Remember, remember, the 5 November – because it’s when another tremendous edition of The Nightcap arrives! This week there’s Johnnie Walker, Bunnahabhain, Captain Morgan, and a story that really takes the piss…
He’s here! Yes, earlier than ever, and with a record £500k+ worth of boozy goodies to give away, this week we welcomed the return of our favourite supernatural being: #WhiskySanta! The benevolent beardo has kindly reminded you all how to make the most of this comeback on our blog, so be sure to have a read and then get those wishes in!
That wasn’t the only way to get your hands on tremendous treats this week, however, as we launched two of our most impressive competitions yet with our 30 Days of Bunnahabhain giveaway and the chance to win a year’s supply of Tomatin whisky! Elsewhere, Henry looked at one of Scotland’s smallest and prettiest distilleries, got us ready for Old Fashioned Week and reported on Diageo’s plan to build a $75 million whisky distillery in China. Adam, meanwhile, went to gin school and enjoyed a singular sundowner, and there was still room to squeeze a helpful gift guide into the mix.
So, we hope you’re ready for the cherry on top of the cake, it’s The Nightcap: 5 November edition!
Johnnie Walker creates a high rye whisky
Johnnie Walker has more news, everyone. Seriously. Even more news. I hope the PRs it works with get good holiday allowance, because their fingers must be red-raw from writing press releases. Anyway, this one is actually very interesting, because the brand has announced Johnnie Walker High Rye this week, its first high rye profile whisky. Described as continuing the JW tradition of “pushing the boundaries for what a Scotch whisky can do,” by outgoing master blender Jim Beveridge, the whisky has a mash bill of 60% rye aged which was matured in American oak barrels. According to the press release, the malt components come from Cardhu, Glenkinchie, and Caol Ila which are “blended with rye and grain whiskies distilled at the Cameronbridge and Teaninich”. This begs the question, is Teaninich, a single malt distillery, now producing pot still rye whiskey? We asked Diageo for clarification, no comment yet, but we did speak to a former insider who told us: “Teaninich doesn’t surprise me. They have had a hammer mill and mash filter there for many years, and that might well have made it a much better place to try and make a rye whisky at scale. Rye of course isn’t like distilling malt, the mash filter probably made it a lot easier to get the extraction they needed rather than a mash-tun.” Interesting! But back to High Rye, sadly we won’t get the opportunity to try it in Manhattan any time soon as it’s currently US only with a RRP of $34.99. Let’s hope it makes it back home to Britain sometime soon.
Bunnahabhain launches cask strength 12-year-old
Bunnahabhain has announced a new whisky that should really excite fans of the Islay distillery. A cask-strength 12 Year Old inspired by tastings in the distillery’s ‘Warehouse 9’, where visitors have been enjoying drams straight from the cask. Now fans from all over the world will be able to recreate this experience at home with the new 55.1% ABV whisky. The undiluted celebration of the distillery’s hugely popular Bunnahabhain 12 Year Old is set to be an annual release to celebrate the distillery’s spirit’s character. “When people embark on a journey to Islay and try our whiskies straight from the cask, it creates so much joy. But we understand that not everyone is able to make the trip,” says Brendan McCarron, Bunnahabhain’s master distiller. “With this annual Cask Strength 12 Year Old Cask release, we can give people around the world the chance to experience it themselves.” The brand describes the spirit as being “robust and complex”, which are the stock descriptors of a lot of cask strength whisky, to be honest, and also promise the dram will deliver unpeated, oily notes of dried fruits, cereal, caramel, and vanilla. We’d recommend you try it neat first but at that strength a few drops of water wouldn’t do any harm to encourage more floral aromas. If this is making you very excited to try the new release, then you’ll be pleased to know that Bunnahabhain’s 2021 edition Cask Strength 12-Year-Old will be available from MoM Towers very soon…
EU drops US whiskey tariff
The spirits industry has welcomed a new trade agreement between the US and the European Union (EU) that marks the end of the damaging tariff on American whiskey. A certain amount of EU-produced steel and aluminium is allowed to enter the US without tariffs, though the duties on these products will technically remain in place and, in return, the EU will drop its retaliatory tariffs on American whiskey and other goods, effective from 1 January 2022. The next month, the governments agreed to a five-year suspension on tariffs for products such as vodka and Cognac. American whiskey was not covered in the deal. The UK, which has implemented similar duties on American whiskey, has yet to lift its tariffs and Martha Dalton, co-founder of the Bourbon Alliance, said the UK government needs to focus on reaching a similar resolution. “When the UK left the Customs Union, we were promised the freedom to establish an independent trade policy – the time has come to realise the opportunities of Brexit and to cut the tariff for good,” she said. Sounds good to us. And then we can stop running tariff stories.
Scotch whisky halves greenhouse gas emissions
In light of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), we’re all thinking about our environmental responsibilities, the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) is no different. The good news is its latest data shows the Scotch whisky industry reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 53% between 2008 and 2020. In 2018 alone, greenhouse gas emissions were cut by 34% and the SWA also found that 39% of energy in the Scotch industry came from the use of non-fossil fuels in 2020, up from 3% in 2008. In 2018, the result was 28%, which actually beats the target industry set of 20% for 2020. Earlier this year, the SWA revealed its new sustainability strategy, which included the goal of reaching net-zero emissions by 2040, while it also became the UK’s first food and drink trade association, to be recognised as a partner of the United Nations Race to Zero initiative in September. As part of its green strategy, the SWA is also aiming for all new product packaging used by the Scotch industry to be reusable, recyclable, and compostable by 2025. Karen Betts, outgoing chief executive of the SWA, said says the trade association is determined to reach the 2040 net-zero target across the whole industry, “not least as the future of one of Scotland’s most historic and successful industries depends on it, as do the people we employ and the communities in which we are based”. She added the next decade is a decisive one with Scotch whisky distillers redoubling collaborative efforts not only to reverse the impacts of climate change, “but to ensure that our industry makes an overall positive impact on the environment around us.”
Captain Morgan launches Apple Spirit Drink
Captain Morgan is introducing a brand-new flavoured spirit, Captain Morgan Sliced Apple this autumn, which is set to be fully rolled out in spring 2022. The launch, which will be supported with over £1m of marketing investment in its first year, follows the successful launch of Captain Morgan Tiki in March 2020. With 87% of spirits volume growth over the last 10 years coming from flavours, as well as Captain Morgan being the number one driver of growth in rum-based flavour innovations, Captain Morgan Sliced Apple Spirit Drink is well-positioned for success with lemonade, simply neat over ice or as a hot toddy serve for those colder days. “We know that consumers are still keen to explore new flavours within spirits,” says Samantha Newby, category director, Captain Morgan GB comments. “The launch of Captain Morgan Sliced Apple provides an opportunity to truly disrupt the category with great tasting spirit options whilst widening the reach of Captain Morgan to a broader group of people, moments and occasions.”
Ultra rare DOBEL 50 series continues in style
For Day of the Dead (which was on Monday) Maestro Dobel launched the second edition from its rare, limited edition Dobel 50 series. It’s an Extra Añejo Tequila made with single estate agave, and aged in American and French white oak barrels before being finished in Sauternes casks by eleventh generation master blender Juan Domingo “Dobel’ Beckmann. Maestro Dobel 50 1969 follows the 1967 edition and was inspired by the year of the moon landing, Woodstock, and President Gustavo Díaz Ordaz opened the first native factory for Mexican banknotes. But we should make clear, it isn’t the year the Tequila was distilled. Maestro Dobel 50 1969 was bottled at 40% ABV and comes in the typical stylish decanter and presentation box you imagine for a Tequila that has just 40 bottles and retails for £895. Our marketing campaigns manager Zak Newmarch attended the launch, where the Tequila was paired with a dish of pork pibil and mushroom tacos, and found the bottle to be thoroughly enjoyable with a herbal, almost Fernet-esque nose, which builds into a palate of rich oak and sweet liquorice. He felt the Tequila had a digestif feel that could be enjoyed after dinner with a cigar. It’s interesting to see how much the Tequila world is changing, bottles like this that make for an alternative to whisky or brandy are becoming more commonplace and there’s a price tag to match.
Cotswolds releases bourbon single cask malt
We love a limited edition release from the Cotswolds distillery. In the past, the English whisky pioneer has produced various sherry and other cask releases but now it has gone back to basics with its latest creation. It’s entirely aged in sweet ex-bourbon casks to create the smoothest single malt you can imagine, even at 59.1% ABV. Imagine custard prepared by David Niven and Roger Moore, both wearing matching velvet smoking jackets, and you’re nearly there. It’s made from Cotswold barley, fermented using two yeasts for 90 hours before double distillation, before ageing in first-fill American oak bourbon barrels for the full term. No STR here. No siree Bob! Founder, Dan Szor, explained, “We always planned to launch a Bourbon Cask Single Malt ever since 2014 when we founded the distillery. It’s been a while in the making but it’s definitely been worth the wait. Our house style is to produce spirits with big flavours and by using first-fill ex-bourbon casks, which arrive at the distillery with their staves soaked in bourbon whisky, we ensure a full and rich flavour for this wonderful cask strength expression.” A bottle will set you back £64.95 and it’s only available from the distillery.
Homeboy unveils The Bottle Cocktail Shop
Specialists in Irish hospitality Homeboy shop have opened an online store dedicated solely to pre-bottled cocktails. Adding a new string to their bow, founders Aaron Wall, Ciarán Smith, and Conor Bartley are known for their bar sites in Islington, which opened in 2018, and a second outlet in Nine Elms that debuted in April. Now the team is selling alcoholic and non-alcoholic iterations of ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails made by Smith and Wall for retail and hospitality outlets. The main focus of the new shop will be nine original-recipe bottled cocktails and the branded bottled drinks, while five classic and four ‘inspired’ serves will rotate annually. The plan is to eventually team up with ‘world-class, international cocktail bars’, to bottle the signature serves of bars including Little Red Door in Paris and Two Schmucks in Barcelona. Local craft beers will also feature alongside a selection of wines, spirits, mixers, hard seltzers, and bitters, while customizable, bespoke cocktails and labels are available for weddings, social gatherings, and gifting. Best of all, there’s complimentary nationwide delivery to customers when they sign up for a monthly cocktail subscription.
Mossburn Distillers launches Caisteal Chamuis whisky
Mossburn Distillers, who you may know as the folks that own the lovely Torabhaig Distillery, is launching a new range of whiskies called ‘Caisteal Chamuis’. Named after the mysterious medieval ruin which lies on the headland of the eastern flank of Knock Bay, on the Isle of Skye, the series is kicking off with two expressions. The first is Caisteal Chamuis Blended Malt Scotch Whisky, made up of whisky from Skye, Orkney, and Islay that was blended together and finished in first-fill bourbon casks, before being bottled at 46% ABV without colouring or chill-filtration. It’s said to be a whisky to unlock the door to the world of peated whiskies and at £39 it’s incredible value for a dram of its profile. The other is Caisteal Chamuis 12 Year Old Blended Malt Scotch Whisky which also features whisky from Islay and Orkney aged for an initial 12 years before being finished in custom-made fresh Oloroso sherry butts. At £49, you have to say it’s another reasonable price tag for an exciting-sounding whisky. Good thing they’re both on their way to MoM Towers…
And finally…. Just having a wee dram?
In one of the most bizarre stories we’ve had on the blog, we learned from The Times this week that a William Grant employee Kerry Wilson has been granted £11,264.76 for unfair dismissal. His employer found a wet patch and a can of urine deodoriser by some barrels where Wilson had recently been spotted at Girvan grain distillery, and sacked him for “gross misconduct.” Wilson in his defence claimed that he was a keen ornithologist and had been following a robin rather than taking a leak. You can read the full case here. Judge Ian McPherson expressed his doubts about Wilson’s explanation, perhaps by stroking his chin as if he had a gigantic beard and saying “Jimmy Hill”, but stated that Grant’s hadn’t proved that Wilson produced the puddle. It’s one of those stories that leaves you scratching your head in bafflement. Why did William Grant sack an employee of 31 years for allegedly taking a pee, why did Wilson not use the lavatory, and who has the forethought to buy urine deodoriser before going for an illicit slash? And just what the hell is urine deodoriser, anyway?