Bee-saving beer, new Bladnoch, Brexit gubbins and more stories about things that don’t start with B. The Nightcap is here!
Hmm… Something seems different around here… Why does everything feel much sleeker and generally cooler? Has the MoM blog had a haircut? Maybe it’s wearing a new pair of shoes that really complements its digital eyes? Anyway, I’m sure someone will say something about that in due course – right this moment, The Nightcap is at the forefront of our minds!
Here’s a recap of what’s happened on the MoM blog this week. Annie investigated how Aussie distillers are using the work of Mother Nature to make whisky, then had a look at the buzz surround CBD cocktails. Henry’s Cocktail of the Week was the Brandy Sour – and when he wasn’t busy mixing up tasty drinks, he was talking to Rod Eslamieh about how to run a bar and recapping the night of Master of Malt winning Online Retailer of the Year at the Drinks Retailing Awards 2019. Adam added some brilliant beers to our “Must Try” list (which is already pretty long – thanks Adam), and Kristy explored the Craigellachie distillery in all its worm-tub awesomeness.
What an interesting week, and how attractively presented, don’t you think? Enough hints, if you haven’t noticed by now, you’ll never notice. It’s time for the Nightcap!
Good Brexit news! The US and UK agree divorce-proof booze terms
Forget the stalemate, ignore the sagas. We have good Brexit news! Some of our most beloved boozes were safeguarded last week after the US and UK agreed they would protect names and the definitions attached to them. The mutual agreement means that post-Brexit, Scotch whisky, Irish whiskey (which is made in both Northern Ireland and the Republic), Tennessee whiskey, and bourbon will all be recognised in bilateral trade. This might not sound like a big deal, but it can take years to secure protection for spirits, and the protections that do exist are largely arranged with the EU, rather than the UK. The Continuity Agreement, as it is known, has been welcomed across the industry and beyond. “Ensuring that our flagship spirits exports – bourbon and Tennessee whiskey – will continue to be protected provides our companies much-needed assurances as the UK negotiates its departure from the EU,” said Distilled Spirits Council president and CEO, Chris Swonger. Meanwhile, Scotch Whisky Association international director, Sarah Dickson, commented: “Scotch Whisky already enjoys legal protection in the US Federal Code, but this agreement mirrors the protection currently offered under the US-EU agreement and secures the continued recognition of all UK and US whiskies. This will give US consumers the confidence that after Brexit the Scotch whisky they enjoy is distilled and matured in Scotland in accordance with UK law.” Hurrah all round!
Whiskey auction market up by over 60% according to Rare Whisky 101
A report just published by Rare Whisky 101 shows that the value of Single Malt whisky sold at auction rose by a staggering 62.7% from 2017. The report is packed with fascinating stats (for whisky nerds anyway). Over 100,000 bottles of rare whisky were sold at UK auctions last year. The top end of the market looks particularly strong with the number of bottles going for £10,000 or more increasing from 91 in 2017 to 265 last year. Who can forget the record-breaking Macallan 1926 which sold for £1 million? Investing in whisky still looks like a good bet for the time being. The Apex 1000 Index (which tracks the values of rare whiskies) was up 30% this year, out-performing the FTSE, fine wine, crude oil and gold. Andy Simpson, director and co-founder of Rare Whisky 101, said: “The secondary market for rare whisky continues to outperform our expectations. With the average bottle price increasing by around 15% from the half-year stage to year-end…. Across the board, we’re seeing an increased number of valuable bottles selling for greater value than ever before resulting in phenomenal growth within the market for over £1,000 bottles.” Gazing into his whisky crystal ball, co-founder David Robertson said: “The UK auction market remains the biggest and most active market worldwide, and there’s nothing to suggest that will change. However, with the uncertainty of Brexit hanging over us, it is extremely difficult to second guess what will happen with cross border trade and access to bottles. From both a volume and value perspective, 2019 is very difficult to predict!”
Martell bolsters Pernod Ricard’s H1 sales
This week it was French drinks group Pernod Ricard’s chance to crunch the numbers. The company, which owns the likes of Jameson, Chivas Brothers (think: Chivas Regal, The Glenlivet, Ballantine’s), Martell, Beefeater and more, saw its sales climb 7.8% to €5.18 billion (about £4.53bn) for the six months to 31 December 2018. Its ‘Strategic International Brands’ (featuring Martell, Jameson, Scotch, gin and the Champers brands) contributed 10% gains, while Lillet, Monkey 47 and Altos were specifically named as giving the ‘Speciality Brands’ division an 11% boost. While the Americas region showed ‘robust’ growth, Asia-Rest of World soared by 16%. Pernod didn’t have it all its own way, with Europe ‘stable’ as Western Europe failed to shine. Looking ahead, chairman and CEO Alexandre Ricard said, “For full year FY19, in an environment that remains uncertain, we aim to continue dynamic and diversified growth across our regions and brands.”
André Simon drink book winner announced
The great and good of the food and drink world (and your features editor Henry) turned out at the Goring Hotel in London for the annual André Simon food and drink writing awards. You may remember last year we tipped Oz Clarke to win in the drink category with Alex Maltman’s book on vineyard soils as dark horse. We got it hopelessly wrong. Drink Book of the Year went to The Sommelier’s Atlas of Taste by Rajat Parr and Jordan Mackay. Oh well, we can’t always be right. The most emotional moment of the evening was when Together: A Community Cookbook won the Special Commendation. This book was created by a group of London women affected by the Grenfell Tower fire and they turned out in force to collect it. Food Book of the Year went to Diana Henry’s How to Eat a Peach which was described tantalisingly by judge Meera Sodha as, “as good in bedroom as in the kitchen”. Blimey!
Douglas Laing releases collection inspired by fire, air, earth and water
Leading Scotch whisky specialist Douglas Laing & Co has announced a series of Old Particular single cask limited edition bottlings for 2019, inspired by the four elements of fire, air, earth and water. Each expression will be bottled at natural cask strength without colouring or chill-filtration. The series launches with the “fire” bottling which, very aptly, is a mocha-spiced Craigellachie 12 Years Old from a well-fired and characterful sherry butt. The specialist bottlings will each be packaged with designs that depict an intricate illustration of each of the four elements. Cara Laing, Douglas Laing’s director of whisky, who selected the whiskies, commented on the new collection: “Our cask selection and packaging design pays tribute to the natural elements that contribute so significantly to the production of Scotch whisky. From oak trees to charred casks, peat and of course water, this specialist single cask collection celebrates the role of the elements in the whisky-making cycle.” What an exciting release! So exciting, in fact, it sold out in a day. It probably deserves a few flame emojis, but we can’t do those so you’ll just have to imagine them yourselves.
Martin Siska appointed as director of bars at Rosewood London
Rosewood London announced this week that Martin Siska has taken on the role as director of bars, effective 5 February! Originally from Slovakia, Siska first moved to London twelve years ago and ever since has worked across the luxury bar scene, including stints at Le Pont De La Tour, HUSH, and The Donovan Bar at Brown’s Hotel. He spent four months working with the legendary Javier de las Muelas of Dry Martini in Barcelona in 2015, which led to him launching its first UK outpost, Dry Martini London. Siska, who we spoke to back in May 2018, was appointed bar manager at Scarfes Bar in September 2016. This has led to nominations for industry awards, including Tales of Cocktail’s Best 10 Hotel Bars in the World; Imbibe’s Drinks List of the Year; and Class Awards’s Best Cocktail Menu. Scarfes Bar is inspired by the atmosphere of a drawing room and features canvases by renowned artist and caricaturist Gerald Scarfe, most famous for his political cartoons that have been featured in newspapers from The Sunday Times through to The New Yorker.
New year, new Bladnoch Single Malt!
Lowland distillery Bladnoch has kicked off 2019 in style with a new single malt Scotch. Bladnoch 17 Year Old, which was bottled to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the distillery, was crafted using locally-sourced barley and pristine water from the River Bladnoch, the inspiration for the distillery’s name. The most recent release from the southernmost distillery in Scotland was originally filled into ex-bourbon barrels in 2001. It was then disgorged and re-filled into Californian ex-red wine casks over two operations in March 2016 and January 2017. A blend of two vattings, the expression was bottled at 46.7% ABV without chill-filtration. Bladnoch Distillery describes the new release as being “rich and composed on the nose, with dried fruit, coffee, cherries, toffee, vanilla and sweet oak; lively but smooth on the palate, with spicy oak, prunes, orange marmalade, cherries, with hints of liquorice and cinnamon and quite complex on the finish, with malty, dried fruits, shortbread and spicy lightly peppery oak”. Sounds delicious!
The Cosmopolitan in Vegas unveils Year of the Pig cocktail (it’s suitable for vegetarians)
The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas is celebrating Chinese New Year the only way it knows how: decadent cocktails, delicious food and a lion dance! Celebrations to commemorate The Year of the Pig kick off on 7 February. Guests can indulge themselves with a 10 course (that’s right, 10!) ‘Emperor’s Feast’ for dinner. Of course, we’re more interested in the Year of the Pig Cocktail, created by chef mixologist Mariena Mercer. Capturing the traditional tastes of Chinese culture, the signature drink mixes a plethora of ingredients: Whistlepig rye, Umeshu plum sake, ceremonial-grade matcha tea, maraschino liqueur, lemongrass ginger syrup, lemon juice and egg white, all topped off with an edible pig garnish (which consists of paper made from potato and tapioca starches rather than a piece of pork). Alternatively, guests can celebrate with the Grass is Always Green cocktail, a concoction of Hong Kong Baijiu, Bombay Sapphire East, yuzu, orgeat, shishito and Szechuan pepper. Happy Year of the Pig to all those in Sin City!
Bumble Beer looks to crowdfund £50k to launch its bee saving bee-r!
Bumble Beer has created quite a buzz with the announcement of its Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to raise £50,000 to kickstart its eco-beer. The aim is nothing less than to help save the bees! Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know that our pollinating friends are very much in trouble, though the facts are still shocking: 97% of Britain’s wildflower habitats have been destroyed since the 1940s, and nearly 10% of Europe’s wild bee species are facing extinction. Bumble Beer to the rescue! The inaugural product is a vegan 5% premium Pilsner, brewed with organic ingredients grown completely without any harmful pesticides, the most direct risk to bees. You can register pre-launch interest here, with the campaign going fully live on 1st March. Sustainability is at the forefront of every production stage; even its beer crates contain around 30 wildflower seeds, while the brewery has also developed wildflower-seed-infused recycled paper coasters. We love to see packaging that does more good than harm, for a change! Hopefully these ingenious brewers will inspire more to follow in their footsteps. So, join founder Jason Winter on his “beer loving, bee-friendly revolution” – well, it would be rude not to! Who knew ethics would taste so good?
Well, that certainly got your attention. To celebrate the launch of ‘Entering Red’, a new short in Campari’s Red Diaries film series, the company is giving away 1,000 Negronis. But these aren’t just any Negronis, oh no. They have been created by award-winning bartender Joe Schofield to celebrate the 100th birthday of this legendary cocktail. The special version is called a Negroni Segreto and it contains Campari (naturalmente), Bulldog Gin, Cinzano Rosso 1757 vermouth, rosewater and fresh raspberries. Sounds splendid! There are ten bars participating in London and Manchester. Each bar has 100 Negronis to give away. In order to claim your free drink, just watch the film and then say the phrase that the Ana de Armas character says when she enters the bar for the second time. The offer is open from Friday 8 February (that’s tonight!) until Sunday 10 February from 6pm (see here for full details.) Time to watch that film.
And finally… Raasay Distillery launches baby whisky casks. Awwwwwww, cute.
Many distilleries, especially the newer ones trying to raise funds, allow customers to buy casks but they tend to be quite expensive. So, for the (comparatively) budget-conscious Scotch lover, the Raasay Distillery is something a little smaller. Distillery co-founder Alasdair Day said: “We wanted to make our first single malt more accessible in these new smaller casks. Depending on the angels’ share, after three years we expect to get around 40 bottles from the 30 litre casks, each offering a distinctly different character of Raasay whisky to our other bottlings.” A little cask costs £999, compared with £5000 for a 150 litre one (though you will have to pay VAT and duty on delivery). We were rather hoping that you’d be able to take your cask home after filling. Sadly, SWA rules don’t allow this, so it has to remain on Raasay while it matures. But you can visit it at the distillery, and maybe sing to it or just tell it your problems. Whisky casks are good listeners. Then, after bottling, you get to take your empty cask home with your bottles so you could then decant the whisky back into the cask and then you’d have your very own little cask to mature in your cellar, shed, or by your bed so you can say good night to it.
And on that sweet thought, it’s time to say goodbye, and have a great weekend!