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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Port

The Nightcap: 14 January

In the news this week: celebrate Burns Night with Batman, Guinness goes green, Marky Mark gets into Tequila, and, not to be outdone, Katy Perry, crashes the world of zero…

In the news this week: celebrate Burns Night with Batman, Guinness goes green, Marky Mark gets into Tequila, and, not to be outdone, Katy Perry, crashes the world of zero ABV drinks. All this and more in The Nightcap: 14 January edition!

Well, time continues to march on so now we’re at the weekend before Blue Monday, supposedly the worst day of the year because it’s cold, dark, and we’re all broke and guilty thanks to Christmas indulgence. The Irish have a saying that we think is quite a fitting response to this sort of thinking: what a load of ol’ shite. There’s lots to enjoy in January. Like leftovers. New presents. The FA Cup. And, of course, The Nightcap. What a treat. Let’s crack on with today’s edition.

On the blog, our Dry January coverage continued with cracking cocktails from High Point, and you can still win some goodies from them thanks to the second part of our competition. Dr. Nick Morgan returned to ask bartenders to go easy on the ice, while folks from all over MoM chipped in to recommend some of our favourite places for lunch. Elsewhere, our New Arrival was a very special rum from Guatemala, our Cocktail of the Week was inspired by one of the legends of the jazz age, and we got familiar with the weird and wonderful Pussanga as well as an Australian winery that turned its hand to whisky.

Now, onwards to The Nightcap: 14 January edition!

The Nightcap: 14 January

What is it with celebs and Tequila?

Mark Wahlberg launches a Tequila

George Clooney, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, Kendall Jenner… are there any celebrities left who don’t have a stake in a Tequila brand? Well, we strike Mark Wahlberg off the list anyway as he’s invested in Flecha Azul, co-founded by Mexican PGA golfer Abraham Ancer and entrepreneur Aron Marquez. Wahlberg actually initially turned down the proposal, saying “you have all these other people out there claiming to have gone to Mexico and created Tequila and cultivated agave and all this stuff”, but was persuaded that this time was different. A visit to the brand’s distillery in Jalisco, Mexico, which has been owned and operated by a local family since 1840, surely helped. Flecha Azul has five types of expressions: Blanco, Reposado, Añejo, Cristalino and Extra Añejo, but is currently only sold in California, Texas, Nevada, and Georgia, although it plans to launch nationwide later this year. Despite every celeb and their granny having an agave brand, Wahlberg is unfazed by the competition. “The space is growing thanks to guys like Dwayne who have created a lot of awareness and excitement,” he told CNN. “We’re coming for everybody’s spot… We plan on being the best.” The Departed actor added that he’s down to host a Tequila-off with Johnson and Clooney. “I’ve tasted their product, they haven’t tasted mine! Those guys know me very well, they know my competitive spirit!'”

The Nightcap: 14 January

The portmanteaus need to stop. Please.

Meanwhile, Katy Perry launches zero ABV drinks for ‘Soberuary’ 

If you’re sick of irritating portmanteau words like ‘veganuary’, ‘staycation’, and ‘brosé’, then look away now because top pop star Katy Perry has just created the world’s worst word – ‘soberuary’. Yes, it’s a juxtaposition of January (or perhaps February) and sober. You probably won’t be surprised as to the reason behind this word crime is that the Californian singer has recently launched her own range of zero ABV drinks. Called De Soi, they are made in conjunction with, as Perry put it on Twitter, “my fellow new mama/ botany babe Morgan McLachlan.” De Soi will come in three varieties: Golden Hour made with citrus and lemongrass, Champignon Dreams with strawberries and grapefruit (and we presume mushrooms), and Purple Lune flavoured blackberry nectar, vanilla oak, and rose petals. McLachlan is the lady behind Amass, a company that makes all kinds of botanical-based goods including skincare products, gin, and non-alcoholic drinks, so she probably knows what she’s doing. And it does make a nice change from another celeb Tequila brand, we’re looking at you Marky Mark, but please no more portmanteau words.

The Nightcap: 14 January

Fifty Cheyne is one of several capital establishments marking Burns Night with Aberfeldy

Celebrate Burns Night with Aberfeldy

And if you’re on the lookout for Burns Night ideas, Aberfeldy has options across London. The Cadogan Arms, The Sitwell Supper Club, Boisdale Belgravia and Canary Wharf, and American steakhouse Smith & Wollensky will all be hosting Burns Night feasts on 25 January with traditional food and a selection of signature Aberfeldy serves. Meanwhile, No. Fifty Cheyne has an extravagant five-course set menu and whisky tasting flight and Mr. Fogg’s Society of Exploration is making three limited-edition cocktails. There’s the Burns and the Bees, a mix of Aberfeldy 12 Year Old, spiced oat milk, honey, and walnut bitters, served with an oat tuile; the Sae the Lord Be Thankit, a combination of Aberfeldy 12 Year Old combined with cold brew Lady Grey tea, shortbread syrup, and rhubarb bitters; and the Golden Ratio, a blend of tablet-washed Aberfeldy 12 Year Old, Moët N.V. Champagne and orange bitters. You can click the links to each establishment to find where to book your tickets. Sounds like there’s going to be some truly cracking Burns Night celebrations this year.

The Nightcap: 14 January

Batman is Scottish. This is canon. And he probably loves Glenfiddich

Or you could Celebrate Burns Night Batman style

Ah, Burns Night! A celebration of all things Scottish, and Batman. Wait, what? If you head down on Tuesday 25 January to Park Row restaurant, you’ll be able to take part in ‘The Wayne Family Burns Night Supper’. Yes, apparently all along Batman was Scottish. Who knew? Well, according to the press release, everyone did. The evening will draw on “Bruce Wayne’s Scottish heritage, well-known to readers of the comics”, and consists of a traditional Burns Night supper with whiskies and cocktails by Glenfiddich, followed by a ceilidh band so you can dance the night away. Tickets cost from £55 per person, with whisky pairings extra. The Soho restaurant, that’s Soho London, not SoHo New York, is billed as “the UK’s first DC-inspired restaurant,” which we initially thought was something to do with the capital of the USA but it actually refers to the comic book company behind Batman, Superman et al. A restaurant inspired by superheroes, imagine being at lunch when they came up with that one.

The Nightcap: 14 January

No emissions from this big boy

Guinness goes green with zero emissions transport

Diageo has been really stepping up its environmental commitments of late thanks to its 10-year sustainability action plan, Society 2030: Spirit of Progress, and the latest development it’s made is to introduce the first zero-emissions vehicles into Guinness’ fleet from this summer. The aim is to cut transport emissions by 70% by the end of 2025, and by 100% before 2030. There’s actually already one zero-emission vehicle already in use exclusively at the brewery, which was used in a trial to transport bulk beer in the Guinness tankers from St James’s Gate to Dublin Port, helping to determine if it can be used to transport heavy goods beyond the brewery. Four zero-emission trucks will also be tested later this year to deliver kegs to the hospitality trade in Dublin City, with an ambition to extend further if successful. “We are only 263 years into our 9,000-year lease on the St. James’s Gate Brewery, and we are in it for the long haul – for our people, our products, and our planet, and we will never settle in pursuit of a better, more sustainable future for everyone,” Barry O’Sullivan, managing director, Diageo Ireland.

The Nightcap: 14 January

Are you intimidated by the ‘rules’ of wine?

75% people think ‘rules of wine’ intimidating

Woodbridge Wines recently sought the help of OnePoll to conduct research into how people respond to the world of wine and the response was… less than ideal. According to the findings, three out of four of people find wine etiquette intimidating, while 67% of respondents believe that there are right and wrong ways to drink wine and eight out of 10 respondents said they did not always follow the so-called “rules of wine”. A total of 2,000 U.S. respondents aged 21 and older participated in the survey, and just 22% of them said that following traditional wine etiquette greatly enhanced their experience of drinking. The good news was that seven out of 10 respondents said they drink wine more than any other type of alcohol over the winter, and a pleasant surprise was found in the research that showed 62% of men and 50% of women would choose wine over beer while watching sports. So not all bad then. We’d personally be very intrigued to see how people would respond to a similar survey about whisky.

The Nightcap: 14 January

For two days this summer, Portugal is coming to London!

Portuguese FESTA coming to London in June 

This sounds brilliant. Portugal will be coming to London for two days this summer. London’s Bar Douro has teamed up with wine expert Sarah Ahmed to put on FESTA, a two-day festival devoted to all kinds of Portuguese deliciousness at Tobacco Dock in London on Friday 24 and Saturday 25 June. There will be wines from 50 of the country’s best producers to sip as you munch on delicious Portuguese snacks like croquette de bacalhau. Max Graham, from the noted Port family and Bar Douro founder, had the original idea to “introduce wine, food and travel lovers to the Portuguese producers and products.” He continued: “I’m thrilled to be able to do this through a unique cultural event, with art and live music.” With Sarah Ahmed’s involvement, the wines are likely to be superb. She explained: “the wines have gone from strength to strength as Portugal’s dynamic producers have developed an ever-deeper understanding and respect for their country’s distinctive grape varieties, wine traditions, and terroir.” It sounds like the next best thing to actually visiting the country. And you won’t have to take a lateral flow test. We hope. 

The Nightcap: 14 January

Tax deductible wine? It’s about damn time (phone courtesy of @Trump_ton)

And finally… is wine now tax deductible?

For the self-employed, the arrival of January only means one thing. It’s tax time. The end of the month is the deadline to get your returns in so people are frantically going through their receipts trying to work out what is and isn’t tax-deductible. Printer ink is, sadly drinks aren’t. Or are they? Online funny man @mikedicks aka @Trump_ton spotted something in his local Waitrose which will provide hope to impoverished freelancers everywhere, wine classed as an office supply. This means that all those bottles you’ve been knocking back over the year are actually tax-deductible. Wouldn’t that be amazing?

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Top ten Ports for Christmas

From simple rubies to perfectly-aged vintages, we’ve got a great selection of Port here at Master of Malt. Here are our top ten Ports for Christmas. Port, the fortified wine…

From simple rubies to perfectly-aged vintages, we’ve got a great selection of Port here at Master of Malt. Here are our top ten Ports for Christmas.

Port, the fortified wine from Portugal, is a surprisingly broad church. It runs the gamut from fruity rubies to pale venerable tawnies, not forgetting bottle-aged vintages and, of course, extremely fashionable white Port.

As you might imagine with such a big category, there are numerous ways to drink Port. We recommend consuming vintage wines with cheeses such as Stilton or Manchego while cheaper rubies and tawnies make great cocktail ingredients. Try a Christmas Negroni by substituting the vermouth for Port. Delicious. Meanwhile, we’ve got a whole blog post on the wonders of mixing with white Port though there’s no better pre-prandial refresher than a White Port and Tonic.

Right, without further ado, here are our top ten Ports for Christmas.

Tawnies

Top ten Ports for Christmas

Martins de Sá Tawny Port

Tawny Ports are aged in wooden casks rather than bottles or stainless steel tanks. During the ageing process, they are allowed to oxidise so that they lose colour, take on a tawny hue, and develop flavours of nuts and cooked fruits. This quite simple one is delicious served chilled with cheese, fruit, or nuts as an aperitif. 

Top ten Ports for Christmas

Quinta do Noval 10 Year Old Tawny Port

In the past, tawny Port was largely drunk by the Portuguese whereas the British drank the vintage stuff. Now, however, tawny sales are booming over here. This 10-year-old version from one of the great names the Douro never disappoints. It’s one to give to people who think they don’t like Port. Few can resist a chilled glass of Noval 10 Year Old.

Top ten Ports for Christmas

Niepoort 20 Year Old Tawny Port 

It’s made by Niepoort, a house of Dutch ancestry that is still in family hands. 20 years is an average statement, it’s a blend of some younger and some much older wines which are made into a house style. The result is something intensely tangy and rich with a finish that’s soaked in walnuts. One of the best tawnies on the market.

Top ten Ports for Christmas

Taylor’s 40 Year Old Tawny Port

Now you’re talking. This is one serious wine. Cooked fruit and Brazil nuts have been enjoyed by intense balsamic menthol notes along with orange peel. Best of all, you don’t need to mess about with decanters, just chill very lightly, open and pour. I’d probably just drink this on its own, or maybe with a cigar in place of Cognac. 

Rubies

Top ten Ports for Christmas

Sandeman Founder’s Reserve Port

Rubies are the simplest kinds of Port. They are usually aged briefly in wood but with no oxygen contact to preserve those ripe fruit flavours. Founder’s Reserve is one of the best of its type and named in honour of the founder George Sandeman. It makes for a brilliant postprandial sipper, especially with chocolate puddings.

Top ten Ports for Christmas

Fonseca Bin 27 Port

This classic bottling from Fonseca has for years offered consistently great quality at a reasonable price. It’s crammed with ripe plummy fruit, blackcurrants, with fennel, rosemary and leather too. Great with chocolate but also makes a winning cocktail ingredient. Add a splash to take your mulled wine to the next level.

Vintage port (will need decanting)

Top ten Ports for Christmas

Quinta do Noval Late Bottled Vintage Port 2012

An LBV is aged in cask for longer than a vintage Port, usually around four years, so it’s available for drinking younger. This is one of the best we’ve tried. Those extra years in bottle have mellowed it bringing out notes of spices and leather. The quality here is the equal of some proper vintage Ports. It’s worth decanting well in advance to let those flavours come together. 

Top ten Ports for Christmas

Croft 1994 Vintage Port

True vintage Port is only made in the best years, it’s aged for a couple of years in wood, and then will need at least 20 years to mature in bottle. At 25, this Croft is now really singing. You’ll need to stand it up for at least a day, before opening and decanting carefully. Then you’ll be rewarded with herbs, cloves, and stewed red fruit. Serve with a nice bit of Stilton. 

Top ten Ports for Christmas

Fonseca Vintage Port 1985

Ok, so it’s expensive but you’re getting a perfectly mature example of one of the best ever recent vintages from one of the world’s best wine producers. All for just over £100. You don’t get that kind of value from Bordeaux or Burgundy. And you certainly don’t get it with Scotch whisky. Invite some good friends over and let the afternoon fade into the evening with a decanter of this. It’ll be money well spent. 

White Port

Top ten Ports for Christmas

Churchill’s White Port Aperitif

White Port has really taken off in Britain in the last few years. It’s a very versatile drink, great sipped neat with tapas or mixed with tonic to make a low ABV alternative to the G&T. This one from Churchill’s is one of our favourites, made from a blend of Malvasia Fina, Rabigato, Carga and Viosinho grapes, and then aged in oak casks for 10 years. 

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New Arrival of the Week: Taylor’s Very Old Single Harvest 1896

Our New Arrival is a bit outrageous this week, it’s called Taylor’s Very Old Single Harvest 1896, Yes, you read that year right. As you’d expect, it’s very expensive but…

Our New Arrival is a bit outrageous this week, it’s called Taylor’s Very Old Single Harvest 1896, Yes, you read that year right. As you’d expect, it’s very expensive but we think it actually offers good value, at least compared with certain old whiskies.

We do get spoiled here at Master of Malt with some of the bottles we get to try. You’d think we might get a bit blasé trying old whiskies and other spirits but the excitement never palls. 

An array of old bottlings

The last few months have seen some particular treasures featured on the blog: the Brora Triptych containing bottlings from 1972, 1977 and 1982, the 52 year old Singleton of Dufftown, and a 43 year old Talisker. And these were just the ones from the Diageo stable.

Lockdown has been particularly wonderful as rather than go to a crowded tasting in London or Scotland, for the chance to try a thimble full of rare malt, we get sent a dram in the post. This means that we enjoy it at our leisure. It is fascinating to see how these precious liquids evolve in the glass over an evening. 

It also means that I can share rare bottles with friends and family. In June, I saw my parents for the first time since the previous September so I saved some of the samples above to share with my father. We marvelled, in particular, over the extraordinary tropical fruit laden 1977 Brora: what a shame that most buyers will never drink it. But the sample that stood out among such riches wasn’t a whisky. It was a Port.

A very very old Port, the aptly-named Taylor’s Very Old Single Harvest 1896. It’s billed as a ‘single harvest’ Port rather than a ‘vintage’ as it was aged in cask rather than bottle. Traditionally all the excitement in Port revolved around vintage ports which are loved by enthusiasts in the traditional markets in northern Europe, America and especially Britain and Ireland. These are sold young and Port lovers then have to keep them for 20 plus years in their cellars.

Taylor's Single Harvest 1896 Artshot black background (22)

Naturally, the packaging is pretty fancy

The appeal of wood-aged ports

The Portuguese, in contrast, appreciate tawny Ports – long aged in wood where they begin to lose their colour hence the name. These wines are now beginning to be more widely appreciated. Very old casks would previously have been blended into old tawny blends, kept as family treasures to be traded at some point or just drunk by Port producers at their private dinners. Now firms like Taylor’s have woken up to the potential of bottling them on their own as ‘colheitas’ – wood-aged wines from a single vintage.

In 2010, Taylor’s released Scion, an 1855 wine. Then in 2012, the firm acquired a small house of Norwegian heritage called Wiese and Krohn, because of its extraordinary stocks of ageing wines. The 1863 released in 2014 and this year’s 1896 release were all originally laid down by Wiese and Krohn. The latter comes form two pipes that’s all that was left from this famous year. Only 1700 bottles have been filled.

Adrian Bridge, Taylor’s managing director commented: “The launch of a wine as old, valuable and unique as this one occurs only a handful of times in a generation. It is, by its nature, a historic event in its own right, which Taylor’s is proud to share with wine collectors and connoisseurs of rare wines.” He added: “Savouring such a wine is a once in a lifetime experience.” 

Tasting Taylor’s Very Old Single Harvest 1896

My sample of the 1896, came in a small test tube. It was a pale reddish brown colour. On opening, the smell just jumps out and fills the room with the heady aromas of balsamic vinegar, furniture polish, nuts and fruit. Tasting it, it’s almost indescribably complex with layers of wood, brazil nuts and, unbelievably, masses of fruit like cooked strawberries and maraschino cherries. It’s not in any way tired or over woody. 

Now, naturally, it is very expensive at £3950 a bottle. But compare that with an old whisky and it starts to look like a bargain. Can you imagine what a Macallan or Brora (!) of similar age would cost? Though it’s unlikely that any whisky could survive 125 years in cask and improve. That kind of longevity is only available to a select few liquids – Madeira, Port, certain sweet sherries, and Cognac. Though, top Port expert Richard Mayson thinks that the 1896 may have been ‘refreshed at some point.’

So, in a world of mad prices, sometimes a £4,000 bottle of Port can be good value. For me, the best thing about old wood-aged Ports like the Taylor’s Very Old Single Harvest 1896 is that all the work has been done for you. You don’t have to wait 20 years and then guess when the time might be right to open, there’s no mucking about with dodgy corks, wax and decanters. Just pop open the bottle and satisfaction is guaranteed rather like an old whisky. But at a much more reasonable price. 

Taylor’s Very Old Single Harvest Port 1896 is available from Master of Malt. Click here to buy.

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Ten bottles to transport you

It looks like most of us won’t be travelling very far in the near future because of that ongoing pandemic thing. But never fear, you can still travel through the…

It looks like most of us won’t be travelling very far in the near future because of that ongoing pandemic thing. But never fear, you can still travel through the magic of booze. From dry sherry to pungent cachaça, here are ten bottles to transport you to faraway lands. 

Nobody wants to go on holiday at the moment because it means that you might have to spend two weeks in quarantine stuck in a Travelodge at Gatwick airport. A bit like Alan Partridge, but less funny.

But it’s not all bad. There’s so much to see and do in Britain, from the mountains of Scotland to the sandy beaches of Kent. The summer holidays should be boom time for the country’s hospitality industry, which let’s face it, could do with the business. Next week, we’ll be looking at some of this country’s top boozy destinations.

And don’t forget that you can always take a holiday in a glass. Sip a Negroni in the sunshine, close your eyes and you could be in Rome. A glass of chilled sherry and some high quality ham, and you could be in a bar in Jerez. Who needs aeroplane travel when you’ve got next day delivery? 

Here are ten bottles to transport you to your favourite country

The Nightcap

Portugal: Taylor’s Chip Dry White Port

There’s no better place to watch the sun go down over Porto than on the terrace of the Yeatman Hotel, especially with a White Port & Tonic in your hands. This week on the blog, Lucy Britner looked at all the great things you can do with white Port, but you can’t beat an old classic. With its rich fruity and nutty taste, Taylor’s Chip Dry goes brilliantly with tonic, just make sure you use plenty of ice and add a sprig of rosemary and a slice of orange.

Tio Pepe Fino En Rama

Spain: Tio Pepe Sherry En Rama

Every year Gonzalez Byass releases a small quantity of Tio Pepe En Rama. This is dry Fino sherry pretty much as it tastes straight out of the barrel in Jerez, bottled with minimal filtering. It’s always a treat but this year’s release is absolute dynamite. It walks a bold line between big flavours of apples and hazelnuts, and the elegance that you’d expect from Tio Pepe. Just add some olives and cheese, and you’re in Andalucia. 

These delightful cocktails will transport you to your favourite holiday destination

Italy: Select Aperitivo

Aperol and Campari might be better known, but you can’t beat a drop of Select Aperitivo when you want some Italian magic. Select is the choice of Venetians, it’s been made in the city since the 1920s. The flavour profile is bitter and grown-up but a bit more delicate than Campari. We love drinking it in a Bicicletta – a mixture of ice, white wine and fizzy water. It’s the perfect lazing in the sun kind of drink.

Mijenta Tequila

Mexico: Mijenta Tequila Blanca

Well, we had to put a Tequila in there somewhere, we’re agave mad here at Master of Malt. We were particularly taken with this recently-launched brand. It’s made by Maestra Tequilera, Ana Maria Romero, and it’s a tasty drop laden with flavours of green olives, cinnamon spice and a delicious creamy texture. It does good, too, with some of the proceeds going to various charities in Mexico. Try it in a Blood Orange Margarita

Ricard Pastis

France: Ricard Pastis

Now this one is likely to be controversial because some people hate, really hate, the taste of aniseed. But for those who don’t, nothing is more evocative of the south of France than Ricard Pastis. Drink it slowly with ice and a jug of water on the side, and before you know it you’ll be contemplating buying a beret and one of those blue jackets that old French farmers wear, and whiling away the evening playing boule and discussing politics.  

Plantation XO

Barbados: Plantation XO rum

This has proved itself a favourite among Master of Malt customers over the years. It’s a well-aged Barbados rum from spirits master Alexandre Gabriel. It spends its first few years in ex-bourbon barrels in the Caribbean before being shipped to France for secondary maturation in Cognac casks. It’s then sweetened before bottling to make a mixing rum par excellence. We love it in a Mai Tai.

caipirinha Ableha Cachaca

Brazil: Abelha Cachaça

Brazil’s national drink, the Caipirinha, calls for cachaça, which is made from sugar cane juice rather than molasses to produce a pungent, grassy spirit that’s a bit like a rhum agricole. Much of the production is industrial but there are some smaller high quality producers like Abelha using organic sugar cane for something with a bit more character. 

Woodford Reserve Bourbon

America: Woodford Reserve bourbon

If you’re into cocktails, then you need at least one bottle of American whiskey in your drinks cabinet to make Manhattans, Old Fashioneds et al. Woodford Reserve is a great all-rounder. Unlike most bourbons it’s distilled in a pot rather than a column still. It also contains a high percentage of rye, 18%, with 72% corn and 10% malted barley, giving it a spicy, smooth and dry taste.

Inverroche Cocktail

South Africa: Inverroche Classic Gin

Many drinks claim to be a certain country in a bottle but Inveroche is literally South Africa in a bottle. It’s made by mother and son duo Lorna and Rohan Scott who use native South African plants called fynbos as botanicals to give you a gin that is infused with the taste of the Cape. This is the classic version, a dry gin, that makes a killer Martini, or a delicious Bramble.

Ming River

China: Ming River Sichuan Baijiu

If you really want to experience a different culture in a glass, there’s no better spirit than baijiu. It is one of the world’s most distinctive spirits, from the raw materials, sorghum, rice, millet and others, and production techniques involving fermentation over weeks and complex distillation methods. Some types can be a bit much for European taste buds, but Ming River produces a baijiu that is accessible and cocktail friendly.

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The Nightcap: 12 February

It’s a celeb-packed Nightcap: 12 February edition featuring Ryan Reynolds (twice), David Beckham, Diddy and even the European Brand Director of Casamigos. No, really. The European Brand Director. Talk about…

It’s a celeb-packed Nightcap: 12 February edition featuring Ryan Reynolds (twice), David Beckham, Diddy and even the European Brand Director of Casamigos. No, really. The European Brand Director. Talk about A-list.

It’s always a pleasure to welcome the weekend. And what a weekend this is. There’s so much on! Valentine’s Day, which is apparently still a thing, is on Sunday. While today is Chinese New Year (shout out to all you rad Metal Oxes). If you’re in the UK, however, this week has been all about Storm Darcy (cold, beautiful, makes things difficult for people around them. The name actually makes a lot of sense). The freezing temperatures have brought heavy snowfall and the usual British response: State disbelief there’s snow. Say how beautiful it looks. Moan that it didn’t happen in December. Enjoy Christmas card scenes. Moan about the disruption. Get a second wind and take photos. Moan it’s not going away. Finally, moan again when it is gone. It’s comforting how familiar this pattern is. As assured as every new edition of The Nightcap landing at 4pm on Friday. Let’s get on with it, shall we?

This week on the MoM blog we launched a new competition with 1826 cocktails, so if getting bar-quality serves sent straight to your door for free sounds like something you’re interested in, be sure to enter before the deadline on Sunday night. We kept the batched cocktail vibe going by welcoming the Myatt’s Fields range to our site before enjoying a Rusty Nail and then some of the best value new world drams you can get your hands on for bargain prices. There was time to also show off our swanky masterclass videos of the 2020 Diageo Special Releases, hear from Millie about the brands putting real flavour into vodka and do some learnin’ with Lucy on how to pair whisky with cheese.

On this week's Nightcap we remember Brett Ferencz

We’re raising a dram to a galaxy far, far away for this man tonight.

Brett Ferencz, aka Scotch Trooper, dies

We start this week’s Nightcap with some really sad news: Brett Ferencz, known by many whisky lovers as Scotch Trooper, passed away on 11 February following a battle with cancer. He brought joy to so many by bringing together two of his passions: whisky and Star Wars. The worlds collided in the most enchanting of ways, and his posts depicting bottles, cocktail kit, casks and more were always accompanied by a Star Wars character and a warm, often witty note. One of the most remarkable things about Brett – although none of MoM HQ’s editorial team met him offline – was how his love for whisky shone in a way that always welcomed new drinkers into the fold. Of course, you can’t measure a person by their follower count, but the community he built is significant in size and passion, both for Scotch and each other. It’s a sad day for many. His family posted on Instagram: “I didn’t lose my battle with cancer. At best it was a tie. I took the Death Star down with me.” We’ll be raising a dram to Brett and his family this weekend. 

This week's Nightcap stars Ryan Reynolds, twice!

Bet you never thought you’d see Wrexham AFC’s logo on a bottle of internationally renowned gin…

Ryan Reynolds launches Wrexham AFC Aviation Gin 

Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney have celebrated their takeover of Wrexham AFC by launching a limited-edition Aviation Gin. In a move that has slightly baffled but mostly delighted football fans, the Deadpool actor and It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia co-creator have taken 100% control of Wrexham AFC Limited from the Wrexham Supporters Trust. To mark the occasion, one of Reynolds’ other businesses, Aviation Gin, has launched 6,000 bottles with a new design for fans to order from the official Wrexham AFC webshop. “Rob and I are ecstatic to have won the approval of the Wrexham fans and the League and this bottle is for them,” Reynolds said. “It’s a small first step on what will hopefully be a legendary underdog story.” It raises the question: which A-lister will invest in the local football club of a post-industrial North Wales town next? Maybe Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson will buy Gresford Athletic and establish a new major football rivalry…

… and donates $1m with Diddy, Becks and Diageo 

Not content with making just one headline this week, Reynolds also appeared in a video with Sean “Diddy” Combs, and David Beckham, the co-owners of DeLeón Tequila, and Haig Club respectively, to show their support to the bartending community, which has been majorly affected by COVID-19. The comedic clip shows the trio making drinks featuring their products and ingredients from Tampa Bay, Florida, and Kansas City, Missouri (in honour of the Super Bowl) which inevitably turns out to be undrinkable and disgusting. So they instead announce that Diageo, the company which produces all three of these brands, will donate $1 million between Drinks Trust UK, the Bartender’s Benevolent Fund and Another Round, Another Rally

On this week's Nightcap we learn that the UK's distillery numbers continue to rise

Even a pandemic and lockdown couldn’t stop the likes of Maidstone Distillery from opening

Covid-19 fails to halt UK’s distillery boom

Remarkable and uplifting news came from HMRC figures, of all places, this week. The data showed that a record number of distilleries were registered in the UK in 2020. The stats, as reported by The Wine and Spirit Trade Association, are really something. The number of distilleries grew by over 100 in 12 months for the first time. There’s more than 300 in England (311) for the first time. And the total number registered in 2020 grew to over 560, up from over 440 in 2019. All this occurred despite the many restrictions and implications of the pandemic, including the shutdown of the hospitality sector. However, it should be noted that 2020 was still a phenomenally hard year for many of the UK’s distillers, the majority of whom are small, independently-owned businesses. That’s why the WSTA is urging the government to back distillers. “With such a difficult 2020 behind us and a daunting challenge to recover in 2021, our distillers need the support of the chancellor at the upcoming budget. A freeze at the last budget certainly helped distillers to invest and grow, but we need the chancellor to go further this time, with both a duty cut and an extension of the VAT reduction in hospitality venues, until at least March 2022 – and including alcoholic drinks,” says chief executive of the WSTA and Nightcap legend Miles Beale. “Distillers across the UK will play a vital role in 2021 and beyond as hospitality begins to open up again, and by showing his support for distillers at the Budget the Chancellor can also promote the hospitality industry as it rebounds from Covid-19 restrictions.”

This week in The Nightcap we welcome another new Islay distillery

An artist’s impression of how the distillery will look.

Elixir Distillers’ Islay distillery gets green light

We’re one step closer to seeing another new distillery on Islay. Elixir Distillers has revealed this week that the Argyll & Bute council planning committee has granted planning permission to them to go ahead with its project. The brand, which first announced its intentions in 2018, should break ground in 2021 and will reveal the name of the distillery soon. What we know for now is that it will be located in the southeast of Islay next to the town of Port Ellen, not far from Lagavulin, Laphroaig and Ardbeg. The distillery will produce 1 million litres of alcohol a year and will use floor maltings to process just over half of the barley needed. Which is neat. You don’t see much of that anymore. There will also be on-site housing for distillery workers, a visitor’s centre and a multipurpose educational facility, with further initiatives to support the local community and an apprentice programme for aspiring distillers to be pursued further down the line. “We’ve worked closely with the Argyll & Bute planning committee to create plans for a distillery that fits into the landscape and supports the community,” said Sukhinder Singh, who co-founded Elixir Distillers with his brother Rajbir (where else do we know these guys from?). “We want to create whiskies that inspire both the people of Islay and Islay whisky fans world-wide, enhancing the already glowing reputation of Islay whiskies, while also becoming an integral part of the community.” Once it and the previously closed Port Ellen (which is undergoing reconstruction) open, Islay will have 11 working distilleries. Sounds like things are getting pretty cramped. There’s plenty of room in Tonbridge if anyone wants to build a distillery next to us…

On this week's Nightcap we gaze lovingly at a 50-year-old Glenrothes

Somebody very lucky will be adding this to their collection soon.

Glenrothes auctions last of 50-Year-Old with Royal Warrant jeweller

It’s not quite as fancy as the Irish whiskey Faberge craziness we reported on last week. Nevertheless, a Glenrothes that’s going under the hammer at Bonhams on 19 February sounds pretty tasty. It’s the 50th and last bottle of the distillery 50-year-old single malt. Naturally, it’s not going to be housed in any old bottle. Oh no. Royal Warrant jeweller Hamilton & Inches has created a one-off decanter with a 22-carat gold label.  And it’s not just any gold as Victoria Houghton from Hamilton & Inches explained: “The decanter will feature the first gold from the Cononish gold mine with Hamilton & Inches being the only fine jeweller to have access to this Scottish treasure.” Exclusive. Kerr Arthur, director of The Glenrothes brand, added: “This collaboration with Hamilton & Inches unites the exceptional craft and commitment of a Master Whisky Maker and Goldsmith to ensure that our last decanter to be released, ‘The 50th of 50’ will be very special and offer whisky lovers from around the world the opportunity to acquire a unique combination: single malt Scotch whisky and single mine Scottish gold.” Best of all, proceeds generated from the sale will go to a charity chosen by the winning bidder. The auction begins at 13:00 GMT on 19 February. Last year a bottle of Glenrothes 50 Year Old sold for £30,000 through Bonhams in Hong Kong. Time to get saving. 

On this week's Nightcap we learn Chapel Down is focusing on wine and spirits from now on.

Chapel Down is focusing on wine and spirits from now on.

Chapel Down quits beer and cider 

Our Kent neighbours Chapel Down has become the country’s biggest and best-known wine producer while also making delicious gin, vodka, beer and cider too. Sadly, the brand has been forced into parting ways with its beer and cider arm Curious Drinks after a strategic review found it had suffered greatly during the pandemic and lockdown. Chapel Down made the difficult decision of putting Curious Drinks into administration, which has allowed the private equity firm Risk Capital Partners RCP to acquire it. RCP will establish a new company to run the business and take on its assets, including the new 2,900hl brewery in Ashford and its on-site restaurant. Chapel Down will receive no payment for the business but will be cleared of its net debt in Curious Drinks. The good news is that there will be no job losses as a result of the deal and that Chapel Down’s wine and spirits division achieved 38% volume growth last year despite the hospitality sector shutdowns. “We see a significant opportunity and a very bright future for Chapel Down,” Frazer Thompson, CEO of Chapel Down Group commented. “We certainly won’t be abandoning the hospitality business – we love it – and will support its return vigorously with our wines and spirits”.

On this week's Nightcap we report on a good vintage for Port

Port continues to thrive despite the difficulties the drinks trade faces at the moment

Port market looking strong as Taylor’s releases its third vintage in a row

We were fortunate to be given a little taste of the 2018 vintage of vintage Ports from the Fladgate stable. This is the unprecedented third year in a row that the company behind Taylor’s, Fonseca and Croft, has declared a vintage. CEO Adrian Bridge described it as somewhere in style between the fragrant 2016s and the sturdier 2017s. He added that the decision to declare was “all about the quality of the vintage” rather than about commercial considerations. Because of Covid, however, they delayed the release to this year, despite clamouring from the American market. The wines were on top form: Croft Quitna da Roeda was exotic and fragrant; Fonseca Guimaraens was spicy and packed with dark fruit; while the Taylor’s was weighty and structured, and promises great things for the future. Meanwhile, the Symington Group, Taylor’s great rivals, announced a strong performance in 2020 with sales up 37.3% in the last quarter compared with 2019. Johnny Symington commented: “With pubs, bars and restaurants closed for much of the year and people confined to their homes, 2020 was devastating for our on-trade customers. We were fortunate, however, that demand for port soared in the rest of the UK wine trade. We were extremely proud of our importers, Fells, who decided in September 2020 to return all of the furlough money provided to them by the UK government in response to better than expected trading.” Taylor’s too reported a strong performance. It seems when times are tough, people turn to Port.

On this week's Nightcap we learn about the difficult year Pernod Ricard has had

The results look pretty grim, but Coutures is proud of how the company handled the crisis

Challenging times as Pernod Ricard posts 2020 results

Well, we knew it was going to be tough, and Pernod Ricard’s second half of 2020 results that were announced this morning in a press conference showed how difficult it’s been. The shocker is Beefeater down 20% on the previous year. This is due to the disappearance of the on-trade in the all-important Spanish market. Other big brands struggling are Ballantine’s, down 12%, Chivas Regal, down 12% and Royal Salute, down 28%. Overall sales decreased by 3.9% with profits down by 2.4%. Much of this decline is because of the lack of travel retail sales. Despite the malt tariffs on US imports, Glenlivet was in growth by 2%. There are more grounds for optimism as the UK off-trade is up by 31% with online sales increasing by 138%. Overall UK sales up by 13% with Jameson, Malfy Gin, and Absolut looking particularly strong. Furthermore, CEO of Chivas Brothers Jean-Christophe Coutures said that there had been no incidence of Covid in distilleries. He commented: “I am proud of what we achieved. 100% of staff and salaries have been kept,” and the company has even been recruiting. It also seems that the earlier rift with the Scottish government has been healed. He said that the industry had suffered doubly from loss of export business and closure of visitor centres. The priority was now ending the tariffs to the US on Scotch whisky and he looked forward to potential trade deals with New Zealand, Australia and, most exciting of all, India. David Haworth, CEO of Pernod Ricard UK spoke for everyone when he hoped for a massive boom to the on-trade when lockdowns are lifted and said: “we’ve all been missing the pub.”

On this week's Nightcap we have European Brand Director of Casamigos Tequila Jack Brooksbank.

Congratulations on the baby Jack (right), whoops! We mean European Brand Director…

And finally… Casamigos insists media use correct title for Princess Eugenie’s husband

It can be hard work meeting royalty knowing when to bow or courtesy, whether to call them ‘your highness’, or ‘your majesty, or ‘big Phil.’ Now there’s an added complication as Casamigos, George Clooney’s Tequila brand, is insisting that Jack Brooksbank, husband of HRH (we got that bit right) Princess Eugenie, be referred to by his proper title. The PR missive reported in the Daily Mail stated: Due to the recent news surrounding the arrival of the Royal Baby from HRH Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank, we wanted to drop you a note to ask if you are to mention any further details about Jack Brooksbank that you use his official title: European Brand Director of Casamigos Tequila.” Now the happy news about the birth of the royal baby has been overshadowed in the media by this bit of clumsy corporate overreach. Not for us though, we want to offer our congratulations to HRH Princess Eugenie and EBDCT Jack Brooksbank!

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Top ten: Fortified wines under £30

With just over a week to go until Christmas, we thought it would be a good idea to pick our favourite fortified wines from the driest sherry to the richest…

With just over a week to go until Christmas, we thought it would be a good idea to pick our favourite fortified wines from the driest sherry to the richest vintage Port to drink across the festive season.

Nothing says Christmas like a glass of Port or sweet sherry. Well, maybe Santa dancing with Rudolph to ‘Rockin’ around the Christmas Tree’ eating a mince pie and drinking a glass of Port during a Nigella Christmas special. Now, that’s Christmassy! Fortified wines really come into their own at this time of year. That extra bit of alcohol helps keep out the cold and they really are the most versatile of wines: a dry sherry makes a great aperitif, tawny Port is a useful cocktail ingredient and there’s nothing better with a piece of Stilton than a vintage port. 

So, we decided to round-up our favourites for you to enjoy. Just to make things easier, we’ve ordered them by sweetness from the driest Manzanilla to the intensely sweet insanity of PX. None of them will break the bank, but if you fancy something a bit fancier for the big day, then we would heartily recommend the deliciously mature Churchill 1997.

Bodegas Hidalgo Pasada Pastrana Manzanilla 

Fino is the driest form of sherry and Manzanilla is a special kind of Fino made in Sanlucar-de-Barrameda where it is said that it picks up a salty tang from ageing by the sea. The special example is from a single vineyard and aged for much longer than normal versions making it rich but still refreshingly dry.

What does it taste like?

Bone dry but full with notes of apples, and salted almonds. Excellent on its own as an aperitif or with smoked salmon.

Lustau Los Arcos Amontillado

An Amontillado is a sherry where the flor, the protective layer of yeast, has died and the wine begins to age with oxygen contact in the solera. This is made by Lustau, one of the grand old names of Jerez, and Los Arcos offers a lot of deliciousness for the money. Oh, and a splash at the end will perk up our gravy no end.

What does it taste like?

Yeasty and nutty with a saline tang and a touch of orange peel. This is excellent with aged hard cheeses like Manchego and Comte, or jamon Iberico. 

Graham’s No. 5 White Port

This is an off-dry white Port made in a modern style. The grapes are cold-fermented and the resulting wine is released young so it’s all about fresh fruit rather than the savoury woody notes you normally find. In fact, it is so intense that it tastes rather like a botanically-flavoured wine.

What does it taste like?

All those floral, honey and citrus flavours make for a superb White Port & Tonic or just sip it chilled on its own with snacks. 

Taylor’s LBV 2015

A Late Bottled Vintage is made from a single year but aged for longer in wood than a classic vintage wine so it’s good to drink younger. This is made by one of the big names of Port which puts just as much effort into this wine as its more expensive releases.

What does it taste like?

Plums, liquorice and dark chocolate. This is delicious now with chocolate pudding or blue cheese but it will improve with age.

Quinta do Noval 10 Year Old Tawny

A tawny port is a blend of years and aged long in wood with oxygen contact so that it loses its colour and begins to take on deep nutty flavours. This is a particularly good example made by one of the legendary estates of the Douro valley. The age statement is an average so it contains much older as well as younger wines. 

What does it taste like?

Cooked strawberries, oranges and walnuts, sweet but also somehow refreshing. Try this chilled with Portuguese custard tarts or salty hard cheeses. It’s irresistible.

Fonseca Guimaraens 2004 Vintage Port

Vintage ports are given two years in wood and then need to spend years in bottle to soften and for all the flavours to meld. Guimaraens is the second wine of Fonseca so it matures a little quicker than ‘proper’ vintage wines. This is just entering the prime drinking window, mixing the exuberance of youth with deeper aged flavours. 

What does it taste like?

Sweet dark cherries and floral fennel flavours with ripe leathery tannins. This will need decanting to remove sediment and then it’s the perfect accompaniment to the king of cheeses, Stilton.

Henriques & Henriques 5 Year Old Full Rich Madeira (50cl)

Don’t forget about Madeira, m’ dear, this Christmas. This island off the coast of Africa makes wines like no other. They are subjected to a controlled heating which gives them a caramelised taste and means that they last pretty much forever once opened, though you will struggle not to finish this at one sitting. 

What does it taste like?

Roasted hazelnut with treacle and dried fig sweetness, balanced by rancio and an espresso coffee bitter note. Try instead of Port with the cheese board.

Harveys Signature 12 Year Old Cream Sherry (50cl) 

Despite their incredibly unfashionable image, cream sherries, blends of Oloroso and PX, can be delicious. This is made by the people behind the famous Bristol Cream but it’s aged much longer so it’s richer, mellower and less sweet. The vicar won’t know what’s hit him.

What does it taste like?

Prunes, apricots, peanut brittle, a subtle whiff of savoury oak and toasted clove. Try lightly chilled with a slice of seed cake.

Gonzalez Byass Matusalem Oloroso 30 Year Old (37.5cl) 

Many wines claim to be Christmas in a glass but Matusalem actually is. It is one of the world’s great wines which has won more awards than you can shake a stick at. It’s a blend of the finest Oloroso sherries sweetened with PX and then aged for 30 years in Jerez. The price is a joke for a wine of this quality. 

What does it taste like?

What doesn’t it taste like, more like? There’s old navy rum, apricots, salted caramel and walnuts. Makes a great alternative to whisky as an after dinner sipper. 

Gutierrez Colosia Pedro Ximénez 37.5cl 

And finally… the sweetest wine on earth weighing it at around 300g of sugar per litre. Whisky fans will know those two magical letters, PX, from what seasoned casks can do to whisky but it’s a revelation to go to the source and try these rare intense wines made from raisined supersweet grapes.

What does it taste like?

Molasses, raisins and orange peel with a texture like treacle. Sip slowly with Christmas pudding, pour on ice cream or use it instead of  sugar syrup to take your Old Fashioned to the next level. 

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Challenging times for Port

What with the hottest July since records began, Covid and wild boars rampaging through the vineyards, it’s been a difficult vintage in the Douro valley. Nevertheless, Adrian Bridge and David…

What with the hottest July since records began, Covid and wild boars rampaging through the vineyards, it’s been a difficult vintage in the Douro valley. Nevertheless, Adrian Bridge and David Guimaraens from Taylor’s are confident that the Port industry has the tools to weather the storm.

We’re all still getting to grips with Zoom meetings so we can sympathise with one attendee at a Taylor’s event recently who forgot to mute her mic before saying: “This is just the boring webinar I’ve ever been on in my life”. It certainly got a laugh from everyone and CEO of Taylor’s, Adrian Bridge, had the grace to realise it was the perfect moment to hand over to his winemaker David Guimaraens for a vintage report.

Yet, Bridge, an ex-army man and one of Port’s most influential characters, was being far from boring, explaining how Taylor’s was toughing out Covid. It’s a big business, taking in the Port brands Croft, Fonseca, Krohn and Taylor’s itself, plus hotels and a recently-opened World of Wine museum (WOW) in Oporto. According to Bridge: “Port sales are up in most markets with many people choosing to consume Port at home people.” But, people are drinking wines that they find in their local supermarket rather than the more expensive things from restaurants. Earlier this year, the company sent its first ever shipment to South Korea. The home market, however, highly dependent on tourism, is 50% down. 

Adrian Bridge rocking the pleated chinos look

In Britain, sales of Taylor’s White Port and Croft Pink, both great cocktail ingredients, are booming. The UK market makes up over 30% of the business so Bridge is making sure plans are in place for a complicated Brexit. The company is building up stocks over here, so don’t worry, there’s no need to panic buy Port. 

The industry continued throughout Covid but with social distancing restriction in place. Taylor’s opened a supermarket for staff so they could buy provisions without having to mingle or queue. The company used their downtown Porto hotel, the Infanta Sagres, to put up medical workers and supplied hospitals with hand sanitiser made from aguardiente. 

Covid also meant that the traditional foot-treading that many Port companies still use for their finest wines (the foot is a great medium for extracting flavour and colour without crushing pips and releasing bitter notes) wasn’t able to take place this year. In April, Taylor’s put in robotic treaders, effective but not quite so much fun.

It was a challenging vintage in other ways, according to winemaker Guimaraens. During the festival of São João on 22-23 June when the whole town usually turns out to hit each other with rubber hammers (not this year, sadly), temperatures hit 40°C. July was the hottest since modern records began with 13 nights where it did not drop below 20°C. On average, it was 3.5°C hotter than normal. There was some welcome relief with rain in August but then there was another heatwave and, according to Guimaraens: “Suddenly all the vineyards needed to be picked.” Normally, the grapes ripen in stages depending on altitude and situation but not this year. White grapes harvest began on 24 August with reds on 3rd September. Guimaraens said it was “a race against time” to harvest everything before grapes turned into raisins.  

Wine maker David Guimaraens rocking the Steve Irwin look

Some grape varieties struggled, shrivelling on the vine whereas others like Tinta Cão coped well. Paul Symington from great rivals, the Symington Family Estates which owns brands such a Graham and Cockburn, commented: “The good news is that our indigenous varieties are well adapted to hot and dry Douro summers and demonstrate a variety of natural responses to challenging conditions. However, consistently high temperatures (above 35°C), are – without a doubt – a problem for the region.”

Yields were down 30% but with massive sugar levels, the highest since proper records were kept. Guimaraens said that he’d never known a year like it though apparently the 1940s were similar. But he reached back even further in time, they have long memories in the Douro, comparing 2020 with the legendary 1820 vintage when the grapes were so ripe that they couldn’t ferment properly leaving most wines sweet. This is thought to be when Port changed from being a dry to a sweet wine.

Guimaraens commented: “Port as a fortified wine copes well with very high sugar levels, it’s not a drama as it is for table wines.” Taylor’s is one of the few Port groups not to move into table wines which struggle with too much sugar. He went on to say that, “I’m happy with the Ports we have produced.” The wines have lots of colour, something highly prized in the Douro, and unbalanced wines can be blended with wines from lighter vintages into tawny ports. In perfect years like 2011 or 2016, they can make vintage  ports but, Guimaraens said: “In variable years it is tawny ports, blending and ageing, turning imperfect Ports at harvest into perfect tawny Ports. Two different styles, both equally great. In the trade we have all the tools to adapt to a region like the Douro valley.” So, a vintage declaration, only done where the wines are exceptional all over the region is very unlikely, but the company may offer vintage releases from specific quintas (farms) with cooler vineyards. 

Taylor’s Quinta de Vargellas

The final problem in a year of difficulties was the wild boar population which through lack of hunting is increasing. Bridge said that “they have become quite a pest and do a lot of damage.” Traditionally, boar would have been turned into sausages etc. but Taylor’s put a stop to the practise on its properties. Bridge, however, muttered that it might be time to revise that decision. 

Here are three great wines from the Taylor’s stable to try:

Taylor’s Chip Dry White Port

It’s great to see the White Port and Tonic, the drink of Oporto take off in Britain. It makes a lighter alternative to the G&T but a nutty lemony off-dry White Port like this is also lovely drunk chilled on its own. 

Taylor’s Ten Year Old Tawny 

This is where much of the 2020 vintage will go, blended, and long-aged in wood. Ten years is an average so there’s younger and much older wines in here, giving very ripe strawberry fruit and long walnutty finish. 

Fonseca Guimaraens 2004

We might also see some wines like this from 2020: not a proper vintage Port but a single harvest wine made in lesser years. At the moment, it’s still bursting with youthful fruit like  black cherries and plums with distinct spicy fennel note and leathery finish. 

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Cocktail of the Week: The White Port and Tonic

White Port and Tonic in hand, we take a stroll around the beautiful city of Porto which despite the cancellation of this year’s Festival of São João is welcoming visitors…

White Port and Tonic in hand, we take a stroll around the beautiful city of Porto which despite the cancellation of this year’s Festival of São João is welcoming visitors once more with the opening of the much-anticipated  all-singing, all-dancing World of Wine museum. 

If you’re in Porto and someone hits you over the head with a plastic hammer, do not be alarmed. It’s just the Festival of São João and the person hitting you means you no harm. Ostensibly a religious festival celebrating John the Baptist, it probably predates Christianity and offers an excuse for the whole city to go bananas on midsummer’s eve, 23 June. There’s music, fireworks, concerts, sardines and squeaky plastic hammers. Don’t ask why, just join in. Apparently, Tripeiros (tripe eaters, as people from Porto are known) used to hit each other with leeks which makes complete sense but at some point this changed to plastic hammers. And to keep you refreshed while bashing your neighbour, there’s a choice of two drinks: Super Bock beer and White Port and Tonic, Porto’s answer to the G&T.

Sadly this year because of Covid, São João has been cancelled. It’s hard to social distance while hitting someone on the head with a plastic hammer (unless you have a really big one.) But you can still get in the spirit by having a White Port and Tonic at home. We’re using Taylor’s Chip Dry white Port. This label dates back to 1934, the name comes from the old English expression ‘dry as a chip.’ The name is apt because there’s less sweetness than most white Ports; the alcohol in the form of aguardiente is added later so more sugar is fermented into alcohol. It’s not, however, as dry as fino sherry. The principal grape variety is the honeyed Malvasia Fina combined with other white Portuguese grapes, then aged in oak for between four and five years which gives it a nutty roundness without losing the fresh fruit. It’s a great tapas sort of wine sipped chilled and neat with cheese, or especially melon and ham. Or, of course, mixed with tonic as they do in Porto.

Porto looking lovely as always. WOW is under the red roofs in the foreground

São João might have been cancelled this year but the city is opening up again. According to Adrian Bridge, CEO of Taylor’s, Portugal has had a relatively good Covid. “Portugal has come out as a very safe destination,” he told me. Restaurants and hotels are once again doing business, the border with Spain opens up on the 22 June and Michael O’ Leary from Ryanair is itching to get flights running to Porto airport. Bridge has a particular interest in some degree of normality returning to the city as his €100 million World of Wine (WOW) is due to open at the end of July consisting of six museums, devoted to fashion, cork, Portuguese history, chocolate and, of course, wine all housed in historic Port warehouses on the Vila Nova de Gaia side of the river

There will also be five restaurants where I imagine thirsty visitors will get through a lot of Chip Dry and Tonics. Just as with a Spanish G&T, it’s fun to play around with garnishes. Mint and lime are good though I find a piece of rosemary brings out woody spicy notes in the wine and a piece of orange peel accentuates the fruit. The orange bitters is a nice addition but not essential. And don’t forget the plastic hammer. In fact, an idea for the Taylor’s marketing department, free plastic hammer with every bottle. I’ll suggest to Adrian Bridge now.

Right here’s how to make a White Port and Tonic:

35ml Taylor’s Chip Dry
65ml Tonic water
1 dash Fee Brothers Orange Bitters

Fill a Highball or goldfish bowl glass with ice, add the white Port, stir, and top up with tonic, Add one dash of orange bitters, stir again gently and garnish with a spring of rosemary and a piece of orange or lemon peel (or mint and lime if you prefer).

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The Nightcap: 17 January

In the Nightcap this week we’ve got reinvented bar tools, Dry January discounts and news of victors in the World’s Toughest Row.  We’re officially back into the swing of things….

In the Nightcap this week we’ve got reinvented bar tools, Dry January discounts and news of victors in the World’s Toughest Row. 

We’re officially back into the swing of things. Not simply in sense of The Nightcap, but just in general. Those first couple of weeks following that gift-giving occasion and that world-kept-spinning celebration can be somewhat rocky, but we are firmly back in the saddle, and the saddle is back on the horse, and the horse is back on track, and the track is… OK, actually, yeah, that sentence is over, but not because our ducks aren’t in a row, but really it just went on a bit long. Never-the-less, The Nightcap is ready!

On the blog this week announced the return of the Burns Night poetry competition, while also revealing the winner of our Starward competition. Elsewhere, Henry explored the effect of the iStill on distillation and enjoyed a distinctive beer for our New Arrival of the Week. Jess then talked to Reyka Vodka’s Fabiano Latham before Annie looked at how Australia’s wine industry is reacting to the recent bushfires and the new wave of no-and-low-alcohol drinks. Adam then learned the story behind the revival of James E. Pepper and rounded-up some of the finest new arrivals at MoM Towers, before enjoying a Cocktail of the Week that was both trendy and tropical.

The Nightcap

A very moody looking Monkey Shoulder ‘Trigger Jigger’

Monkey Shoulder gets jiggy with it with the ‘Trigger Jigger’

Monkey Shoulder has made a big claim this week by stating it has reinvented one of the most popular bar tools on the planet – the jigger. Coined ‘The Trigger Jigger’, the Scotch whisky brand has said it guarantees 100% accuracy per pour and will save every bartender an average 4 hours and 42 minutes per year. For those unfamiliar with the tool, the jigger is used to measure and pour spirits and you’ll be sure to find them in any good bar across the globe. However, Monkey Shoulder has commented that inferior jigger designs are inaccurate by as much as 20% because of the likelihood for spirits to spill whilst being measured. A statement that will have many a bartender nodding knowingly. Lab technicians at Monkey Shoulder have put this new tool to the test and the results show that while standard jiggers produce one pour per 0.86 seconds, the Trigger Jigger has recorded speeds of one pour per 0.789 seconds. The design is the brainchild of Monkey Shoulder global brand ambassador Joe Petch, who commented: “Some jiggers are just not good for business and can result in slower serving speeds. So inspired by a nickel- and silver-plated jigger from the late 1880s and through countless hours of research with bartenders around the world, I set about righting some wrongs.” He went onto explain that the key was to streamline the design to ensure maximum liquid velocity: “By engineering a piston valve mechanism, I’ve ensured an accurate cut start and stop flow rate. Pour in the liquid and apply some pressure on a trigger using a good old-fashioned finger. The spirit streams out at an optimum rate into the drinking vessel.” The launch of the Trigger Jigger follows previous Monkey Shoulder inventions such as the extendable ‘iSpoon’, cocktail mixer the Konga Shaker and The Claw ice tong. Bars such as The Artesian, Swift Bar, The Beaufort Bar and Callooh Callay have already started using The Trigger Jigger, and others who want to get in on the act can get their hands on the limited stock by getting in touch with either John Wayte (@BarMonkey_ ) or Jody Buchan (@JodySpiritual).

The Nightcap

Duvel Batch No. 4

Duvel launches Batch No. 4 aged in bourbon barrels 

Beer and whisk(e)y share many things, from the base materials, the fermentation process, and even that time those whiskies were put into an IPA cask. Well, now awesome Belgian beer Duvel Moortgat has released Batch No.4 which has been treated to a nine-month maturation in oak barrels which previously held delicious bourbon. And not just any bourbon either, but liquid from Heaven Hill, Woodford Reserve, Four Roses, George Dickel and Jack Daniels. The limited-edition brew was matured in more than three hundred barrels shipped over to Belgium, with 80,000 bottles released at a burly 11.5% ABV. “The Duvel brewers have not been sitting still in recent months, but our speciality beer has been doing just that,” says Hedwig Neven, brewmaster at Duvel Moortgat. “Lovers of beer, Duvel, and whiskey can once again enjoy Duvel Barrel Aged now that the barrels are opened after their long rest and the bottles have finally been filled!” With toasted flavours of toffee, vanilla and obvious bourbon influence, Batch No. 4 even stole a gold medal in the Brussels Beer Challenge. Said to be a great pairing with raw or smoked fish, sushi, grilled or smoked meat, cheeses, exotic fruit and chocolate, it’s hard to think of an occasion when it wouldn’t fit in!

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2020 looks like another big year for the family firm

Hayman Distillers launches spirit merchant arm, Symposium 

2019 was a big year for Hayman Distillers with the launch of its fiendishly clever Small Gin and Merser & Co. Double Barrel Rum, and 2020 looks every bit as exciting as the London distiller has announced a new venture: Symposium, an independent spirits merchant. Named, no doubt, after the top 90s punk band, Symposium. This arm will involve a variety of spirit brands in categories including gin, vodka, Scotch whisky, rum, Tequila and sambuca. The portfolio will be divided into three parts. At the top is the Heritage range compromising of in-house products, Hayman’s Gin, Small Gin and Merser & Co rum; then the Challenger range with products like Bush Rum, Firean Scotch Whisky, Red Griffin Vodka and Half Crown Gin; and finally the House range. There is also talk of bringing in some agency brands in the future but nothing has been confirmed yet. James Hayman explained: ‘Our mission at Symposium is to create and to sell the finest range of spirits available.” He went on to say: “Symposium will operate at every level of the market with our Challenger brands, in particular, offering an exciting alternative for those who are no longer content to settle for ‘big-name’ brands from large producers and who seek a quality, independent option with a partner they can rely on for the long-term.” It’s all go at Hayman’s.

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We’ll certainly raise a glass to this good news!

The great pub and bar bounce-back is on!

After fifteen years of decline, we have some good news if you like pubs and bars (that’ll be all of us, then…). According to Office for National Statistics paper Economies of ale: changes in the UK pubs and bars sector, 2001 to 2019, the number of such drinking establishments in the UK is on the up once more! (Thumbs up to whoever came up with the name.) Sure, it’s just a 0.4% increase, but at the end of 2019, there were 85 more across the country than in 2018. Taking in larger sites (11+ employees) and chains, the total increase stood at 815. Cheers to that! Some of the trends behind the headline stats: we’re increasingly becoming a nation of foodies, with pubs and bars employing more people on the eating than drinking side of things as we all spend more on eating out than drinking out. But despite that, turnover is at the highest level since the financial crisis. Long live the pub!

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The beautiful original Bar Douro near London Bridge

Bar Douro to open branch in the City

Do you work in the City of London? Do you love Portuguese wine and food? Well, we have good news because Bar Douro is opening a branch in Finsbury Avenue on 28 January. The original opened in 2016 by Max Graham from the family that owns Churchill Port. It quickly picked up rave reviews from critics including Marina O’ Loughlin in the Guardian who wrote: “I have to restrain myself from licking the plate”. The new restaurant will offer food and wines from all over the country. Spirit lovers won’t be short-changed with a selection of specially imported Portuguese spirits including gins and Maven Aguardente aged brandy. And don’t forget, the best White Port & Tonics this side of Oporto. Graham commented: “We have only just scratched the surface of Portugal’s rich culinary traditions and with our second, larger space we are excited to further explore the wealth of Portuguese cuisine”. There will be a soft launch from 28 January until 11 February. Email [email protected] for a reservation. You won’t be disappointed. 

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The team of four Brits made it into safe harbour after winning the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge 2019

Brits crowned champions in Talisker Atlantic Challenge

Remember when Talisker sent teams of intrepid sorts off across the Atlantic Ocean on the World’s Toughest RowWell… we have a victor! Or a team of four victors, to be precise. British team Fortitude IV was the first to make it from La Gomera in the Canary Island to Antigua in the Caribbean in an impressive time of 32 days 12 hours and 35 minutes! They braved 12-metre waves, a capsizing incident, broken oars, and “some of the scariest moments of [our] life”. Not for the faint-hearted, and especially impressive when you realise some teams expect to take eight more weeks to cross. Yikes. We raise our tasting glasses to Ollie Palmer (who also happens to work for Talisker parent company, Diageo), Tom Foley, Hugh Gillum and Max Breet, Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge 2019 champions! “Being on the ocean in quite an extreme context, strips back all the noise and makes you realise what is really important to you,” said Gillum. “You have a lot of time to think out there – with no distractions – and that inspires you in different ways. It was an amazing thing to have done – we set off thinking it was a once in a lifetime thing and we can certainly maintain that position. The sum of all the parts is incredible – from seeing the shooting stars, to the arrival here tonight, and the support from all of our family and friends. There are tough times that we perhaps would wish away slightly but standing here now [in Antigua] we just think that the sum of all those parts is incredible.” Time for a well-earned dram, we think. Talisker, of course… 

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The Suntory Group will donate $500,000 AUD in support of those impacted by the bushfires

Suntory pledges AUD$500k to Australia bushfire relief

The devastating bushfires in Australia have broken hearts around the world – but individuals and companies are stepping forward to offer support in all kinds of ways. The latest to join the relief effort is Suntory Group, which makes the likes of Jim Beam bourbon, Hibiki Japanese whisky and Courvoisier Cognac. It’s committed to donating AU$500,000 (about £264,000) to the Australian Red Cross, the New South Wales Rural Fire Service and the New South Wales Wildlife Information Rescue and Education Service. “We have all been deeply saddened by the spread of these immense fires, which have destroyed lives, towns, homes and wildlife,” said Andrea Parker, managing director at Beam Suntory Oceania. “We are committed to helping rebuild these communities along with the rest of the Suntory Group.” The pledge follows another AU$500k donation from Diageo-owned Bundaberg rum to the Australian Red Cross earlier this week. Want to know more about the bushfires and how you can help? Check out the blog right here for more.

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The new partnership is for those who manage a team behind the bar and want to boost wellbeing

Small Batch Learning and Healthy Hospo team up on wellbeing initiative

Bartenders, (or indeed, anyone who works in hospitality) listen up! Smart-learning company Small Batch Learning has partnered with Healthy Hospo, a non-profit wellness education provider, to offer bars, restaurants and hotels an online tool to promote mental and physical health. Level 1 content is totally free to access and will be inserted into existing Small Batch materials, while Level 2 plans are paid-for, with proceeds reinvested in Healthy Hospo. “A healthy mind, body and workplace should be a non-negotiable, and we’re proud to partner with Healthy Hospo to help address these topics,” says Duncan Campbell, COO of Small Batch Learning. “As we continue our mission to make hospitality training accessible and relevant, this partnership will shine a light on serious issues facing the industry that are often pushed aside or laughed off. We’re thrilled to support Healthy Hospo scale up and help further the impact of its crucial training.” Tim Etherington-Judge, Healthy Hospo founder, added: “From chronic rates of sleep deprivation and substance abuse, to sky-high issues with mental health, we are not a healthy industry – and we often suffer in silence. It’s time to change the conversation and stop putting our health, and that of our colleagues, at the bottom of the to-do list.” If you manage a team in hospitality, check out Small Batch Learning!

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The choice of headline sponsor at SXSW is an example of the rise of hard seltzer

White Claw lines up South by Southwest partnership

If you needed any more indicators that hard seltzers are going to be A Very Big Thing, here’s another for you. White Claw, the US’s best-seltzer brand, has just taken over ‘super sponsorship’ of South by Southwest (SXSW). The actual interesting bit? It’s binned off a beer brand to nab the top spot. All eyes will be on the music, film and tech event, which takes place in Austin, Texas, from 13-22 March, and to have a hard seltzer over a beer marks a shift indeed. “We’re thrilled to bring White Claw to life at SXSW,” said Phil Rosse, president, White Claw Seltzer Works. “This brand has been built through the great passion and celebration by our fans, connecting the brand to culture and sharing it through their social channels. We are excited to support SXSW, an event that has always been ground zero for innovation in culture and technology.” Roland Swenson, SXSW CEO and co-founder, added: “SXSW is excited to work with White Claw. As one of the fastest-growing brands, their sponsorship of SXSW reflects the independent and innovative spirit that SXSW is known for.” Bring on the seltzers!

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Alain Ducasse opposes Dry January, and we salute him

And finally… Alain Ducasse fights Dry January with discount fine wine

Are you getting a bit bored of Dry January? The pious friends who won’t go to the pub, your favourite drinks website brimming with articles about non-alcoholic drinks instead of whisky and the dreaded word ‘mocktail.’ Well, Alain Ducasse feels your pain. He told the Guardian this week: “I’ve noted that trend but I don’t want to see or hear of it, I am opposed to it.” And so, he has put his money where his mouth is and slashed the prices of some of his best bottles of Bordeaux and Burgundy in an effort to get diners drinking again. So get down to your local Ducasse restaurant, like Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester in London, order something fancy, and sip away those January blues.

 

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The Nightcap: 10 January

The Nightcap has returned for 2020, and with it a fresh batch of boozy news, including an alcohol-free bar, a £1m crowd-funding campaign, and the UK’s ‘highest’ whisky distillery. After…

The Nightcap has returned for 2020, and with it a fresh batch of boozy news, including an alcohol-free bar, a £1m crowd-funding campaign, and the UK’s ‘highest’ whisky distillery.

After a few weeks in a regenerative cocoon made out of Stilton and Yule log, The Nightcap has emerged with wings and those weird bug antlers that are actually eyes, ready to chow down on all the news from the booze world. That was a long-winded way to say that The Nightcap is back after a bit of a Christmas break, but the enthusiasm remains the same. We’re excited to see what drinks news this new year (and new decade) will behold – and it all kicks off… Now!

The blog was still full of fabulous features even throughout the festive period. We announced the winner of our Where’s #WhiskySanta 2019 competition the same week our supernatural, omniscient, festive, heavily-bearded sadly went on his holibobs. We then looked back at 2019: the delightful drinks we enjoyed (bartenders also had their say), the most read posts on our blog and an honest review of our trend predictions, before cracking out the crystal ball and to do it all again for 2020. Not always that seriously.

Our Dry January coverage kicked off at the Small Beer Brew Co., before Fiona Beckett and Claire Warner dropped by for a chat. Annie then explored the world of no-ABV cocktails, embraced #veganuary and the use of plant milk in cocktails and even looked to the future of AI in booze. Elsewhere, Adam enjoyed some warming rums, cast a spotlight on Micil and then Luxardo Distillery, while Jess brushed up on her Armagnac knowledge, and Henry reported on the developments at Port Ellen Distillery. Even among all that content, there was still time for a couple of new arrivals, including Bob Dylan’s own whiskey and a single malt from Yorkshire, as well as a fruity little number for Cocktail of the Week. Oh, and Dram Club returned for 2020.

Phew, talk about blog-mageddon! Now, for the first time in 2020, let’s enjoy the Nightcap!

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The Cat and Fiddle Inn opened in 1813 and is 1,689 ft (515m) above sea level

Funding secured for UK’s ‘highest’ whisky distillery

There’s another new distillery on the way, folks! This one’s got a pretty cool story, too. Take one historic pub, The Cat & Fiddle, situated 1,689ft above sea level in the Peak District. It’s beautiful but didn’t do so well as a pub (the whole driving a long way to it thing wasn’t really working…). It opened in 1813, but ‘reluctantly’ closed its doors in 2015. Business was far from booming. But step in the Forest Distillery team! Eager to expand production, and to find a space for casks to mature, it teamed up with the pub’s Robinson family to kick off a crowdfunder to refurbish and transform the pub into a whisky distillery. An initial crowdfunding exercise raised £55,000, and now the team says it’s well on the way to reaching its eventual £250,000 goal. The site will be renamed The Cat & Fiddle & Weasel, after the adorable motif on the Forest Gin bottle. As well as the pub and distillery, there will also be an onsite shop with takeaway options for picnics and a visitor centre. And the best bit? The Forest Distillery team reckon the new site will be ready to open come August! We’re VERY excited. Wondering the elevation of the current highest whisky distillery in the UK? That title goes to Dalwhinnie, perched at an altitude of 1,164ft. The only way is up!

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The AF Bar features 15 taps of pure draft zero-ABV goodness

BrewDog launches ‘world’s first’ alcohol-free beer bar

Sound the ‘Dry January’ sirens, folks, we’ve got a big one here. BrewDog has launched a bar dedicated to alcohol-free beer. A whole bar. 15 taps of pure draft zero-ABV goodness. Launched this week in Old Street, London, it’s the first time the independent Scottish craft brewer has featured a line-up solely devoted to drinks without alcohol at a bar where visitors will be able to enjoy activities such as Hip Hop Karaoke, Dabbers Bingo, Famous First Words, and more. But, perhaps most excitingly for the thrifty among us, BrewDog will also be running the ‘Drink All You Can Jan’ programme across all its bars, which will offer drinkers unlimited refills of its alcohol-free beers for the entire month. BrewDog previously dipped its toes into low-ABV waters with the release of Nanny State in August 2009, which is now the UK’s best-selling alcohol-free craft beer. It followed that up with an alcohol-free version of the flagship Punk IPA, Punk AF, and two new additions, Wake Up Call, a coffee stout, and Hazy AF, an alcohol-free take on its existing New England IPA, Hazy Jane. BrewDog referenced a UK Beer Market Report from Mintel in 2018 that said that 24% of beer drinkers are choosing more low- or no-alcohol options, and that 28% of beer drinkers are cutting back on consumption because of health concerns, so the brand clearly feels this is a timely initiative. “Drinkers opting for low- or no-alcohol are in danger of compromising on quality, taste and experience. And that’s just the beer – forget about places in which to enjoy it,” said James Watt, who is apparently the ‘captain’ of BrewDog (lame). “We are going to change that. We exist to be a point of difference, and our first BrewDog AF Bar is just that. It is a beacon for anyone in London after an alcohol-free alternative. Alcohol-free does not need to be synonymous with taste-free. ‘Drink all you can Jan’ is our anti-Dry January. Whether you have cut alcohol out or are cutting back, we want to show that alcohol-free doesn’t mean compromising on quality or taste.”

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The new-look Powers range

Powers Irish Whiskey unveils new look

Powers Irish Whiskey has revealed a new bottle design for its range of premium Irish whiskeys, which will debut on core expression Powers Gold Label in the USA from March 2020. The makeover was undertaken to reach a new generation of drinkers to the classic Irish whiskey brand, which is made by Irish Distillers at Midleton Distillery, and follows the launch of Powers Old Fashioned, the brand’s first-ever pre-mixed cocktail and the Powers Quarter initiative, a collaboration between six Dublin bars to tell the story of Powers and its history. The updated design for the bottle shape is inspired by the distinctive pot still silhouette from the brand’s historical home at John’s Lane Distillery and the label is styled on the Powers ‘diamond P’, which was one of the first-ever trademarks registered in Ireland. Each whiskey will also have a different colour label, with Powers Gold Label in red as an homage to the original red Powers diamond marque, Powers Three Swallow in blue as a nod to the bird’s feathers and Powers John’s Lane Release in metallic ink, to reflect the industrial nature of the original distillery established in 1791 on John’s Lane, Dublin. “Powers sense of identity has always focused on the diamond P; that became very clear to me as I worked my way through the historical archive. The diamond P was everywhere; on the casks, stationery, on bills and receipts, emblazoned on everything that left the distillery, and notably on the wonderful Powers mirrors that still hang in Ireland’s pubs today,” says Carol Quinn, archivist at Irish Distillers. “Workers at the old John’s Lane distillery even took to wearing a diamond P pin on their lapel, such was their pride to be part of the Powers family.  For me it’s wonderful to see the diamond P front and centre on this new label, symbolising all the history of this great whiskey since 1791.” Conor McQuaid, chairman and CEO of Irish Distillers, added: “We are excited to introduce this new look to the world and inspire a new generation with the unique history and personality of Powers.”

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The future is bright in the Cotswolds

Cotswolds Distillery raises £1m in crowdfunding campaign

The award-winning Cotswolds Distillery has been feeling the love this week at it delightedly reported that its recent fundraising had already raised £1 million. In early December 2019, the producer of delicious English spirits (we’re big fans of its whisky) launched the campaign through its Angel’s Share 2 fundraising platform in order to “maximise whisky production and continue its brand-building programme”. It’s little surprise that the initiative attracted such interest from investors, as back in 2018 the distillery successfully raised £3m of equity which was subsequently invested in building the brand and senior management team. “We pride ourselves on creating award-winning English whiskies that are enjoyed across the world, and, are always looking for new investors to join us on this journey,” says Dan Szor, founder and CEO of the Cotswolds Distillery. “It is a very exciting time for them to be involved with the company and we’re hoping that this new investment will carry us through the next chapter in the distillery’s evolution and help support us in creating even more delicious whisky!” If you fancy investing yourself, you can do so here before 13 January 2020.  

It’s Alissa!

The Balvenie kicks off Stories tour

Single malt Scotch whisky brand The Balvenie is poised to take its Stories tour of bar takeovers on the road, with stops including London’s Lyaness (Sunday 12 January) and The Artesian (13 January), as well as Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Café (15 January). And there’s an antipodean twist: six of Australia’s leading bartenders are coming along for the ride. Alicia Clarke of Jangling Jack’s in Sydney; Jessica Arnott of Foxtrot Unicorn in Perth; Nicola Dean of Maybe Mae in Adelaide; Kayla Reid of Nick and Norah’s in Melbourne; Chelsea Catherine of The Black Pearl in Melbourne; and, Alissa Gabriel of Mjolner in Sydney will all make drinks using The Sweet Toast of American Oak 12 Year Old. Serves have been based on stories shared with the group of bartenders by Kelsey McKechnie, The Balvenie’s apprentice malt master, and creator of the expression. “I’m thrilled to be welcoming such an incredible cohort of bartenders onto UK shores to share stories and these special drinks with UK consumers,” said Alwynne Gwilt, UK ambassador. “Our new whisky series, The Balvenie Stories, is all about connecting through storytelling and I’ve no doubt this latest event series at these leading bars will give us some great tales to tell as the year goes on!” It’s not just about the booze – 10% of drinks sales from the tour will be donated to charities fighting the devastating bushfires in Australia. So what are you waiting for? If you’re in London or Glasgow, head on down!

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The Impact Fund is a commendable cause

Symington Port launches environmental initiative 

2020 has seen Port producer Symington Family Estates off to a flying start, celebrating some rather impressive milestones with the 200th anniversary of Graham’s Port and the 350th anniversary of Warre’s Port. To celebrate, the Symington family didn’t just throw a massive party and sip on the delicious fruits of their own labour (who wouldn’t?), but created a force for good in the world! The family has created a new Impact Fund with an initial pledge of a whopping €1 million euros. The purpose of the fund? It’s threefold: community wellbeing and health, environmental protection and conservation, and cultural heritage and education, all in the Douro and Greater Porto regions as well as the Alto Alentejo. They’re currently working with Volunteer Emergency Services of the Douro region (they’ve donated 13 ambulances so far) and Bagos d’Ouro, a charity that provides education and opportunities for underprivileged children in the Douro. “We have always sought to run our family business in a way that benefits people – be they our employees or the wider community. We are also committed to protecting the beautiful natural environments where we produce our wines,” said Rupert Symington, CEO of Symington Family Estates. “We have consistently reinvested in the Douro region and have a long history of supporting social initiatives in the areas where we work. The Symington Impact Fund is a way of formalising this commitment and ensuring we support projects which are most aligned with our values and where we can have the maximum positive impact.” What a way to celebrate! 

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George Duboeuf, the man who turned Beaujolais into an international sensation, died this week at 86.

The King of Beaujolais dies at 86

This week the wine world lost one of its greats: George Duboeuf, known as the King of Beaujolais. Duboeuf was a marketing genius who took the annual release of the young wine, generally enjoyed only in local bars, and made it a global news story in the 1970s and ‘80s. On the day the wine was released, always the third Thursday of November, there were races to be the first to bring that year’s vintage back where it was sold with the slogan: ‘Le Beaujolais nouveau est arrivé!’. At a time when in Britain wine was still seen as something elitist, Duboeuf made it unpretentious and fun. He was born in 1933 into a vine-growing family in Burgundy and set up his own merchant business in 1964. It came to dominate the region through its own-label wines, with the pretty flowery labels, and by producing wines for retailers. Dominique Piron, head of Inter Beaujolais, commented: “Through his vision and his work, he gave life, colour, aromas and joy to the wines of Beaujolais. He was a catalyst, taking with him other merchants and other winemakers which made Beaujolais the first vineyard in France to make the headlines in newspapers and televisions, in France and around the world.” He went on to say: “The family business is in good hands with his son, Franck Duboeuf, at the helm and the adventure will continue.” Au revoir, Monsieur Duboeuf, and thank you for all the wine.

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Congratulations to WASE!

English start-up chosen for final of $1m Chivas Venture Fund

A London-based company WASE, which makes wastewater treatment systems, has won the England & Wales heat of this year’s Chivas Ventures. This annual competition run by the Scotch whisky company gives away $1 million to help with worthwhile businesses around the world. So far, Chivas has given away $5 million and, according to its figures, benefited over two million lives. WASE will now compete with 25 other companies in the global final in June. Before that, all 26 competitors will go to London for an intensive three-day training programme with experts and industry professionals. Founder Thomas Fudge commented: “I’m super excited and honoured to be representing England and Wales in The Chivas Venture global finals. Can’t wait to show the rest of the world what WASE has to offer and fight for my spot in the finals. Watch this space!” According to the press release: “WASE develops decentralised wastewater treatment systems that embrace a circular economy to recover energy, nutrients and water in wastewater  providing sanitation and energy in under-served communities.” Sounds very worthwhile. Good luck to WASE for the grand final in June!

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The Calming Coral cocktail

The Coral Room and MEDA kick-off 2020 with CBD-infused zero-alcohol cocktails

The Coral Room is getting its zeitgeist on in 2020 by kicking off the new year with a range of cocktails made by head mixologist Stefan Pohlod that are CBD-infused and non-alcoholic. The core ingredient in each serve is a drink from lifestyle brand MEDA’s range, GLOW, CALM, RECOVER and Espresso Medatini SKUs, which were created by blending of 5-15mg of liposomal CBD (cannabidiol) with synergistic ingredients. The offerings include the Glow Spritz which combines lime juice, cardamom bitter and elderflower syrup, the Calming Coral which features lemon juice, peppermint cordial and strawberry purée, the Recover & Revive which mixes Seedlip grove with grapefruit and lime shrub and the Wake Up Call which sees caramel cream, chilli bitters and coffee tonic paired together. The cocktails are priced at £10 each and the brand claims that they are “the perfect way to detox after the prolonged festive celebrations whilst restoring the balance of both body and mind through the inimitable benefits that CBD has to offer”. Apparently. Essentially they should appeal to anybody partaking in an alcohol-free start to the new year and those who are buzzed about CBD cocktails.

 

And finally…  Tottenham Hotspur and Beavertown launch collaboration beer

Tottenham Hotspur’s ‘Official Craft Beer Supplier’ (I didn’t even know that was a thing. Is this a thing now?) Beavertown has launched a new beer in collaboration with the club just in time for the first home game of 2020. Fans of the club (ok, my dad) have described the development as “much needed”, given the team’s performance so far this season. The beer is called One Of Our Own, a name chosen by Tom Rainsford, a Spurs fan who recently joined Beavertown as marketing director, presumably inspired by the North London side’s chant for star player Harry Kane. A Tottenham fan (again, my dad) has described the timing as “typical”. Jokes aside, One Of Our Own is a significant launch as the classic British IPA was crafted with purely European hops (Callista, Mandarina Bavaria and Barbe Rouge) in the microbrewery operated by Tottenham-based Beavertown inside the Club’s new home – a world-first for any football stadium. The beer is said to have notes of stone fruit and malt-sweetness, matching the flavours thirsty supporters have favoured since the stadium opened last April. “Beavertown’s Neck Oil is already a half-time favourite, and we wanted to add to this by offering something new at the start of 2020,” says Rainsford. “Supporting a club is in your bones, and this beer feels the same. It’s familiar, yet distinct. A satisfying pint that makes you feel at home. We see Spurs as the beating heart of the Tottenham community, a central hub for football fans and residents alike. We both share values of bringing people together, creating revolutionary experiences and even world firsts like our microbrewery inside the stadium.”  One Of Our Own will be sold exclusively at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, and will be available at tomorrow’s huge Premier League clash against Liverpool. Will it bring them luck?!

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