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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Johnnie Walker

The Nightcap: 11 September

Robot bartenders, enough whisky to buy a house and a tiki bar full of priests rescuing a drowning man. The Nightcap doesn’t get much better than this! We’re in that…

Robot bartenders, enough whisky to buy a house and a tiki bar full of priests rescuing a drowning man. The Nightcap doesn’t get much better than this!

We’re in that part of the year now where the weather is totally unpredictable. In a matter of minutes you could be made to look a fool by a cold snap, a sudden downpour or baking heat just as you’ve started an hour long walk in a woolly jumper (I’m not venting, why do you ask?). In such times, home comforts, familiar settings and dead certainties are needed. Like a weekly update of all the happenings from the world of booze. Good thing we’ve got you covered. Enjoy!

On the MoM blog this week Henry welcomed a wonderful new collection from The Character of Islay Whisky Company called The Stories of Wind and Wave and then enjoyed a cocktail named after the fanciest college in America, Jess demonstrated the delights of Irish single malt The Sexton and Adam sampled all kinds of delicious new whisky from Glengoyne. Elsewhere, Ian Buxton popped back in to explore how you can own a little bit of your own booze business through the magic of crowdfunding, while Annie cast a spotlight on Storywood Tequila, examined the evolution of cask ownership and then turned her attention to the history of the world’s first luxury whisky. We’d also like to say a big thank you to all who attended Scotch & Sofa and to remind those who missed it that the videos are still available to watch on Facebook!

The Nightcap

What whisky fan wouldn’t want their own cask? No wonder they’re fighting over it

SMWS offers members cask from Holyrood Distillery whisky

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) is offering members the chance to win an entire cask of whisky from a partner distillery for the first time at its annual gathering this year. The prize, from Holyrood Distillery, is worth approximately £10k and includes all associated costs including the production of spirit, maturation for up to 10 years, bottling and duty. The distillery, which is Edinburgh’s first city centre single malt whisky distillery for nearly a century, runs a custom cask programme, which provides fully customisable options that you can read more about here. “Can you imagine owning your own full cask of single malt whisky? That’s the incredible prize that is up for grabs to all the members of the SMWS,” says Helen Stewart, head of marketing and membership at The SMWS. “Without a doubt it’s the biggest prize we’ve ever offered to our members and with our global festival The Gathering beginning on 31st August, it’s the perfect time to show the world what we do at SMWS – but you have to be in it to win it”. This year’s gathering, which is taking place throughout September, will unite a global community of over 27,000 SMWS members through a series of tastings (both virtual and in-person), whisky webinars, global ambassador at-home tastings, virtual pub sessions with global guests and a Twitter Tasting. The SMWS has also encouraged members to host their own gathering events at home, with home tasting kits available to download. The competition went live on Monday (7 September), which SMWS members can enter here, while tickets for the full calendar and info on all the gathering events can be found here.

The Nightcap

The 18-year-old Aberfeldy is finished in barriques from Pauillac, home of some of France’s greatest wines.

Aberfeldy launches ‘aristocratic’ 18 year old finished in Bordeaux wine casks 

Aberfeldy has gone right to the top with its new 18-year-old wine cask finish, Pauillac in the Medoc, home of some of Bordeaux’s greatest wines such as Lafite, Latour and Mouton-Rothschild. The whisky spent 18 years in first-fill bourbon barrels followed by 4-5 months in ex-Pauillac barriques. Those months weren’t wasted, we were given a little sample and it really smells distinctively of the Medoc. Think pencil shavings, blackcurrants and damp earth on the nose with tannin on the palate and an unctuous nutty texture, all wrapped up in the classic honey and toffee of Aberfeldy. The double cask ageing really works. Malt master (not to be confused with a Master of Malt) Stephanie MacLeod commented: “Pauillac casks are the aristocrats of the Médoc, they provide notes of black cherries, blackberries and a cedar wood spice. Aberfeldy’s wonderfully soft signature honey and creamy vanilla notes are invigorated with swathes of plush ripe fruits and lovely nutty aromas to create an incredibly elegant and fruitful whisky.” It’s bottled at 43% ABV and on sale for a very reasonable £95. It is, however, only available from the distillery which reopened in July. Later it will be on sale in certain markets including USA, China, Taiwan, Germany, and France but not, for some reason, Britain. We think a trip to Aberfeldy might be in order. 

The Nightcap

The project might have been delayed but it’s back on course now

Johnnie Walker Princes Street update

Diageo never seems to stop churning out boozy updates and this week is no different after it opened the online doors to the Johnnie Walker Princes Street global flagship visitor experience. The spirits giant had already reaffirmed its £185 million investment programme in Scotch whisky and tourism by resuming physical construction at the landmark building in the heart of Edinburgh in June (in compliance with all government COVID guidelines, naturally) following a three-month lockdown pause, but the new website for the attraction was launched this week on Tuesday (8 Sept). The Princes Street site is now expected to open in the summer of 2021. If you’re after detailed plans for inside the eight-story attraction then you’ll have to wait, but the website does provide pre-sale ticket opportunities and exclusive updates on the project. “The last few months have been so difficult and disruptive for everyone and we know there is still a long way to go, but we keep walking with confidence and we are looking to the future with positivity,” says managing director of Johnnie Walker Princes Street, Barbara Smith. “Johnnie Walker Princes Street is progressing well following the restart of construction and we are delighted to be launching our website so that our future guests can share in the excitement and anticipation we feel as we build towards opening our doors to visitors next year.” 

The Nightcap

Congrats to you Nate, any chance of a Nebula Negroni on the house…

Nate Brown opens a new bar

Hey, you guys know our friend Nate Brown, right? He’s contributed a fair few cracking articles on the MoM blog over the last year or so, but that’s not why he’s making headlines this week. It’s because tomorrow (Saturday 12 September), he’ll open the doors to Nebula, a new bar on the Hackney Road, London. The pizza, beer and cocktail joint, which is styled as a ‘neighbourhood oasis with cosmopolitan spirit’, was created in collaboration with Shane Long (not the Republic of Ireland international, but the founder and owner of the Franciscan Well Brew Pub Ltd), and will be led by Sam Morgan (ex-Star and MEAT). Heading the cocktail menu will be the bar’s signature Nebula Negroni, which has a ‘herbaceous twist’ and is available for take away in bottles or eco-friendly reusable pouches. There are also three Spritzes, three Highballs, and three Low-balls plus three straight-up, easy-drinking serves, all of which have an emphasis on local, with house gin and vodka made a stone’s throw away by 58 gin and East London Liquor Co. The wines, meanwhile, will be sourced from Renegade Winery in Bethnal Green and many of the beers are brewed in East London. Nebula will be open from midday until 11pm, seven days a week, and we’ll certainly be popping by for a Nebula Negroni, or two!

350 1960s will be released to celebrate 350 years of Warre’s

Warre’s celebrates 350 years with release of rare Port

Warre’s is celebrating its 350th birthday in style with the release of some seriously rare vintage Port. The company was founded in 1670, and while it doesn’t have any wine left from then, it is offering 350 bottles of 1960 Port from its cellars, the last bottles of this vintage that will be sold to the public. RRP around £320. More affordably, the company will be offering special anniversary editions of Warre’s Warrior and its LBV (Late Bottled Vintage) wines. The company is probably the oldest British Port firm and has a rich history in the region. Williams Warre fought with the Duke of Wellington to liberate the country from Napoleon. His descendant George Warre was one of the first British shippers to buy land in the Douro. One of his purchases, Quinta do Retiro, provides the fruit for the 1960 vintage. In the 1960s the firm was bought by the Symington family who still own it today. Chairman Johnny Symington commented: “We are extremely proud to be celebrating Warre’s 350th anniversary: three generations of my family worked alongside the Warres until the mid-1960s when they decided to return to the UK. We have continued a great tradition that dates back to 1670. This incredible milestone is a moment for us to reflect on our heritage and our uniqueness as a family business. We also celebrate the alliance between Portugal and England, the oldest in history, which has been such an important part of the history of Port.” That’s worth raising a glass to.

The Nightcap

This is how I die. And I’m OK with it.

The robot bartender is here!

The machines are taking over! We’ve just received information about a bar where the drinks are made by machine. Named Yanu, it’s described in the press bumf as “the world’s first contactless bar.” It’s the brainchild of Alan Adojaan who is working with top cocktailist Kristo Tomingas to make sure the drinks are tip-top. The machine costs 150,000 euros to buy outright or it can be rented. Adojaan is expecting to sell them to airports, casinos, shopping centres etc. with the current COVID-friendly sales angle that your drink will be untouched by human hands. The set-up consists of a round standalone bar that looks like something from Star Wars with a robot arm at the centre. Approach, state what you want, swipe your card and marvel as the arm makes the drink by pressing the glass to optics located in the ceiling of the bar. From the video, it looks quite basic, we were hoping for something along the lines of the octopus barkeep from Who Framed Roger Rabbit. However, It’s certainly much faster than any human, able to make around 100 drinks an hour and it won’t spend time admiring its muscly tattooed arms instead of serving customers. 

A load of these is worth a lot money

Son sells 28 years of birthday whisky to buy first home 

This week over in Taunton, Matthew Robson didn’t look to his savings account for his house deposit, but his whisky cabinet! Really though, it’s his father Pete who’s to thank. Matthew was born in 1992, and every birthday since his father bestowed upon him an 18-Year-Old Macallan. Now that Matthew is the ripe old age of 28, that adds up to… 28 Macallans! “I thought it would be interesting if I bought one every year,” Pete said, “and he’d end up with 18 bottles of 18-Year-Old whisky for his 18th birthday”. While Pete spent around £5,000 over the years on the pressies, the collection is now worth more than a cool £40,000. It may not surprise you to know that Pete is originally from Milnathort in Scotland, who bought the first bottle of 1974 vintage Macallan to “wet the baby’s head”. Matthew was “under strict instructions, never, never to open them,” and somehow he managed to resist temptation. Whisky broker Mark Littler is selling the “perfect set,” as he described it himself. “The value of Macallan has risen massively over the last five to 10 years,” he said. “To have such a vast collection of bottles is the real selling point of these.” Excuse us, we’re off to have a word with our parents… 

The Nightcap

This story has, quite literally, everything

And finally. . . . Drowning man saved by tiki bar full of priests

Now that’s a headline that sounds like it sprang from the mind of Chris Morris but it’s actually a true account of a recent incident on Lake George in New York. Jimmy MacDonald was out kayaking when he fell into the water with a badly put on life jacket. Within seconds, he was struggling to stay afloat and thought his days were numbered. Talking to the Catholic News Agency, he said: “I thought I was going to die. I was waving my hand and asked God to please help me.” And lo, his prayers were answered in the unlikely form of a tiki bar boat rented Paulist Fathers from St. Joseph’s Seminary in Washington, D.C. The seminarians and priests helped him onboard and saved his life. One, Noah Ismael, quipped that it was “a movement of the Holy Spirit”. The final twist to this almost too-good-to-be-true story is that MacDonald is a former alcoholic who has been sober for seven years. Truly, God moves in mysterious ways. 

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The Nightcap: 4 September

There’s a whole smorgasbord of big Scotch whisky news in this week’s Nightcap, as well as reports on new celebrity booze and Whisky Tea. Yes, really! Intrigued? Then read on……

There’s a whole smorgasbord of big Scotch whisky news in this week’s Nightcap, as well as reports on new celebrity booze and Whisky Tea. Yes, really! Intrigued? Then read on…

We hope you all enjoyed your Bank Holiday weekend. Whether you set off on an adventure, popped down to your local or enjoyed some well-earned R&R indoors, we’re sure you made the most of the opportunity to take a breath and enjoy a break. Fortunately for us, the world of booze never seems to stop churning out new products, projects and passions for us all to get all geeky and gleeful about so The Nightcap this week isn’t any lighter even with a day off. Take a look and see for yourself.

The MoM blog this week was also as busy as ever, and almost turned green thanks to the number of stories we had on Irish whiskey. First Ian Buxton examined its growing pains, then Annie learned why the progress of Sliabh Liag Distillers is proving cause for excitement. Certified organic distilleries also caught Annie’s eye, as Henry gave us a lesson in fortified wines casks to mark the arrival of The Epicurean Rivesaltes Finish. Elsewhere, Adam enjoyed a gin-based delight and one of the finest prohibition-era cocktails in The Southside, before wishing That Boutique-y Whisky Company a happy birthday by announcing another terrific new MoM sale.

Arguably the biggest news of all, however, was our announcement of the launch of Pour & Sip, our all-new, kick-ass whisky subscription service. Check out the blog post for more details. We’re also issuing one last call for you to tune in to our virtual whisky extravaganza Scotch & Sofa, which is taking place tomorrow. Oh, and don’t forget, Drinks by the Dram’s incredible booze-filled Advent Calendars are available to pre-order now!

Right, on with the news!

The Nightcap

CEO Jean-Christophe Coutures’ didn’t mince his words for the Scottish government.

Chivas Bros. criticises Scottish government over COVID response

It was a difficult results time for Chivas Brothers, which we’ll get on to in a moment, but the most interesting thing from this week’s press conference was CEO Jean-Christophe Coutures’ strong words for the Scottish government. He talked about a “bumpy period in March/April when we were not so clear about the direction the Scottish government wanted us to take. We know that we were not seen as an essential business to the economy even though Scotch whisky is the second-largest export for Scotland.” Happily (for everyone, not least Master of Malt customers), Chivas Brothers managed to keep the whisky flowing. Coutures praised the workforce and the unions for their helpful attitudes, and now the company is “almost back to full operations”. He added: “I still believe that the Scottish government needs to back us up and they need to understand that keeping this category operating is absolutely critical not only to the Scottish government but as well to the people of Scotland.” Meanwhile, on to those results: total organic sales were down 11%, in large part due to the lack of travel retail, with Ballantine’s shrinking by 8% and Chivas declining 17%. But there are grounds for optimism, with The Glenlivet cementing its position as number one single malt in the US, up 16%, Royal Salute expanding in Taiwan and South Korea, and Chivas growing in 34 markets including Turkey, Russia and Germany. Overall, there was confidence that Pernod Ricard had weathered the COVID storm as well as could be expected. Coutures added: “Our business and brands have responded with agility and resilience in the face of unprecedented market conditions, in many instances outperforming the category. We remain confident in the strength of our portfolio and the Scotch category as a whole, especially in its ability to withstand and overcome external challenges.” Now, if only the Scottish government could be a little more helpful… 

Long-time master distiller Jeff Arnett is to step down from his role at Jack Daniel’s

Jack Daniel’s master distiller to step down

Big news from Tennessee this week. Jeff Arnett, the man at the production helm of Jack Daniel’s for a whopping 12 years, announced he was leaving his role. This is significant stuff for Jack Daniel’s, the world’s biggest selling American whiskey. Arnett oversaw milling, fermentation, distillation, charcoal filtration and maturation, so these are some pretty sizeable shoes to fill. Parent company Brown-Forman hasn’t said why he’s leaving, or given word of his replacement. But Jack Daniel’s senior vice president, Larry Combs, did say: “Jeff has worked tirelessly on behalf of the distillery and brought with him the creativity and the expertise that makes Jack Daniel’s the most valuable whiskey brand in the world.” Arnett said his time with the brand had been “an incredible chapter”, but didn’t say what he’d be up to next. We’re thoroughly intrigued by the proceedings, and wish Arnett all the best!

The Nightcap

Is there anything he can’t do?

Snoop Dogg announces his latest creation: INDOGGO Gin

Not content with being a hip-hop legend and all-round entertainment icon, Snoop Dogg has once again turned his attention to conquering the booze industry. The creator of the classic hip-hop anthem ‘Gin and Juice’ has founded his own gin brand: INDOGGO Gin. Following a partnership with Treasury Wine Estates to release a California red blend under the 19 Crimes brand called Snoop Cali Red earlier in the year, Snoop Dogg teamed up with his friend and spirits veteran, Keenan Towns of Trusted Spirits and spirits importer Prestige Beverage Group this time to release INDOGGO Gin. The expression, which is housed in a purple bottle features a white logo with upturned ‘G’s in a hat tip to the fruit-infused gin being a remix on the classic juniper-dominant style, was distilled five times and features seven botanicals, including orange, coriander and cassia and is infused with “all-natural strawberry flavour” with no added sugar. “I can’t wait for the world to taste my remix on gin! When I wrote Gin & Juice back in ’94 it was about good feelings and real experiences, it just naturally became an anthem,” Snoop Dogg said. “When creating Indoggo, I wanted to give those feelings new life with an approachable juicy gin that’s smooth like the D.O. Double G.” INDOGGO Gin will first launch in Snoop’s home state of California in late September before it’s released throughout the rest of US through 2021, so if you can’t get your hands on it you can at least pour yourself something delicious and sing those seminal words: “Rollin down the street, smokin’ indo, sippin’ on gin and juice/ Laid back (with my mind on my money and my money on my mind.”

The Nightcap

It’s rare to see Ardbeg of this age so it’s particularly exciting news!

The second batch of Ardbeg Traigh Bhan is (nearly) here!

The second batch of Ardbeg Traigh Bhan is here! Or nearly here, it will be arriving at MoM towers soon. We liked the first release so much that we travelled up to Edinburgh with a film crew to listen to Brendan McCarron wax lyrical about it, video link here. The series is named after the beaches of Traigh Bhan (pronounced tri-van) on Islay which are known locally as ‘the singing sands’ because the noise the tide makes on the sand. This latest batch was matured in American oak and oloroso sherry casks for 19 years and bottled at 46.2% ABV with an RRP of £199. There’s a higher proportion of first-fill bourbon casks in the blend alongside refills and sherry casks. Dr Bill Lumsden commented: “To me, this whisky is the epitome of an aged Ardbeg. It somehow manages to balance the complex with the classic. It’s a truly unique bottling and we hope Ardbeggians everywhere look forward to comparing notes with the previous batch. I know I did!” Not only is the whisky special but the packaging is innovative too: each Traigh Bhan whisky carries its own unique batch code, batch symbol and signature from one of the Ardbeg team; this year it’s Jackie Thomson, the visitor centre manager. She said: “the small quirks and originalities on the bottle itself make it highly collectable – something we know our Ardbeg fans love.” They certainly do. Watch the New Arrivals page of the MoM website. It should be with us soon. 

The Nightcap

We can’t wait for this book to come out in October

Johnnie Walker book is coming

Have you ever wanted to know more about the man behind the world’s best-selling whisky, Mr John Walker? No? Well, we do. And now our curiosity is about to be sated with the imminent arrival of a new book called Johnnie Walker: A Long Stride. Its author, historian and Diageo’s grandly-titled head of whisky outreach Dr Nick Morgan, has been labouring in the company’s extensive archives for a good few years, and we can’t wait to find out what he has uncovered. It’s not just the story of the man, but also the brand up to the present day. According to the press release: “By doing things their own way, Johnnie Walker overturned the conventions of late Victorian and Edwardian Britain, survived two world wars and flourished despite the Great Depression to become the first truly global whisky brand, revolutionising the world of advertising along the way.” And you thought they just made delicious whisky. We’re hoping to host Dr Nick on the blog sometime soon to tell us more. 

The Nightcap

We’re very jealous of whoever gets their hands on this 47-year-old single cask whisky

Gordon & MacPhail launches 47-year-old whisky to mark 125th anniversary

Gordon & MacPhail has announced that it will launch four rare bottlings of single malt Scotch whisky to commemorate the company’s 125-year history. The independent bottler and distiller has been doing its thing since 1895, releasing all kinds of delicious single malts from over 100 celebrated, little-known, or closed distilleries. Each exceptionally rare whisky will come from casks from a closed distillery or made on Lomond stills that are no longer in production and will be released periodically during the rest of 2020. The first of which is the Gordon & MacPhail 1972 from Coleburn Distillery in Speyside, which is particularly fitting given the distillery is situated just four miles from the company’s Elgin home. The 47-Year-Old single cask whisky is said to be sweet, intense and complex with notes of butterscotch, apricot, cooked apples and mint, a profile it attained after spending its entire maturation in a refill sherry puncheon (cask 3511) before it was bottled at cask strength, 62.4% ABV. “The whiskies we have chosen to commemorate our 125th Anniversary are all truly unique and seldom seen in the market,” says Stephen Rankin, a fourth-generation member of Gordon & MacPhail’s owning family and the company’s director of prestige. “They are bottled from the last remaining casks we have from these distilleries, and marks an emotional moment for my family as they leave the Gordon & MacPhail warehouse after being left to mature by my grandfather many decades ago.”

The Nightcap

We’re delighted to see one of London’s finest bars return

Tayēr + Elementary opens its doors

Award-winning cocktail bar Tayēr + Elementary re-opened its doors following its closure during the lockdown period. Alex Kratena and Monica Berg will stagger the return in two phases, Tayēr will return in October and the venue’s front bar concept Elementary opening from at the beginning of this month from 3pm until midnight Tuesday and Wednesday, and 3pm-1am Thursday – Saturday. Its new outside terrace to help enable social distancing will make its debut and food from new chef partners Kitchen FM will be available, including the pig’s head croquette (mmmmm, pig’s head), served with kimchi and oyster mayo, deep fry chicken, with a smoked and spicy maple glaze and pickles and desserts such as the plum jam with ginger ice cream. Elementary’s drinks offering will feature the bar’s signature classics such as the One Sip Martini, Whey Sour and ēe Frozen Coffee alongside new highballs, beers, wines and seasonal cocktails. The Bottle Shop will be available for takeaway, serving all of the bar’s own ready-to-drink cocktails, which were launched by the team during lockdown, such as the Bergamot Margarita and Palo Santo Gimlet, as well as a selection of beers and wines to takeaway. 

The Nightcap

Congratulations Pierrick!

Lagavulin gets a new distillery manager

Big transfer news on Islay: Pierrick Guillaume is moving from Caol Ila to take up the role of distillery manager at Lagavulin. Frenchman Guillaume has been with Diageo for eight years with stints at Mortlach and Talisker before the move to Islay and Caol Ila in 2017. Having met and tasted with Guillaume we can vouch that not only is he a lovely chap but extremely knowledgeable. He commented: “It is a great honour to be asked to take on the role of Lagavulin distillery manager. Lagavulin is a whisky that is revered around the world and it’s a great privilege to be joining the outstanding team that makes this exceptional Scotch whisky and I can’t wait to get started.” Meanwhile, there are some big boots to fill at Caol Ila and stepping up is Samuel Hale who is currently the manager of Port Ellen Maltings. If you want to know more, why not tune into our Scotch and Sofa whisky festival tomorrow, 5 September? At 2pm both Guillaume and Hale will be taking a boat trip to Islay alongside Colin Dunn from Diageo and Henry Jeffreys from Master of Malt. 

The Nightcap

The Delevigne sisters are the latest celebs to embrace the world of booze

Celebrity booze continues with Pimm’s competition and Delevigne Prosecco

Celebrities and booze go together like caviar (the celebrity of the seafood world) and Champagne (the celebrity of the wine world). As such, we’ve got double trouble on the celebrity booze front for you this week. First up, we have the Delevigne sisters who have launched their own Prosecco! The sisters, Chloe, Poppy and Cara, called their creation Della Vite, which, although it sounds a lot like their last name, actually translates as ‘of the vine’. Having partnered with the Biasiotto family, two expressions are being launched this month, Della Vite Prosecco Superiore (DOCG) and Della Vite Prosecco Treviso (DOC). “Placing sustainability first and using agricultural methods that don’t rely heavily on the industry is at the core Della Vite’s values,” said Cara. “We spent four months looking for the perfect winery to align with our vision and are so proud to have created two exceptional Proseccos that are both sustainably produced and 100% certified vegan.” There’s no label, with the bottle sporting the brand signature created by Poppy Delevingne. Well, that’s one way of getting her autograph. From Prosecco to Pimm’s, the latter has launched a competition to try and make up for the strange summer Britain has had! Louise Redknapp is spearheading this one, giving the public the chance to win an afternoon with the Pimm’s O’Clock Truck! The winner will get to enjoy it at home for the day with a small gathering of friends and family (complying with COVID regulations, obviously). If you want to enter, snap a photo-sharing Pimm’s with your pals onto Instagram. Make sure you follow @Pimmsgb on Instagram, tag @Pimmsgb and use #TheOriginalTasteOfSummer. You have until 7 September to get your photos up, so get the pitcher out quick!

The Nightcap

Keep an eye out because this historic whisky is on its way to MoM Towers!

Isle of Raasay inaugural release sells out (yes, we will be getting some in)

If you were hoping to get your hands on a bottle of Isle of Raasay Distillery’s inaugural single malt, set to launch in November 2020, we have bad news. It’s already sold out. Before it’s even been bottled. Okay, let us explain. Out of its expected outturn of 7,500 bottles, the distillery set aside 4,350 bottles for an online pre-sale. Obviously these went like hotcakes, while the rest of the bottles have been snapped up by a selection of international markets, specialist retailers, restaurants and bars. It’s no wonder too, with the lightly peated whisky matured in first-fill American oak and set to be finished in 21 first fill Bordeaux red wine casks. “We are delighted to have sold out of our Isle of Raasay Single Malt Inaugural Release before it’s bottled in November,” said Isle of Raasay co-founder Alasdair Day. “This is the first legal whisky from an island rooted in centuries of illicit distilling, so it really is a piece of Scotch whisky history!” There is still hope for a bottle though! Make sure you keep an eye out on MoM new arrivals because we’ve got your back and will be stocking the historic whisky. Keep your other eye on its social channels (@RaasayDistillery), because we also heard that the distillery is launching a competition in October with the chance to win one of the prized bottles. 

The Nightcap

We recommend this tea made with whisky. It’s much nicer than it sounds.

And finally… WHISKY… TEA?

When we heard about Whisky Tea, we thought of the great Peter Kay and his cheesecake routine: “WHISKY…. TEA? Are my ears playing tricks on me?” Well, this is no joke, it’s the latest product from Edinburgh-based Pekotea. We were sent some samples and suitably impressed. These are quality teas, not a gimmick. One of the brains behind it, Jon Cooper, filled us in: “There are some close analogies between whisky and tea and we wanted to create something that would reflect this in tea blends. Just like the different regions of tea giving different flavours and aromas, we thought it would be great to make teas that reflected the main Scotch whisky regions. Each of the teas contains a different blend of base tea with added fruit and spices as well as the whisky and a little flavour oil to highlight the nose of each of the whiskies. We wanted to bring out the main aromas associated with each area.” For example, the Campbeltown expression is made from a blend of black tea with cacao nibs, currants and cornflower steeped in high strength whisky with essential oil and then dried. It tastes rich and fruity, the perfect after-dinner tea instead of coffee, or indeed a dram. 

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The Nightcap: 21 August

Ryan Reynolds, free rosé, a gin-based streaming service and a world-record breaking whisky. All on this week’s Nightcap.  It’s now raining and grey and miserable again at MoM Towers, which…

Ryan Reynolds, free rosé, a gin-based streaming service and a world-record breaking whisky. All on this week’s Nightcap. 

It’s now raining and grey and miserable again at MoM Towers, which means the quintessential British summer is officially back on. This is good news for those of us who loathe sun cream and sand and instead prefer large woolly jumpers, hot drinks and just generally being indoors. But there is one thing that unites the introverts and extroverts of this world and that’s a love of the weekend, which are especially good when they begin with another cracking edition of The Nightcap. Which is exactly what we have here, so read on!

This week on the blog we launched a new series called MoM Loves which featured NÜTRL’s shiny new range of vodka sodas. Lucy then threw a pisco disco, Henry enjoyed a Champagne that tells the story behind the wines and Annie spoke with Julieann Fernandez about all things Deanston. Before she grabbed five minutes with the Highland distillery’s master blender Annie concluded her series on Icelandic spirits, while Adam learnt all about the groundbreaking story behind a brotherly bourbon and then made himself a Blood and Sand. Because if you could make a Blood and Sand, why wouldn’t you? Oh, and the virtual whisky spectacular Scotch and Sofa is just a fortnight away so if you still need to pick up a tasting set do so now! Onwards to The Nightcap! 

Diageo buys Ryan Reynolds’ Aviation Gin 

Diageo has had a busy week once again, this time adding Aviation Gin, the brand co-owned by Deadpool actor Ryan Reynolds, to its already considerable portfolio. The drinks giant’s new acquisition of Aviation parent, Davos Brands is reportedly worth £466m (£271 million immediately and up to £210 million more in performance-based incentives over the next decade) and includes its other signature brands, Astral Tequila, Sombra Mezcal and TYKU Sake, which means a greater share of those fast-growing agave and sake markets. The owner of Johnnie Walker and Guinness loves splashing the cash on drinks companies associated with a handsome leading man it seems, after it also purchased the Tequila brand Casamigos, which was co-founded by George Clooney, for $1bn in 2017. While the value of the deal to the actor was not disclosed, we do know that Reynolds will stay onboard as a stakeholder and public face for the brand moving forward. Which makes sense. The guy is phenomenally good at marketing his own brand. Seriously. “A little over two years ago, I became an owner of Aviation Gin because I love the taste of Aviation more than any other spirit. What I didn’t expect was the sheer creative joy learning a new industry would bring. Growing the brand with my company, Maximum Effort Marketing, has been among the most fulfilling projects I’ve ever been involved with,” said Reynolds. “I want to thank Diageo for their incredible team and passion. We’re so excited for the next chapter of Aviation Gin, which, I promise, will require just as little reading”. 

The Nightcap

The doc will explore the “alchemy of a brand and what it takes to create an icon”

Johnnie Walker releases limited edition bottles and news of a documentary

It’s been a big week for Johnnie Walker, that’s for sure! First came the announcement that the brand released not one, but three new snazzy limited edition bottlings. Now you can get rare, colourful bottles of the Red Label, Black Label and Gold Label Reserve whiskies, all in honour of its 200th anniversary. Gone are the transparent glass bottles of yore, these new designs are looking bold in block colours. “These limited edition bottles give a bold new look to our most iconic whiskies and perfectly celebrate Johnnie Walker’s depth of character as we celebrate this incredible 200-year milestone,” said brand ambassador Ali Reynolds. Well, it’ll certainly make for a colourful drinks cabinet, and you can grab the limited edition Black Label from MoM right now! The other snippet of news that came our way this week was that award-winning film director Anthony Wonke is making a film about Johnnie Walker! The Man Who Walked Around the World will be a feature documentary, exploring the success of Johnnie Walker over 200 years. “The story of Johnnie Walker is fascinating. It explores the alchemy of a brand and what it takes to create an icon,” said Wonke. “It has punch and depth – a brilliant history packed with intrigue and romanticism. Dig deeper and we find it has the potential to be so much more – a story about what makes us human, the things we can achieve and what keeps pushing us forward.” It’ll premiere later this year (the exact date is currently unknown), and we know what we’ll be drinking when we sit down to watch that! 

The Nightcap

The Champagne region has been faced with climate change, a global pandemic and economic uncertainty

Champagne announces earliest ever harvest

In an unprecedented move, the Champagne region began its earliest ever harvest on record this week. It’s a direct result of climate change as warmer temperatures have fuelled early ripening of the prized grapes. The Champagne industry has been aware of the battle it faces against global warming for some time and was the first wine-growing region to carry out a carbon footprint assessment and identify the main sources of emissions back in 2002. Already 24% of the area has environmental certification and by 2030 the aim is that number will be 100%. The region also plans to be herbicide free by 2025 and reduce its carbon footprint by 75% per bottle by 2050, having already reduced it over the last 15 years by 20%. “Unprecedented year calls for unprecedented measures. Faced with climate change, a global pandemic and economic uncertainty, the Champagne region, not immune but ever-ready has agreed on a yield reduction (8,000 kilos/hectare vs 10,200 last year), a degree of deferred bottling and grape payment, united by an unflinchingly long-term commitment to sustainability,” says Francoise Peretti, director of Champagne Bureau UK and spokesperson for the Champagne industry in the UK, “Pragmatism, resilience and optimism reign over the 2020 harvest which is showing the signs of being one of the most qualitative year, reminiscent of 1988, 1989, 1990, 2018 and 2019”.

The Nightcap

Congratulations to Colin Gordon!

Ardbeg welcomes new distillery manager Colin Gordon

You might remember a while back we reported that Mickey Heads, Ardbeg’s distillery manager, was planning to retire after 13 years at the helm leaving big boots (as well as casks) to fill at the Islay distillery. Now Ardbeg has announced his successor: the wonderful Colin Gordon! You’ll almost certainly know Gordon from his time as distillery manager at Lagavulin Distillery and the former Diageo man also worked as the site operations manager at the Port Ellen Maltings, which provides barley to eight of the 10 Islay distilleries. Heads, meanwhile, has agreed to continue in his role as Chair of the Ardbeg Committee, the worldwide army of Ardbeg fans. “Ardbeg is an iconic name in whisky with an immense reputation. I’m absolutely delighted to be joining an experienced team producing such an exceptional dram”, says Colin Gordon. “Ardbeg has built a reputation for producing amazing whiskies with Mickey Heads at the helm. He is a huge name in the industry and will be a very hard act to follow. It’s a privilege to be chosen to take over the reins from him. Islay has been our home for five years and to be given the honour of overseeing the running of Ardbeg is very special indeed. I will do my very best to protect and enhance the reputation of the distillery and ensure it keeps producing the world-class spirit of Ardbeg.”

The Nightcap

You’re looking at a record-breaker, folks

Nc’nean’s first whisky sets world record at £41,004

Nc’nean has broken a world record after the first bottle of its inaugural single malt whisky sold for £41,004 during an online auction. Bottle number one of the Highland distillery’s expression Ainnir, an unpeated no-age-statement whisky made from organic Scottish barley and matured a combination of five casks before it was bottled at natural cask strength (60.3% ABV), quadrupled the previous record and all 1,320 bottles of the inaugural whisky sold out within 36 hours. The first 10 bottles of Ainnir single malt were sold on Whisky Auctioneer in August to raise money for five charities and attracted more than 852 bids from 13 countries. In total, the auction raised more than £92,000 and all proceeds from the auction will be split between charities including Trees for Life, The Drinks Trust, The Ben, The Scottish Farm Land Trust and Morvern Community Trust. “We could not be happier with the success of this auction,” said Nc’nean founder Annabel Thomas. “I’m really proud that Nc’nean has been able to give something back to support charities and the hospitality industry that has been particularly hard hit recently.” Thomas also said to watch this space for the next chapter in the Nc’nean story and that the brand has some exciting announcements ahead…

The Nightcap

The £10 million fund will help the UK’s distilleries become more environmentally sustainable

£10m eco funding aims to turn Scotch whisky green

Drinks lovers will soon be able to enjoy a dram in the knowledge that they are helping to cut carbon emissions and support new green jobs. That’s because Kwasi Kwarteng, Minister for Energy and Clean Growth, announced the opening of a £10 million fund to be used to kick-start green innovation across the UK’s distillery industry. The move gives backing to distilleries across the UK to harness energy sources such as low-carbon hydrogen, biomass and repurposed waste to power their operations. Furthermore, enabling technology such as fuel conversion, transportation or storage will also be considered. Essentially, government funding will help distilleries continue to produce tasty tipples while contributing to taking pollution equivalent to emissions from 100,000 cars out of the atmosphere. “We want to harness the tremendous innovation of our distilleries so customers can enjoy their favourite tipple in the knowledge they are helping us to tackle climate change”, says Kwarteng. “In 2019, the UK distilleries industry grew by 20%, demonstrating the opportunity for the sector to be at the heart of a clean and resilient recovery.”

The Nightcap

It’s coming home, it’s coming home, Select Aperitivo is coming home. . . to Venice.

Select Aperitivo is coming home to Venice

If you want to make a proper Venetian spritz, do as the locals do and reach for a bottle of Select Aperitvo. This classic drink was originally produced in the Castello district but production had moved out of the city. But now, like football once did, it’s coming home! Parent company Montenegro has announced the plans for the ‘Ca’ Select’ (House of Select) housed in a former industrial laboratory in the Cannaregio district. The maceration of Select’s botanicals will take place at the new facility which has been revamped by Marcante-Testa studio alongside a tasting area and events space. Marco Ferrari, CEO of Gruppo Montenegro commented:We have chosen to build an experiential site that brings the heart of the production process back to Venice and allows us to share it with the city and its inhabitants. We want to communicate, in a widespread way, the quality and tradition but also the research and innovation of our brand.” Venice’s mayor, Luigi Brugnaro, added: “The City of Venice and I am proud that an important brand, such as  Select,  is  returning  to  produce  in  the  place  that  saw  its  birth  100  years  ago.” Great news, we’re going to celebrate with a Select Bicycletta

The Nightcap

#thefutureisrosé

Free rosé at restaurants around the country

It’s definitely been the summer of rosé. And COVID, of course, but we like to accentuate the positive here at Master of Malt. All that lovely weather had us reaching for the rosé bottle again and again. Now, to encourage people to eat out once more, everyone’s favourite rosé-focused industry body Vins de Provence has teamed up with independent restaurants and wine bars around the country offering various rosé-tinted special offers. For example, in London Lady of the Grapes in Covent Garden is offering a free glass with three plates per person, and Blandford Comptoir will serve you a free glass of AIX rosé with a two-course lunch menu; while down in Eastbourne the first 50 diners through the door at The Grand Hotel get a free glass. Offer runs during August and September, go to Instagram for more information. But that’s not all, share your rosé photos @vinsdeprovenceuk and #thefutureisrosé, and you’ll be in with a chance of winning a case of Provence’s finest. 

The Nightcap

Face masks made out of milk. Yes, we’re serious.

Discarded makes face masks out of milk

In case you hadn’t noticed, face masks (and not the cleansing clay type) have become the next big compulsory pandemic accessory. But the plight of single use face masks is a nightmare, harming marine life and adding to the hoard of single use waste. The clever folks behind Discarded have once again engaged their crafty brains and figured out a way to reuse waste products to make something wonderful – it’s not a vermouth or rum this time, but face masks! Discarded teamed up with Mi Terro, a company that extracts the casein protein molecules from the bacteria found in milk that’s past its best. Then, using something very complicated called dynamic flow shear spinning, it creates sustainable fibres, and these fibres are used to create the masks. That’s not all, because these catchily-named Milk Masks are being distributed by Discarded to London bars for free, while furlough staff from the hospitality sector were employed to make the face masks. We love all this positive news! “Typically, face masks are single use and have been named the new plastic bottle as they contribute to marine debris with a 450-year lifespan,” said Shana Gujral, William Grant & Sons marketing executive. “So in true Discarded Spirits fashion, we sourced fabric, which uses biotechnology to turn wasted milk into cotton fibres.” When life gives you sour milk, what else is there to do but make face masks?

The Nightcap

Yep. That’s a squirrel in a top hat eating a cucumber and watching a waterfall

And finally…Hendrick’s Gin launches unusual streaming service

If there ever was one, 2020 has been the summer of streaming, which goes some way to explaining the onslaught of subscription-based programming recently. Fortunately, Hendrick’s Gin has embraced its self-appointed moniker as the ‘world’s most unusual gin’ and decided to respond by creating its own streaming service. No, really. It’s available free of charge. There’s no subscription necessary to the 21+ audience. Oh, and it’s entirely made up of footage of three serene streams: The Brook that Dared, Cucumber Creek, and Little Falls with Rosy Dreams. This is not an April Fools prank. We swear. Look, check the link. See? It’s all real. The brand says round-the-clock access of bodies of water should offer a tranquil alternative to the ever-expanding maelstrom of choices of conventional streaming platforms. “Quite honestly, we find the array of films and shows available on conventional streaming to be quite mind-numbing,” states Vance Henderson, U.S. Ambassador for the Scottish-based gin maker. “Our stream-focused streaming service will provide a leisurely alternative, coupled with insights into how best to sip Hendrick’s cocktails while you watch”. For maximum stream gazing enjoyment (I can’t believe I’m writing this. I wanted to write the next great American novel, what happened?) Hendrick’s recommends going for either Hendrick’s Rickey, the Cucumber Lemonade or the delightful Floradora as your streamside cocktail.

1 Comment on The Nightcap: 21 August

Come and join us for Scotch & Sofa!

** MISSED OUT ON SCOTCH & SOFA?** Don’t panic! You can still snap up a set and taste along with the action by clicking right here. Pining for whisky festivals?…

** MISSED OUT ON SCOTCH & SOFA?** Don’t panic! You can still snap up a set and taste along with the action by clicking right here.

Pining for whisky festivals? Us too. But fear not! Join us on Saturday 5 September for the ultimate virtual whisky festival: it’s Scotch & Sofa!

Nothing beats the vibe of a whisky festival. Old friends, new faces, and oodles of new drams to be discovered (responsibly of course!). One of the (many, let’s say) downsides to the current, ahem, unusual situation is the lack of whisky festivals. But never fear. We’re here to save that aspect of summer with Scotch & Sofa!

We’ve teamed up with our friends at Diageo to bring you the ultimate virtual whisky festival. We’ve put together a full-day fiesta of all things whisky. Get set for eight sessions, filled to the brim with delicious drams and ace folks, streaming live on Facebook. You’ll even be able to nab a tasting set to really immerse yourself in all things festival.

Charge the tasting glasses!

Pour a dram and tune in

Yes! From 12pm on Saturday 5 September, we’ve got an action-packed programme of tastings, chats and general fun and frivolity, and you’ll be able to join from the comfort of your sofa. 

Each 45-minute session will see a group of experts explore a theme, with three different samples specially picked for the occasion. Seven of the eight sessions have a specially curated tasting set too – snap one up and you’ll be all set to take part! But you’ll need to be quick; there’s only a limited number of each available. 

Missed out? Never fear! Just check out our Facebook page, and you’ll be able to follow all the fun of the festival. Pour one of your favourite drams and join in the chat anyway. Everyone is welcome!

Scotch & Sofa

It’s the ultimate virtual whisky festival. Get set for Scotch and Sofa!

The all-important programme

So what has Scotch & Sofa got in store? Here’s how the day is shaping up. 

Scotch & Sofa

12pm: Ghost & Rare Distilleries

And we kick off proceedings with something really special indeed! TJ Littlejohn, malt whisky ambassador, Colin Dunn, whisky ambassador, and Ewan Gunn, global whisky master, join our editor, Kristiane Sherry, to taste through Johnnie Walker Blue Label – Ghost & Rare Glenury Royal, Johnnie Walker Blue Label – Ghost & Rare Port Ellen and Caol Ila Unpeated 15 Year Old from the 2018 Special Release collection. Exceptional stuff all round. 

Nab a tasting set here.

Scotch & Sofa

1pm: Campfire at Skye

Can’t travel this summer? No problem! We’re taking a trip to the stunning Isle of Skye through the medium of our tasting glasses, and a Talisker exploration. Join Jason Clark, Talisker brand ambassador, Diane Farrell, distillery manager, and our very own campaigns manager, Laura Carl, as they indulge in and discuss Talisker 10 Year Old, Talisker 18 Year Old, and Talisker Port Ruighe.

Get your tasty ticket to Skye here.

Scotch & Sofa

2pm: Boat Trip to Islay

The island-hopping continues! This time, TJ, Colin Dunn, Pierrick Guillaume, Caol Ila distillery manager, and Henry Jeffreys, our features editor, check out the spoils of two great Islay distilleries: Lagavulin and Caol Ila. The line-up features Lagavulin 16 Year Old, the wonderful Lagavulin 8 Year Old, and Caol Ila Unpeated 15 Year Old from Special Release 2018. 

All aboard with the Boat Trip to Islay tasting sets here!

Scotch & Sofa

3pm: Johnnie Walker Deconstructed 

Partial to a drop of Johnnie Walker? Intrigued by how the constituent parts of a blend come together for the finished product? Wonder no more! Ali Reynolds, luxury Reserve brand ambassador, Tom Jones, global Scotch whisky ambassador, Emma Walker, Johnnie Walker master blender, and our editor Kristiane Sherry delve behind the scenes and into the secrets of Johnnie Walker Black Label 12 Year Old, through Cardhu 12 Year Old and Caol Ila 12 Year Old!

Grab your component parts with a tasting set right here.

Scotch & Sofa

4pm: The Ultimate Johnnie Walker Tasting Experience

If you enjoy the finer whiskies in life, then this trio of tantalizing blends will be right up your street. Join Ali Reynolds, Georgie Crawford, Port Ellen distillery manager, Jim Beveridge, Johnnie Walker master blender, and Kristiane Sherry as they jump right into some of the most decadent bottlings to be found under the Johnnie Walker name. Drams include The John Walker King George V, The John Walker, and Johnnie Walker Blue Label!

You can find the ultimate tasting set here!

Scotch & Sofa

5pm: Before & After: Lower proof serves and small plates

We reckon we’ll be up for a bit of a snack by this point, so it’s perfect timing for Lauren Mote, Diageo’s global cocktailian, and Mark Moriarty, global gastronomer, to take over! They’ll be celebrating the spirit of Scotland in digestif and aperitif form, with accompanying small plates. Featured whiskies include Talisker and Johnnie Walker Gold! Prepare to be inspired. 

Scotch & Sofa

6pm: Mixing Whisky: Highballs

What’s easy peasy, extra delicious, and all-round extraordinary? The great whisky Highball! Don’t believe us? Then tune in to see TJ, Ervin Trykowski, global Scotch whisky ambassador for The Singleton, Ali Reynolds and Laura Carl celebrate and generally revel in the finest of whisky serves (we’re not biased at all…). Whiskies include Talisker Skye, Singleton of Dufftown 12 Year Old, and Johnnie Walker Black Label 12 Year Old. Delightful!

Grab your Highball whisky set right here!

Scotch & Sofa

7pm: Speyside Flora and Fauna

We wrap up the Scotch & Sofa festivities with a session devoted to the love of Speyside, and a dip into the delicious Flora and Fauna series. TJ, Colin Dunn, Jason Clark and Henry Jeffreys will sip and savour Benrinnes 15 Year Old, Dailuaine 16 Year Old, and Linkwood 12 Year Old, while reminiscing about the magic of Speyside. Come join in!

Pick up a tasting set here.

Phew! What a day. Grab a tasting set (or two), ready the glassware, charge the laptop, and join us on 5 September over at Master of Malt’s Facebook. We can’t wait to see you!

 

2 Comments on Come and join us for Scotch & Sofa!

Johnnie Walker announces four 200th anniversary releases

It’s the 200th anniversary of the foundation of the world’s best-selling whisky brand. And Johnnie Walker is celebrating the best way possible, with the announcement of four new releases. Today,…

It’s the 200th anniversary of the foundation of the world’s best-selling whisky brand. And Johnnie Walker is celebrating the best way possible, with the announcement of four new releases.

Today, Diageo announced four new releases for Johnnie Walker. Three are all new blends and one is a redesigned limited edition release of Blue Label. It’s a double celebration as these bottles commemorate John Walker’s birthday, he was born on 25 July 1905, and 200 years since he first opened a grocer in Kilmarnock and began selling his own blend of Scotch whisky. The rest is history…

Here are the four releases:

Johnnie Walker Blue Label 200th Anniversary Limited Edition

A special edition of the classic premium blended Scotch whisky that pays homage to the brand’s global appeal with pictures of great cities and countries that are part of the Johnnie Walker story. 

RRP: around £135 for 70cl

Johnnie Walker Blue Label Legendary Eight

Whiskies for this special bottling come only from eight great distilleries that were all around when John Walker’s story began. These include rare spirits from long-closed ghost distilleries. 

RRP: £233 for 70cl

John Walker & Sons Celebratory Blend

This release takes as its inspiration Old Highland Whisky, the blend that put John Walker & Sons on the world map in the 1860s. Only distilleries that were around at that time go into the Celebratory Blend and the packaging features the only existing image of that original Kilmarnock grocery store. 

RRP: £50 70cl.

John Walker & Sons Bicentenary Blend

John Walker’s shop was a general grocer’s shop, it didn’t just sell whisky, so would have picked with goods from all over the world. This blend is inspired by the rich and exotic flavours that Walker himself would have been surrounded with as he worked. It’s made with some seriously rare whiskies including some from ghost distilleries including Pittyvaich, Cambus and Port Ellen. 

RRP: £740 for 70cl.

Johnnie Walker master blender Jim Beveridge commented: “Each of these exclusive releases bring a fresh perspective to our 200th anniversary story and are the perfect way to celebrate this huge moment for Johnnie Walker. It feels very apt to be announcing them this week to coincide with John Walker’s birthday.” 

John Williams, Diageo global Scotch director, added: “Our 200th anniversary releases are inspired by the moment our founder, John Walker, first opened the door to his grocer’s store in Kilmarnock taking the first step on an incredible journey for Johnnie Walker. John’s spark, vision and entrepreneurial fire were the impetus to growing the John Walker name, our business and ultimately a new future for Scotch whisky. This year we’re celebrating the steps he first took steps that have inspired generations of our whisky makers and are at the heart of everything we do today and will do tomorrow.”

For more information go to the Johnie Walker websiteWhiskies should be arriving at Master of Malt in October. Watch this space for more information. 

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The Nightcap: 17 July

Innovation, celebrities, festivals, invisible portions of chips… It’s just another week in the bonkers world of booze. Happily, we’ve stuffed it all into another fabulous edition of The Nightcap! As…

Innovation, celebrities, festivals, invisible portions of chips… It’s just another week in the bonkers world of booze. Happily, we’ve stuffed it all into another fabulous edition of The Nightcap!

As lockdown eases, I’ve noticed that a number of articles advising how we can still make the most of a prohibited summer are starting to pop-up all over the place. The recommendations for socially-distanced summer experiences include watching a film at an open-air cinema, taking a break in a remote cabin or hosting a virtual festival at home. All decent suggestions. But there’s a sorry lack of anybody acknowledging that pouring yourself a dram, finding a comfortable seat and opening up another lovely new edition of The Nightcap is the finest way to spend a Friday night. It beats going outside and being harassed by flying ants.

On the MoM blog this week, we launched a new competition with our neighbours at Greensand Ridge to give you the chance to win a VIP trip to the distillery! Ian Buxton then returned with part two of his look at how the spirits business is coping with the COVID (spoiler, there is some good news!), as Annie gave us the lowdown on cooking with booze and the philosophy behind Japanese spirit giant Suntory. Our New Arrival of the Week was a blended Irish whiskey aged in Basque wines casks from one of the country’s newest and smallest distilleries, and for our Cocktail of the Week, Henry made the ultimate Jazz Age gin serve. It’s the Bee’s Knees. Literally.

The Nightcap

The new design will debut with Johnnie Walker in early 2021

Diageo develops first 100% plastic-free bottle 

Diageo has had a busy week, first announcing that it has created the world’s first-ever 100% plastic-free paper-based spirits bottle. The move comes after the makers of Johnnie Walker, Smirnoff and Guinness formed a partnership with Pilot Lite to launch Pulpex Limited, a sustainable packaging technology company. The ‘first-of-its-kind’, fully recyclable bottle is made from sustainably sourced pulp to meet food-safe standards and is said to have 30% less CO2 emission than PET (plastic bottles) and 90% less than glass. The new design will debut with Johnnie Walker in early 2021. “We’re proud to have created this world first. We are constantly striving to push the boundaries within sustainable packaging and this bottle has the potential to be truly ground-breaking. It feels fitting that we should launch it with Johnnie Walker, a brand that has often led the way in innovation throughout its 200 years existence,” says Ewan Andrew, chief sustainability officer, Diageo PLC.

… and a digital cask-filling system

The brand has also partnered with the University of Strathclyde to create a digital whisky cask-filling process that is projected to save Scotland’s whisky sector millions annually in inventory costs. The new digital design aims to tackle the problem of inconsistent cask-filling levels resulting from overspill, underfill and foaming by accounting for every drop that goes into each cask, allowing producers to achieve more than 99% fill consistently on a 200-litre cask in under one minute. Cask production accounts for 10% to 20% of the overall cost of whisky making and Diageo itself holds more than 11 million casks in maturation at one time. The new system hopes to “revolutionise” industry equipment and enable a “high degree of repeatability” as well as improvements to health and safety, and reduce waste.

The Nightcap

We’re not sure what ‘clean wine’ is. But we definitely know who Cameron Diaz is.

Cameron Diaz releases a ‘clean wine’

Another day, another celebrity wine, this time it’s the turn of Cameron Diaz who you may remember from such films as ‘My Best Friend’s Wedding’ and ‘There’s Something about Mary’. With her business partner Katherine Power (CEO of fashion company Who What Wear), she’s unveiled a range of wine called Avaline. But these are not just any wines, according to the press bumf the wines, a white from Spain and a rosé (natch) from France are ‘clean wines’. What does this mean? The term itself has no legal meaning but looking more closely, they appear to be fairly standard commercial bottlings, though they are made with organic grapes. Production methods include cultured rather than wild yeasts, added sulphur and finings with bentonite clay, pea protein and cream of tartar (good article here looking into this more closely). All these are completely normal things in wine production and are in no way unhealthy, but it looks like Avaline are no more ‘natural’ than most supermarket wines. Still, they might taste nice and also Cameron Diaz!

The Nightcap

Meet your wonderful host, Peter Holland!

The Scottish Rum Festival reveals day of virtual celebration

Got any plans for Saturday 25th July? Because there’s a lovely Scottish rum festival taking place that’s definitely going to be better than anything you have planned. The Scottish Rum Festival will feature tastings and masterclasses from the distilleries and independent bottlers in a showcase of the nation’s thriving rum scene. Expect delightful brands from all over Scotland, including Ninefold, Devil’s Point, Matugga, Rumburra Orach, SeaWolf, Banditti Club, BrewDog, J. Gow and Sugar House. The Floating Rum Shack and That Boutique-y Rum Company’s Peter Holland will host the event, leading you through a jam-packed day of talks and tastings with Dave Broom offering his expert opinion and entertainment from Glasgow’s Mungo’s HiFi sound system. The innovative virtual event, which is supported by Scotland Food & Drink, Scottish Distillers Association, Glencairn Crystal, and Alba Cola, aims to raise the profile of Scottish rum at a time when the rum category is increasingly in the spotlight and welcomes both rum newcomers and seasoned connoisseurs alike. If you’ve managed to get your hands on a ticket, you’ll get access to all the virtual rum sessions, as well as a tasting pack featuring 10 x 30ml Scottish rums, branded Glencairn tasting glass and a charitable donation to The BEN. For more information, you can go to the Scottish Rum Festival website.

The Nightcap

We dare say the gin is royally good… haha but all jokes aside it sold out immediately so we have no idea.

Buckingham Palace gets its very own gin 

Whether it’s Prince Charles with his Martinis or the Queen with a gin and Dubbonet, it’s well-known that the Royal Family is partial to a drop of (Queen) mother’s ruin. Now, the Firm has its very own gin partly made from botanicals grown in Buckingham Palace’s garden including lemon verbena, hawthorn berries, bay leaves and mulberry leaves. It’s a London Dry Gin from a mystery distiller and bottled at 42% ABV. Naturally, Miles Beale from the WSTA had something to say: “It is fantastic to hear that hot off the heels of the success of the English sparkling wine made from vines grown in Great Windsor Park we will now be able to try gin made from botanicals grown in the grounds of Buckingham Palace. We couldn’t really ask for a better ambassador for these great British drinks than Her Majesty the Queen. Last year British gin sales, at home and abroad, reached a record-breaking £3.2 billion. The new royal gin adds another jewel in the crown amongst an established collection of highly sought-after quality British gin brands.” All profits go to help fund the care and conservation of the Royal Collection. The only snag is the £40 gin, which was available only from Royal Collection Trust, sold out in a matter of hours but happily, MoM has plenty of alternatives.  

The Nightcap

Imagine getting this and some Nandos straight to your door. The night-in of dreams…

Asterley Bros. cocktail service is here!

While some people are getting all excited that Nando’s has started home delivery, for us, the delicious things brought to your door news is all about Asterley Bros.’ Cocktail Club. Yes, this week South London’s finest fraternal booze alchemists announced a monthly cocktail subscription service. Sign up and each month you will receive a giant cocktail pouch containing 10 servings. Each month’s offering will be seasonal and champion small producers. First, up is a Pink Negroni containing Schofield’s Dry Vermouth and Cabby’s London Dry Gin; we were given a little sample and it’s one of the most delicious things on the planet. But that’s not all, you will also receive two 50ml samples from independent brand partners to introduce you to new tastes, plus limited edition artwork, a video of Asterley Bros. creative director Joe Schofield doing some drinks magic and some nibbles to consume while drinking that month’s cocktail. All this for under £45 a month and 10% of the profits goes to Hospitality Action. Oh, and when you sign up, you will get a unique code to share and when someone signs up with your code, you will both receive a double 100ml cocktail pack totally free. It sounds like a drinks service that really delivers. 

The Nightcap

The brand ensures that its production is sustainable and that its mezcal is very tasty indeed!

Pernod Ricard ‘partners’ with Ojo de Tigre Mezcal

Got a taste for Mezcal? So does supersize drinks group Pernod Ricard. After taking a majority stake in Del Maguey in 2017, it’s at it again, this time forming a “partnership” with Ojo de Tigre. The artisanal mezcal producer uses sustainable Tobala and Espadín agave varietals to create joven and reposado expressions. The result is a sweet, herbal taste profile that Pernod Ricard reckons will ‘strengthen’ both its place in the fast-growing mezcal category, and its ‘Transform and Accelerate’ strategic plan. Details of the deal, including the size of the stake or its value, haven’t been disclosed, but Ojo de Tigre co-founder and CEO, Moises Guindi, thinks it will “recruit the next generation of drinkers”: “We believe Ojo de Tigre is well suited to this task and Pernod Ricard is the perfect partner for this mission.” Pernod Ricard’s chairman and CEO, Alexandre Ricard, added: “Ojo de Tigre’s authentic origins, mindful production and inviting taste contribute to its strong appeal among consumers. We look forward to a successful collaboration toward the brand’s future development.” Exciting times ahead!

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Remember when we used to do this together? Good times. Apart from the pandemic, obviously.

Natural born quizzers

Just because the pubs were closed didn’t mean that the great British public was going to miss out on a pub quiz. No global pandemic was going to curb our passion for trivia. At MoM we put on a virtual pub quiz for customers which proved extremely popular. While in-house Zoom meet-ups were enlivened by some extremely difficult quizzing (though with rather too many questions about Star Wars, who knew there were so many films?) Well, it seems we weren’t the only ones because the numbers are in from UK commercial print company Where The Trade Buys and they are big. How big? Well, there were 1.3 million searches for ‘pub quiz questions’ in the UK this year, up 932% on last year and 229,000 searches for ‘virtual pub quiz’, that’s up 381,767% on last year. No, there isn’t an extra digit in there, an increase of over three hundred thousand per cent! Didn’t we promise you big numbers? Looking closely at the data reveals that football questions were the most searched for followed by music. And the nation’s quizzing capital? Newcastle-upon-Tyne, with a 954% increase in searches for quiz questions. Howay the lads!

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Fred Sirieix is one of the hospitality giants supporting the initiative.

And finally. . . fancy a portion of ‘Invisible Chips’?

Hospitality Action has launched a fundraising campaign to support the hospitality industry through the magic of Invisible Chips. That’s right, you, the public, can help those working in the hospitality sector by buying a portion of ‘invisible chips’, which food outlets will add to their menu at the same price as their edible counterpart, with all proceeds going to the charity. Essentially, you buy a portion of nothing to do some good. BrewDog, Hawksmoor and Gaucho have already signed up and Invisible Chips are also available to purchase online. The initiative, which has been backed by top chefs including Fred Sirieix, Heston Blumenthal and Tom Kerridge, attempts to alleviate the struggle of workers in the industry, who have seen their place of employment close or show no signs of reopening, or position has been made redundant. Official predictions suggest unemployment will hit 10% by the end of 2020, with the hospitality industry being one of the worst affected. The campaign has assured consumers that the chips are “0% fat, 100% charity” and “simple to prepare, take up zero freezer space and never go past their use-by date”. Mark Lewis, chief executive of Hospitality Action added: “To anyone who has missed eating out these past few months, I urge you to order a portion of Invisible Chips to help those people we’ve perhaps taken for granted up until now. The hospitality industry is built on resilience and creativity and I’m confident we will recover, however, the people within it need a helping hand in the interim.”

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The Nightcap: 13 March

Tune into The Nightcap this week for news on Ardbeg’s Mickey Heads retiring, literature-based libations, and giraffes. Yes, giraffes.  Everyone is being told not to touch their own faces, or…

Tune into The Nightcap this week for news on Ardbeg’s Mickey Heads retiring, literature-based libations, and giraffes. Yes, giraffes. 

Everyone is being told not to touch their own faces, or other people’s faces. Some people are even being very specific and saying not to touch other people’s eyes, or touch other people with your eyes. That last one is generally a good bit of advice at any time. If that has drastically freed up time for your eyes, then direct them towards this edition of The Nightcap, our weekly round-up of the news from the booze world. Stay safe, folks. And for goodness’ sake, wash your hands.

On the blog this week, Ian Buxton returned to cast an eye at the biggest whisky market of all, before Kristy reminded us Mother’s Day is on the horizon. Don’t panic, though, she’s got you covered with this selection of delightfully boozy gifts. Adam was then on-hand to make sure you squeeze in some St. Patrick’s Day celebrations next week, and was feeling so patriotic that he even recommended a new Irish whiskey that has just landed at MoM Towers for our New Arrival of the Week. He then found time to talk Johnnie Walker Highballs with whisky ambassador Ali Reynolds, who was joined on the MoM blog this week by Scottish singer Kerri Watt and then Cointreau master distiller Carole Quinton. Annie then picked out five unmissable audiophile bars, while Henry suggested a great serve for those who like a cocktail that’s simple but sublime: The Kir

Don’t forget you’ve still got time to enter our competition to win an incredible VIP trip to the home of J.J. Corry! Now, onto The Nightcap!

The Nightcap

Here’s to Duncan

Former Bruichladdich manager Duncan McGillivray passes away

Incredibly sad news to open The Nightcap with this week. Duncan McGillivray, the man who worked at Islay’s Bruichladdich for almost half a century and was a compelling force in bringing the distillery back to life, passed away aged 68. He dedicated so much of his life to Bruichladdich and the wider island, and his loss will be felt keenly across the whisky world and beyond. He first joined the distillery as a trainee stillman back in 1974, then became a brewer in 1977. The distillery was mothballed in 1994, but he re-joined the team in 2001 when it was reopened by its new owners. “Looking back to 2001, the Bruichladdich re-birth seemed a dream too far; this was a time when distilleries where still being closed, a far cry from today,” said Simon Coughlin, a friend of Duncan’s, a Bruichladdich founding member, and now head of whisky for parent company, Rémy Cointreau. “If it was not for the patience of Duncan and his unwavering commitment to the cause (even if he thought we were mad sometimes!) we would not be here today.” He also said: “His influence and association with the distillery go back almost 50 years and, put simply, the resurrection of Bruichladdich and much of the success that has followed would not have been possible without the dedication of Duncan. Selfless, hard-working, gentle, determined and funny… and that’s just for starters. Everyone at Bruichladdich and those that enjoy any of our spirits can raise a glass today to thank this wonderful man.” We have our own memories of Duncan. On a 2015 visit to the distillery, our Kristy recalls a warehouse tasting with him. “He had such an incredible energy, was full of passion for the whisky, and was just so generous with his knowledge. And with the whisky… he filled our Glencairn glasses almost to the brim straight from the cask with a valinch. It was hilariously impractical. Let’s just say the pours were not delicate, but Duncan’s glee to be sharing these samples was clear to see. He was such a character.” We know what will be in our glasses this evening. Here’s to Duncan.

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Thanks for everything, Mickey!

Mickey Heads from Ardbeg retires

Sticking with Islay for a moment, and there’s double Ardbeg news this week: the distillery has released its first beer, and we have just heard that the much-loved and admired manager at the distillery, Mickey Heads, will be retiring in October. We’ve been assured that the two events are not related. Under his watch, Ardbeg picked up more Whisky of the Year and Distillery of the Year accolades than any previous manager. He has spent his whole working life on Islay and Jura, taking on the coveted role at Ardbeg in 2007. Mickey Heads said: “Being at the helm of Ardbeg for 13 years has been a great privilege. The whisky we make here is of wonderful quality, and being part of the team that creates it is fantastic. Ardbeg has such a long history, I’ve always seen myself as a custodian carrying it forward for the next generation. So, you just do it as well as you can, and with as much passion as you can.” Thomas Moradpour, CEO of The Glenmorangie Company, said: “Mickey Heads is a hugely respected figure in the world of single malt whisky and will be sorely missed by Ardbeggians everywhere. There cannot be many distillery managers who combine such a wealth of knowledge, depth of passion and warmth of welcome. On behalf of everybody who has had the pleasure of meeting or working with Mickey, I want to express gratitude for all his hard work in maintaining the quality and reputation of the Ardbeg brand. His successor will have a hard act to follow.” Thanks for all the whisky, Mickey!

The Nightcap

If you’re having whisky this good launched in your honour, you know you’ve had a great career

Johnnie Walker launches Master’s Ruby Reserve 

When you’re an OBE-honoured master blender with a remarkable career spanning four decades, there’s really only one way to celebrate your legacy properly, with delicious whisky! That’s exactly what Johnnie Walker has done for Dr. Jim Beveridge’s with its latest release, Master’s Ruby Reserve. Said to be made from “some of the finest Scotch in the Johnnie Walker reserves”, the expression is composed of eight rare whiskies that are at least forty years old from ‘ghost’ distilleries of Cambus, Carsebridge, Pittyvaich and Port Ellen as well as Talisker, Royal Lochnagar, Glendullan and Cragganmore. The good doctor personally selected all the whiskies and chose ones that evoked his earliest whisky-making memories in an attempt to create a Scotch whisky that provides a window into his distinguished career. “Every whisky that has gone into the creation of this new expression holds a special place in my heart. I worked at each of these distilleries during various points of my career and the flavours and smells of those whiskies transport me back to very happy times throughout my career at Johnnie Walker,” said Beveridge. “The ‘ghost’ whiskies from Cambus, Carsebridge and Pittyvaich bring layers of rich fruit flavour. We’ve combined this with the flavours of dark chocolate, plums and cherries found in the wonderfully aged expressions of Royal Lochnagar, Glendullan and Cragganmore and the soft aromatic sea salt notes of Talisker and Port Ellen – creating a beautiful, full-bodied whisky.” The celebratory limited-edition was bottled at 43% ABV and will retail for £15,000 exclusively through DFS duty free stores, so if you’re in the market, you’ll have to pack your bags. Only 398 bottles are being released in hand-crafted golden-red Baccarat crystal decanters as a tribute to Beveridge’s ruby anniversary. Fancy stuff.

The Nightcap

Glenmorangie wants to do its bit for this majestic creature

Save the giraffe, drink Glenmorangie

The giraffe is the mascot of Glenmorangie on account of its enormously tall stills. Now, the distillery is doing something to help preserve these most majestic of creatures whose numbers have fallen by 30% in the last 30 years. Glenmorangie has announced a three-year partnership with the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF) and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) which will help protect them in the wild, but also provide a place for them at Edinburgh Zoo. Much of the work will be focused in Uganda where half the world’s critically-endangered Nubian giraffes live, and will include protecting the animals from poaching and loss of habitat. Thomas Moradpour, president and chief executive of The Glenmorangie Company and back for a second turn in the Nightcap this week, said: “For 175 years we have created whisky, in stills as high as an adult giraffe, the tallest in Scotland. Over time, this majestic animal has become a beloved symbol of our brand. It seems only right that we should channel our passion for this animal into our new global conservation partnership with GCF and RZSS. Together, we will work to protect giraffes in the wild and shine a light on their predicament before it’s too late.” So your dram will be doing good as well as tasting good.

The Nightcap

The World Class GB Final 2019 wasn’t much more diverse…

Diageo Reserve reveals World Class GB bartenders… just 9% are women

It’s that time of year again – Diageo Reserve’s World Class bartender competition is ramping up! After a record-breaking digital entry stage (more than 450 people threw their hat into the ring), The World Class GB Top 100 has been revealed – and it’s a glittering who’s-who of the current UK bartending scene. Those on the list are now required to submit their next online entry by 6 April, ahead of an in-bar judging stage. This is when stuff really gets serious, as the 100 are whittled down to 20. But there’s one small problem. We say small, it’s actually pretty sizeable, and blindingly obvious when you take in the list. Just nine people in the top 100 are women. To put that in context (as if any more is required), there are more men on that list named some variation of Matthew or Michael (we counted. There’s 11.). Clearly something has gone amiss. Could it be that for some reason, significantly fewer women bartenders decided to take part? It’s definitely possible. And it may be the sole explanation. Or are women not progressing in cocktail competitions? If not, why not? We asked Diageo Reserve Talisker and World Class ambassador Jason Clark for his take: “Now in its twelfth year, World Class was created as a platform for everyone. Our aim is to educate and encourage all bartenders to become part of our community, to challenge themselves and compete to be the very best they can be. All entries for the competition are judged blind and based purely on the drink submission. Last year we had women finishing in third and fourth place overall and, over the GB competition’s history, we’ve had many exceptional female bartenders enter and reach the finals. We continue to look at ways to celebrate women in the industry and we can’t wait to see what the next stage of the competition holds.” One thing’s for sure – if we want to see more women reach the top of the game in the bar industry, something’s got to give.

 

The Nightcap

The Italian liqueur based around the brilliance of bergamot

Pernod Ricard splashes out on Italicus aperitivo

Just last week drinks mega-group Pernod Ricard got its wallet out to invest in Japan’s first gin producer, The Kyoto Distillery. Well, it’s a case of another week, another transaction! This time it’s bergamot-infused aperitivo Italicus that’s joining the Pernod portfolio. The 20% ABV product is described as ‘distinguishable yet versatile’, and has already become a bartender favourite since it was founded by Italian spirits expert Giuseppe Gallo in 2016. Pernod Ricard hasn’t shared the financial details of the deal, or whether the ‘strategic partnership’ – as they call it – includes any level of acquisition, but Gallo will remain the active CEO going forward. “Since its launch, the brand has experienced success with both the on-trade and consumers, and it is now time to consolidate with this heavyweight strategic partner in order to accelerate our global distribution,” he said. “We have an ambitious plan to build Italicus into one of the world’s most successful aperitivo brands.” Gilles Bogaert, chairman and CEO of Pernod Ricard EMEA-LatAm, added: “We are thrilled to add Italicus to the Pernod Ricard portfolio and for the Group to help drive its future development.” The future’s bright, the future’s bergamot-scented.

The Nightcap

Teeling is bringing its own brand of Paddy’s Day celebrations to London

Teeling bring St Paddy’s Celebrations to London

You may have heard of the luck of the Irish, now it’s time to show your love of the Irish! This St Patrick’s Day, Teeling Whiskey is bringing the Spirit of Dublin to London, in a special all-Irish celebration at Milroy’s of Spitalfields. And what a night it promises to be, with Irish fiddlers, food for the nibblers, Celtic cocktails, and of course some delicious Irish drams. And the best part of all (apart from the whisky of course…) is that the entry is free! Milroy’s doors will open at 6pm, we’ll see you there! Obviously in the current environment do check back nearer the time for confirmation that the event will go ahead. But you can still mark your diaries for St Patrick’s Day. Pop a bottle of Teeling in your basket now to make sure you can still sip along and celebrate, even if it’s at home, on 17 March!

The Nightcap

Joe Fattorini, wine merchant and TV presenter, has campaigned for lower wine taxes

Drinks industry reacts to duty freeze

It’s been a tough year for the drinks industry with trade tariffs, Brexit uncertainty and now the Coronavirus, but there was some good news as Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announced a freeze in alcohol duty rates in Britain, a country with some of the highest drink taxes in the world. Joe Fattorini, wine merchant and TV presenter, who has been campaigning for a lowering of such taxes, commented: “The recognition by the Chancellor that wine is the nation’s favourite alcoholic drink and therefore shouldn’t be singled out for tax rises is welcome news for the 33 million wine fans in the UK. Now it’s time to go one step further and cut back wine tax in the coming year.” But it wasn’t just the wine trade celebrating (responsibly, natch).  Dayalan Nayager from Diageo said: “We welcome the Chancellor’s duty freeze which will provide much-needed stability in these difficult times for the industry. We are delighted that he announced his intention to reform the duty system to bring fairness for gin and Scotch whisky, which should ensure that these iconic homegrown products no longer face punitive levels of tax.” But Karen Betts, chief executive of the SWA (Scotch Whisky Association), thinks that more needs to be done: “Our industry needs continued support, through the upcoming review of UK alcohol taxation and while our exports remain subject to US tariffs. The fact remains that duty on spirits in the UK is already very high and puts Scotch whisky at a competitive disadvantage to wine, beer and cider, with £3 in every £4 spent on an average-price bottle of Scotch whisky going to the government in tax”. Regular readers, however, will only really want to know what Nightcap favourite Miles Beale thinks. Well, the chief executive of the WSTA had this to say:  “While he has not cut duty, it is reassuring to see that in his first Budget as Chancellor, Rishi Sunak MP, has taken steps to address the UK’s excessively high duty rates. He has shown he is in touch with British consumers – from all walks of life – who want to enjoy a drink without getting stung by further tax hikes. We will all raise a glass to the Chancellor tonight, who has recognised that everyone benefits from a freeze, including the Treasury.” We’ll raise a glass with you, Miles!

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The study found millennials and Gen Zers prefer a traditional boozer

Millennials and Gen Zers’ perfect pub revealed?

It’s fair to say that in the last half-a-century or so, quite a bit has changed. We can carry our phones with us wherever we go, fax machines are something of an urban myth, and you can’t even smoke indoors anymore! Despite this (or perhaps because of it), a recent study by SpareRoom found out that, when it comes to pubs, millennials and Gen Zers are most fond of your traditional boozer. And you can wave goodbye to millennial pink. 60% of 18 to 34-year-olds prefer your traditional wooden interior, complete with fireplaces and period fixtures, with 70% preferring wooden flooring to the carpet (though we don’t think it’s just millennials that feel this way…). But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. It’s not a total step back in time that the younger generations are after. 62% prefer speedy card payments to cash, and 41% want free wifi along with their wooden beams. The humble pint has even lost its place as the drink of choice, with 49% saying that spirits are their go-to tipple. Perhaps even more interestingly, 45% say that low-alcohol serves are their top choice when taking a trip to their local! It just goes to show that even though younger generations value a trip down memory lane, if there’s not a charging point then… you’ve gone too far.

The Belloni, named in honour of Virgina Woolf’s sister, artist Vanessa Bell

And finally. . . . literature you can drink at the Academy Hotel

Books and booze go way back, from the Bible through to Shakespeare, not forgetting Dorothy Parker’s quip about her favourite drink: ‘I like to have a Martini, two at the very most. After three I’m under the table, after four I’m under my host’. Now the Academy Hotel is celebrating this special relationship with a series of cocktails inspired by that most literary part of London (and the hotel’s location): Bloomsbury. There’s The Lighthouse to honour Virginia Woolf made with Tanqueray Gin, one for her husband called the Old Fashioned Leonard made with Woodford Reserve bourbon, and, keeping it in the family, a Belloni, a take on the Negroni paying homage to her sister, the painter Vanessa Bell. According to the press bumf all the drinks are “created especially using the finest ingredients and hand-selected garnish”. No machines picking the garnishes at the Academy. No sir!

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Master of Malt tastes… Johnnie Walker whisky highballs

We tried the exclusive new collection of bottled Johnnie Walker whisky Highballs with Johnnie Walker’s whisky ambassador Ali Reynolds and discussed the role this simple but sublime serve will play…

We tried the exclusive new collection of bottled Johnnie Walker whisky Highballs with Johnnie Walker’s whisky ambassador Ali Reynolds and discussed the role this simple but sublime serve will play in the future of the spirit.

“Whisky has been quite a tired category for a while and it’s been aimed at men of a certain age for a long time. We were telling people how to drink it in terms of ‘you can only add a dash of water’ or ‘maybe one ice cube’,” says Ali Reynolds, whisky ambassador for Johnnie Walker. “There are all these flavours within the Scotch category and we should be exploring them more in cocktails. I’m always asking why isn’t whisky one of the biggest spirits on more cocktail lists? Brigadiers have been brave enough to stock four pre-bottled whisky sodas and it’s just a great way to get people into Scotch. We need to relax that conversation. Talk less about Scotch, talk more about the flavours within it”.

We’ve met to talk about the whisky Highball and its potential to bring new drinkers to the whisky category at Brigadiers, an Indian restaurant and bar in the City of London inspired by the army mess bars of India where military regiments eat, drank and socialise. It’s recently launched a series of four Highballs which are carbonated and bottled in-house made with various types of Johnnie Walker. 

Johnnie Walker as a brand is all over cocktails. The distillery’s website has a dedicated cocktail section that and a quote: “The mark of a truly great whisky is its versatility and even when mixed”. As the distillery enters its 200th year and prepares to open the Johnnie Walker whisky experience in Edinburgh, it’s understandable how much time and resource its devoting to converting people into whisky lovers. The Highball is clearly at the centre of its strategy and there’s a good reason why. As a serve it has a realistic chance of opening up the world of whisky to people who never considered it before. It’s whisky’s closest relative to the gin and tonic and a favourite of bartenders. And Japan, for that matter. It makes whisky seem modern, enticing and refreshing. 

Johnnie Walker whisky highballs

Look, it’s Johnnie Walker’s whisky ambassador Ali Reynolds!

One of the challenges for the 2019 World Class bartender competition, which was to create a pre-canned Johnnie Walker Highball. “It’s a daunting challenge because a lot of people would question how many flavours could you possibly get out of it. But every single drink was different,” Reynolds explains. “But the way bars are heading now, they want drinks that mean quick service, simplicity and easy access for their bartenders. There’s no longer five deep at the bar, someone shaking and stirring drinks until their arms are falling off. It’s quick, easy, clean and about dedicating more time to the customer than just being behind the bar, busy. Pre-bottled Highballs offer a really good way to do that”. 

Changing perceptions around whisky is very much an ongoing process, however. Reynolds recalls being told off a few years ago for combining Lagavulin 16 Year Old and Coca Cola. He was told in no uncertain terms that you don’t make a 16-year-old whisky to be mixed with Coke. By Fèis Ìle 2019, he was serving a ‘Smokey Cokey Floaty’, made with Lagavulin 16, Coca Cola and a scoop of ice cream on top. “We’re always looking to bring more diversity to the category, whether that’s women or young people. At a lot of recent events and festivals we’ve been making Highballs with peach tea, green tea, lemon, ginger and elderflower, so that’s five very different flavours,” he says. “If you went back 15 years and talked about mixing elderflower with Scotch, people would recoil and say ‘What are you talking about, what’s going on here?’ But that’s silly because I can’t honestly name another spirit category that has that breadth of flavour that Scotch has. We have the smoke, we have the sweetness, the fruit, the waxiness, the wood. It’s incredible. Accessibility is the key for us”. 

With this in mind, the first of the four expressions arrives. It’s the Jal-Jeera, a mix of Johnnie Walker Black, apple and chaat masala ginger ale. “The smoked apple note and then that addition of masala has just given it such a unique taste. It reminds me of smoked fish, kedgeree style, which is such a weird tasting note to put into something so refreshing but it really works. I’m a fiend for spicy food, I absolutely love it and this one is perfect for it,” Reynolds says of it. I think it’s fabulous, instantly refreshing and beautifully spiced and the aromatic combination of the ginger and apple is wonderful. 

Johnnie Walker whisky highballs

The Jal-Jeera, Sandalwood Sharbat and Passion Fruit Lassi

We then moved on to the Passion Fruit Lassi, a combination of Johnnie Walker Gold, passion fruit, pandan and clarified yoghurt soda. “This one I think is very much based around the Pornstar Martini. The fact that they’ve used passion fruit, yoghurt and pandan just makes it a little bit more accessible to the regular drinker. It’s super-fruity and creamy,” says Reynolds. “Gold Label has got this amazing viscosity to it and oiliness which kind of coats the palate and they’ve taken that element from it and then recreated it in a soda. If you gave this and the Sandalwood Sharbat to anyone they wouldn’t bet their money on whisky being in it.” We both agree that this isn’t our personal favourite of the selection, but it’s interesting because it totally differs from what your expectation of a whisky and soda would be in the best possible way.

Next, we tried that Sandalwood Sharbat, a Highball consisting of Johnnie Walker Green, amontillado sherry, sandalwood and banana soda. “The Green Label has got Talisker, Linkwood, Cragganmore and Caol Ila in there and the sandalwood brings out all the wonderful wood characteristics from the four distilleries. The amontillado sherry complements the bit of saltiness from the Caol Ila, but again this is a really refreshing and easygoing serve,” Reynolds says. “Throughout this range, they’ve done a really good job of dissecting the whisky in terms of its flavours”. This was probably the highlight of the range for me, it’s complex and bittersweet and ridiculously moreish. I’d drink the soda element on its own happily and the touch of sherry is beautifully measured.

Finally, we tried the showstopper of the range. The Nepalese Butter Tea, which was made from Johnnie Walker Blue Label, pineapple caramel, brown butter, milk oolong tea and Champagne, is served in a Champagne-style bottle and intended for four people to share. “The flavours are great. Whisky and Champagne is an overlooked pairing, for sure. But when we did the Blue Label tasting we agreed that it’s got waves of flavours which is why the ingredients they’ve used here, the milk oolong, the Champagne, they’re quite delicate so they don’t take away too much from the whisky,” Reynolds explains. This is by far the most indulgent of the range and it’s an interesting demonstration into how you can turn a humble serve into a premium cocktail. It’s still  refreshing enough to work as a Highball, but the butter element, in particular, adds a decadent richness that’s amazing, although I would say best enjoyed in small quantities.

Johnnie Walker whisky highballs

The decadent and delicious Nepalese Butter Tea

Tasting this range, my immediate thought is that I know people who don’t like whisky who would happily drink these cocktails. It’s an impressively comprehensive selection for just four drinks and I can imagine that there will be something there for everyone. If these Johnnie Walker whisky highballs are a sign of the direction that whisky drinking is going in, I think we’re on to something. 

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The Nightcap: 21 February

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

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

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

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

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

The Nightcap

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

Spirit of Speyside whisky festival unveils its programme

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

The Nightcap

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

‘Largest’ private whisky collection breaks records

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

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The colourless Mirror Margarita collection from specialist agave bar Hacha

London celebrates International Margarita Day

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

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

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

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

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

Australian distillers donate spirits to raise money for bushfire relief

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

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

Big Drop Brewing Co. Reveal New Design

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

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

Diageo Reserve’s World Class competition returns!

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

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

Historical Johnnie Walker artefacts to go on display

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

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

Diageo pays $5m fine over ‘misleading’ sales

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

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

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

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

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The Nightcap: 8 November

Greetings, one and all! Another week has been and gone, so that means there’s a fresh harvest of stories for The Nightcap! OK, so Halloween is done. Bonfire Night has…

Greetings, one and all! Another week has been and gone, so that means there’s a fresh harvest of stories for The Nightcap!

OK, so Halloween is done. Bonfire Night has passed. Pancake Day was ages ago. I wonder if there are any other events coming up that people are very excited about and won’t stop posting about on the internet and making us slightly panic…? If only we could see past the piles of mince pies and giant sock-shaped boxes of chocolate bars in the shops, we might be able to see if they’re advertising something (as that is where we look to find out what’s happening in the world – the displays in shops).Well, I’m sure we’ll know soon enough. In the meantime, let’s see what’s been going on in the world of boozes this week – it’s The Nightcap!

On the MoM blog this week we excitedly announced the launch of The Three Drinkers Cask Selection No. 1, the first official whisky bottling released by the Amazon Prime TV show released exclusively with, well, us! Elsewhere you’ll have noticed the return of Dram Club and Ian Buxton, who celebrated a true whisky hero in his guest feature this week. Annie then talked with Kirsteen Campbell, the new master whisky maker at The Macallan, and then created a handy little guide to sherry. We also marked Old Fashioned Week by making the classic serve our Cocktail of the Week, while Adam round-up some sublime whiskies that feature intriguing cask-finishes. Oh, and don’t forget to check out video tour of Glenrinnes Distillery!

Now, onto the Nightcap!

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Six Kingdoms, the new 15 Year Old Mortlach expression

Diageo reveals bonus ninth Game of Thrones single malt Scotch

Now, deep down we all knew that when Game of Thrones ended back in May that this wasn’t really going to be the end. The worlds of Westeros will live on through prequels (if they don’t all get cancelled) and, more importantly, through whisky! You guessed it, there’s another Game of Thrones expression out. Diageo announced the ninth and final bottling in the Game of Thrones Single Malt Scotch Whisky Collection, and it’s a 15 Year Old Mortlach dubbed Six Kingdoms. If your memory is a bit hazy, Westeros’ Seven Kingdoms, mentioned many times throughout the show, became six in the finale. Remember the independence of the North and all that? Anyway, the single malt was matured in first-fill sherry casks, with a finish in American oak bourbon casks. Flavour-wise, we can expect those hallmark beasty notes with “vanilla and spice befitting of those with a noble palate”. “Eight fantastic scotches toasted the coming of the final season of the show, and we now look back on the most captivating television show of all time and raise a ninth glass in celebration,” said Jeff Peters, vice president, licensing and retail, at HBO. It comes in a metallic gold presentation tube, decorated with an intricate pen and ink drawing of the three-eyed raven, who we’re sure would be great company to share a dram with. If this all sounds right up your street, then keep an eye (or three) on our New Arrivals page!

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Be sure to have an Old Fashioned yourself!

The UK celebrates five years of Old Fashioned Week

A landmark of the international cocktail year stirred up some action once again as Old Fashioned Week returned to bars around the world. It was the fifth anniversary of the event and in such a short amount of time it’s become quite the success. Last year 1,300 bars participated across 60 countries, an estimated 205,000 Old Fashioned cocktails were sold and the likes of Cambodia, Czech Republic, Netherlands, South Africa, Sudan and Vietnam took part for the first time. But what was on offer to enjoy this year? Aside from the obvious answer, sponsors Woodford Reserve hosted an array of experiences, events and limited edition menus with 285 bars from London, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Bristol and Cardiff. Working alongside some of its leading bartenders, the American whiskey brand created a map across the UK, featuring the likes of Swift, Murder Inc, Discount Suit Company, Three Sheets and Homeboy. “Woodford Reserve really is the perfect base for all kinds of twists on the Old Fashioned, our most popular serve,” said Mia Johansson, co-owner of Swift, Soho. We’ve taken inspiration from the ‘sweet aromatics’ flavour segment of Distiller’s Select – the backbone of the complex whiskey flavour – to craft a complex, wholesome Old Fashioned with notes directly from the award-winning mashbill. We’re delighted to have partnered with Woodford Reserve for Old Fashioned Week and look forward to welcoming cocktail lovers from across the country.”

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The new-look Blue Label

Timorous Beasties reveals limited edition Johnnie Walker Blue Label

Last night we attended the launch of a new-look Johnnie Walker Blue Label entitled the Rare Side of Scotland. It features a limited-edition bottle and pack designed by the Timorous Beasties, an award-winning Glasgow-based textile design studio. The aspect of the design you’ll notice first is the image of Aurora Borealis (the Northern Lights), shining theatrically over the Scottish Highlands, which serves as a backdrop for three of Scotland’s rare large birds: the white-tailed eagle, the curlew and the rapid eider duck (best bird name ever). These aren’t the only ‘beasties’ you’ll find, there’s also the narrow-bordered bee hawk-moth, and Scotland’s smallest butterfly – the Small Blue, as well as floral depictions of machair, saxifrage and mountain havens. “Exploring the rarest spirits from the four corners of Scotland has been a remarkable privilege and a personal passion throughout my four decades at Johnnie Walker,” says Johnnie Walker master blender Dr. Jim Beveridge. “The celebration of rare, exceptional Scotch whiskies – paired with the rare craftsmanship of our team of expert whisky makers – will always be at the very heart of Johnnie Walker Blue Label. We know that our devotion to our craft is mirrored by Timorous Beasties, and this is highlighted by these beautiful bottle designs.” Johnnie Walker Blue Label Rare Side of Scotland will be available from MoM Towers soon.

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Winter rooftop terraces are all the rage this year, darling.

It’s festive rooftop winter terrace season!

You may be thinking that, as we descend into the cooler months, it’s time to stay inside and wrap up warm. You’re mistaken! This year it looks like winter rooftop terraces are all the rage, so we thought we’d give you a sneak-peek roundup of what to expect. Firstly, Fentimans has an exciting new release, Pink Ginger, a lightly spiced botanically-brewed soft drink combining pear juice, orange and herbal extracts. To celebrate, the brand is taking over the ninth floor of London’s Skylight, which will now be home to a life size, pink gingerbread house! We’re not joking. It will be decorated with icing, candy canes, and inside you’ll find edible sweet-filled walls. (Okay, so the sweets are edible, the walls aren’t. Just to be clear.) Hansel and Gretel, eat your heart out (literally). It’s available to book in three-hour slots for groups of eight throughout the festive season, with each group receiving a cockle-warming Fentimans hot Pink Ginger cocktail on arrival. You can also just visit Skylight itself and treat yourself to a whole menu of festive Fentimans ginger drinks. Get ready to fill your boots with pink, gingery goodness from Thursday 14 November until January. Secondly, the iconic Madison’s in St Paul’s is teaming up with Belvedere Vodka and being transformed into a winter haven, dubbed The Enchanted Woods, filled with fairy lights, warm cocktails and blankets to boot. We particularly like the sound of ‘Drop It Like It’s Hot’, which sees a warming blend of Hennessy VS, Quaglia Chamomile Liquore and Italicus, with lemon and chamomile tea. It’s certainly a panoramic spot to snuggle up at and enjoy the festive views of London, and opened this week on 6 November and is running all the way through to February. So go on, get out there and get into the Christmas spirit(s)!

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At Balthazar London you’ll find a unique bottling of Maker’s Mark

Balthazar London launches whiskey in collaboration with Maker’s Mark

Not many restaurants can boast its own signature whiskey, but Balthazar, the New York-style brasserie in Covent Garden, is one of the few that can, following its partnership with Maker’s Mark Private Select. A first-of-its-kind barrelling programme, Private Select allows brands to purchase a barrel from the Kentucky distillery and create a truly bespoke spirit that encapsulates the restaurant’s distinct character. Two of Balthazar’s team spent a day at the distillery creating eight different blends, eventually settling on a mix of French and American oak finishing staves, as a nod to the inspiration behind the restaurant. Essentially a variation of Maker’s Mark 46, the whiskey was then aged for an additional nine weeks and bottled in bespoke-labelled Balthazar whiskey bottles. Expect notes of sweet butterscotch, honey, cinnamon, coffee, wood oak smoke, tobacco and dark bitter chocolate. “Balthazar was the ideal partner to work with on this new whiskey. The restaurant already boasts such an impressive collection of American whiskies so we were pleased to work with them on a unique blend,” commented Amanda Humphrey, brand ambassador for Maker’s Mark. “Its flavours of vanilla and butterscotch, mixed with bitter chocolate and cured tobacco, make it the perfect drink for both seasoned whiskey drinkers as well as the uninitiated.” Guests can enjoy the whiskey as part of a cocktail or on its own, while the chefs have also created two specially-paired dishes: a Chestnut Tortellini with Smoked Delica pumpkin and vanilla beurre noisette as well as a Gingerbread soufflé and whiskey ice cream for dessert. We can say from personal experience that they’re both delicious, as is the whiskey. You can purchase the bottling from the restaurant itself, or online for £100.

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The Chosen – due to land at MoM Towers soon!

JJ Corry unveils 27 year old The Chosen

In a really rather exciting treat for our taste buds, JJ Corry has teamed up with J. Hill’s Standard Crystal and John Galvin Design for something really rather special: The Chosen. Just 100 hand-cut decanters of the 27 year old Irish single malt single cask have been released. We checked it out at the official launch this week, and can confirm each decanter is both slightly different and as beautiful as they look, evoking the grasses on the beaches on the Wild Atlantic Way, close to the JJ Corry brand home. The ash wood cabinet is pretty swanky, too. “The Chosen is a celebration of excellence in Irish whiskey and contemporary Irish design,” said Louise McGuane, JJ Corry founder. “Irish whiskey has not been celebrated for its quality and rarity, as perhaps other categories have. We have some of the finest mature stock of whiskey in the world and yet I feel the industry undersells itself. I wanted to change that. Our approach to making Irish whiskey celebrates tradition, embraces change and has the modern whiskey drinker front of mind. All of this is reflected in The Chosen.” Each 52% ABV decanter is priced at £6,500 – keep your eyes peeled on our New Arrivals feed, they’re due in soon!

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The sign. The sign has wisdom.

On Tuesday evening, we hot-footed it up to London for one of the liveliest and most affirming bar takeovers of 2019. For one night only, Artesian bar manager Anna Sebastian brought together a dream team/army of talented women bartenders from across the industry for an evening called Celebrate Her. There were too many epic faces behind the bar to possibly name everyone, but with the likes of Pippa Guy, Sophie Bratt, Megs Miller, Cami Vidal and Sebastian herself crafting an array of signature drinks, the packed room was treated to delicious serve after delicious serve. The evening even ended with sparklers. And £1 from every drink spent went to industry wellness platform Healthy Hospo! “Celebrate her every day, celebrate this industry, celebrate each other, celebrate yourself, but above all, build a community and make the industry better,” Sebastian wrote on social after the event. Cheers to that!

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Nightcap favourite Miles Beale

Boris Johnson promises to review alcohol taxation

Boris Johnson has pledged to review Britain’s alcohol taxation system if the Conservative government win the next election. On a visit to Diageo’s Roseisle Maltings near Elgin, he said that he would conduct a “review into excise on Scotch whisky”. This is partly to alleviate the effect of the 25% tariffs that have been imposed by the US administration on Scotch whisky imports. Britain currently has some of the highest taxation on spirits in the world with an average of £3 in every £4 spent going to the state. Karen Betts from the Scotch Whisky Association commented: “A simplified alcohol duty regime in the UK to better reflect alcohol content would be fairer for consumers, increase competitiveness and remain an important driver of tax revenue.” Nightcap favourite Miles Beale, from the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, also had something to say: “The current excise duty regime doesn’t work for UK business, consumers or the Exchequer. The EU framework is unnecessarily complex and has created a distorted market and an uneven competitive playing field. Once the UK has left the EU, it would be appropriate to review the operation of excise duty. A thorough review will, however, take time. In the short term, and in order to maintain the UK position at the heart of the world wine and spirit trade, the next Chancellor should take the opportunity to take immediate action and cut excise duty ahead of any review. This would benefit UK consumers, business and increase revenue to the Exchequer.” We can but hope.

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It’s like the Terminator. But with booze.

Coming soon, a gin created by AI

The team at Circumstance Distillery in Bristol are not afraid to do things differently, whether it’s issuing their own cryptocurrency or experimenting with yeast and cereal (triticale anyone?). But this time they’ve really taken the biscuit with a gin created by artificial intelligence. Yes, just like in the Terminator, but with booze. The gin is a collaboration with technology scientists Tiny Giant and Rewrite Digital who have created a neural network that they have christened Ginette which was fed information on botanicals, recipes, labels etc. with some of the data coming from Master of Malt (that’s us!). She even came up with the gin’s name, Monker’s Garkel, from analysing 500 different brands. Oh well, at least it tastes good. Liam Hirt, co-founder of Circumstance Distillery, commented: “AI and machine learning are exciting new tools. We do a lot of contract distilling and wanted to know if these tools could make a meaningful contribution to new product development. At present they are not a substitute for the skill of the distiller, but we have clearly shown that they can make a valuable contribution to all aspects of the development process, from the recipe to the naming and labelling. We trained Ginette well, and with a little human help and guidance, her product is interesting, attractive and, most importantly, delicious.” Kerry Harrison, co-founder of Tiny Giant, added: “The creation of Monker’s Garkel has demonstrated that it’s perfectly possible to align machine predictive power and human creativity to make something delicious, valuable and commercial”. The gin will only be available from Master of Malt or direct from the distillery for £42 for a 50cl bottle.

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Graham’s 1977 was the Queen Mother’s favourite

And finally… Queen Mum’s undrunk Port goes up for auction

The Queen Mum had quite a reputation for being fond of the sauce, so when she visited The Winter Gardens Theatre in Margate in 1983, the team got in plenty of her favourite Port, Graham’s 1977. It seems they rather over-catered because 36 years later, there are still 40 bottles of the stuff left. Apparently it’s been counted in stock takes all this time, but when the last food and beverage manager retired, the new one had the brilliant idea to auction it. It goes under the hammer at Chiswick Auctions in London on 5 December. The three sealed cases of 12 are expected to go for £700-800, with an odd lot of four bottles expected to go for £100-150. Back in 1983, this wine would have been much too young to drink, perhaps why the dear old Queen Mum didn’t get through much of it. But now it should be perfectly mature. Sam Hellyer, head of Chiswick Auctions wine department, described the wines as: “Luscious, smooth, with the last hurrah of thick tannins lining the tongue and laying down a plush carpet for the chewy fig and lingering acidity to mingle on. With them came a hint of smoky and chocolately notes, the smell of cigar boxes and freshly sanded wood.” Cor!

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