It’s time to welcome the long weekend with a dram and all the latest from the world of booze. 125-year-old Port, 185 years of Glenfarclas, and someone’s been overdoing it on the fantasy at Diageo, it’s all in the Nightcap: 28 May edition!
It’s the weekend folks and boy is it a good one. Not only is it longer for British readers, thanks to the Spring Bank Holiday, but it’s also the first weekend of the Islay Festival! You might have seen that we’ve already got some features on our blog regarding the event, but be sure to look out for our daily deals too, and check out this delightful Spotify playlist which should help you get in the spirit of things. Just because we can’t be on Islay itself, that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the wonderful whisky it produces and celebrate this amazing island.
Elsewhere on our blog, we launched one of the most incredible Father’s Day competitions you’ll ever see with Drinks by the Dram. Did someone say a year’s worth of whisky/rum as a prize? No, really. Get entering now. If you’re still stuck for ideas we have plenty of options. We also learned the story behind a very famous blend, found out how gin brands can stand out in such a crowded market, and got the inside scoop on pairing whisky and ice cream. There was even time to enjoy a party drink associated with Tom Cruise and some delicious apple brandy.
And be sure to join us this week on the Clubhouse App as we’ll have lots to talk about what with the small matter of the Islay Festival for us and our guests – Kristiane Sherry, Dave Worthington, and Richard Legg – to discuss!
Diageo’s latest Special Releases labels are literally fantastic
We got quite a surprise in our inbox this morning with a sneak preview of the labels for this year’s Diageo Special Releases. Our in-house filmmaker Ken Evans described them very accurately as “someone’s been on the fantasy novels over lockdown and had a ‘brilliant idea’.” Lagavulin has a flaming lion and Talisker is being marauded by a sea monster, while there’s all kinds of new age woo woo going on at the Singleton of Glendullan. They are wild. The labels which had been submitted for approval by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau in the US were shown on the American Whiskyart blog. As well as the quite literally fantastic graphics, there’s a high level of information on the labels about these limited releases. The line-up consists of a Lagavulin 12-year-old aged entirely in refill casks, a Talisker 8 “from a selection of our smokiest reserves”, a 19-year-old Singleton of Glendullan finished in Cognac casks, Cardhu 14 finished in red wine casks, Royal Lochnagar 16 from refill casks, Oban 12 from ex-bourbon and refill casks, a 13-year-old Mortlach aged in refill and virgin casks, and a mighty Lagavulin 26-year-old aged in first-fill Oloroso and PX casks. They’re all bottled at cask strength. All we can say is if the whiskies are as wild as the labels, we’re in for a treat.
Colin Hampden-White leaves Amazon Prime show The Three Drinkers
In a move that some in the industry are comparing to Robbie leaving Take That, it was announced yesterday that Colin Hampden-White has left the Three Drinkers. Hampden-White was the spirit expert of the trio whose superpower was wearing blindingly loud shirts. The other two drinkers, Aidy Smith and Helena Nicklin, will continue the team’s myriad activities including an Amazon Prime programme, online magazine and Bring a Bottle podcast. The third spot will be kept for a “revolving range of guests” with the emphasis on “diversity”. It’s not clear how much this is Hampden White’s decision or whether he didn’t fit in with the group’s future plans. The press release, which only sports a photo of Nicklin and Smith, states that Hampden-White “plans to concentrate more on his international whisky pursuits” but also that he is “stepping down… to allow a broader range of talent to be represented.” Hampden-White himself commented: “I hope this leaves room for new faces and new ideas to further the diversity in all things for The Three Drinkers.” Smith echoed the ambiguous tone of the release saying “while we are sad to be saying ‘au revoir’ to Colin, what this change will allow us to do now is very positive. We’ve listened to what the drinks world needs right now and that is a much needed diversity push….” So did Colin get the push?
Glen Scotia reveals line up for 2021 virtual festival
Glen Scotia has revealed the schedule for this year’s virtual malts festival which will go live on 7 June. Whisky fans the world over will soon be able to access a range of different events and content by visiting www.glenscotia.com/festival. Master distiller Iain McAlister will be joined by a host of famous faces in a packed programme that features the likes of Charlie MacLean, Neil Ridley, Joel Harrison. Festival-goers can expect an interactive virtual tour of the distillery, a virtual tasting of this year’s festival edition, historic tales from the once whisky capital of the world as well as the keenly anticipated dunnage tasting. This year the tasting will explore the influence of casks on the final liquid, with a particular focus on bourbon, refill American oak, and European oak finishes. There’s not going to be many Dunnage Tasting Boxes so get them from www.glenscotia.com while you can. The annual Campbeltown Malts Festival is a tremendous celebration and a great opportunity to talk about Scotland’s fifth and smallest malt-producing region and its whisky-making heritage. We highly recommend you get involved if you’re a whisky enthusiast.
Still In Cask to revolutionise whisky?
Every now again we get an email in our inbox from a brand that claims it’s going to change the industry. They almost never do, but we like the optimism. This week’s bold newcomer is Still In Cask, a global platform that says it will give consumers the opportunity to buy shares in a cask of spirit directly from a distillery, from as little as £20 a Cask Share. The self-described “innovative business” has been developed to “democratise the ownership of cask spirits and assure consumer ownership using a public blockchain”. You’ll forgive us for being a little sceptical, but the cask market appears to be the boomiest part of whisky at the moment and the amount of investment and new brands we’re seeing gives us a slight cause for alarm. However, it’s comforting to know then that the brain behind this is Liam Hirt, as in the founder of Psychopomp Microdistillery and Circumstance Distillery, which means it’s at least being run from someone who knows whisky and not just some folks who made a few quid in the city and want to diversify their portfolio. Kicking off this start-up, which is now live to the public, are some impressive names: Nc’Nean, Circumstance, Cotswolds, Mackmyra, and Connacht Distillery, which is also promising. Hirt says that cask ownership is usually reserved “for those that can afford an entire cask or those that can form a syndicate of like-minded individuals” which leads many enthusiasts to be excluded. He also says cask purchases are “historically complex and investment focused making it even harder to get involved”. Whether he has the solution or not will remain to be seen. For more info or to register your interest, head to StillInCask.com.
Belvedere launches Organic Infusions range
As a brand that has spent a fair amount of time and money ensuring people understand how much it values its raw materials, it’s shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone that Belvedere has entered the organic category with a new range of flavoured vodkas. There are three expressions, the first being Blackberry, Lemongrass with a hint of Sage, the second is Lemon, Basil with a touch of Elderflower and the final bottling is Pear, Ginger with a drop of Linden Honey. Each is made with organic Polish rye vodka, fruits, and botanicals which are farmed with no artificial pesticides, additives, or chemicals. We were fortunate enough to taste each at a virtual launch hosted by global brand ambassador Mike Foster, who says “the time is right and the demand is there” for organic, flavoured products. He added that the new range, coupled with the brand’s Made with Nature campaign, demonstrates that “Belvedere is dedicated to evolving the vodka category into one more rich in substance, more comfortable with the natural approach and more in tune with well-being and responsible lifestyle choices.” It’s a process that has paid dividends, in our opinion. They’re beautifully made spirits, each one is elegant, flavourful, and versatile that make tremendous Vodka Sodas and we can see people having tremendous fun whipping up all kinds of cocktails. Which you’ll be able to do soon as the range will be available from Master of Malt in the near future…
Lidl lands in hot water for ‘Hendrick’s lookalike’ gin
Anybody who shops in Lidl or Aldi will know the discount supermarkets love to create slightly cheeky imitations of established products. Just ask Colin the Caterpillar. Once again this approach has landed them in hot water, however, after Lidl was told it must stop selling a redesigned bottle of its Hampstead Gin. At the Court of Session in Edinburgh, Lord Clark awarded an interim interdict to the makers of Hendrick’s Gin, ruling Lid’s brand breached the established brand’s trademarks. The temporary order stops Lidl from selling the redesigned bottles in Scotland following William Grant & Sons’ claim that the supermarket remodeled the Hampstead gin bottle to resemble the “apothecary-style bottle” used by its gin brand. Which, honestly, is not an unfair suggestion. They look pretty identical. Same dark bottle. Same diamond-shaped label. Similar fonts. The Hampstead gin bottle even has cucumbers on it, which feels like a line crossed (Hendrick’s is famously infused with cucumber). In an amazing turn of events, during an earlier court hearing, social media comments about the redesign were read out, which included gems such as “Hmmm…Reminds me of another gin, but I just can’t put my finger on it… ” and “Looks a lot like another bottle of gin😉”.Lidl said it was disappointed by the ruling, naturally. Maybe the folks over there can console themselves with a drop of Jameson’s. Sorry, we mean Dundalgan Blended Irish Whiskey.
Glenfarclas marks 185 years with whisky
The great thing about being a famous distillery is that whenever you have an occasion to celebrate you already have the perfect thing for it: whisky! So it should come as no surprise to anyone that Speyside distillery Glenfarclas has released a limited-edition single malt whisky to celebrate its 185th anniversary. The producer, who began legally distilling in May 1836, is launching just 6,000 bottles of the Glenfarclas 185th Anniversary Edition in the UK priced at £120. The whisky was made the way all Glenfarclas whisky is, with spring water that emerges from granite under the slopes of Ben Rinnes which is combined with malted barley and double distilled in direct-fired copper pot stills. For the 185th Anniversary Edition, two-thirds of the liquid was filled in sherry casks and the remaining booze into ex-bourbon casks. Oh, and those casks used to make the whisky span six decades, don’t y’know? The whole thing was then bottled up at 46% ABV and slapped with a celebratory label and tin. “Due to my grandfather’s foresight, here at Glenfarclas we are very fortunate to have casks in our dunnage warehouses from seven different decades, from the 1950s to the 2020s,” says George Grant, sixth-generation family member, and current sales director. “To mark 185 legal years we have selected some of our finest casks from across the decades and put together a whisky with old, rich, sherried flavours that remain fresh and vibrant in your glass.” And our very own Ian Buxton has produced an up-dated 185th anniversary edition of his history of Glenfarclas – available only from the distillery.
One Eyed Spirits kills Ron de Jeremy brand and relaunches
You may be aware that about a decade ago a spirits brand decided to create a rum named after “the most famous Ron in the world” as the Spanish word for rum is ron. One Eyed Spirits chose Ron Jeremy, who at the time was known as a the porn film star who became part of mainstream culture. In the last few years, however, numerous allegations have been leveled against Jeremy and he now faces serious jail time after being arrested on charges of rape, sexual assault, and more by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office. As you can imagine, One Eyed Spirits terminated its commercial agreement in August 2020, commenting that continuing with the brand was “not a morally sustainable option” and that “the joke is over”. But the brand is determined to stay in the rum world and has created a new range called Hell or High Water. There’s not much info on the rums themselves, all we know is that there will be an XO expression, the “smooth and dry Hell or High Water Reserva” and the “rich, deep and spicy Hell or High Water Spiced. Most of the press release was instead dedicated to outlining that One Eyed Spirits has overcome obstacles and backstabbing, naming its rums after the expression, “come hell or high water”, as a reference to them being willing to do whatever it takes to overcome difficulties or obstacles. It’s laid on a little thick, to be honest, and it’s worth remembering that One Eyed Spirits are far from the true victims of Ron Jeremy’s alleged actions.
We taste Taylor’s 125-year-old Port
Taylor’s has made a thing in recent years of releasing exceptionally old Ports of superb quality. And this latest release from 1896 is no exception. It’s billed as a ‘single harvest’ Port rather than a ‘vintage’ as it was aged in cask rather than bottle. For 125 years! But it’s actually a comparative youngster compared with some Taylor’s releases such as the 1863 and the 1855. Adrian Bridge, Taylor’s managing director commented: “The launch of a wine as old, valuable and unique as this one occurs only a handful of times in a generation. It is by its nature, a historic event in its own right, which Taylor’s is proud to share with wine collectors and connoisseurs of rare wines.” He added: “Savouring such a wine is a once in a lifetime experience.” Only 1,700 bottles have been filled and they will cost around £3950. It’s a lot of money but compared with say, Brora’s recent £30,000 Triptych release, it’s actually a bargain. Our tiny sample bottle filled the room with a heady aroma when we opened it. The wine is almost impossibly complex with strawberries, balsamic vinegar, furniture polish, and Brazil nuts on the nose while to taste you’d never guess it was 125 years old. It’s fresh and vital with a finish you can measure in weeks. What an extraordinary Port.
And finally… Charlie MacLean tastes tonic wine on camera
Eldorado Tonic wine has produced a series of videos with Charlie MacLean and they are hilarious. We’re sure MacLean will need no introduction to Master of Malt readers but Eldorado might. It’s a rival product to the infamous Buckfast, known as LD in Glasgow, it’s extremely popular in Scotland, hence roping in whisky expert MacLean who doesn’t even pretend to know anything about the brand. “I’m not actually sure what a tonic wine is,” he says in the first film. Nor does he pretend to enjoy it. The best bit of the video is when after coming up with some serving suggestions, he gamely sips it out of a coupe. Then at 1.14 winces visibly and says “mmmm, it’s a swanky drink”, before presumably reaching for a bottle of Lagavulin to take away the taste.