The week was only four days long but it was still jammed-pack full of boozy news. The Nightcap is back!
Well it’s been a mighty fine week here at MoM Towers, and not just because the sun made a triumphant return to Kent (and burnt the ever-living hell out of half the population), but we’ve also had a whale of a time celebrating the Islay Festival. From learning about Lagavulin’s most iconic serve, to understanding how to pair food and malts festival-style with Laphroaig or hearing Ian Buxton’s Bunnahabhain memories, we’ve managed to ease some of those missing Islay blues. Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed all the coverage too. There’s still Ardbeg and Jura day to come, so be sure to look out for them over the weekend.
Elsewhere on our blog, we were enjoying our Cognac, picking out 10 terrific examples we think your dad will love for Father’s Day, and dreaming of a French countryside escape thanks to our latest competition with Hine. We also let our hair down and had an unapologetically garish, blue disco drink after learning all about a very special vintage English pear brandy from the Cotswolds.
Before we get to the stories this week, we’d just like to remind you to join us this week on the Clubhouse App where our guests Blair Bowman and Kristiane Sherry will discuss all of the below, if the whisky world is too negative, and more!
Diageo releases 54-year-old The Singleton of Dufftown
Master of Malt was invited to a very special whisky launch this week at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. It was for the 54-year-old Singleton of Dufftown and thanks to the magic of the internet we didn’t even have to leave MoM Towers. It’s the second and final release in The Paragon of Time Collection, and the oldest ever release from The Singleton. To chime with the age statement, only 54 people were invited to the event which was hosted by Ewan Gunn and went on for 54 minutes exactly. We were joined down the line from the Diageo archive by malt master Maureen Robinson. She told us about how the original refill European oak cask was filled in 1966. “It was the 1960s era, before expansion, with smaller batches and slower pace,” she said. After 53 years in this cask, she transferred it for around a year to a single PX cask to add another layer without masking the original whisky. Only 235 bottles at cask strength of 44.1% ABV have been filled. It’s a fascinating drop with the old Cognac, varnish, and furniture polish on the nose joined by strong molasses, chocolate, and Christmas cake from the PX cask. But don’t take our words for it, Charlie MacLean, for it is he, described it as “An astonishing dram. I have never encountered a whisky like this before. A rare and unusual malt that has gained richness, mellowness and complexity on its long journey to harmony, this very old whisky shows its age elegantly and rewards proper contemplation.” Naturally, it’s housed in a Baccarat crystal decanter. And the price for all this magnificence? £28,850. Oof!
Uncle Nearest launches $50 million fund
Not content with simply uncovering the important story behind the world’s biggest whiskey brand and founding the biggest-selling African-American-owned spirit brand in history, Fawn Weaver has once again demonstrated that her remarkable contributions to the spirits industry seemingly know no bounds. The Uncle Nearest Tennessee Whiskey founder has this week announced the creation of the Uncle Nearest Venture Fund, a $50 million fund that will invest in minority and women-owned spirits brands. The first two brands to benefit are Sorel Liqueur and Equiano Rum. Each company will receive US$2m. The fund is an outgrowth of the Nearest and Jack Advancement Initiative unveiled a year ago in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests. According to Weaver, this initiative helped highlight the need for something greater so on the 100 year anniversary of the destruction of Black Wall Street, Weaver, she took it upon herself to reboot history. “On 1 June 1921, an entire community of wealthy and successful African Americans was wiped out in a matter of hours. We are talking about 35 square blocks known as Black Wall Street. As an African American, learning about that history broke my heart because we, as a people, were really onto something in Tulsa, Oklahoma. We were lifting one another up and creating wealth within our own community, and then showing others how to do it for themselves. We cannot go back and undo the past, but I do believe we have full power over our future, and that recreating a Black Wall Street of sorts within the spirits industry is a great place to start.” It’s a vital and impressive initiative that demonstrates a promising future and that few put their money where their mouth is quite like Weaver.
By order of a Los Angeles court – Peaky Blinder name OK
If you asked a member of the Birmingham street gang what kind of conflicts the Peaky Blinders would be getting into in the 21st century, you’d have been waiting a while before they ever guessed a trademark dispute between a TV show and a spirit brand. But that’s the story that was in the news this week as the company that produces the popular UK series Peaky Blinders was told it can’t block the maker of the booze range from using the name, at least for now, after a Los Angeles court ruling. US District Judge Consuelo B. Marshall rejected Caryn Mandabach Productions’ application for a preliminary injunction against Sadler’s Brewhouse, which owns the brand, and UK alcohol group Halewood, which in turn owns Sadler’s. Reports suggest Mandabach sued last November, alleging the whiskey, gin, rum, and dark beer products were likely to cause confusion. But the judge ruled Mandabach didn’t show it owned a protectable trademark in the name, that Sadler’s products were likely to confuse, or that the alleged confusion could cause irreparable harm. Sadler’s has always maintained it used the Peaky Blinder name because of its historical connections to the gang. The fact it only founded the brand after the runaway success of the show is just a coincidence. The brewhouse was presumably always interested in minor local street gangs. Still, this is a sensible result. You can’t claim a historical organization’s name all for yourself, TV. More good news for fans of Peaky Blinders whiskey is its owners are continuing to explore the possibility of building an Irish distillery for the brand, as its spirit is currently sourced from Great Northern Distillery.
Edinburgh’s Holyrood distillery auctions three “extra special” casks for charity
Edinburgh’s first single malt distillery in almost a century, Holyrood, will be auctioning three casks with the proceeds going to three charities: Vintage Vibes, tackling social isolation in Edinburgh, Edinburgh Food Project, and The Drinks Trust’s Covid relief fund. It’s all happening on Whisky Auctioneer with the auction ending on Monday 7 June. The auction house has agreed to waive selling fees and will donate the 10% buyer’s commission to charity. The three “extra special casks” are 200 litres filled with 60% ABV new make which has first been matured in a first-fill American ex-bourbon barrel. These are unusual as the commercial “Made in Edinburgh” output from Holyrood is sherry-cask aged. We were fortunate enough to be sent a wee sample of the deliciously flavoursome new make which comes from a local farm, and is made with a mixture of crystal and chocolate malt fermented with an Edinburgh ale yeast. Co-founder David Robertson said: “We’ve created a spirit that echoes what would have been done 100 years ago”. He went on to say “It was essential for us that we supported local Edinburgh charities, our whisky is made by local people and inspired by the city we’re in, so it was paramount to ensure that communities close to the heart of our distillery are supported during this time.” Joe Wilson, from Whisky Auctioneer added: “The sale presents the very unique opportunity for our global customer base to acquire a piece of liquid history from this trailblazing Edinburgh distillery, whilst giving back to the local community.” The auction ends this Monday!
Foursquare Distillery backs rum history research
If you’re like a lot of us here at MoM Towers then both rum and history will be of great interest to you. Which naturally means you’ll love a bit of rum history. That’s something we share with the RL Seale & Company, which has agreed to fund scholarships in the University of the West Indies’ department of history and philosophy, through which students will investigate Barbados’ rum history. The owner of Foursquare Distillery plans to use the findings to support the island’s application for recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage site for sugar and rum, and will “naturally” help its application for a Barbadian rum GI, according to Foursquare proprietor Richard Seale. In an emailed statement to The Spirits Business, the outspoken rum producer said that “as the provenance of Barbados Rum becomes more recognised and more valuable, the time has come for professional, independent and scholarly work on the history of Barbados Rum and for that work to be done at home.” He added that he sees the investment, reported by Barbados Today as being BBD$320,000 (around £112,000) for three doctoral scholarships and six-year postdoctoral fellowships, as one which “will strengthen the category in the longer term”. The fact that receiving government approval for a rum GI is a complex enough issue that it requires such initiatives may seem surprising, but it’s not a straightforward process. Barbados’ four rum producers – Foursquare, Mount Gay, Saint Nicholas Abbey, and West Indies Rum Distillery – must all collectively agree on a proposal and, while the first three distillers decided on GI terms to put forward last year, the latter company did not agree.
William Grant & Sons launches bottled cocktail range
It appears that William Grant & Sons is the latest big brand to enter the bottled cocktail range after it announced the launch of Batch & Bottle. The line-up includes a Monkey Shoulder Lazy Old Fashioned, a Hendrick’s Gin Martini, a Reyka Vodka Rhubarb Cosmopolitan, and a Glenfiddich Scotch Manhattan. The range is being launched in the UK first, then in Australia from September 2021, and other markets from early 2022. For every bottle of Batch & Bottle sold in the UK until May 2022, William Grant & Sons will also donate £1 to leading hospitality charities The Drinks Trust and The BEN as part of its #STANDFAST CAMPAIGN, which is dedicated to supporting the On Trade, raising in excess of £110,000 to date. “Consumers are adopting a ‘less but better’ mentality and are becoming more discerning about the brands they drink. For decades we have continually produced premium and luxury spirits, but for the consumer who wants to indulge in an upgraded at-home experience, they can now do so without the fuss or cocktail accouterments” said Karen Murphy, William Grant & Sons global innovation marketing manager, on the launch. “Batch & Bottle provides an opportunity to showcase the world-class brands in our portfolio, while also providing an uncomplicated solution to perfect cocktail serves created and produced using our industry expertise.” You’ll be pleased to know that all four expressions will be available from Master of Malt soon.
1889 Tokaji Essencia to go under the hammer in July
Two very special bottles of Tokaji Essencia from 1889 will be auctioned by Dreweatts on 8 July. Essencia is the rarest, sweetest, and long-lived form of Tokaji, Hungary’s legendary sweet wine. It’s made only from a sugary liquid that drips from the grapes before they are crushed. Mark Robertson from the auction house commented: “This supernatural concentration of sweetness is beautifully married with an unusual level of acidity creating a wine that can age effortlessly across the centuries”. It was produced by a family of Jewish landowners, the Zimmermans, whose wines won awards across Europe. This history was brutally cut short in 1944 when the German army occupied Hungary and the family was deported to Auschwitz. Following the war, their lands were seized by the communist state and the quality of Tokaji took a nosedive. Following the fall of communism, Tokaji’s reputation was slowly rebuilt partly thanks to investors like Hugh Johnson of the Royal Tokaji Company. There are two plaques at the company’s offices unveiled by six descendants of the Zimmerman family’s holocaust survivors celebrating the link between the region’s wines and the Jewish community that was destroyed during the war. The special bottles are expected to go for between £500 and £1,000 for 500ml bottles which seems like very little to own a bit of history. Robertson concluded: “These are important bottles and I hope they are enjoyed with a chink of the glass to the man and his family who made them”. L’chaim!
Play as a pronghorn to aid conservation
There are presumably numerous ways to engage in meaningful philanthropy for distilleries and we’ve seen all kinds of initiatives, projects, and fundraisers over the years. A limited-time mobile game is new to us, however. For Great Outdoors Month (apparently a thing), High West Distillery is launching Prairie Dash so whiskey drinkers and gaming enthusiasts alike can help conserve the natural habitat of Montana’s Great Plains in a fun, interactive way. You play a pronghorn who has to face a collection of quick-time challenges like clearing debris and slaloming through herds of bison. Made in support of long-time partner and non-profit organization, American Prairie, for every game played, High West will donate $1, up to $50,000. You can also purchase the distillery’s American Prairie Bourbon on highwest.com with a portion of the proceeds also going to the bottle’s namesake organization. The game, which is available to play for the month of June only, will also have a grand winner. So one lucky person and their travel companion will win a once-in-a-lifetime Western adventure to the distillery’s homeland, Park City, Utah. To be in with a chance and to help raise some dough for a great organisation, head to race.highwest.com to play.
And finally… Corona remains world’s most valuable beer brand, despite name association
Some people’s chances in life are immediately made harder by their parents giving them truly ridiculous names. But they at least have the opportunity to remedy the situation as an adult and have them changed. When you’re a huge company with brand recognition, a legacy, and a vast network of packaging, advertising and more you can’t just adapt as soon as there’s some name-based crisis. So, for the last 18 months or so Corona has had to deal with the reality that it shares a name with a virus that caused a devastating global pandemic. You may have seen the pictures of bottles languishing on supermarket shelves. You’ve probably heard the jokes or the exaggerated dirty looks someone gives you if you order a Corona at a bar. It’s truly ridiculous that anybody would actually associate the two, but this is people we’re talking about here. Despite all of this, the brand has endured. Findings from the new Brand Finance Alcoholic Drinks 2021 report show that Corona has retained the title of the world’s ‘most valuable’ beer brand. It did record a 28% drop in brand value to the tune of $2.243 billion, however, bringing its current brand value in at $5.8billion. But, overall, the world’s top 50 beer brands lost 16% of cumulative value last year due to Covid-19 so everyone is in the same boat. It demonstrates that the Mexican beer makers are pretty resilient. The name actually means ‘crown’ in Spanish, so there’s something neat about Corona retaining its status as king of the beer world.