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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: liqueurs

Discover the joys of crème de cassis

We visited the brand home of Lejay Lagoute, the creators of crème de cassis, to find out why you should embrace this delicious blackcurrant liqueur. I’m standing in the beautiful…

We visited the brand home of Lejay Lagoute, the creators of crème de cassis, to find out why you should embrace this delicious blackcurrant liqueur.

I’m standing in the beautiful Burgundy countryside learning about the harvest: how to plant em’, when to pick em’. In the middle of all the rolling farmland are rows of ripening fruits that will soon be made into delicious booze. But I’m not in a vineyard of Pinot Noir or Chardonnay grapes. I’m in the green fields where Lejay Lagoute harvests its blackcurrants to make crème de cassis. A number of questions cross my mind while we examine the woody shrubs. One being, how the hell did we look at all this in Britain and arrive at Ribena?

But the bigger question that sticks out is why, outside of industry types, don’t I hear much about crème de cassis? Do a quick survey of your friends. How many can tell you a) what this sweet, dark red liqueur made from blackcurrants is and b) where it comes from. In an era where provenance, heritage and brand character have never been more important and where demand for liqueurs increases annually, this seems slightly odd. They’ll probably have heard of Dijon mustard, but that’s just a recipe. Crème de cassis is different.

crème de cassis

The blackcurrant fields where Lejay harvests its ingredients

In 2015, the new protected geographical indication (PGI) for ‘Crème de Cassis de Bourgogne’ was approved, guaranteeing its Burgundian origin. If your bottle is labelled ‘Crème de Cassis de Dijon’, then it must contain blackcurrants grown in Dijon, while ‘Cassis de Bourgogne’ can only use currants grown in the greater Burgundy region. The legislation also dictated the minimum quantity of berries used in its production (the variety Noir de Bourgogne is also essential) and that liqueur must have a minimum alcoholic content of 15% ABV and contain at least 400 grams of sugar per litre.

To some it might sound like an archaic drink that lives to gather dust in the corner of a drinks cabinet, its top fused with crystallized sugar and label peeling. Fruit liqueurs are as popular as ever but have a mixed reputation thanks to some poorly made versions that are cloyingly sweet and feature bonkers flavours. But crème de cassis deserves your attention, not just for its considerable history, but mostly because each glass smells like a thick, rich compote made from real berries.

crème de cassis

The beautiful city of Dijon, home of crème de cassis.

For that, you can thank Lejay Lagoute, one of only four producers in the French city of Dijon, Burgundy. It is the original creator of crème de cassis and still makes its signature product according to the original 1841 recipe established by its founder Auguste-Denis Lagoute. “He visited Paris in the 1830s, he discovered a very popular beverage called ‘Ratafia de Neuilly’, a spirit made with some macerations of fruits and spices. He was very inspired by the idea of maceration,” explains Donatien Ferrari (is that not the best name you’ve ever heard?), global brand ambassador for Lejay Lagoute. “He started to macerate some fruits and through his experiments, he made the first crème de cassis. This idea of slow maceration was intended to maximise the potential of the fruit, without any artificial additives. Later on, Henri Lejay married Auguste-Denis’ daughter Elisabeth and the company became officially Lejay Lagoute, so you could say it all started with a love story!”

It’s not surprising that Ferrari enjoys the romance of his brand’s signature product because, while in Dijon, you notice how much of a role crème de cassis plays in this city of medieval churches and Renaissance townhouses. Every menu we peruse has a meal that pairs with it, every bartender has a number of serves in mind for the curious drinker. “In Burgundy, and particularly in Dijon, crème de cassis is a huge part of the social and economic life. We’re very proud of our history,” says Ferrari. “When you welcome your friends or your family at home you always offer them cème de cassis with some gougères (delicious cheese-filled choux pastry) and “jambon persillé” (a marble ham with garlic and herbs). It’s hospitality, you become fat very fast but you are happy!”

crème de cassis

Lejay use the Noir de Bourgogne and Black Down varieties of blackcurrant

All of Lejay’s liqueurs are made only using natural products and for its signature cassis, the brand only uses the Noir de Bourgogne and Black Down varieties of blackcurrant, which are harvested between mid-June and late July. “The cassis (French for blackcurrant) is originally from the foothills of the Himalayas in Tibet. The ‘black pearl’ as we call it in France arrived in Burgundy in the Middle Ages. The biggest producers are Poland and Russia, so it will be very easy for us to buy some cassis directly in those countries. But we wanted to stay 100% French and use only cassis produced in France”, says Ferrari. “The two varietal that we use use very different and very complementary. The Noir de Bourgogne has very high acidity and typical vegetal aromas, while the Black Down is rounder and sweeter. When you blend them you achieve the perfect balance”. 

Once the berries are harvested, they are transported to Lejay’s distillery in northern Dijon. It’s a modest-looking building and operation, but it’s where an almost 180-year-old process takes place all the time. “Our process is all about good fruit, time and gravity. We do not need any filtration, it is 100% natural,” says Ferrari. The first part of the Lejay process is static maceration, a unique technique that Auguste-Denis Lagoute established when creating the liqueur. It’s not all that common, as most other liqueurs would macerate berries in revolving vats. “This process is unique because we let the fruits and the alcohol exchange slowly. It is very important to use only neutral alcohol in order to keep only the taste of the fruit,” Ferrari explains. “If you do it too fast using centrifugation, for instance, you will extract some bad tannin and bad aromas. This way we have a more consistent product, with great colour and longer shelf-life”.

crème de cassis

Lejay’s distillery in northern Dijon

This lasts for two months, before its time to extract the flavour and aroma from the berries. “When we open the vats we drain the liquid with an Archimedes’ screw before slowly and gently pressing them with a pneumatic bladder. This extracts the juice and alcohol while ensuring seeds and skins are not crushed. This would mean some undesirable tannins,” Ferrari says. “Then it’s all about gravity. We transfer the spirit to our underground tanks where it rests. This causes sediment to settle at the bottom of the tank and we wait for it to have perfect clarity, which can take up to 12 hours. We then have what we call the ‘vierge melange’, or virgin blend, which we extract carefully to leave the sediment behind”.

Lejay makes a point of not using additives, but it does have a secret weapon of an ingredient: small quantities of blackcurrant buds. “Our magic ingredient! We harvest the buds in January during the cold Burgundian winter. The buds are made only with the Noir de Bourgogne varietal. Then we macerate them for 30 days in neutral alcohol to create a highly concentrated infusion,” Ferrari explains. “Just one drop in each bottle is enough to give a special vegetal aftertaste to our Cassis. It’s a very expensive technique, because when we pick the buds those bushes will not yield fruit and because they can be used to produce very fancy French fragrances instead, so the demand is very high”.

crème de cassis

Lejay’s secret weapon: blackcurrant buds!

The final part of creating Cassis involves blending it with sugar. Lejay opted to use crystallised sugar instead of liquid sugar because it preserves the rich flavour of the liqueur and adds the desired texture. It really works, providing a natural sweetness that’s not at all cloying. “When it comes to sugar there are a lot of options, but the best in terms of taste and texture is the classic saccharose crystal sugar that you use in your tea and in your coffee,” says Ferrari. “Even though we have some of the best sugar cane in the world in Martinique, we prefer to use the high-quality beetroot sugar that we have here in the north of France”. 

Crème de cassis is often consumed as both a digestif or apéritif, or mixed with white wine or Champagne. However, cocktails are where crème de cassis really shines. “Cassis is super versatile. There’s only one rule when making cocktails with cassis, have fun! If you do some tests and replace the vermouth in your Manhattan or sugar in your Old Fashioned with Lejay, you’ll be pleasantly surprised”, says Ferrari “When the sun is out we love a nice Lejay Bicyclette, an old school drink served at Harry’s Bar in Paris. You make it by combining 25ml of Lejay Cassis, 40ml of dry vermouth and ice. Stir this mix then top with Champagne and garnish with a lemon twist. I’d also recommend the Diablo, a classic created by Tiki god Victor Bergeron of Trader Vic’s fame. He combined 30ml of Lejay Cassis, 50ml of good Tequila, 20ml of lime juice and topped it with ginger beer. You can do a twist with it and use mezcal or make your own ginger syrup”.

crème de cassis

The Lejay Bicyclette, an old school drink served at Harry’s Bar in Paris

However, by far the most well-known cassis cocktail is The Kir, a classic serve popularized by French Resistance hero Felix Kir. “In Burgundy, it was the tradition to mix crème de cassis and white wine, especially Aligoté wine. Felix Kir was mayor of Dijon City from 1945 till his death in 1968 and he would make this drink all the time so people started to name the drink after him,” says Ferrari. “He was very close to Lejay so he decided to grant the rights to his name exclusively to us in 1951, which means both the Kir and Kir Royal are registered trademarks. So, if you want to do the original Kir you have to use Lejay. Thank you Canon Kir!”

Lejay is the world leader concerning cassis, producing 8 million bottles per year (that’s not full capacity) and selling in more than 30 markets. Around 80% of those sales going to Japan, who love a bit of cassis in all those Highballs. But it’s clear the brand feels it can do more. “The category is still under the radar in many countries and we can always improve our distribution,” says Ferrari. “We are now part of a family-owned French group called La Martiniquaise. It is a chance for a small brand like Lejay to grow, because La Martiniquaise is a reference in the world of spirits and the brand will benefit from all their expertise”. I’d recommend you give crème de cassis a chance. It’s earned its time in the spotlight.

crème de cassis

Lejay Crème de Cassis

Lejay Crème De Cassis

Nose: Like Ribena but better. Big, thick fresh blackcurrants with outstanding clarity and character. There’s a slight green, vegetal note underneath. 

Palate: On the palate, there’s a rush of white sugar sweetness which is accompanied by more blackcurrant, this time slightly tart but very refreshing. 

Finish: This note carries over into the finish, which is medium length, sweet and a little tart.

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Delicious drinks for the Easter weekend!

With Easter weekend just days away you’re probably on the lookout for a sweet treat. Good thing we haven’t let lockdown life stop us from rounding-up some our tastiest tipples…

With Easter weekend just days away you’re probably on the lookout for a sweet treat. Good thing we haven’t let lockdown life stop us from rounding-up some our tastiest tipples for the occasion. Happy Easter, everyone!

With everything going on at the moment you can be forgiven for forgetting that Easter is on the horizon. Usually, this weekend would be filled with plans and celebrations, making the most of the days off work and the time spent together at home. But not everything has to change. You can still indulge yourself this weekend, whether that’s with a frankly unacceptable amount of chocolate or a delicious drop of booze. 

If you’re in the mood for something festive or need some help picking out the right bottle then you’re in the right place. We’ve picked out a selection of sweet treats from the shelves of MoM Towers that are perfect for Easter. Enjoy!

Delicious drinks for the Easter weekend!

Ableforth’s Dark Chocolate VSOP 

Ableforth’s makes all kinds of delicious booze but this indulgent offering is the most suitable for your Easter celebration. The Dark Chocolate VSOP was made by infusing VSOP Cognac with Criollo cocoa nibs, which is then blended with more VSOP and XO Cognac. A touch of sweetness is then added to the final blend to create a rich and complex profile.

What does it taste like?:

Slightly bitter dark chocolate, a touch of maple syrup, a hint of sour cherry, lots of juicy dried fruit, red grape, prunes, a drizzle of honey and a prickle of spice.

Delicious drinks for the Easter weekend!

Flavoursmiths Cucumber Gin

When you think of perfect flavours to add to gin, you probably imagine sweet fruits, tart citrus or warming spice take centre stage. Like Lemon Peel or Parma Violet. For this expression, however, Flavoursmiths combined refreshing and aromatic cucumber with the crispness of juniper and traditional gin botanicals. It’s a delightful creation, which should make an incredible G&T garnished with a thick slice of cucumber (of course).

What does it taste like?:

Refreshing cucumber, aromatic citrus, gentle sweetness and peppery juniper.

Delicious drinks for the Easter weekend!

Mister Katz’s Rock & Rye 

Rock & Rye is a sweet and intriguing drink that was very popular pre-Prohibition. The New York Distilling Company has brought back the style with Mister Katz’s Rock & Rye, a combination of their youthful rye whiskey, rock candy sugar, sour cherries, cinnamon and a touch of citrus. It’s a superb sipper over ice but can also be used in a number of cocktails too. We recommend it as an alternative for the rye in a Manhattan!

What does it taste like?:

Brandied cherries, buttered malt loaf, aniseed balls, candied orange peels, boiled sweets, cinnamon and rye.

Delicious drinks for the Easter weekend!

Jaffa Cake Gin 

Every now and again you see something that truly restores your faith in humanity. A gin distilled with oranges, fresh orange peel, cocoa powder and actual jaffa cakes is one of those things. How do you make your Gin and Tonic better? Jaffa Cake Gin. How do you improve your Negroni? Jaffa Cake Gin.

What does it taste like?:

Zingy orange (marmalade-esque), rich and earthy chocolate, vanilla-rich cake, a touch of almondy-goodness and a solid backbone of juniper. Also, Jaffa Cakes! 

Delicious drinks for the Easter weekend!

Mozart Dark Chocolate Liqueur 

“Hi there, kind people of Master of Malt. I’d like to add a dose of delicious chocolate to my Easter drinks, how would you recommend I do that?” This. This drink is exactly how you add the kind of chocolatey goodness you desire. From Austrian masters of the craft, Mozart, this decidedly decadent and rich liqueur is also delicious on its own over ice.

What does it taste like?:

Lots of pleasantly bitter and subtly sweet dark chocolate with touches of vanilla, toffee and just a hint of salty butter.

Delicious drinks for the Easter weekend!

Bloom Strawberry Cup 

For those who would like to add a touch of summer bliss to their Easter weekend, this gin liqueur is perfect. Bloom Strawberry Cup combines the fantastically floral Bloom Gin with fresh strawberries in a very delicious way. That’s probably why it was awarded a master medal in the Liqueur category at The Travel Retail Masters (The Spirits Business) 2019. It’s superb with tonic water, lemonade, Prosecco or ginger ale and enjoy!

What does it taste like?:

Violet, light juniper, angelica, honeysuckle and huge strawberry influence.

Delicious drinks for the Easter weekend!

Aberfeldy 12 Year Old 

For so long a fundamental cog in the Dewar’s blended Scotch recipe, it’s brilliant to see Aberfeldy get its time in the spotlight as a single malt to show off the delicious whisky it creates. This smooth and sweet dram is an excellent introduction to this wonderful Highland distillery and works both neat and in cocktails. Combine 50ml of Aberfeldy 12 Year Old, a teaspoon of honey and a couple of dashes of Angostura Bitters and Orange Bitters and you’ve yourself the expressions’ signature serve: The Golden Dram.

What does it taste like?:

Sherried fruit, a hint of smoke, prune, custard, espresso bean, malt, vanilla, peaches in cream, subtle oak, ginger, nutty nougat and a little grapefruit zest.

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We have two bundles of awesome spirits from The Lakes Distillery to be won!

It’s no secret that we love a bundle. What do we love more than a bundle? Two bundles! That’s right, we’ve got two bundles full of wonderful spirits from The…

It’s no secret that we love a bundle. What do we love more than a bundle? Two bundles! That’s right, we’ve got two bundles full of wonderful spirits from The Lakes Distillery to give away.

We’re big fans of The Lakes Distillery, what with all the awesome spirits the beautiful distillery over in Cumbria has graced our palates with since it opened. Now, you could be in with the chance to win five bottles of its delicious liquid in a lip-smacking bundle. Oh, and did we mention there’s two bundles to be won? We know, we are good to you.

So, what’s in this wonderful bundle?

Lakes Distillery Bundle

All this could be yours!

You’ll find a bottle of The Lakes Vodka, as well as a bottle of The Lakes Classic Gin, a super classic, juniper forward tipple. Then you’ll find a bottle each of The Lakes Salted Caramel Vodka Liqueur, The Lakes Elderflower Gin Liqueur and The Lakes Rhubarb and Rosehip Gin Liqueur, all three of which are brand new!

Now that we’ve got your mouths watering, we’re sure you’ll want to know how to enter…

  1. Follow @masterofmalt Instagram account.
  2. Follow @lakesdistillery Instagram account.
  3. Like the competition post⁠.
  4. Tag a friend you’d share your bottles with.

And it’s that simple! Complete those four steps by 22 March and you’re in it to (possibly) win it. Plus, now your chances of winning have doubled! Best of luck to everyone.

MoM Competition 2020 open to entrants 18 years and over. Entries accepted from 16 March to 22 March 2020. Winners chosen at random after close of competition. Prizes not transferable and cannot be exchanged for cash equivalent. See full T&Cs for details.

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Acqua Bianca, a liqueur inspired by perfume

To make a liqueur as aromatic and delicate as a fine perfume, says bartending icon Salvatore Calabrese, you need to include a rather rare and historic ingredient in the recipe….

To make a liqueur as aromatic and delicate as a fine perfume, says bartending icon Salvatore Calabrese, you need to include a rather rare and historic ingredient in the recipe. MoM learned the story behind his latest creation, Acqua Bianca, made in collaboration with De Kuyper Royal Distillers…

It reads like something out of a clickbait article – ‘this liqueur contains ONE WEIRD INGREDIENT you would NEVER expect’ – but in the case of Salvatore Calabrese’s new liqueur, it’s absolutely true. Alongside lemons from the Amalfi coast, bergamot from Calabria, cidron (one of the oldest varieties of citrus), from Asia, and another, rather unique ingredient in the bottle: ambergris.

Known among bartenders as ‘The Maestro’, Calabrese first came across the substance – the details of which we’ll delve into shortly – in an antique cocktail book. “I looked at an old recipe from the 1700s, Planters Punch,” he explains. “And there was one ingredient that really sparked me, and that was ambergris. And I thought, what is ambergris? There was no word of it in any cookbooks or in any liqueurs. That intrigued me.”

Salvatore Calabrese in action

When Calabrese started to research ambergris, he discovered that it’s “very much used for fine perfumery”. Not only do the world’s leading perfume houses use ambergris – incorporating the ingredient explains why their scents are so damn expensive. Also known as ‘floating gold’, ambergris is a waxy byproduct expelled by sperm whales. One that is unbelievably good at binding, elevating and extending aromas.

The sperm whale diet mainly consists of cephalopods, such as squid and cuttlefish, which are partly made of an indigestible protein called chitin. Over time, this protein builds up in the whale’s digestive tract, where it binds together and forms a mass. (A very valuable mass, at around $20,000 per kilogram). 

This lumpy mass is then expelled one way or another – experts don’t know which end it emerges from – before it floats through the ocean and, eventually, onto shorelines. For centuries, clever perfumiers have collected it to extract ambrein, an odourless alcohol that intensifies and lengthens their signature scents.

For Calabrese, it was a lightbulb moment. “I’ve been a bartender since 1966,” he explains. “I know most of the liqueurs, and every liqueur is always the same, strong flavours. Either citrus, minty or herbal or bitter notes, chocolate, nutty, coffee. But what is missing? The aroma.” 

They call him Il Maestro

Take a nut-flavoured liqueur, for example. “When you try to smell it, the gentle note of the nuttiness is there but it’s not present,” Calabrese continues. “When you start to drink it, the nutty flavour appears in the middle palate. That’s when you start to figure out what you’re drinking.”

Working with De Kuyper’s master distillers, he set about creating a uniquely aromatic liqueur with all-natural ingredients such as lemon, bergamot, peppermint and rose that “explodes” with aroma and flavours when you taste it. “It’s not sticky, it’s quite fresh in your palate; intense but delicate,” Calabrese explains. “That’s what makes a great liqueur. It’s what makes fine spirits and fine wines.” 

In a nod to the recipe that inspired Acqua Bianca, the quirky bottle – created by Salvatore’s daughter Francesca Calabrese and her design agency Five Foot Eight – resembles a book, with the label as the spine. Look closer still and you’ll find a tiny jigger in the ‘A’ letters, while the ‘Q’ looks a little like ‘2’ – as in, H2O. 

Despite our probing efforts, the full recipe and details of the production process remains a closely-guarded secret. But we’re willing to accept that in this instance, ignorance probably is bliss. It tastes good, and that’s enough. 

When he first started research and development for the project, around two years ago, Calabrese set out to “create a liqueur that was the real centre stage of any cocktail”. With Acqua Bianca, he’s done just that. Below, you’ll find a selection of easy-to-make Maestro-approved tipples to recreate at home…

Acqua Bianca Frappe

Acqua Bianca Frappé:

50ml Acqua Bianca

Pour Acqua Bianca into a balloon glass or an old fashioned glass and fill with crushed ice (see picture above).

Spritzer Fresco:

25ml Acqua Bianca
15ml Italicus
15ml Pink grapefruit juice
Prosecco

Pour Acqua Bianca, Italicus and pink grapefruit into a large wine glass filled with ice, and top up with Prosecco. Stir and garnish with a twist of lemon.

Sal’s Stinger:

40ml Hine Cognac VSOP
20ml Acqua Bianca

Pour all ingredients in a mixing glass filled with ice. Stir and strain into a chilled coupe glass.

You can find Acqua Bianca at Master of Malt

 

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Our top drinks trends for 2020!

The start of a new year means one thing at MoM Towers: time to crack out the crystal ball and predict what will be in our glasses throughout the year….

The start of a new year means one thing at MoM Towers: time to crack out the crystal ball and predict what will be in our glasses throughout the year. Read on for our top drinks trends for 2020!

It’s not just a new year – 2020 brings with it a box-fresh decade, too. But what will be drinking this year? We’ve had a good chinwag in the office, looked at sales trends from the last few years and kept our ears to the ground for word of the Next Big Thing in booze. 

Before we crack on with our top ten trends, a quick note on two topics. First up: sustainability in terms of both production and packaging. We reckon every single producer should have this on their radar by now. We’re working hard to make our own ops here are as lean and green as they can possibly be. It’s not a trend, just the right way to do things. We’ve not included this in our list as it’s a societal shift that’s here to stay. Similar with low- and no-alcohol products. 2019 saw the segment explode – but it’s not going anywhere. Brands that give us the option to drink less alcohol while keeping things delicious are a welcome and permanent part of the drinks industry.

So. What else does the year have in store? This is what we reckon we’ll be drinking for the next 12 months!

spiced rum drinks trends for 2020

Spiced rums will continue their dominance into 2020

Spiced and flavoured rums are just getting started

One of the runaway successes of 2019 has been spiced and flavoured rums. In fact, over the whole of 2019, 15 of our top 20 rum best sellers were spiced or flavoured. It’s a trend that accelerated over the course of the year, and while you’d expect an uptick in November and December (hello Christmas!), sales of the likes of Bombo, Cloven Hoof and Pirate’s Grog rums are in year-on-year growth for the start of January, too. One shift we think we’ll see? A move towards more ‘grown-up’ flavours and bottle designs. Spiced and flavoured rums don’t have to be all about the party; they can hold their own as respectable cocktail ingredients, too. 

world whisky drinks trends for 2020

No need for a passport – explore the world through whisky!

Genuinely world whisky

Move over, Scotland. Hang back, America. You too, Ireland and Japan. Yes, you make delicious whiskies. But 2020 looks set to be the year that world whisky meaningfully comes to the fore for more of us. Take Israel, for example. There are three distilleries already up and running (Milk & Honey, Golan Heights, Pelter), but there’s the Jerusalem Distillery, Legends Distillery and Eder’i Malthouse and Distillery all hot on their heels. Up in Finland, you’ve got Kyrö, Teerenpeli, The Helsinki Distilling Co, and Panimoravintola (and no doubt numerous others at the development stage). Australian whisky continues to gain momentum (Starward, Sullivans Cove, and Hellyers Road, anyone?), and we’re excited by what distillers are doing across New Zealand, Sweden and France, too. And there’s India, South Africa, England, Wales, The Netherlands… you get the picture. We’re also thrilled by the geographic diversity of whisky production and the different approaches and flavours inherent in that. We reckon loads of you will be, too. 

vodka drinks trends for 2020

Get set for a vodka revival

Viva vodka!

A slightly unexpected one, now. Did you know our vodka sales in 2019 soared by 30% year-on-year? It’s a bit of a surprise for us, too. Bottle sales ramped up gradually but noticeably over the course of the year, and it initially had us scratching our heads. After a pretty break time in the 2000s and 2010s, why is vodka falling back into favour? We looked at our top-sellers and noticed a couple of things. It’s generally not flavoured vodka that’s hitting the mark (a couple of notable exceptions: Thunder Toffee Vodka and Whitley Neill Blood Orange Vodka). Instead, it’s the classic, neutral, big names that seem to have appeal. But that’s not all. Smaller brands playing on their legitimate flavour differences derived from their raw materials are doing especially well. We think the likes of Black Cow Vodka (made from leftover whey from cheese-making), East London Liquor Company 100% Wheat Vodka and Konik’s Tail (made with three different grains: spelt, rye and wheat) will drive this trend forward into 2020.

hard seltzers drinks trends for 2020

Hard seltzers will be A Thing

Hard seltzers and sodas

Call them what you like (the seltzer vs. soda debate could go on), but this sparkling, low-ABV mix of flavoured water and booze isn’t going anywhere. Hard seltzers have been big news Stateside for some time now, and we reckon 2020 is the year they’ll make their presence really felt this side of the Pond. Why? Beer sales are down, people are embracing low- and no-, and we’re all rather partial to a train tinnie, which, if you think about what cocktails in a can actually are, we’re barely a swift step from a hard seltzer anyway. Last year saw the UK launch of Mike’s Hard Sparkling Water, and native names DRTY Hard Seltzer and Bodega Bay are already in the market. Plus, White Claw, the US hard seltzer hero, has already registered its trademark here, too. We’re ready

Beyond bourbon drinks trends for 2020

American single malts for the win!

Beyond bourbon

Hands up who loves American whiskey? Us too. And it’s hardly new. So why does it feature on our list of drinks trends for 2020? Bourbon has long been seen as a synonym for American whiskey, but when you think about its legal definition (in short, it’s made in the US; its mashbill recipe contains a minimum of 51% corn; it’s matured in new, charred oak) it becomes clear there’s a whole load more to American whiskey than perhaps we collectively understand. Step in rye. Come in, American single malt. Oh hello, wheat whiskeys. And of course, there’s a whole host of category-defying whiskeys coming out of the US that can’t be called bourbon. Rules are there to be broken, and when distillers shrug off the bourbon confines, deliciousness can spring forth, and we think 2020 is the year we’ll get to grips with these expressions. Want in now? Check out Balcones Texas Single Malt, Uncle Nearest 1856 Premium Whiskey, St. George Baller Single Malt, and WhistlePig 12 Year Old – Old World.

calvados drinks trends for 2020

Appley goodness right there

Calvados returns

If you’re unfamiliar with this historical French brandy, you are not alone. Calvados is made from apples and pears in Normandy, distilled in either traditional alembic or column stills, and is aged for at least two years. And it’s mighty tasty. We’re waking up to its mixing and sipping potential: last year our Calvados sales soared by an enormous 40% in 2019 over 2018. One of the key drivers was the launch of Avallen in June, a more modern expression that is all about sustainability and boosting biodiversity. Calvados Coquerel has undertaken a re-brand, bringing more energy to the category. And the likes of Berneroy and Château du Breuil are also seeing renewed momentum. 2020 is the time for Calvados to shine.

mezcal drinks trends for 2020

How mezcal gets its smoke

The advent of Mezcal

Tequila’s smoky cousin made its presence felt in 2019, when we saw sales climb by 31%. But what will 2020 have in store for Mezcal? Quite a lot, we think (especially when you consider its 2017-18 growth stood at just 5%). The biggest-selling brands are increasingly well-recognised (Del Maguey, Pensador and Montelobos are rapidly becoming familiar names), and customers in bars and in shops (on and offline) have a deeper understanding of the Mexican spirit. So, what’s next? More at-home mixing and sipping, and a deeper appreciation for all things Mezcal out and about. Bring. It. On.

scotch whisky casks drinks trends for 2020

Bit cold out there

Unconventional cask finishing in Scotch

In June 2019, the Scotch Whisky Association widened the list of permitted cask types in Scotch whisky production. In short, as long as what was previously held in that cask wasn’t made with stone fruits, and hasn’t had flavourings or sweetening added, you’re good to go. It wasn’t an unexpected decision, and loads of Scotch distillers already had experiments under way (Glen Moray Rhum Agricole Cask Finish Project, we’re looking at you). So what? In 2020 we reckon we’ll see loads more esoteric expressions, perhaps some agave finishes, and maybe even some Calvados casks. And probably some stuff we’ve not even thought of yet. Get set for a new wave of flavour in Scotch whisky. (At this point, we’d also like to add a nod to Irish distilleries, who have been playing with different casks for some time.)

aquavit drinks trends for 2020

Delicious dill

An age of aquavit 

Similar to Calvados, aquavit is a traditional category with strong local ties that flies way too low under the radar for our liking. We’re going to stick our necks out and say 2020 is going to be the year that starts to change. To kick off, last year our aquavit sales blossomed by 27%. More people are seeking out the dill- or caraway-flavoured Scandi spirit than ever. What’s also interesting is that some producers in international markets are looking to aquavit for inspiration and are crafting their own expressions, most notably Svöl Danish-Style Aquavit, from Brooklyn, and Psychopomp Aqvavit, hailing from Bristol, UK. This comes hot on the heels of the botanical spirits trend – tried all manner of gins and want something new? Eschew the juniper and look to aquavit instead. It’s a narrative that could well play out this year. 

liqueurs unicorns drinks trends for 2020

RIP, unicorns

Liqueurs ditch the unicorns

2019 was a bumper year for liqueurs, growing 31% to rank as our third-largest drinks category by bottle sales. It’s a notoriously diverse category, defined really only by sugar levels rather than style or flavour. Good job really, three of our top 10 most popular liqueur products are ‘unicorn’ flavoured, whatever that means. There has been a slight shift already though: for the last three months of the year, whisky, coffee, herbal and caramel varieties proved far more popular. Yes, it could be Christmas. But we reckon there’s an underlying trend of a return to more conventional liqueur flavours. Yes, they’re still going to be sweet (that’s kind of the point). But 2020 looks likely to be the year more traditional liqueur variants reclaim the realm from mythical beasts.

Over to you! What do you think will be the biggest drinks trends for 2020? Have we missed something out or got it wildly wrong? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below, and on social! 

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Superb Fireside Sipping

Celebrate Bonfire Night this year with a selection of booze appropriately bursting with deliciousness. Remember, remember the fifth of November… No, seriously. Check your calendars. It’s approaching fast. Maybe you’re…

Celebrate Bonfire Night this year with a selection of booze appropriately bursting with deliciousness.

Remember, remember the fifth of November… No, seriously. Check your calendars. It’s approaching fast. Maybe you’re planning to watch all things sparkly and spectacular illuminate the sky. Or perhaps you can’t wait to get into your dressing gown and comfy slippers to wrap up warm indoors. Both sound good to us, but whether you’ll be in front of a bonfire or fireplace, we can surely all agree that it’s the perfect time to indulge in some cockle-warming drinks.

For those who need inspiration, we’ve made things nice and easy by selecting this smashing selection of spirits. Expect smoke, spice and everything nice from this round-up of bonfire-themed booze!

Smoked Rosemary Gin (That Boutique-y Gin Company)

Smoked rosemary is an absolute winner in many a cocktail, ask any good bartender. But who wants to bother with the hassle of setting fire to some fresh rosemary themselves? Save the flames for an actual bonfire and instead enjoy this delightful gin from That Boutique-y Gin Company! Sensationally smoky Martinis await…

What does it taste like?:

Well, there’s no doubt that this contains rosemary, as well as plenty of juniper, saline seashore smells, cracked black pepper, lemon, a hint of smoked bacon.

Glenfiddich Experimental Series – Fire & Cane

The Experimental Series has produced some corking expressions, and Fire & Cane is no exception. Malt master Brian Kinsman created this bottling by finishing some of the distillery’s peated single malt for three-months in rum casks from a variety of South American countries. The cask complements the peated profile perfectly and makes this one an ideal fireside sipper.

What does it taste like?:

Billowing soft peat notes, rich sweet toffee, zesty fresh fruit, oak and sweet baked apple.

Ancho Reyes Chile Liqueur

Ever had a liqueur made with chile ancho (dried poblano chiles) before? No? Well now is the perfect opportunity to acquaint yourself with the delights of this Mexican liqueur. It was made by macerating chile ancho in neutral cane spirit for half a year, which was then blended with a selection of other ingredients and allowed to rest a little longer for the flavour to marry. An ideal liqueur for those who want to add smoke and spice to their cocktails.

What does it taste like?:

Plenty of woodsmoke and dry, warming spice is complemented by a touch of liquorice.

Drumshanbo Gunpowder Gin

Drumshanbo Gunpowder Gin gets its name from its star botanical, gunpowder tea, which is distilled with juniper, angelica, orris, caraway, coriander, meadowsweet, cardamom, fresh grapefruit and star anise as well as vapour infused oriental lemon and lime! Now try and tell me you don’t like the sound of a Gunpowder G&T.

What does it taste like?:

Bright citrus and green tea notes are complemented by the spices.

Smokehead Sherry Bomb

Spice and smoke feature again as a deadly duo in this whisky, made using well-peated single malt from an undisclosed Islay distillery which was then matured in Oloroso sherry casks. Smokehead Sherry Bomb is unashamedly a powerhouse of a dram and every drop of it seems tailor-made to enjoy beside a fire.

What does it taste like?:

Dark chocolate, seaweed, a hint of medicinal peat smoke, BBQ smoke, stem ginger, sherried peels, sea salt, rum-raisin ice cream, red chilli flake, treacle, prunes and clove.

Cut Smoked Rum

Cut Rum range added an extra dimension of flavour to this Jamaican rum by smoking it using oak chips, which not only made it very tasty but also perfectly appropriate for Bonfire Night! This is one you can enjoy both in cocktails or neat.

What does it taste like?:

Struck match, coffee bean bitterness balanced by vanilla.

Black Fire

Liqueurs are extremely popular at the moment, so plenty of you will be looking for a bottling that adds some heat to your Bonfire-themed cocktails. The awesomely named Black Fire was made by combining the flavours of Blanco tequila, coffee and a kick of chilli. As well as cocktails, this is superb when splashed into some good quality coffee.

What does it taste like?:

Chocolate with red chilli mixed in, slightly earthy notes of agave and red pepper, smoky at points.

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Talking ethical booze with Gorilla Spirits

Given that today (24th September, if you’re nowhere near a calendar) is World Gorilla Day, we thought it was ideal timing to chat with Andy Daniels, founder of Gorilla Spirits…

Given that today (24th September, if you’re nowhere near a calendar) is World Gorilla Day, we thought it was ideal timing to chat with Andy Daniels, founder of Gorilla Spirits Co. about creating an ethical business, founding a distillery, and why he was moved by the plight of the mountain gorilla.

For every bottle of gin, vodka, rum or liqueur you buy from the Gorilla Spirits Co., £1 goes to The Gorilla Organization. The business model is simple: you purchase delicious booze, and support a great cause at the same time. “Everyone’s a winner: the consumer gets a great product; our company benefits from the sale of that product and the gorillas benefit greatly by additional resources being put in that direction,” explains Gorilla Spirits Co. founder, Andy Daniels.

Daniels had spent the best part of 35 years in corporate life, but during that time he’d always been drawn to the wonderful world of food and drink. He brewed his own beer, became a hobbyist cider maker, and even distilled for many years before he started a spirits company. The motivation to create his own brand came back in 2008.

“I got wind of what the Sipsmith guys were about to do, who are an important part of every craft spirit story in the UK today, and it sparked the idea,” Daniels says. “I spent a couple of years learning about the industry and formulating plans to start the business. From early 2011, I set about a formal project to get the company going, and it wasn’t until December 2015 that we actually launched our first project. It took a long time. Not only did we design our first commercial gin, but we also designed, from the ground up, a small but industrial-class distillery.”

Gorilla Spirits Co.

Gorilla Spirits Co. founder Andy Daniels

With the Gorilla Spirits Co., Daniels was determined to demonstrate that placing corporate social responsibility at the heart of a business not only serves society and the world at large as well, but it’s also positively good for business. “Very close to my heart is a strong belief that businesses should be more than just about making money. Businesses need to recognise that you can’t continually focus entirely on profit while taking out of the world’s resources,” Daniels says. “Many major organisations today have corporate social responsibility agendas. But I don’t believe that many, if any, really put it at the core of their business. I don’t think that’s a sustainable business model.”

When Gorilla Spirits Co. was founded, mountain gorillas were facing extinction with only 880 in existence. For Daniels, it was obvious to him that the focus of his social responsibility should be their conservation. “What shocked us about that was not just the fact that there were 880 mountain gorillas in the world, but the fact that the people who look after them knew that it was 880. It wasn’t 881 or 882, it was 880. When you can count the numbers of an entire species to that level, then clearly we’re in trouble,” explains Daniels.

In order to do his bit for the cause, Daniels struck up a partnership with UK-based charity The Gorilla Organization, which works with communities at the forefront of gorilla conservation through innovative and award-winning projects in Rwanda, Uganda, and DR Congo. “We had some conversations with them about what they were doing and were really impressed, particularly because, for such a tiny charity, they’re able to do some amazing work,” Daniels says. “We entered into a formal contract with them which obliges us to pay one pound from every bottle that we sell. There is no termination clause in the agreement, so regardless of whether I’m running the business or whether anyone else is running the business, it remains committed to making that donation.”

Gorilla Spirits Co.

Mountain gorilla numbers have thankfully increased in recent years

In November 2018 the IUCN announced that mountain gorillas have been moved from ‘critically endangered’ to ‘endangered’. “The most recent census of the mountain gorilla puts its numbers at 1,004,” says Daniels. “The governments of Rwanda and Uganda have recognised the value of conservation, particularly when it comes to their gorilla populations. It just goes to show that when you get governments, charities and businesses all focused on supporting something and making something happen, you truly can make things change.”

It’s a promising message, given that brands based around conservation efforts have become increasingly common, with the likes of Elephant Gin and Snow Leopard Vodka also fighting the good fight. “We are not exclusive in this; they’re doing some amazing things,” explains Daniels. “It’s quite incredible that there are a few brands like us in the spirits industry who take a similar approach and I know full well that it’s as good for their businesses as it is for ours. As I said, it’s not just about philanthropy; it’s positively beneficial to business.”

It was important for Daniels that this model of ethical practice didn’t just concern its central cause, but also extended to the local community, “I was delighted that we were recently awarded an international corporate social responsibility excellence award for the work that we do not just with gorilla conservation but also in the way that we engage with the community,” he says. “For example, at the distillery, we have an onsite shop that we don’t open for anything other than booked visitors. So if somebody turns up here, we send them to our village shop. We do that because we want to be part of the community and we want to encourage the local rural economy.”

Gorilla Spirits Co.

Mugwaneza, the 200-litre Gorilla Spirits Co. still

The spirit of social responsibility played a large part in the location of the Gorilla Spirits Co.’s distillery. It is found in Upton Grey, in the northeast corner of Hampshire where it borders with Surrey. As Daniels explains, “One of the areas of the national economy that’s suffering particularly badly is our rural economies. Setting up where we are, we do have the potential to add money to the local economy.” The distillery has a visitor centre which regularly houses tours, tastings and cocktail masterclasses, as well as a ten-station gin school, all of which have proved popular. The gin school holds particular appeal, and Daniels describes it as “the ultimate experience really for a gin lover”. Given that participants make enough of their own gin (from a choice of over 60 botanicals) to bottle most and have enough left over for a G&T, it’s not hard to see why.

The main attraction remains the 200-litre still, an entirely digitally-connected and software-driven beauty called ‘Mugwaneza’. “When you go around the country, many stills have got very quintessentially English names like ‘Constance’ and ‘Patience’. Because we’re a bit different and because of our links with gorillas and with Africa, our still is named ‘Mugwaneza’,” says Daniels. “Translated into English from the language used in Rwanda, it means ‘she who is content’. In my long experience of life, whenever ‘she’ is content – whoever ‘she’ might be – then the world is quite a happy place”. All of the gin school’s ten stills likewise have names drawn from the Rwandan language, so if you make a bottle of gin with Gorilla Spirits, your label has the name of the still that it was produced in.

The Gorilla Spirits Co. doesn’t just manufacture its own spirit product. It has a contract distilling business on the side, and is currently making four brands with another three or four lined up over the next few months. “That’s the side of the business that we’re actively growing. That has been fantastic actually; to work with some other start-up brands and be part of their growth,” says Daniels.

Gorilla Spirits Co.

The Gorilla Spirits Co. portfolio

The current Gorilla Spirits Co. range consists of three gins, one vodka, one liqueur and one spiced rum, but there’s more to look forward to. “We’ve always got some exciting things going on in the background. We are doing some ageing at the moment, so I think in the next few months or so we’ll see some interesting aged products,” says Daniels. “We’re also looking to expand our rum portfolio and we’ve done some whisky trials.”

We look forward to seeing what’s to come, but for now, there’s plenty to enjoy from Gorilla Spirits Co.!

The first product the Gorilla Spirits Co. released was Silverback Mountain Strength Gin, which was produced back in December 2015. It’s London Dry in style and was crafted from seven botanicals which Daniels splits into two groups. The first is filled with classic ingredients, juniper, coriander, angelica root and sweet orange, and then the three additionals are calamus root, acacia blossom and lemongrass. “We describe Silverback as being a ‘citrus-led’ gin. So three of the seven: you’ve got coriander which gives us that spicy citrus note; orange for a nice warm citrus note; and then lemongrass which accentuates the high notes,” says Daniels. “Giving it its full title ‘Silverback Mountain Strength Gin’ the ‘mountain strength’ is actually not connected with the ABV but it is another nod to the strength and power of the gorilla”.

The Old Tom Gin uses exactly the same ingredients as Silverback Mountain Strength Gin, but the number of botanicals that are put into the distillation are increased because Daniels wanted to capture the Old Tom style which much richer in flavour and it’s sweetened. “After distillation, we add a tiny bit of sugar to sweeten it. We make it largely because I think it’s bloody delicious! At the end of the day you have to please yourself before you please anyone else and it’s a style that I really like,” says Daniels.

Initially launched as a limited-edition product, Silverback Raspberry Gin has proved so popular demand it might become a regular. To create this flavoured gin, Daniels began with the regular Silverback Mountain Strength formula, reduced the ABV to bottle down to 38%, added Scottish raspberry juice and a tiny bit of sugar to balance the tartness of the raspberry. Why Scottish raspberries? “Because they are the best in the world. It’s as simple as that! So whatever we put into a product we try to ensure that it is the very best that we can buy. And Scottish raspberry, bar none, is the best raspberry in the world,” says Daniels. “It has a lovely vibrant colour that suggests that it’s going to be a very fruity, very sweet liquid. But people are always surprised that actually what you get is a really, really lovely gin with a little trace of fresh summer fruit coming through it.”

Blackback Mountain Strength is an entirely British wheat-derived vodka which features a pot still-finish to add depth and character. “It has a really lovely mouth-feel, a touch of spiciness about it and a little hint of sweetness. It’s absolutely perfect for something like a vodka tonic or you want it for a cocktail, says Daniels. “What’s interesting from a story point of view, is that you know that a silverback gorilla is the head honcho of the troop and the great protector. A blackback gorilla is a young adolescent male who may become a silverback in the course of time, although it’s not guaranteed. There’s a little bit of playfulness in our branding as gin is essentially flavoured vodka, so our Blackback could one day be a Silverback.

Maraba Coffee Liqueur was made from single varietal red bourbon Arabica coffee beans from small growers in Rwanda and takes its name from this coffee-growing district. In order for the process to be as sustainable and ethical as possible, Gorilla Spirits Co. exceeds Fair Trade pricing for the growers concerned. The beans are roasted and ground by a local coffee roaster called Moonroast before it is effectively cold-brewed with alcohol, “so we get these amazing buttery, chocolate notes in it, along with the higher floral notes and taste and aroma. Then, of course, we mix it up into a liqueur,” says Daniels. “So with Maraba, again, great for cocktails so things like the nation’s favourite right now, espresso martini, as well as white Russians and black Russians”.

The most recent addition to the range is Karisimbi Spiced Rum. In fact, it was only just released last week on September 19th, or as I’m sure you all know it as, International Talk Like A Pirate Day. The name was taken from the highest volcanic peak in the Varumba National Park, which is home to a troop of mountain gorillas. “It’s quite a complex blend of aged and unaged rums from a number of different rum distilleries. It’s really beautifully spiced with vanilla, blood oranges, ginger and cinnamon. I would pit it against any spiced rum on the market, I think it’s absolutely delicious,” says Daniels. “It is predominantly designed for mixing and goes particularly well with things like Fever Tree Smoky Ginger Ale or a good quality cola, ginger beer, that kind of thing. But the quality of the rum is so good that it really is a sipper as well.”

Gorilla Spirits Co.

Happy World Gorilla Day!

Don’t forget, for each bottle of gin, vodka, rum or liqueur you buy from the Gorilla Spirits Co., £1 goes to The Gorilla Organization, whose fantastic work you can check out by clicking the link. The Gorilla Spirits Co. has also just launched an app which is available on the Apple Store and Google Play Store, so if you want a directory of cocktails to play with, as well as more info on the distillery and its conversation work than it’s the place to go. Happy World Gorilla Day, folks!

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World spirits: fabulous flavours from far off lands

This week, we’re gathering a whole host of delicious spirits from all over the globe, so you can get a taste of far flung lands and intriguing botanicals wherever you…

This week, we’re gathering a whole host of delicious spirits from all over the globe, so you can get a taste of far flung lands and intriguing botanicals wherever you are!

Travelling the world is fun. This is something we generally all agree on. However, quite frankly we just don’t have time to visit each and every continent and try the local boozy delicacies, however much we’d like to. Enter our fabulous compilation of spirits from many lands, including gin, rum and whisk(e)y! We’ve gathered this wonderful selection to tickle your tastebuds and transport you to all corners of the globe, all without leaving the safety of your sofa. Because sofas are nice, and sometimes they have cats on them, and cats are always a good thing. Anyhow, we digress. Onto the spirits!

Angostura 7 Year Old

Where’s it from?

Trinidad and Tobago

What is it?

A classic, tasty molasses-based rum from the Angostura company, produced in a continuous still. The liquid is aged in bourbon barrels for seven years before it’s filtered. The ideal dark rum for whacking into a cocktail, be it a Mai Tai, Daiquiri or even a Rum Old Fashioned! If you fancy it neat, definitely serve this one with a good wedge of juicy orange to balance the richer creamy notes.

What does it taste like?

Bittersweet dark chocolate balanced by cinnamon, burnt caramel, mocha, creamy crème brûlée, vanilla fudge and a hit of spice on the finish.

St Germain Elderflower Liqueur

Where’s it from?

France

What is it?

An iconic elderflower liqueur made with fresh elderflowers hand-harvested only once a year, for a few weeks in the late spring. Each bottle contains around 1,000 elderflower blossoms! The flowers are macerated, and the infusion is then strained and blended with eau-de-vie de vin, water, sugar, and neutral grain spirit. Splash it in a glass of Prosecco for a floral fizzy treat.

What does it taste like?

Sweet and floral notes of elderflower (of course), supported by lychee, tart lemon, a hint of buttery sweetness and a lengthy elderflower-filled finish.

Nikka Whisky From The Barrel

Where’s it from?

Japan

What is it?

An incredibly delicious, award-winning blended whisky from Nikka! It marries single malt and grain whiskies from the Miyagikyo and coastal Yoichi distilleries. The liquid is aged in a massive range of casks, including bourbon barrels, sherry butts and refill hogsheads.

What does it taste like?

Full of chai spice, buttery caramel and vanilla cream, with sweet cereal notes, raspberry, orange peel and drying oak spice alongside a spicy, warming finish.

Basil Hayden’s

Where’s it from?

Kentucky, America

What is it?

Distilled in Clermont, Kentucky, Basil Hayden’s Bourbon really was created by master distiller Basil Hayden himself, all the way back in 1796. He added rye into a traditional corn-based mashbill, and this innovative risk certainly paid off. The sweetness of corn balances brilliantly with the spiciness of rye, making for a brilliant Whiskey Bramble.

What does it taste like?

Fairly light and spicy, with vanilla and honey balanced by pepper and peppermint, with corn and dark berries on the finish.

Le Tribute Gin

Where’s it from?

Barcelona, Spain

What is it?

From the family-run distillery in Vilanova, a tiny fishing village close to Barcelona comes Le Tribute Gin. It’s a tribute (shocker) to the pioneers, processes and the heritage behind the spirit, and is inspired by the distillery’s history. There are seven botanicals, all distilled separately: juniper, lime, kumquat, lemon, pink and green grapefruit, tangerine, cardamom, bitter and sweet oranges and lemons, and the seventh is lemongrass. Wow, that was a lot. All are distilled in wheat spirit except lemongrass, where water is used in place of spirit to maintain freshness. 

What does it taste like?

Citrus and sherbet sweets, with an amalgamation of vibrant and loud fresh fruity notes. Juniper takes something of a backseat, but still plays a major role here.

Konik’s Tail Vodka

Where’s it from?

Poland

What is it?

It’s 20 years in the making and the vision of one man, Pleurat Shabani, who single-handedly harvests and bottles the vodka himself. Inspired by the elusive Polish Konik horses which, if they are spotted, will promise a good harvest (according to Polish superstition). Shabani had plenty of setbacks and harsh nights sleeping rough, but found a sense of purpose after buying a one-way ticket to escape the conflicts back home in Croatia. Determined to create something people would appreciate, he chose three grains to create this delicious vodka, Spelt (the happy grain), Rye (the dancing grain) and wheat (the smiling grain) – suggesting that the aim in life is to laugh, dance and smile.

What does it taste like?

Nutty, with burnt black pepper, spice and a sweet finish.

Lot 40 Rye Whisky

Where’s it from?

Canada

What is it?

A no-age statement rye whisky from Lot 40. The expression is in fact a revival of a whisky from the 1990s, and is named for the plot of land which used to belong to Joshua Booth, grandfather of the now-retired master distiller, Mike Booth, who created the whisky. In the 2000s, the expression was discontinued, but luckily it returned to us! The mashbill is 90% rye and 10% malted rye, so you can be sure this is sufficiently spicy.

What does it taste like?

A gentle floral start builds into all of those warming spicy notes, with black pepper, cardamom and oak spice, followed by roasted coffee bean and brown sugar on a finish of cigar box. 

 

Dancing Sands Dry Gin

Where’s it from?

Takaka, New Zealand

What is it?

This is the flagship gin from the Dancing Sands Distillery! The brainchild of husband and wife duo Ben and Sarah Bonoma, the gin takes eight hand-crushed botanicals, including manuka, almond, cardamom and liquorice, which are vapour infused. After it’s blended with water sourced from the Dancing Sands Spring over in Golden Bay, which the founders refer to as the ninth botanical, the spirit is bottled. The colours on the bottle represent each of the different botanicals. It also just looks amazing. 

What does it taste like?

Juniper straight away, followed by delicately floral manuka, warming cardamom and a subtle hint of chocolate, creamy nuttiness and a spicy peppery finish. 

Westerhall No.10 

Where’s it from?

Grenada, Caribbean

What is it?

Westerhall No.10 is, would you believe it, a 10 year old rum from the Westerhall Estate! We did not see that one coming. The estate is located on what’s called the ‘Spice Isle’ of Grenada, and this is certainly reflected in its flavour profile. If you happen to get your hands on any, try it with fresh coconut juice for a more local serve.

What does it taste like?

Spiced apple, waxy honey and rich maple syrup, creamy oak and fudge. 

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The Nightcap: 24 May

Powers, plastic straws and pineapples – plus a few things that don’t begin with ‘P’. It’s all here in yet another edition of The Nightcap! Today is Friday, and many…

Powers, plastic straws and pineapples – plus a few things that don’t begin with ‘P’. It’s all here in yet another edition of The Nightcap!

Today is Friday, and many of us will be heading into the final Bank Holiday weekend for a few months. There’s one at a seemingly random time in August, but the smattering of three day weekends throughout April and May occur in such a cluster that we almost become used to it. We must not become complacent! We must approach this three day weekend with the same vim and vigour as we did previous ones! Oh, and also we should start it as we do other weekends (extended ones or otherwise), with The Nightcap! Obviously.

In a week in which we announced that we’re going to Fèis Ìle 2019, we also launched two new competitions, one to win the entire Game of Thrones whisky range and the other to win a VIP trip to Bombay Sapphire’s distillery. Nate Brown then extolled the virtues of sherry, Jess took a look at Diageo’s new Italian gin, Villa Ascenti and Annie explored where to imbibe in Bowie’s old haunt, Berlin and who the up-and-comers of alcohol-free are. Adam enjoyed the latest chapter in Balvenie’s story, then picked Big Peat Fèis Ìle 2019 Edition to be his New Arrival of the Week, for obvious reasons, while Henry enjoyed Redbreast’s new expression, video masterclasses from Mortlach and Johnnie Walker and even manged to find time to make the Grand Sour his Cocktail of the Week. Phew…

Now, on with the news!

Nightcap

Our PR manager Mariella Salerno holds up our shiny new prize!

MoM named DB Awards Online Retailer of the Year!

It was celebration station on Tuesday afternoon at the DB Awards, hosted by the team over at trade magazine The Drinks Business. We were delighted to pick up the Online Retailer of the Year award! The ceremony took place as part of the London Wine Fair, so we got to join the jubilations early, enjoying some really rather marvellous tipples from across the world. They said loads of nice things about us, and we picked up a shiny trophy. Oh, and #WhiskySanta got a highly commended nod too, for his excellent work spreading festive spirit far and wide through the social realm. Cheers, Team DB – you made our week!

Nightcap

Look everyone, it’s Kent’s first single malt whisky!

Kent’s first single malt whisky is here

Kent is something of a booze hotspot with its hop gardens and breweries, orchards and cideries, vineyards and gin distilleries, and of course, it’s the home of a certain online retailer. Now the Garden of England has its first single malt. The whisky is a collaboration between Andy Reason and Norman Lewis of the Anno Distillery in Marden (who make a fine gin) and the Westerham Brewery. The mash was made with English barley and fermented with two strains of yeast comes from the brewery. It was then double distilled in a tiny 300-litre copper pot still named, appropriately enough, Patience. The spirit came off at 63.5% ABV into an ex-bourbon cask that previously held a Speyside single malt. After ageing, the resulting whisky was bottled at 40% ABV. Norman Lewis said of the partnership: “It’s been a wonderful experience working with Robert Wicks from Westerham Brewery. Our combined expertise has come together seamlessly and resulted in something which we’re extremely proud of. We hope those who are lucky enough to taste this limited-edition whisky enjoy savouring it as much as we enjoyed making it.” It’s such a limited edition that customers are being limited to three bottles (at £120 each) and it’s available directly from the distillery and Westerham Brewery. Hurry, while stocks last.

Nightcap

They might seem delightful, but they need to go.

England moves to ban plastic straws and stirrers

Great news, folks! The government this week confirmed it will ban plastic straws and stirrers in England (and plastic cotton buds, but less relevant to us) from April 2020. There are some sensible exemptions for those with medical needs or a disability (pubs and bars will still be able to give them out on request), but we can wave goodbye for good to unnecessary plastic in our drinks. The move follows a government consultation which found 80% back a ban on straws, and 90% on stirrers. About time, too. Apparently, we use 4.7 billion plastic straws and 316 million plastic stirrers each year in England alone! And yes, alternatives are available (we sipped through some fancy bamboo ones recently), but the government reckons a whopping 95% of straws are still plastic. Boo. Even more boo: it’s thought there are more than 150 million tonnes of plastic in the world’s oceans, and that every year one million seabirds and 100,000 sea mammals die from eating or getting trapped in plastic. This ban can’t come soon enough.

Nightcap

Introducing: Scarabus Islay Single Malt

Hunter Laing releases Scarabus Islay Single Malt at Fèis Ìle

Peat heads of the world, unite! A new release from Hunter Laing & Co. is always exciting news, especially when it’s an Islay single malt like Scarabus. Appropriately, the whisky is being released at this year’s Fèis Ìle. If you’re down that way then you’re in luck, because the very first drams will be poured (and tasted) throughout the festival at Hunter Laing’s newly-opened distillery on the island, Ardnahoe. Scarabus means ‘rocky place’ in Nordic, and the whisky is named after a mystical area of Islay, complete with equally mystical golden packaging. “We’re extremely proud of the Scarabus whisky and the Fèis Ìle Festival is the perfect place to release the first bottling”, said Stewart Laing, Managing Director. “We aimed to produce an expression that showcases a traditional Islay whisky style, and the unmistakable Islay smoke matches wonderfully with the rich, sweeter notes that linger on the finish.” If you’re not down Islay-way, fear not, as Scarabus will soon be available in the UK and beyond. Keep an eye on our social channels for updates.

Nightcap

Hit the books spirit nerds, we’ve got a new challenge up ahead!

WSET Level 3 Award in Spirits is live!

Great news, spirits geeks! There’s a new qualification in town, and it’s the toughest one yet. Developed in response to our collective (and global) thirst for all things spirits and subsequent desire to know all about them, the Level 3 Award builds on the Level 2 course (Team MoM highly recommends) but digs down into greater production detail while covering new spirits categories, like baijiu. It’s a much tougher assessment process, too, with a blind tasting exam as well as multiple choice and short-answer question paper. In all, candidates will need to put in at least 84 hours of graft. We’re excited! “The spirits industry has been crying out for a more advanced qualification in spirits,” said course developer Nick King. “Candidate numbers for WSET spirits qualifications (Levels 1 and 2) have grown significantly in the last 10 years (from 540 in 2009 to 6600 in 2019) and are now taught in 33 countries worldwide reflecting growing global demand. We are delighted to now be able to offer the industry a Level 3 Spirits qualification that develops candidates’ knowledge and understanding of the category in great depth and also builds their tasting skills, teaching them to identify the structural and aromatic elements that make up a spirit and to make a compelling quality assessment.” The first UK courses get under way in October!

Nightcap

All the delights of Powers Irish Whiskey with none of the effort? We’re in.

Powers Irish Whiskey’s first ever bottled cocktail

If stirring and, ugh, waiting aren’t for you, Powers Irish Whiskey has your back because the brand has just unveiled its first-ever pre-mixed cocktail, Powers Old Fashioned! Pow! The cocktail sees a combination of the classic Powers Gold Label, sugar syrup and bitter herbs flavouring. The recommended serve is, of course, over ice with a twist of orange peel – well, how else could you garnish an Old Fashioned? The bottle boasts a whole new look, with sleek modern packaging which you’d be hard-pressed to recognise as Powers. “A careful balance of the rich history of Powers with an eye on the future, we are confident that the refreshing ritual of ‘Ice, Pour, Twist’ will appeal to whiskey fans and the cocktail curious alike who are looking for simple and convenient ways to create new Irish whiskey experiences at home or in their local pub”, says Brendan Buckley at Irish Distillers. The cocktail will be launching in Ireland from the end of May, and if it finds success then hopefully we can expect to see it much further afield. Old Fashioneds all around!

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Counting oysters by hand, that’s commitment to conservation

Glenmorangie & partners plan to return native oysters to Europe’s seas

Oyster-loving folk, gather round. In historic marine-related news, a landmark Native Oyster Restoration Alliance (NORA) conference on reef restoration was held in Edinburgh this week. It was hosted by The Glenmorangie Company and its partners, including Heriot-Watt University, bringing together conservationists, administrators and oyster producers from across Europe to develop a ‘blueprint’ for native oyster reef restoration. Oysters were overfished to the point of extinction in the 1800s, and it turns out oyster reefs are among the most endangered marine habitats on Earth. The restoration is going to be done through the Dornoch Environmental Enhancement Project (rather aptly abbreviated to DEEP), which was established in 2014 and has already returned 20,000 native oysters to the Dornoch Firth in the Scottish Highlands. The aim? To increase this population of 20,000 to four million (!) by 2025, and in turn the reef will become self-sustaining. “We are incredibly proud to be pioneering DEEP’s vital environmental work with our partners, not only protecting but enhancing Glenmorangie Distillery’s environment for future generations,” says Glenmorangie President and CEO Tom Moradpour. It looks like the world really is our oyster.

Nightcap

Happy Anniversary guys!

The Coral Room celebrates its first anniversary

We got our party shoes on this week and headed up to London to join The Coral Room’s first-anniversary bash! The sleekly cosy cocktail bar is part of The Bloomsbury Hotel, but very much comes with its own character, look and feel. And on Wednesday, that feel was celebration! There was cake, a confetti cannon, and even a sneak peek at the new cocktail menu, which includes such deliciousness as the May Day Spritz, made with Tanqueray, Italicus, orange blossom and honey bitters, and English sparkling wine; and the Drinking in Newquay, with Cîroc, Crème de menthe, Blue Curaçao and Belsazar Riesling Supreme. There was even a Rinomato Sorbet, too! Very festive. Do pop in raise a cocktail to the team – congrats to everyone at The Coral Room!

Licor 43 lays down cocktail and coffee challenge

There’s nothing more on-trend than putting coffee and cocktails together. So, it’s appropriate that Licor 43 has just announced the opening of the UK round of its Bartenders & Baristas Challenge 2019. Now in its third year, this competition lays down the gauntlet to both bartenders and baristas to create serves with coffee and Licor 43 (the details of how to enter are here). Winners will go to a grand final in Gran Canaria this autumn. UK brand manager Charlotte Oswald said: “There is a natural marriage of aromas and flavours between Licor 43 and coffee and we’ve been communicating this with our Carajillo 43 signature serve. We are often amazed at the creativity, knowledge and passion from contestants and this really went up a level with the introduction of the coffee element last year – bartenders who were very well-versed in all things spirits were finding a whole new world of cocktail creation. We can’t wait to see what they come up with this year!” Licor 43, a blend of spices and citrus fruits, is something of a cult drink in Spain. There’s now a special Liquor 43 Baristo made with coffee beans from the Canary Islands which the company has produced a film about (above). So, what are you waiting for bartenders and baristas, get experimenting!

Nightcap

Happy International Pineapple Day, folks!

And finally. . . shake your maracas cos it’s International Pineapple Day!

From the Piña Colada to Carmen Miranda, we all know that the pineapple is the most exotic of all the fruits. No wonder it has a special day devoted to it: 1 June is International Pineapple Day! To help things go with a swing, That Boutique-y Gin Company is putting on a Pineapple Gin Parlour pop-up at 15 Bateman Street, in Soho, London on 1-2 June. There will be masterclasses and food historian Tasha Marks on hand to explain the history of the king of fruit. In the 18th century pineapples were high-value status symbols: having a pineapple was the Regency equivalent of a Ferrari parked outside your house. The neighbours would say ‘oooh, get her, who does she think she is with that pineapple, Lord Byron?’ Thankfully, drinks at the pop-up will be rather more affordable. Simply say the code word ‘mule’ and your Pineapple Mule will cost you nothing at all. Isn’t the modern world brilliant?

1 Comment on The Nightcap: 24 May

The Nightcap: 26 April

Another short week, but that has not stopped the deluge of booze news occurring – get ready for another edition of The Nightcap! The super-long weekend continued into this week…

Another short week, but that has not stopped the deluge of booze news occurring – get ready for another edition of The Nightcap!

The super-long weekend continued into this week for us here at MoM Towers, meaning Monday was spent as far away from office desks as possible. However, by Tuesday, we were eager to get back to it – and clearly so was everyone else in the world of booze, as there is plenty of news to go through in The Nightcap! Let’s get to it, shall we?

On the MoM Blog this week, Ian Buxton was back to ask the difficult questions once again, this time concerning investment in whisky, before Adam championed English-made booze to mark St. George’s Day. Then he explored Scotch whiskies from Speyside, as we look forward to the upcoming Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival. Annie was busy checking out the new Super Lyan bar in Amsterdam, but still made time to acknowledge Earth Day and Patrón Tequila’s contribution to it. Henry looked into how we can tackle the Malaria crisis with gin, while his Cocktail of the Week was The Iceberg Slim. Kristy also demonstrated an affinity to a Compass Box release for our New Arrival of the Week.

That’s a whole lot of news for a shorter week, but hold on to your hats because we’ve got even more – it’s The Nightcap!

The Nightcap

Samples are flowing off the stills!

Lagg Distillery kicks off whisky production

Some very exciting news came our way this week via Isle of Arran Distillers. Distillation has begun at Lagg Distillery! The very first middle cut of spirit was recorded back on Tuesday 19 March at 14.35, to be precise. The commissioning phase has now been completed and Cask Number One, a sherry butt reserved exclusively for members of the Lagg Cask Society, was filled on Wednesday 10 April with a heavily-peated (50ppm) spirit at 63.5% ABV. So, what can we expect from the eventual Lagg Single Malt? Well, the distillery hopes it will become a rich, earthy and smoky dram, making it something of a departure from the character of whisky currently produced at the original distillery in Lochranza. James MacTaggart, master distiller, said: “It’s incredibly exciting to be taking the very first steps in producing what will eventually be a magnificent Lagg whisky and something truly unique to anything we’ve produced previously.” The news comes as construction of the new distillery and visitor centre enters its final stages, with the outer structure now complete and many of the elements of internal design starting to come together. Lagg Distillery is expected to open fully in early summer, with the brand projecting that the distillery and visitor centre will increase total visitor numbers at both sites to over 200,000 by 2020. It’s all coming together, folks!

The Winchester Distillery’s range – for now…

Winchester Distillery reveals expansion (and crowdfunding!) details

As fifth birthday celebrations go, this is a pretty exciting one. Winchester Distillery has unveiled plans to expand its Hampshire-based production facilities! There’s a new higher-volume still going in, so the team can continue to explore new categories (it’s already got rum and whisky in the pipeline). It’s also looking into using locally-grown malted barley for its gin, vodka and whisky, too! But these adventures all need money, which is where the new Crowdcube crowdfunding campaign comes in. “With Winchester Distillery’s fifth birthday in May we are delighted to be in the position, with our annual average sales growth of 82% year on year, to take the business to the next level,” said Paul Bowler, the distillery’s managing director. “Having more capacity will mean we can make more of our well-loved spirits so we can enter new markets both here in the UK and overseas. We also intend to upgrade the current space here among the watercress beds in Old Alresford so that we can host more visitors for tours and tastings, and open a gift shop.” Thrilling stuff, indeed!

The mouthwatering result of globe-spanning teamwork

Diageo teams up with baijiu producer for ‘east-meets-west’ whisky

Exciting news if you’re a fan of intriguing whiskies: Diageo, the world’s biggest spirits player, has formed a joint venture with Jiangsu Yanghe Distillery, China’s third-largest baijiu-maker, to launch something brand-new in the country. It’s a whisky called Zhong Shi Ji, and while production details are scarce, it sounds like a curious thing indeed. Diageo’s Scotch master blender, Craig Wallace, and China Alcoholic Drinks Association’s baijiu master, Zhou Xinhu, worked on the project, which included some maturation in Chinese ceramic pots. We’ve not found out much else, except the result is said to be “unique, full-flavoured” and “exceptionally smooth”. “We believe that Zhong Shi Ji can play an important role in the Chinese dining occasion, launching a new era for whisky drinkers in China,” said C.H. Chu, MD at Diageo Greater China. Zhu Wei, vice president of Yanghe, added: “I firmly believe Zhong Shi Ji will quickly become Chinese consumers’ new favourite, with its ultra-smooth taste and superior quality, created through unique processes and craftsmanship from both China and the West.” If you come across it in the wild, let us know what it tastes like!

The Nightcap

It’s about time we got to enjoy whisky on the high seas!

The Dalmore sets sail on Queen Mary 2 cruise ship

Batten down the hatches, this week The Dalmore revealed an exclusive ‘whisky flight at sea’ on board the world’s only ocean liner, Queen Mary 2! This takes whisky to a whole new level (although we suppose it’s only sea level), as the Highlander can be sipped and savoured on board the ship between Southampton and New York. At the same time, an exclusive whisky experience will be offered on board during the Transatlantic crossing. To round off the whisky experience, master distiller Richard Paterson will be giving a presentation on board the ship. “The Dalmore is celebrated in iconic locations around the world,” Paterson said. “We see celebrations of The Dalmore at Baccarat Hotel New York, at 40,000 feet on board Emirates First Class, and now a unique opportunity to savour the Cunard whisky flight at 28 knots.” Also aboard the Queen Mary 2 will be two rare expressions from The Dalmore Constellation Collection, a limited edition collection of individual rare casks released by the distillery. We’ll certainly say ‘aye aye’ to that.

The Nightcap

Delicious booze and a good cause? We’re in!

Hedgepig gives a helping hand to hedgehogs with new gin liqueur

Hedgepig has increased its range of small batch gin liqueurs to four with the launch of a new flavour, Zesty Elderflower. The reveal coincides with and will benefit Hedgehog Awareness Week (5-11 May). By donating 50p for every bottle sold to the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, the brand is doing its bit to alleviate the plight of the tiny, spiny mammals, who really don’t have it easy. Hedgepig was created by the team behind Pinkster gin, and crafts all its liqueurs from locally-grown or foraged fruits – Zesty Elderflower was made from wild elderflower. It’s said to have a ‘delicate’ flavour with subtle citrus notes and is best enjoyed cold with pudding or as a cocktail topped up with Prosecco. “We’re thrilled to be supporting the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, especially during their awareness week,” said Hedgepig founder, Stephen Marsh. “The plight of the hedgehog makes for desperate reading. In rural areas, numbers have fallen by half over the past two decades. We’re delighted to be supporting the fine work of the unsung heroes at this cracking little charity. Every little counts.” Don’t forget to check out The British Hedgehog Preservation Society, which offers help and advice to those with sick, injured and orphaned hedgehogs, if you’d like to do your bit to help those snuffly little fellows.

The Nightcap

Congratulations to Nick Savage, the new master distiller of Bladnoch!

Macallan master distiller joins Bladnoch

Lowland distillery Bladnoch has a new master distiller! Nick Savage will join the team from 1 July. This is big news, not only because the brand has replaced Ian MacMillan, who left the distillery to establish his own whisky consultancy firm in January, but because Savage has stepped down as master distiller of The Macallan to work with Bladnoch. Savage, who prior to his three-year tenure at Macallan was a distilling technical leader at Girvan Distillery and had a four-year stint at Diageo, will work alongside newly-appointed distillery manager Neil Bulloch. He explained his decision was down to “the vision and ambition shown by David Prior and the team at Bladnoch distillery”. He continued: “The opportunity also allows me a new challenge in single malt Lowland Scotch whisky from a 200-year-old distillery.” Prior, Bladnoch CEO and owner, added: “It’s a great privilege to welcome Nick Savage to the Bladnoch business. His youthful, positive and energetic approach will add great value to our team and business, as will his technical and operational skills.” As for Macallan, this announcement follows the departures of whisky maker Bob Dalgarno and former creative director Ken Grier to lead the team at Glenturret Distillery. There could be some interesting times ahead for the Speyside brand, which celebrated the opening of a state-of-the-art distillery in 2018 and seems to break numerous auction whisky records on a weekly basis. As of yet, there is no word on who will be replacing Savage in the role of the master distiller, but we’re sure it won’t take them too long to… make the call.

What time is it? It’s time to get tropical!

Laki Kane’s Georgi Radev launches tiki tome

Love tiki cocktails? Then you’ll probably already know of Georgi Radev. After managing London’s tiki outpost Mahiki for more than a decade, he opened his own rum embassy, Laki Kane, in 2018. It’s even got its own rum microdistillery upstairs (head on down and you can even re-distil your own!). Now he’s evangelising about all things rum through the written word with Let’s Get Tropical, a recipe book detailing over 60 delicious serves. The best bit? They’re all curated so we can make them easily at home! It starts with super-easy how-tos, from how to make a sugar syrup to learning to swizzle properly. Then Radev cracks on to the good stuff. He’s packed in the classics (the likes of Daiquiris and Mai Tais, with optional twists and reinventions) and then he’s treated us to some ‘Modern Tropical’ cocktails form his own imagination. There are punches, if you need to impress the masses, and even treats from the current Laki Kane menu, including the mouth-watering watermelon-based Wiki Tiki (we tasted it at the book launch. It was wonderful). If you’re prepping for a summer party, Let’s Get Tropical is essential reading. It’s priced at £9.99, and hits UK shelves in May!

The Nightcap

Introducing: Benromach Cask Strength Vintage 2008 Batch 1

Benromach launches new cask strength expression

We do love a story about more new whisky, and that’s exactly what Benromach Distillery has given us this week. The family-owned distillery has a new addition to its Classic Range, Benromach Cask Strength Vintage 2008 Batch 1. The limited-run single malt whisky was laid down in 2008 and matured in a combination of first-fill sherry and bourbon casks. It was then bottled in 2019 at a cask strength 57.9% ABV with an outturn of 5,500 bottles. According to Benromach, the rich and full-bodied dram has notes of cracked black pepper, fruits and milk chocolate, with a delicate smoky edge on the palate. The bottle itself was created to mirror the shapes and textures of the Speyside distillery and will detail the vintage year, batch number and age. “By offering the opportunity to own and enjoy batch releases, we are able to further showcase the expertise of our distilling team while determining the right time to bottle each batch to take full advantage of the remarkable single malt whiskies we produce,” said Keith Cruickshank, Benromach distillery manager. “We believe this expression will allow Benromach drinkers to understand more about the provenance of the whisky they are drinking.” We’ve got some on the way to MoM Towers so keep an eye out, folks!

The Nightcap

We think it’s safe a bottle of this beauty wouldn’t be Money for Nothing

Sultans of Gin! Former Dire Straits frontman teams up with Portobello Road

London dry gin brand Portobello Road has partnered with the legendary Mark Knopfler OBE (if you haven’t heard of him or Dire Straits, then get your act together) to make a distinctive, special edition ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ gin, Local Heroes No.3. It’s a move that’s as awesome as it was inevitable. (He had a song called Portobello Belle, folks. It was only ever a matter of time.) Local Heroes No.3 was created by Knopfler and Portobello Road Gin’s co-founder, Jake F. Burger using the nine botanicals from its Portobello Road Gin with the addition of lime zest, fresh cucumber peel and olive oil, which were distilled in the 400-litre copper alembic still King Henry, then bottled and labelled by hand. The label design is understandably guitar-themed, and each bottle even comes with a miniature version of Knopfler’s iconic sweatband from his Dire Straits gigs. “As a gin fan, it is a wonderful opportunity to work with a prestigious brand like Portobello Road Gin to craft my own blend,” said Knopfler. “It is robust in flavour and strong in spice – exactly the kind of gin that I enjoy and I hope my fans will too.” Burger added: “It is a huge honour to be able to work with Mark to create a London Dry Gin with a rock n roll edge. As expected, the flavours are totally unique and we believe the result is extremely exciting. So why not mix yourself a cocktail, turn the stereo up and listen to one of Mark’s many classic albums?”

The Nightcap

Founder Annabel Thomas wants to encourage more women to work in whisky

Ncn’ean offers whisky-making internships for women

Scotland’s first 100% organic whisky distillery is offering two women the opportunity to learn to make whisky, from mashing and distilling through to maturation, with two all-expenses-paid summer internships. Ncn’ean Distillery, situated in converted farm steadings on the grounds of the historic Drimnin Estate on the Morvern peninsula, will also teach interns how to forage for the local plants that are used in Ncn’ean’s Botanical Spirit and how to make cocktails. Annabel Thomas, founder of Ncn’ean, launched the initiative to raise the profile of distilling as a career option among women. “I wanted to challenge the outdated views a lot of people still have,” she explained. “The number of times people ask me ‘do you actually like whisky?’ just because I am a woman, and the lack of gender balance in the industry in Scotland, suggests we all still have more work to do.” She said she hopes women from all walks of life will apply. So, if you fancy trying your hand as a distiller then you should probably get applying! The internships are open to all women aged 18 or over and will take place from 15-20 July. All travel, accommodation and food are included. It sounds like it could be the opportunity of a lifetime!

Hannah Lanfear, Phil Duffy, and plenty of Cognac

Culture Cognac champions Cognac cocktails – we approve

This week, we hot-footed it over to East London for an educational Cognac immersion with the UK’s brand of the Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac – and it was brilliant! The UK Cognac Bureau put on the Culture Cognac workshop for the trade to highlight the spirit’s role in contemporary cocktails. Phil Duffy and Hannah Lanfear chatted through production choices (think: terroir, grapes, barrels, ageing and more) and how they influence flavour – clearly vital when it comes to cocktails. “It’s so positive to see the Cognac category continuing to grow in popularity, now more than ever, which is of course due to London’s love of cocktails being at an all-time high,” said Duffy. “Cognac is no doubt one of the most versatile spirits and is one of the hottest cocktail ingredients going.” The team from The Devil’s Darling bar helped out with the serves. Feeling inspired? Why not check out the Brandy Sour and give it a go this weekend?

Think about playing Monopoly with your Tequila-loving friends? Maybe think again…

And finally… Science suggests we shouldn’t trust Tequila drinkers

This week a mighty intriguing press release crossed our desks. Apparently, you can tell how likely someone is to cheat by their booze preference. This is from ghost-writing company EduBirdie, and is clearly Highly Scientific. Ahem. Anyway, it surveyed 18-24 year olds in the US and from more than 2,000 responses, somehow concluded that wine drinkers are by far the most reliable: only 16% admitted to cheating at school, with just 8% fessing up to cheating romantically. Whisky drinkers were less angelic; just over a third said they had cheated on a partner, and 78%(!) cheated at school. Beer drinkers were (slightly) more honest academically, with 68% saying they’d cheated at school – but almost half had cheated in a relationship. Then, we have the Tequila fans. While a third said they’d cheated at school, a whopping 81% said they’d cheated on a partner. We’re an office of whisky and agave lovers, and we’re shook.

On that revelatory note – that’s it for The Nightcap this week. Have a great weekend (and if you’ve got a date, give the Tequila a wide berth).

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