If news about new Scotch whisky distilleries, Hendrick’s Gin’s surreal celebratory film and heavy metal giants KISS entering the spirits game sounds like a great read to you, then you’re in the right place. It’s The Nightcap!
I don’t know about you, but the lack of real parties or trick-or-treating has really hampered my costume ideas for Halloween. How much effort is required for a virtual get-together? More than usual? Less? Assuming you want to do better than just go as COVID or Donald Trump or the Joker/Harley Quinn, again. This year it falls on a Saturday, which would usually mean all sorts of mayhem, but now our biggest fear is probably a broadband outage. And that would make a rubbish costume. Makes you appreciate the things that don’t change: like the climate in the UK making a mockery of whatever weather you try to dress for, or neat little round-ups of all the happenings in the world of booze. Ah, The Nightcap. What would we do without you?
What a week we had on the blog. First thing’s first, we’ve got a new competition for you to enter and this one’s a knockout: a VIP Trip to Dublin to visit Slane Distillery is up for grabs. Excited? You should be. Click the link to find out how to enter. Elsewhere, Ian Buxton penned a beautiful tribute to the late, great Dr Jim Swan, Annie tasted some super-premium aged Venezuelan rum and shared the secret to making great low-to-no alcohol cocktails and Henry spoke to Mark Ward about his wonderfully intriguing vermouth brand, Regal Rogue. A 20-year-old gin was also on the menu, as was the new Highland Park Cask Strength bottling and the most relaxed cocktail ever, The Boulevardier.
KISS becomes latest rock band to release spirits
Heavy metal band KISS (the ones who use all elaborate face paint) has announced that it has partnered with Swedish drinks company Brands for Fans to create a new line of booze. The American group, which is made up of Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer, already has two products in the pipeline to be released in Europe, Japan and Australia before the end of 2020, with more info due to be “revealed shortly”. It’s not the first time KISS has ventured into the world of booze, back in 2011 they partnered with wine distributor Rewine to release KISS-themed Zin Fire wine and Destroyer beer. Brands for Fans should be up to the task of delivering whatever the band desires as it’s no stranger to working with rock giants, following collaborations with Motörhead, Slayer, Ghost, Judas Priest and Scorpions. “The first money I earned was spent on a Kiss record. To find myself 40 years later having them as Brands for Fans clients, I don’t even know where to begin,” said Sari H Wilholm, marketing director and co-founder of Brands for Fans. “It feels so fun and exciting to finally take KISS into the premium alcohol beverage segment, and they have chosen the right partner for this.”
Plans revealed for £15 million Wolfcraig distillery
Sound the ‘new distillery’ siren folks, because Scotland could be about to welcome a new whisky maker! A proposal from Wolfcraig Whisky was submitted this week to create a whisky experience near Stirling that will incorporate a distillery, interactive visitor attraction, tasting room and bistro restaurant and bar. Subject to planning approval, construction of the £15 million project will kick off in the spring of 2021 and the doors are tipped to open in the summer of 2022. The distillery will have the capacity to produce up to 1.5 million litres of spirit per year and produce Wolfcraig Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky in addition to a range of other spirits, while a Founder Membership package will allow fans to become a part of the Wolfpack from the outset. The project was founded by Michael Lunn, former chairman and chief executive of Whyte and Mackay Group and co-directors John Moore and Jamie Lunn, who will work alongside a team including Dr Alan Rutherford OBE, former production director at Diageo, and renowned master distiller Ian Macmillan. The investment will seek to tap into Stirling’s heritage by showcasing the stunning vista across to the Wallace Monument and Stirling Castle, and will also ensure production is sustainable.
Introducing 8 Doors, mainland Scotland’s most northerly distillery
The new Scotch whisky micro-distillery set to open in John O’Groats in 2021 has now revealed its name: 8 Doors Distillery! The brand, whose founders, local husband and wife team Kerry and Derek Campbell, were granted planning permission for its £1 million project in March this year, will be the first whisky producer in the Caithness village since 1837. When it opens, it will be Scotland’s most northerly mainland distillery, so spare a thought for poor Wolfburn which is about to be knocked off the top spot. The new distillery will have the capacity to produce up to 60,000 litres of whisky each year and it will all be matured in an on-site bonded warehouse. Whisky master John Ramsay, who has created whisky for The Famous Grouse, The Macallan and more, will help create the Highland single malt, which will be produced using water extracted from a borehole on the distillery site. 8 Doors Distillery has also announced the launch of the 874 Founders Club and the 874 Club. The former offers members the chance to buy a limited number of 50-litre and 250-litre Founders Casks, while those who join the 874 Club will receive a collection of three bottles from some of the first casks laid down and can purchase these packages directly from the distillery. Anyone interested should click here. “The creation of our 8 Doors Distillery in John O’Groats and our limited edition launch is part of a dream come true for Derek and me,” Kerry Campbell said. “We love whisky, and for us it’s more than just having an exceptional liquid in the glass. It’s the stories that go alongside it, the memories of special occasions and get-togethers with family and friends. If we can be part of creating not only a fantastic whisky but also great memories for people who drink our whisky that would be amazing”. Oh and the name? According to the press bumf, it comes from Jan de Groot ie. John O’ Groats, a Dutchman who ran the ferry to the Orkneys, whose “seven descendants quarrelled about succession, so he decided to build an octagonal house with eight doors – one for him and each of his seven sons – and an eight-sided table so that nobody could sit at the ‘head of the table’”. So now you know.
William Grant buys Tequila distillery
William Grant & Sons has been working on acquiring its own Tequila distillery in Mexico for the last two years and this week the family firm revealed it has succeeded. The Milagro Tequila Distillery, which was founded in 1998, was acquired as part of William Grant & Sons’ “multi-million-pound investment plan to build its brands globally and upgrade its infrastructure to support the company’s growth ambitions”. Milagro Tequila is produced using 100% blue agave from the Jalisco highlands in both pot and column stills and the brand employs a 36-hour slow roasting process in traditional brick ovens. The range, which consists of six expressions: silver, reposado and añejo bottlings across the Core collection and the Select Barrel Reserve lines has helped it become the fifth largest premium Tequila brand in the US, according to William Grant & Sons. “Milagro has always been an exciting brand within our award-winning portfolio, and with this distillery, it is now a clear long-term priority for our global business, alongside such iconic premium brands as Glenfiddich single malt Scotch, Hendrick’s Gin and Tullamore Dew Irish whiskey,” said Jonathan Yusen, William Grant & Sons’ president and managing director, Americas. “This acquisition allows us to manage our production more closely, ensuring the long-term quality and consistency of our silver, reposado and añejo offerings, while bringing our innovation expertise to agave-based spirits.”
New whisky round-up: Bowmore, The Balvenie and Gordon & MacPhail
It’s certainly been a busy week of whisky releases, which we’re always delighted to see. First, we learned that The Balvenie has unveiled the latest release in its Tun 1509 series – because we have some! Behold, Balvenie Tun 1509 – Batch 7! This particular edition was made using whisky drawn from 21 hand-picked casks, including ten sherry butts, seven sherry hogsheads and four American oak barrels before it was bottled at 52.4% ABV. Islay distillery Bowmore wasn’t going to be left out, however, and also launched a limited edition single malt: Bowmore 30 Year Old. Distilled in 1989, the whisky was matured in Sherry hogsheads and bourbon barrels before it was bottled at a cask strength of 45.3% ABV. The brand has said it will release a new edition of the 30-year-old bottling every year in limited quantities and that the liquid used to make the single malt will be selected from just two casks each year. Gordon & MacPhail rounded-off the good news by launching the second of four commemorative whiskies to celebrate its 125th anniversary. The 35-year-old Gordon & MacPhail 1984 from Glenury Royal is another ultra-rare delight made with spirit from the closed distillery in Stonehaven in the eastern Highlands and was matured in cask number 2335, a first-fill sherry butt before it was bottled at 49.1% ABV. Just 397 bottles are available worldwide of this elegant 35-year-old whisky, which joins the 1972 Coleburn whisky launched in September. Quite the line-up, wouldn’t you say folks? And did we mention we’ve got the Balvenie bottling here at MoM Towers now…
Hendrick’s Gin Palace marks two years with new film
Hendrick’s Gin is never one to shy away from the weird and the wonderful, as regular readers of The Nightcap will attest to. So it should be no surprise to learn the gin giants plan to celebrate the second anniversary of the opening of the Hendrick’s Gin Palace with the release of a 4-minute film that takes viewers on a “whirlwind tour of the unlikely sights, people and tastes within the Hendrick’s Gin Palace distillery”. With COVID-19 preventing guests visiting the distillery, the brand decided to create a cinematic tour of the distillery with Saturday Studios, which is intended to educate and entertain and stars The Gazebo Effect’s Max Berendt and Hendrick’s global brand ambassador, Mr. Ally Martin. “When I first joined Hendrick’s Gin, acting was nowhere to be seen on the job spec but given the highly theatrical nature of how we bring Hendrick’s Gin to life, it now seems to be an essential part of my day job,” said Martin. The film, which will be released to coincide with International Gin & Tonic Day on October 19, sees a fictional reporter jump down from a hot air balloon into the walled garden in front of the Gin Palace and then whisked away on a tour of the palace. Scenes include “fights with foliage in one of the distillery’s hothouses” and a “surreal dream scene reminiscent of American Beauty”. We didn’t expect any less.
Jack Daniel’s announces new master distiller
One of the biggest drinks brands on the planet has announced who will produce its world-famous Tennessee whiskey this week. Jack Daniel’s has revealed that it’s keeping it in the family, appointing Chris Fletcher to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps to lead the production of whiskey at the distillery. Frank Bobo served in the role for more than two decades until retiring in 1989 and Fletcher’s boyhood home was about three miles from the distillery in Lynchburg. Fletcher said Bobo “will always be my vision of a true distiller” and that “I couldn’t be more excited to be in this role. It’s such a special place from a distilling and whiskey-making standpoint.” Jack Daniel’s sells more than 17 million cases globally of its spirits lineup, which includes its best-selling core bottling as well as flavoured expressions and limited-edition offerings, so it’s a considerable task to oversee the production process. However, Fletcher has been with the distillery since 2001 when he worked as a part-time tour guide while attending college and has previously held roles as a Brown-Forman chemist in research and development for eight years before finally spending six years as an assistant master distiller to Jeff Arnett, who recently departed after 12 years leading the distillery. It seems Jack Daniel’s is in safe hands, folks.
Peatheart Batch 2 from anCnoc is here
The second peated batch from the whisky formerly known as Knockdhu has just arrived at MoM towers. We were treated to special tasting with no-nonsense distillery manager Gordon Bruce. Peatheart Batch 2 is quite heavily smoky using peat with 40ppm but what we loved about it is that the sweet fruity new make shines through with bright lemon and pineapple notes. It’s a NAS expression, aged in ex-bourbon casks and bottled at 46% ABV with no chill-filtering. Bruce commented: “Despite having the same ppm as Batch 1, slight variations in maturation mean that our second Peatheart bottling offers something a little bit different, with a more refined smoky character. The combination of fresh, fruity anCnoc notes with these more mellow peat flavours creates a wonderful modern whisky that will be enjoyed by whisky fans across the spectrum. The peaty range now sits alongside our signature anCnoc whiskies to give drinkers two very distinctive sides to our whisky. Whether it’s a dram from our ‘dark’ or ‘light’ side, both represent our commitment to using the best traditional techniques and craftsmanship to make a very modern single malt whisky”. And did we mention that the Batch 2 is now in the warehouse?
And finally…. Jerez honours its bodega dogs
In Jerez in southern Spain, there is a special breed of dog called a Ratonero Bodeguero Andaluz, meaning, roughly, Andalucian rat-catching bodega dog. As you might be able to deduce from its name, it’s a working dog whose job is to hunt rats and mice that plague the city’s enormous wine warehouses. Now, according to news site The Local, the city has decided to honour its most loyal workers. An announcement on 30 September from Jerez’s town hall said: “In Jerez, we have declared to the rat-catching bodega dog as part of the fundamental cultural heritage of the city” (or something like that, translation by MoM buyer and top linguist Guy Hodcroft.)” The breed was created when fox terriers brought to the city by English wine merchants in the 18th and 19th century crossed with local dogs known as Raterillo Andaluz. But they were only formally recognised as a distinct breed in 2000. Apparently, they are extremely brave and fierce but also good with the children. So next time you open a bottle of sherry, raise a glass to the magnificent rat-catching dogs of Jerez. ¡Salud!