A £73 million Guinness brewery and venue is coming to London, Heaven Hill adds to its considerable portfolio, and Kilchoman and the Cotswolds distilleries expand. It’s The Nightcap: 4 February edition!

February might be a short month but if this week’s Nightcap is anything to go by, there’s still plenty going on. It doesn’t make sense to be wasting any time, let’s see what we got up to on the blog this week before we get to the stories that caught our eye. 

We set out welcoming some cracking MoM exclusives, including Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel whiskeys, before we picked out some perfect gifts for Valentine’s Day, From Champagne to cream liqueurs and wonderful whisky. Elsewhere, we visited the revamped Cardhu Distillery and spent some quality time with the Thinking Drinkers, made a cocktail for Her Maj, and welcomed Wire Works whisky with some cracking video content. A corker of a week, if we do say so ourselves…

Now, let’s get to it, The Nightcap: 4 February edition!

The Nightcap: 4 February

Heaven Hill’s considerable portfolio is getting even larger

Heaven Hill adds a FEW more brands 

American whiskey giant Heaven Hill got into the spirit of the January transfer window and splashed out Samson & Surrey, a Miami-based spirits portfolio started by two former Bacardi executives. The purchase includes  Bluecoat Gin, Widow Jane Whiskey, Mezcal Vago, Tequila Ocho, France’s Brenne Whisky, and FEW Spirits. Terms of the deal were not announced, the news came via FEW founder Paul Hletko. According to Hletko, his business will continue to operate from its warehouse at the end of an Evanston alley and the changes will be in the realms of distribution, sales, and marketing. “For FEW, it should be business as usual. We’ll continue doing what we do. We’ll just do it with the sophistication and market access of a Heaven Hill behind us,” he explained. Heaven Hill Brands include Heaven Hill (naturally), Elijah Craig, and Evan Williams. Now there’s all kinds of potential for fun after some big spending. Which is something of a theme in this week’s Nightcap as… 

The Nightcap: 4 February

This is what we can expect from Guinness’ triumphant London return

Guinness returns to London with £73 million brewery  

… Diageo does some splurging of its own by pumping £73 million into a new Guinness microbrewery and culture hub in London’s Covent Garden. We’re guessing the results of Johnnie Walker Princes Street in Edinburgh have been pleasing. The upcoming venue, named ‘Guinness at Old Brewer’s Yard’ is set to open in Autumn 2023 and will create up to 150 jobs and train a further 100 bartenders annually. The new 50,000 sq ft venue, which first brewed beer back in 1722, will have just enough space for events and local community initiatives, as well as being the southern UK hub of Diageo’s ‘Learning for Life Bartending and Hospitality Programme. Dayalan Nayager, managing director, Diageo Great Britain, said: “We’re excited to create a new home for Guinness in the heart of London. ‘Guinness at Old Brewer’s Yard’ will strengthen London’s hospitality community and be a must-visit destination for thousands of visitors to enjoy”. Chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak, who has visited the site, added: “This multi-million-pound investment is a crucial vote of confidence in our capital. 300 years after brewing the first beer in Old Brewers Yard, it’s fantastic to see Guinness breathing life into our hospitality and tourism industries and creating more jobs and training opportunities in central London.” It’ll be great to see Guinness back in the capital for the first time since the old Park Royal brewery closed in 2005. 

The Nightcap: 4 February

The one flaw with Kilchoman is there’s never been enough great whisky to go around. This should help.

Kilchoman ramps up production with £22.5 million funding 

More spending news! Kilchoman Distillery has agreed a deal with Barclays worth £22.5 million, allowing it to invest in new production facilities and farming on Islay. The distillery aims to produce 40% more whisky within the next 12 months. The owners have already started work on a new warehouse and extra staff have been hired to cope with demand, making it a major employer on the island, with 40 people now working for the business. The bank’s loan will also allow Kilchoman to increase its presence in France, Germany, the US and China, four major markets for the brand. Kilchoman general manager, the magnificently-named Islay Heads, explained the deal: “It has been pleasing to deal with the team at Barclays who were informative about the whisky industry and genuinely interested in the business and our staff. For us it was all about getting the right package in place and developing a long-term relationship. Barclays listened to any points we made and came up with a deal not driven by ticking a box but meeting our needs for a straightforward credit facility to meet our ambitions.” Andy Hall, head of Barclays corporate banking, central Scotland, added: “Despite the challenging economic conditions, the production of our national drink remains an expanding industry and we are pleased that Kilchoman is now one of several independent distilleries in Scotland where we are supporting their ambitions for growth in Scotland and beyond”. It’s fantastic news, and it’s not even the last big spending story this week…

The Nightcap: 4 February

Dan Szor will soon own the largest producer of English whisky

PLUS The Cotswolds Distillery announces whisky expansion

… because there’s going to be a significant expansion in the production of whisky at The Cotswolds Distillery as well. Christ, it’s a spendy Nightcap, isn’t it? The plans, which include a new dedicated distillery for its whisky, will soon make it the largest producer of English whisky. The site near Shipston on Stour in the North Cotswolds will eventually produce 500,000 litres of pure alcohol per year and the distillery will be commissioned over the Summer of 2022. Despite the challenges the hospitality industry has faced in the last couple of years, the Cotswolds Distillery has achieved significant growth allowing it to venture into new markets, expand, and bring some big names. These include Lynsey Eades, formerly of Remy Cointreau, as international sales and global travel retail director, as well as consultancy from industry veterans Ken Grier and former director of Scotch whisky at Diageo, Richard Watling. “Since the launch of Cotswolds Single Malt Whisky in 2017, its spectacular growth in popularity has proven its ability to drive our premium brand both nationally and across key international markets,” says founder Daniel Szor. “The long-term nature of whisky production, combined with our ambition to remain at the forefront of the fast-growing English whisky movement for years to come, is behind our decision to significantly upscale our whisky production”. We’re looking forward to seeing the new and improved Cotswolds, having been very impressed by what’s come out of the distillery so far. Exciting times… 

The Nightcap: 4 February

It’s great to see so many brands embracing responsibility

Nc’nean lands high scoring B Corp accreditation

Remember last week when we were congratulating Maker’s Mark on its B Corp accreditation? Well, now we can add Nc’nean to that shortlist of accredited producers. In fact, the Highland distillery is doubling the number of Scotch whisky distilleries to hold the certification having also met all those rigorous social and environmental standards we talked about last week, with an extremely high score of 135.6. It’s not surprising if you’re familiar with the brand’s environmental ethos, the distillery is powered by 100% renewable energy and is certified organic, sourcing barley exclusively from Scotland. Nc’nean whisky is also bottled in a 100% recycled clear glass bottle and in July 2021, it became the UK’s first whisky distillery to be certified net-zero for its own operations (scope 1 and 2), beating the Scotch whisky industry target of 2040 by 20 years. This is one impressive producer of whisky, folks. Good thing the spirit is tasty too, so we should see plenty more of them in the future!

The Nightcap: 4 February

Save us a seat

Mr. Lyan returns to East London with new bar

The multi-award-winning Ryan Chetiyawardana, aka Mr. Lyan, has announced the opening of a new cocktail bar, Seed Library. It’s located in the basement of One Hundred Shoreditch in East London, where he opened his first bar White Lyan, in 2013 and will fling its doors triumphantly open in March. It also hasn’t got a Lyan reference in the name, and won’t be trying to reinvent the wheel quite as much like its sister sites. Don’t expect as many mad scientist creations. Instead, a short, frequently changing menu will feature new takes on classic mixed drinks, such as the Sancho Leaf Martini and the Perilla Gin & Tonic, which will be joined by a curated list of low-intervention wines and a range of beers from craft brewers. A more chilled affair, by the sound of it. And if it’s as good as his other establishments, we’ll be popping by ourselves pretty frequently. Elsewhere, Mr. Lyan is bringing back his popular Sunday Lyan series for 2022, in partnership with Fever-Tree. Teaming up with some of the bars, restaurants, and brands, the series will celebrate the creativity and quality from across the industry and kicks off with Fierfield botanical spirit drink from J.J Corry Irish Whiskey on 6 February. The only question for us is, where does he find the time?

The Nightcap: 4 February

Rennie is man in-demand, for good reason too!

Rosebank announces Malcolm Rennie as new distillery manager 

The Rosebank revival is one step closer to reality as the Lowland distillery welcomed a new distillery manager ahead of the site opening later this year. And it’s someone who featured on our blog recently. Malcolm Rennie, fresh from helping to bring Lochlea to life, is bringing his 35 years of distilling expertise to oversee the production process, from the first fresh trickle of new make spirit through the stills, to cask selection and maturation. Working alongside Ian Macleod Distillers’ group distillation manager, Robbie Hughes, and malt master, John Glass to put all that experience to good use, which includes helping to revive a sleeping giant after helping to reopen the Annandale Distillery after 90 years. As for the distillery, construction delays as a result of the pandemic haven’t stopped its march forward and production is due to begin towards the end of summer. A new eye-catching sloping stepped roof has nestled around the distillery’s 108ft chimney, connecting Rosebank’s past with its future, while the mash tun, the process tanks, mill, and grist case have been installed, with three Forsyth stills to follow. The return of the much-loved Lowland whisky is not too far away now, folks.  

The Nightcap: 4 February

The Tio Pepe Challenge is back!

The Tio Pepe Challenge 2022 is open

After a two-year hiatus caused by that global pandemic thing, the Tio Pepe Challenge is back. Gonzalez Byass is laying down the gauntlet to UK bartenders to create a unique sherry cocktail. The winner gets to take on the rest of the world in Jerez in May. Bartenders must enter by 9 March with the top 10 competing in the final in London on 4 April. Entrants must not only come up with a cocktail but also demonstrate their knowledge of sherry. But never fear, if you don’t know your Amontillado from a Palo Cortado, Boris Ivan from Gonzalez Byass will be hosting free online masterclasses on 9/16/23 February at 12 noon. Or you can get down to Bar Pepito near King’s Cross on 23 February from 1-3pm, try some wines and practise your venencia skills – that’s the cup on a stick thing which you have to learn how to use if you want to be taken seriously in Jerez. Giacomo Bucciarelli, the 2019 winner, commented: “The Tio Pepe Challenge is a unique experience mixing incredible emotions amongst highest level professionals. Spanish culture plays a big part of the liquid journey every participant goes through. Definitely a game-changing competition!!” So bartenders, clean your shaker, dust off your cocktailing trousers, and let those creative juices flow. 

The Nightcap: 4 February

Congratulations, guys

Cardiff’s Lab 22 voted Britain’s best bar

On Tuesday this week, the great and good of the drinks world gathered at One Night Records in London to see who topped the UK’s Top 50 Cocktail Bars. And beating the might of the London bars was Cardiff’s Lab 22 which emerged victorious after jumping 32 places in two years thanks to the menu of head barman Max Hayward. Despite not taking the crown, London bars dominated the top ten with Swift Soho coming in second and the Connaught, recently named World’s Best Bar, coming in third. Which begs the question, how can a bar be the best in the world but not the best in Britain? The highest new entry was at number four for another London bar Tayēr + Elementary, brought to you by Alex Kratena and Monica Berg. Top 50 Cocktail Bars publisher Christopher Lowe commented: “London has always been seen as a global leader for cocktails but as you’ll see from the 2022 list, other major cities across the UK are now catching up. Our newly launched website will help cocktail connoisseurs discover the best of the UK bar scene with many of these very much still under the radar.” Congratulations to the Lab 22 team. We can’t wait to sample to see what all the fuss is about.

The Nightcap: 4 February

We’re struggling to understand the point of this, frankly

And finally… Waiter, there’s a non-fungible token in my drink

Face it, at some point you’re going to have to learn what an NFT (non-fungible token) is. They are everywhere in the booze world and, no, they have nothing to do with mushrooms. In fact, we have an article on the very subject going out next week. But while we love a bit of tech at Master of Malt, it can be taken too far. Such as at Adam Handling’s Eve Bar which is offering London’s first NFT cocktail menu. We’ll attempt very briefly to explain this: for your money, which could be as much as £4,000, you’ll own a one-off cocktail recipe in the form of an NFT which no one else will have plus some actual stuff including a certain number of complimentary drinks at Eve Bar and a real-life or digital masterclass with your cocktail’s creator. The big question is: why? When you go out for a drink, you want a drink, you want it cold and delicious, and you want it now. What you don’t want is to own the digital rights to a unique cocktail. And while you’re at it, bring back cash. Harrumph, harrumph!