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Tag: Suntory

New Arrival of the Week: Haku Vodka

What happens when a renowned Japanese whisky house sets its sights on vodka? Meet Suntory’s Haku, our New Arrival of the Week. We adore Japanese spirits here at MoM Towers….

What happens when a renowned Japanese whisky house sets its sights on vodka? Meet Suntory’s Haku, our New Arrival of the Week.

We adore Japanese spirits here at MoM Towers. Japanese whiskies have long been held in high regard, and the hubbub around the likes of Ki No Bi and Roku gins endures. Now there’s a new kid on the booze block in the form of Haku Vodka – and it’s everything we hoped it would be and more.

Haku Vodka

Suntory’s latest experiment: delicious vodka!

What sets Japanese spirits apart for us is the meticulous attention to detail during all stages of production – as anyone who has sipped and savoured the likes of Hibiki, Nikka from the Barrel, or the now-legendary and rarer-than-hens-teeth Yamazaki 18 Year Old knows (mouths collectively water across MoM Towers at the mere mention). After all, the entire history of the category is based on Masataka Taketsuru’s adventures in Scotland from 1918, and his dogged determination to create the most perfect whisky distillery possible.

That there’s now a growing interest Japanese vodka is intriguing. Full disclosure: Haku is not the first to market. Nikka released its Coffey Vodka in 2017, and the eye-catching Eiko Vodka is also available. But vodka is a category with a bland reputation. It’s generally made in bulk, and as such is viewed as a bit of a humdrum tipple, useful for adding a hit of alcohol, but with little finesse. Well, Japanese vodka, and Haku in particular challenges that view with aplomb.

Haku Vodka

White rice, not only delicious, but also useful in the creation of booze. What a product.

For starters, Haku starts life as white rice. But not just the white rice you’d stock your kitchen cupboards with. No. In Japan, white rice is seen as a luxury; traditionally it was reserved for fancy occasions and even worship. It’s got a slightly sweet flavour – a subtle characteristic which is preserved in Haku due to its painstaking production method.

Step one is to ferment with something called ‘rice koji’ to create a mash. It’s then distilled using pot stills to get the initial rice spirit – this happens in Kagoshima, in Kyushu, a place famed for making rice spirits. It’s then distilled twice more using different methods (we assume this is where the column still comes in) to hit that all-important ABV.

Bamboo charcoal is key to the creation of Haku

The spirit then gets taken more than 600 kilometres to Osaka, a place Suntory calls its ‘Liquor Atelier’. Here it is filtered using bamboo charcoal, in a specific process used only by Suntory. The use of charcoal, however, is super traditional and was even used to ‘sweeten’ water for tea. Turns out, bamboo is a genius material, three times more porous than wood charcoal, and super-sustainable, too.

The results of all this? Something velvet-soft yet surprisingly floral. There’s something a little bit grassy about it, too. But the most compelling thing is that roly-poly mouthfeel. It’s bouncy and glossy without being weighty. And it makes a bloody magic Martini. Kanpai!

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The Nightcap: 10 May

Another week with a bank holiday, but as we’ve seen before, that won’t stop the influx of information that we know as news – specifically about tasty booze! The season…

Another week with a bank holiday, but as we’ve seen before, that won’t stop the influx of information that we know as news – specifically about tasty booze!

The season of short weeks continues, keeping us on our toes when it comes to Monday plans. You have to be rather on the ball in April and May, otherwise you could end up at work all alone, or equally alone on a presumably sunny beach. One of those is probably more preferable than the other…

Anyway, you’re tuned in to The Nightcap, so let’s see what has been happening in the world of booze this week. On our very own blog, our very own Adam took a look at the continuing rebirth of Port Ellen, and then got a little musical with some Eurovision-themed tipples. Jess’ New Arrival of the Week was actually a double-header with the duo of new Nelson’s Rums. Ian Buxton’s guest column this week looked at both delicious and questionable innovations in whisky, while Henry recalled his adventure at Ramsbury Estate. Annie checked out five of the world’s most sustainable bars, and then took us through the story of the Bloody Mary for Cocktail of the Week.

And now, the news!

The Nightcap

This dream is one step closer to becoming a reality

Johnnie Walker Edinburgh attraction secures planning permission

If you talk to Diageo people, they are beyond excited about plans to open a Johnnie Walker venue on Princes Street in Edinburgh (as we revealed back in February). Now the dream is one step closer as this week planning permission was granted by Edinburgh Council. The venue on Princes Street will be more than just a shop: it will include a brand storytelling experience, an events space, and a training academy. It’s part of £150m investment in whisky tourism by the drinks giant. David Cutter, chairman of Diageo in Scotland, said: “We have had great support for our proposals from local stakeholders and businesses in Edinburgh and we are grateful to everyone who has helped us to get to this stage. We will continue to work with the local community as we now progress with construction and with making our plans a reality.” Cristina Diezhandino, Diageo Global Scotch whisky director, added: “We have ambitious plans to make this a truly world-leading attraction, drawing people from the four corners of the globe to Scotland and to give them an unforgettable experience in Scotch whisky and Scottish culture.” Construction work on the period building on Edinburgh’s grandest shopping street will begin very soon. The next step is for the City of Edinburgh Licensing Board to grant an alcohol licence. Let’s hope they do, or it’ll be a pretty sad whisky experience.

The Macallan kicks off ‘Experiences’ video series

Speyside-based Scotch whisky distillery The Macallan has unveiled a new video-based campaign to celebrate ‘innovative, interactive and engaging whisky serves’. The series, called The World’s Best Scotch Experiences, sees the whisky-maker team up with leading chefs and bartenders to give behind-the-scenes glimpses at all kinds of drinks creations. Featured in the series are everything from four-course tasting menus to 3D-printed serving vessels, from the likes of Manhattan and Mexico City. “As the leading single malt Scotch whisky, we strive to lead the way when it comes to new, immersive experiences, which in turn creates memorable moments and long-lasting success for The Macallan,” said Alexis Calero, key city and spiritual homes manager at The Macallan. “Through The World’s Best Scotch Experiences series, we were able to create and collaborate with chefs and mixologists that share the same passion we have for creating unique experiences and memories that bring The Macallan to life in an unforgettable way.” Check out US Macallan YouTube, Facebook, Instagram pages, or search the hashtag #DestinationMacallan to check it all out!

The Nightcap

Absolutely beautiful. That bourbon looks nice too.

Matthew McConaughey taps into Texas roots with Wild Turkey

Celebrities getting involved in the world of booze is nothing new. From George Clooney and Conor McGregor, to Derek Zoolander, it feels like half of Hollywood has tried to add some star-power to their chosen spirit (most impressive from Zoolander, given he isn’t actually real). Sometimes these launches can leave a lot to be desired, other times they can turn out alright, alright, alright. (I apologise for nothing). Wild Turkey will be hoping it can achieve the later with Longbranch, a bourbon launched in collaboration between master distiller Eddie Russell and creative director Matthew McConaughey. Longbranch, named to mark the friends that form the longest branches of our family trees, was inspired by the Academy Award-winning actor’s Kentucky and Texas roots. The small-batch release was made with eight-year-old Wild Turkey bourbon and refined with two separate charcoal filtration methods using American white oak and Texas Mesquite wood. It’s said to possess notes of vanilla, caramel, pear, citrus, pepper, toasted oak and a subtle, smoky finish. “Longbranch, in its simplest form, is an extended hand, inviting a friend into your family,” said McConaughey. “So the branch that was extended to me from the Russells was a long one, one that reached from Kentucky to Texas and back again. I offered the Mesquite from my great state to add to their legendary Kentucky whiskey and together we made Longbranch.” Wild Turkey Longbranch will be available in the UK in June for £40, and if it’s as good as McConaughey was in Magic Mike True Detective, then you’ll want a dram.

The Nightcap

Congratulations to Jonny!

Sotheby’s hires first spirits specialist

Unless you’ve been living under some kind of rock, you’ll know whisky auctions have become a Proper Thing in recent times. It’s a fact not lost on the team at Sotheby’s – in light of the zeitgeist, it’s hired its first dedicated spirits specialist. Say hello to Jonny Fowle! Born and raised in Edinburgh, Fowle founded his own whisky training business in 2012 and worked with companies including Mandarin Oriental, JW Marriot and The Peninsula. He also spent time as an ambassador for booze brands across Japanese whisky, gin and rum. More recently, he’s brokered deals on casks and rare whisky bottles. Rather well-qualified, then! “I am very excited to have joined Sotheby’s as the company strengthens its footing in the spirits market,” said Fowle himself. “It is an incredibly exciting time for a growing industry, and alongside the hugely talented Sotheby’s Wine team, we hope to place ourselves at the centre of that growth.” Congrats, Jonny!

The Nightcap

Anyone for an Aviation?

Pickering’s Gin and British Airways create ‘first’ gin for sipping in the sky

How many gins have you come across that were botanically engineered to be enjoyed at 30,000ft? Presumably none, because Pickering’s Gin claims it has achieved a world first. It’s worked with British Airways to launch its Pickering’s British Airways Centenary Gin! The gin was developed at Edinburgh’s Summerhall Distillery using a balance of 10 botanicals specially selected to combat the suppression of our taste and aroma receptors due to in-flight low air pressure and lack of humidity. The botanicals also celebrate British flora and fauna, with juniper, rose petals and heather used alongside Pickering’s signature ingredients of lime, lemon, cardamom and cinnamon. The new release will be available onboard economy flights and as part of a limited-edition triple ‘Gin Flight’ miniature gift pack. Pickering’s British Airways Centenary Gin actually comes with two different tasting notes, depending on the altitude you’re at when you drink it. At 30,000ft, the citrus and sweet spice of cinnamon and cardamom are said to be more prominent, while at 10,000ft and below, the bold, floral juniper and delicate hints of rose and Scottish heather are more accentuated. “To banish so-called airplane ‘taste blindness’, we have carefully designed a botanical flavour profile that enhances what you lack when you’re soaring in the sky,” said Pickering’s head distiller and co-founder, Matt Gammell. “We trialled multiple iterations of the recipe in the air until we were confident that it would taste as good in the sky as it did on the ground.” It’s one small step for gin and one giant leap for enjoyable in-flight refreshments!

The Nightcap

Holyrood Distillery has it all, from cask programmes to a delightfully dapper dog!

Holyrood Distillery intros personalised cask programme

Edinburgh-based Holyrood Distillery – one of the producers in the mix to make the city’s first whisky for almost 100 years – has announced a fancy cask programme where customers can create their own barrel from scratch. How does it work? In consultation with head distiller Dr Jack Mayo and co-founder David Robertson, interested parties can buy a cask, choosing pretty much everything from the type and oak species to previous fill. Not only that, but they’ll be able to shape the production process too! Why not decide how long the barley is dried and roasted for, which yeast should be used during fermentation, and even have a say in distillation approach and date?! It really is the full customisation shebang! 100 casks have been made available in the programme, and production will start shortly after the distillery opens in July. Prices start from £4,500 for a 200-litre barrel, including flavour consultation, whisky creation, storage for ten years, sampling, insurance, labelling and bottling. “Everything we do at Holyrood is driven by flavour,” said Dr Mayo. “That’s why our Cask Programme gives people the unique chance to tailor a cask of our whisky to suit their flavour preferences.” Head to the Holyrood Distillery site to register your interest!

The Nightcap

Yann Bouvignies’ first menu at Scarfes is hitting all the right notes.

Scarfes Bar new cocktail menu

We headed over to the lovely Scarfes Bar at the Rosewood Hotel in London for a chat with head bartender Yann Bouvignies about the latest cocktail menu which combines music and drinks! Scarfes Bar is one of the few London hotel bars to boast live music every night, so it was only a matter of time until music made its way into the drinks list. The menu is an interactive journey through the genres, with one famous face representing each style, drawn by caricaturist Gerald Scarfe himself. Each genre is given two cocktails representing the music from the artist. For example, Tupac is the face of hip hop, and the two drinks were named Poetic Justice, a nutty, whisky-based cocktail reflecting the gentler, earlier days of his art, and Tradin’ Old Stories, a somewhat more assertive drink mirroring the development of Tupac’s music. It really is a fabulous idea: Aretha Franklin is the face of soul, Prince of funk, Louis Armstrong representing jazz, even the Spice Girls make an appearance in the name of pop. The new menu focuses more on sustainability (which is always good), and on many of the minimalist cocktails there is no garnish (especially if Bouvignies doesn’t deem it necessary and thinks it will simply be thrown away). With 18 cocktails in total, there is quite literally something for everyone, music and drinks lovers alike.

The Nightcap

Massimo Bottura’s (L) non-profit Food for Soul will receive a windfall from The Dalmore

Dalmore L’Anima raises £108,900 for Food for Soul

Remember when we brought you news of (and then got to taste!) The Dalmore L’Anima Aged 49 Years, the mega-fancy bottling set to be auctioned for charity? Well, bidding closed at Sotheby’s yesterday [9 May] at £108,900! A phenomenal amount of money. The full proceeds are going to Food for Soul, the non-profit founded by Massimo Bottura, Chef-Patron of Osteria Francescana, who also co-created the expression. Food for Soul, which he runs with his wife, Lara Gilmore, works to counter food waste through social inclusion. “We are honoured to be part of this great collaboration with The Dalmore, which displays the excellent features of this world-renowned whisky together with an Italian touch,” Bottura said. “I’m even more enthusiastic that this unique project, together with Sotheby’s precious help, will support Food for Soul to build projects that celebrate the culture and the potential of communities around the world.” Good work all-round, folks, and congrats to the winning bidder, who along with that incredible bottle, also gets to enjoy dinner for two at Bottura’s Modena restaurant, Osteria Francescana – voted the world’s best restaurant in 2016 and 2018. Buon Appetito!

The Nightcap

Fans of all things Japanese and boozy will surely be seeing more of James

Suntory appoints James Bowker as first UK ambassador

Hibiki, Yamazaki, Chita, Roku, Haku (check the blog on Monday for more!)… The House of Suntory certainly has deliciousness aplenty in its portfolio of Japanese tipples. And now there’s a dedicated UK brand ambassador to help them shine even brighter! Meet James Bowker, the man in the brand-new role. He’s tasked with spreading the spirit of Japan far and wide through the land and coming up with all kinds of education plans and cocktails. He’s been a bartender for more than 10 years, and developed a passion for Japanese whisky in particular at The Edgbaston Hotel in Birmingham. He then spent time making drinks in actual Tokyo, deepening is knowledge of Japanese cocktail techniques and visiting distilleries. “I’ve always had a passion for spirits and grew very fond of The House of Suntory whisky portfolio during my early days behind the bar,” Bowker said. “I can’t wait to become the face of The House of Suntory in the UK, building strong partnerships with bartenders and venues across the country to broaden the appeal for Japanese spirits, serves and the brands’ founding principles for continued perfection.” Congrats!

The Nightcap

The future is here. And it’s slightly confusing.

And finally… Mackmyra and Microsoft create ‘AI whisky’

Hands up if you’re an expert in artificial intelligence (AI)? Us neither (though if you are, and can shed some light on what our ‘And finally…’ this week means for whisky in general, please drop us a line!). Swedish whisky-maker Mackmyra has become an expert in the field after teaming up with Microsoft, of off computers, and Fourkind, a Finnish tech consultancy, to create the ‘world’s first’ AI whisky. Here’s what we think it means: the whisky recipe has been engineered using data based on consumer flavour preferences. According to the distillery, AI is used to “augment and automate the most time-consuming processes of whisky creation” with the possibility to create more than “70 million” recipes. “We see AI as a part of our digital development, it is really exciting to let AI be a complement to the craft of producing a high-quality whisky,” said Angela D’Orazio, Mackmyra’s master blender. “It is a great achievement to be able to say that I’m now also a mentor for the first ever created AI whisky in the world.” According to a Microsoft spokesperson, AI-generation can have an impact in multiple industries. “These new AI solutions can be used to generate products that retain the spirit, look and feel of the brands behind them, while at the same time being new and unique.” It stressed, however, that AI isn’t designed to replace a master blender, who should always have a curation role in the process. Mackmyra’s AI-generated whisky will be available from Autumn 2019 – but it very much seems like the future is now. The robots are coming!

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The Nightcap: 12 April

A meeting of master distillers and blenders, $1,000 Mint Juleps and secret whisky history – The Nightcap has all these stories and more! It’s Friday once again, and, like clockwork,…

A meeting of master distillers and blenders, $1,000 Mint Juleps and secret whisky history – The Nightcap has all these stories and more!

It’s Friday once again, and, like clockwork, we’ve got another batch of news stories from the world of booze ready and waiting in The Nightcap. In fact, it’s almost as if we assembled a team of engineers and bribed them with the tastiest cocktails they could ever imagine to build us Nightcap-bot 3000 to produce these stories. Of course, that’s simply hogwash. We definitely have not done that, and we absolutely don’t disguise Nightcap-bot 3000 as a fridge when people visit the editorial team’s realm within MoM Towers to make it look like we’re very busy. We’re also not scared that Nightcap-bot 3000 will one day replace and potentially eat us all.

On the blog this week, guest writer Ian Buxton pondered whether whisky could crash in his first post for us, while Annie explored cocktails that have a way with words, then talked to Talisker about its new bartender competition Wild Spirit. Henry’s Cocktail of the Week was the classic Gin & Tonic in celebration of National Gin & Tonic Day, and Martini & Rossi’s new super fruity vermouth Fiero caught his eye for New Arrival of the Week. Kristy explored a fancy new Scotch from Glenmorangie, while Adam tasted a 47 Year Old Mortlach expression, then looked at Littlemill’s historical claim. If that wasn’t enough, here’s the rest of the week’s news!

The Nightcap

Take a look at Islay’s first new distillery for nearly 15 years!

New Islay distillery Ardnahoe opens its doors

The opening of a Scotch whisky distillery is always an event, but there’s something particularly special about a new one on Islay. Today Ardnahoe, the first new distillery on the island since 2005, was officially opened by the Rt Hon Lord Robertson of Port Ellen. Stewart Laing, managing director of Hunter Laing, the family-owned company which has invested £12m in the project, commented: “Since working as a teenager at Bruichladdich Distillery over 50 years ago, I have had a huge affinity with Islay and its malt whiskies. When we decided to build our own distillery, there was only one possible location. We have built a great team to manage the distillery and run the visitor centre and in a few years’ time we will be able to drink a great whisky in the classic Islay style, staying true to the island’s heritage with a heavily peated malt.” The spirit should be full of character as it will be made using wooden washbacks, Scottish-made lamp glass stills and worm tub condensers (the only distillery on the island to use them), and it will be aged in ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks. The great master distiller Jim McEwan advised on the project. With such pedigree, it’s no surprise that Hunter Laing has already pre-sold 400 casks of spirit. Team MoM is flying out to Islay on Monday to bring you the full story. Watch this space.

Jameson unveils new commercial for Taste, That’s Why campaign

Jameson Irish Whiskey unveiled the next instalment of its sassy Taste, That’s Why advertising platform this week. New commercial The Bartenders’ Gathering is set in Dublin in 2016, and tells the true story of 200 global bartenders at the brand’s annual three-day immersive and educational summit of the same name. It all looks very trendy and fun, with shots of distilleries, whiskey, bars, food, music and some lovely Irish countryside, as well as an unexpected twist. Some of the bartenders interrupt a distillery trip to go to a library (we’re just kidding, that isn’t it). “As we unveil the next chapter in the Taste, That’s Why story, we wanted to highlight Jameson’s revered position among bartenders as they have been instrumental to our success in the USA and around the world over the past 29 years,” said Simon Fay, international marketing director at Irish Distillers. “The new spot conveys the true spirit of the annual Bartenders’ Gathering in a high octane but light-hearted manner with a twist of Irish humour – it’s exactly what you’d expect from Jameson, and will help us to further build the profile and personality of the brand supporting equity growth into the future.”

The Nightcap

The wonderful Joy Spence of Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum

Campari launches Meet the Master, bringing together four drinks luminaries

Where can you see the master distillers and blenders behind Wild Turkey, Appleton Estate, Grand Marnier and Glen Grant all in one place? At Carlton House Terrace in London’s Mayfair from 14-16 May, when Campari UK launches Meet the Masters. The event will bring together more than 140 combined years of talent and expertise in one location. The line-up includes Joy Spence of Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum, the first woman master blender in the spirits industry; Eddie Russell of Wild Turkey Bourbon, the third generation Russell to work at the distillery; Patrick Raguenaud of Grand Marnier, whose family has been involved in the Cognac industry since 1627; and Dennis Malcolm of Glen Grant, who has worked at the distillery for over five decades. The event will offer tasting sessions with each master, panel discussions, and an opportunity for guests from the drinks industry and beyond to get the masters’ view on the latest industry trends. “With over 140 years of shared experience in the spirits industry between them, Meet the Masters is a must-attend for those who are serious about spirits, the stories behind them, and hungry to know more, in a unique and intimate setting,” said Brad Madigan, managing director at Campari UK. Sounds enlightening!

The Nightcap

The Fèis Ìle 2019 Limited Edition!

Douglas Laing unveils 2019 Fèis Ìle Big Peat bottling

Here at MoM we’re getting very excited about Fèis Ìle, the Islay Festival of Music and Malt that runs from 24 May to 1 June. To celebrate this year’s bash, Douglas Laing will be releasing a very special whisky called Big Peat’s Pals. It’s a blended malt containing whiskies from Ardbeg, Bowmore, Caol Ila and even Port Ellen! So rare. Only 3,300 bottles will be available globally. It’s the 10th anniversary of the much-loved brand and so the packaging of this special edition features the photos of 400 “pals” from all over the world. “By marrying together a fine selection of our preferred single malts, only from Islay, we truly believe we have created the ultimate taste of Islay in Big Peat,” said Douglas Laing director of whisky Cara Laing. “His latest limited edition, the Fèis Ìle 2019 release, pays homage to his friends the world over, over 400 of whom feature proudly on the gift tube. This year, we celebrate 10 years since my father dreamed up Big Peat, and our extensive plans will ensure our Big Islay Pal celebrates in style all over the world!” These plans include a Facebook tasting during Fèis Ìle for members of the Big Peat community, so that fans who can’t get to the island can join in the festivities. Very modern.

The Nightcap

This man is basically Indiana Jones, as far as I’m concerned

Whisky distillery archaeology gets under way in Scotland!

It’s been quite the week when it comes to whisky history. First we heard evidence that Littlemill was Scotland’s ‘oldest’ distillery. Now we’ve got some archaeological goings on at Blackmiddens, an old steading on the border between Moray and Aberdeenshire. It was one of the first distilleries to nab a licence after the Excise Act of 1823. Now, The Cabrach Trust, which preserves the history of the area, is excavating the site to figure out exactly what went down when, with help from Forestry and Land Scotland and Historic Environment Scotland. “For decades local farmers secretly distilled whisky and smuggled it away under the noses of excisemen. Then, when the law was changed to make small-scale whisky production profitable, Blackmiddens was one of the first farms to take advantage of this,” said Anna Brennand, Cabrach Trust chief exec. “Despite the fact that farms like this were famous for their fine quality spirit, whisky production at Blackmiddens stopped just eight years after it began and the farm fell into ruin. We hope to uncover some of the secrets of early whisky making in the Highlands with this exciting dig.” We can’t wait to see what they discover!

The Nightcap

Small-batch Serata Hall gin, anyone?

Serata Hall comes to Old Street

Just a stone’s throw away from Old Street station, a new establishment called Serata Hall opened its doors this week, which we know because we attended the launch party! The new site is Albion & East’s fourth offering alongside sister sites Martello Hall in Hackney, and Canova Hall and Cattivo, both in Brixton. Like its siblings, Serata Hall will make all of its food on-site (we can personally recommend the pizzas), serve tap wine (the biggest selection outside the United States), and provide guests the option to either create their own cocktails or ‘Book a Bartender’, where mixologists conjure up inventive cocktails. There’s also a DJ booth, a daily bakery and hot-desk spaces. But the thing that stands out most for us here at MoM Towers? The in-house distillery. That’s right. Serata Hall features a bespoke still, called ‘Agnes’, which makes small-batch Serata Hall gin, available for visitors to drink at the venue and buy on-site. You can even sign up to gin blending masterclasses, where the master distiller will show you how to blend, bottle and hand-wax two gins, which you then get to name and take away. You also learn how to make three gin cocktails, too. Sounds like a good time to us!

The Nightcap

Move over coffee machines, at-home booze machines have arrived!

Can this at-home booze machine change how we drink?

The future is now, folks. Smart Spirits – a company that produces different types of spirits by mixing water, ethyl alcohol and flavour – has come up with an at-home dispenser designed to make more than 30 different drinks spanning all the major spirits categories using capsules. A bit like those coffee tabs but with actual booze. How does it work? The so-called ‘Taste Of’ flavour capsules mix with neutral grain spirit and/or water to mimic the flavours of different whiskies, gins, rums, vodkas and liqueurs. You can choose the alcohol content (0-40% ABV), and there’s even Bluetooth connectivity, so you can control the whole thing from your smartphone. “We’re delighted to introduce to the market an innovative new way to drink at home,” said Ian Smart, one of the Smart Spirits co-founders. “Smart Spirits taps into the desire of the increasingly sophisticated and tech-savvy consumer to have control of the alcohol in their drinks, at the same time also choice and convenience.” On the one hand, you’ve got an entire drinks cabinet in one. But we reckon we’d miss the sound of the cork popping out of the bottle… the jury’s out on this one. Let us know what you think!

The Nightcap

This is a $1,000 Mint Julep. No, really.

Woodford Reserve unveils $1,000 Julep for the Kentucky Derby

What’s the most you would spend on a cocktail? £9? £15? £21? Well, Woodford Reserve is hoping some punters will be prepared to spend significantly more. To celebrate the 145th Kentucky Derby on 3 and 4 May, the bourbon producer, which is also the race’s official sponsor, has unveiled a $1,000 Mint Julep. Yes, one thousand clams. For that money you’d expect it to contain unicorn tears or at the very least powdered griffin beak. But in reality it’s made with standard Woodford Reserve, a honey syrup that was aged in oak for 145 days, and mint grown at Churchill Downs racetrack where the Derby takes place. The packaging, however, is seriously swanky. For the money you get a silver cup alongside a flask of bourbon, and the whole thing is presented in a wooden box lined with jockey silks. If that’s not lavish enough, there’s a gold version available for $2,500. Only 125 silver and 20 gold will be made. You will be pleased to know that this is not just about conspicuous consumption, all the proceeds go to the John Asher Memorial Scholarship Fund to provide an education for deserving students at Western Kentucky University.

The Nightcap

I defy you not to imagine yourself drinking something wonderful and Japanese here

Nobu and Suntory team up for Hanami experience

How does a showcase of contemporary Japanese craftsmanship with a menu of exclusive cocktails, bespoke dishes and afternoon tea sound to you? Pretty great, right? Well, good, because that’s exactly what Nobu Hotel London Shoreditch and The House of Suntory have put together with Hanami. It’s a celebration of the annual bloom of the Japanese Cherry Blossom, or Sakura, inspired by the ancient practice of dining beneath the blossoming flower. Millions of people from all over the world travel to drink, dance and dine beneath the blossom, but Hanami will bring the spirit of this tradition to London at the newest Nobu restaurant. The bar team at Nobu, led by beverage manager Wilfried Rique, has worked closely with The House of Suntory to create an exciting original menu inspired by its range of premium Japanese spirits, including Toki and Chita Whisky, Roku Gin and the newly-launched Haku Vodka. These are presented with Japanese ingredients, teas and house-made infusions in a menu of seven bespoke cocktails, alongside Nobu-style bar snacks and world class sushi. Visitors to the terrace also have the opportunity to indulge in an exclusive Sakura-inspired Afternoon Tea menu, offering a twist on the classic British tradition. It’s open to the public now, so if this sounds like your cup of tea, then be sure to check it out.

The Nightcap

Marcos Ameneiros Zannone, who will presumably be looking to replace that sticky shaker…

And finally… Bartender gets stuck at Cointreau Margarita contest

There was a hairy moment at this week’s Cointreau Margarita competition at Century House in London, when one of the contestant’s cocktail shaker got stuck. Not an unusual occurrence when mixing cocktails, but after some frantic banging and jimmying from poor Marcos Ameneiros Zannone from Berners Tavern, it became clear that it was well and truly jammed. Meanwhile, the ice inside was slowly melting and diluting the cocktail. And so, the cream of British bartending stepped in and everyone in the room had a go at opening the bloody thing. But nobody could. It was like the sword in the stone from Arthurian Legend. Just in the nick of time, in stepped one of the barmen from Century who managed to prize the recalcitrant shaker open. Zannone poured out his Susanita (which was inspired by Crêpes Suzette), and won the competition. Our Henry was one of the judges, alongside Sandrae Lawrence from The Cocktail Lovers magazine, award-winning bartender Carl Anthony Brown, and Alfred Cointreau himself. The panel also picked a winner from outside London, with Nathan Larkin from Manchester’s plant-based bar Speak in Code taking the title with his Sicolo Mayahuel, a smoky complex drink with an Aztec twist. The two runners-up were Dean Railton from Feed in Leeds, and Leonardo Baggio from Mr Fogg’s Residence. The two winners won lots of Cointreau and a trip to Cannes. Congratulations to all who took part – the standard was sky high – and especially to Zannone for keeping his cool.

That’s it for The Nightcap this week, team. Have awesome weekends!

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10 genuinely epic single grains from across the globe

If you’re of the opinion that single grain whisky is ‘all mouth, no trousers’ – as in, multiple cereals but zero flavour – you’re very sadly mistaken. Here, we’ve picked…

If you’re of the opinion that single grain whisky is ‘all mouth, no trousers’ – as in, multiple cereals but zero flavour – you’re very sadly mistaken. Here, we’ve picked out 10 of the most sumptuous single grains the world has to offer. Tasting glasses at the ready…

It’s quaffable, affordable, and forms the backbone of many a blended whisky: could it be time to cut single grain some slack? David Beckham obviously thinks so, and we’re inclined to agree (though this list is, we assure you, Haig-free).

In reality, the things that many would consider to be grain whisky’s biggest weaknesses – light in character, industrial, no grain off-limits – have been transformed into the category’s greatest strengths by diligent distillers.

Now, I’m pretty nosy, so I wanted to find out a little bit more about the kinds of grains you can expect to find in each bottling. Easier said than done, because this information generally isn’t readily available.

So, where possible I’ve included the variety of grain each distillery primarily dabbles in (or dabbled, should it now be silent), so you can draw your own conclusions if you so wish…

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Q&A: Brian Ashcraft, author of Japanese Whisky: The Ultimate Guide to the World’s Most Desirable Spirit

Fancy finding out about Japanese whisky but don’t know where to start? ‘Japanese Whisky: The Ultimate Guide to the World’s Most Desirable Spirit’ certainly sounds like a good place to…

Fancy finding out about Japanese whisky but don’t know where to start? ‘Japanese Whisky: The Ultimate Guide to the World’s Most Desirable Spirit’ certainly sounds like a good place to start. We chat to the author, Brian Ashcraft…

On the blog today we are delighted to have Brian Ashcraft, author of a beautiful book called Japanese Whisky: The Ultimate Guide to the World’s Most Desirable Spirit. It’s a brilliant introduction to a complicated subject and, just to make your life even easier, at the end Brian has picked his favourite Japanese whiskies from the Master of Malt range.

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Welcome to The Macallan Whisky Lounge: the UK’s first!

The rumours are true – The Macallan Whisky Lounge has hit the UK! We fill you in on all the details, talk to the bar manager about what to expect,…

The rumours are true – The Macallan Whisky Lounge has hit the UK! We fill you in on all the details, talk to the bar manager about what to expect, and walk you through an exclusive World Whisky Tour…

It’s not often a celebrated whisky distillery opens a dedicated whisky lounge, but Speyside masters The Macallan have only gone and done just that. Located within Vauxhall-based European-Japanese fusion restaurant Four Degree, this is the brand’s first UK lounge, with the other situated on the second floor of the Galaxy Hotel in Macau, China (the Vauxhall location is thankfully a far simpler commute).

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Whisky in Space (2015: A Space Oddity)

Space. The final front ear. Home of paranoid robots named HAL, space stations that ain’t no moons, cats and David Bowie. Recently whisky has also been crowbarred into this list…

2001 A Space Odyssey

Space. The final front ear. Home of paranoid robots named HAL, space stations that ain’t no moons, cats and David Bowie. Recently whisky has also been crowbarred into this list with alarming regularity. So much so, that I thought it was time to take another look at it all.

You see, having inexplicably found myself in Disneyland Paris for a few days back in August, during which time I naturally took up residence on Space Mountain, I now quite reasonably consider myself to be the office expert when it comes to all things space.

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Master of Cocktails – If The Umeshu Fits…

Greetings all. Time for a cocktail? This week we’re going to be making a very Japanese-y cocktail, heavily inspired by the amazing work of Zoran Peric, a Brand Ambassador for…

Master of Cocktails If The Umeshu Fits

Greetings all. Time for a cocktail?

This week we’re going to be making a very Japanese-y cocktail, heavily inspired by the amazing work of Zoran Peric, a Brand Ambassador for Suntory Whiskies, whose work we’ve got a lot of time for here at #MasterofCocktails. We’ll be making a ‘If The Umeshu Fits…’ recipe, a name that will make sense when you see the ingredients.

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Irish Whiskey – Everything You Need To Know! (Part 3)

Blimey, it’s Friday already! A Valentine’s Day Friday, no less! Well, today we only have eyes for delicious Irish Whiskey as we move onto the third and final instalment of…

Ireland

Blimey, it’s Friday already! A Valentine’s Day Friday, no less! Well, today we only have eyes for delicious Irish Whiskey as we move onto the third and final instalment of this bumper blog post.

Back at the start of Part 1, I mentioned Teeling Whiskey Company‘s recently confirmed plans to build a new distillery in Dublin, the first in 125 years. This post will cover this and many other projects that could see the number of distilleries in Ireland double, treble, or perhaps even quadruple!

First though, I’ll try to briefly run through some other news and developments, starting with the fact that in 2011 Beam Inc. bought Cooley, introducing another big player alongside the giants of Pernod Ricard and Diageo and leaving Ireland without an independent distillery once again (albeit briefly…).

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Master of Cocktails – The Highball

For this week’s #MasterofCocktails, we’re making a Highball. Incredibly refreshing, and probably in my all-time top three aperitifs. Well, top 5 anyway… (Martini, Negroni, Campari-Soda…) Yep. Top 5. Now, whilst…

Master of Cocktails The Highball

For this week’s #MasterofCocktails, we’re making a Highball. Incredibly refreshing, and probably in my all-time top three aperitifs. Well, top 5 anyway… (Martini, Negroni, Campari-Soda…) Yep. Top 5.

Now, whilst this may seem a very straight-forward cocktail (and in many ways is), it’s all in the balance and execution. I had one of my favourites a couple of weeks ago at Bincho (a Japanese Restaurant with its own ‘whisky joint’ in the basement), where they paired Hakushu 12 single malt with Fresh Mint.

We’re going to use Lemon Peel as the ‘garnish’ in our drink, but we want it to be very, very subtle. More on that later…

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