A bottle of 142-year-old Irish whiskey turns up in a wardrobe, Ardbeg embraces punk, and the world’s most popular smell has been discovered. All this and more in the Nightcap: 8 April edition.
If you’ve been keeping up with vital current events, you’ll have the head story of student Ffion Morgan, 21, from south Wales. If not, here’s the skinny: she returned a parcel to Asos in December 2021 and received an email shortly after telling her that an item not sold by them was found in her package. Four months later, she is still no closer to learning what item of her she accidently sent to them and now she feels like she is in a “massive game of Cluedo” with the online retailer. Though clearly whatever she sent can’t be that important. This is just a little public service announcement to say, please don’t send us things. We send you lovely booze and such. That’s how this arrangement works. Let’s keep a good thing going.
Speaking of good things that keep on going, the MoM blog was home to some cracking features once again this week, with Ian Buxton adding the tale of column still inventor Aeneas Coffey to his Whisky Heroes series, Henry resurrecting a lost cocktail created by Dick Bradsell, and Adam reporting on big changes within Irish single pot still whiskey. Jess was also on-hand to investigate how a distillery can keep its soul after external investment with WhistlePig, a MoM-exclusive spiced rum turned up at our door, and we got to taste a batch of brilliant Mossburn whiskies. There was still time to throw together an Easter egg hunt competition, and recommend some sweet treats for the upcoming long weekend.
A whole bunch of great boozy writing to enjoy. And now here’s more. It’s The Nightcap: 8 April edition!
Rare 142-year-old Irish whiskey bottle goes on auction
What’s the best thing you’ve ever found tucked away inside a wardrobe? And don’t say Narnia. It’s vastly overrated. There’s a witch knocking around, for goodness sake. Besides, it’s not going to beat finding a 142-year-old bottle of Irish whiskey. That’s what was apparently discovered wrapped in a 19th-century newspaper and tucked away in the pocket of an old Gladstone doctor’s bag inside a wardrobe recently. Now the rare bottle of original Cassidy’s Whiskey from Monasterevin in Co. Kildare has gone on auction. John Cassidy originally opened the Monasterevin Distillery in 1784, according to notes accompanying the sale. Some believe that it may have been a medicinal given it was found in a doctor’s bag and the newspaper was the Supplement of the Tablet, which is dated from 1899, a time when whiskey would still have held medicinal value. It is being sold complete with the leather bag and its newspaper wrapping. But not everyone is so convinced by the story. Master of Malt contributor Nick Morgan commented that the label looked like: “a very complex piece of colour label printing for the 1880s,” while Whisky Daddy @jotterface said: “I just can’t get over how transparent this ‘set dressing’ is. Newspaper wrapping the #whiskey bottle that after 140 years is flat as a pancake and shows no hint of being wrapped around the bottle despite it being so clearly fragile that it is starting to fall apart at the edge…” The estimate for the bottle is in the region of €14,000. You pays your money and you takes your chances.
Ardbeg launches Ardcore for Feis Ile distillery day
This year’s Fèis Ìle concludes with Ardbeg Day on 4 June, and to mark the festivities the Islay distillery has done the usual and created a celebratory whisky. It’s called Ardcore and it’s inspired by the “devil-may-care attitude of Ardbeg’s fans”, according to the marketing bumf at least, and draws inspiration from Islay’s “little-known punk past”. The press release even claims Port Ellen was known as ‘Punk Ellen’ in the 1970s (which reminds us that there’s a band called Ellen and the Degenerates, which is amazing). Back to Ardcore, it was created with roasted black malt – a first for Ardbeg – and the distillery says this malt is what defines the whisky’s distinctive profile, which head of distilling and whisky creation Dr Bill Lumsden describes as being ‘like biting on a spiky ball’. Tempting. The good doctor goes on to say that Ardcore is a dram “that wears its heart on its sleeve – its black heart! Created with roasted black malt, burnt to hair-raising levels, this spirit is all about substance. Notes of charcoal and sweet smoke make for an in-your-face nose, while potent notes of aniseed and dark chocolate stamp this bottle out as one fit only for the most Ardcore of fans.” As you might expect, you’ll be able to pick up Ardcore from MoM Towers soon. Keep your eyes peeled, folks.
Scotch Malt Whisky Society wins ‘Global Whisky Bar of the Year’
Those looking for the finest whiskies known to humanity should look no further than the Scotch Malt Whisky Society’s Kaleidoscope Bar. Not my words, but the words (more or less) of Whisky Magazine, which bestowed it with the prestigious ‘Global Whisky Bar of the Year’ award at its 2022 Awards. With its selection of can’t-buy-anywhere-else whiskies, creative food pairings, music matches, and one-of-a-kind cask cocktails for both SMWS members and non-members, it’s not hard to see why. The bar, found at Edinburgh’s 28 Queen Street, also boasts whisky tastings, previews of new SMWS bottlings, one-off whisky events, masterclasses, private bookings, and experiences like its collaboration with Kingdom Scotland, Scotland’s first fragrance house, which incorporates guests’ olfactory systems to show how your sense of smell is key to discovery when enjoying whisky. Of course, if you’re the kind of person who turns up to an establishment called the Scotch Malt Whisky Society and doesn’t want any of its 500 exclusive single malts (who are you people?), then there’s always beers, wines, cocktails, other spirits, and the odd coaster to chew on. Delightful stuff all around. Congratulations, guys.
Is Hennessy really the internet’s most popular spirit brand?
While some of you might have been busy worrying about Easter or World War Three, Fentimans has been gathering data to find out which the most popular spirit brand is, judging by social media interactions, including volume of searches, Instagram followers, Twitter mentions, and media mentions. Definitive stuff, we’re sure you’ll agree, and it has produced a result. According to the its metrics, Hennessy Cognac takes the crown in the battle of the brands. It beat off competition from AU Vodka, Captain Morgan, Smirnoff Vodka, and Ciroc Vodka, who made up the top five alongside the French brandy. No doubt they’re celebrating in Cognac tonight. Lord knows what with. Ciroc, probably. It’s a top five brand, after all. The Cognac house can also toast The Hennessy Golden Vines Diversity Scholarship, created in partnership with the Gérard Basset Foundation and Liquid Icons, which will support students from minority backgrounds in the spirits trade. A 12-month internship at Hennessy that includes education and training in winemaking, distillation, and final assemblage, as well as backing to do the Wine & Spirit Education Trust Level 3 in Spirits course is open to aspiring wine and spirits professionals from all minority groups. And the Cognac creators are offering £55,000 to cover loss of earnings (about a month’s rent in London in real terms). If you want to apply, head here.
Roma Bar Show returns this year
Anyone who loves to tie in seeing the Colosseum with a good bar show is in luck, as the Rome Bar Show is returning this year. On 30 and 31 May 2022 the Italian capital is welcoming two days of trade events, seminars, masterclasses, and sideshows as well as a selection of off-trade events dedicated to consumer guests. There’s only been one previous Rome Bar Show, back in 2019, but even though it was a certified hit (there’s no actual certification tbh we just reckon it looked great) the pandemic has meant that a return has been a long time coming. And if you’re the kind of person who knows the big names in the world of hospitality then you will be pleased to know a fine selection of them will be attending, including Robert Simonson, Clare Warner, Erik Lorincz, and Jared Brown. If none of that’s convinced you, then the words ‘Italian street food’ should have you booking tickets ASAP (traditional recipes selected from every region of the country, folks. C’mon). Giuseppe Gallo, co-founder of Roma Bar Show says they are proud to be able to present once more “the largest International Bar Show in Italy” and to have a chance to “support the beverage and hospitality industry, which is extremely important as it has suffered more than others during the recent crisis”. Hear, hear. To do your bit, you can get tickets here.
MoM enjoys taster of superchef Adriana Cavita’s debut restaurant
We took a trip to Brixton this week for a splendid time at Hacha’s newest Agaveria, where we were treated to a tantalising array of food and cocktails. The evening’s menu provided a taster of what to expect from Mexican chef Adriana Cavita’s upcoming, and highly anticipated new restaurant with dishes such as Aguachile Rojo – sea bream with a watermelon dressing (a favourite amongst our table), and Tamal – pork cheek with a delicious green sauce. The tasty food was accompanied by exquisite drinks pairings, conjured up by Hacha’s Deano Moncrieffe (creator of the ingenious Mirror Margarita), and showing off the awesomeness of The Lost Explorer Mezcal range. We particularly enjoyed the White Americano that accompanied the sea bream, made with The Lost Explorer Espadín Mezcal, and the White Russian served with dessert made clever use of the rich, chocolate vanilla notes of The Lost Explorer Tobala Mezcal. We’ll be keeping our eyes peeled for the opening of Cavita, and can’t wait to take another trip to Hacha, to try some delicious agave spirits and more of those stunning cocktails – we’ve been inspired to experiment with making some of our own using the Lost Explorer range too!
Specialist Highball bar Soda & Friends opens in London
It’s been a long time coming but a much-anticipated East London bar dedicated to the pleasures of the Highball is finally open. Top bartender and occasional Master of Malt blog contributor Nate Brown has been planning Soda & Friends since 2019 but all kinds of events intervened. He told us: “Soda & Friends has been a long time in the making. I’ve been preaching about the versatility and application of Highballs as a format for what feels like years. Longer drinks can really showcase the spirit in an elegant and tailored way, and the pandemic has brought forward the calling for neighbourhood bars, so really Soda & Friends is the perfect bar for right now. Hopefully, this opening can act as a reminder of the wholesome comfort a decent bar can bring, something that was so sorely missed over the last couple of years.” It’s located in Docklands, near Canning Town tube, so if you love refreshing lang drinks, then get down to Soda & Friends. And if you love pizza and delicious drinks (and honestly, who doesn’t?), then don’t miss sister bar nebula on Hackney Road.
Celebrate International Kummel Day on 17 April
What have you got planned for International Kummel Day, Sunday 17 April? Not in your diary yet? Well, that’s not a surprise because this year is the first official day devoted to this caraway-scented schnapps. Originally, the date was begun in 2019 as a semi-serious attempt by three drinks writers Richard Godwin, Simon Difford, and Henry Jeffreys (of this parish) to draw attention to this storied but largely forgotten drink. But now Mentzendorff, the leading producer of kummel, has swung its might behind the day. The firm is encouraging people to share kummel-based cocktails like the Silver Bullet and the Martiki on Instagram with the hashtag #InternationalKummelDay . They also want to make it clear that despite rumours about other brands, there is no Mentzendorff Kummel shortage. In fact, someone from the firm told us this week that they have been down to the distillery in the Loire where the spirit is distilled to ask them to step up production such has been the demand. So whether you’re mixing it in a cocktail, or sipping it neat following dinner or a game of golf as is traditional, make sure you’ve got the kummel in for International Kummel Day.
And finally… world’s favourite smell discovered
Whisky makers, master blenders, and cooperages take note because the world’s most-loved smell has been discovered, and it’s not manuka honey or ristretto coffee. It is, of course, vanilla. As reported in the Daily Telegraph, a team from Karolinska Institute in Sweden and the University of Oxford looked at 10 different smells and gave them to 235 people around the world to try. The researchers were careful to include a range of different cultures living in different environments in the study. The author Dr Artin Arshamian from the Karolinska Institute explained: “We wanted to examine if people around the world have the same smell perception and like the same types of odour, or whether this is something that is culturally learned. Traditionally it has been seen as cultural, but we can show that culture has very little to do with it.” Fascinating stuff. Vanilla came out on top with peach second and lavender third. You won’t be surprised to learn that aromas such as sweaty goat, decaying fish, and sweaty feet weren’t so popular. It’s only a small sample but points to the wisdom of the whisky industry’s love of American oak and reluctance to experiment with pungent seafood finishes.