to the blog of the Food & Drink eCommerce Website of the Year, where we had all sorts of whisky to recommend from our own new selection of independent bottlings to the most beautiful bottles around, a newcomer from New Zealand, and peaty whisky perfect for fans of the smoky stuff in your life (time to get those Christmas lists together!) #WhiskySanta’s Super Wish this week was a bottle of Singleton of Glen Ord 39 Year Old, showing he’s not slowing down anytime soon, and neither is Dr. Nick Morgan who returned with the first of a two-part special on the pitfalls of brands messing with beloved recipes (looking at you, Gordon’s Gin). A whole bunch of words, washed down with an Old Fashioned, which we raised to Dominic Roskrow, a remarkable whisky writer who sadly died this week. May he rest in peace.
Now, onto The Nightcap: 25 November!
Ardbeg creates first travel retail-exclusive whisky
Ardbeg has created its first travel retail-exclusive whisky series. Called Ardbeg Smoketrails, the range will serve a playground of cask experimentation for the Islay distillery, who have kicked things off with a Manzanilla Edition. It’s a single malt whisky matured initially in American oak casks that was then finished in sherry casks which were sourced from Sanlúcar de Barrameda before being bottled at 46%. You can get it at select airports, as well as Ardbeg Distillery (a ‘travel destination’, don’t you know?), while parent company Moët Hennessy has teamed up with travel retailer Dufry and Heathrow Airport to create a pop-up in Terminal 5 that will run until 30 November. Travellers will have the choice of tasting the whisky neat or trying it in cocktails, with sea salt chocolate pairings on offer. A select few will even receive a collector bandana. “For each Smoketrails release we’ll pack our suitcase and zig zag across the globe in search of new flavour adventures – in this case, to the Spanish coast for the finest manzanilla casks,” says Colin Gordon, Ardbeg Distillery manager. Dr Bill Lumsden, head of distilling and whisky creation at Ardbeg, added: “In Ardbeg Smoketrails Manzanilla Edition, salty sea spray and deep, nutty notes mingle with pungent aromas of soot, dark chocolate and brazil nuts”. He goes on: “clouds of pine and fennel fill the senses with notes of saddle soap and aniseed trailing gently behind. All I have to say to anybody who lays their hands on a bottle is get ready for a smoky blast.” If you’re not looking to travel, sometimes these ‘travel exclusive’ have a way of finding their way into online retailers. You never know!
Bimber launches its first peated whisky
English whisky isn’t exactly awash with peated whisky so whenever we see one we can’t help but get excited. London’s Bimber Distillery has provided just cause this week with 1st Peated, which cleverly is the name of its first peated whisky (where do they come up with this stuff?!). It’s made with barley sourced from Bimber’s single farm, Fordham & Allen in Basingstoke, Hampshire, which was dried with dry and wet Aberdeenshire peat, which is grassier and sweeter typically than the coastal, medicinal stuff you get in Islay. A long seven-day fermentation and then double distillation followed. This whisky is entirely made from Bimber’s first fully peated distillation, which took place in May 2019, and it matured in heavily peated American oak bourbon barrels. What’s cool about it is that it’s presented with an ‘in-bottle’ reading of 14.4 PPM (parts per million) in order to start a dialogue about peat levels. Distillery spokesperson Matt McKay says too often the debate “has been a race to the top,” with producers trying to display the biggest PPM numbers possible without ever trying to contextualise to customers what these numbers mean in terms of the actual peated character of a whisky once it is inside of a bottle. He adds “Barley PPMs ignore the fact that at every stage of the whisky-making process there is a decrease in the volume of phenols present. They also ignore the large variations that distinct production methods across different distilleries have on this inevitable decline. A 50 PPM barley utilised at one distillery will not directly equate to 50 PPM barley used by another”. Hence the ‘in-bottle’ reading on 1st Peated, which clocks in at 54.1%ABV and will set you back £130.
Johnnie Walker Blue teams up with fashion designer Angel Chen
Super fancy blended whisky Johnnie Walker Blue Label has a new limited edition inspired by the Chinese year of the rabbit in 2023. It’s the creation of top young fashion designer Angel Chen who studied at Central Saint Martin College of Art in London. As you might expect the new design is based around the rabbit which apparently is a symbol of longevity in China. The rabbits are prancing about, a nod to the Johnnie Walker slogan, Keep Prancing.. sorry, Keep Walking. Chen explained the idea behind it: “There’s a defiant energy to my illustrations which bring to life the vibrant spirit of the rabbit as it leaps across the design, symbolising how we need to keep moving forward, spreading goodness throughout the year to come.” Look out for this new bottle next year. You’ll be hopping mad if you miss out.
Meanwhile, Balvenie teams up with four artists
It’s all go on the whisky/art collaboration front as Balvenie has announced the latest The Balvenie and The Makers Project which features no less than four artists. They are Tishk Barzanki, Joy Bonfield-Colombara, Adi Toch, and Walter & Zoniel. Actually, that’s five but Walter & Zoniel work together so we’re counting them as one. The idea behind the project is to bring together the craftsmanship of the blenders, David Stewart and Kelsey McKechnie, at Balvenie, and what these artists do. The project is in association with magazine publisher, make that “premium content and experiences business” Hearst UK. According to the press release: “The campaign is brought to life on Harper’s Bazaar and Esquire with a combination of long-form video, social edits, digital articles and high-impact display advertising. Rooted in storytelling, the campaign successfully embodies contemporary luxury and celebrates craftsmanship, placing The Makers and The Balvenie in premium established environments.” Sam Pinner from The Balvenie UK, explained: “We are excited to return for another year of The Makers Project, this time joining our Makers at different junctures of their creative journey. Together with Hearst UK we have explored the idea of ultimate craftsmanship taking time, patience and dedication; recognising the beauty in the undone, focusing on the exchange of knowledge and experience that occurs from Makers collaborating and creating new ideas. What has transpired is a celebration of these extraordinary creative craftspeople who, like The Balvenie, have real stories to tell.” Sounds like a perfect fit.
Dead Man’s Fingers creates non-alcoholic rum
Dead Man’s Fingers is debuting its 0.0% Spiced Rum this week. Does still make it rum? Some people don’t even regard spiced rum as rum, so this is a double whammy of categorisation confusion. Regardless, the Halewood Artisanal Spirits-owned spiced rum brand is moving into the low-and-no category, using “unique spinning cone technology”, according to marketing director Rachel Adams, which means The original alcoholic Spiced Rum is de-alcoholised at a high heat, “allowing the liquid to keep its signature taste”. If you’d like to get a bottle it will set you back £20. “We know that consumers love our Spiced Rum – not only has it amassed a significant number of prestigious industry awards, but it also continues to see strong growth. We wanted to offer consumers the chance to enjoy its distinctive flavour, whether they’re choosing to drink alcohol or not,” says Adams. “It is great enjoyed with a simple mixer such as cola or ginger beer and garnished with a slice of orange or lime, meaning that those who are moderating their alcohol consumption don’t have to compromise on taste or flavour,” she continued.
Masons of Yorkshire makes Chocolate Vodka
Masons of Yorkshire has created a full range of flavoured fancies like an Espresso Vodka, Yorkshire Tea Edition Gin, Pear & Pink Peppercorn Gin, and a Pink Grapefruit & Cucumber edition. Now the carbon-neutral distillery in Bedale, North Yorkshire is adding Chocolate Vodka to the mix. The team uses roasted cocoa nibs to create the chocolatey flavour, and recommends serving it neat over ice, with a few cocoa nibs as a garnish. For an extra special Christmassy twist, the bottle can also be personalised. “This Christmas is all going to be about enjoying luxury at home, and we created Chocolate Vodka to be the ultimate indulgence: it’s so good, it can be enjoyed neat, over ice, or even with a dash of caramel syrup for the ultimate toast and celebration,” says Masons of Yorkshire co-founder Cathy Mason. “To have branched out into the world of Great British Vodka has been a joy for us as more and more discover the versatility of this delicious spirit, we look forward to experimenting with different flavours in 2023.” We’re thinking ultimate Espresso Martini.
And finally … you had us at Old Fashioned trolley
It was Old Fashioned week this month. No, not an excuse to dust off your spats and get down to some trad jazz, though that does sound fun, Old Fashioned week is a celebration of the original cocktail. For those who want the ultimate Old Fashioned, JW Marriott Grosvenor House on London’s swanky Park Lane, has the answer: a trolley devoted to this most versatile of drinks. It’s run by in-house bourbon expert Robert Sreter in conjunction with Buffalo Trace who will make an Old Fashioned to your specifications right in front of you. And the choice of whiskeys is quite incredible: you can have anything from a nice standard Buffalo Trace up to unicorn whiskeys like George T. Stagg or Pappy Van Winkle. Bring your sturdiest credit card!