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The week in pictures

You’ve heard of Eurostar’s new ‘Press for Champagne’ button, now cruise line Virgin Voyages has launched an on-demand Champagne delivery service which allows users to request a bottle of fizz by shaking their phone.

By downloading Virgin Voyages Sailor App, users are invited to shake their phones whereby a Champagne button is revealed. By pressing, users can order a bottle of Möet Chandon Impérial to be delivered anywhere on the boat.

The bottles will come in a red Champagne bucket with two glasses at a cost of US$95 (£77.57) per bottle.

German beer festival Oktoberfest came to a close on Sunday (6 October), with nearly 100,000 drinking vessels stolen throughout the event.

Around 6.3 million million people attended the beer festival in Germany this year, but attendees drank just 7.3 million litres in the festival tents, 200,000 fewer than in 2018.

Stewards also confiscated 96,912 beer mugs (2018: 101,000) from souvenir hunters in the tents and at the exits of the festival grounds.

Dr Rachel Barrie with son Alexander and husband Hamish (L-R, just to clarify)

In whisky news, Dr. Rachel Barrie, the master blender for spirits giant Brown Forman’s Scotch portfolio, was made a Keeper of the Quaich at a private ceremony held at Blair Castle on Monday 7 October.

The Keepers of the Quaich is a highly exclusive society in the world of whisky, established to honour those who produce and promote it worldwide.

With 27 years of experience, Barrie joined the Brown-Forman family in March 2017 as Master Blender for The GlenDronach, BenRiach and Glenglassaugh distilleries.

In recognition of her service to the whisky industry, she was made an honorary Doctor of Science at a ceremony in July last year.

The so-called First Lady of Scotch was also papped enjoying the celebrations with Outlander star and whisky fan, Sam Heughan.

Champagne Bollinger is celebrating its 40th year in partnership with James Bond with the launch of two wines: a £4,500 Moonraker magnum and Eric Berthes-designed gift box and a No Time To Die-inspired bottle.

The first bottle of Bollinger appeared alongside 007 in 1979 with the release of Moonraker. Since then, the association has gone on to inspire numerous limited edition products, with the Bollinger cooperage also home to a collection of vintage Bond posters.

The UK Michelin Guide 2020 was launched this week, and Interlude, set in the grounds of the recently restored Leonardslee Gardens in West Sussex, became the second restaurant with its own vineyard to be featured in the list.

Interlude, which overlooks the UK’s first Pinotage vineyard planted in 2018, serves up tasting menus featuring ingredients foraged from the Grade I listed gardens and 240-acre Leonardslee estate.

The kitchen is headed up by South African-born executive chef Jean Delport.

The first 120 year-old bottles of Pol Roger Champagne were opened in Epernay yesterday, having spent more than a century buried in sodden chalk after a cellar collapse in 1900.

Pol Roger lost as many as 1.5m bottles of Champagne – representing around half its stock at the time – after a period of heavy rain caused its underground cellars to cave in during the night on 23 February 1900, burying the fizz in wet chalk and clay.

However, on 15 January 2018, while Pol Roger was beginning the process of building a new packaging facility above the site of the collapsed cellars, the Champagne producer discovered 23 bottles that were still in-tact.

Our editor Patrick Schmitt MW went to Epernay to sample the extraordinary wine himself.

However, before tasting fizz from the buried stash, Pol Roger CEO Laurent d’Harcourt led db towards the site of the collapse.

And you can see why the digging has stopped…

Although just after these in-tact bottles from the 1890s were retrieved.

It’s not just historic Champagne that’s stashed in Pol Roger’s facilities. Among the racks of Champagne is this Dodge pick-up, bought by the producer in 1944 after the Americans liberated Epernay, and then used for bringing in the harvest, before being left here, where it has stayed for 60 years.

Meanwhile, in Spain, Viñedos de Alfro, a Rioja Oriental estate founded in 1974, has bottled the first official single vineyard Rioja since the new classification rules were introduced in 2017.

The wine is made from 100% Garnacha grapes, from a plot of 3.5 hectares planted in 1975 and located in “a very dry area with poor, alluvial soils”, according to the estate, which was extremely keen to show us a close-up of its new shiny green labelling.

(Photo: David Parry/PA Wire)

This week, bartenders, cocktail aficionados and folks that just like a drink swarmed the Old Truman Brewery in Brick Lane to enjoy discounted serves, masterclasses and special launch parties as part of London Cocktail Week.

db headed down on Wednesday night for a bop with spirits giant Bacardí at its own pop-up ‘Rum Room’ at LCW HQ.

It’s not the only thing the brand launched this week, as Wednesday saw Bacardí introduce a new barrel-aged rum – Bacardí Gran Reserva Diez – at the bar, with a DJ set from Maya Jama (pictured).

The rum, which has been barrel-aged for a minimum of 10 years, is available at a number of the UK cocktail bars like Laki Kane, Trailer Happiness, The Curtain, Nine Lives, Gong and Blue Bar in London; Filthy Xiii in Bristol; Cottonopolis in Manchester; Panda & Sons in Edinburgh; and Present Company in Liverpool. If you really like it, you can also get it on Amazon.

The Rum Room will be open to the public from Thursday 10 to Sunday 13 October at Dray Walk, opposite the Old Truman Brewery.

Amuerte White Gin and Red Bull’s organic ginger beer

On Thursday, db had trouble sleeping after a caffeinated night at Red Bull’s central London office for the UK launch of Amuerte Gin, a new spirit infused with coca leaves (as in, what is used for the production of cocaine).

Yes, really.

There are two in the range, a black bottle which uses botanicals such as “Peruvian cocaine leaves, with dragon fruit, tamarillo, papaya, Peruvian physalis and orange zest,” and a white variant with coca leaves, cardamom, coriander, lime and Sichuan pepper. Both were paired with Red Bull’s new line of organic sodas, which launched in May last year.

It is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the only gin in the world made with coca leaves, and is set to launch in the UK next week. Jeroen Reynders, the Belgian co-founder of the brand, told db he bought the stock from the Peruvian government.

In Peru, the traditional use of the coca leaf is an ancestral practice which has never been criminalised. Instead there is a scheme of licenses under state control for the cultivation of coca leaves and their distribution through the National Coca Company (ENACO: Empresa Nacional de la Coca).

In the basement at Red Bull HQ

The idea came to Reynders after he and a group spent time backpacking through the Peruvian rainforest, and took part in a coca leaf ceremony with a rural tribe.

Once picked, the leaves undergo a maceration and decocanisation process to remove the active ingredient inherent in cocaine, making it safe/legal for consumption.

Still, Reynders said it took a long time to get the product approved before launching in Belgium last year.

“It was very difficult,” he told db last night. “For a while I thought I should’ve just made something with apples.”

He said, the gin was in the market, his team managed to sell 2,000 bottles in a week.

It is not the first time cocaine has been used to enhance an alcoholic beverage. In 1863, chemist Angelo Mariani devised a mixture of coca and Bordeaux wine, fortified with brandy, and then sold it as a health drink. A small glass (100 ml) contained the equivalent of 21 mg of cocaine.

In sustainability, Danish beer giant Carlsberg has revealed designs for what it claims is the world’s first paper beer bottle.

The bottle forms part of Carlsberg’s Together Towards Zero initiative, which includes a commitment to reach zero carbon emissions and a 30% reduction in its “full-value-chain carbon footprint” by 2030.

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