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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Diageo

Great whisky marketing fiascos

Do you remember Bailey’s whiskey, or J&B -6°C? Don’t ring a bell? Well, they weren’t around for long but Ian Buxton remembers these and other product launches that failed to…

Do you remember Bailey’s whiskey, or J&B -6°C? Don’t ring a bell? Well, they weren’t around for long but Ian Buxton remembers these and other product launches that failed to take off. Here are some great whisky marketing fiascos from the recent past.

“Success”, or so the saying goes, “has many parents, but failure is a real bastard.” While God may love a trier, bold attempts to market new approaches to whisky are not always crowned with success. I’ve been looking at some of the more notable campaigns that have crashed and burned, frequently taking a previously glittering career with them. But, if your track record includes one of these disasters, you can relax because I name only brands, not the individuals behind the story.

But it does raise the question that while failed products, aborted launches and other inglorious failures are rapidly written out of a brand’s history, wouldn’t it be advisable for the industry to retain at least a corporate memory of catastrophe, if only to prevent making the same mistake twice? I offer these recollections then, not with a sense of schadenfreude but in a helpful spirit with the hope that these words might prevent some hapless marketer from repeating an embarrassing and expensive blunder.

Black & White Extra Light

How could it have failed with ads like this?

The lighter shade of pale

Since the 1960s, the whisky industry has looked on the rise of vodka and white rums (chiefly Bacardi) with increasing concern. This was particularly the case in the USA where the success of lighter styles of whisky such as Cutty Sark and J&B Rare led DCL (forerunner to today’s Diageo) to the conclusion that its brand Black & White, then a major force in that market, would benefit from the launch of a paler version. Enter Black & White Extra Light, launched in 1963 to almost total incomprehension and confusion, especially amongst bar staff, vitally-important in the US trade. 

It was speedily withdrawn but the damage had been done. All was not lost for DCL, however. While Black & White faded into relative obscurity, Johnnie Walker stepped up to take its place. A virtual walkover, you might say.

However, the belief that whisky’s colour and pronounced flavour deters some drinkers lingers on. There may be an echo of those fears in the launch of Haig Club but, whatever the views of committed whisky enthusiasts on that product, at least it has not suffered the ignominious fate of J&B’s -6°C. It was launched in 2006 and withdrawn in under a year. The curious name was, in fact, a commendably clear description of the product which had been chill-filtered to strip out virtually all the colour (and much of the flavour) in an explicit attempt to attract vodka drinkers.

The clarity of the description certainly matched the clarity of the liquid itself which was extremely pale. In contrast to the faces of the sales and marketing team, doubtless blushing deepest red at the whisky’s pallid reception. Or perhaps they were ashen-faced in sympathy; history does not record.

The proof of the pudding

J&B -6°C lasted less than a year. However, that’s nearly a year longer than the February 2013 lifecycle of Maker’s Mark 84 Proof. Attributing the change to very high levels of demand the brand announced that the strength of this much-loved bourbon was being reduced from 90 Proof. Now, a cut of just 3% ABV may not seem hugely significant and the company went to great lengths to explain that their own extensive testing had been unable to detect the difference and to outline the reasoning behind the change.

However, their commendable transparency was rewarded with a storm of outrage on social media and many forceful emails to Rob Samuels, the unfortunate COO (chief operating officer). Conventional media reported the story with some glee, feeding the barrage of commentary and the story became self-sustaining. Within a fortnight Maker’s Mark reversed their decision and resumed shipping supplies at the previous, higher strength, Samuels issuing an abject mea culpa, writing “You spoke. We listened. And we’re sincerely sorry we let you down.” No lasting harm appears to have been done.

But two weeks is almost an eternity compared to the still-born whiskey from Bailey’s. Yes, back in March 1998, the ever-popular Irish Cream liqueur ran a Dublin test market with their own ‘Bailey’s The Whiskey’ – finished in casks previously filled with the cream liqueur. Expectations for the product ran high and, to be fair, this came from the new product development team at IDV/Grand Metropolitan who had an impressive track record of success in developing new brands and line extensions.

However, corporate change and whisky’s politics soon overtook the fledgling spirit. December 1997 had seen the creation of Diageo (in the process absorbing Grand Metropolitan) who soon took over the project. With Irish whiskey then a small and largely moribund category, Bailey’s Irish was promptly killed over fears of a tiresome dispute with the Scotch Whisky Association and EU regulations. As a matter of fact, Bailey’s The Whiskey would have been legal but in the turmoil surrounding Diageo’s birth it appeared an unnecessary diversion of corporate effort.

Bailey's Whiskey.

Bailey’s Whiskey, here today, gone later today

The Cardhu debacle

It was not long, however, before Diageo found itself in another whisky dispute – and one accompanied by great bitterness. This was the ill-fated 2003 launch of Cardhu Pure Malt, an attempt to market a blended malt with a bottle and packaging closely modelled on the original Cardhu single malt, changing just one key word. Enter PR man Jack Irvine, a grizzled veteran of Scotland’s red top tabloids, armed with – allegedly – a blank cheque book from William Grant & Sons, and a brief to humble the industry giant. This he accomplished with some élan, as other industry players piled on to force Diageo into a humiliating climbdown.

Behind the scenes feelings and tensions ran very high, even at one stage threatening the future of the SWA who had approved the Cardhu packaging changes. One long-term result was new regulations for Scotch Whisky, eventually promulgated in November 2009. 

There are many more tales of corporate calamities such as these. Sadly, space does not permit discussion of Dewar’s hapless Highlander Honey, the star-crossed Loch Dhu Black Whisky or the flawed attempt to reposition Mortlach as a super-premium luxury whisky in half-litre bottles. The market soon gave its verdict on those but, in the ultimate irony, most of these doomed drams are now highly sought-after by collectors and sell for multiples of the original launch prices. Let’s hope the executives responsible tucked a few bottles away to soften the blow!

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

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

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

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

Stewart Bowman rings bells

Brora is officially open

First cask filled since 1983

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

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

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

Painstaking restoration

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

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

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

Stewart Bowman and family at Brora

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

Family connections

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

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

 

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A history of celebrity-endorsed drinks 

From Sean Connery advertising Suntory in the ’90s, to David Beckham with Haig Club, Ian Buxton looks into the history of celebrity-endorsed drinks. Nowadays you’re nowhere in celeb world unless…

From Sean Connery advertising Suntory in the ’90s, to David Beckham with Haig Club, Ian Buxton looks into the history of celebrity-endorsed drinks. Nowadays you’re nowhere in celeb world unless you’ve got your very own Tequila, whisky, gin or Prosecco.

I couldn’t help but notice that Sir Ranulph Fiennes is flogging rum these days. Celebrity-endorsed drinks adverts have been a long-standing fixture since, well, since there were celebrities and advertisements in which to feature them but looking into Sir Ranulph Fiennes’ Great British Rum, it seems that those relationships are now more than skin deep.

Sir Ranulph Fiennes with Dr John Waters

Sir Ranulph Fiennes with Dr John Waters from English Spirit

Celebrity-endorsed drinks through the ages

Sometimes, the celebrity juxtapositions seem bizarre– hard to believe that even in 1949 actress Doris Day was the best salesperson for Harvester road rollers, for example. In alcohol, today’s audiences might look askance at Woody Allen promoting vodka (assuming any brand would think it a great idea) but, in 1966, he was apparently the ideal choice for Smirnoff to appeal to trendy young drinkers.

Fortunately for Smirnoff, its association with Mr Allen was long forgotten (except for this blog’s keen eye for gossip) before recent adverse publicity reflected badly on the brand. But in fact, the possibility of the celebrity turning toxic and damaging the partner is a real danger of celebrity endorsements.

That’s something probably well remembered by Bacardi’s marketing team who, in late 2003, had to withdraw TV commercials featuring ex-footballer turned thespian Vinnie Jones hastily following his involvement in an unfortunate air-rage incident. Unfortunate for both parties as he lost what was clearly a lucrative gig, and Bacardi had to dump at least one expensive advert that had yet to air.  

Once upon a time, it was simpler to use dead celebrities, as at least they could be relied on not to misbehave. Mark Twain (died 1910) and Rudyard Kipling (1936), were both disinterred to promote Old Crow bourbon in American press adverts in the early 1950s based on Twain’s reputed fondness for the brand. He could hardly argue the point or ask for a fee.

Old Crow Whisky

Just Rudyard Kipling and Mark Twain enjoying a glass of bourbon

Take the money and run

Some years later, a fashion developed for publicity-shy but impecunious celebrities to endorse Japanese brands, confident that the association would not be picked up in the West, a trend wonderfully satirised by Bill Murray in the 2003 movie Lost in Translation. Murray stars as Bob Harris, a fading American movie star who is having a midlife crisis when he travels to Tokyo to promote Suntory whisky.

Who could he have been thinking of? Surely [surely shurely? Ed.] not Sean Connery’s 1991 promotion of Suntory Crest? Surely one of the world’s greatest Scotsmen would want to promote a fine single malt? Well, no single malt could afford his rumoured fee of $1 million but Dewar’s stepped up in 2004 with some digital magic in which Connery meets his younger self and advises ‘Some age, others mature’.

Doubtless Connery’s agent was happy with that deal and by the turn of the millennium any coyness about an association with alcohol had long been abandoned as more celebrities began to cash in. In fact, coy hardly describes Sharon Stone’s promotion of the William Lawson’s blended Scotch whisky, a sister brand to Dewar’s that’s popular in European markets. 

Leveraging the brand

But soon an even more astute generation of celebrities with a keen sense of their commercial value began looking for more than a lucrative payday, linking their personality uniquely closely with the brand by seeking first a royalty payment based on sales and, even more recently, taking an ownership position with equity in the brand itself.

This is a new development and demonstrates our continuing fascination with celebrity.  Never mind seeking out some obscure, artisan product – as consumers we’re proving little more than biddable sheep, anxious to secure the reflected glory of a well-known face and name.

The trend setters have been US hip-hop* artists such as Sean Combs (aka P. Diddy, Puff Daddy, Puffy, Puff, etc) with his 2007 partnership with Diageo’s Ciroc Vodka. Fellow rappers had worked previously with various Cognac brands, such as Jay-Z with Chateau de Cognac’s D’USSE and Nas has been working as a brand ambassador for Hennessy since 2012. 

But P. Diddy changed the rules, treating the French vodka like a trainer brand and insisting on a 50/50 profit split and creative control of US marketing. Did it work? Ask Diageo, which when it acquired DeLeón Tequila was quick to cut a similar deal with Combs.

George Clooney Casamigos

The two amigos, George Clooney and Rande Gerber

In fact, this appears to be a particularly effective strategy for star-struck Diageo which has form in celebrity tie-ins with their brands – think David Beckham with Haig Club and George Clooney’s Casamigos Tequila, both following in Combs’ Ciroc footsteps.

Cashing in

The amounts of money are staggering. Casamigos changed hands for a reputed $1 billion if all the longer term targets are met, and August 2020 Diageo was back in business, having ponied up a cool $335m to buy Aviation American gin, with another $275m to follow if sales live up to expectations.

The fortunate celebrity here is Ryan Reynolds who we may safely assume will be able to stand his round for many years to come.

* For the avoidance of doubt the editor has suggested I confirm that I am unfamiliar with the oeuvre of Messrs. P. Diddy, Jay-Z and Nas though, full disclosure, I did once watch a James Bond film.

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The Nightcap: 30 April

It’s a Bank Holiday weekend and to kick things off in the right direction we’ve got a whole week’s worth of smoking hot booze news. It’s all in the Nightcap:…

It’s a Bank Holiday weekend and to kick things off in the right direction we’ve got a whole week’s worth of smoking hot booze news. It’s all in the Nightcap: 30 April edition! 

We’ve got a long weekend ahead of us as the May Bank Holiday has arrived, in the UK at least, everyone else is thinking, what the hell is a ‘bank holiday’? Anyway, we’re all hoping for a sliver of sunshine so that we’re not shivering in pub gardens or in those makeshift tent type things outside restaurants. Maybe bring a blanket, just in case. Of course, you don’t have to venture out if you don’t want to. You can always kick back and relax with a good dram and enjoy The Line of Duty season finale. Or some light reading. Like a round-up of all the interesting things that happened in the world of booze this week. Good thing there’s a new edition of The Nightcap here!

This week on the MoM blog we paid tribute to the remarkable Tomas Estes, who has sadly passed away. Be sure to raise a glass to the Tequila pioneer tonight.

Elsewhere, we launched two new competitions, one a #BagThisBundle which gives you a chance to stock up on some Duppy Share Rum and the other promising an amazing adventure to the Lakes District courtesy of the Lakes Distillery. We also helped you explore the world of rum with some of our favourite bottlings, made a classic cocktail that features in Charlie Chaplin’s Caught in a Cabaret, enjoyed the latest vintage of a great Champagne, uncovered the story behind Don Julio Tequila and found out what the heck a swan neck is.

Now, let’s enjoy what the drinks industry had to offer in the last seven days. It’s The Nightcap: 30 April!

The Nightcap: 30 April edition

It’s likely this whiskey was distilled sometime between 1763 to 1803!

‘World’s oldest whiskey’ to be sold at auction

If you want a chance at owning a whiskey billed as “the oldest currently known bottle” then put 22-30 June in your diary. Because that’s when you’ll be able to bid on a legendary bottle of Old Ingledew bourbon. Skinner Auctioneers are selling the remarkable spirit, which was originally thought to be from 1850. However, when Skinner rare spirits expert Joseph Hyman used a needle to extract a small sample of the liquid to be sent off for carbon dating, the results were even more incredible. It was revealed that the most likely date this bourbon was distilled (with 81.1% probability) was between 1763 to 1803. It’s impossible to place a specific age statement. But historical records confirm that it’s among the oldest distilled whiskey remaining on the planet today. We know a little bit about the history of the bottle thanks to a press release from Skinner Auctioneers. It was purchased by John Pierpoint Morgan (Yep, that J.P. Morgan) in Georgia in the late 19th century. It was originally stored in demijohn so Morgan paid a visit to a speciality grocer in LaGrange to have several decanters worth of the whiskey bottled. His son Jack eventually ended up with some bottles, giving a few away including to US Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman. Another recipient was James F. Byrnes, who subsequently gave the bottle to close friend and whiskey lover Francis Drake, who knew the value of what he had and for three successive generations, his family kept a cork in it. This is why we have this incredible, roughly 250-year-old, bottle now. Although we wouldn’t hold out too much hope that you’ll get your hands on this one. We imagine demand will be pretty high… 

Rémy and Usher team up to celebrate their roots

It wouldn’t be a Nightcap without a celeb/booze mash-up and we’ve got a particularly good one this week. Cognac house Rémy Martin has produced a video called “Team Up For Excellence” starring ‘00s music ledge Usher. The video, put together by composer Raphael Saadiq, director and choreographer Jake Nava, and Oscar-winning costume designer Marci Rodgers, tells the story of the links between Cognac and American music. “I was really inspired by creating the historical music scenes in a way that felt true to the spirit of that moment, but also relevant and eye‐catching to a young contemporary audience,” Nava explains. “This dual priority informed my direction of all the music, dance and Usher’s performance.” The video opens with Usher as a GI in World War I liberating France, moves to a jazz club and through the ages, taking in different musical genres. “Music doesn’t need Cognac to exist, and Cognac doesn’t need music to exist,” Usher said, “but what is beautiful is that they were meant to meet and when they did, they created cultural harmony.” The video is a cut above most spirits adverts and well worth five minutes of your time. 

The Nightcap: 30 April edition

If anyone does manage to get a taste of his let us know if it’s as good as it looks

Loch Lomond unveils 45-year-old whisky 

It just wouldn’t be The Nightcap without a remarkable and rare Scotch whisky to stare at longingly. And this next beauty will surely appear in auctions itself in the not too distant future. It’s a 45-year-old single malt from Loch Lomond Distillery, distilled in 1973 and matured in American oak casks, before finishing for one year in a first-fill Oloroso sherry cask. It’s bottled at 42.2% ABV without chill-filtration and there are only 200 individually-numbered bottles to be released out in the whisky wild, which goes some way to explaining the £3,450 price tag. It’s one the first of three releases in The Remarkable Stills Series of single malts, a collection that will shine a spotlight on the Alexandria-based distillery’s unusual straight neck pot stills. The stills are unique to Loch Lomond and give the distiller more control of the type of spirit produced, allowing for greater separation of flavours, helping to create the distinct fruity characters that Loch Lomond has become famous for. The launch of the significant Scotch follows a branding refresh and extension of the Loch Lomond Whiskies portfolio, which includes the introduction of a 21 and 30 Year Old to the range. A new webpage was also made to detail exactly how the liquid was created. So you can at least live vicariously through that info, because the sad reality is that most of us won’t be tasting this whisky.

The Nightcap: 30 April edition

The distillery is one of the most picturesque in the country

Glasgow Whisky buys Tromie Mills Distillery

Those of you familiar with Glasgow Whisky will know that, since being founded in 2007, the company has plied its trade in selling award-winning independently-bottled Scotch whisky like Speymhor and Cailleach. But now the company is venturing into the world of distillation after purchasing its first distillery site. Glasgow Whisky, not to be confused with The Glasgow Distillery Co., has bought Tromie Mills Distillery Limited, owner of the site in Drumguish, Kingussie, which is currently occupied by Speyside Distillers. The latter will continue to operate from the Drumguish site until its lease expires in Spring 2025 (and already has another distillery on the way) and then Glasgow Whisky will refurbish the building, working with local suppliers. While we’ll have to wait a while to see them take advantage of the new venture, we imagine owners Graham Taylor and Stuart Hendry will be excited to run one of the most picturesque distillery sites in Scotland in the magnificent Cairngorms National Park. The duo is said to be committing significant investment to build a sustainable, energy-efficient and contemporary distillery that will acknowledge the heritage of the site. “Our plans for the distillery will give us the opportunity to celebrate an established and known site, whilst bringing it into the 21st century in terms of distilling innovation, sustainability and production methods. We are extremely excited to have this opportunity to evolve our business,” says Hendry.

The Nightcap: 30 April edition

The swanky new distillery will be home to the creation of rum, gin, vodka, sambuca and more

English Spirit to open cutting-edge distillery

And in more distillery-based news, the folks over at English Spirit are set to open their new state-of-the-art distillery this summer. Over the past three years, the team has been converting a disused agricultural building in the ground of the historic Treguddick Manor in the rolling Cornish countryside. At the heart of the distillery will sit a custom 2,500-litre copper still, engineered by Dr John Walters, master distiller and owner of English Spirit, based on the original 200-litre alembic stills he designed for Great Yeldham Hall. And the team expects to produce 50,000 bottles of tasty booze by the end of 2021, so that still is going to be kept busy. When the distillery officially opens later this summer, tours and tasting experiences will invite the public to see how English Spirit produces its wide varieties of spirits from scratch. Walters says the brand wanted to open another site to “further our place in England’s high-quality food and drink industry and to show off what we do best, via educational tours, tastings and even cooking with spirits”. If you’d like to learn more about this unique brand, you can read all about our visit last year here!

The Nightcap: 30 April edition

We’re sad to see the lager go

Diageo calls last orders on Guinness spin-off Hop House 13

Fans of the Guinness-made Hop House lager might want to stock up on any bottles they can find because Diageo is calling time on the brand in the UK. As reported by Daniel Woolfson in The Grocer, the Guinness spin-off has been delisted and will soon disappear from supermarkets, pubs and bars. Diageo launched Hop House 13 in 2015 to ensure it wasn’t being left out of the craft beer boom and was an initial success. But sales have slumped during the pandemic. According to data from Nielsen, Hop House lost 8.7% of its value over the 52 weeks to 5 September 2020, falling £2.5m to £26.7m, with volume down by 12.5%. The drinks giant says it had undertaken a review of its beer portfolio and “taken the strategic decision to prioritise the main Guinness trademark in Great Britain”, adding that it was “a difficult decision to make, but one that we believe is right for Guinness in the long term”. The good news is that Guinness itself is still going strong. The good folks over at Nielsen revealed much more joyous stats about the classic Irish stout, showing that it added £27m to its value, rising to £104.5m over the same period – a 35% gain. If you’d like to get your hands on either, you can find them both here.

The Nightcap: 30 April edition

What a beautiful sight

The Craigellachie Hotel to re-open its doors

As pubs and bars all over the UK continue the glorious process of opening their doors once again we were delighted to learn that The Craigellachie Hotel in Speyside will be doing the very same. The 26-room hotel stands at the heart of the largest whisky region in the world and home to the Quaich bar, one of the world’s leading whisky bars, will open its famous Copper Dog Pub and new outdoor terrace area. A brand new menu created by newly-appointed executive chef and general manager William Halsall (of Le Caprice, 34 Grosvenor Square, and The Ivy fame) will be available, as will a take-away menu. Halsall says that the team has gone through “vigorous training in preparation for reopening without compromising our friendly, home from home experience”. The upgraded outdoor dining experience will offer seating for an additional thirty guests and there will be hand sanitising stations at every entrance and social distancing in place, as safety remains an obvious concern. Reservations are mandatory and can be made through sevenrooms.com or by calling 01340 881204, while the Copper Dog pub is open seven days a week between 10am-10pm. Accommodation will then open from 17 May and guests will be able to book online here. Just in time for the return of distillery tours too. It’s all coming together!

Stewart Buchanan Benriach

If you’re lucky you might find Stewart Buchanan behind the bar at Benriach

Benriach opens to the public for the first time

And talking of visiting Speysdie, there’s now a new distillery to visit, Benriach. Well, it’s not new as such, the distillery dates back to 1898, but from 21 May is the first time it’s ever been open to the general public. Brown-Forman has put a lot of thought and money into the refurbishment: there’s a bar, shop, and tasting lounge, and two ‘tasting experiences.’ You can book here. Beginners can enjoy the ‘Sense of Flavour’ while more experienced whiskiests can explore the flavours of cask maturation with ‘Barrels, Butts, and Barriques’, which includes a dram of Benriach 21 Year Old. Visitor centre manager Jennifer Proctor explained: “From cask tastings to cocktails, we’ll initially be offering two flight-style tasting experiences that allow customers to explore Benriach’s flavour spectrum. When restrictions allow, we will reveal our full distillery tour offering and announce the next phase of the distillery visitor centre development. Whether a local to Speyside or visitor from further afield, we look forward to welcoming guests from near and afar to discover Benriach’s world of flavour.” If you’re in the area, it’s well worth a visit.

Terrace bar at Clynelish

Nice view from the terrace bar at Clynelish

Johnnie Walker brand home opens at Clynelish 

Another day, another renovated distillery opens up. Must be something in the air. As part of Diageo’s £185 million investment in ‘Four Corners’ whisky tourism, Clynelish Distillery will be opening to the public as ‘Highland home of Johnnie Walker’. Glenkinchie opened up last year with Cardhu in Speyside, and the Princes Street location in Edinburgh both due to open later this year. Opening date for the revamped Caol Ila is TBC. The renovation at Clynelish includes an ‘interactive story room’ (whatever that is), a ‘modern retail space’ (shop), and a ‘terrace bar’ (we know what that is) overlooking the Highland scenery. The team has worked closely with disabled charity Euan’s Guide to make sure the place is as accessible as possible.  Barbara Smith, managing director of Diageo’s Scottish brand homes, commented on what we could expect from the visitor experience:  “We can guarantee that Clynelish won’t disappoint. We know that visitors and locals will be blown away by the distillery – by a visitor experience that is unlike any other.” Crikey! What could she possibly mean? Naturally, there’s a limited edition commemorative bottling, a 50.6% ABV 16 Year Old. Only 3,000 bottles at £195 each have been filled and you’ll have to visit the distillery in order to buy one.

Britannia, Boston Lincs credit: batemans

The Britannia, in Boston Lincs Photo courtesy of Batemans Brewery

And finally…. Get paid to go to the pub

In a bit of news that sounds too good to be true, Lincolnshire County Council is offering a £28,000 salary to someone to research the county’s historic pubs as part of its ‘Inns on the Edge’ project. The year long job will involve visiting various pubs along a 50 mile stretch of coastline from Grimsby to Boston. But it’s not all beer and skittles, the perfect candidate should be “someone who can interview people and get stories from them, but also collect photographs, historic photographs of the pubs and the activities that used to go on in and around and associated with the pub,” as Ian George from the council explained. The purpose of the project is to record a living history that is rapidly disappearing as pubs around the county (and the country) close. A process exacerbated by the pandemic. So not quite such a funny story to end on as it initially appeared. The moral is, don’t neglect your local, even if you have to stand outside shivering a bit.

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The Nightcap: 23 April

On this week’s Nightcap there’s new Ardbeg and Talisker to drool over, the ‘world’s first Tequila board game’ and a man pouring a pint of lager over his head. Its…

On this week’s Nightcap there’s new Ardbeg and Talisker to drool over, the ‘world’s first Tequila board game’ and a man pouring a pint of lager over his head. Its all in The Nightcap: 23 April edition.

Happy St George’s Day, everyone! We hope you’re having something delicious and English to celebrate, whether it’s whisky, gin, rum, sparkling wine, or whatever takes your fancy. Personally, we’re very much enjoying The Oxford Artisan Distillery’s first rye whisky. Sadly, there’s very little of it about, so you’ll have to enter our latest lottery for a chance to buy a bottle. But you don’t have to slay any dragons to get involved. So that’s something. 

Elsewhere, the MoM blog was the place to be if you love Japanese booze as we uncovered the philosophy of Suntory and recommended seven of the finest Japanese whiskies available now. Australian whisky was also on our mind as we unveiled That Boutique-y Whisky Company’s new series of delightful expressions, as was the role of the Scotch Whisky Association and the news that Elixir Distillers snapped up Georgie Crawford in a surprise transfer from Diageo. The forgotten Prairie Oyster, Glen Scotia’s special Campbeltown Festival release, Canaïma’s cause-led gin and the simple but sublime Cuba Libre also caught our attention in a packed week.

But we’re not done yet. It’s The Nightcap: 23 April issue!

The Nightcap: 23 April edition

The fearsome fire-breathing limited edition will be arriving at MoM Towers soon…

Fearsome fire-breathing Ardbeg Scorch unveiled for Feis Ile

Fèis Ìle might not be taking place IRL, but the distilleries are still doing plenty to keep the fans spending money. Sorry, happy. We’ve just heard the news that Ardbeg will be releasing a limited edition in time for Ardbeg day on 5 June. It’s called Ardbeg Scorch based on a dragon that apparently lives in Dunnage Warehouse no. 3. No this isn’t a St. George’s Day fool, the team really is releasing this whisky (though the dragon thing sounds unlikely, imagine the health and safety implications with all that flammable whisky.) It’s aged in heavily-charred ex-bourbon casks and bottled with no age statement at 46% ABV. Dr Bill Lumsden described it as “a fire-breathing beast of a dram!” The tasting note is quite something: “A long and heroic finale, with a subtle tarry aftertaste. A finish that will drag on, well into its happily ever after.” Blimey! Colin Gordon, Ardbeg’s new distillery manager, said: “This year will be my first Ardbeg Day ever: a baptism of fire! It’s a shame we Ardbeggians can’t enjoy it together in person, but the online event is shaping up to be tremendous fun. With a whole virtual world to explore, including fantasy inns, campfire tales, medieval feasts and live tastings, there’s plenty for people to be excited about this year.” Sounds fun! Ardbeg Scorch will be available from 27 May for £100 from your favourite online retailer. And it’s been a busy week for Dr Bill and team as they also unveiled X by Glenmorangie, a whisky that’s “made to mix.” Full feature on this mixable malt coming soon…

The Nightcap: 23 April edition

A remarkable liquid with a story that’s… well, it’s a story alright.

Talisker releases its oldest expression to date: 43 year old Xpedition Oak

In what might be the most convoluted bit of coopering ever, the latest release from Talisker called Xpedition Oak The Atlantic Challenge was finished in casks containing staves that sailed across the Atlantic. James Aiken took the unusual cargo on his yacht, the Oaken Yarn, for a 3,264 journey following the route of the rowers in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge from La Gomera in Spain to Antigua. The staves were then sent back to Scotland and made up into barrels which were used to finish a 43-year-old Talisker in. We’re not quite sure why. Still, 1805 bottles were filled at 49.7% ABV and should cost you around £3500. Bottle number one will be auctioned to raise money for conservation charity Parley for the Oceans. Brand ambassador Ewan Gunn commented: “This whisky is a sublime single malt that captures the pinnacle of the key aromas of Talisker – spice, sweetness, waxy and creamy, with a sense of the sea salt spray the morning after a storm. The four decades of maturation have given a full flavour, yet a softness to this bold dram resulting in a rounded and elegant experience.” We were given a little sample and can only agree with Gunn, that Talisker DNA just shines through even after 43 years with an incredible lingering creamy sweetness. What a treat, though what effect the Atlantic voyage has on the flavour is not obvious to us.

The Nightcap: 23 April edition

Arnett is moving on to exciting new pastures

Former Jack Daniel’s master distiller to found $20m distillery

When Jeff Arnett left his role at the world’s biggest American whiskey brand back in September 2020, I think it was pretty clear to all of us that he was going to put his experience to good use. This week, the former master distiller of Jack Daniel’s revealed he’ll do just that at a new distillery being built in Tennessee. Following a US$20 million investment, Arnett’s Company Distilling project will open a 4,000 sq ft site with a tasting room and restaurant in Townsend, Tennessee in autumn 2021. It will be followed by the opening of a multi-functional ‘family-friendly’ facility in Springbrook Farm in Alcoa, Tennessee in 2022, which shows you how serious this plan is. The latter 20,000 sq ft site will eventually be home to the main distillery and manufacturing operations and will also include a tasting room, restaurant, brewery, and retail store with outdoor activities and entertainment hosted in 31 acres of space. There will be live music and games such as corn hole and pickleball (we have no idea what these but are guessing they are something Cletus from the Simpsons would play). Arnett is not the only significant figure in American whiskey at the centre of this project. It’s collaboration with Kris Tatum, former president of the Tennessee Distillers Guild; Heath Clark, founder of Tennessee-based H Clark Distillery; construction management professional Corey Clayton; and Clayton Homes CEO Kevin Clayton. Arnett is understandably excited about the project. He commented: “For years now, we’ve had this spirit in the back of our minds. It’s straight bourbon whiskey finished with maple wood to produce a sip like no other. It’s hard to believe it’s finally real. And it’s better than we ever imagined.” And there pickleball too!

The Nightcap: 23 April edition

It was quite the return to the world of in-person events for us this week

Bowmore and The Savoy team up to open Solas

This week did something truly amazing. We went to a bar for an event. Frankly, we’d have bit your hand off for an evening at Moe’s Tavern but we got to enjoy some a little more sophisticated at The Savoy. The London landmark was celebrating the launch of Solas (which means light, joy and comfort in Scottish Gaelic), an pop-up outdoor dining space in the historic Savoy Court that takes advantage of this age of outdoor hospitality. It’s a collaboration with Bowmore, which helped put together quite the menu. There’s an array of sublime cocktails that we got to taste as well as a raw seafood bar (mmmmm, raw seafood bar) that serves oyster selections, lobster rolls, gravadlax and scallop ceviche. The venue is a feast for the eyes too, but as you might imagine, it was the cocktails that really sold it for us. Standouts include the Pursuit For Perfection, a light, refreshing and elegant combination of Haku Vodka, peach, rosebud cordial and Champagne and Timeless, a rich, deep and complex mix of Bowmore 15 Year Old, Chezakette Bianco, Averna, Angostura, aquavit and sugar. It’s a truly impressive experience, to be honest. It looks great, the cocktails were delicious and the food? Well, Gordon Ramsey was there and he seemed perfectly happy. Solas is now open seven days a week until 21 June 2021 and I’d imagine reserving ASAP would be a good idea. 

The Nightcap: 23 April edition

The distillery has always had sustainability at the core of its business

Flor de Caña Rum to plant one million trees by 2025

With it being Earth Day yesterday, many brands have put the PR machines into overdrive in order to shout about how environmentally friendly they are. There are a few that aren’t simply greenwashing however, like Flor de Caña. It’s a sustainably-produced rum distilled with 100% renewable energy that’s carbon neutral and Fair Trade certified. It also has its own reforestation program, which has led to the planting of nearly 750,000 trees since 2005. Now it’s ramping up those efforts by pledging to plant more than one million trees by 2025. By partnering with One Tree Planted, its global campaign aims to raise awareness on the importance of reforestation and inspire consumers, bartenders and the general public to donate through the One Tree Planted platform. This guarantees that one tree will be planted for every dollar received. In turn, Flor de Caña will then match all donations received in order to have a greater impact. The global campaign, titled ‘Together for a Greener Future’, will also see the launch of several events with retailers, bars, restaurants and on social media (#TogetherForAGreenerFuture) to engage eco-conscious consumers. “Trees are essential for biodiversity and a healthy climate, so it’s great to work with a brand so committed to making a positive impact for reforestation and sustainability overall,” said Diana Chaplin, canopy director at One Tree Planted. Keep up the good work, guys!

The Nightcap: 23 April edition

Congratulations Mark!

Mark McClintock is Diageo World Class GB Bartender of the Year

Congratulations to Mark McClintock who fought off stiff competition to be crowned last night as Diageo World Class GB Bartender of the Year. The test consisted of two challenges. The first dubbed ‘Alive with Freshness’ used Tanqueray No. Ten and was judged solely on flavour and balance. The second was more complicated and involved contestants designing a dream whisky bar along with two cocktails, one made with Talisker and one with Johnnie Walker Black Label. World Class ambassador Jo Last praised McClintock’s “impeccable skills and hospitality throughout both challenges”.The judging panel was led by Pippa Guys who commented: “Mark has demonstrated a consistently high quality of drinks, knowledge, and personality ever since he stepped into the World Class programme.” McClintock himself said: “I am genuinely shocked and so honoured to go on and represent GB on the global stage”. In addition to the glory of going to the final 4-8 July (virtually), McClintock wins a 12-month contract with Global Bartending, WSET Level 3 spirits course, a personalised Cocktail Kingdom kit, and photoshoot. We wish him the best of luck for the final.

The Nightcap: 23 April edition

Loser has to sing The Champs – Tequila on karaoke.

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with Cazcabel’s ‘world’s first Tequila board game’

Last week we heard about Jose Cuervo’s plans to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, now Cazcabel has revealed how it will mark the event. The brand has launched the ‘world’s first Tequila board game’, La Lotería. A hand-illustrated version of the Mexican classic bingo-style game, the aim is to be the first to match all the pictures on the sheet, La Tabla, with those called out by the host from the deck of cards. Each La Lotería game, comes in a magnetic box complete with a deck of cards, eight reusable La Tabla sheets and pens, a rule sheet, and a Spanish translation guide. Cazcabel Tequila is also hosting a Mexican Fiesta two-hour virtual event filled with tequila cocktails and La Lotería at 6:30 pm on Thursday 6th May. It will be hosted by the brand’s global brand ambassador Nate Sorby, with tickets available via Design My Night for £25 per person. It also sounds great, but to be honest the idea of mixing up some Margaritas whilst playing a Tequila board game sounds hard to beat. You can pick one up from the brand’s website and grab your Cazcabel Tequila here

And finally… man celebrates end of lockdown by pouring a pint over his head

Here in England, we’ve unable to contain our excitement that the pubs are opening again so we can have a delicious pint of beer in the garden. But not as excited as one St Helens man who was so overcome with emotion at the thought of that first pint, that rather than drink it, he poured it over his head. 45-year-old Charlie Richards commented: “My mate was just doing a video showing everyone there really enjoying the day and it went onto me, and well I got a bit excited and ended up rubbing the beer on my face before pouring it over my head for a few laughs. I didn’t think too much of it really, but my mate posted it on Facebook and now it’s gone everywhere.” So this St. George’s Day, we raise a glass to a true Englishman. Cheers Charlie!

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Elixir Distillers lands Georgie Crawford

There’s big news in the Scotch whisky transfer market! Elixir Distillers has just signed Georgie Crawford from Diageo to be the manager for the brand’s forthcoming Islay distillery. Today we…

There’s big news in the Scotch whisky transfer market! Elixir Distillers has just signed Georgie Crawford from Diageo to be the manager for the brand’s forthcoming Islay distillery.

Today we learned that Georgie Crawford will be bringing 14 years at Diageo’s Scotch whisky distilleries to a close soon as she moves on to pastures new and joins Elixir Distillers this summer.

A distillery with no name

She’ll oversee the construction of the distillery site (still without a confirmed name) on Islay’s south coast next to the town of Port Ellen, not far from Lagavulin, Laphroaig and Ardbeg

Elixir Distillers is a creator, blender and bottler of spirits founded by Sukhinder Singh and Rajbir Singh (you know, from that other site. What’s it called? The Whisky Shop?). It’s the name behind brands such as Port Askaig Islay single malt and Black Tot Caribbean rum but until now it’s never had its own distillery.

Getting Crawford on board is something of a coup for the brand, as she brings with her nearly two decades of experience to the role. Most recently, she was manager for the Port Ellen Distillery Revival project, so she has plenty of know-how when it comes to Islay distilleries. 

Her career in Scotch whisky began at The Vaults in Edinburgh, the home of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society in 2002. Crawford has since worked for the likes of Talisker, Glen Ord, Teaninich and Lagavulin.

GeGeorgie Crawford Elixir Distillers

It’s Georgie Crawford!

Sukhinder Singh comments

Sukhinder Singh, co-founder of Elixir Distillers, commented: “Having grown up on Islay, attending school a stone’s throw from our distillery site, Crawford’s love for the island and all its distilleries is unrivalled. She not only shares our passion for Islay whisky, but also our vision for the future and I know that she will bring both exceptional expertise and a fresh approach to a new Islay distillery.”

The plan is for the distillery to produce one million litres of alcohol a year and use floor maltings to process just over half of the barley needed. There will also be on-site housing for distillery workers, a visitor’s centre and a multipurpose educational facility, with further initiatives to support the local community and an apprentice programme for aspiring distillers to be pursued further down the line. 

Elixir Distillers revealed in February that the Argyll & Bute council planning committee granted planning permission for them to go ahead with the project, which was first announced in 2018. Now with Crawford joining the team, things should be moving fast. Perhaps she can help them come up with a name.

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The Nightcap: 9 April

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

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

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

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

Now, let’s get Nightcapping, shall we?

Welcome to The Nightcap: 9 April edition!

We love some fancy Bowmore

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

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

Welcome to The Nightcap: 9 April edition!

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

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

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

Welcome to The Nightcap: 9 April edition!

These are some of the most sustainable bottles ever produced.

Diageo makes “most sustainable glass Scotch whisky bottles ever”

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

Welcome to The Nightcap: 9 April edition!

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

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

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

Welcome to The Nightcap: 9 April edition!

Don’t drink and hike. Obviously.

River Rock Scotch whisky ads banned 

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

Rare Brora whiskies go under the hammer

Brora! Brora! Brora!

Super rare Brora collection goes under the hammer

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

Welcome to The Nightcap: 9 April edition!

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

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

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

Welcome to The Nightcap: 9 April edition!

The dream. This is the dream.

Black Chalk’s vineyard tree houses open this summer

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

Welcome to The Nightcap: 9 April edition!

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

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

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

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The Nightcap: 1 April

With the Easter weekend on the horizon, you might have thought there would be no new round-up this week. You’d be wrong because we’re doing it a day early. It’s…

With the Easter weekend on the horizon, you might have thought there would be no new round-up this week. You’d be wrong because we’re doing it a day early. It’s the Nightcap: 1 April edition.

Happy April Fool’s Day/long weekend everyone! Today we all had a good laugh when we pretended we aged some delicious whisky in a tonic wine cask. You know, like that infamous drink known as ‘wreck the hoose juice’. Expect it was no joke. Surprise! It was an April Unfool. We really did do it. The old switcheroo. It’s bonkers. It’s brilliant. And it’s totally real. What a rollercoaster. 

Once you’ve gotten over our double bluff, you might also want to enjoy some of our other scribblings this week. Like our guide on how to pair chocolate and booze for Easter, our refreshing recipe for a terrific Tequila-based cocktail, our top picks of blended beauties and a review on a tasty new Tennessee whiskey. We also had drinks advertisements on the mind this week as we considered both how they evolve and who takes a starring role.

But we’re not done yet. There’s Nightcapping to do! Let’s proceed.

On The Nightcap: 1 April edition, we pay tribute to Caroline Martin

Cheers to you, Caroline. Thanks for all the delicious booze

Diageo pays tribute to Caroline Martin

We kick things off this week by raising a glass to Caroline Martin, who is preparing to retire after a distinguished 35-year career. Since Martin began her whisky journey in 1986, she has made good use of her extraordinary whisky blending skills by working with brands like Johnnie Walker, J&B, Bell’s and Roe & Co Irish whiskey. As one of the company’s longest-serving whisky master blenders, Martin has become known for her sensory analysis skills, ability to lead training and panels, and judge prominent competitions, all while blazing a trail for women in whisky. Her achievements have led to honours like becoming a Keeper of The Quaich or winning ‘Blender of The Year’ for Roe & Co by The Spirit Business in 2019. It’s her last role at Diageo’s new Dublin-based distillery that might be her finest hour, re-launching the old brand after creating 106 prototype blends of Irish single malt and single grain to make an expression worthy of its historic name. Rhona Ferrans, Diageo whisky specialist team manager, paid tribute to Martin by acknowledging her “extraordinary contribution” and describing her as a “great example and source of inspiration to all of her colleagues”. Martin herself said, “The past 35 years have been an incredible journey and I am thankful to everybody at Diageo who have made it so memorable”. We sincerely hope you enjoy your retirement, Caroline. You deserve it. 

On The Nightcap: 1 April edition, we congratulate Stephen Woodcock

Congratulations, Stephen! We’re looking forward to seeing what you do with the distillery

Stephen Woodcock goes to Glen Moray

Glen Moray also has big news regarding personnel changes, announcing that Stephen Woodcock will take the helm at the Speyside single malt whisky distillery. His job title is actually ‘head of whisky creation & stocks’, and he’ll develop Glen Moray’s wide range of whiskies while also working with the other whisky brands owned by Glen Moray’s parent company La Martiniquaise-Bardinet like Cutty Sark, Label 5 and Sir Edward’s. He succeeds Dr Kirstie McCallum, who recently took up a similar role at Halewood International. There’s no word on why her stint with Glen Moray was so short, as she only joined in 2019. Regardless, Woodcock joins with plenty of experience in this industry, most recently with The Distell Group, where he was responsible for Deanston, Bunnahabhain and Tobermory single malts. Which will now be Brendan McCarron’s job. It’s quite the merry-go-round. For lovers of whisky trivia, Glen Moray is the world’s 8th biggest-selling Speyside whisky and the 16th best-selling single malt. A statement from the distillery said “we are thrilled to bring his talent and experience into the LM-B family”. Woodcock added that he’s “so excited to be joining Glen Moray” and that, together with its expert team, he hopes to build on the “legacy of maturing and marrying different casks, to craft great-tasting whiskies, which will be enjoyed by newcomers and connoisseurs alike.”  

On The Nightcap: 1 April edition, we take a look a certain notable grouse's makeover

What a hilarious April Fool’s. That’s clearly not a lion.

Famous Grouse changes name to celebrate the British & Irish Lions

Famous Grouse and rugby go together like Budweiser and one of those American sports that go on for hours and are baffling to non-Americans. The UK’s number one blended whisky brand has been involved with the sport for 30 years and is currently the sponsor of the British & Irish Lions. To celebrate this special relationship, the bottle has had a makeover which now reads ‘The Famous British & Irish Lions’ instead of ‘The Famous Grouse’. You see what they did there? Chris Anderson, head of Edrington brands, commented: “We are very proud to reaffirm our commitment to this great game with the launch of this limited-edition bottle. On sale throughout the British and Irish Lions tour the bottle will enable us to celebrate the pride and camaraderie we see on the rugby pitch every matchday.” This special bottle which is likely to become a collector’s item will go on sale mid-April ahead of the Lions’ summer tour of South Africa. It should be a belter. 

On The Nightcap: 1 April edition, we ask whether Glendronach has gone down a dreaded path...

Has Glendronach committed a cardinal sin in the eyes of certain whisky lovers?

Is Glendronach now chill-filtered?

There was a proper few Rory over on whisky Twitter this week when someone noticed the words “non-chill-filtered” had been removed from Glendronach’s packaging. One fan asked whether the whisky was indeed now chill-filtered and posted a message which appears to come from the brand saying: “We have removed ‘Non-Chill-Filtered’ from our packaging to provide the flexibility in our processes to optimise consistently exceptional quality, flavour, clarity and stability.” So sounds like a yes then. Not chill-filtering, a process to stabilise the spirit which some think removes flavour, is a badge of honour among many distilleries and highly prized by whisky lovers. We have asked Spey which looks after the PR for Glendronach and the rest of the Brown Forman stable for comment but have not heard back yet. We will be investigating further in an article coming soon.

On The Nightcap: 1 April edition, we look forward to a returning festival

Get your tickets now!

OurWhisky virtual whisky festival returns

There’s another virtual festival to pop in your calendars, folks. The team at OurWhisky say its celebration of the water of life will be back for a second year from 29 April to 27 May. The first festival, which took place in April 2020, was made in response to the Covid-19 crisis and tried to unite whisky makers and lovers while raising money for charity. Which it did. Over £12,000 was donated to The Drinks Trust. The 2021 festival will feature another series of fun and welcoming masterclasses, spread out across five sessions with unique themes. On 29 April is ‘Who Run The World?’, then ‘Club Tropicana’ on 6 May and ‘The Ryesing Tide’ on 13 May. Then, on 20 May there’s ‘New Kids on the Block’ and finally ‘WonkaVision’ on 27 May. While those category names are highly suggestive, you won’t actually know the full details until the day of the event, as the contents of each tasting pack, as well as those presenting them, will be a surprise. There are also five Golden Tickets hidden among the tasting packs this year. Lucky finders will be able to choose a full bottle of whisky of their choice from their tasting. Whisky retailer Milroy’s of Soho will partner with the festival to offer guests an exclusive discount on featured bottles featured. All profits from the event will go to The Drinks Trust. Tickets are on sale now for £30 and each includes a tasting pack of five 30ml whisky samples. The OurWhisky Virtual Whisky Festival will be live-streamed at 7 pm GMT on the brand’s Facebook, Twitter and YouTube channels.  

On The Nightcap: 1 April edition, we check out a new drinks website

It might have the aesthetic of a noughties nightclub, but Ooft! could be an invaluable resource for some

New drinks website launches: OOFT! 

A new platform has been made to embrace making the most of drinking in as well as drinking out. Introducing: OOFT! The site went live this month with videos, recipes, articles, masterclasses, events and advice from all corners of hospitality that focus on enhancing both the at-home and drinking out experience. OOFT! was made  by Leanne Ware, the founder of drinks marketing agency Distinctly Aware, in response to our altered drinking culture post-Covid-19. The idea is for it to be an evolving one stop place where you can learn to create cocktails (or get a good one delivered), see what’s happening in your favourite bars and learn about drinks that to expert contributions from the likes of JJ Goodman founder of The London Cocktail Club, Camille Vidal founder of La Maison Wellness and Hannah Lanfear of The Mixing Class. You can even find the perfect spirituous gift as OOFT! has partnered with some mighty fine retailers. Mighty fine, multi-award-winning retailers. Masters of their craft, you might say… Ok, it’s us. We’re talking about us. Anyway, be sure to check out the website.  

On The Nightcap: 1 April edition, we check out the drinks industry's April Fool's celebrations 

Everyone has a had good laugh today. Although, we actually want one of these.

And finally… it’s an April Fool’s or is it?

The booze world really got into the spirit of April Fool’s Day this year with some amusing japes. Top beard owner Blair Bowman and the World Whisky Day team came up with The Dunnage, a limited edition reed diffuser that’s designed to mimic the smell of dunnage warehouses. Bowman commented: “After a decade of celebrating World Whisky Day each year, we thought it was time to stop and smell the roses — and mark our tenth birthday with something special. We couldn’t be happier with the result.” South of the border, English Spirits tried to catch us out with the Cornish Pasty Rum, “rammed with sweet raisin flavours and smooth caramel notes, daringly paired with the savoury palate of a Cornish pasty.” We very nearly fell for that. Is it any sillier than a Brussels sprout gin? Meanwhile, Fake Booze came up with a whole raft of fake boozes including: ”Groanheuser Bush’s new hard seltzer Cacti in association with an American rapper we’ve never heard of. The Agave Spiked Seltzer is unique in the way it features three whole buzz words in the title.” Still, none of them are April Unfools. That takes real genius…

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Where are the older people in whisky advertising?

It’s marketing week here at Master of Malt. Yesterday Millie Milliken looked at the evolution of drinks adverts. And today we ask whether the Scotch whisky industry is missing a…

It’s marketing week here at Master of Malt. Yesterday Millie Milliken looked at the evolution of drinks adverts. And today we ask whether the Scotch whisky industry is missing a trick by ignoring older people in favour of the youth market.

There was a report published this month by Our Whisky examining the representation of women and minorities in whisky marketing. Looking at all the pictures used to publicise the report, it looks like the industry has a problem with another group: older people. Scroll though whisky Instagram accounts or look at whisky adverts, and there are very few grey hairs to be seen.

The majority of whisky marketing seems to target three groups: the carefree consumer in their 20s (see this recent Ballantine’s advert below), the hardcore single malt drinker (people with beards and Highland Park tattoos), or the vibrant birdman community (The Macallan). 

I spoke with someone with over 30 years experience at a very large drinks company (who didn’t want to go on record for the feature) and he said that the marketing department was “in denial that people over 40 exist”.

Recruit, recruit, recruit

He went on to explain how the vast majority of marketing is aimed at getting new drinkers into the category rather than retaining existing customers. Neil Boyd, MD of Ian MacLeod Distillers, agreed. “Whisky marketers have a recruitment problem. The challenge is to get to younger drinkers,” he explained. “If you look at the UK market, 80% of blended whisky is drunk by the over 60s with a very strong male bias. With single malts, it’s a bit younger, mainly over 45 with a rough 70/30 male/female split.”

Furthermore, as drinks columnist for the FT Alice Lascelles pointed out, younger people are more likely to use Instagram so you get more value out of them: “A millennial is likely to share on social media, you get much more reach for every one of them than through a 70 year old,” she said.

Hence all those vibrant young people in the adverts. The problem is that every drinks brand, not just in whisky, is going for the 25-35 year old market.

Some oldies think they’re young

Now of course, much of this youth advertising won’t only appeal to young people, as a former brand ambassador now working for an indie bottler, pointed out to me (also anonymously). Johnnie Walker’s tie-up with Dua Lipa, might go over my head (I’m 44), but there are plenty of older people who are more down with the kids.

Contrast this with the whisky adverts of yore: they were full of older people, mainly men. Johnnie Walker (see below) himself was originally a gent about town of a certain age, rather than the stylised young rake of modern times. In the past, being old was aspirational. Some men in the Victorian era even affected a stoop to make them appear more venerable. Now everyone tries to appear younger. Whisky companies are just following the zeitgeist.

Johnnie Walker - The evolution of the Striding Man

The evolution of the Striding Man

Should there even be a target audience for advertising?

Brand guru David Gluckman thought the very idea of targeting groups was nonsense. “There’s far too much of it and it stands in the way of successful new ideas,” he told me. For him it was all about basing the marketing around the product. He should know. He’s the man behind Le Piat d’Or and Baileys Irish Cream when he worked at IDV (the forerunner of Diageo), and the author of one of the best books on marketing, That s*it will never sell!.

He praised Smokehead in particular: “I loved it because it immediately said to me if you like those harsh, peaty whiskies with a touch of drain cleaner about them, then you’ll like Smokehead. It put a whole series of what would be negatives to people who didn’t like the taste of whisky, and I thought that was great targeting.” Laphroaig also does this very well with its ‘Opinions welcome‘ campaign.

Set in their ways?

Leaving aside whether you should target groups or not, there is a perception from the industry that older people aren’t worth marketing to because they don’t try new things. Lascelles told me: “The received wisdom is that older people are more brand loyal. I could imagine a big drinks company thinking: we’ve got these guys in the bag already. There’s a lot of talk of getting people to engage while they’re young. If you’re going to spend a pound, it’s better to spend a pound on getting someone at the beginning of their spirits journey, rather than the end.”

There’s also the perception that older people, particularly baby boomers are, how can I put this nicely, a bit cheap. Many of the people I spoke with pointed out some older people’s reluctance to splash out compared with younger generations. 

Anecdotally, however, I find that older people aren’t as set in their ways as younger people tend to think. I’m thinking of the grandfather who helps out with reading at my daughter’s school who is always enthusing about new gin brands he has tried. Some older people do try new things and are swayed by advertising. Data from the Distilled Spirits Council in the US seemed to back this up: people between the ages of 57 and 75 who drink spirits had increased, from 43.9% in 2007 to 46.4% in 2017.

Certainly, other drink sectors are looking at marketing to older people. Speaking to SevenFiftyDaily, wine merchant Tara Empson said: “After the pandemic, will they [older people] also start looking around a lot more and feel more confident to try new things?” 

Alice Lascelles

It’s only Alice Lascelles from the FT!

Follow the money

It might be trickier to get them to part from their money, but there’s no doubt that older people do have quite a lot of it. According to this insightful article on wine marketing, 70% of Britain’s disposable income lies with the over 55s. There are over 23 million people over 50 in the UK and the population is getting older. No wonder when I was in publishing there was so much talk about the grey pound and silver surfers.

Neil Boyd commented: “An increasingly ageing population will present further challenges to advertisers in identifying their recruitment target. They may have to think differently in the future.”

Looking at our own data from people with Google accounts searching the MoM website for whisky, 55% are over 35, with people over 45 accounting for 35% of the site traffic. The male female split is roughly 70:30. Whisky investment company VCL Vintners issued some figures recently about investors getting younger, and yet around 40% of its customers were still over 45. And don’t forget, as Lascelles told me when talking about whisky auctions: “It is the older generation who are spending the big bucks the majority of the time.”

My anonymous contact at the large drinks company said: “I remember seeing research that one might have thought would have made a compelling argument for redirecting a lot of investment towards older-aged cohorts. But nothing at the end came of that.” He said that brands were terrified of being associated with older people. 

Represent 

So far the argument has been about sales; it’s not a good use of money to market to older people. We can argue about that, but diversity is also about representation. Increasingly brands are taking a moral view on this. To not feature minorities is not just bad business but also unethical. Why should it be different with people’s age? Older people, especially older women, are increasingly invisible; wouldn’t it be great if whisky companies took the lead here?

I asked to speak to some of the conglomerates about this. Pernod Ricard and William Grant & Sons wouldn’t comment, but Diageo did issue a statement: “Our aim with all our marketing is to champion diversity and inclusion regardless of age, gender, orientation or colour (above our Diageo Marketing Code age bracket of 25). We have a specific 10 year action plan called Our Society 2030: Spirit of Progress to keep driving change and ensuring we are balanced and positive in the way we portray all our brands, including Scotch specifically.” So there we go.

Older people

‘Darling, I think it’s time we tried this whisky thing I keep hearing about on the wireless’
‘Good idea!’

Worth a punt

Everyone I spoke to agreed that most whisky marketing, indeed most spirit marketing, is aimed at the 25-35 year old group. There are very good reasons for that. If whisky as a category doesn’t recruit younger people, it will contract. Yet, surely not every brand needs to go for the same market. Pernod Ricard and Diageo have a portfolio of whiskies, wouldn’t it make sense to direct some marketing towards older people? If everyone is doing one thing, it makes sense for someone to do the opposite. 

It doesn’t have to be involve a free zimmer frame, but a witty campaign involving print advertising; older people still buy papers. Classic FM, and something on Facebook would pay dividends. It could persuade a large number of people to switch from brand Y to brand X. Or even try whisky for the first time. 

At the moment, whisky producers are taking older people for granted. Marc Fleishhacker, formerly of Ogilvy and eBay, said: “Acquiring a new customer costs about five to seven times as much as maintaining a profitable relationship with an existing customer.” Surely, it’s just good business to talk to your best customers.

1 Comment on Where are the older people in whisky advertising?

The Nightcap: 12 March

For all the latest on Conor McGregor’s big whiskey sale, a Prosecco-infused Easter egg and the world’s smallest(ish) Irish pub, you’re in the right place. It’s the Nightcap! The Nightcap…

For all the latest on Conor McGregor’s big whiskey sale, a Prosecco-infused Easter egg and the world’s smallest(ish) Irish pub, you’re in the right place. It’s the Nightcap!

The Nightcap is full of Easter and St. Patrick’s Day cheer this week. Which reminds us how much there is to look forward to. Sitting in a beer garden and just whiling the hours away. Making friends for life in the smoking area. Finally giving Future Nostalgia the respect it deserves by dancing to every minute of it with other people. But we can’t get too ahead of ourselves. There’s still plenty to enjoy at the moment. Like all those new pets. And, of course, some light reading regarding the drinks industry’s latest shenanigans. Let’s get on with it. It’s The Nightcap: 12 March edition!

This week you might have noticed that things were a little different in the blog as we marked International Women’s Day by celebrating the women behind the drinks you love. We were delighted to be joined by brewer and broadcaster Jaega Wise, Widow Jane head distiller Lisa Roper Wicker, Maker’s Mark diplomat Nicole Sykes, Diageo coppersmith Kirstin Neil and The Story associate director Tarita Mullings. Elsewhere, Adam recommended some sensationally smoky spirits, while Henry explained how the Negroni became a classic and then enjoyed a sherry-soaked treat from the Cotswolds distillery, and our occasional MoM Loves partnership series was back with a lesson in foraged cocktails from The Botanist Gin. Oh, and if you’ve left it to the last minute to sort out Mother’s Day don’t worry, we’ve got you covered

On The Nightcap this week we remember Steven Spurrier

The wine world mourns one of its most lively, popular and influential figures, Steven Spurrier

Wine world pays tribute to Steven Spurrier

The wine world lost one of its most important and colourful figures in Steven Spurrier this week. There aren’t many wine writers who have been played by Alan Rickman in a film but then few, if any, have proved as influential as Spurrier. He was best known for organising the 1976 Judgement of Paris wherein a blind tasting by French judges, the best wines of Burgundy and Bordeaux lost out to some upstart producers from California. It’s a story that has resonated down the years but there’s so much more to Spurrier than that. He was born in 1941, and had a varied career as a wine merchant, publisher, writer and entrepreneur. In his later years, when most people would think about retiring he was involved in founding a publisher, Acadamie de Vin, and planted a vineyard at his home in Dorset to produce a highly-regarded sparkling wine, Bride Valley. Jancis Robinson wrote about him yesterday on her site, JancisRobinson.com: “For someone who achieved so much, he acted with such extreme modesty and politeness that there was always a danger of his not being accorded his due”. Adam Lechmere in his touching obituary for Club Oenologique added: “Generations of wine lovers would claim him as their own.” He is survived by his wife Bella and children Kate and Christian. Thank you Steven, we’re raising a glass or two to you this week.

On The Nightcap this week we hear about Redbreast's new whiskey

The belting new dram marks 30 years of the revival of the brand

Redbreast delves into the past for its newest expression

There’s a new Redbreast out there. But before you deluge the MoM switchboard, of whatever the internet equivalent is, we have to say that this limited edition cask strength 10-year-old version is only available from the Birdhouse, the Redbreast members club. Right, got that out of the way. Is it any good, you’ll want to know? Yes, it’s fabulous. If you like traditional Irish pot still whiskey then you are going to love this because it’s perhaps the pot stilliest whiskey out there. What do we mean by that? Midleton Distillery makes three types of pot still new make, light, medium and heavy. The light and medium go into younger expressions, whereas the heavy is saved for heavily-aged versions where it’s blended with some light. This is the only Midleton that contains all three levels, and the only young expression to contain heavy. It was inspired by the original Redbreast which came from Jameson’s Dublin distillery but was aged and bottled by Gilbey’s wine merchants. To celebrate 30 years of the rebirth of the brand, archivist Carol Quinn collaborated with blenders Billy Leighton and Dave McCabe to produce this tribute to the original. It was aged in a mixture of ex-bourbon barrels and Oloroso sherry-seasoned butts, and bottled at 59.1% ABV. It’s a gorgeous drop with big sweet-spicy flavours, a drop of water reveals a fruitier side with fresh peaches and dried apricots as well as wood tannins. It’s available from today and costs €100 but you’ll have to register at the Birdhouse for a chance to buy a bottle. 7,000 have been filled. It was such a hit on the online tasting that there was a clamour to make it part of the core range. Sadly Leighton confirmed that it was a one-off. Boo! 

On The Nightcap this week we hear about Conor McGregor's big windfall

Conor McGregor is in the money (again)

Conor McGregor bought out of Proper 12 Irish whiskey

Big news in Irish whiskey this week came from Becle, which bought Conor McGregor’s shares in Proper 12 Irish whiskey. The Mexican beverage company, which owns Jose Cuervo Tequila, Kraken Spiced Rum and Bushmills Distillery, revealed it had exercised an option to acquire 51 per cent of the equity interests of Eire Born Spirits, a company founded by McGregor and his manager Audie Attar. Becle initially had a 20% share of Proper 12, having helped EBS get the brand off the ground, and it had already increased its stake to 49% last year. Now it retains full ownership of the brand that McGregor launched in 2018. We’re sure he’s netted a very handsome fee for the sale (reports suggest he Attar will split £112 million), but it does raise the questions over how the Becle will now market Proper 12 without McGregor as the face of the brand. His regular championing of Proper 12 on his social media profiles and at press conferences certainly helped sales. But Becle may be happy to wash its hands of the controversial former UFC featherweight and lightweight champion, who will have put some people off the brand. Certainly, our customer reviews paint an interesting picture of Proper 12 as a divisive product. This month alone there’s a range of comments, with one person describing it as a “great tasting whisky that is only hated on by people who don’t like McGregor”, while another calls it “the worst Irish whiskey at the price point”. Of course, you won’t know on what side of the fence you sit until you find out for yourself…

On The Nightcap this week we hear about good tariff news

Get your Cognac orders in because the tariffs have been suspended!

Tariffs on rum and Cognac suspended

Remember last week when the US and the UK decided to shake hands and let sense prevail by suspending those silly tariffs on goods like Scotch whisky? Well, a similar deal has now been struck between the US and the EU. A four-month suspension of tariffs on products from both nations is now in effect, which is very good news for us booze fans. Gone are the 25% EU tariffs on US rum, brandy and vodka. As are the 25% US tariffs on liqueurs and cordials from Germany, Ireland, Italy and Spain, and certain Cognac and other grape brandies from France and Germany. European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen spoke to US president Joe Biden to agree to a temporary removal of the tariffs in relation to the Airbus-Boeing dispute and says the news was excellent for businesses and industries “on both sides of the Atlantic”, adding that it sends a “very positive signal for our economic cooperation in the years to come”. Trade group the Distilled Spirits Council of the US (Discus) were similarly pleased with the breakthrough in the long-running spat, saying it “left much destruction to the spirits sector in its wake” and that it comes at a key time for the US hospitality sector. However, Discus also said there was plenty left to discuss (sorry), as the EU and UK continue to impose a 25% tariff on American whiskey, which is due to double on 1 June this year. Discus called the tariff ‘unfair and not sustainable’ and has urged the Biden administration to find a speedy resolution that eliminates these “debilitating tariffs on spirits for good.” We can but hope. At least, for now, things are finally moving in the right direction.

On The Nightcap this week we learn about whisky's representation problem

Right now whisky marketing is failing to adequately represent women and people of colour

New report highlights gender disparity in whisky

An alarming, but sadly not that surprising report was published by Our Whisky this week which found that leading whisky brands’ Instagram accounts posts are sorely lacking when it comes to representing women and people of colour. The Women and Whisky: Female Representation in Social Media Marketing, which analysed the Instagram accounts of the world’s 150 largest and most influential whisky brands, reveals that men outnumber women by 228%, with women accounting for just 36% of people represented in 2020. Meanwhile, non-white ethnicities were represented in just 17.9% of posts that featured people. Becky Paskin, the co-founder of OurWhisky, says the study demonstrates we’re still far away from achieving gender equality. “Whisky brands have the power to normalise the fact women make and drink whisky by what they choose to show in their advertising and marketing,” Paskin explains. “They don’t need to feminise their brands, but by simply being more inclusive they can change the narrative and appeal to a wider demographic of potential customers, which has obvious business benefits as well.” With International Women’s Day this week, we’ve seen brands highlight some of the incredible women in our industry. But, while Paskin appreciates acknowledging female achievements, she adds that to really honour these women and make whisky truly inclusive, brands should consider how their year-round marketing is representative of today’s drinkers. 

On The Nightcap this week we learn about Pernod's new investment

La Hechicera Rum has joined Pernod Ricard’s considerable portfolio

Pernod Ricard acquires majority stake in La Hechicera Rum

Pernod Ricard’s considerable portfolio continues to swell as after it bought a big chunk of La Hechicera Rum. The purchase, for an undisclosed size and sum, is expected to be completed in the coming weeks and will give Pernod Ricard a majority stake in the Colombian rum brand which was launched in 2012 by Miguel and Laura Riascos along with their friend Martamaria Carrillo. La Hechicera’s flagship rum, as well as the Experimental expressions, will join Havana Club in Pernod’s rum ranks. It’s a move that’s pretty familiar to anyone who knows the drinks industry, as the French drinks giant made similar purchases  of Monkey 47, Smooth Ambler and Ojo de Tigre. This obviously appeals to La Hechicera Rum co-founder and marketing director Miguel Riascos, who says that thanks to these previous successful collaborations, “Pernod Ricard has shown itself to be the partner of choice for La Hechicera”. He adds that the company’s “passion for terroir and its extensive distribution network will ensure that our brand remains true to its Colombian roots and the vision of its creators, while reaching new consumers.” If it means more people get to discover this delightful rum, then we’re behind the move. Of course, you could always just check the MoM blog instead

On The Nightcap this week we learn about world's smallest(ish) Irish pub

Pint of Guinness, please. No logo in the foam.

Irish whiskey brands mark St. Patrick’s Day

As well as a new Redbreast whiskey, we’ve also been inundated with Irish whiskey brands excitedly informing us about St. Patrick’s Day festivities. The Irish patron saint’s day, (next Wednesday 17 March), is usually a major celebration but Irish whiskey’s finest have had to be a bit more creative thanks to lockdown. The Sexton has created a nocturnal cocktail kit, made of ingredients that thrive in the night-time and designed to be enjoyed in the dark, while Slane will host an online gig this weekend starring Damien Dempsey and Irish rock band THUMPER on the Hot Press YouTube channel. Elsewhere, Tullamore D.E.W got around the fact that we can’t get into pubs in time to celebrate by opening The World’s Smallest(ish) Irish pub. It invites virtual visitors to curate their own experience, with choices including comedy musings from Irish comedian Alison Spittle, traditional Irish toasts, music singalongs, and various Tullamore D.E.W. cocktail making masterclasses. Jameson, meanwhile, decided that a month-long series of virtual events was the way to go. To find out more about the Irish whiskey giants other plans, which include a competition to win a “once-in-a-lifetime” St. Paddy’s experience for 2022, you should visit the Jameson Connects platform or its social media pages. As long as there’s not a Fabergé egg in sight, we’re happy to spend the day with a dram of something Irish and delicious, but it’s nice to know there’s options a-plenty if we fancy making a bit more of a fuss.

On The Nightcap this week we check out The Last Drop's new initiative

‘The Assembly’ will help the brand launch some intriguing new creations.

The Last Drop creates new booze with worldwide spirits experts

If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to drink booze created by an Avengers-style worldwide coalition of some of the best and brightest the industry has to offer, then you’re in luck. The Last Drop has created pretty much that with ‘The Assembly’. Featuring an independent panel of experts, innovators, and leaders drawn from across the spirits industry, the plan is that they will create a series of new signature blends. This is exciting because it marks a big change for The Last Drop, who you’ll have known best as curators but not creators. It includes the legendary Colin Scott, current master blender for The Last Drop, we well as JJ Corry Irish Whiskey founder Louise McGuane, the cellar master for Domaine de Sazerac Cognac, Denis Lahouratate, as well as Richard Seale, Drew Mayville and Michael d’Souza of Foursquare Rum, Sazerac and Paul John Whisky fame. The first release will be a limited-edition aged blended Scotch whisky created by Scott, who previously worked at Chivas Brothers for 43 years before joining The Last Drop. The brand’s managing director, Rebecca Jago, says it’s a hugely exciting milestone for The Last Drop and that The Assembly will play an “instrumental role as we develop, given our common focus on extraordinary quality and our shared philosophy of celebrating the remarkable”. She added that Last Drop is “delighted and immensely proud that such respected figures from across the industry have agreed to join us.” The only issue we can see is that “The Assembly, assemble!” is a proper rubbish call-to-arms. That will need some work.

On The Nightcap this week we've got world class bartenders!

Best of luck to you all!

GB Diageo World Class competition finalists announced… virtually!

Despite locky d’s, the annual Diageo World Class bartending competition has been taking place this year. Back in September three bartenders Stevie Kane, Kuba Korzynski and James Rawcliffe were chosen during London Cocktail Week. Now five more have triumphed. Their brief was to make a cocktail with The Singleton of Dufftown 12 year old. The winners were Alexa Farrow and Mark McClintock both from London, Stefanie Anderson and Murray Drysdale from Edinburgh, and Matt Arnold from Birmingham. All the judging was done virtually by Jo Last, World Class and malt whisky ambassador, and Pippa Guy, World Class and Tanqueray ambassador. Last commented: “Taking World Class virtual this year has been a new experience, but we’re overjoyed with its success so far. It was important for us to stay connected with our community of bartenders and to innovate, by adding new challenges to match the increased standards of competitors.” Pippa Guy adds: “We have really enjoyed being able to spend time with each of our competitors albeit virtual, and pleased to have been able to continue showcasing the amazing talent that the GB hospitality and drinks sector have to offer.” These eight will now go into the final that takes place in April. Virtually, naturally. The prize is a 12-month contract with bartender talent agency, Global Bartending, and a place on a WSET Level 3 Award in Spirits course. Good luck to all the finalists.

On The Nightcap this week we learn this world's fanciest Easter egg

It seems wrong to make so many egg puns about something so classy. But then, they are eggscellent fun…

And finally…. Have an eggstravagant Easter with Prosecco-infused chocolate 

Last week it was beer made with Cadbury’s Creme Eggs. This week our chocolate/ booze mash-up is a little more up-market. It’s a chocolate Easter egg infused with real Prosecco. Hang on, that doesn’t sound that classy. What about Champagne? But this isn’t any Prosecco. It’s Asolo Superiore 2020 from The Emissary. According to top chocolatier William Curley, the wine is “low in sugar, fresher and more versatile than most other sparkling wines, it pairs effortlessly with Amedei’s dark, rich and smooth chocolate flavours, without being overpowering.” He should know as he used to work in Michelin-starred restaurants and was the youngest ever chef pâtissier at The Savoy. As well as Prosecco, the eggs is made with a mango and passionfruit dark chocolate ganache. So a Yorkie bar, this ain’t. The price is pretty fancy too, £59 for a 400g egg. You’d be pretty eggcited to find one of these in your Easter basket.

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