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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: The Nightcap

The Nightcap: 27 March

It’s another bitesize Nightcap this week, but there’s still plenty of booze news to enjoy – as well as the answers to last week’s pub quiz! Staying in this Friday? Well,…

It’s another bitesize Nightcap this week, but there’s still plenty of booze news to enjoy – as well as the answers to last week’s pub quiz!

Staying in this Friday? Well, what are the chances – so are we! In fact, plenty of us have been staying in quite a bit and getting involved with various projects. Some DIY, learning a few new cocktail recipes, that sort of thing. Our Sam has been trying to listen to every Neil Young album. Turns out there are loads and it’s taking him ages. If you’d prefer a project that’s just a bit easier to tick off your list, we’ve got a brand new edition of The Nightcap right here!

On the MoM blog this week, Ian Buxton returned this to discuss the implications of agave casks being used in Scotch whisky before we helped you explore the drinks world in lockdown-mode by picking five of our favourite drink books. Adam continued the theme by taking you on a distillery tour of Glenglassaugh and Wolfburn without leaving the house. You can thank virtual reality for that. Annie, meanwhile, enjoyed five classic spirits made in non-traditional places and gave us 10 pointers from the pros about how to DIY your G&T. Elsewhere, Henry made an Old Fashioned, but slightly better, and recommended a new bottling that would work particularly well in that serve, as Jess rounded up the best of the best from the World Gin Awards 2020 winners.

And after all that excitement, it’s on with The Nightcap!

The Nightcap

Look, it’s Ardbeg Wee Beastie!

Ardbeg unveils new whisky: Wee Beastie

The folks at Ardbeg Distillery clearly understand that at a time like this we need good news and things to look forward to. That’s why it was a welcome surprise to be told this week that the Islay whisky producer is set to launch a new permanent expression. It’s called Wee Beastie, presumably because it was matured for just five years in ex-bourbon and oloroso sherry casks. The press release explains that Wee Beastie is a “feisty and intensely powerful smoky whisky that’s untamed by age”, with “intense aromas of cracked black pepper, sappy pine resin and sharp tangs of smoke”, and an explosive mouthfeel that “bursts forth with chocolate, creosote, tar and savoury meats”. We do love a young, raw and bold Islay bottling here at MoM Towers. Ardbeg’s director of whisky creation, Dr Bill Lumsden, said of Wee Beastie: “I’m in no doubt that Ardbeggians will love this tongue-tingling expression. The casks chosen for its creation make it ideal for enjoying neat or as the mouth-watering main ingredient in a powerfully smoky cocktail.” Soon-to-retire distillery manager Mickey Heads added: “A new permanent expression in the core range is always momentous for the distillery, but Wee Beastie is a particularly special dram. As it’s a younger whisky, it means we’re able to get as close to the still as possible. So it’s safe to say this is a ferociously good wee nip!” Wee Beastie will be available here from May.

The Nightcap

The 52 year-old Karuizawa ‘Zodiac Rat’ 1960 sold for £363,000, a new record

Karuizawa expression sells for £363,000 and sets new record

In these dark times, it’s good to know there are still people with tonnes of money prepared to splash out on whisky. You may recall on a previous Nightcap we previewed an upcoming sale of fine and rare wines and spirits by Sotheby’s and expected big things from Macallan and Karuizawa (as always). Well, they didn’t disappoint. The 52-year-old Karuizawa ‘Zodiac Rat’ 1960 sold for £363,000, a new record for a bottle of Japanese whisky. It’s the oldest expression ever released from the distillery and the bottle is one of only 41 produced, each packed with a netsuke (a miniature sculpture) carved from the oak cask that once held the whisky. Macallan also had a good auction as a complete vertical of The Macallan in Lalique Six Pillars Collection was sold for £423,500, while The Macallan Lalique Genesis Decanter 72-year-old was bought for £84,700. The present global situation didn’t appear to disrupt much for Sotheby’s, which sold £3.7 million worth of booze. A substantial proportion of lots exceeded their high estimates and 50% of winning lots were made online. “Against a backdrop of extraordinary circumstance, the persistence and commitment of collectors came through in yesterday’s sales, where a bottle of Japanese whisky became the most valuable ever sold, accompanied by strong prices for Scotch whisky, led by the Macallan in Lalique Decanters,” said Jamie Ritchie, chairman of Sotheby’s Wine. “Collectors also continue to compete for the world’s greatest wines, and when there is an opportunity to acquire the very best the market has to offer, as with the two cases of the legendary Cheval Blanc 1947, they are willing to stretch to the highest level.”

Michael Broadbent in action in the (judging by the haircuts) 1980s. Photo courtesy of Christie’s

Industry pays tribute to Michael Broadbent 

Tributes poured as the wine world lost one of its most eminent figures, Michael Broadbent, at the age of 92. Jancis Robinson MW described him as “a towering figure in the history of wine.” Born in 1927, Broadbent had a varied career in the wine trade, becoming a Master of Wine in 1960 but it was his time at Christie’s, the auction house, where he was most influential. He joined the firm in 1966 and almost single-handedly revived the auction market for fine and rare wines (and later spirits). He was famous for taking notes on (nearly) every wine he tried, and the most notable was published in The Great Vintage Wine Book. He retired from Christie’s in 1992 but remained a consultant with the firm until 2009. In addition, he was chairman of the Institute of Masters of Wine, Master of the Worshipful Company of Distillers, president of the Wine & Spirit Education Trust and chairman of The Benevolent. He was particularly revered in France where he was made Chevalier of the Ordre National du Mérite in 1979. Au revoir Monsieur Michael!

The Nightcap

It’s the final batch of While We Wait!

Isle of Raasay Distillery releases its final While We Wait

For what seems like about 30 years, the Isle of Raasay Distillery has been releasing an annual single malt under the While We Wait banner (it’s actually only been five years but we’re so impatient it seems like longer.) Now, the wait is almost over as the last batch of WWW whisky has just gone on sale. Appropriately enough, this last batch is called The Last Orders and it’s made up of peated and unpeated spirits matured in bourbon barrels and finished in first and second fill Tuscan red wine French oak casks for 18 months. It will be available only direct from the distillery. Co-founder Alasdair Day commented: “This fifth and final release of our While We Wait series is a highly significant step forward for our distillery. Our team are constantly looking to push the boundaries of whisky making, exploring the effect that different finishes and casks have on the flavour profile, and this spirit is the perfect embodiment of our ethos.” Later this year, the Isle of Raasay’s first single malt distilled on the island will be released which is extremely exciting. Watch this space!

The Nightcap

Get involved, if you’re in the US, of course.

And finally…  Bardstown Bourbon are looking for ‘world’s’ top whiskey taster 

The Company has partnered with Moonshine University to create an exciting contest that calls on whiskey lovers, enthusiasts, fans and connoisseurs alike in the search for the World’s Top Whiskey Taster. Sounds amazing, except it’s not open to the world. It’s just for legal residents of the fifty United States (and District of Columbia). Unless self-isolation has turned my brain to mush, I’m pretty certain there’s a distinction between the US and the world. Might want to reconsider that name. The winner will be awarded a cash prize of $20,000 with a contract to represent Bardstown Bourbon Company as an ambassador, as well as a scholarship to Moonshine University’s Executive Bourbon Steward certification programme, and a trip to Bardstown, Kentucky to blend a custom product with Bardstown Bourbon Company master distiller Steve Nally. Frankly, I don’t know why I’m not entering for goodness sake. Oh, right. I can’t. The competition consists of three phases, starting with an invitation to submit an audition video, followed by regional qualifiers and national finals. “Entrants are encouraged to be creative and have fun,” said Bardstown Bourbon Company vice president of sales & marketing, Herb Heneman. “Tell us what makes your palate as good as it is. Show us things like your favourite bourbon cocktail, your most impressive or underrated pairing, or pick the most amazing bottle in your stash and geek out on it. But most of all, tell us what representing Bardstown Bourbon Company as a distillery ambassador would mean to you.” The full contest rules, terms and conditions are here. To upload your audition video or for more information, you can do that here. But only if you’re in the US, remember?  

The Nightcap

That’s it for the Nightcap this week, now here are the answers to last week’s pub quiz. We appreciate it was a tad on the tough side so today’s edition (coming soon) should prove more accessible:

1) Which much-admired Islay distillery manager announced his retirement last week? 

Answer: Mickey Heads

2) How many distilleries are there on Skye?

Answer: Three: Talisker, Torabhaig Distillery and Isle of Skye Distillery.

3) How many times is Mortlach single malt distilled?

Answer: 2.81 times according to the distillery.

4) Where would you find boisé? 

Answer: In Cognac.

5) Which cocktail does the Polish agent drink in John Le Carre’s The Looking Glass War?

Answer: The White Lady

6) What’s bigger, a British pint or an American?

Answer: A British pint. 

7) What sport is the carraway-flavoured schnapps kümmel commonly associated with?

Answer: Golf.

8) What whiskey does Sylvester Stallone’s character Jimmy Bobo request in the 2012 movie Bullet to the Head?

Answer: Bulleit Bourbon

9) What do both the glass Gatsby raises and Tom Buchanan’s car have in common in The Great Gatsby film? 

Answer: They are both a couple (or coupé).

10) Which bourbon whiskey brand inspired a Billy Idol single?

Answer: Rebel Yell

11) Evan Williams originally hailed from which country?

Answer: Wales

12) Which drink brand did the first-ever cinema advert?

Answer: Dewar’s Scotch whisky

13) There are more barrels of bourbon than people in the state of Kentucky, true or false?

Answer: True (two barrels of bourbon for every person)

14) In which wine region would you find ‘the dogs’ teeth’?

Answer: Burgundy

15) How many monkeys are there on a bottle of Monkey Shoulder?

Answer: 9.

No Comments on The Nightcap: 27 March

The Nightcap and virtual pub quiz: 20 March

For fans of our weekly update on all matters boozy and brilliant, you might notice that things are looking a little different on this edition of The Nightcap… This week…

For fans of our weekly update on all matters boozy and brilliant, you might notice that things are looking a little different on this edition of The Nightcap…

This week it’s an abridged Nightcap, a Nightcapini, if you will, as there aren’t any launches, activations or gins with amusing botanicals to report on because of that other thing that is dominating the news. Instead, we have five stories looking at how the drinks industry is dealing with this unprecedented crisis, and then on a lighter note, we have a fiendishly difficult booze quiz (scroll to the end).  Answer the questions (pub quiz rules, ie. no looking at Google), send in your answers to us and we’ll give you a discount voucher to spend on selected drinks at Master of Malt with one lucky winner receiving a £25 voucher. The answers will be published next Friday.

But first, this is what was on the blog this week: Beer Hawk and ourselves announced the ‘Save the Pubs’ Alliance, while our CEO sent out a short message about the measures we’re taking to protect staff and continue trading throughout the current Coronavirus crisis. Adam then sadly had to report that Fèis Ìle 2020 and other whisky festivals were cancelled in response to the pandemic before he rounded-up some delicious boozes to keep your spirits up at home. Annie then recommended some places to visit in L.A. when we’re allowed out of the house again and introduced Martini’s new alcohol-free aperitivo. Henry, meanwhile, enjoyed a rather refreshing gin-based cocktail while he cast a spotlight on an often under-appreciated Scotch whisky distillery: Glen Elgin. We also launched a new competition and have two whole bundles full of wonderful spirits from The Lakes Distillery to give away, so get your entries in!

Right, on with the Nightcapini!

The Nightcap

Chief executive and Nightcap regular Miles Beale says that the government needs to go further

WSTA calls for duty suspension to save hospitality industry

Pubs, bars and restaurants still haven’t been formally closed, the government has just advised us to avoid them, but the hospitality industry is already taking a hammering with millions of jobs at risk. To help, the WSTA (Wine and Spirit Trade Association) has proposed the suspension of taxes for at least six months. Chief executive and Nightcap regular Miles Beale welcomes what the government has done already but says that it needs to go further: “On 25 March UK wine and spirit companies will be landed with their duty bills, followed six days later on 31st March with their VAT demands. Swift government action to waive excise duty payments for at least six months, starting from next week, would have an immediate impact and can make a real difference. This would allow all hospitality businesses to keep back vital company cash and support their efforts to pay employees and stay afloat.” Alex Wolpert, the founder of East London Liquor Company, added: “Around 40% of the money paid for a bottle of our spirits goes on duty. If the government agreed to put a stop to these tax burdens, for at least six months, it would free up vital cash and give businesses like ours some breathing space and a chance of survival.” 

The Nightcap

You can now click and collect beer, food and spirits from your nearest UK BrewDog

BrewDog Drive Thru and Pub in a Box helping keep self-isolators well-stocked

Pubs are doing everything they can right now to keep morale up and helping us enjoy a good brew. Firstly, BrewDog has launched BrewDog Drive Thru, so you can click and collect beer, food and spirits from your nearest UK BrewDog either by car, bike or on foot. You’ll need the Hop Drop app to order, and there’s a 30% discount for everyone using it (with a 50% discount for NHS workers). “These are uncertain times. But we are committed to looking after our crew, our customers and our company,” said James Watt from BrewDog. “BrewDog Drive Thru is a way in which you can keep fully stocked with the beer you love but in the best way possible. At the moment the only thing we can do is batten down the hatches and get through the storm together.” Obviously wait until you get home to consume your delicious brews (don’t drink and drive/ cycle/ skateboard, folks). What’s more, East London brewery Signature Brew is tackling two problems at once with Pub in a Box, delivered by musicians who have had their tours cancelled. To quote Brad Pitt: what’s in the box? You’ll find a delightful selection of beers with glassware, snacks, beer mats (for the full pub experience), a music quiz and even playlists curated by music journalists to accompany the beers themselves! A big thanks to all the pubs making self-isolation that little bit more bearable.

The Nightcap

#TheVirtualHappyHour partakers are encouraged to grab a drink and virtually catch-up with friends

#TheVirtualHappyHour, pub quizzes and whisky festivals

The hospitality industry is going virtual! Here are just a few ways you can get involved. Alcohol-free beer aficionado Big Drop Brewing Co is hosting a mega virtual pub quiz on Tuesday 24 March from 7.30pm to 10.30pm. Big Drop’s quizmasters will ask questions live on YouTube and at the end of each round, the answers will be revealed. Obviously this is relying on good ol’ honest fun, no cheating! It’s totally free, just tune in on YouTube Live. There are no prizes, though if you stay tuned then there may be a giveaway or two via the live chat… Meanwhile, Australia is holding an entire whisky festival online! Melbourne-based Whiskey! The Show will now send ticket holders a box of whisky samples for them to all taste together (virtually), encouraging them to share their tasting notes and reviews through an app. Additionally, in a bid to provide some social stimulation as well as supporting the hospitality industry financially, a group of friends have launched #TheVirtualHappyHour campaign. Partakers are encouraged to grab a drink, (virtually) link up with friends and have a catch-up. The idea is that at the end, everyone in the group will donate the price of a drink to their favourite bar, to help see it through these tough times. Each venue will have different donation preferences, so a group ‘leader’ will liaise with the bar after the happy hour to discuss how to best donate. “#TheVirtualHappyHour team want to encourage people to reconnect safely, whilst ensuring we are doing as much as we can to help the bars, pubs & restaurants we love, survive the next few weeks and months ahead,” says Steph DiCamillo May, part of the team behind the concept. Let’s do the best we can to pub from our own homes, folks! 

The Nightcap

Dayalan Nayager says we all need to come together to support the drinks trade

Industry rallies to support bar and pub workers

With many bar staff facing an uncertain future, Diageo has pledged £1 million to help. The fund will help British bars and pubs to pay their staff wages during the measures designed to stop the spread of the Coronavirus. “The British drinks trade is facing one of its most challenging times ever and we want to help our communities when they need us most,” said Dayalan Nayager, Diageo managing director, Great Britain, Ireland and France. “We all need to come together to support the trade and I would urge all my fellow drinks producers to do what they can to help our British pubs, bars and retailers and restaurants over the next few months.” The company is also offering free online Diageo Bar Academy training courses to anyone in the industry. Meanwhile, the Drinks Trust (the charity formerly known as The Benevolent) is looking to raise money to help members of the trade through these difficult times. As well as financial assistance the charity is planning to increase the capacity of its helpline fivefold to help those suffering mentally. To find out more go to the Drinks Trust website. It’s a worthwhile cause. 

The Nightcap

Psychopomp has raised about £800 for Bristol’s Children’s Hospital

Distilleries make and donate hand sanitiser

In these difficult and troubling times where goods such as toilet paper, pasta and hand sanitiser have been in short supply due to panic buying relating to the spreading Covid-19 pandemic, distilleries across the globe have stepped up to do their bit. After all, hand sanitiser is essentially high strength alcohol plus moisturiser. LVMH (Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton) led the way by retooling its perfume and cosmetic factories to make hydroalcoholic gel to be distributed to health authorities and hospitals free of charge, while Bristol’s Psychopomp has asked for donations for 100ml of hand sanitiser and this week has raised about £800 for Bristol’s Children’s Hospital. Pernod Ricard, Bacardi and Absolut Vodka have pitched in with similar efforts, as well as BrewDog, 58 Gin, Beinn an Tuirc, Cairngorm Gin, Deeside Distillery, Dunnet Bay Distillers, Loch Ness Spirits, Redcastle Spirits, Fen Spirits, Forest Distillery and Silent Pool Distillers in the UK. However, these good intentions are complicated by tax laws. Currently, British distillers have to pay £23 of duty on each litre of pure alcohol making the production of hand sanitiser prohibitively expensive. The WSTA has called on the British government to allow distilleries to turn waste alcohol into hand sanitiser without going through a complex technical and bureaucratic process. HMRC says it is prioritising applications to produce denatured alcohol, a type of spirit that is not for human consumption and exempt from excise duty. We at Master of Malt are getting requests from local organisations to provide hand sanitiser and we’re currently blocked from doing so by HMRC. We’ve applied for permission to denature alcohol and are waiting for their response.

The Nightcap

MoM virtual pub quiz 20 March 2020

That’s enough booze news, pour yourself a drink and let’s get on with the quiz. Remember, no cheating. To enter simply email your answers to pubquiz@masterofmalt.com. Don’t comment below. All entrants will receive a voucher offering 10% off certain products and there will be one winner who will get a £25 voucher. 

1) Which much-admired Islay distillery manager announced his retirement last week?

2) How many distilleries are there on Skye?

3) How many times is Mortlach single malt distilled?

4) Where would you find boisé? 

5) Which cocktail does the Polish agent drink in John Le Carre’s The Looking Glass War?

6) What’s bigger, a British pint or an American?

7) What sport is the carraway-flavoured schnapps kümmel commonly associated with?

8) What whiskey does Sylvester Stallone’s character Jimmy Bobo request in the 2012 movie Bullet to the Head?

9) What do both the glass Gatsby raises and Tom Buchanan’s car have in common in The Great Gatsby film? 

10) Which bourbon whiskey brand inspired a Billy Idol single?

11) Evan Williams originally hailed from which country?

12) Which drink brand did the first-ever cinema advert?

13) There are more barrels of bourbon than people in the state of Kentucky, true or false?

14) In which wine region would you find ‘the dogs’ teeth’?

15) How many monkeys are there on a bottle of Monkey Shoulder?

MoM Competition 2020 open to entrants 18 years and over. Entries accepted from 20 March to 26 March 2020. Winners chosen at random after close of competition. Prizes not transferable and cannot be exchanged for cash equivalent. See full T&Cs for details.

No Comments on The Nightcap and virtual pub quiz: 20 March

The Nightcap: 13 March

Tune into The Nightcap this week for news on Ardbeg’s Mickey Heads retiring, literature-based libations, and giraffes. Yes, giraffes.  Everyone is being told not to touch their own faces, or…

Tune into The Nightcap this week for news on Ardbeg’s Mickey Heads retiring, literature-based libations, and giraffes. Yes, giraffes. 

Everyone is being told not to touch their own faces, or other people’s faces. Some people are even being very specific and saying not to touch other people’s eyes, or touch other people with your eyes. That last one is generally a good bit of advice at any time. If that has drastically freed up time for your eyes, then direct them towards this edition of The Nightcap, our weekly round-up of the news from the booze world. Stay safe, folks. And for goodness’ sake, wash your hands.

On the blog this week, Ian Buxton returned to cast an eye at the biggest whisky market of all, before Kristy reminded us Mother’s Day is on the horizon. Don’t panic, though, she’s got you covered with this selection of delightfully boozy gifts. Adam was then on-hand to make sure you squeeze in some St. Patrick’s Day celebrations next week, and was feeling so patriotic that he even recommended a new Irish whiskey that has just landed at MoM Towers for our New Arrival of the Week. He then found time to talk Johnnie Walker Highballs with whisky ambassador Ali Reynolds, who was joined on the MoM blog this week by Scottish singer Kerri Watt and then Cointreau master distiller Carole Quinton. Annie then picked out five unmissable audiophile bars, while Henry suggested a great serve for those who like a cocktail that’s simple but sublime: The Kir

Don’t forget you’ve still got time to enter our competition to win an incredible VIP trip to the home of J.J. Corry! Now, onto The Nightcap!

The Nightcap

Here’s to Duncan

Former Bruichladdich manager Duncan McGillivray passes away

Incredibly sad news to open The Nightcap with this week. Duncan McGillivray, the man who worked at Islay’s Bruichladdich for almost half a century and was a compelling force in bringing the distillery back to life, passed away aged 68. He dedicated so much of his life to Bruichladdich and the wider island, and his loss will be felt keenly across the whisky world and beyond. He first joined the distillery as a trainee stillman back in 1974, then became a brewer in 1977. The distillery was mothballed in 1994, but he re-joined the team in 2001 when it was reopened by its new owners. “Looking back to 2001, the Bruichladdich re-birth seemed a dream too far; this was a time when distilleries where still being closed, a far cry from today,” said Simon Coughlin, a friend of Duncan’s, a Bruichladdich founding member, and now head of whisky for parent company, Rémy Cointreau. “If it was not for the patience of Duncan and his unwavering commitment to the cause (even if he thought we were mad sometimes!) we would not be here today.” He also said: “His influence and association with the distillery go back almost 50 years and, put simply, the resurrection of Bruichladdich and much of the success that has followed would not have been possible without the dedication of Duncan. Selfless, hard-working, gentle, determined and funny… and that’s just for starters. Everyone at Bruichladdich and those that enjoy any of our spirits can raise a glass today to thank this wonderful man.” We have our own memories of Duncan. On a 2015 visit to the distillery, our Kristy recalls a warehouse tasting with him. “He had such an incredible energy, was full of passion for the whisky, and was just so generous with his knowledge. And with the whisky… he filled our Glencairn glasses almost to the brim straight from the cask with a valinch. It was hilariously impractical. Let’s just say the pours were not delicate, but Duncan’s glee to be sharing these samples was clear to see. He was such a character.” We know what will be in our glasses this evening. Here’s to Duncan.

The Nightcap

Thanks for everything, Mickey!

Mickey Heads from Ardbeg retires

Sticking with Islay for a moment, and there’s double Ardbeg news this week: the distillery has released its first beer, and we have just heard that the much-loved and admired manager at the distillery, Mickey Heads, will be retiring in October. We’ve been assured that the two events are not related. Under his watch, Ardbeg picked up more Whisky of the Year and Distillery of the Year accolades than any previous manager. He has spent his whole working life on Islay and Jura, taking on the coveted role at Ardbeg in 2007. Mickey Heads said: “Being at the helm of Ardbeg for 13 years has been a great privilege. The whisky we make here is of wonderful quality, and being part of the team that creates it is fantastic. Ardbeg has such a long history, I’ve always seen myself as a custodian carrying it forward for the next generation. So, you just do it as well as you can, and with as much passion as you can.” Thomas Moradpour, CEO of The Glenmorangie Company, said: “Mickey Heads is a hugely respected figure in the world of single malt whisky and will be sorely missed by Ardbeggians everywhere. There cannot be many distillery managers who combine such a wealth of knowledge, depth of passion and warmth of welcome. On behalf of everybody who has had the pleasure of meeting or working with Mickey, I want to express gratitude for all his hard work in maintaining the quality and reputation of the Ardbeg brand. His successor will have a hard act to follow.” Thanks for all the whisky, Mickey!

The Nightcap

If you’re having whisky this good launched in your honour, you know you’ve had a great career

Johnnie Walker launches Master’s Ruby Reserve 

When you’re an OBE-honoured master blender with a remarkable career spanning four decades, there’s really only one way to celebrate your legacy properly, with delicious whisky! That’s exactly what Johnnie Walker has done for Dr. Jim Beveridge’s with its latest release, Master’s Ruby Reserve. Said to be made from “some of the finest Scotch in the Johnnie Walker reserves”, the expression is composed of eight rare whiskies that are at least forty years old from ‘ghost’ distilleries of Cambus, Carsebridge, Pittyvaich and Port Ellen as well as Talisker, Royal Lochnagar, Glendullan and Cragganmore. The good doctor personally selected all the whiskies and chose ones that evoked his earliest whisky-making memories in an attempt to create a Scotch whisky that provides a window into his distinguished career. “Every whisky that has gone into the creation of this new expression holds a special place in my heart. I worked at each of these distilleries during various points of my career and the flavours and smells of those whiskies transport me back to very happy times throughout my career at Johnnie Walker,” said Beveridge. “The ‘ghost’ whiskies from Cambus, Carsebridge and Pittyvaich bring layers of rich fruit flavour. We’ve combined this with the flavours of dark chocolate, plums and cherries found in the wonderfully aged expressions of Royal Lochnagar, Glendullan and Cragganmore and the soft aromatic sea salt notes of Talisker and Port Ellen – creating a beautiful, full-bodied whisky.” The celebratory limited-edition was bottled at 43% ABV and will retail for £15,000 exclusively through DFS duty free stores, so if you’re in the market, you’ll have to pack your bags. Only 398 bottles are being released in hand-crafted golden-red Baccarat crystal decanters as a tribute to Beveridge’s ruby anniversary. Fancy stuff.

The Nightcap

Glenmorangie wants to do its bit for this majestic creature

Save the giraffe, drink Glenmorangie

The giraffe is the mascot of Glenmorangie on account of its enormously tall stills. Now, the distillery is doing something to help preserve these most majestic of creatures whose numbers have fallen by 30% in the last 30 years. Glenmorangie has announced a three-year partnership with the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF) and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) which will help protect them in the wild, but also provide a place for them at Edinburgh Zoo. Much of the work will be focused in Uganda where half the world’s critically-endangered Nubian giraffes live, and will include protecting the animals from poaching and loss of habitat. Thomas Moradpour, president and chief executive of The Glenmorangie Company and back for a second turn in the Nightcap this week, said: “For 175 years we have created whisky, in stills as high as an adult giraffe, the tallest in Scotland. Over time, this majestic animal has become a beloved symbol of our brand. It seems only right that we should channel our passion for this animal into our new global conservation partnership with GCF and RZSS. Together, we will work to protect giraffes in the wild and shine a light on their predicament before it’s too late.” So your dram will be doing good as well as tasting good.

The Nightcap

The World Class GB Final 2019 wasn’t much more diverse…

Diageo Reserve reveals World Class GB bartenders… just 9% are women

It’s that time of year again – Diageo Reserve’s World Class bartender competition is ramping up! After a record-breaking digital entry stage (more than 450 people threw their hat into the ring), The World Class GB Top 100 has been revealed – and it’s a glittering who’s-who of the current UK bartending scene. Those on the list are now required to submit their next online entry by 6 April, ahead of an in-bar judging stage. This is when stuff really gets serious, as the 100 are whittled down to 20. But there’s one small problem. We say small, it’s actually pretty sizeable, and blindingly obvious when you take in the list. Just nine people in the top 100 are women. To put that in context (as if any more is required), there are more men on that list named some variation of Matthew or Michael (we counted. There’s 11.). Clearly something has gone amiss. Could it be that for some reason, significantly fewer women bartenders decided to take part? It’s definitely possible. And it may be the sole explanation. Or are women not progressing in cocktail competitions? If not, why not? We asked Diageo Reserve Talisker and World Class ambassador Jason Clark for his take: “Now in its twelfth year, World Class was created as a platform for everyone. Our aim is to educate and encourage all bartenders to become part of our community, to challenge themselves and compete to be the very best they can be. All entries for the competition are judged blind and based purely on the drink submission. Last year we had women finishing in third and fourth place overall and, over the GB competition’s history, we’ve had many exceptional female bartenders enter and reach the finals. We continue to look at ways to celebrate women in the industry and we can’t wait to see what the next stage of the competition holds.” One thing’s for sure – if we want to see more women reach the top of the game in the bar industry, something’s got to give.

 

The Nightcap

The Italian liqueur based around the brilliance of bergamot

Pernod Ricard splashes out on Italicus aperitivo

Just last week drinks mega-group Pernod Ricard got its wallet out to invest in Japan’s first gin producer, The Kyoto Distillery. Well, it’s a case of another week, another transaction! This time it’s bergamot-infused aperitivo Italicus that’s joining the Pernod portfolio. The 20% ABV product is described as ‘distinguishable yet versatile’, and has already become a bartender favourite since it was founded by Italian spirits expert Giuseppe Gallo in 2016. Pernod Ricard hasn’t shared the financial details of the deal, or whether the ‘strategic partnership’ – as they call it – includes any level of acquisition, but Gallo will remain the active CEO going forward. “Since its launch, the brand has experienced success with both the on-trade and consumers, and it is now time to consolidate with this heavyweight strategic partner in order to accelerate our global distribution,” he said. “We have an ambitious plan to build Italicus into one of the world’s most successful aperitivo brands.” Gilles Bogaert, chairman and CEO of Pernod Ricard EMEA-LatAm, added: “We are thrilled to add Italicus to the Pernod Ricard portfolio and for the Group to help drive its future development.” The future’s bright, the future’s bergamot-scented.

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Teeling is bringing its own brand of Paddy’s Day celebrations to London

Teeling bring St Paddy’s Celebrations to London

You may have heard of the luck of the Irish, now it’s time to show your love of the Irish! This St Patrick’s Day, Teeling Whiskey is bringing the Spirit of Dublin to London, in a special all-Irish celebration at Milroy’s of Spitalfields. And what a night it promises to be, with Irish fiddlers, food for the nibblers, Celtic cocktails, and of course some delicious Irish drams. And the best part of all (apart from the whisky of course…) is that the entry is free! Milroy’s doors will open at 6pm, we’ll see you there! Obviously in the current environment do check back nearer the time for confirmation that the event will go ahead. But you can still mark your diaries for St Patrick’s Day. Pop a bottle of Teeling in your basket now to make sure you can still sip along and celebrate, even if it’s at home, on 17 March!

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Joe Fattorini, wine merchant and TV presenter, has campaigned for lower wine taxes

Drinks industry reacts to duty freeze

It’s been a tough year for the drinks industry with trade tariffs, Brexit uncertainty and now the Coronavirus, but there was some good news as Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announced a freeze in alcohol duty rates in Britain, a country with some of the highest drink taxes in the world. Joe Fattorini, wine merchant and TV presenter, who has been campaigning for a lowering of such taxes, commented: “The recognition by the Chancellor that wine is the nation’s favourite alcoholic drink and therefore shouldn’t be singled out for tax rises is welcome news for the 33 million wine fans in the UK. Now it’s time to go one step further and cut back wine tax in the coming year.” But it wasn’t just the wine trade celebrating (responsibly, natch).  Dayalan Nayager from Diageo said: “We welcome the Chancellor’s duty freeze which will provide much-needed stability in these difficult times for the industry. We are delighted that he announced his intention to reform the duty system to bring fairness for gin and Scotch whisky, which should ensure that these iconic homegrown products no longer face punitive levels of tax.” But Karen Betts, chief executive of the SWA (Scotch Whisky Association), thinks that more needs to be done: “Our industry needs continued support, through the upcoming review of UK alcohol taxation and while our exports remain subject to US tariffs. The fact remains that duty on spirits in the UK is already very high and puts Scotch whisky at a competitive disadvantage to wine, beer and cider, with £3 in every £4 spent on an average-price bottle of Scotch whisky going to the government in tax”. Regular readers, however, will only really want to know what Nightcap favourite Miles Beale thinks. Well, the chief executive of the WSTA had this to say:  “While he has not cut duty, it is reassuring to see that in his first Budget as Chancellor, Rishi Sunak MP, has taken steps to address the UK’s excessively high duty rates. He has shown he is in touch with British consumers – from all walks of life – who want to enjoy a drink without getting stung by further tax hikes. We will all raise a glass to the Chancellor tonight, who has recognised that everyone benefits from a freeze, including the Treasury.” We’ll raise a glass with you, Miles!

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The study found millennials and Gen Zers prefer a traditional boozer

Millennials and Gen Zers’ perfect pub revealed?

It’s fair to say that in the last half-a-century or so, quite a bit has changed. We can carry our phones with us wherever we go, fax machines are something of an urban myth, and you can’t even smoke indoors anymore! Despite this (or perhaps because of it), a recent study by SpareRoom found out that, when it comes to pubs, millennials and Gen Zers are most fond of your traditional boozer. And you can wave goodbye to millennial pink. 60% of 18 to 34-year-olds prefer your traditional wooden interior, complete with fireplaces and period fixtures, with 70% preferring wooden flooring to the carpet (though we don’t think it’s just millennials that feel this way…). But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. It’s not a total step back in time that the younger generations are after. 62% prefer speedy card payments to cash, and 41% want free wifi along with their wooden beams. The humble pint has even lost its place as the drink of choice, with 49% saying that spirits are their go-to tipple. Perhaps even more interestingly, 45% say that low-alcohol serves are their top choice when taking a trip to their local! It just goes to show that even though younger generations value a trip down memory lane, if there’s not a charging point then… you’ve gone too far.

The Belloni, named in honour of Virgina Woolf’s sister, artist Vanessa Bell

And finally. . . . literature you can drink at the Academy Hotel

Books and booze go way back, from the Bible through to Shakespeare, not forgetting Dorothy Parker’s quip about her favourite drink: ‘I like to have a Martini, two at the very most. After three I’m under the table, after four I’m under my host’. Now the Academy Hotel is celebrating this special relationship with a series of cocktails inspired by that most literary part of London (and the hotel’s location): Bloomsbury. There’s The Lighthouse to honour Virginia Woolf made with Tanqueray Gin, one for her husband called the Old Fashioned Leonard made with Woodford Reserve bourbon, and, keeping it in the family, a Belloni, a take on the Negroni paying homage to her sister, the painter Vanessa Bell. According to the press bumf all the drinks are “created especially using the finest ingredients and hand-selected garnish”. No machines picking the garnishes at the Academy. No sir!

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The Nightcap: 6 March

If it’s booze news in bite-sized pieces you’re looking for, you have done very well indeed in finding The Nightcap, because that’s what it’s all about! We’ve recovered from our…

If it’s booze news in bite-sized pieces you’re looking for, you have done very well indeed in finding The Nightcap, because that’s what it’s all about!

We’ve recovered from our leap day-proved existential confusion with only minor frets of being trapped in a time warp, and we’ve made it to another Friday. No, that’s not the name of the next film in Ice Cube’s Friday film franchise… Wait, have we used that joke before? Wait, are we actually trapped in a time loop incurred by the leap day?! You’d better read the rest of The Nightcap to check and see if all this news is new to you – if not, we may indeed be living this week over and over again until someone somehow breaks the cycle…

On the blog this week we excitedly launched a VIP trip to the home of J.J. Corry, where you’ll get the chance to create your very own bottling with founder Louise McGuane. She wasn’t the only outstanding woman to feature on the blog this week, however. Annie caught up with Jill Boyd of Compass Box and Miranda Dickson from Absolut Elyx before Henry championed the legacies of pioneering bartender Ada Coleman and the Grande Dame herself in the build-up to #InternationalWomensDay. Elsewhere, Jess enjoyed a spiced rum that’s out of this world as Adam tasted the oldest permanent Redbreast expression, had a chat with the man behind The Whisky Baron and suggested some stunning sippers for the new season. Oh, and we also told Dram Club members what to expect from March.

But now’s the time for Nightcapping, so scroll away and get stuck into this week’s helping of boozy news!

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Is that Alexei Sayle on the right? No, it’s Marcin Miller with the team at the Kyoto Distillery

Pernod Ricard takes stake in Kyoto Distillery

Hot gin news has just arrived in our in-tray: Pernod Ricard has bought into the award-winning Kyoto Gin Distillery for an undisclosed sum. Founder Marcin Miller told us: “We remain fully invested in and will continue to run the distillery.” He went on to say: “Our gin has been well received and exceeded our expectations, and at this rate, we’ll exceed capacity at the current site soon. To build a new distillery, especially in Japan, takes time and we needed investment to help us fulfil this ambition. We were approached by a number of interested parties but decided to go with Pernod Ricard. I’ve had a lot of contact with the company over my 20 years in the industry. Everyone I have met has been great. The company culture is wonderful from the head down. Alexandre Ricard, in particular, took an interest in the distillery from the beginning. Looking to the future there are excellent distribution and marketing opportunities in this partnership.” Miller has had an interesting career in the drinks business as a publisher, with his own PR agency Quercus Communications, and the Number One Drinks company, which was set up with David Croll in 2005 to distribute Japanese whiskies. “We were fortunate enough to buy the full inventory of Karuizawa,” he said. A tidy investment when you see how much a bottle goes for today. In 2015, he set up the Kyoto gin distillery with Croll and his wife Noriko, quickly winning plaudits with its ultra-premium gin made with Japanese botanicals. Looks like we won’t be running out of Kyoto gin any time soon. Phew!

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Dewar’s Ilegal Smooth, the first mezcal cask Soctch whisky we’ve tried, it won’t be the last

Dewar’s releases mezcal cask whisky

In June last year, we reported that the new SWA rules now allow for ageing in unconventional casks such as Tequila or mezcal. Well, someone at Dewar’s clearly noticed as well as the firm has just released a mezcal cask whisky. It’s an 8-year-old blend called Dewar’s Ilegal Smooth. No, that isn’t a typo because the casks used formerly held Ilegal Mezcal. Brian Cox, vice president of Dewar’s North American, commented: “We’ve been considering experimenting in the mezcal space for a while and are thrilled to partner with Ilegal for this exciting world first. It’s a fortuitous collaboration as there are many parallels between Tommy Dewar, one of the Dewar’s founders, and John Rexer, founder of Ilegal. They both have grit, wit and passion for creating something new on an ambitious scale – the very best ultra-premium, smooth spirits. Dewar’s Ilegal Smooth pays homage to both of their successful legacies by dispelling myths about what’s possible between whisky and mezcal and ultimately breaking new ground in both categories. The end product says it all,” added Cox. We were given a little sample to try, initially, it smells like a blend with a high-peated percentage but then the vegetal taste of the mezcal comes through strongly. It’s highly distinctive and won’t be for everyone but it’s good to see Dewar’s experimenting. Sadly, at the moment it’s only available in North America. We will let you know when/ if it arrives on these shores.

The Nightcap

Happy International Women’s Day everyone!

Mama Shelter London and Isle of Harris host IWD whisky tasting

This Sunday (8 March) is International Women’s Day (you may have noticed a fair few features about ace women in booze over on the blog this week). A whole bunch of brands, distilleries and venues are hosting celebrations (check out Lyaness and The Artesian if you’re at a loose end on the day itself), and our very own editor Kristiane was thrilled to join Mama Shelter London and Isle of Harris Distillers for Whisky as Told by Women this week! The concept: four women in whisky each give a bit of insight into their careers, life in drinks and why they love whisky, while sharing one of their favourite drams with a room filled to the brim with fellow geeks! We were on board. Also sharing their stories were The Glenlivet’s Kirsty Thomson (accompanied by The Glenlivet 12), The Balvenie’s Alwynne Gwilt (The Balvenie Sweet Toast of American Oak), and The Whisky Lounge co-founder Amanda Ludlow (Jameson Black Barrel). And our Kristiane shared That Boutique-y Whisky Company’s Cambus 29 Year Old! A stellar line-up, even if we say so ourselves. The general consensus was how much the whisky industry has changed, even over the past two years. Women now hold senior positions right across the sector – and folks no longer seem surprised that women (gasp!) enjoy whisky. Has full gender parity happened? Not quite, especially when you think about the harassment many women in hospitality encounter all too often. But we’re proud of the progress that’s happened – let’s raise a dram to that, while pushing for even more equality, right across the board, in drinks and beyond. 

The Nightcap

One of the US’s biggest cocktail competitions has returned!

Stoli gets set for LGBTQ+ Key West Cocktail Classic

One of the US’s biggest cocktail competitions is back for its seventh outing! This week Stoli Vodka announced its bartender contest Key West Cocktail Classic is returning for 2020, honouring the legacy of gay bars and celebrating LGBTQ+ bartenders and their allies. And the prize is pretty epic. As well as scooping US$15k for a hometown charity of their choice, the winner will nab a holiday to anywhere in the world. That’s a pretty sweet deal. The theme for this year is ‘The Stolimpics’, and bartenders initially enter by creating a cocktail that celebrates their hometown. One winner from 14 different cities will bag themselves a ticket down to Key West at the beginning of June for the eight-day final/shindig! “For more than 35 years, Stoli has celebrated gay bars as the original safe spaces for the LGBTQ+ community,” said Patrik Gallineaux, Stoli Vodka national LGBTQ+ ambassador and manager. “We are committed to championing these community centers and the individuals who are central to advancing them. I am thrilled to report that through this initiative, Stoli has had the opportunity to positively impact LGBTQ+ supportive non-profits across North America, with more than $120,000 awarded to LGBTQ+ charities to date.” Good luck to everyone taking part!

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Ahbi Banik standing by his patented Banik Still

Copper Rivet awarded patent for Gin Still 

It’s been quite the week for Kent’s Copper Rivet Distillery! After a three and a half year application, the distillery (of Dockyard Gin fame) has finally been awarded a patent for its Banik Still, named for head distiller Abhi Banik. In the Banik Still, the maceration is performed away from the heat source, with the botanicals’ flavour infused at a lower temperature than most traditional distillations. This, combined with a vapour infusion basket, allows distillers to have more control over how the flavour is extracted depending on the type of botanical, rather than a one size fits all approach. “It was when I was studying distilling, nearly 10 years ago, that I began to wonder why no one had tried to change or improve distillation processes for hundreds of years,” says head distiller Banik. “It took me seven years to design the still, a concept all in theory and CAD drawings, and with no experimental proof that it would work. When the Russell family and I were designing a still for Dockyard Gin, I showed the team my concept and they believed in it enough to give it a try!” What’s more, the new still is also focused on efficiency with increased charge alcohol recovery between 80 to 85% of total charge, compared to 60 to 75% in other more traditional distillation techniques, as well as really getting the most out of the botanicals so, in theory, less will need to be used to achieve the same result. Huge congrats to the Copper Rivet team!

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The Queen’s favourite hotel is going back in time to the 1920s!

The 1920s arrive at the Goring, finally

If you could go back to any time when would it be? It would be hard to beat the 1920s, jazz music, glamorous open-topped cars and more cocktails than you can shake a stick at (though we’d probably miss modern dentistry.) Now you can travel back in time as from 6pm every Sunday starting on 8 March, the bar at the Queen’s favourite hotel, the Goring, will be transformed into The Roaring Goring. Not such a vast change for an institution where the last 100 years could easily have not happened. There will be live music and classic cocktails made by bar manager Tiago Mira including the Hanky Panky (see our latest Cocktail of the Week), Air Mail (Havana Club 3 Year Old Rum, lime, honey, Ayala Champagne and Green Chartreuse) and the Scofflaw (Lot 40 Canadian Rye, Mancino Secco Vermouth, lemon, grenadine and orange bitters). So put on your baggiest trousers, brush up on your jazz age slang, and get down to the Goring for a night to remember. 

The Nightcap

A 3D render of the new micro-distillery set to open in John O’Groats

Planning permission secured for Scotland’s most northerly whisky distillery 

When you think of John O’Groats, you probably think of people doing crazy cycle rides or long walks to there from Land’s End. Well, now the wonderful world of whisky has made its way to the most northerly part of Scotland, with a new micro-distillery set to open in John O’Groats in 2021! The first Scotch whisky distillery in John O’Groats since 1837, planning permission was secured on 2 March for a 32,670 square foot site which will be home to a distillery, visitor centre and bonded warehouse. The distillery is the brainchild of husband and wife duo Derek and Kerry Campbell, and it’ll claim the title of Scotland’s most northerly mainland whisky distillery. Brought to life with the help of £198,000 of funding secured from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), with a capacity to produce up to 60,000 litres of whisky each year. “We believe the whisky we will produce will be unlike that from any other distillery, due to our coastal location in John O’Groats and the impact the local climate will have on our spirit as it matures,” says founder Kerry Campbell. “With traditional methods at the heart of our plans and an ambition to showcase whisky distilling in John O’Groats to the world, we are looking forward to opening the doors to our micro-distillery in due course. The support we have received from the local community and business owners to date has been fantastic and we can’t wait to welcome them to our distillery in 2021.” Now those mad folk travelling from Land’s End to John O’Groats will be rewarded with a local dram when they arrive!

The Nightcap

This is incredibly important news and vital work

Early Times is searching for ‘All-American Dogs’ for advertising campaign

Now, we’re a self-proclaimed gaggle of cat-lovers (at least most of us are) here at MoM Towers, though having said that we’re also partial to the occasional office dog (then we find it really hard to concentrate). Our ears pricked up when we caught wind of a fur-tastic advertising campaign from Kentucky whiskey maker Early Times, which has put out a call to arms to find “All-American Dogs” to serve as the faces for its 2020 advertising campaign. “When we started talking about what  being “All-American” means, we immediately thought of the loyalty and dependability that dogs bring to our own lives,” Early Times senior brand manager Dallas Cheatham. “It felt natural to connect with our Early Times drinkers by celebrating their amazing dogs.” Whiskey lovers (over 21) can share a photo of their beloved canine and explain why their pup embodies the “All-American” spirit, and Early Times will select 10 winning doggos. The competition is live until 12 April, and this is actually the second year that the competition is running. Last year there were more than 10,000 entries, but don’t let that deter you and your pooches!

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GlenDronach’s new visitor centre is open for business and looking good

GlenDronach gets a new visitor centre

For our money, Glendronach makes some of the finest whisky on Speyside, and we know you agree judging by the demand for its expressions like the 15 Year Old Revival. Now the distillery has a visitor centre worthy of such magnificent drams. There is a new bar and visitors will have the opportunity to fulfil their wildest dreams by filling their very own bottle of GlenDronach. Don’t worry though, this isn’t some space-age aberration stuck on the side of an old building, the design pays homage to the distillery’s founder James Allardice and the original buildings with natural stone walls with brass, marble and leather detailing. It’s the work of designer agency 1751 working with Ross McNally from Scarinish Studio. Jennifer Proctor from the distillery commented: “James Allardice was both a visionary entrepreneur and a warm and welcoming host. Our vision was to carry forth his hospitality and to bring the traditional craftsmanship of The GlenDronach to life, creating the perfect experience for our visitors to immerse themselves in the distillery’s rich heritage and our Highland single malts. Everything has been designed around the guest experience, from the striking circular table in our tasting room to the comfortable leather lounge area. With a range of tours also available, we look forward to welcoming everyone from the whisky curious to experienced aficionados. . . .” As you can see from the picture, they’re done a great job. 

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The comedian may need to change the name of Joe Lycett’s Got Your Back, on Channel 4 now…

And finally…  Comedian Joe Lycett changes his name to Hugo Boss

The artist formerly known as Joe Lycett pulled off quite the stunt this week by legally changing his name to Hugo Boss by deed poll as part of a comedic revenge mission against the giant fashion brand. Hugo Boss (the brand) has previously taken legal action against small firms using word boss in names, including Boss Brewing, a Swansea-based craft brewery, who were left with a £10,000 legal bill after the luxury designer brand sent it a cease and desist letter when the brewer applied to trademark its name, a process that usually costs £300. A further rebranding process cost upwards of £20,000 after the items had been relabelled and old stock discarded, according to founder Sarah John. She said the comedian’s move was “such a brilliant way of showing support”. A charity called DarkGirlBoss had also supposedly received a legal letter from Hugo Boss when it tried to trademark its name. Hugo Boss (the man), whose Twitter and Wikipedia have been updated to reflect the change, tweeted an image of the deed poll letter, complete with a new signature with an unusually phallic structure along with the following statement: “So Hugo Boss (who turnover approx $2.7bn a year) have sent cease & desist letters to a number of small businesses & charities who use the word ‘BOSS’ or similar, including a small brewery in Swansea, costing them thousands in legal fees and rebranding. It’s clear that Hugo Boss HATES people using their name. Unfortunately for them this week I legally changed my name by deed poll and I am now officially known as Hugo Boss. All future statements from me are not from Joe Lycett but Hugo Boss. Enjoy.” The comedian added that he would be “launching a brand new product as Hugo Boss” and would reveal the details on the new series of Joe Lycett’s Got Your Back, on Channel 4, which takes on big corporations to fight for the rights of British consumers. The German luxury fashion house has responded and said that they welcome the comedian as a member of the Hugo Boss family, but it would appear the pr damage has already been done. Anyone for a Boss beer?

No Comments on The Nightcap: 6 March

The Nightcap: 28th February

This week on The Nightcap, you can look forward to stories about brand new whiskies, brand new distilleries and… thievery! There’s a leap day tomorrow, which is always a bit…

This week on The Nightcap, you can look forward to stories about brand new whiskies, brand new distilleries and… thievery!

There’s a leap day tomorrow, which is always a bit interesting. Do you use it to delay things you have no intention of doing by saying “I’ll do it next February 29th!”, knowing full well that it won’t happen for another four years? Do you dread it because it adds another day to February, thus making the warm light of spring seem that much further away? Do you completely forget about it and find it disorientating expecting March but waking up in February again then start believing you’re trapped in a time loop? However you enjoy your leap day, go into it knowing what happened this week in the world of booze by tucking into this edition of The Nightcap!

On the blog this week we launched our Merser & Co. Double Barrel Rum competition as Ian Buxton returned to look into the explosive history of distillery fires. Adam then announced the news that Kilchoman Distillery has opened its new stillhouse and visitor centre before inviting you to broaden your horizons through a delightful selection of world whiskies, before Henry tasted the new special limited edition Ardbeg Blaaack and a single cask Bruichladdich bottled by Hunter Laing for our New Arrival of the Week. Annie, meanwhile, enjoyed a Mediterranean take on a classic for our Cocktail of the Week, the world’s first African-Caribbean rum and then got the low-down on peat from a selection of whisky experts.

But there’s still so much more boozy goodness to enjoy. To The Nightcap!

The Nightcap

Look, it’s the first whiskey from Waterford Distillery: 1st Cuvée: Pilgrimage!

Waterford Distillery launches its first whisky 

Waterford Distillery has announced the release of its first whisky since it began distillation in 2015. 1st Cuvée: Pilgrimage is the hugely-anticipated launch from the famously terroir-driven producer and is a limited-edition commemorative bottling created by head distiller Ned Gahan. The distillery says Gahan has “brought together each of the 36 farms we distilled in our first year, each one location, captured in spirit, a unique Waterford distillate. Together, they make a mind-bogglingly complex and multi-layered single malt – the determined goal of this intriguing journey – a pioneering concept for the whisky industry”. There are just 1,500 numbered bottles of 1st Cuvée: Pilgrimage, which was bottled at 50% ABV and has a retail value of €150. However, getting your hands on it won’t be easy. 1,000 of these bottles have been labelled “I Was There” and will be available to the public, strictly limited to one per individual, at a distillery open day on Saturday 25th April. Waterford Distillery stressed in the press release that the bottles must be collected in person and that it is only for those who “make the pilgrimage”. To provide a festival atmosphere (among all the strict rules and regulations), local food suppliers, brewers and musicians will be in attendance. Tickets for the open day can be bought on Eventbrite right here.

The Nightcap

The brand home will feature drinks and food made using locally-sourced ingredients.

The Kyoto Distillery opens ‘The House of KI NO BI’

The Kyoto Distillery has a new brand home, ‘The House of KI NO BI’, which will officially open on Saturday 28 March in the centre of the historic city. The renovated traditional ‘machiya’ townhouse was built more than a 100 years ago as a timber mill and the Japanese gin brand has retained the original interiors including earthen walls, beams and roof tiles to preserve its heritage. Just as with the distillery’s gins, local materials were used wherever possible, including bespoke handmade furniture by local workshop In Wood and traditional fabrics from the revered textile company, Hosoo, based in Nishijin, Kyoto’s kimono-making area. The interior design was completed by Douglas Kakuda Croll, son of two of the founders and a graduate of the Bartlett School of Architecture at UCL London. The house is open to visitors and will serve classic cocktails and local drinks such as Kyoto Brewing Company beers and wines from the Amanohashidate Winery in the north of Kyoto Prefecture, while the food menu will focus on botanical-inspired dishes made with locally-sourced ingredients. Exclusive items will be available at the Omise no Ma (shop), the exhibition space, Tenji no Ma will showcase information about the history of gin and the botanicals used by the Kyoto Distillery, whilst botanical deconstruction and gin blending seminars will be available at Konwa no Ma (meaning Harmony). Kyoto Distillery’s range of gins, including its classic Ki No Bi Gin, is available here

The Nightcap

The extraordinary Karuizawa 52 Year Old Cask #5627 Zodiac Rat 1960

The Oldest Macallan and Karuizawa ever bottled lead Sotheby’s wines & spirits sales

Sotheby’s upcoming wines and spirits sales on the 18 March is sure to draw headlines as the pre-sale estimate is between £842,420 – 1.6 million worth of rare drink across 87 lots. The Finest & Rarest Spirits selection features some standouts, including the oldest Macallan and Karuizawa expressions ever bottled. The highly sought-after Karuizawa 52 Year Old Cask #5627 Zodiac Rat 1960, is arguably the most coveted bottle from the legendary closed distillery and in 2018, a bottle of this Japanese single malt broke the record for the most expensive bottle of Japanese whisky ever sold at auction, superseded several months later by a rare bottle of Yamazaki 50 Year Old 1st Edition. Macallan whiskies, as always, will draw longing looks from buyers with a range that includes an independently bottled 48 Year Old, an unbroken vertical of The Macallan in Lalique Six Pillars Collection (six crystal decanters ranging from 50 to 65 years old) and the 72 Year Old Genesis Decanter, the oldest whisky to be released from this exemplary distillery. Another highlight is an array of old Gordon & MacPhail releases from previous decades with vintages stretching back to the 1930s, which were consigned to Sotheby’s directly from the Urquhart family. “We are delighted to present such a strong selection of bottles consigned directly from producers as well as from private collections to begin our 2020 sales in London. Among the most exciting bottles in this sale are the Gordon & MacPhail Private Decanters, all of which are numbered 1 of their respective outturn. This is the first time that any number 1 decanter from G&M has been offered for sale rather than kept within the Urquhart Family archives,” says Jonny Fowle, Sotheby’s spirits specialist. “Offering these alongside such iconic bottles as Karuizawa 52 Year old from Cask #5627 and so many Macallan in Lalique decanters showcases the strength of current demand for the very best in the world of whisky.”

The Nightcap

Have you got what it takes to become the ‘Highballer’ of the Year 2020?

Spirited Union announces ‘The Highballer of the Year Twenty Twenty’ competition

Spirited Union has announced that it will kick-off its first Highballer cocktail competition in March to “find the next innovative expression in botanical rum” and the perfect bartender to become the Highballer of the Year 2020. The ‘world’s first’ botanical rum distillery will task entrants initially with creating a unique Highball recipe using its current range of drinks between 1st – 30 March. Those who make it through to the second round will then be sent a sample pack of five single-origin rums and the competitors must choose a rum that they feel best works with their botanical rum concept while also presenting an idea to help Spirited Union further reduce its carbon footprint. The chosen finalists will be invited to Amsterdam for a three-day competition from 5 – 7 June to distil their own rum recipe in the Spirited Union Distillery. The winning expression will then be launched as Spirited Union’s 2020 Limited Edition Rum which will go on sale throughout Europe. The winner will also help “shape the brand’s ongoing ideas and future distillery plans, alongside the opportunity to consult on new launches in their home country”. If you’re interested in entering or want more information, just click here.

The Nightcap

Dr Stravinsky, one of the two brilliant bars that will curate a delightful cocktail menu

Barcelona comes to Soho in two exciting pop-ups 

Barcelona, renowned for crazy architecture, delicious tapas and, of course, its awesome bar scene. It’s home to Paradiso and Dr Stravinsky, two of the world’s best bars (ranked #20 and #25 in the World’s Best Bars, respectively), and now both establishments are touching down in London for the week with two specially curated cocktail menus! What’s even better is that you can find both pop-ups in the same place, Wardour Street in Soho. Running from Tuesday 3 to Friday 6 March at 100 Wardour Street, the wild and wonderful Paradiso, known for its theatrical nature (in its home city, you’ll find it in a speakeasy hidden behind a fridge door) will be bringing its colourful, boundary-pushing serves. A serve that caught our eye was Caribe Italiano, described as a “Daiquiri with an Italian soul and a tropical touch,” marrying Guatemalan rum macerated with banana and Parmesan, coconut water shrub, fresh raspberry and rocket. Consider our interest piqued. Next door in The Den (at 98 Wardour Street), a bar channelling the intimacy of an old drawing-room, you’ll find Dr Stravinsky from Thursday 5 to Sunday 8 March. With the original bar reminiscent of a 19th-century laboratory and many of the cocktail components made in-house, you can imagine the exciting alchemy the team will bring to London. We’re looking forward to trying Truffle Rosita, an umami-forward serve boasting Blanco Tequila redistilled in truffle, Campari, red and dry vermouth and a Parmesan sheet (looks like Parmesan is all the rage is Barca!) If classic cocktails just aren’t doing it for you anymore, then prepare to have your expectations dazzled over in Soho next week!

Posh Spice’s husband enjoying a drop of Haig Club

Haig Club Clubman made ‘official whisky’ of David Beckham’s Inter Miami CF

David Beckham has brought together his love of football and whisky by partnering Haig Club Clubman and Major League Soccer’s newest club. Beckham not only co-owns Haig Club, with drinks giant Diageo, but he’s also one of the founders of Inter Miami, who he co-created once he retired from playing using his option that was put in contract that allowed him to purchase an expansion team at a price of $25 million when he joined the league with LA Galaxy in 2007. Fittingly, Haig Club and Inter Miami CF will officially kick off their partnership on the 14th March when Inter Miami takes on LA Galaxy at its Fort Lauderdale stadium. Cocktails will then be on sale to fans over the age of 21 at the stadium throughout the football season. Haig Club is made at Cameronbridge Distillery in Fife, and matured in ex-bourbon casks to create a light, sweet and versatile profile that’s ideal for mixing. “I’m so excited that Haig Club is launching in Miami. Miami is like a second home for me, it’s a city that has welcomed me with open arms – the energy and the people are all amazing,” says David Beckham. “Launching Inter Miami CF this year is a really proud moment for me and to have Haig Club be a part of that is really special. I can’t wait to see people enjoying Haig Club in Miami”. 

Is Rajbir Singh about to hit his brother Sukhinder in this photo? 

Plans submitted for new distillery on Islay

Islay’s tenth distillery moved a step closer this week as Elixir Distillers submitted its plans (see photo in header) to Argyll & Bute council. The proposed site will include a floor malting, room for 16 washbacks and four sets of pot stills with a capacity to produce one million litres of pure alcohol per year. According to the press release: “The distillery will feature smaller stills, a mixture of modern and traditional yeasts, and longer fermentation times. Modern technologies around distillation and heat reclaim techniques will be used to maximise flavour and energy efficiency and minimise the impact on the environment”. It will be geared up to innovation with a separate still specifically used to create experimental batches. The people behind Elixir Distillers are Sukhinder and Rajbir Singh who will be well-known to drinks fans as founders of The Whisky Exchange and Speciality Drinks. Sukhinder Singh commented: “I wanted to build a distillery on Islay because I have always loved the island, its people and its whiskies. I’ve been a regular visitor to the island for over 25 years and must have tasted close to 3000 different Islay whisky bottlings! From a liquid point of view, we are determined to produce the greatest spirit possible. We want to create something that inspires the people of Islay and our customers and enhances the reputation of Islay as a source of some of the world’s greatest whiskies. Our hope is that our distillery becomes an integral part of the island community, and one of our key priorities is to work collaboratively with the local community to ensure everyone benefits.” Concrete plans to achieve this include eight houses for staff, a charitable fund to help the community and representation from locals in the decision-making process. We’ll let you know how the plans progress. 

The Nightcap

Fentimans wants you to nominate women who have made a difference

Fentimans Launches ‘She Is Fearless’ International Women’s Day Campaign

Do you work in the drinks industry? Do you work with awesome women who you think should be recognised? The wonderful Fentimans has launched a rather marvellous International Women’s Day campaign, dubbed ‘She Is Fearless’! Running throughout the whole of March, the botanical drinks brand is encouraging anyone in the drinks industry (male or female) to nominate women who have individually contributed to making a difference in the world of drinks and hospitality, from all roles including suppliers and bartenders to brand ambassadors and back of house staff. The name of the award (while obviously celebrating badass women) was taken from the Fentimans logo, the Fentiman’s family (and notably female) dog, called Fearless. All nominees will be graced with a Fentimans ‘She is Fearless’ award at their place of work. Follow this link to nominate a fearless woman you work with! 

Jean-Christophe Coutures

Chivas CEO Jean-Christophe Coutures looks casual

Carbon neutral distillery within two years, promises Chivas Brothers 

This week Jean-Christophe Coutures, CEO of Chivas Brothers unveiled some bold sustainability initiatives. These include the building of the first carbon-neutral distillery within two years, to reduce the emission of greenhouse gasses by 20%, ensure all packaging is sustainably-sourced by 2022, make point of sale ‘eco-friendly and finally the slightly less concrete-sounding “roll out sustainable events around the world.” The environmental pledge came with the release of the group’s six-monthly performance which shows net sales up by 4%. Of the group’s big brands, Ballantine’s was up by 5%, Royal Salute by 17% and Glenlivet by 15%, whereas Chivas Regal itself was 2% down in the last six months. Most major markets were growing slowly with the US the standout up 17%, the odd one out was Global Travel Retail which was down by 2%. Let’s see if Chivas can maintain its growth, sustainably, of course.  

Hofbrauhaus

The scene of the crime

And finally. . . American woman returns stolen stein after 55 years

We reported last year that at the Oktoberfest there were 96,912 attempted glass thefts prevented by stewards. But even the most stereotypical efficient teutonic guard will miss a glass or two. Once such lapse happened back in 1965 when American tourist Celeste Sweeney was at the Hofbräuhaus in Munich. Speaking to German news agency DPA, she told how she slipped the stein under her coat and smuggled it back to her home in Maryland. Hardly the crime of the century, but it seems that Sweeney has regretted it ever since as recently she spent over $100 sending it back with a note reading: “I took this beer stein from your establishment in the summer of 1965 when I was young, reckless and inconsiderate. I am sorry I did not get it back to you sooner. Hopefully it arrives in one piece.” Wolfgang Sperger from the beer hall was so impressed that he has sent her a replacement mug along with tokens she can exchange for beer. So all’s well that ends well. Now maybe I should do something about that Stella glass that mysteriously appeared in my cupboard one morning in 2006. 

 

No Comments on The Nightcap: 28th February

The Nightcap: 21 February

This week on the Nightcap: a packed programme from the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, a record-breaking private whisky collection, and a gin that’s so green it’s both ‘carbon negative’…

This week on the Nightcap: a packed programme from the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, a record-breaking private whisky collection, and a gin that’s so green it’s both ‘carbon negative’ and made from peas.

It’s Friday, which is always a good thing, especially given that it’s Margarita Day Eve (definitely a thing). There’s no better way to enjoy a fresh batch of boozy news than with a good cocktail in hand, so get making those Margaritas and prepare yourself for the weekend. A weekend which may entail more Margaritas. Perhaps with margherita pizzas. Now that’s a Saturday. But before all that there’s Nightcapping to do, so get together your lime, salt and Tequila and proceed. It’s a corker this week.

On the MoM blog, Adam revealed the exciting news that Midleton Distillery had launched Ireland’s oldest ever whiskey collection, before chatting with Patrice Pinet about Cognac’s prospects in 2020, recommending some delicious agave-based spirits in time for World Margarita Day tomorrow, and enjoying a Dominican rum finished in casks that formerly held a peated Speyside whisky for our New Arrival of the Week. Kristy, fresh from her American adventure, presented 10 great bars to check out in the Big Apple, before Annie explored how pre-mixed cocktails turned premium. Henry then showed off our sublime video footage from our visit to the Isle of Wight to meet the team behind Mermaid Gin, before picking a drink for Cocktail of the Week that’s neither French or really a Martini: The French Martini!

But there’s still more boozy brilliance to come. On to The Nightcap!

The Nightcap

Tickets are now on sale for the Spirit of Speyside whisky festival!

Spirit of Speyside whisky festival unveils its programme

This week tickets went on sale for the fabulous Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival. As you’d expect from Scotland’s richest whisky region with over 51 distilleries, there’s a lot going on. The programme contains over 700 events (see the festival’s website for more details). Highlights include an archive tasting at The Balvenie, a blending masterclass with Billy Walker at Glenallachie, and an event called ‘The Silent Stills of Speyside’, put on by Gordon & MacPhail.  For us, perhaps the most exciting thing is a chance to look round and taste at famous distilleries like Mortlach that aren’t usually open to the public. There are also food events, tastings galore, chances to fill your own bottle, and no less than five ceilidhs from Wednesday 29 April until Sunday 3 May. If you’re feeling really active, there’s a run around the region ending up with a well-earned tasting and brunch at The Macallan Distillery. For lazier folks, there are tours by train or chauffeur-driven car. Something for everyone.

The Nightcap

The Macallan 1926 Valerio Adami was the undisputed star of the show

‘Largest’ private whisky collection breaks records

Perth-based Whisky Auctioneer saw the first part of its ‘The Perfect Collection’ sell for £3.2 million, with a Macallan 1926 Valerio Adami bottle setting a new record. The “world’s largest” private whisky collection to be offered at auction contains more than 1,900 bottles of mostly single malt Scotch, which was built up by the late American private collector Richard Gooding. The auction, which saw 1,642 bidders from 56 countries take part, achieved US$4,277,000 and featured more than 1,932 bottles before it closed on Monday (17 February). The highlight was the bottle of the highly coveted Macallan which sold for £825,000, breaking the current world record for the bottle set at £702,347 in October 2018. The bottle attracted bids from 11 countries, with the winning offer hailing from Europe. A bottle of The Macallan 1928 Anniversary Malt 50 Year Old achieved a hammer price of £92,000, overtaking a previous record of £72,246 in October 2019, while a large offering of 201 bottles from The Macallan reached a total hammer price of £1,979,555. So it was a good auction for Macallan, as usual. “We always knew that The Perfect Collection by Mr Gooding could make whisky history, but with auctions, anything can happen,” said Iain McClune, founder of Whisky Auctioneer. “Not only was the highest ever sale price for Macallan 1926 Valerio Adami achieved at over a million dollars, but Whisky Auctioneer became the first online whisky auction to sell a million-dollar bottle, with multiple other lots achieving hammer price world records.” The remaining bottles in The Perfect Collection will be sold during the second part of the auction, which will run from 10 April until 20 April. Bottles include The Macallan 1926 Fine & Rare, a Glenfiddich 1937 Rare Collection 64 Year Old, and The Balvenie 1937 Pure Malt 50 Year Old.

The Nightcap

The colourless Mirror Margarita collection from specialist agave bar Hacha

London celebrates International Margarita Day

Tomorrow, Saturday 22 February, is International Margarita Day, and London’s bars will be celebrating in style, mainly by offering lots of variations on this much-loved cocktail. To help you navigate around all the excitement, Patron Tequila has created a special Margarita map. Simply put your postcode into the computer thing, and the magic of science will direct you to an establishment serving special Patron Margaritas. You can also enter a prize draw for the chance to win a trip to Mexico! If you don’t win that trip, and let’s face it, you probably won’t, then don’t worry as there’s a little bit of Mexico in East London. You’ll find it at specialist agave bar, Hacha! Bartender Deano Moncrieffe has come up with a series of twists on the classic cocktail, like the colourless Mirror Margarita, plus there’s food from Mission St Tacos. There will also be special Ocho Tequila cocktails at Callooh Callay in Old Street and the Racketeer in Kings Cross. And finally, you don’t even need to leave the house to get in on the action. Jose Cuervo is offering a free Margarita delivery service today and Saturday. You can enter here and if you’re lucky, a special Jose Cuervo Margarita Rider will come to your house (London only, sadly) and mix up some cocktails for you. You don’t even have to get dressed!

The Nightcap

It’s certainly been a good week for the discerning collector!

Rare rum found in Charles Metcalfe’s cupboard is sold for £12,000

Top wine writer and collector Charles Metcalfe made a pretty penny this week after he sold 11 bottles of rum for £12,000. Metcalfe inherited the 11 bottles of Lemon Hart rum, bottled in the 1940s, from his late father who saved them as a souvenir from his time spent working with Lemon Hart & Sons in 1946-48, following his return from a prisoner of war camp where he was held during the Second World War. The famous British brand has a long history and is best known for its appointment by the Admiralty as the supplier of rum to the British Royal Navy in the late 18th century. The rum had been kept in a cupboard for years after his father died, but Metcalfe recently made the decision to sell the majority of the collection and had bottles valued by a specialist team at www.whisky.auction. Each bottle has sold for around £1,000, some as high as £1,450, in the online auctions since September. There is one more bottle to sell which will be made available on 1 March. “As a wine collector, I’m well aware of the value that old wine can fetch at auction, but I hadn’t imagined that my father’s rum would be worth quite so much,” Metcalfe told the West Sussex County Times. “It shows how valuable a quick look into the back of your spirits cupboard can be!”

The Nightcap

100% of funds raised from this online charity auction go straight to Rural Aid

Australian distillers donate spirits to raise money for bushfire relief

The Australian bushfires still burn, with over 18.6 million hectares of land destroyed to date. However, over 100 Australian distilleries have joined forces in order to help Bushfire Relief, donating over 200 bottles of Australian spirits, including whisky, gin, rum, moonshine, vodka, liqueurs and more. You’ll find tasty spirits from brands such as Four Pillars, Starward, Archie Rose, Brookie’s Gin and Manly Spirits among the names. It’s not just pre-existing bottlings either, with a new whisky having been crafted for the cause dubbed The Aussie Spirit. The “godfather of Australian whisky”, Bill Lark, will oversee blending and maturation of five different casks of whisky at Old Kempton Distillery utilising new make from 13 distilleries around the country. If you want to get your hands on some of this while supporting Bushfire Relief, then you can head over to the online charity auction, with 100% of funds raised from going straight to Rural Aid, one of Australia’s largest rural charities.

The Nightcap

The Big Drop Brewing Co. founders showing off the colourful new design

Big Drop Brewing Co. Reveal New Design

The wonderful folks at Big Drop Brewing Co., dedicated solely to bringing delicious alcohol-free brews to our doorsteps, have gone and revealed a brand-new design for their tasty creations! It’s bold and colourful, with each expression’s design taking inspiration from the liquid within. Each of the designs is based on an environment that is linked to the individual beers’ style, and which inspired the names, illustrations and colourways. To create the new designs, the folks at Big Drop teamed up with London-based design agency Foundation, rolling out the new packaging onto the full range including Uptown Craft Lager, Paradiso Citra IPA, Pine Trail Pale Ale and Galactic Milk Stout. For example, Uptown Craft Lager‘s design is inspired by hot summers in London, with the pattern taken from a section of concrete at the city’s Barbican Estate, the colours reflecting a dramatic orange sunset. Meanwhile, Paradiso Citra IPA’s green design mirrors the depths of a jungle, with green leaves and exotic fruits, reflected in the flavour profile as well. “Working with Foundation on this re-packaging project has been brilliant and the results speak for themselves,” says co-founder James Kindred. “2020 is a big year for the brand, and this bold new design direction starts us off in a fantastic way.” We know you can’t judge a book by its cover and all that, but we can’t argue with bright colours and tasty booze-free beer!

The Nightcap

The finalists from 2019’s World Class GB Final make it look like a lot of fun

Diageo Reserve’s World Class competition returns!

Diageo Reserve’s World Class is back and open for entries in the UK. Organisers expect to receive the highest number of entries yet from the country’s bartending community following a record attendance for the UK-wide bartender training tour. The annual competition, which is now in its twelfth year, encourages bartenders to submit a digital entry of one or two serves to be in with the chance of making it into the top 100. The two modules bartenders have been asked to submit to are ‘Acid House’ and ‘Heritage Highballs’. The former challenges contestants to replace the fresh citrus that forms an integral part of Diageo’s gin brand, Tanqueray No. Ten with an alternative acid of their choice and the latter challenges entrants to produce their own highball serve using Johnnie Walker Black Label and a range of ingredients with an interesting backstory. Bartenders will need to submit a cocktail to one or both of the challenges by midnight 9th March at www.theworldclassclub.com and share a photo of the drink on social media using #WorldClassGB2020. Competitors will then be invited to share a Ketel One ‘One Square Mile’ serve online for the judges, consisting of previous GB winners and Diageo BAs, to taste-test. Just 20 of these contestants will then be shortlisted to compete to be crowned GB World Class Bartender of the Year 2020 at the final which is taking place in the New Forest in June at the first ever GB ‘Camp World Class’. The overall winner will get opportunity to tour with the World Class team hosting events and workshops and Diageo-owned distilleries across Scotland, get a budget for bar tools, equipment and custom serve creation and a guest bartending shift at one of Europe’s best bars, as well as the obligatory nationwide exposure and dedicated PR throughout the year. Oh, and a place to represent GB in the World Class Global Final hosted in Sydney, Australia this autumn. Entries for Diageo Reserve GB World Class Bartender of the Year 2020 are now open, closing on 9 March. 

The Nightcap

The collection features artefacts that have never been available for public viewing before

Historical Johnnie Walker artefacts to go on display

A collection of Johnnie Walker artefacts are set to go on display before the public for the first time, thanks to a partnership with the Dick Institute museum in Scotland. The John Walker exhibition in Kilmarnock, Scotland, will feature historical ‘crown jewels’ from the Johnnie Walker archives that have never been available for public viewing, until now. Visitors can also see a John Walker stock book from 1857, a hand-written inventory from John Walker’s grocery store dating back to 1825. It’s the oldest existing record from the shop and details things such as teas from China, spices from Jamaica, and Scotch. There’s also an 1819 hand-written inventory from the sale of Todriggs Farm near Kilmarnock, which is the oldest item in the Johnnie Walker Archive collection. It records the sale of the farm after the death of John Walker’s father, which funded the founding of his grocery store. “These items really are the crown jewels of our collection. They are remarkable historical documents that give us a fascinating insight into the roots of Johnnie Walker,” says Christine McCafferty, chief archivist at the Johnnie Walker Archive. “I’m delighted that to celebrate the 200th anniversary of John Walker starting out in his business we are able to put these items on display to the public in the town where the story began.” The Johnnie Walker exhibition will be a permanent feature at the Dick Institute, with artefacts rotated on a regular basis. The current loan items will be on display at the museum until October 2020.

The Nightcap

Diageo agreed to pay a US$5m penalty and to cease and desist from any further violations

Diageo pays $5m fine over ‘misleading’ sales

It was a difficult week for spirits giant Diageo, which was fined US$5 million by The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) after its North American arm created a “misleading picture” of its financial results. According to the US securities regulator’s charges, the North America division at Johnnie Walker and Lagavulin owner Diageo  “pressured” distributors to buy excess inventory in order to meet internal sales targets in the face of declining market conditions in its 2014 and 2015 fiscal years. Diageo failed to disclose the excess stocks to investors which created a “misleading impression” that it was able to achieve their sales targets through normal customer demand. The charges found Diageo failed to disclose the positive impact “over shipping” had on sales and profits, but also the negative impact this would have on future growth, according to an SEC statement. “Investors rely on public companies to make complete and accurate disclosures upon which they can base their investment decisions”, Melissa R Hodgman, an associate director in the SEC’s division of enforcement, explained: “Diageo pressured distributors to take more products than they needed, creating a misleading picture of the company’s financial results and its ability to meet key performance indicators.” Diageo hasn’t admitted or denied the SEC’s findings but has agreed to pay a US$5m penalty and to cease and desist from any further violations, which the SEC has accepted. “Diageo is pleased to have resolved this legacy matter, which relates back to fiscal years 2014 and 2015,” commented a Diageo spokesperson. “Diageo regularly reviews and refines its policies and procedures, and is committed to maintaining a robust and transparent disclosure process.”

The Nightcap

‘Carbon negative’ and made from peas. You don’t get greener than that!

And finally… There’s now a ‘carbon negative’ gin made from peas

Arbikie Distillery in Scotland has just launched what is claimed to be the world’s first carbon-negative gin, and it’s made from peas. Can’t get greener than that. It’s called Nàdar, meaning ‘nature’ in Gaelic. According to the accompanying study, the amount of carbon produced during its distillation and packaging is more than offset by using peas as a base instead of wheat. Not only do the clever green vegetables fertilise the soil, thus saving on nitrogen fertiliser, but leftovers can be used to feed animals too, thus saving on livestock food, predominately made from soya beans. It’s the product of five years of research by master distiller Kirsty Black in association with Abertay University in Dundee and The James Hutton Institute. She commented:  “Peas are a part of a unique set of plants known as legumes that are able to source nitrogen, which is critical for plant growth, from the air. This removes the need for synthetic nitrogen fertilisers and, therefore, avoids the negative environmental impact its production and use has on our waterways, air and soils.” According to Arbikie each bottle produced means 2.2 kg CO2 that won’t be released into the atmosphere. John Stirling, director of Arbikie Distillery added: “Our ethos at Arbikie from our inception has been to try and create world-class premium spirits where all ingredients are grown on our single estate farm. Minimising our carbon footprint and working with the wonderful homegrown ingredients to create one of the world’s most sustainable distilleries. Our Nàdar Gin goes one step further and looks to make a positive, instead of neutral impact, in terms of long-term sustainability.  It also tastes fantastic, which is a credit to our distilling team.” Let’s raise a glass to peas in our time.

No Comments on The Nightcap: 21 February

The Nightcap: 14 February

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

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

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

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

Now, on to the Nightcap!

 

The Nightcap

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

Rosebank Distillery returns with two rare single cask expressions

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

The Nightcap

All hail the Grouse!

Famous Grouse now no. 1 whisky in Britain

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

The Nightcap

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

Tariffs cause US spirits exports to drop 27% to EU 

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

The Nightcap

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

Larkfire Wild Water triumphs in whisky taste test

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

The Nightcap

Congratulations guys!

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

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

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Cognac and hip-hop – a combination that never fails

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

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

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Happy birthday, Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Happy 21st birthday, Kentucky Bourbon Trail!

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

 

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

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

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Jameson sales have hit a new high

Jameson whiskey hits 8 million cases sold in 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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The Nightcap: 7 February

Valentine’s poetry, Valentine’s dogs, BrewDogs, and more all await you in this week’s edition of The Nightcap. Pour yourself a dram, and get stuck in. The Nightcap is back once…

Valentine’s poetry, Valentine’s dogs, BrewDogs, and more all await you in this week’s edition of The Nightcap. Pour yourself a dram, and get stuck in.

The Nightcap is back once again, like a character in a famous film franchise about quickness and frenzied anger that people just can’t let go of. We’re not making reference to any one film in particular. Nope. Don’t know what you’re insinuating. If we were talking about something specific, we’d say it kind of messes with one of the moments with the most emotional weight to it in that film franchise, but also… You know what, this isn’t the time or the place. But this is the time and the place to find out all about the booze news from the week – it’s The Nightcap!

Before we got to Nightcapping this week we made a sad but important announcement: two delightful Nikka whiskies will be discontinued. Which is heartbreaking, but at least you can console yourself with the February edition of the Dram Club. Meanwhile, Adam enjoyed some delightful agave-based spirits with El Destilado and suggested some suitable spirits to spoil your significant other with on Valentine’s Day as Annie explored her artistic side with BenRiach and the intriguing process of making mezcal with meat. Elsewhere, Henry witnessed the innovation behind some sublime cask-aged gin and blended French brandy before he kept things sophisticated with our Cocktail of the Week with the best-dressed serve in town.

All that boozy goodness, and there’s still more to come. So, what are you waiting for? The Nightcap is here!

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Moonshine. Who knew?

Ole Smoky Distilleries named most visited distillery in the world

If you had to guess, would you have honestly said that the most visited distillery in the world in 2019 was a moonshine distillery? Well, it is, according to on-premise traffic figures which revealed this week that the four Ole Smoky Distilleries, who make the No. 1 selling moonshine brand in the world, welcomed 4.5 million visitors in 2019. That’s not a typo. It was 4.5 million people. In a year. To put that into context, the location of Ole Smoky, Gatlinburg, Tennessee, has an estimated population of 4,144. The figures show that people flocked en mass to the company’s four properties in Tennessee, with The Holler in Gatlinburg hosting 2.1 million alone, while The Barrelhouse and The Barn in Pigeon Forge accommodated 1.1 million each and 6th & Peabody in Nashville, which only opened last autumn, welcomed over 200,000 visitors. You might think that adding up the four distilleries is cheating, but let’s give credit where it’s due. Across those four sites, Ole Smoky welcomed more than twice as many guests as all of Scotland’s distilleries combined. Seriously. According to the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), Scotland’s 68 whiskey distilleries saw 2 million visitors in 2018, while the Jack Daniel’s website claims to welcome about 280,000 people to its Lynchburg distillery. That means The Holler alone was visited more than every single Scotch whisky distillery combined. Every single one. Combined. Tell me I’m not the only one freaking out at this story? “2019 was a growth year for our brand and our distilleries. We continue to introduce innovative and appetising new products and opened an impressive 30,000 square-foot entertainment complex and distillery in the heart of Music City, Nashville,” said Robert Hall, CEO of Ole Smoky Distillery LLC. “Now with four locations, we provided memorable ‘see it made’ distillery experiences to 4.5 million visitors last year. From the quality and variety of our moonshine and whiskey products to our attractive merchandise and live music, distillery tastings and tours, our visitors experience the full spectrum of our Ole Smoky brand”. You can buy Ole Smoky moonshine here if you want to see what all the fuss is about.

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It’s safe to say this bottle was quite the bargain (photo courtesy of Whisky.Auction)

Man sells £11 bottle of Macallan for £2700

When Michael Amphlett bought a bottle of Macallan single-malt whisky for £11 back in 1978 in Fort William, Scotland, he presumably had no idea what a bargain it would prove to be. But Amphlett was no collector, the bottle was bought as a present for his dad. Amphlett confesses that back then he didn’t know much about whisky, but bought a bottle of Macallan following the shopkeeper’s advice and the 1937 year date on the neck label, which caught his attention as this was the year his father came to work in the Bolton Bros glove factory in Didcot as a 19-year-old. Mr Amphlett’s father was suitably pleased with the gift, but he decided not to drink the whisky until 1987 when it would have been 50 years old. Unfortunately, he would pass away from prostate cancer in 1991 having never had the chance to open the bottle and drink the contents with his son. The bottle was then tucked away in a cupboard in the family home, where it remained until Amphlett’s mother died in 2016. Amphlett, by now a whisky fan, was understandably staggered upon rediscovering the bottle and realising that it was a Macallan from 1937. Unable to bring himself to drink the whisky without his father, Amphlett’s set up his first-ever auction on Whisky.Auction with a reserve of £1,750, which was raised on January 12. By the 18th the bid had climbed to £2,100, then on the 21st the winning bid of £2,700 was placed. The bottle of Macallan was 82-years-old and had been owned by Mr Amphlett for 42 years.  “I had no idea that whiskies of that type could be so expensive. I just happened to be the right age at the right time,” Amphlett said. “I have to say I was both surprised and very pleased, but tinged with a little sadness that my dad didn’t get to taste it with me. But, if he was still here, I do believe he would have had a wry smile on his face.”

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Dry January appears to making its mark

UK adults cut down drinking in January; underage drinking drops 52%

A recent YouGov poll has shown that 27% of UK consumers reduced or abstained from drinking alcohol during January. The findings, conducted on behalf of independent alcohol charity Drinkaware, also showed that 72% of those who said they consumed less or stopped drinking last month plan to continue in the long-term, with 12% saying they plan to stop drinking completely in the long-term. It would appear Dry January is making its mark. “It’s incredible to see that such a large proportion of people who committed to reducing their drinking – or stopping completely – are planning to do so long-term,” Drinkaware’s chief executive Elaine Hindal said. “Reducing how much you drink can absolutely be a resolution that lasts beyond January, so it’s great to see so many people committing to that.” Meanwhile, a report from Community Alcohol Partnerships (CAP) found that weekly alcohol consumption among 13- to 16-year-olds in the UK more than halved between 2015 and 2019. The report from CAPs, which aims to reduce alcohol harm caused by underage drinkers, also uncovered a 40% reduction in youth alcohol-related anti-social behaviour, a 90% reduction in the number of residents reporting seeing under 18s drinking in the local area, a 77% reduction in young people hanging around shops and asking adults to buy alcohol for them and observed an 80% improvement in compliance with Challenge 25 initiatives. Derek Lewis, chair of CAP, said: “Underage drinking is associated with school and educational problems, unprotected sex, consumption of illicit drugs, violence and drinking problems in later life. We have been greatly encouraged to see emerging evidence that CAPs are reducing alcohol consumption by underage children.”

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The campaign features five-time Major golf champion Phil Mickelson

Amstel Light launches campaign for male friendships

In 2019, Men’s Health said one-third of men regularly felt lonely. And according to the Campaign Against Living Miserably charity, suicide is the biggest killer of men under 45. Male friendships – which could literally make the difference between life and death – can be tricky indeed. And now Amstel Light has teamed up with five-time Major Golf Champion Phil Mickelson to shine a light on just that. By taking a humorous spin, the initiative intends to encourage men to forge new friendships in adulthood. At the centre is a video called In the Rough, and people will be able to engage with Mickelson on social and at events. “I am really excited about this partnership and to launch this new campaign as we work together to help adult men create new, long-lasting friendships around our shared love of Amstel Light,” he said. Check out the #FriendswithPhil hashtag on social for more – and if you’re struggling with loneliness, speak out. Campaign Against Living Miserably is just one resource of many. You don’t have to be alone.

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I don’t even have to read this story to know that I’m in. Whatever Coors is doing, it’s a yes.

Coors Light embarks on dog adoption drive this Valentine’s Day

Got the romantic plans ready for 14 February? If so, there’s a good chance you’re not a millennial. According to beer brand Coors Light, 58% of drinking-age millennials reckon Valentine’s Day is overrated. Seen as the pinnacle of ‘Cuffing Season’ (y’know, when you just want to be snuggled up indoors over the winter months), V Day just isn’t for everyone. So Coors Light is encouraging people to adopt a dog instead! It has committed to paying the adoption fees for 1,000 rescue pooches finding their forever home, from 4 February to 11:59 on 21 February. “Cuffing Season is a major cultural trend and poses tension for our younger drinkers, as they navigate the stress of finding someone to spend the cold months with,” said Chelsea Parker, marketing manager at Molson Coors. “With almost half of millennials planning to stay in on Valentine’s Day, we wanted to help empower people to savour the day with Coors Light and a dog by their side.” Of legal drinking age and want in?  Just text Coors Light a snap of you and your new furry BFF! All the T&Cs are here. And remember: a dog is for life, not just for Valentine’s Day (and is most likely an all-round better companion, too).

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Craigellachie took the stage in the first of Milroy’s new monthly Comedy Nights series

Milroy’s of Spitalfields launches Comedy Nights

It turns out that front row seats at stand up comedy gigs are something of a firing line, something at least one of us at MoM Towers discovered this week. So, it was somewhat blindly that we were led to a table at the very front of Milroy’s of Spitalfields on Wednesday evening to enjoy its new monthly Comedy Nights series, held on the first Wednesday of every month. Each month at its new East London site, Milroy’s will partner with a different distillery for the event, and we were lucky enough to pop in on the evening the Craigellachie took the stage! It was great to see that it was packed, though out of everyone in the bar we were in the direct eye line of each comedian, which made for some cracking jokes at our expense. Tickets cost £35, and with that you get the show (obviously) as well as three drams, and three highballs made with those same drams in between each set. We tasted Craigellachie 13 Year Old, served in a highball with biscuit distillate, Craigellachie 17 Year Old paired with strawberry honey in its highball, and finished off with Craigellachie 23 Year Old. The comedy was awesome as well, hosted by Russel Hicks, with sets from Barry Ferns, Kae Kurd and Jeff Innocent. If you missed this one, then 4 March awaits you with an all-female line up for International Women’s Day, with wonderful spirits from Aberfeldy to accompany. A belly full of laughs and whisky on a Wednesday night is a good time that we can’t argue with. We’d totally recommend the front row, though it’s not for the faint-hearted…

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BrewDog is swapping swear words for sustainability

BrewDog grows up with sustainability initiative and new look

Diffident Aberdeen brewer BrewDog has announced a new marketing campaign and visual identity. Rather than the laddy sweariness of old, the focus is on sustainability. Not very punk rock, one might think. It seems, however, that the company is going further than other drinks companies in its environment drive with six concrete plans for how to achieve this (see here for the full information). These include equity in the company in return for 50 empty beer cans, turning imperfect beer into vodka, and a ‘Tomorrow Fund’ in which the company will invest £1 million per year into making the brewing industry more environmentally friendly. James Watt, BrewDog Co-Founder, commented: “It’s been a crazy journey so far. We’ve made it here by shaking up brewing and crafting a community-owned business that is 100% powered by people. This marks a new dawn, welcome to the new BrewDog.” The company has been meteoric, going from a small Scottish craft brewer in 2007 to owning 101 bars, exporting to 60 countries and a new brewery in Ohio that opened in 2017. It sounds like Brewdog is growing up.

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The one with the bespoke cocktails

The one with Palentine’s at All Star Lanes

How well do you think you know Friends? Have you seen every episode? How about ‘The One with the Palentine’s’? Oh sorry, that’s not a real episode, that’s what All Star Lanes is doing this Valentine’s Day! Except it’s Palentine’s Day, with your pals. The bowling alley has even curated a special Friends-themed cocktail menu for the six main pals, so you can pick out your character in drink form (the one you actually are, not the one you want to be, because let’s face it that’s always Rachel). We particularly love that Ross has been designated an Old Fashioned, while Joey is Sex on the Beach, and Phoebe’s cocktail is dubbed Princess Consuela Bananahammock. Let’s just thank the cocktail gods that Mike Hannigan’s alter ego didn’t get a dedicated serve… You’ll find the menu running from 7 until 16 February, though you can really get into the spirit on 13 February, when All Star Brick Lane and Manchester will be putting on a pub quiz all about the cult TV show. Could we be more excited?

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Some neat Bacardi info-graphics, because everyone loves an info-graphic

Bacardi goes ‘Back to the Bar’ to find out what we’ll be drinking

Every year the 7,000 employees of Bacardi, the family-owned drinks behemoth, take part in an initiative called ‘Back to the Bar.’ This is where everyone from Jimmy in the post room to El Queso Grande in the corner office on the 89th floor spends some time working in a bar so that the company stays in touch with the people who are really selling its products, bartenders. “In an era where people are flooded with data, there is no substitute for putting feet on the street and seeing first-hand what’s happening at the bar,” commented Jacob Briars, global advocacy director. “When something excites the bartenders, we know that it is a matter of time before we start to see a shift in the mindset and behaviour of our guests.” From intelligence gathered at last year’s event (alongside some third party research), the company has just produced a report highlighting what the UK market will be drinking in 2020. And that is . . . Moon Juice! Not really, the answers are more humdrum. The usual suspects are there: low-alcohol drinks, the market for these is predicted to grow by 81%; dark rum, 2020 is the year where rum premiumisation finally happens according to 43% of bartenders; sustainability (natch). So nothing too surprising but interesting nonetheless. This year’s ‘Back to the Bar’ has just happened, so we await the 2021 report with interest. Perhaps it will finally be Moon Juice’s moment to shine. 

And finally… Kraken Rum and John Cooper Clarke team up for poetry competition 

We know from our recent Burns Night poetry competition that there are some budding bards among our customers so this one is for you. . . .  This Valentine’s Day, top Manchester punk poet John Cooper Clarke (if you don’t know who he is check out this clip of one of his poems being used on The Sopranos) will be judging a poetry contest in conjunction with Kraken Rum. He’s even written a poem to get you in the mood. To be in with a chance, submit your love-inspired poem on the website. Poems judged to be of sufficient standard will win special limited edition black bottles of Kraken Rum delivered by a scary-looking black battery-powered milk float. Not only scary but also eco-friendly (though it only operates in London and Glasgow). The great man himself commented: “The mighty pen, like the mighty Kraken, can have a huge impact on the heart. You can find love anywhere, from the depths of the sea to the person sat beside you on your commute to work. If you can’t pluck up the courage to tell them how you feel in person or on one of the other 364 days of the year, then grab a pen, think of a line or two, and send it to us. It could change your life – just don’t blame me if it doesn’t work out…” Deadline is Wednesday 12th February with winners receiving their bottles on Valentine’s Day itself. So what are you waiting for?

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The Nightcap: 31 January

We’re 1/12 of the way through the year, and a much more complicated fraction of the way through the decade, and all this booze news keeps happening. How to keep…

We’re 1/12 of the way through the year, and a much more complicated fraction of the way through the decade, and all this booze news keeps happening. How to keep track of it all? The Nightcap is here!

Booze news stops for no one. Just like time, or a microwave with that has a broken ‘STOP’ button. Which is dangerous, by the way. Microwaves really need that ‘STOP’ button, otherwise your beans could evaporate. Pretty sure that’s how microwaves work, they’re basically bean teleporters that make the beans get really hot until they are sent to another dimension. What was I talking about? Booze news, that’s what. It’s here. It’s happening. It’s The Nightcap.

On the blog this week we announced the winner of our Burns Night poetry competition, before Ian Buxton returned to ask if there’s an issue with greenwashing in the Scotch whisky industry. Annie then met the man making British baijiu and took a closer look at Tennessee whiskey, as Henry enjoyed the disco-based delights of our Cocktail of the Week and the company of the great wine disruptor Steve Daniel. Adam, meanwhile, suggested some exceptional expressions that would be worth a little indulgence, and Jess shone a spotlight on a fabulous rum from one of the oldest sugar estates in Jamaica as our New Arrival of the Week.

Now it’s time to get stuck into the Nightcap!

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Suntory is already a shareholder in The Macallan.

Suntory buys 10% stake in Edrington

Edrington and Suntory Holdings have announced this week that the duo will be building on an already strong partnership that dates back to the early 1990s. Yep, the Japanese spirits giant put its money where its existing distribution bonds are, and purchased 10% of Edrington’s shares for an undisclosed amount. The agreement is set to provide an inflow of funds to Edrington’s principal shareholder, The Robertson Trust, which has donated over £263m to charitable causes in Scotland since 1961, and contribute to Edrington’s employee share scheme. Suntory has been an important distributor of Edrington brands in international markets including Japan, Germany, Canada and South Africa, and through joint ventures in the UK, Spain and Russia over the past four decades. “Edrington has a successful long-standing strategic partnership with Suntory. We share a similar ethos and the same passion for craftsmanship, innovation and quality in our brands,” Scott McCroskie, Edrington CEO, commented. “We look forward to cementing and building this deep relationship over the coming years.” Suntory Group’s portfolio includes Yamazaki, Hibiki, Jim Beam, Haku, Roku and more, while The Edrington’s includes the likes of The Macallan, Highland Park, The Glenrothes, The Famous Grouse, Brugal rum and Snow Leopard vodka. The brand also holds strategic partnerships with Tequila Partida and Wyoming Whiskey.

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The brand is very popular, no doubt due to the success of the BBC drama

Peaky Blinders Irish whiskey distillery on the cards 

Liverpool-based Halewood International has revealed it plans to develop a distillery to produce Peaky Blinder Irish whiskey. The brand, inspired by the murderous gang and subsequent BBC drama starring Cork actor Cillian Murphy in the lead role, is currently made by West Cork Distillers, based in Skibbereen, County Cork, which Halewood did have a stake in until the Irish company bought them out for €18 million. To add some extra complexity, Halewood bought the rights to the Peaky Blinder spirit brand, which also has a bourbon, London dry gin and spiced rum, when it purchased Sadler’s Brewery in Lye, near Birmingham in 2017. Sadler’s has now closed, and Halewood is said to be transferring some of its equipment to the site it’s eyeing up in Ireland, which would also make The Pogues Irish Whiskey, another Halewood brand. “Due to the very successful growth of Sadler’s Peaky Blinder Irish Whiskey, we plan to accelerate a project to distill our own Irish whiskey,” Halewood said in a statement. Peaky Blinders Irish Whiskey, a blended Irish whiskey finished in sherry casks, is available at MoM Towers now, along with the rest of the range.

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The Spirit of Speyside festivals will return in 2020 for what will be its biggest celebration yet

The Spirit of Speyside announces its trio of festivals will return in 2020 

Since 1999, The Spirit of Speyside festival has celebrated Scotland’s largest whisky-making region, championing distilleries, communities, and the water of life. You’ll be delighted to know that it will return this year, along with the new Spirit of Speyside Gin Experience and Spirit of Speyside: Distilled. The flagship event, The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, will run from 29 April to 4 May in venues across the region. There will be over 700 ticketed whisky-themed activities, including behind-the-scenes distillery tours and food pairing masterclasses, in a packed six-day programme, which will be announced next month. Tickets for it will go on sale at noon on 12 February, so mark the date in your diaries! Following a successful launch last year, the Spirit of Speyside Gin Experience is back to shine a spotlight on local gin producers with new expressions, innovative cocktails and a variety of street food on offer. It will take place from 10-12 July, but the venue is still to be announced. But we do know that Spirit of Speyside: Distilled will be housed at Elgin Town Hall from 28-29 August. Expect to meet some of the region’s leading drinks producers as you get stuck into intimate masterclasses featuring all the great local produce. “Spirit of Speyside’s trio of drinks festivals will return this year in what will be our most significant celebrations yet, letting visitors experience first hand why Speyside is the global epicentre of distilling,” says Lauren Mustard, events coordinator at The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival. “In addition to our flagship Whisky Festival, 2020 will also see the return of the Gin Experience and Distilled, a showcase of Speyside’s range of spirits. We look forward to welcoming visitors from across Scotland, as well as from across the globe, to enjoy the very best of Scotland in Speyside.”

Work will begin on the new distillery later this year

New distillery to open in the heart of Burns country

News just in: Dark Sky Spirits has been given planning permission by Dumfries and Galloway Council to build a new distillery at Moffat in Scotland’s Borders region! The company currently operates as whisky blender with brands such as The Moffat blended malt. This will change when the distillery opens in 2021. The plan is to produce around 60,000 litres of pure alcohol per year. The set-up will be pretty traditional with wooden washbacks and worm tub condensers. The aim is to create a classic Lowland-style spirit. The distillery build became more of a reality earlier this year when South of Scotland Economic Partnership (SOSEP) granted £320,000 for the project. Nick Bullard, founder and managing director, said: “Even though it’s small, this distillery will make a big difference to our town and our region. It will attract visitors, bring new jobs and boost retail and hospitality trade. It will broaden and deepen Moffat’s attractiveness to whisky lovers around the world.” Local MP David Mundell added: “I’m always pleased to see new businesses setting up and providing employment opportunities. As a resident of Moffat myself, I’ve watched the progress of Dark Sky Spirits and their plans with interest. The whisky industry is already important in my constituency, and to Scotland as a whole. I’m sure Dark Sky will prove an asset to the town, widening the visitor offering further.” Tourism will play a big part in the distillery’s future, especially with the Robert Burns connection; he was a frequent visitor to the town. Whisky tourism is big business; in 2018 two million people visited a Scotch whisky distillery, and Dark Sky Spirits is planning for around 9,000 visitors per year. We’ll be first in the queue. 

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The Clumsies will bring a taste of Greece to London with its pop up on this stunning rooftop

Madison x The Clumsies Residency

You may have heard of The Clumsies, seeing as it was ranked 6th in the World’s 50 Best Bar Awards 2019. However, you may not have been able to pop over and visit, seeing as its home is in a townhouse in Athens. Well, The Clumsies is now bringing a taste of Greece to London, with its pop up at the wonderful Madison rooftop! The residency will be running for a rather limited time, from 24 to 28 February, when you can expect a delicious Greek spin on the cocktail menu in the form of five limited-edition cocktails. Vasilis Kyritsis, co-creator of The Clumsies, will even be behind the bar for the week, showcasing his awesome creations. We’re very much looking forward to the Aegean Negroni, which will marry Tanqueray No.Ten, vermouth, Martini Bitter, fennel seeds and diktamus (an aromatic Greek plant), and The Conch, boasting a blend of Otto’s Athens Vermouth, mezcal, salicornia (a succulent) and lemon. Consider our interest piqued! “We’re so excited to be back In London to share some of our cocktails in collaboration with Madison,” says Vasilis Kyritsis from The Clumsies. So are we!

The Nightcap

Zhang Huan’s monumental work of art: Eaux-de-Vie

Hennessy marks Lunar New Year with artist collab

Booze brands striking up partnerships with artists is hardly new, but our eyes (and taste buds) were thoroughly pleased by one that crossed our path this week. Hennessy has teamed up with Chinese artist Zhang Huan, for a project which included the commissioning of a 16-foot ‘dreamscape’ that’s genuinely pretty stunning. The piece is called Eaux-de-vie, and is said to capture a sense of “joy and celebration”. Of course, the artwork has inspired a limited-edition Hennessy bottling, too.  “Making art is about using an object as a vehicle to express inner thoughts, or a spiritual side,” the artist explained. “Eaux-de-vie is intended as a natural, living expression.” Zhang Huan rose to prominence as an artist in 1990s New York. “Being abroad gave me a deeper understanding of my tradition, perhaps because I had to see myself from far away,” he said. “I believe that Chinese and Western cultures are meant to integrate with each other, which is why I sought to incorporate a sense of movement in this work. We never know where life may take us, but I do believe that everything that has gone before leads up to the present moment. That is what I want to celebrate in my creations.” A celebration it is!

The Nightcap

Tequila was a standout performer for Diageo

Diageo reveals half-year results, snaps up former Rémy CEO

It’s been a bit of a big businessy week in booze, with results coming in from Hennessy maker LVMH, and Johnnie Walker parent, Diageo. LVMH’s wine and spirits division celebrated a 6% leap in profits in 2019, and Diageo too was in a good mood, with sales for the first half of its 2020 financial year climbing 4.2%. So what were we drinking? Namely Tequila, which saw 31% growth (Don Julio, anyone?) and Canadian whisky, which posted 11% gains. The loser? Surprisingly, Scotch whisky, which was flat as a pancake, with sales of blended brand Johnnie Walker actually falling by 4%. Disappointing. In related Big Booze Business news, Diageo also announced it had snapped up Valérie Chapoulaud-Floquet to join its board as a non-executive director from 1 January 2021. Name ring a bell? She was formerly CEO at Rémy Cointreau, which makes Rémy Martin Cognac, and also owns the Bruichladdich Distillery, among many others. An interesting move indeed…

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The IARD intends to add symbols or written age restrictions to the labels of its products

Spirits producers agree to age restrictions on labels

In a joint commitment to reduce underage drinking, twelve leading alcohol companies have pledged to include an age restriction symbol across its products. The International Alliance for Responsible Drinking (IARD), which was established in 2014 and includes the likes of Diageo, Pernod Ricard, Beam Suntory, Bacardi, Brown-Forman, William Grant & Sons, AB InBev, Molson Coors and Heineken, has committed to adding symbols or written age restrictions to the labels of its products, even alcohol-free ones, to send an “even clearer message that these products are not for minors”. The IARD had previously promised to deliver better safeguarding measures for online alcohol advertising after partnering with four social media platforms in 2018 and to implement safeguards for at least 95% of its online alcohol marketing by 2024. The group has also welcomed the advice of retailers, wholesalers, and distributors to help determine how best-practice initiatives for age verification can be implemented across the world. “Although underage drinking has fallen in many parts of the world, this trend is not universal. We want to accelerate progress and work with others to eliminate underage drinking in every community through a whole-of-society approach,” says Ulrich Adam, director-general of trade body Spirits Europe, which welcomed IARD’s pledge. “We call on other producers to join us. We call on retailers to work with us to do more to prevent minors from buying alcohol in stores and online. And we call on parents and other adults to support us by not buying alcohol for, or sharing alcohol with, children and minors, even if they do this with good intentions. Together, we must ensure everyone reinforces the message that underage drinking is socially unacceptable.”

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Nightcap legend Miles Beale was in unusually optimistic form this week

Leaving EU offers opportunities for drinks trade says WSTA

If a tree falls in the forest and nobody is around to hear it, does it make a sound? If we leave the EU and Miles Beale from the WSTA doesn’t comment, did we really leave? Well, Miles Beale has just commented, which means we’re definitely leaving. Tonight, in fact. Regular Nightcap readers will know that Beale hasn’t exactly been positive about Brexit, but in a statement just released by the WSTA, he sounds oddly optimistic. According to the WSTA, with the right trade deal, leaving the EU will provide opportunities for the UK wine and spirit industry. These include putting zero tariffs on wine and spirits (putting an end to those pesky levies on American whiskey), and relaxing or dropping some EU rules and definitions, allowing distillers to innovate and giving customers more choice. Beale met recently with Steven Barclay, Secretary of State for exiting the EU (what a title), to discuss how the government can help the drinks trade. Beale commented: “It’s time to complete a trade deal with the EU – and move on. The wine and spirit industry must embrace a brave new world of trading. We need to focus on the opportunities and to steer government towards breaking down barriers on trade, while also reinforcing the UK’s position at the centre of international wine and spirit trading. We have started with some clear asks of government which, if practical steps are taken, we believe will keep the UK as the world’s number one spirit exporter, but could also see us take the top spot as the world’s largest wine importer by volume from Germany.” Unusually optimistic stuff from Beale. We’ll have what he’s having.

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It’s a novel, green and fabulous idea!

And finally… H&M uses ‘leather’ from wine waste

We all know wine has a valued place when it comes to problem-solving (chatting about the woes of the world with a trusted pal over a glass of something delicious fixes all ills). But now clothing retailer H&M has revealed it is using a novel, and very green, leather alternative, according to Vogue. And it’s made from wine by-products! Created in Milan, Vegea is a vegan, eco-friendly, leather-like material, essentially produced from pomace. And it’s already being used in chain-strap handbags and some shoes in H&Ms Conscious Collection. We like! “These collections are here to help enable the scale of these new innovations, and make them more commercial [to us and to other brands],” Pascal Brun, H&M’s sustainability manager, told Vogue. And it’s not just clothes. Turns out you can use the faux-leather in loads of other ways, too. Bentley recently announced it was using the solution in its fancy EXP 100 GT car. We’ll raise a glass to that!

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The Nightcap: 24 January

Need a break from practising your Burns Night speech? Tune into The Nightcap, your weekly source of bite-sized booze news! We sell whisky here at Master of Malt. That shouldn’t…

Need a break from practising your Burns Night speech? Tune into The Nightcap, your weekly source of bite-sized booze news!

We sell whisky here at Master of Malt. That shouldn’t come as a surprise. As such, it also should not be a surprise that we quite enjoy said spirit. A third thing that shouldn’t be a surprise is that Burns Night is happening this weekend – that one shouldn’t be a surprise because we’ve been nattering about it for a little while now, along with everyone else that has an affinity for whisky. If you’re in the same boat and heading to a Burns Night celebration, pack that brain full of booze news in case small talk situations arise between bursts of poetry and toasts.

On the blog this week we turned our attention to all things Burns Night, unsurprisingly, rounding-up some sensational Scotch to enjoy on the night, enjoying a Bobby Burns and reminiscing about the worst Burns Night celebrations ever, all while enjoying your poetic entries to our Burns Night competition… Thank you to all who entered, the competition is now closed and the winner will be announced on Monday!

Elsewhere, we launched a new #BagThisBundle competition, Adam heard Black Lines’ case for why you shouldn’t write off draft cocktails and Henry cast his eye on a baijiu producer that wants to land the spirit in the Western market and a bourbon from the Lone Star state. Annie, meanwhile, checked out the UK’s first sake brewery before going down under to learn about Australian wine and the Archie Rose Distillery.

So, what are you waiting for? There’s boozy news to enjoy!

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Hidden haggis, bingo, London’s first whisky wall and more. It’s must be Burns Night!

Burns Night celebrations in full flow this week

With Burns Night tomorrow, there has been a raft of events this week in celebration, as you can imagine. But plenty are forgoing the tradition to mark the day in all kinds of wacky ways, such as The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS), who are planning to hide 18 mini haggises around Glasgow city centre in celebration of their new Members’ Room opening on Bath Street in March 2020. The lucky folk who find them have a chance to win an annual membership to the Society, SMWS bottles or tasting glasses. DrinkUp London, meanwhile, is offering all kinds of deals for its Scotch Whisky Weekend, while still finding time to host BenRiach’s ‘painting by tasting notes’ workshop with landscape artist Ellis O’Connor and master blender Rachel Barrie, in which you can create your own artwork inspired by tasting notes. A night full of bingo shenanigans from Bobby’s Burns Bingo awaits those who go to New York bodega-inspired bar Liquorette, which is celebrating Burns Night with an American twist with Chivas global brand ambassador Rhys Wilson. He will be calling the numbers and handing out the prizes ranging from Chivas 12 and 18 year old bottles, home whisky blending kits, nights out at Liquorette and tickets to Chivas Blend experience. London’s oldest whisky specialist Milroy’s is doing its own more traditional Burns Night in Spitalfields tonight with complimentary drinks thanks to Crabbie Whisky alongside haggis, poetry and music. One event we know for sure was a success was Mac & Wild’s Burns Warm Up Party with Copper Dog last night, which featured live entertainment, masterclasses, London’s first whisky wall, Bone Marrow Whisky Luge experiences and all kinds of tasty Scottish street food. Oh, and Paul Young has been making signature Burns Night chocolate in collaboration with Glen Moray (we can vouch for its deliciousness), proving that chocolate belongs at every occasion. It’s great to see so many so keen to toast Scotland’s national bard. Slange var!

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This could be yours. For free. No, really.

Silk Road Distillers is giving away free rum

This is not a drill. It’s not a scam. There are no pirates involved in this rum, folks. No, free samples of rum (excluding post and package) can truly be yours thanks to the marketing initiative of a startup rum brand in London. Silk Road Distillers is backing 2020 to be the year of rum (it’s not alone) and the spirit producers are so keen to show off their new creation that they are charging absolutely nothing (excluding post and package) for the pleasure. This isn’t any ordinary rum, no. The sample you’ll receive is full of white spiced rum. A white rum that was infused with six botanicals. It truly is a brave new world. “2020 is going to be all about rum, and we can’t wait to be a part of it”, says George Agate, founder of Silk Road Distillers, “We’re hoping to get loads of samples out for Try-January, and we know once someone tries it, it will be their go-to drink for the year”. Silk Road Distillers also wants you to ditch Rum and Coke for this one and instead try out a Rum and Tonic, which admittedly is an often overlooked serve. Each 50ml is only available until the end of the month, 31st January 2020 from hereNow get ordering!

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A section of bookcase opens to reveal this secret bar, James Bond villain-style.

‘Secret’ bar opens in Great Scotland Yard Hotel

When we turned up, rather late, it has to be said, for the launch of a new bar at the Great Scotland Yard Hotel, we were a little confused as there was nobody to be seen. Maybe, we’d got the wrong day. All became clear, however, when the bartender from the hotel’s other bar, 40 Elephants, pressed discreet button and, James Bond villain-style, a section of bookcase opened to reveal a secret bar. It’s called Sibín, as in an Irish drinking den (sometimes spelt shebeen). The drinks menu takes a turn for the unexpected too with old classics given a tune-up. The Rusty Nail is made with two types of Talisker and Drambuie is left to oxidise for two days to mellow. Bars manager Michal Mariarz adds a little PX to his Smokey Cokey, Lagavulin 16 year old and Coke. Most innovative of all was bartender Alex Williams’ concoction, the Clear Conscience. Based on that old classic the Grasshopper, it’s made with poitin, Branca Menta and all kinds of scientific stuff to make something that smells just like a Matchmaker mint. For the more classically-inclined there are unusual whiskies like a 2005 Caol Ila part-matured in Hermitage red wine casks. The hotel located just off Trafalgar Square and housed in the former HQ of the Metropolitan Police, opened last year and already feels like a classic venue.  

Record number of ‘visitations’ at Buffalo Trace

Whiskey tourism in Kentucky is now a big thing: Buffalo Trace has just released figures that show that 294,996 people visited the distillery last year, 35% up on last year and a massive 466% up on 2010. The press release describes it as a “record-breaking visitation streak” which makes it sound like Kentucky has had an unusual number of divine interventions. All these visitors (divine or otherwise) have come during a $1.2 billion investment scheme. Yes, you read the right. 1.2 billion dollars. This includes a new visitor (or should that be visitation) centre, 22 foot (6.7 metres) cookers that required raising the roof of the mash house, four 92,000 gallon (420,000 litre) fermenters, a new cooling tower and six new warehouses which each hold 58,800 barrels. That’s a lot of bourbon. There’s even a special ‘hard hat’ tour so that you can see the work being done. “The growth we are seeing in all aspects of the distillery is really exciting,” Meredith Moody, director of homeplace development said. “We are eager to show all of our distilling upgrades to new and returning guests on our updated Hard Hat Tour. It’s a whole new experience, whether you are a first time visitor or have toured many times.” Oh, and talking of Buffalo Trace, it’s almost time for our annual parcel of Antique Collection rare bourbons from the distillery to arrive. Watch this space.

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The fantastic Passport menu takes you to all corners of the world

We taste St James Bar new Passport cocktail menu 

It’s around about that point in January that we all start getting a bit of wanderlust around MoM Towers. It’s rainy, it’s cold, and suddenly I’m having to resist the urge to book a holiday somewhere. Our wanderlust dreams were answered when we heard about the new Passport menu at St James Bar, Sofitel St James, so we headed over to try it out. The idea is to take you on a journey, and the menu looks like an actual British passport (for now…) boasting 12 cocktails from 12 different countries. We started, appropriately with a 5 to 7, a beautifully balanced bitter aperitif straight from Italy made with Campari-infused coffee, presented in a cafetière. Where would you like to go next, bar manager Kostas Bardas asked us. America! The Maker’s Mark and sherry-based cocktail, 1st Step, comes in a smoking rocketship. How could we not?! Then, to Thailand, where we tried Megong, a blend of Mekhong Thai Spirit, rum and Earl Grey presented alongside a mini gong. Heaven Howler was a tribute to Iceland’s Prohibition period from 1915 to 1989, a unique marriage of Himbrimi Old Tom, Martin Miller’s Westbourne Strength, homemade rhubarb and thyme liqueur, pale ale and beer soda. We certainly wouldn’t mind sipping this refreshing serve in a geothermal spring… Then, on recommendation from quite literally everyone behind the bar, we tried the Victory Martini, inspired by Winston Churchill. Well, we are in London after all. A sophisticated blend of Plymouth Gin, Cognac and a brilliant homemade pine honey and wine leaf cordial made this little number outrageously easy to drink. The brilliantly conceived and engaging Passport menu took us to all corners of the world, though all from the luxurious blue plush interior of the bar. Bon voyage!

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I’ve never been so proud of the Brits before. Well in, guys.

British drinking more beer despite Dry January claims Wowcher

You may have noticed that it has become popular in the last few years to give up alcohol in January, a bit like a Lenten fast but without the Christianity. With all the noise in the media about Dry January, you might think that alcohol sales would be seriously affected but, according to figures just released by Wowcher, the discount voucher people, this is not the case. In fact, there has been a 71% increase in beer sales compared with January 2019. It has to be said, that this is based only on data from Wowcher’s website and app so could hardly be described as definitive. Nevertheless, it does seem to suggest that even with all the newspaper articles, TV segments, advertising and general media hubbub, Dry January is still very much a minority pursuit. Britons, never change. 

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It’s a fine donation to a good cause.

Diageo rolls out the barrel for Scottish Rugby charity 

Diageo has announced that it donated a cask of Scotch whisky to raise money for Doddie Weir’s My Name’5 Doddie Foundation to find a cure for MND. The rugby legend and inspirational Motor Neuron Disease campaigner Doddie Weir visited the brand’s new Scottish headquarters in Edinburgh on Monday 20 January to accept the donation. This is also marked the official opening of the offices and reaffirmed Diageo’s support for Scottish Rugby ahead of the forthcoming Six Nations, which will be the first to feature Johnnie Walker as Scottish Rugby’s official whisky partner. “Doddie Weir is an inspiration to people everywhere with the remarkable bravery of his campaign. It was a privilege to welcome him to our new offices and to share his incredible campaign with our people,” said Ewan Andrew, president of global supply & procurement at Diageo. “We have a powerful connection with rugby through our Guinness Title Partnership of the Six Nations Championship and our Johnnie Walker partnership with Scottish Rugby. What better way to celebrate these partnerships and to mark our move to our new office than by supporting Doddie and his campaign.” Doddie Weir added: “I am delighted to accept the donation of this cask of Glenkinchie single malt whisky for my foundation. The momentum behind the campaign keeps growing and it’s terrific to see companies like Diageo and brands like Johnnie Walker stepping up to show their support and to raise funds.” Diageo will now work with the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation team to select a cask of Glenkinchie single malt and to have it bottled for the charity. We wish all involved the best luck in fighting for this fantastic cause.

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The Big Drop Brewing founders are hoping to raise a pretty penny

Big Drop Brewing Co. launches crowdfunding for major expansion

Launched in London in 2016, Big Drop Brewing Co. is shaking up the alcohol-free beer game as one of the very few totally dedicated alcohol-free brewers. In its portfolio, you’ll find stout, pale ale, IPA, lager and other brews, along with a range of gluten free and vegan beers too. For its brews, Big Drop uses a method which removes the need to extract alcohol after fermentation, which is often what affects the taste and mouthfeel of alcohol-free beer. It’s launching a crowdfunding campaign in February, and investors will become a part of the company as well as receiving a few perks alongside, from brand merch to a day with the master brewer. The perks get better depending on how much more you’re willing to invest, of course. The point of the crowdfund is to help it expand into markets outside the UK, as well as within its home country. “We knew there were a lot of people who felt exactly the same way as we did,” says co-founder Rob Fink. “We realised we could create not just the beer we wanted, but a community of like-minded people too. What if we could do for alcohol-free beer what the craft beer revolution had done for, well, beer?” Well, if you want to find out and want a piece of the action, then head over to the site

The 2020 Tap Takeovers at the Tate will feature the likes of Cloudwater Brew Co., Tiny Rebel and more.

Tap Takeovers at the Tate

Lovers of contemporary art, good beer and alliteration are in for a treat as the latest Tap Takeovers at the Tate have just been announced. These consist of an evening at the Tate Modern in London devoted to a particular brewery. The first event on 30 January features Manchester’s very own Cloudwater Brew Co. with its delicious range of beers including a mighty 8.5% ABV Double IPA. And don’t worry if you don’t like beer or alcohol, as the brewery produces a range of zero ABV sodas. Be warned, though, you can’t just turn up and have access to delicious brews, that would be too easy, you need to book in advance here. Tap Takeovers will be running monthly throughout the year with breweries such as Tiny Rebel, Verdant Brewing and Northern Monk Brew, so there’s sure to be something that tickles your fancy.

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Yep. That’s a haggis lasagne alright.

And finally. . . It’s getting Scot in here! Aldi makes Burns Night lasagne with haggis.

Burns Night is, of course, founded on tradition. And tradition is fun, you know what you’re going to get. But this year, Burns Night 2020 will be known as the year that Aldi, everyone’s favourite discount supermarket, really shook things up because it has given Scotland’s national dish, the haggis, an Italian twist with a recipe for haggis lasagne. Yes, really! Literally lasagne with haggis, it’s the greatest Scots-Italian mash-up since Peter Capaldi. Imagine serving that at a traditional Burns Night. If this kind of culture collision isn’t your thing, then you can just buy the haggis from Aldi and enjoy it in its pure form. But if we could time travel, the only place we’d be going is back to the late 1700s to ask Robert Burns himself what he thinks of this. Salute! No, wait. Slange var!

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