The evening of the Diageo Special Releases is always a key date in the calendar for whisky aficionados. Now into its 16th year this is when Diageo shows off the latest releases of fine and very rare whisky – with price tags to match. The Port Ellen, a deceased distillery, is now being offered for £2,625 a bottle. The company used the occasion to launch a new product, a blend, called Collectivum XXVIII which got the thumbs up from Philip Hunter.
Philip Hunter taste-tests the three single grain whiskies that form the new blend Chita, which has just had its UK debut. He drinks it a number of ways and ends up rather taking to it, even though his initial reaction was to have a problem with the musky phenolics.
The warning signs were everywhere at last night’s London launch of new Isle of Harris Gin. Not only were the G&Ts of industrial strength but drinks consultant Douglas Blyde was at the controls to show us how to make the perfect Martini. That was before the assembled throng were then encouraged to enter a Martini-making competition. Despite how messy it got there was one thing that shone through like a lighthouse beam and it was the spectacular umami of sugar kelp – the gin’s key botanical.
Gin has become such a phenomenon not just within the bars, restaurants and pubs that sell it, but with consumers who will happily try any new brand on the market. Such is the interest in gin it has now been given the big screen treatment with its own movie dedicated to the art of distilling and gin making.
Most people luxuriating in the balmy climes of South Africa might take to the beach or safari. At the very worst they might head to a winery to partake in some chilled Chenin Blanc or Chardonnay. Not our Roger Jones who heads for a mammoth tasting of spirits from many of the world’s top Brandy producers – trying to find out why South African Brandy has dominated international award ceremonies in recent years. And then he heads off for a tasting at a distillery. Oh, and there’s one bit where Roger has to turn off his phone and leave it outside the room. Don’t worry Rog your secret is safe with us!
Drinks guru and gin distiller, Nick Strangeway, has helped Britvic’s new incubator company WiseHead Productions develop its new range of premium tonics and mixers that he believes helps put the spotlight on the botanicals in a gin. The Buyer was on hand to see him and the new premium mixers brand, the London Essence Company, bring the tonics to life.
Phil Hunter attends the press launch and tasting of the new-look Metaxa 12 star brandy at which the company unveiled its new brand ambassador, South African adventurer Mike Horn and finds the spirit still uniquely standing out from the crowd.
Before it launches Ultis, its first ever blended malt whisky, Chivas Regal has opened a Pop Up near the City of London that extols the virtues of blending. Paying punters can take part in this immersive experience so we sent along Philip Hunter to see what all the fuss is about and get under the skin of Chivas Regal’s strategy.
Sir Ranulph Fiennes OBE could have been a wine merchant if he hadn’t flunked his A levels. Instead he went on to become one of the world’s most celebrated explorers, racking up amazing feats of endurance and guile. Johnnie Walker sponsored this Explorer Series at Mr Fogg’s of Mayfair and supplied cocktails made of Blue Label just so the audience wouldn’t get squeamish at the amputation and frost-bite bits.
Beam Suntory launches Maker’s 46, its latest Maker’s Mark liquid, in London’s fashionable Mondrian hotel. The bourbon is extra oaked for an extra smoothness that the company calls a “crescendo of wood”. The Buyer was there to get the lowdown on the thinking that went behind the idea.
Having a break from daily wine and spirits tastings, The Buyer’s Drinks Editor heads to Edinburgh for the Fringe Festival. But, minutes after arriving in the city finds himself boarding a Hendrick’s-sponsored double decker and getting dropped off outside the Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Leopard. Spots.
We tasted four premium spirits from Calvados Boulard – the Grand Solage, V.S.O.P., the Auguste XO and Extra that retails for a mere £328 a bottle. We then tried them as mixers in a range of classic cocktails. But not with the Extra. Obviously.
Neil Hennessy-Vass samples the delights of mezcal – tasted neat, used as a base spirit in a range of cocktails, and also paired with a variety of Mexican fusion food in a Mezcal Amores Mexican Fiesta
To see how the ‘other half’ lives we sent Neil Hennessy-Vass to the press launch of Johnnie Walker’s Christmas gift campaign – a cocktail party at the Queen’s jeweller, Asprey no less – for a gift set that retails at (ahem) a mere £2,750.
To celebrate its 200th anniversary Lagavulin has released a limited edition 25-year-old whisky that was the jewel in the crown of an exceptional night of celebration. Neil ‘two cocktails’ Hennessy-Vass took along his camera, palate but hid the plastic when the price of the 25 year-old was announced.
With camera in hand, and comb over tied as convincingly into a ponytail as possible, our resident hipster-in-waiting Neil Hennessy-Vass mixed it with the trendsetters of Hackney to celebrate the summer solstice and drink some fine single malt Highland Park Scottish whisky. Tattoos and designer glasses were non-negotiable.
Dean Shurry, ace bartender from Chiltern Firehouse, attempts to make the ‘ultimate’ G&T with the help of Peter Dean – three serves in varying complexity involving oak-aged gin, liquid nitrogen, Indian spices and a Mediterranean sherbet with sprigs of rosemary. But are they any good? and will they knock the ‘ice and slice’ off the drinks list?
With its latest premium whisky called Cipher, Glenlivet is setting the consumer a conundrum by putting as little information on the label as possible. But this is far from a cheap marketing trick, says Philip Hunter, who tackled the riddle of the liquid with tastebuds poised.
New grain whisky 808 has been designed for twenty-somethings with an endorsement by DJ TommyD. Philip Hunter finds that the branding is just as key as the blending, if not more so.
Beefeater’s Master Distiller, Desmond Payne carries on the spirit of innovation with the latest addition to their ultra-premium range. This time Beefeater Burrough’s Reserve Edition 2 has been matured in Bordeaux wine casks to give it a unique flavour profile.