October is here and with it comes a Nightcap filled with stories that we promise have nothing to do with Halloween. Although, the inevitable deluge of seasonal fluff is on the way, so let’s enjoy the normality for a bit and read about new whiskies and artisan poppers. Yes, apparently they’re a thing now. What a time to be alive.
In the news this week
The biggest news of the week was in the Business Post1 in Ireland, apparently, Bacardi will be taking a controlling stake in the Teeling Distillery in Dublin. We’ll let you know when we hear more about this. “Since the fall of 2020, Jack Daniel’s, Old Forester, Maker’s Mark, Kentucky Owl, Bulleit, and more have lost some of their top talent”, writes Susannah Skiver Barton in Vinepair2. This is a great look at the problems and pressures of working for major American whiskey brands. Meanwhile, closer to home, a pub in Oban3 has reacted badly to Diageo’s recent price hikes by saying that they may not be able to stock their town’s famous whisky anymore. More Scottish news as the Glasgow Times4 reports on a pub offering a three-course lunch for £4. And it looks quite tasty. Finally, Louis Thomas in The Drinks Business5 rounds up James Bond’s favourite drinks. Apparently, there’s some sort of Bond anniversary going on at the moment.
Over on the blog, we had the excitement of celebrating 125 years of Glen Moray, tasting new Black Bottle whisky exclusive to us, and actually showing you where to get your Diageo Special Releases for 2022. We also had some questions regarding the new English Whisky Guild, before we whipped up a Dirty Martini to mark International Vodka Day and recommend some of our favourite grain whiskies.
More to come, though. It’s The Nightcap: 7 October!
Brown-Forman is buying Diplomático Rum
Brown-Forman is getting into the world of rum after agreeing to buy Diplomático. You’ll know the American drinks giant as the owners of Jack Daniel’s, Woodford Reserve, The BenRiach Distilling Company, and more, but now it can count the Venezuelan brand as the first rum in its portfolio. The world’s leading ultra-premium rum, no less, according to IWSR 2021 data. The deal, which is expected to close within 90 days (subject to the usual certain conditions), is for an undisclosed sum (how exciting!). As part of the transaction, Brown-Forman won’t just get a brand available in more than 100 countries and its assets, including a production facility in Panama, from Spain’s Distillers United Group, but will add more than 100 new employees as part of the transaction. “Diplomático Rum will join our expanding portfolio, giving Brown-Forman a market-leading entry into the fast-growing super-premium rum category,” said Lawson Whiting, president and CEO, Brown-Forman. “This aged rum brand has distinctive packaging, strong brand positioning, and is a delicious tasting spirit.” You can already buy Diplomático Rum from us, of course, including the flagship Reserva Exclusiva, as well as Planas, Mantuano, Seleccion De Familia, and its Distillery Collection, if you’re a big Brown-Forman fan and want to celebrate the news.
Bruichladdich Distillery launches 13th annual Octomore series
One of our favourite series is back as Bruichladdich Distillery unveils the 13th annual release of Octomore. The ultra peaty treats return in the form of an experimental trio of limited bottlings including Octomore 13.1, which was malted to a stratospheric 137.3 PPM and refilled into fresh American oak casks after its five-year maturation, Octomore 13.2, which like 13.1 was distilled from 100% Scottish mainland barley malted to 137.3 PPM but is instead matured in first-fill Oloroso butts, and Octomore 13.3, which combines super-heavy peat with the variable harvests gathered from Islay, on one singular farm. It was malted to 129.3 PPM and matured initially in first-fill ex-American whiskey barrels and then in second-fill European oak casks. “When we look at the Scotch whisky category, Octomore truly sits in a world of its own. For me, getting to push this liquid to its very limits is a pleasure and a welcome challenge year on year,” says Bruichladdich Distillery head distiller, Adam Hannett, “This 13th series is made up of a selection of incredible single malts with a real complexity and depth of flavour. Each one has its own distinct character while still staying true to the Octomore DNA, balancing intense peat smoke with our elegant signature style.” You’ll soon be able to get your Octomore fix from here, as usual.
The GlenDronach launches 28-year old single malt Scotch
We also have new GlenDronach whisky to acquaint ourselves with. Grandeur Batch 11 is a 28 year old single malt made from whiskies master blender Dr Rachel Barrie selected from a combination of Pedro Ximénez and Oloroso sherry casks. It was bottled at 48.9% ABV without any additional colouring. “The GlenDronach Grandeur is an unparalleled range of the finest aromas and character from masterful Spanish oak sherry cask maturation,” says Barrie. “A single malt of elegant finesse, this expression offers a symphony of sherry aromatics interwoven with dark manuka honey, roasted almond and walnut. It is intense and full-bodied, as is the signature of The GlenDronach, with a crescendo of black cherry and espresso adorning each mouthful.” Sounds delightful, good thing we have some on the way.
Gordon & MacPhail unveils Recollection Series from ghost distilleries
More fancy whisky news as Gordon & MacPhail has announced some releases from ghost distilleries, just in time for Halloween. Called the Recollection Series, it consists of four bottlings: a 1982 from St. Magdalene Distillery, aged in a refill American oak hogshead; a 1982 from Glen Mhor aged in a sherry hogshead; and a 1981 from Lochside Distillery also aged in a sherry hogshead. The distilleries closed in 1983, 1986, and 1992 respectively. Stuart Urquhart, operations director, explained: “We’re excited to release a series that revives and celebrates the spirit and character of these closed distilleries from across Scotland. Each remarkable expression is vanishingly rare and captures an unrepeatable moment in Scotland’s rich liquid heritage. Having carefully assessed the progress of each spirit down the decades, we feel now is finally the right moment to reveal these landmark single malts. We hope the annual series will excite single malt enthusiasts keen to try something different, and irreplaceable.” We’re hoping to get a bottle or two in at some point. Prices, as you’d expect, are pretty punchy, between £2,249.99 and £3,199.99 a bottle. Love the 99p. Makes all the difference to the bottom line.
Method and Madness launches Oats and Malts
Back in the good old days of Irish whiskey when it ruled the world, oats were a pretty common part of the mashbill. But in the modern era that’s very much not the case so it’s always interesting to see a whiskey that puts them front and centre. Particularly when it’s Irish Distillers, who weren’t always that receptive about unusual grains. That’s all in the past now, with only the second-ever release from the company’s Micro Distillery called Oats and Malt. The Method and Madness whiskey has been triple distilled in mini Midleton’s copper pot stills using Irish grain, with an oat-astic split of 60% oats and 40% malt. To preserve all that grainy goodness, the whiskey was then matured in ex-bourbon casks. It wasn’t all fun and games though, according to distiller Eva O’Doherty. “Being able to challenge normality and push the boundaries of modern Irish whiskey is extremely exciting, but not without its challenges,” she explains. “We had lots of trial and error to ensure we could brew the oats without ending up with too viscous a texture. It has been a privilege to work on something utterly innovative and to craft a final liquid that is truly exceptional.” Method and Madness Oats and Malts will be available from MoM Towers soon.
Port of Leith Distillery creates subscription service
Edinburgh’s future distillery Port of Leith is already giving us a lot to be excited about, thanks to its remarkable vertical design and now the new make we’ve just tasted. We attended a tasting that marked the launch of a subscription service called The Quality Control Division (the founders Ian Sterling and Paddy Fletcher said they found grandiose names amusing) that was made to bring all the excitement and intrigue of the samples room to your home. While the distillery is under construction, the brand has actually been making whisky using the stills at The Glasgow Distillery and putting the years of research that Sterling and Fletcher have undertaken into yeast and fermentation to good use. What we tasted was the two yeasts strains that excited them most, distilled and bottled. Beta 1 was produced using a yeast strain called Voss Kveik. Beta 2 was produced using a Belgian ale yeast strain. They make up the first package from The Quality Control Division, an eight-year subscription that will trace the journey from new make to first whiskies and eventual permanent core range. I have to say, both were fascinating and show all the hallmarks of being excellent new make, there were plenty of estery flavours developing already, the cereal notes were pleasant, and the harsher elements were muted. The Beta 1 was also one of the most individual new makes I’ve tasted, with an already very rich texture and incredibly developed red fruit notes. The early signs are very good indeed, so if you want to see the journey for yourself then go ahead and subscribe.
London Cocktail Week is back with a bang
London Cocktail Week is set to make a triumphant return this month from 13 – 23 October. Which isn’t actually a week, of course, but then it hasn’t just been a week for years. And why not? There’s too much to do in the capital, from Jendrick’s underwater utopia at Silverleaf to Nightjar Carnaby’s collaboration with jewellery designer Bear Brooksbank, and Lyaness teaming up with Colombian bar Alquimico, who are transporting guests to the streets of Cartagena with a cocktail menu which celebrates authentic Colombian flavours and ingredients while making use of the London’s bar considerable expertise. Experiences range from a Jameson Black Barrel blending class at Milroys of Spitalfields, a Woodford Reserve Prestige Collection tasting with master distiller Chris Morris at Red Street Studio, a Horse With No Name whiskey & chilli masterclass at Loading Bar Dalston, and Aberfeldy’s Barrel & Bees experience at Christina’s on Curtain Road. There are also four cocktail villages this year, in Belgravia, Borough Yards, Covent Garden, and Devonshire SQ. Of course, like always London Cocktail Week will give you access to the bargain £7 Signature Cocktails wristband so you can enjoy some fine serves in the best bars in London. So if you love delicious cocktails and you live in or near London, don’t miss out.
Barcelona’s Paradiso named world’s best bar
What you won’t find at LCW this year is the world’s best bar. According to the competition that names those sort of things, we have a new victor. You know 50 Best Bars, right? Well, they jetted off to Barcelona this year to host a ceremony that named Paradiso the best there is. Which is a Barcelona-based bar, as it happens. As is Sips, which came third, after climbing 34 places. The Connaught came eighth after it was victorious in last year’s ceremony in London. So it would appear 50 Best is basically like the World Cup, you’ve got a good chance on home soil. Tayer + Elementary managed to scoop second so London was still very well represented, while the 2022 list features bars from 26 cities with 14 new entries spread across Athens, Bangkok, Buenos Aires, Chicago, Dubai, Florence, Hong Kong, Lisbon, London, Naples, and New York. As much as we love the drinks scene in London, it is great to see a bar from elsewhere win for the first time, as well as bars from Florence, Lisbon, and Naples feature for the first time. Bars that offer experiences seemed to thrive overall, and everybody we’ve spoken to in the drinks industry says that Paradiso is a hell of a night, so sincere congratulations are in order. Although if you ask us, the answer to the question: “where is the best bar in the world?” Is most accurately answered “whichever one we’re in, as long as pints are under a fiver.”
And finally… artisan poppers anyone?
Sometimes you get a press release that has you checking that it’s not 1 April. One such landed on our virtual doorstep this week inviting us to the launch of Excalibur XO. No, not a luxury Cognac, it’s “the world’s first super premium artisanal poppers.” Yes, you read that right, poppers the drug, which is legal though not allowed to be marketed for human consumption, usually made from amyl nitrate and popular in gay clubs has had a craft makeover. It’s being launched in conjunction with Bompas & Parr, the fancy food and cocktail people, at Sweeties at the Standard Hotel. There will be “Hi-NRG cocktails” with an optional artisan poppers chaser. According to the bumf, “the party will be an unbridled celebration of queer innovation, public joyfulness, sex positivity and exceptional design,” but don’t worry there will also be “strict regulatory policies in place to ensure the safety of all participants.” No, we’re still not convinced the whole thing isn’t an elaborate joke.