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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: tequila

The Nightcap: 6 December

The countdown is on. It’s December and there are only so few editions of The Nightcap left for 2019 – let’s enjoy them! December has arrived, and while some people…

The countdown is on. It’s December and there are only so few editions of The Nightcap left for 2019 – let’s enjoy them!

December has arrived, and while some people are counting down to Christmas, other people are counting down to something completely different, though the event occurs on the same day. I am of course talking about Roast Potatocalypse. The day roast potatoes fear the most. So eagerly I await the day, but to pass the time, let us indulge in another edition of The Nightcap!

Over on the blog #WhiskySanta was feeling particularly festive as he made Bunnahabhain 40 Year Old his Super Wish this week, while we began to tuck into our Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar. Check out each day (#1, #2, #3, #4, #5) to see which delightful dram hid behind each window and for a fabulous Q&A with a key figure at the distillery. Elsewhere, we announced the winner of our Jarrod Dickenson competition and revealed what Dram Club members can expect from December, before Adam cast a spotlight on Ron Izalco. Henry, meanwhile, got stuck into some of 2019’s best drink books and an exotic flavoured gin inspired by a Dutch explorer for our New Arrival of the Week as Annie Hayes hung out with Sir Ranulph Fiennes to talk rum, as you do, and still found time to enjoy a Hard Seltzer.

Now let’s press on, the Nightcap awaits!

The Nightcap

Richard Paterson created the impressive bottling from two ex-sherry casks filled in 1951!

The Dalmore unveils rare 60 Year Old single malt Scotch whisky

There is only one way to celebrate 180 years of creating delicious whiskies, with a limited-edition pink gin. Just kidding. The Dalmore has marked the occasion by releasing a spectacular 60-year-old single malt whisky. The Dalmore 60 Year Old was created by master distiller Richard Paterson, who reunited two extremely rare ex-sherry casks from six decades ago which were first filled with spirit first distilled on 7th June 1951. The two twin casks were the last of the Mackenzie era when the Mackenzie clan owned the distillery, which ended in 1988 when Colonel Hector ‘HAC’ Mackenzie passed away. Under their stewardship, The Dalmore established long-standing relationships with suppliers to source casks that remain to this day and took the decision to adorn each decanter with the distinctive Royal stag. “Over the course of the past 180 years, The Dalmore has constantly strived for perfection, setting the standards for many other whisky makers today. The Dalmore 60 Year Old is a fitting tribute to the masterful talents of our distillers past and present, who have all helped to create an incredible body of work,” said Paterson. “For me personally, nurturing and caring for these two casks has been a true labour of love. The reunion of the two spirits has produced an unforgettable whisky that is truly greater than the sum of its parts.” The Dalmore 60 Years Old is limited to just three decanters, which will be unveiled at an exclusive celebration at The Dalmore’s Highland home, before embarking on a global tour to Shanghai, Los Angeles, Taipei, and London. Further details will be announced in due course, which you can find on the Dalmore website.

The Nightcap

The Times Series 52 Year Old Single Cask Finish

Royal Salute launches The Times Series 52 Year Old Single Cask Finish

Royal Salute and insanely old whisky fanatics, hold onto your hats. “Amplified and way more luxurious than anything before,” is how master blender Sandy Hyslop introduced the brand new Royal Salute expression, The Times Series 52 Year Old Single Cask Finish. This has been a labour of love and immense skill, periodically sampled every 18 months. At 38 years old, Hyslop decided not to bottle the whisky, oh no. He decided it was time to move it to another cask to be finished for 14 more years in American oak. “I desperately didn’t want the cask influence to be too much here,” Hyslop tells us. You’d be forgiven for thinking that over five decades in oak would result in a dry and woody whisky, but this is anything but. It dances between sweet and spicy, with the hallmark Royal Salute syrupy pear notes in there too. When we headed to a mysterious clock tower in St. Pancras to try it (Time Series, clock tower… we see what you did there Royal Salute), we were the only group outside Hyslop and his blending team to try have tasted the liquid in its finished form, which is pretty mind-boggling. Enough of that, we’re sure you’re eager to know how it tastes. The nose is sweet, thick and juicy, with plums, dark chocolate, ginger, cinnamon. The palate is mouth-coating to another level, revealing sweet liquorice, pears in syrup, orange marmalade and candied ginger, with a finish which goes on for almost as long as the whisky was aged itself! Of course, the spectacular whisky is presented with in an individually-numbered hand-blown Dartington Crystal decanter, alongside a stunning box featuring five layers of wood, each representing a decade of the blend. Whisky collectors, this one’s for you. There’s only 106 bottles, and if you have a spare $30,000 burning a hole in your bank account, we’d thoroughly suggest trying it.

The Nightcap

Wright Brothers gin, worth shelling out for

Wright Brothers launch Half Shell Gin

When sustainability and delicious boozes come together, it makes us very happy here at MoM Towers. So, when we were invited to try the new Half Shell Gin from Wright Brothers, made with reused oyster shells from the London-based restaurant group, we jumped at the chance, hook, line and sinker! To create the spirit, Wright Brothers partnered with The Ginstitute distillery of West London, using the thousands of oyster shells which the restaurant goes through each year. “We use Carlingford oyster shells, which are cold-macerated in neutral spirit and then distilled,” says Ivan Ruiz, Wright Brothers beverage manager. “We then add a percentage of the distillation to the gin. The oyster-shell taste is then balanced with a kelp seaweed, and other ingredients like juniper and Amalfi lemon. The result is a savoury gin with high mineral notes and a pink pepper finish.” We can absolutely vouch for that, it was thoroughly delicious. The outstanding seafood was accompanied by a G&T and a Martini, both showcasing Half Shell Gin. The Martini is an absolute winner, slightly savoury, well-balanced and exceptionally smooth. Visually, it’s an absolute joy, and seeing hundreds of oysters served up while we were sitting at the bar sipping on the very gin made from the shells is pretty cool. “We’d thought about creating our own wine, but we feel gin, especially this gin, reflects both our restaurants and the city we call home,” says Robin Hancock, co-founder of Wright Brothers. You can grab a bottle of your own at Wright Brothers restaurants, or choose to sip it in their wonderful cocktails.

The Nightcap

Congratulations, guys!

Irish Distillers takes home the World Whiskey Producer of the Year trophy

It’s fair to say Irish Distillers had a good time at the International Wine and Spirits Competition in London last week. It scored the highest number of medals across its portfolio of Irish whiskeys throughout the 2019 awards season, beating distillers from Japan, Ireland and the USA. Midleton Distillery claimed 24 award wins, including the Worldwide Whiskey Trophy for Redbreast 12 Year Old, while there was gold medals for the Powers Three Swallows release, Powers John’s Lane 12 Year Old, Redbreast 15 Year Old and Red Spot 15 Year Old. Jameson Cooper’s Croze and Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy also scored 98 points out of 100, as Irish Distillers ended the evening with the most Gold Outstanding honours within the Irish whiskey category. But above all that, the Irish whiskey producers were given the prestigious title of World Whiskey Producer of the Year. “We are honoured to be recognised as World Whiskey Producer of the Year by one of the most respected awards bodies, and to see such outstanding results across the portfolio,” said Tommy Keane, production director at Irish Distillers. “This trophy is a tribute to the incredibly hard-working passionate and skilled craftsmen and women at Midleton – 2019 has truly been a landmark year for Irish Distillers.”

The Nightcap

Now that’s what we call an immersive floral installation

St. Germain at Heddon Street Kitchen

We know that it’s dark and cold, but one of the best things about winter is all the awesome festive pop-ups! The latest one we popped along to was St-Germain’s Winter Bloom Experience at Gordon Ramsay’s Heddon Street Kitchen. The immersive floral installation is golden, shiny and full of fairy lights and all things elderflower. We were told that the semi-dried flowers even have to be touched up every couple of weeks, which is more attention than we give our house plants. Each of the four serves has a suggested food pairing, created in collaboration with the team at Heddon Street Kitchen. Our personal favourites were the cockle-warming Cidre Chaud (St. Germain, Calvados, cider, star anise and lemon) and the light, refreshing Winter Spritz (St. Germain, Prosecco and soda). If you love elderflower like nothing else, this is the spot for you, though serves like Le Grand Fizz (St. Germain, Grey Goose vodka, lime and soda) aren’t overwhelmingly floral if you’re not mad for it. You’ll find the cosy floral hideaway at the restaurant all throughout the month of December. Perhaps a spot to keep in mind to treat yourself to a post-Oxford Street Christmas shopping session. 

The Nightcap

Responsible and festive, you don’t often pair those two together!

Beer brewed with recycled Christmas Tree needles launched

Being both sustainable and festive isn’t easy, but Lowlander Beer has managed with a Winter IPA brewed with recycled Christmas tree spruce needles. Part of the zero-waste ‘From Tree to Tipple’ campaign from the award-winning Netherlands Botanical Brewery, The Winter IPA is the result of last year’s initiative which collected unwanted Christmas trees to turn into beer. This year the brand has gone one further and made its Christmassy creation available to purchase as a gift pack from Not On The High Street and from other retailers throughout December. The profile of the beer isn’t dark and heavy as you would suspect from a wintery beer, but instead, it’s a light, refreshing White IPA brewed with juniper berries alongside the unconventional spruce needles. Expect a piney aroma alongside the hoppy & light citrus character. Over six hundred kilos of needles were needed to produce the 2019 batch of Winter IPA. Although only the needles were needed to brew Lowlander’s Winter IPA, the brewery reused every piece of the donated trees in limited-edition products, including bottles of a new creation: Lowlander Botanical Brut, a limited-edition sparkling beer made with spruce and Champagne-inspired Riesling yeast, available in the UK from 2020. Commenting on the release, chief botanical officer Frederik Kampman said, “Every December, about 2.5 million real trees bring Christmas spirit into our homes. By New Year, most of these end up in the chipper, on bonfires or piled at the roadside. We have found another use for them: in beer.” 

The Nightcap

The lovely, lovely Brora whisky on offer made us excited for the silent distillery’s future

Brora ramps up 200th-anniversary celebrations

What a year it’s been for silent Highland Scotch whisky distillery Brora. The momentum first got going back in 2017 when parent company Diageo announced it was going to reopen both Brora and Port Ellen, the iconic distillery over on Islay. Then, in August this year, we got word of a very special 40-year-old expression, developed to commemorate Brora’s 200th birthday (more on this shortly). And just last month, the distillery’s historic stills were whisked away for refurbishment – bringing that all-important reawakening a significant step closer. So when we were invited to a dinner earlier this week to celebrate it all, we just had to be there. Also in attendance were senior archivist, Jo McKerchar, and the Brora master distiller to be, Stewart Bowman. We looked at plans for the restored site (pop September 2020 in the diaries, folks), historical documents from the old distillery, and basically, had a thoroughly lovely time (and yes, we did get to taste that 40 year old – it’s rounded, and elegant, and like the robust smokiness of Brora but dressed up in a black-tie gown or tuxedo. We liked. A lot.). 2019 shall forever be known as the Year of Brora – until 2020 comes around and the closed distillery reawakens from its slumber. Bring it on!

The Nightcap

The biodegradable drinking straw is made from up-cycled agave

Jose Cuervo unveils ‘sustainable’ agave straws

We all now know plastic is the scourge of the earth (all hail David Attenborough), and that single-use bits and bobs are now about as welcome as the common cold. But sometimes straws are just, well, needed. Step forward Tequila brand Jose Cuervo, with has teamed up with scientists at BioSolutions Mexico and production types at Mexico-based PENKA to create agave-based straws! They’re made from upcycled agave fibres (the raw material in Tequila and mezcal) and are biodegradable. More than a million of them will be sent out across the US and Mexico in 2020. “The past, present, and future of Jose Cuervo is tied directly to the agave plant – without it, we would not exist,” said Alex Coronado, Cuervo’s master distiller and head of operations. “As the Tequila industry worldwide booms, it is our company’s responsibility as the leader to take care of the agave plant and ensure that we are producing tequila sustainably. It takes an average of six years to grow an agave plant before it is mature enough to harvest for Tequila production, and we have to be committed to finding more ways to use the agave fibres once that process is complete. The debut of our biodegradable, agave-based drinking straws is a new step in utilising the full potential of this very special Mexican agricultural product.” Now, agave is far from the most sustainable raw material for spirits (think: monocrop issues and all the energy requirements for all that processing), but it certainly seems like a mammoth step in the right direction. Good riddance, plastic!

The Nightcap

Head winemaker at Graham’s Charles Symington

Graham’s releases 1940 tawny Port

Now you have the chance to taste a little bit of history as Port house Graham’s, part of the Symington group, has announced the release of single harvest tawny from 1940, a blend of two exceptional casks. Wine from this period are extremely rare not just because of their great age but because with Port’s principal markets at war, very little was made.  Head winemaker at Graham’s Charles Symington commented: “It’s not often we have the privilege of releasing a wine that is eight decades old and bears such unique historical significance. The 1940 Single Harvest really is remarkably refined and balanced, offering a reflection not only of the quality of the original wine but the skilled care and attention it received from our forebears.” Yours for around £800. Interest in old single harvest tawny Ports (aged in barrel as opposed to vintage Ports that are aged in bottle) has been increasing in recent years. The 1940 is the final part of Graham’s Cellar Master’s Trilogy of old tawnies, joining the 1994 and 1963. It’s old but not as old as the special 90 year old tawny the company released in 2016, a blend of three years 1912 , 1924 and 1935, released to celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday.

The Nightcap

Keep your gin safe with an Edinburgh Gin Safe

And finally. . . protect your precious boozes with the Edinburgh Gin Safe

Tired of flatmates or relatives pilfering your favourite gin? Well, the boffins at Edinburgh Gin have come up with the answer: a gin safe. Available directly from the distiller, your safe consists of a clear box containing a full bottle of gin with the contents safely secured with a padlock. The only way to open it is to solve a cryptic puzzle which will reveal the combination for the lock. Neil Mowat, UK marketing director of Edinburgh Gin, commented: “Given Christmas is the most wonder-filled time of the year, we wanted to bring some of our own distinctive magic to the concept of gift wrapping with our gin safes. Designed with the ultimate gin fan in mind, they’ll be able to see the reward that’s waiting for them, but they’ll need to have a little fun first to unlock the wonder within.” All great fun but we can see a problem that owners might forget the code after too much eggnog. . . or perhaps that’s the point. 

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Cocktail of the Week: The Red Devil

Today we’re getting all diabolical with a special smoky Tequila from Maestro Dobel and a cocktail inspired by Día de Muertos. Agave 101 is that mezcal is smoky while Tequila…

Today we’re getting all diabolical with a special smoky Tequila from Maestro Dobel and a cocktail inspired by Día de Muertos.

Agave 101 is that mezcal is smoky while Tequila isn’t. Well, it’s time to tear up the rule book because Maestro Dobel has just launched Humito, a smoky spirit which the company claims is the “world’s first smoked silver Tequila.” We won’t get into an argument about who got there first only to say that there are other smoked Tequilas out there and, in the distant past, agave used in Tequila production would have been cooked over wood. Maestro Dobel won’t tell exactly how its process works, only to say that it involves: a secret technique that harnesses mesquite wood”. And who doesn’t love a secret technique?

We tried it earlier this year at a special evening put on by Maestro Dobel. The brand is owned by the Beckmann family who also own Jose Cuervo, but Maestro Dobel is independent. Over the course of the evening we tried a number of Tequilas from the range: first the Diamante which is an aged blanco Tequila, the world’s first, apparently. This is like the white rum of the Tequila world, aged in oak and then filtered to remove colour. It’s a category that has inspired a certain amount of scepticism among Tequila fans. Why remove the colour? But it certainly tastes good, the ageing giving it a gentle creaminess without masking any of the fruity character. We also tried a very special Tequila called Maestro Dobel 50 1•9•6•7 Extra Añejo. It was created for the 50th birthday of Juan Domingo Beckmann (born in 1967) who started the Maestro Dobel brand. It’s a blend of five to seven-year-old spirits aged in a mixture of new American and French oak, blended and finished in sherry casks. There’s no filtering here. In its colour and flavour, it’s not unlike a very swanky rum. The price is pretty swanky too: it’s only available in a few select hotels where a measure will  cost you about £200!

Which makes the Humito at £43 sound like a terrific bargain. It’s a delicious drop too, lots of fruity aromatic agave character, very smooth, with the smoke present but sort of lingering in the background. Like a good drummer. We tried it in conjunction with food from top Brazilian chef Rafael Cagali from Da Terra in East London (who won a Michelin star earlier this year). 

Maestro Dobel Humito

Serving suggestion

Humito is a great cocktail Tequila providing lots of character but it’s not overpowering like some mezcals can be. In fact, it’s rather like adding a teaspoon of mezcal to a Tequila cocktail. To tie in with Día de Muertos, which is turning into quite the international event, Maestro Dobel has come up with a suitably diabolical cocktail called the Red Devil which accentuates Humido’s subtle smokiness with hibiscus syrup. Rafael Cagali has even come up with some recipes to go with it including beef tartare and mackerel croquettes but we are sure it will go equally well with nachos.

Right, got your red horns on? It’s time to make a Red Devil:

40ml Maestro Dobel Humito
15ml fresh lemon juice
5ml agave syrup
10ml hibiscus syrup

Add first three ingredients into ice-filled highball glass and give it a good stir. Top up with soda water, stir again and pour on the hibiscus syrup. Garnish with a lemon wheel. 

 

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The four pillars of mezcal 

With the news that Campari has just bought a controlling stake in Montelobos, it’s time to take a closer look at the brand and who better to talk to than…

With the news that Campari has just bought a controlling stake in Montelobos, it’s time to take a closer look at the brand and who better to talk to than the master of mezcal himself, Dr Iván Saldaña.

There can be no doubting Dr Saldaña’s commitment to agave. While doing his PhD in plant biology at the University of Sussex, he imported two tonnes of the stuff to study; “it made me think that perhaps Sussex wasn’t the best place to study agave”, he joked. The agave plant is genetically very similar to the lily and asparagus. One thing, it’s not related to is the cactus. Saldaña said that though they both have spikes and live in the desert: “the difference between cactus and agave is like the difference between a bird and a butterfly.”

In 2011, Saldaña founded Montelobos (meaning mountain of the wolves) to explore mezcal’s possibilities. What excites Saldaña about agave is its complexity of taste. These flavourful compounds are produced by the plant to protect itself from predators. Saldaña described agave as like a giant herb, “making mezcal is like making gin in a single step, you are trapping essential oils. Grains are very boring, you have to flavour the spirit, either like gin or through wood. Agave is more complex even than grape spirit.” That’s fighting talk, doc!

Montelobos

They call him el maestro

To make his case, Saldaña outlined what he called the four pillars of mezcal flavour:

1: Green agave: These are herbal flavours that comes from the plant itself, like basil, mint and orange peel. These function like the botanical flavours in gin. There are at least 30 different types of agave used to make mezcal all with distinct flavours like grape cultivars.

2: Sugar: A piña (the core of the agave plant) is around 38% sugar. “It’s basically a big ball of sugar and water sitting in the desert so everyone wants to eat you,” said Saldaña. To protect it, the plant has spikes and stores its sugar in an indigestible way. During the cooking process the sugars will be caramelised producing flavours of honey, toffee, and dried fruit. The slower the cooking, the more flavour.

3: Smoke: Also produced during the cooking process. You have to be careful as the sticky oily wood will ruin the flavour. The right wood gives you chocolate, chilli and black pepper which can give the mezcal an aged flavour if it is is a joven

4: Yeast: “The funky side comes from fermentation,” said Saldaña. Mezcal is made with wild rather than cultured yeasts. He explained that this is one of the things that most spirits have lost as production has been industrialised. “More yeasts equal more complexity but also more risk,” said Saldaña. There are also bacteria which produce different acids, such as lactic, acetic and malic as well as esters. Earthy, fruity (think high ester rum) and funky flavours come from fermentation.

Montelobos

The Montelobos range

We then tried three types of mezcal that show products from the range:

Black Label 43.2% ABV

Made from 100% espadin agave, apparently a particularly sweet one.
Nose: intensely aromatic nose with mint, basil and saline notes with smoky bacon fat.
Palate: sweet, pepper and lemon with a taste of cold ashes.
Finish: chilli pepper.

Ensamble 45.3% ABV

Use three types of agave: 55% artichoke, 35%, and 15% tobala.
Nose: much funkier than the Black Label, there’s a cereal note with liquorice.
Palate: thick texture, intense with green minty notes
Finish: savoury and briney, like a dirty Martini.

Tobala 47% ABV

Made from tobala, a particularly small type of agave.
Nose: cheesy nose, fatty, touch of wrong about this, like a particularly funky rum. Very little smoke.
Palate: aromatic, clean and fresh on the palate with earthy notes.
Finish: nutty and earthy.

Montelobos

That’s just what the doctor ordered

Montelobos also makes a pechuga. This is a traditional Mexican spirit where the spirit is flavoured with various fruits and types of meat for the Day of the Dead. Montelobos uses almonds, macadamia, orange peel, hibiscus, anise and cacao, and turkey. Not suitable for vegetarians. Though it is, oddly, fine for observant Jews. Two of Saldaña’s business partners are Jewish so this pechuga is certified kosher. Finding a rabbi in rural Mexico to supervise production was apparently not easy. The resulting is incredibly intense. Saldaña described it as “tasting of Christmas.”

Production at Montelobos is traditional. The team crush the agave with a tahona wheel (big stone thing) pulled by a mule. Fermentation is with wild yeasts and then distillation takes place in a small copper still which is direct fired. They put agave fibres in with fermented agave in the traditional manner. Mezcal is produced in eight tonne batches each producing around 1,000 litres of spirit. The agave comes only from cultivated fields, much better for the environment than using wild plants, according to Saldaña. They let some plants flower to aid biodiversity. 

I asked the doctor whether he thinks mezcal might be finally taking off outside Mexico. He was honest: “we are over-represented in the press compared with sales”. But he has had a great response from bartenders in the UK. He sees the growth of tequila as a good thing, as some customers will move from one to the other. “Tequila is like blended whisky and you progress to single malt, ie mezcal”, he said. 

A couple of weeks after I met with him, the news came through that Campari had bought a 51% stake in the company. His views on expansion were interesting: “We want to be a medium brand. We can use artisanal process but we can expand. We want to make more product but keep it honest and authentic”. With the might of Campari behind them, we’re likely to see a lot more of Montelobos.

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Get ready for Halloween!

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

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

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

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

Happy Halloween!

Poetic License Pumpkin Spice Gin

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

What does it taste like?:

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

Cloven Hoof Spiced Rum

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

What does it taste like?:

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

El Espolòn Reposado Tequila

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

What does it taste like?:

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

Jim Beam Devil’s Cut

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

What does it taste like?:

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

Fallen Angel Blood Orange Gin

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

What does it taste like?:

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

Dead Man’s Fingers Cornish Spiced Rum

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

What does it taste like?:

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

Solway Apple Caramel Gin

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

What does it taste like?:

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

Wicked Wolf Exmoor Gin

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

What does it taste like?:

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

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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.

The Nightcap

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.

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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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