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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Ardbeg

The Nightcap: 27 March

It’s another bitesize Nightcap this week, but there’s still plenty of booze news to enjoy – as well as the answers to last week’s pub quiz! Staying in this Friday? Well,…

It’s another bitesize Nightcap this week, but there’s still plenty of booze news to enjoy – as well as the answers to last week’s pub quiz!

Staying in this Friday? Well, what are the chances – so are we! In fact, plenty of us have been staying in quite a bit and getting involved with various projects. Some DIY, learning a few new cocktail recipes, that sort of thing. Our Sam has been trying to listen to every Neil Young album. Turns out there are loads and it’s taking him ages. If you’d prefer a project that’s just a bit easier to tick off your list, we’ve got a brand new edition of The Nightcap right here!

On the MoM blog this week, Ian Buxton returned this to discuss the implications of agave casks being used in Scotch whisky before we helped you explore the drinks world in lockdown-mode by picking five of our favourite drink books. Adam continued the theme by taking you on a distillery tour of Glenglassaugh and Wolfburn without leaving the house. You can thank virtual reality for that. Annie, meanwhile, enjoyed five classic spirits made in non-traditional places and gave us 10 pointers from the pros about how to DIY your G&T. Elsewhere, Henry made an Old Fashioned, but slightly better, and recommended a new bottling that would work particularly well in that serve, as Jess rounded up the best of the best from the World Gin Awards 2020 winners.

And after all that excitement, it’s on with The Nightcap!

The Nightcap

Look, it’s Ardbeg Wee Beastie!

Ardbeg unveils new whisky: Wee Beastie

The folks at Ardbeg Distillery clearly understand that at a time like this we need good news and things to look forward to. That’s why it was a welcome surprise to be told this week that the Islay whisky producer is set to launch a new permanent expression. It’s called Wee Beastie, presumably because it was matured for just five years in ex-bourbon and oloroso sherry casks. The press release explains that Wee Beastie is a “feisty and intensely powerful smoky whisky that’s untamed by age”, with “intense aromas of cracked black pepper, sappy pine resin and sharp tangs of smoke”, and an explosive mouthfeel that “bursts forth with chocolate, creosote, tar and savoury meats”. We do love a young, raw and bold Islay bottling here at MoM Towers. Ardbeg’s director of whisky creation, Dr Bill Lumsden, said of Wee Beastie: “I’m in no doubt that Ardbeggians will love this tongue-tingling expression. The casks chosen for its creation make it ideal for enjoying neat or as the mouth-watering main ingredient in a powerfully smoky cocktail.” Soon-to-retire distillery manager Mickey Heads added: “A new permanent expression in the core range is always momentous for the distillery, but Wee Beastie is a particularly special dram. As it’s a younger whisky, it means we’re able to get as close to the still as possible. So it’s safe to say this is a ferociously good wee nip!” Wee Beastie will be available here from May.

The Nightcap

The 52 year-old Karuizawa ‘Zodiac Rat’ 1960 sold for £363,000, a new record

Karuizawa expression sells for £363,000 and sets new record

In these dark times, it’s good to know there are still people with tonnes of money prepared to splash out on whisky. You may recall on a previous Nightcap we previewed an upcoming sale of fine and rare wines and spirits by Sotheby’s and expected big things from Macallan and Karuizawa (as always). Well, they didn’t disappoint. The 52-year-old Karuizawa ‘Zodiac Rat’ 1960 sold for £363,000, a new record for a bottle of Japanese whisky. It’s the oldest expression ever released from the distillery and the bottle is one of only 41 produced, each packed with a netsuke (a miniature sculpture) carved from the oak cask that once held the whisky. Macallan also had a good auction as a complete vertical of The Macallan in Lalique Six Pillars Collection was sold for £423,500, while The Macallan Lalique Genesis Decanter 72-year-old was bought for £84,700. The present global situation didn’t appear to disrupt much for Sotheby’s, which sold £3.7 million worth of booze. A substantial proportion of lots exceeded their high estimates and 50% of winning lots were made online. “Against a backdrop of extraordinary circumstance, the persistence and commitment of collectors came through in yesterday’s sales, where a bottle of Japanese whisky became the most valuable ever sold, accompanied by strong prices for Scotch whisky, led by the Macallan in Lalique Decanters,” said Jamie Ritchie, chairman of Sotheby’s Wine. “Collectors also continue to compete for the world’s greatest wines, and when there is an opportunity to acquire the very best the market has to offer, as with the two cases of the legendary Cheval Blanc 1947, they are willing to stretch to the highest level.”

Michael Broadbent in action in the (judging by the haircuts) 1980s. Photo courtesy of Christie’s

Industry pays tribute to Michael Broadbent 

Tributes poured as the wine world lost one of its most eminent figures, Michael Broadbent, at the age of 92. Jancis Robinson MW described him as “a towering figure in the history of wine.” Born in 1927, Broadbent had a varied career in the wine trade, becoming a Master of Wine in 1960 but it was his time at Christie’s, the auction house, where he was most influential. He joined the firm in 1966 and almost single-handedly revived the auction market for fine and rare wines (and later spirits). He was famous for taking notes on (nearly) every wine he tried, and the most notable was published in The Great Vintage Wine Book. He retired from Christie’s in 1992 but remained a consultant with the firm until 2009. In addition, he was chairman of the Institute of Masters of Wine, Master of the Worshipful Company of Distillers, president of the Wine & Spirit Education Trust and chairman of The Benevolent. He was particularly revered in France where he was made Chevalier of the Ordre National du Mérite in 1979. Au revoir Monsieur Michael!

The Nightcap

It’s the final batch of While We Wait!

Isle of Raasay Distillery releases its final While We Wait

For what seems like about 30 years, the Isle of Raasay Distillery has been releasing an annual single malt under the While We Wait banner (it’s actually only been five years but we’re so impatient it seems like longer.) Now, the wait is almost over as the last batch of WWW whisky has just gone on sale. Appropriately enough, this last batch is called The Last Orders and it’s made up of peated and unpeated spirits matured in bourbon barrels and finished in first and second fill Tuscan red wine French oak casks for 18 months. It will be available only direct from the distillery. Co-founder Alasdair Day commented: “This fifth and final release of our While We Wait series is a highly significant step forward for our distillery. Our team are constantly looking to push the boundaries of whisky making, exploring the effect that different finishes and casks have on the flavour profile, and this spirit is the perfect embodiment of our ethos.” Later this year, the Isle of Raasay’s first single malt distilled on the island will be released which is extremely exciting. Watch this space!

The Nightcap

Get involved, if you’re in the US, of course.

And finally…  Bardstown Bourbon are looking for ‘world’s’ top whiskey taster 

The Company has partnered with Moonshine University to create an exciting contest that calls on whiskey lovers, enthusiasts, fans and connoisseurs alike in the search for the World’s Top Whiskey Taster. Sounds amazing, except it’s not open to the world. It’s just for legal residents of the fifty United States (and District of Columbia). Unless self-isolation has turned my brain to mush, I’m pretty certain there’s a distinction between the US and the world. Might want to reconsider that name. The winner will be awarded a cash prize of $20,000 with a contract to represent Bardstown Bourbon Company as an ambassador, as well as a scholarship to Moonshine University’s Executive Bourbon Steward certification programme, and a trip to Bardstown, Kentucky to blend a custom product with Bardstown Bourbon Company master distiller Steve Nally. Frankly, I don’t know why I’m not entering for goodness sake. Oh, right. I can’t. The competition consists of three phases, starting with an invitation to submit an audition video, followed by regional qualifiers and national finals. “Entrants are encouraged to be creative and have fun,” said Bardstown Bourbon Company vice president of sales & marketing, Herb Heneman. “Tell us what makes your palate as good as it is. Show us things like your favourite bourbon cocktail, your most impressive or underrated pairing, or pick the most amazing bottle in your stash and geek out on it. But most of all, tell us what representing Bardstown Bourbon Company as a distillery ambassador would mean to you.” The full contest rules, terms and conditions are here. To upload your audition video or for more information, you can do that here. But only if you’re in the US, remember?  

The Nightcap

That’s it for the Nightcap this week, now here are the answers to last week’s pub quiz. We appreciate it was a tad on the tough side so today’s edition (coming soon) should prove more accessible. However, congrats to Pete Jeffery who triumphed!

1) Which much-admired Islay distillery manager announced his retirement last week? 

Answer: Mickey Heads

2) How many distilleries are there on Skye?

Answer: Three: Talisker, Torabhaig Distillery and Isle of Skye Distillery.

3) How many times is Mortlach single malt distilled?

Answer: 2.81 times according to the distillery.

4) Where would you find boisé? 

Answer: In Cognac.

5) Which cocktail does the Polish agent drink in John Le Carre’s The Looking Glass War?

Answer: The White Lady

6) What’s bigger, a British pint or an American?

Answer: A British pint. 

7) What sport is the carraway-flavoured schnapps kümmel commonly associated with?

Answer: Golf.

8) What whiskey does Sylvester Stallone’s character Jimmy Bobo request in the 2012 movie Bullet to the Head?

Answer: Bulleit Bourbon

9) What do both the glass Gatsby raises and Tom Buchanan’s car have in common in The Great Gatsby film? 

Answer: They are both a couple (or coupé).

10) Which bourbon whiskey brand inspired a Billy Idol single?

Answer: Rebel Yell

11) Evan Williams originally hailed from which country?

Answer: Wales

12) Which drink brand did the first-ever cinema advert?

Answer: Dewar’s Scotch whisky

13) There are more barrels of bourbon than people in the state of Kentucky, true or false?

Answer: True (two barrels of bourbon for every person)

14) In which wine region would you find ‘the dogs’ teeth’?

Answer: Burgundy

15) How many monkeys are there on a bottle of Monkey Shoulder?

Answer: 9.

No Comments on The Nightcap: 27 March

The Nightcap: 13 March

Tune into The Nightcap this week for news on Ardbeg’s Mickey Heads retiring, literature-based libations, and giraffes. Yes, giraffes.  Everyone is being told not to touch their own faces, or…

Tune into The Nightcap this week for news on Ardbeg’s Mickey Heads retiring, literature-based libations, and giraffes. Yes, giraffes. 

Everyone is being told not to touch their own faces, or other people’s faces. Some people are even being very specific and saying not to touch other people’s eyes, or touch other people with your eyes. That last one is generally a good bit of advice at any time. If that has drastically freed up time for your eyes, then direct them towards this edition of The Nightcap, our weekly round-up of the news from the booze world. Stay safe, folks. And for goodness’ sake, wash your hands.

On the blog this week, Ian Buxton returned to cast an eye at the biggest whisky market of all, before Kristy reminded us Mother’s Day is on the horizon. Don’t panic, though, she’s got you covered with this selection of delightfully boozy gifts. Adam was then on-hand to make sure you squeeze in some St. Patrick’s Day celebrations next week, and was feeling so patriotic that he even recommended a new Irish whiskey that has just landed at MoM Towers for our New Arrival of the Week. He then found time to talk Johnnie Walker Highballs with whisky ambassador Ali Reynolds, who was joined on the MoM blog this week by Scottish singer Kerri Watt and then Cointreau master distiller Carole Quinton. Annie then picked out five unmissable audiophile bars, while Henry suggested a great serve for those who like a cocktail that’s simple but sublime: The Kir

Don’t forget you’ve still got time to enter our competition to win an incredible VIP trip to the home of J.J. Corry! Now, onto The Nightcap!

The Nightcap

Here’s to Duncan

Former Bruichladdich manager Duncan McGillivray passes away

Incredibly sad news to open The Nightcap with this week. Duncan McGillivray, the man who worked at Islay’s Bruichladdich for almost half a century and was a compelling force in bringing the distillery back to life, passed away aged 68. He dedicated so much of his life to Bruichladdich and the wider island, and his loss will be felt keenly across the whisky world and beyond. He first joined the distillery as a trainee stillman back in 1974, then became a brewer in 1977. The distillery was mothballed in 1994, but he re-joined the team in 2001 when it was reopened by its new owners. “Looking back to 2001, the Bruichladdich re-birth seemed a dream too far; this was a time when distilleries where still being closed, a far cry from today,” said Simon Coughlin, a friend of Duncan’s, a Bruichladdich founding member, and now head of whisky for parent company, Rémy Cointreau. “If it was not for the patience of Duncan and his unwavering commitment to the cause (even if he thought we were mad sometimes!) we would not be here today.” He also said: “His influence and association with the distillery go back almost 50 years and, put simply, the resurrection of Bruichladdich and much of the success that has followed would not have been possible without the dedication of Duncan. Selfless, hard-working, gentle, determined and funny… and that’s just for starters. Everyone at Bruichladdich and those that enjoy any of our spirits can raise a glass today to thank this wonderful man.” We have our own memories of Duncan. On a 2015 visit to the distillery, our Kristy recalls a warehouse tasting with him. “He had such an incredible energy, was full of passion for the whisky, and was just so generous with his knowledge. And with the whisky… he filled our Glencairn glasses almost to the brim straight from the cask with a valinch. It was hilariously impractical. Let’s just say the pours were not delicate, but Duncan’s glee to be sharing these samples was clear to see. He was such a character.” We know what will be in our glasses this evening. Here’s to Duncan.

The Nightcap

Thanks for everything, Mickey!

Mickey Heads from Ardbeg retires

Sticking with Islay for a moment, and there’s double Ardbeg news this week: the distillery has released its first beer, and we have just heard that the much-loved and admired manager at the distillery, Mickey Heads, will be retiring in October. We’ve been assured that the two events are not related. Under his watch, Ardbeg picked up more Whisky of the Year and Distillery of the Year accolades than any previous manager. He has spent his whole working life on Islay and Jura, taking on the coveted role at Ardbeg in 2007. Mickey Heads said: “Being at the helm of Ardbeg for 13 years has been a great privilege. The whisky we make here is of wonderful quality, and being part of the team that creates it is fantastic. Ardbeg has such a long history, I’ve always seen myself as a custodian carrying it forward for the next generation. So, you just do it as well as you can, and with as much passion as you can.” Thomas Moradpour, CEO of The Glenmorangie Company, said: “Mickey Heads is a hugely respected figure in the world of single malt whisky and will be sorely missed by Ardbeggians everywhere. There cannot be many distillery managers who combine such a wealth of knowledge, depth of passion and warmth of welcome. On behalf of everybody who has had the pleasure of meeting or working with Mickey, I want to express gratitude for all his hard work in maintaining the quality and reputation of the Ardbeg brand. His successor will have a hard act to follow.” Thanks for all the whisky, Mickey!

The Nightcap

If you’re having whisky this good launched in your honour, you know you’ve had a great career

Johnnie Walker launches Master’s Ruby Reserve 

When you’re an OBE-honoured master blender with a remarkable career spanning four decades, there’s really only one way to celebrate your legacy properly, with delicious whisky! That’s exactly what Johnnie Walker has done for Dr. Jim Beveridge’s with its latest release, Master’s Ruby Reserve. Said to be made from “some of the finest Scotch in the Johnnie Walker reserves”, the expression is composed of eight rare whiskies that are at least forty years old from ‘ghost’ distilleries of Cambus, Carsebridge, Pittyvaich and Port Ellen as well as Talisker, Royal Lochnagar, Glendullan and Cragganmore. The good doctor personally selected all the whiskies and chose ones that evoked his earliest whisky-making memories in an attempt to create a Scotch whisky that provides a window into his distinguished career. “Every whisky that has gone into the creation of this new expression holds a special place in my heart. I worked at each of these distilleries during various points of my career and the flavours and smells of those whiskies transport me back to very happy times throughout my career at Johnnie Walker,” said Beveridge. “The ‘ghost’ whiskies from Cambus, Carsebridge and Pittyvaich bring layers of rich fruit flavour. We’ve combined this with the flavours of dark chocolate, plums and cherries found in the wonderfully aged expressions of Royal Lochnagar, Glendullan and Cragganmore and the soft aromatic sea salt notes of Talisker and Port Ellen – creating a beautiful, full-bodied whisky.” The celebratory limited-edition was bottled at 43% ABV and will retail for £15,000 exclusively through DFS duty free stores, so if you’re in the market, you’ll have to pack your bags. Only 398 bottles are being released in hand-crafted golden-red Baccarat crystal decanters as a tribute to Beveridge’s ruby anniversary. Fancy stuff.

The Nightcap

Glenmorangie wants to do its bit for this majestic creature

Save the giraffe, drink Glenmorangie

The giraffe is the mascot of Glenmorangie on account of its enormously tall stills. Now, the distillery is doing something to help preserve these most majestic of creatures whose numbers have fallen by 30% in the last 30 years. Glenmorangie has announced a three-year partnership with the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF) and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) which will help protect them in the wild, but also provide a place for them at Edinburgh Zoo. Much of the work will be focused in Uganda where half the world’s critically-endangered Nubian giraffes live, and will include protecting the animals from poaching and loss of habitat. Thomas Moradpour, president and chief executive of The Glenmorangie Company and back for a second turn in the Nightcap this week, said: “For 175 years we have created whisky, in stills as high as an adult giraffe, the tallest in Scotland. Over time, this majestic animal has become a beloved symbol of our brand. It seems only right that we should channel our passion for this animal into our new global conservation partnership with GCF and RZSS. Together, we will work to protect giraffes in the wild and shine a light on their predicament before it’s too late.” So your dram will be doing good as well as tasting good.

The Nightcap

The World Class GB Final 2019 wasn’t much more diverse…

Diageo Reserve reveals World Class GB bartenders… just 9% are women

It’s that time of year again – Diageo Reserve’s World Class bartender competition is ramping up! After a record-breaking digital entry stage (more than 450 people threw their hat into the ring), The World Class GB Top 100 has been revealed – and it’s a glittering who’s-who of the current UK bartending scene. Those on the list are now required to submit their next online entry by 6 April, ahead of an in-bar judging stage. This is when stuff really gets serious, as the 100 are whittled down to 20. But there’s one small problem. We say small, it’s actually pretty sizeable, and blindingly obvious when you take in the list. Just nine people in the top 100 are women. To put that in context (as if any more is required), there are more men on that list named some variation of Matthew or Michael (we counted. There’s 11.). Clearly something has gone amiss. Could it be that for some reason, significantly fewer women bartenders decided to take part? It’s definitely possible. And it may be the sole explanation. Or are women not progressing in cocktail competitions? If not, why not? We asked Diageo Reserve Talisker and World Class ambassador Jason Clark for his take: “Now in its twelfth year, World Class was created as a platform for everyone. Our aim is to educate and encourage all bartenders to become part of our community, to challenge themselves and compete to be the very best they can be. All entries for the competition are judged blind and based purely on the drink submission. Last year we had women finishing in third and fourth place overall and, over the GB competition’s history, we’ve had many exceptional female bartenders enter and reach the finals. We continue to look at ways to celebrate women in the industry and we can’t wait to see what the next stage of the competition holds.” One thing’s for sure – if we want to see more women reach the top of the game in the bar industry, something’s got to give.

 

The Nightcap

The Italian liqueur based around the brilliance of bergamot

Pernod Ricard splashes out on Italicus aperitivo

Just last week drinks mega-group Pernod Ricard got its wallet out to invest in Japan’s first gin producer, The Kyoto Distillery. Well, it’s a case of another week, another transaction! This time it’s bergamot-infused aperitivo Italicus that’s joining the Pernod portfolio. The 20% ABV product is described as ‘distinguishable yet versatile’, and has already become a bartender favourite since it was founded by Italian spirits expert Giuseppe Gallo in 2016. Pernod Ricard hasn’t shared the financial details of the deal, or whether the ‘strategic partnership’ – as they call it – includes any level of acquisition, but Gallo will remain the active CEO going forward. “Since its launch, the brand has experienced success with both the on-trade and consumers, and it is now time to consolidate with this heavyweight strategic partner in order to accelerate our global distribution,” he said. “We have an ambitious plan to build Italicus into one of the world’s most successful aperitivo brands.” Gilles Bogaert, chairman and CEO of Pernod Ricard EMEA-LatAm, added: “We are thrilled to add Italicus to the Pernod Ricard portfolio and for the Group to help drive its future development.” The future’s bright, the future’s bergamot-scented.

The Nightcap

Teeling is bringing its own brand of Paddy’s Day celebrations to London

Teeling bring St Paddy’s Celebrations to London

You may have heard of the luck of the Irish, now it’s time to show your love of the Irish! This St Patrick’s Day, Teeling Whiskey is bringing the Spirit of Dublin to London, in a special all-Irish celebration at Milroy’s of Spitalfields. And what a night it promises to be, with Irish fiddlers, food for the nibblers, Celtic cocktails, and of course some delicious Irish drams. And the best part of all (apart from the whisky of course…) is that the entry is free! Milroy’s doors will open at 6pm, we’ll see you there! Obviously in the current environment do check back nearer the time for confirmation that the event will go ahead. But you can still mark your diaries for St Patrick’s Day. Pop a bottle of Teeling in your basket now to make sure you can still sip along and celebrate, even if it’s at home, on 17 March!

The Nightcap

Joe Fattorini, wine merchant and TV presenter, has campaigned for lower wine taxes

Drinks industry reacts to duty freeze

It’s been a tough year for the drinks industry with trade tariffs, Brexit uncertainty and now the Coronavirus, but there was some good news as Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announced a freeze in alcohol duty rates in Britain, a country with some of the highest drink taxes in the world. Joe Fattorini, wine merchant and TV presenter, who has been campaigning for a lowering of such taxes, commented: “The recognition by the Chancellor that wine is the nation’s favourite alcoholic drink and therefore shouldn’t be singled out for tax rises is welcome news for the 33 million wine fans in the UK. Now it’s time to go one step further and cut back wine tax in the coming year.” But it wasn’t just the wine trade celebrating (responsibly, natch).  Dayalan Nayager from Diageo said: “We welcome the Chancellor’s duty freeze which will provide much-needed stability in these difficult times for the industry. We are delighted that he announced his intention to reform the duty system to bring fairness for gin and Scotch whisky, which should ensure that these iconic homegrown products no longer face punitive levels of tax.” But Karen Betts, chief executive of the SWA (Scotch Whisky Association), thinks that more needs to be done: “Our industry needs continued support, through the upcoming review of UK alcohol taxation and while our exports remain subject to US tariffs. The fact remains that duty on spirits in the UK is already very high and puts Scotch whisky at a competitive disadvantage to wine, beer and cider, with £3 in every £4 spent on an average-price bottle of Scotch whisky going to the government in tax”. Regular readers, however, will only really want to know what Nightcap favourite Miles Beale thinks. Well, the chief executive of the WSTA had this to say:  “While he has not cut duty, it is reassuring to see that in his first Budget as Chancellor, Rishi Sunak MP, has taken steps to address the UK’s excessively high duty rates. He has shown he is in touch with British consumers – from all walks of life – who want to enjoy a drink without getting stung by further tax hikes. We will all raise a glass to the Chancellor tonight, who has recognised that everyone benefits from a freeze, including the Treasury.” We’ll raise a glass with you, Miles!

The Nightcap

The study found millennials and Gen Zers prefer a traditional boozer

Millennials and Gen Zers’ perfect pub revealed?

It’s fair to say that in the last half-a-century or so, quite a bit has changed. We can carry our phones with us wherever we go, fax machines are something of an urban myth, and you can’t even smoke indoors anymore! Despite this (or perhaps because of it), a recent study by SpareRoom found out that, when it comes to pubs, millennials and Gen Zers are most fond of your traditional boozer. And you can wave goodbye to millennial pink. 60% of 18 to 34-year-olds prefer your traditional wooden interior, complete with fireplaces and period fixtures, with 70% preferring wooden flooring to the carpet (though we don’t think it’s just millennials that feel this way…). But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. It’s not a total step back in time that the younger generations are after. 62% prefer speedy card payments to cash, and 41% want free wifi along with their wooden beams. The humble pint has even lost its place as the drink of choice, with 49% saying that spirits are their go-to tipple. Perhaps even more interestingly, 45% say that low-alcohol serves are their top choice when taking a trip to their local! It just goes to show that even though younger generations value a trip down memory lane, if there’s not a charging point then… you’ve gone too far.

The Belloni, named in honour of Virgina Woolf’s sister, artist Vanessa Bell

And finally. . . . literature you can drink at the Academy Hotel

Books and booze go way back, from the Bible through to Shakespeare, not forgetting Dorothy Parker’s quip about her favourite drink: ‘I like to have a Martini, two at the very most. After three I’m under the table, after four I’m under my host’. Now the Academy Hotel is celebrating this special relationship with a series of cocktails inspired by that most literary part of London (and the hotel’s location): Bloomsbury. There’s The Lighthouse to honour Virginia Woolf made with Tanqueray Gin, one for her husband called the Old Fashioned Leonard made with Woodford Reserve bourbon, and, keeping it in the family, a Belloni, a take on the Negroni paying homage to her sister, the painter Vanessa Bell. According to the press bumf all the drinks are “created especially using the finest ingredients and hand-selected garnish”. No machines picking the garnishes at the Academy. No sir!

No Comments on The Nightcap: 13 March

Master of Malt tastes. . . Ardbeg Blaaack

Today we had an advance sniff of a special limited edition Ardbeg (that’s available later this year) inspired by the enormous number of sheep in New Zealand so it’s aged…

Today we had an advance sniff of a special limited edition Ardbeg (that’s available later this year) inspired by the enormous number of sheep in New Zealand so it’s aged in Pinot Noir casks. How bizarre! 

Some distilleries have fan clubs. Arbeg has the Ardbeg Committee which was founded in 2000 and now has 120,000 members in 140 countries around the world. It functions as a testing board for new expressions as well as a highly engaged organisation with members who attend tastings, give feedback, visit the distillery and generally spread the word. Last year when we spoke with Brendan McCarron, head of maturing whisky stocks for the Glenmorangie Company, he said: “the purpose of the Ardbeg Committee is to make sure that the distillery never closes its doors again. It’s had a complicated turbulent history, opening and closing its doors. It’s the Committee that will keep the doors open way into the future.”  

Brendan McCarron Ardbeg

Brendan McCarron. always on brand

To celebrate 20 years of the Committee, Ardbeg is launching a new limited edition expression. It’s inspired by the country that’s about as far away from Scotland as its possible to get, a country where there’s seven sheep for every one person: New Zealand. And what else is New Zealand famous for? Rugby! Yes, but also wine. So this latest limited edition is finished in Pinot Noir casks. It’s called Ardbeg Blaaack in honour of all those sheep though why didn’t they call it Ardbeg All Blaaaack and get the rugby in there too? Missing a trick there Ardbeg. 

Mickey Heads, Ardbeg distillery manager, said: “In every corner, of every far-flung place, you’ll find an Ardbeg Committee member. For 20 years they’ve been proudly demonstrating their black-sheep behaviour. Ardbeg Blaaack is the best possible way to pay tribute to our tearaway fans who, like us, are shorn to be wild!” 

McCarron wouldn’t share the exact cask make-up of this new expression when we contacted him, only to say that the core is aged in Pinot Noir casks for a good long time. This isn’t no short dip. Dr Bill Lumsden, Ardbeg director of whisky creation, commented: “Ardbeg Blaaack knits together velvety summer fruit pudding and bitter cherry, with a deeper edge of soot and Ardbeg’s hallmark smoke. It’s the perfect dram for toasting our legendary committee.” 

That’s the Committee edition. Fancy!

Two versions have been made, a Committee version bottled at 50.7% ABV, and a general public one at 46% ABV. Both will retail for around £94. Initially it will only be available from 3 March for Committee Members (there is still time to join before this date). Everyone else will have to wait until Ardbeg Day, 30 May, when it will be launched at Fèis Ìle and available from Master of Malt. So, you’ll have to wait to taste it, we’re afraid. But lucky us, we were given a tiny wee sample to taste, so here to tantalise you is what we thought:

Ardbeg Blaaack Tasting Note:

Nose: You can really smell the cask influence. The first thing that comes off are dark cherries with some peachy notes underneath followed by classic Ardbeg aromas of smoked meat and old fireplaces. A splash of water brings out cedar and some volcanic notes.

Palate: Fiery and spicy initially, then those cherries again with limes lurking underneath with wood smoke underlying it all.

Finish: Lick of dark chocolate, single espresso and wafts and wafts of wood smoke. 

 

 

1 Comment on Master of Malt tastes. . . Ardbeg Blaaack

These were the most read posts of the year

By popular demand, it’s time to look back at our most-read blog posts of 2019. Well, maybe there hasn’t been that much demand, but we’re interested, so here they are,…

By popular demand, it’s time to look back at our most-read blog posts of 2019. Well, maybe there hasn’t been that much demand, but we’re interested, so here they are, the posts that grabbed your attention this year. 

It’s that time of the year when we look back at the year in booze. And what a year it’s been with trade wars, ghost distillery revivals and the SWA getting all funky with new cask types. There’s four words you never expect to see in one sentence, Scotch Whisky Association and funky. From crunching the numbers, it’s clear that what you, dear reader, love is whisky. Whether it’s whisky news, whisky comment or whisky snark, all the top posts this year are about whisky. So here they are in ascending order of popularity:

Jim Murray

You can bet that dear old Jim will be in here somewhere

Number 10:

The Macallan unveils new expression: The Macallan Estate  – A new Macallan expression is always of interest. And this latest release is particularly special being made from barley grown on the Macallan estate. 

Number 9:

Unusual Scotch ahoy! SWA widens permissible cask types – In June the Scotch Whisky Association revised it rules to allow new types of casks for maturing Scotch whisky including Tequila, mezcal, Calvados and Baijiu barrels. 

Number 8: 

Was Glenfiddich really the first ever single malt whisky? – Here our columnist Ian Buxton pulls apart some rather outlandish PR claims from Glenfiddich.

Number 7: 

Diageo Special Releases 2019 details are here! – It’s that wondrous time of the year when Diageo releases some rare and unusual whiskies from its unparalleled portfolio of distilleries. 

Number 6: 

Our take on booze trends for 2019! – Here MoM editor Kristiane Sherry peers into her crystal ball to see what we would be drinking in 2019. You can see here how much she got right. 

Number 5: 

1792 Full Proof is Jim Murray’s World Whisky of the Year 2020 – Another perennial popular event, the release of Jim Murray’s new guide and the crowning of a new World Whisky of the Year.

Number 4:

Behold: Fancy Brora 40-Year-Old 200th Anniversary incoming! – With Brora due to come back on stream in 2020, we had an opportunity to try a very special old expression to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the distillery.

Number 3:

The Balvenie Stories launches with three special whiskies – Three key figures at Balvenie have each created a whisky to celebrate human tales of endeavour, craft and surprise.

Number 2:

Ardbeg adds 19 year old expression to core range – A new core addition to the Ardbeg range is always going to be of interest so no wonder that this is the second most read post of the year.

And at number 1 

Tears before bedtime: are we heading for a whisky crash? – It’s Ian Buxton again, and apparently “we’re dooooomed!”

 

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Master of Malt tastes… Ardbeg Traigh Bhan 19 Year Old!

Check out our swanky new video of us tasting a new Ardbeg expression and having a chat with Brendan McCarron… Back in September, we sent a team from MoM Towers…

Check out our swanky new video of us tasting a new Ardbeg expression and having a chat with Brendan McCarron…

Back in September, we sent a team from MoM Towers north to Edinburgh. We had received word that a certain Islay distillery had something special to show us. It wasn’t wrong. We were covering the launch of Ardbeg Traigh Bhan 19 Year Old.

New Ardbeg is always exciting. But this expression was a whole other level of awesome. It’s the distillery’s first permanent age-stated whisky in nearly 20 years, joining Ardbeg 10 Year Old, a booze which has become a must-have for fans of all things peated. It’s fair to say we jumped at the chance to give it a try and find out more.

Our host was Brendan McCarron, head of maturing stocks at The Glenmorangie Company. He talked us through the creation of Ardbeg Traigh Bhan 19 Year Old, why the Traigh Bhan beach on Islay, also known as the Singing Sands, was an inspiration, how the dram retained that quintessential Ardbeg profile and more.

So, what are you waiting for? Click on the video below and enjoy! Oh, and in case you were struggling, it’s pronounced something like ‘Tri-Van’.

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The Nightcap: 4 October

The world of booze doesn’t stop producing news, so we don’t stop rounding it all up into one handy blog for you to take into the weekend – it’s The…

The world of booze doesn’t stop producing news, so we don’t stop rounding it all up into one handy blog for you to take into the weekend – it’s The Nightcap!

Greetings, friend. I hope you’re sitting uncomfortably, be it on your sofa, armchair, or beanbag if that’s how you choose to live your life. We’ve reached October, and everyone knows October is the scariest month of the year for a variety of reasons. The first Thursday of October is National Poetry Day, meaning all the terrible poems you wrote as a teenager will somehow find their way on to the internet without you knowing. Horrifying. The clocks go back one hour on the last Sunday of October, which means an extra hour for malevolent stripy-jumper-wearing spectres with pointy gloves to run amok in your nightmares. And of course, Halloween. But you know what’s not scary? Your weekly bundle of booze news – The Nightcap!

So, what’s occurred already this week at MoM Towers? Well, it was announced that our beloved Scotch whisky would be hit by US tariffs, a subject that Ian Buxton tackled on his return, who had small distillers on his mind. Adam had some good news to celebrate at least, as he tasted the newly launched Midleton Very Rare 2019 and then previewed the wonderful London Cocktail Week, which starts today! Annie Hayes continued the good vibes by showcasing not one, but three brilliant Balcones bottlings for our New Arrival of the Week before she enjoyed an Aged Botanical Spirit from the fab folk at the lovely (but hard to pronounce) Nc’nean. Henry, meanwhile, was in high spirits as he explored the use the CBD-infused rum from Dead Man’s Fingers as the base for a cocktail, the Hemp Highball. Oh, and Dram Club returned!

Don’t forget there’s still time to enter our competition to win a VIP trip to Kingsbarns whisky distillery! Now, on to The Nightcap!

The Nightcap

Italian-inspired all-day restaurant-bar Dante was victorious!

New York’s Dante named World’s Best Bar at 50 Best

Last night was a glitzy affair for all in the drinks world – The World’s 50 Best Bars ceremony took place in London! And top of the crop for 2019? New York’s Italy-inspired all-day restaurant-bar Dante! The watering hole climbed a huge eight places since last year – enormous congrats to the team, led by Linden Pride, Nathalie Hudson and Naren Young. Second place was London’s sleek, chic Connaught Bar, while Florería Atlántico, Buenos Aires’ celebration of all things Argentina, scooped the bronze medal. All in all, there were 17 new entries, with 15 debutants. The UK accounted for 10 of the World’s Best, with the USA fielding seven. In total, bars hailed from 26 cities spanning 21 countries – we highly recommend checking out the full list if you’re making any kind of travel plans. The 50 Best Bars list is decided by a cohort of drinks writers, bartenders and other cocktail aficionados from around the world, who must have visited each of the seven bars they vote for (including three outside their home country) at least once in the past 18 months. “Huge congratulations to all bars that have been included on this year’s list,” said William Drew, Director of Content for The World’s 50 Best Bars. “This list is a reflection of the open and diverse nature of the international bar scene today.” Cheers to that!

The Nightcap

Congratulations Kirsteen!

New master whisky maker at The Macallan

It’s just been announced that Kirtseen Campbell has landed one of the biggest jobs in Scotch – master whisky maker at The Macallan. She will lead the six-strong ‘whisky mastery team’, as it’s grandly known. Campbell, who is from Thurso, joined Edrington, Macallan’s parent company, in 2007 and has worked on such prestigious brands as Cutty Sark, Famous Grouse and Glenrothes. She holds a diploma in distilling and has also worked at the Scotch Whisky Research Institute. Campbell commented: “I feel a real sense of honour and pride to be entrusted as the custodian of The Macallan. Having been a part of the wider Edrington whisky making team for over a decade, I’m really looking forward to working more closely with the team at The Macallan.” Igor Boyadjian, managing director, The Macallan, said: “It is with great pleasure that we welcome Kirsteen Campbell to the position of master whisky maker at The Macallan. Kirsteen will join the whisky mastery team and together they will use their skills and craft to continue to create and enhance our exceptional portfolio of whiskies.” Congratulations, and we’re looking forward to trying those whiskies.

The Nightcap

Welcome back Ardbeg Supernova!

Prepare for a close encounter with Ardbeg Supernova

It’s been four whole years since we’ve seen a bottling of Ardbeg Supernova, a whisky which has elevated the phrase ‘out of this world’ to a whole new level. The Supernova Series is a collection of limited edition Committee bottlings first released in 2009 to celebrate the groundbreaking Ardbeg space experiment. What experiment, you ask? Oh, just that time when Ardbeg sent up a vial of whisky which orbited the earth for three years aboard the International Space Station, making Ardbeg become the first whisky brand in space. Yeah, that experiment. It’s also the peatiest expression to come from the Islay distillery. “The way the flavours build and build and then explode in a burst of pungent peat and smoke is truly astonishing,” says Dr Bill Lumsden, Director of Distilling, Whisky Creation and Whisky Stocks says of the most recent bottling. Supernova 2019 was released to members of the Ardbeg Committee on 2 October, and Mickey Heads, Ardbeg Distillery Manager notes that “Supernova 2019 is the fifth edition in the series, and I’m sure it will be snatched up in no time at all.” All good things must come to an end, and Ardbeg has confirmed that this is the last Supernova expression to land on earth’s shores. Although, the previous Supernova bottling in 2015 was also described as the final expression… Just saying.

The Nightcap

The bottling is a tribute to Ian Hunter, the last of the founding Johnston family to run the Laphroaig Distillery

Laphroaig unveils The Ian Hunter series

Exciting news from Laphroaig! This week the Islay distillery announced a new series of whiskies honouring the legacy of Ian Hunter, the last of the founding Johnston family to run the Laphroaig Distillery. Each limited edition annual release will be set into a book that will document a part of Hunter’s legacy. One of Hunter’s most notable successes was managing to sell Laphroaig to America during Prohibition, doing so under the guise of medicine. The inaugural release, Book One: ‘Unique Character’ (its full name) has been revealed, a 30-year-old whisky reflecting the characters of both Hunter and Laphroaig. It’s aged in first-fill American white oak bourbon barrels, a decision which is fairly obvious, as it was Hunter who introduced American oak casks to the Laphroaig maturation process. “If you visit the Laphroaig Distillery today its clear to see the impact of Ian Hunter through the practices and innovations that are still followed. For good reason, Ian is credited as the pioneer and innovator of this incredible whisky,” John Campbell, Laphroaig distillery manager, comments. “Without Ian, the Laphroaig we know today would not exist, so we have much to thank him for. It is this legacy that we celebrate throughout the series.” You can be sure that Book One will be landing on MoM shores very soon, though you’ll have to wait until 2020 for Book Two.

Sustainable surfs up at Old Pulteney

Following in the footsteps of the announcement last week that the Pulteney Distillery has teamed up with acclaimed wildlife cameraman Doug Allan, comes some even more exciting news from mainland Scotland’s second most northern distillery. For the second instalment of Old Pulteney’s ‘Rise with the Tide’ campaign, the distillery has collaborated with Sustainable Surf, a California-based non-profit founded in 2011 by Michael Steward and Kevin Whilden that encourages surfers to be more environmentally aware. You might be surprised from watching Point Break or listening to the Beach Boys, that modern surfboards are not good for the ocean. Steward filled us in: “We’re stoked to be collaborating with Old Pulteney to have this platform for sharing our story. When we first jump-started the movement for building dramatically more ocean-friendly surfboards about a decade ago in California, no one knew what an “Ecoboard” was – now you can buy a certified ‘ECOBOARD’ from over 250 participating brands all around the globe, and the world’s top professional surfers are using them in competition on the world stage and winning!” Malcolm Waring, Pulteney distillery manager, commented: “Kevin and Michael know all about the power and rewards of the sea, and that’s a value we hold dear here at Pulteney. They work tirelessly to harness the power of the global surfing community to protect the future of their ocean playground. They changed the game by recognising that their sport can be used as a platform to encourage a more sustainable, eco-friendly way of life.”

The Nightcap

Look, it’s Schofield’s Dry Vermouth!

Asterley Bros team up with Joe Schofield for new vermouth

This week we zipped up to London for the launch of a delish new vermouth – and it was well worth the trip. Joe Schofield, perhaps best known for his time at Singapore’s highly acclaimed Tippling Club bar, has teamed up with the actual brothers at Asterley Bros to create something mighty delicious indeed: Schofield’s Dry Vermouth! It’s a tasty concoction of all things quintessentially English, including a base wine made with English Bacchus, along with botanicals like rose, chamomile, jasmine, coriander and yarrow (and a whole load more, too). “I want to drive the dry vermouth market a little bit – put a bit of an interesting take on that,” Schofield told us as we sat down to enjoy a Four Leaf Clover serve during the event at Three Sheets (50ml of the vermouth, four mint leaves and 10ml elderflower liqueur, stirred in a highball and topped with soda, in case you were wondering). It’s 16% ABV, vegan, and the bottle even comes with a handy QR code so you can access more low(er) ABV serves if you like. We approve – keep an eye on the New Arrivals page and our social channels for more updates!

The Nightcap

The spectacular addition will mean more delicious Tequila, including aged expressions!

Patrón adds the Francisco Alcaraz Barrel Room to Hacienda

Hacienda Patrón has a swanky new addition that it’s keen to show off: a state-of-the-art aged barrel room. Two times the size of the present barrel room, it will allow for an increase in production of current expressions and continued innovation of the brand’s aged Tequila portfolio. The 16,850 square foot expansion provides more space to run ageing trials and Hacienda Patrón will store over 20,000 barrels of Tequila between both barrel rooms combined. The new building also features an upstairs tasting room for educational sessions, and an underground private bar, La Cava, an exclusive speakeasy bar, available for select VIP guests featuring a custom cocktail menu developed by head mixologist Oskar Murillo. “At Patrón we don’t cut any corners and we completely understand that aged Tequilas require patience to achieve greatness,” said Antonio Rodriguez, director of production. “The new Francisco Alcaraz Barrel Room gives us the capacity we need not only to increase the production of our current portfolio but to keep experimenting and create new innovations under different conditions. This expansion allows us to increase our Tequila production and provides another opportunity to continue to educate our guests at Hacienda Patrón through guided tastings in the new tasting room. Through a hands-on and interactive experience, guests will have the ability to fully understand the many nuances, variables and complexities of ageing Tequila.” Hacienda Patrón is located in the Highlands (Los Altos) of Jalisco and also features distillery buildings, a liquor facility, environmental areas, gardens, and a luxury 20-room guesthouse. Anyone else suddenly feel like they need a vacation? I hear Mexico is nice…

The Nightcap

Any excuse for a rum-based party…

Angostura brings Trinidad to London for one night only

Our job is booze but even we find it hard to keep up with all the various special days, weeks, months and even years of something or other. July was Rum Month, 16 August was National Rum Day and now, according to the House of Angostura, National Rum Week is coming up later this month. Still, any excuse for a party. And what a party the Trinidadian company has for you. It’s turning 640 East at the Arches in Bethnal Green, London into a West Indian Carnival on 17 October and you’re invited. Tickets cost £10 and include two cocktails made with Angostura bitters, rum and/or amaro by top drinks team Wet & Dry. And to get you in the mood there will be calypso, soca and live drumming from Just Vibez. Head over to the Angostura Global Facebook page for more information. Rainy autumn in London suddenly looks a whole lot hotter.

The Nightcap

What could be better than cheering on London Irish while enjoying Irish whiskey?

St. Patrick’s Distillery official whiskey of London Irish

There’s a Rugby World Cup on, in case you hadn’t heard, and what better time for St. Patrick’s Distillery to announce a partnership with everyone’s favourite London Irish rugby team, London Irish! The distillery (which we wrote about earlier in the year) is now the official whiskey supplier to the team and will sponsor the Man of the Match award at home games. Afsun Smith from Moonshine Inc Ltd, St. Patrick’s UK distributor, said: “We are proud to be partnering up with London Irish. Their core values mirrors ours: the pursuit of excellence, the love of a sporting life, a dedication to the community, and a superior offering. It’s a perfect match.” Sam Windridge from London Irish added: “We are delighted to be working with St. Patrick’s for this season and look forward to offering our adult supporters their fantastic range of products.” So now you can enjoy a drop of the Irish while you cheer on London Irish.

The Nightcap

Not wine. Not gin. Beer reigns supreme still in the UK

And finally… Beer remains the UK’s most popular alcoholic drink

If you’ve heard enough about the gin boom in the last few years to last you a lifetime, then this news may come as a surprise: beer is in fact Britain’s most popular alcoholic drink! Thanks to the British Beer & Pub Association’s (BBPA) latest handbook, we can pour you some boozy facts. As a nation, we enjoyed an eye-watering 8.5 billion pints in 2018, compared to only a measly 7.4 billion glasses of wine. However, the slightly disheartening news from the findings revealed that beer is majorly overtaxed in the UK. Apparently, unwitting Britons are paying 11 times more duty than beer lovers in Germany or Spain! All is not lost though, as the BBPA is backing a campaign calling on the Chancellor to cut beer tax. Surely that’s worth raising a pint!

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Ardbeg adds 19 year old expression to core range

Sound the Exciting Malt Klaxon (we do actually have one at MoM HQ), a new Ardbeg has (nearly) arrived! It’s called Traigh Bhan, it’s 19 years old, and, best of…

Sound the Exciting Malt Klaxon (we do actually have one at MoM HQ), a new Ardbeg has (nearly) arrived! It’s called Traigh Bhan, it’s 19 years old, and, best of all, it’s here to stay.

A new whisky from Ardbeg is always an occasion, but the new Traigh Bhan (pronounced ‘Tri-Van’, we’ve been reliably informed) is doubly exciting. Firstly because of its age (it’s 19 years old. NINETEEN), and secondly because it joins 10 Year OldAn OaUigeadail and Corryvreckan as a permanent addition to the range. In the past we’ve been told that though Ardbeg would like to offer a permanent older age statement whisky, it simply does not have the stock. The plan is to make up a batch of Traigh Bhan each year which will be available in limited quantities. Each batch will be slightly different and have a unique code so that Arbeg aficionados can find out more about the liquid in their bottle. 

Dr Bill Lumsden, director of distilling, whisky creation & whisky stocks, said: “A new, permanent aged Ardbeg is a rare occurrence, and cause for celebration. We hope that, by slightly tweaking the batch recipe year-on-year, Ardbeggians can have some fun exploring the finer details of this ever-changing dram. As far as taste goes, this 19 year old whisky plunges the palate into notes of smoky pineapple and aromatic wood smoke, with a sweet mouthfeel of smoked chilli chocolate and paprika. The intense notes then peter out through a long, smoky finish.”

Traigh Bhan, the name comes from a beach on Islay known by locals as The Singing Sands, is aged in a mixture of American oak and oloroso sherry casks, and is bottled at 46.2% ABV. The tantalising tasting notes from Ardbeg make it sound like quite the event: “its exquisite taste crescendo is a rush like a surf of salt, smoke, sweet and sour” and “newly-planed oak and supple dark leather sing to your soul as sweet toffee and liquorice draw you in.” Blimey! We can’t wait to try it. 

RRP is £169. Master of Malt’s allocation will go on pre-sale shortly with delivery to customers in mid-September. We have more information about Traigh Bhan as well as interviews with the Ardbeg team coming up. Watch this space.

Traigh Bhan 19 Years Old, the newest addition to the Ardbeg family

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We put your Ardbeg questions to Mickey Heads!

Join us as we put your questions about Ardbeg to distillery manager Mickey Heads during Fèis Ìle 2019! Hurrah for Ardbeg Day! We marked the occasion by heading to the…

Join us as we put your questions about Ardbeg to distillery manager Mickey Heads during Fèis Ìle 2019!

Hurrah for Ardbeg Day! We marked the occasion by heading to the distillery and asking Mickey Heads YOUR questions! Want to see all the Q&As from the island? Check out the Fèis Ìle tag on the blog or follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram! (@masterofmalt, if you didn’t know.)

Ardbeg Mickey Heads

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The Nightcap: 21 June

Record-breaking distillery visits, 100 years of the Negroni, and Sex on the Beach – it’s all here in the latest edition of The Nightcap! It’s sunny outside. Not that fake…

Record-breaking distillery visits, 100 years of the Negroni, and Sex on the Beach – it’s all here in the latest edition of The Nightcap!

It’s sunny outside. Not that fake ‘sunny but when to step outside you’ll curse the sky for tricking you into leaving a jacket indoors’ kind of sunny. It’s actually warm. Frankly, it’s taking all the power in our hearts to not distractedly write “MILPOOL” on the blog and scamper off into the sun, ice-cream in hand. Do you know why we’re so determined? Because it’s Nightcap day, and you people deserve to know all the stories that happened this week in the booze world. But just know that some of us may have been wearing big, floppy sun hats while putting this blog post together.

On the blog this week our Fèis Ìle 2019 coverage continued as we put your questions to Port Ellen, Lagavulin, Bruichladdich, Caol Ila and Laphroaig. Elsewhere, we announced the winner to our Teeling #BagThisBottle competition, while Nate Brown used his guest column to champion the art of slow drinking. Annie had a busy week, discovering the joys of urban foraging with Bushmills, kegged cocktails and Tequila and tonic. Adam then made J.J. Corry The Battalion, an Irish whiskey with mezcal and Tequila cask influence, the New Arrival of the Week, before Henry chose The Bronx to be our Cocktail of the Week.

Now, let’s take a look at the news!

The Nightcap

There are now 68 Scotch whisky visitor centres open to the public and you had plenty of fun checking them out!

Scotch whisky distillery visits top record 2 million

Did you visit a Scotch whisky distillery last year? If so, you’ve officially helped to set a new record! The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has just released its annual report which shows distillery visitor numbers soared by 6.1% year on year, pushing the total count to more than two million for the first time. That’s a lot of us seeking out Scotch! It’s good news for distilleries, too: the average spend at each one climbed by 12.2% to a combined total of £68.3 million – that’s a lot of whisky, branded Glencairns, hats, cheeses and the like. More than 20 different nationalities were Scotchland-bound last year, with the most whisky tourists coming from Germany and the US. Numbers were up from France, Spain, the Netherlands, India and China, too. As a whole, Scotch distilleries are the third most-visited attraction in all Scotland. “We’re delighted that Scotch whisky distilleries have become such popular places to visit,” said Karen Betts, the SWA’s chief exec. “The growing number of visitors to distilleries reflects in part the growth in tourism in Scotland in general, and people coming to Scotland want to see our local crafts and sample our local food and drink.” She continued: “Distilleries offer something of an antidote to today’s fast-paced world, where visitors can see the slow, careful craft, rooted in a distinct sense of place, that creates Scotch whisky. The growth in whisky tourism is also playing a crucial role in Scotland’s rural economy, with more stays at hotels, more bookings at restaurants, and more customers for local businesses, helping communities to grow and prosper.” Which is your favourite distillery to visit? Where’s top of your dream travel itinerary? Let us know in social or in the comments below!

The Nightcap

Scott McCroskie, Edrington chief executive

Highland Park-owner Edrington celebrates “strong” year

Edrington, which produces and sells the likes of The Macallan, Highland Park, The Glenrothes and The Famous Grouse whiskies, as well as Brugal rum, has released its financial results for the year. And the bean counters are happy! Core revenues from its products climbed by 9% to £679.8 million, while it spent an extra 7% on brand investments (to the tune of £137.3m). The all-important profits were up 4% on 2018 (quite a big deal really when you consider the £140 million cost of that distillery build). Most brands are doing well, with Highland Park and The Glenrothes recognised for their “strong” growth. While The Famous Grouse posted some declines, Edrington said in a statement it increased its market share in a number of places, including the UK. But Brugal was really the star performer, posting “double-digit” growth, mostly through successes in its native Dominican Republic. “The business has delivered strong international growth that reflects continuing consumer demand for our products, particularly in China, South East Asia and the USA, which is the world’s largest market for premium spirits,” noted Scott McCroskie, Edrington chief executive. All systems go at Edrington!

The Nightcap

Congratulations, Cameron!

Cameron Attfield named Diageo Reserve World Class GB

This week, Diageo bestowed the title of Diageo Reserve’s World Class Bartender of the Year 2019 upon Cameron Attfield of Disrepute, London. The competition spanned two days, and the first challenge saw competitors showcase a British ingredient through techniques of flavour extraction or manipulation, creating a serve with Ketel One Vodka as the base spirit. The second challenge required a Singleton whisky serve taking inspiration from a chosen country, using ideas of travel and adventure for the drink. Moving onto the second day, competitors had the chance to take over the World Class bar at Taste of London for the final challenge, the speed round. Let us tell you, it is speedy indeed, with the task of making a round of five cocktails for the judges in just four short minutes. Just imagine if it was always that quick to secure a cocktail! Each serve was drawn from fifteen bespoke World Class classics, ranging from a Don Julio Blanco Paloma to a Bulleit Bourbon Boulevardier. Just to mix things up, one of the five drinks was also selected by an audience member, while the bartenders were asked to tailor the drink to them. Now that’s a true test of audience engagement and hospitality. “We’re absolutely delighted to crown Cameron World Class GB Bartender of the Year 2019 and have every faith in a fantastic performance at this year’s Global Final in Glasgow,” said Jack Sotti, World Class GB Brand Ambassador at Diageo Reserve. Attfield himself added: “I’m over the moon to be crowned this year’s 2019 World Class GB winner. But, it’s not over yet and now my focus will turn to preparing to represent Great Britain in the global final in Glasgow – game on!” Huge congrats, Cameron!

The Nightcap

Swift Bar’s Bobby Hiddleston creating a wood smoke cocktail

Ardbeg launches Masters of Smoke programme

Islay distillery Ardbeg has kicked off a new global campaign to spread the good word about the “delicious possibilities” of smoke. Named Masters of Smoke, the bartender education initiative will deliver training designed to break down the science of smoke with help from a whole range of experts, from barley maltsters to barbecue chefs. We were lucky enough to attend the launch event, which was really something (and, obviously, held in a room filled with smoke). Each component part of the smoke was broken down into a category, including medicinal, coal, herbal, savoury and wood, with each getting their own stand to show off a prepared cocktail and food pairing. It was delightful stuff; you might even go as far to say it was ‘smokin’’ The Mask style (we stand by this joke). “Whisky lovers have long appreciated the peaty power of Ardbeg, but we think there’s an opportunity to further explore the intricacies of smoke as a flavour,” said Ludo Ducrocq, Ardbeg education and advocacy director. “Through Masters of Smoke, we hope to spread the word about the delicious possibilities of smoke through rich, in-depth training which is really rooted in science. From Port Ellen, to Portland, we want to unleash the power and potential of smoke in the on-trade, working with bartenders worldwide to lead a glorious smoky revolution.” Masters of Smoke training sessions will begin from September 2019 and bartenders can register their interest at ardbeg.com/en-gb/mos.

The Nightcap

An artist’s impression of the revamped Clynelish Distillery

Planning permission granted for Clynelish visitor centre

Exciting times at Clynelish as planning permission has been granted for the expansion of visitor facilities at the distillery. This is part of Diageo’s £150m investment in Scottish whisky tourism and as a key part in the Johnnie Walker blend, Clynelish is a natural choice to grow visitor numbers. It sits next to the legendary Brora distillery that Diageo is bringing back into production, so a visit to this part of Scotland will soon be a must for whisky lovers. Jacqueline James-Bow from the distillery said: “This announcement is very exciting and we wish to thank the Highland Council and all our neighbours for their continued support.” Other parts of Diageo’s master plan for whisky tourism include a flagship Johnnie Walker experience in Edinburgh and upgraded facilities at 12 distilleries in total. Clynelish, along with Cardhu, Caol Ila, and Glenkinchie, has been chosen to represent “the four corners of Scotland”, Highland, Speyside, Islay and Lowland. That’s some responsibility.

The Nightcap

London’s Coral Room created an exclusive Negroni menu

The on-trade marks 100 years of the Negroni

In case you haven’t heard, Monday 24 June begins the most exciting week of the year: it’s Negroni Week, of course! What were you thinking? Celebrations are taking place all over the world – unfortunately, we can’t cover them all, so we’ve picked three of our favourites. Firstly, London’s Coral Room has teamed up with Italian dry gin VII Hills to create an exclusive Negroni menu, complete with seven serves. Of course, you can grab a Negroni Classico, or if you’re fancying a twist then perhaps the Negroni Tropicale is for you (it combines coconut and dried pineapple-infused VII Hills Gin with Italicus Rosolio di Bergamatto and Chazalettes Extra Dry). Meanwhile, L’oscar’s The Baptist Bar is launching the Homage to Negroni cocktail menu based around L’oscar’s attributes: Passionate, Theatrical, Bohemian, Seductive and Lavish. The five serves include the Bohemian Americano, made with yoghurt-washed Classic Bitter, Seedlip Spice, Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, soda and bay leaves; as well as the Lavish Cardinale, with VII Hills gin, Campari, Procrastination (you can bottle that stuff?), and Cardinale wine finished off with a beet rim. They are the creation of head bartender Luca Rapetti, and the even better news is that these cocktails aren’t just available for Negroni Week but until the end of 2019! Finally, Giuseppe Gallo’s Italspirits has created the Negroni Experience, a four day pop up at Six Storeys in Soho, London, from 23-26 June. Names such as Martini Riserva Speciale, Italicus Rosolio di Bergamotto, Amaro Montenegro, VII Hills Gin (again!) and Peroni have come together for the event, complete with cocktails masterclasses. There’s also a tasting flight inspired by the Italian flag, sporting a classic, a white and a green version of the cocktail. An entire seven days dedicated to the iconic Negroni, aren’t we lucky?

The Nightcap

There’s plenty to see, including the new Bulleit Visitor Experience Cocktail Bar

Bulleit opens newest visitor experience on The Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Next week will see the opening of a brand spanking new visitor centre for Kentucky’s Bulleit Distilling Co.. From 25 June, it will be the 17th stop on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, and the 11,570-square-foot site will boast an immersive and intense multi-sensory tasting experience, complete with olfactory balls and a timed light-and-soundscape to enhance the whiskey flavours. Reassuringly, the new centre is also heavily focused on sustainability, having partnered with Oceanic Global to ensure the tasting experience and cocktail bar aligns with The Oceanic Standard (TOS), committed to eliminating single-use plastics. There’s also an organic cocktail garden developed in partnership with The University of Kentucky, to integrate local and sustainable ingredients and garnishes for the in-house cocktail bar. What’s more, the distillery has committed to sourcing 100% renewable electricity by 2030 and is home to the first industrial solar array in Shelby County, which runs most on-site exterior lighting. It even boasts an eco-friendly, green fuel-powered graffiti bus for the Visitor Experience Tour. “We wanted the Bulleit Distilling Co. Visitor Experience to be reflective of our approach to flipping the script on the whiskey category by curating an immersive, personalised consumer journey steeped in design, technology and of course, our delicious family of high rye whiskeys,” said Sophie Kelly, Sr. Vice President of Whisk(e)y at Diageo North America. What exciting news, an interactive visitor centre which is kind to the environment!

The Nightcap

Ruth Spivey, the founder of Wine Car Boot

Take your dog wine tasting as Wine Car Boot returns to London

Think wine tastings are all about spittoons, white tablecloths and red trousers? Well, think again because Wine Car Boot is back this summer. Now in its seventh year, Wine Car Boot was invented by wine impresario Ruth Spivey in 2013 as a way of introducing interesting wines and merchants to the general public in an informal manner. This summer there are three events, Saturday 29 June, Saturday 17 August (both at Coal Drops Yard near King’s Cross Station) and Saturday 14 September (at the Bloomberg Arcade in the City of London). There’s not just wine from quality merchants such as Berry Bros. & Rudd and the Sampler, but also beers from London breweries like Redchurch and exciting liqueurs from south London’s finest, Asterley Bros. Entry is free, though you do have to pay for tasters. Children and especially dogs are welcome.

The Nightcap

The swanky new Macallan Boutique at Dubai International Airport

The Macallan launches distillery-inspired Boutique series in Dubai

Fancy heading to The Macallan distillery but not up in Scotland? Well, something similar could be coming to an airport near you (or your holiday destination). The single malt Scotch brand has kicked off a programme of fancy new Boutiques with a shiny store at Dubai International Airport, in partnership with Le Clos. It’s the first in a “multi-million-pound investment” that will see the brand open a number of stand-alone stores and experiences around the globe. Everything from the architecture to the materials used in the construction and even in-store features are inspired by the mega £140 million new distillery that opened in Speyside last year. But back to Dubai. There’s an oak lattice centrepiece which echoes the distillery roof, display cases that give a museumy vibe, and it’s all super-sleekly done. And, as well as all the posh bottlings you might expect, there are Boutique-exclusive expressions, too. “It has been a year since we opened the doors of our new distillery and visitor experience, which was one of the most exciting moments in our history as a brand,” said Suzy Smith, Edrington Global Travel Retail managing director. “The next chapter in our story is the launch of our Boutique programme, which will bring whisky-lovers across the world even closer to our home on Speyside. Each store will be a gateway to the world of The Macallan, from the stunning cinematography of the Easter Elchies estate to the exceptional whisky available to taste.” Dubai not on your itinerary? We’ve got a whole bunch of Macallans right here!

The Nightcap

SEMrush provided the world with this vital data. Sex on the Beach? C’mon people!

And finally. . . the British are searching for Sex on the Beach, the cocktail that is

Data analytics company SEMrush has released figures for the most searched for cocktails last month and they make interesting reading. Tied in first place are the Manhattan and the Cosmopolitan with 135,000 searches each. Sounds like the ‘Sex and the City’ favourite is back (or maybe it never went away; it’s been joint number one all year). Looking at those yearly figures, the Old Fashioned spikes in December and January but then drops out of the top five in May, suggesting that it’s a winter cocktail. Whereas more summery serves, like the Americano and the Sex on the Beach, have moved up the league table in May. In fact, when you look at the stats for the UK on its own, Sex on the Beach moves up to the number one slot in May. We are so classy!

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Fèis Ìle 2019: Day Eight, Ardbeg

The carnival finale of Fèis Ìle was at Ardbeg today! We caught up with Mickey Heads and got stuck into all the tropical fun and games. Also, don’t miss our special…

The carnival finale of Fèis Ìle was at Ardbeg today! We caught up with Mickey Heads and got stuck into all the tropical fun and games. Also, don’t miss our special Deal of the Day: Save 15% on Ardbeg 10 Warehouse Pack, Ardbeg Uigeadail and Ardbeg Corryvreckan until midnight tonight!

The theme for this year’s Ardbeg Day was built around their Drum festival release, matured initially in ex-bourbon casks before being “rested” in ex-rum casks (a first for the distillery). It made for a tropical-tastic event with live steel drum bands, a carnival atmosphere and plenty of fun as always!

We also spoke to distillery manager – and “drum major” for the day – Mickey Heads about the Islay and Caribbean flavour fusion that is Ardbeg Drum (which is available on the site now!)

It wasn’t all plain sailing for us today though! As the MoM team left the house – sans Kristy, who was already en route to Spice (Girls) up her life – we discovered a flat tyre! Not what you need when you’re on your way to a distillery day on the other side of the island!

Could the person who answered the hire car’s emergency number understand that the likelihood of them “being there in a minute” from the mainland was fairly low? Could we get hold of anybody from either a taxi firm or the local tyre fitters on an Ardbeg Day Saturday? No. Could we find a neighbour with a hand pump and then reach somewhere that stocked puncture repair spray sealant? Yes. On to Ardbeg!

Welcome to Ardbeg Day!

Once inside, many familiar sites could be found from bars to the pizza van we’ve visited almost every day, and live music from the trailer of a lorry. Ardbeg always go all out with their theme for the year, though, so all the distillery workers were in fancy dress with maracas and huge smiles, and the place was full of games including a pineapple shy and everybody’s favourite 2018 sensation: hoopla! (The first time we saw it this year!) They even managed to make the sun come out, and it really did feel tropical compared to the rest of the week. Of course, there was still space for Iain Spink’s famous Arbroath smokies, and the queue for those went right around the lawn.

It’s not just the staff who took it seriously (by not taking themselves too seriously) though, the number of appropriately colourful shirts on display was impressive. Not least from the Jesteśmy Boat City Whisky Club from Łódź, who were out in force all week, as they are every year!

We’ve seen these “unpaid whisky soldiers” every day and they were getting into the carnival spirit today!

If you’ve been following any of our social channels, or perhaps been on our shiny new Father’s Day page, you should also be aware that we’ve been offering a special Ardbeg Deal of the Day!

Save 15% on Ardbeg 10 Warehouse Pack, Ardbeg Uigeadail and Ardbeg Corryvreckan until midnight tonight, and check back for more Daily Deals in the lead up to Father’s Day!

And so, another action-packed Fèis Ìle has come to an end. It’s been an amazing week and we’ve loved meeting so many friends, old and new, throughout. Also, keep your eyes peeled for all the Q&A interview videos where we put your questions to distillery managers each day, which we’ll start publishing soon!

Better end on the last distillery doggos of the week.

The one on the right has little protective booties.

Until next time Islay!

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