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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Dewars

Five minutes with… Stephanie Macleod, master blender at Dewar’s 

As part of our coverage for International Women’s Day 2022, we talk Irn Bru, weird casks and how to get more women into the industry with one of the most…

As part of our coverage for International Women’s Day 2022, we talk Irn Bru, weird casks and how to get more women into the industry with one of the most respected people in Scotch whisky, Stephanie Macleod, master blender at Dewar’s. 

Stephanie Macleod’s first job in drinks was working with a Scottish icon. No, not John Dewar & Sons, we’re talking Irn Bru (explainer here for non-British readers). From there she moved into Scotch but, as she admitted to us, she didn’t even like the stuff at the time. At some point, she must have developed a taste for whisky because from working in the lab at Dewar’s, she moved up until she became master blender in 2006.

Macleod is now responsible for the Dewar’s range of blended whiskies plus the single malts that sit under the Bacardi umbrella: Aberfeldy, Craigellachie, Royal Brackla and others. As well as maintaining the quality of classic whiskies like Craigellachie 13 year old and Dewar’s White Label, Macleod is not afraid to experiment. In recent years, her team has launched a Dewar’s 8 Year old finished in Ilegal mezcal casks and various limited edition red wine cask single malts from Aberfeldy.

It’s all go at Dewar’s! We were fortunate enough to spend some time with Macleod to learn what other exciting things she has up her sleeves. 

Dewers-Aberfeldy-sign

Just one of the distilleries watched over by Macleod

Master of Malt: It’s International Women’s Day this week, are you encouraged by the number of women setting up their own distilleries/ drinks brands?

Stephanie Macleod: It’s exciting what’s going on at the moment in the spirits and the wine industries. There are more and more women launching their own brands. I get a lot of emails and messages via social platforms from young women who are thinking of starting drinks brands – and it is heartening that they have the confidence and resources to make their ideas into a reality.

MoM: What is Dewar’s parent company Bacardi doing to encourage more women into distilling?

SM: For a few years now, we have been making a determined effort to not only be visible to university students and graduates, but also invite them to apply for our intern and graduate schemes. The recruitment process is intensive, but we’ve now got a tremendous wealth of great talent and most of them are women. When I was a student, the whisky industry as a career didn’t feel like an option – that has now changed and we are reaping the rewards.

MoM: How did you get started in the industry?

SM: I did food science at the University of Strathclyde. I was lucky that the department I was in had a close relationship with the whisky industry, some of their research work was sponsored by Chivas Brothers at the time. After I graduated and I went to work for Irn Bru and then my old supervisor phoned me up and said ‘how would you like to join us and study whisky and other foods?’ I said ‘yes, I’d love to!’ but I had absolutely no idea about whisky, I didn’t even like it! Over four years I was trying to find out why whisky tastes the way it does and unlocking the secrets of maturation. I loved it and that’s really when I thought ‘this is the industry that I want to be in’. A role then came up at Dewar’s and I thought ‘I’ll get in the door and see where it takes me’. I was put in charge of the lab and then I was asked did I want to train up to be the master blender because the current master blender at the time was about to retire. So I said ‘yes, I’d love to!’ 

Craigellachie 39 Year Old 1980 Super Wish

Craigellachie 39 Year Old 1980

Master of Malt:  How has the job changed since then? Because in the nineties being a blender was a sort of backroom kind of job wasn’t it? 

SM: I made that same comment to someone yesterday. I said ‘20 years ago blenders didn’t have to have media training or talk to camera , they just got on with it’. But now a big chunk of your work is communicating what you do to journalists and to consumers. Before a blender would just have worked on a few different blends but now we’ve not only got the blends that we’ve always had, but then there’s offshoots of those, like Dewar’s 8 Series with all the different cask finishes. We’re having to control all of these different casks and then watch what’s going to happen to them in their next cycle and with the flavour profile there. It’s exciting, but I think my predecessor would be shocked by what we’re doing now at Dewar’s. 

MoM: And how has the customer changed since you took over?

SM: The awareness of Scottish whisky and the knowledge of Scottish whisky has grown since even I have taken over the role in 2006. Especially in markets like China and Russia. Whereas before they would maybe be wedded to a particular brand of whisky – and probably that would be a blend in the past – but now their knowledge has come on leaps and bounds and now they’re exploring different malts. In the last 18 months with the pandemic, people also had more time on their hands, doing more research, reading more about whisky and asking more probing questions. 

MoM: Did you feel a huge responsibility working with a brand like Dewar’s White Label?

SM: I did feel the responsibility but I think when you’re younger you don’t really think about it. It’s just another part of your development. I think if I had thought about it too much I probably maybe wouldn’t have taken on the role. 

Stephanie Macleod, master blender at Dewar's

Stephanie Macleod, master blender at Dewar’s

MoM: Have you got some interesting cask finishes that you’re working on at the moment? 

SM: We’ve been looking at some experimental casks, different types and species of oak. Actually, different types of wood as well. Obviously, we can’t call it ‘a Scotch whisky’ when we do that, but we’re just seeing what it brings. What are the differences? It’s almost like ‘why should we use oak?’ 

MoM: If you had wonderful results with chestnut or acacia or something, would you ever consider lobbying the SWA to allow different types of wood?

SM: I don’t think we would actually. Because the whisky regulations are there to protect us from anyone that is trying to do something that is perhaps not to the benefit of Scottish whisky. But what we could do is release it as a spirit drink for people who are interested in whisky and the effects of maturation and the different types of wood. But there are some interesting colours as well that you get from these different types of wood that you don’t get from oak. Who knows what could happen in the future. Will oak always be in abundance or will we have to, as an industry, look to other species of wood? 

MoM: Talking of odd wood, could you tell us about the Dewar’s 8 Mizunara oak finish?

SM: It’s eye-wateringly expensive but they’re beautifully-made casks and I never worked with them before. And although you can look at what other people have done with Mizunara, it reacts differently depending on the whisky that it’s coming in contact with. They’re all made differently and they’re coming from different trees, different growing conditions, so you can’t really say ‘well, this brand tastes of this so ours will taste the same’. When we were trialling the casks, within a month we could see a change in the colour of the spirit and a change in the profile as well. So it was really interesting to observe those casks in action. We’d been told some horror stories about Mizunara – about how much they leak and they’re brittle. But the casks that we got were just exceptional and we didn’t have any of those problems. We’ll be rolling Mizunara out to other age expressions as well. 

The Nightcap

This 18 year old Aberfeldy was finished in barriques from Pauillac in Bordeaux

MoM; How do you go about getting casks for your limited edition Aberfeldy red wine editions and others? 

SM: We’ve got a very good cask supplier and she will send us a list of casks based on what we’re interested in, because we want them to be as fresh as possible; we don’t want them when they’ve been lying about and doing the rounds of different vineyards. They send the casks to us, we nose them, we’ll chuck out any that we don’t think are suitable because in this increasing temperatures that we’re seeing in France, sometimes the casks go off. When we nose the casks there’s just almost intuitively we think ‘this is going to go with our whisky’ and then it’s just a matter of sampling to ensure that that does happen. We’ve always got in mind when we want to release the casks for bottling but my caveat to our markets is always ‘well, if it’s not ready then I’m sorry but you can’t have it’ because there’s just no point in us releasing a Côte-Rôtie finish if it’s got no flavour or it’s completely the wrong flavour for Aberfeldy. So it really has to be a beautiful marriage – a real interaction of the two sets of flavour profiles. 

MoM: Do you think people are getting the message that Scotch whisky single malts can be used in cocktails or do you think there’s still a lot of resistance to that?

SM: People are accepting it with blends, but we’re certainly trying our hardest to show them what you can do with single malts. Aberfeldy distillery has been doing lots of take-home cocktails. Our Instagram accounts are always showcasing the honey-element in cocktails with Aberfeldy. Some people think they’re being disrespectful to the whisky by putting it in a cocktail but people are always saying to me ‘I just can’t get the hang of single malts, I’d really love to’. I say ‘well try it in a cocktail, experiment and have a bit of fun with it. I would hate for anyone to not want to try a whisky because they think they’re not drinking it in the right way. Probably the most common question that I get asked is ‘how should I drink Scotch whisky?’ and it’s just ‘drink it however you want to!’ 

MoM: And finally do you have a favourite cocktail?

SM: Well actually my favourite cocktail is probably a Negroni but that’s not a whisky cocktail. I love a Mamie Taylor, so that is whisky, ginger ale or ginger beer, with a squeeze of lime juice. All of my friends told me ‘I don’t like whisky’ and I said ‘well try this’ and they were converted. So if you like it a bit sweeter ginger beer but something more refreshing would be ginger ale. 

 

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Don’t overlook blended whisky

Love good quality Scotch but don’t want to spend too much on a bottle? Well, don’t overlook blended whisky, says Ian Buxton. From the big boys like Johnnie Walker and…

Love good quality Scotch but don’t want to spend too much on a bottle? Well, don’t overlook blended whisky, says Ian Buxton. From the big boys like Johnnie Walker and Dewar’s to scrappy upstarts like Blaze, quality has never been higher. 

I can’t say I feel all that sorry for whisky sales folk, but there is a small place in my heart for those trying to sell blended whiskies, especially in the UK. It can’t be much fun.

Though blends still make up almost nine out of every ten bottles of Scotch whisky sold around the world there can be no doubting the significance of single malts in the UK. They certainly dominate the conversation amongst whisky fans and receive arguably more than their fair share of the distillers’ marketing budgets and retailer’s shelves.

But while that makes the selling of blends all the harder, conversely it turns out that there are some relative bargains to be found lurking in plain sight, especially amongst premium blends. By that, I don’t mean ultra-expensive one-off releases such as Johnnie Walker’s recent Masters of Flavour 48 Years Old (a snip at £20,000) but those styles – often around 12 years old – that are just one jump up from the basic blend. They’re frequently both remarkably tasty and remarkably affordable as the different blenders seem to compete keenly around this point and deliver value with great flavour.

Stephanie Macleod, master blender at Dewar's

Stephanie Macleod, master blender at Dewar’s

You can find the perfect blend

For exhibit one consider Cutty Sark, once a popular call in UK and US cocktail bars for its light, bright flavour and great mixability. That still works well, and the recent change of ownership to France’s La Martiniquaise has seen the blend back on song but consider this – for a couple of quid you can trade up to the fuller flavour and markedly higher strength (50% ABV) of Cutty Sark Prohibition. It’s a lot more bang for your buck. Moreover, having recently tasted an advance sample, I can say with confidence that the new Cutty Sark 12 year old, soon to arrive in the UK, is a distinct step up from the standard bottle.

Or consider Dewar’s. If you can find them the Double Double range shows off the blending expertise of Stephanie Macleod that has brought her the acclaim of her peers (she has been awarded the title Master Blender of the Year a remarkable three years running by the International Whisky Competition). But her skills and Dewar’s deep stocks also show well in the 12 and 15 Years Old expressions. For the price of a couple of nips you can trade up from the regular style to the 12 Year Old and, frankly, you should.

Johnnie Walker highball collection

Buckers was bowled over by Black Label

Keep walking

I could and do say the same for Johnnie Walker. It’s not the best-selling Scotch whisky in the world for nothing but, in the froth surrounding single malts, it’s easy to forget just how good it is. And, if I’m not mistaken, how much better it has got in recent years. I had formed the view that I didn’t really care for the Johnnie Walker Black 12 Year Old version on the grounds that it was somewhat harsh and smoky. Well, it might have been once, but returning recently to taste the brand after some years I was bowled over by the balance, subtlety and complexity that it delivers – and all with change from thirty quid.

If none of these appeal then the only answer is to have a go yourself. The Master of Malt Blend Your Own Whisky option allows you to create your very own blend, altering the composition of the various components to your hearts’ content in the sure and certain knowledge that your blend will be bespoke and in all probability completely unique.

Blaze Scotch whisky

New kid on the block, Blaze Scotch whisky

Don’t overlook blended whisky

It might even be life-changing. Like 19 year old Diarmaid McCann from Inverkip (it’s on the Clyde just down the river from Gourock) you could go into business. Determined to take on the giants of the industry, he’s created his own blend Blaze Scotch Whisky which he markets via social media, especially TikTok. Emboldened by the sale of 250 bottles he’s dropped out of Edinburgh University with the ambition to create a blended malt brand “without the pretension or traditionalism of the industry that can unleash the full potential of each spirit” and, he claims, over the next decade “take on the titans of the spirits industry”.

Believing that social media marketing is in its infancy and aiming to create personal relationships with every buyer he poses the question “While everyone else focuses on how their bottle looks on the store shelf, we ask how does this look on Amazon? How does this come across on the TikTok FYP? Well, God loves a trier, so they say. According to his website, Blaze is “blended for cocktails, enjoyed by all mixed, [and] fantastic neat for the aficionados.” Best of all it’s £30 and there’s a guarantee of enjoyment or your money back. What could possibly go wrong?

And, at least, unlike some of the industry it sounds like he’s having fun.

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The Nightcap: 7 January

Why has Taiwan bought 20,000 bottles of rum? Have Bono and the Edge found what they’re looking for? And can you cure a hangover? We ask the big questions in…

Why has Taiwan bought 20,000 bottles of rum? Have Bono and the Edge found what they’re looking for? And can you cure a hangover? We ask the big questions in our first news round-up of the year. The Nightcap: 7 January 2022 has landed!

Hey folks, long time no see. We hope you had a lovely Christmas, a wonderful Chanukah, and a Happy New Year. We did too, thanks for asking, and are now looking forward to getting back into the swing of things. And what better way to do that than with a classic round-up of boozy news. Who’s ready to do some new year Nightcapping?

Since our last edition a fair amount has happened on the blog, so let’s run through it quickly. We made a list of our top ten favourite and most-read posts as well as our funniest stories from 2021. We also launched our famous Burns Night poetry competition and kicked off our Dry January coverage with a guide on how to do it the MoM way, as well as giving you a recipe for a delicious low-alcohol cocktail, some cracking options for which bottles to buy, and even a chance to win big. We also talked about terroir in rum, helped you find a new favourite dram, saw how New Zealand is getting on the whisky map, learned the story behind Fable whisky, and showed you which distilleries to keep an eye on in 2022.

Phew! Lots to catch up on. But for now let’s crack on with The Nightcap: 7 January edition!

The Nightcap: 7 January

These two from U2 have put some serious cash into the beer biz

Bono, the Edge, and Hozier invest in brewery

The Wicklow Wolf Craft Brewing Company has added some star power to its ranks. U2 stars Bono and the Edge, as well as fellow Irish musician Hozier, a part of a group of investors backing the craft brewery. Founded by Mountmellick native Quincey Fennelly and Simon Lynch in 2014, The Wicklow Wolf Craft Brewing Company has issued new shares for almost €2.4 million. Reports suggest Bono and the Edge put up €327,000 between them, and Wicklow native Hozier invested almost €110,000, while the largest investor was Zatrix Holdings, a company controlled by Mary Ann O’Brien, the founder of Irish chocolate maker Lily O’Brien’s. It’s not the first time the brewery has made headlines for big sums, with the company investing €4 million in a brewery in Newtown Mount Kennedy in 2019, the funding for which came from a €2 million equity raise. It’s good to see a company thriving in these difficult times, and hopefully Bono and the Edge have found what they’re looking for. We make no apologies.

The Nightcap: 7 January

We’ve all got our own methods, but let’s face it – none of them truly work

Hangover cures don’t work, say scientists 

On New Year’s Day, did you rub your aching head and reach for the ginseng? If so, we have bad news. According to the scientific journal Addiction (reported in UPI), there’s no evidence that so-called ‘hangover cures’ have any effect. Dr. Emmert Roberts and his team at King’s College London published a study based on over 20 trials of various products containing red ginseng, artichoke extract, prickly pear, and other popular hangover remedies. The doc commented: “Our study has found that evidence on these hangover remedies is of very low quality and there is a need to provide more rigorous assessment.” He continued: “For now, the surest way of preventing hangover symptoms is to abstain from alcohol or drink in moderation.” However, the study did not contain data on the effects of common painkillers like aspirin nor on that old standby, a can of ice-cold full fat Coca-Cola and a bacon sandwich. More research needed, we think.

The Nightcap: 7 January

Lithuanian rum, now very popular in Taiwan

Taiwan buys 20,000 bottles of Lithuania rum destined for China

Taiwan is sharing tips with the public on how to drink and cook with rum after it bought 20,400 bottles of Lithuanian rum bound for China. According to local media, Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor Corp (TTL) purchased the rum after learning that it could be blocked from entering China. It comes after Lithuania established a de facto embassy in Taiwan using the name ‘Taiwan’ rather than ‘Chinese Taipei’, the name preferred by the Chinese government (yes it’s a bit complicated, well worth reading this on the China-Taiwan relationship). In retaliation, China downgraded diplomatic relations with Lithuania days after. The state-owned TTL said it had been notified by Taiwan’s finance minister and head of the Taiwanese Representative Office of Lithuania (great job title mate) Eric Huang that a batch of rum could be up for grabs, as past shipments of beer had been blocked. Taiwan’s National Development Council later said in a post on Facebook that the rum “could not pass through Chinese customs” and has urged locals to buy rum at the end of January when the shipment would be on sale. Recipes that have been shared include ones for a Dark ‘n’ Stormy cocktail (classic), and rum-infused French toast (nice), steak (tell me more) and hot chocolate (all great ideas). Of course, we’ve got plenty of rum recipes ourselves if anyone wants any more inspiration. 

The Nightcap: 7 January

A Caribbean-infused Burns Night feast!

Dewar’s will deliver a Caribbean Burns Night feast 

Dewar’s has the perfect answer if you’re planning on celebrating Burns Night at home this year. The Scotch whisky brand has teamed up with creative consultant Mark Low, who also works with Mr Lyan Studio, and food delivery people All in a Box to deliver you a Burns Night supper with a twist. It’s not your standard haggis, neeps, and tatties fare, as it’s inspired by Dewar’s Caribbean Smooth so there’s a West Indian vibe about the whole thing. The box features haggis Scotch eggs, jerk chicken with neeps, tatties, and plantain mash, and an Irn-Bru-infused take on a Manhattan and a Cranachan-inspired Highball cocktail, all made with Caribbean Smooth, an eight-year-old Dewar’s finished in rum casks. It even comes with a special playlist, The Proclaimers covering Chaka Demus and Pliers, perhaps. Boxes cost £70 and you can order from 10 January (go here for more information) for an unforgettable Caribbean-infused Burns Night.

The Nightcap: 7 January

Drinks from the likes of Adnams, Big Drop and Lucky Saint are available

Alcohol-free off-licence comes to London

Can you imagine running down to the offie and finding out that they only have alcohol-free drinks? Surely a nightmare for some, but not for Laura Willoughby who is putting on a pop-up ‘off-license’ just off Regent Street in London with no alcoholic drinks whatsoever. Willoughby (MBE, no less) who runs Club Soda, an alcohol-free drinks site, commented: “More UK drinkers than ever are putting their health first by choosing low and no alcohol products. Substituting alcohol-free drinks for alcoholic ones is a tried-and-tested approach to cutting down or stopping drinking, and having good quality choices makes that easier.” Thankfully these days going without booze doesn’t mean going without flavour. There are over 70 brands on sale including Master of Malt favourites Everleaf and Lyre’s plus excellent zero and low ABV beers from Adnams, Big Drop, and Lucky Saint. So whether you’re doing Dry January, dry curious or just don’t drink alcohol, then head down to 59 Great Portland Street until 20 January. Deliciousness awaits. 

The Nightcap: 7 January

Your Dry January options have just increased

Bacardi releases non-alc spirit Palette

If you’re looking for non-alcoholic deliciousness, Bacardi may have the answer. It has collaborated with bartenders in Amsterdam on two spirit substitutes made with all natural flavours called Palette Roots and Palette Bold. Master of botanicals Alessandro Garneri and his team put cutting-edge technology and three different methods to good use to extract flavour. Of the two varieties, Roots is more your white spirit imitation, made with juniper berries, ginger, and the essential oils of nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon, while Bold mimics an aged spirit using the likes of American oakwood and gentian root. At the moment it’s on-trade only, the brand will launch in bars and restaurants across London including Lyaness, L’Escargot, and Christopher’s. Suggested serves include the Pink Clove which combines Roots with grapefruit soda, lime juice, and tonic, finished with a grapefruit garnish, or Bold Rush, made with Bold, lemon juice, agave syrup, and mint. “We’re calling time on sweet, tasteless ‘mocktails’,” says Marine Rozenfeld, innovation development lead for Bacardi Europe, Australia & New Zealand. “With the launch of Palette coming hot on the heels of our new Martini Non-Alcoholic Aperitivo with its groundbreaking quality and taste, we are definitely taking mindful drinking to new heights.” Exciting stuff, and right in time for Dry January. That was probably deliberate.

The Nightcap: 7 January

One of the finest Highballs in London

Swift Soho shows off swanky new menu

Did you know that Swift Soho, the award-winning bar and home of the Irish Coffee I think about at least once a week, has just turned five years old? Well, it has, and to celebrate the news the bar has put together a brand new menu: Legends. Inspired by famous drinkers throughout history and their favourite tipples, including drinks industry icons such as Dick Bradsell and his daughter Bea, Peter Dorelli and Salvatore Calabrese, historic figures like Van Gogh and Hemingway, up to present-day celebrities including Snoop Dogg and Sir Ian McKellen. The menu includes 19 fun and elegant cocktails, with new innovations as well as some classic Swift serves, all illustrated by hospitality industry artist Dan Collins, who has drawn a portrait of each of the famous faces and their respective inspired cocktails. We had the opportunity to try a couple and, typically, Swift did not disappoint. There’s a smoky Highball made with Port Charlotte 10 Year Old called the Hummingbird that is so drinkable I’d like to install a tap of it in my flat, while the Pisco Sour-inspired Shanghaied is spectacular. Right now we desperately need to support the hospitality industry, so if you need an excuse we can think of worse ones than sampling the Legends menu. Now I really fancy an Irish Coffee…

The Nightcap: 7 January

Farewell, fellow whisky lovers

And finally… monks expelled for drinking whisky at New Year

Three Buddhist monks were caught boozing at a temple in Thailand on New Year’s Day, claiming they were only drinking whisky to “deliver” the alcohol to ancestors. Police from the Mueang Kamphaengphet District Office at a temple in Kamphaengphet found the senior monks were violating the rules of monkhood after breathalyser tests confirmed suspicions. Local residents who had heard the monks drinking and partying tipped them off and the odour of alcohol was, according to the officers, very strong in the area when they entered the temple. Monk Arpat was the one who confessed, reportedly telling officials, “We don’t usually drink, only in festivals. We were drinking local rice whisky from local residents who wanted to give the spirits to their ancestors as a blessing. So we drank this whisky in order to deliver alcohol to those dead people. We were doing a good thing by blessing their ancestors and thought this would not violate the rules of being a monk.” As excuses go, it’s more creative than anything I’ve ever come up with. Unfortunately, it didn’t wash with the authorities and all three monks were expelled from the monkhood for breaking one of the major rules of conduct for Buddhist Monks in Thailand. If you think they’re bad, just wait till you see the amount of sherry Irish nuns put away at Christmas. Igniting the pudding is a high-risk endeavour. 

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The Nightcap: 13 August

Jameson adds some more flavour to its range, Código 1530 releases one of the most expensive Tequilas in the world, and there’s bubbly panic among the NYC elite. The Nightcap…

Jameson adds some more flavour to its range, Código 1530 releases one of the most expensive Tequilas in the world, and there’s bubbly panic among the NYC elite. The Nightcap returns!

It’s Friday! This is very good news. But it’s also Friday the 13th, which is less so. Bad luck, you see. If you’re not familiar with this, according to Western superstition every Friday that falls on the 13th of a month is considered a cursed day. Why? All kinds of nonsense reasons. It’s a superstition. Black cats are considered evil too. And that can’t be right. Because cats are excellent. We all know this. Still, if you are wary of the dreaded day, then perhaps you’ll enjoy the safe and familiar ramblings of The Nightcap. No harm can come to you just reading a boozy blog… right? 

The MoM blog was home to all kinds of wonderful content once again, like Ian Buxton’s review of the intriguing new book Drunk by Edward Slingerland, or the journey through shochu our in-house educator Richard Legg’s took us on, or Millie’s look at the seven new international bars that are giving us the travel bug. Elsewhere, Henry enjoyed a rare Balvenie, the simple pleasures of the Highball and an outrageously old Port, while Adam recommended some interesting cask-finished whiskies and celebrated a drinks brand making a difference on World Elephant Day. Oh, and we’re hiring if anyone fancies working for the greatest company in the world. We have t-shirts (sometimes). 

Now on with the Nightcap: 13 August edition!

The Nightcap: 13 August

Look! It’s Jameson Orange. Just like actual Jameson. But with orange.

Jameson introduces orange whiskey

The world’s biggest Irish whiskey is introducing a new flavoured bottling Jameson Orange (at 30%), which combines Irish Distillers’ classic expression with natural orange flavouring. The intention was to make a modern, low sugar and still whiskey-focused twist that exploits the popularity of flavoured whiskeys and spirits as well as building on the success of Jameson Cold Brew. “The concept behind Jameson Orange was to create a product which would appeal to a growing audience of flavoured spirits fans, that draws on the quality and integrity of our award-winning triple distilled Irish whiskey,” says Brendan Buckley, international marketing director at Irish Distillers. “Jameson Orange’s flavours are inspired by a classic whiskey cocktail, and we’re confident that this focus on taste and quality will appeal to a broad audience of whiskey fans, bartenders, and curious spirit drinkers.” Jameson Orange will be on its way to MoM Towers soon, while a second flavour variant, Jameson Lime & Ginger, inspired by the signature Jameson serve, will follow soon after. 

The Nightcap: 13 August

At $3,300 a bottle, this is one of the most pricey Tequilas we’ve ever seen

Código 1530 releases one of the most expensive Tequilas in the world

Código 1530 is no stranger to extravagant Tequilas (check out this Extra Añejo!), but the brand has really outdone itself with its latest expression. The new release has a price tag of $3,300 a bottle, making it one of the most expensive Tequilas on the market. And with only 350 bottles of the spirit available, it’s also one of the rarest. Why is it so special? Well for a start it’s a 13-year-old extra añejo Tequila, which is remarkably old. Most añejos on the market are matured for one-to-three years and the aforementioned Extra Añejo spent six years in cask, which would typically be seen as a huge amount of time. This bottling, however, blows it out of the water. Plus, it was finished for six months in a Cognac cask, which again is not common and certainly not the cheapest way to mature your Tequila. Federico Vaughan summarised the bottling by saying “our 13-year Añejo is in its own category”. It was bottled with no other sugars, colours or flavourings, and the tasting notes tell us to expect sweet vanilla with cocoa powder and cinnamon, followed by earthy peat and exotic spices. Bottles will be available through Código 1530’s website but it’s a shame so few will get to taste it. That’s the world of rare and pricey booze for you. You can at least head to the distillery page and pick up another Añejo to get an idea of what you’re missing.

The Nightcap: 13 August

Max Macfarlane’s expertise will be put to good use in the new venture

Distil invests £5m into new Ardgowan Distillery 

Distil UK (not to be confused with Distell) has announced that it will be investing up to £5m into the new eco-friendly Ardgowan Distillery in Inverkip, Scotland, which hopes to be producing spirit in 2023, as well as welcoming tourists. The owner of premium drinks brands including RedLeg Spiced Rum, Blackwoods Gin, and newly launched TRØVE Botanical Spirit, will provide an initial tranche of £3m, with the potential of an additional loan of up to £2m to follow. The investment will see Distil build a permanent home for Blackwoods Scottish Gin on the site, including stills, a gin school, and visitor centre, while the company will also gain access to Ardgowan’s master whisky maker, Max Macfarlane (formerly of Highland Park, Glengoyne, Bunnahabhain, and Tamdhu fame), to develop a separate Distil blended malt whisky brand yet to be revealed. Martin McAdam, CEO Ardgowan Distillery, says “We welcome this investment and are excited that Distil has chosen Ardgowan as the home for Blackwoods Gin. The Distil team is knowledgeable, passionate and very much aligned with our vision for the project. We welcome their investment and look forward to working together in an ongoing partnership to help both sides achieve ambitious goals.”

The Nightcap: 13 August

We’re impressed by what we’ve seen from Torabhaig so far

Torabhaig Distillery releases second single malt

Torabhaig Distillery is all set to release the second expression from its Legacy Series of single malt Scotch whiskies. Following the sold-out success of the first ever expression from Torabhaig Distillery in February this year, Legacy Series 2017, the second expression of Torabhaig single malt will be Allt Gleann – The Legacy Series. Named after the burn (stream) that flows down the side of the distillery in Teangue on the Isle of Skye, this eagerly-awaited release will be bottled in small batches at 46%, and drawn from no more than 30 casks. Allt Gleann is the second of four expressions to be released under the Torabhaig Legacy Series, which will chart the process of developing the style and character of the eventual core bottling, Torabhaig Single Malt Whisky 10 Year Old, due to be released in 2028. For those who missed out on the first expression, Allt Gleann will be released in larger quantities, in four separate batches throughout 2021 and 2022. Neil Mathieson, chief executive at Mossburn Distillers, told us after the first launch that the “next two releases are looking like they will be heavier in peat” and that’s certainly the case with this one, which is more robust and full-bodied than the first expression. The fruity new make character is still present too, and it’s another promising dram that suggests this is a distillery worth keeping an eye on.

The Nightcap: 13 August

The first round is on the good folk of Inverness it seems!

How cheap is your city’s pint? Study reveals all

Holidu.co.uk has released a study about the price of beer in a number of UK cities and popular holiday destinations for Brits. Inspired by the desire to give travellers as much information as possible, the search engine for holiday rentals set out to establish how much a pint of beer costs at home and abroad. It compared beer prices in top rated UK pubs, capturing both ends of the UK market by studying the price of beer in top-rated pubs and Wetherspoons pubs to give insight into how much a tourist is likely to pay compared to a local. To view the results and full methodology of the study just here, but these are the headlines: London is really expensive. Shocking. In fact, the top three most expensive are London (£4.50), Edinburgh (£4.40) and Birmingham (£4.40), which is pretty much what you’d expect. On average, the cheapest place to buy a pint of beer in the UK is Inverness (£3.10), followed by Swansea (£3.60) and Glasgow (£3.70). Book your staycations accordingly. Of course, if you did want to venture abroad, avoid Dubai (£10.00) or Sydney (£6.50) and instead head to Krakow (£1.30) or Bali (£1.60), as the study worked out the cost in the top 50 tourist destinations for Brits as well. So, assuming you’re basing holiday destinations on beer prices, you’re now good to go. Which is what we all do. Right? 

The Nightcap: 13 August

Can this combo fail? No. No it cannot.

Dewar’s Highballs and Truffle burgers? Yes, please!

If there’s two things we love at Master of Malt, they are Highballs and burgers. So as you can imagine we were pretty excited to hear about a partnership between Dewar’s and fancy London burger joint Truffle. The special Dewar’s X Truffle London menu runs from 19-21 August at Truffle London Soho (go here to book). It features delicious Highballs created by Mark Low from Mr Lyan Studio using Dewar’s new Caribbean Smooth and Ilegal Smooth whiskies, alongside delicious meaty hamburgers. For example, a Dewar’s Ilegal Smooth Highball, made with Ilegal mezcal cask whisky, St-Germain Elderflower liqueur and soda, goes with Truffle London classic burger, “a classic beef & smoked bacon patty in a brioche bun, topped with sweet fig jam, crispy onions, gooey raclette cheese and smothered in their favourite truffle mayonnaise”, according to the press release. Isn’t your mouth watering just thinking about this? But what’s even better is prices start from £10 for a burger and a Highball. We are so there. 

The Nightcap: 13 August

Get your tickets now!

Pergola Paddington to host Oktoberfest celebration: Wunderbar!

Who’s in need of a good horn-blaring, stein-sloshing Bavarian knees up? Everyone? Great, because West London’s largest alfresco drinking and dining destination will be transformed into a beer hall reminiscent of those on the Theresienwiese in Munich, serving up real German beers, delicious Bavarian food, and a hearty helping of ‘Gemütlichkeit’ in celebration of Oktoberfest. Tonight (well, for six weeks), Matthew, Pergola Paddington will be Wunderbar, a spin on the traditional festival. Expect live DJ sets, a Bavarian Oom-pah band, ‘Wunderbrunch’ bottomless brunches, gingerbread house building, a ‘Pink’ LGBT+ Oktoberfest party, as well as the chance to be crowned Beer King & Queen of Wunderbar, with a prize of free beer for a year. Pergola Paddington has even teamed up with Camden Town Brewery to create an exclusive Oktoberfest Lager which will only be available at Wunderbar for a limited time only. Wunderbar will run from 18 September – 31 October. Tickets, which start from £10 and include a stein of beer or a beer cocktail, are now available here. It’s recommended you book in advance, particularly as we might do a big MoM office outing…  Now, where are my lederhosen?

The Nightcap: 13 August

Congratulations to you, Lorenza!

Lorenza Pezzetta takes over at the Artesian 

It’s all go in London’s most prestigious hotel bars. Last week the American Bar at The Savoy announced a new head bartender, an actual American, Shannon Tebay. Now the much-garlanded Artesian Bar at the Langham has a new lady in charge, Lorenza Pezzetta. She joins the Artesian, consistently in World’s 50 Best, from a spell working in private members clubs including the legendary Annabel’s. Originally from Italy, she has worked at Cipriani Downtown Ibiza, The Berkeley, and The Connaught Bar before taking the role of bar manager at Artesian. “It is such an honour to be joining the team at Artesian, not only an iconic bar but part of Langham Hotels & Resorts, a hospitality brand I have always admired. Artesian is the perfect place for me to home in on my experience and bring the knowledge I have acquired whilst working at London’s most prestigious private members clubs and five-star establishments. It’s quite easy to see why the bar is beloved by all, it’s a privilege to be a part of such an incredible team, to be part of Artesian’s next chapter and most importantly to welcome guests back in!”, she commented.

The Nightcap: 13 August

The sun sets on a troubled Hampton Beach. You’re in our thoughts and prayers.

And finally… Panic among NYC elite as Hamptons runs out of Champagne 

The Hamptons are the playground for New York’s elite. Think Saint Tropez, Ibiza and Southwold all rolled into one. But there’s panic on the immaculate beaches because there’s a shortage of Champagne. Yes, according to The New York Post, desperate millionaires and billionaires are having to make do with Prosecco or even cava! Ian Duke from Southampton Social Club said: “The most popular nightclub items —  the high-end champagnes from Moet Chandon or Dom Perignon —  can’t be found.” How are people meant to live without such staples? Another club owner Zach Erdem is using his private plane to fly in Champagne for his wife’s birthday party. Inevitably, some are blaming Covid but this isn’t the first wine shortage to hit the Hamptons, those with long memories will remember the two Great Rosé Crises of 2012 and 2014. America’s elite is nothing if not resilient, however. They pulled through then, and they’ll pull through again. 

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A day in the life of a whisky archivist

From finding 19th century distillery plans in a bin bag to inspiring new product development, the job of a whisky archivist is never dull, finds Lucy Britner. Ever wondered what…

From finding 19th century distillery plans in a bin bag to inspiring new product development, the job of a whisky archivist is never dull, finds Lucy Britner.

Ever wondered what a whisky archivist does all day? It’s easy to think of them as static and white-gloved, poring over fusty old books in a library. And while this might sometimes be the case, the consensus from archivists at Diageo, Bacardi and Chivas Brothers is that there is much more to it.

Delving into the Diageo archive

“There is no typical day-to-day,” says Diageo archivist Jo McKerchar, who has been with the company for 15 years. The archive, in Menstrie in central Scotland, holds the records for Diageo-owned brands – from company meeting minutes to recipes – and it dates back to the 1760s. As well as photos, films, old ads and packages, the archive also holds bottles going back to 1880 in what McKerchar calls the “largest spirits archive in the world”.

She says her work ranges from education sessions and helping the innovation team, to sense checking labels and working with the legal department to research trademarks. And for the past few years, she has been delving into the history of the soon-to-be-reopened Brora distillery.

In fact, McKerchar tells a great story about visiting the Brora site, shortly after she was informed of Diageo’s plans to reawaken the facility. “We were looking around and saw some bin bags in a loft space, so I opened them up and found Charles Doig plans from the 1890s,” she says. “I thought, ‘I better take them with me!’.” (Doig was an important architect in the whisky world, famous for the pagoda-like ventilators on his distilleries.)

“We also have the ledger from 1983, from the last time Brora was operational,” she says. “There’s graffiti in the back and notes between shifts, like if someone was off on holiday. Then it just stops and there are blank pages  – it’s quite emotive.”

Part of McKerchar’s job involves looking at these old plans and records to help ensure the next incarnation of the distillery remains true to its past.

Jacqui Seargeant

Jacqui Seargeant who works with the rich Dewar’s archive

Drams of future past

And while preserving the past is important, archivists play a big part in inspiring the future.

“We spend a lot of time working with our marketing teams or packaging designers, to find the things that might inspire a new product, a label, or a bottle shape,” says Jacqui Seargeant, global heritage manager & whiskies archivist at Bacardi. “One of the most exciting things for us is to see a bit of history brought back to life, but with a modern twist.” She gives the example of the Dewar’s White Label bottle which includes the founder’s signature taken from an old financial document from 1860.

In Strathisla, Chivas Brothers archivist Chris Brousseau shows off a lineup of Chivas Regal bottles dating back to 1909. “Design agencies come to the archive for inspiration, it’s not just a case of them improving on the most recent bottle, they can see the key parts of that brand going back more than a hundred years.”

Which brings us to an important question: Is it the archivists that inspire new products or does the marketing department ask for authentication on an existing idea?

“It can happen both ways,” says Seargeant. “We share our fun discoveries that we think may be useful, as well as presenting stories and themes from our history to groups within the company. The marketing team can be inspired by something random and unexpected, and they do also come to us for ideas when they are developing their packaging for a specific product or creating something new.”

Tommy Dewar Highball

Tommy Dewar invented the Highball, apparently

Highballs and pistols

She gives the example of a random discovery that led to a campaign around the whisky highball serve. “I discovered during some research that one of the founders, Tommy Dewar, had invented the Highball cocktail back in the 1890s, and our company even trademarked the words,” she says. “The Highball has ever since been a hugely popular Scotch whisky serve, and the marketing team were able to use the personal brand story to give us ownership of the highball serve, so it wasn’t just ‘another’ Highball.”

At Chivas, Brousseau points to the recent The Glenlivet Illicit Still release. “The marketing team wanted to do a series of limited editions based on original stories for The Glenlivet,” he explains. “Se we started looking at the history and thought about starting before distilling at The Glenlivet was legal. We came up with the concept of The Illicit Still – we knew [founder] George Smith was distilling before he got his licence in 1824. And part of the archive is being able to tell the story of illicit distilling in the 1820s and about the smugglers trails – all stories that can be used for the copy and the packaging.”

Brousseau also has a bottle of The Glenlivet, distilled in 1898 and bottled in 1925. He says it’s the oldest branded bottle of The Glenlivet. “We were able to use the colour and general shape of the bottle and even the same abv – 48% in this case – to inspire Illicit Still.”

And according to Brousseau, we can expect another expression from the limited-edition series “shortly”.

The actual pistols belonging to George Smith of Glenlivet

The actual pistols belonging to George Smith of Glenlivet

Weird and wonderful

As we chat about The Glenlivet, the story of George Smith becoming a legal distiller throws up the subject of weird and wonderful things that end up in the archive. “These are George Smith’s pistols,” says Brousseau. “When he became the first legal distiller, the laird of Aberlour gave him these hair trigger pistols to protect himself because his neighbours had threatened to burn down the distillery with him in it.”

At Diageo, McKerchar’s collection of weird and wonderful things includes a great photo of Carsebridge, when women stepped in to run the distillery during world war one. “They all look so serious!” she says.

“I also love the old dramming stories,” adds McKerchar. “There’s a great one about using salad cream bottles to get whisky out of the barrels – apparently they are a good size for bung holes.”  

For Bacardi’s Seargeant, the most bizarre find may be an 1897 patent for branding the tyres of bicycles and cart wheels with ‘John Dewar & Sons’, so that the company name would be imprinted on the streets. “We don’t know if it was ever used, but I know our marketing team would like to try that!” she says. 

These are just some of the stories that help make the Scotch whisky industry so fascinating. And Seargeant points out that the development of the Scotch whisky industry is very much a story of the development of Scotland.

“Our archives act as corporate and cultural memories, the original records can bring to life a world which disappeared long before any of us were born,” she says.

And no doubt these archives will remain long after we’re gone.

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Rock of ages: can maturation be fast forwarded?

This week Ian Buxton applies his boozy magnifying glass on maturation and asks if it can ever be manipulated or accelerated to produce a quality spirit. I found myself recently…

This week Ian Buxton applies his boozy magnifying glass on maturation and asks if it can ever be manipulated or accelerated to produce a quality spirit.

I found myself recently considering the question of ageing.  Probably because it was my birthday (yes, fine, thanks for asking) but it did bring a few things into focus. For example, will the challenge of accelerated maturation in spirits ever be fully cracked – and, if so, will the consumer accept it? Speeding up the ageing process in spirits (unlike in writers, where it seems to accelerate naturally) has long been something of the Holy Grail for some drinks companies. 

After all, if you could manufacture the same taste profile from a six-month-old spirit as one that has spent ten years waiting in cask there would be undoubted benefits. Just think of the saving in casks and warehouses. Imagine the additional profits. Why you might even be able to offer lower retail prices (now things are getting fanciful).

But people have been trying for over a hundred years or more. Shortly before the Tullymet distillery in Perthshire was closed in 1911, the owners John Dewar & Sons, then independent and family-owned, engaged “an eminent analytical chemist” to experiment with artificial maturation. It was reported that “he brought elaborate appliances from London and with our permission and the sanction of the Excise he toiled week after week with his alembics and retorts”. 

can maturation be fast forwarded

We employ various techniques already to enhance barrel maturation, but can we accelerate the process?

However, the trials ended in failure: though the boffin “brought his sample in triumph” to Dewar’s Perth HQ the company found it “nothing but an anaemic and emasculated fluid, with a taste resembling Chinese samshoo”. Perhaps they should have stuck at it, as today baijiu distiller Kweichow Moutai is the world’s most valuable drinks company, far exceeding the stock market worth of Diageo. 

More recently, there have been other efforts.  In the USA, hip bourbon distillers Hudson trailed blasting rap music at selected casks to promote ‘sonic ageing’, the theory being that vibration increases the wood/spirit interaction. In July 2008 it was reported that Diageo was wrapping casks in plastic film. A spokesman responded drily that “At this stage, the technologies under trial are not proven and we are continuing our research.”  Since then, whatever they were up to (and reports vary) it evidently didn’t work or demonstrated what it was they wanted to show. Either way, the trials have been quietly dropped.

Elsewhere, distillers have experimented with the freeze distillation of spirit, though this appears to have been more about getting very old casks that had fallen below 40% ABV, and thus couldn’t be sold as Scotch whisky, back up to a legal strength. The value that might have been recovered is extraordinary given today’s price of really old whisky but whether or not this perfectly scientifically-sound technique would have met the SWA’s ‘traditional production methods’ standard might have been an interesting debate. 

can maturation be fast forwarded

Bourbon distillers Hudson previously experimented with ‘sonic ageing’

Over in California, the folks at the Lost Spirits ‘skunkworks’ in Los Angeles has employed its THEA One Reactor (Targeted Hyper-Esterification Ageing) to create remarkable peated whiskies and navy-style rums. I’ve tasted these and in my book 101 Rums to Try Before You Die concluded that “though logic tells you that six days in a Star Trek-style ‘reactor’ cannot possibly deliver the flavours of traditional ageing, your nose and palate tell you otherwise”.  So, good then.

 

‘which they suggest may be compared to a leading’

Now yet another group are addressing this timeless challenge with what they are terming ‘accelerated beverage maturation technology’. The little-known and curiously anonymous NobleAB has produced samples of a ‘peated Speyside’, which the company perhaps optimistically suggests can be compared to a leading 10 years old Islay single malt, and a Lowland and an Indian Spirit, all oak matured with its ‘unique’ process. This its describes as “a substantial amount of wood science with specially prepared oaks for targeted maturation”. 

I know little more. Though there is a domain name for NobleAB dating from August 2017 there is no active web site and the CEO’s business card does not carry a physical address.  He’s one Stefan Laux. According to his LinkedIn profile, he spent some seven years with Rémy Cointreau leaving in 2004 (long before they acquired the Bruichladdich and Westland distilleries, and many years after they had sold Glenturret). Subsequently, Laux has moved quickly through a bewildering number of posts: we find him variously in Italy, Poland (in several roles), Tunisia, the USA, Switzerland and Hungary.

can maturation be fast forwarded

We want to know what you think – can maturation be sped up?

It’s all very mystifying. Will this prove a crock of gold, or a crock of something less pleasant?  Some samples have reached me by a strange and circuitous route and I may return to this topic if I have news. But I’m interested in your views – feel free to comment below with your thoughts on fast-forwarded whisky.

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The Nightcap: 3 July

It’s a bumper week for The Nightcap, with stories about The Macallan, Diageo, competition winners, the artist formerly known as Plantation rum and a new Swift bar. Lovely stuff. It’s…

It’s a bumper week for The Nightcap, with stories about The Macallan, Diageo, competition winners, the artist formerly known as Plantation rum and a new Swift bar. Lovely stuff.

It’s been another busy week and a whole heap of boozy news has occurred. With so many stories floating around it can be hard to keep up. It’s not as if you have some kind of contraption to corral it up into one place to hand, like a big booze news net or one of those massive gloves they have in that American sport with the baseball hats. Lucky for you, we’ve got just the thing. Our delightful round-up of all the drinks industry happenings from the last seven days – it’s The Nightcap!

On the MoM blog this week Kristy recalled her trip to Texas distillery Balcones as our exclusive Balcones Barrel Pick landed at MoM Towers, Adam spoke to John Quinn about the journey to restore Tullamore D.E.W Distillery and Jess broke down why garnishes are so great with the help of some industry experts. Annie then shone our MoM-branded spotlight on Cornwall’s first distillery and then had some advice on how you can upgrade your BBQ beverages, while Henry asks what it takes for a Cognac to be singled out for the vintage treatment while enjoying a new Frapin expression, made one of the world’s most delicious cocktails the way it should be made and celebrated some of our favourite places in London to drink whisky.

For the very last time, we’d like to thank all of you who entered last week’s virtual pub quiz. It’s been a pleasure teasing you with all kinds of weird and wonderful boozy trivia and hopefully, you all had fun. Thomas Knockaert certainly enjoyed himself, as he has the distinction of being the final winner! You can check out the answers to the last quiz (*sob*) below.

The Nightcap

The rum formerly known as Plantation

Maison Ferrand rename Plantation Rum brand 

Plantation Rum announced this week that its brand name will change. While we don’t know what the new name will be yet, we do know that its production methods and the liquid inside the bottle will remain the same. It’s also clear that the move was prompted by the global protests for social justice and racial equality spearheaded by the Black Lives Matter movement. “As the dialogue on racial equality continues globally, we understand the hurtful connotation the word plantation can evoke to some people, especially in its association with much graver images and dark realities of the past,” says Alexandre Gabriel, Plantation Rum master blender. “We look to grow in our understanding of these difficult issues and while we don’t currently have all the details of what our brand name evolution will involve, we want to let everyone know that we are working to make fitting changes.” Global brand manager Stephanie Simbo added that the rum brand “wants to be on the side of actions and solutions”. This case is a reminder of rum’s complex history and the fact that it is inextricably linked to slavery. But this is so rarely acknowledged, which is why we think this is great news and a meaningful step in the right direction.

The Nightcap

The full Double Cask range. It’s a beautiful sight.

The Macallan adds to Double Cask range

The Macallan has bolstered its Double Cask range with two new aged expressions, the Double Cask 15 Years Old and Double Cask 18 Years Old. The former is said to impart aromas of dried fruit, toffee and vanilla, and delivers a warming finish with a creamy mouthfeel, while the latter is said to be filled with notes of dried fruits, ginger, toffee and a warm oak spice finish that’s balanced by sweet orange. Fans of the distillery will remember The Macallan Double Cask 12 Years Old was first introduced in 2016 as part of a series that celebrates the union of American and European oak sherry-seasoned casks. The Speyside distillery sources its European oak in northern Spain and the French Pyrenees, and American oak from Ohio, Missouri and Kentucky. Both types are transported to Spain, where they are made into casks, seasoned with sherry and then shipped to The Macallan Estate where they are filled. “Bringing together American and European oak sherry-seasoned casks to achieve the perfect balance of flavours is incredibly exciting for the whisky mastery team, and we are proud to offer two new expressions to this distinctive range for The Macallan Double Cask fans to explore,” says Kirsteen Campbell, master whisky maker of The Macallan. “Oak influence is the single greatest contributor to the quality, natural colour and distinctive aromas and flavours at the heart of The Macallan’s single malts.”

The Nightcap

Each expression is the ‘first and last of its kind’, according to Diageo.

Diageo launches Prima & Ultima and plans carbon-neutral distillery in Kentucky

Diageo has had a busy week! First up is its shiny new whisky alert, announcing the launch of a very luxurious set of single malts, named Prima & Ultima. The first and last. Because each is the ‘first and last of its kind’, according to the press release. See what they did there? There are eight cask strength whiskies in the series selected by none other than Dr Jim Beveridge OBE. “Each of the eight whiskies I’ve selected for Prima & Ultima tells a tale of heritage and craftsmanship and I’ve chosen them from distillers of great personal importance to me,” says Dr Beveridge. You’ll find whisky from Cragganmore, Lagavulin, Mortlach, Port Ellen, Clynelish, Caol Ila, Talisker, and The Singleton of Dufftown, and each bottling marks a significant period of whisky-making for its distillery, with each one accompanied by a limited edition book of personal stories from Dr Beveridge himself, along with a 20ml sample. If you have a spare £20,000 you can get your hands on the entire set, though you’ll have to register first (which opens on 22 July). There are only 238 sets though, so better be snappy! 

 

The other big news is physically much bigger, because Diageo has revealed its plans to construct Bulleit Bourbon brand’s new Kentucky whiskey distillery, and it’s going to be carbon neutral! It’ll run on 100% renewable electricity (even the on site vehicles), using electrode boilers and a combination of renewable energy sources. It’s costing a cool $130 million and is set to be up and running by 2021, with the capacity to produce just over 34 million litres each year. Get ready to say hello to one of the largest carbon-neutral distilleries in North America!

The Nightcap

Congratulations to you, Stephanie Macleod!

International Whisky Competition 2020 winners announced

The results are in. The 11th edition of the International Whisky Competition whiskies has concluded after drams from around the world were judged side by side at the event in Estes Park, Colorado from 10-14 June. The top recognition, Whisky of the Year, was awarded to John Dewar and Sons – Double Double 32 Year Old (Blended Scotch), which scored 96.4 points, the highest-scoring whisky of the competition. This meant Stephanie Macleod, the brand’s master blender, became the first woman to win this prize and it was also the second year running that Macleod has won the accolade of Master Blender Of The Year, after she made history in 2019 as the first woman to win the award. John Dewar and Sons also won the Golden Barrel Trophy. “At Dewar’s we aim to push the boundaries of what is expected from the whisky category and have a long-standing commitment to innovation, so we are delighted with our success in the 2020 competition and it is an honour to be named Master Blender of the Year,” says Macleod. “I accept this award on behalf of the whole team at Dewar’s who have shown relentless hard work and dedication to achieving the very best quality and taste for our beautifully crafted whisky, despite the challenges this year has held. It is incredibly rewarding indeed to see these efforts appreciated.” Other winners were Glenmorangie’s Dr Bill Lumsden who won Master Distiller of the Year, while Ardbeg won Distillery of the Year. You can check out the full list here.

The Nightcap

How Soho may look as it goes pedestrian-only in the evenings this summer.

Soho gets a pedestrian makeover

As Britain wakes up from its lockdown slumber, bars, pubs and restaurants have been working out how to reopen safety. Westminster Council has hit on a great way to help, pedestrianise Soho. So this summer from 5pm to 11pm, London’s original nightlife capital will be out of bounds to motor vehicles as part of the new Summer Street Festival. The pedestrian-only area covers Dean Street, Frith Street, Greek Street and Old Compton Street (map including street closure timings and details can be found here.) We spoke with Simo from Milroy’s yesterday about his plans for reopening which includes 16 tables outside the whisky shop on Greek Street. Other famous venues due to reopen include Cafe Boheme, Dean Street Townhouse, and Bar Italia. Many places are also offering incentives to visit such as one free drink with dinner bookings and discounts for NHS workers. The best thing is, that if this experiment is judged a success, then there’s potential for full or part pedestrianisation to become permanent. So no more diesel fumes in your al fresco cocktail.

The Nightcap

We can’t wait to have those delicious Irish coffees at the new venue…

Swift to open all-day venue in Shoreditch 

Swift, you are really spoiling us! Not only will the award-winning Old Compton Street institution be opening again on Saturday 4 July but the couple behind it, Mia Johansson and husband Bobby Hiddleston, have announced a new location to open at the end of the month. Located on Great Eastern Street in Shoreditch, it will serve from 8am during the week and 11am on weekends, offering breakfast, coffee etc. alongside the sort of cocktails that made the original Swift such a destination (though not at 8am presumably.) The team issued a statement saying: “Whilst we’re all still in uncertain times and have a long road ahead of us on our way to recovery, we have faith in the British public’s love of coming together for great food and drink and are hopeful that London’s world-class cocktail scene will rebuild itself to come back stronger than ever. Sticking to our plan to open our second site is just the embodiment of our faith in this and we are so excited to start hosting guests again.” A bit of optimism, that’s what we like to hear. 

The Nightcap

Gordon & MacPhail has gone for the classic Teletubbies look with its new distillery

Gordon & MacPhail distillery gets the green light

Gordon and MacPhail (G&M) is edging ever closer to having a shiny new multi-million-pound distillery near Grantown. The whisky distiller and bottler has given the contractors, Morrison Construction, the green light to begin contruction at the site on the banks of the River Spey in Craggan in Scotland’s Cairngorm National Park. The facility will be the first new malt whisky distillery to be built in the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) area since its creation in 2003. The building was supposed to be already well underway by now, but because of Covid-19 crisis restrictions, the project had to be pushed back. The distillery, which G&M has said will become a “significant local employer,” will have the capacity to produce around 440,000 gallons of whisky a year. Forsyths of Rothes will supply and install the distilling equipment, while the visitor centre, tasting rooms, retail space and coffee shop are projected to attract 50,000 tourists annually. “These appointments are the next major milestone in delivering this long-term project for the company. We look forward to working with these established businesses who are both highly experienced in their own field,” says Ewen Mackintosh, managing director of Elgin-based G&M. “We’ve been really heartened by the warm welcome we have received locally. As a family-owned business located in the north of Scotland, we are very much rooted in our communities, and we are keen to develop strong relationships in Grantown and the surrounding area.”

The Nightcap

Why pour beer down the drain when you can feed it to cattle?

And finally. . . .  Wimbledon Brewery feeds cows with beer

Some of the most heartbreaking stories to come out of lockdown were about pubs having to pour beer that was going out of date down the drain. Oh, the humanity! When Wimbledon Brewery found itself with a lot of unsaleable beer destined for pubs, however, someone had a brainwave: why not feed it to cows? And not just any cows, the excess stock went to the beer-loving cattle at Trenchmore Wagyu Beef Farm in Sussex. The beer helps make Wagyu the tenderest and sweetest-tasting beef on the planet. In return, the brewery will receive its very own Wagyu burgers. This is not the only way the brewery has adapted. According to founder Mark Gordon, the company lost 90% of business when the hospitality industry closed but managed to survive by concentrating on “local home deliveries and increased sales to supermarkets and bottle shops. This went from a very low base to the equivalent of 80% of our pre-lockdown turnover.” He went on to say: “Soon after the lockdown was announced, we initially closed the brewery but quickly took the decision to reopen because beer can be very good for morale.” It certainly is, and that reminds us, it’s probably time for beer. Have a great weekend everyone!

The Nightcap

Pub Quiz Answers

1) In ‘Diary of a Nobody’, what brand of Champagne does Charles Pooter order from his local shop?

Answer: Jackson Freres

2) What’s the nearest single malt distillery to Edinburgh?

Answer: Holyrood

3) What’s the name of the famous copperworks at Rothes?

Answer: Forsyths

4) Who invented the spirit safe?

Answer: Septimus Fox

5) Which brand of whisky does Karen Hill (Lorraine Bracco) smuggle into prison for her husband (Ray Liotta) in ‘Goodfellas’?

Answer: J&B

6) Which cocktail was supposedly named after Zelda Fitzgerald?

Answer: White Lady

7) In the Jeeves & Wooster stories, what is the “secret” ingredient of the former’s hangover remedy?

Answer: Worcestershire Sauce

8) Which gin does Amy Whitehouse mention in the song ‘You Know I’m No Good’?

Answer: Tanqueray

9) Bernard de Voto’s book ‘The Hour’ is a paean to which cocktail?

Answer: Martini

10) In which of Shakespeare’s history plays is one of the characters drowned in a barrel of Malmsey wine?

Answer: Richard III

 

19 Comments on The Nightcap: 3 July

The Nightcap: 6 March

If it’s booze news in bite-sized pieces you’re looking for, you have done very well indeed in finding The Nightcap, because that’s what it’s all about! We’ve recovered from our…

If it’s booze news in bite-sized pieces you’re looking for, you have done very well indeed in finding The Nightcap, because that’s what it’s all about!

We’ve recovered from our leap day-proved existential confusion with only minor frets of being trapped in a time warp, and we’ve made it to another Friday. No, that’s not the name of the next film in Ice Cube’s Friday film franchise… Wait, have we used that joke before? Wait, are we actually trapped in a time loop incurred by the leap day?! You’d better read the rest of The Nightcap to check and see if all this news is new to you – if not, we may indeed be living this week over and over again until someone somehow breaks the cycle…

On the blog this week we excitedly launched a VIP trip to the home of J.J. Corry, where you’ll get the chance to create your very own bottling with founder Louise McGuane. She wasn’t the only outstanding woman to feature on the blog this week, however. Annie caught up with Jill Boyd of Compass Box and Miranda Dickson from Absolut Elyx before Henry championed the legacies of pioneering bartender Ada Coleman and the Grande Dame herself in the build-up to #InternationalWomensDay. Elsewhere, Jess enjoyed a spiced rum that’s out of this world as Adam tasted the oldest permanent Redbreast expression, had a chat with the man behind The Whisky Baron and suggested some stunning sippers for the new season. Oh, and we also told Dram Club members what to expect from March.

But now’s the time for Nightcapping, so scroll away and get stuck into this week’s helping of boozy news!

The Nightcap

Is that Alexei Sayle on the right? No, it’s Marcin Miller with the team at the Kyoto Distillery

Pernod Ricard takes stake in Kyoto Distillery

Hot gin news has just arrived in our in-tray: Pernod Ricard has bought into the award-winning Kyoto Gin Distillery for an undisclosed sum. Founder Marcin Miller told us: “We remain fully invested in and will continue to run the distillery.” He went on to say: “Our gin has been well received and exceeded our expectations, and at this rate, we’ll exceed capacity at the current site soon. To build a new distillery, especially in Japan, takes time and we needed investment to help us fulfil this ambition. We were approached by a number of interested parties but decided to go with Pernod Ricard. I’ve had a lot of contact with the company over my 20 years in the industry. Everyone I have met has been great. The company culture is wonderful from the head down. Alexandre Ricard, in particular, took an interest in the distillery from the beginning. Looking to the future there are excellent distribution and marketing opportunities in this partnership.” Miller has had an interesting career in the drinks business as a publisher, with his own PR agency Quercus Communications, and the Number One Drinks company, which was set up with David Croll in 2005 to distribute Japanese whiskies. “We were fortunate enough to buy the full inventory of Karuizawa,” he said. A tidy investment when you see how much a bottle goes for today. In 2015, he set up the Kyoto gin distillery with Croll and his wife Noriko, quickly winning plaudits with its ultra-premium gin made with Japanese botanicals. Looks like we won’t be running out of Kyoto gin any time soon. Phew!

The Nightcap

Dewar’s Ilegal Smooth, the first mezcal cask Soctch whisky we’ve tried, it won’t be the last

Dewar’s releases mezcal cask whisky

In June last year, we reported that the new SWA rules now allow for ageing in unconventional casks such as Tequila or mezcal. Well, someone at Dewar’s clearly noticed as well as the firm has just released a mezcal cask whisky. It’s an 8-year-old blend called Dewar’s Ilegal Smooth. No, that isn’t a typo because the casks used formerly held Ilegal Mezcal. Brian Cox, vice president of Dewar’s North American, commented: “We’ve been considering experimenting in the mezcal space for a while and are thrilled to partner with Ilegal for this exciting world first. It’s a fortuitous collaboration as there are many parallels between Tommy Dewar, one of the Dewar’s founders, and John Rexer, founder of Ilegal. They both have grit, wit and passion for creating something new on an ambitious scale – the very best ultra-premium, smooth spirits. Dewar’s Ilegal Smooth pays homage to both of their successful legacies by dispelling myths about what’s possible between whisky and mezcal and ultimately breaking new ground in both categories. The end product says it all,” added Cox. We were given a little sample to try, initially, it smells like a blend with a high-peated percentage but then the vegetal taste of the mezcal comes through strongly. It’s highly distinctive and won’t be for everyone but it’s good to see Dewar’s experimenting. Sadly, at the moment it’s only available in North America. We will let you know when/ if it arrives on these shores.

The Nightcap

Happy International Women’s Day everyone!

Mama Shelter London and Isle of Harris host IWD whisky tasting

This Sunday (8 March) is International Women’s Day (you may have noticed a fair few features about ace women in booze over on the blog this week). A whole bunch of brands, distilleries and venues are hosting celebrations (check out Lyaness and The Artesian if you’re at a loose end on the day itself), and our very own editor Kristiane was thrilled to join Mama Shelter London and Isle of Harris Distillers for Whisky as Told by Women this week! The concept: four women in whisky each give a bit of insight into their careers, life in drinks and why they love whisky, while sharing one of their favourite drams with a room filled to the brim with fellow geeks! We were on board. Also sharing their stories were The Glenlivet’s Kirsty Thomson (accompanied by The Glenlivet 12), The Balvenie’s Alwynne Gwilt (The Balvenie Sweet Toast of American Oak), and The Whisky Lounge co-founder Amanda Ludlow (Jameson Black Barrel). And our Kristiane shared That Boutique-y Whisky Company’s Cambus 29 Year Old! A stellar line-up, even if we say so ourselves. The general consensus was how much the whisky industry has changed, even over the past two years. Women now hold senior positions right across the sector – and folks no longer seem surprised that women (gasp!) enjoy whisky. Has full gender parity happened? Not quite, especially when you think about the harassment many women in hospitality encounter all too often. But we’re proud of the progress that’s happened – let’s raise a dram to that, while pushing for even more equality, right across the board, in drinks and beyond. 

The Nightcap

One of the US’s biggest cocktail competitions has returned!

Stoli gets set for LGBTQ+ Key West Cocktail Classic

One of the US’s biggest cocktail competitions is back for its seventh outing! This week Stoli Vodka announced its bartender contest Key West Cocktail Classic is returning for 2020, honouring the legacy of gay bars and celebrating LGBTQ+ bartenders and their allies. And the prize is pretty epic. As well as scooping US$15k for a hometown charity of their choice, the winner will nab a holiday to anywhere in the world. That’s a pretty sweet deal. The theme for this year is ‘The Stolimpics’, and bartenders initially enter by creating a cocktail that celebrates their hometown. One winner from 14 different cities will bag themselves a ticket down to Key West at the beginning of June for the eight-day final/shindig! “For more than 35 years, Stoli has celebrated gay bars as the original safe spaces for the LGBTQ+ community,” said Patrik Gallineaux, Stoli Vodka national LGBTQ+ ambassador and manager. “We are committed to championing these community centers and the individuals who are central to advancing them. I am thrilled to report that through this initiative, Stoli has had the opportunity to positively impact LGBTQ+ supportive non-profits across North America, with more than $120,000 awarded to LGBTQ+ charities to date.” Good luck to everyone taking part!

The Nightcap

Ahbi Banik standing by his patented Banik Still

Copper Rivet awarded patent for Gin Still 

It’s been quite the week for Kent’s Copper Rivet Distillery! After a three and a half year application, the distillery (of Dockyard Gin fame) has finally been awarded a patent for its Banik Still, named for head distiller Abhi Banik. In the Banik Still, the maceration is performed away from the heat source, with the botanicals’ flavour infused at a lower temperature than most traditional distillations. This, combined with a vapour infusion basket, allows distillers to have more control over how the flavour is extracted depending on the type of botanical, rather than a one size fits all approach. “It was when I was studying distilling, nearly 10 years ago, that I began to wonder why no one had tried to change or improve distillation processes for hundreds of years,” says head distiller Banik. “It took me seven years to design the still, a concept all in theory and CAD drawings, and with no experimental proof that it would work. When the Russell family and I were designing a still for Dockyard Gin, I showed the team my concept and they believed in it enough to give it a try!” What’s more, the new still is also focused on efficiency with increased charge alcohol recovery between 80 to 85% of total charge, compared to 60 to 75% in other more traditional distillation techniques, as well as really getting the most out of the botanicals so, in theory, less will need to be used to achieve the same result. Huge congrats to the Copper Rivet team!

The Nightcap

The Queen’s favourite hotel is going back in time to the 1920s!

The 1920s arrive at the Goring, finally

If you could go back to any time when would it be? It would be hard to beat the 1920s, jazz music, glamorous open-topped cars and more cocktails than you can shake a stick at (though we’d probably miss modern dentistry.) Now you can travel back in time as from 6pm every Sunday starting on 8 March, the bar at the Queen’s favourite hotel, the Goring, will be transformed into The Roaring Goring. Not such a vast change for an institution where the last 100 years could easily have not happened. There will be live music and classic cocktails made by bar manager Tiago Mira including the Hanky Panky (see our latest Cocktail of the Week), Air Mail (Havana Club 3 Year Old Rum, lime, honey, Ayala Champagne and Green Chartreuse) and the Scofflaw (Lot 40 Canadian Rye, Mancino Secco Vermouth, lemon, grenadine and orange bitters). So put on your baggiest trousers, brush up on your jazz age slang, and get down to the Goring for a night to remember. 

The Nightcap

A 3D render of the new micro-distillery set to open in John O’Groats

Planning permission secured for Scotland’s most northerly whisky distillery 

When you think of John O’Groats, you probably think of people doing crazy cycle rides or long walks to there from Land’s End. Well, now the wonderful world of whisky has made its way to the most northerly part of Scotland, with a new micro-distillery set to open in John O’Groats in 2021! The first Scotch whisky distillery in John O’Groats since 1837, planning permission was secured on 2 March for a 32,670 square foot site which will be home to a distillery, visitor centre and bonded warehouse. The distillery is the brainchild of husband and wife duo Derek and Kerry Campbell, and it’ll claim the title of Scotland’s most northerly mainland whisky distillery. Brought to life with the help of £198,000 of funding secured from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), with a capacity to produce up to 60,000 litres of whisky each year. “We believe the whisky we will produce will be unlike that from any other distillery, due to our coastal location in John O’Groats and the impact the local climate will have on our spirit as it matures,” says founder Kerry Campbell. “With traditional methods at the heart of our plans and an ambition to showcase whisky distilling in John O’Groats to the world, we are looking forward to opening the doors to our micro-distillery in due course. The support we have received from the local community and business owners to date has been fantastic and we can’t wait to welcome them to our distillery in 2021.” Now those mad folk travelling from Land’s End to John O’Groats will be rewarded with a local dram when they arrive!

The Nightcap

This is incredibly important news and vital work

Early Times is searching for ‘All-American Dogs’ for advertising campaign

Now, we’re a self-proclaimed gaggle of cat-lovers (at least most of us are) here at MoM Towers, though having said that we’re also partial to the occasional office dog (then we find it really hard to concentrate). Our ears pricked up when we caught wind of a fur-tastic advertising campaign from Kentucky whiskey maker Early Times, which has put out a call to arms to find “All-American Dogs” to serve as the faces for its 2020 advertising campaign. “When we started talking about what  being “All-American” means, we immediately thought of the loyalty and dependability that dogs bring to our own lives,” Early Times senior brand manager Dallas Cheatham. “It felt natural to connect with our Early Times drinkers by celebrating their amazing dogs.” Whiskey lovers (over 21) can share a photo of their beloved canine and explain why their pup embodies the “All-American” spirit, and Early Times will select 10 winning doggos. The competition is live until 12 April, and this is actually the second year that the competition is running. Last year there were more than 10,000 entries, but don’t let that deter you and your pooches!

The Nightcap

GlenDronach’s new visitor centre is open for business and looking good

GlenDronach gets a new visitor centre

For our money, Glendronach makes some of the finest whisky on Speyside, and we know you agree judging by the demand for its expressions like the 15 Year Old Revival. Now the distillery has a visitor centre worthy of such magnificent drams. There is a new bar and visitors will have the opportunity to fulfil their wildest dreams by filling their very own bottle of GlenDronach. Don’t worry though, this isn’t some space-age aberration stuck on the side of an old building, the design pays homage to the distillery’s founder James Allardice and the original buildings with natural stone walls with brass, marble and leather detailing. It’s the work of designer agency 1751 working with Ross McNally from Scarinish Studio. Jennifer Proctor from the distillery commented: “James Allardice was both a visionary entrepreneur and a warm and welcoming host. Our vision was to carry forth his hospitality and to bring the traditional craftsmanship of The GlenDronach to life, creating the perfect experience for our visitors to immerse themselves in the distillery’s rich heritage and our Highland single malts. Everything has been designed around the guest experience, from the striking circular table in our tasting room to the comfortable leather lounge area. With a range of tours also available, we look forward to welcoming everyone from the whisky curious to experienced aficionados. . . .” As you can see from the picture, they’re done a great job. 

The Nightcap

The comedian may need to change the name of Joe Lycett’s Got Your Back, on Channel 4 now…

And finally…  Comedian Joe Lycett changes his name to Hugo Boss

The artist formerly known as Joe Lycett pulled off quite the stunt this week by legally changing his name to Hugo Boss by deed poll as part of a comedic revenge mission against the giant fashion brand. Hugo Boss (the brand) has previously taken legal action against small firms using word boss in names, including Boss Brewing, a Swansea-based craft brewery, who were left with a £10,000 legal bill after the luxury designer brand sent it a cease and desist letter when the brewer applied to trademark its name, a process that usually costs £300. A further rebranding process cost upwards of £20,000 after the items had been relabelled and old stock discarded, according to founder Sarah John. She said the comedian’s move was “such a brilliant way of showing support”. A charity called DarkGirlBoss had also supposedly received a legal letter from Hugo Boss when it tried to trademark its name. Hugo Boss (the man), whose Twitter and Wikipedia have been updated to reflect the change, tweeted an image of the deed poll letter, complete with a new signature with an unusually phallic structure along with the following statement: “So Hugo Boss (who turnover approx $2.7bn a year) have sent cease & desist letters to a number of small businesses & charities who use the word ‘BOSS’ or similar, including a small brewery in Swansea, costing them thousands in legal fees and rebranding. It’s clear that Hugo Boss HATES people using their name. Unfortunately for them this week I legally changed my name by deed poll and I am now officially known as Hugo Boss. All future statements from me are not from Joe Lycett but Hugo Boss. Enjoy.” The comedian added that he would be “launching a brand new product as Hugo Boss” and would reveal the details on the new series of Joe Lycett’s Got Your Back, on Channel 4, which takes on big corporations to fight for the rights of British consumers. The German luxury fashion house has responded and said that they welcome the comedian as a member of the Hugo Boss family, but it would appear the pr damage has already been done. Anyone for a Boss beer?

No Comments on The Nightcap: 6 March

The Nightcap: 5 April

It’s been a big week for Irish whiskey, BrewDog, and our very own blog. The Nightcap is here with all the stories from the week! April has arrived, and with…

It’s been a big week for Irish whiskey, BrewDog, and our very own blog. The Nightcap is here with all the stories from the week!

April has arrived, and with it came news both real and fake. Of course, the storied tradition of ‘spend the first morning in April lying through your teeth at every opportunity’ continued this year, but that’s not what we’re here to talk about. We’re here for the news. The newsiest of news! The news built upon facts, but also built upon booze. The Nightcap is held up by those two pillars: facts and booze. Like Stonehenge, except not big rocks.

Anyway, it was a busy week on the MoM Blog, which we colloquially referred to as Blogmageddon here at MoM Towers (we know how to have fun). Henry celebrated the news of Bruichladdich’s plan to build on-site maltings, treated us to a Daiquiri for Cocktail of the Week, and then found out the buzz around mead. Jess showed off Mackmyra Äppelblom for New Arrival of the Week, looked at the announcement of a new distillery in Donegal, Ireland, and finally met batman. Not that one, the other one, the one with the mezcal. Adam took a booze-based tour of Scotland’s whisky regions, and chatted with The Whisky Works’ Gregg Glass. Annie got us all hyped up about the upcoming Scotch whisky distilleries that we can’t wait to visit. We had a guest blog from Nate Brown about how not to launch a new drink, we announced the winner of our Yellow Spot competition, and we launched Google Pay as a payment option. Then we got involved with the whole ‘lying through our teeth thing’ (but then came clean about it). Blogmageddon indeed!

After all that, it’s probably time to bring you what else went down this week!

masons

We wish the team at Masons Gin a speedy recovery

‘Still explosion’ causes fire at Masons Gin distillery

Sad news came from Yorkshire this week. Masons Gin, set up in the Dales six years ago by husband and wife team Cathy and Karl Mason, suffered an explosion. According to numerous reports, one of the stills blew out, causing a major fire. The Masons team put a statement on social media shortly afterwards. “We’d like to thank everybody for their concern and well wishes following a fire at the distillery today,” it read. “We can report that all staff are unharmed and there are no injuries sustained. We’d like to express our thanks to the emergency services and staff at SPAR for their support this morning.” We’re thinking of everyone at the distillery and hope things are back up and running soon.

Dublin-Liberties

A ‘momentous achievement’, says The Irish Whiskey Association

Irish spirits get GI recognition

Top news, folks! Irish whiskey, Irish cream liqueurs and Irish Poitín have all secured geographical indication (GI) status in the EU. What does this mean? Basically, both in the EU and markets that the EU has trade agreements with, a product can only be labelled as Irish whiskey, gin or Poitín if it was made on the island of Ireland to set production methods and standards. Single malt Irish whiskey, pot still Irish whiskey, blended Irish whiskey and grain Irish whiskey were all included in the GI agreement, which the country’s drinks industry first submitted in 2014. It essentially means it will be much harder for people to fake Irish drinks or make misleading statements on non-compliant products. The Irish Whiskey Association called the development a “momentous achievement”, giving the drinks the “strongest possible protection”. Best raise a dram of something Irish!

Pernod Ricard to ban single-use promo plastics by 2025

Global drinks group Pernod Ricard, which owns the likes of Beefeater, Chivas Regal, The Glenlivet and Havana Club, has published its 2030 Sustainability & Responsibility roadmap (see video above). The document sets out eight “ambitious and concrete” targets, each developed to support the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Under Biodiversity, Pernod Ricard has pledged to have a dedicated project with evert affiliate, and as part of Regenerative Agriculture, there will be projects to improve topsoil, watershed and ecosystems in eight wine regions. As part of its Equal Pay and Future Leadership banner, the group has pledged to ensure equal pay by 2022 and gender-balanced top management teams by 2030. Shared Knowledge and Learning will see 10,000 bartenders trained in being anti-waste and plastic-free, and on the topic of Packaging and Waste, all promotional single-use plastic items will be banned by 2025. A Water Balance and Carbon Footprint focus will see the company’s total carbon footprint cut by 50%. Pernod Ricard’s Alcohol Misuse focus will see every affiliate have at least one programme to fight problem drinking; while under the Responsible Party pillar, more than one million young adults will learn about responsible consumption. “These 2030 commitments provide us with a focused framework across our business in helping to address some of the biggest sustainability issues, so consumers can enjoy our products in a convivial and sustainable way,” said Vanessa Wright, VP Sustainability & Responsibility. Go Pernod!

Scotch Whisky collection

The most extensive and famous private whisky collection in the world is set to stay!

Diageo Claive Vidiz Scotch collection to stay in Edinburgh

Anyone who has visited the Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh will remember the Diageo Claive Vidiz collection. The 3,384 bottle-strong haul includes some seriously rare and covetable expressions, including a Buchanan’s whisky bottle dating from 1897! It was Brazilian businessman Claive Vidiz who gathered the collection over 35 years before it was acquired by Diageo in 2009. It’s been on display at the visitor attraction ever since, attracting a whopping 1.5 million whisky fans. And a deal has been struck to keep it in situ for another 10 years! “The Diageo Claive Vidiz Collection is uniquely eclectic, with brands from across the whole industry and ranging from extremely rare bottlings to everyday drams from years gone by. It really gives visitors a fascinating insight into our whisky history,” said Christine McCafferty, Diageo’s chief archivist. The Scotch Whisky Experience has just revamped its display units for the collection, to make sure the bottles are kept in prime condition for the next decade. Susan Morrison, chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Experience, added: “After 10 years of seeing the collection every day we still have the privilege of seeing the reaction of surprise and delight on the faces of each of our visitors as they enter the collection vault for the first time.” We’ll be up again soon!

brewdog

The BrewDog Distilling Co. has arrived (complete with scary wolf)!

BrewDog reveals more spirits, plans a beer hotel

Sound the klaxons, The BrewDog Distilling Co. is here! Yes, BrewDog, responsible for your favourite craft beer, has launched some quite incredible spirits. Although it’s still fairly shrouded in secrecy, here’s what we know. Flagship gin LoneWolf has been on our radar for a while, and is juniper heavy with a touch of lavender. But there’s now another gin, Zealot’s Heart, a small-batch expression “made by zealots for zealots”. Then, we are also treated to Rogue Wave, “a vodka you won’t forget”, dedicated to the co-founder’s cousin, One-Armed Alex, who you can spot on the label. Finally, the distilling team has collaborated with a trio of leading spirit-makers to create the Boilermaker Series, sporting three limited-edition whiskies that are actually designed to be paired with BrewDog craft beer. What a spread! If you think BrewDog has forgotten a certain spirit, fear not. Next on the cards is an authentic spiced rum aged in oak, though you’ll have to wait a little longer for that one. But there’s more! The team has certainly been busy, because this week it also revealed it’s planning the UK’s first craft beer hotel. Known as DogHouse London, it will have its own craft beer museum, fresh craft beer you can pour for yourself in each room, and something called a shower-beer fridge. At least being in the dog house won’t be such a bad thing now. We’ll wag our tails to that, BrewDog!

Glenfiddich

Say hello to the new Glenfiddich UK ambassador: Alex Walker

Meet new Glenfiddich UK brand ambassador, Alex Walker!

We have a new national brand ambassador at Glenfiddich, folks! Independent family distiller William Grant & Sons has confirmed Alex Walker has taken on the role with immediate effect. Walker, who began his career in Australia before working in prestigious hotels bars The Beaufort Bar at The Savoy and Artesian at The Langham, will be tasked with talking all things Glenfiddich Distillery as often as possible (or ‘elevating brand awareness’, to use the industry term). He’ll also keep up comms between the brand and whisky drinkers, bars and restaurants, retailers and the press. Stephen Rutherford vacated the role after taking up the Glenfiddich UK brand manager position. “Alex has proved himself to be an exceptional candidate and a passionate whisky enthusiast, ticking all of the boxes for the role,” he said. Walker added: “I am extremely excited to be joining the William Grant & Sons UK family. It is a huge honour and privilege to work for a brand that represents over 130 years of history, heritage, and experimentation. I can’t wait to be part of this journey and help craft future success for Glenfiddich!” Congratulations, Alex!

Dewar’s releases film starring Game of Thrones’ Iwan Rheon

To celebrate the launch of its new Double Double range of whiskies, Dewar’s has teamed up with a whole bunch of glitzy actors to produce Four: four short films set in the Savoy Hotel in London. First up is Tuppence Middleton (you might remember her from TV series such as War and Peace and Black Mirror), alongside the likes of Iwan Rheon, who plays the baddest of all the baddies from Game of Thrones, and Jack Farthing from Poldark. The film is named after the four-stage ageing process used in these whiskies (step 1: ageing individual grains and malts separately; step 2: blending malts together and ageing, blending grains together and ageing; step 3: marrying the two; step 4: finishing in sherry casks). The Double Double (2+2=4, geddit?) range consists of three luxury age-statement whiskies: a 21 year old finished in oloroso casks; a 27 year old finished in palo cortado wood; and a 32 year old finished in PX barrels. We had a sneak preview with master blender Stephanie Macleod (at the Savoy, natch) and were extremely impressed. According to Macleod, the special ageing process is all about “the pursuit of smoothness”. It’s not unusual these days for drinks brands to make starry promotional films but, Macleod reminded us, Dewar’s was the first. Tommy Dewar commissioned a cinema advert for his whisky way back in 1898. Now there was a man ahead of his time.

talisker

It’s the Wild Spirit tour and bartender competition!

Talisker kicks off Wild Spirit tour and bartender competition

Isle of Skye’s Talisker Distillery has launched a fancy new bartender training programme and competition – the Wild Spirit Whisky Tour! That’s right, no more Race to Skye. Instead, we’ve got a new initiative which kicks off with a 20-stop UK-wide Wild Spirit Whisky Tour inspired by Talisker’s ‘Made by the Sea’ campaign. It runs until 19 April, and events will be delivered by Talisker brand ambassador Jason Clark. He’ll educate bartenders on the distillery’s history and production, and will explore Wild Spirit cocktail techniques. Once that’s wrapped up, bartenders will be invited to submit a Wild Spirit serve, from 20 April to 15 May, on behalf of their bar. The three bars chosen by a judging panel will win a Talisker Wild Spirit adventure for three members of staff! “For two years running, Talisker’s Race to Skye competition was a huge success and we’ve been delighted with the support and excitement received from the nation’s bartenders,” said Clark. “This year, we’ve mixed things up a little and have advanced the event into an all-new training programme and competition, the Talisker Wild Spirit Whisky Tour, which aims to reach and engage as many bartenders as possible.”

Tempus Fugit Spirits

The Tempus Fugit Spirits range was on show at Ziggy’s Bar at the Hotel Cafe Royal

Tempus Fugit Spirits eyes up cocktail bars

We found ourselves at Ziggy’s Bar at Hotel Cafe Royal last week for an extra-special tasting of Tempus Fugit Spirits. Founded in 2007 by John Troia, the brand’s birth coincided with the reintroduction of absinthe into America. Troia and his partner collected old absinthes and paraphernalia, so when the ban was lifted in 2007 they decided to corner the market. And now time has come for a push into cocktail bars! Tempus Fugit has an expansive portfolio of liqueurs and digestifs, as well as many absinthes. The range of spirits are all made from historic recipes, dating back to the 19th century. Including Gran Classico Bitter, Creme de menthe and Fernet del Frate. Jack Hanlon made some fabulous cocktails with the spirits, including a 20th-century cocktail using Creme de Cacao, Kina L’Aero D’Or and gin, and a Banana Bliss from the Cafe Royal Cocktail Book 1937 using Creme de Banane and Cognac. Yum.

hangover free alcohol

You can always avoid a hangover by drinking responsibly, of course

And finally… could hangover-free alcohol actually become A Thing?

While we always intend to drink responsibly, many people have, on occasion, slightly over-indulged. The resulting hangover is NOT fun. So we read a story from Food & Wine this week with interest. A chap called David Nutt from Imperial College London has been working on something called ‘alcosynth’ for some time. It’s billed as a synthetic form of alcohol that gives you all the fun effects but none of the nasties. Up until now, he’s not been too optimistic about the timeline, suggesting it could replace regular alcohol by 2050. But there’s been a development! Apparently, he’s consumed the stuff himself already, and has cut the projected pipeline to a mere five years! The bad side? Nutt says he has to mix it with fruit juices to mask the taste. We’re not sure what the alternative is if you’re into Martinis or Negronis, but if a super-sweet Piña Colada floats your boat, you could be hangover-free before you know it. But remember, folks – sip, don’t gulp.

And that’s a wrap for this week, folks. We hope you enjoyed The Nightcap – have a tip top weekend.

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Have a nose around Aberfeldy Distillery!

We paid a visit to Highland distillery Aberfeldy – AKA the Home of Dewar’s – for a good old explore. The results? Six videos, so you can check it out,…

We paid a visit to Highland distillery Aberfeldy – AKA the Home of Dewar’s – for a good old explore. The results? Six videos, so you can check it out, too!

Aberfeldy is a small town of about 2,000 people. It’s huddled in a valley near the source of the River Tay, and sits on a crossroads. Walking through, it feels very typically Scottish – it’s got a pretty high street, people are friendly and you don’t have to go very far to find a decent pub. Also, it’s got a distillery.

Aberfeldy Distillery is unusual though, mostly because it’s probably better known as the Home of Dewar’s, the blended Scotch brand. At least on the tourist trail anyway. From the start, the branding is all Dewar’s. And actually, it’s refreshing to find a single malt distillery celebrating the blend it is such an integral part of. There’s none of that ‘single malts are just better’ nonsense here.

Aberfeldy Distillery Dewar's

#HomeofDewars – and Aberfeldy

“Aberfeldy has a great, rich history and story centred round the Dewar’s family,” said Matthew Cordiner, Dewar’s Aberfeldy distillery brand ambassador. And that’s the real ethos of the distillery – it doesn’t just celebrate the whisky (although of course it does), but there’s a huge focus on the family and the history behind it all, too. And there are stories galore.

After stopping by the Pitilie Burn (gotta have a decent water source), we check out the milling. And, of course, there’s a classic Porteus malt mill! On-site maltings stopped in the 1960s, so pre-malted Concerto barley is now delivered by lorry.

Then it’s tun time. The vessel was only designed to handle 6.5 tonnes of grist, but the team manages to produce 7.5 tonnes each time. “We’re actually over-producing,” Cordiner detailed. In total, Aberfeldy makes 3.4 million litres of spirit a year.

Fermentation is really where you start to see the Aberfeldy, as we know it, come to life. The long 72-hour average fermentation brings out that sweet, honeyed note. The distillery has eight larch washbacks and two stainless steel ones, installed three years ago.

Time to check out the stillhouse! Aberfeldy has two wash and two spirit stills, with two shell and tube condensers. In 2014, the distillery switched over to a biomass boiler.

Aberfeldy doesn’t really mature on-site, but there are some casks you can check out…

And voilà! If that’s given you a taste for Aberfeldy, you can visit the Home of Dewar’s all year round!

Matt and our ace video team!

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