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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Pernod Ricard

The Nightcap: 3 September

It’s Friday, The Nightcap is back and the Tequila is on Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and his doppelgänger, unless us Brits spill it all coming back from the bar of…

It’s Friday, The Nightcap is back and the Tequila is on Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and his doppelgänger, unless us Brits spill it all coming back from the bar of course… What are we talking about? Read on to find out…

How hard is it to get a saying going, do you think? For example, if we wanted to replace ‘Thank God it’s Friday’ (or TGI Friday if you’re rad/a restaurant chain) with ‘Thank God it’s The Nightcap’, how long would it take to popularise the new and improved version? We know we can count on everyone who reads this to get on board, and that must be at least six people. We just need a weekly round-up of boozy news to become so synonymous with the beginning of the weekend and Friday itself that it’s a natural move for people. It can’t be that hard. Hoover is synonymous with the vacuum cleaner and I don’t know anyone who owns a Hoover. Let’s aim for Christmas.

Anyway, those of you who take a gander at our lovely little blog every now and then will have noticed there were some very exciting things happening this week. Like us celebrating Boutique-y Whisky’s birthday by shouting all about the Home Nations Series, or reviewing the very first Benriach Malting Season release. Elsewhere, Adam had a taste of some intriguing Irish whiskey, Lauren spoke to the remarkable woman behind Montanya Rum, and Millie uncovered the world of whisky auctions. Oh, and if you’re in the mood to whip something up tonight, then perhaps try our Cocktail of the Week: The Dominican Double!

And yet there’s still even more drinks stories to tell this week. So let’s get on with it. Here’s The Nightcap: 3 September edition!

The Nightcap: 3 September

Jameson is the toast of 2021 for Pernod Ricard

Pernod Ricard “rebounding very strongly” from Covid

Pernod Ricard announced some very promising results this week with organic sales up 9.7% on pre-Covid levels and profits up by 18.3%. “The business rebounded very strongly during FY21 to exceed FY19 levels,” said CEO Alexandre Ricard. Much of this success was driven by the irresistible rise of Jameson, seeing a 15% growth globally. The Irish whiskey brand is now bigger than Absolut in the US. Looking at other brands in the portfolio there was a strong performance from the Chivas Brothers side of the business with Glenlivet, Chivas, and Ballantine’s all enjoying growth, as well as Martell and Malibu. On the other hand Royal Salute, Beefeater, and Havana Club all lost ground. Looking at markets individually: Europe was up 4%, with the UK, Germany, and Eastern Europe all performing strongly, in contrast to Spain and Ireland. Globally, China (up a massive 34%), Russia, India, and the US (up 6%) all performed well. As expected, travel retail was a disaster, down 50%. Ricard continued: “I would like to take this opportunity to praise the exceptional commitment of our teams during this difficult time and express my support to those who have been or continue to be impacted by this pandemic. We will stay the strategic course, accelerating our digital transformation and our ambitious sustainability & responsibility roadmap. Thanks to our solid fundamentals, our teams, and our brand portfolio, we are emerging from this crisis stronger.” Trebles all around!

The Nightcap: 3 September

Congratulations, Kirsten!

Brown-Forman Scotland welcomes new assistant blender, Kirsten Ainslie

Congratulations to Kirsten Ainslie who has just landed the job of assistant blender for Brown-Forman’s Scotch distilleries, working with the master herself, Dr. Rachel Barrie. Ainslie, who spent three years as distiller at Edinburgh’s John Crabbie & Co, will join Barrie looking after Benriach, The GlenDronach, and Glenglassaugh. The job will involve new product development, cask management, and assessing spirit quality. As you can imagine she’s quite pleased: “I feel very privileged to be taking on the role of assistant blender and working alongside Rachel Barrie who is renowned in the whisky industry. Working closely with Rachel, I hope to build on the legacy of maturing and marrying different casks, and crafting whiskies to be enjoyed by newcomers and connoisseurs alike,” she commented. Barrie added. “Kirsten will be a great addition to the team. Nurturing young talent is an important part of what we do at Brown-Forman and Kirsten has certainly proven she has the best nose for the job.” Sounds like she’s going to be a Scotch whisky star of the future. 

The Nightcap: 3 September

Real talk. The new-look Chivas is no cap. Yas queen. That’s how young people talk, right?

Chivas Bros gets down with the kids

My 10-year-old daughter has come up with a portmanteau word, ‘dadbarrassing.’ It’s for those moments when fathers try to get down with the kids. This new word sprang to mind when we received a press release announcing a redesign for Chivas 12 Year Old. Apparently the biggest in the brand’s 112-year history. Global marketing director of Chivas, Nick Blacknell explained (if that’s the right word) the thinking behind the change: “Social media has introduced a new, broader audience to the wonder of whisky – ‘flex’ consumers with a hustle-first ethos that seek out upmarket brands to align themselves with.” We’re not quite sure what this means but the colour scheme has changed to “vibrant burgundy” and the packaging has changed to be more environmentally friendly with a new lighter bottle that will apparently save 1,000 tonnes of glass annually. Meanwhile, the liquid will remain the same. Blacknell continued: “I’m particularly proud of the central role sustainability has played in reconceptualising Chivas 12 for a new generation. With this redesign, we have once again reinforced our belief that sustainable luxury is not an oxymoron.” Expect to see the hip cats drinking Chivas 12 in fashionable discotheques this autumn.

The Nightcap: 3 September

Free whisky cocktails is a deal we’ll never turn down

Whisky pop-up giving out free drinks

London pubs The Culpeper and The Duke of Cambridge are doing the Lord’s work, it has been revealed this week, by launching ‘Whisky Six Wednesday’. This means that to celebrate the teaming up of Nc’nean and the sustainable pubs, a pop-up is being made that will give out free whisky, soda, and mint cocktails every Wednesday throughout September from 6-7pm at the two locations. The Scotch whisky distillery and eco-conscious London establishments will offer the former’s signature Whisky Six serve free of charge for anyone who can make a pledge for what they’re going to do differently in life, via Nc’nean’s website here. Whether it’s going zero waste for a month, cycling to work, or simply not checking emails outside work hours – this partnership wants to encourage positive change. The Whisky Six is intended to be a fresh take on a G&T (as in, it’s a Highball) and mirrors the approach the partnership encourages, which celebrates the ‘golden hour’, an early evening moment to reflect and encourage new experiences and fresh takes on old ones. If you want to make the serve yourself, just combine 50ml of Nc’nean Organic Single Malt Whisky and 100ml of soda water in a glass filled with ice. Gently stir then garnish with a fresh sprig of mint. Otherwise, you can get it at all four Culpeper venues across London outside of the promotion. But you’ll have to pay. Our advice would be to get the free ones if you can.

The Nightcap: 3 September

The distillery is looking to harness its environment to become more sustainable

Bruichladdich Distillery aims for net-zero whisky

Great whisky doesn’t come without cost. It’s estimated that Islay’s nine distilleries burn 15 million litres of oil each year, which means a lot of CO2 emissions. Good thing a lot of effort has been made by various distilleries and companies to recognise the importance of sustainability, with Bruichladdich Distillery becoming the latest to make a commitment. The Islay maker says that, by 2025, its distillation process will be net-zero. The production of malted barley and the hot mash to create the wort, whisky’s source fluid, will follow. Innovative types of green hydrogen production using green electricity and water electrolysis are planned, but for now, Bruichladdich is depending on a green tariff. Renewables will hopefully be installed over the next few years with Douglas Taylor, Bruichladdich’s chief executive, hoping that the technique could then be applied to Islay’s other distilleries, businesses, and homes, transforming the island, which is also the site of experimental tidal energy pilot projects, from fossil fuel dependency into renewables self-sufficiency. “We have this view of ‘think big, start small, but start today’,” Taylor says. “And that’s one of the things you need in the industry: to take a brave and courageous step to represent what change could look like,” he said. “What you have to do is start with what you can control.” For more info on Scotch whisky’s quest for sustainability, this Guardian article goes into some great detail.

The Nightcap: 3 September

This is a distillery we’re very excited by

Aber Falls releases its latest whisky

Aber Falls continues to show off its whisky prowess following the launch of its Single Malt Inaugural Release in May, with a new 2021 bottling. The three-year-old expression was made using 100% Welsh malted barley and rock-filtered water taken from the Aber Falls Waterfall, so it’s delightfully local for those who love a bit of provenance. Whisky fans who like intriguing processes will also appreciate that the bottling was distilled in an intriguing mix of copper pot and stainless-steel stills before being matured in a mix of ex-Oloroso and PX sherry casks, ex-bourbon casks, and virgin oak casks, before being bottled at 40% ABV. The Welsh distillery says to expect an aroma of sweet fruits with a hint of clove and delivers a rich and full-bodied palate, with sweet sherry notes, dark chocolate and espresso. It stimulates a long and lingering finish of dried fruit and subtle spice. Welsh bartender Alex Mills has also made a signature serve, an Old Fashioned with a Welsh twist that’s loosely based on the flavours of a Bara Brith, a spiced tea cake common in North Wales. The signature serve consists of ingredients from the four corners of Wales, including 15ml of honey from Nature’s Little Helpers in Cardiff, a pinch of black Welsh tea from Tea Traders in Carmarthen, five drops of coffee bitters from Dyfi Coffee in Machynlleth and, of course, 50ml of Welsh whisky. The 2021 bottling is on its way to MoM Towers and you’ll be delighted to know the price point is insanely reasonable (the RRP is £26). Lots to like about this distillery, folks.

The Nightcap: 3 September

Apparently, one of these isn’t Dwayne Johnson.

Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson wants to drink Tequila with his doppelgänger

The man who is definitely, totally and unequivocally most famous for owning Teremana Tequila, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, wants to share some of his greatest work with police officer Eric Fields, who happens to be the most remarkable doppelgänger. A picture of patrol lieutenant Fields’ was posted by the sheriff’s office on Facebook with the caption: “This gentlemen recently ran into Sgt. Mason and informed him he wanted to meet our Deputy that people say looks like “The Rock”. Sgt. Mason passed that along and Lieutenant Fields was happy to swing by the Hartselle Wal-mart to see him. Tyler is one of their many hard workers and it was great to meet him and some of his coworkers!” On Monday, the movie star responded by reposting a tweet comparing the two men side-by-side along with the caption: “Oh s**t! Wow. Guy on the left is way cooler. Stay safe brother and thank you for your service. One day we’ll drink @Teremana and I need to hear all your ‘Rock stories’ because I KNOW you got ’em #ericfields.” As for Fields himself, he’s surprisingly taken the news he looks like an international star and sex symbol in good spirits, telling AL.com “I’ve been called The Rock and Vin Diesel’s love child. I go along with it. It’s humorous. It’s flattering. It could be worse people, I guess.” 

The Nightcap: 3 September

RIP to all the lost pints.

And finally… data reveals Brits spill 11m pints per round

The return to busy bars and pubs means the old challenges are back. Getting the attention of bar staff. Nabbing a table that isn’t by the kitchen door. And trying to not spill everything you’ve just bought to huge ironic cheers from the other punters (this is actually a strangely loving response if you’re not from the UK and Ireland). According to hospitality app, OrderPay, Britons collectively spill an average of 11 million pints per round, and with the average pint in the UK costing £3.94 that’s the equivalent of over £43,340,000 each time! A whopping 40% of Brits confess to regularly dropping their drinks, with the average amount spilled per round just under a quarter of a pint. Disparities inevitably exist across the regions and the different age groups. The obviously lying over 55’s painted a cautious picture, with only 30% saying they lost beer to the floor, compared to 55% of honest 25 to 34-year-olds. Londoners typically seem to be in a rush the whole time as spillages were most prevalent in the capital, with almost half of people (49%) saying they regularly lost beer en-route. This perhaps is a good time to take stock and rethink. It’s an awful lot of drink wasted, folks. Our beloved booze deserves better. 

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Sandy Hyslop talks Royal Salute and the art of blending

As Royal Salute returns in typically extravagant style, we’re joined by the man behind the blend, Sandy Hyslop, director of blending and inventory at Chivas Brothers, to learn why Royal…

As Royal Salute returns in typically extravagant style, we’re joined by the man behind the blend, Sandy Hyslop, director of blending and inventory at Chivas Brothers, to learn why Royal Salute is in a golden age, what the secret to blending well-aged whisky is and why Malbec casks are worth the cost.

Royal Salute is back with another limited edition whisky: the 21-Year-Old Polo Estancia Edition. It’s the brand’s first blend to be fully finished in Argentinian Malbec wine casks, a tribute to Argentina’s love of polo, a sport Royal Salute has a long-standing affinity with. It sponsors more than 15 international tournaments and the whisky even has polo legend Malcolm Borwick’s endorsement. 

But this is a drinks blog, not a lifestyle magazine, so I know you’re much more interested in the whisky itself. And the man to speak to about that is the master blender, Sandy Hyslop. He’s come a long way since he got his start in the whisky industry in 1983 at Stewarts Cream of the Barley. He worked in the sample room as an assistant, a job his dad liked as he was able to study chemistry at Robert Gordon’s in Aberdeen at the same time. Hyslop soon found himself filling in a number of roles in the small company, learning the trade of vatting and bottling as well as working in the warehouse and in the inventory department. 

But blending was always where his heart was. He was soon asked to go to the parent company’s main site in Dumbarton to work with head blender, Jack Goudie. “I was fortunate I’d been able to work right across the whole process so it gave me a broad palate when I started working with the legendary Jack,” Hyslop recalls. “Jack used to give me lots of lessons. He always said ‘it will take you 30 years to build the brand Sandy and it will only take you one bad batch to lose it. If you work to that ethos you’ll never get caught out’. And he’s right”.

Sandy Hyslop Royal Salute

Say hello to Sandy Hyslop!

The guidance obviously paid off. Hyslop has been blending Scotch whisky ever since, working at Allied Distillers from 1994 and then for Pernod Ricard when it took over in 2005. When the French drinks giants came into town, Hyslop was given the reins to oversee the whole Chivas Brothers portfolio, looking after the inventory and even helping with cask purchasing. “I’m very lucky. Cask purchasing is not managed by a procurement department where we’re desperately looking for the best price. It’s the same with the laboratory and technical side. It’s about not just blending the right whiskies but laying the right stock down for the future”. 

Hyslop is loath to point out that by the time distillate he was working on the morning we spoke is used in a Royal Salute blend, he’ll be retired. You can tell he’s genuinely gutted he won’t see these projects through and his enthusiasm for the brand and its history is infectious. Royal Salute was created to mark the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 and the 21 gun salute that honoured her. The youngest age a whisky can be in one of its blends is 21-years-old and a total of 14 distilleries, including Strathisla and Longmorn contribute some of its finest stock. “It’s a whisky I always admired,” Hyslop says. 

It’s not hard to see why. The portfolio is something of a blender’s dream. Few get to play with such an array of whisky, including stock that can reach 50+ years old. It’s a risky game, however. Mess it up and you’ve wasted precious liquid worth thousands of pounds. So, how does Hyslop do it? “My team understands long maturations and appreciates different fills of cask. It’s a balancing act learnt over many years. A first-fill cask is not the be-all-and-end-all when you are blending something that’s so old. I desperately don’t want too much oak flavour. I want the distillate character to be able to shine through too. So I am using second-fill casks in the blends to get that balance of flavour right. The rich, sweet, opulent character should be complemented by the lovely, toasted oak-vanilla notes coming from the cask, not completely overpowered with it”.  

Sandy Hyslop Royal Salute

Hyslop thinks more and more people are appreciating the beauty of the blend

Hyslop thinks the category is increasingly making whisky lovers question the notion that the finest drams are all single malts. “I love single malts. They give you the profile of the distillery and four or five real key signature flavours that can be really enjoyable. But many of them won’t have the spread of flavours that a blended whisky does,” Hyslop says. “They’re so multifaceted. Particularly once you play with finishes, adding the influence from different cask types and different distilleries. It’s such a complex offering”. 

Hyslop is kept busy by his art, with something like 42 new product development projects underway now across all the brands at Chivas Brothers. He isn’t overwhelmed by this prospect, however, but invigorated. “I am actively encouraged to go and try new things. I have a ‘license to fail’, to experiment with different casks and techniques. I also have the luxury of a significant inventory, with 365 warehouses all over Scotland. And the joy of nurturing each whisky since the day it was distilled and filled into casks all the way through that maturation journey to come out the other end, to make Royal Salute”. 

This perspective is fueling something of a golden age for Hyslop, who says the brand is constantly pushing the art of blending into new, creative, and ambitious forms. “In recent years we have been really innovative. I think Royal Salute has absolutely found its feet. It’s been quite humble over the years. But now we’re branching out with these one-off magnificent expressions with unique briefs. It’s such great fun, it’s genuinely like a hobby. You can tweak the blend by making it slightly more malt orientated or putting in a lot more of one distillery, and then there’s the luxury of being able to bring in exotic casks”. 

Sandy Hyslop Royal Salute

A golden age for Royal Salute?

The creative juices were obviously flowing for the Polo Estancia. Hyslop air-freighted freshly emptied Malbec casks from Argentina to Scotland (at great expense, he says) and did a trial batch to ensure the process would work. “About 80% of the casks were filled with whisky, then the rest were left empty to see how they handle a transit situation. From that, I was able to gauge the amount of flavour pickup you were getting. We were cautious to make sure we weren’t going to lose a lot of 21-year-old spirit on a crazy plan that wasn’t going to work. Once the whiskies were filled in those Malbec casks I checked them every four weeks to see the variation from cask to cask. That is how particular I am!”

The precision paid off. The 21-Year-Old Polo Estancia Edition retains the signature Royal Salute profile (I think sweet pear and peaches, Hyslop concurs) and it’s got the elegant, supple mouthfeel we’ve come to expect from Royal Salute. The depth and variety are there too, as the Malbec cask finish complements the whisky rather than competes with it. The rich, velvety mouthfeel kept me coming back for more, as did a distinct raspberry note, a bit like homemade raspberry jam. It’s a worthy dram to salute the master blender with.

The Royal Salute 21 Year Old Polo Estancia Edition Tasting Note:

Nose: Lots of ripe raspberry and blueberry initially with jam roly-poly, vanilla ice cream and toffee pennies in support. Warm gingerbread, liquorice, tinned peaches, hazelnut chocolate, rose water, brown sugar and cinnamon.

Palate: Blackberries, dark chocolate and crème brûlée lead with a tremendous variety of rich, fruity notes underneath with charred pineapple, tart cranberry, orange marmalade and Conference pear. Acacia honey, nutmeg, liquorice is present underneath along with sandalwood, treacle toffee, soft woody tannins as well as some old leather and mint.

Finish: Long and sweet with a slightly dry and gingery finish.

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The Nightcap: 12 March

For all the latest on Conor McGregor’s big whiskey sale, a Prosecco-infused Easter egg and the world’s smallest(ish) Irish pub, you’re in the right place. It’s the Nightcap! The Nightcap…

For all the latest on Conor McGregor’s big whiskey sale, a Prosecco-infused Easter egg and the world’s smallest(ish) Irish pub, you’re in the right place. It’s the Nightcap!

The Nightcap is full of Easter and St. Patrick’s Day cheer this week. Which reminds us how much there is to look forward to. Sitting in a beer garden and just whiling the hours away. Making friends for life in the smoking area. Finally giving Future Nostalgia the respect it deserves by dancing to every minute of it with other people. But we can’t get too ahead of ourselves. There’s still plenty to enjoy at the moment. Like all those new pets. And, of course, some light reading regarding the drinks industry’s latest shenanigans. Let’s get on with it. It’s The Nightcap: 12 March edition!

This week you might have noticed that things were a little different in the blog as we marked International Women’s Day by celebrating the women behind the drinks you love. We were delighted to be joined by brewer and broadcaster Jaega Wise, Widow Jane head distiller Lisa Roper Wicker, Maker’s Mark diplomat Nicole Sykes, Diageo coppersmith Kirstin Neil and The Story associate director Tarita Mullings. Elsewhere, Adam recommended some sensationally smoky spirits, while Henry explained how the Negroni became a classic and then enjoyed a sherry-soaked treat from the Cotswolds distillery, and our occasional MoM Loves partnership series was back with a lesson in foraged cocktails from The Botanist Gin. Oh, and if you’ve left it to the last minute to sort out Mother’s Day don’t worry, we’ve got you covered

On The Nightcap this week we remember Steven Spurrier

The wine world mourns one of its most lively, popular and influential figures, Steven Spurrier

Wine world pays tribute to Steven Spurrier

The wine world lost one of its most important and colourful figures in Steven Spurrier this week. There aren’t many wine writers who have been played by Alan Rickman in a film but then few, if any, have proved as influential as Spurrier. He was best known for organising the 1976 Judgement of Paris wherein a blind tasting by French judges, the best wines of Burgundy and Bordeaux lost out to some upstart producers from California. It’s a story that has resonated down the years but there’s so much more to Spurrier than that. He was born in 1941, and had a varied career as a wine merchant, publisher, writer and entrepreneur. In his later years, when most people would think about retiring he was involved in founding a publisher, Acadamie de Vin, and planted a vineyard at his home in Dorset to produce a highly-regarded sparkling wine, Bride Valley. Jancis Robinson wrote about him yesterday on her site, JancisRobinson.com: “For someone who achieved so much, he acted with such extreme modesty and politeness that there was always a danger of his not being accorded his due”. Adam Lechmere in his touching obituary for Club Oenologique added: “Generations of wine lovers would claim him as their own.” He is survived by his wife Bella and children Kate and Christian. Thank you Steven, we’re raising a glass or two to you this week.

On The Nightcap this week we hear about Redbreast's new whiskey

The belting new dram marks 30 years of the revival of the brand

Redbreast delves into the past for its newest expression

There’s a new Redbreast out there. But before you deluge the MoM switchboard, of whatever the internet equivalent is, we have to say that this limited edition cask strength 10-year-old version is only available from the Birdhouse, the Redbreast members club. Right, got that out of the way. Is it any good, you’ll want to know? Yes, it’s fabulous. If you like traditional Irish pot still whiskey then you are going to love this because it’s perhaps the pot stilliest whiskey out there. What do we mean by that? Midleton Distillery makes three types of pot still new make, light, medium and heavy. The light and medium go into younger expressions, whereas the heavy is saved for heavily-aged versions where it’s blended with some light. This is the only Midleton that contains all three levels, and the only young expression to contain heavy. It was inspired by the original Redbreast which came from Jameson’s Dublin distillery but was aged and bottled by Gilbey’s wine merchants. To celebrate 30 years of the rebirth of the brand, archivist Carol Quinn collaborated with blenders Billy Leighton and Dave McCabe to produce this tribute to the original. It was aged in a mixture of ex-bourbon barrels and Oloroso sherry-seasoned butts, and bottled at 59.1% ABV. It’s a gorgeous drop with big sweet-spicy flavours, a drop of water reveals a fruitier side with fresh peaches and dried apricots as well as wood tannins. It’s available from today and costs €100 but you’ll have to register at the Birdhouse for a chance to buy a bottle. 7,000 have been filled. It was such a hit on the online tasting that there was a clamour to make it part of the core range. Sadly Leighton confirmed that it was a one-off. Boo! 

On The Nightcap this week we hear about Conor McGregor's big windfall

Conor McGregor is in the money (again)

Conor McGregor bought out of Proper 12 Irish whiskey

Big news in Irish whiskey this week came from Becle, which bought Conor McGregor’s shares in Proper 12 Irish whiskey. The Mexican beverage company, which owns Jose Cuervo Tequila, Kraken Spiced Rum and Bushmills Distillery, revealed it had exercised an option to acquire 51 per cent of the equity interests of Eire Born Spirits, a company founded by McGregor and his manager Audie Attar. Becle initially had a 20% share of Proper 12, having helped EBS get the brand off the ground, and it had already increased its stake to 49% last year. Now it retains full ownership of the brand that McGregor launched in 2018. We’re sure he’s netted a very handsome fee for the sale (reports suggest he Attar will split £112 million), but it does raise the questions over how the Becle will now market Proper 12 without McGregor as the face of the brand. His regular championing of Proper 12 on his social media profiles and at press conferences certainly helped sales. But Becle may be happy to wash its hands of the controversial former UFC featherweight and lightweight champion, who will have put some people off the brand. Certainly, our customer reviews paint an interesting picture of Proper 12 as a divisive product. This month alone there’s a range of comments, with one person describing it as a “great tasting whisky that is only hated on by people who don’t like McGregor”, while another calls it “the worst Irish whiskey at the price point”. Of course, you won’t know on what side of the fence you sit until you find out for yourself…

On The Nightcap this week we hear about good tariff news

Get your Cognac orders in because the tariffs have been suspended!

Tariffs on rum and Cognac suspended

Remember last week when the US and the UK decided to shake hands and let sense prevail by suspending those silly tariffs on goods like Scotch whisky? Well, a similar deal has now been struck between the US and the EU. A four-month suspension of tariffs on products from both nations is now in effect, which is very good news for us booze fans. Gone are the 25% EU tariffs on US rum, brandy and vodka. As are the 25% US tariffs on liqueurs and cordials from Germany, Ireland, Italy and Spain, and certain Cognac and other grape brandies from France and Germany. European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen spoke to US president Joe Biden to agree to a temporary removal of the tariffs in relation to the Airbus-Boeing dispute and says the news was excellent for businesses and industries “on both sides of the Atlantic”, adding that it sends a “very positive signal for our economic cooperation in the years to come”. Trade group the Distilled Spirits Council of the US (Discus) were similarly pleased with the breakthrough in the long-running spat, saying it “left much destruction to the spirits sector in its wake” and that it comes at a key time for the US hospitality sector. However, Discus also said there was plenty left to discuss (sorry), as the EU and UK continue to impose a 25% tariff on American whiskey, which is due to double on 1 June this year. Discus called the tariff ‘unfair and not sustainable’ and has urged the Biden administration to find a speedy resolution that eliminates these “debilitating tariffs on spirits for good.” We can but hope. At least, for now, things are finally moving in the right direction.

On The Nightcap this week we learn about whisky's representation problem

Right now whisky marketing is failing to adequately represent women and people of colour

New report highlights gender disparity in whisky

An alarming, but sadly not that surprising report was published by Our Whisky this week which found that leading whisky brands’ Instagram accounts posts are sorely lacking when it comes to representing women and people of colour. The Women and Whisky: Female Representation in Social Media Marketing, which analysed the Instagram accounts of the world’s 150 largest and most influential whisky brands, reveals that men outnumber women by 228%, with women accounting for just 36% of people represented in 2020. Meanwhile, non-white ethnicities were represented in just 17.9% of posts that featured people. Becky Paskin, the co-founder of OurWhisky, says the study demonstrates we’re still far away from achieving gender equality. “Whisky brands have the power to normalise the fact women make and drink whisky by what they choose to show in their advertising and marketing,” Paskin explains. “They don’t need to feminise their brands, but by simply being more inclusive they can change the narrative and appeal to a wider demographic of potential customers, which has obvious business benefits as well.” With International Women’s Day this week, we’ve seen brands highlight some of the incredible women in our industry. But, while Paskin appreciates acknowledging female achievements, she adds that to really honour these women and make whisky truly inclusive, brands should consider how their year-round marketing is representative of today’s drinkers. 

On The Nightcap this week we learn about Pernod's new investment

La Hechicera Rum has joined Pernod Ricard’s considerable portfolio

Pernod Ricard acquires majority stake in La Hechicera Rum

Pernod Ricard’s considerable portfolio continues to swell as after it bought a big chunk of La Hechicera Rum. The purchase, for an undisclosed size and sum, is expected to be completed in the coming weeks and will give Pernod Ricard a majority stake in the Colombian rum brand which was launched in 2012 by Miguel and Laura Riascos along with their friend Martamaria Carrillo. La Hechicera’s flagship rum, as well as the Experimental expressions, will join Havana Club in Pernod’s rum ranks. It’s a move that’s pretty familiar to anyone who knows the drinks industry, as the French drinks giant made similar purchases  of Monkey 47, Smooth Ambler and Ojo de Tigre. This obviously appeals to La Hechicera Rum co-founder and marketing director Miguel Riascos, who says that thanks to these previous successful collaborations, “Pernod Ricard has shown itself to be the partner of choice for La Hechicera”. He adds that the company’s “passion for terroir and its extensive distribution network will ensure that our brand remains true to its Colombian roots and the vision of its creators, while reaching new consumers.” If it means more people get to discover this delightful rum, then we’re behind the move. Of course, you could always just check the MoM blog instead

On The Nightcap this week we learn about world's smallest(ish) Irish pub

Pint of Guinness, please. No logo in the foam.

Irish whiskey brands mark St. Patrick’s Day

As well as a new Redbreast whiskey, we’ve also been inundated with Irish whiskey brands excitedly informing us about St. Patrick’s Day festivities. The Irish patron saint’s day, (next Wednesday 17 March), is usually a major celebration but Irish whiskey’s finest have had to be a bit more creative thanks to lockdown. The Sexton has created a nocturnal cocktail kit, made of ingredients that thrive in the night-time and designed to be enjoyed in the dark, while Slane will host an online gig this weekend starring Damien Dempsey and Irish rock band THUMPER on the Hot Press YouTube channel. Elsewhere, Tullamore D.E.W got around the fact that we can’t get into pubs in time to celebrate by opening The World’s Smallest(ish) Irish pub. It invites virtual visitors to curate their own experience, with choices including comedy musings from Irish comedian Alison Spittle, traditional Irish toasts, music singalongs, and various Tullamore D.E.W. cocktail making masterclasses. Jameson, meanwhile, decided that a month-long series of virtual events was the way to go. To find out more about the Irish whiskey giants other plans, which include a competition to win a “once-in-a-lifetime” St. Paddy’s experience for 2022, you should visit the Jameson Connects platform or its social media pages. As long as there’s not a Fabergé egg in sight, we’re happy to spend the day with a dram of something Irish and delicious, but it’s nice to know there’s options a-plenty if we fancy making a bit more of a fuss.

On The Nightcap this week we check out The Last Drop's new initiative

‘The Assembly’ will help the brand launch some intriguing new creations.

The Last Drop creates new booze with worldwide spirits experts

If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to drink booze created by an Avengers-style worldwide coalition of some of the best and brightest the industry has to offer, then you’re in luck. The Last Drop has created pretty much that with ‘The Assembly’. Featuring an independent panel of experts, innovators, and leaders drawn from across the spirits industry, the plan is that they will create a series of new signature blends. This is exciting because it marks a big change for The Last Drop, who you’ll have known best as curators but not creators. It includes the legendary Colin Scott, current master blender for The Last Drop, we well as JJ Corry Irish Whiskey founder Louise McGuane, the cellar master for Domaine de Sazerac Cognac, Denis Lahouratate, as well as Richard Seale, Drew Mayville and Michael d’Souza of Foursquare Rum, Sazerac and Paul John Whisky fame. The first release will be a limited-edition aged blended Scotch whisky created by Scott, who previously worked at Chivas Brothers for 43 years before joining The Last Drop. The brand’s managing director, Rebecca Jago, says it’s a hugely exciting milestone for The Last Drop and that The Assembly will play an “instrumental role as we develop, given our common focus on extraordinary quality and our shared philosophy of celebrating the remarkable”. She added that Last Drop is “delighted and immensely proud that such respected figures from across the industry have agreed to join us.” The only issue we can see is that “The Assembly, assemble!” is a proper rubbish call-to-arms. That will need some work.

On The Nightcap this week we've got world class bartenders!

Best of luck to you all!

GB Diageo World Class competition finalists announced… virtually!

Despite locky d’s, the annual Diageo World Class bartending competition has been taking place this year. Back in September three bartenders Stevie Kane, Kuba Korzynski and James Rawcliffe were chosen during London Cocktail Week. Now five more have triumphed. Their brief was to make a cocktail with The Singleton of Dufftown 12 year old. The winners were Alexa Farrow and Mark McClintock both from London, Stefanie Anderson and Murray Drysdale from Edinburgh, and Matt Arnold from Birmingham. All the judging was done virtually by Jo Last, World Class and malt whisky ambassador, and Pippa Guy, World Class and Tanqueray ambassador. Last commented: “Taking World Class virtual this year has been a new experience, but we’re overjoyed with its success so far. It was important for us to stay connected with our community of bartenders and to innovate, by adding new challenges to match the increased standards of competitors.” Pippa Guy adds: “We have really enjoyed being able to spend time with each of our competitors albeit virtual, and pleased to have been able to continue showcasing the amazing talent that the GB hospitality and drinks sector have to offer.” These eight will now go into the final that takes place in April. Virtually, naturally. The prize is a 12-month contract with bartender talent agency, Global Bartending, and a place on a WSET Level 3 Award in Spirits course. Good luck to all the finalists.

On The Nightcap this week we learn this world's fanciest Easter egg

It seems wrong to make so many egg puns about something so classy. But then, they are eggscellent fun…

And finally…. Have an eggstravagant Easter with Prosecco-infused chocolate 

Last week it was beer made with Cadbury’s Creme Eggs. This week our chocolate/ booze mash-up is a little more up-market. It’s a chocolate Easter egg infused with real Prosecco. Hang on, that doesn’t sound that classy. What about Champagne? But this isn’t any Prosecco. It’s Asolo Superiore 2020 from The Emissary. According to top chocolatier William Curley, the wine is “low in sugar, fresher and more versatile than most other sparkling wines, it pairs effortlessly with Amedei’s dark, rich and smooth chocolate flavours, without being overpowering.” He should know as he used to work in Michelin-starred restaurants and was the youngest ever chef pâtissier at The Savoy. As well as Prosecco, the eggs is made with a mango and passionfruit dark chocolate ganache. So a Yorkie bar, this ain’t. The price is pretty fancy too, £59 for a 400g egg. You’d be pretty eggcited to find one of these in your Easter basket.

No Comments on The Nightcap: 12 March

The Nightcap: 4 December

Hurrah! The first Nightcap of the festive season is here and it’s full of Christmas cheer, interesting stories and boozy news. We’ll raise a glass to that. Those who welcome…

Hurrah! The first Nightcap of the festive season is here and it’s full of Christmas cheer, interesting stories and boozy news. We’ll raise a glass to that.

Those who welcome the “Christmas creep” that now begins before Halloween might disagree, but I think it’s fair to say that, for most of us, the true Christmas season has begun now that December has arrived. Nobby Holder has emerged from this den, the decorations are up all over the place and I can longer shame my mum for watching Christmas films (although I was definitely right to do so in early November). 

You might have noticed that we’ve got into the Christmas spirit on the MoM blog, mostly thanks to #WhiskySanta incredible Super Wishes, which this week featured two Scotch whiskies matured for more than 40 years, one from Tomintoul and another from Tamnavulin. We also opened up our Whisky Advent Calendar and enjoyed the spoils of what appeared behind windows #1, #2, #3 and #4.

Elsewhere, Adam learnt all about Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul’s new mezcal, what drinks trends to look out for this year, why the Octomore 11 Series is so tasty and which rums are not only tasty but available for less than £40. Henry, meanwhile, tasted some extraordinary Cognacs (one of them spent 110 years in cask!), Annie made the delicious and delicate White Negroni, Kristy investigated why Jura is so enchanting and Nate Brown returned to explain why his bar will remain shut this December

Oh, and we launched a competition that offers you the chance to win a VIP Trip to Bowmore and Laphroaig. Phew! Talk about blog-mageddon. Now, on to The Nightcap!

The Nightcap

The sale of this bottle has just made one man’s Christmas very festive indeed (image credit: Sotheby’s)

Macallan whisky bought for £80 sells for £57,500

I think it’s fair to say a lot of us have picked up a pretty pricey bottle of whisky with a special occasion in mind. But I imagine there won’t be many of us who look up the price of the whisky 37 years later and realise it’s worth tens of thousands of pounds. That’s exactly what happened to one lucky man, whose son bought him a bottle of The Macallan’s 50-year-old Anniversary Malt for his 50th birthday in 1983 for £80, with plans to drink it when he turned 80. But, after learning what it might be worth, the eventual seller instead contacted auctioneers Brightwells and ended up fetching a remarkable £57,500 for the bottle, according to the Scottish Daily Record. Most bottles of the expression, which was one of a 500-bottle release distilled in 1928, have been drunk so demand was high and the whisky attracted bids from Belgium, Germany, Scandinavia and Hong Kong as well as the UK. “This release has acquired mythic status as the best-tasting Macallan ever produced,” Paddy Shave of the auction house said (best name ever, by the way). “It’s described as the Holy Grail for malt whisky lovers, so we knew there would be worldwide interest.”

The Nightcap

Anyone got a spare 10k lying around?

Glenturret releases a 33-year-old whisky

Scotland’s oldest working distillery has made the most of 2020, relaunching its brand in the autumn and now unveiling a very swanky limited-edition single malt series in collaboration with glass experts Lalique. The first release is The Glenturret Provenance, which was bottled today and is now available on www.theglenturret.com for just £9,800. It’s a 33-year-old single malt whisky drawn from three casks filled in 1987 that was bottled in 320 French crystal decanters at a cask strength of 43.7% ABV without any additional colouring or chill-filtration. It is said to possess rich notes of ginger, brandy-soaked cherries and plump, juicy sultanas, followed by hints of cinnamon sticks, dates and soft whispers of oak and green apple.  2020 has been a challenging year for all but also a very exciting year for us. We recently introduced a fresh visual brand identity as well as six new expressions,  hand-crafted by our incredible team at the distillery in Crieff,” John Laurie, managing director at The  Glenturret, said of the launch. “Adding The Glenturret  Provenance is an important milestone for us – this is a whisky to be savoured slowly, which fits in perfectly with our distillation process as we still do everything here by hand. The Glenturret Provenance is all about reflecting on time, memories of places and people have gone before”.

The Nightcap

The range is a first for Aberlour and features some of its oldest ever bottled whisky

Chivas Brothers unveils rare aged collection 

Fancy getting your hands on three exceptionally rare limited-edition collections of Scotch whisky comprised of over 600 bottles available across the three distilleries from the Chivas Brothers single malt portfolio? Then you’re in luck. The whisky giants unveiled The Glenlivet Cellar Collection, The Aberlour Cellar Collection and The Scapa Single Cask this week, featuring some of the oldest whiskies released from these great distilleries and for the first time ever, they will be available for UK-based customers to order direct from the distillery from the comfort of their own homes. The Glenlivet Cellar Collection comprises of a 30-year-old, a 33-year-old, a 38-year-old and a 40-year-old, The Aberlour Cellar Collection, a 39-year-old and a 44 year old, while The Scapa Single Cask Vintage Editions consists of a 29-year-old, 41-year-old and 42 year old, its ever oldest release. “It has been an incredibly challenging year and we recognise it hasn’t been easy for Scotch enthusiasts to travel to our distilleries in Speyside and Orkney. We’re so pleased that we’re now able to give Scotch whisky fans the opportunity to order some of the most exceptionally rare aged malts from our portfolio straight to their door,” says Miriam Eceolaza, marketing director for Malts at Chivas Brothers. “The exclusivity of these expressions is unlike anything we have ever released before, and we hope our fans relish the opportunity to taste real history with these delicious collections.”

The Nightcap

Spirit Guide is a tale of founding an English whisky distillery. There are no spooky ghosts

Cotswolds distillery founder writes book

Is there no end to the man’s talents? Not content with setting up a distillery that produces superb gin, single malt whisky, Amari and now a rum, but The Cotswolds Distillery founder Daniel Szor has now written a book. It’s a hard-boiled crime novel set in the murky Belgrade underworld…. Not really! Called Spirit Guide: In search of an authentic life, it’s Szor’s own story. He is the son of Polish immigrants to America who made a packet in finance before moving to the peace and tranquillity of the Cotswolds. It was there that the idea came to him to start a distillery. Szor’s passion was whisky and the idea came to him to make single malt in England. Not such an unusual thing now but back in 2014, this was considered a bit peculiar. He enlisted the help of the late Jim Swan and results have been, it has to be said, extremely impressive. Szor commented: “I am delighted to have written my first book and to share my journey with readers. I really hope this book will provide some inspiration during these unprecedented times and if I have one message it would be ‘following one’s heart is never the wrong direction’’”. Wise words, though we would recommend making a packet in finance before following your heart.

The Nightcap

Having enjoyed a tour of this place before, we can confirm the accolades are well deserved

Jameson Distillery Bow St. named world’s leading distillery tour again!

I hope the shelves were fitted securely at Irish Distillers because it must have a tonne of awards to display, especially now that it has completed a treble at the World Travel Awards (WTA)! For the third year in a row, its Jameson Distillery Bow St. attraction has been named the World’s Leading Distillery Tour at the 27th Grand Final Ceremony, which took place virtually, but was still able to acknowledge, reward and celebrate excellence in global travel and tourism. Having already scooped the prize for Europe’s Leading Distillery Tour earlier this month, Jameson Distillery Bow St. had to beat off stiff competition from the likes of Macallan, Hennessy, Jack Daniels and Jose Cuervo. “To win three years in a row is incredible and, given the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the disruption that the travel and tourism industries have faced globally, this acknowledgement is particularly special this year,” says Greg Hughes, managing director, Jameson Brand Homes at Irish Distillers. “The award honours and recognises our commitment to excellence at the spiritual home of Jameson and is an acknowledgement of the incredible work of our team at Bow St., who provide every visitor with an unforgettable and unique experience – in-person, and now, virtually.” Congratulations, guys!

The Nightcap

Fair play to Couture, it is a much better use of money than wine and dining a load of freeloading journalists…

Pernod Ricard donates Christmas lunch money to charity

It’s one of the highlights of a drink writers year, the annual Pernod Ricard Christmas lunch. It’s a time when the great, the good, and those who blagged a ticket at the last minute of the booze world meet to feast, gossip and sample lots of delicious drinks from Pernod Ricard’s extensive portfolio. For obvious reasons, it’s not happening this year so, according to a statement signed by Chivas CEO Jean-Christophe Coutures, CEO of Chivas UK David Haworth and CEO of Pernod Ricard Travel Retail Mohit Lal: “We have relocated funds normally set aside for this event and combined with support for a number of organisations that will help those in need this Christmas and beyond.” These charities include The Drinks Trust, Mind, Crisis and many others. The company will also be supplying 18,000 litres of hand sanitiser to help the on-trade as well as donating to local food banks on Speyside. What an excellent initiative. 

The Nightcap

So often the outsider, Gabriel has finally been accepted into the inner-circle!

And finally…. ‘Renegade’ Alexandre Gabriel is new Cognac vice president

Is it a case of poacher turned gamekeeper as it was announced today that Alexandre Gabriel is the new vice-president of the BNIC (Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac) alongside Christophe Véral, the new president? It’s a move that nobody expected. Well, we didn’t anyway, having met Gabriel and heard his views on the Cognac establishment. Gabriel, the owner of Maison Ferrand, has previously been described as a ‘renegade’ for his vociferous querying of Cognac rules on what kinds of casks are allowed to be used for ageing. He even released a non-AOC brandy called Renegade no. 2 that was not allowed to be classed as Cognac because it was aged in chestnut barrels. The election took place on the 24 November and included 14 other members of the industry joining the standing committee.  Véral, a grower distiller in the region since 1994, described his job as: “part of the century-old history of Cognac, in the service of a strong, united, responsible sector.” Gabriel commented: “After 31 years in Cognac, I am humbled by the privilege of adding our small contribution to the great destiny of cognac as vice president of the BNIC.” We are keen to see what changes having someone with Gabriel’s unconventional views will have on this extremely conservative industry. 2021 is going to be an interesting year for Cognac!

No Comments on The Nightcap: 4 December

The Nightcap: 13 March

Tune into The Nightcap this week for news on Ardbeg’s Mickey Heads retiring, literature-based libations, and giraffes. Yes, giraffes.  Everyone is being told not to touch their own faces, or…

Tune into The Nightcap this week for news on Ardbeg’s Mickey Heads retiring, literature-based libations, and giraffes. Yes, giraffes. 

Everyone is being told not to touch their own faces, or other people’s faces. Some people are even being very specific and saying not to touch other people’s eyes, or touch other people with your eyes. That last one is generally a good bit of advice at any time. If that has drastically freed up time for your eyes, then direct them towards this edition of The Nightcap, our weekly round-up of the news from the booze world. Stay safe, folks. And for goodness’ sake, wash your hands.

On the blog this week, Ian Buxton returned to cast an eye at the biggest whisky market of all, before Kristy reminded us Mother’s Day is on the horizon. Don’t panic, though, she’s got you covered with this selection of delightfully boozy gifts. Adam was then on-hand to make sure you squeeze in some St. Patrick’s Day celebrations next week, and was feeling so patriotic that he even recommended a new Irish whiskey that has just landed at MoM Towers for our New Arrival of the Week. He then found time to talk Johnnie Walker Highballs with whisky ambassador Ali Reynolds, who was joined on the MoM blog this week by Scottish singer Kerri Watt and then Cointreau master distiller Carole Quinton. Annie then picked out five unmissable audiophile bars, while Henry suggested a great serve for those who like a cocktail that’s simple but sublime: The Kir

Don’t forget you’ve still got time to enter our competition to win an incredible VIP trip to the home of J.J. Corry! Now, onto The Nightcap!

The Nightcap

Here’s to Duncan

Former Bruichladdich manager Duncan McGillivray passes away

Incredibly sad news to open The Nightcap with this week. Duncan McGillivray, the man who worked at Islay’s Bruichladdich for almost half a century and was a compelling force in bringing the distillery back to life, passed away aged 68. He dedicated so much of his life to Bruichladdich and the wider island, and his loss will be felt keenly across the whisky world and beyond. He first joined the distillery as a trainee stillman back in 1974, then became a brewer in 1977. The distillery was mothballed in 1994, but he re-joined the team in 2001 when it was reopened by its new owners. “Looking back to 2001, the Bruichladdich re-birth seemed a dream too far; this was a time when distilleries where still being closed, a far cry from today,” said Simon Coughlin, a friend of Duncan’s, a Bruichladdich founding member, and now head of whisky for parent company, Rémy Cointreau. “If it was not for the patience of Duncan and his unwavering commitment to the cause (even if he thought we were mad sometimes!) we would not be here today.” He also said: “His influence and association with the distillery go back almost 50 years and, put simply, the resurrection of Bruichladdich and much of the success that has followed would not have been possible without the dedication of Duncan. Selfless, hard-working, gentle, determined and funny… and that’s just for starters. Everyone at Bruichladdich and those that enjoy any of our spirits can raise a glass today to thank this wonderful man.” We have our own memories of Duncan. On a 2015 visit to the distillery, our Kristy recalls a warehouse tasting with him. “He had such an incredible energy, was full of passion for the whisky, and was just so generous with his knowledge. And with the whisky… he filled our Glencairn glasses almost to the brim straight from the cask with a valinch. It was hilariously impractical. Let’s just say the pours were not delicate, but Duncan’s glee to be sharing these samples was clear to see. He was such a character.” We know what will be in our glasses this evening. Here’s to Duncan.

The Nightcap

Thanks for everything, Mickey!

Mickey Heads from Ardbeg retires

Sticking with Islay for a moment, and there’s double Ardbeg news this week: the distillery has released its first beer, and we have just heard that the much-loved and admired manager at the distillery, Mickey Heads, will be retiring in October. We’ve been assured that the two events are not related. Under his watch, Ardbeg picked up more Whisky of the Year and Distillery of the Year accolades than any previous manager. He has spent his whole working life on Islay and Jura, taking on the coveted role at Ardbeg in 2007. Mickey Heads said: “Being at the helm of Ardbeg for 13 years has been a great privilege. The whisky we make here is of wonderful quality, and being part of the team that creates it is fantastic. Ardbeg has such a long history, I’ve always seen myself as a custodian carrying it forward for the next generation. So, you just do it as well as you can, and with as much passion as you can.” Thomas Moradpour, CEO of The Glenmorangie Company, said: “Mickey Heads is a hugely respected figure in the world of single malt whisky and will be sorely missed by Ardbeggians everywhere. There cannot be many distillery managers who combine such a wealth of knowledge, depth of passion and warmth of welcome. On behalf of everybody who has had the pleasure of meeting or working with Mickey, I want to express gratitude for all his hard work in maintaining the quality and reputation of the Ardbeg brand. His successor will have a hard act to follow.” Thanks for all the whisky, Mickey!

The Nightcap

If you’re having whisky this good launched in your honour, you know you’ve had a great career

Johnnie Walker launches Master’s Ruby Reserve 

When you’re an OBE-honoured master blender with a remarkable career spanning four decades, there’s really only one way to celebrate your legacy properly, with delicious whisky! That’s exactly what Johnnie Walker has done for Dr. Jim Beveridge’s with its latest release, Master’s Ruby Reserve. Said to be made from “some of the finest Scotch in the Johnnie Walker reserves”, the expression is composed of eight rare whiskies that are at least forty years old from ‘ghost’ distilleries of Cambus, Carsebridge, Pittyvaich and Port Ellen as well as Talisker, Royal Lochnagar, Glendullan and Cragganmore. The good doctor personally selected all the whiskies and chose ones that evoked his earliest whisky-making memories in an attempt to create a Scotch whisky that provides a window into his distinguished career. “Every whisky that has gone into the creation of this new expression holds a special place in my heart. I worked at each of these distilleries during various points of my career and the flavours and smells of those whiskies transport me back to very happy times throughout my career at Johnnie Walker,” said Beveridge. “The ‘ghost’ whiskies from Cambus, Carsebridge and Pittyvaich bring layers of rich fruit flavour. We’ve combined this with the flavours of dark chocolate, plums and cherries found in the wonderfully aged expressions of Royal Lochnagar, Glendullan and Cragganmore and the soft aromatic sea salt notes of Talisker and Port Ellen – creating a beautiful, full-bodied whisky.” The celebratory limited-edition was bottled at 43% ABV and will retail for £15,000 exclusively through DFS duty free stores, so if you’re in the market, you’ll have to pack your bags. Only 398 bottles are being released in hand-crafted golden-red Baccarat crystal decanters as a tribute to Beveridge’s ruby anniversary. Fancy stuff.

The Nightcap

Glenmorangie wants to do its bit for this majestic creature

Save the giraffe, drink Glenmorangie

The giraffe is the mascot of Glenmorangie on account of its enormously tall stills. Now, the distillery is doing something to help preserve these most majestic of creatures whose numbers have fallen by 30% in the last 30 years. Glenmorangie has announced a three-year partnership with the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF) and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) which will help protect them in the wild, but also provide a place for them at Edinburgh Zoo. Much of the work will be focused in Uganda where half the world’s critically-endangered Nubian giraffes live, and will include protecting the animals from poaching and loss of habitat. Thomas Moradpour, president and chief executive of The Glenmorangie Company and back for a second turn in the Nightcap this week, said: “For 175 years we have created whisky, in stills as high as an adult giraffe, the tallest in Scotland. Over time, this majestic animal has become a beloved symbol of our brand. It seems only right that we should channel our passion for this animal into our new global conservation partnership with GCF and RZSS. Together, we will work to protect giraffes in the wild and shine a light on their predicament before it’s too late.” So your dram will be doing good as well as tasting good.

The Nightcap

The World Class GB Final 2019 wasn’t much more diverse…

Diageo Reserve reveals World Class GB bartenders… just 9% are women

It’s that time of year again – Diageo Reserve’s World Class bartender competition is ramping up! After a record-breaking digital entry stage (more than 450 people threw their hat into the ring), The World Class GB Top 100 has been revealed – and it’s a glittering who’s-who of the current UK bartending scene. Those on the list are now required to submit their next online entry by 6 April, ahead of an in-bar judging stage. This is when stuff really gets serious, as the 100 are whittled down to 20. But there’s one small problem. We say small, it’s actually pretty sizeable, and blindingly obvious when you take in the list. Just nine people in the top 100 are women. To put that in context (as if any more is required), there are more men on that list named some variation of Matthew or Michael (we counted. There’s 11.). Clearly something has gone amiss. Could it be that for some reason, significantly fewer women bartenders decided to take part? It’s definitely possible. And it may be the sole explanation. Or are women not progressing in cocktail competitions? If not, why not? We asked Diageo Reserve Talisker and World Class ambassador Jason Clark for his take: “Now in its twelfth year, World Class was created as a platform for everyone. Our aim is to educate and encourage all bartenders to become part of our community, to challenge themselves and compete to be the very best they can be. All entries for the competition are judged blind and based purely on the drink submission. Last year we had women finishing in third and fourth place overall and, over the GB competition’s history, we’ve had many exceptional female bartenders enter and reach the finals. We continue to look at ways to celebrate women in the industry and we can’t wait to see what the next stage of the competition holds.” One thing’s for sure – if we want to see more women reach the top of the game in the bar industry, something’s got to give.

 

The Nightcap

The Italian liqueur based around the brilliance of bergamot

Pernod Ricard splashes out on Italicus aperitivo

Just last week drinks mega-group Pernod Ricard got its wallet out to invest in Japan’s first gin producer, The Kyoto Distillery. Well, it’s a case of another week, another transaction! This time it’s bergamot-infused aperitivo Italicus that’s joining the Pernod portfolio. The 20% ABV product is described as ‘distinguishable yet versatile’, and has already become a bartender favourite since it was founded by Italian spirits expert Giuseppe Gallo in 2016. Pernod Ricard hasn’t shared the financial details of the deal, or whether the ‘strategic partnership’ – as they call it – includes any level of acquisition, but Gallo will remain the active CEO going forward. “Since its launch, the brand has experienced success with both the on-trade and consumers, and it is now time to consolidate with this heavyweight strategic partner in order to accelerate our global distribution,” he said. “We have an ambitious plan to build Italicus into one of the world’s most successful aperitivo brands.” Gilles Bogaert, chairman and CEO of Pernod Ricard EMEA-LatAm, added: “We are thrilled to add Italicus to the Pernod Ricard portfolio and for the Group to help drive its future development.” The future’s bright, the future’s bergamot-scented.

The Nightcap

Teeling is bringing its own brand of Paddy’s Day celebrations to London

Teeling bring St Paddy’s Celebrations to London

You may have heard of the luck of the Irish, now it’s time to show your love of the Irish! This St Patrick’s Day, Teeling Whiskey is bringing the Spirit of Dublin to London, in a special all-Irish celebration at Milroy’s of Spitalfields. And what a night it promises to be, with Irish fiddlers, food for the nibblers, Celtic cocktails, and of course some delicious Irish drams. And the best part of all (apart from the whisky of course…) is that the entry is free! Milroy’s doors will open at 6pm, we’ll see you there! Obviously in the current environment do check back nearer the time for confirmation that the event will go ahead. But you can still mark your diaries for St Patrick’s Day. Pop a bottle of Teeling in your basket now to make sure you can still sip along and celebrate, even if it’s at home, on 17 March!

The Nightcap

Joe Fattorini, wine merchant and TV presenter, has campaigned for lower wine taxes

Drinks industry reacts to duty freeze

It’s been a tough year for the drinks industry with trade tariffs, Brexit uncertainty and now the Coronavirus, but there was some good news as Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announced a freeze in alcohol duty rates in Britain, a country with some of the highest drink taxes in the world. Joe Fattorini, wine merchant and TV presenter, who has been campaigning for a lowering of such taxes, commented: “The recognition by the Chancellor that wine is the nation’s favourite alcoholic drink and therefore shouldn’t be singled out for tax rises is welcome news for the 33 million wine fans in the UK. Now it’s time to go one step further and cut back wine tax in the coming year.” But it wasn’t just the wine trade celebrating (responsibly, natch).  Dayalan Nayager from Diageo said: “We welcome the Chancellor’s duty freeze which will provide much-needed stability in these difficult times for the industry. We are delighted that he announced his intention to reform the duty system to bring fairness for gin and Scotch whisky, which should ensure that these iconic homegrown products no longer face punitive levels of tax.” But Karen Betts, chief executive of the SWA (Scotch Whisky Association), thinks that more needs to be done: “Our industry needs continued support, through the upcoming review of UK alcohol taxation and while our exports remain subject to US tariffs. The fact remains that duty on spirits in the UK is already very high and puts Scotch whisky at a competitive disadvantage to wine, beer and cider, with £3 in every £4 spent on an average-price bottle of Scotch whisky going to the government in tax”. Regular readers, however, will only really want to know what Nightcap favourite Miles Beale thinks. Well, the chief executive of the WSTA had this to say:  “While he has not cut duty, it is reassuring to see that in his first Budget as Chancellor, Rishi Sunak MP, has taken steps to address the UK’s excessively high duty rates. He has shown he is in touch with British consumers – from all walks of life – who want to enjoy a drink without getting stung by further tax hikes. We will all raise a glass to the Chancellor tonight, who has recognised that everyone benefits from a freeze, including the Treasury.” We’ll raise a glass with you, Miles!

The Nightcap

The study found millennials and Gen Zers prefer a traditional boozer

Millennials and Gen Zers’ perfect pub revealed?

It’s fair to say that in the last half-a-century or so, quite a bit has changed. We can carry our phones with us wherever we go, fax machines are something of an urban myth, and you can’t even smoke indoors anymore! Despite this (or perhaps because of it), a recent study by SpareRoom found out that, when it comes to pubs, millennials and Gen Zers are most fond of your traditional boozer. And you can wave goodbye to millennial pink. 60% of 18 to 34-year-olds prefer your traditional wooden interior, complete with fireplaces and period fixtures, with 70% preferring wooden flooring to the carpet (though we don’t think it’s just millennials that feel this way…). But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. It’s not a total step back in time that the younger generations are after. 62% prefer speedy card payments to cash, and 41% want free wifi along with their wooden beams. The humble pint has even lost its place as the drink of choice, with 49% saying that spirits are their go-to tipple. Perhaps even more interestingly, 45% say that low-alcohol serves are their top choice when taking a trip to their local! It just goes to show that even though younger generations value a trip down memory lane, if there’s not a charging point then… you’ve gone too far.

The Belloni, named in honour of Virgina Woolf’s sister, artist Vanessa Bell

And finally. . . . literature you can drink at the Academy Hotel

Books and booze go way back, from the Bible through to Shakespeare, not forgetting Dorothy Parker’s quip about her favourite drink: ‘I like to have a Martini, two at the very most. After three I’m under the table, after four I’m under my host’. Now the Academy Hotel is celebrating this special relationship with a series of cocktails inspired by that most literary part of London (and the hotel’s location): Bloomsbury. There’s The Lighthouse to honour Virginia Woolf made with Tanqueray Gin, one for her husband called the Old Fashioned Leonard made with Woodford Reserve bourbon, and, keeping it in the family, a Belloni, a take on the Negroni paying homage to her sister, the painter Vanessa Bell. According to the press bumf all the drinks are “created especially using the finest ingredients and hand-selected garnish”. No machines picking the garnishes at the Academy. No sir!

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Trust the algorithm: The future of AI in booze

Last month, Johnnie Walker’s parent company Diageo rolled out artificial intelligence (AI) whisky selector ‘What’s Your Whisky’, which analyses drinkers’ flavour preferences to pair them with their perfect single malt…

Last month, Johnnie Walker’s parent company Diageo rolled out artificial intelligence (AI) whisky selector ‘What’s Your Whisky’, which analyses drinkers’ flavour preferences to pair them with their perfect single malt Scotch. Here, we take a look at the ground-breaking technology, and consider the ways in which algorithms could revolutionise the drinks industry in years to come…

Think back to a bottle of alcohol you bought without ever having tried it. What compelled you to pick that one, rather than another? Perhaps it was the look of the label, or the price. Maybe a friend recommended it, or you spotted it on this very blog. Or, if you’ve just road-tested Diageo’s new AI whisky selector, it might be because an algorithm told you to.

Named ‘What’s Your Whisky’, the selector uses FlavorPrint taste profiling technology to match your individual tastes to one of 18 featured single malts, explains Benjamin Lickfett, head of technology & innovation at Diageo. It asks eleven questions to understand your preferences – e.g. ‘how often do you eat bananas? How do you feel about chillies?’ – and then analyses your responses.

“To do this, we use an algorithmic machine learning analysis of 500 different flavour points based on data from the food science and expert sensory science sectors,” he continues. “Once individual flavour preferences have been mapped, the app uses AI to continuously learn what drives consumer preferences.”

Team Circumstance: Liam Hirt, Mark Scott and Danny Walker

Elsewhere, AI isn’t just matching you with your optimum booze pairing. It’s creating it. In November, Circumstance Distillery created the world’s first AI gin, called Monker’s Garkel, in collaboration with tech companies Rewrite Digital and Tiny Giant. They designed a ‘recurrent neural network’ named Ginette, explain Liam Hirt, Circumstance co-founder. 

“She was trained to compose gin recipes using an enormous data set of botanical and recipes,” Hirt says. “We chose her best two recipes for further traditional development at Circumstance Distillery. One recipe emerged as a favourite, although it was very close. Ginette also came up with the name for the gin. A separate neural network was used to create the label and the wording on the back of the bottle.”

Circumstance isn’t the only producer to harness the power of AI to make great-tasting spirits. In May last year, Swedish distillery Mackmyra teamed up with Microsoft and Fourkind to create a whisky informed by Mackmyra’s existing recipes, sales data and customer preferences. In January 2017, Virgin’s travel arm partnered with super-computer Watson to analyse the social media posts of 15 million holidaymakers, match them to 5,000-plus flavour descriptions and reviews, and create a one-off rum recipe at Barbados’ Foursquare Distillery.

Is there a danger our industry’s tastemakers could soon be overthrown by AI distillers? Not quite. “AI technology is in its infancy, and is not ready to take over from a skilled distiller like those at our distillery,” reckons Hirt. “Where I see AI making a difference in the near future is as a creative muse used during product development. At Circumstance Distillery we do a lot of product development and contract distillation for customers. AI in its current form can be a useful tool at the brainstorming stage to contribute ideas that might be quite different and take development in an unexpected and novel direction.”

Would you take a recommendation from one of these?

In what ways, then, could AI potentially revolutionise the industry as we know it today? For now, the answer lies in behind the scenes operations. French drinks company Pernod Ricard, which owns Jameson whiskey and Beefeater gin, has been “developing a series of successful pilots and then projects at scale for quite a large array of applications” for a few years now, explains global media and content hub leader Thibaut Portal.

This could be something as simple as identifying trending venues using data from Google Maps, Google Venues traffic, Trip Advisor and social media channels, he explains; information that helps the company map and structure its approach to the on-trade. Automated algorithms help the company optimise its social media campaigns, too – by defining and predicting best days and hours of the week to interact with consumers as well as personalising messages and communications. 

“We have applied AI mainly so far and at scale for our marketing and sales department activities, as data are massive and easy to collect,” says Portal. AI technology definitely enables us to react faster and prepare for more informed decisions, leveraging and computing data available internally or sourced externally in a flash. It provides solid analysis capabilities and unlocks new business opportunities: from product launch to market share increases.”

While it’s still early days for Diageo’s customer-facing whisky selector – which launched across nine European countries in six languages – Lickfett says the team is excited about the potential of this untapped tech. “Once we’ve received the initial results, we’ll be looking to optimise how we integrate the AI experience in bars, supermarkets, online and beyond,” he says. “As with any new technology application, it is key to put the consumer at the centre of the experience, ensuring real value is added and to avoid creating technology for technology’s sake.”

The stills at Circumstance in Bristol

He makes a point. With that in mind, are there any challenges the industry might need to overcome to integrate AI technology successfully? The most obvious one, Hirt says, is knowledge. “Circumstance Distillery is very tech-focused, with successful projects such as issuing ‘whisky tokens’ in the form of our own cryptocurrency,” he says. “Most small businesses in the drink sector are not as tech-focused as we are.”

It’s a sentiment backed by Portal. “AI technology has developed so fast with so many suppliers that confusion is already there,” he explains. “It requires expertise, knowledge and capacity to select the right project.” With a little knowledge, however, the sky’s the limit. “There are so many offers on the market, available and easy to access for all,” he says. “We are entering a democratisation phase, as well as a learning curve for all to build.”

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Old Buxton’s almanack 2020

Today industry veteran Ian Buxton peers into the future to see what the wide world of drinks will bring in 2020. Warning, it’s not worth betting your house on his…

Today industry veteran Ian Buxton peers into the future to see what the wide world of drinks will bring in 2020. Warning, it’s not worth betting your house on his predictions. 

In looking into my crystal ball, I determined for this final column of 2019 to seek out the views of senior and influential industry leaders on the prospects for the spirits industry in the coming year and publish a range of informed and authoritative views on what the future holds for all of us.

Then I thought, ‘sod it, that’s a lot of work and they’ve no more idea than I have’, so here, in a spirit of frivolity entirely unsuited to the impending environmental apocalypse that’s about to engulf the known universe / fantastic economic Boris Boom as we ‘get Brexit done’ (delete as applicable), are the predictions to be found in Old Buxton’s Almanack (price several large ones at a PR junket, sorry ‘media briefing’, near you).

The following article contains forward-looking views and opinions. Master of Malt accepts no liability for any decisions taken on the basis of this ‘information’.  In fact, Master of Malt doesn’t accept any liability for anything. Frankly, you’re on your own.

January: Mystery Egyptian collector Mustafa Dram pays £1m at auction for a piece of paper with ‘Macallan’ written on it. Ken Loach announces filming to start on Angels’ Share 2, starring Charlie MacLean as himself and Jacob Rees-Mogg as Dr Dick Horgan, would-be PR exec. Two new craft gins launched this month.

Gin

There’s going to be a lot of gin in 2020

February: American craft distillery Ultimate Spirits launches Ultimate Monster Peat Whiskey (also available in herring barrel finish).  Pernod Ricard buys the distillery. Four new craft gins launched.

March: Not to be outdone the folks at Bruichladdich reveal their ultimate peated whisky, The Peat Behemoth.  Distilled by their peat master Peter ‘Peaty’ Peterson in peat-fired stills and aged in casks buried in a peat bog, each bottle contains a peat widget that releases a concentrated burst of phenols when the bottle is opened. “It’s verra peaty,” says Peterson “but ah just keep mine in the safe. We’re hoping Mustafa Dram will visit soon.”  Eight new craft gins launched.

April: Mystery Egyptian collector sells piece of paper with ‘Macallan’ on it for £1.5m to Cayman Islands based ‘whisky investment fund’, but pays £5m for bottle of Macallan 10 Year Old.  “It says Macallan on the label,” says Dram. “Look, I can see it here.” 16 new craft gins launched.

May: Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon raises stakes on Boris Johnson with unilateral declaration of Scottish independence and reveals ‘Resource Tax’ on distillery water supplies.  “It’s Scotland’s water,” she cries into her Irn Bru. 32 new craft gins launched.

June: Chivas Brothers cancels Chinese project and announce £200m investment in new Carlisle distillery. SWA commences legal action against the estate of deceased country singer Glen Campbell for ‘passing-off’. 64 new craft gins launched.

July: Greece leaves the Euro. The New Drachma immediately devalues by 50%. Greek spirits market collapses.  Scotland applies to join the EU. Construction begins on Boris’ Wall along Scotland/England border. English Whisky Association applies for GI protection for ‘English whisky’.128 new craft gins launched.

August: Nothing happens in August. Everyone is on holiday in Greece.  Greek spirits market recovers. New Scottish currency ‘The Bawbie’ immediately devalues 50%.  No-one notices. 256 new craft gins launched.

September: Macallan launches £10m Ridicularius with label by Banksy; only bottle bought by Geneva-based whisky investment fund Fleece, Ewe & Runne which outbidded Mustafa Dram.  512 new craft gins launched.

October: “Rum is the new gin,” claims rather pompous PR hack Dr Dick Horgan.  No-one tells consumers as gin craze continues unabated: 1,024 new craft gins launched.

“Can you believe what they’ll pay for this stuff?”

November: Diageo re-opens Port Ellen and Brora distilleries in a move to “restore authenticity to single malt”.  Whistleblower reveals leaked internal email reading “can you believe what they’ll pay for this stuff? I mean seriously.”  Banksy Macallan self-destructs; shattered bottle now worth £20m. 2,048 new craft gins launched.

December: Geneva-based whisky investment fund Fleece, Ewe & Runne files bankruptcy papers. Macallan launches limited edition £150m Absurditas, each bottle comes with a free distillery.  Gin consumers notice they’re drinking mostly flavoured vodka; 4,096 new craft gins launched; Pernod Ricard buys them all. Master of Malt rebranded as Master of Gin.

Enjoy your passionate handcrafted artisanal journey to 2020 and I’ll see you in the New Year.  Slainte! 

 

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Could Chinese single malt whisky be a Trojan Horse?

The whisky world is full of excitement at news that Pernod Ricard has begun work on a single malt distillery in China. Ian Buxton, however, isn’t so sure this is…

The whisky world is full of excitement at news that Pernod Ricard has begun work on a single malt distillery in China. Ian Buxton, however, isn’t so sure this is a good thing for Scotch whisky. In fact, he thinks that this development might sound the death knell for the industry’s global dominance. 

As you will have read elsewhere, Pernod Ricard has recently announced that they have begun construction on a new single malt distillery in China. According to its press release, the Emeishan Malt Whisky Distillery represents “a potential investment of one billion RMB (US $150 million)” and the 13-hectare distillery site “will boast a state-of-the-art malt whisky distillation facility, due to begin production in 2021”.  Pernod Ricard has not given details of the anticipated production simply replying that “it’s too early to confirm a figure.” Speaking off the record, sources close to the project talk of two pot stills but with scope for expansion.

What are we to make of this news? Most commentators so far have done little more than breathlessly recycle the press release – which, to be fair, is pretty breathtaking. A Chinese single malt distillery, even an initially modest one, is a genuinely new idea and something which could fairly be described as radical, even epoch-making. Except it’s not actually a new idea. Back in 2014 in a book, The Science and Commerce of Whisky, I co-wrote with Professor Paul Hughes, then of Heriot-Watt University, I imagined the future thus:

“There now appears no technical reason why high-quality whisky cannot be produced in the most unfavourable of climates… [and] there would not appear to be any significant technical barrier to entry for new producers.… a new producer might emerge in, say, China utilising the latest technology…[and] enjoy cost advantages in production and shipping, potential protection within tariff walls and, with skilful marketing, patriotic support from a consumer able to purchase a product that looked and tasted like a high quality import at local market prices.   …established producers could be faced with significant competition. Why would our hypothetical new distiller not wish to compete for a share of a growing, profitable and fashionable market on their own doorstep?”

the Emeishan Malt Whisky Distillery

Artist’s impression of the the Emeishan Malt Whisky Distillery

Why not indeed? Let’s put to one side the dubious morality of doing business in one of the world’s most repressive regimes. Pernod Ricard certainly has, telling me in response to my enquiry, that “we have a presence in many different markets with many shifting political landscapes and therefore do not provide political commentary.” So sip the shark fin soup with your new partners and look away.

Or, simply weep for Scotch whisky, for what we see here is the first nail in Scotch’s coffin; a Trojan Horse if you will. Oh, don’t be absurd, you say. Stop over-reacting. Well, I don’t believe so. Certainly not next year, probably not for a decade or more, possibly not even in my lifetime, but this marks the beginning of the end of a once-dominant industry. 

Once upon a time we built things here in the UK – ships, for example, and televisions and all kinds of consumer goods. More pertinently, once upon a time, the Irish whiskey industry led the world. With the largest stills and the best-selling brands they were the giants of their day.  But it took less than fifty years for that hegemony to be utterly destroyed. History suggests that currently well-entrenched and dominant market positions are far from impregnable and Scotch and other ‘traditional’ producers would do well to consider potential challenges, not facilitate them.

Jean-Etienne Gourgues, Pernod Ricard's MD for China

Jean-Etienne Gourgues, Pernod Ricard’s MD for China

I don’t imagine for a moment that Pernod Ricard thinks it will end this way. With a market share of around 20% of global Scotch and substantial investment there, it certainly isn’t looking for a self-inflicted wound. Yet, this I believe is the probable long-term outcome of this spectacular Chinese venture. After all, as Pernod’s Jean-Etienne Gourgues, MD for China says “we’re going to be transferring our world leading whisky-making expertise to China” using “major process equipment [which] is sourced from Forsyths, the best-in-class in the distillation equipment industry.” 

The more drinkers are persuaded that great whisky can be made anywhere in the world, the more that Scotch whisky’s premium cachet and exclusivity will fade. This is the start of a very slippery slope and today’s confidence can all too easily be revealed as tomorrow’s complacency.

Perhaps the Bible has a lesson.  In 1 Kings 18:44, it reads: “And it came to pass at the seventh time, that he said, Behold, there ariseth a little cloud out of the sea, like a man’s hand. And he said, Go up, say unto Ahab, Prepare thy chariot, and get thee down, that the rain stop thee not.”

Perhaps it’s time for Scotland to buy an umbrella.

 

 

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Hops and grass, a match made in heaven?

As various Conservative politicians tumble over themselves to admit their early experiences with drugs of varying illegality, but within limits naturally, it seems as good as time as any for…

As various Conservative politicians tumble over themselves to admit their early experiences with drugs of varying illegality, but within limits naturally, it seems as good as time as any for Ian Buxton to look into the drinks industry’s flirtation with weed.

Yes, cannabis.  Or dope, grass, bhang or pot – call it what you will, it’s currently taking up a great deal of the time, attention and budget of the drinks industry’s senior executives.  Not that they’re smoking the stuff or baking it into their lunchtime snacks, you understand, but a lot of money is changing hands. Cannabis is shaping up to be the next big thing after alcohol.

Much of the activity currently takes place in North America. Canada has liberalised its laws on cannabis and a number of US states are poised to follow. Cannabis-infused drinks are under active development with brewers leading the way. As just one example, giant Canadian brewer Molson Coors took a majority stake in August 2018 in a joint venture with cannabis producer, The Hydropothecary Corporation. It’s taken the resulting Hexo Molson company less than a year to develop their first products, which will go on sale this December as soon as they become legal in Canada.

And what happens in Canada crosses the border to the US fast though currently Federal law prohibits brewers from using marijuana in beer. That hardly presented a problem to the noted craft brewer Keith Villa, the man behind Blue Moon Belgian Wheat Beer. His Ceria Grainwave Belgian-Style White Ale has no alcohol and but includes 5 milligrams of THC, the high-producing ingredient found in cannabis plants. It’s currently available in Colorado, with further distribution planned.

Ceria Brewing

Image courtesy of Ceria Brewing Company

Likewise San Diego’s Two Roots Brewing Co. which has five styles of non-alcoholic THC beer available in California and Nevada. Other craft brewers are piling in, and this hybrid category is rapidly gathering momentum. Apart from the obvious attraction, drinkers seem to be motivated by the wellness trend that is attracting younger US consumers – an alcohol-free buzz definitely fits with the millennial zeitgeist.

A few craft brewers doing funky things is all very well, however, but what about the big boys.  Well, they won’t all fess up to their plans but, behind the scenes, work is definitely going on.  After all, as Spiros Malandrakis, Euromonitor’s senior alcoholic drinks analyst explains, the industry needs to realise that it can’t stop cannabis’ inexorable rise. The management “can complain”, he says, “but this is going to happen. They can either sit in their offices and say: ‘Oh my God, our industry’s going to die,’ or they can do something and evolve alongside it.”

And, of course, they are. Heineken, for example, owns California’s Lagunitas Brewing, maker of Hi-Fi Hops.  According to their ‘Brewmonster’ Jeremy Marshall, “We’ve often dreamed of hops and their cannabis cousin partying together at the family reunion. We wanted to bring this party to life in a beverage. It’s high-time that good beer inspired a provocative, yet refreshing non-alcoholic alternative. With a smidge of California sun-grown cannabis in every sip.”

For the moment, Diageo has yet to make a move.  Though rumoured last year to be in talks with three Canadian cannabis producers the official line is that they are “watching” the market but that cannabis-infused alternative drinks have yet to make any discernible impact on their North American sales. “I wouldn’t call them a threat,” says their North American chief Deirdre Mahlan.  

Cannabis, coming soon to a bar near you (if you live in Canada or Colorado)

Pernod Ricard take much the same line.  According to CEO Alexandre Ricard: “We’re seriously monitoring the situation and starting to consider if it (cannabis) would or would not fit in our portfolio.” He went on to say: “We’re not there yet, we’re currently just analysing the data and observing the market from a consumer point of view in a number of US states and Canada. At this stage, and let me be very clear, we have no evidence whatsoever that cannabis legalisation may have an impact on premium spirits consumption.”

Well, perhaps not.  But others don’t agree. Legal marijuana in the US is predicted to reach a value of $23bn by 2022 and that’s too lucrative a market to ignore. Step forward Constellation Brands, a major US drinks business (products include Corona Extra lager; Casa Noble Tequila; High West whiskey and strategic investments in a number of craft distillers), who last year pumped almost $4bn into Canopy Growth, a Canadian cannabis group. This followed a previous smaller investment which made Constellation the first Fortune 500 company and the first major alcoholic beverage maker to take a minority stake in a marijuana business.

Others will surely follow.  Let’s hope their money doesn’t go up in smoke.

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

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Beefeater parent Pernod Ricard snaps up Malfy Gin

Pernod Ricard has got a taste for juniper! The drinks group released a statement this morning confirming it’s about to buy Italy-based Malfy Gin, growing its gin portfolio to six….

Pernod Ricard has got a taste for juniper! The drinks group released a statement this morning confirming it’s about to buy Italy-based Malfy Gin, growing its gin portfolio to six.

“This acquisition is true to our long-standing strategy of investing in brands with strong potential in growing categories,” said Christian Porta, MD of Pernod Ricard’s Global Business Development arm.

Malfy Gin is made by the Vergnano family in Moncalieri, and is available in four varieties: Originale, Con Limone, Con Arancia and Con Rosa. It’s produced using genuine Italian ingredients including juniper, coastal-grown lemons, Sicilian blood oranges and pink grapefruits.

It has already proved popular in big drinks markets around the world, including the US, Germany, and here in the UK.

Pernod Ricard hasn’t said how much it has paid for the brand, which will join the likes of Monkey 47, which it partnered with in 2016, and Ungava, a 2018 acquisition, once the transaction goes through.

“We are excited to see Malfy Gin move to the Pernod Ricard family of brands,” said Elwyn Gladstone, founder of Biggar & Leith, which launched Malfy in 2016.

“We believe that with their stewardship and expertise in building super-premium spirits brands, Malfy will continue to flourish.”

The deal is expected to close shortly – and it seems likely we will see more brand-buying from the drinks giant. “In line with the launch of our ‘Transform and Accelerate’ strategic plan, we will continue actively managing our fantastic portfolio of brands,” Porta added in the statement.

Malfy Gin Pink Lemonade

Malfy Gin Pink Lemonade

Malfy is pretty popular here at MoM Towers. If the news is giving you a bit of a hankering for a gin cocktail, why not give this super simple Pink Lemonade a go, made with Malfy Gin Rosa.

Take an ice-filled Highball glass and mix two parts Malfy Gin Rosa with one part Limoncello. Top with three parts soda water and garnish with a slice of lime and a raspberry (if you’re feeling fancy). Enjoy!

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