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Master of Malt Blog

Dram Club – April 2020

April has finally arrived, and there are new Tasting Sets for Dram Club members to be had. Let’s see what drams are hiding within these cardboard cuboids… It might have…

April has finally arrived, and there are new Tasting Sets for Dram Club members to be had. Let’s see what drams are hiding within these cardboard cuboids…

It might have felt like four or five months squashed together haphazardly, but March is over and we’re into April. With this new month brings another round of Tasting Sets for Dram Club members to get their hands on, all filled with lip-smacking tipples. Reckon it’s about time we see which aforementioned drams await the aforementioned members inside the aforementioned Tasting Sets.

Dram Club Whisky for April:

Dram Club Premium Whisky for April:

Dram Club Old & Rare Whisky for April:

Dram Club Gin for April:

Dram Club Rum for April:

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Meet the Master of Malt editorial team

Today, we take a peak behind the padded leather doors at Master of Malt’s secret HQ (just off the A26, follow signposts for Tonbridge industrial estate) and meet the people…

Today, we take a peak behind the padded leather doors at Master of Malt’s secret HQ (just off the A26, follow signposts for Tonbridge industrial estate) and meet the people who fit words together to make this blog.

Don’t you just love that bit when you go and see a band and the lead singer stops and introduces everyone on stage? “And finally, on bongos, rhythm is his middle name, give it up for Reggie ‘rhythm’ Jenkins!!” No? You just want them to play the hits? Oh well, we like the introducing the band bit which is why we thought we’d do something similar with the Master of Malt editorial team. These are the people tasting those rare whiskies so you don’t have to, visiting distilleries, making cocktails and generally immersing ourselves (responsibly, of course) in booze, and then turning those experiences into words. It’s not an easy life but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

So, without further ado, here is the MoM editorial team. Then we promise we’ll play the hits and not in a jazz fusion style. Take it away Reggie!

Kristiane Sherry, editor and head of content

Kristiane adores whisky, gin, Tequila, cocktails (pretty much anything delicious and spirited!), and loves geeking out at distilleries around the world. She has written about drinks since 2011, served as a judge at numerous tasting competitions including the American Distilling Institute’s Judging of Craft Spirits, The Spirits Masters and the World Gin Awards, and is an accredited WSET Spirits Educator.  Kristiane is a former editor of The Spirits Business, a leading global trade title, and has been featured as a commentator in The Spectator, The Grocer, RedOnline, and on BBC Radio 5 Live. She lives in glorious Sussex by the sea.

Henry Jeffreys, feature editor

Henry began his career at Oddbins where he worked for two years and picked up a taste for fine wine. After a stint in publishing, he returned to the world of booze by starting a blog called World of Booze in 2010. Following its success, he was made wine columnist for The Lady. He has appeared on BBC Radio 4 and 5 and contributes to The Spectator, The Guardian and BBC Good Food. He won Best Debut Drink Book for Empire of Booze in 2017. This was followed by The Home Bar in 2018 and the forthcoming Cocktail Dictionary (September 2020).  His favourite drink is a whisky and soda. He lives in Faversham, Kent with his wife and daughter. Oh, and that photo is really out of date, he now looks like an elderly W. H. Auden.

Adam O’Connell, writer

Adam graduated from the University of Sussex with a BA in History and an MA in Intellectual History, which came in very handy when he then went on to work as a bartender. There he made a name for himself as the person who wouldn’t shut up about how much he liked whisky before subsequently joining Master of Malt as a writer in 2017, where he was encouraged to talk about how much he liked whisky. Adam is passionate about all things distilled and delicious, not just the water of life, and has passed the WSET Level 2 Award in Spirits with Distinction. He currently lives in the highest room of the tallest tower in Maidstone.

Jess Williamson, content assistant 

Jess graduated from the University of Bristol having studied English Literature, and stumbled (happily) straight into the world of drinks! She began writing outside her degree for music publications while at university, but working in a rather extensive gin bar for a while sparked her curiosity in the more refined end of the alcohol spectrum. Since then, it’s been a non-stop learning curve for her in the drinks industry, and her mind has been opened to pretty much every spirit she thought she didn’t like, namely whisk(e)y. Now, she’s a big fan of anything with rye whiskey in it, and loves trying all manner of new and weird cocktails. 

Sam Smith, content executive

Sam lugged boxes around a booze warehouse in Somerset for a year after finishing his Creative Writing degree at the University of Winchester, and then found a way to combine elements of those two activities as part of the Master of Malt content and editorial team. When not writing about drinks, Sam spends his time going to see gigs and making salsa. He lives on the west coast of Ireland, and is fond of a Sazerac. This is a different Sam Smith to the famous singer. Our Sam Smith can’t sing.

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Take a VR tour of Chase Distillery with MoM!

Come and take a tour of Chase Distillery in Herefordshire thanks to our good friend virtual reality… Just because you’re self-isolating or on lockdown, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a…

Come and take a tour of Chase Distillery in Herefordshire thanks to our good friend virtual reality…

Just because you’re self-isolating or on lockdown, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a good distillery tour. How is this possible? Thanks to the power of VR, of course. In this series we’re going to take you around some of the finest distilleries across England, Wales and Scotland from the comfort of your own home. The Chase Distillery welcomes us this week to see how it creates its award-winning gins and vodkas. Enjoy!

Chase Distillery was founded by William Chase, who you may know as the guy who made very tasty crisps. After selling Tyrrells in 2008 for almost £40 million, he set up Chase Distillery with the profits. Crisps and booze? This guy is my hero. The £3m distillery operates out of Chase’s farm in Herefordshire, with one of the world’s tallest copper distillation columns (70ft in size), and maintains a sustainable approach to creating spirits. All waste produce goes to feed its herd of pedigree Hereford cattle, and wherever possible, the fresh ingredients used in its products are sourced from the farm, including its King Edward and Lady Claire potatoes, as well as cider apples.

VR tour of Chase Distillery

All that talk of crisps and booze has put me in the mood for a spot of tasty indulgence. If you’re also persuaded, then you should give Chase Pink Grapefruit and Pomelo Gin a go. It’s a supremely delicious summer tipple that will come into its own as the weather picks up but for now, will bring a ray of sunshine into your own home. It’s available with £5 off and we can deliver straight to your door. There’s also a discount on Chase GB Gin and Chase Rhubarb and Bramley Apple Gin. What are you waiting for?

Chase Pink Grapefruit and Pomelo Gin Tasting Note:

Fresh tropical fruit notes sit up front, with plenty of enjoyable citrus acidity at its core. Juniper notes act as a spicy foil to the full-bodied sweetness.

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Get some new and trending tipples!

Looking for what’s hot, new and next in the world of delicious drinks? Then we’ve got what you’re looking for. How do you like the sound of getting your hands…

Looking for what’s hot, new and next in the world of delicious drinks? Then we’ve got what you’re looking for.

How do you like the sound of getting your hands on the most exciting bottles on the shelves at MoM Towers? Hot-off-the-press fresh whiskies. In-demand gins and rums. Trending Tequilas. Everybody hates being out of the loop and we all love tasty things. That’s why we’ve created this selection of spirits to keep you up to date with the latest and greatest in the world of booze no matter if you’re self-isolating or in lockdown.

 

Get some new and trending tipples!

Jaffa Cake Gin

Jaffa Cake Gin is distilled with oranges, fresh orange peel and cocoa powder. Oh yeah, and jaffa cakes. Proper jaffa cakes. Full moon, half-moon, total eclipse. Jaffa cakes. Do you actually need any more information? The label claims it will make the best Negroni mankind has ever seen and I don’t doubt it for one single minute. 

What does it taste like?

Zingy orange (marmalade-esque), rich and earthy chocolate, vanilla-rich cake, a touch of almondy-goodness and a solid backbone of juniper. Also, Jaffa Cakes! 

Get some new and trending tipples!

Wormtub 

You don’t see too many worm tubs these days. Which is a shame. A lot of distilleries have opted to use efficient, easier to maintain condensers, but the muscular, complex profile it gives whisky is delicious. It’s that distinctive character that Wormtub whisky celebrates by blending together single malts made exclusively in distilleries still using traditional worm tubs. This is one for those who like their whisky to be full, rich and robust.

What does it taste like?

Sherry, leather, dates, cocoa, caramel, walnuts, wood-spice, fresh garden mint, ripe strawberries, candied cherry fudge and a wisp of smoke.

Get some new and trending tipples!

Dead Man’s Fingers Pineapple Rum 

Add the sweet, sour and tropical notes of pineapple to an already delicious rum and what have you got? Doubly tasty rum. That’s what. The folks over at Dead Man’s Fingers created this fun and fruity concoction using roasted and candied pineapple. It’s incredibly refreshing, particularly when paired with lemonade, lots of ice, a wedge of lime and a bunch of fresh mint.

What does it taste like?

Bright and almost tangy at first with fresh pineapple and ginger, followed by homemade caramel, nutmeg, cassia and mango.

Get some new and trending tipples!

Regions of Scotland Whisky Tasting Set 

It’s basically impossible to narrow down what the best thing about Scotch is, but the incredible range of different styles of whisky produced across all of its distinctive regions might just be it. This tasting set by Drinks by the Dram champions these regions with five 30ml samples from the peaty, smoky Islay; to the fruity, malty Highlands; the soft, floral Lowlands; and the honeyed, often Sherried Speyside and more!

What does it taste like?

Please don’t eat the box.

Get some new and trending tipples!

Aerolite Lyndsay 10 Year Old – The Character of Islay Whisky Company

There’s plenty of mystery around Aerolite Lyndsay 10 Year Old but one thing’s for sure, it’s bloody delicious. It was recently awarded the title of Islay Single Malt 12 Years and Under at the World Whiskies Awards 2020 for good reason. This Islay single malt from The Character of Islay Whisky Company was sourced from an undisclosed distillery on the island, but what we do know is that it was aged for 10 years in a mixture of bourbon barrels and Spanish oak sherry quarter casks. Plus the name is a fun anagram you can work out in your spare self-isolation time. 

What does it taste like?

Maritime peat, iodine, honey sweetness, paprika, salted caramel, old bookshelves, mint dark chocolate, espresso, new leather, soy sauce, liquorice allsorts, bonfire smoke and toffee penny, with a pinch of salt.

Get some new and trending tipples!

Glenfarclas 25 Year Old

Glenfarclas 25 Year Old is just an absolute classic and whisky this good never goes out of fashion. The single malt Scotch whisky, which was matured 100% Oloroso sherry casks and bottled at 43% ABV, is probably the ultimate example of the kind of delightful sherried goodness that the Speyside distillery specialises in.

What does it taste like?

Classic Sherry notes, creamy barley, hints of gingerbread, nutty chocolate, smoke and a touch of menthol.

Get some new and trending tipples!

Beavertown Neck Oil Bundle (6 Pack)

Stocking up on good beer while in lockdown is a must and if you’re looking for a sublime session IPA then you won’t do better than Beavertown’s ever-popular Neck Oil beer. This bargain bundle will save you 10% versus buying them individually.

What does it taste like?

Light and crisp but full of flavour – citrusy and hoppy, slightly floral, very moreish.

 

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20 pro tips to make bar-quality cocktails at home

Curious about how the professionals make cocktails at home? Wonder no longer. From pre-freezing glassware to emulsifying egg drinks, here’s 20 expert-backed tips, tricks and hacks you can adopt to…

Curious about how the professionals make cocktails at home? Wonder no longer. From pre-freezing glassware to emulsifying egg drinks, here’s 20 expert-backed tips, tricks and hacks you can adopt to make bar-standard drinks in your kitchen…

No matter how well-versed you are at knocking up an Old Fashioned or a Daiquiri from the comfort of your own home, nothing quite beats the finesse of a bar-side serve. The question is: why?

Turns out, there’s more to making a cracking cocktail than just combining measured liquids in the correct order. But you don’t need loads of fancy kit and obscure ingredients to achieve them – all you need is a little know-how. We asked bartenders, brand ambassadors, and other knowledgeable drinks industry folks to share their hacks for making the best possible cocktails at home. Here’s what they had to say…

You’ll need ice, lots and lots of ice

Ice

Use more than you think you need

“There is one rule that I always stick to when making cocktails at home: Use good ice, and a lot of it,” says Renaud de Bosredon, Bombay Sapphire UK brand ambassador. “Using just two ice cubes in a Gin & Tonic or to stir a Martini will only add water and won’t cool the drink down properly. Don’t hold back. The more ice, the better!”

Filter before you fill up

“Ice is often overlooked as an ingredient, but in certain cocktails it can add up to 50% of dilution, so you want to be using the best quality ice possible,” says No. 3 Gin brand ambassador Ross Bryant. “Water quality is different all over the country, so anyone making ice in a hard water area should filter their water first before freezing.” 

Freeze your own large format ice 

“You can do this by filling a take-away container full of ice and leaving it to freeze, use a serrated knife to then cut it into nice big blocks,” says Dan Garnell, head bartender at Super Lyan, Amsterdam. “This will help keep the drink cold but won’t add too much dilution.” 

Know the difference between ‘wet’ and ‘dry’ ice

“If your ice is ‘wet’ – i.e. wet on every side, it has been out of the freezer for a while – it will dilute your drink quicker,” says Bryant, “whereas ice cubes taken straight from the freezer are ‘dry’ and will dilute your drink slightly slower.”

Manhattan Duke

Manhattan: 2 parts rye, 1 part vermouth, dash of bitters

Methodology

Resize drinks via ‘parts’

“Try transforming measurements in parts instead of ml or ounces,” says Andrei Talapanescu, head bartender at Pulitzer’s Bar in Amsterdam. “For example, a Manhattan will work with 2 parts base spirit, 1 part modifier and a couple dashes of bitters. Instead of 50ml/25ml or 60ml/30ml, there’s less to remember, and it’s easier to adjust according to the available glassware.” 

Introduce new flavours slowly

“You can always add more, but you can’t remove,” says Osvaldo Romito, bartender at the Megaro Hotel in London. “If you’re not sure, just start with a little bit and add more as you go.”

Look to physical cues

“Shake or stir until the temperature has reached an equilibrium,” says Talapanescu, “until you see condensation on the stirring glass or frost on the stainless steel shaker.”

Dry shake egg-based drinks

“When making drinks that contain egg, you must first ‘emulsify’ the egg,” says Bryant. “To do this, you must first shake all your ingredients without ice. Once shaken, open your shaker and add ice in order to chill and dilute your drink.”

Ask yourself, is that garnish really essential?

Garnish

Identify the essentials

“Garnishes can be divided into two: aromatic enhancers and aesthetic enhancers,” says Andrei Talapanescu, head bartender at Pulitzer’s Bar in Amsterdam. “Do not omit the aromatic ones such as citrus zest, mint, or a spray. The rest can be left out.”

Dehydrate wheels of fruit… 

“These are so easy,” says Karol Terejlis, bars manager at Baltic and Ognisko, both in London.  “Put your oven on 70 degrees celsius and dry slices of orange, mandarins, tangerines, lemons and limes for around 8 to 10 hours. I also dry out strawberries and raspberries for the same time, then blend them to make a powder. Good for garnishes with a strong colour!”

…Or alternatively, freeze them

“Pre-freeze fruit slices,” suggests Metinee Kongsrivilai, Bacardi rum UK brand ambassador. “This will help reduce food waste as it preserves the fruit, but it’s also great for chilling your drinks and it adds to the drink’s presentation. This would be most effective with perfectly diluted drinks.”

Utilise kitchen kit

“Potato peelers will cut you great citrus peel twists,” says David Eden-Sangwell, brand ambassador at Old J Rum. “The Y-shaped peelers are the best for this and will leave most of the bitter pith behind.”

Terri Brotherston in action

Prep

Chill the glass

“Making drinks without ice?,” says Eden-Sangwell. “Chill the glass with ice and water while you mix the drink and empty just before pouring the drink in. This will keep your drink cold for longer.” Alternatively, pop your glass in the freezer for a couple of minutes.

Pre-batch your ingredients

“If you are making multiple drinks, prepare in advance,” says Terri Brotherston, whisky specialist at Edrington-Beam Suntory UK. “You can make a small batch of sugar syrup in advance and store it in the fridge. You can juice two or three lemons or limes beforehand and keep it in a jug. It means your ingredients are already to hand and will make it a much smoother, more enjoyable process.”

Keep bottles in the freezer

“If you’re more of a stirred-down, spirit-forward – dry vodka Martini, for example – kind of person, whack that pre-diluted spirit in the freezer,” says Nicole Sykes, bartender at Satan’s Whiskers in London and Bacardi Legacy Cocktail Competition 2020 UK Winner. “That way you’ll get consistently ice cold Martinis with a great texture, straight from the bottle and you don’t have to panic if you don’t have any ice. Pour straight into a pre-frozen glass.”

Blend your cocktail

“Utilise that blender,” says Sykes. “For really quick, consistent and cold drinks, stick your favourite cocktails into a blender, add 10ml more sugar syrup – which you can also make in your blender using equal parts caster sugar and water by weight – and blend with supermarket ice to make a slush!”

Pre-batch your cocktails

“I’ve got bottles of pre-batched drinks ready to go,” says Bartender Paul Mathew, owner of Bermondsey bar The Hide and founder of Everleaf, “including a Negroni, a Last Word (just add lime and shake), and a Diplomat (my wife’s favourite) – plus plenty of Everleaf for non-drinking evenings and aperitifs.”

The Nightcap

Sometimes, the best tip is just to keep it simple

Creativity 

Create your own cordials

“Experiment with home cordials,” suggests Garnell. “For instance, after doing fresh orange juice in the morning, boil the husks in a mixture of water, orange juice and spices such as clove, cinnamon or nutmeg. Leave it to simmer for 10 to 15 minutes and strain – you have your own spiced orange cordial!”

Try a milk wash

“Add one part spirit to a bowl and one quarter of its volume in lemon juice,” says Adam Rog, senior bartender at The Four Sisters bar in Islington. “Pour your spirit and lemon mixture into milk and watch it curdle. Once split, usually after 10 minutes, run it through a filter – try a microfibre cloth or some kitchen towel, as you’ll want it to catch the curds but keep the lactose. After this, you can add whatever flavours you think best. We milk wash coffee liqueur and add vodka, sugar, vanilla essence and cacao to create a smoother take on a White Russian.”

Or, just keep it simple

“One of my favourite cocktails to make at home is a Negroni,” says Ben Flux, bartender at Merchant House in London. “It’s simple, but a bartender’s favourite! Add a sustainable twist with Discarded Cascara Vermouth and spent coffee grounds to create a cold brew Negroni.”

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New Arrival of the Week: Manly Lilly Pilly Pink Gin

This week we’re crossing our fingers for sunshine while sipping a new pink gin with no added sugar all the way from Australia. And there’s a special cocktail at the…

This week we’re crossing our fingers for sunshine while sipping a new pink gin with no added sugar all the way from Australia. And there’s a special cocktail at the end.

Some people get very upset with pink gin. Just mention of it can get gin aficionados harrumphing into their (extremely) dry Martinis. But we’re equal opportunities boozers here at Master of Malt so we say, if you like pink gin, then ignore the snobs and drink it. Whatever blows your hair back. Some brands, however, are a little sweet for those raised on London dry gin which is why we’re so taken with the new Lilly Pilly Pink Gin from Australia which contains no added sugar. 

It gets its name from Lilly Pilly, a native Australian species of myrtle with striking pink coloured fruits known in New Zealand rather sweetly as monkey apples. Vanessa Wilton, co-founder of Manly Gin described them as “slightly tart but ever so Australian.” The gin, however, gets its pretty colour from raspberries, not from the lilly pillies which are distilled along with other exciting botanicals such as native limes, hibiscus rosella flowers, blood orange, sea fig and nasturtium flowers. The resulting gin is then steeped with raspberries for 18 hours. There is no sugar added. According to Wilton, “we were really inspired by the beautiful pink sea fig and nasturtium flowers found scattered on the sand dunes of Freshwater beach near the distillery.”

Top foraging!

The distillery itself is not named after some Burt Reynolds-type figure, disappointingly, but after Manly, a suburb of Sydney. It was set up by David Whittaker and Vanessa Wilton who got the spirits bug after visiting a distillery in Tasmania. The Manly range arrived in the UK only last year but has already made quite a splash. In addition to the Lilly Pilly, they produce two dry gins, a barrel-aged gin which tastes like an Australian Chartreuse, and two stunning flavoured vodkas. Finally, there’s whisky in the pipeline which came of age last year but isn’t commercially available yet. 

You might be surprised that the distiller of these amazingly Australian spirits is actually an Englishman, Tim Stones. He previously worked with Desmond Payne at Beefeater, and he confided in us that the great man himself had given the Australian Dry Gin the thumbs-up. Stones is clearly relishing working with Australia’s native flora, “these botanicals are incredibly pungent – just like the nation”, he told us last year. 

In addition to all the unusual ingredients, Manly has not stinted on the juniper in the Lilly Pilly gin and though it is definitely exotic, it’s not wacky. This means it’s a very versatile gin. It would be lovely just with tonic water, garnished with some raspberries, mixed into the reddest Negroni on the planet or you could try in a cocktail suggested by the distillery called the Pink Gin Sling. Just the thing for sipping in the garden when the sun comes out. Chin Chin! Or here’s mud in your eye, as they say in Australia. 

45ml Lilly Pilly Pink Gin
15ml Campari
45ml pineapple juice
20ml lime juice
15ml simple syrup
3 raspberries

Shake all the ingredients together and strain into an ice-filled Highball glass. Garnish with a lime wheel and a raspberry. 

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Alan Gray, Scotch whisky industry expert – obituary

Today, Ian Buxton pays tribute to one of Scotch whisky’s greats who died recently: Alan Gray, the man behind industry bible the annual Scotch Whisky Industry Review. Here at Master…

Today, Ian Buxton pays tribute to one of Scotch whisky’s greats who died recently: Alan Gray, the man behind industry bible the annual Scotch Whisky Industry Review.

Here at Master of Malt, we were greatly saddened to note the passing of Alan Gray. Alan Gray – ‘who he?’ some of you might ask. 

Alan may not have been well-known outside the industry, and he is unlikely to have been recognised by the whisky drinker, but he was widely respected by industry insiders for his insightful commentary on the Scotch whisky business.

Born in Lanark in December 1939, he trained initially as a chartered accountant, became a financial journalist in London and, on his return to his native Scotland, a stockbroker. Bear in mind that in the 1960s there were still very many more independent whisky companies and thus stocks quoted on the market. But whisky became his great love and, in 1977, he launched the first edition of his Scotch Whisky Industry Review.

As he developed his contacts and networks (which were extensive, for he was a clubbable man), this came to be seen as the most credible independent source of information and commentary on the industry. Each issue went into meticulous depth on production, stock levels, shipments, brand and marketing activity, frequently covering 300 pages or more of closely packed argument.

Alan Gray (photo credit: The Keepers of the Quaich)

His reputation grew with the publication of a monthly newsletter and he was valued for his discretion and his respect for the many ‘off the record’ conversations which added such depth to his commentary.

Alan was recognised as a Keeper (later Master) of the Quaich, an honour which he greatly valued. He was not afraid to challenge some of the industry’s conventions or to debunk the myths and spin that he detected from time to time in marketing. During his long life, Alan recorded the whisky industry moving from the depression of the ‘whisky loch’ to today’s current prosperity and expansion, always with sharp wit and a keen intelligence.

Think of him as a latter-day Alfred Barnard – a chronicler and enthusiast who has left an invaluable and unrivalled record. He had only recently completed work on the latest Scotch Whisky Industry Review 2019, remarkably the 42nd edition (photo in header from this publication). Its 284 pages will be a lasting memory of an impressive lifetime’s achievement.

Alan Gray died on 20th February 2020 and is survived by his wife of 56 years, Margaret, his three sons Barry, Colin and David, his brother Jim and by six grandchildren.

 

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Virtual pub quiz: 27 March

Think you know your booze? Then you should enter our new and improved virtual pub quiz. All entries will get a discount code and one winner a £25 off voucher….

Think you know your booze? Then you should enter our new and improved virtual pub quiz. All entries will get a discount code and one winner a £25 off voucher. All must have prizes!

It’s the return of the Master of Malt pub quiz. We’ve made it slightly easier this week as well as put it in a snazzy format so it’s easier to enter. We do like to make your life easy. For those bamboozled by last week’s quiz, here is a link to the answers. Remember, strict pub quiz rules, no looking at Google.

 

Fancy your chances?! Go to the quiz by hitting ‘click here’!

CLICK HERE

(And remember, no cheating. We might not know, but it is not in the spirit of quizzing!)

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The Nightcap: 27 March

It’s another bitesize Nightcap this week, but there’s still plenty of booze news to enjoy – as well as the answers to last week’s pub quiz! Staying in this Friday? Well,…

It’s another bitesize Nightcap this week, but there’s still plenty of booze news to enjoy – as well as the answers to last week’s pub quiz!

Staying in this Friday? Well, what are the chances – so are we! In fact, plenty of us have been staying in quite a bit and getting involved with various projects. Some DIY, learning a few new cocktail recipes, that sort of thing. Our Sam has been trying to listen to every Neil Young album. Turns out there are loads and it’s taking him ages. If you’d prefer a project that’s just a bit easier to tick off your list, we’ve got a brand new edition of The Nightcap right here!

On the MoM blog this week, Ian Buxton returned this to discuss the implications of agave casks being used in Scotch whisky before we helped you explore the drinks world in lockdown-mode by picking five of our favourite drink books. Adam continued the theme by taking you on a distillery tour of Glenglassaugh and Wolfburn without leaving the house. You can thank virtual reality for that. Annie, meanwhile, enjoyed five classic spirits made in non-traditional places and gave us 10 pointers from the pros about how to DIY your G&T. Elsewhere, Henry made an Old Fashioned, but slightly better, and recommended a new bottling that would work particularly well in that serve, as Jess rounded up the best of the best from the World Gin Awards 2020 winners.

And after all that excitement, it’s on with The Nightcap!

The Nightcap

Look, it’s Ardbeg Wee Beastie!

Ardbeg unveils new whisky: Wee Beastie

The folks at Ardbeg Distillery clearly understand that at a time like this we need good news and things to look forward to. That’s why it was a welcome surprise to be told this week that the Islay whisky producer is set to launch a new permanent expression. It’s called Wee Beastie, presumably because it was matured for just five years in ex-bourbon and oloroso sherry casks. The press release explains that Wee Beastie is a “feisty and intensely powerful smoky whisky that’s untamed by age”, with “intense aromas of cracked black pepper, sappy pine resin and sharp tangs of smoke”, and an explosive mouthfeel that “bursts forth with chocolate, creosote, tar and savoury meats”. We do love a young, raw and bold Islay bottling here at MoM Towers. Ardbeg’s director of whisky creation, Dr Bill Lumsden, said of Wee Beastie: “I’m in no doubt that Ardbeggians will love this tongue-tingling expression. The casks chosen for its creation make it ideal for enjoying neat or as the mouth-watering main ingredient in a powerfully smoky cocktail.” Soon-to-retire distillery manager Mickey Heads added: “A new permanent expression in the core range is always momentous for the distillery, but Wee Beastie is a particularly special dram. As it’s a younger whisky, it means we’re able to get as close to the still as possible. So it’s safe to say this is a ferociously good wee nip!” Wee Beastie will be available here from May.

The Nightcap

The 52 year-old Karuizawa ‘Zodiac Rat’ 1960 sold for £363,000, a new record

Karuizawa expression sells for £363,000 and sets new record

In these dark times, it’s good to know there are still people with tonnes of money prepared to splash out on whisky. You may recall on a previous Nightcap we previewed an upcoming sale of fine and rare wines and spirits by Sotheby’s and expected big things from Macallan and Karuizawa (as always). Well, they didn’t disappoint. The 52-year-old Karuizawa ‘Zodiac Rat’ 1960 sold for £363,000, a new record for a bottle of Japanese whisky. It’s the oldest expression ever released from the distillery and the bottle is one of only 41 produced, each packed with a netsuke (a miniature sculpture) carved from the oak cask that once held the whisky. Macallan also had a good auction as a complete vertical of The Macallan in Lalique Six Pillars Collection was sold for £423,500, while The Macallan Lalique Genesis Decanter 72-year-old was bought for £84,700. The present global situation didn’t appear to disrupt much for Sotheby’s, which sold £3.7 million worth of booze. A substantial proportion of lots exceeded their high estimates and 50% of winning lots were made online. “Against a backdrop of extraordinary circumstance, the persistence and commitment of collectors came through in yesterday’s sales, where a bottle of Japanese whisky became the most valuable ever sold, accompanied by strong prices for Scotch whisky, led by the Macallan in Lalique Decanters,” said Jamie Ritchie, chairman of Sotheby’s Wine. “Collectors also continue to compete for the world’s greatest wines, and when there is an opportunity to acquire the very best the market has to offer, as with the two cases of the legendary Cheval Blanc 1947, they are willing to stretch to the highest level.”

Michael Broadbent in action in the (judging by the haircuts) 1980s. Photo courtesy of Christie’s

Industry pays tribute to Michael Broadbent 

Tributes poured as the wine world lost one of its most eminent figures, Michael Broadbent, at the age of 92. Jancis Robinson MW described him as “a towering figure in the history of wine.” Born in 1927, Broadbent had a varied career in the wine trade, becoming a Master of Wine in 1960 but it was his time at Christie’s, the auction house, where he was most influential. He joined the firm in 1966 and almost single-handedly revived the auction market for fine and rare wines (and later spirits). He was famous for taking notes on (nearly) every wine he tried, and the most notable was published in The Great Vintage Wine Book. He retired from Christie’s in 1992 but remained a consultant with the firm until 2009. In addition, he was chairman of the Institute of Masters of Wine, Master of the Worshipful Company of Distillers, president of the Wine & Spirit Education Trust and chairman of The Benevolent. He was particularly revered in France where he was made Chevalier of the Ordre National du Mérite in 1979. Au revoir Monsieur Michael!

The Nightcap

It’s the final batch of While We Wait!

Isle of Raasay Distillery releases its final While We Wait

For what seems like about 30 years, the Isle of Raasay Distillery has been releasing an annual single malt under the While We Wait banner (it’s actually only been five years but we’re so impatient it seems like longer.) Now, the wait is almost over as the last batch of WWW whisky has just gone on sale. Appropriately enough, this last batch is called The Last Orders and it’s made up of peated and unpeated spirits matured in bourbon barrels and finished in first and second fill Tuscan red wine French oak casks for 18 months. It will be available only direct from the distillery. Co-founder Alasdair Day commented: “This fifth and final release of our While We Wait series is a highly significant step forward for our distillery. Our team are constantly looking to push the boundaries of whisky making, exploring the effect that different finishes and casks have on the flavour profile, and this spirit is the perfect embodiment of our ethos.” Later this year, the Isle of Raasay’s first single malt distilled on the island will be released which is extremely exciting. Watch this space!

The Nightcap

Get involved, if you’re in the US, of course.

And finally…  Bardstown Bourbon are looking for ‘world’s’ top whiskey taster 

The Company has partnered with Moonshine University to create an exciting contest that calls on whiskey lovers, enthusiasts, fans and connoisseurs alike in the search for the World’s Top Whiskey Taster. Sounds amazing, except it’s not open to the world. It’s just for legal residents of the fifty United States (and District of Columbia). Unless self-isolation has turned my brain to mush, I’m pretty certain there’s a distinction between the US and the world. Might want to reconsider that name. The winner will be awarded a cash prize of $20,000 with a contract to represent Bardstown Bourbon Company as an ambassador, as well as a scholarship to Moonshine University’s Executive Bourbon Steward certification programme, and a trip to Bardstown, Kentucky to blend a custom product with Bardstown Bourbon Company master distiller Steve Nally. Frankly, I don’t know why I’m not entering for goodness sake. Oh, right. I can’t. The competition consists of three phases, starting with an invitation to submit an audition video, followed by regional qualifiers and national finals. “Entrants are encouraged to be creative and have fun,” said Bardstown Bourbon Company vice president of sales & marketing, Herb Heneman. “Tell us what makes your palate as good as it is. Show us things like your favourite bourbon cocktail, your most impressive or underrated pairing, or pick the most amazing bottle in your stash and geek out on it. But most of all, tell us what representing Bardstown Bourbon Company as a distillery ambassador would mean to you.” The full contest rules, terms and conditions are here. To upload your audition video or for more information, you can do that here. But only if you’re in the US, remember?  

The Nightcap

That’s it for the Nightcap this week, now here are the answers to last week’s pub quiz. We appreciate it was a tad on the tough side so today’s edition (coming soon) should prove more accessible:

1) Which much-admired Islay distillery manager announced his retirement last week? 

Answer: Mickey Heads

2) How many distilleries are there on Skye?

Answer: Three: Talisker, Torabhaig Distillery and Isle of Skye Distillery.

3) How many times is Mortlach single malt distilled?

Answer: 2.81 times according to the distillery.

4) Where would you find boisé? 

Answer: In Cognac.

5) Which cocktail does the Polish agent drink in John Le Carre’s The Looking Glass War?

Answer: The White Lady

6) What’s bigger, a British pint or an American?

Answer: A British pint. 

7) What sport is the carraway-flavoured schnapps kümmel commonly associated with?

Answer: Golf.

8) What whiskey does Sylvester Stallone’s character Jimmy Bobo request in the 2012 movie Bullet to the Head?

Answer: Bulleit Bourbon

9) What do both the glass Gatsby raises and Tom Buchanan’s car have in common in The Great Gatsby film? 

Answer: They are both a couple (or coupé).

10) Which bourbon whiskey brand inspired a Billy Idol single?

Answer: Rebel Yell

11) Evan Williams originally hailed from which country?

Answer: Wales

12) Which drink brand did the first-ever cinema advert?

Answer: Dewar’s Scotch whisky

13) There are more barrels of bourbon than people in the state of Kentucky, true or false?

Answer: True (two barrels of bourbon for every person)

14) In which wine region would you find ‘the dogs’ teeth’?

Answer: Burgundy

15) How many monkeys are there on a bottle of Monkey Shoulder?

Answer: 9.

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Take a VR tour of Wolfburn Distillery!

Thanks to wonders of VR technology, you can now tour the wonderful Wolfburn Distillery from the comfort of your own home! Just because you’re self-isolating or on lockdown, it doesn’t mean…

Thanks to wonders of VR technology, you can now tour the wonderful Wolfburn Distillery from the comfort of your own home!

Just because you’re self-isolating or on lockdown, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a good distillery tour. How is this possible? Thanks to the power of VR, of course. In this series we’re going to take you around some of the finest distilleries across England, Wales and Scotland from the comfort of your own home. This week we see what it’s like inside Scotland’s most northerly mainland distillery. Enjoy!

The current Wolfburn Distillery was founded in 2013 in Thurso, the most northerly town on the British mainland. It’s just 350 metres from the site of the original Wolfburn distillery, which dates back to 1821 and closed its doors back in 1860. The burn from which the distillery took its name remains the water source to this day. Both peated and unpeated whisky is produced at Wolfburn in two Forsyths copper pot stills, a 5,500-litre wash still and 3,600-litre boil ball spirit still. Fermentation times range from 70-92 hours in the four stainless steel washbacks and the distillery has a single 1.1-tonne semi-lauter mash tun, while the whisky is matured in ex-bourbon hogsheads, quarter casks and ex-oloroso sherry butts. Despite being a relative newcomer, the distillery is already building quite a reputation for its light, sweet and complex whiskies.

a VR tour of Wolfburn Distillery

 If Wolfburn seems like your kind of distillery, then I’d recommend you help yourself to a bottle of Wolfburn Northland Single Malt (above), the first single malt released by the distillery back in March 2016. Some of the whisky was matured in quarter casks that previously held peated whisky from Islay, but this is no Islay imitation. It’s very much got its own character. Best of all, we’ll deliver straight to your doorstep, so if you’re self-isolating or on lockdown, then we’ve got your back. No, wait, that’s not the best part of this. If you order now, you can save a whopping £7 on this bottling! There’s also 10% off Langskip, Morven and Aurora. 

Wolfburn Northland Single Malt Tasting Note:

Nose: Orchard fruits, apple pie, a fresh maltiness, almonds, magnolia and a suggestion of smoke.

Palate: Honey Nut Clusters breakfast cereal, sweet spices, chocolate croissant, more honey towards the end, and a subtle earthy peatiness.

Finish: Long and fresh, with even more rich honey notes

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