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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Johnnie Walker

The Nightcap: 8 January

We’ve got a couple of weeks of news to catch up on for the first Nightcap of 2021, so this week is full to the brim of boozy happenings! Well, we’re…

We’ve got a couple of weeks of news to catch up on for the first Nightcap of 2021, so this week is full to the brim of boozy happenings!

Well, we’re one week into 2021 and it wasn’t exactly the turnaround we might have hoped for. But, while you might be inclined to cancel your subscription to the new year after a pretty underwhelming 7-day free trial, we’re optimistic here at MoM Towers. Why? Well, if there’s one thing The Nightcap demonstrates is that each week is filled with something that will make you laugh or get you excited and 2020 proved that nothing can stop the influx of brilliant and bonkers boozy stories. So, assuming aliens don’t invade or a chunky asteroid doesn’t land in Speyside, we think there’s cause for optimism. And if you don’t believe, wait until you read this week’s And Finally…

On the MoM blog, we saw off the last of that wretched year by acknowledging some of the better aspects of it, including our most-read and personal favourite posts, before casting an eye towards 2021 and predicting what it might bring. The new year on the blog, meanwhile, kicked off with our ongoing auction for The Macallan’s incredible Red Collection, which will raise money for Hospitality Action and some delightful new arrivals, including an apple brandy that was aged in Japanese whisky casks and bourbon which is made from four grains. There’s also been plenty of cocktail coverage from Annie, who made the underappreciated Vieux Carré and the real star of Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit, The Gibson, championed the humble muddler and put together 10 classic cocktail recipes, presented with both boozy ingredients and non-alc alternative and Henry put together a list of splendidly affordable red wines. Elsewhere we found time to run the rule on Tomatin’s core range, look inside the English Spirit Distillery, find out how Irish mead is making its mark in the 21st century and why you should know all about Maidstone gin

The Nightcap

The US will finally allow 700ml bottles, hurrah!

US to allow 700ml bottles for the first time

You’ll be pleased to know that 2020 ended with a rare bit of good news for the drinks industry as it was announced that the law regarding wine and distilled spirits containers in the US were amended to allow the importation of European 700ml bottles. The Treasury Department’s Tax and Trade Bureau, which regulates alcoholic beverages at the federal level, published new regulations on 29 December 2020 which updated the so-called “standards of fill” for wine (355ml, 250ml and 200ml) and spirits (1.8L, 900ml, 720ml and 700ml), which means that brands will no longer have the burden of spending time and money making unique US size bottles, granting producers greater flexibility and consumers with more choice. Previously drinks makers were forced to produce 700ml bottlings for the European market and special 750ml bottlings to sell in the US, which led to many small independent producers opting to avoid the extra costs by not exporting their tasty goods to the US. While there’s still some work to be done (allowing for  3+ litre sizes for spirits to save on packaging, for example) it’s a welcome bit of economic and logistical relief after a torrid year for the industry. Now wouldn’t it be great if we could reciprocate by allowing 750ml in the UK which would help a lot of small US distillers?

The Nightcap

The Walking Man’s impressive new home edges ever closer to opening…

Johnnie Walker offers glimpse inside Princes Street

If you’re a Nightcap regular you’ll have read all about Johnnie Walker’s exciting new whisky visitor experience in Princes Street, Edinburgh, which is set to open in the summer of 2021. But now, for the first time, the Scotch whisky giant has revealed a glimpse of the eagerly anticipated attraction to fans, which will feature rooftop bars, private dining areas, modern sensory tasting rooms, personalised tour and tasting experiences, and live performance areas. The interior of the building, a closely-guarded secret, is on show, as is The 1820 bar, a cocktail bar and outdoor terrace with views of the Edinburgh famous skyline, The Explorers’ Bothy, a whisky bar that will stock over 150 rare bottles and one-of-a-kind cask editions, and the Johnnie Walker Label Studio, a performance space that will host live events and performances. For more info, click here. The Johnnie Walker Princes Street visitor attraction is at the centre of Diageo’s £185m investment into the transformation of its Scotch whisky tourism, having already revamped Glenkinchie Distillery, while further investment into the remainder of Diageo’s 11 Scotch whisky brand homes as well as the revival of lost distilleries Port Ellen and Brora is also in the works. So there’s something to look forward to in 2021!

Water of Life film to launch among virtual festivities 

The Water of Life, a new feature documentary that focuses on those at the heart of the Scotch whisky revolution that turned the industry of the 1980s into the titan it is today, is on the way. Which is exciting. Even more thrilling, however, is that the film won’t launch with an ordinary premiere, but instead a week-long Burns Night Celebration that you can take part in! Kicking off on the 22nd January and running through the 27th January, the virtual online program includes a screening of the film followed each night by a unique hour-long session featuring the stars of the film. There will also be an option to purchase tasting kits specifically curated to accompany the film and take viewers on a taste journey. “Our biggest challenge, as with any food or drink film, is you can’t taste the screen. When putting this event together it was important that we found a way to bring not just the story to the screen but to engage the audience in a way whisky does,” said director Greg Swartz. “Our Burns Night  Celebration will bring all the senses together through watching the movie, pairing that with the tasting kits, and offering the opportunity to join the stars to hear them talk more about their passions.”  For tickets, tasting kits and more info just click here and if you’d like to see a trailer for The Water of Life, featuring Bruichladdich legends Jim McEwan and Mark Reynier as well as Billy Walker, Dr Rachel Barrie, David Stewart, Kelsey McKechnie, Neil Ridley and Joel Harrison and more, then simply click on the video above!

The Nightcap

Could bars and pubs switch from dispensing beer to dispensing vaccines?

Brewers offer their pubs as vaccination centres. 

Like many things in the modern age, it began with a tweet. Keir Shiels, consultant paediatrician at the Great Ormond Street hospital in London, suggested on the 31 December: “Pubs could be turned into vaccination hubs. There’s space. There’s staff. There’s fridges. There’s refreshment facilities. There’s one in every village.” Since then things have snowballed with both Brewdog and Shepherd Neame pledging their help. Jonathan Neame CEO at Shepherd Neame commented: “We have offered up some of our pubs to act as vaccination hubs, in target areas, in the main they are well located, spacious and with large refrigeration capacity.” Nothing has happened yet though James Watt from Brewdog announced that he is in talks with the Government. Let’s hope something comes off this as it would really help speed up distribution of the vaccine especially if brewers could offer a pint to enjoy while you wait. We’d be first in the queue.

The Nightcap

Some good news from 2020 was that fortified wine got some well-deserved love

A bumper year for fortified wine 

Port and sherry have been rocking this year. There was an article on the BBC website about the so-called ‘tapas effect’ as people unable to travel recreated their summer trips at home with a bottle of sherry. Meanwhile, we reported back in October that Taylor’s Port sales had grown despite, or maybe because of lockdown. Figures just released by the WSTA bear this out: the fortified wine category has seen an increase in sales of nearly 10% in 2020, a remarkable feat considering the impact lockdown has had on on-trade sales. Despite on-trade orders being down 42% (by volume), the category grew from £270 million in 2019 to £303 million last year. This increase was coupled with the category’s best quarter for five years, giving hope that despite such a tough year, Christmas traditions remained as strong as ever in 2020. Miles Beale, chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, said: “In such a difficult year, the news that we have been enjoying more Ports and sherries at home recently to arrest slow stagnation in the category is welcome… Santa loves his sherry, and in 2020 many consumers will also be rekindling their festive love affairs with fortifieds!” But as we always say, fortified wine is not just for Christmas and if you’re looking for inspiration, we’ve got some great wines right here.

The Nightcap

Nightcap favourite Miles Beale is back for 2021

WSTA reacts to Brexit deal

It’s a very special Nightcap this week as we have two stories featuring everyone’s favourite chief executive Mr Miles Beale from the WSTA. Beale has been one of the most vocal voices standing up for the drinks industry and warning of the perils of a no-deal Brexit, so he more than most was relieved that the EU and the British government managed to come to an agreement at the end of last year. Doesn’t it seem like a long time ago? Anyway, here’s what Beale had to say: “Today’s announcement will be a welcome relief to the UK’s wine and spirit sector. We look forward to seeing the detail and to its swift ratification. The threat of the introduction of wine tariffs and the uncertainty over the ability to move goods into and out of the EU were weighing heavy on the minds of businesses already reeling from the effect of Covid restrictions, while also having to prepare for the end of the transition period in a week’s time.” But it wasn’t all good, Beale added: “Businesses have been working hard to prepare for the introduction of new customs processes and systems, new labelling rules, new import certification rules for wine all of which will add to the cost of importing and exporting wine and spirits. And yet, astonishingly, those businesses are still waiting for the government to grip the reins and confirm some of the details to allow trade with Ireland and the rest of the EU to continue next year.” So plenty more work to be done, we haven’t heard the last of Miles Beale in 2021.

The Nightcap

Richard Paterson was one of the drinks industry figures honoured

Richard Paterson and Kate Nicholls honoured by Queen 

The New Year’s Honours list had plenty of interesting names as usual on it for 2021 (although nothing for Sam Smith yet. Give the people what they want, your majesty), including some drinks industry giants such as UKHospitality boss Kate Nicholls and The Dalmore whisky blender Richard Paterson. Nicholls, who was appointed an OBE for service to the hospitality, was singled out for her tireless support of the beleaguered hospitality industry during the ongoing Covid crisis, while Paterson was also appointed an OBE for services to the Scotch whisky industry, including over a half a century at Whyte & Mackay. It caps quite a year for the legendary master blender, aka ‘The Nose’, who made the move to step back from some of his Whyte & Mackay duties and also lend his expertise to the exciting Wolfcraig Distillery project. Other members of the hospitality industry recognised included Michelin-starred chef Fergus Henderson and Richard Curtis, the landlord of the Portsmouth Arms in Basingstoke (not the director of Notting Hill and Love Actually) was made a Medallist of the Order of the British Empire (BEM) after raising over £52,500 for local charities by holding weekly virtual quizzes in his pub after it was closed in March. Given what a rough time this industry is having at the moment, it is at least nice to see these efforts being appreciated.

The Nightcap

American whiskey lost one of its greats this week

Michter’s master distiller Willie Pratt dies at 78

We were sad to hear this week about the death of an American whisky legend, Willie Pratt, master distiller at Michter’s. Born in Kentucky in 1942, he began his career with Brown-Forman where he worked in all aspects of the business before retiring at the age of 65. But in 2007 he was lured out of retirement and took up the role of head distiller at Michter’s where he became known as Dr No for his refusal to bottle any whiskey until he thought it was ready. Here he oversaw the design and building of Michter’s ultra-modern new Shively Distillery. In 2017 he was inducted into The Whisky Magazine Hall of Fame. Michter’s president Joseph J. Magliocco commented: “To work with Willie and to have him as a friend was a tremendous gift. When the challenges seemed overwhelming, that’s when Willie’s leadership would shine through. He was a paradigm of strength and courage.” Distilling is now in the safe hands of Dan McKee who added: “Times like this make me realise how fortunate I was to be able to learn from one of the greats in the industry. I’m going to miss standing back in the distillery with Willie, talking about making whiskey and listening to his life stories.”  Thank you Willie, we’re raising a tumbler of Michter’s Rye to you now. 

And finally… Gin flavoured with car?

We’ve had some pretty strange gins on the Nightcap: gin infused with Brussel sprouts, gin made from peas, we even stock a gin that has been into space, but gin flavoured with car? Sounds like something from the fevered imagination of Jeremy Clarkson but Piston distillery in Worcester has come up with just such a spirit. It’s infused with leftovers from the production of Morgan cars in nearby Malvern. If you had images of bits of oily steel steeping in neutral grain alcohol then think again because Morgan produces gorgeous cars that in many ways haven’t changed much since the 1930s. Part of the car is made from wood, ash to be specific, and it’s these ash shavings that are used to flavour the gin (which is available from Morgan’s online shop for £45). Toby Blythe from the Morgan Motor Company explained: “Ash wood forms one of Morgan’s three core materials, alongside aluminium and leather, and as such is intrinsic to our coachbuilding identity. When we worked with the expert distillers at Piston Gin, we were curious to find out how this material could be infused with their acclaimed gins. The result, we believe, speaks for itself.” Grace Stringer, distillery manager at Piston Distillery, explained to us how the gin was made: ash is distilled with the company’s London dry gin with a little apple to sweeten it, and then some ash is added at the end for colour and mouthfeel. Apple and ash-infused gin, not so barmy after all.

No Comments on The Nightcap: 8 January

Our favourite posts of 2020

It’s been a bumper year on the blog with over 500 fascinating articles appearing. Earlier this week, we wrote about our most-read ones, but we thought it would be interesting…

It’s been a bumper year on the blog with over 500 fascinating articles appearing. Earlier this week, we wrote about our most-read ones, but we thought it would be interesting to pick our personal favourites too. So here they are!

Our most read posts tend to be whisky news because Master of Malt customers really want to know about in-coming new whiskies. But we also publish more in-depth features with producers, opinion pieces and some good silly stuff. In 2020, despite not being able to travel for most of the year, we managed to continue publishing fascinating, amusing and thought-provoking articles. And not from just in-house scribblers, this year we’ve been proud to commission some of the country’s best drinks writers on a diverse array of topics. 

So, we thought we’d pick some of our highlights. It was not easy to narrow it down to just ten but we’ve got everything from articles aimed squarely at whisky geeks to important scientific research on what snacks go with which spirit. Something for everyone. 

The joy of distillery pets 

We love animals almost as much as we love booze here at MoM so this important article by Lucy Britner was an instant choice. That gorgeous creature above with the film star eyes is Otis from Badachro Distillery.

Why I won’t be opening my bar this December 

There really was only one story this year, and bartender and MoM occasional columnist Nate Brown tackled it head on in this moving look at the difficulties of running a bar with the Covid-19 rules changing the whole time. 

Jim Swan, a legacy of style 

This one got a great response from the industry: our roving whisky expert Ian Buxton took a look at the man who did more than anyone to create the world whisky category. 

Inside Mexico’s first whisky distillery 

Some great writing here from Adam O’Connell. The article manages to do two difficult things extremely well: transport the reader to another country and describe the flavour of a highly distinctive spirit. 

A Long Stride: A history of Johnnie Walker 

2020 was the 200th anniversary of Johnnie Walker. Most of the promised festivities never happened, but we did get this splendid book by Dr Nick Morgan who took the time to talk to us about it. 

Flor de Caña: Rum and adversity in Nicaragua 

Another tremendous bit of armchair travel writing, this time from Annie Hayes. A great story, beautifully told, and it helps that the rum in question is so delicious. 

Everything you wanted to know about peat but were afraid to ask 

Well, the title says it all. This is a rich and rewarding journey into smoke from Annie Hayes which will appeal to those who want to take their whisky knowledge to the next level. 

Lessons in sherry casks with Tamdhu

Another one for whisky nerds, those two simple words sherry and cask can have dozens of different flavour permutations as we learn from Gordon Dundas at Tamdhu.

The story behind the revival of James E. Pepper Whiskey 

An epic tale spanning the centuries told in suitably epic style. This is the article that people will come to again and again when they want to know about this great whiskey brand.

The search for perfect snack & spirit pairings 

And finally… Some actual science here as Sam Smith investigates which spirits go with which snack. The results might surprise you. 

 

1 Comment on Our favourite posts of 2020

The Nightcap: 18 December

It’s the final Nightcap of the year and to round-off 2020 we’ve put together one last batch of bonkers boozy news, a fitting tribute to the year that was. There’s…

It’s the final Nightcap of the year and to round-off 2020 we’ve put together one last batch of bonkers boozy news, a fitting tribute to the year that was.

There’s just one week until Christmas and only two weeks left in the whole year. How, exactly, has that happened? This truly has been the strangest, suckiest and most surreal collection of 12 months most of us have ever experienced. The good news is that this decade can only get better. Right? Well, we can confirm that The Nightcap will return in 2021, so that’s at least one positive thing in the bag already. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. 2020 still has some time on the clock and it’s chosen to spend some of its last moments making the world of booze a whole fresh batch of news to report on.

As we get ever closer to the big day #Whisky Santa has been ramping things up with his super wishes, giving away a bottle each of Dalmore 35 Year Old and Port Ellen 35 Year Old 1983, while those of you working your way through your Whisky Advent Calendars will have helped yourself to a feast of Scotch, American and World whisky thanks to the selection of drams that were hidden behind doors number #12, #13, #14, #15, #16, #17 and #18.

Elsewhere on the blog, we welcomed a new range of tasty spirits from, well… us! Then we reported on the incredibly exciting return of whisky distilling to Karuizawa in Japan, learned from Nate Brown what it’s like to launch a cocktail company during COVID and tasted the first whisky from Copper Rivet Distillery. We also found time for a quick chat with David Turner, Bowmore distillery manager, managed to pick out some delightful fortified wines to drink across the festive season, sample a peated Irish whiskey and make a delicious steaming hot cocktail

Now, onto the last Nightcap of 2020. We hope all our lovely readers have a safe and Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

The Nightcap

If the trials are successful we could be seeing a lot more of Blondie

Johnnie Walker to launch new whisky: Johnnie Blonde

News on Johnnie Walker is rarely in short supply but this week’s announcement is particularly exciting. The Diageo-owned Scotch whisky brand has revealed its plans to launch a new whisky in 2021 called Johnnie Blonde. The new expression was made to “appeal to current and new whisky drinkers alike” and is designed to be consumed in long serves, with the brand suggesting lemonade as its go-to mixer. Johnnie Blonde, which is a blend of bright wheat whiskies matured in sweet American oak and fruity malt whiskies, is very much a response to the evolving way Scotch is being consumed, with Michael Ward, head of innovation at Diageo commenting, “Johnnie Walker has always been built on progress, on a desire to constantly push boundaries and explore new flavours, experiences and serves. Johnnie Blonde is borne out of that same philosophy”. The expression, which has already won an International Spirits Challenge Gold Medal, isn’t getting a full rollout and instead will be piloted in a small number of cities around the world, including Monterey (Mexico), Curitiba (Brazil), Bangkok (Thailand), Sofia (Bulgaria), and Houston (USA) as well as with a number of partners throughout Germany, in March 2021, priced at RRP US$24.99. We look forward to seeing how it does. While we wait, we might as well make a nice long drink with one of the brand’s other delicious whiskies, right?

The Nightcap

The last we thing we need to be doing is making things harder for this amazing industry

 Tariffs on Scotch whisky move closer to removal

Things appear to be going in the right direction for those of us who want to see an end to the damaging 25% tariff on single malt Scotch whisky that was set by the U.S. over a year ago as part of a wider trade war between the U.S. and European Union. Following last week’s update on the study, new reports suggest that the U.K. government and the outgoing Trump administration are currently in negotiations to secure a ‘mini’ trade deal. In an interview with the BBC, US trade representative Robert Lighthizer said: “It’s extremely likely that we have an FTA, free-trade agreement, with the United Kingdom before long,”  and, when asked specifically about lowering tariffs on certain products including Scotch whisky, added “we have the advantage in that both the US and the UK – particularly the current government of the UK – are not big subsidisers, where some other countries are more inclined to subsidise. So it would be helpful if we could come to some kind of agreement. We are in discussions, we’ll see how that works out.” Trade body the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) said it was “encouraging” to hear Lighthizer indicate that a UK-US ‘mini deal’ could be achieved to remove Scotch whisky tariffs. Karen Betts, chief executive of the SWA, also remarked that she would like to see the US reciprocate by suspending tariffs, commenting: “Suspension on both sides would, we believe, create a positive environment for intensified settlement talks to take place. A settlement would enable everyone – aircraft manufacturers, Scotch whisky and other industries caught up in this – to focus on economic recovery rather than losing revenue to punitive tariffs”.

Guinness releases first new TV ad in 12 years

It’s always an event when Guinness releases a new television advert. This brand is synonymous with wonderful advertising, just think of those ‘80s adverts featuring Rutger Hauer or, of course, the ‘Surfers’ advert from 1999, judged the greatest TV advert of all time in a poll conducted by The Sunday Times and Channel 4. The new advert highlights the beauty of Draught Guinness in a can, something we’ve all been having more of us since the pubs were closed. Neil Shah, head of Guinness GB explained: “People love to savour delicious Guinness Draught and we wanted to remind people that they can enjoy the smooth and refreshing taste whether they choose to drink it in a pub or at home. The popularity of Guinness Draught beer in a can has naturally increased in recent months, and we wanted to celebrate that despite Christmas being different this year, Guinness Draught  doesn’t have to be.” The 20-second film titled “Pull. Pour. Settle. Enjoy.” was created by agency AMV BBDO with director Scott Lyon, and is rather functional. Yes, it makes you want to have Guinness, so it works, but it also makes you long for the sheer artistry of its forebears. Must try harder. 

The Nightcap

Let’s hope this move helps more people enjoy the distillery’s delicious whiskey

Whistlepig sells minority stake

Whistlepig has revealed that it has sold a minority stake to Moët Hennessy in a bid to help the brand expand internationally. While financial terms of the agreement have not been disclosed, we do know that the Vermont-based rye whiskey producer has been exploring options to help build its whiskey brand outside of North America, so it would be safe to assume we’ll be seeing more of Whistlepig thanks to the new partnership. “The arrangement with Moët Hennessy marks a significant moment for Whistlepig,” said Jeff Kozak, Whistlepig CEO. “We could not be more pleased to align our brand with the leader in luxury wines and spirits and are excited about future collaboration with Moët Hennessy’s team in the international market.” According to IWSR 2019 data, Whistlepig holds the top position in the ultra-premium and luxury rye whiskey category (sold at US$45 or over) in North America, so it’s a move that comes with a lot of for Moët Hennessy, the wine and spirits division of LVMH. “We are convinced that Whistlepig fits well within Moët Hennessy’s portfolio,” said Philippe Schaus, president and CEO of Moët Hennessy. “This rye whiskey house has done a remarkable job distinguishing itself among the emblematic and iconic craft distilleries in the United States with an ultra-premium standing in terms of identity, quality and price positioning.”

The Nightcap

Look at it. Just beautiful.

Bushmills unveils its oldest single malt whiskey

When Bushmills launched its Causeway Collection earlier this month we were very excited. Firstly, because it comprises of 10 cask-finished single malt whiskies that vary in age from nine to 30 years old. But also because the Irish whiskey brand is only releasing details of one bottling at the time. Which makes it even more exciting. Particularly when Bushmills follows up the debut of a single malt matured in Oloroso sherry butts and bourbon barrels for 17 years before being finished for two years in a rare Burgundy cask with the launch of its oldest single malt whiskey. The second expression in the range, the 30 Year Old New American Oak Cask single malt was initially matured in Oloroso sherry butts and bourbon barrels, and finished in new American oak casks for an ‘unprecedented’ 16 years. The non-chill-filtered single malt was bottled in September 2020 at cask strength (48.4% ABV) and is said to have notes of honey malt with the virgin oak providing ‘intense flavours of vanilla, chocolate and warm wood’. “It’s a privilege to work with such rare whiskeys in The Causeway Collection. This 30 Year Old New American Oak Cask, our oldest single malt to date, is a truly special Irish single malt,” says Bushmills master blender Helen Mulholland. “I’m immensely proud of how we’ve been able to create such sensational waves of flavour in a 30-year-old whiskey. Like the whole Causeway Collection, it’s a celebration of our passion for single malts, our rare and unique casks and our 400 years of whiskey-making heritage.” Sadly, getting your hands on this is going to be pretty tricky. Firstly, because only 100 bottles of the single malt have been released (the remaining 332 bottles are coming next year.). Secondly, because it’s available exclusively at The Irish Whiskey Collection at The Loop in Dublin and Cork airports in Ireland. Still, it’s a welcome boost for travel retail and a window in the kind of delights that lie in Bushmill’s warehouses…

The Nightcap

Shades are advised for this one

Glenmorangie’s new ad campaign is very colourful

Dig out your sunglasses because Glenmorangie has unveiled a new brand campaign and it’s not what you would call subdued. It was created by DDB Paris agency with top photographer Miles Aldridge and features six scenes of people enjoying Glenmorangie with the tagline, “It’s kind of delicious and wonderful”. And did we mention the colours? Holy moly, they are bright, awash with the boldest oranges and vivid blues. These technicolour dreams will be appearing on social media and various billboards across London this month. Alexander Kalchev, chief creative officer at DDB Paris, explained: “We set out to reimagine everyday experiences – a camping trip or a train journey – all made more wonderful, to reflect Glenmorangie’s perspective. Inspired by the brand’s signature orange colour, we decided to use colour as a metaphor to open up the whisky’s world. And of course, as a master of colour, Miles Aldridge was the obvious talent to bring our vision to life.” Louise Dennett, global head of brand at Glenmorangie, added: “We make whisky because we want people to enjoy it. There are many technicalities as to how we make it taste so good. But ultimately, what matters is that our single malt is delicious, and we think there’s a simple joy in that. Through our collaboration with Miles Aldridge and DDB Paris we have created a visual feast of a campaign. We hope it will welcome more people into our delicious and wonderful world.” But that’s not all: as well as being striking, the images contain little jokes including references to giraffes (the distillery’s mascot) and anagrams of the word Glenmorangie, like ‘A Ginger Lemon’ in the train and ‘Mango Reeling’. Endless fun! 

The Nightcap

The gin numbers for the off-trade were something to smile about, at least

British gin sales hit hard by lockdown

For the final news round-up of the year, it seems fitting to include the man who has graced more Nightcaps than anyone… Miles Beale! According to Beale, CEO of the WSTA, “Gin has proven to be a real tonic for shoppers wanting to enjoy a bit of downtime at home during a turbulent 2020. It’s fantastic to hear that some distillers will have benefited from a boost in retail sales, but we have to look at the bigger picture which shows overall gin sales are down by £400 million following the hit taken by the hospitality sector due to the pandemic this year.” He was commenting on news that because of the enforced closure of much of the on-trade, gin sales declined from £2.6 billion in 2019 to £2.2 billion this year. Retail was up 22%, worth £1.2 billion, but it wasn’t enough to make up for the lost business. As you would expect from Beale, he had words for the British government: “British spirit makers, many of whom are SMEs, need greater support from government to continue to grow and recover from the loss of hospitality sales. That is why, as a first and easy step, we are calling on the Chancellor to cut duty and boost British business at the spring Budget.” You tell ‘em, Miles.

The Nightcap

British people enjoying the odd drop of drink on a lunch break? Scandalous!

And finally. . . Shock horror! People enjoying alcohol during the day

Data produced by the health and safety software company Protecting.co.uk shows that more than 90% of workers say that they have been consuming alcohol while working from home. Hardly surprising, many of us enjoy a glass of wine or a pint with our lunch. The problem with the survey is that it doesn’t differentiate between responsible and heavy drinking, seeing both as problematic. Mark Hall from Protecting.co.uk commented: “It ranges from just a glass for two with lunch, to getting through a whole bottle of wine a day, but the health implications are clear.” He goes on to say: “It’s alarming to employers to hear that staff feel like they can get away with all kinds of behaviour while they are out of office.” It’s health and safety gone mad! We would hardly describe having a drink on a lunch break as ‘alarming’. Before lockdown, if you visited any town or city in the country you would see people enjoying an alcoholic drink with their lunches before returning to work. The press release from Protecting.co.uk goes on to say: “Most workplaces will have a robust alcohol and substance abuse policy to keep staff in check when they are at work.” Perhaps, but this is irrelevant in this instance. Unless you’re operating heavy machinery or conducting brain surgery, then a small amount of alcohol, a pint or a Gin & Tonic, is not a problem for most employers or employees. Lockdown has been hard for everyone, and if you are worried about your drinking, then you should seek professional help (DrinkAware is a really great place to start). But we see nothing wrong with some responsible daytime imbibing. Cin cin!

No Comments on The Nightcap: 18 December

The Nightcap: 11 December

The promise of returning whisky festivals, new distilleries and fewer tariffs already had us in a good mood this week, then we heard about the Islay KitKat and a piñata…

The promise of returning whisky festivals, new distilleries and fewer tariffs already had us in a good mood this week, then we heard about the Islay KitKat and a piñata bar… It’s The Nightcap!

There was inevitability going into Christmas it would be a bit different this year. The only thing for it was to embrace the change and not let it get us down. Virtual parties are in the diary, Christmas jumpers have been encouraged and an office Spotify playlist has done the rounds (I swear Domonic The Donkey is on there about 15 times, guys. I’ve started brushing my teeth to the rhythm of it ffs). It turns out all you need to make the most of the season is some festive spirit and a strong broadband connection. Who knew? #WhiskySanta, probably. That guy is always on the money.

Which is something you’ll have noticed if you kept tabs on the MoM blog this week, which certainly made us get all giddy when that omniscient, bearded and jolliest of fellows revealed two more sublime Super Wishes. I mean, c’mon, who wouldn’t want the chance to get their hands on a bottle of Balvenie 40 Year Old or Tobermory 42 Year Old?  The festive fun continued as we opened windows #5, #6, #7, #8, #9, #10 and #11 on our Whisky Advent Calendar before Adam put together a round-up of our favourite festive spirits ( look out for Christmas pudding spiced rum and a Brussels sprouts vodka).

Elsewhere, we showed off our swanky Black Bowmore DB5 1964 video, introduced you to a new kind of drinks company and managed to get the low-down on one of Scotland’s most iconic whisky producers. Henry, meanwhile, welcomed a delightful rum from an underappreciated distillery and made a classic cocktail with a reimagined old brand of Cognac, Adam recommended some of the best bargain American whiskeys on the market and Annie discussed what collective action is required to help eradicate sexism in the whisky industry.

The Nightcap

This is exactly the kind of news we all need right now. Fingers crossed it goes ahead!

Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival to return in 2021

News that almost seems too good to be true came from The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival this week, which announced it will be back in 2021, irl! The 21st edition of the six-day festival is tipped to return from 28 April to 3 May 2021 and the organisers have assured us that it will be adaptive to any COVID-19 measures. Lord knows all of us whisky lovers could do with a chance to celebrate our favourite tipple in good company and we’ll never turn down an opportunity to taste our way around this world-famous whisky-making region. Those who do attend (assuming this does go ahead, fingers crossed) will witness nearly 140 business members come together to be part of the biggest festival of its kind in the world. “We are very excited about being back in business for 2021. The positive news about the coronavirus vaccines has given everyone a boost and it’s great to see some light starting to emerge from what has been a long and very dark tunnel for everyone,” says James Campbell, festival chairman. “Even if social distancing is still in place in late April I am confident they will come up with solutions to provide numerous brilliant events and we look forward to giving a very warm Speyside welcome to all of our new and returning UK and international guests in 2021.” The full programme of events will be listed on www.spiritofspeyside.com and will be available for preview on Wednesday 24th February 2021, while tickets will go on sale online on Monday 1st March 2021. We sincerely hope that we’ll see you there… in real life! It’s almost too exciting.

The Nightcap

The Offerman-Lagavulin love story is showing no signs of slowing down and we’re here for it

Nick Offerman stars in new Lagavulin video

Actor and whisky lover Nick Offerman, you might remember him from such films as The Lego Movie and The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, returns for another Lagavulin: My Tales of Whisky‘ video. Called ‘A Dram Good Holiday’, it features Offerman enjoying some Lagavulin 8 year old while attempting to be a modern Youtube celebrity. “After many a holiday spent sipping Lagavulin by a blazing Yule Log, I have this year determined to venture into the world of the modern-day internet media tube,” he explained. “Well, I saw it. I can’t say I fully understand it, nor do I want to, so I will now return to my usual holiday plans and sip the wondrous elixir that is Lagavulin single malt Scotch whisky as intended.” Advice that we can all get behind this Christmas. You can watch Nick star in the festive clip here.

The Nightcap

We just want to see both whisky industries thrive. Is that too much to ask? It’s Christmas!

When the whisky levy breaks? UK suspends US tariffs

One story that caught our eye this week was the news that the UK intends to drop tariffs against the US over subsidies for aerospace firms, in a bid to reach a post-Brexit trade deal with Washington. Why is this of this interest to the drinks industry? Because the move could open the way for a punitive tariff on whisky to be removed. In November, the EU imposed tariffs on $4bn of US goods in the Boeing row, but these will be suspended in the UK from 1 January when the current post-Brexit transition period ends. One of the hopes of this strategy is that leads to a reciprocal move from the US to alleviate the damaging duties on goods like single malt Scotch whisky. The Scotch Whisky Association estimates the industry has lost £30 million a month on sales, and over £400m in total, thanks to the measures, so you can understand why chief executive Karen Betts described the announcement on Tuesday as “an encouraging step”. She went on to say: “It shows the UK government’s determination to de-escalate the damaging transatlantic trade disputes that have seen Scotch whisky exports to the US fall by over 30% in the past year”. Let’s hope sense prevails and our industry, which has faced a difficult enough year as it is, receives some respite here.

The Nightcap

No this isn’t an April fool.

Islay cask Kit Kat anyone?

In a week of funny stories, this one might just take the biscuit, or rather the chocolate-covered wafer snack. We have just learned about the arrival of a whisky cask-aged Kit Kat. And not just any cask but one that held Islay whisky. Chocolate and smoke, an interesting combination. It’s a product of the experimental division of Kit Kat Japan which in the past has come up with unusual versions made with matcha tea, soy sauce and sake. The chap in charge of this latest experiment is pastry chef Yasumasa Takagi. Rather than fill a barrel full of Kit Kats, which would just be silly, Takagi and his team took Ghanaian cacao nibs and aged them in the Islay barrels which were rotated once a week to ensure the chocolate became imbued with all that smoky goodness. Despite being made in Britain, this experimental Kit Kat is only available, for a very reasonable ¥300 (£2.16), in selected retailers over there including Kit Kat boutiques in Tokyo. Imagine, whole shops devoted to Kit Kats. Are we allowed to fly to Japan yet?

The Nightcap

The Walking Man is doing his bit to ensure his path is greener

Johnnie Walker gifts a million trees

Earlier this year we reported on Diageo’s sustainability initiatives and it seems the drinks giants are intent on putting things in motion sooner rather than later. This week the company outlined its vision to plant one million trees across the four corners of Scotland before 2025, as part of an ongoing commitment from Johnnie Walker to reduce its carbon footprint and restore the natural resources it uses when creating its Scotch whiskies. “A million trees we are planting with our partners across Scotland will create wonderful biodiverse woodlands that are havens for wildlife and accessible for people to visit and enjoy in the years and decades to come,” Ewan Andrew, Diageo’s chief sustainability officer, explained. To date, 389,000 of the one million trees have been planted near two of distilleries in the Scottish Highlands which, over the lifetime of this project, are anticipated to absorb over 69,000 tonnes of C02 – the equivalent of taking 10,500 flights around the world. At Ballygowan, near Oban distillery, native birch, oak, wild cherry, willow and hazel trees were planted, including a new tree dedicated to every one of Diageo’s 28,000 employees, while at Allt Ruadh, near Glen Ord distillery, Johnnie Walker has joined forces with Trees for Life to plant ancient and native trees to serve as a wildlife corridor and increase habitat availability for species including black grouse, crossbills and red squirrels. It’s exactly the kind of Christmas gift we like to see from major players within the industry, so kudos guys. For more info on Diageo 2030’s sustainability commitments click here.

The Nightcap

Ashley Lloyd, retail operations manager at Halewood Artisanal Spirits, is clearly as thrilled as we are!

Halewood opens £1m Peaky Blinder distillery

The good news keeps on coming this week as Halewood Artisanal Spirits has announced that its phenomenally popular Peaky Blinder brand’s new home is open. The new £1 million distillery is based in Birmingham, on the same site as Sadler’s brewery, home of the infamous gang from the hit show. The new facility is already producing Peaky Blinder Spiced Dry Gin and Black Spiced Rum in four ‘state-of-the-art’ Arnold Holstein stills, which got a makeover in August this year, to emphasise the provenance of the brand. A different character from the late 19th and early 20th-century Peaky Blinders gang and other gangs feature on the bottles, with authentic mug shots from police archives to boot. “After months of planning, we’re very pleased to share our plans for the Sadler’s site in Lye,” commented James Stocker, marketing director, Halewood Artisanal Spirits. “As we’ve continued to see strong sales for our Peaky Blinder spirits via our e-commerce channels, both in the UK and globally, this felt like the perfect time to bring production back to their rightful home”. Halewood has also revealed that we can expect to see the first spirits from the new distillery by the end of 2020 and, as we reported earlier in the year, plans are also in place to develop a distillery to produce Peaky Blinder Irish whiskey. Things are certainly looking bright for the brand. Now would be a good time to end with a quote from the show, but I haven’t seen it, so those of you who have can insert your own topical joke here.

The Nightcap

It’s a fitting end to a brilliant series

Gordon & MacPhail’s 125th Anniversary series concludes in style

Regular readers of The Nightcap will remember that we’ve covered the launch of a particularly special series of Scotch whiskies put together to commemorate 125 years of Gordon & MacPhail. Now, the much-anticipated final whisky in the collection has been revealed: The Gordon & MacPhail 1975 Glencraig! The last of the four extremely rare and unique whiskies was distilled in Lomond Stills, which operated within Speyside’s Glenburgie Distillery before production ceased after just 23 years. The whisky, which was matured in a single refill American hogshead for 44 years, was laid down on Thursday 30 October 1975 and bottled on Thursday 28 May 2020 at 54.2% ABV, with an outturn of just 110 bottles. It’s said to possess notes of honey, coconut, rich nectarines, white pepper, lime, cocoa beans and carry some floral and herbal elements. The majority of the Glencraig whisky was destined for blended malts, so this is a truly rare treat and, like the other expressions in the series, it was sourced from the last remaining casks from lost or closed distilleries matured within Gordon & MacPhail’s warehouse  “While it’s bittersweet to share the last remaining drops of these ultra-rare whiskies, they embody a fitting tribute to 125 years spent in pursuit of perfection,” Stephen Rankin, a fourth-generation member of Gordon & MacPhail’s owning family and the company’s Director of Prestige, said. “These four releases provide a personal legacy for all who have worked at Gordon & MacPhail over the decades culminating in these exquisite and unique drams found nowhere else.”

The Nightcap

Half this week’s stories could have been our And Finally… but just look at wonderful madness of this thing!

And finally… Jose Cuervo creates world’s first piñata bar

Global Tequila giant, Jose Cuervo, has unveiled the world’s first piñata bar and it’s going to one lucky fan. The one-of-a-kind creation has been designed in festive colours and comes complete with a shelf of Jose Cuervo Especial Gold, bartender’s essentials, mixers, garnishes and a variety of Jose Cuervo tequilas and flavoured fillings inside. Given that lots of you will have played the home mixologist this year, the bar should come in handy for dispensing delicious Tequila cocktails for the friends and family you’ll be spending the season with. Margaritas are on you, future winner! And the fun doesn’t stop there because, it’s piñata bar so to get your hands on the goodies inside, you have to indulge in a bit of creative destruction. Yes, you get to take out all the frustrations of 2020 by smashing it up, responsibly of course. So, if you’re over 18 years old and based in the UK you can enter the competition by following the Jose Cuervo UK Instagram page and tagging a friend who they’d enjoy a festive cocktail with. So, what are you waiting for? Get entering, and have a smashing weekend (sorry!)

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Women in whisky

More women are drinking and distilling whisky than ever before – and yet, despite impressive forward-steps in gender representation, sexism remains an everyday occurrence throughout the industry. MoM dropped by the…

More women are drinking and distilling whisky than ever before – and yet, despite impressive forward-steps in gender representation, sexism remains an everyday occurrence throughout the industry. MoM dropped by the virtual Women of Whisky summit to discuss the various ways unconscious bias shapes the world of whisky, from barrel to bottle – and what collective action is required to eradicate it for good…

Never has the global whisky industry been so diverse. Today, you’ll find women working in all aspects of whisky-making, from production to marketing, distribution and sales. And where women aren’t involved in making whisky, they’re drinking it – “there’s been a 15% increase since 2010, with women now accounting for around 35% of whiskey drinkers,” says whisky expert Becky Paskin, introducing the second installment of Distill Ventures’ whisky conference series. And yet, despite representing an increasingly important demographic for the industry, “it is still widely considered a man’s world,” she says.

Becky Paskin, whisky expert, media personality, and journalist.

During the 90-minute summit, titled The Women of Whisky; Perspectives on Inclusion, Representation, and the Future, attendees heard from experts from every corner of the industry (and globe): Julie Bramham, brand director at Johnnie Walker in the UK; Ashley Frey, co-founder of Frey Ranch Estate Distillery in Nevada, USA; Laura Davies, distillery manager at Penderyn, Wales, UK; Hil Ying Tse, managing director of Whiskies & More in Hong Kong; and Kristy Lark-Booth, founder of Killara Distillery in Tasmania, Australia, and president of the Australian Women in Distilling Association.

Moderated by Paskin, the former editor of ScotchWhisky.com and co-founder of OurWhisky, the panel discussed how the industry can do more to bring women into the category, and shared their first-hand experiences of working in whisky – highlighting the common issues they face that their male peers do not. The most prominent shared experience of discrimination related to unconscious bias, and several of the panellists shared instances where they’d had their skills and qualifications scrutinised, undervalued or undermined.

“When we have contractors or third parties come into the distillery, they make the assumption straightaway that I’m the sales girl or the PA,” says Davies, who heads up an all-female distilling and blending team at the Brecon Beacons-based distillery. “Quite often they try to oversimplify things to me or don’t bother trying to explain things, because they think that I’ve got no idea what they’re talking about anyway, so there’s no point. That’s incredibly frustrating.

“Likewise, I work very closely with our distillery supervisor,” Davies continues. “If we go into a meeting together with a contractor or a sales rep, they will automatically shake his hand first. And they always talk directly across the table to him, they won’t make eye contact with me. He gets very offended on my behalf and says, ‘It’s her you need to speak to’. But again, it’s really frustrating that it even needs to be said.”

Frey, who runs Frey Ranch Estate Distillery with her husband Colby, describes a similar experience of sexism. “A lot of times as co-founders, we would see ‘CEO and founder Colby Frey’, and then afterwards ‘with his wife, Ashley’,” she says. “I’m so much more than just a wife in the distillery. We’re co-founders – we’re in this together. Colby might be out on the tractor, he might be physically doing more distilling, but my role is just as important to the distillery as his.”

Clearly, there’s a lot of work to be done in terms of how women in whisky roles are perceived. But the fact that women are better represented in the industry than they were even a decade ago is cause for celebration. In the corporate world – certainly at Diageo, the parent company of Johnnie Walker – such change is occurring at a rapid pace. “Ten years ago, our executive committee was 100% men, and now it’s 40% women,” says Bramham. “And actually on our board, women outnumber men. So there have been some really big dramatic shifts that have happened. It’s certainly in the time that I have been in the industry, which is great to see.”

Such changes represent a conscious effort on behalf of Diageo to create a more representative workforce. Part of this involves fostering an “infrastructure around inclusivity”, says Bramham, such as “parental leave regardless of sex or gender”. It’s also important to have female role models and male allies in the workplace. “Many businesses are on this journey, and some are further progressed than others,” she says. “But it is a journey, and it takes very deliberate action… Being very conscious about trying to create conditions for people to be successful is key.”

Ultimately, making whisky accessible to women starts with the bottle. For women to see whisky as “providing career opportunities and being an industry that they want to work in and feel welcome to work in,” says Paskin, “we need to really look at how whisky is marketed to consumers as a whole.” Where women have appeared in whisky advertising in the past, they’re either depicted as subservient or objectified, she says. “I’m proud to work in an industry which seems to have moved away from a lot of that, yet there are still instances of unconscious bias towards men, and women do not seem to be a consideration for quite a lot of brands,” Paskin adds.

Heidi Dillon Otto from Distill Ventures

“We developed a framework a couple of years ago that we use with all of our agencies, which allows us to look at the creative development process: who we have behind the camera, who we have in front of the camera,” says Bramham. When it comes to representation on-screen, the framework focuses on progressive portrayal, from the ‘character’ any given person has been assigned to the perspective the action is viewed from. All crucial considerations to make sure the advertising is representative of real people without playing into gender stereotypes.

The representation also has to be meaningful – there’s no place for tokenism, and the team is very deliberate about that, says Bramham. “If you’re going to cast women in advertising, or if you’re going to use women to help market the brand in some way, make sure they’re there for a very specific reason, and because of their skills or character. Don’t put them there to be there. That’s worse than not having them there, in my opinion.”

Unfortunately, there are still plenty of instances where women are seen as marketing tools, rather than valued customers. “At a lot of whisky shows [in Asia], a lot of promoters hire girls that don’t actually know much about whiskey, but just to be for show and pour whiskies in very short skirts,” says Ying Tse. “I see more and more independent bottlers with very provocative labels, where I fail to see the link between the label and the product itself.” As a distributor, this something Ying Tse raises with her own clients. “I see the distributor as the extension to the market, and representing the same values and the same views of the brand,” she says. 

Despite the many challenges, given the resources available today, there’s never been a better time for women to embark upon a career in whisky. If that’s you, and you’re not sure where to begin, start small, says Lark-Booth. “If your dream job is head distiller of a certain distillery, don’t be put off by starting in the cellar door,” she says. “I started out being the floor sweeper and the glass washer and worked my way up, there’s nothing wrong with that… it’s a long game, so don’t stress if you’ve got to start off in a different department.”

“What I would say is, know your worth,” says Davies. “You’ve got just as much right and ability to do that role and to be in that position as anybody else. You don’t start off on the backfoot just because you’re a female… Don’t sit and wait for somebody to give you equality and to give you the same opportunities as a man would have. We have to take some personal responsibility as women and we have to go out and make things happen. Yes, sometimes in some industries and in some situations, we are perhaps discriminated against or perhaps not given the same opportunities. But it’s up to us to push and to keep pushing.”

And as a whisky drinker, remember: the power lies in your wallet. “You can always vote with your money,” Lark-Booth continues. If a brand’s values don’t align with your own, stop supporting them, “or approach them – send them an email,” she says. “If you go into a bar and the person next to you has asked for whisky and they’ve been hit with one of those crappy comebacks of ‘Wouldn’t you prefer a girly drink,’ call out the bartender. You don’t have to do it in a rude, aggressive, nasty way, but you can still say something and it helps to educate people. We can’t just be complacent.”

Header image shows Angela Cochrane and Kirsty Olychick, Diageo’s first female coopering apprentices.

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Top ten: Scotch whiskies under £50

From smoky single malts to the ultimate Highball blend, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get some seriously good Scotch whisky. Here are ten of our…

From smoky single malts to the ultimate Highball blend, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get some seriously good Scotch whisky. Here are ten of our favourites.

We love whisky at Master of Malt. Which means that everyone in the office has strong opinions on the subject so it was tricky to narrow this list down to just ten bottles. People are going to be upset that we didn’t include their favourite drams, especially Talisker 10, Laphroaig 10 or Bowmore 12. But we thought it would be a good idea to include alongside the old favourites some lesser-known whiskies as well as expressions that are so well-known you probably don’t notice them anymore. So without further ado, delay or general beating around the bush. Here are (some of) our favourite Scotch whiskies under £50. Tell us in the comments or on social why we should have included your dram of choice.

ardbeg-uigeadail-whisky

Ardbeg Uigeadail

Well, we had a bit of a discussion that got quite heated about which Ardbeg to include. The Ten would have been the obvious choice but instead we’ve gone with the spectacular Uigeadail ( pronounced “Oog-a-dal”) that melds the smoky lime-scented Ardbeg character with sweet sherry casks. And how!

What does it taste like?

There’s plenty of peat and smoke but it’s all wrapped up in muscovado sugar, honey and espresso coffee. Rich and pungent, Uigeadail is quite an experience.

arran-10-year-old-whisky

Arran 10 Year Old

This distillery was founded by former Chivas MD Harold Currie, the first on the isle of Arran on the West Coast since 1837. It might be the entry level whisky but this ten year old aged entirely in bourbon casks tastes pretty special, showing off the fruity, floral distillery character.

What does it taste like: 

Nutty and biscuity with fresh apple and lemon fruit plus floral summer hedgerow and honey notes. It’s packed full of character and really over delivers for the money.

balblair-12-year-old-whisky

Balblair 12 Year Old

Last year Balblair switched from vintage releases to a suitably impressive new range of age statements expressions. This is the baby of the bunch, aged in ex-bourbon and double-fired American oak casks, and it’s superb.

What does it taste like? 

The soft mango and peach distillery character really shines through, supported by spicy cedar and nutmeg, honey and barley. A great introduction to a great distillery. 

compass-box-spice-tree-whisky

Compass Box Spice Tree 

Originally made with oak staves which attracted the ire of the SWA, Spice Tree is now aged in especially-made casks with new French oak heads. It’s a stunning blend of Highland malts with the French oak adding masses of spice, hence the name. 

What does it taste like? 

Dried apricots, vanilla, cinnamon and toffee with pungent tobacco, cloves and pepper, it’s not called Spice Tree for nothing. Long, complex and totally harmonious. 

glenfarclas-10-year-old-whisky

Glenfarclas 10 Year Old

Glenfarclas is one of the very few family-owned distilleries in Scotland. That combined with its excellent sherry-soaked Speyside drams is why it is one of the the country’s best-loved distilleries. 

What does it taste like? 

On the nose there’s honey, toffee and Oloroso sherry. While the palate is full of baking spices with fruitcake, apples, nuts and even a little smoke.

glenmorangie-10-year-old-the-original-whisky

Glenmorangie 10 Year Old

We love the whole Glenmorangie range but it’s the 10 Year Old Original we keep coming back to. Entirely aged in ex-bourbon casks, it’s smooth, sweet and fruity but deceptively complex. No drinks cupboard should be without a bottle. 

What does it taste like? 

Full of lemons, nectarines and apples with vanilla, digestive biscuits and gentle baking spices. And honey! Lots and lots of honey. 

j-and-b-rare-whisky

J&B Rare 

J&B Rare is one of those whiskies so ubiquitous, you probably don’t even notice it behind the bar. Which is a shame because this is probably the ultimate Highball whisky. Just blend with soda, ice and maybe a dash of orange bitters for a refreshing pre-dinner drink. One sip and you’ll never go back to G&Ts.

What does it taste like? 

Yes, it’s light but there’s depth here too with appley fruit joined by richer notes of malt, cedar, vanilla and walnut with a lift of orange zest. Perfect with soda.

johnnie-walker-green-label-15-year-old-whisky

Johnnie Walker Green Label 15 Year Old

Well, we had to include something from Johnnie Walker. But rather than the Red or Black, we’ve gone with Green Label, a spectacular 15 year old all malt blend that combines whiskies from around Scotland. One to offer to people who say they only drink single malts.

What does it taste like? 

This is packed full of dark chocolate, oak spice, malty cereal notes, and coffee and walnut cake. An after-dinner whisky, if there ever was one. 

kilkerran-12-year-old-whisky

Kilkerran 12 Year Old

In 2004, Springbank reopened Glengyle distillery taking the number of working distilleries in Campbeltown to three. But Glen Scotia owns the Glengyle brand which is why this whisky is called Kilkerran. The quality is exceptional for the money and this expression has become something of a cult. 

What does it taste like? 

It melds citrus, cherries and orange peel with creamy vanilla, honey and butterscotch, with a saline note running through it. If you love the oily Springbank style, then you’ll adore this.

seaweed-and-aeons-and-digging-and-fire-10-year-old-whisky

Seaweed & Aeons & Digging & Fire 10 Year Old

An Islay single malt from an undisclosed distillery. The name makes sense as soon as you take a sip, it’s a smoky peaty Islay malt with 25% aged Oloroso sherry cask. This has proved an extremely popular malt with MoM customers.

What does it taste like? 

Does exactly what it says on the bottle: there’s woodsmoke, seaweed and charred meat combined with sweet sherry notes, red apple and vanilla. 

3 Comments on Top ten: Scotch whiskies under £50

The Nightcap: 20 November

It’s the only place you’ll find rare whisky, pop stars and Kentish Pinot Noir all in the same place. The Nightcap is here! We’re now officially at that time of…

It’s the only place you’ll find rare whisky, pop stars and Kentish Pinot Noir all in the same place. The Nightcap is here!

We’re now officially at that time of year when Christmas shopping and decking the halls becomes less a joyous celebration of the festive season and more a stressful exercise in ticking boxes off a seemingly never-ending to-do list. In order to combat the chaos, we recommend a cosy chair, a good dram and some entertaining light reading. Like a round-up of everything that’s happened in the world in the booze. The Nightcap should do the trick. Read on.

The MoM Blog continues to be the place to be if you want to get your hands on tremendous drinks as we offered you the chance to win a VIP trip to the wonderful Jura Distillery. Elsewhere, Henry enjoyed the latest Exceptional Cask Selection from Foursquare, while Adam tasted his way through GlenAllachie’s Virgin Oak Series, picked out some bargain bottles of Irish whiskey and found out why Tequila is a spirit in demand. As for Annie, she had a week that made us long for the return of our favourite drinking holes, sitting down with cocktail trailblazer Julie Reiner, looking into the science behind mixing a cocktail and making a twist on an Old Fashioned that’s a long-time favourite at Sexy Fish.

The Nightcap

Raise your glasses, folks, to one of the greats

Port loses one of its greats, James Symington

The Port business lost one of its most influential and dynamic figures this week in James Symington. Born in 1934 in Oporto, his family had been in the Port business since the late 19th century. After serving with the British Army in Kenya, he joined the business in 1960 shortly after marrying his wife, Penny. It was a difficult period for the industry with sales in the doldrums. Symington was a vital force in the revival of the region. He worked as a taster and blender for the firm, and created such legendary vintage Ports as Dow’s and Warre’s 1966, and Graham’s 1970, and he was instrumental in turning the family firm into one of the most important in the Douro region. Later, he moved to the commercial side of the business, developing markets in the US, Canada and Scandinavia, regions that now have some of the keenest appreciation of Port. In 1987, Symington and his wife restored Quinta da Vila Velha, a derelict property in the Douro valley, which now makes some of the best wines in the region. He is survived by his wife, two daughters Clare and Miranda, and son Rupert who is the CEO of Symington Family Estates. Let’s raise a glass, Dow’s ‘66 preferably, to one of the greats of Oporto. 

The Nightcap

It could be you pouring this exceptional whisky…

Glengoyne to open rare 50-year-old whisky at someone’s special moment  

Glengoyne is doing something pretty amazing with the launch of its oldest ever expression. A decanter of its limited-edition 50 Year Old Highland Single Malt, priced at £22,500, will be given away via an online ballot, open to groups of five or more friends or family. All you have to do is submit an entry alongside a description of your perfect moment for savouring the Glengoyne 50 Year Old together next year. The Glengoyne team will then make that special moment a reality, delivering the highly sought-after whisky for one group to enjoy and savour. “At Glengoyne, we believe that patience is always rewarded. This year we’ve all had to sacrifice spending time with our loved ones or delay celebrations. That’s why we want to make these moments extra special in 2021 with a memorable whisky that, after waiting so long for just the right moment, is truly ready to be opened and savoured,” said Robbie Hughes, master distiller at Glengoyne. The 50 Year Old comes in a special crystal decanter, alongside a 25ml sample of the 50 Year Old whisky, as well as individually numbered books which are signed by Hughes. Available from next week, this extremely limited-edition release will join a new 30 Year Old Glengoyne and the present 25 Year Old whisky, as part of the distillery’s new ‘Fine and Rare’ range. If you’d like a chance to taste this incredible whisky, then you have until Monday 14th December to gather your group and submit your moment here.

The Nightcap

Dua Lipa and great whisky. Two things we love!

Johnnie Walker takes centre stage with Dua Lipa’s Studio 2054

Music and malt have always gone together particularly well so it’s no surprise to see a brand take advantage of a major collaboration. In this case, Johnnie Walker has launched a new partnership with Dua Lipa’s Studio 2054 Livestream event. The digital music experience will be live-streamed globally on the 27 November and will see Lipa sing and dance with a cast of guest stars, surprise performers, acrobats and artists to tracks from her eponymous debut album, the multi-platinum Future Nostalgia and her most recent Club Future Nostalgia. Johnnie Walker, as the exclusive spirits partner, is tipped to feature throughout and has created a set of unique Studio 2054 Highball serves which celebrate global club culture throughout the decades. “This partnership is an opportunity for Johnnie Walker to be involved in a truly unique cultural moment that could only be delivered by a trailblazer like Dua”, says Julie Bramham, Johnnie Walker global brand director. “Our own ‘Keep Walking’ philosophy is all about a constant desire to push the boundaries and Dua is the perfect partner to do that with.” Further information and ticket access for the Studio 2054 live stream event can be found here and more details will be shared across Johnnie Walker social channels pre, during and post the event.

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Russ and Gemma Wakeham, founders of the world’s first carbon-negative rum distillery

Big week for environmentally-friendly rum

It’s been quite the week if you’re into sustainable rum. First, plans have been submitted for the construction of a new £10 million carbon-neutral rum distillery and visitor centre in Cornwall, which will be powered by geothermal energy. Entrepreneur Matthew Clifford, founder of the Cornish Geothermal Distillery Company (CGDC) wants to create a 100% sustainable rum cask maturation facility, visitor centre, cooperage and geothermal energy centre. The project even includes an “ultra-high-tech” Eden Project-style biome which can recreate global temperature and humidity profiles and will house the patent-pending carbon-neutral rum cask maturation pods. It all sounds a tad Bond villain, to be honest, but exciting nonetheless. Elsewhere, Two Drifters revealed it surpassed its fundraising target of £150,000 in three hours. The Devon-based brand (what is it with the south-west and green rum brands?), which was launched in 2019 by Gemma and Russ Wakeham and claims to own the world’s first carbon-negative rum distillery, began its crowdfunding campaign on Monday 9 November on Crowdcube to raise funds to secure larger retail opportunities and improve the distillery’s operations. “We are now in a position to take Two Drifters further to more people,” said Gemma Wakeham. We can also help out in that regard by pointing out that you can check out Two Drifters range of spirits here, which includes a British white rum, dark rum and an overproof spiced pineapple rum.

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All the joys of Whisky Live without having to change out of your PJs. Bliss

Whisky and Gin Live are coming to your home 

To help us through the boredom of lockdowns, there have been many online tastings such as our own Instagram Live series or the Whisky Show, and now this year’s Whisky Live is taking place at home. It’s called… wait for it… Whisky Live at Home! Brilliant! The standard ticket (click here) costs £89 and includes 29 x 30ml samples, the equivalent of around one and a quarter full-sized bottles of whisky. You also get a Glencairn glass, magazines, oatcakes and water. The whole jamboree launches on 30 November but the clever thing is that you can tune in any time to Whisky Live TV and watch masterclasses, seminars, interviews and tasting sessions all hosted by top whisky personality Christopher Coates and his new evil genius beard. You can also buy more upmarket tickets giving you fancier drams and access. Plus, the team is also putting on Gin Live TV (click here) which works in a similar way only with gin (we didn’t need to explain that though, did we?) Those lockdown evenings are going to fly by. 

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The Titanic dry dock and pump house building could soon be home to a new distillery

Whiskey distillery to open at Titanic Dock in Belfast

The Irish whiskey scene looks like it will welcome a new player as businessman Peter Lavery and Belfast-based venture capitalist firm Norlin Ventures have announced plans to construct a new distillery at Titanic Dock and Pumphouse in Belfast. Assuming the full planning application that will be submitted next month is granted in the first quarter of 2021 (which is expected), the new site should be open by the end of next year. This will allow the brand to relaunch the Titanic Whiskey brand in April 2021 to coincide with the departure of Titanic’s maiden voyage in April 1912. “Before Prohibition, Belfast was the largest producer of Irish whiskey on the island of Ireland,” said Lavery. “Whiskey has therefore played an important part in the history of our city and we are excited to tell this story through the relaunch of our Titanic Whiskey brand and the development of a new distillery at Titanic Dry Dock and Pumphouse.” Lavery has got experience in the distillery game, having been involved in the long-delayed distillery plans at the Crumlin Road Gaol prison in Belfast, which resurrected the McConnell’s Irish whiskey brand after more than 90 years in 2020.

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Kentish Pinot Noir, anyone?

Le Kent Nouveau est arrivé

Do you remember when you used to see signs outside Victoria Wine saying “le Beaujolais nouveau est arrivé”? Come to think of it, do you remember Victoria Wine? Showing my age here a little. Anyway, people still get quite excited when the young, so-fresh-it’s-almost-still-fermenting Beaujolais from the current year arrives on these shores on the third Thursday of November. Well, now there’s a challenger, as this Wednesday, one day earlier than Beaujolais, Balfour near Tonbridge, released an English nouveau made with Kentish Pinot Noir. Now, even in the heat of the Garden of England, Pinot Noir isn’t that easy to ripen but we’ve been blessed with a particularly warm vintage this year, perfect for creating a juicy fruity wine. Head winemaker Fergus Elias commented: “The fruit from this parcel was so early, with a lovely strawberry jam character, that we thought we would never have a better opportunity to make a Nouveau style red wine. This fruit was the forerunner of a harvest of exceptional quality”. He described the wine as “brimming with rich red autumnal fruits combined with delicate hints of spice and coffee”. All this for £20 with free delivery. Go to https://hushheath.com/ but hurry, as only 1000 bottles have been produced.

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I’m lost for words, to be honest (Image credit: Hendrick’s)

And finally… Hendrick’s Gin launches £1,800 exercise bike

If we told you that a gin brand had branched out into exercise equipment, you’d probably be quite surprised. But, if we showed you a picture of Hendrick’s limited-edition penny farthing-inspired exercise bike, you’d probably nod and say “yep, that is so Hendrick’s”. The gin-makers has had its fair share of Nightcap coverage thanks to its weird and wacky approach, but The Hendrick’s High Wheel is probably the most ridiculous story yet. Particularly as it will set you back £1,889 (plus shipping from the U.S). The bike is made of iron and comes equipped with a “hydration holder”, a “pedal-powered incandescent bulb”, a small bell, an adjustable seat and a built-in bookstand. This can be used to hold the High Wheel Exercise Manual, which includes photographs of a bike journey through Scottish landscapes to Girvan’s Gin Palace – no wifi or electricity here. If you’re interested in embarrassing your children and you fancy picking yourself up a Hendrick’s High Wheel, then note that to mount the olive-green machine you need to use the cucumber side-pegs or a staircase at the rear. Oh, and that it sits upon a synthetic lawn complete with fallen rose petals. Of course it does. 

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Johnnie Walker film: ‘The Man Who Walked the World’

There’s a Johnnie Walker film called The Man Who Walked the World coming out today, 12 November, and we were fortunate enough to get a sneak preview and talk to some…

There’s a Johnnie Walker film called The Man Who Walked the World coming out today, 12 November, and we were fortunate enough to get a sneak preview and talk to some of the people behind it. Here’s what we thought.

As you might have noticed from the release of fancy new whiskies, the revamping of distilleries and the publication of a splendid biography, it’s the 200th anniversary of the Johnnie Walker brand. Now, there’s a film too. We can’t wait for the video game. But back to the documentary: it’s called The Man Who Walked the World and it’s directed by award-winning filmmaker Anthony Wonke for independent production company Something Originals and Partizan films. It features a mixture of whisky types including Dr Nick Morgan and Alice Lascelles with celebrities like Cappadonna from the Wu-Tang Clan, and people who are a bit of both like actress and brand ambassador Sophia Bush. There’s also some top cultural commentary from Jason Solomons, John Hegarty and Ekow Eshun.

Cappadonna from the Wu-Tang Clan is a fan of Johnnie Walker

We were fortunate enough not only to see the film but, as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival, listen to a discussion featuring some of the film’s participants. Though sadly not, from none more black heavy metal band The Black Label Society, who tried and failed to get endorsement from Johnnie Walker whisky. What’s amazing about The Man Who Walked the World was that it was made during the pandemic so the director Anthony Wonke couldn’t travel. He had to shoot the whole thing remotely using local film crews. Not so easy as the film travels from Baghdad to Brazil and had to be made as different countries were locking down.

The documentary is a race through the history of the whisky from its beginnings in Kilmarnock to becoming the world’s number one whisky brand. Wonke takes a global perspective looking at what Johnnie Walker means to different cultures and individuals. There’s a lot to cram in, too much really for a 45 minute film. At times it had the feel of a trailer for a longer, more satisfying film, But then, it’s not really aimed at hardcore whisky fans. Those looking for the full history should read Morgan’s book.

As the Wonke said during the press conference, after watching the film the audience should “feel like they’ve had a couple of shots of Johnnie Walker”. I certainly felt a little like that after viewing it though that might have had something to do with the Black Label Highball I was sipping at the time. 

1950s Johnnie Walker billboard advert

Here are five things we learned from the film:

Johnnie Walker fits in everywhere

Johnnie Walker has the ability to “walk with kings and not lose the common touch” as Alice Lascelles put it quoting Kipling. From the trans community of Burma to protest movements in Brazil; from your local cornershop to the swankiest bar in Dubai, Johnnie Walker is at home everywhere. 

Johnnie Walker was into diversity before it was popular

The brand was running aspirational adverts with black Americans enjoying Johnnie Walker back in the 1950s and ’60s (see above). There was no message beyond saying that Johnnie Walker is for everyone. Quietly powerful.

Johnnie Walker’s big birthdays tend to be in interesting times

It’s eerie how the brand’s 200th anniversary echoes its 100th which took place at a time when people were reeling from the first world war followed by the global flu pandemic. He does pick his moments, does Johnnie. 

Johnnie Walker is a global currency

One of the best bits in the film was an interview with an American intelligence officer working in Iraq who said that meetings with Iraqi politicians could not begin until there was a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label on the table.

Johnnie Walker was an Indian film star

An Indian actor called Badruddin Jamaluddin Kazi (1926-2003) who changed his name to Johnnie Walker. He was famous for playing drunks though as an observant Muslim he never touched a drop. His son features in The Man Who Walked Around the World.

The film will be broadcast on Discovery’s portfolio of brands and services from 12 November. For more information visit https://themanwho.film

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The Nightcap: 6 November

The first Nightcap of the second lockdown has arrived just in time to provide some much-needed cheer and levity. It’s packed full of boozy goodness so enjoy! As we all…

The first Nightcap of the second lockdown has arrived just in time to provide some much-needed cheer and levity. It’s packed full of boozy goodness so enjoy!

As we all brace for Lockdown 2 (or 2 Lockdown 2 Furious), the team at MoM Towers has been searching for silver linings. Maybe we’ll have some more time to try to understand the electoral college system and even more time to watch old James Bond films after we’ve inevitably given up. We’ll also be able to do some important research, like finding out what the implications of Sam’s snack grid are (someone grab some dark rum and popcorn for the Bond marathon, while I think of it) and why we haven’t done more coverage of distillery pets. Of course, with Black Friday, Christmas and who knows what else on the way we probably won’t have any more free time, but we can guarantee that there will always be a fresh, warm Nightcap ready every Friday evening, just how you like it. That’s a pretty good silver lining, at least.

Things might have ground to a halt around us but the MoM blog was as busy as ever this week as we launched another #BagThisBundle competition, this time with the wonderful folks at Cointreau. Then, as it’s #SherrryWeek, Annie looked at the vibrant vermouth scene in Jerez and the rest of Spain, before learning about the story behind a gin created to raise money for a historic endeavour and how Nikka is spoiling us by launching not one, but two new Japanese whiskies. Henry then shook up a special seasonal cocktail for Bonfire Night and created a shopping list of the essentials bottles you need to make your home bar the envy of your friends. As for Adam, he had a pretty whisky-soaked week, finding out what makes Scandi spirit-makers Stauning so stellar and tasting a 60-year-old single cask whisky from Glenfarclas Distillery. 

Johnnie Walker film coming soon

First, there was the whisky, then there was a book, and now we’ve just got the news that there’s going to be a Johnnie Walker documentary. Slated to appear on the 12 November we don’t know terribly much about it, only to say that it’s the story of the world’s most famous whisky brand. Called ‘The Man Who Walked Around the World’, it features contributions from Cappadonna from the Wu-Tang Clan, advertising guru John Hegarty, and noted booze enthusiast Alice Lascelles. It’s been directed by award-winning filmmaker Anthony Wonke for independent production company Something Originals and Partizan films. Check out the jazzy trailer above. When we know more, we’ll let you know. 

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We can now officially say this is an artist’s representation of The Cairn

Gordon & MacPhail unveils The Cairn 

Do you remember that distillery that Gordon & MacPhail was building in Cairngorms National Park? Well, the family-owned whisky specialist has given it a name: The Cairn. Which makes sense. Must have been a short meeting. The brand has said it was chosen to honour the stunning surroundings of the park (it really is glorious) and that it wanted a brand that would be easy to communicate globally, which presumably rules out any hard-to-pronounce Scottish Gaelic and prevents them from stepping on the toes of its other distillery, Benromach. “We wanted the new brand to complement, not compete. It’s eye-catching and contemporary and the approach to developing it put the consumer at the centre of our thinking,” said Ian Chapman, The Cairn brands director. “It is the same approach we have taken to designing The Cairn Distillery itself. The modern building takes advantage of the outstanding views across the River Spey to the Cairngorms and has been designed with the customer at the centre of the experience.” An icon has been developed to symbolise the brand; the fragmented shape representing the coming together of many pieces to form a cairn. Scheduled to open in spring 2022, The Cairn Distillery will include a visitor experience, tasting rooms, retail space and coffee shop.

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It was bottled at 95% ABV, folks. 95%. You read that right.

Anno Distillers launches world’s strongest gin

Our Kent-based neighbours Anno Distillers informed us of some pretty astounding news this week, it has created what is believed to be the world’s strongest gin. Anno Extreme was bottled at a frankly alarming 95% ABV Gin, smashing the previous record of 82.5% ABV and made in Sweden. Naturally, the gin is available in smaller bottles, just 20cl, and even comes in a presentation box with a 25ml scientific measuring beaker, perfect for accurate measurements with the suggested serves. There’s the Light G&T, a 5ml measure of Extreme poured over ice and served with premium tonic and a slice of grapefruit which is said to deliver “full flavour G&T with 75% less alcohol” (so a Hayman’s Small Gin kind of deal) and the Strong G&T, a 25ml measure of gin poured over ice and topped up with at least 120ml of premium tonic (the equivalent of an ordinary double measure, Anno says), garnished with a sprig of bruised thyme. “We wanted to make a gin which packs more punch and flavour drop-for-drop than any other spirit in the world,” says Dr Andy Reason, co-founder of Anno Distillers. “As scientists we really wanted to push the limits of possibility and create the spirit of alchemy, turning something ordinary into something extraordinary.” 

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Of course Sam Neill makes booze, he’s so awesome.

Sam Neill meets Samuel Gelston’s whiskey

Samuel Gelston’s has announced the launch of its latest expression and it’s honestly one of the coolest collaborations ever. You see, Johnny Neill, who runs the brand, teamed up with his cousin who owns a vineyard in New Zealand called Two Paddocks and matured the single pot still Irish whiskey in Pinot Noir casks. Who is that cousin, you ask? Sam Neill. The Sam Neill. The actual star of Jurassic Park, Peaky Blinders and more. Amazing. Anyway, back to the liquid, it was triple distilled and matured for 19 months in ex-bourbon casks, before spending a further 21 months maturing in the French oak casks and is said to have notes of strawberry, nutmeg, tropical fruit, blackcurrant and more. “The Neill family have been making quality spirits for generations. My great, great grandfather Harry Neill set up the successful McCallum Neill & Co in Australia in 1851, and Percival, one of his younger brothers set up Messrs Neill & Co in 1882 – Percival was Sam’s great grandfather,” said Johnny. “Sam and I have continued this legacy in our respective sides of the world. For the first time in 150 years, we’re bringing together the expertise from both sides of the family  – the result being an incredibly exciting sweet, honeyed and very inviting single pot still whiskey”.

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The World’s Best Bar has been announced, just as we can’t visit!

Connaught in London named World’s Best Bar

In a bit of cruel timing as much of Europe goes back into lockdown, the World’s Top 50 bars have been revealed just as we can’t visit them. Oh well! Sitting astride the world is the Connaught Bar in London. Mark Sansom, content editor for The World’s 50 Best Bars, commented: “Hats off to Connaught Bar, undoubtedly one of the finest cocktail bars of our time. The institution has earned a place on the list every year since 2010 and it has gradually grown in stature to become the world-beating bar it is today. Ago Perrone and his team are dedicated to excellence and look at every element of the guest experience to choreograph a faultless service.” Runners up were last year’s winner Dante in New York followed by the Clumsies in Athens. It’s been a great year for London with three in the top ten: Tayēr + Elementary were at number five and newcomer Kwant at number six. All in all the list features bars from 23 countries: the Best Bar in Asia award went to Atlas, Singapore; the Best Bar in Australasia is Sammy in Sydney; Zuma, Dubai picked up Best Bar in the Middle East and Africa, while Florería Atlántico, Buenos Aires, is The Best Bar in South America. Elisa Gregori from main sponsors Perrier added: “The pandemic has heavily impacted the entire hospitality industry and the situation remains shaped by uncertainty, yet the industry is adapting quickly and we believe it will return stronger after these difficult times.” Congratulations to everyone who made the list and we’re hoping that we’ll be able to visit some of them in the not too distant future.

 

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Dr Bill says Glenmorangie Malaga Cask Finish is an “indulgently sweet and rich” dram

New small-batch Glenmorangie is on the way

We can never hear the words ‘Glenmorangie’s launches new whisky’ too much so we were obviously delighted to learn that a small batch edition was on the way (keep an eye out for it). The 12-year-old bottling was finished in Malaga wine casks, which aren’t the most common sight in Scotch whisky. Dr Bill Lumsden, Glenmorangie director of whisky creation, sourced the rare handful of first-fill Malaga ‘dulce’ casks (which once contained wines at the sweeter end of Malaga’s range), then filled them with an eight-year-old whisky initially aged in bourbon casks. After four years of finishing, Dr Bill chose the best of these casks in July 2020 to be bottled for the Distillery’s Barrel Select Release. “The honeyed aromas and fruity, chocolatey tastes of Glenmorangie Malaga Cask Finish take me straight to the sun-kissed south of Spain, where Malaga’s famed fortified wines are made,” said Dr Bill. “By finishing our soft, creamy whisky in Malaga ‘dulce’ casks, we’ve created an indulgently sweet and rich small-batch single malt. Our Barrel Select Release is a delicious treat for whisky lovers old and new.” You can see for yourself if Dr Bill is on the money, as Glenmorangie Malaga Cask Finish will be available soon from Master of Malt. 

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The industry needs support like this from those who have the resources to provide it

Diageo relaunches Learning for Life

This is a critical time for the hospitality industry with COVID-19 restrictions set to have a continued impact on the sector, so now would be the moment for some big players to step up. Diageo has set its sights on doing just that this week by relaunching Learning for Life, an award-winning bartender and hospitality training programme that aims to assist the sector to meet the demands of dealing with COVID-19. Learning for Life has been designed to help to develop and engage the industry’s hard-pressed staff, including those on furlough, by providing key training, alleviating isolation, improving practices and updating ways of working during these challenging times. The £1m-per-year programme will work alongside Diageo’s Raising the Bar programme, which pumps £30 million into the UK hospitality trade to create a safer infrastructure, for example through the introduction of hand sanitiser units or personal protective equipment for staff. “People and businesses in the hospitality industry across the UK are fighting for their future and we stand alongside them in that fight,” said Nicola Reid, Diageo Learning for Life Manager. “That’s why we’ve refocussed our Learning for Life programme so it offers the best training opportunities possible to support bar staff and businesses with skills that will help them weather the current storm”.

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Ten expressions from The Glenlivet form the bulk of the range

Chivas Brothers unveils 2020 Distillery Reserve Collection

Chivas Brothers latest single malt collection is on the way! There are 48 new single cask expressions ranging from four to 29-years-old that were sourced from 13 of Pernod Ricard’s distilleries, including The Glenlivet, Strathisla, Aberlour and Scapa. The full Distillery Reserve Collection is now available for purchase from visitor centres of the aforementioned distilleries (visit here for full information on opening times and restrictions to operations) but, due to the current travel restrictions, for the first time, a smaller selection of bottlings will also be available from The Glenlivet website. “Our distilleries are the beating heart of Chivas Brothers and the Distillery Reserve Collection celebrates the heritage, innovation and style that make each one unique. This one-of-a-kind collection has been hand-selected to showcase the breadth of character and bold flavours single malt distilleries can achieve,” says Miriam Eceolaza, marketing director, single malts at Chivas Brothers. “I’m thrilled to be able to invite whisky lovers to join us in celebrating the stories of Speyside and delve even deeper into the vast world of single malt whiskies.”

The nation’s favourite on-screen boozers revealed

Liberty Games has done some vital research this week and conducted a survey to find out the nation’s favourite on-screen boozer, as well as analysing the price of a pint, the location and the IMDb score of each pub. The games retailer can reveal that The Nag’s Head from Only Fools and Horses is the nation’s favourite on-screen boozer in the UK. with 17.2% of Brits saying they would love to have a drink there, although it does tie with Harry Potter’s The Leaky Cauldron for having the most expensive pint, costing £5. Typical London prices. The cheapest pint can be found in the pub from Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps’, the Archer Hotel, at just £3.20. Liberty Games also found London has the most on-screen pubs, but that Yorkshire has the majority of the nation’s favourite on-screen pubs. It is God’s own county, after all. The Woolpack from Emmerdale and the Leaky Cauldron are the second and third favourite fictional pubs with 13.4% and 12.6% of respondents agreeing they are the pub they would most like to have a drink in. The Crab & Lobster from Doc Martin, Heartbeat’s The Ainsfield Arms, The Drovers Arms from All Creatures Great and Small, Life on Mars’ The Railway Arms, The Boatman from Four Weddings and a Funeral and The Slaughtered Lamb from An American Werewolf in London also made the top ten. Which fictional pub would you like to visit? Let us know in the comments.

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If any of our family are reading this, then yes we want one of these

And finally… Bacardi combines a bar with a turntable

According to Bacardi, a fifth of British people will be hosting a virtual cocktail party this Christmas while 60% will be celebrating with friends and family over Zoom. And in the best marketing tradition of revealing a problem and then solving it, Bacardi has the antidote to all this enforced staying at home. Designed by “famed furniture designer” Hugh Miller (surely, you’ve heard of him?), it’s called the Mixing Console, and it’s a freestanding bar with a walnut top and an actual turntable and speakers built-in. And not just any turntable but an “attractive and well-engineered” Fluance RT80. Not my words but the words of What HiFi magazine. So you can mix your drinks while spinning your records. Just be careful you don’t get the two confused or it could get messy. Also, this magnificence doesn’t come cheap, £1700. But Bacardi’s research also stated that: “treating yourself, family and friends more are top 2021 New Year’s resolutions”, so come on family, treat me!

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A Long Stride: A history of Johnnie Walker

This year to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Johnnie Walker, a book has been published called A Long Stride: The Story of the World’s no. 1 Scotch Whisky. We talk…

This year to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Johnnie Walker, a book has been published called A Long Stride: The Story of the World’s no. 1 Scotch Whisky. We talk to the author Nicholas Morgan about how a blend from a small shop in Kilmarnock went global.

Before I even knew what whisky was, I’d heard of Johnnie Walker. As a boy growing up in the 1980s, I remember seeing the famous Striding Man on the back of a magazine with the legend, “Born 1820 and still going strong,” and marvelling at this extremely long-lived man.

For nearly half of the brand’s existence, however, the Striding Man didn’t exist and the whisky wasn’t even called Johnnie Walker. I learnt all this and more from a fascinating new book called A Long Stride by Dr. Nicholas Morgan. Morgan is the grandly-titled head of whisky outreach at Diageo but this is no corporate cutting job. Morgan taught Scottish history at Glasgow University before joining United Distillers (forerunner of Diageo) in 1989. In his research, Morgan has delved deep into the substantial Walker archive, with help of research assistant Laura Chilton. Refreshingly, he isn’t afraid to chart the lows as well as the highs, as we’ll see. 

“Hi Dr Nick!”

The result is a fascinating account of how one whisky became one of the world’s best known brands but it’s also a portrait of the Walker family, the town of Kilmarnock, and a rich history of the 19th and 20th centuries. We spent a very pleasurable hour discussing the book…

Early days:

It all began in 1820 when John Walker, son of a local farmer, went into the grocery business with a shop in Kilmarnock. Many grocers had their own blends of whisky – the idea of blended whisky came from tea blending where the grocers would blend teas of different types and qualities into a consistent product – but it was Walker’s blend, known as Old Highland Whisky, that began to build a reputation outside of the town, especially after John’s son, Alexander took over in 1857. Morgan explained why: “I would say consistency. It’s clear from Alexander’s correspondence that they were striving to improve the quality of their product and get this consistency, while doing everything on a bigger scale.” This was based on holding vast quantities of whisky stocks. “But also,” he continued”, “consistency in presentation, a square bottle, for the most part, with a slanty label on it.” This distinctive look that continues to this day began came in in the 1860s. That’s when the firm began to go global. To assist, it had a great sales team in London and later around the world, driven by Kilmarnock men. Morgan explained: “Alexander trusted everyone from Kilmarnock more than anyone else!”

Enter the Striding Man:

One thing that John Walker & Sons didn’t do was advertise. That was left up to Johnny-come-lately brands like Dewar’s. One of the big contrasts in the book is between the extravagant Dewars, who saw themselves as the young guns of the industry, and the more diffident Walkers: “I certainly had the Walker’s as my heroes,” said Morgan, “And then if I had villains, there would be the Dewar’s, these arriviste, self-publicity-seeking… ‘narcissists’ was one of the words I used to describe Tommy Dewar.”

The brand had become colloquially known as Johnnie Walker but the firm always referred to itself as John Walker & Sons, and the principal blend as Old Highland Whisky. Morgan explained: “John Walker’s widow lived until 1890 and she exerted a huge influence over Alexander and no doubt over her grandchildren. You can imagine what that was like: ‘Johnnie Walker’ no no no, we’re not going to do that!” It was James Stevenson, a non-family member, who shook things up. Morgan said: “He’d come into the business as an office boy but ended up in effect as marketing director and was a marketing genius. It took Stevenson to persuade the family of the power of this thing called ‘Johnnie Walker’ that lived in the minds of the public.”

Johnnie Walker ad from Punch magazine, 1922

The firm engaged American adman Paul E. Derrick, who was behind the Quaker Oats campaign. “Between Derrick and Stevenson they wrote this brief and rejected all that tartan, old men, Highland chiefs drinking,” said Morgan, “and that was the brief that finally went to a very famous cartoonist Tom Browne.” The result was utterly different to anything else in whisky. A Morgan puts it “A Georgian man walking along, with a dog originally, vigorous, striding, a bit rakish. An interesting sort of fellow. That was the character that suddenly leapt off full colour posters all around the UK in 1908. This was before TV. What are you going to talk about in the office? The adverts you saw. It was popular currency. To suddenly see this figure and everyone say ‘that’s Johnnie Walker! That’s the guy we’ve been talking about for 25 years and suddenly he’s come alive and he’s everywhere!’” Meanwhile, Walker’s blends were rebranded with Old Highland becoming White Label (later discontinued), Special Old Highland Red Label and Extra Special Black Label

The campaign was a huge success: sales went through the roof and transformed the brand. The image is so strong that it has been used to sell Johnnie Walker, on and off, ever since. And the clever thing is that much of the time, the adverts don’t even mention whisky. 

Upsetting the old guard:

It’s hard to imagine now that blends are the establishment, but in the late 19th century they were the disruptors, taking business away from malt whiskies. One of the most interesting parts of the book is Morgan’s take on the famous “What is Whisky?” case. This is usually told from the malt distillers perspective, defending their good name against inferior grain and blended whiskies but, as Morgan discovered, it’s a lot more complicated than that. 

“The rise of blended Scotch whisky disrupted a whole range of very well established economic relationships”, Morgan explained. These included the agricultural lobby put out by the imported grain used in blends and the old Highland distillers, “who did like to think of themselves as the sort of elite of the world of whisky. Suddenly they were simply suppliers of whisky to blenders. And the little interest there had been in malt whisky was taken away because everyone wanted to drink blended Scotch.” Both groups had powerful allies in parliament. 

The final piece in the jigsaw were retailers and wine merchants. “You have a system of retailing which is fundamentally threatened by the existence of advertised or promoted proprietary brands. It takes away the independence of retailers and it takes away the position of those wholesaling companies who have been supplying them.” Biggest of these were Gilbeys, the wine merchants, which, Morgan said, “led a campaign against blended Scotch and grain whisky. From the 1890s they were already trying to get acts of parliament through which would constrain what blenders could do”. In the end, however, the blenders won out and could continue to call their products ‘whisky’.

The evolution of the Striding Man

Tribulations and consolidation:

The 20th century was a turbulent time for Scotch. There was the fall-out from the collapse of Pattisons whisky business in 1898 which, though Walker’s were not involved, reverberated through the industry. Morgan explains: “There was a huge bubble of speculation and the Pattison crash brought that bubble down at a stroke. It depressed prices for new-make whiskies and for mature whiskies which speculators were holding, so a whole range of people suffered financially very badly from that and it knocked a lot of confidence out of the whole Scotch sector and it meant that banks wouldn’t loan.” 

But this wasn’t the only problem the industry faced. There was world war one followed by the influenza epidemic. Then prohibition not just in the US, but in Canada and New Zealand plus a real possibility that something similar would be enacted in Britain; Prime Minister Lloyd George was a teetotaler. 

The uncertain times led to a merger between Dewar’s, Buchanan’s, the Distillers Company (which owned grain distilleries) and John Walker & Sons in 1924/5. The Walkers, however, bargained hard not to be subsumed within this new whisky behemoth: “What came out of this merger, which was as the Walkers had intended, were cost savings on the production side but companies that still quite aggressively competed with each other in the marketplace.” Johnnie Walker preserved its semi-independence until the Distillers Company was bought by Guinness in 1986. Alexander Walker II, John’s grandson, was the last family member to run the business. 

Downs and ups:

Morgan’s book is largely a portrait of great men with vision, making bold decisions, and selling a quality product. But the Johnnie Walker board didn’t always make the wisest choices. Perhaps the most bizarre thing in the book was when they  went up against the might of the EEC, which Britain had joined in 1973, over the pricing of Red Label. “They had one set of pricing for the UK and they had one set of pricing for European customers. That was in contravention of the EEC regulations,” says Morgan. “So the European Commission took them [the Distillers Company] to the European Court and a ruling came out that that was not a permissible way of doing business which affected everyone in the trade.”

Rather than put UK prices up, the management decided to remove entirely the Red Label brand, which was selling 1.25 million cases at home, from the British market. The plan was to replace it with a new brand called John Barr,  “which was not a success in any way”, Morgan said with some understatement. This decision had a momentous impact on the industry. You’ve probably heard that the infamous ‘whisky loch’ was caused by overproduction in the 60s and 70s, but according to Morgan “it’s really the Red Label loch because that million cases are out of the market”. 

This  presented an opportunity for other brands like Famous Grouse and Bell’s. But also led directly to the upsurge in single malts:  Morgans explains: “As a member of one of those [single malt] families gleefully told me when we were talking about the book, at a dinner last year, ‘boy when Red Label went it was just hoorah, hoorah!’” Meanwhile at DCL, the management thought that single malts had no future and actively thwarted the rise of Cardhu, a brand which was taking off in Spain and Italy. D’oh!

It’s a great-looking book with lots of illustrations and photos

But Johnnie Walker recovered: the book explains how much of the vigour returned to the brand in the late ‘80s and ‘90s. Opportunities for de luxe whiskies, especially in emerging markets, were capitalised on with the launches of Blue, Gold and Green Label. Meanwhile the Striding Man himself was invigorated: “At the beginning of this century, a bit like happened in 1908 with the creation of the Striding Man, that character was absolutely rejuvenated by BBH [ad agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty] in the ‘Keeping Walking’ campaign, which actually saw the brand grow again, from around ten million cases to 20 million, astonishing in a short period.” He went on to say: “In the same way that the Striding Man had reached out to consumers in the early 20th century, this new manifestation based around this idea of personal progress, captured consumers’ imaginations and it was brought to life with all that same brilliant creativity that had been seen in the Edwardian era.”

As we enter another extremely uncertain period in history, it’s somehow reassuring that Johnnie Walker has come through far worse adversity. Morgan said: “There is a story in the book about resilience which is good for this current moment. “ So, let’s raise a glass to another 200 years of the Striding Man!

A Long Stride: The Story of the World’s No. 1 Scotch Whisky by Nicholas Morgan is published by Canongate.

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