It might have been our final short week until August, but the barrage of booze news didn’t let up – it’s The Nightcap!
This week for us, and we’re sure for many of you, was Fèis Ìle week. A seven-day extravaganza of delicious Islay-based booze, bands and banter. You’ve probably noticed on the blog this week Kristy and co. enjoying the spoils of another fantastic Fèis Ìle, from an action-packed ‘Day 0’, to all sorts of wonderful adventures with Lagavulin, Bruichladdich, Caol Ila and Islay Ales, Laphroaig, Bowmore and Ardnahoe and Kilchoman. And there’s still more to come!
Elsewhere on the blog we announced the winner of our Cotswolds Distillery competition! Adam then reported on the new Macallan whisky that has entered the world, before enjoying the fourth batch of Dingle single malt, our New Arrival of the Week, and finding time to celebrate Ableforth’s eighth birthday. Meanwhile, Annie talked Ketel One vodka and Henry made The Long Sloe Summer his Cocktail of the Week. Ian Buxton also asked some big questions in his guest column inspired by The Macallan Archival Series.
Now, onto the news!
Whyte & Mackay Light launches low-ABV ‘spirit drink’
Yes, you read that correctly. This is not new whisky from Whyte & Mackay. Instead, this is a spirit drink, created in an attempt to appeal to new consumers in a reaction to the growing popularity of lower ABV drinks. It’s a trend we’ve certainly noticed here at MoM Towers, so it’s little surprise to see more and more drink producers embrace it. The new product, Whyte & Mackay Light, was bottled at 21.5% ABV, which means that it cannot be legally labelled as whisky, which has a minimum ABV requirement of 40%. Hence the term ‘spirit drink’ being used in this case. “We’re continually looking at trends in drinks and listening to our consumers across the UK, which is why we’re delighted to announce the launch of Whyte & Mackay Light,” said Ruairi Perry, head of brand at Whyte & Mackay. “It’s a different product, built with the same younger, lighter consumer in mind. We see a different type of drinking occasion emerging – and Whyte & Mackay Light has been developed to satisfy that occasion.” Whyte & Mackay Light will launch in early June, and is expected to set you back £12.
That Boutique-y Gin Company launches ready-to-drink Craft Cocktails
That Boutique-y Gin Company has launched a new canned range of craft cocktails made using the brand’s delicious gins mixed with a host of interesting ingredients. Craft Cocktails, which will be available this summer, will also come in keg form so the on-trade can take advantage of the growing opportunities found within draught cocktails. An initial wave of five variants will be released, including Moonshot Gin and Citrus Tonic, Spit-Roasted Pineapple Gin Mule, Cherry Gin and Craft Cola, Strawberry & Balsamico Gin Fizz and Squeezed Yuzu Gin Collins. The Boutique-y team has briefed that it will embrace an approach to the category akin to craft brewing and so expect the range to continuously evolve with future variants, one off batches, collaborations and seasonal lines in the pipeline. “We want more people to have access to interesting drinks in more places. We know that drinkers are looking for increasingly exciting and sophisticated flavour combinations, and that putting these in cans or on draught will allow both retailers and bars to satisfy the demands of convenience and ease of service without compromising on flavour,” TBGC’s Selina Raggett explains. “For the cans, we’ve embraced the true Boutique-y style at its boldest, moving away from the traditional gin in a tin look and feel. That Boutique-y Gin Company is well known for pushing the boundaries with exciting releases and new flavours, and the Craft Cocktails will continue this ethos. We’re already working on an exciting wave of new releases!” While the Craft Cocktails range has launched with gin, we will also get to see That Boutique-y Whisky Company and That Boutique-y Rum Company get a chance to shine in a ready-to-drink format in the future.
Grey Goose launches world’s first sub-zero draught cocktail tap system
Grey Goose has its pioneering boots on this week, it seems. The vodka producers have responded to the current trend for ‘tapped’ and ‘draught’ cocktails by creating the world’s first sub-zero draught tap system. In a move designed to put premium vodka at the forefront of innovation within the drinks industry, Grey Goose has attempted to come up with an innovative solution to revolutionise cocktail culture with a system that can provide consistently delicious cocktails for any occasion. The draught cocktail tap system was designed to allow for a variety of drinks to be served with quickly and with ease to exacting standards, all at sub-zero temperatures. It can be charged with nitrogen to add a rich and creamy texture to your Espresso Martini, for example. “We began with the desire to be able to create innovative drink serves in a way that has never been seen or done before,” commented Marc Plumridge, the European programming director at Bacardi who drove the development of the draught tap system. “The cutting edge technology used delivers spectacular cocktails, dispensed at speed, all housed within a transparent casing – allowing individuals to have a full view of the technology at work.” To launch this new technology, Grey Goose has invited consumers to see the system in action at The 12th Knot rooftop bar on London’s Southbank from Friday 31st May – 2nd June.
Bimber Distillery debuts founder’s club
This week, London’s Bimber Distillery announced that it’s formed its very own Founders’ Club, and they’re taking applications now! Very swanky. This means that it will release a limited number of private casks for members to purchase. All of this is in celebration of the distillery’s first whisky casks finally reaching their third birthday. If you sign up, you can expect your first exclusive cask strength single malt in December this year. Among other treats, members will also be able to purchase their own 30 litre cask (for the meagre price of £895), filled with either Bimber’s peated or non-peated new make spirit, which after maturing at the distillery for three years, will eventually set them up nicely with around 49 bottles of whisky. The club aims to bring together people who “want to be part of a distillery whose mission is to produce true handcrafted whisky”, says sales director Farid Shawish. “Our members will always be welcome for a chat, and their input will play an important part in shaping the future of Bimber Distillery.” Membership will set you back £395.
WSTA claims the drinks industry is ‘vulnerable’ to no-deal Brexit
Following the announcement that Theresa May will step down as UK prime minister on 7 June, with no replacement named, The Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) has warned that the industry “remains vulnerable to a disastrous no-deal scenario”. The latest Brexit deal was overwhelmingly rejected in the House of Commons three times in the weeks running up to the original scheduled exit date at the end of March. Miles Beale, CEO of the WSTA, has branded May’s Brexit approach as “neither clearly defined nor successful”, adding that “as a result we remain vulnerable to a disastrous ‘no-deal’ scenario. A change of leadership neither provides our industry with the answers it needs, nor change the WSTA’s long stated position – which is for the government to deliver an outcome that allows this industry to continue international trade in its products without delays, barriers or additional costs.” Beale also commented that a no-deal scenario “has never been categorically taken off the table” and that it is “imperative that a new leader confirms that the UK will not leave without a deal and moves quickly to find a solution”. As a result of the current situation, Beale has claimed that nearly 80% of the trade body’s members had made preparations for the original exit date of 29 March and will have to prepare again ahead of the new Brexit date on 31 October. He said: “It’s difficult for businesses to determine the exact cost of Brexit contingency planning, including stockpiling and other measures, but we have heard estimates ranging from £20,000 to £5 million.”
Rémy Cointreau to buy Maison de Cognac JR Brillet
French drinks group Rémy Cointreau has announced this week that it has entered into negotiations to purchase Maison de Cognac JR Brillet from the Brillet family. While financial terms have not been disclosed, it is understood that the deal would also include part of the Brillet family’s vineyard estate which is located in the village of Graves-Saint-Armant and has a history which dates back to the 17th century. Rémy Cointreau’s interest in Maison JR Brillet is motivated by the chance to “integrate spirits with genuine development potential into its portfolio” and increase its inventory of eaux-de-vie and vineyards “of the highest quality”. The signing of the deal, which is subject to administrative procedures, is expected to take place in autumn 2019. The news comes off the back of positive full-year sales that Rémy Cointreau posted last month which showed a growth of 7.8% in 2018/19, driven by a double-digit gain for its Cognac portfolio, with the Rémy Martin Cognac brand proving to be the standout.
Plymouth Gin launches special edition craft gin from 177-year-old recipe
There are so many new gins emerging all the time it can be difficult for a drinks producer to stand out amongst the crowd. Plymouth Gin may well have just done that, however, with Mr King’s 1842 Recipe, the first special edition in a series of craft gins made to celebrate the spirit of exploration. It was distilled using a recipe found deep within the vaults at the Plymouth Black Friars distillery (the oldest gin distillery in England) that dates back to 1842. That was 177 years ago, people. Master distiller Sean Harrison has reimagined the recipe to create a new product and thanks to the technological advancements in gin production today, he was able to replicate the distillation process that was attempted in 1842, with even more precision. Mr King’s 1842 Recipe was made with just two ingredients – orris root and handpicked juniper from a single harvest day in the mountains of Frontignano, Italy, after Plymouth uncovered the original sales record that linked the purchase of juniper to the renowned Italian region over 170 years ago. Due to the hyper-local sourcing of the ingredients, this one of a kind gin cannot be reproduced. “Mr King’s 1842 Recipe is a truly one-off craft gin that we will never be able to recreate again. Even if we were to visit the same Italian hillside next year, the climate and harvest conditions would affect the juniper resulting in a different taste profile,” Harrison explained. “At a time when other brands are using many different botanicals throughout the distillation process, Mr King’s 1842 Recipe focuses on just two and the result is something very special.” We went to a tasting of this delightful drink and can confirm that it’s as delicious as it sounds!
US tariffs impact agave-based spirits and EU booze
In concerning news this week, US president Donald Trump announced plans to impose a 5% tariff on all imported goods from Mexico from 10 June, including Tequila and Mezcal, in response to what was termed the “illegal migration crisis” at the US-Mexico border. Trump was quoted in a statement posted on the White House website saying he was “invoking the authorities granted to me by the International Emergency Economic Powers Act” in order to “address the emergency at the southern border”. The US president has also warned that if the ‘crisis’ persists, tariffs will be raised to 10% on July 1, 2019, 15% on 1 August, 20% on 1 September and 25% on 1 October if the US is still not satisfied that Mexico has taken the action it requests. This follows news from just yesterday, which revealed that trade bodies in the US have called for the removal of EU spirits from proposed retaliatory tariffs from the States in response to an ongoing dispute with the World Trade Organization (WTO). The US has been embroiled in a “long-standing” spat with the WTO over civil aircraft subsidies and, on 8 April, the United States Trade Representative (USTR) revealed a draft list of EU products that could be hit by retaliatory tariffs which included alcohol. Trade groups representing the alcohol industry in the US, including the Distilled Spirits Council, have made it clear they oppose such tariffs, however, commenting that they “strongly oppose the inclusion of beverage alcohol production” and that they are “gravely concerned that this escalation would compound the negative impact of the tariffs on a sector that is already feeling the damaging impact resulting from unrelated trade disputes.” The groups, which include alcohol suppliers, wholesalers, importers and retailers, have quoted industry analysis which warns the proposed retaliatory tariffs could affect almost US$6.8 billion worth of imports and could result in a loss of between 6,600 and 45,800 US jobs. Hopefully we’ll have better news on these matters in the future.
Johnnie Walker celebrates National BBQ Week with Berber & Q
Johnnie Walker and East London BBQ restaurant Berber & Q have teamed up to create a new cocktail for National BBQ Week (it’s a thing, a very important thing). The limited edition Johnnie & Ginger, made by barbecue pioneer and Berber & Q founder Josh Katz, was designed to complement al fresco dining, summer sunshine and BBQ food, particularly Berber’s Joojeh Chicken Kebab, as Katz explains, “the smokiness of the charred chicken is offset by the smooth whisky and is given a spicy lift by the inclusion of ginger ale.” The light and summery Johnnie & Ginger cocktail is available at Berber & Q Grill House from 27th May – 2nd June and priced at £9. Katz describes it as “a taste experience and the perfect start to a barbecue.” But don’t fear if you don’t manage to get a table at Berber & Q, the Johnnie & Ginger cocktail is easily recreated at home. All you need to do is mix 50ml of Johnnie Walker Black, 15ml of lime juice, 35ml of pressed Granny Smith apple juice and a little pinch of Zaatar, which you’ll shake with one ice cube for no longer than 5 seconds. Then place the mix in a highball glass filled with ice and top with 35ml of ginger ale. Garnish with a dehydrated apple wheel and mint sprig, and there you have it!
And finally… North Korea launches its own whisky
Reports have emerged this week that suggest that North Korea has distilled its own brand of whisky and plans to launch it at the end of this year. According to the South Korean Hankook Ilbo newspaper, this would be the first time the country has produced whisky, although it’s worth noting that it has not been mentioned yet in North Korea’s own media. The source of the story is the Young Pioneer Tours tourism company, based in China, which specialises in visits to North Korea and other places that “your mother would rather you stay away from”. The tour operator claims to have laid its hands on a couple of bottles of the elusive spirit and described Samilpo’s design as “closely resembling” that of Johnnie Walker, a “well-recognised whisky in North Korea”. According to Pioneer Tours, Samilpo, which takes its name from the lake near Mount Kumgang, will launch three expressions: a ‘40% ABV black label edition, a 42% ABV red label edition and a 45 edition which has not been bottled yet. It is not known what types of grain that goes into the spirit, or how old it is. It has also been reported that the owner of Samilpo hopes to export the whisky to other countries once North Korea’s ‘political situation’ improves. You’re not likely to get your hands on some anytime soon, for those who might have been intrigued.