The office Christmas playlist has been made and I was very much enjoying its eclectic selection until I noticed an absence of All I Want For Christmas Is You. A Christmas playlist without the greatest Christmas song of all time is a crime, so I’m concluding this week reconsidering everything. Hopefully, some Nightcapping will calm me down.
Good thing our blog has been home to seasonal delights already, like our 24 drams of Christmas series, which has looked across the numerous Advent calendars Drinks by the Dram creates to shout about some highlights including Tanqueray No. Ten, Tobermory 12 Year Old, Jaffa Cake Vodka – Cranberry, Uncle Nearest 1856 Premium Whiskey, Stauning Kaos, and Ron Santiago de Cuba 11 Years Old Añejo this week. #WhiskySanta was still on superb Super Wish form, offering a lucky someone a bottle of Craigellachie 39 Year Old 1980 (cask 2037) – Exceptional Cask Series, probably because he had his Hot Cider Punch or some sparkling wine. There was also time to enjoy a few of our own creations, including our most recent batch of single cask whiskies (Port Ellen, anyone?) and the elevated Islay delight that is Seaweed 18 Year Old, as well as a few bargains.
There’s more to come though, with The Nightcap: 9 December!
Ardbeg unveils £1m fund for Islay after record cask sale
Remember when Ardbeg sold those rare casks of single malt whisky for a record £16m this year? You know, the biggest whisky story of the year (although not everyone was so excited)? Well, back then the Islay whisky maker had said that some of that money would be donated. This week, Ardbeg has confirmed that it is setting up a £1m fund to support community and environmental projects on Islay. It will be distributed over five years to sustainability projects and organisations such as sports and cultural groups, with applications considered in association by a panel comprising five members of the local community, a representative from The Glenmorangie Company, and two directors from local development organisation South Islay Development (SID). The Ardbeg All Islay Fund is due to launch early next year. “Many people at Ardbeg have played a part in the story of the whisky that makes up Cask No. 3. It is only right that the community in which our distillery is rooted should share the rewards of its extraordinary sale,” says Ardbeg chief executive and president Thomas Moradpour. “We look forward to supporting some great causes with The Ardbeg All Islay Fund and making a real difference to the island.”
LVMH owner Bernard Arnault (briefly) becomes world’s richest person
In other high-stakes big-money news, owner of Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH) Bernard Arnault became the world’s richest person for a hot minute, according to Forbes’ real-time billionaires list. Yep, that means he surpassed Elon Musk, likely made possible by the armageddon going on in the Twittersphere. LVMH’s wine and spirits division saw double-figures revenue growth during the third quarter of 2022, lead by its Champagne and wine sector. All it took was Arnault’s fortune to reach a cool $185.7 billion, rising $730 million while Musk’s simultaneously dropped by $3.8 billion. Yikes. And we thought our bank account had taken a hit from all those Christmas presents we panic-bought. It was the first time in nine years that number one on the list was held by someone not from big tech, but we can’t be too smug about it, as Musk has since regained the top spot. And what a wild ride it was!
Bushmills auctions Causeway Collection for charity
Bushmills Distillery is auctioning 12 complete sets of miniatures from the 2021 Causeway Collection to raise money for charity. The range has been full of corkers since it launched a couple of years ago, like the 32-year-old Port cask bottling, or a 1991 Madeira cask that’s about the most fruit-tastic dram we tasted that year. The quality of the liquid isn’t the only attraction, but the rarity. These were limited runs originally released exclusively to eight different markets worldwide, so these exclusive sets give fans a unique opportunity to taste all 12 expressions. They’ve been attracting bids since Wednesday and this will continue until tomorrow when it concludes, with three individual virtual auctions taking place each day at 7pm, 8pm, and 9pm GMT. The best thing about all of this is that no auctioneers’ fees or commissions will be charged, allowing 100% of the winning bids to be donated to The Causeway Coast & Glens Heritage Trust, which helps to preserve the ‘natural splendour’ of the North Coast. So if you haven’t yet, get bidding! It’s for a giant cause.
Aisling Bea returns in Jameson campaign
More Irish whiskey news this week from Jameson, which has put together a new spot for its ‘Widen the Circle’ campaign. Actor, writer, and comedian Aisling Bea returns in a story which is meant to celebrate the “environment, our ingredients, our craftspeople and ultimately those who enjoy our whiskey” according to the marketing bumf. It’s called The Drop’ and shows the story of a drop of Irish rainwater that makes its way through the distillery before ultimately making its way into Jameson Irish Whiskey to be exported to every corner of the globe. Which ultimately widens the circle. Get it? Anyway, it’s the whole ‘today’s rain is tomorrow’s whisky’ thing, basically, and it also stars master distiller Kevin O’Gorman and blender Deirdre O’Carroll. As part of the shoot, Bea spent a day in Midleton Distillery to immerse herself more in the brand, which has produced a bit of social content, dubbed the ‘Jameson Whiskey Intern’, about her day. It culminated in making her bespoke ‘Bumble Bea’ cocktail with Jameson craft ambassador, Kieran Keane, and us! Yes, we were there that very day and got to whip up our Bumble Bea with the star herself and chat with her. Is this story featured in The Nightcap so we can reminisce and show off? Not a chance. How dare you. Also, yes.
Desmond Payne MBE becomes Beefeater’s first Master Distiller Emeritus
Hot off the press from the gin world (and found out via the respectable institution of Instagram), Beefeater master distiller Desmond Payne MBE is master distiller no more. Instead, from January 2023, he’ll be the brand’s first ever master distiller emeritus! It’s well-deserved, after a 55-year career in gin and 27 of those spent at Beefeater, serving as master distiller since 2008. What does it mean? Well, it sounds pretty Gucci, as he’ll take a step back from day-to-day production responsibilities, taking time to focus on other projects such as judging international gin competitions and hosting VIP experiences for the brand. He will pass the mantle to an as of yet mystery successor – which means it could be me. It probably isn’t, but it could be. Right, guys?
Duppy Share Rum secures £2m investment
Duppy Share is having a very lovely time of it at the moment, as our own Emma found out recently, and the good times are set to keep rolling after the rum makers secured £2m in investment. With financial support from new shareholders such as British billionaire investor Jim Mellon, the Irish horse racing Magnier family, and ex-professional footballer Ian Wright. They’ll join Top Boy actor, Kano and founder George Frost, the son of broadcasting legend Sir David Frost, in taking the brand forward. “If I think back to the beginning, when I had to persuade the 3 Fs (friends, family and fools) that the rum revolution was coming, I was met with quite the reaction, from “surely you mean gin” to “but you don’t even run!” If you had told me then that we would be where we are now – well, even my totally blind, naive and crazed optimism would not have equipped me to take you seriously,” says Frost. But he’s very much seeing the returns in backing the spirit. He only launched Duppy Share Rum seven years ago but this year they will sell over 500,000 bottles or “just shy of 1,500,000 shots” as he puts it. It’s now the top-selling premium rum in the UK, trading in 18 territories and becoming the official rum of Notting Hill Carnival for six years in a row in the process. We’ve not been told what the £2m is being spent on. Maybe a big laser to take out the competition. You can never rule out big laser.
Cotswolds Distillery launches ‘I Want to Like Whisky’ podcast
The power of podcasts is being used to spread the good word of whisky, with the Cotswolds Distillery announcing the launch of the first series of its podcast this week! ‘I Want to Like Whisky’ is hosted by Global Whisky Ambassador, Rob Patchett. He’s going to be joined by leading personalities in the drinks industry to discuss whisky cocktails, experiences, and the ways in which people like to drink whisky on their own terms. Each season will treat us to ten episodes (each released every two weeks), with Patchett stating: “The aim of the podcast is to bring more people into the whisky category and demystify the world of whisky a little bit. We plan to include interviews with experts and the leading voices of whisky from around the world”. The first episode, which you can find on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Stitcher, is available to listen to right now, with none other than recent winner of The Alan Lodge Young International Drinks Writer of the Year 2022 and Master of Malt blog fame, Millie Milliken! Future guests also include Amy Seton, owner of Grain and Glass JQ and Founder of Birmingham Whisky Festival, and Martyn ‘Simo’ Simpson, owner of Milroy’s in Soho and Spitalfields, and Silverleaf Bar in London. We know what we’ll be tuning into on our commute home.
Eden Mill team up with Scottish artist for limited edition single malt
It seems that whisky producers can’t get enough of art. First, there was Balvenie with a four-artist collaboration and now Eden Mill in St. Andrews with a rather more modest solo project. The artist in question is Mairi Clark who trained at Central St Martins School of Art in London before returning home to paint evocative landscapes. Her work will appear on the 3,000 bottle limited edition £150 The Art of St Andrews Collection single malt which is only available from the distillery. Head distiller Scott Ferguson described it as “an extremely special single malt” combining “a sweet, yet subtly spicy whisky, with a rush of sherry and apple notes, all underpinned by a toasty, buttery nuttiness and zesty bitters.” Meanwhile, it’s all go at Eden Mill as the distillery will be moving into a new site on the banks of the Eden estuary in 2023. If you want to be the first to own some of its first production, you can join the 1655 Club and invest in “300 unique and carefully selected casks.” No off-hand cask selection at Eden Mill, thank you very much. Ferguson elaborated: the two casks we have chosen for The 1655 Club, an American ex-bourbon cask and a European ex-sherry cask, will provide a myriad of flavours, each drawn slowly from the cask over time as it rests and matures in the Vault.” We imagine demand for these casks is likely to be strong if the current prices for the early Eden Mill releases are anything to go by.
Could British aquavit be the next big thing?
Now that the gin boom is officially over, people in the drinks industry, down the pub, and at breakfast tables throughout the land are wondering what the next big thing is going to be. Could the long-heralded rum explosion finally be happening? Is there anyone out there who regularly drinks hard seltzers? Or could the NBT be something you wouldn’t suspect? Like aquavit, a strongly-flavoured white spirit popular in Nordic countries. Three British distilleries, Orkney Spirits, Psychopomp of Bristol, and Silver Circle in Wales, are betting that the future is Scandinavian by each launching its own ‘British Aquavit’. Or ‘Britvit’ as they’re not calling it for some reason. They’ve even produced a short film (above) to promote their wares. In Nordic countries aquavit is traditionally consumed neat alongside beer but the three British producers are going for the cocktail market such as an aquavit Martini or Bloody Mary. As a cocktail ingredient, it really is phenomenal, it just brings a whole new dimension.” says Joe Howden, co-founder of Silver Circle Distillery. So, will it work? Could aquavit be the next gin? We’ll get back to you on that.
And finally… ‘Cosa Nostra’ machine gin whisky bottle outrages Italy
And the most tasteless branding of the year goes to… Cosa Nostra ‘Scotch’ whisky. Yes, there is such thing, a spirit advertised in Palermo as a three-year-old blended whisky sold in a bottle shaped like a machine gun named after the Sicilian mafia. It’s aiming to evoke “the era of Al Capone or Lucky Luciano” and has the words ‘post proelia premia’ – ‘after the battles come the rewards’ – emblazoned at the top. Also on Polish company Bartex’s display were ‘Chilli Mafia’ nuts. The novelty hasn’t exactly charmed Italians, with financial newspaper il Sole 24 Ore succinctly summarising that “the word mafia reminds us only of pain and death”. There’s also concerns about evoking such stereotypes and the harm they can have on Italian produce abroad. An estimated 300,000 jobs have been lost due to the “counterfeiting and falsification” of Italian food, according to Coldiretti, the association of agricultural entrepreneurs and farmers in Italy. The brand is also in hot water with the Scotch Whisky Association, which is investigating the product after being approached by The Herald. “The Scotch Whisky industry takes its commitment to responsible marketing extremely seriously, and the marketing of products which celebrate violence, aggression or illegal behaviour is not something we would ever condone,” a statement from the SWA read. “The product is under investigation by both our legal and alcohol policy teams.” The Portman Group is also encouraging anyone who is concerned about alcohol marketing to submit a complaint to them.