I like the Langham Hotel.
I like the Landau restaurant within the Langham Hotel, recently taken over by Albert and Michel Roux Jr. especially as there's a lunch menu which will allow you change from £80 for two people… We'll get onto the whisky in a bit. Patience.
I *really* like the hotel's bar – Artesian, the meeting place for the launch of Glenmorangie's newest addition to their Private Collection. Ealanta. In the last couple of years Artesian has come on leaps and bounds under the supremely competent stewardship of Head Bartender Alex Kratena.
It's possible to get one of the best Martinis in London at the bar in Artesian—The Langham Martini (and for almost £20 including service, it wants to be) and on Wednesday evening I did just that.
It’s a scary place, the brain of Ben.
It consists mainly of Alan Partridge and Father Ted episodes, cocktail recipes, and rain-man-esque recall of horsepower and torque figures for most production cars. There’s also usually something in there about whisky.
What I can tell you about the brain of Ben though, is that these Boutique-y whiskies have recently been upgraded from ‘a bit of fun’, to ‘something with a lot of potential’.
Because of this, you’re going to see a pretty decent number of new releases from brand spanking new distilleries over the next few weeks / months, and if the results of some of the recent whisky auctions are anything to go by, I think we’ll see them selling out in pretty short order.
It’s fair to say that I’ve been a fan of the guys from Fluid Movement (the team behind The Worship Street Whistling Shop, Purl, and the new Dach and Sons) for a while now. In fact, I reviewed Purl almost 18 months ago here should you care to read about it.
It was a somewhat off-the-cuff suggestion that we ‘do something together’ made whilst at the Whistling Shop about this time last year which has ultimately led to the situation of us jointly launching the first retail product from this team of really very clever chaps.
So, without further ado – I give you ‘Cream Gin’. The main ingredient in the Whistling Shop’s signature cocktail – The Black Cat’s Martini.
This really quite marvellous concoction is the brain-child of The Whistling Shop’s erstwhile head barman, and all-round mixological genius, Ryan Chetiyawardana.
In the name of journalistic plausibility, and to make for a better read, I briefly forgot all about the extensive NPD conducted for the product, and the fact that I now know more about vanillin content and fat globule homogenisation than any man has the right to, and caught up with Ryan for a brief Q&A:More...
Well that last batch of Boutique-y whiskies certainly sold quickly. Terrifyingly quickly in fact.
Apologies to all those who didn’t get one from the first edition of the Ardbeg, Macallan or Caperdonich – but fear not – the second batches of all of these are now here, and available for purchase. You’ll notice that all three of them have the new batch number, new ABV, and a minor change to the illustration on each of the labels just to keep it interesting. You’ll also notice that the Caperdonich is cheaper than last time. Don’t say we never do anything nice for you.
We’re working on getting you another Port Ellen release* – more details on this as and when we’re successful.
So – now on to the next whiskies to be added to the series. It was pointed out to me today that completely by accident, we’ve selected 4 Speyside Whiskies, all beginning with ‘a’ and ‘b’. Not planned, just a weird coincidence…
For those of you hitherto unfamiliar with them, our ‘Secret Bottlings’ series of Single Malts have long been a staple of our core range of Master of Malt branded whiskies. They provide exceptionally well-aged whiskies at a price that seems utterly unthinkable in today’s world of 5-figure 50 year olds, and six figure 54 year olds.
The secret with these whiskies has always been that we’ve released them without the name of the distillery present on the label, hence preserving the distillery in question’s brand equity, and allowing us to buy them at a fraction of the price that would be possible if the distillery’s own name was on it.
A bit more on that, because I’ve just read it back, and it sounds suspiciously like marketing bullshit. I’ll expand:
If a distillery (let’s call it Glenyummy) has a certain number of customers (X) for its standard 12yo whisky, the chances are they’ll have a customer-base of about 0.05X for their 18yo expression, 0.0005X for their 30yo expression, and 0.0000005X by the time they hit anything over a few hundred quid. More...
Published today – an open letter from Tunbridge-Wells-Based manufacturer, The Handmade Cocktail Company to Commander Bond.
The letter reads:
Dear Commander Bond,
I write to you today in the gravest of circumstances.
It has been brought to my attention that you have been seen - in public no less - consuming that most un-gentlemanly of concoctions. Lager-beer.
The exact circumstances of this sighting I have been unable to ascertain - the employee in question ran into my office quite incoherent before crouching in the corner, and having to be chemically ‘calmed’ by our nurse. Contained within his ramblings however, there was definitely something about a train, a bar, and some arms made of ice?
So. We launched our Navy Strength Bathtub Gin about a month or so ago, and it’s already doing really rather well. It’s kind of a given that we had to follow this up with a Navy Strength version of the incredibly popular vanilla-and-christmas-spices-laden spiced rum – Rumbullion! It’s almost* like there’s some sort of planning going on.
For the Navy Strength version of Rumbullion, we’ve taken the same basic recipe, and simply scaled up the vanilla, sugar and spice content in line with the ABV (ie – it’s not intentionally spicier and punchier, like the Bathtub is). The reason for this is pretty straight-forward – Rumbullion! is already a pretty aggressively spiced little number as it is, and the Navy Strength version was more than capable of standing up to the initial ABV at the same proportional concentration.
Incidentally - if you’ve not tried the Navy Strength Bathtub Gin yet – it’s sort of like being kicked in the face by a Gin-Soaked Santa Claus. Really quite fantastic, and absolutely laden with Christmas spices - it don’t ‘alf pack a punch.
So – a few weeks back you may remember we launched a couple of ‘experimental’ cocktails - the Hanky Panky and the Boulevardier. The good news on this front is that the Hanky Panky has rapidly earned itself a promotion to the exalted ranks of the main series of the Handmade Cocktail company’s core offering, such was its popularity. I’ve just got to do a bit more mucking about with it (I’ve been experimenting with some of the fresh oak barrels we’ve recently acquired, and it takes exceptionally well to a bit of this – so it’s going to get some oak influence methinks) and with any luck it’ll be out before Christmas.
Well, it had to happen didn’t it?
There were absolutely bound to be some people so warped, so twisted, that the 100,000 Scovilles Naga Chilli Vodka we launched at the beginning of the year wasn’t hot enough for them. Words fail me.
Capsaicin (the active compound that provides chillies’ heat) is said to be addictive (it causes the release of dopamine amongst other brain-chemistry-related treats), and this doubtless goes some way towards explaining the mindset of this small but vocal minority of nut-jobs.
It’s probably worth pointing out a few of the people for whom it emphatically was hot enough; Philip Schofield for one:
It’s been a while coming, this one.
Since the launch of our original Bathtub Gin almost exactly one year ago, we’ve sold a huge number of bottles worldwide, and it’s fair to say that the critical reception has been pretty darned fantastic.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the concept, Bathtub Gin is a compounded gin made from botanicals, as opposed to essences, meaning that the flavour is derived from soaking the botanicals in the spirit (and not then re-distilling it). As far as we know, this is the only gin in the world to employ this slightly curious method of manufacture – the result of which is a clean, fresh-tasting gin with a very slight natural tint to it. As those of you who’ve tried ‘normal’ Bathtub will know, the image below (of the Navy Strength Gin) is substantially darker in hue, due to its production method. More on this below.