English whisky looks to add some definition, Leo DiCaprio buys into Champagne, and the Queen has some very, very old Port released in her honour. It’s The Nightcap!

We’re into another month now as time marches on. Ha. Ha. Ha. Anyway, we don’t know about you, but we feel like there’s always something going on now with events starting to come back in a big way. And we’re not really sure how to juggle all of it. How did we ever make regular commitments before? A night in and some light reading is the antidote, so we’re going to indulge in another edition of The Nightcap. Which is what you’re doing right now too. Great minds.

There’s also that blog thing we do for you to enjoy, which this week was filled with love for That Boutique-y Gin Company on its fifth birthday (independent bottlers of gin – they grow up so fast), recommendations for St. Patrick’s Day, and cracking drinks like a rule-breaking brandy or the classic Vodka Martini. Elsewhere, Lauren was rumbling through British rum, Millie was getting some top tips on whisky and food pairing, and Joel Davidge from the Cocktail Service made his first appearance to talk NFTs.

Now, let’s get on with The Nightcap: 4 March edition!

The Nightcap: 4 March

The folks at Copper Rivet are one of the founders of the guild

English whisky distillers submit GI application

The process to legally define what can be called ‘English whisky‘ has taken a big step this week as the new English Whisky Guild has lodged an application for a geographical indication (GI). The body, formed by a lot of the industry’s most notable brands to represent the category, is aiming to ensure consistent, understandable standards for all current and prospective whisky distillers. The proposed rules take a lot of understandable inspiration from the likes of Scotch and Irish whiskey, but also some interesting new developments. For example, all raw materials (i.e. grains) must be of UK origin, while whisky must be matured in casks made from wood, but oak is not explicitly required. Although if you don’t use oak, it must be clearly stated on the product label. Additionally, English single malt will have to be batch distilled at least twice in a copper still, and straight-necked pots are allowed, while the drafted GI requires two batch distillations in a copper still and tolerates the presence of a column plate on top of a pot still, “as long as it’s not continuous distillation”. Fascinating stuff. EWG board member Stephen Russell of Copper Rivet Distillery summarises “there is a clear desire not to try to be ‘Scottish whisky south of the border”. Whether the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) responds in kind is something we’ll have to wait on, however, with the group expecting to know within the next six months.

The Nightcap: 4 March

Must have developed a taste for the stuff filming The Great Gatsby

Leonardo DiCaprio buys into Telmont Champagne 

Champagne Telmont is welcoming a bit of stardust into the fold this week as actor Leonardo DiCaprio has come on board as an investor in the company. It is a brand with a firmly sustainable approach to Champagne that is heavily focused on preserving its land and its biodiversity, as well as reducing its environmental footprint. By 2025 its entire vineyard will be 100% organic agriculture, for example. This clearly ticks the boxes for the Hollywood star, who’s a very outspoken supporter of tackling the causes and consequences of global warming. Initiatives Telmont employs are the likes of using 100% renewable electricity, 85% recycled glass, and renouncing the use of all herbicides, pesticides and chemical fertilizers. It’s this sort of action that makes DiCaprio “proud to be an investor,” according to the statement released by the brand. Champagne Telmont chairman Ludovic du Plessis adds that “Leonardo DiCaprio’s decision to become a shareholder sends Telmont a strong message of support that will encourage us as we carry out our ambitious plans. We share the same convictions and the same commitment to protecting the environment. The House has one foot in tradition and the other in modernity, but both firmly rooted in the terroir! We aim to act in the name of Mother Nature in everything we do.” 

The Nightcap: 4 March

Dima’s doing its bit

Industry shows support for Ukraine

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has prompted many within the drinks world to show support for Ukraine. We made our own statement this week as pressure on Russian brands has been rising, while the US government put sanctions on state-run liquor stores to stop selling Russian-made vodka. In London, a number of bars are removing all Russian-made alcohol from their venues, like Nightcap, the operator of London Cocktail Club, Adventure Bar Group and Barrio Bars, as well as Arc Inspirations, which operates the Banyan and Manahatta bar brands across the UK. Recently-opened Ukrainian bar Pinch is launching a cocktail fundraiser, pledging 15% of its profits to the Ukrainian armed forces, and Ukrainian vodka brand Dima’s has pledged to donate 100% of proceeds on its bottled cocktail range to Ukrainian relief charities. That’s all of the money (not just profit) of the drinks made by The Gibson’s Marian Beke and Nightjar’s Tony Pescatori. You can find out more about Pinch’s fundraising and see the full range of Dima’s cocktails by clicking the links on their names. For the latter, use the discount code SUPPORTUKRAINE.

The Nightcap: 4 March

You’re looking at a history maker, in more ways than one

Victoria Eady Butler makes master blender history

One of our most favourite people in the world has to be the master blender of Uncle Nearest, the wonderful Victoria Eady Butler. Not only is she absolutely tremendous fun, but she really knows how to put together a great batch of whiskey. Butler’s so good, in fact, she’s made remarkable history this week. She’s just become the first-ever back-to-back master blender of the year. The fifth-generation descendant of the man who taught Jack Daniel how to make whiskey, Nearest Green, now holds the title for Whisky Magazine’s 2021 and 2022 American Icons of Whisky Awards. She only took on the role in 2019, having spent the bulk of her career in the department of justice, and her meteoric rise suggests that distilling is in the bones of the Green family. “It is impossible for me to put into words how significant this is to me and my family,” said Eady Butler. “Less than five years ago, almost no one knew the name Nearest Green outside of my tiny hometown of Lynchburg. Now, he is well known as the best whiskey maker the world never knew, and the undisputed godfather of Tennessee whiskey. To be able to add my own legacy of whiskey-making next to his, well heck – ya’ll are going to make me cry. This is truly incredible.” Congratulations, Victoria. We’re absolutely made up for you.

The Nightcap: 4 March

Congratulations, Barry!

Laphroaig names new distillery manager

Early this year we reported that Laphroaig was losing John Campbell as a distillery manager, which felt like a big blow for the brand given his more than 25 years of service – but it would appear the Islay distillery has found the ideal replacement. Barry MacAffer is taking the position on a permanent basis, having obviously impressed while working as acting distillery manager recently after more than 10 years of being at the distillery. He joined Laphroaig in 2011, initially looking after the malt floors and warehousing of the distillery, and since then worked in the operation and production side of the whisky-distilling world. In 2016, he was appointed assistant distillery manager, so he really was a natural choice. “Barry MacAffer was the standout candidate to become Laphroaig’s distillery manager and is uniquely suited to carry forward the legacy of Laphroaig, and continue to build the future of our skilled and passionate distillery team,” says Francois Bazini, managing director, House of Scotch, gin and Irish brands, at Laphroaig owner Beam Suntory. “An Islay native, Barry has worked at the distillery for over a decade and spent the last five years working closely with his predecessor giving him a deep knowledge of our history, operations, partners and local community. We’re proud to have an Ileach in charge and are confident in the future of our iconic whisky.”

The Nightcap: 4 March

Let’s hope Her Maj has some cracking cheese to hand

Taylor’s releases very very old Port for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee

Our very own Ian Buxton was just bemoaning the lack of special bottlings to commemorate the Queen’s platinum jubilee. Well, moan no more Ian, because Royal Warrant holders Taylor’s has just announced the release of a special aged tawny Port to celebrate 70 years on the throne. How old is this special Port? Adrian Bridge, Taylor’s head honcho, isn’t saying. But it is being dubbed ‘very very old’ so we reckon it contains some pretty venerable wines. He explained: “This exceptional Port is drawn from our extensive reserves of the finest wood-aged wines, which have been maturing in seasoned oak casks since the Queen succeeded to the throne, silently attesting to Her Majesty’s extraordinary reign as the longest-serving monarch in British history. We are delighted to celebrate such an exceptional commemoration with the launch of a unique Port wine.” Only 2,000 bottles have been filled and they’re going for £350 each. Having tried various Taylor’s old tawnies, we think this is likely to be worth every penny and as Bridge put it: “The perfect glass to raise a toast to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.”

The Nightcap: 4 March

Could the drinks selection at Stamford Bridge be about to change

Drinks entrepreneurs eyeing Chelsea FC

Chelsea football club Roman Abramovich made a big statement this week as he confirmed that he intends to sell up amid the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine and sanctions being levelled against Russian oligarchs and banks. The billionaire who purchased the club in 2003, won’t have a hard time selling it appears, with a number of parties declaring their interest. And a few of them have a connection to the world of drinks, like Hansjorg Wyss, the Swiss billionaire who has a reported worth of £4.3 billion and owns the Halter Ranch winery in California, as well as Proper No. Twelve Irish whiskey co-founder and UFC world champion Connor McGregor. The latter tweeted that he was considering an approach, although how serious it would be is another matter, while Wyss revealed he had been approached by an intermediary with the opportunity to purchase the London-based football club. “Like all other oligarchs, he is also in a panic. Abramovich is trying to sell all his villas in England. He also wants to get rid of Chelsea quickly. I and three other people received an offer on Tuesday to buy Chelsea from Abramovich.” Perhaps Stamford Bridge will soon be stocking Halter Ranch “sustainably grown Bordeaux and Rhône-style wines” or Proper No. Twelve’s Irish whiskey?

And finally… cocktails with soup?!?!

When you hear that a brand wants to help you “shake up your usual cocktail experience”, it usually involves doing something that isn’t particularly revolutionary, like a pre-batched serve or a classic bar tool that’s been slightly tweaked. Campbell’s, however, has definitely given us reason to question everything. Yes, that’s Campbell’s as in the people who make soup. The brand has launched a bunch of recipes featuring broth. Mushroom Truffle Daiquiri, anyone? A Pho Mango Bourbon Sour, perhaps? What about a French Onion Martini? Ok, we made that last one up, but could you even tell? There’s even food pairings you can cook with the same broth. But what’s most surprising is that a) the soup brand launched all of this in November and we somehow missed it, and b) soup cocktails aren’t actually a new thing. Look it up and there’s references to blending the two going back years. Don’t get us wrong, we love soup and we really love cocktails, but marrying the two together? That Pho Sour is going to have to be really good to convince us.