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Master of Malt Blog

Top ten: White wines under £25

Whether you’re a lover of rich oak-aged Burgundies or partial to a refreshingly zesty Sauvignon Blanc, we’ve got white wines for every palate. Here are some of our favourites: Earlier…

Whether you’re a lover of rich oak-aged Burgundies or partial to a refreshingly zesty Sauvignon Blanc, we’ve got white wines for every palate. Here are some of our favourites:

Earlier this month we tapped in the formidable knowledge in our buying team to pick the best reds under £25 on the Master of Malt shelves. Now, it’s the turn of the white wines. 

We’ve travelled all over the world for this selection from countries that are likely to be familiar to wine lovers like France and South Africa, to more obscure places like Greece and AustriaThe grape varieties too run the gamut from the household names, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, to the barely pronounceable, Hondarrabi Zuri. All of them are delicious and really over-deliver for the money. 

Our pick of white wines under £25:

These white wines are delicious and available at bargain prices!

Céline et Vincent Dureuil Bourgogne Blanc 2016

One of the tricks with buying white Burgundy is to find a top producer, like this one, and then buy its everyday Bourgogne Blanc. It’s likely to punch well above its lowly appellation, just as this one does. 

How does it taste?

Honeydew melon with a refreshing citrus acidity and a long finish of hazelnuts and dark spicy notes. Try with fancy fish like turbot or Dover sole. 

These white wines are delicious and available at bargain prices!

Laurent Tribut Chablis 2017

Chardonnay is such a versatile grape variety making everything from lush oaked wines to lean refreshing numbers like this Chablis. It’s produced by the excellent Laurent Tribut, a family-run French winery. 

How does it taste?

Bone dry but packed with notes of pear and lemon peel with a flash of almonds on the finish. This would make a fine partner to some tasty shellfish. 

These white wines are delicious and available at bargain prices!

Cantina Terlan Winkl Sauvignon Blanc 2019

Here’s something you don’t see every day, a Sauvignon Blanc from Italy. This is made in the Sud Tyrol in the far north of the country. It spends 12 months in large oak barrels at the winery before bottling.  

How does it taste?

Zingy fresh with elderflower, peach, limes, peaches and aromatic fresh mint. This would be delicious with a rich goat’s cheese tart.

These white wines are delicious and available at bargain prices!

Schatzel Riesling 2016 

German Rieslings today tend to be much drier than in the past. There’s just a tiny bit of sugar here but it’s so fresh and invigorating that it tastes bone dry. It’s made by an old family estate in the Rhine region, Germany’s wine heartland. 

How does it taste?

Lots of white peach and citrus fruit character. Clean, with mouth-watering acidity, this would be great with fatty food like roast pork with apple. 

These white wines are delicious and available at bargain prices!

Centopassi Grillo Rocce di Pietra Longa 2018 

Grillo is a variety native to western Sicily and in the past was in fortified wine, Marsala, but it also makes superb dry whites like this one. The grapes in this are organic and were aged in steel to preserve those fruit flavours. 

How does it taste?

Zesty, with pink grapefruit, lemon and lime, and a hint of salinity on the finish. The perfect wine to go with spaghetti vongole. 

These white wines are delicious and available at bargain prices!

Lyrarakis Dafní Psarades 2019

If you can taste a herbal note in here, don’t be surprised, because the grape Dafní means bay leaf in Greece. It’s native to the island of Crete, home to some increasingly good wines like this delicious little number from the Lyrarakis winery.

How does it taste?

Green and herbaceous notes of rosemary, pine and indeed, bay, followed by a zing of lemon peel. Bring on the Greek salad!

These white wines are delicious and available at bargain prices!

Lockhart Chardonnay 2017 

California’s Lockhart has brought us this Chardonnay, made with grapes sourced from vineyards in Napa and Sonoma. The grapes were fermented in both stainless steel tanks and oak barrels for two weeks, so the oak influence here is very subtle.

What does it taste like?

Lemon curd, nuts and cantaloupe, with a hint of flinty minerality alongside nectarine and citrus blossom. We think it would be nice with a buttery roast chicken.

These white wines are delicious and available at bargain prices!

Eschenhof Holzer Wagram Grüner Veltliner 2018

This organic white wine is the work of Eschenhof Holzer, produced exclusively with Grüner Veltliner, Austria’s signature white grape, in the Wagram region. Sommeliers love GV, as it’s known, because it’s such a versatile food wine. 

What does it taste like?

Lime zest and green apple skin, nectarine sweetness and subtle spice. It’s a great partner to spicy Thai food. 

These white wines are delicious and available at bargain prices!

Bat Gara Txakoli Uno 2018

Txakoli or Chacoli as it’s sometimes spelt makes one of the world’s most refreshing wines in the Basque country. This example is made by Bat Gara predominantly from the Hondarrabi Zuri with a small amount of Riesling.

What does it taste like?

With its subtly flinty notes, with ripe green apples, and fresh hay, it’s a great seafood all-rounder with dishes like gambas a la plancha.

These white wines are delicious and available at bargain prices!

Eekhoring White Blend 2018

This is what’s known as a Cape blend, a uniquely South African mixture of grapes, usually with Chenin Blanc in the majority. Eekhoring White Blend is harvested from old vines and the grapes are fermented in a mixture of stainless steel and old oak barrels. 

What does it taste like?

Apple blossom, lime citrus and waxy hints, with under-ripe peach appearing on a dry finish. Good with rich vegetable dishes like ratatouille. 

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Cocktail of the Week: The Aviation

Created at the dawn of commercial air travel, the Aviation is fittingly named for its celestial pale purple-blue hue. A mix of gin, maraschino liqueur, lemon juice and crème de…

Created at the dawn of commercial air travel, the Aviation is fittingly named for its celestial pale purple-blue hue. A mix of gin, maraschino liqueur, lemon juice and crème de violette, this classic pre-Prohibition serve can be tricky to balance – but get the proportions right, and you’ll be rewarded with a delicate, floral, citrus-forward sipper. Here’s how to make it…

While mankind has attempted to fly, without much success, for two thousand years, it wasn’t until the early 20th century that advances in technology and aerodynamics made powered air travel possible. Soon after the Wright Brothers landed their first flight in 1903 – a total distance of 37 metres, shorter than the wingspan of a Boeing 747 – the Aviation was shaken into existence at the Hotel Wallick in New York.

Created by head bartender Hugo Ensslin, the first published recipe for the cocktail appeared in his 1916 book, Recipes for Mixed Drinks. It called for one third lemon juice, two thirds El Bart Gin, two dashes maraschino, and two dashes crème de violette, with simple instructions: ‘Shake well in a mixing glass with cracked ice, strain and serve’. Over the course of the ensuing decades, crème de violette became increasingly scarce in Europe and America, and in the 1960s, it disappeared from the US market altogether.

As the defining ingredient of the cocktail began its descent into obscurity, Harry Craddock chose to omit it from the Aviation recipe in his 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book. It’s often thought Craddock ditched crème de violette due to its scarcity, but it’s listed as an ingredient in the drink preceding it – the Atty Cocktail – so perhaps not. Either way, the drink was made with gin, lemon juice and maraschino liqueur from them on – essentially a Gin Sour – and lacked its signature sky-blue colouring.

The Aviation

An Aviation made the way nature intended, with crème de violette

Even today, debate rages on about whether crème de violette has any place in an Aviation. Whatever your view, it’s certainly one of the tricker cocktail ingredients to work with. Too much, and your drink tastes like scented bubble bath. Too little, and the flavour is washed out with citrus. Get the balance right, however, and it’s “disarmingly drinkable,” says bar legend Russell Burgess of Loves at Ladies & Gentlemen in Kentish Town and cocktail consultancy Wet & Dry. 

“As the base spirit, gin is the foundation of the Aviation,” he says. “I’d go for something floral as opposed to savoury, and with a slightly higher ABV – such as LoneWolf Gin, which lists lavender as one of its key botanicals.” The crème de violette brings “powerful floral notes, a sweetness, but also an acidulant element to the cocktail, while the maraschino adds another layer of taste, bringing a subtle fruitiness to the drink. And finally, the lemon juice – while I’m a fan of using acid blends for lots of cocktails, the lemon has to be fresh here.”

Meanwhile, Marc Sylvester, brand ambassador for Aviation Gin and owner of Also Known As (ASA) in Banbury and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) in Bicester had an unsurprising gin recommendation: “Aviation Gin works perfectly in this cocktail – how could it not!, it’s not too juniper-forward, it has lovely citrus tones from sweet and bitter orange peel, while the lavender just enhances the floral notes in the cocktail. It’s also super-smooth, which really helps in a booze-heavy, mixer-free, Martini-style drink like this.”

Nailing the recipe to your personal taste requires a little experimentation, depending on the choice of gin, the quality of the citrus, and your preference for crème de violette. “All cocktails are a quest to achieve a balanced drink and you have to work at your recipes to find the balance that works for you,” says Sylvester “Some lemons are sweeter than others, so that might need tweaking to taste, and while some will love the floral notes that the crème de violette carries, others might want to dial that down a little.”

When making the cocktail, start your prep work ahead of time. “Make sure to pre-chill your glassware, even if that’s just filling it with ice before you start making your Aviation,” says Burgess. And when filling the shaker, use ice that’s been in the freezer for a while, says Sylvester. “The last thing you want is a watery cocktail. It’s also best to double strain an Aviation – this will stop you getting little shards of ice in your drink, improving the sip considerably.” 

You’ll find Aviation Gin’s cocktail recipe below – but any floral gin will go down a treat in this serve. Don’t be shy about experimenting with the quantities of lemon juice, maraschino liqueur and crème de violette. And once you’re happy with your proportions, try twisting the drink. Transform it into a Spritz by topping the cocktail with Prosecco, or enjoy it “as a long drink, with the simple addition of ice and soda water,” says Burgess. The sky’s the limit, as they say. 

60ml Aviation Gin
15ml Giffard crème de violette
15ml Luxardo maraschino liqueur
20ml freshly-squeezed lemon juice

Fill a shaker with ice, and add all ingredients. Shake vigorously until chilled. Strain into a chilled Martini glass and garnish with a maraschino cherry.

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Latest delivery information

We’re doing all we can to reduce disruption to shipments due to both the pandemic and Brexit. Here’s a place for all the latest updates. We’re open for business! We’ve…

We’re doing all we can to reduce disruption to shipments due to both the pandemic and Brexit. Here’s a place for all the latest updates.

We’re open for business! We’ve introduced a whole load of measures to keep our people safe while we keep the drinks flowing for you. If you’d like to know more, our CEO shared details here!

There may be a slight delay to your order if you’re shipping outside of the UK due to Brexit. We’ll update this page as soon as we have news!

If you’re shipping to Northern Ireland, we’ve got the latest developments here.

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Enjoy Burns Night 2021 at home

Just in case you thought you wouldn’t be getting your usual yearly dose of whisky, haggis and poetry, don’t worry, like everything these days, it’s now taking place online. Here…

Just in case you thought you wouldn’t be getting your usual yearly dose of whisky, haggis and poetry, don’t worry, like everything these days, it’s now taking place online. Here are some of the best virtual Burns Nights out there.

Burns Night 2021 is on Monday 25 January. Evenings celebrating Scotland’s bard are now international, apparently the Phoenicia Hotel in Beirut normally puts on a particularly lavish one, but this year most of us will be stuck at home. 

If you thought, however, you were going to be sitting on your own with a microwave haggis and a copy of the Collected Poems of Robert Burns, then think again. A number of restaurants, bars, shops and distillers are putting on virtual Burns Nights this year. These range from the complete package where you get everything including a haggis (best order as soon as possible) to music events where you bring your own whisky (like these ones, perhaps?) 

However you want to do it, make sure you raise a glass to the Bard on Monday, and while you’re at it, why not enter our Roberts Burns poetry competition for the chance to wine two bottles of Islay whisky and a Glencairn tasting glass?

Boisdale Burns Night supper

Nice facemask Rabbie!

Burns Night with Boisdale

As you might expect from the name of the proprietor, Ranald MacDanald, Boisdale in London is doing things properly with its Burns Night supper. From 7.30pm on Monday, there will be a piper, Donald Maclaren of clan Maclaren, no less, music from Tallia Storm, a whisky tasting with Mark Tracey from LVMH, and James Cosmo star of Highlander and Braveheart will address the Haggis (fearsomely, we presume). Plus, there are three dining options, all complete with a Rob Roy cocktail and drams of Glenmorangie and Ardbeg. All from the comfort of your own home! Order now to make sure you get your package in time. Go to Boisdale’s website for more information. 

Macsween Haggis Burns Night

Well, it wouldn’t be Burns Night without a haggis, the Great chieftain o’ the pudding race, as Burns put it. So you won’t be surprised to hear that Scotland’s best-known haggis makers Macsween will be hosting a Burns Night event on its Facebook page from 7pm on Monday 25 January. James Mcsween commented: “We didn’t want anyone to miss out because of the times we live in. That’s why we are inviting people from across the world to join Macsween with Karen Dunbar, who is a stand out favourite at Burns Suppers, and the trailblazing master blender Dr Rachel Barrie from Benriach distillery.” The event is free, you’ll have to bring your own food and drink but there’s still plenty of time to order your haggis and some Benriach whisky from Master of Malt.

Luvians Lockdown – Burns Night Drams

St. Andrews’ premier whisky shop is putting on an online tasting from 7pm on Monday (cut off date for shipping is 21 January). To take part, pick up a £30 tasting kit consisting of six 20ml drams from distilleries that were operation in Burns’ lifetime including Glenturret, Bowmore, Strathisla, Balblair, Oban and, controversially, Glen Garioch. “This year we are celebrating Burn’s Night with a trio of tastings celebrating the Best of Scotland. What else could we do on the big night itself than whisky,” it says. On the night there will be a zoom tasting with Archie McDiarmid from Luvians, and possibly, we’re told, some poetry. Go to the Facebook page to find out more.

Celebrate Burns Night With Glasgow Distillery, Virtually

Glasgow Distillery, the first malt distillery in the city for over 100 years, is teaming up with Once Upon a Whisky to put on not one but three Burns Night events on 21, 25 and 28 January. Buy a ticket and you will get to taste five whiskies from the distillery, four single malts and a blended malt, and, according to the website, “recount some stories and facts regarding the artistic life of Robert Burns and toast to one of the most renowned Scottish personalities.” Sounds exciting, doesn’t it? Go to the Facebook page for more information. 

Big Burns Night In

Taking place on Saturday 23 January at 7pm, this one is all about the music. It’s hosted by Edith Bowman and features music from an amazing array of musicians including Talisk (we’d wager they’re fans of Isle of Skye single malts), Iona Lee, Lennie Pennie, and, speakers Gerry Curruthers and Chris Waddell (not to be confused with legendary England footballer and mullet owner Chris Waddle). There will also be a cocktail masterclass from Anna Mitchell from Glenlivet. Tickets available here, you’ll have to provide your own whisky, and haggis. 

Make the perfect whisky sauce with Dewar’s 

So you’ve bought the haggis, brushed up on your Burns and you’ve ordered whisky, now in conjunction with Dewar’s, head chef and owner of Ballintaggart Chris Rowley will show you how to make the perfect whisky sauce this Burns Night. The recipe includes shallots, garlic, double cream, wholegrain and Dijon mustard, chives, lemon juice and, of course, whisky. Taking place on Monday 25 January on Facebook Live the event will include brand ambassador Gary Ross talking you through Dewar’s 12 Year Old, Craigellachie 13 and Aberfeldy 16. All of which can still, as of 22 January, be ordered in time for Burns Night from Master of Malt.

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Introducing: Try January!

We’ve got a solution to the blandness of the season. A way to try a whole bunch of whiskies, literally risk-free. Behold: Try January! Ahhh January. A time for new…

We’ve got a solution to the blandness of the season. A way to try a whole bunch of whiskies, literally risk-free. Behold: Try January!

Ahhh January. A time for new starts, resolutions, turning over a new leaf. It might be a time for forming new habits, learning a new skill, upping the exercise regimen. These things can all be good. But January can also feel, well… a bit dull. A bit grey. Somewhat lacking in excitement. So let us help. We’ve come up with a way to inject some flavour into a time of year that can be somewhat bland. Ready the tasting glasses and get set for Try January!

What’s this, you say? We’ve got a whole bunch of drams set aside for you that we reckon you’ll really like. Some of these are old favourites, some are more unusual bottlings. Some are the slightly fancier version of a drinks cabinet staple. We’ve even picked out some delectable samples that we highly recommend for whisky newbies (now’s the time if you’re trying to get your friend into whisky over a Zoom tasting!). Basically, each 30ml taster has been chosen by our team here because we really like it. And we want to make it super easy to try before you buy!

Here’s how it works. Buy one of these drams, and we’ll zip you over a Master of Malt voucher to the value of that dram. So you’re basically getting to try it for free! We hope you’ll love your dram so much that you use your voucher towards the cost of a full bottle. But really you can use it for anything you like on the site. We’ll get vouchers out to you by 5 February, so keep you eyes peeled!

You can see the full list over on our Try January page, but here’s just five to whet your whisky appetite.

Here’s the Try January lowdown:

Literally try before you buy with Try January!

Seaweed & Aeons & Digging & Fire 10 Year Old Cask Strength

Got a taste for all things smoky? Then you need to try this 10 year old single malt from an undisclosed Islay distillery. 10% of it has been finished in first-fill Oloroso octave casks, so there’s a good helping of sweetness in there, too. 

Literally try before you buy with Try January!

Talisker 8 Year Old (Special Release 2020)

A tip-top Talisker from 2020’s sought-after Diageo Special Releases collection. It’s been finished in ex-pot still Caribbean rum casks – the first time the distillery has used this sort of oak! It’s simply a delight for the palate. 

Literally try before you buy with Try January!

Tomatin 18 Year Old Sherry Cask

A classic single malt here from Highland stalwart Tomatin, aged for a whopping 18 years and finished in Spanish oak ex-Oloroso sherry butts. If you like your whisky bursting with notes of sweet spices, vanilla fudge and honey, this is a must-try.

Literally try before you buy with Try January!

Craigellachie 17 Year Old

A firm favourite here at MoM Towers, Craigellachie 17 Year Old really showcases the distinctive meatiness of the Speyside distillery, thanks in part to its wonderful worm tub condensers. One to really sit with and savour!

Literally try before you buy with Try January!

Loch Lomond Single Grain

New to whisky, or know someone that is? Give this light, bright and breezy single grain a go. It’s perfect for sipping, and also highly ideal in Highball form. Just mix with ice, soda and garnish with a lemon slice – tasty!

Literally try before you buy with Try January!

Literally try before you buy with Try January!

We want to know what you’ve tasted, what you’ve loved, and what you’ve spent your voucher on! Let us know on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, or in the comments below. And Happy Try January!


18+ only and shipping restrictions may apply. Complete purchase of any qualifying drams on masterofmalt.com between 20 Jan 2021 and 3 Feb 2021 (inclusive) to receive an electronic gift voucher of the same value (excluding delivery and any other charges) to use on masterofmalt.com at any time. Subject to Master of Malt standard consumer and gift voucher T&Cs. 

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The winner of a bundle of goodies from Atom Labs is…

We have a winner! Our latest #BagThisBundle competition has ended and one lucky person is about to receive a delivery of the most excellent goodies from Atom Labs. Imagine opening…

We have a winner! Our latest #BagThisBundle competition has ended and one lucky person is about to receive a delivery of the most excellent goodies from Atom Labs.

Imagine opening your drinks cabinet and seeing an array of delicious and delightful boozy creations like gin and rum made from actual Jaffa Cakes, bourbon crafted using Bourbon biscuits, a Scotch Whisky finished in a chestnut cask and even more all waiting to be enjoyed.

Well, for one lucky person that experience isn’t a fantasy but a reality. Because they have won a bundle of brilliance from our friends over at Atom Labs thanks to that lovely little competition we put together between Christmas and New Year. Remember? Back in… 2020 *shudders*.

Look at all this booze you can win thanks to Atom Labs!

Look at all this booze you can win thanks to Atom Labs!

Anyway, congratulations to…

Lydia Seekings from London!

We hope you enjoy your prize and thank you to everyone who entered.

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Looking for a top Burns Night dram?

Don’t miss out on your celebrations just because of the lockdown. You can still pick yourself a bottle of delicious Scotch whisky and toast Scotland’s favourite son in style. The…

Don’t miss out on your celebrations just because of the lockdown. You can still pick yourself a bottle of delicious Scotch whisky and toast Scotland’s favourite son in style.

The 25 January is the birthday of the great Scottish poet Robert Burns and usually at this time people around the world mark it with an extravagant affair of food, music and malt. Burns Night this year, however, is taking place smack bang in the middle of a lockdown. So, we’re going to have to do things a little differently.

That doesn’t mean we can’t have a brilliant time of feasting and festivities. There’s going to be a raft of virtual celebrations we can get involved in and there’s nothing stopping you from donning a kilt, picking up some haggis and ensuring you’ve got some tasty Scotch whisky to enjoy. That’s why we’ve put together this list of some delightful expressions perfect for a long night of drinking, dancing and entertainment.

Slange Var!

The perfect Burns Night drams

A perfect Burns Night dram!

Robert Burns Single Malt 

Drinking any Scotch whisky on Burns Night is a fitting way to celebrate the man himself. But, picking yourself up a bottle that bears his name? Now we’re talking. The Robert Burns Single Malt was produced by the Isle of Arran Distillers, who are patrons of the ‘Robert Burns World Federation’. So you can be sure this beauty was made with true reverence for the Bard.

What does it taste like?

Pear juice, coconut, custard, vanilla, panna cotta, lime peel, apple strudel and cinnamon.

A perfect Burns Night dram!

Seaweed & Aeons & Digging & Fire 10 Year Old Cask Strength (Batch 001) 

If you’ve tasted Seaweed & Aeons & Digging & Fire, you’ll already know it’s brilliant. But the clever clogs behind this cracking Islay single malt have taken things up a notch. How? By bottling the whisky at a cask strength 57.5% ABV. This is a Burns Night dram for those who really love their complex and smoky Islay whiskies.

What does it taste like?

Strong sea breeze, roasted barley, grounded by flame raisins, red apples, earthy peat, sherried richness, strong coffee with a dash of milk, charred oak and a flash of spicy yet fruity red pepper flake.

A perfect Burns Night dram!

Talisker 10 Year Old 

There are few better bang-for-your-buck whiskies than this classic Island dram from the Isle of Skye. Talisker 10 Year Old is one of those expressions that has a place in the heart of all whisky fans. Its versatile profile means it’s great neat, in cocktails and when paired with food, making it ideal if you’d like to enjoy your Scotch in different ways on the night.

What does it taste like?

Smoke, sweet pear and apple peels, maritime salt, seaweed, peat, black pepper, brine and dry barley. 

A perfect Burns Night dram!

Darkness 8 Year Old

One for fans of sherry bombs. This 8-year-old single malt Scotch whisky was matured initially in ex-bourbon barrels before being moved into tiny, custom-made Oloroso sherry octave casks for at least three months. When you use smaller casks you increase the intensity of wood’s influence on your spirit. And when you have beautiful hand-coopered sherry casks, this leads to most excellent results.

What does it taste like?

Candied orange peels, chocolate peanuts, cooking spice warmth, dried cherry, Amaretti biscuits, subtly toasty hints, powerful raisin and prune, just a touch of earthy oak lingers.

A perfect Burns Night dram!

Aerolite Lyndsay 10 Year Old 

There’s plenty of mystery about this dram. From its intriguing 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. An approachable introduction to Scotland’s most distinctive collection of distilleries, Aerolite Lyndsay 10 Year Old captures the true taste of Islay with its smoky, sweet and maritime profile.

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.

Perfect for some Burns Night dramming!

Regions of Scotland Tasting Set 

There’s no better way to familiarise yourself with the wonderful world of Scotch whisky than this tasting set. The ultimate introduction to the famed whisky regions of Scotland, Islay, the Highlands, the Lowlands, Speyside and Campbeltown, this creation from Drinks by the Dram contains five 30ml samples of deliciousness. Which means there’s sure to be something you love inside. Why have one Burns Night dram, when you can have five?

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New Arrival of the Week: Aberlour 14 Year Old Double Cask

This week we’re taking the edge off Blue Monday, apparently the saddest day of the year, with a rich tasty dram from Speyside part-matured in sherry casks. It’s the Aberlour…

This week we’re taking the edge off Blue Monday, apparently the saddest day of the year, with a rich tasty dram from Speyside part-matured in sherry casks. It’s the Aberlour 14 Year Old Double Cask!

Aberlour means “mouth of the chattering burn” in Gaelic. The town is situated near Craigellachie on the river Spey and it’s world famous for being the home of Walkers shortbread. But this isn’t the Master of Biscuit blog, it’s Master of Malt so we’re far more interested in the town’s whisky. Though we do love a bit of shortbread at 4pm with our tea. It’s just so buttery!

Aberlour Distillery

Aberlour Distillery looking lovely in the sunshine

Aberlour Distillery was founded in 1879 by local bigwig James Fleming using the soft water from St. Drostan’s Well. Fleming wasn’t just a businessman but also a local politician and philanthropist, and one of his most notable acts was to bequeath funds for a footbridge over the dangerous fast-moving river to replace the ferry service. The magnificent suspension footbridge was finished in 1902 and still stands to this day. But this isn’t the Master of Civil Engineering blog either so we will return to his distillery.

The original building was partly destroyed by fire in 1898 and rebuilt by top distillery architect Charles Doig of Elgin, who you may know from his work with Balblair, Pulteney, Speyburn and many others. Despite the 1960s and ‘70s extensions it’s still a lovely looking place, nestled by the river, especially on a sunny day, and well worth visiting when such things are allowed again.

Capacity was doubled in the 1970s and there are now six stainless steel washbacks, and four oil-fired pot stills with shell and tube condensers producing a medium weight spirit. Aberlour can produce about 3.9 millions litres of pure alcohol per year. It has been in the hands of Pernod Ricard since 1974. With this pedigree, you won’t be surprised to learn that it’s particularly popular in France. 

Aberlour’s most famous expression is probably the mighty cask strength a’ bunadh (meaning the origin in Gaelic.) It’s entirely matured in Oloroso sherry casks and Ian Buxton in his 101 Whiskies book says: “If you like traditional Macallan or Glenfarclas, then you’re going to love this.”

Aberlour 14YO

A bottle of Aberlour 14 Year Old next to babbling burn

Our New Arrival is something of a chip off the old block and has already picked up gongs including a double gold medal at the International Wine and Spirits Competition 2020, and a gold medal at the International Spirits Challenge 2020. It’s a 14 year whisky matured first in bourbon and then Oloroso sherry casks. It’s a big luxurious sweet-natured loveable sort of dram. Delicious and comforting sipped neat, it has a sweetness and smoothness that would lend itself to simple cocktails like an Old Fashioned or a particularly decadent Rob Roy. Though, look away malt whisky purists, the distillery’s marketing team suggests using it in a Bramble! Scandalous, but also delicious. 

Here’s how to make one:

50ml Aberlour 14 Year Old
25ml lemon juice
¾ tablespoon sugar syrup
¾ tablespoon Giffard Crème de Mure

Shake the Aberlour, lemon juice and sugar syrup in a shaker with ice. Strain into a rocks glass filled with crushed ice. Drizzle over the crème de mure and garnish with a bramble and a lemon slice. 

Tasting note from the Chaps at Master of Malt:

Nose: Big aromatics on this one with cloves, cardamom and camphor, and then comes a wave of sweeter notes like toffee, milk chocolate and orange rind.  

Palate: Full texture, round and creamy, with sweet dark cherries, fudge, and mocha coffee with a refreshing minty breeze. 

Finish: Quite long with lingering honey and wood spice.

Aberlour 14 Year Old Double Cask is now available from Master of Malt.

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New London Light – zero ABV with distinction

Inspired by the historical distinction of London Dry gin, Salcombe Distillery Company intends to set a benchmark for flavour in the alcohol-free sphere with the release of New London Light, its…

Inspired by the historical distinction of London Dry gin, Salcombe Distillery Company intends to set a benchmark for flavour in the alcohol-free sphere with the release of New London Light, its first non-alcoholic spirit. We spoke to co-founder and director Howard Davies to find out more about the bottling, the first in a series for the distillery…

The London Dry style rose to prominence in the 19th century as the gold standard for gin production. At a time when such spirits were produced “in rather dubious fashions of very varied quality,” says Davies, the designation guaranteed that the bottling hadn’t been doctored post-distillation. “London Dry was introduced to put some kind of assurance to the consumer about the quality of the gin they were consuming,” he says. The style set a standard for production that continues to this day.

While today’s alcohol-free producers certainly aren’t poisoning their customers, the fledgling category faces its own consistency challenges. Davies and the team sought to bring the London Dry ethos to the alcohol-free sector with the launch of their first 0% ABV bottling, New London Light. “In these early days of non-alcoholic spirits, there’s a mix of quality of product out there,” says Davies. Against this backdrop, New London Light intends to be “the benchmark of taste and flavour in the non-alcoholic spirits sector.”

Angus Lugsdin and Howard Davies, founders of Salcombe

The name ‘New London Light’ doesn’t only refer to the historic gin style. It’s also a nod to the coastal location of the distillery, which lies on the south-east coast of England in the town of Salcombe, Devon. “There’s a couple of other little ties,” says Davies. “Our distillery is by the sea, one of the only distilleries in the world you can reach by boat, and so our product names are often inspired by lighthouses.” 

There’s Start Point gin, named for a lighthouse on the coast of Devon, and Rosé Sainte Marie gin, named for a lighthouse in the Mediterranean. New London Light is a lighthouse, too – located on America’s east coast, in Long Island Sound. Incredibly, it was once a beacon for the crews of 19th century Salcombe Fruiters. Built in Salcombe and neighbouring Kingsbridge, these speedy Schooner sailing vessels were designed to transport perishable fruits, herbs and spices sourced from across the globe – including America – back to England’s ports.

Developed by master distiller Jason Nickels, New London Light is made using a two-step process. The first sees Macedonian juniper berries, ginger and habanero capsicum distilled to create a base spirit. “This initial distillation uses alcohol, but at a weaker strength than we would normally do it,” says Davies. Using alcohol at this stage of the process allows the team to capture a fuller flavour profile from the botanicals. “Often when you do a plain water distillation, the flavours don’t come through as much,” he adds.

This base liquid is then blended with a further 15 botanical extracts, including orange, sage, cardamom, cascarilla bark and lemongrass. Some of these flavours are captured in concentrates and oils, while others are achieved through more technical methods, such as vacuum distillation. The team experimented with endless distilling methods before settling on this two-pronged approach. “It’s very much a horses for courses approach, in that there’ll be specific distillation methods and extract methods that are going to be a better fit for specific botanicals or botanical types,” says Davies.

Serving suggestion

Creating a genuinely tasty non-alcoholic spirit requires a new way of approaching flavour. Davies explained: “The original distillate whilst containing alcohol has proportionally a very concentrated botanical flavour load, and is intended to be very diluted. Therefore when blended with the other botanical extracts and water the alcohol strength is diluted significantly such that it’s final strength is below 0.5% ABV which qualifies as non-alcoholic”. Using multiple methods is where the future of the category lies, reckons Davies. “I don’t think there’s ever going to be one method that you can use across all of the botanical flavours and ingredients,” he says. “The best non-alcoholic spirits coming through are going to [use] a variety of different methods, depending on the type of botanical or flavour you’re trying to achieve in your final liquid.”

So, how should you drink New London Light? There are a whole host of cocktail suggestions on Salcombe Distilling Co’s website, along with signature serve New London Light and Light. “It’s essentially New London Light with a low-calorie tonic,” says Davies. “It’s garnished with a slice of orange – to compliment the citrus flavours coming through – and a sage leaf, which brings an amazing warm, herbal note. It really picks up that botanical within the spirit, so you get this lovely two-tone effect of the garnish on the nose and then again on the palate.”

Corks may be popping on bottles of New London Light this Dry January, but when it comes to distilling sans-booze, the team’s only just getting started. New London Light is the first bottling in what’s set to become a full non-alcoholic range, with two more booze-free variants planned for release before the end of the year. While the finer details remain well and truly under wraps, the focus for Davies and the wider Salcombe Distilling Co. team is centred on “innovation of taste and of process”.

“It’s about breaking new ground in terms of innovative flavour combinations and coming further away from traditional alcoholic drink flavours,” he says. “In the alcoholic sector, drinks are based on ingredients that you can ferment to create alcohol. We don’t have those constraints in the non-alcoholic sector, and so it’s a great opportunity to use less-familiar ingredients. It’s also about innovation in terms of the techniques that we use to extract the best possible flavour from these botanicals and plants.”

New London Light tasting note

Nose: Bursting with fresh lime zest and orange sherbet. A whiff of cardamom and violet, underpinned by a piney juniper note. 

Palate: Delightfully aromatic. Warming ginger and chilli make way for floral, woody notes with a hint of bitter orange and clove. 

Finish: Smooth and slightly drying. A tangy peachiness turns herbaceous, with fragrant lemongrass, fresh coriander and a hint of menthol. 

Salcombe New London Light is available from Master of Malt

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The Nightcap: 15 January

In this week’s edition of The Nightcap, we lament tariffs again, celebrate the arrival of some charming new booze and try to comprehend how delicious Bordeaux wine made it to…

In this week’s edition of The Nightcap, we lament tariffs again, celebrate the arrival of some charming new booze and try to comprehend how delicious Bordeaux wine made it to space and back without being drunk…  

Welcome everyone, we hope you’re keeping safe and warm during Lockdown III: Lockdowner and enjoying the outdoors when you can. We’re trying to stay chipper ourselves, although we were irked when we noticed in our dictionary that the definition of the word ‘nightcap’ was somewhat lacking. There were references to an alcoholic drink taken at the end of the day, a cloth cap worn with nightclothes and the final race or contest of a day’s sports. But what there wasn’t any word of was this perfectly suitable definition: a charming weekly round-up of all things boozy and newsy, best enjoyed with a dram in-hand. Clearly an oversight. Step-up your game Merriam-Webster. Anyway, here’s another edition of the Nightcap. Perhaps you could pop a jaunty little cloth cap on while you read it?

On the blog this week we announced some good news regarding shipping to Northern Ireland as well as two new competitions: one being our magnificent Burns Night poetry competition, back by popular demand, and the other offering you the chance to win a VIP trip to Benriach Distillery. Ian Buxton returned to cast an eye on a new generation of distillers who are creating whisky with all sorts of uncommon grains, while Adam also embraced the weird and wonderful by enjoying some tasty new baijiu. Elsewhere, we rounded up some of the most delicious low- and no-alcohol drinks on the market for Dry January, showed you how creating your own cocktail ingredients is easier than you might think and enjoyed the marvels of vermouth by welcoming a new expression that honours the father of mixology, Mr Jerry Thomas and using another impressive creation in our delightfully simple and sublime Cocktail of the Week

Now, on to The Nightcap!

The Nightcap

Karen Betts from the SWA was on hand to sum up the mood

US tariffs to remain on Scotch whisky

We reported last month that the UK would be dropping the tariffs on American whiskey now that it was out of the EU. We finished by anticpating that the Americans would reciprocate by dropping their 25% tariffs on Scotch but it seems that this won’t be happening in the foreseeable future. It was hoped that a deal could be pushed through in the last days of the Trump administration but it seems that the president has more pressing concerns. According to a story in The Times, the British team don’t hold out much hope that Katherine Tai, the incoming US trade representative, will be prioritising ending the tariffs. Karen Betts from the SWA commented:Tariffs remain on Scotch whisky: A missed opportunity to straighten out subsidies to aerospace and lift hugely damaging tariffs on Scotch Whisky. There’s certainly deep disappointment across the industry. Over £400m in losses and counting.” And there was us hoping that 2021 would begin on a positive note.

The Nightcap

The distillers signed the bottles. All nine of them!

Torabhaig to auction two rare whiskies for charity

There’s already plenty of excitement around the launch of Torabhaig’s first whisky, but that hasn’t stopped the brand from generating even more anticipation by announcing that it will auction two rare signed bottles of Torabhaig Single Malt ahead of its general release in February. The auction, which will start on the 31st January on Whisky Auction, includes a single cask bottle from the Torabhaig Family Reserve (future expressions from the Family Reserve will remain in a private collection and unavailable to purchase normally) as well as a bottle of the ‘Legacy Series 2017’ peated single malt, both of which have been signed by all nine Torabhaig distillers. All proceeds of the sale will go to the National Centre for Gaelic Language and Culture, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig and the Dr MacKinnon Memorial Broadford Hospital. Given the upcoming launch is from the first whisky distillery to be built on Skye in 190 years and only the second legal whisky distillery ever to operate on the island (after Talisker), many of us whisky lovers are understandably very excited to get our hands on its inaugural whisky. Good thing we can reveal that the Legacy Series 2017 will be available from MoM Towers, but keep in mind that this is a limited single distillation vintage issue with just over 3,000 bottles available for distribution in the UK and 6,000 in the USA so demand is likely to outstrip supply.

The Nightcap

The hospitality industry has welcomed the government’s vote

UK government votes in favour of hospitality minister

Given the state of things right now we’re always delighted to welcome some good news in our industry and we got some this week after MPs voted in favour of creating a minister of hospitality in the UK. The notion was debated by the UK government after an online petition secured more than 200,000 signatures and following a 90-minute debate in Westminster on Monday 11 January, the vote gained the support it needed. While this doesn’t guarantee the role will be created, the hospitality industry has welcomed the government’s recognition of the sector’s importance, with issues like extending the VAT cut and the business rates holiday and often forgotten parts of the sector like nightclubs, wedding venues, conference centres and the industry’s critical supply chain receiving attention. This has raised hopes the debate will prompt senior leadership within the Conservative Party to seriously consider the proposal. “It was incredibly positive to hear so many MPs being vocal advocates of the hospitality sector. There was unanimous recognition of our importance economically and socially. It is striking that, in the end, the petition got more than 200,000 signatures,” Kate Nicholls, UKHospitality chief executive, said, in her second Nightcap appearance in as many weeks. “We all understand the importance of what we do and it is good to see the government recognise the importance of working closely with the sector to ensure that we are properly supported, not just during this crisis but more generally.”

The Nightcap

Over £36k for a great cause has been raised. Thanks to all who took part!

Our Macallan auction raises £36k for Hospitality Action 

We always knew that the Macallan Red collection, consisting of whiskies of up to 78 years old, would be seriously in demand with Master of Malt customers. That’s why when we received our allocation, we decided to sell them through a charity auction, as we do for all in-demand whiskies. Well, the whiskies went quickly, no surprise there, and we’re delighted to announce that we have raised £36,510.00 for Hospitality Action, which offers a crucial lifeline to people of all ages, working and retired, from the hospitality industry. Justin Petszaft, Atom Group CEO, commented: “It’s been a hard year for everyone, but particularly those in the hospitality sector, so we’ve been looking for ways to help them weather the storm until they can fully re-open in the summer. Macallan is always highly collectable, so we knew demand for this collection would be high, and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to help raise some much needed funds for our friends in the on-trade. When we set this live none of us could have imagined how much it would raise: £36,000 is a huge amount of money and will make a real difference to so many people’s lives who desperately need our help right now. I’d like to thank both Macallan for providing such a fantastic set of bottles for us to auction, and our incredible customers for being so amazingly generous in their bids. As ever, you guys rock.”

The Nightcap

Orkney Distillery is one of many embracing its environmental responsibilities (image credit to Colin Keldie)

Distilleries go green with government initiative

The winners of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Green Distilleries Competition were announced on Friday 8th January 2021, with 17 distilleries receiving the first phase of £10 million government funding to go green, including Bruichladdich, The Orkney Distillery and Highland Park. The government initiative aims to find ways of decarbonising the distilling sector and the fund will assist distilleries in the search for lower-carbon alternatives to generate heat for processes such as malting and distilling. Bruichladdich revealed last week that more than £70,000 has been awarded to its project partner, Protium Green Solutions, in order to complete a feasibility study on incorporating innovative hydrogen combustion technology as part of ambitious plans to decarbonise its production process by 2025. Highland Park and The Orkney Distillery, in Kirkwall, are also set to take part in a £58,781 research project led by the Stromness-based European Marine Energy Centre (Emec), along with industrial decarbonisation experts from Edinburgh’s Napier University. The HySpirits 2 project in Kirkwall follows research completed last year by Emec at The Orkney Distillery, which investigated the feasibility of using a hydrogen-fuelled thermal fluid heating system there. “We understand that there is real potential for a  hydrogen‐based solution to decarbonise our industry,” says Allan Logan, production director of Bruichladdich. “We are thrilled to have the support of Protium, Deuterium and ITPEnergised to help us assess the feasibility of employing a green hydrogen fuel switching solution for our distillery – a move we hope benefits the broader industry”. It’s terrific to see that, despite everything that’s going on, there are those who are focused on planning for a better future.

The Nightcap

Smoky French Martinis, anyone?

Thomas Lowndes creates RTD cocktail range

The ready-to-drink (RTD) market is booming at the moment, which is understandable given you can’t turn to bartenders to provide delicious and convenient complex serves at the moment. In fact, RTDs are forecast to remain the fastest‐growing alcohol sector over the next five years, according to the IWSR Drinks Market Analysis. As the category widens and develops new products naturally follow and this week learned that Edrington-Beam Suntory UK has made a serious step into this market with the launch of the Thomas Lowndes 1826 range of RTD products. The Glasgow-based firm Thomas Lowndes has been part of EBS UK since 2015 and has named its new range after the year Mr Lowndes founded the business. It comprises four bottled cocktails: an Old Fashioned and a Mint Julep made with Maker’s Mark bourbon, a Cognac Espresso Martini that features Courvoisier and a Smoky French Martini made using Laphroaig whisky instead of vodka or gin, all of which are available from us (just give those links a click). “This exciting new range by 1826, associated with premium whiskies, Cognacs and bourbons gives us the perfect opportunity to showcase how easily bar-quality cocktails can be created in the home,” Moira Jacques, general manager of Thomas Lowndes, said. “We want to show customers that you can create premium, top-quality drinks in the comfort of your own home.”

The Nightcap

Beefeater’s new look will save 410 tonnes of plastic every year

Beefeater gin unveils sustainable bottle

Beefeater London Dry Gin has announced this week a plan to reduce the amount of plastic it uses by unveiling a more sustainable packaging design. The new bottle is made entirely from recyclable glass and is said to save the Pernod Ricard-owned brand 410 tonnes of plastic every year. The previous plastic cap has been replaced with an embossed, aluminium cap and the label has been changed from PVC to paper and the bottle, the shape of which you might have noticed was inspired by London bricks, was also designed with bartenders in mind as it makes pouring the gin easier. “Whilst our packaging has evolved our award-winning gin remains the same, with every drop distilled in the heart of London. The design of the bottle, from its shape to its label, paints a picture of what the liquid inside will taste like,” said Murielle Dessenis, global brand director of Beefeater. “The new design has performed well with bartenders and consumers alike, and we’re proud to have designed this new iteration of Beefeater’s iconic bottle with sustainability in mind, taking the brand on to the next step in its journey with a natural evolution for today’s gin enthusiasts.” The new design will be rolled out globally from this month and will cover the whole Beefeater range, with the exception of Beefeater 24.

The Nightcap

How you can resist cracking open a bottle of wine in space, we’ll never know.

And finally… Bordeaux wines return from space, undrunk!

If you were floating around on the International Space Station and there was a case of wine lying around, you’d crack open a bottle, wouldn’t you? Well, miraculously a case of Bordeaux that spent a year in space landed in the sea this week off the coast of Florida, completely intact. Not a drop had been drunk. The package also contained 160 canes each of Cabernet and Merlot. No, this wasn’t a psychological experiment in resisting temptation, it was part of a research project by a company called Space Cargo looking into the effects of extreme conditions on vines and wine to understand the stress they might endure from climate change. This isn’t the first time Bordeaux has been into space, a bottle of Chateau Lynch Bages 1975 went up on the space shuttle in 1985, and also came home intact because nobody had drunk it. Amazing willpower these astronauts.

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