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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: rum

BrewDog Distilling Company introduces Five Hundred Cuts Rum

Authentic, honest and packed full of flavour: Allow us to introduce you to BrewDog Distilling Company’s latest creation – a botanical spiced rum named Five Hundred Cuts, inspired by 18th…

Authentic, honest and packed full of flavour: Allow us to introduce you to BrewDog Distilling Company’s latest creation – a botanical spiced rum named Five Hundred Cuts, inspired by 18th century botanical illustrator Elizabeth Blackwell…

Twelve years ago Brewdog’s co-founders set about revolutionising the beer industry from a garage in Aberdeenshire. And revolutionise it they did, ruffling countless feathers along the way with 55% ABV beer stuffed inside taxidermy animals, herbal Viagra-spiked American IPA, and the first beer ever brewed on the ocean floor. 

It’s of little surprise that this cavalier ethos has been applied to Brewdog’s ever-expanding distilling arm, which recently introduced a botanical spiced rum. The fifth spirit in the core range, named Five Hundred Cuts, is inspired by Elizabeth Blackwell, “a heroine of Aberdeenshire back in the 1730s”, explains Steven Kersley, head of distillation at BrewDog Distilling Company

Born in Aberdeen in the early 18th century – “a time of huge change,” observes Amanda Edmiston, a self-styled herbal storyteller known as Botanica Fabula – Blackwell went on to create one of the most comprehensive herbals* of her era. Recording a ground-breaking 500 plant engravings (or ‘cuts’), The Curious Herbal was validated by the Royal College of Physicians and made available to both the medical elite and, unusually, a wider public audience. 

“Not only was Elizabeth the first woman to publish a herbal; she was the first person to publish one with quite so many plants,” explains Edmiston. “She embraced plants that were coming into the UK from a huge range of countries. There was a real explosion in botany, and it was the first time anyone in the UK had seen cacao and allspice and Tonka beans,” which – spoiler alert – may well feature in the Five Hundred Cuts recipe.

Hand not included

Her botanical creation is also one of the first herbals where the plants are accurately drawn – take mandrake root, for example. “Legend says it transforms into the shape of a person when pulled from the ground,” Edmiston adds, “it screams and the person pulling it up dies. For this reason mandrake root was often drawn as a little person, but she draws the actual plant.”

It’s a story made all the more remarkable when you consider Blackwell’s motivation: to pay off debts owed by her husband Alexander and see him released from Newgate Debtors Prison. Later, he managed to secure a job as an agricultural advisor to the king of Sweden, says Edmiston, but before she could join him, “he gets caught up in a Jacobite-influenced plot to fiddle and tweak the running order for the claim on the Swedish throne – and is promptly executed”. Oh dear. 

Beheading aside, it’s a remarkable story that has influenced an equally remarkable rum. Five Hundred Cuts starts out as sugar cane molasses, a byproduct of the sugar refining process – since there aren’t any sugar cane fields in northern Scotland, pressing, distilling and fermenting raw sugar cane isn’t an option for Kersley and the team. “It arrives on-site in tankers, 28 tonnes at once,” he explains. “We unload it one tonne at a time, wearing those white forensic crime scene [scrubs] – it does look like a crime scene after we’re finished – and start the fermentation process by diluting that molasses down with water.”

The team ferments the molasses with a combination of red wine yeast and rum yeast; the former brings out “massive dark fruit flavours and works with the dark burnt sugar flavours coming from the molasses” while the latter “creates a lot of tropical notes like pineapples and mangos”. Yeast, after all, “is a massive source of flavour,” Kersley continues, “it doesn’t just convert sugar into alcohol – it creates a whole host of different esters and flavour profiles”.

Steven Kersley

Steven Kersley, head of distillation

The mix is fermented for seven days at precisely 28 degrees celsius before it’s double pot distilled. Then, 11 botanicals including tonka bean, clove, lavender, cardamom, orange peel, cinnamon, mace, nutmeg, allspice and ginger are brought into the mix using two methods. The more delicate botanicals, such as orange peel, lavender, schezuan peppercorns and cardamom, were re-distilled with the base spirit to “create what is, in essence, a spiced white rum distillate”, he says.

The botanicals which are – as Kersley kindly puts it – “slightly more assertive, slightly more bold”, like cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, tonka bean, ginger, and allspice, are steeped in the remaining white spirit for 14 hours, before the solids are filtered out. Then, the macerated white rum and white rum distillate are brought together, “so we’re getting all the bright, vibrant flavours from the distillate and then a lot of the more spicy, bold characters coming from the macerate,” Kersley says. The team rounds the liquid off with a little muscovado sugar, and then it’s bottled – scroll down for some tasting notes.

So, how to drink it? Five Hundred Cuts “works amazingly across all the classic serves: Rum and Cola, Rum and Ginger Beer, Pina Colada…” Kersley says. “We absolutely love white rum, it tastes incredible, and for me as a distiller it has real potential for layering and developing flavour on top of it. The natural step was to use botanicals. We didn’t just want to create another generic spiced rum with fake colour, fake sweetness and a lot of vanilla typically added. We wanted to create something authentic, honest and packed full of flavour.”

*A ‘herbal’ is a text that contains illustrations and descriptions of plants, their medicinal preparations, and the ailments for which they are used, according to The British Library.

Tasting notes from The Chaps at Master of Malt:

Nose: Coca-cola, dark chocolate, caramel combine with more aromatic notes like ginger, orange peel and cloves.

Palate: Highly aromatic, almost menthol, with assertive cardamom leading balanced by rich dark sugar. 

Finish: Fresh and herbal, like upmarket cold cure. 

 

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Superb Fireside Sipping

Celebrate Bonfire Night this year with a selection of booze appropriately bursting with deliciousness. Remember, remember the fifth of November… No, seriously. Check your calendars. It’s approaching fast. Maybe you’re…

Celebrate Bonfire Night this year with a selection of booze appropriately bursting with deliciousness.

Remember, remember the fifth of November… No, seriously. Check your calendars. It’s approaching fast. Maybe you’re planning to watch all things sparkly and spectacular illuminate the sky. Or perhaps you can’t wait to get into your dressing gown and comfy slippers to wrap up warm indoors. Both sound good to us, but whether you’ll be in front of a bonfire or fireplace, we can surely all agree that it’s the perfect time to indulge in some cockle-warming drinks.

For those who need inspiration, we’ve made things nice and easy by selecting this smashing selection of spirits. Expect smoke, spice and everything nice from this round-up of bonfire-themed booze!

Smoked Rosemary Gin (That Boutique-y Gin Company)

Smoked rosemary is an absolute winner in many a cocktail, ask any good bartender. But who wants to bother with the hassle of setting fire to some fresh rosemary themselves? Save the flames for an actual bonfire and instead enjoy this delightful gin from That Boutique-y Gin Company! Sensationally smoky Martinis await…

What does it taste like?:

Well, there’s no doubt that this contains rosemary, as well as plenty of juniper, saline seashore smells, cracked black pepper, lemon, a hint of smoked bacon.

Glenfiddich Experimental Series – Fire & Cane

The Experimental Series has produced some corking expressions, and Fire & Cane is no exception. Malt master Brian Kinsman created this bottling by finishing some of the distillery’s peated single malt for three-months in rum casks from a variety of South American countries. The cask complements the peated profile perfectly and makes this one an ideal fireside sipper.

What does it taste like?:

Billowing soft peat notes, rich sweet toffee, zesty fresh fruit, oak and sweet baked apple.

Ancho Reyes Chile Liqueur

Ever had a liqueur made with chile ancho (dried poblano chiles) before? No? Well now is the perfect opportunity to acquaint yourself with the delights of this Mexican liqueur. It was made by macerating chile ancho in neutral cane spirit for half a year, which was then blended with a selection of other ingredients and allowed to rest a little longer for the flavour to marry. An ideal liqueur for those who want to add smoke and spice to their cocktails.

What does it taste like?:

Plenty of woodsmoke and dry, warming spice is complemented by a touch of liquorice.

Drumshanbo Gunpowder Gin

Drumshanbo Gunpowder Gin gets its name from its star botanical, gunpowder tea, which is distilled with juniper, angelica, orris, caraway, coriander, meadowsweet, cardamom, fresh grapefruit and star anise as well as vapour infused oriental lemon and lime! Now try and tell me you don’t like the sound of a Gunpowder G&T.

What does it taste like?:

Bright citrus and green tea notes are complemented by the spices.

Smokehead Sherry Bomb

Spice and smoke feature again as a deadly duo in this whisky, made using well-peated single malt from an undisclosed Islay distillery which was then matured in Oloroso sherry casks. Smokehead Sherry Bomb is unashamedly a powerhouse of a dram and every drop of it seems tailor-made to enjoy beside a fire.

What does it taste like?:

Dark chocolate, seaweed, a hint of medicinal peat smoke, BBQ smoke, stem ginger, sherried peels, sea salt, rum-raisin ice cream, red chilli flake, treacle, prunes and clove.

Cut Smoked Rum

Cut Rum range added an extra dimension of flavour to this Jamaican rum by smoking it using oak chips, which not only made it very tasty but also perfectly appropriate for Bonfire Night! This is one you can enjoy both in cocktails or neat.

What does it taste like?:

Struck match, coffee bean bitterness balanced by vanilla.

Black Fire

Liqueurs are extremely popular at the moment, so plenty of you will be looking for a bottling that adds some heat to your Bonfire-themed cocktails. The awesomely named Black Fire was made by combining the flavours of Blanco tequila, coffee and a kick of chilli. As well as cocktails, this is superb when splashed into some good quality coffee.

What does it taste like?:

Chocolate with red chilli mixed in, slightly earthy notes of agave and red pepper, smoky at points.

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New Arrival of the Week: Merser & Co. Double Barrel rum

This week we delve into the history of rum blending in London and try a very special rum part-matured in the capital by the Hayman family.  Gin or porter are…

This week we delve into the history of rum blending in London and try a very special rum part-matured in the capital by the Hayman family. 

Gin or porter are what probably comes to mind when you say the words ‘booze’ and ‘London’, but according to James Hayman, “for over one hundred years, the streets of London were home to a bustling network of merchant rum blending houses. The merchant’s skill lay not in distilling but rather in the sourcing, blending and secondary maturation of the rum. Our family was involved in the trade for some time – sourcing stock from West India Docks to create our own proprietary blends.” Apparently, if you landed at the Tower of London you had to give the Warden of the Tower a barrel of rum.

Now those heady days are back! The Hayman family, famous for their gin, have converted a four story townhouse off the Strand into a rum experience called Charles Merser & Co which is open to the public. Here you can learn about this lesser-known part of London’s history and even blend your own rum. On my visit, I tried the component parts of the first release from Merser & Co called Double Barrel, named not after the top Jamaican tune but from the way the spirit is matured. 

The rums are aged and blended in the Caribbean into three component parts (see below) before being married for 15 months in fourth-fill hogsheads which provide a very neutral container. The marrying takes place at Hayman’s distillery in Balham because health and safety wouldn’t let them store lots of flammable spirit in an old house in central London. Boring!

Merser & Co

The make-up of Double Barrel

And what a fascinating blend it is, mixing unaged high ester rums from Jamaica with older Spanish-style and Barbados rums. Brand director Jonathan Gibson explained it to me: “Young Jamaican rum gives vibrant freshness like a drop of Caol Ila in a blended Scotch. I love them but these might be too much for a general audience. We want that voluptuous quality as well.” He went on to say that the lack of an age statement gave them more freedom in the blend, “age statements can be limiting.”

Part A (19% of the blend) majors on the high ester pineapple with earthy, funky and balsamic notes.

Part B (47%) all mature Latin American and brings tobacco, dried apricot and orange peel like an old Cognac.

Part C (34%) adds chocolate, vanilla, toasty oak and more pineapple. 

Tasted together, it’s a fascinating experience with Jamaica dominating on the nose but on the palate it’s more about something elegant from Latin America, Flor de Caña perhaps. There’s no sugar or colour added. Full tasting notes below. It’s designed as a sophisticated cocktail rum and indeed tasted excellent in a Palmetto, half and half with Martini rosso and some orange bitters. “If you don’t have funky element then rum can disappear in cocktail”, Gibson told me.

Merser & Co.

Just off the Strand look for the Sign of the Post & Hound

The Hayman family have clearly put a lot of thought into this first release. The packaging is stunning. At the moment, Merser & Co is going to focus on the Double Barrel, but there are plans for other blended rums, perhaps inspired partly by Gibson’s old employer, Compass Box. So, let’s raise a glass to the return of rum to the capital. 

Tasting notes:

Nose: You can’t mistake that high ester Jamaican component, pineapples just jump out of the glass, followed by grassy vegetal flavours, orange peel and dark chocolate.

Palate: Creamy and elegant, with stone fruit to the fore and the Jamaican funk present but very much in the background.

Finish: Vanilla, coconut and chocolate.

Overall: Elegant, harmonious and distinctive. 

Double Barrel is available now

 

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The Nightcap: 25 October

Record-breaking whisky, intriguing rums and wine tasting in the dark – it’s all here in this week’s Nightcap! OK, look, the way the days have fallen this year, this will…

Record-breaking whisky, intriguing rums and wine tasting in the dark – it’s all here in this week’s Nightcap!

OK, look, the way the days have fallen this year, this will be the closest we get to an edition of The Nightcap falling on Halloween – next week Friday is the 1st of November, at which point we’ll have set aside our zombie costumes for another year and will be busy stockpiling sparklers and jacket potatoes in anticipation of Bonfire Night. With that in mind, you’re just going to have to put up with an early spooktacular here. Ahem. WoooOOOooo! It’s (almost) Halloween! The haunted ghouls of the underworld have crept into MoM Towers and they’re knocking over printers and… Oh, our hearts aren’t really in it. Let’s just get on with the booze news from the week that was.

It’s been a blog-maggedon kind of week here at MoM Towers. Firstly, congratulations are in order to the respective winners of the Lakes Distillery (#BagThisBundle) and Kingsbarns Distillery competitions! There was then some delightful video-based adventures with Ardbeg and Penderyn, while Adam also rounded-up some spooky spirits for Halloween. Then there was the exciting news that Douglas Laing had bought Strathearn Distillery as Annie talked Sullivans Cove with head distiller Patrick Maguire and rare pepper cordials with Monin and Alex Kratena. Henry had discussions of his own, from mezcal with Dr Iván Saldaña, to cocktails with Joe and Daniel Schofield, but still found time to make the intriguing Gin Rummy our New Arrival of the Week.

Phew! Now, to The Nightcap!

The Nightcap

£1,452,000. One bottle of whisky. £1,452,000. Wow.

Macallan and Brora break records at Sotheby’s in London

Hammers were banged, money was waved and records were broken at the latest wine and spirits auction at Sotheby’s in London this week. Some 460 bottles of rare Scotch from an American collector went under the hammer. The star was inevitably a Macallan, a 60 year old from 1926 which went for £1,452,000 ($1,873,951). Jamie Ritchie, chairman of Sotheby’s, said: “There was an electric atmosphere in the room today for our first-ever single-owner spirits auction. This sale marks a historic moment for the spirits market, with new benchmark prices and a fresh approach to selling whisky.” According to Sotheby’s, the strongest interest came from Asian buyers. In total, the collection went for £7,635,619 ($9,854,530), out of which a whopping £3m ($4m) was accounted for by just four bottles of Macallan. But it wasn’t all about Macallan. Other exciting bottles included a 50 year old Springbank distilled in 1919 which went for £266,200 ($343,558); bottle number one of 54 year old Bowmore Crashing Waves went for £363,000 ($468,488); and a Dalmore Eos 59 year old, one of only 20 bottles, achieved £99,220 ($128,053). All this excitement makes the £54,450 ($70,273), a new record, paid for a bottle of Brora 40 year old seem like pocket change. Perhaps you could mix it with ginger beer.

The Nightcap

Balcones master distiller Jared Himstedt, who won’t be singing

Balcones teams up with Texan singer-songwriter Jarrod Dickenson for UK tour

We all know that whisky and music go together: from Keith Richards with his Jack Daniel’s to, erm, Billy Idol with Rebel Yell. Now Texas whisky pioneer Balcones will be bringing the spirit of the Lone Star state to Britain in more ways than one by sponsoring the tour of top Texan singer-songwriter Jarrod Dickenson. Balcones and Dickenson have so much in common. Not only are they both from Waco, Texas but Dickenson and Balcones’ head distiller have almost the same first name, Jarrod and Jared. They’re made for each other. The tour titled Unplugged & Distilled will run from 22 November to 7 December 2019, and consist of Dickenson playing 13 acoustic dates around the country (details here). And while you listen, and perhaps dance, if you get the urge, you can sip delicious Balcones whisky. It’ll be just like being in Texas, except when you leave the gig, it’ll probably be cold and wet.

The Nightcap

Introducing: the Samurai Scientist!

New Boss Hog from WhistlePig finished in Japanese umeshu casks

A new Boss Hog from rye distiller WhistlePig is always something to be excited about but this latest edition sound particularly epic. It’s called the Samurai Scientist and it’s a sixteen-year-old whisky named after a chemist called Jōkichi Takamine who brought a Japanese form of alcohol production, koji, to American whiskey in the 19th century. The Samurai Scientist is a collaboration with a Japanese company, Kitaya who produce sake, shōchū and umeshu. It was created using koji fermentation (in Canada) and aged for 16 years before being finished in a cask that previously held an aged umeshu – a Japanese fruit liqueur. Pete Lynch, master blender, explained: “We finished one of our oldest whiskeys in barrels that held Kitaya’s eleven-year-old umeshu. With umeshu being an intensely aromatic spirit, it does not take long to impart deeply complex flavours. Only 90 barrels exist and each bottle notes the barrel number and proof, ranging between 120 – 122 [60-61% ABV]”. Jeff Kozak, CEO of Whistlepig added: “Dave Pickerell committed to five promises for The Boss Hog, including being distinctly unique from anything we’ve done before. He had a thirst for exploring and trialling techniques from around the world, and Takamine was like-minded in propelling whiskey innovation across continents.” The Samurai Scientist complete with pewter samurai on the stopper should roaring into MoM towers sometime in December. Now we know what we’re going to ask #whiskysanta for.

The Nightcap

Is this the world’s first Afro-Caribbean rum?

Burrell and Seale launch Equiano, the world’s first Afro-Caribbean rum

Two distilleries. Two different continents. Two key figures within the rum industry. That’s the story behind Equiano, which is believed to be the world’s first Afro-Caribbean rum. Created by global rum ambassador Ian Burrell and master distiller Richard Seale, Equiano is described as an “east and west” collaboration and is said to be the first rum crafted from liquid from two different distilleries based on two different continents. The name is a tribute to Olaudah Equiano, a Nigerian-born writer, abolitionist, traveller and freedom fighter, as it follows his journey, from Africa to the Caribbean and the UK. It’s a blend of molasses rums from Mauritius-based Gray’s Distillery that was aged for 10 years in a combination of French Limousin oak casks and ex-Cognac casks and Foursquare rum that was matured in ex-bourbon casks. It has no added sugar, spices or colourants, was bottled at 43% ABV and is said to deliver notes of dried fruits, sweet toffee, butterscotch, orange peel, vanilla, oak, anise, sweet pepper and buttered wood. “Equiano is a first for a centuries-old craft,” said Seale. “We have created an entirely unique blend through a collaboration between two rum distilleries on two different continents.” Burrell added: “Premium rum is on the rise, and more importantly the consumer that wants quality is demanding clarity, authenticity and intrinsic value in their rum. Equiano is a new style of rum; one that combines two rum cultures: African and the Caribbean.” A percentage of the profits from every bottle of Equiano sold will be donated to an equality-focused charity annually.

The Nightcap

It’s a blow for those who like to flip bottles like this on the auction market…

New Daftmill will only be available by the dram

Watching great whiskies disappear into collections or bounce around auction markets is something we’ve all become used to seeing. Lowland distillery Daftmill isn’t interested in taking part with its latest release, however. In an effort to side-step ‘bottle flippers’, it will offer Daftmill Single Cask 2008 #68 by the dram in select Scottish bars in collaboration with Berry Bros & Rudd. The duo has teamed up to sell the 2008 vintage single cask expression in 25ml measures for the price of £10 (US$13). It will be available at venues operated by Scottish chain The Independent Whisky Bars of Scotland from the 1 November, including The Ardshiel (Campbeltown), Artisan (Wishaw), The Bon Accord (Glasgow), Dornoch Castle Hotel (Dornoch), Fiddlers Inn (Drumnadrochit), The Highlander Inn (Craigellachie) and The Malt Room (Inverness). That’s right. Bottles will not be available to buy. Described as a first for the industry, the move was taken to ensure that the spirit can only be sampled by “genuine whisky lovers”. Bottles of the 2008 single cask released earlier this year sold out in minutes and then began appearing on auction sites at hugely inflated prices. “As much as we appreciate the high demand for our whisky, we’ve always distilled with the goal of it being opened and drunk by people that really enjoy a dram,” said Francis Cuthbert of Daftmill. “Releasing this single cask with The Independent Whisky Bars of Scotland is a great way to ensure that every bottle we release will be opened and drunk over the next few months.” Daftmill Single Cask 2008 #68 is the first single cask to be released from this vintage. The whisky was matured in a first-fill ex-bourbon barrel and selected by the bar chain to be bottled at a natural strength of 55.5% ABV.

The Nightcap

Brewdog is the latest brand to experiment with ‘botanical rum’

Brewdog launches Five Hundred Cuts botanical rum

To the Physic Garden in Chelsea for the launch of Brewdog’s new botanical rum, Five Hundred Cuts. And first off, who knew there was a walled botanical garden right in the heart of London? This sweet-smelling oasis was the perfect setting for the launch. There was even a ‘herbal storyteller’, Amanda Edmiston, on hand to give us an insight into the inspiration for the rum, an Aberdonian botanist called Elizabeth Blackwell. And what of the rum itself?  We’ll be running an interview with distillery Steven Kersley next week but here’s our first impressions: the rum is based on a high ester spirit distilled from Algerian molasses (the best according to Kersley) and flavoured by distillation and infusion with a variety of spices including cardamom, ginger, orange peel, cloves and tonka beans before sweetening with muscovado sugar. The result (RRP £24) is quite remarkably aromatic and tasted excellent in a series of cocktails created by Laki Kane’s Georgi Radev but it also worked wonders sipped neat as a seasonal cold cure. It just breezes through that blocked nose.

The Nightcap

Feliz Día de los Muertos!

Patrón Tequila celebrates Día de Muertos

This November, Patrón Tequila will launch a series of events in celebration of Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead). The traditional Mexican celebration will be marked by immersive art exhibitions and bar takeovers all over Europe by Patrón Tequila. In London, a three-day immersive event will take place at the six-storey 19 Greek St in Soho from 1st to 3rd November 2019 featuring the works of Mexican artists Lourdes Villagomez and Lola Argemi. But if you want to kick off the celebrations earlier, Patrón will be offering themed cocktails within a colourful setting that evokes the key symbols of the Día de Muertos in a number of bars, such as The Den (100 Wardour Street), Swift, Hovarda, Thirst and Soho Residence in Soho, Raffles and Callooh Callay in Chelsea, the Harvey Nichols 5th Floor Bar in Knightsbridge, Eve Bar in Covent Garden, Red Rooster in Shoreditch, Playa in Marylebone and the London Cocktail Club in Oxford Circus. To all of our Mexican friends, we wish you a Feliz Día de los Muertos!

The Nightcap

It’s the oldest whisky ever released from the Campbeltown Distillery

Glen Scotia releases its oldest and rarest expression

Get ready for Glen Scotia’s oldest ever expression! The Campbeltown distillery has only gone and released a 45-year-old single malt. Distilled back in December 1973, it was aged in refill bourbon casks, where it rested until 2011. Then the liquid was transferred to first-fill bourbon casks until 2019, when it was bottled at 43.8% ABV. “Glen Scotia 45 year old is one of the most magnificent expressions to be produced by our Campbeltown distillery and we are excited that after 45 years we are now able to unveil it to the world,” said master distiller Michael Henry. “It embodies all of the unique elements which Glen Scotia is known for, delivering a long mouth-watering finish with notes of sea salt and lime citrus. On the palate, the liquid presents caramel sweetness at first, then juicy fruit with pineapple, mango and watermelon rounded by vanilla and honey.” Each bottle comes in a handmade British walnut case, with an engraved tile featuring the individual bottle number and tasting notes. If that wasn’t enough, inside the case you’ll find embossed leather lining. That all sounds pretty dandy, doesn’t it? Here’s the catch: only 150 bottles have been released worldwide, priced at £3,795. If you do fancy on getting your hands on one, then we recommend keeping a very, very close eye on your favourite online retailer…

The Nightcap

The ‘Kingdom of Light’ cocktail

Mr Fogg’s Winter Festival Of Lights lands in Covent Garden

Mr Fogg’s Gin Parlour and Tavern is a quintessentially British spot for a tipple or two in Covent Garden. However, the bar has teamed up with House of Suntory for the Winter Light Festival, a magical Japanese-inspired illuminated festival. It’s a sensory experience inspired by Japanese nature, a delight of sight, taste and sound, launched this week on 23 October. Of course, there are also Japanese-inspired cocktails, made with Roku gin, Haku vodka and Toki whisky. You’ll be met at the entrance to the tavern with a red torii gate framed with pink cherry blossom. There are two menus to choose from. The first you’ll find downstairs, inspired by different locations throughout Japan, with cocktails such as ‘Kyoto’, marrying Toki whisky, elderflower cordial and lemon juice, topped with ginger ale. If you follow the lantern trail upstairs you’ll find the second menu. This is no ordinary menu, with the cocktails listed on Roku bottles filled with fairy lights. The serves here are named after Japanese festivals such as ‘Kingdom of Light’, made with Roku gin, Luxardo Bitter Bianco, umeshu plum sake and rhubarb bitters. If you were umming and ahhing about going, we should probably let you know that the bar will even be streaming the Rugby World Cup straight from Japan. Whether that’s a good thing or not is up to you…

The Nightcap

Lidl wants to challenge your preconceptions

And finally. . . . wine tasting in the dark with Lidl

When conducting a wine tasting most professionals agree on what you need, wine, obviously, you can’t have a wine tasting without wine, clean glasses, white tablecloths and plenty of light so that you can appreciate the colour. Well, Lidl is throwing all this out the window with its new pop-up wine tasting tour. It begins in London on 8 November before continuing to Manchester and Glasgow. Tastings will be hosted by Master of Wine Richard Bampfield and take place in a Cellar Noir where wine will be served in the pitch black by waiters wearing night-vision goggles, and in a nightmarish-looking Discombobulation Chamber. The idea is to shake off people’s preconceptions about labels and wine colour, and trust in their senses of taste and smell. It all this sounds much too confusing for you, to finish up there’s Salle de Noel featuring Christmas trees, mince pies, a cheeseboard, and, most importantly, some light so you can see what you’re doing.

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Get ready for Halloween!

Halloween approaches. But there’s nothing to fear this year because we’ve got you covered with these 10 fabulously frightening boozes. Costume? Check. Decorations? Check. Carved pumpkin you’ll forget to throw…

Halloween approaches. But there’s nothing to fear this year because we’ve got you covered with these 10 fabulously frightening boozes.

Costume? Check. Decorations? Check. Carved pumpkin you’ll forget to throw away until it’s a rancid puddle attracting half the neighbourhood’s wildlife? Check. It sounds like you’ve got everything you need to celebrate another Hallows’ Eve. Everything apart from some delicious drinks, of course.

That’s where we come in. We’ve collected some of the spookiest spirits we could find here at the haunted MoM Towers to ease your burden. Now you can focus on getting your costume right. Fake blood can be a real mess. I’ll probably just go as the bumblebee guy and save myself the time and effort.

Happy Halloween!

Poetic License Pumpkin Spice Gin

Jack-o’-lanterns are a major part of Halloween, so it’s only right we have a pumpkin-forward spirit on this list. Poetic License distilled this gin not only with a classically autumnal pumpkin spice mix but actual pumpkin and pumpkin seeds as well, making this a truly festive treat.

What does it taste like?:

Fragrant nutmeg and cinnamon, with balancing piney juniper. Mouth-coating nutty, sweet pumpkin alongside even more baking spice, with fiery ginger and just a dash of citrus peel on a warming, spiced finish.

Cloven Hoof Spiced Rum

Halloween is the Devil’s holiday and Cloven Hoof Spiced Rum is clearly a reference to the Prince of Darkness (Satan, not Ozzy Osbourne). But it also features in our round-up because it’s very tasty! Made from a blend of Guyanese and Trinidadian rum, along with a selection of spices, including cassia, anise and clove (another influence on the name), this bottling has everything you want in a spiced rum and should prove very popular among company.

What does it taste like?:

Enjoyably hot with cooking spice, with underlying caramelised fruit and brown sugar.

El Espolòn Reposado Tequila

We’ll take any opportunity we have to rally against how rubbish the usual party culture around Tequila is. Ditch the salt and the fruit and all that nonsense and instead enjoy the quality and craftsmanship of El Espolòn Reposado Tequila at your spooky soiree. It was made by Destilladora San Nicolas in Los Altos, who actually play rock music in the factories to “inspire” the agave. That’s how rad they are. The skeletons on the bottle make it suitably festive too.

What does it taste like?:

Warming spice, roasted agave, vanilla, brown sugar, vibrant fruit and a sweet hint of caramel.

Jim Beam Devil’s Cut

A bottle of bourbon fit for a prince. Of darkness. We’re talking about Satan again, although Ozzy would probably appreciate this one too, come to think of it. Made by blending Jim Beam Bourbon and the extracted spirit that was absorbed into the wood of the barrels itself, this is a punchy oak-fest of a dram.

What does it taste like?:

Immensely woody, fresh-cut oak, a whole heap of vanilla and wood spice.

Fallen Angel Blood Orange Gin

That ceramic heart-shaped bottle will be the talk of your Halloween party, and the flavoured gin inside should prove just as popular! Featuring a selection of classic gin botanicals alongside a hearty helping of blood orange, this Fallen Angel expression is one way to add some spookiness to your G&T.

What does it taste like?:

Juicy orange and drying cinnamon, with soft juniper growing on the finish.

Dead Man’s Fingers Cornish Spiced Rum

An exceptionally popular spiced rum with an appropriately festive name and bottle label, Dead Man’s Fingers was made using a blend of Caribbean rums and plenty of spices. Delicious cocktails await, although don’t underestimate how simple it is to make a really enjoyable rum and coke with this bottling,

What does it taste like?:

Pineapple, Seville orange, dried raisins dusted with cinnamon and black pepper. A touch of creamy vanilla develops later on.

Solway Apple Caramel Gin

With a flavour combination that was made for autumnal months, this gin from Solway Spirits is simply begging to be put to good use in a variety of cocktails and serves. What’s not to like about a blend of juicy apples, sweet caramel and a touch of aromatic cinnamon? Nothing. That’s what.

What does it taste like?:

Butterscotch, white grape, apple pie dusted with cinnamon, a hint of black pepper.

Wicked Wolf Exmoor Gin

Plenty of you will be looking for the perfect gin to enjoy this Halloween and you can’t go wrong with Wicked Wolf Exmoor Gin. Made in North Devon using a selection of 11 botanicals, including juniper, angelica, cardamom, coriander, cubeb, grains of paradise, hibiscus, Kaffir lime leaves, orange peel, lemon peel and lemongrass, this beauty is insanely tasty and versatile, making it perfect for cocktails.

What does it taste like?:

Clean juniper, fresh citrus, angelica, hibiscus sweetness, savoury thyme, drying cubeb peppery hints joined by a hint of fennel seed.

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Cocktail of the Week: The Adonis

This week we’re tapping into the collective cocktail brain of two bartending brothers, Joe and Daniel Schofield, and harnessing the awesome power of sherry to create the Adonis. As one…

This week we’re tapping into the collective cocktail brain of two bartending brothers, Joe and Daniel Schofield, and harnessing the awesome power of sherry to create the Adonis.

As one of our columnists noted, sherry is a very underrated ingredient. Recently I attended the launch of a very special whisky that was aged in sherry solera casks. Before we tried the whisky, we drank some sherry from the same solera. I won’t say the sherry was better but it was at least as interesting, intense and complex as the whisky. The sherry cost about £75 a bottle, the whisky £4,000. Bananas!

Sherry contains many of the flavours, like brown sugar, hazelnut and butterscotch, of aged brown spirits at a much lower ABV, perfect if you’re cutting back or just fancy a bit of a session. This week’s cocktail, the Adonis, is very like a Palmetto but made with sherry instead of rum. The recipe comes from a rather swanky book called Schofield’s Fine and Classic Cocktails that landed at MoM towers last week. 

Schofield cocktail book

It’s written by two brothers from Manchester, Joe and Daniel Schofield. Between them, they have won many many awards, worked in cocktail bars all over the world, including the American Bar at the Savoy, and collaborated with another pair of brothers, Asterley Bros, on a vermouth. Now, all that learning and experience can be found in one place. The book contains advice on making cocktails as well as classic and modern recipes. 

The Adonis is named not after the figure from Greek mythology nor the Labour peer and educational reformer, Lord Adonis, but after a musical. Adonis was a long-running Broadway show in the late 19th century. It’s part of the long line of cocktails named after shows like the Rob Roy, and the Pink Lady. Sadly this habit of naming cocktails after musicals seems to have died out. One can almost imagine a Miss Saigon or an Oliver! though I wouldn’t fancy a Les Miserables.

Traditionally the Adonis is made with fino sherry but the Schofield brothers have suggested using an oloroso instead to make it richer. The Alfonso from Gonzalez Byass offers amazing intensity for the money. The Schofields recommend their collaborative vermouth (well, they would, wouldn’t them) but I have defied them and kept it 100% Jerez with the Lustau Vermut Rojo. The other non-trad element is sugar syrup; the brothers write: “sugar is a great flavour carrier and works well here, enhancing the relatively subtle sherry and vermouth. You won’t find this extra touch of sweetness in traditional versions of the drink, but we like how it underscores all the flavour notes”.

The Adonis, not as strong as you’d expect from the name

The result is something with all the depth of flavour of a Manhattan or Rob Roy, but with much less alcohol and it’s cheaper too. Your doctor and bank manager will thank the Schofields

Right, let’s make an Adonis. 

30ml Gonzalez Byass Alfonso Oloroso Seco
30ml Lustau Vermut Rojo
2 dashes of Fee Brothers Orange Bitters
½ teaspoon of sugar syrup

Add all the ingredients into a mixing glass or shaker with ice, and give it a good stir. Strain into a coupette and garnish with an orange coin.

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New Arrival of the Week: Batch Gin Rummy

This week we’re taking a look at a little distillery in Burnley which makes some seriously interesting spirits including a barrel-aged gin, a hopped vodka and breakfast rum. Because everyone…

This week we’re taking a look at a little distillery in Burnley which makes some seriously interesting spirits including a barrel-aged gin, a hopped vodka and breakfast rum. Because everyone enjoys rum with their breakfast, or is that just us?

Batch began as a brewery in Hampshire but founder Phil Whitwell got the gin bug inspired by visits to Spain where his mother lives. The only problem was that he didn’t have the space. So he ended up moving to Burnley in Lancashire, and building a distillery in a basement belonging to his nephew Ollie Sanderson who became head distiller. The Burnley basement was officially opened as a distillery, by the High Sheriff of Lancashire, no less. Their first release, called Batch Gin, won a silver medal at the San Francisco World Spirit Competition. Not bad for beginners. 

What began as a hobby with both Whitwell and Sanderson having full time jobs quickly got serious when northern supermarket chain, Booth’s, took them on, Suddenly that basement seemed awfully cramped so in 2016 they moved to a converted mill also in Burnley with a custom-built 165 litre still called Adrian. The success has continued: last year their 55% ABV Industrial Strength gin won a double gold in San Francisco. Then, earlier this year, the Batch boys were inducted into the Gin Guild so they get to wear little silver juniper branches to show how much they love gin. 

Head distiller Ollie Sanderson in action

Alongside a core range, the company produces ‘Batch Innovations’ which are a bit more far out. These include one that has just arrived with us called USA Breakfast Rum. No, it’s not designed to be drunk at breakfast, though you could, we won’t judge you. Instead, it’s inspired by the great American breakfast and flavoured with maple syrup, pecan nuts and blueberries.

But what the Batch team really love to do is age stuff in barrel. So much so that Whitwell somehow acquired a 3200 litre Cognac cask during a family holiday to France. Well, it makes a change from a beret and a tin of confit de canard. Operations manager Jodhi Didsdale told us that they got a surprise when a cask the size of six sherry butts turned up one day on the back of a lorry. This gigantic barrel is used to age a gin made with whinberries (aka bilberries). 

Barrel-aged gins are nothing new. In fact, in the olden days when most  liquids were transported in barrels, most gin would have been ‘cask-aged’ to some extent.  So-called yellow gins were produced in small quantities throughout the 20th century but nowadays are firmly back in vogue with many distilleries including Beefeater offering aged versions. 

What do you get if you cross gin with rum? Gin rummy!

Batch has combined its love of gin, rum, cask-ageing and bad puns in a product called Gin Rummy. First the team blended together the Signature and the Industrial Strength gin. The danger with aged gins is that the wood will overpower the ginniness of the gin so this only spent about a month in a PX sherry cask that had been used to age rum. Then it spent some time in a whisky cask before being bottled at 42% ABV. Operations manager Didsdale described it as “quite a playful one”. She recommends drinking it with cola which sounds a bit odd but according to her “the cola brings out the rum elements in the gin.” We think that barrel-aged note would work really well with barrel-aged vermouth so try it in a Martini, heavy on the Noilly Prat for the full cask effect.

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Eight category defying spirit drinks

Established distilleries are increasingly embracing the title in the name of innovation – but what does ‘spirit drink’ actually mean for the liquid within? To answer this question, MoM explores eight…

Established distilleries are increasingly embracing the title in the name of innovation – but what does ‘spirit drink’ actually mean for the liquid within? To answer this question, MoM explores eight bottlings that colour just outside of the lines of traditional category boundaries…

It’s easier to explain spirit drinks by highlighting what they aren’t, rather than list all the potential things they could be. Spirit drinks are alcoholic beverages that fall outside of classic category boundaries. This could be for a number of reasons, i.e. the ABV is too low, the liquid is too young, the category has a geographic indication (which means production is tied to a specific region or country) and so on and so forth. 

Where once this might be seen as a detractor – most regulations are, after all, devised as a commitment to preserving the quality of the spirit – today, experimental producers are using the term as a means to deviate, albeit slightly, from the trappings of a given category. Below, you’ll find eight spirits that err on the side of ambiguity, and are no less delicious for daring to do so.

Martell Blue Swift

The oldest of the big four Cognac houses, Martell, launched Cognac-based spirit drink Blue Swift back in 2018. The bottling, which sees its VSOP Cognac finished in Kentucky Bourbon casks, celebrates the brand’s historic ties with the US – Martell became the first house to ship its barrels to America in 1783. Combine Blue Swift, sugar syrup, Peychaud’s bitters and Pernod Absinthe to make a top notch Sazerac.

Distillerie de Paris Agave Spirit Drink

The first distillery to open in France’s capital city in more than a century, Distillerie de Paris has released more than 90 unique and unorthodox spirits, including this non-Tequila, non-mezcal agave spirit drink, made with agave nectar from Mexico. J’adore. Sip neat, stir into a Tommy’s, or go rogue with an agave twist on a Negroni  – whatever floats your boat.

Bacardi Oakheart Spiced Rum Spirit Drink

Even the most dedicated rum drinker will admit that the category, while compelling, is hardly known for its conservative regulations. And yet, this spiced Bacardi bottling still doesn’t fit the bill. How so? It’s all in the ABV – at 35%, Oakheart isn’t boozy enough to be called rum, but that’s no barrier to a cracking Cuba Libre. Some of the rums within have been matured in ex-bourbon oak casks, giving inviting brown sugar, honey and burnt vanilla notes.

Luxlo

Luxlo Spirit

At first glance, herbaceous Luxlo is a gin in every conceivable way. Juniper-led? Check. Plenty of botanicals? Check. Pairs perfectly with tonic? Check. ABV? Ah, right – at 20%, it’s a lower-alcohol alternative to traditional gin styles. Sub your full-strength favourite for Luxlo in any gin tipple (though you can’t go wrong with a classic G&T).

Absolut Extrakt No.1

Billed as a modern interpretation of traditional Swedish “snaps”, Extrakt sees Absolut’s signature spirit combined with cardamom and a few secret ingredients. Since it’s no longer vodka and lacks the sugar content to be considered an herbal liqueur, it’s eligible for this list.

Ketel One Botanical Peach & Orange

To make this delectable Peach & Orange creation, the team at Ketel One redistilled their signature spirit and infused it with white peaches and orange blossom – bringing vodka and botanicals together in a category-defying 30% ABV bottling. Serve spritz-style in a wine glass, topped with soda water.

Whyte & Mackay Light

While Scotch whisky and sherry has long been a match made in heaven, now Whyte & Mackay has taken the concept one step further with its 21.5% ABV Light bottling, which sees the two blended together before marrying in former sherry casks and bourbon barrels. Enjoy neat, over ice, or stirred into your favourite mixer. Lovely stuff.

Nc’nean Botanical Spirit

Scotland’s first 100% organic distillery Nc’nean redistilled its light, fruity new make with 10 botanicals – including juniper, coriander, sorrel, heather, and bog myrtle – to create, well… Not whisky, not gin, but in our humble opinion something altogether more special. Pair with tonic and a dash of Angostura bitters, then garnish with a slice of grapefruit.

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The Nightcap: 4 October

The world of booze doesn’t stop producing news, so we don’t stop rounding it all up into one handy blog for you to take into the weekend – it’s The…

The world of booze doesn’t stop producing news, so we don’t stop rounding it all up into one handy blog for you to take into the weekend – it’s The Nightcap!

Greetings, friend. I hope you’re sitting uncomfortably, be it on your sofa, armchair, or beanbag if that’s how you choose to live your life. We’ve reached October, and everyone knows October is the scariest month of the year for a variety of reasons. The first Thursday of October is National Poetry Day, meaning all the terrible poems you wrote as a teenager will somehow find their way on to the internet without you knowing. Horrifying. The clocks go back one hour on the last Sunday of October, which means an extra hour for malevolent stripy-jumper-wearing spectres with pointy gloves to run amok in your nightmares. And of course, Halloween. But you know what’s not scary? Your weekly bundle of booze news – The Nightcap!

So, what’s occurred already this week at MoM Towers? Well, it was announced that our beloved Scotch whisky would be hit by US tariffs, a subject that Ian Buxton tackled on his return, who had small distillers on his mind. Adam had some good news to celebrate at least, as he tasted the newly launched Midleton Very Rare 2019 and then previewed the wonderful London Cocktail Week, which starts today! Annie Hayes continued the good vibes by showcasing not one, but three brilliant Balcones bottlings for our New Arrival of the Week before she enjoyed an Aged Botanical Spirit from the fab folk at the lovely (but hard to pronounce) Nc’nean. Henry, meanwhile, was in high spirits as he explored the use the CBD-infused rum from Dead Man’s Fingers as the base for a cocktail, the Hemp Highball. Oh, and Dram Club returned!

Don’t forget there’s still time to enter our competition to win a VIP trip to Kingsbarns whisky distillery! Now, on to The Nightcap!

The Nightcap

Italian-inspired all-day restaurant-bar Dante was victorious!

New York’s Dante named World’s Best Bar at 50 Best

Last night was a glitzy affair for all in the drinks world – The World’s 50 Best Bars ceremony took place in London! And top of the crop for 2019? New York’s Italy-inspired all-day restaurant-bar Dante! The watering hole climbed a huge eight places since last year – enormous congrats to the team, led by Linden Pride, Nathalie Hudson and Naren Young. Second place was London’s sleek, chic Connaught Bar, while Florería Atlántico, Buenos Aires’ celebration of all things Argentina, scooped the bronze medal. All in all, there were 17 new entries, with 15 debutants. The UK accounted for 10 of the World’s Best, with the USA fielding seven. In total, bars hailed from 26 cities spanning 21 countries – we highly recommend checking out the full list if you’re making any kind of travel plans. The 50 Best Bars list is decided by a cohort of drinks writers, bartenders and other cocktail aficionados from around the world, who must have visited each of the seven bars they vote for (including three outside their home country) at least once in the past 18 months. “Huge congratulations to all bars that have been included on this year’s list,” said William Drew, Director of Content for The World’s 50 Best Bars. “This list is a reflection of the open and diverse nature of the international bar scene today.” Cheers to that!

The Nightcap

Congratulations Kirsteen!

New master whisky maker at The Macallan

It’s just been announced that Kirtseen Campbell has landed one of the biggest jobs in Scotch – master whisky maker at The Macallan. She will lead the six-strong ‘whisky mastery team’, as it’s grandly known. Campbell, who is from Thurso, joined Edrington, Macallan’s parent company, in 2007 and has worked on such prestigious brands as Cutty Sark, Famous Grouse and Glenrothes. She holds a diploma in distilling and has also worked at the Scotch Whisky Research Institute. Campbell commented: “I feel a real sense of honour and pride to be entrusted as the custodian of The Macallan. Having been a part of the wider Edrington whisky making team for over a decade, I’m really looking forward to working more closely with the team at The Macallan.” Igor Boyadjian, managing director, The Macallan, said: “It is with great pleasure that we welcome Kirsteen Campbell to the position of master whisky maker at The Macallan. Kirsteen will join the whisky mastery team and together they will use their skills and craft to continue to create and enhance our exceptional portfolio of whiskies.” Congratulations, and we’re looking forward to trying those whiskies.

The Nightcap

Welcome back Ardbeg Supernova!

Prepare for a close encounter with Ardbeg Supernova

It’s been four whole years since we’ve seen a bottling of Ardbeg Supernova, a whisky which has elevated the phrase ‘out of this world’ to a whole new level. The Supernova Series is a collection of limited edition Committee bottlings first released in 2009 to celebrate the groundbreaking Ardbeg space experiment. What experiment, you ask? Oh, just that time when Ardbeg sent up a vial of whisky which orbited the earth for three years aboard the International Space Station, making Ardbeg become the first whisky brand in space. Yeah, that experiment. It’s also the peatiest expression to come from the Islay distillery. “The way the flavours build and build and then explode in a burst of pungent peat and smoke is truly astonishing,” says Dr Bill Lumsden, Director of Distilling, Whisky Creation and Whisky Stocks says of the most recent bottling. Supernova 2019 was released to members of the Ardbeg Committee on 2 October, and Mickey Heads, Ardbeg Distillery Manager notes that “Supernova 2019 is the fifth edition in the series, and I’m sure it will be snatched up in no time at all.” All good things must come to an end, and Ardbeg has confirmed that this is the last Supernova expression to land on earth’s shores. Although, the previous Supernova bottling in 2015 was also described as the final expression… Just saying.

The Nightcap

The bottling is a tribute to Ian Hunter, the last of the founding Johnston family to run the Laphroaig Distillery

Laphroaig unveils The Ian Hunter series

Exciting news from Laphroaig! This week the Islay distillery announced a new series of whiskies honouring the legacy of Ian Hunter, the last of the founding Johnston family to run the Laphroaig Distillery. Each limited edition annual release will be set into a book that will document a part of Hunter’s legacy. One of Hunter’s most notable successes was managing to sell Laphroaig to America during Prohibition, doing so under the guise of medicine. The inaugural release, Book One: ‘Unique Character’ (its full name) has been revealed, a 30-year-old whisky reflecting the characters of both Hunter and Laphroaig. It’s aged in first-fill American white oak bourbon barrels, a decision which is fairly obvious, as it was Hunter who introduced American oak casks to the Laphroaig maturation process. “If you visit the Laphroaig Distillery today its clear to see the impact of Ian Hunter through the practices and innovations that are still followed. For good reason, Ian is credited as the pioneer and innovator of this incredible whisky,” John Campbell, Laphroaig distillery manager, comments. “Without Ian, the Laphroaig we know today would not exist, so we have much to thank him for. It is this legacy that we celebrate throughout the series.” You can be sure that Book One will be landing on MoM shores very soon, though you’ll have to wait until 2020 for Book Two.

Sustainable surfs up at Old Pulteney

Following in the footsteps of the announcement last week that the Pulteney Distillery has teamed up with acclaimed wildlife cameraman Doug Allan, comes some even more exciting news from mainland Scotland’s second most northern distillery. For the second instalment of Old Pulteney’s ‘Rise with the Tide’ campaign, the distillery has collaborated with Sustainable Surf, a California-based non-profit founded in 2011 by Michael Steward and Kevin Whilden that encourages surfers to be more environmentally aware. You might be surprised from watching Point Break or listening to the Beach Boys, that modern surfboards are not good for the ocean. Steward filled us in: “We’re stoked to be collaborating with Old Pulteney to have this platform for sharing our story. When we first jump-started the movement for building dramatically more ocean-friendly surfboards about a decade ago in California, no one knew what an “Ecoboard” was – now you can buy a certified ‘ECOBOARD’ from over 250 participating brands all around the globe, and the world’s top professional surfers are using them in competition on the world stage and winning!” Malcolm Waring, Pulteney distillery manager, commented: “Kevin and Michael know all about the power and rewards of the sea, and that’s a value we hold dear here at Pulteney. They work tirelessly to harness the power of the global surfing community to protect the future of their ocean playground. They changed the game by recognising that their sport can be used as a platform to encourage a more sustainable, eco-friendly way of life.”

The Nightcap

Look, it’s Schofield’s Dry Vermouth!

Asterley Bros team up with Joe Schofield for new vermouth

This week we zipped up to London for the launch of a delish new vermouth – and it was well worth the trip. Joe Schofield, perhaps best known for his time at Singapore’s highly acclaimed Tippling Club bar, has teamed up with the actual brothers at Asterley Bros to create something mighty delicious indeed: Schofield’s Dry Vermouth! It’s a tasty concoction of all things quintessentially English, including a base wine made with English Bacchus, along with botanicals like rose, chamomile, jasmine, coriander and yarrow (and a whole load more, too). “I want to drive the dry vermouth market a little bit – put a bit of an interesting take on that,” Schofield told us as we sat down to enjoy a Four Leaf Clover serve during the event at Three Sheets (50ml of the vermouth, four mint leaves and 10ml elderflower liqueur, stirred in a highball and topped with soda, in case you were wondering). It’s 16% ABV, vegan, and the bottle even comes with a handy QR code so you can access more low(er) ABV serves if you like. We approve – keep an eye on the New Arrivals page and our social channels for more updates!

The Nightcap

The spectacular addition will mean more delicious Tequila, including aged expressions!

Patrón adds the Francisco Alcaraz Barrel Room to Hacienda

Hacienda Patrón has a swanky new addition that it’s keen to show off: a state-of-the-art aged barrel room. Two times the size of the present barrel room, it will allow for an increase in production of current expressions and continued innovation of the brand’s aged Tequila portfolio. The 16,850 square foot expansion provides more space to run ageing trials and Hacienda Patrón will store over 20,000 barrels of Tequila between both barrel rooms combined. The new building also features an upstairs tasting room for educational sessions, and an underground private bar, La Cava, an exclusive speakeasy bar, available for select VIP guests featuring a custom cocktail menu developed by head mixologist Oskar Murillo. “At Patrón we don’t cut any corners and we completely understand that aged Tequilas require patience to achieve greatness,” said Antonio Rodriguez, director of production. “The new Francisco Alcaraz Barrel Room gives us the capacity we need not only to increase the production of our current portfolio but to keep experimenting and create new innovations under different conditions. This expansion allows us to increase our Tequila production and provides another opportunity to continue to educate our guests at Hacienda Patrón through guided tastings in the new tasting room. Through a hands-on and interactive experience, guests will have the ability to fully understand the many nuances, variables and complexities of ageing Tequila.” Hacienda Patrón is located in the Highlands (Los Altos) of Jalisco and also features distillery buildings, a liquor facility, environmental areas, gardens, and a luxury 20-room guesthouse. Anyone else suddenly feel like they need a vacation? I hear Mexico is nice…

The Nightcap

Any excuse for a rum-based party…

Angostura brings Trinidad to London for one night only

Our job is booze but even we find it hard to keep up with all the various special days, weeks, months and even years of something or other. July was Rum Month, 16 August was National Rum Day and now, according to the House of Angostura, National Rum Week is coming up later this month. Still, any excuse for a party. And what a party the Trinidadian company has for you. It’s turning 640 East at the Arches in Bethnal Green, London into a West Indian Carnival on 17 October and you’re invited. Tickets cost £10 and include two cocktails made with Angostura bitters, rum and/or amaro by top drinks team Wet & Dry. And to get you in the mood there will be calypso, soca and live drumming from Just Vibez. Head over to the Angostura Global Facebook page for more information. Rainy autumn in London suddenly looks a whole lot hotter.

The Nightcap

What could be better than cheering on London Irish while enjoying Irish whiskey?

St. Patrick’s Distillery official whiskey of London Irish

There’s a Rugby World Cup on, in case you hadn’t heard, and what better time for St. Patrick’s Distillery to announce a partnership with everyone’s favourite London Irish rugby team, London Irish! The distillery (which we wrote about earlier in the year) is now the official whiskey supplier to the team and will sponsor the Man of the Match award at home games. Afsun Smith from Moonshine Inc Ltd, St. Patrick’s UK distributor, said: “We are proud to be partnering up with London Irish. Their core values mirrors ours: the pursuit of excellence, the love of a sporting life, a dedication to the community, and a superior offering. It’s a perfect match.” Sam Windridge from London Irish added: “We are delighted to be working with St. Patrick’s for this season and look forward to offering our adult supporters their fantastic range of products.” So now you can enjoy a drop of the Irish while you cheer on London Irish.

The Nightcap

Not wine. Not gin. Beer reigns supreme still in the UK

And finally… Beer remains the UK’s most popular alcoholic drink

If you’ve heard enough about the gin boom in the last few years to last you a lifetime, then this news may come as a surprise: beer is in fact Britain’s most popular alcoholic drink! Thanks to the British Beer & Pub Association’s (BBPA) latest handbook, we can pour you some boozy facts. As a nation, we enjoyed an eye-watering 8.5 billion pints in 2018, compared to only a measly 7.4 billion glasses of wine. However, the slightly disheartening news from the findings revealed that beer is majorly overtaxed in the UK. Apparently, unwitting Britons are paying 11 times more duty than beer lovers in Germany or Spain! All is not lost though, as the BBPA is backing a campaign calling on the Chancellor to cut beer tax. Surely that’s worth raising a pint!

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Cocktail of the Week: The Hemp Highball

Today, we’re talking to booze hero William Borrell, the man behind the Ladies & Gentlemen bars in London, Vestal Polish vodka and now a CBD-infused rum, Dead Man’s Fingers, the…

Today, we’re talking to booze hero William Borrell, the man behind the Ladies & Gentlemen bars in London, Vestal Polish vodka and now a CBD-infused rum, Dead Man’s Fingers, the base of this week’s cocktail.

You may have read a few things recently (here, here and here, for example) about the rise of CBD-infused spirits. CBD is an active ingredient in cannabis, not the one that gets you all confused and hungry (that’s THC, apparently), but may have some generally groovy effects. Or it might not. By law producers aren’t allowed to make any claims for general grooviness. We tried CBD rum Dead Man’s Fingers at Imbibe this year (very nice it was too though we can’t report any unusual effects), now we’re delighted to speak to the man behind it, William Borrell.

“The idea was first conceived at the Ladies and Gentlemen bar distillery and working kitchen in Camden. This is where we try new ideas during the day before the hoards of punters descend,” he told us. The process involved, according to Borrell “a lot of trial and error”. Things moved very quickly: “we had begun experimenting with the flavours you get from a basic hemp in May and then quickly moved to a range of specialist CBD hemp strains,” he said. We tried the finished version in July. It wasn’t all plain sailing though: Borrell was worried that “we would never be able to replicate the exciting flavours we stumbled on to at the beginning of the journey when it was just our team in the Ladies & Gentlemen bar but I think we got there in the end.”

William Borrell

Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr William Borrell!

Borrell has been working in the booze business for nearly ten years now. His first venture was with a series of “terroir-focused” potato Polish vodkas, Vestal. A bar followed, Ladies & Gentlemen in Kentish Town, and then earlier this year he opened a new venue down the road in Camden Town. Both are housed in converted Victorian toilets, hence the name. Don’t worry, Borrell and the team gave them a good clean first. This summer, a new non-lavatorial venture set sail, a Ladies & Gentlemen rum boat for cruisin’ n’ boozin’ on the Regent’s Canal.

Back to this week’s cocktail: the Hemp Highball, according to Borrell was inspired by “Joerg Meyer who at his highly acclaimed bars in Germany is reclaiming the Highball as the go-to drink at the moment.” And finally, the big question is which sort of music should you listen to while sipping your CBD drink. Borrell recommends: Bill Withers Live at Carnegie Hall (on vinyl, natch). He went on to tell us that at his bar, “we have a BYOV night every Sunday where customers receive a taste of Dead Man’s Fingers for free if they bring their own vinyl, why not pop down.” Why not, indeed. Or you can make a Hemp Highball at home. Here’s how:

40ml Dead Man’s Fingers Hemp Rum
20ml Giffard Triple Sec 
20ml Lime Juice
5ml sugar syrup
100ml Sekforde Rum Mixer (or tonic water if you can’t get hold of it) 

Add first four ingredients to an ice-filled Highball glass. Give them a good stir, top up with Sekforde Rum Mixer, stir again gently and garnish with a lemon wedge, a mint sprig and a basil leaf. Now take it away Bill Withers!

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