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Master of Malt Blog

A world of flavour: Behind Benriach’s new look

Speyside Scotch whisky distillery Benriach has undergone something of a makeover, with a refreshed core range and revamped presentation. We chat to Dr. Rachel Barrie, Benriach master blender, to get…

Speyside Scotch whisky distillery Benriach has undergone something of a makeover, with a refreshed core range and revamped presentation. We chat to Dr. Rachel Barrie, Benriach master blender, to get the inside scoop.

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Benriach is a distillery with a storied history. It dates back to 1898 when it was founded towards the north of Speyside by a chap called John Duff. Over the following decades, and like many distilleries, it faced periods of closure and changed hands multiple times. Since 2016, Benriach has been part of the Brown-Forman’s family, marking the Jack Daniel’s- and Woodford Reserve-maker’s first foray into the world of Scotch. At the time, the deal made the whisky headlines. But now, with its new look, a refocusing on flavour, and a compelling narrative around innovative cask combinations, Benriach is making waves all on its own.

Dr. Rachel Barrie has developed the range

“I’ve been with the company three-and-a-half years now, and I’ve really got to know all of the whiskies,” said Dr. Rachel Barrie, Benriach’s master blender. We’re speaking on the day of the relaunch. The line-up has been unveiled to the world, and drinks social media is in a chatter about the news. And it’s been a while in the works. Even within six months of taking on whisky development at Benriach, Dr. Barrie said she was thinking ‘what’s next?’.

“I had thousands of casks,” she said, outlining the process. “I’ve described it like discovering all these paint pots; it’s like painting with flavour.”

She mentioned she’d always admired Benriach from afar. “I’ve always loved the balance of the fruit and the malt,” and this balance is at the heart of the new core range. 

So what have we got in the line-up? Dr. Barrie took it back to Benriach’s Speyside home (Did you know it gets 40 more days of sunshine a year than anywhere else in Scotland?” She quipped.). A key source of inspiration was the 1994 Benriach 10 Year Old expression, the first bottling that really cemented the distillery as a brand in its own right. It’s balance, body and mouthfeel underpin the philosophy behind each new expression.

All about the cask: the new core range lines up

At the heart of it all, there’s The Original Ten, The Smoky Ten, The Original Twelve, and The Smoky Twelve, all bottled at natural colour. Two fundamentals thread through the quartet: production (essentially peated versus unpeated), and the cask make-up. These are all a blend of three different cask maturations. Move higher up the range to The Twenty One, The Twenty Five and The Thirty, and you’ll find four different cask types. The entire line-up was crafted to offer accessibility to whisky newcomers, and established enthusiasts alike. And the clear positioning does just that.  

When it comes to the malt specification itself, it’s useful to look at the calendar. Each September is devoted to ‘smoke season’, where malt processed to 55ppm using local Highland peat prior to distillation tracks its way through the distillery. Then malting season (yes, Benriach has its own malting floor), takes place each spring. There will be dedicated Smoke Season and Malting Season limited editions to come in due course, too. 

“My job was to create this perfect world of flavour, a journey of taste, many different layers all perfectly integrated,” Dr Barrie continues. “There’s a rainbow of flavour as the spirit comes off the still, which you can then amplify with casks.” 

And why such an overt focus on smoke? “It’s such a sweet smoke with Benriach, it opens the door to new consumers,” she explained. “Just saying ‘peated’ is too simple, it’s a different character.” 

The core quartet

In the tasting glass first is The Original Ten. “It’s like sunshine on Speyside,” Dr. Barrie described it. “A fruit orchard, ripening peaches, a patisserie.” Interestingly, while it’s barely perceptible, there is still a wisp of that Benriach smoke running through. “It’s less than 5ppm,” she said, adding that it adds more of a depth, a textural quality, rather than contributing flavour as such. Going into the Original Ten is liquid from bourbon barrels and sherry casks, plus virgin oak. “It’s got layers of perfect balance,” she continued. 

Benriach is embracing its smokier side

Next up was The Smoky Ten with an intriguing cask mix indeed: bourbon barrels, toasted virgin oak, and Jamaican rum casks. She confirmed the latter previously held high-ester, pot still liquid. “It amplifies the esterification that happens with the maturation,” she got technical for a moment. “It brings out the vanilla, coconut, lactones, the sweetness.” The result? “Exotic fruits charred on a barbeque.” Delicious!

The Twelve is a “new to world” expression, Dr. Barrie continued. “Everything changes with maturation. You’re going to have more oxidation, and therefore more of those top notes.” She reckoned the esterification reaches a “sweet spot” at this age for Benriach. Plus the addition of Port pipes to the bourbon and sherry make-up “lifts and lengthens”, with a “dark chocolate note on the end”.   

Rounding off the four at the heart of the range is The Smoky Twelve. “This is unexpected in its cask combination,” Dr. Barrie said, referencing the bourbon, sherry and sweet Marsala cask recipe. “It’s a collision of the rugged side of Benriach with the sweet side,” she added. “Plus, I love Italian food, I love Sicily. You can see how I was drawn to this.”

An experimental approach

It’s true that there are some unusual cask combinations across the four expressions we explored. How does that come about, and will there be more experimentation to come?

“There’s like a ‘eureka!’ moment with all of the whiskies,” she detailed. “It’s a constant quest. You have all the casks, you blend, you go back and think, ‘imagine…’. Eventually to get to the point where you’re, 80%, 90% there, and then you raise the bar even further.”

Announced alongside the new range was an intention to release esoteric limited editions in the future. Are there any experiments or cask types she’d like to play with yet but hasn’t?

“Oh, there’s so much experimentation,” she said, referencing what’s going on in American whiskey with mashbills and developments within wine. “And within our group [Brown-Forman], there are so many different types of spirit… Tequila with Herradura. Now, that would be interesting. Never say never!”

The range takes on the character of the distillery and the surrounding Speyside region

Other ongoing projects include working with the R&D team at Brown-Forman’s Louisville HQ to investigate the impact of different types of oak on flavour, another area of interest. It makes the whisky lover incredibly excited to see what might come next from Benriach as part of this new programme. 

“There’s plenty to try, and then different combinations to try!” There’s an energy to her statement that makes you long for a sneak peek around her blending lab, just to see what’s there. There’s lots to taste in the new range, and there’s certainly deliciousness to come. Dr. Barrie best sums it up: “There’s an everlasting world of flavour.” 

Benriach’s new-look line-up

The Original Ten, 43% ABV

Bourbon, sherry and virgin oak casks with a trace smoke level for orchard fruit, honeyed malt and marmalade on toast notes. 

The Smoky Ten, 46% ABV

Bourbon barrels, virgin oak and Jamaican rum casks combine for smoky sweetness with barbecued fruit notes. 

The Twelve, 46% ABV

Liquid from sherry and bourbon casks along with Port pipes combine for smoked applewood, honey and spicy pear.

The Smoky Twelve, 46% ABV

Made with an unusual combination of bourbon, sherry and sweet Marsala casks for a rich smoky sweetness with dark chocolate, almond and charred orange notes. 

Plus coming soon, three older bottlings which we were given a sneak preview of:

The Twenty One, 46%

Bourbon, sherry, virgin oak and red wine cask liquids with elegant smoke. Lashings of orchard fruit, pinewood and honey smoke. 

The Twenty Five, 46% ABV

Sherry, bourbon, virgin oak and Madeira wine casks combine for an intensely rich mouthfeel with baked fruit, cinnamon spice and caramelised smoke. 

The Thirty, 46% ABV

The oldest peated Speyside ever bottled. Sherry, bourbon, virgin oak and Port casks result in chocolate raisin, smoked walnut and cinnamon cocoa notes. 

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Cocktail of the Week: The Metaxa Spritz

Today’s we’re getting to grips with one of the world’s unique spirits, Metaxa, a blend of brandy, sweet wine and natural flavours with a special cocktail from award-winning Athenian bar…

Today’s we’re getting to grips with one of the world’s unique spirits, Metaxa, a blend of brandy, sweet wine and natural flavours with a special cocktail from award-winning Athenian bar The Clumsies. 

If you’ve ever been on holiday to Greece, then you’ve probably tried Metaxa. Many restaurants give customers a little glass after a meal rather as they do with limoncello in southern Italy. Only, in my opinion, Metaxa is a far superior drink. It’s often described as a brandy, but this isn’t quite right as it’s a blend of brandy with sweet wine and natural flavours such as anise, rose petal and herbs.

The brand was founded in 1888 by Spyros Metaxa in Piraeus, the port of Athens. From the beginning, the firm has used sweet Muscat wine from the island of Samos. This is an ancient style of wine that was especially-prized in the Middle Ages but Muscats crammed full of sugar are still made all over the Mediterranean not just in the Greek islands but Sicily, France and Spain, and as far away as South Africa and Australia. The brandy is high quality too, double pot-distilled brandy from Savatiano, Soultanino, Kourtikakis grape varieties and aged in Limousin oak. The wine, flavouring and brandy are then married in cask for a year.  The man in charge of the process is the so-called Metaxa master Constantinos Raptis, only the fifth ever to hold this title.

The Metaxa journey starts with the 5 Star expression, the sort you’ve probably tried in Greek restaurants and goes up in age and complexity to 7 and 12 Stars plus various special bottlings. I find the older they get, the less sweet they taste, with more Cognac-like woody notes but always with that floral Muscat and rose petal taste. 

It’s a unique spirit, but the idea behind it isn’t so unusual. From fortified wines to sherry-cask whisky, mixing wine and distilled alcohol has a noble history. There’s even a law in Canada known as the 9.09% rule allowing whisky producers to add up to 9.09% non-Canadian whisky to the blend such as sherry or Port. You can try this at home, a spoonful of Oloroso sherry is a great way to liven up an indifferent whisky. Anyway, I digress…

Metaxa, supremely national

What I love about Metaxa is you can really taste the quality of the ingredients, the Muscat-laden sweet wine, the delicate spicing and then the long finish from aged brandy. I’ve been fiddling around with a bottle of 7 Star and it’s really an incredibly versatile drop. The cocktail below is from award-winning Athenian bar The Clumsies, and very nice it is too, but you don’t need to go to such lengths to get the best out of Metaxa. As a mixture of wine, brandy and spices, it’s basically a cocktail in a glass. You don’t need to add much or really anything to get a delicious complex drink. 

I added a measure to a Champagne flute, topped it up with some Biddenden Kentish dry sparkling cider (though sparkling wine would also be great) and then added an orange twist. Absolutely delicious. It’s also great neat and chilled, especially after a big Greek feast. But the recipe below from the Clumsies shows how well this adaptable spirit works in more elaborate cocktails. Behold, the magnificent Metaxa Spritz!

50ml Metaxa Amphora 7 Star
100ml Chapel Down English Sparkling Rose
10ml Fever Tree tonic water
10ml honey
Pinch of Salt 

Build over ice in a large wine glass, stir gently, garnish with an orange twist and sprig of mint. Yamas!

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Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2021 winner announced

Jim Murray has spoken. The 2021 World Whisky of the Year is Alberta Premium Cask Strength Rye! If only it was available in the UK. Autumn is a very exciting…

Jim Murray has spoken. The 2021 World Whisky of the Year is Alberta Premium Cask Strength Rye! If only it was available in the UK.

Autumn is a very exciting time in the whisky world because everyone knows it’s when Jim Murray publishes a new version of the Whisky Bible. And with it comes the Whisky Bible Awards, where arguably the world’s most famous whisky writer announces his favourite drams of the year. And whether you’re a fan or not, his selections always provoke debate. This year is sure to be no different.

The theme of the 2021 edition (which will be arriving at MoM Towers very soon) is new releases, new distilleries and letting the past be the past: “But the one thing that tasting 1,250 whiskies a year for this book has reinforced in my mind, is that for people to really enjoy whisky of whatever type, then they have to let go of the past and learn to swim,” Murray says. 

But what you really want to know is which expressions make up the big four. For those who are new to all this, Murray doesn’t just announce a World Whisky of the Year, but a top three and single cask winner. So, here they are:

The 2021 World Whisky of the Year: Alberta Premium Cask Strength Rye! (Sadly not available in the UK. Boo!)

Second place: Stagg Jr Barrel Proof (64.2%)

Third place: Paul John Mithuna

Single Cask: Glen Grant 1956 Mr George Centenary Edition Gordon & MacPhail

Jim Murray's Whisky Bible 2021 winner

The 2021 Edition will be available here very soon

It’s a huge victory for the Canadian rye whisky, which scored an incredible 97.5 out of a 100, and marks the first time it has won the coveted top prize. The Alberta distillery has long supplied high quality rye to such lauded American brands as Whistlepig but has only recently began bottling such magnificent whiskys under its own label. Made from a mix of malted and unmalted rye, Alberta Premium Cask Strength draws its water from the Rocky Mountains and was bottled at a massive 65.1% ABV. It’s also received the Double Gold Medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, so I’d chalk that up as being a pretty good year.

Murray, who tasted 1,252 new drams for the 2021 edition of the Whisky Bible, described the expression as being a “truly world-class whisky from possibly the world’s most underrated distillery. How can something be so immense yet equally delicate? For any whisky lover on the planet looking for huge but nearly perfectly balanced experience, then here you go. And with rye at its most rampantly beautiful, this is something to truly worship.” Alberta Premium was named Canadian Whisky of the Year in Murray’s 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 Whisky Bibles, so his love for the Canadian distillery is already well-established.

Fans of the Whisky Bible will have noted that, for the first time in five years, the US has been knocked off the World Whisky of the Year top spot. Kentucky distiller the Sazerac Company made have swept the board in 2020 with a unique 1-2-3, but the “mind-blowing” Stagg Jr Barrel Proof, had to settle for the runner-up spot in 2021. 

Jim Murray's Whisky Bible 2021 winner

Being named in Murray’s top list is a coveted award for whisky brands

Arguably the most eye-catching podium entry of all is Mithuna, however. The Paul John expression, a distillery in the tiny Indian state of Goa, is the first South Asian whisky to have taken a top three gong in more than a decade. Jim Murray says sampling its sensational chocolate-and-spices complexity is: “Like after you have just made love…and you are unable to speak or move while your senses get back into some kind of normality”. Sexy!

All this means it’s another relatively barren year for Scotch as far as Murray’s awards go, although his love for Glen Grant clearly remains undiminished. The brand won three of the six categories Scotch whisky can compete in, including Scotch Whisky of the Year, Scotch Single Malt of the Year (Multiple Casks) and Scotch Single Malt of the Year (Single Cask). The category’s most significant win, however, was on the single cask side of things where the old and rare Glen Grant Mr George stole the show, which was dubbed Mr George Centenary Edition in honour of George Urquhart, creator of Gordon & MacPhail’s wonderful Connoisseurs Choice range.

The last time a Canadian won World Whisky of the Year was in 2016 when Murray selected Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye. Not only did it spark renewed interest in the category, but caused the demand for the bottle to be so high that police in Toronto were called as drinkers fought over the last bottles still on the shelf. Hopefully, we don’t see a repeat of such antics this year. We’ve got plenty of lovely Candian whisky right here that you don’t have to fight over.

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Five minutes with… the Schofield brothers

Internationally-renowned bartenders Joe and Daniel Schofield have amassed more than 25 years’ experience tending the world’s best bars, including American Bar at The Savoy Hotel in London, Singapore’s Tippling Club,…

Internationally-renowned bartenders Joe and Daniel Schofield have amassed more than 25 years’ experience tending the world’s best bars, including American Bar at The Savoy Hotel in London, Singapore’s Tippling Club, and Little Red Door in Paris. Now, with the ink still drying on their first cocktail book, the brothers are gearing up to open a place of their own in their hometown of Manchester. We took five with the duo…

Bartending brothers Joe and Daniel Schofield have spent more than a quarter of a century working in some of the world’s top cocktail venues, and they have the industry accolades and acclaim to show for it. In 2018 alone, Joe was recognised as International Bartender of the Year at Tales of the Cocktail’s Spirited Awards and Bartenders’ Bartender at The World’s 50 Best Bars. At the very same awards ceremonies, with Daniel as assistant bar manager, London’s Coupette scooped Best New International Bar at the former, and Best New Opening at the latter.

Since then, the Schofield’s have been busier than ever, launching their eponymous Schofield’s Dry Vermouth in collaboration with Asterley Bros – which sees 28 English botanicals blended into a British Bacchus, Chardonnay and Seyval Blanc base – traversing the globe doing guest shifts in bars, and speaking at seminars and masterclasses. Most recently, they released Schofield’s Fine and Classic Cocktails: Celebrated Libations & Other Fancy Drinks, in which you’ll find out why you should ‘throw’ Bellinis, discover the perfect Spritz ratios, and update your classics repertoire using subtle tweaks and adjustments favoured by high-end bartenders.

The Schofield brothers, outstanding in their field

Now, the brothers have set their sights on what could quite possibly be their greatest challenge yet: the launch of Schofield’s Bar in their hometown of Manchester later this year. As we await news of the grand opening with baited breath, we took five with Joe and Daniel to find out more about the unique journey that brought them here. They were even kind enough to share a cocktail recipe (a Scotch libation called the William Wallace) for us to try out at home – scroll to the bottom for the recipe.

Master of Malt: Thanks for chatting with us, guys! As people who are constantly travelling for work, how has this year been from your perspective? 

Daniel: This is undeniably an incredibly tough time for our whole industry globally, but as with all situations like this, we always try and focus on the positives. We’ve both spent the last five to six months working on all the admin and logistical aspects ahead of our bar opening – time that we wouldn’t have had normally due to the travel. From a personal perspective, it’s actually been quite nice to spend so much time in our home city after living away for so many years! Even though we’ve been based here for the past two years, we have spent so much of that travelling.

MoM: You’ve amassed years of experience working in some of the best bars in the world. Which of your past cocktails – or menus – do you look back most fondly on, and why? 

Joe: For me, I have a couple of moments that really stand out. Placing a cocktail on the menu at The American Bar at The Savoy was very special to me. As were the Sensorium menus I created with chef Ryan [Clift] at Tippling Club in Singapore. We created two menus, the first was about triggering memory with aroma, and this was followed by a completely edible menu in the form of gummy bears. Each bear took on the main flavours of the cocktail and the dream or desire it represented.

The brothers out standing in the street

MoM: What would you say are your biggest creative influences?

Joe: Inspiration can be found anywhere! I love looking to different industries for inspiration. Food is a very obvious choice. Whenever I’m overseas, I love eating local street food and flavours.

MoM: Tell us more about the book. How would you describe it to someone who’s never read it?

Joe: Daniel and I have always loved classic cocktails and we wanted to create a book that a bartender and a home enthusiast could pick up and have the tools they need to make great drinks at home. Explaining why we do things, how we do things and featuring recipes from our collective 25 years in the industry.

MoM: Having worked independently in different venues across the globe for much of your careers, what’s it like when you get to work behind the bar together?

Daniel: Most of the different bars we have worked in have all had similar core values to hospitality, and we cut our teeth in several of the same bars, so we have the same attitude to hospitality. We both have slightly different strengths which lend themselves to different aspects of the operations, which we feel is going to be beneficial for the bar opening.

MoM: You’ve also worked with some key figures in the industry. What’s the best bartending advice you’ve ever been given? 

Daniel: We’ve both been very lucky to work with some hugely inspirational people in our industry, and I believe that we’ve definitely learnt something from every single person we’ve worked with. I think the most important thing to always remember is that good work ethic, a positive attitude, and being nice to people will get you very far in this industry.

MoM: Aside from being your hometown, are there any other reasons you chose to open a bar in Manchester?

Daniel: Not many people know this, but Manchester is currently the quickest-growing city in Europe, the rate that the city is expanding and developing is unlike anything I have seen before. There are many great operators moving here from other major cities in the UK such as Edinburgh or London, which makes us incredibly excited. The drinks scene is rapidly developing too, there are many great bars here and we both believe that Northerners have a natural sense of hospitality. For personal reasons, it’s great to be so close to our family. After so many years of living away, it’s good to make up for some lost time with them!

MoM: We’ve seen immense innovation in cocktail culture over recent years – are there any bars or bartenders that you feel have really pushed the scene forward, or whose work you admire?

Daniel: What Max and Noel Venning and the team at Three Sheets [in east London] are doing – and have been doing since they opened – has influenced a huge shift in the industry towards simplicity in drinks. I really respect that they make some of the best drinks in London, yet they have a fun, relaxed atmosphere. I have the utmost respect for the team at Satan’s Whiskers [in east London], there aren’t many bars that I go to and want to try every single drink on the menu.Now, here’s that cocktail from the book:

William Wallace 

50ml Blended Scotch (we love Hankey Bannister)
10ml Asterley Bros. Estate Vermouth (or Martini Riserva Speciale Rubino, if you can’t get hold of it)
10ml Gonzalez-Byass Pedro Ximenez Sherry
3 Dashes Orange Bitters

Method:

Stir all ingredients together with ice. Strain and pour into a frozen coupette, and garnish with an orange twist.

 

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Getting a taste of vodka’s past with Belvedere Heritage 176

We attended the virtual launch of Belvedere’s new expression, where we discussed the history of rye in spirits, how Scotch whisky was an inspiration to Polish distillers and why the…

We attended the virtual launch of Belvedere’s new expression, where we discussed the history of rye in spirits, how Scotch whisky was an inspiration to Polish distillers and why the brand is looking to the past to create the flavours of the future.

On Friday we attended another cyber-tasting, this time with Belvedere’s brand ambassadors Mike Foster and Mark Tracey for the launch of Heritage 176. The new kid in the town is a “spirit drink” (we’ll explain in a bit) which was inspired by Polish distilling traditions and uses centuries-old rye malting techniques to showcase the taste of the distinctive grain and recreate a historical taste.

I know what you’re thinking. Taste? Vodka? Doesn’t it all taste the same? Well, as we’ve covered before, this is a recent development. Historically, vodka was all about taste and flavour, and those days are coming back. “There’s a renewed interest and energy in the category. When Belvedere first launched vodka was in a very different place to where it is now. Thankfully, the days of these candied, toffee, whipped cream or peanut butter vodkas are gone,” says Foster. “The direction of travel is towards credible vodka innovation. It’s more about being authentic. For spirits that means stories of origin and inspiration”.

Foster dedicates a portion of his presentation to Belvedere’s inspiration, the history of distillation and malting in Poland. Belvedere has spent much of the last decade investing in research to better understand the core ingredient, from its role in Polish culture to its origins, covering traditional production methods and examining the places where it’s grown. We learned about perevera, a strong alcoholic drink made by heating mead together with beer which was consumed across eastern Europe from the middle of the 14th century and how the culture developed from there into widespread distillation and innovation. Did you know the first written record of vodka is from 1405 and is written in Polish?

Belvedere Heritage 176

Historical malting techniques were used to create Heritage 176

“The Poles take their alcohol very seriously; it’s part of everyday life. Given that it was too cold to produce grapes, malt and rye fueled the industrious Poles to develop their own domestic distilling industry on an unprecedented scale. By 1850, the city of Poznan alone had almost 500 distilleries”, Foster explained. This research into Poland’s malting past uncovered some surprising facts. Archival records from the agricultural society in Warsaw revealed Scotland was seen as a source of farming knowledge. Scottish farmers even migrated to Poland, bringing with them an understanding of distillation and malting practices, and many set up their own agricultural distilleries. “From our research, we found that a distilling process more associated with Scotch whisky and beer making was once at the heart of Polish vodka tradition, and that is malting.”

However, with the 20th century came modernisation, the ability to scale up production and with that, the use of malted grain in vodka production began to be phased out. The focus became the neutrality vodka is associated with now. It’s this development Belvedere challenges, which makes sense given it creates vodka solely from good ol’ Polska rye and purified water, which is drawn from a natural well on the grounds of the distillery. No additives or sugars here. Its Single Estate Series demonstrates this outlook, a range created using rye grown on a single estate to show off the terroir and quality of the grain. As does Heritage 176, the brand’s latest innovative malted rye expression. 

Heritage 176 was created from a blend of just 2% malted rye spirit with 98% of Belvedere Pure. Although 2% does not seem like much, it makes a huge difference (the upcoming tasting note will reveal more). “We found the formula to reveal the characteristics that would have been present in historical Polish vodka, but sadly became lost with time thanks to a desire for cheaper and faster spirit,” Foster explains. “We all know that malt is not new news. Distillers, brewers, bakers and milkshake makers have been talking about its ability to give character for years. But our ancient natural process made using only rye, water and heat is not very well understood”. 

Belvedere Heritage 176

Rye is the key ingredient in Belvedere booze and naturally, the brand is pretty passionate about it

Thankfully, Foster was happy to explain the malting rye techniques Belvedere employed, along with its partners in crime at Viking Malt (which has six malt houses across the world, including two in Poland) to create Heritage 176. “Rye is a very challenging grain to malt, it requires a great level of knowledge and expertise. The malt house we worked with was specifically set up to produce special malts with rye for craft producers such as ourselves,” says Foster. “But the principles of malting grains haven’t really changed for centuries. It’s the same three-stage process of steeping, germination and kilning.”

Steeping

The first step entails submerging the grain in water at three different temperatures, 35-40 degrees, 25 degrees and 20 degrees. The water is then drained and the rye is left to rest in the air for 24 hours. “What’s happening is this combination of water and air is used to increase the moisture content of the grain. We need to get it around about 46% to allow the complete modification of starch into sugar,” Foster explains. 

Germination

Once the ideal moisture content is achieved, the grain is transferred to germination drums (big steel drums, basically), which rotates the grain around to keep it loose which allows the funnelled-in air (which is around room temperature) to dry it. At this point, the grain has become green malt, which means it’s started to grow again. For Heritage 176, the green malt is left in the drums for about 4-6 days, in which time the grain is constantly monitored by the maltsters so it doesn’t grow too much. When the sprout reaches the size of the grain, you’re in the money and can stop the process.

Belvedere Heritage 176

The Żyrardów Polmos distillery where Belvedere is made

Kilning

The third and final stage takes the kiln, which Foster explains is “the most vital stage of malting”. Heat is applied to kill the growth and germination and reduce the moisture content back down to 5%. “There are four aspects to this process for Heritage 176 which starts with forced drying, where we’ll push hot air for about three or four hours into all of the grain to dry all the moisture. Next is the pre-break, this is where the air is blown through the grain for around 12 hours, which dries the surface of each of the grains,” Foster explains. “Then there’s the curing, in which the green malt is cured in kilns up to 176 degrees Fahrenheit which stops all the changes, modifications and growth in the grain. Hence why we decided to call it Heritage 176. We’re using the old heritage style of vodka production and the name leads to a sense of intrigue which gives us a chance to explain this process of malting”.

All of these steps occur at one of Viking Malt’s Polish sites and then the entire rest of the production takes place at Belvedere Distillery. Heritage 176 even has its own exclusive distilling team and stillhouse. At the distillery, the malted grain is milled to create a mash which is then placed in small stainless steel vats where yeast (the same strain used for Pure and the Single Estate series) is added to the mixture. The liquid is then double distilled, the first distillation lasting around 16 hours and creates a spirit of 88% ABV. From this spirit, the heads and tails are cut and the heart is distilled for another 16 hours, creating a 91-92% ABV spirit. This malt spirit is then blended with Belvedere Pure in stainless steel vats and left to rest for two days before it’s bottled at 40% ABV.

Belvedere Heritage 176

Belvedere Heritage 176 will be coming to MoM Towers soon

What’s in that bottle is a delightful spirit drink. Why not vodka? Well, because technically the malted ry e spirit was distilled to 92% rather than the required 96% ABV by European law. Belvedere isn’t concerned about this, however. “To us, it didn’t matter if it isn’t legally called a vodka. We’re masters of rye, we want to explore this raw ingredient and to adapt and manipulate in weird and wonderful ways to create flavours”, said Foster. “We’re not trying to adapt to a flavour that hits a certain consumer palate or add anything synthetic or unnatural post-dilation. We’ve just taken this wonderful rye ingredient and processed it in a different, more traditional way. What excites us is getting down to the nitty-gritty and the science of rye”.

Foster also remarked that it opens up the potential for a subcategory for a vodka. After all, as we’ve already learned, vodka made with malted grain and distilled to a lower ABV has its place in history. “I don’t want to as be brash to say we’ve created a spirit category, but we’re on the way to it. It’s a niche product: there are not many vodkas in the world that use malted grain to produce a spirit. To that extent, we’ve probably created a sub-category. I’m quite excited to see if other vodka companies expand to try projects like this and diversify their portfolios,” Foster explains. “The key thing is that vodka does have taste and character. Hopefully, we’ll encourage the rest of the distilling community to create some exceptional vodkas that use different techniques which can showcase to consumers that vodka isn’t just what Dick Bradsell described it as, ‘the coat hanger from which you hang all the flavours onto in a drink’. We want that to be switched around where vodka is the primary flavour of the drink that then accentuates the other ingredients”.

Tracey recommends serving the spirit over a block of ice with a lemon twist, or alternatively in cocktails. He made one during the presentation which combined 60ml of Belvedere Heritage 176, 5ml of honey syrup and three dashes of walnut bitters. It was delicious and easy to make so I’d suggest giving it a go. Equally, you can happily sip this one neat. Heritage 176 is impressive and fascinating in equal measure. It’s a complex, rich and dynamic spirit, filled with multiple aromas and flavours supported by an indulgently creamy texture. It’s such a contrast from the classic Belvedere Pure and I recommend comparing it with a classic vodka so you can appreciate the difference.

Think vodka doesn’t taste of anything? Think again. Belvedere Heritage 176 will be available from MoM Towers in the near future, so keep an eye out for it

Belvedere Heritage 176

Belvedere Heritage 176 Tasting Note:

Nose: Clotted cream, homemade vanilla ice cream and almond butter lead, with toffee fudge, cinnamon and acacia honey in support. Compared to the regular Belvedere, it’s thicker, richer and the spiced are more aromatic (think allspice and cinnamon).

Palate: If you thought the nose was creamy, wait until you get to the palate. It’s like liquified vanilla fudge with a helping of salted butter thrown in for good measure. There’s a touch of lemon shortbread, walnut bread, baking spice and some classic rye notes of black pepper underneath.

Finish: Butterscotch, freshly cracked pepper and toffee apple linger.

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New Arrival of the Week: The GlenDronach Kingsman Edition 1989 Vintage

Back in August, we heralded the imminent launch of a rather special whisky from The GlenDronach – a wonderfully well-sherried 29 year old single malt, created by master blender Rachel…

Back in August, we heralded the imminent launch of a rather special whisky from The GlenDronach – a wonderfully well-sherried 29 year old single malt, created by master blender Rachel Barrie to coincide with the upcoming release of The King’s Man. Ahead of the GlenDronach Kingsman Edition 1989 Vintage hitting shelves this week, MoM took a moment to sample the liquid. Here’s what we thought…

The folks at The GlenDronach certainly know their way around a sherry cask, and this latest release is no exception. Created in collaboration with the Kingsman film franchise director Matthew Vaughn – and also MARV films and Disney – The GlenDronach Kingsman Edition 1989 Vintage has been exclusively matured in oloroso casks before a delicious finishing period in Pedro Ximénez casks from Spain. Because, well, why not?

For those unfamiliar with Kingsman, the action-comedy film franchise is centered on a fictional secret service organisation of the same name (it’s also a screenplay of a comic book series, but we digress). Set during world war one, the latest instalment – The King’s Man – delves into the origins of the intelligence agency. While most of the plot details remain under wraps, here’s what we do know: There are tyrants. There are criminal masterminds. They have nefarious plans that involve inciting some kind of war that will wipe out millions. Saving the world is down to one man and his protégé, who must figure out how to stop them in an exhilarating race against the clock.

It’s proper fancy…

A combination of six casks distilled in 1989, the new release is said to be inspired by the oldest bottle of whisky housed at The GlenDronach Distillery – a 29 year-old whisky bottled in 1913, just before the outbreak of the first world war. The story behind it goes like this: three friends bought a bottle each before the war, promising to open them together once they came home. Only one returned. Having never opened his bottle, his family donated it to the distillery, where it’s displayed in remembrance of fallen friends. What a tragic tale.

Master blender Rachel Barrie commented: “This expression is deep in meaning, paying homage to ​fallen friends who bravely fought during WWI, and the depth of character and integrity shared by both The GlenDronach and the Kingsman agency. This is none other than a whisky truly fit for a King’s Man.”

There are just 3,052 bottles available, all labelled, numbered and wax-sealed by hand, and signed by Barrie and Vaughn – who also shared his thoughts on the release. “There is an important line which says, ‘Reputation is what others think of you, character is what you are’,” he said. “Strength of character and dedication to upholding the highest values perfectly encapsulates the true spirit of both the Kingsman agency and The GlenDronach Distillery.”

The packaging is quite smart too

So, what does it taste like? Flavour-wise, Barrie described “smouldering aromas of dark fruits and sherry-soaked walnuts, vintage leather and cedar wood”. On the palate, “dense autumn fruits meld with date, fig and treacle, before rolling into black winter truffle and cocoa”. Throughout the “exceptionally long” finish, she said, you’ll find lingering notes of “blackberry, tobacco leaf and date oil”. 

Sounds rather tasty, doesn’t it? So, without further ado, here’s our take on The GlenDronach Kingsman Edition 1989 Vintage:

The GlenDronach Kingsman Edition 1989 Vintage tasting note:

Colour: Pouring the whisky into a glass, you’re instantly struck by how dark it is – almost a mahogany brown. There’s no colouring added, we’re assured. Spending 29 years in Sherry casks is a heavy enough influence on the colour, with no need for any extra ‘assistance’. Ahem.

Nose: Dark brown sugar, cherries, plums and salted caramel with a touch of aniseed. Another whiff and you’ll find raisin, vanilla and a hint of citrus peel.

Palate: Thick waves of juicy dark fruits give way to tart pluminess that evolves into powerful and pronounced dusty oak spice.

Finish: Incredibly rich and long. Rum-soaked raisins, leather and tobacco dryness, rounded off with dates and a touch of clove and cinnamon.

Overall: Sweet and intense. Remarkable how it transforms on the palate. Like Willy Wonka made his Three Course Dinner Chewing Gum in an orchard.

The GlenDronach Kingsman Edition 1989 Vintage is now sold out. That went fast!

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Richard Paterson ‘steps back’ from Whyte & Mackay

Big news at Whyte & Mackay as Richard ‘the Nose’ Paterson celebrates 50 years at firm and announces that he will give up his current role to concentrate on The…

Big news at Whyte & Mackay as Richard ‘the Nose’ Paterson celebrates 50 years at firm and announces that he will give up his current role to concentrate on The Dalmore.

There’s about to be some big shoes to fill at Whyte & Mackay as it has been announced that Richard Paterson will be stepping back from his role at the Glasgow whisky makers. Today marks exactly 50 years since Paterson joined the firm, 14 September 1970. Since then he’s gone on to be one of the most respected master distillers in the business, known as ‘the Nose’ for his unerring palate. We at Master of Malt have had the privilege of tasting with him on more than one occasion and can attest not only to his amazing senses but his natural showmanship that has made such a successful ambassador for Scotch whisky.

But Paterson isn’t going to be golfing full time. He will remain at the company’s flagship distillery, The Dalmore. There’s plenty going on: back in December we reported on a very special 60 year old expression which will go under the hammer this December at Harrods in London. And next year will see the release of six whiskies called “The Decades of The Dalmore”, part of an ongoing series of whiskies that have been nurtured by Paterson over his long years at the company. We’ll bring you more on them as we know more. 

The Dalmore Aged 51 Years

Paterson will be staying on at The Dalmore

Paterson commented: “I have been fortunate to have enjoyed each and every one of my 50 wonderful years. I have had the opportunity to work with many incredible people down through the years, and incredible whiskies too of course. I am truly proud of what we have achieved together as Whyte and Mackay. For myself, I have the great honour to care for the truly extraordinary whisky we create at The Dalmore. I look forward to sharing some very special releases of The Dalmore in 2021”. 

Whyte & Mackay CEO, Bryan Donaghey, added: “To work for one company for 50 years is a fantastic achievement that few will repeat. Through all those years Richard has made an outstanding contribution to the continued success of Whyte & Mackay, and especially The Dalmore.  His energy and passion for what he does is remarkable and an inspiration to all of us. My thanks and congratulations to Richard on this incredible achievement.”

With Paterson concentrating on the Dalmore, this means that there is a very big nose-shaped hole at Whyte & Mackay. That noise you can hear is distillers and blenders throughout Scotland (and further afield) polishing their CVs.

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Classic Bars – Coupette

Say hello to our shiny new Classic Bars blog series! Here we’ll be looking at… well, classic bars. What better time than now to shine a spotlight on these well-loved…

Say hello to our shiny new Classic Bars blog series! Here we’ll be looking at… well, classic bars. What better time than now to shine a spotlight on these well-loved haunts, just as we’re allowed to return to our favourite watering holes? (For now, anyway.) First up is Coupette over in Bethnal Green, which also just happens to have released its new cocktail menu.

Though Coupette only came onto the scene in the summer of 2017, it secured its place as a classic in no time. It’s ranked number 23 in The World’s 50 Best Bars, and while that may set some expectations, it doesn’t really tell you anything else about the bar itself. We’re here to do that. 

Coupette is the brainchild of bartender extraordinaire Chris Moore. Moore has been behind the bar since he was legally allowed, joining the Savoy’s Beaufort Bar in 2010. There he stayed until 2015, when he left to start working on opening Coupette. You may have guessed from its name that the bar has French ties (Coupette translates as “cheeky one”), inspired by France’s cocktail history. As such, it has an intense love affair with Calvados – well, Moore’s Instagram handle is literally @mr.calvados, so this was to be expected. 

Its modest front means you could easily walk past it, though once you’re inside, its charm is irresistible; the interior strikes the perfect balance between chic and rustic – an old ‘tabac’ neon sign sits between exposed brick walls above a luxurious leather armchair. Plus, you can even nibble on gratin dauphinoise or a croque monsieur while you sip. A whole new level of bar snack.

Anyway, let’s talk about the cocktails! “Coupette has a main concept, which is a French 5* neighbourhood bar,” bar manager Andrei Marcu explains. “Everything we do has to fall under that concept.” Coupette boasts three award-winning serves that withstand any menu change. The first ensures there is always Calvados on the menu, and that’s Apples, made with the brandy as well as pressed apples, carbonated on-site. There’s also Boardroom, a smoky, Don Draper-esque blend of Hennessy and Dubonnet, with walnut, cherry and coffee. And finally, the snazziest twist on a classic to grace our palates, the famed Champagne Piña Colada, boasting coconut sorbet (rather than cream) and a luxurious splash of fizz. The rest of the cocktails come and go with each drastic menu change. (More on that later.)

After a successful couple of years, Moore stepped away from his project in late 2019. So now Marcu is heading things up – and what a job he and the team have done throughout this crazy year. “We have a saying here at Coupette,” says Marcu. “‘Good is never good enough’.” That sets the tone for every drink that they serve.

Obviously this year has posed more challenges than usual, but crafting an entirely new cocktail menu in lockdown was one of them. Usually, Coupette changes its menu every three to six months. “We always liked the idea of a seasonal menu and that is exactly what we did so far. Yet, with the new menu we decided to create more of a conceptual menu that will last for almost a year or less. This is a bit due to the pandemic that made us feel insecure about launching a new menu every three or six months.”

So, how was it coming out of lockdown? “It was very hard to be honest,” Marcu tells me. “The fact that we went from five days a week work to nothing and back to five days a week after three months was very exhausting. But it is slowly getting better and we are happy to be able to open our door every single day and have guests visiting us.” 

We’re pretty happy about it too, because it meant we finally got to try the new menu! Dubbed Urban Legends & Their Uprising Tales, it launched on 10 September and explores  ‘the darker side of East London’. A jaw-dropping (and mouth-watering) 21 new serves have been created by the team, Marcu tells me it was over six months in the making. “We were meant to launch in April,” he says, but obviously you-know-what rather got in the way of that. “So then we had to go back and reformulate.” 

The menu illustration for the Watermelon Spritz

The six-chapter menu tells the (fictional) origin story of an East London gang through illicit rum deals, spirit smuggling and ingredient hustling. It’s grittier and darker than previous menus. The physical menu is gorgeous more of a hardback book as the team enlisted the help of illustrator Molly Rose for each cocktail. When I ask Marcu what his favourite new drink is (which is probably his least favourite question) he ends up naming half the menu. 

You start drinking a cocktail with your eyes, so it’s no surprise the presentation is always a delight – though never flamboyant. Dazzling glassware and simple garnishes showcase the liquid each serve, along with the most impressive ice cubes (or sometimes spheres) you’ve ever seen.

Chocolate & Red Wine, a firm favourite

“Every single drink has to be its perfect version,” Marcu says when I ask him if there were any new serves which were particularly challenging to get right. It was pretty much all of them, by the sound of it. “We have tried a tremendous amount of ingredients, recipes and drinks until we chose the one that we believe is perfect. For example, we have a drink called Chocolate & Red Wine for which we have tried 15 to 20 different recipes. But the hardest to get right was Ain’t Easy Being Cheesy, a Parmigiano-inspired drink that we wanted to turn into a pleasant flavour to everyone. We were looking into getting out fruity notes from one of the strongest flavoured cheeses one can find and we definitely managed to do so. But that one was a hustle.” 

Yes, that is a corn in my Gimlet

No doubt the hard work has more than paid off. There is truly something for everyone, from Rhubarb Bellinis and insanely refreshing Watermelon Spritzes to twists on Negronis (with carrot as an ingredient) and Manhattans (made with ale vermouth), and everything in between. While I didn’t get to try them all, there were two absolute stand-outs for me. First, was one Marcu has already mentioned, Chocolate & Red Wine. This short serve made with Flor de Caña 18 Year Old, chocolate wine and cacao manages to remain delicate and light, even though it packs a boozy, fruity, chocolatey punch. Second was the Corny Gimlet, with salted butter-distilled Plymouth Gin, home-made corn liqueur and sour popcorn tea, garnished with a charred baby corn. It was sweet, sour and slightly bitter, by far one of the strangest things I’ve ever tasted – and I loved every sip.

“We just launched Urban Legends & Their Uprising Tales but we already started thinking about the next one, and I have to tell you so far it sounds very exciting.” Luckily this 24-cocktail menu will keep us busy until the next one!

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The Nightcap: 11 September

Robot bartenders, enough whisky to buy a house and a tiki bar full of priests rescuing a drowning man. The Nightcap doesn’t get much better than this! We’re in that…

Robot bartenders, enough whisky to buy a house and a tiki bar full of priests rescuing a drowning man. The Nightcap doesn’t get much better than this!

We’re in that part of the year now where the weather is totally unpredictable. In a matter of minutes you could be made to look a fool by a cold snap, a sudden downpour or baking heat just as you’ve started an hour long walk in a woolly jumper (I’m not venting, why do you ask?). In such times, home comforts, familiar settings and dead certainties are needed. Like a weekly update of all the happenings from the world of booze. Good thing we’ve got you covered. Enjoy!

On the MoM blog this week Henry welcomed a wonderful new collection from The Character of Islay Whisky Company called The Stories of Wind and Wave and then enjoyed a cocktail named after the fanciest college in America, Jess demonstrated the delights of Irish single malt The Sexton and Adam sampled all kinds of delicious new whisky from Glengoyne. Elsewhere, Ian Buxton popped back in to explore how you can own a little bit of your own booze business through the magic of crowdfunding, while Annie cast a spotlight on Storywood Tequila, examined the evolution of cask ownership and then turned her attention to the history of the world’s first luxury whisky. We’d also like to say a big thank you to all who attended Scotch & Sofa and to remind those who missed it that the videos are still available to watch on Facebook!

The Nightcap

What whisky fan wouldn’t want their own cask? No wonder they’re fighting over it

SMWS offers members cask from Holyrood Distillery whisky

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) is offering members the chance to win an entire cask of whisky from a partner distillery for the first time at its annual gathering this year. The prize, from Holyrood Distillery, is worth approximately £10k and includes all associated costs including the production of spirit, maturation for up to 10 years, bottling and duty. The distillery, which is Edinburgh’s first city centre single malt whisky distillery for nearly a century, runs a custom cask programme, which provides fully customisable options that you can read more about here. “Can you imagine owning your own full cask of single malt whisky? That’s the incredible prize that is up for grabs to all the members of the SMWS,” says Helen Stewart, head of marketing and membership at The SMWS. “Without a doubt it’s the biggest prize we’ve ever offered to our members and with our global festival The Gathering beginning on 31st August, it’s the perfect time to show the world what we do at SMWS – but you have to be in it to win it”. This year’s gathering, which is taking place throughout September, will unite a global community of over 27,000 SMWS members through a series of tastings (both virtual and in-person), whisky webinars, global ambassador at-home tastings, virtual pub sessions with global guests and a Twitter Tasting. The SMWS has also encouraged members to host their own gathering events at home, with home tasting kits available to download. The competition went live on Monday (7 September), which SMWS members can enter here, while tickets for the full calendar and info on all the gathering events can be found here.

The Nightcap

The 18-year-old Aberfeldy is finished in barriques from Pauillac, home of some of France’s greatest wines.

Aberfeldy launches ‘aristocratic’ 18 year old finished in Bordeaux wine casks 

Aberfeldy has gone right to the top with its new 18-year-old wine cask finish, Pauillac in the Medoc, home of some of Bordeaux’s greatest wines such as Lafite, Latour and Mouton-Rothschild. The whisky spent 18 years in first-fill bourbon barrels followed by 4-5 months in ex-Pauillac barriques. Those months weren’t wasted, we were given a little sample and it really smells distinctively of the Medoc. Think pencil shavings, blackcurrants and damp earth on the nose with tannin on the palate and an unctuous nutty texture, all wrapped up in the classic honey and toffee of Aberfeldy. The double cask ageing really works. Malt master (not to be confused with a Master of Malt) Stephanie MacLeod commented: “Pauillac casks are the aristocrats of the Médoc, they provide notes of black cherries, blackberries and a cedar wood spice. Aberfeldy’s wonderfully soft signature honey and creamy vanilla notes are invigorated with swathes of plush ripe fruits and lovely nutty aromas to create an incredibly elegant and fruitful whisky.” It’s bottled at 43% ABV and on sale for a very reasonable £95. It is, however, only available from the distillery which reopened in July. Later it will be on sale in certain markets including USA, China, Taiwan, Germany, and France but not, for some reason, Britain. We think a trip to Aberfeldy might be in order. 

The Nightcap

The project might have been delayed but it’s back on course now

Johnnie Walker Princes Street update

Diageo never seems to stop churning out boozy updates and this week is no different after it opened the online doors to the Johnnie Walker Princes Street global flagship visitor experience. The spirits giant had already reaffirmed its £185 million investment programme in Scotch whisky and tourism by resuming physical construction at the landmark building in the heart of Edinburgh in June (in compliance with all government COVID guidelines, naturally) following a three-month lockdown pause, but the new website for the attraction was launched this week on Tuesday (8 Sept). The Princes Street site is now expected to open in the summer of 2021. If you’re after detailed plans for inside the eight-story attraction then you’ll have to wait, but the website does provide pre-sale ticket opportunities and exclusive updates on the project. “The last few months have been so difficult and disruptive for everyone and we know there is still a long way to go, but we keep walking with confidence and we are looking to the future with positivity,” says managing director of Johnnie Walker Princes Street, Barbara Smith. “Johnnie Walker Princes Street is progressing well following the restart of construction and we are delighted to be launching our website so that our future guests can share in the excitement and anticipation we feel as we build towards opening our doors to visitors next year.” 

The Nightcap

Congrats to you Nate, any chance of a Nebula Negroni on the house…

Nate Brown opens a new bar

Hey, you guys know our friend Nate Brown, right? He’s contributed a fair few cracking articles on the MoM blog over the last year or so, but that’s not why he’s making headlines this week. It’s because tomorrow (Saturday 12 September), he’ll open the doors to Nebula, a new bar on the Hackney Road, London. The pizza, beer and cocktail joint, which is styled as a ‘neighbourhood oasis with cosmopolitan spirit’, was created in collaboration with Shane Long (not the Republic of Ireland international, but the founder and owner of the Franciscan Well Brew Pub Ltd), and will be led by Sam Morgan (ex-Star and MEAT). Heading the cocktail menu will be the bar’s signature Nebula Negroni, which has a ‘herbaceous twist’ and is available for take away in bottles or eco-friendly reusable pouches. There are also three Spritzes, three Highballs, and three Low-balls plus three straight-up, easy-drinking serves, all of which have an emphasis on local, with house gin and vodka made a stone’s throw away by 58 gin and East London Liquor Co. The wines, meanwhile, will be sourced from Renegade Winery in Bethnal Green and many of the beers are brewed in East London. Nebula will be open from midday until 11pm, seven days a week, and we’ll certainly be popping by for a Nebula Negroni, or two!

350 1960s will be released to celebrate 350 years of Warre’s

Warre’s celebrates 350 years with release of rare Port

Warre’s is celebrating its 350th birthday in style with the release of some seriously rare vintage Port. The company was founded in 1670, and while it doesn’t have any wine left from then, it is offering 350 bottles of 1960 Port from its cellars, the last bottles of this vintage that will be sold to the public. RRP around £320. More affordably, the company will be offering special anniversary editions of Warre’s Warrior and its LBV (Late Bottled Vintage) wines. The company is probably the oldest British Port firm and has a rich history in the region. Williams Warre fought with the Duke of Wellington to liberate the country from Napoleon. His descendant George Warre was one of the first British shippers to buy land in the Douro. One of his purchases, Quinta do Retiro, provides the fruit for the 1960 vintage. In the 1960s the firm was bought by the Symington family who still own it today. Chairman Johnny Symington commented: “We are extremely proud to be celebrating Warre’s 350th anniversary: three generations of my family worked alongside the Warres until the mid-1960s when they decided to return to the UK. We have continued a great tradition that dates back to 1670. This incredible milestone is a moment for us to reflect on our heritage and our uniqueness as a family business. We also celebrate the alliance between Portugal and England, the oldest in history, which has been such an important part of the history of Port.” That’s worth raising a glass to.

The Nightcap

This is how I die. And I’m OK with it.

The robot bartender is here!

The machines are taking over! We’ve just received information about a bar where the drinks are made by machine. Named Yanu, it’s described in the press bumf as “the world’s first contactless bar.” It’s the brainchild of Alan Adojaan who is working with top cocktailist Kristo Tomingas to make sure the drinks are tip-top. The machine costs 150,000 euros to buy outright or it can be rented. Adojaan is expecting to sell them to airports, casinos, shopping centres etc. with the current COVID-friendly sales angle that your drink will be untouched by human hands. The set-up consists of a round standalone bar that looks like something from Star Wars with a robot arm at the centre. Approach, state what you want, swipe your card and marvel as the arm makes the drink by pressing the glass to optics located in the ceiling of the bar. From the video, it looks quite basic, we were hoping for something along the lines of the octopus barkeep from Who Framed Roger Rabbit. However, It’s certainly much faster than any human, able to make around 100 drinks an hour and it won’t spend time admiring its muscly tattooed arms instead of serving customers. 

A load of these is worth a lot money

Son sells 28 years of birthday whisky to buy first home 

This week over in Taunton, Matthew Robson didn’t look to his savings account for his house deposit, but his whisky cabinet! Really though, it’s his father Pete who’s to thank. Matthew was born in 1992, and every birthday since his father bestowed upon him an 18-Year-Old Macallan. Now that Matthew is the ripe old age of 28, that adds up to… 28 Macallans! “I thought it would be interesting if I bought one every year,” Pete said, “and he’d end up with 18 bottles of 18-Year-Old whisky for his 18th birthday”. While Pete spent around £5,000 over the years on the pressies, the collection is now worth more than a cool £40,000. It may not surprise you to know that Pete is originally from Milnathort in Scotland, who bought the first bottle of 1974 vintage Macallan to “wet the baby’s head”. Matthew was “under strict instructions, never, never to open them,” and somehow he managed to resist temptation. Whisky broker Mark Littler is selling the “perfect set,” as he described it himself. “The value of Macallan has risen massively over the last five to 10 years,” he said. “To have such a vast collection of bottles is the real selling point of these.” Excuse us, we’re off to have a word with our parents… 

The Nightcap

This story has, quite literally, everything

And finally. . . . Drowning man saved by tiki bar full of priests

Now that’s a headline that sounds like it sprang from the mind of Chris Morris but it’s actually a true account of a recent incident on Lake George in New York. Jimmy MacDonald was out kayaking when he fell into the water with a badly put on life jacket. Within seconds, he was struggling to stay afloat and thought his days were numbered. Talking to the Catholic News Agency, he said: “I thought I was going to die. I was waving my hand and asked God to please help me.” And lo, his prayers were answered in the unlikely form of a tiki bar boat rented Paulist Fathers from St. Joseph’s Seminary in Washington, D.C. The seminarians and priests helped him onboard and saved his life. One, Noah Ismael, quipped that it was “a movement of the Holy Spirit”. The final twist to this almost too-good-to-be-true story is that MacDonald is a former alcoholic who has been sober for seven years. Truly, God moves in mysterious ways. 

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Master of Malt tastes… new Glengoyne whiskies

Glengoyne Distillery has been very busy recently, launching a host of tasty expressions while also undergoing a brand and packaging refresh. We were lucky enough to try the new drams,…

Glengoyne Distillery has been very busy recently, launching a host of tasty expressions while also undergoing a brand and packaging refresh. We were lucky enough to try the new drams, including the particularly interesting, fan-chosen ‘Cask of the Moment’ single cask bottling…

For a lot of us, the extra time we got in lockdown was spent trying to find something useful to do with all these strange new hours. You might have got into shape, started reading more books or found a way to disable the “Are you still watching?” prompts Netflix has (if you found a way then feel free to share). Ian Macleod Distillers, however, was clearly very productive. The Scottish family-owned spirits company has announced the release of the next instalment of Tamdhu’s excellent Batch Strength series (more on that in an upcoming post soon…), as well as all kinds of cool new Glengoyne developments in recent weeks.

Yesterday, Glengoyne revealed that its range has become fully recyclable and unveiled a swanky Queer Eye-style makeover (see bottles below). However, this is Master of Malt, so while we’re excited about sustainability and love the new look, we’re even more interested in the new whiskies that have been launched alongside this rebrand. The first is the next chapter in the Legacy Series, the second is the eighth batch in the Cask Strength range, (both are on their way to MoM Towers, so look out for those) and the third is the ‘Cask of the Moment’ single cask bottling, which we’ll discuss in detail later. For now, let’s take a look at the Legacy Series: 

Hoodies All Summer

Glengoyne Legacy Series: Chapter Two (48% ABV)

The second chapter in Glengoyne’s Legacy Series marries whisky matured in first-fill bourbon (which includes spirit from 7-8 years old up to 23 years old) and refill sherry casks. Hughes revealed that 48% of Chapter Two was the former, making it the most bourbon-cask-forward of any Glengoyne bottling. It’s a deliberate contrast to Chapter One, which was matured in first-fill European oak oloroso sherry casks as well as refill casks. 

Nose: Buttery pastry filled with cooked apple and a dash of baking spice with notes of tinned peaches, papaya and toffee in support. There’s a hint of white chocolate and raspberry blondies in the backdrop with earthy vanilla, autumnal leaves and candied lemon peel.

Palate: Pear drops, sweet vanilla pod and a kick of cinnamon, with buttery lemon shortbread, dried herbs, red apples and a little lime marmalade in support.

Finish: Exceptionally long and mellow with a pleasant prickle of spice.

Overall: A pleasant dram with moments of real depth complex whisky that shows distillery character and cask in harmony. This is a great example of how bourbon casks can make Glengoyne distillate shine and a fantastic demonstration of the distillery’s wood management policy. Impressive stuff.

Hoodies All Summer

Glengoyne Cask Strength Batch No. 008 (59.2% ABV.)

The second on the list of new whiskies to try is from another belter of a series, the Cask Strength range. These bottlings show off the rich, powerful Glengoyne flavour profile and for this reason, always prove very popular. The previous seven batches have all sold out on MoM. Batch No. 008 was created from malts that were matured in a number of different barrels, with 50% of it coming from refill casks, 30% from first-fill sherry (40% American oak and 60% European oak), 10% first-fill bourbon and 10% Rioja cask.

Nose: There’s rich oak spice, tannic red grape skins and fresh malt which blends with sweeter notes of buttery toffee popcorn, apple pie, vanilla ice cream and white chocolate buttons.

Palate: Stewed fruits, Seville orange and chewy toffee with some warm gingerbread spiciness emerge first, with hints of peaches and cream and caramelised apple underneath. A little earthy clove and black peppercorn add depth among burnt sugar and some tropical fruit.  

Finish: More cooked orchard fruit lingers with a little bit of chocolatey malt and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Overall: A dram that moves in many directions simultaneously, but enough Glengoyne DNA keeps things interesting and prevents it from becoming too muddled. I’d say this will be quite crowd-pleaser, it boasts plenty of that sherried goodness the distillery is known and adored for while offering something a little different.

Two delightful drams of contrasting style. However, they don’t take the prize for the most exciting recent Glengoyne release. That accolade belongs to the latest ‘Cask of the Moment’ single cask bottling, which is part of a collection of single cask expressions that show off Glengoyne’s wood policy and the versatility of its spirit. So, what makes this one stand out? Allow us to explain…

Glengoyne Distillery launches new whisky and revamped look

Alongside the revamped looks and sustainable policies, Glengoyne has released some cracking new drams

How fans came to choose Glengoyne’s latest whisky

On the evening of Friday 28 August, I was one of may Glengoyne fans who (virtually) tuned in to a live stream of a tasting of four amples, one of which would become the new ‘Cask of the Moment’ expression. Global brand ambassador Gordon Dundas hosted, with distillery manager Robbie Hughes and industry experts Rosalind Erskine, Christopher Coates and Blair Bowman joining him to discuss each dram and pick a favourite. The difference was, we all got to do the same. Armed with a tasting kit filled with the samples, we simply clicked a link, selected a chosen dram and bam! Democracy. It was basically the Highland’s X-Factor“To get our fans involved in such a unique way from the comfort of their own homes was special. The ability to host a public vote, get an instant result of the favourite cask and then have it available to buy on the shop made it a truly seamless event,” Dundas commented.

The four candidates were single casks samples that were chosen from Glengoyne’s Warehouse #8, included a sherry hogshead, an ex-bourbon barrel, a Port pipe and a Madeira cask. This is a particularly exciting line-up not only because of its variety but, as Hughes pointed out, “some of the liquid in the sample kits may have never been released for sale”, making it a one-of-a-kind experience. Hughes added he’s always wanted to do a tasting of single casks straight out of the warehouse and that he had three main objectives in mind. “One was to select styles of whisky Glengoyne isn’t normally associated with. Secondly, I didn’t want the whiskies to be too old because I wanted people to be able to afford them. The third objective was to select three whiskies that I really liked. It took us just 40 minutes to choose these four whiskies, that’s how outstanding they were”. 

So, without further ado, here are the four samples and our thoughts on them:

Glengoyne Distillery launches new whisky and revamped look

The tasting kit featured four completely different samples

Cask A 

An ex-bourbon barrel that Hughes remembers filling back in December 2004, as it was “the first bourbon cask we distilled in years”. Only two of the 73 casks remain, but despite this Glengoyne isn’t known for its use of bourbon cask, with only the 12 Year Old featuring any first fill bourbon in it from the core range. 

Nose: There’s masses of vanilla upfront with desiccated coconut and some classic Glengoyne fruitiness (mostly green apples). Lemon drizzle cake adds some citrus elements among tangy elements of barbecued pineapple and blackberries. Throughout there’s a note of sticky toffee pudding filled with dates and covered in vanilla ice cream, as well as hints of freshly grated nutmeg and cacao powder.

Palate: Through drying oak spice, ginger and black pepper comes brown sugar, polished furniture and raspberry and vanilla sponge. There’s plenty of dried mango and makrut lime as well as a note of summer flowers throughout. 

Finish: Lemon bonbons, dark berry jam and red apple skins linger.

Overall: A terrific whisky. There’s heaps of distillery profile that the cask enhances while bringing enough of its own personality to the table. To be honest, I thought we already had our winner with the first dram when I tasted this. Then came Cask B…

Cask B

Back on 19 January 2005 Glengoyne distilled a batch of its signature new make and popped it into a 404 litre Port pipe, and boy am I glad they did. Hughes says this cask was one of the biggest ever filled at the distillery and that only three remains. This would have had Colheita Port in it for nearly 30 years (1977), which actually doesn’t sound promising as you would think it’s taken a lot of goodness out of the cask itself. Hughes says he was wary himself, but the angel share was reasonable (they ​lost 23.4%) and there proved to be plenty of power left. 

Nose: Wow. The best nose of the range. The thick and rich elements of dark chocolate, black cherry, raisins and treacle come first, then clove, liquorice and caramelised oranges add contrast. An underlying oaky dryness adds structure to the sweet richness of the port elements before we get that classic Glengoyne orchard fruit note, hazelnut, pomegranate molasses then leather and espresso beans. You could nose this all day and not get bored.

Palate: Blackberry jam, stewed plum and black wine gums provide a similar big and bold opening to the nose with manuka honey dried apricots and fresh herbs bringing balance this time. Lots of nutty tones, vanilla and red cola cubes are present with an underlying note that’s similar to Tunes Cherry Menthol Lozenges.

Finish: Damp earth, fruitcake and salted caramel with a little black pepper remain.

Overall: A spectacular dram. It’s so indulgent, full-bodied and moreish. The cask brings an incredible variety of flavours, but the most impressive aspect is how well the distillery character has been integrated beautifully. Port is usually a finishing cask, but this is the kind of dram that proves it can do full maturation. Hughes remarked in the tasting he’s “never tasted a Glengoyne like this before,” and that he was “going to have to go and try the other two casks now… for science!”

Glengoyne Distillery launches new whisky and revamped look

Seeing the public’s thoughts on the samples in real-time gave the tasting an extra element of excitement

Cask C

Cask C is an ex-sherry refill hogshead, which means we’re in very familiar Glengoyne territory here. The hogshead’s capacity was 148.2 litres, which Hughes says is one of the smallest he’s seen. Cask C is the last one of this particular batch, so it’s exceptionally rare. Hughes also remarked that when they tried this one in the warehouse they didn’t think twice about putting it in the tasting, so that gives you an idea of the standard we’re working with here. 

Nose: Big notes of sherry-soaked fruit upfront (dates, plums and blackberries) as well as pomander balls, Christmas cake and marzipan. Grape skin, strawberry pencil sweets and vanilla come next with toasted almonds, old leather, dark chocolate, sweet tobacco and toasted brown sugar. Sublime.

Palate: Chocolate ice-cream, vanilla pod, Seville marmalade and red fruit (cranberries, mostly) lead with baking spice, potpourri and cracked black peppercorns in support. As the palate develops there’s nectarine in syrup, caramel, stewed pear and resinous wax. With water, there’s a really beautiful note of fresh melon as the palate becomes lighter, creamier and more aromatic.

Finish: The finish is tannic and dry with red apple skin and melted chocolate. 

Overall: A beauty. Sadly, this sample has much in common with the core range and this meant it became a little overlooked compared to the more intriguing cask types. But it’s an expression any fan of the distillery would be delighted with if they purchased it.

Cask D

Our final dram of the evening is the Madeira cask, another very rare option as there’s only two of these left on site. This one dates back to 2007 and was probably the sample I was most intrigued to taste. A quick look at MoM demonstrates how rare whisky fully-matured in Madeira casks are.

Nose: Salted caramel, rhubarb and custard cake and old leather initially followed by black cherry, banana foam sweets and tinned pineapple chunks. Underneath there’s a note of coke and vanilla ice cream float. 

Palate: Beautiful, for my money the best palate of the range. There’s nectarines in syrup, marmalade and acacia honey with drying spice, balsamic vinegar, condensed milk and toasted almonds adding depth. Tangy pineapple, creme brulee and apricot jam arrive in the mid-palate with marzipan, creamy vanilla and stewed orchard fruits.

Finish: Stem ginger, resin, sultanas and a hint of banana milkshake.

Overall: I love this whisky. It’s an exceptional example of Madeira cask whisky done right and a lesson in balance between distillery character and a cask that can often easily overwhelm the liquid. It’s a multifaceted, complex and integrated whisky. The palate offered new notes with every sip. 

Glengoyne Distillery launches new whisky and revamped look

This project demonstrated how many wonderful varieties of whisky Glengoyne has maturing in its warehouses

As you can imagine, casting my vote proved very difficult. Cask B had the best nose but I was so impressed with Cask D on the palate. I felt bad for not giving Cask A enough consideration, which was sublime. Then I felt really bad for Cask C, which would stand out in any other tasting but here got lost in all the fun and exploration. Glengoyne could, and should, release all of them (I’m not being greedy).

Hughes says that Glengoyne’s spirit works well in so many different cask styles as the new make has few harsh spikes that need ironing out with time in a cask. “It means our original character, which is light, with strong fruity, estery notes, doesn’t change dramatically over the years. It doesn’t diminish quickly in the cask and the cask rarely domineers it either, quite a strange combination to be honest, but the end result is excellent,” he explained. “What is also key is that you must get your cask selection right from the start. It isn’t enough to just produce an excellent spirit, you must have quality oak casks to put it in. Our whisky is complimented by many different styles of cask for this reason. Once you put them both together and leave time to do its stuff you can get something special”.

As far as the format for picking a new whisky goes, I was a huge fan of this process. Not only can I not remember the last time I did a round of tastings and enjoyed each whisky so much, but the execution of the event was smooth, with everything delivered on time and with clear instructions. The live vote brought genuine excitement and anticipation. The range also worked as an insight into the effects of full-term, single cask maturation and an education in how distillery character reacts to different profiles of casks. I’d like to see this become a more common approach and Dundas believes the brand could do it again. “When you’re able to engage your fans in such a unique way, it makes sense to see how you can evolve it to make their experience with Glengoyne the best it can be”.

Anyway, you’re probably all anxious to learn which dram was the winner. Well, first here’s how the panel ranked the samples:

Robbie Hughes – Winner: Cask B (Runner up: Cask A)

Rosalind Erskine – Winner: Cask B (Runner up: Cask A) 

Blair Bowman – Winner: Cask B (Runner up: Cask A) 

Christopher Coates – Winner: Cask B (Runner up: Cask D) 

Gordon Dundas – Winner: Cask A (Runner up: Cask B)

So, Cask B was the clear winner there. But, the public still had the ultimate say. And the winner was…

Glengoyne Distillery launches new whisky and revamped look

Cask B in bottle form!

Cask B!

On the face of it, it would appear the public may have been influenced by the panel’s thoughts, although Cask B was so good it’s perfectly possible the entire Glengoyne community came to the same conclusion in unison. Hughes, who picked Cask B as the standout whisky of the evening, summarised that “Glengoyne has a top-notch core range offering and we release high-quality single cask whiskies as well, but Cask B has a point of difference from them all. It has enjoyed full maturation in a Port pipe cask since January 2005 so this isn’t simply a cask seasoned with Port for a couple of years,” he said. “This cask has a pedigree and over the 15 years of maturation, the Glengoyne spirit was, in my opinion, able to develop into one of the finest single casks we have produced. It’s yet another example of what this wee distillery is capable of producing. It never fails to surprise me!”

It’s a worthy victor. I highly recommend the purchase, although I will note that it does come with a premium price. However, one of the many advantages of going for the Port pipe was that it’s huge and so Glengoyne was able to fill 789 bottles from it, meaning there is still some left (at the time of writing). The whisky is available to purchase at the newly reopened distillery shop and online via the Glengoyne website. And don’t forget, the Legacy Series: Chapter Two the Cask Strength series Batch No. 008 will be arriving at MoM Towers soon!

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