This week’s Nightcap is wall-to-wall amazing Scotch from the likes of Glenfiddich, Johnnie Walker, Lagavulin and more. Plus a whiskey barrel Christmas tree and chilli bacon vodka…
Do you know what today is? The day when it really hits home how close Christmas is. December, and Advent with it, is next week. This time next month it will be over. We have officially entered the season to be jolly. But you don’t need to panic and suddenly force yourself to feel the Christmas spirit. It’s Friday, relax and take in a nice bundle of stories from the world of booze first.
Other stories we covered this week include our guide to Black Friday 2021, word on Aston Martin and Bowmore’s latest collaboration, the reforming of Delamain Pale and Dry XO, and shining a spotlight on Brandy de Jerez. We also stirred up a seasonal drink inspired by the ancient Druids rounded up our top 10 Christmas drinks, and found out what #WhiskySanta’s latest Super Wish is.
The Nightcap: 26 November edition!
Glenfiddich auctions 42-year-old Scotch whisky
Glenfiddich and Goodwood are teaming up for a pretty special whisky release, which we’re lucky enough to taste. Just three decanters of a 42-year-old Glenfiddich have been released to be auctioned by Bonhams to raise funds for Race Against Dementia at 11:00 on 7 December 2021. The whisky is taken from cask #11136 from Warehouse 8, which is a refill American oak hogshead barrel that has been maturing since 13 April 1979. It’s a celebration of Goodwood’s historic whisky connection, which can be traced back to 1836 when a chance inheritance handed Gordon Castle and its estate to the fifth Duke of Richmond, who was alarmed by his tenant’s illicit distilling and used political influence and commercial nous to ensure distilling became legal; paving the way for William Grant to build the Glenfiddich Distillery. Each decanter is paired with a VIP experience at a renowned Goodwood motorsport event and a photograph taken and signed by renowned Formula 1 photographer Rainer Schlegelmilch as well as motor racing legend Sir Jackie Stewart OBE. Master distiller Brian Kinsman says about the dram that cask #11136 is “a stunning example of Glenfiddich, with an oaky, sweet and long-lasting taste. It has reached a perfection that few casks will ever achieve and is the ideal whisky to celebrate our long-standing relationship with Goodwood.” Each liquid is contained in a hand-blown crystal decanter by renowned French crystal maker Baccarat, and Bonhams have given a low estimate for each lot of £6,500. It’s a great cause and we can confirm the whisky is worthy of the plaudits. Its elegance and balance are astounding. We do hope whoever buys it actually drinks it.
Johnnie Walker ends series in style with Master of Flavour
In one of his final releases before he retires at the end of the year, Johnnie Walker master blender Jim Beveridge has put together the final edition of the cracking Masters range. Johnnie Walker Masters Of Flavour has an ABV of 41.8% and was made with whiskies aged for at least 48 years from ghost distilleries like Glyn Albyn, Port Dundas, Brora, and Glenury Royal, which was balanced together with whisky from Cameronbridge, Blair Athol, and Dalwhinnie. No wonder there’s only 288 bottles priced at £20,000. To create the special release, Beveridge teamed up with previous collaborators Donna Anderson, malt master, James Carson, cask master, and Douglas Murray, distillation master, to pay tribute to the skill of whisky-making. It’s the third and final whisky in the Johnnie Walker Masters series, which includes Ruby Reserve, a celebration of Jim Beveridge’s 30 years working in whisky, and the John Walker Masters’ Edition, a whisky crafted using Scotch aged for a minimum of 50 years from distilleries that were operational during the lifetime of Johnnie Walker founder John Walker. Much like both of them, Masters of Flavour is presented in a Baccarat crystal decanter within a bespoke oak cabinet. Although, it has to be said it does look like a bottle of Haig Club made especially for the Green Goblin. Still, we imagine the whisky itself is outstanding, and excitingly we’ll have a chance to find that out soon…
Lagavulin new Jazz Festival bottling is aged in mezcal casks!
The world does slowly seem to be getting back to normal but sadly this year’s Islay Jazz Festival will once again be online only this year. But never fear because sponsor Lagavulin’s annual festival bottling is happening and you can drink it IRL. It’s one that fans won’t want to miss because after initial maturation in refill bourbon casks it then spends an unspecified time in American oak barrels that previously held mezcal! Highly unusual. It’s bottled at a cask strength of 54.8% with a 13-year-old age statement, and will cost you £160. Distillery manager Pierrick Guillaume described it as “The first Lagavulin to be finished in mezcal casks with a distinctive and unusual flavour profile is sure to intrigue and excite Lagavulin fans and beyond.” “Distinctive and unusual” is just right. You probably wouldn’t guess that it had been aged in ex-mezcal casks, but it is hugely spicy and meaty with a strong lingering saline seaweedy finish. There’s also creamy toffee and vanilla lurking beneath stopping it all from getting too much. It’s a fascinating, highly complex dram, that’s sure to get whisky fans chattering. At the moment it’s a distillery-only release but we will let you know if we can get hold of a bottle or two.
Royal Salute releases $30k 51-year-old limited edition
We’ve had some packaging on whisky samples at Master of Malt but still, the arrival of Royal Salute 51 Year Old managed to cause a stir at the office. The 50ml sample came in a solid wooden box wrapped in gold (not real gold, sadly) chains with a combination padlock. It’s the second release in Royal Salute’s ‘Time Series Collection’ made up of casks filled before 1970 including some from ghost distilleries. Only 101 crystal decanters are available. Master blender Sandy Hyslop described it as “an undeniably special expression that blends exceptional style with high-aged whisky. Crafting a Scotch of that age requires intense care and attention to ensure the cask characteristics are perfectly absorbed without being overpowering, and the moment I tested the final blend will stay with me forever; the masterful role that time has played over a minimum of five decades of slow maturation really blew me away. This release is a one-of-a-kind expression, and I am honoured to contribute to the legacy that the outstanding Royal Salute Time Series Collection is making in the world of rare and collectable whisky.” There’s no doubt that it’s a special drop of quite jaw-dropping complexity. On the nose, there’s toffee, peaches, dark chocolate, cinnamon and cardamom with a distinct waxy note like you find in Brora (could this be one of the ghost distilleries in the blend?). The palate is spicy and lively with menthol, manuka honey, Jamaica cake, and a lingering waxy texture. We feel lucky to have had a wee taste especially as at $30,000 a pop we are very unlikely to ever taste it again. Well, we suppose that explains the packaging.
Ian Burrell takes Equiano on UK rum tour
Global rum ambassador and co-founder of The Equiano Rum Co Ian Burrell is taking to the road this winter with A Tale of Two Rum Islands, a fascinating presentation of the rum-producing histories of Barbados and Mauritius. The event also gives guests the opportunity to taste Equiano Original and Equiano Light and learn the story behind its name, honouring the legacy of African-born writer, entrepreneur, abolitionist and freedom fighter Olaudah Equiano, as well as learn about the brand’s philanthropic endeavours. The session concludes with a Q&A, a rare chance to get geeky with one of the industry’s leading authorities. Burrell’s first UK tour in five years kicked off in London on 22 November, and we attended and had a blast. He then headed to Brighton (23 November) and will visit Nottingham (30 November) and Manchester (1 December) next, before continuing the tour in January 2022 in Liverpool, Sheffield, Leeds, Bristol, Cardiff, London, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Oxford, and Birmingham. We highly recommend it. Equiano is also marking International Day for the Abolition of Slavery (2 December) by teaming up with London bar Duchess of Dalston (from the team behind Callooh Callay) to create an exclusive cocktail and raise money for Anti-Slavery International.
Wine and spirits firms warn of Christmas alcohol shortage in UK
There’s no need to panic but… a group of 48 wine and spirits companies have told transport secretary Grant Shapps that Britain will suffer a Christmas alcohol shortage unless the government does more to address the lack of HGV drivers. Businesses including Pernod Ricard, Moët Hennessy, and the Wine Society raised concerns over rising costs and supply chain “chaos”, raising the risk that supermarkets will run dry and festive deliveries arrive late. Members of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA), which coordinated the letter, reported that importing products is taking five times longer than a year ago and that small businesses are struggling to compete as delivery firms have had to raise HGV drivers’ wages. Unpredictable arrival times are also resulting in goods being either not ready or are left waiting for collection. The call is for Shapps to extend a temporary visa scheme for HGV drivers, which expires in February 2022, to a year, and for the government to smooth congested freight routes from ports, as well as providing regular updates on how many HGV driver licences are being processed by the DVLA. “Government needs to be doing all it can to ensure British business is not operating with one hand tied behind its back over the festive season and beyond,” Miles Beale, the WSTA chief executive, summarised. Let’s hope the resolution is forthcoming, and if you do need any booze for Christmas, we might have an idea of where to get some….
Guinness launches £750 home beer tap
Guinness is launching a limited-edition at-home tap to serve draught pints right in time for Christmas. Following the successful rollout of the technology in pubs, bars and restaurants across the UK earlier this year, the system should help you attain a better pint in your own home, although we all know how hard it is to get Guinness right regardless. The new technology is thankfully simple. Just pop a Guinness Microdraft into the pint puller, and the technology itself guides the user on how to conduct the perfect two-part pour. “Guinness Microdraft enables people to enjoy a beautiful looking and delicious tasting Draught Guinness on tap in a completely new setting for the first time ever,” said head of Guinness GB, Neil Shah. “Whether it’s to pour the perfect drink at a festive gathering, a Christmas gift for a friend or family member, or simply to enjoy an iconic drink of the black stuff at home with loved ones, Guinness Microdraft is sure to be a hit among beer lovers.” The Guinness Microdraft Bar Tap will be available to purchase for £750 from 6 December and arrives with four Guinness Microdraft cans and two Guinness pint glasses.
The most popular wines in the UK revealed
A new survey, which looked at the preferences in wine varieties of adults of drinking age has revealed the top 10 most popular wines in the UK. Winemaking simulator game Hundred Days, which allows players to “embark on a journey of winemaking,” found the favourite varieties, although there’s not much in the way of surprises. Coming in first place is Pinot Grigio, then Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Merlot and Rosé rounded up the top five, with Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Malbec, and Rioja having to settle for places in the top 10. “Britain is one of the largest importers of wine, taking in over $4 billion worth of crates, bags and bottles in 2020. Yet, our research shows that the nation is largely shying away from expanding their wine repertoire and are stuck in a wine rut – making the same purchases over and over again,” says Yves Hohler, lead designer and co-founder of Broken Arm Games. Typically, they feel their game can make a difference by showcasing the vast array of different wines available. Of course, you could save yourself the effort and just click here…
Hinch Distillery makes barrel Christmas tree
Getting truly into the festive spirit is Hinch Distillery, which has unveiled a 24ft Christmas tree made from up-cycled whiskey barrels. Topped off with sparkling lights and a big bow, the one-of-a-kind ‘tree’ was made from 150 repurposed Hinch Irish whiskey barrels and took 48 painstaking hours to do. It took a team of eight under the helm of Co Down decoration installer to create the structure, which pays homage to the whiskey distilling process at Hinch, including a globe made from strips that hold the barrels in place. After Christmas, the plan will be to repurpose it for furnishings including chairs and plant pots to make it a year-round installation. Hinch Distillery, which will celebrate its one year anniversary this month, lies between Belfast and Ballynahinch on the Carryduff Road and is nestled in the grounds of the beautiful Killaney Estate, so if you want to see it for yourself, you know where to go. Be sure if you’re interested to see The Whiskey Barrel Christmas Tree light switch-on, which we imagine will be quite a sight. The distillery, which has not yet got its own whiskey, has also bottled a 12-year-old Amarone Cask Finish expression. But that’s just not as impressive as a big barrel tree, is it?
And finally… Baller launches chilli bacon vodka
The ‘And finally…’ section of The Nightcap has featured many a mad product before, from the strangest of gins to the most confusing of creations. This week we’ve got a chilli bacon vodka to cast a suspicious eye on, straight from London-based distillery Doghouse. The creators of Baller Vodka, which claims to be the capital’s only vodka made from scratch, dreamt up the new flavour to “disrupt the category” thanks to its “first-of-its-kind” chilli and bacon combination. It’s produced using the brand’s wheat vodka as a base, with Mexican-grown Habanero chillies and a secret ingredient, which apparently isn’t actual bacon, to give it a bacon sweet smokiness. Could be vegan then. Not that I’d imagine that’s the target market. The distillery says to enjoy Baller Chilli Bacon Vodka with dry ginger ale and a squeeze of lime juice, or in a Bloody Mary cocktail – which in fairness I can see working. Mostly this will be bought by people needing a joke present or something to shot on stag-dos you’d think. And more power to them. We are, after all, the folks behind this monstrosity…