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Master of Malt Blog

The winner of a bundle of Botanist Gin goodies is…

Someone grab the town crier bell. It’s time to announce the winner of our Botanist Gin #BagThisBundle competition!  Every competition needs a winner. And now that another one of them…

Someone grab the town crier bell. It’s time to announce the winner of our Botanist Gin #BagThisBundle competition

Every competition needs a winner. And now that another one of them has ended, we have the pleasure of announcing who that is. One lucky person has a bundle of Botanist Gin goodies coming their way. Specifically, the Botanist Gin Herb Planter Gift Pack, a bottle of The Botanist Islay Dry Gin, a branded mixing glass, two branded tumblers and two branded tote bags. All they’ll need to do is supply the tonic water.

Win Botanist Gin

All this is now yours!

Congratulations to…

Helena Hunter Wood, from Lancashire!

We sincerely hope you enjoy your prize and thanks to all who entered. Keep an eye on the MoM blog as there are plenty more opportunities to win big coming up…

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Cocktail of the Week: The Gin Cup

Today’s cocktail is a summer time classic, yes it’s coming soon, we hope, made with Whitley Neill Aloe & Cucumber Gin. It’s the Gin Cup! Honestly, this weather is playing…

Today’s cocktail is a summer time classic, yes it’s coming soon, we hope, made with Whitley Neill Aloe & Cucumber Gin. It’s the Gin Cup!

Honestly, this weather is playing havoc with our cocktail scheduling. Last week we were sitting out in the garden. The flowers were in bloom, the trees were budding, and the mint was growing back nicely so I thought I’d do a summery cocktail for early April. And then yesterday it was snowing. How can you plan for that drinks wise?

Introducing the Gin Cup

The simple answer is you can’t, so I’m going ahead with this summery classic as planned. It’s called the Gin Cup and it’s a great warm weather refresher. Or fireside sipper, depending on what’s going on outside. With the combination of booze, ice and mint, it’s not dissimilar to a Mint Julep or a Mojito.

It’s one of those cocktails so simple, that it doesn’t even have an origin story. There was no Captain T. Bartholomew Cup Jnr who had it made at a club in Baltimore after a hard day’s railroad baronning. More’s the pity. 

Gin cup

Gin cup, a cocktail for all seasons

Get creative

The Gin Cup is built for customisation. Treat the recipe below as a starting point, then play around to create your own version. You can add a dash of Angostura or fruit bitters, a liqueur like Cointreau or something like Chambord to take it into Bramble territory, or go mad on the fruit to make a lighter alternative to Pimm’s. But really where this cocktail comes into its own is with flavoured gins.

Now, we know that flavoured gins, ie. gins that have flavour, and often colour and sugar added post-distillation can divide gin lovers (see this article for the full debate). For some they are nectar of the gods, for others a straying from the path of junipery righteousness. As you might expect from a drinks retailer, we’re more ecumenical. If it works, we have no problem with it. Though it would sometimes be helpful if there was some indication of sweetness levels on the bottle. We’re looking at you Tanqueray Flor de Sevilla

Whitley Neill – flavoured gin pioneers

One that’s going to appeal to both camps is Whitley Neill’s Aloe and Cucumber. It is a flavoured gin but it’s still juniper-led and dry, so it does all the things a standard London Dry can but with added refreshment from the aloe and cucmber.

Whitley Neill was one of the pioneers of flavoured gins. Founder Johnny Neill told us in an interview last year that he started experimenting with flavours and it just took off from there: “We were led by how well-received the first couple of flavours were, they just went crazy. The whole thing just blossomed and ballooned. We were drawing people that hadn’t really enjoyed traditional dry gins before as well and helping to grow a category. So it was partly us and partly the consumers enjoying the flavour profiles.” They do a huge range from Quince to Blood Orange.

Johnny Neill

Johnny Neill, gin is in his blood

Gin is in the blood

Neill comes from a great gin family: “My father worked as the director for Greenall Whitley, based in Warrington, which at the time was the largest independent brewer in the UK and also owned Greenall’s Gin. His uncle, JD Whitley, was the chairman of the group and my father’s grandfather, or my great-grandfather was a chap called John James Whitley, or JJ Whitley, he was managing director of the company for about 40 years. It goes all the way back to 1762 when Thomas Greenall founded the company. So I’ve got eight generations behind me and I started tasting gin early and always loved it.”

Following a career in accountancy and finance. He took up the family legacy with the foundation of Whitley Neill in 2005. Since then, he’s gone on to create other brands like Marylebone London Dry Gin and Berkshire Botanical gin as part of the Halewood spirits family.

Any of those gin would be delicious in an infinitely adaptable cocktail like the Gin Cup. If you’re using a sweeter flavoured gin, then adjust the sugar levels accordingly. 

Right, without further ado….

Here’s how to make a Gin Cup:

90ml Whitley Neill Aloe and Cucumber Gin
30ml freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon sugar syrup (or more to taste)
4 sprigs of fresh mint

Put three sprigs of mint and sugar syrup in a rocks glass and muddle together. Fill the glass with cracked ice, add the lemon juice and gin, and stir until a frost forms on the outside of the glass. Taste and add more sugar syrup if needed. Garnish with a final sprig of mint, a slice of lemon and cucumber.

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Ultra-rare Brora Triptych released as distillery reopens this May 

To celebrate the forthcoming opening of the revived Brora distillery, Diageo will be releasing three historic whiskies called Brora Triptych from this legendary name. Interested? Of course you are! The…

To celebrate the forthcoming opening of the revived Brora distillery, Diageo will be releasing three historic whiskies called Brora Triptych from this legendary name. Interested? Of course you are!

The whisky world pricked up its collective ears when it heard that Diageo was rebuilding the cult Brora and Port Ellen distilleries back in 2017. We’ve eagerly followed the progress since on the blog and this May, a year later than originally planned, Brora will once again be operational for the first time since 1983. Release the party poppers!

Brora Distillery

Brora is reborn! We can’t wait to visit

As you might expect, Diageo is celebrating in style with the launch of three extremely fancy bottlings, called Brora Triptych, which will be available mid-May to coincide with the opening of the distillery. Only 300 are available. The trio consists of:

Elusive Legacy 

At 48-years-old this is the oldest public release from Brora made up of casks from 1972. Very little whisky was produced at this time so this is doubly rare. The tasting note describes it as: “Warm chestnut in colour, there is a delicate aroma which blends wood spice with hints of peach tarte tatin, amidst a powerful rich maltiness”. Bottled at 42.8% ABV

Age of Peat 

A 43-year old-smoky expression made up of whiskies distilled in 1977. It represents a time between 1972 and 1980 when Brora switched to heavily-peated whiskies to meet soaring demand from blends. It’s described as: “Intensely deep and golden, this expression is elegant on the nose with creamy vanilla invigorated by freshly-cut green apples and hints of beeswax, before a long, sweet finish of peat -fired smokiness.” Bottled at 48.6% ABV.

Timeless Original 

A 38-year-old from 1982, the last full year of production, when Brora had returned to its traditional lightly-peated style. The tasting note says: “Glowing yellow gold in hue, sherberty lemon peel, and a touch of fresh green grass dance on the nose.” Bottled at 47.5% ABV.

Brora Triptych

Brora Triptych, note fancy packaging

Master blender Dr Craig Wilson commented: “These are some of our very last precious relics from a Brora of bygone age. Each one represents a moment in time at the distillery and tasting these superb whiskies is to be part of a special moment in history. When selecting the casks for these rare bottlings, we wanted to celebrate  those distinct characteristics that define Brora, and those that we seek to uphold as we begin a new chapter in its story.”

The distillery reopens in May

The three will be sold as a trio in some seriously fancy packaging with an equally hefty price tag of £30,000, and they’re only 50cl bottles. But that does include an invite to visit the distillery when it reopens and be shown around by master blender and Brora native Stewart Bowman who was heavily involved in the distillery rebirth. 

Stewart Bowman

Looking every inch the Scottish country gent, it’s Stewart Bowman

He comments: “The stories of Brora are woven into my own history and I am honoured to soon be able to share these stories with others. My father was an ‘old hand’ at the distillery, and I grew up in the village with the top of the distillery’s bell-tower visible from our kitchen window. In the years after Brora’s closure, I remember my father showing me the old cask ledgers and the records of those final casks distilled in 1983 and asking if Brora would return one day. It fills me with great pride that 38 years after the doors of Brora closed, more casks will now be filled, and we will be able to welcome people once again to this special place. It is our commitment that we will do justice to the Brora of old and hope to welcome visitors to our restored home as soon as that is possible. In the Brora Triptych, we aimed to celebrate the great whisky styles of the past for which Brora is known.”

We will be reporting (virtually, sadly) from the reopening of Brora in mid-May, and there will be further news coming on when and where you can get hold of these extremely rare whiskies. 

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New Arrival of the Week: FEW Immortal Rye

Just landed at MoM Towers, a new expression from Illinois’s finest, FEW Spirits. Called FEW Immortal Rye, it combines whiskey with tea. To learn more, we talk to founder and…

Just landed at MoM Towers, a new expression from Illinois’s finest, FEW Spirits. Called FEW Immortal Rye, it combines whiskey with tea. To learn more, we talk to founder and distiller Paul Hletko.

Whiskey lovers are getting increasingly adventurous in their tastes. A few years ago, the idea of whiskey blended with tea might have raised a few eyebrows but nowadays drinkers are receptive to innovative combinations. As long, of course, that they taste good. 

We few, we happy few

We’re pretty confident that the team at FEW Spirits know what they’re doing. The distillery was founded in 2011 by Paul Hletko. His family were originally from the country now known as Czechia and owned a brewery before the second world war so the drinks business runs in his veins.

According to the website, FEW was inspired by “the golden age of pre-prohibition whiskey.” The name is a little in-joke as it’s the initials of Frances Elizabeth Willard, one of the architects of prohibition. Proudly based in Evanston not far from Chicago, the labels bear images of the city’s 1893 World Fair. 

FEW Spirits produces gin as well as different types of whiskey including rye and bourbon. It’s a grain-to-glass operation meaning that Hletko produces his own neutral grain alcohol to rectify into gin. This is something that very few gin distilleries do. The equipment consists of a German hybrid pot/ column still which is used to make high ABV spirit for gin production and lower ABV for whiskey plus a separate still for distilling the botanicals into gin. 

Completing the picture is the famous distillery dog called, confusingly, chicken.

Stills at FEW Spirits in Illinois

The still set-up at FEW Spirts in Illinois

More tea, vicar?

The base of this week’s New Arrival is FEW’s punchy rye made with 70% rye with 20% corn and 10% malted barley. Hletko takes the cask strength spirit and then reduces it to 46.5% ABV by adding tea.

We asked him where this idea came from: “The idea started with playing with coffee (rather than tea) and we tried coffee a couple different ways, and liked them,” he said “but we LOVED the results when we just cut barrel strength bourbon to bottle strength with cold brew coffee.  That is now our Cold Cut Bourbon and that ended up winning the Best Flavoured Whiskey in the World award from the World Whiskies Awards. We continued thinking and playing with other liquids in the same way, and played with several different teas, and extraction techniques.”

You’ll be pleased to hear that getting the tea flavour into whiskey doesn’t involve any tea bags. Instead they use a fancy variety of Chinese oolong tea called 8 Immortals. He explained how the process worked: “We cold-extract the 8 Immortals tea. It allows us to use a much slower steep than a hot extraction, and we get to focus the resulting flavors on the sweet and fruity flavors of the tea itself. We still do get some tannic notes as well, which is nice, but the cold extraction keeps some of those tannins balanced with the tannic effect of the wood on the whiskey.”

The end result is a spicy rye whiskey charged with flavours of dried orange peel, poached pear, cardamom, cloves, and aromatic cedar with a nutty finish. It’s delicious sipped neat over ice or in an Old Fashioned. He also recommends drinking it in a Highball with a dash of cherry juice. 

Few Immortal Rye

Few Immortal Rye is great in a Highball

10 years of delicious spirits

Last year was all about weathering the Covid storm, and it sounds like FEW has been lucky in this regard. “None of our team members have been sick, none of their family members, seriously sick. I think we’re pretty lucky,” he said, “Business wise, we are doing great and are continuing to grow. But I’m especially excited that we are all healthy.”

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the distillery and they have big plans. We’re excited about a couple of bottles that we expect to release over the next year or two, including a 10 year anniversary release,”he said, “as well as a rock band collaboration that is super fun.”

Sounds super fun, indeed. We can’t wait to hear more.

FEW Immortal Rye is available from Master of Malt.

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MoM Loves: Our exclusive Glenfiddich Tasting Collection!

Missing whisky tastings? Hankering after a distillery visit? We teamed up with Glenfiddich to put together a rather delectable, limited edition Glenfiddich Tasting Collection packed with some of its fanciest…

Missing whisky tastings? Hankering after a distillery visit? We teamed up with Glenfiddich to put together a rather delectable, limited edition Glenfiddich Tasting Collection packed with some of its fanciest expressions, including the new Glenfiddich Grande Couronne 26 Year Old! There will even be a series of virtual tastings, too…

We love a whisky tasting. And we love tasting sets! That’s why we have a whole load of them available (a way to experience a whole bunch of samples for less than the price of a bottle? Winning!). So when our pals at Scotch whisky distillery Glenfiddich got in touch about teaming up to create a really very special – and exclusive! – tasting set… Well, we were hardly going to decline!

Cracking Glenfiddich Tasting Collection contents

This one is especially cool (and, while we would say that, we do actually mean it). Not only is it filled to the brim with five different 30ml whiskies from the distillery, but it’s packed with tasty newness, too. You might have heard about a very special new release from the iconic Speyside producer. Last month, we got wind of a new addition to The Grand Series. Say hello to Grande Couronne!

It’s a 26 year old single malt that brings together Scotland and France through its production. And this is where we get super geeky, as Brian Kinsman, Glenfiddich’s malt master (what a job title!), explains.

“The Grand Series perfectly encapsulates Glenfiddich’s spirit of innovation and our ability to experiment with aged liquid and intriguing finishes,” he says.. “Grande Couronne is the latest to exemplify that approach. It is the only Glenfiddich single malt that has matured in American and European oak casks and finished in rare French Cognac casks. 

“The length of the finish, two years, is highly unusual and adds extra layers of sweet toasted oak and velvety aromas of café crème, brown sugar and soft spice.”

So far, so delectable. But it doesn’t stop there! The Glenfiddich Tasting Collection also features the other two drams in The Grand Series: Glenfiddich 21 Year Old Reserva Rum Cask Finish, and Glenfiddich Grand Cru 23 Year Old.

Glenfiddich Tasting Collection Set with drams

We love our exclusive Glenfiddich Tasting Collection!

A taste of Glenfiddich

We’re all about bringing the distillery to life as best as we can (seeing as we can’t actually visit right now), so there’s the classic Glenfiddich 18 Year Old in there, too, with the set completed by Glenfiddich Virgin Oak 2010. From innovative finishes to that classic distillery character, if you’re into your Speyside whiskies (or know someone who is!) we reckon it’s worth checking out. 

What’s also worth checking out are Glenfiddich’s live tastings, where brand ambassador Struan Grant Ralph will chat you through each dram in detail via the wonderful medium of Zoom. Tastings are set to take place on 8, 15, 22 and 29 April at 8pm UK time. Dial-in deets are in the box, along with your five drams!

Want in? The Glenfiddich Tasting Collection is available now, exclusively from us, while stocks last. (Once they’ve gone, they’ve really gone!)

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China’s baijiu giants: the most valuable drinks companies in the world

Looking for a hot share tip? Ian Buxton looks at whether you might be best off investing in China’s rapidly growing national spirit baijiu. The top three most valuable drinks…

Looking for a hot share tip? Ian Buxton looks at whether you might be best off investing in China’s rapidly growing national spirit baijiu. The top three most valuable drinks companies in the world are all Chinese, relegating the mighty Diageo to fourth place. Most of this growth is based on the domestic market but now baijiu is slowly taking off in the West.

Have you ever heard of Wuliangye Yibin Co. Ltd? No? Then perhaps you’re more familiar with the Jiangsu Yanghe Brewery Joint-Stock Co. Ltd.

As you’ve probably realised, they’re Chinese. What you may not know is that these companies are very large – some might say, huge. We’re hearing a lot more about Chinese businesses these days, whether it’s their impact on global supply chains, employment or environmental practices or their effect on their Western competitors and our economies.

Baijiu production at Ming River

Baijiu production at Ming River

The most valuable drinks companies in the world

In fact, if we look at the ten largest drinks companies in the world, ranked by market capitalisation, then remarkably three of them are Chinese. What’s more, they would have proved a great investment over the past year. Shares in the Jiangsu Yanghe Brewery have more or less doubled in the last twelve months, while investors in Wuliangye Yibin are toasting an increase of more than 130%.

By comparison, good old Diageo – well known to all readers for its Guinness, Johnnie Walker, Captain Morgan, Smirnoff, Gordon’s and a cluster of single malts, to name just a few of its brands – appear in a modest fourth place in the global ranking and its shares have managed to grow by less than 15%. Actually, considering what’s been going on recently, that might have been thought a reasonable performance until compared to the Chinese cohort.

A booming market

And I haven’t mentioned the world’s number one drinks business yet. Showing an annual growth in value of just over 100%; a market capitalisation of around US$450billion and assets of US$25.6bn, please give a big Master of Malt welcome to Kweichow Moutai Co. Ltd., with its headquarters in Renhuai, China. Even more remarkably, it’s not even located in a major centre: Renhuai is comparatively sparsely populated by Chinese standards, with fewer than 750,000 inhabitants in the relatively poor and economically undeveloped province of Guizhou.

Despite this, and despite the fact that around 97% of its sales remain within China, high-end bottles from Kweichow Moutai can and do sell for over $40,000. That’s Macallan pricing, serious money by any standards. A 1935 vintage bottle of Moutai, a brand that’s collected by investors and reportedly produced in small batches to maintain its air of exclusivity, has sold for £1.2 million ($1.7 million) at auction according to reports in Forbes.

Cocktail making with Fenjiu 10 Years Old

Baijiu companies like Fenjiu are using cocktails to appeal to Western drinkers

It’s baijiu!

So what’s going on? Well, it’s baijiu – the biggest-selling spirit you’ve may not have even heard of, let alone tried. For those who don’t know, baijiu is a clear, pungent high-alcohol liquid distilled from fermented sorghum, rice or other grains. It’s China’s national spirit, typically purchased by the bottle and drunk as shots. It appears in the home, at business dinners and state banquets and is widely employed in the Chinese tradition of gifting. Some adherents also hold that it has medicinal properties and can strengthen the immune system – handy right now, though not a view endorsed by conventional medical science.

Sales have rocketed recently. And while Western drinks companies try to build their small foothold in China, leading Chinese brands are now trying to take baijiu onto the international stage. Take Ming River Sichuan Baijiu, already available in European markets and launching soon in two dozen US states in a partnership with Sazerac. Others will surely follow – in fact, Master of Malt already offers seven different brands at prices from £30 to over £160.

Just as Indian beers and single malt whiskies initially gained a foothold in Indian restaurants and then expanded their reach to the wider market, expect to encounter baijiu first in Chinese restaurants where it can be enjoyed with food and shortly afterwards anticipate it on specialists’ shelves. But whether you develop a taste for baijiu’s unique charms or not, you might want to call your stockbroker.

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The Nightcap: 1 April

With the Easter weekend on the horizon, you might have thought there would be no new round-up this week. You’d be wrong because we’re doing it a day early. It’s…

With the Easter weekend on the horizon, you might have thought there would be no new round-up this week. You’d be wrong because we’re doing it a day early. It’s the Nightcap: 1 April edition.

Happy April Fool’s Day/long weekend everyone! Today we all had a good laugh when we pretended we aged some delicious whisky in a tonic wine cask. You know, like that infamous drink known as ‘wreck the hoose juice’. Expect it was no joke. Surprise! It was an April Unfool. We really did do it. The old switcheroo. It’s bonkers. It’s brilliant. And it’s totally real. What a rollercoaster. 

Once you’ve gotten over our double bluff, you might also want to enjoy some of our other scribblings this week. Like our guide on how to pair chocolate and booze for Easter, our refreshing recipe for a terrific Tequila-based cocktail, our top picks of blended beauties and a review on a tasty new Tennessee whiskey. We also had drinks advertisements on the mind this week as we considered both how they evolve and who takes a starring role.

But we’re not done yet. There’s Nightcapping to do! Let’s proceed.

On The Nightcap: 1 April edition, we pay tribute to Caroline Martin

Cheers to you, Caroline. Thanks for all the delicious booze

Diageo pays tribute to Caroline Martin

We kick things off this week by raising a glass to Caroline Martin, who is preparing to retire after a distinguished 35-year career. Since Martin began her whisky journey in 1986, she has made good use of her extraordinary whisky blending skills by working with brands like Johnnie Walker, J&B, Bell’s and Roe & Co Irish whiskey. As one of the company’s longest-serving whisky master blenders, Martin has become known for her sensory analysis skills, ability to lead training and panels, and judge prominent competitions, all while blazing a trail for women in whisky. Her achievements have led to honours like becoming a Keeper of The Quaich or winning ‘Blender of The Year’ for Roe & Co by The Spirit Business in 2019. It’s her last role at Diageo’s new Dublin-based distillery that might be her finest hour, re-launching the old brand after creating 106 prototype blends of Irish single malt and single grain to make an expression worthy of its historic name. Rhona Ferrans, Diageo whisky specialist team manager, paid tribute to Martin by acknowledging her “extraordinary contribution” and describing her as a “great example and source of inspiration to all of her colleagues”. Martin herself said, “The past 35 years have been an incredible journey and I am thankful to everybody at Diageo who have made it so memorable”. We sincerely hope you enjoy your retirement, Caroline. You deserve it. 

On The Nightcap: 1 April edition, we congratulate Stephen Woodcock

Congratulations, Stephen! We’re looking forward to seeing what you do with the distillery

Stephen Woodcock goes to Glen Moray

Glen Moray also has big news regarding personnel changes, announcing that Stephen Woodcock will take the helm at the Speyside single malt whisky distillery. His job title is actually ‘head of whisky creation & stocks’, and he’ll develop Glen Moray’s wide range of whiskies while also working with the other whisky brands owned by Glen Moray’s parent company La Martiniquaise-Bardinet like Cutty Sark, Label 5 and Sir Edward’s. He succeeds Dr Kirstie McCallum, who recently took up a similar role at Halewood International. There’s no word on why her stint with Glen Moray was so short, as she only joined in 2019. Regardless, Woodcock joins with plenty of experience in this industry, most recently with The Distell Group, where he was responsible for Deanston, Bunnahabhain and Tobermory single malts. Which will now be Brendan McCarron’s job. It’s quite the merry-go-round. For lovers of whisky trivia, Glen Moray is the world’s 8th biggest-selling Speyside whisky and the 16th best-selling single malt. A statement from the distillery said “we are thrilled to bring his talent and experience into the LM-B family”. Woodcock added that he’s “so excited to be joining Glen Moray” and that, together with its expert team, he hopes to build on the “legacy of maturing and marrying different casks, to craft great-tasting whiskies, which will be enjoyed by newcomers and connoisseurs alike.”  

On The Nightcap: 1 April edition, we take a look a certain notable grouse's makeover

What a hilarious April Fool’s. That’s clearly not a lion.

Famous Grouse changes name to celebrate the British & Irish Lions

Famous Grouse and rugby go together like Budweiser and one of those American sports that go on for hours and are baffling to non-Americans. The UK’s number one blended whisky brand has been involved with the sport for 30 years and is currently the sponsor of the British & Irish Lions. To celebrate this special relationship, the bottle has had a makeover which now reads ‘The Famous British & Irish Lions’ instead of ‘The Famous Grouse’. You see what they did there? Chris Anderson, head of Edrington brands, commented: “We are very proud to reaffirm our commitment to this great game with the launch of this limited-edition bottle. On sale throughout the British and Irish Lions tour the bottle will enable us to celebrate the pride and camaraderie we see on the rugby pitch every matchday.” This special bottle which is likely to become a collector’s item will go on sale mid-April ahead of the Lions’ summer tour of South Africa. It should be a belter. 

On The Nightcap: 1 April edition, we ask whether Glendronach has gone down a dreaded path...

Has Glendronach committed a cardinal sin in the eyes of certain whisky lovers?

Is Glendronach now chill-filtered?

There was a proper few Rory over on whisky Twitter this week when someone noticed the words “non-chill-filtered” had been removed from Glendronach’s packaging. One fan asked whether the whisky was indeed now chill-filtered and posted a message which appears to come from the brand saying: “We have removed ‘Non-Chill-Filtered’ from our packaging to provide the flexibility in our processes to optimise consistently exceptional quality, flavour, clarity and stability.” So sounds like a yes then. Not chill-filtering, a process to stabilise the spirit which some think removes flavour, is a badge of honour among many distilleries and highly prized by whisky lovers. We have asked Spey which looks after the PR for Glendronach and the rest of the Brown Forman stable for comment but have not heard back yet. We will be investigating further in an article coming soon.

On The Nightcap: 1 April edition, we look forward to a returning festival

Get your tickets now!

OurWhisky virtual whisky festival returns

There’s another virtual festival to pop in your calendars, folks. The team at OurWhisky say its celebration of the water of life will be back for a second year from 29 April to 27 May. The first festival, which took place in April 2020, was made in response to the Covid-19 crisis and tried to unite whisky makers and lovers while raising money for charity. Which it did. Over £12,000 was donated to The Drinks Trust. The 2021 festival will feature another series of fun and welcoming masterclasses, spread out across five sessions with unique themes. On 29 April is ‘Who Run The World?’, then ‘Club Tropicana’ on 6 May and ‘The Ryesing Tide’ on 13 May. Then, on 20 May there’s ‘New Kids on the Block’ and finally ‘WonkaVision’ on 27 May. While those category names are highly suggestive, you won’t actually know the full details until the day of the event, as the contents of each tasting pack, as well as those presenting them, will be a surprise. There are also five Golden Tickets hidden among the tasting packs this year. Lucky finders will be able to choose a full bottle of whisky of their choice from their tasting. Whisky retailer Milroy’s of Soho will partner with the festival to offer guests an exclusive discount on featured bottles featured. All profits from the event will go to The Drinks Trust. Tickets are on sale now for £30 and each includes a tasting pack of five 30ml whisky samples. The OurWhisky Virtual Whisky Festival will be live-streamed at 7 pm GMT on the brand’s Facebook, Twitter and YouTube channels.  

On The Nightcap: 1 April edition, we check out a new drinks website

It might have the aesthetic of a noughties nightclub, but Ooft! could be an invaluable resource for some

New drinks website launches: OOFT! 

A new platform has been made to embrace making the most of drinking in as well as drinking out. Introducing: OOFT! The site went live this month with videos, recipes, articles, masterclasses, events and advice from all corners of hospitality that focus on enhancing both the at-home and drinking out experience. OOFT! was made  by Leanne Ware, the founder of drinks marketing agency Distinctly Aware, in response to our altered drinking culture post-Covid-19. The idea is for it to be an evolving one stop place where you can learn to create cocktails (or get a good one delivered), see what’s happening in your favourite bars and learn about drinks that to expert contributions from the likes of JJ Goodman founder of The London Cocktail Club, Camille Vidal founder of La Maison Wellness and Hannah Lanfear of The Mixing Class. You can even find the perfect spirituous gift as OOFT! has partnered with some mighty fine retailers. Mighty fine, multi-award-winning retailers. Masters of their craft, you might say… Ok, it’s us. We’re talking about us. Anyway, be sure to check out the website.  

On The Nightcap: 1 April edition, we check out the drinks industry's April Fool's celebrations 

Everyone has a had good laugh today. Although, we actually want one of these.

And finally… it’s an April Fool’s or is it?

The booze world really got into the spirit of April Fool’s Day this year with some amusing japes. Top beard owner Blair Bowman and the World Whisky Day team came up with The Dunnage, a limited edition reed diffuser that’s designed to mimic the smell of dunnage warehouses. Bowman commented: “After a decade of celebrating World Whisky Day each year, we thought it was time to stop and smell the roses — and mark our tenth birthday with something special. We couldn’t be happier with the result.” South of the border, English Spirits tried to catch us out with the Cornish Pasty Rum, “rammed with sweet raisin flavours and smooth caramel notes, daringly paired with the savoury palate of a Cornish pasty.” We very nearly fell for that. Is it any sillier than a Brussels sprout gin? Meanwhile, Fake Booze came up with a whole raft of fake boozes including: ”Groanheuser Bush’s new hard seltzer Cacti in association with an American rapper we’ve never heard of. The Agave Spiked Seltzer is unique in the way it features three whole buzz words in the title.” Still, none of them are April Unfools. That takes real genius…

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The truth about our historic Tonic Wine Cask Finish whiskies…

It might be time to sit down and have a chat about those groundbreaking Tonic Wine Cask Finish whisky bottlings we shouted about earlier… Erm, folks… we’ve got some owning…

It might be time to sit down and have a chat about those groundbreaking Tonic Wine Cask Finish whisky bottlings we shouted about earlier…

Erm, folks… we’ve got some owning up to do. We’re really sorry. You know how we love an April Fool’s Day joke. Remember the Master of Malt Luxury Trilogy? What about the 4D Whisky Distillery? And who could forget the iconic Joculus Snift technology? We usually try and go bigger and better each year. 2020 didn’t feel quite right for a ruse, but we wanted to come back with a bang this time round. 

Well… we’re sorry to disappoint. This year, we didn’t do an April Fool. 

We pulled an April UNFool!

The hallowed tonic wine cask-finished expressions

“Huh?!” We hear you cry. “What was all that ‘landmark’ tonic wine cask nonsense?!”

Not nonsense. That’s what. Ok, it is a little bit bonkers to actually source a couple of octave casks, buy LOADS of tonic wine, season them for months, then stuff some really quite fancy whisky in them (yes, we really did go there with the 21 year old blended malt…). But every word in our earlier announcement is true. Well, perhaps not the monastery cat. That we can neither confirm nor deny… 

So it’s true. You can snap up these really rather unusual whiskies right now! Well, for as long as stocks last. They really are super-limited. Enjoy – and let us know what you think!

Our 10 Year Old Tonic Wine Cask Finished Whisky

Our 10 Year Old Tonic Wine Cask Finished Whisky

Tonic Wine Cask Finish Single Malt 10 Year Old, £44.95

A single malt that really might remind you of Limitless… (if you know, you know). This is 10 year old single malt that’s spent some time in an ex-bourbon cask that’s been seasoned with tonic wine! It really does have an intriguingly herbal, slightly rubbery consistency going on. A fun experiment that’s not going to break the bank! 

21 Year Old Tonic Wine Cask

And the 21 Year Old!

Tonic Wine Cask Finish Blended Malt 21 Year Old, £199.95

A blended malt comprising some really good stuff that we ruined enhanced by sticking it in our specially seasoned casks for a few months. We genuinely reckon the fruity, cough mixture vibes actually work really well with the rich whisky character, but don’t listen to us. We may have lost the plot a little…

So. Grab a piece of whisky history (we reckon we’re the first to actually do this?) and enjoy! 

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Introducing our boundary-pushing Tonic Wine Cask Finish whisky duo!

We’ve been pretty busy over the past 18 months working on a top secret, experimental project with our friends over at The Rhythm and Booze Project. The time has now…

We’ve been pretty busy over the past 18 months working on a top secret, experimental project with our friends over at The Rhythm and Booze Project. The time has now come to unveil our Tonic Wine Cask Finish Single Malt 10 Year Old, and Tonic Wine Cask Finish Blended Malt 21 Year Old bottlings!

 

It seems the cat’s out the bag, so to speak. The monastery cat? Ahem… Ever since the 2019 Islay festival when we first bounced some ideas round with Felipe Schrieberg and Paul Archibald, the tip-top duo behind The Rhythm & Booze Project, we’ve been on the lookout for some really quite unusual casks to kick off a bottling collaboration. The thing is, we couldn’t find anything just right…

In the resulting months (it’s been a pretty long journey!) we’ve scoured the land for foodie (and drink!) inspo. We’ve looked at all manner of possibilities. What could we pair with whisky? What would create something truly unusual, something that would pique the interest of even the innovation-weary whisky fan? We didn’t just want to come up with an industry first, we wanted the result to be genuinely rare, too. At points we wondered if we’d set ourselves too much of a challenge. But with prayer and contemplation, we persisted.  

We collectively dug into history books, into the archives. We looked to culture, philosophy and religion for inspiration. We considered finishes that hadn’t been attempted before. And then it happened. We discovered, through stained glass-tinted glasses, the potential of tonic wine as a cask seasoning agent. So we started investigating.

Tonic wine cask seasoning

We got hold of three 1-litre casks and kicked off the test seasoning. Under Felipe and Paul’s watchful eyes, the tonic wine worked its magic on the oak. After some time (we don’t want to give all our secrets away), the wine was whisked out, and the test whisky went in. The results were… quite something. The whisky had taken on a stone fruit, herbal quality, an undeniable influence from the seasoned oak. 

It was time to scale things up. The production team sourced us a couple of casks, and we ordered a LOT of tonic wine. The seasoning proper commenced! We scaled everything up accordingly and then waited. Patiently. More of that praying. 

After the tests, we had an idea of the sort of whisky that would pair really well with those pungent, pronounced tonic wine notes. We needed something super special. So into one cask went a 10 year old single malt (if you’re familiar with our Limitless release, that may give you a clue as to where we got it from…), and into the other went a 21 year old (we’re not messing about with this) blended malt, which pairs Highland richness with Island complexity. Perfection. 

tonic wine cask finish

Our pair of tonic wine cask-finished whiskies!

And… we’re pretty pleased with the results! It’s a genuine flavour-forward world-first, that truly challenges the conceptions of what you can finish a cask with! 

Two great things: this was a true collaboration with the folks at The Rhythm & Booze Project – without their visionary enthusiasm, we never would have crossed this whisky frontier. And the other? The two expressions can be purchased later today!

“We’re always on the look-out for cutting-edge whisky bottlings. But after a while, we realised there was further to go. And why not go there ourselves?” said Guy Hodcroft, Master of Malt buyer. “After a few drams one night with Felipe and Paul, we realised we’d found kindred spirits in our quest for flavour. The rest, as they say, is history.”

tonic wine cask finished whiskies in front of a stained glass window

The hallowed tonic wine cask-finished expressions

Schrieberg added: “We had a meeting where we all tried some of the early tests with the Master of Malt team, and were pleasantly surprised that this actually didn’t taste bad at all, so everyone was happy to move forward with what started as a joke.

“However, Paul drank all the oak-aged tonic wine that came out of the seasoned test casks which meant that we didn’t get to try any at the meeting. That was pretty upsetting.”

Tonic Wine Cask Finish Single Malt 10 Year Old – Master of Malt x The Rhythm and Booze Project

This 10 year old single malt started out life at a renowned but undisclosed distillery (as we say, Limitless may give you a clue…). It was matured in an ex-bourbon barrel before we got our hands on it and finished in our ex-tonic wine cask. Intriguingly herbal and rubbery, with a cough syrup-like finish. Intriguing stuff.

Tonic Wine Cask Finish Blended Malt 21 Year Old – Master of Malt x The Rhythm and Booze Project

A blended malt comprising some really good stuff that we ruined enhanced by sticking it in our specially seasoned casks for a few months. We genuinely reckon the fruity, cough mixture vibes actually work really well with the rich whisky character, but don’t listen to us. We may have lost the plot a little…

We can’t wait to hear what you think! Let us know in the comments, or on social. We’re @masterofmalt everywhere!

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Cocktail of the Week: El Diablo

Today we’re making a devilishly refreshing long drink with Maestro Dobel Diamante Tequila, cassis and ginger beer. It could only be El Diablo! What do you drink with Mexican food?…

Today we’re making a devilishly refreshing long drink with Maestro Dobel Diamante Tequila, cassis and ginger beer. It could only be El Diablo!

What do you drink with Mexican food? I was pondering this over the weekend when my wife was preparing some of her favourite dishes. They included carnitas (slow-cooked spicy pork), blacks beans, homemade corn tortillas, hot salsa, and her secret recipe guacamole (it has mango in it!). And there were only three people eating. Reader, I made a bit of a pig of myself.

Refreshing and full of flavour

The traditional accompaniment to such feasts is either local beer or a Margarita. Both are good in their way but they also have significant drawbacks. The big name Mexican lagers like Corona or Sol aren’t exactly burdened with flavour. They are certainly refreshing, but then so is water. If it’s available, I’ll have a Negra Modelo, a rich malty German style Mexican lager but sadly it’s not that widely distributed. 

Margaritas are delicious, of course, but they are strong and on a hot day with spicy food, slip down just a little too easily. So you want something that’s as refreshing as beer but as delicious as a Margarita. 

After a bit of a fiddle I came up with what I call the Blood Orange Margarita. It involves adding one part blood orange juice to the two parts Tequila, one part triple sec and one part lime juice. Then serving the whole thing on the rocks with a generous splash of soda water. Very nice.

Introducing El Diablo

Another great long drink with Tequila is El Diablo. It blends Tequila with ginger beer and some sort of fruity syrup or liqueur. The drink was probably created by the godfather of Tiki, Victor Jules Bergeron Jr, aka Trader Vic. There’s a recipe for something very similar called the Mexican El Diablo in Trader Vic’s Bartender’s Guide (1946). 

His version calls for gold Tequila but you could fancy it up with a wood-aged Tequila like a reposado (two months ageing) or an añejo (at least a year in barrel), or you could go a bit wild by using mezcal with its distinctive smoky aroma. 

I’m using the absolutely delicious Maestro Dobel Tequila. It’s made from 100% blue weber agave and oak-aged before being filtered to remove the colour. It’s about the smoothest thing on the planet. But smooth doesn’t mean bland. In fact, it’s just delicious sipped on the rocks with a piece of orange. 

There’s quite a few Mexican brands who claim to have invented this style, made in a similar way to Bacardi and other white rums. I’m not going to wade in there only to say that this is superb. The brand is owned by the Beckmann family who also own Jose Cuervo, but Maestro Dobel is independent. 

El Diablo

El Diablo, photo taken from Tristan Stephenson’s new book The Curious Bartender: Cocktails at Home

Different recipes

In my Cocktail Dictionary (still available from all good bookshops, people) I used grenadine to make an El Diablo. And very nice it was too but Trader Vic’s recipe uses creme de cassis as does Tristan Stephenson whose forthcoming book on home cocktailing is proving quite a hit in our household. The recipe below is based on his. 

He writes: “El Diablo is a long refreshing cocktail that plays off two of Tequila’s boldest tasting notes: earthy piquancy and zingy fruit… El Diablo is one of those drinks that makes you salivate just thinking about it.” Too right.

Instead of cassis, you could use Chambord, creme de mure or even sloe gin for an Anglo-Mexican mash-up. If you like it a bit punchier, I’d highly recommend adding a spoonful of mezcal on the top. Oh and for the full diabolical effect, put two wedges of lime in the top to make the horns of the devil.

Right, without further ado…

Here’s how to make El Diablo

30ml Maestro Dobel Diamante Tequila
15ml White Heron Creme de Cassis
Juice of half a lime
Chilled ginger beer

Squeeze the lime into the bottom of an ice-filled Highball glass and drop it in. Add the Tequila and creme de cassis. Stir and top up with ginger beer. Stir again briefly and garnish with two slices of lime.

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