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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Diageo

The Nightcap: 3 July

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

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

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

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

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

The Nightcap

The rum formerly known as Plantation

Maison Ferrand rename Plantation Rum brand 

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

The Nightcap

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

The Macallan adds to Double Cask range

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

The Nightcap

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

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

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

 

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

The Nightcap

Congratulations to you, Stephanie Macleod!

International Whisky Competition 2020 winners announced

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

The Nightcap

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

Soho gets a pedestrian makeover

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

The Nightcap

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

Swift to open all-day venue in Shoreditch 

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

The Nightcap

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

Gordon & MacPhail distillery gets the green light

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

The Nightcap

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

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

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

The Nightcap

Pub Quiz Answers

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

Answer: Jackson Freres

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

Answer: Holyrood

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

Answer: Forsyths

4) Who invented the spirit safe?

Answer: Septimus Fox

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

Answer: J&B

6) Which cocktail was supposedly named after Zelda Fitzgerald?

Answer: White Lady

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

Answer: Worcestershire Sauce

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

Answer: Tanqueray

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

Answer: Martini

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

Answer: Richard III

 

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The Nightcap: 26 June

The Nightcap is filled to the brim with all kinds of boozy news in a week that saw the UK government announce the return of pubs, bars and restaurants!  My…

The Nightcap is filled to the brim with all kinds of boozy news in a week that saw the UK government announce the return of pubs, bars and restaurants! 

My word, it was properly hot in Kent this week. The kind of heat that makes you think we need to rip up our infrastructure and immediately start installing air conditioning in all buildings, and making it law for gardens to have some kind of pool facility. Given that’s not likely to happen, we’re going to have to make do with what we have. We can always grab a suitably summery drink with plenty of ice, find some shade, and enjoy another delightful round-up of all things booze. Sounds lovely. 

On the MoM blog this week, Ian Buxton returned to tell a pretty remarkable story (it’s got whisky publicity stunts, Christo and Dewar’s World of Whisky. What else could you possibly want?), then Kristy made some delightfully simple Scotch cocktails with Stephen Martin from Whyte & Mackay. MoM Towers received some very special deliveries of whisky in the last few days, so naturally, we decided to write about them. The third Whiskymaker’s Reserve from the Lakes Distillery arrived, and Jess was on hand to talk us through the brand’s process; a delightful single cask release from John Crabbie & Co became our New Arrival of the Week; and Henry got the lowdown on what he described as being some of the most eagerly-anticipated expressions ever, Waterford’s Single Farm Origin whisky. If that wasn’t enough, Annie did an outstanding deep dive into the delights of yeast, the unsung hero of distillation, before compiling an easy guide to help you master blender cocktails. We then enjoyed the ultimate DIY cocktail as Adam talked to Alexander Gabriel to hear about how he made a craft gin way back in the 90s.

We’d also like to say thank you to all who entered last week’s virtual pub quiz, where so many of you were in sparkling form. There can only be one winner, though, and that accolade goes to Robbie Ingram, who now has a delightful £25 MoM gift voucher to put to good use! You can check out the answers to last Friday’s quiz below, and the final edition of MoM pub quiz will be on our blog from 5pm as always. That’s right. It’s the last one. Get entering! 

The Nightcap

We can’t wait to see this sweet sight again…

Pubs, bars and restaurants to open on 4th July

It’s the news this industry has been waiting for: the hospitality industry is back, baby! Well, sort of. The government has announced this week that the Covid-19 lockdown is set to be relaxed in England, and the 2-metre social distancing rule eased to the so-called ‘1 metre-plus’. This will allow a number of venues to reopen, including bars, pubs, and restaurants. But there are conditions, naturally. Places can open providing they follow safety guidelines, such as limiting table service indoors, minimising the contact between staff and customers, and keeping contact details of customers to help with contact tracing. People will be encouraged to use ‘mitigation’, such as face coverings and not sitting face-to-face when within 2m of each other. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned that all these steps were “reversible” should there be spikes in coronavirus cases, while in Scotland and Wales the 2m rule will remain in place for the moment. Speaking on the developments, Nightcap homie and chief executive of the WSTA Miles Beale said that the opening up of our pubs, bars and restaurants comes as a huge relief to the businesses, and that it’s right that the move comes with caution. “This welcome news does not mean that the hospitality sector and their suppliers are no longer in need of Government support,” he said. “Recovery from the loss of trade over the last few months will mean that some businesses will not be able to open immediately or fully and others will take years to get themselves back on an even keel.” If you are going to head to a bar, pub, and/or restaurant on the 4th of July or after, please be safe, and enjoy!

The Nightcap

The brilliant initiative will hopefully lessen the impact of Covid-19 on the hospitality industry

Diageo launches £80m recovery fund for bars and pubs

In more good news for the hospitality sector, Diageo has announced a new global programme called Raising the Bar, which aims to help pubs and bars welcome customers back and recover following the Covid-19 pandemic. Through Raising the Bar, Diageo will provide £80 million ($100 million) to support the recovery of major hospitality centres such as New York, London, Sao Paulo, Shanghai, Delhi and more. The two-year programme, which is available from July 2020, was designed following a global survey of bar owners to identify what they need to reopen after lockdown. Top priorities included hygiene measures, digital support and practical equipment to transform how their outlets will work. In the UK, for example, Diageo will provide initial funding for ‘hygiene kits’ with high-quality permanent sanitiser dispenser units, medical-grade hand sanitiser, and a range of personal protection equipment (such as masks and gloves). Other support includes help setting up online reservations and cashless systems, plus mobile bars and outdoor equipment. If bar owners want to register their interest, they can do so via www.diageobaracademy.com globally and www.mydiageo.com in the UK and Ireland. Regular updates on best-practice training and resources are provided, and you can participate in global surveys to share insights. Ivan Menezes, Diageo chief executive, said the company is also calling on governments around the world to provide long-term recovery packages. “These businesses play an essential role in bringing people together to socialise and celebrate – something that we have all missed so much during this terrible crisis – and sustain hundreds of millions of jobs, which provide a first foot on the employment ladder for young people.” Bravo, Diageo!

The Nightcap

Meet Katherine Condon, distiller at Midleton Distillery!

Midleton Distillery appoints Katherine Condon 

Following the news that Irish Distillers has swapped in Kevin O’Gorman for outgoing master distiller Brian Nation, the Pernod Ricard-owned company has revealed another new addition to the distillation team. We’d like to say a big MoM Towers hello (it’s basically a usual hello but we’re holding a dram and we’ve paused Withnail and I) to Katherine Condon, who is now a distiller at Midleton Distillery in Co. Cork! Condon joined Irish Distillers back in 2014 as part of the Graduate Distiller Programme, and has since worked as a distiller at the Midleton Micro Distillery, Irish Distillers’ hub for innovation and experimentation. She’s also served as a process technologist and production supervisor at the main distillery, where she has been involved in innovations such as the Method and Madness range. She also picked up The Worshipful Company of Distillers award in 2018, and another gong in 2019 for outstanding achievement from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling. Condon also holds a Bachelor of Engineering Degree in Process and Chemical Engineering from University College Cork, and a Diploma in Distilling from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling. “I am honoured to be appointed as distiller,” she said. “This role represents a time-honoured craft, and it has been a privilege to learn about the art and science of distilling from icons of world whiskey like Brian Nation and Kevin O’Gorman.” She continued: “I look forward to using the wisdom and experience I have inherited to continue their legacy of quality while driving innovation as I continue my career in Midleton. I am incredibly excited about the future of Irish whiskey and the role I can play in it.” Gorman himself added: “Katherine has consistently demonstrated a passion and exceptional skill set for the art of distillation. Her inquisitive nature and constant pursuit of excellence has made her one of the rising stars of world distilling.” High praise indeed!

The Nightcap

Liana is described as ‘the world’s first interactive, at-home cocktail experience’

Liana Cocktail Company brings bartenders into your home 

Lockdown has been especially hard for the hospitality and retail but we’ve been so impressed by how businesses have adapted, there’s a tattoo parlour near me that turned into a fruit and veg shop, and is doing a roaring trade. Another feelgood story is that of drinks agency The Liana Collection. Director David Wood told us: “In mid-May, our entire revenue stream disappeared and the business we worked so hard to build over the last two and a half years was under real threat, to the point where I had a pretty emotional chat with the team informing them that I’d have to be letting people go on 1 July.” Instead, they rallied round and came up with a plan. The result is the Liana Cocktail Company, which launched last week. Wood describes it as “the world’s first interactive, at-home cocktail experience”. The way it works is this: the company will send you everything you need to make a delicious Manhattan, Negroni or something else, and then a bartender will show you how to make it perfectly at home through the magic of the internet, smartphones, satellites and stuff. So modern. Go here for more information. 

The Nightcap

Cheers to you, Colin!

We raise a dram to Colin Scott as he retires from Chivas Regal

We sipped on something of a bittersweet dram on Tuesday evening when we joined a celebration in honour of highly regarded Chivas Regal master blender, Colin Scott. He’s retiring from the blended Scotch brand after a whopping 47 years of service! Alongside other drinks writers and journalists, we chatted, heard stories from Scott’s career, and generally honoured the man who created Chivas Regal 18 Year Old. With that very expression in the tasting glasses, of course! Alex Robertson, head of heritage and education at Chivas Brothers, hosted the session (which took place via Zoom – in-person gatherings are still off), who not only drew attention to Scott’s blending achievements but his role as a pioneer of global brand advocacy, too. “Whenever you talk to blenders, behind it all, there’s a great passion,” Scott said, looking back over his career. On advice he would have given to a younger version of himself, he noted: “you can’t shortcut your road through blending”. He continued: “There’s a road to travel, and you have to get that encyclopaedic knowledge.” And we loved his take on casks management: “We’re the guardians of the past, present, and future.” And looking to the future, he leaves Chivas Regal in the wonderfully capable hands of Sandy Hyslop, already master blender at the likes of Ballantine’s and The Glenlivet.  We’ll for sure be raising a glass to both this weekend!

The Nightcap

James MacTaggart, Andy Bell, and the unique blended malt

Isle of Arran Distillers devise unique blended malt

Isle of Arran Distillers has revealed plans to create a blended malt in a pretty unique way. The plan is to fill casks with new make spirit from both of its distilleries, Lagg and Lochranza. ‘Project North & South’, as it’s been dubbed, is particularly interesting for two reasons. One, the independent Scotch whisky company is in the rare position of owning a Lowland and a Highland distillery both based on one island off the west coast of Scotland, Lochranza Distillery in the north and Lagg Distillery in the south. Two, these distilleries produce very distinct spirits and, while they share some island DNA, one of the spirits is heavily-peated and the other is unpeated. It’s a great way to get the stills up and firing again, as both distilleries underwent a period of closure starting in March due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  When the distilleries began production again on 11th May, the first runs of new spirit from each distillery were vatted together and filled into bourbon barrels, sherry hogsheads and sherry butts at Lochranza Distillery. “This is a first for Isle of Arran. We are aware of blended malts where the whisky from one distillery is married with that of another, or blended whiskies created by mixing grain with malt whisky, however, this is the first time that we know of malt whisky from two sister distilleries being blended at the spirit stage,” said director of operations and production for Lagg and Lochranza Distilleries, James MacTaggart. Isle of Arran sales manager, Andy Bell added: “I am proud to have played a part in creating this truly unique blend, and will follow with interest as these casks mature. The experimentation at the heart of this process speaks to the truly independent nature of our company.” We look forward to seeing the results!

The Nightcap

Is this the swankiest series of single malt whiskies we’ve ever seen? It might just be.

And finally… Fancy a sapphire with your whisky?

Speyside Scotch whisky distillery Glenfarclas has wrapped up its mega-fancy Glenfarclas Pagoda Series with something the world never knew it needed – an intricate sapphire-encrusted decanter. (It’s also filled with 63-year-old single malt from the distillery, just in case you were wondering.) It rounds off the line-up which also includes a Ruby design released earlier this year with 62-year-old contents. What’s staggering is that to make this new limited-edition vessel, 11,000 sapphires were ordered. Only those that matched in size, and in dark blue made the cut, with 36 of them adorning the age statement in each bottle. There are two editions (one with solid silver accents, the other with gold plating). Could these be the glitziest decanters ever? “It has been an absolute joy to work on this project as it has given us the chance to incorporate valuable gemstones into our decanters for the first time,” said Scott Davidson, Glencairn’s new product development director. “Each and every decanter created is a truly unique work of art to honour the quality of the whisky inside.” The Sapphire editions start at £23,783 ex-VAT – a sizeable investment, even for all those sapphires.

The Nightcap

Pub Quiz Answers

1) Tokaji wine is produced in which country?

Answer: Hungary

2) Nightcap regular Miles Beale is the face of which British trade body?

Answer: WSTA

3) Which spirit is used as a base for the Bee’s Knees cocktail?

Answer: Gin

4) Bain’s Whisky is distilled in which country?

Answer: South Africa

5) Which New York bar was named the no.1 in the world by The World’s 50 Best Bars in 2019?

Answer: Dante

6) Arbikie Distillery’s carbon-negative gin was made from which vegetable?

Answer: Peas

7) Towser the cat killed nearly 30,000 mice over a 24-year period at which Scotch whisky distillery?

Answer: Glenturret

8) Katharine Hepburn and Princess Margaret shared a love of which Scotch whisky brand?

Answer: The Famous Grouse

9) Which early member of the Royal Society is credited with the invention of the strong glass wine bottle?

Answer: Kenelm Digby

10) From which island does Commandaria wine come from?

Answer: Cyprus

 

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The Nightcap and virtual pub quiz: 20 March

For fans of our weekly update on all matters boozy and brilliant, you might notice that things are looking a little different on this edition of The Nightcap… This week…

For fans of our weekly update on all matters boozy and brilliant, you might notice that things are looking a little different on this edition of The Nightcap…

This week it’s an abridged Nightcap, a Nightcapini, if you will, as there aren’t any launches, activations or gins with amusing botanicals to report on because of that other thing that is dominating the news. Instead, we have five stories looking at how the drinks industry is dealing with this unprecedented crisis, and then on a lighter note, we have a fiendishly difficult booze quiz (scroll to the end).  Answer the questions (pub quiz rules, ie. no looking at Google), send in your answers to us and we’ll give you a discount voucher to spend on selected drinks at Master of Malt with one lucky winner receiving a £25 voucher. The answers will be published next Friday.

But first, this is what was on the blog this week: Beer Hawk and ourselves announced the ‘Save the Pubs’ Alliance, while our CEO sent out a short message about the measures we’re taking to protect staff and continue trading throughout the current Coronavirus crisis. Adam then sadly had to report that Fèis Ìle 2020 and other whisky festivals were cancelled in response to the pandemic before he rounded-up some delicious boozes to keep your spirits up at home. Annie then recommended some places to visit in L.A. when we’re allowed out of the house again and introduced Martini’s new alcohol-free aperitivo. Henry, meanwhile, enjoyed a rather refreshing gin-based cocktail while he cast a spotlight on an often under-appreciated Scotch whisky distillery: Glen Elgin. We also launched a new competition and have two whole bundles full of wonderful spirits from The Lakes Distillery to give away, so get your entries in!

Right, on with the Nightcapini!

The Nightcap

Chief executive and Nightcap regular Miles Beale says that the government needs to go further

WSTA calls for duty suspension to save hospitality industry

Pubs, bars and restaurants still haven’t been formally closed, the government has just advised us to avoid them, but the hospitality industry is already taking a hammering with millions of jobs at risk. To help, the WSTA (Wine and Spirit Trade Association) has proposed the suspension of taxes for at least six months. Chief executive and Nightcap regular Miles Beale welcomes what the government has done already but says that it needs to go further: “On 25 March UK wine and spirit companies will be landed with their duty bills, followed six days later on 31st March with their VAT demands. Swift government action to waive excise duty payments for at least six months, starting from next week, would have an immediate impact and can make a real difference. This would allow all hospitality businesses to keep back vital company cash and support their efforts to pay employees and stay afloat.” Alex Wolpert, the founder of East London Liquor Company, added: “Around 40% of the money paid for a bottle of our spirits goes on duty. If the government agreed to put a stop to these tax burdens, for at least six months, it would free up vital cash and give businesses like ours some breathing space and a chance of survival.” 

The Nightcap

You can now click and collect beer, food and spirits from your nearest UK BrewDog

BrewDog Drive Thru and Pub in a Box helping keep self-isolators well-stocked

Pubs are doing everything they can right now to keep morale up and helping us enjoy a good brew. Firstly, BrewDog has launched BrewDog Drive Thru, so you can click and collect beer, food and spirits from your nearest UK BrewDog either by car, bike or on foot. You’ll need the Hop Drop app to order, and there’s a 30% discount for everyone using it (with a 50% discount for NHS workers). “These are uncertain times. But we are committed to looking after our crew, our customers and our company,” said James Watt from BrewDog. “BrewDog Drive Thru is a way in which you can keep fully stocked with the beer you love but in the best way possible. At the moment the only thing we can do is batten down the hatches and get through the storm together.” Obviously wait until you get home to consume your delicious brews (don’t drink and drive/ cycle/ skateboard, folks). What’s more, East London brewery Signature Brew is tackling two problems at once with Pub in a Box, delivered by musicians who have had their tours cancelled. To quote Brad Pitt: what’s in the box? You’ll find a delightful selection of beers with glassware, snacks, beer mats (for the full pub experience), a music quiz and even playlists curated by music journalists to accompany the beers themselves! A big thanks to all the pubs making self-isolation that little bit more bearable.

The Nightcap

#TheVirtualHappyHour partakers are encouraged to grab a drink and virtually catch-up with friends

#TheVirtualHappyHour, pub quizzes and whisky festivals

The hospitality industry is going virtual! Here are just a few ways you can get involved. Alcohol-free beer aficionado Big Drop Brewing Co is hosting a mega virtual pub quiz on Tuesday 24 March from 7.30pm to 10.30pm. Big Drop’s quizmasters will ask questions live on YouTube and at the end of each round, the answers will be revealed. Obviously this is relying on good ol’ honest fun, no cheating! It’s totally free, just tune in on YouTube Live. There are no prizes, though if you stay tuned then there may be a giveaway or two via the live chat… Meanwhile, Australia is holding an entire whisky festival online! Melbourne-based Whiskey! The Show will now send ticket holders a box of whisky samples for them to all taste together (virtually), encouraging them to share their tasting notes and reviews through an app. Additionally, in a bid to provide some social stimulation as well as supporting the hospitality industry financially, a group of friends have launched #TheVirtualHappyHour campaign. Partakers are encouraged to grab a drink, (virtually) link up with friends and have a catch-up. The idea is that at the end, everyone in the group will donate the price of a drink to their favourite bar, to help see it through these tough times. Each venue will have different donation preferences, so a group ‘leader’ will liaise with the bar after the happy hour to discuss how to best donate. “#TheVirtualHappyHour team want to encourage people to reconnect safely, whilst ensuring we are doing as much as we can to help the bars, pubs & restaurants we love, survive the next few weeks and months ahead,” says Steph DiCamillo May, part of the team behind the concept. Let’s do the best we can to pub from our own homes, folks! 

The Nightcap

Dayalan Nayager says we all need to come together to support the drinks trade

Industry rallies to support bar and pub workers

With many bar staff facing an uncertain future, Diageo has pledged £1 million to help. The fund will help British bars and pubs to pay their staff wages during the measures designed to stop the spread of the Coronavirus. “The British drinks trade is facing one of its most challenging times ever and we want to help our communities when they need us most,” said Dayalan Nayager, Diageo managing director, Great Britain, Ireland and France. “We all need to come together to support the trade and I would urge all my fellow drinks producers to do what they can to help our British pubs, bars and retailers and restaurants over the next few months.” The company is also offering free online Diageo Bar Academy training courses to anyone in the industry. Meanwhile, the Drinks Trust (the charity formerly known as The Benevolent) is looking to raise money to help members of the trade through these difficult times. As well as financial assistance the charity is planning to increase the capacity of its helpline fivefold to help those suffering mentally. To find out more go to the Drinks Trust website. It’s a worthwhile cause. 

The Nightcap

Psychopomp has raised about £800 for Bristol’s Children’s Hospital

Distilleries make and donate hand sanitiser

In these difficult and troubling times where goods such as toilet paper, pasta and hand sanitiser have been in short supply due to panic buying relating to the spreading Covid-19 pandemic, distilleries across the globe have stepped up to do their bit. After all, hand sanitiser is essentially high strength alcohol plus moisturiser. LVMH (Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton) led the way by retooling its perfume and cosmetic factories to make hydroalcoholic gel to be distributed to health authorities and hospitals free of charge, while Bristol’s Psychopomp has asked for donations for 100ml of hand sanitiser and this week has raised about £800 for Bristol’s Children’s Hospital. Pernod Ricard, Bacardi and Absolut Vodka have pitched in with similar efforts, as well as BrewDog, 58 Gin, Beinn an Tuirc, Cairngorm Gin, Deeside Distillery, Dunnet Bay Distillers, Loch Ness Spirits, Redcastle Spirits, Fen Spirits, Forest Distillery and Silent Pool Distillers in the UK. However, these good intentions are complicated by tax laws. Currently, British distillers have to pay £23 of duty on each litre of pure alcohol making the production of hand sanitiser prohibitively expensive. The WSTA has called on the British government to allow distilleries to turn waste alcohol into hand sanitiser without going through a complex technical and bureaucratic process. HMRC says it is prioritising applications to produce denatured alcohol, a type of spirit that is not for human consumption and exempt from excise duty. We at Master of Malt are getting requests from local organisations to provide hand sanitiser and we’re currently blocked from doing so by HMRC. We’ve applied for permission to denature alcohol and are waiting for their response.

The Nightcap

MoM virtual pub quiz 20 March 2020

That’s enough booze news, pour yourself a drink and let’s get on with the quiz. Remember, no cheating. To enter simply email your answers to pubquiz@masterofmalt.com. Don’t comment below. All entrants will receive a voucher offering 10% off certain products and there will be one winner who will get a £25 voucher. 

1) Which much-admired Islay distillery manager announced his retirement last week?

2) How many distilleries are there on Skye?

3) How many times is Mortlach single malt distilled?

4) Where would you find boisé? 

5) Which cocktail does the Polish agent drink in John Le Carre’s The Looking Glass War?

6) What’s bigger, a British pint or an American?

7) What sport is the carraway-flavoured schnapps kümmel commonly associated with?

8) What whiskey does Sylvester Stallone’s character Jimmy Bobo request in the 2012 movie Bullet to the Head?

9) What do both the glass Gatsby raises and Tom Buchanan’s car have in common in The Great Gatsby film? 

10) Which bourbon whiskey brand inspired a Billy Idol single?

11) Evan Williams originally hailed from which country?

12) Which drink brand did the first-ever cinema advert?

13) There are more barrels of bourbon than people in the state of Kentucky, true or false?

14) In which wine region would you find ‘the dogs’ teeth’?

15) How many monkeys are there on a bottle of Monkey Shoulder?

MoM Competition 2020 open to entrants 18 years and over. Entries accepted from 20 March to 26 March 2020. Winners chosen at random after close of competition. Prizes not transferable and cannot be exchanged for cash equivalent. See full T&Cs for details.

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The Nightcap: 21 February

This week on the Nightcap: a packed programme from the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, a record-breaking private whisky collection, and a gin that’s so green it’s both ‘carbon negative’…

This week on the Nightcap: a packed programme from the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, a record-breaking private whisky collection, and a gin that’s so green it’s both ‘carbon negative’ and made from peas.

It’s Friday, which is always a good thing, especially given that it’s Margarita Day Eve (definitely a thing). There’s no better way to enjoy a fresh batch of boozy news than with a good cocktail in hand, so get making those Margaritas and prepare yourself for the weekend. A weekend which may entail more Margaritas. Perhaps with margherita pizzas. Now that’s a Saturday. But before all that there’s Nightcapping to do, so get together your lime, salt and Tequila and proceed. It’s a corker this week.

On the MoM blog, Adam revealed the exciting news that Midleton Distillery had launched Ireland’s oldest ever whiskey collection, before chatting with Patrice Pinet about Cognac’s prospects in 2020, recommending some delicious agave-based spirits in time for World Margarita Day tomorrow, and enjoying a Dominican rum finished in casks that formerly held a peated Speyside whisky for our New Arrival of the Week. Kristy, fresh from her American adventure, presented 10 great bars to check out in the Big Apple, before Annie explored how pre-mixed cocktails turned premium. Henry then showed off our sublime video footage from our visit to the Isle of Wight to meet the team behind Mermaid Gin, before picking a drink for Cocktail of the Week that’s neither French or really a Martini: The French Martini!

But there’s still more boozy brilliance to come. On to The Nightcap!

The Nightcap

Tickets are now on sale for the Spirit of Speyside whisky festival!

Spirit of Speyside whisky festival unveils its programme

This week tickets went on sale for the fabulous Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival. As you’d expect from Scotland’s richest whisky region with over 51 distilleries, there’s a lot going on. The programme contains over 700 events (see the festival’s website for more details). Highlights include an archive tasting at The Balvenie, a blending masterclass with Billy Walker at Glenallachie, and an event called ‘The Silent Stills of Speyside’, put on by Gordon & MacPhail.  For us, perhaps the most exciting thing is a chance to look round and taste at famous distilleries like Mortlach that aren’t usually open to the public. There are also food events, tastings galore, chances to fill your own bottle, and no less than five ceilidhs from Wednesday 29 April until Sunday 3 May. If you’re feeling really active, there’s a run around the region ending up with a well-earned tasting and brunch at The Macallan Distillery. For lazier folks, there are tours by train or chauffeur-driven car. Something for everyone.

The Nightcap

The Macallan 1926 Valerio Adami was the undisputed star of the show

‘Largest’ private whisky collection breaks records

Perth-based Whisky Auctioneer saw the first part of its ‘The Perfect Collection’ sell for £3.2 million, with a Macallan 1926 Valerio Adami bottle setting a new record. The “world’s largest” private whisky collection to be offered at auction contains more than 1,900 bottles of mostly single malt Scotch, which was built up by the late American private collector Richard Gooding. The auction, which saw 1,642 bidders from 56 countries take part, achieved US$4,277,000 and featured more than 1,932 bottles before it closed on Monday (17 February). The highlight was the bottle of the highly coveted Macallan which sold for £825,000, breaking the current world record for the bottle set at £702,347 in October 2018. The bottle attracted bids from 11 countries, with the winning offer hailing from Europe. A bottle of The Macallan 1928 Anniversary Malt 50 Year Old achieved a hammer price of £92,000, overtaking a previous record of £72,246 in October 2019, while a large offering of 201 bottles from The Macallan reached a total hammer price of £1,979,555. So it was a good auction for Macallan, as usual. “We always knew that The Perfect Collection by Mr Gooding could make whisky history, but with auctions, anything can happen,” said Iain McClune, founder of Whisky Auctioneer. “Not only was the highest ever sale price for Macallan 1926 Valerio Adami achieved at over a million dollars, but Whisky Auctioneer became the first online whisky auction to sell a million-dollar bottle, with multiple other lots achieving hammer price world records.” The remaining bottles in The Perfect Collection will be sold during the second part of the auction, which will run from 10 April until 20 April. Bottles include The Macallan 1926 Fine & Rare, a Glenfiddich 1937 Rare Collection 64 Year Old, and The Balvenie 1937 Pure Malt 50 Year Old.

The Nightcap

The colourless Mirror Margarita collection from specialist agave bar Hacha

London celebrates International Margarita Day

Tomorrow, Saturday 22 February, is International Margarita Day, and London’s bars will be celebrating in style, mainly by offering lots of variations on this much-loved cocktail. To help you navigate around all the excitement, Patron Tequila has created a special Margarita map. Simply put your postcode into the computer thing, and the magic of science will direct you to an establishment serving special Patron Margaritas. You can also enter a prize draw for the chance to win a trip to Mexico! If you don’t win that trip, and let’s face it, you probably won’t, then don’t worry as there’s a little bit of Mexico in East London. You’ll find it at specialist agave bar, Hacha! Bartender Deano Moncrieffe has come up with a series of twists on the classic cocktail, like the colourless Mirror Margarita, plus there’s food from Mission St Tacos. There will also be special Ocho Tequila cocktails at Callooh Callay in Old Street and the Racketeer in Kings Cross. And finally, you don’t even need to leave the house to get in on the action. Jose Cuervo is offering a free Margarita delivery service today and Saturday. You can enter here and if you’re lucky, a special Jose Cuervo Margarita Rider will come to your house (London only, sadly) and mix up some cocktails for you. You don’t even have to get dressed!

The Nightcap

It’s certainly been a good week for the discerning collector!

Rare rum found in Charles Metcalfe’s cupboard is sold for £12,000

Top wine writer and collector Charles Metcalfe made a pretty penny this week after he sold 11 bottles of rum for £12,000. Metcalfe inherited the 11 bottles of Lemon Hart rum, bottled in the 1940s, from his late father who saved them as a souvenir from his time spent working with Lemon Hart & Sons in 1946-48, following his return from a prisoner of war camp where he was held during the Second World War. The famous British brand has a long history and is best known for its appointment by the Admiralty as the supplier of rum to the British Royal Navy in the late 18th century. The rum had been kept in a cupboard for years after his father died, but Metcalfe recently made the decision to sell the majority of the collection and had bottles valued by a specialist team at www.whisky.auction. Each bottle has sold for around £1,000, some as high as £1,450, in the online auctions since September. There is one more bottle to sell which will be made available on 1 March. “As a wine collector, I’m well aware of the value that old wine can fetch at auction, but I hadn’t imagined that my father’s rum would be worth quite so much,” Metcalfe told the West Sussex County Times. “It shows how valuable a quick look into the back of your spirits cupboard can be!”

The Nightcap

100% of funds raised from this online charity auction go straight to Rural Aid

Australian distillers donate spirits to raise money for bushfire relief

The Australian bushfires still burn, with over 18.6 million hectares of land destroyed to date. However, over 100 Australian distilleries have joined forces in order to help Bushfire Relief, donating over 200 bottles of Australian spirits, including whisky, gin, rum, moonshine, vodka, liqueurs and more. You’ll find tasty spirits from brands such as Four Pillars, Starward, Archie Rose, Brookie’s Gin and Manly Spirits among the names. It’s not just pre-existing bottlings either, with a new whisky having been crafted for the cause dubbed The Aussie Spirit. The “godfather of Australian whisky”, Bill Lark, will oversee blending and maturation of five different casks of whisky at Old Kempton Distillery utilising new make from 13 distilleries around the country. If you want to get your hands on some of this while supporting Bushfire Relief, then you can head over to the online charity auction, with 100% of funds raised from going straight to Rural Aid, one of Australia’s largest rural charities.

The Nightcap

The Big Drop Brewing Co. founders showing off the colourful new design

Big Drop Brewing Co. Reveal New Design

The wonderful folks at Big Drop Brewing Co., dedicated solely to bringing delicious alcohol-free brews to our doorsteps, have gone and revealed a brand-new design for their tasty creations! It’s bold and colourful, with each expression’s design taking inspiration from the liquid within. Each of the designs is based on an environment that is linked to the individual beers’ style, and which inspired the names, illustrations and colourways. To create the new designs, the folks at Big Drop teamed up with London-based design agency Foundation, rolling out the new packaging onto the full range including Uptown Craft Lager, Paradiso Citra IPA, Pine Trail Pale Ale and Galactic Milk Stout. For example, Uptown Craft Lager‘s design is inspired by hot summers in London, with the pattern taken from a section of concrete at the city’s Barbican Estate, the colours reflecting a dramatic orange sunset. Meanwhile, Paradiso Citra IPA’s green design mirrors the depths of a jungle, with green leaves and exotic fruits, reflected in the flavour profile as well. “Working with Foundation on this re-packaging project has been brilliant and the results speak for themselves,” says co-founder James Kindred. “2020 is a big year for the brand, and this bold new design direction starts us off in a fantastic way.” We know you can’t judge a book by its cover and all that, but we can’t argue with bright colours and tasty booze-free beer!

The Nightcap

The finalists from 2019’s World Class GB Final make it look like a lot of fun

Diageo Reserve’s World Class competition returns!

Diageo Reserve’s World Class is back and open for entries in the UK. Organisers expect to receive the highest number of entries yet from the country’s bartending community following a record attendance for the UK-wide bartender training tour. The annual competition, which is now in its twelfth year, encourages bartenders to submit a digital entry of one or two serves to be in with the chance of making it into the top 100. The two modules bartenders have been asked to submit to are ‘Acid House’ and ‘Heritage Highballs’. The former challenges contestants to replace the fresh citrus that forms an integral part of Diageo’s gin brand, Tanqueray No. Ten with an alternative acid of their choice and the latter challenges entrants to produce their own highball serve using Johnnie Walker Black Label and a range of ingredients with an interesting backstory. Bartenders will need to submit a cocktail to one or both of the challenges by midnight 9th March at www.theworldclassclub.com and share a photo of the drink on social media using #WorldClassGB2020. Competitors will then be invited to share a Ketel One ‘One Square Mile’ serve online for the judges, consisting of previous GB winners and Diageo BAs, to taste-test. Just 20 of these contestants will then be shortlisted to compete to be crowned GB World Class Bartender of the Year 2020 at the final which is taking place in the New Forest in June at the first ever GB ‘Camp World Class’. The overall winner will get opportunity to tour with the World Class team hosting events and workshops and Diageo-owned distilleries across Scotland, get a budget for bar tools, equipment and custom serve creation and a guest bartending shift at one of Europe’s best bars, as well as the obligatory nationwide exposure and dedicated PR throughout the year. Oh, and a place to represent GB in the World Class Global Final hosted in Sydney, Australia this autumn. Entries for Diageo Reserve GB World Class Bartender of the Year 2020 are now open, closing on 9 March. 

The Nightcap

The collection features artefacts that have never been available for public viewing before

Historical Johnnie Walker artefacts to go on display

A collection of Johnnie Walker artefacts are set to go on display before the public for the first time, thanks to a partnership with the Dick Institute museum in Scotland. The John Walker exhibition in Kilmarnock, Scotland, will feature historical ‘crown jewels’ from the Johnnie Walker archives that have never been available for public viewing, until now. Visitors can also see a John Walker stock book from 1857, a hand-written inventory from John Walker’s grocery store dating back to 1825. It’s the oldest existing record from the shop and details things such as teas from China, spices from Jamaica, and Scotch. There’s also an 1819 hand-written inventory from the sale of Todriggs Farm near Kilmarnock, which is the oldest item in the Johnnie Walker Archive collection. It records the sale of the farm after the death of John Walker’s father, which funded the founding of his grocery store. “These items really are the crown jewels of our collection. They are remarkable historical documents that give us a fascinating insight into the roots of Johnnie Walker,” says Christine McCafferty, chief archivist at the Johnnie Walker Archive. “I’m delighted that to celebrate the 200th anniversary of John Walker starting out in his business we are able to put these items on display to the public in the town where the story began.” The Johnnie Walker exhibition will be a permanent feature at the Dick Institute, with artefacts rotated on a regular basis. The current loan items will be on display at the museum until October 2020.

The Nightcap

Diageo agreed to pay a US$5m penalty and to cease and desist from any further violations

Diageo pays $5m fine over ‘misleading’ sales

It was a difficult week for spirits giant Diageo, which was fined US$5 million by The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) after its North American arm created a “misleading picture” of its financial results. According to the US securities regulator’s charges, the North America division at Johnnie Walker and Lagavulin owner Diageo  “pressured” distributors to buy excess inventory in order to meet internal sales targets in the face of declining market conditions in its 2014 and 2015 fiscal years. Diageo failed to disclose the excess stocks to investors which created a “misleading impression” that it was able to achieve their sales targets through normal customer demand. The charges found Diageo failed to disclose the positive impact “over shipping” had on sales and profits, but also the negative impact this would have on future growth, according to an SEC statement. “Investors rely on public companies to make complete and accurate disclosures upon which they can base their investment decisions”, Melissa R Hodgman, an associate director in the SEC’s division of enforcement, explained: “Diageo pressured distributors to take more products than they needed, creating a misleading picture of the company’s financial results and its ability to meet key performance indicators.” Diageo hasn’t admitted or denied the SEC’s findings but has agreed to pay a US$5m penalty and to cease and desist from any further violations, which the SEC has accepted. “Diageo is pleased to have resolved this legacy matter, which relates back to fiscal years 2014 and 2015,” commented a Diageo spokesperson. “Diageo regularly reviews and refines its policies and procedures, and is committed to maintaining a robust and transparent disclosure process.”

The Nightcap

‘Carbon negative’ and made from peas. You don’t get greener than that!

And finally… There’s now a ‘carbon negative’ gin made from peas

Arbikie Distillery in Scotland has just launched what is claimed to be the world’s first carbon-negative gin, and it’s made from peas. Can’t get greener than that. It’s called Nàdar, meaning ‘nature’ in Gaelic. According to the accompanying study, the amount of carbon produced during its distillation and packaging is more than offset by using peas as a base instead of wheat. Not only do the clever green vegetables fertilise the soil, thus saving on nitrogen fertiliser, but leftovers can be used to feed animals too, thus saving on livestock food, predominately made from soya beans. It’s the product of five years of research by master distiller Kirsty Black in association with Abertay University in Dundee and The James Hutton Institute. She commented:  “Peas are a part of a unique set of plants known as legumes that are able to source nitrogen, which is critical for plant growth, from the air. This removes the need for synthetic nitrogen fertilisers and, therefore, avoids the negative environmental impact its production and use has on our waterways, air and soils.” According to Arbikie each bottle produced means 2.2 kg CO2 that won’t be released into the atmosphere. John Stirling, director of Arbikie Distillery added: “Our ethos at Arbikie from our inception has been to try and create world-class premium spirits where all ingredients are grown on our single estate farm. Minimising our carbon footprint and working with the wonderful homegrown ingredients to create one of the world’s most sustainable distilleries. Our Nàdar Gin goes one step further and looks to make a positive, instead of neutral impact, in terms of long-term sustainability.  It also tastes fantastic, which is a credit to our distilling team.” Let’s raise a glass to peas in our time.

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The Nightcap: 31 January

We’re 1/12 of the way through the year, and a much more complicated fraction of the way through the decade, and all this booze news keeps happening. How to keep…

We’re 1/12 of the way through the year, and a much more complicated fraction of the way through the decade, and all this booze news keeps happening. How to keep track of it all? The Nightcap is here!

Booze news stops for no one. Just like time, or a microwave with that has a broken ‘STOP’ button. Which is dangerous, by the way. Microwaves really need that ‘STOP’ button, otherwise your beans could evaporate. Pretty sure that’s how microwaves work, they’re basically bean teleporters that make the beans get really hot until they are sent to another dimension. What was I talking about? Booze news, that’s what. It’s here. It’s happening. It’s The Nightcap.

On the blog this week we announced the winner of our Burns Night poetry competition, before Ian Buxton returned to ask if there’s an issue with greenwashing in the Scotch whisky industry. Annie then met the man making British baijiu and took a closer look at Tennessee whiskey, as Henry enjoyed the disco-based delights of our Cocktail of the Week and the company of the great wine disruptor Steve Daniel. Adam, meanwhile, suggested some exceptional expressions that would be worth a little indulgence, and Jess shone a spotlight on a fabulous rum from one of the oldest sugar estates in Jamaica as our New Arrival of the Week.

Now it’s time to get stuck into the Nightcap!

The Nightcap

Suntory is already a shareholder in The Macallan.

Suntory buys 10% stake in Edrington

Edrington and Suntory Holdings have announced this week that the duo will be building on an already strong partnership that dates back to the early 1990s. Yep, the Japanese spirits giant put its money where its existing distribution bonds are, and purchased 10% of Edrington’s shares for an undisclosed amount. The agreement is set to provide an inflow of funds to Edrington’s principal shareholder, The Robertson Trust, which has donated over £263m to charitable causes in Scotland since 1961, and contribute to Edrington’s employee share scheme. Suntory has been an important distributor of Edrington brands in international markets including Japan, Germany, Canada and South Africa, and through joint ventures in the UK, Spain and Russia over the past four decades. “Edrington has a successful long-standing strategic partnership with Suntory. We share a similar ethos and the same passion for craftsmanship, innovation and quality in our brands,” Scott McCroskie, Edrington CEO, commented. “We look forward to cementing and building this deep relationship over the coming years.” Suntory Group’s portfolio includes Yamazaki, Hibiki, Jim Beam, Haku, Roku and more, while The Edrington’s includes the likes of The Macallan, Highland Park, The Glenrothes, The Famous Grouse, Brugal rum and Snow Leopard vodka. The brand also holds strategic partnerships with Tequila Partida and Wyoming Whiskey.

The Nightcap

The brand is very popular, no doubt due to the success of the BBC drama

Peaky Blinders Irish whiskey distillery on the cards 

Liverpool-based Halewood International has revealed it plans to develop a distillery to produce Peaky Blinder Irish whiskey. The brand, inspired by the murderous gang and subsequent BBC drama starring Cork actor Cillian Murphy in the lead role, is currently made by West Cork Distillers, based in Skibbereen, County Cork, which Halewood did have a stake in until the Irish company bought them out for €18 million. To add some extra complexity, Halewood bought the rights to the Peaky Blinder spirit brand, which also has a bourbon, London dry gin and spiced rum, when it purchased Sadler’s Brewery in Lye, near Birmingham in 2017. Sadler’s has now closed, and Halewood is said to be transferring some of its equipment to the site it’s eyeing up in Ireland, which would also make The Pogues Irish Whiskey, another Halewood brand. “Due to the very successful growth of Sadler’s Peaky Blinder Irish Whiskey, we plan to accelerate a project to distill our own Irish whiskey,” Halewood said in a statement. Peaky Blinders Irish Whiskey, a blended Irish whiskey finished in sherry casks, is available at MoM Towers now, along with the rest of the range.

The Nightcap

The Spirit of Speyside festivals will return in 2020 for what will be its biggest celebration yet

The Spirit of Speyside announces its trio of festivals will return in 2020 

Since 1999, The Spirit of Speyside festival has celebrated Scotland’s largest whisky-making region, championing distilleries, communities, and the water of life. You’ll be delighted to know that it will return this year, along with the new Spirit of Speyside Gin Experience and Spirit of Speyside: Distilled. The flagship event, The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, will run from 29 April to 4 May in venues across the region. There will be over 700 ticketed whisky-themed activities, including behind-the-scenes distillery tours and food pairing masterclasses, in a packed six-day programme, which will be announced next month. Tickets for it will go on sale at noon on 12 February, so mark the date in your diaries! Following a successful launch last year, the Spirit of Speyside Gin Experience is back to shine a spotlight on local gin producers with new expressions, innovative cocktails and a variety of street food on offer. It will take place from 10-12 July, but the venue is still to be announced. But we do know that Spirit of Speyside: Distilled will be housed at Elgin Town Hall from 28-29 August. Expect to meet some of the region’s leading drinks producers as you get stuck into intimate masterclasses featuring all the great local produce. “Spirit of Speyside’s trio of drinks festivals will return this year in what will be our most significant celebrations yet, letting visitors experience first hand why Speyside is the global epicentre of distilling,” says Lauren Mustard, events coordinator at The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival. “In addition to our flagship Whisky Festival, 2020 will also see the return of the Gin Experience and Distilled, a showcase of Speyside’s range of spirits. We look forward to welcoming visitors from across Scotland, as well as from across the globe, to enjoy the very best of Scotland in Speyside.”

Work will begin on the new distillery later this year

New distillery to open in the heart of Burns country

News just in: Dark Sky Spirits has been given planning permission by Dumfries and Galloway Council to build a new distillery at Moffat in Scotland’s Borders region! The company currently operates as whisky blender with brands such as The Moffat blended malt. This will change when the distillery opens in 2021. The plan is to produce around 60,000 litres of pure alcohol per year. The set-up will be pretty traditional with wooden washbacks and worm tub condensers. The aim is to create a classic Lowland-style spirit. The distillery build became more of a reality earlier this year when South of Scotland Economic Partnership (SOSEP) granted £320,000 for the project. Nick Bullard, founder and managing director, said: “Even though it’s small, this distillery will make a big difference to our town and our region. It will attract visitors, bring new jobs and boost retail and hospitality trade. It will broaden and deepen Moffat’s attractiveness to whisky lovers around the world.” Local MP David Mundell added: “I’m always pleased to see new businesses setting up and providing employment opportunities. As a resident of Moffat myself, I’ve watched the progress of Dark Sky Spirits and their plans with interest. The whisky industry is already important in my constituency, and to Scotland as a whole. I’m sure Dark Sky will prove an asset to the town, widening the visitor offering further.” Tourism will play a big part in the distillery’s future, especially with the Robert Burns connection; he was a frequent visitor to the town. Whisky tourism is big business; in 2018 two million people visited a Scotch whisky distillery, and Dark Sky Spirits is planning for around 9,000 visitors per year. We’ll be first in the queue. 

The Nightcap

The Clumsies will bring a taste of Greece to London with its pop up on this stunning rooftop

Madison x The Clumsies Residency

You may have heard of The Clumsies, seeing as it was ranked 6th in the World’s 50 Best Bar Awards 2019. However, you may not have been able to pop over and visit, seeing as its home is in a townhouse in Athens. Well, The Clumsies is now bringing a taste of Greece to London, with its pop up at the wonderful Madison rooftop! The residency will be running for a rather limited time, from 24 to 28 February, when you can expect a delicious Greek spin on the cocktail menu in the form of five limited-edition cocktails. Vasilis Kyritsis, co-creator of The Clumsies, will even be behind the bar for the week, showcasing his awesome creations. We’re very much looking forward to the Aegean Negroni, which will marry Tanqueray No.Ten, vermouth, Martini Bitter, fennel seeds and diktamus (an aromatic Greek plant), and The Conch, boasting a blend of Otto’s Athens Vermouth, mezcal, salicornia (a succulent) and lemon. Consider our interest piqued! “We’re so excited to be back In London to share some of our cocktails in collaboration with Madison,” says Vasilis Kyritsis from The Clumsies. So are we!

The Nightcap

Zhang Huan’s monumental work of art: Eaux-de-Vie

Hennessy marks Lunar New Year with artist collab

Booze brands striking up partnerships with artists is hardly new, but our eyes (and taste buds) were thoroughly pleased by one that crossed our path this week. Hennessy has teamed up with Chinese artist Zhang Huan, for a project which included the commissioning of a 16-foot ‘dreamscape’ that’s genuinely pretty stunning. The piece is called Eaux-de-vie, and is said to capture a sense of “joy and celebration”. Of course, the artwork has inspired a limited-edition Hennessy bottling, too.  “Making art is about using an object as a vehicle to express inner thoughts, or a spiritual side,” the artist explained. “Eaux-de-vie is intended as a natural, living expression.” Zhang Huan rose to prominence as an artist in 1990s New York. “Being abroad gave me a deeper understanding of my tradition, perhaps because I had to see myself from far away,” he said. “I believe that Chinese and Western cultures are meant to integrate with each other, which is why I sought to incorporate a sense of movement in this work. We never know where life may take us, but I do believe that everything that has gone before leads up to the present moment. That is what I want to celebrate in my creations.” A celebration it is!

The Nightcap

Tequila was a standout performer for Diageo

Diageo reveals half-year results, snaps up former Rémy CEO

It’s been a bit of a big businessy week in booze, with results coming in from Hennessy maker LVMH, and Johnnie Walker parent, Diageo. LVMH’s wine and spirits division celebrated a 6% leap in profits in 2019, and Diageo too was in a good mood, with sales for the first half of its 2020 financial year climbing 4.2%. So what were we drinking? Namely Tequila, which saw 31% growth (Don Julio, anyone?) and Canadian whisky, which posted 11% gains. The loser? Surprisingly, Scotch whisky, which was flat as a pancake, with sales of blended brand Johnnie Walker actually falling by 4%. Disappointing. In related Big Booze Business news, Diageo also announced it had snapped up Valérie Chapoulaud-Floquet to join its board as a non-executive director from 1 January 2021. Name ring a bell? She was formerly CEO at Rémy Cointreau, which makes Rémy Martin Cognac, and also owns the Bruichladdich Distillery, among many others. An interesting move indeed…

The Nightcap

The IARD intends to add symbols or written age restrictions to the labels of its products

Spirits producers agree to age restrictions on labels

In a joint commitment to reduce underage drinking, twelve leading alcohol companies have pledged to include an age restriction symbol across its products. The International Alliance for Responsible Drinking (IARD), which was established in 2014 and includes the likes of Diageo, Pernod Ricard, Beam Suntory, Bacardi, Brown-Forman, William Grant & Sons, AB InBev, Molson Coors and Heineken, has committed to adding symbols or written age restrictions to the labels of its products, even alcohol-free ones, to send an “even clearer message that these products are not for minors”. The IARD had previously promised to deliver better safeguarding measures for online alcohol advertising after partnering with four social media platforms in 2018 and to implement safeguards for at least 95% of its online alcohol marketing by 2024. The group has also welcomed the advice of retailers, wholesalers, and distributors to help determine how best-practice initiatives for age verification can be implemented across the world. “Although underage drinking has fallen in many parts of the world, this trend is not universal. We want to accelerate progress and work with others to eliminate underage drinking in every community through a whole-of-society approach,” says Ulrich Adam, director-general of trade body Spirits Europe, which welcomed IARD’s pledge. “We call on other producers to join us. We call on retailers to work with us to do more to prevent minors from buying alcohol in stores and online. And we call on parents and other adults to support us by not buying alcohol for, or sharing alcohol with, children and minors, even if they do this with good intentions. Together, we must ensure everyone reinforces the message that underage drinking is socially unacceptable.”

The Nightcap

Nightcap legend Miles Beale was in unusually optimistic form this week

Leaving EU offers opportunities for drinks trade says WSTA

If a tree falls in the forest and nobody is around to hear it, does it make a sound? If we leave the EU and Miles Beale from the WSTA doesn’t comment, did we really leave? Well, Miles Beale has just commented, which means we’re definitely leaving. Tonight, in fact. Regular Nightcap readers will know that Beale hasn’t exactly been positive about Brexit, but in a statement just released by the WSTA, he sounds oddly optimistic. According to the WSTA, with the right trade deal, leaving the EU will provide opportunities for the UK wine and spirit industry. These include putting zero tariffs on wine and spirits (putting an end to those pesky levies on American whiskey), and relaxing or dropping some EU rules and definitions, allowing distillers to innovate and giving customers more choice. Beale met recently with Steven Barclay, Secretary of State for exiting the EU (what a title), to discuss how the government can help the drinks trade. Beale commented: “It’s time to complete a trade deal with the EU – and move on. The wine and spirit industry must embrace a brave new world of trading. We need to focus on the opportunities and to steer government towards breaking down barriers on trade, while also reinforcing the UK’s position at the centre of international wine and spirit trading. We have started with some clear asks of government which, if practical steps are taken, we believe will keep the UK as the world’s number one spirit exporter, but could also see us take the top spot as the world’s largest wine importer by volume from Germany.” Unusually optimistic stuff from Beale. We’ll have what he’s having.

The Nightcap

It’s a novel, green and fabulous idea!

And finally… H&M uses ‘leather’ from wine waste

We all know wine has a valued place when it comes to problem-solving (chatting about the woes of the world with a trusted pal over a glass of something delicious fixes all ills). But now clothing retailer H&M has revealed it is using a novel, and very green, leather alternative, according to Vogue. And it’s made from wine by-products! Created in Milan, Vegea is a vegan, eco-friendly, leather-like material, essentially produced from pomace. And it’s already being used in chain-strap handbags and some shoes in H&Ms Conscious Collection. We like! “These collections are here to help enable the scale of these new innovations, and make them more commercial [to us and to other brands],” Pascal Brun, H&M’s sustainability manager, told Vogue. And it’s not just clothes. Turns out you can use the faux-leather in loads of other ways, too. Bentley recently announced it was using the solution in its fancy EXP 100 GT car. We’ll raise a glass to that!

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The Nightcap: 24 January

Need a break from practising your Burns Night speech? Tune into The Nightcap, your weekly source of bite-sized booze news! We sell whisky here at Master of Malt. That shouldn’t…

Need a break from practising your Burns Night speech? Tune into The Nightcap, your weekly source of bite-sized booze news!

We sell whisky here at Master of Malt. That shouldn’t come as a surprise. As such, it also should not be a surprise that we quite enjoy said spirit. A third thing that shouldn’t be a surprise is that Burns Night is happening this weekend – that one shouldn’t be a surprise because we’ve been nattering about it for a little while now, along with everyone else that has an affinity for whisky. If you’re in the same boat and heading to a Burns Night celebration, pack that brain full of booze news in case small talk situations arise between bursts of poetry and toasts.

On the blog this week we turned our attention to all things Burns Night, unsurprisingly, rounding-up some sensational Scotch to enjoy on the night, enjoying a Bobby Burns and reminiscing about the worst Burns Night celebrations ever, all while enjoying your poetic entries to our Burns Night competition… Thank you to all who entered, the competition is now closed and the winner will be announced on Monday!

Elsewhere, we launched a new #BagThisBundle competition, Adam heard Black Lines’ case for why you shouldn’t write off draft cocktails and Henry cast his eye on a baijiu producer that wants to land the spirit in the Western market and a bourbon from the Lone Star state. Annie, meanwhile, checked out the UK’s first sake brewery before going down under to learn about Australian wine and the Archie Rose Distillery.

So, what are you waiting for? There’s boozy news to enjoy!

The Nightcap

Hidden haggis, bingo, London’s first whisky wall and more. It’s must be Burns Night!

Burns Night celebrations in full flow this week

With Burns Night tomorrow, there has been a raft of events this week in celebration, as you can imagine. But plenty are forgoing the tradition to mark the day in all kinds of wacky ways, such as The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS), who are planning to hide 18 mini haggises around Glasgow city centre in celebration of their new Members’ Room opening on Bath Street in March 2020. The lucky folk who find them have a chance to win an annual membership to the Society, SMWS bottles or tasting glasses. DrinkUp London, meanwhile, is offering all kinds of deals for its Scotch Whisky Weekend, while still finding time to host BenRiach’s ‘painting by tasting notes’ workshop with landscape artist Ellis O’Connor and master blender Rachel Barrie, in which you can create your own artwork inspired by tasting notes. A night full of bingo shenanigans from Bobby’s Burns Bingo awaits those who go to New York bodega-inspired bar Liquorette, which is celebrating Burns Night with an American twist with Chivas global brand ambassador Rhys Wilson. He will be calling the numbers and handing out the prizes ranging from Chivas 12 and 18 year old bottles, home whisky blending kits, nights out at Liquorette and tickets to Chivas Blend experience. London’s oldest whisky specialist Milroy’s is doing its own more traditional Burns Night in Spitalfields tonight with complimentary drinks thanks to Crabbie Whisky alongside haggis, poetry and music. One event we know for sure was a success was Mac & Wild’s Burns Warm Up Party with Copper Dog last night, which featured live entertainment, masterclasses, London’s first whisky wall, Bone Marrow Whisky Luge experiences and all kinds of tasty Scottish street food. Oh, and Paul Young has been making signature Burns Night chocolate in collaboration with Glen Moray (we can vouch for its deliciousness), proving that chocolate belongs at every occasion. It’s great to see so many so keen to toast Scotland’s national bard. Slange var!

The Nightcap

This could be yours. For free. No, really.

Silk Road Distillers is giving away free rum

This is not a drill. It’s not a scam. There are no pirates involved in this rum, folks. No, free samples of rum (excluding post and package) can truly be yours thanks to the marketing initiative of a startup rum brand in London. Silk Road Distillers is backing 2020 to be the year of rum (it’s not alone) and the spirit producers are so keen to show off their new creation that they are charging absolutely nothing (excluding post and package) for the pleasure. This isn’t any ordinary rum, no. The sample you’ll receive is full of white spiced rum. A white rum that was infused with six botanicals. It truly is a brave new world. “2020 is going to be all about rum, and we can’t wait to be a part of it”, says George Agate, founder of Silk Road Distillers, “We’re hoping to get loads of samples out for Try-January, and we know once someone tries it, it will be their go-to drink for the year”. Silk Road Distillers also wants you to ditch Rum and Coke for this one and instead try out a Rum and Tonic, which admittedly is an often overlooked serve. Each 50ml is only available until the end of the month, 31st January 2020 from hereNow get ordering!

The Nightcap

A section of bookcase opens to reveal this secret bar, James Bond villain-style.

‘Secret’ bar opens in Great Scotland Yard Hotel

When we turned up, rather late, it has to be said, for the launch of a new bar at the Great Scotland Yard Hotel, we were a little confused as there was nobody to be seen. Maybe, we’d got the wrong day. All became clear, however, when the bartender from the hotel’s other bar, 40 Elephants, pressed discreet button and, James Bond villain-style, a section of bookcase opened to reveal a secret bar. It’s called Sibín, as in an Irish drinking den (sometimes spelt shebeen). The drinks menu takes a turn for the unexpected too with old classics given a tune-up. The Rusty Nail is made with two types of Talisker and Drambuie is left to oxidise for two days to mellow. Bars manager Michal Mariarz adds a little PX to his Smokey Cokey, Lagavulin 16 year old and Coke. Most innovative of all was bartender Alex Williams’ concoction, the Clear Conscience. Based on that old classic the Grasshopper, it’s made with poitin, Branca Menta and all kinds of scientific stuff to make something that smells just like a Matchmaker mint. For the more classically-inclined there are unusual whiskies like a 2005 Caol Ila part-matured in Hermitage red wine casks. The hotel located just off Trafalgar Square and housed in the former HQ of the Metropolitan Police, opened last year and already feels like a classic venue.  

Record number of ‘visitations’ at Buffalo Trace

Whiskey tourism in Kentucky is now a big thing: Buffalo Trace has just released figures that show that 294,996 people visited the distillery last year, 35% up on last year and a massive 466% up on 2010. The press release describes it as a “record-breaking visitation streak” which makes it sound like Kentucky has had an unusual number of divine interventions. All these visitors (divine or otherwise) have come during a $1.2 billion investment scheme. Yes, you read the right. 1.2 billion dollars. This includes a new visitor (or should that be visitation) centre, 22 foot (6.7 metres) cookers that required raising the roof of the mash house, four 92,000 gallon (420,000 litre) fermenters, a new cooling tower and six new warehouses which each hold 58,800 barrels. That’s a lot of bourbon. There’s even a special ‘hard hat’ tour so that you can see the work being done. “The growth we are seeing in all aspects of the distillery is really exciting,” Meredith Moody, director of homeplace development said. “We are eager to show all of our distilling upgrades to new and returning guests on our updated Hard Hat Tour. It’s a whole new experience, whether you are a first time visitor or have toured many times.” Oh, and talking of Buffalo Trace, it’s almost time for our annual parcel of Antique Collection rare bourbons from the distillery to arrive. Watch this space.

The Nightcap

The fantastic Passport menu takes you to all corners of the world

We taste St James Bar new Passport cocktail menu 

It’s around about that point in January that we all start getting a bit of wanderlust around MoM Towers. It’s rainy, it’s cold, and suddenly I’m having to resist the urge to book a holiday somewhere. Our wanderlust dreams were answered when we heard about the new Passport menu at St James Bar, Sofitel St James, so we headed over to try it out. The idea is to take you on a journey, and the menu looks like an actual British passport (for now…) boasting 12 cocktails from 12 different countries. We started, appropriately with a 5 to 7, a beautifully balanced bitter aperitif straight from Italy made with Campari-infused coffee, presented in a cafetière. Where would you like to go next, bar manager Kostas Bardas asked us. America! The Maker’s Mark and sherry-based cocktail, 1st Step, comes in a smoking rocketship. How could we not?! Then, to Thailand, where we tried Megong, a blend of Mekhong Thai Spirit, rum and Earl Grey presented alongside a mini gong. Heaven Howler was a tribute to Iceland’s Prohibition period from 1915 to 1989, a unique marriage of Himbrimi Old Tom, Martin Miller’s Westbourne Strength, homemade rhubarb and thyme liqueur, pale ale and beer soda. We certainly wouldn’t mind sipping this refreshing serve in a geothermal spring… Then, on recommendation from quite literally everyone behind the bar, we tried the Victory Martini, inspired by Winston Churchill. Well, we are in London after all. A sophisticated blend of Plymouth Gin, Cognac and a brilliant homemade pine honey and wine leaf cordial made this little number outrageously easy to drink. The brilliantly conceived and engaging Passport menu took us to all corners of the world, though all from the luxurious blue plush interior of the bar. Bon voyage!

The Nightcap

I’ve never been so proud of the Brits before. Well in, guys.

British drinking more beer despite Dry January claims Wowcher

You may have noticed that it has become popular in the last few years to give up alcohol in January, a bit like a Lenten fast but without the Christianity. With all the noise in the media about Dry January, you might think that alcohol sales would be seriously affected but, according to figures just released by Wowcher, the discount voucher people, this is not the case. In fact, there has been a 71% increase in beer sales compared with January 2019. It has to be said, that this is based only on data from Wowcher’s website and app so could hardly be described as definitive. Nevertheless, it does seem to suggest that even with all the newspaper articles, TV segments, advertising and general media hubbub, Dry January is still very much a minority pursuit. Britons, never change. 

The Nightcap

It’s a fine donation to a good cause.

Diageo rolls out the barrel for Scottish Rugby charity 

Diageo has announced that it donated a cask of Scotch whisky to raise money for Doddie Weir’s My Name’5 Doddie Foundation to find a cure for MND. The rugby legend and inspirational Motor Neuron Disease campaigner Doddie Weir visited the brand’s new Scottish headquarters in Edinburgh on Monday 20 January to accept the donation. This is also marked the official opening of the offices and reaffirmed Diageo’s support for Scottish Rugby ahead of the forthcoming Six Nations, which will be the first to feature Johnnie Walker as Scottish Rugby’s official whisky partner. “Doddie Weir is an inspiration to people everywhere with the remarkable bravery of his campaign. It was a privilege to welcome him to our new offices and to share his incredible campaign with our people,” said Ewan Andrew, president of global supply & procurement at Diageo. “We have a powerful connection with rugby through our Guinness Title Partnership of the Six Nations Championship and our Johnnie Walker partnership with Scottish Rugby. What better way to celebrate these partnerships and to mark our move to our new office than by supporting Doddie and his campaign.” Doddie Weir added: “I am delighted to accept the donation of this cask of Glenkinchie single malt whisky for my foundation. The momentum behind the campaign keeps growing and it’s terrific to see companies like Diageo and brands like Johnnie Walker stepping up to show their support and to raise funds.” Diageo will now work with the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation team to select a cask of Glenkinchie single malt and to have it bottled for the charity. We wish all involved the best luck in fighting for this fantastic cause.

The Nightcap

The Big Drop Brewing founders are hoping to raise a pretty penny

Big Drop Brewing Co. launches crowdfunding for major expansion

Launched in London in 2016, Big Drop Brewing Co. is shaking up the alcohol-free beer game as one of the very few totally dedicated alcohol-free brewers. In its portfolio, you’ll find stout, pale ale, IPA, lager and other brews, along with a range of gluten free and vegan beers too. For its brews, Big Drop uses a method which removes the need to extract alcohol after fermentation, which is often what affects the taste and mouthfeel of alcohol-free beer. It’s launching a crowdfunding campaign in February, and investors will become a part of the company as well as receiving a few perks alongside, from brand merch to a day with the master brewer. The perks get better depending on how much more you’re willing to invest, of course. The point of the crowdfund is to help it expand into markets outside the UK, as well as within its home country. “We knew there were a lot of people who felt exactly the same way as we did,” says co-founder Rob Fink. “We realised we could create not just the beer we wanted, but a community of like-minded people too. What if we could do for alcohol-free beer what the craft beer revolution had done for, well, beer?” Well, if you want to find out and want a piece of the action, then head over to the site

The 2020 Tap Takeovers at the Tate will feature the likes of Cloudwater Brew Co., Tiny Rebel and more.

Tap Takeovers at the Tate

Lovers of contemporary art, good beer and alliteration are in for a treat as the latest Tap Takeovers at the Tate have just been announced. These consist of an evening at the Tate Modern in London devoted to a particular brewery. The first event on 30 January features Manchester’s very own Cloudwater Brew Co. with its delicious range of beers including a mighty 8.5% ABV Double IPA. And don’t worry if you don’t like beer or alcohol, as the brewery produces a range of zero ABV sodas. Be warned, though, you can’t just turn up and have access to delicious brews, that would be too easy, you need to book in advance here. Tap Takeovers will be running monthly throughout the year with breweries such as Tiny Rebel, Verdant Brewing and Northern Monk Brew, so there’s sure to be something that tickles your fancy.

The Nightcap

Yep. That’s a haggis lasagne alright.

And finally. . . It’s getting Scot in here! Aldi makes Burns Night lasagne with haggis.

Burns Night is, of course, founded on tradition. And tradition is fun, you know what you’re going to get. But this year, Burns Night 2020 will be known as the year that Aldi, everyone’s favourite discount supermarket, really shook things up because it has given Scotland’s national dish, the haggis, an Italian twist with a recipe for haggis lasagne. Yes, really! Literally lasagne with haggis, it’s the greatest Scots-Italian mash-up since Peter Capaldi. Imagine serving that at a traditional Burns Night. If this kind of culture collision isn’t your thing, then you can just buy the haggis from Aldi and enjoy it in its pure form. But if we could time travel, the only place we’d be going is back to the late 1700s to ask Robert Burns himself what he thinks of this. Salute! No, wait. Slange var!

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Trust the algorithm: The future of AI in booze

Last month, Johnnie Walker’s parent company Diageo rolled out artificial intelligence (AI) whisky selector ‘What’s Your Whisky’, which analyses drinkers’ flavour preferences to pair them with their perfect single malt…

Last month, Johnnie Walker’s parent company Diageo rolled out artificial intelligence (AI) whisky selector ‘What’s Your Whisky’, which analyses drinkers’ flavour preferences to pair them with their perfect single malt Scotch. Here, we take a look at the ground-breaking technology, and consider the ways in which algorithms could revolutionise the drinks industry in years to come…

Think back to a bottle of alcohol you bought without ever having tried it. What compelled you to pick that one, rather than another? Perhaps it was the look of the label, or the price. Maybe a friend recommended it, or you spotted it on this very blog. Or, if you’ve just road-tested Diageo’s new AI whisky selector, it might be because an algorithm told you to.

Named ‘What’s Your Whisky’, the selector uses FlavorPrint taste profiling technology to match your individual tastes to one of 18 featured single malts, explains Benjamin Lickfett, head of technology & innovation at Diageo. It asks eleven questions to understand your preferences – e.g. ‘how often do you eat bananas? How do you feel about chillies?’ – and then analyses your responses.

“To do this, we use an algorithmic machine learning analysis of 500 different flavour points based on data from the food science and expert sensory science sectors,” he continues. “Once individual flavour preferences have been mapped, the app uses AI to continuously learn what drives consumer preferences.”

Team Circumstance: Liam Hirt, Mark Scott and Danny Walker

Elsewhere, AI isn’t just matching you with your optimum booze pairing. It’s creating it. In November, Circumstance Distillery created the world’s first AI gin, called Monker’s Garkel, in collaboration with tech companies Rewrite Digital and Tiny Giant. They designed a ‘recurrent neural network’ named Ginette, explain Liam Hirt, Circumstance co-founder. 

“She was trained to compose gin recipes using an enormous data set of botanical and recipes,” Hirt says. “We chose her best two recipes for further traditional development at Circumstance Distillery. One recipe emerged as a favourite, although it was very close. Ginette also came up with the name for the gin. A separate neural network was used to create the label and the wording on the back of the bottle.”

Circumstance isn’t the only producer to harness the power of AI to make great-tasting spirits. In May last year, Swedish distillery Mackmyra teamed up with Microsoft and Fourkind to create a whisky informed by Mackmyra’s existing recipes, sales data and customer preferences. In January 2017, Virgin’s travel arm partnered with super-computer Watson to analyse the social media posts of 15 million holidaymakers, match them to 5,000-plus flavour descriptions and reviews, and create a one-off rum recipe at Barbados’ Foursquare Distillery.

Is there a danger our industry’s tastemakers could soon be overthrown by AI distillers? Not quite. “AI technology is in its infancy, and is not ready to take over from a skilled distiller like those at our distillery,” reckons Hirt. “Where I see AI making a difference in the near future is as a creative muse used during product development. At Circumstance Distillery we do a lot of product development and contract distillation for customers. AI in its current form can be a useful tool at the brainstorming stage to contribute ideas that might be quite different and take development in an unexpected and novel direction.”

Would you take a recommendation from one of these?

In what ways, then, could AI potentially revolutionise the industry as we know it today? For now, the answer lies in behind the scenes operations. French drinks company Pernod Ricard, which owns Jameson whiskey and Beefeater gin, has been “developing a series of successful pilots and then projects at scale for quite a large array of applications” for a few years now, explains global media and content hub leader Thibaut Portal.

This could be something as simple as identifying trending venues using data from Google Maps, Google Venues traffic, Trip Advisor and social media channels, he explains; information that helps the company map and structure its approach to the on-trade. Automated algorithms help the company optimise its social media campaigns, too – by defining and predicting best days and hours of the week to interact with consumers as well as personalising messages and communications. 

“We have applied AI mainly so far and at scale for our marketing and sales department activities, as data are massive and easy to collect,” says Portal. AI technology definitely enables us to react faster and prepare for more informed decisions, leveraging and computing data available internally or sourced externally in a flash. It provides solid analysis capabilities and unlocks new business opportunities: from product launch to market share increases.”

While it’s still early days for Diageo’s customer-facing whisky selector – which launched across nine European countries in six languages – Lickfett says the team is excited about the potential of this untapped tech. “Once we’ve received the initial results, we’ll be looking to optimise how we integrate the AI experience in bars, supermarkets, online and beyond,” he says. “As with any new technology application, it is key to put the consumer at the centre of the experience, ensuring real value is added and to avoid creating technology for technology’s sake.”

The stills at Circumstance in Bristol

He makes a point. With that in mind, are there any challenges the industry might need to overcome to integrate AI technology successfully? The most obvious one, Hirt says, is knowledge. “Circumstance Distillery is very tech-focused, with successful projects such as issuing ‘whisky tokens’ in the form of our own cryptocurrency,” he says. “Most small businesses in the drink sector are not as tech-focused as we are.”

It’s a sentiment backed by Portal. “AI technology has developed so fast with so many suppliers that confusion is already there,” he explains. “It requires expertise, knowledge and capacity to select the right project.” With a little knowledge, however, the sky’s the limit. “There are so many offers on the market, available and easy to access for all,” he says. “We are entering a democratisation phase, as well as a learning curve for all to build.”

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The Nightcap: 29 November

Need to decompress after all the Black Friday sales hubbub? We’ve got just the thing – it’s The Nightcap! If you find yourself exclaiming out loud “How on earth did…

Need to decompress after all the Black Friday sales hubbub? We’ve got just the thing it’s The Nightcap!

If you find yourself exclaiming out loud “How on earth did it get to be 3 o’clock?!” almost every day, you might be very surprised to find out November is almost over. You were probably getting ready to go to the beach or hide chocolate eggs in the toaster or something. Go dig out a Santa hat and glue it to your forehead so you’re constantly aware of what’s going on. And to keep your noggin warm. It’s quite chilly out there if you’re dressed for a spring morning stroll. We’re also ready to help bring you up to date. Behold, it’s another edition of The Nightcap, our round-up of booze news from the week that was!

On the MoM blog this week you probably noticed that #WhiskySanta announced that he was giving away an Old and Rare Whisky Advent Calendar worth nearly £1,000. That wasn’t only the bargain on the blog, however, as we rounded-up some of our best Black Friday deals. Ian Buxton returned to investigate a curious phenomenon while Adam caught up with Billy Walker, owner and master blender at Glenallachie Distillery. Elsewhere, Annie looked at a blended Scotch you’ll want for your next Highball, and talked over 400 years of distillation with Sandie van Doorne at Lucas Bols. Henry’s week involved a lot of Martini-based fun, from enjoying its predecessor The Martinez, to interviewing Alessandro Palazzi from the esteemed Dukes Bar, although he did find time to make a Kentucky whiskey aged in barrels that are toasted rather than charred our New Arrival of the Week.

Now, onto the Nightcap!

The Nightcap

Congratulations to you David!

The Balvenie’s David Stewart MBE nabs top gong at IWSC

Last night saw the glittering International Wine & Spirit (IWSC) Awards Banquet take place at London’s Guildhall (the most Harry Potter-esque venue you ever did see). It was the 50th anniversary of the awards, which celebrate all kinds of things, from tip-top wine and spirits producers and their wares (obvs), but also communicators, and outstanding achievers, too. And step forward The Balvenie malt master David Stewart! He was honoured for his Outstanding Achievement in Scotch Whisky over his whopping 57-year career, garnering praise from peers and whisky drinkers right across the globe. Other big winners include Ryan Chetiyawardana who scooped Spirits Communicator of the Year, and William Grant, which bagged the Outstanding Spirits Producer 2019 gong. Congrats all!

The Nightcap

You can find out what your ‘perfect dram’ is now!

Diageo sets AI What’s Your Whisky quiz

We’re sure many of you whisky-lovers have a selection of favourite expressions, from go-to bottles to desert-island drams. But have these preferences been verified by the wonders of technology? Because Diageo has created a ‘digital experience’, said to help people find their perfect whisky based on their preferences for certain flavours. What’s Your Whisky uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to analyse a user’s personal palate, asking eleven questions to understand their preferences, such as “how often do you eat bananas?” and “how do you feel about chillies?”. The data collected is then used to create a ‘Flavour Print’, which matches the user with a single malt whisky that the AI thinks they will love. “We are using our extensive consumer knowledge, whisky expertise gathered over hundreds of years and cutting-edge AI to help consumers discover, explore and enjoy Scotch in new and exciting ways,” said Dr Adeline Koay, principal scientist, research and development for Diageo. Andy Parton, senior regional manager for Diageo, added: “We’re excited to roll this out at scale and help many thousands of people find their perfect Whisky based on the innovative FlavorPrint AI technology.” I took the test and found the questions amusing, but slightly limiting. It did recommend Talisker, which I admittedly do love. So maybe it does work. Although if your dream dram isn’t made by Diageo I wouldn’t hold out too much hope of it coming up… What’s Your Whisky launched on 28 November in nine countries (UK, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Spain, Greece, Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands) – check out the website or scan a QR codes in participating bars, restaurants and shops. 

The Nightcap

The inimitable Ronnie Cox, as drawn by Alasdair ‘Loon’ Hilleary, red socks and all!

Berry Bros. & Rudd launches Ronnie’s Reserve

Ronnie Cox has worked in this industry for 43 years, spending more than three decades of that at Berry Bros. & Rudd (BBR). He’s a Master of the Quaich and a member of the Worshipful Company of Distillers. He’s also part of the seventh generation of the Cumming family, which previously owned Cardhu distillery. Now, as BBR’s legendary brands heritage director “edges towards retirement”, he’s been tasked with curating a range of single malt Scotch whiskies. The seven single cask bottlings are all from one undisclosed distillery (it’s very easy to figure out if you know the brand’s history). Two of the bottlings are from casks laid down in the 1990s, one is from the ‘80s, two are from the ‘70s and two are from the ‘60s, including the remarkable Tempus Fugit 1968 Cask No. 13497, which produced 65 bottles and is priced at £3,800 (this is the one that you’ll have to wait until June 2020 to purchase). Cox explained that he had his eye on these for many years, and he counted himself “incredibly fortunate to be able to select these whiskies to bottle under my name”. The first six bottlings will be launched on St. Andrew’s Day (30 November), available from Berry Bros. & Rudd. The illustrations on the bottle were drawn by Alasdair ‘Loon’ Hilleary, a lifelong friend, who depicts Cox wearing his classic red socks, which he’s made something of a trademark. If you do happen to get your hands on a bottle or two, do be sure to don your best scarlet stockings as you imbibe. 

The Nightcap

It’s a wintery dose of Swiss-esque bliss in London

Möet opens Alpine Lodge in Soho

Many people like the idea of apres-ski. Think cosy cabins, Last Christmas I Gave you my Heart knitwear and wintery drinks, without all the palaver with snow, salopettes and chair lifts. Möet has cleverly spotted this by opening an Alpine lodge, not in Gstaad or Whistler, but in London. Located in 100 Wardour in Soho, it’s open now and runs until the end of January. We popped in this week and can confirm that it’s just like being halfway up a mountain in Switzerland, only much easier to get to from Tottenham Court Road Underground station. On arrival, we wrapped ourselves in blankets and got stuck into the cocktails; as you might expect from the world’s largest Champagne company, they were pretty good. We were particularly taken with the Snowed Under which combines Tanqueray Export Strength, Möet & Chandon Impérial, lavender syrup, lemon juice, and icing sugar; and the Ice Ice Baby, made with Antica Formula, Campari, Möet & Chandon Impérial, plum bitters, crusta sugar, and a dried orange. Nothing says ‘Christmas is coming’ like a dried orange. And then rather than having to cross country ski home, like they do in the Alps, we took a train. Much more civilised. 

The Nightcap

Things are getting festive at the German Gymnasium!

Maker’s Mark reveals gingerbread pop-up at German Gymnasium

Sticking with Christmas for a moment, and we’re spotting a micro-trend for all things gingerbread this season. After Fentimans unveiled a life-size gingerbread house at London’s Skylight, bar and restaurant German Gymnasium has opened its very own tasty terrace, this time in partnership with bourbon brand Maker’s Mark. Described as a “sugar-filled wonderland”, the space features wooden huts, lights and lanterns galore, cosy blankets, and, of course, a mouthwatering, sweet-themed cocktail list. Serves include a Gingerbread Old Fashioned (made with Maker’s Mark and gingerbread syrup, topped with toasted marshmallow), and Maker’s Milk (Maker’s Mark, Kahlua, rum, vanilla, double cream and egg white, served in a milk bottle). Hot serves will also be on-hand in case of chilliness. Head to King’s Cross with haste if you’ve got a sweet tooth this December and January!

The Nightcap

This should put a stop to people judging a dram by its colour…

Glencairn releases black glass for Black Friday

In honour of Black Friday (which for better or worse, is now very much a thing), top Scottish glassmakers Glencairn has released a limited-edition glass that might be the blackest thing on the planet. It’s blacker than Darth Vader’s helmet, blacker even than Back in Black by AC/DC, the previous holder of this title. The colour not only looks very metal, but will stop you judging your dram by its colour, putting your olfactory system firmly in charge. Each glass costs £7 and comes in a black box, naturally. Only 1,000 have been produced and they go on sale first thing on Black Friday (so may be already gone by the time you read this). This season, black is very much back. 

The Nightcap

Good things come in small pubs

Guinness opens pint-sized pub for a cosy Christmas

Guinness is opening a tiny pub in Flat Iron Square in London from Thursday 5 till Sunday 8 December. From 1pm until 11.30pm, punters will be able to enjoy food, fire and more Christmas tunes than you can shake a stick at. There will also be a certain famous Dublin stout on tap. Here’s the best thing: it won’t cost you a penny. That’s right, free Guinness! Before you book your travel to central London though, we should let you know that it’s a very small space indeed so there’s only room for five people (not including the bartender) and you have to book.  Simply sign up via Design my Night and you can reserve the entire pub for you and a few friends. Oh, and you’re only allowed two pints each. Still, it sounds pretty ace. So gather your nearest and dearest, huddle into a tiny pub, and enjoy free beer. If you can think of a better way to keep out the cold, we’d like to hear it.

The Nightcap

The GlenDronach Traditionally Peated will be at MoM Towers soon…

The GlenDronach reveals its new release, Traditionally Peated

GlenDronach is showing us its smoky side with a brand new peated single malt! The GlenDronach Traditionally Peated harks back to the days in 1826 when the distillery was founded, and it was common practice in the Highlands to burn peat in the kiln towards the end of the barley malting. For the whisky, the distillery has kept it traditional sherried style, marrying liquid from a range of Pedro Ximénez, oloroso sherry and Port casks, all bottled up at 48% ABV. “The GlenDronach Traditionally Peated offers connoisseurs a rare opportunity to explore the distillery’s rich depths of sherry cask maturation, while paying homage to the robust peat-smoked earthy character of the early 19th century, that James Allardice himself would likely have enjoyed,” says master blender Dr. Rachel Barrie. “This wonderfully complex single malt presents notes of Highland toffee, dark honey and coal-smoked barley. Burnt orange and treacle glide over the palate, on a base of cloves and smoked bramble. Liquorice and dark fruits linger and intensify into the rich and earthy finish.” Sounds like a smoky Highland lip-smacker to us! Keep an eye out, it should be landing on our shores very soon…

The Nightcap

Getting your haircut so often you’re basically bald for the free Metaxa is most certainly a ‘mood’

Come for a shave, stay for a drink

There are few things more pleasurable than getting your haircut while enjoying a drink. Now, this could be some Wray & Nephew overproof rum drunk out of a teacup at Kyrie’s in Kensal Rise, or a single malt Scotch at Blades in Soho. Both we would highly recommend. But there’s a new contender in London town for best drink/cut combo. From now until the end of December, you will receive a free Metaxa Ginger Rock, a combination of ginger ale and Metaxa 12 Stars, when you book a haircut or a shave at Sharps Barber Shop in Great Windmill Street. For those who have never been to Greece where no meal is complete without a little glass, Metaxa is a blend of brandy, Muscat wine and botanicals, and, especially in 12 Stars form, is utterly delicious. We can see ourselves going for repeat utterly unnecessary haircuts just for the free Metaxa. 

The Nightcap

Sobar. Sober. So-bar… Oh, yep. I get it. Nice one, guys.

And finally… A snack bar claims it can make you less drunk

It’s not that we’re sceptical here at MoM Towers, but a piece of news reached us from across the pond this week that had our eyebrows raised pretty much to the roof. Sobar, a brand of snack-sized protein bars, is claiming it’s found a magic formula that will make us less giddy after one too many drams. Sort of. Apparently a study has found it reduces alcohol absorption, and, in comparison to other similar foods, it was about twice as effective per calorie. Each Sobar weighs in at 210 calories, and apparently it works because a thing called Alco-HOLD keeps the booze in your stomach for longer so it can be “inactivated”. “This research project started after I had too much to drink on an empty stomach at a wedding,” said SOBAR inventor Joseph Fisher, MD PhD.  “After that experience I thought that there was a huge need for a specialised, low-calorie snack that could efficiently and effectively reduce alcohol absorption.” Or you could. . . sip not gulp in the first place? Just a thought. 

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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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