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Tag: Macallan

Whisky and honours

Today Ian Buxton toasts Dr Jim Beveridge from Johnnie Walker who has just received an OBE and looks into the occasionally murky world of whisky and honours. As you may…

Today Ian Buxton toasts Dr Jim Beveridge from Johnnie Walker who has just received an OBE and looks into the occasionally murky world of whisky and honours.

As you may have read recently, Dr Jim Beveridge, master blender for Johnnie Walker has been appointed an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the latest Queen’s Honours list.  It couldn’t happen to a nicer or more modest chap – and he joins an exclusive group of whisky notables. In 2016 David Stewart, the long-serving malt Master at the Balvenie, was awarded the MBE while his opposite number at Glen Grant, Dennis Malcolm received an OBE – one rung up the awards ladder.  More recently, Nigel Mills, co-founder and chairman of The Lakes Distillery was appointed a CBE (a couple of steps up the awards hierarchy) while, at the same time, David Gosnell of Bushmills received the OBE.

Dr Jim Beveridge

Dr Jim himself!

So I expect by now you’re wondering, what are these awards, who else in whisky has received one and, most interesting of all, how are they decided?  There is no particular mystery about the British awards system. The aim is to recognise people who have made achievements in public life, or committed themselves to serving and helping Britain: “they’ll usually have made life better for other people or be outstanding at what they do.” as it says on the www.gov.uk/honoursThere’s nothing obscure about that and, other than the staunch republicans among us, we can probably agree that it is appropriate to recognise exceptional achievement or national service.  But who decides and how do they know who is worthy?

Though these are the Queen’s Awards, it’s not actually Her Majesty who decides. Specialist committees, comprising senior civil servants along with people who are independent of government, recommend awards to a main committee who then forward them to the Prime Minister’s office and then to the Queen. If you know someone particularly deserving, you can nominate them on the website. 

This system was introduced by John Major as Prime Minister but previously the basis for an award was, at best, opaque and, at worst, corrupt. There may have been some skulduggery surrounding the so-called ‘Whisky Barons’ of the 1920s ennobled by Prime Minister David Lloyd George, most notably the creation of Lord Woolavington (formerly James Buchanan). It is said that he paid handsomely for his peerage – allegedly, the sum of £50,000, or about £2m today – but signed the cheque with his new title and dated it for one day after the announcement was due, to ensure that the wily Lloyd George would honour the new honour!  But rest assured Messrs Beveridge, Stewart and Malcolm haven’t written any dodgy cheques! Their awards are strictly on merit.

Jim Beveridge

Dr Jim in action

Though there have been some involved with whisky production who have received gongs, like Ronald Martin from United Distillers (1931-2005, awarded OBE in 1991) or Professor Geoffrey Palmer from Heriot Watt University who received an OBE in 2003, the most senior awards, including knighthoods tend to come from the commercial side of the business.  Examples include Sir Anthony Tennant (1930 – 2011), knighted in 1992 for his work at IDV and at Guinness following the ignominious departure of Ernest Saunders, and Sir George Bull, knighted 1998, having been one of the principal architects of the then-largest merger in UK corporate history with the union of Grand Metropolitan with Guinness to create Diageo. A more recent business knight is Sir Ian Good, chairman of the Edrington Group from 1994 to 2013.  He was knighted in 2008. Interestingly, his predecessor John Macphail (1923-2004) received the lesser award of CBE, despite his obituary describing him as “one of the most inspirational and influential figures in the Scotch whisky industry”.

So here’s to all the distinguished individuals mentioned here, and all the others that I should have saluted but have omitted. Let’s raise a glass to their contribution to whisky, along with the hope that the new generation of distinguished whisky women will shortly have their special place in history.  

Who will be the first women in whisky to be honoured?  I leave it to you to speculate…..

Though he has neither a beard nor any visible tattoos or piercings, Ian Buxton is well-placed to write about drinks.  A former Marketing Director of one of Scotland’s favourite single malts, his is a bitter-sweet love affair with Scotland’s national drink – not to mention gin and rum, or whatever the nearest PR is pouring. Once, apparently without noticing, he bought a derelict distillery. Follow his passionate, authentic hand-crafted artisanal journey on the Master of Malt blog.  Or just buy his books.  It’s what he really wants.

 

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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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Is investment money bad for whisky’s soul?

In the last few years prices for the world’s top whiskies have gone through the roof. Whisky is now an asset like fine wine, art and classic cars. Ian Buxton…

In the last few years prices for the world’s top whiskies have gone through the roof. Whisky is now an asset like fine wine, art and classic cars. Ian Buxton does not approve. In fact, he’s downright furious.

I’ve been banging on about the ‘investment in whisky’ trend for quite a while – and for some while I’ve got it wrong, as least as far as the prices of certain whiskies go. The sky, it would seem, is the limit and my doom-laden prognostications of a crash in prices have yet to be fulfilled.

So that’s that, then.  Fill yer boots and make money while you can would seem to be the moral.

Never mind whisky’s soul.

Lovely box, but will it ever be drunk?

However, if you care about whisky, really sincerely care, then you will readily appreciate that ‘investment grade’ whisky such as limited edition Macallans, virtually all Port Ellens these days and anything in a ‘collectable’ box is not simply a specious concept but a damaging one. Whisky that is never going to be drunk, whisky whose future is to be traded like an ingot of bullion, whisky forever condemned to be the slave of the spreadsheet is whisky that will never fully live. It’s whisky devoid of meaning, whisky without a soul, reduced to a barren commodity. There may as well be cold tea in the bottle, no matter the lavish packaging.  Remember the fable of the Emperor’s New Clothes and you may look on the most elegant of bottles and see a rotting corpse beneath the silk.

Whisky attains its highest state when it is consumed; its apotheosis poignantly coinciding with the moment of its destruction. Only then is its destiny fulfilled. Whisky is disputation, conviviality, a metaphor for a nation’s identity and sense of self-belief. Whisky is romantic, metaphysical and phantasmagorical. As Burns relates, whisky is “the poor man’s wine”.

‘Investment grade’ bottles are the vampire squid wrapped around whisky’s face, relentlessly jamming their blood funnels into anything that smells like money careless of the consequences and conscious only of the sterile arithmetic of the profit and loss account.  Leave these trophies, the fevered creation of huckstering spinmeisters and their band of useful idiots, to the Gollum-like investor, poring over soulless spreadsheets and taking joy only in the bloodless contemplation of a paper return on investment. “My precious,” indeed.

Here we see the triumph of packaging over content. All too often these whiskies are lavishly draped in the most luxurious wrapping that the ingenuity of the design world can conceive – hand-blown bottles, silver stoppers, exquisitely-crafted oak cabinets and leather-bound volumes filled with ever more baroque and far-flown tasting notes. All of which costs money, lots of it, which leads me to suggest that this market is driven as much by presentation as product.

whisky crash

Ian Buxton about to drink some whisky

If you doubt my word, consider the following intriguing tale.  Back in June 2013, The Macallan released a pack of two 35cl bottles to commemorate HM Queen Elizabeth II’s 60th anniversary.  There were a mere 1,953 packs produced (to mark the 1953 Coronation – geddit?). What you got was two half bottles in a handsome box with a colour leaflet, released at £350.  While the strength of the whisky was indicated, there was no age statement – but as this was designed to sit in a vault, why would anyone care?

Naturally, they were all snapped up as fast as you could sing the national anthem and, equally quickly, they appeared on auction sites where they changed hands for up to £2,300 (before commission). But, interestingly, in the November 2018 on-line auction of a well-known Glasgow site an orphan bottle appeared all on its own, only to be knocked down for £400. Given this was a 35cl bottle, that suggests the market valued the whisky content of a standard bottle at £800. In the same sale a complete pack reached £1,900.  Or, to put it another way, someone paid £1,100 for an admittedly lovely box and a brochure. It’s an interesting set of priorities.

By all means collect whisky and enjoy it as you will but do not succumb to the siren calls of self-serving false prophets.  If you want an investment, buy Diageo shares (up around 27% in the past 12 months and 65% over the last five years; easily traded and paying a dividend). Remember, as Shakespeare tells us “All that glisters is not gold” or, as they say in Edinburgh, “all fur coat and nae knickers!”

Though he has neither a beard nor any visible tattoos or piercings, Ian Buxton is well-placed to write about drinks.  A former Marketing Director of one of Scotland’s favourite single malts, his is a bitter-sweet love affair with Scotland’s national drink – not to mention gin and rum, or whatever the nearest PR is pouring. Once, apparently without noticing, he bought a derelict distillery. Follow his passionate, authentic hand-crafted artisanal journey on the Master of Malt blog.  Or just buy his books.  It’s what he really wants.

 

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Tears before bedtime: are we heading for a whisky crash?

Today we are honoured to introduce Ian Buxton who is going to be writing a series of columns for us. In this his first article he looks back at whisky’s…

Today we are honoured to introduce Ian Buxton who is going to be writing a series of columns for us. In this his first article he looks back at whisky’s turbulent past and asks when the next bust is coming. 

According to Mark Twain, “too much good whiskey is barely enough.”  Well, uncomfortably soon, we might find out if that’s true. Whisky – be that Scotch, American or Irish – has, with monotonous regularity, a very bad habit of shooting off its own foot.  Bear with me: short and grossly simplified history lesson coming up.

whisky crash

Ian Buxton at Glenfiddich

At the end of the 19th century, the Irish whiskey industry, which was heavily invested both financially and emotionally in its large pot stills and regarded grain spirit as ‘sham whisky’ and blending as adulteration, turned its back on the future.  While other factors then came into play, it’s taken the industry more than a century to recover. Our American friends, having just got over the self-inflicted wound of Prohibition, decided that rye was finished and bourbon belonged on the bottom shelf.  That’s taken a while to sort out.

And the Scots, contrary to their national reputation for caution and parsimony, are overly fond of some boom and bust, be it the Pattison crisis of the late 1890s or the closures of the 1920s, which – lesson not learned – were neatly repeated in the mid-1980s when the industry finally confronted the consequences of over-production. Not to be outdone, shortly afterwards, the Japanese industry thought seppuku a smart move. Reacting to economic recession and dropping sales, a series of cutbacks and closures explain why Japanese whisky of any age is so very expensive today.

So, that’s one thing the world of whisky has in common.  Here’s another: we may be on the brink of repeating the same mistake because, wherever you look, distilleries are being expanded and new ones built as if the current good times will never end. The thing is, top-line numbers don’t tell the whole story. While there may be literally thousands of boutique distilleries being built anywhere you can cast a quaich, they don’t actually matter all that much.  Sure, they do if you’re an investor. Furthermore, they add to the gaiety of life and people like me get to write articles about them, but in terms of the volume they add to total production they’re insignificant.

whisky crash

Macallan’s spanking new distillery

If you doubt that, here’s a sum: it would take 125 (that’s one hundred and twenty-five, count ‘em) tiddlers of 100,000 litres annual capacity to equal the output of one Roseisle.  By the way, 100,000 litres is a perfectly decent little distillery: more, for example, than the projected individual outputs of Daftmill, Abhainn Dearg, Strathearn, Eden Mill or Dornoch .  And, while a lot of new boutique distilleries are being built in Scotland, the total doesn’t approach 125.

So, I’m not that worried about the small fry, fascinating though they are.  The problem (if there is one) comes with the less heralded fact that the big are getting very much bigger: Inchdairnie (up to 4 million litres); Ailsa Bay (12.5m); Roseisle (12.5m); Dalmunach (10m); Macallan (15m) and Borders (2m). That’s without considering expansion at Glenfiddich (to 20m), The Glenlivet, Glen Moray (now a 5m-litre plant), Glen Ord, Glenmorangie and the re-opening of Glen Keith.  I could go on.

In fact, I shall.  Exactly the same thing is happening in Kentucky and elsewhere in the USA.  That’s without mentioning the States’ reputed 1,500 plus craft distillers which, however small any one of them may be, does eventually add up to an awful lot of liquor. Expansion in Ireland, chiefly at Tullamore and Midleton, but not forgetting Waterford and Bushmills, has also seen a headlong rush into micro-distilling – which is interesting, given how Jameson continues to dominate the category.  Does the world need twenty or more tiny Irish distilleries? In Japan, following years of under-production and a sudden dramatic rise in demand (and hence those prices), they’re scrambling to catch up.

whisky crash

Artist impression of the new Port Ellen distillery

Now, while you can, of course, keep whisky in cask almost indefinitely, that requires barrels and warehouses, scarce and expensive resources that tax the patience of the most saintly accountant. Because a lot of this expansion has happened within a short period of time, a tsunami of newly-mature spirit can be expected on the market within the next five years.  

In fact, the world has never seen so much whisky. Where will it all go? Who is going to drink it all?

I would like to conclude with the thought that the last time whisky grew this fast it all ended badly. Which is true, but I can’t because whisky has never grown this fast. The size of some of these giant distilleries is unheard of for single malt, and, for the industry as a whole, the scale of expansion is unprecedented. That’s worth thinking about, because it means an unprecedented level of risk of a very messy end to our current golden age.

Though he has neither a beard nor any visible tattoos or piercings, Ian Buxton is well-placed to write about drinks.  A former Marketing Director of one of Scotland’s favourite single malts, his is a bitter-sweet love affair with Scotland’s national drink – not to mention gin and rum, or whatever the nearest PR is pouring. Once, apparently without noticing, he bought a derelict distillery. Follow his passionate, authentic hand-crafted artisanal journey on the Master of Malt blog.  Or just buy his books.  It’s what he really wants.

 

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The Nightcap: 8 March

The weekend is almost here, and we wouldn’t want you to go into a wonderful Saturday without a whole heap of booze news – hence, The Nightcap! It has been…

The weekend is almost here, and we wouldn’t want you to go into a wonderful Saturday without a whole heap of booze news – hence, The Nightcap!

It has been a long ol’ week, despite being around the same number of hours as every other week for about… Well, since weeks were invented. Whoever did that should have made them shorter, because then you would get more editions of our weekly round-up of stories from the world of boozes. Maybe write a letter to the week inventor. See if they can get rid of a day or two somewhere. Thursday has always felt a bit extraneous.

Anyway, what’s been happening on the MoM Blog this week? Well, Kristy has been chatting to some of the amazing women who work here at MoM Towers in celebration of International Women’s Day (it’s today, by the way) – you can read all of those interviews right here. Annie once again did her best Mystic Meg impression and looked at the bars of the future that exist today. Henry watched whisky on the big screen, found out more about Israel’s Milk & Honey distillery and brewed up something tasty for Cocktail of the Week – the Espresso Martini. Adam greeted the new season with open arms and tasty garnishes as he looked at delicious spring spirits. We also did some more winning, this time at the UK eCommerce Awards.

Say hello to Diageo’s first women apprentice coopers

Diageo recruits first women apprentice coopers!

In case it had escaped your attention, today is International Women’s Day. And there was some exciting news from Diageo this week which makes a fitting top Nightcap post! The drinks group has recruited the world’s first female coopering apprentices at its Cambus Cooperage in Scotland. Angela Cochrane and Kirsty Olychick are part of a 16-strong team of apprentices at the Coopering School, where traditional coopering skills are taught over the four-year course. Both women are in their 30s, not just shattering the stereotype that coopering is exclusively a career for men, but also that apprenticeships are only open to school-leavers. “I’ve never been put off by gender stereotypes,” said Cochrane. “I don’t think that should stop anyone from doing what they want to do. And knowing you’re contributing to the growing whisky industry is an amazing feeling.” Olychick added: “Coming into a male-dominated workplace didn’t put me off at all, in fact I found it really empowering to be one of the first women to take up the craft and make my mark in history. It’s such an exciting prospect to think that I’ll be contributing to the next generation of Scotch.” We’re raising a dram to them both – while hoping that at some point soon stories like this won’t be newsworthy as there will be genuine equal representation across the spirits industry.

We should celebrate, with some Aperol of course!

Aperol sales soar by 28% as Campari Group reports ‘strong’ results

Financial results time! And Campari’s full-year stats make for interesting reading. Vibrantly-hued Aperol continued its global charge, with sales soaring by more than 28% over the year, while Campari saw sales climb by 5.1% (Negronis are still ON). Wild Turkey (+7%), Grand Marnier (+5.2%), Bulldog Gin (+7.2%), and the Jamaican rum portfolio (+8.3%, includes the likes of Appleton Estate and Wray & Nephew Overproof) all did very well. Not so good for Skyy vodka though, which saw 8.1% declines, blamed on weaknesses in the US, or Glen Grant, which saw sales fall by 5.7%. An agave price hike impacted profitability, although its Espolòn Tequila brand posted emphatic 26.1% gains. Overall, total group organic sales climbed by +5.3%, and CEO, Bob Kunze-Concewitz, is happy. “We remain confident in achieving a positive performance across the key underlying business indicators in 2019,” he said.

Meet Igor Boyadjian!

All change at the top: The Macallan names new MD

Single malt Scotch brand The Macallan is about to get a new managing director! Following news that Scott McCroskie, current MD, is off to lead parent company Edrington, Igor Boyadjian has been named as his successor. Boyadjian leads Asia Pacific & India at Edrington, and will take up his new post – and a spot on the Edrington executive team – from 1 April. He first joined Edrington in 2017 to lead the travel retail operations, but had partnered with the company for more than a decade before that as part of its Edrington-F.I.X. Middle East joint venture. “I am thrilled to have been given the opportunity to help chart the next stage in the journey of The Macallan,” Boyadjian said. “Under Scott’s leadership, The Macallan has demonstrated a constant pursuit of excellence and dedication to creating the finest single malt Scotch whisky. It is both an honour and a privilege to work alongside a dedicated and talented group of people all over the world, whose mastery, creativity and pride for the brand have helped push the boundaries to make The Macallan what it is today.” Congrats, Igor!

These bourbon and rye whiskies were distilled before Prohibition.

Rare 1920s bourbon for sale in Kentucky

Lovers of good old time sippin’ whiskey should head to the Frazier Museum in downtown Louisville, Kentucky. Thanks to a change in the state alcohol laws, the museum is now allowed to sell some of its collection of rare whiskeys. Known colloquially as “dusty bottles”, they are likely to get bourbon lovers salivating. The first releases of what will become a regular thing are pint bottles of Old Hickory Canadian Rye bottled in 1925, Old Jim Gore Bourbon, distilled 1912 and bottled in 1925, and John Poindexter Old Bourbon, distilled in 1916 and bottled in 1928. The last two were distilled by Wigglesworth Brothers of Harrison County, Kentucky. The bourbons are $2,000 a pop, with the rye a snip at $1,500. Andrew Treinen from the museum told us: “There was a guy waiting to buy one of all three when we opened the morning after the release. We have a small inventory of all brands still available and hopefully more on the way.” Readers will note that they were bottled during Prohibition. How was this even possible? Well, to get around the law forbidding the sale of alcohol, at the time they were sold for medicinal use only. We imagine that doctors were pretty popular people in 1920s America.

The value of rare Scotch whisky has increased by a staggering 600%.

Whisky now a better investment than art, cars or coins

If you’ve got some spare cash to invest, then you could do a lot worse than ploughing it into rare whisky, according to The Wealth Report 2019, released this week. Whisky currently tops the Knight Frank Luxury Investment Index (KFLII) which tracks the value of assets including cars, art and rare coins. The whisky index, based on the auction values of 100 bottles of rare Scotch, has increased in value by 40% in the last 12 months. In the past ten years, prices have risen by nearly 600%! That’s a lot of moolah. Much of this growth is driven by the Asian market. “The stunning price growth of rare single malt whiskies shows that the appetite for new ‘alternative’ asset classes remains strong among high-net-worth investors,” said Andrew Shirley, editor of The Wealth Report and the Knight Frank Luxury Investment Index. Andy Simpson, co-founder Rare Whisky 101 added: “While rare whisky remains a somewhat fledgling asset class compared to some other passion investments, the market for rare and vintage bottles has witnessed extraordinary growth over the past ten years.” We should point out, of course, that assets can go down in value as well as up. Nothing is guaranteed. However, the great thing about whisky is that if prices do collapse, at least you will have something to drown your sorrows with.

Even more Irish whiskey to come!

Ireland officially has another working distillery – welcome to the party, Clonakilty!

We all know Irish whiskey is booming, and now there’s another distillery to add to the must-visit list. On 5 March, the waterfront Clonakilty Distillery and Visitor Experience in West Cork opened its doors! In addition to its three-still stillhouse and whiskey and gin production, the site has a story room which tells the tale of Clonakilty town’s brewing and smuggling history, a gin school, a bistro, and a fancy gift shop. The distillery is open to the public from Tuesday through to Sunday, and tours can be booked on the distillery website. Clonakilty becomes Ireland’s 23rd operational distillery, and reckons it will attract as many as 35,000 visitors a year. Congrats, all!

Say hello to Tamdhu’s new 15 Year Old!

Raise a glass to Tamdhu’s new 15 Year Old

It wouldn’t be the Nightcap if there wasn’t news of delicious new whisky. Scotch single malt distillery Tamdhu has done the decent thing this week and launched a new limited edition 15-year-old annual release. Fans of the Speyside drop will be pleased to know it’s as sherry-tastic as ever, having been matured in American and European oloroso-seasoned casks for the full 15 years. Tamdhu 15 Year Old was bottled at 46% ABV without any chill-filtration or additional colouring, and is said to be a complex and rich dram that delivers notes of apple pastry, spiced currants, orange zest, juicy apricot, vibrant raspberry, almonds, malt biscuit, cream sherry and vanilla. The bespoke bottle sports Tamdhu’s new packaging, which tells the history of the distillery and highlights the significance of sherry casks in its maturation. “We’re extremely proud of our new Tamdhu 15 Year Old,” said Sandy McIntyre, Tamdhu distillery manager. “When you taste a dram of Tamdhu 15 Year Old, you can really taste the time and care that has gone into creating this incredible whisky. We hope Tamdhu drinkers around the world will savour it as much as we do.” You’ll be pleased to know that Tamdhu 15 Year Old is on its way to MoM Towers, so keep an eye out…

The Signature Range has arrived!

Glasgow Distillery Company to launch all kinds of new whisky!

The Glasgow Distillery Company, founded in 2014, has made the sort of announcement that makes us geek out in excitement here at MoM Towers. Glasgow’s first independent single malt whisky distillery since 1902 is poised to release not one but three new Scotch whiskies! Alongside the return of its 1770 Single Malt Scotch Whisky in the form a 2019 edition, meet peated and triple-distilled expressions, 1770 Peated and 1770 Triple Distilled. Most excitingly, these three together will form one awesome collective, like the Power Rangers, except this one is called the Signature Range. The first 1770 release sold out in 2018, so many will be delighted to welcome it back. Matured in first fill ex-bourbon casks, finished in virgin oak and non-chill filtered, the new 1770 Single Malt is available to pre-order now from the brand’s website. The first peated expression will follow in late 2019 and the triple-distilled bottling will appear in early 2020. “Innovation is very important to us, and the announcement of the 1770 Signature Range is no different,” said Liam Hughes, CEO and co-founder. “We’re proud to be one of a select few distilleries in Scotland to have three different styles of single malt as part of their core whisky offering.” Exciting stuff!

Congratulations to Hannah Lanfear!

Hannah Lanfear is the new Armagnac educator for the UK

The wonderful Hannah Lanfear (who we spoke to as part of last year’s International Woman’s Day series) now has another exciting role: she is the new Armagnac educator for the UK! Working closely with Amanda Garnham of the BNIA (Bureau National Interprofessionnel de l’Armagnac), Lanfear will present Armagnac masterclasses and training sessions over the next few months to take Armagnac to thrilling new brandy-based heights. The Mixing Class founder has a wealth of experience as a spirits educator for the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) up her sleeve. She’s previously hosted WSET classes on Armagnac at Brooklyn Bar Convent in the US, and is an Armagnac judge at spirits competitions. There’s an ever-growing interest in the category, particularly within the bar community, and the versatile, complex brandy looks set for a bright future. “Since travelling to Gascony during distillation season I have completely fallen for this historic brandy,” said Lanfear. “Not only is it an immensely interesting spirit to study the production of, it has a wonderful depth of flavour and is utterly enigmatic in a cocktail. I am thrilled to be able to share the story of Armagnac in London.”

The London Classics

Bimber celebrates London with new drinks range!

Introducing The London Classics, a collection of spirits from Bimber Distillery featuring a London Vodka, a London Gin and a London Rum, all distilled, packaged and labelled by hand at the brand’s West London site. This means the London Classics are 100% made in London, which is very pleasing. The trio was created to offer an alternative to the standard house spirits found in the speed rail of many a bar, pub, restaurant and hotel. Bimber set itself the challenge of rallying against a perceived lack of creativity, individuality and value for money in these tipples. The plan was to create a new range based on character and flavour, housed in stylish, minimalist and convenient bottles that are easy to pour, while being affordable and fun. A lofty ambition, but seeing as we already stock the vodka, gin and rum, you can decide for yourself if these handcrafted, small-batch spirits live up to it.

The Winchester Collection Vintage 1967. The Glenlivet has wowed us.

The Glenlivet teams up with British designer for 50 year old(!) bottling

Today, just literally today, The Glenlivet unveiled The Winchester Collection Vintage 1967, a super-rare 50 year old limited-edition single malt whisky worth $25,000 (around £19,000), with a bottle and display case designed by award-winning British designer Bethan Gray. The whisky marries malts from a number of casks, the youngest of which was filled in December 1967. That’s right, the youngest. With whiskies this old, around 60-80% of the liquid has been lost to the angels’ share – what remains is like gold dust. Or liquid gold, perhaps. No wonder only 150 bottles have been released worldwide. Gray’s grandfather lived and worked in the Cairngorms, close to The Glenlivet, and the misty landscape around the valleys inspired the Dhow pattern that adorns the case. The glass bottle is hand-blown, while the ombré glass mirrors the ageing process of the whisky. The hand-stained maple case, decorated with mother-of-pearl, is made using solid copper overlays, reflecting The Glenlivet’s copper stills, crafted with a technique that was specially invented for this curved case – now try telling us that isn’t special! This is certainly a collector’s item, though beneath all of this is simply some truly outstanding whisky!

The launch of Rémy Martin’s cigar terrace at Dukes didn’t go entirely to plan… (It wasn’t us).

And finally… Rémy Martin smokes out Dukes Bar. Accidentally.

We try to make sure that there’s a Master of Malt representative at all the swankiest events, so naturally we sent someone to cover the opening of the Rémy Martin Cognac and Cigar Garden at Dukes London Mayfair. But while everyone was sipping Rémy XO and puffing on a Romeo Y Julieta, there was trouble brewing. Someone (not us, we hasten to add) had left the door to the terrace open. Consequently, the waft of fine cigar smoke was permeating the entire hotel, including the famous bar presided over by Alessandro Palazzi (winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award at the recent Class Bar Awards). He came striding through the hotel and told us firmly and politely to keep the door shut. Normally the most genial and relaxed of hosts, it’s the only time we have seen Palazzi looking the tiniest bit flappable. A newsworthy moment indeed. Everyone assumed the naughty schoolkid pose. Sorry, Alessandro!

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Buyer found for Scotland’s oldest distillery, Glenturret

Good news for whisky lovers and for whisky workers, Glenturret distillery has found a buyer! We reported back in June that The Macallan owner, Edrington, was selling Glenturret, Scotland’s oldest…

Good news for whisky lovers and for whisky workers, Glenturret distillery has found a buyer!

We reported back in June that The Macallan owner, Edrington, was selling Glenturret, Scotland’s oldest working distillery, as well as the Cutty Sark brand. Last month, Cutty Sark was bought by French spirits group La Martiniquaise-Bardinet, the owner of Glen Moray. Now Glenturret has gone to high-end wine distributor Art & Terroir as it makes its first foray into whisky. It’s like its Scotch transfer season.

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The Nightcap: 14 December

Thank heavens it’s the end of the week. It’s time to dust off your dancing shoes and head to your local discotheque to strut your funky stuff, perhaps whilst wearing…

Thank heavens it’s the end of the week. It’s time to dust off your dancing shoes and head to your local discotheque to strut your funky stuff, perhaps whilst wearing novelty reindeer antlers. It’s up to you. But first, the Nightcap!

A great way to make those winter days go a bit quicker is with a Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar. We’ve been counting down the days and this week we had a surfeit of K sounds in our whiskies: Kilchoman, Kirkwall Bay, Kavalan, Cotswold, Cardhu and Nikka. Plus Glenrothes standing aloof refusing to have anything to do with all those noisy Cs and Ks. For the Super Wish on Monday, #WhiskySanta was giving away a bottle of The Macallan M worth £3,300. And there was an opportunity to win £250 to spend at Master of Malt by finding #WhiskySanta in a Where’s Wally-style game. Head on over to our YouTube page to join in!

And that’s not all. Round 3 of the Master of Malt Auctions is under way; Annie talked to the people behind the Port of Leith distillery, Edinburgh’s first single malt distillery in more than 100 years; Henry wrote a bit about his favourite cocktail, the Negroni; and picked the best booze books of the year. Some excellent stocking fillers there.

Now on with the news!

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Behold! Six brilliantly old and rare Boutique-y whiskies are here!

‘Old’ and ‘rare’ are terms often bandied about with much abandon in whisky. Not here, folks. We’ve got six really rather marvellous, hard-to-find That Boutique-y Whisky Company gems that certainly…

‘Old’ and ‘rare’ are terms often bandied about with much abandon in whisky. Not here, folks. We’ve got six really rather marvellous, hard-to-find That Boutique-y Whisky Company gems that certainly live up to that billing, including a Macallan and not one but two Rosebanks!

We’re always on the look-out for unusual bottlings that max out deliciousness. And we love the people behind That Boutique-y Whisky Company because they are after the same: they sniff out incredible whiskies, independently bottle the best of the best, and then share them with the world. They are our kind of folk. And they’ve done it again. Say hello to six incredibly exciting brand-new bottlings: Rosebank 26 Year Old (That Boutique-y Whisky Company); Rosebank 28 Year Old (That Boutique-y Whisky Company); Ardbeg 27 Year Old (That Boutique-y Whisky Company); Highland Park 26 Year Old (That Boutique-y Whisky Company); Macallan 30 Year Old (That Boutique-y Whisky Company); and Springbank 22 Year Old (That Boutique-y Whisky Company)!

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Awesome antique Macallans alert!

With the arrival of 28 rare Macallan expressions, we take a moment to delve into the rich history of probably the most famous distillery in Scotland, if not the world….

With the arrival of 28 rare Macallan expressions, we take a moment to delve into the rich history of probably the most famous distillery in Scotland, if not the world.

The buyers at Master of Malt have been wearing their Indiana Jones outfits recently (they do actually have special outfits for whisky sleuthing) and have discovered a stash of rare Macallans that will have enthusiasts salivating. There are further details below, but we thought this was as good an excuse as any to look at a distillery that really does sanction the use of that overused word, iconic.

Macallan dates back to 1824 when a distillery was founded by Alexander Reid at Craigellachie. Many distilleries were built (and many illegal ones went legitimate) around this time due to the 1823 Excise Act which liberalised licensing laws. The distillery passed through various owners until 1892 when it was bought by Roderick Kemp, a giant of whisky who at one point owned Talisker, though not at the same time as The Macallan. He completely rebuilt the distillery and renamed it Macallan-Glenlivet. It was common practice to add ‘Glenlivet’, the area’s best-known whisky, as a suffix to your distillery. Nowadays many distilleries would love to put Macallan after their names, though I think Macallan’s lawyers would have something to say about that.

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Our Selections for Sherried September Treats

If you’ve been thinking about breaking out the sherried whisky from its summer slumber, you’re in good company. We’ve got a whole bunch of ace sherried whiskies to enjoy during…

If you’ve been thinking about breaking out the sherried whisky from its summer slumber, you’re in good company. We’ve got a whole bunch of ace sherried whiskies to enjoy during the chillier months…

As the fiercely mild September weather continues to cause a polite ruckus outside the window, we’re diving into autumn head-first. Everyone is wearing about five sweatshirts. We’ve spruced up the halls of MoM Towers with decorative gourds. Nobody is daring to go outside to forage lunch items for fear of frostbite and the bite of frostcrocodiles. It’s all very thrilling. However, none of this compares to the excitement of unearthing our favourite sherried whiskies from the cupboards where they sheltered from the harsh rays of the sun.

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