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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: tequila

Five eco-friendly distilleries

From carbon emissions to wasteful byproducts, spirits production is a strain on nature, with the average 750ml bottle producing more than six pounds of CO2* (equivalent to a seven-mile car…

From carbon emissions to wasteful byproducts, spirits production is a strain on nature, with the average 750ml bottle producing more than six pounds of CO2* (equivalent to a seven-mile car journey), according to the Beverage Industry Environmental Roundtable. The second part of environmental series this week, we shine a light on five eco-friendly distilleries that take sustainability seriously…

Distilling is an art. It’s an expression of nature, creating complex flavour patterns – from delicate floral to powerful smoke – using little more than some combination of raw ingredients, yeast, water and occasionally wood. And yet, despite being au naturel in spirit, the production chain is liable to wreak havoc on mother nature. Generally speaking, the higher the ABV, the higher a product’s carbon footprint.

There’s the environmental impact of farming the base ingredient, be it sugarcane, grain, agave, grapes, or potatoes. This includes fertilising, watering, harvesting, processing and transporting the crops, as well as the impact on local wildlife and biodiversity. Distilling, as you’ll know, requires lots of energy (and creates plenty of waste) as does bottling, packaging and storing the resulting booze. Then, that precious liquid is freighted by air and sea across the globe – usually heavy glass bottles wrapped in plastic and cardboard boxes – for our drinking pleasure. Yikes.

The good news? It doesn’t have to be this way. From multinational companies to fledgling distillers, spirits producers of all sizes are busy taking steps towards a greener future. Looking across renewable energy, water use, philanthropy and more, we’ve highlighted five spirits distilleries that are going above and beyond to make sure their craft is kinder on the planet without compromising on taste. That’s the spirit.

The absolutely lovely Absolut distillery in Sweden

The Absolut Company, Sweden

One of the most sustainable spirits-makers in the world, Absolut Vodka’s Åhus-based site only uses green energy generated by hydro power, and its entire distillation process is carbon neutral. The Absolut Company works with local farmers to ensure minimal amounts of fertilizers and pesticides and little-to-no irrigation. Wheat stillage, a byproduct of production, is sold to local farmers and feeds 250,000 pigs and 40,000 cows a day. The site aims to be entirely zero-emissions, zero-waste and 100% recycling by 2040.

Belgrove Distillery, Tasmania

Not only is Belgrove Australia’s first dedicated rye whisky distillery, it’s also home to the only biodiesel-powered still in the world (a type of biodegradable fuel made from waste cooking oil – in this case, sourced from a local chip fryer). Owner Peter Bignell grows his own grain, ferments, distills and barrel ages on-site. A reclaimed laundromat tumble dryer is used for malting and spent mash is fed to his sheep (apparently he’s thinking of using sheep dung instead of peat in the malting process – watch this space). The water used to cool his still is sourced from an on-site dam, while any waste water is either recycled or used for irrigation.

Square One Organic Spirits, US

From wind-powered energy to carbon-neutral labels, every aspect of Square One’s Wyoming-based distilling operation is organic and eco-friendly. Founded in 2006 by environmentalist Allison Evanow, each of its various spirits is made from 100% organic American-grown rye and water from the Teton Mountains, with no GMO yeasts, chemical additives or synthetic de-foaming agents used in the production process. Not only are the bottle labels paper-free – made with bamboo, sugarcane and cotton – but the ink is soy-based too.

Jimador harvesting agave for the Patron distillery

Patrón Tequila, Mexico

Hacienda Patrón is big on sustainability, being the first distillery to use a natural gas pipeline as its proprietary energy source in a bid to reduce its carbon emissions. The Jalisco-based site uses a reverse osmosis water treatment to recycle 70% of the stillage from the distilling process – used in its cooling towers and for cleaning – and creates more than 5,500 tons of compost every year in agave fibres, which it donates to fertilise agave fields and green spaces in the surrounding community. Oh, and since 2015, the distillery has reforested around 16,000 trees.

Greensand Ridge Distillery, UK

The UK’s first carbon neutral distillery, Greensand Ridge, works with local farmers to transform surplus produce rejected by supermarkets into delicious rums, gins and fruit brandies. They’re big on ‘reuse or recycle’ – the team’s total non-recyclable waste output is one bag every six to eight weeks, a remarkable feat – and pride themselves on using non-biodegradable chemicals. Any plastics used are plant-based. From heat recovery systems to chemical-free production, environmental savviness is a top priority. And they make some cracking spirits, too.

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The Nightcap: 30 August

This week may have been shorter, but you’d have never guessed with all the booze news stories in The Nightcap (and because of how long it felt)! Gosh, what a…

This week may have been shorter, but you’d have never guessed with all the booze news stories in The Nightcap (and because of how long it felt)!

Gosh, what a long and tiring year the past few days have been. Monday was a bank holiday, and yet, this week somehow managed to keep going and going. And not simply from a general point of view, but the booze news just kept pouring in (no pun intended… Maybe…). Of course, this means that another edition of our weekly round-up of stories from all corners of the drinks world is very much necessary. Behold, it’s The Nightcap!

On the blog this week, Kristy revealed that Drinks by the Dram’s delightful drinks-filled Advent Calendars are available to pre-order now! You can never be too prepared when it comes to stocking up on delicious booze. Speaking of which, we also announced that we’re splitting our allocation of the hotly-anticipated Daftmill Single Cask between a 30ml dram lottery, a bottle lottery, and a charity auction. So many tasty tipples for you all to enjoy, but we didn’t stop there. Highland Park Valfather was made our New Arrival of the Week by Adam, while Henry picked the exotic Mai Tai to be our Cocktail of the Week. Industry veteran Ian Buxton then took a dim view over alcohol-free ‘spirits’ before Annie returned to cast her eye over the Chivas Masters cocktail competition 2019 and dispel five persistent stereotypes around drinking.

Plenty of boozy content to enjoy as always and there’s even more where that came from. On to the news…

The Nightcap

An artist’s impression of what the upcoming Ardara Distillery will look like

Sliabh Liag Distillers gets the green light for new Ardara Distillery

Good news this week for Irish whiskey and Sliabh Liag Distillers as the producer of An Dúlamán Irish Maritime Gin and The Silkie Irish Whiskey has been given planning permission to start work on its new distillery. Construction at the Show Field in Ardara will begin later this year, with distilling operations to scheduled to commence in 2020. The new €6m distillery, which will employ at least 40 people, will have the capacity to produce 400,000 litres of pure alcohol per annum (approximately 1700 filled casks and over 1.2m bottles of whiskey when the spirit is finally sold). The plan is to create a number of brands, including the Ardara and Sliabh Liag (pronounced something like Slieve Leaguesingle malt and pot still whiskeys. Production of An Dúlamán gin will also be moved from its current location in Carrick to the new building, which will also house a tasting bar, shop and a visitor experience that will include a history of poitín. However, there will be no café or restaurant, as visitors will be encouraged to make use of the village’s many offerings instead. “We are really excited to get the go-ahead from Donegal County Council and we look forward to commissioning the distillery and reclaiming the distilling heritage of Donegal,” commented James Doherty, managing director of Sliabh Liag Distillers. “It is important to us that local businesses benefit from the footfall, and if we can get visitors walking in the village, increasing their dwell time, then so much the better for the entire community.”

The Nightcap

Just 20ml and this little beauty went for £3,150

Tiny wee bottle of Black Bowmore 50 Year Old goes for £3,150 at auction

Here’s how it works when we receive a sample bottle of whisky at Master of Malt: we open it, we taste it, we scribble some tasting notes, and then we drink it. If there’s any left, we’ll share it around the office. What we don’t do is wait for a few years and then sell it at auction which is just what happened with a press sample from Bowmore. The whisky in question wasn’t just any Bowmore, it was the 50 year old Black Bowmore the Last Cask distilled in 1964 and given out to journalists in a special 20ml wax-sealed vial. On Sunday 18 August one of these tiny samples went for £3,150 at Just Whisky Auction. Graham Crane, director at Just Whisky, said: “At 20ml it isn’t even big enough to serve as a pub measure, however, one buyer was determined to secure this as part of their whisky collection.” Getting out our pocket calculators, the price works out at the equivalent of £110,250 for a 700ml bottle! That’s a lot of money but don’t worry, it isn’t going to stop us tasting and enjoying every sample that comes our way. There will be no squirrelling at MoM!

The Nightcap

This is the exactly how we pictured the Kent Life Hops n’ Harvest Beer Festival

Basil Brush to headline Kentish hops festival

Of all England’s counties, Kent might hold the booze crown: there’s a certain online retailer in Tonbridge, innovative distillers, delicious ciders, world-class vineyards and, of course, hops by the acre. Kent and hops have been synonymous since the 16th century. So to celebrate all things hoppy, you should get down to Kent Life Heritage Farm Park in Maidstone on Saturday 7 and Sunday 8 September for the Kent Life Hops n’ Harvest Beer Festival. You can learn about the history of hop picking and see hops processed in a traditional coal-fired oast (you know, one of those pointy house things you see all over the county). There will be live music, a silent disco and, for nostalgic adults as much as children, 80s TV legend Basil Brush. Boom boom! Oh, and there will be beer, lots and lots of beer from Kentish brewers like Gadds’ The Ramsgate Brewery, Goody Ales and Brew Buddies. Visit Kent Life for tickets and information. But that’s not all, there’s another festival at the same venue on Saturday 5 and Sunday 6 October celebrating apples and cider. It just doesn’t stop in Kent.

The Nightcap

The purchase includes brands like Knappogue Castle, Jefferson’s Bourbon and Goslings rum

Pernod Ricard acquires Castle Brands for $223m

It was announced this week that drinks giant Pernod Ricard has added to its considerable portfolio by reaching an agreement to acquire alcohol manufacturer and marketer Castle Brands for approximately $223 million (about £202m). The deal includes brands such as Gosling’s rum, Brady’s Irish Cream, The Arran Scotch whisky, Clontarf Irish whiskey and Jefferson’s Bourbon, the latter of which was noted as a stand-out performer when Castle Brands published its full-year results in June 2019 which saw its net sales rise to US$95.8m. The purchase follows Pernod Ricard’s recent acquisition of Texas-based Firestone & Robertson Distilling Co, producer of TX whiskey and bourbon just this month. “Through this acquisition, we welcome this great brand portfolio, in particular, Jefferson’s Bourbon, to the Pernod family. Bourbon is a key category in the US, which is our single most important market,” said Pernod Ricard’s CEO, Alexandre Ricard. “This deal aligns well with our consumer-centric strategy to offer the broadest line-up of high-quality premium brands. As with our American whiskies Smooth Ambler, Rabbit Hole and TX, we would provide Jefferson’s a strong route to market and secure its long-term development, while remaining true to its authentic and innovative character,” Castle Brands CEO, Richard J. Lampen, added: “We are very pleased to reach an agreement with Pernod Ricard, which is the result of months of planning and deliberation by our board of directors. We are confident that this transaction will deliver immediate and substantial cash value to our shareholders.”

The Nightcap

The Kraken Pennywise: it’s slightly scary and very delicious. Like eating an oyster.

Kraken Rum creates scary IT-themed cocktail

No, not a cocktail inspired by information technology (though that sounds fun), it is, or rather IT is, a new film from Stephen King, IT: Chapter Two, which arrives in cinemas this September. As the name suggests, it’s a sequel to top 80s horror series IT featuring the clown from your nightmares, Pennywise (memorably played by Tim Curry in the original and Bill Skarsgård in the new version). Kraken Rum, probably the scariest rum money can buy, has created this new cocktail called the Kraken Pennywise. Containing Kraken Rum, raspberry puree, lime juice and sage sugar syrup, it’s blood red, served over ice and finished with a red balloon as if an evil clown might be lurking nearby. And the best thing about this special cocktail is. . . it’s free! Won’t cost you a pennywise; all you have to do is buy a ticket to the launch night of the film on 6 September and then take your ticket along to RoadTrip Bar in Old Street, London to claim your free drink. Just don’t bring along your coulrophobic friend.

The Nightcap

Happy anniversary guys!

anCnoc whisky unveils limited editions to mark 125th anniversary

Knockdhu Distillery first opened its doors in 1894, which makes it as old as the Blackpool Tower and The Jungle Book. They won’t be able to celebrate their 125th Anniversary by releasing delicious new whisky, however. Not like anCnoc whisky, who have launched two limited edition single malt Scotch whiskies: anCnoc 16 Years Old Cask Strength and a 125 Year Anniversary Peated whisky. The former, which will retail at £99.95, was matured in American oak ex-bourbon casks and bottled at cask strength. It’s said to be a light, elegant expression with notes of sweet vanilla mixed with coconut and butterscotch toffee, green apple and citrus as well as a faint warming spice. The second bottling, anCnoc’s Peated whisky, was made to take the drinker on a “mellow journey from the heart of Banffshire’s rich peatlands”. Matured in American oak ex-bourbon casks, then further matured in a Spanish oak butt, the smoky and sweet dram is said to possess notes of wood smoke mixed with almonds and dried fruit as well as burnt toffee. This one will set you back £79.95. Both limited editions feature collectable packaging illustrated to tell anCnoc’s story, with a celebratory copper lid. Because nothing says ‘happy birthday’ like a copper lid. “To be celebrating 125 years of making exceptional whisky is a real achievement. The traditional methods that make our whisky so special are still in use today, but we’re constantly innovating to offer a fresh take,” said anCnoc distillery manager, Gordon Bruce. “It’s this combination of tried and tested means with a contemporary twist that makes anCnoc, and Knockdhu Distillery, one of the best places in the world to work – we have a lot of fun here. It was really important to mark this special year, we could offer something for everyone, and I think we’ve done just that.” There are only 500 bottles of each, but luckily you will be able to get them both from MoM Towers.

The Nightcap

John Varvatos and Nick Jonas, co-founders of Villa One

Nick Jonas launches Tequila with Stoli

Another week, another celebrity trying to get in on the Tequila boom. This time it’s musician and actor Nick Jonas, probably best known for his time in The Jonas Brothers, and menswear designer John Varvatos. The pair have joined forces with Stoli, best known for producing Stolichnaya vodka, to create the new premium Tequila, which they’ve named Villa One. It does sound like a website you’d find a cracking deal on a four-bed in Corfu, but it’s definitely Tequila being sold. In fact, the brand will debut with three expressions as soon as this September: silver, reposado, and añejo bottlings, priced between $45 and $60 a bottle. Clearly somebody’s been keeping a close eye on Bacardi’s Patrón and Diageo’s Casamigos, and wants in on the action. Villa One becomes the second tequila launched by Stoli after it created the Cenote brand last year. The specifics of the deal haven’t been disclosed, however the Stoli Group has briefed that Jonas and Varvatos are co-founders and partners in the brand with an equity stake. No money has been exchanged for their backing of the Villa One brand, although the duo will benefit from profits down the road. Jonas and Varvatos have actually worked together twice before, with Villa One Tequila becoming their third collaboration. “The first was a fashion collaboration and then the fragrance,” said Jonas. “Given our affinity for Tequila, Villa One was the perfect next step.” “The most important thing for us is that we have the best Tequila in the market,” added Varvatos. “It is less about us and all about the product.” Though it is quite a bit about them.

The Nightcap

The Bermondsey Bees Knees cocktail from Nine Lives, London

Ketel One introduces One Square Mile initiative to champion local communities

Ketel One wants to challenge bartenders to use ingredients sourced within a one-mile radius of their bar to create cocktail menus that celebrate the local community. Joining forces with bartender competition World Class as well as community partners, local craftsmen and gardening communities, this bartender-led initiative seeks to promote natural ingredients, locally-made vessels and reduced waste in the drinks industry. The One Square Mile initiative will run from 2-8 September; for that week, three-drink Ketel One Vodka menus will be available in cocktail bars across the UK, showcasing the proximity of the ingredients used and vessels sourced to create the serve and championing the partnerships formed within the community through a series of events. One of the cocktails will be something customers can easily recreate at home. Bars joining the initiative include Nine Lives, London, Amico’s Bar, Essex and Terrior Tapas, Southbourne. Nine Lives will be featuring its Bermondsey Bees Knees cocktail in collaboration with local beekeepers and made with produce from local farmers. There will also be an opportunity to join the World Class Global Finals in Glasgow and have their cocktails showcased for a select few of the participating One Square Mile bartenders. “We’re delighted to be launching our One Square Mile initiative – designed to inspire bartenders and local communities to come together to utilise their skills and resources to create something great,” said Kate Jackson, brand ambassador for Ketel One Vodka. “We love to encourage bartenders to explore alternative methods for championing urban flavours. Not only is using seasonal ingredients and local produce to create cocktails sustainable, it really elevates the flavour in cocktails and is a great way to engage with local people.”

The Nightcap

Three Little Words will hopefully look something like this

Manchester Gin opens swanky cocktail bar and restaurant

Manchester Gin has announced the imminent opening of a new cocktail bar in. . . . Bolton! We’re joking, it’s in Manchester. The venue called Three Little Words is located in Grade-II-listed brick railway arches in the centre of the city. We wonder what the Three Little Words are? ‘More gin, please’ or ‘waiter, another Martini.” It won’t just offer the classics, there will be specially-designed cocktails themed around the concept of love: “The menu moves through Lust, Rapture, Devotion, Eternity and ends with Ultimatum, creating flavours that evoke every stage of love: from excitement and freshness, through to darker, heavier flavours.” Blimey! As well as cocktails, there will be food from Jimmy Carr. No, not the comedian but former chef at Evelyn’s, one of the city’s best restaurants. Manchester Gin co-founder and master distiller, Seb Heeley, said: “This is the culmination of a life ambition for Jen [Wiggins, co-founder] and I. From the very first day we met, we talked about our dreams to open our own bar, so this feels like a huge milestone for us! We couldn’t have started this venture without the support of Manchester, so to be able to create 45 jobs and give something back to this amazing city means the world to us.” Oh, and those Three Little Words? ‘Drink, dine, distill’. Makes sense, but we still prefer ‘more gin, please.’

The Nightcap

A p*ssion fruit liqueur for the perfect P*star Martini

And finally. . . . the Pornstar Martini goes respectable

The Pornstar Martini has to be one of the drinks of the 21st century. Created by bartender Douglas Ankrah at the Townhouse in London back in 2003, it has gone on to become the UK’s favourite cocktail. Now Ankrah has just launched a passion fruit liqueur so you can make the perfect version at home. But rather than label it ‘Pornstar’, Ankrah thinks that it is time for a rebrand. The name with its louche connotations might be fine for the on-trade but isn’t going to fly off the shelves, or even make it onto the shelves, at Waitrose. So the new liqueur is labelled P*Star. Ankrah explained the logic to us: “It has changed as I wanted to bring the brand in line to the current climate.” He went on to say: “I feel customers who loved the cocktail when I first created it are now parents to children and would not want a cocktail like Pornstar in the house.” The new name certainly gets round the problem of having to explain what a pornstar is to your ten year old daughter. So, there you have it: the Pornstar is dead, long live the P*star!

 

 

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5 drinking ‘rules’ to banish forever

Venture out to your local bar and you’ll soon stumble across a self-appointed ‘expert’ eager to unload their personal drinks rulebook on lesser mortals. With the greatest respect, those guys…

Venture out to your local bar and you’ll soon stumble across a self-appointed ‘expert’ eager to unload their personal drinks rulebook on lesser mortals. With the greatest respect, those guys suck. It’s time to do away with life-limiting traditions – as they say, rules are made to be broken…

When it comes to sharing knowledge about the spirit world, there’s a fine line between enthusiasm and snobbery. At MoM, we’re a staunch proponent of the drink-it-however-you-want movement, which naturally has no place for haughtiness.

If Scotch and coconut water is your go-to serve, that’s great. Should you prefer to make Mimosas with sparkling cider instead of Champagne, go for it. When your favourite gin only tastes right mixed with a can of Mountain Dew, well, more power to you.

Thankfully, there are plenty of forward-thinking producers out there who are equally keen on liberalising our libations. Here, we look at five persistent stereotypes surrounding beer, Tequila, rum and more, and shine a light on the brands seeking to dispel them…

Singleton

The Singleton of Dufftown is as happy in a Highball as on its own

They say: Never mix single malt Scotch

We say: It’s single and ready to mingle

Devout single malt fans may hiss and wail, but they’re missing a trick. As Ervin Trykowski, global brand ambassador for The Singleton, posited so succinctly on this very blog: Nobody wants to drink cask-strength Scotch in Marbella at 11AM. However, pop that same Scotch in a long, vibrant, possibly citrusy highball? Hey, now we’re talking. Obviously, it pays to do a little research beforehand – bulldozing your spirit’s complexities with reckless mixing will leave a sour taste in your mouth both figuratively and literally – but in diversifying our collective approach, the category doors open ever wider to Scotch newcomers. And that’s only going to be a good thing.

They say: Rum is *only* for mixing

We say: Rum is neat. Let’s drink it that way, too.

Listen, we enjoy a Mai Tai as much as the next person, but it’s high time we showed rum the same reverence as its grain-based barrel-aged counterpart (i.e. whisky). Historically the category has struggled to shrug off its party image, mostly because of the sweetened, flavoured, spiced or almost-flavourless white rums that have ruled the roost in speed rails the world over. But peer beyond the big-name bottlings and you’ll find premium liquid, artisanally distilled and lovingly aged by the barrelful, such as that made by Foursquare Distillery in Barbados and Hampden Estate in Jamaica.

They say: Alcohol-free beer has no flavour

We say: Good beer knows no ABV

With the greatest respect, “alcohol-free beer has no flavour” sounds suspiciously like something a person who has never tried alcohol-free beer might say. In the same way that not all beers are created equally, nor are all booze-free brews – if you turn up your nose at Wetherspoons’ taps, chances are you won’t like their zero-alcohol offering either – but specialist breweries like Big Drop Brewing Company and dedicated brands like Lucky Saint have made it their mission to create flavourful, complex and truly excellent alternatives to the full-strength stuff.

Tequila Fortaleza

Tequila Fortaleza isn’t for shooting

They say: Tequila = shots

We say: The long-reigning salt and lemon ritual has been dethroned

Frankly we could write a soliloquy condemning shot culture, but that isn’t why you’re here. Tequila, one of the few drinks categories to be governed by strict geographical rules that seek to preserve the quality of its liquid, somehow volunteered itself to this bizarre ritual – and lost itself along the way. Fast-forward to now, and there are a bevy of super-premium alternatives to the industrial agave that sits patiently in Britain’s speed rails until 11pm onwards. And the makers of these fine liquids – Fortaleza, Ocho, Tapatio, El Rayo – implore you to sip and savour or better yet: stir into T&T (Tequila and tonic). And don’t say, “but I like doing shots”. No one likes doing shots.

They say: Cocktails are too sweet

We say: Have you heard of the Negroni, or…

Good lord, is it 1980? Are we drinking layered shots and lurid green Grasshoppers? Sure, there was a time when ‘cocktails’ meant fruit juice from concentrate and packet sour mix, but that was almost four decades ago. Just like the Walkman made way for Spotify, and the Atari console made way for virtual reality gaming, so too have cocktail ingredients evolved and refined. Take environmentally-conscious liqueurs range Muyu, launched this year by bar luminaries Alex Kratena, Monica Berg and Simone Caporale. To capture flavours for their remarkably low-sugar range, the team harnesses techniques like steam distillation, C02 extraction, enfleurage and more.

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The Nightcap: 23 August

In this every-changing world, few things are certain. One thing, however, you can rely on is that as long as there’s news about booze, there will always be the Nightcap!…

In this every-changing world, few things are certain. One thing, however, you can rely on is that as long as there’s news about booze, there will always be the Nightcap!

As another week comes to an end, it’s time to take off your workaday loose-fitting trousers and slip into your spandex weekend leggings. Don’t do this in the office in front of everyone or you might get a sternly-worded email from HR. Perhaps spandex legging like those worn by hair metal bands from the 1980s aren’t really your thing but it is important to mark the transition from work to play in some way. You could put on a pink stetson or adopt a comedy weekend accent. Actually, don’t do either of those things, just pour yourself a drink, we’ll have a Whisky Sour if you’re offering, sit back and read this week’s news from the world of booze.

On the blog this week we reported on the exciting news that Ardbeg has added a 19-year-old expression to its core range. It’s not a limited release. It’s new Ardbeg and it’s here to stay. We resisted the urge to go out all week and celebrate, however, and published more stories. Take Nate Brown, for example, who returned to ask why drinks have to be so hellish just because your at a festival, theatre or airport. Annie then provided a handy guide to decoding the seemingly endless marketing bumf that sadly is part and parcel of this industry of ours and got the low-down on some intriguing savoury liqueurs. Adam, meanwhile, rounded up a selection of booze for you all to enjoy this upcoming bank holiday before Henry made the delightful Le Rebelle Aperitif our New Arrival of the Week and then decided to mark the upcoming National Whiskey Sour Day over in America (Sunday 25 August) by making it our Cocktail of the Week. Not that we need an excuse to enjoy a good cocktail.

But there’s more going on in the world of drink than people drinking Whisky Sours in airports. There’s all kinds of boozy news to catch up on…

The Nightcap

The new shiny Kilchoman stills

Kilchoman doubles its production on Islay

Back in June, during the crazy days of Feis Ile, we spoke with Andrew Wills, founder of Kilchoman, about expansion plans. Well now they are official: the distillery has doubled its spirits production to 480,000 litres of pure alcohol per year. A wall was knocked out in the existing production space to create, in Wills’ words, “a mirror image of the original stillhouse” with a new mash tun, two fermenters and two new stills. He went on to say: “Without an increase in capacity we would be heading towards a situation where all Kilchoman would be sold purely on allocation. With my three sons heavily involved in the business we want to continue building on the success of the last 15 years without the risk of running out of whisky.” Expansion plans, however, are not yet done as a new shop, cafe and visitor centre is due for completion within the next four months. Never a dull moment at Kilchoman!

The Nightcap

The first two expressions from the Signature Blends series

That Boutique-y Rum Company launches Signature Blends

That Boutique-y Rum Company (TBRC) is ready to change your rum cocktail game with a new series of Signature Blends. The company’s first selection of continuous rums (ie. not one off batches), which also make for delicious standalone sippers, were developed by TBRC’s ‘Rum-guy’, Pete Holland (of The Floating Rum Shack fame). The first expression is Signature Blend #1 – Bright-Grass, a predominantly unaged blend of funky rum from Jamaica and fresh, fruity rhum from Martinique, with a touch of 4 year-old Jamaican rum for added depth. As you can imagine from its name, the profile is bright and grassy and should make a killer Daiquiri. Signature Blend #2 – Elegant-Dried Fruits, meanwhile, was created with the intention of making Holland’s Mai Tai’s (Pete that is, not the Netherlands). Combining rich molasses-vibe Guyana rum with heavier, funkier rum from Jamaica and a small amount of high-ester rum, this is a bold and full-bodied blend. For both expressions, you can check out our own tasting notes to get an idea of what you’re in for (spoiler alert: they’re both delicious). As with the rest of the TBRC range, the labels for the Signature Collection have been developed by Microsoft Paint artist and Twitter legend Jim’ll Paint It. “When tasked with creating rums that would be predominantly used in cocktails, I, firstly, had to think of the style of drinks that I’d like to enjoy, then set about working a blend that stood up to my idea of what the cocktail would taste like,” Holland said. “I don’t like the idea of trying to balance many different rum styles, a situation that overly complicates things. I much prefer the simplicity of two distinct styles working harmoniously together. Each displaying their strengths and contributions to the cocktail.”

The Nightcap

Plumpton College has hit back at claims made in the Daily Mail

Wine business course not Mickey Mouse, says Plumpton College

Feathers were ruffled at Plumpton College in East Sussex when Chris McGovern from the Campaign for Real Education branded its £9,000 a year wine business foundation course a ‘Mickey Mouse’ degree in an article in the Daily Mail. Dr Gregory M Dunn, curriculum manager of the wine division, hit back: “Plumpton’s wine business course allows students the opportunity to work closely with industry on various projects and initiatives and access to many wineries and wine-related businesses. This improves the employability of the students. We believe the content of the course is relevant, current and intellectually challenging”. Paul Harley, programme manager for wine business at Plumpton, went on to outline how in-demand graduates of the course are in the wine trade: “Last year our employment rate upon graduation from the FdA in 2018 was 60% with only one graduate without a job by the autumn. For 2019 we have 100% employment.” Plumpton graduates are currently working at such prestigious businesses as Berry Bros & Rudd, LVMH and Liberty Wine Merchants with none, as far as we can ascertain, wearing Mickey Mouse or Elsa costumes at Disneyland Paris.

The Nightcap

The inaugural meeting of the London Armagnac Club is the 4th September

Armagnac Club lands in London

London’s jolliest-named restaurant, Monsieur le Duck near Farringdon, has just launched the London Armagnac Club. Events will take place at the bar above the restaurant, the Duck’s Nest, on the first Wednesday of the month and concentrate on different aspects of this fascinating but little-known spirit eg. cask ageing, grape varieties or brandies from a particular house. The inaugural event on Wednesday 4 September from 7pm to 9pm features Château de Laubade, one of the region’s top producers. Naturally, Gascon snacks, probably featuring lots of duck, will be served alongside but a vegetarian option will be available. There’s something you don’t get in Gascony. So whether you’re an Armagnac aficionado or just love dark spirits, then head to Monsieur le Duck. You won’t be disappointed.

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There’s a lot of money in the beautiful landscapes

Cognac exports continue to grow for the fifth consecutive year (but UK sales down)

Good news for fans of all things French and fiery as the National Interprofessional Bureau of Cognac (BNIC) has announced that Cognac exports have continued to grow for the fifth consecutive year in 2018-2019, reaching their highest level in volume and value. Favourable conditions and trade in the NAFTA Zone (Canada, Mexico, and the United States) and the Far East are noted as the major reasons: 97.7 million bottles were shipped during this period (+8.8% in volume and +17.6% in value) in the US alone and shipments to the Far East stabilising at 60.0 million bottles, representing 28% of shipments (a small decline of -1.5% by volume and increase of 1.8% by value). In total, there were 211.1 million bottles shipped in 2018-2019, with exports accounting for 98% of sales, to the tune of €3.4 billion. That’s a lot of Sidecars. Cognac isn’t resting on its laurels, though. To support this growth, an additional 10,000 hectares (24,710 acres) of vineyards have been purchased over the course of three years, so thankfully there’s still more than enough to go around. However, shipments within Europe are down by -4.6% in volume and -6.4% in value, for a total of more than 39.4 million bottles and the United Kingdom is down by -6.0% and -6.7%, although it still leads the European Union market. Still, the lesson here is clear. We need to do our bit in the UK and buy more brandy. Now if only there was a good online retailer of booze around here that we could use…

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It’s a delicious celebration of all things Art Deco

Singapore’s Atlas unveils stunning Art Deco menu

Glorious cocktails alert! Singapore’s sumptuous watering hole Atlas has revealed its new menu Interbellum, and we’re in full drinks lust. Developed by head bartender Jesse Vida and his team, the menu celebrates all things Art Deco, taking elements from historical cocktails popular at the time, and Atlas’s Parkview Square home, which is mighty in-keeping with the theme. ‘Interbellum’ takes its name from the period between the two World Wars, a time of enormous change, and of course, the birth of the Art Deco movement. Split into five chapters, the menu plays a lot with gin and Champagne, showcasing all kinds of cocktails from the time. “Using fresh and house-made ingredients, each drink has been inspired by this most seductive of eras, while showcasing a blend of traditional European influences with an updated touch,” said Vida. “We look forward to welcoming guests to journey with us through the stories.” Serves include classics such as the French 75, as well as more modern twists such as the lower-ABV Art & Influence, and The Boy King, a Highball-style drink made with oloroso sherry, sweet vermouth and Aperol, which taps into all things “Tut-Mania” when Tutankhamun’s tomb was discovered. Beautiful all round.

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Only 6,000 bottles of Glenkinchie Tattoo were filled and you” have to go to Edinburgh to buy one

Glenkinchie releases special Edinburgh Military Tattoo single malt

No, it’s nothing to do with skin art, the Edinburgh Military Tattoo is an annual extravaganza of bagpipes, drums and marching performed by armed forces bands from around the world. It’s one of Edinburgh’s premier attractions so it’s a good fit with nearby Glenkinchie which is known as the capital’s very own single malt. Ramsay Borthwick, manager of Glenkinchie, filled us in on this new whisky: “This highly-prized release has been specially selected by our team at the distillery as a celebration of our heritage as ‘Edinburgh Malt’ and the unique partnership between two of the city’s greatest icons.” Glenkinchie Tattoo was matured in rejuvenated hogsheads and American oak barrels, and from the tastings notes of butterscotch, dried fruits and baking spices, sounds to us like a classic Glenkinchie. It’s bottled at 46% ABV and costs £65. A limited-edition of 6,000 bottles will be available only from the distillery, the Military Tattoo shop, or you can enjoy a dram or two while watching the Tattoo itself. So you’ll have to visit Edinburgh if you want to try it.

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No need to go in store, the Whisky Discovery experience comes to your doorstep

Waitrose launches at-home whisky tasting experience

UK supermarket Waitrose has attempted to follow up the success of its Gin O’clock initiative by introducing a two-hour Whisky Discovery experience to be enjoyed in the comfort of your own home. The guided masterclass will be led by a Waitrose whisky specialist who will invite guests to taste through five different whiskies neat: Maker’s Mark, The Chita, Highland Park 12, Jim Beam Double Oak and Laphroaig. The specialist host will then demonstrate how to make three cocktails, pair spirits with soft drinks, and give guests the chance to taste Jim Beam Double Oak with dark salted caramel chocolate and see how Laphroaig pairs with a range of cheeses. A complimentary Highball glass and a rocks glass is also yours to keep. The at-home whisky tasting experience, which was created by Waitrose Wine Tasting at Home, is available to book now and is priced at £400 (US$488) for a group of six to 10 people. “We’re thrilled to be bringing a truly memorable experience to people’s homes. Whisky is a drink that is often enjoyed with a fizzy accompaniment, with some finding the drink overpowering,” Andrew Riding, drinks experience manager at Waitrose Wine Tasting at Home. “This tasting shows just how versatile whisky can be by showing guests simple and delicious cocktails and delicious food pairings.” We always love to see people getting into whisky, so let us know if you’re thinking of signing up with your friends or family in the comments below.

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The Discount Suit Company’s El Pajaro cocktail, which we can confirm is most delicious

Ocho goes Subterranean for summer

Who doesn’t love a cocktail safari?! Exploring multiple settings, different approaches to drinks, all with one uniting theme… we’re sold. So when Ocho Tequila invited us down to Discount Suit Company in London’s Spitalfields to check out the first of five serves as part of its very own series, we were there in a flash. The Subterranean Summer Series brings together five of London’s best-loved underground bars in a collaboration to serve Ocho-based cocktails, all at the tasty price of just £5. The drinks and bars in question? Discount Suit Company’s El Pajaro (we thoroughly rate its Paloma-esque qualities), Bar Three’s Raspberry & Tequila, Hawksmoor Spitalfield’s Cherry Blossom Margarita, Ruby’s Bar & Lounge’s Corn ‘n’ Toil, and Nine Live’s #1 Jimador’s Remedy. Collect a stamp from all five bars and you get a bonus sixth cocktail at the bar of your choice entirely on Ocho! Plus you get to revel in the personality of five of London’s most characterful vibes. You’ve got until the end of the month to get involved – go, go, GO!

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The Dundee distillers pipped some tough competition to be awarded this opportunity

And finally . . . Dundee distiller to supply House of Commons gin

After all the hard work MPs do, sorting out Brexit and the like, they really deserve a nice glass of restorative gin. So we were pleased to discover that the contract to produce the official House of Commons Gin has gone to the award-winning Verdant Spirits of Dundee. Andrew Mackenzie, founder and managing director at Verdant, said: “We spent two years researching and finessing the perfect dry gin and we firmly believe in our product, but it still felt fantastic to win out in the taste test. To really show our commitment to the process, we didn’t want to simply add a logo or brand to the bottle, we wanted to create a truly co-branded product.” Apparently, it was a closely-fought contest to win the contract with five gins including Sipsmith in the running for this prestigious and, we imagine, lucrative listing. After all, politicians love their gin. . . allegedly.

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The Nightcap: 16 August

Another busy week of booze news has occurred, and we’ve corralled it up into one handy blog for you to take into the weekend – it’s The Nightcap! The weekend…

Another busy week of booze news has occurred, and we’ve corralled it up into one handy blog for you to take into the weekend – it’s The Nightcap!

The weekend is fast approaching (or perhaps it is already here by the time you read this), and we wouldn’t dare step out of the house on a Saturday not armed with the booze news from the week that was. It would be like heading to the beach without a ridiculous hat, or heading to a bowling alley without grossly underestimating the difficulty of chucking a heavy ball at some wooden sticks. It’s just not the done thing. Luckily, you can acquire all the weekly news from the world of drinks right here in The Nightcap! We cannot, however, provide floppy sun hats or any good tips for bowling. You’re on your own for those things.

On the blog this week, our friend Ian Buxton popped by to champion the overlooked stars of the blended Scotch whisky world, blends, while Annie found out what botanical rum is and what the lovely people at CBD-infused spirits company Top Beverages are up to (infusing spirits with CBD, mostly). Kristy, meanwhile, shared the news of how Brora celebrated its 200th Anniversary (did someone say 40-year-old whisky?), before Henry sat down for a lovely chat with Dr. Don Livermore from Hiram Walker, made a spin on the classic Negroni his Cocktail of the Week and even found time to make a charming bottle of poítin Irish moonshine our New Arrival of the Week. Oh, and don’t forget we have still a competition going on and there’s a VIP trip to Salcombe Gin distillery up for grabs!

A busy week, but there’s more to come. In our best Huw Edwards voice, here is the news!

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We’re sure Port of Leith whisky will be worth the wait!

Port of Leith Distillery secures whisky production site

It’s all go for whisky-making in Edinburgh at the moment – and now Port of Leith Distillery has announced it has secured the site for its whisky production! Situated in Leith (as the name suggests), the distillery will be built next to the Royal Yacht Britannia and the Ocean Terminal centre. “The acquisition of our site took slightly longer than we anticipated. In fact, from start to finish, it’s taken us three years to get this incredibly complex land deal over the line,” the team wrote in an email on Monday, “We’re outrageously excited to announce the deal was completed at the end of July, which means we should be on site very shortly.” If all now continues on schedule, we should see Port of Leith spirit flow from the stills as soon as the first quarter of 2021! The news comes hot on the heels of The Holyrood Distillery kicking off whisky production in Edinburgh earlier this month. Can’t wait for a taste of Port of Leith? The team’s Lind & Lime Gin is available now!

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It’s good news for Irish whiskey, and we can raise a glass (or two) to that!

IWA gains protection for Irish whiskey in South Africa and Australia

Legal gubbins now – but of the good kind. Because this week, the Irish Whiskey Association (IWA) secured certified trade mark status for Irish whiskey in both South Africa and Australia! The news means that only whiskey actually distilled and matured on the island of Ireland (Northern and the Republic) can be sold as ‘Irish whiskey’ in those markets. It’s a big deal, especially as Irish whiskey grows in both volume and reputation – it stops rogues and scoundrels using its name in vain on lesser spirit. It’s also important because more than two million bottles of Irish whiskey were sold in Australia in 2018, up 9.1%, while South Africa collectively shifted 4.4 million bottles, growth of 4.5%. What more reason do you need to sip on a celebratory measure of Irish whiskey this Friday?!

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Roushanna Gray, founder of Veld and Sea, in Cape Town, will star in the film

The Botanist gets wild with new film mini-series

Islay gin The Botanist has unveiled a series of films to shine a light on wild foragers, chefs and bartenders around the world. Wild – A State of Mind depicts these “like-minded souls” as they explore their native landscapes on the hunt for food and flavour. Each five-minute film focuses on a different person: Nick Weston, director of Hunter Gather Cook, along the River Itchen; Philip Stark, professor and director of the Berkeley Open Source Food project, in downtown San Francisco; Roushanna Gray, founder of Veld and Sea, in Cape Town; Nick Liu, executive chef and partner at DaiLo and Little DaiLo Restaurant in Toronto; and Vijay Mudaliar, founder of Native, a foraged mixology bar in Singapore. “In creating The Botanist, we explored the flavours of our own backyard, the Isle of Islay,” said Douglas Taylor, CEO of Bruichladdich Distillery, which makes The Botanist. “The Botanist has its own full-time professional forager, James Donaldson, who sustainably hand-picks 22 local island botanicals to be used in the distillation of our Islay dry gin. Through our involvement in the foraging movement, we’ve been lucky enough to work with some of the most exciting foragers, chefs and bartenders from all over the world. Through these films, we hope to show people that there’s a world of flavour out there.” The films will be released one by one, so keep your eyes peeled and in the direction of The Botanist website.

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It’s about time somebody celebrated Eddie Murphy’s role in the animated Mulan film

Bowmore unveils China-exclusive 36yo Dragon Edition

Islay single malt distillery Bowmore has launched a shiny new 36-year-old expression exclusively in China, the first in a series of four releases. Initially unveiled at Whisky Live Shanghai, Bowmore 36-Year-Old Dragon Edition “pays homage” to Bowmore 30 Year Old Sea Dragon Decanter, an expression that celebrates an Islay myth and picked up quite the following when it launched. The new bottling builds on this, lauding the dragons that live on in Chinese culture. The liquid comes from Bowmore’s famous No.1 Vaults warehouse, selected from the same parcels of sherry casks used to create the 30 year old, and has been bottled at 51.8% ABV. Nosing and tasting notes include tropical fruit, toffee apple, caramelised orange, hints of pine needles, and a peppery tinge on the finish. “This new expression is a homage to the 30-Year-Old Sea Dragon that’s been much loved and collected by Bowmore fans across China,” said David Turner, Bowmore distillery manager. “Born from an island that is rich with heritage and legends, Bowmore is celebrating the legendary creatures of Chinese mythology that are the protectors of people – just as Bowmore has protected and matured this precious liquid for 36 years. We’ve taken this amazing legacy and renewed it for the next generation of whisky drinkers.” There are just 888 bottles of Bowmore 36-Year-Old Dragon Edition available, each priced at US$2,000. Keep an eye out if you’re in China!

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Grant’s 12 Year Old was a standout performer.

Grant’s blended Scotch boasts growth as others decline

Time to get the calculators out. An interesting press release crossed our desks this week, claiming that blended Scotch sales fell by 0.4% from 2013 to 2018. What’s more, the declines are set to continue by another 4% to 2022 (Edrington-Beam Suntory Distribution UK stats). Are we all turning to single malts? Shopping from countries further afield instead? It’s kind of irrelevant to Grant’s, which boasted 1.2% global growth over the period, and “double digit” gains across Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America, and India. And the team seems particularly excited about Grant’s 12 Year Old. What sets it apart? “Our master blender Brian Kinsman, his unique expertise in choosing the malts that go into the blend, and the quality of the fresh bourbon cask finish,” said Danny Dyer, Grant’s global brand ambassador. “Grant’s 12 is a smooth whisky making it ideal to share with friends whether they are aficionados or newcomers to whisky.” Why do we care about all this? It’s always intriguing to see a brand doing well against the grain of a trend. Do you still love blended Scotch? Or why do you not drink it? Let us know on social or in the comments below!

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Look! It’s brand new Lagavulin whisky!

Lagavulin 10 Year Old makes travel retail debut

Spent all summer dealing with smug colleagues breezing off on their holidays, leaving you to do all the work and regretting your seemingly smart decision to avoid all children and jet off later in the year outside the school break? Well, we have some news to make that delayed gratification even sweeter. Lagavulin (yes, the very same Islay distillery that makes the iconic 16 year old expression) has launched a new 10 year old whisky exclusively in travel retail! Which means all those annoying, chilled, sunkissed people would have missed it, but you can bag a bottle when it’s your turn to head through the airport. “What makes this single malt unique is the combination of refill, bourbon and freshly-charred casks that we used in its creation,” said Dr Craig Wilson, master of malts (nothing to do with us) at Diageo. “The bourbon casks add a sweetness to the flavour and the freshly-charred casks add spicy and woody notes. The different wood types used have helped create a whisky with a fiery yet light and smoky yet smooth character – one that is filled with surprising contrasts.” It’s available now in UK Duty travel retail stores priced at £50, but will be available more widely later in the year. Now that really IS a reason to get to the airport early…

Tequila Avión teams up with 21 Savage for ‘borderless’ campaign

Agave fans and rap aficionados, listen up. Tequila Avión has signed Grammy-nominated artist and aspiring pilot 21 Savage to be the face of its new Mexico City-inspired ‘Depart. Elevate. Arrive’ campaign. It brings together a fancy new look for the brand, while highlighting its passion for aviation. The aim is to inspire adventurous sorts by highlighting “those who have forged their own paths by having a borderless mindset”, and it all kicks off with the Atlanta-based rapper. “I grew up wanting to fly and pursued my pilot’s license as soon as I was able,” he said. “When I’m in the air flying, there’s nothing like it. No traffic, no borders. With a borderless mindset, I’m able to bring everything I’ve seen, a worldly point of view, into my creative process. Into my art. It brings my art to an elevated space and that’s the heart of this partnership. Elevating creativity through being borderless.” We’ll take the Tequila over trying to fly… less alarming.

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A sight the UK wine drinker and tax officials both appear to enjoy…

‘Crisp white’ named as UK’s top wine

Wine Drinkers UK (a collection of wine lovers, makers and sellers, who, in their own words, are ‘fed up with being unfairly taxed’) have revealed the UK’s top wine preferences. Leading the pack? ‘Crisp white’ (Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio), with 41% of those questioned saying they enjoy the selection. Full-bodied red (Malbec or Shiraz) ranked second with 38%, followed closely by Prosecco, at 34%. The least popular? In equal ninth, English sparkling wine and dry rosé (Southern French rosé or Pinot Grigio rosé), which, quite frankly, has caused uproar in the office as they are both bloody delicious. Are we Brits a tad ridiculous? We could just be blinded by the tax levied on wine, reckons Wine Drinkers UK. Despite wine’s status as being the most widely drunk and most popular alcoholic beverages, tax rises in the last 10 years (39%) have far outpaced those on beer (16%) and spirits (27%). Plus, only 5% of UK drinkers were aware of the tax they pay on wine. “As the number of people enjoying wine grows, so does their tax bill. Duty on wine has risen over twice as fast as beer over the past ten years,” said The Three Drinkers presenter, Helena Nicklin. “As a result, on average, the majority of wine drinkers are handing over more than 50 pence in every pound they spend to the taxman. After a decade of unfair increases, it is time to cut them a break and cut back wine tax.” As such, there’s a new campaign which kicked off on 12th August, now known as ‘Wine Tax Freedom Day’. The date is 61% of the way through the calendar year, and represents the 61% tax (duty +VAT) that is paid on a £5 bottle of wine. Did you know the tax levied on vino? Time for fairer booze duties, we reckon.

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Brockman’s Gin Autumn Reviver cocktail

Brockmans Gin signals changing of the seasons with autumn menu

Ok, ok… the sun’s certainly NOT got its hat on, and it’s more soggy than sunkissed (in the UK anyway…) but it’s still mid-August. Is it really time to unveil Autumn cocktails? We’ll forgive Brockmans though, because these ones look mega tasty, and they’re based around irresistible warming spices and berry notes. First up is the Autumn Reviver, made with 1 2/3 oz. Brockmans Gin (soz for the imperial measures), 2/3 oz. Lillet Blanc, 2/3 oz. freshly squeezed lemon juice, 1/2 oz. ginger syrup, 1/3 oz. orange liqueur, and a slice of dehydrated orange studded with cloves. Just fill a cocktail shaker with ice, add the first five ingredients and shake. Strain into a chilled coupe glass and garnish with the clove-studded orange slice. Voilà! Then there’s the slightly trickier Blackberry Sling, with 1 2/3 oz. Brockmans Gin, 10 fresh blackberries, a sprig of fresh rosemary, 1 2/3 oz. freshly squeezed lime juice, 2/3 oz. simple syrup, and chilled soda. Muddle the blackberries (save some for the garnish) and rosemary in a Highball glass, take the rosemary out, add the gin, lime juice and syrup and stir. Then fill half the glass with ice, top with soda and pop the saved blackberries (and the rosemary, if it still looks good) in as garnishes. “Our signature seasonal recipes were developed to highlight the combination of traditional gin aromas, bitter-sweet orange peel, coriander and top notes of blueberries and blackberries found in our gin,” said Neil Everitt, Brockmans co-founder and CEO. We know what we’re drinking on the next waterlogged summer evening. Oh, that would be tonight…

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We’ve needed a new hobby since our office games of ‘The Cones of Dunshire’ started getting too heated…

And finally. . . a whisky board game

They say you should never play with your food, but nobody ever said anything about playing with your drink. Which is just as well, as two Czech whisky aficionados have created a board game based around their favourite liquid. The idea came to them at a meeting of their whisky club which they call the Gentlemen of Tullamore, based on their early love for Tullamore D.E.W. “It took actually almost three years to develop,” Petr Pulkert, one of the duo, told us. He went on to say how helpful the industry has been with their project. “So far they, including legends like Nick Savage, John Quinn, Alan Winchester, Rachel Barrie, all helped us for free and with enthusiasm.” To play, you move your Glencairn glass-shaped counter around Scotland and Ireland, answering questions about whisky (and indeed whiskey) and collecting points. There are character cards featuring big whisky cheeses like Quinn, Barrie and Winchester. Each character has a special ability, such as Dave Broom with beard grooming, or Bill Lumsden with wearing snazzy shirts. We may be making this up a bit; we’re not precisely sure how the game works but it does sound like enormous fun, especially with a dram in hand (though this isn’t a drinking game). The Tullamore Boys are crowd-funding production: they’ve already raised £3,800 out of a target £6,622. So, if you like whisky and you like games, then sign up.

No Comments on The Nightcap: 16 August

Drinks billionaires – keeping it in the family

Today Ian Buxton takes a closer look at some of the illustrious families of the drinks industry such as the Haigs, Bacardis and Ricards, and reveals which great brands are…

Today Ian Buxton takes a closer look at some of the illustrious families of the drinks industry such as the Haigs, Bacardis and Ricards, and reveals which great brands are still in family hands.

Do you ever wonder who might raise a glass to you when you, to coin a phrase, raise a glass yourself? It’s an intriguing question. After all, drinks companies are fond of maintaining the façade of family owners. Think Bulleit Bourbon – it’s actually a Diageo brand (which arguably was mainly developed under Seagram’s) but a very high profile is maintained by Tom Bulleit and, until recently, his daughter Hollis. They’re speaking via their lawyers now. The story behind their acrimonious break-up is a rather unfortunate one and perhaps for another day, but sadly illustrative of the potential problems lurking in any family.

The Nightcap Drinks billionaires

Bulleit bourbon, a family business?

But back to Diageo. In its Scotch portfolio we’ll also find the Johnnie Walker, Buchanan’s and Haig brands. Now, once upon a time, there were real-life actual people answering to Walker, Buchanan and Haig who owned the distilleries that made these products – but no longer.

Today Diageo is a publicly-quoted company. That means you can buy a share in the business and be a part-owner. Actually, if you have any kind of a pension plan (whether through your employer or direct) you probably already own a share in some shares. Diageo is one of the UK’s largest and most successful businesses, and most well-balanced pension portfolios will have a holding in the company.  To declare an interest, I certainly do (I checked), and I’m very happy with its recent performance.

Many large industries have evolved in this way. But the drinks trade is something of a curiosity as a number of important brands remain in the hands of the descendants of the founding family.  Though some, like the Walkers, Buchanans and Haigs have long since cashed in, other companies remain determinedly independent and make great play of the long-term planning required in the spirits business. This, they suggest, means the industry is well suited to family ownership rather than being driven by the short-term demands of the financial community.

Some of the smaller examples are well known. Glenfarclas, for example, is happy to stress the fact that the distillery has remained in the Grant family since 1865 with chairman John Grant and son George directly and actively involved in every aspect. Grant Snr even lives on site, and you can’t get more hands-on than that.

Whisky Advent 2018 Day #18 Drinks billionaires

George Grant from Glenfarclas

Glenfiddich too is a family concern so, along with the various brands they own – think Balvenie, Hendrick’s Gin, Tullamore D.E.W. and Sailor Jerry rum among others – the forty-odd descendants of the founder William Grant thank you for every bottle you buy.  Oddly, though, while the public face of the company is largely represented by the Gordon branch (Peter Gordon and Grant Gordon in recent years) the major shareholder is believed to be the intensely private Benedicta Chamberlain. If her reputed 29.9% of the business is anywhere close to accurate, she’s comfortably in the billionaire class. Think of that next time you pour a dram of the world’s best-selling single malt.

As you’d expect, the family take the whole business very seriously. So much so in fact that Peter Gordon has even published a book on the subject. Family Spirit: Stories and Insights From Leading Family-Owned Enterprises looks at the strategies of eleven other family-owned businesses, though mainly not in the drinks industry. One of the companies he might have studied is Bacardi.  Yes, every drop of Dewar’s or Aberfeldy single malt or William Lawson’s (a million case-plus blended Scotch you’ve probably never heard of) adds a few coppers to the eponymous descendants of Don Facundo Bacardi.  A Bacardi and Coke puts a smile on their face, as does your call for Grey Goose, Martini, St-Germain or Patrón tequila.

Alexandre Ricard Drinks billionaires

Alexandre Ricard

Now the Bacardi family is very disciplined, borrowing if necessary to fund its acquisitions (over US$2 billion in 2004 for Grey Goose, then reputedly the largest purchase price in spirits business history for a single brand, and now a cool $5.1 billion for Patrón), but the equity isn’t sold. Much the same story could be told about Suntory Holdings, still controlled by the Saji and Torii families.

Elsewhere, public listing to raise capital hasn’t entirely removed family control as the tight grip of the founding dynasties at Davide Campari SpA, Brown-Forman and Rémy Cointreau SA clearly demonstrates. The Ricard family still retain 16% of the giant Pernod Ricard operation. It’s no coincidence that one Alexandre Ricard is both chairman and CEO, even if activist US investors Elliott Management are pushing to shake things up.

So, the reality and scale of family control is something to ponder as you part with your hard-earned cash. As you raise their brands to your lips, the question can’t be avoided: ‘what are the drinks billionaires sipping tonight?’

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The Nightcap: 26 July

You know what Friday means by now, it can only be the Nightcap! This week we’ve got all the digs on The Macallan’s newest release, Coupette’s mouthwatering Summer menu, the…

You know what Friday means by now, it can only be the Nightcap! This week we’ve got all the digs on The Macallan’s newest release, Coupette’s mouthwatering Summer menu, the rise of the Tequila cocktail and even a Jack Daniel’s shoe.

Happy Friday, folks! But before we get into the thick of all the wonderful booze news of the week that was, we thought we’d have a quick chat about the weather. Because, we don’t know about you, but nobody has mentioned the weather this week. At all. Was it warm? Was there sun? We tried to enjoy a refreshing Spritz here at MoM Towers, but apparently the whole of the UK had run out of ice. All we know is that it’s now raining again and the quintessential British summer is back on. Thank goodness for that. It was a steamy few days. Step away from the SPF 50 and settle down with a drink, the Nightcap is here!

On the blog this week, we kicked off Monday with a recap of all the Fèis Ìle 2019 fun, while Kristy chose a sherry-tastic single malt for our New Arrival of the Week, took a peek at the mysterious 2019 Diageo Special Releases, and reported back on a magic trip to Tel Aviv’s Milk & Honey Distillery! Meanwhile, Henry mixed up a Tequila Sunrise for his Cocktail of the Week, chatted rum with Alexandre Gabriel from Plantation, and found out what on earth Uncle’s Day is with Uncle Nearest’s Fawn Weaver. Last but not least, Annie gave the 411 on where to grab a drink in Amsterdam, Nate Brown scooted over to Dublin’s Roe & Co, and our Jess carried on the Tequila and mezcal fun with a round up of agave spirits. Phew. But that’s not all – on with the news!

Beam Suntory

Behold, The Fred B. Noe Distillery!

Beam Suntory breaks ground James B. Beam distillery

In big American whiskey news, Beam Suntory announced this week that it’s investing a whopping $60 million to build a new craft distillery and bring back The James B. Beam Distilling Co. name to Clermont! The James B. Beam Distilling Co. was the company’s name immediately after Prohibition, and will now serve as the name of Beam Suntory’s Clermont operations, as well as encompassing the production operations for the Jim Beam brand and small-batch brands such as Booker’s and Knob Creek. This investment will also build the Fred B. Noe Craft Distillery on the Clermont site, named after seventh generation master distiller Fred Noe, which will house the exploration of exciting new fermentation and distillation techniques. “Beam Suntory is excited to honour our roots by investing in the James B. Beam Distilling Co., and setting ourselves up for a bright future in Kentucky and around the world,” commented Albert Baladi, President and CEO for Beam Suntory. “With nearly 225 years behind us, we are proud of our history of entrepreneurialism, craftsmanship and innovation. As the world leader in bourbon, we are thrilled to be laying the foundation for the next 225 years.” Goodbye Beam Suntory, hello The James B. Beam Distilling Co.!

Campari Rum

Campari takes on rum/rhum

Campari Group eyes up Rhum Agricole brands

Got a taste for the vegetal pronouncedness of Rhum Agricole? You are not alone. Campari Group, one of the world’s biggest drinks players, wants in, too. This week it was announced that the owner of the likes of Campari (obvs), Aperol, Wild Turkey and Bulldog Gin entered into “exclusive negotiations” with the parent company of Trois Rivières and Maison La Mauny (and Duquesne rum, too) to acquire the Martinique-based brands. While no price was revealed, the deal would include the brands themselves, the land they sit on, the distilleries and visitor centres, plus the aged rhum stocks. Yes please. In the press release, Campari Group said that if the deal goes through, it will “enhance its exposure to rum, a premiumising category currently at the heart of the mixology trend and growing cocktail culture”. It already owns Appleton Estate and Wray & Nephew, so it would make Campari a significant force for all things rum (and rhum). Ready the Ti Punches, folks!

Diageo

Cheers to a bumper year for Diageo!

Tanqueray and Don Julio drive Diageo sales

It’s that time of year again – financial results are in! And for Diageo, they make for pretty buoyant reading. Sales for the full year to 30 June hit £12.9 billion, up 5.8%, with profits hitting £4bn, (+9.5%). Why such strong results? Two words: gin and Tequila. Gin as a whole grew by 23% in value, with Tequila soaring by a whopping 37%. Brand-wise, Don Julio was a total stand-out, with sales climbing by an incredible 30%, while Tanqueray posted 21% gains. Which brands didn’t do quite so well? The biggest name to see a drop was Cîroc Vodka (-5%), although vodka as a whole actually saw 4% growth, a big deal seeing as the category has fared pretty poorly in recent times. And Scotch? All-in-all, things are going well! The category grew by 6%, with Johnnie Walker seeing values climb 7% on the previous year, and the Scotch malts collectively making 12% gains. Winning!

The Macallan Estate

The Macallan Estate, delicious and super popular

The Macallan unleashes home-grown Estate to the world

We had a thoroughly lovely Wednesday this week. Not only did The Macallan get its new Estate edition ready to ship, the brand also treated us to an utterly delightful lunch! We gathered at the incredible Hide in Piccadilly with Sarah Burgess, The Macallan’s whisky maker, and David Sinclair, brand ambassador to learn about (and of course, taste) the new expression. Burgess told us all about the production process – one week a year, mashing, fermentation and distillation is given over to barley grown exclusively on The Macallan estate. And the sensibly-named The Macallan Estate is the result! It’s an addition to the core range, and more bottles will be released each year (although Burgess stressed to us that she’s working to keep the flavour profile consistent over time). So, what’s it like? Tremendously autumnal, filled to the brim with appley, orchard fruit notes, plus lashings of marmalade on burnt toast, and a wash of sweet spices. Tasty.

Coupette Shimmer

Coupette’s mesmerising Shimmer cocktail

Coupette launches new menu ‘Summer’

Ah, Coupette. Something of a hole in the wall, to the uninitiated the award-winning bar may seem rather unsuspecting from the outside. We excitedly made our way down as just this week, founder Chris Moore launched the new menu in collaboration with local sign writer, Ged Palmer, titled ‘Summer’! One such epitome of the season was Strawberries & Cream, taking inspiration from Wimbledon and seasonal picnics. With strawberry eau de vie, rosé vermouth, wine and a vanilla-scented, clarified milk punch finish, served with a brush of white chocolate around the rim of the glass, it’s totally delicious without being overly sweet. This serve was just flying out from behind the bar, and no wonder in 34-degree heat! There’s a story behind each serve, and an intriguing one was Shimmer, marrying 30&40 Eau de Vie, green apple and sage, wine, genepi and sage soda, served in a mesmerising blue ceramic vessel on a blue geode coaster. Designed to be reminiscent of holidays and blue oceans it certainly accomplishes that, in flavour and aesthetic. Other delicious serves included the Bloody Martini with vodka, vin jaune, a clear tomato consommé and chive oil, part of a series of cocktails which mashes together two iconic drinks. There’s also a take on a Kir Royale, which sees a fabulous serving of blackcurrant sorbet in the cocktail glass. Slightly heavier serves include Obsidian, channelling a Rum Old Fashioned with the addition of cocoa and tangy passion fruit. We’ll certainly be back to try out the rest. Leave any expectations at the door, and prepare to be absolutely blown away with this stunningly complex and yet unpretentious menu. Bravo, Coupette.

Dalloway Terrace

Dalloway Terrace has cocktails on tap… from a flower wall!

Dalloway Terrace unveils new look for summer ’19

On Wednesday, we got to visit what is described by Vogue as “one of London’s most Instagrammable restaurants”. The Dalloway Terrace is now offering a taste of summer with the launch of its Summer Estate, in partnership with Ramsbury Distillery. Master florist, Nikki Tibbles, recreated the English countryside, transforming the Terrace with wild meadow flowers, blending silk daisies, cosmos, larkspur, delphiniums and foliage with embellishments of coral quince blossom. Flower walls are massive right now, and she created possibly the best one ever for the occasion:  a flower wall complete with botanical cocktails on tap. There’s also a bar for G&T drinkers where they can garnish drinks themselves with produce fresh from Ramsbury Estate. The seasonal cocktail menu will offer a selection of summer serves priced at £13. No reservations allowed at the Terrace, so be sure to get in quick – it’s open from 08:00am to11:00pm every day until mid-September.

Slane Irish Whiskey

Delicious and sustainable Slane Whiskey

Slane Irish Whiskey announces trio of winners in sustainable cocktail comp

Earlier this summer, Slane Distillery’s UK brand ambassador, Michael Brown, set a challenge to bartenders to create the most ‘suSLANEable’ cocktails. And this week, not one, not two but THREE winners were selected! Slane is located in the heart of Boyne Valley in Ireland and, inspired by Earth Day, had tasked bartenders across the UK to follow in its green footsteps. And they are big shoes to fill:  the distillery has already installed a “catchment system” to collect rainwater off the roofs of the distillery buildings to reduce the volume of water needed for production drawn from the Boyne River. Cool stuff! Joint winner Jack Riley from Present Company, Liverpool, says, “We should all be taking small steps to help the impact on the environment.” He worked with local coffee shops to create his nameless ‘suSLANEable’ cocktail: 45ml Slane Irish Whiskey, 20ml Spent Coffee-infused Martini Bitter, 15ml Tropical Cordial and 2 dash Bitter. Fellow champ Tom Sutton from H.M.S.S challenged himself to find and use leftover produce to create his “Castaway”, from just 40ml Slane Irish Whiskey, 30ml reclaimed cordial and stir into a frozen embassy. Simples. Finally, we have Leon Back and his recipe for “Little Winner”; 50ml Slane Irish Whiskey, 40ml ghetto cold brew (spent coffee grinds), coconut syrup, 10ml Martini ambrato, 10ml P.X. Sherry and 2 dashes Angostura bitter with some tonic water over ice.  Delicious. Evolving and improving every year, Slane is working to become one of the most environmentally-friendly whiskey distilleries in Europe… Check out this video for more inspo to make eco-friendly drinks.

Patron Tequila

Goodbye Tequila shots, hello Paloma!

Shots are out: Brits now prefer Tequila cocktails, according to Patrón

Step away from the salt and lime: Tequila is now officially preferred in cocktail form, rather than as a shot, in new research from Patrón. In a study that suggests Tequila has finally shaken off its hard-partying image, more than 65% of drinkers said they enjoy Tequila cocktails on a night out, over slammers. It makes sense: Tequila is the fastest growing spirit in the UK, according to Euromonitor. Despite the upgraded drinking habits, Tequila knowledge is at a bit of a low. Only 23% of those questioned knew Tequila was made from agave, while just 10% showed knowledge of aged Tequilas. One response? To get tasting! You can find an array of Tequila drams for that purpose right here. What’s your Tequila of choice? Let us know in the comments below!

Nelsons distillery

Nelson’s carbon neutral distillery from the skies

Nelson’s Distillery bags eco award

More green news! Word reached us this week that Nelson’s Distillery & School in Uttoxeter, Staffordshire, won a Green Impact Award for its eye-popping efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle. The award itself is the Signal 1 Radio Green Award, given out to recognise and celebrate local businesses making great strides in sustainability. Striving to be totally “off-grid” since 2016, Nelson’s is based at a flashy, futuristic and carbon neutral site with numerous green energy sources, including a wind turbine and super-snazzy anaerobic digester power plants. The site sells energy back to the grid, the team live in the local village to reduce traffic and pollution, they have their own natural water source, and use the reed beds to filter the water used in gin and rum. If this doesn’t sound amazeballs enough, then what about the 10% customer discount you get if you returning or repurposing the bottles?! More distilleries take note.  

Flor de Caña

No lunch, but lots of Flor de Caña!

Boisdale celebrates Nicaraguan rum

Last Friday, we were invited by Ranald MacDonald from Boisdale for an intimate lunch at his Belgravia restaurant with her excellency Guisell Morales-Echaverry, Nicaraguan Ambassador to the United Kingdom, in honour of Ron Flor de Caña. How could we refuse? When we arrived, the intimate lunch was a room heaving with dignitaries including the Bulgarian ambassador. So many ambassadors. It was like a Ferraro Roche advert. Only with less to eat. Of lunch there was no sign. We were whisked upstairs by Matro Ortiz Lima, the Chilean brand ambassador with a strong Scottish accent, to sample three rums, a 12 year old, 18 year old and a 25 year old. According to Lima, Flor de Caña these are minimum ages, as with Scotch whisky and indeed Jamaican rum. Apparently, the company has unparalleled stocks of mature spirit because during the revolutionary period from 1970 to 1990, the family who own the brand hid rum all over the country. We finished with the coffee and tobacco-scented 25 year old, which went beautifully with a big cigar. Something else this country does superbly. But of the promised lunch, there was no sign. 

Jack Daniel's Shoes

Jack Daniel’s takes on footwear

And finally… Jack Daniel’s-inspired… shoes?

Jack Daniel’s has made its first foray into the world of footwear! The whiskey giant has teamed up with the awesomely-named Shoe Surgeon, aka Dominic Chambrone, and together they’ve created seven Jack Daniel’s-inspired trainers (or rather, ‘sneakers’, as they’re calling them across the pond). “Craftsmanship is the ultimate common detonator between what I do and those who make Jack Daniel’s,” Chambrone commented. Each of the seven shoe designs was inspired by an iconic element of the Jack Daniel’s brand. These are grain, Cave Springs, the distillery, charcoal, the barrel, honey, and the Jack Daniel’s bottle. If you want in, then you’ll have to vote online in August, with only 10 lucky voters in to win a pair. We don’t like those odds… Our only question is, can you drink out of them?

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Cocktail of the Week: The Tequila Sunrise

For International Tequila Day, we’re shaking up a classic with an illustrious history that features the Rolling Stones, the Eagles and Kurt Russell! What came first, the song or the…

For International Tequila Day, we’re shaking up a classic with an illustrious history that features the Rolling Stones, the Eagles and Kurt Russell!

What came first, the song or the cocktail? Well that’s an easy one, it’s the cocktail. ‘Tequila Sunrise’ by the Eagles came out in 1973 whereas the Tequila Sunrise cocktail has been kicking about in one form or other since the 1930s. Originally it was far closer to a Margarita or Paloma being made with lime juice and fizzy water, and it got its trademark reddish haze from Crème de Cassis rather than Grenadine. 

The Tequila Sunrise as we know it is far more recent. It was probably invented in the early 1970s by two bartenders Bobby Lozoff and Billy Rice at the Trident, a bar in Sausalito near San Francisco. It could have just been another cocktail that achieved a modicum of local fame before disappearing into oblivion, but for a chance meeting with an up-and-coming young beat combo known as The Rolling Stones. Mick Jagger tried the cocktail, loved it and the band and its entourage took it up as their drink du jour. In his autobiography Life (well worth a read, it’s brilliant), Keith Richards referred to Stones’ 1972 tour of America as “cocaine and Tequila Sunrise tour”. How’s that for a serving suggestion?

With publicity like this, how could the cocktail fail? It quickly became one of the best known cocktails in the world. The Tequila Sunrise’s heyday was the ‘70s and ‘80s. There was even a baffling thriller named after it starring Mel Gibson, Michele Pfeiffer and Kurt Russell that came out in 1988. 

It’s not a difficult drink to make but I am sure that readers like me have had some pretty revolting versions. As always you need top quality ingredients starting with the Tequila. I’m using the delightfully smooth Maestro Dobel Diamond which is a 100% agave aged Tequila that’s filtered to remove the colour – just as how white rums like Havana Club 3 Year Old are made. Next, you must use freshly-squeezed orange juice, NOT juice made from concentrate. Then there’s the grenadine. You can buy grenadine but it tastes better if you make it yourself from pomegranate juice (recipe below).

The basic Tequila Sunrise is nice but it can be improved with some judicious fiddling.  Adding a little lime and/or grapefruit juice freshens it up beautifully and takes it back into Margarita/ Paloma territory. And while we are going there why not go old school and use Cassis to get that pretty sunrise effect, or perhaps Campari or Aperol?

The Tequila Sunrise,

The Tequila Sunrise, if it’s good enough of Keith, it’s good enough for us

Right got your ingredients in place? Stick on Exile on Main Street, and let’s make a Tequila Sunrise!

60ml  Maestro Dobel Diamond Tequila
120ml freshly-squeezed orange juice
Juice of half a lime
2 teaspoons grenadine*

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice, add the orange juice and Tequila. Shake and strain into a highball glass filled with ice cubes. Slowly pour the grenadine down the side of the glass to get that red haze. Garnish with an orange slice or a maraschino cherry, or both, rock n’ roll!

* Pomegranate juice (make sure it is pure pomegranate juice and not a drink containing pomegranate and sugar) is already sweet so you don’t need to add as much sugar as to water. A ratio of two parts juice to three parts sugar is ideal. Pour the pomegranate juice into a saucepan and gently heat, don’t boil, add the sugar and slowly and stir until it dissolves. Remove from the heat, pour into a sterilised jar (heated in the oven or with boiling water) and it should last in the fridge for months.

 

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Introducing some awesome agave spirits!

From the sudden influx of celebrities promoting their own mezcal to international celebrations of the spirit, it looks like the agave-themed fun just doesn’t stop! We’re carrying on the fun…

From the sudden influx of celebrities promoting their own mezcal to international celebrations of the spirit, it looks like the agave-themed fun just doesn’t stop! We’re carrying on the fun from last week’s London Mezcal Week, while across the pond in the big ol’ USA they’re celebrating National Tequila Day on 24 July.

In light of such festivities, we’ve done exactly what any reasonable folk would do and gathered up nine amazing agave spirits, for your perusal. Put that salt and lime away, these are some tip-top tipples right here.

 

Casamigos Añejo

An Añejo Tequila from Casamigos, a brand founded by some familiar faces, chiefly George Clooney. If you were thinking of another George Clooney, let us just clarify that it is indeed 1997 Batman George Clooney. Funnily enough, Casamigos was never actually intended to be released to the public and was enjoyed solely with friends and family for years, hence the meaning of the name, ‘house of friends’. Luckily for us, Clooney & Co. released it to the world for us to enjoy! Everything about this Tequila takes its sweet time; the Highland agave goes through an 80-hour fermentation process, and is then roasted in traditional brick ovens for 72 long hours, a smashing 10 times longer than average. The spirit is finally aged for 14 months in American white oak, adding those lovely creamy notes to the fresh agave flavours.

What does it taste like?

Roasted cacao and runny caramel balanced by more vegetal notes of agave, with sweet spice and toasty oak on the finish.

El Espolòn Reposado

Produced by Destilladora San Nicholas in Los Atlos, this well spiced Tequila is packed full of rock’n’roll (literally – the factory workers played rock music to inspire the Blue Weber agave). Starting life off as blanco, it rests between 3-5 months in new American oak barrels, gaining a more complex character and a unique, slightly charred flavour.
Inspired by the powerful symbol of pride, the rooster, the brand celebrates Mexican culture. Charmingly called Ramón, the rooster features on every label to tell a different unique story of Tequila. The labels pay tribute to José Guadalupe Posada, an artist, printmaker and rebel most famous for the calavera (skulls) that feature alongside the rooster. The combination is a commentary on social injustices in Mexico, to give the people a voice, and influence today’s pop culture.

What does it taste like?

Earthy roasted agave notes, with a touch of treacle, vanilla pod and fragrant oak influence, with a finish of tropical fruit, namely a lingering note of tangy pineapple.

El Rayo Reposado

El Rayo Tequila is something of a first, blending agave harvested from both Highland and Lowland regions in one bottle! The brand was created a world away from Mexico in the heart of Peckham, by childhood friends Tom Bishop and Jack Vereker. El Rayo translates as ‘the lightning’, after a tale in Mexican folklore which recounts a Blue Weber agave plant being struck by lightning, a phenomenon you can see depicted on the bottle label. Villagers discovered the now-cooked agave, and consequently, Tequila as well! Made up of 70% Highland and 30% Lowland agave, the Reposado has been rested for seven months in barrels which previously housed whisky. The ethos behind El Rayo couldn’t be further from the salt and lime rituals that somewhat plague the spirit. Its signature serve is the Tequila & Tonic, or rather more catchily, the T&T, with a wedge of pink grapefruit. Try it; you won’t be disappointed.

What does it taste like?

Orange oil and orange zest, subtle smoke and oak spice leading into gently salted caramel, toasted almond and hallmark roasted agave notes.

Pensador Mezcal

Produced in Southern Oaxaca, Pensador Mezcal is crafted using methods dating all the way back to the 16th century by Don Atenogenes Garcia and his family. The palenque is located on the Calle Pensamientos, which translates to ‘Thoughts Road’, while the name Pensador also translates to ‘thinker’. The mezcal is made from two species of agave, Espadín and Madrecuishe, both widely cultivated throughout Mexico due to their high sugar content. The piñas are baked in a stone pit for six days before they’re crushed by a traditional tahona wheel. From field to bottle, each batch of Pensador takes around three months, so it’s little surprise that another interpretation of the name means ‘slowness of time’. We reckon the same principle should apply when drinking it; one to sip slowly and savour the smoky goodness.

What does it taste like?

Wood smoke and a dash of citrus peel, with barbecued stone fruit, black pepper and chilli spice, earthy mineral notes with a touch of lychee on the finish.

Mezcal Unión Uno

Mezcal Unión was founded in order to protect traditional mezcal production and benefit the families all around Mexico that are producing the smoky spirit. Indeed, it is a union of sorts, uniting various palenques around Oaxaca while supporting both environmental and social sustainability. Mezcal Unión Uno, a joven expression, is made with Espadín and wild Cirial agave, some of which are at the ripe old age of 20 years old when harvested. After they’re crushed with a traditional tahona wheel pulled by a mule, they go through a double distillation before bottling. This here is a mezcal with a mission, and we’re all for it.

What does it taste like?

Sweet tropical lychee and delicate floral notes, with earthy vanilla, a good helping of smoke and grassy notes, a tang of citrus on the finish.

QuiQuiRiQui Matatlán Mezcal

This smoky tipple is made in Matatlán, known as the ‘World Capital of Mezcal’. That’s a fabulous start right there. Even better, it has a particularly fun name, QuiQuiRiQui! Try saying that five times fast. This unaged joven expression is produced using Lowland Espadín agave, and is double distilled in the village of Santiago de Matatlán in rather small batches of 1,000 litres. If you were wondering about the name, it’s pronounced kee-kee-ree-kee, inspired by the sound of a rooster, one of which you can spot on the label.

What does it taste like?

Smoky to start, with rich cocoa and sweetly vegetal bell pepper, fresh grass, ripe apricot, and sweet baking spice fading into drying smoked black pepper lingering on the finish.

Patrón Silver

From what could well be one of the most famous houses in Mexico, Patrón Silver Tequila is something of a cult classic. It’s made exclusively from 100% Blue Weber agave, over at the Hacienda Patrón distillery. The agave is crushed using a combination of both traditional tahona wheel as well as more modern rollers. Bottled by hand, each glass vessel is signed and individually numbered, complete with Portuguese cork stopper. This is certainly one to try out all those Tequila-based cocktails you’ve been meaning to experiment with.

What does it taste like?

Lovely agave freshness, with buttery caramel, gently spiced with nutmeg and pepper, with lively citrus on the finish.

Mezcal Verde

From Verde Momento comes Mezcal Verde, a true celebration of all things Mexico, with the artisanal mezcal made with Oaxacan Espadín agave. The piñas are baked for five days in an underground oven using ocote, holm oak, and peppertree, giving its smoky profile a very distinctive flavour. Verde Momento means ‘green moment, and the brand is tackling reforestation, with 10 new agaves planted for every one that is harvested. The funky label artwork features work from Mexican artists, with each batch sporting a completely different design. We know you’re not meant to judge a book by its cover, but when they look that good, what’s not to like?! Not to mention, the liquid inside is top-notch, too.

What does it taste like?

A slightly creamy, nutty note, with dried fruit, peach and sweet grass alongside all those expected smoky notes.

Montelobos Joven Mezcal

Montelobos Joven was created by biologist Dr. Iván Saldaña. That’s a good start, having studied plants, but Saldaña knew nothing about how to produce the Mexican spirit. He sought help from fifth generation mezcalero, Don Abel Lopez, and the duo have been smashing it ever since. Organic Espadín agave are harvested and roasted for around one week in a volcanic stone pit. In a pledge for sustainability, Montelobos has committed to never using wild agave in its mezcal. What’s more, in keeping with age-old tradition, Lopez throws chilli peppers into the fire when roasting the agave, because this is said to ward off evil spirits. Montelobos translates to ‘mountain of wolves’, so we reckon that explains the rather fierce looking fella on the handsome square bottle!

What does it taste like?

Loads of fruity sweetness, with pineapple and mango, lemon zest, a distinctive minerality, rosemary and a good hit of smoke remaining long after the last sip.

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Cocktail of the Week: The Piña Fumada

Take it from us, The Piña Fumada is the smoky summer tipple you didn’t know you needed. We chat with Thea Cumming, co-founder of London Mezcal Week, which returns for a…

Take it from us, The Piña Fumada is the smoky summer tipple you didn’t know you needed. We chat with Thea Cumming, co-founder of London Mezcal Week, which returns for a third year this week with one of the largest collections of agave spirits in Europe…

London Mezcal Week was set up by – and they won’t mind us saying this – two of the UK’s most dedicated and knowledgeable mezcal enthusiasts, Thea Cumming and Melanie Symonds. Their aim? To support and celebrate agave spirits across the board, working with traditional producers to bring authentic brands and industry experts to the capital.

Spanning an impressive line-up of supper clubs, bar takeovers, seminars, tastings and cocktail masterclasses, this year’s London Mezcal Week will culminate in a two-day Mezcal Tasting Festival this Friday and Saturday, featuring more than 60 agave spirits – including mezcal, Tequila, sotol, bacanora and raicilla – across 35-plus brands.

TT Liquor in London

TT Liquor in London

The mezcal category has transformed since Cumming and Symonds launched the event. Never-before-seen mezcal styles are being introduced the UK all the time – including Cumming’s own brand, Dangerous Don, which sees mezcal infused with coffee and redistilled – and new trends are unfolding, too. “There are certainly more interesting blended agave spirits,” says Cumming, who points to Pensador, a blend of madre-cuishe and espadin agave.

“There has also been a bit of a change in perception which has meant that more people are willing to try mezcal,” she continues. “However, this doesn’t come without its own challenges – we need to make sure that [bar operators] look into the brand ethos and background and ask the right questions rather than go for the cheapest option.”

Our drink of choice to toast London Mezcal Week is none other than The Piña Fumada, which combines mezcal, pineapple, lemon, velvet falernum and grapefruit and rosemary tonic water to form a lip-smacking summer sipper. The cocktail was created by TT Liquor in collaboration with Andrea Brulatti, UK brand ambassador for London Essence, for a masterclass led by none other than Santiago Lastra.

Through a series of paired small plates, the man behind the launch of Noma Mexico and forthcoming restaurant Kol sought to celebrate the relationship between Mexican cooking and mezcal: think Scottish scallops ceviche with pink mole, cured lamb leg tostada with kombucha and guajillo mayo.

The Piña Fumada

The Piña Fumada is all its smoky glory

“Mexican cuisine is all about powerful flavours and amazing ingredients,” Cumming explains. “Mexico is graced with immense biodiversity meaning the food is even more immense in flavour and variety.” As such, the same is true for mezcal production. “Terroir is a major influence in the taste of a mezcal,” Cumming continues. “Techniques vary from state to state and each mezcalero has his own secrets which have been passed down through generations. The relationship between mezcal and food is rooted in the earth – the very heart of what makes Mexico such a magical country.”

There are more than 50 different varieties of agave that can be used to produce mezcal. The flavour is further shaped by the region within which the plant grows, the altitude it grows at, and the conditions of the specific year it starts growing, says Cumming.

“Production techniques will vary, natural yeasts will be different from one area to another and of course the master mezcalero will each have a different hand,” she says. “This means the versatility of mezcal is limitless. Each one tastes so different, which means it needs to be treated in a totally different way

An exhilarating prospect for the capital’s bartenders, who have been busy experimenting with the spirit in all manner of serves, from classics to new creations. Which brings us rather nicely to The Pina Fumada, a twist on the Colada that comes highly recommended by those in the know. The flavours are “a match made in heaven”, says Cummings, “I would highly recommend everyone to give it a go”. Here’s what you’ll need…

Ingredients:

30ml QuiQuiRiQui Matatlan Mezcal
15ml Taylor’s Velvet Falernum
15ml lemon juice
35ml pineapple juice
London Essence Grapefruit and Rosemary tonic water to top

Shake first four ingredients hard and strain into an ice-filled highball. Top with London Essence Grapefruit and Rosemary tonic water, and garnish with a pineapple spear.

Keen to get involved in the festivities this week? You’re in luck – Cumming has very kindly created a 10% discount code for all MoM readers. All you need to do is enter ‘MOMLOVESMEZCAL’ when purchasing a ticket. Click here for a taste of the action (and a run-down of the weeks’ events)…

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