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Master of Malt Blog

Celebrating Speyside!

The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival kicks off next Wednesday, but even if you don’t have a ticket you can still enjoy the spoils of the historic region. Speyside is…

The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival kicks off next Wednesday, but even if you don’t have a ticket you can still enjoy the spoils of the historic region.

Speyside is home to some of the best distilleries in all of Scotland and to some of our favourite drams. From Glenfiddich, Macallan, Glenlivet and more, the region boasts some of the industry’s biggest names as well as a variety of styles – not just the classic honeyed and sherried single malts (though it does have plenty of those, and they are mightily marvellous, of course).

With The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival on the horizon, it seemed only right that we took the time to celebrate the most prolific whisky-producing region in Scotland with a selection of some of its most magnificent whiskies. Enjoy!

The Macallan 12 Year Old Sherry Oak

Macallan produces some of the most revered, sought-after Scotch whiskies in the world that can sell for eye-watering sums. The Macallan 12 Year Old Sherry Oak might not grab the headlines like some its older, rarer drams, but it’s one of the most impressive bottlings around in its age group and makes for a perfect introduction into what has become the modern Macallan style.

What does it taste like?:

Sultanas, fresh apple blossom, tropical fruits, golden syrup, hot pastries, barley sugar, marmalade and a solid oaked notes.

Balvenie 14 Year Old Caribbean Cask

A terrifically tasty and well-rounded single malt from The Balvenie, the distillery perhaps best known for its use of secondary maturation (or finishing). This bottling was initially aged in traditional oak casks before it was finished in casks which previously held a select blend of Caribbean rums chosen by malt master David C. Stewart MBE, imparting additional notes of toffee, spice and dried fruit.

What does it taste like?:

Tropical fruits, creamy toffee, sweet vanilla, apples, baking spice and mangoes.

Scallywag

Scallywag from Douglas Laing is a blended malt made from a host of whiskies sourced from some of Speyside’s finest, including Mortlach, Macallan and Glenrothes, many of which were matured in Spanish sherry butts. Some bourbon cask whisky is also in the blend for balance, making this a go-to expression for many Scotch whisky lovers. Also lovers of dapper little Fox Terriers. It’s wearing a monocle for goodness sake!

What does it taste like?:

Icing sugar, sultanas, candied ginger, vanilla, cinnamon, oak spice, nutmeg and cereal.

Tomintoul Tlàth

Tlàth (pronounced “Tlah”) means gentle or mellow in Gaelic, which gives you a clue as to what to expect from this non-age statement whisky which was matured in ex-bourbon barrels. The Speyside distiller’s Scotch is often described as ‘the gentle dram’ and this expression boasts plenty of distillery character and makes for a perfect introduction into all things Tomintoul.

What does it taste like?:

Sweet toffee, toasted vanilla, shortbread citrus peel, hints of mint leaf, lively white pepper and some oak-driven spiciness.

Mortlach 12 Year Old

The Mortlach distillery is known for its robust, muscular malts which proves a delightful reminder that Speyside is as varied as it is spectacular. Its 12-year-old expression, drawn from bourbon and sherry casks, features the subtitle The Wee Witchie, which comes from the name of the tiny still that distils a portion of the whisky.

What does it taste like?:

Warming oak, damson, soft raisins, toasted almond, cinder toffee and heavy barley with some lingering citrus oils cutting through.

Tamdhu 10 Year Old

Since its return to the Scotch whisky scene, Tamdhu has established a principle of ageing all of its whisky exclusively in Oloroso sherry seasoned oak casks. That distinctive, well-sherried profile, and the fact that it’s rather lovely, makes Tamdhu 10 Year Old the perfect go-to dram for those who desire a classic sherried Speysider.

What does it taste like?:

Dried orange peel, red wine, pecan, soft red fruit, brown sugar, chocolate-covered Brazil nut, crystallised ginger, cacao, spicy clove and raspberry jam.

Speyside 26 Year Old (That Boutique-y Whisky Company)

That Boutique-y Whisky Company independently bottled this 26-year-old single malt from the Speyside distillery in the Speyside region. Imagine celebrating The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival with a dram of Speyside Scotch from a distillery actually named Speyside. That’s commitment, people. Oh, and it’s a seriously delicious whisky, in case you were wondering.

What does it taste like?:

Lemon peel, chocolate, oily barley, honey, strawberry jam, clove, ginger and apple strudel, topped with brown sugar and cinnamon.

Glenfarclas 25 Year Old

Last, but certainly not least, is a classic of the genre. You say Speyside and many will immediately think of this long-time family-owned distillery and its magnificent 25-year-old single malt. Glenfarclas 25 Year Old, which spent its entire maturation period in 100% Oloroso sherry casks, is a refined, complex and delicately peated dram that’s sure not to disappoint.

What does it taste like?:

Sherry and creamy barley, hints of gingerbread and nutty chocolate, oak rich, smoke and cocoa.

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A first look at Super Lyan Amsterdam

You might remember Super Lyan’s London outpost, which closed in late 2018 to make way for Cub’s in-house fermentation lab. Well, now the bar has risen from the ashes in…

You might remember Super Lyan’s London outpost, which closed in late 2018 to make way for Cub’s in-house fermentation lab. Well, now the bar has risen from the ashes in the form of an eclectic neighbourhood hangout a stone’s throw from Amsterdam’s central station in the Kimpton De Witt Hotel. We nipped across the water to preview Ryan Chetiyawardana’s first international outpost – and pet the bar’s resident house cat, Robin…

Set within a 17th century Dutch house, the bar is described as the “playful sibling” of White Lyan, Dandelyan, Lyaness et al, with the team drawing from years of Lyan experimentation and know-how to assemble a stable of familiar serves expanded upon in an inventive way – for example, the Bay Cosmo, a bay leaf-tinged draught cocktail that riffs on the classic Cosmopolitan.

Super Lyan Garden Bar

The garden bar area

“The overriding theme throughout the bar, through the drinks, through the dishes, is to take something that’s grounded in the everyday and explode it out,” explains Chetiyawardana. “Being able to borrow from everything we’ve been able to do in the past – sometimes quite literally, going, ‘how can we use the different techniques we had at White Lyan? How can we use some of the different ingredient manipulations we had at Dandelyan?’ – and transform it into something that’s very ownable for us.”

There are cocktails on tap – the first in Amsterdam – and a range of mouthwatering non-alcoholic drinks and shakes that are readily spiked with booze on request. The Millionaire Shake, for example, made with soy milk, chocolate sorbet and pomegranate, is transformed with the addition of Bulleit Bourbon, curaçao and fennel pollen. As well as reimagining classics and revisiting Lyan geekery, the menu encourages guests to “reimagine what a fruity drink can be, or what sourness tastes like in a cocktail,” Chetiyawardana adds, “without making it too heavy – it’s not as geeky as what we do in Lyaness, for sure”.

This is reflective of how Amsterdam’s drinkers like to imbibe – while building the project, the team “did a lot of research” about the ways Dutch people socialise to inform the personality of the venue. “People don’t just go out late at night and drink cocktails, there’s a very different socialisation around it,” Chetiyawardana explains, “that was fun for us, even down to folding savoury flavours into some of the cocktails.” The house Negroni, made with Bombay Sapphire, Rutte Celery Gin, Martini Bitter, Martini Rubino, and olive vermouth, is a standout example. “We used black olive as a nod towards the bites you might have alongside your drinks and had fun making that one and the same.”

Negroni Super Lyan

Negroni made with olive vermouth

There are cultural differences, too. “Cocktails are still seen as a little flashy, and the Dutch don’t really do flashy,” he continues. “People think it’s going to take too long, it’s going to be too expensive, it’s going to be too fancy. We wanted to show that actually cocktails can be for everybody, and they can work at lots of different times of the day. Being able to intersect this with teas, coffees, beers, wine and food has also been super fun for us.”

Super Lyan consists of three connected spaces; the Super Lyan living room, the Super Lyan garden and the Super Lyan bar, and real emphasis is placed on the all-day nature of the venue. It’s as much of a destination for someone who wants to wake up with a coffee and a few bites of bacon bao as it is for the post-work beer and bitterballen crew.

I envisioned myself spending all day there; conducting meetings in the brightly-lit garden with a cuppa or two, sailing through the mid-afternoon slump with a vegan donut or shake, toasting twilight with a long drink and sipping my way through the menu until after dark – accompanied by a tiny, fluffy ginger cat called Robin who resides there; a nod to the city’s historic ‘brown bars’.

Super Lyan food

The food looks good too

While locally-made spirits do feature on the menu – Rutte Sloe Gin, Ketel One Vodka, Bols Corenwyn – the menu isn’t crowded with genever. “We didn’t want to just include it for the sake of it,” says Chetiyawardana, “but in a way that would make sense and we could do a very different take on it. We did a highball using a local vermouth instead, and it’s got a really different profile to it. That’s partly down to using local products [in production], but it’s also tailored to local taste preferences.”

With so many projects on the go, how does the Lyan family find time to be creative? Weekly meetings keep everyone on the same page, he explains, and the team work to an open brief, rather than “throwing flavours” together; “an inefficient way of creating because it’s really wasteful and actually it doesn’t tend to come up with something as interesting”. Instead, the process is made up of research and refinement. “We’ve got a massive team now with people from very different backgrounds,” Chetiyawardana says. “They look at things in a really different way, and that, to me, keeps it fresh for everyone.”

Super Lyan can be found on Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 3, 1012 RC, Amsterdam

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English spirits for St. George’s Day

Mark the Feast of Saint George, England’s patron saint, with some of the most delightful and delicious tipples from across England. You might have woken up this morning thinking today…

Mark the Feast of Saint George, England’s patron saint, with some of the most delightful and delicious tipples from across England.

You might have woken up this morning thinking today was simply just the dreaded post-Easter weekend return to reality. But it’s April 23rd, and that means it’s St. George’s Day. Here at MoM Towers, we can think of no better way to commemorate the dragon-slaying knight than by championing the ever-increasing number of innovative and charming distilleries that are popping up all over this fair country.

We’ve rounded some choice selections up here (and also here), so you can indulge with ease this St. George’s Day. From new and exciting whiskies to evocative, flavoursome gins, we’ve got you covered!

Happy St. George’s Day everyone!

Cotswolds Single Malt Whisky

It’s fair to say the first single malt whisky from the Cotswolds Distillery did not disappoint. Produced using barley grown in the Cotswolds, distilled in Forsyths copper pot stills (Mary & Janis to be precise) and matured in a combination of ex-bourbon and red wine casks, this eagerly awaited dram has received acclaim from far and wide for good reason. Just look at its shiny Gold medal from The World Whisky Masters 2018 (The Spirits Business) if you don’t believe us!

What does it taste like?:

Spicy cereal notes, malt and porridge, orange peel, lemon, grassy, marzipan, black pepper and vanilla custard.

English Whisky Co. 8 Year Old (That Boutique-y Whisky Company)

Given that it’s Saint George’s Day today, it seemed only right that we selected a whisky that featured the man himself and the customary dragon on the label. The two are fighting here over what appears to be a collection of whisky and a massive caramel sweetie, so the stakes are high. This delicious dram was distilled by the English Whisky Co. and drawn from bourbon and sweet Sauternes casks.

What does it taste like?:

Bonfire smoke, sweet green apple, cherry soda, bruised pears, rich barley, cinnamon sticks and candy cane menthol.

Salcombe Gin – Start Point

From Salcombe, one of the few distilleries in the world that is accessible by boat (how cool is that), comes a gin that was inspired by the Salcombe ‘fruiters’ that brought exotic fruit into Devon from the Azores, West Indies and the Mediterranean in the 19th century. This influence is evident in the botanical selection, which includes Macedonian juniper, fresh lemon, lime and red grapefruit peels, cardamom, liquorice, cinnamon bark, chamomile, coriander seeds and cubeb berries. It’s very tasty and is begging to be put to good use in a G&T.

What does it taste like?:

Warming spiced citrus, fruity peppery heat, floral aromas and plenty of earthy and resinous pine notes.

The English – Original

When the aptly named St George’s Distillery at Roudham in Norfolk was founded by the Nelstrop family in 2005, it became England’s first registered whisky producer for over a century. Since then The English Whisky Co. has made a habit of producing a variety of wonderful whisky. The Original, launched in 2016, is an unpeated single malt that was aged in bourbon casks, so expect a creamy, vanilla-rich flavour profile.

What does it taste like?:

Zesty orange, vanilla custard, grassy malt, almond, hazelnut, milk chocolate, orange, rich barley and a handful of spices.

Brockmans Intensely Smooth Gin

As you can imagine, Brockmans Intensely Smooth Gin is one smooth customer. It’s also delicious in a Negroni. However, the unique selection of botanicals is the feature of this beauty that appeals to us the most. Where else would you find Tuscan juniper berries, Bulgarian coriander, blueberries, blackberries and bittersweet Valencian orange peel?

What does it taste like?:

Cooked fruit, strawberry, damson jam, almonds, blueberries, juniper, herbs, liquorice root and soft aniseed notes.

Adnams Triple Malt Whisky

If you still think of Adnams purely as a brewer of quality Suffolk beers then you need some booze-based re-education. Sensational spirits are all the rage at Adnams in recent times. Take this delightful Triple Malt Whisky, for example. It was produced in Southwold using a trio of malted grains – barley, wheat and oats – then matured in new American oak casks for five years. Wonderful stuff.

What does it taste like?:

Toasted coconut, white grape, foam banana, apricot, chocolate orange, caramelised almonds, bubblegum, charred oak, honey and a kick of white pepper.

The Wrecking Coast Cornish Clotted Cream Gin

You read that right. This is a handcrafted, small-batch English gin that was made with Cornish clotted cream. Tell me you don’t want one of these immediately. How did The Wrecking Coast do it? It macerated 12 botanicals in grain spirit for a fortnight before running them through a computer controlled iStill (no, really), while cold distilling the Cornish clotted cream in a vacuum still. The two spirits are blended together, and there you have it! The brand recommended you enjoy this with tonic water, strawberries and lime, which we’re definitely taking them up on.

What does it taste like?:

A creamy mouthfeel carries notes of vibrant, earthy juniper, vanilla pod and honeyed floral. Hints of angelica root and peppercorn stick around in the background.

Wicked Wolf Exmoor Gin

A small-batch gin distilled and blended in a 19th century chapel on the banks of the picturesque River Lyn, North Devon, Wicked Wolf Exmoor Gin features an intriguing selection of 11 botanicals, including juniper, angelica, cardamom, coriander, cubeb, grains of paradise, hibiscus, Makrutlime leaves, orange peel, lemon peel and lemongrass. This makes it a distinctive, enjoyable tipple that proves Devon isn’t solely about ale and cider.

What does it taste like?:

Clean juniper, lemon, angelica, hibiscus sweetness, a hint of fennel seed, drying cubeb peppery hints and a touch of savoury thyme.

Silent Pool Gin

Silent Pool Gin was created using 24 botanicals, including Makrut lime, chamomile, local honey and lavender. The ever-popular tipple is not only a wonderful example of the creativity and craft being demonstrated by countless English distilleries, but it’s also a very tasty, intriguing spirit that makes for a great G&T.

What does it taste like?:

Violet, lavender, lime leaf, cardamom, juniper, elderflower, honey sweetness, a spark of black pepper, chamomile and a waft of orange blossom.

Sir Robin of Locksley Gin

On a day of celebration to all things English, we simply had to include a gin that was named to honour folk hero Robin Hood. A refreshing and super sweet spirit, Sir Robin of Locksley Gin features a botanical selection which includes elderflower, dandelion and pink grapefruit. It also makes a mean Bramble, folks.

What does it taste like?:

Pink grapefruit, liquorice, elderflower sweetness, dandelion, cassia, juniper and plenty of herbs.

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Is investment money bad for whisky’s soul?

In the last few years prices for the world’s top whiskies have gone through the roof. Whisky is now an asset like fine wine, art and classic cars. Ian Buxton…

In the last few years prices for the world’s top whiskies have gone through the roof. Whisky is now an asset like fine wine, art and classic cars. Ian Buxton does not approve. In fact, he’s downright furious.

I’ve been banging on about the ‘investment in whisky’ trend for quite a while – and for some while I’ve got it wrong, as least as far as the prices of certain whiskies go. The sky, it would seem, is the limit and my doom-laden prognostications of a crash in prices have yet to be fulfilled.

So that’s that, then.  Fill yer boots and make money while you can would seem to be the moral.

Never mind whisky’s soul.

Lovely box, but will it ever be drunk?

However, if you care about whisky, really sincerely care, then you will readily appreciate that ‘investment grade’ whisky such as limited edition Macallans, virtually all Port Ellens these days and anything in a ‘collectable’ box is not simply a specious concept but a damaging one. Whisky that is never going to be drunk, whisky whose future is to be traded like an ingot of bullion, whisky forever condemned to be the slave of the spreadsheet is whisky that will never fully live. It’s whisky devoid of meaning, whisky without a soul, reduced to a barren commodity. There may as well be cold tea in the bottle, no matter the lavish packaging.  Remember the fable of the Emperor’s New Clothes and you may look on the most elegant of bottles and see a rotting corpse beneath the silk.

Whisky attains its highest state when it is consumed; its apotheosis poignantly coinciding with the moment of its destruction. Only then is its destiny fulfilled. Whisky is disputation, conviviality, a metaphor for a nation’s identity and sense of self-belief. Whisky is romantic, metaphysical and phantasmagorical. As Burns relates, whisky is “the poor man’s wine”.

‘Investment grade’ bottles are the vampire squid wrapped around whisky’s face, relentlessly jamming their blood funnels into anything that smells like money careless of the consequences and conscious only of the sterile arithmetic of the profit and loss account.  Leave these trophies, the fevered creation of huckstering spinmeisters and their band of useful idiots, to the Gollum-like investor, poring over soulless spreadsheets and taking joy only in the bloodless contemplation of a paper return on investment. “My precious,” indeed.

Here we see the triumph of packaging over content. All too often these whiskies are lavishly draped in the most luxurious wrapping that the ingenuity of the design world can conceive – hand-blown bottles, silver stoppers, exquisitely-crafted oak cabinets and leather-bound volumes filled with ever more baroque and far-flown tasting notes. All of which costs money, lots of it, which leads me to suggest that this market is driven as much by presentation as product.

whisky crash

Ian Buxton about to drink some whisky

If you doubt my word, consider the following intriguing tale.  Back in June 2013, The Macallan released a pack of two 35cl bottles to commemorate HM Queen Elizabeth II’s 60th anniversary.  There were a mere 1,953 packs produced (to mark the 1953 Coronation – geddit?). What you got was two half bottles in a handsome box with a colour leaflet, released at £350.  While the strength of the whisky was indicated, there was no age statement – but as this was designed to sit in a vault, why would anyone care?

Naturally, they were all snapped up as fast as you could sing the national anthem and, equally quickly, they appeared on auction sites where they changed hands for up to £2,300 (before commission). But, interestingly, in the November 2018 on-line auction of a well-known Glasgow site an orphan bottle appeared all on its own, only to be knocked down for £400. Given this was a 35cl bottle, that suggests the market valued the whisky content of a standard bottle at £800. In the same sale a complete pack reached £1,900.  Or, to put it another way, someone paid £1,100 for an admittedly lovely box and a brochure. It’s an interesting set of priorities.

By all means collect whisky and enjoy it as you will but do not succumb to the siren calls of self-serving false prophets.  If you want an investment, buy Diageo shares (up around 27% in the past 12 months and 65% over the last five years; easily traded and paying a dividend). Remember, as Shakespeare tells us “All that glisters is not gold” or, as they say in Edinburgh, “all fur coat and nae knickers!”

Though he has neither a beard nor any visible tattoos or piercings, Ian Buxton is well-placed to write about drinks.  A former Marketing Director of one of Scotland’s favourite single malts, his is a bitter-sweet love affair with Scotland’s national drink – not to mention gin and rum, or whatever the nearest PR is pouring. Once, apparently without noticing, he bought a derelict distillery. Follow his passionate, authentic hand-crafted artisanal journey on the Master of Malt blog.  Or just buy his books.  It’s what he really wants.

 

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The Nightcap: 18 April

Tomorrow is a Bank Holiday here for your friends at MoM Towers, so The Nightcap is coming to you a whole day early! Wait a minute. It’s not Friday. This…

Tomorrow is a Bank Holiday here for your friends at MoM Towers, so The Nightcap is coming to you a whole day early!

Wait a minute. It’s not Friday. This is an imposter Friday. A pseudo-Friday. A fake Friday. Does that mean that all the booze news in this edition of The Nightcap will be “fake news”? No, of course not! It’s simply just arriving in your eyes a day early as we won’t be here tomorrow due to the bank holiday. Expect to see us on the beach, surfboard and parasol in hand.

On the blog this week, Annie talked desert island drams with Joe Hall of Satan’s Whiskers, while Adam looked at sweet treats for Easter and imbibed some delicious English whisky for our New Arrival of the Week. Henry’s Cocktail of the Week was a Martiki, a delicious blend of the exotic and the classic. Kristy then looked at Pernod Ricard’s latest purchase, Malfy Gin and guest writer Nate Brown pondered why so many bars don’t serve good coffee.

Right. Let’s get on with the show!

The Nightcap

Look – it’s the ‘world’s first’ Scotch cross bun!

Now you can enjoy Scotch cross buns this Easter!

Reading this in London or New York? Then you are in for a right treat. Noted chef Rory Macdonald, off of NYC’s Patisserie Chanson has teamed up with The Dalmore to create a ‘world-first’ Scotch cross bun! “We’ve used a nutriglaze, which means the whisky is heated but not to the point where the alcohol evaporates,” Macdonald himself explained. “This means the buns aren’t whisky flavoured – it’s a pure whisky glaze – so these Scotch Cross buns are the real deal.” The whisky in question? Dalmore 12 Year Old. A spokesperson from Whyte & Mackay, which owns the Scotch brand, added: “When Patisserie Chanson came to us with the idea of elevating the humble hot cross bun, we knew that they would produce something really special.” Due to the booze content, you do have to be over 18 (21, we presume in New York) to enjoy them. They’re available in the cities from 19-21 April – baked goodies and Scotch? Count us in.

The Nightcap

An artist’s impression of a swanky new visitor centre

English Spirit plans a boozy visitor centre in Cornwall

Live in Cornwall or got it on your travel list? If English Spirit gets its way, there will soon be another essential stop for visitors to the county. The distillery has submitted plans for a swanky new visitor centre at Treguddick Manor in Launceston. The new space, which will open in Spring 2020 if the team gets the green light, will give guests an insight into spirits productions. Plans also include a café bar, an event space, and a shop. The idea is that other local businesses will get involved and showcase their wares. Most of the details are still under wraps, but we’re excited about this one!

The Nightcap

We’ve had a century of delicious Aperol!

Aperol celebrates 100 years of joy

1919 was a momentous year, World War One was over and the Barbieri brothers, Luigi and Silvio launched a new drink called Aperol at the Padua International Fair. The drink quickly became popular in the nearby city of Venice in the form of the Spritz Veneziano but it’s only in the last 10 years that the drink has gone truly global: according to Drinks International magazine the Aperol Spritz is the 9th bestselling cocktail in the world. To celebrate the anniversary, naturally Aperol has a few things up its sleeves (if drinks can be said to have sleeves). These include the not entirely grammatical Together We Joy global campaign featuring a video; limited edition bottles with labels based on works by Italian artists Lorenzo Mattotti; a graphic novel by Tito Faraci with illustrations by Sergio Gerasi; and a summer tour around the Med with DJ’s, pop-up bars and amphibious vehicles. Finally, there will be something called ‘Grazie Veneto’ where Aperol thanks the region where it was born with three artists, one from Italy, England and America, who will be creating artwork to be exhibited in the town square in Padua. In short, this summer’s colour will be orange.

The Nightcap

A selection from the new High Coast range

FMV brings High Coast Swedish whisky to UK

Fields, Morris & Verdin (Berry Bros’s wholesale arm) announced this week that makers of delicious Swedish whisky High Coast has been added to its extensive spirits portfolio. Which in layman’s terms means more delicious Swedish whisky, folks! One of a handful of Swedish distilleries to be founded in recent years, you might know the brand from its original name, Box Distillery, it was renamed High Coast after Compass Box raised concern. Fresh from its rebrand, High Coast has launched a range of whiskies to show off all aspects of what the distillery is capable of. The first whisky in the selection is Älv, a single malt whisky crafted from 100% unpeated malt and matured in bourbon casks for 6 years. There’s also Hav, a blend of 20% peated, 80% non-peated malt whisky aged initially in 40-litre virgin American, Hungarian and Swedish oak casks for 3-4 months before it was transferred into bourbon barrels for 3-6 years. Timmer is the only 100% peated malt whisky in the selection and was matured in bourbon casks for 5-6 years. The last drink in the range is Projekt 63, an experimental dram that was aged for 63 months in 63-litre first-fill bourbon casks on the 63rd parallel, 63 decimetres above ground. We’re looking into why it was named Projekt 63. Berg, a 100% unpeated single malt matured in bourbon casks for 2 years then finished in PX casks for another 2 years, will join the range from September 2019. Berry Bros & Rudd’s spirits buyer Doug McIvor commented on the news: “I have been following the emergence of High Coast over the past few years after tasting new make spirit from the distillery a while back. My thoughts on tasting the spirit back then were that this was a world-beating whisky for the future. Everything I’ve tasted from High Coast since then has confirmed this to be true.” They will be coming to MoM Towers, so get excited Swedish whisky fans!

The Nightcap

The scenic Smoke & Mirrors, which boasts a pretty good view we’d say…

Smoke & Mirrors presents new head bartender and menu

Singapore bar Smoke & Mirrors has certainly been busy this week. Not only has the rooftop establishment got a new head bartender, Jorge Conde, but it has also launched a cocktail menu, ‘Illusion of Flavours’. Conde previously worked in bars in Spain and London over the last fourteen years and has experience in graphic design, which has come in handy already in menu influenced by Dalí, Picasso and Van Gogh. ‘Illusion of Flavours’ is divided into six categories: Fizzy & Elegant, Sour & Neat, Long & Refreshing, Strong & Neat, Fruity & Punchy and Savoury & Umami, and features Conde’s first creation for Smoke & Mirrors, La Fumata Bianca, which means ‘the White Smoke.’ This is a twist on the Negroni, smoky agave-based raicilla replaces gin, gentian liqueur stands in for Campari and, a blend of Bianco and quinine vermouth takes the place of sweet vermouth in his debut drink. “For this menu, my goal was to reimagine classic cocktails, focusing on traditional flavour profiles and exploring new ways to create them,” says Conde, “I find that people often have preconceptions about how a drink will taste, and I wanted to challenge those expectations with our drinks. While the presentation may appear to be simple, the flavour profiles are quite complex and layered, evolving as you enjoy the drink. As you may expect from the name, there is more than meets the eye.” So if enjoying creative cocktails while taking in spectacular panoramic views of Singapore’s skyline sounds like your thing, you know what to do. And if it doesn’t, have a word with yourself for goodness sake.

The Nightcap

Founder Deano Moncrieffe has plenty of experience with agave spirits

New agave spirits bar Hacha opens in London

Fans of all things agave will be delighted to know that a specialist agave spirits bar (or ‘agaveria’) has opened on Kingsland Road, Dalston, London. Hacha, pronounced ‘acha’ and named after the axe used to cut agave pinas, was founded by Deano Moncrieffe, the luxury Tequila ambassador for Diageo Reserve who has worked on its Tequila and mezcal portfolio for over a decade. Moncrieffe’s bar will serve an evolving menu of 25 different Tequilas, mezcals and lesser-known agave spirits, including fine and rare bottles that would otherwise be hard to find in the UK. Each drink will be available to order individually or as part of a tasting flight, which will pair the chosen spirit with a flavour enhancer, for example, añejo Tequila and rum-soaked grilled pineapple. Of course, no good bar would be worth its salt without a good selection of cocktails, which Hacha has in abundance. The bar’s signature drink is the Mirror Margarita, which is served on tap from a striking glass piña on the bar. Latin-inspired small plates, decor and music also feature. Any new establishment that champions agave-based spirits in an innovative, accessible way sounds like a winner in our books.

The Nightcap

The delicious Anna Pavlova cocktail at Swingers

Swingers: where golf and cocktails meet

We swung on down to Swingers West End crazy golf club for a fabulous evening of cocktail tasting with the head bartender Leo Glé. We were treated to six outstanding cocktails, including three creations that are completely unique to Swingers, named Anna Pavlova, Put The Lime In The Coconut and Elderflower Spritz. When he presented us with Put The Lime In The Coconut, which marries Havana Especial, coconut syrup, lime, passionfruit, mint, Glé told us that if we closed our eyes it would be just like we were on a beach somewhere. Of course we obliged, and, of course, he was right! Then, there were three which threw a twist on a classic, including a tonka bean Espresso Martini, a Clover Club, and an XXX Martini, which was basically a Pornstar Martini with the nutty addition of frangelico. All of the cocktails were absolutely beautiful and outrageously delicious, so a huge thanks to the talented guys behind the bar at Swingers. Glé has been working with Swingers pretty much since the original site opened back in 2016, and it is an understatement to say that his creations are well above par. Unlike our golfing skills.

The Nightcap

Glen Moray master distiller Graham Coull and Scottish rugby star Jamie Ritchie enjoyed a dram

Glen Moray masterclass at Murrayfield

Last week Speyside distillery Glen Moray released a special rugby-inspired whisky called the Edinburgh Rugby Private Edition. Just 312 bottles of this 52.8% ABV whisky have been produced. Each will cost £100 with all profits going to a charity, Hearts and Balls, which raises money for injured rugby players. The whisky comes from a cask chosen by Scotland internationals, John Barclay (the captain, no less) and Damien Hoyland. And what better way could there be to launch this whisky than with a masterclass at the home of Scottish rugby, Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh. It was hosted on Friday 12 April by Glen Moray’s master distiller Graham Coull and Scottish international player, Jamie Ritchie, popped in for a wee dram.

The Nightcap

Cocktails with just two ingredients are all the rage at Artesian Bar now

Artesian Bar launches new minimalist cocktail menu

The Artesian Bar at the Langham Hotel in London has won more awards (including World’s Best Bar) than you can shake a stick at. We know because we’ve tried to shake a stick at all the awards and failed. It used to be famous for its elaborate cocktails but no longer because now at the Artesian less is more. A new minimalist menu has been created by bar manager Anna Sebastian and head bartender Remy Savage, who both joined the Artesian in 2017. The new menu which was introduced this week consists of a series of cocktails containing only two ingredients. And to make things even harder for themselves, these new cocktails aren’t exactly what you would call classic pairings: there’s Perrier Jouët Champagne and cream, Star of Bombay Gin with golden beetroot, and St Germain Elderflower Liqueur and red carrot. Elderflower and carrot? It all sounds a bit mad but if anyone can pull it off it’s this team. We’ll be visiting soon and will report back. Watch this space.

 

The Nightcap

A Brad Pitt-ed olive would go nicely with this. Right? Because… Oh never mind.

And finally… Waiter! There’s a George Clooney in my drink

How much do you like George Clooney? Do you think he’s a good actor but hasn’t done anything really great since Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? in 2000? Well, then you probably won’t be ordering a special new cocktail at Bassment bar in Chicago. This drink could not be any Cloonier: not only is it called The Clooney but it contains Clooney-brand Tequila, Casamigos Reposado, and a giant ice cube featuring the face of Clooney himself smiling up at you as if to say: ‘you really love me, don’t you?’. It’s part of a series of cocktails based on famous people including Beyoncé, Elton John and Adele. The other ingredients in The Clooney are Carpano Antica vermouth, crème de banana, vanilla bean simple syrup, honeyed apricot and smoked hickory. Actually, that sounds rather nice. I wonder if they’ll do one but with a Jeff Goldblum ice cube instead.

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Cocktail of the Week: The Martiki

Today we have something of a rarity for you. You won’t find it in just any bar. It combines two great cocktail traditions: classic American and tiki, all in one…

Today we have something of a rarity for you. You won’t find it in just any bar. It combines two great cocktail traditions: classic American and tiki, all in one glass. Say hello to the Martiki!

The inspiration for this week’s cocktail came from a recent conversation with two drinks writers, Richard Godwin and Simon Difford. Over a few drinks, we discovered a shared love of kümmel, a kind of schnapps with a distinctive nutty sweet taste. We thought it would be fun to try to raise the profile of this delicious but rather forgotten liqueur. So, from now on the 17 April will henceforth be known as International Kümmel Day.

Godwin suggested I try it in the form of a cocktail called the Martiki. So, I dug out my battered copy of Godwin’s book The Spirits (a great one-stop place for all your cocktailing needs) and found the recipe. The Martiki is, as its name suggests, a tiki take on a Martini in which you use white rum instead of gin, and in place of vermouth, kümmel.

According to The Spirits, the cocktail was invented at The Luau restaurant in Beverly Hills. Now closed, the place was a celebrity hangout in the ‘50s and ‘60s, decorated in a tropical style, and featured an actual lagoon in the dining room. Bring back lagoons, I say. Much more fun than all this modern minimalism. Most recipes for the Martiki, however, don’t use kümmel. Some call for vermouth, and other versions are rather like Pineapple Martinis. According to Godwin, his recipe came from Jeff ‘Beachbum’ Berry. With a name like that, you’d expect him to know his tiki drinks.  

mentzendorff-kummel-combier-distillery

The Combier Distillery where Mentzendorff kummel is made

Kümmel gets its peculiar taste from caraway seeds along with cumin, fennel and other spices. So it’s not dissimilar to Scandinavian Akvavit, though sweeter. The leading brand Mentzendorff was originally made by a Prussian family in Riga, Latvia. In the 1860s, the family came to Britain and branched out into wine importing. The firm is still going strong and is the UK agent for Bollinger Champagne. The liqueur is now distilled in France. The other brand you might see, Wolfschmidt, is Danish.

Despite its Baltic origins, kümmel used to be immensely popular among the British upper classes. There are mentions of it in Evelyn Waugh’s works. But the only places you will see kümmel drunk today are golf clubs and old-fashioned gentlemen’s clubs. Indeed, the last time I visited such an establishment to give a talk about my book, the man who had invited me insisted I join him for a glass of restorative kümmel afterwards. In short, kümmel could not be less fashionable, which means that it is ripe for a revival.

And so, on to Godwin’s Martiki. If you’re a kümmel novice, you might want to halve the amount you put in. Expressing a piece of lemon peel is essential as it freshens the whole thing up; you can either drop it in, or if you’re feeling properly tropical, garnish with a piece of coconut. You could even, as recommended in The Spirits, add a little coconut water to make it totally tiki.

Martiki, Difford's Guide

Martiki (photo credit: Difford’s Guide)

Here’s the Martiki, a strange mixture of classic and tropical, with a good dash of Baltic into the bargain. Perhaps it should be called the Cosmopolitan.

50ml Diplomático Planas white rum
10ml Mentzendorff Kümmel

Stir ingredients in a shaker with lots of ice and strain into a cold Martini glass. Express a piece of lemon peel over the top, and garnish with a lemon twist or a slice of coconut.

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Beefeater parent Pernod Ricard snaps up Malfy Gin

Pernod Ricard has got a taste for juniper! The drinks group released a statement this morning confirming it’s about to buy Italy-based Malfy Gin, growing its gin portfolio to six….

Pernod Ricard has got a taste for juniper! The drinks group released a statement this morning confirming it’s about to buy Italy-based Malfy Gin, growing its gin portfolio to six.

“This acquisition is true to our long-standing strategy of investing in brands with strong potential in growing categories,” said Christian Porta, MD of Pernod Ricard’s Global Business Development arm.

Malfy Gin is made by the Vergnano family in Moncalieri, and is available in four varieties: Originale, Con Limone, Con Arancia and Con Rosa. It’s produced using genuine Italian ingredients including juniper, coastal-grown lemons, Sicilian blood oranges and pink grapefruits.

It has already proved popular in big drinks markets around the world, including the US, Germany, and here in the UK.

Pernod Ricard hasn’t said how much it has paid for the brand, which will join the likes of Monkey 47, which it partnered with in 2016, and Ungava, a 2018 acquisition, once the transaction goes through.

“We are excited to see Malfy Gin move to the Pernod Ricard family of brands,” said Elwyn Gladstone, founder of Biggar & Leith, which launched Malfy in 2016.

“We believe that with their stewardship and expertise in building super-premium spirits brands, Malfy will continue to flourish.”

The deal is expected to close shortly – and it seems likely we will see more brand-buying from the drinks giant. “In line with the launch of our ‘Transform and Accelerate’ strategic plan, we will continue actively managing our fantastic portfolio of brands,” Porta added in the statement.

Malfy Gin Pink Lemonade

Malfy Gin Pink Lemonade

Malfy is pretty popular here at MoM Towers. If the news is giving you a bit of a hankering for a gin cocktail, why not give this super simple Pink Lemonade a go, made with Malfy Gin Rosa.

Take an ice-filled Highball glass and mix two parts Malfy Gin Rosa with one part Limoncello. Top with three parts soda water and garnish with a slice of lime and a raspberry (if you’re feeling fancy). Enjoy!

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Dream Drams… with Joe Hall of Satan’s Whiskers

You miraculously find yourself on a desert island equipped with a beach hut bar and eight spirits of your choosing. What are you sipping? For Joe Hall, general manager at…

You miraculously find yourself on a desert island equipped with a beach hut bar and eight spirits of your choosing. What are you sipping? For Joe Hall, general manager at London bar Satan’s Whiskers, survival sustenance means frozen Cognac shots, amontillado Sherry and Piña Colada pineapple goodness…

It’s a dilemma we’ve all pondered at one point or another. If you should find yourself stranded on a remote island with little more than a selection of handpicked bottles to call company, which particular boozes would fill your glass?

We put the question to Joe Hall, general manager at laid-back neighbourhood hangout Satan’s Whiskers. For the unacquainted, Satan’s serves up some of Bethnal Green’s finest cocktails to a formidable hip hop soundtrack. The daily-changing menu is packed with riffs on classics so killer, the man himself would patently approve.

Satan’s Whiskers

Say hello to Joe Hall!

No stranger to the back bar, Hall’s career started at former north London bar Wax Jambu at the age of 18. After a few years he moved to Bristol – “a place that I still think has one of the best cocktail scenes in the country, with Hyde & Co, Redlight and Filthy XIII leading the charge at the moment,” he says before returning to London to Beaufort Bar at The Savoy, which won Best International Hotel Bar at The Spirited Awards 2015 during his tenure. Hall left The Savoy for a junior bartender position at Satan’s Whiskers, which almost four years on, he now runs.

“During my time at Satan’s I’ve learnt a lot, taken a great sense of ownership over the place and won a few competitions,” he continues namely Belvedere’s Grain to Glass 2019 and the Diplomatico World Tournament 2017, for which he was crowned the European winner “nowadays I’m much more settled and focused on the advancement and training of the staff at the bar. In my limited spare time, I’m also a certified Cognac educator on behalf of the BNIC.”

Being the first to tackle our ever-so-slightly shameless homage to BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs is a pretty big undertaking, but Hall did not disappoint. After raiding his metaphorical suitcase Border Patrol-style, MoM asked him to talk us through the contents. Here’s what we found…

Martell VSOP

Why? The perfect mixing Cognac. Clean, Borderies-only and lees-less liquid amazing in Harvards, French 75s, and Cognac and Tonics. Also, perfect for those frozen Cognac shots we all love right?

Cognac Frapin Fontpinot XO

Why? This is the Cognac you want to drink neat. Unbelievably flavourful product of single vineyard Grand Champagne grapes, aged for a long time in dry cellars. It’s rich and complex, but has remarkably distinct tropical notes passionfruit and pineapple. This is an amazing example of what, for me, makes Cognac stand out amongst other spirits.

Hidalgo Amontillado Napoleón

Why? Pleasant, accessible amontillado Sherry. Maybe too light for the ultra-serious sherry heads of this world but it’s perfect for clean, crisp mixed drinks. Makes my favourite [version of the cocktail] Adonis, and Sherry and Tonic or a Sobremesa, a drink of mine that contains sherry, sweet vermouth, cucumber and a touch of mezcal.

Satan’s Whiskers

Satan’s Whiskers, which we hear is a hell of a night…

Potocki Vodka

Why? Why isn’t everyone aware of this stuff?! It’s through distilling only twice with no filtration during the production process that creates this beautifully-flavoured and textured rye vodka from Poland. It makes Martinis that are absolutely out of this world.

Compass Box Hedonism

Why? I knew I wanted to include something from Compass Box, but picking which bottle is a real challenge. They have such a fantastic range, with some unbelievable blends on offer. As far as pushing the envelope and mind expansion goes, Hedonism has it all, showing that grain whisky can be 100% delicious too.

Kahlua

Why? You wouldn’t be able to make any White Russians without this.

Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva Rum

Why? The fondest memories in my entire career are of my time in Venezuela with Diplomatico and the rest of the European competitors. Such wonderful hosting, food, country, weather and… rum. This is the kind of rum you can drink in cocktails during the day, on ice in the evening, and straight out the bottle at night. And that’s just what we did.

Virginia Black

Why? As if I could do any kind of Desert Island Discs piece from a cocktail bar that only plays hip hop without referencing Drake. I like to think we’re the only small, curated industry cocktail bar that stocks it, let alone has it taking pride of place in the centre of the back bar. Tastes 100% acceptable.

Satan’s Whiskers

From frozen Cognac shots to Sobremesas, Hall serves up some of Bethnal Green’s finest

In-keeping with the theme, if you could take one book with you, which would you choose?

Champagne Cocktails by Jared Brown and Anistatia Miller. Apart from being an informative and succinct list of fancy drinks, this book does a fantastic job of evoking the convivial fun that drinking Champagne should be. Having this on a desert island would get some good celebratory nostalgia going!

And your luxury item?

My phone. Just for the Instagram. Can you imagine the photo opportunities? Coconut shell cocktails and banana leaves… My stories would go viral.

Finally, if you could only drink one cocktail there, what would it be?

On a desert island I’m going to need all the sustenance and nutrition I can get. So, out of necessity more than anything else, I’m going to pick the humble Piña Colada. Plenty of fresh pineapple goodness and calories to sustain me. If you’re going to get stranded on a desert island, you may as well get into it…

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Why don’t bars serve good coffee?

Nate Brown loves a good cocktail and he loves a good cup of coffee. So why, he asks, do so few bars in Britain do both well? A great coffee…

Nate Brown loves a good cocktail and he loves a good cup of coffee. So why, he asks, do so few bars in Britain do both well?

A great coffee served alongside a Whisky Highball, a bitter espresso in the same sitting as a clean Negroni, an americano and an Americano. Little moments of heaven. Or so I imagine. Because as delightful as these sound, the chance of me getting a decent coffee where I can get a decent drink is frankly slim to none. There are exceptions, of course. However, on the whole, the coffee that bars serve is so usually embarrassingly, insultingly terrible.

It shouldn’t be like this. After all, coffee is a mixed drink, prepared to order and delivered. A few rounds of Martinis followed by a bright, bitter espresso can be the shortcut to why we go to bars in the first place.  And if that’s a bit too much for you, the rise of low-ABV drinking walks hand-in-hand with the coffee world. In theory, they’re the same thing. In practice, the bar world has all but turned its back on the bean. Which is a bloody error. If I meet a colleague, we shouldn’t have to choose between going for a coffee or a for a drink.

Espresso

Wouldn’t that look even better with a Negroni on the side?

And don’t talk to me about margins. I’m not advocating replacing drinks with coffee, I’m talking about additional quality offerings. There is something contemptuous about the token hot drinks offering. If you’re going to do it, do it well; your guests deserve better. I asked one of the precious few who has migrated from booze into coffee and back again what his thoughts were. “Bars cannot be fucked,” was his response. This is more depressing than it first appears, because bars should be there for the guest, not for the ego of the bartender.

Is it a culture clash? Do those baristas that embrace the pull of espresso exist in the energy of the morning, and the shot-slugging bartender crew arise only for the glamour and sex of the evening? If so, then they’re missing a trick because guests no longer define their days in this on-duty/off-duty dichotomy. Why do bars and coffee shops?  Last month’s Coffee Festival showed some of these cultural differences in the cruel light of day. The general atmosphere between the dozens and dozens of competing soft drinks brands, espresso machineries, roasters, and merchandisers was jovial, friendly and positive. The booze additions, however, brought scandal. Mr Black’s juvenile attempt to undermine Tia Maria was ill-judged, especially considering that Tia Maria was one of the main sponsors for the event. The brandishing of spiteful stickers was at least appropriately childish. It was a stunt that may have impressed bartenders, but to a coffee crowd it was generally seen as darn right bitchy. Shame on us.

Moreover, coffee is growing up. The processes involved in bringing bean to cup have clear parallels with distillation. Washed processing, like column distillation, creates cleaner flavours; in contrast, natural processing is the pot distillation of the coffee world, producing bolder funkier flavours..And then there’s terroir: try beans from Ethiopia for berry-like fruit, like, say Pinot Noir; or beans from El Salvador for a richer, maltier flavour. See where I’m going with this? Perfect fodder for today’s more aware guest.

Sure, to some, the coffee and alcohol crossover manifests itself as the increasingly popular Espresso Martini and no further. This is hardly surprising, given the general disregard given to the coffee by bartenders. Just once, I’d love to have an Espresso Martini that celebrates and showcases the coffee. Nespresso Ne-no-no.

Nate Brown

Nate Brown, don’t make him choose between coffee and booze

Bars have a duty to provide a third-place world for their guests. And yes, they are guests, not customers. We are in hospitality, not retail. It makes a difference. And when we position the emphasis on providing a welcoming, affordable place for our guests to enjoy, to escape into, to mingle in and connect, the drinks we serve become mere vehicles for this hospitality.

Indeed, the drinks we serve have to excite and entice, to create conversations and provide intrigue and value. This is exactly what coffee can do just as well as booze. Hell, the word ‘Barista’ even means ‘bar-tender’. It’s about time bars realised this. Time to wake up and smell how crap your coffee is.

Nate Brown has owned and operated spirit specialist cocktail bars in London for the better part of a decade. He’s a regular speaker on industry panels, a judge for various spirit awards and has been known to harbour an opinion or two.  

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New Arrival of the Week: The English – Virgin Oak Cask

The English Whisky Co. is looking to see in St George’s Day the only way it knows how. With a new English whisky, of course! English whisky’s recent rise probably…

The English Whisky Co. is looking to see in St George’s Day the only way it knows how. With a new English whisky, of course!

English whisky’s recent rise probably hasn’t escaped you. There’s seemingly no end to the glut of new brands and distilleries emerging, and they’re releasing any number of exciting expressions. But before most of the new arrivals had a drop of the good stuff to shout about, there was The English Whisky Co.. When St George’s Distillery at Roudham in Norfolk was founded by the Nelstrop family in 2005, it became England’s first registered whisky producer for over a century.

The English Whisky Co. has since become the most prolific English malt whisky producer and the family-run, award-winning brand is probably best known for creating a wide variety of expressions. You want a peated dram? It’s got ‘em. You want an unusual cask? No problem. Fancy a single grain English whisky made with a combination of malted barley and rye? A specific pitch, but regardless they’ve got your back. From smoky, to floral, spicy and sweet, it’s a distillery that covers a lot of bases.

This is due to The English Whisky Co.’s self-confessed experimental side. It’s not a brand with centuries of tradition to maintain and manage, so it’s little surprise that in the decade or so since it has been releasing new whiskies, we’ve seen the company flex its creative muscles. Despite being an old-timer in English whisky terms, it’s worth remembering this is a relatively young distillery that’s forging its identity.

The English – Virgin Oak Cask

The St George’s Distillery in sunny Norfolk

Which brings us to The English – Virgin Oak Cask, a whisky launched in time to mark the celebration of the patron saint of England. The English Whisky Co. informs us that this single malt was distilled in July 2013 and bottled in March 2019, with 2,689 bottles filled in total.

As you can probably guess from the name, the stand-out feature of The English – Virgin Oak Cask is its full maturation in virgin American white oak casks. Which is an interesting way to go. It’s fair to say that virgin oak casks have proved to be quite divisive. The fear is that a whisky matured in a brand-new oak barrel is at risk of borrowing too heavily from the cask, resulting in a flood of wood-forward flavour and colour.

But that doesn’t seem to have perturbed The English Whisky Co., and why should it? This is a brand that honours a fella who used to fight dragons, for goodness sake. As long as you approach the ageing process with enough care and an understanding of your spirit, you can utilise any cask and not end up with one-dimensional-tasting whisky.

Which is what The English Whisky Co. has managed to do rather well here. It’s certainly sweet and, in places, vanilla-rich, but these flavours are balanced and there’s a lovely blend of dark, fruity and malty notes present to add depth.

The English – Virgin Oak Cask

Look, it’s The English – Virgin Oak Cask !

To give you an even better idea of what you’re getting with The English – Virgin Oak Cask, it seems only right to end this feature with a classic MoM tasting note:

Tasting Note for The English – Virgin Oak Cask:

Nose: Toasted vanilla pod, coconut ice, ginger and a hint of caraway.

Palate: Full-bodied barley and almond liqueur notes, with nutmeg warmth growing. Yet more vanilla, now with some chocolate coffee notes developing.

Finish: Honey on toast, soft citrus and some final peppery touches.

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