It’s a Bank Holiday weekend and to kick things off in the right direction we’ve got a whole week’s worth of smoking hot booze news. It’s all in the Nightcap: 30 April edition!
We’ve got a long weekend ahead of us as the May Bank Holiday has arrived, in the UK at least, everyone else is thinking, what the hell is a ‘bank holiday’? Anyway, we’re all hoping for a sliver of sunshine so that we’re not shivering in pub gardens or in those makeshift tent type things outside restaurants. Maybe bring a blanket, just in case. Of course, you don’t have to venture out if you don’t want to. You can always kick back and relax with a good dram and enjoy The Line of Duty season finale. Or some light reading. Like a round-up of all the interesting things that happened in the world of booze this week. Good thing there’s a new edition of The Nightcap here!
This week on the MoM blog we paid tribute to the remarkable Tomas Estes, who has sadly passed away. Be sure to raise a glass to the Tequila pioneer tonight.
Elsewhere, we launched two new competitions, one a #BagThisBundle which gives you a chance to stock up on some Duppy Share Rum and the other promising an amazing adventure to the Lakes District courtesy of the Lakes Distillery. We also helped you explore the world of rum with some of our favourite bottlings, made a classic cocktail that features in Charlie Chaplin’s Caught in a Cabaret, enjoyed the latest vintage of a great Champagne, uncovered the story behind Don Julio Tequila and found out what the heck a swan neck is.
Now, let’s enjoy what the drinks industry had to offer in the last seven days. It’s The Nightcap: 30 April!
‘World’s oldest whiskey’ to be sold at auction
If you want a chance at owning a whiskey billed as “the oldest currently known bottle” then put 22-30 June in your diary. Because that’s when you’ll be able to bid on a legendary bottle of Old Ingledew bourbon. Skinner Auctioneers are selling the remarkable spirit, which was originally thought to be from 1850. However, when Skinner rare spirits expert Joseph Hyman used a needle to extract a small sample of the liquid to be sent off for carbon dating, the results were even more incredible. It was revealed that the most likely date this bourbon was distilled (with 81.1% probability) was between 1763 to 1803. It’s impossible to place a specific age statement. But historical records confirm that it’s among the oldest distilled whiskey remaining on the planet today. We know a little bit about the history of the bottle thanks to a press release from Skinner Auctioneers. It was purchased by John Pierpoint Morgan (Yep, that J.P. Morgan) in Georgia in the late 19th century. It was originally stored in demijohn so Morgan paid a visit to a speciality grocer in LaGrange to have several decanters worth of the whiskey bottled. His son Jack eventually ended up with some bottles, giving a few away including to US Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman. Another recipient was James F. Byrnes, who subsequently gave the bottle to close friend and whiskey lover Francis Drake, who knew the value of what he had and for three successive generations, his family kept a cork in it. This is why we have this incredible, roughly 250-year-old, bottle now. Although we wouldn’t hold out too much hope that you’ll get your hands on this one. We imagine demand will be pretty high…
Rémy and Usher team up to celebrate their roots
It wouldn’t be a Nightcap without a celeb/booze mash-up and we’ve got a particularly good one this week. Cognac house Rémy Martin has produced a video called “Team Up For Excellence” starring ‘00s music ledge Usher. The video, put together by composer Raphael Saadiq, director and choreographer Jake Nava, and Oscar-winning costume designer Marci Rodgers, tells the story of the links between Cognac and American music. “I was really inspired by creating the historical music scenes in a way that felt true to the spirit of that moment, but also relevant and eye‐catching to a young contemporary audience,” Nava explains. “This dual priority informed my direction of all the music, dance and Usher’s performance.” The video opens with Usher as a GI in World War I liberating France, moves to a jazz club and through the ages, taking in different musical genres. “Music doesn’t need Cognac to exist, and Cognac doesn’t need music to exist,” Usher said, “but what is beautiful is that they were meant to meet and when they did, they created cultural harmony.” The video is a cut above most spirits adverts and well worth five minutes of your time.
Loch Lomond unveils 45-year-old whisky
It just wouldn’t be The Nightcap without a remarkable and rare Scotch whisky to stare at longingly. And this next beauty will surely appear in auctions itself in the not too distant future. It’s a 45-year-old single malt from Loch Lomond Distillery, distilled in 1973 and matured in American oak casks, before finishing for one year in a first-fill Oloroso sherry cask. It’s bottled at 42.2% ABV without chill-filtration and there are only 200 individually-numbered bottles to be released out in the whisky wild, which goes some way to explaining the £3,450 price tag. It’s one the first of three releases in The Remarkable Stills Series of single malts, a collection that will shine a spotlight on the Alexandria-based distillery’s unusual straight neck pot stills. The stills are unique to Loch Lomond and give the distiller more control of the type of spirit produced, allowing for greater separation of flavours, helping to create the distinct fruity characters that Loch Lomond has become famous for. The launch of the significant Scotch follows a branding refresh and extension of the Loch Lomond Whiskies portfolio, which includes the introduction of a 21 and 30 Year Old to the range. A new webpage was also made to detail exactly how the liquid was created. So you can at least live vicariously through that info, because the sad reality is that most of us won’t be tasting this whisky.
Glasgow Whisky buys Tromie Mills Distillery
Those of you familiar with Glasgow Whisky will know that, since being founded in 2007, the company has plied its trade in selling award-winning independently-bottled Scotch whisky like Speymhor and Cailleach. But now the company is venturing into the world of distillation after purchasing its first distillery site. Glasgow Whisky, not to be confused with The Glasgow Distillery Co., has bought Tromie Mills Distillery Limited, owner of the site in Drumguish, Kingussie, which is currently occupied by Speyside Distillers. The latter will continue to operate from the Drumguish site until its lease expires in Spring 2025 (and already has another distillery on the way) and then Glasgow Whisky will refurbish the building, working with local suppliers. While we’ll have to wait a while to see them take advantage of the new venture, we imagine owners Graham Taylor and Stuart Hendry will be excited to run one of the most picturesque distillery sites in Scotland in the magnificent Cairngorms National Park. The duo is said to be committing significant investment to build a sustainable, energy-efficient and contemporary distillery that will acknowledge the heritage of the site. “Our plans for the distillery will give us the opportunity to celebrate an established and known site, whilst bringing it into the 21st century in terms of distilling innovation, sustainability and production methods. We are extremely excited to have this opportunity to evolve our business,” says Hendry.
English Spirit to open cutting-edge distillery
And in more distillery-based news, the folks over at English Spirit are set to open their new state-of-the-art distillery this summer. Over the past three years, the team has been converting a disused agricultural building in the ground of the historic Treguddick Manor in the rolling Cornish countryside. At the heart of the distillery will sit a custom 2,500-litre copper still, engineered by Dr John Walters, master distiller and owner of English Spirit, based on the original 200-litre alembic stills he designed for Great Yeldham Hall. And the team expects to produce 50,000 bottles of tasty booze by the end of 2021, so that still is going to be kept busy. When the distillery officially opens later this summer, tours and tasting experiences will invite the public to see how English Spirit produces its wide varieties of spirits from scratch. Walters says the brand wanted to open another site to “further our place in England’s high-quality food and drink industry and to show off what we do best, via educational tours, tastings and even cooking with spirits”. If you’d like to learn more about this unique brand, you can read all about our visit last year here!
Diageo calls last orders on Guinness spin-off Hop House 13
Fans of the Guinness-made Hop House lager might want to stock up on any bottles they can find because Diageo is calling time on the brand in the UK. As reported by Daniel Woolfson in The Grocer, the Guinness spin-off has been delisted and will soon disappear from supermarkets, pubs and bars. Diageo launched Hop House 13 in 2015 to ensure it wasn’t being left out of the craft beer boom and was an initial success. But sales have slumped during the pandemic. According to data from Nielsen, Hop House lost 8.7% of its value over the 52 weeks to 5 September 2020, falling £2.5m to £26.7m, with volume down by 12.5%. The drinks giant says it had undertaken a review of its beer portfolio and “taken the strategic decision to prioritise the main Guinness trademark in Great Britain”, adding that it was “a difficult decision to make, but one that we believe is right for Guinness in the long term”. The good news is that Guinness itself is still going strong. The good folks over at Nielsen revealed much more joyous stats about the classic Irish stout, showing that it added £27m to its value, rising to £104.5m over the same period – a 35% gain. If you’d like to get your hands on either, you can find them both here.
The Craigellachie Hotel to re-open its doors
As pubs and bars all over the UK continue the glorious process of opening their doors once again we were delighted to learn that The Craigellachie Hotel in Speyside will be doing the very same. The 26-room hotel stands at the heart of the largest whisky region in the world and home to the Quaich bar, one of the world’s leading whisky bars, will open its famous Copper Dog Pub and new outdoor terrace area. A brand new menu created by newly-appointed executive chef and general manager William Halsall (of Le Caprice, 34 Grosvenor Square, and The Ivy fame) will be available, as will a take-away menu. Halsall says that the team has gone through “vigorous training in preparation for reopening without compromising our friendly, home from home experience”. The upgraded outdoor dining experience will offer seating for an additional thirty guests and there will be hand sanitising stations at every entrance and social distancing in place, as safety remains an obvious concern. Reservations are mandatory and can be made through sevenrooms.com or by calling 01340 881204, while the Copper Dog pub is open seven days a week between 10am-10pm. Accommodation will then open from 17 May and guests will be able to book online here. Just in time for the return of distillery tours too. It’s all coming together!
Benriach opens to the public for the first time
And talking of visiting Speysdie, there’s now a new distillery to visit, Benriach. Well, it’s not new as such, the distillery dates back to 1898, but from 21 May is the first time it’s ever been open to the general public. Brown-Forman has put a lot of thought and money into the refurbishment: there’s a bar, shop, and tasting lounge, and two ‘tasting experiences.’ You can book here. Beginners can enjoy the ‘Sense of Flavour’ while more experienced whiskiests can explore the flavours of cask maturation with ‘Barrels, Butts, and Barriques’, which includes a dram of Benriach 21 Year Old. Visitor centre manager Jennifer Proctor explained: “From cask tastings to cocktails, we’ll initially be offering two flight-style tasting experiences that allow customers to explore Benriach’s flavour spectrum. When restrictions allow, we will reveal our full distillery tour offering and announce the next phase of the distillery visitor centre development. Whether a local to Speyside or visitor from further afield, we look forward to welcoming guests from near and afar to discover Benriach’s world of flavour.” If you’re in the area, it’s well worth a visit.
Johnnie Walker brand home opens at Clynelish
Another day, another renovated distillery opens up. Must be something in the air. As part of Diageo’s £185 million investment in ‘Four Corners’ whisky tourism, Clynelish Distillery will be opening to the public as ‘Highland home of Johnnie Walker’. Glenkinchie opened up last year with Cardhu in Speyside, and the Princes Street location in Edinburgh both due to open later this year. Opening date for the revamped Caol Ila is TBC. The renovation at Clynelish includes an ‘interactive story room’ (whatever that is), a ‘modern retail space’ (shop), and a ‘terrace bar’ (we know what that is) overlooking the Highland scenery. The team has worked closely with disabled charity Euan’s Guide to make sure the place is as accessible as possible. Barbara Smith, managing director of Diageo’s Scottish brand homes, commented on what we could expect from the visitor experience: “We can guarantee that Clynelish won’t disappoint. We know that visitors and locals will be blown away by the distillery – by a visitor experience that is unlike any other.” Crikey! What could she possibly mean? Naturally, there’s a limited edition commemorative bottling, a 50.6% ABV 16 Year Old. Only 3,000 bottles at £195 each have been filled and you’ll have to visit the distillery in order to buy one.
And finally…. Get paid to go to the pub
In a bit of news that sounds too good to be true, Lincolnshire County Council is offering a £28,000 salary to someone to research the county’s historic pubs as part of its ‘Inns on the Edge’ project. The year long job will involve visiting various pubs along a 50 mile stretch of coastline from Grimsby to Boston. But it’s not all beer and skittles, the perfect candidate should be “someone who can interview people and get stories from them, but also collect photographs, historic photographs of the pubs and the activities that used to go on in and around and associated with the pub,” as Ian George from the council explained. The purpose of the project is to record a living history that is rapidly disappearing as pubs around the county (and the country) close. A process exacerbated by the pandemic. So not quite such a funny story to end on as it initially appeared. The moral is, don’t neglect your local, even if you have to stand outside shivering a bit.