Rum sales overtake whisky, Glenmorangie has a new look, and Kentish bison fight climate change. It’s all in this week’s round up of drinks news. It’s The Nightcap: 29 July edition!
It’s 2pm on a Friday and that means two things. One, about 95% of people working are putting in the absolute bare minimum as they wind down to the weekend, and two, the Nightcap is here. But before we get into the news from the world of booze, here’s a rundown of what happened on the blog this week.
It featured Picklebacks, old Ardbeg, Tequila meeting Guinness in a mini cask, brilliant BBQ drinks, an English summer in a glass, and a new spirit turning Greek tradition on its head. That’s not all, we also launched a competition with Rabbit Hole that gives you the chance to win a BBQ, heard from Paul Hletko of FEW Spirits fame on how to pair beer and whiskey, spoke to sales director David King about all things Gordon & MacPhail, and got the low-down on spirits competition medals from our in-house educator-in-chief Richard Legg.
And we’re not done yet. It’s The Nightcap: 29 July edition!
Rum sales reach £1bn to overtake whisky
Is it finally the year of rum? It’s one of those things people have been saying in the drinks industry for ages now, but maybe they’ll stop now that sales have surpassed £1 billion a year in the UK. Which means it now accounts for a bigger market share than whisky. Data from CGA by Nielsen IQ shows that in the 12 months to July 2022, rum has sold enough to take a 13% share of the overall spirits category, with client director Paul Bolton categorising its performance since the end of Covid-19 restrictions as “phenomenal”. The market research company also reports that sales are 51% higher for the latest quarter than they were for the same three-month period in 2019. What’s driving all this? Rum’s versatility in cocktails, more premium brands (sales went up 85% in the last quarter alone, and account for 33% of the market), and an explosion in the volume and variety of flavoured bottlings have been given as reasons, with the latter taking a larger share of sales along with spiced rum, accounting for 60% of the cane-based spirit category. White, dark, and golden rums grew in sales all the same, and Bolton also pointed to how much the young demographic was embracing rum, as nearly half (48%) of rum drinkers were found to be aged 18 to 34. It’s an exciting time for rum alright.
Tamdhu launches Batch Strength 007
There’s still plenty for whisky fans to be excited about (and Tequila, but we’ll get to that) as we’ve got a slew of hot new releases to talk about this week. Starting with Tamdhu, which has announced the latest edition to its multi-award-winning ‘Batch Strength’ series. That beautiful natural copper hue is about to be on display at MoM Towers as Batch Strength 007 is on its way, bottled un-chillfiltered at 57.5% ABV after full maturation in oloroso sherry-seasoned casks. Distillery manager Sandy McIntyre says the latest addition to the range is a “testament to our dedication to exclusively sherry-matured whisky, with its deep copper colour and complex profile”. What can you expect? On the nose, there’s a “subtle waft of vanilla sponge, followed by spicy cinnamon and roasted praline”. It then promises a “luxurious, thick mouthfeel” that is complimented by a “decadent pavlova filled with luscious raspberries”. They had fun writing these notes, didn’t they? A drop of water is then said to unveil “caramel apricots with a wave of oak spice, and a zingy lemon punch”, while the finish is said to be long and full of warm oak spices that give way to “baked figs and evident sherry flavours, which ascend to meet the freshly peeled clementine”. Lovely stuff, we can’t wait. We’re less excited to hear all the Bond jokes people will make about the name…
Fettercairn unveils third annual 16-year-old release
Fettercairn, meanwhile, has unveiled the latest edition of its popular 16 Year Old single malt whisky. The third annual release from the collection, which was launched in 2020, continues the theme of exploring interesting cask finishes and how it reacts to the distillery’s distinctive tropical fruit character. For this one, maturation began in first-fill oloroso sherry casks, before further maturation in first-fill Pedro Ximénez sherry casks and a final finish in ex-bourbon barrels. Bottled at 46.4% ABV without any additional colour or filtration, the whisky is said to unite “exotic fruity aromas in the form of ripe guava with patisserie spices, cocoa and a crescendo of natural vanilla to create layers of rich flavour bringing depth to the ripe exotic fruit characteristics typically found in Fettercairn spirit when it reaches its mid-late teens”. There’s some tasting notes being written by distilleries these days, aren’t there? If you want to get your hands on this one, just head here.
GlenAllachie creates mizunara cask-finished whisky
Our third and final new whisky to report on comes from GlenAllachie which, not to be outdone, only popped some of its spirit in rare mizunara casks. The Japanese wood is notoriously difficult to use and very expensive due to its limited supply, but plenty seem to prize the profile it gives whisky so it remains a popular choice for creators like GlenAllachie’s Billy Walker. He bolstered the distillery’s The Past, The Present & Future Series, which was launched earlier this year to mark Walker’s 50-year tenure in the Scotch industry, with this edition which was matured first in Pedro Ximénez and oloroso sherry casks before it was popped into the mizunara. In total, the whisky was ageing for 16 years before it was bottled at 48% ABV without any chill-filtration, and there’s only 2,900 bottles available at £280 a pop. “I’m incredibly proud to release my first ever mizunara virgin oak-finished whisky; a cask type that has of course been on my radar to experiment with, not deterred by its undeniable challenges,” says Walker. “I was confident that it would perfectly complement the bold nature of The GlenAllachie, and we’re delighted with the outcome. A very proud moment for a special personal milestone.”
New-look packaging for Glenmorangie
Glenmorangie, meanwhile, has been very busy recently finding all sorts of different ways to show off its whisky. There’s been a colourful brand campaign shot by photographer Miles Aldridge and a complete renovation of its beautiful boutique hotel, Glenmorangie House. Now, the brand has reimagined its packaging. It’s keeping the bold, vivid colour theme we’ve been seeing a lot recently from the Highlanders (not least at Glenmorangie HQ, which we’ve seen and is definitely worth a visit), which the distillery says is inspired by the whisky’s flavours. The new look is being rolled out from August and changes include not just brighter cartons and labels, but an updated bottle with wider shoulders, a tapered neck and stopper and a swirled detail inspired by Glenmorangie’s Signet icon on the base. “Our whisky is truly delicious and our reimagined packaging brings its flavours to the fore,” says Louise Dennett, Glenmorangie global head of brand. “We see this as an opportunity to welcome new drinkers with a playful elegance which reflects our creativity in whisky making; and to ensure our single malt stands out by using bold colours and enhanced branding.”
Brown Forman to splurge £30m on GlenDronach expansion
You will be seeing more GlenDronach around in future as its parent company Brown-Forman has just announced a £30 million investment in the Highland distillery. The press release doesn’t say how much production will be increased by, but according to the IWSR 2021 demand for single malts from GlenDronach has tripled since 2016. The expansion follows on from the refurbishment of the distillery’s visitor facilities in 2020. According to the press release: “significant attention will be paid to preserve the proudly historic site and craft of fine whisky-making on the grounds of the former Boynsmill Estate, including the restoration of the former maltings building as a working production area.” GlenDronach distillery manager Laura Tolmie explained: ”As a small, traditional Scottish distillery, we’re very proud to be custodians of such a revered single malt at The GlenDronach. I’m delighted that this significant investment in the long-term future of the distillery is secured, preserving our rich heritage whilst ensuring we can meet the increasing demand for The GlenDronach at home and around the world .” What the release doesn’t say is whether future releases will be chill-filtered or not. Whisky fans need to know.
Tequila sales double in two years
Last week we celebrated World Tequila Day (aka National Tequila Day) with a series of blog posts. Now news has just come in from the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) that we’re not alone in our love of agave. Its figures show that Tequila sales are up in retail by 83% by volume and 94% by value over the last two years. That’s nearly double, up from £17m in 2019/2020 to £33m in 2021/22. On-trade figures are less impressive but still show significant growth, up 8% by volume and 11% by value over the same period. Here’s what Miles Beale, chief executive of the WSTA has to say: “Tequila has shown a steady rate of growth in the last few years, but our latest market report reveals that sales in our supermarkets and shops have seen a real boost compared to pre-pandemic times. Consumers have shifted their drinking habits, are experimenting with cocktail making at home and are willing to spend more on premium sipping spirits.” And if you’re looking for some Tequila inspiration, you’ve come to the right place.
Low alcohol beer about to get stronger
According to The Times, plans are in place to change the rules on no and low alcohol beers. Currently to be classed as ‘no alcohol’ beer must contain less than 0.05% ABV, while ‘low alcohol’ must be below 1.2% ABV. There’s also a third category of de-alcoholised beers below 0.5% ABV. The change in legislation will allow ‘no alcohol’ to be below 1% ABV and ‘low alcohol’ can be up to 3% ABV. Apparently chief medical officer Chris Witty, who you might remember from the Covid years, is a fan of the scheme. Tom Stainer, chief executive of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), explained the reasoning behind the change: “Whereas five to ten years ago most consumers had very little choice in the low-alcohol section, today we are seeing some incredible initiative and innovation in the sector. We believe this would make low-alcohol beers more attractive to consumers at the bar, encouraging consumption of lower-strength beers and improving consumer choice. The government’s policy aim of encouraging the growth of the consumption of low-strength beers is severely undermined by the existing labelling regulation, which prevents brewers promoting low-strength beers as low strength.” If the changes go through, it will be interesting to see whether they prove confusing to customers.
And finally… Kentish bison fighting climate change
Yes, it does sound like a headline from the Day Today, but we assure you this is a real story. English wine in a can specialist, the Uncommon, has teamed up with the Kent Wildlife Trust to release bison into Kent. It’s not just for the thrill of watching these magnificent beasts roaming the English countryside for the first time in 6,000 years, but because they also help in the fight against climate change, apparently. Henry Connell, co-founder of the B Corp-certified wine brand explained: “We are very aware that the future successes of the English winemaking industry are interlinked with the climate warming we’ve experienced this past week. This makes supporting our local communities and environment of paramount importance to us, to help mitigate future damage.” According to a press release from the Uncommon, the bison function as “ecosystem engineers” who “will restore life to the woodland through their natural behaviours and create a more climate resilient landscape.” And you thought they just looked cool running about looking all massive and shaggy.