Record-breaking whisky, intriguing rums and wine tasting in the dark – it’s all here in this week’s Nightcap!
OK, look, the way the days have fallen this year, this will be the closest we get to an edition of The Nightcap falling on Halloween – next week Friday is the 1st of November, at which point we’ll have set aside our zombie costumes for another year and will be busy stockpiling sparklers and jacket potatoes in anticipation of Bonfire Night. With that in mind, you’re just going to have to put up with an early spooktacular here. Ahem. WoooOOOooo! It’s (almost) Halloween! The haunted ghouls of the underworld have crept into MoM Towers and they’re knocking over printers and… Oh, our hearts aren’t really in it. Let’s just get on with the booze news from the week that was.
It’s been a blog-maggedon kind of week here at MoM Towers. Firstly, congratulations are in order to the respective winners of the Lakes Distillery (#BagThisBundle) and Kingsbarns Distillery competitions! There was then some delightful video-based adventures with Ardbeg and Penderyn, while Adam also rounded-up some spooky spirits for Halloween. Then there was the exciting news that Douglas Laing had bought Strathearn Distillery as Annie talked Sullivans Cove with head distiller Patrick Maguire and rare pepper cordials with Monin and Alex Kratena. Henry had discussions of his own, from mezcal with Dr Iván Saldaña, to cocktails with Joe and Daniel Schofield, but still found time to make the intriguing Gin Rummy our New Arrival of the Week.
Phew! Now, to The Nightcap!
Macallan and Brora break records at Sotheby’s in London
Hammers were banged, money was waved and records were broken at the latest wine and spirits auction at Sotheby’s in London this week. Some 460 bottles of rare Scotch from an American collector went under the hammer. The star was inevitably a Macallan, a 60 year old from 1926 which went for £1,452,000 ($1,873,951). Jamie Ritchie, chairman of Sotheby’s, said: “There was an electric atmosphere in the room today for our first-ever single-owner spirits auction. This sale marks a historic moment for the spirits market, with new benchmark prices and a fresh approach to selling whisky.” According to Sotheby’s, the strongest interest came from Asian buyers. In total, the collection went for £7,635,619 ($9,854,530), out of which a whopping £3m ($4m) was accounted for by just four bottles of Macallan. But it wasn’t all about Macallan. Other exciting bottles included a 50 year old Springbank distilled in 1919 which went for £266,200 ($343,558); bottle number one of 54 year old Bowmore Crashing Waves went for £363,000 ($468,488); and a Dalmore Eos 59 year old, one of only 20 bottles, achieved £99,220 ($128,053). All this excitement makes the £54,450 ($70,273), a new record, paid for a bottle of Brora 40 year old seem like pocket change. Perhaps you could mix it with ginger beer.
Balcones teams up with Texan singer-songwriter Jarrod Dickenson for UK tour
We all know that whisky and music go together: from Keith Richards with his Jack Daniel’s to, erm, Billy Idol with Rebel Yell. Now Texas whisky pioneer Balcones will be bringing the spirit of the Lone Star state to Britain in more ways than one by sponsoring the tour of top Texan singer-songwriter Jarrod Dickenson. Balcones and Dickenson have so much in common. Not only are they both from Waco, Texas but Dickenson and Balcones’ head distiller have almost the same first name, Jarrod and Jared. They’re made for each other. The tour titled Unplugged & Distilled will run from 22 November to 7 December 2019, and consist of Dickenson playing 13 acoustic dates around the country (details here). And while you listen, and perhaps dance, if you get the urge, you can sip delicious Balcones whisky. It’ll be just like being in Texas, except when you leave the gig, it’ll probably be cold and wet.
New Boss Hog from WhistlePig finished in Japanese umeshu casks
A new Boss Hog from rye distiller WhistlePig is always something to be excited about but this latest edition sound particularly epic. It’s called the Samurai Scientist and it’s a sixteen-year-old whisky named after a chemist called Jōkichi Takamine who brought a Japanese form of alcohol production, koji, to American whiskey in the 19th century. The Samurai Scientist is a collaboration with a Japanese company, Kitaya who produce sake, shōchū and umeshu. It was created using koji fermentation (in Canada) and aged for 16 years before being finished in a cask that previously held an aged umeshu – a Japanese fruit liqueur. Pete Lynch, master blender, explained: “We finished one of our oldest whiskeys in barrels that held Kitaya’s eleven-year-old umeshu. With umeshu being an intensely aromatic spirit, it does not take long to impart deeply complex flavours. Only 90 barrels exist and each bottle notes the barrel number and proof, ranging between 120 – 122 [60-61% ABV]”. Jeff Kozak, CEO of Whistlepig added: “Dave Pickerell committed to five promises for The Boss Hog, including being distinctly unique from anything we’ve done before. He had a thirst for exploring and trialling techniques from around the world, and Takamine was like-minded in propelling whiskey innovation across continents.” The Samurai Scientist complete with pewter samurai on the stopper should roaring into MoM towers sometime in December. Now we know what we’re going to ask #whiskysanta for.
Burrell and Seale launch Equiano, the world’s first Afro-Caribbean rum
Two distilleries. Two different continents. Two key figures within the rum industry. That’s the story behind Equiano, which is believed to be the world’s first Afro-Caribbean rum. Created by global rum ambassador Ian Burrell and master distiller Richard Seale, Equiano is described as an “east and west” collaboration and is said to be the first rum crafted from liquid from two different distilleries based on two different continents. The name is a tribute to Olaudah Equiano, a Nigerian-born writer, abolitionist, traveller and freedom fighter, as it follows his journey, from Africa to the Caribbean and the UK. It’s a blend of molasses rums from Mauritius-based Gray’s Distillery that was aged for 10 years in a combination of French Limousin oak casks and ex-Cognac casks and Foursquare rum that was matured in ex-bourbon casks. It has no added sugar, spices or colourants, was bottled at 43% ABV and is said to deliver notes of dried fruits, sweet toffee, butterscotch, orange peel, vanilla, oak, anise, sweet pepper and buttered wood. “Equiano is a first for a centuries-old craft,” said Seale. “We have created an entirely unique blend through a collaboration between two rum distilleries on two different continents.” Burrell added: “Premium rum is on the rise, and more importantly the consumer that wants quality is demanding clarity, authenticity and intrinsic value in their rum. Equiano is a new style of rum; one that combines two rum cultures: African and the Caribbean.” A percentage of the profits from every bottle of Equiano sold will be donated to an equality-focused charity annually.
New Daftmill will only be available by the dram
Watching great whiskies disappear into collections or bounce around auction markets is something we’ve all become used to seeing. Lowland distillery Daftmill isn’t interested in taking part with its latest release, however. In an effort to side-step ‘bottle flippers’, it will offer Daftmill Single Cask 2008 #68 by the dram in select Scottish bars in collaboration with Berry Bros & Rudd. The duo has teamed up to sell the 2008 vintage single cask expression in 25ml measures for the price of £10 (US$13). It will be available at venues operated by Scottish chain The Independent Whisky Bars of Scotland from the 1 November, including The Ardshiel (Campbeltown), Artisan (Wishaw), The Bon Accord (Glasgow), Dornoch Castle Hotel (Dornoch), Fiddlers Inn (Drumnadrochit), The Highlander Inn (Craigellachie) and The Malt Room (Inverness). That’s right. Bottles will not be available to buy. Described as a first for the industry, the move was taken to ensure that the spirit can only be sampled by “genuine whisky lovers”. Bottles of the 2008 single cask released earlier this year sold out in minutes and then began appearing on auction sites at hugely inflated prices. “As much as we appreciate the high demand for our whisky, we’ve always distilled with the goal of it being opened and drunk by people that really enjoy a dram,” said Francis Cuthbert of Daftmill. “Releasing this single cask with The Independent Whisky Bars of Scotland is a great way to ensure that every bottle we release will be opened and drunk over the next few months.” Daftmill Single Cask 2008 #68 is the first single cask to be released from this vintage. The whisky was matured in a first-fill ex-bourbon barrel and selected by the bar chain to be bottled at a natural strength of 55.5% ABV.
Brewdog launches Five Hundred Cuts botanical rum
To the Physic Garden in Chelsea for the launch of Brewdog’s new botanical rum, Five Hundred Cuts. And first off, who knew there was a walled botanical garden right in the heart of London? This sweet-smelling oasis was the perfect setting for the launch. There was even a ‘herbal storyteller’, Amanda Edmiston, on hand to give us an insight into the inspiration for the rum, an Aberdonian botanist called Elizabeth Blackwell. And what of the rum itself? We’ll be running an interview with distillery Steven Kersley next week but here’s our first impressions: the rum is based on a high ester spirit distilled from Algerian molasses (the best according to Kersley) and flavoured by distillation and infusion with a variety of spices including cardamom, ginger, orange peel, cloves and tonka beans before sweetening with muscovado sugar. The result (RRP £24) is quite remarkably aromatic and tasted excellent in a series of cocktails created by Laki Kane’s Georgi Radev but it also worked wonders sipped neat as a seasonal cold cure. It just breezes through that blocked nose.
Patrón Tequila celebrates Día de Muertos
This November, Patrón Tequila will launch a series of events in celebration of Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead). The traditional Mexican celebration will be marked by immersive art exhibitions and bar takeovers all over Europe by Patrón Tequila. In London, a three-day immersive event will take place at the six-storey 19 Greek St in Soho from 1st to 3rd November 2019 featuring the works of Mexican artists Lourdes Villagomez and Lola Argemi. But if you want to kick off the celebrations earlier, Patrón will be offering themed cocktails within a colourful setting that evokes the key symbols of the Día de Muertos in a number of bars, such as The Den (100 Wardour Street), Swift, Hovarda, Thirst and Soho Residence in Soho, Raffles and Callooh Callay in Chelsea, the Harvey Nichols 5th Floor Bar in Knightsbridge, Eve Bar in Covent Garden, Red Rooster in Shoreditch, Playa in Marylebone and the London Cocktail Club in Oxford Circus. To all of our Mexican friends, we wish you a Feliz Día de los Muertos!
Glen Scotia releases its oldest and rarest expression
Get ready for Glen Scotia’s oldest ever expression! The Campbeltown distillery has only gone and released a 45-year-old single malt. Distilled back in December 1973, it was aged in refill bourbon casks, where it rested until 2011. Then the liquid was transferred to first-fill bourbon casks until 2019, when it was bottled at 43.8% ABV. “Glen Scotia 45 year old is one of the most magnificent expressions to be produced by our Campbeltown distillery and we are excited that after 45 years we are now able to unveil it to the world,” said master distiller Michael Henry. “It embodies all of the unique elements which Glen Scotia is known for, delivering a long mouth-watering finish with notes of sea salt and lime citrus. On the palate, the liquid presents caramel sweetness at first, then juicy fruit with pineapple, mango and watermelon rounded by vanilla and honey.” Each bottle comes in a handmade British walnut case, with an engraved tile featuring the individual bottle number and tasting notes. If that wasn’t enough, inside the case you’ll find embossed leather lining. That all sounds pretty dandy, doesn’t it? Here’s the catch: only 150 bottles have been released worldwide, priced at £3,795. If you do fancy on getting your hands on one, then we recommend keeping a very, very close eye on your favourite online retailer…
Mr Fogg’s Winter Festival Of Lights lands in Covent Garden
Mr Fogg’s Gin Parlour and Tavern is a quintessentially British spot for a tipple or two in Covent Garden. However, the bar has teamed up with House of Suntory for the Winter Light Festival, a magical Japanese-inspired illuminated festival. It’s a sensory experience inspired by Japanese nature, a delight of sight, taste and sound, launched this week on 23 October. Of course, there are also Japanese-inspired cocktails, made with Roku gin, Haku vodka and Toki whisky. You’ll be met at the entrance to the tavern with a red torii gate framed with pink cherry blossom. There are two menus to choose from. The first you’ll find downstairs, inspired by different locations throughout Japan, with cocktails such as ‘Kyoto’, marrying Toki whisky, elderflower cordial and lemon juice, topped with ginger ale. If you follow the lantern trail upstairs you’ll find the second menu. This is no ordinary menu, with the cocktails listed on Roku bottles filled with fairy lights. The serves here are named after Japanese festivals such as ‘Kingdom of Light’, made with Roku gin, Luxardo Bitter Bianco, umeshu plum sake and rhubarb bitters. If you were umming and ahhing about going, we should probably let you know that the bar will even be streaming the Rugby World Cup straight from Japan. Whether that’s a good thing or not is up to you…
And finally. . . . wine tasting in the dark with Lidl
When conducting a wine tasting most professionals agree on what you need, wine, obviously, you can’t have a wine tasting without wine, clean glasses, white tablecloths and plenty of light so that you can appreciate the colour. Well, Lidl is throwing all this out the window with its new pop-up wine tasting tour. It begins in London on 8 November before continuing to Manchester and Glasgow. Tastings will be hosted by Master of Wine Richard Bampfield and take place in a Cellar Noir where wine will be served in the pitch black by waiters wearing night-vision goggles, and in a nightmarish-looking Discombobulation Chamber. The idea is to shake off people’s preconceptions about labels and wine colour, and trust in their senses of taste and smell. It all this sounds much too confusing for you, to finish up there’s Salle de Noel featuring Christmas trees, mince pies, a cheeseboard, and, most importantly, some light so you can see what you’re doing.