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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: pubs

The best pubs and restaurants for a leisurely lunch

It’s been a tough two years for the hospitality industry so we wanted to show our appreciation by highlighting some of the places that we love here at Master of…

It’s been a tough two years for the hospitality industry so we wanted to show our appreciation by highlighting some of the places that we love here at Master of Malt. So we all chipped in with our suggestions of the best pubs and restaurants for a leisurely lunch. There’s some great personal recommendations here.

If you think you’ve had a tough time of it in 2020/2021, spare a thought for people trying to run a pub or restaurant. First there was a lockdown, then a baffling tier system in which you were allowed to visit a pub but only if you had a Scotch egg, and didn’t laugh. But not in Leicester. Then there were further lockdowns but it all looked like it was over with ‘freedom day’ in July (not in Scotland or Wales). Restaurants in London were celebrating full reservation books and looking forward to a lucrative Christmas when news came from South Africa of a new variant…

And that’s before we get into staff shortages caused by the pandemic, pingdemic, and Brexit. Under such circumstances, it’s not surprising that so many places, especially the kind of independent restaurants and pubs we love, have gone to the wall. Many are holding on by their fingernails. 

So, along with Dryish January, this year we want to do our best to encourage people to eat out and use your locals, because if you don’t, they may well be gone. However, we do appreciate that some aren’t ready to do this because of concerns about Covid. That’s ok. But for everyone else, we’ve rounded up some of our favourite restaurants for a leisurely lunch. Yes, a lot of these places are near Tonbridge because that’s the location of MoM Towers. These are the kind of places where you can linger all afternoon, ordering more food and drink, and watch the sun slowly set. Treasure them.

The best restaurants for a leisurely lunch

Dungeness Snack Shack

Dungeness Snack Shack, Dungeness – Alex Badescu, distillery assistant 

There’s a thing in my family for sparse landscapes, peppered with huge industrial constructions – a sort of Mad Max aesthetic, probably something to do with childhoods spent on the beaches of Romania – and really good, fresh fish. We’ve been known to travel to great lengths seeking out both. In this sense, Dungeness Snack Shack ticks these very specific boxes at the same time. Setting up shop in the shadow of a nuclear power station gives you a surprising number of advantages. Planning permissions are few and far between to protect the shingle ecosystem that makes up Dungeness and its rare flora and fauna inhabitants. It also keeps neighbourly competition low, and Dungeness Snack Shack could easily offer out something mediocre to those who have made the trip. But how lucky that this blue shipping container by the sea chooses to rely on that winning formula for dishing up fish: seasonal, simple, fresh and flavourful. The chalkboards tell you what’s on offer that day and gently remind you that all the fish are from their own boats so ‘when it’s gone, it’s gone’. I’m yet to arrive early enough to catch their famous lobster rolls and scallops before they sell out. So I usually go for the fisherman’s roll: white fish of the day (griddled or battered) and served with zingy salad and generous amounts of homemade tartare sauce. I’m a sucker for a crispy potato, which are on the menu here rather than chips, so do yourself a favour and order extra because these are as crunchy as they get. Prices vary but expect to be very well fed for between £6 – £12, and afterwards you can roll yourself down to the beach for a bit of seal spotting.  

The Ragged Trousers

The Ragged Trousers, Tunbridge Wells – Emma Symons, content executive 

The Ragged Trousers and I have history. It opened around the same time that I reached legal drinking age, and it’s probably endured the test of time better than me. It helps that the food is all made in-house by the same French chef who has been there since the start. I have to admit a personal connection here because whilst I was working behind the bar at the Ragged’s sister pub, the Sussex Arms, that certain Frenchman fell for my Kronenberg pouring talents and we are now engaged. Forget Emily In Paris, it’s Emma on the Pantiles. But even if I weren’t getting hitched to the man behind the stove, I’d still come for his croque monsieur (ooh err!), moule or, best of all, his exquisite cassoulet. To drink there are plenty of guest beers, the staff get to pick the tunes and always get the mood right. The walls are packed with original artwork, much of it produced by talented staff past and present (artsy bar worker types – you know the sort, one of my favourite categories of human). What more can I say? Vive le pantalon déchiré!

Brutto, Clerkenwell, London

Brutto, London – Henry Jeffreys, features editor

A good restaurant is about so much more than just food as Russell Norman knows. He’s the chap behind Polpo which, when it first opened in 2009 in Soho, felt like the most exciting place in the world. Sure, the food was good, but it was the atmosphere, the staff, and the little touches that brought people back again and again. Norman and Polpo, now a chain, went their separate ways, but now he’s back with an ode to the food of Florence called Trattoria Brutto near Farringdon station. The name means ugly in Italian, because it’s the sort of food that doesn’t look so pretty, but tastes great. What I love about this place is you can have a blowout with Florentine steaks served very rare and Barolo. But you can also have pasta dishes, slow-cooked meats like beef shin, and best of all ‘cuddles’ – little deep fried cheese and ham doughnuts – all washed down with a bottle of Barbera, for a surprisingly reasonable price. Also a Negroni costs £5. Yes, really, £5 Negronis in Central London. More than the food, however, you get to sit in a restaurant that feels like the best place in town. It’s like being part of a culinary cabaret with the cheerful, well-drilled waiting staff moving in time around you in a dance, and at the centre of it all, the maestro of ceremonies, Norman himself. Brutto has only been open since November but already feels like an institution. 

The Wiremill, East Grinstead

The Wiremill, East Grinstead – Gabriella Morrissey, design assistant  

The Wiremill has to be one of the most beautiful pubs in the country. It’s housed in a converted 15th century mill near Ashdown Forest and looks out onto a lake. It’s particularly stunning on a summer’s evening watching the sun set over the water [see above]. But, thanks to the Covid measures, the terrace is now covered and heated so you can use it all year round. The food never disappoints. On my last visit, I had a delicious buttermilk chicken burger. Portion sizes are generous, so bring a large appetite, and the service is always prompt and friendly. Being in East Grinstead there’s some good spots to go for a drink afterwards or why not go for a walk on the Ashdown Forest and enjoy some more country views.

Prestonville Arms, Brighton

The Prestonville Arms, Brighton – Jess Williamson, content manager

The Prestonville Arms is pretty much everything you could want from a pub – an open fire, well-placed mismatched reclining armchairs in front of said fire, and Sunday roasts worth travelling for. That said, the food is very tasty all week with bangers and mash, pies, and burgers on the menu. You know the deal, all the usual stuff you expect from a good pub but done unusually well, plus an ever-changing list of specials. You’ll find it just up the road from the main station away from the Lanes, so it’s somewhat off the beaten track, and for when the weather finally perks up there’s a cosy garden out the back. It’s got a touch of that Brighton kookiness to it, with the whole of the back wall covered in shiny vinyl records, colourful furnishings, and board games strewn around the place. I can’t speak highly enough of the staff (when we last went the chef even made us a special gravy to go with our roast – though we can’t promise anything!), and if you stay long enough past lunch, you might even catch some live music. Oh, and the best part? It’s dog friendly!

Caravan, Kings Cross, London – Jason Hockman, general manager

Caravan is so ubiquitous to Londoners that it’s easy to forget what a revelation the first restaurant was when it opened in 2010 with its fresh flavours and laidback Australian attitude. There are now a few dotted around central London but my favourite is the Granary Square outpost behind King’s Cross Station. It’s one of those places where you can just keep ordering, you don’t need to have a formal meal. I love the margarita sourdough pizza, jalapeno cornbread, chickpea dahl and lamb meatballs, and they even serve breakfast right throughout the day. There’s lots of space with indoor and outdoor eating areas, and a very relaxed atmosphere which is particularly handy if you’re eating with children. In the summer, they can play in the fountains outside while you have another cup of Caravan’s excellent coffee. 

Bullfinch, Leith

The Bullfinch, Leith – Gordon Baird, head of compliance

Tucked away on the corner of the entrance to the Port of Leith (not the pub that Trainspotting was reputedly created in, the actual port with ships) lives The Bullfinch. Following a refurb, it opened in 2021. Thankfully the bar has retained much of its original character. It specialises in local breweries such as Vault City, Campervan, Barneys, and Pilot with a short list of cocktails shaken by the rumbling of heavy trucks down the cobblestone streets. I like to imagine the wines are loaded straight from exotic ships coming into the port. The menu changes the whole time but on my last visit the kitchen was offering small plates like mac and cheese balls with a bacon mayonnaise, tempura calamari, and garlic and rosemary tear & share (sharing optional), or poke bowls if you want something a bit more substantial. You can order by app so you never have to face a human and explain that the seventh small dish you’re about to order, is indeed, also for you. The outside seating area is fully covered with the heat lamps essential for 80% of the Scottish al fresco dining calendar. There’s even a vent from the kitchen which, if you position yourself well, will allow you to smell what’s cooking, as you suffer through your January promise that you will not class chips as a vegetable, and ketchup as a vegetable smoothie anymore. 

Dyls York

Dyls, York – Alex Blackall, sales support

York is a picture book city in miniature. Within those Roman walls you’ll find cobbled streets, castle towers and the long shadow of York Minster. It can be jarring, however, to see all those modern chains like Costa, Greggs or Sports Direct. If you’re looking for a place with a bit more character, I’d recommend ambling Ouseward from the centre, and you’ll discover Dyls Café and Bar hidden within the old Motor House on Skeldergate Bridge. It’s a family-run business with a menu built around locally-sourced food, and a great range of craft spirits, cocktails, coffee, cakes and of course, local beers. There’s a heated terrace with views over the river Ouse and three quirky indoor rooms. The uppermost of which would feel like home for Rapunzel, the perfect spot to hide away for a catch up with friends. Just pity the poor waiting staff who had to clamber the spiral staircase all afternoon with our sharing boards, ales, and increasingly adventurous cocktail orders. Dyls has recently had to overcome flooding-related, as well as lockdown-enforced, closures. But it’s once again open and I can’t wait to return when I next visit God’s Own County.

Even Flow, Tunbridge Wells

Even Flow, Tunbridge Wells – Cal McGuinness, trade relations supervisor

I have to start with a confession: my first true love is nothing booze-related. It’s coffee (please don’t tell anyone at MoM Towers!). Before joining Master of Malt I was a barista and I’m still an espresso aficionado. Each weekend you’ll still find me, fully caffeinated, hopping from one fancy coffee shop to another. So when Even Flow opened its doors back in early 2020, specialising in coffee, lunchtime goodness, and vinyl records, I was excited. A place to pick up a piccolo and a copy of The Cure’s Greatest Hits? I’m in. Perched just outside the town centre, on St Johns Road, it’s been incredible to see this place go from strength to strength despite all the challenges of the last two years. Needless to say their coffee game is top tier, the whole team really knows their beans. However, their food options are just as impressive with an ever-changing menu so there’ll always be something new to try. I’d particularly recommend their homemade sausage rolls and a mozzarella pesto panini. Then we need to talk about cake and here we reach my second confession, I’ve been known to fill a takeaway box with a variety for my ‘friends back home’ only to munch my way through the lot while listening to the new Cyndi Lauper record I picked up. If you’re looking for a place for a leisurely lunch with a fantastic variety of lunch options and a great atmosphere definitely drop by! 

Teuchters Landing, Leith

Teuchters Landing, Leith – James Evans, campaigns marketing executive

Located in the once shady but now-fashionable shore area of Leith, Teuchters is a staple of the community known for its mouth-watering dram selection, classic hearty pub grub, Scottish cask beer and…cigars? Yes, you heard that right and there’s no better way to enjoy a dram and cigar combo than sitting out in the beer garden. But this isn’t just any beer garden because it’s located on the actual water of the dock for the full maritime effect. Yes, it’s been pretty freezing out there most times I’ve visited. Nevertheless, I have enjoyed many a good night in this dockside pub, playing whisky roulette with their 100+ malt selection, and indulging in arguably the most Scottish dish ever, a haggis stovie before enjoying a scenic jaunt home through the shore of Leith. It’s one of those places that’s as popular with locals as with tourists. And no wonder, if top tier dram selections, fresh pub grub and local beers sound like your bag then absolutely give this place a visit. It’s one you won’t regret, nor forget.

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The Nightcap: 16 April

It’s Friday and that means The Nightcap cometh. What has caught our eye from the world of booze this week? Read on to find out what’s in The Nightcap: 16 April…

It’s Friday and that means The Nightcap cometh. What has caught our eye from the world of booze this week? Read on to find out what’s in The Nightcap: 16 April edition.

You may have seen the news already, but this week is a big one here at Master of Malt as we’re saying a tearful goodbye to our wonderful editor, Kristiane Sherry who is moving on to pastures new. This humble blog wouldn’t be what it is today without her contribution and we hope you’ll join us in wishing her all the best in her new role. Thanks for everything, Kristy.

Elsewhere, we launched two different competitions, each one offering you a chance to get your hands on some delicious booze. So, if you’re a fan of Darkness and/or River Rock whisky, be sure to check them out. Adam then cast our MoM-branded spotlight on Black Cow Vodka, Henry spoke to Lady Armagnac herself, Amanda Garnham, Kristy heard from Jake Burger about his new book and how the bar trade will endure and Scott Davidson from Glencairn Crystal spoke to Lucy Britner about 40 years of making exceptional glassware. We also enjoyed new Kilchoman whisky, the El Presidente cocktail and ten delightful drinks from independent distillers

Now, on to the Nightcap!

The Nightcap: 16 April Edition

5/10, it’s the Mitre in Holland Park,

These are London most mediocre pubs

We’re used to listicles outlining people’s favourite venues; we’ve even seen round-ups of worst places, but The Fence Magazine (an extremely funny newish magazine that we’d highly recommend subscribing to) has come up with an entirely new kind of clickbait when this week it published its top 25 most mediocre pubs in London. The thinking behind it was that the capital’s best pubs would be rammed, what with lockdown restrictions easing in England, so here are some places that nobody in their right mind would queue to get into. The list included such legends of mediocrity as the Mitre in Holland Park, “an archetypal non-place”, the Zetland Arms in South Kensington, “the kind of place you end up going to regularly for a few months, never develop feelings about and, occasionally, go again”, and the World’s End in Finsbury Park, “an adequate place to drink a few pints.” It might be because we’ve been deprived of pubs for so long, but the mention of these ordinary boozers made us feel moderately nostalgic. 

The Nightcap: 16 April Edition

This is one for the gin lover in your life

Beefeater celebrates 200 years with snazzy new book

The Beefeater story begins in 1820 when James Burrough began distilling in Chelsea. Since then, the brand that became Beefeater gin has stayed true to its London roots being based since 1958 in Kennington. To celebrate 200 years, Joel Harrison and Neil Ridley, the Ant and Dec of drinks writing, have produced a lavish new book. Murielle Dessenis, global brand director for Beefeater, explained “This book is not a time capsule but a creative visualisation of Beefeater’s history, and its future, told by those who have helped shape it.” We were fortunate enough to see an advance copy and it’s very snazzy indeed as it’s laid out as ‘triptych’ so the book opens up three ways. But it’s much more than a pretty face, the book contains a history of the company, insights from master distiller Desmond Payne MBE and evocative old adverts and photos from Beefeater’s long history. The lads commented: “It is London, this city of contrasts, that has provided the backdrop for Beefeater’s greatest moments and achievements. This was a fantastic project to work on as we were able to take a look at what gin means to the people behind Beefeater and to the location in which it is crafted.” It’s something that no gin lover should be without so you’ll be pleased to know it’s available from the Beefeater shop for £50.

The Nightcap: 16 April Edition

Fining dining comes to Chatham’s historic dockyard

Copper River Distillery in Chatham opens fine dining restaurant

You don’t often hear the words ‘fine dining’ and ‘Chatham’ in the same sentence but all that is about to change as the Copper River distillery has just announced that it will be opening a fancy new restaurant. Called the Pumproom, after the beautiful Italianate building (above) housing the distillery in Chatham’s historic dockyard, it’s first service will take place today, Friday 16 April, with diners distanced on a deck overlooking the historic River Medway. Copper Rivet Distillery’s commercial director, Stephen Russell, explained a little about what to expect: “Outstanding food creations by head chef Will Freeman are complemented by expertly curated wines from Kent and from around the world, as the Russell family has had expertise as wine buyers for over 40 years.” And maitre d’ Dom Schefferlie added: “Our team at the Pumproom will be using seasonal ingredients to maximum effect and, in keeping with the ethos of the distillery, will be taking a keen interest in provenance – using local ingredients wherever possible, be they locally grown-vegetables, locally-reared meat or locally-landed fish such as Rye Bay cod. Both the restaurant and the distillery count food miles and the minimising of waste as key deliverables.” There’s both tapas and more formal dining. We have to say that the menu sounds delicious with the thought of a starter of bone marrow, chicken crackling, smoked eel, cockles, radish & toast really getting our juices going. Sounds worth a visit.

The Nightcap: 16 April Edition

Great Islay whisky and delicious Scottish beer have come together in a joyous union once more

Innis & Gunn launch Islay whisky cask beer with Laphroaig Distillery

Any fan of Scottish brewer Innis & Gunn will know it loves to do a bit of innovation and its new limited-edition beer demonstrates just that. Islay Whisky Cask is a 7.4% amber ale aged in ex-Laphroaig 10 Year Old casks. During its 12-week maturation in barrel, the beer is said to have extracted some hallmark Laphroaig notes of peat smoke and brine, as well as cask influences of vanilla and floral aromas. Combine that with the rich, warming malty flavours from the malted barley and it sounds like something that’s right up our alley. Like when Ardbeg made peaty beer. Dougal Gunn Sharp, founder of Innis & Gunn, says the collaboration is a perfect example of the “quality that can be achieved when you work innovatively with your craft and unite with other complimentary talents”. He also comments that the beer “truly evokes the island that inspires both our brew and the iconic Laphroaig” and that the result is evident “even before you take your first sip, as you open the bottle, you’re welcomed with the distinctly peaty, complex aroma that defines Laphroaig”. Just 3,400 bottles of Islay Whisky Cask have been available to buy in the UK from today via the Innis & Gunn online shop, so you might want to hurry if you want to get your hands on one.

The Nightcap: 16 April Edition

The research project which could inform future barrel experiments.

Buffalo Trace Distillery begins oak research project

This week we learned that two Kentucky giants, Buffalo Trace Distillery and the University of Kentucky, are teaming up to learn more about white oak. This is handy, seeing it’s the wood bourbon is matured in. The two are joining forces on a 15-year research project called the White Oak Initiative. The idea is to ensure the long-term sustainability of America’s white oak by studying the genetic responses of trees from various regions to different white oak forest establishment techniques in a rural field application. The study kicked off with the planting of 1,066 trees on the farm at Buffalo Trace Distillery this week featuring seedlings from 40 different parent trees from Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. Dennis Walsh, homeplace manager for Buffalo Trace Distillery, explains further, “We’re excited to partner with University of Kentucky on this project. It’s important that we look towards the future and how we can contribute to the sustainability of the white oak industry. The project will also assess the cost per board foot required to maintain a sustainable supply of new white oak long into the future”. Buffalo Trace is considering adding tours in the future of its farm, which would include education about its participation in the White Oak Initiative. Long term, Buffalo Trace may be able to use some of the oak trees it has planted for future barrel experiments.  

The Nightcap: 16 April Edition

Anyone else hungry?

Jose Cuervo helps you celebrate Cinco de Mayo at home

With the Mexican holiday Cinco de Mayo coming up (5 May in case your Spanish is a bit rusty), you can expect to see a host of Tequila and mezcal brands marking the event in the next few weeks. For Jose Cuervo, 2021’s festivities will include teaming up with award-winning chef James Cochran to launch the Around the Cluck X Jose Cuervo Cinco de Mayo at-home-kit. Featuring Cochran’s signature Around the Cluck fried chicken, his favourite Sauce Shop condiments, and exclusive Margarita pairings from Jose Cuervo, the restaurant kit looks like ideal way to celebrate at home with loved ones. The Twisted Piña Margarita combines Jose Cuervo Especial Silver Tequila, with pressed pineapple juice, fresh lime juice, coriander, jalapeño and agave nectar with garnishes of cracked black pepper and a fresh lime wheel. Oli Pergl, Tequila educator at Jose Cuervo, says: “Cinco De Mayo is an important date in the Mexican calendar so what better way to celebrate than a partnership between award-winning chef, James Cochran, his restaurant 12.51 and Jose Cuervo Tequila. Delicious food complemented with perfectly paired cocktails will transport you, figuratively not literally, to Tequila Valley… enjoy!” The kits are available to order from this week until the 3rd May at https://www.1251.co.uk/

The Nightcap: 16 April Edition

Is it madness or brilliance?

And finally…. Crisp-flavoured beer??! WTF?!

Crisps are wonderful things. We’re particularly partial to salt & vinegar flavour Chipsticks here at MoM. And beer is brilliant too. These are things we can all agree on. But what about if you put them together? No, not beer-flavoured crisps, that would be too straightforward. We’re talking crisp-flavoured beer. It’s taken an all-Yorkshire partnership of Seabrook’s crisps and Northern Monk brewery to make this unholy creation come true. The idea was first aired on 1 April so was widely thought to be a joke, but they did the old switcheroo and made their joke a reality. There’s two versions: a 5.4% ABV Cheese & Onion lager which is said to have “notes of cheese and onion”, and a 5% Prawn Cocktail Gose “with the tang of prawn cocktail.” Northern Monk founder Russell Bisset commented: “After one of the most challenging periods in recent history, we decided to take this quest into uncharted territory, creating an experience that would make people laugh – or grimace actually – as lockdown lifts.” We’re not going to knock them until we’ve tried them but, let’s face it, they sound horrible. We’ll stick with a pint of Landlord and a packet of salt & vinegar Golden Wonder, thank you very much.

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Announcing the ‘Save the Pubs’ Alliance

Master of Malt and Beer Hawk to place £1 for every order into a fund to help support those in the hospitality industry suffering from the COVID-19 crisis, and invite…

Master of Malt and Beer Hawk to place £1 for every order into a fund to help support those in the hospitality industry suffering from the COVID-19 crisis, and invite all others to join the scheme. 

Over the past few days, we’ve been thinking about how we can best help our brothers and sisters in the hospitality industry who have been severely impacted by the events of the last week.

Today, we’re launching the Hospitality Support Alliance to help those left in dire financial need because of the impact of COVID-19.

Over the next month Master of Malt and our friends at Beer Hawk will be putting £1 for every order placed through any of our sites into a fund to help people who have lost their jobs because of this crisis. We’re partnering with hospitalityaction.org.uk to administer the fund, and make grants to impacted individuals.

Together, we’re going to try and support as many people as we can through this challenging time, and we’re going to do it in the way which people need most by providing cold hard cash so they can buy the things they need and pay rent.

Our goal here is to help people from the hospitality industry meet their basic needs until national governments are able to step in and provide more long term support.

We invite all other online retailers to join our alliance, and help support our friends in the hospitality industry when they most need it. Please drop us a line at [email protected] and be part of the fight back against COVID-19.

I would like to thank the good people at Budweiser Brewing Group for their support in making this happen so quickly.

Together, we will get through this.

Cheers,

Justin
CEO

PS: You can also donate directly to Hospitality Action by going to hospitalityaction.org.uk/donate/ (although you can’t currently buy any whisky from them).

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The Nightcap: 14 February

It’s 14 February, so you know what that means – it’s time for The Nightcap! Yep, that’s it. Nothing else. People all across the country got out of their beds…

It’s 14 February, so you know what that means – it’s time for The Nightcap! Yep, that’s it. Nothing else.

People all across the country got out of their beds this morning, took a look at their calendars on the wall and said “Oh look, it’s 14 February! That means there’s another edition of The Nightcap today!” As you can clearly tell, this is meant to be a joke. It’s obviously a joke because no one has a physical calendar on the wall anymore. We have phones to remember the date and what’s going on for us. For example, I’m looking at the calendar on my phone for the first time today right now and it’s telling me that it’s a Nightcap day, as well as being Valent… Oh, I have to go to the shop. For no reason. I’ll go after The Nightcap.

Over on the MoM blog this week Ian Buxton championed English fruit brandies with Capreolus Distillery while Annie was particularly inspired this week by a perfume-inspired liqueur and a Bordeaux-inspired cocktail. Adam then tasted a 51-year-old Dalmore single malt (no, really), talked Tequila with VIVIR and made a case for you to explore the world of London dry gin before Henry shone a spotlight on a Cuban rum and Nordic-Aussie gin.

Now, on to the Nightcap!

 

The Nightcap

The two single cask whiskies were distilled the very same year the distillery closed!

Rosebank Distillery returns with two rare single cask expressions

Prepare yourselves, whisky lovers. In huge news, this week the much-loved Rosebank Distillery announced the release of two limited edition, vintage single cask whiskies, distilled the very same year the distillery closed, 1993. Though both cask strength bottlings spent their days in a refill bourbon hogshead, that’s where the similarities end. For Cask Number 433, at 53.3% ABV with a release of 280 bottles, you can expect cranachan and lemon, with gentle floral notes, marzipan, ripe fruit and oak. Contrastingly, Cask Number 625 boasts warm banana loaf, shortbread, chamomile tea, dried herb and citrus, tropical fruit, lime and gentle spice finish, at 50.4% ABV and an outturn of 259 bottles. The most exciting part is, you have a chance to get your hands on the liquid! With only 100 bottles of each expression available, the folks over at Rosebank want to keep things fair, so you can apply for a bottle direct from the website via a ballot process. The ballot launched today (14 February) for Rosebank subscribers, while general release will have to wait until 18 February, and will remain open for two weeks. Whichever expression you go for, a bottle will set you back £2,500. Robbie Hughes, Rosebank distillery manager said: “We are incredibly excited and proud to be releasing our first official bottlings of Rosebank since the distillery’s closure in 1993 – a pivotal milestone for us in bringing back to life this quintessential Lowland malt.” If you manage to get your hands on a bottle (as if that wasn’t lucky enough), you’ll be invited to collect it at a private event in London on 18th March, with the chance to meet Robbie Hughes himself, and even sample the single casks. What a way to get back in the game from the iconic distillery ahead of its long-awaited reopening!

The Nightcap

All hail the Grouse!

Famous Grouse now no. 1 whisky in Britain

Britain has a new champion whisky. The invincible-looking Jack Daniel’s has been unseated from its no. 1 spot and knocked back to no. 2 (though it would be fitting if it was the seventh best-selling brand, think about it). The new winner is a home-grown little blend you may have heard of called. . . the Famous Grouse! The Edrington Group’s flagship blend had a great Christmas in the off-trade with sales over £71m, up 2.6% on the previous year. Whereas its rival from Tennessee dropped by a shocking 9.3%, perhaps a reflection of the so-called Trump tariffs from the US/ EU trade war. Overall the mighty Grouse is bucking the trend for the blended Scotch category which was down 4.1% by value after Christmas (figures are from Nielsen ScanTrack based on off-trade sales for 12 weeks up to 4 January 2020). Mark Riley, managing director at Edrington-Beam Suntory UK commented: “The Famous Grouse for years has been the UK’s favourite whisky and driving force behind the blended Scotch category, so we are delighted to have reclaimed our number one spot in the UK’s largest spirits category. It’s fantastic to see a Scotch back in the top spot.” The Grouse is back!

The Nightcap

The ongoing EU/US trade war isn’t doing wonders for the American whiskey business

Tariffs cause US spirits exports to drop 27% to EU 

That’s right, we bring you more bad tariff news, folks. According to figures just released by Distilled Spirits Council of the US (Discus), the ongoing EU/US trade war is hitting the American whiskey business hard. In 2019, global exports of American whiskey fell by 16%, to $996 million. What’s more, American whiskey exports to the EU plummeted a whopping 27%, falling to $514m. This crash also comes after years of strong growth in the market. Discus president and CEO Chris Swonger noted that, “while it was another strong year for US spirits sales, the tariffs imposed by the European Union are causing a significant slump in American whiskey exports.” It’s easy to see this when we look at export declines for American whiskey in specific EU countries, with the UK falling 32.7%, France 19.9%, Germany 18.2% and Spain 43.8%. Swonger continued, “if this trade dispute is not resolved soon, we will more than likely be reporting a similar drag on the US spirits sector, jeopardising American jobs and our record of solid growth in the US market.” Politicians, sort it out!

The Nightcap

Better than tap? The jury’s out. At least they were. Then they said it was better.

Larkfire Wild Water triumphs in whisky taste test

This week Master of Malt was invited to the launch of a new water which is meant to be enjoyed with whisky called Larkfire at Boisdale of Belgravia in London. It’s the softest water imaginable as it is collected from Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. The local rock, Lewisian gneiss, is incredibly hard and insoluble meaning that the water doesn’t pick up any minerals. It’s about as pure as water can be. The company was so confident in its purity that it put on a little test. A panel of drinks people, experts, journalists and someone from Master of Malt tried a selection of whiskies supplied by LVMH: Ardbeg 10 Year Old, Ardbeg Corryvreckan, Glenmorangie 10 Year Old and Glenmorangie Lasanta with two types of water. One row was Larkfire and the other was Belgravia’s finest tap water. But which was which? There was much sipping, gurgling, swallowing and pontificating, it was totally scientific. Then it was time to hand in our papers. After a slap-up Scottish lunch of haggis and venison, the results were revealed: 14 votes for Larkfire wild water; 7 votes for Belgravia tap. So Larkfire the clear winner. Sadly, Master of Malt’s reputation was in tatters as our representative preferred the tap water.

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Congratulations guys!

Family-run pub named the best in the country for the second time

The Bell Inn in Aldworth, Berkshire, which has been run by the same family for 250 years, has been crowned the Campaign for Real Ale’s (CAMRA) Pub of the Year. The Bell Inn previously won the award in 1990 when it was run by current landlord Hugh Macaulay’s parents. “Since my grandfather retired nothing has changed about the pub at all, I think that might be one of the things that impressed,” says Macaulay, who added that it was “a wonderful thing to be recognised for driving quality year after year” at the Grade-II listed hostelry. Macaulay also attributed the success to the fact The Bell Inn is a free house, meaning it is not owned by a particular brewery and it is free to sell a variety of beers. “The judges were impressed with how a stranger entering the pub was treated like a regular straight away,” said Pub of the Year competition organiser Ben Wilkinson. “It’s clear that the local customers use the pub as a community centre as well as a place to drink, and the warm welcome and knowledgeable staff made us feel right at home. Nothing can beat the combination of good beer, great food and a warm, heritage pub”. Each year volunteers from more than 200 CAMRA branches select their Pub of the Year, before a winner is chosen in each region and they are whittled down to three runners-up and one winner. Runner-ups to the award, which has been running since 1988, include the Swan With Two Necks in Pendleton, Lancashire, the George and Dragon in Hudswell, North Yorkshire, and the Red Lion in Preston, Hertfordshire. Congratulations to everyone at The Bell Inn!

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Cognac and hip-hop – a combination that never fails

Courvoisier and Pusha-T partner to open US pop-up

The Maison Courvoisier activation, an immersive experience that “pays homage to the brand’s château in France”, is set to open in Chicago this weekend. Those who visit the event will be able to sample the latest offerings from Courvoisier, while experiencing live performances, interactive art galleries, fashion exhibits and a capsule collection from fashion designer, Rhuigi Villaseñor, and contemporary artist, Al-Baseer Holly. Oh, and also the first instalment of Maison Courvoisier was curated by multi-platinum rapper Pusha-T. “Beyond music, I am passionate about fashion and art, so I’m proud to collaborate with Courvoisier to highlight two of my favourite creators,” he said. “I’ve been a fan of Rhuigi and Al-Baseer for years, and I’m excited to be able to highlight their success through Maison Courvoisier.” This is the first in the series of activations taking place throughout 2020 at US cities including Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Miami, Atlanta, Washington, Houston and Philadelphia. The next experience is planned for New York Fashion Week in September. “We’re excited to open the doors to Maison Courvoisier, as it brings our château in France and portfolio of award-winning liquid to our fans in a modern and interactive way,” said Stephanie Kang, senior marketing director for Courvoisier. “The event also embodies our core value that success is best shared and allows us to give these creative innovators the opportunity to honour their favourite artisans and their work.”

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Happy birthday, Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Happy 21st birthday, Kentucky Bourbon Trail!

In the words of Charli XCX, we do occasionally want to go back to 1999. It was a good year! Toy Story II, Britney Spears, the millennium bug fear… what a time to be alive. It was also the year the Kentucky Distillers’ Association kicked off the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, and for that we are truly grateful. And we shall celebrate its 21st birthday in fine form! The timetable of festivities was announced this week, getting underway with an 18-stop pop-up party tour in May and culminating in September with a closing do at the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Welcome Center at Whiskey Row’s Frazier History Museum in Louisville. A whole bunch of distilleries are participating, including Bulleit, Evan Williams, Heaven Hill, Jim Beam, Woodford Reserve, and more. “We invite everyone to come out and celebrate with us.” said Adam Johnson, senior director of the KDA’s Kentucky Bourbon Trail experiences. “This is a momentous occasion and we wouldn’t be here without the millions of devoted fans who have made the pilgrimage to the various KBT destinations and the birthplace of bourbon.” And in 2019, the number of visits stood at almost two million – that’s a significant number of whiskey pilgrims. Happy birthday, Kentucky Bourbon Trail – we’ll be raising many glasses to you this year!

 

Tullamore D.E.W. debuts new short film in Beauty of Blend campaign 

Tullamore D.E.W.’s ‘Beauty of Blend’ campaign, which began in 2017, continues with a new short film! Ever wondered what motivates people to craft the perfect blend? Well, the world’s second largest Irish whiskey is giving us an insight into the answer, and in short, it’s to bring people together (we assume delicious liquid is also a byproduct of this). Beauty of Blend was shot by the acclaimed director Valentin Petit, enlisting the help of up and coming MCs and poets such as Genesis Elijah, a UK-based spoken word artist, asking them to express their own interpretation of the power of blend. The film shows a single bottle of Tullamore D.E.W. being passed between people throughout different places and cultures, to demonstrate the “connective thread that exists in us”. Very heartwarming indeed. “Tullamore D.E.W. is on a mission to encourage the world to blend. What is true of our whiskey, we are a blend of three types of different Irish whiskeys, we also believe is true of humanity,” global brand director, Chin Ru Foo said. “When we blend with other people and ideas, then we become richer as individuals and in turn, the world becomes a wiser, richer and more open place”. If you happen to be passing through Times Square, you’ll find it there on a giant billboard (is there any other kind in New York?), though seeing as it’s the 21st century, the internet is your first port of call if you’re elsewhere.

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Jameson sales have hit a new high

Jameson whiskey hits 8 million cases sold in 2019

The Jameson juggernaut shows no sign of slowing down. Figures just released by Irish Distillers shows that it sold 4.6 million cases of Jameson in the last six months of 2019 taking total sales for the year up to 8 million. Over the Christmas period, the company sold an astonishing 940,000 cases in one month. Sales are up 9% on the previous year. Growth in the last 25 years has been rapid: 1996 was the first year the company sold more than a million cases a year, by 2010 it was triple that. The US market dominates, as you might expect, taking 2 million cases of Jameson in 2019 but there’s growth across the board: UK up 10%, Germany up 34%, and Canda up 13%. The emerging markets are rocking too with China up 76%, India up 37% and Nigeria up a massive 185% (probably from quite a low base, it has to be said.) It’s not only Jameson though, Irish Distillers reports that Redbreast sales grew by 24% and visitor numbers are booming at Bow Street in Dublin and Midleton in Cork. It will be interesting to see what 2020 will bring.

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It’s a 75-minute journey through a century of cocktails. Fingers crossed the flux capacitor can handle it.

And finally. . . Are you telling me you built a time machine. . . out of a bar?

Think of the great time machines from popular culture like the DeLorean in the Back to the Future films, the time machine in HG Wells’ The Time Machine or, greatest of all, the phone box from Bill and Ted’s adventures. All great time machines, no doubt, all useful for messing with the space-time continuum but one thing was missing from all of them: booze. Everything is better with a drink in your hand, right*? Well, at the Timeless Bar in East London, this has been remedied. The team will be firing up their very own Cocktail Time Machine on the day that comes but once every four years, 29 February (that’s a Saturday.) The experience has been created by Funicular, creators of amazing immersive experiences, and consists of a 75-minute journey through a century of cocktails (see video here for a flavour of what to expect) from the Hanky Panky in the 1920s to the Appletini in the ‘00s. Food will be provided by Masterchef finalist Louisa Ellis. To travel on the Cocktail Time Machine, you need to book. All sounds enormous fun as long as you don’t get stuck in the 70s with nothing to drink but Tequila Sunrises. 

*Disclaimer: many things such as driving a car, operating heavy machinery, flying an aeroplane or delivering babies should be done sober.

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