Right. What the hell are we wearing for Halloween this year then, folks? You’d think having the first real spooky time party in two years would mean we’d have all kinds of ideas. But, the reality is very different. How about we strike a deal, you suggest some cracking outfits, and we’ll give you another delightful dollop of Friday Nightcap goodness. Are we square? We’ll assume it’s a yes and deliver our end of the bargain. Here it is.
This week on the MoM blog, Henry tasted the Diageo Special Releases 2021, picked out ten Scotch whiskies perfect for autumn, celebrated the 100th anniversary of The Sidecar, and heard why Mezcal Amores is on a mission to persuade customers to try agave spirits neat. Elsewhere, Jess tasted new Compass Box whisky with John Glaser, while Adam we got the reaction to Bunnahabhain becoming our first MoM Whisky Icon champion, picked out some of the most entertaining events to see during London Cocktail Week 2021, made some non-boozy cocktails perfect for Sober October, and got the story behind The Spirit of Manchester Distillery. Another corker of a week.
But, it’s not over yet. Here is The Nightcap: 8 October edition!
Islay to get new sustainable Scotch whisky distillery
A proposal for a new low-carbon whisky distillery on Islay is in the pipeline. IIi Distillery will be located at Gearach Farm near Port Charlotte and is named after an old name for Islay. The brainchild of landowner Bertram Nesselrode and farmer Scott McLellan, they plan to ensure the site is powered with renewable energy, with a hydrogen plant, solar panels, battery storage, and wind turbine, ensuring the venture is not only green, but almost off-grid. The cylindrical distillery, which will also have a separate warehouse, a grain store, a visitor centre, and plenty of parking, is their attempt to help to ensure that Islay’s whisky legacy “can continue well into the future,” as revealed in their proposal to Argyll & Bute Council. “The vision for the site is bold and different; not just another distillery on Islay, but an Islay-native project, serving and benefiting the local community with jobs, sustainability, and growth,” their application explained. “Physically, the built form of the distillery will also represent a point of difference: it will respect the built vernacular of the island and complement the natural form of its spectacular surroundings”. The proposal is awaiting feedback from the council and will go through by 14 October. Once approved, construction will begin next summer.
Illicit whisky site discovered in Glenlivet dig
Archaeologists have discovered the floor of an illicit whisky distillery that dates back to the 19th century in a recent dig at the former site of The Glenlivet Distillery. The newly discovered site is where Glenlivet’s founder, George Smith, made whisky in 1824 in Upper Drumin, about half a mile from the current distillery. Fragments of bottle glass and ceramics believed to have been used in whisky production were also uncovered. Mr. Smith became the first illicit producer to get his licence, and Glenlivet was one of Scotland’s first whisky distilleries to become licensed after the 1823 Excise Act. Derek Alexander, the National Trust for Scotland’s head of archaeology, has a long association with the location and conducted a survey of the distillery remains in the 1990s and said that “returning to this place after nearly 25 years to finally uncover the remains of this special place is really inspiring,” adding that what’s really interesting is that “this is where the illicit production of whisky and the transition towards larger-scale industrial production meet; a formative part of the whisky industry becoming one of Scotland’s biggest and most successful”. The site where the dig is being carried out as part of the Pioneering Spirit project – a partnership between conservation charity the National Trust for Scotland and The Glenlivet – is marked by an inscribed monument marking its role in whisky history. Investigations at the site began on 4 October and will run until 9 October.
Gary Barlow launches his own wine range
Music man Gary Barlow has introduced his own range of organic wines, imaginatively called ‘Gary Barlow Organic’, fulfilling what has apparently been his dream “for as long as he can remember”. He spent the past two years collaborating with the Benchmark Drinks, who have also made wines with Kylie Minogue and Ian Botham. The wines are said to be “carefully crafted and developed” by the man himself. Which must have been taxing. The packaging features a piano key design, for reasons completely oblivious to us. The wines themselves come from Castilla in Spain and are produced by Peninsula Wines which is run by two masters of wine Andreas Kubach and Sam Harrop, who are known for their sustainability and approach to making wine with as little intervention as possible. So far the range consists Gary Barlow Organic RED made a juicy unoaked wine made with Tempranillo and Syrah, and The Gary Barlow Organic WHITE a refreshing blend of Viura and Verdejo. We are sorry to report that there is as yet no Jason Orange wine. Both are available online at garybarlowwines.com from 9 October. So have a little patience.
Diageo to spend half a billion dollars on Tequila plant
Drinks giant Diageo revealed this week it’s about to step up its Tequila-based efforts by investing half a billion dollars in the spirit (that sentence reads best if you do a Dr. Evil impression). Work on a $500m Tequila distillery in Jalisco will begin this year in the town of La Barca, with the company saying it would support Diageo’s 10-year sustainability plan by incorporating environment-friendly technologies, and would create around 1,000 jobs. The move was motivated by the rapid growth in US Tequila consumption. Apparently Covid-19 lockdown led to a surge in online buying and the making of summer cocktails at home. Álvaro Cárdenas, president of the company’s Latin America and Caribbean operations, commented that its Tequila sales had risen 79% in the past financial year. He also commented that this is “the most significant investment we have made in Latin America and the Caribbean in the past 10 years.” In 2019, the company completed another Tequila facility in Atotonilco El Alto, in the southern state of Guanajuato and spent a big chunk of change adding Tequila Casamigos, a brand created by actor George Clooney and other partners, to its portfolio in 2017. So if Diageo’s movements are anything to go by, the future looks very bright for Tequila.
Brewdog reveals new distillery and spirits
Brewdog is about to launch a new range of spirits that were produced at its new distillery in Ellon, Scotland. The site was built because the original location was not fit for expansion and there were capacity constraints on the whisky and rum side, according to Steven Kersley, head of distillation at Brewdog Distilling, who was quoted in an interview with The Spirits Business. The equipment from the original distillery has been moved to the new site, which will also boast a 10,000-litre triple bubble still that’s three times bigger than the original still. There’s also two 3,000-litre pot stills, one of which will become a full-time spirit still for whisky production, as well as Brewdog’s 19m-tall rectification column. Before, Brewdog could only manage eight to nine casks a week, when demand required 30-35 casks. This move should reset the balance a little and allow innovation. The new site sits next to the Brewdog brewery but will operate as its own standalone distillery. There will be a visitor experience, a gift shop, and a tasting room that will be able to accommodate upwards of 30-40 people, and will look out over the distillery so guests can see the still house. In addition, Brewdog Distilling has created a new range of vodkas: Seven Day Vodka, named as a nod to the seven days it takes Brewdog to make its vodka from scratch. Alongside the original, there’s three flavoured expressions: Passionfruit and Vanilla (which tastes like Um Bongo for grown-ups), Rhubarb and Lemon, and Raspberry and Lime (deliciously refreshing). An RTD range is also in the works. It’s all go at Brewdog at the moment.
Last Drop releases stunning 100-year-old Pineau des Charentes
We tried one of the most stunning old drinks we’ve ever tasted last week. No, it wasn’t a whisky or Cognac, or even a Port or sherry. It was a Pineau des Charentes. For those who don’t know, this is a blend of unfermented grape juice and Cognac much enjoyed in the Charente region of France. Very tasty it is too, usually, but this special one was over 100 years old. It was discovered and bottled by The Last Drop, the people behind such dazzling spirits as a 1947 Cognac and 1870 Port. The firm is so exclusive that it has only released 22 bottlings in its history. The cask was discovered alongside a barrel of 1925 Grande Champagne Cognac, hidden behind a wall of rubble before the second world war. One sniff and the Last Drop team knew they had something special on their hands. The freshness is quite incredible meaning that despite its incredible complexity and concentration – the balance is just perfect. The nearest comparison would be an old Madeira but really we have never tasted anything like this. Only 382 bottles have been filled and the price considering the quality and rarity is a very reasonable £600. We’re hoping to get some in at Master of Malt later in the year. If you’re looking for something really really special, then this should be on your list.
Tiempo Tequila launches after six years development
After six years of patience, Tiempo Tequila (meaning ‘time’ in Spanish, fitting), will launch its first batch of Reposado Cristalino Tequila in the UK. Each of the 1,320 limited edition bottles is made from 100% mature blue weber agave, grown and harvested in the Altos and Valley regions of Jalisco by master distiller, Augustin Sanchez Rodriguez to create a liquid that is additive-free, and does not use any chemical intervention. Working alongside a fifth-generation family of distillers, Tiempo is slow-cooked for 48 hours before being fermented using natural yeast for a further 60 hours. It is then twice distilled before spending up to one year aging in American oak whiskey casks. The liquid is then filtered before being housed in recycled glass with sustainably printed and inked labels as well as natural cork and a wooden stopper. Latin American illustrator Alan Berry Rhys has depicted a surrealist journey through the Mexican jungle on the packaging. Tiempo is working towards ensuring its practices are sustainable by providing living wages for its growing and production team, focusing on sustainable agave farming in the fields, cutting CO2 emissions, reusing agave waste, and packaging with recycled glass and materials wherever possible. And it’s on its way to Master of Malt.
We sample ‘Malaysia’s best whiskey’
We were very excited earlier this year when we received an email entitled: “EXCLUSIVE INVITATION – LAUNCH OF MALAYSIAN BEST WHISKEY.” We’re big world whisky fans but we’ve yet to have anything from Malaysia. We were even more excited when a bottle arrived at MoM Towers. It’s called Timah and on the label it says ‘1871 the legend of Captain Speedy’ and promises to be a ‘Double Peated Blended Whiskey’. It’s made by Winepack corporation who apparently have a “30 years history-making high-quality alcoholic drinks.” We were leafing through the bumf which came with the sample bottle and it states: “Timah’s fine balance of malt and sugarcane molasses imparts a unique peat-infused character.” So sadly this isn’t technically whisky (by EU and British regulations). The bottle says it’s “distilled, blended and bottled in Malaysia” but according to the PR contact, that’s not entirely true. He commented: “The peated whiskey components are imported which is (sic) then blended by our master blender in Malaysia.” He didn’t say exactly where they came from but Ruben from Whisky Notes has information that one of the malts is from Caol Ila. It certainly smells like an Islay, albeit one sniffed across a crowded bar. It’s a bit dilute on the palate but made a refreshing tasty drink with ginger ale and a slice of lime. So if you’re in Malaysia, look out for Timah. But you’re unlikely to ever find it at Master of Malt unless the labeling is changed.
… And delicious Calvados at Coupette
We had a tremendous time at London’s Coupette cocktail bar this week, celebrating the launch of Maison Sassy X Coupette Calvados! It’s fair to say that the two know their apples. Coupette with its famous array of Calvados and its expert bartenders who know exactly when it’s right to rustle up a russet or grab a Granny Smith. Meanwhile, SASSY has grafted to bring the delights of Norman cider to us all, and with deep roots in the orchards of the region, it seems only right for a Calvados to join the ranks! We were treated to a tasting of the two new bottlings, Calvados Fine and Calvados XO (which is aged for six years in rum casks!), and were immensely impressed by both. The Coupette team did not disappoint, with a special cocktail menu for the evening, showcasing the two expressions. Every serve was a stunner, the Pan American Clipper, made with SASSY x Coupette Fine, grenadine, lime, and absinthe was exceptional. We were also blown away by another collab between the two brands. A collab within a collab if you will – a canned, ready-to-drink expression of Coupette’s unofficial signature cocktail Apples, also made with SASSY x Coupette Fine. We’re still wondering if they actually shrunk one of their bar people and hid them inside the can to mix it – it was that tasty.
Will Lyons and Charlie Bigham’s host virtual charity banquet
Award-winning wine writer Will Lyons has teamed up with independent food brand Charlie Bigham’s to co-host its upcoming virtual charity banquet tomorrow, offering drink pairing suggestions across a four-course cook along. Featuring top chefs Thomasina Miers, founder of Wahaca and MasterChef champion; Vivek Singh, founder and executive chef at The Cinnamon Collection; Theo Randall, chef proprietor at Theo Randall at The Intercontinental, and Ping Coombes, MasterChef champion, who will offer their expertise across each course. And you can cook along at home thanks to recipe boxes delivered straight to your door. The aim is to raise £30,000 for pioneering charity Chefs in Schools, allowing 2,400 more children to enjoy delicious and nourishing food at school every day. Tickets went on sale here, and included a £5 donation that Charlie Bigham’s will match. Will Lyons’ pairings will be one to watch for drinks fans, he’s The Sunday Times wine critic, and a winner of both the Glenfiddich and Roederer wine writing awards. We’re a fan of a good cause and if it helps further people’s drinks knowledge in the process then that’s a welcome bonus.
And finally… Don’t panic, there is no kümmel shortage
First, there was last year’s toilet paper shortage, then the recent brawls at petrol stations among people queuing to fill up their cars, now it looks like there will be fisticuffs at golf clubs around the country as there are rumours of a kummel drought. For those who don’t know, kümmel is a caraway-flavoured schnapps that is particularly popular among the vibrant golfing community. But it seems that one of the principal brands, Wolfschmidt, has ceased production. Blog Cookie Jar Golf reported: “In recent weeks, reports have been coming into us from all corners of the U.K. that clubs are unable to secure orders on further stock of Wolfschmidt, amid rumours that the Danish company has ceased production. Despite a lot of phone calls and various efforts to establish contact with the brand, no official statement has been received however we can confirm that future orders on the product are no longer possible.” But there is no need to panic, repeat DO NOT PANIC, Andrew Hawes, MD of rival brand Mentzendorff reassured us. “We’ve been keeping kümmel enthusiasts well-stocked for over 150 years and have no plans to stop any time soon!” he commented. And there’s plenty of stock left at Master of Malt.