There’s a whole smorgasbord of big Scotch whisky news in this week’s Nightcap, as well as reports on new celebrity booze and Whisky Tea. Yes, really! Intrigued? Then read on…
We hope you all enjoyed your Bank Holiday weekend. Whether you set off on an adventure, popped down to your local or enjoyed some well-earned R&R indoors, we’re sure you made the most of the opportunity to take a breath and enjoy a break. Fortunately for us, the world of booze never seems to stop churning out new products, projects and passions for us all to get all geeky and gleeful about so The Nightcap this week isn’t any lighter even with a day off. Take a look and see for yourself.
The MoM blog this week was also as busy as ever, and almost turned green thanks to the number of stories we had on Irish whiskey. First Ian Buxton examined its growing pains, then Annie learned why the progress of Sliabh Liag Distillers is proving cause for excitement. Certified organic distilleries also caught Annie’s eye, as Henry gave us a lesson in fortified wines casks to mark the arrival of The Epicurean Rivesaltes Finish. Elsewhere, Adam enjoyed a gin-based delight and one of the finest prohibition-era cocktails in The Southside, before wishing That Boutique-y Whisky Company a happy birthday by announcing another terrific new MoM sale.
Arguably the biggest news of all, however, was our announcement of the launch of Pour & Sip, our all-new, kick-ass whisky subscription service. Check out the blog post for more details. We’re also issuing one last call for you to tune in to our virtual whisky extravaganza Scotch & Sofa, which is taking place tomorrow. Oh, and don’t forget, Drinks by the Dram’s incredible booze-filled Advent Calendars are available to pre-order now!
Right, on with the news!
Chivas Bros. criticises Scottish government over COVID response
It was a difficult results time for Chivas Brothers, which we’ll get on to in a moment, but the most interesting thing from this week’s press conference was CEO Jean-Christophe Coutures’ strong words for the Scottish government. He talked about a “bumpy period in March/April when we were not so clear about the direction the Scottish government wanted us to take. We know that we were not seen as an essential business to the economy even though Scotch whisky is the second-largest export for Scotland.” Happily (for everyone, not least Master of Malt customers), Chivas Brothers managed to keep the whisky flowing. Coutures praised the workforce and the unions for their helpful attitudes, and now the company is “almost back to full operations”. He added: “I still believe that the Scottish government needs to back us up and they need to understand that keeping this category operating is absolutely critical not only to the Scottish government but as well to the people of Scotland.” Meanwhile, on to those results: total organic sales were down 11%, in large part due to the lack of travel retail, with Ballantine’s shrinking by 8% and Chivas declining 17%. But there are grounds for optimism, with The Glenlivet cementing its position as number one single malt in the US, up 16%, Royal Salute expanding in Taiwan and South Korea, and Chivas growing in 34 markets including Turkey, Russia and Germany. Overall, there was confidence that Pernod Ricard had weathered the COVID storm as well as could be expected. Coutures added: “Our business and brands have responded with agility and resilience in the face of unprecedented market conditions, in many instances outperforming the category. We remain confident in the strength of our portfolio and the Scotch category as a whole, especially in its ability to withstand and overcome external challenges.” Now, if only the Scottish government could be a little more helpful…
Jack Daniel’s master distiller to step down
Big news from Tennessee this week. Jeff Arnett, the man at the production helm of Jack Daniel’s for a whopping 12 years, announced he was leaving his role. This is significant stuff for Jack Daniel’s, the world’s biggest selling American whiskey. Arnett oversaw milling, fermentation, distillation, charcoal filtration and maturation, so these are some pretty sizeable shoes to fill. Parent company Brown-Forman hasn’t said why he’s leaving, or given word of his replacement. But Jack Daniel’s senior vice president, Larry Combs, did say: “Jeff has worked tirelessly on behalf of the distillery and brought with him the creativity and the expertise that makes Jack Daniel’s the most valuable whiskey brand in the world.” Arnett said his time with the brand had been “an incredible chapter”, but didn’t say what he’d be up to next. We’re thoroughly intrigued by the proceedings, and wish Arnett all the best!
Snoop Dogg announces his latest creation: INDOGGO Gin
Not content with being a hip-hop legend and all-round entertainment icon, Snoop Dogg has once again turned his attention to conquering the booze industry. The creator of the classic hip-hop anthem ‘Gin and Juice’ has founded his own gin brand: INDOGGO Gin. Following a partnership with Treasury Wine Estates to release a California red blend under the 19 Crimes brand called Snoop Cali Red earlier in the year, Snoop Dogg teamed up with his friend and spirits veteran, Keenan Towns of Trusted Spirits and spirits importer Prestige Beverage Group this time to release INDOGGO Gin. The expression, which is housed in a purple bottle features a white logo with upturned ‘G’s in a hat tip to the fruit-infused gin being a remix on the classic juniper-dominant style, was distilled five times and features seven botanicals, including orange, coriander and cassia and is infused with “all-natural strawberry flavour” with no added sugar. “I can’t wait for the world to taste my remix on gin! When I wrote Gin & Juice back in ’94 it was about good feelings and real experiences, it just naturally became an anthem,” Snoop Dogg said. “When creating Indoggo, I wanted to give those feelings new life with an approachable juicy gin that’s smooth like the D.O. Double G.” INDOGGO Gin will first launch in Snoop’s home state of California in late September before it’s released throughout the rest of US through 2021, so if you can’t get your hands on it you can at least pour yourself something delicious and sing those seminal words: “Rollin down the street, smokin’ indo, sippin’ on gin and juice/ Laid back (with my mind on my money and my money on my mind.”
The second batch of Ardbeg Traigh Bhan is (nearly) here!
The second batch of Ardbeg Traigh Bhan is here! Or nearly here, it will be arriving at MoM towers soon. We liked the first release so much that we travelled up to Edinburgh with a film crew to listen to Brendan McCarron wax lyrical about it, video link here. The series is named after the beaches of Traigh Bhan (pronounced tri-van) on Islay which are known locally as ‘the singing sands’ because the noise the tide makes on the sand. This latest batch was matured in American oak and oloroso sherry casks for 19 years and bottled at 46.2% ABV with an RRP of £199. There’s a higher proportion of first-fill bourbon casks in the blend alongside refills and sherry casks. Dr Bill Lumsden commented: “To me, this whisky is the epitome of an aged Ardbeg. It somehow manages to balance the complex with the classic. It’s a truly unique bottling and we hope Ardbeggians everywhere look forward to comparing notes with the previous batch. I know I did!” Not only is the whisky special but the packaging is innovative too: each Traigh Bhan whisky carries its own unique batch code, batch symbol and signature from one of the Ardbeg team; this year it’s Jackie Thomson, the visitor centre manager. She said: “the small quirks and originalities on the bottle itself make it highly collectable – something we know our Ardbeg fans love.” They certainly do. Watch the New Arrivals page of the MoM website. It should be with us soon.
Johnnie Walker book is coming
Have you ever wanted to know more about the man behind the world’s best-selling whisky, Mr John Walker? No? Well, we do. And now our curiosity is about to be sated with the imminent arrival of a new book called Johnnie Walker: A Long Stride. Its author, historian and Diageo’s grandly-titled head of whisky outreach Dr Nick Morgan, has been labouring in the company’s extensive archives for a good few years, and we can’t wait to find out what he has uncovered. It’s not just the story of the man, but also the brand up to the present day. According to the press release: “By doing things their own way, Johnnie Walker overturned the conventions of late Victorian and Edwardian Britain, survived two world wars and flourished despite the Great Depression to become the first truly global whisky brand, revolutionising the world of advertising along the way.” And you thought they just made delicious whisky. We’re hoping to host Dr Nick on the blog sometime soon to tell us more.
Gordon & MacPhail launches 47-year-old whisky to mark 125th anniversary
Gordon & MacPhail has announced that it will launch four rare bottlings of single malt Scotch whisky to commemorate the company’s 125-year history. The independent bottler and distiller has been doing its thing since 1895, releasing all kinds of delicious single malts from over 100 celebrated, little-known, or closed distilleries. Each exceptionally rare whisky will come from casks from a closed distillery or made on Lomond stills that are no longer in production and will be released periodically during the rest of 2020. The first of which is the Gordon & MacPhail 1972 from Coleburn Distillery in Speyside, which is particularly fitting given the distillery is situated just four miles from the company’s Elgin home. The 47-Year-Old single cask whisky is said to be sweet, intense and complex with notes of butterscotch, apricot, cooked apples and mint, a profile it attained after spending its entire maturation in a refill sherry puncheon (cask 3511) before it was bottled at cask strength, 62.4% ABV. “The whiskies we have chosen to commemorate our 125th Anniversary are all truly unique and seldom seen in the market,” says Stephen Rankin, a fourth-generation member of Gordon & MacPhail’s owning family and the company’s director of prestige. “They are bottled from the last remaining casks we have from these distilleries, and marks an emotional moment for my family as they leave the Gordon & MacPhail warehouse after being left to mature by my grandfather many decades ago.”
Tayēr + Elementary opens its doors
Award-winning cocktail bar Tayēr + Elementary re-opened its doors following its closure during the lockdown period. Alex Kratena and Monica Berg will stagger the return in two phases, Tayēr will return in October and the venue’s front bar concept Elementary opening from at the beginning of this month from 3pm until midnight Tuesday and Wednesday, and 3pm-1am Thursday – Saturday. Its new outside terrace to help enable social distancing will make its debut and food from new chef partners Kitchen FM will be available, including the pig’s head croquette (mmmmm, pig’s head), served with kimchi and oyster mayo, deep fry chicken, with a smoked and spicy maple glaze and pickles and desserts such as the plum jam with ginger ice cream. Elementary’s drinks offering will feature the bar’s signature classics such as the One Sip Martini, Whey Sour and ēe Frozen Coffee alongside new highballs, beers, wines and seasonal cocktails. The Bottle Shop will be available for takeaway, serving all of the bar’s own ready-to-drink cocktails, which were launched by the team during lockdown, such as the Bergamot Margarita and Palo Santo Gimlet, as well as a selection of beers and wines to takeaway.
Lagavulin gets a new distillery manager
Big transfer news on Islay: Pierrick Guillaume is moving from Caol Ila to take up the role of distillery manager at Lagavulin. Frenchman Guillaume has been with Diageo for eight years with stints at Mortlach and Talisker before the move to Islay and Caol Ila in 2017. Having met and tasted with Guillaume we can vouch that not only is he a lovely chap but extremely knowledgeable. He commented: “It is a great honour to be asked to take on the role of Lagavulin distillery manager. Lagavulin is a whisky that is revered around the world and it’s a great privilege to be joining the outstanding team that makes this exceptional Scotch whisky and I can’t wait to get started.” Meanwhile, there are some big boots to fill at Caol Ila and stepping up is Samuel Hale who is currently the manager of Port Ellen Maltings. If you want to know more, why not tune into our Scotch and Sofa whisky festival tomorrow, 5 September? At 2pm both Guillaume and Hale will be taking a boat trip to Islay alongside Colin Dunn from Diageo and Henry Jeffreys from Master of Malt.
Celebrity booze continues with Pimm’s competition and Delevigne Prosecco
Celebrities and booze go together like caviar (the celebrity of the seafood world) and Champagne (the celebrity of the wine world). As such, we’ve got double trouble on the celebrity booze front for you this week. First up, we have the Delevigne sisters who have launched their own Prosecco! The sisters, Chloe, Poppy and Cara, called their creation Della Vite, which, although it sounds a lot like their last name, actually translates as ‘of the vine’. Having partnered with the Biasiotto family, two expressions are being launched this month, Della Vite Prosecco Superiore (DOCG) and Della Vite Prosecco Treviso (DOC). “Placing sustainability first and using agricultural methods that don’t rely heavily on the industry is at the core Della Vite’s values,” said Cara. “We spent four months looking for the perfect winery to align with our vision and are so proud to have created two exceptional Proseccos that are both sustainably produced and 100% certified vegan.” There’s no label, with the bottle sporting the brand signature created by Poppy Delevingne. Well, that’s one way of getting her autograph. From Prosecco to Pimm’s, the latter has launched a competition to try and make up for the strange summer Britain has had! Louise Redknapp is spearheading this one, giving the public the chance to win an afternoon with the Pimm’s O’Clock Truck! The winner will get to enjoy it at home for the day with a small gathering of friends and family (complying with COVID regulations, obviously). If you want to enter, snap a photo-sharing Pimm’s with your pals onto Instagram. Make sure you follow @Pimmsgb on Instagram, tag @Pimmsgb and use #TheOriginalTasteOfSummer. You have until 7 September to get your photos up, so get the pitcher out quick!
Isle of Raasay inaugural release sells out (yes, we will be getting some in)
If you were hoping to get your hands on a bottle of Isle of Raasay Distillery’s inaugural single malt, set to launch in November 2020, we have bad news. It’s already sold out. Before it’s even been bottled. Okay, let us explain. Out of its expected outturn of 7,500 bottles, the distillery set aside 4,350 bottles for an online pre-sale. Obviously these went like hotcakes, while the rest of the bottles have been snapped up by a selection of international markets, specialist retailers, restaurants and bars. It’s no wonder too, with the lightly peated whisky matured in first-fill American oak and set to be finished in 21 first fill Bordeaux red wine casks. “We are delighted to have sold out of our Isle of Raasay Single Malt Inaugural Release before it’s bottled in November,” said Isle of Raasay co-founder Alasdair Day. “This is the first legal whisky from an island rooted in centuries of illicit distilling, so it really is a piece of Scotch whisky history!” There is still hope for a bottle though! Make sure you keep an eye out on MoM new arrivals because we’ve got your back and will be stocking the historic whisky. Keep your other eye on its social channels (@RaasayDistillery), because we also heard that the distillery is launching a competition in October with the chance to win one of the prized bottles.
And finally… WHISKY… TEA?
When we heard about Whisky Tea, we thought of the great Peter Kay and his cheesecake routine: “WHISKY…. TEA? Are my ears playing tricks on me?” Well, this is no joke, it’s the latest product from Edinburgh-based Pekotea. We were sent some samples and suitably impressed. These are quality teas, not a gimmick. One of the brains behind it, Jon Cooper, filled us in: “There are some close analogies between whisky and tea and we wanted to create something that would reflect this in tea blends. Just like the different regions of tea giving different flavours and aromas, we thought it would be great to make teas that reflected the main Scotch whisky regions. Each of the teas contains a different blend of base tea with added fruit and spices as well as the whisky and a little flavour oil to highlight the nose of each of the whiskies. We wanted to bring out the main aromas associated with each area.” For example, the Campbeltown expression is made from a blend of black tea with cacao nibs, currants and cornflower steeped in high strength whisky with essential oil and then dried. It tastes rich and fruity, the perfect after-dinner tea instead of coffee, or indeed a dram.