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Master of Malt Blog

#BagThisBundle – win goodies from Inverroche Gin

We have teamed up with South Africa’s Inverroche Gin for a #BagThisBundle competition that’s sure to get juniper lovers jumping up and down with excitement. There’s gin with a sense…

We have teamed up with South Africa’s Inverroche Gin for a #BagThisBundle competition that’s sure to get juniper lovers jumping up and down with excitement.

There’s gin with a sense of place and then there’s Inverroche. Its founder’s mother and son duo, Lorna and Rohan Scott, use native South African plants called fynbos. The Scotts work with local botanists to preserve fynbos and harvest them sustainably. They use between 20 and 30 different varieties of fynbos alongside more usually botanicals including of course juniper distilled in a tiny 1.7 litre copper pot still to create gin that cannot be made anywhere else. 

Bagthisbundle Inverroche Gin

Now we’re giving you an opportunity to win a bundle of goodies from Inverroche Gin. The prize consists of three different bottles from the Inverroche range plus nearly everything you need to make the perfect cocktail (you’ll need to bring your own ice and mixers). Here’s the full prize:

Quite the bundle, we’re sure you’ll agree. ‘How do I get my hands on all the ginny kit?’, you’re asking. Well, it’s not complicated just head over to Instagram, and, do the following: 

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

So, gin lovers, what are you waiting for, head over to Instagram and get tagging.

MoM ‘Inverroche Bag This Bundle’ Competition 2021 open to entrants 18 years and over. Entries accepted from 12:00:01 GMT on 20 October to 16:59:59 GMT on 25 October 2021. Winners chosen at random after close of competition. Prizes not transferable and cannot be exchanged for cash equivalent. See full T&Cs for details.

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New master blender at Johnnie Walker as Dr Jim Beveridge OBE retires

Johnnie Walker has a new master blender. Yep, after more than 40 years at Diageo, we’re saying a fond farewell to Dr Jim Beveridge OBE, and saying hello to Dr…

Johnnie Walker has a new master blender. Yep, after more than 40 years at Diageo, we’re saying a fond farewell to Dr Jim Beveridge OBE, and saying hello to Dr Emma Walker!

Remember the name Dr Emma Walker, because she’s about to become the new master blender for Johnnie Walker. And no, she isn’t related to the Walker family, it’s just a lovely coincidence. 

Walker is set to take over the reins from the legendary Dr Jim Beveridge OBE, who is retiring at the end of the year after more than 40 years at Diageo, 20 of which he spent as master blender.

Only a small, select group of people have held the role of master blender for Johnnie Walker (including founder John Walker himself) over the last two centuries or so, and Walker holds the distinction of being the first woman to take the coveted position. 

Johnnie Walker master blender

Say hello to your new master blender: Dr Emma Walker

The good doctor

She joined Diageo 13 years ago, and the drinks giant commented in a press release that she has gained “extensive knowledge and experience of Scotch production and innovation” working in fermentation, distillation, and maturation to develop an understanding of every stage of the whisky-making process to become “a highly respected blender”.

She also worked extensively on Johnnie Walker for the last six years, with innovations including the Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost and Rare series and Jane Walker by Johnnie Walker, and has spent several years working with Beveridge to develop an encyclopaedic understanding and knowledge of whisky. Now Walker will lead the 12-strong team of expert whisky makers to blend the various whiskies that make the numerous Johnnie Walker variants, which are sold in more than 180 countries around the world.

“I am honoured to take on the title of master blender of Johnnie Walker, and at an exciting time for the brand as we embark on the next step of our journey looking ahead to the next 200 years,” Walker says. “I love experimenting and innovating with flavour and we’ll be working hard to not only continue to deliver the unrivalled quality that we are renowned for but also introducing blends to appeal to a new generation of Scotch whisky fans.”

Johnnie Walker master blender

Dr Jim Beveridge OBE, a true legend of the whisky industry

A legend moves on

She adds that she has learnt “so much over my career working with Jim,” and that his “knowledge and generosity of spirit is unsurpassed in the world of whisky.” Across his impressive four-decade career in whisky, Beveridge has been responsible for some of the world’s most popular and acclaimed Scotch whisky blends including Johnnie Walker Blue Label.

He started out as an analytical chemist 42 years ago at Johnnie Walker, and has since gone on to become one of the most highly respected figures in the industry, renowned for his tireless work, expertise, and dedication to develop flavours that are still popular today. In 2019, he was awarded an OBE by Her Majesty the Queen for his services to the Scotch whisky industry. 

“It is with pleasure and confidence that I pass on this privilege to Emma. I know she will do a wonderful job as she possesses the knowledge, expertise, and dedication to make an amazing master blender,” Beveridge says. “On a personal level I am delighted for her, and I know that her wonderfully infectious personality, which made working with her so enjoyable, will bring something exciting and different to the team and, indeed, to the wider Scotch industry.”

Johnnie Walker master blender

The passing of the torch dram

Walker will officially hold the title of master blender from 1 January 2022, while Beveridge will remain with the business until the end of the year. We wish them both the best of luck, and offer our congratulations to Dr Walker and our sincere thanks to Dr Beveridge for all his remarkable contributions. We’ll raise a dram to him tonight.

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The art of the cooper

Good quality casks are vital to every single bottle of whisky, making the role of the cooper, the person expertly in their care and creation, absolutely essential. Distillers tend to…

Good quality casks are vital to every single bottle of whisky, making the role of the cooper, the person expertly in their care and creation, absolutely essential. Distillers tend to get the glory, but behind every great distiller is a master cooper.

Coopering is an ancient craft. The earliest clues to its origin begin with an Egyptian wall painting in the tomb of Hesy-Ra, which dates to 2600 BC. It shows a wooden tub made of staves held together with wooden hoops, used to store wheat. But it wasn’t until 350 BC when the Celts and Northern Europeans began making watertight wooden containers that resemble the casks we know today. 

It later became understood that oak was not only the best wood to store a liquid, but that it made a wine (or whisky) taste better. More machines are now used in the cooperage, but every cask remains hand assembled by a cooper, carefully plied into a watertight vessel.

The Balvenie Ian McDonald.jpg RS

Hanging with Mr Cooper, it’s The Balvenie’s Ian McDonald

In charge of one million barrels

Ian McDonald is head cooper at William Grant & Sons, where he oversees one million barrels for The Balvenie and Glenfiddich. He started at the distillery in 1969, drawn to the industry by a love of wood and metalwork.

When McDonald started out, he was one cooper among some 1,000 in Scotland. At that time, barrels used to arrive from America in “shook form” – a barrel knocked down into a bundle of staves and shipped to Scotland to be reassembled. Now most barrels arrive complete. A downturn in whisky production in the late 80s, and at the turn of the millennium, also forced large numbers out of the trade.

Today there are around 300 skilled coopers in Scotland and the art of coopering is going through a “revival”, says McDonald. Whisky is booming and many cooperages are increasing capacity and training. But it’s not easy to become a cooper. A four-year apprenticeship and rigorous trade test is required. Only then can recruits receive the honour of being ‘tarred and feathered’ – covered in gunge and rolled around inside a barrel – making them a fully fledged cooper in the eyes of their colleagues. In October, McDonald advertised for two apprentices at Balvenie and received more than 100 applicants. “There is and has always been people wanting to become coopers,” he said.

L-R Angela Cochrane and Kirsty Olychick are the UK's first coopering apprentices

Angela Cochrane and Kirsty Olychick, Diageo’s first women coopering apprentices

What does a cask do?

A cask is responsible for the maturation of a whisky, with all Scotch aged for at least three years. While there are a lot of elements that make up a whisky’s flavour, some suggest that around 60% of a malt’s flavours and aromas come from the barrel. Every whisky will interact with the wood differently, imparting different characteristics depending on the cask, or casks, used and length of ageing.

Think toast, coffee, cedar or sawdust – powerful, sensory aromas that fill your nostrils and immediately transport you to a barrel room. I get the same sensation when nosing sherry, where the impact of barrel ageing is tangible.

How do you make a cask?

Oak selection is crucial. Why oak? It’s strong, but bendable, tightly grained, so watertight. There are hundreds of species of oak, but the most commonly used are quercus alba (American white oak), quercus robur and quercus petraea (European oak). Others include quercus crispula (Japanese mizunara). Each imparts its own signature.

Wood is first ‘quarter cut’ (against the grain) and kilned or air-dried to ensure 100% moisture evaporation and elimination of any nasties. It is then planed and smoothed into staves and the barrel is raised, held with temporary steel hoops. Staves are steamed, or heated, to allow them to be bent into place.

Before the heads and ends are secured toasting and charring occurs, which can intensify or release another layer of flavour. Toasting is where the cask is slowly heated, penetrating deep inside the wood. It breaks down lignin, which creates vanillin – the source of a whisky’s vanilla notes. A light toast will add some vanilla and nuttiness, with a heavier toast creating richer notes of toffee and caramel. Charring is a secondary process where the inside of a cask is set alight, but it impacts only the surface of the wood. It could be lightly or heavily charred, creating flavours and aromas of smoke, toast and tobacco.

For McDonald, much of his team’s work involves rejuvenating and repairing casks for further use, removing the old surface inside a cask and then re-toasting and charring depending on the distillery’s requirements. “Most of the experiments we do now are ways of improving wood maturation qualities,” he adds. “We try toasting at different temperatures to see what works best and have also experimented in end toasting.”

The cask is then fitted with permanent steel hoops and a bung hole is drilled in the widest stave.

The Balvenie_Dennis McBain, David Stewart, Ian McDonald.jpg RS

It’s a barrel of laughs at the Balvenie (from left Dennis McBain, David Stewart, and Ian McDonald)

Size does matter

The smaller the cask, the more of the liquid will be in contact with the wood, so its impact will be greater. This impact lessens the larger the cask becomes. Common casks, from small to large, include: quarter cask (45-50 litres); American standard barrel (190-200 litres); hogsheads (225-250 litres); barrique (250-300 litres); puncheon (450-500 litres); butt (475-500 litres); Port pipe (550-650 litres); and Madeira drum (600-650 litres).

A word on virgin and first-fill casks. Virgin casks are those that have never matured any liquid ever before. It’s a legal requirement for bourbon to be aged in virgin oak virgin casks. First-fill casks have never aged Scotch before, but may have aged sherry, Port of bourbon, for example. When used to age whisky subsequent times, it becomes a refill cask. Flavour and colour extraction lessens each time a cask is used, with second and third refill casks imparting a progressively lighter character.

The bourbon industry can’t reuse its casks, so first-fill ex-bourbon barrels are routinely shipped to the UK to age Scotch. Bourbon barrels must be charred by law. They are responsible for some of the vanilla, caramel, coconut and toffee aromas present in Scotch.

Cask finishes are a big deal

Most Scotch is aged in ex-bourbon or ex-sherry casks. But distillers will often ‘finish’ a whisky by transferring it to another barrel, previously used to age a different liquid, for a period of time, adding another layer of flavour. Experimentation in this field has grown immensely over the past decade. Some of the most common cask finishes include ex-Madeira, Marsala, Cognac or rum casks. Experimentation with (non-fortified) wine casks is also growing, with ex-Bordeaux, Sauternes and Moscatel barrels becoming popular.

A cask isn’t merely a vessel – it’s crucial to a spirit’s tapestry of flavours and aromas. A distiller might wield the paintbrush, but it’s the cooper who creates the canvas.

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New Arrival of the Week: Tomatin 2009 (Gordon & MacPhail)

Tomatin single malts deserve to be better known. So, we’re shining our New Arrival spotlight on a 2009 special bottling from this Highland distillery by Gordon & MacPhail of Elgin….

Tomatin single malts deserve to be better known. So, we’re shining our New Arrival spotlight on a 2009 special bottling from this Highland distillery by Gordon & MacPhail of Elgin.

Poor Tomatin came in for a bit of beating recently. Not only did the Highland distillery lose a court case against the Tomatin Trading Company over its plan to build a multi-million-pound hotel and food/retail village in the town of Tomatin claiming that the development’s name infringed on the distillery’s trademark but the judge Lady Wolffe stated that the distillery is “not well-known even to the average consumer of Scotch whisky.” Ouch!

Tomatin Distillery

Don’t you forget about me

Only known by aficionados

It got worse, the lawsuit continued: “It is not known by a significant part of the general whisky-drinking public, which is the relevant market. The evidence has established that the reputation of the pursuer’s ‘Tomatin’ brand has not extended beyond the limited class of consumer (‘the aficionado’) of the pursuer’s products.”

So in short, you really have to know your whisky to have heard of Tomatin, and not get it confused with Tomintoul or even Tormore, which are both in Speyside. This is a shame as Tomatin’s single malts are usually excellent. The 14-year-old finished in Port casks is something of a classic bottling among the cognoscenti, just check out all those positive comments on the Master of Malt site. And its very obscurity means that it offers better value than some of its more illustrious rivals.  

The distillery has had a chequered history. It was founded in 1897 about 15 miles south of Inverness. It’s in the Highland region though just on the edge of Speyside. Tomatin means in Gaelic: ‘hill of the juniper bushes’, so it seems like a missed marketing opportunity that the distillery doesn’t market its own gin.

Whisky loch

Originally it had just two stills but its owners added to it over the years so by 1974 it was the largest malt whisky distillery in Scotland with 23 stills and a capacity of 13 million litres of pure alcohol per year. It was terrible timing to get so big with the whisky loch filling up. The resulting bust when it came was terrible for the industry, DCL closed such famous names as Brora and Port Ellen while Tomatin went into liquidation in 1985. It was rescued by one of its Japanese customers, drinks group Takara Shuzo Co who still own it to this day. Tomatin was the first Scotch whisky distillery to be bought by a company from Japan.

The distillery generally produces unpeated whisky though some peated is also made. It’s known for its sweet, fruity whisky. Around 80% of its production goes into blends including the Antiquary range of premium whiskies (which are named after a novel by Walter Scott) which Tomatin bought in 1996. This is perhaps why it’s not so well known.

Our New Arrival is an independent bottling from Elgin legends Gordon & MacPhail as part of its ‘Discovery’ series. It was distilled in 2009 and bottled earlier this year at 43% ABV after being wholly matured in ex-bourbon casks. The sweet American oak really complements the orchard and stone fruit flavours of Tomatin. In short, a bottling that demonstrates why Tomatin deserves to be better known. Are you listening, Lady Wolff?


Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt

Nose: Rich, floral honey and sweet orchard fruits, gentle toasted oak, and silky vanilla.

Palate: Fragrant fruit continues alongside orchard blossom and soft-skinned peaches, creamy vanilla pokes through with a whiff of green oak.

Finish: Sweet, floral fruit, malty caramel with a herbal hint and dash of pepper on the end.

Tomatin 2009 (bottled 2021) – Discovery (Gordon & Macphail) is available from Master of Malt. Click here to buy.

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Win a trip to the Campbeltown Malts Festival with Glen Scotia!

Fancy checking out a cracking whisky festival courtesy of us and Glen Scotia Distillery? Well, now you can because this competition is giving you the chance to win a trip…

Fancy checking out a cracking whisky festival courtesy of us and Glen Scotia Distillery? Well, now you can because this competition is giving you the chance to win a trip to the Campbeltown Malts Festival.

It’s competition time and we’ve got a doozy for you. The chance to take a VIP tour of the Glen Scotia Distillery, experience a dunnage tasting with master distiller Iain McAlister, and more…

That’s right, we’re sending you off to Campbeltown, Scotland for its famous Malts Festival courtesy of Glen Scotia. The brand has had a wonderful time recently, winning Best in Show at the 2021 World Spirits competition for its 25 Year Old, and we’ve spoken to the master distiller about all things Glen Scotia below. Before we get to that, however, here’s what is on the cards if you win this comp:

  • standard or economy rail return travel for 2 people from any single named station in the United Kingdom to Glasgow, Scotland (dates and times to be confirmed by Loch Lomond Group);
  • standard accommodation for 2 people with breakfast (i) in Glasgow for 1 night, and (ii) in Campbeltown for 1 night (total 2 nights);
  • complimentary coach travel between central Glasgow location to Campbeltown in order to participate in the festival;
  • complimentary VIP Tour of Glen Scotia Distillery;
  • complimentary VIP Dunnage Tasting;
  • attendance to Glen Scotia Festival Gala Dinner;
  • a limited edition Glen Scotia Gala Dinner Festival Bottling; and
  • attendance to Glen Scotia Distillery Festival with complimentary lunch.

To enter, all you have to do is purchase a bottle (or more!) of Glen Scotia Victoriana Cask Strength. That’s all.

You have until 31 October to enter, so don’t miss out on the chance to win a free trip to one of whisky’s greatest festivals. It’s worth saying at this point that, if the much-feared event does happen and the Malts Festival is postponed, the dates and details of the trip will be adjusted to match. T&C’s apply and are below our interview with McAlister. Best of luck to everyone who’s entering!

Glen Scotia

Glen Scotia Distillery is giving you an amazing opportunity

Master of Malt: You’ve just won Best in Show at the 2021 World Spirits competition, first off, congratulations, second – how does it feel? 

Iain McAlister: Simply fantastic! It is a humbling experience that gives something back to the incredibly dedicated Glen Scotia team, and what’s more, it helps to put Campbeltown whiskies firmly back on the map. I feel incredibly proud of the distillery’s achievement – it stands among the last of the many in Campbeltown and it is wonderful to be part of its renaissance. 

MoM: Can you share your thoughts on what made Glen Scotia stand out to the judges? 

IM: I’d like to think it was the unique qualities of a classic Campbeltown malt: the distinct flavour profile, the coastal influence, and all that local whisky-making history that has been poured down through the years. I was always taught by my mentor and former director that “good whisky just cannot be made, it must be created”. Wise words as it turned out, I spent five years learning all things Glen Scotia and then the next ten years working to perfect them. It takes a while to create a classic Campbeltown dram! Our region’s whiskies are wonderfully intriguing and appeal to those who appreciate something a little off the beaten track – I like to think that has all helped to make an impression with the judges.

MoM: Campbeltown has a relationship with the whisky industry as a whole – could you share a little about what that means? 

IM: Yes, it certainly does! There is nowhere quite like Campbeltown and its association with whisky. It’s the fifth official whisky-producing region in Scotland and was once the Victorian whisky capital of the world. In its heyday, it boasted over 27 legal distilleries through the 19th century – quite an achievement for a small town on the West coast of Scotland. Its harbour and location further made it an internationally well-connected town, both for exporting and access to the finest casks from abroad. That certainly led to a formidable reputation that was the envy of the world! Only three distilleries survived the tests of time, of which Glen Scotia is one, so this award is a wonderful further contribution to the history of Campbeltown as the ‘Whiskiest Place in the World’.  

Glen Scotia

Say hello to master distiller Iain Mcallister

MoM: Do you think the terroir of Campbeltown and its interaction with the history of whisky as a whole played a role in the development of Glen Scotia and its latest win? 

IM: Certainly, with any Glen Scotia whisky, it is all about provenance and that provenance is all about the region of Campbeltown and the relationship Glen Scotia has with it. Both are inextricably linked and have developed over the years to reach the principle of this recent win. It is a wonderful feeling for me personally seeing Campbeltown doing so well again in the whisky world.

MoM: Tell us the story of the 25-year expression.  

IM: The 25 Year Old is an example of that fantastic relationship bourbon casks have with Glen Scotia, some of the best whiskies, and indeed flavour profiles, are based on this bourbon influence. The 25-Year-old has been taken from refill bourbon barrels and given a 12-month finish in first-fill bourbon barrels. The refill encapsulates a tropical distillery flavour profile, whilst the first fill drives those rounded sweet toffee, fudge notes in moderation. As ever that signature Glen Scotia sea spray and subtle maritime notes are there. A truly wonderful dram! 

MoM: What’s up next for you? 

IM: Just to carry on doing what we do well: working as a wonderful team and finding new opportunities to bring a taste of Campbeltown to the world. We have our annual Campbeltown Malts Festival coming up in May, which is something we look forward to every year and is always great fun. We’re always grateful when people make the journey to the Whisky Capital! Otherwise, I’ll just be enjoying the incredibly privileged position that is working as the master distiller of Glen Scotia distillery. Slainte Mhath to all! 

Glen Scotia

A visit to beautiful Campbeltown is on the cards

MoM Glen Scotia Competition 2021 open to entrants 18 years and over. Entries accepted from 15:00:01pm 18 October to 23:59 31st October 2021. Date and travel restrictions apply. Winners chosen at random after close of competition. Postal route available. See full T&Cs for details. 

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The Nightcap: 15 October

Delicious new whiskies from The Macallan, Glenmorangie and the Clydeside Distillery, grape leftovers that are good for your skin and Hendrick’s wins the ginternet. These are just some of the…

Delicious new whiskies from The Macallan, Glenmorangie and the Clydeside Distillery, grape leftovers that are good for your skin and Hendrick’s wins the ginternet. These are just some of the delightful things that have grabbed our attention in the Nightcap: 15 October.

It seems half the news these days is all about people running out of stuff. Short supply is an issue across a lot of industries. But one thing that you can guarantee will be here every seven days is a nice healthy dollop of The Nightcap, as boozy and brilliant this week as it was last.

Speaking of which, let’s take a look at the week that was on the MoM blog. Adam put on his thinking beret and asked, ‘what is peat?’, Henry was in a bubbly mood and Lauren took a trip to Venice with the delicious combination of vodka, sorbet and Prosecco that is the Sgroppino. Meanwhile, our favourite grizzled industry veteran Ian Buxton reflected on how the world whisky category has come on in less than decade while elegantly plugging his new book 101 Craft and World Whiskies which is well worth a read. But that’s not all! Our ex-editor returned with a trip to Westward Whiskey in Portland, Oregon, we sampled the sheer magnificence of Johnnie Walker Blue Label, and danced around like giddy schoolchildren at the arrival of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection 2020. What a week! 

Now, let’s crack on. It’s the Nightcap: 15 October edition!

Patron XO Cafe

Farewell old friend

Patrón XO Café will soon be no more

Bacardi has announced that it is ceasing the production of one of its most popular drinks: Patron XO Cafe, a 35% ABV liqueur infused with a kick of coffee, Patrón Tequila president Mauricio Vergara said that the business wanted to focus on growing and protecting the supply of their “super and ultra-premium Tequilas”. Priority is going to Patrón Silver, Reposado, and Añejo drinks instead, with Vergara describing now as an “incredibly exciting time” to be in the Tequila business. He continued: “We are thrilled to see consumer demand for Tequila continuing to explode around the world. Tequila is seeing rapid growth and incredible momentum – not just in the United States, but it is the second fastest-growing category in value across the globe.” Bacardi had acquired Patron back in January 2018 in a £3.66bn deal and, while Patron XO Café seemed a popular addition to its roster, a drinks industry source told The Grocer that the drink was discontinued most likely due to a lack of profit. Despite the fact that retail sales grew over the course of the pandemic, rising £550k to £1.9m over the year to 15 May 2021, the source was quoted as saying: “Because it’s not obvious to the consumer what [the drink] is, it will take a lot to investment to scale,” the source said. “Without scale it’ll be a very small profit contributor and not worth the effort.” A shame to see it go though we have heard rumours that Vivir Tequila has stepped in the breach with its own coffee liqueur. Isn’t capitalism great?

Congratulations to Dr Erna Blancquaert (left) and Angela Elizabeth Scott

Golden Vines wine diversity scholarships announced worth £55,000

The great and good of the wine world, and Kylie Minogue, descended on top London nightspot Annabel’s for the inaugural Golden Vines awards. Yes really! Apparently the pint-sized pop princess was there though we were too engrossed in the ridiculous quality of the wines served which included Dom Perignon, Château d’Yquem and Domaine de la Romanée Contée, and missed her. But we weren’t just there to swill fine wine. The evening saw the announcement of two Taylor’s Port Golden Vines Diversity Scholarships, worth £55,000 each. The winners were Angela Elizabeth Scott from Pennysvlvania who is training to be the first black Master of Wine, and Dr Erna Blancquaert, a lecturer at Stellenbosch University in South Africa. Scott commented: “Receiving The Golden Vines Diversity Scholarship, Internship and Mentorship programme means that I will be able to connect with key figures and gain experience to which I would otherwise lack access. I hope to help others do the same,” and Dr Blancquaert said: “This Golden Vines Diversity Scholarship will enable me to expand my knowledge on the entire wine value chain, implement it in my teaching, and address global vitiviniculture problems through my research.” Adrian Bridge from the award’s sponsor Taylor’s Port added: “Taylor’s Port is delighted to be involved with this initiative to foster diversity in the wine industry. We are excited to see two very worthy winners have been chosen by the judges.” Congratulations to both winners and to Taylor’s Port for getting behind such a worthy cause. 


It’s Stobcross – which sounds like an anagram of something rude

Clydeside Distillery releases first-ever single malt whisky

Introducing Stobcross, the first-ever single malt whisky from one of Scotland’s newest and most exciting whisky distilleries, Clydeside in Glasgow. Bottled (and what a striking bottle it is) at 46% ABV and made from 100% Scottish barley and water from Loch Katrine, the inaugural Stobcross was named after the street on which it was made. Whisky production returned to the banks of the River Clyde for the first time in a century when the innovative new distillery opened in 2017. Andrew Morrison, commercial director at Morrison Glasgow Distillers, said: “Today marks a culmination of many years of hard work. Stobcross pays tribute to Glasgow’s industrial heritage and the spirit of innovation which forged its position on the global stage”. Clydeside is Located in the former Queen’s Dock, the transformed Pump House includes an impressive visitor centre, interactive tourism experience, shop, and cafe.  Fittingly, the distillery’s chairman Tim Morrison is the great-grandson of John Morrison, who originally built The Queen’s Dock in 1877. The distillery is definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area, and we’ve been waiting on this release for a while, so we’re very excited to see how it will do. Let us know your thoughts if you manage to get a taste.

Glasses of light and dark beer on a pub background.

Support your local, or it might not be there tomorrow

Almost 1,000 hospitality venues shut in two months this year

Britain’s hospitality sector lost 980 sites between July and September 2021, according to new data. The latest Market Recovery Monitor from CGA and Alix Partners showed the closure of an average of 16 sites per day. We, of course, have the effects of and responses to the Covid-19 pandemic to blame, leading to problems like supply issues, rising costs and, most keenly felt, labour shortages. There will also be a fair amount of debate regarding Brexit’s impact here too, but one thing that’s for certain is the sad inevitably that independently-run pubs, bars, restaurants and other licensed venues were always going to be hit hardest. According to the report, they account for nearly three quarters of all closures during the period, while a report from the Night Time Industries Association revealed around 86,000 people working in the night-time industry have lost their jobs because of the pandemic earlier in the week. Compounding the issue further is new research from the Wine & Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) which shows sales of gin in the UK on-trade plunged by nearly 50% in the 12 months to July 2021, while a YouGov poll has revealed 66% of adults believe pandemic-led closures led to a decline in their mental health. Karl Chessell, CGA’s business unit director for hospitality operators and food, EMEA, says the numbers are a “reminder – if it were needed – that the crisis in hospitality is far from over”, adding that targeted government support on these major challenges like the crisis in recruitment, as well as VAT relief, is needed to help prevent “hospitality’s recovery from stalling”. It might all sound bleak, but not all insights are negative. Lumina Intelligence, for example, expects an industry return to pre-pandemic levels by 2024, according to its UK Pub & Bar Market Report 2021.

Glenmorangie Winter

Another delicious-looking Glenmorangie is on its way

Glenmorangie unveils new winter warmer whisky

Glenmorangie is seemingly on a mission to ensure it has a dram for all occasions after it unveiled a 13-year-old single malt created specifically for the winter season. A Tale of Winter, produced by head of whisky creation, Dr Bill Lumsden and his team, was inspired by ‘the joy of cosy moments indoors’ during Scotland’s snowy months. The innovation- hungry whisky makers took a batch matured in ex-bourbon barrels and finished it in ex-Marsala casks, giving the 46% ABV whisky aromas of orange toffee, lavender honey and sweet rose, and flavours of red pepper flakes, cocoa powder, Brazil nut toffee and sweet barley malt, apparently. You might remember it was around this time last year that Glenmorangie launched A Tale of Cake, and like that edition this bottling will be available from Master of Malt soon. To celebrate the launch, the distillery has made a selection of seasonal cocktails, including a Winter Old Fashioned and a Quinta Ruban Hot Chocolate. There’s even a Pumpkin Scotch Latte perfect for the forthcoming festival of spookiness.

Macallan Harmony

Do they ever stop at Macallan? No, no they don’t

Macallan makes chocolate-inspired whisky

The Macallan’s relentless pursuit to be in the news every week continues, mostly thanks to the distillery’s insane ability to conjure up new single malt ranges. This time it’s the Harmony Collection, which kicks off with a whisky that combines the worlds of whisky and chocolate. To create the new bottling, The Macallan whisky maker Polly Logan visited Girona, Spain, to learn about the flavours behind the chocolate-making process. She teamed up with pastry chef Jordi Roca from three Michelin-starred restaurant El Celler de Can Roca and chocolatier Damian Allsop to learn the art of chocolate, then searched sherry-seasoned oak casks maturing at The Macallan Estate to identify “rare, indulgent chocolate notes”. The whisky is made from a combination of European and American oak casks, and is said to pair perfectly with rich chocolate, you might expect. The Macallan Harmony Collection Rich Cacao comes in a fully recyclable and biodegradable presentation box, made using natural by-products in the chocolate-making process. A limited 200 pairing tasting sets, including a bottle of The Macallan Harmony Collection Rich Cacao, a 10-piece box of custom-made chocolate, a pairing guide and two Macallan Glencairn glasses, are being made available to pre-order the Reserve Bar on 8 November 2021. We’ll have plenty of the whisky here too soon, if you’re worried about not getting your hands on that.

The Lucky Drinker

Ciprian Zsrag is the Lucky Drinker

St James Bar bartender launches cocktail book, The Lucky Drinker

We last visited St James Bar to sample the delights of the drinks from the talented team, but last night we popped over once again for a very different kind of event – a book launch! There were drinks to be had (of course), but all were simple classic cocktails made from The Lucky Drinker, the new book from Ciprian Zsrag, former head bartender of St James Bar (with experience at Artesian and The Savoy’s American Bar under his belt, too). The Lucky Drinker started as a blog in 2017, though it’s the culmination of many years of experience before. The book covers recipes, yes, but also barware, food pairings, and a history of industry personalities – it even takes into account the cost of a cocktail. During the evening Zsrag’s excitement is palpable, as he recounts over a decade of planning, and how, in contrast to the usual offerings from the St James Bar menu, the serves in the book are based on minimalism – though each recipe comes with a way to ‘twist’ your drink, should you be feeling on the flamboyant side. A beautiful book for anyone wanting to nail the classics, without splurging on crazy ingredients and contraptions. Congratulations Ciprian!


Pelegrims, good for your skin and good for the environment

Pelegrims skin care is grape for your complexion 

You may be wondering why the Master of Malt content team’s skin is looking so youthful and glowing despite the demanding circuit of tastings, parties and late nights we have to endure to bring you all the news from the world of booze. Well, it’s because of a new skincare range called Pelegrims, an old English name inspired by Pilgrims Way to Canterbury. The secret of the Pelegrim magic is grape extract. These are leftovers from the wine making process and come from Ortega and Pinot Noir grapes grown not far from MoM towers at Westwell in Kent. The polyphenols in the seeds, skins and stems have antioxidant properties. The range consists of a facial oil, facial balm, a hand cleanser and hand pomade. And not only are they made from a waste product but the packaging is recyclable. The range is a collaboration between skincare expert Alex Verier, wine lover and tech type, and Jerome Moisan. Remarkably Moisan isn’t even the most entrepreneurial one in his family. His son put together a charity cookery book earlier this year called In Conversation With which outsold Mary Berry, Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver in its first week on sale. And he was only 12 at the time! Watch out Dad.


Gin is a wonderful thing but it isn’t good for your liver

Hendrick’s is the most searched for gin on social media

You’ve probably been wondering what the most searched for gin on the internet is. No? Just us? Well, Homeware retailer IWOOT (stands for I Want One Of Those) has crunched the numbers and the results are in, perfect timing what with Gin & Tonic day coming up on 19 October. Based on hashtags on Instagram and monthly search volumes the winner is…. Hendrick’s, followed by Tanqueray, Gordon’s, Beefeater and Bombay Sapphire, which isn’t surprising. The most searched for type of gin was apparently pink gin followed by sloe and rhubarb. Though we imagine that just plain old gin was quite popular too. The infographic produced by the firm shows that searches for gin were up 80% year on year probably because of all those lockdowns (go here to see a full breakdown of the date). The press release we received then took a wild turn by claiming: “There are many reasons why drinking gin may have increased in popularity during this time; it’s a natural remedy for your joint woes, helps fight kidney and liver disease.” Sounds like someone’s had one too many G&Ts.

And finally… Remember kids, motorbikes and booze don’t mix

We’re a bit sceptical here of motoring/booze collaborations here on the Nightcap. Are whisky and fast cars really such a great combination? But two Italian icons have cleverly squared the circle by emphasizing that they don’t go together. The old switcheroo! A new campaign launched by legendary motorbike manufacturer Ducati and its sponsor Amaro Montenegro features a rugged Italian biker deciding not to take his beloved bike out, and instead spend the evening with his friends drinking, yes you guessed it, Amaro Montenegro. Almost as much fun as riding your Ducati and a lot more sociable. It’s called ‘Don’t Drink and Ride’ and naturally comes with its own hashtag #DONTDRINKANDRIDE. The aptly-named Marco Ferrari, CEO of Gruppo Montenegro, explained: “As a spirit brand, it was imperative to be vocal about responsible drinking and we wanted to send a clear message in a compelling and engaging way. We feel our ‘Don’t Drink and Ride’ campaign is the perfect response to it.”  Just in case you needed to be reminded that high performance motorbikes and cocktails are not a good combination. 

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Buffalo Trace Antique Collection 2020 is here!

It’s a big day for lovers of rare American whiskeys, the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection 2020 has arrived! Read on for how you might be able to get hold of…

It’s a big day for lovers of rare American whiskeys, the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection 2020 has arrived! Read on for how you might be able to get hold of a bottle.

If you want to make a whiskey lover all hot and bothered, then say the words ‘Buffalo Trace Antique Collection’. If you want to make them go bananas, then tell them they’re in with a chance to get their hands on something from it. Which is exactly what we’re doing now. That’s right. The 2020 Collection has landed at MoM Towers!

Buffalo Trace Antique Collection 2020 is here!


Buffalo Trace Antique Collection 2020 is here!

Demand is likely to be intergalactic so we will be selling all our allocated bottles by a lottery system to discourage flipping. There will be no dramming or auction as in previous years. See below for how this system works but first, a rundown of those sweet sweet whiskies. Buffalo Trace Antique Collection 2020 consists of:

Eagle Rare 17 Year Old (2020 Release)

George T Stagg  (2020 Release)

Sazerac 18 Year Old (2020 Release)

Thomas H. Handy Rye  (2020 Release)

William Larue Weller  (2020 Release)

Each bottle will carry the legend: “I hereby swear not to sell this bottle – but to drink it with my chums. May my taste-buds and olfactory bulb shrivel and die if I should break my word.” So no flipping! We mean it.

As usual, the excitement will take place on the individual product pages, which are all located on our handy Buffalo Trace Antique Collection page (all timings are BST). Be sure to pop the times in your calendar. 

The lottery opens on Friday 15 October at 10am (BST) and closes on Sunday 17 October 23:59 (BST).

So go to the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection page and good luck! May the whiskey gods smile upon you.

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MoM answers: What is peat?

Peated whisky is incredibly popular. And for good reason. But we’re aware that newcomers to the good stuff might not know that much about the star of the show: peat….

Peated whisky is incredibly popular. And for good reason. But we’re aware that newcomers to the good stuff might not know that much about the star of the show: peat. Here’s a handy little beginners guide to the smoky and sublime.

Distinctive. Divisive. Delicious. Peated whisky is all of these things. For those of us who know and love it, just reading the word peat can make you think of the smell and flavour.

But we’re sure there are lots of you out there who don’t really understand what whisky folk mean when they talk about peat. It’s not exactly something everyone comes across naturally. And it’s not much to look at. Let’s face it, it looks like a lump of black mud.

But it’s much more complex than that. This is why we’ve decided to break down the beauty behind nature’s greatest flavour brick and explain how it became such a fixture in the world of whisky.

What is peat?

Peat begins life in wet conditions

Defining peat

Peat is an organic fuel consisting of partly decomposed plant material that you’ll find in bogs. It’s formed over thousands of years from the slow accumulation of this organic matter (think wood, seaweed, plants or flowers) being squished down and compacted in wet conditions, where a lack of oxygen means the deposits can’t fully break down. That means that today’s peat will have begun life as a plant around the time aliens first put together Stonehenge for a laugh. 

When peat is harvested it’s still wet, so it needs to be dug out, cut into ‘bricks’ and dried before it can be used as fuel. In whisky terms, peat is most associated with Scotland, but it’s commonly found in Ireland too (we tend to call it ‘turf’), as well as the US, Canada, Scandinavia, Siberia and even Indonesia.

What does this all have to do with booze? Well, the process of peating spirits truly began with Scotch, although as Annie wonderfully demonstrated here, it’s not the only alcohol to carry the classic smoky profile.

What is peat?

It’s not only Scotland that has peat. This is Irish peat, or turf, as we call it.

A happy accident

Peat was originally used in relation to alcohol as a fuel source to dry barley for whisky. For those who don’t know, during the whisky production process, you need to allow your grain to germinate in water to boost the natural sugar content, which is vital for fermentation as its these sugars the yeast eats and converts to alcohol. However, the grain needs to be dried with heat or we’d have a fully-fledged seedling on our hands.

That heat needs a fuel source. Most of the whisky industry uses coal, electricity, or gas and oil. This is where the history of peat becomes one of necessity. For distilleries in places like Islay, getting your hands on fuel sources wasn’t easy. Trees to cut down were sparse and raw materials like coal needed transportation. The journey to Islay is not exactly a picnic at the best of times. Never mind with great big bloody lumps of coal to haul over.

What these places did have – and still do – is peat. And, while the process began really out of convenience, what whisky makers quickly realised was their unique fuel source was aromatically influencing the resulting spirit. This is all thanks to a family of compounds called ‘phenols’. 

What is peat?

Peat has to be cut, dried, and shaped into bricks

Understanding the taste

As peat is derived from all kinds of plant matter, any number of flavours can form over the years, giving each brick of peat its own profile. As such, peat can also exhibit a kind of terroir, making each whisky even more unique. 

Let’s use Scotland as an example. In northern Scotland and Orkney, there tends to be a higher proportion of heather in peat, creating a lighter, sweeter character compared to peat on Islay, which has more coastal and iodine notes typically because here peat is partially formed by coastal minerals and plants (like seaweed, driftwood, Poseidon’s trident, etc.). This singular character is why, despite peat being by no means unique to Islay, it has become intrinsically linked with the Queen of the Hebrides. 

Depending on how you process your peat, you can attain different levels of intensity, from full-on dragon’s breath to delicate whispers of smoke. A scale called PPM, which stands for Parts Per Million of phenols, measures this. In theory, the higher the PPM, the smokier the booze will be. What kind of peat is used doesn’t determine the PPM, but how long it’s burnt for does. The longer it’s burnt, the smokier the grain will become, with an average drying time of around 30 hours. 

What is peat?

Lots of whiskies derive signature flavour profiles from these humble bricks

Measuring peat

To give you an idea of how this translates to taste, most Laphroaig releases have a phenol level of 45 PPM, while Ardbeg uses malt that’s been peated to 50 to 55 PPM, generally the highest on Islay. That’s until Bruichladdich rolls out its occasional Octomore releases, however, which really are an exercise in making massively peaty malts. It holds the PPM record, with the 08.3 edition containing barley peated to a gasp-inducing 309 PPM.

It is worth pointing out that other factors will determine how peaty a whisky tastes, with the way it’s fermented, distilled, and matured all playing a role. Comparing Lagavulin 16 Year Old and Caol Ila 12 Year Old is a good illustration that phenol levels aren’t everything, because both are peated to a phenol level of 35 PPM, but the latter tastes noticeably less smoky than its neighbour. 

PPM is more of a guide than an exact rule of thumb, so if you’re new to peat then you might want to play it safe and stick to the lower PPMs, or even whiskies that were just matured in ex-peaty whisky casks (of which there are plenty). There’s room on that scale for everyone, so be sure to play around and see what you like. Much in the same way that some people will order a Korma, while others prefer a Vindaloo. There are no wrong answers, it’s all about taste and preference. 

Embracing the world of peated spirits

We do heartily recommend you give peated whisky a few tries, if you haven’t already. We know that it’s a distinctive flavour that can be abrasive and challenging at first, and we don’t want to give anyone peaty-SD (like, PTSD, only for peat. Oh, forget it). But it’s a category full of culture, heritage, and nature. It’s also one hell of a taste once you acquire it.

Now, if only we had some peated whisky for you to sample

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Cocktail of the Week: The Sgroppino

Venice is home to some pretty amazing cocktails like the Bellini and the Spritz, but have you tried the Sgroppino, a refreshing blend of lemon sorbet, vodka and Prosecco? The…

Venice is home to some pretty amazing cocktails like the Bellini and the Spritz, but have you tried the Sgroppino, a refreshing blend of lemon sorbet, vodka and Prosecco?

The Negroni, Aperol Spritz, Bellini, the very concept of an aperitivo – we have Italy to thank for all of these legendary libations. But have you heard of the Sgroppino (pronounced Scro-PEEN-yoe)? It’s not the best-known or the easiest to say, spoken by a Brit at least, but it’s a delicious cocktail, with plenty of history to boot.

The Sgroppino al Limone, or Sgropin in the Venetian dialect, is today known as a frothy lemon sorbet mixed with vodka and topped up with, what else?, Prosecco.

One of the earliest mixed drinks

The origins of the Sgroppino are thought to date to 16th century Venice, around the same time that construction on the Rialto Bridge began. For context, the term cocktail didn’t come into circulation until the mid 19th century. That was (probably) thanks to a mix up over the French word for egg cups ‘coquetier‘ (pronounced ‘cocktay’ in English), used by Antoine Amédée Peychaud to serve Cognac with Peychaud bitters and absinthe. And so the oldest ‘cocktail’ is often cited as the Sazerac.

If the Sgroppino’s origin story is accurate, then it is much older. But the most impressive thing about the Sgroppino isn’t its long history, but the fact that it came to be at all – an ice-based cocktail invented in 16th century Venice, pre-refrigeration and the industrial revolution, after which transportation of ice, usually from America, became easier. It takes a little unpicking.

Rialto in Venice

Venice, where it all began

When ice was a status symbol

While the transatlantic ice trade didn’t take off until the 19th century, wealthy Europeans began building ice houses from the 16th century onwards, storing ice cut from nearby frozen lakes or streams. At that time, ice was the height of luxury, not easy to procure or store, and only the wealthiest would have had the means to enjoy it with drinks or to chill food.

Those people would also have had staff. The story goes that it was one such anonymous kitchen servant who served the first Sgroppino to a group of rich Italian aristocrats at a lavish dinner party. It proved a hit and it became traditional to serve it as an after-dinner digestif to soothe one’s stomach, as well as a palate cleanser between courses. In fact, its name comes from the Italian verb sgropàre, which means to “untie a small knot”, referencing a ‘twisted’ stomach after a big meal.

At the time of its invention, the Sgroppino would have been simply lemon, sugar and ice whisked with some kind of alcohol (perhaps an eau-de-vie made from grapes), and would have resembled an Italian Ice or granita. Sparkling wine was in its infancy (the techniques for making reliable bubbles were not perfected until the 19th century), so while it was possible some households might have had access and means to use it, the drink most likely began as a grappa-laced lemon-flavoured Italian ice, that was later topped up with sparkling wine once it became more commonplace.

Variations on the classic recipe

Today, refrigeration has allowed the Sgroppino to become more refined, served as a lemon sorbet (made with the aid of refrigeration) whipped with alcohol and sometimes limoncello, topped up with Prosecco. In Italy a waiter will often prepare the drink at your table to ensure a swift serve before natural separation. More modern variations can include strawberry or grapefruit, you could use a flavoured vodka, or swap it out for gin. You could use gelato for a creamier base, but the classic is dairy-free.

It’s best enjoyed in its native Venice, on a warm day looking out across the Adriatic with a plate of cicchetti. But it’s pretty tasty on a blustery autumn day in England. And best of all, you can whip one up without a shaker, and just three ingredients.

Sgroppino al Limone (Lemon Sorbet Cocktails)

How to make a Sgroppino
Modern Sgroppino

50g lemon sorbet
25ml Master of Malt Vodka
75ml Folonari Prosecco

Buy a good quality lemon sorbet, or make one from scratch, whisk in the vodka. Pour into a Champagne flute or coupe glass. Top with Prosecco and garnish with a sprinkling of lemon zest, or add a teaspoon of limoncello if you are feeling fancy.

Malfy Gin con Limon Sgroppino

50ml Malfy Gin con Limone
25ml lemon juice
15ml sugar syrup
1 scoop lemon sorbet
25ml Folonari Prosecco

Shake the first three ingredients together and strain into a chilled glass. Add a scoop of sorbet and top up with Prosecco. Garnish with a mint leaf.

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Master of Malt tastes… Johnnie Walker Blue Label

On the blog today we’re climbing towards the top of the Johnnie Walker tree with a tasting of the super fancy Blue Label and the latest edition of Ghost and…

On the blog today we’re climbing towards the top of the Johnnie Walker tree with a tasting of the super fancy Blue Label and the latest edition of Ghost and Rare made with whisky from closed distillery Pittyvaich and other rarities.

According to Nicholas Morgan’s A Long Stride (which if you haven’t bought a copy, can you even consider yourself a whisky fan?) the Blue Label story begins in 1987 when the Distillers Company launched Johnnie Walker Oldest. It quickly became known as Blue Label, for obvious reasons, and was a blend of rare malt and grain whiskies bottled without an age statement with stylishly retro packaging that echoed the 19th century Johnnie Walker bottle. 


Though expensive, or perhaps because it was expensive, it proved an instant hit. According to Morgan by 1997, it was selling 50,000 cases globally. As a known currency throughout the world, it’s perhaps the ultimate gift whisky. You know you’ve done a good job or your in-laws approve when you receive a bottle. This very ubiquity, however, combined with the fact it’s a blend and the lack of age statement means that malt enthusiasts have often turned their noses up at Blue Label.

It’s definitely a subtle drop, a world away from the big flavours of most malts or even Black Label, but one that is worth taking a bit of time with to appreciate the full majesty. What I love about it is you can really taste the quality of those long-aged grain whiskies. They’re the backbone of Blue Label. See the video below for the irrepressible Colin Dunn’s guide to tasting. 

Ghost & Rare Pack and Bottle Square Wire image

Coming soon…


If there’s something a bit heretical to single malt fans of blending very old whiskies, then the Ghost and Rare series launched in 2018, had people spluttering into their quaiches. An annual release, it contained whiskies that were literally irreplaceable because they came from closed distilleries like Brora, Port Ellen and Glenury Royal. Surely, you shouldn’t blend priceless jewels like these?  You have to admire master blender Jim Beveridge’s chutzpah. And they’re fine whiskies too, complex, distinctive, and beautifully balanced. 

The latest edition, coming soon to Master of Malt, is based around Pittyvaich on Speyside which was only in production from 1974 to 1993. Other malts include Mannochmore, Auchroisk, Cragganmore, Strathmill, and Royal Lochnagar, plus grains from two other ghost distilleries, Port Dundas and Carsebridge.

Beveridge commented: “Pittyvaich may only have thrived for a short period, but the whisky laid down by this distillery is something unmistakable. Its distinct autumnal character has always intrigued us and fired our imagination to create something really special that would pay tribute to the whisky makers of this Speyside distillery.”

We tasted it alongside the classic Blue Label which has just been repackaged. Here’s what we thought.

Johnnie Walker Blue Label

Nose: Waxy and fruity with apples and peaches, cinnamon and other baking spices, pastry, and orange peel. Is there a whisper of smoke here too?

Palate: Super creamy with caramel, custard, vanilla, milk chocolate, and peaches. Impeccably balanced with not a harsh edge in sight.

Finish: Long and creamy, honey and heather. Goes away and then comes back again.

Johnnie Walker Ghost and Rare Pittyvaich

Nose: That waxy note again with dried fruit, apricots and raisins, dark chocolate, marzipan, orange blossom, stone fruit, and citrus.

Palate: Really peppery and spicy, black and schezuan pepper, vanilla, toffee, and honey. Unctuous and layered, there are some beautifully aged grain whiskies in here. Plus stone and orchard fruit.

Finish: Finish is all sweetness, fudge with peaches and cream.

Buy Johnnie Walker Blue Label here. The latest Ghost and Rare should be with Master of Malt soon – sign up to our newsletter in the box to the right for updates. 

Now take it away Colin….

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