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Master of Malt Blog

Meet MoMer’s Web Page Gin – our very own bottling!

Gather round spirit-loving folk, for we have most exciting news. A genuine Master of Malt gin is now a real thing in this realm of existence. What’s it all about?…

Gather round spirit-loving folk, for we have most exciting news. A genuine Master of Malt gin is now a real thing in this realm of existence. What’s it all about? We’re glad you asked…

You probably know us best as an (award-winning) specialist drinks retailer. But, as fans of our single cask series will attest to, we also love bottling anything that makes us go “Wow!”

Which is why it gives us great pleasure to unveil our latest creation: MoMer’s Web Page Gin.

The delicious tipple is a celebration of all things MoM. Developed in collaboration with those fab folk at That Boutique-y Gin Company, MoMer’s Web Page Gin is a classic dry gin with a rich, warming and distinctive profile.

MoMer's Web Page Gin

Introducing: MoMer’s Web Page Gin!

Its signature style is the result of the herbaceous awesomeness of its botanicals (basil, rosemary and thyme to be precise), which were distilled separately under vacuum before being expertly blended with a more traditional pot-distilled base. It doesn’t just sound delicious. We can confirm that it very much tastes delicious (see the tasting note below for more detail).

But now for the question that is surely on all of your lips: why MoMer’s Web Page Gin? Well, the name was inspired by an episode of everyone’s favourite cartoon family. The label is a reflection of this, and of today’s online culture of memes, gifs and stickers. As you can see below, the light-hearted front illustration is a smorgasbord of MoM’s pioneering history, as well as memes, in-jokes and plenty of familiar faces!

MoMer's Web Page Gin

The MoMer’s Web Page Gin label in all its glory

Here are our top five MoM-tastic references that feature on the label:

1. The Charity Run of the Bumblebee, not the hero we deserved, but the hero we needed.
2. The MoM Mobile expertly parked on top of a bent bollard, which is definitely what was meant to happen.
3. The famous Instagram dog that our editor Kristiane Sherry met and fell head-over-heels in love with.
4. The top of MoM digital executive Phillippa Round’s head. If you’ve seen any of our recent VR video content, you’ll know that her head, as well as her hands holding a GoPro handle, are something of a regular feature.
5. The shed where the masterofmalt.com adventure all began. Time really does fly when you’re not in a shed full of broken (but not discarded) printers.

But it’s not all memes and mayhem. If you know us well, you’ll be aware that we love a bit of technological innovation. This super-duper futuristic label actually harnesses the power of augmented reality! MoMer’s Web Page Gin celebrates the inventive side of the business, blending memory and magic like David Blaine doesn’t to bring the label to life!

MoMer's Web Page Gin

Embrace the future, people!

The best part is, it’s really simple to do. Even if you are something of a technophobe. So here’s a little walkthrough to help you out:

1. Buy a bottle of MoMer’s Web Page Gin. You can’t really miss this step out, people.
2. Download the Zappar app on your fancy-pants smartphone or mobile device.
3. Open the app and aim your phone at the Zapcode on the neck tag of the bottle.
4. Once it’s scanned, aim your phone at the label (make sure to get close and get that whole label in).
5. Marvel at the result. You have conquered augmented reality (sort of).

The AR platform also features a host of exclusive content, including recommended serve demonstrations and an interview with Stuart Medcalf, liquid production manager at That Boutique-y Gin Company, on how MoMer’s Web Page Gin was made.

Naturally, the animated elements of the label can also be found and used as stickers in Instagram Stories or on Snapchat. Just search for MoMer’s Gin and you’re good to go!

So, that’s our new gin. We’ve listed our tasting notes below with a couple of special cocktails. The first batch is available exclusively from Master of Malt now. There are only 660 bottles priced at £29.95, so move fast if you want some of that batch one brilliance.

MoMer's Web Page Gin

MoMer’s Web Page Gin

Tasting note by The Chaps at Master of Malt

Nose: Through aromatic cinnamon and earthy herbs – basil and thyme – there’s warm citrus from orange peel and cardamom as well as refined, pine-y juniper and additional floral touches.

Palate: The palate has a wonderfully rich mouthfeel. More baking spice emerges among a waft of orange blossom, lemon peel and a warm honey-esque sweetness. Bittersweet earth and garden herb notes are prominent throughout.

Finish: It’s a peppery, piney and long finish, with a sprig of rosemary thrown in for good measure.

Overall: Pretty darn excellent – if we do say so ourselves…

MoMer’s Web Page Gin suggested serves:

You’ll be pleased to know that MoMer’s Web Page Gin makes a great G&T. But everybody loves a good cocktail these days, so we enlisted the help of That Boutique-y Gin Company brand ambassador Stephanie DiCamillo to develop two signature serves. What she came up with are simple enough to be recreated by gin lovers at home and really make the most of the basil, thyme and rosemary trio.

MoMer's Web Page Gin

MoMer’s Gin & Coconut Water

MoMer’s Gin & Coconut Water:

50ml MoMer’s Web Page Gin
100ml Coconut water

Add both to an ice-filled Highball or Collins glass. Garnish with a small sprig of basil and a lime wedge

MoMer's Web Page Gin

All the Muck That’s Fit to Shake

All the Muck That’s Fit to Shake:

50ml MoMer’s Web Page Gin
50ml lightly sweetened chai tea (200ml brewed tea with 1tbsp sugar)
2 big tablespoons of frozen blueberries
3 basil leaves
1 thin lime slice

In a shaker, muddle the basil, lime and blueberries. Add the gin and tea, and shake hard with ice. Strain into an ice-filled tumbler and garnish with a basil leaf.

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Hack six classic cocktails with these essential home bar bottles

To help bars and pubs whip up everyone’s favourite whisky cocktail quickly and consistently, Woodford Reserve Bourbon has developed a cocktail syrup for the Old Fashioned. Don’t let bartenders hog…

To help bars and pubs whip up everyone’s favourite whisky cocktail quickly and consistently, Woodford Reserve Bourbon has developed a cocktail syrup for the Old Fashioned. Don’t let bartenders hog all the fun, though – cut corners at home with six bottlings that promise to create high quality cocktails in a flash…

If there’s one thing us Brits excel at, it’s waiting. We understand that it sometimes takes 15 years for whisky here to taste nice, and we can form an orderly queue like we were born to do it. But I’ll let you in on a secret – underneath that tight-lipped facade, we’re just as impatient as the rest of the world.

It’s a relief, then, that the good folks at Woodford Reserve Bourbon have been working with some of the UK’s best bartending talent to craft a bespoke cocktail syrup that balances the core flavours of this timeless serve – bitters, sugar and orange essence – because if there’s one thing for which we hate waiting for the most, it’s a cocktail.

“The Old Fashioned is a favourite with the public and bartenders alike, ranking as the world’s best selling classic cocktail and featuring on nine out of 10 of the world’s best bar menus,” Emily Richardson, head of super premium brands at Brown Forman, told Master of Malt.

“However it’s often seen as a complex and time-consuming serve to perfect. By using a pre-made syrup such as Woodford Reserve’s Old Fashioned Cocktail Syrup, the recipe becomes more accessible, making it possible to recreate with ease and consistent quality.”

Oh, and to make the whole process even quicker, Woodford Reserve has launched a barrel programme that enables bartenders to pre-batch the drink on-site – so keep your eyes peeled for two-litre cask on the bar.

Now, efficiency isn’t really an issue when you’re making drinks for your pals at home, but following complicated bartender drinks specs can be. It’s often an exacting task that requires, skill, equipment, and multiple boozes and syrups that frankly, you might not use for another six months.

The solution? Stock your home bar with these bottles to serve six classics in a flash…

The Handmade Cocktail Company Old Fashioned

Old Fashioned in a bottle from The Handmade Cocktail Company

Old Fashioned

Use: The Old Fashioned Cocktail

It would be remiss to begin with any other cocktail, really. Put your faith in the trustworthy folks at The Handmade Cocktail Company and nab this pre-batched bottling to make serving this classic drink a doddle. Pour over ice, stir, and then garnish with a twist of fresh orange peel, it’s as easy as that. It won’t wash the glass up for you afterwards though – you have to do some of the legwork I’m afraid.

Bermondsey Tonic Syrup, just add sparkling water and gin

The G&T

Use: Bermondsey Tonic Syrup

Making a G&T is much like making a cup of tea – we’re super fussy about the ‘best way’ to make it (for the record, it goes tea bag then water then milk). This concentrated tonic syrup from the folks at London gin bar 214 Bermondsey is the solution to your flavour woes. Simply mix it with carbonated water to your taste, add gin, ice and a garnish if you feel fancy and voilà: the ultimate serve.

Tippleworth Espresso Martini,

Tippleworth Espresso Martini, mix with vodka and shake

Espresso Martini

Use: Tipplesworth Espresso Martini Cocktail Mixer

The Espresso Martini isn’t exactly the easiest (or cheapest, let’s face it) cocktail to replicate at home, especially on the fly. Thankfully, her good self Lady Tipplesworth has the remedy: a ready-made mixer made with cold brew coffee. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice, add 50ml vodka and 50ml mixer, then shake, strain, and serve. Coffee bean garnish optional, Instagram upload essential.

Mr Lyan’s Spotless Martini – nothing else required

Martini

Use: Mr Lyan’s Spotless Martini

Sometimes you’re better leaving it to the experts, amiright? And if there’s one guy who knows a thing or two about ready-made drinks, it’s the living legend that is bartender Ryan Chetiyawardana. What with him launching what was essentially the world’s first bottled cocktail bar back in 2013 and all that. Anyway, his mix of gin, citrus and olive distillates, and vermouth easily puts our amatuer Martini-making efforts to shame. Thanks to the citrus hit, you don’t even need to add a garnish just freeze, pour, and enjoy.

Jose Cuervo Classic Margarita-Mix

Jose Cuervo Classic Margarita Mix

Margarita

Use: Jose Cuervo Classic Margarita Mixer

Who wants to shell out on triple sec and fruit, when you could just crack the lid of this Margarita Mixer? To be clear, this is a BYO Tequila affair. Sure, the good folks Cuervo probably envisaged you using I don’t know Jose Cuervo Tradicional Silver, or something, but if you choose to use another brand we promise we won’t dob you in. Just combine one part Tequila with three parts mixer, stir and serve over crushed ice.

Campari Negroni Cocktail

Campari Negroni Cocktail

Negroni

Use: Campari Negroni

As the saying goes, there’s “No Negroni without Campari” – something we imagine the Italian owners of that bitter red liquid continue to be absolutely delighted by, given the drink’s recent resurgence. When aperitif started attracting some serious bartender heat, the folks at Gruppo Campari went the whole hog and combined their beloved booze with London dry gin and (we can only assume) Cinzano Rosso vermouth. The most you’ll have to do is slice an orange.

 

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The Nightcap: 15 February

Had quite enough love-themed media to last the rest of 2019? Good, because there is no room for emotions here – time to get down to cold, hard, newsy facts…

Had quite enough love-themed media to last the rest of 2019? Good, because there is no room for emotions here – time to get down to cold, hard, newsy facts with The Nightcap!

Valentine’s Day has been and gone. All the vibrant pink balloons and ribbons in the shops have all been replaced by some very early Easter displays. While the shape of the novelty chocolate may have changed from hearts to eggs in your local supermarket, one thing doesn’t change – The Nightcap and its dedication to bringing you weekly bundles of booze news! This may have been one of the most tenuous ways to introduce The Nightcap yet, and honestly, I’m OK with that.

So, what’s been going down on the MoM Blog this week? Well, Kristy gave us some insight into what happens when you take part in American Distilling Institute’s 2019 Judging of Craft Spirits. Henry chatted to one of the Asterley Bros. about his upcoming Britannica London Fernet, delivered good news from HMRC on the growth of British gin exports, and showed us how to make a great punch with a kick of orange for the Cocktail of the Week. Annie looked at the big, wide world of minimalist cocktail bars from across the globe. Tequila was the order of the day on Wednesday for Adam, and he also found out about a new batch of cask strength Jameson

Phew! Best crack on with The Nightcap.

MBWS had a difficult 2018

MBWS waves goodbye to turbulent 2018 with 6% sales decline

French drinks group Marie Brizard Wine & Spirits (MBWS) has had a sorry time of late, as regular readers of The Nightcap will know. After a 25% profits slump and ongoing troubles in its home market, we’re sure the company won’t be sad to see the back on 2018. A sentiment surely underlined by its full-year results, released this week, which showed that sales fell 6.3% over the course of the year to €389 million (about £342 million). But while the French market continued to slow, there was at last some good news in the fourth quarter: sales climbed 17.1% in Poland, signalling a “progressive recovery”, and there was “solid sales growth” in Spain. Let’s hope the tide has now turned for the Sobieski, William Peel and Gautier Cognac-maker.

An artist’s impression of the Johnnie Walker Edinburgh store

A fancy Johnnie Walker store is coming to Edinburgh!

Earlier this week, Diageo formally submitted plans for a flagship Johnnie Walker visitor centre in Edinburgh, the focal point of Diageo’s £150 million investment in Scotch whisky tourism. Well, we’ll certainly drink to that. Johnny Walker’s new home will be a rather remarkable seven-floor space on Princes Street. The project will see the grand building renovated, with heritage features preserved wherever possible. David Cutter, chairman of Diageo in Scotland, stated that they hope to “restore it to its former glory as a cornerstone of the city”. The exciting space is set to include a multi-sensory immersive experience across three floors, allowing visitors to experience the 200-year history of the brand. As well as a flexible events area for music, theatre, arts and more, at street level there will be a retail space. Its interior is inspired by the stunning Johnnie Walker retail flagship in Madrid, which opened in November. Meanwhile, there will also be rooftop bars (yes, plural) so you can enjoy some of the best views of Edinburgh while you sip your Scotch. Excuse us, we’re just off to book some flights…

Say hello to Big Peat 10 Year Old!

Big Peat celebrates 10 years with commemorative bottling

Independent bottler Douglas Laing & Co had a big birthday this week. Big Peat is now a decade old. Where does the time go? The family firm behind the blended malt from Islay, made with whiskies from Caol Ila, Bowmore, Ardbeg and Port Ellen, marked this occasion with a new, commemorative 10 Year Old bottled without colouring or chill-filtration at a punchy 46% ABV. According to the brand’s tasting notes, you can expect “peat smoke, damp earth, smoked barley, BBQ ash, streaky bacon, tobacco, toasted marshmallows and a sea-salt tang balanced by a leathery sweetness”. The label features a collection of emblems, stamps and hand-drawn illustrations inspired by a vintage scrapbook in honour of Big Peat’s Islay home. A platinum-foiled (no expense spared here) book telling the legend of Big Peat and his whisky adventures will accompany each bottle. Fred Laing, chairman at Douglas Laing, said: “Back in 2009, I dreamt up a feisty Ileach fisherman who would later become Big Peat, a brand that would grow at an average of 29% year on year, and subsequently be joined by Scallywag, Timorous Beastie, Rock Oyster, The Epicurean and The Gauldrons to deliver what we so modestly designate our ‘Remarkable Regional Malts: The Ultimate Distillation of Scotland’s Malt Whisky Regions’.” Just 850 cases of Big Peat 10 Year Old will be available globally, priced at around £65.

Congratulations Alessandro Palazzi!

Legendary Duke’s bartender Alessandro Palazzi, honoured at CLASS Awards

On Tuesday night, the cream of the British booze world met for the annual CLASS Bar Awards. The winners were chosen by the CLASS Collective, a group of over 70 bar experts from all over the country. Lots of well-known venues scooped awards including Callooh Callay, Three Sheets, the American Bar at the Savoy, Coupette and Dandelyan. Individuals honoured included Max Venning, who won Bartender of the Year, and Declan McGurk from the Savoy, who picked up Bar Manager of the Year. But the biggest cheer of the evening went to Alessandro Palazzi from Duke’s Bar in London who won the Lifetime Achievement Award. Anyone who has experienced the Palazzi magic knows what a fine bartender he is, mixing great drinks, but also making one feel like the most important person in the world, if only for half an hour. His fearsomely strong Martinis were described by the San Francisco Chronicle as the “best in England”. We hope that he let someone else make the drinks on Tuesday night. Congratulations Alessandro!

The Future 50 initiative champions the next big things in wine and spirits.

WSET and IWSC seek out awesomeness in booze with The Future 50

Are you an incredible human-type under the age of 40 who works in booze? Know someone who is? If so, the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) and the International Wine & Spirit Competition (IWSC) want to hear from you! To celebrate their coinciding 50th anniversaries, the organisations have palled up to create The Future 50, an initiative that champions the next big things in wine and spirits. The list, set to be revealed in November, aims to recognise people from across the industry, from product development, design and distribution to marketing, journalism, hospitality, and everything else. As such, WSET and IWSC are calling on folk to nominate themselves and their talented colleagues! The judging panel includes the likes of Joe Fattorini (off of The Wine Show), Stephanie Macleod (Dewar’s master blender), Christine Parkinson (group head of wine at Hakkasan), Richard Paterson (Whyte & MacKay master blender), and Xavier Rousset MS (restaurateur), so there are some big names to impress. “As 2019 marks 50 years of success for each of our organisations, it offers the perfect opportunity to emphasise the importance of developing new talent through education and awards to secure an equally prosperous future for the industry,” said WSET chief executive Ian Harris. “At WSET we are delighted to be looking to the future and showcasing the next generation of talent in the wines and spirits industry through our joint Future 50 project.” For more information or to submit a nomination, head to future50.wsetglobal.com.

Sotheby’s enjoyed a fruitful 2018

Asia continues to dominate wine auctions according to Sotheby’s

Auction house Sotheby’s has just released its 2018 market report which shows the auction market for fine wine is in robust health. It was a record-breaking year for Sotheby’s, with auction sales up 50% on the previous year. Total sales of wines and spirits topped $100 million for the first time. The Asian market continues to expand, up from a 58% share in 2017 to 63% of the market this year, followed by North America and Europe. This is reflected in Hong Kong’s dominance with 53% of sales, followed by New York at 29% and London at 18%. Of the big names in wine, the number one producer by value was Burgundy’s Domaine de la Romanée-Conti at $24 million with 21% of sales. Indeed, one bottle of Romanée-Conti sold for $558,000 last year at auction in New York. Wine is all very well but Master of Malt readers will be pleased to hear that the most expensive bottle sold was a whisky, a Macallan 1926 with a label by Sir Peter Blake which went for $843,200. Yeah, whisky!

The initiative includes a fiery Flambé Masterclass!

D&D London Launches My Hospitality World

Starting on Monday 25 February, restaurant group D&D London will launch a two-week initiative called My Hospitality World, to encourage young people into the industry and demonstrate that opportunities are not confined to front of house or kitchen staff. This is in response to the industry’s growing skills gap. The initiative aims to encourage talented youngsters to see hospitality as a viable career path by offering a series of events in D&D London restaurants. There will be a full restaurant takeover of the Blueprint Café by students from London South East College, giving students an authentic taste of what goes on in the professional kitchen. There is even a dedicated event in support of International Women’s Day (8 March), to inspire more young women to become professional chefs! D&D London chairman & CEO Des Gunewardena commented: “Working in restaurants is viewed by many people as not being an occupation to aspire to and we want to change that.” Good luck to them!

Keep an eye out for The Hendrick’s LOVE Campaign

Hendrick’s seduces travellers with LOVE Campaign

Love is in the air! Well, almost – love is in the airport! The Hendrick’s LOVE Campaign is taking place throughout February and, in some places, into March in bars and shops at airports in the UK, Europe and across the Middle East and Asia. Under the headline, ‘Sublimely SIMPLE, yet curiously COMPLICATED – a gift much like LOVE’, Hendrick’s is charming travellers with a giant sharing teacup, a heart glorifier (thing that shows off the bottle), and copious amounts of rose petals and cucumbers. A surefire way to anyone’s heart. However, the most exciting part of the campaign is the exclusive airport serve named ‘A Rose Story’: a delightful combination of Hendrick’s gin with rose and elderflower syrup, and tonic, garnished with – to nobody’s surprise – rose petals and a cucumber slice. And there’s more potential Hendrick’s-themed fun on the horizon because on the 14th June, it’s World Cucumber Day. We’re rather intrigued to see how Hendrick’s will celebrate its favourite green salad fruit.

I beg your pardon, I never promised you a gin garden

Visit Britain’s first Gin Garden

Gin distillery tours are two-a-penny these days. You know the drill: admire the gleaming copper, try the gin and then buy a bottle. One distillery though, The Old Curiosity in Edinburgh, has come up with something a little different. From 23 March, you can visit its Gin Garden, located by the Pentland Hills to the south west of the Scottish capital. There you will be able to smell all those wonderful living botanicals that go into gin, witness the entire process from picking to distillation, and, of course, try the gin (it would be a pretty poor gin garden if there was no gin to drink). Not only is it a fun day out, but for gin nerds, it’s a great way to train your palate. The distillery has produced a video with distillery owner and top herbologist Hamish Martin that explains everything. It sounds like this Scottish distillery has raised the bar for gin-based experiences in Britain.

Bitters, Boulevardiers and big left entorhinal cortexes is how we roll at MoM Towers

And finally… Bitter-loving people are cleverer, say scientists

We lovers of bitter things like Campari or IPA have always felt ourselves to be somewhat superior, but now research by actual scientists shows that our tastes might not only show sophistication, they might also be linked to intelligence. Research into tonic water by Dr Daniel Hwang from the University of Queensland and published in New Scientist suggests that how people perceive bitterness is linked to brain size: “Researchers scanned the brains of 1,600 people and asked them to rate the bitterness of a quinine solution. Those who found the drink less bitter tended to have a bigger left entorhinal cortex”. In other words, if you like bitter things, you probably have a bigger brain. So next time someone tells you that adding Fernet Branca to your Negroni is neither big nor clever, point them to this study, and assume your genius face.

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Jameson launches second Bow Street 18 Years Cask Strength

The only cask strength Jameson is back! It pays homage to Jameson’s Dublin heritage by being matured at Bow Street, home of the old distillery. We travelled to Ireland to…

The only cask strength Jameson is back! It pays homage to Jameson’s Dublin heritage by being matured at Bow Street, home of the old distillery. We travelled to Ireland to learn more. . . 

Irish whiskey fans, rejoice! From August 2019, you will be able to get your hands on a new batch of Jameson Bow Street 18 Years Cask Strength. Bottled at 55.1% ABV without chill-filtration, the blend of pot still and grain Irish whiskeys was produced by Irish Distillers in Midleton Distillery where it was matured initially for 18 years in both ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks under the watchful eye of master blender, Billy Leighton.

In January 2018, the expression was then re-casked in first-fill ex-bourbon American oak barrels to finish its maturation for a final six to 12 months in Dublin’s only live maturation house in the brand’s original home in Bow Street. The warehouse, which you can see for yourself if you tour what is now an award-winning visitor centre, can only hold 84 casks at any one time. Now that’s small batch.

Bow Street 18 Years Cask Strength

The whiskey is a celebration of Jameson’s Dublin heritage

Leighton commented on the process: “As a tribute to the Jameson distilling legacy in Smithfield, we’ve introduced some methods that would have been employed in days past. The final maturation period in Bow Street is our nod to the traditional ‘marrying’ method – I like to think of the whiskey getting engaged in Midleton and then ‘married’ in Dublin! It brings the provenance and heritage back to where it started. It is the ultimate expression of Jameson.”

Jameson Bow Street 18 Years Cask Strength comes in a luxury bottle that features 18 facets, one for each year of maturation, housed in a wooden box that references the traditional pot stills used in distillation. A special copper coin underneath the bottle provides fans with the opportunity to access an exclusive online portal where they can explore the whiskey’s story.

Bow Street 18 Years Cask Strength

Good cheesy fun at Bow Street Distillery

To mark the launch, Jameson has partnered with artisan Dublin cheesemonger Loose Canon to create a luxurious whiskey and cheese pairing and you’re encouraged to do the same this St. Patrick’s Day.

Leighton commented: “I hope that together with our cheese and whiskey pairings, we can inspire the world to match the strong flavours of the Jameson 18 family with the perfect Irish cheese to make a truly unique St. Patrick’s Day experience.”

Jameson Bow Street 18 Years Cask Strength will be available in the USA, Europe and Asia at an RRP of €240.

Bow Street 18 Years Cask Strength

Jameson Bow Street 18 Years Cask Strength Batch 2

 

Tasting note by Billy Leighton, master blender at Midleton Distillery:

Nose: Rich wood-driven influence with deep toffee notes and spice.

Taste: Toffee and oak remain consistent with hints of leather and vanilla along with a subtle sherry nuttiness creating depth and complexity.

Finish: Long and full with the sweet toffee notes slowly fading while the toasted oak and spice linger throughout until the very end.

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Forest Hill meets Milan in the Britannica London Fernet

Asterley Bros. is just about to release a London Fernet to go alongside its acclaimed Modern British Amaro and English Vermouth. We talk to one half of the dynamic duo,…

Asterley Bros. is just about to release a London Fernet to go alongside its acclaimed Modern British Amaro and English Vermouth. We talk to one half of the dynamic duo, Rob Berry.

The Bros. in Asterley Bros. are Jim and Rob Berry. The company is named after their mother’s maiden name, Asterley; Berry Bros. was already taken. Out of an industrial estate in Forest Hill, south London, the brothers make a range of delicious products including an amaro, which had them shortlisted for a BBC Food and Farming Award, a vermouth made with English Pinot Noir from Gusbourne Estate in Kent, and now a London Fernet which we have been experimenting with at MoM Towers and love. The ingredients list includes roasted hazelnuts, cacao nibs, chocolate malt and London porter. It’s got a chocolatey minty quality that does magical things with bourbon in a Boulevardier. We caught up with Rob Asterley, the talkative one, to learn about their latest product:

Jim (on the left) and Rob Berry in action

Master of Malt: How did you get into making an an amaro?

Rob Berry: I married into a Sicilian family ten years ago now. My wife’s grandfather gave us this very classic Sicilian amaro recipe. It was very reminiscent of Sicily: so lots of citrus, loads of bright orange and bergamot coming through. A few soft herbs, kind of basil, rosemary, a little bit of oregano and then lots of Arabic spicing as well which kind of permeates all the way through Sicilian cuisine. About four years ago we started talking about it [making an English version] seriously. We live in South London which is not quite the same terroir as Palermo! So we wanted to make something which has a Sicilian starting point but then also start to bring in some sort of British influence and make it our own. That was 2014 when we started that process.

MoM: And what do the Sicilians think of it?

RB: They love it actually! I think they’re just very proud of their own influence and the fact that the English are making an amaro.

MoM: Was it a lot of trial and error, getting it right?

RB: Oh yeah, shitloads! I mean like two years of trial and error. We must have made that first amaro recipe around 30 times. And each time takes months because it’s maceration. It’s not distillation where you can kind of get flavour out of ingredients relatively quickly. The first thing that we did was get a hundred jam jars and then in each of the jam jars we put a single botanical and then topped it up with grain spirit at 75% ABV. And after a month or six weeks we’ve just tasted our way through every single one. We were trying to build this collection of botanicals and then we started combining them. We started off in my kitchen. Then we moved into my shed. And then we moved into my basement. And then in 2015, we moved into the unit in Forest Hill.

Asterley Bros botanicals

Botanicals a-macerating

MoM: When did you have the idea for doing this new product, the fernet?

RB: I think we always had in the back of our mind that we wanted to do one. I mean we love fernet. It’s quite niche, it’s not a very mainstream product. By the time we’d finished the amaro we were also making a sweet vermouth. And for the third one we thought, ‘what do we want to do next?’. There were a lot of people asking us for a bianco or a dry vermouth but I think we wanted to do something a little bit different that no one was doing at the time.

MoM: What exactly is the difference between an amaro and a fernet?

RB: Amaro is the overarching category, so fernet is a type of amaro. Fernet is this kind of fun category of quite brutal bitterness. Normally, you’d find it at around 40% and there’s a lot less sugar than an amaro. You’ve got three or four really classic elements to it: myrrh is one, saffron is another, you have aloe, and there’s a lot of mint.

MoM: Fernet Branca from Milan is obviously the famous one, but are there lots of different others?

RB: I could probably name about ten but I’d get a bit stuck at that point. The Americans are popularising fernet. In San Francisco and Seattle in particular, plus New York a bit as well, they’ve got this really distinct taste for bitter drinks. There’s a real body of new wave producers who are making really nice, interesting fernets. And of course it’s the national drink in Argentina, somehow!

MoM: Tell me about the beta testing you did before launching your amaro and fernet?

RB:  We scratched our brains and thought: ‘what can we do? We’re two brothers, self-funded, how can we approach things in a slightly different way? How can we get people to taste our drinks? How can we create focus groups which will enable us to garner workable feedback and refine products? How can we get our message out there with zero marketing budget?’ This idea of beta testing is something that’s been used in the software industry for numerous years, a way of doing a invite-only release of the game, where you get people to work through it and play it in the normal way but then report back on all the bugs that are found. Beta testing covers two different things for us. A big one is the focus groups, getting 500 or 600 people from different parts of the globe to try the product, and with different levels of understanding of the product at well is really interesting for us. We’ve got people who have tried many, many different spirits and have a natural vocabulary, write about them, describe them for a living and have a really deep understanding of the spirit and wine world. And then we’ve got housewives in North Carolina who are trying them and giving us feedback as well.

MoM: Is there a difference in taste between professionals and your average member of the public?

RB: Yeah absolutely. All of the professionals said: ‘this product should be much more bitter and you should really reduce the amount of sugar’. And then all the people who are consumers, who had probably a lot less understanding of the category, said: ‘oh my gosh” It’s way too bitter, it should be much more sweet’. So, those two elements of feedback and two user groups can take you in two opposing directions.

RB: Is it possible to reconcile them?

MoM: Probably not! So what we decided is that we didn’t think we could necessarily reconcile them but we kind of made a decision and we thought the British desire for bitter products is only going to grow. And as you drink more bitter things you want things to be more bitter and less sweet. That’s what we found as consumers. And that’s what we thought would happen over the five to ten year period in the UK. And the writers, the bartenders, the bar owners, they are going to be leading the charge for bitterness, and the consumers will follow in that direction. So we’re going to take a bit of a punt and we’re going to have less sugar, more bitterness. We’re going to be more bitter that people will grow into, rather than being less bitter, which people might grow out of.

Asterley Bros

The brothers gonna work it out

MoM: What would you use the fernet in?

RB: We really like it bashed into things like White Russians. So you’ve got a quite rich creamy drink and then a shot of the fernet added to that suddenly takes it in a much more sophisticated, bitter, intense, grown-up direction. It’s the same thing with Espresso Martinis as well: probably half a shot (12.5 ml) going into an Espresso Martini, again it sort of amps up all of those flavours inside. So almost like a seasoning to a degree. It gives it a lot more bitterness and edge to the drink. It works pretty well with any kind of dark spirit, so if you’re having an Old Fashioned, or even a Manhattan, a few drops in there, a little dash, just to take it in a slightly more grown-up direction.

MoM: You’re working on some Sicilian vermouth, aren’t you?

RB: It’s in the initial stages. We’re going to be using Sicilian wines infused with British botanicals and we’re going to create a slightly different sub-brand of Asterley Bros, almost like a house range for everyday drinking. We’d like to be able to approach the Martini Riserva range where you can get a 70cl bottle for about £17.

MoM: And will you make those in your little garage in Forest Hill?

RB: In the big shed! Yeah, I think we will. We’re just trying to think of ways to streamline it and keep our product cost down, as far as we can, and pass that onto the consumer.

MoM: When will that be available?

RB: I would say, knowing us, six to nine months. We’re just starting the crowdfunding process at the moment. We’re going to be selling some equity in the business and going via Crowdcube, hopefully within the next two or three months. And once we’ve done that, and hopefully we secure some investment then we’ll be moving into it full time from that point onwards.

Sounds like exciting times for Asterley Bros.. We’ll let you know as soon as that crowdfunding offer opens. We can’t wait to try the new vermouth. Meanwhile, the London Fernet will be available any day now.

Britannica London Fernet

Coming soon. . . .

 

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Cocktail of the Week: Improved Blood Orange Punch

This week, we’re making a drink where all the hard work is done in advance, leaving you with time to amuse your guests with some top anecdotes. One of the…

This week, we’re making a drink where all the hard work is done in advance, leaving you with time to amuse your guests with some top anecdotes.

One of the great advantages that wine and beer have over cocktails is that they come ready to drink. Simply open and pour. Mixed drinks need work. Cocktails require you to concentrate on something rather than gossiping with your guests.

One answer to this problem is to convert your living room into a bar (if only there was a book that showed you how) and turn cocktail-making into the focus of the evening. And let’s face it, shaking up Daiquiris is much more fun than discussing house prices or Brexit with the neighbours. The downside is that you have to keep concentrating.

Mary Hoffman

Maggie Hoffman!

To solve this problem, you could hire a bartender or, and this is the clever bit, you could make your drinks in advance. Why didn’t I think of that? Now, to show you how to explore this brave new world of batch cocktails comes a new book called. . .  wait for it. . . Batch Cocktails! It’s been put together by American drinks writer Maggie Hoffman who has written for the San Francisco Chronicle, Food & Wine and Serious Eats. Here she explains the idea behind the book:

“There’s nothing worse than scrambling at the last minute, trying to mix drinks as your guests walk through the door. It’s hard to hold a conversation while searching for lost bitters, knocking over the jigger on the counter and rattling a shaker full of ice. And without fail, just when you’re finally about to sit down, your friends are ready for a second round.”

Tell me about it. In the book, Hoffman has eschewed the obvious choices like the Negroni or the Old Fashioned in favour of signature cocktails from bartenders she knows. The book is full of good advice such as, “using fresh ingredients is essential when making larger quantities of cocktail”. Also, when making an individual cocktail, it will become diluted when shaking with ice so you have to make sure you add water in the right quantity when making a batch. Thankfully, she has done all the hard work: “I’ve calculated and tested and tasted the proper dilution for each recipe in the collection, so they’re good to go.” Very reassuring.

All the recipes look delicious, but I went for what she calls an Improved Blood Orange Punch (so much better than the unimproved version) because our local greengrocer has stacks of blood oranges piled up outside at the moment. It would be a crime not to take advantage of them when they are in season. The original recipe comes from Jen Ackrill of Sky Waikiki in Hawaii. I’ve had a bit of a play with it.Hoffman makes it with vodka but I think it’ll work with gin or maybe even white rum or Tequila. This is an incredibly easy drink to make and requires almost no work when serving, leaving you with more time to talk about how Brexit is affecting the housing market. On second thoughts…

Improved Blood Orange Punch

Improved Blood Orange Punch. You should have tried the unimproved version, you couldn’t even drink it

To make the batch:

360ml Wyborowa vodka (ideally straight out the freezer)
180ml Luxardo maraschino liqueur
720ml blood orange juice (freshly-squeezed)
360ml lemon juice (freshly-squeezed)

To finish:

1 bottle of Molvino Valdobbiadene Prosecco
Half moon orange slices

Makes about 10-12 servings

Make the batch about two hours before you need it (no more as orange juice loses its pizazz if left around too long). Pour chilled vodka, maraschino liqueur, orange juice and lemon juice into a bottle or jug. Stir, then cover and refrigerate.

To serve, fill a highball glass with ice, pour in 120ml mixture, top up with Prosecco, stir and garnish with an orange slice.

Batch Cocktails

Batch Cocktails: Make-Ahead Pitcher Drinks for Every Occasion by Maggie Hoffman (£14.99 Ten Speed Press)

 

 

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British gin exports double in value

Is the gin boom over? Not by a long way, according to figures just released by HMRC. We take a closer look at this great British export success story. It’s…

Is the gin boom over? Not by a long way, according to figures just released by HMRC. We take a closer look at this great British export success story.

It’s not often you get good news from HMRC, but something that landed today made us smile. British gin is booming. Export sales in 2018 reached a record £612 million, meaning that they have doubled in value since 2010, and increased by 15% on 2017.

The EU is the biggest market for British gin worth nearly £290 million and up 14% on 2017. Next comes the USA, worth £191 million and up £13 million since 2017. Other places that can’t get enough of that good old British gin include Australia (£24 million, up 100%), South Africa (£14.5 million up 222%) and Switzerland (£6.6 million, an increase of 38%). With the EU such an important market, one hopes that some sensible arrangement can be reached post-Brexit. Miles Beale from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSTA) commented:

“Europe represents a huge market for British gin, therefore it essential that the UK does not leave the EU without securing a deal which allows frictionless trade. It is hugely important that Government also secures free trade deals with the rest of the world and we are encouraged by mutual recognition agreements already signed with countries like Australia and Switzerland. However more must be done, and quickly, so that we maintain our position as the world’s largest spirits exporter and further boost the UK economy and provide more jobs.”

Meanwhile back at home, we’re no slackers when it comes to drinking gin. In 2018, the British got through 66 million bottles of gin, up 41% on the previous year. That’s a lot of Martinis. Put together, the domestic and export markets for gin are more than £2.5 billion.

Here at Master of Malt, gin sales in 2018 were up 50.5% by volume on 2017. Much of this growth comes from fun, sweeter products like flavoured and pink gins. Our 2018 top ten bestselling gins included: Peaky Blinder Spiced Dry Gin, Aber Falls Orange Marmalade Gin, Whitley Neill Blood Orange Gin, and Malfy Gin Con Arancia. According to the WSTA, the flavoured gin category is now valued at £165 million up 751% (no that’s not a typo) on 2017. Some people might sneer at flavoured gin, but clearly the public disagrees.

Haymans Gin

Where some of that British gin is made, the stills at Hayman’s in South London

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Are you Thirsty for a Terrific Tequila?

Tequila is fast becoming a favourite among spirits enthusiasts worldwide. Experience some of the best around with this sublime selection. Tequila and agave-based spirits are enjoying even more time in…

Tequila is fast becoming a favourite among spirits enthusiasts worldwide. Experience some of the best around with this sublime selection.

Tequila and agave-based spirits are enjoying even more time in the sun right now then, well, agave, quite frankly. Tequila as a category in particular has worked hard to shake off its hard-partying image of shots, slammers and lime and salt to emerge as one of the most fascinating distilled spirits available.

Part of Tequila’s appeal is how versatile and characterful a cocktail ingredient it is. With National Margarita Day on the horizon (22 Feb), now seems like the perfect time to shout about the fab Mexican agave-based spirit. We’ve picked out a few choice expressions for you to get your teeth into, each with its own sublime serve…

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The Top 10 minimalist cocktail bars

When it comes to back bars, bigger isn’t inherently better. Quite the opposite – it takes the most creative and discerning of bar teams to work cocktail magic with a…

When it comes to back bars, bigger isn’t inherently better. Quite the opposite – it takes the most creative and discerning of bar teams to work cocktail magic with a pared-down selection of spirits. We’ve picked 10 of the world’s best minimalist cocktail bars…

While bumper booze inventories continue to draw admiration from thirsty fans (ourselves included), other venues have taken the opposite road; slimming their selection down to little more than a shelf’s worth of hand-picked spirits.

For some bar owners, eschewing established brands for a curated rail of favourites is simply a matter of personal taste. For others, it supports their ethos of sustainability: locally-sourced at all costs. Some want to make a stand against pouring deals born from corporate interest. Or, occasionally, it’s a mix of all three.

Whatever the reason may be, stripped back bars certainly don’t make for lacklustre drinks – as the 10 bars that follow attest:

Punch Room at The London Edition, London

Minimalist credentials: Just one cocktail style here – punch

Seasonal speciality punches are the name of the game at London’s Punch Room. While you delve into the menu – which offers single-person punches as well as sharing drinks for up to eight people – you’ll sip a welcome drink punch reinvented daily by the bar team. Don’t miss their classic Milk Punch, a clarified drink that combines Hennessy fine de Cognac, Havana Club 3 Year Old, Somerset Cider Brandy, green tea, lemon juice, pineapple, spices syrup and, yes, milk.

 

Punch Room, London Edition

You can have anything you want at Punch Room, as long as it’s punch

 

Obispo, San Francisco

Minimalist credentials: Single spirit bar with a sense of place

Recently-opened San Fran hangout Obispo is a single spirit bar with a difference. Rather than clamouring to own one of every single bottle going, owner Thad Vogler has stocked his bar with a limited inventory of speciality rums, many from distilleries he has personally visited. The concept? To champion truly unique spirits that taste like the places they come from: no additives here, thanks. One highlight of Obispo’s cocktail menu has to be the Mojito, made according to a 1934 recipe from Havana-based bar El Floridita with stirred mint and raw sugar.

A Rake’s Bar, Washington, DC

Minimalist credentials: Exclusively hyper-local cocktails

While championing locally-sourced ingredients is increasingly commonplace in bars these days, few can claim to exclusively do so. A Rake’s Bar, however, is one of them. You won’t find Scotch or Tequila (or even citrus!) here – each drink celebrates local distillers and ingredients, from locally-produced Curaçao to verjus from nearby vineyards. Everything from its antique glassware to the physical cocktail menu is the product of local collaboration.

 

A Rakes Bar, Washington

A Rake’s Bar, a hyper-local bar for hyper-local people

 

Buck and Breck, Berlin

Minimalist credentials: Small in size, stripped back cocktail list

Located in Berlin’s Mitte district, Buck and Breck seats just 14 people at a time, around a communal black wooden table that doubles as the bar station – the only furniture in the entire space. But the stripped-back interior is far from the speakeasy’s only minimalist draw. Cocktails are listed by name and base ingredient (no brands, here, all spirits bottles are colour-coded) and accompanied by a considered Champagne offering.

Native, Singapore

Minimalist credentials: Asian flavour profiles only – with a focus on foraging

Founded by Vijay Mudaliar, formerly of award-winning Singapore cocktail bar Operation Dagger, Native is committed to using local and regional produce: think flavours like mango, turmeric, cinnamon, and tapioca, paired with spirits like Sri Lankan arrak and Thai rice gin. Try Antz, which combines Thai rum, aged sugarcane vinegar, coconut yoghurt, salt-baked tapioca, soursop, and, yes, real ants served in a frozen basil leaf.

 

Native Bar Singapore

Native in Singapore offers cocktails made with ants, yes real ants

 

Three Sheets, London

Minimalist credentials: Small in size, stripped-back cocktail list

Made from just a single shelf of spirits, Three Sheets’ cocktail menu reflects its name: three pages with three cocktails on each. Aperitif-style cocktails decorate the first column, and get progressively punchier as the menu unfolds. Bartending brothers Max and Noel Venning are the brains behind this welcoming neighbourhood venue, which is big on pre-batched and bottled ingredients. All the stuff you want from a cocktail bar, and none of the stuff you don’t. Head there during the day for a dynamite flat white.

 

Three Sheets Dalston

Three Sheets, Venning Bros’ bar in Dalston, East London

Bar Gen Yamamoto, Tokyo

Minimalist credentials: Small in size, just two menu options available

Tiny eight-seater Japanese bar Gen Yamamoto is a drinking den unlike any other in the world. There’s no cocktail list, just a tasting menu crafted to reflect ‘shiki’, which means Japanese seasonality. Your options are minimal: choose from either a four-drink or six-drink menu, and sit back as solo bartender Yamamoto takes your taste buds on a veritable flavour journey. FYI, the bar is carved out of a 500-year-old Mizunara tree.

Backdoor 43, Milan

Minimalist credentials: Small in size

Is Backdoor 43 the smallest bar in the world? At the grand total of four square foot in size, it’s certainly up there. There’s only space for four (plus one Guy Fawkes mask-wearing bartender) at the tiny bar, for which the menu changes on a monthly basis. If you can’t get a reservation, fret not – a small selection of classic cocktails can be ordered to-go via a small slot window to the street.

 

Backdoor 43, Milan

Backdoor 43, Milan, probably the smallest bar in the world

 

Above Board, Melbourne

Minimalist credentials: Exacting cocktail list with no off-menu orders

Owned by award-winning bartender Hayden Lambert, Above Board is the minimalist bar blueprint both in terms of drinks and design aesthetics. A sleek grey 12-seater island bar commands the softly-lit room; hand-picked spirits are decanted into crystal bottles and stored out of sight. The menu boasts 25 cocktails, split across signatures and twists on classics, with minimal garnishes. Glasses are thin and beautifully chilled, the ice is hand-stamped, and the hospitality is second to none.

Bisou, Paris

Minimalist credentials: There is no menu whatsoever

So minimalist is the vibe at seasonal Parisian hangout Bisou, they’ve done away with the menu altogether. Instead, you have a chat with the bartender about what you like – and, if you’re fussy, what you don’t – and he’ll whip up the craft cocktail of your dreams for a very reasonable €12 using 100% organic and locally-sourced ingredients. Sustainability is big here, with a focus on reducing waste; unused parts of fruits and vegetables are dehydrated and repurposed as garnishes.

 

Bisou, Paris

Bisou, Paris, so minimalist, it doesn’t even have a menu

 

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We join ADI for the Judging of Craft Spirits!

What’s it like to lead a panel at one of the world’s most renowned spirits competitions? Our editor Kristiane Sherry reports back from Tiburon, near San Francisco, after taking part…

What’s it like to lead a panel at one of the world’s most renowned spirits competitions? Our editor Kristiane Sherry reports back from Tiburon, near San Francisco, after taking part in the American Distilling Institute’s 2019 Judging of Craft Spirits.

The skies are always blue in Tiburon. At least it seems that way when the American Distilling Institute (ADI) crew is in town. The cluster of impeccable houses directly across the Bay from San Francisco is peppered with independent restaurants, bars and quirky stores, sandwiched between the water and the dramatic Northern California hills. It’s relaxed, the air is crisp and clean, and it exudes a laid-back elegance. In short, it’s the perfect place to taste spirits.

I was thrilled last June when I received an invitation to join ADI’s Judging of Craft Spirits. The annual event celebrates excellence in distilling, with entries open to those who produce less than 750,000 litres of pure alcohol a year (although in reality, most participants make waaaayyy less than that). Both American and international distillers take part, and the spirits span almost every category you can think of: whiskies, gins, rums, agave spirits, vodkas, liqueurs, brandies, plus ready-to-drink cocktails, fortified wines and more! The result? Hundreds upon hundreds of spirits to be assessed, an army of stewards, a team of organisers and administrators and judges galore. And I was more than happy to lend my palate.

San Francisco Bay

Tiburon. It’s pretty. That’s San Francisco over the Bay looking gorgeous

I arrived at The Lodge at Tiburon on the Sunday afternoon, set for a series of briefings. After the warmest of welcomes from Eric Zandona, ADI’s director of spirits information, and David T Smith, lead steward, we got to grips with a practice flight of vodkas, a palate-aligning exercise, if you like. Everything was poured in a back room, brought through by the amazing stewards and identified only by a code on a label on the stem of a glass. It was 100% blind and tip-top secret. And it immediately became apparent just how rewarding evaluating each sample with my fellow judges would be. Distillers, bar consultants, writers, bartenders and more, from across the US and beyond. The volume of collective expertise in the room was incredible. Roll on the three days of judging!

I can’t disclose exactly what we judged or what panels others were on, but I will say for the first two days I chaired panels with a vast variety of spirits. We tasted literally everything. It was challenging at times – some spirits properly split the panel; cue lively debate, much geekiness and an array of views – but each and every spirit was genuinely assessed on its own merits, before the group discussed each one, gained consensus and awarded medals (Bronze, Silver, Gold, Double Gold) accordingly. But this wasn’t just about assigning awards. Each entrant receives detailed written feedback, so every judge was required to write up their thoughts and provide comment, constructive criticism and encouragement. This wasn’t just about tasting – a significant amount of work went into this evaluation aspect. It’s easy enough to say that you do or don’t think a spirit is at a certain quality level – but you must also give the reason why. And delving into the ‘why’ with so many genuine experts made for a thoroughly rewarding experience!

There’s all sorts of spirits to be assessed

Day Three took on an entirely different flavour. First up, I joined a review panel; here, spirits which had some discrepancy in their scoring (David T Smith and crew use a handy algorithm to see if a panel of judges’ scores were especially variable) were re-tasted to ensure an absolute fair hearing, and other outliers were given a second bite of the cherry. This is where things got really interesting. The discussion got even geekier, and every aroma note, flavour, texture and feeling was unpicked, along with how it got there, and whether or not it should be. By the end my mind and palate were both exhausted – but happily so.

Then it was time for the grand panels! Every spirit awarded a Gold or Double Gold medal was re-tasted to find the best in category. And wow! This was A Treat (capitals intended). Imagine getting to taste the best of the best craft spirits in the world. Yes, it was still serious decision-making, but the smiles on my fellow judges’ faces as we worked our way through the flights said it all. These spirits were GORGEOUS (capitals really intended here). And it was a privilege to get to pick out the very finest.

So, what were the highlights? What were the key learnings? Well, the Judging of Craft Spirits results haven’t been announced yet, so consider these lips sealed. But there was a big difference between judging a competition solely focused on craft spirits compared to other panels I’ve sat on. Why? The level of experimentation was off the chart. So many producers were trying brave and exciting things – sure, the results weren’t always knock-it-out-the-park incredible, but many, many spirits were up there. And it was so exciting to spend time sussing out exactly what’s going on. Then, the overall quality level was a pleasing surprise. In other competitions there might only be one small ‘craft’ sub-category, but here there was wall-to-wall interest and intrigue right across the board. ‘Craft’ has never meant sub-standard or second best, but those myths are now being well and truly busted.

ADI judging whiskeys

Whiskeys!

Finally, the top highlight? Getting to meet and work with so many incredible people from right the way across the industry, from distillers and production consultants to bartenders, brand ambassadors, writers, journalists and more. Thanks to ADI for an ace few days, and cheers to my fellow judges, stewards and everyone involved for making it so brilliant!

Top tips for evaluating spirits

Fancy trying your hand (taste buds?) at judging? Give it a go at home with our super-quick guide!

• Start clean. It sounds super simple, but make sure your palate is clean (water is essential!), you’re not wearing fragrance and you’ve not used especially aromatic soap. ADI gave us fragrance-free soap for the week so the tasting room was as neutral as possible.

• Go slow. Take your time. If you’re assessing a spirit you’ll want to look at its appearance, nose, palate and finish. This can take a good while. Don’t rush, take your time and enjoy!

• Look back. Aromas and flavours in a spirit can be traced back to loads of production factors. Think about how your spirit was made. Raw materials? Processing techniques? Post-distillation finishing? Is what you see, nose or taste consistent with this? Consider these points to help you evaluate your spirit.

• Spit it out. Got loads of spirits to taste? Don’t be afraid to use a spittoon. And sip, don’t gulp (obviously). On a similar point, adding water to a spirit after you’ve first nosed and tasted can make a world of difference when you’re trying to pick out aromas and flavours.

• Write it down. Chances are, if you’re taking the time to fully examine what a product looks like, its aromas, flavours, texture and finish, you’ll want to keep a record of it. Have a notepad or laptop to hand so your hard work isn’t forgotten!

ADI judging

Note-taking = essential!

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