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Tag: Pearse Lyons Distillery

Creating a legacy with Pearse Lyons Distillery

We spoke to global brand ambassador Conor Ryan to learn about one of the standout brands from the Irish whiskey resurgence, Pearse Lyons Distillery, founded by a self-made billionaire and housed…

We spoke to global brand ambassador Conor Ryan to learn about one of the standout brands from the Irish whiskey resurgence, Pearse Lyons Distillery, founded by a self-made billionaire and housed in a deconsecrated church in Dublin.

If you’re anything like me, planning a trip to a city means you immediately make a note of all the distilleries in the area. When it comes to Dublin, you’re spoilt for choice. The city that once ruled the whisky world is very much back on its feet and is now the home to a number of exciting new projects. But it’s hard to imagine you’ll see a more striking sight across all these delightful sites than a distillery housed in a church, complete with pot stills sitting on top of an altar. 

A short distance from the Guinness storehouse is St. James’ Church, a structure that dates back to the 12th century but has spent much of the last few decades in disrepair. Now, it’s home to the Pearse Lyons Distillery. Stained glass windows and all. I’m a guest of brand ambassador Conor Ryan, who tells me that, despite the distillery’s young age, it has a rich and remarkable history. He was initially brought on board to communicate what he describes as the brand’s “amazing message”. But his role soon expanded. “What I do with them now has ended up being more in the realm of liquid innovation,” Ryan explains. “I do the blending for the whisky, the cask management and the recipes for the gins. I was also involved in the liquid development for a ready-to-drink gin and tonic and worked with the marketing team on the branding”. 

This “amazing message” is rooted in man behind the brand, Dr Pearse Lyons. The Irish entrepreneur sadly passed in 2018 at the age of 73, but not before he had a chance to realise his dream. While he made his money in the animal nutrition industry, Dr Lyons was always a booze man at heart. “He was the first Irish man to get a formal degree in brewing and distilling from the British Institute of Brewing & Distilling. He did his internship in John’s Lane, Powers Distillery in the 70s before it closed down. He then worked with Guinness and after that, he was one of the main engineers that built Midleton Distillery,” Ryan explains. “He eventually went to the USA and his love of brewing and distilling made him curious about the subject of yeast. He did a PhD in biochemistry and yeast & fermentation and then he set up Alltech in 1980”. 

Pearse Lyons Distillery

Dr Pearse Lyons and his wife Deirdre, who painstakingly restored St. James’ Church

Dr Lyons then used the wealth and influence he generated to start his own brewing and distilling empire. “In 1999 he bought the oldest brewery in Lexington, which was closing down. He renamed it into Lexington Brewing and Distilling and made beer first, before then commissioning a distillery over in Lexington on the same site called Town Branch, making a bourbon, a rye and a single malt,” Ryan explains. “Dr Lyons was an innovator. In 2008, we started distilling single malt in Kentucky, the first single malt in bourbon country since 1919. He brought Scottish stills to Lexington and was one of the first people on the Kentucky bourbon trail to distil pot still only because that was his preferred method of distillation. We celebrated our 20th year in Lexington last year and we’ll launch a special edition whiskey to mark this. It’s a 12-year-old single malt, and we haven’t seen any other American 12-year-old single malts”.

Knowing Dr Lyons history, it seems inevitable that we would return to his homeland to make whiskey. The Dundalk man imported two Kentucky Vendome stills, Mighty Molly & Little Lizzie (named in honour of the Lyons family’s distant relatives), to Carlow in 2012, making it the first distillery in Carlow in 200 years and the first distillery in the south-east of Ireland in 100 years (interestingly, it’s also technically the first lost distillery of the new wave of Irish whiskey). But Dr Lyons went about his business without much fanfare, quietly distilling spirits that he could launch when his distillery in Dublin was ready. “When we actually opened our distillery to the public in a site in Dublin, in two of the expressions of whiskey that we had on the market included our own malt,” Ryan says. “It was produced on the stills that are in the Pearse Lyons distillery today, but while they were in a different location in Carlow in O’Hara’s Brewery”.

Dr Lyons made no secret about his dream to create an Irish whiskey distillery in Dublin and was always drawn to the rich history of The Liberties. He presumably never would have imagined this dream would be realised thanks to his old family church. “The first funeral Dr Lyons was ever at was his grandfather’s in that church. We know of nine relatives of his buried in the graveyard there, alongside James Power, the man who founded Powers Whiskey, and many more amazing characters,” Ryan explains. “He has a deep-rooted family connection with the area. Sixth generations of his family have been involved in Irish whiskey, including himself, and five generations before him on his mother’s side, the Dunnes, were coopers who had their own cooperages. His grand-aunt was actually the first female cooper ever registered in Ireland. Incidentally, distillery operations are now overseen by Pearse and Deirdre Lyons son, Mark Lyons., who himself holds a masters in brewing and distilling and a PhD in Biochemistry and has become the 7th generation of his family involved in the Dublin Whiskey industry”.

Pearse Lyons Distillery

The Pearse Lyons Distillery and visitor centre

While St. James’ Church seemed like the perfect location, logistically it wasn’t easy. The church, which was deconsecrated in the sixties, was almost falling to rack and ruin, so there was a huge restoration required. Then, two weeks after Dr Lyons and Mrs Lyons bought the church, it got turned into a national monument. “That turned an 18-month project into an almost five-year project that cost close to €20 million. The church had to be renovated to a point would’ve been the day it was built. Which meant a quarry reopened in Wales to get the exact same slate; a quarry reopened in France to get the exact same limestone and beams for our roof were brought up from South America because there were no trees long enough to do the beams for the roof that was required,” Ryan says. “We’re delighted with what we built. The church itself is an amazing place to see as a visitor attraction. It’s so meticulously done and there’s amazing history in the church itself, and why wouldn’t there be? There’s been a church on that site for nearly 800 years. Dr Lyons used to always say, ‘whiskey is only part of our story’. He always wanted us to ensure we told the full story of the site and that we’re only caretakers of the place”. 

The location of the Pearse Lyons Distillery means that it’s part of the remarkable revival in The Liberties area of Dublin. At one time, close to 40 distilleries were in operation in Dublin, nestled in a one-mile radius better known as the ‘Golden Triangle’. Pearse Lyons Distillery is part of a recent revolution that has seen the likes of Teeling, Roe & Co. and Dublin Liberties all open in the area in the last decade. “The Dublin identity is important as a distillery because there are such strong Dublin connections with Pearse Lyons’ family and the Dublin story is very much ingrained in our history. This area of Dublin used to be the focal point of Irish whiskey back when Irish whiskey was the focal point of whiskey globally, so it’s synonymous with great whiskey,” Ryan says. “It’s an incredible community, we’re all new together, we’ve got a great relationship with everyone. Everybody’s got their own whiskey, everybody’s got a very different visitor experience and everybody works together, to rise together. We’re all in the same camp. We don’t think of ourselves as being in competition with each other, we’re in competition with other categories like rum, Cognac and other whiskey countries. The more unified we can be, the better it will be for everyone”.

Inside the Pearse Lyons Distillery, I found one of the most polished and presentable distillery floors I’ve seen in this job. Flanking me as I walk around are stained glass windows, which depict four stories associated with the art of the cooper, Irish whiskey and St. James, as well as the Camino de Santiago. But the most striking detail of all is the stills, sitting proudly at the centre of the church on the altar.  Mighty Molly, the wash still, was designed with a neck and ball configuration to assist in refining the spirit character, while Little Lizze, the spirit still, is somewhat unusual as she has four rectification plates installed in her neck to further purify and refine the spirit. The stills that we use in the church today are genuinely unique to Ireland. We have our own inclusion in the Irish whiskey technical file because of Little Lizzie’s swan neck and rectifying plate. They allow the distilling team to create a different type of spirit because they’ve got control to produce a different liquid through flavour differentiation and the temperatures that they bring it to,” Ryan explains. What they create is a single malt new make that Ryan says is as good as he’s ever tasted from anywhere. “It’s absolutely spectacular. It’s got a beautiful, clean freshness to it, but I suppose what makes it different is the balance of the malt flavours with higher fruit notes, it really does stand apart,” he says. 

Pearse Lyons Distillery

Mighty Molly and Little Lizzie, taking pride of place on the altar

Milling takes place elsewhere and the grist is broken down to specification, but every other stage takes place at St. James’ Church, from the mashing and fermentation to the distillation. “Our brewhouse is a little bit unusual, it’s like a craft beer set up than what you’d see in the bigger distilleries. We ferment in steel first and then we put the spirit into our Oregon pine open washbacks. Our wash goes into the stills at about 7.5% ABV and then we distil slowly enough for the size of the wash,” Ryan explains. “When it comes off the back of the still and we’ve taken the heads and tails off, it’s about 72-74% ABV, which we then bring down to a cask strength of 62.5% ABV”.

The Pearse Lyons Distillery matures its whiskey using an enviable resource, barrels imported directly from its sister distillery, Town Branch in Kentucky. “We’ve got access to incredibly fresh barrels because when they’re disgorging in the US they let us know and we bring them over straight away. We use the ex-bourbon from Town Branch, as well the ex-rye ex-single malt and, most interestingly of all, two different ex-beer barrels,” Ryan says. “It’s fantastic when we use our Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale, which has a huge cult following in the USA, because when I tell people who are craft beer drinkers what some of our whiskey was aged in they can relate to it straight away. It’s basically an Irish red beer that’s been rested for 40-60 days in a refrigerated warehouse in B1 barrels and to freshly decanted bourbon barrels. We also do our Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Stout, which have a heavy, dark, roasted chocolatey, burnt and almost smokey note. The beer barrels add nice diversity to the range”. 

All Pearse Lyons whiskies are bottled at 43% ABV (it was previously 42% ABV, as you’ll see with some of the bottlings on our site) with no chill-filtration or additional colouring (there are tasting notes for all of them are at the conclusion of this feature). The entry-level expression of the Pearse Lyons range is Pearse The Original, a blended Irish whiskey that contains malt whiskey produced in the distillery’s own stills. “When we opened up in 2017 we brought out The Original, which initially was a no age statement ‘three to five-year-old whiskey’. The proportions of it were that it was 36% malt and the remainder was grain. Half of that malt was aged in Kentucky bourbon stout barrels and the other half was aged in bourbon barrels, as was the grain,” Ryan says. “The whiskey now has a five-year-old age statement and the malt is the same percentage so it’s quite a malt-forward blend and the inclusion of the stout gives you a slightly smoky wisp. It’s also very citrusy and beautifully crisp, it’s a real aperitif style whiskey and it goes superbly well with sour cocktails. It also pairs beautifully with food, like a soft goat’s cheese or even cold white seafood like a crab tian or something like that”. 

Pearse Lyons Distillery

How many distilleries inside a church have you been to?

Also in the core range is Distiller’s Choice, again a blend of several malt and grain Irish whiskies, which was a category winner for Blended Irish Whiskeys 12 Years and Under at the World Whiskies Awards 2020. “Distiller’s Choice is your more atypical blended Irish whiskey. It contains seven to nine-year-old whiskey with our own malt in it and sourced grain, so its 38% malt and the remainder is grain whiskey. The malt that’s used is a combination of whiskey mature in Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale barrels and bourbon barrels that were finished in sherry, while the grain is a combination of some that were only aged in bourbon and some that were finished in sherry,” Ryan explains. “We wanted to create diversity within the range, we know that every palette is different”.

One of the most interesting whiskeys in the core range is Pearse Lyons Founder’s Choice, which was created to honour Dr Lyons and bring together his two creations from across the pond. “It’s supposed to bridge our Irish whiskey with the kind of sweeter flavour notes that Dr Lyons was working with at the Town Branch Distillery in Kentucky. It’s a 12-year-old whiskey, but we weren’t distilling 12 years ago so it’s probably the one that we’ve put our least personal stamp on as this is a fully sourced liquid. But every drop was re-casked into Town Branch barrels to make sure that even if we didn’t distil it, we had it in our own barrels at least. When we brought out that whiskey in 2017, it would’ve been in Town Branch barrels for a minimum of three, three and a half years at that stage,” Ryan explains. “The barrels were all B1 and B2 bourbon barrels that we decanted, recast into first-fill bourbon barrels again, which gives it a huge vanilla influence with crème brûlée and custard notes. I’ve tasted sourced whiskies from all different brands and it’s an important part of the evolution of Irish whiskey, there’s nothing wrong with that. But I could tell our whiskey separate from other bourbon-barrel-aged expressions, because Town Branch bourbon contains a rye element and that extra spice comes through in our Founder’s Choice, with ginger and clove”.

The distillery also released a limited edition bottling, The Cooper’s Select, named in tribute to the vital job coopers do and owing to Dr Lyons own personal connection with the craft. It’s is a no-age-statement blend of grain and malt Irish whiskey that was aged in bourbon barrels and then at about four and a half years, that was vatted together and then it was refilled into first-fill oloroso sherry hogshead. “When it came out it was teetering anywhere between eight to nine years old from when we started and finished bottling. It’s an exceptionally wooded whiskey, as you’d guess for a salute to Pearse’s family heritage. Dr Lyons wanted to almost bring people into a full immersion of the barrel. So when you smell it and taste it, you get a profile of caramelised orange, burnt treacle, toasted wood and lovely rich sherry notes. It was a real sit at home, delve into it and give it time whiskies,” Ryan says. “Sadly, it was a limited edition that’s pretty much finished now. The Cooper’s Edition was the first Irish whiskey in living memory, certainly, we can’t identify another one, where someone made a blend and then they aged the blend. Instead of bringing together your component whiskies to create a blend, Dr Lyons created a blend and then aged it for three and a half to four years before releasing it. He always looked to do things differently, to set us apart”.

Pearse Lyons Distillery

Dr Lyons’ legacy is secured

Arguably the most significant release from the distillery was the Pearse 5-Year-Old Single Malt Irish Whiskey in 2018, which was the first five-year age statement Irish Whiskey to appear from a new distillery in the whole of Ireland in more than 25 years. Presented in 4,000 individually numbered bottles, this limited release was the first showcase of the distillery’s own spirit in its entirety. “This was a whole new whiskey DNA coming onto the Irish whiskey market, a whole new bloodline. We made sure that this was not a very casked wood flavour for the whiskey, we made sure that it was more of a spirit-forward whiskey because it was more important that we were showing people our distillery character, a new and different flavour profile. Subsequent versions will have a more wood influence to show how the spirit interacts with wood,” Ryan says. “The quality of the spirit, its crispness and maltiness are amazing. There are so many fantastic fruity, citrusy notes with this beautiful clean, fresh malty backbone. There’s a lemon drizzle note that always sticks out to me and you’re going to get spirit-based spices too. There’s a lovely toasted wood spice in the whiskey without it being overpoweringly oaked.”

The future for Pearse Lyons Distillery is clearly very exciting and we’ll watch with interest as its considerable stock of ageing whisky reaches maturity. But it’s future isn’t all whisky. The Ha’penny Gin School is due to open on the distillery grounds, housed in a newly restored early 20th Century townhouse. “People will be able to distil their own unique gin across two-hours, with help from in-house experts who will guide guests through the history of gin. There’s also a sensory experience to enjoy while you choose your botanicals before you’ll be able to put your miniature copper pot-still to work,” says Ryan. “While they’re bubbling away, local food will be served and paired with a Ha’Penny Gin and Tonic. Once your gin is distilled, you can seal the 70cl bottle before adding a personalised label ready to take home”. On the cards is also an Irish hard seltzer. “We’ve seen over the last two years the rise of the hard seltzer in the USA, it’s taken the place by storm. Our edition is made in a similar fashion to those in the US and we’ll have two flavours, a pineapple punch and a peach fizz. The brand is called Flying Flamingo. It’s going to be 5% ABV and it’s going to be under 90 calories, vegan-friendly, gluten-friendly and just a really clean, crisp drinking experience,” Ryan adds.

Current global pandemic aside, Dr Lyons couldn’t have picked a better era to reignite his Irish whiskey journey. “The leg work has been done, the money has been spent and we arrived as everyone was becoming aware that Irish whiskey exists. The future is increasing the international appreciation of Irish whiskey as a category and, even in the countries where you’re known, developing more customer base. But the interest is going in such a positive direction,” Ryan explains. “We’re creating great whiskey, being innovative and offering new flavour profiles. Our innovation and releases demonstrate that we’re trying to offer something new to our customers and the whiskey market as a whole”. With the distillery that bears his name, Dr Lyons has made his mark and secured his legacy. Credit where it’s due, it’s a bloody tasty legacy.

Pearse Lyons Distillery

Pearse Lyons Original tasting note:

Nose: Honey toasted oats, lemon sherbets and dry grass lead. Toasted oak and dry nutmeg aromas arise among mellow malt, sweet spearmints and vanilla elements.

Palate: Crisp spice trickles through milk chocolate and caramel shortbread. A hot flash of spearmint emerges among ripe apples and dry oak.

Finish: Creamy vanilla and buttery malt linger.

Pearse Lyons Distillery

Pearse Lyons Distiller’s Choice tasting note:

Nose: Through oily barley and double vanilla bourbon ice cream, there’s stewed apricots, wet grass and touches of fruitcake. Subtle spices percolate throughout.

Palate: Complex fruit notes come from white grape and tinned pear, while a creamy element continues to sweeten things, developing into rhubarb tart and custard. There’s a suggestion of black fruit and ripe malt on the mid-palate among cooking apples and dark caramel.

Finish: The finish dries slightly with a chestnut-like note and hit of clove spice.

Pearse Lyons Distillery

Pearse Lyons Founder’s Choice tasting note:

Nose: Crackles of woody tannins lead among buttered toast and rich vanilla. Orchard fruits add depth in the backdrop.

Palate: The fruit develops to become ripe and juicy against big oak notes and prickles of nutmeg underneath. Butterscotch adds a complex sweetness throughout.

Finish: The oak spice tingles away in a composed, long finish.

Pearse Lyons Distillery

Pearse Lyons Cooper’s Select tasting note:

Nose: Rich and refined, there’s hazelnut buttercream, flamed orange peel and traditionally Sherry notes of raisins, dates and figs initially. A hint of toasted oak and star anise linger underneath.

Palate: Milky coffee and dark chocolate lead with plenty of juicy citrus, dark fruits and gingerbread.

Finish: Sweet stewed pineapple lingers alongside a touch of vanilla.

Pearse Lyons Distillery

Pearse Five-Year-Old Single Malt tasting note:

Nose: The nose is light and malty and filled with notes of citrus peels, dusty apples and fresh oak. Touches of marshmallow, green grass, golden syrup and vanilla ice cream add depth among wood spice, almond pastries and sticky toffee pudding.

Palate: Full-bodied and fruity, the palate begins with plenty of orchard fruit, mostly honey-drenched pears, as well as vanilla and toffee. There’s some oiliness and metallic elements among hints of dried herbs and darker fruits, which mingle with black pepper and clove spice.

Finish: Candied fruit, baking spices and more of that vanilla sweetness lingers.

 

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The Nightcap: 24 April

Another one of those week thingies has passed, which means it’s time for another edition of The Nightcap! A week has passed since the previous edition of The Nightcap found…

Another one of those week thingies has passed, which means it’s time for another edition of The Nightcap!

A week has passed since the previous edition of The Nightcap found its way to the MoM Blog, which means that it’s about time we don our nightcap hats and get a new one sorted. Please note that “nightcap hats” are very different from actual nightcaps that you might see people wearing on TV shows about people in the early 1900s you know, those really long, typically stripey hats that match the person’s pyjamas. Never really got how those were supposed to help you sleep… Anyway, our nightcap hats are metaphorical, and every contributor’s hat is different in their mind. For example, mine is a comically large cowboy hat concealing a comically small cowboy hat underneath it. Yee-haw!

On the MoM blog this week, we launched a new competition with Kingsbarns Distillery, continued our series on top-fives by looking at the best boozy songs and then concluded our virtual reality tours of great distilleries by visiting Aberfeldy and Royal Brackla. Henry got the lowdown on St. George’s Distillery to mark the patron saint of England’s day, while Sam Smith did some exemplary analysis of the perfect snack & spirit pairings (check out that graph, folks). Our Cocktail of the Week was the brilliantly named The New Yolk, a bourbon-based twist on the Brandy Alexander that Annie enjoyed before she cast an eye on the ‘world’s most innovative distillery’. Adam then recommended six tremendously tasty rums and introduced Bombay Sapphire‘s first-ever flavoured gin: Bombay Bramble.

Once again we’d like to thank all those who entered our virtual pub quiz last Friday, scroll to the bottom for the answers. Not that Ewan MacFall needs to see those, because he won last week’s quiz and has got himself a £25 gift voucher to use at MoM Towers. There’s another quiz coming later this evening. Metaphorical thinking caps at the ready!

The Nightcap

Oktoberfest usually attracts around 6 million visitors a year

Oktoberfest 2020 is cancelled

Bad but unsurprising news came out this week as the Bavarian state government confirmed that it had taken the decision to cancel the two-week-long Oktoberfest. The famed 210-year-old German beer festival was said to pose too big a public health risk, which is understandable. Munich’s mayor, Dieter Reiter, called the decision a “bitter pill”. GlobalData, a data and analytics company, has crunched the numbers to demonstrate how much of an issue this is for the beer industry. “This is a further blow to the beleaguered beer industry, which is already reeling from the effects of the lockdown. In many areas, the sector has seen the virtual disappearance of around half of its market, with the closure of all pubs, bars and restaurants,” says Kevin Baker, head of beer & cider research (great job title by the way). “According to GlobalData’s COVID-19 Market Impact Model, global beer and cider volumes are expected to decline by around 7% between 2019 and 2023, compared to a previous forecast of 3% growth over the same period. The virus and the attendant lockdown have had a profound effect on consumer behaviour”. Baker did go on to say that “While there are clearly significant challenges for the industry, especially in the short term, companies and brands can also take advantage of the opportunities, such as a renewed interest in local and trusted brands.” Well, that’s something to hang your (Tyrolean) hat on at least. Perhaps you can do your bit by indulging yourself and topping up your beer supply.

The Nightcap

Introducing: Hearts & Crafts Sauternes Cask Single Malt Whisky

The Cotswolds Distillery releases Hearts and Crafts Single Malt Whisky

It was a good week for new drink launches, as Havana Club announced the release of Tributo 2020. But you might not have realised amid the pandemic of it all that yesterday was St. George’s Day. The Cotswolds Distillery made the most of the occasion by announcing the first release in a series of single malts called Hearts & Crafts, inspired by the arts and crafts movement. Hearts & Crafts. Nice. The series will consist of yearly limited editions, each presented in a gift box with a different William Morris pattern. Morris, one of the leaders of the arts and crafts movement that emerged in mid-19th century Britain, had a summer house in the Cotswolds. The first whisky from the collection is the Sauternes Cask Single Malt Whisky, which is the distillery’s first-ever European oak cask expression. We were fortunate enough to get a sample and were very impressed. Think crème brûlée, cinnamon, and honey, but with plenty of peachy fruit and a nice punchy 55.2% ABV to keep you on your toes. It’s every inch the luxury drop as it should be for £74.95, available exclusively from the distillery with only 1,680 bottles available. There won’t be anymore after that, folks! If you don’t manage to pick up a bottle, there’s plenty of Cotswolds deliciousness right here, and you can always look to future Hearts & Crafts releases which will be seasoned with casks that held Pineau de Charentes, Calvados, rum, Port, Madeira, Banyuls, vermouth and more.

The Nightcap

The Batch No. 1 Pearse Irish Whiskey Collector’s Edition set was signed by the late Dr. Pearse Lyons

Pearse Lyons Distillery auctions rare whiskey collection 

In an effort to support the healthcare professionals and frontline workers battling the COVID-19 crisis, Pearse Lyons Distillery in Dublin has decided to do its bit by auctioning off a set of rare whiskey to raise money. On offer is The Batch No. 1 Pearse Irish Whiskey Collector’s Edition set, a four-bottle collection signed by the late Dr. Pearse Lyons, founder of the distillery and Jack O’Shea, master distiller which includes The Original, Distiller’s Choice, Founder’s Choice and Cooper’s Select whiskies. Proceeds from the highest bid will be donated to the St. James’s Hospital Foundation, which funds resources for doctors, nurses, researchers and staff. “My father knew better than anyone that good whiskey brings people together,” said Dr. Mark Lyons, president and CEO of Alltech and son of Pearse Lyons. “What better way to unite even at a distance than in support of our healthcare professionals? This auction reflects the humanitarian spirit of Pearse Lyons Distillery and of Pearse Lyons.” The virtual auction began last Friday 17 April at 5pm (Dublin time) but bids can still be made until Sunday 26 April at 7pm right here.

The Nightcap

UK bartenders must create a cocktail with any of the three Corte Vetusto mezcals

Corte Vetusto launches cocktail competition: The Cut Above Challenge

David Shepherd of marvellous mezcal brand, Corte Vetusto, has decided to do his part to support the UK bar industry. Shepherd has gone and launched the Cut Above Challenge, with the name evoking the mantra of master mezcalero Juan Carlos Gonzalez Diaz, to create a cut of mezcal so fabulous it invokes the spirit of previous generations, known as el Corte Vetusto or… the ancient cut! No biggie. So, what’s the challenge? UK bartenders have the mission to create a cocktail with any of the three Corte Vetusto mezcals Espadín, Tobalá and limited edition Ensamble II. The drinks can’t just speak for themselves though, the submissions must include why the serve is a cut above! Entries are to be sent through the @VetustoMezcal Instagram, or emailed to [email protected] with the full ingredient list, method and serving suggestion, along with the Cut Above justification. Entries will be judged by David Shepherd (of course), with help from Eduardo Gomez, director of Tequila & Mezcal Fest, and Josh Linfitt of Propping Up the Bar. There are five prizes to be won, with the winner claiming £250 and the three bottles from the Corte Vetusto range. The entry deadline is Thursday 7 May 2020, and we can’t wait to see what the bar community comes up with! 

The Nightcap

James Hocking: man, wine merchant, award-winning amateur horticulturalist

And finally… James Hocking Wine branches out with free plants during lockdown

Even if you can’t leave the house during lockdown, James Hocking Wine will bring the outside to you! The wine importer will now deliver plants along with local wine orders, free of charge. While this may seem  bit random, Hocking is not only a top wine merchant but also an amateur, award-winning horticulturalist, and had been preparing a selection of vegetables for entry into several shows around the U.K. These have sadly been cancelled, but on the bright side, Hocking now has a plethora of plants that need new homes! Local customers in South Hampshire can request anything from sungold cherry tomatoes, San Marzano tomatoes, Marconi sweet peppers and Apache chilli to arrive alongside their wine (link to website here). To help the beloved veggies flourish, customers will also be supplied with a small bottle of “Hockings Tomato Feed”, a secret formula created by James that is said to be responsible for many a Best in Show. Fancy some top Californian wine and a dose of foliage? This’ll have you covered. Maybe it’ll even spark a green thumb or two!

The Nightcap

Pub quiz answers

1) What is considered to be Ernest Hemingway’s favourite cocktail?

Answer: Daiquiri

2) Which spirit are you most likely to find a worm in the bottom of the bottle?

Answer: Mezcal

3) What animal is responsible for the majority of agave pollination?

Answer: Bats

4) Which of these grapes is NOT allowed in the production of Armagnac?

Answer: Sauvignon Blanc

5) What gives vermouth its characteristic taste?

Answer: Wormwood

6) Stout originated in which city?

Answer: London

7) In Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye which drink does Philip Marlowe prefer to a Martini?

Answer: Gimlet.

8) What flavour do ants give when distilled?

Answer: Citrus

9) To be classed as Rhum Agricole a rum must be. . . .

Answer: Distilled from cane juice

10) Rapper Snoop Dogg is famous for sippin’ on what spirit and juice?

Answer: Gin

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