Diageo uses Amazon Alexa voice technology to promote Talisker whisky

18th December, 2018

Drinks giant Diageo is piloting a new Amazon Alexa Skill and using voice-activated technology to promote its Scotch whisky brand, Talisker.

Alexa is Amazon’s voice activated digital assistant

Alexa-owners can ask their device to open “Talisker tasting”, and will then be asked to name one of three whiskies under the brand they want to learn more about; Talisker Skye, Talisker Storm or Talisker 10-year-old Single Malt.

Once a whisky is selected, the voice-focused advert takes consumers on an “audio journey that will educate them on how to taste Scotch,” as well as giving more information about the selected spirit.

The final stage invites the taster to ask questions about the story behind their drink or flavours of Scotch they may like to try in the future.

The prompt is age-gated, according to Diageo, which means that only users 18 and over will be able to access the advert.

The new advertising format comes after a report this year found that 58% of people have used voice-search technology to find out more about a local business in 2018.

One in five adults uses mobile voice search at least one time a month, according to Global Web Index.

Diageo said that voice-controlled technology is an are in which the company “continues to experiment.”

“We were looking to bring elements of this location and the fantastic tasting tours at the Talisker Distillery into people’s homes,” Benjamin Lickfett, Diageo’s head of technology and innovation, said.

“Voice is the perfect technology to do just this and provide an enhanced brand experience by putting the consumer, product and brand at the centre of a tasting, in a completely seamless and non-intrusive way.

Nathan Outlaw to open restaurant with The Goring hotel

18th December, 2018

London’s The Goring hotel is opening a new restaurant, its first for more than 108 years, with famed Cornish chef Nathan Outlaw at the helm.

Nathan Outlaw

Promising “the best, freshest seafood in London”, The Goring in Belgravia plans to open the as-yet-unnamed site by the end of April next year, and will focus on sustainable Cornish seafood.

The new restaurant will offer a more “casual alternative” to its existing Dining Room, which has held a Michelin star since 2016.

The Dining Room at The Goring also has an impressive wine list, overseen by sommelier Jean-Baptiste Lemoine. Ranked 42nd in London by Wine List Confidential, Michelin-starred restaurant embraces Bordeaux and Burgundy while “hovering a torch over the new world and emerging regions,” our experts said.

The restaurant will be set inside the hotel, overlooking its garden, and housed in an ornate orangery.

The hotel’s bar is also set to be transformed into a bright, lively space serving classic cocktails and British spirits.

“We’re building an eccentric, uplifting space with the help of some very special craftsmen and designers, and the restaurant will be all about simplicity on the plate, freshness, and our usual heartfelt British service,” added CEO Jeremy Goring.

Outlaw already holds two Michelin stars for his eponymous restaurant in Port Isaac, and will spend two days a week in his new kitchen.

The news comes just two weeks after Outlaw announced the end of his six year partnership with the Capital Hotel in Knightsbridge.

Why the government’s sustainability plan won’t be easy for the drinks industry

18th December, 2018

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has published a five-point plan to tackle the UK’s waste problem and its impact on the environment, prompting mixed reactions across the drinks sector.

The Resources and Waste Strategy for England, which which went live today, is “the most ambitious, and most forward looking document to come from Government in this area in years,” according to James Calder, the head of public affairs at the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA), but industry leaders have expressed doubts over whether businesses will be able to meet the targets.

Businesses and producers, according to the report, will “pay the full cost” of recycling or disposing of their packaging waste. It also suggests compulsory food waste prevention targets for businesses, electronic tracking of waste, and an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), which would mean that companies operating the UK have to pay higher fees if their products are harder to reuse, repair or recycle. The EPR is expected to add between £0.5 billion and £1 billion to the economy.

The EPR follows on from the Autumn Statement, where chancellor Phillip Hammond announced a “world-leading” tax on companies using plastic packaging that is not made with at least 3% recyclable material.

Other proposals include clearer labelling on drinks cans and containers so consumers can tell what they can recycle, a “deposit return scheme” which will encourage people to recycle single-use plastic bottles and containers, and mandatory warrantees on packaging to encourage producers to use more durable and longer-lasting materials.

“Through this plan we will cement our place as a world leader in resource efficiency, leaving our environment in a better state than we inherited it,” DEFRA secretary Michael Gove said.

While the strategy itself has been welcomed by industry leaders, they have also said that brewers, distillers and wineries may struggle to comply with the government’s requirements.

Calder said that independent breweries will “find it very difficult to absorb costs like these.”

“SIBA is working closely with DEFRA to ensure that the financial impact on small brewers is mitigated, whilst working responsibly to ensure that we protect our natural capital.”

He added that, as most craft beer is consumed either in pubs and bars or at home, existing recycle programmes for commercial venues and kerbside collections for homes “do a great job of collecting empty craft beer cans and bottles already.”

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Icewine harvest underway in BC

18th December, 2018

The icewine harvest is taking place in British Columbia after the mercury dropped to the requisite -8° centigrade, in what is another early freeze in the Canadian province.

Harvesting this year began on 5 December, which is somewhat early though not as early as last year when freezing temperatures arrived on 5 November.

There have been three pickings in Oliver, West Kelowna, Kelowna and Lake Country with temperatures dropping as low as -14°C.

Icewine harvests are not overly common in BC as they are in other parts of Canada so two early years in a row is something of a novelty – and a welcome one.

“Icewine harvest in BC can be as early as November or as late as February,” said Laura Kittmer, media relations manager of the BC Wine Institute.

“Wineries love early harvests as they avoid the risk of losing grapes to challenging weather and hungry animals, and the grapes preserve those pure varietal characters they are looking for.”

So far 135 tonnes have been harvested with another 570 tonnes still to go according to the BC Wine Authority. Seven wineries have been picking so far and 20 overall are registered and authorised to harvest for icewine this year.

Diner finds $4k pearl in his lunch at Grand Central’s oyster bar

18th December, 2018

A man, who initially thought he’d lost a tooth in a mouthful of shellfish stew at Grand Central Station’s oyster bar in New York, was surprised to discover that the foreign object was actually a pearl worth between US$2,000 to $4,000.

Rick Antosh, 66, is a regular customer at the oyster bar and ordered his usual $14.75 oyster pan roast while dining with a friend on 5 December.

Taking a mouthful of the stew-like dish which combines butter, cream, clam juice and six Blue Point oysters, he felt a small, hard object in his mouth.

While initially thinking it could be a lost or chipped tooth, or a loose filling, it turned out to be a pearl.

Speaking to the New York Post, he said: “This isn’t Joe’s Steakhouse. It’s the most famous oyster place in the United States. I [assumed] it doesn’t happen often, but figured it happens at times.”

Pocketing the pearl, Antosh later contacted the staff at the restaurant who stressed just how rare the incident was.

Executive chef Sandy Ingber told the New York Post“I’ve been here 28 years. This is only the second time I’ve seen this happen. And we sell over 5,000 oysters on the half shell every day.”

Pearls are formed when an irritant, for example a parasite, becomes lodged inside the oyster’s shell. The mollusk protects itself by incasing the irritant in a fluid which hardens over time to form a pearl.

The chances of finding a natural pearl is very rare, with sources usually citing odds of around 1 in 12,000.

$500 Macallan inspired men’s loafers released

18th December, 2018

Shoemaker Rob McAllan has partnered with The Macallan to release a limited edition series of men’s loafers in the US, “inspired” by the Scotch whisky brand’s ‘Rare Cask’ expression.

Just 100 pairs have been made, in black and each featuring The Macallan’s famous home, Easter Elchies, stitched in gold thread.

Each pair costs US$500 and only 57 were available at the time of writing.

This is not the first time a whisky brand has tried its hand at fancy footwear. Back in 2015 Johnnie Walker partnered with Oliver Sweeney to create a pair of (hideous) Oxford brogues that could (barely) conceal a miniature bottle in each heel.

Talisker likewise partnered with Oliver Sweeney on a pair of hiking boots, the left shoe having a small pouch to hold a 2oz flask (for whisky presumably).

All proceeds from the sale of the loafers are being donated to the Folded Flag Foundation, a charity that awards educational scholarships to the spouses and children of American servicemen and women killed in action.

For more information click here.

Oregon’s Deschutes Brewery lays off 10% of staff

18th December, 2018

Oregon-based brewer Deschutes, which is the 10th largest craft brewer in America, has laid off 10% of its staff after planned growth failed to materialise.

Founded in 1998, Deschutes started life as a brew pub, and has grown to become one of the country’s biggest craft brewers.

Earlier this month, the brewer announced a significant reduction of its workforce, as reported by Oregon newspaper The Bend Bulletin, as part of a cost saving exercise to match staff to sales volumes.

The company had expanded its team in anticipation of further growth, however that growth failed to match expectations over the past two years.

“We have made the hard decision to reduce staff across sales, marketing and operations by 10 percent to match our sales volume,” Michael LaLonde, Deschutes Brewery CEO and president, told the Bend Bulletin. “This decision was extremely difficult to make, but necessary for the brewery given current market conditions and trends.”

The company also announced that it was reevaluating its plans to expand into an East Coast location in Roanoke, Virginia, which was part of a $95 million project involving a 49 acre parcel of land.

Deschutes purchased the land for $3.2 million, and could sell the land, but has said it instead wants to revise the timing of construction. Construction was due to begin in 2019 and brewing in 2021.

It’s restructure is reflective of the current atmosphere within the US craft beer industry, with craft beer sales generally slowing across the US.

According to the US industry body The Brewers Association (BA), exports of US craft beer rose by 3.6% to US$125.4 million in 2017, but while this is a record high, it is now the third consecutive year that growth has slowed.

Meanwhile, according to the IWSR, beer consumption dipped by 1.1% over the whole of 2017, the equivalent of losing 261 million litres in revenue, according to figures released by the IWSR.

Deschutes is now looking toward the release of new beers, with an increasing proportion in cans, and has purchased a pilot brew system that will enable experimentation in small batches.

New beers will launch in fall 2019.

Warner Edwards unveils festive hedgehog marketing campaign for rhubarb gin

18th December, 2018

Northamptonshire-based distiller Warner Edwards has unveiled a festive marketing campaign featuring hedgehogs and bottles of its rhubarb gin in an effort to boost its “farm-grown” credentials.

The hedgehog star in a new video and billboard advertising campaign, featuring illuminated bottles of the distiller’s rhubarb gin.

Working with London-based agency Pablo, the Farm-Grown Gin activation also saw tractors lit up in fairy lights driven around the streets of London, towing billboards displaying images from the new campaign.

The distiller grows rhubarb at its Falls Farm which is then pressed for its juice. According to the brand, one third of every bottle of its rhubarb gin is rhubarb juice.

Run by husband and wife team, Tom Warner and Tina Warner- Keogh, Warner Edwards was named the second fastest growing alcohol business in The Sunday Times‘ annual Fast Track 100, placing sixth overall in the round-up.

The producer now makes six different flavour variants including its honeybee gin, elderflower and rhubarb gins.

The activation supports charity Hedgehog Street, which helps to safeguard and conserve hedgehogs in Britain. The number of hedgehogs in the UK has fallen by a third in 10 years and the activation will support work to improve habitats through conservation and sustainability initiatives.

The gin brand also gave Londoners a chance to win a year’s supply of rhubarb gin through an Instagram competition supporting the activation.

Commenting on the brand’s first large-scale campaign, Tom Warner said: “We began on my family farm with the things that matter most and a dream to save the world from mediocre gin.

“We ended up stripping the industry back to its roots: we became gin farmers, driven by passion and innovation. Our Farm-Grown Gin campaign brings this to life, giving our epic fans a glimpse of the natural beauty at Falls Farm”.

Speaking to the drinks business earlier this year, Warner outlined how far the gin industry had come, but stressed the need to focus on quality rather than novelty value.

He said: “Back in 2013, I’d spend 30 minutes telling suppliers about craft gin, convincing them that it was legal, that it tasted good and that it was safe and wasn’t going to kill anyone. It was all so alien back then. Now I have much simpler conversations as everyone just gets craft gin.

“I think we’ll see more focus on natural flavours and botanicals but also different types of distillation and styles. Is London Dry really the best method to extract flavour? As craft distillers it’s our responsibility to produce the best possible liquid through the best means. There’s still a lot of growth in the category, and the premium end will start cannibalising the lower end. I really hope we’ve reached peak ‘cake-flavoured glitter gins’, as I feel those kinds of products can be bad for the category.”

Canadian cannabis beer company targets Caribbean resorts

18th December, 2018

A Canadian drinks company specialising in non-alcoholic cannabis beers has struck a distribution deal with a new chain of hotels set to launch in the Caribbean in 2021.

Province Brands — which is developing 0% ABV beers infused with the plant’s psychoactive compound, THC — has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for the Caribbean distribution of its products with Ayre Resorts, a new collection of five-star properties opening its first resort in Antigua in 2021.

The startup, which is currently unable to sell the THC beers in Canada while the country’s cannabis legislation comes into force, also makes Cambridge Bay Imperial Pilsner; an alcoholic hemp-based beer.

The announcement comes as lawmakers in both Canada and Antigua are preparing to fully legalise recreational cannabis use.

An amendment to Antigua’s Misuse of Drugs Act, which was published in March this year, states that a person who is “in possession of a maximum of 15 grams of the drug Cannabis or Cannabis resin is not guilty of an offence.”

The amendment stopped short of legalisation, and there are still legal penalties for the sale of cannabis.

(Photo: Province Brands)

Currently, only Cambridge Bay, Province Brands’ hemp-based pilsner in place of barley, would qualify for distribution under these restrictions.

Although Canada’s lawmakers legalised recreational use of cannabis earlier this year, the country’s edibles industry has yet to become legal, causing a number of false-starts for small businesses and leading some manufacturers to sell their products illegally online.

Although Province filed a patent for a cannabis-based beer back in 2017, the company struck a deal with craft brewery Yukon in November so it can sell a pilsner brewed with cannabis next year, while it continues to develop its original, THC-laced beer.

“It’s very rare for a beer brand at this early stage in the life cycle to have an opportunity like this,” Rob Kevwitch, Province Brands’ master brewer, said.

“We’ve put two years of hard work into developing the process and technology by which to create the world’s first beers brewed from hemp and brewed from marijuana.

The company is currently building a 123,000 sq ft cannabis brewery in Grimsby, Ontario, which will enable it to “meet initial forecasted product demand in each province and territory.”

“There were some nights when even I thought we would never get this to work,” Kevwitch added, “but now folks in the Tropic of Cancer will be able to order a premium Canadian beer named after a town in the Arctic Circle.”

Japanese restaurant offers ‘girl’s hair-flavoured’ chicken

18th December, 2018

A Japanese fast food chain has launched ‘girl’s hair-flavoured’ chicken, adding to a bizarre menu that already includes ‘girl’s sweat’ and ‘girl’s feet’ sauce.

Onnanoko No Kamenoke No Aji (girl’s hair flavour) consists of fried chicken nuggets topped with nori seaweed and a soy sauce and seaweed dip on the side.

The fried chicken dish, served by Tenka Torimasu, is intended to evoke the scent and taste of women’s hair, according to English-language Japanese news site SoraNews24. 

Onnanoko No Kamenoke No Aji (girl’s hair flavour) consists of fried chicken nuggets topped with nori seaweed and a soy sauce and seaweed dip on the side.

While the name of the dish is more likely to put most people off than have them queuing up at the door, the creation is more like “an artistic interpretation of girl’s hair through the medium of fried chicken toppings”, says SoraNews24.

Adding to the weirdness, this isn’t the most bizarre item to have graced its menu, with the chain having already offered limited edition runs of “girl’s feet” and “girl’s sweat” cold sauces to its customers.

“Girl’s feet” sauce is based on a pungent fermented soy bean paste called natto, while “girl’s sweat” sauce used salt, lemon juice and cheese to evoke “the ‘refreshing’ sweat excreted by young ladies working hard to become successful idol singers”, Asia One reported at the time…

All three promotions have been carried out in partnership with Kamen Joshi, a girl group who perform in hockey masks.

Kamen Joshi