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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: bars

The Nightcap: 15 November

Celebrity booze, a motorcycle built in collaboration with Smokehead whisky and the goodest of boys (#dogbassador). It’s another wild and wonderful week for The Nightcap. We all have our personal…

Celebrity booze, a motorcycle built in collaboration with Smokehead whisky and the goodest of boys (#dogbassador). It’s another wild and wonderful week for The Nightcap.

We all have our personal moments when we start to feel just a little bit festive. For some, it might be when the town lights come on, for others it might be that first bag of turkey and stuffing-flavoured crisps. At Master of Malt, however, there’s a very clear sign that it’s safe to get out the reindeer jumpers, start stocking up on mince pies and trying to think of amusing puns based on the word yule: it’s the first sighting of #WhiskySanta! And lo, he has been spotted, and verily he’ll be giving away all kinds of boozy goodness. Yule be mad not to get involved (see what we did there, first yule-based pun of the season). Right, that’s enough Christmas dad jokes, nothing is going to hold back this week’s Nightcap!

On the MoM blog this week we heard the sound of sleigh bells jingling, ring tingle tingling too as he returned. That’s right, #WhiskySanta is back at MoM Towers! Elsewhere, we launched another fantastic competition, this time with the fab folks at Starward! Henry then managed to pin down Dave Broom to chat about his new whisky film The Amber Light, before he enjoyed a sacrilegious gin liqueur, and made the classic The Corpse Reviver No.1 our Cocktail of the Week! Annie, meanwhile, looked at the future of flavour and cask whisky investment, before Adam talked Comte de Grasse with its founder Bhagath Reddy and uncovered the magic behind the latest bar menu at The Savoy’s Beaufort Bar.

Now, onto the Nightcap!

The Nightcap

Congrats to you, David!

Isle of Arran Distillers names Lochranza distillery manager

Lochranza Distillery, the second spirits-maker of the Isle of Arran, has a shiny new distillery manager! Say hello to David Livingstone, who is set to touch down on the island to take on the top job. He’s hot-footed it over the water from Islay, where he was previously assistant manager at Laphroaig before he helped in the set-up of Ardnahoe distillery. Sounds like the ideal candidate to oversee Lochranza operations, a site that will produce around 600,000 litres of spirit per year when it’s fully up and running. James MacTaggart, who has been master distiller at Isle of Arran Distillers since 2007, will take on a new role as director of production and operations, overseeing both the Lochranza and Lagg Distillery sites. “It’s an especially exciting time to take on this role at such a remarkable whisky company and I’m very proud to be given the opportunity to look after the future of these great spirits,” Livingstone said. “Being from the islands myself, I recognise how important distilleries are to island communities and that’s something I’ve always been passionate about.” MacTaggart added: “As the company continues to grow and develop, it’s necessary that we have the best whisky people around us. We’re delighted to have David on board for the next part of our journey and know that we can learn plenty from his wealth of knowledge and experience.” Bring on the whisky!

The Nightcap

The special Ducati motorcycle built in collaboration with Smokehead whisky

Man rides motorbike into whisky tasting, nobody hurt

“I’m getting TCP, I’m getting wood smoke, I’m getting petrol.” Petrol? From a whisky? No, from that enormous throbbing motorbike being ridden indoors. Don’t worry our whisky event hadn’t been invaded by Hell’s Angels, we were at the Bike Shed Motorcycle Club in London’s fashionable Shoreditch district for the unveiling of a special Ducati motorcycle built in collaboration with Smokehead whisky. We were sipping delicious Smoker cocktails made with Smokehead, lemon juice, honey syrup, ginger liqueur, and activated charcoal (so much nicer than deactivated charcoal) when the beast arrived. Also called The Smoker, it’s a Ducati twin built by Edinburgh-based bike customiser Tyler Lunceford. From the sound of the machine, the crowd were expecting Meat Loaf crossed with Beelzebub to get off, but in fact, the bike’s builder is a mild-mannered American, who after switching off the noise, quietly told us about his creation. For those struggling to see the connection between a motorcycle and an Islay single malt, Lunceford explained: “Smokehead whisky is not for everyone and neither is The Smoker – it’s bold, it’s intimidating and it’s loud. It’s really loud. It attracts a certain crowd. It’s certainly not for everyone.” Makes sense.

The Nightcap

The wonderful St. Vincent will be hosting the bar

Veuve Clicquot launches Souvenir Bar with St. Vincent

Give us great music and a good glass of Champagne, and we’re happy. If that sounds good to you, then you’ll want to head over to Veuve Clicquot’s very own bar in Covent Garden, Souvenir, opening from 22 to 23 November. The Champagne house has teamed up with American musician St. Vincent (aka Annie Clark), who will be hosting the bar, though this isn’t any run-of-the-mill establishment. The bar is described as a part speakeasy, part sensory space, aiming to transport visitors far away from reality with a glass of Veuve Clicquot in their hand. The bar will be filled with a unique mix of sounds, specifically designed to trigger memory, and feeling of past, present and future. Consider our interest piqued. To create the space, St. Vincent collaborated with a collective of creators, designers, and mixologists. Every detail has been thought through, with St. Vincent determining what people will eat, drink, see and hear. It also looks like there will be a few unexpected twists and turns throughout the night, as she will also play with the notion of unexpected characters and appearances… It’s all very mysterious, though we’re thoroughly intrigued. What’s the souvenir then, we hear you ask? It’s the memories created when you’re in the space, of course! Plus maybe a slight headache the next morning. Remember folks, sip don’t gulp.

The Nightcap

The great whiskies will raise money for a great cause.

Islay whisky collected on 110 miles row up for auction

This weekend, 16/17 November, you can take part in a very special auction to get your hands on some Islay whiskies and raise money for the RNLI. The Islay Sea Collection is a collection of whiskies from each other island’s coastal distilleries gathered by a team of enthusiasts who rowed from Northern Island, stopping off at each distillery to pick up the goods. Yes, rowed, talk about commitment to the cause. It took over nine hours to row the 110 miles to Islay and three days to collect all the whiskies. We imagine they probably stopped for a dram or two to keep out the cold. A film has been made about their amazing voyage. The collection is made up of Bowmore 15 Years Old Feis Ile 2018 bottling, Caol Ila 12 Years Old, Bruichladdich Scottish Barley The Classic Laddie, Bunnahabhain 12 Years Old Small Batch Distilled, Laphroaig 10 Years Old, Ardbeg An Oa, and Lagavulin 16 Years Old, plus a special cask created with wood from each distillery. Graham Crane from the auction site Just Whisky commented: “This is a really exciting collection and we are honoured to have been asked to auction it in support of the RNLI. We are in awe of the journey these men took and hope to fetch £XXXX for the charity. We look forward to seeing the bids rolling in.” Keith Gilmore lifeboat operations manager at Portrush Station added: “This is a really exciting and novel way to raise funds for the two stations. We often have to work with Islay, and this is a great way to work with one of our neighbours and local supporters to raise funds for the RNLI.” So a worthwhile cause and a unique collection of whisky. Auction closes on Sunday 17 November at 8pm.

The Nightcap

Ryan Chetiyawardana and co’s swanky new menu has launched at Lyaness

Seven-ingredient new Lyaness menu is pretty damn tasty

Last week we hightailed it up to London to check out Ryan Chetiyawardana and co’s shiny new menu at Lyaness. Taking a cook’s approach to bartending, it’s the result of playful experimentation – you can try a twist on a classic, or you can go “off piste” and base a drink around a favourite flavour profile. And it’s all focused around seven core ingredients, each prepared in the Lyaness kitchen: Infinite Banana, Lyaness Tea-mooth, Peach Emoji, Vegan Honey, ONYX, Golden Levain, and Purple Pineapple. The whole shebang is very much designed as a guide book, not a rule book, or as the team describes it, “a mechanism, to help people think differently about cocktails”. And the hours that go into the prep for each is unreal: the Peach Emoji, for example, is designed to “pull a peach apart, dissect it and put it back together again”. The stones are roasted then steeped, the flesh is rested in enzymes until it becomes a liquid, while the rest is lacto-fermented. Fancy. Lyaness recognises that drinking can be creative, fun and unique, and that success should be in the palate of the beholder, rather than in the eyes of someone dictating the rules. Go check it out!

The Nightcap

Get involved, guys!

The Benevolent launches 2019 Online Silent Auction

Following the success of the “Thanks for Giving” Online Silent Auction in 2017, the wonderful folk at The Benevolent are launching a new silent auction to raise £10,000, and they need your support! The online auction will start on Friday 22nd November at 9am and run until 5pm on Friday 6th December. The charity seeks to help those within the UK drinks industry who are in need of support. The auction also provides an ideal opportunity to buy some exceptional Christmas presents, as items available range from Michelin starred restaurant vouchers, coveted sporting memorabilia, tickets to prestigious events as well as several incredible items generously donated by members of the trade. You will be able to browse the lots before the auction goes live in order to plan your bids. Whilst this auction is primarily aimed at people in the drinks trade, nonetheless, it is certainly available to anyone, whether involved in the trade or not so there’s no excuse not to get involved. In order to bid, you will need to register first. To do so, as well as browse and prepare to place your bids, click here. Good luck!

The Nightcap

Porto Protocol is taking action against climate change and environmental degradation.

Drink Port, plant trees

Here’s a charitable initiative we can all get behind, drink Port and help fund a reforestation project in the Douro Valley. When you buy a bottle of Taylor’s Select Reserve Port from the Co-Op, some of the money will go to a charity that plants trees. It’s part of Porto Protocol, an organisation mentored by Taylor’s to take action against climate change and environmental degradation. Adrian Bridge, Taylor’s CEO commented, “we are delighted to have Co-op’s support for this important project. By allowing us to plant more trees, Co-op’s investment will significantly increase the positive impact of the reforestation. As custodians of the unique environment and landscape of the Douro Valley, we understand the importance of extending our environmental initiatives beyond the vineyard itself.” Co-op wine buyer, Sarah Benson, added: “We’re thrilled to be exclusively supporting Taylor’s on this important project through the sales of this brilliant Port, which will help bring new life to the Douro Valley.” The Co-Op expect to sell enough Port to plant 2,500 trees, that the size of four football pitches so the more Port you buy, the better it is for the environment. Everybody wins.

The Nightcap

The vodka was inspired by events Hudson hosted at her former home on King Street in New York

Welcome to the celeb booze club, Kate Hudson!

All aboard the celebrity booze bandwagon! The latest passenger to jump aboard? Actor and entrepreneur Kate Hudson, who this week launched her King St. Vodka in the US. The spirit has been ‘distilled seven times’ in Santa Barbara, California, is gluten-free (like all spirits), and is made with alkaline water, said to result in an ‘insanely smooth and clean’ tipple. Hmmmmm. According to Hudson herself, it was inspired by the evenings she used to host at her former home on King Street in New York. “I have always found the spirits industry fascinating, and I love Dirty Vodka Martinis,” she said. “The creative side of me thought it would be a fun challenge to develop a vodka for my palate, and in a beautiful package that I would love to have on my bar and share with friends. The business person in me is now looking forward to the challenge of building a brand in an entirely new industry.” She’s previously co-founded Fabletics activewear, and recently launched her own clothing label, Happy X Nature – so booze really is a new venture. She should be in safe hands though; also involved in King St. Vodka is David Kanbar, the spirits entrepreneur behind the likes of Skyy Vodka and Bulldog Gin.

The Nightcap

Keep an eye out on the MoM Blog for the full story on this one…

Sir Ranulph Fiennes gets his very own rum

In the week that Kate Hudson launched her very own vodka, top explorer Ranulph Fiennes has unveiled his very own rum made in conjunction with English Spirit. You’d think that they would have checked the celebrity product launch calendar. Sir Ranulph Fiennes’ Great British Rum, as it’s called, is a bit unusual. It’s distilled from molasses but rather than being aged in casks, different woods representing Fiennes’s adventures such as sequoia from Canada, pine from Norway and date palm from Oman have been added during distilled. What strange alchemy is this? Distiller Dr John Waters explained: “This launch represents a milestone for British rum production. We are putting a marker into the ground that Britain can produce a premium, quality rum and it’s the perfect testament to a legendary British expedition leader.” Sir Ranulph commented: “Rum has always been associated with exploration and adventure, but I only wanted to work with a distillery that was daring and determined. When Dr John told me of the world’s doubt that Britain could make a truly great rum, well, that sealed the deal. From that moment, we aimed to tread new ground”. We have the full story coming soon in an interview with Sir Ranulph (Kate Hudson, though, has not returned our calls).

The Nightcap

Is this the best story we’ve ever had on the Nightcap? Yes. Yes it is.

And finally… Early Times’s dogbassador Earl ‘graduates’ service dog programme

Yes, we love whisky. And yes, cats are our collective first love of the animal kingdom. But there’s always going to be space for a good dog or two, too. And goodest boys don’t come much better than Earl, the ‘dogbassador’ for Early Times whiskey! The one-year-old hound just graduated from the K9s For Warriors programme, which sees dogs trained up to become service animals for military veterans in the US. The specialist pooches don’t just look cute – they also help those who have served post-9/11 and are suffering from PTSD, brain injuries and other trauma. The programme is part of a four-year partnership in which Early Years has donated more than US$225,000 to K9s for Warriors. “The minute our team met Earl, we knew he was special and we had high hopes he would graduate and be matched with a veteran,” said Dallas Cheatham, Early Times senior brand manager. “50% of the dogs who begin training do not complete the programme due to medical or behavioural incompatibilities. It takes a specific personality to become a service dog.” Not only does Earl respond expertly to verbal cues (the typical ‘sit’ and ‘down’), but the training also improved his focus and sensitivity to touch. He’s now been paired with a veteran and, after three weeks of side-by-side training, the new pair will head home for their happily ever after. Just look at Earl’s face. We’re not crying, you are.

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Master of Malt tastes… Interpreted Magic at The Savoy’s Beaufort Bar

When the Savoy’s Beaufort Bar revealed its new menu, Interpreted Magic, a drinks-based journey into all things mystical and mysterious, we had to check it out. The history, drama and…

When the Savoy’s Beaufort Bar revealed its new menu, Interpreted Magic, a drinks-based journey into all things mystical and mysterious, we had to check it out.

The history, drama and romance of magic have a timeless appeal. From Merlin to Harry Potter and even that guy in Camden who keeps winning Three-card Monte against me (I’ve just realised he’s definitely cheating), we just can’t get enough of the superstitious and sensational. At the Beaufort Bar in the crazy-famous Savoy hotel in London, this fascination has led to the creation of the bar’s latest original menu, ‘Interpreted Magic’.

Interpreted Magic is separated into three sections intended to honour the ‘three pillars’ of magic, which is essentially the three-act structure that occurs in a traditional magic performance: The Pledge, The Turn and The Prestige (more about these later). Every member of the Beaufort Bar team has invented their very own cocktail, with inspirations ranging from Greek myths, fairy-tales and folklore to radical inventors, scientists and some of the world’s most famous magicians (there’s no Paul Daniels before you ask). There’s also non-alcoholic options and a complementary food menu by executive chef Fabrice Lasnon.

For head bartender Edon Soddu, it was about creating a menu that would “bring the guest on a journey”. We thought this journey was worth exploring ourselves.

The Pledge

This section of the menu refers to the first part of a magician’s trick, where they build the anticipation in the audience. Suitably, ‘The Pledge’ was designed to evoke the excited and expectant mood felt at the start of an evening. It’s the part of the menu to head straight for if you’re a fan of light mixed drinks, wines and Champagnes (the latter taking advantage of the bar’s considerable selection, which boasts plenty of grower Champagnes and English sparkling wines).

Interpreted Magic

Cocktail: Otherside

Description: “Parallel worlds exist across fiction, but have stood the test of time as well as C.S. Lewis’ fantasy land, Narnia. Through a wardrobe, his characters experienced a universe of witches and lions, where gemstones can be harvested for their juice, and anyone can be a hero”.

Ingredients: Bacardi Carta Blanca Rum, Muyu Vetiver Gris Liqueur, Discarded Vermouth, grapefruit, citric solution.

Garnish: White chocolate spray, gold spray and purple glitter. The latter is supposed to represent the aforementioned gems that make a hero of whoever picks them up. Given I’m the only person around, I’ll take that.

Thoughts: One of the best long drinks I’ve had in some time. The garnish adds a very pleasant aroma initially, but the delicately sweet combination of the rum and liqueurs is the star of the show. The touch of acidity given by the grapefruit is measured perfectly, so often this element is overpowering and unpleasant. Not here. Otherside is fun, intriguing and, most importantly, it sets the tone. Your move, err… upcoming parts of the menu!

The Turn

The next section, ‘The Turn’, refers to the part of a performance that’s about creating intrigue. The Beaufort Bar has tried to mirror this aspect of the performance with an array of drinks that invites guests to expect the unexpected, from unusual techniques and clandestine flavours. This is the menu for those who desire agave spirits, gin, tonics and fortified wines.

Interpreted Magic

Cocktail: Frozen Petal

Description: “In Greek mythology, Persephone is taken by Hades to the underworld and her mother Demeter tries to free her. However, Persephone has been tricked into eating pomegranate, the fruit of the underworld, and so must stay. A deal is eventually struck, and Persephone will stay with Hades for a portion of each year. During these months, Demeter plunges the world into cold and so gives birth to winter, allowing warmth to return with spring only when Persephone is returned to her”.

Ingredients: Don Julio 1942 Tequila, Muyu Jasmine Liqueur, Roots Rakomelo, pomegranate, saline solution.

Garnish: Two floregano flower petals. Minimalism.

Thoughts: First thing’s first, the presentation is just so good. It’s a lesson in how to be understated and elegant. The aroma is enticing, but it doesn’t speak to the complexities of the cocktail on the palate. The floral quality arrived first, followed by a genius touch of salinity, then more perfumed floral qualities and finally the green notes from the Tequila. The perfumed element could probably be toned down a touch, but this is still a very good serve.

The Prestige

Last, but not least, is ‘The Prestige’. This isn’t a reference to the fabulous Christopher Nolan film about magic (definitely worth a watch if you haven’t seen it), but to the finale of the magician’s act. The pay-off. The bit where we all clap and turn to the person next to us and shout “HOW?!” at their face. This part of the menu features a blend of dark spirits, full aromas and rich flavours, but most exciting of all it takes advantage of the Beaufort Bar’s enhanced whisky selection. We’re talking rare and old, people.

Interpreted Magic

Cocktail: Sea & Land

Description: “Prophecies give real magic to storytelling. We find one of the most famous examples of this in Macbeth, when predictions from the Weird Sisters, hand in hand, posters of the sea and land’ of the tragic protagonist’s seemingly impossible undoing do unbelievably come to pass”.

Ingredients: Highland Park 18 Year Old, 30 & 40 Apéritif de Normandie, oloroso sherry and coffee syrup.

Garnish: An orange peel twist. A very dramatic one at that. Appropriately Shakespearean.

Thoughts: It’s an Old Fashioned. A really bloody good Old Fashioned. Some might wince at the spirit of choice being consumed in this fashion (not all single malt Scotch should be drunk neat, folks), but Sea & Land doesn’t drown the character of the Highland Park expression. The additions are exceptionally measured and accentuate its positives. It’s ridiculously refined and more down-to-earth tasty than it has any right to be. If they had these in Macbeth, there would be a lot less murder and a lot more boozing.

Interpreted Magic

It’s Interpreted Magic at the Beaufort Bar!

I’m a fan of Interpreted Magic. It’s imaginative and fun in a setting which could easily become stuffy with the wrong approach. I would say the drinks speak for themselves, but actually a highlight of the evening was that with each drink I had I was accompanied by an excited member of staff proudly telling me all about their contributions to their cocktail. At its core, it’s just good ol’ fashioned bartending at its best, realised in elegant, minimal serves. If you were being cheesy, you could say that’s the real magic here. But actually it would be that unicorn that ran past me as I was trying to take a photo. Completely ruined the shot. Bastard.

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The Nightcap: 8 November

Greetings, one and all! Another week has been and gone, so that means there’s a fresh harvest of stories for The Nightcap! OK, so Halloween is done. Bonfire Night has…

Greetings, one and all! Another week has been and gone, so that means there’s a fresh harvest of stories for The Nightcap!

OK, so Halloween is done. Bonfire Night has passed. Pancake Day was ages ago. I wonder if there are any other events coming up that people are very excited about and won’t stop posting about on the internet and making us slightly panic…? If only we could see past the piles of mince pies and giant sock-shaped boxes of chocolate bars in the shops, we might be able to see if they’re advertising something (as that is where we look to find out what’s happening in the world – the displays in shops).Well, I’m sure we’ll know soon enough. In the meantime, let’s see what’s been going on in the world of boozes this week – it’s The Nightcap!

On the MoM blog this week we excitedly announced the launch of The Three Drinkers Cask Selection No. 1, the first official whisky bottling released by the Amazon Prime TV show released exclusively with, well, us! Elsewhere you’ll have noticed the return of Dram Club and Ian Buxton, who celebrated a true whisky hero in his guest feature this week. Annie then talked with Kirsteen Campbell, the new master whisky maker at The Macallan, and then created a handy little guide to sherry. We also marked Old Fashioned Week by making the classic serve our Cocktail of the Week, while Adam round-up some sublime whiskies that feature intriguing cask-finishes. Oh, and don’t forget to check out video tour of Glenrinnes Distillery!

Now, onto the Nightcap!

The Nightcap

Six Kingdoms, the new 15 Year Old Mortlach expression

Diageo reveals bonus ninth Game of Thrones single malt Scotch

Now, deep down we all knew that when Game of Thrones ended back in May that this wasn’t really going to be the end. The worlds of Westeros will live on through prequels (if they don’t all get cancelled) and, more importantly, through whisky! You guessed it, there’s another Game of Thrones expression out. Diageo announced the ninth and final bottling in the Game of Thrones Single Malt Scotch Whisky Collection, and it’s a 15 Year Old Mortlach dubbed Six Kingdoms. If your memory is a bit hazy, Westeros’ Seven Kingdoms, mentioned many times throughout the show, became six in the finale. Remember the independence of the North and all that? Anyway, the single malt was matured in first-fill sherry casks, with a finish in American oak bourbon casks. Flavour-wise, we can expect those hallmark beasty notes with “vanilla and spice befitting of those with a noble palate”. “Eight fantastic scotches toasted the coming of the final season of the show, and we now look back on the most captivating television show of all time and raise a ninth glass in celebration,” said Jeff Peters, vice president, licensing and retail, at HBO. It comes in a metallic gold presentation tube, decorated with an intricate pen and ink drawing of the three-eyed raven, who we’re sure would be great company to share a dram with. If this all sounds right up your street, then keep an eye (or three) on our New Arrivals page!

The Nightcap

Be sure to have an Old Fashioned yourself!

The UK celebrates five years of Old Fashioned Week

A landmark of the international cocktail year stirred up some action once again as Old Fashioned Week returned to bars around the world. It was the fifth anniversary of the event and in such a short amount of time it’s become quite the success. Last year 1,300 bars participated across 60 countries, an estimated 205,000 Old Fashioned cocktails were sold and the likes of Cambodia, Czech Republic, Netherlands, South Africa, Sudan and Vietnam took part for the first time. But what was on offer to enjoy this year? Aside from the obvious answer, sponsors Woodford Reserve hosted an array of experiences, events and limited edition menus with 285 bars from London, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Bristol and Cardiff. Working alongside some of its leading bartenders, the American whiskey brand created a map across the UK, featuring the likes of Swift, Murder Inc, Discount Suit Company, Three Sheets and Homeboy. “Woodford Reserve really is the perfect base for all kinds of twists on the Old Fashioned, our most popular serve,” said Mia Johansson, co-owner of Swift, Soho. We’ve taken inspiration from the ‘sweet aromatics’ flavour segment of Distiller’s Select – the backbone of the complex whiskey flavour – to craft a complex, wholesome Old Fashioned with notes directly from the award-winning mashbill. We’re delighted to have partnered with Woodford Reserve for Old Fashioned Week and look forward to welcoming cocktail lovers from across the country.”

The Nightcap

The new-look Blue Label

Timorous Beasties reveals limited edition Johnnie Walker Blue Label

Last night we attended the launch of a new-look Johnnie Walker Blue Label entitled the Rare Side of Scotland. It features a limited-edition bottle and pack designed by the Timorous Beasties, an award-winning Glasgow-based textile design studio. The aspect of the design you’ll notice first is the image of Aurora Borealis (the Northern Lights), shining theatrically over the Scottish Highlands, which serves as a backdrop for three of Scotland’s rare large birds: the white-tailed eagle, the curlew and the rapid eider duck (best bird name ever). These aren’t the only ‘beasties’ you’ll find, there’s also the narrow-bordered bee hawk-moth, and Scotland’s smallest butterfly – the Small Blue, as well as floral depictions of machair, saxifrage and mountain havens. “Exploring the rarest spirits from the four corners of Scotland has been a remarkable privilege and a personal passion throughout my four decades at Johnnie Walker,” says Johnnie Walker master blender Dr. Jim Beveridge. “The celebration of rare, exceptional Scotch whiskies – paired with the rare craftsmanship of our team of expert whisky makers – will always be at the very heart of Johnnie Walker Blue Label. We know that our devotion to our craft is mirrored by Timorous Beasties, and this is highlighted by these beautiful bottle designs.” Johnnie Walker Blue Label Rare Side of Scotland will be available from MoM Towers soon.

The Nightcap

Winter rooftop terraces are all the rage this year, darling.

It’s festive rooftop winter terrace season!

You may be thinking that, as we descend into the cooler months, it’s time to stay inside and wrap up warm. You’re mistaken! This year it looks like winter rooftop terraces are all the rage, so we thought we’d give you a sneak-peek roundup of what to expect. Firstly, Fentimans has an exciting new release, Pink Ginger, a lightly spiced botanically-brewed soft drink combining pear juice, orange and herbal extracts. To celebrate, the brand is taking over the ninth floor of London’s Skylight, which will now be home to a life size, pink gingerbread house! We’re not joking. It will be decorated with icing, candy canes, and inside you’ll find edible sweet-filled walls. (Okay, so the sweets are edible, the walls aren’t. Just to be clear.) Hansel and Gretel, eat your heart out (literally). It’s available to book in three-hour slots for groups of eight throughout the festive season, with each group receiving a cockle-warming Fentimans hot Pink Ginger cocktail on arrival. You can also just visit Skylight itself and treat yourself to a whole menu of festive Fentimans ginger drinks. Get ready to fill your boots with pink, gingery goodness from Thursday 14 November until January. Secondly, the iconic Madison’s in St Paul’s is teaming up with Belvedere Vodka and being transformed into a winter haven, dubbed The Enchanted Woods, filled with fairy lights, warm cocktails and blankets to boot. We particularly like the sound of ‘Drop It Like It’s Hot’, which sees a warming blend of Hennessy VS, Quaglia Chamomile Liquore and Italicus, with lemon and chamomile tea. It’s certainly a panoramic spot to snuggle up at and enjoy the festive views of London, and opened this week on 6 November and is running all the way through to February. So go on, get out there and get into the Christmas spirit(s)!

The Nightcap

At Balthazar London you’ll find a unique bottling of Maker’s Mark

Balthazar London launches whiskey in collaboration with Maker’s Mark

Not many restaurants can boast its own signature whiskey, but Balthazar, the New York-style brasserie in Covent Garden, is one of the few that can, following its partnership with Maker’s Mark Private Select. A first-of-its-kind barrelling programme, Private Select allows brands to purchase a barrel from the Kentucky distillery and create a truly bespoke spirit that encapsulates the restaurant’s distinct character. Two of Balthazar’s team spent a day at the distillery creating eight different blends, eventually settling on a mix of French and American oak finishing staves, as a nod to the inspiration behind the restaurant. Essentially a variation of Maker’s Mark 46, the whiskey was then aged for an additional nine weeks and bottled in bespoke-labelled Balthazar whiskey bottles. Expect notes of sweet butterscotch, honey, cinnamon, coffee, wood oak smoke, tobacco and dark bitter chocolate. “Balthazar was the ideal partner to work with on this new whiskey. The restaurant already boasts such an impressive collection of American whiskies so we were pleased to work with them on a unique blend,” commented Amanda Humphrey, brand ambassador for Maker’s Mark. “Its flavours of vanilla and butterscotch, mixed with bitter chocolate and cured tobacco, make it the perfect drink for both seasoned whiskey drinkers as well as the uninitiated.” Guests can enjoy the whiskey as part of a cocktail or on its own, while the chefs have also created two specially-paired dishes: a Chestnut Tortellini with Smoked Delica pumpkin and vanilla beurre noisette as well as a Gingerbread soufflé and whiskey ice cream for dessert. We can say from personal experience that they’re both delicious, as is the whiskey. You can purchase the bottling from the restaurant itself, or online for £100.

The Nightcap

The Chosen – due to land at MoM Towers soon!

JJ Corry unveils 27 year old The Chosen

In a really rather exciting treat for our taste buds, JJ Corry has teamed up with J. Hill’s Standard Crystal and John Galvin Design for something really rather special: The Chosen. Just 100 hand-cut decanters of the 27 year old Irish single malt single cask have been released. We checked it out at the official launch this week, and can confirm each decanter is both slightly different and as beautiful as they look, evoking the grasses on the beaches on the Wild Atlantic Way, close to the JJ Corry brand home. The ash wood cabinet is pretty swanky, too. “The Chosen is a celebration of excellence in Irish whiskey and contemporary Irish design,” said Louise McGuane, JJ Corry founder. “Irish whiskey has not been celebrated for its quality and rarity, as perhaps other categories have. We have some of the finest mature stock of whiskey in the world and yet I feel the industry undersells itself. I wanted to change that. Our approach to making Irish whiskey celebrates tradition, embraces change and has the modern whiskey drinker front of mind. All of this is reflected in The Chosen.” Each 52% ABV decanter is priced at £6,500 – keep your eyes peeled on our New Arrivals feed, they’re due in soon!

The Nightcap

The sign. The sign has wisdom.

On Tuesday evening, we hot-footed it up to London for one of the liveliest and most affirming bar takeovers of 2019. For one night only, Artesian bar manager Anna Sebastian brought together a dream team/army of talented women bartenders from across the industry for an evening called Celebrate Her. There were too many epic faces behind the bar to possibly name everyone, but with the likes of Pippa Guy, Sophie Bratt, Megs Miller, Cami Vidal and Sebastian herself crafting an array of signature drinks, the packed room was treated to delicious serve after delicious serve. The evening even ended with sparklers. And £1 from every drink spent went to industry wellness platform Healthy Hospo! “Celebrate her every day, celebrate this industry, celebrate each other, celebrate yourself, but above all, build a community and make the industry better,” Sebastian wrote on social after the event. Cheers to that!

The Nightcap

Nightcap favourite Miles Beale

Boris Johnson promises to review alcohol taxation

Boris Johnson has pledged to review Britain’s alcohol taxation system if the Conservative government win the next election. On a visit to Diageo’s Roseisle Maltings near Elgin, he said that he would conduct a “review into excise on Scotch whisky”. This is partly to alleviate the effect of the 25% tariffs that have been imposed by the US administration on Scotch whisky imports. Britain currently has some of the highest taxation on spirits in the world with an average of £3 in every £4 spent going to the state. Karen Betts from the Scotch Whisky Association commented: “A simplified alcohol duty regime in the UK to better reflect alcohol content would be fairer for consumers, increase competitiveness and remain an important driver of tax revenue.” Nightcap favourite Miles Beale, from the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, also had something to say: “The current excise duty regime doesn’t work for UK business, consumers or the Exchequer. The EU framework is unnecessarily complex and has created a distorted market and an uneven competitive playing field. Once the UK has left the EU, it would be appropriate to review the operation of excise duty. A thorough review will, however, take time. In the short term, and in order to maintain the UK position at the heart of the world wine and spirit trade, the next Chancellor should take the opportunity to take immediate action and cut excise duty ahead of any review. This would benefit UK consumers, business and increase revenue to the Exchequer.” We can but hope.

The Nightcap

It’s like the Terminator. But with booze.

Coming soon, a gin created by AI

The team at Circumstance Distillery in Bristol are not afraid to do things differently, whether it’s issuing their own cryptocurrency or experimenting with yeast and cereal (triticale anyone?). But this time they’ve really taken the biscuit with a gin created by artificial intelligence. Yes, just like in the Terminator, but with booze. The gin is a collaboration with technology scientists Tiny Giant and Rewrite Digital who have created a neural network that they have christened Ginette which was fed information on botanicals, recipes, labels etc. with some of the data coming from Master of Malt (that’s us!). She even came up with the gin’s name, Monker’s Garkel, from analysing 500 different brands. Oh well, at least it tastes good. Liam Hirt, co-founder of Circumstance Distillery, commented: “AI and machine learning are exciting new tools. We do a lot of contract distilling and wanted to know if these tools could make a meaningful contribution to new product development. At present they are not a substitute for the skill of the distiller, but we have clearly shown that they can make a valuable contribution to all aspects of the development process, from the recipe to the naming and labelling. We trained Ginette well, and with a little human help and guidance, her product is interesting, attractive and, most importantly, delicious.” Kerry Harrison, co-founder of Tiny Giant, added: “The creation of Monker’s Garkel has demonstrated that it’s perfectly possible to align machine predictive power and human creativity to make something delicious, valuable and commercial”. The gin will only be available from Master of Malt or direct from the distillery for £42 for a 50cl bottle.

The Nightcap

Graham’s 1977 was the Queen Mother’s favourite

And finally… Queen Mum’s undrunk Port goes up for auction

The Queen Mum had quite a reputation for being fond of the sauce, so when she visited The Winter Gardens Theatre in Margate in 1983, the team got in plenty of her favourite Port, Graham’s 1977. It seems they rather over-catered because 36 years later, there are still 40 bottles of the stuff left. Apparently it’s been counted in stock takes all this time, but when the last food and beverage manager retired, the new one had the brilliant idea to auction it. It goes under the hammer at Chiswick Auctions in London on 5 December. The three sealed cases of 12 are expected to go for £700-800, with an odd lot of four bottles expected to go for £100-150. Back in 1983, this wine would have been much too young to drink, perhaps why the dear old Queen Mum didn’t get through much of it. But now it should be perfectly mature. Sam Hellyer, head of Chiswick Auctions wine department, described the wines as: “Luscious, smooth, with the last hurrah of thick tannins lining the tongue and laying down a plush carpet for the chewy fig and lingering acidity to mingle on. With them came a hint of smoky and chocolately notes, the smell of cigar boxes and freshly sanded wood.” Cor!

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No more heroes

In the wake of some very public scandals in the drinks world, our contributor Nate Brown thinks it’s time we retired the word ‘legend’ and stopped putting bartenders on pedestals.  …

In the wake of some very public scandals in the drinks world, our contributor Nate Brown thinks it’s time we retired the word ‘legend’ and stopped putting bartenders on pedestals.  

I don’t know about you, but hospitality as a career was never something offered to me at school. Which, with hindsight, seems strange in a country of drinkers. According to our betters, we could be anything we wanted, so long as it was a police officer, teacher, lawyer, tradesperson, journalist, or an accountant. The idea of a career in hospitality sat alongside creatives and self-employment as the scary unmentionables of the taboo section. 

It’s hardly shocking, therefore, that when I, like many others, fell into this industry we were like rabbits in the headlights looking longingly for guidance and leadership. We found ourselves entering into a closed, unknown world, a magic circle of performers and actors. We were among kings and queens, filling their ice and polishing their glassware. We watched in awe as they enthralled the masses at lightning pace on nightly basis. They were the centre of attention, and the centre of our aspirations. Look at them go!

cocktail competition

Don’t call me a hero, I just make the drinks

The bartending world is a world so full of heroes it could be an Avengers movie. But of course, they’re not really heroes, are they? They’re drinks-makers and they’re entertainers. Some are business-minded, most are chronically gregarious. The attention they receive is addictive. And we want some of that. The industry is fuelled by their social status, and the energy that it brings. 

And so, as newbies, we watched on with dumbstruck awe as this microcosmic clique spewed out nano-celebrity after nano-celebrity, and we were desperate in our fawning cajolery to emulate them as protégés and prodigies. Bartenders who stuck it out passed some sort of invisible threshold to become industry furniture. Thought-leaders and disruptors are elevated as demi-gods to the bowing congregation. They are rewarded with praise and glamorous trips across the globe, brand merchandise and party invites. The career bartender is walking aspiration. Powered by big brand support, the idol factory that is hospitality continues with relentless abandon, some chosen few enjoying their fifteen minutes, others fifteen years. 

Without a nurturing framework, the green look up, and the experienced look down. What else did we expect? But this is a much more dangerous situation than a first glance would suggest. Reputations deliver powerful personas. In the worst cases, they can absolve responsibility, enabling abuses of power and position, acting as a suit of armour against accusation. Much has been said in recent weeks about the awarding of an ‘industry legend’, one who has a history of misogynistic opinions. The result of which was a conflicting polarity of lauding of his career and despising of his character. Who is the judge, who is the jury, and who is the executioner? Accountability and responsibility have long since sailed into the sunset, I’m afraid, and much like the takedown of a similarly culpable London ‘legend’ in recent years, it’ll all too soon blow over.

This goes deeper. Controversies like these, at least momentarily, serve to usurp the facade our industry constructs. 

I do not wish to undermine the achievement of owning and operating one’s own bar or brand, or the hard work and dedication it takes to become a thought-leader through merit. But for goodness sake, stop calling each other legends. The Minotaur, Medusa, King Arthur. These are legends. Since when did legends stop slaying dragons and start fucking throwing martinis?

Clearly, no one, no bar, no ‘legend’ is beyond reproach. If it’s heroes you want, you should have joined the police.  

 

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The Nightcap: 25 October

Record-breaking whisky, intriguing rums and wine tasting in the dark – it’s all here in this week’s Nightcap! OK, look, the way the days have fallen this year, this will…

Record-breaking whisky, intriguing rums and wine tasting in the dark – it’s all here in this week’s Nightcap!

OK, look, the way the days have fallen this year, this will be the closest we get to an edition of The Nightcap falling on Halloween – next week Friday is the 1st of November, at which point we’ll have set aside our zombie costumes for another year and will be busy stockpiling sparklers and jacket potatoes in anticipation of Bonfire Night. With that in mind, you’re just going to have to put up with an early spooktacular here. Ahem. WoooOOOooo! It’s (almost) Halloween! The haunted ghouls of the underworld have crept into MoM Towers and they’re knocking over printers and… Oh, our hearts aren’t really in it. Let’s just get on with the booze news from the week that was.

It’s been a blog-maggedon kind of week here at MoM Towers. Firstly, congratulations are in order to the respective winners of the Lakes Distillery (#BagThisBundle) and Kingsbarns Distillery competitions! There was then some delightful video-based adventures with Ardbeg and Penderyn, while Adam also rounded-up some spooky spirits for Halloween. Then there was the exciting news that Douglas Laing had bought Strathearn Distillery as Annie talked Sullivans Cove with head distiller Patrick Maguire and rare pepper cordials with Monin and Alex Kratena. Henry had discussions of his own, from mezcal with Dr Iván Saldaña, to cocktails with Joe and Daniel Schofield, but still found time to make the intriguing Gin Rummy our New Arrival of the Week.

Phew! Now, to The Nightcap!

The Nightcap

£1,452,000. One bottle of whisky. £1,452,000. Wow.

Macallan and Brora break records at Sotheby’s in London

Hammers were banged, money was waved and records were broken at the latest wine and spirits auction at Sotheby’s in London this week. Some 460 bottles of rare Scotch from an American collector went under the hammer. The star was inevitably a Macallan, a 60 year old from 1926 which went for £1,452,000 ($1,873,951). Jamie Ritchie, chairman of Sotheby’s, said: “There was an electric atmosphere in the room today for our first-ever single-owner spirits auction. This sale marks a historic moment for the spirits market, with new benchmark prices and a fresh approach to selling whisky.” According to Sotheby’s, the strongest interest came from Asian buyers. In total, the collection went for £7,635,619 ($9,854,530), out of which a whopping £3m ($4m) was accounted for by just four bottles of Macallan. But it wasn’t all about Macallan. Other exciting bottles included a 50 year old Springbank distilled in 1919 which went for £266,200 ($343,558); bottle number one of 54 year old Bowmore Crashing Waves went for £363,000 ($468,488); and a Dalmore Eos 59 year old, one of only 20 bottles, achieved £99,220 ($128,053). All this excitement makes the £54,450 ($70,273), a new record, paid for a bottle of Brora 40 year old seem like pocket change. Perhaps you could mix it with ginger beer.

The Nightcap

Balcones master distiller Jared Himstedt, who won’t be singing

Balcones teams up with Texan singer-songwriter Jarrod Dickenson for UK tour

We all know that whisky and music go together: from Keith Richards with his Jack Daniel’s to, erm, Billy Idol with Rebel Yell. Now Texas whisky pioneer Balcones will be bringing the spirit of the Lone Star state to Britain in more ways than one by sponsoring the tour of top Texan singer-songwriter Jarrod Dickenson. Balcones and Dickenson have so much in common. Not only are they both from Waco, Texas but Dickenson and Balcones’ head distiller have almost the same first name, Jarrod and Jared. They’re made for each other. The tour titled Unplugged & Distilled will run from 22 November to 7 December 2019, and consist of Dickenson playing 13 acoustic dates around the country (details here). And while you listen, and perhaps dance, if you get the urge, you can sip delicious Balcones whisky. It’ll be just like being in Texas, except when you leave the gig, it’ll probably be cold and wet.

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Introducing: the Samurai Scientist!

New Boss Hog from WhistlePig finished in Japanese umeshu casks

A new Boss Hog from rye distiller WhistlePig is always something to be excited about but this latest edition sound particularly epic. It’s called the Samurai Scientist and it’s a sixteen-year-old whisky named after a chemist called Jōkichi Takamine who brought a Japanese form of alcohol production, koji, to American whiskey in the 19th century. The Samurai Scientist is a collaboration with a Japanese company, Kitaya who produce sake, shōchū and umeshu. It was created using koji fermentation (in Canada) and aged for 16 years before being finished in a cask that previously held an aged umeshu – a Japanese fruit liqueur. Pete Lynch, master blender, explained: “We finished one of our oldest whiskeys in barrels that held Kitaya’s eleven-year-old umeshu. With umeshu being an intensely aromatic spirit, it does not take long to impart deeply complex flavours. Only 90 barrels exist and each bottle notes the barrel number and proof, ranging between 120 – 122 [60-61% ABV]”. Jeff Kozak, CEO of Whistlepig added: “Dave Pickerell committed to five promises for The Boss Hog, including being distinctly unique from anything we’ve done before. He had a thirst for exploring and trialling techniques from around the world, and Takamine was like-minded in propelling whiskey innovation across continents.” The Samurai Scientist complete with pewter samurai on the stopper should roaring into MoM towers sometime in December. Now we know what we’re going to ask #whiskysanta for.

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Is this the world’s first Afro-Caribbean rum?

Burrell and Seale launch Equiano, the world’s first Afro-Caribbean rum

Two distilleries. Two different continents. Two key figures within the rum industry. That’s the story behind Equiano, which is believed to be the world’s first Afro-Caribbean rum. Created by global rum ambassador Ian Burrell and master distiller Richard Seale, Equiano is described as an “east and west” collaboration and is said to be the first rum crafted from liquid from two different distilleries based on two different continents. The name is a tribute to Olaudah Equiano, a Nigerian-born writer, abolitionist, traveller and freedom fighter, as it follows his journey, from Africa to the Caribbean and the UK. It’s a blend of molasses rums from Mauritius-based Gray’s Distillery that was aged for 10 years in a combination of French Limousin oak casks and ex-Cognac casks and Foursquare rum that was matured in ex-bourbon casks. It has no added sugar, spices or colourants, was bottled at 43% ABV and is said to deliver notes of dried fruits, sweet toffee, butterscotch, orange peel, vanilla, oak, anise, sweet pepper and buttered wood. “Equiano is a first for a centuries-old craft,” said Seale. “We have created an entirely unique blend through a collaboration between two rum distilleries on two different continents.” Burrell added: “Premium rum is on the rise, and more importantly the consumer that wants quality is demanding clarity, authenticity and intrinsic value in their rum. Equiano is a new style of rum; one that combines two rum cultures: African and the Caribbean.” A percentage of the profits from every bottle of Equiano sold will be donated to an equality-focused charity annually.

The Nightcap

It’s a blow for those who like to flip bottles like this on the auction market…

New Daftmill will only be available by the dram

Watching great whiskies disappear into collections or bounce around auction markets is something we’ve all become used to seeing. Lowland distillery Daftmill isn’t interested in taking part with its latest release, however. In an effort to side-step ‘bottle flippers’, it will offer Daftmill Single Cask 2008 #68 by the dram in select Scottish bars in collaboration with Berry Bros & Rudd. The duo has teamed up to sell the 2008 vintage single cask expression in 25ml measures for the price of £10 (US$13). It will be available at venues operated by Scottish chain The Independent Whisky Bars of Scotland from the 1 November, including The Ardshiel (Campbeltown), Artisan (Wishaw), The Bon Accord (Glasgow), Dornoch Castle Hotel (Dornoch), Fiddlers Inn (Drumnadrochit), The Highlander Inn (Craigellachie) and The Malt Room (Inverness). That’s right. Bottles will not be available to buy. Described as a first for the industry, the move was taken to ensure that the spirit can only be sampled by “genuine whisky lovers”. Bottles of the 2008 single cask released earlier this year sold out in minutes and then began appearing on auction sites at hugely inflated prices. “As much as we appreciate the high demand for our whisky, we’ve always distilled with the goal of it being opened and drunk by people that really enjoy a dram,” said Francis Cuthbert of Daftmill. “Releasing this single cask with The Independent Whisky Bars of Scotland is a great way to ensure that every bottle we release will be opened and drunk over the next few months.” Daftmill Single Cask 2008 #68 is the first single cask to be released from this vintage. The whisky was matured in a first-fill ex-bourbon barrel and selected by the bar chain to be bottled at a natural strength of 55.5% ABV.

The Nightcap

Brewdog is the latest brand to experiment with ‘botanical rum’

Brewdog launches Five Hundred Cuts botanical rum

To the Physic Garden in Chelsea for the launch of Brewdog’s new botanical rum, Five Hundred Cuts. And first off, who knew there was a walled botanical garden right in the heart of London? This sweet-smelling oasis was the perfect setting for the launch. There was even a ‘herbal storyteller’, Amanda Edmiston, on hand to give us an insight into the inspiration for the rum, an Aberdonian botanist called Elizabeth Blackwell. And what of the rum itself?  We’ll be running an interview with distillery Steven Kersley next week but here’s our first impressions: the rum is based on a high ester spirit distilled from Algerian molasses (the best according to Kersley) and flavoured by distillation and infusion with a variety of spices including cardamom, ginger, orange peel, cloves and tonka beans before sweetening with muscovado sugar. The result (RRP £24) is quite remarkably aromatic and tasted excellent in a series of cocktails created by Laki Kane’s Georgi Radev but it also worked wonders sipped neat as a seasonal cold cure. It just breezes through that blocked nose.

The Nightcap

Feliz Día de los Muertos!

Patrón Tequila celebrates Día de Muertos

This November, Patrón Tequila will launch a series of events in celebration of Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead). The traditional Mexican celebration will be marked by immersive art exhibitions and bar takeovers all over Europe by Patrón Tequila. In London, a three-day immersive event will take place at the six-storey 19 Greek St in Soho from 1st to 3rd November 2019 featuring the works of Mexican artists Lourdes Villagomez and Lola Argemi. But if you want to kick off the celebrations earlier, Patrón will be offering themed cocktails within a colourful setting that evokes the key symbols of the Día de Muertos in a number of bars, such as The Den (100 Wardour Street), Swift, Hovarda, Thirst and Soho Residence in Soho, Raffles and Callooh Callay in Chelsea, the Harvey Nichols 5th Floor Bar in Knightsbridge, Eve Bar in Covent Garden, Red Rooster in Shoreditch, Playa in Marylebone and the London Cocktail Club in Oxford Circus. To all of our Mexican friends, we wish you a Feliz Día de los Muertos!

The Nightcap

It’s the oldest whisky ever released from the Campbeltown Distillery

Glen Scotia releases its oldest and rarest expression

Get ready for Glen Scotia’s oldest ever expression! The Campbeltown distillery has only gone and released a 45-year-old single malt. Distilled back in December 1973, it was aged in refill bourbon casks, where it rested until 2011. Then the liquid was transferred to first-fill bourbon casks until 2019, when it was bottled at 43.8% ABV. “Glen Scotia 45 year old is one of the most magnificent expressions to be produced by our Campbeltown distillery and we are excited that after 45 years we are now able to unveil it to the world,” said master distiller Michael Henry. “It embodies all of the unique elements which Glen Scotia is known for, delivering a long mouth-watering finish with notes of sea salt and lime citrus. On the palate, the liquid presents caramel sweetness at first, then juicy fruit with pineapple, mango and watermelon rounded by vanilla and honey.” Each bottle comes in a handmade British walnut case, with an engraved tile featuring the individual bottle number and tasting notes. If that wasn’t enough, inside the case you’ll find embossed leather lining. That all sounds pretty dandy, doesn’t it? Here’s the catch: only 150 bottles have been released worldwide, priced at £3,795. If you do fancy on getting your hands on one, then we recommend keeping a very, very close eye on your favourite online retailer…

The Nightcap

The ‘Kingdom of Light’ cocktail

Mr Fogg’s Winter Festival Of Lights lands in Covent Garden

Mr Fogg’s Gin Parlour and Tavern is a quintessentially British spot for a tipple or two in Covent Garden. However, the bar has teamed up with House of Suntory for the Winter Light Festival, a magical Japanese-inspired illuminated festival. It’s a sensory experience inspired by Japanese nature, a delight of sight, taste and sound, launched this week on 23 October. Of course, there are also Japanese-inspired cocktails, made with Roku gin, Haku vodka and Toki whisky. You’ll be met at the entrance to the tavern with a red torii gate framed with pink cherry blossom. There are two menus to choose from. The first you’ll find downstairs, inspired by different locations throughout Japan, with cocktails such as ‘Kyoto’, marrying Toki whisky, elderflower cordial and lemon juice, topped with ginger ale. If you follow the lantern trail upstairs you’ll find the second menu. This is no ordinary menu, with the cocktails listed on Roku bottles filled with fairy lights. The serves here are named after Japanese festivals such as ‘Kingdom of Light’, made with Roku gin, Luxardo Bitter Bianco, umeshu plum sake and rhubarb bitters. If you were umming and ahhing about going, we should probably let you know that the bar will even be streaming the Rugby World Cup straight from Japan. Whether that’s a good thing or not is up to you…

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Lidl wants to challenge your preconceptions

And finally. . . . wine tasting in the dark with Lidl

When conducting a wine tasting most professionals agree on what you need, wine, obviously, you can’t have a wine tasting without wine, clean glasses, white tablecloths and plenty of light so that you can appreciate the colour. Well, Lidl is throwing all this out the window with its new pop-up wine tasting tour. It begins in London on 8 November before continuing to Manchester and Glasgow. Tastings will be hosted by Master of Wine Richard Bampfield and take place in a Cellar Noir where wine will be served in the pitch black by waiters wearing night-vision goggles, and in a nightmarish-looking Discombobulation Chamber. The idea is to shake off people’s preconceptions about labels and wine colour, and trust in their senses of taste and smell. It all this sounds much too confusing for you, to finish up there’s Salle de Noel featuring Christmas trees, mince pies, a cheeseboard, and, most importantly, some light so you can see what you’re doing.

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Cocktail of the Week: The Adonis

This week we’re tapping into the collective cocktail brain of two bartending brothers, Joe and Daniel Schofield, and harnessing the awesome power of sherry to create the Adonis. As one…

This week we’re tapping into the collective cocktail brain of two bartending brothers, Joe and Daniel Schofield, and harnessing the awesome power of sherry to create the Adonis.

As one of our columnists noted, sherry is a very underrated ingredient. Recently I attended the launch of a very special whisky that was aged in sherry solera casks. Before we tried the whisky, we drank some sherry from the same solera. I won’t say the sherry was better but it was at least as interesting, intense and complex as the whisky. The sherry cost about £75 a bottle, the whisky £4,000. Bananas!

Sherry contains many of the flavours, like brown sugar, hazelnut and butterscotch, of aged brown spirits at a much lower ABV, perfect if you’re cutting back or just fancy a bit of a session. This week’s cocktail, the Adonis, is very like a Palmetto but made with sherry instead of rum. The recipe comes from a rather swanky book called Schofield’s Fine and Classic Cocktails that landed at MoM towers last week. 

Schofield cocktail book

It’s written by two brothers from Manchester, Joe and Daniel Schofield. Between them, they have won many many awards, worked in cocktail bars all over the world, including the American Bar at the Savoy, and collaborated with another pair of brothers, Asterley Bros, on a vermouth. Now, all that learning and experience can be found in one place. The book contains advice on making cocktails as well as classic and modern recipes. 

The Adonis is named not after the figure from Greek mythology nor the Labour peer and educational reformer, Lord Adonis, but after a musical. Adonis was a long-running Broadway show in the late 19th century. It’s part of the long line of cocktails named after shows like the Rob Roy, and the Pink Lady. Sadly this habit of naming cocktails after musicals seems to have died out. One can almost imagine a Miss Saigon or an Oliver! though I wouldn’t fancy a Les Miserables.

Traditionally the Adonis is made with fino sherry but the Schofield brothers have suggested using an oloroso instead to make it richer. The Alfonso from Gonzalez Byass offers amazing intensity for the money. The Schofields recommend their collaborative vermouth (well, they would, wouldn’t them) but I have defied them and kept it 100% Jerez with the Lustau Vermut Rojo. The other non-trad element is sugar syrup; the brothers write: “sugar is a great flavour carrier and works well here, enhancing the relatively subtle sherry and vermouth. You won’t find this extra touch of sweetness in traditional versions of the drink, but we like how it underscores all the flavour notes”.

The Adonis, not as strong as you’d expect from the name

The result is something with all the depth of flavour of a Manhattan or Rob Roy, but with much less alcohol and it’s cheaper too. Your doctor and bank manager will thank the Schofields

Right, let’s make an Adonis. 

30ml Gonzalez Byass Alfonso Oloroso Seco
30ml Lustau Vermut Rojo
2 dashes of Fee Brothers Orange Bitters
½ teaspoon of sugar syrup

Add all the ingredients into a mixing glass or shaker with ice, and give it a good stir. Strain into a coupette and garnish with an orange coin.

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Rare pepper cordials from Monin and Alex Kratena

Monin’s new single botanic cordial series, Paragon, seeks to document rare botanical varieties from remote areas around the world in liquid form. We chatted with bartending luminary and co-creator Alex…

Monin’s new single botanic cordial series, Paragon, seeks to document rare botanical varieties from remote areas around the world in liquid form. We chatted with bartending luminary and co-creator Alex Kratena to discover more about the project, which is billed as ‘an encyclopedic collection of ingredients for bartenders’… 

Bottling the best of nature’s library is no small undertaking. Kratena, who has led projects across the entire industry spectrum – co-owner of London bar Tayer + Elementary, co-creator of liqueur range Muyu, and co-founder of bartender collective, P(our) Symposium, to name but three – joined team Paragon in exploring each continent, where they collaborated with remote communities that have been cultivating their native species for generations.

Their overarching mission? To protect and preserve these indigenous flavours in a series of “botanical chapters”; capturing never-before-seen aromatic essences and bringing them, for the first time, to the palates of the world’s most creative bar stars. The first chapter is formed of a three-strong Pepper Collection spanning White Penja Pepper from Cameroon, Ru Berry from Ethiopia and Timur Berry from Nepal. 

Alex Kratena in action

Alex Kratena in action

“There are more than 2,750 varieties of pepper out there,” says Kratena. “I focused on those that, in my eyes, had a very unique taste profile and were radically different from each other. Pepper functions very much like wine – its variety, terroir and preparation affects the final product. While the aim was to create a balanced collection with representation of different styles, ultimately all was left to blind tasting – in my world, flavour is the king.”

The gastronomes among you might recognise Penja white pepper, which in 2014 became the first product of Africa to obtain Protected Geographical Indication status (PGI) thanks to burgeoning popularity among Michelin-starred chefs the world over. Hailing from Cameroon in the province of Moungo, the pepper is harvested from volcanic soils when ripe, before being dried in the sun. Each and every stage of production, from harvesting to washing to sorting, is carried out by hand. 

The rue berry, meanwhile, comes from the ruta chalepensis plant, commonly used as an herb as well as a medicinal plant in Ethiopia. Sweet and aromatic, freshly-cut ruta chalepensis leaves are commonly used to flavour a coffee leaf infusion called kuti, or added to local cheeses during production, while the plant’s strong, spicy berries form part of the traditional Ethiopian berbere chilli and spice blend.

Paragon syrups

Nepal, Cameroon and Ethiopia came to London for the launch of this special cordials

The final cordial celebrates the timur berry, a Nepalese pepper picked from the zanthoxylum armatum tree species that grow in the wild in the Mahabharat Range. Often referred to as the ‘grapefruit pepper’ for its fresh citrus notes, the berry is a favourite in native dishes from the Teraï lowlands of southern Nepal. 

To extract the complex flavours from each pepper, Kratena and the Monin team used a mix of fancy tech, including the rather space age-sounding “supercritical CO2” – a technique commonly used by the perfume industry that captures an aroma by manipulating carbon dioxide – as well as infusion and distillation. The base of the cordials is made from gluconic acid found in Cameroonian Oku honey, which enhances the flavours without bringing additional tasting notes.

“Each extraction technique captures only a certain part of the overall aromatic profile,” explains Kratena. “Our job was to identify those and see how they work and why. Using different intermediate elaborations we’ve reconstructed the individual profiles to capture the ingredient in its full beauty as truthfully as possible.”

The raw materials, from left, white Penja pepper, rue berry and timur berry

Given tasting notes for Paragon White Penja Pepper include horsehair, menthol and camphor; Paragon Timur Berry bears passion, jasmine and hay; while Paragon Timur Berry holds grapefruit, herbal, woody characteristics – certainly a unique and diverse mix, and pretty remarkable when you consider all three are varieties of pepper. How does Kratena envisage bartenders using these botanical cordials, I ask, and what kinds of flavours are they suited to?

“Paragon Cordials bring a new source of acidity for modern bartender,” he says. “They work amazingly well in Gimlets and Highballs, and function incredibly well with ferments, fortified wines and Champagne. They’re formulated to cut through big bold flavours, but also work really well with aged spirits. I love simple highballs with the following formula: 40ml spirit of your choice, 20ml Paragon Timur Berry, 100ml soda. Build over good quality ice in a highball glass, stir and enjoy.”

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The Nightcap: 18 October

Nick Offerman’s own whisky, pricey Macallans, new distilleries, rums, cocktail menus and more – there’s only place you’ll find all of this boozy news: The Nightcap! If you think about…

Nick Offerman’s own whisky, pricey Macallans, new distilleries, rums, cocktail menus and more – there’s only place you’ll find all of this boozy news: The Nightcap!

If you think about it, our round-up of the booze news from the week that was (which was so cleverly named The Nightcap, many moons ago) is kind of like a gin. The botanicals for most gins are different from each other, but the core of juniper remains the same. Just like the stories within each edition of The Nightcap are different, but the core of “All these tales are about the world of drinks” remains constant. We are the distillers. Our computers are our stills. The words are… I guess maybe the heat that distils the spirit? Is your computer or phone screen the glass from which you enjoy the gin? The somewhat off-the-wall story we usually include right at the end of The Nightcap each week is that botanical you look at and wonder “Does that really count as a botanical? How can ‘a book that Mary Shelley once looked at’ count as a botanical? Am I going to have to phone up the producers of Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus Gin and question their integrity?” This simile/metaphor has gone on far too long.

It’s been quite the week on the MoM Blog once again. We announced the details of Diageo Special Releases 2019 and Jim Murray’s World Whisky of the Year 2020, before Henry talked to gin legend Christopher Hayman, and then united two of Italy’s great aperitifs in one glass for our Cocktail of the Week, the Americano. Annie was busy exploring spirits both innovative and unusual, but managed to find time to make Teeling Single Pot Still our New Arrival of the Week. Adam, meanwhile, rounded-up some of the best new booze around and then ventured to Penderyn, where we got some incredible (and exclusive!) video footage.

Now, on to The Nightcap!

The Nightcap

Gordon & MacPhail may begin work on building its new distillery by the end of the year.

Gordon & MacPhail’s new Speyside distillery moves one step closer

Attempts to build another new distillery in Speyside have made a major breakthrough! Scotch whisky bottler Gordon & MacPhail has secured planning approval to build a distillery and visitor centre in Craggan, near Grantown-on-Spey in Cairngorms National Park. Gordon & MacPhail first announced its plans back, in May 2018, but it wasn’t until 11 October that the site was given the green light by the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA). The new distillery will be the company’s second following the purchase and refurbishment of Benromach Distillery. It’s been designed to take advantage of its views across the River Spey, and has a circular shape to disguise much of the day-to-day workings of the distillery. The multi-million-pound facility will have an annual maximum capacity of two million litres of spirits, equivalent to 100,000 cases of whisky. “This is a major development for the area and this will be the first malt whisky distillery to be approved by the Cairngorms National Park Authority since it was established in 2003,” said Eleanor Mackintosh, CNPA planning committee convener. “The food and drink sector and the tourism industry are both extremely important to the National Park economy – often going hand in hand as is the case here”. It caps a great week for Gordon & MacPhail, as the brand’s director of prestige and fourth-generation member of the owning family, Stephen Rankin, was announced as a Master of the Quaich at the biannual Keepers of the Quaich ceremony at Blair Castle.

The Nightcap

It’s about goddamn time. Look at that facial hair. Magnificent stuff all round.

Nick Offerman gets his own Lagavulin Scotch whisky

You might be familiar with the fact that actor Nick Offerman likes Lagavulin whisky. A lot. Maybe it’s because you’ve watched him as Ron Swanson in Parks and Recreation, where his character extols the many virtues of the Islay distillery. Or perhaps it’s the five years of work he’s done with Lagavulin, which includes the My Tales of Whiskey YouTube channel, complete with videos such as ‘Nick Offerman’s ‘Yule Log’ a 45 minute epic where he simply sits in front of a fire drinking Scotch (which now has over 3.6 million views. Not bad). Now he has a new connection, surely his finest yet: his own limited-edition Lagavulin whisky. Lagavulin Offerman Edition Aged 11 Years is a single malt created by the man himself in collaboration with distillery manager Colin Gordon. The brand says that the expression, which was bottled at 46% ABV bottling, “carries the signature Lagavulin peatiness but with extra spices and notes of dried fruit to carry the smoke”. Offerman’s involvement also extends to the design the packing, which features a rather glorious portrait of himself with typically sublime facial hair, as well as his signature and a quote: “I have travelled the world and sampled many attempts at pleasing nectars, but it is solely this distillation of Islay, a tiny, charismatic Scottish isle, that has claimed my palate. Yea, and my heart into the bargain”. To help promote Lagavulin Offerman Edition Aged 11 Year, new Offerman Edition content will be added to the My Tales of Whiskey channel later this month. We could end on a typical Ron Swanson quote here, but he was a man of very few words. So we won’t. Cheers to you, Nick.

The Nightcap

If you have a spare £100k laying around, then you can grab one of these for yourself as well

Two rare Macallan Lalique 50-year-olds fetch over £100,000 each

A Macallan whisky has made an awful lot of money at auction. Which probably doesn’t shock you. It tends to happen a lot. However, the two bottles of The Macallan Lalique 50-year-old Scotch whisky that were sold recently did actually raise a few eyebrows as the price paid exceeded the estimated value. At Bonhams Fine Whisky sale in Edinburgh last week, the impressive expressions fetched a whopping £100,062 (US$126,515) each, when they were expected to set some lucky wealthy whisky lover back somewhere around £67,000-£93,000 (US$84,712 – US$117,586). The Macallan Lalique 50-year-old is the first release from The Lalique Six Pillars collection, which was launched between 2006 and 2016, and is said to have aromas of cumin, cardamom and maraschino, and flavours of dark prunes and plain chocolate. But none of us will ever know for sure. Because life is unfair. At the same auction, a bottle of 50-year-old Karuizawa 1965 sold for £27,562 (US$34,848), also breaking its estimated sale price of between £23,000-£25,000 (US$29,080-US$31,609), and the bottle was part of a collection of Japanese whisky that eventually sold for a total of £200,000 (US$252,874). It would appear the appetite for rare and expensive whisky is relentless.

The Nightcap

How do you like them apples? Quite a lot, to be honest. They’re very tasty.

New eau-de-vie made from a thousand different apple varieties

Tiny Cotswolds distillery Capreolus has made quite a name for itself with its superb eaux-de-vie and innovative Garden Swift Gin, but the latest release might just take the biscuit. It’s called 1,000 Trees Apple EDV and it’s made from fruit from 1,000 different varieties of apples. Did you know there were a thousand different varieties of apple? This treasure trove is on Prince Charles’ estate – don’t worry Capreolus’ founder and distiller Barney Wilczak actually bought the apples. What’s more, £5 from every bottle sold goes to The Prince’s Countryside Fund to help develop sustainable farming. Wilczak told us more about this very special orchard and spirit: “It’s an incredible resource, textures, aromas, and flavours [of apple], that would never be available in the shops and, of course, important for future breeding and the preservation of historic varieties. We are doing an annual field blend, and with the varying performance of each variety, this will always be unique. Totally organic, zero additions and wild fermented, we are very happy with the outcome.”

The Nightcap

This is the kind of refuge for weary shoppers that we can get behind!

Blend your own gin while you shop

We all know that some people (hi Dad!) really don’t enjoy shopping, especially at Christmas. But we think even the grumpiest of grandpas will want to visit Bluewater this autumn because from October until the end of December, you can blend your own gin. How good is that? The team at Anno Distillers are the people behind this brilliant idea. They have also just released a Honey & Orange Gin as well as earlier this year Kent’s first single malt whisky. Back at Bluewater, weary shoppers can select different flavours and meld them together to create their own unique gin or vodka. Then while their creations are bottled and labelled, they can enjoy a Gin and Tonic made using their own gin. The experience costs £75 and takes two hours. Then there’s just enough time to glide into Oliver Bonas, grab the nearest thing to hand. Job done. Shopping will never be the same again.

The Nightcap

The new cocktail menu is a tasty journey around England

Coral room launches England-inspired cocktail menu

The Coral Room manages to transport drinkers within into a chic, coral-coloured country house in the midst of all the London madness. Now, whereabouts in the country that house is up to you, as with its new cocktail menu you can take your taste buds on a journey around England! From Newquay to Ascot to Windermere, the 14 different serves are inspired by 14 different spots. In the ornate menu, each serve is accompanied by a bespoke Art Deco-style drawing. ‘London Calling’ (we bet you can’t guess where inspired that one), a Tequila-based tipple, depicts a couple of punks wandering around Camden Lock, an obvious nod The Clash. Pop over to Glastonbury and try ‘Play the Pyramid’, a Roe & Co. Irish whiskey-based serve with ginger, honey and, of course, pear cider. Well, it is Somerset! If you venture to Sussex, there’s the ‘Garden Party’, and general manager Giovanni Spezziga tells us they wanted to pay homage to the invention of banoffee pie (which was indeed in Sussex!) with this cocktail. There’s Diplomático rum, vodka, crème de banana, cream caramel and tonka bean bitters, so it’s totally reminiscent of an indulgent dessert. Then, there’s ‘The Full Bloomer’ from Kent, with strawberries and rose from the Garden of England, topped with an awesome smoke-filled bubble, which is way more fun to burst than it should be. The whole menu is an experience, from flicking through to brightly-coloured book, discussing the beautiful illustrations and then picking which location to venture to through the art of the cocktail. And if your home town is on there, then, of course, you’ve got to try it!

The Nightcap

Introducing: Livener and Nightcap!

Three Spirit to launch two new no-ABV expressions

Three Spirit has announced the release of two new no-ABV bottlings to join its first release, Social Elixir, which the brand described as ‘the world’s first plant-powered social spirit’. The two new additions are Livener and Nightcap, which were created to serve different functions that mirror the ways in which we enjoy alcohol. The first is a “pick-me-up and party starter” and the latter is a blend to “help you relax and unwind”. Livener was made with ingredients including Guayusa, Schisandra berries and energising plants and is best enjoyed in Margaritas, Daiquiris and Bellinis, while Nightcap features ingredients such as Valerian, turmeric, ashwagandha, lemon balm and hops that’s delicious in Old Fashioneds and Penicillins (the latter we can say from experience). ‘For this new breed of Conscious Hedonists – people who love to go out, let their hair down and have fun but who still want to be on form the next day – we offer the dream,’ said co-founder Tatiana Mercer. ‘Great flavour, new function and unique drinking experience.’ Three Spirit was launched in January 2019 and its expressions are created from a collaboration between Mercer and co-founders Dash Lilley and Meeta Gournay, as well as ex-Dandelyan bartender Robin Honhold, Tristan Stephenson and Thomas Aske, of Fluid Movement, Black Rock and Worship Street fame, and Professor Michael Heinrich, head of the Centre for Pharmacognosy and Phytotherapy at UCL School of Pharmacy. Livener and Nightcap will arrive at MoM Towers soon.

The Nightcap

The God Save The Queen cocktail, which we can confirm is very delicious.

100 Wardour Street debuts satirical cocktail menu ‘The Politicians’

Of late, it may feel like the state of the current political climate can get a bit too much. Perhaps you’d like to go for a drink or two, to take your mind off it. Or, conversely, pop down to 100 Wardour Street to try out their new satirical cocktail menu, ‘The Politicians’! We popped down for a taste and certainly weren’t disappointed. Caricature sketches of each politician accompany their cocktail in the book-like menu, and the vodka-based ‘Pride’ sees Vladimir Putin vandalised with a full face of makeup. Perhaps one of the most tongue-in-cheek is ‘The Wall’, a mezcal-based cocktail accompanied by a sketch of Donald Trump with Day of the Dead face paint on, served in a terracotta vessel to top it all off. Even Pope Francis gets his own serve titled ‘Amen’, an aptly alcohol-free kombucha-based serve. It’s not all surface, and the cocktails are genuinely tasty. Alongside the smoky-sweet ‘The Wall’, one of our favourites was ‘Le Roi’, inspired by Emmanuel Macron, a floral serve with Tanqueray Gin, chamomile, elderflower and bergamot, topped with fizz. Of the new menu, head bartender Federico Pasian noted that, “Being able to tease out the humour and satire surrounding the reputations of these political individuals has resulted in a daring and experimental cocktail menu which I hope makes people laugh, especially in the current climate of uncertainty”. It’s a menu that’s set to divide opinion, but also provide a lot of laughs. So go on and raise a glass to your favourite (or, perhaps least favourite) politician.

The Nightcap

Historic rums are some of our favourite rums!

Mount Gay launches first single pot still rum since the 19th century

Mount Gay’s newest master blender Trudiann Branker, she took over in April of this year, was in town this week with a very special rum. It’s a single pot still spirit, probably the first such rum released since the 19th century when column distillation came to Barbados. Mount Gay dates back to 1703 and Branker described this new release as: “a celebration of how we made rum.” It’s the second in the distillery’s Master Blender range, product of a single distillation run from 2009 filled into American whiskey barrels. 10 years in the heat of Barbados is a long time. Branker said, “our angel’s share is ridiculous, we have very happy angels.” Only 4920 bottles have been filled at 48% ABV. The UK allocation will be tiny and should be arriving with us in early November with an RRP of around £140. We tried it next to the always wonderful XO, and though both shared a ripe banana note, the pot still was very different, winey and fruity on the nose, and intensely aromatic, almost menthol, in the mouth with dark chocolate and vanilla on the finish. It’s a very special taste of history.

The Nightcap

At $23 (£17-ish) a night, this stay will set you back less than a bottle of White Label!

And Finally… Stay in Jim Beam’s distillery cottage for just $23!

Whiskey-loving AirBnB users, listen up. You can now add the stay of dreams to your US itinerary! This week, Jim Beam’s 1919 three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bathroom (what does a half-bathroom look like?) distillery cottage popped up in eagle-eyed AirBnB users’ searches. It comes with a fully-stocked bar, a fireplace, a back garden with cowboy cauldrons (basically a fancy fire pit) and there’s even a fishing dock. And Jim Beam will even throw in a distillery tour and bourbon tasting. The best part? Each one-night stay costs at just $23! “We like to say that anyone who visits us comes as friends and leaves as family, so we’re thrilled to welcome our extended family for some bourbon and Kentucky hospitality,” said Fred Noe, Jim Beam’s seventh-generation master distiller and now AirBnB property host. The only snag? Availability is SUPER limited (we gather just 23-24 November and 7-8 December) with bookings opening on 21 October. Laptops at the ready – this could prove trickier than nabbing Glastonbury tickets…

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Ce n’est pas un Martini

This week our contributing writer and bartender Nate Brown channels General Bosquet* following a disappointing Martini experience at a famous London bar. Stepping into the bar of this St. James…

This week our contributing writer and bartender Nate Brown channels General Bosquet* following a disappointing Martini experience at a famous London bar.

Stepping into the bar of this St. James hotel feels like stepping back in time. Not way back, not like centuries. More like decades. It has a bit of ‘50s feel at best. ‘80s at its worst. The carpet is so plush one does not walk as much as wade through the room. It’s eerily quiet, despite the two elderly men in a corner. 

Table for three, I whisper. Right this way sir, says the white-jacketed man. Why do they all wear these jackets? I ponder. It’s somewhere between a uniform and a suit of armour. They all look like they’re carrying concealed weapons. 

I reach my table through the heavy silence, and see that I am the first arrival in the back room which opens only for evening service. I stand to remove my raincoat. It’s been one of those awkward autumn days. The rain falls but the temperature is still high. I can’t tell if I’m sweating or damp from the rain. Both, probably. Double moisture to be soaked up by the depth of fabric underfoot.

Nate Brown

Nate Brown, too scruffy for some London bars

“Excuse me, sir”, I’m interrupted. “But we do not allow tee shirts in here”.

“It’s boiling in here”, I protest.

“I’m sorry sir, you’ll have to keep your jacket on.”

I look incredulously around the empty room, wondering who I could possibly be offended by my wearing of a tee shirt. Perhaps the walls are of a certain sensibility, the chairs perhaps? No, it’s definitely the carpet. That bastard mangrove of a carpet hates the sight of flesh.

I have no choice but to relent. I’m meeting two friends, L & C, here for the signature Martini. Apparently nowhere does them quite like here. I’ve been before. I hadn’t rushed back, but the gents insisted. C’s gin is on the menu and he’s quite proud. The damp raincoat stays on. 

Apparently this where Ian Fleming came to write some of his Bond novels and allegedly create the Vesper cocktail a shaken, gin heavy Martini with a pointless measure of vodka. No shaken martinis are any good. The only decent thing about that drink is the Kina Lillet, and you can’t even get that anymore. Nevertheless, here we are, about to spend £20 a pop on the speciality of the house. 

The Vesper Martini, shaken, not stirred

When they arrive we order said Martinis. A generous amount of time later, a rickety wooden trolley is lugged through the carpet. On board are a few enormous frozen Martini glasses. The kind that feel like danger in the hand. We are asked how we like ours. A request for a dry Martini results in a few dashes of house vermouth bounced into the glass, before being discarded ceremoniously onto the carpet. Right, so I can’t wear tee shirt but you can playfully toss vermouth onto the floor? In fairness, I bet you could empty an entire bottle onto this spongy floor without so much as a damp patch. 

The quantities of frozen gin poured directly into the glass are colossal. No shaking here, that’s for damn sure. What an imagination that Fleming chap must have had then. I mean, who else could have dreamed up a Scotch-swilling, colonialist, oft-racist, mass-murderer in this place? I look back towards the bar where now a few elderly, straight-backed chaps in striped suits have gathered and are proudly guffawing.

After ten minutes drinking we still haven’t emptied our glasses and the gin is now warm. It’s a grin and bear it moment to finish. We order another, or rather the first bucket of gin does. After two we are cut off. I’ve heard stories of two gin ambassadors coming here and finishing six of these mammoth Martinis on a few occasions. That seems unbelievable. I know I’d be my unwelcome self after that sort of session. I’d probably be requesting Meatloaf on the bar stereo. The embarrassment would linger. But then again, maybe that’s why neither of those chaps live in London anymore. 

As we leave, I can understand the two Martini limit. The afternoon is still blindingly bright, it’s still raining, and, in the lingo of the location, we are a bit spiffy. I suggest a beer to bring us back to reality. Drinks here are indeed worthy of their notoriety. Only it’s not really a Martini, is it?

*Who following the Charge of Light Brigade said: “C’est magnifique mais ce n’est pas la guerre, c‘est de la folie” – “It’s magnificent but it’s not war, it’s madness.”

Nate Brown has owned and operated spirit specialist cocktail bars in London for the better part of a decade. He’s a regular speaker on industry panels, a judge for various spirit awards and has been known to harbour an opinion or two.

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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!

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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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