Master of Malt Whisky Blog

Handy tips to nose and taste, with Denver & Liely glassware

Denver & Liely

We all know spirits are fundamentally there to be enjoyed, right? But what if your enjoyment takes the form of detailed nosing and tasting? How can you get the best out of a spirit? And does glassware even matter? We talk all things sensory with Denver & Liely’s Denver Cramer…

How do you drink your spirits? Are you one to sit, sip, and just enjoy the experience? Or are you more likely to takes notes and deconstruct every aroma and flavour note? Perhaps, like me, you’re a mix of the two. But if you sit in the latter camp, you’ll find that the right approach and (of course) the right tasting glass can enhance the experience.

Denver Cramer, co-founder of Australian glassware brand Denver & Liely, has given the nosing and tasting experience a lot of thought. The mechanical engineering graduate turned designer set up the venture with friend Liely Faulkner after meeting in a bar and then considering how different spirits could be experienced.

“You always make better decisions when you have more information,” he tells me as we chat over the phone. “For example, having your nose in the glass when you taste means your brain ends up getting more information.” He acknowledges that there are many successful brands on the market, but he still felt more could be done, especially when it comes to the specific intricates of different spirits. That’s why Denver & Liely designs allow the drinker to have their nose in the glass as they taste, for example.

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Join us on our Wolfburn adventure!

Last year we headed north. Very north. To the most northerly distillery on the Scottish mainland: Wolfburn! And with Burns Night on the horizon, now seems like the perfect time to reminisce over the trip…

Welcome to Wolfburn Distillery! In late 2018 we headed north of the border to discover one of Scotland’s newer whisky makers. Located on the outskirts of Thurso, the production site as we know it was founded in 2012. But that’s not the start of the story.

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Brilliant Burns Night whiskies

Brilliant Burns Night whiskies

One of the biggest dates in the year for Scotch whisky fans approaches – Burns Night! Supply your supper with some of the best around with this sublime selection!

Commemorating the anniversary of Robert Burns on his birthday, 25 January, is a tradition upheld all over the world. Libation, literature and laggis – I mean haggis – will be enjoyed by many as we toast a man who loved a good Scotch himself.

A notable feature of his poems, Burns often spoke of his love of whisky, even scalding the English for raising whisky duty. It would surely please one of Scotland’s favourite sons to know people celebrate his life to this day with plenty of the water of life, or ‘usquabae’, as it was known back then.

Whether you’re a seasoned Burns supper pro or you fancy experiencing one for the first time (you really should do it at least once in your life, it’s great fun), you’ll need to stock up on Scotch to do the night justice.

So, we’ve rounded up a remarkable range to mark the occasion, from sublime single malts to brilliants blends, and a great grain whisky for good measure. Each has an accompanying Burns poem or song and themed cocktail to boot. And for those who simply can’t get enough of all things Robert Burns, be sure to check out our Burns Night poetry competition, where you could win a bottle of Robert Burns Single Malt!

Happy Burns Night all!

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Cocktail of the Week: The Zombie

The Zombie

Talk to bartenders about what’s going to be big in the next year and one word keeps coming up: tiki. So, on-trend as ever, this week we’re looking at the original tiki cocktail, the Zombie!

Tiki is the name of the first man in Polynesian mythology, but tiki bar culture owes more to California than Hawaii. The two godfathers of tiki were Don the Beachcomber (aka Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt) who opened an eponymous bar in Hollywood in 1934, and ‘Trader’ Vic Bergstrom whose Oakland bar in northern California became Trader Vic’s. Their bars offered a blend of Polynesian-ish decor, Caribbean-esque cocktails and, for some reason, Chinese food – I suppose anything ‘exotic’ would do. They both proved immensely popular and grew into chains.

Central to the tiki vibe were cocktails such as the Zombie and the Mai Tai, which combine lavish quantities of rum with tropical ingredients like pineapple, lime juice and grenadine. Both Don and Vic claimed to have invented the Mai Tai (the word means ‘good’ in Tahitian), whereas Don is credited as the sole creator of the Zombie.

Don and Vic inspired legions of imitators perhaps because the tiki look is cheap to copy. You just need some tribal masks, bamboo, and grass matts, oh and plenty of rum. Tiki spread across the world in the ‘50s and ‘60s. There can be few cities that didn’t have a tiki bar, there were even whole tiki hotels, and it was common for swinging suburban Americans to have a tiki bar in their basement or garage.

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Peat-smoked spirits that aren’t Scotch whisky

Peat-smoked spirits

Scottish distillers may be the undisputed masters of the peat fire, but there are plenty of plucky distillers across the world making their own smoky creations, and with interesting and varied results. MoM invites you to drink outside the box with eight peat-smoked spirits that most definitely aren’t Scotch whisky.

Considering peat is literally a mix of decaying moss, shrubs, grasses, tree roots, dead animals and soil that has become compacted over thousands of years, it can be used to make various boozes pretty damn tasty.

You don’t need to descend on Scotland to source a little peat smoke for your spirits. Indeed, peatlands have been identified in at least 175 countries and make up 3% of the entire world’s land space (that’s 1.5 million square miles, FYI).

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Burns Night poetry competition – win a bottle of Robert Burns single malt!

Burns Night poetry competition

Friday 25th January is Burns Night and to celebrate Scotland’s bard we are doing something a little different, a poetry competition!

Robbie Burns was not only Scotland’s greatest poet but he was also famously keen on Scotland’s greatest export, Tunnock’s Teacakes. Sorry, whisky! If Burns had the money, he drank Ferintosh from the Black Isle, which was considered the best whisky in Scotland. When it stopped distilling in 1784, Burns wrote a poem: “Ferintosh! O sadly lost! Scotland lament frae coast to coast….” Though a lowlander, he was not very keen on Lowland whiskies, referring to them as “rascally liquor”. Perhaps though, Burns’s most famous pronouncement was: “Freedom an’ whisky gang thegither! Take aff your dram!” And who can argue with that?

So to celebrate Burns and Scotch whisky, Master of Malt is proud to announce a poetry competition. All you have to do is write a poem about whisky. It’s as simple as that. It could be a sonnet, a haiku, a limerick, or, if you have the time, an epic like ‘Paradise Lost’. You could even write it in the style of Burns. It could be about a specific whisky (shall I compare thee to a Famous Grouse?), or could be about whisky in general. We only insist that your poem must be in English or Scots. The winner will be the one that we think is the best (making us laugh will probably help).
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Move over, US! British distillers set their sights on rye whisky

It’s arguably the most punk rock cereal of all time, and now rye is causing anarchy in the UK. Here, MoM chats with a handful of British distillers who have managed to tame whisky’s most rebellious grain…

For at least as long anyone reading this has been alive, rye-heavy mash bills have been the domain of US producers. Here in the UK, we’re a nation of single malt lovers – we always have been – but lately, British distillers are increasingly turning their attention to the bad boy of the crop world.

“Rye is gritty, real, and a bit punk,” says Cory Mason, master distiller at The Oxford Artisan Distillery (TOAD), which has focused on rye since it opened its doors back in July 2017. “As a comparison, I’ve always seen single malt as a Cognac, and rye more as an Armagnac, rough around the edges, a bit more hardcore, but still a stunning product in its own right.”

The question perhaps is not ‘why rye?’, but ‘why now?’. Mason highlights growing interest and demand for craft spirits, which he believes is prompting “a real willingness to step outside of traditional UK and European categories”. Specifically, aged rye whisky.

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The Nightcap: 11 January

It’s our first Nightcap of 2019 so it’s a special bumper edition. We’ve got a lot to get through so without further delay, ado, procrastination or beating about the bush, here’s what we’ve been up to since the last Nightcap way back in 2018.

Cast your mind back to New Year’s Eve, we know it seems like a long time ago, Adam came up with some top tips to drink on the night. Between Christmas and New Year, we rounded up our most-read stories of 2018, and looked at Glenkinchie’s exciting plans to become a top tourist destination. Then as January began, Annie fell in love with grain whisky and learned how your other senses affect how you taste. Adam produced a list of mouthwateringly-refreshing drinks and got all seasonal with winter-y botanicals. Kristy peered into her crystal ball (yes, she really has a crystal ball) to see what we’ll be drinking in the next few years and spoke to some bigwigs at Johnnie Walker about the future of whisky. And finally, Henry put in a plea for fortified wines, introduced a new regular feature, Cocktail of the Week, and got all bitter and twisted over amari. See what we mean about bumper edition?

And that’s not all. We had our first Dram Club of 2019 and announced a competition to win a VIP trip to Ardbeg!

Such content. Now we can’t hold back the tide of news any longer. Here it comes!

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What’s going on with whisky, according to three Johnnie Walker execs

Last year, we zipped off to Madrid to check out Johnnie Walker’s first flagship store. While we were there we quizzed three of the brand’s top executives to get their take on the fortunes of Scotch whisky, from the accessibility of Scotch to that ‘B’ word…

“The world of whiskies is fascinating – not only because we work in it,” said Cristina Diezhandino, global category director of Scotch and Reserve Brands at Diageo, as she opened the first Johnnie Walker flagship store last November. “We see a whisky renaissance, truly, globally.”

When someone like Diezhandino gives her assessment on the state of Scotch, you sit up and listen. And it’s far from a throwaway sentiment: Scotch whisky exports soared by 8.9% in volume terms to reach £4.36 billion in 2017 (the latest figures currently available), and it’s a trend that looks set to continue. The number of distilleries in Scotland is at a record level (the Scotch Whisky Association reckons there are now 128 in the country, the most since 1945). It really does look like boom time for whisky!

But challenges persist, especially around accessibility. Too many people still think whisky isn’t for them. What’s being done to roll out the metaphoric red carpet and welcome in new drinkers? Why are people starting to explore the category? And should we collectively be worried about the impact of things like Brexit? I commandeered Diezhandino, as well as Duncan Elliott, Johnnie Walker global marketing and innovation director, and Greg Klingaman, global head of retail and strategic partnerships, to get their take on the current state of Scotch.

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Cocktail of the Week: the Brooklyn

The Brooklyn

Introducing a new Master of Malt blog series (trumpets sound): every Wednesday we will present our cocktail of the week. It might be a new serve from a swanky bar or something more familiar. First up, we have a forgotten classic from the golden age of cocktails: the Brooklyn!

You’ve probably had a Manhattan, and maybe a Bronx. But did you know that there are cocktails named after other boroughs of New York City, the Queens and the Brooklyn*?

The Brooklyn was invented around the beginning of the 20th century. It is first mentioned in J.A. Grohusko 1908 bartender’s handbook, Jack’s Manual. The Brooklyn is part of the great family of whiskey-based cocktails that includes the Old Fashioned, the Sazerac and, of course, the Manhattan. But whereas the Manhattan is made from ingredients that most cocktail enthusiasts will have in their cabinets, the Brooklyn requires more specialist kit. The secret ingredient is Amer Picon, a bitter French drink made with gentian, quinine and oranges.

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