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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Midleton Distillery

The Nightcap: 5 March

It’s Friday and that means there’s Nightcapping to do. It’s been another week full of fascinating booze-soaked stories. Here’s our pick of some of the best. A week has been…

It’s Friday and that means there’s Nightcapping to do. It’s been another week full of fascinating booze-soaked stories. Here’s our pick of some of the best.

A week has been and gone since the last edition of The Nightcap, which means that we needed to grab our press hats (you know the trilbys with the little white placards that have the word ‘press’ printed on them?) and scour the world of booze for suitably interesting stories. This was a piece of cake, frankly. So much was happening! Which is both good for us, and for you too! Because that means there are all kinds of interesting new tales for you to enjoy. So, grab a dram, take a seat and read on… It’s the Nightcap: 5 March edition.

This week on the MoM blog we reported on two exciting news stories, the first being the welcome relief of US tariffs on Scotch whisky being suspended and the other the announcement that there are big changes taking place at Glenmorangie and Distell. We then thought we’d help you out by recommending how to make the most of the upcoming picnics that everyone is planning, which might be improved even further with some of our outstanding new beers. Or perhaps an exquisite bottle of bubbly. Or maybe even a simple and delicious gin-based cocktail. It could be the greatest picnic of all time. Elsewhere, Lucy got her geek on and told us what the deal with worm tubs is, Adam looked at a certain drinks giant in a new light and Millie’s love letter to one of London’s finest bars had us itching to get back out on the town. For now, we’ll settle for some light reading. Let’s take a look at what’s been happening this week…

It's another terrific week on The Nightcap!

What the distillery could look like.

Bimber confirms plans for a Scotch distillery

We found ourselves adding another new name to our list of new distilleries we’re very excited about this week after Bimber revealed that it will open a sister Scotch whisky distillery. The proposal, which is currently being reviewed by Moray Council, will see an existing farm in Dunphail, south of Forres, converted into a 200,000 LA capacity distillery. The new site will have a visitor centre, blending rooms, dunnage warehouses and a floor malting facility, as well as a traditional kiln designed to process 100% of the distillery’s locally sourced barley. Sustainable production methods, energy efficiency and water conservation will be central to the as-yet-untitled distillery, with plastic-free packaging and ingredients being sourced as locally as possible and systems to be implemented that will reduce water use. The team also intends to create a new forest on the grounds of the distillery with a tree being planted for every cask purchased. We love what we’re hearing so far, to be honest, and can’t wait to taste the full-bodied, fruit-forward spirit that the brand plans to create in both unpeated and peated styles. Dariusz Plazewski, founder and director at Bimber Distillery, says the vision for Dunphail is to craft an “exceptional, world-class spirit born of the techniques of the past – but with its focus firmly on the future.” Plazewski also commented the planned project will be distinctive from and run separately to Bimber and revealed his team are also aiming to expand the production capacity at the London-based distillery by exploring potential sites in the capital for relocation. As for the proposed distillery at Dunphail, we can expect distillation to commence at the site in 2022 pending planning consent and construction. 

It's another terrific week on The Nightcap!

Congratulations, Deirdre!

Midleton appoints Deirdre O’Carroll as blender 

Irish Distillers has strengthened its blending team this week with the addition of Deirdre O’Carroll. Working with master blender Billy Leighton in Midleton Distillery, Co. Cork, The Irish drinks giants has said O’Carroll will be responsible for the management of stock, including cask profile and age profile, as well as laying down deliciousness for future generations. But her primary role will be the “development of new and existing blends, marrying together specific and intricate flavours and aromas, ultimately, creating a palette of tastes that make up Irish Distillers’ portfolio of Irish whiskeys”. O’Carroll has an impressive background, holding a degree in food science and technology from University College, Cork and a diploma in distilling from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling. She joined Irish Distillers in 2012 as part of the first year of the Jameson Engineering Programme. Her roles have included taking part in commissioning of the new pot stills in the Garden Stillhouse and the new columns in the Midleton Distillery expansion project, and helping oversee the filling and emptying of the 1.7 million casks maturing at Midleton. Leighton commended O’Carroll by saying she’s “a shining example of what success looks like” for rising through the company ranks and credited her as an invaluable member of the team. The new blender herself said she was looking forward to channelling her knowledge and experience into the role, while learning from Leighton and the team. And we look forward to tasting the whiskey they make together. Slainte, Deirdre!   

It's another terrific week on The Nightcap!

We tried the new expression and we like!

Fettercairn releases new range

It might not be one of Scotland’s best-known distilleries, but Fettercairn is very popular among whisky fans for its terrific spirit and we were all delighted to see it launch its core range back in 2018. Now a new series is on the way which will show the brand flexing its maturation muscles, bottling whiskies from a variety of casks housed within the distillery’s 14 dunnage warehouses. Whisky maker Gregg Glass created the project as a means to research how each warehouse makes its own unique mark on the Fettercairn spirit, which is why each expression is named after the warehouse that helped to shape it. We got to taste the first bottling, Fettercairn Warehouse No2 Batch No. 001, last week in the company of distillery manager Stewart Walker and brand specialist Andrew Lennie. Head brewer Bruce Aitken even created a bespoke flavour pairing of homemade tropical fruit chutney (which was cracking) and digestive biscuits. It’s matured in an array of American and European oak casks, including ex-bourbon, sherry and port pipes, but despite the diversity, we found the integration was on point and created a wonderful nutty, spicy and chocolatey profile that still retained plenty of those funky tropical fruits we know and love from Fettercairn. It’s a delightful dram and we look forward to seeing how the whisky evolves over the series.

It's another terrific week on The Nightcap!

Well, it makes a change from Tequila, Jamie Foxx is investing in bourbon

Jamie Foxx buys Brown Sugar Bourbon

Another week, another celeb enters the booze biz. This time it is actor and musician Jamie Foxx, who now counts Brown Sugar Bourbon as part of his portfolio. While the flavoured whiskey brand was founded in 2016, Foxx’s ownership is being viewed as being something of a kickstart for the American-made spirit. The company says Foxx will lead them in “a new creative direction”, expanding brand awareness, redesigning bottles and to help position Brown Sugar “as a fun, celebratory liquor ideal for making memories and toasting to good times.” It seems that Foxx’s role won’t be ceremonial with the bourbon brand as he’s even tipped to help develop future releases. Sean M. Penn (not that one), CEO of BSB Spirits says the company is fortunate that Foxx was introduced to our brand at one of his legendary parties and that he has no doubt that he will lead BSB to new heights. “We can think of no better creative force than Jamie, and we look forward to watching him introduce BSB to the world,” he comments. “Owning a brand that brings sweet life to the party has always been a goal and with BSB we’re making it happen,” Foxx added. “Before the quarantine, I watched bottles of BSB disappear at all my celebrations and knew this was a brand I wanted to bring into the spotlight. Anyone who tries BSB is going to love it just like I do.”

Dictador Lalique bottle

It’s fancy bottle city on the Nightcap this week

Lalique partners with Dictador for first rum decanter

Budge over, whisky. Squeeze up, Cognac. There’s a new fancypants spirit on the scene: aged rum. Aficionados have known about rum’s luxe qualities for some time now, but a development this week seems to have cemented the category’s place in the upper echelons of spirits perception. A unique decanter of Dictador Generations En Lalique sold at auction for a whopping £30,000. And the bottling (decatering?) wasn’t just one of the most expensive rums ever sold – its creation, Dictador became the first rum ever to find its way into a Lalique decanter. This first one was auctioned in a lot that also included personal letters from master blender Hernan Parra and Lalique’s creative director Marc Larminaux, a print of the bottle’s original digital rendering signed by the designer, an invitation to Dictador Art Masters in Cartagena for two, and a signed print by a local artist, with proceeds going to the Art Masters charity. We tuned in to a launch this week (via Zoom, obvs) to find out more. Larminaux explained that there were only 300 decanters, each handmade and therefore one-off pieces, produced (they retail at £14,000). He described being inspired by the colours and vibrancy of Dictator’s native Cartagena and the Caribbean Sea, which give the decanters the unusual mottled shape. Parra said choosing the rum for the decanter was a “very difficult job!”. He eventually settled on a blend of 1976 rums aged in both American oak and Port casks – and his father, Dario, was involved too. It’s the first time the duo has teamed up for an expression. Congratulations to Dictador – and welcome to the big leagues, rum! 

It's another terrific week on The Nightcap!

It’s got nothing to do with the car manufacturer. Got it?

Ferrari is the new sparkling wine of Formula 1

In a move that’s likely to cause no end of confusion, the new sparkling wine of Formula 1 is called… Ferrari. Yes, the same name as the red fast Italian cars that feature in the series though there is no link between the two companies. In fact, Ferrari wines long predate the car manufacturer and has been making high-quality fizz in Trento in Northern Italy since 1906. It’s the start of a three-year relationship between the brand and FIA, the sport’s governing body. Stefano Domenicali (above left), president and CEO of Formula 1, commented: “Celebrating success is in both our DNA and having Ferrari Trento at the heart of the sport’s most iconic celebratory moment makes them such a natural partner for us.” While president CEO of the family-owned wine company Matteo Lunelli (above right) added: “It’s an achievement because it demonstrates the renown and the appeal that Ferrari Trento wines enjoy internationally.” This is big news for Ferrari. Up until now the huge bottles of fizz wasted by the top three drivers at the end of the race had always come from Champagne. Now they come from Trento in Italy, so don’t call it Champagne or you will get an angry letter from the Champagne Bureau’s army of lawyers. 

It's another terrific week on The Nightcap!

We hardly knew ye…

Foursquare’s Redoubtable new rum is was here

The team at Foursquare really do have a knack for coming up with unexpected names for their limited edition Bajan rums. There was a Criterion, a Nobiliary, and last year’s Cold War-themed Detente. You can read about the series here. Now there’s a rum that sounds like it has come straight of the pages of Patrick O’ Brian, Redoutable. It should have an HMS in front of it. This is the 15th release in Foursquare’s Exceptional Cask Series. It’s a blend of two 14-year-old rums, one aged in ex-bourbon casks, the other in first-fill ex-Madeira casks. Only 12,000 bottles have been filled at 61% ABV with no chill filtering, colour, and sweetening. Nothing to detract from all that rummy goodness. We were sent a little sample and as usual with these limited edition Foursquare releases, we were knocked out by the quality. There’s dried fruit, dark chocolate and honey sweetness to it with the most amazing cardamom and menthol aromatic blast running through the whole thing. We loved how it evolves in the glass with just a drop of water. So hats off to Richard Seale and the Foursquare team for another amazing limited edition rum. Sadly, as I was typing these words, all our bottles sold out so you’ll have to order something else from this distillery. 

It's another terrific week on The Nightcap!

Rishi Sunak “gets it”, according to Beale.

Drinks industry reacts to alcohol duty freeze

Following this week’s budget by the chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak, the big question on everyone’s lips was, ‘how will the WSTA respond?’ The cry went up across the drinks industry, ‘what does Beale think?’ Well, the wait is over. This is the comment from WSTA CEO Mr Miles Beale: “The decision to freeze wine and spirit duty comes as a huge relief for British businesses, pubs, restaurants and its suppliers following the crushing – and continuing – closure of the hospitality sector, for months on end, during the pandemic. Chancellor Rishi Sunak seems to ‘get it’. He understands that supporting our industry will allow it to recover, rebuild, create jobs and – in time – replenish revenues to the Treasury.  He has also shown he is in touch with men and women from all walks of life who want to enjoy their chosen tipple without getting stung by further tax hikes. We will all raise a glass to the Chancellor tonight – and look forward to more permanent support for the sector following the review of alcohol taxation.” According to WSTA calculations, this means a saving of £100 million assuming the increase would be in line with inflation at 1.4%. But let’s not forget that alcohol taxes in the UK are some of the highest in the world with £2.23 plus VAT at 20% going to the taxman.

 

It's another terrific week on The Nightcap!

Anyone else think this looks like Oogie Boogie from The Nightmare Before Christmas?

Frank Gehry Hennessy Cognac to be auctioned for charity

Another week, another ridiculously-packaged Cognac goes under the hammer. This time it’s the turn of Hennessy with a Masterpiece XO in a special decanter designed by Frank Gehry. You might know him as the architect behind the concert hall in The Simpson’s that is later turned into a prison. The decanter was apparently inspired by the river Charente and it’s made from bronze plated with 24 carat gold with Gehry’s signature crumpled up piece of paper design in metal. Hennessy is also throwing in the mold used to create the decanter into the bargain. The auction takes place on 13 March at Sotheby’s in New York and celebrates 150 years since the launch of Hennessy’s first XO Cognac. It’s expected to go for between $15-30,000. Find out more here. Jonny Fowle, Sotheby’s spirits specialist, said: “It is a pleasure to offer this lot from the world’s biggest Cognac producer for charity. This bottle blends 150 years of Hennessy’s history and expertise with the creativity of Frank Gehry’s designs. The fact that this exclusive offer includes not just the commemorative decanter but also the mould used by Gehry to create his vision makes this a piece of design history. We are pleased that proceeds from the sale will go to benefit the Asian American Business Development Centre, which Hennessy is working with as part of their Unfinished Business initiative.” This project was launched by Hennessy last year to help small businesses struggling with the effects of Covid. So it’s great that all this ostentation is being used to do some good.

It's another terrific week on The Nightcap!

We’ll only buy one or two. Hundred. Might pick up some of that beer, too.

And finally… Cadbury creates Creme Egg beer

With Easter coming up at the beginning of next month you might have started thinking about which chocolatey treat you’ll help yourself to this year. But if you’re in the mood for something a bit different, Goose Island Brewery and Cadbury might have the thing for you. A beer that tastes like a Creme Egg. The only question we have is, what took them so long? The limited-edition stout, which has been named the ‘Golden Goo-Beer-Lee’ to commemorate 50 years of the Creme Egg, has gone on sale this week as a pre-Easter special. Ingredients including milk sugar, cacao nibs, and vanilla beans have been used to give it its flavour, with Goose Island’s master brewer Andrew Walton saying the brand wanted to “big up the chocolate and creaminess of the beer while keeping it super drinkable.” He also reveals that the brewery has ensured the “tasty flavours of the stout complement the iconic Cadbury Creme Egg,” while brand manager of Cadbury Creme Egg (what an amazing job that must be) Raphael Capitani added that this launch would lift “EATertainment to a whole new level”. Which doesn’t land with quite the same aplomb as ‘Goo-Beer-Lee’. We will, however, raise a glass and some chocolate to five delicious decades of Cadbury Creme Egg. Because they are boss. Cheers!

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The Nightcap: 19 February

This week we tried to keep up with fancy new booze from Midleton, Macallan, and Kendall Jenner. It’s The Nightcap! Man, where is the time going? Before you know it…

This week we tried to keep up with fancy new booze from Midleton, Macallan, and Kendall Jenner. It’s The Nightcap!

Man, where is the time going? Before you know it we’ll be in March and the clocks will be going forward and we might even start to live a life that resembles the Before Times. The only thing that’s really helping us keep track of things at the moment is the weekly familiarity of The Nightcap. Especially because our calendar has pictures of kittens on it. How are you supposed to know what day it is when there’s something distracting right next to the key information? It’s a design flaw. Fortunately, there’s no such issue with The Nightcap. All you’ll find here is the biggest boozy news from this week. Speaking of which, let’s get on with the Nightcap: 19 February edition. 

It was full-on blog-maggedon this week as the news flooded in and the features rolled out. First, we learned that the standards you need to meet to call your product Japanese whisky was becoming tighter than simply bottling booze from elsewhere and singing The Vapors classic tune at your product. Then a peer-reviewed paper (no need to ask who funded it) claimed there’s definitely terroir in whisky. So much was happening you could be forgiven for not realising tomorrow is World Pangolin Day, but luckily we have a new competition to jog your memory. We also launched a bottle lottery for Torabhaig Distillery’s first whisky and told you what to expect, made ourselves a royally good drink, wished That Boutique-y Gin Company a happy fourth birthday, marked the return of one of the grand old names of Scotch whisky, looked into the history of a gin giant and got the lowdown on why absinthe is a category is on the rise. And we did all that while doing the public service of reminding you that Mother’s Day is in a few weeks and suggesting some ideal pressies. Phew! Now, onto The Nightcap!

On The Nightcap this week we've got fancy Macallan!

An Estate, A Community and A Distillery will arrive at MoM Towers soon…

Macallan launches The Anecdotes of Ages collection

If there’s one thing The Macallan does exceptionally well, it’s put together fancy collections featuring incredible sounding whiskies we know deep down we’ll never taste. Still, it’s nice to look at them and dream, and in this case, they make for particularly good viewing. The latest series, The Anecdotes of Ages, is the Macallan’s third collaboration with iconic pop artist Sir Peter Blake and each individual bottle features an original Blake collage art on the label. Blake, as we are sure you know, created the artwork for Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band and that should be enough for anyone, frankly. Back to the whisky, there are 13 one-of-a-kind bottles in total, each from 1967, and every label tells a different story. It could be about The Macallan’s history, community, estate or that advert. Ok, so we made the last one up. Jokes aside, collectors will be pleased to know the bottles have been signed by Blake and come in a European oak case with photography that shows Blake’s journey with The Macallan, along with a leather-bound book and a certificate of authenticity. Price is likely to be in the region of £50,000. For those who don’t think they’ll get their hands on a bottle, you can always check out this  360-degree virtual art exhibit. The brand has also revealed that one of the bottles will be auctioned next month by Sotheby’s to raise funds to benefit the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. Additionally, The Macallan will soon be releasing a new more affordable whisky, a snip at £750, called An Estate, A Community and A Distillery, to commemorate Blake’s visit to the distillery. This reminds us of our favourite palindrome: a man, a plan, a canal, Panama. Anyway, this more affordable expression, will be displayed in a custom box inspired by Blake’s art and available from Master of Malt soon. Yep, you read that right. So keep those eyes peeled…

On The Nightcap this week we've got Kendall Jenner!

Jenner’s brand has attracted a lot of attention already, but not all of it is positive

Kendall Jenner creates Tequila brand 818

Keeping up with the Kardashians star and model Kendall Jenner has revealed on Instagram that her latest project is a Tequila brand called ‘818’, and quickly found out this particular boozy bandwagon isn’t always pleasant. “For almost four years I’ve been on a journey to create the best tasting Tequila. After dozens of blind taste tests, trips to our distillery, entering into world tasting competitions anonymously and WINNING (🥳). 3.5 years later I think we’ve done it”, the post’s caption read. “This is all we’ve been drinking for the last year and I can’t wait for everyone else to get their hands on this to enjoy it as much as we do! @drinks818 coming soon 🥃🤤.” But the reality star has faced backlash after being accused of cultural appropriation and “exploiting Mexican culture”, the former of which is not a new concern for her family. Although, oddly the same charges were not levelled at other celebrity Tequila hawkers like George Clooney or The Rock. Nothing to read into there. It’s fair to say we’re not exactly cheerily raising a glass to another famous person helping themselves to a bundle of precious agave and as we were writing this story we learned that American comedian Kevin Hart is doing the same thing (other spirits do exist, people). But it’s also worth noting that it’s fairly common for a Tequila distillery to sell its booze to various brands and few can honestly claim to truly represent Mexico in any deep or meaningful way. In fact, you can look up the product’s NOM number (Norma Oficial Mexicana) and it will tell you where the Tequila is made and assure you that production meets the required certification standards of the Consejo Regulador del Tequila (CRT). You’ll find that the distillery (which 818 hasn’t disclosed, so we won’t either) makes booze for a number of brands is made so 818 really isn’t doing anything new. For anyone who actually cares about the Tequila, the range features a blanco, a reposado and an añejo made from 100% Agave Azul in Jalisco, Mexico and bottled at 40% ABV.

On The Nightcap this week we've got fancy Midleton!

Keep your eyes peeled for more reaction to this beauty on this MoM blog

Kevin O’ Gorman blends his first Midleton Very Rare

In the past, only two master distillers have blended Midleton Very Rare, Barry Crockett and Brian Nation. Now, there’s a new signature on the bottle: Kevin O’Gorman stepped into Nation’s enormous shoes last year and has now released the 38th edition of possibly Ireland’s greatest whisky. We have to be honest, it’s a belter. As usual, it’s a blend of long-aged pot still and grain whiskies aged entirely in ex-bourbon casks. We spoke with O’ Gorman at a press conference last night and he told us that he narrowed the blend down to two samples and then spent a night agonising over them. The one he chose is heavier on the grain than last year’s pot still-dominated blend. It’s more like the Very Rare from the late ‘90s and early ‘00s, he said. It majors on the sweet chocolate, caramel and vanilla notes but still with plenty of pot still spice. O’ Gorman revealed that the Very Rare 2021 contains a cask of pot still laid down by Barry Crockett in 1984. He was on ebullient form describing it as “the pinnacle of my career presenting the pinnacle of Irish whiskey.” We’ll have the full story including a closer look at the component parts when we get stock in a couple of weeks.

Tim Ashley VCL

VCL director Tim Ashley says invest in cask whisky… or else

Whisky investors getting younger says cask broker

Business is booming for whisky cask broker VCL Vintners. Apparently, sales are up 300% in January 2021 compared to the previous year. Not only that, but its customers are getting younger. No, this isn’t because of the magical age-defying properties of whisky, what the company means is that the average age of whisky investors is decreasing. The PR team sent us some figures that showed that the largest category, 26% of business, is people between the ages of 25 and 34. While well over half their investors are under 44. Casks start from around £5,000 but most of the trade is in the £10-30,000 range so some young people are clearly doing well despite the panny (as we’re calling the pandemic). Stuart Thom, director at VCL Vintners, commented: “It’s encouraging that the demographic is becoming a smarter, younger City audience with longer investment horizons.” He went on to explain exactly why there is so much interest, something we have reported on before: “With the markets going sideways for now and a tech bubble being rumoured in the States, whisky is being seen more and more as a stable long-term investment.” The great thing about investing in whisky is even if you don’t make any money, and there’s no guarantee the market will keep going up, at the end of the day, you have a barrel of single malt.

On The Nightcap this week we've got a big clock!

This story has everything: history, romance, and an enormous clock.

Johnnie Walker restores romantic Edinburgh landmark clock

Since 1960, Edinburgh’s lovers, young and old, have been meeting under a colourful clock on the corner of Hope Street and Princes Street. Known as the Binns Clock after the now disappeared department store that installed it. In its prime, the clock would play ‘Caller Herrin’ and ‘Scotland the Brave’ at seven and 37 minutes past the hour as kilted Highland figures would jig about. Sadly, in recent years the clock had fallen into disrepair and the Highlanders danced no more. Now, as part of Diageo’s plans for a swanky Johnnie Walker HQ which is due to open this year in Scotland’s capital, it was restored by the Cumbria Clock Company which has also worked on some pretty impressive clocks such as the Royal Liver Building and the big one, Big Ben. Bong! Restorer Mark Crangle described the laborious process: “We had to delicately strip back worn paintwork to source and match the clock’s original colours and gold trimmings, and we spent a great amount of time on the speed and timings of the bells, tunes and pipers to ensure it all matched perfectly.” Happily, Crangle and the team managed to get it all done for Valentine’s Day last Sunday, just in time for Edinburgh’s lovers to meet. 

On The Nightcap this week we've even more cask investment news!

Casks are all the rage this week it seems

Caskshare unveils new cask-buying platform

It must be the week of casks, as we have even more oak-scented news for you. Last Friday, we joined David Nicol, co-founder of the new venture, Alasdair Day from Isle of Raasay Distillery, plus Thom Solberg of Little Bat for a bit of a Zoom-based whisky extravaganza. The celebrations were to mark the launch of Caskshare, an initiative to make single cask whisky, and by extension buying shares in casks, more accessible. For mature whisky, customers can simply snap up a share (which equates to a bottle), and once all those shares have been snapped up, everyone gets their booze! For spirit yet to come of age, whisky fans can buy a share and the bottles will be sent when its ready. To demonstrate some of the whiskies available, Day shared samples from Raasay, and talked us through Tullibardine single malt and Cambus expressions. And, as it was Valentine’s Day Eve-Eve, Solberg treated us to a demo of a 14 February-appropriate serve. We all made Glen Moray-based (from Caskshare, natch) Roffignacs: the whisky, plus pomegranate syrup, cider vinegar, and ginger ale all built in a glass with ice. Delish! For more Caskshare deets, check out Caskshare.com – and what an evening of whisky love!

And finally… we need a G&T emoji now

Whether you’re fluent in emoji language like Kendall Jenner or the sort of person who gets in trouble for misjudged aubergines in the company Slack channels, here’s an emoji that we can all use without embarrassment, especially on a Friday at 6pm: a G&T emoji. Sadly, amazingly, it doesn’t exist yet! And so tonic water and mixer business Lixir Drinks has launched a petition to persuade Unicode to create an emoji for one of Britain’s favourite drinks. Yes, it’s a PR stunt, but a useful one. The company is hoping to get 10,000 signatures, so what are you waiting for, sign here and you’ll never have to write out the words Gin & Tonic again. Which reminds us, it’s getting on for 6pm now, G&T anyone? See wouldn’t that have been so much easier with an emoji?

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The Nightcap: 26 June

The Nightcap is filled to the brim with all kinds of boozy news in a week that saw the UK government announce the return of pubs, bars and restaurants!  My…

The Nightcap is filled to the brim with all kinds of boozy news in a week that saw the UK government announce the return of pubs, bars and restaurants! 

My word, it was properly hot in Kent this week. The kind of heat that makes you think we need to rip up our infrastructure and immediately start installing air conditioning in all buildings, and making it law for gardens to have some kind of pool facility. Given that’s not likely to happen, we’re going to have to make do with what we have. We can always grab a suitably summery drink with plenty of ice, find some shade, and enjoy another delightful round-up of all things booze. Sounds lovely. 

On the MoM blog this week, Ian Buxton returned to tell a pretty remarkable story (it’s got whisky publicity stunts, Christo and Dewar’s World of Whisky. What else could you possibly want?), then Kristy made some delightfully simple Scotch cocktails with Stephen Martin from Whyte & Mackay. MoM Towers received some very special deliveries of whisky in the last few days, so naturally, we decided to write about them. The third Whiskymaker’s Reserve from the Lakes Distillery arrived, and Jess was on hand to talk us through the brand’s process; a delightful single cask release from John Crabbie & Co became our New Arrival of the Week; and Henry got the lowdown on what he described as being some of the most eagerly-anticipated expressions ever, Waterford’s Single Farm Origin whisky. If that wasn’t enough, Annie did an outstanding deep dive into the delights of yeast, the unsung hero of distillation, before compiling an easy guide to help you master blender cocktails. We then enjoyed the ultimate DIY cocktail as Adam talked to Alexander Gabriel to hear about how he made a craft gin way back in the 90s.

We’d also like to say thank you to all who entered last week’s virtual pub quiz, where so many of you were in sparkling form. There can only be one winner, though, and that accolade goes to Robbie Ingram, who now has a delightful £25 MoM gift voucher to put to good use! You can check out the answers to last Friday’s quiz below, and the final edition of MoM pub quiz will be on our blog from 5pm as always. That’s right. It’s the last one. Get entering! 

The Nightcap

We can’t wait to see this sweet sight again…

Pubs, bars and restaurants to open on 4th July

It’s the news this industry has been waiting for: the hospitality industry is back, baby! Well, sort of. The government has announced this week that the Covid-19 lockdown is set to be relaxed in England, and the 2-metre social distancing rule eased to the so-called ‘1 metre-plus’. This will allow a number of venues to reopen, including bars, pubs, and restaurants. But there are conditions, naturally. Places can open providing they follow safety guidelines, such as limiting table service indoors, minimising the contact between staff and customers, and keeping contact details of customers to help with contact tracing. People will be encouraged to use ‘mitigation’, such as face coverings and not sitting face-to-face when within 2m of each other. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned that all these steps were “reversible” should there be spikes in coronavirus cases, while in Scotland and Wales the 2m rule will remain in place for the moment. Speaking on the developments, Nightcap homie and chief executive of the WSTA Miles Beale said that the opening up of our pubs, bars and restaurants comes as a huge relief to the businesses, and that it’s right that the move comes with caution. “This welcome news does not mean that the hospitality sector and their suppliers are no longer in need of Government support,” he said. “Recovery from the loss of trade over the last few months will mean that some businesses will not be able to open immediately or fully and others will take years to get themselves back on an even keel.” If you are going to head to a bar, pub, and/or restaurant on the 4th of July or after, please be safe, and enjoy!

The Nightcap

The brilliant initiative will hopefully lessen the impact of Covid-19 on the hospitality industry

Diageo launches £80m recovery fund for bars and pubs

In more good news for the hospitality sector, Diageo has announced a new global programme called Raising the Bar, which aims to help pubs and bars welcome customers back and recover following the Covid-19 pandemic. Through Raising the Bar, Diageo will provide £80 million ($100 million) to support the recovery of major hospitality centres such as New York, London, Sao Paulo, Shanghai, Delhi and more. The two-year programme, which is available from July 2020, was designed following a global survey of bar owners to identify what they need to reopen after lockdown. Top priorities included hygiene measures, digital support and practical equipment to transform how their outlets will work. In the UK, for example, Diageo will provide initial funding for ‘hygiene kits’ with high-quality permanent sanitiser dispenser units, medical-grade hand sanitiser, and a range of personal protection equipment (such as masks and gloves). Other support includes help setting up online reservations and cashless systems, plus mobile bars and outdoor equipment. If bar owners want to register their interest, they can do so via www.diageobaracademy.com globally and www.mydiageo.com in the UK and Ireland. Regular updates on best-practice training and resources are provided, and you can participate in global surveys to share insights. Ivan Menezes, Diageo chief executive, said the company is also calling on governments around the world to provide long-term recovery packages. “These businesses play an essential role in bringing people together to socialise and celebrate – something that we have all missed so much during this terrible crisis – and sustain hundreds of millions of jobs, which provide a first foot on the employment ladder for young people.” Bravo, Diageo!

The Nightcap

Meet Katherine Condon, distiller at Midleton Distillery!

Midleton Distillery appoints Katherine Condon 

Following the news that Irish Distillers has swapped in Kevin O’Gorman for outgoing master distiller Brian Nation, the Pernod Ricard-owned company has revealed another new addition to the distillation team. We’d like to say a big MoM Towers hello (it’s basically a usual hello but we’re holding a dram and we’ve paused Withnail and I) to Katherine Condon, who is now a distiller at Midleton Distillery in Co. Cork! Condon joined Irish Distillers back in 2014 as part of the Graduate Distiller Programme, and has since worked as a distiller at the Midleton Micro Distillery, Irish Distillers’ hub for innovation and experimentation. She’s also served as a process technologist and production supervisor at the main distillery, where she has been involved in innovations such as the Method and Madness range. She also picked up The Worshipful Company of Distillers award in 2018, and another gong in 2019 for outstanding achievement from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling. Condon also holds a Bachelor of Engineering Degree in Process and Chemical Engineering from University College Cork, and a Diploma in Distilling from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling. “I am honoured to be appointed as distiller,” she said. “This role represents a time-honoured craft, and it has been a privilege to learn about the art and science of distilling from icons of world whiskey like Brian Nation and Kevin O’Gorman.” She continued: “I look forward to using the wisdom and experience I have inherited to continue their legacy of quality while driving innovation as I continue my career in Midleton. I am incredibly excited about the future of Irish whiskey and the role I can play in it.” Gorman himself added: “Katherine has consistently demonstrated a passion and exceptional skill set for the art of distillation. Her inquisitive nature and constant pursuit of excellence has made her one of the rising stars of world distilling.” High praise indeed!

The Nightcap

Liana is described as ‘the world’s first interactive, at-home cocktail experience’

Liana Cocktail Company brings bartenders into your home 

Lockdown has been especially hard for the hospitality and retail but we’ve been so impressed by how businesses have adapted, there’s a tattoo parlour near me that turned into a fruit and veg shop, and is doing a roaring trade. Another feelgood story is that of drinks agency The Liana Collection. Director David Wood told us: “In mid-May, our entire revenue stream disappeared and the business we worked so hard to build over the last two and a half years was under real threat, to the point where I had a pretty emotional chat with the team informing them that I’d have to be letting people go on 1 July.” Instead, they rallied round and came up with a plan. The result is the Liana Cocktail Company, which launched last week. Wood describes it as “the world’s first interactive, at-home cocktail experience”. The way it works is this: the company will send you everything you need to make a delicious Manhattan, Negroni or something else, and then a bartender will show you how to make it perfectly at home through the magic of the internet, smartphones, satellites and stuff. So modern. Go here for more information. 

The Nightcap

Cheers to you, Colin!

We raise a dram to Colin Scott as he retires from Chivas Regal

We sipped on something of a bittersweet dram on Tuesday evening when we joined a celebration in honour of highly regarded Chivas Regal master blender, Colin Scott. He’s retiring from the blended Scotch brand after a whopping 47 years of service! Alongside other drinks writers and journalists, we chatted, heard stories from Scott’s career, and generally honoured the man who created Chivas Regal 18 Year Old. With that very expression in the tasting glasses, of course! Alex Robertson, head of heritage and education at Chivas Brothers, hosted the session (which took place via Zoom – in-person gatherings are still off), who not only drew attention to Scott’s blending achievements but his role as a pioneer of global brand advocacy, too. “Whenever you talk to blenders, behind it all, there’s a great passion,” Scott said, looking back over his career. On advice he would have given to a younger version of himself, he noted: “you can’t shortcut your road through blending”. He continued: “There’s a road to travel, and you have to get that encyclopaedic knowledge.” And we loved his take on casks management: “We’re the guardians of the past, present, and future.” And looking to the future, he leaves Chivas Regal in the wonderfully capable hands of Sandy Hyslop, already master blender at the likes of Ballantine’s and The Glenlivet.  We’ll for sure be raising a glass to both this weekend!

The Nightcap

James MacTaggart, Andy Bell, and the unique blended malt

Isle of Arran Distillers devise unique blended malt

Isle of Arran Distillers has revealed plans to create a blended malt in a pretty unique way. The plan is to fill casks with new make spirit from both of its distilleries, Lagg and Lochranza. ‘Project North & South’, as it’s been dubbed, is particularly interesting for two reasons. One, the independent Scotch whisky company is in the rare position of owning a Lowland and a Highland distillery both based on one island off the west coast of Scotland, Lochranza Distillery in the north and Lagg Distillery in the south. Two, these distilleries produce very distinct spirits and, while they share some island DNA, one of the spirits is heavily-peated and the other is unpeated. It’s a great way to get the stills up and firing again, as both distilleries underwent a period of closure starting in March due to the Covid-19 pandemic.  When the distilleries began production again on 11th May, the first runs of new spirit from each distillery were vatted together and filled into bourbon barrels, sherry hogsheads and sherry butts at Lochranza Distillery. “This is a first for Isle of Arran. We are aware of blended malts where the whisky from one distillery is married with that of another, or blended whiskies created by mixing grain with malt whisky, however, this is the first time that we know of malt whisky from two sister distilleries being blended at the spirit stage,” said director of operations and production for Lagg and Lochranza Distilleries, James MacTaggart. Isle of Arran sales manager, Andy Bell added: “I am proud to have played a part in creating this truly unique blend, and will follow with interest as these casks mature. The experimentation at the heart of this process speaks to the truly independent nature of our company.” We look forward to seeing the results!

The Nightcap

Is this the swankiest series of single malt whiskies we’ve ever seen? It might just be.

And finally… Fancy a sapphire with your whisky?

Speyside Scotch whisky distillery Glenfarclas has wrapped up its mega-fancy Glenfarclas Pagoda Series with something the world never knew it needed – an intricate sapphire-encrusted decanter. (It’s also filled with 63-year-old single malt from the distillery, just in case you were wondering.) It rounds off the line-up which also includes a Ruby design released earlier this year with 62-year-old contents. What’s staggering is that to make this new limited-edition vessel, 11,000 sapphires were ordered. Only those that matched in size, and in dark blue made the cut, with 36 of them adorning the age statement in each bottle. There are two editions (one with solid silver accents, the other with gold plating). Could these be the glitziest decanters ever? “It has been an absolute joy to work on this project as it has given us the chance to incorporate valuable gemstones into our decanters for the first time,” said Scott Davidson, Glencairn’s new product development director. “Each and every decanter created is a truly unique work of art to honour the quality of the whisky inside.” The Sapphire editions start at £23,783 ex-VAT – a sizeable investment, even for all those sapphires.

The Nightcap

Pub Quiz Answers

1) Tokaji wine is produced in which country?

Answer: Hungary

2) Nightcap regular Miles Beale is the face of which British trade body?

Answer: WSTA

3) Which spirit is used as a base for the Bee’s Knees cocktail?

Answer: Gin

4) Bain’s Whisky is distilled in which country?

Answer: South Africa

5) Which New York bar was named the no.1 in the world by The World’s 50 Best Bars in 2019?

Answer: Dante

6) Arbikie Distillery’s carbon-negative gin was made from which vegetable?

Answer: Peas

7) Towser the cat killed nearly 30,000 mice over a 24-year period at which Scotch whisky distillery?

Answer: Glenturret

8) Katharine Hepburn and Princess Margaret shared a love of which Scotch whisky brand?

Answer: The Famous Grouse

9) Which early member of the Royal Society is credited with the invention of the strong glass wine bottle?

Answer: Kenelm Digby

10) From which island does Commandaria wine come from?

Answer: Cyprus

 

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Midleton Distillery announces new master distiller

Irish Distillers has confirmed that Brian Nation will leave his role and that master of maturation Kevin O’Gorman will replace him as master distiller at Midleton Distillery. There’s BIG news…

Irish Distillers has confirmed that Brian Nation will leave his role and that master of maturation Kevin O’Gorman will replace him as master distiller at Midleton Distillery.

There’s BIG news coming out of Ireland today, as one of the most coveted positions in world whiskey has changed hands. Midleton Distillery has a new master distiller: Kevin O’Gorman. The Cork native, who is a technology graduate from The University of Limerick and holds a diploma in distilling from the Institute of Brewing and Distilling, replaces the outgoing Brian Nation, who has held the role since 2013. 

Those are some shoes to fill. O’Gorman is being charged with protecting the heritage of the world’s most famous Irish whiskeys. While also ensuring that the quality of all new pot and grain distillates produced at Midleton doesn’t drop. Oh, and with handling future innovation. I thought I had it hard writing intros for The Nightcap when Sam Smith isn’t available. 

But O’Gorman should be more than up to the task, as anybody who has worked with Irish Distillers in recent years (just the once or twice for me) will know already. He’s been with Midleton since 1998, initially working as a distiller under the tutelage of master distiller emeritus Barry Crockett. Maturation then became his primary focus, honing his skills under then master of maturation Brendan Monks before assuming the role himself following Monks’s retirement in 2007. You’ve probably admired his work already if you’ve enjoyed new brands like Method and Madness and brand extensions in the Jameson, Redbreast, Powers, Midleton Very Rare and Spot ranges. Essentially, he travelled the globe sourcing quality casks from renowned cooperages, while overseeing the maturation process across the portfolio. Which sounds like too good a role to pass up, until you remember he’s going to master distiller for Irish Distillers.

“Since starting my career in Irish Distillers in 1998, I have been lucky to learn from masters like Barry Crockett and Brendan Monks about the intricacies of the whiskey production, from grain to glass,” O’Gorman says. “Of course, Brian Nation and I have also worked very closely together on distillation and maturation for the past 10 years and he will be missed by all his friends at Midleton Distillery. I am excited to use my experience to drive the sector forward by producing innovative new whiskeys that will delight whiskey fans over the coming years.” 

The wonderful Brian Nation, meanwhile, will leave to join the O’Shaughnessy Distilling Company, which is set to open its distillery in Minneapolis next summer. The distillery was founded by cousins Patrick and Michael O’Shaughnessy, who want to honour the family’s Irish-American heritage and take inspiration from Irish whiskey, so Nation should be right at home. We’re very excited to see what he does and wish him all the best. We heartily enjoyed your work. If you fancy inviting over at any point, we’re there. Just so you know. In case it ever comes up.

“As I step down from the position of master distiller, I am struck by what an incredible honour it has been to hold this role,” he commented on the succession. “I have been fortunate to work with a fantastic team at Midleton for the past 23 years and have experienced enormous change, development, and innovation, from the recent expansion of our distillery to the development of new distillate styles in the Micro Distillery. I am delighted to see Kevin take on the role of master distiller. I know that, under his leadership, the quality and reputation of Irish Distillers’ portfolio will continue to flourish long into the future”. 

Hear, hear. We look forward to seeing what O’Gorman does with all things Midleton. I think it’s fair to say we can all look forward to a lot more delicious Irish whiskey in the future.

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Inside the archives at Irish Distillers

You might not be familiar with the name, but Irish Distillers – maker of Jameson, Powers, Redbreast and more – is an Irish whiskey linchpin, and not just because it’s…

You might not be familiar with the name, but Irish Distillers – maker of Jameson, Powers, Redbreast and more – is an Irish whiskey linchpin, and not just because it’s the country’s largest distiller. Without it, Ireland’s national spirit would’ve been consigned to the history books. Here, archivist Carol Quinn delves into the company’s history and shares insight into her own fascinating role…

Until the 1960s, never had a drink category’s future hung so heavily on the cooperation of three rival companies. It’s no exaggeration to say that without the ingenuity and flexibility of Cork Distilleries Company, John Jameson & Son and John Power & Son, Irish whiskey would’ve been toast. It certainly wasn’t part of a plan to monopolise the industry – the three family-owned producers pulled together as the category collapsed around them. 

“The 20th century had not been kind to Irish whiskey, and that’s an understatement really,” says Irish Distillers archivist Carol Quinn. “ In the 19th century it was sold all over the world – I have records from Cairo, Uruguay, Honolulu, Portugal, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Canada… you name it, Irish whiskey was sold there. And it was a very high-end, prestigious drink. It was sold in places where customers ordered Cognac, Champagne.”

The success of the category started to unravel with the arrival of the first world war. Irish whiskey trade was export-led, says Quinn, and there was a lot of submarine activity around Ireland, being the last stopping-off point before you cross the Atlantic to America, so shipping was restricted. It was a blow, but despite the turbulence, Ireland’s distillers simply knuckled down and carried on.

“I see this in the Jameson records,” she says. “In 1919 – when the war was over and the restrictions were lifted – they had their best distilling season ever. They were producing more whiskey than ever and were delighted with life. Which was unfortunate, because in 1920, Prohibition hit America. While they hadn’t been selling in America for a few years anyway because of the first world war, Prohibition meant they weren’t going to re-enter it for a long time.”

Carol Quinn in the archives

For a decade, this wasn’t too disastrous. Ireland’s distillers were still exporting to the likes of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and beyond. But that came to an end in the 1930s, says Quinn, when Ireland entered into an economic trade war with Britain and lost any territory associated with the British Empire.

“Now at this point, they’re frightened,” she says. “This has been 20 years of bad times. And then you go straight into the second world war, and that’s the killer blow. In the 1940s and 1950s you see distillery after distillery closing. They just didn’t have the money to recoup what they’d lost, even when the export markets opened back up. There were a number of years in the 1950s when Old Midleton was only distilling three weeks a year.”

By the 1960s, the only three distilleries left open were – you guessed it – John Jameson & Son and John Power & Son, both in Dublin; and Midleton, owned by Cork Distilleries Company. Irish whiskey had shrunk to the domestic market, says Quinn, and it was still an expensive drink. It became clear that the three distilleries would wipe themselves out if they remained in competition. 

“At the time, those three distilleries were owned, managed and run by the descendants of their founders,” she says. “Frank O’Reilly, of Powers, invited the other two companies – John Jameson representing Jameson and Norbert Murphy representing Midleton – to come together and discuss the situation. They met in secret at the home of Shane Jameson under the guise of a country house weekend and formulated this incredibly radical idea that they would merge; combining all their resources with the express intention of saving Irish whiskey.”

After two years of negotiations – there was a lot to work out, after all – Irish Distillers formed in 1966 (it’s now part of Pernod Ricard). From there, they set about rebuilding the category, starting with their own blends. In 1975 they refurbished and reopened Midleton Distillery as Europe’s most modern distillation plant, not only to distil their three very different styles of whiskey – Powers, Jameson and Midleton – but improve on them, too. 

“The idea was never simply to replicate the past, it was to build upon it and to look forward and to move forward,” says Quinn. “Irish Distillers has always been incredibly progressive and fostered innovation, because it was born out of necessity and dangerous times. The guiding principle was to create a situation where we wouldn’t be the only distiller – where there would be such an interest in the Irish whiskey category that new entrants could come on stream.”

Barrels of Jameson ready for export, circa 1950

Irish Distillers’ forward-thinking ethos is unrelenting to this day. Throughout the 1980s, head distiller Barry Crockett laid down single pot still stocks at a time when this signature style of whiskey wasn’t selling, while operations manager Brendan Monks set about implementing a cask management programme that’s seen in the company’s recent releases, from the resurrection of Green Spot, Yellow Spot and Red Spot to the development of its pioneering Method and Madness range. 

Fascinating stuff you’ll agree, and as Quinn continues her mammoth undertaking of cataloguing Irish Distillers’ vast archive, who knows how many more pieces of Irish whiskey history will emerge. Here, she shines a light on the everyday aspects of her incredible job, from archival training basics to historically significant finds…

Master of Malt: First of all, could you share a little about your own career and how it led to your role as Irish Distillers’ archivist?

Carol Quinn: I’m an archivist by training. It’s a very old profession, and there aren’t too many of us about. It’s a graduate qualification and you have to have your primary degree first. My BA was in history and archeology, so I always had an interest in the past, but not so much in dates or events – it was the more the stories of people and how the past could shine a light onto the lives of individuals. That’s why I like the archive. These letters, diaries and ledgers provide clues to the past, they’re literally the raw material of history. As an archivist, my job is to be a bridge between the items and the end user, which at the moment is Irish Distillers.

MoM: You mentioned letters, diaries and ledgers. What other records are kept in the Irish Distillers archive?

CQ: Everything relating to the production and the sale of our whiskies. Our distilleries were founded back in the 18th century, so there’s well over 200 years’ worth of records. One thing that’s very important are the employee wage books. At their most basic, they give you the name of the individual, the part of the distillery they were working in, the hours they worked and what they were paid. We don’t have a great tradition of record-keeping here in Ireland, and a lot of our official records were destroyed in the 1920s during the Civil War – so for a lot of people mentioned in Jameson’s wage books from the 1860s, there’s no other record of them living on this earth. Although the archive isn’t open to the public, if somebody contacts us I will have a look to see if I can find the name of their ancestor. Sometimes you can, sometimes you can’t, because we don’t have a complete set and it’s very time-consuming – it literally means taking a huge ledger off the shelf and going through it page-by-page – but I realise how valuable it is when people find that link. The Irish community is huge across the globe, so I get people from Canada, America, Australia, New Zealand, enquiring about grandfathers, great-grandfathers… It’s lovely.

It’s the actual notebook of John Jameson II

MoM: That is wonderful. How vast is the archive, what does it look like?

CQ: We have a purpose-built archival repository located in the distillers’ cottage in Midleton. The rooms are temperature controlled, humidity controlled, they’ve UV filters in all the lights and there’s no natural daylight allowed in. That’s where the records are kept. Some of them are digitised, but digitising records doesn’t preserve them, all that does is make access easier so you can search for things quicker. There’s nothing like a handwritten letter to really give you a connection with an individual. They’ve touched that page, they’re folded it with their hands. It’s a very different experience and I find it very visceral. 

MoM: That must feel overwhelming at times! I’d be terrified of damaging it…

CQ: That’s where the archival training comes in, in that we’re taught how to physically handle the material, how to catalogue it properly and how to preserve it. With some of our ledgers, I won’t even open them because I know if I do I’m going to damage them further, so I’ll send them to a man called Paul Curtis first. He’s based in Killarney at Muckross Bookbindery, and he’s trained as a book binder and paper conservator. When I did that for some of our items about six years ago, one of them was this little pocket notebook. It looked early 19th century to me, but again, I wasn’t going to go through it because I thought it was too fragile. When Paul took it apart he discovered that it was the actual pocket notebook of John Jameson II – the son of one of our founders – and it contained his mashbill recipes for Jameson whiskey from 1826, when he was  head distiller. When Paul took the binding apart to clean it down and re-sow it, out fell actual grains of barley from the Bow Street Distillery that John Jameson would’ve scooped up into his pocket as he was distilling.

Inside John Jameson’s notebook with those grains of barley

MoM: Fascinating! That certainly isn’t an everyday discovery  – what can we find you doing in a ‘typical’ week?

CQ: I often start the week in the distillers’ cottage in Midleton checking emails to see what’s come in over the weekend. Very often I’ll be on the train to Dublin mid-week – I might be giving a talk, doing some promotional work sharing our history or [liaising] with our marketing teams. Then, you’ll find me back in the archive doing the never-ending job of trying to catalogue such a vast collection! Sometimes I’ll take out a selection of items for our brand teams or the creative agencies who work with us to offer inspiration. Very often, a colour or font or some little nugget will spark the creative process. Recently we’ve had a repackaging of the Powers range; the design team came down – their brief was to give it a refresh – and when they looked through the records, this emblem absolutely jumped out at them. In the internal correspondence for Powers, instead of the name, they would write this diamond ‘P’, it was on everything. When you look at the new bottle, that’s what you see and it comes directly out of our history.

MoM: In your opinion, what are the most historically significant pieces in the archive?

CQ: What I really enjoy personally is the human element within the records. A few years ago, an elderly woman called up looking for a record of her grandfather, a man called James Leetch, who was a clerk in the spirits store in Jameson Bow Street. She remembered living with him as a young girl with her mother and sister. One day he went down to the cooperage and brought back a stave from a sherry butt, one of the largest of barrels, for her and her sister to use as a see-saw. I thought that was just lovely. The distilleries weren’t separate from the communities that they were located in; they were very much part of it. 

 

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Midleton launches its oldest ever whiskey

Midleton Distillery has announced the launch of the Midleton Very Rare Silent Distillery Collection, which kicks off with the most expensive Irish whiskey ever… This week we were fortunate to…

Midleton Distillery has announced the launch of the Midleton Very Rare Silent Distillery Collection, which kicks off with the most expensive Irish whiskey ever…

This week we were fortunate to be among the happy few who got to taste the latest release from Midleton Distillery at an event in London in the company of master distiller Brian Nation and archivist Carol Quinn. On tasting was the snappily-titled Midleton Very Rare Silent Distillery Collection Chapter One, the first in a collection of what the brand has termed ‘Ireland’s oldest ever whiskey collection’. 

The Cork-based distillery plans to release six different 40 to 50-year-old whiskies, once a year, between now and 2025. The first release is a 45-year-old peated single Irish malt matured in a third-fill sherry cask and bottled at a cask strength 51.2% ABV. Nation explains this decision to launch this bottling was “down to taste profile and volume left. This whiskey has lost 87% of its volume when it matured. I really did feel like now was the right time to release it”.

Midleton Very Rare Silent Distillery Collection Chapter One dates back so far that it wasn’t made by Nation’s predecessor, the legendary Barry Crockett, but his predecessor and father Max Crockett. He laid down this whiskey in 1974, a year before the original distillery closed. That’s right. This is old Midleton whiskey. A 45-year-old single malt from the fabled silent distillery. It’s the first release from the stocks of this distillery in 16 years, and Nation described it as a “true unicorn whiskey”.

Midleton Distillery

There was a chance to taste the stunning single malt at the launch event this week

The original Old Midleton Distillery in Cork operated from 1825-1975 and while other silent distilleries have reopened and been brought back to life, Old Midleton has been fully decommissioned and will never produce again. Despite its early success and it being home to a 31,618-gallon pot still, the largest ever built, even Old Midleton couldn’t stem the tide of the decline of Irish whiskey. Political strife, Prohibition and the rise of blended Scotch meant that by 1966 only three companies remained, John Power & Son, John Jameson & Son and the Cork Distilleries Company (which owned the Old Midleton distillery), who merged to form the Irish Distillers Group. They closed all existing distilleries and consolidated production at a new facility built at Midleton, next door to the old distillery, and production began in July 1975.

It was at the Old Midleton  Distillery, which is now an Irish whiskey museum and visitor centre, that Midleton Very Rare Silent Distillery Collection Chapter One was created as part of a series of innovative trial batches, never repeated, with peated single malt whiskey. Given the relative rarity of peated Irish whiskey, this makes the releases all the more intriguing. It was Max Crockett who distilled this innovative brand of Midleton spirit from 1964 to 1974 and Nation him with establishing the standard for Midlton distillers, with an approach that prioritised “attention to detail, the spirit of innovation and the respecting what’s come before”. He adds that being next to the old distillery is a good reminder of this. 

Barry Crockett, who unfortunately could not attend the event, explained in a recorded interview that his father started his career in one of the Cork distilleries before he became a distiller at the young age of 32 and he spent the rest of his career at Midleton. “He was very professional about his business, he wasn’t a man that would be easily crossed and he was a man from whom I learned a lot over the years,” he says. “The distillation process in the old distillery was the traditional distillation system which had existed 100 years previously. Back then the whole process was much more hands-on. People relied an awful lot on a sense of aroma, a sense of taste and the visual aspect. A lot of effort was put into developing and refining the distilling methods. Part of that was the development of the peaty single malt my father made just prior to the old distillery closing. It’s a remarkable story”.

Midleton Distillery

The 31,618-gallon pot still this whiskey was distilled in can be seen outside the Old Midleton Distillery to this day

In the press release, Barry Crockett revealed that Midleton Very Rare Silent Distillery Chapter One was among the very last remaining whiskies to be distilled through the largest pot still in the world, which described as “a skill which in its own right required great refinement of the distiller’s art”. He added that this expression represents “The ultimate heirloom and memento of the dedication to precise malt preparation, brewing and distillation skills of generations of distillers at Midleton.”  

There’s even history in the presentation of the whiskey, as the wooden cabinet it’s presented in was handcrafted by Irish designer, John Galvin, using wood up to 200 years old from ancient reclaimed whiskey vats. The distillery was obviously very keen to emphasise the luxury aspect of Midleton Very Rare Silent Distillery Chapter One, which explains it being decanted into hand-blown and etched Waterford Crystal decanter bottles, each individually numbered and displayed.

The bad news is that all of this rarity and prestige comes at a price. Just 44 bottles of Midleton Very Rare Silent Distillery Chapter One will be made available at £32,000 each, making it the rarest whiskey in the collection. It’s available at Harrods, Midleton’s website and in some travel retail, but sadly the reality is this is one of those bottlings that will elude most whiskey fans. So, for those who won’t get the chance to taste it themselves, here’s our MoM tasting note. Sláinte!

Midleton Distillery

Midleton Very Rare Silent Distillery Collection with Chapter One

Midleton Very Rare Silent Distillery Collection Chapter One tasting note

Nose: Resinous, refined and slightly funky from the sherry influence, the nose begins with fresh leather, ancient oak and sweet, aromatic nutmeg. Orange boiled sweets, grapefruit peel and pineapple drenched in syrup adds the fruity element you would expect from a Midleton distillate of this age. Toffee pennies, peppermint and honey roasted peanuts bring complex sweet notes before the sherry cask takes hold with stewed plums, blackcurrant jam and sultanas. Soft touches of earthy peat and fresh herbs add depth throughout.

Palate: A rasp of oak spice emerges at first before a triumphant tropical fruit note takes centre stage. It’s honestly phenomenal. There’s plenty of aromatic winter spice, black fruit and salted caramel in the mid-palate before more of that fragrant and floral peat emerges among herbal resins, rancio, black tea and potpourri. Hints of golden cereals and citrus zest are present in the backdrop. 

Finish: Long, so very long. It’s still going. And going. There are savoury notes of oak and black pepper which complement that incredible tropical fruit element that carries into the finish among some minerality.

Overall: It’s remarkably well measured and has so much presence. The way Midleton distillate matures with so much resinous and fruity notes means the woody elements can never take hold, while the influence of the sherry cask and peated malt are also balanced beautifully. 

 

 

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