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The Nightcap: 16 October

Video games, new whisky, the UK’s first Bloody Mary doughnut and more all await you in this week’s edition of The Nightcap. Get stuck in. Did you know that the…

Video games, new whisky, the UK’s first Bloody Mary doughnut and more all await you in this week’s edition of The Nightcap. Get stuck in.

Did you know that the Met Office has said that Saturday 3 October was the wettest day for UK-wide rainfall since records began in 1891? These aren’t the kinds of records we want to be setting. ‘Woman eats the most amount of hot dogs in a minute’ or ‘man sets the record for owning the highest number of cats’ is the type of story we want to read. Aside from the latest news from the world of booze, of course. We’re always excited to see what’s going on and, hopefully, you are too. Which is why you’re here. So, let’s get on with it. It’s The Nightcap!

On the MoM blog this week we were delighted to launch another incredible #BagThisBundle competition, this time with plenty of delightful Mermaid Gin expressions up for grabs. Adam revealed the news that The Macallan has launched one of the most astonishing ranges of whisky we’ve ever seen before continuing our Sober October coverage by profiling the category-defying Three Spirit Drinks before suggesting some delicious, hearty, comforting drinks for Autumn. Our Cocktail of the Week is a silky serve that needs some shakin’, The Silver Fizz, while our New Arrival is one of the world’s great brandies. Elsewhere, Annie spent five minutes in the company of wonderful Rich Woods from Scout London and Henry had a taste of a particularly intriguing Cuban rum.

The Nightcap

The name ‘Ao’, means blue and is a reference to the oceans that connect the distilleries together.

Beam Suntory announces “first-ever world blended whisky”

There might not be much travel going on at the moment but, as well as a chance to see something other than the inside of your home, holidaymakers will receive another treat in the future thanks to Beam Suntory’s latest innovation, the “first-ever world blended whisky”. ‘Ao’, a global travel retail exclusive, was made using whisky from five distilleries in Japan, Scotland, Ireland, Canada and the US. There’s no official word on which distilleries were used, but given the brand owns one Irish distillery, one Canadian distillery, and has an American and Japanese distillery in its name, you’ll only really be guessing which Scotch it’s opted for (Laphroaig, Bowmore, Auchentoshan, Glen Garioch and Ardmore are the contenders). Beam Suntory has revealed that fifth-generation Suntory chief blender, Shinji Fukuyo, selected each liquid based-on “Suntory’s globally-recognised Monozukuri craftsmanship” and that this innovative blended whisky “embodies the spirit of Suntory and is a tribute to the liquid’s long history”. Fukuyo added, “Ao is an exceptional whisky which, through the art of Suntory blending, allows you to enjoy the unique characteristics of all five major whisky-making regions.”  The distinctive climate, fermentation and distillation processes in each whisky-making region should lead to quite the profile. But then, we would know, given That Boutique-y Whisky Company has already created a World Whisky Blend. Not to brag or anything… 

The Nightcap

New Compass Box whisky is always a treat

Compass Box releases “experiment in oak and smoke”

Some people really know how to celebrate occasions. Take Compass Box, for example. The maverick Scotch whisky brand has marked its 20th anniversary year by announcing the release of  more intriguing new whisky. That’s how you do it, folks. Hot on the heels of  Hedonism Felicitas and Rogues’ Banquet, Peat Monster Arcana is described as the “result of a long-running experiment into the secrets and mysteries of oak and smoke”. Basically, a cask strength version of The Peat Monster was further matured in three French oak custom casks for more than two years and then blended with malt whiskies from the Talisker, Miltonduff and Ardbeg Distilleries. It was bottled at 46% ABV without any additional colouring or chill-filtration and there’s 8,328 bottles produced globally, so if you want one I’d suggest you act quickly. “We have been experimenting with French oak since the early days of our company,” says Compass Box founder and whisky maker John Glaser. “Peat Monster Arcana is the first Compass Box to feature smoky whiskies matured in French oak. We’re delighted to be able to build on this experiment in our 20th anniversary year and we hope dedicated fans of The Peat Monster discover a new side to this charismatic whisky.”  The new dram, which goes well with soda water or blue cheese, will be discussed during a virtual tasting hosted by Glaser, who will also talk about the past, present and future of his brand on Sunday 22 November at 20:00. You can sign up here. If you miss out, don’t worry, Peat Monster Arcana is on its way to MoM Towers…

The Nightcap

The Coastal Cask Collection were all distilled after the distillery was reborn in 2008

Glenglassaugh celebrates its rebirth with the Coastal Cask Collection

We love stories about distilleries brought back from the dead here at Master of Malt so we were delighted that Glenglassaugh is releasing some very special whiskies distilled after the Highland distillery was reborn in November 2008. Prior to this date, it had been out of action for 20 years and few thought they’d ever see it distilling again. But it was revived by Stuart Nickerson and a team including Ian Buxton, who wrote a very good book on the subject. The distillery is now safely in the Brown Forman stable. Anyway, back to those limited-edition releases, master blender Dr Rachel Barrie explained the idea behind them: “No matter what is happening in the world around us, each day the surf rolls in on Sandend Bay and the invigorating North Sea air passes through our coastal distillery and warehouses. That’s the beauty of Glenglassaugh’s coastal casks, each truly a distillation of nature’s elements, come wind, rain or shine. Over a decade since the spirit reawakened in 2008, Coastal Casks is the first global release of a selection of Glenglassaugh cask bottlings at 10 and 11 years old. Like the surf in Sandend Bay, each cask brings rolling waves of flavour that intensify and evolve in each and every sip. Nurtured by the coast, each Glenglassaugh Coastal Cask shares a unique and luscious sweetness. With tasting notes ranging from raspberry fruit jam to salted caramel; tropical fruit syrup to chocolate profiterole and clotted cream,  this collection is a celebration of Glenglassaugh’s coastal malt journey, which I hope you will savour to the full.” There are ten bottlings, each exclusive to a particular market. We’re hoping to get some of Cask 559, the UK release, in at Master of Malt soon, so watch the New Products page.

The Nightcap

Exciting times ahead at Echlinville Distillery!

Echlinville Distillery undergoes £9m expansion

Echlinville Distillery, the producer of Dunville whiskey and creator of Weavers Dry Gin and Echlinville Single Estate Irish Pot Still Gin, has announced this week that the distillery is set to be transformed thanks to a huge £9m expansion project. The plan, which Invest NI contributed £659k towards, is to increase the distillery’s production capacity and create a new visitor centre which will create 36 new jobs in operational and administrative roles. “Irish whiskey is recognised as the world’s fastest-growing spirits category, which is giving us a great foundation upon which to build our export business with the help of this funding from Invest NI,” Shane Braniff, the owner of Echlinville Distillery. “Every bottle that leaves our distillery features our address in Kircubbin and tells of our roots in the Ards Peninsula. Alongside increasing exports around the world, we also hope to raise awareness of what this part of Ireland has to offer and attract more visitors to the area with the development of a dedicated visitor centre.”

Kraken Rum launches Halloween game with Rockstar

If you need a way to make the most of Halloween from the comfort and safety of home then The Kraken Rum might just have the thing for you. The brand has announced it’s teaming up with legendary Rockstar Games director and writer, John Zurhellen (the creative force behind Grand Theft Auto IV, Manhunt 1 & 2 and Red Dead Redemption) to launch an online video game. Right now the working title is Screamfest 4 The Kraken’s Revenge and the game will see fans control an actual human being, via a smartphone or laptop, using on-screen game commands (‘forward’, ‘back’, ‘hide’, that sort of thing), trying to escape the Kraken’s nemesis, The Balthazoid (I have no idea what that is either, it sounds like a type of vermouth). The online game will run from Wednesday 28 October until Friday 30 October, with slots running from 5pm each day. Tickets will be available via The Kraken’s online hub The League Of Darkness from 9am on Monday 12 October. In exchange for tickets, fans will also receive The Kraken’s Survival Pack, including a game-guide, ingredients and just enough delicious rum to create an exclusive Halloween cocktail. “The brief for Kraken Screamfest was simple: come up with a concept more terrifying and warped than anything 2020 has to offer,” says Zurhellen. “So, I delved deep into our primal fears – being hunted, tight spaces, dark shadows, hate-filled creatures – and I’m pretty confident I’ll deliver one of the most terrifying experiences to be seen in UK homes this year”. 

The Nightcap

Simon Robinson (left) with Rhona Cullinane and Steve Spurrier

Classic Method campaign unveiled for English Sparkling Wine 

English and Welsh wine is booming at the moment with sales and vineyard area increasing every year. There’s now a proliferation of styles and grape varieties which though exciting can be confusing to the consumer. Riding to the rescue is industry organisation Wine GB which has come up with a term to differentiate sparkling wines that are bottled-fermented as in Champagne from sparkling wines that might be carbonated or made like Prosecco. From now on the words “Classic Method” and a snazzy hallmark will appear on bottles made in this way, and the plan is for all bottles in future to clearly label how they became fizzy.  Only wines with the Quality Sparkling Wine PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) will be eligible which have to be made with the classic Champagne grape varieties. Simon Robinson, chairman of Wine GB and owner of Hattingley Valley Wines, commented: “We have long recognised the need to positively differentiate and protect our flagship category – wines produced from the classic method. This is the hero style that has put Great Britain on the wine map and led us to more extraordinarily exciting developments in our industry. We now boast a broad range of diverse and high-quality wines in all styles. Our sparkling wines, however, remain at the forefront of our industry and are driving sales both here and overseas. This campaign has set us on the path to ensure that our classic method wines are more positively recognized among the finest wine regions of the world. This is the first such initiative from what is an extremely young trade body, Wine GB was only formed in 2017, and it will be interesting to see whether “Classic Method” means anything to customers. 

The Nightcap

Want to sip on some sustainably-shaken cocktails? Head over to Camden’s shiny new Crossroads!

Crossroads takes over Camden’s Ladies & Gentlemen site

What was the old Camden Ladies & Gentlemen site has been giving new life in the form of Crossroads, which sits beneath the pavement in an old Victorian WC right under the Camden Town bridge. It only opened back in August, and this week team MoM finally made it over! Run by husband and wife duo Bart and Monika Miedeksza, what’s special about it is that it’s fully committed to its zero waste principles. There’s no citrus on the menu as it’s notoriously wasteful – where many bars will go through around four cases of limes each week, Crossroads doesn’t even use 20 individual fruits (mostly for Daiquiris, Bart tells me). Spare Champagne? They’ll whip up a Champagne vinegar to add some delicious acidity to the gin-based, rickey-inspired Oregami cocktail! Bay cuttings from Bart’s own tree at home sit along the bar, along with other various potted plants and herbs, which then end up in my delightful Bay cocktail with white rum, vermouth and tonic. A smoky Calvados-based serve called Jack & Jill battles to steal the show with Pepper, multi-faceted spicy rye- and black pepper-based take on an Old Fashioned. We’re even presented with a small bowl of pickled veg to snack on, which would otherwise have gone to waste from the cocktail production. In the spirit of sustainability, flamboyant garnishes are nowhere to be found here: giant ice cubes and a singular leaf as a garnish (if any) paired with delicate glassware are quite enough. At its core though, Crossroads is just your friendly neighbourhood bar, so while the ingredients may sound complicated the bar itself is far from pretentious. Bart’s passion is infectious, though if you’re worried you may not be able to make it down soon, we also heard that there’s a collection of pre-bottled cocktails on the way…

The Nightcap

The world’s first Bloody Mary doughnut is finally here. What took you so long?

And finally… did somebody say Bloody Mary doughnut?

There are two guaranteed pick-me-ups when you’re feeling a bit peaky in the morning, a Bloody Mary and a box of doughnuts. So it seems crazy that nobody has thought to combine the two. Until now….yes, “gourmet” doughnut shop Longboys has teamed up with Bloody Drinks to create what they claim to be the world’s first Bloody Mary doughnut. Dubbed the Bloody Longboy, it’s made from dough flavoured with real Bloody Mary and then filled with, according to the press release: “Bloody Mary créme, confit tomato, lemon celery confiture and Bloody Mary gel. It’s then garnished with tomato and celery crisps and dusted with tomato sugar.” Sounds pretty tasty. Just in time for Halloween, you can buy one from Longboys in London, which also delivers, but we reckon it should be available on the NHS. 

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The Nightcap: 17 January

In the Nightcap this week we’ve got reinvented bar tools, Dry January discounts and news of victors in the World’s Toughest Row.  We’re officially back into the swing of things….

In the Nightcap this week we’ve got reinvented bar tools, Dry January discounts and news of victors in the World’s Toughest Row. 

We’re officially back into the swing of things. Not simply in sense of The Nightcap, but just in general. Those first couple of weeks following that gift-giving occasion and that world-kept-spinning celebration can be somewhat rocky, but we are firmly back in the saddle, and the saddle is back on the horse, and the horse is back on track, and the track is… OK, actually, yeah, that sentence is over, but not because our ducks aren’t in a row, but really it just went on a bit long. Never-the-less, The Nightcap is ready!

On the blog this week announced the return of the Burns Night poetry competition, while also revealing the winner of our Starward competition. Elsewhere, Henry explored the effect of the iStill on distillation and enjoyed a distinctive beer for our New Arrival of the Week. Jess then talked to Reyka Vodka’s Fabiano Latham before Annie looked at how Australia’s wine industry is reacting to the recent bushfires and the new wave of no-and-low-alcohol drinks. Adam then learned the story behind the revival of James E. Pepper and rounded-up some of the finest new arrivals at MoM Towers, before enjoying a Cocktail of the Week that was both trendy and tropical.

The Nightcap

A very moody looking Monkey Shoulder ‘Trigger Jigger’

Monkey Shoulder gets jiggy with it with the ‘Trigger Jigger’

Monkey Shoulder has made a big claim this week by stating it has reinvented one of the most popular bar tools on the planet – the jigger. Coined ‘The Trigger Jigger’, the Scotch whisky brand has said it guarantees 100% accuracy per pour and will save every bartender an average 4 hours and 42 minutes per year. For those unfamiliar with the tool, the jigger is used to measure and pour spirits and you’ll be sure to find them in any good bar across the globe. However, Monkey Shoulder has commented that inferior jigger designs are inaccurate by as much as 20% because of the likelihood for spirits to spill whilst being measured. A statement that will have many a bartender nodding knowingly. Lab technicians at Monkey Shoulder have put this new tool to the test and the results show that while standard jiggers produce one pour per 0.86 seconds, the Trigger Jigger has recorded speeds of one pour per 0.789 seconds. The design is the brainchild of Monkey Shoulder global brand ambassador Joe Petch, who commented: “Some jiggers are just not good for business and can result in slower serving speeds. So inspired by a nickel- and silver-plated jigger from the late 1880s and through countless hours of research with bartenders around the world, I set about righting some wrongs.” He went onto explain that the key was to streamline the design to ensure maximum liquid velocity: “By engineering a piston valve mechanism, I’ve ensured an accurate cut start and stop flow rate. Pour in the liquid and apply some pressure on a trigger using a good old-fashioned finger. The spirit streams out at an optimum rate into the drinking vessel.” The launch of the Trigger Jigger follows previous Monkey Shoulder inventions such as the extendable ‘iSpoon’, cocktail mixer the Konga Shaker and The Claw ice tong. Bars such as The Artesian, Swift Bar, The Beaufort Bar and Callooh Callay have already started using The Trigger Jigger, and others who want to get in on the act can get their hands on the limited stock by getting in touch with either John Wayte (@BarMonkey_ ) or Jody Buchan (@JodySpiritual).

The Nightcap

Duvel Batch No. 4

Duvel launches Batch No. 4 aged in bourbon barrels 

Beer and whisk(e)y share many things, from the base materials, the fermentation process, and even that time those whiskies were put into an IPA cask. Well, now awesome Belgian beer Duvel Moortgat has released Batch No.4 which has been treated to a nine-month maturation in oak barrels which previously held delicious bourbon. And not just any bourbon either, but liquid from Heaven Hill, Woodford Reserve, Four Roses, George Dickel and Jack Daniels. The limited-edition brew was matured in more than three hundred barrels shipped over to Belgium, with 80,000 bottles released at a burly 11.5% ABV. “The Duvel brewers have not been sitting still in recent months, but our speciality beer has been doing just that,” says Hedwig Neven, brewmaster at Duvel Moortgat. “Lovers of beer, Duvel, and whiskey can once again enjoy Duvel Barrel Aged now that the barrels are opened after their long rest and the bottles have finally been filled!” With toasted flavours of toffee, vanilla and obvious bourbon influence, Batch No. 4 even stole a gold medal in the Brussels Beer Challenge. Said to be a great pairing with raw or smoked fish, sushi, grilled or smoked meat, cheeses, exotic fruit and chocolate, it’s hard to think of an occasion when it wouldn’t fit in!

The Nightcap

2020 looks like another big year for the family firm

Hayman Distillers launches spirit merchant arm, Symposium 

2019 was a big year for Hayman Distillers with the launch of its fiendishly clever Small Gin and Merser & Co. Double Barrel Rum, and 2020 looks every bit as exciting as the London distiller has announced a new venture: Symposium, an independent spirits merchant. Named, no doubt, after the top 90s punk band, Symposium. This arm will involve a variety of spirit brands in categories including gin, vodka, Scotch whisky, rum, Tequila and sambuca. The portfolio will be divided into three parts. At the top is the Heritage range compromising of in-house products, Hayman’s Gin, Small Gin and Merser & Co rum; then the Challenger range with products like Bush Rum, Firean Scotch Whisky, Red Griffin Vodka and Half Crown Gin; and finally the House range. There is also talk of bringing in some agency brands in the future but nothing has been confirmed yet. James Hayman explained: ‘Our mission at Symposium is to create and to sell the finest range of spirits available.” He went on to say: “Symposium will operate at every level of the market with our Challenger brands, in particular, offering an exciting alternative for those who are no longer content to settle for ‘big-name’ brands from large producers and who seek a quality, independent option with a partner they can rely on for the long-term.” It’s all go at Hayman’s.

The Nightcap

We’ll certainly raise a glass to this good news!

The great pub and bar bounce-back is on!

After fifteen years of decline, we have some good news if you like pubs and bars (that’ll be all of us, then…). According to Office for National Statistics paper Economies of ale: changes in the UK pubs and bars sector, 2001 to 2019, the number of such drinking establishments in the UK is on the up once more! (Thumbs up to whoever came up with the name.) Sure, it’s just a 0.4% increase, but at the end of 2019, there were 85 more across the country than in 2018. Taking in larger sites (11+ employees) and chains, the total increase stood at 815. Cheers to that! Some of the trends behind the headline stats: we’re increasingly becoming a nation of foodies, with pubs and bars employing more people on the eating than drinking side of things as we all spend more on eating out than drinking out. But despite that, turnover is at the highest level since the financial crisis. Long live the pub!

The Nightcap

The beautiful original Bar Douro near London Bridge

Bar Douro to open branch in the City

Do you work in the City of London? Do you love Portuguese wine and food? Well, we have good news because Bar Douro is opening a branch in Finsbury Avenue on 28 January. The original opened in 2016 by Max Graham from the family that owns Churchill Port. It quickly picked up rave reviews from critics including Marina O’ Loughlin in the Guardian who wrote: “I have to restrain myself from licking the plate”. The new restaurant will offer food and wines from all over the country. Spirit lovers won’t be short-changed with a selection of specially imported Portuguese spirits including gins and Maven Aguardente aged brandy. And don’t forget, the best White Port & Tonics this side of Oporto. Graham commented: “We have only just scratched the surface of Portugal’s rich culinary traditions and with our second, larger space we are excited to further explore the wealth of Portuguese cuisine”. There will be a soft launch from 28 January until 11 February. Email [email protected] for a reservation. You won’t be disappointed. 

The Nightcap

The team of four Brits made it into safe harbour after winning the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge 2019

Brits crowned champions in Talisker Atlantic Challenge

Remember when Talisker sent teams of intrepid sorts off across the Atlantic Ocean on the World’s Toughest RowWell… we have a victor! Or a team of four victors, to be precise. British team Fortitude IV was the first to make it from La Gomera in the Canary Island to Antigua in the Caribbean in an impressive time of 32 days 12 hours and 35 minutes! They braved 12-metre waves, a capsizing incident, broken oars, and “some of the scariest moments of [our] life”. Not for the faint-hearted, and especially impressive when you realise some teams expect to take eight more weeks to cross. Yikes. We raise our tasting glasses to Ollie Palmer (who also happens to work for Talisker parent company, Diageo), Tom Foley, Hugh Gillum and Max Breet, Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge 2019 champions! “Being on the ocean in quite an extreme context, strips back all the noise and makes you realise what is really important to you,” said Gillum. “You have a lot of time to think out there – with no distractions – and that inspires you in different ways. It was an amazing thing to have done – we set off thinking it was a once in a lifetime thing and we can certainly maintain that position. The sum of all the parts is incredible – from seeing the shooting stars, to the arrival here tonight, and the support from all of our family and friends. There are tough times that we perhaps would wish away slightly but standing here now [in Antigua] we just think that the sum of all those parts is incredible.” Time for a well-earned dram, we think. Talisker, of course… 

The Nightcap

The Suntory Group will donate $500,000 AUD in support of those impacted by the bushfires

Suntory pledges AUD$500k to Australia bushfire relief

The devastating bushfires in Australia have broken hearts around the world – but individuals and companies are stepping forward to offer support in all kinds of ways. The latest to join the relief effort is Suntory Group, which makes the likes of Jim Beam bourbon, Hibiki Japanese whisky and Courvoisier Cognac. It’s committed to donating AU$500,000 (about £264,000) to the Australian Red Cross, the New South Wales Rural Fire Service and the New South Wales Wildlife Information Rescue and Education Service. “We have all been deeply saddened by the spread of these immense fires, which have destroyed lives, towns, homes and wildlife,” said Andrea Parker, managing director at Beam Suntory Oceania. “We are committed to helping rebuild these communities along with the rest of the Suntory Group.” The pledge follows another AU$500k donation from Diageo-owned Bundaberg rum to the Australian Red Cross earlier this week. Want to know more about the bushfires and how you can help? Check out the blog right here for more.

The Nightcap

The new partnership is for those who manage a team behind the bar and want to boost wellbeing

Small Batch Learning and Healthy Hospo team up on wellbeing initiative

Bartenders, (or indeed, anyone who works in hospitality) listen up! Smart-learning company Small Batch Learning has partnered with Healthy Hospo, a non-profit wellness education provider, to offer bars, restaurants and hotels an online tool to promote mental and physical health. Level 1 content is totally free to access and will be inserted into existing Small Batch materials, while Level 2 plans are paid-for, with proceeds reinvested in Healthy Hospo. “A healthy mind, body and workplace should be a non-negotiable, and we’re proud to partner with Healthy Hospo to help address these topics,” says Duncan Campbell, COO of Small Batch Learning. “As we continue our mission to make hospitality training accessible and relevant, this partnership will shine a light on serious issues facing the industry that are often pushed aside or laughed off. We’re thrilled to support Healthy Hospo scale up and help further the impact of its crucial training.” Tim Etherington-Judge, Healthy Hospo founder, added: “From chronic rates of sleep deprivation and substance abuse, to sky-high issues with mental health, we are not a healthy industry – and we often suffer in silence. It’s time to change the conversation and stop putting our health, and that of our colleagues, at the bottom of the to-do list.” If you manage a team in hospitality, check out Small Batch Learning!

The Nightcap

The choice of headline sponsor at SXSW is an example of the rise of hard seltzer

White Claw lines up South by Southwest partnership

If you needed any more indicators that hard seltzers are going to be A Very Big Thing, here’s another for you. White Claw, the US’s best-seltzer brand, has just taken over ‘super sponsorship’ of South by Southwest (SXSW). The actual interesting bit? It’s binned off a beer brand to nab the top spot. All eyes will be on the music, film and tech event, which takes place in Austin, Texas, from 13-22 March, and to have a hard seltzer over a beer marks a shift indeed. “We’re thrilled to bring White Claw to life at SXSW,” said Phil Rosse, president, White Claw Seltzer Works. “This brand has been built through the great passion and celebration by our fans, connecting the brand to culture and sharing it through their social channels. We are excited to support SXSW, an event that has always been ground zero for innovation in culture and technology.” Roland Swenson, SXSW CEO and co-founder, added: “SXSW is excited to work with White Claw. As one of the fastest-growing brands, their sponsorship of SXSW reflects the independent and innovative spirit that SXSW is known for.” Bring on the seltzers!

The Nightcap

Alain Ducasse opposes Dry January, and we salute him

And finally… Alain Ducasse fights Dry January with discount fine wine

Are you getting a bit bored of Dry January? The pious friends who won’t go to the pub, your favourite drinks website brimming with articles about non-alcoholic drinks instead of whisky and the dreaded word ‘mocktail.’ Well, Alain Ducasse feels your pain. He told the Guardian this week: “I’ve noted that trend but I don’t want to see or hear of it, I am opposed to it.” And so, he has put his money where his mouth is and slashed the prices of some of his best bottles of Bordeaux and Burgundy in an effort to get diners drinking again. So get down to your local Ducasse restaurant, like Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester in London, order something fancy, and sip away those January blues.

 

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Creating Legent: a blend of Beam and Suntory

It’s not every day that you get to sit down with the master distiller of Jim Beam and the fifth-ever chief blender at House of Suntory. But that’s exactly what…

It’s not every day that you get to sit down with the master distiller of Jim Beam and the fifth-ever chief blender at House of Suntory. But that’s exactly what we did to discuss the launch of the innovative Legent whiskey with the legendary Fred Noe and Shinji Fukuyo.

When Beam and Suntory merged in 2014, collaboration was always on the cards for the two enormous whiskey brands. You could expect to see an exchange of casks, for example,  and the sharing of expertise. Perhaps even a nice bottling of something exotic as a Christmas bonus.

What nobody predicted was the creation of the first-ever bourbon-Japanese whiskey crossover, which is what we got in March 2019 when Legent (pronounced ‘lee-gent’) debuted. It’s been billed as a genuine first-of-its-kind product, a combination of styles that has essentially created a new, and as of yet, undefined category. It’s the first new standalone bourbon brand to come from the company in 27 years: a blended bourbon that’s brought together East and West, as well as two masters of their art, Fred Noe (the great-grandson of Jim Beam) and Shinji Fukuyo. 

“Shinji and I were tasked to work together to create a product that would combine bourbon-making and blending by the senior leadership of the company. We were trying to bring the two cultures together. We put our heads together and that’s how it got started,” says Noe. “Bringing our company together, bringing East and West together was a very important thing as we’re one big family now from all over the world. We’re lucky we can do it within that one Beam Suntory family. 

Legent

Fred Noe and Shinji Fukuyo

Legent was created using one of Noe’s historic recipes, a mashbill of corn, rye and malted barley that is initially matured in charred virgin white oak for four years. Portions of this aged Kentucky straight bourbon are then finished in California red wine casks (for approximately one extra year) and sherry casks (for approximately two extra years), and the three are finally blended by Fukuyo. “From my experiences, the wine cask finish gives a sweeter profile and the sherry cask finish gives it a tannic element and spice. These were the flavours and aromas that weren’t necessarily in the base bourbon itself, so I thought it would probably be a good combination,” says Fukuyo. 

It’s an experimental process that many will have never seen the like of before, but, as Noe points out himself, the profile of Legent is still bourbon-forward. “The big thing was we didn’t want to change the bourbon, we just wanted to add to it and take it to another level. What it’s done really is it adds more layers to the aroma and the finish when you taste it. So it’s a labour of our love and it was fun to take bourbon in different places,” says Noe. 

It might sound as if this bottling is more Beam than Suntory, but it’s worth noting that Noe and Fukuyo very much see each other as equals and are keen to heap praise on the other. For Noe, it was a thrill to witness the master blender at work. “There was a lot of art that Shinji brings to blending to Kentucky, taking different liquid streams and bringing them together. We’ve done some finishing before, but we’ve never finished and then blended those finished liquids together. That’s kind of a new technique for us in Kentucky,” says Noe. 

Legent

Legent was created through the shared knowledge across whisky styles and nations

For the immensely modest Fukuyo, the joy was learning first-hand the production process of a style of whiskey he was less acquainted with. “I had to learn what bourbon whiskey really is. Japanese whisky was inspired by Scotch whisky, so we are very familiar with Scottish production, but not so familiar with bourbon itself,” explains Fukuyo. The climate of Kentucky was also a learning curve. “After the first summer, I was so surprised by the progress. We had to so be careful with our observations of what was happening during the finishing process.”

The duo present a united front when together and the mutual respect is palpable. When discussing what challenges arose during the collaboration, the two are honest in admitting that initially it took time for them to be working from the same page. Fukuyo’s English is outstanding. Noe concedes his Japanese could do with some work. But these guys have been in this game a long time. The respective knowledge of the craft was always going to shine through eventually. “We figured it out through the language of whiskey,” says Noe. “You could tell when we were getting closer and when we were getting farther away, just by the look in each other’s eyes. You know you don’t have to talk a lot of times to know if you’re going in the right direction or not. There was a lot of trial and error”.

Noe and Fukuyo are aware that Legent represents a risk. But the early signs are very much that it was one worth taking. The reception it’s received excites them both. “It was really cool and to watch people experience it for the first time. Especially with people who were very sceptical. We gave them a little pour, and then they would look at their friends and say ‘Oh, that’s pretty good!’ It’s great to know there’s more of that to come because we’re just getting it out there and more and more people are discovering it,” says Noe. “It worked. We did something right.” 

Legent

It’s rare to see two masters of their craft come together like this

So, what collaborations can we expect in future? Will Fukuyo bring something more Japanese whisky-based to the table? Will the duo continue to experiment with the Legent brand? They’re surprisingly forthright. “Well Legent is a stand-alone, but will we collaborate more? I’m sure we will. We’ll come up with something new.” says Noe.  “We enjoyed working together. Who knows, we may bring some of our other compadres in from one of our other distilleries or my son as he’s taking over from me, he’s the future of the bourbon side of our company. I’m sure going down the road Shinji and Freddie (Noe’s son) will have a long career together creating great whiskies for the world, and I’m sure other folks in the industry will be doing things similar if this product is successful.”

It’s interesting to consider the implications of Legent. Noe is right, if this continues on its promising path then it’s surely only a matter of time before we see more innovations like this. It’s also interesting to see this level of collaboration involving a major figure from Japan’s whisky industry, which is notoriously siloed. Given that Japanese whisky is becoming increasingly expensive and rare, perhaps this kind of project offers one solution for ensuring Japanese expertise remains well-represented.

Legent may well then be an indication of what’s to come. It was only a matter of time before the multinational companies that dominate the industry would bring  together the depth of resources and expertise at their fingertips. Noe recognises the strength of Beam Suntory’s position: “With all the different spirits we produce in all different parts of the world, we can all come together and use products that are from within our family. Other bourbon producers would have to go outside of their company to be able to do something like this. We’re the only bourbon producer that has ties to Japan, Cognac, Irish whiskey, Scotch whisky, Canadian whisky, tequila, rum, and all of us are very passionate about what we make,” he says. “But not only are we creating a new product, but each process like fermentation, distillation, maturation – we can share that information with each other and influence each other, which leads to progress,”  adds Fukuyo. 

Legent

Legent could have interesting implications for the industry

But for now, only one big question remains: how does Legent taste? Is this the result of a welcome marriage of meticulous Japanese blending and traditional Kentucky bourbon-making, or a marketing-laden gimmick that’s best avoided? It’s certainly not like a bourbon I’ve ever tasted. But it works. Very well, in fact. It’s quite lovely. Its success is that it hasn’t shoe-horned two styles together in a vague attempt to seem complex or innovative. This doesn’t taste as if Jim Beam bourbon was lazily chucked into a Yamazaki cask or like some concoction made by a mad scientist who distilled KFC and green tea together. Legent has subtly, character and a profile that suggests that a good Old Fashioned is very much on the cards. In fact, the brand has put together some interesting cocktail recipes, including the Kentucky Kyushiki a twist on the aforementioned classic serve.  

The cask influence might frustrate those who want big notes typical of wine and sherry casks, but personally I enjoyed the delicate manner in which these elements present themselves. The balance is very impressive, it’s rich, spicy, creamy and bold and none of those characteristics overwhelms the other. I wanted another glass, which is really the only compliment any good whisky needs.  

Legent

Legent bourbon

Legent Tasting Note:

Nose: Plenty of classic bourbon character is at the forefront of the nose but the cask influence adds balance and depth. Brown sugar, toasted almonds, jammy fruits, butterscotch, vanilla and orange peel combine initially, with delicate warmth and spice provided from ginger root underneath. A hint of Pinot Noir and stewed black cherry emerge as the nose develops, with milk chocolate, sandalwood and hints of leather.

Palate: An initially deliciously silky delivery leads with rich caramel, floral notes and a suggestion of marmalade before chewy rye spice initially makes things more complex among savoury notes of roasted peanuts and a slightly bitter quality from charred wood, coffee beans and unsweetened dark chocolate. Dark cherry jam and stewed plums then burst through adding vibrant fruitiness alongside the sweetness of vanilla, cake batter, muscovado sugar and a hint of cola. Warmth from freshly-ground black pepper is present in the backdrop.  

Finish: Chocolate-covered cherries, black fruits, sugary cereals (Sugar Puffs, mostly) and a hint of liquorice fade ever so gradually; while the nutmeg and oak spices play about for longer.

Overall: In all the intrigue and innovation, Noe and Fukuyo clearly didn’t forget that the most important thing to ensure about Legent is that it’s delicious. Which it is. Very much so. 

Legent is now available at MoM Towers!

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The Nightcap: 26 July

You know what Friday means by now, it can only be the Nightcap! This week we’ve got all the digs on The Macallan’s newest release, Coupette’s mouthwatering Summer menu, the…

You know what Friday means by now, it can only be the Nightcap! This week we’ve got all the digs on The Macallan’s newest release, Coupette’s mouthwatering Summer menu, the rise of the Tequila cocktail and even a Jack Daniel’s shoe.

Happy Friday, folks! But before we get into the thick of all the wonderful booze news of the week that was, we thought we’d have a quick chat about the weather. Because, we don’t know about you, but nobody has mentioned the weather this week. At all. Was it warm? Was there sun? We tried to enjoy a refreshing Spritz here at MoM Towers, but apparently the whole of the UK had run out of ice. All we know is that it’s now raining again and the quintessential British summer is back on. Thank goodness for that. It was a steamy few days. Step away from the SPF 50 and settle down with a drink, the Nightcap is here!

On the blog this week, we kicked off Monday with a recap of all the Fèis Ìle 2019 fun, while Kristy chose a sherry-tastic single malt for our New Arrival of the Week, took a peek at the mysterious 2019 Diageo Special Releases, and reported back on a magic trip to Tel Aviv’s Milk & Honey Distillery! Meanwhile, Henry mixed up a Tequila Sunrise for his Cocktail of the Week, chatted rum with Alexandre Gabriel from Plantation, and found out what on earth Uncle’s Day is with Uncle Nearest’s Fawn Weaver. Last but not least, Annie gave the 411 on where to grab a drink in Amsterdam, Nate Brown scooted over to Dublin’s Roe & Co, and our Jess carried on the Tequila and mezcal fun with a round up of agave spirits. Phew. But that’s not all – on with the news!

Beam Suntory

Behold, The Fred B. Noe Distillery!

Beam Suntory breaks ground James B. Beam distillery

In big American whiskey news, Beam Suntory announced this week that it’s investing a whopping $60 million to build a new craft distillery and bring back The James B. Beam Distilling Co. name to Clermont! The James B. Beam Distilling Co. was the company’s name immediately after Prohibition, and will now serve as the name of Beam Suntory’s Clermont operations, as well as encompassing the production operations for the Jim Beam brand and small-batch brands such as Booker’s and Knob Creek. This investment will also build the Fred B. Noe Craft Distillery on the Clermont site, named after seventh generation master distiller Fred Noe, which will house the exploration of exciting new fermentation and distillation techniques. “Beam Suntory is excited to honour our roots by investing in the James B. Beam Distilling Co., and setting ourselves up for a bright future in Kentucky and around the world,” commented Albert Baladi, President and CEO for Beam Suntory. “With nearly 225 years behind us, we are proud of our history of entrepreneurialism, craftsmanship and innovation. As the world leader in bourbon, we are thrilled to be laying the foundation for the next 225 years.” Goodbye Beam Suntory, hello The James B. Beam Distilling Co.!

Campari Rum

Campari takes on rum/rhum

Campari Group eyes up Rhum Agricole brands

Got a taste for the vegetal pronouncedness of Rhum Agricole? You are not alone. Campari Group, one of the world’s biggest drinks players, wants in, too. This week it was announced that the owner of the likes of Campari (obvs), Aperol, Wild Turkey and Bulldog Gin entered into “exclusive negotiations” with the parent company of Trois Rivières and Maison La Mauny (and Duquesne rum, too) to acquire the Martinique-based brands. While no price was revealed, the deal would include the brands themselves, the land they sit on, the distilleries and visitor centres, plus the aged rhum stocks. Yes please. In the press release, Campari Group said that if the deal goes through, it will “enhance its exposure to rum, a premiumising category currently at the heart of the mixology trend and growing cocktail culture”. It already owns Appleton Estate and Wray & Nephew, so it would make Campari a significant force for all things rum (and rhum). Ready the Ti Punches, folks!

Diageo

Cheers to a bumper year for Diageo!

Tanqueray and Don Julio drive Diageo sales

It’s that time of year again – financial results are in! And for Diageo, they make for pretty buoyant reading. Sales for the full year to 30 June hit £12.9 billion, up 5.8%, with profits hitting £4bn, (+9.5%). Why such strong results? Two words: gin and Tequila. Gin as a whole grew by 23% in value, with Tequila soaring by a whopping 37%. Brand-wise, Don Julio was a total stand-out, with sales climbing by an incredible 30%, while Tanqueray posted 21% gains. Which brands didn’t do quite so well? The biggest name to see a drop was Cîroc Vodka (-5%), although vodka as a whole actually saw 4% growth, a big deal seeing as the category has fared pretty poorly in recent times. And Scotch? All-in-all, things are going well! The category grew by 6%, with Johnnie Walker seeing values climb 7% on the previous year, and the Scotch malts collectively making 12% gains. Winning!

The Macallan Estate

The Macallan Estate, delicious and super popular

The Macallan unleashes home-grown Estate to the world

We had a thoroughly lovely Wednesday this week. Not only did The Macallan get its new Estate edition ready to ship, the brand also treated us to an utterly delightful lunch! We gathered at the incredible Hide in Piccadilly with Sarah Burgess, The Macallan’s whisky maker, and David Sinclair, brand ambassador to learn about (and of course, taste) the new expression. Burgess told us all about the production process – one week a year, mashing, fermentation and distillation is given over to barley grown exclusively on The Macallan estate. And the sensibly-named The Macallan Estate is the result! It’s an addition to the core range, and more bottles will be released each year (although Burgess stressed to us that she’s working to keep the flavour profile consistent over time). So, what’s it like? Tremendously autumnal, filled to the brim with appley, orchard fruit notes, plus lashings of marmalade on burnt toast, and a wash of sweet spices. Tasty.

Coupette Shimmer

Coupette’s mesmerising Shimmer cocktail

Coupette launches new menu ‘Summer’

Ah, Coupette. Something of a hole in the wall, to the uninitiated the award-winning bar may seem rather unsuspecting from the outside. We excitedly made our way down as just this week, founder Chris Moore launched the new menu in collaboration with local sign writer, Ged Palmer, titled ‘Summer’! One such epitome of the season was Strawberries & Cream, taking inspiration from Wimbledon and seasonal picnics. With strawberry eau de vie, rosé vermouth, wine and a vanilla-scented, clarified milk punch finish, served with a brush of white chocolate around the rim of the glass, it’s totally delicious without being overly sweet. This serve was just flying out from behind the bar, and no wonder in 34-degree heat! There’s a story behind each serve, and an intriguing one was Shimmer, marrying 30&40 Eau de Vie, green apple and sage, wine, genepi and sage soda, served in a mesmerising blue ceramic vessel on a blue geode coaster. Designed to be reminiscent of holidays and blue oceans it certainly accomplishes that, in flavour and aesthetic. Other delicious serves included the Bloody Martini with vodka, vin jaune, a clear tomato consommé and chive oil, part of a series of cocktails which mashes together two iconic drinks. There’s also a take on a Kir Royale, which sees a fabulous serving of blackcurrant sorbet in the cocktail glass. Slightly heavier serves include Obsidian, channelling a Rum Old Fashioned with the addition of cocoa and tangy passion fruit. We’ll certainly be back to try out the rest. Leave any expectations at the door, and prepare to be absolutely blown away with this stunningly complex and yet unpretentious menu. Bravo, Coupette.

Dalloway Terrace

Dalloway Terrace has cocktails on tap… from a flower wall!

Dalloway Terrace unveils new look for summer ’19

On Wednesday, we got to visit what is described by Vogue as “one of London’s most Instagrammable restaurants”. The Dalloway Terrace is now offering a taste of summer with the launch of its Summer Estate, in partnership with Ramsbury Distillery. Master florist, Nikki Tibbles, recreated the English countryside, transforming the Terrace with wild meadow flowers, blending silk daisies, cosmos, larkspur, delphiniums and foliage with embellishments of coral quince blossom. Flower walls are massive right now, and she created possibly the best one ever for the occasion:  a flower wall complete with botanical cocktails on tap. There’s also a bar for G&T drinkers where they can garnish drinks themselves with produce fresh from Ramsbury Estate. The seasonal cocktail menu will offer a selection of summer serves priced at £13. No reservations allowed at the Terrace, so be sure to get in quick – it’s open from 08:00am to11:00pm every day until mid-September.

Slane Irish Whiskey

Delicious and sustainable Slane Whiskey

Slane Irish Whiskey announces trio of winners in sustainable cocktail comp

Earlier this summer, Slane Distillery’s UK brand ambassador, Michael Brown, set a challenge to bartenders to create the most ‘suSLANEable’ cocktails. And this week, not one, not two but THREE winners were selected! Slane is located in the heart of Boyne Valley in Ireland and, inspired by Earth Day, had tasked bartenders across the UK to follow in its green footsteps. And they are big shoes to fill:  the distillery has already installed a “catchment system” to collect rainwater off the roofs of the distillery buildings to reduce the volume of water needed for production drawn from the Boyne River. Cool stuff! Joint winner Jack Riley from Present Company, Liverpool, says, “We should all be taking small steps to help the impact on the environment.” He worked with local coffee shops to create his nameless ‘suSLANEable’ cocktail: 45ml Slane Irish Whiskey, 20ml Spent Coffee-infused Martini Bitter, 15ml Tropical Cordial and 2 dash Bitter. Fellow champ Tom Sutton from H.M.S.S challenged himself to find and use leftover produce to create his “Castaway”, from just 40ml Slane Irish Whiskey, 30ml reclaimed cordial and stir into a frozen embassy. Simples. Finally, we have Leon Back and his recipe for “Little Winner”; 50ml Slane Irish Whiskey, 40ml ghetto cold brew (spent coffee grinds), coconut syrup, 10ml Martini ambrato, 10ml P.X. Sherry and 2 dashes Angostura bitter with some tonic water over ice.  Delicious. Evolving and improving every year, Slane is working to become one of the most environmentally-friendly whiskey distilleries in Europe… Check out this video for more inspo to make eco-friendly drinks.

Patron Tequila

Goodbye Tequila shots, hello Paloma!

Shots are out: Brits now prefer Tequila cocktails, according to Patrón

Step away from the salt and lime: Tequila is now officially preferred in cocktail form, rather than as a shot, in new research from Patrón. In a study that suggests Tequila has finally shaken off its hard-partying image, more than 65% of drinkers said they enjoy Tequila cocktails on a night out, over slammers. It makes sense: Tequila is the fastest growing spirit in the UK, according to Euromonitor. Despite the upgraded drinking habits, Tequila knowledge is at a bit of a low. Only 23% of those questioned knew Tequila was made from agave, while just 10% showed knowledge of aged Tequilas. One response? To get tasting! You can find an array of Tequila drams for that purpose right here. What’s your Tequila of choice? Let us know in the comments below!

Nelsons distillery

Nelson’s carbon neutral distillery from the skies

Nelson’s Distillery bags eco award

More green news! Word reached us this week that Nelson’s Distillery & School in Uttoxeter, Staffordshire, won a Green Impact Award for its eye-popping efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle. The award itself is the Signal 1 Radio Green Award, given out to recognise and celebrate local businesses making great strides in sustainability. Striving to be totally “off-grid” since 2016, Nelson’s is based at a flashy, futuristic and carbon neutral site with numerous green energy sources, including a wind turbine and super-snazzy anaerobic digester power plants. The site sells energy back to the grid, the team live in the local village to reduce traffic and pollution, they have their own natural water source, and use the reed beds to filter the water used in gin and rum. If this doesn’t sound amazeballs enough, then what about the 10% customer discount you get if you returning or repurposing the bottles?! More distilleries take note.  

Flor de Caña

No lunch, but lots of Flor de Caña!

Boisdale celebrates Nicaraguan rum

Last Friday, we were invited by Ranald MacDonald from Boisdale for an intimate lunch at his Belgravia restaurant with her excellency Guisell Morales-Echaverry, Nicaraguan Ambassador to the United Kingdom, in honour of Ron Flor de Caña. How could we refuse? When we arrived, the intimate lunch was a room heaving with dignitaries including the Bulgarian ambassador. So many ambassadors. It was like a Ferraro Roche advert. Only with less to eat. Of lunch there was no sign. We were whisked upstairs by Matro Ortiz Lima, the Chilean brand ambassador with a strong Scottish accent, to sample three rums, a 12 year old, 18 year old and a 25 year old. According to Lima, Flor de Caña these are minimum ages, as with Scotch whisky and indeed Jamaican rum. Apparently, the company has unparalleled stocks of mature spirit because during the revolutionary period from 1970 to 1990, the family who own the brand hid rum all over the country. We finished with the coffee and tobacco-scented 25 year old, which went beautifully with a big cigar. Something else this country does superbly. But of the promised lunch, there was no sign. 

Jack Daniel's Shoes

Jack Daniel’s takes on footwear

And finally… Jack Daniel’s-inspired… shoes?

Jack Daniel’s has made its first foray into the world of footwear! The whiskey giant has teamed up with the awesomely-named Shoe Surgeon, aka Dominic Chambrone, and together they’ve created seven Jack Daniel’s-inspired trainers (or rather, ‘sneakers’, as they’re calling them across the pond). “Craftsmanship is the ultimate common detonator between what I do and those who make Jack Daniel’s,” Chambrone commented. Each of the seven shoe designs was inspired by an iconic element of the Jack Daniel’s brand. These are grain, Cave Springs, the distillery, charcoal, the barrel, honey, and the Jack Daniel’s bottle. If you want in, then you’ll have to vote online in August, with only 10 lucky voters in to win a pair. We don’t like those odds… Our only question is, can you drink out of them?

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