Professor Brian Cox releases cosmic brew

11th December, 2018

Celebrity physicist Professor Brian Cox has launched a space-themed beer in partnership with Manchester brewer JW Lees.

Branding for the beer was developed by design agency Squad and uses typography inspired by sci-fi comic book graphics. The beer label includes the pattern of the stars which represents the night sky over the JW Lees brewery on the day he was born: March 3 1968.

“It’s what I would have seen had I looked out of the window. There’s a fact for the pub quiz,” said Cox, who grew up in Oldham.

The 3.9% ABV amber ale is a blend of British hops, including Admiral, Jester and Cascade.

Alongside Cosmic Brew, Squad has created a seasonal range of beers with JW Lees that will be released in two-month cycles during 2019, with each paying homage to the bands that have shaped the Manchester and UK music scene, including Oasis, The Sex Pistols and Buzzcocks.

Cosmic Brew will launch into retail and to the on-trade in January 2019 and will be available in 500ml bottle and in cask, coinciding with Cox’s arena tour across the UK and Ireland.

This is the first endorsement Cox has committed to in his career, despite being asked by various companies to do so.

Court orders extradition of Mallya to India in £1.15 billion fraud case

10th December, 2018

VJ Mallya, the former head of United Spirits, can be extradited to India to face charges of fraud and money laundering involving some £1.15 billion.

Dame Emma Arbuthnot, the senior magistrate at Westminster Magistrates Court, has ruled 16 months after he was arrested by the Metropolitan Police on an international warrant that there is sufficient evidence for him to face trial in his home country.

The case, which began formal hearings on December 4 last year, centred on whether Mallya ever intended to repay the £1.15 billion he lent by a consortium of Indian banks to prop up his disastrous Kingfisher Airlines.

The creditors claim he diverted the money into other activities including overseas property, his Force India Formula 1 grand prix team and the Royal Challengers Bangalore Cricket franchise. Mallya has consistently maintained that he has done nothing wrong and that he has sufficient assets to meet all his liabilities.

Even last week, Mallya renewed his offer to repay the debts associated with Kingfisher Airlines’ collapse, but only the principal. “Please take it”, he tweeted. Outside the court today he said: “I did not borrow a single rupee. The borrower was Kingfisher Airlines.”

The consortium of creditor banks is unlikely to accept the offer because it does not include a considerable sum in accrued interest. Indian courts have already seized vast assets from Mallya and the banks will hope for repayment in full once the various cases are concluded.

Nor would repayment address the charges of fraud and money laundering Mallya faces.

In India Mallya has been named as a proclaimed offender, been declared an absconder by a special Prevention of Money Laundering Act Court and has been found in contempt of the country’s Supreme Court for failure to make a full declaration of his global assets.

He fled to the UK in March 2016 following an alleged tip off that he was about to be arrested. He says he left India as part of a normal lifestyle pattern.

Since then India has succeeded in imposing a global freeze on his assets and he has been living on an allowance of £18,350 a week. Since August 2017 he has been on bail of £650,000 and has had to surrender his travel documents. He has been living at a mansion at Tewin in Hertfordshire and another in Regent’s Park, London, both of which are said to be owned by offshore companies.
His personal plane was impounded and sold, as was his ocean-going yacht and numerous Indian properties. His Force India Formula 1 grand prix team went into administration earlier this year and Mallya lost his stake before it was rescued. He no longer has any influence at Royal Challengers Bangalore cricket team.

In the normal course of events the British Home Secretary, Savid Javid, would have two months in which to undertake Mallya’s enforced deportation to India. Mallya, who has 14 days in which to lodge an appeal against the deportation ruling called the verdict “unfortunate” and said that his legal team will review all the magistrates findings.

Any appeal will send the case upward within the English and Welsh judicial system, with Mallya expected to remain on bail for some time yet.

Indeed, there is speculation in India, that if Mallya can delay extradition until after national elections next year, he may be able to avoid the ignominy of a trial.

Mallya has consistently alleged that he is the subject of a political witch-hunt by the government of prime minister Narendra Modi. A change of government could have significant implications for him.
Meanwhile, officials at Arthur Road gaol in Mumbai say that a high security suite is ready to hold Mallya while he awaits trial. The magistrate rejected the liquor baron’s attempts to prove that Indian prisons were not fit on human rights ground.

“He will have access to personal medical care to manage his diabetes and coronary problems… There was no ground at all to believe that he faces any risk at all (in jail),” the magistrate ruled.

Six drinks books that make ideal stocking fillers

10th December, 2018

The Home Bar by Henry Jeffreys

This is the ideal book for anyone in your life with a rapidly expanding booze collection and a desire to make like Tom Cruise in Cocktail and run their own bar, albeit from the comfort and safety of their own home.

Full of gorgeous glossy photos of some of the most beautiful bars on the planet, by the end of the book you’ll be dusting off your shaker and making plans to scour vintage fairs for a cut-price cocktail cabinet.

Written in his signature conversational style and oozing with rapier-sharp wit, Jeffreys’ book is full of useful tips for those aspiring to set up their own bar at home, covering everything from glassware, lighting and equipment to sourcing spirits and the importance of comfy bar stools.

The book also charts the cultural history of bar design, from its Art Deco beginnings to the present day. At the back are 30 cocktail recipes, ranging from classics like the Negroni and Daiquiri to more daring avant-garde creations.

Having been lavished with praise for his debut tome, Empire of Booze, The Home Bar has been similarly well received. The Telegraph’s Victoria Moore called it: “A persuasive paean to the glories of the home bar. If you have dreamed of building a bar inside your house, you need this book.”

Six unusual Christmas gifts for gin-lovers

10th December, 2018


Does your gin-loving friend want to reverse the sands of time with minimum effort?

They’re in luck, as entrepreneurs Camilla Brown and Liz Beswick launched Collagin, a gin infused with powdered collagen, in 2017.

The brand now has three products in the range, including the limited edition Collagin Pink Rose which is steam distilled with rose petals, and the original Collagin 5cl minis. Collagen, which is added to the gin during the distilling process, does not affect the taste, smell, or appearance of the spirit.

Collagen, a protein that forms connective tissue throughout your body, has been shown to reduce wrinkles, keep joints strong and flexible and support strong bones. The new pink gin combines every milennial

Price: The original gin retails at £35, while the new pink gin costs £36.99

Where to buy is: The original gin is available in John Lewis nationwide, while the pink gin can be purchased directly from the company’s website.

Hundreds of Santas descend on New York for SantaCon bar crawl

10th December, 2018

The 20th Annual SantaCon brought hundreds of festive revellers to New York last Saturday, 8 December. Attendees, who all dress as Santa, braved the freezing temperatures as they took part in a citywide bar crawl.

Image: @santacon (Twitter).

The Saint Nick themed merrymakers made stops at five dozen bars, pubs and karaoke spots as they made their way from Hell’s Kitchen, through Midtown and Chelsea before finishing in the East Village.

In the past, city officials have called for bar and restaurant owners to boycott the event for fear of rowdiness, littering, vomiting and public urination. This year they had no cause to be concerned though, as the police reported no arrests or major incidents.

The authorities prepared by announcing a 24 hour alcohol ban for those in mass transit, coming into effect at noon on Saturday. This had little effect on attendees, some of whom had been drinking since as early as 8:30am!

In recent years, SantaCon organisers have moved to rebrand the event as a charitable fundraiser centred on festive spirit and merriment. Previously they had held back the route until the night before to the annoyance and anger of unprepared locals. Recently, however, coordinators published the route well in advance to avoid harming relations with the locals.

The annual Christmas event is now held in nearly 400 cities across the US and the rest of the world according to Santacon’s website.

Cantina di Soave reports turnover of €141 million

10th December, 2018

Italian producer Cantina di Soave has reported that its consolidated turnover hit €141 million, with its 2017-18 financial report also stating that a record €70 million was distributed to its 2,200 grower-members.

The company’s annual press conference, which took place on 7 December.

The Soave-based co-op also announced that the total value of conferred grapes rose to €98.5 million. The 2017 harvest produced 860,000 quintals of grapes, with turnover rising to €141 million, up 20% on the previous year. €70 million was also distributed to the producer’s 2,200 grower members, meaning that their average income per hectare has risen to reach €13,000.

The winery also drew attention to the performance of its bulk wine, with its DOP and IGP wines contributing to a 39% rise in sales.

Sales of bottled wine, in general, grew in volume and value by 11% and 9% respectively with bottled wine sales making up 50% of the company’s total revenue. It noted that its top markets for its whites are the UK, Germany and Austria, while the primary markets for its Ripasso and Amarone are Scandinavia, Switzerland and the UK.

Cantina di Soave reported a profit of €3.3 million with net assets exceeding €62 million.

During a meeting held last month, the election of Roberto Soriolo as the new chairman of the company was also confirmed. Soriolo takes over from Attlilio Carlesso who has served on the Cantina di Soave Board of Directors for the past 10 years.

Commenting on the results, general manager of Cantina di Soave, Bruno Trentini, said: “The current situation of our winery appears stronger than ever over all its component areas. We met or exceeded all the objectives that we had set for ourselves. The outstanding performance of the bottled wines, and in particular of the winery brands, stands out as an important achievement. Over the course of the financial year, the winery succeeded in adhering to its marketing and sales plan, both in Italy and abroad, strengthening existing brands and introducing new ones, in order to protect current market positions and to conquer new placements.

“Production activities over 2017-18 were in line with those of past years, focusing on development of our denominations to maximise income for our membership, and in fact a full 80% of our output derives from local native grapes. Managing a denomination includes achieving a balanced production of products presented to market in order to avoid excess and creating the correct product position in the markets.

“The current financial year has witnessed major expansion of all the winery’s production facilities, which will be completed this coming spring. These activities were onerous in terms of maintaining both production and good financial management, which amounted to 32.4 million euros specific to the just-concluded financial year. This bears particular attention, given that even with that significant financial outlay, overall liquidity rose slightly, from a previous 38.2 million euros to the present 39.3, helped as well by bank financing. What all this testifies to is this winery’s impressive ability to generate liquidity.

“These are extraordinary results, and we are enormously proud of them. We are, after all, a winery cooperative, and the satisfaction and financial well-being of our grower-members is of fundamental importance for us”.

Hull distillery campaigns for heritage trawler’s final voyage

10th December, 2018

A fishing trawler, the last of its type in the world, that saw service in WW1 and is now rusting in the South Atlantic could be brought back to its home city of Hull thanks to the help of a local distillery.

The Hotham’s Distillery in Hull is hoping that funds raised through sales of its ‘Viola’ gin brand could help bring about the return the aged ship (after which it is named) to Humberside.

Just 50 bottles of the gin have been produced for the first batch and £10 from each will be donated to helping bring the ship back.

The distillery is the first sponsor of the ‘Viola Trust’ and it is hoped will be an important step in raising the profile of the project as well as bringing in funds.

The Viola was built in 1906 and was part of the fishing fleet that operated from Humber Docks in the early 20th century.

She and some 3,000 other civilian craft were requisitioned during the First World War by the Royal Navy and used as patrol boats.

During her wartime service she braved storms and enemy minefields and was reportedly involved in the sinking of two U-boats.

After the war she was used as a fishing vessel all over the world, finally ending up in Grytviken in South Georgia where she was abandoned in the 1970s when the whaling station there closed.

Despite being fairly rusty today, she is one of the last of the old steam trawlers made in East Yorkshire (indeed, the UK), her engines are still intact and given her history there is a group that would like her to see out her days in Hull where she will take her place alongside other ships at the maritime heritage display.

The government of South Georgia and the Sandwich Islands have already approved Viola‘s return but it will cost some £3 million to bring her back.

Hotham’s ‘Viola’ gin, an Old Tom style, is going on sale in time for Christmas and the range may be expanded if the launch is successful, with a Navy Strength being the obvious frontrunner for another edition.

Owner Emma Kinton, said: “The Viola is an important part of Hull’s history and we hope this will help to raise its profile and support the fund-raising campaign. We’ve already had a lot of orders for corporate gifts for Christmas and we expect to hear from many more people who want to buy something really unique which supports Hull’s heritage.

“Once the Christmas rush is out of the way we will be working on plans for an official launch of the Viola gin, maybe with some new ideas for maritime cocktails.”

Paul Escreet, chairman of SMS Towage and the Viola Trust, added: “We’re confident this will be a very successful partnership, promoting the expertise and innovation behind Hotham’s Distillery and raising awareness and money for the campaign to bring the Viola back to Hull.”

For more information, click here.

Gaucho hires ex-Wines of Argentina marketing director to oversee wine list

10th December, 2018

Argentine steakhouse Gaucho has set out to re-establish itself as the leading Argentine wine specialist in the UK, following a tumultuous year where it was bought out of administration, bringing in ex-Wines of Argentina marketing director Andrew Maidment to oversee its wine list.

Martin Williams, CEO of Gaucho and M Restaurants

The chain was bought out of administration in September as part of a rescue deal that allowed for all of its restaurants to remain open, while Martin Williams, the founder and CEO of M Restaurants, was appointed its new CEO.

Lomo Bidco Limited (“Lomo Bidco”), a new company created and owned by Investec Bank plc and SC Lowy, acquired the chain from the group’s parent company, Gioma, owned by private equity firm Equistone.

Now, the restaurant chain is looking forward, with the aim of reclaiming its crown as the UK’s Argentina wine specialist, built under the stewardship of Gaucho’s former head of wine, Phil Crozier, who left the group in April.

In the past month, Williams has added 100 wines to the list, and appointed Andrew Maidment, former Director of Wines of Argentina Europe, to oversee a new approach to wine buying.

With the aim of completely overhauling the group’s current wine buying strategy, Maidment will join the group with a specific focus on bringing in more wines direct from the country’s most cutting-edge producers, giving greater opportunities to small, independent wineries who don’t currently sell wines in the UK or are only able to import in very low volumes.

“We see it as a duty for Gaucho to champion small growers and offer the chance for new wineries to enter the UK market,” said Maidment. “Having a diverse, market-leading wine list is great for both Gaucho’s customers and the Argentine industry.”

Further changes will include a move away from own labels, a wider selection at more affordable price points and a focus on wines from growers that demonstrate both positive social and environmental impact via their projects.

Andrew Maidment

“During my previous tenure, Gaucho was the authority on Argentine wine in the UK, with one of the most comprehensive Argentine wine lists in the world, which made up a core part of the group’s DNA,” added Williams. “Over the years, the list was vastly reduced, however pioneering Argentine wine in the UK is something that I believe is fundamental to our future.”

As part of its restructure, Maidment will also oversee the reinstatement of The Gaucho Argentine Winemaker Awards, which were previously held at the restaurant, and will be hosted by Maidment to celebrate the ‘heroes and innovators’ of Argentine Winemaking on Thursday 14th March 2019 at Gaucho Piccadilly.

Gaucho operates 13 restaurants in the UK and three overseas in Hong Kong, Dubai and Buenos Aires. It also has an online wine shop, where customers can choose from the carefully curated list of wines on the restaurant’s list, to be delivered to the home.

Licence to swill: Academics argue James Bond has ‘a severe alcohol problem’

10th December, 2018

Researchers from New Zealand and the UK have published a study in the Medical Journal of Australia’s Christmas issue which they say proves that Ian Fleming’s fictional character James Bond has “a severe chronic alcohol problem”.


Researchers from the University of Otago in New Zealand and the University of Oxford in the UK engaged in the taxing pursuit of watching 24 James Bond films in order to describe the patterns of alcohol use.

Charting the change over six decades, the authors of the report, entitled Licence to swill: James Bond’s drinking over six decades, noted that Bond has a total of 109 ‘drinking events’, with a mean of 4.5 events per film. This, they noted, meant that his blood alcohol level was around 0.36 g/dL, which is “sufficient to kill some people”. His peak binge totalled 24 units of alcohol which equated to 6 vesper Martinis, shaken not stirred.

Based on these findings, the report concluded: “There is strong and consistent evidence that James Bond has a chronic alcohol consumption problem at the “severe” end of the spectrum.

“He should seek professional help and try to find other strategies for managing occupational stress. His workplace (MI6) needs to become a responsible employer and to refer him to support services, and to change its own workplace drinking culture”.

The tongue-in-cheek article also noted that Bond satisfied six out of 11 criteria necessary for those suffering with a severe alcohol use disorder.

Bollinger Spectre Limited Edition

Bond’s drinking was reported to be particularly dangerous in view of the activities he chose to engage in following a Martini or two. These included: getting in a fight, driving vehicles (including in chases), high stakes gambling, operating complex machinery or devices, contact with dangerous animals, extreme athletic performance, and sex with enemies, sometimes with guns or knives in the bed.

Among the trends charted across the decades included a “decline using alcohol as a weapon”. This, the researchers stated, usually involved the use of bottles in fights, but alcohol was used as a vehicle in drug delivery and for starting fires.

In contrast, there was an increase in alcohol-related product placement, with brands such as Champagne Bollinger being associated with the films. The article also noted, however, that throughout the films, Bond’s Martini consumption had remained “fairly stable over time”.

To read the full report, please click here.


Justerini & Brooks in Oregon push

10th December, 2018

UK fine wine merchant Justerini & Brooks has added several Oregon producers to its portfolio as it ups its attention on the American region.

The St James merchant has three of the state’s producers on its list now, Eyrie, Walter Scott Wines and Rose and Arrow Estate, all of which are being offered this month.

Speaking to the drinks business, buyer Julian Campbell said it was the, “beginning of an Oregon lift for us.”

The three wines represent a good spread of Oregon’s history and winemaking scene, added Campbell.

Eyrie is one of the longstanding producers in the state and produces a range of wines including Pinot Gris.

Walter Scott is slightly newer but the husband and wife team of Ken Pahlow and Erica Landon have quickly established a reputation for producing exciting Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

Rose & Arrow meanwhile brings in the expertise of Louis Michel Liger-Belair – yet another Burgundian involved in Oregon winemaking – and Chilean Pedro Parra to make some truly excellent examples of single site Pinot Noir across various Oregon AVAs including Dundee Hills, Eola-Amity Hills and Chehalem Highlands.

US wines are gaining more traction in the UK market currently and the market for top Pinot Noir and Chardonnay remains strong thanks to Burgundy which in turn is making merchants cast around for other regions to source wines from.

Oregon is a natural place to turn and while Liger-Belair told db the aim was to make “Oregon Pinot” not something that tastes like Burgundy, Campbell added that Rose & Arrow and other Oregon producers made wines that, “spoke the language of Pinot,” and which made them immediately appealing to longterm Burgundy drinkers.