It’s Friday, which means it’s time for another round up of all the interesting, funny, and downright peculiar goings on in the drinks industry. This week we have a drunken echidna on the rampage in Australia, Allsopp’s beer back from the dead, and an American takes over at the American Bar in the Savoy. Whatever next! They’re all in the Nightcap: 30 July edition.

Another week has come to an end and we don’t know about you but we’re really enjoying interacting with people in real life (or irl as the youngsters say, apparently). But blimey, it isn’t half tiring having to do previously simple things like wear trousers and make sure you are reasonably clean. Or perhaps that’s just us. Anyway, we’ve got a vintage Nightcap for you this week with drunken echidnas causing havoc in Australia, amusingly-named wine infusions, and an appearance from the one and only Miles Beale. But before we dive in, there’s a round-up from the blog plus a plug for this week’s edition of Clubhouse. 

On the blog this week

The blog this week was packed full of boozy goodness. The week began with an interview with posh booze guru Ken Grier followed by a limited edition heavily smoked whisky from The English Whisky Company, which promptly sold out, and then we looked at the revamped Royal Brackla range (Adam gave it a big thumbs up) and highlighted ten delicious spirits from independent distilleries. Last week brought the terrible news that one of our favourite bars Trailer Happiness in London had flooded so in conjunction with That Boutique-y Rum Company, we put on sale a special Foursquare rum with proceeds going to help the bar. At the time of writing there are still some bottles left. But not many. Our Cocktail of the Week was a mixture of soup and vodka, the Bullshot. Then we visited Ron Colon in El Salvador (virtually) before announcing the winner of our El Rayo Tequila competition

On Clubhouse this week, we’re talking about premiumisation – why are people drinking less but better? We’ll be joined by Kristiane Sherry, Carmen O’Neal, and Michael Ballantyne to discuss why consumers are increasingly opting to spend more instead of buying cheap bulk booze.

Right, on with the Nightcap: 30 July edition!

Revived Karuizawa distillery

Artist’s impression of the new Karuizawa distillery

Ground broken at revived Karuizawa distillery

We reported back in December about plans to revive Karuizawa. This week, the rebirth of this legendary Japanese distillery moved a step closer as ground was broken on site and Karuizawa Distillers (KDI) held a blessing ceremony on Tuesday 27 July. Founders Koji and Yoshie Shimaoka were present but sadly the company’s co-founder and master distiller Ian Change (formerly of Kavalan) was not able to attend in person because of travel restrictions. He did appear via video along with KDI’s Eddie Ludlow. Koji Shimaoka, commented: “It has been a challenging time in which to begin the process of creating a new legend in Japanese whisky-making. Our ground-breaking ceremony at Komoro Distillery is a very important and symbolic step in Karuizawa Distillers journey.” Ian Chang added: “I am very excited to be able to once again create a distillery from the ground up, as well as a global brand in Japanese single malt whisky-making. I am disappointed I cannot be there in person, but thrilled beyond belief that we have reached this crucial stage.” An important first step, indeed, but there’s still a long way to go. 

Joe Wilson examining a Harry E. Wilken Prohibition-era bottling(1)

Joe Wilson examining a Harry E. Wilken Prohibition-era bottling, note the medicine bottle

Rare American whiskeys go under the hammer

The shed load of rare American whiskeys going live at Whisky Auctioneer next month is sure to get fans all hot and bothered. According to the press release, the sale, which runs from 13-23 August features “some of the most sought after American and bourbon whiskeys ever produced.” How sought after? We’re talking about an Old Overholt rye whiskey from 1908 and bottles from the Prohibition era that were sold as medicine to get round the rules banning the sale of alcohol. There’s also some more modern stuff including a highly desirable 1975 Van Winkle Special Reserve bottled by Corti Brothers of Sacramento. Similar bottles have sold for $8,000 at auctions in the US. Last year’s ‘Heart and Soul’ of Pat’s Whisk(e)y Collection at Whisky Auctioneer raised £375,000. Joe Wilson, head of content at Whisky Auctioneer, commented: “We’ve seen interest in bourbon and American whiskey soar over recent years. Once confined to small, passionate communities of “dusty-hunters” and online forums, the world of collectible bourbon is now a mainstream fascination. This auction celebrates the names that proved so influential in the evolution of this, from A.H. Hirsch and Van Winkle to Buffalo Trace.” Peggy Noe Stevens, founder of the Bourbon Women Association, added: “In my 30 years as a spirits veteran and master taster, this one-of-a-kind collection is certainly one for the record books….” Time to start hunting down the back of the sofa for loose change.

Shannon Tebay

An American at the American Bar, whatever next?

The American Bar finally sees its first American head bartender

It may shock you to hear that the American Bar at The Savoy in London has never actually had an American bartender – until now! Shannon Tebay from New Mexico takes that title, starting the gig next month after making a name for herself as head bartender at New York’s Death & Company. Though Tebay may be the first American, she’s only the second woman, too, after Ada Coleman filled the role from 1903 until 1926. “There has never been an American running the American Bar. To have that authentic perspective on what we’re doing on this side of the pond was important to them,” Tebay told The New York Times. “I hope to honour the historical significance of the bar and modernise bartending culture, championing under-represented perspectives and re-evaluating best practices. I want to diversify the staff as much as possible. It is the responsibility of hospitality leaders to make positive changes in our industry.” Congratulations to Shannon – we can’t wait to see what delicious delights she whips up! 

Allsop's IPA

Snazzy label, eh?

Allsopp’s, the original Burton IPA, is back after 62 years

Big brewery news as one of the great names of British beer is back. Allsopp’s was founded in 1730, but it was in 1822 when Sam Allsopp pioneered India Pale Ale in Burton-on-Trent that the family business really took off. This was a massively-hopped high strength beer that became a cult in India for how it survived and thrived on the six month sea journey from Britain. It put Burton-on-Trent on the map and the town became a brewing powerhouse with other illustrious names such as Bass. Sadly, as the brewing industry consolidated, Allsopp’s fell out of family hands and the brand was neglected before finally disappearing in 1959. By which time, the beer had become a pale shadow of its former self. Jamie Allsopp, a descendant of the founder, had long dreamed of resurrecting the family beer. After years of research, he found some original family recipes and enlisted Burton expert Jim Applebee to help him adapt the formula to modern malts, hops and brewing techniques. The final piece in the puzzle was Mark Simmonite from Aardvark brewery in Sheffield, to put the revived Allsopp’s into production. There’s a deliciously crisp 4.4% ABV Pale Ale, and a punchy 5.6% IPA. We were given a couple of bottles (cask ales will be available for pubs) to try and while we couldn’t vouch that it was the same as in 1822, we loved the full hoppy flavour of the IPA. And it was great to see the original symbol of the brewery, a red hand, back on a beer label. Well done Jamie and team. 

The Nightcap

Miles Beale does it again

Government scraps red tape on imported wines

To say Brexit has been a headache for British wine merchants is something of an understatement. Leaving the EU meant a massive increase in paperwork for those importing wine from France, Italy etc. You’ve probably noticed the price of your favourite wine has increased. And it was set to get worse. But after years of dogged campaigning by the WSTA, the government has announced it will be scrapping the complex VI-1 forms on all imported wine, not just from the EU. WSTA chief executive Mile Beale, described it as “a truly historic moment.” He went on to say: “We have spent more than two years campaigning relentlessly to avoid the introduction of new import certificates for EU wine imports on the one hand and scrapping the unnecessary and costly VI-1 wine paperwork for non-EU wine imports on the other. The first would have cost the UK wine industry some £70m [annually], reduced consumer choice and bumped up prices. The second will increase those savings to over £100 million. It’s a truly fantastic outcome. It is heartening to know that the Government trust the WSTA’s advice and are listening to the concerns of business, particularly SMEs. This is a major win for wine lovers and the UK wine industry. I am sure corks will be popping across the globe in celebration of this most welcome news.” We’re certainly popping a few corks here at MoM.

Bolixir wine

Botanical-infused natural wine or load of old bolixir?

New infused wine is the bolixir

Sometimes it would be advisable for American companies to employ British English consultants. That way they could avoid naming products things like Jon Bon Jovi’s rosé wine brand Hampton Water or, even worse, recently-launched finance business Nonce. The latest to fall foul of the transatlantic language gap is a new ‘botanical-infused natural wine’ brand from Dry Farm Wines called bolixir (sic). The Wine Industry Advisor reported on the new product which blends Austrian wine with flavourings and comes in four varieties, Dandelion White, Lavender Red, Elderflowers Bubbles and Rose Blossom Bubbles. Founder (and ‘biohacker’, whatever that is) Todd White explained: “As someone who cares deeply about the health of my body & mind, and the health of the planet, I am so grateful to share bolixir with the world. There has never been a drink quite as revolutionary as this.” Just be careful where you share your bolixir, Todd, some people might get the wrong idea. 

Spritz Saturday at Hayman's Gin Distillery in London

Spritz Saturday at Hayman’s – the perfect way to kick off the weekend

Celebrate Spritz Saturday at Hayman’s

London friends, what’s the best way to kick off your weekend? With a spritz, of course! Specifically, a Hayman’s Gin Spritz sipped at the distillery in South West London. From midday until 6pm tomorrow (Saturday 31 July), the distillery will be showcasing its exclusive Summer Spritz menu in its courtyard, with cocktails for just £6 (a steal for London, even if you are in Zone 3), a live DJ, and cracking Neapolitan pizza from Crust Bros. You can even make the most of the mini tours they’ll be offering all day, with 15% off in the distillery shop for one day only! Exclusivity at its finest. The cocktails will feature the distillery’s London Dry Gin, Peach & Rose Cup, and brand new Exotic Citrus Gin, so make sure you get yourself over to Balham and start your Saturday right. Let’s just hope those rain showers hold off…

Echidna rampage!

Echidna rampage!

And finally… Drunken echidna in Baileys rampage 

You sometimes get some prickly customers in off licences but staff in Kyogle, New South Wales still got a surprise when an echidna rampaged through their shop. The spiny anteater was caught on camera (watch the clip here) running into the shop where it broke some bottles before passing out on the floor. We’ve all been there, mate. Employee Brian Watson-Bell spoke to ABC: “I thought there had to be a critter in here somewhere – there was just too much damage for a rat. But there he was, an echidna, and he wasn’t little. He had gone through a couple of bottles of vodka and a bottle of chocolate Baileys, he was sleeping it off for sure. I think if he had gone for a crawl he would have been stumbling a bit, I don’t think he was fit to drive.” Later the echidna was escorted off the premises by WIRES Wildlife Rescue charity and returned home where, apparently, it told its disbelieving family that it “only had a couple of tinnies” and “it must have been the sun.”