A forgotten cask sells for £1m, a dispute with the SWA is settled, and a scientist thinks whisky can be used to fuel cars. It’s all in the Nightcap: 29 April edition!
On Monday there’s another bank holiday, and with the extra one the country has this year to celebrate the Queen, talk has begun about making it a permanent fixture. We think this is a great idea. Like popping all the most important and interesting stories from the world of booze into one handy location. What a corker that was. Let’s all enjoy another Nightcap.
First, here’s the blog round-up: we made the case for Calvados, saw the charm in a tiny distillery on the Isle of Mull in Scotland, spoke to Inverroche Gin’s Lorna Scott, and shone a spotlight on some Armagnacs we think single malt lovers will enjoy. We also got into the spirit of Sakura season, rounded up our top ten vodkas with flavour, whipped up The Bronx, and set up a competition to help you win a VIP to the Seychelles with Takamaka Rum!
Lots going on, but it doesn’t stop there. Onto The Nightcap: 29 April edition!
Forgotten Macallan cask sets new record
A rare cask of whisky has sold for more than £1 million at auction in what is said to be a new world record. The cask, originally filled on 5 May 1988, had been held in bond at the Macallan Distillery in Moray for almost 34 years and cost just £5,000 back when it was filled. Not bad given it sold for $1,295,500, or £1,017,000 in an online auction on the Whisky Hammer site. It breaks the record already established by a 30-year-old, re-racked, sherry hogshead from Macallan, which was sold in 2021 by Bonhams for £439,000. What’s truly amazing is that this new record-breaker was forgotten about for more than three decades by the ex-pat who bought it, and it wasn’t until they were reminded by Macallan that it was still maturing in the warehouse. The cask was bought by a private individual based in the US and, if bottled today, would yield 534 700ml bottles of single malt whisky. Anyone reckon they have that valuable lying around the house? I’ll never forgive myself for not hanging on to my original Pokemon cards.
Alan McConnochie from The GlenDronach retires
We’ve just heard that one of Scotland’s best loved characters is set to retire. Alan McConnochie, distillery manager at The GlenDronach as well as Benriach and Glenglassaugh, will be stepping down this year after nearly 50 years in the business. He began his career at White Horse Distillers in Glasgow in 1973 followed by stints at Plymouth Gin and Laphroaig, before joining Billy Walker’s dynamic Benriach Distillery Company in 2004. McConnochie, quoted in the Glasgow Herald commented: “It’s been an incredible privilege to oversee the distilleries of some of the industry’s finest single malt whiskies. The one element I will miss the most is the camaraderie of both the distillery team and the whisky industry as a whole. Being a part of the launch of The GlenDronach Aged 50 Years in January was a particularly proud moment, having personally helped to nurture those casks over the years. I couldn’t be happier to hand over the reins to Laura, who is very well suited to continue to build the future of our skilled and passionate distillery team.” Current production manager Laura Tolmie will be stepping into his enormous shoes later this year. We feel very fortunate enough to have been shown around The GlenDronach by McConnochie and tasted some fine whiskies with him.
Glenlivet tears up rulebook in new ad with Anna Paquin
Another whisky brand is seeking to disrupt the whisky marketing narrative but it’s not some scrappy upstart, it’s The Glenlivet, the oldest of them all. A new film directed by, according to Ad News, “Jamie Nelson on location at her 1968 Hollywood regency style home in San Fernando Valley” features Oscar winner Anna Paquin who you may know from such films as The Piano. According to CEO of ad agency Emotive, Simon Joyce: “We set out to deliver a campaign that flipped the script on preconceived ideas of how it should be drunk and advertised. Gone are the tumblers, fireplaces, oak barrels, reconstructions of Scottish life in 1822 and dark brooding men with facial hair.” Perhaps he’s thinking of this Glenlivet advert from 2020. He continued: “In their place is Canadian born, New Zealand actor Anna Paquin, a blue tiger head and all kinds of whisky drinking blasphemy.” It’s called ‘Whisky Doesn’t Care What’s Between Your Legs’ and it opens with Paquin tinkling on a pink piano (that’s not a euphemism) before literally tearing up the rules in the form of a piece of paper headed ‘Old Boys Whisky Club’. She then, and stale old men look away now, adds ice, tonic, and a squeeze of orange to her Glenlivet 12 Year Old! So disruptive.
Chivas splashes £88 million on Aberlour and Miltonduff expansion
Distillery news just in, hot off the press: Chivas is planning to spend £88 million on two of its most important single malt distilleries: Aberlour and Miltonduff. It’s a major vote of confidence in the continued growth of Scotch whisky by the Pernod Ricard subsidiary. Aberlour’s capacity will double to 7.8 million litres of pure alcohol per year in order to keep pace with the demand for its whisky, which is the bestselling single malt in France. Visitor facilities will also be updated. Meanwhile, Chivas is planning a brand new distillery to sit alongside the current one at Miltonduff, adding 10 million litres to the capacity to fulfil demand for blends such as Ballantine’s. But it’s not just about oceans of new make, the investment aims to make both distilleries more environmentally friendly too as part of the company’s aim to make distillation carbon neutral by 2026. To achieve this new bio plants will be installed alongside energy recovering technology known as Mechanical Vapour Recompression (MVR). We love a high tech acronym we don’t really understand here at Master of Malt. Jean-Etienne Gourgues, chairman and CEO of Chivas Brothers commented: “Scotch has demonstrated its resilience as a category over the past few challenging years and in the process has opened new avenues for growth. This expansion will allow us to increase our volume to capitalise on the increased demand and interest in Scotch, but also supports our drive to reduce emissions in line with our sustainability ambitions. We’re once again betting big on the future of Scotch so we can bring in new consumers to the category and continue to shape a sustainable future of whisky.” Work is expected to be completed by 2025. So it looks like we won’t be running out of whisky anytime soon.
Imbibe Live is back!
The UK’s leading drinks industry event is back and returning to London this July! From Monday 4 to Tuesday 5 July 2022 the Olympia Grand Hall will reunite those of us in the drinks community and beyond once again with its mix of exhibitors, partners, tastings, and masterclasses, providing visitors with a welcome chance to taste and learn after a challenging few years. And it’s not just for those who buy, sell or serve drinks, this year will welcome visitors from across the on- and off-trade to discover the latest products and take advantage of invaluable networking opportunities. As usual, there will be an array of talks offering expert advice with the likes of Aleesha Hansel, Ian Burrell, Jane Peyton, Gabe Cook, Laura Willoughby, and Lorraine Copes in attendance. Tickets cost £15 which covers access to the event on both days, with a portion of the profits from ticket sales being donated to Imbibe Live’s two partner charities for 2022, The Drinks Trust and Only A Pavement Away. We hope to see you there.
Macaloney Distillers resolves dispute with SWA
You might recall that Macaloney Brewer & Distillers Ltd (MBD) and the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) had a branding dispute not too long ago. The SWA filed a lawsuit filed in the British Columbia Supreme Court on 5 March 2021 which expressed concern over the use of various branding terms ‘evocative of Scotland’. Now, a settlement has been reached after both parties agreed to the re-labelling of Macaloney Brewer & Distillers’ Canadian whiskies. The news has come just in time for the brand to start shouting about its impressive haul at the World Whiskies Awards. Dr. Graeme Macaloney, MBD’s president and whiskymaker, who is described as ‘a native Scot and proud Canadian’, said the brand is “delighted to announce that we have come to an agreement with the SWA. As a result, we will be rebranding our distillery and its associated tours and beer garden to ‘Macaloney’s Island Distillery & Twa (sic) Dogs Brewery’.” He added that he was “doubly pleased” to take home the prizes for ‘Canadian Best Single Malt’ for its signature expression formerly known as Glenloy, ‘Canadian Best Triple Distilled Potstill Whisky’ for its ‘Killeigh’ whisky, and ‘Worlds Best New Make-Young Spirit’ for its seaweed-peated spirit”. We’re glad to see it all worked out. For some interesting perspectives on the case, we recommend checking out this feature published last year on our blog.
East London Liquor Company reveals new bottle with reduced carbon footprint
The East London Liquor Company has revealed a whole new look to its whisky, as well as two new expressions. The previous bottle, while distinctive, was heavy and impractical for bartenders. Now the lightweight glass allows for easy speed rail and back bar use, while most importantly representing a dramatic reduction in the carbon footprint of the product. “The new bottle and natural cork stopper achieved a 60% reduction in the carbon footprint of those parts of the pack, which is a great start, but we have much more do to as a company and many more plans to improve our environmental credentials in the pipeline,” says Tom Hills, operations director and head distiller, who led the project. “The whisky we are producing is as delicious as ever, only now it’s available in a bottle that’s better for the planet and better for your wallet.” The news comes as the distillery launches this year’s edition of its signature London Rye, which will be closely followed by the East London Single Malt in June. Both were made using new fermentation techniques enabled by major investment in new equipment and capacity over the last four years, following two highly successful crowdfunding campaigns, and the volume of whisky will only increase over the coming years. Having had a chance to taste both this week, we can attest to the fact that these are very welcome developments all around.
TH@51 launches new bar menu
Across from the five-starred Taj 51 Buckingham Gate Suites, Residences, and within the red brick courtyard of St James’ Court you’ll find the newly opened TH@51 bar, which has a cracking new cocktail menu. We were able to get a chance to taste the selection, which is centered around the earth’s biomes. Designed by bar manager, Riccardo Lupacchini, previously at Scarfes Bar at The Rosewood, the cocktail menu celebrates our planet’s diverse and often fragile ecosystems and uses ingredients found in them. The drinks are spilt into different sections, each representing the earth’s macro biomes, from the great deserts and lush forests to the vast oceans and snow-tipped mountains. You can expect all the fancy bartending techniques, from fat washing, cold infusions, and decoction, as well as a selection of exciting bar snacks, Our highlight is the El Camino, featuring Mesquite-smoked Casamigos Blanco Tequila, pineapple tepache, agave, grapefruit, and tamarillo. If you get a chance, it’s not to be missed.
And finally… could whisky be used to fuel cars?
The future is now. Possibly. A biofuel scientist reckons they have discovered a way to use the byproducts of whisky to fuel your car. For those who don’t know, there is a byproduct made in the creation of whisky called draff, which is the residue left once liquid wort is drained off to be fermented and distilled. It’s often recycled as animal feed, but there are still plenty of distilleries that haven’t found a sustainable solution so it can be dumped in rivers or the ocean and find its way to landfills. However, this intrepid scientist has devised a fermentation process to transform the byproduct into biochemicals to replace some oil-based products, including diesel used in cars. The scientist who made the discovery says whisky waste can be used for more than just biofuels, including as an alternative to oil in plastics, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, clothing, and electronics. The challenge is scaling up this potential, as biofuels only account for about 3% of fuel used globally. Given the whisky byproduct can reduce carbon emissions by up to 90%, it seems like an idea worth exploring.