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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Bourbon

Small distillers are the real losers in the EU/ US trade dispute

If you think the trade dispute between the Trump administration and the European Union has hit you hard, wait until you hear how craft distillers in the US have been…

If you think the trade dispute between the Trump administration and the European Union has hit you hard, wait until you hear how craft distillers in the US have been affected. Industry expert Ian Buxton looks into the rights and wrongs, winners and losers in the battle of the tariffs. 

Now I don’t know if you’ve noticed but the price of some American whiskeys has been going up. And some craft whiskeys which we hear about on this side of the Pond seem unduly hard to find. What’s going on? 

It’s all Donald Trump’s fault. Well, the Donald would blame someone else, of course, and he’s been quick to point the finger at Airbus Industries and the European Union. But he may have a point.

Just over a year or so ago the World Trade Organisation (WTO – an acronym you’ll hear a lot more frequently if the UK does indeed finally execute a no-deal Brexit) determined that EU aid to Airbus constituted an illegal subsidy that disadvantaged Boeing, its main competitor.  So, seeking to Make America Great Again and punish the EU, President Trump imposed stiff tariffs on imported steel and aluminium.

Rather than backing down, the EU retaliated with its own new tariffs, including a stinging 25% rate on American whiskies. As some cynical commentators observed, this may not have been unrelated to the fact that much US distilling takes place in the Southern states that tend to vote Republican.  Politics, eh – it’s a dirty game.

As a result, prices have risen and major European importers have cut back their orders. In fact, for the 12 months to July, US whiskey exports to the EU fell by a massive $160m as around one-fifth of the sales just dried up. The folks at Brown-Forman, who make around 60% of the US whiskey we drink, have been especially hard hit. We’re talking about Jack Daniel’s, Woodford Reserve, Old Forester and Early Times – all fine products and justly popular. In their most recent financial results, Brown-Forman reckon they’ve lost around $125m in sales. Even for an industry giant that’s got to hurt. 

This dispute has been grumbling along for nearly 15 years but, under Trump, the American response has been increasingly robust. In fact, reports suggest his administration is preparing to slap tariffs of up to 100% on $1.8 billion worth of European spirits and wine, with potentially dire consequences for Scotch whisky and British gin (never mind Cognac; the French can look after themselves!)  The US distilling industry trade body DISCUS is urging restraint, fearing tit-for-tat European retaliation. “American whiskeys have become collateral damage,” said Chris Swonger, DISCUS’ head honcho.

major fire at Jim Beam

The big boys will probably be ok

Brown-Forman is big and profitable, it’ll get over it. It’s a rather larger problem for small craft distillers who add such variety to the scene, especially when they’ve invested in new bottles and packaging. Well, according to Mountain Laurel’s owner Herman Mihalich (they make Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Rye, but his European distributor has stopped ordering) “we went from a marginally profitable business to breaking even.” Prior to the new tariffs, Europe accounted for around 10% of his sales but these dried up almost overnight.

That feels bad enough, but consider the plight of Catoctin Creek Distilling Co. in Virginia, who have thousands of unfilled bottles just waiting for their tasty rye whiskey. What’s the problem: just fill ‘em up and sell them in your own backyard, you say. Well, there’s the rub – they can’t. Owner Scott Harris was all geared up for a European sales drive and, just ahead of the tariff spat, invested in 70cl bottles for Europe.  Sadly, they’re useless in the USA where the law says spirits must be sold in 75cl containers The difference is only the size of a mini but means a mountain of expensive glass that he can’t use.

As he told the Reuters news agency: “We had one distributor we signed a deal with. He just stopped returning our phone calls. We’ve been trying very hard to get into the UK and France, and we can’t get any distributor to talk to us right now.”

Well, as the poet would have it,
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

For you and me all this means little more than not getting our favourite craft bourbon or rye this Christmas, or having to pay more. For employees of US distilleries affected by this trade war, it could get worse – DISCUS are warning of thousands of job losses if the dispute continues. But I have a plan. As I note in the recently-released latest edition of my 101 Whiskies to Try Before You Die, Canadian whiskies are a steal. You can thank me later.

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New Arrival(s) of the Week: That Boutique-y Whisky Company X Balcones Distilling

This week, we’re tempting you with not one but three (soon to be four) extraordinary bottlings from Texas’ trailblazing Balcones Distilling, released in collaboration with our good friends at That…

This week, we’re tempting you with not one but three (soon to be four) extraordinary bottlings from Texas’ trailblazing Balcones Distilling, released in collaboration with our good friends at That Boutique-y Whisky Company. You’ll want to taste them to believe them, but until then, we’ve captured their essence in four words: upside-down cask maturation…

Hello, curious whisky drinker. We thought the words ‘upside-down cask maturation’ might just lure you in. Those clever folks at That Boutique-y Whisky Company are back at it again – and by ‘it’, we mean bottling the contents of compelling, rare, and/or downright bizarre casks from across the globe, this time from the Lone Star state: Texas. 

Now, the team behind Balcones Distilling aren’t shy about “testing the waters of what’s possible”, as head distiller Jared Himstedt so eloquently puts it. They’re the creators of the first Texan whisky since Prohibition, the pioneers of blue corn whisky, and the only distillers bold enough to create a smoky whisky by smoking the distillate, rather than the grain. If they can’t find a space for these barrels in their existing range, the contents must be – and we mean this as the highest possible compliment – extraordinarily weird.

Of the four Boutique-y releases, three are single malts made from Golden Promise malted barley from Scotland – aged for various timescales in Tequila, oloroso sherry, and Balcones’ own Brimstone casks – while the final spirit is made from blue corn and finished in Pedro Ximénez barrels. Each one spent more time in the finishing cask than it did in the original – hence ‘upside-down cask maturation’.

“We haven’t really released anything like these on our own,” says Winston Edwards, brand ambassador at Balcones Distilling. “We haven’t done a Tequila cask single malt at the distillery, we haven’t done a Brimstone cask at the distillery – we have done a sherry release, but not with our blue corn spirit. They’re unique to Boutique-y.”

Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

 

Balcones 3 Year Old Batch 2 (That Boutique-y Whisky Company)

Well, well, well, what have we here? A Tequila cask-aged Texan single malt whisky; bold and vegetal, with a glorious dried fruit sweetness. “I don’t know what distillery this Tequila cask came from,” says Himstedt. “[Cask] Brokers can be weird – sometimes they don’t want you to know because then you can just start calling the distilleries and bodegas on your own. 

The team has always used Tequila casks, right from the beginning, in the mix for Baby Blue Corn Whisky, he continues. “We’d buy all the Tequila casks that were about to break down and they would make them into smaller barrels for us – they’d get shaved and re-charred and all that. I wanted to see what big Tequila casks would do for Baby, and when we got our first truckload in, we probably had 14 or 15 different isolated spirits recipes, so we threw everything in one – just to see.”

After 12 months ageing in a virgin French oak barrel, the single malt was scooted across to the ex-Tequila barrel, where it remained for 37 months. “I don’t know what you call it when you reverse the process,” says Himstedt. “We didn’t ‘finish’ it – we started it in one barrel and then it really matured in another.”

Balcones 2 Year Old Batch 1 (That Boutique-y Malt Company)

The more astute among you might’ve noticed something unusual. That Boutique-y Malt Company? Eh? “We’re not allowed to call it whisky in the UK if it’s under three years old,” Dave Worthington, global brand ambassador at That Boutique-y Whisky Company explains. “This is just two years old, so we’ve put a little flag over the whisky logo and renamed it ‘That Boutique-y Malt Company’.” 

After 14 and a half months ageing in an ex-bourbon barrel, this single malt was switched to a Balcones Brimstone cask for a further 16 and a half months’ ageing. The name Brimstone refers to a corn whisky of the same name, which is smoked using scrub oak. “It’s actually not a different species of oak, but in Texas where it’s really dry the tree grows twisted, almost like a Bonsai version of what an oak tree would be,” Edwards explains. “It’s so dense, we’re talking about something that has spent 60 to 80 years just to grow four feet tall, so lot of the compounds and aromas are really concentrated.” Think: smoky bacon and campfire deliciousness.

Balcones 2 Year Old Batch 2 (That Boutique-y Malt Company) 

The third single malt – again, bottled as a malt spirit rather than a whisky – spent 11 months in ex-bourbon casks before maturing for a further 14 months in an oloroso sherry cask, with all the rich plum fruit and mouthwatering spicy treacle you’d expect. Fun fact: This will be the joint-third Balcones release that has spent time in a sherry cask – the other two being the distillery’s 10th anniversary single malt and a dark rum finished in a Pedro Ximénez cask. *Italian chefs kiss* 

We say joint third, because soon (quite how soon is still under wraps) there will be another spirit joining this experimental line-up: a 100% blue corn spirit finished in Pedro Ximénez casks. If your whistle has been thoroughly wetted, you’ll need to get a move on – a very limited number of bottles are available, priced at £69.95 per 500ml bottle. Hey, we told you they were extraordinary. 

 

 

 

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The Nightcap: 27 September

New Balvenie single malt, gin from a heart-throb, and headsets that predict your favourite cocktail – all this and more in the latest edition of The Nightcap! September has almost…

New Balvenie single malt, gin from a heart-throb, and headsets that predict your favourite cocktail – all this and more in the latest edition of The Nightcap!

September has almost concluded. Soon it will be October, which means Halloween. We all know what follows that. It’s all moving too fast, isn’t it? You need something to take your mind off things, something to relax you. Ten bite-sized pieces of boozy news, for example. All rounded up in one handy location. With a snazzy drink-inspired name. That should do it. You need The Nightcap, folks.

So, what’s occurred already this week at MoM Towers? Well, the blog welcomed the return of Nate Brown, who took a rather dim view of cocktail competitions, before Adam championed a delightfully sherried English single malt whisky for our New Arrival of the Week, as well as the good work done by the Gorilla Spirits Co. on World Gorilla Day (24 September). Elsewhere, Annie talked all things Irish whiskey at London’s smallest Irish pub and then looked at how the worlds of coffee and alcohol collide now more than ever ahead of World Coffee Day (1 October), while Henry’s Cocktail of the Week was a cold, fruity little number that features a unique Polish vodka.

But the world of booze has even more to offer. It’s The Nightcap!

The Nightcap

The sixth batch from the popular series will be available here soon…

The Balvenie Releases Batch 6 of Tun 1509 Series

The Balvenie’s mighty fab and highly collectable Tun 1509 series has returned with Batch 6, a non-chill filtered whisky that comprises liquid from sherry refill butts, ex-bourbon American oak barrels and DoubleWood refill sherry butts (which were used once to finish previous DoubleWood) before being filled with new make and aged. The latest addition to The Balvenie Tun 1509 continues malt master David Stewart MBE’s exploration of the Speyside distillery’s aged stocks. He brought together a total of 21 unique casks to marry in the Tun, where it was left for three months before being bottled at the distillery at 50.4% ABV. Every bottle of Tun 1509 Batch 6 will come complete with a breakdown chart showing in-depth detail of the whisky, with visual representations of the flavour profile of each of the 21 casks and the overall character of the resulting single malt. “The liquid presents a beautiful depth on the palate with a touch of maple syrup, candied orange and runny honey,” Stewart said. “It is delightfully rich on the nose with soft brown sugar, toffee, blossom honey and ginger oak spices, and presents a sweet and malty finish featuring swathes of oak vanilla alongside a spicy layer. Batch 6 is a truly remarkable liquid that showcases gorgeous character and rich depth produced during the marrying process. This expression is sure to have whisky enthusiasts excited, much like the last Tun 1509 series we released a year ago.” Batch 6 of Tun 1509 is available at MoM Towers right now, so hop to it!

The Nightcap

Congratulations, folks!

Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame inducts new members and bestows lifetime achievement award

The Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame has had a busy week. Not only did it induct six individuals into its hallowed ranks, but it also presented a certain icon with the Parker Beam Lifetime Achievement Award. This year’s inductees are, in alphabetical order, Katrina Egbert, visitor centre marketing coordinator at Wild Turkey; Wesley Henderson, co-founder and chief innovation officer at Louisville Distilling Co.; Larry Kass, the former director of trade relations, Heaven Hill Distillery; Charles W. Medley, master distiller at the Medley Distilling Co.; and Peggy Noe Stevens, founder and president of Peggy Noe Stevens & Associates. Congratulations are in order for all those lovely folk, but a glass or two should also be raised in particular in the direction of the recipient of the lifetime achievement award, Even G. Kulsveen, the executive director of Willett Distillery. The award was attributed to his work resurrecting one of the state’s most historic distilleries and helping to return the family-owned brand to global prominence. “Even has demonstrated disciplined leadership, strategic decision-making and bold forward-thinking,” said Rick Robinson, chairman of the Kentucky Distillers Association’s board of directors. “He has built a family legacy that will last for generations to come, and we thank him for his significant contributions to Kentucky’s booming Bourbon industry”. In accepting the award, Kulsveen observed, “How many of us would have thought, 30 years ago, that we would be here today”, but daughter and Willett president Britt Kulsveen added that “We have always said that he is lifetimes ahead of his time with all of the innovative, genius creations he has imagined and brought to fruition. This award is a long time coming.” The induction ceremony was held on the grounds of My Old Kentucky Home in Bardstown, one of the state’s most revered historic sites and each inductee was presented with an engraved miniature copper still. Their names will also be added to the Hall of Fame display at the Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History in Bardstown.

The Nightcap

There’s plenty of options for those who want to celebrate World Sake Day

Celebrate World Sake Day

We know you’ve probably got a big red circle around the date in your calendars already, but here’s a reminder that it’s World Sake Day on Tuesday 1 October! Recent years have seen sake become increasingly popular, though if your knowledge isn’t quite up to scratch you can check out our blog. To celebrate the occasion, we decided to give you a little round-up of where to celebrate the day in style. If you’re in London, then Dinings SW3 over in Knightsbridge places sake right at the heart of its cocktail menu (which we went and tried out back in June). Take the Dinings SW3 Negroni for example, which switches things up with the addition of juniper and yuzu sake. If East London is more your scene, then there’s Nobu Shoreditch, with its landscaped terrace and Kampai happy hour from 4pm-6pm every day, which showcases the team’s favourite Japanese tipples and nibbles. Finally, if you happen to be near Manchester, the wonderful Peter Street Kitchen is hosting an exclusive World Sake Day masterclass on 5 October, so you can really get stuck in! Held in the Rikyū Bar, you’ll get a taste of hot, cold, sweet and sparkling sake, along with some tasty Japanese cocktails and canapes of course. Mind you, if you can’t make it to these spots, then we might know of a certain online retailer who could help you out with some lip-smacking sake right to your door…

The Nightcap

It’s quite the accolade for Matteo Monotone to receive

Matteo Montone wins World’s Best Young Sommelier

Being the best at something in the world is a pretty big deal. Having your best-ness be confirmed by a panel of judges is just next level. That’s what it’s like being in Matteo Montone’s shoes, Head Sommelier at Berners Tavern at The London EDITION hotel, who was crowned Best Young Sommelier in the World at the International Final of the Chaine Des Rotisseurs competition in Seoul! Of course, this achievement didn’t come out of nowhere. Having moved to London in 2013, Montone has had an impressive career in restaurants such as Aqua Shard, the Ritz London and Locanda Locatelli before he joined Berners Tavern. Then in March this year, Montone was also crowned Great British Young Sommelier of the Year. Now, just six months later and he’s achieved world domination! A huge congratulations from everyone at MoM Towers!

The Nightcap

More delicious English whisky is always a good thing…

East London Liquor Company launches three new whiskies

East London Liquor Company has proven once again why we love it so much with not one, but three new distinct whiskies! There’s the East London Single Malt, the first single malt from the English distillery, a double-pot distilled expression which was matured in a combination of ex-bourbon and rye casks from Sonoma and ex-bourbon casks from Kentucky for a minimum of three years. It said to have notes of milk chocolate, peanut butter, fresh hay, biscuits, bitter almond and a slightly vegetal finish of green tomatoes and light tar. It’s joined by another newcomer, ELx Sonoma, a blended whisky made in collaboration with owner and whiskey maker Adam Spiegel of the aforementioned California distillery, Sonoma. It features the delightful London Rye, the first-ever whisky release from the distillery, which was aged in a variety of casks, including ex-peated and ones that held its barrel-aged gins and finished in ex-Pedro Ximénez and oloroso casks. This was then married with Spiegel’s own unique blend of Sonoma bourbons. Expect notes of toffee, brandy-soaked cherries, almond butter, hay, clover, black peppercorn, dried apricots and honeysuckle. The final bottling of the three is the second release of London Rye, which was matured first for a year in virgin oak before it rested in ex-Sonoma and Kentucky bourbon casks for two years before spending six months in an ex-peated cask and then finished in ex-Pedro Ximénez. Toffee, sarsaparilla, dark chocolate, dried cherries, tahini, sea salt, leather, peat, bouillon, porridge and peanut butter notes are to be expected. “We’re unbelievably excited for not one, but three new whiskies to be hitting people’s glasses at the same time,” said Andy Mooney, whisky distiller at the East London Liquor Company. “Working with Adam Spiegel of Sonoma Distilling Company, I really appreciated his sentiment of ‘making whiskeys in a small way for a big world’. I like to say that, as a distillery, we’re incredibly lucky to be making whiskies that we want to drink ourselves, and then getting to share them with the rest of the world so people can find their own perfect dram.”

The Nightcap

Apparently there’s gin in this photo. We’re yet to spot it. Look at him, ffs.

David Gandy joins the juniper fray with Savile Row Gin

Just when you think you’d seen every gin launch imaginable, one comes along that genuinely catches your eye. Yes, of course, it was the liquid that… ahem. Yes. New gin. Last night, our Mariella headed up to London Town for the launch of Savile Row Gin! It’s made with 12 botanicals – including the signature kumquat – by Rob Dorsett (the chap behind the likes of Palmers 44 Gin and a host of others via the Langley Distillery). Oh yeah, and actual David Gandy (model, writer, driver and all-round beautiful human) was revealed as an investor in the brand – and its ambassador, too! He’s involved in the gin on a “day-to-day” basis, apparently. “I look to invest in British start-ups that I believe to be of superior quality with inspirational teams,” he said. “As a lover of gin, Savile Row Gin stood out from the crowd with its smoothness and flavour. I loved the fact it is a quintessentially British product, produced in the UK and curated on one of Britain’s most iconic streets, one that stands for craftsmanship and quality. I’m excited to be part of the team to help expand and grow the brand.” Founder Stewart Lee (not that one) seems chuffed: “David embodies the refined elegance and style of Savile Row and I am delighted to have his support, both as an ambassador and investor for the brand.” The best news? You can snap up Savile Row Gin right here!

The Nightcap

It may not be Guinness, but it’s still dark and beautiful.

Guinness launches limited-edition coffee 232 Brew

Inspired by a shared passion for rugby, the creators of the famous pints of the black stuff have teamed up with coffee company Tiki Tonga, which was founded by current Saracens captain and former British and Irish Lions player, Brad Barritt, to create a called ‘232 Brew’. The delicately balanced, full-bodied coffee should make those early morning kick-offs at the 2019 Rugby World Cup a little easier to handle (it’s held in Japan this year). The name comes from the fact that the coffee was roasted at 232°C, which is the same temperature as the barley used to brew Guinness, which is pretty neat. It should be made very clear, this not an alcoholic drink. Nothing is stopping you from making that coffee truly Irish, however. 232 Brew is said to have notes of fruit and nut chocolate leaving you with a rich mouthfeel and a long-lasting distinguished chocolate finish, and will also make a delightful Americano, cappuccino or flat white. The delicious blend will be available at selected venues across the country including Flat Iron Square (London), Oasthouse (Manchester) and Brigadiers (London). “The next six weeks are set to be some of the most exciting weeks of the year for fans of rugby, but we know that for many the early morning starts are far from ideal,” said Niall McKee, head of Guinness Europe. “That’s why we’ve partnered with Brad and the team at Tiki Tonga to create the ultimate coffee. We want to be there with rugby’s biggest fans for those early morning starts – bringing belief and team spirit.”

The Nightcap

Even adventurous spirits need to be enjoyed responsibly.

McQueen Gin gets told off by ASA

It wasn’t a great week for McQueen Gin’s parent company Trossachs Distillery. It was scolded by advertising watchdog the ASA for airing a TV ad that was declared “irresponsible”. The ad in question shows a group of three mates having a jolly good time in the Scottish Highlands, climbing mountains, swimming in lochs and taking in the view at the top of a rocky peak. The only trouble is that they celebrated the climb with a cheeky G&T – which very much implied that the return journey would be undertaken post-booze. Tricky, when you’re not allowed to suggest that physical activities are a good idea after alcohol (legal types would refer you to BCAP Code rule 19.13 (Alcohol)). “In this case, we considered the ad suggested that the activities would be undertaken after the consumption of alcohol and were therefore irresponsible,” an ASA statement reads. Best leave the gin back at the ranch and toast the day’s achievements after both legs of the journey are complete.

The Nightcap

Now that’s what we call autumn!

Dalloway Terrace Transforms for Autumn 2019 with Æcorn Aperitifs

The wonderful Dalloway Terrace (yes, that’s a Virginia Woolf reference) over at The Bloomsbury Hotel has gone through quite the seasonal transformation embracing all things autumn! To do this it’s rather appropriately teamed up with Æcorn Aperitifs. Expect oodles of golden leaves, brushed gold butterflies and a wonderful flower-filled terrace, to evoke the feeling of dining under a magnificent oak tree. Everyone’s dream. It’s not just the visuals that have been autumn-fied; the drinks menu has had a seasonal reboot, too. Expect wonderful aperitifs such as the Æcorn Elderflower Spritz, with Æcorn Dry, elderflower cordial and English sparkling wine. There’s also a unique Afternoon Tea menu inspired by Æcorn’s three alcohol-free aperitifs, and it’s totally autumn-inspired. I mean come on, there’s ‘Conkers on a String’, which isn’t really a conker, but chestnut and milk chocolate cream laced with Æcorn Aromatic. So seasonal! If the colder months are your thing, then Dalloway Terrace is definitely the spot for you.

The Nightcap

The future is here, and it’s boozy!

And finally… Spotify soundtracks cocktails while Diageo headsets predict your fave

Fifty-four of the world’s best bartenders and industry luminaries gathered this week for the Diageo Reserve World Class Bartender of the Year Global Final 2019 in Glasgow’s West End, which was won by the amazing Bannie Kang from Singapore! But that’s not the only thing that caught the eye as the drinks giant has announced a couple of startling new initiatives. The first, a collaboration with Spotify, led to the creation of six data-driven playlists curated for signature cocktails. Using social data and keywords related to specific Diageo Reserve brand cocktails, the world’s most popular audio streaming subscription service was able to identify key tracks and music that best encapsulated the mood and spirit of the cocktail. Rak Patel, head of UK sales at Spotify said: “Together with Diageo, we’re tapping into these insights to set the mood as they sip their favourite cocktails while creating a delightful and impactful connection with the brands they love.” Also on show was a headset linked to a sensory experiment that could be the answer for gin lovers unsure what to mix with their Tanqueray No. Ten. The Head vs Heart activation recommends personalised serves based on the results from the EEG sensors, essentially reading your mind to find the perfect cocktail. “Consumers are increasingly seeking out personalised and immersive experiences in our category,” Benjamin Lickfett, said Diageo’s head of futures, who has clearly never watched any films with AI or advanced mind-reading robots before. “Head vs Heart is just one example of an emerging technology enabling consumers to explore their own taste preferences and the flavours of our award-winning Tanqueray No. 10 as part of an engaging, sensory and surprising experience”. Stu Bale, director of London’s experimental creative bartending hub ‘Crucible’ also demonstrated the use of ‘weird machines’ like rotavaps, centrifuges, and ultrasonics to express different aspects of flavour and texture. World Class really sounds like a who’s who of ‘what the hell?!’ this year. You can visit www.theworldclassclub.com for more info.

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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!

 

 

No Comments on The Nightcap: 30 August

The Nightcap: 9 August

Artificial tongues that can taste whisky? Vodka made from Chernobyl rye? The gin boom is still going?! These aren’t tales from 2054 – these stories all appear in this week’s…

Artificial tongues that can taste whisky? Vodka made from Chernobyl rye? The gin boom is still going?! These aren’t tales from 2054 these stories all appear in this week’s Nightcap!

Behind the scenes sneak peek at how The Nightcap comes together right here: sometimes this intro is written after the all the stories have been finished. Having a look at all the futuristic stuff in this edition of The Nightcap, you might think that time travel is real and MoM Towers has slipped through a dimensional rift and ended up in the year 2054. Stranded and working purely on instinct, we notice on the future calendar it’s a Friday, so we write up a new edition of The Nightcap, regaling the masses with tales of artificial tongues that can taste whisky and spirits made from crops in Chernobyl stories that these future folk see as perfectly normal, but to our minds are wildly out of this world. But it’s not. It’s today and stuff is just becoming more impressive by the day!

So, good people of 2019, what’s been happening on the MoM Blog? Henry kicked off the week with a gem of a rum from the Diamond Distillery for New Arrival of the Week, made a Pink Lady for Cocktail of the Week and spoke to Peter Lynch from WhistlePig about an oloroso-finished rye exclusive to MoM. Annie chatted to Bimber’s founder Dariusz Plazewski about where people can go wrong (and right) when starting a craft distillery, and then asked a very important question to us all: how do you make alcohol-free beer delicious? Guest columnist Nate Brown has opinions about drinks industry folk who RSVP for events then don’t turn up.

We also launched a new competition where you could win a trip down to Deven to visit Salcombe Distilling Co.! Take a look, pick up a bottle of excellent gin, and cross your fingers!

And now, the news of the future today!

Cardhu

How Cardhu will look when it’s been refurbished

Johnnie Walker gets the green light for Cardhu redevelopment

The final piece in the jigsaw is now in place. That jigsaw being Diageo’s £150m plan for whisky tourism in Scotland based around four key distilleries. As we have reported previously, developments at Glenkinchie, Caol Ila, Clynelish, and a Johnnie Walker HQ in Edinburgh have all been granted planning permission. Now it’s the turn of Cardhu in Speyside. This was the first distillery acquired by Johnnie Walker in 1893 and since then has been a key component in the blend. David Cutter, chairman of Diageo in Scotland, said: “Together these locations will create a unique Johnnie Walker tour of Scotland, encouraging visitors to the capital city to also travel to the country’s extraordinary rural communities.” Laura Sharp, brand home manager at Cardhu, added: “This announcement is very exciting and we want to thank Moray Council and all our neighbours for their continued support.” We love it when a plan comes together.

That’s what an artificial tongue looks like

Boffins baffle counterfeiters with artificial whisky-tasting tongue

Who can forget the story from 2017 when a Chinese businessman spent $10,000 on a glass of Macallan that turned out to be fake? Well, such occurrences might be a thing of the past thanks to a team of Scottish engineers from the universities of Glasgow and Strathclyde. A paper titled ‘Whisky tasting using a bimetallic nanoplasmonic tongue’ published this week in the Royal Society of Chemistry’s journal Nanoscale describes a metal ‘tongue’ that can be used to analyse whisky. The ‘taste buds’ are made up of gold and aluminium in a checkerboard pattern. It identifies whiskies from the statistical analysis of minute differences in how the metals absorb light. The device was tested on a series of single malts – Glenfiddich, Glen Marnoch and Laphroaig – and was able to tell the difference between them, as well as different expressions of the same malt with greater than 99% accuracy. The paper’s lead author, Dr Alasdair Clark (above), of the University of Glasgow’s School of Engineering, said:  “We call this an artificial tongue because it acts similarly to a human tongue – like us, it can’t identify the individual chemicals which make coffee taste different to apple juice but it can easily tell the difference between these complex chemical mixtures. In addition to its obvious potential for use in identifying counterfeit alcohols, it could be used in food safety testing, quality control, security – really any area where a portable, reusable method of tasting would be useful.” So next time you’re splashing out on the Macallan, don’t forget your artificial tongue. 

Clouded Leopard Gin bottle

This is gin, it’s still very popular in Britain

Gin still booming according to the WSTA 

There have been articles recently in the Spectator and the Financial Times saying that the gin boom is over, but figures just released by the WSTA seem to contradict this. As a trade body, the WSTA has an interest in bolstering the industry but nevertheless the stats make interesting reading. Retail sales up to March 2019 were up 43% by value on the previous year, worth nearly £1 billion. The off-trade is up 56% by volume on last year’s sales with nearly 6 billion bottles sold between March 2018 and 2019. Combining domestic and export sales, the British gin market is worth over £3 billion. WSTA chief executive Miles Beale commented: “It’s been another phenomenal 12 months for gin and, despite recent reports suggesting the gin bubble may have burst, our numbers suggest the exact opposite. Gin’s continued domestic popularity, and the growth in the spirits category overall, has no doubt been helped by the decision to freeze duty on spirits in the last Budget. We need further supportive action from the Government as we approach Budget time once more. Looking at the popularity of British gin overseas is also cause for celebration. £350 million, or around 46% of all British gin exports head to the EU, and so it is imperative that the Government works with the European Union to secure trade that is as seamless in the future as it is now.” What could possibly go wrong?

Firestone & Robertson TX whiskey, now just a tiny bit Frencher

Pernod Ricard bets on American whiskey with Firestone & Robertson buy

French drinks group Pernod Ricard, which owns the likes of Beefeater Gin, Absolut Vodka, The Glenlivet Scotch and Jameson Irish Whiskey, this week bolstered its presence in American whiskey by snapping up Firestone & Robertson Distilling Co. The Texas-based producer makes TX-branded whiskey and bourbon, and the deal includes its Whiskey Ranch distillery too. “This is an exciting day for all of us at Firestone & Robertson,” said Leonard Firestone and Troy Robertson, who co-founded the business. “Building our company and producing award-winning whiskeys has been a truly remarkable experience. We are so proud of our team, and grateful to the many people that supported our efforts over the years. It is an extraordinary opportunity to partner with Pernod Ricard, and we are confident this relationship will accelerate the growth of our brands while preserving our roots and shared core values.” Pernod chairman and CEO, Alexandre Ricard, said the (undisclosed) transaction was a “very promising venture” that “strengthens our portfolio and footprint in the United States”. If it means more tasty American whiskey to go round, we’re all for it. 

You can swap a tin of beans for one of these!

The Alchemist tackles food poverty with cocktail exchange

Foodbank use is soaring in the UK (charity the Trussell Trust recently reported a 19% increase in food supplies it’s donated in the last year). Loads of us are both donating to and accessing our local food banks (there’s a list on the Trussell Trust’s site), so when news reached us that UK bar group The Alchemist is encouraging people to bring supplies in return for a cocktail, we whooped and cheered. On 29 August, any customers who bring non-perishable donations (unopened and in date; tinned, dried and packaged foods) into one of the bars with them will get vodka-based serve The Colour Changing One for free! All collections will be donated to local food banks. “These are truly fantastic local charities tackling food poverty across the UK, which is an issue we’re particularly passionate about at The Alchemist,” said Hannah Plumb, head of restaurants at The Alchemist. “This activity is a fun and engaging way to encourage customers to donate to their local food banks, who are in need of donations now more than ever.” You can find The Alchemist in Birmingham, Cardiff, Chester, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Oxford. You know what to do on 29 August!

Bruichladdich's Bere Barley

Bruichladdich’s bere barley

Bruichladdich reinforces barley focus with Exploration Series trilogy

Remember earlier this year when we checked out Bruichladdich’s trial barley plots? Well, the Islay distillery’s long-running focus on the grain has continued with new flavour-focused expressions, which will form a Barley Exploration series. Its focus on barley has become a bit of a USP for the distillery, which works with different local producers, and is currently trialling up to 60 different varieties. There are also plans to open its own maltings by 2023. So what does this new range look like? First up, Bruichladdich The Organic 2010 was distilled in 2010 (obvs) and made using barley from Mid Coul Farms harvested in 2009. It was matured in ex-bourbon American oak casks for at least eight years, and was bottled sans chill-filtration or caramel colouring at 50% ABV. Bruichladdich Bere Barley, made from Orkney-grown Bere, a variety considered “obsolete” by many distillers, was likewise distilled in 2010 and bottled at 50% ABV just as it is. Rounding off the trio is Bruichladdich Islay Barley 2011, made from Islay-grown barley, which spent 75% of its six-year maturation life in American ex-bourbon casks, and 25% on European ex-wine casks. “We want to support people who grow for flavour, those champions of heritage and natural crops,” said Bruichladdich head distiller, Adam Hannett. “By partnering with them we can find new and forgotten flavours, reconnecting our whisky with its vital raw ingredients.” Sounds great to us! 

Doesn’t it look jolly in Fentimans’ Secret Spritz Garden?

Fentimans kicks off Secret Spritz Garden

If The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett was one of your favourite books as a child, AND you now like refreshing summer sippers, then we have news. The Venn circles have officially crossed, courtesy of tonic brand Fentimans. Tucked away behind ivy-covered walls, away from the hustle and bustle of nearby Farringdon is (for the next three weeks, anyway) a little oasis of tranquility, aromatic plants, and a Spritz menu of dreams! The garden itself is overflowing with trailing greenery, herbs, and a 200-year-old olive tree, while Fentimans has added a lemon-filled fountain, highly-Instagrammable swing seat and the all-important bar into the mix. The menu (developed with the likes of Lillet and Martini Fiero) was created by Dino Koletsas (from The Langham, Bourne & Hollingsworth and Callooh Callay) and showcases the wonder of low- and no-alcohol cocktails, including the Rose Spritz, made with Fentimans Rose, lemonade, Martini Prosecco and fresh strawberries; and the Valencian Spritz, with Fentimans Valencian Orange Tonic Water, with Belsazar White Vermouth and peach liqueur. Head on down (you might even find yourself in a free guided workshop, from the Art of the Aperitivo to watercolour classes) Wednesday to Saturday up until 29 August to enjoy!

Aecorn range

Aecorn, a range of non-alcoholic aperitifs, has just been launched by Seedlip

Diageo acquires majority stake in Seedlip

In a move that will surprise no one, it was announced this week that Diageo has taken a majority stake (mmm, majority steak) in alcohol-free ‘spirit’ manufacture Seedlip. The brand was launched by Ben Branson in 2015 and created a new category of non-alcoholic drinks flavoured, packaged, and priced to rival premium gin. Distill Ventures, Diageo’s venture capital arm, took a minority investment in June 2016. Since then, Seedlip has gone global: it’s sold in top bars and restaurants in 25 countries, and comes in three varieties. It has also inspired legions of imitators such as Ceder’s from Pernod Ricard. Earlier this year, Seedlip launched Aecorn, a range of non-alcoholic vermouth-style aperitifs. We have been informed that Branson will still be involved with business. He commented: “We want to change the way the world drinks and today’s news is another big step forward to achieving this. Distill Ventures’ and Diageo’s shared belief in our vision has enabled us to build a business that’s ready for scale and I’m excited to continue working with Diageo to lead this movement.” John Kennedy from Diageo said: “Seedlip is a game-changing brand in one of the most exciting categories in our industry. Ben is an outstanding entrepreneur and has created a brand that has truly raised the bar for the category. We’re thrilled to continue working with him to grow what we believe will be a global drinks giant of the future.” And Shilen Pate from Distill Ventures added: “Supporting the vision of founders is what Distill Ventures was set up to do, and we’re proud of the impact Ben has had on our industry in such a short period of time.” With all that Diageo cash behind it, expect Seedlip’s upward trajectory to continue. 

GlenDronach

Mouth-watering malts

The GlenDronach’s new Cask Bottling releases will have whisky lovers salivating 

Prepare yourselves, The GlenDronach has just announced the seventeenth batch of its Cask Bottling series! It contains whisky drawn from fourteen casks ranging from the years 1990 to 2007, all of which have been selected by none other than master blender, Dr Rachel Barrie. What to expect? Each Highland expression has been bottled from a single cask from a selection of the distillery’s signature Pedro Ximénez and oloroso sherry casks alongside two Port pipes. Particularly special is a bottling from a rare vintage 1995 cask, one of the last remaining casks from that year still at the distillery. “The batch seventeen cask selection truly celebrates The GlenDronach house style; robust, elegant, fruity and full-bodied,” said Barrie. “Each cask individually explores the sophistication, powerful intricacy and rich layers of Spanish sherry cask maturation found in every GlenDronach expression; from layers of crème brûlée, treacle toffee and over-ripe banana in 1990 […] to toasted pain au raisin and butterscotch simmering beneath the surface in 2007.” Is your mouth watering as well? Then keep your eyes peeled for your favourite online retailer (us, duh) over the next few weeks.

Atomik Vodka

Don’t worry, it isn’t radioactive

And Finally… anyone fancy a Chernobyl Martini?

We’re no strangers to far-out spirits at Master of Malt, after all, we sell a gin distilled using botanicals that have been into space, but a new spirit might be the strangest thing yet. It’s called Atomik Vodka and it’s distilled using rye and water from the contaminated area around Chernobyl, site of the world’s worst nuclear energy disaster in 1986. Just this week, London bar Swift on Old Compton Street made the very first Atomik Martini with it. But before you start calling for Soho to be cordoned off, and send in the men in yellow suits, this vodka, despite its name, isn’t radioactive. The man behind it, Professor Jim Smith from the University of Portsmouth, told the BBC that though the rye was “slightly contaminated”, distillation has removed any impurities, and radioactivity levels are “below their limit of detection.” Only one bottle has been made so far but the Chernobyl Spirit Company, consisting of Smith, Ukrainain scientist Dr Gennady Laptev and others, plans to make 500 bottles per year. The team still has some legal hoops to jump through before production can start but when it does, 75% of the profits will go to help people in the region. Smith commented: “I think this is the most important bottle of spirits in the world because it could help the economic recovery of communities living in and around the abandoned areas. Many thousands of people are still living in the Zone of Obligatory Resettlement where new investment and use of agricultural land is still forbidden.” Sounds very worthwhile and, according to Sam Armeye, the vodka tastes good too. Atomik Martinis all round!

No Comments on The Nightcap: 9 August

5 minutes with. . . Peter Lynch from WhistlePig

We talk to the master blender at WhistlePig about a very special oloroso cask whiskey exclusive to MoM, a cocktail so secret that we can’t diverge the ingredients and how…

We talk to the master blender at WhistlePig about a very special oloroso cask whiskey exclusive to MoM, a cocktail so secret that we can’t diverge the ingredients and how nobody can fill Dave Pickerell’s enormous shoes.

The drinks world lost one of its greats last year when Dave Pickerell from WhistlePig died at the age of 62. Pickerell set up WhistlePig in 2009 and was instrumental in the revival of the original American style of whiskey – rye. We feel very fortunate to have met and tasted with him last year when he was over in London. Pickerell has left behind quite a legacy in WhistlePig, not least in the form of barrels and barrels of delicious maturing rye whiskey.

The buyers here at Master of Malt persuaded WhistlePig to sell us one of these barrels: an exclusive oloroso butt of 12 year old whiskey, which has been bottled recently and is on sale now. To tell us a bit more about it, we managed to get some time with master blender Peter Lynch.

Whistle-Pig-landscape

Behold! The WhistlePig 12 Year Old oloroso cask finish, exclusive to MoM

Master of Malt: Hello! What can you tell us about this oloroso-finished rye whiskey?

Peter Lynch: It’s one of my favourite projects that I’ve been working on. It’s an extension of our 12 Year Old Old World, aged in Port, Madeira and sauternes casks. We took that one step further and at the moment we’re trialling 15-20 different finishing casks which could range from a specific wood or, on the other side of things, a couple of different olorosos from different soleras. Last summer you guys purchased an old oloroso sherry butt [around 550 litres] that had been in a solera for 10-15 years. As it didn’t see that much life in there it has kept keep those sweeter, fruitier, more vibrant notes with a little less of that rancio character, and some oak extracts too. When it comes to finishing barrels with American whiskey, I’m worried about extracting the fresh oak component. Because the way these casks are heat-treated for wine, less aggressively than for whiskey, I’m at risk of pulling all these tannin and other compounds, which isn’t a worry for the winemaker. These sherry butts are about three times the size of a regular cask, so we were able to let it sit for longer, so it finishes for about two months. Typically with regular barrels we would finish for two to four weeks. It has sweet fruity notes but it’s very much a rye whiskey. You’ll see that with all our whiskeys, we are trying to push the boundaries but we’re not trying to turn it into something different. We’re just adding a top note. 

MoM: How long have you been working with WhistlePig for?

PL: I started with them back in 2015. I started as a distiller. I then moved into distilling and blending in about 2016.

MoM: How did you get into distilling?

PL: I had been a home brewer for a while. A love of whiskey has been instilled in me for quite a few years. I was working on sales and retail side of things and got to know spirits quite well. Then I saw an ad on Craigslist, of all places, for the position at WhistlePig.

MoM: Did you learn on the job then?

PL: Effectively speaking, yes, plus all the resources you can find in books and online publications. I was learning everyday. I have spent quite a bit of money on whiskey throughout my life but the amount I have spent on literature pertaining to whiskey and spirits dwarfs that. One of the things about building a distillery is there will always be growing pains, no matter what. A great way to learn is when things break down, you learn how to fix them. Whether it’s new machinery having issues or different yeast strains giving you trouble, you learn as you go. When it comes to something like premium rye whiskey, you are almost, if not quite making it up as you go, we’re defining this category. We’re trying to set the stage here quite deliberately, so all eyes are on us. 

Peter Lynch WhistlePig

Peter Lynch helping himself to some whiskey

MoM: What’s it been like trying to fill Dave Pickerell’s enormous shoes?

PL: I’m not trying to fill the shoes because they are very big shoes. People wonder what the line of succession is. They think, ‘oh my God, Dave’s gone, there’s a void’ but in reality that’s because people see Dave, they’ve met Dave, Dave had a huge personality, but they don’t see the everyday people on the farm, the warehouse guys who are grabbing the actual barrels, the distillers trouble-shooting on a day-to-day basis. We have a team who work on new products. It’s not something that we ever thought we had to prepare for, of course, but at the same time, we’ve got the infrastructure in place. But we definitely don’t have that kind of larger-than-life personality anymore. They’re definitely going to be tough shoes to fill. 

MoM: Which other distilleries do you think are doing interesting things with whiskey?

PL: That’s a tough one. I could give you 50 examples. People like Balcones or Corsair, pushing the boundaries with grains that we wouldn’t think of as whiskey grains. Balcones using different corn varieties: who cared ten years ago that 99% of bourbon whiskey was made from the same corn variety? If we change that one simple ingredient which is making up the bulk of that whiskey, you can get a totally different flavour profile. Balcones corn-forward whiskeys are going to be earthier than you might imagine, spicier with more herbaceous notes. That idea of terroir, and speaking of terroir, look at my buddies over in New York at Hillrock. They’re breaking it down even further, and focusing on different fields. They distill and mature it all in the same way, how is it going to taste in four years time? 

MoM: And finally, do you have a favourite rye cocktail?

I have a favourite cocktail but if I told it to you you would a) laugh in my face b) the person who told it to me would kill me for revealing the secret. It’s a two ingredient cocktail that has Farm Stock Crop 001 and another ingredient that I can’t tell you but it’s a very silly ingredient. Because it’s summer, I’m grabbing a highball right now. Nice and refreshing, it brings out a lots of different notes in the whiskey. If you try a highball with Whistlepig 10 Year Old or 12 Year Old or 15 Year Old, if you put them side by side you will notice incredible differences. It’s really the perfect summer drink. 

Thank you Peter! And we promise we won’t divulge the secret cocktail recipe only to say that it is surprising, and delicious too.

 

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The Nightcap: 2 August

Mega-old Macallan, virtual pipelines and g-g-g-ghosts! The Nightcap this week really is all over the shop… It’s Friday. But it’s also not just any Friday. It’s the first Friday of…

Mega-old Macallan, virtual pipelines and g-g-g-ghosts! The Nightcap this week really is all over the shop…

It’s Friday. But it’s also not just any Friday. It’s the first Friday of August. But it’s also not just any first Friday of August. It’s International Beer Day. I mean, yeah, technically any first Friday of August is International Beer Day, because that’s when it is, but the point still remains. Kinda. Look, what we’re trying to say is that maybe today, instead of enjoying your regular scheduled edition of The Nightcap with a dram, you enjoy it with a tasty drink of the beer variety.

So what were the haps with our very own blog this week? Annie was ahead of the curve and clued us in on five beer trends to keep an eye on, and then caught up with Ervin Trykowski from The Singleton to talk about chucking out the whisky ritual rulebook. Jess headed to the Highlands to celebrate Caorunn Gin’s 10th birthday, then set her sights even further afield with a rundown of flavours from far-off lands. Guest columnists galore: Ian Buxton took a swing at genealogy by looking at the illustrious families of the drinks industry, while Victoria Sayers spotted a fantastic New Arrival of the WeekClouded Leopard Gin. Henry helped us cool off in the heatwave with a refreshing Moscow Mule for Cocktail of the Week.

And so, on to the news!

Holyrood distillery

The Holyrood team and their shiny new stills.

Single malt returns to Edinburgh after almost 100 years

Previously, if you wanted to visit a malt whisky distillery from Edinburgh, you had to travel 15 miles to Glenkinchie. But no longer, because this week single malt returned to the capital for the first time since 1925! The Holyrood Distillery, located within walking distance of Edinburgh Castle, is housed in an elegant 19th century railway shed. It cost £6.7m with £1.5m worth of investment coming from the taxpayer-funded Scottish Investment Bank. The team headed up by distillery manager Jack Mayo will be doing some interesting stuff with different yeasts, varieties of barley and levels of malting to produce initially four types of whisky: smoky, sweet, spicy and fruity/floral. At seven metres, the stills are some of the tallest in Scotland. “After all the hard work of the team, it’s a really special moment to now see Holyrood Distillery open, and we’re looking forward to creating a range of delicious whiskies, gins, liqueurs and other spirits,” said co-founder Rob Carpenter. “I’d like to thank everyone who has contributed to this project throughout its evolution for their hard work and passion – and especially all our local neighbours for bearing with us during the construction process.” The distillery is now open for tours. We can’t wait to visit.

ardross distillery

The now-whisky-producing Ardross Distillery from the skies.

Ardross Distillery kicks off whisky production!

More distillery news, this time from the Scottish Highlands – Ardross Distillery, which already make Theodore Pictish Gin in a dedicated on-site gin house, has started whisky production! Details are pretty scarce, but we have had it confirmed that the first batch flowed from the stills last week. And we’re excited! The £18 million distillery had planning permission granted in February 2017, and construction started shortly after. Located just north of Inverness, the former farm now boasts two large copper pot stills, and once finished, there will be a small whisky experience centre, too. There’s no word yet on the intended character of the future Scotch, but as soon as we know more, we’ll let you know!

british bourbon society

Just look at all the delicious Balcones bourbon!

British Bourbon Society marks third anniversary

Last weekend we hightailed it up to Leeds to join the British Bourbon Society (BBS) for some pretty lively birthday celebrations. The largest American whiskey group outside North America was in a collectively rambunctious mood when 100 or so members arrived at the Northern Monk brewery to mark its third anniversary. On-hand to help with the festivities were a bunch of delicious brands, from Maker’s Mark and Whistlepig to Uncle Nearest and the likes of Few Spirits, Smooth Ambler, New York Distilling Company and Balcones. And on Balcones… one of our tasks of the day was selecting the liquid for a British Bourbon Society/Master of Malt bottle pick. It was deliciously hard work, but someone’s gotta do it. Keep your eyes peeled for the results over the next few weeks. And an enormous thank you to BBS members for making the whole afternoon so fun!

Exceptional Cask (3)

Macallan Exceptional Cask 1950 in all its glory

The Macallan releases 68 year old whisky

Last year it was the £38,000 52 year old release. This week The Macallan has gone that little bit further with the release of the £44,000 Exceptional Single Cask 1950 expression, that was bottled in 2018. That’s a 68 year old whisky. Blimey! The cask in question is a sherry butt found in the Macallan warehouse, and only 336 bottles have been filled at a healthy 53.4% ABV. The tasting notes tantalisingly refer to “subtle hints of peat in the background”, so it sounds like this is that rarest thing, an old peated Macallan. The press release goes on to say: “The single malt is the centrepiece of the 2018 release from the unprecedented range which invites consumers to explore the world’s most valuable whisky through a rare insight from the legendary whisky makers’ bench at The Macallan Distillery and Visitor Experience on Speyside.” Nope, doesn’t mean anything to us, either. Anyhow, it’s no doubt an exceptional whisky, and seeing as last year’s release is already selling for double its release price, likely to be a good investment, too.

gordon and macphail

Gordon & MacPhail’s three tasty, ghostly whiskies…

Gordon & MacPhail releases whiskies from ghost distilleries

There’s nothing like a silent or ghost distillery for getting whisky fans hot under the collar, so we expect Gordon & MacPhail will be installing a new phone line to deal with enquiries about its latest ‘Private Collection’. The first release comes from the Dallas Dhu Distillery, which closed in 1983. This particular one was distilled in 1969 and matured in a sherry hogshead. The second is from the St. Magdalene Distillery. It was distilled in 1982, a year before the distillery closed its doors, and has been sitting in a refill American hogshead ever since. The final whisky in the collection isn’t actually a ghostie, but it is pretty bloody special: a 1966 from Longmorn matured in a first-fill sherry butt. All collars at Master of Malt are getting a bit warm just thinking about it. Stephen Rankin, director of prestige at Gordon & MacPhail, commented: “My grandfather, George Urquhart, recognised an opportunity to match new make spirit with carefully selected casks at a time when the vast majority of production went into blends. Over the decades he was able to master this art which has become his legacy. He could never be persuaded to bottle a whisky before he believed it had reached its ultimate peak in terms of quality – a tradition we’re proud to continue today.” The RRP for the Longmorn and the Dallas Dhu is £6950 each with the St. Magdalene at £1000. We probably don’t need to tell you that packaging will be lavish, numbers extremely limited and demand high. That’s rare whisky for you. 

glenmorangie

The famed Glenmorangie stills, now doing their bit to reduce carbon emissions.

Glenmorangie to cut emissions by 30% using a ‘virtual pipeline’

Glenmorangie will be switching its (famously-tall) stills over to natural gas from oil, a move set to cut carbon emissions by 30%. The Highland distillery is too remote to be on the pipeline, so a ‘virtual pipeline’, consisting of a tanker and storage facility, is being used to provide gas. We’ve written before about the Highland distillery’s admirable environmental initiatives, such as the anaerobic digester to purify water emitted into the Dornoch Firth (which handily also produces biogas, so the distillery has been able to cut fossil fuel use by 15%), and initiatives to restore oyster reefs in the Firth. “We are committed to preserving and improving the world around us, as we meet rising demand for our exceptional single malt whisky around the globe,” said Thomas Moradpour, president and CEO of The Glenmorangie Company. “Cutting our CO2 emissions by 30% is another important step in our quest to become a fully sustainable business.” 

fentimans eric

Eric Tinca and his winning cocktail!

Satan’s Whiskers’ Eric Tinca nabs Fentimans title

Congratulations to Eric Tinca from Bethnal Green’s Satan’s Whiskers cocktail bar in East London, who was this week crowned winner of Fentimans’ Summer of Rose competition! Eric’s winning cocktail, a combination of Fentimans Rose Lemonade, fresh raspberries, Campari and Koko Kanu coconut rum, sounds like just the thing to get you in the holiday spirit. Over 100 bartenders from around the country took part in the challenge. The brief was to create a cocktail that could be replicated swiftly in bars that included, naturally, Fentimans Rose Lemonade. This year is looking like the pinkest since records began; you can’t move for rosé wine, pink gin, and Fentimans Rose Lemonade, in shops, bars and all over Instagram. If you’re not holding a pink drink this summer, what are you doing? Hurrah again for Tinca!

isle of raasay gin

Behold, the very first Isle of Raasay Gin.

Isle of Raasay Distillery releases first gin

With International Scottish Gin Day officially a thing on 3 August (keep your eyes peeled on the blog and our social channels for more!), it seems fitting that this week’s Nightcap features just that: a new Scottish gin! Step forward Isle of Raasay Distillery, which last weekend unveiled its very first gin expression. The Isle of Raasay Gin is made using a Frilli copper pot still, ten botanicals (including rhubarb root, cubeb pepper and lemon peel; some from the island itself), water from a local well, and triple-distilled spirit. Its development was supported by local botanist Dr Stephen Bungard, along with MSc scholar at Heriot Watt Fiona Williamson, who actually worked at the distillery in 2018. “Raasay’s remarkable geology and our modern island distillery inspired both the creation and presentation of our exciting new Scottish gin that we look forward to sharing with the growing number of visitors to Raasay and gin lovers alike,” said distillery co-founder, Alasdair Day. With tasting notes including aromatic juniper, zesty citrus and hints of rhubarb, we’re looking forward to having a sample. 

oban old teddy

The inspiration for Oban’s distillery-exclusive, Old Teddy himself.

Oban releases new distillery exclusive single malt!

North west Scotland’s Oban distillery has a shiny new release – and it’s a distillery-exclusive called Old Teddy! Named in honour of the Maclean family, the expression celebrates three generations of whisky-making, dating back to 1953 with master distiller Old Teddy. His son Young Teddy (natch) joined the firm in 1985, followed in 2017 by, sadly not Even Younger Teddy, but Derek. Oh well! The youngest Maclean still works at the distillery today and he commented: “This unique bottling is a celebration of our heritage and pays homage to my grandfather, whose fine craftsmanship has been preserved in the heart and soul of the distillery at Oban. This bottling is inspired by Old Teddy’s warm and gentle nature, physical strength and pride as dedicated maltster. It is a dram he would be proud of.” This special family single malt was released this month, less than 4,000 bottles will be available, and it can only be purchased from the distillery for £150. If you’re lucky enough to try it, make sure you raise a glass to the two Teddies, and Derek.

hendricks kings cross

Kings Cross station after its Hendrick’s makeover.

And finally… King’s Cross comes up smelling of roses thanks to Hendrick’s

It’s a mark of how King’s Cross in London has been regenerated in recent years that, from this week, one of the tunnels in the Underground station smells not of effluence, vandal-strength lager and broken dreams, but roses and cucumber. Yes, Hendrick’s Gin has taken over the tunnel that links the Piccadilly and Victoria lines to the Northern line ticket hall and bedecked it with rose-and-cucumber-scented posters from floor-to-ceiling. It’s all the work of ad agency Space. Not only does it look spectacular but it smells delicious too. In fact, just the thought of it is making us thirsty for a G&T. Damn clever advertising.

That’s all, folks!

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World spirits: fabulous flavours from far off lands

This week, we’re gathering a whole host of delicious spirits from all over the globe, so you can get a taste of far flung lands and intriguing botanicals wherever you…

This week, we’re gathering a whole host of delicious spirits from all over the globe, so you can get a taste of far flung lands and intriguing botanicals wherever you are!

Travelling the world is fun. This is something we generally all agree on. However, quite frankly we just don’t have time to visit each and every continent and try the local boozy delicacies, however much we’d like to. Enter our fabulous compilation of spirits from many lands, including gin, rum and whisk(e)y! We’ve gathered this wonderful selection to tickle your tastebuds and transport you to all corners of the globe, all without leaving the safety of your sofa. Because sofas are nice, and sometimes they have cats on them, and cats are always a good thing. Anyhow, we digress. Onto the spirits!

Angostura 7 Year Old

Where’s it from?

Trinidad and Tobago

What is it?

A classic, tasty molasses-based rum from the Angostura company, produced in a continuous still. The liquid is aged in bourbon barrels for seven years before it’s filtered. The ideal dark rum for whacking into a cocktail, be it a Mai Tai, Daiquiri or even a Rum Old Fashioned! If you fancy it neat, definitely serve this one with a good wedge of juicy orange to balance the richer creamy notes.

What does it taste like?

Bittersweet dark chocolate balanced by cinnamon, burnt caramel, mocha, creamy crème brûlée, vanilla fudge and a hit of spice on the finish.

St Germain Elderflower Liqueur

Where’s it from?

France

What is it?

An iconic elderflower liqueur made with fresh elderflowers hand-harvested only once a year, for a few weeks in the late spring. Each bottle contains around 1,000 elderflower blossoms! The flowers are macerated, and the infusion is then strained and blended with eau-de-vie de vin, water, sugar, and neutral grain spirit. Splash it in a glass of Prosecco for a floral fizzy treat.

What does it taste like?

Sweet and floral notes of elderflower (of course), supported by lychee, tart lemon, a hint of buttery sweetness and a lengthy elderflower-filled finish.

Nikka Whisky From The Barrel

Where’s it from?

Japan

What is it?

An incredibly delicious, award-winning blended whisky from Nikka! It marries single malt and grain whiskies from the Miyagikyo and coastal Yoichi distilleries. The liquid is aged in a massive range of casks, including bourbon barrels, sherry butts and refill hogsheads.

What does it taste like?

Full of chai spice, buttery caramel and vanilla cream, with sweet cereal notes, raspberry, orange peel and drying oak spice alongside a spicy, warming finish.

Basil Hayden’s

Where’s it from?

Kentucky, America

What is it?

Distilled in Clermont, Kentucky, Basil Hayden’s Bourbon really was created by master distiller Basil Hayden himself, all the way back in 1796. He added rye into a traditional corn-based mashbill, and this innovative risk certainly paid off. The sweetness of corn balances brilliantly with the spiciness of rye, making for a brilliant Whiskey Bramble.

What does it taste like?

Fairly light and spicy, with vanilla and honey balanced by pepper and peppermint, with corn and dark berries on the finish.

Le Tribute Gin

Where’s it from?

Barcelona, Spain

What is it?

From the family-run distillery in Vilanova, a tiny fishing village close to Barcelona comes Le Tribute Gin. It’s a tribute (shocker) to the pioneers, processes and the heritage behind the spirit, and is inspired by the distillery’s history. There are seven botanicals, all distilled separately: juniper, lime, kumquat, lemon, pink and green grapefruit, tangerine, cardamom, bitter and sweet oranges and lemons, and the seventh is lemongrass. Wow, that was a lot. All are distilled in wheat spirit except lemongrass, where water is used in place of spirit to maintain freshness. 

What does it taste like?

Citrus and sherbet sweets, with an amalgamation of vibrant and loud fresh fruity notes. Juniper takes something of a backseat, but still plays a major role here.

Konik’s Tail Vodka

Where’s it from?

Poland

What is it?

It’s 20 years in the making and the vision of one man, Pleurat Shabani, who single-handedly harvests and bottles the vodka himself. Inspired by the elusive Polish Konik horses which, if they are spotted, will promise a good harvest (according to Polish superstition). Shabani had plenty of setbacks and harsh nights sleeping rough, but found a sense of purpose after buying a one-way ticket to escape the conflicts back home in Croatia. Determined to create something people would appreciate, he chose three grains to create this delicious vodka, Spelt (the happy grain), Rye (the dancing grain) and wheat (the smiling grain) – suggesting that the aim in life is to laugh, dance and smile.

What does it taste like?

Nutty, with burnt black pepper, spice and a sweet finish.

Lot 40 Rye Whisky

Where’s it from?

Canada

What is it?

A no-age statement rye whisky from Lot 40. The expression is in fact a revival of a whisky from the 1990s, and is named for the plot of land which used to belong to Joshua Booth, grandfather of the now-retired master distiller, Mike Booth, who created the whisky. In the 2000s, the expression was discontinued, but luckily it returned to us! The mashbill is 90% rye and 10% malted rye, so you can be sure this is sufficiently spicy.

What does it taste like?

A gentle floral start builds into all of those warming spicy notes, with black pepper, cardamom and oak spice, followed by roasted coffee bean and brown sugar on a finish of cigar box. 

 

Dancing Sands Dry Gin

Where’s it from?

Takaka, New Zealand

What is it?

This is the flagship gin from the Dancing Sands Distillery! The brainchild of husband and wife duo Ben and Sarah Bonoma, the gin takes eight hand-crushed botanicals, including manuka, almond, cardamom and liquorice, which are vapour infused. After it’s blended with water sourced from the Dancing Sands Spring over in Golden Bay, which the founders refer to as the ninth botanical, the spirit is bottled. The colours on the bottle represent each of the different botanicals. It also just looks amazing. 

What does it taste like?

Juniper straight away, followed by delicately floral manuka, warming cardamom and a subtle hint of chocolate, creamy nuttiness and a spicy peppery finish. 

Westerhall No.10 

Where’s it from?

Grenada, Caribbean

What is it?

Westerhall No.10 is, would you believe it, a 10 year old rum from the Westerhall Estate! We did not see that one coming. The estate is located on what’s called the ‘Spice Isle’ of Grenada, and this is certainly reflected in its flavour profile. If you happen to get your hands on any, try it with fresh coconut juice for a more local serve.

What does it taste like?

Spiced apple, waxy honey and rich maple syrup, creamy oak and fudge. 

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Drinks billionaires – keeping it in the family

Today Ian Buxton takes a closer look at some of the illustrious families of the drinks industry such as the Haigs, Bacardis and Ricards, and reveals which great brands are…

Today Ian Buxton takes a closer look at some of the illustrious families of the drinks industry such as the Haigs, Bacardis and Ricards, and reveals which great brands are still in family hands.

Do you ever wonder who might raise a glass to you when you, to coin a phrase, raise a glass yourself? It’s an intriguing question. After all, drinks companies are fond of maintaining the façade of family owners. Think Bulleit Bourbon – it’s actually a Diageo brand (which arguably was mainly developed under Seagram’s) but a very high profile is maintained by Tom Bulleit and, until recently, his daughter Hollis. They’re speaking via their lawyers now. The story behind their acrimonious break-up is a rather unfortunate one and perhaps for another day, but sadly illustrative of the potential problems lurking in any family.

The Nightcap Drinks billionaires

Bulleit bourbon, a family business?

But back to Diageo. In its Scotch portfolio we’ll also find the Johnnie Walker, Buchanan’s and Haig brands. Now, once upon a time, there were real-life actual people answering to Walker, Buchanan and Haig who owned the distilleries that made these products – but no longer.

Today Diageo is a publicly-quoted company. That means you can buy a share in the business and be a part-owner. Actually, if you have any kind of a pension plan (whether through your employer or direct) you probably already own a share in some shares. Diageo is one of the UK’s largest and most successful businesses, and most well-balanced pension portfolios will have a holding in the company.  To declare an interest, I certainly do (I checked), and I’m very happy with its recent performance.

Many large industries have evolved in this way. But the drinks trade is something of a curiosity as a number of important brands remain in the hands of the descendants of the founding family.  Though some, like the Walkers, Buchanans and Haigs have long since cashed in, other companies remain determinedly independent and make great play of the long-term planning required in the spirits business. This, they suggest, means the industry is well suited to family ownership rather than being driven by the short-term demands of the financial community.

Some of the smaller examples are well known. Glenfarclas, for example, is happy to stress the fact that the distillery has remained in the Grant family since 1865 with chairman John Grant and son George directly and actively involved in every aspect. Grant Snr even lives on site, and you can’t get more hands-on than that.

Whisky Advent 2018 Day #18 Drinks billionaires

George Grant from Glenfarclas

Glenfiddich too is a family concern so, along with the various brands they own – think Balvenie, Hendrick’s Gin, Tullamore D.E.W. and Sailor Jerry rum among others – the forty-odd descendants of the founder William Grant thank you for every bottle you buy.  Oddly, though, while the public face of the company is largely represented by the Gordon branch (Peter Gordon and Grant Gordon in recent years) the major shareholder is believed to be the intensely private Benedicta Chamberlain. If her reputed 29.9% of the business is anywhere close to accurate, she’s comfortably in the billionaire class. Think of that next time you pour a dram of the world’s best-selling single malt.

As you’d expect, the family take the whole business very seriously. So much so in fact that Peter Gordon has even published a book on the subject. Family Spirit: Stories and Insights From Leading Family-Owned Enterprises looks at the strategies of eleven other family-owned businesses, though mainly not in the drinks industry. One of the companies he might have studied is Bacardi.  Yes, every drop of Dewar’s or Aberfeldy single malt or William Lawson’s (a million case-plus blended Scotch you’ve probably never heard of) adds a few coppers to the eponymous descendants of Don Facundo Bacardi.  A Bacardi and Coke puts a smile on their face, as does your call for Grey Goose, Martini, St-Germain or Patrón tequila.

Alexandre Ricard Drinks billionaires

Alexandre Ricard

Now the Bacardi family is very disciplined, borrowing if necessary to fund its acquisitions (over US$2 billion in 2004 for Grey Goose, then reputedly the largest purchase price in spirits business history for a single brand, and now a cool $5.1 billion for Patrón), but the equity isn’t sold. Much the same story could be told about Suntory Holdings, still controlled by the Saji and Torii families.

Elsewhere, public listing to raise capital hasn’t entirely removed family control as the tight grip of the founding dynasties at Davide Campari SpA, Brown-Forman and Rémy Cointreau SA clearly demonstrates. The Ricard family still retain 16% of the giant Pernod Ricard operation. It’s no coincidence that one Alexandre Ricard is both chairman and CEO, even if activist US investors Elliott Management are pushing to shake things up.

So, the reality and scale of family control is something to ponder as you part with your hard-earned cash. As you raise their brands to your lips, the question can’t be avoided: ‘what are the drinks billionaires sipping tonight?’

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The winner of our Spirit of America competition is…

Just over a week ago we announced our Spirit of America competition in honour of 4th of July, because even if we don’t celebrate it over on this side of…

Just over a week ago we announced our Spirit of America competition in honour of 4th of July, because even if we don’t celebrate it over on this side of the Atlantic, we can celebrate delicious American spirits! Now’s the time to announce the winner…

Our all-American haul contained some of our favourite spirits from the USA, with FEW Bourbon, Balcones Baby Blue Corn, Bluecoat American Dry Gin, Ragtime Rye Whiskey, St. George Terroir Gin and last but not least, Widow Jane 10 Year Old. That’s right, six fabulous spirits! What’s more, all you had to do to enter was get yourself on Instagram (if you’re not already – come on people, it’s 2019!), follow @MasterofMalt, like this picture and tag the three friends you wanted to share the bundle with. 

Spirit of America

Time to get into the (American) spirit

Now, of course, 4th of July has been and gone, as has our exciting competition. The winner is…

Emma Kaye from Newport!

Congratulations Emma (and your three lucky friends, who let’s be honest, you have to share this with now) and thanks to everyone who took part. We hope your 4th of July was fabulous, however you spent it!

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