Carbon neutral distilleries, robots that scare birds away from grapes and a farewell to vintages. It’s a particularly varied week for The Nightcap.
You’re tuned in to The Nightcap, Master of Malt’s round-up of booze news stories from the week that was. If there was a way to make sound happen automatically when you open The Nightcap in a way that wasn’t completely terrifying (it scares us every time a website just randomly decides that we’d love for a video to make noise right away, or that we just have to hear this royalty-free classical music while reading about something on the internet), you bet it would be one of those cool ‘dun-dun-dun-da-daaaah’ type melodies that all good news shows on TV have.
So, what have been the happenings on the MoM Blog this week? Adam got a taste for new releases, firstly showing off HYKE Gin, and then even more lip-smacking new arrivals to MoM Towers. Annie got out a magnifying glass to check out what could be the smallest gin distilleries in Britain, and followed it up with a look at the rise of cocktail-specific booze. Henry mixed up a French 75 for Cocktail of the Week, and met with Glenlivet’s Alan Winchester to taste a 50 year old single malt. Jess headed to London for a night of perfume and cocktails with Theodore Pictish Gin. Kristy was lucky enough to try something completely new from Tobermory – a gin!
More news? More news!
Balblair replaces vintages with age-statement whiskies
Some of us thought we’d never see the day. Age statements instead of vintages at Balblair? That’s the news this week from the Highland distillery, who confirmed a departure from the distillery’s ‘vintage-only’ approach in favour of four age-statement expressions. The new collection of single malt Scotch whiskies will be available in the UK this month and globally from April 2019. It consists of: a 12 Year Old, matured in American oak ex-bourbon and double-fired American oak casks; a 15 Year Old, aged initially in American oak ex-bourbon casks, followed by first-fill Spanish oak butts; an 18 Year Old, matured initially in American oak ex-bourbon casks, followed by first-fill Spanish oak butts; and finally, the standout in the range is a 25 Year Old that was initially aged in American oak ex-bourbon casks then re-casked in Spanish oak oloroso casks. John MacDonald, Distillery Manager at Balblair, said: “As one of the oldest working distilleries in the Scottish Highlands, Balblair has a long and rich history of crafting premium single malt Scotch whisky. Our new collection is intrinsically linked to our heritage and is testament to the place and the people behind our whisky, while being emblematic of our ‘True Highland Spirit’.” We’re sad to see the vintages go, but we’re looking forward to seeing what’s to come from this new era for Balblair – and tasting those age-statement whiskies!
Don Julio brings ‘world’s first’ Añejo Claro Tequila to the UK
As everyone who is studying for the WSET Level 2 knows, or should know, Tequila Añejo is aged for a minimum of one year in oak so that it takes on colour and flavour from the cask. Well, that was true up until now because Don Julio Tequila has just launched an Añejo Claro into the UK market. It is aged for 18 months in American oak barrels but then filtered, rather as with some white rums, so you have all (or most) of the flavour of an aged spirit but without that pesky colour. It’s called Don Julio 70 and, coincidentally, will retail for around £70. Richard Larkin, head of Diageo Reserve GB, said: “This first-of-its-kind Tequila showcases the talent and skill of master distiller Enrique de Colsa who has created an Añejo Claro to challenge conventions and support the growth of super premium tequila in the UK. It’s a masterpiece of innovation.” First of its kind? Masterpiece of innovation? We’re always a bit sceptical when we hear that. So we did some investigating. It’s certainly new to the UK, although it sounds very much like a product called Hornitos Cristalino, also a filtered colourless Añejo. The folks at Diageo got in touch to tell us Don Julio 70 was first conceived in 2011 though, so it does indeed have claim to the ‘first-ever’ Añejo Claro title after all.*
Ailsa Bay unveils blockchain whisky bottle
News that will please whisky geeks and, well, geeks in general came from William Grant & Sons this week, which announced the launch of a new Ailsa Bay expression that features blockchain technology. For those of you scratching your head, blockchain is a list of registers, or blocks, that contain information about the previous block and transaction data between the two blocks. Essentially, it acts as an open ledger to track authenticity and (in this case) allows shoppers to digitally track the whisky’s production journey. This new whisky features data acquired from William Grant & Sons including cask types, filling dates and bottling dates. The brand’s use of blockchain captures the full distilling and manufacturing process, allowing customers to track their whisky from source to store and trace the origins of their whisky via a web experience, which is individually tailored to each bottle. All you have to do is scan the QR code and you’ll be presented with a visual history of your whisky. William Grant & Sons partnered with specialist blockchain technology company Arc-Net to create this bottling. Dominic Parfitt, head of E-commerce at William Grant & Sons, said: “Innovation is a key part of our business. We’re constantly looking to evolve our offering and learn new things in order to push the boundaries within the drinks industry. We’re doing something now that we hope will set the bar for the future experience of spirits, and we look forward to seeing how other brands follow suit as innovation within the industry continues to develop in the next few years.”
Kent-based Greensand Ridge is the UK’s first carbon neutral distillery
It’s 2019, and with environmental concerns becoming more pressing than ever we are happy to announce that craft distillery Greensand Ridge in Kent has become carbon neutral. It’s the first distillery in the UK to achieve this milestone, so we’ll certainly raise a glass to that! When the distillery opened in 2015, it already had the goal of having as little impact on the environment as possible, and it’s taken the last four years of hard work to reach this point. It uses surplus produce from local farmers that supermarkets won’t take, which is why you’ll see a fair few fruit spirits from the distillery such as Apple Brandy or Raspberry Ghost. With a zero target for chemical use and non-recyclable waste, and powered by 100% renewable electricity, Greensand Ridge truly has its eye on the sustainability ball. Greensand Ridge founder and distiller Will Edge says that becoming carbon neutral “doesn’t change our spirits, but it’s a statement of what is important to us as a new and growing business.” If you happen to be in the area, you can visit the distillery and even make your own bottle of carbon-neutral gin! Let’s hope more follow suit.
Patrón global president and chief operations officer Dave Wilson to retire
Bacardi Limited has announced this week that Dave Wilson, global president and chief operations officer of Patrón Spirits International and the Patrón Spirits Company, will retire as of 1 April 2019. During his tenure, Wilson helped establish Patrón, which was acquired by Bacardi Limited in April 2018, in the ultra-premium Tequila category and to become one of the most recognisable agave-spirit brands around. With Wilson’s retirement, Pete Carr, president of Bacardi North America, will now lead both the Bacardi and Patrón organisations for North America, while Wilson will continue as a senior adviser to Patrón. Mahesh Madhavan, CEO of Bacardi Limited commented: “During his tremendously successful 40-year career, Dave has made an everlasting imprint in the spirits industry driving pioneering marketing, world-class operations, and innovative environmental programs. On behalf of Bacardi and our newest colleagues from Patrón, I thank Dave for his contributions to the industry and for supporting the union of two incredible organisations that are Bacardi and Patrón.” Best of luck in all future endeavours, Mr. Wilson!
Fashion designer partners with start-up distillery to launch bespoke designer gin
It seems that fashion and booze go hand-in-hand these days. Fashion designer Scott Henshall has partnered with Cooper King Distillery as part of Henshall’s new ‘Valour’ brand which launched during York Fashion Week. Don’t worry, we didn’t forget any prefixes, this is Yorkshire’s very own fashion week. Henshall, who has worked with the likes of Victoria Beckham and Paris Hilton, became, at the age of 22, the youngest designer to show during London Fashion Week. Originally from York, he wanted to celebrate his 21st year in the fashion industry by going back to his roots. The Valour range urges people to ‘be courageous in all you do’. Co-founder of Cooper King Distillery Chris Jaume said that it had been great fun working on “a unique gin which articulates the luxury and courage which Scott’s Valour brand signifies”. Among the botanicals is local honey from Cooper King’s own beehives, and lemongrass. With at least 1% of all proceeds going to the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust as part of Cooper King Distillery’s 1% for the Planet initiative, the gin not only looks fabulous and tastes amazing, but even has a positive environmental impact. If that’s not fashionable, we don’t know what is.
Luxardo launches ‘Modify This’ masterclass tour
Italian drinks company Luxardo is taking its products on the road with a series of guest nights and masterclasses at bars around the country. The initiative is called ‘Modify This!’ and it’s fronted by global brand ambassador Gareth ‘G’ Franklin. The journey begins in Wales at Pennyroyal in Cardiff on 10 April and will take him all over this great country of ours. The point is to encourage bartenders and customers alike to look at liqueurs like Luxardo Maraschino or Bitter Bianco as the headliner rather than the supporting act. Mr G said: “Liqueurs are by far the largest and most diverse category out there, but they are often seen as a lower priority on the list and in terms of the location where they are placed at the bar. I want to change this. With fresh thinking, bartenders will re-discover the benefits, authentic style and distinctive flavours of liqueurs, and how they can transform popular, simple spirit plus mixer drinks into original cocktails.” To make his point, G has come up with a special serve called the Iceberg Slim consisting of Luxardo Bitter Bianco mixed with tonic, lemon essential oils and fresh dill. Sounds like a definite contender for Cocktail of the Week.
Gin: from mother’s ruin to Mother’s Day
It’s Mother’s Day on Sunday, but on the same day the clocks go forward meaning less time in bed. What’s that all about? Better make sure you have a good present for the mother in your life to make up for that extra hour awake. According to the WSTA, gin is now the gift du jour on Mothering Sunday. Figures released yesterday show that in the last two years gin sales spiked in March. In the first quarter of 2017, 6.4m bottles of gin were sold in UK shops, and of that 2.6m, 41%, were sold in March. Last year was even stronger, with 9m bottles of gin sold in January, February and March of which 4.7 million, 52%, of those were sold in the run up to Mother’s Day. Marcus Pickering of Pickering’s Gin whose company offers a personalised gin wrapping service said: “After years of giving flowers and chocolates we have discovered what mums really want is gin”.
Bombay Sapphire launches new gin inspired by the English countryside
Bombay Sapphire announced this week that it planned to release more gin-based deliciousness in the form of Bombay Sapphire Limited Edition: English Estate. It’s a gin inspired by the landscape surrounding the brand’s home at Laverstoke Mill in the Hampshire countryside. The first in a series of limited editions, Bombay Sapphire English Estate was made with an infusion of three new botanicals: Pennyroyal mint, rosehip and toasted hazelnut to create a summery profile. But be warned, this gin will only be available for 12 months from April 2019. Two bespoke cocktails were created to showcase this drink, ‘The Secret English Garden’, which blends English Estate gin with Fever-Tree ginger ale and cloudy apple juice – served long with lemon, apple, thyme and ice, as well as a twist on the classic G&T, combining English Estate gin with Fever-Tree tonic over ice, garnished with mint and a lemon wedge. Ivano Tonutti, Bombay Sapphire master of botanicals, commented on the expression: “Each botanical in our gin is carefully balanced to create a smooth and complex taste and the new Bombay Sapphire English Estate is no different. Hand-selected from the English countryside and drawing creative inspiration from the Hampshire home of Bombay Sapphire, the additional botanicals produce a summer-inspired vibrant gin.”
And finally… Drone to deter birds from stealing wine grapes
Grapes have made a few enemies over the years. Phylloxera, for example. One grape enemy you may be more familiar with is birds. Birds have trouble resisting those little globes of deliciousness, and while making sure birds enjoy a balanced breakfast is a noble cause, we can all agree that this should not come at the cost of wine. In a report from The Herald, Darren Fahey, the viticulture development officer for NSW Department of Primary Industries, estimated that birds cause $300 million-a-year crop and winegrape losses in Australia. That’s where Zi Wang, a Sydney University School of Aerospace Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering PhD candidate, comes in with his plan to use a drone to scare away the hungry birds from Australian vineyards. The drone, which is being trialled in Hunter valley, Hilltops and Orange vineyards, can be piloted remotely, and the aim is to make it so the system can detect birds and automatically launch into action. It can emit mimicked bird distress calls, and even has a dummy crow attached to it, to make it look like the drone has just caught it. Perhaps if Heathrow starts having drone problems again, the way to defeat them is to send out a rival drone with another drone attached to it…
That’s it for The Nightcap this week, folks. Have a good one!
*An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Hornitos Cristalino was first to market – apologies, folks.