Today industry veteran Ian Buxton peers into the future to see what the wide world of drinks will bring in 2020. Warning, it’s not worth betting your house on his…
Today industry veteran Ian Buxton peers into the future to see what the wide world of drinks will bring in 2020. Warning, it’s not worth betting your house on his predictions.
In looking into my crystal ball, I determined for this final column of 2019 to seek out the views of senior and influential industry leaders on the prospects for the spirits industry in the coming year and publish a range of informed and authoritative views on what the future holds for all of us.
Then I thought, ‘sod it, that’s a lot of work and they’ve no more idea than I have’, so here, in a spirit of frivolity entirely unsuited to the impending environmental apocalypse that’s about to engulf the known universe / fantastic economic Boris Boom as we ‘get Brexit done’ (delete as applicable), are the predictions to be found in Old Buxton’s Almanack (price several large ones at a PR junket, sorry ‘media briefing’, near you).
The following article contains forward-looking views and opinions. Master of Malt accepts no liability for any decisions taken on the basis of this ‘information’. In fact, Master of Malt doesn’t accept any liability for anything. Frankly, you’re on your own.
January: Mystery Egyptian collector Mustafa Dram pays £1m at auction for a piece of paper with ‘Macallan’ written on it. Ken Loach announces filming to start on Angels’ Share 2, starring Charlie MacLean as himself and Jacob Rees-Mogg as Dr Dick Horgan, would-be PR exec. Two new craft gins launched this month.
There’s going to be a lot of gin in 2020
February: American craft distillery Ultimate Spirits launches Ultimate Monster Peat Whiskey (also available in herring barrel finish). Pernod Ricard buys the distillery. Four new craft gins launched.
March: Not to be outdone the folks at Bruichladdich reveal their ultimate peated whisky, The Peat Behemoth. Distilled by their peat master Peter ‘Peaty’ Peterson in peat-fired stills and aged in casks buried in a peat bog, each bottle contains a peat widget that releases a concentrated burst of phenols when the bottle is opened. “It’s verra peaty,” says Peterson “but ah just keep mine in the safe. We’re hoping Mustafa Dram will visit soon.” Eight new craft gins launched.
April: Mystery Egyptian collector sells piece of paper with ‘Macallan’ on it for £1.5m to Cayman Islands based ‘whisky investment fund’, but pays £5m for bottle of Macallan 10 Year Old. “It says Macallan on the label,” says Dram. “Look, I can see it here.” 16 new craft gins launched.
May: Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon raises stakes on Boris Johnson with unilateral declaration of Scottish independence and reveals ‘Resource Tax’ on distillery water supplies. “It’s Scotland’s water,” she cries into her Irn Bru. 32 new craft gins launched.
June: Chivas Brothers cancels Chinese project and announce £200m investment in new Carlisle distillery. SWA commences legal action against the estate of deceased country singer Glen Campbell for ‘passing-off’. 64 new craft gins launched.
July: Greece leaves the Euro. The New Drachma immediately devalues by 50%. Greek spirits market collapses. Scotland applies to join the EU. Construction begins on Boris’ Wall along Scotland/England border. English Whisky Association applies for GI protection for ‘English whisky’.128 new craft gins launched.
August: Nothing happens in August. Everyone is on holiday in Greece. Greek spirits market recovers. New Scottish currency ‘The Bawbie’ immediately devalues 50%. No-one notices. 256 new craft gins launched.
September: Macallan launches £10m Ridicularius with label by Banksy; only bottle bought by Geneva-based whisky investment fund Fleece, Ewe & Runne which outbidded Mustafa Dram. 512 new craft gins launched.
October: “Rum is the new gin,” claims rather pompous PR hack Dr Dick Horgan. No-one tells consumers as gin craze continues unabated: 1,024 new craft gins launched.
“Can you believe what they’ll pay for this stuff?”
November: Diageo re-opens Port Ellen and Brora distilleries in a move to “restore authenticity to single malt”. Whistleblower reveals leaked internal email reading “can you believe what they’ll pay for this stuff? I mean – seriously.” Banksy Macallan self-destructs; shattered bottle now worth £20m. 2,048 new craft gins launched.
December: Geneva-based whisky investment fund Fleece, Ewe & Runne files bankruptcy papers. Macallan launches limited edition £150m Absurditas, each bottle comes with a free distillery. Gin consumers notice they’re drinking mostly flavoured vodka; 4,096 new craft gins launched; Pernod Ricard buys them all. Master of Malt rebranded as Master of Gin.
Enjoy your passionate handcrafted artisanal journey to 2020 and I’ll see you in the New Year. Slainte!
By popular demand, it’s time to look back at our most-read blog posts of 2019. Well, maybe there hasn’t been that much demand, but we’re interested, so here they are,…
By popular demand, it’s time to look back at our most-read blog posts of 2019. Well, maybe there hasn’t been that much demand, but we’re interested, so here they are, the posts that grabbed your attention this year.
It’s that time of the year when we look back at the year in booze. And what a year it’s been with trade wars, ghost distillery revivals and the SWA getting all funky with new cask types. There’s four words you never expect to see in one sentence, Scotch Whisky Association and funky. From crunching the numbers, it’s clear that what you, dear reader, love is whisky. Whether it’s whisky news, whisky comment or whisky snark, all the top posts this year are about whisky. So here they are in ascending order of popularity:
You can bet that dear old Jim will be in here somewhere
First of all, why is it called Steel Bonnets? Well, it’s time to don the old tweed jacket with leather elbow patches and indulge in a bit of history. Pay attention at the back, Jenkins! Cumbria, where the Lakes Distillery is situated has long been fought over by England and Scotland. Borderers developed their own fierce outlaw culture (which they took to Ulster and Appalachia). Bandits who operated across the frontier were known as border reivers and wore metal helmets aka steel bonnets. There’s a non-fiction book about them by George MacDonald Fraser (he of Flashman fame) called, Steel Bonnets.
So, what better name for a blend of Cumbrian and Scottish whisky? Steel Bonnets is a blend of malts from the Lakes Distillery and from further north. The distillery was founded in 2014 by Chris Currie, who had previously set up the Isle of Arran Distillery, and Nigel Mills, who made a bit of money in property and hotels. They had some serious talent on board from day one in the form of former Dewar’s master distiller Chris Anderson and Alan Rutherford, former production director at Diageo. In addition to Steel Bonnets, there’s another British blend called The ONE plus vodka and various gins.
In 2016 Dhavall Gandhi joined the team from Macallan. As you might imagine, he’s not averse to a sherry cask or two. And indeed, this year’s long-awaited first commercial single malt release, The Lakes Whiskymaker’s Reserve No.1, is a sherry monster. To tell us more about the Lakes, Steel Bonnets and sherry casks, we spoke with Gandhi:
The Lakes Distillery
Master of Malt: Steel Bonnets is such a great idea, a blend of English and Scottish whiskies. Can you tell me how you came up with it and whether you have any other cross border plans?
Dhavall Gandhi: The idea of our cross-border blended malt, Steel Bonnets, was conceived by our two founders, Nigel Mills and Paul Currie, and our chairman, Dr Alan Rutherford. This is a very unique platform and gives us many opportunities to create some interesting cross-border blends. Watch this space!
MoM: How much do you love sherry casks?
DG: Every cask will influence the character of the whisky in a unique way, and, out of all the casks available for whisky maturation, sherry casks are my absolute favourite. I love them so much that I have decided to make it the focus of my professional career. I continue to study them in-depth and work very closely with our trusted suppliers on a variety of experiments.
MoM: In what ways does it help the Lakes Distillery to be part of a category, English whisky?
DG: English whisky or even world whisky in general is an exciting and growing category. A lot of whisky makers in England are producing great whiskies and it helps to be a part of the category when everybody is doing the best they can to create they own distinctive style and contribute to growing this category.
Steel Bonnets, an Anglo-Scots collaboration
MoM: What trends or developments do you think we’ll see in the world of whisky in 2020?
DG: Whisky-making is a subjective topic and hugely influenced by the philosophy of the whisky maker. The focus will be in flavour but the most interesting thing is that every whisky maker will focus on areas they believe are important in creating their own style of whisky. These will highlight the nuances and diversity of flavours created by raw materials, fermentation, distillation, maturation and blending.
MoM: What will you be drinking this Christmas?
DG: It will depend on the time, occasion and the company, but there will be a variety of whiskies and some wine. I am looking forward to enjoying the Quatrefoil Hope with my dad.
Steel Bonnets Tasting Note:
Nose: Hazelnut whip, vanilla pod and gingerbread, with stewed plums and a hint of wood smoke underneath.
Palate: Touches of exotic fruit, cinder toffee and nutmeg emerge through the combination of dried fruit and creamy nuttiness at the core.
Finish: Medium-length, sweet and a little bit smoky.
This week on the Nightcap: The Macallan turns its distillery into a festive wonderland, register to vote and you’ll get a free drink, and stop worrying about your hangover: you’re…
This week on the Nightcap: The Macallan turns its distillery into a festive wonderland, register to vote and you’ll get a free drink, and stop worrying about your hangover: you’re only making it worse.
We don’t know about you, but we’ve spent most of this week scavenging for firewood around the Master of Malt warehouse. At the first sign of a broken pallet out came the kindling vultures to squabble over scraps of pine and medium-density fibreboard to be hoarded and turned into life-giving heat later in the day. What a life! This is just a roundabout way of saying that it’s been properly cold this week. But it’s also the perfect weather to curl up by the fire with a dram of something rich and smooth, and revel in this week’s Nightcap.
Some very rare Macallans like those in the Vietnamese collection
Whisky collection smashes record with £10m valuation
How much is your whisky collection worth? A few hundred quid? Maybe into the thousands? This week, Guinness World Records confirmed a Vietnamese collector was the delighted owner of the most valuable whisky collection in the world – weighing in at a mighty £10,770,635! The haul belongs to Mr Viet Nguyen Dinh Tuan of Ho Chi Minh City, and it was valued by the team at Rare Whisky 101. They reckon the figure could top £13,032,468, when you add on the 21% buyers’ premium if it was sold through a UK auctioneer. The collection features 535 bottles, including the only known complete Macallan Fine & Rare set, complete with three 1926 bottlings. Only forty were ever released! There are also 12 bottles of the oldest and most expensive Bowmore ever released (it fetched £300,000 at auction recently), and one of only 24 bottles of the 1919 vintage Springbank. Phew. Mr Viet has been building his collection for over 20 years. “For me, whisky collecting has been my life’s passion,” he says. “Every spare I moment I get, I’m searching auction sites and trading websites to find famous and rare whiskies from around the world. Clearly this requires a lot of patience and no shortage of tenacity, but I’m proud of my efforts. As for my collection, I have no intention of selling any of it. Not one bottle. In fact, I’ll continue to hunt for more old and rare bottles and add to and enrich it.” Wowzers!
“Careful Jed, it’s one of those experiential casks!”
Buffalo Trace Distillery completes second Warehouse X experiment
Cask ageing is still a perplexing business, but the team at the Buffalo Trace Distillery is attempting to break the process down using the specially-designed and mysteriously-monikered Warehouse X. The second experiment at the facility, which began in 2016, has just been completed. It focused on how temperature affects the ageing process. The warehouse’s four chambers were used to determine how barrel activity correlates with temperature changes, keeping two chambers constant and varying the other two chambers and leaving the breezeway unchanged. Buffalo Trace tracked temperature fluctuations, monitored barrel pressures and collected a total of 9.1 million data points. As a result, the distillery was able to confirm how temperature affects pressure, colour and flavour over a period of three years. After leaving Warehouse X, the barrels were rolled into a traditional warehouse to continue ageing, as was done with the first experiment. Built in 2013, Warehouse X was created to study the many variables that affect the bourbon maturation process, and Buffalo Trace is now almost a third of the way through a 20-year project to monitor numerous atmospheric elements, including natural light, temperature, humidity and air flow. The first experiment, which ended in 2016, focused on natural light. The next two-year experiment will begin soon to expand on the most recent findings, focusing on how temperature swings affect whiskey activity in the barrel. We’re intrigued to see what they find.
It’s David C. Stewart or DCS to his friends
The Balvenie unveils final DCS Compendium instalment
In brilliant but bittersweet news, Chapter Five of The Balvenie DCS Compendium has been unveiled. Why bittersweet? Because it’s the last of the series, so for one final time we all have the opportunity to gaze longingly at five unique and intriguing single-cask Balvenie expressions that none of us will ever taste. Titled ‘Malt Master’s Indulgence’, the rare vintages were selected by David C. Stewart MBE (hence DCS) for their significance to his career. Aged between 16 and 56 years, the selection includes The Balvenie’s oldest-ever bottling, the fragrant and sweet 1962 expression taken from a European oak oloroso hogshead, which commemorates Stewart’s very first year at the distillery. The longest-serving malt master in the whisky industry, who started the role back in 1974, commented on Chapter Five: “It takes a good deal of time to understand how each cask differs and how whisky maturation is affected by various wood types. You need confidence to select casks and know which are likely to achieve greatness. Working for a family company, I’ve been lucky enough to have been given the freedom to make stock decisions based on my preference and vision, with the free rein to pick casks and hold on to whisky, not always knowing what I’m going to do with it, for no other reason than thinking one day it will be extraordinary. For me, this is indulgence in its truest form.” As with past Chapters, Chapter Five is presented in a handcrafted, individually-numbered frame, with just 50 sets available worldwide. It also features The Balvenie DCS Compendium book depicting rare archive imagery from the distillery, along with information on each of the five chapters, which documents Stewart’s thought process in curating the Compendium. The Balvenie is also planning a series of celebratory events throughout 2020 to mark the completion of the project.
£2500 and you have to bottle it yourself.
Bottle your own 40-year-old at Aberfeldy Distillery
Heading up to the charming Aberfeldy Distillery? You can now hand-bottle the delightful Aberfeldy 40 Years Old! Directly from the cask. In the warehouse. Yes, that’s the oldest whisky the Highland whisky-makers have released to date. If that doesn’t get you excited, nothing will. In total, three single cask editions will be launched, all of which were first filled on 22nd August 1978 and matured in American oak, ex-bourbon hogsheads. “To find one cask at this venerable age, is extraordinary but to find three, is exceptional. Just think of the four decades of history these casks have slumbered through,” said malt master Stephanie Macleod. “The single cask is something that we at Aberfeldy bottle rarely – to have the honour of filling your very own bottle of our oldest and most exclusive whisky yet, is a truly special opportunity. The golden hallmarks of the distillery are evident; beautifully-balanced, elegant and well-mannered with peerless texture, perfectly expressed by these 40-year-old bottlings.” The whisky will be on sale for £2,500 a bottle, exclusively from the Aberfeldy Distillery.
Just some of the mouth-watering rums drunk on World Foursquare Day at Trailer Happiness in London
Barbados distillery honoured with inaugural World Foursquare Day
Rum lovers of London descended on Trailer Happiness in Notting Hill last Sunday (17 November) for the inaugural World Foursquare Day. The day was the idea of Facebook group Foursquare Rum Appreciation Society to celebrate the much-loved Barbados distillery. According to Foursquare brand ambassador Peter Holland, they chose 17 November because it “was the day that Foursquare Distillery and Heritage Park was officially opened by Sir David Seale [father of the owner, Richard], and the Prime Minister of Barbados Mr. Owen S. Arthur in 1996.” Holland organised the London event; there were rum cocktails, bottles from Holland’s own collection (including the ultra-rare Foursquare Triptych), and even a surprise appearance from the Seales themselves.There was also a well-attended event in Milton Keynes. Holland told us: “Next year, I think we will look to grow the event, and, perhaps in conjunction with the UK importers, see if we can get a few more bars involved across the UK. Increase the celebration, but try not to make it crass and commercial.” So put 17 November 2020 in your diary now.
Annabel Meikle, one of the judges at the Spirit of Speyside Awards
Top whiskies shortlisted for Spirit of Speyside Awards
Awards and whisky go together like bread and butter, and Speyside is about to get its fair share! Eight Speyside single malts have been shortlisted as finalists in the international Spirit of Speyside Whisky Awards. The initial judging process took place earlier this month in the heart of Speyside (well, where else could it be?), where a panel of leading whisky experts carried out a blind tasting of 41 entries. A tough job, but somebody’s got to do it. However, it’s not the experts who get the final say. The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Awards are the only industry awards in the world to give consumers the final vote. Over the next six months, the two finalists in each category will be put forward for judging by whisky drinkers all over the place, from the UK and Europe to India and Canada. Spanning four categories, this year’s finalists are Aberlour 10 Year Old and Cardhu 12 Year Old, Benromach 15 Year Old and Glenallachie 15 Year Old, Glenfiddich Grand Cru 23 Year Old and Glenfarclas 25 Year Old, and finally Tamnavulin Sherry Cask Edition and Cardhu Amber Rock. “It was almost impossible to pick just two finalists in each Awards category this year – the standard of whisky produced here in Speyside by our local craftsmen and women is truly exceptional,” said James Campbell, Chairman at The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival. “We’re very much looking forward to opening up the judging to consumers over the next six months before celebrating the winners at what we believe is the finest whisky festival in the world.” You’ll have to wait a few months for the results, as the category winners will be announced at the opening of the 2020 Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival in late April.
Fairy lights from Robert Dyas at The Macallan
The Macallan Distillery goes festive
The team at the Macallan are pulling out all the stops to turn the award-winning distillery into a festive wonderland this Christmas. As you’d expect from such a luxury brand, this will be a little more lavish than neon Santas, plastic holly, and M&S mince pies. Instead, the decorations have been inspired by the character of the single malt with golden acorns, dried berries and “a palette of sienna, gold, copper and black, colours traditionally associated with The Macallan”, no less. At the centre will be a “towering” 15 ft Christmas tree. But that’s not all. There will also be a special Christmas menu in the restaurant, seasonal Macallan cocktails like the Speyside Flip and the Clootie to be sipped, and a special after-hours dinner on Thursday 5 December. Stuart Cassells, general manager, commented: “We are incredibly proud of the success our new distillery experience has enjoyed since opening 18 months ago. But we want to be more than a fantastic visitor attraction. Our ambition is to become a key Speyside destination, a place where people from the local community and further afield want to return to again and again. We’re extremely excited about the exclusive experiences we are offering, from unique gifting options to our new brasserie and bar menus. We hope to attract visitors old and new and look forward to providing a warm welcome to The Macallan Estate this festive season.” Sounds magnificent, though we’d have been just as happy with M&S mince pies as long as there was some Macallan to wash them down with. Don’t tell #WhiskySanta…
Remember kids, don’t drink and vote
Free drink if you register to vote
Here’s a good way to combat voter apathy (and we are being asked to vote a lot more than normal). A free drink when you vote. Brilliant! Why did no one think of this before? Well, of course they did. In elections past, unscrupulous politicians would ply the electorate with booze to get them to vote the ‘right’ way. But this new initiative from the Lollipop group of venues around London, is not trying to corrupt, just get people to vote. Simply turn up at a Lollipop bar, like Journey on the King’s Road or Dear Sunny in Hackney, prove that you have registered to vote before 26 November (the closing date), and a free drink will be yours (full details and list of venues here). Founder Seb Lyall had this to say: “We know how important it is for people of all ages and backgrounds to get out there and vote on December 12. These elections will have a significant impact on our industry and we want as wide a group of voices to be heard as possible.” Make sure, however, that you vote sober, or you never know who we might end up with.
We could be saying, ‘goodbye Joe to baijiu” (sorry)
Are we heading for a baijiu shortage?
Kweichow Moutai is one of the biggest baijiu brands on the planet – and this week, at its overseas distributors conference, the company suggested that the Chinese spirit is gaining such a following internationally that stock shortages are becoming a reality for the first time. “It’s one of the most significant changes we have seen in overseas markets since Moutai rebounded in the domestic market in 2016,” said Moutai Group chairman and party committee secretary Li Baofang. Baijiu is the most consumed spirit category in the world, although the vast, vast majority is drunk in China. This looks to be slowly shifting though – and from 2017-18, we saw a 650% uptick in sales here at MoM Towers, albeit from a teeny base. Keep an eye out for more baijiu in 2020 – if international supply can keep up with demand!
Don’t worry, be happy
And Finally… Worrying about your hangover ‘makes it worse’
We’re all about responsible drinking here at MoM Towers. Remember – sip, don’t gulp! But sometimes, a little overindulgence can happen. And new research from the University of Salford this week appears to confirm something we’ve had a little inkling about: worrying about a hangover makes it worse. It’s all linked to whether someone is likely to “catastrophise pain” or not. What’s that, we asked. Apparently it’s when you worry too much about the threat of pain, which makes you feel like you can’t manage it, and then dwell on how much something hurts. 86 people ages from 18 to 46 were quizzed about a recent time they’d had a drink (more gulping than sipping. Just don’t). The results showed a “significant relationship” between all that catastrophising and the severity of the hangover. Turns out there are actual dehydrated-related symptoms, but also stress-related ones, too – and the stress ones were more likely to get on that catastrophising. “These findings suggest the importance of cognitive coping strategies in how people experience hangovers after drinking alcohol,” said lead researcher, Sam Royle. “This may have implications in understanding behavioural responses to hangovers, and also for addiction research.” Good work, Sam. But the best way to avoid that hangover? Keep the booze consumption sensible in the first place!
Curious about cask whisky investment? Don’t get your assets in a twist. No matter whether you’re sourcing direct from distillery or exploring your options through a third party, here’s everything…
Curious about cask whisky investment? Don’t get your assets in a twist. No matter whether you’re sourcing direct from distillery or exploring your options through a third party, here’s everything you need to know about buying booze by the barrel…
Owning a maturing cask of whisky might be every dram lover’s dream, but it can also be a sound investment for the future – with none of the insidious money-grabbing associated with bottle flipping. No matter whether you opt for a quarter-cask or a full-blown butt, the contents should appreciate in value over time. That’s in the current climate, this is dependent on those fickle financial markets.
“The reason people invest in whisky is because you get a personal touch,” explains Elliot Wynn-Higgins, cask custodian at Lindores Abbey Distillery in Scotland. “You don’t tend to get the same welcome from banks or investment advisors. Whisky is a fun investment, it’s not an ISA that sweats cash – it’s a journey in spirits maturation and an ongoing project. You can even taste it.”
The stills at Lindores Abbey
Interest rate averages for whisky, he continues, can be higher than gold and vintage sports cars, with an average of around 6% return every year. But dollar signs aside, there are a number of motivations to invest, whether it’s marking an important milestone like a wedding or a newborn, creating your own independent whisky bottling, or fulfilling a lifelong dream to participate in whisky-making history.
After all, maturing whisky evolves in a way that a bottle of whisky just won’t. Each cask is patently unique – even when two identical casks are filled at the same time with the same spirit, they’ll taste different. It’s a limited commodity, observes Simon Aron, co-founder of Cask Trade, “if a particular cask yields 250 bottles, after they’re gone, they’re gone, that’s it. There will never be another cask like it.”
So with that in mind, what should a would-be investor bear in mind? “Buying at the lowest price you can is obviously the smartest, but make sure that it’s a branded facility,” says Whiskey & Wealth Club co-founder Jay Bradley. “It’s quite easy to buy whisky in Scotland and Ireland from a commercial facility – you can buy it at a decent enough price, and that’s great for blending and whatnot.”
If if it’s return on investment you’re chasing, he says, stick with known brands. “For example, a five-year-old Macallan cask is worth more than five-year-old cask of no-name whiskey. Making sure it’s a solid distillery with a good master distiller behind it is very important as well – the more they build their brand, the more the cask of whisky will go up in value.”
Jay Bradley from Whisky and Wealth
And make sure you do your maths, first. “Look at your budget and your targets,” suggests Aron, who says the youngest whisky on Cask Trade’s list is three years old and comes in at £1,500, while the oldest, at the ripe old age of 50, is north of £300,000. “The budget would be personal to that individual and the target would be: do you want to see a return in three years, five years, 10 years? Do you want to buy one cask and sit on it, or would you rather a portfolio of different ages? Do you want a portfolio where you can cash in at different dates?”
Just as there are a few reasons to consider trading your hard-earned cash for amber nectar, there are several means to go about doing so. Before you commit, remember to ask about any extra costs associated with warehouse storage, insurance and bottling, including HMRC duty and VAT. Here, we run through your options…
From a distillery
Plenty of distilleries now offer their own private cask purchase programmes. The benefits are two-fold: buyers have the chance to own a piece of whisky history, while distilleries receive a cash injection – often, in the case of younger producers, precisely when their overheads are steepest and they perhaps. need it the most.
“As a potential buyers comes to me, I suss out why they want to buy a cask,” says Wynn-Higgins. “From there, I help them select the perfect cask with their budget in mind, and they come along to fill it with me where they can. Casks typically aren’t cheap things to buy, so when we make a sale of a cask it helps us out financially very strongly. It also helps us build great customer rapport from a very early stage.”
While the small-print surrounding your purchase will vary from producer to producer – “some distilleries won’t allow you to sell to private brokers, whereas some do,” he says – there are a few common rules. “Typically, you can’t take your cask home with you as it needs to mature in a bonded warehouse. Unless you have a rather large shed in your garden.”
Whisky slowly maturing, with any luck, becoming more valuable
From a broker
Cask brokerage company Rare Whisky 101 essentially acts as the middle-man that links serious cask buyers with genuine cask sellers. The team screens potential interested parties to make sure they have sufficient funds to complete the acquisition process and take a 100ml sample from each cask to assess the quality according to a ten-point rating scale – providing reassurance for both the buyer and the seller. After all, maturing whisky has a time limit. For sellers, particularly those new to the world of whisky investment, prospective buyers can be hard to find.
“Many people would assume that as long as their whisky is stored in cask in a bonded warehouse, no harm can come to it,” says RW101 co-founder, David Robertson. “However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. There is most definitely a finite time in which to sell a cask. We recently saw a 50-year-old cask that had dropped below the legal minimum of 40% alcohol to 28% and was subsequently deemed worthless. I’d encourage any owners, even if they don’t want to sell, to get their casks regauged and sampled. Casks can also leak and become overly-woody so cask owners should ensure that their casks are checked annually.”
From an alternative investment company
Whiskey & Wealth Club (WWC) sources Irish whiskey and Scotch for investors. The distilleries sell casks of their new make spirit – usually bulk in the form of six 200-litre palates – to private investors through WWC, which stores them in a government bonded warehouse, typically for between three and five years. Investors then decide whether to bottle for themselves, sell for a profit through WWC, or allow the contents to continue maturing.
“We’re bridging the gap financially between a distillery and a whiskey brand that wants to buy mature stock,” explains WWC co-founder and CEO Scott Sciberras. “From the distillery’s point of view, producing whisky is a very expensive business, and you don’t see a return for years down the track. And from a whisky brand’s point of view, they want to buy mature stock to bottle and sell straight away.”
With WWC’s format, everyone’s a winner. “Rather than either one of them tying the money up for maturation period, private investors bridge the gap,” Scott says. “We purchase it by litres of pure alcohol, which gives us volume to sell to our clients without the overheads of running the distillery – so we can sell it for a far cheaper price. If we purchase 20% of a distillery’s fresh new make, it gives them enough working capital to run their stills.”
Macallan cask, probably worth a bit
From a dedicated marketplace
Put simply, Cask Trade is a marketplace for trading whisky casks. Unlike a broker, it only sells whisky casks it owns, and only whole casks – no fractional sales. “We buy casks from all sorts of different places, so distilleries, warehouses, blenders, independent bottlers, investors; casks are moving around constantly between all of those groups,” Aron explains. “Some of the distilleries will never come up for sale because they don’t sell, full stop. Everything goes into production. But most distilleries are moving stock around Scotland all the time.”
The casks are held in HMRC-bonded warehouses, which are regularly visited by Cask Trade whisky masters. The business offers regular sampling and re-gauging of casks, re-racking, estimates of bottles and strength in cask, the financial modelling of bottling, costings for bottling, labelling and shipping, and will arrange for buyers to receive samples of their whiskies and visit their barrel(s) in person. It also guarantees to buy the cask back from its clients should they decide to sell it.
“If you’re got a bottle in your hand, it’s sealed with a cork, all the information is on the label, it’s pretty much a done deal,” says Aron. “With a cask, it’s a moving target. It needs to be checked, sampled and looked after by a safe set of hands. Because there’s no label on a cask, you need to give the details – so people can understand how many bottles it would give at 12 years, how many at 15 years, how it’s expected to taste depending on the cask type, examples of bottles that have been sold in the past. It’s much more of a journey, like buying a classic car. You need to know when it was made, how it was made, who looked after it, how it was looked after and whether it still runs well.”
Testing whisky at Cask Trade
Through an auction website
As of last month, Cask Trade launched an auction website aimed at private buyers and sellers. With casks going under the hammer four times a year, auctionyourcask.com will help private owners sell their casks to independent bottlers and investors from across the globe.
There’s a stringent application process for sellers, and all casks are regauged ready for auction with a full 700ml drawn, so bidders can try before they buy. Since there’s no commission fee, Cask Trade sellers take the full hammer price home, bar the price of the reguage. Win-win.
“It gives bottlers and other buyers the chance to get a cask that has been sitting with an investor privately somewhere,” explains Aron. “From there, they can either take it on a journey for a few more years or bottle it. It’s like wanting to buy a Tiffany bracelet from an old catalogue in the 1930s. You just won’t be able to buy it unless you find it auction – otherwise it’s going to sit in someone’s jewellery box in their house forever and ever.”
Overseeing the production of the industry’s most sought-after Scotch whisky may be a gargantuan undertaking, but with 18 years’ experience under her belt, The Macallan’s master whisky maker Kirsteen Campbell…
Overseeing the production of the industry’s most sought-after Scotch whisky may be a gargantuan undertaking, but with 18 years’ experience under her belt, The Macallan’s master whisky maker Kirsteen Campbell is more than up to the task. Here, we chat about the evolution of the newly-strengthened whisky mastery team…
Hailing from Thurso in the windswept Highlands, Campbell’s career started in 2001 with a degree in food science and a job in a new make spirits laboratory. Fast forward almost two decades, and she’s only gone and made history as the first female Macallan master whisky maker in the brand’s 200-year history*. Surely a contender for the world’s best job.
Having worked on the likes of Cutty Sark, Naked Grouse, The Famous Grouse and The Glenrothes at parent company Edrington, Campbell has become the newest addition to The Macallan’s six-strong whisky mastery team, made up of: Stuart MacPherson, master of wood; Sarah Burgess, lead whisky maker; Polly Logan, whisky maker; Steven Bremner, whisky maker; and Russell Greig, sample room assistant.
Here, we caught up with Campbell to chat through her new role – and find out a little more about how she enjoys one of the world’s best-loved Scotch whiskies…
Not a cutting electronic group from Zurich, it’s The Macallan whisky mastery team
MoM: Huge congratulations on the new role, Kirsteen! Could you tell us a little bit about when and where your love of Scotch whisky first began?
Campbell: My career began with a scientific background, I studied food science at Glasgow Caledonian University and, following a bit of travel, started working within a lab at a distillery – that’s when I first began to appreciate all the complexities in Scotch whisky. I started to do a bit of sensory work as well which fascinated me, so it was really from that point onwards that my love began. From there on I moved into research at the Scotch Whisky Research Institute in Edinburgh, delving more into the science behind flavour and gravitating more and more towards the sensory side of things. Then a role came up at Edrington – it was titled whisky quality technologist which essentially was a trainee blender, so I applied for that. I was successful and joined Edrington in 2007, and that’s where my role really became about blending and flavour. I’ve just had my 12 year anniversary with Edrington. I can’t quite believe it, it’s gone by in a blink.
The Macallan is one of the most revered whisky brands in the world. From a flavour perspective, what do you think makes the whisky so beloved among fans?
It’s definitely about our exceptional oak casks. We’ve a very rigorous cask policy and even have our own master of wood, Stuart McPherson. It’s just such an important factor of Macallan – so much of the flavour of Scotch whisky comes from oak casks, so we pay huge attention to that and place huge emphasis on it. But of course we look at quality throughout every stage of the process from the new make spirit to the casks we’re bringing in. Throughout the maturation period we’re checking on the whisky to make sure it’s developing in the way that we want it to. In the sample room we check the quality of every single cask that goes into every single batch of Macallan, so we’re moving thousands of samples. Attention to detail is really important in terms of the final quality of the whiskies and our sherry casks which deliver that rich, distinguishing flavour of the entire Macallan portfolio.
Campbell in front of Macallan’s space age Speyside HQ
Could you talk a little bit about the various roles within the Whisky Mastery Team and how each relates to the liquid in the bottle?
It’s very much a team approach, we’re very collaborative with each other. I’m based in Glasgow so I spend my time between our headquarters, our bottling plant and The Macallan estate. Up there we have a team of four – Sarah Burgess is the lead whisky maker, there’s also Polly Logan, Steven Bremner and Russell Greig. Between us we look specifically at the quality of the liquid while Stuart McPherson looks after the quality of our casks. We’ve got over 100 years in the industry between us – Stuart’s working in the industry for 40 years, Sarah’s 28, I’m 18, Paulie’s 15 so between us we have a breadth of experience. We work very much as a team and bring our individual experiences together to make Macallan the best it possibly can be.
The art and science of whisky making is a huge focus for The Macallan. Which aspect of the whisky-making process do you personally find the most compelling – the arty, creative side or the really technical lab-based stuff?
It’s a very interesting one for me because I am quite split on it. There’s definitely a technical, logical side to the role, you’re working with numbers a lot and liaise closely with the team in Glasgow who are more scientific, so I get involved in some of their research. Then the other side, which I do also equally enjoy, is the arty side of things, and that really comes into play for new product development (NPD) in particular. It’s really fun to get involved in creating something completely new. Some people [in the whisky mastery team] are more creative while others are more technical and that overall balance works really well.
Some seriously fancy Macallan
Could you talk about the research and development process at the distillery – for example, does your team work closely with other departments, or as a team are you quite independent in creating new bottlings?
All aspects of our roles require collaboration and NPD is one of those. We work very closely with the marketing and packaging teams on that, it’s not something that you can do in isolation and when a new product comes out there’s a huge range of people who have been involved in that process. Everything has to come together to make a successful product – from our perspective it’s the liquid, but you also need the background story and a great pack. We’re meeting with people throughout the company on a regular basis.
When you’re winding down at home, what’s your go-to Macallan expression?
That’s a tough choice because we have a wonderful portfolio of whiskies. For me, I do enjoy Double Cask, I have to say. I love that balance of the American oak sherry – the lovely sweet, vanilla, citrus notes – balanced perfectly with rich dried fruits and spicy character from the European oak casks. It’s a beautiful marriage of the two different cask types that we use.
*Well, almost – the brand celebrates its bicentenary in 2024.
When we spoke with Dhavall Gandhi, whisky-maker-in-chief at The Lakes Distillery, back in May 2018, he explained that the distillery’s “main flagship is still a little way away but we are coming out with different styles, and these are much more intense in character and very, very sherry-orientated. So if you like sherry bombs you are going to like the initial releases of Lakes Distillery!”
Fast forward to September 2019, and the Cumbria-based distillery has launched the expression Gandhi teased us about: The Lakes Whiskymaker’s Reserve No.1. Unlike previous whiskies from the National Park’s first legal spirits producer, The ONE and Steel Bonnets, this is a single malt and it’s also the first whisky to form part of a range. The Whiskymaker’s Reserve is tipped to showcase the sherry-led house style defined by Gandhi, or the “artistic exploration of maturation, blending and flavour evolution”, as it was put in the press release.
Happily, the Lakes Whiskymaker’s Reserve No.1 does not fail to live up to the billing Gandhi gave it last year. It was matured in Pedro Ximénez sherry and red wine casks, comprising of American, Spanish and French oak, and to taste it has all the hallmarks of a sherry bomb (more on that later). Such distinctive styles of cask and the varying breeds of oak point to a distillery flexing its maturation muscles, as promised. The Lakes Distillery also made it known in the press materials that it has matured its spirits in PX, cream and fino sherry casks, from 500-litre butts to 205-litre hogsheads, and in our interview, Gandhi spoke of using orange wine casks from Andalusia, Spain and innovating with various types of bourbon casks too.
The distillery’s first single malt was made to showcase the sherry-led house style.
Gandhi’s decision to join The Lakes Distillery was partly for the opportunity to define the house style of a new distillery. The former Macallan-man (a role which presumably influenced his love for maturing whisky in sherry-casks) seems to be wasting no time in making his mark. A quote from Nigel Mills, co-founder of The Lakes Distillery, revealed the extent of his creative licence: “Unusually, Dhavall is actively involved at every stage of the process. From the choice of barley to the intricacy of bespoke cask production and selection, and knowing each cask intimately as it matures. It’s holistic whisky-making”.
The name ‘Whiskymaker’s Reserve’ appears to be quite apt, then. What we’re tasting here is not only a presentation of the character of the Lakes Distillery’s or its already impressive cask selection but something of a personal statement from the whisky maker. The question is, what does The Lakes Whiskymaker’s Reserve No.1 say about Gandhi?
Firstly, his desire to experiment with various styles of casks suggests that he finds the fact that English whisky doesn’t have quite the historical precedent or legislative structure of Scotch to be liberating. “Creating a new whisky requires a framework of sorts, but there must be room within it to play, to follow gut feeling and instinct,” says Gandhi. “At The Lakes, we respect the conventions of Scotch whisky heritage but are open to a world of other influences, interpreting what we believe is right to make The Lakes Single Malt one of the finest whiskies in the world.”
The Lakes Distillery is one of the leading producers of English whisky.
The Lakes Whiskymaker’s Reserve No.1 also demonstrates that Gandhi is a patient and methodical worker. This bottling wasn’t exactly rushed out of the door (we’ve been waiting over a year here Dhavall, mate). Furthermore, the combination of two distinctive cask types like this could have given Gandhi an expensive and complex self-inflicted problem. Nobody wants barrel upon barrel of unbalanced, unusable spirit. Bottling the expression without chill-filtration or any additional colouring at cask strength 60.6% ABV also gives him nowhere to hide.
For Gandhi, however, this very much seems to be the point. “We don’t believe in taking the easy option if there’s another way to add a new dimension of flavour – for the Lakes, that means not only creating flavour in the new make spirit but also opening up more flavour possibilities through the entire whisky-making process,” he says. This means we can expect more intriguing bottlings in the future, folks.
For now, we get to enjoy The Lakes Whiskymaker’s Reserve No.1. So, what do we make of it? Well, we like it and so will anyone else who loves a heavily-sherried whisky. It’s sweet, spicy, nutty and just a little bit funky. Both casks rush to centre stage on both the nose and palate, but both are impressively balanced and instead of competing with each other, the profile is actually quite complementary. Plus the distillery character manages to avoid being drowned in this cask-forward fun. The first batch is limited to 5,922 bottles, which is a shame, and the price tag might be a touch high for a no-age-statement bottling for some people’s taste, but overall it’s fair to we’re fans, and we’re very excited to see what’s next.
Nose: Black wine gums, marmalade and resinous sherried funk initially, with winter spice and rich caramel. There’s nutty malted barley and sugared almonds underneath, as well as a hint of Crunchie chocolate bar.
Palate: A rich, yet refined palate leads with succulent blackcurrants, dried orange peel and vanilla fudge, with wine-stained oak, bitter herbs and a touch of flint in support.
Finish: Woody tannins sparkle into life among dried fruit, apples and dark chocolate.
Overall: Hugely satisfying, it’s a funky, fruity and undoubtedly sherry-tastic dram.
Your order of bite-sized bits of booze news has been filled once again, courtesy of The Nightcap! This week we’ve got stories about beer from 1936, colourful Macallan whisky and…
Your order of bite-sized bits of booze news has been filled once again, courtesy of The Nightcap! This week we’ve got stories about beer from 1936, colourful Macallan whisky and the return of a drink-filled Amazon Prime TV series.
We’ve spent some time in the office this week talking about how Jeff Goldblum is pretty much the perfect person. To be honest, we spend a lot of weeks doing that. In a way, he’s quite like the booze industry. We enjoy what they produce, we’re excited to see what they come out with next and they both make us thirsty. Only one, however, can be the true focus of The Nightcap. Sorry, Jeff. But needs must.
So what’s been going on here on the MoM Blog? Well, we announced winner of our Salcombe Gin competition, so congratulations are in order. Elsewhere, Jess witnessed the journey of a whisky from tree to barrel to glass courtesy of Jura Seven Wood and Henry enjoyed some Rum Punch as this is International Punch Day (happy IPD, folks!). Annie, meanwhile, had an eco-themed week, first dispelling some eco myths and then looking at some the finest eco distilleries. Adam’s theme was more sherry-tastic as he rounded-up some delicious and delightful sherried whiskies and then made an amontillado sherry cask-finished Tomatin single malt Scotch whisky our New Arrival of the Week, before finding time to talk about the new Jameson Caskmates release.
Despite all of that boozy goodness, there’s still more news stories to cover. It’s The Nightcap!
The Macallan Edition No. 5 launches in collaboration with Pantone
Sound the ‘New Macallan‘ alert folks, because the Speyside distillery has just launched a bottling as a “homage to the diversity and complexity of natural colour.” It may sound more Pantene then Pantone, but the expression is supposed to champion the spectrum of natural colour you’ll find across the Macallan range and features a collaboration with the Pantone Color Institute. The company created the shade of purple you’ll see on the label especially for this particular release, which has been named The Macallan Edition Purple. The Macallan Edition No.5 was matured in American oak casks and is said to have notes of caramel, vanilla, lemon basil and fresh fruit combined with oak spices, but more importantly, it’s a colour the brand describes as “sunlit barley” (I’m thinking of having my spare room painted that). “We can find much common ground between whisky making and colour creation and with Edition No.5 we have been able to explore and celebrate these two art forms,” said Sarah Burgess, The Macallan whisky maker. “Whilst colour development starts with mixing basic colours with precision to achieve different shades, for whisky-making, it is the knowledge and understanding of a specific palette of colours from the cask which is the starting point. From here we can craft the desired character and specific colour of the final whisky”. Laurie Pressman, vice president of the Pantone Color Institute, added: “As the rainbow’s most complex colour, purple naturally felt like the ideal shade to highlight the equally complex process involved in The Macallan’s whisky-making”.
The remarkable historical beers
Britain’s earliest surviving canned beers go for £2,250 at auction
We’re used to old bottles of whisky selling for thousands of pounds but with beer less so. Which is why we were surprised when two old cans went for £2,250 at Chiswick Auctions in London yesterday. That’s a lot of bread for beer. But these weren’t just any cans. Oh no, these babies date back to 1936 and come from the Felinfoel Brewery in Llanelli which was the first brewery in Britain and the second in the world to produce a canned beer. Similar cans were shipped out to North Africa to keep General Montgomery’s army aka the Desert Rats refreshed. Handily at the time, the brewery also owned a tinplate works. The cans were lined with wax to stop the beer corroding the metal. It seems to have worked because both the contents of one can are entirely intact, whereas the second has suffered some evaporation. Not bad for 83-year-old beer cans. As for the taste of the beer, we are unlikely to find out whether they are drinkable as the cans were snapped up by the very company that brewed them (still in family hands after all these years) to go into its museum.
Havana Club Tributo 2019, which we can confirm is very tasty
Havana Club brings Tributo 2019 to the UK
At The Churchill Bar & Terrace in Portman Square, London we were treated to live Cuban music, delicious cocktails, a sublime menu and, best of all, the 2019 edition of Havana Club Tributo this week. The fourth bottling in Havana Club’s Tributo range, which was first launched in February 2019 at the Habanos Festival in Havana, Cuba, was created by three generations of masters of Cuban rum (maestros del ron Cubano) including Don José Navarro, Asbel Morales and Salomé Aleman, the first and only female maestra del ron Cubano, who each selected a rare and extra-aged rum base which were first left to mature in the 1970s, 1990s and 2010s respectively. These were then blended together with a rum that was matured for more than 25 years in French oak barrels to form the 2019 edition of Tributo. “Once again, the Havana Club Tributo collection praises the richness and variety of styles that form the base of the authentic Cuban rum category,” said Morales. “Each rum in the Tributo range uniquely focuses on a different element of the production process, from our ancient rum bases to cask experimentation and the 2019 edition continues this story by honouring the craftsmanship of three of the maestros del ron Cubano.” Rich, refined and intense, Havana Club Tributo 2019 possesses notes of dark chocolate, dried fruit, baking spice, coffee, brown sugar and exotic fruit. It certainly earns our seal of approval and will be available at MoM Towers soon…
A delightful cause, courtesy of a delightful beer!
Beer for good! Camden Town Brewery heads to London for UK’s first Can-for-Can Swap with The Felix Project
We’re all lucky enough to be able to enjoy delicious food and mouth-watering drinks on a regular basis, though it’s a harsh reality that that’s not true for everyone. That’s why we were super stoked to hear that Camden Town Brewery has launched a new autumnal seasonal beer, dubbed Harvest Hells Lager, in partnership with The Felix Project, a charity with a mission in raising awareness for food poverty in the UK. This is a problem which affects 8.4 million people nationally. Harvest Hells gets its autumnal notes from darker roasted speciality malts, making for a richer flavour while poetically turning its summery yellow hue to the reddish-brown of autumn leaves. Mmm, autumn leaves… But how does lager help food poverty, you ask? Well, from 24 September there’s going to be a Harvest Hells van gallivanting between London, Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool with the UK’s first ‘Can-for-Can’ swap initiative! Bring a can of any tinned food and you’ll secure a can of Harvest Hells lager in return, while your tins will be donated to local food banks in each city. The when and whereabouts of the Harvest Hells Van can be found here. What’s more, Camden Town Brewery is donating 20p from every can of Harvest Hells Lager sold within the first month to The Felix Project. “Food poverty in the UK is a growing problem, with many people struggling to afford fresh and healthy food for themselves and their families,” Mark Curtin, CEO of The Felix Project, says. “We are delighted that Camden is not only helping to raise awareness of these crucial issues and the work we do at The Felix Project to tackle them, but also getting people involved in supporting the cause to help to reduce waste and eradicate food insecurity.” If there was ever a more appropriate time to do the can-can, it would have to be now.
Distillation here will begin in 2021. We’d like all artist’s impressions to include dogs, on another note.
Ardgowan releases Coppersmith malt inspired by the Clyde’s shipbuilding heritage
This week Ardgowan announced the first in a series of limited-editions whiskies. The company has received planning permission for a new distillery to commence operation in 2021 but in the meantime will be selling blended whiskies created by Max McFarlane. CEO Martin McAdam described McFarlane, former whisky maker for Edrington looking after brands such as Famous Grouse, Cutty Sark, Bunnahabhain, Tamdhu and Highland Park, as a “whisky legend.” The first release is called Coppersmith and it’s a blend of Speyside and Highland distilleries wholly matured in first-fill oloroso sherry casks. McFarlane, who is from Inverkip on the west coast, said: “Coppersmith is the first in the Clydebuilt series of whiskies which Ardgowan Distillery will release in the years ahead. Each bottle in the series will celebrate the pride shown by generations of workers on the Clyde, who together built some of the world’s most illustrious ships.” He went on to say: “I wanted to produce a top-drawer blended malt and I believe that is what we have achieved.” It will be available from the distillery for £49.99 and from a certain online retailer soon.
The Three Drinkers return to Amazon Prime, and indeed to Scotland!
The Three Drinkers returns to Amazon Prime
The Three Drinkers are back, and this time it’s personal. We were pleased to learn this week that the irreverent boozy Amazon Prime show is back for another series. The Three Drinkers are, for those who don’t know, actress and wine buff Helena Nicklin, journalist and social media sensation Adrian Smith, and whisky writer and photographer Colin Hampden-White. The first series was called The Three Drinkers do Scotch whisky and for the second series they haven’t travelled very far, it’s called The Three Drinkers Return to Scotland. At this rate it’s going to be years before they even leave the British Isles. Anyway, we aren’t complaining as there’s a lot of good booze in Scotland; the dynamic trio will be visiting: Dalmore, Jura, Fettercairn, Glen Scotia, Glen Moray, Loch Lomond and Firkin Gin distilleries. “We’ve been blown away by how well the series has done in such a short time,” Nicklin commented. “We’re looking forward to playing up the fun side of our travels with more experimentation with food and drink, eerie ghost stories, ridiculous challenges and all the weird and wonderful tidbits people never knew about Scotland and whisky.” The new series will be available to view on your TV, tablet or one of those computer watches that are all the rage these days from early December.
This is Tails, the downstairs, at what we presume is Harvey Dent’s favourite bar
West Hampstead’s Heads + Tails bar channels two sides of a coin
If you’ve ever flipped a coin to try and decide which bar you should venture to, then Heads + Tails may be just what you’ve been waiting for. The West Hampstead bar was created by London mixologists Will Partridge and Chris Dennis, with the idea of having two complimenting counterparts to the bar: Heads, the top floor, and Tails, the downstairs. Each bar has a different menu, and we started off upstairs in Heads where there are spritzes galore and lighter cocktails, surrounded by light blue decor, filament light bulbs and a marble bar. We went for the Corpse Reviver No. 175, which marries Fords Gin, Dolin Blanc, Italicus and Chocolate & Mace Flower Bitters. Now, we weren’t with any corpses, though if there’s one cocktail that could revive the dead, it may well be this one. Beautifully light and citrussy, with a subtle rich creamy back note from the bitters. Then, there was Smoke on the Water, which takes Olmeca Altos Plata Tequila, mezcal verde, lime and watermelon syrup. Again, wonderfully well balanced, with juicy fruit tempered perfectly by the rich smokiness and grassy notes of the agave spirits. Then, you head downstairs to Tails, covered in dark oak and moodily lit by candles. It’s literally darker down there, and so are the spirits. Here we tried Twist of Fate, comprised of Wild Turkey bourbon, ginger and cinnamon syrup topped off with orange blossom water. Richer without being heavy, you can feel and certainly taste the difference between the two floors. A unique idea and a wonderful spot, and if you can’t decide from the list of delicious drinks you could always… flip a coin.
If it’s good enough for TripAdvisor, it’s good enough for us!
Rum experience comes to Manchester
The Manchester Rum Experience sounds like the most exciting experience to come to Manchester since the Jimi Hendrix Experience played at the Twisted Wheel in 1967. It’s the brainchild of Dave Rigby from the City of Manchester Distillery, the city’s premier attraction according to never-wrong website Tripadvisor. Tell us more Dave! “Our motivation with the new ‘Rum Experience’ was to pay homage to some of the influences which drove us to build the distillery at the outset. As a collective, we have been on an amazing journey over the last few years and as such, we wanted to share some of these incredible experiences, stories and some of the fun we’d had, through a range of new and diverse, interactive events at the distillery”, Rigby said. Tickets have now gone on sale for the experience which consists of a three-hour immersion in all things rum with Dave Marsland from the Manchester Rum Festival including history, cocktails and the opportunity to fill your own min barrel in ‘The Lab’. Best of all, the new experience is being supported by some of our favourite brands including Chairman’s Reserve, Bacardi, Don Q, Appleton Estate, Diplomatico, Pussers, Wray & Nephew, Doorly’s, Plantation and Gosling’s. Beat that Jimi!
Munich comes to London, only without any of the tradition. Still lots of beer, though
Inclusive Oktoberfests arrive in London
Once upon a time, you knew what you were letting yourself in for if you decided to go to the Oktoberfest. There would be men in leather shorts, mile after mile of pork sausages, oceans of beer, oh and you’d have to go to Munich to experience the whole thing. Well not anymore because this autumn there are three London Oktoberfests happening at Doc X in Surrey Quays: a fancy one, a gay one and a spooky one for Hallow’en. Go to http://www.doktoberfest.co.uk for more information. These differ from the original Bavarian festival in other ways: you don’t have to drink beer as there will be Champagne and non-alcoholic drinks served, or indeed eat traditional German sausages as at all three events there will be halal, kosher and vegan options. You don’t even have to wear leather shorts but you must be tolerant of those who choose to.
Asparagus this, Brussels sprouts that… you can’t beat a good ol’ G&T!
And finally… asparagus becomes latest wacky gin flavour
In what has essentially become our, ‘look at this weird gin’ slot, an asparagus-flavoured expression has added to the endless nonsense of novelty-flavoured gins. It’s one of the spirits on offer at the inaugural Malvern Gin Show which showcases “some of the finest spirits from the Three Counties region” and giving visitors the opportunity to sample a wide range of drinks from local and surrounding gin distilleries. A competition will even declare one distillery ‘the people’s champion’. The event, part of the Malvern Autumn Show, runs the weekend of September 28 and 29, and will include a brand new Gin Pod Theatre to host to gin-tastic talks and for visitors to get inspiration for recipe ideas. Some of the confirmed distilleries at the show include Hussingtree Gin (who are responsible for the asparagus gin), Brennan and Brown and Haven Distillery. “The Malvern Gin Show is a new addition and we’re all rather excited about it,” said Richard Heath, show executive responsible for the new classes “We have a rich selection of distilleries which are local to the Three Counties, and what better way to celebrate than to hold a series of classes, and of course give our visitors ample opportunity to do some tasting.” Run in association with Westons Cider Mill, the Malvern Autumn Show will host over 65,000 people at the two-day celebration right in the heart of the beautiful British countryside, and you can get your tickets now at malvernautumn.co.uk.
It’s a bumper week for The Nightcap, with stories about Lizzo, Champagne, crystal, Snoop Dog and millennials. What a time to be alive. Welcome to yet another Friday! No, it’s…
It’s a bumper week for The Nightcap, with stories about Lizzo, Champagne, crystal, Snoop Dog and millennials. What a time to be alive.
Welcome to yet another Friday! No, it’s not a surprise sequel to the classic ‘90s flick Friday, though that would be pretty great. However, another Friday means another edition of The Nightcap, our weekly round-up of all the booze news stories. It’s almost like a movie, except much shorter. Which, honestly, probably a good thing. Did you see that superhero movie from earlier in the year? It was like nine hours long and didn’t even have an intermission to let me go get an ice cream. Take all the breaks you want reading The Nightcap this week. Grab me a Cornetto if you think about it.
We got all glammed up and headed to the big smoke on Wednesday night. Not just for cocktails (although we did head to the wonderful Swift afterwards) but to the UK Digital Growth Awards! And it was a particularly exciting evening. We picked up the In-House Team of the Year trophy for our marketing squad! It’s fair to say we were over the moon, and so proud of each other’s achievements. From the editorial and content teams to campaigns, film, email and proper geeky stuff like PPC, we genuinely love what we do. And it all loops back to sending the good people their booze! Hurrah!
Francois Saurel (The Serious)
Macallan parent company picks new leader for Asia Pacific region
Some big news just in from Edrington, The Macallan’s parent company. Frenchman Francois Saurel will be the new regional marketing director for Asia Pacific. The vacancy was created in March when the previous occupant, Igor Boyadjian, became managing director of The Macallan. Saurel who previously worked with beauty company Coty has spent over 20 years with luxury brands in both Europe and Asia. He will report to Boyadjian who commented: “I am pleased to welcome Francois to Edrington as the next regional managing director, Asia Pacific. His leadership skills, global luxury brands experience and his proven commercial track record, make him an excellent addition to an already talented team. Saurel said: “It is an honour to be leading the Edrington teams across Asia Pacific, a key strategic region for the business with many exciting opportunities and where Edrington is ideally placed to capitalise on premiumisation trends. Edrington is set up for significant long term growth, thanks to its unrivalled portfolio of brands, great people and unique culture.” Bon chance, Francois!
Seafood-specific Champers? Go on, then.
Piper-Heidsieck launches special seafood-friendly Champagne with Wright Brothers
Champagne house Piper-Heidsieck has created a special cuvée in conjunction with Wright Brothers. No, not the aviation pioneers from Ohio, that would be strange. No, these Wright Brothers are the London fishmongers. Glad we’ve cleared that one up. Anyway, this extra brut Champagne is called Essentiel by Wright Brothers. It’s drier than most Champagnes (only 5g of sugar per bottle) and it’s specifically designed to go with seafood, especially oysters and other shellfish. “We believe together we have created the perfect accompaniment for seafood and shellfish,” said Robin Hancock, co-founder of Wright Brothers. Emilien Boutillat, chef de cave at Piper-Heidsieck added: “A shared vision of sustainability and excellence made Wright Brothers the natural choice to visit us and take part in the creation of a bespoke Champagne to suit their seafood-focused restaurants. Champagne and oysters both strongly express their place of origin, and when enjoyed together make for a memorable moment.” Not so keen on seafood? We expect Essentiel probably tastes delicious with vegetarian options, too.
The Glencairn glass: taking over the world.
Glencairn now sells 65,000 whisky glasses a week
Award-winning Glasgow glassware firm Glencairn Crystal has just released some impressive figures. The company which supplies the likes of the Houses of Parliament, Liverpool Football Club, Diageo and the SWA with whisky tasting glasses, has been growing without a pause for 15 years. Sales have doubled sales every five years since 2004; in the latest figures Glencairn turned over £11.3m, up from £858k in 2004; now more than 65,000 Glencairn glasses are now sold per week globally. The world whisky boom has been great news for this family-owned business. Scott Davidson, new product development director said: “We are so proud of the success we have achieved in this past year. Our hardworking team and the worldwide growth of the spirits market, specifically whisky, has meant that we have been able to capitalise on what we do best – provide clients with a high-end customer service they can’t get anywhere else.” So let’s raise a glass, a Glencairn Tasting Glass, to this great Scottish success story.
Happy 5th birthday, team ELLC!
Happy fifth birthday, East London Liquor Company!
On Monday we headed to deepest, darkest Bow to join some very special celebrations: East London Liquor Company just turned five! The distillery, bar and restaurant made the most of the weather, with guests spilling out across the courtyard, enjoying a barbeque, G&Ts and, in true ELLC style, Negronis on tap. It was a delight! An additional highlight? A gorgeous cake with sparklers for candles, and a really cute dog pottering about the place. Yes please. We highly recommend a visit: there’s a cocktail bar complete with seasonal menu, the food has a strong Italian emphasis, and you can check out the gorgeous stills while you sip! The distillery is open for tours, too. Check out the ELLC site for more details, or snap up a gin, vodka or rum right here. More whisky to follow!
I mean, fizz always makes travel better
Searcys Art of Travel launch with Sipsmith and Veuve Clicquot
If your Eurostar trip feels like it’s missing that final touch, we might have just the ticket! Searcys Champagne Bar at St Pancras station is kicking off the summer with its brand new The Art of Travel Afternoon Tea, a collaboration with Veuve Clicquot, GlobeTrotter and Sipsmith Gin. Each of the 12 booths (it’s the longest Champagne bar in Europe, don’t you know) represents a different European destination, while the table has been transformed into a map alongside rather aesthetic pastel seating. Meanwhile, the tea itself brings together tasty delicacies from different European cities, from passion fruit Swiss meringue pie to smoked salmon crumpets. There’s even an avocado and quinoa wrap for the more health-conscious. The best part is, it’s even served in a suitcase! No kidding. To sip on, of course there’s a selection of delicious Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label, Rosé and other cuvées, or a whole host of cocktails showcasing Sipsmith Gin. Best of both worlds is the scrumptious ‘Take on the French 75’, which marries both gin and fizz! It’s available now until 9 September, and while you’re there just don’t forget to push the ‘Press for Champagne’ button. You’re welcome.
Drop it like it’s hot
The Coral Room brings actual Gin & Juice to Snoop collab
Have you heard the news? The Coral Room will be channelling its inner Snoop. How, you wonder? Well, the team will be serving Gin & Juice slushies at Soho’s Dogg House. It’s all in aid of one of the summer’s biggest footwear collaborations – Duke + Dexter and Snoop Dogg’s Limited edition loafers and sliders. There’s a delicious colour palette too: leafy and acid greens against coral – that’s the shoes and the drinks. The Coral Room team will be bringing the West Coast lifestyle with its Gin & Juice serves. To add to the atmosphere, a DJ will play some of the iconic artist’s most famous work, while screening his best music videos. It’s the perfect backdrop to the limited-run collaboration. The Coral Room and its Gin & Juice will take up residence at 40 Berwick Street until 21 July, where the artists will be showcasing all 15 styles from the collection.
She like chardonnay, get better over time
Absolut teams up with Lizzo for a juicy summer
The new drink of the summer? According to Absolut, Absolut Juice is set to be the must-have spirit of the season. A new base for spritzy serves, it’s available in two delicious flavours: Strawberry and Apple. There are no artificial flavours, each drink is made with 5% real fruit juice, and at 99 calories per serving, it’s a lighter option, too. The most exciting thing? It’s in partnership with actual Lizzo! “When I heard Absolut was launching a new product called, ‘Absolut Juice’ it was like they made it just for me,” the Juice and Cuz I Love You singer said. “It’s an honour to celebrate the success of my first single with Absolut’s new product launch and the synergy is almost too perfect.” The drinks you could make with the new ‘juicy surprises’ include the Absolut Juice & Soda (you’ll need 1 part Absolut Juice and 2 parts Club Soda) and the Absolut Juice Spritz (1 part Absolut Juice, 1 part Club Soda and 1 part Sparkling wine). If you’re feeling more adventurous, there’s also the Absolut Juice Strawberry Punch, with 1 ½ parts Absolut Juice Strawberry, 1 part lemonade, ½ part cranberry and a splash of club soda, garnished with a lemon peel. Another plus? They have a recommended price of US$19.99. We’re hoping both Strawberry and Apple will arrive at MoM Towers later in the summer!
What cycling in 40°C looks like
Mentzendorff cycling team braves heatwave to raise £35,000 for The Benevolent
From 24-28 June, Equipo Mentzendorff slipped into their skin-tight cycling gear, got on their bikes and rode around Tuscany to raise money for The Benevolent Charity, an organisation that provides help and support to members of the UK drinks industry and their families. During the so-called ‘Giro di Toscana’, the team, made up of Mentzendorff staff members, customers and consumers, covered 300km during the recent heatwave with the thermometer hitting 40°C every day. Tough work – but they raised £35,000 for the charity! Mentzendorff is the agent for Bollingers Champagne, Taylor’s Port and many other big names, as well as producing a legendary brand of kummel. Team leader Andrew Hawes said: “I would like to thank the twelve riders, our support team and our incredible hosts, Ciacci Piccolomini and Fertuna, for their amazing efforts. Thank you also to everyone who has supported us and donated to this great cause.” Ross Carter, CEO of The Benevolent added: “We are incredibly thankful to Team Mentzendorff for their on-going support of The Benevolent and a huge congratulations for nearly doubling their fundraising target and for doing so in such intense climatic conditions!” Well done to everyone concerned.
Join the Zero Likes revolution
And finally… Kahlúa reckons millennials are missing out on life’s key moments because phones
Kahlúa brings us some hilarious and somewhat concerning news this week, as the brand took it upon itself to survey a group of millennials about social media. The stats are… interesting. Over 90 percent believe it’s important to live in the moment, while, rather conversely more than half have also missed an important moment because they were too busy trying to capture it on social media! Perhaps even more alarmingly, one third of those surveyed said they would miss social media more than sex if they were stranded on an desert island. Geez. So, Kahlúa teamed up with actress Jackie Cruz (who you’ll likely recognise as Flaca from Orange is the New Black) to put on the Zero Likes Given exhibition in New York! Fabulous pictures without a single like on Instagram will be displayed, to ease the pressure of likes. Speaking of which, the coffee liqueur brand also created the Bottom Nine website, which generates your nine least liked pictures on Instagram! Go on, try it. We promise it’ll be funny.
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 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/honours. There’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.
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.