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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Diageo

Ronnie Lee – the man who mends mills

This week Ian Buxton celebrates a true whisky hero, a Welshman without whom Scotland’s distilleries would literally grind to a halt. What about those malt mills, eh? They’re just about…

This week Ian Buxton celebrates a true whisky hero, a Welshman without whom Scotland’s distilleries would literally grind to a halt.

What about those malt mills, eh? They’re just about the first thing you see on any distillery tour but, once you’ve heard the guide’s regulation story about their age and how they outlived the company who made them, you move on.  

It’s a shame. Painted, usually, in that distinctive shade of dark red, sturdy, planted four-square in the mill room, ready to receive another load of malt, these quiet occupants of an unobtrusive corner of the distillery just do their job in a modest and under-stated way.  A malt mill would never shout or draw attention to itself you feel, happy to do an honest day’s work and then await the next consignment to be turned into grist.

But if you take a second, harder look you might see a simple plaque discreetly fixed to the side with the legend RONNIE LEE, MILLWRIGHT and a telephone number.  One day I couldn’t bear it any longer; I was puzzled and intrigued; I had to ask: “Who is this bloke Ronnie Lee?” 

R. Boby

Plate from an old Boby mill

“I have no idea,” was my host’s honest, if unhelpful reply (but then he was a marketing type). I began asking production folks – real whisky people. To a man, they smiled.  “Ronnie Lee,” they said. “You must know Ronnie Lee.” Embarrassingly, I didn’t and the more I learned the worse I felt. So, I set to tracking him down because everyone told me that, though he wasn’t their employee, Ronnie Lee was a vital part of their team. From Diageo to Kilchoman, Chivas Brothers to Rosebank, he keeps the mills running. Without his unique service those antique rollers might seize up and fail, whisky could not be produced – indeed, a great national disaster would befall Scotland.

So I called the number and found myself on an industrial unit alongside a chicken farm in Chepstow – about as far from the glamorous world of luxury seen in whisky’s current imagery as may be imagined. This is where old-school engineer Ronnie and his two sons are based and where the world comes when a mill – possibly more than one hundred years old – needs some TLC. 

These fine pieces of machinery, be they the familiar Porteus design or that of their less well-known rival Boby, were built to last.  Their solid construction and simple, yet well-proven design has stood the test of time and, entirely fortuitously, speak to our present-day concerns about sustainability and the responsible use of resources.

A beautifully-restored Porteus

A beautifully-restored Porteus mill

But how long can they continue to run? The answer may well surprise you. I was certainly taken aback when Ronnie proudly shared with me his latest project: the restoration of a Boby mill, found in an Australian brewery and saved from scrap, that he believes was manufactured around 1855-60.

It may well be the oldest surviving example of a malt mill anywhere in the world and, following 80-100 hours of skilled and experienced cleaning and restoration, it will certainly work again and looks good for another 150 years of service (though, strictly speaking, non-commercial use as it lacks the anti-explosion guard fitted to later models).  Perhaps it will become a display piece, tribute to some far-sighted Victorian engineers as Robert Boby Ltd of Bury St Edmunds.

And how has it happened that Ronnie has found himself in this highly specialised niche? He grew up near his present Chepstow home and, after school, was apprenticed to the motor trade, quickly passing through a dozen or more jobs before embracing self-employment.  Back in 1995 he was contracting to Buhler, a Swiss mill manufacturer, installing their larger systems in flour mills (there aren’t many in distilleries, though you can see a mighty example at Glenfarclas). 

Ronnie Lee with an old Boby mill

The man himself with an old Boby mill

By this time, Boby was being closed down and the old Porteus company was owned by Briggs of Burton (a name you’ll find on mashtuns and other larger pieces of brewery and distillery equipment). But the heyday of the Porteus mill was the 1960s and by 1972/73 manufacturing had ceased. Maintenance and spare parts became more and more of a problem and eventually Briggs were unable to support what was by now, for them, an obsolete product. 

Ronnie was able to acquire the original Boby plans and drawings (he could build you one from scratch) and armed with these and Porteus’ withdrawal from the market, it was natural for him to step into this gap. His affinity with old machinery and his ability to coax new life from their aging cogs and gears has ensured his unique place in whisky. So, in a world which lauds distillery managers as rock stars, spare a thought and raise a glass to Ronnie Lee, the man who mends the mills and a true whisky hero.

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The Nightcap: 9 August

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

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

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

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

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

And now, the news of the future today!

Cardhu

How Cardhu will look when it’s been refurbished

Johnnie Walker gets the green light for Cardhu redevelopment

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

That’s what an artificial tongue looks like

Boffins baffle counterfeiters with artificial whisky-tasting tongue

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

Clouded Leopard Gin bottle

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

Gin still booming according to the WSTA 

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

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

Pernod Ricard bets on American whiskey with Firestone & Robertson buy

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

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

The Alchemist tackles food poverty with cocktail exchange

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

Bruichladdich's Bere Barley

Bruichladdich’s bere barley

Bruichladdich reinforces barley focus with Exploration Series trilogy

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

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

Fentimans kicks off Secret Spritz Garden

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

Aecorn range

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

Diageo acquires majority stake in Seedlip

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

GlenDronach

Mouth-watering malts

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

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

Atomik Vodka

Don’t worry, it isn’t radioactive

And Finally… anyone fancy a Chernobyl Martini?

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

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The Nightcap: 26 July

You know what Friday means by now, it can only be the Nightcap! This week we’ve got all the digs on The Macallan’s newest release, Coupette’s mouthwatering Summer menu, the…

You know what Friday means by now, it can only be the Nightcap! This week we’ve got all the digs on The Macallan’s newest release, Coupette’s mouthwatering Summer menu, the rise of the Tequila cocktail and even a Jack Daniel’s shoe.

Happy Friday, folks! But before we get into the thick of all the wonderful booze news of the week that was, we thought we’d have a quick chat about the weather. Because, we don’t know about you, but nobody has mentioned the weather this week. At all. Was it warm? Was there sun? We tried to enjoy a refreshing Spritz here at MoM Towers, but apparently the whole of the UK had run out of ice. All we know is that it’s now raining again and the quintessential British summer is back on. Thank goodness for that. It was a steamy few days. Step away from the SPF 50 and settle down with a drink, the Nightcap is here!

On the blog this week, we kicked off Monday with a recap of all the Fèis Ìle 2019 fun, while Kristy chose a sherry-tastic single malt for our New Arrival of the Week, took a peek at the mysterious 2019 Diageo Special Releases, and reported back on a magic trip to Tel Aviv’s Milk & Honey Distillery! Meanwhile, Henry mixed up a Tequila Sunrise for his Cocktail of the Week, chatted rum with Alexandre Gabriel from Plantation, and found out what on earth Uncle’s Day is with Uncle Nearest’s Fawn Weaver. Last but not least, Annie gave the 411 on where to grab a drink in Amsterdam, Nate Brown scooted over to Dublin’s Roe & Co, and our Jess carried on the Tequila and mezcal fun with a round up of agave spirits. Phew. But that’s not all – on with the news!

Beam Suntory

Behold, The Fred B. Noe Distillery!

Beam Suntory breaks ground James B. Beam distillery

In big American whiskey news, Beam Suntory announced this week that it’s investing a whopping $60 million to build a new craft distillery and bring back The James B. Beam Distilling Co. name to Clermont! The James B. Beam Distilling Co. was the company’s name immediately after Prohibition, and will now serve as the name of Beam Suntory’s Clermont operations, as well as encompassing the production operations for the Jim Beam brand and small-batch brands such as Booker’s and Knob Creek. This investment will also build the Fred B. Noe Craft Distillery on the Clermont site, named after seventh generation master distiller Fred Noe, which will house the exploration of exciting new fermentation and distillation techniques. “Beam Suntory is excited to honour our roots by investing in the James B. Beam Distilling Co., and setting ourselves up for a bright future in Kentucky and around the world,” commented Albert Baladi, President and CEO for Beam Suntory. “With nearly 225 years behind us, we are proud of our history of entrepreneurialism, craftsmanship and innovation. As the world leader in bourbon, we are thrilled to be laying the foundation for the next 225 years.” Goodbye Beam Suntory, hello The James B. Beam Distilling Co.!

Campari Rum

Campari takes on rum/rhum

Campari Group eyes up Rhum Agricole brands

Got a taste for the vegetal pronouncedness of Rhum Agricole? You are not alone. Campari Group, one of the world’s biggest drinks players, wants in, too. This week it was announced that the owner of the likes of Campari (obvs), Aperol, Wild Turkey and Bulldog Gin entered into “exclusive negotiations” with the parent company of Trois Rivières and Maison La Mauny (and Duquesne rum, too) to acquire the Martinique-based brands. While no price was revealed, the deal would include the brands themselves, the land they sit on, the distilleries and visitor centres, plus the aged rhum stocks. Yes please. In the press release, Campari Group said that if the deal goes through, it will “enhance its exposure to rum, a premiumising category currently at the heart of the mixology trend and growing cocktail culture”. It already owns Appleton Estate and Wray & Nephew, so it would make Campari a significant force for all things rum (and rhum). Ready the Ti Punches, folks!

Diageo

Cheers to a bumper year for Diageo!

Tanqueray and Don Julio drive Diageo sales

It’s that time of year again – financial results are in! And for Diageo, they make for pretty buoyant reading. Sales for the full year to 30 June hit £12.9 billion, up 5.8%, with profits hitting £4bn, (+9.5%). Why such strong results? Two words: gin and Tequila. Gin as a whole grew by 23% in value, with Tequila soaring by a whopping 37%. Brand-wise, Don Julio was a total stand-out, with sales climbing by an incredible 30%, while Tanqueray posted 21% gains. Which brands didn’t do quite so well? The biggest name to see a drop was Cîroc Vodka (-5%), although vodka as a whole actually saw 4% growth, a big deal seeing as the category has fared pretty poorly in recent times. And Scotch? All-in-all, things are going well! The category grew by 6%, with Johnnie Walker seeing values climb 7% on the previous year, and the Scotch malts collectively making 12% gains. Winning!

The Macallan Estate

The Macallan Estate, delicious and super popular

The Macallan unleashes home-grown Estate to the world

We had a thoroughly lovely Wednesday this week. Not only did The Macallan get its new Estate edition ready to ship, the brand also treated us to an utterly delightful lunch! We gathered at the incredible Hide in Piccadilly with Sarah Burgess, The Macallan’s whisky maker, and David Sinclair, brand ambassador to learn about (and of course, taste) the new expression. Burgess told us all about the production process – one week a year, mashing, fermentation and distillation is given over to barley grown exclusively on The Macallan estate. And the sensibly-named The Macallan Estate is the result! It’s an addition to the core range, and more bottles will be released each year (although Burgess stressed to us that she’s working to keep the flavour profile consistent over time). So, what’s it like? Tremendously autumnal, filled to the brim with appley, orchard fruit notes, plus lashings of marmalade on burnt toast, and a wash of sweet spices. Tasty.

Coupette Shimmer

Coupette’s mesmerising Shimmer cocktail

Coupette launches new menu ‘Summer’

Ah, Coupette. Something of a hole in the wall, to the uninitiated the award-winning bar may seem rather unsuspecting from the outside. We excitedly made our way down as just this week, founder Chris Moore launched the new menu in collaboration with local sign writer, Ged Palmer, titled ‘Summer’! One such epitome of the season was Strawberries & Cream, taking inspiration from Wimbledon and seasonal picnics. With strawberry eau de vie, rosé vermouth, wine and a vanilla-scented, clarified milk punch finish, served with a brush of white chocolate around the rim of the glass, it’s totally delicious without being overly sweet. This serve was just flying out from behind the bar, and no wonder in 34-degree heat! There’s a story behind each serve, and an intriguing one was Shimmer, marrying 30&40 Eau de Vie, green apple and sage, wine, genepi and sage soda, served in a mesmerising blue ceramic vessel on a blue geode coaster. Designed to be reminiscent of holidays and blue oceans it certainly accomplishes that, in flavour and aesthetic. Other delicious serves included the Bloody Martini with vodka, vin jaune, a clear tomato consommé and chive oil, part of a series of cocktails which mashes together two iconic drinks. There’s also a take on a Kir Royale, which sees a fabulous serving of blackcurrant sorbet in the cocktail glass. Slightly heavier serves include Obsidian, channelling a Rum Old Fashioned with the addition of cocoa and tangy passion fruit. We’ll certainly be back to try out the rest. Leave any expectations at the door, and prepare to be absolutely blown away with this stunningly complex and yet unpretentious menu. Bravo, Coupette.

Dalloway Terrace

Dalloway Terrace has cocktails on tap… from a flower wall!

Dalloway Terrace unveils new look for summer ’19

On Wednesday, we got to visit what is described by Vogue as “one of London’s most Instagrammable restaurants”. The Dalloway Terrace is now offering a taste of summer with the launch of its Summer Estate, in partnership with Ramsbury Distillery. Master florist, Nikki Tibbles, recreated the English countryside, transforming the Terrace with wild meadow flowers, blending silk daisies, cosmos, larkspur, delphiniums and foliage with embellishments of coral quince blossom. Flower walls are massive right now, and she created possibly the best one ever for the occasion:  a flower wall complete with botanical cocktails on tap. There’s also a bar for G&T drinkers where they can garnish drinks themselves with produce fresh from Ramsbury Estate. The seasonal cocktail menu will offer a selection of summer serves priced at £13. No reservations allowed at the Terrace, so be sure to get in quick – it’s open from 08:00am to11:00pm every day until mid-September.

Slane Irish Whiskey

Delicious and sustainable Slane Whiskey

Slane Irish Whiskey announces trio of winners in sustainable cocktail comp

Earlier this summer, Slane Distillery’s UK brand ambassador, Michael Brown, set a challenge to bartenders to create the most ‘suSLANEable’ cocktails. And this week, not one, not two but THREE winners were selected! Slane is located in the heart of Boyne Valley in Ireland and, inspired by Earth Day, had tasked bartenders across the UK to follow in its green footsteps. And they are big shoes to fill:  the distillery has already installed a “catchment system” to collect rainwater off the roofs of the distillery buildings to reduce the volume of water needed for production drawn from the Boyne River. Cool stuff! Joint winner Jack Riley from Present Company, Liverpool, says, “We should all be taking small steps to help the impact on the environment.” He worked with local coffee shops to create his nameless ‘suSLANEable’ cocktail: 45ml Slane Irish Whiskey, 20ml Spent Coffee-infused Martini Bitter, 15ml Tropical Cordial and 2 dash Bitter. Fellow champ Tom Sutton from H.M.S.S challenged himself to find and use leftover produce to create his “Castaway”, from just 40ml Slane Irish Whiskey, 30ml reclaimed cordial and stir into a frozen embassy. Simples. Finally, we have Leon Back and his recipe for “Little Winner”; 50ml Slane Irish Whiskey, 40ml ghetto cold brew (spent coffee grinds), coconut syrup, 10ml Martini ambrato, 10ml P.X. Sherry and 2 dashes Angostura bitter with some tonic water over ice.  Delicious. Evolving and improving every year, Slane is working to become one of the most environmentally-friendly whiskey distilleries in Europe… Check out this video for more inspo to make eco-friendly drinks.

Patron Tequila

Goodbye Tequila shots, hello Paloma!

Shots are out: Brits now prefer Tequila cocktails, according to Patrón

Step away from the salt and lime: Tequila is now officially preferred in cocktail form, rather than as a shot, in new research from Patrón. In a study that suggests Tequila has finally shaken off its hard-partying image, more than 65% of drinkers said they enjoy Tequila cocktails on a night out, over slammers. It makes sense: Tequila is the fastest growing spirit in the UK, according to Euromonitor. Despite the upgraded drinking habits, Tequila knowledge is at a bit of a low. Only 23% of those questioned knew Tequila was made from agave, while just 10% showed knowledge of aged Tequilas. One response? To get tasting! You can find an array of Tequila drams for that purpose right here. What’s your Tequila of choice? Let us know in the comments below!

Nelsons distillery

Nelson’s carbon neutral distillery from the skies

Nelson’s Distillery bags eco award

More green news! Word reached us this week that Nelson’s Distillery & School in Uttoxeter, Staffordshire, won a Green Impact Award for its eye-popping efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle. The award itself is the Signal 1 Radio Green Award, given out to recognise and celebrate local businesses making great strides in sustainability. Striving to be totally “off-grid” since 2016, Nelson’s is based at a flashy, futuristic and carbon neutral site with numerous green energy sources, including a wind turbine and super-snazzy anaerobic digester power plants. The site sells energy back to the grid, the team live in the local village to reduce traffic and pollution, they have their own natural water source, and use the reed beds to filter the water used in gin and rum. If this doesn’t sound amazeballs enough, then what about the 10% customer discount you get if you returning or repurposing the bottles?! More distilleries take note.  

Flor de Caña

No lunch, but lots of Flor de Caña!

Boisdale celebrates Nicaraguan rum

Last Friday, we were invited by Ranald MacDonald from Boisdale for an intimate lunch at his Belgravia restaurant with her excellency Guisell Morales-Echaverry, Nicaraguan Ambassador to the United Kingdom, in honour of Ron Flor de Caña. How could we refuse? When we arrived, the intimate lunch was a room heaving with dignitaries including the Bulgarian ambassador. So many ambassadors. It was like a Ferraro Roche advert. Only with less to eat. Of lunch there was no sign. We were whisked upstairs by Matro Ortiz Lima, the Chilean brand ambassador with a strong Scottish accent, to sample three rums, a 12 year old, 18 year old and a 25 year old. According to Lima, Flor de Caña these are minimum ages, as with Scotch whisky and indeed Jamaican rum. Apparently, the company has unparalleled stocks of mature spirit because during the revolutionary period from 1970 to 1990, the family who own the brand hid rum all over the country. We finished with the coffee and tobacco-scented 25 year old, which went beautifully with a big cigar. Something else this country does superbly. But of the promised lunch, there was no sign. 

Jack Daniel's Shoes

Jack Daniel’s takes on footwear

And finally… Jack Daniel’s-inspired… shoes?

Jack Daniel’s has made its first foray into the world of footwear! The whiskey giant has teamed up with the awesomely-named Shoe Surgeon, aka Dominic Chambrone, and together they’ve created seven Jack Daniel’s-inspired trainers (or rather, ‘sneakers’, as they’re calling them across the pond). “Craftsmanship is the ultimate common detonator between what I do and those who make Jack Daniel’s,” Chambrone commented. Each of the seven shoe designs was inspired by an iconic element of the Jack Daniel’s brand. These are grain, Cave Springs, the distillery, charcoal, the barrel, honey, and the Jack Daniel’s bottle. If you want in, then you’ll have to vote online in August, with only 10 lucky voters in to win a pair. We don’t like those odds… Our only question is, can you drink out of them?

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Roe & Co, a Dublin distillery reborn

Last week saw the next step in the revival of a great name from Irish whiskey as the new Roe & Co distillery opened in Dublin. Our in-house bartender Nate…

Last week saw the next step in the revival of a great name from Irish whiskey as the new Roe & Co distillery opened in Dublin. Our in-house bartender Nate Brown paid a visit, tried the new make, and spoke with Diageo master blender Caroline Martin from Diageo. 

Some two and a half years after the release of the whiskey, Diageo launched the Roe & Co distillery in the Liberties area of the city. The distillery is the fourth whiskey producer to open in the area, further adding to the rebirth of the distilling heritage of Dublin 8. In the 1800s, George Roe & Co distillery was one of the big players in the Irish whiskey scene, with the distillery occupying some 17 acres, and home to nine massive stills making the traditional Irish Pot Still style of spirit. The whiskey crash of the early twentieth century called time on the brand, as it did on so many. Today, all that remains from the original company is a copper-domed tower, from which the Roe & Co bottle draws inspiration, and a centuries-old pear tree, which, appropriately, still bears fruit.

The still room at Roe & Co

The new Roe & Co is situated in the red brick 1930s power station that had previously powered the Guinness storehouse next door. Speaking of which, the Guinness plant is Europe’s most visited tourist attraction, and the folks at Roe & Co are hoping to capitalise on the trade. As part of the tour, visitors will be treated to a Highball cocktail experience, with the opportunity to mix their own drink using whiskey, a cordial of their choosing and lengthened with soda. At the end of the tour, guests can enjoy a drink in the lavish Power House bar. The emphasis throughout is on how to enjoy Roe & Co, not just how it will be made, which is a welcome sign of where the whiskey market is moving. The appeal is clearly to a younger, trendy crowd, and a step away from the more traditional Scotch distilleries in Diageo’s portfolio. Much of the design work was done by Drinksology, whose contemporary stamp is all over the distillery, from a mind-map made from copper wire, to the stylish cocktail menu in the bar.

The three pot stills are visible from the street thanks to an enormous glass-panelled window. These will be used to create the triple-distilled malt, and are named Vision (a 14,000 litre wash still), Virtue (a 6,600 litre ex-Tanqueray still) and Valour (3,300 litre spirit still). They are accompanied by a three tonne mash tun and six wooden washbacks. 

Refreshingly, Roe & Co does not shy away from the fact that its current bottling is not distilled at the new distillery. Instead, the focus is on the art of blending, as executed by superstar master blender, Caroline Martin. Martin has worked on Johnnie Walker, Bell’s and a host of other blends in her 33 year Diageo career. “A big factor [on creating the blend] was the need for a depth of flavour. I wanted something robust, that could stand up in cocktails,” says Martin. Throughout the development process, she consulted with Irish bartenders on what they wanted to see. One such change was the increased ABV to 45%. “We wanted transparency from the start, with no nasty surprises,” she says of the ethos.

Caroline Martin, Diageo

Caroline Martin enjoying the fruits of her labour

Indeed, Martin sent various samples to the helping bartenders, and it was version 106 that scored the highest. This commitment to developing the liquid has been honoured in a blending room called Room 106, where guests will be able to explore the art of blending and bring a blend of their making home. As a way of thanking the bartender crowd, and as an homage to the whole of Ireland, Roe & Co have released an Ireland-only blend, with the ratios of malt to grain reversed. This malt-heavy spirit is aged in a combination of Port and bourbon barrels, and is to be the first in a long line of limited release expressions.

As for the regular liquid, we tried the new make and true to the brand’s history, it is jam-packed with pear notes. Powerful fruit flavour, already synonymous with Irish Whiskey, is certainly the goal. Currently, the new make liquid is laying in cask awaiting the first release of Roe & Co distilled at the new Dublin site. In the future, it’ll be up to Martin to blend the final product to match today’s releases, although she certainly has all the right ingredients to hand. 

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The winner of our Game of Thrones Youtube competition is…

To celebrate the official end of Game of Thrones we gave you the chance to win some rather incredible whisky, and all it required was some quality time on YouTube….

To celebrate the official end of Game of Thrones we gave you the chance to win some rather incredible whisky, and all it required was some quality time on YouTube. Fates have been decided, and the winner has now been revealed. Here are the details:

Our exciting competition was announced back in May, when Game of Thrones was still a thing and the finale hadn’t caused one million people to petition to reshoot it. But, what’s done is done. There was, however, another incredible adventure that gripped many of you, and that was Master of Malt’s very own Contest for the Captain’s Chair, set in the mysterious realm of space on the Interstelleros spaceship. 

The incredible prize for completing this adventure was the entire Game of Thrones whisky range!

Game of Thrones whisky

Who will be lucky enough to take home all of these delicious whiskies?

 

What does that include, you ask? Oh, only nine bottles of extremely popular whisky with each representing a Westeros house, including House Targaryen’s Cardhu, House Tyrrell’s Clynelish, House Stark’s Dalwhinnie, House Lannister’s Lagavulin, the Night’s Watch’s Oban, House Baratheon’s Royal Lochnagar, House Tully’s Singleton of Glendullan and House Greyjoy’s Talisker single malts, with a cheeky bottle of White Walker blended Scotch thrown in for good measure. Can’t forget the Night King now, can we?

But best of all, you were in charge of our heroes. We trusted you with the fate of the Interstelleros spaceship crew, who faced teleports, space lizards, betrayal and even space whisky. It was quite the ride. But alas, all good things must come to an end, and the time has come to announce the lucky winner.

The winner is…

Terry Burns from Twinbrook, Belfast! 

Congratulations Terry. In the words of Tyrion Lannister, may you drink and know things. An enormous thank you to everyone who played Contest for the Captain’s Chair, we hope it helped fill a certain medieval fantasy shaped-hole!

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Hops and grass, a match made in heaven?

As various Conservative politicians tumble over themselves to admit their early experiences with drugs of varying illegality, but within limits naturally, it seems as good as time as any for…

As various Conservative politicians tumble over themselves to admit their early experiences with drugs of varying illegality, but within limits naturally, it seems as good as time as any for Ian Buxton to look into the drinks industry’s flirtation with weed.

Yes, cannabis.  Or dope, grass, bhang or pot – call it what you will, it’s currently taking up a great deal of the time, attention and budget of the drinks industry’s senior executives.  Not that they’re smoking the stuff or baking it into their lunchtime snacks, you understand, but a lot of money is changing hands. Cannabis is shaping up to be the next big thing after alcohol.

Much of the activity currently takes place in North America. Canada has liberalised its laws on cannabis and a number of US states are poised to follow. Cannabis-infused drinks are under active development with brewers leading the way. As just one example, giant Canadian brewer Molson Coors took a majority stake in August 2018 in a joint venture with cannabis producer, The Hydropothecary Corporation. It’s taken the resulting Hexo Molson company less than a year to develop their first products, which will go on sale this December as soon as they become legal in Canada.

And what happens in Canada crosses the border to the US fast though currently Federal law prohibits brewers from using marijuana in beer. That hardly presented a problem to the noted craft brewer Keith Villa, the man behind Blue Moon Belgian Wheat Beer. His Ceria Grainwave Belgian-Style White Ale has no alcohol and but includes 5 milligrams of THC, the high-producing ingredient found in cannabis plants. It’s currently available in Colorado, with further distribution planned.

Ceria Brewing

Image courtesy of Ceria Brewing Company

Likewise San Diego’s Two Roots Brewing Co. which has five styles of non-alcoholic THC beer available in California and Nevada. Other craft brewers are piling in, and this hybrid category is rapidly gathering momentum. Apart from the obvious attraction, drinkers seem to be motivated by the wellness trend that is attracting younger US consumers – an alcohol-free buzz definitely fits with the millennial zeitgeist.

A few craft brewers doing funky things is all very well, however, but what about the big boys.  Well, they won’t all fess up to their plans but, behind the scenes, work is definitely going on.  After all, as Spiros Malandrakis, Euromonitor’s senior alcoholic drinks analyst explains, the industry needs to realise that it can’t stop cannabis’ inexorable rise. The management “can complain”, he says, “but this is going to happen. They can either sit in their offices and say: ‘Oh my God, our industry’s going to die,’ or they can do something and evolve alongside it.”

And, of course, they are. Heineken, for example, owns California’s Lagunitas Brewing, maker of Hi-Fi Hops.  According to their ‘Brewmonster’ Jeremy Marshall, “We’ve often dreamed of hops and their cannabis cousin partying together at the family reunion. We wanted to bring this party to life in a beverage. It’s high-time that good beer inspired a provocative, yet refreshing non-alcoholic alternative. With a smidge of California sun-grown cannabis in every sip.”

For the moment, Diageo has yet to make a move.  Though rumoured last year to be in talks with three Canadian cannabis producers the official line is that they are “watching” the market but that cannabis-infused alternative drinks have yet to make any discernible impact on their North American sales. “I wouldn’t call them a threat,” says their North American chief Deirdre Mahlan.  

Cannabis, coming soon to a bar near you (if you live in Canada or Colorado)

Pernod Ricard take much the same line.  According to CEO Alexandre Ricard: “We’re seriously monitoring the situation and starting to consider if it (cannabis) would or would not fit in our portfolio.” He went on to say: “We’re not there yet, we’re currently just analysing the data and observing the market from a consumer point of view in a number of US states and Canada. At this stage, and let me be very clear, we have no evidence whatsoever that cannabis legalisation may have an impact on premium spirits consumption.”

Well, perhaps not.  But others don’t agree. Legal marijuana in the US is predicted to reach a value of $23bn by 2022 and that’s too lucrative a market to ignore. Step forward Constellation Brands, a major US drinks business (products include Corona Extra lager; Casa Noble Tequila; High West whiskey and strategic investments in a number of craft distillers), who last year pumped almost $4bn into Canopy Growth, a Canadian cannabis group. This followed a previous smaller investment which made Constellation the first Fortune 500 company and the first major alcoholic beverage maker to take a minority stake in a marijuana business.

Others will surely follow.  Let’s hope their money doesn’t go up in smoke.

Though he has neither a beard nor any visible tattoos or piercings, Ian Buxton is well-placed to write about drinks.  A former Marketing Director of one of Scotland’s favourite single malts, his is a bitter-sweet love affair with Scotland’s national drink – not to mention gin and rum, or whatever the nearest PR is pouring. Once, apparently without noticing, he bought a derelict distillery. Follow his passionate, authentic hand-crafted artisanal journey on the Master of Malt blog.  Or just buy his books.  It’s what he really wants.

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The Nightcap: 21 June

Record-breaking distillery visits, 100 years of the Negroni, and Sex on the Beach – it’s all here in the latest edition of The Nightcap! It’s sunny outside. Not that fake…

Record-breaking distillery visits, 100 years of the Negroni, and Sex on the Beach – it’s all here in the latest edition of The Nightcap!

It’s sunny outside. Not that fake ‘sunny but when to step outside you’ll curse the sky for tricking you into leaving a jacket indoors’ kind of sunny. It’s actually warm. Frankly, it’s taking all the power in our hearts to not distractedly write “MILPOOL” on the blog and scamper off into the sun, ice-cream in hand. Do you know why we’re so determined? Because it’s Nightcap day, and you people deserve to know all the stories that happened this week in the booze world. But just know that some of us may have been wearing big, floppy sun hats while putting this blog post together.

On the blog this week our Fèis Ìle 2019 coverage continued as we put your questions to Port Ellen, Lagavulin, Bruichladdich, Caol Ila and Laphroaig. Elsewhere, we announced the winner to our Teeling #BagThisBottle competition, while Nate Brown used his guest column to champion the art of slow drinking. Annie had a busy week, discovering the joys of urban foraging with Bushmills, kegged cocktails and Tequila and tonic. Adam then made J.J. Corry The Battalion, an Irish whiskey with mezcal and Tequila cask influence, the New Arrival of the Week, before Henry chose The Bronx to be our Cocktail of the Week.

Now, let’s take a look at the news!

The Nightcap

There are now 68 Scotch whisky visitor centres open to the public and you had plenty of fun checking them out!

Scotch whisky distillery visits top record 2 million

Did you visit a Scotch whisky distillery last year? If so, you’ve officially helped to set a new record! The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has just released its annual report which shows distillery visitor numbers soared by 6.1% year on year, pushing the total count to more than two million for the first time. That’s a lot of us seeking out Scotch! It’s good news for distilleries, too: the average spend at each one climbed by 12.2% to a combined total of £68.3 million – that’s a lot of whisky, branded Glencairns, hats, cheeses and the like. More than 20 different nationalities were Scotchland-bound last year, with the most whisky tourists coming from Germany and the US. Numbers were up from France, Spain, the Netherlands, India and China, too. As a whole, Scotch distilleries are the third most-visited attraction in all Scotland. “We’re delighted that Scotch whisky distilleries have become such popular places to visit,” said Karen Betts, the SWA’s chief exec. “The growing number of visitors to distilleries reflects in part the growth in tourism in Scotland in general, and people coming to Scotland want to see our local crafts and sample our local food and drink.” She continued: “Distilleries offer something of an antidote to today’s fast-paced world, where visitors can see the slow, careful craft, rooted in a distinct sense of place, that creates Scotch whisky. The growth in whisky tourism is also playing a crucial role in Scotland’s rural economy, with more stays at hotels, more bookings at restaurants, and more customers for local businesses, helping communities to grow and prosper.” Which is your favourite distillery to visit? Where’s top of your dream travel itinerary? Let us know in social or in the comments below!

The Nightcap

Scott McCroskie, Edrington chief executive

Highland Park-owner Edrington celebrates “strong” year

Edrington, which produces and sells the likes of The Macallan, Highland Park, The Glenrothes and The Famous Grouse whiskies, as well as Brugal rum, has released its financial results for the year. And the bean counters are happy! Core revenues from its products climbed by 9% to £679.8 million, while it spent an extra 7% on brand investments (to the tune of £137.3m). The all-important profits were up 4% on 2018 (quite a big deal really when you consider the £140 million cost of that distillery build). Most brands are doing well, with Highland Park and The Glenrothes recognised for their “strong” growth. While The Famous Grouse posted some declines, Edrington said in a statement it increased its market share in a number of places, including the UK. But Brugal was really the star performer, posting “double-digit” growth, mostly through successes in its native Dominican Republic. “The business has delivered strong international growth that reflects continuing consumer demand for our products, particularly in China, South East Asia and the USA, which is the world’s largest market for premium spirits,” noted Scott McCroskie, Edrington chief executive. All systems go at Edrington!

The Nightcap

Congratulations, Cameron!

Cameron Attfield named Diageo Reserve World Class GB

This week, Diageo bestowed the title of Diageo Reserve’s World Class Bartender of the Year 2019 upon Cameron Attfield of Disrepute, London. The competition spanned two days, and the first challenge saw competitors showcase a British ingredient through techniques of flavour extraction or manipulation, creating a serve with Ketel One Vodka as the base spirit. The second challenge required a Singleton whisky serve taking inspiration from a chosen country, using ideas of travel and adventure for the drink. Moving onto the second day, competitors had the chance to take over the World Class bar at Taste of London for the final challenge, the speed round. Let us tell you, it is speedy indeed, with the task of making a round of five cocktails for the judges in just four short minutes. Just imagine if it was always that quick to secure a cocktail! Each serve was drawn from fifteen bespoke World Class classics, ranging from a Don Julio Blanco Paloma to a Bulleit Bourbon Boulevardier. Just to mix things up, one of the five drinks was also selected by an audience member, while the bartenders were asked to tailor the drink to them. Now that’s a true test of audience engagement and hospitality. “We’re absolutely delighted to crown Cameron World Class GB Bartender of the Year 2019 and have every faith in a fantastic performance at this year’s Global Final in Glasgow,” said Jack Sotti, World Class GB Brand Ambassador at Diageo Reserve. Attfield himself added: “I’m over the moon to be crowned this year’s 2019 World Class GB winner. But, it’s not over yet and now my focus will turn to preparing to represent Great Britain in the global final in Glasgow – game on!” Huge congrats, Cameron!

The Nightcap

Swift Bar’s Bobby Hiddleston creating a wood smoke cocktail

Ardbeg launches Masters of Smoke programme

Islay distillery Ardbeg has kicked off a new global campaign to spread the good word about the “delicious possibilities” of smoke. Named Masters of Smoke, the bartender education initiative will deliver training designed to break down the science of smoke with help from a whole range of experts, from barley maltsters to barbecue chefs. We were lucky enough to attend the launch event, which was really something (and, obviously, held in a room filled with smoke). Each component part of the smoke was broken down into a category, including medicinal, coal, herbal, savoury and wood, with each getting their own stand to show off a prepared cocktail and food pairing. It was delightful stuff; you might even go as far to say it was ‘smokin’’ The Mask style (we stand by this joke). “Whisky lovers have long appreciated the peaty power of Ardbeg, but we think there’s an opportunity to further explore the intricacies of smoke as a flavour,” said Ludo Ducrocq, Ardbeg education and advocacy director. “Through Masters of Smoke, we hope to spread the word about the delicious possibilities of smoke through rich, in-depth training which is really rooted in science. From Port Ellen, to Portland, we want to unleash the power and potential of smoke in the on-trade, working with bartenders worldwide to lead a glorious smoky revolution.” Masters of Smoke training sessions will begin from September 2019 and bartenders can register their interest at ardbeg.com/en-gb/mos.

The Nightcap

An artist’s impression of the revamped Clynelish Distillery

Planning permission granted for Clynelish visitor centre

Exciting times at Clynelish as planning permission has been granted for the expansion of visitor facilities at the distillery. This is part of Diageo’s £150m investment in Scottish whisky tourism and as a key part in the Johnnie Walker blend, Clynelish is a natural choice to grow visitor numbers. It sits next to the legendary Brora distillery that Diageo is bringing back into production, so a visit to this part of Scotland will soon be a must for whisky lovers. Jacqueline James-Bow from the distillery said: “This announcement is very exciting and we wish to thank the Highland Council and all our neighbours for their continued support.” Other parts of Diageo’s master plan for whisky tourism include a flagship Johnnie Walker experience in Edinburgh and upgraded facilities at 12 distilleries in total. Clynelish, along with Cardhu, Caol Ila, and Glenkinchie, has been chosen to represent “the four corners of Scotland”, Highland, Speyside, Islay and Lowland. That’s some responsibility.

The Nightcap

London’s Coral Room created an exclusive Negroni menu

The on-trade marks 100 years of the Negroni

In case you haven’t heard, Monday 24 June begins the most exciting week of the year: it’s Negroni Week, of course! What were you thinking? Celebrations are taking place all over the world – unfortunately, we can’t cover them all, so we’ve picked three of our favourites. Firstly, London’s Coral Room has teamed up with Italian dry gin VII Hills to create an exclusive Negroni menu, complete with seven serves. Of course, you can grab a Negroni Classico, or if you’re fancying a twist then perhaps the Negroni Tropicale is for you (it combines coconut and dried pineapple-infused VII Hills Gin with Italicus Rosolio di Bergamatto and Chazalettes Extra Dry). Meanwhile, L’oscar’s The Baptist Bar is launching the Homage to Negroni cocktail menu based around L’oscar’s attributes: Passionate, Theatrical, Bohemian, Seductive and Lavish. The five serves include the Bohemian Americano, made with yoghurt-washed Classic Bitter, Seedlip Spice, Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, soda and bay leaves; as well as the Lavish Cardinale, with VII Hills gin, Campari, Procrastination (you can bottle that stuff?), and Cardinale wine finished off with a beet rim. They are the creation of head bartender Luca Rapetti, and the even better news is that these cocktails aren’t just available for Negroni Week but until the end of 2019! Finally, Giuseppe Gallo’s Italspirits has created the Negroni Experience, a four day pop up at Six Storeys in Soho, London, from 23-26 June. Names such as Martini Riserva Speciale, Italicus Rosolio di Bergamotto, Amaro Montenegro, VII Hills Gin (again!) and Peroni have come together for the event, complete with cocktails masterclasses. There’s also a tasting flight inspired by the Italian flag, sporting a classic, a white and a green version of the cocktail. An entire seven days dedicated to the iconic Negroni, aren’t we lucky?

The Nightcap

There’s plenty to see, including the new Bulleit Visitor Experience Cocktail Bar

Bulleit opens newest visitor experience on The Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Next week will see the opening of a brand spanking new visitor centre for Kentucky’s Bulleit Distilling Co.. From 25 June, it will be the 17th stop on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, and the 11,570-square-foot site will boast an immersive and intense multi-sensory tasting experience, complete with olfactory balls and a timed light-and-soundscape to enhance the whiskey flavours. Reassuringly, the new centre is also heavily focused on sustainability, having partnered with Oceanic Global to ensure the tasting experience and cocktail bar aligns with The Oceanic Standard (TOS), committed to eliminating single-use plastics. There’s also an organic cocktail garden developed in partnership with The University of Kentucky, to integrate local and sustainable ingredients and garnishes for the in-house cocktail bar. What’s more, the distillery has committed to sourcing 100% renewable electricity by 2030 and is home to the first industrial solar array in Shelby County, which runs most on-site exterior lighting. It even boasts an eco-friendly, green fuel-powered graffiti bus for the Visitor Experience Tour. “We wanted the Bulleit Distilling Co. Visitor Experience to be reflective of our approach to flipping the script on the whiskey category by curating an immersive, personalised consumer journey steeped in design, technology and of course, our delicious family of high rye whiskeys,” said Sophie Kelly, Sr. Vice President of Whisk(e)y at Diageo North America. What exciting news, an interactive visitor centre which is kind to the environment!

The Nightcap

Ruth Spivey, the founder of Wine Car Boot

Take your dog wine tasting as Wine Car Boot returns to London

Think wine tastings are all about spittoons, white tablecloths and red trousers? Well, think again because Wine Car Boot is back this summer. Now in its seventh year, Wine Car Boot was invented by wine impresario Ruth Spivey in 2013 as a way of introducing interesting wines and merchants to the general public in an informal manner. This summer there are three events, Saturday 29 June, Saturday 17 August (both at Coal Drops Yard near King’s Cross Station) and Saturday 14 September (at the Bloomberg Arcade in the City of London). There’s not just wine from quality merchants such as Berry Bros. & Rudd and the Sampler, but also beers from London breweries like Redchurch and exciting liqueurs from south London’s finest, Asterley Bros. Entry is free, though you do have to pay for tasters. Children and especially dogs are welcome.

The Nightcap

The swanky new Macallan Boutique at Dubai International Airport

The Macallan launches distillery-inspired Boutique series in Dubai

Fancy heading to The Macallan distillery but not up in Scotland? Well, something similar could be coming to an airport near you (or your holiday destination). The single malt Scotch brand has kicked off a programme of fancy new Boutiques with a shiny store at Dubai International Airport, in partnership with Le Clos. It’s the first in a “multi-million-pound investment” that will see the brand open a number of stand-alone stores and experiences around the globe. Everything from the architecture to the materials used in the construction and even in-store features are inspired by the mega £140 million new distillery that opened in Speyside last year. But back to Dubai. There’s an oak lattice centrepiece which echoes the distillery roof, display cases that give a museumy vibe, and it’s all super-sleekly done. And, as well as all the posh bottlings you might expect, there are Boutique-exclusive expressions, too. “It has been a year since we opened the doors of our new distillery and visitor experience, which was one of the most exciting moments in our history as a brand,” said Suzy Smith, Edrington Global Travel Retail managing director. “The next chapter in our story is the launch of our Boutique programme, which will bring whisky-lovers across the world even closer to our home on Speyside. Each store will be a gateway to the world of The Macallan, from the stunning cinematography of the Easter Elchies estate to the exceptional whisky available to taste.” Dubai not on your itinerary? We’ve got a whole bunch of Macallans right here!

The Nightcap

SEMrush provided the world with this vital data. Sex on the Beach? C’mon people!

And finally. . . the British are searching for Sex on the Beach, the cocktail that is

Data analytics company SEMrush has released figures for the most searched for cocktails last month and they make interesting reading. Tied in first place are the Manhattan and the Cosmopolitan with 135,000 searches each. Sounds like the ‘Sex and the City’ favourite is back (or maybe it never went away; it’s been joint number one all year). Looking at those yearly figures, the Old Fashioned spikes in December and January but then drops out of the top five in May, suggesting that it’s a winter cocktail. Whereas more summery serves, like the Americano and the Sex on the Beach, have moved up the league table in May. In fact, when you look at the stats for the UK on its own, Sex on the Beach moves up to the number one slot in May. We are so classy!

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Roe & Co kicks off Irish whiskey production

Exciting news out of Ireland – Diageo’s €25 million Roe & Co whiskey distillery has started production in Dublin! Located inside the former Guinness Power Station at St James Gate,…

Exciting news out of Ireland – Diageo’s €25 million Roe & Co whiskey distillery has started production in Dublin!

Located inside the former Guinness Power Station at St James Gate, Roe & Co houses three copper stills, which will run both double and triple distillation.

Up until now, the Roe & Co blend has been developed by master blender Caroline Martin, who used fruity malt whiskey blended with grain, matured in first-fill ex-bourbon casks.

The new site will produce 14,000 litres of malt spirit each run, up to an annual maximum capacity of 500,000 litres each year. In all, the distillery will provide direct employment for 18 people.

On opening, Roe & Coe becomes Ireland’s 27th operational whiskey distillery – at the start of the decade there were just four.

The building housing the distillery was renovated to offer an industrial feel. The vibe is reflected through all kinds of design elements, from the staff uniforms, to a contemporary tiki illustration on the barware, based on the original pear tree which stood in the grounds since the 17th century.

Roe & Co

Roe & Co opens to visitors next week

Roe & Co will open to visitors later this month, with guests treated to an immersive, 75-minute experience spanning Irish whiskey history, the old power station building, and of course, the operational distillery, which can be viewed from an elevated glass walkway.

Visitors can explore whiskey blending in Room 106, while in the Flavours Workshop they can experience sweet, sour, bitter, salt and umami flavours to work out their preferred cocktail profile. Meanwhile, the Power House Bar will offer seasonal signature serves based on Roe & Co and Irish wildflowers, made with home-grown ingredients. Tours cost €25 per guest, including a whiskey taster, flavours workshop and complimentary cocktail.

The launch of the distillery has been led by an all-female team, including Gráinne Wafer, Roe & Co global brand director; Caroline Martin, Diageo’s master blender; Lora Hemy, Roe & Co’s head distiller; Fiona Sheridan, Roe & Co’s assistant distiller; Tanya Clarke, general manager Diageo Reserve and Incubation Brands; Hayley Millner, marketing manager, Roe & Co Irish Whiskey; and Shannon Green, project engineer.

“Our master blender, Caroline Martin began the journey of reimagining Irish whiskey, but we didn’t stop the reinvention there,” said Wafer.

“Today we are launching a state-of-the-art distillery and experience like no other, led by our extremely talented distiller, Lora Hemy. This boutique experience, which will have a maximum of 16 guests per tour, will ensure visitors can get up close and personal with our remarkable distillery and whiskey, focusing on the five pillars of flavour.”

Inside Ireland’s 27th whiskey distillery

Speaking at a lunch to officially open the distillery, Diageo CEO, Ivan Menezes, added: “I am proud to be standing here today in one of the most iconic buildings of the Dublin skyline, which has been reimagined and regenerated into this world-class distillery and experience for Roe & Co.

“I am proud that we are here because of Diageo’s most valuable assets, its employees. We encourage them to be the best they can, to achieve great things, to be inclusive and diverse. We have focused on gender and today you see the progress we’ve made, because we are here now in this Roe & Co Irish whiskey distillery and experience because of the amazing team of talented women. You should be so proud, Gráinne, Lora, Fiona, Caroline, Tanya, Shannon and Hayley.”

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Whisky and honours

Today Ian Buxton toasts Dr Jim Beveridge from Johnnie Walker who has just received an OBE and looks into the occasionally murky world of whisky and honours. As you may…

Today Ian Buxton toasts Dr Jim Beveridge from Johnnie Walker who has just received an OBE and looks into the occasionally murky world of whisky and honours.

As you may have read recently, Dr Jim Beveridge, master blender for Johnnie Walker has been appointed an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the latest Queen’s Honours list.  It couldn’t happen to a nicer or more modest chap – and he joins an exclusive group of whisky notables. In 2016 David Stewart, the long-serving malt Master at the Balvenie, was awarded the MBE while his opposite number at Glen Grant, Dennis Malcolm received an OBE – one rung up the awards ladder.  More recently, Nigel Mills, co-founder and chairman of The Lakes Distillery was appointed a CBE (a couple of steps up the awards hierarchy) while, at the same time, David Gosnell of Bushmills received the OBE.

Dr Jim Beveridge

Dr Jim himself!

So I expect by now you’re wondering, what are these awards, who else in whisky has received one and, most interesting of all, how are they decided?  There is no particular mystery about the British awards system. The aim is to recognise people who have made achievements in public life, or committed themselves to serving and helping Britain: “they’ll usually have made life better for other people or be outstanding at what they do.” as it says on the www.gov.uk/honoursThere’s nothing obscure about that and, other than the staunch republicans among us, we can probably agree that it is appropriate to recognise exceptional achievement or national service.  But who decides and how do they know who is worthy?

Though these are the Queen’s Awards, it’s not actually Her Majesty who decides. Specialist committees, comprising senior civil servants along with people who are independent of government, recommend awards to a main committee who then forward them to the Prime Minister’s office and then to the Queen. If you know someone particularly deserving, you can nominate them on the website. 

This system was introduced by John Major as Prime Minister but previously the basis for an award was, at best, opaque and, at worst, corrupt. There may have been some skulduggery surrounding the so-called ‘Whisky Barons’ of the 1920s ennobled by Prime Minister David Lloyd George, most notably the creation of Lord Woolavington (formerly James Buchanan). It is said that he paid handsomely for his peerage – allegedly, the sum of £50,000, or about £2m today – but signed the cheque with his new title and dated it for one day after the announcement was due, to ensure that the wily Lloyd George would honour the new honour!  But rest assured Messrs Beveridge, Stewart and Malcolm haven’t written any dodgy cheques! Their awards are strictly on merit.

Jim Beveridge

Dr Jim in action

Though there have been some involved with whisky production who have received gongs, like Ronald Martin from United Distillers (1931-2005, awarded OBE in 1991) or Professor Geoffrey Palmer from Heriot Watt University who received an OBE in 2003, the most senior awards, including knighthoods tend to come from the commercial side of the business.  Examples include Sir Anthony Tennant (1930 – 2011), knighted in 1992 for his work at IDV and at Guinness following the ignominious departure of Ernest Saunders, and Sir George Bull, knighted 1998, having been one of the principal architects of the then-largest merger in UK corporate history with the union of Grand Metropolitan with Guinness to create Diageo. A more recent business knight is Sir Ian Good, chairman of the Edrington Group from 1994 to 2013.  He was knighted in 2008. Interestingly, his predecessor John Macphail (1923-2004) received the lesser award of CBE, despite his obituary describing him as “one of the most inspirational and influential figures in the Scotch whisky industry”.

So here’s to all the distinguished individuals mentioned here, and all the others that I should have saluted but have omitted. Let’s raise a glass to their contribution to whisky, along with the hope that the new generation of distinguished whisky women will shortly have their special place in history.  

Who will be the first women in whisky to be honoured?  I leave it to you to speculate…..

Though he has neither a beard nor any visible tattoos or piercings, Ian Buxton is well-placed to write about drinks.  A former Marketing Director of one of Scotland’s favourite single malts, his is a bitter-sweet love affair with Scotland’s national drink – not to mention gin and rum, or whatever the nearest PR is pouring. Once, apparently without noticing, he bought a derelict distillery. Follow his passionate, authentic hand-crafted artisanal journey on the Master of Malt blog.  Or just buy his books.  It’s what he really wants.

 

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Diageo releases new Italian gin, Villa Ascenti

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a new premium gin! Drinks giant Diageo has just announced the launch of Villa Ascenti, a new Italian gin with…

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a new premium gin! Drinks giant Diageo has just announced the launch of Villa Ascenti, a new Italian gin with an intriguing signature botanical.

The growth of the gin-dustry truly shows no signs of slowing down, with new releases popping up left, right and centre. The most recent of these is Diageo’s Villa Ascenti, produced at a new £360,000 distillery, Distilleria Santa Vittoria, based (rather unshockingly) in Santa Vittoria. It is the latest tipple to join Diageo’s luxury spirits portfolio. Trained winemaker and master distiller, Lorenzo Rosso, who has over 20 years’ experience with Diageo, is the brains behind the new spirit. Rosso works closely with local farmers and producers in Piedmont to source ingredients for the gin.

“Villa Ascenti Gin is rooted in provenance and brings local, fresh ingredients from Piemonte to life,” Tanya Clarke, general manager of Diageo Reserve Europe, commented. “Its use of locally-grown ingredients from the foothills of Piemonte, alongside some of the more classic botanicals associated with gin, has allowed us to create a high-quality liquid, which we hope existing and new gin drinkers will love.”

The local Piedmontese botanicals include fresh mint and thyme, which are distilled at their freshest within hours of harvest, and sweet Moscato grapes. The grapes are harvested in August and September and are then three times distilled, while during the third distillation they are infused with Tuscan juniper berries. Botanicals are distilled in a newly-refurbished Frilli copper pot still from the 1970s, so you can be sure there’s a splash of history in each bottle, too.

Villa Ascenti

One way to enjoy Villa Ascenti

“It has been an absolute privilege to be involved in developing Villa Ascenti Gin and to have the chance to showcase the very best of Piemonte to the world,” Rosso added. “It’s a beautiful gin with the region at its heart in its aroma and flavour, but also in how it’s best enjoyed – around the table with friends. I’m particularly proud of the use of the Moscato grape distillate, an idea that stemmed from my winemaking experience.”

So, we know you’re all wondering, what does it taste like? Well, who better to tell us than the Master Distiller himself:

Nose: Mint and thyme are vibrant and refreshing alongside the spice of the Tuscan juniper berries.

Palate: The Moscato grapes really come to life. Enhanced through copper distillation, the smooth, fruity flavour of this distillate rounds off zesty juniper notes to create a velvety, slightly sweet gin.

We reckon it would do very nicely in a Gin & Tonic with a sprig of thyme, and perhaps even some fresh mint leaves. The good news is that there isn’t long to wait, as Villa Ascenti will be available to buy this month! Keep your eyes peeled for news from your favourite online retailer.

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