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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: The Nightcap

The Nightcap: 26 February

The Nightcap makes its final February appearance for 2021 with news on record-breaking whisky, a host of new releases and the life-affirming effects of gin-soaked raisins. Happy Friday, folks. If…

The Nightcap makes its final February appearance for 2021 with news on record-breaking whisky, a host of new releases and the life-affirming effects of gin-soaked raisins.

Happy Friday, folks. If you’re in England, you’re no doubt excited or anxious about the roadmap to end the country’s lockdown measures. It makes you think that at some point all this will just be a bizarre collective memory we share. But while we wait for normality to return, we still need to find ways to pass the time. And thankfully there’s always enough going on in the drinks industry to keep us entertained. Just look at this week’s Nightcap, for example. It’s bursting at the seams with boozy happenings.

As was the MoM blog this week, as Kristy revelled in her good fortune at tasting the remarkable Bowmore 27 Year Old – Timeless Series, Ian Buxton returned to unmask a mysterious billionaire Scooby-Doo-style while Lucy sat down with Adnams head distiller John McCarthy to hear his thoughts on all kinds of boozy business. Mille then made a cocktail that made us all realise how much we love Maryland turtles before Henry showcased ten of our favourite vermouths and put forward a contender for best image to ever feature on our blog after speaking to Kathy Caton, the founder of Brighton Gin. Elsewhere, Adam had a wonderfully whisky-soaked week, going around the globe in a tasting glass to find out why Peerless whiskey is making waves, how the Dartmoor whisky distillery has unlocked Devon’s potential as a home for great drams and what the confusing but charming new Starward bottling is all about.

Now, onto the Nightcap!

The Nightcap: 26 February

This one bottle alone fetched £1m

Whisky collection sells for almost £6.7m at auction

The record books are going to need some significant revising following a recent auction. You might recall the ‘The Perfect Collection’ was tipped to make headlines and now the nearly 3,900 bottle-strong hoard of whisky has lived up to the hype. The group took a hammer price of £6,675,000, attracting 1,557 distinct bidders from 54 countries. While a bottle of Macallan 1926 Fine and Rare 60-year-old, sold for £1 million, making it the first single bottle of whisky to be sold at an online-only auction for one million pounds (looks at the camera with Dr Evil face). The collection, which was built up by the late American private collector Richard Gooding, has become the highest-value hoard ever to sell on the secondary market at an auction dedicated to one single collector’s whisky. “This auction was solely dedicated to one collector’s magnificent library of whisky – a man who was dedicated to building the perfect collection. As enthusiasts of whisky ourselves, we knew that this collection deserved its own spotlight to allow us to truly convey the rarity and sheer scale of something so historic,” Iain McClune, founder of Whisky Auctioneer, said​. “With so many incredible bottles attracting the attention of high-value investors and passionate collectors across the world, the sale is one for the record books.” The whole affair is an absolute gem for those who love eye-watering sums being traded for incredible booze that will almost certainly never be drunk. Which is a shame.

The Nightcap: 26 February

Campbeltown Harbour, back in the good ol’ days

Old Campbeltown photos sought by Glen Scotia distillery

Campbeltown was once the whisky capital of the world, containing over 30 distilleries in the 19th century. There are only three left today. Now that rich history is being celebrated by one of the three, Glen Scotia, in a new initiative to find old photos of the town’s whisky heyday. So if you have any tucked away in your loft, you can email them in to [email protected] or do it the old fashioned way and send them by post to the distillery. More information on the website. The deadline is 31 March this year. Chosen images will be used as part of Glen Scotia Whisky Festival. Iain McAlister, master distiller at Glen Scotia, said: “Whisky was a way of life in our coastal town for over 100 years and over time, all that experience, craft and passion has been poured into Glen Scotia. Now we are looking for photography that will help us uncover what makes Campbeltown the ‘whiskiest place in the world’.” To whet your appetite, Glen Scotia has published some evocative old photographs like the one above. Ah, it really takes you back.

The Nightcap: 26 February

The smoky-sweet high strength dream of a dram will be here soon

Benriach releases Smoke Season

There’s a new small-batch smoky Benriach on the horizon and we’ve just had a little taste. It’s the aptly-named Smoke Season and pays tribute to the old days of Speyside when the region’s whiskies would have been peated. The peat used is from the mainland which comes from trees and heather and has a quite different character to the seaweed-scented Islay variety. According to the press bumf it’s “the most intensely smoked whisky to be released by the distillery” and yet because of its cask maturation, the smoke is beautifully balanced by layers of chocolatey sweet spicy oak. Master blender Dr Rachel Barrie explained: “With intensely peated spirit batch distilled every year, at Benriach we never stop exploring how the fruit and smoke aromatics intertwine and mature in a range of eclectic oak casks, either amplifying or transforming the perception of peat.” The barrels include “a high proportion of charred and toasted American Virgin oak casks.” Despite being bottled at a punchy 52.8% ABV, we reckon it’s best without any dilution, all the better to enjoy the rich sweet salted caramel, tobacco and cinnamon notes. RRP is a very reasonable £53, roughly a £1 per percentage of alcohol, and we should be getting some in soon. 

The Nightcap: 26 February

If you’re a fan of white rum this is definitely one to check out

Equiano Rum reveals new white rum 

In a category as diverse and brilliant as rum, it can be difficult to stand out. However, when Equiano, the world’s first African & Caribbean rum, was launched by global rum ambassador Ian Burrell and Foursquare master distiller Richard Seale back in October 2019, it received plenty of headlines. Probably because of the world first thing. And the fact that Burrell and Seale were involved. Also, it’s a blend of molasses rums from Foursquare and Mauritius-based Gray’s Distillery. It really had a lot going for it. As does Equiano Light, the brand’s first line extension. Made from a blend of liquids from the same distilleries, namely lightly aged molasses Foursquare rum and fresh sugar cane juice rum from Gray’s, the spirit is said to have “subtle notes of ripe sugarcane and hints of natural vanilla and citrus” meaning it should be perfect for classic rum cocktails such as The Daiquiri. The brand has also said that Equiano Light was created to offer a “contemporary alternative to traditional pouring rums” and to “enrich the taste profile of an often-underrated spirit” while “silencing any notion that white rums lack the sophistication of their darker counterparts”. Equiano Rum, named after African-born writer, entrepreneur, abolitionist and freedom fighter Olaudah Equiano, will also continue to grant 5% of global company profits and £/$2 from every bottle sold through equianorum.com to ground level freedom and equality projects annually. The brand has also recently teamed up with Anti-Slavery International, the oldest international human rights organisation in the world, to fund their vital work to eliminate all forms of modern slavery across the globe.

The Nightcap: 26 February

Missing the hubbub of nightlife, this Mexican bar has the solution

‘I miss my bar’ recreates those nightlife noises we miss so much

Do you miss your bar? We certainly miss ours which is why we loved an initiative from Monterrey bar, Maverick (sent to me by wife’s father who lives in LA. Shout out to you Mr Lemkin! We have a very informal relationship). That’s Monterrey Mexico, not Monterrey California. It’s a website called ‘I miss my bar’ that lets you recreate the noises of your favourite bar with sliders controlling elements such as rain noise, music, background chatter, traffic and drinks being made. Every week there’s a new playlist put together by staff. All you need to provide are the drinks. Wouldn’t it be great if you could really just turn down that loud group in the corner, though? What are we saying? We are that loud group in the corner. As well as being great fun, it serves a serious purpose, to encourage people to buy vouchers to be redeemed when the bar opens. If you don’t live near Monterrey, then think about helping out your local bar, pub or restaurant, or it might not be there when the lockdown lifts.

The Nightcap: 26 February

This would make one hell of a birthday present, as Jay-Z knows all too well

Sotheby’s to sell Jay-Z’s 1969 D’Ussé Cognac 

We don’t know if any of our dear readers got something special for their 50th birthday, but we would wager that few got a one-of-a-kind bottle of Cognac. But that’s exactly what Shawn Carter, or Jay-Z as you probably know him best, got when he celebrated the big 5-0 in December 2019. D’USSÉ surprised him with the first-ever bottle of its 1969 Anniversaire Limited Edition Grande Champagne Cognac. The bottling was taken from a single barrel-aged in a two-hundred-year-old cellar at Château de Cognac. It’s also housed in a diamond-shaped cut crystal bottle and is adorned with 24 karat gold leaf wrapping on the neck, so it’s suitably swanky. A limited run of the Cognac will be made available for consumer purchase in the spring. Before that, however, a bottle carrying Mr Carter’s engraved signature will be presented for sale at Sotheby’s and is estimated to fetch between $25,000-75,000. That money won’t be lining the legendary hip-hop star’s pocket, however, as the proceeds will go to the Shawn Carter Foundation, which aims to help individuals facing socio-economic hardships further their education at institutions of higher learning. There is no reserve for bids in this auction lot, so Bottle No. 1 will open at just $1 at 2pm GMT on 1 March and the winning bid will be announced at 2pm GMT on 13 March 2021. Fancy your chances?

Jung & Wulff Barbados rum No.3

It’s just like being in Barbados

Sazerac releases Jung & Wulff Caribbean rum range

More exciting rum news! Sazerac, the New Orleans-based drinks company, has just launched a new range of rums and we have to say they look brilliant. Consisting of spirits from Trinidad, Barbados and Guyana, we are particularly taken with the snazzy retro travel posters on the labels. At a time when we can’t travel, they are just the tonic we need. The Trinidad Rum No.1 features steel drum players in front of an ocean liner, Guyana Rum No.2 a tropical jungle scene and the Barbados Rum No. 3 label, a cricket match set against palm trees. The contents are pretty tasty too. All are limited edition blends of pot and column still rums from undisclosed distilleries – though you’ll probably be able to guess the origins of the Trinidad and Guyana bottlings. As with all Sazerac brands, there’s a good bit of history here too as Liam Sparks from importer Hi-Spirits explained: “Jung & Wulff were early importers of rum, distributing to cafés and bars across New Orleans and beyond. Strictly limited, our Jung & Wulff rums celebrate three influential places: Trinidad, Guyana and Barbados. I believe these rums are a true interpretation of each island’s style and brilliantly showcases the different terroirs that are available throughout the Caribbean.” And they’ve just arrived at Master of Malt.

The Nightcap: 26 February

Nine gin-soaked-raisins a day keeps the doctor away… supposedly. (It won’t. But they sure are tasty)

And finally…  105-year-old woman claims gin-soaked raisins helped her overcome Covid

Forget cross country running, meditation and salad, if you want to lead a long life one American lady has the answer, gin-soaked raisins. 105-year-old Lucia DeClerk from New Jersey contracted Covid in her nursing home despite being vaccinated but managed to fight off the virus. The New York Times reported that she had very few symptoms and was back to her best after two weeks. She attributed her robust old age to eating nine gin-soaked raisins a day: “Fill a jar, nine raisins a day after it sits for nine days,” she said. She didn’t specify which brand of gin but it seems that this special diet gave her a raisin to live. 

Sorry.

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The Nightcap: 12 February

It’s a celeb-packed Nightcap: 12 February edition featuring Ryan Reynolds (twice), David Beckham, Diddy and even the European Brand Director of Casamigos. No, really. The European Brand Director. Talk about…

It’s a celeb-packed Nightcap: 12 February edition featuring Ryan Reynolds (twice), David Beckham, Diddy and even the European Brand Director of Casamigos. No, really. The European Brand Director. Talk about A-list.

It’s always a pleasure to welcome the weekend. And what a weekend this is. There’s so much on! Valentine’s Day, which is apparently still a thing, is on Sunday. While today is Chinese New Year (shout out to all you rad Metal Oxes). If you’re in the UK, however, this week has been all about Storm Darcy (cold, beautiful, makes things difficult for people around them. The name actually makes a lot of sense). The freezing temperatures have brought heavy snowfall and the usual British response: State disbelief there’s snow. Say how beautiful it looks. Moan that it didn’t happen in December. Enjoy Christmas card scenes. Moan about the disruption. Get a second wind and take photos. Moan it’s not going away. Finally, moan again when it is gone. It’s comforting how familiar this pattern is. As assured as every new edition of The Nightcap landing at 4pm on Friday. Let’s get on with it, shall we?

This week on the MoM blog we launched a new competition with 1826 cocktails, so if getting bar-quality serves sent straight to your door for free sounds like something you’re interested in, be sure to enter before the deadline on Sunday night. We kept the batched cocktail vibe going by welcoming the Myatt’s Fields range to our site before enjoying a Rusty Nail and then some of the best value new world drams you can get your hands on for bargain prices. There was time to also show off our swanky masterclass videos of the 2020 Diageo Special Releases, hear from Millie about the brands putting real flavour into vodka and do some learnin’ with Lucy on how to pair whisky with cheese.

On this week's Nightcap we remember Brett Ferencz

We’re raising a dram to a galaxy far, far away for this man tonight.

Brett Ferencz, aka Scotch Trooper, dies

We start this week’s Nightcap with some really sad news: Brett Ferencz, known by many whisky lovers as Scotch Trooper, passed away on 11 February following a battle with cancer. He brought joy to so many by bringing together two of his passions: whisky and Star Wars. The worlds collided in the most enchanting of ways, and his posts depicting bottles, cocktail kit, casks and more were always accompanied by a Star Wars character and a warm, often witty note. One of the most remarkable things about Brett – although none of MoM HQ’s editorial team met him offline – was how his love for whisky shone in a way that always welcomed new drinkers into the fold. Of course, you can’t measure a person by their follower count, but the community he built is significant in size and passion, both for Scotch and each other. It’s a sad day for many. His family posted on Instagram: “I didn’t lose my battle with cancer. At best it was a tie. I took the Death Star down with me.” We’ll be raising a dram to Brett and his family this weekend. 

This week's Nightcap stars Ryan Reynolds, twice!

Bet you never thought you’d see Wrexham AFC’s logo on a bottle of internationally renowned gin…

Ryan Reynolds launches Wrexham AFC Aviation Gin 

Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney have celebrated their takeover of Wrexham AFC by launching a limited-edition Aviation Gin. In a move that has slightly baffled but mostly delighted football fans, the Deadpool actor and It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia co-creator have taken 100% control of Wrexham AFC Limited from the Wrexham Supporters Trust. To mark the occasion, one of Reynolds’ other businesses, Aviation Gin, has launched 6,000 bottles with a new design for fans to order from the official Wrexham AFC webshop. “Rob and I are ecstatic to have won the approval of the Wrexham fans and the League and this bottle is for them,” Reynolds said. “It’s a small first step on what will hopefully be a legendary underdog story.” It raises the question: which A-lister will invest in the local football club of a post-industrial North Wales town next? Maybe Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson will buy Gresford Athletic and establish a new major football rivalry…

… and donates $1m with Diddy, Becks and Diageo 

Not content with making just one headline this week, Reynolds also appeared in a video with Sean “Diddy” Combs, and David Beckham, the co-owners of DeLeón Tequila, and Haig Club respectively, to show their support to the bartending community, which has been majorly affected by COVID-19. The comedic clip shows the trio making drinks featuring their products and ingredients from Tampa Bay, Florida, and Kansas City, Missouri (in honour of the Super Bowl) which inevitably turns out to be undrinkable and disgusting. So they instead announce that Diageo, the company which produces all three of these brands, will donate $1 million between Drinks Trust UK, the Bartender’s Benevolent Fund and Another Round, Another Rally

On this week's Nightcap we learn that the UK's distillery numbers continue to rise

Even a pandemic and lockdown couldn’t stop the likes of Maidstone Distillery from opening

Covid-19 fails to halt UK’s distillery boom

Remarkable and uplifting news came from HMRC figures, of all places, this week. The data showed that a record number of distilleries were registered in the UK in 2020. The stats, as reported by The Wine and Spirit Trade Association, are really something. The number of distilleries grew by over 100 in 12 months for the first time. There’s more than 300 in England (311) for the first time. And the total number registered in 2020 grew to over 560, up from over 440 in 2019. All this occurred despite the many restrictions and implications of the pandemic, including the shutdown of the hospitality sector. However, it should be noted that 2020 was still a phenomenally hard year for many of the UK’s distillers, the majority of whom are small, independently-owned businesses. That’s why the WSTA is urging the government to back distillers. “With such a difficult 2020 behind us and a daunting challenge to recover in 2021, our distillers need the support of the chancellor at the upcoming budget. A freeze at the last budget certainly helped distillers to invest and grow, but we need the chancellor to go further this time, with both a duty cut and an extension of the VAT reduction in hospitality venues, until at least March 2022 – and including alcoholic drinks,” says chief executive of the WSTA and Nightcap legend Miles Beale. “Distillers across the UK will play a vital role in 2021 and beyond as hospitality begins to open up again, and by showing his support for distillers at the Budget the Chancellor can also promote the hospitality industry as it rebounds from Covid-19 restrictions.”

This week in The Nightcap we welcome another new Islay distillery

An artist’s impression of how the distillery will look.

Elixir Distillers’ Islay distillery gets green light

We’re one step closer to seeing another new distillery on Islay. Elixir Distillers has revealed this week that the Argyll & Bute council planning committee has granted planning permission to them to go ahead with its project. The brand, which first announced its intentions in 2018, should break ground in 2021 and will reveal the name of the distillery soon. What we know for now is that it will be located in the southeast of Islay next to the town of Port Ellen, not far from Lagavulin, Laphroaig and Ardbeg. The distillery will produce 1 million litres of alcohol a year and will use floor maltings to process just over half of the barley needed. Which is neat. You don’t see much of that anymore. There will also be on-site housing for distillery workers, a visitor’s centre and a multipurpose educational facility, with further initiatives to support the local community and an apprentice programme for aspiring distillers to be pursued further down the line. “We’ve worked closely with the Argyll & Bute planning committee to create plans for a distillery that fits into the landscape and supports the community,” said Sukhinder Singh, who co-founded Elixir Distillers with his brother Rajbir (where else do we know these guys from?). “We want to create whiskies that inspire both the people of Islay and Islay whisky fans world-wide, enhancing the already glowing reputation of Islay whiskies, while also becoming an integral part of the community.” Once it and the previously closed Port Ellen (which is undergoing reconstruction) open, Islay will have 11 working distilleries. Sounds like things are getting pretty cramped. There’s plenty of room in Tonbridge if anyone wants to build a distillery next to us…

On this week's Nightcap we gaze lovingly at a 50-year-old Glenrothes

Somebody very lucky will be adding this to their collection soon.

Glenrothes auctions last of 50-Year-Old with Royal Warrant jeweller

It’s not quite as fancy as the Irish whiskey Faberge craziness we reported on last week. Nevertheless, a Glenrothes that’s going under the hammer at Bonhams on 19 February sounds pretty tasty. It’s the 50th and last bottle of the distillery 50-year-old single malt. Naturally, it’s not going to be housed in any old bottle. Oh no. Royal Warrant jeweller Hamilton & Inches has created a one-off decanter with a 22-carat gold label.  And it’s not just any gold as Victoria Houghton from Hamilton & Inches explained: “The decanter will feature the first gold from the Cononish gold mine with Hamilton & Inches being the only fine jeweller to have access to this Scottish treasure.” Exclusive. Kerr Arthur, director of The Glenrothes brand, added: “This collaboration with Hamilton & Inches unites the exceptional craft and commitment of a Master Whisky Maker and Goldsmith to ensure that our last decanter to be released, ‘The 50th of 50’ will be very special and offer whisky lovers from around the world the opportunity to acquire a unique combination: single malt Scotch whisky and single mine Scottish gold.” Best of all, proceeds generated from the sale will go to a charity chosen by the winning bidder. The auction begins at 13:00 GMT on 19 February. Last year a bottle of Glenrothes 50 Year Old sold for £30,000 through Bonhams in Hong Kong. Time to get saving. 

On this week's Nightcap we learn Chapel Down is focusing on wine and spirits from now on.

Chapel Down is focusing on wine and spirits from now on.

Chapel Down quits beer and cider 

Our Kent neighbours Chapel Down has become the country’s biggest and best-known wine producer while also making delicious gin, vodka, beer and cider too. Sadly, the brand has been forced into parting ways with its beer and cider arm Curious Drinks after a strategic review found it had suffered greatly during the pandemic and lockdown. Chapel Down made the difficult decision of putting Curious Drinks into administration, which has allowed the private equity firm Risk Capital Partners RCP to acquire it. RCP will establish a new company to run the business and take on its assets, including the new 2,900hl brewery in Ashford and its on-site restaurant. Chapel Down will receive no payment for the business but will be cleared of its net debt in Curious Drinks. The good news is that there will be no job losses as a result of the deal and that Chapel Down’s wine and spirits division achieved 38% volume growth last year despite the hospitality sector shutdowns. “We see a significant opportunity and a very bright future for Chapel Down,” Frazer Thompson, CEO of Chapel Down Group commented. “We certainly won’t be abandoning the hospitality business – we love it – and will support its return vigorously with our wines and spirits”.

On this week's Nightcap we report on a good vintage for Port

Port continues to thrive despite the difficulties the drinks trade faces at the moment

Port market looking strong as Taylor’s releases its third vintage in a row

We were fortunate to be given a little taste of the 2018 vintage of vintage Ports from the Fladgate stable. This is the unprecedented third year in a row that the company behind Taylor’s, Fonseca and Croft, has declared a vintage. CEO Adrian Bridge described it as somewhere in style between the fragrant 2016s and the sturdier 2017s. He added that the decision to declare was “all about the quality of the vintage” rather than about commercial considerations. Because of Covid, however, they delayed the release to this year, despite clamouring from the American market. The wines were on top form: Croft Quitna da Roeda was exotic and fragrant; Fonseca Guimaraens was spicy and packed with dark fruit; while the Taylor’s was weighty and structured, and promises great things for the future. Meanwhile, the Symington Group, Taylor’s great rivals, announced a strong performance in 2020 with sales up 37.3% in the last quarter compared with 2019. Johnny Symington commented: “With pubs, bars and restaurants closed for much of the year and people confined to their homes, 2020 was devastating for our on-trade customers. We were fortunate, however, that demand for port soared in the rest of the UK wine trade. We were extremely proud of our importers, Fells, who decided in September 2020 to return all of the furlough money provided to them by the UK government in response to better than expected trading.” Taylor’s too reported a strong performance. It seems when times are tough, people turn to Port.

On this week's Nightcap we learn about the difficult year Pernod Ricard has had

The results look pretty grim, but Coutures is proud of how the company handled the crisis

Challenging times as Pernod Ricard posts 2020 results

Well, we knew it was going to be tough, and Pernod Ricard’s second half of 2020 results that were announced this morning in a press conference showed how difficult it’s been. The shocker is Beefeater down 20% on the previous year. This is due to the disappearance of the on-trade in the all-important Spanish market. Other big brands struggling are Ballantine’s, down 12%, Chivas Regal, down 12% and Royal Salute, down 28%. Overall sales decreased by 3.9% with profits down by 2.4%. Much of this decline is because of the lack of travel retail sales. Despite the malt tariffs on US imports, Glenlivet was in growth by 2%. There are more grounds for optimism as the UK off-trade is up by 31% with online sales increasing by 138%. Overall UK sales up by 13% with Jameson, Malfy Gin, and Absolut looking particularly strong. Furthermore, CEO of Chivas Brothers Jean-Christophe Coutures said that there had been no incidence of Covid in distilleries. He commented: “I am proud of what we achieved. 100% of staff and salaries have been kept,” and the company has even been recruiting. It also seems that the earlier rift with the Scottish government has been healed. He said that the industry had suffered doubly from loss of export business and closure of visitor centres. The priority was now ending the tariffs to the US on Scotch whisky and he looked forward to potential trade deals with New Zealand, Australia and, most exciting of all, India. David Haworth, CEO of Pernod Ricard UK spoke for everyone when he hoped for a massive boom to the on-trade when lockdowns are lifted and said: “we’ve all been missing the pub.”

On this week's Nightcap we have European Brand Director of Casamigos Tequila Jack Brooksbank.

Congratulations on the baby Jack (right), whoops! We mean European Brand Director…

And finally… Casamigos insists media use correct title for Princess Eugenie’s husband

It can be hard work meeting royalty knowing when to bow or courtesy, whether to call them ‘your highness’, or ‘your majesty, or ‘big Phil.’ Now there’s an added complication as Casamigos, George Clooney’s Tequila brand, is insisting that Jack Brooksbank, husband of HRH (we got that bit right) Princess Eugenie, be referred to by his proper title. The PR missive reported in the Daily Mail stated: Due to the recent news surrounding the arrival of the Royal Baby from HRH Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank, we wanted to drop you a note to ask if you are to mention any further details about Jack Brooksbank that you use his official title: European Brand Director of Casamigos Tequila.” Now the happy news about the birth of the royal baby has been overshadowed in the media by this bit of clumsy corporate overreach. Not for us though, we want to offer our congratulations to HRH Princess Eugenie and EBDCT Jack Brooksbank!

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The Nightcap: 5 February

Another week has passed and that means it’s time for another hearty spoonful of brilliant and bonkers boozy stories that caught our eye. It’s The Nightcap! Are you Beast from…

Another week has passed and that means it’s time for another hearty spoonful of brilliant and bonkers boozy stories that caught our eye. It’s The Nightcap!

Are you Beast from the East ready? For readers outside the UK, this is a fearsome weather front that is coming in from the Eurasian landmass/ totally normally cold winter weather hyped up by the media, delete as applicable. However you look at it, it’s going to be freezing, so at MoM Towers, we’re stocking up on firewood, tasty snacks, those funny tennis racket type things that people wear on their feet in Scandinavia and huskies. We’ve already got plenty to drink but we’ve ordered a bit more just in case. You never know, we might get snowed in. Happily, we’ve also got extra amusing, interesting and downright bizarre stories from the world of booze this week, so if you can’t get out, there’s something to read. Yes, it’s a bumper Beast from the East Nightcap!

This week on the MoM blog we had the pleasure of welcoming Millie Milliken, who cast her eye on new make spirit and will be contributing more fabulous words in the future. As will the wonderful Lucy Britner, who returned this week to analyse some of film & TV’s most celebrated drinks and drinkers. Henry then showed you how to make five easy and classic serves and welcomed a grape-based aperitif that should be the drink of the summer. Elsewhere, Adam enjoyed one of the great modern cocktails, asked if augmented reality bottle labels have a future, showed you ten Tequilas and mezcals were big fans of and put together a handy little round-up of brilliantly boozy gifts for Valentine’s Day.

In this week's Nightcap more tariffs, again!

If you’re tired of all the tariff stories, join the club. Let’s hope the madness ends soon

US tariffs cost Scotch whisky £500m in lost exports

We don’t like to kick things off with a negative story but we’re afraid this one is too big to ignore. New figures suggest exports of single malt Scotch whisky have fallen by more than a third – amounting to more than £500m – since a 25% tariff was imposed in October 2019.  The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) was once again damning of the tariffs in response to the news, which were initially introduced by the Donald Trump administration in retaliation for EU state support given to Airbus. The industry body says distillers are continuing to pay the price for an aerospace dispute that has nothing to do with them and that the loss in sales and market share suffered by “large and small producers alike”, are so severe that some “may never now recover”. The SWA’s chief executive, Karen Betts is also calling for more support for the industry given the losses during the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the end of these punitive tariffs. “The government must also offer some support to distillers, who are shouldering tariff losses alongside dealing with unprecedentedly difficult trading conditions as a result of Brexit and global restrictions to curb Covid-19 transmission”. Hear, hear. Let’s hope sense prevails.

In this week's Nightcap... Icons of Whisky award winners!

Congratulations to Andy Watts and to everyone who picked up an award

Icons of Whisky regional winners announced

Whisky Magazine’s celebration of all things delicious and distilled has concluded today and there have been some notable winners in the Icons of Whisky awards. The year the winners were broadcast in a virtual awards ceremony online in order to adapt to a Covid-19 world. “After an incredibly challenging year it has been wonderful to witness the perseverance of the whisky industry,” Anita Ujszaszi, world whiskies awards director, said. “We have seen new and creative developments and innovation in the face of unexpected restrictions, and the resilience of those celebrated here is second to none.” The regional winners for America, Australia, Ireland, the Rest of World and Scotland were revealed this week, with Brown-Forman, Lark Distillery, Waterford DistilleryMackmyra and Whyte and Mackay winning distiller of the year in their respective categories. Winners of the master distiller/blender of the year included Victoria Eady Butler, Patrick Maguire, Noel Sweeney, Dhavall Gandhi and Bob Dalgarno. Meanwhile, in a popular move, Distell master distiller Andy Watts, the man responsible for the company’s South African whisky portfolio of Bain’s Cape Mountain Whisky and Three Ships Whisky, was inducted into Whisky Magazine’s Whisky Hall of Fame. Congratulations to all who picked up prestigious awards, we look forward to 25 March when the Global Winners of the Icons of Whisky Awards together with the World Whiskies Awards winners will be announced. 

In this week's Nightcap the industry is embracing environmentally friendly initiatives

It’s amazing to see Diageo leading by example like this

Diageo makes leap forward in sustainability measures

We’ll take any good news we can get at the moment so it was wonderful to see that Diageo made the headlines for a very positive reason this week. Not only did four of its Scotch whisky distilleries receive the award the UK’s highest eco-tourism award in the same week it unveiled the installation of a new weir and fish pass. Lagavulin, Blair Athol, Oban and Clynelish all received a gold certification from Green Tourism for sustainable practices, joining sister distilleries Glenkinchie and Royal Lochnagar on the list of Scotch whisky distilleries to receive the accreditation. Achievements praised by the assessors across the whisky attractions include biodiversity enhancement, local sourcing, community engagement and plastic reduction. As for the weir and fish pass, the £550,000 structure was built in collaboration with the Spey Fishery Board to help boost the sustainability of salmon and trout stocks in the river Dullan, part of the River Spey catchment that is crucial to the Scotch whisky industry. A similar, smaller-scale project has also recently been completed on the Burn of Linkwood at Linkwood Distillery in Elgin, while Diageo is also developing its programme of fish pass improvements near Glen Ord later this year. The environmental projects are part of Diageo’s Society 2030: Spirit of Progress sustainability plan, which promises a decade of action to tackle climate change. We salute them and all other brands who are committed to such ambitious environmental goals. Speaking of which…

In this week's Nightcap the industry is embracing environmentally friendly initiatives

The two expressions are believed to be the first carbon-negative English gins

Cooper King unveils first carbon-negative English gins

Cooper King Distillery has kept the green vibes going by revealing that its Dry Gin and Herb Gin have been certified carbon negative. This means the production process actually removes more carbon from the atmosphere than what is released. Cooper King met those standards by reducing the carbon footprint as much as possible, then offsetting the rest with verified carbon credits from Verra’s Verified Carbon Standard programme. The brand has claimed the move makes its products the first English gins to hold that certification. “Producing flavour-driven, sustainable drinks has always been at the core of what we do because we believe drinking good spirits needn’t cost the earth,” said Chris Jaume, co-founder of Cooper King Distillery, said: “Reaching this milestone is a significant step in our plan to become a carbon-negative distillery. We value people, planet and prosperity, and through sharing our findings in our publicly available carbon report we hope to inspire others to make a positive difference.” In addition, Cooper King has partnered with the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust to plant one square metre of native UK woodland for every bottle of gin produced and has planted 30 juniper bushes at the distillery, which could produce enough juniper for around 15,000 bottles of gin annually once mature. If you thought that’s where the brand’s environmental credentials end, you’d be wrong. Cooper King is also the first distillery in Europe to join the environmental initiative 1% for the Planet. We stan a responsible spirits producer!

In this week's Nightcap... sea shanties!

Fancy duetting a sea shanty with Justin Young? Now’s your chance!

Vaccines frontman performs Kraken rum’s sea shanty

Taking full advantage of the fact that sea shanties have made a remarkable comeback, Kraken rum has launched a new campaign with Justin Young, the frontman of topically-named band The Vaccines.  Hopping aboard the viral trend, Young has recorded a rendition of My Jolly Sailor, which tells the tale of a love doomed at the hands (or should that be tentacles?) of the kraken, which you can watch here. “Doomed love is the muse behind almost every song I’ve ever written,” explains Young. “Forget the bouquets or borrowed clichés, listeners of ‘My Jolly Sailor’ can expect to hear the harrowing, tragic demise of traditional Valentine’s Day romance.” But, most excitingly of all, fans can become part of the collaboration by contributing their own verse as part of a competition. The prize is a Serenading Sirens Valentine’s Day kit, which includes a limited edition vinyl edition of My Jolly Sailor, a black tentacle candle, and an exclusive Serenading Sirens cocktail which will be created from rum serenaded by Young while performing at The Troxy, London. Because rum tastes better when sung to by English indie frontmen. Everyone knows that. The competition, which you can enter here, is running until Monday 8 February, with 100 winners being announced on Tuesday February 9. 

In this week's Nightcap Glendronach launches new whisky

Be sure to keep an eye out for this beauty, it will be arriving here soon…

Coming soon: Glendronach Cask Strength Batch 9!

If there’s one thing Master of Malt customers love, it’s Glendronach. The Highland distillery is something of a cult favourite offering meaty sherried bottlings at prices that are far from unreasonable. Every so often, however, the distillery releases something that’s exceptional and just such a whisky is on its way in the form of Cask Strength Batch 9. It’s matured in a mixture of Pedro Ximénez and Oloroso sherry casks and bottled at 59.4% ABV. Master blender Dr. Rachel Barrie commented: “The GlenDronach Cask Strength Batch 9 is incredibly rich and full-bodied; the result of years of slow maturation in Pedro Ximénez puncheons and Oloroso sherry butts. Add a drop or two of water to reveal a cornucopia of flavour; from treacle toffee and raisin-filled toasted brioche, to baked apple and bramble pie and star anise. This crescendos into a lingering dark chocolate, espresso coffee finish. The depth of this Highland Single Malt’s character is boundless.” Blimey! Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? All this could be yours for a very reasonable RRP of £72, and it’s coming soon to Master of Malt. Credit cards at the ready…

In this week's Nightcap... Valentine's Day!

Nothing says I love you like quality booze. Right?

Say it with a Select Aperitivo hamper this Valentine’s Day

What would you like from your wife, husband, lover, special friend or secret admirer this Valentine’s Day? Flowers? Chocolates? An enormous inflatable pink elephant with the words ‘Please say yes, Janet!’ written on the side? Or how about a hamper from top Italian deli Prezzemolo & Vitale containing everything you need to have a perfect Venetian aperitif. We know what we’d prefer. The hamper not only includes a bottle of Select Aperitivo, soda water, Prosecco and glasses to make a spritz with but for the full Italian experience some delicious snacks including green and black olives, taralli with extra virgin olive oil, artichokes in olive oil and to finish, some chilli chocolate. All this for only £59 (plus postage). Go to the website for more information or visit its London delicatessens in Borough Market, Notting Hill and the Kings Road. Throw in an inflatable gondolier, stick on a bit of opera and it’ll be just like being in Venice. Who could resist that?

In this week's Nightcap the industry is embracing environmentally friendly initiatives

This must be one of the greenest Nightcap’s we’ve ever had.

Tidal power comes to Scotch whisky 

Marketing from brands like Old Pulteney and Talisker makes much of the influence of the sea on the whiskies but how great would it be if they were made by the sea rather than just ‘made by the sea.’ Confused? We’ll explain. A company called Nova Innovation will be installing turbines in the narrow straight between Islay and Jura called the Sound of Islay. Which is also a great name for a music festival. Simon Forrest, CEO of Nova Innovation, commented: “The Oran na Mara tidal array has the potential to pair one of Scotland’s largest and world-leading exports – whisky – with world-leading and internationally exportable tidal power technology.” These turbines will generate energy to power the local distilleries replacing fossil fuels. AJ Cunningham, operations manager at Bruichladdich Distillery, commented: “This tidal energy project is really encouraging news for Islay and the potential of energy sourced locally and renewably. In order to decarbonise our activities, access to a clean and continuous supply of energy such as tidal power could help support our carbon zero ambitions.” Last year, the SWA set ambitious plans to make the industry more environmentally friendly. Whisky distillation currently uses around seven times more energy than gin. It would be wonderful if the industry was able to harness something Scotland has in abundance, the sea, to whisky a bit greener.

In this week's Nightcap we learn about Aldi's wine school!

I’d never heard of an Aldiploma until today and I’ve never wanted anything more

Aldi puts the wine into homeschooling 

After a long day juggling homeschooling and zoom meetings, Aldi has the answer to help you relax: more school. Doesn’t sound that great, but this is a school with added wine, so Aldi is calling it… the Aldi Wine School! It’s the follow-up to 2019’s Aldiploma wine course and it’s being launched in conjunction with top Instagrammer Sarah Turner aka The Unmumsy Mum, with 412k followers (!), and Aldi’s very own master of wine, Sam Caporn aka the Mistress of Wine. The course consists of eight modules with classes on food and wine matching, and new world wines, to help you get the most out of your glass. The Unmumsy Mum comments:  “I usually feel bamboozled by the labels in the wine aisle and pick up a Shiraz out of habit, simply because I know I like it. The Aldiploma course bought me sheer joy in swapping phonics and fronted adverbials for a bit of grown-up home learning. Since completing these bitesize modules, I’ve discovered I also like Malbec and I’ve now got the confidence in trying to pick out what I can smell and taste in the glass. I can’t recommend it enough – it’s easy to follow and fascinating!” Sam Caporn added: “The Aldi Wine School, with its jargon free courses, hints and tips, is perfect for giving customers the confidence to try new things – we hope that it helps to spark a sense of fun and excitement when it comes to learning about wine!” Go to the supermarket’s dedicated wine school page and change those whines into wine.

In this week's Nightcap... this, for some reason

So… yeah. This happened.

And finally… Irish whiskey and Fabergé come together at last

Following the launch of The Devil’s Keep in November 2020, The Craft Irish Whiskey Co. is set to outdo itself for its second release: The Emerald Isle Collection. And we say outdo itself, we mean in sheer mind-boggling madness. The press release about the collection starts off pretty reasonably, informing us there are seven custom-made whiskey sets in total that feature two bottles of 30-year-old, triple distilled Irish whiskey, which is said to be the oldest triple-distilled Irish whiskey in existence. A big claim that we’re sure has been rigorously fact-checked. Then we’re informed The Craft Irish Whiskey Co has teamed up with Fabergé, which has created its first-ever Celtic Egg to “honour” Irish heritage. Because, umm… we don’t know. We have no idea what this egg has to do with anything Irish. Answers on a postcard. Oh, and the set also includes a Fabergé Altruist 18k rose gold timepiece and other “priceless” whiskey accessories. You can get more detailed descriptions of them upon request, which sounds like a laugh. The limited-edition boxes will be sold via a private auction in Houston, Texas on 2nd February 2021 at a world record starting price of 1.7m euros, which is the most startling fact of all, but sweet redemption comes with the note that 100% of all proceeds, beyond cost price, is going to charity. The news has still baffled much of the whiskey world, however, including the folks at Whiskysponge, who announced their retirement from public piss-taking upon seeing the press release. A spokesponge said: “I’ve been trying to think of something to say about this Irish egg box for 48 hours but nothing is actually funnier than what it already is.” We feel your pain, sweet, satirical sponge. The Sponge added “My work here is done.” 

No Comments on The Nightcap: 5 February

The Nightcap: 29 January

It’s Friday and that can only mean one thing: it’s the weekend! Oh, and The Nightcap is here! Which is actually two things. Two wonderful things. Let’s proceed. If you…

It’s Friday and that can only mean one thing: it’s the weekend! Oh, and The Nightcap is here! Which is actually two things. Two wonderful things. Let’s proceed.

If you dared to check out the news this week you’ll have seen all sorts of stories about vaccine politics and US stock trading or how it’s been a year since the confirmed case of Covid-19 in the UK. It’s all pretty heavy stuff and, we don’t know about you, but here at MoM Towers we are pretty fatigued by it. We long for the days when a dog chasing deer made the news. More stories like the Robin Hood society going to bed on Wednesday evening with under 400 Twitter followers and waking up to more than 33,000 on Friday are required. Bring on the wholesome content. Speaking of which, here’s The Nightcap. It’s got news on exciting whisky launches, new distilleries on the horizon and virtual whisky festivals to look forward to. Oh, and Bacardí doing the Conga! Can you feel the warm glow of lovely, silly escapism yet?

This week on the MoM blog we had the pleasure of unveiling The Buffalo Trace Antique Collection Archive and announcing the results of our third Burns Night poetry competition. My word, you are a creative lot. It was a joy to read the majority of your entries. Apart from the poetry composed by those who insisted on rhyming ‘whisky’ with ‘frisky’. You know who you are. Elsewhere, Ian Buxton revelled in the increasing popularity of rye whisky, Henry delved into the links between history, perfume and booze with BeauFort Spirit, Adam learned about the amazing story behind Masons Gin and Annie got the low-down on Kiwi whisky and more with Cardrona Distillery’s Sarah Elsom. We also enjoyed a five-year-old blended malt from Campbeltown, a once-forgotten classic cocktail and looking at some iconic booze bottle designs.

In The Nightcap this week we've got news on Ardbeg 25 Year Old the oldest permanent expression in the brand's core range

It’s the oldest and arguably most prestigious permanent expression yet!

Ardbeg reveals new whisky. Again.

Not content with just appearing in last week’s Nightcap, Ardbeg has only gone and released yet another intriguing new whisky. In fact, the Islay distillery has released the oldest expression yet to join its permanent range of whiskies: Ardbeg 25 Years Old. One of the most exciting releases to emerge from the distillery, the spirit was distilled during the 1990s, at a time when the brand was only producing a trickle of new make spirit every year. You know what that means. This is rare spirit, folks, and at that age expect a price tag to match. Of course, while this is incredibly exciting, there are some who will fear that so much maturation will tame Ardbeg’s smoky power. Dr Bill Lumsden, director of whisky creation, says this is not the case. “After a quarter of a century in the cask, you’d be forgiven for imagining that Ardbeg 25 Years Old would have lost some of the hallmark Ardbeg smoky punch. I can assure you it hasn’t,” he commented, adding: “There’s also a remarkable complexity and elegance to this whisky that I find utterly captivating. It’s unmistakably Ardbeg, but unlike any Ardbeg you’ve tasted before.” The official tasting note reveals aromas and flavours of smoked cream, earthy bonfires, peppermint, sherbet lemon sweetness, creamy toffee and Ardbeg’s classic fennel and pine resin note. Sounds delightful. As is the fact that Ardbeg 25 Years Old will be available from this very site soon…

In The Nightcap this week we're delighted to learn that we might get not one, but two Spirit of Speyside festivals!

We might get not one, but two Spirit of Speyside festivals this year!

Spirit of Speyside goes virtual. Again.

As you might expect given Fèis Ìle and the Campbeltown Malts Festival were cancelled, the Spirit of Speyside Festival has announced it will be taking its celebrations online this April. An array of delightful virtual events have been put together, including a tour of one of Dalmunach Distillery from master distiller Alan Winchester. There will also be an exploration of Benriach’s new portfolio with brand ambassador Stewart Buchanan and a whistle-stop virtual tasting tour of malt whisky country with The Malt Whisky Trail. The full programme will be revealed in the coming weeks and tickets will go on sale online on 16th March 2021. “Given whisky lovers won’t be able to come to Speyside for our annual festival this April, we have decided to take the festival to them,” James Campbell, chairman at The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, said. “In the meantime, we hope that our online programme of events in April will lift everyone’s spirits and give people a taste of what to expect from the festival in November. We will then revert back to our traditional date in 2022.” Yes, you read that correctly. The organisers have also said that, as long as it’s safe, there will also be a festival in person from 3-8 November 2021. As in a festival with proper humans walking around near each other without hazmat suits on. Hurrah!

In The Nightcap this week we welcome a new Speyside distillery

The imaginatively named Speyside Distillery will soon welcome a sister site!

New distillery from Speyside Distillers announced

Sticking with Scotland’s largest whisky-producing region, Speyside Distillers has revealed this week that it will build a new whisky distillery as part of exciting new expansion plans. While full details of the development are secret, including exactly where it will be located, we have got confirmation that the brand’s second distillery will be in Speyside. Which you probably guessed, to be fair. Best known for operating the Speyside Distillery near Kingussie in the foothills of the Cairngorms National Park, Speyside Distillers produce both Spey and Beinn Dubh whisky as well as Byron’s Gin. Managing director Patricia Dillon had this to say on the news. “Last year was challenging for us, as it was for most businesses dealing with Covid-19. Our plans for a new distillery will ensure that we can continue to distil the quantities of whisky required, while also allowing us room for further expansion. Although our full plans – including location and design – are currently under wraps, we’re looking forward to sharing more as they unfold over the coming months and years.” Speyside Distillers has been investing in its future for some time now, having spent £200,000 in creating a visitor centre in the Scottish Highlands of Aviemore in 2018 as well as signing a distribution deal with Luzhou Laojiao International Development in China in 2019. Most recently, the brand has taken on two new members of distilling staff, Martin MacLeod and Raymond MacKay, to assist long-serving employee Andrew Scorgie and distillery manager Allan Findlay. I think we can all agree it’s great to see positive news like this!

In The Nightcap this week we're sending a call out to UK bartenders!

Calling all UK bartenders! A fantastic opportunity, and plenty of vermouth, awaits…

Regal Rogue unveils bartender training program

To bring a bit of good old Australian positivity to the beleaguered British bar scene, Regal Rogue vermouth has just announced a bartender training program. These online sessions will be hosted by founder Mark Ward and the team from the brand’s new distributor, The Liana Collection. The challenge is to create a new cocktail featuring Regal Rogue vermouth with the hashtag: #RogueTipplecocktail. The winning bartender will win a load of Regal Rogue to put to use when the bars reopen. Please let that be soon. Mark Ward commented: “We are all too aware of the challenges facing the industry right now and we are looking to play our part in bringing the industry back to life in a post-Covid world. To that end, we are excited to announce our new partnership with The Liana Collection as our exclusive UK importer. We are looking forward to taking the brand to the next level with the team at Liana and with that, double down on our partnership with the UK bartender community.” David Wood from the Liana Collection added: “We believe training and development is something that can really add value while not breaking the rules of furlough while bar teams are stuck at home. Mark’s category knowledge is a sought-after resource and if I ran a bar team, I would be quick to jump at the opportunity. The sessions are open to all pubs, bars and restaurants across the UK and will operate on a first-come, first-serve basis.” For those not in the trade, we can all indulge in a little amateur mixology at home with Regal Rogue.

In The Nightcap this week we've got a delightfully mysterious Crabbie whisky

While the distillery wasn’t revealed, we can confirm this expression is mighty tasty

Crabbie releases 28-year-old whisky from mystery Speyside distillery

Hot on the heels of the delicious 1994 bottling which we covered last year, John Crabbie & Sons has just released a 28-year-old whisky from 1992. It’s all part of the countdown to the day when the revived Crabbie & Co. distillery in Edinburgh can bottle its first single malt. It won’t be for some time though as the first single malt distillery in the city for over 100 years only opened in 2018. With the 1994, Crabbie was open about the source of the whisky, Tobermory, but for this new release, the team is being all mysterious. All we have been told is that “it comes from a very famous distillery in the GLENLIVET [capitals theirs] valley.” There’s a clue in there somewhere. What we can say about it is that it’s delicious. The nose is like walking into a patisserie with almonds, vanilla, baking spices and orchard fruits, and it doesn’t disappoint in the mouth with a finish you can measure in minutes. We also know that it’s bottled at 45% ABV, costs around £350 and will be with Master of Malt soon.

In The Nightcap this week we cast a sceptical eye on hard seltzers

Hard seltzer is happening… apparently

Here at the Master of Malt blog, we’ve been a bit sceptical about hard seltzers. Whenever we hear those two words we channel Regina George in Mean Girls: “Stop trying to make hard seltzer happen, it’s not going to happen.” Granted they have taken America by storm, and what are essentially low sugar alcopops are clearly a good idea. Our problem is that the category is based on two words that mean nothing to British drinkers, hard meaning alcoholic and seltzer meaning sparkling water. Hoping to prove us wrong comes hard seltzer brand DRTY which has commissioned a report into the category with comments from various drinks industry veterans. According to its figures, from January 2020 the UK market has grown 947% by value. Sounds impressive, though the category did only appear in 2019 so it’s from a very low base. At the moment only 3.3% of households have bought a hard seltzer in the past year. The market is currently worth £10.4 million and if it keeps growing at the same rate it will be worth £75 million by 2023. There are certainly a lot of brands on the market both from multinationals to independent brands; like our own Nate Brown with his Easy Social Cocktail Co. Given a hot summer we think that certain brands will cut through, rather like Hooch and Two Dogs did back in the day. But whether the words ‘hard seltzer’ will be met with anything except bafflement on the streets of London, Leeds or Leighton Buzzard is another matter. 

And finally… Do-do-do. Bacardí does the conga!

It’s a song that has plagued weddings for years but that hasn’t stopped Bacardí by putting together a shiny new cover version of the Conga. The rum brand has put a contemporary spin on the 1980s hit by Gloria Estefan and Miami Sound Machine as part of a campaign launched in November which challenged rum fans around the world to “find their rhythm and do what moves them through song and dance”. If you did submit a video of you doing your thing to Instagram then you can check out the Conga Feat. You music video above to see if you made the cut. Among the fan submissions from around the world, the song also features Alesha DixonDiversity, Leslie GraceMeek Mill and was produced by the Grammy-winning Boi-1da (it’s a play on ‘boy wonder’. This man has a Grammy). Ned Duggan, global senior vice president for Bacardí, explained the inspiration behind the campaign. “We’ve always seen music as such a powerful force in bringing people together, and as the world trended toward division and isolation this past year, we wanted to use music as a catalyst to bring people back together in a way that has never been done before. We can’t wait for you to see it.” To accompany the release, Bacardí created a cocktail called the Coco Conga, a spin on the classic Mojito. You make it by adding 50ml Bacardí Carta Blanca Rum, 25ml lime juice, 2 tsp sugar and 12 fresh mint leaves to a highball glass. Press that mint with a bar spoon to release the oils, add crushed ice, almost to the top, and churn. Top with some Club Soda and crown with a playful splash (I like to say the word ‘splash’ out-loud when I do it) of Bacardí Coconut Flavored Rum. Finally, garnish that with beauty with a mint sprig and a lime wedge and find a nice seat to relax in and enjoy it with a good book. Nah, we’re just kidding. Go and do the Conga!

No Comments on The Nightcap: 29 January

The Nightcap: 22 January

In the Nightcap this week we cover the cancellation of some of our favourite whisky festivals (boo!), plenty of great work from The Drinks Trust (yay!) and the US Supreme…

In the Nightcap this week we cover the cancellation of some of our favourite whisky festivals (boo!), plenty of great work from The Drinks Trust (yay!) and the US Supreme Court’s verdict on a parody dog toy that upset Jack Daniel’s (???).

Hello again everyone. We hope you’re all staying safe and managing the seemingly endless lockdown ok. We found a useful way of doing that is to appreciate those small moments of joy we can overlook. Like hearing a new song you love or making yourself a plate of delicious carbohydrates to inhale. Plus, there’s vaccines and dogs and all kinds of exciting and wondrous things happening in the world of booze to enjoy. Which is why we do The Nightcap. This industry never fails to amaze. Did you ever think you’d see Fatboy Slim, pre-French Revolution Cognac, pirate-themed whisky, CBD gin and the US Supreme Court in one article?

On the blog this week, we introduced our solution to the blandness of the season with Try January! Then, we looked forward to a different but still delightful Burns Night by checking out the most exciting virtual events taking place and recommending some cracking whiskies to enjoy on the night. We also had our fill of tasty cocktails, from a classic gin-based pre-Prohibition serve to serves that can transport you across the world. Expressions that caught our eye included a terrific dram from Aberlour was our New Arrival of the Week, a non-alcoholic spirit inspired by the historical distinction of London Dry gin and a selection of bargain white wines.

Now, on to The Nightcap!

On The Nightcap this week: Fèis Ìle,

It’s heartbreaking to know we won’t be going back again, but safety is the priority.

Fèis Ìle and Campbeltown Malts Festival cancelled

In unsurprising, but still terribly sad news, there will be no Fèis Ìle or Campbeltown Malts Festival this year. Much like in 2020, the organisers of the two internationally-renowned events were moved to axe them in the face of huge uncertainty over the impact of coronavirus restrictions. Planning a programme, buying/selling tickets and booking accommodation in advance as normal hasn’t been possible due to the ongoing curbs on travel, social gatherings and events. Virtual versions of  both festivals will take place instead. Springbank Distillery announced last night on Instagram that the Campbeltown distilleries felt it was the only option, “as the UK is currently in the midst of lockdown restrictions and it is unlikely that mass gatherings will be allowed by May”. Islay’s hugely popular music and malt festival released a similar statement. “With deep regret, we announce that this year’s festival is cancelled. We have discussed this with our distillery partners, and we have come to this decision together,”. The organisers went on to say, “We know you won’t like hearing this news. We don’t like saying it. But please just keep Islay in your hearts for a little longer: hold on to the love of the island, the music, the whisky and the company, and the embraces when we see you again will be all the sweeter.”

On The Nightcap this week: Arrrrrrrdbeg

It’s a most fitting tribute. Arrr!

Ardbeg reveals new whisky: Arrrrrrrdbeg

There can’t be many jobs that reward you with leaving presents as cool as the drinks industry provides. Just ask Mickey Heads. As regular Nightcap readers will know, the well-regarded distillery manager announced his retirement last year from his role at Ardbeg (although he will be continuing in his role as chairman of the Ardbeg Committee). So the Islay-based distillery has created a new whisky to celebrate his time there. How cool is that? The new whisky is a pirate-themed expression called Ardbeg Arrrrrrrdbeg (hell yeah) and is the distillery’s first-ever whisky matured in ex-rye casks. The brand’s tasting notes describe flavours such as gunpowder, smoked banana, rye bread, sweet vanilla toffee, an aniseed breeze, Brazil nuts and gentle smoke. Sounds delicious. But, sadly, this is an Ardbeg Committee exclusive bottling. That means if you want to get your hands on a bottle you’ll have to head on over to the Ardbeg website and join the committee before it is released in the UK on the 2 February 2021. Members are due to receive an email that morning with a link giving them the chance to buy a bottle. Dr Bill Lumsden, director of whisky creation at Ardbeg, described the dram as a “perfectly peaty parting gift” and thanked Heads for his time there, commenting: “Working with Mickey has been an absolute joy. He’s somebody with a genuine passion for Ardbeg and we hope that this bottling will take pride of place in his collection. He’s presided over many momentous Ardbegs over the years, but this ‘end of an era’ edition is a special one”. You can still pick up all kinds of tasty Ardbeg whisky from us, however, and raise a glass of that to the man who led Ardbeg to three IWC ‘Distillery of the Year’ titles in a row and was named Distillery Manager of the Year 2014 instead. Slange var! 

On The Nightcap this week: Fèis Ìle,

The Drinks Trust welcomes Troy Christensen, Jaega Wise, Ian Burrell and Becky Paskin.

The Drinks Trust welcomes new chair and patrons

We got some good news courtesy of The Drinks Trust this week as it appointed a new chair of its board of trustees, Troy Christensen and welcomed three new patrons, Ian Burrell, Becky Paskin and Jaega Wise. Christensen, who first joined the charity in 2018,  brings 15 years’ experience in the drinks trade with Constellation Brands and as CEO of Accolade Wines from 2011 until 2013. He was appointed CEO of Enotria Wine Cellars in June 2014 and oversaw the acquisition of Coe Vintners in 2015. “This remarkable charity has represented and defended employees of the wine and spirits industry for over a hundred years. After the unbelievable challenges 2020 presented to our industry through the impact of Covid and government policy, this is a very relevant time for The Drinks Trust,” he commented. Helping Christensen and co. to raise awareness and increase the charity’s reach and impact are new patrons Ian Burrell, rum ambassador; Becky Paskin, spirits journalist and co-founder of Our Whisky; and Jaega Wise, TV and radio presenter and head brewer at the Wild Card Brewery. They will join existing patrons Matthew Rhys, Jancis Robinson MW OBE and Olly Smith as well as Founder Patron, Tom Yusef who said, “The help and time from our new patrons to further our causes whilst helping The Drinks Trust to reach new audiences is greatly appreciated. We are excited to be working with such dynamic and inspirational people in the drinks industry”.

On The Nightcap this week: rare Macallan

This beauty is sure to fetch an eye-popping price

World’s most expensive whisky tipped to set new records

The second half of an incredible collection of whisky will go under the hammer next month in a sale that is set to enter the record books. From 12-22 February 2021, over 1,900 bottles of the rarest single malts in existence, will feature in the sale hosted by Whisky Auctioneer. Leading the auction is The Macallan 1926 Fine and Rare 60 Year Old, which is expected to beat the current world record hammer price of £1.2m, which is held by a Macallan from the same original bottling batch. Other standout whiskies include The Balvenie 1937 50 Year Old, Bowmore’s legendary 1964 vintage and a 1921 private cask bottling of Dallas Dhu which has not been seen on the secondary market for over 25 years. The Perfect Collection Part Two, which initially launched last April, was postponed following a major cyber attack. Part one took place in February 2020, fetching a total hammer price of £3.2million as Whisky Auctioneer became the first online auction house to sell a million-dollar bottle. The collection was amassed by late American businessman and philanthropist, Richard Gooding and is one of the largest and most significant ever to go to public auction. “Mr Gooding’s Collection is nothing short of extraordinary and we are honoured and delighted to bring it to auction,” says Iain McClune, founder of Whisky Auctioneer. “Collectors, investors and whisky lovers alike will have their interest sparked by the truly astonishing array of whiskies on offer”. 

On The Nightcap this week: rare Cognac

Want to own Cognac distilled when Napoleon was eight years old? Now you can.

Pre-French Revolution Cognac goes under the hammer

We got quite excited last year at getting hold of some 1895 Cognac from Hermitage but new lots going up on Whisky.Auction on Sunday 31 January make that venerable liquid look positively sprightly. The collection belonging to Jacques Hardy, from a well-known Cognac family, contains bottles from 1802 and 1777. The last one a pre-Revolutionary vintage distilled when Napoleon was just an eight-year-old boy with big dreams. It boggles the mind that you might be able to taste such a piece of history. The grapes came from Domaine de la Vie in Grand Champagne and after distillation, the liquid spent around 100 years in oak before being transferred to a demijohn and finally bottled in 1936. It was given to Jacques’ uncle, James Hardy, on his wedding day by his new family-in-law. Much better than new linens. It’s one of only five such bottles in existence. Sukhinder Singh from Whisky. Auction commented: “I am pleased to have tried this around 10 years ago when it was available at The Lanesborough Hotel in London. What a privilege it was to taste such old liquid that was still fresh and full of life with the lingering rancio flavour that you find in pre-phylloxera Cognac.” The rest of the collection is equally mind-blowing as alongside the 1777 and 1802, there’s an 1812, a 1906 and a mere baby, the 1914. The bottles are being sold as individual lots, and the auction will go live on Sunday 31 January 2021, running for ten days until Tuesday 9 February. Happy bidding!

On The Nightcap this week: The Drinks Trust,

The money goes to a great cause, so do check it out

Fatboy Slim signed prints up for auction for The Drinks Trust

How’s your living room looking? A bit bare, perhaps? What you need are some gorgeous limited edition prints which have just gone on sale called A Shot in Time. These five pictures celebrate five emotions associated with hospitality: togetherness, happiness, resilience, family and, not forgetting, shenanigans. Remember shenanigans? The creator of these prints is drinks photographer Addie Chinn. Each one costs £50, is A3 size and part of a limited run of only 50. Best of all, all the profits go to The Drinks Trust, to raise essential funding to those needing critical social, medical and financial help for them and their families in the hospitality sector.  Go to Our Future Proof Website to buy yours. But that’s not all! Mr Fatboy Slim himself, Norman Cook, has signed and captioned a set of prints which will be auctioned at Whisky.Auction of 31 January 4pm. It’s all happening there this week. Follow @OurFutureProof for more information. 

On The Nightcap this week: spaniels

It’s not a story of Jack Daniel’s getting into a fight with actual dogs, but it’s no less ridiculous.

And finally… Bad Spaniels beat Jack Daniels

In a long-running legal battle between a small dog, VIP Products, and a big animal, Brown Forman, it looks like the little dog will, at last, have its day. It all started with the launch of a dog chew toy called Bad Spaniels that looked a lot like a bottle of Jack Daniels, with the words ‘Old No. 7 Tennessee sour mash whiskey’ replaced with ‘The Old No.2 on your Tennessee carpet’. Clever! Following cease and desist letters from the whiskey firm, VIP products sued Jack Daniel’s in 2014. Initially, a court found that the toy did infringe on Jack Daniel’s trademarks but then in 2020 the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled in favour of Bad Spaniels. The big boys at JD weren’t done yet, so they petitioned the Supreme Court but this month the highest court in the US declined to hear the case. So it looks like, finally, the spaniel has won. Moral of the story: don’t get in a fight with a dog over a chew toy. Not only will you lose, but you’ll be left looking foolish.  

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The Nightcap: 15 January

In this week’s edition of The Nightcap, we lament tariffs again, celebrate the arrival of some charming new booze and try to comprehend how delicious Bordeaux wine made it to…

In this week’s edition of The Nightcap, we lament tariffs again, celebrate the arrival of some charming new booze and try to comprehend how delicious Bordeaux wine made it to space and back without being drunk…  

Welcome everyone, we hope you’re keeping safe and warm during Lockdown III: Lockdowner and enjoying the outdoors when you can. We’re trying to stay chipper ourselves, although we were irked when we noticed in our dictionary that the definition of the word ‘nightcap’ was somewhat lacking. There were references to an alcoholic drink taken at the end of the day, a cloth cap worn with nightclothes and the final race or contest of a day’s sports. But what there wasn’t any word of was this perfectly suitable definition: a charming weekly round-up of all things boozy and newsy, best enjoyed with a dram in-hand. Clearly an oversight. Step-up your game Merriam-Webster. Anyway, here’s another edition of the Nightcap. Perhaps you could pop a jaunty little cloth cap on while you read it?

On the blog this week we announced some good news regarding shipping to Northern Ireland as well as two new competitions: one being our magnificent Burns Night poetry competition, back by popular demand, and the other offering you the chance to win a VIP trip to Benriach Distillery. Ian Buxton returned to cast an eye on a new generation of distillers who are creating whisky with all sorts of uncommon grains, while Adam also embraced the weird and wonderful by enjoying some tasty new baijiu. Elsewhere, we rounded up some of the most delicious low- and no-alcohol drinks on the market for Dry January, showed you how creating your own cocktail ingredients is easier than you might think and enjoyed the marvels of vermouth by welcoming a new expression that honours the father of mixology, Mr Jerry Thomas and using another impressive creation in our delightfully simple and sublime Cocktail of the Week

Now, on to The Nightcap!

The Nightcap

Karen Betts from the SWA was on hand to sum up the mood

US tariffs to remain on Scotch whisky

We reported last month that the UK would be dropping the tariffs on American whiskey now that it was out of the EU. We finished by anticpating that the Americans would reciprocate by dropping their 25% tariffs on Scotch but it seems that this won’t be happening in the foreseeable future. It was hoped that a deal could be pushed through in the last days of the Trump administration but it seems that the president has more pressing concerns. According to a story in The Times, the British team don’t hold out much hope that Katherine Tai, the incoming US trade representative, will be prioritising ending the tariffs. Karen Betts from the SWA commented:Tariffs remain on Scotch whisky: A missed opportunity to straighten out subsidies to aerospace and lift hugely damaging tariffs on Scotch Whisky. There’s certainly deep disappointment across the industry. Over £400m in losses and counting.” And there was us hoping that 2021 would begin on a positive note.

The Nightcap

The distillers signed the bottles. All nine of them!

Torabhaig to auction two rare whiskies for charity

There’s already plenty of excitement around the launch of Torabhaig’s first whisky, but that hasn’t stopped the brand from generating even more anticipation by announcing that it will auction two rare signed bottles of Torabhaig Single Malt ahead of its general release in February. The auction, which will start on the 31st January on Whisky Auction, includes a single cask bottle from the Torabhaig Family Reserve (future expressions from the Family Reserve will remain in a private collection and unavailable to purchase normally) as well as a bottle of the ‘Legacy Series 2017’ peated single malt, both of which have been signed by all nine Torabhaig distillers. All proceeds of the sale will go to the National Centre for Gaelic Language and Culture, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig and the Dr MacKinnon Memorial Broadford Hospital. Given the upcoming launch is from the first whisky distillery to be built on Skye in 190 years and only the second legal whisky distillery ever to operate on the island (after Talisker), many of us whisky lovers are understandably very excited to get our hands on its inaugural whisky. Good thing we can reveal that the Legacy Series 2017 will be available from MoM Towers, but keep in mind that this is a limited single distillation vintage issue with just over 3,000 bottles available for distribution in the UK and 6,000 in the USA so demand is likely to outstrip supply.

The Nightcap

The hospitality industry has welcomed the government’s vote

UK government votes in favour of hospitality minister

Given the state of things right now we’re always delighted to welcome some good news in our industry and we got some this week after MPs voted in favour of creating a minister of hospitality in the UK. The notion was debated by the UK government after an online petition secured more than 200,000 signatures and following a 90-minute debate in Westminster on Monday 11 January, the vote gained the support it needed. While this doesn’t guarantee the role will be created, the hospitality industry has welcomed the government’s recognition of the sector’s importance, with issues like extending the VAT cut and the business rates holiday and often forgotten parts of the sector like nightclubs, wedding venues, conference centres and the industry’s critical supply chain receiving attention. This has raised hopes the debate will prompt senior leadership within the Conservative Party to seriously consider the proposal. “It was incredibly positive to hear so many MPs being vocal advocates of the hospitality sector. There was unanimous recognition of our importance economically and socially. It is striking that, in the end, the petition got more than 200,000 signatures,” Kate Nicholls, UKHospitality chief executive, said, in her second Nightcap appearance in as many weeks. “We all understand the importance of what we do and it is good to see the government recognise the importance of working closely with the sector to ensure that we are properly supported, not just during this crisis but more generally.”

The Nightcap

Over £36k for a great cause has been raised. Thanks to all who took part!

Our Macallan auction raises £36k for Hospitality Action 

We always knew that the Macallan Red collection, consisting of whiskies of up to 78 years old, would be seriously in demand with Master of Malt customers. That’s why when we received our allocation, we decided to sell them through a charity auction, as we do for all in-demand whiskies. Well, the whiskies went quickly, no surprise there, and we’re delighted to announce that we have raised £36,510.00 for Hospitality Action, which offers a crucial lifeline to people of all ages, working and retired, from the hospitality industry. Justin Petszaft, Atom Group CEO, commented: “It’s been a hard year for everyone, but particularly those in the hospitality sector, so we’ve been looking for ways to help them weather the storm until they can fully re-open in the summer. Macallan is always highly collectable, so we knew demand for this collection would be high, and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to help raise some much needed funds for our friends in the on-trade. When we set this live none of us could have imagined how much it would raise: £36,000 is a huge amount of money and will make a real difference to so many people’s lives who desperately need our help right now. I’d like to thank both Macallan for providing such a fantastic set of bottles for us to auction, and our incredible customers for being so amazingly generous in their bids. As ever, you guys rock.”

The Nightcap

Orkney Distillery is one of many embracing its environmental responsibilities (image credit to Colin Keldie)

Distilleries go green with government initiative

The winners of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Green Distilleries Competition were announced on Friday 8th January 2021, with 17 distilleries receiving the first phase of £10 million government funding to go green, including Bruichladdich, The Orkney Distillery and Highland Park. The government initiative aims to find ways of decarbonising the distilling sector and the fund will assist distilleries in the search for lower-carbon alternatives to generate heat for processes such as malting and distilling. Bruichladdich revealed last week that more than £70,000 has been awarded to its project partner, Protium Green Solutions, in order to complete a feasibility study on incorporating innovative hydrogen combustion technology as part of ambitious plans to decarbonise its production process by 2025. Highland Park and The Orkney Distillery, in Kirkwall, are also set to take part in a £58,781 research project led by the Stromness-based European Marine Energy Centre (Emec), along with industrial decarbonisation experts from Edinburgh’s Napier University. The HySpirits 2 project in Kirkwall follows research completed last year by Emec at The Orkney Distillery, which investigated the feasibility of using a hydrogen-fuelled thermal fluid heating system there. “We understand that there is real potential for a  hydrogen‐based solution to decarbonise our industry,” says Allan Logan, production director of Bruichladdich. “We are thrilled to have the support of Protium, Deuterium and ITPEnergised to help us assess the feasibility of employing a green hydrogen fuel switching solution for our distillery – a move we hope benefits the broader industry”. It’s terrific to see that, despite everything that’s going on, there are those who are focused on planning for a better future.

The Nightcap

Smoky French Martinis, anyone?

Thomas Lowndes creates RTD cocktail range

The ready-to-drink (RTD) market is booming at the moment, which is understandable given you can’t turn to bartenders to provide delicious and convenient complex serves at the moment. In fact, RTDs are forecast to remain the fastest‐growing alcohol sector over the next five years, according to the IWSR Drinks Market Analysis. As the category widens and develops new products naturally follow and this week learned that Edrington-Beam Suntory UK has made a serious step into this market with the launch of the Thomas Lowndes 1826 range of RTD products. The Glasgow-based firm Thomas Lowndes has been part of EBS UK since 2015 and has named its new range after the year Mr Lowndes founded the business. It comprises four bottled cocktails: an Old Fashioned and a Mint Julep made with Maker’s Mark bourbon, a Cognac Espresso Martini that features Courvoisier and a Smoky French Martini made using Laphroaig whisky instead of vodka or gin, all of which are available from us (just give those links a click). “This exciting new range by 1826, associated with premium whiskies, Cognacs and bourbons gives us the perfect opportunity to showcase how easily bar-quality cocktails can be created in the home,” Moira Jacques, general manager of Thomas Lowndes, said. “We want to show customers that you can create premium, top-quality drinks in the comfort of your own home.”

The Nightcap

Beefeater’s new look will save 410 tonnes of plastic every year

Beefeater gin unveils sustainable bottle

Beefeater London Dry Gin has announced this week a plan to reduce the amount of plastic it uses by unveiling a more sustainable packaging design. The new bottle is made entirely from recyclable glass and is said to save the Pernod Ricard-owned brand 410 tonnes of plastic every year. The previous plastic cap has been replaced with an embossed, aluminium cap and the label has been changed from PVC to paper and the bottle, the shape of which you might have noticed was inspired by London bricks, was also designed with bartenders in mind as it makes pouring the gin easier. “Whilst our packaging has evolved our award-winning gin remains the same, with every drop distilled in the heart of London. The design of the bottle, from its shape to its label, paints a picture of what the liquid inside will taste like,” said Murielle Dessenis, global brand director of Beefeater. “The new design has performed well with bartenders and consumers alike, and we’re proud to have designed this new iteration of Beefeater’s iconic bottle with sustainability in mind, taking the brand on to the next step in its journey with a natural evolution for today’s gin enthusiasts.” The new design will be rolled out globally from this month and will cover the whole Beefeater range, with the exception of Beefeater 24.

The Nightcap

How you can resist cracking open a bottle of wine in space, we’ll never know.

And finally… Bordeaux wines return from space, undrunk!

If you were floating around on the International Space Station and there was a case of wine lying around, you’d crack open a bottle, wouldn’t you? Well, miraculously a case of Bordeaux that spent a year in space landed in the sea this week off the coast of Florida, completely intact. Not a drop had been drunk. The package also contained 160 canes each of Cabernet and Merlot. No, this wasn’t a psychological experiment in resisting temptation, it was part of a research project by a company called Space Cargo looking into the effects of extreme conditions on vines and wine to understand the stress they might endure from climate change. This isn’t the first time Bordeaux has been into space, a bottle of Chateau Lynch Bages 1975 went up on the space shuttle in 1985, and also came home intact because nobody had drunk it. Amazing willpower these astronauts.

No Comments on The Nightcap: 15 January

The Nightcap: 8 January

We’ve got a couple of weeks of news to catch up on for the first Nightcap of 2021, so this week is full to the brim of boozy happenings! Well, we’re…

We’ve got a couple of weeks of news to catch up on for the first Nightcap of 2021, so this week is full to the brim of boozy happenings!

Well, we’re one week into 2021 and it wasn’t exactly the turnaround we might have hoped for. But, while you might be inclined to cancel your subscription to the new year after a pretty underwhelming 7-day free trial, we’re optimistic here at MoM Towers. Why? Well, if there’s one thing The Nightcap demonstrates is that each week is filled with something that will make you laugh or get you excited and 2020 proved that nothing can stop the influx of brilliant and bonkers boozy stories. So, assuming aliens don’t invade or a chunky asteroid doesn’t land in Speyside, we think there’s cause for optimism. And if you don’t believe, wait until you read this week’s And Finally…

On the MoM blog, we saw off the last of that wretched year by acknowledging some of the better aspects of it, including our most-read and personal favourite posts, before casting an eye towards 2021 and predicting what it might bring. The new year on the blog, meanwhile, kicked off with our ongoing auction for The Macallan’s incredible Red Collection, which will raise money for Hospitality Action and some delightful new arrivals, including an apple brandy that was aged in Japanese whisky casks and bourbon which is made from four grains. There’s also been plenty of cocktail coverage from Annie, who made the underappreciated Vieux Carré and the real star of Netflix’s The Queen’s Gambit, The Gibson, championed the humble muddler and put together 10 classic cocktail recipes, presented with both boozy ingredients and non-alc alternative and Henry put together a list of splendidly affordable red wines. Elsewhere we found time to run the rule on Tomatin’s core range, look inside the English Spirit Distillery, find out how Irish mead is making its mark in the 21st century and why you should know all about Maidstone gin

The Nightcap

The US will finally allow 700ml bottles, hurrah!

US to allow 700ml bottles for the first time

You’ll be pleased to know that 2020 ended with a rare bit of good news for the drinks industry as it was announced that the law regarding wine and distilled spirits containers in the US were amended to allow the importation of European 700ml bottles. The Treasury Department’s Tax and Trade Bureau, which regulates alcoholic beverages at the federal level, published new regulations on 29 December 2020 which updated the so-called “standards of fill” for wine (355ml, 250ml and 200ml) and spirits (1.8L, 900ml, 720ml and 700ml), which means that brands will no longer have the burden of spending time and money making unique US size bottles, granting producers greater flexibility and consumers with more choice. Previously drinks makers were forced to produce 700ml bottlings for the European market and special 750ml bottlings to sell in the US, which led to many small independent producers opting to avoid the extra costs by not exporting their tasty goods to the US. While there’s still some work to be done (allowing for  3+ litre sizes for spirits to save on packaging, for example) it’s a welcome bit of economic and logistical relief after a torrid year for the industry. Now wouldn’t it be great if we could reciprocate by allowing 750ml in the UK which would help a lot of small US distillers?

The Nightcap

The Walking Man’s impressive new home edges ever closer to opening…

Johnnie Walker offers glimpse inside Princes Street

If you’re a Nightcap regular you’ll have read all about Johnnie Walker’s exciting new whisky visitor experience in Princes Street, Edinburgh, which is set to open in the summer of 2021. But now, for the first time, the Scotch whisky giant has revealed a glimpse of the eagerly anticipated attraction to fans, which will feature rooftop bars, private dining areas, modern sensory tasting rooms, personalised tour and tasting experiences, and live performance areas. The interior of the building, a closely-guarded secret, is on show, as is The 1820 bar, a cocktail bar and outdoor terrace with views of the Edinburgh famous skyline, The Explorers’ Bothy, a whisky bar that will stock over 150 rare bottles and one-of-a-kind cask editions, and the Johnnie Walker Label Studio, a performance space that will host live events and performances. For more info, click here. The Johnnie Walker Princes Street visitor attraction is at the centre of Diageo’s £185m investment into the transformation of its Scotch whisky tourism, having already revamped Glenkinchie Distillery, while further investment into the remainder of Diageo’s 11 Scotch whisky brand homes as well as the revival of lost distilleries Port Ellen and Brora is also in the works. So there’s something to look forward to in 2021!

Water of Life film to launch among virtual festivities 

The Water of Life, a new feature documentary that focuses on those at the heart of the Scotch whisky revolution that turned the industry of the 1980s into the titan it is today, is on the way. Which is exciting. Even more thrilling, however, is that the film won’t launch with an ordinary premiere, but instead a week-long Burns Night Celebration that you can take part in! Kicking off on the 22nd January and running through the 27th January, the virtual online program includes a screening of the film followed each night by a unique hour-long session featuring the stars of the film. There will also be an option to purchase tasting kits specifically curated to accompany the film and take viewers on a taste journey. “Our biggest challenge, as with any food or drink film, is you can’t taste the screen. When putting this event together it was important that we found a way to bring not just the story to the screen but to engage the audience in a way whisky does,” said director Greg Swartz. “Our Burns Night  Celebration will bring all the senses together through watching the movie, pairing that with the tasting kits, and offering the opportunity to join the stars to hear them talk more about their passions.”  For tickets, tasting kits and more info just click here and if you’d like to see a trailer for The Water of Life, featuring Bruichladdich legends Jim McEwan and Mark Reynier as well as Billy Walker, Dr Rachel Barrie, David Stewart, Kelsey McKechnie, Neil Ridley and Joel Harrison and more, then simply click on the video above!

The Nightcap

Could bars and pubs switch from dispensing beer to dispensing vaccines?

Brewers offer their pubs as vaccination centres. 

Like many things in the modern age, it began with a tweet. Keir Shiels, consultant paediatrician at the Great Ormond Street hospital in London, suggested on the 31 December: “Pubs could be turned into vaccination hubs. There’s space. There’s staff. There’s fridges. There’s refreshment facilities. There’s one in every village.” Since then things have snowballed with both Brewdog and Shepherd Neame pledging their help. Jonathan Neame CEO at Shepherd Neame commented: “We have offered up some of our pubs to act as vaccination hubs, in target areas, in the main they are well located, spacious and with large refrigeration capacity.” Nothing has happened yet though James Watt from Brewdog announced that he is in talks with the Government. Let’s hope something comes off this as it would really help speed up distribution of the vaccine especially if brewers could offer a pint to enjoy while you wait. We’d be first in the queue.

The Nightcap

Some good news from 2020 was that fortified wine got some well-deserved love

A bumper year for fortified wine 

Port and sherry have been rocking this year. There was an article on the BBC website about the so-called ‘tapas effect’ as people unable to travel recreated their summer trips at home with a bottle of sherry. Meanwhile, we reported back in October that Taylor’s Port sales had grown despite, or maybe because of lockdown. Figures just released by the WSTA bear this out: the fortified wine category has seen an increase in sales of nearly 10% in 2020, a remarkable feat considering the impact lockdown has had on on-trade sales. Despite on-trade orders being down 42% (by volume), the category grew from £270 million in 2019 to £303 million last year. This increase was coupled with the category’s best quarter for five years, giving hope that despite such a tough year, Christmas traditions remained as strong as ever in 2020. Miles Beale, chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, said: “In such a difficult year, the news that we have been enjoying more Ports and sherries at home recently to arrest slow stagnation in the category is welcome… Santa loves his sherry, and in 2020 many consumers will also be rekindling their festive love affairs with fortifieds!” But as we always say, fortified wine is not just for Christmas and if you’re looking for inspiration, we’ve got some great wines right here.

The Nightcap

Nightcap favourite Miles Beale is back for 2021

WSTA reacts to Brexit deal

It’s a very special Nightcap this week as we have two stories featuring everyone’s favourite chief executive Mr Miles Beale from the WSTA. Beale has been one of the most vocal voices standing up for the drinks industry and warning of the perils of a no-deal Brexit, so he more than most was relieved that the EU and the British government managed to come to an agreement at the end of last year. Doesn’t it seem like a long time ago? Anyway, here’s what Beale had to say: “Today’s announcement will be a welcome relief to the UK’s wine and spirit sector. We look forward to seeing the detail and to its swift ratification. The threat of the introduction of wine tariffs and the uncertainty over the ability to move goods into and out of the EU were weighing heavy on the minds of businesses already reeling from the effect of Covid restrictions, while also having to prepare for the end of the transition period in a week’s time.” But it wasn’t all good, Beale added: “Businesses have been working hard to prepare for the introduction of new customs processes and systems, new labelling rules, new import certification rules for wine all of which will add to the cost of importing and exporting wine and spirits. And yet, astonishingly, those businesses are still waiting for the government to grip the reins and confirm some of the details to allow trade with Ireland and the rest of the EU to continue next year.” So plenty more work to be done, we haven’t heard the last of Miles Beale in 2021.

The Nightcap

Richard Paterson was one of the drinks industry figures honoured

Richard Paterson and Kate Nicholls honoured by Queen 

The New Year’s Honours list had plenty of interesting names as usual on it for 2021 (although nothing for Sam Smith yet. Give the people what they want, your majesty), including some drinks industry giants such as UKHospitality boss Kate Nicholls and The Dalmore whisky blender Richard Paterson. Nicholls, who was appointed an OBE for service to the hospitality, was singled out for her tireless support of the beleaguered hospitality industry during the ongoing Covid crisis, while Paterson was also appointed an OBE for services to the Scotch whisky industry, including over a half a century at Whyte & Mackay. It caps quite a year for the legendary master blender, aka ‘The Nose’, who made the move to step back from some of his Whyte & Mackay duties and also lend his expertise to the exciting Wolfcraig Distillery project. Other members of the hospitality industry recognised included Michelin-starred chef Fergus Henderson and Richard Curtis, the landlord of the Portsmouth Arms in Basingstoke (not the director of Notting Hill and Love Actually) was made a Medallist of the Order of the British Empire (BEM) after raising over £52,500 for local charities by holding weekly virtual quizzes in his pub after it was closed in March. Given what a rough time this industry is having at the moment, it is at least nice to see these efforts being appreciated.

The Nightcap

American whiskey lost one of its greats this week

Michter’s master distiller Willie Pratt dies at 78

We were sad to hear this week about the death of an American whisky legend, Willie Pratt, master distiller at Michter’s. Born in Kentucky in 1942, he began his career with Brown-Forman where he worked in all aspects of the business before retiring at the age of 65. But in 2007 he was lured out of retirement and took up the role of head distiller at Michter’s where he became known as Dr No for his refusal to bottle any whiskey until he thought it was ready. Here he oversaw the design and building of Michter’s ultra-modern new Shively Distillery. In 2017 he was inducted into The Whisky Magazine Hall of Fame. Michter’s president Joseph J. Magliocco commented: “To work with Willie and to have him as a friend was a tremendous gift. When the challenges seemed overwhelming, that’s when Willie’s leadership would shine through. He was a paradigm of strength and courage.” Distilling is now in the safe hands of Dan McKee who added: “Times like this make me realise how fortunate I was to be able to learn from one of the greats in the industry. I’m going to miss standing back in the distillery with Willie, talking about making whiskey and listening to his life stories.”  Thank you Willie, we’re raising a tumbler of Michter’s Rye to you now. 

And finally… Gin flavoured with car?

We’ve had some pretty strange gins on the Nightcap: gin infused with Brussel sprouts, gin made from peas, we even stock a gin that has been into space, but gin flavoured with car? Sounds like something from the fevered imagination of Jeremy Clarkson but Piston distillery in Worcester has come up with just such a spirit. It’s infused with leftovers from the production of Morgan cars in nearby Malvern. If you had images of bits of oily steel steeping in neutral grain alcohol then think again because Morgan produces gorgeous cars that in many ways haven’t changed much since the 1930s. Part of the car is made from wood, ash to be specific, and it’s these ash shavings that are used to flavour the gin (which is available from Morgan’s online shop for £45). Toby Blythe from the Morgan Motor Company explained: “Ash wood forms one of Morgan’s three core materials, alongside aluminium and leather, and as such is intrinsic to our coachbuilding identity. When we worked with the expert distillers at Piston Gin, we were curious to find out how this material could be infused with their acclaimed gins. The result, we believe, speaks for itself.” Grace Stringer, distillery manager at Piston Distillery, explained to us how the gin was made: ash is distilled with the company’s London dry gin with a little apple to sweeten it, and then some ash is added at the end for colour and mouthfeel. Apple and ash-infused gin, not so barmy after all.

No Comments on The Nightcap: 8 January

The Nightcap: 18 December

It’s the final Nightcap of the year and to round-off 2020 we’ve put together one last batch of bonkers boozy news, a fitting tribute to the year that was. There’s…

It’s the final Nightcap of the year and to round-off 2020 we’ve put together one last batch of bonkers boozy news, a fitting tribute to the year that was.

There’s just one week until Christmas and only two weeks left in the whole year. How, exactly, has that happened? This truly has been the strangest, suckiest and most surreal collection of 12 months most of us have ever experienced. The good news is that this decade can only get better. Right? Well, we can confirm that The Nightcap will return in 2021, so that’s at least one positive thing in the bag already. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. 2020 still has some time on the clock and it’s chosen to spend some of its last moments making the world of booze a whole fresh batch of news to report on.

As we get ever closer to the big day #Whisky Santa has been ramping things up with his super wishes, giving away a bottle each of Dalmore 35 Year Old and Port Ellen 35 Year Old 1983, while those of you working your way through your Whisky Advent Calendars will have helped yourself to a feast of Scotch, American and World whisky thanks to the selection of drams that were hidden behind doors number #12, #13, #14, #15, #16, #17 and #18.

Elsewhere on the blog, we welcomed a new range of tasty spirits from, well… us! Then we reported on the incredibly exciting return of whisky distilling to Karuizawa in Japan, learned from Nate Brown what it’s like to launch a cocktail company during COVID and tasted the first whisky from Copper Rivet Distillery. We also found time for a quick chat with David Turner, Bowmore distillery manager, managed to pick out some delightful fortified wines to drink across the festive season, sample a peated Irish whiskey and make a delicious steaming hot cocktail

Now, onto the last Nightcap of 2020. We hope all our lovely readers have a safe and Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

The Nightcap

If the trials are successful we could be seeing a lot more of Blondie

Johnnie Walker to launch new whisky: Johnnie Blonde

News on Johnnie Walker is rarely in short supply but this week’s announcement is particularly exciting. The Diageo-owned Scotch whisky brand has revealed its plans to launch a new whisky in 2021 called Johnnie Blonde. The new expression was made to “appeal to current and new whisky drinkers alike” and is designed to be consumed in long serves, with the brand suggesting lemonade as its go-to mixer. Johnnie Blonde, which is a blend of bright wheat whiskies matured in sweet American oak and fruity malt whiskies, is very much a response to the evolving way Scotch is being consumed, with Michael Ward, head of innovation at Diageo commenting, “Johnnie Walker has always been built on progress, on a desire to constantly push boundaries and explore new flavours, experiences and serves. Johnnie Blonde is borne out of that same philosophy”. The expression, which has already won an International Spirits Challenge Gold Medal, isn’t getting a full rollout and instead will be piloted in a small number of cities around the world, including Monterey (Mexico), Curitiba (Brazil), Bangkok (Thailand), Sofia (Bulgaria), and Houston (USA) as well as with a number of partners throughout Germany, in March 2021, priced at RRP US$24.99. We look forward to seeing how it does. While we wait, we might as well make a nice long drink with one of the brand’s other delicious whiskies, right?

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The last we thing we need to be doing is making things harder for this amazing industry

 Tariffs on Scotch whisky move closer to removal

Things appear to be going in the right direction for those of us who want to see an end to the damaging 25% tariff on single malt Scotch whisky that was set by the U.S. over a year ago as part of a wider trade war between the U.S. and European Union. Following last week’s update on the study, new reports suggest that the U.K. government and the outgoing Trump administration are currently in negotiations to secure a ‘mini’ trade deal. In an interview with the BBC, US trade representative Robert Lighthizer said: “It’s extremely likely that we have an FTA, free-trade agreement, with the United Kingdom before long,”  and, when asked specifically about lowering tariffs on certain products including Scotch whisky, added “we have the advantage in that both the US and the UK – particularly the current government of the UK – are not big subsidisers, where some other countries are more inclined to subsidise. So it would be helpful if we could come to some kind of agreement. We are in discussions, we’ll see how that works out.” Trade body the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) said it was “encouraging” to hear Lighthizer indicate that a UK-US ‘mini deal’ could be achieved to remove Scotch whisky tariffs. Karen Betts, chief executive of the SWA, also remarked that she would like to see the US reciprocate by suspending tariffs, commenting: “Suspension on both sides would, we believe, create a positive environment for intensified settlement talks to take place. A settlement would enable everyone – aircraft manufacturers, Scotch whisky and other industries caught up in this – to focus on economic recovery rather than losing revenue to punitive tariffs”.

Guinness releases first new TV ad in 12 years

It’s always an event when Guinness releases a new television advert. This brand is synonymous with wonderful advertising, just think of those ‘80s adverts featuring Rutger Hauer or, of course, the ‘Surfers’ advert from 1999, judged the greatest TV advert of all time in a poll conducted by The Sunday Times and Channel 4. The new advert highlights the beauty of Draught Guinness in a can, something we’ve all been having more of us since the pubs were closed. Neil Shah, head of Guinness GB explained: “People love to savour delicious Guinness Draught and we wanted to remind people that they can enjoy the smooth and refreshing taste whether they choose to drink it in a pub or at home. The popularity of Guinness Draught beer in a can has naturally increased in recent months, and we wanted to celebrate that despite Christmas being different this year, Guinness Draught  doesn’t have to be.” The 20-second film titled “Pull. Pour. Settle. Enjoy.” was created by agency AMV BBDO with director Scott Lyon, and is rather functional. Yes, it makes you want to have Guinness, so it works, but it also makes you long for the sheer artistry of its forebears. Must try harder. 

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Let’s hope this move helps more people enjoy the distillery’s delicious whiskey

Whistlepig sells minority stake

Whistlepig has revealed that it has sold a minority stake to Moët Hennessy in a bid to help the brand expand internationally. While financial terms of the agreement have not been disclosed, we do know that the Vermont-based rye whiskey producer has been exploring options to help build its whiskey brand outside of North America, so it would be safe to assume we’ll be seeing more of Whistlepig thanks to the new partnership. “The arrangement with Moët Hennessy marks a significant moment for Whistlepig,” said Jeff Kozak, Whistlepig CEO. “We could not be more pleased to align our brand with the leader in luxury wines and spirits and are excited about future collaboration with Moët Hennessy’s team in the international market.” According to IWSR 2019 data, Whistlepig holds the top position in the ultra-premium and luxury rye whiskey category (sold at US$45 or over) in North America, so it’s a move that comes with a lot of for Moët Hennessy, the wine and spirits division of LVMH. “We are convinced that Whistlepig fits well within Moët Hennessy’s portfolio,” said Philippe Schaus, president and CEO of Moët Hennessy. “This rye whiskey house has done a remarkable job distinguishing itself among the emblematic and iconic craft distilleries in the United States with an ultra-premium standing in terms of identity, quality and price positioning.”

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Look at it. Just beautiful.

Bushmills unveils its oldest single malt whiskey

When Bushmills launched its Causeway Collection earlier this month we were very excited. Firstly, because it comprises of 10 cask-finished single malt whiskies that vary in age from nine to 30 years old. But also because the Irish whiskey brand is only releasing details of one bottling at the time. Which makes it even more exciting. Particularly when Bushmills follows up the debut of a single malt matured in Oloroso sherry butts and bourbon barrels for 17 years before being finished for two years in a rare Burgundy cask with the launch of its oldest single malt whiskey. The second expression in the range, the 30 Year Old New American Oak Cask single malt was initially matured in Oloroso sherry butts and bourbon barrels, and finished in new American oak casks for an ‘unprecedented’ 16 years. The non-chill-filtered single malt was bottled in September 2020 at cask strength (48.4% ABV) and is said to have notes of honey malt with the virgin oak providing ‘intense flavours of vanilla, chocolate and warm wood’. “It’s a privilege to work with such rare whiskeys in The Causeway Collection. This 30 Year Old New American Oak Cask, our oldest single malt to date, is a truly special Irish single malt,” says Bushmills master blender Helen Mulholland. “I’m immensely proud of how we’ve been able to create such sensational waves of flavour in a 30-year-old whiskey. Like the whole Causeway Collection, it’s a celebration of our passion for single malts, our rare and unique casks and our 400 years of whiskey-making heritage.” Sadly, getting your hands on this is going to be pretty tricky. Firstly, because only 100 bottles of the single malt have been released (the remaining 332 bottles are coming next year.). Secondly, because it’s available exclusively at The Irish Whiskey Collection at The Loop in Dublin and Cork airports in Ireland. Still, it’s a welcome boost for travel retail and a window in the kind of delights that lie in Bushmill’s warehouses…

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Shades are advised for this one

Glenmorangie’s new ad campaign is very colourful

Dig out your sunglasses because Glenmorangie has unveiled a new brand campaign and it’s not what you would call subdued. It was created by DDB Paris agency with top photographer Miles Aldridge and features six scenes of people enjoying Glenmorangie with the tagline, “It’s kind of delicious and wonderful”. And did we mention the colours? Holy moly, they are bright, awash with the boldest oranges and vivid blues. These technicolour dreams will be appearing on social media and various billboards across London this month. Alexander Kalchev, chief creative officer at DDB Paris, explained: “We set out to reimagine everyday experiences – a camping trip or a train journey – all made more wonderful, to reflect Glenmorangie’s perspective. Inspired by the brand’s signature orange colour, we decided to use colour as a metaphor to open up the whisky’s world. And of course, as a master of colour, Miles Aldridge was the obvious talent to bring our vision to life.” Louise Dennett, global head of brand at Glenmorangie, added: “We make whisky because we want people to enjoy it. There are many technicalities as to how we make it taste so good. But ultimately, what matters is that our single malt is delicious, and we think there’s a simple joy in that. Through our collaboration with Miles Aldridge and DDB Paris we have created a visual feast of a campaign. We hope it will welcome more people into our delicious and wonderful world.” But that’s not all: as well as being striking, the images contain little jokes including references to giraffes (the distillery’s mascot) and anagrams of the word Glenmorangie, like ‘A Ginger Lemon’ in the train and ‘Mango Reeling’. Endless fun! 

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The gin numbers for the off-trade were something to smile about, at least

British gin sales hit hard by lockdown

For the final news round-up of the year, it seems fitting to include the man who has graced more Nightcaps than anyone… Miles Beale! According to Beale, CEO of the WSTA, “Gin has proven to be a real tonic for shoppers wanting to enjoy a bit of downtime at home during a turbulent 2020. It’s fantastic to hear that some distillers will have benefited from a boost in retail sales, but we have to look at the bigger picture which shows overall gin sales are down by £400 million following the hit taken by the hospitality sector due to the pandemic this year.” He was commenting on news that because of the enforced closure of much of the on-trade, gin sales declined from £2.6 billion in 2019 to £2.2 billion this year. Retail was up 22%, worth £1.2 billion, but it wasn’t enough to make up for the lost business. As you would expect from Beale, he had words for the British government: “British spirit makers, many of whom are SMEs, need greater support from government to continue to grow and recover from the loss of hospitality sales. That is why, as a first and easy step, we are calling on the Chancellor to cut duty and boost British business at the spring Budget.” You tell ‘em, Miles.

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British people enjoying the odd drop of drink on a lunch break? Scandalous!

And finally. . . Shock horror! People enjoying alcohol during the day

Data produced by the health and safety software company Protecting.co.uk shows that more than 90% of workers say that they have been consuming alcohol while working from home. Hardly surprising, many of us enjoy a glass of wine or a pint with our lunch. The problem with the survey is that it doesn’t differentiate between responsible and heavy drinking, seeing both as problematic. Mark Hall from Protecting.co.uk commented: “It ranges from just a glass for two with lunch, to getting through a whole bottle of wine a day, but the health implications are clear.” He goes on to say: “It’s alarming to employers to hear that staff feel like they can get away with all kinds of behaviour while they are out of office.” It’s health and safety gone mad! We would hardly describe having a drink on a lunch break as ‘alarming’. Before lockdown, if you visited any town or city in the country you would see people enjoying an alcoholic drink with their lunches before returning to work. The press release from Protecting.co.uk goes on to say: “Most workplaces will have a robust alcohol and substance abuse policy to keep staff in check when they are at work.” Perhaps, but this is irrelevant in this instance. Unless you’re operating heavy machinery or conducting brain surgery, then a small amount of alcohol, a pint or a Gin & Tonic, is not a problem for most employers or employees. Lockdown has been hard for everyone, and if you are worried about your drinking, then you should seek professional help (DrinkAware is a really great place to start). But we see nothing wrong with some responsible daytime imbibing. Cin cin!

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The Nightcap: 11 December

The promise of returning whisky festivals, new distilleries and fewer tariffs already had us in a good mood this week, then we heard about the Islay KitKat and a piñata…

The promise of returning whisky festivals, new distilleries and fewer tariffs already had us in a good mood this week, then we heard about the Islay KitKat and a piñata bar… It’s The Nightcap!

There was inevitability going into Christmas it would be a bit different this year. The only thing for it was to embrace the change and not let it get us down. Virtual parties are in the diary, Christmas jumpers have been encouraged and an office Spotify playlist has done the rounds (I swear Domonic The Donkey is on there about 15 times, guys. I’ve started brushing my teeth to the rhythm of it ffs). It turns out all you need to make the most of the season is some festive spirit and a strong broadband connection. Who knew? #WhiskySanta, probably. That guy is always on the money.

Which is something you’ll have noticed if you kept tabs on the MoM blog this week, which certainly made us get all giddy when that omniscient, bearded and jolliest of fellows revealed two more sublime Super Wishes. I mean, c’mon, who wouldn’t want the chance to get their hands on a bottle of Balvenie 40 Year Old or Tobermory 42 Year Old?  The festive fun continued as we opened windows #5, #6, #7, #8, #9, #10 and #11 on our Whisky Advent Calendar before Adam put together a round-up of our favourite festive spirits ( look out for Christmas pudding spiced rum and a Brussels sprouts vodka).

Elsewhere, we showed off our swanky Black Bowmore DB5 1964 video, introduced you to a new kind of drinks company and managed to get the low-down on one of Scotland’s most iconic whisky producers. Henry, meanwhile, welcomed a delightful rum from an underappreciated distillery and made a classic cocktail with a reimagined old brand of Cognac, Adam recommended some of the best bargain American whiskeys on the market and Annie discussed what collective action is required to help eradicate sexism in the whisky industry.

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This is exactly the kind of news we all need right now. Fingers crossed it goes ahead!

Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival to return in 2021

News that almost seems too good to be true came from The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival this week, which announced it will be back in 2021, irl! The 21st edition of the six-day festival is tipped to return from 28 April to 3 May 2021 and the organisers have assured us that it will be adaptive to any COVID-19 measures. Lord knows all of us whisky lovers could do with a chance to celebrate our favourite tipple in good company and we’ll never turn down an opportunity to taste our way around this world-famous whisky-making region. Those who do attend (assuming this does go ahead, fingers crossed) will witness nearly 140 business members come together to be part of the biggest festival of its kind in the world. “We are very excited about being back in business for 2021. The positive news about the coronavirus vaccines has given everyone a boost and it’s great to see some light starting to emerge from what has been a long and very dark tunnel for everyone,” says James Campbell, festival chairman. “Even if social distancing is still in place in late April I am confident they will come up with solutions to provide numerous brilliant events and we look forward to giving a very warm Speyside welcome to all of our new and returning UK and international guests in 2021.” The full programme of events will be listed on www.spiritofspeyside.com and will be available for preview on Wednesday 24th February 2021, while tickets will go on sale online on Monday 1st March 2021. We sincerely hope that we’ll see you there… in real life! It’s almost too exciting.

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The Offerman-Lagavulin love story is showing no signs of slowing down and we’re here for it

Nick Offerman stars in new Lagavulin video

Actor and whisky lover Nick Offerman, you might remember him from such films as The Lego Movie and The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, returns for another Lagavulin: My Tales of Whisky‘ video. Called ‘A Dram Good Holiday’, it features Offerman enjoying some Lagavulin 8 year old while attempting to be a modern Youtube celebrity. “After many a holiday spent sipping Lagavulin by a blazing Yule Log, I have this year determined to venture into the world of the modern-day internet media tube,” he explained. “Well, I saw it. I can’t say I fully understand it, nor do I want to, so I will now return to my usual holiday plans and sip the wondrous elixir that is Lagavulin single malt Scotch whisky as intended.” Advice that we can all get behind this Christmas. You can watch Nick star in the festive clip here.

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We just want to see both whisky industries thrive. Is that too much to ask? It’s Christmas!

When the whisky levy breaks? UK suspends US tariffs

One story that caught our eye this week was the news that the UK intends to drop tariffs against the US over subsidies for aerospace firms, in a bid to reach a post-Brexit trade deal with Washington. Why is this of this interest to the drinks industry? Because the move could open the way for a punitive tariff on whisky to be removed. In November, the EU imposed tariffs on $4bn of US goods in the Boeing row, but these will be suspended in the UK from 1 January when the current post-Brexit transition period ends. One of the hopes of this strategy is that leads to a reciprocal move from the US to alleviate the damaging duties on goods like single malt Scotch whisky. The Scotch Whisky Association estimates the industry has lost £30 million a month on sales, and over £400m in total, thanks to the measures, so you can understand why chief executive Karen Betts described the announcement on Tuesday as “an encouraging step”. She went on to say: “It shows the UK government’s determination to de-escalate the damaging transatlantic trade disputes that have seen Scotch whisky exports to the US fall by over 30% in the past year”. Let’s hope sense prevails and our industry, which has faced a difficult enough year as it is, receives some respite here.

The Nightcap

No this isn’t an April fool.

Islay cask Kit Kat anyone?

In a week of funny stories, this one might just take the biscuit, or rather the chocolate-covered wafer snack. We have just learned about the arrival of a whisky cask-aged Kit Kat. And not just any cask but one that held Islay whisky. Chocolate and smoke, an interesting combination. It’s a product of the experimental division of Kit Kat Japan which in the past has come up with unusual versions made with matcha tea, soy sauce and sake. The chap in charge of this latest experiment is pastry chef Yasumasa Takagi. Rather than fill a barrel full of Kit Kats, which would just be silly, Takagi and his team took Ghanaian cacao nibs and aged them in the Islay barrels which were rotated once a week to ensure the chocolate became imbued with all that smoky goodness. Despite being made in Britain, this experimental Kit Kat is only available, for a very reasonable ¥300 (£2.16), in selected retailers over there including Kit Kat boutiques in Tokyo. Imagine, whole shops devoted to Kit Kats. Are we allowed to fly to Japan yet?

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The Walking Man is doing his bit to ensure his path is greener

Johnnie Walker gifts a million trees

Earlier this year we reported on Diageo’s sustainability initiatives and it seems the drinks giants are intent on putting things in motion sooner rather than later. This week the company outlined its vision to plant one million trees across the four corners of Scotland before 2025, as part of an ongoing commitment from Johnnie Walker to reduce its carbon footprint and restore the natural resources it uses when creating its Scotch whiskies. “A million trees we are planting with our partners across Scotland will create wonderful biodiverse woodlands that are havens for wildlife and accessible for people to visit and enjoy in the years and decades to come,” Ewan Andrew, Diageo’s chief sustainability officer, explained. To date, 389,000 of the one million trees have been planted near two of distilleries in the Scottish Highlands which, over the lifetime of this project, are anticipated to absorb over 69,000 tonnes of C02 – the equivalent of taking 10,500 flights around the world. At Ballygowan, near Oban distillery, native birch, oak, wild cherry, willow and hazel trees were planted, including a new tree dedicated to every one of Diageo’s 28,000 employees, while at Allt Ruadh, near Glen Ord distillery, Johnnie Walker has joined forces with Trees for Life to plant ancient and native trees to serve as a wildlife corridor and increase habitat availability for species including black grouse, crossbills and red squirrels. It’s exactly the kind of Christmas gift we like to see from major players within the industry, so kudos guys. For more info on Diageo 2030’s sustainability commitments click here.

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Ashley Lloyd, retail operations manager at Halewood Artisanal Spirits, is clearly as thrilled as we are!

Halewood opens £1m Peaky Blinder distillery

The good news keeps on coming this week as Halewood Artisanal Spirits has announced that its phenomenally popular Peaky Blinder brand’s new home is open. The new £1 million distillery is based in Birmingham, on the same site as Sadler’s brewery, home of the infamous gang from the hit show. The new facility is already producing Peaky Blinder Spiced Dry Gin and Black Spiced Rum in four ‘state-of-the-art’ Arnold Holstein stills, which got a makeover in August this year, to emphasise the provenance of the brand. A different character from the late 19th and early 20th-century Peaky Blinders gang and other gangs feature on the bottles, with authentic mug shots from police archives to boot. “After months of planning, we’re very pleased to share our plans for the Sadler’s site in Lye,” commented James Stocker, marketing director, Halewood Artisanal Spirits. “As we’ve continued to see strong sales for our Peaky Blinder spirits via our e-commerce channels, both in the UK and globally, this felt like the perfect time to bring production back to their rightful home”. Halewood has also revealed that we can expect to see the first spirits from the new distillery by the end of 2020 and, as we reported earlier in the year, plans are also in place to develop a distillery to produce Peaky Blinder Irish whiskey. Things are certainly looking bright for the brand. Now would be a good time to end with a quote from the show, but I haven’t seen it, so those of you who have can insert your own topical joke here.

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It’s a fitting end to a brilliant series

Gordon & MacPhail’s 125th Anniversary series concludes in style

Regular readers of The Nightcap will remember that we’ve covered the launch of a particularly special series of Scotch whiskies put together to commemorate 125 years of Gordon & MacPhail. Now, the much-anticipated final whisky in the collection has been revealed: The Gordon & MacPhail 1975 Glencraig! The last of the four extremely rare and unique whiskies was distilled in Lomond Stills, which operated within Speyside’s Glenburgie Distillery before production ceased after just 23 years. The whisky, which was matured in a single refill American hogshead for 44 years, was laid down on Thursday 30 October 1975 and bottled on Thursday 28 May 2020 at 54.2% ABV, with an outturn of just 110 bottles. It’s said to possess notes of honey, coconut, rich nectarines, white pepper, lime, cocoa beans and carry some floral and herbal elements. The majority of the Glencraig whisky was destined for blended malts, so this is a truly rare treat and, like the other expressions in the series, it was sourced from the last remaining casks from lost or closed distilleries matured within Gordon & MacPhail’s warehouse  “While it’s bittersweet to share the last remaining drops of these ultra-rare whiskies, they embody a fitting tribute to 125 years spent in pursuit of perfection,” Stephen Rankin, a fourth-generation member of Gordon & MacPhail’s owning family and the company’s Director of Prestige, said. “These four releases provide a personal legacy for all who have worked at Gordon & MacPhail over the decades culminating in these exquisite and unique drams found nowhere else.”

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Half this week’s stories could have been our And Finally… but just look at wonderful madness of this thing!

And finally… Jose Cuervo creates world’s first piñata bar

Global Tequila giant, Jose Cuervo, has unveiled the world’s first piñata bar and it’s going to one lucky fan. The one-of-a-kind creation has been designed in festive colours and comes complete with a shelf of Jose Cuervo Especial Gold, bartender’s essentials, mixers, garnishes and a variety of Jose Cuervo tequilas and flavoured fillings inside. Given that lots of you will have played the home mixologist this year, the bar should come in handy for dispensing delicious Tequila cocktails for the friends and family you’ll be spending the season with. Margaritas are on you, future winner! And the fun doesn’t stop there because, it’s piñata bar so to get your hands on the goodies inside, you have to indulge in a bit of creative destruction. Yes, you get to take out all the frustrations of 2020 by smashing it up, responsibly of course. So, if you’re over 18 years old and based in the UK you can enter the competition by following the Jose Cuervo UK Instagram page and tagging a friend who they’d enjoy a festive cocktail with. So, what are you waiting for? Get entering, and have a smashing weekend (sorry!)

No Comments on The Nightcap: 11 December

The Nightcap: 4 December

Hurrah! The first Nightcap of the festive season is here and it’s full of Christmas cheer, interesting stories and boozy news. We’ll raise a glass to that. Those who welcome…

Hurrah! The first Nightcap of the festive season is here and it’s full of Christmas cheer, interesting stories and boozy news. We’ll raise a glass to that.

Those who welcome the “Christmas creep” that now begins before Halloween might disagree, but I think it’s fair to say that, for most of us, the true Christmas season has begun now that December has arrived. Nobby Holder has emerged from this den, the decorations are up all over the place and I can longer shame my mum for watching Christmas films (although I was definitely right to do so in early November). 

You might have noticed that we’ve got into the Christmas spirit on the MoM blog, mostly thanks to #WhiskySanta incredible Super Wishes, which this week featured two Scotch whiskies matured for more than 40 years, one from Tomintoul and another from Tamnavulin. We also opened up our Whisky Advent Calendar and enjoyed the spoils of what appeared behind windows #1, #2, #3 and #4.

Elsewhere, Adam learnt all about Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul’s new mezcal, what drinks trends to look out for this year, why the Octomore 11 Series is so tasty and which rums are not only tasty but available for less than £40. Henry, meanwhile, tasted some extraordinary Cognacs (one of them spent 110 years in cask!), Annie made the delicious and delicate White Negroni, Kristy investigated why Jura is so enchanting and Nate Brown returned to explain why his bar will remain shut this December

Oh, and we launched a competition that offers you the chance to win a VIP Trip to Bowmore and Laphroaig. Phew! Talk about blog-mageddon. Now, on to The Nightcap!

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The sale of this bottle has just made one man’s Christmas very festive indeed (image credit: Sotheby’s)

Macallan whisky bought for £80 sells for £57,500

I think it’s fair to say a lot of us have picked up a pretty pricey bottle of whisky with a special occasion in mind. But I imagine there won’t be many of us who look up the price of the whisky 37 years later and realise it’s worth tens of thousands of pounds. That’s exactly what happened to one lucky man, whose son bought him a bottle of The Macallan’s 50-year-old Anniversary Malt for his 50th birthday in 1983 for £80, with plans to drink it when he turned 80. But, after learning what it might be worth, the eventual seller instead contacted auctioneers Brightwells and ended up fetching a remarkable £57,500 for the bottle, according to the Scottish Daily Record. Most bottles of the expression, which was one of a 500-bottle release distilled in 1928, have been drunk so demand was high and the whisky attracted bids from Belgium, Germany, Scandinavia and Hong Kong as well as the UK. “This release has acquired mythic status as the best-tasting Macallan ever produced,” Paddy Shave of the auction house said (best name ever, by the way). “It’s described as the Holy Grail for malt whisky lovers, so we knew there would be worldwide interest.”

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Anyone got a spare 10k lying around?

Glenturret releases a 33-year-old whisky

Scotland’s oldest working distillery has made the most of 2020, relaunching its brand in the autumn and now unveiling a very swanky limited-edition single malt series in collaboration with glass experts Lalique. The first release is The Glenturret Provenance, which was bottled today and is now available on www.theglenturret.com for just £9,800. It’s a 33-year-old single malt whisky drawn from three casks filled in 1987 that was bottled in 320 French crystal decanters at a cask strength of 43.7% ABV without any additional colouring or chill-filtration. It is said to possess rich notes of ginger, brandy-soaked cherries and plump, juicy sultanas, followed by hints of cinnamon sticks, dates and soft whispers of oak and green apple.  2020 has been a challenging year for all but also a very exciting year for us. We recently introduced a fresh visual brand identity as well as six new expressions,  hand-crafted by our incredible team at the distillery in Crieff,” John Laurie, managing director at The  Glenturret, said of the launch. “Adding The Glenturret  Provenance is an important milestone for us – this is a whisky to be savoured slowly, which fits in perfectly with our distillation process as we still do everything here by hand. The Glenturret Provenance is all about reflecting on time, memories of places and people have gone before”.

The Nightcap

The range is a first for Aberlour and features some of its oldest ever bottled whisky

Chivas Brothers unveils rare aged collection 

Fancy getting your hands on three exceptionally rare limited-edition collections of Scotch whisky comprised of over 600 bottles available across the three distilleries from the Chivas Brothers single malt portfolio? Then you’re in luck. The whisky giants unveiled The Glenlivet Cellar Collection, The Aberlour Cellar Collection and The Scapa Single Cask this week, featuring some of the oldest whiskies released from these great distilleries and for the first time ever, they will be available for UK-based customers to order direct from the distillery from the comfort of their own homes. The Glenlivet Cellar Collection comprises of a 30-year-old, a 33-year-old, a 38-year-old and a 40-year-old, The Aberlour Cellar Collection, a 39-year-old and a 44 year old, while The Scapa Single Cask Vintage Editions consists of a 29-year-old, 41-year-old and 42 year old, its ever oldest release. “It has been an incredibly challenging year and we recognise it hasn’t been easy for Scotch enthusiasts to travel to our distilleries in Speyside and Orkney. We’re so pleased that we’re now able to give Scotch whisky fans the opportunity to order some of the most exceptionally rare aged malts from our portfolio straight to their door,” says Miriam Eceolaza, marketing director for Malts at Chivas Brothers. “The exclusivity of these expressions is unlike anything we have ever released before, and we hope our fans relish the opportunity to taste real history with these delicious collections.”

The Nightcap

Spirit Guide is a tale of founding an English whisky distillery. There are no spooky ghosts

Cotswolds distillery founder writes book

Is there no end to the man’s talents? Not content with setting up a distillery that produces superb gin, single malt whisky, Amari and now a rum, but The Cotswolds Distillery founder Daniel Szor has now written a book. It’s a hard-boiled crime novel set in the murky Belgrade underworld…. Not really! Called Spirit Guide: In search of an authentic life, it’s Szor’s own story. He is the son of Polish immigrants to America who made a packet in finance before moving to the peace and tranquillity of the Cotswolds. It was there that the idea came to him to start a distillery. Szor’s passion was whisky and the idea came to him to make single malt in England. Not such an unusual thing now but back in 2014, this was considered a bit peculiar. He enlisted the help of the late Jim Swan and results have been, it has to be said, extremely impressive. Szor commented: “I am delighted to have written my first book and to share my journey with readers. I really hope this book will provide some inspiration during these unprecedented times and if I have one message it would be ‘following one’s heart is never the wrong direction’’”. Wise words, though we would recommend making a packet in finance before following your heart.

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Having enjoyed a tour of this place before, we can confirm the accolades are well deserved

Jameson Distillery Bow St. named world’s leading distillery tour again!

I hope the shelves were fitted securely at Irish Distillers because it must have a tonne of awards to display, especially now that it has completed a treble at the World Travel Awards (WTA)! For the third year in a row, its Jameson Distillery Bow St. attraction has been named the World’s Leading Distillery Tour at the 27th Grand Final Ceremony, which took place virtually, but was still able to acknowledge, reward and celebrate excellence in global travel and tourism. Having already scooped the prize for Europe’s Leading Distillery Tour earlier this month, Jameson Distillery Bow St. had to beat off stiff competition from the likes of Macallan, Hennessy, Jack Daniels and Jose Cuervo. “To win three years in a row is incredible and, given the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the disruption that the travel and tourism industries have faced globally, this acknowledgement is particularly special this year,” says Greg Hughes, managing director, Jameson Brand Homes at Irish Distillers. “The award honours and recognises our commitment to excellence at the spiritual home of Jameson and is an acknowledgement of the incredible work of our team at Bow St., who provide every visitor with an unforgettable and unique experience – in-person, and now, virtually.” Congratulations, guys!

The Nightcap

Fair play to Couture, it is a much better use of money than wine and dining a load of freeloading journalists…

Pernod Ricard donates Christmas lunch money to charity

It’s one of the highlights of a drink writers year, the annual Pernod Ricard Christmas lunch. It’s a time when the great, the good, and those who blagged a ticket at the last minute of the booze world meet to feast, gossip and sample lots of delicious drinks from Pernod Ricard’s extensive portfolio. For obvious reasons, it’s not happening this year so, according to a statement signed by Chivas CEO Jean-Christophe Coutures, CEO of Chivas UK David Haworth and CEO of Pernod Ricard Travel Retail Mohit Lal: “We have relocated funds normally set aside for this event and combined with support for a number of organisations that will help those in need this Christmas and beyond.” These charities include The Drinks Trust, Mind, Crisis and many others. The company will also be supplying 18,000 litres of hand sanitiser to help the on-trade as well as donating to local food banks on Speyside. What an excellent initiative. 

The Nightcap

So often the outsider, Gabriel has finally been accepted into the inner-circle!

And finally…. ‘Renegade’ Alexandre Gabriel is new Cognac vice president

Is it a case of poacher turned gamekeeper as it was announced today that Alexandre Gabriel is the new vice-president of the BNIC (Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac) alongside Christophe Véral, the new president? It’s a move that nobody expected. Well, we didn’t anyway, having met Gabriel and heard his views on the Cognac establishment. Gabriel, the owner of Maison Ferrand, has previously been described as a ‘renegade’ for his vociferous querying of Cognac rules on what kinds of casks are allowed to be used for ageing. He even released a non-AOC brandy called Renegade no. 2 that was not allowed to be classed as Cognac because it was aged in chestnut barrels. The election took place on the 24 November and included 14 other members of the industry joining the standing committee.  Véral, a grower distiller in the region since 1994, described his job as: “part of the century-old history of Cognac, in the service of a strong, united, responsible sector.” Gabriel commented: “After 31 years in Cognac, I am humbled by the privilege of adding our small contribution to the great destiny of cognac as vice president of the BNIC.” We are keen to see what changes having someone with Gabriel’s unconventional views will have on this extremely conservative industry. 2021 is going to be an interesting year for Cognac!

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