The booze news returns for 2023 with stories on scientists reviving barley strains to recreate old whisky flavours, the booming Tequila market and a horse walks into a pub. We repeat: a horse walks into a pub. It’s not the beginning of a bad joke, it’s the Nightcap: 6 January!
We’re back! And actually, it’s not so bad. The constant mince pies washed down with copious amounts of Harvey’s Bristol Cream were beginning to pall anyway. We’re fighting fit and ready to take on 2023. ‘Bring it on!’ that’s what we say. We were still a bit shaky on what day of the week it is, however, but after a long meeting have agreed that it’s more than likely Friday. This means it’s time for the Nightcap! But first a recap of what went down on the blog this week.
The blog has started off this year in fine form, with the return of our Burns Night poetry competition, a deep dive into peated whisky casks, a preview of distilleries we think have a big future, and a pleasant helping of Kir. We also had recommendations for zero-alcohol drinks for Dry January if you’re cutting back, or boozy dessert recipes if you’re committing to the good life, and broke some big news as we learned that former Macallan whisky maker Sarah Burgess is taking the reins at The Lakes Distillery. Plus Nick Morgan was back asking searching questions about whether whisky writers are too cosy with the industry. Since we last spoke, we also published a series of end-of-year round-ups, including our top ten whiskies of 2022, favourite posts, most read, and silliest stories.
Now, for the first time in 2023, it’s The Nightcap: 6 January edition!
Scientists to restore heritage whisky flavours
The barley we grow today for whisky production isn’t the same grain that our ancestors would have farmed, so it’s tempting to wonder how different whisky would have tasted back in the day. According to the BBC, researchers at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh are on a mission to find out. They will be testing varieties like the 200-year-old Chevallier (the most popular barley in Britain for 100 years), Hana (originally grown in Czech Moravia and used to make the first blond Pilsner lager in 1842), and Golden Promise (the barley behind Macallan bottlings from the 1960s) and seeing how they respond to modern processing methods and if they could create distinctive new whiskies. Over the next six years, at least eight heritage strains are being put through the mill for Edinburgh’s Holyrood Distillery. “New varieties of malting barley are developed regularly to improve processability and agronomic traits, and it’s not uncommon to find some predominate the industry for a period of time. However, there’s increasing interest within the malting and distilling industries to explore a role for older barley varieties,” says Dr Calum Holmes, from Heriot-Watt. “There’s hope that using these heritage varieties of barley might allow for recovery of favourable aroma characteristics into distillate and some have also displayed potential resilience to stresses that might be expected in a changing climate.”
Tequila was rocking in 2022
Last year may have been tough for many but not for Tequila producers. According to the Drinks Business, figures released by Mexico’s Ministry of Economy and the Agricultural Markets Consulting Group (GCMA) show that sales were up by over 34% totalling $3.6 billion globally. Compare this with 2012 when Tequila exports were only $849 million. Much of this increase in revenue is down to premiumisation. Tequila has become extremely fashionable. According to a report from CGA (Curren Goodden Associates now part of NielsonIQ), sales were up 127% in Los Angeles nightclubs year on year. This is something we have noticed in-house at Master of Malt. Our sales of super premium Tequila (bottles over £150) have risen by 578% over the past two years. So it seems if you want to be in with the in-crowd, you need a bottle of Tequila.
Berry Bros & Rudd unveils winter 2022 range
Prepare to welcome eight new Scotch whiskies from across the Lowlands, Speyside, Highlands, and Islay, a rare Chichibu Japanese whisky, a 2006 vintage French whisky from Kornog, and – why not – a rum from Fiji as Berry Bros & Rudd debuts its latest seasonal collection. “Every quarterly release is centred around celebrating the finest quality spirits and producers from around the world and bringing them together in a collection that covers a breadth of flavour profiles and style, giving our customers the opportunity to try new spirits with confidence,” says Doug McIvor, reserve spirits manager. “Looking at the 2022 winter release, we are especially honoured to be granted access to the rare liquid that is Japanese whisky. Given its rising popularity in recent years, we were thrilled to accept a cask from Chichibu, not only for its rarity but outstanding quality.”
Remy Cointreau planning to reuse bottles
We all know that it’s wasteful, buying some delicious booze and then putting the bottle in the (hopefully recycling) bin. It’s especially true for bars that get through hundreds of the things a week. Surely there must be a better way? The hep cats at Remy Cointreau clearly think so as they’ve come up with a project called #OneBottleForEternity. Rémy Cointreau CEO Eric Vallat explained: “Group’s objective is clear: we want to reduce our carbon emissions per bottle from 2kg to 1kg by 2030. In order to achieve this, rethinking our glass bottles through an active eco-design approach and increasing their circularity in different formats are key levers. In order to achieve this, rethinking our glass bottles through an active eco-design approach and increasing their circularity in different formats are key levers. These circular initiatives mark the beginning of a collective journey, undertaken hand-in-hand with our stakeholders, from our glassmakers to our clients!”. But what does it mean in practice? In Barbados, Mount Gay is trialling a system where empty bottles are collected, cleaned, and refilled. For those fortunate enough to be Louis XIII Cognac customers, you can now get your decanter filled at certain high-end shops. But most practical is a partnership with ecoSPIRITS to supply bars with spirits in 4.5 litre ecoTOTES so that they can refill their old bottles. Sounds very sensible. Let’s hope the scheme catches on.
And finally… A horse walks into a pub
Why the long face? The Brickmakers in Swanmore, Hampshire, weren’t too happy after a customer celebrated the festive season by bringing an actual horse into the pub. On 30 December, the establishment posted on its Facebook page a day after the event to express anger at the danger it could have caused patrons and the horse. “Just to reiterate we do not allow any animals or livestock in our pub. Apart from the complete ridiculousness of it, the poor horse’s welfare, it’s a health and safety issue. Nor do we allow children in our bar after 7pm”. The post, which called for more police presence in the village (presumably not the mounted kind) and reiterated that customers who break the rules will get barred, has since been deleted. In case anyone is unclear, you shouldn’t bring horses into pubs. They never get a round in.