A whole week has passed since we last filled our Nightcapping sack full of stories. Which means we get to do it all again this week. You might think that at some point not enough interesting things will happen in this lovely industry of ours and we won’t have anything to write about. But we’ve never had to find out. Because people keep doing cool, interesting or baffling things, like rebuilding a demolished pub brick by brick or putting whisky in mulberry wood casks. And we salute them for doing so. It means we’ve got another cracker of a Nightcap to enjoy this week. So, what are you waiting for? Read on!
If you like winning stuff by doing very little then the MoM blog was the place for you this week as we launched a bottle lottery for a shiny new Macallan whisky and a #BagThisBundle competition with Botanist Islay Dry Gin. If you enjoy smoky blends with plenty of history, fiery zero ABV drinks or bargain vodka you’ll also love this week’s work. There was also room on our blog for plenty of debate with Ian Buxton considering the potential of a whisky bust that could be coming soon and Henry asking if the G&T is a cocktail. Lucy, meanwhile, did some digging into the history of Hennessy Cognac as Adam’s attention was taken by Irish independent bottling and the Curious Bartender popped by to give us some top tips for making cocktails at home.
Highland Park launches 50-year-old whisky
Highland Park is flexing its considerable muscles this week by unveiling a new 50-Year-Old single malt. It’s just the third time a half-century whisky has been released in the distillery’s 223 year history, which should give you an idea of how significant this launch is. The 50 Year Old is the creation of a selection of nine refill casks laid down in 1968 that were married together in 2008 then re-racked into a handful of the finest first-fill sherry seasoned oak casks. Then, after a further 12 years of maturation, one of these limited casks was selected and married with a small quantity of the whisky from the 2016 release of 50 Year Old which in turn contained some whisky from the 2010 batch. Highland Park is describing this as a ‘solera’ as used in the sherry industry, which isn’t quite accurate, but certainly sounds colourful. Gordon Motion, Highland Park master whisky maker, described it as “spectacular”. He reveals the spirit has both the rich sherried flavours from its final first-fill cask maturation, as well as all the delicate fragrance and flavours driven by the original refill casks. The whisky comes in a hand-made walnut box courtesy of John Galvin and the design has all the hallmarks of the Norse heritage Highland Park likes to reference nowadays. Of course, all of this comes with a considerable price tag of £20,000, so it’s unlikely any of us will get to taste it. Still, there’s plenty of tasty Highland Park expressions to enjoy right here, which is a solid consolation.
Whisky Galore island getting its own whisky distillery
The island where author Sir Compton Mackenzie set his classic novel Whisky Galore is about to welcome its first-ever whisky distillery. The team behind the Isle of Barra Gin brand plans to create a new purpose-built whisky and gin distillery and visitor centre on Barra, where the original movie was filmed. The £5m project will serve as the new home to the existing 300-litre Barra gin still, ‘Ada’ and have a plant for bottling and bonded warehousing, a small café/bar and a retail area, all while creating at least 30 new local jobs. Whisky veteran Alan Winchester (of Glenlivet fame) has been brought on board to put his 40+ years of experience to good use, guiding Isle of Barra Gin founders Michael and Katie Morrison and helping to establish a flavour profile. The plan is for the site to be powered by renewable energy and for it to be built with sustainable materials, while a green travel plan that will limit the number of visitors driving to the site is also in development. Once completed, the distillery will be capable of producing over 300,000 bottles of single malt per year, with the firm planning to use spirit matured in a mix of ex-bourbon barrels, Cabernet Sauvignon casks and Oloroso sherry casks. The founders say the idea is to create a spirit that represents its island home and also reveals that ever since the launch of Isle of Barra Distillers, they’ve consistently been asked if they produce whisky because of the instant connection people make with the much-loved film and the book. If all goes well they should break ground in the middle of next year. Though you’ll have to wait a good while before it’s whisky galore on Barra.
Method and Madness creates world’s first mulberry wood whiskey
One of the many interesting things about the Irish whiskey industry is that it allows producers to mature their spirit in casks other than oak. And that leads to all kinds of cool and curious creations. Like the latest Method and Madness expression. No strangers to experimental ageing, the brand is launching a new single pot still Irish whiskey finished in virgin white mulberry wood. It’s thought to be the first time anyone has used this wood type for maturing whisky. It’s sourced from Hungary, where its air-dried for two years at the Kádár sawmills in Tokaj before being transferred to a cooperage in Budapest. The Irish Distillers brand reveals the casks are just 50-litres which, combined with high porosity and medium toasting, imparts elevated flavours of wood spices and toffee sweetness. Before it was finished in the mulberry wood casks (for around three to eight months), the single pot still whiskey was matured in a combination of first-fill and re-fill American oak barrels. Finbarr Curran, Midleton’s wood planning and maturation team lead, says the innovation is the third world’s first in the Method and Madness range and that the brand’s commitment to wood experimentation and maturation has “taken us all over the world and led to the development of some of the most exquisite Irish whiskeys”. Adding: “It’s been a joyous journey of discovery and we look forward to continuing this exploration as we keep pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in Irish whiskey.” Oh, and while we’re talking about Irish Distillers, congratulations are in order for Brendan Buckley, the company’s international marketing director, who has been inducted into the Whisky Magazine Hall of Fame to recognise his contribution to the growth of the Irish whiskey category on the global stage. Slainte, Brendan!
Demolished London pub rebuilt brick by brick
It sounds like something from the plot of a feel-good film. Developer bulldozes historic pub illegally, locals rally round and the council orders developer to rebuild the pub. And they actually do, brick-by-brick in an exact recreation of the pub’s glory days. But this is exactly what happened to the Carlton Tavern in Maida Vale, west London. The pub closed in April 2015. Just before being granted Grade II listed status, the owner, a company with the perfectly sinister name of CTLX, demolished it having previously been denied permission to convert it into flats. Following a campaign by locals led by Polly Robertson, Westminster Council ordered the pub rebuilt, and against all expectations, it happened. Cleverly Robertson and Historic England took plaster casts of every tile because “we had a suspicion before the demolition that they would do something,” she said to the Guardian. Apparently, though, CLTX did a great job of rebuilding the pub which is now in the safe hands of Tom Rees and Ben Martin of Homegrown Pubs and will be opening soon. We just can’t wait for the film version starring Julie Walters, and Steve Coogan as one of the slippery property developers.
The GlenAllachie revives blended whisky brand White Heather
You may know the brand for its considerable range of tasty single malts often aged in intriguing cask types, but GlenAllachie now has its own blended Scotch. It’s called White Heather, you know, like that whisky brand which was discontinued in the 1980s. The rights to it were acquired by The GlenAllachie Distillers Company in 2017, along with the distillery itself and MacNair’s Lum Reek. The blend was concocted in the GlenAllachie Distillery lab by master distiller Billy Walker, whose recipe has a high single malt content, with whiskies coming from the Highlands, Islay and Speyside. Of course, some vintage GlenAllachie is in there too. The whiskies spent an initial 18 years maturing in a combination of first-fill American barrels, sherry butts and second-fill barrels and hogsheads, before an additional three years in a mix of Pedro Ximénez puncheons, Oloroso puncheons and Appalachian virgin oak casks. This means the youngest whisky in this blend is 21-years-old. This factor, as well as there just 2,000 bottles available worldwide and the fact that it’s bottled at 48% ABV with no added colouring or chill-filtration explains the £120 price tag. Walker, who celebrates 50 years in the whisky industry next year (and joining Brendan in the Hall of Fame), says White Heather is particularly close to his heart as it took him back to when he began his career at Hiram Walker, where learned the art of blending. “With White Heather, I poured everything I’ve learned on my whisky journey into crafting a truly memorable small batch aged blend that sits proudly alongside even the very best single malts”. You can see for yourself how he’s done, as White Heather will be available from MoM Towers soon…
Mediterranean Orange Haig Club coming soon
There’s a new Haig Club on the way! Don’t all rush at once. It’s fair to say that Haig Club since it was released in 2016 has taken a bit of a battering, as you can see from the ratings on the Master of Malt website. With its, if we’re being very polite, discrete flavour profile, it hasn’t caught the imagination of whisky fans. We reckon, however, that a new expression might be rather nice. It’s called Mediterranean Orange and according to the press bumf, it was “created in collaboration with brand partner, David Beckham.” Actual David Beckham himself commented: “Developing Haig Club Mediterranean Orange has been in the works for some time now and I’ve enjoyed helping select the final liquid. The orange perfectly complements the signature Scotch notes of Haig Club and it’s a great long drink for summer.” This new expression is not a whisky but a spirit drink flavoured with orange, sweetened and weighing in at 35% ABV which we think plays to Haig Club’s strengths, that discrete flavour profile. Violeta Andreeva, whisky marketing director, Diageo described it as “an exciting step forwards for dark spirits,” (dark spirits, lol!) and continued: “We see this as a huge opportunity to recruit a new generation of drinkers as more and more consumers are choosing flavours and sweeter drinks.” We have to admit, in a long drink with lemonade or tonic water, it sounds delicious. Just don’t offer it to your mate with the Ardbeg tattoo.
SWA files lawsuit against Canadian whisky producer over ‘Caledonian’ name
Vancouver’s Caledonian Distillery makes much of its Scottish heritage. Well, there’s the name for example. And it was set up in 2016 by a team of Scots including founder Graeme Macaloney and former Diageo master distiller Mike Nicolson with the late Jim Swan as a consultant. Products include Scotch-style single malts as well as Irish-style pot still whiskies. Now, as reported in the Spirits Business, the SWA has weighed in: “We have objected to the company’s use of certain words and terms that are strongly associated with Scotland on their whisky products,” a spokesperson said. Those words being ‘Caledonian’, ‘Macaloney’, ‘Island whisky’, ‘Glenloy’, and ‘Invermallie.’ The SWA claim that they violate Scotch whisky’s GI and has filed a lawsuit against Macaloney. The firm issued a statement: “We are proud to celebrate our heritage including the Scottish ancestry of our founder and the story of his family, and firmly believe we have the right to do so in a way that celebrates both that history and reputation as a leading Vancouver Island craft distillery.” It will be interesting to see whether the two sides can come to a compromise. The SWA lost a lawsuit in 2009 against another Canadian Distillery, Glen Breton. We’ll keep you updated.
And finally… the search is on to find the worst tasting note
Have you ever read a drink description that has left you amused, bemused or tearing your hair out with rage? Now, and not before time, satirical drinks website Fake Booze has launched a competition to find the worst tasting note. Whether it’s wine, beer, whisky or baijiu, according to Fake Booze, “if it’s crap it’s a contender.” The #thecrappies will feature a number of categories including ‘most pompous’, ‘crappiest food match suggestion’, and ‘most sexist.’ We have a top tip for that last category. You can enter with the #crapnotes hashtag on Twitter or send a DM to @fakebooze on Twitter/ fake.booze on Instagram. The winner will be announced at a star-studded ceremony in June, or maybe just on the Fake Booze website. It’s all highly amusing, but what if someone at Master of Malt wins? It won’t be so funny then.