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Master of Malt Blog

Carrier choice is now a thing!

We’ve been getting a lot of calls recently from people who would like to be able to choose which carrier we use to send their order with. Often there’s a…

We’ve been getting a lot of calls recently from people who would like to be able to choose which carrier we use to send their order with. Often there’s a particular carrier who does a good job in their neighbourhood (or more often one they want to avoid!)

Well, good news – you can now let us know which carrier you’d like us to use in the checkout!

Now, there’s a reason it says “Carrier preference” rather than “Carrier we’ll definitely for sure use, and you can take that to the bank 100% guaranteed”, and that’s because (very occasionally) we’ll actually need to send your order with a different carrier than the one you asked for due to operational constraints, however we’ll always do our absolute best to accommodate your preference if we possibly can.

What are these “operational constraints” I hear you ask? Well, there are quite a few, but here are the most common reasons:

  • Carriers have different collection times, so it might be that there isn’t enough time to pick and pack your order before that carrier leaves.
  • Sometimes a particular carrier doesn’t have any more space on their vehicle or capacity in their network.
  • Sometimes a particular carrier can’t deliver next day to specific post codes

In general, we assume that you’d rather have your order delivered on time by a non-preferred carrier than late with a preferred carrier, so we’ll always prioritise that.

Thoughts / ideas / suggestions? Let us know what you think!

Cheers,

Justin

Founder, CEO, sweeper-upper

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Inside the East London Liquor Company

The East London Liquor Company only began distilling back in July 2014, but it’s already made quite the impression. We headed to the creator’s home to find out how it…

The East London Liquor Company only began distilling back in July 2014, but it’s already made quite the impression. We headed to the creator’s home to find out how it supported independent spirits in the capital, carved a space for itself in English whisky, and why it has only scratched the surface.

When Alex Wolpert left drama school in 2006 he began working behind bars in East London, eventually getting to the point where he was running a group of pubs for the family shareholders at Barworks. It was during this time that he noticed a gap in the market.

“I worked in the on-trade for years and was amazed by the lack of championing of spirit made by the underdog,” he explains. “There was so little from independent producers, in a city with the best bars in the world. I felt that the spirit space was empty and couldn’t understand why”. 

He went to his bosses with the idea for The East London Liquor Company and they backed it, today still lending support through a large portfolio of sites. With that investment and the money he got borrowing against his Hackney flat, in 2014 Alex set up The East London Liquor Company in the site of a disused glue factory warehouse he found while cycling by the waterways of East London. 

He then ordered two copper pot stills from Germany, assembled a small team, and got to work. In the first year, the team was producing 1,000 bottles of gin a month for local bars and restaurants. “We spent six months distilling gins in order to find the perfect recipe,” Wolpert says. “Everything we made was always thinking about how people will enjoy it, removing as many barriers from that moment as possible”. 

East London Liquor Company

Say hello to Alex Wolpert!

East London booze without boundaries

White spirits were the platform from which ELLC launched, but this was never simply a means to fund future whisky projects. The plan was always to have a range of booze, beginning with gin and vodka. This approach is exemplified by its gin selection, consisting of a classic juniper-forward expression that sells like hotcakes. There’s also Louder, a savoury, oily, and slightly saline gin that works great in a Negroni or a Dirty Martini, as well as Brighter Gin, the perfect base for a Gin Sour or Fizz with its bright, fresh, high-ABV character that lets Darjeeling and grapefruit notes shine. In 2020 the ELLC was even appointed to create the next generation of Royal Botanic Garden, Kew’s range of spirits.

Then there’s a selection of sourced rum made up of a vibrant, estery blend of spirits from three well-known Jamaican distilleries, and the sweet and tropical Rarer made with Demerara sugar cane. There’s even a range of canned cocktails, bolstered by the acquisition of Longflint Drinks Ltd. in 2020. “What we love about our canned serves is that you get a tactile understanding of what East London is about for a couple of quid. The cans aren’t just self-serving in that they generate more can sales, but they get people in contact with the brand who then realise how much we have to offer,” Wolpert says.

But, this is Master of Malt so we know what you’ll be most interested in is ELLC’s whisky. Things kicked off in 2018 with London’s first rye whisky in over a century. But this distillery is a hive of innovation. “For the first four years of us making whiskey we’ve been extremely experimental. What we worked we’ve bottled,” says Wolpert. “We’ve got an understanding now of what our London Rye and Single Malt are but along the way, there will be a lot of experimental products to show people what we’re about”.

East London Liquor Company

The East London Liquor Company

Making whisky ELLC style

What they’re about is difficult to define in one article. So let’s start from the beginning. The ELLC sources grains (barley, rye, wheat) from Crisp Malt in Great Ryburgh, Norfolk.  Fermentation is a long 96-120 hours in open-top stainless steel fermenters, with one to two days of acetic acid rest following to encourage diacetyl, a compound that encourages funky, tropical notes. 

Arnold Holstein made the 2000-litre wash still and 650-litre spirits still (as well as a 450-litre gin still), the latter being unique in that it’s a hybrid pot/column still. After distillation, the spirit is diluted down to 55-62% ABV and popped into a cask. Operating at a relaxed, Monday-Friday rota, the capacity sits around 30,000 LPA, tiny still in the grand scheme of things.

The new make is slightly heavy and funky with lots of rich chocolate and fruit, while master distiller and blender Andy Mooney creates a slightly cloudy wort to get those biscuity, bolder flavours. He makes use of both pot and column still, the latter providing lighter profiles to make sure he’s getting the whole spectrum of flavour. When I toured the distillery with Wolpert I also got a chance to pick Mooney’s brain, and frankly, I needed some kind of industrial crane to get everything out from him. 

East London Liquor Company

Andy Mooney, hard at work

A thoughtful, methodical and uber-geeky worker, Mooney breaks down the ELLC process in delightfully technical terms, for example: “We have a lot of control over fermentation to play around with different yeasts, like Saison (common in lambic or sour style beers). Where typical yeasts will eat maltose, fructose etc. these guys will eat everything including dextrins (larger sugar molecules) and that creates more acetic acid and diacetyl which leads to more esters, which develop awesome characteristics in the ageing process”. 

The whisky is matured off-site in a huge range of barrels, including new American and French oak, chestnut, mulberry, acacia, ex- wine, rye, bourbon, Cognac and vermouth. I tried samples of Hungarian oak-matured rye, the same whisky matured in Pomerol casks, and then London Rye initially aged in ex-Laphroaig casks before spending time in chestnut wood. They were all spectacular in their own regard, demonstrating the spirit of experimentation and a competency in utilising different styles. They would work as single releases, although I imagine Mooney could use them to great effect in blending.

He tends to bottle whisky at 46-49% ABV, as he feels this highlights a bit of every aspect of the spirit profile. “If you go lower it can be too sweet and lose bitterness, go too high and you can get too much cask influence. If you want to water it down yourself you can do that. There will be cask strength in the future in all likelihood, but we want to establish our style first. That’s also why nothing is chill-filtered,” Mooney explains. 

East London Liquor Company

The distillery is one of the leaders of the English whisky category

Single malt, rye and blend

As Mooney communicates the process with a distiller’s eye, Wolpert is consistently painting the bigger picture, describing the dual responsibility and opportunity an English whisky distillery has to make its own definitions. “What does it mean to make a London Rye? How do we make it specific to us? It’s open for us to make our own path,” he says. “I do get people saying ‘how do you make a single malt outside of Scotland?’, and if I had any hair I’d be tearing it out because we know that doesn’t matter. But we get to be at the forefront of the changing conversation”.

As we’ve covered the London Rye before, let’s talk single malt. It’s 100% malted barley (obviously) and was matured in a combination of bourbon and rye casks from Sonoma, red wines casks, STR casks and its own London Rye casks. The combination of casks was chosen because Mooney is somebody who is passionate about bringing as much to the spirit as possible, maximising the variety and clarity of flavour. “None of our whiskies are single cask for the reason, because we think it’s rare to get everything we want from just one cask. In the single malt, for example, the red wine cask lifts the fruity notes and adds some tannic bitterness,” Mooney explains.

As for the blend, this transatlantic collaboration was made by combining Sonoma whiskey and ELLC’s London Rye. “We used a high rye and wheat bourbon that was atypical of the classic styles you’d usually get, which allowed us to get a flavour profile we can’t create in the UK and what they couldn’t get in the US,” Wolpert says. “It’s what a blend should be all about, it’s greater the sum of its parts. Two entirely different processes coming together. It also shows we’re willing to stick our neck out and not take ourselves too seriously, and we’ve priced it at the same as the single malt to communicate that’s how vital we see blends. People have a narrow perception of blends so we have to work doubly hard to make sure people realise how special blends are and a real pinnacle of whisky production”.

East London Liquor Company

The future is very bright for this brand

A spirits brand for everyone

At present, ELLC distils, imports and serves a range of award-winning gins, whiskies, vodkas, rums and canned cocktails at a rate of 15,000 bottles a month to over 20 markets. For Wolpert, the ambition was to be a spirits brand for everyone, with sophisticated liquid but an accessible, transparent branding. “Andy left his recipe book out once with botanicals and weights etc. and someone on a tour said ‘what if I took a picture?’ I said ‘take one, it’s a huge compliment’. There’s so much smoke and mirror in this industry that it’s disarming for people. That’s why you can see the distillery from the bar. It’s a very different message to the educational process you get in a visitor centre, which we do provide, but we give customers a chance to chill out and have a couple so they feel looked after and engaged.”

The bar itself is not purely ELLC booze, it’s curated in such a way that the staff fill it with brands they respect, which speaks to the sense of community they feel within drinks and a confidence in their own product. Wolpert is very passionate about his local area, but also feels connected to world whisky as a category and a part of the growing English whisky scene. “We really relate to all the people who are interested in new ways of making and understanding whisky, as well as being interested in attracting new whisky drinkers. People get obsessed with the label and not the liquid, so we’re fighting against that and attempting to be at the centre of a conversation that understands what English, and London whisky is”. 

It’s a conversation I very much enjoyed having with Wolpert and Mooney, while witnessing first-hand the care and focus that goes into the process. It’s a distillery I’ve always had a lot of time for, with its exceptional value for money white spirits and comfortable bar setting. But the nerdy and curious approach to whisky is what gets me really excited. If Wolpert had this range of booze to hand back in his bartending days, he would never have needed to create The East London Liquor Company at all.

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Cocktail of the Week: The Spicy Snowball

For our first cocktail of December, we’re mixing up a modern take on ‘70s classic. It blends advocaat and Christmas pudding rum to make the Spicy Snowball! Is there a…

For our first cocktail of December, we’re mixing up a modern take on ‘70s classic. It blends advocaat and Christmas pudding rum to make the Spicy Snowball!

Is there a more ‘70s Christmas cocktail than the Snowball? A blend of lemonade, lime juice, and advocaat, it’s like Noddy Holder screaming It’s CHRISTMAS!” in an avocado-coloured bathroom.

But for those who think the Snowball isn’t Christmassy enough, we’ve come up with a new version. It’s called the Spicy Snowball and takes all the sweet goodness of the original but adds rum flavoured with real Christmas pudding! It’s even more festive than Yuletide Cheesy Peas with added brandy butter from The Fast Show. Cheeses and peases for Jesus!

We might think of the Snowball as the quintessential ‘70s drink but it has ancient roots. Advoccat is essentially alcoholic custard, and people have been combining booze and eggs for hundreds if not thousands of years. Because why wouldn’t you?

Noggin the nog

There are many old English recipes for drinks like possets and flips involving alcohol, spices, milk or cream, and eggs. Some of these would have been heated with a red hot poker. An ale treated as such was said to be ‘nogged’ which is one possible derivation of the word eggnog. 

Though it might have come from England, the Americans really took to nogging in a big way. David A. Embury in The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks has a whole subchapter on ‘nogs’; there are many different kinds but all contain eggs, alcohol or some sort, milk and/or cream and sugar, lots and lots of sugar. So not that different from advocaat. Incidentally, the word probably comes from the Dutch for ‘lawyer’. 

Eggnog rather died out in the old country perhaps because we had the Snowball, which is thought to have been invented sometime in the 1940s. It was in the ‘70s, however, that the Snowball reached its apotheosis only to become something of a national embarrassment. This might be because so many people of a certain age began their drinking experiences with an illicit Snowball or two. After all, it is essentially boozy custard, much easier on a youthful palate than wine or beer.

Spicy Snowball

The return of the Snowball

But that was all a long time ago and the younger generation doesn’t have the same cocktail hang-ups. The Snowball is being upgraded for the 21st century. You can even buy it in cans now to make the last train home after the Christmas party even more fun. There are fancy versions available: Difford’s Guide lists a Snowball made with Champagne and Fino sherry. 

We think our recipe is the best, however. It takes the basic snowball made with Warninks Advocaat and adds Project #173 Christmas Pudding Rum. So think rum, raisins, orange peel, and spices, in your Snowball. You literally cannot get anything more Christmassy than a Spiced Snowball. Or can you? 

How to make a Spicy Snowball

30ml Project #173 Christmas Pudding Rum
50ml Warninks Advocaat
25ml lime cordial or fresh lime juice
150ml lemonade

Fill a glass with ice and add 15ml of lime juice or lime cordial. Pour the advocaat, rum and lemonade over the ice and stir gently until the outside of the glass feels cold.

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Single cask Master of Malt exclusives have landed!

Just landed at MoM Towers, some bottles that you can’t find anywhere else. We have offerings from Caol Ila, Glenfarclas, Glenallachie and, heading over to America, Smooth Ambler. These are…

Just landed at MoM Towers, some bottles that you can’t find anywhere else. We have offerings from Caol Ila, Glenfarclas, Glenallachie and, heading over to America, Smooth Ambler. These are all single cask bottlings and did we mention they are Master of Malt-exclusives?

The thing that gets our buying team really excited is the chance to get hold of whisky that nobody else can and selling it to Master of Malt customers. They spend their lives hunting out rare casks that have that extra-special magic.

And now, just in time for Christmas, they’ve landed a quartet of splendid single cask bottlings: one from Islay, two from Speyside, and a bourbon from the US.

And they are all Master of Malt exclusives.

Caol Ila 9 Year Old (James Eadie)

In contrast to its neighbours, Bowmore and Bunnahabhain, Caol Ila keeps a low profile. It produces a lot of whisky but most of its production goes into blends like Johnnie Walker Black Label. Nevertheless, its Islay single malts are usually excellent and much-prized by independent bottlers.

This comes from independent bottler James Eadie, a recently-revived name from the 19th century. It was distilled in 2011 and aged in a re-charred hogshead. It was bottled in 2021 exclusively for Drinks by the Dram at cask strength, 57.6% ABV. Only 276 bottles are available.

How does it taste?

Oatcakes, seaweed and ocean breezes, with waxy green apples, butter crumpets, spicy peppercorn, caraway and anise.

GlenAllachie 12 Year Old 2009 (Drinks by the Dram)

GlenAllachie lies in Aberlour on the bank of the River Spey. It’s a relatively recent distillery, built in 1967, and in the past, most of its production went into blends. In 2017, however, it was bought by a consortium including ex-BenRiach MD Billy Walker, and the emphasis is now on single malts.

This 12-year-old was distilled in 2009 before ageing in an ex-bourbon cask. In 2018 it was racked into a single Oloroso sherry puncheon, before bottling in 2021 at cask strength for Drinks by the Dram. 359 bottles are available.

How does it taste?

If you love sherry, then you’re going to love this. Think rum and raisin, ginger, nutmeg, vanilla and dark chocolate. 

Glenfarclas 1991 29 Year Old Family Cask

Glenfarclas is one of the few family-owned distilleries in Scotland. It’s been in the hands of the Grant family since the 19th century. It is also one of the last distilleries in Scotland to use direct-fired stills, and all its whiskies are aged the traditional way in ex-Oloroso casks in a dunnage warehouse.

Here’s a very special bottling. It was distilled in 1991 and spent 29 years in a single refill Oloroso sherry hogshead. It was bottled exclusively for Master of Malt at 55% ABV with only 213 bottles produced. 

How does it taste?

Dried fruit, raisins, apricots and orange peel on the nose with a whiff of furniture polish. Lively, spicy and tangy on the palate with creamy barley, gingerbread and nutty chocolate.

Smooth Ambler Old Scout 5 Year Old Bourbon (Drinks by the Dram) 

West Virginia’s Smooth Ambler began in 2009 as a gin and vodka distillery, but founder John Little saw an opportunity when he came across casks of quality mature bourbon that nobody else wanted. Since then, Little has begun producing his own whiskey but still sells sourced spirits under the Old Scout label. 

This was distilled at the vast MGP distillery in Indiana, source of so much high-quality bourbon. The mash bill is 60% corn, 36% rye and 4% malted barley. Following ageing for five years it was bottled with minimal filtration at 59.6% ABV.

How does it taste?

Sweet, smooth and very spicy, you’ll find cinnamon gum, brown sugar, coffee, cracked black pepper, liquorice, and Crunchie Bars in here. 

These whiskies are available in very limited quantities, once they’re gone, they’re gone.

Glenfarclas 60 Year Old

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New Arrival of the Week: Ocho Tequila Blanco El Tigre 2021

It’s always a big deal when we get a new single field, single harvest Tequila in from one of our favourite producers. Introducing Ocho Tequila Blanco El Tigre 2021! We…

It’s always a big deal when we get a new single field, single harvest Tequila in from one of our favourite producers. Introducing Ocho Tequila Blanco El Tigre 2021!

We were very fortunate enough earlier this year during Lockdown II (or was it III?) to spend an evening tasting with Jesse Estes from Ocho Tequila on Zoom. Sadly, Jesse’s father, the great Tomas Estes, had died just a few days before, but Jesse was adamant that the event would still go ahead. 

As you can imagine, it was an emotional evening but for Estes it was important that he carries on his father’s work, spreading the word about single harvest and single field Tequilas, like Ocho Tequila Blanco El Tigre 2021, which has just arrived at MoM Towers.

Jesse and Tomas Estes

Tomas and Jesse Estes

The Ocho story

Tomas Estes’ love of Tequila began when he first visited Mexico in the 1960s. While at college in Los Angeles, he spent much of the time south of the border visiting bars and, according to this interview, getting into trouble. It took him a while, however, to find his true calling. He had a varied career after graduating in 1967 as a teacher and, oddly, as a wrestling coach. But his life changed when he visited Amsterdam in 1970 and eventually opened a Mexican restaurant in the city in 1976 called Pacifico. 

This was at a time when Mexican food, drink, and culture was virtually unknown outside the Americas. He opened a London branch of Pacifico in Covent Garden, the first Mexican restaurant in Britain in 1982, which is still going. It proved a hit with celebrities, with Queen (the band) and Hunter S. Thompson both photographed there. At one point Estes had 17 restaurants in Holland, England, France, Germany, Italy, and Australia.

Tequila ambassador

All the time, Estes was visiting Mexico learning about Tequila and bringing that knowledge back to Europe. His bars sold a huge range of high-quality agave spirits at a time when Tequila was just seen as a party drink, if it was known at all. He wrote a book on the subject, The Tequila Ambassador, in 2012, and was honoured by the CNIT (Camara Nacional de la Industria Tequilera) who made him an official Tequila ambassador for the EU.

In 2008, he began his own drinks company Ocho Tequila with Carlos Camarena, an award-winning third-generation Tequilero. It pioneered vintage, terroir-driven Tequila which at first he only sold through his bars. But gradually, people recognised the quality and it’s now recognised as one of the world’s great spirit brands. Here at Master of Malt, we have been long term fans and supporters of Ocho.

When Tomas Estes died in April, there was an outpouring of tributes from the drinks industry, here in Britain and around the world. Happily the company he founded is in the safe hands of his son Jesse Estes. 

Ocho El Tigre Tequila

Ocho Tequila Blanco El Tigre 2021 

Our New Arrival is vintage Ocho. Literally, as it comes from a single year. The El Tigre field is located near the town of Atotonilco el Alto in Los Altos de Jalisco. We’ve taken to sipping these Tequilas neat, served not too cold to appreciate the full majesty of agave. El Tigre has a peppery warmth with lemon peel and lime pith, juicy cooked agave, vegetal wafts of mint and earthen herbs, and gently sweet notes of smoky honey.

But there’s no reason why you shouldn’t mix it in a Margarita, Paloma, Matador, or just mixed with tonic. If you’re looking for some Tequila inspiration, try our Blood Orange Margarita:

50ml Ocho Tequila Blanco El Tigre 2021
25ml Grand Marnier
25ml lime juice
25ml fresh orange juice
Soda water

Briefly shake the first four ingredients in an ice-filled shaker. Strain into an ice-filled tumbler (you can salt the rim if you so wish but it’s not essential), top up with soda, stir and garnish with a half slice of blood orange.

Ocho Tequila Blanco El Tigre 2021 is available from Master of Malt. Click here to buy.

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Win a VIP trip to the USA with Brown-Forman!

A once-in-a-lifetime trip awaits the winner of our latest competition. Who wants to visit the Jack Daniel’s, Old Forester, and Woodford Reserve distilleries?! You could win a VIP trip to…

A once-in-a-lifetime trip awaits the winner of our latest competition. Who wants to visit the Jack Daniel’s, Old Forester, and Woodford Reserve distilleries?! You could win a VIP trip to the USA with Brown-Forman!

As we know lots of you are big whiskey fans, we assume you know all about Brown-Forman. After all, it’s been in the booze game for over 150 years and owns brands like Jack Daniel’s Woodford Reserve, Old Forester, GlenDronach, Benriach, Glenglassaugh, Slane, Chambord, and Fords Gin. 

Quite the selection, right? I bet if the Brown-Forman team wanted to they could put together a hell of a bash. Like taking a couple of lucky whiskey fans out to America to see some of those distilleries. Oh, wait, has someone already thought of that? It would appear so. And even more excitingly, it would appear that someone is us!

VIP trip to the USA

Want to win big?

Yes, when we say once-in-a-lifetime trip here we are truly not exaggerating. The winner of this competition (and their +1) will be jetted off to the Jack Daniel’s, Old Forester and, Woodford Reserve distilleries in the US for a complimentary tour with all the trimmings: bed and breakfast accommodation for four nights, transfers and transport as well as evening meals are all included.

And to enter, you just need to purchase any 70cl bottle here, from the Jack Daniel’s, Woodford Reserve or Old Forester range. For example :

And that’s it. Greatness awaits. Now, you only have until 19 December, so get those entries in!

MoM Super Premium American Whiskey Competition 2021 open to entrants 18 years and over. Entries accepted from 11:30:00pm 06 December to 23:59:59pm 19 December 2021. Date and travel restrictions apply. Winners chosen at random after close of competition. Postal route available. See full T&Cs for details. 

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#BagThisBundle – win whiskey from Bushmills Distillery!

Why buy Christmas presents when you can win them for free? It’s competition time thanks to the generous folks at Bushmills Distillery! You could win a whole bundle of Irish…

Why buy Christmas presents when you can win them for free? It’s competition time thanks to the generous folks at Bushmills Distillery! You could win a whole bundle of Irish whiskey.

We’ve reached the time of year where we’re all waiting for Noddy Holder to scream “It’s Christmasssss!!!” like a mad festive rooster announcing the beginning of the most wonderful time of the year. And we’ve got a way to make this season even more jolly. We’ve teamed up with Bushmills to create a #BagThisBundle competition that promises so much great booze you’ll feel guilty if you don’t give some of it away as presents. 

#BagThisBundle – Win whiskey from Bushmills Distillery!

Who wants to win some whiskey from Bushmills Distillery?!

In full, here’s what you could win:

And all you have to do to enter is the following:

  • Follow @masterofmalt Instagram account.
  • Follow @bushmillsuk Instagram account.
  • Tag two friends you’d like to share the bundle with on our Competition post.
  • Like this post!

Complete those simple steps and you’re in it to win it. Best of luck! 

MoM ‘Bushmills Social Bag This Bundle’ Competition 2021 open to entrants 18 years and over. Entries accepted from 17:00:00 GMT on 3 December to 17:00:00 GMT on 6 December 2021. Winners chosen at random after close of competition. Prizes not transferable and cannot be exchanged for cash equivalent. See full T&Cs for details.

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The Nightcap: 3 December

A €13 million Midleton Distillery upgrade, $400K worth of spilled Jack Daniel’s whiskey, and Bruichladdich makes a sour beer. They’re all in The Nightcap: 3 December edition.  It’s December and…

A €13 million Midleton Distillery upgrade, $400K worth of spilled Jack Daniel’s whiskey, and Bruichladdich makes a sour beer. They’re all in The Nightcap: 3 December edition. 

It’s December and that means Christmas is officially here. Deck those halls, put the Michael Bublé on, and enjoy The first Nightcap of the festive season. It’s jam-packed with great stories, boozy news, and, of course, Christmas cheer. 

Something else that was jam-packed this week was the MoM blog, which went full blogmaggedon. We launched two VIP distillery trip competitions, one to Highland Park and the other to Aberfeldy, kicked off our Advent celebrations (we hope you’ve enjoyed the first three days!), and released some single cask Master of Malt exclusives. We also asked the lovely folk who work here for Christmas present recommendations, made a modern take on ‘70s classic with Christmas Pudding Rum, and welcomed Bathtub Grapefruit & Rosemary Gin, exclusively to our humble towers. #WhiskySanta also returned to grant a Courvoisier Heritage de Louis Renard Super Wish, while Adam enjoyed all kinds of premium whiskies, including some perfect for Christmas presents, and others from two seriously exciting distilleries, Rabbit Hole and The East London Liquor Company

The Nightcap: 3 December edition!

The Nightcap: 3 December

What the €13 million tourism upgrade will look like

€13 million Midleton visitor upgrade announced

Big news just in from Irish Distillers. The whiskey giant has announced the redevelopment of the visitor experience at the Midleton Distillery near Cork. It will include new shops, a bar, café, and a restaurant, and will turn the old distillery into “a world-class, multi-sensory whiskey experience destination.” Conor McQuaid, chairman and CEO, commented: “Over the past 30 years, Midleton Distillery has become synonymous with Irish whiskey tourism, welcoming more than three million visitors from countries all over the world to our home in East Cork. At Irish Distillers, we are always looking towards the future of Irish whiskey, which is why we are delighted to announce our plans for the redevelopment of the distillery experience at Midleton. Our ambition is to deliver an exceptional, world-class experiential offering which will bring whiskey lovers closer to the production process than ever before.” The aim is to attract 200,000 visitors a year. The design of the visitor experience is being handled by New York-based Ralph Appelbaum Associates (RAA) which has worked with museums all over the world including the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. The firm has a tricky line to walk in modernising the rather dated experience while not interfering too much with the incredibly atmospheric old distillery which dates back to 1794. The work is due to be finished by 2025. We await the results eagerly. 

The Nightcap: 3 December

This photo was sent to us by a man called Hamish. Yes, really!

Tamdhu puts on jamón and whisky night

Probably our two favourite things here at the Master of Malt blog are Tamdhu and Jamón Ibérico, so we were extremely excited to hear about a series of evenings at Brindisa Spanish deli in Borough Market in London. Tamdhu’s brand ambassador Gordon Dundas will be joined by James Robinson from Brindisa for a series of nights devoted to sherried single malts and sweet porky goodness. Disappointingly, they’re not calling the evening ‘Hamdhu.’ Nevertheless, it sounds pretty special. Robinson will be your guide to the wonderful world of Iberian hams offering such delicacies as Guijuelo, Dehesa de Extremadura, Jabugo, and Los Pedroches. They are traditionally served with sherry but, the idea goes, why not a sherry-infused whisky? To prove the point, Dundas will be bringing the big guns down with a flight of single malts including the sherrytastic Tamdhu Quercus Alba Distinction, aged in first-fill American Oak cask. The events will take place on 6/7/8 December from 6-7pm and 7-8pm. Tickets cost £95 (go here) and as well as the experience, guests will get to take home a 70cl bottle of Quercus Alba Distinction, two copita tasting glasses, and a jamón serving board made from oak whisky cask ends. So what are you waiting for? Jamón down!

The Nightcap: 3 December

RIP sweet whiskey

$400K worth of Jack Daniel’s spilled in Tennessee

We’ve all heard the expression “don’t cry over spilled milk”, right? It seems like good advice. It’s just milk, after all. That logic doesn’t quite apply when $400k worth of whiskey spills onto the road, however. When that happens, cry away. Ugly cry. Call your mum and cry down the phone to her. That’s presumably what folks did in Tennessee last week when a semi-truck transporting $400,000 worth of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey overturned as the driver was making a left turn onto an interstate. The main thing is that the driver was not injured, which on a whiskey blog we really must remind you is the most important thing, because we know people will be thinking about the “several gallons” of booze that spilled onto the pavement. According to a Facebook post from the Murfreesboro Police Department, the whiskey leak started when the trailer was being pulled upright by a wrecker. As you can imagine, the post was filled with responses along the lines of “I’m volunteering on THIS cleanup!” And thankfully it’s a huge brand who can take the loss on the chin. Besides, we’ve got plenty of Jack Daniel’s whiskey right here. So maybe there’s no need to cry over spilled whiskey after all? 

The Nightcap: 3 December

Congratulations, John.

John Campbell joins Lochlea Distillery

Laphroaig legend John Campbell has a new gig. He is joining the independent family-owned Lochlea Distillery as its new production director and master blender. Campbell, who dropped a shock announcement that he was moving to pastures new this year, has left his native Islay after 27 years working there in whisky. The former Laphroaig distillery manager will head up the production team ahead of the release of its inaugural liquid, set to launch in early 2022 (which we will have some of…) Campbell described the move as an “opportunity to develop a whisky that is innovative and distinctive, with a distillery that shares my ethos on quality, environment, and sustainability”. He added that getting involved in the process from this early stage means he can help to define “what Lochlea becomes”. Lochlea’s commercial manager, David Ferguson commented that it was clear that Campbell’s values aligned closely with Lochlea, and the most exciting part is that he brings “new ideas, an emphasis on quality and an entrepreneurial streak which shone through with the Cairdeas bottlings he was responsible for”. We look forward to seeing what he does there. Best of luck, John.

The Nightcap: 3 December

Redbreast has brought it back!

Limited-edition Redbreast bird feeder is back for another year

Redbreast just can’t stop helping the birds! After teaming up with Chris O’Dowd to protect “common birds” last month, the Irish whiskey brand is now shouting about the release of its limited-edition bird feeder bottle for the second year running. We have to admit, it’s pretty snazzy. Within an intricate copper shell you’ll find a bottle of Redbreast 12 Year Old single pot still whiskey. Out comes the bottle, and then you can repurpose the case as the fanciest bird feeder you’ve ever seen – even the common birds will be feeling like royalty snacking from this thing. It retails at €70 (£57.49), and €3 from each sale will go to Birdlife International with an aim of raising €80,000, as well as protecting the species you’ll find in your garden throughout the winter months. “After the success of last year, we are extremely excited to re-launch our beautifully crafted whiskey casing that has been specially designed to double up as a bird feeder”, says Billy Leighton, master blender at Irish Distillers. “We worked closely with BirdLife International to ensure the bird feeder continues to honour our mission of helping to protect not only robins, but all common birds, as we move into the colder months and food begins to become scarce.” Got a mate who loves birds and Irish whiskey? It’s nearly Christmas – you know what to do.

The Nightcap: 3 December

Changing the game by… doing the same thing we’ve seen before

Wee Smoky adman blasts whisky industry for not being ‘culturally relevant’

Watch out, the whisky industry is about to get ‘disrupted’. Again. Creative director Barrington Reeves, who has worked with global brands including Nike and Red Bull, has teamed up with Wee Smoky, a single grain aged in peated whisky casks launched last year by Rory Gammel. According to Reeves: “Many brands have postured to try and be different, but nobody has actually truly disrupted whisky – it’s still inaccessible and elitist.” Some of his criticisms seem to have been beamed in from 2002, blasting the industry for trading on “twee” perceptions of Scottishness, something most brands abandoned years ago. Also isn’t the name Wee Smoky more than a little twee? He continued: “If Scotland is to be on the cultural map, we need to break through those out-dated, unhelpful stereotypes perpetuated by whisky.” Reeves thinks the potential is there to turn Wee Smoky into a global brand. But they are starting small: the second batch of only 5,000 bottles will be released in time for Christmas. Reeves went on to say: “I’m not a whisky drinker, and that’s because I’ve never felt any affinity to it. I always felt there was never a brand that engaged people like me. Whisky brands try to be diverse but I don’t think sticking a black person in your campaign is enough to be honest. Wee Smoky can be something that no other Scottish whisky is – culturally relevant.” Let the disruption commence!

The Nightcap: 3 December

Good luck, guys! Glad it’s not us rowing across the Atlantic

Mermaid Gin founder plans to row across the Atlantic

Mermaid Gin co-founder Xavier Baker (centre above) has just announced he will be taking part in the 2023 Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. Chris Mannion and Paul Berry (a well-seasoned rower) from the Isle of Wight will join him to row across the Atlantic in their boat Mermaid Atlantic to raise awareness of ocean habitats and to raise funds for marine-focused charities. The team will be using sustainable suppliers and will seek out and refurbish an older Rannoch boat to minimise their impact, all while raising funds for The Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, Surfers Against Sewage, and the Seahorse Trust. “We are all focused and determined chaps with a good understanding of the sea and certainly know not to underestimate her,” Baker says. “While we each have our personal reasons for undertaking such an exciting and challenging adventure, we’re united in our passion for preserving the oceans and we’re thrilled to have the opportunity to undertake the Atlantic challenge to spotlight these causes.” Embarking on ‘the world’s toughest row’, the team will leave La Gomera in the Canary Islands in December 2023 and will need to row 3000 miles around the clock to arrive in Antigua within 35 days to break the record in their class. To find out more about donation and sponsorship head here. Best of luck, guys!

The Nightcap: 3 December

Guess who has joined the sustainable Scottish whisky sour beer game?

Bruichladdich creates sustainable Scottish whisky sour beer 

Bruichladdich has gotten into the beer game with fellow B Corp Brewgooder and sour brewery Vault City to create a tasty tipple that does some good. The limited-edition barrel-aged whisky sour beer was brewed in Portobello, Edinburgh, using a mixed fermentation base sour before being barrel-aged in Bruichladdich casks for nine months to infuse it with the character of the distiller’s unpeated Islay single malt. The result? According to the press release the depth of flavour from the casks provides “delicate notes of sweet oak and barley”, while the addition of hand-picked lemon balm, foraged locally from Islay, and Scottish heather honey create a “balance of tart acidity and smoky sweetness”. Sounds tasty, but there’s more. In a combined effort to strive for a better future, every litre of beer sold will fund 1,000 litres of clean water to communities around the world through Brewgooder’s ‘Billion Pint Pledge’ which aims to produce one billion pints of clean water in the next three years. So many booze brands trying to do their bit to do a little good in the world. We love to see it.

The Nightcap: 3 December

When something like this happens you’ve just got to roll with it…

And finally…. Snowasis!

Last week a pub gig went on a bit longer than expected when the band and the entire audience were snowed in. Top Oasis tribute band Noasis played in front of 60 people at the Tan Hill Inn in the Yorkshire Dales on Friday 26 November. But when it came time to leave, Storm Arwen had wreaked havoc making the roads leading to the isolated pub impassable. So the band and the entire audience had to remain until Monday morning. Tough gig! Somehow, everyone made the best of it, with the pub providing food and drink, and the band played an acoustic set. In fact, it was so much fun that there’s talk of doing it all again next year. Just goes to show, if you have to snowed in, the best place to be is a pub. 

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Whisky Advent 2021 Days 1, 2 and 3

It’s the first of our Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar blogs for 2021, taking a closer look at what is behind doors one, two and three. There’s some…

It’s the first of our Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar blogs for 2021, taking a closer look at what is behind doors one, two and three. There’s some tasty drams in there.

Advent has begun which means we have entered the season where it’s completely acceptable to have a mince pie and a glass of Harvey’s Bristol Cream while still in your dressing gown. No wonder it’s called the most magical time of the year. 

But we’re all whisky fans here, so instead of sweet sweet sherry we’ve got delicious drams to wash down seasonal treats. If you’re the proud owner of Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar, then these drams below are the ones you are enjoying at the moment, or have already polished off. 

If you don’t have a Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar, don’t worry as there’s plenty of time to buy one and catch up. And finally, if you’re after some drinking inspiration, we’ve included a cocktail recipe at the bottom.

Advent 2021

Day 1 Aerolite Lyndsay 10 Year Old

There’s plenty of mystery about this wee dram. From its peculiar name (it’s an anagram, see if you can figure it out…) to the fact it’s sourced from an undisclosed distillery on Islay. But, one thing we know for sure is that it’s damn tasty and makes a great introduction to Scotland’s most distinctive collection of distilleries.

What does it taste like?

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

kyro-malt-rye-whisky

Day 2 Kyrö Malt Rye Whisky

Rye is really enjoying a moment. With it’s bold spicy flavours, it’s the cocktail whiskey par excellence. The heartlands of rye are the USA and Canada, but we’ve tasted superb examples from England, Holland and this Kyro Rye Malt from Finland. It’s made from 100% malted wholegrain rye and makes a damn good Old Fashioned (see below).

What does it taste like?

Honeyed apricot, orange and sultana, baked earth spiciness, a hint of chocolate and coffee hiding in there too. Deliciously sweet and spicy. 

Brilliant Burns Night whiskies

Day 3 Laphroaig 10 Year Old

Another Islay treat and one of Scotland’s most distinctive whiskies. With its smell of iodine, TCP and wood smoke, there’s no mistaking Laphroaig 10 Year Old. It’s one that people tend to either love or hate, so much so that the distillery cleverly built a marketing campaign around its divisive nature. Let us know what you think.

What does it taste like?

You’ll find seaweed, smoke and TCP with supporting notes of vanilla ice cream and a massive spicy surge, think cardamom/black pepper/chilli.

Manhattan

How to make an Manhattan

When the Manhattan was first created back in the 19th century, it would have been a mix of rye and vermouth. But don’t worry if you’ve finished your Kyro Rye Malt because you could use bourbon, or even Scotch whisky in which case it becomes a Rob Roy. 

30ml Kyro Rye Malt
15ml Cinzano Rosso 1757 (or any sweet vermouth)
Dash of Angostura bitters

Stir ingredients with lots of ice in a shaker and strain into a cold Martini glass (you can use a coupe or a Nick & Nora instead). Express a piece of orange zest over and drop into the glass. Add a cherry if you’re feeling hungry.

That’s it for now. Your next Advent update will be on 7 December. See you then!

 

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Our staff picks for Christmas!

It can be tough to figure out what to get the booze lover in your life when there’s so much choice. So let the Master of Malt team give you…

It can be tough to figure out what to get the booze lover in your life when there’s so much choice. So let the Master of Malt team give you a hand. Here are our staff picks for Christmas.

It’s that time of year where you really need to start ticking off your Christmas list and getting gifts under the tree. But sometimes we all need a little inspiration to help us on our quest to find the perfect present. We’re booze mad here at Master of Malt (responsibly, natch) so to help you out, we asked the team what they want from Santa this year. If you want to know what’s delicious and desirable this year, then look no further.  

staff picks

These are a few of our favourite things

Our staff picks:

staff picks
Zak, marketing campaigns manager: Rabbit Hole Heigold Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

These guys first popped up on my radar a few years ago when the news of their acquisition by Pernod Ricard broke. I’m always looking for new distilleries that put the quality of the product first; which is sometimes difficult for a new business to achieve. Enter Rabbit Hole, with a focus on interesting mashbills and top quality casks, this distillery should be of interest to anyone into innovative American whiskeys. I’ve really enjoyed the Heigold Straight Bourbon, it’s a chunky 47.5% ABV with a high rye content (25%) making it perfect to sip in winter, but equally has the power to make a delicious Manhattan

staff picks

Gio, head of brand & subscriptions: Premium Gin Advent Calendar (2021 Edition)

I’ll be counting down to Christmas with a Premium Gin Advent Calendar. I’ve been marking down the days on my normal calendar, waiting for 1 December so I can get started on trying all these gins and am looking forward to getting a load of new ones under my belt! I’m all stocked up on tonic, garnish options, and ice, so no matter what is behind each door (I’ve been trying to avoid finding out!), I know it’ll be a stunning serve every day til Christmas.

staff picks

Henry, editor: John Walker & Sons Celebratory Blend

This was inspired by John Walker’s original Old Highland Whisky and was released last year to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the brand. I tried it alongside some seriously fancy Johnnie Walkers selling for hundreds of pounds a bottle, yet it was this one that shined the brightest. With its rich honey, toffee and marmalade profile, there are clearly some excellent mature malts and grains in here, but it only costs £55 a bottle. I’d take this over Blue Label any day. It’s gorgeous neat or just with a splash of fizzy water for the ultimate Whisky & Soda. I’ve never seen a bottle in our house disappear so quickly. 

staff picks

Emma, content executive: Waterford Single Farm Origin – Lakefield 1.1

For a bottle that I would be as equally glad to receive for Christmas, as I would be all warm and fuzzy if I gave it to someone else, I’ve picked out the Lakefield 1.1 from Ireland’s Waterford Distillery. The effect that terroir can have on spirits is something that fascinates me – and it’s an aspect of spirit production that Waterford has really focused on, and pushed to the forefront of people’s attention. I’ve never had the pleasure of visiting the Lakefield Farm in County Laois, but in my mind’s eye, it seems like it would be a nice place to spend Christmas, so a single malt made from barley grown exclusively there should be splendid, after a nice big dinner and a brisk winter’s walk. I might even pop some in a hip flask to take on the walk. It’s Christmas, after all.

staff picks

Adam, writer: Engenhos do Norte 7 Year Old (That Boutique-y Rum Company)

That Boutique-y Rum Company are masters at finding expressions you never knew existed and sourcing rum from the places you least expect it. Did you know Portugal was home to fine rum, for example? More specially, on the island of Madeira all kinds of delicious sugar cane juice rums are made, including this 7-year-old expression that was produced at Engenhos do Norte. It’s got a beautiful, mellow fruitiness as well as spice and salinity that makes it unlike a lot of rum you’ll have ever tasted. And, fun fact, the sugar cane is milled by steam engines – like the one you can see on the label.

staff picks

Michael, spirits buyer: Ragnaud-Sabourin No. 10 VSOP

Ragnaud-Sabourin is a historic house of Cognac which was founded in 1850 by Gaston Briand and Marcel Ragnaud. Today, the latter’s descendants, Annie Ragnaud Sabourin and her son Olivier, are responsible for all aspects of production and ageing, making spirit from grapes that come exclusively from the vineyard called Domaine de la Voute, which is in the Grande Champagne area and classified Premier Cru. They make limited quantities of the highest quality Cognac, which is always bottled as vintages without any blending between years and without any additional sweetening or colouring. Lot no.10 is a great example of what they do best, a 100% Ugni Blanc VSOP aged for at least 10 years, thus exceeding the minimum ageing conditions for VSOP (four years), and displaying fantastic soft vanilla, floral and fruit flavours.

staff picks

Tiph, marketing campaigns executive: Stone Gaze Rhubarb & Raspberry Gin

This year under my tree, I wish to get Stone Gaze Rhubarb & Raspberry Gin. The bottle is stunning and is modelled after Medusa, one of the most famous figures from Greek mythology, and I think this bottle would fit perfectly inside my cabinet. The mix of rhubarb and raspberry is a perfect match, as the latter gives the fruity, fresh taste while the former brings a bit of sour for balance. For me, it’s an excellent accomplishment of both design and taste.

staff picks

Sam, content guru: Garden Swift Gin

I sometimes feel like my tastes don’t align with the seasons that well. During the sweltering heights of summer I can often be found eating steaming hot bowls of chilli, and during frosty winter evenings, I’ll be chomping on a Caprese salad filled with woefully out of season tomatoes. So, with that in mind, it’s not really much of a surprise that instead of an intensely sherried whisky or rich cream liqueur, the bottle at the top of my Christmas list is Garden Swift Gin from the Capreolus Distillery. Hugely complex and flavoursome, with loads of fresh floral and orchard fruit notes, it’s a bit like being out in the country on a sunny summer afternoon. I’d be very happy making a Gin and Tonic with this on a crisp Boxing Day evening.

staff picks

Charlotte, social media executive: VIVIR Café Coffee Liqueur

After the devastating news that Patron Tequila had discontinued its coffee liqueur, I had to source a new one. Enter Vivir Coffee Liqueur! I’m a big fan of Espresso Martinis and Christmas is one of the best times to make them. The nutty and fruity notes lend particularly well to my favourite dark roast coffee and the smoky-sweet aroma makes me think of getting toasty by the fireplace at Christmas.

staff picks

James, marketing campaigns executive: East London Liquor Company East London Single Malt 2021

This year I am wishing for the East London Single Malt. I managed to bag myself a sample of their latest single malt release and I thoroughly enjoyed the chocolatey, peanut butter and almond flavours. Now I am hoping to convince Santa to supply me with 70cl’s of the good stuff.

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