The Macallan and Bentley team up, Ardbeg ventures into graphic novels, Tomatin launches the ‘world’s rarest Japanese whisky’, and a post-apocalyptic video game inspires whisky. It’s all in The Nightcap!
This week is just one of those where there was a deluge of stories pouring all over us, we are literally soaked in booze news, so we’re just going to get on with what happened the last few days. That includes the recent arrival of the 2021 release of Bowmore 30 Year Old, which is available via a lottery that expires on Tuesday. So get entering!
On the blog, meanwhile, we had the pleasure of celebrating 60 years of David Stewart at The Balvenie, welcoming the first commercial release of Irish whiskey from Shortcross (and what a cracker it is), and inviting campaigns exec Tegan to tell us all about the hometown drinks close to her heart. Speaking of which, Brendan McCarron returned to tell us what’s so special about his local love, the enigmatic Deanston Distillery, while Henry defended the much-maligned Aperol Spritz. We also put together some Bank Holiday bargains, while Jess had pastries on the brain as she recommended a whisky/food pairing of well-aged single grain and decadent Portuguese custard tarts and reported on the turbulent history of Jaffa Cakes. There was time for Ian Buxton to deliver a stark warning about a potential new whisky loch too.
A full-on week, but there’s more to go. It’s The Nightcap: 26 August edition!
The Macallan and Bentley team up
Watch out Bowmore and Aston Martin, there’s a new whisky/fancy car team-up in town. The Macallan and Bentley Motors actually launched its global brand partnership back in July 2021, but it made headlines because the first results of the collaboration has been teased: The Macallan Horizon. The whisky, available from summer 2023, is said to be a homage to the brand’s Six Pillars and so incorporates six upcycled, repurposed or ethically sourced materials. This includes recycled copper from the small spirit stills located in Macallan’s former distillery; aluminium recovered from the Bentley Motors manufacturing process; recycled wood; recyclable glass and carbon neutral leather, locally sourced and also used in the recently unveiled Bentley Mulliner grand tourer. The final component is the single malt whisky itself, made after master whisky maker Kirsteen Campbell visited Bentley Motors in Crewe to draw some inspiration. Who wouldn’t be inspired after a trip to Crewe? The thing you’ll notice most, however, is the choice to defy the dusty old method of having a whisky bottle that’s vertical, apparently reflecting “the horizontal trajectory of the automotive world”. It sort of looks like Sauron’s cigar, if you ask me. Though one wag on Twitter thought it looked like a doggy treat. The glass bottle also has a 180-degree twist and no standing base, which is something to do with The Macallan and Bentley Motors’ “mastery of space and time”. No, we have no idea either. Still, cars and booze, always a great combination.
Tomatin launches ‘world’s rarest Japanese whisky’
Tomatin Distillery is owned by Takara Shuzo, Japan’s largest distiller of traditional shochu and the owners of the old Shirakawa Distillery from 1947 until it was demolished in 2003. Why is this important information? Because Takara Shuzo has managed to get hold of some truly rare Japanese whisky for its Highland single malt Scotch whisky brand to distribute. The bottle is Shirakawa 1958 Single Malt, produced in a period when the distillery was one of the first in Japan to make malt whisky. But every drop produced, regardless of the fact it was rumoured to be ‘exquisite’, was destined only for blending, so this collaboration between Tomatin Distillery and its owner is the first time the whisky will be presented for sale as a single malt. “There are no known examples of Japanese whisky claiming to be from a single vintage that predates Shirakawa 1958,” said Stefan van Eycken, Japanese whisky expert. The rare liquid was identified in Takara Shuzo’s Kurokabegura plant in 2019. We know it was distilled in 1958, aged in cask, then transferred to ceramic jars at the distillery. When Shirakawa closed, it was put into stainless steel tanks at Takara Shuzo’s factory in Kyushu where it lay untouched until now. The type of cask and length of maturation remains unknown, but we can reveal the 1958 vintage is bottled at 49% ABV and is said to have an “expansive” palate, with “a succulent texture and hints of fragrant grass”. Sounds expensive. From 13 September, 1,500 bottles will be released on a limited basis worldwide. Keep a good eye out for it…
Ardbeg creates graphic novel
In September, Ardbeg will take its first foray into the world of graphic novels. The Islay single malt distillery will be launching a 40-page sci-fi anthology called Planet Ardbeg. The weird and wonderful idea was conceived by award-winning New York cartoonist Ronald Wimberly in collaboration with fellow artists Emma Ríos and Sanford Greene, who used Ardbeg’s core range as their creative launchpad. Together they have produced a trilogy inspired by the unique flavours and ‘origin stories’ of three Ardbeg expressions: 10 Year Old, An Oa, and Wee Beastie. In Greene’s Guardians of Oa, for example, the action-packed epic about a copper city coming under attack from a monstrous creature was inspired the An Oa’s “smoky power”. While Wimberley’s The Best Laid Schemes is said to channel the “feisty and formidable flavours of Wee Beastie” to create a fast-paced neo-western featuring giant botanicals and even bigger beasts. Finally, Take it with a Grain of Sand by Ríos captures “the complex peaty essence” of the 10 Year Old to tell a tale of a mystical quest through a land lost to time. The most I’ve ever been inspired to do after drinking Ardbeg was to pour another glass, so hats off to these creative types. Planet Ardbeg will be available to buy at the distillery visitor centre, in selected comic book shops, as well as the distillery’s website in certain markets. A digital version will also be available exclusively for members of the Ardbeg Committee. Be sure to look out for a full Planet Ardbeg campaign in the UK in October, which promises consumers the chance to explore and enjoy it in person.
Waterford makes peated whisky from Irish barley and peat
The first truly Irish peated whiskies in generations are on the way from Waterford Distillery. The latest edition to its Arcadian Farm Origins series are Peated: Fenniscourt and Peated: Ballybanon, made using both Irish peat and Irish-grown barley, a rarity since the turn of the 20th century due to the lack of any facility to actually peat Irish barley. Even for these releases, the kilning process took place in Scotland. It’s a project that has been spearheaded by CEO Mark Reynier since 2017, though kept a secret until this year. The approach included selecting two single farm origin barleys, from distinctive terroirs, to see if the flavour profiles could stand up to the smokiness of peat. Due to the lack of clear examples to work from, a lot of trial and error sourcing the appropriate peat sources with the moisture levels appropriate for whisky production was undertaken, with the distillery sourcing small amounts of peat cut from County Kildare, and working alongside their established malting partner, Minch Malt. It will be even better when there is somewhere in Ireland that will kiln Irish barley, so the full process can take place without having to leave the country. For now, we can enjoy these unique releases which will be here at MoM Towers soon.
Campari Group acquires interest in Howler Head
Campari Group has acquired a 15% interest in Howler Head, with a medium-term route to total ownership plus exclusive global distribution rights. The official flavoured whiskey partner of UFC, Howler Head (available here) is a banana-flavoured spirit made with Kentucky Straight Bourbon whiskey that has quickly become one of the fastest-growing whiskey brands in the US. It’s helped by backing of a global entertainment brand UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) that reaches nearly 700 million fans each year as well as ambassadors like Dana White, president of UFC, who thinks this new partnership will give every UFC fan the chance to experience what he reckons is “one of the best whiskies ever created”. Campari Group agreed to pay $15 million in cash in the first stage of path to total ownership, with the ability to acquire 100% of Howler Head from 2025. Which basically means if Howler Head keeps growing like this, it will be a savvy investment. “With bourbon whiskey serving as one of our global priority brand pillars, Howler Head is an ideal fit for our portfolio,” said Bob Kunze-Concewitz, Campari Group CEO. “In addition to being an exceptionally high-quality liquid, Howler Head has established a clearly unique brand personality and, through its deep relationship with UFC, has a huge on-tap worldwide fanbase ready to enjoy this fantastic bourbon”. Whiskey and fighting – another great combination.
RumFest to return for 2022
RumFest is back and promises to be bigger than ever for 2022. With two consumer sessions split across Saturday and Sunday 15 and 16 October, as well a trade day on Monday 17 October, the show will mark the finale of the seven-day London Rum Week activation, all curated by rum-industry titan Ian Burrell. Expect demonstrations, seminars, tastings, and exhibitions from new and established distillers and blenders, as well as live music and dancing. Food traders complete the line-up, offering snacks and meals as well as food and rum pairing masterclasses. Consumer tickets for RumFest Live start at £45 for the Saturady, and £35 for the Sunday, which includes a tasting glass, a show brochure, access to free masterclasses and samples, with the option of purchasing various add-ons for those who wish to personalise their RumFest experience. Should be a cracker for rum fans!
White Peak auctions inaugural release for Derbyshire charities
Remember when White Peak launched its inaugural whisky Wire Works back in February? Well, the Derbyshire distillery actually kept back bottle numbers 1 – 12 of this first release, with a view to auctioning them later in the year to raise as much money as possible for two regional charities close to the distillery’s heart. The brand has delivered on this promise by popping the individually-numbered bottles of Wire Works Whisky on whiskyauctioneer.com, until the 5 September, with all proceeds going to Derbyshire Wildlife Trust and The Peak District National Park Foundation. “We are sure that these bottles will generate a lot of excitement from our global audience of whisky lovers, offering the exclusive opportunity to collect the very first output from such a young and vibrant distillery which is already held in great esteem,” says Joe Wilson, head curator and spirits specialist at Whisky Auctioneer. “To ensure that as much is raised as possible from the auction, we have waived our selling fees and will donate the 10% buyer’s commission in addition to the hammer price raised.” Lovely stuff all around, congrats guys!
Mijenta becomes world’s first B Corp Tequila
Mijenta Tequila has become the first Tequila to receive B Corp certification. That means the company met or exceeded the B Impact Assessment criteria measuring an organisation’s social impact across categories including corporate governance, the environment, community, employees, and customers. All of Mijenta’s products are carbon neutral and packaging elements are eco-friendly, with the company offsetting nearly 720,000 kilograms of CO2 through its partnership with ClimatePartner. These actions have supported cloud forest protection and local community support in Chiapas, Mexico, and Mataven, Columbia, entailing collaboration with rural communities on reforestation activities and sustainable forest management. The Tequila brand has also supported creation and operation of 14 wind power plants in the states of Piauí and Pernambuc to deliver clean wind energy with various social benefits for local communities in Northeast Brazil. Mijenta is a small business that has met the rigorous standards of the B Corp certification without being owned by any of the major drinks companies (or a celebrity like George Clooney, Kendal Jenner, The Rock, or Rita Ora). Elise Som, Mijenta co-founder and director of sustainability (who has a Masters in Sustainability from Harvard University and Parsons) says that “through innovation, close collaboration with local suppliers and partnerships with like-minded organisations, we have worked from the outset to create a positive, lasting impact. For us, sustainability is about leaving a better world for our children, and we are excited to do even more as we continue to grow.”
And finally… Chivas Brothers to launch Last of Us whisky
One of the most acclaimed PlayStation games of all time is teaming up with Chivas Brothers to create a new limited-edition whisky. Naughty Dog, the creators of the sublime The Last of Us and its follow-up Part II, have collaborated with Pernod Ricard’s Scotch whisky arm to launch Moth & Wolf, inspired by the post-apocalyptic world of the series. It’s the next step in Chivas Brothers’ Digital Spirits Project, which aims to open up the Scotch whisky category to a new generation of whisky fans by collaborating with artists of film, TV, and gaming. “We are extremely proud about this new collaboration with Naughty Dog and all we have achieved with Moth & Wolf. Die-hard fans can now experience The Last of Us Part II in a new and unique way with a dram of this exciting whisky. I can’t wait for blended whisky fans to taste what we’ve been working on, and to welcome more drinkers into the wonderful world of whisky,” says Kevin Balmforth, blending manager at Chivas Brothers Limited commented. The press release is pretty scarce on details actually outlying what the result of this team-up is, other than a cool bottle design, so we guess you’ll have to find out for yourself when it launches, which is tipped to be soon.