Campari takes a big chunk of Wilderness Trail with more to follow, Diageo snaps up Balcones, and a new cask-strength Glendronach is on its way. It’s all in the Nightcap: 4 November edition.
Normally Adam writes the intro to the Nightcap but as Britain suffers a wet and windy start to November, he’s only gone to the bloody Caribbean as part of the Barbados Rum Experience. In a bid to pretend that this is strictly a work trip, he’s posted a series of updates from the Experience this week. But he’s not fooling anyone. Anyway, I’m in charge so rather than references to hit American TV shows and up-to-the-minute pop culture, expect jokes you don’t quite get about Reggie Perrin, Patsy Palmer, and the oft-forgotten Aylesbury indie scene of the early 1990s. Great!
The week began with a MoM exclusive, Teeling Single Malt Calvados Cask, and there was more exclusive action as Ben Ellefsen unloaded a fresh haul of Master of Malt single casks including three from mystery distilleries. Spooky! And talking of spooky, it was Dia de Muertos in Mexico on Wednesday 2 November, so we showed you how to make three cocktails with Patron Tequila and rustled up an El Diablo for our Cocktail of the Week. Meanwhile, as Britain battened down the hatches and we dug out our wellies, Adam was at the Barbados Rum Experience looking around distilleries, attending seminars, and definitely not sitting on a beach sipping a drink out of a coconut. There was more rum as Emma spoke with George Frost from the Duppy Share, and for those not on a tropical island, we rounded up our top ten Bonfire Night drams and told the story of Scottish oak at Fettercairn Distillery. Oh, and #WhiskySanta is back with over £500K worth of whisky to give away so no matter how miserable it gets, we’ve got something to look forward to. Super!
That’s what was on the blog, now on with the Nightcap: 4 November edition!
Diageo buys Balcones Distillery
It’s a week of big American whisky/ whiskey news as Diageo has announced the acquisition of Texas’s finest Balcones. The distillery was founded in 2008 by Chip Tate. He left in acrimonious circumstances in 2014 and Jared Himstedt took over as head distiller. One thing that didn’t change was a commitment to whiskies (they spell it the Scottish way at Balcones) as big and bold as the Lone Star State. Greg Allen, chairman of Balcones Distilling, said: “Balcones started with an idea driven by an innovative spirit and passion to create something original and authentic in the heart of Texas. Now, we couldn’t be prouder to have created these award-winning American Single Malt and Texas whiskies, but also to have helped initiate an exciting new era of whiskey in Texas. We are thrilled that Diageo shares our belief in its potential and we look forward to seeing Diageo bring Balcones’ incredible whiskies to more consumers.” Claudia Schubert, president of Diageo North America, added: “This acquisition is in line with our strategy to acquire high growth brands in fast growing segments, such as super premium whiskey, and we look forward to working with the Balcones team to support further growth for these world-class whiskies.” Expect to see more Balcones in more places in the next few years.
Campari buys 70% stake in Wilderness Trail in $600m deal
More American whiskey news, it’s all go Stateside. Campari Group has acquired a 70% stake in Wilderness Trail. Mmmm, 70% steak. No, not that kind of steak. A stake, a share in the business. The plan is to buy the remaining 30% of the business in 2031 in a deal worth $600 million. The Italian company clearly has a thing for bourbon producers with the word ‘wild’ in their name as it bought Wild Turkey back in 2009. Wilderness Trail was founded in 2012 by Pat Heist and Shane Bake. The duo commented: “Premium bourbon and rye whiskies and state-of-the art production facilities coupled with worldwide distribution, first-class marketing, and expertise across multiple spirit categories provide the perfect foundation for the continued success of the Wilderness Trail brand and ensure it will be enjoyed around the world for years to come. This is a win-win situation for both parties and we are very proud of this partnership and what we can achieve together with our shared vision.” Bob Kunze-Concewitz, CEO of Campari Group explained further: “By adding the fast-growing super premium Wilderness Trail brand we further expand and premiumise our bourbon offering, priming it to become Campari Group’s second major leg after the aperitif portfolio.” He added another reason for the deal was “the opportunity to significantly expand our production capacity and ageing inventory to satisfy the future growth of our premium bourbons, such as the high potential Whiskey Barons range, currently capped due to capacity constraints.” He didn’t get where he is without recognising an opportunity to significantly expand production capacity and ageing inventory when he saw one.
SWA creates influencer code of practice
The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has updated its code of practice to take into account the rise of social media influencers. These guidelines which came into use this month follow the Influencer Guiding Principles from the International Alliance for Responsible Drinking (IARD). They include sensible things such as controls on the age of people who can view alcohol-related content and the age of the influencer in question plus no links to harmful drinking. Plus, and most importantly, influencers must have a written agreement in place for paid content and make clear that the content is paid for. What’s a little more confusing is the very broad definition of influencer: “independent third-party endorser who shapes audience attitudes through blogs, posts, tweets, and the use of other social media including game-streaming platforms”. So that’s pretty much anyone on the internet. Furthermore, there are rules on non-paid for content when products are ‘gifted’ to ‘influencers’. In this case: “influencers should be provided with clear terms of engagement that include disclosure guidelines and a responsibility to follow the company’s responsible marketing code.” What does this mean for samples for whisky writers which are increasingly being referred to by PRs as gifts?
Glenfiddich and Rosewood announce the Time:Capsule terrace
Heading towards Christmas, time always seems to be in short supply. But Glenfiddich and Rosewood London are encouraging people to slow down in their city escape, the Time:Capsule terrace, running from 18 November until March 2023. The terrace is an immersive cocktail and dining space, where guests are invited to take their time and enjoy some Glenfiddich whisky, among a cosy interior and visual projections on the walls. The cocktail menu was created by Rosewood’s head of mixology Yann Bouvignies and team with serves combining Glenfiddich 12 Year Old, tonka, and coffee, to those blending roasted bee pollen, aloe vera, and oloroso sherry, with an appropriately decadent food menu to accompany the drinks. Also on the whisky list will be two recent jaw-dropping releases from the Time Re:Imagined collection: 40 Year Old Cumulative Time and 30 Year Old Suspended Time. What we didn’t see coming was the chance for guests to win a bottle of Glenfiddich 30 Year Old Suspended Time, signed by malt master Brian Kinsman, and a stay at the Rosewood London itself when they order a dram from the Glenfiddich Grand Series or Time Re:Imagined Collection! So if you fancy taking a moment out of busy city life, head over to the Rosewood London in two Fridays’ time to enjoy some Speyside bliss.
A new batch of GlenDronach cask strength is on its way
Good news for lovers of punchy sherried whisky as we have just heard that The GlenDronach Cask Strength Batch 11 should be landing at Master of Malt soon. We were quite excited when we heard this but even more so when the distillery sent us a little sample to enjoy. Hell’s bells, it’s scorcher! Lots of rich toffee and dried fruit notes with an incredible aromatic waft of menthol and tobacco and ridiculously drinkable at 59.8% ABV. Master blender Rachel Barrie, or the Doc as we wouldn’t dare to call her, commented: “This eleventh batch of The GlenDronach Cask Strength embodies The GlenDronach‘s celebrated style of Spanish oak maturation in fine Pedro Ximénez and oloroso sherry casks from Andalucía.” It’s bottled without an age statement but there’s clearly some really quite old mature single malt in here. Basically, it’s the perfect blend of sweetness, fire, fruit, and aromatics. Best of all, by today’s standards, it’s something of a bargain with an RRP of £68. We’ll write more on this superb dram when it arrives with us.
And finally… English distillery launches Scotch-Irish whisky
The whisky world can be a confusing old place at times with Dublin whiskey that’s from Cork, American whiskey distilled in Canada, and Japanese whisky which contains a good dollop of Scotch. So it’s really not that unusual that the inaugural release from Northumbrian distillery and Anglo-Saxon museum Ad Gefrin is an Irish/ Scotch blend. It’s called Tácnbora which means ‘standard bearer’ in Old English and celebrates the ancient kingdom of Northumbria which straddled the modern English and Scottish border. Ben Murphy, director of distilling explained (if that’s the right word) the thinking behind it: “The Tácnbora whisky blend features Scottish and Irish whiskies, reflecting two of the peoples that would have made up the Anglo-Saxons of Northumbria (Scottish, Irish, English, and Scandinavian)”. Eh? The distillery which is located in Wooler is planning to release its first single malt in 2026 which will be entirely English. Where’s the fun in that?