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.
We at MoM Towers love whisky. Can’t get enough it. We also love the USA (yes, it’s true!), and we have a special place in our collective, malty heart for Craft Distillers. So, when we first heard about an American, whisky-producing craft distillery, our minds were blown. Blown, I tells ya! This was well before we even had a chance to behold the amazing beards of Chip Tate, Head Distiller at Balcones, and Jared Himstedt, the Production Manager at the Distillery. Once we saw what these chaps were sporting and making, we knew we would be hooked.
Chip Tate started up Balcones in 2008 and snatched the glory of producing the very first Texas whisky. Balcones is named for the fault line that runs through the south-western part of the state through Waco, Texas where the distillery is located. A dramatic illustrated interpretation of the Balcones Fault can be found in the logo and is truly representative of some of the flavour profiles found in their whiskies: ground-breaking and earth-quaking.
Chivas Brothers have recently launched a new global educational campaign entitled ‘Great Things Take Time’.
To declare such a grand concept – Chivas treated us to a delicious lunch, courtesy of Mark Hix, at Brown’s Hotel to explain why age is important – undoubtedly because they have a lot of old whisky that needs selling, and selling is what we do. I am always happy to listen so I settled down to be wooed by these giants of blending.
According to their research only 10% of whisky consumers understand what the age statement on a bottle of whisky means, and 94% of people believe an age statement is an indicator of quality. This is understandable; it’s not immediately apparent, or indeed, at all apparent on the bottle that the age statement refers to the youngest whisky inside. Plus, it’s easy to see why older whisky should be better; older whisky is more expensive, if it’s more expensive surely it should be of a higher quality – that’s a fair assumption to make. However, this got me thinking as we tasted our way through the Chivas range with Master Blender Colin Scott: does age matter?
We were then ferried to the grotto of antiquities that is the Victoria & Albert Museum to watch a debate addressing the question whether age matters or not take place. The debate took place between historian Bettany Hughes and Peter Aspden from the Financial Times, however their inclination to agree with one another lended a bias to the argument that age does matter (remember old whisky is at stake here). Despite this what they had to say was interesting.
If you really want to understand a whisky, you need to visit the distillery where it's made and meet the people that make it. This has never been more appropriate than of the legendary Highland Park Distillery, whose whisky is inspired by the rugged terrain of the Orkney Islands that once played home to the Viking invaders. So, we decided to team up with these Orcadian distillers to arrange a little competition for you – with an absolutely massive prize.
If you purchase a bottle of the esteemed Highland Park Single Malt Whisky before five hundred bottles have been sold or before the 15th December – depending on which comes first – you could win a spectacular two-day trip up to the Orkney Islands to visit their famous distillery.
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…
Prepare your faces for glee and/or delight, for we bring glad tidings all the way from Caithness (the north-eastern tip of the Scottish mainland – presumably very wet and cold). We’ve had word from the Old Pulteney distillery that today (well, 11pm last night, to be precise, but today for most of us) we can, at last, announce the launch of the oldest official single malt the distillery has ever produced…
Earlier in the year, Pulteney 21 year old was named World Whisky of the Year in Jim Murray’s 2012 Whisky Bible. It’s a pretty astonishing single malt, all things considered, but what else would you expect from the northernmost distillery on the Scottish mainland. That far north, the weather and the terroir play a huge part in the flavour of maturing spirit; a windswept seafront seasons the whisky and gives it real provenance. There’s also the effect of the unusually shaped spirit still, the U-shape and bulbous neck of which account for a particularly oily spirit. Dave Broom calls Old Pulteney “eccentric”, and I think we’re inclined to agree... More...
If there was ever a word so god damn awful it’s guaranteed to send a shudder down your spine it is the dreaded p-word – prohibition *a wolf howls in the background and you get the feeling you are being followed by a man with an axe*.
This was the boozeless condition that afflicted the United States of America for thirteen parched years thanks to the tireless campaigning of the American Temperance Movement.
The Movement advocated the ‘Noble Experiment’ to save society from the horrors of alcohol abuse throughout the 19th and 20th centuries and they succeeded in 1920 with the 18th Amendment to the Constitution and the Volstead Act which completely banned the sale of alcohol in the U.S.A.
This led to a decade and three years of corruption and violence across America as mobsters and moonshiners sought to bring alcohol illicitly to the understandably thirsty public before the Amendment was finally repealed in 1933.
It’s that time of year again - the weather has given up the pretence of caring, the trees are shedding their leaves like a sinking ship sheds ballast, and the sun can’t summon the energy to stay in the sky for longer than is absolutely necessary. Thankfully all is not lost as Diageo are about to release their much anticipated Special Releases Range.
Diageo is a multi-national drinks company that owns twenty-eight working distilleries and the remaining stock of a number of closed ones, and every year they release a selection of limited releases from some of these distilleries.
With such a large portfolio to draw from these whiskies tend to be the cream of the crop and get us whisky geeks slathering at their merest mention [go on, find a whisky geek and mention it, watch it slather…].
So this evening we all trooped to London to taste these high-demand whiskies in the warm and, more importantly, dry confines of The Deck at the National Theatre. Last time I was in this theatre I watched Benedict Cumberbatch (that guy off of Sherlock) prance around the stage as Frankenstein’s monster with nothing but his self-esteem to cover his modesty. This time I came armed with a notebook and pen - ready to record my experience of facing this enormous tackle of whisky.
You remember our friends from Caskstrength.net? Bespectacled, dapper sort of chaps? They’re into whisky and Alan Partridge, do some events…?
Anyway, they’ve gone and teamed up with BenRiach to put together one of them there special bottlings, they have. And between you and me, it is a delight. Not just because it comes with a rockin’ cotton tote bag (well, only the first 50 bottles, mind you), not just because it has a pink label (I am a sucker for pink) [ed: don't you mean red?], and not just because it spent four years in a PX cask (I am a major sucker for PX). It is delightful because it was hand-selected by Joel and Neil themselves, only 296 bottles are to be released, and you can only buy it from us. What an expression of a beautiful friendship…or, marriage? More...