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Tag: Cognac

Top ten: Cognacs for Father’s Day

Cognac makes a wonderful present for awkward fathers. So to help you narrow down the choice, we’ve rounded up some of our favourite bottles, from easy mixers to serious after…

Cognac makes a wonderful present for awkward fathers. So to help you narrow down the choice, we’ve rounded up some of our favourite bottles, from easy mixers to serious after dinner sippers. Here are ten Cognacs for Father’s Day.

Lovers of malt whisky or aged rum should really be exploring the Cognac region. If old sherried single malts like Glenfarclas or Macallan float your boat, then you’ll love long-aged vintage or XO Cognac. If Spanish-style rums are more your thing, then you’ll love some fruity VSOPs. Love cocktails? Well, you’ll need a good VS to make a Sazerac, Horse’s Neck etc.

You don’t need to spend the earth, there’s a Cognac for everyone but if you do want to splash out, there are vintage Cognacs available that make Scotch whisky prices look distinctly silly.

Cognac is usually a blended spirit. Giant merchants houses like Hennessy or Remy Martin buy in spirits and age and blend them. Producers are allowed to sweeten and add boise (oak essence). There are also smaller producers who produce Cognacs from their own vineyards as well as companies that specialise in bottling rare casks of mature Cognac. Most Cognac will come with a designation like VS, VSOP or XO (see below) but there are some rare vintage brandies available. 

The region just north of Bordeaux is divided into six parts: Grand Champagne, Petite Champagne, Borderies, Fin Bois, Bon Bois, Bois Ordinaires. The first two are the most highly-regarded but you can find spirits of real character and style from all the sub-regions. About 90% of grapes grown are Ugni Blanc.

Right, that’s enough information. Without further ado, here are ten cognac for Father’s Day. If your old man doesn’t like one of these, is he even a booze enthusiast?

seignette-vs-cognac

Seignette VS

Fun, fruity and a little sweet, this is the perfect mixing Cognac. It’s a revival of an old brand recently relaunched by the Sazerac company. So yes Sazeracs are very much in order with this one, but it also makes a mean Brandy and Soda, and others. VS stands for Very Special and means that it has been aged for a minimum of two years but will contain older spirits. 

chateau-de-montifaud-vsop-petite-champagne-cognac

Château de Montifaud VSOP Petite Champagne

Château de Montifaud has been in the Vallet family for six generations. All their Cognacs come from the Petite Champagne region. The young eaux-de-vie spend a year in new oak before transferring to older casks to mature. This is much older than most VSOP brandies and it shows in its exceptional smoothness and length with lingering notes of apricots, pears and almonds. 

hine-rare-vsop

Hine Rare VSOP 

VSOP stands for Very Special Old Pale and has to be aged for a minimum of four years though Hine prides itself on ageing much longer. It only uses fruit from the Grande and Petite Champagne regions, including grapes from Hine’s own vineyards. This shows off the fruity elegant Hine house style to the max. When you buy a bottle before 20 June 2021 you will be entered into a competition to win a trip to visit Maison Hine! Full details here.

Leyrat vsop-premium-cognac

Leyrat VSOP Reserve

Cognac Leyrat comes from the Domaine de Chez Maillard estate and uses fruit from the Fine Bois region. The family really looks after their vines using no artificial fertilisers etc. and all the grapes are picked by hand. After ageing in French oak for a minimum of four years, there are no additions except water to bring it down to drinking strength. The result is a floral, fresh Cognac that really reflects its origins. 

jean-fillioux-tres-vieux-cognac

Jean Fillioux Très Vieux XO 

This is an XO but it’s much older than the minimum six years. This small house makes some of the most highly-regarded spirits in the region – the Très Vieux took a double gold medal at the San Francisco spirits competition in 2016. Expect orchard fruits with candied peels, spice and Madeira on the nose, with honey, marmalade and spicy oak on the palate. 

delamain-pale-and-dry-xo-cognac

Delamain Pale and Dry XO 

Using only grapes from the Grand Champagne region, Delamain Pale and Dry has long been a favourite, particularly among the British wine trade who appreciated its fragrant, wine-like style. Unusually, for Cognac, it’s bottled with no added sugar or boise, hence why it’s called ‘Pale and Dry’. If you think Cognac is meant to be big and heavy, then think again. This is terribly sophisticated stuff. 

frapin-15-year-old-cask-strength-cognac

Frapin 15 year old cask strength

Though Frapin probably wouldn’t say so, this is aimed at the whisky drinker with its easy-to-understand age statement and its even bottled at cask strength. It’s made only from grapes grown in Grand Champagne, and the resulting eaux-de-vies are aged in both humid and dry cellars, the former for elegance, the latter for bigger flavours. They are then blended together with no additions to create this beauty. 

hermitage-1990-grande-champagne-cognac

Hermitage 1990

Hermitage sniffs out rare parcels of Grand Champagne Cognac including some from the 19th century which are extraordinary experiences with prices to match. This is one of its more affordable offerings and it’s a belter. It’s still in cask so every batch is a little older and better. The nose is all tropical fruits with furniture polish, and then in the mouth there’s that fruit but also marzipan, butterscotch and chocolate. It’s also a bargain – think of what Macallan would charge for a 31 year old whisky. 

martell-cordon-bleu-cognac

Martell Cordon Bleu XO

A multi-award-winning classic from one of the big boys of Cognac. It was originally created by Edouard Martell in 1912. Apparently, the recipe hasn’t changed since then. It’s made up of over 150 eaux-de-vie with the majority coming from one of the lesser known Cognac regions: the Borderies. The result is a rich luxurious Cognac packed full of roasted nuts, chocolate and dried fruits. 

hennessy-xo-cognac

Hennessy XO 

Hennessy is the original XO. The designation meaning Extra Old was first bottled for family and friends by Maurice Hennessy in 1870 before later being used for commercial releases. An XO must be aged for a minimum of six years. Hennessy’s is blended from 100 eaux-de-vie from the Grande and Petite Champagne, Borderies and Fins Bois regions to create a rich and spicy Cognac that would be splendid with a cigar. 

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Win a VIP trip to the the House of Hine Cognac

We’re running a very special competition this week for a chance to win a VIP trip to the House of Hine Cognac in France and taste with cellar master Eric…

We’re running a very special competition this week for a chance to win a VIP trip to the House of Hine Cognac in France and taste with cellar master Eric Forget. What a prize!

Maison Hine is situated in an actual house in Jarnac on the banks of the river Charente in the heart of the Cognac region. It’s a beautiful spot where it feels like time has stood still since Thomas Hine, who was originally from Devon, founded the house in the 18th century.

Since then, Hine has become one of the most respected names in Cognac, famous for its elegant spirits and in particular its vintage offerings. The Hine family used to live in the house by the river but it’s now used for entertaining very important friends of the firm. Lucky visitors can enjoy the pool, beautiful grounds, luxurious bedrooms and best of all a library of old Hine vintages stretching back decades.

Win a VIP trip to the House of Hine Cognac

It is very much not open to the public. Hine doesn’t let just anyone visit and you can’t buy your way in. But we’re offering a chance for customers to become very important friends of the firm for two days. You’ll be able to revel in the old-world luxury of the house and enjoy a tasting of rare Cognacs with cellar master Eric Forget. We had the privilege of meeting and tasting with M. Forget in 2019. This is a trip of a lifetime for spirit lovers. We’re a bit jealous, it has to be said. 

House of Hine, Jarnac

The House of Hine on the river Charente

Your trip will include:

– Standard or economy flight travel for two people from any airport in the United Kingdom to Bordeaux;

-Accommodation in Jarnac for two nights for two people.

-A full in-depth tour of the house and historic cellars, a guided tour through the vineyards and at the distillery, the opportunity to taste a wide range of Hine cognacs and meet with Hine cellar master Eric Forget.

-Additional activities such as a barbecue around the pool, canoeing on the river Charente, or a visit to the town of Cognac (time of the year dependant, and subject to availability.)

How to enter:

So how do I become one of these extremely important friends of the firm? Well, it’s very easy. All you have to do is buy a bottle of delicious Hine Rare VSOP Cognac, and you will be automatically entered. That’s it! There are no forms to fill out, hoops to jump through or Krypton Factor-esque mental and physical tests. Phew!

MoM House of Hine Competition 2021 is open to entrants 18 years and over. Entries accepted from 12:00:01 BST on 1 June to 23:59:59 BST on 20 June 2021. Winners chosen at random after close of competition. Prizes not transferable and cannot be exchanged for cash equivalent. Date and travel restrictions apply. Multiple entries are allowed. Postal route available. See full T&Cs for details.

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The divine truth about the angel’s share

From whisky to Cognac, the concept of the angel’s share, how much liquid a cask loses to evaporation, is one that is unique to every distillery. Millie Milliken takes a…

From whisky to Cognac, the concept of the angel’s share, how much liquid a cask loses to evaporation, is one that is unique to every distillery. Millie Milliken takes a closer look at this costly but vital part of the ageing process. 

It’s true: there are some alcoholic liquids that have nearly swung me in the direction of believing in divinity. And while none have quite got me willingly through the doors of a church on a Sunday (or any other day for that matter), there is one supernatural story that never fails to enchant me – that of the ‘angel’s share’.

A quick question on my sophisticated data collection software (Instagram stories) solicited many a fellow drinks lover telling me where they were the first time they learned about the term: “a trip to Lagavulin on Islay”; “Speyside at Chivas Regal getting the grand tour from the master, Ian Logan”; “Officially? At the Aber Falls distillery”.

Yet a quick poll of my non booze-dwelling friends found that nearly all of them had no idea what I was talking about. So, what is the angel’s share and why does it happen?

Duppy Share

It’s not just angels that love spirits

Give it wings

The angel’s share is the amount of liquid lost from a cask during the ageing process due to evaporation. As a spirit ages, water and alcohol evaporate through the wood’s pores, rising off the cask and are lost into the atmosphere. Or, should I say, to some rather lucky angels.

But it’s not just angels who appreciate ageing spirits. Anyone who has been inside an old distillery may have seen a black substance slick on the walls when they looked heavenwards. This is baudoinia compniacensis, a fungus that thrives on airborne alcohol and as such it is particularly happy in warehouses and distilleries housing spirits. And “in the Caribbean, spirits called ‘duppies’ swoop between the islands taking rum as they go,” said Jack Orr-Ewing, CEO of Caribbean rum brand, The Duppy Share.

Whoever it is enjoying the alcohol, Scotch whiskies on average lose 2% of a cask’s liquid per year. The duppies are even greedier, taking about 7% per year from Caribbean rums. Over time, this can amount to a shockingly high proportion of the distiller’s liquid. On average a VSOP Cognac will have lost over 10% over its life in cask, an XO will have lost 30% and after 50 years ageing, your now extremely expensive Cognac will have lost a staggering 70% of its original liquid (image in header is courtesy of Delamain Cognac).

The Nightcap

The higher up the stack you go, the hotter it gets, and the greater the angel’s share

Location, location, location

There are a multitude of factors that can affect how much the angels get. As well as the strength of the liquid when it enters the cask, climate and temperature are two important ones and depend on the distillery’s location. Casks stored in humid conditions will lose less water and more alcohol than those stored in non-humid ones.

When it comes to temperature, a barrel kept in cold conditions will age slower than one in the hot climes of somewhere like Kentucky. Indeed, some Kentucky whiskies can lose up to 10% of their liquid in the first year while in the Caribbean, rums can lose up to 7%. 

And then there’s the design of the warehouse which can affect ageing and the quality of the resulting liquid. “In Cognac you have a wide range of options,” says Clive Carpenter, general manager of Gérant Domaine Sazerac de Segonzac and creator for Seignette VS Cognac. “New-build warehouses are rather hot and dry because they are made of breezeblocks and are taller which means you’ll get a lot of water evaporation. That produces Cognacs which age faster but are harsher on the taste buds. Old-fashioned warehouses are made of stone, by the river on beaten earth, [so they’ve] got a very humid atmosphere. There you can lose a great deal of alcohol and not much water and if you overdo ageing in a damp warehouse, you get Cognacs that are over flabby.”

Then there’s how the barrels are stored in the warehouse. Airflow is important and in larger warehouses, casks can be stored on racks meaning more air can circulate around then and there is more evaporation. At The Glenlivet in Speyside, according to the website: “we have a traditional (dunnage) warehouse, with a gravel floor and only a small number of casks. This helps us to hold on to liquid as best we can.” In contrast, if the casks are stacked in a Kentucky warehouse, the temperature of the top of the warehouse will be far hotter than at the bottom.

The Glenlivet

Inside a traditional dunnage warehouse at Glenlivet

Cask matters

Cask size and wood type can also affect angel’s share. Brand new oak will absorb more liquid quicker than second-fill casks while smaller casks with more liquid-to-wood contact will encourage more evaporation too. At The Glenlivet, “casks that hold fewer than 50 litres can show really remarkable losses, which also leads to a faster maturation.”

And when we’re talking casks, we’re also talking ‘devil’s cut’. This is the liquid lost to the cask (and not evaporation) depending on how porous the wood is. Jim Beam has even created a Devil’s Cut expression using its 90 proof bourbon and blending it with the absorbed spirit extracted from the barrel.

Angel, duppy or devil, losing a percentage of your liquid is a price every distiller of aged spirits has to pay. If they do exist, sounds like the bar will be well stocked in both heaven and hell.

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Cocktail of the Week: The Horse’s Neck

Today we’re going to the movies with a classic cocktail that features in Charlie Chaplin’s Caught in a Cabaret. The drink in question is the Horse’s Neck, a delightfully simple mixture…

Today we’re going to the movies with a classic cocktail that features in Charlie Chaplin’s Caught in a Cabaret. The drink in question is the Horse’s Neck, a delightfully simple mixture of brandy, ginger ale, and bitters, garnished with an all-important spiral of lemon.

We’ve just been sent a new book which has been keeping us amused for hours. It’s the new edition of Cocktail at the Movies by Will Francis and illustrated by Stacey Marsh. Highlights include from Cocktail, inevitably, probably the most ‘80s drinks ever made, the Turquoise Blue, from Casablanca, a French 75, and you can probably guess the cocktail that features in ‘80s Mel Gibson snorefest Tequila Sunrise.

Cocktails_of_the_Movies_engl_213838_300dpi
Charlie Chaplin with adorable dachshund

But we’re going  way back with our Cocktail of the Week, way back to 1914 and the release of a Charlie Chaplin picture called Caught in a Cabaret which features a classic concoction called the Horse’s Neck. Before we get into the cocktail, we’ll tell you about the film.

It features Charlie Chaplin, with adorable dachshund, trying to court a society girl called Mabel (that’s her in the header by Stacey Marsh) played by silent screen star Mabel Normand, who also wrote and directed the film. The problem is Mabel already has a boyfriend and Chaplin is just a lowly waiter pretending to be the prime minister of Greenland. As you do.

Mabel orders a refreshing drink

The drinks scene in question is described in the book:

“It’s such a scorching hot day that Charlie’s dachshund – who is, as he says, ‘built too near to the hot sidewalk’ – needs cooling off. An inevitable caper ensues as Charlie tries to hydrate the hound in a fresh spring by the road. He falls into a shrubbery, loses the dog and causes uproar when he pushes over the boy returning his furry friend. All the while society girl Mabel is preparing for her ‘coming-out party’ and in the hot midday sun she sensibly asks for a Horse’s Neck to be mixed for her before embarking on her afternoon stroll. As she enters the woods with her beau, it’s a stick-up! But an unlikely hero appears in the form of bumbling Charlie, who bravely saves Mabel and earns himself a ‘tête-à-tête’ at the young debutante’s chic chateau.”

You can see it from 5.49 thanks to the miracle of Youtube:

History of the Horse’s Neck

The Horse’s Neck has a long pedigree. It’s part of the Highball family of drinks: booze,  ice, something fizzy and in a tall glass. Originally though, it was made without alcohol except a dash of bitters and dates back to the 1890s. It gets its name from the long strand of lemon peel curling out of the glass that apparently looks a bit like a horse’s neck. 

Eventually, someone had the brilliant idea of adding a spirit to it thus making it 100 times better. The Horse’s Neck might have originated in America but was taken to heart by the Royal Navy in the 20th century where it displaced the Pink Gin as the drink of choice for officers. At naval functions known as Cockers P’s (cocktail parties), guests would be offered a choice of an HN or a G&T.  Ian Fleming describes it in the 1966 James Bond novel Octopussy as a drunkard’s drink. But don’t let that put you off.

Over the years, the Horse’s Neck has proved a popular cocktail in cinema cropping up in Fred Astraire film Top Hat, with Humphrey Bogart in A Lonely Place and rather less glamorously alongside George Formby in No Limit (1935).

Horse's Neck

A nice refreshing Horse’s Neck (Photo credit: Bitters by Brad Thomas Parsons, published by Ten Speed Press)

The perfect Cognac to use

It’s usually made with Cognac or bourbon, though there are gin versions out there. For this version I’m using Seignette VS from Sazerac, the company behind Peychaud’s Bitters, Buffalo Trace and, of course, Sazerac itself. It’s a great cocktail Cognac having lots of fruity flavour at a good price. Then all you need is some ginger ale, Fever Tree is nice, some bitters and maybe spend some time practising spiralising your spiralising. 

Anyway, without further ado…. 

Here’s how to make a Horse’s Neck

50ml Seignette VS Cognac
2 dashes of Angostura bitters
Fever Tree ginger ale

Fill a Highball glass with ice and add a spiral of lemon zest. Add the Cognac, bitters and ginger ale, stir, top up with ginger ale, stir gently and serve.

Cocktails at the Movies by Will Francis and Stacey Marsh is published by Prestel £9.99.

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The history of Hennessy Cognac

How did the son of an Irish Lord come to create one of the most famous spirit brands in the world? Lucy Britner delves into the history of Hennessy Cognac….

How did the son of an Irish Lord come to create one of the most famous spirit brands in the world? Lucy Britner delves into the history of Hennessy Cognac.

Like all good stories, some of the details of Hennessy’s beginnings vary slightly depending on who is telling it. The most popular tale is that at 20-years-old, Richard Hennessy, son of Lord Ballymacmoy, left his native Cork for France to fight for King Louis XV. The story goes that he was injured at the battle of Fontenoy and later settled on the banks of the Charente River, which of course graces the town of Cognac.

Early days

According to Nicholas Faith and Michel Guillard’s Encyclopedia of Cognac, Hennessy started the brandy firm in 1765, thanks to some loans from Parisian banks and two partners – Connelly and Arthur. He settled in Charente with his wife Helene and their son Jacques (James).

In fact, it was James that really propelled the business. In an interview with the Irish Examiner, two eighth-generation descendants of Richard — brothers Maurice and Frederic Hennessy — say James kickstarted Hennessy’s world dominance through an alliance with existing Cognac powerhouse, Martell.

Alliance is another way of saying he married a Martell – Marthe Martell, in 1795 – one year after the first shipments of Hennessy arrived in New York and five years before Richard died, in 1800.

Hennessy Master Blenders Yann and Renaud

Renaud Fillioux de Gironde, 8th generation master blender and his uncle, Yann Fillioux 7th generation master lender

Export goals

Hennessy’s journey to the US is an important part of the brand’s story and the company says the Cognac has been available Stateside ever since that first shipment. “Hennessy has never left America since, establishing itself increasingly firmly in African American music,” brand owner LVMH says.

Export is a key part of the tale and in order to ship to more places, Hennessy moved from barrels to labelled glass bottles in 1804. Around the same time (give or take a couple of years, depending on the source), the company established another alliance – this time with the Fillioux family. Jean Fillioux was named master blender in 1806 and today, eight generations later, Renaud Fillioux de Gironde holds the title. Renaud succeeded his uncle, Yann, who was Hennessy’s master blender for 50 years – and schooled Renaud in an apprenticeship that lasted about 15 years.

VSOP and XO

The first VSOP (Very Superior Old Pale) appeared in 1817, at the request of the Prince of Wales (later King George IV) and throughout the 19th century, the Hennessy brand continued to grow exports, with the first shipments to Russia in 1818 and China in 1859.

Then in 1870, Maurice Hennessy, a fourth generation member of the Hennessy family, is said to have asked then-cellar master Emile Fillioux to create a special cognac for his family and friends, using long-aged eaux-de-vie. They called it ‘XO’ for ‘Extra Old and the story goes that Hennessy XO became the first House blend to attain international renown, to the point that the XO classification became a gauge for quality.

It wasn’t until 1947 that Gérald de Geoffre – Maurice Hennessy’s great-grandson – created the classic XO bottle, a shape inspired by an upturned cluster of grapes. Put the lid back on before you check.

LVMH

In 1971, Hennessy merged with Champagne house Moët & Chandon. Faith and Guillard write that the merger, set up by then-chairman Killian Hennessy, came about in the face of competition from other multinational companies. Moët Hennessy later combined with luxury goods powerhouse Louis Vuitton to form Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy – LVMH – in 1987.

By this time, Hennessy was a two million case brand and throughout the 1990s and 2000s, its popularity continued with mentions in popular culture, including 2Pac’s Hennessy and Snoop Dogg’s Hennesey N Buddha.

Hennessy's Frank Gehry XO Cognac

Hennessy’s understated Frank Gehry XO Cognac decanter

The past decade 

Several new expressions have appeared over the years, including Paradis Imperial in 2011. Described as a “jewel in the Hennessy collection”, it is said that from any given harvest, the average number of eaux-de-vie with the potential to one day join this blend is only 10 out of 10,000.

And the maths fans among us will realise that in 2020, XO celebrated its 150-year anniversary. In true Cognac style, that meant doing something pretty special with the bottle. Enter famous architect Frank Gehry, who reinterpreted the bottle to create something in his own unconventional aesthetic. Yours for just £15,000!

New creations and core expressions have contributed to the export success enjoyed by the early Hennessy family members and according to industry magazine Drinks International’s annual Millionaire Club, Hennessy dwarfs the other Cognac houses, with volumes at 8 million cases in 2019. Its nearest rival, Martell, was at 2.6 million.

NBA connections

In 2021, the Hennessy brand became the NBA’s first ever global spirits partner and Julie Nollet, Hennessy global CMO said of the partnership: “We represent global communities, and this partnership empowers us to support a game and culture that brings people together through entertainment and camaraderie despite the current challenges faced by fans around the world.” 

Besides sporting partnerships, most recent launches include Master Blender’s Selection N°4, which rolled out this month. The Cognac is the fourth in a limited-edition series and latest creation from current Hennessy master blender Renaud Fillioux de Gironde. “When creating this blend, I was inspired by the contrast of a ‘thermal shock,'” explains Fillioux de Gironde. “Going from feeling one’s smallness in such a wide-open space to being inside, passing from daylight to the darkness of night, from solitude of the forest, being completely exposed to the elements in nature, to an environment of complete comfort and cosy abandon surrounded by friends.” Blimey, sounds a bit like the orienteering day at MoM towers. Thank god for Google maps.

For now, we leave the Hennessy and Fillioux dynasty, at a mere 256 years old. Who knows what the next 256 years will hold…? Presumably, more Cognac.

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Top ten: Brandies under £50

Today, we’re looking at the wide world of brandy, from innovative Cognacs, yes such things do exist, to English apple-based spirits. They’re all delicious neat or perfect if you’re looking…

Today, we’re looking at the wide world of brandy, from innovative Cognacs, yes such things do exist, to English apple-based spirits. They’re all delicious neat or perfect if you’re looking beyond gin, whisky and rum when making cocktails. So here are our favourite brandies under £50.

Before there was whisky and gin, there was brandy. Brandy was the original cocktail ingredient in drinks like the Sour and Old Fashioned. When Scotch whisky was thought too strong-tasting for southern palates, the English were knocking back vast quantities of brandy. The Royal Navy originally drank brandy, not rum. And yet despite its rich mixing heritage, brandy still has an after dinner image, drunk from enormous glasses by red-faced old men.

To introduce you to this exciting world, we’ve rounded up some of our favourite brandies under £50. Naturally we’ve included a few bottles from the big two, Cognac and Armagnac, but we’ve also included a couple of belters from South Africa and Armenia, and some apple-based wonders from Normandy and Somerset.

So, whether you’re making a Brandy & Soda, a Sidecar or just fancy something tasty to sip, you can’t go wrong with one of these bottles. 

bache-gabrielsen-american-oak-cognac

Bache Gabrielsen American Oak

There are some young Turks shaking up the rather staid Cognac category. One such producer is Bache Gabrielsen, a company of Norwegian descent. For this unconventional offering, the team has used American oak cask layering the classic Cognac flavours with vanilla, coconut and toffee. Imagine if bourbon and Cognac had an affair, this would be the result. 

What does it taste like?

Creamy coconut, chocolate and vanilla, with toasted nuts and raisins. This would be brilliant in a Harvard, essentially a Manhattan made with brandy. 

pierre-ferrand-ten-generations-cognac

Pierre Ferrand Ten Générations

Another maverick Cognac producer, it’s Master of Malt blog regular Alexandre Gabriel. He’s delved into the history books and discovered that it was once common to use wine barrels to age the spirit. The Sauternes casks give this a subtle honeyed sweetness. No wonder it’s proved such a hit with bartenders. 

What does it taste like?

Honey, shortbread and citrus fruits. If you use this, you will never have a better Brandy and Soda, especially with a dash of orange bitters. 

seven-tails-xo-brandy

Seven Tails XO Brandy

It’s a French brandy so is it a Cognac or an Armagnac? Well, it’s both and neither. This brandy is aimed squarely at bartenders and blended for maximum flavour to pound ratio using brandies from Cognac and Armagnac, as well as French spirits from outside those illustrious regions. It’s one of the very best brandies under £50.

What does it taste like?

Toasted fruitcake, with walnut, black pepper, almond and a little chocolate. Use in place of rye in a Sazerac or put it into the booze soup that is the Vieux Carre.

baron-de-sigognac-vs-armagnac

Baron de Sigognac VS

While Cognac is made in vast quantities by multinationals, Armagnac is often made by farmers. Consequently, there aren’t really any big brands. In Britain, Baron de Sigognac is probably the best distributed. Luckily, it’s excellent across the board including rare vintages, a super 20 year old built for sipping and this VS which offers incredible richness for money. 

What does it taste like?

Big and spicy, with cooked apple fruit, crème brûlée notes, and a long finish. Makes a great Brandy Sour but it’s also good enough to appreciate on its own. 

roger-groult-reserve-calvados

Roger Groult Réserve Calvados

Calvados, apple brandy from Normandy, is one of France’s lesser known spirits and yet there’s a quiet revival going on in the region. Sales are climbing steadily and new producers are getting involved. If you want to see what the fuss is about, this three year old version from one of the region’s stalwarts is a great place to start. 

What does it taste like?

Pear drops and honey, with fresh green apples, mint and pine nuts. It’s got the character to work in a Diamondback, a mixture of rye, apple brandy and yellow Chartreuse. 

somerset-cider-brandy-vsop-brandy

Somerset Cider Brandy VSOP

Somerset cider maker Julian Temperley (see header) revived the great English tradition of making apple brandy in the 1980s. He used traditional Calvados equipment, in this case a 70 year old continuous still called Josephine, but made with West Country cider apples and ages them in small oak casks to make something distinctly English. 

What does it taste like?

Delicate fresh fruity notes fade into a rich, nutty finish. This would be a great one to with the cheeseboard especially if you’ve got a nice piece of farmhouse cheddar.

lepanto-solera-gran-reserva-brandy-de-jerez-other-grape-brandy

Lepanto Solera Gran Reserva 

Brandy de Jerez is a bit of a misnomer as it’s usually made from Airen grapes grown outside the sherry region and then aged in Jerez. Lepanto in contrast is made by Gonzalez Byass from Palomino sherry grapes, fermented and then double-distilled within the city of Jerez before ageing in used sherry casks. It’s lighter and more fragrant, closer to a Cognac in style, but with a distinctive nuttiness.

What does it taste like?

Fruity and floral with flavours of apricot, chocolate and orange. Makes a great Old Fashioned especially if you use a PX sherry to sweeten it. 

cardenal-mendoza-solera-gran-reserve

Cardenal Mendoza Solera Gran Reserva

This is more of a typical Brandy de Jerez, and has something of a cult following. It’s made by top sherry producer Sanche Romate, distilled from Airen grapes and then aged in a solera for an average of 15 years. Before bottling, it’s sweetened with sherry and the result is something like a cross between a brandy and a sweet oloroso.

What does it taste like?

Rich and sweet with flavours of raisins, figs and brazil nuts. Wonderful with an espresso on the side or even made into an Espresso Martini in place of vodka. 

ararat-akhtamar-10-year-old-70cl-other-grape-brandy

Ararat Akhtamar 10 Year Old

Armenian brandy was once so revered that the French made it an honorary Cognac. And it’s still known in Russia as konjak. It’s made using the classic Charentais double distillation techniques but using indigenous Armenian grapes and aged in East European oak. This ten year old is a great place to explore these wonderful spirits.

What does it taste like?

Chocolate, burnt orange and vanilla. Do as they do in Armenia and drink with chocolate and other sweets. 

van-ryns-10-vintage-brandy

Van Ryn’s 10 Year Old Vintage Brandy

South Africa has a long viticultural roots, back to the 17th century, and considering the Dutch pretty much invented brandy, the word comes from brandewijn, burnt wine, it won’t surprise you that the country is home to some fine examples. This is made from a Cognac grape, Colombard, with another French grape, Chenin Blanc.

What does it taste like?

Apples and cinnamon, creamy, smooth, long and layered. One of the very best non-French brandies. Try it in a Sidecar.

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The Nightcap: 26 February

The Nightcap makes its final February appearance for 2021 with news on record-breaking whisky, a host of new releases and the life-affirming effects of gin-soaked raisins. Happy Friday, folks. If…

The Nightcap makes its final February appearance for 2021 with news on record-breaking whisky, a host of new releases and the life-affirming effects of gin-soaked raisins.

Happy Friday, folks. If you’re in England, you’re no doubt excited or anxious about the roadmap to end the country’s lockdown measures. It makes you think that at some point all this will just be a bizarre collective memory we share. But while we wait for normality to return, we still need to find ways to pass the time. And thankfully there’s always enough going on in the drinks industry to keep us entertained. Just look at this week’s Nightcap, for example. It’s bursting at the seams with boozy happenings.

As was the MoM blog this week, as Kristy revelled in her good fortune at tasting the remarkable Bowmore 27 Year Old – Timeless Series, Ian Buxton returned to unmask a mysterious billionaire Scooby-Doo-style while Lucy sat down with Adnams head distiller John McCarthy to hear his thoughts on all kinds of boozy business. Mille then made a cocktail that made us all realise how much we love Maryland turtles before Henry showcased ten of our favourite vermouths and put forward a contender for best image to ever feature on our blog after speaking to Kathy Caton, the founder of Brighton Gin. Elsewhere, Adam had a wonderfully whisky-soaked week, going around the globe in a tasting glass to find out why Peerless whiskey is making waves, how the Dartmoor whisky distillery has unlocked Devon’s potential as a home for great drams and what the confusing but charming new Starward bottling is all about.

Now, onto the Nightcap!

The Nightcap: 26 February

This one bottle alone fetched £1m

Whisky collection sells for almost £6.7m at auction

The record books are going to need some significant revising following a recent auction. You might recall the ‘The Perfect Collection’ was tipped to make headlines and now the nearly 3,900 bottle-strong hoard of whisky has lived up to the hype. The group took a hammer price of £6,675,000, attracting 1,557 distinct bidders from 54 countries. While a bottle of Macallan 1926 Fine and Rare 60-year-old, sold for £1 million, making it the first single bottle of whisky to be sold at an online-only auction for one million pounds (looks at the camera with Dr Evil face). The collection, which was built up by the late American private collector Richard Gooding, has become the highest-value hoard ever to sell on the secondary market at an auction dedicated to one single collector’s whisky. “This auction was solely dedicated to one collector’s magnificent library of whisky – a man who was dedicated to building the perfect collection. As enthusiasts of whisky ourselves, we knew that this collection deserved its own spotlight to allow us to truly convey the rarity and sheer scale of something so historic,” Iain McClune, founder of Whisky Auctioneer, said​. “With so many incredible bottles attracting the attention of high-value investors and passionate collectors across the world, the sale is one for the record books.” The whole affair is an absolute gem for those who love eye-watering sums being traded for incredible booze that will almost certainly never be drunk. Which is a shame.

The Nightcap: 26 February

Campbeltown Harbour, back in the good ol’ days

Old Campbeltown photos sought by Glen Scotia distillery

Campbeltown was once the whisky capital of the world, containing over 30 distilleries in the 19th century. There are only three left today. Now that rich history is being celebrated by one of the three, Glen Scotia, in a new initiative to find old photos of the town’s whisky heyday. So if you have any tucked away in your loft, you can email them in to [email protected] or do it the old fashioned way and send them by post to the distillery. More information on the website. The deadline is 31 March this year. Chosen images will be used as part of Glen Scotia Whisky Festival. Iain McAlister, master distiller at Glen Scotia, said: “Whisky was a way of life in our coastal town for over 100 years and over time, all that experience, craft and passion has been poured into Glen Scotia. Now we are looking for photography that will help us uncover what makes Campbeltown the ‘whiskiest place in the world’.” To whet your appetite, Glen Scotia has published some evocative old photographs like the one above. Ah, it really takes you back.

The Nightcap: 26 February

The smoky-sweet high strength dream of a dram will be here soon

Benriach releases Smoke Season

There’s a new small-batch smoky Benriach on the horizon and we’ve just had a little taste. It’s the aptly-named Smoke Season and pays tribute to the old days of Speyside when the region’s whiskies would have been peated. The peat used is from the mainland which comes from trees and heather and has a quite different character to the seaweed-scented Islay variety. According to the press bumf it’s “the most intensely smoked whisky to be released by the distillery” and yet because of its cask maturation, the smoke is beautifully balanced by layers of chocolatey sweet spicy oak. Master blender Dr Rachel Barrie explained: “With intensely peated spirit batch distilled every year, at Benriach we never stop exploring how the fruit and smoke aromatics intertwine and mature in a range of eclectic oak casks, either amplifying or transforming the perception of peat.” The barrels include “a high proportion of charred and toasted American Virgin oak casks.” Despite being bottled at a punchy 52.8% ABV, we reckon it’s best without any dilution, all the better to enjoy the rich sweet salted caramel, tobacco and cinnamon notes. RRP is a very reasonable £53, roughly a £1 per percentage of alcohol, and we should be getting some in soon. 

The Nightcap: 26 February

If you’re a fan of white rum this is definitely one to check out

Equiano Rum reveals new white rum 

In a category as diverse and brilliant as rum, it can be difficult to stand out. However, when Equiano, the world’s first African & Caribbean rum, was launched by global rum ambassador Ian Burrell and Foursquare master distiller Richard Seale back in October 2019, it received plenty of headlines. Probably because of the world first thing. And the fact that Burrell and Seale were involved. Also, it’s a blend of molasses rums from Foursquare and Mauritius-based Gray’s Distillery. It really had a lot going for it. As does Equiano Light, the brand’s first line extension. Made from a blend of liquids from the same distilleries, namely lightly aged molasses Foursquare rum and fresh sugar cane juice rum from Gray’s, the spirit is said to have “subtle notes of ripe sugarcane and hints of natural vanilla and citrus” meaning it should be perfect for classic rum cocktails such as The Daiquiri. The brand has also said that Equiano Light was created to offer a “contemporary alternative to traditional pouring rums” and to “enrich the taste profile of an often-underrated spirit” while “silencing any notion that white rums lack the sophistication of their darker counterparts”. Equiano Rum, named after African-born writer, entrepreneur, abolitionist and freedom fighter Olaudah Equiano, will also continue to grant 5% of global company profits and £/$2 from every bottle sold through equianorum.com to ground level freedom and equality projects annually. The brand has also recently teamed up with Anti-Slavery International, the oldest international human rights organisation in the world, to fund their vital work to eliminate all forms of modern slavery across the globe.

The Nightcap: 26 February

Missing the hubbub of nightlife, this Mexican bar has the solution

‘I miss my bar’ recreates those nightlife noises we miss so much

Do you miss your bar? We certainly miss ours which is why we loved an initiative from Monterrey bar, Maverick (sent to me by wife’s father who lives in LA. Shout out to you Mr Lemkin! We have a very informal relationship). That’s Monterrey Mexico, not Monterrey California. It’s a website called ‘I miss my bar’ that lets you recreate the noises of your favourite bar with sliders controlling elements such as rain noise, music, background chatter, traffic and drinks being made. Every week there’s a new playlist put together by staff. All you need to provide are the drinks. Wouldn’t it be great if you could really just turn down that loud group in the corner, though? What are we saying? We are that loud group in the corner. As well as being great fun, it serves a serious purpose, to encourage people to buy vouchers to be redeemed when the bar opens. If you don’t live near Monterrey, then think about helping out your local bar, pub or restaurant, or it might not be there when the lockdown lifts.

The Nightcap: 26 February

This would make one hell of a birthday present, as Jay-Z knows all too well

Sotheby’s to sell Jay-Z’s 1969 D’Ussé Cognac 

We don’t know if any of our dear readers got something special for their 50th birthday, but we would wager that few got a one-of-a-kind bottle of Cognac. But that’s exactly what Shawn Carter, or Jay-Z as you probably know him best, got when he celebrated the big 5-0 in December 2019. D’USSÉ surprised him with the first-ever bottle of its 1969 Anniversaire Limited Edition Grande Champagne Cognac. The bottling was taken from a single barrel-aged in a two-hundred-year-old cellar at Château de Cognac. It’s also housed in a diamond-shaped cut crystal bottle and is adorned with 24 karat gold leaf wrapping on the neck, so it’s suitably swanky. A limited run of the Cognac will be made available for consumer purchase in the spring. Before that, however, a bottle carrying Mr Carter’s engraved signature will be presented for sale at Sotheby’s and is estimated to fetch between $25,000-75,000. That money won’t be lining the legendary hip-hop star’s pocket, however, as the proceeds will go to the Shawn Carter Foundation, which aims to help individuals facing socio-economic hardships further their education at institutions of higher learning. There is no reserve for bids in this auction lot, so Bottle No. 1 will open at just $1 at 2pm GMT on 1 March and the winning bid will be announced at 2pm GMT on 13 March 2021. Fancy your chances?

Jung & Wulff Barbados rum No.3

It’s just like being in Barbados

Sazerac releases Jung & Wulff Caribbean rum range

More exciting rum news! Sazerac, the New Orleans-based drinks company, has just launched a new range of rums and we have to say they look brilliant. Consisting of spirits from Trinidad, Barbados and Guyana, we are particularly taken with the snazzy retro travel posters on the labels. At a time when we can’t travel, they are just the tonic we need. The Trinidad Rum No.1 features steel drum players in front of an ocean liner, Guyana Rum No.2 a tropical jungle scene and the Barbados Rum No. 3 label, a cricket match set against palm trees. The contents are pretty tasty too. All are limited edition blends of pot and column still rums from undisclosed distilleries – though you’ll probably be able to guess the origins of the Trinidad and Guyana bottlings. As with all Sazerac brands, there’s a good bit of history here too as Liam Sparks from importer Hi-Spirits explained: “Jung & Wulff were early importers of rum, distributing to cafés and bars across New Orleans and beyond. Strictly limited, our Jung & Wulff rums celebrate three influential places: Trinidad, Guyana and Barbados. I believe these rums are a true interpretation of each island’s style and brilliantly showcases the different terroirs that are available throughout the Caribbean.” And they’ve just arrived at Master of Malt.

The Nightcap: 26 February

Nine gin-soaked-raisins a day keeps the doctor away… supposedly. (It won’t. But they sure are tasty)

And finally…  105-year-old woman claims gin-soaked raisins helped her overcome Covid

Forget cross country running, meditation and salad, if you want to lead a long life one American lady has the answer, gin-soaked raisins. 105-year-old Lucia DeClerk from New Jersey contracted Covid in her nursing home despite being vaccinated but managed to fight off the virus. The New York Times reported that she had very few symptoms and was back to her best after two weeks. She attributed her robust old age to eating nine gin-soaked raisins a day: “Fill a jar, nine raisins a day after it sits for nine days,” she said. She didn’t specify which brand of gin but it seems that this special diet gave her a raisin to live. 

Sorry.

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What we’re treating our mums to this Mother’s Day

We know our mums are awesome all year round – but we still want to make them feel loved on Mother’s Day! This is what Team MoM is picking up…

We know our mums are awesome all year round – but we still want to make them feel loved on Mother’s Day! This is what Team MoM is picking up for their mas this 14 March.

Mum, mother, mom, mam, mama, amma, ma, The Mothership…  We all call our mums different things here at MoM Towers (heck, it’s even almost in our own name!). The mothers either in or represented across the building (ok, we’re largely working remotely right now) come in all forms, too: single mothers, adoptive mothers, working mothers, working-plus-homeschooling mothers, mothers raising children together, step mothers, cat mothers, dog mothers, even plant mothers. Maybe we’re desperately missing our mothers. Motherhood looks different for everyone, and we want to celebrate it all year round, not just on Mother’s Day (14 March, if you still need to mark the diary!).

This year we thought we’d widen the conversation around motherhood. We asked people from across Team MoM to pick out a pressie for their ma. But we also asked people for their favourite quotes about motherhood, from books and poetry to TV and film. Read on, enjoy, get some inspiration, but most of all, let’s celebrate mothers!

Mother’s Day gifts from Team MoM

Lauren Cremin, Fulfilment Assistant: Mór Irish Gin

Lauren and her Mother's Day recommendation, Mór Irish Gin

This Mother’s Day, I’ll be treating my mum to a bottle of Mór Irish Gin. My mum LOVES a good G&T, especially one that gives a nod to her Irish heritage and that she can sip whilst reminiscing about her own mum who was actually from Abbeydorney, also in County Kerry! 🥰 Luckily, we have been surviving lockdown together so I’m sure if I ask nicely she’ll let me have a glass or two!

“I’m not a regular mom, i’m a cool mom, right, Regina?” – June George, Mean Girls

Emma Symons, Customer Relations Advisor: Hermitage 2005 Chez Richon Grande Champagne Cognac

Emma and her Mother's Day recommendation, Hermitage Cognac

Mum’s not a big spirits drinker, but a few Christmases ago, I bought myself a bottle of Hermitage to open after dinner. Feeling festive, Mum had a taste and discovered out she absolutely loved it! She ended up buying a bottle herself to share with dinner guests, which I know went down very well and wrapped up many a successful gathering – so well that it ran out a long time ago. I think this will be a lovely reminder of happy get-togethers and something to look forward to sharing around a table again one day in the not too distant future!

Henry Jeffreys, Features Editor: Chapel Down Sparkling Bacchus

Henry's mum (plus his daughter), who looks likely to get  Chapel Down Sparkling Bacchus for Mother's Day!

My mother loves a glass of bubbly so I think she’s going to enjoy this Kentish sparkler. It’s made from Bacchus, a grape that when grown in England tastes distinctly of elderflowers, another one of my mother’s favourite things. Here’s to you mum, let’s hope you get to play with your grandchildren again soon.

“A good mother loves fiercely but ultimately brings up her children to thrive without her. They must be the most important thing in her life, but if she is the most important thing in theirs, she has failed.” – Erin Kelly, The Burning Air

Holly Perchard, Customer Relations Advisor: Gin Mare Gift Pack with Lantern

Holly, her mum, and her Mother's Day gift recommendation, Gin Mare Gift Pack with Lantern

This Mother’s Day I’m definitely going to be getting my mum the Gin Mare gift pack with the gorgeous white lantern. Not only will the gin go down a treat, but we also get a nice lantern to put around the house! Daughter of the Year?

Kristiane Sherry, Editor: J.J. Corry The Sonas

Kristiane, her mother and Grandma with JJ Corry The Sonas for Mother's Day

I’m going to treat my mum to a bottle of The Sonas. It’s really deliciously soft Irish whiskey and its name means ‘happiness’ – which seems fitting for Mother’s Day! She’s in a bubble with my grandma too, so hopefully they can share a dram of happiness together.

“Anyone who ever wondered how much they could love a child who did not spring from their own loins, know this: it is the same. The feeling of love is so profound, it’s incredible and surprising.” – Nia Vardalos, Instant Mom 

James Ashby, Stock Control and Replenishment Coordinator: Lind & Lime Gin

James, his mum, and a Lind & Lime Mother's Day treat

I’ll probably get my mother a bottle of gin, like Lind & Lime, Twisted Nose or Mermaid Gin. She’ll enjoy the gin and then add some bottle lights to them to use as a lamp.

Abbie Green, Customer Relations Advisor: Veuve Clicquot Brut Yellow Label

Abbie and her mum will toast Mother's Day with Veuve Clicquot Brut Yellow Label

For Mother’s Day this year, I am going to buy my mum her absolute favourite bottle of Champagne: Veuve Clicquot Brut Yellow Label. I chose it because this Champagne brings joy to everyone, just like my mum! It’s the perfect gift for any occasion.

“Mothers are all slightly insane” – J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye

Jess Williamson, Content Assistant: Bathtub Gin

Jess, her mum and a Mother's Day treat in the form of Bathtub Gin!

My mum adores Bathtub Gin, even more so after we both became obsessed with Negronis together! It’s the gin she always ends up going back to no matter what, so it’s a failsafe pressie that she’ll definitely love. I won’t be able to share a G&T (or Negroni) with her this year, but at least I’ll know she’ll be enjoying whatever she makes!

Guy Hodcroft, Buyer: Foursquare Spiced Rum

Mother Hodcroft will get Foursquare Spiced Rum for Mother's Day

During a trip to Barbados in the late 1990s (a trip to which, I should add, my brother and I were NOT invited), my mother developed a taste for the excellent spiced rum produced by Foursquare. Used as a tot in coffee for a winter warmer or a base for tropical cocktails in summer, it has become a firm favourite.

Whether you’re a mum yourself or celebrating yours (or both!), Happy Mother’s Day!

 

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The Nightcap: 22 January

In the Nightcap this week we cover the cancellation of some of our favourite whisky festivals (boo!), plenty of great work from The Drinks Trust (yay!) and the US Supreme…

In the Nightcap this week we cover the cancellation of some of our favourite whisky festivals (boo!), plenty of great work from The Drinks Trust (yay!) and the US Supreme Court’s verdict on a parody dog toy that upset Jack Daniel’s (???).

Hello again everyone. We hope you’re all staying safe and managing the seemingly endless lockdown ok. We found a useful way of doing that is to appreciate those small moments of joy we can overlook. Like hearing a new song you love or making yourself a plate of delicious carbohydrates to inhale. Plus, there’s vaccines and dogs and all kinds of exciting and wondrous things happening in the world of booze to enjoy. Which is why we do The Nightcap. This industry never fails to amaze. Did you ever think you’d see Fatboy Slim, pre-French Revolution Cognac, pirate-themed whisky, CBD gin and the US Supreme Court in one article?

On the blog this week, we introduced our solution to the blandness of the season with Try January! Then, we looked forward to a different but still delightful Burns Night by checking out the most exciting virtual events taking place and recommending some cracking whiskies to enjoy on the night. We also had our fill of tasty cocktails, from a classic gin-based pre-Prohibition serve to serves that can transport you across the world. Expressions that caught our eye included a terrific dram from Aberlour was our New Arrival of the Week, a non-alcoholic spirit inspired by the historical distinction of London Dry gin and a selection of bargain white wines.

Now, on to The Nightcap!

On The Nightcap this week: Fèis Ìle,

It’s heartbreaking to know we won’t be going back again, but safety is the priority.

Fèis Ìle and Campbeltown Malts Festival cancelled

In unsurprising, but still terribly sad news, there will be no Fèis Ìle or Campbeltown Malts Festival this year. Much like in 2020, the organisers of the two internationally-renowned events were moved to axe them in the face of huge uncertainty over the impact of coronavirus restrictions. Planning a programme, buying/selling tickets and booking accommodation in advance as normal hasn’t been possible due to the ongoing curbs on travel, social gatherings and events. Virtual versions of  both festivals will take place instead. Springbank Distillery announced last night on Instagram that the Campbeltown distilleries felt it was the only option, “as the UK is currently in the midst of lockdown restrictions and it is unlikely that mass gatherings will be allowed by May”. Islay’s hugely popular music and malt festival released a similar statement. “With deep regret, we announce that this year’s festival is cancelled. We have discussed this with our distillery partners, and we have come to this decision together,”. The organisers went on to say, “We know you won’t like hearing this news. We don’t like saying it. But please just keep Islay in your hearts for a little longer: hold on to the love of the island, the music, the whisky and the company, and the embraces when we see you again will be all the sweeter.”

On The Nightcap this week: Arrrrrrrdbeg

It’s a most fitting tribute. Arrr!

Ardbeg reveals new whisky: Arrrrrrrdbeg

There can’t be many jobs that reward you with leaving presents as cool as the drinks industry provides. Just ask Mickey Heads. As regular Nightcap readers will know, the well-regarded distillery manager announced his retirement last year from his role at Ardbeg (although he will be continuing in his role as chairman of the Ardbeg Committee). So the Islay-based distillery has created a new whisky to celebrate his time there. How cool is that? The new whisky is a pirate-themed expression called Ardbeg Arrrrrrrdbeg (hell yeah) and is the distillery’s first-ever whisky matured in ex-rye casks. The brand’s tasting notes describe flavours such as gunpowder, smoked banana, rye bread, sweet vanilla toffee, an aniseed breeze, Brazil nuts and gentle smoke. Sounds delicious. But, sadly, this is an Ardbeg Committee exclusive bottling. That means if you want to get your hands on a bottle you’ll have to head on over to the Ardbeg website and join the committee before it is released in the UK on the 2 February 2021. Members are due to receive an email that morning with a link giving them the chance to buy a bottle. Dr Bill Lumsden, director of whisky creation at Ardbeg, described the dram as a “perfectly peaty parting gift” and thanked Heads for his time there, commenting: “Working with Mickey has been an absolute joy. He’s somebody with a genuine passion for Ardbeg and we hope that this bottling will take pride of place in his collection. He’s presided over many momentous Ardbegs over the years, but this ‘end of an era’ edition is a special one”. You can still pick up all kinds of tasty Ardbeg whisky from us, however, and raise a glass of that to the man who led Ardbeg to three IWC ‘Distillery of the Year’ titles in a row and was named Distillery Manager of the Year 2014 instead. Slange var! 

On The Nightcap this week: Fèis Ìle,

The Drinks Trust welcomes Troy Christensen, Jaega Wise, Ian Burrell and Becky Paskin.

The Drinks Trust welcomes new chair and patrons

We got some good news courtesy of The Drinks Trust this week as it appointed a new chair of its board of trustees, Troy Christensen and welcomed three new patrons, Ian Burrell, Becky Paskin and Jaega Wise. Christensen, who first joined the charity in 2018,  brings 15 years’ experience in the drinks trade with Constellation Brands and as CEO of Accolade Wines from 2011 until 2013. He was appointed CEO of Enotria Wine Cellars in June 2014 and oversaw the acquisition of Coe Vintners in 2015. “This remarkable charity has represented and defended employees of the wine and spirits industry for over a hundred years. After the unbelievable challenges 2020 presented to our industry through the impact of Covid and government policy, this is a very relevant time for The Drinks Trust,” he commented. Helping Christensen and co. to raise awareness and increase the charity’s reach and impact are new patrons Ian Burrell, rum ambassador; Becky Paskin, spirits journalist and co-founder of Our Whisky; and Jaega Wise, TV and radio presenter and head brewer at the Wild Card Brewery. They will join existing patrons Matthew Rhys, Jancis Robinson MW OBE and Olly Smith as well as Founder Patron, Tom Yusef who said, “The help and time from our new patrons to further our causes whilst helping The Drinks Trust to reach new audiences is greatly appreciated. We are excited to be working with such dynamic and inspirational people in the drinks industry”.

On The Nightcap this week: rare Macallan

This beauty is sure to fetch an eye-popping price

World’s most expensive whisky tipped to set new records

The second half of an incredible collection of whisky will go under the hammer next month in a sale that is set to enter the record books. From 12-22 February 2021, over 1,900 bottles of the rarest single malts in existence, will feature in the sale hosted by Whisky Auctioneer. Leading the auction is The Macallan 1926 Fine and Rare 60 Year Old, which is expected to beat the current world record hammer price of £1.2m, which is held by a Macallan from the same original bottling batch. Other standout whiskies include The Balvenie 1937 50 Year Old, Bowmore’s legendary 1964 vintage and a 1921 private cask bottling of Dallas Dhu which has not been seen on the secondary market for over 25 years. The Perfect Collection Part Two, which initially launched last April, was postponed following a major cyber attack. Part one took place in February 2020, fetching a total hammer price of £3.2million as Whisky Auctioneer became the first online auction house to sell a million-dollar bottle. The collection was amassed by late American businessman and philanthropist, Richard Gooding and is one of the largest and most significant ever to go to public auction. “Mr Gooding’s Collection is nothing short of extraordinary and we are honoured and delighted to bring it to auction,” says Iain McClune, founder of Whisky Auctioneer. “Collectors, investors and whisky lovers alike will have their interest sparked by the truly astonishing array of whiskies on offer”. 

On The Nightcap this week: rare Cognac

Want to own Cognac distilled when Napoleon was eight years old? Now you can.

Pre-French Revolution Cognac goes under the hammer

We got quite excited last year at getting hold of some 1895 Cognac from Hermitage but new lots going up on Whisky.Auction on Sunday 31 January make that venerable liquid look positively sprightly. The collection belonging to Jacques Hardy, from a well-known Cognac family, contains bottles from 1802 and 1777. The last one a pre-Revolutionary vintage distilled when Napoleon was just an eight-year-old boy with big dreams. It boggles the mind that you might be able to taste such a piece of history. The grapes came from Domaine de la Vie in Grand Champagne and after distillation, the liquid spent around 100 years in oak before being transferred to a demijohn and finally bottled in 1936. It was given to Jacques’ uncle, James Hardy, on his wedding day by his new family-in-law. Much better than new linens. It’s one of only five such bottles in existence. Sukhinder Singh from Whisky. Auction commented: “I am pleased to have tried this around 10 years ago when it was available at The Lanesborough Hotel in London. What a privilege it was to taste such old liquid that was still fresh and full of life with the lingering rancio flavour that you find in pre-phylloxera Cognac.” The rest of the collection is equally mind-blowing as alongside the 1777 and 1802, there’s an 1812, a 1906 and a mere baby, the 1914. The bottles are being sold as individual lots, and the auction will go live on Sunday 31 January 2021, running for ten days until Tuesday 9 February. Happy bidding!

On The Nightcap this week: The Drinks Trust,

The money goes to a great cause, so do check it out

Fatboy Slim signed prints up for auction for The Drinks Trust

How’s your living room looking? A bit bare, perhaps? What you need are some gorgeous limited edition prints which have just gone on sale called A Shot in Time. These five pictures celebrate five emotions associated with hospitality: togetherness, happiness, resilience, family and, not forgetting, shenanigans. Remember shenanigans? The creator of these prints is drinks photographer Addie Chinn. Each one costs £50, is A3 size and part of a limited run of only 50. Best of all, all the profits go to The Drinks Trust, to raise essential funding to those needing critical social, medical and financial help for them and their families in the hospitality sector.  Go to Our Future Proof Website to buy yours. But that’s not all! Mr Fatboy Slim himself, Norman Cook, has signed and captioned a set of prints which will be auctioned at Whisky.Auction of 31 January 4pm. It’s all happening there this week. Follow @OurFutureProof for more information. 

On The Nightcap this week: spaniels

It’s not a story of Jack Daniel’s getting into a fight with actual dogs, but it’s no less ridiculous.

And finally… Bad Spaniels beat Jack Daniels

In a long-running legal battle between a small dog, VIP Products, and a big animal, Brown Forman, it looks like the little dog will, at last, have its day. It all started with the launch of a dog chew toy called Bad Spaniels that looked a lot like a bottle of Jack Daniels, with the words ‘Old No. 7 Tennessee sour mash whiskey’ replaced with ‘The Old No.2 on your Tennessee carpet’. Clever! Following cease and desist letters from the whiskey firm, VIP products sued Jack Daniel’s in 2014. Initially, a court found that the toy did infringe on Jack Daniel’s trademarks but then in 2020 the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled in favour of Bad Spaniels. The big boys at JD weren’t done yet, so they petitioned the Supreme Court but this month the highest court in the US declined to hear the case. So it looks like, finally, the spaniel has won. Moral of the story: don’t get in a fight with a dog over a chew toy. Not only will you lose, but you’ll be left looking foolish.  

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Cocktail of the Week: The Vieux Carré

One of a handful of classic cocktails with a traceable backstory, the Vieux Carré dates back to the 1930s, when it was named after an area of New Orleans known…

One of a handful of classic cocktails with a traceable backstory, the Vieux Carré dates back to the 1930s, when it was named after an area of New Orleans known today as the French Quarter. Anna Sebastian, bar manager at the Artesian Bar in London’s Langham Hotel, talks us through this full-flavoured, widely underappreciated serve…

“The Vieux Carré is a fantastic drink, almost a combination of a Manhattan, Old Fashioned and Sazerac,” says Sebastian. “It has always been one of those drinks, in my opinion, that has been underrated.” Combining rye whiskey, Cognac, sweet vermouth, Benedictine, and two different types of bitters, the Vieux Carré certainly packs a punch – but it’s also light and refreshing enough to cut through the humidity of a typical New Orleans day, she says.

Unlike practically every other historic tipple you can think of, the Vieux Carré (pronounced voo car-ray – the name is French, the pronunciation is Creole) is one of those rare cocktails with a timestamp. Translated as ‘old square’ or ‘old quarter’, which then referred to the French Quarter, the drink was created by Walter Bergeron at the Hotel Monteleone, and appeared in print for the first time in Famous New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix ‘Em back in 1938. 

Vieux Carre

The French Quarter or Vieux Carré in New Orleans

Calling for ½ teaspoon Benedictine, 1 dash Peychaud bitters, 1 dash Angostura bitters, ⅓ jigger rye whiskey, ⅓ Cognac brandy, and ⅓ jigger Italian vermouth, the method reads as follows: ‘The Benedictine is used as a base and also for sweetening the cocktail. Dash on the bitters, then add the rye, brandy, and vermouth. Put several lumps of ice in the barglass. Stir. Twist a slice of lemon peel over the mixture. Drop in a slice of pineapple and cherry if you wish and serve in mixing glass.’

‘This is the cocktail that Walter Bergeron, head bartender of the Hotel Monteleone cocktail lounge, takes special pride in mixing,’ the author of the book, Stanley Clisby Arthur, wrote beneath the recipe. ‘He originated it, he says, to do honour to the famed Vieux Carré, that part of New Orleans where the antique shops and the iron lace balconies give sightseers a glimpse into the romance of another day.’

The hotel is still standing today, now owned by the fifth generation of the Monteleone family. A decade after Bergeron invented the cocktail, Hotel Monteleone opened the Carousel Bar & Lounge – an elaborate slow-spinning cocktail bar fitted with a dazzling carousel top. It’s the only revolving bar in the Big Easy, and turns at a rate of one revolution 15 minutes. There, the Vieux Carré is the star of the menu, made with Sazerac Rye Whiskey and Pierre Ferrand 1840 Cognac.

Even though rye and Cognac are of equal measure in the recipe, the bold, spiced profile of the whiskey takes precedence. Much like rye whiskey, the Vieux Carré was once hugely popular and gradually faded into obscurity as the decades rolled past. And like the beloved rye style, it’s now enjoying a slow resurgence. There’s no shortage of rye whiskey bottlings to choose from today, and this cocktail is the perfect way to road-test their mixing potential. “The perfect Vieux Carré, as always, stems back to having quality ingredients,” says Sebastian. “I always say go with the best that you can buy, as it really will have an impact on your drink.”

Vieux Carre

Voila! Un Vieux Carré

The rye will meet a host of really punchy, robust spirits in the Vieux Carré, so thoughtful assembly is required. “The key is to balance the ingredients, as they are all very strong flavours and components,” she says. “The vermouth, being the slightly weaker part of the drink, needs to be big and ballsy. The Benedictine needs to be used sparingly, otherwise it will take over the drink and make it… well, un-drinkable.” Using a discarded lemon twist as a garnish “leaves a beautiful aroma from the oils without the peel infusing the liquid as you drink it,” Sebastian adds.

Once you’ve nailed the original, why not shake things up with some spirited substitutes? Changing the rye for a bourbon gives the drink a slightly warmer, less dry profile to it, says Sebastian. “Another great option is reducing the rye to 15ml and adding 15ml of Calvados, which gives it a more approachable taste and fresh apple notes,” she says. Alternatively, try using a blend of vermouths – a sweet and a dry in equal parts – to make the cocktail a little lighter and brighter, or “add a dash of absinthe to bring all the flavours together”.

But first, here’s how to make the original:

30ml Michter’s Rye Whiskey
30ml Remy Martin 1738
20ml Cocchi Vermouth Di Torino
5ml Benedictine
2 dashes Angostura bitters
2 dashes Peychaud bitters
Discarded lemon twist 

Stir all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Strain into an Old Fashioned glass filled with ice. Garnish with a lemon twist. 

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