Just landed at MoM towers, some extraordinary Cognacs including one that spent 110 years in cask! We thought an article might be in order to tell you all about them….
Just landed at MoM towers, some extraordinary Cognacs including one that spent 110 years in cask! We thought an article might be in order to tell you all about them.
Before we start, let’s get one thing out of the way, these Cognacs range from the expensive to the very very expensive but, we’d argue, none of them is absurdly priced. We’re talking about spirits that have spent decades, in one case 110 years, in cask. These are rare rare bottles of extraordinary quality that people have invested a lot of time in. Compare them with the auction prices of old Macallans, Bowmores or Springbanks, and suddenly they don’t seem so expensive after all.
David Baker talking about his favourite subject… Taylor Swift. No, sorry, Cognac!
All of the Cognacs below are from the Grande Champagne region. They come courtesy of David Baker who we’ve written about on this blog before. From his years of experience, unrivalled contacts and palate, Baker is able to sniff out rare casks of Cognac lurking in the cellars of growers and small producers in the region, and bottles them under the Hermitage label. His enthusiasm for these products is infectious and we have to say that these are some of the most extraordinary spirits ever featured on Master of Malt, and I personally feel very lucky that he gave me some to try.
Take the 1885 featured below, Baker spoke for a good 20 minutes about its virtues. It spent 100 years in cask, and had, according to Baker “lost its excitement, the richness had dissipated.” It was put into glass bonbons for a good few years until someone had the bright idea of recasking it. So, it spent another 10-12 years, Baker isn’t certain exactly how long, in a new but not too new cask. This rejuvenated it and became, as Bake put it, “beyond the quality of anything we have come across before.”
He went on to say, “the balance is beyond what I would call perfect. All you have is richness, there is nothing that attacks the mouth,” despite the 46% ABV, “shut your eyes and drift into a world of Cognac.” The taste is so layered and complex that Baker describes it as “double rancio”. Rancio being the complex flavours like walnut, pineapple and apricot produced over time in the interaction of cask, spirit and oxygen. “The only problem is there ain’t much left of it! When it’s gone, it’s gone”, Baker said. Though he told me that there’s an 1890 out there that may be just as good. Let’s hope he lets us try a little.
Baker isn’t sure how old this is. It spent between 50-60 years in cask before it was placed in glass bonbons.
Nose: Red berries and dark cherries, with dark chocolate, black coffee and some orange peel.
Palate: Dark roast coffee, burnt toffee and even a little coal dust initially, quite a bit of tannin, but then the fruits come through, peach, roasted plum and citrus, and it becomes sweeter with time in the glass.
Finish: Dark chocolate, allspice and maraschino cherry.
Overall: Dark, powerful, and extremely complex, needs time to open up to reveal its charms.
This week Dos Hombres Mezcal has found its way to MoM Towers. You might know the founders of the brand. It’s the stars of Breaking Bad Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul. No,…
This week Dos Hombres Mezcal has found its way to MoM Towers. You might know the founders of the brand. It’s the stars of Breaking Bad Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul. No, really.
In a New York bar in 2016 two friends had a conversation about life and what kind of new project they should embark upon together. They decided to create a booze brand, settling on mezcal as their spirit of choice. Not an unusual story in our industry, only those two friends were Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul, the stars of one of the all time greatest ever TV shows, Breaking Bad.
Cranston explained in an Instagram post. “We had the time of our lives while shooting Breaking Bad and truly built a very special bond. Knowing that we couldn’t share the screen for quite a while – our thoughts turned to a new project. We sipped cocktails and thought about what it should be,” he said. “The younger one looked at his drink and said, you know what we should do? We should do a really special mezcal. The older one said, you mean the liquor with a worm at the bottom? Nah, that was just some bullshit gimmick, I mean real, artisanal mezcal made by hand in Mexico.”
The idea took hold and the duo started travelling to Oaxaca together to see if they could find the kind of spirit they had in mind. In a remote section of Oaxaca in a tiny village called San Luis del Rio they did just that and met its creator seventh-generation mezcalero Gregorio Velasco, who is most notable for making Piedre Almas. In another Instagram post, Cranston said that “Gregorio isn’t just a beautiful human being, he’s our maestro. Without Gregorio’s artistry and passion for perfection, our mezcal doesn’t exist. That’s not hype. All we did was find him and his brilliant spirit in the hills of Oaxaca”. Thus, Dos Hombres was born.
Cranston and Paul found their ideal spirit on a dirt road in a remote part of Oaxaca
Velasco makes mezcal in a traditional way, harvesting his espadin agave after at least six years and cooking it in underground pit ovens for four days. Once the agave is transferred to an above-ground pit, it’s milled by a donkey-drawn ‘tahona’ (essentially a big stone wheel which breaks down the agave into a mash). The mash is fermented in wooden tubs for 7-10 days with mountain spring water where it becomes ‘tepache’, which is then loaded into copper pot stills and double-distilled over the course of two days.
The production process behind Dos Hombres isn’t just in-keeping with the heritage of the spirit, but it’s also made in a manner that prioritises sustainable agriculture, a pressing concern for the mezcal industry. Velasco only uses natural fertilizers available in the Oaxaca region, including the agave waste from distillation (bagazo). After harvest, the soil is maintained intact for three-to-four years before agave is planted again. Dos Hombres also plans to build a cooling system to exclusively treat water used to cool our copper stills so this may be repurposed. Nice work, fellas.
Now, it’s understandable to take a sceptical view of celebrity-backed boozes; there are an awful lot of them. But to their credit, Cranston and Paul seem genuine about their passion and have gone about their business admirably so far. “We love all things mezcal. Love the process and the community behind this beautiful spirit,” Paul explained when the brand launched in July 2019.
The guys have done good, we’re fans of Dos Hombres Mezcal and look forward to what comes next
Their status and social media reach has the potential to draw attention to this underappreciated spirit. We’ve already seen the effect that charismatic, humorous and engaging characters can have thanks to the likes of Ryan Reynolds and George Clooney, who have both sold their brands (Aviation Gin and Casamigos, respectively) to Diageo for big bucks.
Fame doesn’t make the liquid inside the bottle taste any better, however, which is ultimately the most important thing. It would appear that Cranston and Paul have little to worry about in this regard, though. Dos Hombres has stormed the awards circuit in this first year, being named Mezcal of the Year in New York International Spirits Competition 2020, took home a gold medal in the London Spirits Competition 2020 and also received 96 points, the highest rating a Mezcal has ever received in Cigar & Spirits Magazine’s nearly ten years of rating spirits.
Awards are one thing, but the most important question remains: does it live up to our high standards (stop laughing). M’colleague Henry had a try, and described it as such: “It’s a delightfully easy-going Mezcal, great for sipping and mixing. It’s really the perfect mezcal for people like me who don’t like the whole burning tyre thing you get in some.” Sounds wonderful. He also put together this terrific tasting note and we’ve included some suggested serves so you can really get stuck in and enjoy it. Right now the only Dos Hombres expression available is made with espadin agave, but a tobala mezcal is en route and expected to land in 2021, so be sure to keep an eye out for that.
Nose: Toasty rather than pungently smoky, like a wood fire, vegetal green olive and lime notes.
Palate: Super smooth and creamy, lovely mouthfeel with tangy citrus notes, and lingering smoke and black pepper.
Finish: Subtle smoke with that creamy mouthfeel persisting.
Suggested Serve: The Dos Hombres recipe page has plenty of interestingly and wonderfully named cocktails, such as the Cranstonian, a combination of Dos Hombres Mezcal, cranberry juice, Aperol and fresh lime juice, or Naked & Famous which swaps the lime juice for lemon juice and the Aperol for Chartreuse Yellow and the Mango Jalapeño, which sounds right up my street and features the little spicy delights alongside lime juice and mango puree.
We pour a dram and catch up with Jura’s brand home manager Mark Bruce, chatting through favourite drams, bottles for Christmas, and why the island itself is just so enchanting……
We pour a dram and catch up with Jura’s brand home manager Mark Bruce, chatting through favourite drams, bottles for Christmas, and why the island itself is just so enchanting…
Most whisky geeks around the world will know about Islay. A trip to the island is something of a pilgrimage. A fewer, but definitely increasing, number know about the hidden gem just to the north and but a short ferry hop: the Isle of Jura.
The island is simply spectacular. It spans the same land area as London but is home to just 200 people (and a casual 6,000 deer). It’s wildly mountainous, but it’s also got sweeping white beaches. It’s where George Orwell wrote 1984. It’s even got palm trees, thanks to the warm air swept across the Atlantic by the jet stream. And it’s home to a whisky distillery!
Jura has become known in recent years for its cask finishing balanced with a gentle peat influence. But its island home has a huge impact on the distillery, too. We find out just how from Mark Bruce, Jura’s brand home manager, who lives on the island.
6,000 deer, 200 people, mountains, beaches and one brilliant distillery – welcome to Jura
Master of Malt: Jura is a little-known Scottish island, but it is truly stunning – white beaches, mountains, deer! What are your favourite things about the island?
Mark Bruce: My favourite thing about life on Jura is that I get to live and work within a community that’s dedicated to making great whisky. Jura Whisky and our tiny island community go hand in hand, therefore without one, the other wouldn’t be what it is today. But it isn’t always about whisky. Come the weekends and longer days you’ll often find me out walking the hills after work and enjoying Small Isles Bay on paddleboards and canoes.
MoM: Jura is also incredibly remote – it takes quite the journey to get there! How does this impact island life and whisky production?
MB: I would say our location impacts every aspect of life, but it wasn’t until I moved here I began to fully appreciate that. With just one shop (our community store), one pub and a handful of island businesses, Jura relies entirely on the ferries between us and Islay, as well as those running from Islay to the mainland. The problems tend to occur when the wild weather kicks in and high winds force the ferries to stop running.
Our whisky production also finds itself at the mercy of the ferries during bad weather. Our distillery manager Graham Logan and his team are able to maintain 24-hour production for two or three days before we desperately need the ferries up and running again.
MoM: The whisky a distillery makes is as much a product of its location and community as the production methods. How does Jura’s tiny but close-knit community impact the character of Jura whisky?
MB: I couldn’t agree more. Our location itself doesn’t just make Jura a difficult island to get to, but makes every part of life and whisky-making that bit harder. This brings our community together and ensures anyone in need of help gets it. It also translates directly into our whisky and team here at the distillery. There are 17 of us working in our distillery, and all of us live here on Jura. It’s very much the community helping to make each and every drop of spirit!
The amazing view of the distillery from the water
MoM: One of my favourite memories of Jura is swimming off the coast in front of the distillery – what are your personal highlights from your first visits to the island?
MB: One of my most memorable experiences was on my first visit to Jura, which was part of an immersion experience with Whyte & Mackay. I was fortunate enough to visit for four days and experience all the best parts of what this wonderful island has to offer. We got to climb The Paps [the island’s mountains], experience Jura’s east coast from a fast boat, and walk up to the distillery’s water source, The Market Loch. We also explored the north end of the island, which has some of its most remote beaches. And we enjoyed the freshly-caught seafood! Of course, we also had an in-depth tour of the distillery, and tasted Jura whiskies with our distillery manager, Graham Logan.
MoM: Talk us through the core Jura range. How do you celebrate the island of Jura through each expression?
MB: I think the entire range of whiskies within our Signature Series is worth celebrating. Exploring them all is a journey in itself, but most importantly, there’s a whisky in there for everyone. We begin with Jura Journey, a great example of how our new-make spirit works perfectly well with American white oak ex-bourbon casks. The 10 and 12-year-old single malts then expand on this with 18-14 months in Oloroso sherry casks. Our Seven Wood is a beauty because it’s different for me every time I try it. American white oak and six different types of French Oak are brought together to create a truly exciting dram of whisky. Jura 18, an island favourite, is best described as armchair whisky for me. It’s very complex, a whisky that can be nurtured on its own and paired perfectly with your main course or dessert. It’s the enhancement period in very special Bordeaux red wine casks that makes Jura 18 an absolute favourite!
MoM: If someone’s thinking of gifting a bottle of Jura for Christmas, where would you suggest they start?
MB: I’d suggest trying one (or both) of our new cask edition releases. Whether it’s the Jura Red Wine cask or the Jura Winter Edition, you simply can’t go wrong. Both of these are perfect for sharing with your friends and family, pairing with food, and mixing in your favourite cocktail.
A dram on one of the island’s remote beaches. I can think of worse ways to pass the time…
MoM: What dram will you be toasting Christmas with this year?
MB: A sample we’ve just drawn from a cask destined for next year’s Fèis Ìle. You’ll hear all about it soon enough!
Like the sound of Jura? You could win a trip to the island! Check out our blog post for more.
It’s Monday and that means #WhiskySanta has another showstopper of Super Wish to show off. Ho, ho, ho! I do sincerely hope all of you enjoyed the first week of…
It’s Monday and that means #WhiskySanta has another showstopper of Super Wish to show off.
Ho, ho, ho! I do sincerely hope all of you enjoyed the first week of my return. I’ve alreadygiven away a sleigh-load of boozy goodies and revealed myfirst Super Wish of the season. And I won’t be slowing down anytime soon. So be sure to keep wishing away, because I’ll be making drinks-based dreams come true every single day from now until Christmas Eve!
Today, however, is a particularly special day for me. Firstly, because it’s December Eve. For a festive fellow like myself that’s tremendously exciting. It’s also a Monday, which I understand is a word that sends a shudder down the spine of you adorable mortal folk. But in the wonderful world of #WhiskySanta, it’s quite the opposite. Because it’s the day I spoil you with a new Super Wish! This one’s a doozy…
You’re lucky I’m so generous, this would make a fine addition to the personal collection…
This corker of a Scotch whisky was distilled way back in 1970 and matured in a combination of bourbon and Apostoles sherry casks for 48 years before being bottled in 2019. Which I understand is a long time for those who aren’t omniscient supernatural entities. Ordinarily, you’d have to part with more than £1,800 to get your hands on this beauty, but thanks to me one marvellously lucky person is going to get it absolutely free.
A gold star to anybody who remembers how all this works, but in case you don’t, let’s run through it again, shall we? First, head on over to theTamnavulin 48 Year Old 1970 – Vintages Collection page and hit the zazzy red button that says “Wish” on it. Thanks to a kind of techy, Christmassy magic, a box will pop up ready to send you onwards to a pre-populated Twitter or Facebook post. Just hit publish and you’ve completed your wish! Oh, and if you’re an Instagrammer, which the elves inform is a very trendy term for people who use that platform, pop a post on your feed with the #WhiskySanta hashtag.
Click the button and you’re in with a chance of getting your hands on some outstanding booze
We may have waited an awfully long time for the whisky to mature, but we’ll need you to get those wishes in by the end of Wednesday. I’m afraid this season is quite busy for me, as you can imagine. There’s not much time to lose. I’ve got booze to give away, mince pies to taste test and a new chessboard to look at ashamedly while I eat cheese and rewatch The Queen’s Gambit. It’s all go around here.
On the Nightcap this week we applaud some forward-thinking brands, celebrate 750 years of Frapin and look at some intriguing new releases, including one made to honour Her Majesty… This…
On the Nightcap this week we applaud some forward-thinking brands, celebrate 750 years of Frapin and look at some intriguing new releases, including one made to honour Her Majesty…
This week there was presumably plenty happening in the worlds that exist outside of booze, no doubt misery-filled and relentless bits of news about how terrible everything is. But here at MoM Towers, this was a good week. A great week, in fact. Because he’s back: Whisky Santa has returned! That’s right, the dram-loving do-gooder is here once again to give away £250,000 worth of booze in the name of Christmas cheer! You know the drill, get wishing now and you could get everything you want this year with just the click of a button.
Michelle Dockery “being both feminine and strong, while enjoying whisky.” Photo credit: Misan Harriman
Glenfiddich challenges stereotypes in campaign with Michelle Dockery
Giants of the category Glenfiddich has announced this week that it plans to use its prominent position to “progress the perception of whisky to new audiences” and break the mould to “encourage greater gender inclusivity”, which we like the sound of very much. The Speyside distillery has launched a new campaign featuring the award-winning actress Michelle Dockery, star of Downton Abbey and The Gentlemen in a shoot that attempted to reimagine the whisky imagery through a contemporary lens, with each image chosen to reflect a modern woman making her own choices. The whisky featured was Glenfiddich Grand Cru 23-Year-Old, which you can find here. “I am thrilled to be a part of Glenfiddich’s new campaign which celebrates mavericks. That’s what drove me to be a part of this latest campaign,” Dockery said. “The shoot is authentic, it reflects a modern woman making her own choices: being both feminine and strong, while enjoying whisky.” While more and more women are making whisky their drink of choice and working in the industry, the sad truth is that too many still see it as a man’s drink, which marketing companies and campaigns can address. It’s good to see Glenfiddich do that here.
Cheers to another 750 years!
Frapin celebrates 750 years with vintage Cognac
Cognac house Frapin is celebrating 750 years in the business. 750 years! The first Frapin recorded was a vine grower called Albert Frapin way back in 1270. At the time the Cognac region would have been part of the Duchy of Aquitaine, a possession of the English crown. Ah, happy days! Anyway, Frapin is celebrating in the most appropriate way possible by releasing some fine Cognacs. These include the Château Fontpinot XO 750, and a special vintage Cognac. No, not from 1270, that would be ridiculous. No, it’s a 40-year-old from 1979. This is the first vintage that the house ever released, in 1988. One cask, however, was kept back to be bottled at a later date. Cellar master Patrice Piveteau commented: “A limited edition of only 180 bottles coming from one cask jealously kept since four decades in our dry cellars…” He went on to describe the taste as “going off like a firework. Pow!” We were fortunate enough to be given a sample and can only concur. It’s an impossibly complex Cognac and we’re delighted to have some in stock. But that’s not all, we also have the 1992, 1990, and 1988. Why not collect the set?
We sampled a delightfully distinctive rum this week with La Hechicera for the launch of the second expression in its ‘Experimental’ range. Led by co-founder and managing director Miguel Riascos, we enjoyed the playful new limited-edition bottling, which is a blend of rums aged up to 21 years in American white oak barrels that were infused with organic sun-dried banana flesh before being bottled at 41% ABV. It pays homage to the brand’s history as three generations of the Riascos family’s original traded bananas, before moving in to the rum business. “Serie Experimental No. 2 is an amazing liquid that we are proud to share with the world,” said Riascos. “Rum is a category that is continuing to gain popularity and Serie Experimental No. 2 is a unique product that will help drive interest in the category by recruiting new consumers to the category and offering rum consumers something new.” We very much enjoyed our tasting, it’s a beautifully balanced rum, mixing refined sweetness of vanilla, toffee and hazelnut with notes of freshly baked banana bread, coffee, tobacco, dark chocolate and some salty minerality. If you fancy trying it for yourself, Serie Experimental No. 2 is available from MoM Towers now!.
Diageo launches ten-year sustainability action plan
Diageo has announced this week a range of 25 bold goals as part of its ‘Society 2030: Spirit of Progress’ plan. Designed to make a positive impact on the world by 2030, Diageo has broken down its ambitions into several achievable key goals. The first is to reach 1 billion people with messages of moderation, partly through ‘SMASHED’, its award-winning alcohol education awareness programme, and to increase representation by ensuring that, by 2030, 45% of its leaders are from ethnically diverse backgrounds and 50% are women. Diageo has also committed to working towards a low-carbon future by harnessing 100% renewable energy to achieve net-zero carbon emissions across direct operations, making sure 100% of its packaging will be widely recyclable and making every drink it produces with 30% less water to make than it does today to achieve a net positive water impact. Alongside the ‘Society 2030: Spirit of Progress’ plan, Diageo has also introduced Sustainable Solutions, a global platform that will provide non-equity funding to start-up and technology companies in order to help Diageo continue to embed sustainability in its supply chain and brands. “As a global business, we are committed to playing our part to protect the future of our planet and to leading the way for others to follow,” CEO Ivan Menezes said. “I am immensely proud of Diageo’s sustainability and responsibility achievements to date, and this new, ambitious action plan will challenge us even further to deliver more over the critical decade to 2030.”
Is this the go-to gin glass?
Glencairn presents the gin goblet
You probably know Glencairn as the brand behind the official glass for whisky, which sells over 65,000 units every week around the world, but the family-owned crystal glassware company has now set its sights on the world of gin too. Responding to the huge rise in the popularity of the spirit in recent years and consumer demand for a dedicated gin glass, Glencairn used its Mixer Glass, originally developed in consultation with the Canadian whisky industry, as a starting point and adapted it make something that considered the needs of the gin drinker, bar staff and distillers. The result? The Gin Goblet. The new glass has plenty of classic Glencairn features you’d expect, it’s made from crystal to enhance the clarity of the drink, it’s curvy in shape to help focus and enhance aroma and it was designed to require less ice, meaning that your gin doesn’t become too diluted. “At Glencairn we are proud of our innovative history, having been at the forefront of ground-breaking crystal design and creation for nearly forty years,” says Scott Davidson, new product development director. “We always strive to listen and respond to customer demand with the ultimate aim of enhancing the spirit lover’s drinking experience. We hope that we have delivered the perfect glass for gin lovers worldwide.” Sounds like the perfect present. If only there was some gift-giving occasion coming up…
We love this gorgeous new drink and travel magazine. Great work, guys!
New drink magazine is just the Tonic
A couple of weeks ago we announced the sad news of the demise of Imbibe, so we were especially pleased when we received a copy of a brand new magazine called Tonic. It’s a drinks magazine with a difference, you won’t find articles about Glenmorangie’s newest expression or quotes from Miles Beale from the WSTA. Instead, it combines travel and drinks writing with gorgeous photography and very high production values. As well as hardened drink professionals like Imbibe founder Chris Losh, Will Hawkes, Claire Dodd and our very own Henry Jeffreys, there’s more off-beat stuff such as Douglas Rogers on how his parents tried to start a vineyard in Zimbabwe, Father Thomas Plant on holy wine, and Juliet Rix on boozing in North Korea. It’s edited by travel writer Tristan Rutherford, and the publishing team are Robert Ellison and Benita Finanzio. They wrote: “The genesis of Tonic is our fondness for convivial, communal experiences with friends and strangers alike, sharing drinks and stories.” Just what we need in these difficult times when many of us can’t even go to the pub. We can’t wait for the next issue.
Look out for this beauty, it will be at MoM Towers soon…
Coming soon: Glen Moray Sauternes Cask expression
It just doesn’t stop over at Elgin distillery Glen Moray. Head of whisky creation Dr Kirstie McCallum is always hunting around the warehouses for rare and unusual barrels to release as limited editions. Now it’s the turn of some Sauternes casks. This latest release is made up of five special sweet Bordeaux French oak barrels, filled in 2006 and left for 14 years. It’s bottled at cask strength with none of that chill-filtering or colour added. McCallum commented: ‘We’re very proud to be releasing our Sauternes Cask Matured expression in time for the festive season – and as the first whisky in our new Warehouse 1 Collection. This is an absolute cracker of a dram, and a perfect marriage of Glen Moray’s spirit with all the rich, deliciously sweet flavours you would enjoy in a glass of Sauternes. It’s a real celebration of flavour and Glen Moray’s passion for unusual cask maturation.” We have to agree with the good doc, the marmalade and spice character from the Sauternes casks is indeed a happy fit with the fruity Glen Moray style. Just 1248 bottles have been filled and as usual with these rare Glen Moray releases, it’s a bit of a bargain with an RRP of £79.95. Watch the New Arrivals page for its imminent arrival at Master of Malt.
The brand says the plans will ensure The Old Mill is at “the heart of the Kilmacthomas community once again”
Another new Irish whiskey distillery is on the way
It appears that not even a global pandemic can slow down the growth of the Irish whiskey industry as another new distillery is reported to be in the works. Gortinore Distillers, which was co-founded by Aidan Mehigan, along with two friends and his father and markets the Irish whiskey brand Natterjack, has revealed in a post on the brand’s Facebook that it has been granted planning approval for the construction of the €8 million project, which will entail renovating The Old Mill in Kilmacthomas, County Waterford. Gortinore Distillers acquired the lease of the building, which started life as a woollen mill in the 1850s and was later the home to Flahavan’s Irish porridge, back in 2016 and plan to install three copper pot stills and create warehouse space to store whiskey casks. A visitor centre, also said to be in the works, will add further value to the local tourism industry. Once complete, the distillery will have the capacity to produce one million bottles every year and will create 15 full-time jobs. “We are delighted to say that we have been granted planning approval for a distillery to be built at the site of The Old Mill in Kilmacthomas, Co. Waterford. It has been a long process, but big plans deserve big consideration and we are honoured to be taking this stunning piece of history on its next adventure,” Gortinore Distillers announced in the Facebook post. “We may have big plans, but the premises, sitting on the banks of the River Mahon in County Waterford already has a story all of its own.”
Michael Urquhart appointed as 2021 president of IWSC
Former Gordon & MacPhail managing director Michael Urquhart has taken up a high-profile industry position after being named the 2021 president of the prestigious International Wine & Spirit Competition (IWSC). He replaces 2020 president Tamara Roberts, CEO of English wine producer Ridgeview, and is tasked with promoting the production of quality wines and spirits throughout the world. Urquhart retired as managing director of Elgin-based Gordon & MacPhail, the fourth-generation business owned by the Urquhart family, in 2014 and stepped down from the board in 2017 after serving over 36 years in the company. In 1999 when he was made a Keeper of the Quaich and in 2012 a Master of the Quaich in recognition of services to the promotion of Scotch whisky worldwide. “It’s a real privilege, and I’m humbled, to be chosen as president of such a prestigious organisation as the IWSC. “I’ve always had the greatest respect for the IWSC and the excellent work it does in maintaining and developing the high-quality reputation of the global wine and spirits industry,” Michael Urquhart said. “I’m very much looking forward to getting behind the IWSC and ensuring it continues to work in the best interests of the entire industry.”
The Queen is known to be a gin lover, but this is getting a bit much
And finally… the Royal Family gets another gin!
The Royal Family really do love their gin. Not only is Charles partial to a Martini and the Queen a Gin & Dubonnet, but both launched their own brands this year, Highgrove Gin and Buckingham Palace Gin (see Nightcap 17 July) Well, now it seems that two gins are not enough because we have just learned about the arrival of a Sandringham Celebration Gin. It’s made on the Norfolk estate by local distiller Whatahoot using botanicals from the gardens including sharon fruit and myrtle. Apparently, it is “a full-bodied gin with rich juniper tones and a lingering citrus finish” and the price is suitably regal too, £50 for a 50cl, available direct from the estate. So what next for the gin-loving Royal Family? A Balmoral gin? Or perhaps Harry and Meghan will ape their LA celebrity pals with the release of a Sussex Tequila. Watch this space!
Satryna Tequila founder Nitzan Marrun joins us to talk about the secret to making great Tequila, how she came to work with a 60-year-old recipe passed down through three generations…
Satryna Tequila founderNitzan Marrun joins us to talk about the secret to making great Tequila, how she came to work with a 60-year-old recipe passed down through three generations and overcoming the odds as a young woman in a male-dominated world.
Nitzan Marrun is a Tequila purist. Her mission is to show people how good Tequila can be, how it should be made and what the drink means to Mexico. She has an assured, forthright and determined voice, but it’s one that was not always heard. The young entrepreneur has overcome prejudice and perception to create Satryna Tequila, a premium brand dripping in glamorous aesthetic but with seriously good spirit and cultural appreciation at its core. She’s also generous with her time and knowledge, which is handy because despite only being in her mid-twenties, her story goes back a long way.
“When my grandmother and her brother were very young they were very close friends with this little kid from the neighbourhood, Carlos Newton, who grew up to become the owner of Newton’s Distillery”, Murran explains. “He would send very special bottles of Tequila Blanco to my grandmother. It was a recipe devised only for the consumption of my family and our friends. We’ve had it for over half a century. I grew up with that Tequila. I would steal barrels for my parties with my friends, you know! Everyone in my family loves to drink it and when we are having a meal we always accompany it with different types of Tequila. I didn’t grow up surrounded by the production of Tequila, but I have always had a wide knowledge of it from my family’s heritage.”
This history with Tequila would eventually lead her down the path to founding her own company. She remembers fondly the moment that prompted her to consider the potential of such a move, which happened in the way it does with so many brands. With a conversation in a bar. “I met my now partner Vic at a bar in London and he asked for a really bad Tequila, he was trying to show off with this girl. I heard and said ‘hey dude, you know that’s a horrible Tequila, you should ask for his instead’,” says Marrun. “We became close friends and I invited him to Mexico, I gave him a shot of my Tequila and he said ‘this Tequila is amazing, why don’t you start a brand and sell it in Europe. ”
Say hello to Satryna Tequila founder Nitzan Murran!
Despite seeming destined to enter the world with Tequila and armed with a 60-year-old recipe in her back pocket, founding Satryna was still a leap of faith for Murran. But her belief that consumers deserved to see Tequila as its best drove her on. “Tequila is more than just a drink: it’s very special, very powerful. It has so much heritage. You need to appreciate everything that is behind this liquid to create it,” Marrun explains. “I wanted to educate the consumer and to let them know the difference between good quality Tequila and bad quality Tequila. I wanted to champion the correct process. My vision is to show people from the outside that don’t know much about it what great Tequila is”.
For Marrun, this means the process must be as artisanal as possible, always choosing flavour and quality ahead of convenience and cost. “The first question is how many years do you grow your agave? The more mature the agave is the better it’s going to be as it will have more concentrated sugar to convert into alcohol. We mature from ten to 13 years to make sure that the agave is perfect,” she says. “If you’re not maturing it fully, you’re cutting corners. It’s the same if you make a Tequila with only 51% agave and mix it with sugarcane’. For me, it has to be 100% agave. We use blue weber agave from the rich volcanic soil of Jalisco, near Guadalajara”.
The next important step is how you can cook your agave, in either a steam oven or an industrial oven, with Marrun opting for the more traditional former. “An industrial oven is cheaper and you can cook many agaves at the same time. A steam oven is like an artisanal pizza oven. If you go to Domino’s Pizza they will use an electric industrial oven. It’s faster, it’s cheaper, but it doesn’t create a product that tastes too good. It’s the same for the Tequila,” Marrun explains. “The agave needs to be cooked at a certain temperature to reach a point where the sugar concentrates creating more flavour. It takes 24 hours, but it’s worth it. We also distil our Tequila three times. For it to be legally named ‘Tequila’ it needs only to be distilled two times, but we feel doing it three times makes a more pure, concentrated spirit”.
Satryna Tequila is made using traditional production processes
The process of making Satryna Tequila could only ever happen in one place: Newton Distillery, on the same grounds where that recipe which was carried over three generations was developed. It’s not made under the watch of Carlos Newton, however, but Maestro Tequilero Mireida Cortes, who Murran admires greatly. “She has a lot of experience and she is extremely passionate about the Tequila. Everybody underestimates how hard it is to become a maestro tequilero. It’s a lot of work, it’s a lot of dedication. We have just been very impressed by her because she always creates the profile that we want. When you’re super-artisanal, you cannot add any chemicals to create a consistent flavour. It takes a lot of work to repeatedly capture our character, but Mireida is amazing!”
Satryna’s core expressions are its Blanco and Cristalino. The former, Murran explains, has a lot of character and is very easy to drink, but it’s not super smooth, “because a blanco should never be super smooth. It’s important to taste the agave. Ours has a lot of citrus notes”. As for the Cristalino, it’s matured for 18 months in American oak barrels before going through a charcoal filtration, removing the spirit’s colour, but not the flavours imparted by the ageing. “It’s a style that’s trending, but there are not many brands in Europe that have this type. It’s very smoky because it has 18 months in a barrel and then it’s filtered with charcoal. It’s very special because you get to taste the agave still and its complemented by the notes from the American oak.”
In the future, the brand’s reposado and añejo will arrive in Europe (and at MoM Towers), with the global pandemic playing its part in slowing down their release. Murran gives us an idea of what to expect from the upcoming releases. “Our reposado is aged in American white oak for eight months, while the añejo is matured for 24 months, 12 months in French oak from Cognac and 12 months in American oak barrels, creating a really interesting profile,” she says.
A Día de los Muertos celebration in Oaxaca like the one pictured here inspired Murran’s branding
One of the most striking aspects of the Satryna brand is its distinctive bottles, which were inspired by Murran’s love for el Día de Muertos (The Day of the Dead) and Mexican heritage. “We went to Oaxaca in the early days of Satryna and there were these artists that made these beautiful silver skulls. We bought one and the rights to make it the stopper of our bottle. We also have ancient Aztec art engraved on the neck and we pay tribute to La Catrina, an iconic female symbol and the Goddess of Death. Our logo is her mask and she inspired the brand’s name,” Murran says. “For me, it is the most special celebration in Mexico. Everybody comes together. We wanted to portray the character and history to show a special side of Mexico. There are some difficult stereotypes that we have in Europe especially. We work very hard to fight this”.
Murran knows a thing or two about facing stereotypes. Starting Satryna at just 19 years old, there were plenty ready to dismiss her. “It was a bit of a struggle, a 19-year-old girl getting into an old man’s business is challenging. I had a lot of intentions and I have always had a tough character but it was hard. People wouldn’t even take my calls because they thought everything was a joke,” she recalls. “But we are becoming more progressive. Hopefully, the fact that I have challenged some preconceptions about gender and age will inspire people to follow my path. We have a lot of work to do still here in Mexico, certainly, but we have worked hard to get to where we want to be and we’re already very far ahead of where we expected to be. We are off to a really good start and on a really good path”.
It’s hard to disagree with that assessment tasting Satryna’s first two expressions. The blanco is always the key for a Tequila brand, get it right and you’re onto a winner. Which is exactly what Satryna has here. It’s got a lovely balance between citrus, vegetal, fruit and cooked agave notes and is complex and characterful enough to be enjoyed neat, the way Marrun likes (although she does concede to enjoying an Espresso Martini with her spirit too). All in all, a very refined Tequila. The Cristalino, while not being the style I would usually go for, avoids the pitfalls of candied sweetness, retaining enough agave profile and plenty of smoky, savoury elements to keep it interesting. It’s exciting stuff. I look forward to the reposado and añejo arriving on our shores. For now, you can purchase both the Blanco and Tequila here.
Nose: Fresh, vegetal agave is the core of the nose, from which aromas of orange peel, honey, vanilla, marshmallow, petrichor, mint leaves, wood char and delicate flowers develop.
Palate: More of that vegetal sweetness from agave emerges with toasted almonds, grapefruit, vanilla, and caramel. Lavender, faint marzipan, charred pepper and a little white chocolate appear underneath.
Finish: The finish is sweet (vanilla and agave) a little salty and a touch spicy from black pepper.
Nose: Sweet, roasted agave leads with a fair amount of coal smoke as well as fresh herbs, dried earth and peanut brittle. There are hints of cedar, vanilla and grapefruit peel in support.
Palate: Plenty of cask sweetness – butterscotch, vanilla and a little milk chocolate – balances more fresh and crisp agave. Touches of cinnamon, clove, almond, tropical fruit, banana milkshake, green apple and pink grapefruit add depth.
Finish: Delicately sweet, creamy and with a little minerality.
Yes, it’s the most wonderful time of year: the season of #WhiskySanta’s Super Wishes! This is when Whisky Santa gives away some incredible bottles of whisky, and to kick things…
Yes, it’s the most wonderful time of year: the season of #WhiskySanta’s Super Wishes! This is when Whisky Santa gives away some incredible bottles of whisky, and to kick things off, he’s got something very special indeed.
Ho, ho ho! Are we feeling Christmassy yet? I’ve been getting in the swing of things polishing my boots, brushing my beard and grooming the reindeers. We’re now all looking spick and span, and ready to deliver boozy goodness and that includes some super fancy Super Wishes!
But there’s yet more good news – I have even more Super Wishes up my sleeve this year than ever before! ‘But pray tell, what is a Super Wish?’, I hear you cry. Hopefully, you already know that you can wish for any delicious treat on the Master of Malt site, and that I’m granting wishes every single day from now until Christmas Eve! For these additional Super Wishes, I’m giving you a sneak-peek of some extra treats I have in my special sack of pressies…
One lucky person who wishes for the incredible bottle below between now and the end of Sunday will find that their Christmas wish comes true!
So, without further ado, my first Super Wish of the season. I have to say I’m pretty pleased with this one. It’s certainly one of my favourites, and I only drink the very best, I am #WhiskySanta, after all. It’s…
This is probably the finest and at £1,500 certainly the most expensive whiskey that Woodford Reserve has ever released. It consists of the classic pot still American oak-aged Woodford Reserve matured for an additional three years in XO Cognac casks. Now I’m thinking about the rich toasted oak dusted with chocolate and cacao notes, creamy vanilla bean and hints of clove and cinnamon spice over a deep layer of dried fruit and citrus peel. Doesn’t it sound amazing! And just when you think it couldn’t get any fancier, it comes in a crystal Baccarat decanter. There’s fancy! Much too good to share with the reindeers.
If you want to get your mittens on Kentucky’s fanciest, then I suggest you visit the Woodford Reserve Baccarat Edition page. Hit the ‘Wish’ button, which will help send you on your way to a pre-populated Twitter or Facebook post. Hit publish and voila! (If Instagram is your platform of choice you can wish there too, just be sure to use the #WhiskySanta hashtag. Or the hard-working people at MoM won’t see it. And if they don’t see it, then it didn’t happen.)
There’s that button!
What better way to spread even more (much-needed) Christmas cheer this year? That’s the thing that gives me the most satisfaction, after all. Well, that and looking really, really, ridiculously good in red and white. Nobody does it better, and don’t you forget it!
That’s all for now. Until Monday… Now, where did I put my portable reindeer polishing kit?
Nestled at the base of the tallest and most active volcano in Nicaragua lies rum distiller Flor de Caña, a fifth-generation family business whose 130-year history is peppered with political,…
Nestled at the base of the tallest and most active volcano in Nicaragua lies rum distiller Flor de Caña, a fifth-generation family business whose 130-year history is peppered with political, personal, and environmental crises. Today, the FairTrade-certified operation is a force for change that utilises 100% renewable energy to create a sustainable rum range in every sense of the word. We spoke to global brand ambassador Mauricio Solórzano…
Having weathered a civil war, a revolution, hyperinflation, distillery fires, hurricanes, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions – the distillery is located along the ‘Pacific Ring of Fire’, which has the most volcanic activity in the world – Flor de Caña has experienced more than its fair share of strife. And yet, despite all the odds, it has remained in family hands for five generations (for context, only three in every 10,000 family-owned businesses make it that far).
The brand’s story begins 1890. The distillery’s location – at the foot of the San Cristóbal volcano – was decided by founder Alfredo Francisco Pellas. The Italian entrepreneur left his hometown of Genoa in 1875 to construct the Grand Interoceanic Canal, a proposed shipping route through Nicaragua to connect the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The project never came to fruition, but Pellas remained in the country and bought a sugar mill in Chichigalpa, where the distillery remains to this day.
Originally, Flor de Caña was made in limited quantities for friends and family but in 1937 the business became Compañía Licorera de Nicaragua in 1937, and the brand was commercialised for the Nicaraguan market. Safe to say, it hasn’t been an easy ride. “As a brand and as a country, it’s been very hard to get to where we are now,” says global brand ambassador Mauricio Solórzano. “Nicaragua through history has been through natural disasters, civil war, hyperinflation. Right now we just are getting out of two monster hurricanes. We’ve been through a lot.”
The distillery in the shadow of the San Cristóbal volcano
One of the most striking events in Flor de Caña’s history is a devastating plane crash involving fourth generation family member Carlos Pellas and his wife Vivian. “Miraculously, they survived,” says Solórzano. “But when Mr Pellas went to rescue his wife from the plane, it exploded.” The couple suffered burns that covered 80 percent of their bodies. The accident, which killed 148 people, is considered the greatest air disaster to occur in Central America. In 1991, Vivian set up an NGO, Aproquen, to provide child burn victims in Nicaragua with free medical services.
Flor de Caña: the rum
While historic distillers are sometimes slow to embrace and prioritise sustainability, the same can’t be said for Flor de Caña, which has planted 50,000 trees annually across Nicaragua since 2005. Distilled with 100% renewable energy, its rum is theonly spirit in the world to be both certified FairTrade and carbon-neutral, meaning all carbon emissions during its entire life cycle, from field to market, are offset. The liquid is also gluten free and certified kosher.
Its sugarcane fields – all 35,000 acres of them – are located five miles from the active San Cristóbal volcano, which has erupted some 30 times since the 16th century. Both the soil and water are enriched by minerals and organic material from the volcano, lending a “volcanic character that is very different from other producers of rum,” says Solórzano, while the unique microclimate in this region means wood interaction ageing process is “more intense and more dynamic”.
The distillery follows a sustainable model throughout production. Excess material from the sugarcane harvest is used to power a turbine that powers the entire facility. When the molasses from the sugarcane is fermented with Flor de Caña’s own yeast cultivar, the CO2 emissions that are naturally released during this process are captured, repurposed, and sold to the brewery industry in Central America.
Flor de Caña’s current maestro ronero
The wort is distilled five times in stainless steel columns and the distillate aged in charred ex-bourbon barrels “from four to 30 years,” says Solórzano. The rum is free from added sugar and additives. “If you put a little bit of Flor de Caña into the palm of your hand and you rub your hands together, you won’t have a sticky sensation at all. That’s because we don’t add any caramel or anything artificial.”
Fascinatingly, Flor de Caña is home to the most bountiful reserve of aged alcohol in the region. In the 1980s, foreign trade was nationalised by the socialist Sandinista government. Rather than turn over their stocks for a meagre profit, they decided to age them in neighbouring Honduras, “which is very close to our facility, because we are located on the north side of the country,” says Solórzano. “When the government changed a few years later, we brought back those reserves of alcohol.” By the early nineties, Flor de Caña had the largest reserve of aged rum in the world.
As well as stock, sustainability of people is also key to Flor de Caña’s operation. The company has provided free schooling for the children of all employees since 1913 – including the current maestro ronero, Tomás Cano, a third generation distiller who went to primary school, secondary school and university through that model – and free healthcare services for employee’s families since 1958. “I like to say that we grow with our people,” says Solórzano. “They’re our biggest asset.”
For a distiller that has already endured so much, 2020 has not been without its own unique challenges; the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, plus the brutality of Hurricane Iota and Storm Eta. But Solórzano remains unrelentingly positive. “These things give us the strength to build our character for the future,” he says. Make no mistake: for Flor de Caña, the only way is up.
Flor de Caña 12 year old is great neat or in simple cocktails
This week’s cocktail is a retro classic with a kick. We all remember the Coke Float from the ‘80s but what about a Coke Float with rum in it. Now…
This week’s cocktail is a retro classic with a kick. We all remember the Coke Float from the ‘80s but what about a Coke Float with rum in it. Now you’re talking!
There are some drinks that have the time travelling powers. The very name can transport you into the past. One such is the Coke Float, just Coca-Cola over ice with a scoop of ice cream on the top. It was a staple of burger joints when I was growing up in the 1980s. Ordering one made you feel like you were in some optimistic American series, like Saved by the Bell. Putting ice cream on top of a carbonated drink goes back much further, however. According to trusted source Wikipedia it was invented in 1874 by Robert McCay Green, though it doesn’t seem inconceivable that someone had put ice cream in a fizzy drink before. It’s not rocket science.
All very nice and nostalgic, but we’re grown-ups now and so Tom G. Hurst from Rockstar Spirits had the brilliant idea of putting rum into this classic drink. Again, he might not be the first person to have done this, but still, what a great idea! And not just any rum but his Two Swallows Citrus and Salted Caramel bottle. This is made from high quality aged rum from the Diamond Distillery in Guyana – the people behind El Dorado. Then the team at Rockstar add natural ingredients to create a delicious, not too sweet flavoured rum. Hurst has worked hard on the profiles so that each rum works particularly well with Coca-Cola – as he told me: “80% of rum is drunk with Coke.”
Hurst’s background is in new product development. He worked at William Grant & Sons during an incredibly fertile period for the company when it launched Hendrick’s Gin, Sailor Jerry spiced rum and Monkey Shoulder blended whisky. All drinks that launched a thousand imitators. Hurst saw that rum was ripe from premiumisation and so in 2018 he set up Rockstar Spirits. Figures released last year by the WSTA support this with over 10 million bottles of flavoured rum sold 2018/19 and the market is growing rapidly. There are now nearly 200 brands on the British market, up from 50 in 2006.
The name is inspired Victorian daredevil Matthew Webb who features on the top left of the label
The main line from Rockstar spirits is Two Swallows, a range of flavoured rums made with high quality natural ingredients. The name comes from the classic naval tattoo, and inspired by Hurst’s great great uncle Captain Matthew Webb. Hurst described him as “a global icon. David Beckham of the Victorian era.” He was the first man to swim the English channel. Bryant & May put his face on its match boxes. He came to a tragic end, however. Hurst explained: “He loved the fame aspect and as that faded away, he kept on trying to do crazier and crazier stunts.” One included swimming the rapids at Niagara Falls where he drowned. The two swallows were supposed to carry drowning sailors to heaven.
So that’s the story behind Two Swallows. The brand has only been going a short time but things are going well despite the problems caused by lockdown. “Long term we are very much committed to the on-trade,” Hurst said. But the brand is going great guns through supermarkets and other retailers. It’s one of the bestselling rum brands at Master of Malt. “We launched three new products since the new lockdown to give people a point of difference,” he said. The combination of distinctive packaging and distinctive contents seems to work. Hurst explained the thinking behind the rums: “They had to tick three boxes: excellent standalone spirits, great with mixers, and interesting for bartenders to work with”. To achieve the latter, the rums are packed with subtle flavours which you might not notice on first taste, but can be pulled out with the right ingredients.
This might be the best Coke Float you’ve ever had. Here’s how to make it:
Hear ye, hear ye! We have a winner to announce. Somebody is about to receive an epic bundle of Cointreau booze! Our Cointreau competition is over and that means that we…
Hear ye, hear ye! We have a winner to announce. Somebody is about to receive an epic bundle of Cointreau booze!
Our Cointreau competition is over and that means that we get the pleasure of announcing who will get their hands on the tremendous prize. Just to remind you, it includes three bottles of Cointreau, a bottle of La Escondida Mezcal, VIVIR Tequila Blanco and Bottle Green elderflower cordial, as well as Maldon smoked salt and a host of Cointreau branded goodies, including a Boston shaker, jigger, lime squeezer, cocktail strainer, a tote bag and six rocks glasses.
What a haul that is. And it’s all going to one person. Congratulations to…