This week we raise a glass of something special to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, the UK’s longest-serving monarch, who died this week.
Normally we start and end our weekly news round-up with a funny story but it’s going to be something of a sombre Nightcap this week with the death of Queen Elizabeth II last night after more than seven decades on the throne. So tonight, and for the next few days until the funeral, we’ll be raising a glass to Her Majesty. May she rest in peace.
That was the week that was
Until last night the biggest news of the week was Liz Truss being named as the UK’s new Prime Minister, an unprecedented fourth in seven years. How long she’ll last is anybody’s guess in the current climate but the Drinks Business ran an interesting thing on what they think she should do to help the drinks industry. And yes it does feature Nightcap legend Miles Beale from the WSTA. The soaring cost of gas and electricity is a worry to everyone but especially if you run an energy-intensive business like distilling. In Brewer & Distiller magazine, Anthony Gladman looks at how the industry is coping with the energy crisis. Meanwhile, lovers of whiskey and science will enjoy this in-depth look at how the weather affects whiskey on the BBC website. Some of the most interesting drinks writing around are now taking place on new platforms and magazines like Pellicle magazine. We particularly enjoyed Will Hawkes’ fascinating long read about Munich, the heartland of German brewing.
Our own blog, meanwhile, was one for those who love rare whisky this week, we had several exciting exclusives coming our way including a single cask of Daftmill, as well as whisky from Glen Scotia, Mars, and Masthouse. We also had a taste of a new Wolfburn and a deliciously spicy premium bourbon, as well as whipping up a delightful Victorian-era cocktail. And finally, Lucy Shaw returned with a look at the good, bad, and plain embarrassing in the world of celebrity spirits.
Now, onto the rest of this week’s news. It’s The Nightcap: 9 September edition!
Circumstance distillery leaves English Whisky Guild
We were planning to cover the news that the inaugural whisky release from Circumstance in Bristol sold out in nine minutes but a juicier story has emerged. The distillery has left the English Whisky Guild, which was only launched in May this year, over a proposed GI for English whisky. The story first emerged in Drinks Retailing News so we followed up with Liam Hirt from Circumstance for clarification. It seems the problem is that the proposed GI which has been submitted to Defra insists on double distillation as with Scotch whisky. Hirt said “we had no choice but to leave”, he explained: “The proposed requirement to double distil in pure copper pot stills will prove both a barrier to entry and stifle innovation, and has nothing to do with ensuring quality or preserving traditions.” He added that: “I understand the EWG has been making amendments to the proposed GI. I believe that in its current draft form ‘English whisky’ does not need to be made by double distillation in pure copper pot stills, but ‘English Malt Whisky’ does.” We wonder what this means for other distilleries like Copper Rivet and Adnams who have signed up to the EWG but make malt whisky in a column still. We have asked EWG for a comment and will let you know as soon as we hear more.
White Peak Distillery break English whisky record
In other English whisky news, Derbyshire’s first ever whisky distillery, White Peak, has set a new record. We reported recently that it sold its first 12 bottles of its inaugural Wire Works Whisky release via Whisky Auctioneer, with all of the proceeds going to local Derbyshire charities. Well, the collection raised over £15,000 with Wire Works Whisky bottle no. 1 individually fetching a hammer price of £9,900, the highest price paid at public auction for a single bottle of English whisky. The auction ran from 26 August – 5 September and during the 10-day period, over 370 bids were received from bidders across the UK, as well as from Denmark, Singapore, China and Andorra. We reported on the release of the highly-prized inaugural bottling, which we rated very highly, so when you factor in the whisky’s quality with the way the whisky market is these days it’s no surprise that demand was so high. “We are absolutely delighted and humbled by the response to this charity auction,” says White Peak co-founder Claire Vaughan. “To have raised over £15,000 for our charity partners alongside Whisky Auctioneer is very special…. not to mention a special moment for English whisky! We hope that the proceeds can help to support our local community and some fantastic environmental projects for both Derbyshire Wildlife Trust and he Peak District National Park Foundation.”
Irish Distillers building second Midleton distillery
Jameson whiskey makers Irish Distillers have announced a huge new project to build a second distillery in Midleton Co. Cork. The brand is investing €250 million to create a state-of-the-art distillery on a 55-acre site adjacent and connected to the New Midleton Distillery where it already makes some of the world’s most well-known and successful Irish whiskeys, including Jameson, Powers, Redbreast, Midleton Very Rare, the Spot family and Method and Madness. The distillery, which could be operational in 2025 should Cork County Council accept the planning application by the end of this year, is a response to increased demand. It will distil pot still and grain whiskey with grain intake, brewing, fermentation, and distillation facilities. Though there’s no plans to make single malts. The new distillery is expected to generate up to 100 new jobs for the region over time once the distillery is operational, and circa 800 jobs during the construction phase. The company’s requirement for barley and malted barley is also set to increase by up to 50%, which the company intends to source from Irish farmers. The new distillery will also be a carbon neutral operation and incorporate various environmental projects. It’s ticking all the right boxes, and it’s great to see Irish whiskey continue to thrive.
New Johnnie Walker Ghost and Rare Blue Label!
It’s always an exciting moment when we hear about a new Ghost and Rare Blue Label. This fifth release from Johnnie Walker is particularly special as it’s the first blended by Emma Walker (no relation) who took over from Jim Beveridge as master blender earlier this year. This range highlights closed distilleries and while single malt aficionados often get a bit shirty about irreplaceable single malts going into blends, anyone who has ever tasted the range will know how special the liquids are. The backbone of ordinary Blue Label is long-aged grain so this edition sounds right on the money as it contains grain from Port Dundas which operated for 200 years before Diageo closed it in 2011. As is the way these days, there is an NFT, for those who care about such things. For us, it’s all about the whisky, and this promises to be a belter.
Heineken buys the rest of Beavertown brewery
In a move that was probably inevitable but will still sadden craft beer lovers, this week Heineken announced that it has bought Beavertown outright. The cult brewery was set up by Logan Plant, son of Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant, in 2011. Since then it has gone on to produce some of the best-loved beers in the country with literally out-of-this-world packaging. In 2018, Heineken took a minority stake in the company, and now they’ve got the rest. Plant has stated that “the relationships with our accounts, distributors, suppliers, and brewing family and friends stays exactly the same. Who we work with and how we work with them stays exactly the same”. It’s not clear, however, how involved former CEO Plant will be in the business as his role has now been defined merely as “creative consultant.” He commented: “Beavertown began in my kitchen, 10 years ago: from brewing in a rice pan to one of the most successful British brewers in recent years, employing over 160 people and brewing 360,000 hectolitres of beer. Its success is something I could never have predicted back then, and I am extremely proud that we have agreed the deal with Heineken, which is the natural next step for Beavertown, its brands, and, most importantly, its people.”
Nigel Farage launches gin range
We’ve had some horrible-sounding spirits on the blog like a Brussels sprout-flavoured gin and a radioactive vodka but we have just learned of a brand that many will have trouble swallowing. Yes, the Brexiteer-in-chief Nigel Farage has just launched his own range of gin. They are made by a distillery in Cornwall, apparently Farage’s favourite county, and, predictably, it comes in three colours: red, white (or colourless really), and blue. The red is made with cherries while the blue is flavoured with gardenia flowers and looks a bit like methylated spirits. They’re all bottled at 42% ABV and retail at an extremely punchy £40. In the Daily Express, Farage joked that he would like to send a bottle to Jean-Claude Juncker, former president of the European Commission, who he described as “a pleasant human being, despite the fact he didn’t agree with my position”, which is a bit of an understatement. So there you have it, Nigel Farage gin, the perfect gift if you really want to irritate someone.