Another week has passed and that means it’s time for another hearty spoonful of brilliant and bonkers boozy stories that caught our eye. It’s The Nightcap!
Are you Beast from the East ready? For readers outside the UK, this is a fearsome weather front that is coming in from the Eurasian landmass/ totally normally cold winter weather hyped up by the media, delete as applicable. However you look at it, it’s going to be freezing, so at MoM Towers, we’re stocking up on firewood, tasty snacks, those funny tennis racket type things that people wear on their feet in Scandinavia and huskies. We’ve already got plenty to drink but we’ve ordered a bit more just in case. You never know, we might get snowed in. Happily, we’ve also got extra amusing, interesting and downright bizarre stories from the world of booze this week, so if you can’t get out, there’s something to read. Yes, it’s a bumper Beast from the East Nightcap!
This week on the MoM blog we had the pleasure of welcoming Millie Milliken, who cast her eye on new make spirit and will be contributing more fabulous words in the future. As will the wonderful Lucy Britner, who returned this week to analyse some of film & TV’s most celebrated drinks and drinkers. Henry then showed you how to make five easy and classic serves and welcomed a grape-based aperitif that should be the drink of the summer. Elsewhere, Adam enjoyed one of the great modern cocktails, asked if augmented reality bottle labels have a future, showed you ten Tequilas and mezcals were big fans of and put together a handy little round-up of brilliantly boozy gifts for Valentine’s Day.
US tariffs cost Scotch whisky £500m in lost exports
We don’t like to kick things off with a negative story but we’re afraid this one is too big to ignore. New figures suggest exports of single malt Scotch whisky have fallen by more than a third – amounting to more than £500m – since a 25% tariff was imposed in October 2019. The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) was once again damning of the tariffs in response to the news, which were initially introduced by the Donald Trump administration in retaliation for EU state support given to Airbus. The industry body says distillers are continuing to pay the price for an aerospace dispute that has nothing to do with them and that the loss in sales and market share suffered by “large and small producers alike”, are so severe that some “may never now recover”. The SWA’s chief executive, Karen Betts is also calling for more support for the industry given the losses during the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the end of these punitive tariffs. “The government must also offer some support to distillers, who are shouldering tariff losses alongside dealing with unprecedentedly difficult trading conditions as a result of Brexit and global restrictions to curb Covid-19 transmission”. Hear, hear. Let’s hope sense prevails.
Icons of Whisky regional winners announced
Whisky Magazine’s celebration of all things delicious and distilled has concluded today and there have been some notable winners in the Icons of Whisky awards. The year the winners were broadcast in a virtual awards ceremony online in order to adapt to a Covid-19 world. “After an incredibly challenging year it has been wonderful to witness the perseverance of the whisky industry,” Anita Ujszaszi, world whiskies awards director, said. “We have seen new and creative developments and innovation in the face of unexpected restrictions, and the resilience of those celebrated here is second to none.” The regional winners for America, Australia, Ireland, the Rest of World and Scotland were revealed this week, with Brown-Forman, Lark Distillery, Waterford Distillery, Mackmyra and Whyte and Mackay winning distiller of the year in their respective categories. Winners of the master distiller/blender of the year included Victoria Eady Butler, Patrick Maguire, Noel Sweeney, Dhavall Gandhi and Bob Dalgarno. Meanwhile, in a popular move, Distell master distiller Andy Watts, the man responsible for the company’s South African whisky portfolio of Bain’s Cape Mountain Whisky and Three Ships Whisky, was inducted into Whisky Magazine’s Whisky Hall of Fame. Congratulations to all who picked up prestigious awards, we look forward to 25 March when the Global Winners of the Icons of Whisky Awards together with the World Whiskies Awards winners will be announced.
Diageo makes leap forward in sustainability measures
We’ll take any good news we can get at the moment so it was wonderful to see that Diageo made the headlines for a very positive reason this week. Not only did four of its Scotch whisky distilleries receive the award the UK’s highest eco-tourism award in the same week it unveiled the installation of a new weir and fish pass. Lagavulin, Blair Athol, Oban and Clynelish all received a gold certification from Green Tourism for sustainable practices, joining sister distilleries Glenkinchie and Royal Lochnagar on the list of Scotch whisky distilleries to receive the accreditation. Achievements praised by the assessors across the whisky attractions include biodiversity enhancement, local sourcing, community engagement and plastic reduction. As for the weir and fish pass, the £550,000 structure was built in collaboration with the Spey Fishery Board to help boost the sustainability of salmon and trout stocks in the river Dullan, part of the River Spey catchment that is crucial to the Scotch whisky industry. A similar, smaller-scale project has also recently been completed on the Burn of Linkwood at Linkwood Distillery in Elgin, while Diageo is also developing its programme of fish pass improvements near Glen Ord later this year. The environmental projects are part of Diageo’s Society 2030: Spirit of Progress sustainability plan, which promises a decade of action to tackle climate change. We salute them and all other brands who are committed to such ambitious environmental goals. Speaking of which…
Cooper King unveils first carbon-negative English gins
Cooper King Distillery has kept the green vibes going by revealing that its Dry Gin and Herb Gin have been certified carbon negative. This means the production process actually removes more carbon from the atmosphere than what is released. Cooper King met those standards by reducing the carbon footprint as much as possible, then offsetting the rest with verified carbon credits from Verra’s Verified Carbon Standard programme. The brand has claimed the move makes its products the first English gins to hold that certification. “Producing flavour-driven, sustainable drinks has always been at the core of what we do because we believe drinking good spirits needn’t cost the earth,” said Chris Jaume, co-founder of Cooper King Distillery, said: “Reaching this milestone is a significant step in our plan to become a carbon-negative distillery. We value people, planet and prosperity, and through sharing our findings in our publicly available carbon report we hope to inspire others to make a positive difference.” In addition, Cooper King has partnered with the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust to plant one square metre of native UK woodland for every bottle of gin produced and has planted 30 juniper bushes at the distillery, which could produce enough juniper for around 15,000 bottles of gin annually once mature. If you thought that’s where the brand’s environmental credentials end, you’d be wrong. Cooper King is also the first distillery in Europe to join the environmental initiative 1% for the Planet. We stan a responsible spirits producer!
Vaccines frontman performs Kraken rum’s sea shanty
Taking full advantage of the fact that sea shanties have made a remarkable comeback, Kraken rum has launched a new campaign with Justin Young, the frontman of topically-named band The Vaccines. Hopping aboard the viral trend, Young has recorded a rendition of My Jolly Sailor, which tells the tale of a love doomed at the hands (or should that be tentacles?) of the kraken, which you can watch here. “Doomed love is the muse behind almost every song I’ve ever written,” explains Young. “Forget the bouquets or borrowed clichés, listeners of ‘My Jolly Sailor’ can expect to hear the harrowing, tragic demise of traditional Valentine’s Day romance.” But, most excitingly of all, fans can become part of the collaboration by contributing their own verse as part of a competition. The prize is a Serenading Sirens Valentine’s Day kit, which includes a limited edition vinyl edition of My Jolly Sailor, a black tentacle candle, and an exclusive Serenading Sirens cocktail which will be created from rum serenaded by Young while performing at The Troxy, London. Because rum tastes better when sung to by English indie frontmen. Everyone knows that. The competition, which you can enter here, is running until Monday 8 February, with 100 winners being announced on Tuesday February 9.
Coming soon: Glendronach Cask Strength Batch 9!
If there’s one thing Master of Malt customers love, it’s Glendronach. The Highland distillery is something of a cult favourite offering meaty sherried bottlings at prices that are far from unreasonable. Every so often, however, the distillery releases something that’s exceptional and just such a whisky is on its way in the form of Cask Strength Batch 9. It’s matured in a mixture of Pedro Ximénez and Oloroso sherry casks and bottled at 59.4% ABV. Master blender Dr. Rachel Barrie commented: “The GlenDronach Cask Strength Batch 9 is incredibly rich and full-bodied; the result of years of slow maturation in Pedro Ximénez puncheons and Oloroso sherry butts. Add a drop or two of water to reveal a cornucopia of flavour; from treacle toffee and raisin-filled toasted brioche, to baked apple and bramble pie and star anise. This crescendos into a lingering dark chocolate, espresso coffee finish. The depth of this Highland Single Malt’s character is boundless.” Blimey! Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? All this could be yours for a very reasonable RRP of £72, and it’s coming soon to Master of Malt. Credit cards at the ready…
Say it with a Select Aperitivo hamper this Valentine’s Day
What would you like from your wife, husband, lover, special friend or secret admirer this Valentine’s Day? Flowers? Chocolates? An enormous inflatable pink elephant with the words ‘Please say yes, Janet!’ written on the side? Or how about a hamper from top Italian deli Prezzemolo & Vitale containing everything you need to have a perfect Venetian aperitif. We know what we’d prefer. The hamper not only includes a bottle of Select Aperitivo, soda water, Prosecco and glasses to make a spritz with but for the full Italian experience some delicious snacks including green and black olives, taralli with extra virgin olive oil, artichokes in olive oil and to finish, some chilli chocolate. All this for only £59 (plus postage). Go to the website for more information or visit its London delicatessens in Borough Market, Notting Hill and the Kings Road. Throw in an inflatable gondolier, stick on a bit of opera and it’ll be just like being in Venice. Who could resist that?
Tidal power comes to Scotch whisky
Marketing from brands like Old Pulteney and Talisker makes much of the influence of the sea on the whiskies but how great would it be if they were made by the sea rather than just ‘made by the sea.’ Confused? We’ll explain. A company called Nova Innovation will be installing turbines in the narrow straight between Islay and Jura called the Sound of Islay. Which is also a great name for a music festival. Simon Forrest, CEO of Nova Innovation, commented: “The Oran na Mara tidal array has the potential to pair one of Scotland’s largest and world-leading exports – whisky – with world-leading and internationally exportable tidal power technology.” These turbines will generate energy to power the local distilleries replacing fossil fuels. AJ Cunningham, operations manager at Bruichladdich Distillery, commented: “This tidal energy project is really encouraging news for Islay and the potential of energy sourced locally and renewably. In order to decarbonise our activities, access to a clean and continuous supply of energy such as tidal power could help support our carbon zero ambitions.” Last year, the SWA set ambitious plans to make the industry more environmentally friendly. Whisky distillation currently uses around seven times more energy than gin. It would be wonderful if the industry was able to harness something Scotland has in abundance, the sea, to whisky a bit greener.
Aldi puts the wine into homeschooling
After a long day juggling homeschooling and zoom meetings, Aldi has the answer to help you relax: more school. Doesn’t sound that great, but this is a school with added wine, so Aldi is calling it… the Aldi Wine School! It’s the follow-up to 2019’s Aldiploma wine course and it’s being launched in conjunction with top Instagrammer Sarah Turner aka The Unmumsy Mum, with 412k followers (!), and Aldi’s very own master of wine, Sam Caporn aka the Mistress of Wine. The course consists of eight modules with classes on food and wine matching, and new world wines, to help you get the most out of your glass. The Unmumsy Mum comments: “I usually feel bamboozled by the labels in the wine aisle and pick up a Shiraz out of habit, simply because I know I like it. The Aldiploma course bought me sheer joy in swapping phonics and fronted adverbials for a bit of grown-up home learning. Since completing these bitesize modules, I’ve discovered I also like Malbec and I’ve now got the confidence in trying to pick out what I can smell and taste in the glass. I can’t recommend it enough – it’s easy to follow and fascinating!” Sam Caporn added: “The Aldi Wine School, with its jargon free courses, hints and tips, is perfect for giving customers the confidence to try new things – we hope that it helps to spark a sense of fun and excitement when it comes to learning about wine!” Go to the supermarket’s dedicated wine school page and change those whines into wine.
And finally… Irish whiskey and Fabergé come together at last
Following the launch of The Devil’s Keep in November 2020, The Craft Irish Whiskey Co. is set to outdo itself for its second release: The Emerald Isle Collection. And we say outdo itself, we mean in sheer mind-boggling madness. The press release about the collection starts off pretty reasonably, informing us there are seven custom-made whiskey sets in total that feature two bottles of 30-year-old, triple distilled Irish whiskey, which is said to be the oldest triple-distilled Irish whiskey in existence. A big claim that we’re sure has been rigorously fact-checked. Then we’re informed The Craft Irish Whiskey Co has teamed up with Fabergé, which has created its first-ever Celtic Egg to “honour” Irish heritage. Because, umm… we don’t know. We have no idea what this egg has to do with anything Irish. Answers on a postcard. Oh, and the set also includes a Fabergé Altruist 18k rose gold timepiece and other “priceless” whiskey accessories. You can get more detailed descriptions of them upon request, which sounds like a laugh. The limited-edition boxes will be sold via a private auction in Houston, Texas on 2nd February 2021 at a world record starting price of 1.7m euros, which is the most startling fact of all, but sweet redemption comes with the note that 100% of all proceeds, beyond cost price, is going to charity. The news has still baffled much of the whiskey world, however, including the folks at Whiskysponge, who announced their retirement from public piss-taking upon seeing the press release. A spokesponge said: “I’ve been trying to think of something to say about this Irish egg box for 48 hours but nothing is actually funnier than what it already is.” We feel your pain, sweet, satirical sponge. The Sponge added “My work here is done.”