This week on The Nightcap, you can look forward to stories about brand new whiskies, brand new distilleries and… thievery!
There’s a leap day tomorrow, which is always a bit interesting. Do you use it to delay things you have no intention of doing by saying “I’ll do it next February 29th!”, knowing full well that it won’t happen for another four years? Do you dread it because it adds another day to February, thus making the warm light of spring seem that much further away? Do you completely forget about it and find it disorientating expecting March but waking up in February again then start believing you’re trapped in a time loop? However you enjoy your leap day, go into it knowing what happened this week in the world of booze by tucking into this edition of The Nightcap!
On the blog this week we launched our Merser & Co. Double Barrel Rum competition as Ian Buxton returned to look into the explosive history of distillery fires. Adam then announced the news that Kilchoman Distillery has opened its new stillhouse and visitor centre before inviting you to broaden your horizons through a delightful selection of world whiskies, before Henry tasted the new special limited edition Ardbeg Blaaack and a single cask Bruichladdich bottled by Hunter Laing for our New Arrival of the Week. Annie, meanwhile, enjoyed a Mediterranean take on a classic for our Cocktail of the Week, the world’s first African-Caribbean rum and then got the low-down on peat from a selection of whisky experts.
But there’s still so much more boozy goodness to enjoy. To The Nightcap!
Waterford Distillery launches its first whisky
Waterford Distillery has announced the release of its first whisky since it began distillation in 2015. 1st Cuvée: Pilgrimage is the hugely-anticipated launch from the famously terroir-driven producer and is a limited-edition commemorative bottling created by head distiller Ned Gahan. The distillery says Gahan has “brought together each of the 36 farms we distilled in our first year, each one location, captured in spirit, a unique Waterford distillate. Together, they make a mind-bogglingly complex and multi-layered single malt – the determined goal of this intriguing journey – a pioneering concept for the whisky industry”. There are just 1,500 numbered bottles of 1st Cuvée: Pilgrimage, which was bottled at 50% ABV and has a retail value of €150. However, getting your hands on it won’t be easy. 1,000 of these bottles have been labelled “I Was There” and will be available to the public, strictly limited to one per individual, at a distillery open day on Saturday 25th April. Waterford Distillery stressed in the press release that the bottles must be collected in person and that it is only for those who “make the pilgrimage”. To provide a festival atmosphere (among all the strict rules and regulations), local food suppliers, brewers and musicians will be in attendance. Tickets for the open day can be bought on Eventbrite right here.
The Kyoto Distillery opens ‘The House of KI NO BI’
The Kyoto Distillery has a new brand home, ‘The House of KI NO BI’, which will officially open on Saturday 28 March in the centre of the historic city. The renovated traditional ‘machiya’ townhouse was built more than a 100 years ago as a timber mill and the Japanese gin brand has retained the original interiors including earthen walls, beams and roof tiles to preserve its heritage. Just as with the distillery’s gins, local materials were used wherever possible, including bespoke handmade furniture by local workshop In Wood and traditional fabrics from the revered textile company, Hosoo, based in Nishijin, Kyoto’s kimono-making area. The interior design was completed by Douglas Kakuda Croll, son of two of the founders and a graduate of the Bartlett School of Architecture at UCL London. The house is open to visitors and will serve classic cocktails and local drinks such as Kyoto Brewing Company beers and wines from the Amanohashidate Winery in the north of Kyoto Prefecture, while the food menu will focus on botanical-inspired dishes made with locally-sourced ingredients. Exclusive items will be available at the Omise no Ma (shop), the exhibition space, Tenji no Ma will showcase information about the history of gin and the botanicals used by the Kyoto Distillery, whilst botanical deconstruction and gin blending seminars will be available at Konwa no Ma (meaning Harmony). Kyoto Distillery’s range of gins, including its classic Ki No Bi Gin, is available here.
The Oldest Macallan and Karuizawa ever bottled lead Sotheby’s wines & spirits sales
Sotheby’s upcoming wines and spirits sales on the 18 March is sure to draw headlines as the pre-sale estimate is between £842,420 – 1.6 million worth of rare drink across 87 lots. The Finest & Rarest Spirits selection features some standouts, including the oldest Macallan and Karuizawa expressions ever bottled. The highly sought-after Karuizawa 52 Year Old Cask #5627 Zodiac Rat 1960, is arguably the most coveted bottle from the legendary closed distillery and in 2018, a bottle of this Japanese single malt broke the record for the most expensive bottle of Japanese whisky ever sold at auction, superseded several months later by a rare bottle of Yamazaki 50 Year Old 1st Edition. Macallan whiskies, as always, will draw longing looks from buyers with a range that includes an independently bottled 48 Year Old, an unbroken vertical of The Macallan in Lalique Six Pillars Collection (six crystal decanters ranging from 50 to 65 years old) and the 72 Year Old Genesis Decanter, the oldest whisky to be released from this exemplary distillery. Another highlight is an array of old Gordon & MacPhail releases from previous decades with vintages stretching back to the 1930s, which were consigned to Sotheby’s directly from the Urquhart family. “We are delighted to present such a strong selection of bottles consigned directly from producers as well as from private collections to begin our 2020 sales in London. Among the most exciting bottles in this sale are the Gordon & MacPhail Private Decanters, all of which are numbered 1 of their respective outturn. This is the first time that any number 1 decanter from G&M has been offered for sale rather than kept within the Urquhart Family archives,” says Jonny Fowle, Sotheby’s spirits specialist. “Offering these alongside such iconic bottles as Karuizawa 52 Year old from Cask #5627 and so many Macallan in Lalique decanters showcases the strength of current demand for the very best in the world of whisky.”
Spirited Union announces ‘The Highballer of the Year Twenty Twenty’ competition
Spirited Union has announced that it will kick-off its first Highballer cocktail competition in March to “find the next innovative expression in botanical rum” and the perfect bartender to become the Highballer of the Year 2020. The ‘world’s first’ botanical rum distillery will task entrants initially with creating a unique Highball recipe using its current range of drinks between 1st – 30 March. Those who make it through to the second round will then be sent a sample pack of five single-origin rums and the competitors must choose a rum that they feel best works with their botanical rum concept while also presenting an idea to help Spirited Union further reduce its carbon footprint. The chosen finalists will be invited to Amsterdam for a three-day competition from 5 – 7 June to distil their own rum recipe in the Spirited Union Distillery. The winning expression will then be launched as Spirited Union’s 2020 Limited Edition Rum which will go on sale throughout Europe. The winner will also help “shape the brand’s ongoing ideas and future distillery plans, alongside the opportunity to consult on new launches in their home country”. If you’re interested in entering or want more information, just click here.
Barcelona comes to Soho in two exciting pop-ups
Barcelona, renowned for crazy architecture, delicious tapas and, of course, its awesome bar scene. It’s home to Paradiso and Dr Stravinsky, two of the world’s best bars (ranked #20 and #25 in the World’s Best Bars, respectively), and now both establishments are touching down in London for the week with two specially curated cocktail menus! What’s even better is that you can find both pop-ups in the same place, Wardour Street in Soho. Running from Tuesday 3 to Friday 6 March at 100 Wardour Street, the wild and wonderful Paradiso, known for its theatrical nature (in its home city, you’ll find it in a speakeasy hidden behind a fridge door) will be bringing its colourful, boundary-pushing serves. A serve that caught our eye was Caribe Italiano, described as a “Daiquiri with an Italian soul and a tropical touch,” marrying Guatemalan rum macerated with banana and Parmesan, coconut water shrub, fresh raspberry and rocket. Consider our interest piqued. Next door in The Den (at 98 Wardour Street), a bar channelling the intimacy of an old drawing-room, you’ll find Dr Stravinsky from Thursday 5 to Sunday 8 March. With the original bar reminiscent of a 19th-century laboratory and many of the cocktail components made in-house, you can imagine the exciting alchemy the team will bring to London. We’re looking forward to trying Truffle Rosita, an umami-forward serve boasting Blanco Tequila redistilled in truffle, Campari, red and dry vermouth and a Parmesan sheet (looks like Parmesan is all the rage is Barca!) If classic cocktails just aren’t doing it for you anymore, then prepare to have your expectations dazzled over in Soho next week!
Haig Club Clubman made ‘official whisky’ of David Beckham’s Inter Miami CF
David Beckham has brought together his love of football and whisky by partnering Haig Club Clubman and Major League Soccer’s newest club. Beckham not only co-owns Haig Club, with drinks giant Diageo, but he’s also one of the founders of Inter Miami, who he co-created once he retired from playing using his option that was put in contract that allowed him to purchase an expansion team at a price of $25 million when he joined the league with LA Galaxy in 2007. Fittingly, Haig Club and Inter Miami CF will officially kick off their partnership on the 14th March when Inter Miami takes on LA Galaxy at its Fort Lauderdale stadium. Cocktails will then be on sale to fans over the age of 21 at the stadium throughout the football season. Haig Club is made at Cameronbridge Distillery in Fife, and matured in ex-bourbon casks to create a light, sweet and versatile profile that’s ideal for mixing. “I’m so excited that Haig Club is launching in Miami. Miami is like a second home for me, it’s a city that has welcomed me with open arms – the energy and the people are all amazing,” says David Beckham. “Launching Inter Miami CF this year is a really proud moment for me and to have Haig Club be a part of that is really special. I can’t wait to see people enjoying Haig Club in Miami”.
Plans submitted for new distillery on Islay
Islay’s tenth distillery moved a step closer this week as Elixir Distillers submitted its plans (see photo in header) to Argyll & Bute council. The proposed site will include a floor malting, room for 16 washbacks and four sets of pot stills with a capacity to produce one million litres of pure alcohol per year. According to the press release: “The distillery will feature smaller stills, a mixture of modern and traditional yeasts, and longer fermentation times. Modern technologies around distillation and heat reclaim techniques will be used to maximise flavour and energy efficiency and minimise the impact on the environment”. It will be geared up to innovation with a separate still specifically used to create experimental batches. The people behind Elixir Distillers are Sukhinder and Rajbir Singh who will be well-known to drinks fans as founders of The Whisky Exchange and Speciality Drinks. Sukhinder Singh commented: “I wanted to build a distillery on Islay because I have always loved the island, its people and its whiskies. I’ve been a regular visitor to the island for over 25 years and must have tasted close to 3000 different Islay whisky bottlings! From a liquid point of view, we are determined to produce the greatest spirit possible. We want to create something that inspires the people of Islay and our customers and enhances the reputation of Islay as a source of some of the world’s greatest whiskies. Our hope is that our distillery becomes an integral part of the island community, and one of our key priorities is to work collaboratively with the local community to ensure everyone benefits.” Concrete plans to achieve this include eight houses for staff, a charitable fund to help the community and representation from locals in the decision-making process. We’ll let you know how the plans progress.
Fentimans Launches ‘She Is Fearless’ International Women’s Day Campaign
Do you work in the drinks industry? Do you work with awesome women who you think should be recognised? The wonderful Fentimans has launched a rather marvellous International Women’s Day campaign, dubbed ‘She Is Fearless’! Running throughout the whole of March, the botanical drinks brand is encouraging anyone in the drinks industry (male or female) to nominate women who have individually contributed to making a difference in the world of drinks and hospitality, from all roles including suppliers and bartenders to brand ambassadors and back of house staff. The name of the award (while obviously celebrating badass women) was taken from the Fentimans logo, the Fentiman’s family (and notably female) dog, called Fearless. All nominees will be graced with a Fentimans ‘She is Fearless’ award at their place of work. Follow this link to nominate a fearless woman you work with!
Carbon neutral distillery within two years, promises Chivas Brothers
This week Jean-Christophe Coutures, CEO of Chivas Brothers unveiled some bold sustainability initiatives. These include the building of the first carbon-neutral distillery within two years, to reduce the emission of greenhouse gasses by 20%, ensure all packaging is sustainably-sourced by 2022, make point of sale ‘eco-friendly and finally the slightly less concrete-sounding “roll out sustainable events around the world.” The environmental pledge came with the release of the group’s six-monthly performance which shows net sales up by 4%. Of the group’s big brands, Ballantine’s was up by 5%, Royal Salute by 17% and Glenlivet by 15%, whereas Chivas Regal itself was 2% down in the last six months. Most major markets were growing slowly with the US the standout up 17%, the odd one out was Global Travel Retail which was down by 2%. Let’s see if Chivas can maintain its growth, sustainably, of course.
And finally. . . American woman returns stolen stein after 55 years
We reported last year that at the Oktoberfest there were 96,912 attempted glass thefts prevented by stewards. But even the most stereotypical efficient teutonic guard will miss a glass or two. Once such lapse happened back in 1965 when American tourist Celeste Sweeney was at the Hofbräuhaus in Munich. Speaking to German news agency DPA, she told how she slipped the stein under her coat and smuggled it back to her home in Maryland. Hardly the crime of the century, but it seems that Sweeney has regretted it ever since as recently she spent over $100 sending it back with a note reading: “I took this beer stein from your establishment in the summer of 1965 when I was young, reckless and inconsiderate. I am sorry I did not get it back to you sooner. Hopefully it arrives in one piece.” Wolfgang Sperger from the beer hall was so impressed that he has sent her a replacement mug along with tokens she can exchange for beer. So all’s well that ends well. Now maybe I should do something about that Stella glass that mysteriously appeared in my cupboard one morning in 2006.