Bonhams breaks whisky world record again

3rd October, 2018

Bonhams has once again broken the record for Scotch whisky sold at auction, with the sale of a 1926 Macallan which went for over £800,000 when sold in Edinburgh today.

The bottle of The Macallan 1926 60 year old with a label by Valerio Adami was sold in Edinburgh today (3 October) for £848,750.

This beats the record set by Bonhams in Hong Kong earlier this year when a bottle of the same whisky was sold for, a then record, of £814,081.

Bonhams’ whisky specialist, Martin Green, said: “I am delighted at this exceptional result. It is a great honour to have established a new world record, and particularly exciting to have done so here in Scotland, the home of whisky. Bonhams now holds the record for the three most valuable bottles of whisky ever sold at auction.”

The Macallan bottled 24 bottles of its 1926 60 year old in 1986, each with a label by pop artists, 12 by Italian Valerio Adami and 12 by Briton Sir Peter Blake and each in a special ‘brass and glass’ presentation case known as a ‘Tantalus’.

It is not known how many bottles still exist, one is known to have been drunk and one was reportedly destroyed in the Japanese earthquake of 2011.

Sotheby’s meanwhile is due to sell a bottle with the Peter Blake label in New York later this month and whether it can break the latest record or not, it is due to be the most expensive bottle of wine or spirit the auctioneer has ever offered.

SIAL announces drinks innovation award winners

3rd October, 2018

SIAL has announced its Innovation Awards winners, including a gin distilled with olives, as it gears up for its show in Paris later this month featuring 7,020 companies from more than 109 countries.

The events company reported a 10% rise in the number of new product entrants into its Innovation Awards. With a total of 2,355 entries, 801 finalists were short-listed in 3 categories: product sectors, purchaser target sectors, and Intermediate Products & Ingredients and E&T sectors.

The company said the figures demonstrate that there is “no stemming the flow of agri-food innovations, whether targeting manufacturers, retailers or, of course, consumers. Worldwide, the agri-food industry is striving to adapt to the appetites of a new generation hankering for fresher, healthier food, by developing new products and new ingredients that will soon be making their way to the store shelves and the dining table”.

Winners this year included Taggiasco Extravirgin, an Italian gin distilled with juniper and taggiasca olives; Give it a shot, a range of ginger, turmeric, cayenne and charcoal shot drinks; Burotta, a burrata with a ricotta centre; sweet Kimchi jam, and Namaste vegan kefir water from Greece.

Sial Paris is set to take place from 21 to 25 October at the Paris Nord Villepinte.

Marks & Spencer adds Lanson Black Label to range

3rd October, 2018

Marks & Spencer has added Champagne Lanson’s Black label to its sparkling wine range, it has been announced.

The Black Label Champagne will be on the shelves of 550 Marks & Spencer branches nationwide from Wednesday 3 October, at £32 a bottle.

Emma Dawson MW, Marks & Spencer wine buyer, said: “We are delighted to have Champagne Lanson’s Black Label Brut NV added to our growing Champagne range.

“We know that our customers will welcome an opportunity to enjoy this exceptional Champagne just as they currently do with Lanson’s premium Extra Age.”

Champagne Lanson Black Label is a blend of 50% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay and 15% Pinot Meunier made from 100 Crus. It is made using the traditional method which gives a “fresh, fruity and elegant style”, according to the brand, and is aged for a minimum of three and a half years, compared to the legally required 15 months. 

Established in 1760, the House of Lanson is one of the oldest family-run houses, and has been a Royal Warrant holder since 1901. 

Lansons flagship Champagne is still poured in the Royal Household to this day. Champagne Lanson Black Label was also first poured in 1977 at the Championships, Wimbledon, and is still served 41 years later.

Paul Beavis, managing director, Champagne Lanson, UK & International adds: We are absolutely thrilled about Marks & Spencers decision to add Lanson Black Label to their impressive range of Champagnes.

“Our Extra Age remains an important listing for us and to know that our universally appreciated Lanson Black Label will be added to the range is fabulous news. We hope that this addition will continue to develop into a long-lasting relationship with Marks & Spencer.” 

2018 harvest in New Zealand was ‘fast and furious’

3rd October, 2018

The 2018 harvest in New Zealand was “fast and furious” as winemakers battled to get their grapes off the vines before the rain hit, according to Seresin’s chief winemaker, Tamra Kelly-Washington.

Speaking to the drinks business during a lunch in London hosted at estate owner Michael Seresin’s house, Kelly-Washingon revealed that despite the speed of the harvest, she is happy with how the wines are coming along.

“There were small yields this year and we had to work quickly to get the Chardonnay off the vines before the rain. It was a fast and furious vintage,” she said.

Tamra plans to make white blend Chiaroscuro more “textural”

“Being a small player we have full control over the harvest so are able to leave the bad bunches behind,” she added.

As for the responsibility that comes with taking the top job at Seresin, Kelly-Washingon is up for the challenge and keen to put her own stamp on the wines.

“I’m acutely aware of Seresin’s iconic reputation and it being such a revered and relevant estate, so I’m going to tread carefully, but I also think it’s important to impart your style a bit as a winemaker.

“I’m planning on making more changes to the whites than the reds. One of the new wines I’m working on is a skin fermented Pinot Gris that will be released in New Zealand under Seresin’s new ‘Beautiful Chaos’ brand,” she said.

“Its made in a similar style to the Pinots and has five weeks of skin contact. There’s a big market for ‘natural’ wines in New Zealand at the moment,” she added.

Other changes include incorporating more aromatic white varieties like Pinot Gris, Riesling and Gewürztraminer into the Chiaroscuro blend, which has traditionally been Chardonnay dominant, in order to make it more of a “textural” wine.

A “bone dry” Riesling is also on the cards. Tamra said that she’s enjoying the move from the much larger Yealands Estate to a more artisan winery.

“It’s amazing to be here – it’s where I want to be. Longterm I always wanted to end up at a much smaller place.

“I did my first harvest at Seresin 20 years ago, so it’s wonderful to be back. Michael is very trusting and respectful and he’s a good listener,” she said.

“It’s marvellous to have Tamra working at Seresin again. As a New World winery with an Old World approach, her extensive winemaking experience will add greatly to the evolution of our wines,” Michael Seresin said at the time of Tamra’s appointment.

Will students save the drinks industry after Brexit?

3rd October, 2018

Hospitality workers are fleeing the country, while salaries are on the rise as Brexit looms, but our break from the EU could have a positive effect on the industry’s reputation.

Is bartending about to get an academic reputation?

Since the referendum result was first announced in 2016, bars and restaurants have been in turmoil. Around 330,000 staff currently working in the UK hospitality industry are considering leaving the UK due to Brexit, which could result in a severe shortage of staff, according to the findings of a YouGov survey.

Of course, it’s not solely connected to Brexit. CGA, which recently reported that restaurant figures had fallen for the first time in eight years, blamed a combination of Brexit’s weakening of the pound, and increased competition after a surge of private equity-backed restaurants have opened over the past decade.

Yet despite this, the amount of firms providing accommodation and food services activities in the UK has grown by just under 20% in the last five years, having reached 202,060 – up from 169,235 in 2013. Industry leaders in the sector have found a new group of recruits who may be more inclined to stick around than they were before: students.

Recruitment platform Adia expects this figure to comfortably reach £100 billion in the ONS’ 2018 data, which is expected to be published in the autumn.

“It’s a very symbiotic relationship in the early years of their career,” Andrew Scutts, the founder of Cocktails in the City, told the drinks business.

Adia recently published a second survey, which found that the amount of students registered on its platform has surged by 83 per cent in the last four months, compared to the first four months of 2018, as the new academic year approaches.

Adia CEO, Ernesto Lamaina, said that as staff shortages continue to put a strain on businesses, they should look at students as “quality and flexible part-time employees.”

“Most bars exist because of the opportunity to employ educated and intelligent people part time, and a lot of people go on to work full time,” Scutts said.

Scutts is one of a group of executives in the industry who are putting their support behind a more structured form of education for hospitality workers. JJ Goodman, the founder and owner of The London Cocktail Club group, has partnered with The Princes Trust and Springboard UK to create the first government accredited qualification for specialised bartending in the UK. His vision, according to his website, is to to open doors within hospitality for Britain’s unemployed youth to create the first government accredited qualification in mixology.

Mixology, Scutts said, isn’t that far different from a creative role in any traditional workplace, be that marketing or architecture. Granted, salaries are low when you first start working (as of Sep 2018, the average pay for a bartender is £6.96 /hr or £15,670 annually, according to Payscale), but a combination of experience and talent could soon see you rise up in the ranks. Some bartenders in New York’s established hotels earn as much as $100,000 pa.

“If you take a more global context, looking at places like Italy, America, and Germany. A lot of other cultures see baristas and sommeliers ads a highly regarded position.” This, he said, could account for the strong presence of european sommeliers in London, particularly from Italy.

Bartenders are required to become experts in spirits, flavour profiles, mixology, and trade influence, and many countries already provide rigorous academic training for these. If the UK had its own accredited course for the service industry, students, Scutts believes, could well plug the post-Brexit gap.

Currently, it’s still a stop-gap for most young people in education. Ruth Bennett, 19, is just the kind of student they’d want to attract. She’s starting at university n Birmingham this year, studying drama, and she’s already looking for part-time jobs. She’s never worked behind a bar before, but likes the social aspect of the job.

“I just think it would be good to try something new,” she said, and although she currently has no plans to become a master mixologist, she’s open to ideas.

“I mean, I am doing a drama degree,” she said. “It’s a tricky business, so who knows?”

Bartending may be attractive to young people who are still considering whether paying for a university degree will secure them a job in three years time. Scutts said he was working for a bar group after graduating from university, but was ultimately guilted into applying for a PGCE “because I felt like I needed to use my degree.” His friend, also at the same university, chose to stay on, and is now on the board at a top restaurant group in London. “He’s got a few flats in London and a fantastic career.

“My little girl is 5 years old. In 13 years time she’ll go to uni. I’d personally be more keen for her to follow a vocation than something without a definite career path.”

Students are being utilised in a variety of new ways in the UK’s drinks industry, not just the on-trade. Wineries had also warned that they’re running short on fruit-pickers, but that wasn’t an issue for Richard Balfour-Lynn, the hotelier-turned owner of Kentish estate Hush Heath, at a media event last month.

The former Malmaison boss held an open weekend at the end of September to promote Hush Heath’s new visitor centre and tasting rooms. The operation was smooth, and run almost exclusively by students earning a few days work before heading back to halls in October.

“Some of them stay for the whole summer to help in the vines,” Balfour-Lynn said. “Some come for the fruit picking, and some are just here for the night.”

“It just can’t be stressed enough how important they are going to be to us.”

Pink to release her first wines under Two Wolves label

3rd October, 2018

Pop star turned winemaker Pink has revealed that she will be releasing her first commercial wines under the label Two Wolves, having bought an 10-hectare vineyard in Los Olivos, north of Santa Barbara, five years ago.

(Photo by JB Lacroix/WireImage)

Pink revealed her passion for wine and vinegrowing last year in a podcast produced by UK wine presenter and writer Olly Smith and wine writer, educator and consultant Richard Hemming MW.

Speaking about the project at the time, Pink, who’s real name is Alecia Moore, called it her “dirty little secret” having taken wine and winemaking courses with the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) and the University of California, Davis in order to achieve her goal.

In a recent Instagram post, she revealed that she was the winemaker behind the Two Wolves label.

It read: “Secrets out! Meet your maker. If there would’ve been a way to release these wines anonymously, believe me I would’ve tried to find a way to do it, because I really believe these wines can represent and speak for themselves. The love and passion with which they’ve come together reflects in their quality and their soul.

“I’ve dedicated the better part of the last 10 years of my life (outside of raising children and touring) to my passion – winegrowing and farming organically. We are lovers of the land, hoping to leave this place better off than how we found it. In the spirit of experimentation, much like a child approaches every new task, in the quest for knowledge with all due respect to the past, and with every bit of fire that burns within us, we bring to you Two Wolves Wine”.

Pink’s organic vineyard is planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Grenache and Grenache Blanc, although she is taking out the Malbec as it hasn’t “blown her away”.

The first of Pink’s wines are expected to be released in November – and they won’t be rosé.

Speaking to Food & Wine, Pink said that she already makes a Grenache rosé but that she refuses to release it.

She said: “If I put a pink wine out first? ‘Pink’s rosé’. That’d be awful!”

Read more: PINK SHARES ‘DIRTY LITTLE SECRET’ WITH OLLY SMITH

Singapore to host World’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards in 2019

3rd October, 2018

Singapore has been chosen as the first Asian city to host the World’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards in 2019, after previous editions in Bilbao, Melbourne and New York.

The choice cements Singapore’s status as a culinary centre in Asia. Almost one in five of the restaurants listed in the 2018 edition of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants are based in Singapore, according to the organiser.

The awards ceremony, often referred to as the ‘Oscars of the culinary world’, will be preceded by a series of events including #50BestTalks to hear about the latest trends in gastronomy and partake in discussions on topical issues around food, as well as to attend masterclasses and dinners by some of the world’s greatest chefs.

William Reed Business Media, the company behind the 50 Best brand, has also signed a “ground-breaking” three-year partnership with the STB, the first time such a partnership has been inked, bringing a pipeline of prestigious 50 Best events to Singapore from 2019- 2021. Besides The World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards in 2019, Singapore will also see Asia’s 50 Best Bars awards for the next two years in 2019 and 2020.

In addition, a standalone special edition of the #50BestTalks thought-leadership event will also take place in the city-state in 2020. The World’s 50 Best Bars awards will be hosted in Singapore in 2021 – making it the first city outside London to be announced as hosting the Bars awards – reflecting Singapore’s fast-rising status as a must-visit destination for cocktail lovers.

Tim Brooke-Webb, managing director of 50 Best, said: “We are very excited to host an edition of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants in Asia for the first time. As a confident, vibrant and thriving food city, Singapore is the perfect choice. We understand Singapore’s commitment to hosting great events, welcoming people from around the world and investing in the food and drinks sector. It’s a pleasure to work with the Singapore Tourism Board on our 2019 edition of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants and the series of future events.”

Melissa Ow, acting chief executive of STB, said: “We are excited to ink this ground-breaking partnership. Hosting the internationally-renowned 50 Best branded events in Singapore, including The World’s 50 Best Restaurants and The World’s 50 Best Bars, bears testament to Singapore’s rising stature as a gastronomic and nightlife capital.

“Through this partnership and series of events, we hope to raise the bar for Singapore’s F&B industry, as well as profile our culinary and cocktail offerings to top industry professionals and visitors. Over time, we also believe it will translate into more opportunities for our home-grown dining and cocktail establishments through greater global exposure and business possibilities. We look forward to welcoming the world’s best chefs and mixologists to Singapore come 2019.”

The awards are sponsored by S. Pellegrino & Acqua Panna.

DFS kicks off inaugural craft festival

3rd October, 2018

DFS Group, the world’s leading luxury travel retailer, is hosting its first ever Craft Festival at Singapore’s Changi International Airport, allowing travellers to taste and experience over 73 craft gins, whiskies and beer brands with producers from around the world.

During the six-week festival which lasts from 21 September to 31 October, each of the weekends throughout the festival will host different spirits brands and their ambassadors including Whitley Neill, Oxley Gin, Botanist, Copper Dog and Tanqueray Gin.

In addition, DFS will be the first consumer retailer in Singapore to stock the newly launched, Tanglin Gin. Taking inspiration from the Little Red Dot, Tanglin Gin is the first made-in-Singapore gin and is infused with the essence of orchid, Singapore’s national flower.

Another collection of craft beers including Singapore’s award-winning Archipelago and Freemantle’s famed Little Creatures beer will also be featured during the festival.

“Today’s drinkers are looking for fresh brands that have a unique identity and heritage,” said Brooke Supernaw, DFS Group senior vice president of spirits, wines, tobacco, food and gifts.

“Following a resurgence of the cocktail culture, consumers want to enjoy innovative and hard-to-find products, and DFS is proud to maintain its market-leading position by offering interesting brands with a strong story that reflects true craftsmanship.”

The craft spirits scene has seen an impressive boom in the last decade, with an increase in consumers looking to purchase and enjoy small-batch brands.

“At DFS, we believe in providing our customers with new and engaging retail experiences,” said Wilcy Wong, DFS Group managing director Singapore and Indonesia. “The Craft Festival provides us with a platform to showcase our impressive collection of small-batch spirits and introduce our customers to unique and exclusive products, some of which can only be found at DFS.”

Showcasing the best of small batch spirits and craft beers, festivities at Terminals 1, 2, 3 and 4 will feature a carnival theme. In each DFS store, travellers can enjoy entertainment and take part in fun and interactive games and stand a chance to win prizes, such as the latest generation iPhone XS.

All products featured at the Craft Festival are also readily available on iShopChangi.com (www.ishopchangi.com/thecraftfestival). Travellers can also enjoy a 10% discount with the “CHEERS10” promo code at check out.

The Craft Festival also includes a digital sweepstake on iShopChangi.com. After discovering different craft products based on their personality, customers who purchase these craft products online will be entered for a chance to win a grand prize of a bespoke party in Singapore worth S$5,000.

“With the rising popularity of craft spirits and beers, we are delighted to introduce the first ever Craft Festival with DFS. Passengers flying through Changi Airport can look forward to an outstanding line-up of the best of small batch craft brands and opportunities to come face-to-face with some of these artisanal distillers,D” said Teo Chew Hoon, Group Senior Vice President of Airside Concessions, Changi Airport Group.

Broadland adds to sales team

3rd October, 2018

Broadland Wineries has appointed Matthew Vowles as its national account manager, adding someone with experience with big brands to its sales force.

Vowles joins from Treasury Wine Estates where he was business manager working on Blossom Hill, Wolf Blass, Lindemans and 19 Crimes.

His appointment follows that of Liz Cobbold in April. She joined as senior brand manager having held similar senior positions at Adnams and Tesco.

She was promoted to marketing director for the UK and US last month.

Vowles said his brand experience will be of use to Broadland.

He commented: “Broadland brands Minivino, Three Mills and Proudly Vegan are now listed by three multiple grocers. The company has real potential to be a major player in the branded wine category.”

Michigan votes to ban cannabis-infused drinks

3rd October, 2018

With increasing number of industry players announcing interest in cannabis, Michigan has voted to ban all cannabis-infused drinks in a pre-emptive move should the state legalise marijuana for recreational use next month.

The legislation, which was approved by the state house yesterday (2 October) with a 101-4 vote, is expected to gain the signature of the governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder.

If given final approval, it would mean that drinks including beer, wine, spirits and RTD products infused with cannabis would be banned in the state should recreational marijuana be legalised.

The reason given for the ban is that cannabis-infused alcohol could worsen the effects of drink driving.

Others, however, argue that the sale of cannabis infused drinks would be banned anyway, given the federal ban on marijuana. Michigan borders Canada which is expected to legalise recreational cannabis on 17 October.

While cannabis drinks is still a small and emerging market, many key players in the drinks industry have expressed an interest in joining the sector.

Most recently, it was announced that Californian cannabis-focused agriculture company Terra Tech had linked up with Washington-based cannabis drinks maker Valiente to produce a non-alcoholic sparkling wine infused with cannabis called ‘IVXX’.

Others known or reported to have expressed an interest are Coca-Cola, Diageo, Molson Coors and Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits.

Meanwhile, Constellation Brands, which bought a stake in Canadian company Canopy Growth in October last year, increased its stake in the business in August, investing US$4 billion to acquire a 38% share. The new deal, which it claims is “the largest to date in the cannabis space,” cements Canopy Growth as its exclusive global cannabis partner. Constellation said that the funds will enable Canopy Growth to “build and/or acquire key assets” in around 30 countries that are legally developing a medical cannabis programmes.

Read more: 

IN FOCUS: THE RISE OF CANNABIS DRINKS