A collection of 9,000 bottles of whisky goes for more than £3m, a spate of boozy thefts, and Tequila slammers with caustic soda. It’s a wild ride of a Nightcap this week.

Well, another Burns Night has been and gone. We hope you thoroughly enjoyed the annual celebration of whisky, haggis, and the man himself. We certainly did. Particularly because our humble blog was delighted to announce the winner of our Burns Night poetry competition 2022, who faced stiff opposition from nearly 300 entries. 

That is loads of people. The Spartans held over 100,000 Persians with that number. Thank you very much to all who entered and congratulations to our top three. To see their entries you can click on the blog link, or watch this fantastic video featuring top Scot and master distiller Brendan McCarron who reading the winning entry aloud.

Elsewhere, we got all excited about Lochlea doing whisky bits for the first time, the revival of Scottish rye, the Moscow Mule, and the loveliness of liqueurs. There were also some MoM exclusive whiskies to shout about, as well as a look back at what you wanted most from us in 2021 and what makes Ron Abuelo so interesting.

Lots to enjoy. But we’re done yet. It’s The Nightcap: 28 January edition!

The Nightcap: 28 January

When you’ve got bottles this good, you’re always going to make a pretty penny

Whisky buff sells 9,000 bottle collection for £3.3m

History has been made this week after the largest whisky collection in the world to come to auction was sold. Whisky Auctioneer helped record-breaker Pat move over 9,000 bottles across 23 auctions, with the final auction on 22 November 2021 bringing the total raised to a whopping £3,360,000. It took over 12 months to auction the collection, which featured over 5,000 Scotch single malts, more than 1,000 blended whiskies, over 600 American whiskies, and hundreds of often-overlooked grain whiskies and independent bottlings. Pat, who bought his first whiskies based on the recommendation of a colleague, said that building a collection was never the original goal, he just wanted to try everything. “There were so many releases, distilleries and countries to explore. When I reached over 2,000 bottles, I decided to create a collection that represented the full picture of whisky”. That picture includes non-age statements, blends, world whiskies, and some classic old and rare examples, like headline sales Brora 1972 Rare Malts 22 Year Old, that sold for £20,500, and a Glenfarclas 1952 Family Cask #1712 / Release I that fetched £18,000. He added that selling the collection was a “deeply emotional process” and that his incredible journey has “culminated in a fitting finale with these bottles entered back into the market so other people can enjoy them”. And he can enjoy £3.3m. We wonder what he’ll spend the money on. Does anyone know if he likes whisky? We’ve got loads…

The Nightcap: 28 January

There have been a spate of booze thefts across Scotland. What is going on?

£66,000 of gin and whisky stolen & Aberlour Distillery robbed

But not every large collection of booze has a happy ending, as a recent story from Glasgow proves. Police Scotland say two men have stolen a haul of alcohol worth about £66,000 from a compound in Glasgow. The men broke into the base near Cambuslang at about 21:45 on Saturday and brought in an HGV, connected a trailer full of booze, and left the scene along Cambuslang Road. It’s thought they’ll look to sell the goods on, so the police have warned against buying alcohol at a discounted price, and urged anyone who knows who is responsible to contact them via the non-emergency line. Detective Inspector Stuart Gillies added: “If you are offered alcohol at a discounted price, you would be wise to suspect it has been stolen”. You’ve been told. PLUS, there was also robbery at Aberlour Distillery sometime between 22 December and 5 January. Thieves broke into the visitor shop and made off with whisky bottles worth thousands from a batch that has yet to be sold stolen, which should make them easier to trace. This news comes shortly after a similar raid occurred at Tullibardine Distillery in Perthshire, where eight bottles of whisky worth an eye-watering £10,000 were stolen. What on earth is going on? Can people please stop nicking lovely booze!

The Nightcap: 28 January

Congratulations, guys

Maker’s Mark is B Corp Certified

Maker’s Mark has earned B Corporation Certification, making it the largest distillery in the world to achieve the distinction. The brand has joined more than 4,000 certified corporations globally (including Sipsmith Gin and Bruichladdich) by meeting certain standards of social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability across the five categories of the B Impact Assessment: community, customers, environment, governance, and workers. The distillery boasts a wealth of sustainable, ethical, and philanthropic initiatives, including the establishment of a natural water sanctuary, the world’s largest repository of American White Oak trees for research purposes, and an onsite recycling program. The distillery also uses regenerative farming practices, while investing millions of dollars in the hospitality industry, local Kentucky causes, and the arts, for example being a principal partner to The LEE Initiative, which aims to address issues of equality and diversity in the restaurant industry. “Since 1953, my grandparents instilled a sense of responsibility here at Maker’s Mark that started with the way we make our bourbon and extended to the way we impact the lives of our teams, our customers, our communities, and our shared environment,” said Rob Samuels, 8th-generation whisky maker and grandson of the Maker’s Mark founders. “That commitment to a higher purpose continues to live on.”

The Nightcap: 28 January

Let’s hope it means good times are ahead for the popular brand

Eden Mill Distillery sold to private equity firm Inverleith

In 2012 Tony Kelly and Paul Miller founded a Scottish distillery called Eden Mill, which you’ll probably be familiar with from its cracking gin range including Hop and its Love range as well as the odd limited edition single malt whisky. Now, a decade on, a deal has been struck for a majority stake in the company by private equity firm Inverleith. The new owner, which has not disclosed the purchase price, said the investment would allow Eden Mill to expand distribution in the UK and abroad and plan to build a new distillery on the Eden Campus at St Andrews University. It will include a visitor centre, shop, and restaurant and provide more production capacity as Eden Mill’s current distillery in St Andrews, is working to full capacity. Miller will continue to lead the business, heading a new senior executive team, even though a newly-formed board of directors will be put in place. The managing director said Inverleith LLP, which has invested in premium drinks before (notably as a former majority stakeholder The Scotch Malt Whisky Society), was “the right partner to drive and support the next and most significant stage of the Eden Mill journey”.

The Nightcap: 28 January

This wouldn’t happen if people abandoned the salt and citrus altogether. Just saying.

Tequila slammers with caustic soda are a bad idea 

Four customers at London bar Tiger Tiger got the shock of a lifetime when the salt they were using for their Tequila slammers turned out to be caustic soda. The incident which occurred last month came to light in a news story this week in the Guardian. Helpfully the newspaper explained the shooter to its readers: “A shot of tequila is made into a slammer by licking salt first and then sucking a lime or lemon after.” Well, that’s cleared that one up! Caustic soda, aka sodium hydroxide, as its name suggests is a corrosive alkali used in cleaning products so not good for you at all. According to one report, the customers in question were vomiting and bleeding from the mouth. A bystander told the papers: “A group of four women and a man necked the Tequilas and used salt and lemon to soften the taste, then began to retch. One girl keeled over. Despite music blaring, everyone knew something was wrong. There was panic. People thought it was some kind of terrorist incident. It took a long time to establish what happened.” Thankfully though four customers were taken to hospital, none was in a serious condition. The police are not treating the incident as suspicious but it does beg the question, how could this disastrous mix-up have happened? Seeing as the bar has an extraordinary 1.6 out of 5 on Google reviews, it might be worth avoiding Tiger Tiger altogether.

The Nightcap: 28 January

Don’t lie, this is how you think you look at home, right?

Home cocktailing here to stay, says data company 

During the many lockdowns, we were subjected to here in Britain, many of us turned our hands at home bartending to pass the time and get our weekly (or daily, we’re not going to judge) cocktail fix. At Master of Malt sales of vermouth, fortified wines and liqueurs skyrocketed, and we’re not the only ones who saw this trend. On the back of Diageo posting a 16% rise in sales Carmen Bryan, consumer analyst at GlobalData has weighed with her two pennies worth. According to GlobalData’s Q4 2021 survey, 29% of people like to drink spirits at home with 38% of the younger generations, 25-44-year-olds, “reporting that they were spending medium-to-high amounts on spirits.” Despite the opening up of many economies around the world, she thinks that making cocktails at home is here to stay: “Although bars and restaurants are reopening, providing an added sales channel for alcohol manufacturers such as Diageo, many people have invested time and money over the last few years to transform their homes into private havens away from the ongoing political, social and economic troubles. And with ongoing financial pressures remaining a concern for more than 60%*** of people globally, many will likely opt to stay in with a glass of Gordons and save dining out for celebratory occasions.” Is she right? Well, for the sake of Britain’s bars and pubs let’s hope not. 

The Nightcap: 28 January

Keep ’em coming.

Champagne sales popping globally 

They’ll be popping a few corks in Epernay this week as, after a difficult year, global Champagne sales came roaring back in 2021, according to figures published in the Drinks Business. A total 322 million bottles were shipped in 2021. That’s 31.8% up on 245 million sold in 2020 and a tidy 8.2% up on 2019’s sales of 297.5 million. We’re still waiting for the country by country breakdown but it was export that drove the growth. Global sales were nearly 180 million, up 15.3% on 2019, which was already a record year for exports. Sadly, the French are letting the side down somewhat. Sales are up 25.3% on 2020 to nearly 142 million bottles but still down on 2019’s figures. The domestic market has been in terminal decline since a high of around 185 million bottles sold in 2010. Furthermore, the French are drinking less of big brands and more of the cheaper wines made by co-operatives. When the more detailed figures are released, it will be interesting to see where Champagne’s biggest export market, the UK, fits into all this. Champagne sales are usually a good guide to the health of the hospitality business and confidence in the general economy. 

The Nightcap: 28 January

It’s all well and good until you realise you have 20 pics of Boris’ face in your fridge

And finally… Boris-bashing brew anyone?

In a victory for lovers of alliteration, British brewer Beartown unveils Boris-bashing beer. The Cheshire-based indie’s beer is called The Perfect 10 and pokes fun at the United Kingdom’s beleaguered prime minister. The packaging is a homage to top rave outfit Altern-8 who were famous for wearing hazmat suits and face masks. Have a little listen here. Ah the early ‘90s, what a time to be alive! But back to the beer. According to the brewery it’s “a comic reminder of the strange times we live in, with the constant Covid-related drama showing no sign of slowing down, plus an increase in the government hosting cheese and wine meetings.” Perfect 10, which is available from Beartown’s website, joins other satirical beers like Brewdog’s Barnard Castle Eye Test. And talking of Brewdog, did anyone see the documentary about the beleaguered brewpunks? Seems like Boris isn’t the only one with problems.