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Tag: Brora

Brora Distillery – recreating a legend

Last year we were treated to an exclusive tour of the recently-reopened Brora Distillery in the Highlands to see how the Diageo team are getting on bringing a legendary single…

Last year we were treated to an exclusive tour of the recently-reopened Brora Distillery in the Highlands to see how the Diageo team are getting on bringing a legendary single malt whisky back to life. 

There’s a well-known joke about a tourist lost in rural Ireland asking for directions from an old man. The man replies: “well I wouldn’t start from here.” That’s rather what it must be like reviving Brora distillery.

Worm rubs at Brora

The hottest worm tubs in Scotland

Recreating a legend

The revived distillery filled its first barrel last year but things are very much work in progress. The aim is to recreate that famous Brora taste with the same or replicas of the equipment used up until the distillery closed in 1983. But the problem is that the original set-up wasn’t ideal for making the kind of whisky the team wanted.

If you were building a distillery from scratch and the aim was to make a fruity new make, you would want lots of copper contact which would involve using shell and tube condensers. But Brora always used worm tub condensers so after the distillery reopened last year, the team had to work out how to run them so they work very slowly. According to brand ambassador Andrew Flatt, “we run them super hot to keep the vapour in as long as possible so you get as much reflux as possible.” Or in other words, I wouldn’t start from here.

He described the process as “reverse engineering”, trying to get the equipment to replicate the taste of the surviving whisky. The problem is nobody is quite sure why old Brora tastes as it does. Take that elusive quality known as ‘waxiness’, think the skin on an apple or even cheese rind. This comes partly from a build-up of oils in the spirit receiver. At the sister distillery which opened in 1969, this is known as “Clynelish gunk” and, according to Flatt, “they lost the character once when they cleaned it.” Though they have started filling barrels, the Brora new make doesn’t quite have this elusive quality.

Stewart Bowman and family at Brora

Former master distiller Stewart Bowman, his father and two other old Brora by the wildcat gates

Smoky Brora

To further complicate things, that classic fruity style isn’t the only Brora out there. In the 1960s, because of a drought on Islay, there was a demand for smoky whiskies in the image of Caol Ila or Lagavulin for blends. So Brora switched to making peated whisky between 1968 and 1981, according to Flatt. The revived distillery will also make a smoky whisky in the future.

But it’s the third style that has proved the hardest to replicate. This was a funky, earthy style that the distillery produced occasionally in the early ‘70s. This was probably not intentional and may have had something to do with a bacterial infection. Nowadays, however, these wild Broras are some of the most prized bottlings. With their trademark barnyard note, they smell a little bit like certain wines that have been infected with Brettanomyces such as Chateau Musar from Lebanon or Domaine de Beaucastel in Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

So though Brora has started filling barrels, visitors to the distillery can’t actually try the new make. Instead, Flatt gave me three new makes which mimic the sort of character that they are after, but he asked me to keep their actual provenance secret. My lips are sealed. 

Brora book

A record of the final distillation at Brora… until last year

Brora’s rich history

The whole revival of the distillery has been a bit like that, based on incomplete knowledge as to how it originally worked. Before taking me around, Flatt gave me a whistlestop history including a look at the plans when the distillery was remodelled by Charles Doig in the late 19th century which were found in an old bin bag. He showed me minutes from the DCL meeting in 1968 when it was decided to build a second distillery called Clynelish, and the original distillery became known as Brora, and old ledgers which workers kept from the tip, including the heartbreaking final one from 1983 which stated “feints brought forward” (see above). Nobody is sure what happened to these final feints.  

Entering through those famous wildcat gates, it’s hard to imagine that the Brora was a wreck until very recently. It’s now probably the most perfect-looking Highland distillery I have ever seen. When Plato was thinking of a distillery, this was it. It’s so perfect, that it almost feels like a film set.

According to Flatt, it took a quarter of a million man-hours from highly qualified tradesmen to get it into this state of perfection. The renovations involved removing the pagoda for repair. But much of the most time-consuming work can’t be seen, such as cutting stone blocks in half in order to put in fire retardant material and insulation, and rebuilding the foundations so the buildings didn’t collapse.

Brora stills

The original stills are still in place

Recreating the classic set-up

The team has tried as much as possible to recreate the classic ‘70s set-up. It starts with a Porteus mill, not the original one but period correct. The rollers are quite far apart to get a rough texture. The mash tun is the same as the one from 1973, with a rake and gear. They don’t agitate it continuously because the aim is to get a clear wort. The data for operating the mash tuns comes from books from the 1970s.

Then there are six Oregon pine washbacks. They use Kerry liquid yeast with very long ferments – 115 hours. The idea is to build up fruity esters. These will develop further as bacteria build up in the wood of the washbacks. 

Thankfully, the original stills were never removed because they worried that the building would have collapsed. They were refurbished by a team from Diageo’s Abercrombie works. The stills are run slowly, around 11 hours. Then the new make is condensed in those hot-running worm tubs before running into casks. The capacity is to produce something like 850,000 litres per year. This is not a boutique operation. It’s all watched over by Nara Madasamy who began his career with Brewdog so knows a thing or two about fermentation.

Brora distillery reopens

Brora – the Platonic ideal of a distillery

Brora was ahead of its time

The tour finished appropriately enough in the dunnage warehouse, where there’s space for 5-6,000 casks, with a taste of the 39-year-old which was bottled at 49% ABV. A stunning drop, aged in 70% used casks, it’s incredibly vibrant, tasting more like a 15-year-old. The fruit, think pineapples and apple crumble, is quite sensational with the classic waxiness on display.

Tasting this mind-blowing whisky, it’s very hard to understand why Brora was closed in the first place. But the extraordinary thing about Brora is nobody quite realised how good it was or how well it would mature. Like Port Ellen, it all went into blends. The first single malt bottling of Brora came from the Scotch Malt Whisky Society in 1989. The first official bottling was part of the Rare Malts range in 1995. I remember these Rare Malts then priced at around £50 a bottle gathering dust on the shelves at Oddbins in the late ‘90s.

Those bottles are now going for around £10k. The 39-year-old I tried will set you back around £8k. And we won’t see or taste the results from the ‘new’ Brora for years. Life just isn’t fair. 

Bespoke tours of Brora are available. Contact the distillery for more information. 


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Master of Malt tastes… Diageo Prima & Ultima

We were invited to the recently-reopened Brora distillery, virtually, to taste the second batch of Diageo Prima & Ultima whisky releases including rare malts from Linkwood, Mortlach, Convalmore and Brora…

We were invited to the recently-reopened Brora distillery, virtually, to taste the second batch of Diageo Prima & Ultima whisky releases including rare malts from Linkwood, Mortlach, Convalmore and Brora itself. The collection will set you back north of £20k. So is it worth the money?

We reported earlier this month that Diageo was releasing another super swanky Prima & Ultima collection of rare malts. It will set you back a cool £23,500 for the collection, because of course it will. This rare and old Diageo stock, people. Every drop makes a sound like a cash register opening. Ka-ching!

But you can’t simply order a set online. Only 376 have been produced so you have to register online for a chance, just a chance, to buy; Monday 23 August is the last day you can do this (there’s more info here). Furthermore, set #1 signed by master blender Maureen Robinson will be auctioned at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong from 15-24 September.

Robinson and brand ambassador Ewan Gunn hosted a tasting last week of these rare whiskies from Brora, and Master of Malt was lucky enough to get an invite to taste, virtually. The big question is, can any collection that expensive be worth the money?

maureen robinson master blender at Diageo

Master blender Maureen Robinson doing that thing with the glass that whisky pros do

The last shall be first, and the first last

The collection gets its name because it includes some of the first and last casks from each distillery, or from a period in that distillery’s history. For example the Auchroisk is literally the very first cask filled when it opened in 1974, whereas the collection contains some of the last casks of Brora 1980 in existence. All were bottled earlier this year. 

Robinson commented: “This is a selection of very special single malts – some that have never before seen the light of day and others that are the fleeting and final examples of their kind. Each bottling shares a glimpse into the history of Scotch and one that I am honoured to have witnessed in person. Some of these casks I helped to lay down, and have taken great pleasure in tending to them since, so I chose them with rich memories in mind.” 

She recalls, for example, choosing to hold back the cask filled at Auchroisk knowing it would be special for the future, while revealing that maturation trials undertaken with Linkwood and The Singleton have now been realised in these releases. It’s all very exciting. And yet, it was a lesser known name that really stood out.

Convalmore shines

Full details and some tasting notes below, but for this taster the standout whisky by a country mile was the Convalmore (read about the distillery’s history here). This is the last of the 34 year old stock and was bottled just before the Speyside distillery closed for good. It has the most amazing waxy texture with gorgeous appley fruit. Whereas a couple of the whiskies in the collection were very cask-led, the Convalmore really just tasted of itself.

Compared with the other Diageo ghost distilleries like Port Ellen or Brora (a  Lazarus distillery now?), it’s very much under the radar. You can pick up bottles for £600 and £1300 which looks like a bit of a bargain when you see what Port Ellen is going for these days. Sadly, according to Ewan Gunn, Diageo has no plans to bring this one back from the dead.

So our big tip is buy Convalmore, buy Convalmore and then go back and buy more Convalmore before prices catch up with the quality. 

Right without further ado let’s look at the rest of those whiskies. But before we do, would we pay £22,500 for the lot? Hell, no, but then they’re not aimed at us. We just hope whoever gets their hands on a set, drinks them, because there are some phenomenal whiskies here. 

The Nightcap: 6 August

There’s some very tasty kit here

Tasting Prima & Ultima


Auchroisk 1974 

ABV: 48.7% ABV 

Casks: single refill European oak butt 

Nose: Sweetly fruity nose, apples, cinnamon and nutmeg, custard with touch of vinegar on here too, like an oxidative wine wine.

Palate: Sweet notes of fudge and honey, with black pepper and lots of orchard fruit, bruised apples and cider.

Finish: Toffee apples

Overall: Another stand out whisky. Really delicious and fruity.  

Lagavulin 1992 

ABV: 47.7% ABV 

Casks: Taken from five freshly-charred American oak hogsheads. First of a small experimental batch matured in such casks. 

Nose: Wood fire and sweetness, toffee, peppery, cloves, honey, very distinctly Lagavulin. 

Palate: Tangy and salty, lovely almondy nutty texture, gentle caramel sweetness, vanilla, creamy, then wood smoke comes in with a twist of black pepper.

Finish: Creamy and wood smoke mingle. 

Overall: Another gorgeous textured whisky, loved the mixture of creaminess and smoke. 

Linkwood 1981 Prima & Ultima

Linkwood 1981 

ABV: 52.9% 

Casks: 12 years in refill casks followed by 24 years in PX and Oloroso-seasoned new American oak.

Nose: Raisins and dates with a spicy aromatic quality, a touch of varnish, and a strong floral note like lavender. 

Taste: Maraschino cherries and blackcurrants, chocolate and raisin, with an aromatic quality running through it plus a floral violet note. Water brings out a woody tannic side, and dries it out a bit

Finish: Long and very fruity

Overall: Sherry bombers will love this one. Drink it at full strength as water rather spoils it. 

The Singleton of Glendullan 1992 

ABV: 60.1% ABV 

Casks: first kept in refill wood before being double matured in two Madeira casks for 14 years. Robinson described it as “leap into the unknown.”

Nose: Grassy fruity notes, honey, peaches, orange and then a huge hit of toffee. 

Palate: Lots of toffee and dark chocolate, some light orangey fruit, with baking spices, Water really brings out the spice turning those warm notes into hot chilli and pepper.

Finish: Brown sugar and sticky sweet wine notes plus chilli peppers. 

Overall: Massive Madeira influence but it stays on the right side of too much and doesn’t overpower it. 


Convalmore 1984 

ABV: 48.6% ABV 

Casks: taken from three refill American oak hogsheads 

Nose: Waxy with a touch of cheese rind, almonds and fresh green apples.

Palate: Creamy texture, touch of pepper, waxy, almond texture, pears, fresh apple,and a little cinnamon. With time sweeter notes like brown sugar and coconut come out. Just a hint of cheese rind too. 

Finish: Long and waxy, gets sweeter with each sip.

Overall: Totally irresistible.

Brora 1980 

ABV: 49.4% 

Casks: three refill American oak hogsheads

The last of the 1980 casks which were distilled during the ‘golden age’ of heavily-peated Brora.

Nose: Some maritime and wood fire notes, but smoke is quite reticent. It’s a little mucky on the nose with a touch of cider and old leather boots plus citrus fruit. 

Palate: Toffee and salted caramel with a strong saline note, herbal and mint with smoked meat and black pepper. Texture is waxy and then deeply savoury. 

Finish: Long finish with that gorgeous waxy note persisting. 

Overall: Totally distinctive and on great form. They don’t make whisky like this anymore (or maybe they do).

Talisker 1979 Prima & Ultima

Talisker 1979 

ABV: 47.5%ABV 

Casks: Taken from four refill American oak hogsheads, the last 1979 American oak hogsheads fully matured in Talisker’s Warehouse no. 4, right by the Atlantic ocean.

Nose: Warm and spicy, almond, cinnamon and nutmeg, smoked meat notes, sea air, plus some richer notes of toffee and apple. 

Palate: Very spicy, chilli peppers and black pepper, quite fierce, then the bonfires come in, with a splash of sea air and citrus notes. A little toffee in the background.

Finish: Spicy, with a little sweetness coming through. 

Overall: Lovely balance between fierce spice and smoke, and sweeter fruity notes. Very nice.

Mortlach 1995 

ABV: 52.4%  

Casks: taken from a single PX/Oloroso-seasoned European oak butt

Nose: Dried fruit, raisins, burnt caramel, toffee, orange peel, touch of sulphur

Palate: Peppery spice, cloves, liquorice, tangy fruit, deep sweet flavours of fudge and dark chocolate, brandy-soaked cherries, plus some wood tannin. 

Finish: That spicy liquorice note just goes on and on, with notes of walnuts. 

Overall: This really needs time to open up to reveal its charms. Straight out of the bottle, it’s a bit monolithic, but reveals complexity after half an hour in the glass. 


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Brora is reborn: ‘ghost’ distillery fills first cask in 38 years

Today, Brora is reborn as the first cask in 38 years was filled. After a four year refurbishment to return the legendary Scotch whisky distillery to its condition in 1983, …

Today, Brora is reborn as the first cask in 38 years was filled. After a four year refurbishment to return the legendary Scotch whisky distillery to its condition in 1983,  Brora opens its gates and is once again distilling. 

At 11 o’ clock this morning, a slumbering giant reawoke. Yes, Brora is reborn as it opened its gates and filled its first cask. We would have been there, but Covid restrictions meant that the whole thing had to be done virtually.

Stewart Bowman rings bells

Brora is officially open

First cask filled since 1983

Still, there was not a dry eye in the house as various Diageo types waxed lyrical about the rebirth of Brora. The film starts with master distiller Stewart Bowman opening the famous wild cat gates at the distillery. He oversaw the filling of the first cask this morning and rolled it into Warehouse Number One, where the dwindling reserves of Brora single malt Scotch whisky are kept. The reborn distillery will produce around 800,000 litres a year and aims to be carbon neutral, powered entirely by on-site renewable energy.

It’s been quite a journey since we announced back in 2017 that Diageo was spending £35 million to reopen both Brora in the Highlands and Port Ellen on Islay. Unlike with Port Ellen where much of the distillery including the stills were destroyed when it closed, Brora had just been left to decay after it filled its final cask in 1983.

Archivist Joanne McKerchar explained, “When we first opened the doors at Brora we walked into a time capsule. As a historian and an archivist for malts, I had never seen anything like that before. It was unbelievable just how untouched it was: as if the guys had just finished their shift and walked out – but, of course, nobody then came back in.”

Painstaking restoration

Yet, it was far from a working distillery. The whole place has been completely refurbished to exactly recreate the conditions of the old Brora right down to the traditional rake and gear mash tun and is using malted barley from Glen Ord maltings, just as before. Stewart Bowman said: 

“We have gone to every effort to replicate, as closely as possible, the conditions, equipment and processes from Brora in 1983 in order to recreate the spirit for which the distillery is famous. The original pair of Brora stills travelled 200 miles across Scotland to Diageo Abercrombie Coppersmiths in Alloa where they were refurbished by hand; we raised up the original pagoda roof to conduct intricate repairs, and rebuilt the stillhouse brick-by-brick using original Brora stone to restore this historic Victorian distillery.” 

But the rebirth isn’t just about using the right equipment, as master blender Dr Jim Beveridge OBE explained: “When I heard of the plans to bring Brora back, I recalled tasting Brora stocks of the 1980s – one of my early jobs at Diageo many years ago. By sampling remaining old stocks of Brora and using historic tasting notes, we slowly built a picture. With my colleague Donna Anderson, we were able to make this vision of the liquid a reality by reverse-engineering the production process.”

Stewart Bowman and family at Brora

Stewart Bowman welcomes his father and two other old Brora hands back to the distillery

Family connections

So once again Brora is distilling. And it’s particularly fitting that Bowman is overseeing it all as his father was Brora’s last exciseman. He explained: “In 1983, my father wrote in an old distillery ledger ‘Commencement of Brora Distillery silent season (undetermined period)’. Growing up in the village we often wondered whether Brora would ever return, but today we filled the first cask. It is with great pride that I can now say to my father, the Brora community, and all the ‘old hands’ that worked at Brora and helped to craft a legendary whisky, that the stills are alive and we are making Brora spirit once again.”

All this misty-eyed romanticism can’t hide the fact that the reopened Brora should be extremely lucrative for Diageo, long before any whisky comes on the market. The distillery will be open to the public from July with two distillery tours available, one costing £300 or you could go for the premium option at £600. Ouch! A reflection of the value of the dwindling stocks of mature Brora. Then there’s the recently-released Triptych, a snip at £30,000. The whisky world has changed considerably since 1983.


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The Nightcap: 9 April

The “most sustainable glass Scotch whisky bottle ever”, a taboo advert and Madison Beer all feature in the Nightcap: 9 April. Why? Well, you have to read on to find…

The “most sustainable glass Scotch whisky bottle ever”, a taboo advert and Madison Beer all feature in the Nightcap: 9 April. Why? Well, you have to read on to find out…

Well, this is it. The last weekend before folks in (some of) the UK can go back to pubs, bars and restaurants. It’s a momentous occasion. But does anyone remember how any of this actually works, exactly? We’re worried both bartender and consumer will just stare at each other blankly across the bar like malfunctioning androids. It’s going to be a nation of accidental Mark Zuckerberg impressions. Still, it’s exciting all the same. Like reading about all the most interesting things that happened in the world of booze in the last few days. It’s the Nightcap: 9 April edition!

Which you’ll already have a taste of if you’ve read our blog this week. Just because it was a shorter week, that didn’t mean we skimped on the content. There were all kinds of stories to enjoy, like the launch of our exclusive Glenfiddich Tasting Collection or a new expression that combines whiskey with tea. Elsewhere, Millie returned to reexamine the role of the often-derided Mixto Tequila, Ian had his eye on the most valuable drinks companies in the world while Lucy asked if the living room was the new tasting room. Brora Distillery was then in headline-stealing mood by announcing its opening in May and launching super fancy celebratory booze. Oh, and if you need any inspiration for a weekend tipple and love flavoured gin, then you’ll enjoy this week’s cocktail.

Now, let’s get Nightcapping, shall we?

Welcome to The Nightcap: 9 April edition!

We love some fancy Bowmore

One-of-a-kind Black Bowmore Archive Cabinet heads to auction

In top fancy whisky news of the week, a complete set of five rare, iconic Black Bowmore bottlings is about to go under the hammer at Sotheby’s Hong Kong. But not just that: the 29, 30, 31, 42 and 50 year old expressions, first distilled in 1964, are housed in something very special indeed. A gorgeous cabinet crafted by John Galvin, an expert in his field, who took two years designing and building the thing. It all started with a trip to Islay, where he took in the scenery from Machir Bay to Bowmore itself. And the cabinet even features parts of the distillery itself, including handles made from the decommissioned spirit safe, and details from the washbacks. “The spirit in those bottles went through the spirit safe,” said Bowmore master blender Ron Welsh via video call to talk about the really rather magnificent construction. The cabinet, plus all five bottles, is expected to fetch at least £400,000 when it goes up as the first lot in the Wine & Spirit Spring Sale Series, which runs from 16-18 April. Funds raised will go to the Bowmore Legacy Project, which supports young people on Islay with housing and training. “The best thing is that the money goes back into the island,” Welsh added. We can’t wait to see what it goes for!

Welcome to The Nightcap: 9 April edition!

A computer-generated image of what the new brewery and distillery will look like when finished

New €24m Killarney brewery and distillery to open this summer

If you thought the last year would dent the demand for new producers of Irish whiskey, you’d be wrong. It seems like every week there’s a new announcement that somebody is going to do the lord’s work and make the water of life on the Emerald Isle. Killarney Brewing & Distilling, however, has to be one of the most notable and exciting. At 62,000 sq ft, it’s set to become Ireland’s largest independent brewery, distillery and visitor centre when it opens this summer. The site, which cost more than €24m (just over £20m), will house a rooftop garden, a 250-seat gala event space, a chocolate shop and other facilities. It will employ over 85 people, while the brand aims to attract in excess of 100,000 annual visitors. Paul Sheahan, Tim O’Donoghue and Liam Healy founded Killarney Brewing & Distilling in 2013 and opened a town centre location in 2015, restoring the old Killarney Mineral Water drinks facility into a taproom and pizzeria. This is one serious project. While we wait for the brand’s spirit to mature, Killarney Brewing & Distilling announced on St Patrick’s Day that it was launching two flagship products, an eight-year-old blended Irish whiskey and an imperial stout matured in the same Killarney whiskey casks designed to complement the flavours of the whiskey blend. 

Welcome to The Nightcap: 9 April edition!

These are some of the most sustainable bottles ever produced.

Diageo makes “most sustainable glass Scotch whisky bottles ever”

You might recall us previously writing about Diageo’s Society 2030: Spirit of Progress sustainability plan. Well, the series of ambitious environmental goals produced a real result this week as the drinks giant was able to pioneer the lowest carbon footprint glass bottles ever produced for a Scotch whisky brand. In collaboration with glass manufacturer Encirc and industry research and technology body Glass Futures, Diageo has used waste-based biofuel-powered furnaces and 100% recycled glass to the most environmentally-friendly receptacles, which reduce the carbon footprint of the bottle-making process by up to 90%. For the purposes of the trial Diageo used its Black & White Scotch whisky brand, producing 173,000 of the impressive bottles. Further work now needs to be done to develop and scale the trial for future production, but it represents a significant step forward. John Aird, senior packaging technologist at Diageo, who led the project for the company, said the trial was just a first step in the journey to decarbonise this aspect of the supply chain and that the brand still has a long way to go, but that it was “delighted with the results of the collaboration” and the “platform it creates for future innovation”.

Welcome to The Nightcap: 9 April edition!

If you guys need any volunteer tasters you know where we are. Also, rad dog.

White Peak Distillery to launch first whisky after crowd-funding success

If you thought the Peak District had everything before 2016, you were wrong. Very close, but wrong. Because it didn’t have a full-scale distillery capable of making delicious English whisky. But five years ago that changed when White Peak was founded by local husband-and-wife team Max & Claire Vaughan. Since then, it’s won plenty of awards for its distillery visitor experiences and tasty gin and rum, while generating lots of excitement with its impressive new make. Now White Peak is gearing up to launch its first single malt whisky in October 2021. To make the most of this pivotal year, the distillery is currently offering the opportunity to become a shareholder in White Peak. Interested parties can contribute to the crowd funding campaign, which already raised nearly £1 million, almost doubling its target of £500,000. The crowdfunding page, which is due to close on 23 April, reveals that White Peak has more than 950 casks of maturing whisky and is operating at 50% of its capacity, allowing further room to grow. The distillery’s prologue release, a two-year-old spirit, sold out in two days. Co-founder Max says the team is excited for the next chapter of the distillery’s story to unfold with the release of the single malt whisky and that the brand’s “journey over the past five years has been incredibly rewarding”. We’re certainly looking forward to tasting the new dram. 

Welcome to The Nightcap: 9 April edition!

Don’t drink and hike. Obviously.

River Rock Scotch whisky ads banned 

One Scotch whisky brand found itself on rocky ground this week after the UK’s advertising watchdog upheld a complaint against it. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has deemed two of River Rock’s ads as being “irresponsible” on the grounds they linked alcohol with an activity or location where drinking would be unsafe. The ads, both seen on 7 January 2021, included a post on the brand’s Facebook page, which read: “What better way to celebrate the launch of batch #2 than with a whisky tasting at 3,500ft?” It was accompanied with images of people mountaineering, with a bottle of whisky shown with the hikers. A second ad, posted on the journal section of the brand’s website, included a similar message. The ASA said that, while neither ad showed someone drinking alcohol, consumers would likely assume whisky had been consumed at 3,500ft due to the question posed. River Rock contested that the images did not show or imply whisky consumption and says the brand takes its position within the outdoor community and alcohol industry seriously. The Scotch whisky makers also revealed it liaised with the ASA and updated the content to ensure it met approved standards. River Rock’s Kirsten Geary says mountaineering images are still allowed to be used to promote River Rock and that its commitment to the great outdoors is “fundamental to the brand”, and “as a proud member of 1% for the Planet which sees the brand contribute one tree for every bottle sold, we will also continue to feature and celebrate Scotland’s wild spaces in our communications.”

Rare Brora whiskies go under the hammer

Brora! Brora! Brora!

Super rare Brora collection goes under the hammer

Did our post this week whet your appetite for all things Brora? Yes? Well read on. Whisky Auctioneer is hosting an auction entirely dedicated to this legendary ghost (though not for much longer) distillery from 15-19 April. Especial rarities include: Scotch Malt Whisky Society’s 61.1, the first-ever bottling of Brora single malt; bottle number one of 60 of a 41 year old 1978 Brora bottled for Diageo’s Casks of Distinction programme; a 1972 Cask Strength 40-Year-Old decanter; and even some bottlings from when the distillery was known as Clynelish. That’s before the new Clynelish was built in 1969 and the old one labelled Brora. Yes, it’s a bit complicated. The head of auction content, Joe Wilson, commented: “The Brora auction encapsulates the distillery’s past as it prepares to turn on the stills to its future with the chance to bid on complete collections and rare single malts created prior to the distillery’s halt in production in 1983 – a timely reminder to revisit these legendary malts and that ‘lost distilleries” are not always lost forever.” He added: Whether you are a whisky collector or lost distillery enthusiast, this is a one of a kind opportunity to get your hands on these special Brora bottles, many of which are rarely seen on the secondary market.” So sell your house, pawn the family silver and get bidding.

Welcome to The Nightcap: 9 April edition!

This is actually how Guinness comes over from Dublin, in two enormous cans

Fresh Guinness is on its way as England’s pubs reopen

Here at MoM, we have the date 12 April ringed in our diaries as that’s the day that the pubs in England reopen. Sort of. You still have to drink outside but still, beer! In preparation, Guinness is sending 49 tankers of the black stuff across the Irish sea for the country’s thirsty drinkers. And to make sure that everything is in tip-top condition for the big pour, the company is sending a crack squad of stout technicians to 50,000 venues around the country. Head of Guinness GB, Neil Shah, commented: “Our teams have been working round the clock, undertaking a series of rigorous checks with the utmost care and attention so that when people all over GB have their first sip of a fresh pint, it’s the best it can be.” He went on to say: “The past year has been tough for the hospitality industry, so we want to do all that we can to make sure that their opening week is as successful as it can be.” Seeing as this was only announced yesterday, the pubs reopen on Monday and there are only 50 of these experts, they better get moving if they’re to get around all those venues. Especially as the photos supplied show a Guinness tanker still in Dublin! Come on chaps! We’re dying of thirst here.

Welcome to The Nightcap: 9 April edition!

The dream. This is the dream.

Black Chalk’s vineyard tree houses open this summer

We don’t know about you, but we’ve always wanted a proper treehouse. Just the word ‘treehouse’ conjures up magical images of Swiss Family Robinson (Google the 1960 film version) or the Ewok village in Return of the Jedi. But we’ve just heard about one that’s even better cos it’s right by a vineyard! From 12 April, top Hampshire sparkling wine producer Black Chalk will open its four new treehouses to the general public. The treehouses sit six metres off the ground on the Fullerton Estate. They are built in a Scandinavian style using local materials and designed to blend in with the landscape. Oh, and include outdoor hot tubs. Sexy! Black Chalk’s Andrew Seden comments: “The treehouses are a great addition to the estate and bring another dimension to the Black Chalk experience, shining a light on our Test Valley home and putting our wines in front of new consumers.  Whilst the majority of guests are expected to be from London, and the wider U.K. – especially with international travel restricted – The Test Valley draws in tourists from all over the world, including Japan which is our primary international market.” And if you don’t fancy the full treehouse experience (what is wrong with you?), tours of the winery resume on 12 May. We hear Hampshire is lovely at that time of year. 

Welcome to The Nightcap: 9 April edition!

Don’t try this at home. Obviously. Credit: TikTok/@doctortristanpeh

And finally… don’t open beer bottles with your teeth

Madison Beer was in the news recently. No, not a Czech-style lager from Wisconsin, but top American singer Madison Beer. Do try to keep up, dad. But beer is involved. The two beers collided when a video went viral of Beer, the singer, opening a bottle of beer, the delicious hoppy beverage, with her teeth. Then this week, a publicity-seeking Singapore dentist, Doctor Tristan Peh, waded in with a video of his own out that this is not good for your teeth. Duh, thanks doc!

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Ultra-rare Brora Triptych released as distillery reopens this May 

To celebrate the forthcoming opening of the revived Brora distillery, Diageo will be releasing three historic whiskies called Brora Triptych from this legendary name. Interested? Of course you are! The…

To celebrate the forthcoming opening of the revived Brora distillery, Diageo will be releasing three historic whiskies called Brora Triptych from this legendary name. Interested? Of course you are!

The whisky world pricked up its collective ears when it heard that Diageo was rebuilding the cult Brora and Port Ellen distilleries back in 2017. We’ve eagerly followed the progress since on the blog and this May, a year later than originally planned, Brora will once again be operational for the first time since 1983. Release the party poppers!

Brora Distillery

Brora is reborn! We can’t wait to visit

As you might expect, Diageo is celebrating in style with the launch of three extremely fancy bottlings, called Brora Triptych, which will be available mid-May to coincide with the opening of the distillery. Only 300 are available. The trio consists of:

Elusive Legacy 

At 48-years-old this is the oldest public release from Brora made up of casks from 1972. Very little whisky was produced at this time so this is doubly rare. The tasting note describes it as: “Warm chestnut in colour, there is a delicate aroma which blends wood spice with hints of peach tarte tatin, amidst a powerful rich maltiness”. Bottled at 42.8% ABV

Age of Peat 

A 43-year old-smoky expression made up of whiskies distilled in 1977. It represents a time between 1972 and 1980 when Brora switched to heavily-peated whiskies to meet soaring demand from blends. It’s described as: “Intensely deep and golden, this expression is elegant on the nose with creamy vanilla invigorated by freshly-cut green apples and hints of beeswax, before a long, sweet finish of peat -fired smokiness.” Bottled at 48.6% ABV.

Timeless Original 

A 38-year-old from 1982, the last full year of production, when Brora had returned to its traditional lightly-peated style. The tasting note says: “Glowing yellow gold in hue, sherberty lemon peel, and a touch of fresh green grass dance on the nose.” Bottled at 47.5% ABV.

Brora Triptych

Brora Triptych, note fancy packaging

Master blender Dr Craig Wilson commented: “These are some of our very last precious relics from a Brora of bygone age. Each one represents a moment in time at the distillery and tasting these superb whiskies is to be part of a special moment in history. When selecting the casks for these rare bottlings, we wanted to celebrate  those distinct characteristics that define Brora, and those that we seek to uphold as we begin a new chapter in its story.”

The distillery reopens in May

The three will be sold as a trio in some seriously fancy packaging with an equally hefty price tag of £30,000, and they’re only 50cl bottles. But that does include an invite to visit the distillery when it reopens and be shown around by master blender and Brora native Stewart Bowman who was heavily involved in the distillery rebirth. 

Stewart Bowman

Looking every inch the Scottish country gent, it’s Stewart Bowman

He comments: “The stories of Brora are woven into my own history and I am honoured to soon be able to share these stories with others. My father was an ‘old hand’ at the distillery, and I grew up in the village with the top of the distillery’s bell-tower visible from our kitchen window. In the years after Brora’s closure, I remember my father showing me the old cask ledgers and the records of those final casks distilled in 1983 and asking if Brora would return one day. It fills me with great pride that 38 years after the doors of Brora closed, more casks will now be filled, and we will be able to welcome people once again to this special place. It is our commitment that we will do justice to the Brora of old and hope to welcome visitors to our restored home as soon as that is possible. In the Brora Triptych, we aimed to celebrate the great whisky styles of the past for which Brora is known.”

We will be reporting (virtually, sadly) from the reopening of Brora in mid-May, and there will be further news coming on when and where you can get hold of these extremely rare whiskies. 

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The Nightcap: 6 December

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

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

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

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

Now let’s press on, the Nightcap awaits!

The Nightcap

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

The Dalmore unveils rare 60 Year Old single malt Scotch whisky

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

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The Times Series 52 Year Old Single Cask Finish

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

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

The Nightcap

Wright Brothers gin, worth shelling out for

Wright Brothers launch Half Shell Gin

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

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Congratulations, guys!

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

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

The Nightcap

Now that’s what we call an immersive floral installation

St. Germain at Heddon Street Kitchen

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

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

Beer brewed with recycled Christmas Tree needles launched

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

The Nightcap

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

Brora ramps up 200th-anniversary celebrations

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

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The biodegradable drinking straw is made from up-cycled agave

Jose Cuervo unveils ‘sustainable’ agave straws

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

The Nightcap

Head winemaker at Graham’s Charles Symington

Graham’s releases 1940 tawny Port

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

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Keep your gin safe with an Edinburgh Gin Safe

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

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

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Behold: Fancy Brora 40-Year-Old 200th Anniversary incoming!

Hold on to your tasting glasses: closed Scotch whisky distillery Brora is about to release something very special indeed. With just one year to go until its highly-anticipated revival, Brora…

Hold on to your tasting glasses: closed Scotch whisky distillery Brora is about to release something very special indeed. With just one year to go until its highly-anticipated revival, Brora 40-Year-Old celebrates 200 years of the Highland distillery – and it’s one to get whisky fans salivating.

The new expression is the first commercial release since Brora’s Special Releases 2017 appearance, and it’s also one of the distillery’s oldest. Drawn from 12 American oak hogsheads with liquid distilled in 1978, just 1,812 bottles will be available (a nod to the year the distillery was founded). And expect the 49.2% ABV whisky to be fairly heavily peated, too.

“Of all the stories of Brora, there is one that seemed particularly fitting to tell on its 200th Anniversary,” said Diageo master blender, Dr Craig Wilson. “From 1969-83, there was a new experimentation phase in production and the Brora distillers created a smoky malt used heavily-peated Northern Highland barley. Used primarily in blends at the time, the few casks that are left from this Age of Peat, matured remarkably well and what remains is a multi-layered and complex single malt of astonishing quality.”

It all came about by working closely with the Diageo Archive team, who helped Wilson identify when the smoky Brora style was at its peak. The archivists discovered original production records during the distillery’s restoration work. “Little did the craftsmen at the time know, they had created a masterpiece,” he continued. “It is emblematic of the varied past of the distillery that makes it so special to all that know it: a humble story of experimentation, craft and happy coincidence.”

The celebratory bottling is one the oldest ever released by Brora

What does it taste like? According to Diageo, expect a whisky clear amber in appearance, with long, fine beading. On the nose, there’s sweet, smoky peat wafts, treacle toffee, ripe figs, raisings, and with water, sacking and tweet notes come through. On the palate, there’s a waxy texture with sweet and savoury smoke, dates, white pepper, and a minty note with a dash of water. The finish? “Long, rich, and sweetly warming”.

Brora 40-Year-Old: 200th Anniversary Limited Edition will retail at £4,500 – click right here to see it in all its glory!



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The Nightcap: 22 March

Looking for bite-sized bits of booze news? That’s exactly what The Nightcap is all about! This week we’ve got stories about distillery facelifts, trees and 47 year old whisky… It’s…

Looking for bite-sized bits of booze news? That’s exactly what The Nightcap is all about! This week we’ve got stories about distillery facelifts, trees and 47 year old whisky…

It’s time once again for the MoM editorial team to remove the selection of stylish toppers from our heads and don our snazzy newsy caps with the little bit of paper saying “PRESS” or “NEWS” sticking out of them. The Nightcap is back for another round of news stories from the booze world. You can wear whatever variety of hat you want as you read it. Perhaps a pillbox hat? A Stetson? A whoopee cap?! All headwear is allowed.

So what’s been going on here on the MoM Blog? Well, it kicked off with Henry looking at Graham’s Blend No. 5 Port, which he followed up with the Cocktail of the Week (it’s a Manhattan) and an overview of the last 20 years of the London cocktail scene. Annie explored the world of terroir and how it relates to vodka. Kristy took a look around the home of American craft distilling pioneer St. George Spirits in San Francisco. Adam collected together a bunch of suitable springtime treats that would make excellent Mother’s Day pressies. We also had a nose around Aberfeldy, and made it so you can use Apple Pay at the checkout!

That’s all well and good, but what about the rest of the news? Read on…


Clynelish, the Highland ‘home’ of Johnnie Walker, is set for a radical revamp

Clynelish and Cardhu set for fancy facelifts

Diageo has revealed the latest recipients as part of its £150 million investment in Scotch whisky tourism – Highland distillery Clynelish, and Speyside’s Cardhu! Local residents have been invited to check out yet-to-be-submitted plans for both sites, which will become outposts for blended Scotch brand Johnnie Walker. Clynelish, situated about an hour north of Inverness, will get a visitor centre on the upper floor, along with a new bar and tasting area, boasting stunning views of the Sutherland coast. As the Highland ‘home’ of Johnnie Walker, the distillery will share design cues with the major new visitor attraction in Edinburgh. Clynelish shares its site with Brora, a long-closed distillery that’s being brought back into production in a separate project. Meanwhile, over in Speyside, Cardhu is also set for a refurb. The distillery, just north of the River Spey near Knockando, will become Johnnie Walker’s Speyside home. It’s association with the brand dates back to 1893 when it became John Walker & Sons’ first distillery. The investment will see a visitor experience dedicated to Helen and Elizabeth Cumming, the two women who set up and ran the distillery in the 19th century, plus a new orchard space for people to enjoy. “Tourism is an increasingly important part of the Speyside economy, alongside distilling,” said Laura Sharp, Cardhu Distillery brand home manager. “The investment we are making here at Cardhu will add another jewel to Speyside’s whisky tourism crown and we look forward to working with the local community and stakeholders as we progress our plans.” Jacqueline James-Bow, her Clynelish counterpart, added: “Scotch whisky tourism is one of the major attractions driving economic growth in rural communities such as Brora. With the work we are already doing at Brora Distillery, and that we plan to do at Clynelish, we are bringing major investment and creating exciting new economic opportunities for the community.” Subject to planning permission, work is expected to get underway at both sites later this year.

Tres Agaves

Feast your eyes on the new Tres Agaves Distillery!

Tres Agaves opens new Tequila distillery

We’ve heard a lot about new distilleries across Scotland and Ireland recently, but this week we bring you news of a pristine Tequila distillery! San Francisco-based Tres Agaves has opened its first production site in Amatitán, Mexico, with Iliana Partida at the helm as its founding master distiller. Tequilera TAP has been custom-built and will continue to make Tres Agaves’ Blanco, Reposado and Añejo 100% agave range, only now with full organic certification. The set-up includes a 20-ton autoclave, a four-stage roller mill, shallow stainless-steel fermentation tanks, and copper coiled alembic distillation stills. As well as the shiny new kit, there’s also a traditional brick horno, a tahona wheel and shallow pine fermentation tanks, to provide time-honoured production options, too. Capacity will reach more than 600,000 litres of spirit per year. Visitors are welcome, and can take advantage of tours and private tastings, including single-barrel releases. The Tres Agaves team seem delighted with the developments. “Tres Agaves has always been about family, the local community and producing the finest quality authentic Tequila,” said Barry Augus, founder and CEO of Tres Agaves Tequila. “I’ve known Iliana’s family for twenty years and even purchased the land for the new distillery from her father, David. The opening of our state-of-the-art distillery with Iliana, whose family I have known since my start in the Tequila industry, marks a major milestone for us.” Congrats to all!

It seems appropriate to celebrate Cotswolds Dry Gin victory with a quick tipple…

ADI names Best of Class craft spirits

Remember when we headed out to San Francisco for the American Distilling Institute’s Judging of Craft Spirits? Well, the winners have been announced! And they are a diverse bunch indeed. Those named Best in Class were deemed outstanding by the individual panels, and then re-tasted by the entire judging contingent – so you know they’re good. And leading the gin charge was England’s very own Cotswolds Distillery, which won the International Gin category with its Dry Gin! Other top tipples were NAUD’s VS Cognac, which won International Brandy; and Casa D’Aristi, which scooped International Liqueur with its Kalani Coconut offering. Kudos also goes to The Heart Distillery which won in the US gin category, Solar Spirits, which snapped up US vodka for its Eclipse Vodka, and Cutwater Spirits, which triumphed in the US Whiskey section with Devil’s Share American Whiskey. Overall, there were hundreds of medals awarded to all kinds of spirits across the category spectrum. Congratulations to all the winners!


Just look at this beauty. Wow

Mortlach releases 47 year old ‘Singing Still’ bottling

We love the meaty taste of Mortlach. It’s not known as the beast of Dufftown for nothing. So, we were particularly excited to learn about a new 47 year old expression from the single malt Scotch distillery. 47 years! Imagine the beastiness. This is the oldest expression ever released by the distillery. It’s the first to hit the market in a new series of single cask whiskies called The Singing Stills Series (can now picture Disney-esque stills actually singing) after Mortlach’s famously vocal distillation equipment. This one is from a refill American oak hogshead that was filled in 1971. “This bottling is exquisite for its age and is unmistakably Mortlach, with its intensely complex character and well-balanced flavour profile,” said master blender Dr. Craig Wilson. Global Scotch ambassador Ewan Gunn added: “The sound of the stills is as distinctive to the distillery as the taste of the whisky. Mortlach’s exceptionally bold and complex flavours effortlessly bridge the gap between mellow and smoky.” Mmmmmm, mellow and smoky. On 25 March one bottle will be auctioned by Bonhams of Singapore with the money going to Daughters of Tomorrow, a charity that supports underprivileged women. A further 94 will go on sale on 9 April for £10,000 apiece. Master of Malt will be given a wee taste soon; we will let you know ASAP whether it’s worth dipping into your wallet.

Barton 1792

You can enjoy bourbon and the Kentucky sunshine with Barreled And Bold

Kentucky distillers team up for free tours!

Great news if you’re Kentucky-bound – Buffalo Trace, Copper & Kings and Barton 1792 have partnered to offer complimentary (yes – free!) distillery tours! Known as Barreled And Bold, the experience takes in each of the three distilleries, based in Frankfort, Louisville and Bardstown respectively. To take part, visitors need to register at BarreledAndBold.com, and then collect their B&B pass at the first stop. The pass gives bearers access to a free tour at each site, and progressive discounts along the journey (10% at the first distillery, 15% at the second, 20% at the third). Visit all three, and get a commemorative gift! “This is not just serendipity, this is allowing for a partnership that can provide an exciting, adventurous window to the past, present and future of distilling in America, well beyond the borders of Kentucky,” said Mark Brown, Buffalo Trace Distillery and Barton 1792 Distillery president and chief executive officer. Copper & Kings founder Joe Heron added: “What a proposition! Bourbon Pompeii to Rock & Roll Brandy, Warehouse X, maybe not SpaceX, but it does feel like a rocket about to take off. Three completely unique perspectives of adventurous Kentucky spirits, Bourbon, American Brandy, Gins and Absinthe. From the barrel for the bold, bold from the barrel. It’s Kentucky hospitality distilled.” We’ve got it on the travel bucket list.

Cooper King Distillery

Cooper King Distillery, doing its bit for the environment

Cooper King marks International Day of Forests by planting hundreds of trees

Over in North Yorkshire, Cooper King Distillery has donated over £1,000 to the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust (YDMT) to mark International Day of Forests on 21 March. The donation will enable it to plant 115 trees! It comes as part of a wider distillery vision to plant 400 trees in its first year of operation. 335 are already in the ground, offsetting 167.5 tonnes of CO2, the equivalent of 50kg of carbon dioxide for every bottle of Cooper King gin sold. Imagine if every distillery did that! It’s one of just a handful of distilleries in the UK to run on 100% green energy, and instead of relying on fresh water to supply the cooling system, the team uses a nifty closed loop system, saving an eye-watering 13 tonnes of fresh water every year. Cooper King is also the first distillery in England to launch a scheme encouraging people to bring their empty gin bottles back to be refilled. You’ll get 15% off if you do! Think of it as a much more rewarding supermarket plastic bag scheme. If a small distillery that’s been up and running for less than a year can do this, why aren’t others stepping up? As Michael Delvin, development manager at YDMT, commented: “Big businesses can learn a lot from passionate start-ups such as Cooper King Distillery.” Hopefully it will inspire many more to follow suit.

Near & Far

Near & Far comes to Camden!

Get a taste of California in Camden at the latest Near & Far

The Near & Far family of bars is growing once again! With locations already in Peckham and Angel, another bar has just opened in Camden. The third instalment spans four floors of Californian-inspired decor, with room for 180 happy guests. Prepare yourself for palm trees, pastel hues and a copious number of cacti. There’s even a roof terrace which, being in England and all that, is sure to get its fair share of use all year round. With a cocktail menu inspired global tastes and Mexican street food from Elote, there’s literally something for everyone. A few of the cocktails are old favourites from other bar locations, as well as some new blood on the scene (not literally). We’re sure a favourite is going to be The Benedict Cucumberbatch – though isn’t that just his regular name..? There’s also a fabulous range of non-alcoholic cocktails and beers. In even more good news, it’s open seven days a week! Now, near or far, you’ve no excuse not to go…

P(our) Symposium

P(our) Symposium will come to the English capital for the first time

P(our) Symposium heads to London

Listen up, bartenders and other booze folk: thought-provoking non-profit convention P(our) is coming to London for the first time! As well as revealing the location for the proceedings (Village Underground, 24 June), the team has also unveiled this year’s topic: Understanding. Speakers unpacking the theme through a variety of talks and collaborations include Isabella Dalla Ragione, and agronomist and expert on biodiversity; Brigitte Sossou Perenyi, a documentary producer and author; and bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler. More names will be announced in due course. “We’re excited to bring to the fore this year’s theme of ‘Understanding’, looking at it from different perspectives – where it comes from, why it’s important, where more is needed and how it can be built,” said co-founder Monica Berg. Other P(our) founding members include Alex Kratena, Simone Caporale, Ryan Chetiyawardana, Jim Meehan, Joerg Meyer and Xavier Padovani, who united to bring and embrace change in drinks through discovering new ideas, sharing information, and exchanging inspiration. Tickets for P(our) are free, will be released in April through an application process. Fancy going along? keep your eyes peeled.

Highland Whisky Festival

Fancy Glen Ord? It will offer visitors a chance to operate the distillery themselves

Highland Whisky Festival reveals programme, complete with Game of Thrones tasting

The Highland Whisky Festival, Scotland’s newest whisky event, is really taking shape! Set to run from 10-17 May, the celebration takes in distilleries across one of Scotland’s most beautiful and varied, though often overlooked, regions. Programme highlights include a special Game of Thrones tasting at Clynelish on 12 May, and a peek inside the soon-to-be reborn Brora distillery. Balblair will screen Ken Loach’s film The Angel’s Share among the casks of Dunnage no. 3, while on 14 May Glenmorangie will host a special single cask dinner. Meanwhile, the brave team at Glen Ord will offer visitors a chance to operate the distillery themselves on 16 May (sounds potentially dangerous.) To round things off on 17 May, Tomatin will roll out the barrel with live coopering demonstrations and a dinner, just in case you need more feasting after a week of festivities. It all sounds brilliant!


Look at its little face. This is vitally important work

And Finally… Bacardi backs the bats in Puerto Rico

We are a bunch of animal lovers here at MoM Towers. From cat pictures to office dogs, we are fans of all things fluffy. And the not so fluffy too, it turns out. News reached us this week that Bacardi Limited, owner of Bacardi rum (makes sense), has been rewarded for its efforts to protect bats at its rum distillery in Cataño, Puerto Rico, and our hearts soared. Like a bat in flight. Bacardi picked up WHC Conservation Certification, becoming the first site on the island to do so. What’s all the fuss about? Well, the bat programme offers education to employees and locals alike, stressing the creature’s importance to the island’s ecosystem. The company is also working to restore the natural forest area near its campus, creating a better habitat for the local bats. “Bacardi is an environmental leader, voluntarily managing its lands to support sustainable ecosystems and the communities that surround them,” said Margaret O’Gorman, president, Wildlife Habitat Council. “Achieving certification at the Bacardi Corporation facility in Puerto Rico demonstrates the company’s commitment to the environment, employee engagement and community relations.” Hurrah for Bacardi! And actually, looking at that little dude above, we reckon bats fall into the fluffy animal category, after all…

That’s it for The Nightcap for this week, folks. Have a marvellous weekend!

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Copper stills ‘reawakened’ at Brora

The legendary Brora Distillery moves a step closer to reopening as the original copper pot stills have just been removed for refurbishment. Whisky lovers know that the shape of the…

The legendary Brora Distillery moves a step closer to reopening as the original copper pot stills have just been removed for refurbishment.

Whisky lovers know that the shape of the still is a crucial factor in creating the unique flavour of their favourite drams so it is a relief that the old Brora stills have been pronounced in sound condition. The pair were removed from the closed distillery and have been taken 200 miles to Diageo Abercrombie coppersmiths in Alloa where they were checked over using ultrasound. The careful restoration process can now begin.

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The Nightcap: 12 October

The weekend is in sight, and alongside it comes the newest edition of The Nightcap with bags full of booze news to dig into. If your work week has come…

The weekend is in sight, and alongside it comes the newest edition of The Nightcap with bags full of booze news to dig into.

If your work week has come to a close and you’re settling in to the weekend whilst thinking to yourself “Gosh, I’d really quite like to know what’s been going on in the world of drinks this week…”, then you’re in luck. The Nightcap is here to fill your brain with more booze news than you can shake a stick at. Also, if you do actually think the word “gosh” to yourself on a regular basis, that’s wonderful.

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