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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Jameson

Midleton Distillery announces new master distiller

Irish Distillers has confirmed that Brian Nation will leave his role and that master of maturation Kevin O’Gorman will replace him as master distiller at Midleton Distillery. There’s BIG news…

Irish Distillers has confirmed that Brian Nation will leave his role and that master of maturation Kevin O’Gorman will replace him as master distiller at Midleton Distillery.

There’s BIG news coming out of Ireland today, as one of the most coveted positions in world whiskey has changed hands. Midleton Distillery has a new master distiller: Kevin O’Gorman. The Cork native, who is a technology graduate from The University of Limerick and holds a diploma in distilling from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling, replaces the outgoing Brian Nation, who has held the role since 2013. 

Those are some shoes to fill. O’Gorman is being charged with protecting the heritage of the world’s most famous Irish whiskeys. While also ensuring that the quality of all new pot and grain distillates produced at Midleton doesn’t drop. Oh, and with handling future innovation. I thought I had it hard writing intros for The Nightcap when Sam Smith isn’t available. 

But O’Gorman should be more than up to the task, as anybody who has worked with Irish Distillers in recent years (just the once or twice for me) will know already. He’s been with Midleton since 1998, initially working as a distiller under the tutelage of master distiller emeritus Barry Crockett. Maturation then became his primary focus, honing his skills under then master of maturation Brendan Monks before assuming the role himself following Monks’s retirement in 2007. You’ve probably admired his work already if you’ve enjoyed new brands like Method and Madness and brand extensions in the Jameson, Redbreast, Powers, Midleton Very Rare and Spot ranges. Essentially, he travelled the globe sourcing quality casks from renowned cooperages, while overseeing the maturation process across the portfolio. Which sounds like too good a role to pass up, until you remember he’s going to master distiller for Irish Distillers.

“Since starting my career in Irish Distillers in 1998, I have been lucky to learn from masters like Barry Crockett and Brendan Monks about the intricacies of the whiskey production, from grain to glass,” O’Gorman says. “Of course, Brian Nation and I have also worked very closely together on distillation and maturation for the past 10 years and he will be missed by all his friends at Midleton Distillery. I am excited to use my experience to drive the sector forward by producing innovative new whiskeys that will delight whiskey fans over the coming years.” 

The wonderful Brian Nation, meanwhile, will leave to join the O’Shaughnessy Distilling Company, which is set to open its distillery in Minneapolis next summer. The distillery was founded by cousins Patrick and Michael O’Shaughnessy, who want to honour the family’s Irish-American heritage and take inspiration from Irish whiskey, so Nation should be right at home. We’re very excited to see what he does and wish him all the best. We heartily enjoyed your work. If you fancy inviting over at any point, we’re there. Just so you know. In case it ever comes up.

“As I step down from the position of master distiller, I am struck by what an incredible honour it has been to hold this role,” he commented on the succession. “I have been fortunate to work with a fantastic team at Midleton for the past 23 years and have experienced enormous change, development, and innovation, from the recent expansion of our distillery to the development of new distillate styles in the Micro Distillery. I am delighted to see Kevin take on the role of master distiller. I know that, under his leadership, the quality and reputation of Irish Distillers’ portfolio will continue to flourish long into the future”. 

Hear, hear. We look forward to seeing what O’Gorman does with all things Midleton. I think it’s fair to say we can all look forward to a lot more delicious Irish whiskey in the future.

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The Nightcap: 17 April

Easter Monday might have made this a shorter working week but there’s still a good helping of boozy news to get stuck into. It’s The Nightcap! If you’re looking to…

Easter Monday might have made this a shorter working week but there’s still a good helping of boozy news to get stuck into. It’s The Nightcap!

If you’re looking to head into the weekend with a brain full of news from the world of booze, you’ve come to the right place – it’s The Nightcap! If you wanted to go into the weekend with a brain full of badger facts, you’ve also come to the right place: badgers are part of the Mustelidae family, meaning they’re related to wolverines. The word “badger” is thought to come from the French word for someone who digs, “bêcheur”. Probably because they’re good at digging. OK, enough badger facts. Time for the booze news!

On the MoM blog this week we were delighted to announce that Glenlivet Spectra has arrived exclusively at MoM HQ. Elsewhere, Annie took us inside the archives at Irish Distillers and then cast an eye on four botanical bottlings that capture the essence of their local area, Jess gave us some top tips on how to have the perfect virtual tasting and Henry mixed a cocktail that made its name back in the golden age. Adam, meanwhile, led us on VR tours of GlenDronach and BenRiach Distillery and recommended some incredible whiskeys from across the pond as well as five films that feature a drop of the good stuff. Oh, and don’t forget there’s still to enter our competition to win a VIP 2021 trip to The GlenDronach distillery!

Once again we’d like to thank all those who entered our virtual pub quiz last Friday and say congratulations to the winner, Richard Hales! He’s won himself a £25 gift voucher to put to good use at MoM Towers and if you like the sound of that, you’ll be pleased to know this week’s edition (link here) will go live at 5pm tonight. You can also find the answers to last week’s quiz if you scroll down to the bottom.

Now, let’s get on with The Nightcap!

The Nightcap

Happy International Kümmel Day!

Kümmel ye faithful!

Today is the big one, bigger than British Pie Week, more exclusive than World Whisky Day, it’s International Kümmel Day! The second-ever and it celebrates 170 years since Ludwig Mentzendorff decided to import his kümmel, which was made in Riga at the time, to the UK (it’s now distilled in France). The British seemed to have fallen for kümmel’s caraway-scented charms immediately. It was particularly popular among golfers who used to refer to it as ‘putting mixture’ but every drinks cabinet would have had a bottle, there’s no better cold weather-pick-me up. Now this classic schnapps is undergoing a revival as bartenders around the world discover it’s peculiar charms. Such luminaries of the drinks world as Simon Difford, Richard Godwin and Alice Lascelles have all come out as members of the Kümmel cognoscenti. You can mix it or just enjoy it neat with ice. So dig out a bottle or buy one and all this week give kümmel some online love with the #mentzendorffkummel hashtag. 

The Nightcap

Say hello to Jameson Hosts!

Jameson supports global bar community online with Jameson Hosts

Jameson has gone and launched an online platform to bring the international bar community together in these strange times. Say hello to Jameson Hosts, an online space where the bar community can come together to share their experiences and knowledge through the wonders of video! What’s more, Jameson is those who create videos for the platform financially, with the content covering all sorts of topics from cocktail masterclasses, wellbeing, career coaching and whiskey tutorials, as well as advice from bar teams around the globe about how they’re adapting to the new challenges imposed by the pandemic. It’s looking to the future too, covering how businesses can better equip themselves for when they (eventually) reopen. “The global bar community has dedicated its life and career to the service of others.  Now, more than ever, this community needs a new place to come together and share inspiring stories, real-world guidance and encouraging words to help each other overcome the challenges they face today and those that lie ahead,” says Brendan Buckley, international marketing director at Irish Distillers. “We hope this will offer both practical and emotional support through this challenging time and we very much look forward to celebrating with all our hosts at Midleton soon.”

The Nightcap

The awards take place on the 18th – 20th September, assuming we can do things by then

Glencairn sponsors Scottish crime writing awards

Everyone’s favourite whisky tasting glass company Glencairns has teamed up with the Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival to sponsor two awards. The big one is The McIlvanney Prize named after William McIlvanney who pretty much invented the hard-boiled Scottish detective genre in a brilliant trilogy of novels: Laidlaw, The Papers of Tony Veitch and Strange Loyalties. Without McIlvanney there would have been no Rebus and no Taggart. The winner will receive a prize of £1000, a Glencairn Crystal Decanter and nationwide promotion in Waterstones. Glencairn will also be sponsoring The Bloody Scotland Debut Prize consisting of £500 and a Glencairn Star Trophy. Kirsty Nicholson from Glencairn commented: “As a Scottish family-owned company we are excited and proud to be involved with such prestigious prizes that both celebrate and reward such a rich and talented tradition as Scottish crime fiction. Like Scottish crime writing, the Glencairn Glass is uniquely Scottish with a truly global appeal. We look forward to a great working relationship with Bloody Scotland and would like to wish all the authors who have entered the best of luck.” Festival director Bob McDevitt added: “It’s great to see that in this time of great uncertainty, the Bloody Scotland prizes have attracted another great crop of Scottish crime novels for readers to escape into. I’m also really pleased to welcome Glencairn Crystal on board as a sponsor of the prizes this year and look forward to working with them in the future.” The awards will take place during the festival 18th – 20th September. If we’re allowed out then.

The Nightcap

The cocktails are made with Bacardi spirits, including its signature rum, Bombay Sapphire Gin and more

Bacardi and Deliveroo Editions delivering cocktails to your door

Bacardi and Deliveroo Editions have joined forces in a bid to break lockdown boredom and support local bars in London and Manchester while their doors are closed. The ‘Cocktails at Home’ initiative will ensure that you can still enjoy your favourite cocktails by delivering them straight to your door. More than 120 bars in London and Manchester in the UK began to offer the service yesterday and new bars and cocktails will be added every two weeks over the next two months. To order you can simply head to one of the following links: Whitechapel, Bermondsey, Manchester. The initiative has focused on smaller, independent bars that have no corporate backing and the cocktails will be made with Bacardi spirits, including its signature rum, Bombay Sapphire Gin, Grey Goose Vodka, Martini vermouth and Patrón Tequila. “Our strong relationships with bars and bartenders in the UK is incredibly important to us and as we face the current challenges together, we’re doing all we can to provide the support they need,” says Amanda Almond, managing director for Bacardi, UK and Ireland. “We have 158 years’ experience of overcoming the crises and coming out fighting, and through our Raise Your Spirits initiative, we intend to do exactly that for our on-trade partners.” So, if you fancy a Cubano with Bacardi Ocho from Kwānt, a Rosy Life with Patrón Tequila from Artesian or Lychee Martini with Bombay Sapphire Gin from Filthy 13, you know what to do!

The Nightcap

Gin O’Clock has become a regular highlight of the lockdown for people

And finally… Gin, crisps and ready meals keep the nation’s spirits up during lockdown

As the UK collectively feels the effect of the government-imposed lockdown, you won’t be surprised to hear that people are finding collective comfort in gin, crisps and ready meals. According to proquo ai’s Covid-19 brand impact monitor, folks looking for ways to enjoy a ‘big night in’ have turned to brands like Hendricks, whose products have surged in popularity helped by the goodwill generated when it repurposed some of its production facilities to make hand sanitiser. Gin O’Clock has become a regular highlight, with one respondent saying: “I never used to drink gin but now I have a little on the weekend. Me and the neighbours have started buying different flavours, and we meet up and have a social-distancing gin tasting night.” Unsurprisingly, mixers have also benefited from the trend, with Fentimans, Fever-Tree and Schweppes all attracting new customers and as cocktails go hand in hand with a salty snack, premium crisp brands are also gaining in popularity with new users. “Our platform gathers people’s feelings towards brands 24/7 so it’s been fascinating to see the immediate impact of Covid-19 and related lockdown on public perception,” says Jim Brennan, managing director of proquo ai. “People are not only changing their daily routines, but are also interacting with brands they wouldn’t normally use outside of a crisis. Brands that understand what people need at this time – and work to meet these needs – will ultimately be the ones which succeed.” If you’re looking for a tasty new gin to indulge in, we have a few right here.

The Nightcap

Pub quiz answers

 

1) What is Beyoncé ‘sippin’ with no chaser’ in 2016 hit Formation

Answer: Cuervo

2) What was Jack Daniel’s real name? 

Answer: Jasper Newton Daniel

3) What was John Lennon’s favourite cocktail? 

Answer: Brandy Alexander

4) What is Dr Dre’s gin brand of choice? 

Answer: Hendricks

5) Which Craft Beer producer also produces Lone Wolf Gin?

Answer: Brewdog

6) Which late comedian shares his last name with the profession of fabricating barrels? 

Answer: Tommy Cooper

7) What drink does Carrie Bradshaw attempt to order at McDonald’s alongside her cheeseburger and large fries in Sex and the City?

Answer: Cosmopolitan

8) Jean Martell, the founder of the Cognac house, came from which island? 

Answer: Jersey

9) Which country is famous for making rum in wooden stills? 

Answer: Guyana

10) Do London dry gins have to be made in the UK capital?

Answer: No

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Inside the archives at Irish Distillers

You might not be familiar with the name, but Irish Distillers – maker of Jameson, Powers, Redbreast and more – is an Irish whiskey linchpin, and not just because it’s…

You might not be familiar with the name, but Irish Distillers – maker of Jameson, Powers, Redbreast and more – is an Irish whiskey linchpin, and not just because it’s the country’s largest distiller. Without it, Ireland’s national spirit would’ve been consigned to the history books. Here, archivist Carol Quinn delves into the company’s history and shares insight into her own fascinating role…

Until the 1960s, never had a drink category’s future hung so heavily on the cooperation of three rival companies. It’s no exaggeration to say that without the ingenuity and flexibility of Cork Distilleries Company, John Jameson & Son and John Power & Son, Irish whiskey would’ve been toast. It certainly wasn’t part of a plan to monopolise the industry – the three family-owned producers pulled together as the category collapsed around them. 

“The 20th century had not been kind to Irish whiskey, and that’s an understatement really,” says Irish Distillers archivist Carol Quinn. “ In the 19th century it was sold all over the world – I have records from Cairo, Uruguay, Honolulu, Portugal, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Canada… you name it, Irish whiskey was sold there. And it was a very high-end, prestigious drink. It was sold in places where customers ordered Cognac, Champagne.”

The success of the category started to unravel with the arrival of the first world war. Irish whiskey trade was export-led, says Quinn, and there was a lot of submarine activity around Ireland, being the last stopping-off point before you cross the Atlantic to America, so shipping was restricted. It was a blow, but despite the turbulence, Ireland’s distillers simply knuckled down and carried on.

“I see this in the Jameson records,” she says. “In 1919 – when the war was over and the restrictions were lifted – they had their best distilling season ever. They were producing more whiskey than ever and were delighted with life. Which was unfortunate, because in 1920, Prohibition hit America. While they hadn’t been selling in America for a few years anyway because of the first world war, Prohibition meant they weren’t going to re-enter it for a long time.”

Carol Quinn in the archives

For a decade, this wasn’t too disastrous. Ireland’s distillers were still exporting to the likes of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and beyond. But that came to an end in the 1930s, says Quinn, when Ireland entered into an economic trade war with Britain and lost any territory associated with the British Empire.

“Now at this point, they’re frightened,” she says. “This has been 20 years of bad times. And then you go straight into the second world war, and that’s the killer blow. In the 1940s and 1950s you see distillery after distillery closing. They just didn’t have the money to recoup what they’d lost, even when the export markets opened back up. There were a number of years in the 1950s when Old Midleton was only distilling three weeks a year.”

By the 1960s, the only three distilleries left open were – you guessed it – John Jameson & Son and John Power & Son, both in Dublin; and Midleton, owned by Cork Distilleries Company. Irish whiskey had shrunk to the domestic market, says Quinn, and it was still an expensive drink. It became clear that the three distilleries would wipe themselves out if they remained in competition. 

“At the time, those three distilleries were owned, managed and run by the descendants of their founders,” she says. “Frank O’Reilly, of Powers, invited the other two companies – John Jameson representing Jameson and Norbert Murphy representing Midleton – to come together and discuss the situation. They met in secret at the home of Shane Jameson under the guise of a country house weekend and formulated this incredibly radical idea that they would merge; combining all their resources with the express intention of saving Irish whiskey.”

After two years of negotiations – there was a lot to work out, after all – Irish Distillers formed in 1966 (it’s now part of Pernod Ricard). From there, they set about rebuilding the category, starting with their own blends. In 1975 they refurbished and reopened Midleton Distillery as Europe’s most modern distillation plant, not only to distil their three very different styles of whiskey – Powers, Jameson and Midleton – but improve on them, too. 

“The idea was never simply to replicate the past, it was to build upon it and to look forward and to move forward,” says Quinn. “Irish Distillers has always been incredibly progressive and fostered innovation, because it was born out of necessity and dangerous times. The guiding principle was to create a situation where we wouldn’t be the only distiller – where there would be such an interest in the Irish whiskey category that new entrants could come on stream.”

Barrels of Jameson ready for export, circa 1950

Irish Distillers’ forward-thinking ethos is unrelenting to this day. Throughout the 1980s, head distiller Barry Crockett laid down single pot still stocks at a time when this signature style of whiskey wasn’t selling, while operations manager Brendan Monks set about implementing a cask management programme that’s seen in the company’s recent releases, from the resurrection of Green Spot, Yellow Spot and Red Spot to the development of its pioneering Method and Madness range. 

Fascinating stuff you’ll agree, and as Quinn continues her mammoth undertaking of cataloguing Irish Distillers’ vast archive, who knows how many more pieces of Irish whiskey history will emerge. Here, she shines a light on the everyday aspects of her incredible job, from archival training basics to historically significant finds…

Master of Malt: First of all, could you share a little about your own career and how it led to your role as Irish Distillers’ archivist?

Carol Quinn: I’m an archivist by training. It’s a very old profession, and there aren’t too many of us about. It’s a graduate qualification and you have to have your primary degree first. My BA was in history and archeology, so I always had an interest in the past, but not so much in dates or events – it was the more the stories of people and how the past could shine a light onto the lives of individuals. That’s why I like the archive. These letters, diaries and ledgers provide clues to the past, they’re literally the raw material of history. As an archivist, my job is to be a bridge between the items and the end user, which at the moment is Irish Distillers.

MoM: You mentioned letters, diaries and ledgers. What other records are kept in the Irish Distillers archive?

CQ: Everything relating to the production and the sale of our whiskies. Our distilleries were founded back in the 18th century, so there’s well over 200 years’ worth of records. One thing that’s very important are the employee wage books. At their most basic, they give you the name of the individual, the part of the distillery they were working in, the hours they worked and what they were paid. We don’t have a great tradition of record-keeping here in Ireland, and a lot of our official records were destroyed in the 1920s during the Civil War – so for a lot of people mentioned in Jameson’s wage books from the 1860s, there’s no other record of them living on this earth. Although the archive isn’t open to the public, if somebody contacts us I will have a look to see if I can find the name of their ancestor. Sometimes you can, sometimes you can’t, because we don’t have a complete set and it’s very time-consuming – it literally means taking a huge ledger off the shelf and going through it page-by-page – but I realise how valuable it is when people find that link. The Irish community is huge across the globe, so I get people from Canada, America, Australia, New Zealand, enquiring about grandfathers, great-grandfathers… It’s lovely.

It’s the actual notebook of John Jameson II

MoM: That is wonderful. How vast is the archive, what does it look like?

CQ: We have a purpose-built archival repository located in the distillers’ cottage in Midleton. The rooms are temperature controlled, humidity controlled, they’ve UV filters in all the lights and there’s no natural daylight allowed in. That’s where the records are kept. Some of them are digitised, but digitising records doesn’t preserve them, all that does is make access easier so you can search for things quicker. There’s nothing like a handwritten letter to really give you a connection with an individual. They’ve touched that page, they’re folded it with their hands. It’s a very different experience and I find it very visceral. 

MoM: That must feel overwhelming at times! I’d be terrified of damaging it…

CQ: That’s where the archival training comes in, in that we’re taught how to physically handle the material, how to catalogue it properly and how to preserve it. With some of our ledgers, I won’t even open them because I know if I do I’m going to damage them further, so I’ll send them to a man called Paul Curtis first. He’s based in Killarney at Muckross Bookbindery, and he’s trained as a book binder and paper conservator. When I did that for some of our items about six years ago, one of them was this little pocket notebook. It looked early 19th century to me, but again, I wasn’t going to go through it because I thought it was too fragile. When Paul took it apart he discovered that it was the actual pocket notebook of John Jameson II – the son of one of our founders – and it contained his mashbill recipes for Jameson whiskey from 1826, when he was  head distiller. When Paul took the binding apart to clean it down and re-sow it, out fell actual grains of barley from the Bow Street Distillery that John Jameson would’ve scooped up into his pocket as he was distilling.

Inside John Jameson’s notebook with those grains of barley

MoM: Fascinating! That certainly isn’t an everyday discovery  – what can we find you doing in a ‘typical’ week?

CQ: I often start the week in the distillers’ cottage in Midleton checking emails to see what’s come in over the weekend. Very often I’ll be on the train to Dublin mid-week – I might be giving a talk, doing some promotional work sharing our history or [liaising] with our marketing teams. Then, you’ll find me back in the archive doing the never-ending job of trying to catalogue such a vast collection! Sometimes I’ll take out a selection of items for our brand teams or the creative agencies who work with us to offer inspiration. Very often, a colour or font or some little nugget will spark the creative process. Recently we’ve had a repackaging of the Powers range; the design team came down – their brief was to give it a refresh – and when they looked through the records, this emblem absolutely jumped out at them. In the internal correspondence for Powers, instead of the name, they would write this diamond ‘P’, it was on everything. When you look at the new bottle, that’s what you see and it comes directly out of our history.

MoM: In your opinion, what are the most historically significant pieces in the archive?

CQ: What I really enjoy personally is the human element within the records. A few years ago, an elderly woman called up looking for a record of her grandfather, a man called James Leetch, who was a clerk in the spirits store in Jameson Bow Street. She remembered living with him as a young girl with her mother and sister. One day he went down to the cooperage and brought back a stave from a sherry butt, one of the largest of barrels, for her and her sister to use as a see-saw. I thought that was just lovely. The distilleries weren’t separate from the communities that they were located in; they were very much part of it. 

 

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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.

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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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Introducing: Jameson Caskmates Fourpure Edition

Jameson has added to its impressive Caskmates range thanks to a collaboration with London brewery Fourpure. First there was Jameson Caskmates, a stout barrel-finished expression. Then there was Jameson Caskmates…

Jameson has added to its impressive Caskmates range thanks to a collaboration with London brewery Fourpure.

First there was Jameson Caskmates, a stout barrel-finished expression. Then there was Jameson Caskmates IPA Edition. Now Jameson Caskmates Fourpure Edition has joined the series, a fruity and fun bottling ideal for mixing, as we found out to our own pleasure at the launch event at the brewery last night.

Among live music, a t-shirt printing machine and more delicious beer than you could shake a stick at, the limited-edition whiskey, which is a UK exclusive, took centre stage. Jameson Caskmates Fourpure Edition was produced by finishing Jameson Irish Whiskey in barrels that were seasoned with the brewery’s Shapeshifter West Coast IPA for three months and bottled at 40% ABV. Its launch is the culmination of a project that has been 18-months in the making according to Ronan Collins, a senior brand ambassador at Pernod Ricard and the man who led the development of this whiskey from the Jameson side of things.

The barrels Jameson Caskmates Fourpure Edition were matured in started life as ex-bourbon casks that then housed Jameson’s triple-distilled Irish whiskey before Fourpure experimented with them. A total of five of its beers were trialed, including Juicebox, which was very nearly chosen. Shapeshifter, however, won out in the end, with Collins commenting that “It came up as the top in aroma, flavour and finish and, for me, it was different than anything I had tasted. It was so fun and fruity.”

Jameson Caskmates Fourpure Edition

The bottling brings together two brilliant booze brands in tasty harmony

“A part of us didn’t want it to be Shapeshifter because Jameson already has a Caskmate IPA, but Shapeshifter’s obviously a very unique beer. It’s got an incredibly powerful hop aroma, it’s quite dry and it’s got a lot of bitterness,” added John Driebergen, head brewer at Fourpure. “We feared it wouldn’t do that well and that it would fight with the whisky, but we were pleasantly surprised. The hops brought all these wonderful, fruity and tropical aromas.”

Fourpure Shapeshifter West Coast IPA was inspired by the travels of Fourpure founders Dan and Tom Lowe (they’re brothers, that’s not just a coincidence) in the Pacific Northwest. Described as a ‘traditional West Coast style-IPA, it combines a selection of hops including Citra, Mosaic, Centennial and a touch of Colombus. The name and design of both Shapeshifter West Coast IPA and Jameson Caskmates Fourpure Edition is a reference to a First Nations tale of a shapeshifting lake monster that lived in the remote lakes of the region called Steve Ogopogo. The playful, colourful art on the whiskey’s label certainly matches the tone of the drink itself.

In terms of enjoying what’s inside the bottle, it’s fair to say Jameson Caskmates Fourpure Whiskey can is perfectly pleasant neat, but for me, it really shines in a highball with soda or in the delightful signature serve, Hop to It. The bright and refreshing cocktail, which was the welcome drink last night, combines 25ml of Jameson Caskmates Fourpure Whiskey, 5ml of sugar syrup and 10ml of Triple Sec, which you then top-up with Fourpure Shapeshifter West Coast IPA, bringing both of the key expressions together in one tasty tipple. If that’s not your speed, however then the classic North American-style Boilermaker is the way to go. “I think it’s the perfect partnership,” said Collins. Having tried the pairing myself, it’s hard to disagree.

You can find Jameson Caskmates Fourpure on Master of Malt!

Jameson Caskmates Fourpure Edition

Jameson Caskmates Fourpure Edition

Jameson Caskmates Fourpure Edition Tasting Note:

Nose: A hop-influenced aroma filled with tropical and slightly grassy notes dominates the nose, with fresh orange slices, Rocket ice lolly and pineapple juice bringing plenty of ripe fruitiness to the fore. Things become cakey later with freshly baked gingerbread, vanilla sponge and marzipan.

Palate: The classic Jameson profile makes more of an entrance here with butterscotch, orchard fruits and vanilla. Blackcurrant, a hint of woody warmth and a flashback of tropical fruit appear underneath.

Finish: Long, sweet and mouth-coating, with more notes from the nose making a pleasant return.

Overall: An insanely enjoyable dram that’s very easy to drink and mixes beautifully.

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Five essential tips for making the most of your distillery tour

Whether it’s your first time getting up close and personal with a pair of stills – or you’ve already checked off the HQ of your entire drinks trolley – you’ll…

Whether it’s your first time getting up close and personal with a pair of stills – or you’ve already checked off the HQ of your entire drinks trolley – you’ll want to make the most of your distillery visit. From unusual questions to tips and tricks, we tapped three distillers for their esteemed insider knowledge…

Take it from us, there’s never been a better time to be a full-on spirits geek. Whether through distillery tours, blending workshops, tailored tasting experiences or cocktail masterclasses, the masterminds behind our favourite sips have flung open their doors, filling both our minds and our glasses with spirited brilliance.

For most distillers, provenance is a huge part of what makes their liquid so unique. Native botanicals, regional production methods, local water, warehouse climate; whatever it might be, these unique factors form part of its DNA. There’s nothing quite like experiencing that sense-of-place first hand. It’s a lesson in history, science and art, all rolled into one.

To really get the best of this unique experience, we quizzed the people for whom distillery tours are their day-to-day. Heed their do’s and don’ts to make the most of your big day out (and remember to scope out the gift shop’s distillery exclusive bottlings while you’re there! It’s the best place to nab a gem…).

Glenrinnes Distillery

Oh, hello there Glenrinnes!

#1 Introduce yourself

Perhaps you’re a huge fan of the distillery and it’s been a lifelong dream to visit? Or maybe the local hotel receptionist recommended you drop by, and this will be your first time tasting neat gin. Whatever the reason you’re there, make it known to your guide. The best tour experiences are always the most interactive ones, says Meeghan Murdoch, operations manager at Glenrinnes Distillery in Speyside, since engaging in visitors’ knowledge helps them tailor the experience to the interests of the group.

#2 Come with the right mindset

For starts, arrive punctual and sober, says Andrew Anderson, head of distillery tours at Balcones Distilling in Texas. For the sake of your tour guide, mainly, but you’ll also enjoy the experience more if both your mind and palate are fresh. By all means, hit the bar up – there’s a certain magic about enjoying a dram on its home turf – but do so on your way out. Remember to turn your phone off (or set it to silent) so your guide has your full attention, and don’t answer it during the tour.

Shh… They’re snoozing…

#3 Soak up the atmosphere

Distilleries are often beautiful buildings with hundreds of years’ worth of history, says Greg Hughes, managing director of Jameson Brand Homes and Education at Irish Distillers, and Jameson’s Bow Street and Midleton sites are a fine example. So, give yourself enough time to take in your surroundings. “Make an afternoon of it rather than coming in, having a quick tour and dashing off,” he says. “You lose some of the magic of these historical sites.” And don’t forget, your guide is a local, so make the most of their travel tips. “We’ve a really friendly team and they loved being asked where to go next, whether it’s a hotel, a bar or restaurant or another whiskey attraction.”

#4 Ask *all* of the questions

Any question that pops into your head. Even the one you feel embarrassed about asking. “We are here to interact, engage, and teach you about our craft,” says Anderson, “[your guide] will not think you’re stupid.” ‘Do you own the distillery?’, ‘Can I drink the dump bucket?’, ‘How many miles of pipe is in the distillery?’, and ‘Can we try the wort?’ are all legitimate questions he and the team have received. While some questions are trickier to answer than others, Hughes adds, “we love to see it, there’s a real enthusiasm there. When people are asking questions you can tell they’re really enjoying the experience – you don’t need to be a whiskey expert to have passion.” So, ask away.

Glenrinnes Distillery

Chances are, the distillers know what they’re doing with those stills

#5 Don’t ‘give it the biggen’*

Perhaps your uncle worked at the distillery three decades ago, or your best friend is involved with marketing the distillery. Regardless of what you already know about spirits production, local history, the brand, and so on, be gracious to your guide. “Don’t try to catch out the tour guide on your own knowledge,” says Katrina Stewart, Glenrinnes’ distiller. “Respect their experience and understanding and have an open discussion.” In the same vein, be open to learning about new ways to approach the production process, says Anderson. “Do not answer questions as if you’re the tour guide unless prompted or opened up to contribute – be attentive, and do not speak while the tour guide is speaking”.

* Urban Dictionary defines this as “When someone attempts to make themselves appear tougher or cooler than they really are”. So now you know.

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The Nightcap: 12 April

A meeting of master distillers and blenders, $1,000 Mint Juleps and secret whisky history – The Nightcap has all these stories and more! It’s Friday once again, and, like clockwork,…

A meeting of master distillers and blenders, $1,000 Mint Juleps and secret whisky history – The Nightcap has all these stories and more!

It’s Friday once again, and, like clockwork, we’ve got another batch of news stories from the world of booze ready and waiting in The Nightcap. In fact, it’s almost as if we assembled a team of engineers and bribed them with the tastiest cocktails they could ever imagine to build us Nightcap-bot 3000 to produce these stories. Of course, that’s simply hogwash. We definitely have not done that, and we absolutely don’t disguise Nightcap-bot 3000 as a fridge when people visit the editorial team’s realm within MoM Towers to make it look like we’re very busy. We’re also not scared that Nightcap-bot 3000 will one day replace and potentially eat us all.

On the blog this week, guest writer Ian Buxton pondered whether whisky could crash in his first post for us, while Annie explored cocktails that have a way with words, then talked to Talisker about its new bartender competition Wild Spirit. Henry’s Cocktail of the Week was the classic Gin & Tonic in celebration of National Gin & Tonic Day, and Martini & Rossi’s new super fruity vermouth Fiero caught his eye for New Arrival of the Week. Kristy explored a fancy new Scotch from Glenmorangie, while Adam tasted a 47 Year Old Mortlach expression, then looked at Littlemill’s historical claim. If that wasn’t enough, here’s the rest of the week’s news!

The Nightcap

Take a look at Islay’s first new distillery for nearly 15 years!

New Islay distillery Ardnahoe opens its doors

The opening of a Scotch whisky distillery is always an event, but there’s something particularly special about a new one on Islay. Today Ardnahoe, the first new distillery on the island since 2005, was officially opened by the Rt Hon Lord Robertson of Port Ellen. Stewart Laing, managing director of Hunter Laing, the family-owned company which has invested £12m in the project, commented: “Since working as a teenager at Bruichladdich Distillery over 50 years ago, I have had a huge affinity with Islay and its malt whiskies. When we decided to build our own distillery, there was only one possible location. We have built a great team to manage the distillery and run the visitor centre and in a few years’ time we will be able to drink a great whisky in the classic Islay style, staying true to the island’s heritage with a heavily peated malt.” The spirit should be full of character as it will be made using wooden washbacks, Scottish-made lamp glass stills and worm tub condensers (the only distillery on the island to use them), and it will be aged in ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks. The great master distiller Jim McEwan advised on the project. With such pedigree, it’s no surprise that Hunter Laing has already pre-sold 400 casks of spirit. Team MoM is flying out to Islay on Monday to bring you the full story. Watch this space.

Jameson unveils new commercial for Taste, That’s Why campaign

Jameson Irish Whiskey unveiled the next instalment of its sassy Taste, That’s Why advertising platform this week. New commercial The Bartenders’ Gathering is set in Dublin in 2016, and tells the true story of 200 global bartenders at the brand’s annual three-day immersive and educational summit of the same name. It all looks very trendy and fun, with shots of distilleries, whiskey, bars, food, music and some lovely Irish countryside, as well as an unexpected twist. Some of the bartenders interrupt a distillery trip to go to a library (we’re just kidding, that isn’t it). “As we unveil the next chapter in the Taste, That’s Why story, we wanted to highlight Jameson’s revered position among bartenders as they have been instrumental to our success in the USA and around the world over the past 29 years,” said Simon Fay, international marketing director at Irish Distillers. “The new spot conveys the true spirit of the annual Bartenders’ Gathering in a high octane but light-hearted manner with a twist of Irish humour – it’s exactly what you’d expect from Jameson, and will help us to further build the profile and personality of the brand supporting equity growth into the future.”

The Nightcap

The wonderful Joy Spence of Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum

Campari launches Meet the Master, bringing together four drinks luminaries

Where can you see the master distillers and blenders behind Wild Turkey, Appleton Estate, Grand Marnier and Glen Grant all in one place? At Carlton House Terrace in London’s Mayfair from 14-16 May, when Campari UK launches Meet the Masters. The event will bring together more than 140 combined years of talent and expertise in one location. The line-up includes Joy Spence of Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum, the first woman master blender in the spirits industry; Eddie Russell of Wild Turkey Bourbon, the third generation Russell to work at the distillery; Patrick Raguenaud of Grand Marnier, whose family has been involved in the Cognac industry since 1627; and Dennis Malcolm of Glen Grant, who has worked at the distillery for over five decades. The event will offer tasting sessions with each master, panel discussions, and an opportunity for guests from the drinks industry and beyond to get the masters’ view on the latest industry trends. “With over 140 years of shared experience in the spirits industry between them, Meet the Masters is a must-attend for those who are serious about spirits, the stories behind them, and hungry to know more, in a unique and intimate setting,” said Brad Madigan, managing director at Campari UK. Sounds enlightening!

The Nightcap

The Fèis Ìle 2019 Limited Edition!

Douglas Laing unveils 2019 Fèis Ìle Big Peat bottling

Here at MoM we’re getting very excited about Fèis Ìle, the Islay Festival of Music and Malt that runs from 24 May to 1 June. To celebrate this year’s bash, Douglas Laing will be releasing a very special whisky called Big Peat’s Pals. It’s a blended malt containing whiskies from Ardbeg, Bowmore, Caol Ila and even Port Ellen! So rare. Only 3,300 bottles will be available globally. It’s the 10th anniversary of the much-loved brand and so the packaging of this special edition features the photos of 400 “pals” from all over the world. “By marrying together a fine selection of our preferred single malts, only from Islay, we truly believe we have created the ultimate taste of Islay in Big Peat,” said Douglas Laing director of whisky Cara Laing. “His latest limited edition, the Fèis Ìle 2019 release, pays homage to his friends the world over, over 400 of whom feature proudly on the gift tube. This year, we celebrate 10 years since my father dreamed up Big Peat, and our extensive plans will ensure our Big Islay Pal celebrates in style all over the world!” These plans include a Facebook tasting during Fèis Ìle for members of the Big Peat community, so that fans who can’t get to the island can join in the festivities. Very modern.

The Nightcap

This man is basically Indiana Jones, as far as I’m concerned

Whisky distillery archaeology gets under way in Scotland!

It’s been quite the week when it comes to whisky history. First we heard evidence that Littlemill was Scotland’s ‘oldest’ distillery. Now we’ve got some archaeological goings on at Blackmiddens, an old steading on the border between Moray and Aberdeenshire. It was one of the first distilleries to nab a licence after the Excise Act of 1823. Now, The Cabrach Trust, which preserves the history of the area, is excavating the site to figure out exactly what went down when, with help from Forestry and Land Scotland and Historic Environment Scotland. “For decades local farmers secretly distilled whisky and smuggled it away under the noses of excisemen. Then, when the law was changed to make small-scale whisky production profitable, Blackmiddens was one of the first farms to take advantage of this,” said Anna Brennand, Cabrach Trust chief exec. “Despite the fact that farms like this were famous for their fine quality spirit, whisky production at Blackmiddens stopped just eight years after it began and the farm fell into ruin. We hope to uncover some of the secrets of early whisky making in the Highlands with this exciting dig.” We can’t wait to see what they discover!

The Nightcap

Small-batch Serata Hall gin, anyone?

Serata Hall comes to Old Street

Just a stone’s throw away from Old Street station, a new establishment called Serata Hall opened its doors this week, which we know because we attended the launch party! The new site is Albion & East’s fourth offering alongside sister sites Martello Hall in Hackney, and Canova Hall and Cattivo, both in Brixton. Like its siblings, Serata Hall will make all of its food on-site (we can personally recommend the pizzas), serve tap wine (the biggest selection outside the United States), and provide guests the option to either create their own cocktails or ‘Book a Bartender’, where mixologists conjure up inventive cocktails. There’s also a DJ booth, a daily bakery and hot-desk spaces. But the thing that stands out most for us here at MoM Towers? The in-house distillery. That’s right. Serata Hall features a bespoke still, called ‘Agnes’, which makes small-batch Serata Hall gin, available for visitors to drink at the venue and buy on-site. You can even sign up to gin blending masterclasses, where the master distiller will show you how to blend, bottle and hand-wax two gins, which you then get to name and take away. You also learn how to make three gin cocktails, too. Sounds like a good time to us!

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Move over coffee machines, at-home booze machines have arrived!

Can this at-home booze machine change how we drink?

The future is now, folks. Smart Spirits – a company that produces different types of spirits by mixing water, ethyl alcohol and flavour – has come up with an at-home dispenser designed to make more than 30 different drinks spanning all the major spirits categories using capsules. A bit like those coffee tabs but with actual booze. How does it work? The so-called ‘Taste Of’ flavour capsules mix with neutral grain spirit and/or water to mimic the flavours of different whiskies, gins, rums, vodkas and liqueurs. You can choose the alcohol content (0-40% ABV), and there’s even Bluetooth connectivity, so you can control the whole thing from your smartphone. “We’re delighted to introduce to the market an innovative new way to drink at home,” said Ian Smart, one of the Smart Spirits co-founders. “Smart Spirits taps into the desire of the increasingly sophisticated and tech-savvy consumer to have control of the alcohol in their drinks, at the same time also choice and convenience.” On the one hand, you’ve got an entire drinks cabinet in one. But we reckon we’d miss the sound of the cork popping out of the bottle… the jury’s out on this one. Let us know what you think!

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This is a $1,000 Mint Julep. No, really.

Woodford Reserve unveils $1,000 Julep for the Kentucky Derby

What’s the most you would spend on a cocktail? £9? £15? £21? Well, Woodford Reserve is hoping some punters will be prepared to spend significantly more. To celebrate the 145th Kentucky Derby on 3 and 4 May, the bourbon producer, which is also the race’s official sponsor, has unveiled a $1,000 Mint Julep. Yes, one thousand clams. For that money you’d expect it to contain unicorn tears or at the very least powdered griffin beak. But in reality it’s made with standard Woodford Reserve, a honey syrup that was aged in oak for 145 days, and mint grown at Churchill Downs racetrack where the Derby takes place. The packaging, however, is seriously swanky. For the money you get a silver cup alongside a flask of bourbon, and the whole thing is presented in a wooden box lined with jockey silks. If that’s not lavish enough, there’s a gold version available for $2,500. Only 125 silver and 20 gold will be made. You will be pleased to know that this is not just about conspicuous consumption, all the proceeds go to the John Asher Memorial Scholarship Fund to provide an education for deserving students at Western Kentucky University.

The Nightcap

I defy you not to imagine yourself drinking something wonderful and Japanese here

Nobu and Suntory team up for Hanami experience

How does a showcase of contemporary Japanese craftsmanship with a menu of exclusive cocktails, bespoke dishes and afternoon tea sound to you? Pretty great, right? Well, good, because that’s exactly what Nobu Hotel London Shoreditch and The House of Suntory have put together with Hanami. It’s a celebration of the annual bloom of the Japanese Cherry Blossom, or Sakura, inspired by the ancient practice of dining beneath the blossoming flower. Millions of people from all over the world travel to drink, dance and dine beneath the blossom, but Hanami will bring the spirit of this tradition to London at the newest Nobu restaurant. The bar team at Nobu, led by beverage manager Wilfried Rique, has worked closely with The House of Suntory to create an exciting original menu inspired by its range of premium Japanese spirits, including Toki and Chita Whisky, Roku Gin and the newly-launched Haku Vodka. These are presented with Japanese ingredients, teas and house-made infusions in a menu of seven bespoke cocktails, alongside Nobu-style bar snacks and world class sushi. Visitors to the terrace also have the opportunity to indulge in an exclusive Sakura-inspired Afternoon Tea menu, offering a twist on the classic British tradition. It’s open to the public now, so if this sounds like your cup of tea, then be sure to check it out.

The Nightcap

Marcos Ameneiros Zannone, who will presumably be looking to replace that sticky shaker…

And finally… Bartender gets stuck at Cointreau Margarita contest

There was a hairy moment at this week’s Cointreau Margarita competition at Century House in London, when one of the contestant’s cocktail shaker got stuck. Not an unusual occurrence when mixing cocktails, but after some frantic banging and jimmying from poor Marcos Ameneiros Zannone from Berners Tavern, it became clear that it was well and truly jammed. Meanwhile, the ice inside was slowly melting and diluting the cocktail. And so, the cream of British bartending stepped in and everyone in the room had a go at opening the bloody thing. But nobody could. It was like the sword in the stone from Arthurian Legend. Just in the nick of time, in stepped one of the barmen from Century who managed to prize the recalcitrant shaker open. Zannone poured out his Susanita (which was inspired by Crêpes Suzette), and won the competition. Our Henry was one of the judges, alongside Sandrae Lawrence from The Cocktail Lovers magazine, award-winning bartender Carl Anthony Brown, and Alfred Cointreau himself. The panel also picked a winner from outside London, with Nathan Larkin from Manchester’s plant-based bar Speak in Code taking the title with his Sicolo Mayahuel, a smoky complex drink with an Aztec twist. The two runners-up were Dean Railton from Feed in Leeds, and Leonardo Baggio from Mr Fogg’s Residence. The two winners won lots of Cointreau and a trip to Cannes. Congratulations to all who took part – the standard was sky high – and especially to Zannone for keeping his cool.

That’s it for The Nightcap this week, team. Have awesome weekends!

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Jameson launches second Bow Street 18 Years Cask Strength

The only cask strength Jameson is back! It pays homage to Jameson’s Dublin heritage by being matured at Bow Street, home of the old distillery. We travelled to Ireland to…

The only cask strength Jameson is back! It pays homage to Jameson’s Dublin heritage by being matured at Bow Street, home of the old distillery. We travelled to Ireland to learn more. . . 

Irish whiskey fans, rejoice! From August 2019, you will be able to get your hands on a new batch of Jameson Bow Street 18 Years Cask Strength. Bottled at 55.1% ABV without chill-filtration, the blend of pot still and grain Irish whiskeys was produced by Irish Distillers in Midleton Distillery where it was matured initially for 18 years in both ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks under the watchful eye of master blender, Billy Leighton.

In January 2018, the expression was then re-casked in first-fill ex-bourbon American oak barrels to finish its maturation for a final six to 12 months in Dublin’s only live maturation house in the brand’s original home in Bow Street. The warehouse, which you can see for yourself if you tour what is now an award-winning visitor centre, can only hold 84 casks at any one time. Now that’s small batch.

Bow Street 18 Years Cask Strength

The whiskey is a celebration of Jameson’s Dublin heritage

Leighton commented on the process: “As a tribute to the Jameson distilling legacy in Smithfield, we’ve introduced some methods that would have been employed in days past. The final maturation period in Bow Street is our nod to the traditional ‘marrying’ method – I like to think of the whiskey getting engaged in Midleton and then ‘married’ in Dublin! It brings the provenance and heritage back to where it started. It is the ultimate expression of Jameson.”

Jameson Bow Street 18 Years Cask Strength comes in a luxury bottle that features 18 facets, one for each year of maturation, housed in a wooden box that references the traditional pot stills used in distillation. A special copper coin underneath the bottle provides fans with the opportunity to access an exclusive online portal where they can explore the whiskey’s story.

Bow Street 18 Years Cask Strength

Good cheesy fun at Bow Street Distillery

To mark the launch, Jameson has partnered with artisan Dublin cheesemonger Loose Canon to create a luxurious whiskey and cheese pairing and you’re encouraged to do the same this St. Patrick’s Day.

Leighton commented: “I hope that together with our cheese and whiskey pairings, we can inspire the world to match the strong flavours of the Jameson 18 family with the perfect Irish cheese to make a truly unique St. Patrick’s Day experience.”

Jameson Bow Street 18 Years Cask Strength will be available in the USA, Europe and Asia at an RRP of €240.

Bow Street 18 Years Cask Strength

Jameson Bow Street 18 Years Cask Strength Batch 2

 

Tasting note by Billy Leighton, master blender at Midleton Distillery:

Nose: Rich wood-driven influence with deep toffee notes and spice.

Taste: Toffee and oak remain consistent with hints of leather and vanilla along with a subtle sherry nuttiness creating depth and complexity.

Finish: Long and full with the sweet toffee notes slowly fading while the toasted oak and spice linger throughout until the very end.

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The Nightcap: 11 January

It’s our first Nightcap of 2019 so it’s a special bumper edition. We’ve got a lot to get through so without further delay, ado, procrastination or beating about the bush,…

It’s our first Nightcap of 2019 so it’s a special bumper edition. We’ve got a lot to get through so without further delay, ado, procrastination or beating about the bush, here’s what we’ve been up to since the last Nightcap way back in 2018.

Cast your mind back to New Year’s Eve, we know it seems like a long time ago, Adam came up with some top tips to drink on the night. Between Christmas and New Year, we rounded up our most-read stories of 2018, and looked at Glenkinchie’s exciting plans to become a top tourist destination. Then as January began, Annie fell in love with grain whisky and learned how your other senses affect how you taste. Adam produced a list of mouthwateringly-refreshing drinks and got all seasonal with winter-y botanicals. Kristy peered into her crystal ball (yes, she really has a crystal ball) to see what we’ll be drinking in the next few years and spoke to some bigwigs at Johnnie Walker about the future of whisky. And finally, Henry put in a plea for fortified wines, introduced a new regular feature, Cocktail of the Week, and got all bitter and twisted over amari. See what we mean about bumper edition?

And that’s not all. We had our first Dram Club of 2019 and announced a competition to win a VIP trip to Ardbeg!

Such content. Now we can’t hold back the tide of news any longer. Here it comes!

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