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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: The Spirit of Speyside

MoM visits: the Spirit of Speyside Festival 2022

You don’t need to ask us twice to celebrate Scotland’s national drink at one of the world’s largest whisky festivals, particularly after two years of virtual alternatives. Here’s what we…

You don’t need to ask us twice to celebrate Scotland’s national drink at one of the world’s largest whisky festivals, particularly after two years of virtual alternatives. Here’s what we discovered at the Spirit of Speyside Festival 2022.

The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival has come a long way since it was first launched in 1999, developing into one of the largest events of its kind anywhere in the world and becoming a mecca for whisky fans old and new. For the first time, I had the pleasure of visiting for a couple of days in the middle of the six-day celebration that ran from Wednesday 27 April until Monday 2 May to experience the festival and attend just a few of the over 550 events on offer.

Welcome to the Spirit of Speyside Festival

The line-up was fantastic this year, and it was wonderful to see a whisky festival recognise that its events don’t have to be limited to a few Glencairn glasses in a room. This year there were events inviting you to pair a dram to a location within the Star Wars universe, e-bike tours, doughnut-based food pairings, Highball masterclasses, whisky tumbler carving workshops, and whisky with a swing of golf. Elsewhere, the Rhythm and Booze Project teamed up with Benromach to host a multi-sensory tasting that incorporated roots, folk, and blues music, while the Murray McDavid whisky team invited folks up into the hills at the Old Bothy to enjoy drinks, storytelling, music, and marshmallows around a bonfire in a site infamous for illicit whisky distilling and smuggling. 

Of course, if you want some hot distillery action, then there was no shortage of whisky-making sites flinging open their doors (even those that don’t usually allow visitors). It was a pleasure being hosted by people who live and breathe these sites. And I didn’t see one long queue of desperate flippers eyeing festival bottles at any site. Instead, I managed to see the rolling water in Craigellachie’s worm tubs, the shiny Cardhu showrooms, the humble but promising Ballindalloch operation, the secrets of hidden neighbour workhorses Mannachmore and Glenlossie, Macallan’s Tubbytronic Superdome, and the sherry-soaked charms of Tamdhu, all in two days in the abundant sunshine. That’s not even counting the tour of Murray McDavid’s stock at the warehouses at the old Coleburn Distillery.

New Macallan Distillery

Time for Tubby bye-bye!

A festival of people

I’ll be following up with individual features on many of the above, but suffice to say for a big whisky nerd the  festival is a treat. If I had more time/could get my hands on tickets, I would have seen even more. £100,000 worth of tickets sold in the first few hours, and some of these events could sell ten times over. It is impossible to see everything Speyside has to offer, and there’s an argument that a limitation of the festival is there’s no central hub. You do feel stretched, and wonder about the negative implications of masses descending on a rural area. There’s only so many beds, cars, and Glencairn glasses. 

The separation has its advantages, however. One is that you feel compelled to come back. Then there’s the joy of folk from more than 29 countries, from Norway to Malaysia to name but a few, making the trek to the global epicentre of ‘the water of life’. You can hear German, Spanish, Korean, and many other languages all talking about the same subject, whisky. The festival brings millions in vital income to the region, while the landscape means you’re bound to meet people and make friends. In London, you can go to an event, hop on a tube and never see that person again, but here there are only a few hotels and bars. If you met somebody from Hong King or Canada, chances are you’re bumping into them again. This year, and next. It’s a whisky reunion, tied together by constant interaction with the welcoming locals. 

Whisky is the fuel that keeps this region going. But the Spirit of Speyside Festival is all really about people. On my first night, a wonderful Brazilian lady drove the taxi from Inverness Airport to the Craigellachie hotel via several distillery stops. She insisted we check out every site along the way. It was 10pm. The fact that we could only peer outside in the dark didn’t dampen either of our spirits. The next day I met a couple from Glasgow who weren’t whisky drinkers before the lockdown. Eventually, they developed a taste. They were attending their second festival, and they now know the local bus timetable intimately, navigating the vast network of distilleries as the locals would. Everybody here is buzzing with excitement about our shared love. Even in the vast space between the rolling mountains and the Moray coastline, there’s a palpable atmosphere.

The Spirit of Speyside Festival

You dancing? You asking?

A welcome reunion 

It wasn’t just the taste of whisky that was spurring everyone on this year, but the promise of interaction with real people in real life. Imagine that! The previous two festivals were  an online event in April 2021 and a Limited Edition festival in November 2021 keeping the appetites whetted for the real return. So many of us are incredibly privileged to have the technological means to be able to stay so connected when the world became divided and distanced. But Zoom calls and virtual meetings can’t replace this. All of us there shared a sentiment: we needed this. We missed it. We won’t take it for granted again. A whisky isn’t really a whisky until it’s shared. And we did an awful lot of sharing this year.

Now we can look forward again properly. The Campbeltown Malts Festival approaches. As does Fèis Ìle 2022. Before you know it, the chance to return to Speyside will arise. The Glaswegians I made friends with tell me they’ll be back next year. So will I.

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The Nightcap: 14 May

On The Nightcap: 14 May edition we’re raising a can for our grans, taking a look at some shiny new Welsh whisky developments and looking at the curious case of…

On The Nightcap: 14 May edition we’re raising a can for our grans, taking a look at some shiny new Welsh whisky developments and looking at the curious case of the Chernobyl apple brandy.

It’s a brave new world, folks. Today we’re going live with our first Master of Malt Clubhouse room at 3 pm. It’s called The Nightcap (because it wasn’t broke, so why fix it?) and we’ll be discussing all of the below and anything else that has caught our eye over the last week. Each week we’ll have special guests joining us to talk about another topic as well. Today it’s our wonderful former editor and now head of spirits at Fine and RareKristiane Sherry and Blair Bowman, drinks writer and founder of World Whisky Day (which is tomorrow). So, if you have the Clubhouse, just search for the Master of Malt club and join us for a fun afternoon of chat.

The MoM blog was as busy as ever this week as we launched a new competition with the fab folk at Zespri kiwis, featured a new contributor in the form of booze sage Richard Legg (who demystifies one of Japan’s lesser-known spirits) and we tackled some big issues such as chill-filtration and how distilleries can become more sustainable. We also celebrated the upcoming World Whisky Day with a range of delicious drams, a new spectacular Talisker release and a weighty cocktail. There was also time to enjoy a refreshing gin Spritz and to run the rule on our favourite bars with a view

Now, let’s get Nightcapping!

Aber Falls first whisky is here, or nearly here

Aber Falls first whisky is here, or nearly here

Aber Falls’ first whisky is (nearly) here!

We were fortunate enough to join an online tasting to try the much-anticipated first whisky release from Aber Falls. It’s North Wales’ first whisky in over 100 years. But not only did we get to try the whisky, more on that at the moment, but managing director James Wright was joined by top Welsh chef Ellis Barrie who cooked with Welsh ingredients. There was definitely a Welsh theme to the tasting so you won’t be surprised to learn that Aber Falls’ whisky is made from only Welsh barley. You can read about the whole process here. The first three-year-old release was aged in a combination of European oak first-fill PX casks with some virgin American oak. So far so conventional, but the team are also using some European oak casks that once held orange wine (a liqueur-like beverage made from oranges). The result is a young whisky that’s just packed with flavour. There’s a distinct orange and toffee note on the nose, a full body and it’s bottled at a nice punchy 46% ABV. Excitingly, there’s an all orange wine cask strength whisky on the horizon. Wright said the aim was to “put a bit of love in the glass, so when you try it everybody loves it.” The first release will be coming to Master of Malt soon but we don’t think it’s going to hang about for long as only 2,000 bottles have been filled. Keep watching that New Arrivals page.

The Nightcap: 14 May

You know it’s a Penderyn distillery when there’s a Faraday still there!

Penderyn opens new £5 Million distillery

A big week for Welsh whisky just got even bigger with the news that on Monday Penderyn will open the doors to its new £5 million Lloyds Street distillery in Llandudno, North Wales. The brand is expanding its operation with the opening of the second site, which has plenty of history. It’s housed in the Grade II listed Old Board School built in 1887 and receives natural spring water from a reservoir that once served the Victorian lighthouse on the Great Orme headland. But what whisky fans will be most excited to know is that it will be the first modern Welsh distillery to focus on creating peated single malt whisky. A new Faraday still (unique to Penderyn) has been installed too. The distillery is also a bonus for Wales’ modest whisky tourism scene, which might explain why the project was assisted by a £1.4 million Welsh Government grant from the ‘Tourism Investment Scheme’ and the ‘Food Business Investment scheme’. According to Penderyn Distillery’s CEO, Stephen Davies, while Penderyn has always had a “loyal following in North Wales, with the South separated from the North by mountains and lakes, Penderyn has finally brought the country together”. He added, “By opening in Llandudno, visited by 9.6 million tourists every year, we’re saying ‘Welcome home to Wales and to Penderyn’. Tours of Penderyn’s new distillery in Lloyd Street, Llandudno will commence from the 1st June 2021 and once everything is truly back up and running, expects to invite about 60,000 visitors a year. We’d love to be one of them.

The Nightcap: 14 May

Chivas Brothers employs a lot of staff across its multiple distilleries, like Strathisla

Chivas Brothers faces strike action

A dispute over pay has led workers at Chivas Brothers to vote in favour of industrial action after talks between the unions and the distiller collapsed. The GMB and Unite unions claim Chivas’ parent company, Pernod Ricard, has been unwilling to lift a pay freeze in Scotland while awarding pay rises to its workers in France earlier this year. Strike action could begin before the end of May, unless Chivas came up with an improved offer, with 84.4% of members backing strike action and 92.7% supporting action short of a strike. The situation wasn’t exactly helped by Pernod Ricard announcing promising financial results at the end of April. Scotland union organiser Keir Greenaway said: “Chivas workers across Scotland have kept the profits rolling in throughout this pandemic, but also against the headwinds of Brexit and a tariffs war with the US. They deserve much better than a real-terms pay cut.” The Scotch whisky giant, whose brands include Glenlivet, Ballantine’s and Royal Salute, employs about 1,600 workers in Scotland, including at the Kilmalid bottling hall, Strathclyde Grain Distillery, Glenlivet and maturation sites in Speyside, Clydebank and Ayrshire. Chivas chairman and chief executive Jean-Christophe Coutures the firm is “deeply disappointed” with the move and that the current proposals are “fair”, and recognise the “hard work of our teams whilst responsibly managing our business for the years ahead”. He added the brand is committed to seeking a resolution. Let’s hope a satisfactory solution is found soon.

The Nightcap: 14 May

An artist’s impression of the revived Rosebank distillery

Rosebank seeking distillery manager

If you’re a fan of Scotch whisky, you’ll almost certainly know Ian Macleod Distillers (IMD). The third-generation family-owned whisky and spirits business owns brands such as Glengoyne, Tamdhu, Edinburgh Gin and Rosebank Distillery, which it bought in 2017, Since then the brand has been working hard on bringing the ‘King of the Lowlands’ back to life. Those plans are clearly accelerating as a job advert inviting people to apply for a new distillery manager was posted recently. The brand is looking for someone with experience, leadership and “an appetite and desire to support bringing personality and a human ‘face’, to our exquisite brand”. In the application, there’s a whole list of ‘key outputs’ and ‘role capabilities’ outlined, including the requirement for a degree level or equivalents such as BSc in Brewing and Distilling. “The distillery manager will be the production leader for our entire Rosebank site, and the success of the production at Rosebank will rest squarely on this person’s shoulders… what an exciting opportunity for an experienced distillery manager to bring back to life this beautiful spirit (well we think so anyway!).” You can apply here if you fancy throwing your hat in the ring, but we’d imagine this will be going to a name we all know. 

The Nightcap: 14 May

Grab a pint and celebrate our golden oldies!

Raise a can for your gran with Brixton Brewery

The pandemic put a strain on a great many services, as Age UK Lambeth knows all too well. Over lockdown, it saw a 233% growth in demand for its services, from 21,000 people to 70,000 people. To honour the key role the local charity plays and to raise money to help with future endeavours Brixton Brewery has created a new beer. The IPA, Generation Pale Ale, is a celebration of the older people, “who are as likely to enjoy a great night out in a pub with a pint as any young whippersnapper”. All proceeds are going to Age UK’s vital services and the beer has been officially approved by its members. The ingredients were donated to the brewery by Charles Faram Hop Merchants and Simpsons Malt to reduce costs and increase proceeds. The beer name and design feature a shopping trolley/boom box for “kickass grandmas and granddads”, and the campaign champions the many faces (and ages) of beer drinkers. Among them is Peter Beaumont, 68, who was model scouted at 65, and has worked with Vivienne Westwood and Vidur Dindayal, 86, who is aiming to pip Justin Bieber to top spot in the charts. Founder of Brixton Brewery Xochitl Benjamin said: “We wanted to create a beer for everyone, that could bring together people of all ages after a long lockdown, and pay tribute to the generation that has helped make Brixton one of the most diverse, inclusive and friendly communities in the country. Brixton wouldn’t be what it is today without them. Every can sold supports long lives well lived in our community.” To purchase Generation Pale Ale in aid of Age UK Lambeth, visit the Brixton Brewery website or head to their taproom in the heart of Brixton and get ready to raise a can for (or with) your gran!

The Nightcap: 14 May

Edrington and Beam Suntory have agreed to some significant swapsies

Beam Suntory and Edrington switch distribution firms

Big trade news came from Edrington and Beam Suntory this week, who have agreed to swap equity stakes in their jointly-owned distribution firms in the UK and Spain. An equity swap is essentially a transaction in which the obligations or debts of a company or individual are exchanged for something of equal value. Like that equity stuff. Lots of lovely, shiny equity. The move means The Macallan owner Edrington will take full ownership of Edrington-Beam Suntory UK, while Beam Suntory will become the owner of Maxxium Spain. The agreement is effective from 2 August 2021, subject to regulatory approval. The new agreement will see Edrington-Beam Suntory UK become Edrington UK Distribution, known as Edrington UK. Which is handy as the previous name was quite a mouthful. The press release reckons the move will allow both firms to “reduce complexity, improve agility, make decisive investments and expand opportunities for employees as both businesses become part of larger international companies”. Which are all good things. Right? This kind of marketing isn’t really our speed, to be honest. We do know that it’s great that when the deal is done Edrington will employ more than 1,200 people in the UK, mainly in Scotland, with 35 workers based in London. Folks who love a bit of trade detail will also note the deal marks the first time that Beam Suntory will have full ownership of its route to market in Spain. Hopefully, all this means we’ll have plenty of new and delicious booze to enjoy. Because that’s what we’re all in it for in the end.

The Nightcap: 14 May

200 bottles of wine were sunk off the Kent coast in the name of experimental ageing

English wine merchant ages wines underwater, for some reason

Last week it was wine aged in space, now it’s wine aged underwater. Is there no end to the craziness of the wine trade? This later venture is from online retailer The English Vine, no prizes for guessing its speciality. The company has sunk 200 bottles of wine including some from Ridgeview, Nyetimber and Chapel Down off the Kent coast. The idea is to see how ageing underwater affects the wines. They called in the help of the Whitstable Oyster Company to help get the gyrating palate of wine out to sea on 23 April. With wine sometimes recovered intact and drinkable from shipwrecks, there’s interest in how a dark, high-pressure environment might change the wines. Neil Walker, founder of The English Vine explained: “We were all inspired by the shipwreck Champagne bottle story and the underwater wine ageing process felt like something we wanted to investigate and really get to the bottom of. Is this a myth, or really something which could work? We can’t wait to get the results in spring 2022, whatever they may be, when we’ll have expert tasters and scientists working together to find out what it’s all about”. Walker is inspired in particular by a haul of Veuve Clicquot that spent 70 years beneath the Baltic before being recovered in 2010. We can’t help thinking, however, that only a year beneath the waves is not going to make a noticeable difference. Still great PR for The English Vine!

The Nightcap: 14 May

Whisky fans from Turriff to Tokyo to celebrate Speyside

Fans across the globe celebrate Spirit of Speyside festival

We think it’s fair to say the virtual Spirit of Speyside Festival which ran from 27 April to 2 May this year was a success. 688 guests from 15 countries from around the world logged into the online event, joining virtual booths hosted by distillery managers, brand ambassadors, and whisky experts to chat with like-minded whisky lovers. The festival saw 2,877 visits to the 20 available booths, with guests using a total of 2,254 emojis and enjoying drams from 836 tasting kits. Of all the events, Benriach’s ‘World of Flavour’ proved to be the top pick of the festival as global brand ambassador Stewart Buchanan led a tasting of the core range and gave views a sneak peek behind the scenes of the new visitor centre in Elgin. Virtual distillery tours were also high on the agenda for visitors, with tours of Benromach and Tamdhu distilleries being the second and third most popular events. “This year’s Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival might have been very different from years gone by, but the distilleries rallied to create one of our most engaging and internationally visited events in our 21-year history,” says James Campbell, chairman of the festival. “With guests from every corner of the globe from Australia to the Philippines, Canada, Germany, Mexico and across the UK, whisky lovers rubbed shoulders with some of the biggest names in the whisky industry”. We also attended a few events and very much enjoyed ourselves. Although we’re certainly still looking forward to being there in person when it runs again from 3-8 November 2021… . In real life! Imagine that.

Thomas Aske and Tristan Stephenson

Tristan Stephenson and Thomas Aske, they ain’t afraid of dragons

Whisky Me wows Dragon’s Den

A whisky subscription service looks set for the big time after it secured backing from all three ‘dragons’, Deborah Meaden, Peter Jones and Tej Lalvani, on BBC1’s Dragons’ Den this week. It’s called Whisky Me and it was set up in 2017 by drinks biz stalwarts Thomas Aske (Black Rock and other bars) and Tristan Stephenson (aka the Curious Bartender). When we spoke to Stephenson earlier this year, he said that business has been booming during lockdown so seeking outside investment was the logical next step. Meadon, Jones and Lalvani have taken 15% of the business in return for £75,000 worth of investment. Apparently, this is only the sixth time when all three ‘dragons’ (do we have to keep calling them ‘dragons’?) have come in on the same deal. Meaden praised the boys’ pitch, Peter Jones said he’d “been waiting for a great whisky business”, while Lalvani said that he shared “a passion for whisky with the guys.” So it sounds like a good fit. Stephenson commented: “We are incredibly excited to have three dragons on board. The expertise that Deborah, Peter and Tej bring to Whisky Me will help take the business to the next level, enabling us to further develop our UK market and expand the club internationally.” And Aske added: “We’ve seen a huge shift in the last year towards better drinking at home, which is a natural reaction to many of our favourite bars and pubs being closed. With this investment we can grow Whisky Me further, introducing amazing whisky to a bigger audience of curious drinkers everywhere.” Sounds like we haven’t heard the last of Whisky Me.

The Nightcap: 14 May

There’s no more than just castles in these rolling hills

Archaeologists find illegal whisky stills 

Archaeologists have discovered 30 sites that they believe were used to produce illegal whisky in Aberdeenshire and Wester Ross this week. According to the Evening Express, the illicit stills found at Mar Lodge and Torridon date back to the 19th century and would have produced whisky for smuggling, selling and stocking unlicensed private houses, known as shebeens. Researchers were able to use old accounts of excisemen to help them find the sites which were well-hidden in hills, deep in the countryside. “Landscape is absolutely key to the illicit distilling process – it provides barley and water as ingredients, and peat and timber for fuel, stone and turf to construct bothies,” says Derek Alexander, head archaeologist at the National Trust for Scotland. “But also the more broken-up and rugged the landscape the less easy it is to find where the bothies have been built and where equipment might be stored or hidden.” It’s Alexander’s belief that whole communities were involved with these illegal stills to spread the cost and minimise risks. It is also thought that, while 30 sites have been uncovered, hundreds more exist in those rolling hills. Let’s hope they find them and uncover their ancient secrets!

The Nightcap: 14 May

This might just be the most bonkers bottle ever featured on The Nightcap. And that’s going some.

And finally… Chernobyl brandy seized by authorities

A brandy made from apples grown near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant has been seized by Ukrainian authorities according to the BBC. It’s all a bit mysterious but it seems that it has been held up on its journey to the UK not because of its atomic provenance but for bureaucratic reasons. Professor Jim Smith from the Chernobyl Spirit Company commented: “It seems that they are accusing us of using forged Ukrainian excise stamps, but this doesn’t make sense since the bottles are for the UK market and are clearly labelled with valid UK excise stamps.” This isn’t the first time Prof. Smith has hit the headlines, as we reported on the release of Atomik Vodka back in 2019. According to Smith, it was made from “slightly contaminated” rye but after radioactivity levels are “below their limit of detection.” Chernobyl Spirit Company conducts research into whether the contaminated area about the plant can be used for safe agriculture and helps communities in Ukraine that are still affected by the economic consequences of the 1986 explosion. It seems though, that the team is not finding it easy to sell its atomic spirits. We cannot think why.

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The Nightcap: 19 March

Islay’s first dedicated rum distillery, a troll-inspired beer and more all await you in this week’s edition of The Nightcap: 19 March edition. Get stuck in. Tomorrow it’s officially Spring™….

Islay’s first dedicated rum distillery, a troll-inspired beer and more all await you in this week’s edition of The Nightcap: 19 March edition. Get stuck in.

Tomorrow it’s officially Spring™. According to the internet, anyway. And when is it ever inaccurate? Usually at this time of year we’d be looking forward to things: the brighter weather; Bank Holidays; Easter and the mountain of chocolate that comes with it. But it’s hard not to look back this year. It’s been a whole 12 months since the UK went into lockdown. The sun has completed 365 keepy-ups with the earth (science isn’t our strong suit) since the first MoM virtual quiz. A lot has changed since then. Even The Nightcap. But it’s still full of fun stories, cool pictures and interesting tidbits. Go and check it out if you don’t believe us. It’s right there. Just scroll down.

We were all a little Irish this week on the MoM blog. Our St Patrick’s Day celebrations were filled with delicious Irish whiskey and plenty of cocktails. Elsewhere, we did our best Soft Cell impression by saying hello to Pour & Sip and waving goodbye to Dram Club. Ian Buxton returned to investigate the merits of mizunara oak. Then Lucy demonstrated how to point and click like a pro. New Ardbeg distillery manager Colin Gordon also stopped by for a chat. And we enjoyed some bargain brandies, a first spiced variant from a rum giant and a fruity twist on a whisky classic.

But there’s still more boozy stories to enjoy ahead, so let’s crack on. It’s The Nightcap: 19 March!

The Nightcap 19 March edition is here!

Big changes are coming to Glen Garioch Distillery

Beam Suntory invests £6 million in Glen Garioch

Things are changing at Glen Garioch thanks to a huge investment by its owners Beam Suntory. The drinks giant is pumping £6 million into renovations. Cutting-edge technology is on the way. As is the return of some traditional production processes. Which isn’t as counter-intuitive as it sounds. The brand will alter its wash still to heat it with direct fire. But, to do that it will use a state-of-the-art, efficient and safe method. It will even reduce the distillery’s carbon footprint by around 15%. Glen Garioch will also soon home to floor maltings. The expectation is that the work, which began last year, will be completed later this year. Distillery manager Kwanele Mdluli says the team have “deep expertise and passion” for traditional distillation and malting methods. François Bazini, Beam Suntory’s managing director Scotch, Gin & Irish, added: “Our whisky has always been made with extraordinary care, and by reinvigorating its distillery and tapping into the brand’s rich history, we’ll be able to build on the quality and complexity that Glen Garioch is already known for. Although we’re looking to the past for inspiration – we’re opening the next chapter in Glen Garioch’s future”.

The Nightcap 19 March edition is here!

Islay might be known for its whisky, but the island could soon have its first-ever dedicated craft rum distillery.

Islay welcomes first dedicated rum distillery

There’s a new distillery on the way for Islay, but it won’t be making whisky. Instead, the Queen of the Hebrides will be getting its first dedicated rum distillery. Islay Spirits, a subsidiary of independent bottlers the Vintage Malt Whisky Company, has partnered with an Islay startup called The High Road Rum Company to bring the project to life. The project received planning permission in January 2020. The brand has secured a site, the former Hastie’s Lemonade Factory and Dunn’s Depot in Port Ellen. Following some refurbishment, we can expect to see rum flowing from the stills in autumn of this year. If you love a bit of geeky detail, you’ll be interested to know that a pot and twin retort still has been ordered. Ben Inglis, of The High Road Rum Company, will take charge. Excitingly, it sounds like he’ll be making good use of a rum recipe he’s been developing for several years. Andrew Crook, managing director of the Vintage Malt Whisky Company, says the project is an opportunity to put some investment back into the “the spiritual home of our company” and that he hopes the local community will “enjoy seeing a business emerge and develop over the years”. Just to be clear, this is Islay’s first dedicated rum distillery. We know that the Laggan Bay Brewery & Distillery promised to create Islay’s first rum back in 2019. This new project, however, is different. Because it won’t be making any beer or whisky. Just rum. Lots of lovely rum. Cool? Don’t make this like that time we wrote about Mexican whisky

The Nightcap 19 March edition is here!

One of the events invites you to join Stewart Buchanan to discover ‘Benriach’s World of Flavour’

Spirit of Speyside unveils schedule

Tickets for The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival are now on sale! Now in its 21st year, the four-day festival’s (29 April – 2 May 2021) programme features over 60 events. All of which are, of course, online. But there’s still a host of things to do. Festival-goers can speed network with other whisky lovers. Or check out their favourite brands in the exhibition centre. Or even catch up with friends old and new in the social lounge on the virtual platform. Programme highlights include Would I Lie to You?, which pits the likes of Dennis Malcolm, George Grant, Gemma Paterson and whisky writer Blair Bowman against each other to battle it out to become the best storytellers in Speyside. Then there’s Musical Drams, in which special guests including Charles MacLean, Dave Broom and Becky Paskin aim to bring their chosen whisky to life by matching a dram from Speyside to a piece of music. To grab your tickets and learn more, head to the Spirit of Speyside website.

The Nightcap 19 March edition is here!

Soon whiskey will join this line-up

Micil distils first Galway whiskey in over a century

Galway’s only operational distillery has revealed that it is producing the Irish city’s first whiskey in over a century. Micil Distillery’s founders Pádraic and Jimín Ó Griallais marked St Patrick’s Day by announcing that it is following in the footsteps of Micil Mac Chearra, their great-great-great-grandfather who began distilling spirits on a hillside in South Connemara over 170 years ago. In an interview with Pádraic back in January 2020, he revealed that whiskey was on the way. Just a year later casks were full of Micil new make. The process draws on the family’s distilling knowledge. This means historic mash bills, as well as Connemara terroir & provenance. The spirit is made with peated Irish barley, which was malted using Connemara turf from the family farm in Inverin. While the new whiskey matures, Micil will launch two independently-bottled Irish whiskeys finished in its own casks this summer. Congratulations guys, we look forward to tasting the whiskey. Until then, you can always enjoy its poitín and gin, while further information on the news, as well as the history of whiskey and distillation, can be found in this excellent post by WhiskeyTalk2U.

The Nightcap 19 March edition is here!

Bottles of booze brands produced by Pernod Ricard will updated by the end of the year

Pernod Ricard prioritises age-restriction labelling 

Pernod Ricard is stepping up its commitments to responsible consumption. Notably by ramping up efforts to add age-restriction labelling to all bottles produced by the group’s brands this year. The initial target was to implement the measures by 2024. This means the drinks giant is more than three years ahead of schedule. It’s one of more than 150 initiatives currently being developed. One saw Pernod Ricard take advantage of the lockdown period to accelerate training. More than 80% of employees have taken in-house digital training courses on the risks of excessive or inappropriate consumption and responsible drinking guidelines. Elsewhere, a digital version of the responsible party initiative Pernod Ricard coordinates with ERASMUS (Erasmus Student Network) was a hit. More than 6 million people, primarily isolated and at-risk students watched ‘Sharing Good Vibes’. It’s not always glamorous, but it’s important work. And it’s good to see a leader in the industry pressing ahead with its commitments.

The Nightcap 19 March edition is here!

Here’s to 40 years of Glencairn!

Glencairn celebrates 40 years of innovative glassware

The company behind the world’s favourite whisky tasting glass is celebrating its 40th anniversary. With a dram or two from a certain special glass, we imagine. Glencairn Crystal Studio and founder Raymond Davidson have been making innovative glassware since 1981. And it’s still in family hands. Initially, the business focused on decanters before the creation of the famous Glencairn Glass in 2001. Davidson senior commented: “When I started it was my ambition to create the most innovative, creative and impressive crystal decanters. I couldn’t be prouder of everyone at Glencairn and what we have achieved together in the last forty years. Though we have grown to a team of over 70 staff now, our family values and customer relationships are still at the core of everything we do and we continue to lead the world in creating ground-breaking design and developing unique techniques that delight our customers.” His son and new product development director Scott Davidson added: “Last year was an important year for us with the 20th anniversary of our iconic Glencairn Glass for whisky, however this is also a momentous year for us as we pay homage to 40 years of Glencairn Crystal.” The celebrations will take place later in the year with the opening of new expanded premises in East Kilbride, Glasgow.

The Nightcap 19 March edition is here!

The whisky boom just got boomier at Annandale Distillery

VCL Vintners “disrupts the market” with exclusive Annandale Distillery deal

The whisky investment world just got interesting. Lowland distillers Annandale has signed an exclusive five deal with VCL Vintners, a London-based firm of cask brokers. The distillery will offer half of its output, around 276,000 litres of pure alcohol, to VCL for sale to investors. As we’ve reported before, the market for casks has been heating up recently. But this move gives VCL an impressive slice of the whisky cake. Especially from a prestigious award-winning distillery like Annandale. Benjamin Lancaster, director of VCL Vintners, says: “Now that we have secured a consistent supply, our clients can benefit from casks with a high-grade premium product. And an even higher potential for return on investment. VCL Vintners intends to disrupt the market and revolutionise the way whisky investors access this high performing, capital growth alternative asset”. He also reveals plans are in place to work with other distilleries on the same basis in the future. David Thomson, owner of Annandale Distillery adds that VCL Vintners were the most “impressive and businesslike” investment house to approach them. “We only make one grade of whisky, so our customers can be assured of its quality. We’re very pleased to have the expert support of VCL Vintners to communicate the quality of our cask whisky. We’re very hopeful that the next five years of this partnership will bring a lot of success”. It’s certainly a bold move by VCL. It looks like the boom is getting boomier. 

The Nightcap 19 March edition is here!

Come and join The Drinks Community! Everyone will think you’re really cool if you do…

Join The Drinks Community!

A new initiative from industry charity The Drinks Trust goes live this week. It’s called the Drinks Community and it’s a platform for professionals to network, learn and share information. Something particularly important at the moment with the hospitality industry still in lockdown turmoil. Already over 700 people have signed up. Chief executive, Ross Carter commented: “The Drinks Community will be the voice of drinks people, from the point of production to the point of sale. Together, we will create, curate and share the most relevant and exciting resources that will help grow careers and connect more people across our vibrant industry. We will offer the services and opportunities that will help our people become more skilled, ultimately making our sector stronger, smarter, more connected, more resilient and more diverse.” There are different levels of membership from free to £5 and £10 monthly donations. It sounds like such a worthwhile initiative both while the industry gets back on its feet and for the future. So, what are you waiting for? Join up now!

The Nightcap 19 March edition is here!

We can get behind this kind of response

And finally… American brewery releases troll-inspired beer

Whoever said the customer is always right, clearly doesn’t read reviews on Amazon or TripAdvisor. Unreasonable and unpleasant customers are, sadly, all too common. One American brewery is fighting back, however, the only way it knows how. By making beer. WSLS reports that Beale’s Brewery’s latest release is made in response to someone who refused to wear a mask in the taproom in line with Covid restrictions and later sent an email saying: “Your manager is b**** and your beer tastes like hot old orange juice.” We’re not sure what asterisked word is, perhaps some crazy Appalachian swear word like ‘badgerass.’ Whatever it is, it’s not very nice at all. Head brewer Bryson Foutz says: “The sad thing is it’s expected, but the only thing we can do is snap back.” Beale’s response is an American porter called “Your manager is b*****”. It even has a photo of the manager, the magnificently-named Brittany Canterbury, looking very pleasant and not at all like a badgerass. We can’t comment on the flavour. But we expect it won’t taste like hot old orange juice, or badgerass.

No Comments on The Nightcap: 19 March

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: 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.

The Nightcap

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.

The Nightcap

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.

The Nightcap

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?

The Nightcap

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.

The Nightcap

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.

The Nightcap

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.”

The Nightcap

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

Sip on some superb Speysiders!

Sad about the cancellation of the Spirit of Speyside Festival? We’ve got just the thing to lift your spirits: a whole bunch of delicious whiskies from that very region! We…

Sad about the cancellation of the Spirit of Speyside Festival? We’ve got just the thing to lift your spirits: a whole bunch of delicious whiskies from that very region!

We were all disappointed to find out the Spirit of Speyside Festival had to be cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The event welcomes a huge number of visitors from across the globe each year to enjoy over 700 whisky-themed activities in a celebration of the biggest whisky-producing region in Scotland. But we can still champion Speyside and its huge variety of delicious whiskies by helping ourselves to a bottling from one of its many distilleries. We’ve done our bit by narrowing down your considerable choice. This selection features a wide range of some of the finest expressions from the region so you can get your hands on some delicious Speysiders with ease. Enjoy!

Speyside #2 25 Year Old (That Boutique-y Whisky Company)     

We begin our round-up with a delightful mystery. We know is that this a 25-year-old single malt from a Speyside distillery and that it was bottled by the wonderful folk over at That Boutique-y Whisky Company. We also know that’s it’s from a different distillery in the region to Speyside #1, which only increases the intrigue. What we can confirm, however, is that it’s very, very tasty.

What does it taste like?

Estery malt, candied fruit, nutty almond oil, barley sugars, a hint of Turkish delight, ginger, cinnamon, lemon citrus, white oak, praline, hazelnut, cedar, honey, dried apricot,  gingerbread, dark caramel, vanilla essence and maybe even a hint of rancio.

Aberlour A’Bunadh Batch 63      

Aberlour is one of those distilleries that has a passionate following who look forward to every release, in particular the excellent A’Bunadh batches. Well known for being made of whiskies with intense and complex profiles that are matured in Spanish oloroso sherry butts and bottled at cask strength and the 63rd edition is no exception. The series is incredibly popular and its expressions always end up selling out so you’ll want to get your hands on this one sooner rather than later.

What does it taste like?

Buttered malt loaf, sherried peels, spearmint, Christmas cake, dark chocolate mousse, cinnamon, white pepper, dried fruit and sugared almonds.

Balvenie 14 Year Old Caribbean Cask     

There are few distilleries that boast a range as consistently excellent and intriguing as The Balvenie, who demonstrated how to put ex-rum casks to good use with this tasty expression. The single malt Speysider was initially aged in traditional oak casks before it was finished in casks which previously held Caribbean rum, imparting some extra sweetness and warmth.

What does it taste like?

Tropical fruits, namely passion fruit, sweet vanilla, apples, mangoes, orange and creamy toffee.

Glenfarclas 15 Year Old        

Those who love sherried whisky love Glenfarclas whisky, and for good reason. The independent and family-owned distillery is well known for producing some spectacular sherry bombs and its 15-year-old expression maybe the standout from its impressive core range.  A fabulously complex and rich Scotch, Glenfarclas 15 Year Old is bottled at 46% ABV simply because this was the strength that George Grant’s grandfather preferred it at. 

What does it taste like?

Intense, powerful sherry, rancio, orange peel, walnuts, dates and peppermint.

Cardhu Gold Reserve      

A sweet, mellow and easy-drinking expression from one the region’s oldest distilleries, Cardhu Gold Reserve is an impressive no-age-statement release that represents seriously good value for money. It’s a whisky that’s delightful when mixed and we can tell you from experience that it makes a very good Hot Toddy.

What does it taste like?

Honeyed tinned stone fruits, toffees, strawberry, red apple, ginger and biscuity oak.

Master of Malt 10 Year Old Speyside Whisky Liqueur        

Something a bit different to conclude our list is a whisky liqueur that’s excellent over ice with a healthy helping of fresh orange peel, but more than good enough to drink neat. Our very own Speyside Whisky Liqueur was made exclusively using 10-year-old single malt whisky from one of Speyside’s most famous distilleries that was previously matured in sherry casks to give it that classic Speyside style. We emphasised this flavour by adding a host of tasty ingredients such as cinnamon, two different kinds of orange peel and cloves. Delicious.

What does it taste like?

Dried, aromatic fruit, nutmeg, cinnamon, anise, Angostura bitters, cola, peppermint, dark chocolate, dried ginger, crème brûlée, blood oranges, mint humbugs, sweet malty cereal and vanilla.

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Fèis Ìle 2020 officially cancelled

We’re sorry to report that Fèis Ìle 2020 and other whisky festivals around the country will not take place this year as the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic spreads.  We sadly received confirmation…

We’re sorry to report that Fèis Ìle 2020 and other whisky festivals around the country will not take place this year as the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic spreads. 

We sadly received confirmation today that Fèis Ìle 2020 has been cancelled. The organisers released the following statement in The Ileach, an independent newspaper for Islay and Jura, “Following Scottish Government guidelines, with deep regret, we announce that Fèis Ìle 2020 has been cancelled. We are devastated to have to announce this. We love our festival and welcoming people from around the world. We have considered the impact on islanders, local businesses and visitors alike.” 

The statement continued: “We have made this decision after lengthy discussions between the committee and our distillery partners, and have concluded no other option was viable. Please continue to support our island and we look forward to seeing you for Fèis Ìle 2021. To those who have bought tickets direct from Fèis Ìle, you will be contacted by our volunteers in the next 14 days. Please be patient and we will be in touch. Thank you”.

Fèis Ìle 2020

The coronavirus pandemic, unfortunately, made the Fèis Ìle 2020 inevitable

The directors of the Islay Festival of Malt & Music had organised an emergency meeting to discuss the status of this year’s Fèis Ìle (scheduled for 22-30 May) according to WhiskyCast and in light of current events the news, while devastating, it’s no surprise this decision was made. Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon had previously called for the cancellation of events with 500 more people in order to free up emergency services workers, while UK prime minister Boris Johnson warned the British public to avoid pubs, clubs and social venues in a bid to mitigate the impact of coronavirus. At the moment, we don’t know whether this will mean no special Fèis Ìle 2020 expressions from Islay’s distilleries.

The news follows a number of closures and cancellations across the industry. The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival 2020 that was due to take place from 29 April -4 May has also been cancelled. “In response to the escalating situation with Covid-19, the board of directors have decided that this year’s Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival is cancelled as a preventative measure,” said James Campbell, chairman of the festival. “We very much regret the inconvenience that this will cause our visitors, event providers, members, partners and local communities, and trust that everyone will fully understand why we have had to make this decision.”

In addition, organisers of the Campbeltown Malts Festival have announced the cancellation of their event scheduled for 19-22 May, while The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has released a list (that will be updated daily) of Scotch whisky distilleries that have closed or suspended tours.

Fèis Ìle 2020

The island is home to some of the world’s most famous and beloved distilleries

A number of other events have been postponed, including Whisky Live London and its sister festival Gin Live London. It was announced this week that both events will go ahead “later in the year”, according to the organisers. The Wine & Spirits Show, set to take place in London next month, has also been postponed, while Think Spirits has confirmed that its event will no longer take place on April 28th and instead has been pushed back to the 15th September 2020 at the same venue, St Mary’s, Marylebone.   

It’s an awful shame. The festival’s blend of open events, music and merriment makes it a bucket-list trip for whisky-lovers everywhere and it’s an occasion we at Master of Malt love to visit and cover for the blog. Ultimately, public safety must take precedent, however. There will be plenty of time to enjoy delicious whisky in each others’ company in the future. For now, you can still get the best Islay and others have to offer straight to your home as we remain open for business. For more information on that, this handy blog post should answer any questions.

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The Nightcap: 21 February

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

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

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

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

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

The Nightcap

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

Spirit of Speyside whisky festival unveils its programme

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

The Nightcap

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

‘Largest’ private whisky collection breaks records

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

The Nightcap

The colourless Mirror Margarita collection from specialist agave bar Hacha

London celebrates International Margarita Day

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

The Nightcap

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

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

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

The Nightcap

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

Australian distillers donate spirits to raise money for bushfire relief

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

The Nightcap

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

Big Drop Brewing Co. Reveal New Design

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

The Nightcap

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

Diageo Reserve’s World Class competition returns!

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

The Nightcap

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

Historical Johnnie Walker artefacts to go on display

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

The Nightcap

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

Diageo pays $5m fine over ‘misleading’ sales

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

The Nightcap

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

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

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

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The Nightcap: 31 January

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

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

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

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

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

The Nightcap

Suntory is already a shareholder in The Macallan.

Suntory buys 10% stake in Edrington

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

The Nightcap

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

Peaky Blinders Irish whiskey distillery on the cards 

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

The Nightcap

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

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

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

Work will begin on the new distillery later this year

New distillery to open in the heart of Burns country

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

The Nightcap

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

Madison x The Clumsies Residency

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

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

Hennessy marks Lunar New Year with artist collab

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

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Tequila was a standout performer for Diageo

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

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

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

Spirits producers agree to age restrictions on labels

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

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Nightcap legend Miles Beale was in unusually optimistic form this week

Leaving EU offers opportunities for drinks trade says WSTA

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

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It’s a novel, green and fabulous idea!

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

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

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