It’s Friday and that means there’s Nightcapping to do. It’s been another week full of fascinating booze-soaked stories. Here’s our pick of some of the best.
A week has been and gone since the last edition of The Nightcap, which means that we needed to grab our press hats (you know the trilbys with the little white placards that have the word ‘press’ printed on them?) and scour the world of booze for suitably interesting stories. This was a piece of cake, frankly. So much was happening! Which is both good for us, and for you too! Because that means there are all kinds of interesting new tales for you to enjoy. So, grab a dram, take a seat and read on… It’s the Nightcap: 5 March edition.
This week on the MoM blog we reported on two exciting news stories, the first being the welcome relief of US tariffs on Scotch whisky being suspended and the other the announcement that there are big changes taking place at Glenmorangie and Distell. We then thought we’d help you out by recommending how to make the most of the upcoming picnics that everyone is planning, which might be improved even further with some of our outstanding new beers. Or perhaps an exquisite bottle of bubbly. Or maybe even a simple and delicious gin-based cocktail. It could be the greatest picnic of all time. Elsewhere, Lucy got her geek on and told us what the deal with worm tubs is, Adam looked at a certain drinks giant in a new light and Millie’s love letter to one of London’s finest bars had us itching to get back out on the town. For now, we’ll settle for some light reading. Let’s take a look at what’s been happening this week…
Bimber confirms plans for a Scotch distillery
We found ourselves adding another new name to our list of new distilleries we’re very excited about this week after Bimber revealed that it will open a sister Scotch whisky distillery. The proposal, which is currently being reviewed by Moray Council, will see an existing farm in Dunphail, south of Forres, converted into a 200,000 LA capacity distillery. The new site will have a visitor centre, blending rooms, dunnage warehouses and a floor malting facility, as well as a traditional kiln designed to process 100% of the distillery’s locally sourced barley. Sustainable production methods, energy efficiency and water conservation will be central to the as-yet-untitled distillery, with plastic-free packaging and ingredients being sourced as locally as possible and systems to be implemented that will reduce water use. The team also intends to create a new forest on the grounds of the distillery with a tree being planted for every cask purchased. We love what we’re hearing so far, to be honest, and can’t wait to taste the full-bodied, fruit-forward spirit that the brand plans to create in both unpeated and peated styles. Dariusz Plazewski, founder and director at Bimber Distillery, says the vision for Dunphail is to craft an “exceptional, world-class spirit born of the techniques of the past – but with its focus firmly on the future.” Plazewski also commented the planned project will be distinctive from and run separately to Bimber and revealed his team are also aiming to expand the production capacity at the London-based distillery by exploring potential sites in the capital for relocation. As for the proposed distillery at Dunphail, we can expect distillation to commence at the site in 2022 pending planning consent and construction.
Midleton appoints Deirdre O’Carroll as blender
Irish Distillers has strengthened its blending team this week with the addition of Deirdre O’Carroll. Working with master blender Billy Leighton in Midleton Distillery, Co. Cork, The Irish drinks giants has said O’Carroll will be responsible for the management of stock, including cask profile and age profile, as well as laying down deliciousness for future generations. But her primary role will be the “development of new and existing blends, marrying together specific and intricate flavours and aromas, ultimately, creating a palette of tastes that make up Irish Distillers’ portfolio of Irish whiskeys”. O’Carroll has an impressive background, holding a degree in food science and technology from University College, Cork and a diploma in distilling from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling. She joined Irish Distillers in 2012 as part of the first year of the Jameson Engineering Programme. Her roles have included taking part in commissioning of the new pot stills in the Garden Stillhouse and the new columns in the Midleton Distillery expansion project, and helping oversee the filling and emptying of the 1.7 million casks maturing at Midleton. Leighton commended O’Carroll by saying she’s “a shining example of what success looks like” for rising through the company ranks and credited her as an invaluable member of the team. The new blender herself said she was looking forward to channelling her knowledge and experience into the role, while learning from Leighton and the team. And we look forward to tasting the whiskey they make together. Slainte, Deirdre!
Fettercairn releases new range
It might not be one of Scotland’s best-known distilleries, but Fettercairn is very popular among whisky fans for its terrific spirit and we were all delighted to see it launch its core range back in 2018. Now a new series is on the way which will show the brand flexing its maturation muscles, bottling whiskies from a variety of casks housed within the distillery’s 14 dunnage warehouses. Whisky maker Gregg Glass created the project as a means to research how each warehouse makes its own unique mark on the Fettercairn spirit, which is why each expression is named after the warehouse that helped to shape it. We got to taste the first bottling, Fettercairn Warehouse No2 Batch No. 001, last week in the company of distillery manager Stewart Walker and brand specialist Andrew Lennie. Head brewer Bruce Aitken even created a bespoke flavour pairing of homemade tropical fruit chutney (which was cracking) and digestive biscuits. It’s matured in an array of American and European oak casks, including ex-bourbon, sherry and port pipes, but despite the diversity, we found the integration was on point and created a wonderful nutty, spicy and chocolatey profile that still retained plenty of those funky tropical fruits we know and love from Fettercairn. It’s a delightful dram and we look forward to seeing how the whisky evolves over the series.
Jamie Foxx buys Brown Sugar Bourbon
Another week, another celeb enters the booze biz. This time it is actor and musician Jamie Foxx, who now counts Brown Sugar Bourbon as part of his portfolio. While the flavoured whiskey brand was founded in 2016, Foxx’s ownership is being viewed as being something of a kickstart for the American-made spirit. The company says Foxx will lead them in “a new creative direction”, expanding brand awareness, redesigning bottles and to help position Brown Sugar “as a fun, celebratory liquor ideal for making memories and toasting to good times.” It seems that Foxx’s role won’t be ceremonial with the bourbon brand as he’s even tipped to help develop future releases. Sean M. Penn (not that one), CEO of BSB Spirits says the company is fortunate that Foxx was introduced to our brand at one of his legendary parties and that he has no doubt that he will lead BSB to new heights. “We can think of no better creative force than Jamie, and we look forward to watching him introduce BSB to the world,” he comments. “Owning a brand that brings sweet life to the party has always been a goal and with BSB we’re making it happen,” Foxx added. “Before the quarantine, I watched bottles of BSB disappear at all my celebrations and knew this was a brand I wanted to bring into the spotlight. Anyone who tries BSB is going to love it just like I do.”
Lalique partners with Dictador for first rum decanter
Budge over, whisky. Squeeze up, Cognac. There’s a new fancypants spirit on the scene: aged rum. Aficionados have known about rum’s luxe qualities for some time now, but a development this week seems to have cemented the category’s place in the upper echelons of spirits perception. A unique decanter of Dictador Generations En Lalique sold at auction for a whopping £30,000. And the bottling (decatering?) wasn’t just one of the most expensive rums ever sold – its creation, Dictador became the first rum ever to find its way into a Lalique decanter. This first one was auctioned in a lot that also included personal letters from master blender Hernan Parra and Lalique’s creative director Marc Larminaux, a print of the bottle’s original digital rendering signed by the designer, an invitation to Dictador Art Masters in Cartagena for two, and a signed print by a local artist, with proceeds going to the Art Masters charity. We tuned in to a launch this week (via Zoom, obvs) to find out more. Larminaux explained that there were only 300 decanters, each handmade and therefore one-off pieces, produced (they retail at £14,000). He described being inspired by the colours and vibrancy of Dictator’s native Cartagena and the Caribbean Sea, which give the decanters the unusual mottled shape. Parra said choosing the rum for the decanter was a “very difficult job!”. He eventually settled on a blend of 1976 rums aged in both American oak and Port casks – and his father, Dario, was involved too. It’s the first time the duo has teamed up for an expression. Congratulations to Dictador – and welcome to the big leagues, rum!
Ferrari is the new sparkling wine of Formula 1
In a move that’s likely to cause no end of confusion, the new sparkling wine of Formula 1 is called… Ferrari. Yes, the same name as the red fast Italian cars that feature in the series though there is no link between the two companies. In fact, Ferrari wines long predate the car manufacturer and has been making high-quality fizz in Trento in Northern Italy since 1906. It’s the start of a three-year relationship between the brand and FIA, the sport’s governing body. Stefano Domenicali (above left), president and CEO of Formula 1, commented: “Celebrating success is in both our DNA and having Ferrari Trento at the heart of the sport’s most iconic celebratory moment makes them such a natural partner for us.” While president CEO of the family-owned wine company Matteo Lunelli (above right) added: “It’s an achievement because it demonstrates the renown and the appeal that Ferrari Trento wines enjoy internationally.” This is big news for Ferrari. Up until now the huge bottles of fizz wasted by the top three drivers at the end of the race had always come from Champagne. Now they come from Trento in Italy, so don’t call it Champagne or you will get an angry letter from the Champagne Bureau’s army of lawyers.
Foursquare’s Redoubtable new rum
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The team at Foursquare really do have a knack for coming up with unexpected names for their limited edition Bajan rums. There was a Criterion, a Nobiliary, and last year’s Cold War-themed Detente. You can read about the series here. Now there’s a rum that sounds like it has come straight of the pages of Patrick O’ Brian, Redoutable. It should have an HMS in front of it. This is the 15th release in Foursquare’s Exceptional Cask Series. It’s a blend of two 14-year-old rums, one aged in ex-bourbon casks, the other in first-fill ex-Madeira casks. Only 12,000 bottles have been filled at 61% ABV with no chill filtering, colour, and sweetening. Nothing to detract from all that rummy goodness. We were sent a little sample and as usual with these limited edition Foursquare releases, we were knocked out by the quality. There’s dried fruit, dark chocolate and honey sweetness to it with the most amazing cardamom and menthol aromatic blast running through the whole thing. We loved how it evolves in the glass with just a drop of water. So hats off to Richard Seale and the Foursquare team for another amazing limited edition rum. Sadly, as I was typing these words, all our bottles sold out so you’ll have to order something else from this distillery.
Drinks industry reacts to alcohol duty freeze
Following this week’s budget by the chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak, the big question on everyone’s lips was, ‘how will the WSTA respond?’ The cry went up across the drinks industry, ‘what does Beale think?’ Well, the wait is over. This is the comment from WSTA CEO Mr Miles Beale: “The decision to freeze wine and spirit duty comes as a huge relief for British businesses, pubs, restaurants and its suppliers following the crushing – and continuing – closure of the hospitality sector, for months on end, during the pandemic. Chancellor Rishi Sunak seems to ‘get it’. He understands that supporting our industry will allow it to recover, rebuild, create jobs and – in time – replenish revenues to the Treasury. He has also shown he is in touch with men and women from all walks of life who want to enjoy their chosen tipple without getting stung by further tax hikes. We will all raise a glass to the Chancellor tonight – and look forward to more permanent support for the sector following the review of alcohol taxation.” According to WSTA calculations, this means a saving of £100 million assuming the increase would be in line with inflation at 1.4%. But let’s not forget that alcohol taxes in the UK are some of the highest in the world with £2.23 plus VAT at 20% going to the taxman.
Frank Gehry Hennessy Cognac to be auctioned for charity
Another week, another ridiculously-packaged Cognac goes under the hammer. This time it’s the turn of Hennessy with a Masterpiece XO in a special decanter designed by Frank Gehry. You might know him as the architect behind the concert hall in The Simpson’s that is later turned into a prison. The decanter was apparently inspired by the river Charente and it’s made from bronze plated with 24 carat gold with Gehry’s signature crumpled up piece of paper design in metal. Hennessy is also throwing in the mold used to create the decanter into the bargain. The auction takes place on 13 March at Sotheby’s in New York and celebrates 150 years since the launch of Hennessy’s first XO Cognac. It’s expected to go for between $15-30,000. Find out more here. Jonny Fowle, Sotheby’s spirits specialist, said: “It is a pleasure to offer this lot from the world’s biggest Cognac producer for charity. This bottle blends 150 years of Hennessy’s history and expertise with the creativity of Frank Gehry’s designs. The fact that this exclusive offer includes not just the commemorative decanter but also the mould used by Gehry to create his vision makes this a piece of design history. We are pleased that proceeds from the sale will go to benefit the Asian American Business Development Centre, which Hennessy is working with as part of their Unfinished Business initiative.” This project was launched by Hennessy last year to help small businesses struggling with the effects of Covid. So it’s great that all this ostentation is being used to do some good.
And finally… Cadbury creates Creme Egg beer
With Easter coming up at the beginning of next month you might have started thinking about which chocolatey treat you’ll help yourself to this year. But if you’re in the mood for something a bit different, Goose Island Brewery and Cadbury might have the thing for you. A beer that tastes like a Creme Egg. The only question we have is, what took them so long? The limited-edition stout, which has been named the ‘Golden Goo-Beer-Lee’ to commemorate 50 years of the Creme Egg, has gone on sale this week as a pre-Easter special. Ingredients including milk sugar, cacao nibs, and vanilla beans have been used to give it its flavour, with Goose Island’s master brewer Andrew Walton saying the brand wanted to “big up the chocolate and creaminess of the beer while keeping it super drinkable.” He also reveals that the brewery has ensured the “tasty flavours of the stout complement the iconic Cadbury Creme Egg,” while brand manager of Cadbury Creme Egg (what an amazing job that must be) Raphael Capitani added that this launch would lift “EATertainment to a whole new level”. Which doesn’t land with quite the same aplomb as ‘Goo-Beer-Lee’. We will, however, raise a glass and some chocolate to five delicious decades of Cadbury Creme Egg. Because they are boss. Cheers!