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Master of Malt Blog

Author: Adam O'Connell

How to make your distillery more sustainable

We wanted to find out how a distillery can become more sustainable without greenwashing or compromising the quality of its spirit. So we asked a few brands who do it…

We wanted to find out how a distillery can become more sustainable without greenwashing or compromising the quality of its spirit. So we asked a few brands who do it best. This is what they had to say.

The distilleries featured in this article make booze with a purpose. Spirits that taste good while limiting impact on the planet. The process to make drinks puts strain on the environment. From the vast amount of water used, the energy required for production, and the logistics of packaging and distribution: the drinks industry has a responsibility to account for its waste.

And plenty of people are trying. However, there are pitfalls. Some brands have been accused of greenwashing, ignoring the point of sustainability in favour of PR. While others are in danger of spending so much time making sure the drink is green that they forget to make it good.

But some have actually managed to make a difference and do so without compromising quality. So we decided to talk to those distilleries who are doing just this. And I confirm that they do indeed make delicious spirits. Anyway, let’s meet them.

sustainable distillery

Two Drifters: one of the distilleries leading the way for environmentally friendly booze making

Meet our sustainable brands

Two Drifters is the world’s first carbon-negative rum producer, a project spearheaded by husband and wife Russ and Gemma Wakeham in Devon. Russ has a background in sustainability chemistry with a focus on carbon capture, storage, and turning CO2 into useful products while promoting alternative energy sources that are low carbon. “Knowing what I know, we couldn’t set up a business in good conscience without having sustainability at the very core of what Two Drifters is about,” he says. 

Cooper King Distillery, located in Sutton-on-the-Forest, York, was founded by partners, Abbie Neilson and Chris Jaume. It produces England’s first carbon-negative gin and runs on 100% green energy. “We believed from the outset that drinking good spirits needn’t cost the Earth. On our adventures to Australia (from which the idea for the distillery was born) we were lucky enough to experience some of the world’s most beautiful places, though we also witnessed destruction which opened our eyes to the damage being done. We wanted to create and preserve these places for future generations to enjoy too, which meant creating a product with minimal environmental harm,” says Juame. 

Arbikie, meanwhile, is a Scottish producer located on the east coast of Angus that grows the ingredients for its products on its estate, with water even coming from its own underground lagoon. “As farmers and distillers, it was natural that we’d adopt a field-to-bottle approach to distilling, choosing the options that were best for the lands that surround us. The plan is to combine the best of farming and traditional distilling and innovation with sustainable considerations,” says Gareth Jones, brand manager.

sustainable distillery

Cooper King implement a huge variety of effective measures

How they implement sustainable measures

Each boasts a considerable amount of environmental policies, too many really to write down in one feature. So we’ll give you the cliff notes. At Two Drifters, for example, a renewable energy tariff runs the all-electric equipment, including 100% electric vehicles, charged with zero-emission energy to limit carbon emissions. Every emission is calculated, even down to the search engine used on their laptops. Where this can’t be removed (shipping, agriculture), Climeworks steps in to use its signature process of capturing CO2 from the air, turning it into stone, and storing it underground. The list goes on. A massive recycle water system is employed. All waste molasses is donated to a local farmer. Flexi-hex is used for shipping website orders. As are biodegradable tamper seals by viscoseclosures and Splosh cleaning products. The distillery is even rebranding at the moment and will relaunch in the summer with thinner, British-made glass bottles. 

Cooper King also accounts for its carbon use, with every bottle of Dry or Herb Gin removing 1kg more CO₂ than it produces (learn more in the band’s first report). It’s also the producer of the first gin in Europe with a 1% for the Planet accreditation (giving 2.5% of gross gin sales to the YDMT) and plants one square metre of native broadleaf UK woodland for every bottle sold. In 2018 Cooper King introduced the country’s first distillery gin refill scheme and raw materials are sourced locally where possible (all barley and wheat used are 100% Yorkshire grown) to support English farmers and reduce food miles. No waste is sent to landfill. The brand also distills using innovative rotary evaporators which run on a fraction of the energy required for a traditional gin still and, thanks to a closed-loop cooling system, saves 26,000 liters of water annually. Lightweight, recycled glass is also used, as is a clever origami-style cardboard postal box that has eliminated the need for plastic packing materials.  

Arbikie actually makes what was the world’s first climate-positive gin (meaning that it avoids more carbon dioxide emissions than it creates), Nàdar, using peas. They require no synthetic nitrogen fertiliser, meaning there’s no negative environmental impact on waterways, and soils. This, combined with carbon offsetting measures, means each bottle has a carbon footprint of -1.54 kg CO2e. Photovoltaic panels on the roof provide solar power, honey is produced by local bees and the primary waste product from distilling is recycled wherever possible as feed for cattle.

sustainable distillery

Using local ingredients has a huge impact on waste and taste

How can others follow suit?

Each one of these distilleries isn’t open about its methods purely for marketing, but because there’s a genuine desire for people to be able to mirror the process. “However we make our rum, that’s our business. Everything we do from a sustainable point of view people are free to copy,” says Gemma Wakeman. The distillery is contacted frequently and their advice is to “think CO2 before you buy anything”. This determines the type of equipment that you buy, the type of building that you go into, the type of cars that you use to transport your product. “We acknowledge that there’s a challenge retro-fitting,” says Russ. “But if you are huge, small differences can have a massive impact; much bigger than we could ever have. That’s crucial”. 

Cooper King thinks along similar lines. “Start small and ask questions,” says Jaume. “Reach out to us and others in the industry genuinely making a difference. We regularly sit on sustainability panels and it’s a great way to benefit from the panelists’ combined years of research and learn from their mistakes before starting on your own path”. He also recommends reaching out to universities. “Student research projects are a great way to explore and evaluate new sustainable initiatives. They cost nothing except time, support student careers, and result in valuable data”.

Jaume also believes in making the most impactful changes first: moving to a 100% renewable energy provider, reducing waste, and evaluating packaging options. “Make informed decisions based on meaningful data, carry out a life cycle assessment of your business, and don’t be afraid to invest money”.

sustainable distillery

Small adaptations can have a big difference, particularly if you’re a major producer

Is the industry doing enough?

All three brands acknowledge that progress is being made in this area, but that there is still a long way to go. “I would say as a collective we have barely scratched the surface, but there is a growing global sustainable spirits movement,” says Jones.

Jaume agrees, commenting that while there are many large multinationals investing heavily in new technologies and changing their practices, “sustainability is viewed as a consumer trend by others who seek to benefit from high-value marketing campaigns in the absence of meaningful action. We need a fast, global shift towards becoming circular, adopting practices that enhance – rather than degrade – the environment and consumer education to reduce the negative effects of greenwashing”.

Gemma concurs. “I just did a LinkedIn general poll asking ‘if on a drinks menu in a bar it had a sustainability drink. would you be tempted to drink it over the alternative’ – half the people said ‘no’! Lots see it as a gimmick. It is a buzzword at the moment. That’s why credibility and transparency are so important. You can forgive consumers for being confused and not believing”. 

sustainable distillery

When it comes to the environment, you need to put your money where your mouth is

How to avoid greenwashing 

There are some products, however, that enter the market solely to tick the ‘green’ box and superficially boost environmental credentials. “Campaigns are littered with trending hashtags, impacts are overstated and sweeping claims are not evidence-backed. All the while, the rest of the business continues with no self-scrutiny or desire to minimise harm to the planet,” says Jaume. 

“It undermines the wider understanding of sustainability and erodes trust between brands and consumers,” adds Jones. Arbikie ensures that everything it does is backed up by scientific evidence. For Two Drifters too, that education is key. It’s in the process of updating its website to include data on CO2 figures, for example. “It’s all about understanding. We say if CO2 was a colour and people could see it leaking from their computer they would be more considerate with how they use it,” says Gemma.

The three distilleries all make a point of acknowledging that they are constantly challenging themselves, consulting experts, inviting constructive criticism, locating weaknesses, and taking positive action to shore them up.

sustainable distillery

Something as simple as great tasting, local ingredients can make all the difference

Ensuring your booze is sustainable and tastes good 

None of this will mean much, however, if nobody wants to buy your drink because it doesn’t taste good. At the core of each of these distilleries is a process that ensures that flavour is not lost while trying to be more green. “It’s all about ingredients for us. Everything is planted, sown, grown, and harvested on-site and we are in the enviable position of being able to oversee impeccable standards every step of the way, from field to bottle. Our sustainable, green ethos doesn’t impact the flavour, texture, or colour of any of our products,” Jones explains.

Russ also makes an interesting point for those starting out by recognising that, because sustainability runs through everything they do, it doesn’t have an impact on the distilling process. “It’s already built-in to everything we do, so we don’t have to go out of our way to account for it. We don’t want to be seen as ‘an eco rum’, because if we’re not a credible rum distillery it doesn’t matter what we do – we need people to like our rum. That’s why we spend so much work making our rum from scratch so it was as unique as our business processes”.

sustainable distillery

You can pick up the sustainable spirit these brands make from Master of Malt now!

What does the future hold?

Looking forward, it’s promising to see how much power we have as people. Brands ignoring environmental responsibilities can’t hide from informed consumers. And distilleries actually have huge potential to be a means for change, because products like the one featured in this article demonstrate that creating a lasting product with sustainability at the core of the brand is an effective way of spreading the message. “When he was an academic, people didn’t really want to talk to him about what he did. Everyone now wants to talk to Russ about CO2,” Gemma says.

She is also passionate that the focus should be to promote a “bright, lively, vibrant sustainable future” and doesn’t want the message to be all doom and gloom.  Jaume is also optimistic about the potential for change. “There’s an increasing appetite for an industry-wide, concerted effort to drive positive change. There are many of us already doing this and enjoying the benefits, so get cracking by taking ANY small step in the right direction!

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#BagThisBundle – make amazing cocktails with Zespri kiwis!

Need some cocktail inspiration? In the mood to mix up a storm? A big fan of kiwis? Then you’ll want to enter our latest #BagThisBundle competition. When you break it…

Need some cocktail inspiration? In the mood to mix up a storm? A big fan of kiwis? Then you’ll want to enter our latest #BagThisBundle competition.

When you break it down, cocktails are really simple. There’s only two things you need to make delicious drinks: great ingredients and the right equipment. Armed with those, you’ll soon have your friends and family proclaiming you to be a master of mixology. Assuming you don’t try and do any of this nonsense. Leave that to the professionals. And Tom Cruise.

But if you’re in it for the love of the game and just want to create tasty cocktails, then we’ve got something for you. By teaming up with the fab folks over at Zespri SunGold kiwifruits, we’ve put together a bundle that includes a full selection of spirits, ingredients, and equipment, including of course some delicious kiwis. You’d be amazed how many great serves those furry little berries can make.

make amazing cocktails with Zespri kiwis

Everything you need to make amazing cocktails with Zespri kiwis awaits!

Here’s exactly what you stand to win:

As this is a #BagThisBundle competition, we’re retaining our classic super-simple entry method. Just do the following: 

That’s it. Complete those steps and you’re in it to win it. Best of luck, everyone!

MoM ‘Zespri Bag This Bundle’ Competition 2021 open to entrants 18 years and over. Entries accepted from 12:00:01 GMT on 12 May to 23:59:59 GMT on 15 May 2021. Winners chosen at random after close of competition. Prizes not transferable and cannot be exchanged for cash equivalent. UK only. See full T&Cs for details.

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New Arrival of the Week: Pinkster Spritz Raspberry & Hibiscus

Now that the sun is out again finally we’re in the mood for a nice, refreshing Spritz. Good thing Pinkster Spritz Raspberry & Hibiscus has turned up on our doorstep…

Now that the sun is out again finally we’re in the mood for a nice, refreshing Spritz. Good thing Pinkster Spritz Raspberry & Hibiscus has turned up on our doorstep this week…

When we spoke with Pinkster Gin inventor Stephen Marsh nearly two years ago he laughed at the suggestion that he was in some way responsible for the birth of a monster: pink gin. But his brand of authentically fruity pink gin struck a chord with people when it was released in 2013 and there are few signs that the desire for flavoured gin is letting up. He was very much at the forefront of something. And, judging by the brand’s new releases, he’s in the mood to do so again.

It’s not a gin

Yes, Marsh is back at the innovation game again with a new range of Spritz-style drinks. This is interesting because you don’t often see gin brands branch out and make anything else other than flavoured variations of the juniper-based spirit. Which makes sense. Why go down the non-gin route given how lucrative the category has proved to be?

Well, Pinkster Spritz Raspberry & Elderflower and Pinkster Spritz Raspberry & Hibiscus are the kind of low-ABV, versatile and fun spirit drinks that are increasingly in demand and have only just started emerging in earnest in the last couple of years. Once again, it appears Marsh is on the right side of the curve.

Pinkster Spritz Raspberry & Hibiscus

The drinks offer you the perfect chance to take your Spritz game in tasty new directions

In a press release, the brand’s founder says that the move was undertaken to create a “mainstream alternative for Spritz drinkers with discerning taste buds, looking for a naturally delicious light aperitif”. Even if your taste buds aren’t that discerning you’ll still be able to taste plenty of raspberry-based goodness in Pinkster Spritz Raspberry & Elderflower (also en route to MoM Towers) and Pinkster Spritz Raspberry & Hibiscus.

As the name rather gives away, our 24% ABV spirit drink of focus today is made using local supplies of the fruit leftover from the production of its classic Pinkster Gin as well as helpings of hibiscus. 

English Spritz

A Spritz is typically a wine-based cocktail made with Prosecco, a bitter liqueur such as Aperol, Campari, or Cynar, and soda water. You’re probably picturing sitting in the Italian sun with a red, fizzing concoction housed in a wine glass in hand. And you’d be right. But it’s this kind of serve that Pinkster Spritz Raspberry & Hibiscus was made for. Think of it as an English summer spin on the classic.

The brand recommends pairing it with soda water and a lime garnish for a lower-ABV take on a traditional Spritz that removes the need for sparkling wine. But we can imagine you’ll have plenty of fun playing with this one. There’s a QR code linking to further product details and suggested serves on the back label if you need inspiration.

Pinkster Spritz Raspberry & Hibiscus

We think the Spritz could well be the serve of the summer

Lower ABV

As you might imagine for someone who is usually one step ahead, Marsh has also ensured that the spirit drinks meet the demands of those who are committed to the decidedly modern trend of ‘wellness’. Calorie and unit health information is on the back label of the Spritz bottles, which is not something I’ll ever have any love for.

But, as Marsh says, “with more and more people trying to lead healthier lifestyles and cutting back on alcohol, all consumer insight indicates that lower-ABV and lower-calorie drinks are totally on-trend”. So there you have it.

While this aspect might appeal to some, the biggest selling point for Pinkster Spritz will be its vibrant, fruity, and refreshing taste. This kind of drink is about to come into its own with the summer months on the horizon and the UK emerging out of lockdown. Marsh rounds off by saying that Pinkster is expecting “a fresh, fizzy and fun spritz to be the drink of the season as friends reunite for alfresco get-togethers”.

We’ll certainly drink to that. Although, personally, I won’t be counting the calories, if it’s all the same to you.

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#BagThisBundle – Win a bundle of Sexton Irish Single Malt Whiskey goodies!

It’s time to dream of prizes boozy and brilliant as we have a new #BagThisBundle competition to enter! Fans of Irish whiskey don’t want to miss out on this… The…

It’s time to dream of prizes boozy and brilliant as we have a new #BagThisBundle competition to enter! Fans of Irish whiskey don’t want to miss out on this…

The Irish whiskey boom has paved the way for a number of intriguing new bottles to appear on the scene. Take The Sexton, for example. It’s an Irish single malt was created by one of the few female master blenders in the Irish whiskey industry, Alex Thomas. 

Thomas works with spirit made entirely from Irish malted barley at Bushmills Distillery, which is triple distilled in copper pot stills before being matured in European oak casks from France that are seasoned with Oloroso sherry from Jerez over in Spain. The result is a rich, sherried treat with notes of dark chocolate, dried fruit, and aromatic spice.

It’s also a real all-rounder of a dram that’s perfect for whipping up some delicious Irish whiskey cocktails with. And we’d like to make doing that a little easier. That’s why we’ve teamed up with The Sexton to launch a new #BagThisBundle competition. If you win, the following will be yours.

  • The Sexton Single Malt
  • A branded speed pourer
  • A branded ice stamp
  • A cocktail booklet
  • A branded lapel pin
  • Two branded slate coasters
  • And six (6!) Highball glasses
Sexton Irish Whiskey

This bundle has everything you need to master Irish whiskey mixology

A host of sensational whiskey cocktails await you. As long as you remember to enter. It’s pretty important that you do the following steps. Thankfully, we’re once again using our tried and tested system. It’s delightfully simple. Here’s what you need to do:

That’s it. Now get entering!

MoM Sexton Irish Single Malt Whiskey ‘Bag This Bundle’ Competition 2021 open to entrants 18 years and over. Entries accepted from 12:00:01 GMT on 5 May to 23:59:59 GMT on 9 May 2021. Winners chosen at random after close of competition. Prizes not transferable and cannot be exchanged for cash equivalent. See full T&Cs for details.

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#BagThisBundle – Win a bundle of Duppy Share goodies!

Competition time! We have teamed up with our pals at Duppy Share Rum to give away an incredible bundle of boozy goodies. We know you lovely lot know your stuff…

Competition time! We have teamed up with our pals at Duppy Share Rum to give away an incredible bundle of boozy goodies.

We know you lovely lot know your stuff when it comes to drinks. So the angel’s share is almost certainly familiar to you. But in the Caribbean, it’s not angels that are helping themselves to the good stuff. It’s the mischievous Duppy spirits. They travel from island to island and take a portion of the finest rum they can find. What they steal is known as the Duppy Share.

This process of spirit snatching is where the Duppy Share rum brand gets its name. It has two products at present. One is The Duppy Share Caribbean Rum, a blend of 3-year-old 100% pot still rum from the Worthy Park Distillery in Jamaica and a 5-year-old 100% column still rum from the Foursquare Distillery in Barbados that were both aged in oak barrels. The other is The Duppy Share Spiced Rum, a blend of 2-year-old Jamaican and Barbadian rum that has been treated to the addition of pineapple, kola nut, and Caribbean spices. 

Both have won multiple awards, look great (we’re particular fans of the dancing Croco-bloke on the spiced rum label) and are delicious neat as well as in a number of cocktails. But you don’t have to take our word for it. Thanks to our latest competition, you can get your hands on your own share of delicious rum and, like the dastardly Duppy spirits, you won’t have to pay a penny to do so.

Duppy Share

Five (5!) people will each get their hands on their own bundle

Here’s exactly what’s up for grabs:

In order to enter, you need to sneak into a Jamaican rum distillery and… nah. Just kidding. All you have to do is follow these super-simple steps:

That’s it. Oh, and one more important detail. There won’t just be one winner for the competition. Nope. A total of FIVE (5!) people will win the above prize. So your chances just increased significantly. Now get entering!

Duppy Share

A fan of tasty rum? Then get entering now!

MoM ‘Bag This Bundle’ Competition 2021 open to entrants 18 years and over. Entries accepted from 12:00:01 BST on 27 April to 23:59:59 BST on 30 April 2021. Winners chosen at random after close of competition. Prizes not transferable and cannot be exchanged for cash equivalent. See full T&Cs for details.

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Win an incredible VIP trip to The Lakes Distillery!

Looking to make the most of your newfound freedom by taking a break and enjoying some delicious booze? Then we’ve got the perfect competition for you. A chance to win…

Looking to make the most of your newfound freedom by taking a break and enjoying some delicious booze? Then we’ve got the perfect competition for you. A chance to win a VIP trip to The Lakes Distillery!

Last Friday was St George’s Day which is a perfect excuse to marvel at the increasingly varied and wonderful world of English whisky. And with restrictions being gradually lifted but international travel still tricky, a fantastic holiday idea would be a tour of some of the country’s finest distilleries.

Few can boast quite as many things to do as The Lakes Distillery, which not only has a range of spirits (not just whisky) to taste but also benefits from being located within the Lakes District. Which is a pretty amazing place, if you’re not familiar with it. There are even alpacas roaming the distillery grounds. What’s not to like?

If you’re thinking this is sounding like a dream trip, then wait till you see what we’re offering here today in our latest competition. It’s a VIP trip to The Lakes Distillery with all the trimmings. Here’s what you can win in full:

VIP trip to The Lakes Distillery

Fancy a chance to visit one of the country’s most beautiful distilleries?

The Prize

The winner of this one will be truly spoiled. Picture a Roman noble lounging on a bed while being fed grapes. That’s how spoiled we’re talking. But this is so much better because grapes are being swapped for delicious English whisky.

In full, your prize includes:

  •  A VIP trip to the Lakes Distillery for one person (and their lucky +1), including UK travel and transport for the duration of the trip. 
  • One-night accommodation for two people including breakfast
  • Tour of the Lakes distillery including access to the whisky maker’s blending studio
  • Lunch for two in the on-site bistro which includes 3-course lunch and 1 drink; and
  • A whisky and chocolate tasting experience – with the Lakes finest single malt whiskies, paired with handmade luxury chocolates.
VIP trip to The Lakes Distillery

Just pick up a bottle of the new Lakes Whiskymaker’s Reserve No.4 and you’re in it to win it!

How to enter

And the best part of all this is, entry is incredibly easy. Simply slay a dragon just like the great Saint George would and… wait, are we not doing that format anymore? Oh, ok. Fine.

Well then, entry truly is easy. Because now all you have to do is buy a full-size bottle of The Lakes Whiskymaker’s Reserve No.4 for a chance to win. That’s it. Just click the link, add to basket and boom! You’re in it to win it.

So, what are you waiting for? Get entering. Good luck everyone!

MoM The Lakes Distillery Competition 2021 open to entrants 18 years and over. Entries accepted from 12:00:01 BST on 26 April to 23:59:59 BST on 10 May 2021. Winners chosen at random after close of competition. Prizes not transferable and cannot be exchanged for cash equivalent. Date and travel restrictions apply. Postal route available. See full T&Cs for details.

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Elixir Distillers lands Georgie Crawford

There’s big news in the Scotch whisky transfer market! Elixir Distillers has just signed Georgie Crawford from Diageo to be the manager for the brand’s forthcoming Islay distillery. Today we…

There’s big news in the Scotch whisky transfer market! Elixir Distillers has just signed Georgie Crawford from Diageo to be the manager for the brand’s forthcoming Islay distillery.

Today we learned that Georgie Crawford will be bringing 14 years at Diageo’s Scotch whisky distilleries to a close soon as she moves on to pastures new and joins Elixir Distillers this summer.

A distillery with no name

She’ll oversee the construction of the distillery site (still without a confirmed name) on Islay’s south coast next to the town of Port Ellen, not far from Lagavulin, Laphroaig and Ardbeg

Elixir Distillers is a creator, blender and bottler of spirits founded by Sukhinder Singh and Rajbir Singh (you know, from that other site. What’s it called? The Whisky Shop?). It’s the name behind brands such as Port Askaig Islay single malt and Black Tot Caribbean rum but until now it’s never had its own distillery.

Getting Crawford on board is something of a coup for the brand, as she brings with her nearly two decades of experience to the role. Most recently, she was manager for the Port Ellen Distillery Revival project, so she has plenty of know-how when it comes to Islay distilleries. 

Her career in Scotch whisky began at The Vaults in Edinburgh, the home of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society in 2002. Crawford has since worked for the likes of Talisker, Glen Ord, Teaninich and Lagavulin.

GeGeorgie Crawford Elixir Distillers

It’s Georgie Crawford!

Sukhinder Singh comments

Sukhinder Singh, co-founder of Elixir Distillers, commented: “Having grown up on Islay, attending school a stone’s throw from our distillery site, Crawford’s love for the island and all its distilleries is unrivalled. She not only shares our passion for Islay whisky, but also our vision for the future and I know that she will bring both exceptional expertise and a fresh approach to a new Islay distillery.”

The plan is for the distillery to produce one million litres of alcohol a year and use floor maltings to process just over half of the barley needed. There will also be on-site housing for distillery workers, a visitor’s centre and a multipurpose educational facility, with further initiatives to support the local community and an apprentice programme for aspiring distillers to be pursued further down the line. 

Elixir Distillers revealed in February that the Argyll & Bute council planning committee granted planning permission for them to go ahead with the project, which was first announced in 2018. Now with Crawford joining the team, things should be moving fast. Perhaps she can help them come up with a name.

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Seven sublime Japanese whiskies

Love Japanese whiskies but not sure what to dram to opt for next? Intrigued by the category and want to see what all the fuss is about? Then you’re in…

Love Japanese whiskies but not sure what to dram to opt for next? Intrigued by the category and want to see what all the fuss is about? Then you’re in the right place.

I don’t know about you, but with everything picking up again I’m suddenly shocked by how quickly time is passing. How did we ever have enough hours in the day for all the things we did before? 

All this activity can mean you don’t have a moment to stop and search for what you want, whether it’s clothes, a new football team or even a delicious new dram. But that’s where we come in. If you’re in the market for something Japanese, we’ve given you back some precious time by rounding up some of the finest examples around.

And we know you’re only too aware that there have been some changes in Japanese whisky regulations recently that may have you scratching your head and unsure where to find the real thing. The following seven whiskies all meet the new criteria meaning that they are made in Japan without any imported spirits.

That doesn’t mean that expressions that don’t meet the new legislation aren’t perfectly tasty, however, so it’s still worth checking out the likes of Nikki Days, Mars Maltage Cosmo, Togouchi Premium Blended Japanese Whisky and Hatozaki Blended

Our pick of tasty Japanese whisky

Japanese whiskies

Nikka Coffey Malt Whisky

While most distilleries use column (or Coffey) stills to make grain whisky, Nikka does things a little differently and also uses its two Coffey stills to make malt whisky. This gives the spirit a distinctively sweet, delicate and moreish profile. The kind that makes you say things like “just one more dram…” 

What does it taste like? 

Sweet caramel poured overripe fruits, vibrant citrus, homemade biscuits, vanilla and white chocolate.  

Japanese whiskies

The Chita

A gorgeous Japanese single grain whisky from the Chita, one of the fantastic distilleries owned by Suntory. We think you’ll like this if you’re in the mood for a summery sipper that benefits from the light and creamy texture of the grain spirit and the bundle of flavour extracted from a combination of sherry, bourbon and wine casks. It’s proving a real hit with bartenders and whisky lovers alike for good reason.

What does it taste like? 

Honeydew melon, citrus, honeyed cereal, vanilla sponge cake and a touch of orchard blossom.

Japanese whiskies

Tenjaku Whisky 

Tenjaku is the kind of tasty, versatile and affordable blended Japanese whisky that is just begging to be put to good use in a Highball. It’s made with corn and barley, and aged in American white oak bourbon barrels, which has given it a mellow but complex profile with plenty going on so you know those flavours won’t get lost when mixed.

What does it taste like? 

A faint suggestion of smoke with pear blossom, plump sultana, creamy oak spice, tinned pears, banana bread and thick custard. 

Japanese whiskies

Miyagikyo Single Malt 

If you’re in the market for Japanese single malt, then you’re probably looking for something balanced, sophisticated and rich. Which is exactly what he have here. Made with whiskies spanning various ages and primarily matured in ex-sherry casks, this expression from Nikka’s Miyagikyo Distillery is a great example of why the brand rarely disappoints.

What does it taste like? 

Full-bodied and rich with malted barley, banoffee pie, liquorice, ash, fresh tobacco leaves, coconut, stewed apples, damson and baking spice.

Japanese whiskies

Enso Japanese Whisky

A Japanese blended whisky that’s starting to gather a bit of attention, Enso hails from Kiyokawa, within the Kanagawa Prefecture. A pot still whisky matured in American oak, this has enough presence to be enjoyed neat but should also make great cocktails. Plus, it looks really cool, right?

What does it taste like? 

Lemon blossom, toasted oak, fresh apple, cereals, a suggestion of smoke and bright citrus, underpinned by woody vanilla and caramel.

Japanese whiskies

Nikka Coffey Grain Whisky

This beauty is made using the two Coffey stills at the Miyagikyo distillery, which came from Scotland to Japan in 1963. This is a seriously impressive single grain whisky with a depth of flavour that’s proved a real hit with the lovely folk who shop here at Master of Malt. Just look at those user reviews!

What does it taste like? 

Bourbon-like vanilla, a herbal hint of chamomile, sweet melon, grapefruit, crunchy biscuits and vibrant corn notes.

Japanese whiskies

Mars Komagatake Single Malt (2020 Edition)

Something for those who really want to indulge themselves, this is a whisky that’s worth its price tag. The 2020 edition of Mars Shinshu’s annual single malt release is a delightfully nutty, buttery affair that’s made at Japan’s Shinshu distillery and drawn from a combination of sherry and American white oak casks before being bottled up at 50% ABV. 

What does it taste like? 

Pear crumble, baking spices, malt biscuits, ripe tropical fruit, berry jam and honeyed cereal with touches of almond butter, chocolate-coated nuts and buttery caramel. 

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The winner of a VIP trip to Benriach Distillery is…

Want to know who has won an amazing VIP trip to Benriach Distillery? Good, because we’re about to announce the victor of our competition… I know it seems like a…

Want to know who has won an amazing VIP trip to Benriach Distillery? Good, because we’re about to announce the victor of our competition

I know it seems like a lifetime ago now, but if you cast your minds back to January 2021 you may recall that we launched one of those swanky VIP trip competitions we love putting together.

This particular one promised the incredible opportunity to not just visit Speyside’s delightful Benriach Distillery, but enjoy a tasting experience, a tour of Speyside Cooperage, all kinds of delicious food and more. 

VIP trip to Benriach Distillery

Mr Richards will be heading here to enjoy some delicious Scotch whisky and more!

It’s a whisky lover’s paradise and honestly, we’d love to send all of you who entered to enjoy the spoils of this competition. But, there can only be one winner. And that person is…

Mr Nicholas Richards from Rayleigh, Essex!

Huge congratulations to you, Mr Richards. We sincerely hope you enjoy your VIP trip. 

For those of you who weren’t lucky enough to win this time, simply click this neat little link to check out the many other competitions we have running at the moment. And be sure to keep an eye out for future ones…

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A spotlight on… Black Cow Vodka Distillery

How do you create flavourful, sustainable vodka from cow’s milk? We meet the forward-thinking producers at the Black Cow Vodka distillery to find out… This might seem almost impossible to conceive…

How do you create flavourful, sustainable vodka from cow’s milk? We meet the forward-thinking producers at the Black Cow Vodka distillery to find out…

This might seem almost impossible to conceive of now, but you might recall there were a couple of months in the summer and autumn of 2020 when we were allowed to venture out a bit. In September, I got the chance to head down to the rolling countryside of West Dorset to learn all about Black Cow Vodka. It was all very exciting for a couple of reasons. One, I got to go somewhere else. A place that wasn’t just the park by my flat. On a train. The other reason is that Black Cow is a brand with a story worth telling.

It’s the world’s first vodka made from milk. More specifically, using the whey leftover from cheese production (whey being the liquid remaining after milk has been curdled and strained). It’s a brilliant bit of innovation that predates the recent trends in vodka to focus on raw materials and more flavour-led products. And it’s sustainable. Whey has long been regarded as a problem child in the dairy industry. Often times it’s just fed to pigs. But Black Cow Vodka made this by-product the backbone of its spirit.

The brand’s founders are Jason Barber and Paul “Archie” Archard. The former is a fifth-generation dairy farmer, the latter is an artist who has spent time in California. They ended up becoming neighbours and good friends, where they realised they shared a love of vodka. The duo decided to bring together their farming and creative expertise after a few drinks one evening. “It all happened quite naturally. We both share a love of vodka so almost dared ourselves to give it a go. It was never about making vodka out of milk just for the sake of it; the milk had to make the vodka better. And it does,” Archard explains.

Black Cow Vodka

Black Cow Vodka founders Jason Barber and Paul “Archie” Archard

It all begins with milk

Black Cow Vodka is being made by people who know their dairy products. Barber’s family are the country’s oldest surviving cheddar makers. Their farm, which is just a mile or so up the road from the distillery, was where he headed first on our trip. If you’re on the lookout for a distillery tour now that things are picking up again, I highly recommend it. It’s a stunning area filled with great local restaurants and pubs, while Barber has endless insight into farming practices and really all things dairy. At one point he was telling me all about Araka, a beer-like drink made from fermented mare’s milk used by Genghis Khan and his armies, which was something of an inspiration for him.

The process to make Black Cow Vodka is decidedly more modern and begins with the farm’s cows, who are milked twice a day. Once the whey is obtained it’s spun to take out any excess butter, sieved out and then the leftover whey protein is used to make baby powder. What Barber really wants is the lactose, from which he can extract sugar to make the alcohol. A special form of yeast is added to create a milk beer that is then distilled in a giant copper still from German company A. G. Holstein. A fitting choice, given that the milk comes from a cross-breed of Holstein cows. It’s all designed for maximum copper contact.

Once it’s distilled, the spirit is treated with what Barber describes as “magic water”. Which comes from – you guessed it – milk. “Everything we use is milk. We don’t add water from a bubbling brook. There’s no minerality or that brittle, flinty hardness you get from other vodkas because we don’t add mineral water. It’s soft. And it makes for a great frothy head to an Espresso Martini. Anyone who’s ever washed their hair with soft water will know you get a good lather. It’s the same principle”.  

Black Cow Vodka

The Devonshire farm where Barber’s family have produced milk and cheese for generations

At the forefront of vodka’s flavour revolution

The vodka is triple filtered using charcoaled coconut shells and then bottled by hand with no additives or flavourings. And, with less than six parts per million of lactose, it’s actually suitable for those who are lactose intolerant because all the milk sugar has been converted into alcohol. It doesn’t say lactose-free on the bottle purely because regulations on what you can state differ from country to country.

What you may see on new bottles is a recently obtained gold medal in the International Wine and Spirits Competition. The brand has a raft of medals from award shows and has become one of the most notable vodka producers in the country. But what Barber is most proud of is how the vodka was received in Poland. “I went there and had to stand up in front of fifty bartenders and sell it. But they loved it. They said other vodkas are like counterfeit vodkas and this is a new style”.

The vodka world has come on a long way since they launched Black Cow in 2012. As we’ve discussed on this blog before, there’s an increasing appetite for spirits with terroir, brand identity or sustainability. Barber likes to think that Black Cow Vodka had a little something to do with this shift. Take a look at the brand’s commitment to the latter, for example, and you can see his point.

Black Cow Vodka

The brand’s latest release is a bottled Negroni

Black Cow’s sustainability initiatives don’t begin and end with whey. Throughout my trip, Archard and Barber make it clear how important it is to them that Black Cow is made in a way that is sensitive to the environment. The packaging is plastic-free. The bottle is produced by Yorkshire-based Allied Glass, in order to support UK businesses and lower the carbon footprint, and incorporates a metal pilfer-proof cap, which allows for the entire bottle to be recycled easily and reduces the need for a plastic security cover. Even the cheese is housed in wool offcuts.  

This outlook led to Black Cow Vodka’s first line extension, English Strawberries, which was made as a means to use local strawberries deemed too wonky to make it to supermarket shelves. The fruit is pressed and then infused in Black Cow vodka over four days, which means that flavour and colour are all-natural. Nothing artificially sweet here.

This is true also of further innovations such as Christmas Spirit, which takes its inspiration from Christmas pudding and the new release, Black Cow Negroni, the brand’s first ready-to-serve cocktail. It’s a blend of vodka, Campari and Spanish vermouth, as well as a secret mix of natural bitters. It was developed during lockdown so it naturally became an expression of what Archard and Barber found themselves missing: British summertime, with a Negroni in hand, good company and a view.

Black Cow Vodka

Black Cow Vodka is sustainable, innovative and tasty. That gets a thumbs up from us.

Making mooves

The innovation won’t stop there, however. The duo says there’s plenty of plans in place and, while they’re sworn to secrecy about any other new products, “this won’t be the last you’ll hear from us in 2021!” 

While there’s lots to enjoy from the newer expressions, at its core the brand is all about vodka. But if you’re picturing a cloudy, overly creamy spirit, however, you’d be wrong. Black Cow Vodka is clean, crisp and versatile, but also full-bodied with an uncanny depth of flavour. White chocolate, floral vanilla, desiccated coconut, a little lemon mousse and white pepper spice are the predominant notes.

There’s enough character to enjoy it neat but as you expect, it makes a beautiful Espresso Martini (use the Strawberry edition for a neat little twist) as well as the kind of strong, salty and sweet Dirty Martini that I’ll go back to again and again. The most fun I had with it, however, was tasting Black Cow Vodka with Black Cow Cheese. That’s truly a match made in heaven. I mean Devon. Sorry, that was cheesy. Wait, no. Please forgive me. The vodka is definitely better than my jokes.

You can purchase the full Black Cow Vodka range from here now.

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