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The story behind the Scotch: The Famous Grouse

The Famous Grouse is one of the world’s most popular blends and the best-selling Scotch whisky in Scotland. But how did this creation from a Perth-based grocer end up becoming…

The Famous Grouse is one of the world’s most popular blends and the best-selling Scotch whisky in Scotland. But how did this creation from a Perth-based grocer end up becoming a household name? We find out.

When you interview the founder of a brand you always expect to hear the same story of origin: “we had a chat one night over a drink and decided to give it a go”. So many distilleries, bottlers, and more began this way, with an idea and some Dutch courage. The 19th-century equivalent would appear to be the humble grocer, who began importing wine and spirits at some point and eventually created their own brand which soon took over the world. 

The Famous Grouse is one of the most notable examples. It’s one of the world’s most popular blends and the best-selling Scotch whisky in Scotland. You’ll find it in pretty much anywhere that sells booze, from supermarkets to corner shops and even award-winning online establishments (yes I mean us) and there are very few whisky drinkers who haven’t at least tried it.

Which makes it one of those household names we take for granted. But consistent, versatile, and affordable blends that set a lot of us on a path to whisky appreciation and support the bulk of the industry didn’t just appear out of nowhere. In this new series, we’re interested in the story behind the Scotch (hence the name), so we’ve spoken to Lewis Bright, global brand manager at The Famous Grouse, and current master blender Calum Fraser to find out how this creation of a Perth-based grocer ended up becoming so, errr… famous.

Famous Grouse

The Famous Grouse has come a long way from this Perth-based grocery

A famous history

The story begins in 1807 when a grocer called John Brown moved his business to Atholl Street in Perth. His daughter, Margaret married Matthew Gloag, a name you might know as the one often given as the creator of Famous Grouse. But the tale is a little more complicated than that. 

It was Margaret who took over the family business in 1824 and she was the one who acquired a license to sell wine and spirits (and snuff) in 1831. A little over a decade later Gloag took control and made use of his experience managing the cellar of the sheriff clerk (rather like a magistrate) of Perthshire for more than 30 years. Gloag did good business bringing in the wines from France, Spain, and Portugal to the streets of Perth. So good in fact that when Queen Victoria visited Perth in 1842, Gloag was invited to supply the wines for the royal banquet.

Then came the moment that changed the course of whisky forever, as around 1875 phylloxera began its destructive journey around the vineyards of France. As wine and brandy became scarce, there was a huge demand for Scotch and Irish products and this prompted the company to look at expanding its blended whisky business. William Brown Gloag, who inherited the business after his father’s death in 1860, was critical in improving its presence in this market, becoming one of the original shareholders of the North British distillery in Edinburgh in 1887 in order to secure a supply of grain whisky.

But it wasn’t this Gloag who registered the company’s first blended Scotch brand, but Matthew Gloag III, who took charge in 1896. That year Brig o’Perth was released and shortly after the Grouse Brand followed. Then, in 1905, the limited company of Matthew Gloag & Son was formed and the family came up with a new name for its whisky: The Famous Grouse. Which is much better than just Grouse, isn’t it? Now it’s famous. Can’t argue with that. Matthew’s daughter Philippa actually sketched the first-ever red grouse which became the brand’s iconic label and is fondly known at the company now as the “woman behind the wings”. 

Famous Grouse

Phillipa Gloag’s original grouse design

A famous name

The Famous Grouse was a family-owned blend all the way up until 1970 when chairman, Matthew Frederick Gloag, died and a prohibitive estate duty forced the family to sell. Highland Distillers, which is now part of Edrington, picked it up for a bargain £1.25m, although Matthew Irving Gloag remained as a director.

This presumably wasn’t just sentiment, as the Gloag family clearly had a mind for the whisky business. Highland Distillery had purchased a company with the marketing and distributive power to export 33 million proof gallons to America in 1968. By 1980 Famous Grouse was the highest-selling Scotch in Scotland as well as being the second highest-selling in the United Kingdom and by 1984 it was awarded another Royal Warrant. 

That success doesn’t show any sign of dissipating. Bright says that in December 2019, The Famous Grouse was the top-selling whisky in the UK off-trade, which demonstrates that “demand for our famous whisky remains strong 124 years after it first went to market”. So how do they do it? Well, the branding is obviously incredibly strong. The grouse is a surprisingly adept brand ambassador and many of the company’s advertisements are memorable

Edrington also didn’t sit still with what it inherited, creating new products like the peated Black Grouse in 2006, the grain whisky Snow Grouse in 2008, and a premium offering called the Naked Grouse in 2010, which has just been rebranded to the Naked Malt. It also ramped up the marketing, founding The Famous Grouse Experience at the Glenturret distillery and striking up numerous partnerships, particularly in rugby, where the company has deals in place with Premiership Rugby, The British & Irish Lions, SA Rugby, and Glasgow Warriors.

Famous Grouse

Over 125 years the brand has maintained its success thanks to this reliable, tasty blend

A famous blend

Most importantly, however, is the brand’s ability to maintain a consistent and enjoyable blend. Notable blenders like Gordon Motion, Kirsteen Campbell, and now Fraser have overseen a process that leads to in excess of 40 million bottles being filled per year. The latter says the secret to success is an extremely meticulous approach. Quality control demands reviewing whisky samples at all points of the supply chain.  

This includes the nosing of each batch of new make distillate from the several malt and grain distilleries filled for future blends, the nosing of each cask profile (ex-bourbon barrels or sherry-seasoned hogsheads, for example) prior to filling, and the assessment of mature whisky from each and every cask selected for a batch of The Famous Grouse, totaling over 80,000 checks per year. “We leave no stone unturned to ensure the perfect dram,” Fraser says.

Given that The Famous Grouse is over 125 years old, naturally, some of the malt and grain distilleries that would have been used in the first recipe created by Matthew Gloag are no longer in production. There have also been huge changes in the type of casks available for blending.

Famous Grouse

The charming little fella is still going strong

The Grouse today

Today, the Famous Grouse is made up of whiskies from the Lowlands, Highlands, Speyside, and Island regions of Scotland, which are all individually matured in oak casks for several years prior to blending. The malt and grain distilleries aren’t officially revealed by the brand, but it’s believed that The Macallan and Highland Park are used (both Edrington brands, so it seems likely) with around 65% of the spirit content thought to be made up of grain whisky. For maturation, American and European oak is shaped into casks and sherry-seasoned in Spain prior to being sent to Scotland for filling.

Fraser says the whisky’s “signature smoothness” comes from the aged grain whiskies, which are “delicate and sweet in character, acting as the perfect complement to the numerous characters of the malt whiskies within the blend”. The role the malt whisky element plays is to create body and weight. The malt whiskies, prior to blending with the grain whiskies, are brought together and reduced to a marrying strength of 45.5% ABV before being left to evolve for at least 21 days. Fraser says this allows “further integration, refinement and increases the smoothness of the whiskies ahead of creating The Famous Grouse blend”.

It’s a profile that has made The Famous Grouse a staple of back bars and drinks cabinets. It’s not the most complex spirit and can be a touch raw for strict single malt drinkers, but check our user reviews on the product’s page and you’ll see the same kind of words popping up time and time again. ‘Underrated’. ‘Reliable’. ‘Grouse’. Jokes aside, The Famous Grouse is the kind of product that often serves as people’s introduction to whisky, and it’s a worthy first dram. We all start somewhere and this balanced, tasty, malty blend with plenty of mellow sweetness and a refined mouthfeel makes for a pleasant sipper. Where it really shines for me, however, is in cocktails, specifically Highballs. According to Bright, the best way to enjoy The Famous Grouse whisky is the simple but effective Grouse & Ginger, the recipe for which is below. 

How to make Grouse & Ginger

50ml The Famous Grouse 
150ml ginger ale
Lime wedge 


Fill the glass with ice, then pour in The Famous Grouse followed by the ginger ale. Garnish with a lime wedge and enjoy!

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The Nightcap: 1 April

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Diageo pays tribute to Caroline Martin

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

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

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

Stephen Woodcock goes to Glen Moray

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

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

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

Famous Grouse changes name to celebrate the British & Irish Lions

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

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

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

Is Glendronach now chill-filtered?

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

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

Get your tickets now!

OurWhisky virtual whisky festival returns

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

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

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

New drinks website launches: OOFT! 

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

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

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

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

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

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The Nightcap: 13 November

In this week’s round-up of news from the wide world of drinks, we say hello to some incredible new booze, Scotland’s first ‘vertical distillery’ and goodbye to a great publication….

In this week’s round-up of news from the wide world of drinks, we say hello to some incredible new booze, Scotland’s first ‘vertical distillery’ and goodbye to a great publication.

Friday the 13th is meant to be unlucky, but then so are black cats and it’s a known fact that all cats are amazing with no exception. So maybe we should pay no heed to this superstition. After all, today is Friday the 13th and another edition of The Nightcap has arrived, packed to the brim with brilliant boozy happenings as always.

Another week, another chance to win incredible boozy prizes. We do love to spoil you. This time we launched our #MissedMoment competition which runs until the 19 November, so get those entries in! Elsewhere on the MoM blog, there was plenty of exciting whisky coverage, Henry revealed that Irish Distillers relaunched Blue Spot after a 56-year hiatus, got a sneak preview of the upcoming Johnnie Walker film and introduced a mysterious long-aged bourbon from Tennessee. Adam then got a taste of Benromach’s new 21-year-old expression and Annie took a fresh look at New World whisky. Elsewhere, we whipped up the Caipirinha, a Brazilian classic, rounded-up a top ten of bargain gins and then put together a selection of staff favourites chosen by the team here at MoM Towers.

The Nightcap

Thanks for all the amazing drinks coverage guys!

Goodbye to Imbibe magazine and imbibe.com

We said a very sad goodbye this week at MoM Towers to an industry stalwart and our friends at Imbibe magazine and imbibe.com this week, as editor Robyn Black announced they are to be wound up in December 2020. After 13 years of providing us with outstanding coverage of all aspects of the drinks industry, it’s hard to hear that the shutters are coming down. Black revealed in a statement posted on Imbibe’s website that the publication is another unfortunate casualty of the COVID-19 crisis. “It is wreaking its worst on our industry and unfortunately Imbibe has not escaped its clutches,” said Black. “Thanks must go to everyone who has ever been involved in the magazine and website for their hard work in building them into what they are today. It is testimony to Imbibe’s culture that a large number of former staff still write for us and are very much still involved in our portfolio of competitions, tastings and events. It has been a pleasure to work with them all.” Thankfully, the show will, quite literally, go on at least, as Imbibe Live is still scheduled to entertain and delight as usual on 5-6 July 2021 at London’s Olympia. You can click here to register for Imbibe Live 2021. We hope to see you there!

The Nightcap

What the Port of Leith Distillery will hopefully look like by 2022

Work starts on Scotland’s first ‘vertical distillery’

Foundations have just been laid for The Port of Leith Distillery which is projected to be completed by 2022. The brainchild of boyhood friends Patrick Fletcher and Ian Stirling, the completed distillery will feature a top floor double-height whisky bar, with views to Edinburgh Castle, two copper stills hand-crafted by the Speyside Copper Works in Elgin and the capacity to produce up to million bottles of single malt a year. The distillery should provide a welcome boost to the local economy and is supporting more than 30 jobs during construction – including six staff in the distillery team – and will create around 50 long-term jobs once complete. Given the project’s proximity to the Royal Yacht Britannia, visitor numbers play an important part in the distillery’s business plan, however, the success of its Oloroso sherry and award-winning Lind & Lime Gin means this is now less critical to the company’s plans. “Our ambition is to create an outstanding new style of Scotch using a modern approach, based on years of research we have already undertaken – and building on the remarkable heritage of the historic whisky district of Leith,” Stirling says. “Although our distillery has a very modern outlook, we’re very proud to be bringing the whisky trade back to one of the places it all began,” Fletcher concludes.

The Nightcap

That is one swanky Port. Anyone want to start a whip-round for a bottle?

Taylor’s releases 90-year-old Port to toast the new Kingsman film

November is traditionally when wine lovers start to think about Port (though here at MoM, we’re all year-round Port drinkers.) So it’s with perfect timing that Taylor’s has unveiled possibly its snazziest Port yet. It was created to tie in with the release of the latest Kingsman film, The King’s Man, in February now there’s a film franchise that knows how to drink. It’s a very old tawny with an average age of 90 years blended from some of the rarest casks lying in the company’s cellars at Vila Nova de Gaia. Taylor’s MD Adrian Bridge explained: “This Taylor’s limited edition Port will not only appeal to Kingsman devotees, but it is also an exceptional Port of great age which will grace the cellars of collectors and connoisseurs of fine and rare wines. Our blenders have used their skill and expertise to create a unique blend matured for almost nine decades in seasoned oak casks and displaying the multi-layered complexity which only Port can achieve.” The new film is a bit of a change from the previous ones as it is set during the first world war but as before it’s directed by Matthew Vaughn so expect the usual blend of action, sharp suits and general silliness. Bridge described the collaboration as “the perfect fit” while Vaughn said: A true Kingsman will never forget to pass the Port to his left, but this Taylor-made vintage will certainly test his resolve…” Wise words. Only 700 bottles have been filled and will be on sale for £2950. Might be a bit too expensive for us but we will be getting in some 1961 Taylor’s, almost as tasty and much more affordable.  

The Nightcap

The Nightcap is full of seriously impressive booze this week!

Sotheby’s to offer complete Black Bowmore series

Want to get your hands on the complete set of the incredible Black Bowmore series? Well, auction house Sotheby’s and the Islay distillery have announced that you will get the chance to do just that in Hong Kong next spring (date to be confirmed). The five bottles, spanning each release from 1993 to 2016, will be presented in a bespoke ‘Archive Cabinet’ made by the craftsman John Galvin and have a pre-sale estimate of £400,000. The first release of the Black Bowmore was in 1993 when it was 29 years old, with subsequent releases over the following years, most recently, in 2016 at 50 years-old. The spirit, which was distilled in 1964 and aged in ex-Oloroso sherry casks, was initially sold for £100 a bottle but has gone on to become one of the most collectable whiskies in the world, with bottles now going for many thousands of pounds each. “Its value has increased exponentially over the years, which can be attributed to its undeniable quality and, now that so many bottles have been consumed, its newfound rarity,” said Johnny Fowle, Sotheby’s spirits specialist and now something of a Nightcap regular. “We are thrilled to partner with Bowmore for this landmark offering in the world of collectable whisky.” David Turner, Bowmore distillery manager, added: “Black Bowmore truly is the jewel in our crown and it takes its rightful place in the distillery’s history for firmly putting Bowmore on the map as an iconic, collectable whisky.” The winning bidder will also receive an invitation to the Bowmore distillery for a tasting of other old and rare malts, while the proceeds of the sale will be donated to an Islay-based charity.

The Nightcap

Organic: Gaia 1.1 will be available from MoM Towers soon

Waterford launches Ireland’s first certified organic whiskey

Given that it’s Ireland’s most barley-forward, terroir-driven distiller, it was no surprise to learn this week that Waterford Distillery will launch the country’s first certified organic single malt whisky: Organic: Gaia 1.1. It’s the first part of the brand’s new Arcadian Series, a provenance-driven range of Irish whiskies made from organic, biodynamic and heritage grains, which the brand says “celebrates radical barley growers and alternative farming philosophies”. Organic: Gaia 1.1, which takes its name from the Greek goddess symbol of the Earth, was distilled in 2016 from 100% organic Irish barley grown by six farmers before it was matured in a combination of first-fill US oak (42%), virgin US oak (17%), premium French oak (23%) and Vin Doux Naturel sweet fortified wine casks (18%) and bottled at 50% ABV without any additional colouring or chill-filtration. “At Waterford, we have placed barley – where and how it is grown – at the heart of what we do, curious about where the real whisky flavour may be found,” says Waterford Distillery founder and CEO Mark Reynier. “A natural progression of this philosophy is to see what not only single farm origins can accomplish but what organically grown barley can do when it is given the right platform. We’re not playing at it; we lay down 400 to 600 casks of organic spirit a year, we buy all the Irish grown organic malting barley that can get our hands-on. Waterford Organic will be a main player in our ongoing portfolio for the discerning whisky drinker.” Organic: Gaia 1.1 will be available from MoM Towers soon, so keep an eye out on the New Arrivals page.

The Nightcap

The charming little bird has teamed up with some of the biggest names in rugby.

Famous Grouse renews commitment to rugby union 

It’s fair to say that Britain’s top whisky brand Famous Grouse is pretty committed to rugby. This week it launched a new Spirit of Rugby campaign and announced that it will be the official whisky of the Premiership Rugby for the next three years. The Edrington brand will also sponsor both the British and Irish Lions and the South African team for the forthcoming Lions tour of South Africa. But that’s not all! On top of all that, the brand has announced another three-year partnership with Glasgow Warriors. Aristotelis Baroutsis, Famous Grouse’s global managing director, commented: “The Famous Grouse has been investing in the sport of rugby for the past 30 years, and we are very proud to have reaffirmed our commitment to this great game by agreeing these three exciting new partnerships at both international and club level to celebrate The Famous Grouse as The Spirit of Rugby.” Mark Brittain, chief commercial officer at Premiership Rugby, added: “We’re delighted to welcome The Famous Grouse on board as the official whisky of Premiership Rugby for the next three seasons. It’s fantastic that The Famous Grouse has shown a commitment to Premiership Rugby during these times and is a testament to the growing strength of the competition within the U.K. sporting landscape. The Famous Grouse has a proud track record of developing strong relationships with rugby fans as a result of decades of involvement in this great sport. We’re excited to work with the brand to engage with supporters throughout the season.” Cheers to that!

The Nightcap

Want to hear Alexander McCall Smith do what we does best? Then be sure to tune in!

The Malt Whisky Trail teams up with Book Week Scotland

The Malt Whisky Trail announced this week that it will virtually welcome esteemed author Alexander McCall Smith during Book Week Scotland when he collaborates with The Glenlivet Distillery in Speyside (one of the nine iconic whisky sites that make up the trail) next week. The author of No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, the 44 Scotland Street series and more will narrate stories and poetry from his home in Edinburgh in a live stream hosted on The Malt Whisky Trail Instagram channel on 17 November at 1pm (GMT). With a warming Glenlivet dram in hand, McCall Smith will also treat viewers to a special treat in the form of a poem from his new collection, In a Time of Distance. “Visiting The Malt Whisky Trail is a marvellous way for visitors to Scotland, as well as Scots themselves, to discover a part of the country rich in historical associations. Whisky and storytelling in Scotland have more than a passing acquaintanceship,” says McCall Smith. “Book Week Scotland and the Malt Whisky Trail are natural partners, and I am really looking forward to being a part of this.” The Malt Whisky Trail prides itself on taking visitors on a journey to discover the best of whisky country including its landscape, larder, stories, and whisky has partnered with Book Week Scotland which takes place Monday 16 to Sunday 22 November. A full list of 2020’s programme can be found here and you can pick up McCall Smith’s latest works at independent bookstore The Bookmark in Grantown-on-Spey.

The Nightcap

Look, the tasty cocktails in store if you take part!

Take part in a virtual Christmas party in aid of the Drinks Trust

Well, it looks like the annual Christmas party won’t be happening this year. There will be no partying responsibly long into the night before ending up in a karaoke bar with your tie around your head belting out ‘I Will Survive’ like every word is deeply significant. Or perhaps that’s just us. But never fear, because those clever cats at the Liana Cocktail Co. have the answer. On 1 December between 6-7.30pm, you can take part in a virtual Christmas cocktail party. Register and purchase here and for only £19.99 you will receive a box of delicious cocktails made by experts with the finest ingredients known to humanity and details of how to attend the party. Best of all, for every ticket sold, LCC will donate £1 to the Drinks Trust; not only will you have fun, but you’ll be doing some good too. So dig out your tackiest reindeer jumper, round up your friends and take part in a virtual Christmas party. And if you’re feeling tired and emotional at the end, no one is going to stop you from putting on Gloria Gaynor. You will survive!


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A post shared by Gemma Collins (@gemmacollins)

And finally… TOWIE star gets her very own gin, probably

It’s a case of ‘move over George Clooney’ and ‘Ryan Reynolds, who he?’, because we’ve heard rumours that a proper celeb is about to launch her own drinks brand*. Yes, the word on the street is that Gemma Collins, star of The Only Way is Essex, Dancing on Ice and I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of here! will be releasing her own gin in the near future. The most famous person to come out of Romford, after Richard Madeley, may soon be in the distilling business. ‘The GC’ is currently on a mission to reach number one on the music chart with a Christmas charity cover single, proving what a renaissance lady she is. We don’t have many details about the rumoured gin yet, but seeing as Collins is usually pictured in pink, we reckon it is likely to have a pinkish hue. When we know more, we’ll let you know. These babies are likely to fly out the door.

* The rumours were true. More information about the gin liqueur here.

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The Nightcap: 14 February

It’s 14 February, so you know what that means – it’s time for The Nightcap! Yep, that’s it. Nothing else. People all across the country got out of their beds…

It’s 14 February, so you know what that means – it’s time for The Nightcap! Yep, that’s it. Nothing else.

People all across the country got out of their beds this morning, took a look at their calendars on the wall and said “Oh look, it’s 14 February! That means there’s another edition of The Nightcap today!” As you can clearly tell, this is meant to be a joke. It’s obviously a joke because no one has a physical calendar on the wall anymore. We have phones to remember the date and what’s going on for us. For example, I’m looking at the calendar on my phone for the first time today right now and it’s telling me that it’s a Nightcap day, as well as being Valent… Oh, I have to go to the shop. For no reason. I’ll go after The Nightcap.

Over on the MoM blog this week Ian Buxton championed English fruit brandies with Capreolus Distillery while Annie was particularly inspired this week by a perfume-inspired liqueur and a Bordeaux-inspired cocktail. Adam then tasted a 51-year-old Dalmore single malt (no, really), talked Tequila with VIVIR and made a case for you to explore the world of London dry gin before Henry shone a spotlight on a Cuban rum and Nordic-Aussie gin.

Now, on to the Nightcap!


The Nightcap

The two single cask whiskies were distilled the very same year the distillery closed!

Rosebank Distillery returns with two rare single cask expressions

Prepare yourselves, whisky lovers. In huge news, this week the much-loved Rosebank Distillery announced the release of two limited edition, vintage single cask whiskies, distilled the very same year the distillery closed, 1993. Though both cask strength bottlings spent their days in a refill bourbon hogshead, that’s where the similarities end. For Cask Number 433, at 53.3% ABV with a release of 280 bottles, you can expect cranachan and lemon, with gentle floral notes, marzipan, ripe fruit and oak. Contrastingly, Cask Number 625 boasts warm banana loaf, shortbread, chamomile tea, dried herb and citrus, tropical fruit, lime and gentle spice finish, at 50.4% ABV and an outturn of 259 bottles. The most exciting part is, you have a chance to get your hands on the liquid! With only 100 bottles of each expression available, the folks over at Rosebank want to keep things fair, so you can apply for a bottle direct from the website via a ballot process. The ballot launched today (14 February) for Rosebank subscribers, while general release will have to wait until 18 February, and will remain open for two weeks. Whichever expression you go for, a bottle will set you back £2,500. Robbie Hughes, Rosebank distillery manager said: “We are incredibly excited and proud to be releasing our first official bottlings of Rosebank since the distillery’s closure in 1993 – a pivotal milestone for us in bringing back to life this quintessential Lowland malt.” If you manage to get your hands on a bottle (as if that wasn’t lucky enough), you’ll be invited to collect it at a private event in London on 18th March, with the chance to meet Robbie Hughes himself, and even sample the single casks. What a way to get back in the game from the iconic distillery ahead of its long-awaited reopening!

The Nightcap

All hail the Grouse!

Famous Grouse now no. 1 whisky in Britain

Britain has a new champion whisky. The invincible-looking Jack Daniel’s has been unseated from its no. 1 spot and knocked back to no. 2 (though it would be fitting if it was the seventh best-selling brand, think about it). The new winner is a home-grown little blend you may have heard of called. . . the Famous Grouse! The Edrington Group’s flagship blend had a great Christmas in the off-trade with sales over £71m, up 2.6% on the previous year. Whereas its rival from Tennessee dropped by a shocking 9.3%, perhaps a reflection of the so-called Trump tariffs from the US/ EU trade war. Overall the mighty Grouse is bucking the trend for the blended Scotch category which was down 4.1% by value after Christmas (figures are from Nielsen ScanTrack based on off-trade sales for 12 weeks up to 4 January 2020). Mark Riley, managing director at Edrington-Beam Suntory UK commented: “The Famous Grouse for years has been the UK’s favourite whisky and driving force behind the blended Scotch category, so we are delighted to have reclaimed our number one spot in the UK’s largest spirits category. It’s fantastic to see a Scotch back in the top spot.” The Grouse is back!

The Nightcap

The ongoing EU/US trade war isn’t doing wonders for the American whiskey business

Tariffs cause US spirits exports to drop 27% to EU 

That’s right, we bring you more bad tariff news, folks. According to figures just released by Distilled Spirits Council of the US (Discus), the ongoing EU/US trade war is hitting the American whiskey business hard. In 2019, global exports of American whiskey fell by 16%, to $996 million. What’s more, American whiskey exports to the EU plummeted a whopping 27%, falling to $514m. This crash also comes after years of strong growth in the market. Discus president and CEO Chris Swonger noted that, “while it was another strong year for US spirits sales, the tariffs imposed by the European Union are causing a significant slump in American whiskey exports.” It’s easy to see this when we look at export declines for American whiskey in specific EU countries, with the UK falling 32.7%, France 19.9%, Germany 18.2% and Spain 43.8%. Swonger continued, “if this trade dispute is not resolved soon, we will more than likely be reporting a similar drag on the US spirits sector, jeopardising American jobs and our record of solid growth in the US market.” Politicians, sort it out!

The Nightcap

Better than tap? The jury’s out. At least they were. Then they said it was better.

Larkfire Wild Water triumphs in whisky taste test

This week Master of Malt was invited to the launch of a new water which is meant to be enjoyed with whisky called Larkfire at Boisdale of Belgravia in London. It’s the softest water imaginable as it is collected from Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. The local rock, Lewisian gneiss, is incredibly hard and insoluble meaning that the water doesn’t pick up any minerals. It’s about as pure as water can be. The company was so confident in its purity that it put on a little test. A panel of drinks people, experts, journalists and someone from Master of Malt tried a selection of whiskies supplied by LVMH: Ardbeg 10 Year Old, Ardbeg Corryvreckan, Glenmorangie 10 Year Old and Glenmorangie Lasanta with two types of water. One row was Larkfire and the other was Belgravia’s finest tap water. But which was which? There was much sipping, gurgling, swallowing and pontificating, it was totally scientific. Then it was time to hand in our papers. After a slap-up Scottish lunch of haggis and venison, the results were revealed: 14 votes for Larkfire wild water; 7 votes for Belgravia tap. So Larkfire the clear winner. Sadly, Master of Malt’s reputation was in tatters as our representative preferred the tap water.

The Nightcap

Congratulations guys!

Family-run pub named the best in the country for the second time

The Bell Inn in Aldworth, Berkshire, which has been run by the same family for 250 years, has been crowned the Campaign for Real Ale’s (CAMRA) Pub of the Year. The Bell Inn previously won the award in 1990 when it was run by current landlord Hugh Macaulay’s parents. “Since my grandfather retired nothing has changed about the pub at all, I think that might be one of the things that impressed,” says Macaulay, who added that it was “a wonderful thing to be recognised for driving quality year after year” at the Grade-II listed hostelry. Macaulay also attributed the success to the fact The Bell Inn is a free house, meaning it is not owned by a particular brewery and it is free to sell a variety of beers. “The judges were impressed with how a stranger entering the pub was treated like a regular straight away,” said Pub of the Year competition organiser Ben Wilkinson. “It’s clear that the local customers use the pub as a community centre as well as a place to drink, and the warm welcome and knowledgeable staff made us feel right at home. Nothing can beat the combination of good beer, great food and a warm, heritage pub”. Each year volunteers from more than 200 CAMRA branches select their Pub of the Year, before a winner is chosen in each region and they are whittled down to three runners-up and one winner. Runner-ups to the award, which has been running since 1988, include the Swan With Two Necks in Pendleton, Lancashire, the George and Dragon in Hudswell, North Yorkshire, and the Red Lion in Preston, Hertfordshire. Congratulations to everyone at The Bell Inn!

The Nightcap

Cognac and hip-hop – a combination that never fails

Courvoisier and Pusha-T partner to open US pop-up

The Maison Courvoisier activation, an immersive experience that “pays homage to the brand’s château in France”, is set to open in Chicago this weekend. Those who visit the event will be able to sample the latest offerings from Courvoisier, while experiencing live performances, interactive art galleries, fashion exhibits and a capsule collection from fashion designer, Rhuigi Villaseñor, and contemporary artist, Al-Baseer Holly. Oh, and also the first instalment of Maison Courvoisier was curated by multi-platinum rapper Pusha-T. “Beyond music, I am passionate about fashion and art, so I’m proud to collaborate with Courvoisier to highlight two of my favourite creators,” he said. “I’ve been a fan of Rhuigi and Al-Baseer for years, and I’m excited to be able to highlight their success through Maison Courvoisier.” This is the first in the series of activations taking place throughout 2020 at US cities including Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Miami, Atlanta, Washington, Houston and Philadelphia. The next experience is planned for New York Fashion Week in September. “We’re excited to open the doors to Maison Courvoisier, as it brings our château in France and portfolio of award-winning liquid to our fans in a modern and interactive way,” said Stephanie Kang, senior marketing director for Courvoisier. “The event also embodies our core value that success is best shared and allows us to give these creative innovators the opportunity to honour their favourite artisans and their work.”

The Nightcap

Happy birthday, Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Happy 21st birthday, Kentucky Bourbon Trail!

In the words of Charli XCX, we do occasionally want to go back to 1999. It was a good year! Toy Story II, Britney Spears, the millennium bug fear… what a time to be alive. It was also the year the Kentucky Distillers’ Association kicked off the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, and for that we are truly grateful. And we shall celebrate its 21st birthday in fine form! The timetable of festivities was announced this week, getting underway with an 18-stop pop-up party tour in May and culminating in September with a closing do at the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Welcome Center at Whiskey Row’s Frazier History Museum in Louisville. A whole bunch of distilleries are participating, including Bulleit, Evan Williams, Heaven Hill, Jim Beam, Woodford Reserve, and more. “We invite everyone to come out and celebrate with us.” said Adam Johnson, senior director of the KDA’s Kentucky Bourbon Trail experiences. “This is a momentous occasion and we wouldn’t be here without the millions of devoted fans who have made the pilgrimage to the various KBT destinations and the birthplace of bourbon.” And in 2019, the number of visits stood at almost two million – that’s a significant number of whiskey pilgrims. Happy birthday, Kentucky Bourbon Trail – we’ll be raising many glasses to you this year!


Tullamore D.E.W. debuts new short film in Beauty of Blend campaign 

Tullamore D.E.W.’s ‘Beauty of Blend’ campaign, which began in 2017, continues with a new short film! Ever wondered what motivates people to craft the perfect blend? Well, the world’s second largest Irish whiskey is giving us an insight into the answer, and in short, it’s to bring people together (we assume delicious liquid is also a byproduct of this). Beauty of Blend was shot by the acclaimed director Valentin Petit, enlisting the help of up and coming MCs and poets such as Genesis Elijah, a UK-based spoken word artist, asking them to express their own interpretation of the power of blend. The film shows a single bottle of Tullamore D.E.W. being passed between people throughout different places and cultures, to demonstrate the “connective thread that exists in us”. Very heartwarming indeed. “Tullamore D.E.W. is on a mission to encourage the world to blend. What is true of our whiskey, we are a blend of three types of different Irish whiskeys, we also believe is true of humanity,” global brand director, Chin Ru Foo said. “When we blend with other people and ideas, then we become richer as individuals and in turn, the world becomes a wiser, richer and more open place”. If you happen to be passing through Times Square, you’ll find it there on a giant billboard (is there any other kind in New York?), though seeing as it’s the 21st century, the internet is your first port of call if you’re elsewhere.

The Nightcap

Jameson sales have hit a new high

Jameson whiskey hits 8 million cases sold in 2019

The Jameson juggernaut shows no sign of slowing down. Figures just released by Irish Distillers shows that it sold 4.6 million cases of Jameson in the last six months of 2019 taking total sales for the year up to 8 million. Over the Christmas period, the company sold an astonishing 940,000 cases in one month. Sales are up 9% on the previous year. Growth in the last 25 years has been rapid: 1996 was the first year the company sold more than a million cases a year, by 2010 it was triple that. The US market dominates, as you might expect, taking 2 million cases of Jameson in 2019 but there’s growth across the board: UK up 10%, Germany up 34%, and Canda up 13%. The emerging markets are rocking too with China up 76%, India up 37% and Nigeria up a massive 185% (probably from quite a low base, it has to be said.) It’s not only Jameson though, Irish Distillers reports that Redbreast sales grew by 24% and visitor numbers are booming at Bow Street in Dublin and Midleton in Cork. It will be interesting to see what 2020 will bring.

The Nightcap

It’s a 75-minute journey through a century of cocktails. Fingers crossed the flux capacitor can handle it.

And finally. . . Are you telling me you built a time machine. . . out of a bar?

Think of the great time machines from popular culture like the DeLorean in the Back to the Future films, the time machine in HG Wells’ The Time Machine or, greatest of all, the phone box from Bill and Ted’s adventures. All great time machines, no doubt, all useful for messing with the space-time continuum but one thing was missing from all of them: booze. Everything is better with a drink in your hand, right*? Well, at the Timeless Bar in East London, this has been remedied. The team will be firing up their very own Cocktail Time Machine on the day that comes but once every four years, 29 February (that’s a Saturday.) The experience has been created by Funicular, creators of amazing immersive experiences, and consists of a 75-minute journey through a century of cocktails (see video here for a flavour of what to expect) from the Hanky Panky in the 1920s to the Appletini in the ‘00s. Food will be provided by Masterchef finalist Louisa Ellis. To travel on the Cocktail Time Machine, you need to book. All sounds enormous fun as long as you don’t get stuck in the 70s with nothing to drink but Tequila Sunrises. 

*Disclaimer: many things such as driving a car, operating heavy machinery, flying an aeroplane or delivering babies should be done sober.

1 Comment on The Nightcap: 14 February

Macallan-maker to sell Cutty Sark and Glenturret as sales hit £706 million

Calculators at the ready, folks – Edrington, the company that makes The Macallan, Highland Park and Famous Grouse, among others, has just released its financial results for the year to…

Calculators at the ready, folks – Edrington, the company that makes The Macallan, Highland Park and Famous Grouse, among others, has just released its financial results for the year to March 2018. And in the document the company announced it’s looking to sell the Cutty Sark and Glenturret Scotch whiskies! We investigate what’s going on and crunch the sums after sales climbed 7%* to £706.7 million.

It’s all change for spirits-maker Edrington. It’s a case of out with the old for Cutty Sark and Glenturret, and in with the new (THAT new Macallan distillery) as sales climb and stats are bolstered.

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Whisky Advent 2017 Day #9: The Naked Grouse

It’s Day #9 of #WhiskyAdvent, and Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar is hiding a belter of a blended malt Scotch whisky… It’s the second weekend of the Christmas…

It’s Day #9 of #WhiskyAdvent, and Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar is hiding a belter of a blended malt Scotch whisky…

It’s the second weekend of the Christmas countdown, which probably means that you’ve awkwardly hoisted your Christmas tree down from the attic for its annual inspection of competence.

Now all that’s left is to decide what should actually go under it. What do people even want as presents in 2017? Luckily, for those of us struggling for ideas/time/funds, #WhiskySanta is still waiting to hear how good you’ve been this year, and if he agrees you might just find you have more to put under that tree than you thought…

Speaking of presents, there’s one behind window #9 of Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar. We stripped it back to find a delightful tipple of… The Naked Grouse!

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Master of Cocktails – The Naked Barista

Greetings cocktail-lovers. Who’s up for a swift whisky cocktail then? The second #MasterofCocktails whisky cocktail in a row, no less. Is it you?   If it is indeed you, that’s…

Master of Cocktails The Naked Barista

Greetings cocktail-lovers. Who’s up for a swift whisky cocktail then? The second #MasterofCocktails whisky cocktail in a row, no less. Is it you?


If it is indeed you, that’s perfect, as that’s what we’re doing for this week’s #MasterofCocktails!


This week we’re making a drink I’ve named ‘The Naked Barista’. The reasons will hopefully become clear as we go through the recipe.

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Ballantine’s Brasil!

You put the lime in the Ballantine’s, you drink ’em both together, Put the lime in the Ballantine’s, then you feel better, Put the lime in the Ballantine’s, drink ’em…

Ballantine's Brasil

You put the lime in the Ballantine’s, you drink ’em both together,
Put the lime in the Ballantine’s, then you feel better,
Put the lime in the Ballantine’s, drink ’em both up,
Put the lime in the Ballantine’s, and call me in the morning…

Flavoured whisky, eh? Obviously not that though. What I should say, of course, is flavoured whisky liqueurs and whisky-based spirit drinks, eh? This one’s a little different to many, however. First of all, it’s not honey flavoured (or even cherry flavoured). Secondly, it’s essentially made by actually steeping lime peel in Scotch whisky, in the cask.

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New expression – The Famous Goose

A rather interesting package came in the post yesterday. Now, we’ve seen several new expressions from The Famous Grouse in recent years – from the rather deliciously smoky Black Grouse,…

A rather interesting package came in the post yesterday.

Now, we’ve seen several new expressions from The Famous Grouse in recent years – from the rather deliciously smoky Black Grouse, to the silky smooth grain whisky, the Snow Grouse and more recently the unbelievably popular Naked Grouse, which also won a prestigious world whiskies design award for the really rather beautiful bottle.

This, however, is the first time that another avian has been brought into the flock (sorry).

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Two Days in Speyside: A Litany of Errors

Gareth: We clung on, fingertips buried in the soft mulch of the steep hillside as the Spey roared dark and terrible in the late afternoon light, 60 feet below. How…

Gareth: We clung on, fingertips buried in the soft mulch of the steep hillside as the Spey roared dark and terrible in the late afternoon light, 60 feet below.

How had it come to this? Half an hour ago we’d been enjoying the rich, dark fruit notes of a Macallan 25yo. Now we faced the very real danger of plunging to our deaths in a raging torrent. Something had gone wrong somewhere, and it was only my third day on the job.

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