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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Beer

The Nightcap: 10 January

The Nightcap has returned for 2020, and with it a fresh batch of boozy news, including an alcohol-free bar, a £1m crowd-funding campaign, and the UK’s ‘highest’ whisky distillery. After…

The Nightcap has returned for 2020, and with it a fresh batch of boozy news, including an alcohol-free bar, a £1m crowd-funding campaign, and the UK’s ‘highest’ whisky distillery.

After a few weeks in a regenerative cocoon made out of Stilton and Yule log, The Nightcap has emerged with wings and those weird bug antlers that are actually eyes, ready to chow down on all the news from the booze world. That was a long-winded way to say that The Nightcap is back after a bit of a Christmas break, but the enthusiasm remains the same. We’re excited to see what drinks news this new year (and new decade) will behold – and it all kicks off… Now!

The blog was still full of fabulous features even throughout the festive period. We announced the winner of our Where’s #WhiskySanta 2019 competition the same week our supernatural, omniscient, festive, heavily-bearded sadly went on his holibobs. We then looked back at 2019: the delightful drinks we enjoyed (bartenders also had their say), the most read posts on our blog and an honest review of our trend predictions, before cracking out the crystal ball and to do it all again for 2020. Not always that seriously.

Our Dry January coverage kicked off at the Small Beer Brew Co., before Fiona Beckett and Claire Warner dropped by for a chat. Annie then explored the world of no-ABV cocktails, embraced #veganuary and the use of plant milk in cocktails and even looked to the future of AI in booze. Elsewhere, Adam enjoyed some warming rums, cast a spotlight on Micil and then Luxardo Distillery, while Jess brushed up on her Armagnac knowledge, and Henry reported on the developments at Port Ellen Distillery. Even among all that content, there was still time for a couple of new arrivals, including Bob Dylan’s own whiskey and a single malt from Yorkshire, as well as a fruity little number for Cocktail of the Week. Oh, and Dram Club returned for 2020.

Phew, talk about blog-mageddon! Now, for the first time in 2020, let’s enjoy the Nightcap!

The Nightcap

The Cat and Fiddle Inn opened in 1813 and is 1,689 ft (515m) above sea level

Funding secured for UK’s ‘highest’ whisky distillery

There’s another new distillery on the way, folks! This one’s got a pretty cool story, too. Take one historic pub, The Cat & Fiddle, situated 1,689ft above sea level in the Peak District. It’s beautiful but didn’t do so well as a pub (the whole driving a long way to it thing wasn’t really working…). It opened in 1813, but ‘reluctantly’ closed its doors in 2015. Business was far from booming. But step in the Forest Distillery team! Eager to expand production, and to find a space for casks to mature, it teamed up with the pub’s Robinson family to kick off a crowdfunder to refurbish and transform the pub into a whisky distillery. An initial crowdfunding exercise raised £55,000, and now the team says it’s well on the way to reaching its eventual £250,000 goal. The site will be renamed The Cat & Fiddle & Weasel, after the adorable motif on the Forest Gin bottle. As well as the pub and distillery, there will also be an onsite shop with takeaway options for picnics and a visitor centre. And the best bit? The Forest Distillery team reckon the new site will be ready to open come August! We’re VERY excited. Wondering the elevation of the current highest whisky distillery in the UK? That title goes to Dalwhinnie, perched at an altitude of 1,164ft. The only way is up!

The Nightcap

The AF Bar features 15 taps of pure draft zero-ABV goodness

BrewDog launches ‘world’s first’ alcohol-free beer bar

Sound the ‘Dry January’ sirens, folks, we’ve got a big one here. BrewDog has launched a bar dedicated to alcohol-free beer. A whole bar. 15 taps of pure draft zero-ABV goodness. Launched this week in Old Street, London, it’s the first time the independent Scottish craft brewer has featured a line-up solely devoted to drinks without alcohol at a bar where visitors will be able to enjoy activities such as Hip Hop Karaoke, Dabbers Bingo, Famous First Words, and more. But, perhaps most excitingly for the thrifty among us, BrewDog will also be running the ‘Drink All You Can Jan’ programme across all its bars, which will offer drinkers unlimited refills of its alcohol-free beers for the entire month. BrewDog previously dipped its toes into low-ABV waters with the release of Nanny State in August 2009, which is now the UK’s best-selling alcohol-free craft beer. It followed that up with an alcohol-free version of the flagship Punk IPA, Punk AF, and two new additions, Wake Up Call, a coffee stout, and Hazy AF, an alcohol-free take on its existing New England IPA, Hazy Jane. BrewDog referenced a UK Beer Market Report from Mintel in 2018 that said that 24% of beer drinkers are choosing more low- or no-alcohol options, and that 28% of beer drinkers are cutting back on consumption because of health concerns, so the brand clearly feels this is a timely initiative. “Drinkers opting for low- or no-alcohol are in danger of compromising on quality, taste and experience. And that’s just the beer – forget about places in which to enjoy it,” said James Watt, who is apparently the ‘captain’ of BrewDog (lame). “We are going to change that. We exist to be a point of difference, and our first BrewDog AF Bar is just that. It is a beacon for anyone in London after an alcohol-free alternative. Alcohol-free does not need to be synonymous with taste-free. ‘Drink all you can Jan’ is our anti-Dry January. Whether you have cut alcohol out or are cutting back, we want to show that alcohol-free doesn’t mean compromising on quality or taste.”

The Nightcap

The new-look Powers range

Powers Irish Whiskey unveils new look

Powers Irish Whiskey has revealed a new bottle design for its range of premium Irish whiskeys, which will debut on core expression Powers Gold Label in the USA from March 2020. The makeover was undertaken to reach a new generation of drinkers to the classic Irish whiskey brand, which is made by Irish Distillers at Midleton Distillery, and follows the launch of Powers Old Fashioned, the brand’s first-ever pre-mixed cocktail and the Powers Quarter initiative, a collaboration between six Dublin bars to tell the story of Powers and its history. The updated design for the bottle shape is inspired by the distinctive pot still silhouette from the brand’s historical home at John’s Lane Distillery and the label is styled on the Powers ‘diamond P’, which was one of the first-ever trademarks registered in Ireland. Each whiskey will also have a different colour label, with Powers Gold Label in red as an homage to the original red Powers diamond marque, Powers Three Swallow in blue as a nod to the bird’s feathers and Powers John’s Lane Release in metallic ink, to reflect the industrial nature of the original distillery established in 1791 on John’s Lane, Dublin. “Powers sense of identity has always focused on the diamond P; that became very clear to me as I worked my way through the historical archive. The diamond P was everywhere; on the casks, stationery, on bills and receipts, emblazoned on everything that left the distillery, and notably on the wonderful Powers mirrors that still hang in Ireland’s pubs today,” says Carol Quinn, archivist at Irish Distillers. “Workers at the old John’s Lane distillery even took to wearing a diamond P pin on their lapel, such was their pride to be part of the Powers family.  For me it’s wonderful to see the diamond P front and centre on this new label, symbolising all the history of this great whiskey since 1791.” Conor McQuaid, chairman and CEO of Irish Distillers, added: “We are excited to introduce this new look to the world and inspire a new generation with the unique history and personality of Powers.”

The Nightcap

The future is bright in the Cotswolds

Cotswolds Distillery raises £1m in crowdfunding campaign

The award-winning Cotswolds Distillery has been feeling the love this week at it delightedly reported that its recent fundraising had already raised £1 million. In early December 2019, the producer of delicious English spirits (we’re big fans of its whisky) launched the campaign through its Angel’s Share 2 fundraising platform in order to “maximise whisky production and continue its brand-building programme”. It’s little surprise that the initiative attracted such interest from investors, as back in 2018 the distillery successfully raised £3m of equity which was subsequently invested in building the brand and senior management team. “We pride ourselves on creating award-winning English whiskies that are enjoyed across the world, and, are always looking for new investors to join us on this journey,” says Dan Szor, founder and CEO of the Cotswolds Distillery. “It is a very exciting time for them to be involved with the company and we’re hoping that this new investment will carry us through the next chapter in the distillery’s evolution and help support us in creating even more delicious whisky!” If you fancy investing yourself, you can do so here before 13 January 2020.  

It’s Alissa!

The Balvenie kicks off Stories tour

Single malt Scotch whisky brand The Balvenie is poised to take its Stories tour of bar takeovers on the road, with stops including London’s Lyaness (Sunday 12 January) and The Artesian (13 January), as well as Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Café (15 January). And there’s an antipodean twist: six of Australia’s leading bartenders are coming along for the ride. Alicia Clarke of Jangling Jack’s in Sydney; Jessica Arnott of Foxtrot Unicorn in Perth; Nicola Dean of Maybe Mae in Adelaide; Kayla Reid of Nick and Norah’s in Melbourne; Chelsea Catherine of The Black Pearl in Melbourne; and, Alissa Gabriel of Mjolner in Sydney will all make drinks using The Sweet Toast of American Oak 12 Year Old. Serves have been based on stories shared with the group of bartenders by Kelsey McKechnie, The Balvenie’s apprentice malt master, and creator of the expression. “I’m thrilled to be welcoming such an incredible cohort of bartenders onto UK shores to share stories and these special drinks with UK consumers,” said Alwynne Gwilt, UK ambassador. “Our new whisky series, The Balvenie Stories, is all about connecting through storytelling and I’ve no doubt this latest event series at these leading bars will give us some great tales to tell as the year goes on!” It’s not just about the booze – 10% of drinks sales from the tour will be donated to charities fighting the devastating bushfires in Australia. So what are you waiting for? If you’re in London or Glasgow, head on down!

The Nightcap

The Impact Fund is a commendable cause

Symington Port launches environmental initiative 

2020 has seen Port producer Symington Family Estates off to a flying start, celebrating some rather impressive milestones with the 200th anniversary of Graham’s Port and the 350th anniversary of Warre’s Port. To celebrate, the Symington family didn’t just throw a massive party and sip on the delicious fruits of their own labour (who wouldn’t?), but created a force for good in the world! The family has created a new Impact Fund with an initial pledge of a whopping €1 million euros. The purpose of the fund? It’s threefold: community wellbeing and health, environmental protection and conservation, and cultural heritage and education, all in the Douro and Greater Porto regions as well as the Alto Alentejo. They’re currently working with Volunteer Emergency Services of the Douro region (they’ve donated 13 ambulances so far) and Bagos d’Ouro, a charity that provides education and opportunities for underprivileged children in the Douro. “We have always sought to run our family business in a way that benefits people – be they our employees or the wider community. We are also committed to protecting the beautiful natural environments where we produce our wines,” said Rupert Symington, CEO of Symington Family Estates. “We have consistently reinvested in the Douro region and have a long history of supporting social initiatives in the areas where we work. The Symington Impact Fund is a way of formalising this commitment and ensuring we support projects which are most aligned with our values and where we can have the maximum positive impact.” What a way to celebrate! 

The Nightcap

George Duboeuf, the man who turned Beaujolais into an international sensation, died this week at 86.

The King of Beaujolais dies at 86

This week the wine world lost one of its greats: George Duboeuf, known as the King of Beaujolais. Duboeuf was a marketing genius who took the annual release of the young wine, generally enjoyed only in local bars, and made it a global news story in the 1970s and ‘80s. On the day the wine was released, always the third Thursday of November, there were races to be the first to bring that year’s vintage back where it was sold with the slogan: ‘Le Beaujolais nouveau est arrivé!’. At a time when in Britain wine was still seen as something elitist, Duboeuf made it unpretentious and fun. He was born in 1933 into a vine-growing family in Burgundy and set up his own merchant business in 1964. It came to dominate the region through its own-label wines, with the pretty flowery labels, and by producing wines for retailers. Dominique Piron, head of Inter Beaujolais, commented: “Through his vision and his work, he gave life, colour, aromas and joy to the wines of Beaujolais. He was a catalyst, taking with him other merchants and other winemakers which made Beaujolais the first vineyard in France to make the headlines in newspapers and televisions, in France and around the world.” He went on to say: “The family business is in good hands with his son, Franck Duboeuf, at the helm and the adventure will continue.” Au revoir, Monsieur Duboeuf, and thank you for all the wine.

The Nightcap

Congratulations to WASE!

English start-up chosen for final of $1m Chivas Venture Fund

A London-based company WASE, which makes wastewater treatment systems, has won the England & Wales heat of this year’s Chivas Ventures. This annual competition run by the Scotch whisky company gives away $1 million to help with worthwhile businesses around the world. So far, Chivas has given away $5 million and, according to its figures, benefited over two million lives. WASE will now compete with 25 other companies in the global final in June. Before that, all 26 competitors will go to London for an intensive three-day training programme with experts and industry professionals. Founder Thomas Fudge commented: “I’m super excited and honoured to be representing England and Wales in The Chivas Venture global finals. Can’t wait to show the rest of the world what WASE has to offer and fight for my spot in the finals. Watch this space!” According to the press release: “WASE develops decentralised wastewater treatment systems that embrace a circular economy to recover energy, nutrients and water in wastewater  providing sanitation and energy in under-served communities.” Sounds very worthwhile. Good luck to WASE for the grand final in June!

The Nightcap

The Calming Coral cocktail

The Coral Room and MEDA kick-off 2020 with CBD-infused zero-alcohol cocktails

The Coral Room is getting its zeitgeist on in 2020 by kicking off the new year with a range of cocktails made by head mixologist Stefan Pohlod that are CBD-infused and non-alcoholic. The core ingredient in each serve is a drink from lifestyle brand MEDA’s range, GLOW, CALM, RECOVER and Espresso Medatini SKUs, which were created by blending of 5-15mg of liposomal CBD (cannabidiol) with synergistic ingredients. The offerings include the Glow Spritz which combines lime juice, cardamom bitter and elderflower syrup, the Calming Coral which features lemon juice, peppermint cordial and strawberry purée, the Recover & Revive which mixes Seedlip grove with grapefruit and lime shrub and the Wake Up Call which sees caramel cream, chilli bitters and coffee tonic paired together. The cocktails are priced at £10 each and the brand claims that they are “the perfect way to detox after the prolonged festive celebrations whilst restoring the balance of both body and mind through the inimitable benefits that CBD has to offer”. Apparently. Essentially they should appeal to anybody partaking in an alcohol-free start to the new year and those who are buzzed about CBD cocktails.

 

And finally…  Tottenham Hotspur and Beavertown launch collaboration beer

Tottenham Hotspur’s ‘Official Craft Beer Supplier’ (I didn’t even know that was a thing. Is this a thing now?) Beavertown has launched a new beer in collaboration with the club just in time for the first home game of 2020. Fans of the club (ok, my dad) have described the development as “much needed”, given the team’s performance so far this season. The beer is called One Of Our Own, a name chosen by Tom Rainsford, a Spurs fan who recently joined Beavertown as marketing director, presumably inspired by the North London side’s chant for star player Harry Kane. A Tottenham fan (again, my dad) has described the timing as “typical”. Jokes aside, One Of Our Own is a significant launch as the classic British IPA was crafted with purely European hops (Callista, Mandarina Bavaria and Barbe Rouge) in the microbrewery operated by Tottenham-based Beavertown inside the Club’s new home – a world-first for any football stadium. The beer is said to have notes of stone fruit and malt-sweetness, matching the flavours thirsty supporters have favoured since the stadium opened last April. “Beavertown’s Neck Oil is already a half-time favourite, and we wanted to add to this by offering something new at the start of 2020,” says Rainsford. “Supporting a club is in your bones, and this beer feels the same. It’s familiar, yet distinct. A satisfying pint that makes you feel at home. We see Spurs as the beating heart of the Tottenham community, a central hub for football fans and residents alike. We both share values of bringing people together, creating revolutionary experiences and even world firsts like our microbrewery inside the stadium.”  One Of Our Own will be sold exclusively at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, and will be available at tomorrow’s huge Premier League clash against Liverpool. Will it bring them luck?!

No Comments on The Nightcap: 10 January

A spotlight on… The Small Beer Brew Co.

We’re kicking off our Dry January coverage with a visit to the Small Beer Brew Co., a brewery that proves that low-ABV does not have to equal low flavour with its…

We’re kicking off our Dry January coverage with a visit to the Small Beer Brew Co., a brewery that proves that low-ABV does not have to equal low flavour with its historic style of beer. . . 

It’s January, folks, and that means we have to entertain ridiculous notions of ‘detoxing’ after the excesses of the festive period. Yay. Among the surge in gym memberships, people giving up booze en masse has now apparently become a fixture of the first month. While we’d always advocate drinking responsibly, it’s not a pledge I intend to take up. Not only is it not particularly productive for a drinks writer, but I prefer moderation to abstinence. 

Besides which, you can still enjoy alcoholic beverages without excess, particularly given that the burgeoning low ABV category is offering more and more appetising options. That’s why our take on Dry January will feature some low-ABV drinks, beginning with the nation’s most popular booze of choice: beer. It’s seemed for some time the only genuine alternative for those who want to imbibe in a lighter capacity was horrible ‘zero’ editions of already pretty poor bottlings. Dull and diluted doesn’t solve anybody’s problem, as far as I’m concerned. So who can quench a thirst for decent low-strength session beers? 

Perhaps the answer is the Small Beer Brew Co., the world’s first dedicated brewery dedicated to small beer. Founded in South Bermondsey in 2017 by James Grundy and Felix James, the ambition behind the project was to reignite the lost art of brewing beer below 2.8% ABV and providing a genuine alternative to those who want to enjoy a fantastic beer without any adverse effects.

We spoke to Felix James in a visit to the brewery to talk about the history behind small beer as a style, the unique production process the brewery uses and what the future for the category is.

small beer

Felix James and James Grundy, founders of The Small Beer Brew Co.

The history of small beer

Before we talk about The Small Beer Co., James and I discussed small beer as a style, because it didn’t begin with James and Grundy. It has a historical precedent. In fact, it’s an important chapter of drinking history, particularly in the UK, and it’s one that’s often overlooked. It was such a fundamental part of British society that it’s actually surprising to me that nobody has tapped into it before. Evidence shows that small beer existed in medieval times and possibly even before that. James is passionate about its importance. “Small beer was so prevalent that it was a staple of British daily life. It’s mentioned in Chaucer and Shakespeare. George Washington had his own recipe. And it’s been almost written out of history.” 

You might have heard of small beer being used as an alternative for hydration during the 1600s to the 1800s when clean drinking water was scarce. This is a little exaggerated. Drinking water was available, but small beer was certainly seen as a rejuvenating refreshment. “It was a working man’s drink. We’ve all heard of people drinking small beer instead of water which is a bit of a myth. There’s a general misconception that everybody was just walking around drunk all the time. But small beer or small ale was something that you could drink throughout the day for hydration and energy. It was even consumed by school children,” says James. “It also tasted better than water. There weren’t any processing plants then and a lot of the time the water that was used for washing, cleaning, drinking came from the same place and ended up in the same place. You couldn’t drink water before boiling it, and if you were going to boil it you might as well make beer and then you might as well get a bit of flavour. By boiling up your mash again and getting some of the tannins you got something that didn’t just taste like putrid water that you’d boiled.” 

Traditionally small beer was made by making a bigger beer (ie. higher ABV) first, essentially as a byproduct. “You’d make your mash to make the beer and then after the mash, you’d then add more water, boil the mash-up or sometimes just do a second running through the mash,” says James. “This wasn’t something that was mass-produced, it was all produced at home. Typically it was the woman of the house who would make the beer in the kitchen. You’d make lots and lots of small beer and you’d store that for the week. You’d have a small amount of bigger beer that you’d keep for special occasions. There weren’t big breweries churning this stuff out”.

James attributes this culture as one of the reasons why small beer died out. “These were often illiterate people who weren’t writing down recipes. In the same way that we don’t write down our recipe for porridge, it just gets passed down through generations. I make porridge the way my dad and my mum make porridge. Frankly, it was the same with small beer,” says James. Small beer as we know it was almost entirely wiped by the beginning of the 20th century, with the prevalence of palatable and readily available drinking water among the factors that spelt its end. 

small beer

The Small Beer Brew Co. Brewery

The production process of small beer

Now reviving the style in a modern context, the biggest obstacle for James and Grundy is ensuring that flavour isn’t compromised in the process of creating low-ABV beer. Drink producers, whether brewers or distillers, will readily admit that it is incredibly difficult to reduce strength without reducing character. It took two years of experimentation to master the process at the Small Beer brewery. “Before we built anything we’d just brew every single weekend. We’d taste beers, research into methods of achieving that perfect balance of fermentable versus unfermentable in the mash tun and look into the ways of extracting hop aroma and flavour,” says James. “We realised that you just don’t get the right amount of flavour from fermentation unless you allow the yeast to do exactly what it wants to do. The brewer should always be working with the yeast in mind. If you treat the yeast well it will return the favour. That was the first step in our flavour and recipe development.”

The core of the process ultimately comes down to one underlying philosophy: making small beer from scratch tastes a hell of a lot better than the traditional method of making small beer from the second runnings of bigger beer. “We make all of our small beers from scratch. We don’t have a sidearm of our business that creates really big beer and ships that off and then makes the small beer as second runnings,” says James. “One of the first things that we did was take a second runnings beer just to see what that tasted like versus making a beer from scratch. The latter tasted a hell of a lot better. With second runnings beer, you’re not getting quite as much of the malty character. You’re pretty much getting the husk, which means you get the tanninc, astringent and more bitter effects from the malt. As a brewer, you want hop bitterness but not malt bitterness”. 

Despite the Small Beer Brew Co. being a newcomer on the scene, James and Grundy have previous experience in the industry, having met while working for Sipsmith. James himself spent time at Fuller’s and AB InBev (working with the likes of Budweiser), where he picked up an appreciation for perfectionism. “Our approach of constantly working at that coalface is something I learnt from the bigger guys. There’s a good reason why Budweiser told everybody 50 odd years ago that they were the most expensive beer to make in the world, it’s because they genuinely were putting a hell of a lot of effort into dedicated research to make their beer. I’ve been around a lot of other breweries and I’ve never seen quality standards as strict as they are at Budweiser. We used to throw our toys out the pram when they tiniest little speck deviated from these very, very tight margins,” he says. “For us, that means that, while we’re set on the recipes now, we will always strive to get better. Whether that means increased head retention, or a quicker pour, or finer bubbles, or slightly less oxidisation, or longer shelf life. A lot of breweries will create a few beers and then innovation becomes just creating more beers. Some craft breweries end up with 60 different recipes. That won’t be us”. 

small beer

The brand is committed to a sustainable approach, featuring the UK’s only entirely dry floor brewery

Spending time at the brewery with James, it’s clear that a defining characteristic of the Small Beer Brew Co. approach is the challenging of conventional wisdom. “You go into one of those lecture halls and they will tell you that running your sparge temperature too high will give you tannins. Who said that? Where is the primary source? When is it that someone last tried that? We always question everything because malting may have changed in the last 50 years,” James explains. “With every assumption that we hear we go straight back to brewing and we try it just to see what happens. It’s a liberation from classical brewing teaching. We of course still use some classic brewing methods but we’re not just following all the rules in the book. That’s our approach to the technical aspect of brewing. We’ve got some bloody good recipes and I’m really proud of the beer now. It’s taken us a hell of a long time to get here.”

The novel approach to creating beer at The Small Beer Brew Co. means there is no vacuum distillation, no reverse osmosis, no filtration, no processing, no pasteurising, no sterile filtering, no added stabilisers, no arrested fermentation, no clarifiers and no isinglass. Just the chosen ingredients and natural carbonation. It also means that sustainability and ethical production are prioritised. The Small Beer Brew Co. runs the country’s only entirely dry floor brewery, where hoses are not permitted. A pint of small beer is produced using only 1½ pints of water versus an industry standard of 8-10 pints of water. The site is run entirely on wind, water and solar power. The brewery is cleaned with recovered heat & water, 12% of the gas it uses is green and the remainder is frack-free and the labels, boxes and business cards are all 100% recycled.

Ultimately, attention to detail and commitment to an extensive process that puts flavour first is the key. It’s all about flavour efficiency. The Small Beer Brew Co. uses more than twice the amount of ingredients per % point brewed than you’d find in an average beer. It lagers its beers for a minimum of six weeks vs the industry standard 9-11 days. “We have to invest a hell of a lot more than other breweries to create our beer. We’ve got the extended brewing period which means that we have to hold onto the beer for longer. That, therefore, means that we have to have a big buffer stock. It means we have to have a lot of vessels and pay for this massive facility here to store it in, and rent is not cheap in London,” explains James. “We’re not doing things on the cheap, we’re doing things to make the very best quality small beer because if we were anything but, people would immediately play that card and go ‘well it doesn’t taste as good as real beer, so why would I want to drink it?’ So we have a duty to show people what it can taste like and that then hopefully will bring back small beer”. 

small beer

The Small Beer Brew Co. range

The Small Beer Brew Co. range

The result of this exhaustive process is a modest but respectable core range of beers. The Small Beer Brew Co., at the time of writing, has introduced four expressions to the market: iLager, Dark Lager, Steam and the recently launched Session Pale. The Lager and Dark Lager were the first launched, the latter of which is my personal highlight from the range (more on that later).

The Lager was made in the classic Pilsner-style with the Saaz as well as Mosaic and Galena hops before it was bottled at 2.1% ABV (or 0.7 UK units/per bottle). James says that they always wanted to create a lager because it’s still the biggest part of the industry and perhaps the most underappreciated. “We might be beer connoisseurs and though craft beer has been growing massively, it still only represents a tiny part of the industry. The vast majority of people are drinking lager,” he says James. “From a brewing perspective, lagers are technically the hardest beer to brew. If you’re a craft beer drinker, it’s quite hard to tell when an IPA hasn’t gone quite right because there’s so much flavour there you assume that it’s all intentional. Whereas with a lager, it’s pretty clear when they don’t taste right. For a brewer, it’s true that if you can crack a lager, you can do anything else”. 

Cracking the Small Beer puzzle was all about creating that lager first. Once James and Grundy have achieved this, layering up with more flavour to create an ale or stout was the next step. What the duo arrived at was its Dark Lager, a deliciously intriguing and refreshing beer style that was bottled at 1.0% ABV. “The thought process behind it was two-fold. One, what’s a really flavoursome beer style and two, how low could we go, technically, to produce something that still really tastes like beer using traditional brewing methods?,” says James. “We didn’t want to go down the chemistry route of effectively making non-alcoholic beer, we wanted to use traditional brewing methods with natural processes and those same four key ingredients: water, malt, hops, yeas. No additives, no preservatives, no flavourings”. I have to say it’s my favourite of the range and, for my money, the best example of the innovation and creativity shown at the Bermondsey brewery. 

small beer

With Dry January here, low ABV beer is a good option

The future of small beer

Despite the quality of the product, it’s not always an easy sell, at least initially. “There is a stigma attached to small beer. When we first approach people and there’s a typical reaction of ‘why would I want to be drinking two per cent beer?’ because sometimes it doesn’t quite click with people,” says James. “As soon as they’ve tasted it, or understood the occasion, it makes sense. Everybody has had that moment when you really want another pint and you know that you really shouldn’t. That’s when people are switching onto water or soft drinks  If they had just been drinking small beer from the start, then there’s no problem! As soon as that clicks with people, they just immediately get it. Then they come round to us because at the end of the day there’s no one else in this space”.

Despite my reservations about it,  Dry January does present a useful opportunity to consider our drinking habits. James believes that people’s ability to have a little bit of alcohol without getting drunk is hampered by the current drinking culture. It’s why people are coming at us going ‘why would I drink a two per cent beer if you’re trying to sell it to me at the same price as a five per cent beer’. It’s happened cyclically through time,” says James. “If you go back to the 1980s it was commonplace to see a 2.5% beer on cask. That seems to have died out with this presumption that ‘premium’ means ‘stronger’. For me, a lot of breweries completely missed out on an entire set of drinkers who would rather drink something that’s not going to get them completely plastered”.

small beer

These might be small beers. but their potential is big!

James makes it clear that he and Grundy are not afraid of growth. “I think it’s ridiculous for brewers to say ‘you’ve sold out’ because you’ve gone into a multiple or you’ve gone into Greene King pubs or whatever it is. As long as you’re staying true to what you believe in, to the brand, and as long as your product hasn’t changed because you’ve gone into those places, then I think you’re doing the right thing,” he explains. “We went as big as we possibly dared and the demand is absolutely showing itself – we’re rocketing! Now we just need to stay absolutely a hundred per cent true to our mission because, as I said before, if the quality of the product isn’t there, the brand will never succeed. Small beer won’t work unless you can really show people that it’s great tasting beer”.

For what it’s worth, we think they have just that. Which you can see for yourself below in these delightful MoM tasting notes…

small beer

Small Beer Brew Co. Lager

Nose: Lemon sherbets, dried grass, floral honey and freshly-baked bread

Palate: Bright and crisp, the lager immediately hits all the classic Pilsner-style notes you’re looking for with biscuity malt at the core, a touch of tropical fruit and a delicate touch of cinnamon.

Finish: Refreshing and light with a slight herbal quality.

small beer

Small Beer Brew Co. Dark Lager

Nose: Roasted espresso beans initially, then dark chocolate and caramel. There are some earthy and nutty elements underneath with a touch of black fruits.

Palate: That chocolatey, earthy and coffee-heavy blend appears again, with sweet cinder toffee elements and sour citrus sour adding depth.

Finish: Dark, dry and slightly sour.

small beer

Small Beer Brew Co. Steam: 

Nose: Light and hoppy, with cinder toffee, seedless raisins and a hint of toasted grains among light hops and a touch of spice.

Palate: More rye notes at the core of the palate, with touches of burnt toast, molasses and a hint of citrus.

Finish: Dry and slightly astringent.

small beer

Small Beer Brew Co. Session Pale: 

Nose: Bready malt, warm citrus, black fruit compote and a little nutmeg.

Palate: Notes of pink grapefruit, green tea and lychee emerge through fragrant hops.

Finish: Very refreshing and delicately sweet, with orange peel.

 

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The Nightcap: 6 December

The countdown is on. It’s December and there are only so few editions of The Nightcap left for 2019 – let’s enjoy them! December has arrived, and while some people…

The countdown is on. It’s December and there are only so few editions of The Nightcap left for 2019 – let’s enjoy them!

December has arrived, and while some people are counting down to Christmas, other people are counting down to something completely different, though the event occurs on the same day. I am of course talking about Roast Potatocalypse. The day roast potatoes fear the most. So eagerly I await the day, but to pass the time, let us indulge in another edition of The Nightcap!

Over on the blog #WhiskySanta was feeling particularly festive as he made Bunnahabhain 40 Year Old his Super Wish this week, while we began to tuck into our Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar. Check out each day (#1, #2, #3, #4, #5) to see which delightful dram hid behind each window and for a fabulous Q&A with a key figure at the distillery. Elsewhere, we announced the winner of our Jarrod Dickenson competition and revealed what Dram Club members can expect from December, before Adam cast a spotlight on Ron Izalco. Henry, meanwhile, got stuck into some of 2019’s best drink books and an exotic flavoured gin inspired by a Dutch explorer for our New Arrival of the Week as Annie Hayes hung out with Sir Ranulph Fiennes to talk rum, as you do, and still found time to enjoy a Hard Seltzer.

Now let’s press on, the Nightcap awaits!

The Nightcap

Richard Paterson created the impressive bottling from two ex-sherry casks filled in 1951!

The Dalmore unveils rare 60 Year Old single malt Scotch whisky

There is only one way to celebrate 180 years of creating delicious whiskies, with a limited-edition pink gin. Just kidding. The Dalmore has marked the occasion by releasing a spectacular 60-year-old single malt whisky. The Dalmore 60 Year Old was created by master distiller Richard Paterson, who reunited two extremely rare ex-sherry casks from six decades ago which were first filled with spirit first distilled on 7th June 1951. The two twin casks were the last of the Mackenzie era when the Mackenzie clan owned the distillery, which ended in 1988 when Colonel Hector ‘HAC’ Mackenzie passed away. Under their stewardship, The Dalmore established long-standing relationships with suppliers to source casks that remain to this day and took the decision to adorn each decanter with the distinctive Royal stag. “Over the course of the past 180 years, The Dalmore has constantly strived for perfection, setting the standards for many other whisky makers today. The Dalmore 60 Year Old is a fitting tribute to the masterful talents of our distillers past and present, who have all helped to create an incredible body of work,” said Paterson. “For me personally, nurturing and caring for these two casks has been a true labour of love. The reunion of the two spirits has produced an unforgettable whisky that is truly greater than the sum of its parts.” The Dalmore 60 Years Old is limited to just one decanter, which will be unveiled at an exclusive celebration at The Dalmore’s Highland home, before embarking on a global tour to Shanghai, Los Angeles, Taipei, and London. Further details will be announced in due course, which you can find on the Dalmore website.

The Nightcap

The Times Series 52 Year Old Single Cask Finish

Royal Salute launches The Times Series 52 Year Old Single Cask Finish

Royal Salute and insanely old whisky fanatics, hold onto your hats. “Amplified and way more luxurious than anything before,” is how master blender Sandy Hyslop introduced the brand new Royal Salute expression, The Times Series 52 Year Old Single Cask Finish. This has been a labour of love and immense skill, periodically sampled every 18 months. At 38 years old, Hyslop decided not to bottle the whisky, oh no. He decided it was time to move it to another cask to be finished for 14 more years in American oak. “I desperately didn’t want the cask influence to be too much here,” Hyslop tells us. You’d be forgiven for thinking that over five decades in oak would result in a dry and woody whisky, but this is anything but. It dances between sweet and spicy, with the hallmark Royal Salute syrupy pear notes in there too. When we headed to a mysterious clock tower in St. Pancras to try it (Time Series, clock tower… we see what you did there Royal Salute), we were the only group outside Hyslop and his blending team to try have tasted the liquid in its finished form, which is pretty mind-boggling. Enough of that, we’re sure you’re eager to know how it tastes. The nose is sweet, thick and juicy, with plums, dark chocolate, ginger, cinnamon. The palate is mouth-coating to another level, revealing sweet liquorice, pears in syrup, orange marmalade and candied ginger, with a finish which goes on for almost as long as the whisky was aged itself! Of course, the spectacular whisky is presented with in an individually-numbered hand-blown Dartington Crystal decanter, alongside a stunning box featuring five layers of wood, each representing a decade of the blend. Whisky collectors, this one’s for you. There’s only 106 bottles, and if you have a spare $30,000 burning a hole in your bank account, we’d thoroughly suggest trying it.

The Nightcap

Wright Brothers gin, worth shelling out for

Wright Brothers launch Half Shell Gin

When sustainability and delicious boozes come together, it makes us very happy here at MoM Towers. So, when we were invited to try the new Half Shell Gin from Wright Brothers, made with reused oyster shells from the London-based restaurant group, we jumped at the chance, hook, line and sinker! To create the spirit, Wright Brothers partnered with The Ginstitute distillery of West London, using the thousands of oyster shells which the restaurant goes through each year. “We use Carlingford oyster shells, which are cold-macerated in neutral spirit and then distilled,” says Ivan Ruiz, Wright Brothers beverage manager. “We then add a percentage of the distillation to the gin. The oyster-shell taste is then balanced with a kelp seaweed, and other ingredients like juniper and Amalfi lemon. The result is a savoury gin with high mineral notes and a pink pepper finish.” We can absolutely vouch for that, it was thoroughly delicious. The outstanding seafood was accompanied by a G&T and a Martini, both showcasing Half Shell Gin. The Martini is an absolute winner, slightly savoury, well-balanced and exceptionally smooth. Visually, it’s an absolute joy, and seeing hundreds of oysters served up while we were sitting at the bar sipping on the very gin made from the shells is pretty cool. “We’d thought about creating our own wine, but we feel gin, especially this gin, reflects both our restaurants and the city we call home,” says Robin Hancock, co-founder of Wright Brothers. You can grab a bottle of your own at Wright Brothers restaurants, or choose to sip it in their wonderful cocktails.

The Nightcap

Congratulations, guys!

Irish Distillers takes home the World Whiskey Producer of the Year trophy

It’s fair to say Irish Distillers had a good time at the International Wine and Spirits Competition in London last week. It scored the highest number of medals across its portfolio of Irish whiskeys throughout the 2019 awards season, beating distillers from Japan, Ireland and the USA. Midleton Distillery claimed 24 award wins, including the Worldwide Whiskey Trophy for Redbreast 12 Year Old, while there was gold medals for the Powers Three Swallows release, Powers John’s Lane 12 Year Old, Redbreast 15 Year Old and Red Spot 15 Year Old. Jameson Cooper’s Croze and Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy also scored 98 points out of 100, as Irish Distillers ended the evening with the most Gold Outstanding honours within the Irish whiskey category. But above all that, the Irish whiskey producers were given the prestigious title of World Whiskey Producer of the Year. “We are honoured to be recognised as World Whiskey Producer of the Year by one of the most respected awards bodies, and to see such outstanding results across the portfolio,” said Tommy Keane, production director at Irish Distillers. “This trophy is a tribute to the incredibly hard-working passionate and skilled craftsmen and women at Midleton – 2019 has truly been a landmark year for Irish Distillers.”

The Nightcap

Now that’s what we call an immersive floral installation

St. Germain at Heddon Street Kitchen

We know that it’s dark and cold, but one of the best things about winter is all the awesome festive pop-ups! The latest one we popped along to was St-Germain’s Winter Bloom Experience at Gordon Ramsay’s Heddon Street Kitchen. The immersive floral installation is golden, shiny and full of fairy lights and all things elderflower. We were told that the semi-dried flowers even have to be touched up every couple of weeks, which is more attention than we give our house plants. Each of the four serves has a suggested food pairing, created in collaboration with the team at Heddon Street Kitchen. Our personal favourites were the cockle-warming Cidre Chaud (St. Germain, Calvados, cider, star anise and lemon) and the light, refreshing Winter Spritz (St. Germain, Prosecco and soda). If you love elderflower like nothing else, this is the spot for you, though serves like Le Grand Fizz (St. Germain, Grey Goose vodka, lime and soda) aren’t overwhelmingly floral if you’re not mad for it. You’ll find the cosy floral hideaway at the restaurant all throughout the month of December. Perhaps a spot to keep in mind to treat yourself to a post-Oxford Street Christmas shopping session. 

The Nightcap

Responsible and festive, you don’t often pair those two together!

Beer brewed with recycled Christmas Tree needles launched

Being both sustainable and festive isn’t easy, but Lowlander Beer has managed with a Winter IPA brewed with recycled Christmas tree spruce needles. Part of the zero-waste ‘From Tree to Tipple’ campaign from the award-winning Netherlands Botanical Brewery, The Winter IPA is the result of last year’s initiative which collected unwanted Christmas trees to turn into beer. This year the brand has gone one further and made its Christmassy creation available to purchase as a gift pack from Not On The High Street and from other retailers throughout December. The profile of the beer isn’t dark and heavy as you would suspect from a wintery beer, but instead, it’s a light, refreshing White IPA brewed with juniper berries alongside the unconventional spruce needles. Expect a piney aroma alongside the hoppy & light citrus character. Over six hundred kilos of needles were needed to produce the 2019 batch of Winter IPA. Although only the needles were needed to brew Lowlander’s Winter IPA, the brewery reused every piece of the donated trees in limited-edition products, including bottles of a new creation: Lowlander Botanical Brut, a limited-edition sparkling beer made with spruce and Champagne-inspired Riesling yeast, available in the UK from 2020. Commenting on the release, chief botanical officer Frederik Kampman said, “Every December, about 2.5 million real trees bring Christmas spirit into our homes. By New Year, most of these end up in the chipper, on bonfires or piled at the roadside. We have found another use for them: in beer.” 

The Nightcap

The lovely, lovely Brora whisky on offer made us excited for the silent distillery’s future

Brora ramps up 200th-anniversary celebrations

What a year it’s been for silent Highland Scotch whisky distillery Brora. The momentum first got going back in 2017 when parent company Diageo announced it was going to reopen both Brora and Port Ellen, the iconic distillery over on Islay. Then, in August this year, we got word of a very special 40-year-old expression, developed to commemorate Brora’s 200th birthday (more on this shortly). And just last month, the distillery’s historic stills were whisked away for refurbishment – bringing that all-important reawakening a significant step closer. So when we were invited to a dinner earlier this week to celebrate it all, we just had to be there. Also in attendance were senior archivist, Jo McKerchar, and the Brora master distiller to be, Stewart Bowman. We looked at plans for the restored site (pop September 2020 in the diaries, folks), historical documents from the old distillery, and basically, had a thoroughly lovely time (and yes, we did get to taste that 40 year old – it’s rounded, and elegant, and like the robust smokiness of Brora but dressed up in a black-tie gown or tuxedo. We liked. A lot.). 2019 shall forever be known as the Year of Brora – until 2020 comes around and the closed distillery reawakens from its slumber. Bring it on!

The Nightcap

The biodegradable drinking straw is made from up-cycled agave

Jose Cuervo unveils ‘sustainable’ agave straws

We all now know plastic is the scourge of the earth (all hail David Attenborough), and that single-use bits and bobs are now about as welcome as the common cold. But sometimes straws are just, well, needed. Step forward Tequila brand Jose Cuervo, with has teamed up with scientists at BioSolutions Mexico and production types at Mexico-based PENKA to create agave-based straws! They’re made from upcycled agave fibres (the raw material in Tequila and mezcal) and are biodegradable. More than a million of them will be sent out across the US and Mexico in 2020. “The past, present, and future of Jose Cuervo is tied directly to the agave plant – without it, we would not exist,” said Alex Coronado, Cuervo’s master distiller and head of operations. “As the Tequila industry worldwide booms, it is our company’s responsibility as the leader to take care of the agave plant and ensure that we are producing tequila sustainably. It takes an average of six years to grow an agave plant before it is mature enough to harvest for Tequila production, and we have to be committed to finding more ways to use the agave fibres once that process is complete. The debut of our biodegradable, agave-based drinking straws is a new step in utilising the full potential of this very special Mexican agricultural product.” Now, agave is far from the most sustainable raw material for spirits (think: monocrop issues and all the energy requirements for all that processing), but it certainly seems like a mammoth step in the right direction. Good riddance, plastic!

The Nightcap

Head winemaker at Graham’s Charles Symington

Graham’s releases 1940 tawny Port

Now you have the chance to taste a little bit of history as Port house Graham’s, part of the Symington group, has announced the release of single harvest tawny from 1940, a blend of two exceptional casks. Wine from this period are extremely rare not just because of their great age but because with Port’s principal markets at war, very little was made.  Head winemaker at Graham’s Charles Symington commented: “It’s not often we have the privilege of releasing a wine that is eight decades old and bears such unique historical significance. The 1940 Single Harvest really is remarkably refined and balanced, offering a reflection not only of the quality of the original wine but the skilled care and attention it received from our forebears.” Yours for around £800. Interest in old single harvest tawny Ports (aged in barrel as opposed to vintage Ports that are aged in bottle) has been increasing in recent years. The 1940 is the final part of Graham’s Cellar Master’s Trilogy of old tawnies, joining the 1994 and 1963. It’s old but not as old as the special 90 year old tawny the company released in 2016, a blend of three years 1912 , 1924 and 1935, released to celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday.

The Nightcap

Keep your gin safe with an Edinburgh Gin Safe

And finally. . . protect your precious boozes with the Edinburgh Gin Safe

Tired of flatmates or relatives pilfering your favourite gin? Well, the boffins at Edinburgh Gin have come up with the answer: a gin safe. Available directly from the distiller, your safe consists of a clear box containing a full bottle of gin with the contents safely secured with a padlock. The only way to open it is to solve a cryptic puzzle which will reveal the combination for the lock. Neil Mowat, UK marketing director of Edinburgh Gin, commented: “Given Christmas is the most wonder-filled time of the year, we wanted to bring some of our own distinctive magic to the concept of gift wrapping with our gin safes. Designed with the ultimate gin fan in mind, they’ll be able to see the reward that’s waiting for them, but they’ll need to have a little fun first to unlock the wonder within.” All great fun but we can see a problem that owners might forget the code after too much eggnog. . . or perhaps that’s the point. 

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Drink books of the year 2019

Whether you’re a wine buff, a whisky aficionado or a lager lout, this year’s crop of drink books has something for everyone. We pick our favourites to curl up by…

Whether you’re a wine buff, a whisky aficionado or a lager lout, this year’s crop of drink books has something for everyone. We pick our favourites to curl up by the fire with this Christmas. 

Well, it’s been a bumper year for drink books. There’s new offerings from old pros like Jancis Robinson and Tristan Stephenson, as well as debuts from Felix Nash and Eddie Ludlow. In fact, it was such a good year that we had trouble narrowing the list down so apologies if your favourite is missing. 

All of them will make great gifts for the drink lover in your life. And we can’t think of a better way to spend the holidays than with a roaring fire, a dram/ glass/ pint of something delicious and one of these books, and that includes watching Casablanca on Christmas Day with a belly full of Port and Stilton. 

A Brief History of Lager Mark Dredge

Lager is so ubiquitous, it’s the beer the world drinks, that it’s hard to imagine how 200 years ago it was a Bavarian speciality. At that time, beer in the rest of Europe was essentially ale. But slowly lager spread and along the way mutated from a sweet, brown beer to the crisp golden brew we know today. It’s a great story told with a real sense of fun by award-winning beer writer and TV regular Mark Dredge. 

Sample line: “Lederer kept contact with Sedlmayr and Dreher, and there’s a wonderful photo taken in 1939 of the three of them all wearing top hats and overcoats, each with a thick moustache, and all holding hands.”

The Curious Bartender’s Whiskey Road Trip Tristan Stephenson

Tristan Stephenson aka the Curious Bartender is the author of many excellent cocktails books. In this latest outing, he takes a journey across America sampling whiskeys from 44 distilleries both large and small including some real MoM favourites like Balcones 44, St George, and Michter’s  nice work if you can get it.

Sample line: “Tuthilltown is home to a huge cat call Bourbon (there another cat called Rye that we didn’t get to meet.”

Fine Cider Felix Nash 

You probably haven’t realised it yet but we are living through a golden age of cider. It hasn’t quite hit the mainstream yet, but all over England, Wales and the cider-producing world (which is much bigger than you think), producers are waking up to the potential of apple-based goodness. Felix Nash, a cider merchant, has written a heartfelt, in-depth hymn to his favourite fruit and drink.

Sample line: “I wouldn’t be able to tell you about all the apples used to make cider or the pears used to make perry, and no one could. It’s not simply that so many varieties exist in the world, but that they can very localised”.

Sherry: Maligned, Misunderstood, Magnificent! Ben Howkins

We’ve written a fair bit on the blog about how much we like sherry, so this was a book after our own hearts. Written by a man with more experience in the wine trade that he would like to admit, this is a love letter to one of the world’s great wines. Reading this, you can almost smell the bodegas of Jerez. Warning, it’s almost impossible to read this book without developing a serious sherry habit. 

Sample line: “Olorosos are the wines that will emulate rugby players, rather than ballet dancers.”

Spirited: How to create easy, fun drinks at home Signe Johansen

You might know Johansen (the lady in the header) as Scandilicious, evangelist for all things Scandinavian and delicious. Originally from Norway, now living in London, she’s just as good on drinks as food. This book makes a great introduction to cocktails, tips for non-alcoholic drinks and all round guide to stress free non-nerdy entertaining. 

Sample line: “Life is too short to worry about what anoraks and bores think so now I happily enjoy whichever drinks I’m in the mood for.”

The Whisky Dictionary Ian Wisniewski

Someone who is certainly a bit of an anorak but never a bore is Ian Wisniewski. He’s the one on distillery tours who will always be asking more questions than anyone else. We know as we’ve been round a few with him and we always learn a lot. This book, which we have already found an invaluable reference guide, is a testament to that insatiable curiosity. 

Sample line: “Do enzymes ever get the applause they deserve? Rarely. If ever. It’s time to make up for that with a standing ovation.”

Whisky Tasting Course  Eddie Ludlow

Like many of the best people in the drinks business, Ludlow began his career at Oddbins. Since then he’s become an expert at opening up the often confusing world of whisky. In this book, Ludlow breaks it down into easily digestible segments, explains why whiskies taste as they do, and talks the reader through the most common styles of whisky such as single pot still Irish, small batch bourbon and Islay single malt. Before you know it, you’ll be saying “bonfires on the beach” or muttering “mmm, Jamaica cake” like an old pro.

Sample line: “Your mouth and tongue are actually quite inefficient at detecting all but the most basic flavours.”

The World of Whisky – Neil Ridley, Gavin D. Smith and David Wishart

Lavishly-produced guide to the every-expanding world of whisky by three of the best writers in the business. And you do really need three to cover what is now such an enormous topic. Inevitably the majority of the book is on Scotland with a page devoted to each malt distillery, but the Irish, US and Japan sections are also impressive.

Sample line: “Would even the most discerning of palate be able to detect a differences made using barley grown in Mr McTavish’s bottom field and the one, over yonder hill, behind the tree and the babbling burn?”

The World Atlas of Gin Joel Harrison and Neil Ridley

Another book part-written by Neil Ridley! How does it do it? We suspect that he has actually cloned himself to spread the workload. There’s a lot of gin out there and it’s expanding all the time, meaning that this book can only be a snapshot of what’s available but you know with these two that everything in here is going to be worth drinking. Also extra points for not being afraid to put in the big names, like Beefeater, rather than going for hipster obscurity points.

Sample line: “France has embraced the gin revolution with a charismatic style and charm of its own.”

The World Atlas of Wine Jancis Robinson and Hugh Johnson

This is the 8th edition of an all time classic book, first published in the 1970s and updated every few years. Originally just written by Johnson, Robinson joined the team in 2003. It’s hard to think of a better looking book with its lavish photos and intricate maps of the world’s greatest wine regions. The words are pretty nifty too as you’d expect from (probably) the world’s top two wine writers. 

Sample line: “For centuries, Hungary has had the most distinctive food and wine culture, the most varied grape varieties, and the most refined wine laws and customs of any country east of Germany.”

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BrewDog Distilling Company introduces Five Hundred Cuts Rum

Authentic, honest and packed full of flavour: Allow us to introduce you to BrewDog Distilling Company’s latest creation – a botanical spiced rum named Five Hundred Cuts, inspired by 18th…

Authentic, honest and packed full of flavour: Allow us to introduce you to BrewDog Distilling Company’s latest creation – a botanical spiced rum named Five Hundred Cuts, inspired by 18th century botanical illustrator Elizabeth Blackwell…

Twelve years ago Brewdog’s co-founders set about revolutionising the beer industry from a garage in Aberdeenshire. And revolutionise it they did, ruffling countless feathers along the way with 55% ABV beer stuffed inside taxidermy animals, herbal Viagra-spiked American IPA, and the first beer ever brewed on the ocean floor. 

It’s of little surprise that this cavalier ethos has been applied to Brewdog’s ever-expanding distilling arm, which recently introduced a botanical spiced rum. The fifth spirit in the core range, named Five Hundred Cuts, is inspired by Elizabeth Blackwell, “a heroine of Aberdeenshire back in the 1730s”, explains Steven Kersley, head of distillation at BrewDog Distilling Company

Born in Aberdeen in the early 18th century – “a time of huge change,” observes Amanda Edmiston, a self-styled herbal storyteller known as Botanica Fabula – Blackwell went on to create one of the most comprehensive herbals* of her era. Recording a ground-breaking 500 plant engravings (or ‘cuts’), The Curious Herbal was validated by the Royal College of Physicians and made available to both the medical elite and, unusually, a wider public audience. 

“Not only was Elizabeth the first woman to publish a herbal; she was the first person to publish one with quite so many plants,” explains Edmiston. “She embraced plants that were coming into the UK from a huge range of countries. There was a real explosion in botany, and it was the first time anyone in the UK had seen cacao and allspice and Tonka beans,” which – spoiler alert – may well feature in the Five Hundred Cuts recipe.

Hand not included

Her botanical creation is also one of the first herbals where the plants are accurately drawn – take mandrake root, for example. “Legend says it transforms into the shape of a person when pulled from the ground,” Edmiston adds, “it screams and the person pulling it up dies. For this reason mandrake root was often drawn as a little person, but she draws the actual plant.”

It’s a story made all the more remarkable when you consider Blackwell’s motivation: to pay off debts owed by her husband Alexander and see him released from Newgate Debtors Prison. Later, he managed to secure a job as an agricultural advisor to the king of Sweden, says Edmiston, but before she could join him, “he gets caught up in a Jacobite-influenced plot to fiddle and tweak the running order for the claim on the Swedish throne – and is promptly executed”. Oh dear. 

Beheading aside, it’s a remarkable story that has influenced an equally remarkable rum. Five Hundred Cuts starts out as sugar cane molasses, a byproduct of the sugar refining process – since there aren’t any sugar cane fields in northern Scotland, pressing, distilling and fermenting raw sugar cane isn’t an option for Kersley and the team. “It arrives on-site in tankers, 28 tonnes at once,” he explains. “We unload it one tonne at a time, wearing those white forensic crime scene [scrubs] – it does look like a crime scene after we’re finished – and start the fermentation process by diluting that molasses down with water.”

The team ferments the molasses with a combination of red wine yeast and rum yeast; the former brings out “massive dark fruit flavours and works with the dark burnt sugar flavours coming from the molasses” while the latter “creates a lot of tropical notes like pineapples and mangos”. Yeast, after all, “is a massive source of flavour,” Kersley continues, “it doesn’t just convert sugar into alcohol – it creates a whole host of different esters and flavour profiles”.

Steven Kersley

Steven Kersley, head of distillation

The mix is fermented for seven days at precisely 28 degrees celsius before it’s double pot distilled. Then, 11 botanicals including tonka bean, clove, lavender, cardamom, orange peel, cinnamon, mace, nutmeg, allspice and ginger are brought into the mix using two methods. The more delicate botanicals, such as orange peel, lavender, schezuan peppercorns and cardamom, were re-distilled with the base spirit to “create what is, in essence, a spiced white rum distillate”, he says.

The botanicals which are – as Kersley kindly puts it – “slightly more assertive, slightly more bold”, like cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, tonka bean, ginger, and allspice, are steeped in the remaining white spirit for 14 hours, before the solids are filtered out. Then, the macerated white rum and white rum distillate are brought together, “so we’re getting all the bright, vibrant flavours from the distillate and then a lot of the more spicy, bold characters coming from the macerate,” Kersley says. The team rounds the liquid off with a little muscovado sugar, and then it’s bottled – scroll down for some tasting notes.

So, how to drink it? Five Hundred Cuts “works amazingly across all the classic serves: Rum and Cola, Rum and Ginger Beer, Pina Colada…” Kersley says. “We absolutely love white rum, it tastes incredible, and for me as a distiller it has real potential for layering and developing flavour on top of it. The natural step was to use botanicals. We didn’t just want to create another generic spiced rum with fake colour, fake sweetness and a lot of vanilla typically added. We wanted to create something authentic, honest and packed full of flavour.”

*A ‘herbal’ is a text that contains illustrations and descriptions of plants, their medicinal preparations, and the ailments for which they are used, according to The British Library.

Tasting notes from The Chaps at Master of Malt:

Nose: Coca-cola, dark chocolate, caramel combine with more aromatic notes like ginger, orange peel and cloves.

Palate: Highly aromatic, almost menthol, with assertive cardamom leading balanced by rich dark sugar. 

Finish: Fresh and herbal, like upmarket cold cure. 

 

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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…

The Nightcap

Any excuse for a rum-based party…

Angostura brings Trinidad to London for one night only

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

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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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The Nightcap: 20 September

Your order of bite-sized bits of booze news has been filled once again, courtesy of The Nightcap! This week we’ve got stories about beer from 1936, colourful Macallan whisky and…

Your order of bite-sized bits of booze news has been filled once again, courtesy of The Nightcap! This week we’ve got stories about beer from 1936, colourful Macallan whisky and the return of a drink-filled Amazon Prime TV series.

We’ve spent some time in the office this week talking about how Jeff Goldblum is pretty much the perfect person. To be honest, we spend a lot of weeks doing that. In a way, he’s quite like the booze industry. We enjoy what they produce, we’re excited to see what they come out with next and they both make us thirsty. Only one, however, can be the true focus of The Nightcap. Sorry, Jeff. But needs must.

So what’s been going on here on the MoM Blog? Well, we announced winner of our Salcombe Gin competition, so congratulations are in order. Elsewhere, Jess witnessed the journey of a whisky from tree to barrel to glass courtesy of Jura Seven Wood and Henry enjoyed some Rum Punch as this is International Punch Day (happy IPD, folks!). Annie, meanwhile, had an eco-themed week, first dispelling some eco myths and then looking at some the finest eco distilleries. Adam’s theme was more sherry-tastic as he rounded-up some delicious and delightful sherried whiskies and then made an amontillado sherry cask-finished Tomatin single malt Scotch whisky our New Arrival of the Week, before finding time to talk about the new Jameson Caskmates release.

Despite all of that boozy goodness, there’s still more news stories to cover. It’s The Nightcap!

The Macallan Edition No. 5 launches in collaboration with Pantone

Sound the ‘New Macallan‘ alert folks, because the Speyside distillery has just launched a bottling as a “homage to the diversity and complexity of natural colour.” It may sound more Pantene then Pantone, but the expression is supposed to champion the spectrum of natural colour you’ll find across the Macallan range and features a collaboration with the Pantone Color Institute. The company created the shade of purple you’ll see on the label especially for this particular release, which has been named The Macallan Edition Purple. The Macallan Edition No.5 was matured in American oak casks and is said to have notes of caramel, vanilla, lemon basil and fresh fruit combined with oak spices, but more importantly, it’s a colour the brand describes as “sunlit barley” (I’m thinking of having my spare room painted that). “We can find much common ground between whisky making and colour creation and with Edition No.5 we have been able to explore and celebrate these two art forms,” said Sarah Burgess, The Macallan whisky maker. “Whilst colour development starts with mixing basic colours with precision to achieve different shades, for whisky-making, it is the knowledge and understanding of a specific palette of colours from the cask which is the starting point. From here we can craft the desired character and specific colour of the final whisky”. Laurie Pressman, vice president of the Pantone Color Institute, added: “As the rainbow’s most complex colour, purple naturally felt like the ideal shade to highlight the equally complex process involved in The Macallan’s whisky-making”.

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The remarkable historical beers

Britain’s earliest surviving canned beers go for £2,250 at auction

We’re used to old bottles of whisky selling for thousands of pounds but with beer less so. Which is why we were surprised when two old cans went for £2,250 at Chiswick Auctions in London yesterday. That’s a lot of bread for beer. But these weren’t just any cans. Oh no, these babies date back to 1936 and come from the Felinfoel Brewery in Llanelli which was the first brewery in Britain and the second in the world to produce a canned beer. Similar cans were shipped out to North Africa to keep General Montgomery’s army aka the Desert Rats refreshed. Handily at the time, the brewery also owned a tinplate works. The cans were lined with wax to stop the beer corroding the metal. It seems to have worked because both the contents of one can are entirely intact, whereas the second has suffered some evaporation. Not bad for 83-year-old beer cans. As for the taste of the beer, we are unlikely to find out whether they are drinkable as the cans were snapped up by the very company that brewed them (still in family hands after all these years) to go into its museum.

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Havana Club Tributo 2019, which we can confirm is very tasty

Havana Club brings Tributo 2019 to the UK

At The Churchill Bar & Terrace in Portman Square, London we were treated to live Cuban music, delicious cocktails, a sublime menu and, best of all, the 2019 edition of Havana Club Tributo this week. The fourth bottling in Havana Club’s Tributo range, which was first launched in February 2019 at the Habanos Festival in Havana, Cuba, was created by three generations of masters of Cuban rum (maestros del ron Cubano) including Don José Navarro, Asbel Morales and Salomé Aleman, the first and only female maestra del ron Cubano, who each selected a rare and extra-aged rum base which were first left to mature in the 1970s, 1990s and 2010s respectively. These were then blended together with a rum that was matured for more than 25 years in French oak barrels to form the 2019 edition of Tributo. “Once again, the Havana Club Tributo collection praises the richness and variety of styles that form the base of the authentic Cuban rum category,” said Morales. “Each rum in the Tributo range uniquely focuses on a different element of the production process, from our ancient rum bases to cask experimentation and the 2019 edition continues this story by honouring the craftsmanship of three of the maestros del ron Cubano.” Rich, refined and intense, Havana Club Tributo 2019 possesses notes of dark chocolate, dried fruit, baking spice, coffee, brown sugar and exotic fruit. It certainly earns our seal of approval and will be available at MoM Towers soon…

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A delightful cause, courtesy of a delightful beer!

Beer for good! Camden Town Brewery heads to London for UK’s first Can-for-Can Swap with The Felix Project

We’re all lucky enough to be able to enjoy delicious food and mouth-watering drinks on a regular basis, though it’s a harsh reality that that’s not true for everyone. That’s why we were super stoked to hear that Camden Town Brewery has launched a new autumnal seasonal beer, dubbed Harvest Hells Lager, in partnership with The Felix Project, a charity with a mission in raising awareness for food poverty in the UK. This is a problem which affects 8.4 million people nationally. Harvest Hells gets its autumnal notes from darker roasted speciality malts, making for a richer flavour while poetically turning its summery yellow hue to the reddish-brown of autumn leaves. Mmm, autumn leaves… But how does lager help food poverty, you ask? Well, from 24 September there’s going to be a Harvest Hells van gallivanting between London, Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool with the UK’s first ‘Can-for-Can’ swap initiative! Bring a can of any tinned food and you’ll secure a can of Harvest Hells lager in return, while your tins will be donated to local food banks in each city. The when and whereabouts of the Harvest Hells Van can be found here. What’s more, Camden Town Brewery is donating 20p from every can of Harvest Hells Lager sold within the first month to The Felix Project. “Food poverty in the UK is a growing problem, with many people struggling to afford fresh and healthy food for themselves and their families,” Mark Curtin, CEO of The Felix Project, says. “We are delighted that Camden is not only helping to raise awareness of these crucial issues and the work we do at The Felix Project to tackle them, but also getting people involved in supporting the cause to help to reduce waste and eradicate food insecurity.” If there was ever a more appropriate time to do the can-can, it would have to be now.

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Distillation here will begin in 2021. We’d like all artist’s impressions to include dogs, on another note.

Ardgowan releases Coppersmith malt inspired by the Clyde’s shipbuilding heritage

This week Ardgowan announced the first in a series of limited-editions whiskies. The company has received planning permission for a new distillery to commence operation in 2021 but in the meantime will be selling blended whiskies created by Max McFarlane. CEO Martin McAdam described McFarlane, former whisky maker for Edrington looking after brands such as Famous Grouse, Cutty Sark, Bunnahabhain, Tamdhu and Highland Park, as a “whisky legend.” The first release is called Coppersmith and it’s a blend of Speyside and Highland distilleries wholly matured in first-fill oloroso sherry casks. McFarlane, who is from Inverkip on the west coast, said: “Coppersmith is the first in the Clydebuilt series of whiskies which Ardgowan Distillery will release in the years ahead. Each bottle in the series will celebrate the pride shown by generations of workers on the Clyde, who together built some of the world’s most illustrious ships.” He went on to say: “I wanted to produce a top-drawer blended malt and I believe that is what we have achieved.” It will be available from the distillery for £49.99 and from a certain online retailer soon.

The Nightcap

The Three Drinkers return to Amazon Prime, and indeed to Scotland!

The Three Drinkers returns to Amazon Prime

The Three Drinkers are back, and this time it’s personal. We were pleased to learn this week that the irreverent boozy Amazon Prime show is back for another series. The Three Drinkers are, for those who don’t know, actress and wine buff Helena Nicklin, journalist and social media sensation Adrian Smith, and whisky writer and photographer Colin Hampden-White. The first series was called The Three Drinkers do Scotch whisky and for the second series they haven’t travelled very far, it’s called The Three Drinkers Return to Scotland. At this rate it’s going to be years before they even leave the British Isles. Anyway, we aren’t complaining as there’s a lot of good booze in Scotland; the dynamic trio will be visiting: Dalmore, Jura, Fettercairn, Glen Scotia, Glen Moray, Loch Lomond and Firkin Gin distilleries. “We’ve been blown away by how well the series has done in such a short time,” Nicklin commented. “We’re looking forward to playing up the fun side of our travels with more experimentation with food and drink, eerie ghost stories, ridiculous challenges and all the weird and wonderful tidbits people never knew about Scotland and whisky.” The new series will be available to view on your TV, tablet or one of those computer watches that are all the rage these days from early December.

The Nightcap

This is Tails, the downstairs, at what we presume is Harvey Dent’s favourite bar

West Hampstead’s Heads + Tails bar channels two sides of a coin

If you’ve ever flipped a coin to try and decide which bar you should venture to, then Heads + Tails may be just what you’ve been waiting for. The West Hampstead bar was created by London mixologists Will Partridge and Chris Dennis, with the idea of having two complimenting counterparts to the bar: Heads, the top floor, and Tails, the downstairs. Each bar has a different menu, and we started off upstairs in Heads where there are spritzes galore and lighter cocktails, surrounded by light blue decor, filament light bulbs and a marble bar. We went for the Corpse Reviver No. 175, which marries Fords Gin, Dolin Blanc, Italicus and Chocolate & Mace Flower Bitters. Now, we weren’t with any corpses, though if there’s one cocktail that could revive the dead, it may well be this one. Beautifully light and citrussy, with a subtle rich creamy back note from the bitters. Then, there was Smoke on the Water, which takes Olmeca Altos Plata Tequila, mezcal verde, lime and watermelon syrup. Again, wonderfully well balanced, with juicy fruit tempered perfectly by the rich smokiness and grassy notes of the agave spirits. Then, you head downstairs to Tails, covered in dark oak and moodily lit by candles. It’s literally darker down there, and so are the spirits. Here we tried Twist of Fate, comprised of Wild Turkey bourbon, ginger and cinnamon syrup topped off with orange blossom water. Richer without being heavy, you can feel and certainly taste the difference between the two floors. A unique idea and a wonderful spot, and if you can’t decide from the list of delicious drinks you could always… flip a coin.

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If it’s good enough for TripAdvisor, it’s good enough for us!

Rum experience comes to Manchester

The Manchester Rum Experience sounds like the most exciting experience to come to Manchester since the Jimi Hendrix Experience played at the Twisted Wheel in 1967. It’s the brainchild of Dave Rigby from the City of Manchester Distillery, the city’s premier attraction according to never-wrong website Tripadvisor. Tell us more Dave! “Our motivation with the new ‘Rum Experience’ was to pay homage to some of the influences which drove us to build the distillery at the outset. As a collective, we have been on an amazing journey over the last few years and as such, we wanted to share some of these incredible experiences, stories and some of the fun we’d had, through a range of new and diverse, interactive events at the distillery”, Rigby said. Tickets have now gone on sale for the experience which consists of a three-hour immersion in all things rum with Dave Marsland from the Manchester Rum Festival including history, cocktails and the opportunity to fill your own min barrel in ‘The Lab’. Best of all, the new experience is being supported by some of our favourite brands including Chairman’s Reserve, Bacardi, Don Q, Appleton Estate, Diplomatico, Pussers, Wray & Nephew, Doorly’s, Plantation and Gosling’s. Beat that Jimi!

The Nightcap

Munich comes to London, only without any of the tradition. Still lots of beer, though

Inclusive Oktoberfests arrive in London

Once upon a time, you knew what you were letting yourself in for if you decided to go to the Oktoberfest. There would be men in leather shorts, mile after mile of pork sausages, oceans of beer, oh and you’d have to go to Munich to experience the whole thing. Well not anymore because this autumn there are three London Oktoberfests happening at Doc X in Surrey Quays: a fancy one, a gay one and a spooky one for Hallow’en. Go to http://www.doktoberfest.co.uk for more information. These differ from the original Bavarian festival in other ways: you don’t have to drink beer as there will be Champagne and non-alcoholic drinks served, or indeed eat traditional German sausages as at all three events there will be halal, kosher and vegan options. You don’t even have to wear leather shorts but you must be tolerant of those who choose to.

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Asparagus this, Brussels sprouts that… you can’t beat a good ol’ G&T!

And finally… asparagus becomes latest wacky gin flavour

In what has essentially become our, ‘look at this weird gin’ slot, an asparagus-flavoured expression has added to the endless nonsense of novelty-flavoured gins. It’s one of the spirits on offer at the inaugural Malvern Gin Show which showcases “some of the finest spirits from the Three Counties region” and giving visitors the opportunity to sample a wide range of drinks from local and surrounding gin distilleries. A competition will even declare one distillery ‘the people’s champion’. The event, part of the Malvern Autumn Show, runs the weekend of September 28 and 29, and will include a brand new Gin Pod Theatre to host to gin-tastic talks and for visitors to get inspiration for recipe ideas. Some of the confirmed distilleries at the show include Hussingtree Gin (who are responsible for the asparagus gin), Brennan and Brown and Haven Distillery. “The Malvern Gin Show is a new addition and we’re all rather excited about it,” said Richard Heath, show executive responsible for the new classes “We have a rich selection of distilleries which are local to the Three Counties, and what better way to celebrate than to hold a series of classes, and of course give our visitors ample opportunity to do some tasting.” Run in association with Westons Cider Mill, the Malvern Autumn Show will host over 65,000 people at the two-day celebration right in the heart of the beautiful British countryside, and you can get your tickets now at malvernautumn.co.uk.

No Comments on The Nightcap: 20 September

Introducing: Jameson Caskmates Fourpure Edition

Jameson has added to its impressive Caskmates range thanks to a collaboration with London brewery Fourpure. First there was Jameson Caskmates, a stout barrel-finished expression. Then there was Jameson Caskmates…

Jameson has added to its impressive Caskmates range thanks to a collaboration with London brewery Fourpure.

First there was Jameson Caskmates, a stout barrel-finished expression. Then there was Jameson Caskmates IPA Edition. Now Jameson Caskmates Fourpure Edition has joined the series, a fruity and fun bottling ideal for mixing, as we found out to our own pleasure at the launch event at the brewery last night.

Among live music, a t-shirt printing machine and more delicious beer than you could shake a stick at, the limited-edition whiskey, which is a UK exclusive, took centre stage. Jameson Caskmates Fourpure Edition was produced by finishing Jameson Irish Whiskey in barrels that were seasoned with the brewery’s Shapeshifter West Coast IPA for three months and bottled at 40% ABV. Its launch is the culmination of a project that has been 18-months in the making according to Ronan Collins, a senior brand ambassador at Pernod Ricard and the man who led the development of this whiskey from the Jameson side of things.

The barrels Jameson Caskmates Fourpure Edition were matured in started life as ex-bourbon casks that then housed Jameson’s triple-distilled Irish whiskey before Fourpure experimented with them. A total of five of its beers were trialed, including Juicebox, which was very nearly chosen. Shapeshifter, however, won out in the end, with Collins commenting that “It came up as the top in aroma, flavour and finish and, for me, it was different than anything I had tasted. It was so fun and fruity.”

Jameson Caskmates Fourpure Edition

The bottling brings together two brilliant booze brands in tasty harmony

“A part of us didn’t want it to be Shapeshifter because Jameson already has a Caskmate IPA, but Shapeshifter’s obviously a very unique beer. It’s got an incredibly powerful hop aroma, it’s quite dry and it’s got a lot of bitterness,” added John Driebergen, head brewer at Fourpure. “We feared it wouldn’t do that well and that it would fight with the whisky, but we were pleasantly surprised. The hops brought all these wonderful, fruity and tropical aromas.”

Fourpure Shapeshifter West Coast IPA was inspired by the travels of Fourpure founders Dan and Tom Lowe (they’re brothers, that’s not just a coincidence) in the Pacific Northwest. Described as a ‘traditional West Coast style-IPA, it combines a selection of hops including Citra, Mosaic, Centennial and a touch of Colombus. The name and design of both Shapeshifter West Coast IPA and Jameson Caskmates Fourpure Edition is a reference to a First Nations tale of a shapeshifting lake monster that lived in the remote lakes of the region called Steve Ogopogo. The playful, colourful art on the whiskey’s label certainly matches the tone of the drink itself.

In terms of enjoying what’s inside the bottle, it’s fair to say Jameson Caskmates Fourpure Whiskey can is perfectly pleasant neat, but for me, it really shines in a highball with soda or in the delightful signature serve, Hop to It. The bright and refreshing cocktail, which was the welcome drink last night, combines 25ml of Jameson Caskmates Fourpure Whiskey, 5ml of sugar syrup and 10ml of Triple Sec, which you then top-up with Fourpure Shapeshifter West Coast IPA, bringing both of the key expressions together in one tasty tipple. If that’s not your speed, however then the classic North American-style Boilermaker is the way to go. “I think it’s the perfect partnership,” said Collins. Having tried the pairing myself, it’s hard to disagree.

You can find Jameson Caskmates Fourpure on Master of Malt!

Jameson Caskmates Fourpure Edition

Jameson Caskmates Fourpure Edition

Jameson Caskmates Fourpure Edition Tasting Note:

Nose: A hop-influenced aroma filled with tropical and slightly grassy notes dominates the nose, with fresh orange slices, Rocket ice lolly and pineapple juice bringing plenty of ripe fruitiness to the fore. Things become cakey later with freshly baked gingerbread, vanilla sponge and marzipan.

Palate: The classic Jameson profile makes more of an entrance here with butterscotch, orchard fruits and vanilla. Blackcurrant, a hint of woody warmth and a flashback of tropical fruit appear underneath.

Finish: Long, sweet and mouth-coating, with more notes from the nose making a pleasant return.

Overall: An insanely enjoyable dram that’s very easy to drink and mixes beautifully.

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The Nightcap: 30 August

This week may have been shorter, but you’d have never guessed with all the booze news stories in The Nightcap (and because of how long it felt)! Gosh, what a…

This week may have been shorter, but you’d have never guessed with all the booze news stories in The Nightcap (and because of how long it felt)!

Gosh, what a long and tiring year the past few days have been. Monday was a bank holiday, and yet, this week somehow managed to keep going and going. And not simply from a general point of view, but the booze news just kept pouring in (no pun intended… Maybe…). Of course, this means that another edition of our weekly round-up of stories from all corners of the drinks world is very much necessary. Behold, it’s The Nightcap!

On the blog this week, Kristy revealed that Drinks by the Dram’s delightful drinks-filled Advent Calendars are available to pre-order now! You can never be too prepared when it comes to stocking up on delicious booze. Speaking of which, we also announced that we’re splitting our allocation of the hotly-anticipated Daftmill Single Cask between a 30ml dram lottery, a bottle lottery, and a charity auction. So many tasty tipples for you all to enjoy, but we didn’t stop there. Highland Park Valfather was made our New Arrival of the Week by Adam, while Henry picked the exotic Mai Tai to be our Cocktail of the Week. Industry veteran Ian Buxton then took a dim view over alcohol-free ‘spirits’ before Annie returned to cast her eye over the Chivas Masters cocktail competition 2019 and dispel five persistent stereotypes around drinking.

Plenty of boozy content to enjoy as always and there’s even more where that came from. On to the news…

The Nightcap

An artist’s impression of what the upcoming Ardara Distillery will look like

Sliabh Liag Distillers gets the green light for new Ardara Distillery

Good news this week for Irish whiskey and Sliabh Liag Distillers as the producer of An Dúlamán Irish Maritime Gin and The Silkie Irish Whiskey has been given planning permission to start work on its new distillery. Construction at the Show Field in Ardara will begin later this year, with distilling operations to scheduled to commence in 2020. The new €6m distillery, which will employ at least 40 people, will have the capacity to produce 400,000 litres of pure alcohol per annum (approximately 1700 filled casks and over 1.2m bottles of whiskey when the spirit is finally sold). The plan is to create a number of brands, including the Ardara and Sliabh Liag (pronounced something like Slieve Leaguesingle malt and pot still whiskeys. Production of An Dúlamán gin will also be moved from its current location in Carrick to the new building, which will also house a tasting bar, shop and a visitor experience that will include a history of poitín. However, there will be no café or restaurant, as visitors will be encouraged to make use of the village’s many offerings instead. “We are really excited to get the go-ahead from Donegal County Council and we look forward to commissioning the distillery and reclaiming the distilling heritage of Donegal,” commented James Doherty, managing director of Sliabh Liag Distillers. “It is important to us that local businesses benefit from the footfall, and if we can get visitors walking in the village, increasing their dwell time, then so much the better for the entire community.”

The Nightcap

Just 20ml and this little beauty went for £3,150

Tiny wee bottle of Black Bowmore 50 Year Old goes for £3,150 at auction

Here’s how it works when we receive a sample bottle of whisky at Master of Malt: we open it, we taste it, we scribble some tasting notes, and then we drink it. If there’s any left, we’ll share it around the office. What we don’t do is wait for a few years and then sell it at auction which is just what happened with a press sample from Bowmore. The whisky in question wasn’t just any Bowmore, it was the 50 year old Black Bowmore the Last Cask distilled in 1964 and given out to journalists in a special 20ml wax-sealed vial. On Sunday 18 August one of these tiny samples went for £3,150 at Just Whisky Auction. Graham Crane, director at Just Whisky, said: “At 20ml it isn’t even big enough to serve as a pub measure, however, one buyer was determined to secure this as part of their whisky collection.” Getting out our pocket calculators, the price works out at the equivalent of £110,250 for a 700ml bottle! That’s a lot of money but don’t worry, it isn’t going to stop us tasting and enjoying every sample that comes our way. There will be no squirrelling at MoM!

The Nightcap

This is the exactly how we pictured the Kent Life Hops n’ Harvest Beer Festival

Basil Brush to headline Kentish hops festival

Of all England’s counties, Kent might hold the booze crown: there’s a certain online retailer in Tonbridge, innovative distillers, delicious ciders, world-class vineyards and, of course, hops by the acre. Kent and hops have been synonymous since the 16th century. So to celebrate all things hoppy, you should get down to Kent Life Heritage Farm Park in Maidstone on Saturday 7 and Sunday 8 September for the Kent Life Hops n’ Harvest Beer Festival. You can learn about the history of hop picking and see hops processed in a traditional coal-fired oast (you know, one of those pointy house things you see all over the county). There will be live music, a silent disco and, for nostalgic adults as much as children, 80s TV legend Basil Brush. Boom boom! Oh, and there will be beer, lots and lots of beer from Kentish brewers like Gadds’ The Ramsgate Brewery, Goody Ales and Brew Buddies. Visit Kent Life for tickets and information. But that’s not all, there’s another festival at the same venue on Saturday 5 and Sunday 6 October celebrating apples and cider. It just doesn’t stop in Kent.

The Nightcap

The purchase includes brands like Knappogue Castle, Jefferson’s Bourbon and Goslings rum

Pernod Ricard acquires Castle Brands for $223m

It was announced this week that drinks giant Pernod Ricard has added to its considerable portfolio by reaching an agreement to acquire alcohol manufacturer and marketer Castle Brands for approximately $223 million (about £202m). The deal includes brands such as Gosling’s rum, Brady’s Irish Cream, The Arran Scotch whisky, Clontarf Irish whiskey and Jefferson’s Bourbon, the latter of which was noted as a stand-out performer when Castle Brands published its full-year results in June 2019 which saw its net sales rise to US$95.8m. The purchase follows Pernod Ricard’s recent acquisition of Texas-based Firestone & Robertson Distilling Co, producer of TX whiskey and bourbon just this month. “Through this acquisition, we welcome this great brand portfolio, in particular, Jefferson’s Bourbon, to the Pernod family. Bourbon is a key category in the US, which is our single most important market,” said Pernod Ricard’s CEO, Alexandre Ricard. “This deal aligns well with our consumer-centric strategy to offer the broadest line-up of high-quality premium brands. As with our American whiskies Smooth Ambler, Rabbit Hole and TX, we would provide Jefferson’s a strong route to market and secure its long-term development, while remaining true to its authentic and innovative character,” Castle Brands CEO, Richard J. Lampen, added: “We are very pleased to reach an agreement with Pernod Ricard, which is the result of months of planning and deliberation by our board of directors. We are confident that this transaction will deliver immediate and substantial cash value to our shareholders.”

The Nightcap

The Kraken Pennywise: it’s slightly scary and very delicious. Like eating an oyster.

Kraken Rum creates scary IT-themed cocktail

No, not a cocktail inspired by information technology (though that sounds fun), it is, or rather IT is, a new film from Stephen King, IT: Chapter Two, which arrives in cinemas this September. As the name suggests, it’s a sequel to top 80s horror series IT featuring the clown from your nightmares, Pennywise (memorably played by Tim Curry in the original and Bill Skarsgård in the new version). Kraken Rum, probably the scariest rum money can buy, has created this new cocktail called the Kraken Pennywise. Containing Kraken Rum, raspberry puree, lime juice and sage sugar syrup, it’s blood red, served over ice and finished with a red balloon as if an evil clown might be lurking nearby. And the best thing about this special cocktail is. . . it’s free! Won’t cost you a pennywise; all you have to do is buy a ticket to the launch night of the film on 6 September and then take your ticket along to RoadTrip Bar in Old Street, London to claim your free drink. Just don’t bring along your coulrophobic friend.

The Nightcap

Happy anniversary guys!

anCnoc whisky unveils limited editions to mark 125th anniversary

Knockdhu Distillery first opened its doors in 1894, which makes it as old as the Blackpool Tower and The Jungle Book. They won’t be able to celebrate their 125th Anniversary by releasing delicious new whisky, however. Not like anCnoc whisky, who have launched two limited edition single malt Scotch whiskies: anCnoc 16 Years Old Cask Strength and a 125 Year Anniversary Peated whisky. The former, which will retail at £99.95, was matured in American oak ex-bourbon casks and bottled at cask strength. It’s said to be a light, elegant expression with notes of sweet vanilla mixed with coconut and butterscotch toffee, green apple and citrus as well as a faint warming spice. The second bottling, anCnoc’s Peated whisky, was made to take the drinker on a “mellow journey from the heart of Banffshire’s rich peatlands”. Matured in American oak ex-bourbon casks, then further matured in a Spanish oak butt, the smoky and sweet dram is said to possess notes of wood smoke mixed with almonds and dried fruit as well as burnt toffee. This one will set you back £79.95. Both limited editions feature collectable packaging illustrated to tell anCnoc’s story, with a celebratory copper lid. Because nothing says ‘happy birthday’ like a copper lid. “To be celebrating 125 years of making exceptional whisky is a real achievement. The traditional methods that make our whisky so special are still in use today, but we’re constantly innovating to offer a fresh take,” said anCnoc distillery manager, Gordon Bruce. “It’s this combination of tried and tested means with a contemporary twist that makes anCnoc, and Knockdhu Distillery, one of the best places in the world to work – we have a lot of fun here. It was really important to mark this special year, we could offer something for everyone, and I think we’ve done just that.” There are only 500 bottles of each, but luckily you will be able to get them both from MoM Towers.

The Nightcap

John Varvatos and Nick Jonas, co-founders of Villa One

Nick Jonas launches Tequila with Stoli

Another week, another celebrity trying to get in on the Tequila boom. This time it’s musician and actor Nick Jonas, probably best known for his time in The Jonas Brothers, and menswear designer John Varvatos. The pair have joined forces with Stoli, best known for producing Stolichnaya vodka, to create the new premium Tequila, which they’ve named Villa One. It does sound like a website you’d find a cracking deal on a four-bed in Corfu, but it’s definitely Tequila being sold. In fact, the brand will debut with three expressions as soon as this September: silver, reposado, and añejo bottlings, priced between $45 and $60 a bottle. Clearly somebody’s been keeping a close eye on Bacardi’s Patrón and Diageo’s Casamigos, and wants in on the action. Villa One becomes the second tequila launched by Stoli after it created the Cenote brand last year. The specifics of the deal haven’t been disclosed, however the Stoli Group has briefed that Jonas and Varvatos are co-founders and partners in the brand with an equity stake. No money has been exchanged for their backing of the Villa One brand, although the duo will benefit from profits down the road. Jonas and Varvatos have actually worked together twice before, with Villa One Tequila becoming their third collaboration. “The first was a fashion collaboration and then the fragrance,” said Jonas. “Given our affinity for Tequila, Villa One was the perfect next step.” “The most important thing for us is that we have the best Tequila in the market,” added Varvatos. “It is less about us and all about the product.” Though it is quite a bit about them.

The Nightcap

The Bermondsey Bees Knees cocktail from Nine Lives, London

Ketel One introduces One Square Mile initiative to champion local communities

Ketel One wants to challenge bartenders to use ingredients sourced within a one-mile radius of their bar to create cocktail menus that celebrate the local community. Joining forces with bartender competition World Class as well as community partners, local craftsmen and gardening communities, this bartender-led initiative seeks to promote natural ingredients, locally-made vessels and reduced waste in the drinks industry. The One Square Mile initiative will run from 2-8 September; for that week, three-drink Ketel One Vodka menus will be available in cocktail bars across the UK, showcasing the proximity of the ingredients used and vessels sourced to create the serve and championing the partnerships formed within the community through a series of events. One of the cocktails will be something customers can easily recreate at home. Bars joining the initiative include Nine Lives, London, Amico’s Bar, Essex and Terrior Tapas, Southbourne. Nine Lives will be featuring its Bermondsey Bees Knees cocktail in collaboration with local beekeepers and made with produce from local farmers. There will also be an opportunity to join the World Class Global Finals in Glasgow and have their cocktails showcased for a select few of the participating One Square Mile bartenders. “We’re delighted to be launching our One Square Mile initiative – designed to inspire bartenders and local communities to come together to utilise their skills and resources to create something great,” said Kate Jackson, brand ambassador for Ketel One Vodka. “We love to encourage bartenders to explore alternative methods for championing urban flavours. Not only is using seasonal ingredients and local produce to create cocktails sustainable, it really elevates the flavour in cocktails and is a great way to engage with local people.”

The Nightcap

Three Little Words will hopefully look something like this

Manchester Gin opens swanky cocktail bar and restaurant

Manchester Gin has announced the imminent opening of a new cocktail bar in. . . . Bolton! We’re joking, it’s in Manchester. The venue called Three Little Words is located in Grade-II-listed brick railway arches in the centre of the city. We wonder what the Three Little Words are? ‘More gin, please’ or ‘waiter, another Martini.” It won’t just offer the classics, there will be specially-designed cocktails themed around the concept of love: “The menu moves through Lust, Rapture, Devotion, Eternity and ends with Ultimatum, creating flavours that evoke every stage of love: from excitement and freshness, through to darker, heavier flavours.” Blimey! As well as cocktails, there will be food from Jimmy Carr. No, not the comedian but former chef at Evelyn’s, one of the city’s best restaurants. Manchester Gin co-founder and master distiller, Seb Heeley, said: “This is the culmination of a life ambition for Jen [Wiggins, co-founder] and I. From the very first day we met, we talked about our dreams to open our own bar, so this feels like a huge milestone for us! We couldn’t have started this venture without the support of Manchester, so to be able to create 45 jobs and give something back to this amazing city means the world to us.” Oh, and those Three Little Words? ‘Drink, dine, distill’. Makes sense, but we still prefer ‘more gin, please.’

The Nightcap

A p*ssion fruit liqueur for the perfect P*star Martini

And finally. . . . the Pornstar Martini goes respectable

The Pornstar Martini has to be one of the drinks of the 21st century. Created by bartender Douglas Ankrah at the Townhouse in London back in 2003, it has gone on to become the UK’s favourite cocktail. Now Ankrah has just launched a passion fruit liqueur so you can make the perfect version at home. But rather than label it ‘Pornstar’, Ankrah thinks that it is time for a rebrand. The name with its louche connotations might be fine for the on-trade but isn’t going to fly off the shelves, or even make it onto the shelves, at Waitrose. So the new liqueur is labelled P*Star. Ankrah explained the logic to us: “It has changed as I wanted to bring the brand in line to the current climate.” He went on to say: “I feel customers who loved the cocktail when I first created it are now parents to children and would not want a cocktail like Pornstar in the house.” The new name certainly gets round the problem of having to explain what a pornstar is to your ten year old daughter. So, there you have it: the Pornstar is dead, long live the P*star!

 

 

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5 drinking ‘rules’ to banish forever

Venture out to your local bar and you’ll soon stumble across a self-appointed ‘expert’ eager to unload their personal drinks rulebook on lesser mortals. With the greatest respect, those guys…

Venture out to your local bar and you’ll soon stumble across a self-appointed ‘expert’ eager to unload their personal drinks rulebook on lesser mortals. With the greatest respect, those guys suck. It’s time to do away with life-limiting traditions – as they say, rules are made to be broken…

When it comes to sharing knowledge about the spirit world, there’s a fine line between enthusiasm and snobbery. At MoM, we’re a staunch proponent of the drink-it-however-you-want movement, which naturally has no place for haughtiness.

If Scotch and coconut water is your go-to serve, that’s great. Should you prefer to make Mimosas with sparkling cider instead of Champagne, go for it. When your favourite gin only tastes right mixed with a can of Mountain Dew, well, more power to you.

Thankfully, there are plenty of forward-thinking producers out there who are equally keen on liberalising our libations. Here, we look at five persistent stereotypes surrounding beer, Tequila, rum and more, and shine a light on the brands seeking to dispel them…

Singleton

The Singleton of Dufftown is as happy in a Highball as on its own

They say: Never mix single malt Scotch

We say: It’s single and ready to mingle

Devout single malt fans may hiss and wail, but they’re missing a trick. As Ervin Trykowski, global brand ambassador for The Singleton, posited so succinctly on this very blog: Nobody wants to drink cask-strength Scotch in Marbella at 11AM. However, pop that same Scotch in a long, vibrant, possibly citrusy highball? Hey, now we’re talking. Obviously, it pays to do a little research beforehand – bulldozing your spirit’s complexities with reckless mixing will leave a sour taste in your mouth both figuratively and literally – but in diversifying our collective approach, the category doors open ever wider to Scotch newcomers. And that’s only going to be a good thing.

They say: Rum is *only* for mixing

We say: Rum is neat. Let’s drink it that way, too.

Listen, we enjoy a Mai Tai as much as the next person, but it’s high time we showed rum the same reverence as its grain-based barrel-aged counterpart (i.e. whisky). Historically the category has struggled to shrug off its party image, mostly because of the sweetened, flavoured, spiced or almost-flavourless white rums that have ruled the roost in speed rails the world over. But peer beyond the big-name bottlings and you’ll find premium liquid, artisanally distilled and lovingly aged by the barrelful, such as that made by Foursquare Distillery in Barbados and Hampden Estate in Jamaica.

They say: Alcohol-free beer has no flavour

We say: Good beer knows no ABV

With the greatest respect, “alcohol-free beer has no flavour” sounds suspiciously like something a person who has never tried alcohol-free beer might say. In the same way that not all beers are created equally, nor are all booze-free brews – if you turn up your nose at Wetherspoons’ taps, chances are you won’t like their zero-alcohol offering either – but specialist breweries like Big Drop Brewing Company and dedicated brands like Lucky Saint have made it their mission to create flavourful, complex and truly excellent alternatives to the full-strength stuff.

Tequila Fortaleza

Tequila Fortaleza isn’t for shooting

They say: Tequila = shots

We say: The long-reigning salt and lemon ritual has been dethroned

Frankly we could write a soliloquy condemning shot culture, but that isn’t why you’re here. Tequila, one of the few drinks categories to be governed by strict geographical rules that seek to preserve the quality of its liquid, somehow volunteered itself to this bizarre ritual – and lost itself along the way. Fast-forward to now, and there are a bevy of super-premium alternatives to the industrial agave that sits patiently in Britain’s speed rails until 11pm onwards. And the makers of these fine liquids – Fortaleza, Ocho, Tapatio, El Rayo – implore you to sip and savour or better yet: stir into T&T (Tequila and tonic). And don’t say, “but I like doing shots”. No one likes doing shots.

They say: Cocktails are too sweet

We say: Have you heard of the Negroni, or…

Good lord, is it 1980? Are we drinking layered shots and lurid green Grasshoppers? Sure, there was a time when ‘cocktails’ meant fruit juice from concentrate and packet sour mix, but that was almost four decades ago. Just like the Walkman made way for Spotify, and the Atari console made way for virtual reality gaming, so too have cocktail ingredients evolved and refined. Take environmentally-conscious liqueurs range Muyu, launched this year by bar luminaries Alex Kratena, Monica Berg and Simone Caporale. To capture flavours for their remarkably low-sugar range, the team harnesses techniques like steam distillation, C02 extraction, enfleurage and more.

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