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Master of Malt Blog

Author: Adam O'Connell

A spotlight on… Satryna Tequila

Satryna Tequila founder Nitzan Marrun joins us to talk about the secret to making great Tequila, how she came to work with a 60-year-old recipe passed down through three generations…

Satryna Tequila founder Nitzan Marrun joins us to talk about the secret to making great Tequila, how she came to work with a 60-year-old recipe passed down through three generations and overcoming the odds as a young woman in a male-dominated world.

Nitzan Marrun is a Tequila purist. Her mission is to show people how good Tequila can be, how it should be made and what the drink means to Mexico. She has an assured, forthright and determined voice, but it’s one that was not always heard. The young entrepreneur has overcome prejudice and perception to create Satryna Tequila, a premium brand dripping in glamorous aesthetic but with seriously good spirit and cultural appreciation at its core. She’s also generous with her time and knowledge, which is handy because despite only being in her mid-twenties, her story goes back a long way.

“When my grandmother and her brother were very young they were very close friends with this little kid from the neighbourhood, Carlos Newton, who grew up to become the owner of Newton’s Distillery”, Murran explains. “He would send very special bottles of Tequila Blanco to my grandmother. It was a recipe devised only for the consumption of my family and our friends. We’ve had it for over half a century. I grew up with that Tequila. I would steal barrels for my parties with my friends, you know! Everyone in my family loves to drink it and when we are having a meal we always accompany it with different types of Tequila. I didn’t grow up surrounded by the production of Tequila, but I have always had a wide knowledge of it from my family’s heritage.”

This history with Tequila would eventually lead her down the path to founding her own company. She remembers fondly the moment that prompted her to consider the potential of such a move, which happened in the way it does with so many brands. With a conversation in a bar. “I met my now partner Vic at a bar in London and he asked for a really bad Tequila, he was trying to show off with this girl. I heard and said ‘hey dude, you know that’s a horrible Tequila, you should ask for his instead’,” says Marrun. “We became close friends and I invited him to Mexico, I gave him a shot of my Tequila and he said ‘this Tequila is amazing, why don’t you start a brand and sell it in Europe. ”

Satryna Tequila

Say hello to Satryna Tequila founder Nitzan Murran!

Despite seeming destined to enter the world with Tequila and armed with a 60-year-old recipe in her back pocket, founding Satryna was still a leap of faith for Murran. But her belief that consumers deserved to see Tequila as its best drove her on. “Tequila is more than just a drink: it’s very special, very powerful. It has so much heritage. You need to appreciate everything that is behind this liquid to create it,” Marrun explains. “I wanted to educate the consumer and to let them know the difference between good quality Tequila and bad quality Tequila. I wanted to champion the correct process. My vision is to show people from the outside that don’t know much about it what great Tequila is”.

For Marrun, this means the process must be as artisanal as possible, always choosing flavour and quality ahead of convenience and cost. “The first question is how many years do you grow your agave? The more mature the agave is the better it’s going to be as it will have more concentrated sugar to convert into alcohol. We mature from ten to 13 years to make sure that the agave is perfect,” she says. “If you’re not maturing it fully, you’re cutting corners. It’s the same if you make a Tequila with only 51% agave and mix it with sugarcane’. For me, it has to be 100% agave. We use blue weber agave from the rich volcanic soil of Jalisco, near Guadalajara”.

The next important step is how you can cook your agave, in either a steam oven or an industrial oven, with Marrun opting for the more traditional former. “An industrial oven is cheaper and you can cook many agaves at the same time. A steam oven is like an artisanal pizza oven. If you go to Domino’s Pizza they will use an electric industrial oven. It’s faster, it’s cheaper, but it doesn’t create a product that tastes too good. It’s the same for the Tequila,” Marrun explains. “The agave needs to be cooked at a certain temperature to reach a point where the sugar concentrates creating more flavour. It takes 24 hours, but it’s worth it. We also distil our Tequila three times. For it to be legally named ‘Tequila’ it needs only to be distilled two times, but we feel doing it three times makes a more pure, concentrated spirit”.

Satryna Tequila

Satryna Tequila is made using traditional production processes

The process of making Satryna Tequila could only ever happen in one place: Newton Distillery, on the same grounds where that recipe which was carried over three generations was developed. It’s not made under the watch of Carlos Newton, however, but Maestro Tequilero Mireida Cortes, who Murran admires greatly. “She has a lot of experience and she is extremely passionate about the Tequila. Everybody underestimates how hard it is to become a maestro tequilero. It’s a lot of work, it’s a lot of dedication. We have just been very impressed by her because she always creates the profile that we want. When you’re super-artisanal, you cannot add any chemicals to create a consistent flavour. It takes a lot of work to repeatedly capture our character, but Mireida is amazing!” 

Satryna’s core expressions are its Blanco and Cristalino. The former, Murran explains, has a lot of character and is very easy to drink, but it’s not super smooth, “because a blanco should never be super smooth. It’s important to taste the agave. Ours has a lot of citrus notes”. As for the Cristalino, it’s matured for 18 months in American oak barrels before going through a charcoal filtration, removing the spirit’s colour, but not the flavours imparted by the ageing. “It’s a style that’s trending, but there are not many brands in Europe that have this type. It’s very smoky because it has 18 months in a barrel and then it’s filtered with charcoal. It’s very special because you get to taste the agave still and its complemented by the notes from the American oak.”

In the future, the brand’s reposado and añejo will arrive in Europe (and at MoM Towers), with the global pandemic playing its part in slowing down their release. Murran gives us an idea of what to expect from the upcoming releases. “Our reposado is aged in American white oak for eight months, while the añejo is matured for 24 months, 12 months in French oak from Cognac and 12 months in American oak barrels, creating a really interesting profile,” she says. 

Satryna Tequila

A Día de los Muertos celebration in Oaxaca like the one pictured here inspired Murran’s branding

One of the most striking aspects of the Satryna brand is its distinctive bottles, which were inspired by Murran’s love for el Día de Muertos (The Day of the Dead) and Mexican heritage. “We went to Oaxaca in the early days of Satryna and there were these artists that made these beautiful silver skulls. We bought one and the rights to make it the stopper of our bottle. We also have ancient Aztec art engraved on the neck and we pay tribute to La Catrina, an iconic female symbol and the Goddess of Death. Our logo is her mask and she inspired the brand’s name,” Murran says. “For me, it is the most special celebration in Mexico. Everybody comes together. We wanted to portray the character and history to show a special side of Mexico. There are some difficult stereotypes that we have in Europe especially. We work very hard to fight this”.

Murran knows a thing or two about facing stereotypes. Starting Satryna at just 19 years old, there were plenty ready to dismiss her. “It was a bit of a struggle, a 19-year-old girl getting into an old man’s business is challenging. I had a lot of intentions and I have always had a tough character but it was hard. People wouldn’t even take my calls because they thought everything was a joke,” she recalls. “But we are becoming more progressive. Hopefully, the fact that I have challenged some preconceptions about gender and age will inspire people to follow my path. We have a lot of work to do still here in Mexico, certainly, but we have worked hard to get to where we want to be and we’re already very far ahead of where we expected to be. We are off to a really good start and on a really good path”.

It’s hard to disagree with that assessment tasting Satryna’s first two expressions. The blanco is always the key for a Tequila brand, get it right and you’re onto a winner. Which is exactly what Satryna has here. It’s got a lovely balance between citrus, vegetal, fruit and cooked agave notes and is complex and characterful enough to be enjoyed neat, the way Marrun likes (although she does concede to enjoying an Espresso Martini with her spirit too). All in all, a very refined Tequila. The Cristalino, while not being the style I would usually go for, avoids the pitfalls of candied sweetness, retaining enough agave profile and plenty of smoky, savoury elements to keep it interesting. It’s exciting stuff. I look forward to the reposado and añejo arriving on our shores. For now, you can purchase both the Blanco and Tequila here

Satryna Tequila

Satryna Blanco Tequila

Nose: Fresh, vegetal agave is the core of the nose, from which aromas of orange peel, honey, vanilla, marshmallow, petrichor, mint leaves, wood char and delicate flowers develop. 

Palate: More of that vegetal sweetness from agave emerges with toasted almonds, grapefruit, vanilla, and caramel. Lavender, faint marzipan, charred pepper and a little white chocolate appear underneath.

Finish: The finish is sweet (vanilla and agave) a little salty and a touch spicy from black pepper.

Satryna Tequila

Satryna Cristalino Tequila

Nose: Sweet, roasted agave leads with a fair amount of coal smoke as well as fresh herbs, dried earth and peanut brittle. There are hints of cedar, vanilla and grapefruit peel in support.  

Palate: Plenty of cask sweetness – butterscotch, vanilla and a little milk chocolate – balances more fresh and crisp agave. Touches of cinnamon, clove, almond, tropical fruit, banana milkshake, green apple and pink grapefruit add depth.

Finish: Delicately sweet, creamy and with a little minerality. 

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The winner of a bundle of Cointreau booze is…

Hear ye, hear ye! We have a winner to announce. Somebody is about to receive an epic bundle of Cointreau booze! Our Cointreau competition is over and that means that we…

Hear ye, hear ye! We have a winner to announce. Somebody is about to receive an epic bundle of Cointreau booze!

Our Cointreau competition is over and that means that we get the pleasure of announcing who will get their hands on the tremendous prize. Just to remind you, it includes three bottles of Cointreau, a bottle of La Escondida Mezcal, VIVIR Tequila Blanco and Bottle Green elderflower cordial, as well as Maldon smoked salt and a host of Cointreau branded goodies, including a Boston shaker, jigger, lime squeezer, cocktail strainer, a tote bag and six rocks glasses. 

The winner of a bundle of Cointreau booze is...

What a haul that is. And it’s all going to one person. Congratulations to…

Lucy Munroe from Glasgow!

Hurrah for you Lucy, the best Margaritas in town await. Thanks to all of you who took part and be sure to check our latest competition (VIP Trip to Jura Distillery, anyone?) and amazing Black Friday deals!

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Inside Destilería y Bodega Abasolo: Mexico’s first whisky distillery

Mexico’s first whisky distillery has launched its inaugural whisky, Abasolo, as well as a corn liqueur. We talk to its creator, Dr. Ivan Saldaña, about the importance of corn, why…

Mexico’s first whisky distillery has launched its inaugural whisky, Abasolo, as well as a corn liqueur. We talk to its creator, Dr. Ivan Saldaña, about the importance of corn, why he chose to use a 4,000-year-old process and more.

News of a release from a new whisky-producing country always raises a few questions: will it emulate Scotch whisky like Japan or forge a new path? Will it represent its country of origin? And, most importantly, will it taste any good? Abasolo Mexican Corn Whisky, which has just arrived in Britain, isn’t Mexico’s first whisky, but it is from the country’s first dedicated whisky distillery. 

Called Destilería y Bodega Abasolo, it is based in Jilotepec de Abasolo (about an hour and a half’s drive outside of Mexico City). It might be new but it has some serious pedigree behind it in the form of  Dr. Ivan Saldaña and Casa Lumbre. They make spirits that explore the potential of Mexican raw materials, prioritising provenance and sustainability, which you’ll know if you’ve tried Montelobos and Ancho Reyes Chile Liqueur. It seemed only natural at some point they would make their way to whisky. “We aim to bring Mexican biological, cultural and ancestral heritage into the world of Mexican spirits. Mexican whisky was a category we wanted to be part of and we felt we could truly add a new flavour and style as a New World Whisky,” he explains.

Abasolo Mexican Corn Whisky

Dr. Ivan Saldaña (left), the master distiller of Abasolo Mexican Corn Whisky

The basis of the profile is corn, as you probably guessed from the whisky’s name. Doesn’t sound particularly revolutionary but corn in Mexico is a bit different. This is the birthplace of the grain and home to at least 59 different varieties. It’s central to Mexican culture and the beginnings of its cultivation began nearly 9,000 years ago altered the way people eat there. “We wanted to find out if Mexican corn could provide something distinctively different from the standard corn used in the bourbon industry,” says Saldaña.

After a year-and-a-half of testing multiple varieties, Saldaña settled on using non-GMO cacahuazintle (Ka-ka-wha-SINT-lay), a variety with large kernels prized by generations for its taste. It’s the only raw material used, which is unusual. Corn-based whisky like bourbon typically also includes wheat, rye and/or barley in its mash bill. However, Saldaña says the cacahuazintle, which is sourced from three local farms from which the company buys directly, is unlike much of the corn used in the whisky industry. It hasn’t been hybridized or genetically modified to prioritise long shelf life and disease, herbicide and pest resistance ahead of flavour. “The better the raw material you have, the more straightforward your process is to transform it into a rich and interesting spirit,” he explained.

After being field-dried, a small percentage of the corn is malted. The majority of the corn, however, is nixtamalized. It’s a 4,000-year-old process used to make staples such as masa, tortillas, tamales, which involves soaking and cooking the corn in an alkaline solution (usually a lime bath), which is then washed and then hulled. “We truly wanted to use processes and techniques that are part of Mexican heritage. This is the first time, as far as we are aware, that anyone has used this process in spirit production,” says Saldaña. “Nixtamalization opens up the floral sweetness and warmth of the grain. It allows us to mill a finer flour so more of the starch can become sugar, and those sugars can become alcohol”.  

Abasolo Mexican Corn whisky

The unique strain of corn that’s the basis for the flavour of Abasolo whisky

Gigantic coffee roasters have been adapted to roast the nixtamalized grain to create a flour which becomes the base of the mash. Fermentation takes place in 14,000-litre stainless steel washbacks using a Champagne yeast, which Saldaña says was favoured because it can tolerate high concentrations of sugar and alcohol. The length of fermentation, five to six days, is a long time for a grain spirit in particular, but Saldaña explains that the longer you maintain fermentation, “the more you create a more complex mash and alcohol. It absorbs flavour from the raw material that has not become alcohol but is floating in the washback. We’re getting all the flavour that is possible to attain which creates more densely rich and delicious alcohol”.

The whisky is double-distilled in onion-shaped copper stills and the first distillation comes out as 40% ABV. The cuts are simple, Saldaña says he takes a couple of litres of heads out and doesn’t really cut the tails. After the second distillation, it comes out as 62% ABV and he ages the liquid in 200 litre second-fill American oak barrels, most of which are from Buffalo Trace and have a Level 4 char. It’s not aged for longer, not just to be mindful of Mexico’s climate, but, Saldaña explained: “We don’t age our spirit for too long as our purpose is not to create too much cask influence, it’s to showcase the exquisite complexities the corn can bring and complement it with the wood”.

The Destilería y Bodega Abasolo sits at 7,800 feet above sea level, making it one of the 10 highest whisky distilleries in the world, according to the team. They have made no effort to curb the climate and environment here, however, but instead have harnessed it by eschewing traditional warehousing and transforming former horse stables into open-air warehouses. “In this region the average temperature fluctuates greatly even between day and night, going between humid and dry, warm and cold anyway, so the climate and environment are having a profound effect. We are truly in a condition where the liquid is actively working,” Saldaña says. 

Abasolo Mexican Corn whisky

The first purpose-built whisky distillery in Mexico

Saldaña says he’s very proud of the distillery and that it’s the most ambitious project he’s ever been part of. He’s created a brand that is at the centre of the conversation about what Mexican whisky is and could be. Abasolo reflects the terroir and production processes from where it’s from. Other brands like Pierde Almas Ancestral and Sierra Norte have also used heirloom corn varieties as the base for its whiskies and it would be wonderful if that became a defining feature of the category. Add a process like nixtamalization into the mix too and the result is you have a whisky like Abasolo that is truly Mexican in process and profile. This is exactly what we want from new whisky-producing countries.

Having already answered the first two questions asked in the first paragraph, all that remains is to address the most important one. Does it taste good? In a word, yes. It’s rare to sample something where the production process and raw material are so evident. It’s earthy, husky, fruity and sweet in equal measure, with a character clearly founded in the corn. The unique methods used have achieved what Saldaña intended. The cask adds delicate, understated notes and provides plenty of room for the distillate to breathe. If people are expecting a bourbon alternative, they’re going to be disappointed, it’s completely singular in a way that won’t be for everyone. It’s a little rough around the edges and a more aged expression with classic cask notes would be more appealing to some. But if you’re looking for something original and interesting, it ticks all the right boxes. Check out the full tasting note below for more on what to expect. 

Abasolo Mexican Corn Whisky and Nixta Mexican Corn Liqueur are now available from Master of Malt.

Abasolo Mexican Corn whisky

Abasolo Mexican Corn Whisky Tasting Note:

Nose: Roasted corn, buttery popcorn and some green, vegetal notes lead in a distinctive, direct nose. Give this time to breathe to allow the aromas to settle and develop and you’re rewarded with notes of vanilla, a hint of toffee and tinned peaches, with earthy black tea, floral honey, new leather, clove and pencil shavings in support. There’s a hint of corn husk throughout as well as a soft, cookie dough element (with chocolate chips). 

Palate: An initial tannic abrasiveness subsides for plenty of more the same corn-notes as the nose, as well as milk chocolate, soft vanilla and oak char. Touches of baked apple, caramel and salted butter add depth, amongst some spice from white pepper, cinnamon and clove.

Finish: Like a big scoop of chocolate and vanilla ice cream, with a little salted popcorn and orchard fruit in the backdrop.

Recommended serve: The Jilo Old Fashioned. To make, add 50ml of Abasolo whisky, 10ml of Nixta Mexican Corn Liqueur and 3 dashes of Angostura Bitters to a mixing glass. Add ice and stir under cold and diluted. Zest lemon and/or orange over fresh ice in an Old Fashioned glass then strain the drink into this glass. Roll a lemon and/or orange twist on top of the ice as a garnish. This whisky should also work in any sour or citrus-forward cocktail too and will mix well with ginger beer or coconut water.

Abasolo Mexican Corn Whisky

Nixta Mexican Corn Liqueur

Alongside the whisky, Casa Lumbre also launched this tasty little treat. Much like Abasolo, Nixta was made to express the deepest flavours of corn. It’s crafted from new make Abasolo whisky as well as fresh corn and roasted corn and the distillate is sweetened with piloncillo and previously clarified sweet must. The result is a sweet, thick and rich concoction, as you’d expect from a liqueur, but with some husky, earthy qualities that add dimension and make this really interesting.

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Master of Malt tastes… GlenAllachie’s Virgin Oak Series

We taste our way through GlenAllachie’s limited edition Virgin Oak Series and talk to master distiller Billy Walker about wood policy, oak species, local terroir and more, as well as…

We taste our way through GlenAllachie’s limited edition Virgin Oak Series and talk to master distiller Billy Walker about wood policy, oak species, local terroir and more, as well as how to ensure distillery character isn’t lost in experimental maturation. 

In October The GlenAllachie Distillery tweeted that “Wood policy is an essential part of our master distiller, Billy Walker’s craft. He meticulously hand-selects all the casks from around the world”. The brand then invites fans to suggest cask types they’d like to see Walker use, and in the background, you can see a cask from Koval Distillery in Chicago, a ruby Port pipe and a Pedro Ximenez cask.

It’s a demonstration of how Walker works and what he wants GlenAllachie to be. October also marked three years since Walker bought the distillery near Aberlour in 2017 with Trisha Savage and Graham Stevenson and in this time they have become familiar with the site and its inventory and defined GlenAllachie as a distillery with a full-bodied, fruity, sweet and biscuity spirit, delivered in part by long fermentation (something of a signature of Walker’s) with a wood policy that emphasizes using oak with history and unique characteristics.

Which brings us to The Virgin Oak Series, a new range consisting of whiskies finished for twelve months in casks of different oak species from  regions around the world: 12 Year Old Spanish Virgin Oak Finish12 Year Old French Virgin Oak Finish and 12 Year Old Chinquapin Virgin Oak Finish. Each whisky was first matured in white American oak ex-bourbon barrels and and every virgin oak cask was toasted and charred to the same level (medium, toast for 30–40 minutes, char for 30–40 Secs). They were also bottled without any additional colouring or chill-filtration at an ABV of 48%, which means every parameter was kept consistent so any distinctions and nuances between the expressions will be down to the virgin oak casks.

GlenAllachie Virgin Oak

Billy Walker with the new range

Walker, who was awarded Master Distiller/Master Blender of the Year 2020 at the Icons of Whisky Awards, commented: “We had already a lot of knowledge on the behaviour of a variety of different virgin oak casks and thought it might capture the imagination of the curious inquisitive consumer. We have endeavoured to showcase how different oak genera can determine the flavour and organoleptic profile of the maturing whisky. We selected three oak styles which from our experience we know would deliver significant differences that the consumer could recognise and appreciate.” He went on to explain how the three oak species each have their own distinct flavours caused by wood structure, pore size and chemical make-up. These characteristics are exacerbated by the different lengths of time each wood is air-dried for (see tasting notes). Walker said: “Natural air drying provides a more natural and gentle drying experience in reducing the water presence down to under 10%.” 

Experimenting with maturation in this regard is incredibly exciting, but it does come with risks. A series like this is only interesting if we can observe how the GlenAllachie distillery character is affected by the cask types. If it’s overwhelmed by the virgin oak (which can easily happen), then the series falls flat. A full-bodied distillate helps, but Walker says that to avoid this pitfall, experience and knowledge are key. “We ensure that the secondary wood management does not overwhelm the fundamental DNA of the GlenAllachie distillate and allow the secondary maturation to continue only until the “sweet spot” has been achieved. This requires a lot of sampling to follow its development. We were checking every fortnight”.

GlenAllachie Virgin Oak

The GlenAllachie Distillery, home to much experimentation and tasty whisky

Tasting the Virgin Oak Series (which you can watch Walker doing here), I think it’s fair to say that the experiment worked. The contrast between each expression is stark and, while the integration wasn’t always consistent, I was impressed with how much GlenAllachie personality is here. There’s a whisky for all palates in this range. The French Virgin Oak is the finest of the three in my book, but we’d love to hear which you enjoyed the most. Looking forward, Walker confirms that GlenAllachie has a lot of interesting things going on (look out for British oak and Mizunara casks) which he assures us will lead to some absolutely stunning releases. We look forward to trying them too. For now, check out our tasting notes and details on the new releases, which you can buy here, below.

GlenAllachie Virgin Oak

GlenAllachie 12 Year Old Spanish Virgin Oak Finish

The Spanish Virgin Oak was finished in hogsheads made of Spanish white oak (both it and the French oak are types of Quercus Robur) from the Cantabrian Mountains in northern Spain. Walker says this area has a cooler climate and greater humidity than the rest of the country and that the pores of the Spanish virgin oak are less tight. When combined with the length of air drying (18 months), he says it imparts distinctive spicy, treacly notes with heather honey, treacle, coconut, orange zest, nutmeg and cinnamon”

Master of Malt Tasting Note:

Nose: Soft toffee pennies, Bounty chocolate bar, floral honey and orange peel with dark chocolate, bruised peach, hazelnut, buttery biscuit, mini foam bananas and hints of fresh clove and cinnamon in support.

Palate: Waves of chocolate and milky coffee come through with treacle, apple blossom, floral notes, dried fruit, black pepper and stem ginger.

Finish: Long, delicately sweet and with Sugar Puffs some lingering spice and floral elements.

Overall: The cask has brought out the citrus, biscuity and spicy elements in an approachable, bright that possesses weight and complexity. The most fun of the three, but without the depth of the French oak.

GlenAllachie Virgin Oak

GlenAllachie 12 Year Old French Virgin Oak Finish

The French Virgin Oak Finish is made from French oak from the Haute-Garonne region near the Pyrenees and the wood was air dried for 15 months. Walker says the wood is very finely grained and rich, which creates a subtle, sweet and earthy taste with silky tannins, honey, fruit, orange zest, honey and ginger.

Master of Malt Tasting Note:

Nose: At first there’s drying red apple skins, some earthiness, digestive biscuits and heather honey followed by a little mocha, pink grapefruit, chocolate orange, cinnamon and honeycomb.

Palate: Lots of coffee, tannins and butterscotch upfront, with orchard fruit, dried apricot liquorice and a touch of bran muffin underneath. 

Finish: Rich, sweet and long with cinnamon, white chocolate and citrus.

Overall: An earthy, more mellow and bittersweet dram that’s got so much depth and subtlety as well as the best integration of cask and distillate. 

GlenAllachie Virgin Oak

GlenAllachie 12 Year Old Chinquapin Virgin Oak Finish

Finally, the Chinquapin Virgin Oak Finish is made from casks from the northern Ozark region in Missouri, USA. Chinquapin is a sub-species of quercus alba (Quercus Muehlenbergeii). The casks are air dried for nearly four years which Walker explains creates flavours of liquorice and even hints of rosehips, which accompany complex, zesty flavours with notes of heather honey, barley sugar, toasted biscuit and orange zest, mocha, anis, fennel, cinnamon.

Master of Malt Tasting Note:

Nose: Vanilla tablet, fragrant citrus, honey and a little cacao leads with heather, polished oak, drying nutmeg and Thorntons Caramel Shortcake Bites in support.

Palate: Initially there’s butterscotch biscuits, stewed apple, hazelnut and honey on toast before those liquorice, aniseed boiled sweet elements appear among a little baking spice and sandalwood.

Finish: A big scoop of chocolate ice cream, buttery vanilla and plenty of cinnamon.

Overall: Hugely decadent and full of personality, but it’s a touch overwhelming for me.

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Win an incredible VIP Trip to Jura Distillery!

Fancy a chance of visiting one of Scotland’s most remote whisky distilleries on a swanky VIP Trip? Then read on… With everything that’s occurred in 2020, I think it’s fair…

Fancy a chance of visiting one of Scotland’s most remote whisky distilleries on a swanky VIP Trip? Then read on…

With everything that’s occurred in 2020, I think it’s fair to say we’re all in need of a holiday. And if you’re in the mood for a proper escape, then an island that’s famous for its tiny human headcount and vast deer population, a remote retreat that George Orwell described as “extremely un-get-atable place.” Sounds ideal, doesn’t it? Particularly if that place is also famous for its whisky.

Fans of the water of life will already know that I’m talking about Jura in the Inner Hebrides, where Orwell marooned himself to write 1984. The island’s distillery, now one of the main draws for visitors, was originally established in 1810, the distillery was reborn in 1963 and has spent much of the last half a century creating whisky that marries archetypal Highland and Island profiles in soft, fruity, coastal and delicately peaty expressions. 

VIP Trip to Jura Distillery

Just picture yourself here…

It’s a place every Scotch whisky fan would love to go. The chance to sample that spirit in the rugged surroundings of the Jura isn’t the pipe dream you might think it is, however, thanks to our latest competition. We’ve teamed up with the fine folk at Jura Distillery to offer you a once-in-a-lifetime VIP trip, complete with UK travel to Jura and the Jura Distillery for two people including transport for the duration of the trip, as well as two nights accommodation at The Jura hotel, breakfast included and island activity such as a walk to the market loch, a boat trip or cycling (weather and time of year dependant).

You’ll also get a tour of the Jura distillery and a distillery exclusive bottling signed by distillery manager Graham Logan to take away. How cool is that? We even have six bottles of the distillery exclusive 17 Year Old sherry cask expression for six runners-up, so if you don’t get your hands on the main prize then you could still win big!

VIP Trip to Jura Distillery

The trip isn’t the only prize up for grabs, so are these amazing distillery exclusive bottlings!

Here’s how you enter: just buy a bottle from this range of Jura whisky*. How simple is that? For more info see the competition terms below, but for now, here’s the full list of eligible expressions, some of which you can pick up for a reduced prize:

The bonus of this competition is that even if you don’t get the chance to plan a VIP trip to Jura, you’ve still got some delicious Scotch whisky to enjoy. That’s what I call a win-win. Good luck, everyone!

VIP Trip to Jura Distillery

Want this to be you? Then enter now!

MoM Jura Distillery Competition 2020 open to entrants 18 years and over. Entries accepted from 12:00:01pm on 19 November to 23:59:59 pm on 3 December 2020. Winners chosen at random after close of competition. Shipping restrictions apply. See full T&Cs for details. 

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10 ten: Irish whiskeys under £50

On the lookout for some Irish whiskey? You don’t need to spend a fortune because we’ve picked out some absolute bargains from delicious blends to distinctive single pot still bottles. The…

On the lookout for some Irish whiskey? You don’t need to spend a fortune because we’ve picked out some absolute bargains from delicious blends to distinctive single pot still bottles.

The recent boom in Irish whiskey means there is a huge range of expressions currently on the market. If you need a versatile, mixable blend, you’ve got options. If you desire a spicy, rich pot still, there’s variety. If you’re a fan of experimental cask finishes, take your pick. The only difficulty is choosing which one is right for you. Which is where we come in. Whether you’re on the lookout for a gift or in the mood to try something new, we’re sure you’ll find something perfect in the following round-up. And the best part is, every single bottle costs less than £50. 

Oh, and if you still can’t decide what bottle to plump for, you could always choose a selection of all things great from the Emerald Isle, like this 12 Dram Irish Whiskey Collection from the wonderful Drinks by the Dram.

bargain Irish whiskey

Teeling Small Batch with 2x Glasses

With Christmas on the horizon, we thought we’d kick things off with a splendid present for the Irish whiskey fan in your life. This bottle of Teeling’s multi-award-winning Small Batch blended whiskey, a deliciously creamy, spicy and rich Irish blend made with a high malt content and finished in rum casks, comes with two delightful branded glasses.

What does it taste like?

Cut grass, orange blossom, allspice, creamy vanilla, rose petal jelly, apple pie, dried herbs, caramel and blackberries.

bargain Irish whiskey

Jameson Caskmates IPA Edition

The Jameson Caskmates series features some incredible and intriguing bottles, the standout of which for us is the tasty IPA Edition. To create this, Jameson sent its used whiskey casks over the Franciscan Well brewery, where they were used to age some IPA beer. After that, the casks made their way back to the distillery, where they were used to finish this Irish whiskey. Lovely stuff.

What does it taste like?

Fresh grapefruit, lime, vanilla pod, sugared almonds, oily walnut, hops, caramelised dates, white pepper, caraway and green apple.

bargain Irish whiskey

Slane Irish Whiskey

On the grounds of an 18th-century castle in a converted 250-year-old stable, you’ll find Slane Distillery, the home to one of the most affordable and pleasant blends in Ireland. Slane Irish Whiskey is made using local grain which and matured in a trio of casks: virgin-oak, refill-American-whiskey and Oloroso sherry.

What does it taste like?

Sweet oak and toasted barley at first, with layers of caramel, Victoria Sponge Cake, butterscotch and ginger developing later on. 

bargain Irish whiskey

Tullamore D.E.W. XO Caribbean Rum Cask Finish

Tullamore D.E.W. makes a delightful and original blend of pot still, malt and grain Irish whiskeys that work in a number of cask finishes. In this case, the brand used first fill Caribbean rum casks which previously held Demerara rum that not only delivers a rich, sweet and complex taste, but also pays tribute to the role that Irish immigrants played in the development of rum in the Caribbean back in the 17th century. Which is pretty neat.

What does it taste like?

Cherry pie, lots of caramelised pineapple and banana alongside buttery caramel, brown sugar, oak, dried fruit, sweet malt and rum spice.

bargain Irish whiskey

The Sexton Single Malt

An approachable, affordable and very tasty dram from master blender Alex Thomas, one of the few female master blenders in the Irish whiskey industry, the distinctive-looking Sexton Single Malt was made from 100% Irish malted barley and aged in Spanish Oloroso sherry casks. It’s got one of those profiles that just begs to be put to good use in cocktails

What does it taste like?

Rich aromas of nuts, dried fruit, honeycomb sweetness, lemon zest, prunes, marzipan and dark chocolate with a pinch of spice.

bargain Irish whiskey

Midleton Method and Madness Single Grain 

Midleton’s experimental Method and Madness range was launched in 2017 to push boundaries and innovate. We recommend you check out the full selection of singular expressions released in the last three years, but today we wanted to shine a light on this single grain Irish whiskey which was finished in a virgin Spanish oak cask, because it’s a great demonstration of how good Irish single grain can be.

What does it taste like?

New pencil shavings, light rose petal, fresh rain on pine, warm toasted oak, fresh peeled grapefruit, zesty wood spices, sweet cereal and fresh mint.

bargain Irish whiskey

Kinahan’s The Kasc Project 

This unusual bottling sees a blend of malt and grain whiskeys aged in handmade hybrid casks made of five different wood varieties – Portuguese, American, French, and Hungarian oak, and chestnut – each selected for the flavours they impart into the whiskey. It’s so delicious and intriguing we wrote a whole blog post about it.

What does it taste like?

Juicy autumnal fruit, namely plum, alongside pear, apple crumble, rich caramel, pineapple, barbecued mango, vanilla pod, creamy fruit and nut chocolate.

bargain Irish whiskey

Pearse Lyons 5 Year Old Original

The first five-year age statement Irish whiskey to appear from a new distillery in the whole of Ireland in more than 25 years, this bottling marries both malt and grain whiskeys, aged exclusively in bourbon barrels. Oh, and it was distilled in pot stills that sit on an altar in a converted church. Pretty cool.

What does it taste like?

Lemon blossom, porridge, oak char, floral malt, honeyed spice, mint milk chocolate, fresh oak, millionaire’s shortbread, leading into some drying spices.

bargain Irish whiskey

Bushmills Black Bush

A bartender’s go-to for good reason, Bushmills Black Bush is one of the most consistent and versatile Irish blends on the market. Use this one to make all kinds of delicious whiskey cocktails.

What does it taste like?

Over-ripe grape, light citrus, toffee, peanut, vanilla, chamomile tea, Digestive biscuit, cooked plum, orange oil, cinnamon sticks and milk bottle sweets. 

bargain Irish whiskey

Green Spot Single Pot Still 

Just a week on from announcing the return of Blue Spot, now we’re showing some love to the best known of the range and a whiskey that has done so much to fly the flag for single pot still whiskey. We’re talking, of course, about the fabulous Green Spot, a whiskey that was matured in a combination of first and second fill bourbon casks as well as sherry casks to deliver a robust, fruity and rich profile. Savour this one.

What does it taste like?

Fresh green apple, sweet barley, sugary porridge, creamy vanilla, papaya, gentle bourbon oak, green woods, menthol, potpourri and citrus.

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Why Tequila is increasingly a spirit in demand

Demand for Tequila is increasing year on year and the future for the category looks bright. But what’s behind the boom? We talk to Proximo Spirits Tequila educator Oli Pergl…

Demand for Tequila is increasing year on year and the future for the category looks bright. But what’s behind the boom? We talk to Proximo Spirits Tequila educator Oli Pergl to find out.

While gin continues to dominate headlines and rum muscles its way into the spotlight, the rise of Tequila consumption hasn’t gone unnoticed here at Master of Malt. More and more people are waking up to the versatility and deliciousness of Mexico’s national spirit and a raft of new producers have sensed the potential, building premium brands on a bedrock history, tradition and craft.

The stats make for pretty good reading, too. Waitrose reported in May this year that its Tequila sales boomed by 175% since the lockdown in March and new Nielsen data revealed that in the US,  Tequila sales were up 55.5% in September and October 2020 in the off-trade. Becle, a Mexican company whose flagship brand is Jose Cuervo Tequila, reported better-than-expected results for the July to September quarter this year, with net global volumes growing by 26% compared to the same three months last year and shipments rising by 28% to 3.38 million cases. Wall Street analysts called the figures both “outstanding” and “amazing” when they were announced last month.

But what’s driving this growth? To find out, it’s worth talking to somebody who knows the spirit inside-out, like Tequila educator Oli Pergl. He spends his time enlightening and delighting folks on the pleasures of the agave-based spirit for Jose Cuervo, a Tequila brand which is not only the world’s best-selling but the oldest, having been granted the first license by King Carlos IV of Spain to produce and distribute Tequila in 1795.

tequila

Say hello to Proximo Spirits Tequila educator, Oli Pergl!

For Pergl, the desire for ‘craft’ spirits and the heritage, provenance and character of Tequila has galvanised the industry and is responsible for the boom. “This is an era in which people want to look beyond the label. They want to know who the producer is, how the spirit is made. Tequila is perfect in that respect. It’s got such a rich and deep history and the craft of Tequila is unique and specific to Mexico,” Pergl explains. “And people are now discovering it in new ways. We’ve seen so many new brands come over the last few years and Tequila is one of the fastest-growing categories of spirits at the moment. Vodka has been on the decline for a little while. There’s an oversaturation of gin in the UK which has prompted people to look elsewhere. I believe Tequila is on its way to being the next big player in the market”. 

The pandemic did little to halt this impressive rise. “We’ve seen a lot of people enjoy Tequila over lockdown. They want to be reminded of summer holidays, having fun, and Tequila fits the bill. Virtual Mexican nights and cocktail hours have been hugely popular and driven demand” says Pergl. “With quality, premium Tequilas being much more widely available, and easy to work with when making cocktails at home, we think this trend will continue to grow for a good while yet”.

In light of the increased interest in the category, it’s little surprise to see that celebrities have jumped on the bandwagon, including George Clooney, Dwanye Johnson, Michael Jordan. Pergl acknowledges that celebrity endorsement has plenty of advantages, but can be a double-edged sword. “You don’t want millions of celebrity endorsements to saturate the market,” Pergl explains. “But, overall, it’s a good thing. It’s created more awareness and has broadened the premium market because that’s typically where celebrities get involved. Thankfully there hasn’t been too much cheesy product placement or gimmicky marketing. They’re often almost romantic about their businesses and are just as in love with the spirit as the people making it. That, in turn, tells the consumers ‘maybe I should fall in love with it as well’”.

tequila

Appreciation of the legacy, production process and culture of this unique spirit has helped drive growth

The biggest cultural shift, however, has been the movement away from identifying Tequila purely as the rough and tumble party spirit that you knock back with salt and citrus. Education in this regard is still needed, but increasingly consumers are sipping and appreciating. “We want people to understand the passion involved. We’re targeting events towards consumers to ensure that tequila isn’t just seen as a party shooter or a Margarita ingredient,” Pergl says. “We promote the versatility and mixability of Tequila. We want people to dive deeper and realise you can have Old Fashioneds, Mojitos, Piña Coladas etc. I personally believe any cocktail can be twisted with Tequila and we want to demonstrate that it has a diverse enough character to replace rum, whisky, gin or vodka”.  

The growth of premium Tequilas (which are usually made with 100% blue weber agave) casts an inauspicious light on ‘mixto Tequilas’, a term given to more economical expressions made from the mandated minimum of 51% agave, with the other 49% coming from sugarcane or another sugar source. However, Pergl says this style still has its merits and a future. “That type of Tequila still has a massive part to play because it introduces people to the fun and light-hearted side of the category,” he explains. “There’s always going to be times for celebration in our lives and the need for a mixable spirit and it’s great that consumers have options because not everyone has the budget for premium Tequila. Producers also have to be very careful about what they are going to be making their Tequila from because 100% blue agave isn’t necessarily the most sustainable option”. 

This is one of the challenges the industry faces. While things are looking good for Tequila, the increased demand for agave-based products has raised concerns about sustainability. “It’s not just Tequila, there’s a huge demand for agave syrup. It’s putting serious pressure on a lot of brands. We’re constantly assessing our role in this and creating solutions. We have a laboratory onsite to analyse different conditions and how they affect the crop to ensure that our agaves are treated as best as they can. We have about 4,000 jimadors, all of them are generational-led experts, in the field every day tending to millions of plants who prioritise the safety of the crop,” Pergl explains. “We’re also working to make sure that our agaves, after turning into Tequila, have a much longer life as well. We recycle its fibrous materials, for example, and donate them to local businesses to be turned into straws, rope, aprons or kitchenware. It’s not just a case of using the agave purely for Tequila, we want to extend the life of it”.

tequila

Pergl believes the future is bright for Tequila

Looking forward to how Tequila can maintain consistent and sustainable growth, Pergl says that companies like Jose Cuervo have a responsibility as a leading brand to ensure that the traditions and the culture of Mexico remain respected and that the quality of new expressions adheres to a certain standard. “We always feel a responsibility to the industry. We’re never trying to trample over anyone. Our position allows us to innovate, to take that next big leap and show the other companies we can be brave together. Once we do that and master certain techniques then we can share that knowledge so Tequila doesn’t have to be this one thing,” Pergl says. “We also have a responsibility to our farmers, our neighbours and to the town of Tequila, to represent Mexico with integrity. Jose Cuervo himself was the mayor and he introduced a lot of measures to ensure that people had the right facilities. Those values paved the way and the eleventh generation members still ensure that those traditions are met”. 

The question is, will the demand for Tequila continue to rise in 2021? Pergl has no doubt that it will. “Rum and Tequila are yet to have their heyday in terms of the popularity that gin and vodka have enjoyed. I think that’s about to change. We want more of the world to fall in love with our spirits and, lockdowns permitting, we’ll be getting out there educating and working to increase the appreciation and adoration of this great spirit. 2021 is going to be a big year for us”.  And if you’d like to see it in with a quality Tequila in-hand, you can pick some up right here.

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Win big with our #MissedMoment competition!

Do you want to win some amazing prizes to lift your spirits and make the most of the new lockdown? Good. Because we’ve got just the thing for you. We’ve…

Do you want to win some amazing prizes to lift your spirits and make the most of the new lockdown? Good. Because we’ve got just the thing for you.

We’ve missed out on a lot this year. The coronavirus pandemic has cancelled many things, with travel, festivals, shows, events and more having to be shut down due to lockdowns and quarantines. We’ll never take having a drink with our mates or popping to the shops whenever we want for granted again.

We never need an excuse to put a smile on your face and give you something to look forward to, but now that we’re in a new lockdown this seems as good a time as any to give away some delicious drinks. Which is why we’ve put together our #MissedMoment competition, right in time for the festive season. You probably have questions, so allow us to answer them.

What is this competition all about?

We’re encouraging you to share with us a moment you missed this year that you would like to recreate. It can be anything you like. If it means something to you and you feel like you lost an opportunity, then we want to hear from you. We’ll then spoil one lucky person with plenty of boozy goodies to lift their spirits.

#MissedMoment competition

Fancy sampling your way through some of the most delicious gins around?

What do I win?

The following amazing prizes:

  • The choice of either a premium gin, rum or whisky (Pour & Sip’s December 2020 box) tasting set.
  • Entry to a private virtual tasting for up to 30 people (from different households!)

How do I enter?

It’s so simple, Just follow these steps:

  1. Like this post.
  2. Follow @masterofmalt, @pourandsip and @drinksbythedram 
  3. Comment with the moment you missed and would like to recreate on the competition post.
#MissedMoment competition

We’ve collaborated with Drinks by the Dram and Pour & Sip to offer you the finest prizes

We look forward to hearing your answers and announcing a winner soon (keep your eyes out on the MoM blog for that). Good luck, everyone!

MoM #MissedMoment Competition 2020 open to entrants 18 years and over. Entries accepted from 12th November to 19th November 2020. 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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Fantastic staff favourites we think you’ll love!

From an Islay single malt whisky to Jaffa Cake Rum, here’s a selection of staff favourites chosen by the team here at Master of Malt. We think there’s something here…

From an Islay single malt whisky to Jaffa Cake Rum, here’s a selection of staff favourites chosen by the team here at Master of Malt. We think there’s something here for everyone. As long as you want booze, that is.   

Here at MoM Towers, we’ve spent plenty of time tasting, sampling and mixing our way through some of the world’s finest drinks over the years so that we can pass on our knowledge and share our passion with you lovely people. Naturally, we develop favourites and so we thought it would be fun to round-up some staff standouts and recommend them to you, from beautiful blended whisky to innovative rum and more.

Fantastic staff favourites we think you’ll love

Aerolite Lyndsay 10 Year Old – The Character of Islay Whisky Company with Enamel Mug

We’re always going to love a delightful, versatile and award-winning (Islay Single Malt 12 Years and Under at the World Whiskies Awards 2020, don’t you know) single malt from Islay but the fact that this beauty comes with a charming enamel mug perfect for enjoying a Hot Toddy in just makes it all the better. Oh, and if you need a recipe, Tammy Jackson (of @forcocktailsake fame) makes a particularly good one, which you can see her doing here.

What does it taste like?

Maritime peat, iodine, honey sweetness, paprika, salted caramel, old bookshelves, mint dark chocolate, espresso, new leather, soy sauce, liquorice allsorts, bonfire smoke and toffee penny, with a pinch of salt.

Fantastic staff favourites we think you’ll love

Kyrö x Ki No Bi Gin

Kyrö Distillery has launched a neat little series where it teams up with other brands to create something tasty, which is an idea we’re very much in favour of! For the first of its Kyrö x Friends releases the Finnish spirit-makers partnered with Kyoto Distillery over in Japan to celebrate 100 years of diplomacy between Japan and Finland, and created a gin that combines the best of each distillery’s local botanicals in one trans-continental treat.

What does it taste like?

A touch of berry fruit and red florals, with distinctive yuzu citrus and oily, piney juniper, leading into peppery spice and a smidge of savoury seaweed.

Fantastic staff favourites we think you’ll love

Jaffa Cake Rum

Combining two wonderful things doesn’t always work (my hamster never accepted that damn tiny sombrero) but this combination of Jaffa Cakes and rum is an absolute winner that we can’t help but talk about. It’s made with actual Jaffa Cakes, folks, which are blended alongside oranges, fresh orange peel and cocoa powder with Caribbean rum to create this expression, which makes for a mean Daiquiri or Rum Old Fashioned.

What does it taste like?

Rich hot chocolate, zesty orange, subtle ginger heat, vanilla pod earthiness, subtly grassy rum, cakey sweetness and a tangy hint of tropical fruit.

Fantastic staff favourites we think you’ll love

Aberlour 10 Year Old

There’s always going to room for vibrant, fruity and rewarding drams in our drinks cabinet, which is why it’s always a good idea to make sure you have a bottle like Aberlour 10 Year Old on-hand. Plus it represents outstanding bang for your buck. What’s not to love?

What does it taste like?

Sherried raisins, toffee, spicy rich fruitcake, foam bananas, honey, sweet spices and a pleasant nuttiness.

Fantastic staff favourites we think you’ll love

Eleventh Hour Gin

The Derbyshire Distillery made this dry gin by combining botanicals including juniper, angelica, cassia, ginger, coriander, orris, lemon, sour cherry and poppy seeds. The last ingredient is something of a symbolic choice, as £3 of each bottle of Eleventh Hour that’s sold will aid The Royal British Legion to make a difference. Tasty gin is one thing, but when you know that every bottle you purchase will support who served in the armed forces past and present, it’s really something.

What does it taste like?

Softly fruity, with cherry and lemon standing out amongst the angelica, spicy juniper and anise notes.

Fantastic staff favourites we think you’ll love

Chivas Regal 12 Year Old

A favourite of critics, an absolute bargain, a versatile option and an all-round tasty blend, there’s no secret as to why we enjoy Chivas Regal 12 Year Old. The world-famous Scotch blend was first made in the early 20th century by Chivas Brothers and continues to charm us to this day.

What does it taste like?

A creamy, aromatic melange of vanilla custard, hints of aniseed, lemon curd, butter toffee, dried banana chips, barley malt, ground walnut, caramel and cereal sweetness.

Fantastic staff favourites we think you’ll love

Woodford Reserve Double Oaked 

A deep, dark and rich twist on the delightful Woodford Reserve, Double Oaked is made using the same process as its classic sister expression but is then further matured in barrels which have been heavily toasted and lightly charred. Why do we like this one so much? Two words: Old. Fashioneds.

What does it taste like?

Lots of sweet oaken character, as well as rich fruit, vanilla and caramel notes.

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Master of Malt tastes… Benromach 21 Year Old

When we heard that Benromach had released a 21-year-old expression, we were intrigued to see how the brand’s distinctive brand of whisky matured over the years. So, we had a…

When we heard that Benromach had released a 21-year-old expression, we were intrigued to see how the brand’s distinctive brand of whisky matured over the years. So, we had a taste. And we liked.

Back in May 2018, I had the good fortune of visiting two Speyside distilleries on the same day. One was the giant Glenfiddich, a sprawling campus of creation and enterprise which makes the world’s best-selling single malt whisky and more. The other was Benromach Distillery

The contrast was stark. Benromach is a small-scale, manual distillery. Every process is carried out and monitored by a small staff and its production capacity is 380,000 litres of whisky per year (Glenfiddich makes 13,000,000 litres in that time). The humble approach and rustic charm is no accident, however. After purchasing the site back in 1993, Gordon & MacPhail’s goal was to create traditional handcrafted single malt influenced by the kind of whisky that would have been produced in Speyside in Scotch’s 19th century heyday.

Since the distillery restarted production, we have used traditional production methods, and each stage of the process is designed to give a spirit character that is traditional, lightly peated and handcrafted,” says Keith Cruickshank, Benromach’s distillery manager. “Our small team of distillers has long relied entirely on their expertise and senses to make the finest handmade whisky and that’s something that hasn’t changed since the distillery reopened 22 years ago.

Benromach 21 Year Old

The small, charming Benromach makes a distinctive style of whisky

The distillery had passed through a number of hands after it was first established in Forres, Scotland in 1898, sadly closing in 1983 before it was revived by Gordon & MacPhail. By 1998 production had restarted using locally-grown Scottish barley which is malted with a little peat smoke, recalling the Speyside tradition of topping up fires with cuts of peat when coal ran low. The barley is ground into grist in a 120 year-old four-roller Boby Mill over a 90 minute period, before it’s mixed with water drawn from the nearby Chapelton Spring in the Romach Hills, the same source used by Benromach since it first opened.

The aim is to create a medium-bodied spirit suitable for variable lengths of maturation, which explains the long fermentation process, which lasts between three and five days in larch washbacks that Cruickshank says creates a rich, complex, fruity new make. The brand also takes the unusual step of using two types of yeast: brewer’s and distiller’s yeast. “We feel it creates a more complete fermentation – this all contributes to the development of more complex flavours”.

Distillation takes place in a 7,500-litre short and squat wash still and a 5,500-litre spirit still. Cruickshank explains that the former has an almost horizontal lyne arm to create more copper contact with the alcohol, which lends to the desired medium-heavy spirit character and that the latter has a reflux ball which pushes back down the very heavy vapours, allowing lighter vapours to travel up the still. Once the spirit is distilled, it’s hand-filled into first-fill casks exclusively and rolled into traditional dunnage style warehouses, which provide “consistent temperatures and the ideal conditions for maturing single malt whisky,” according to Cruickshank.

Benromach 21 Year Old

First-fill casks are used exclusively at Benromach

This process has enabled Benromach to establish an impressive core range in a short space of time. For my money, the 10 Year Old is one of the finest bottlings available at its price point and the brand has demonstrated an ability to experiment and innovate, with limited-edition cask strength expressions, organic bottlings and intriguing wood finishes. Its latest release is what has taken our focus today, however. Benromach 21 Year Old is the oldest permanent addition to its core range. It was matured in first-fill sherry and bourbon and bottled at 43% ABV, ready to be launched just as the distillery announced a redesign, inspired by the hand-painted sign that used to adorn the roof above the kiln, along with the distinctive red doors around the distillery and the red brick chimney.

Its release caught my eye because the dram should provide a window into how ‘new’ Benromach matures over a long period of time. Is the distillery character preserved? What effect does the commitment to first-fill casks have? For Cruickshank, the 21 year old represents a progression of the brand’s signature style. “It perfectly embodies the decades of hard work, pride and passion that have gone into recreating that lost character of Speyside whiskies from the 1950s and 1960s. As an older whisky which is still grounded in our commitment to using only the finest first-fill bourbon and sherry casks, it provides a unique take on the classic Benromach style.”

It’s a take I thoroughly enjoyed. Since the late nineties, Benromach has demonstrated the story of revival can be understated, patient and methodical, and the 21 Year Old is just rewards. It’s a dram of variety and vibrancy. The melding of sherry and bourbon casks is measured and graceful, pairing plenty of distillery character with a subtle and understated maturity. It’s got tremendous clarity and style. Take your time and savour this one.

You can purchase Benromach 21 Year Old here and the full tasting note is below.

Benromach 21 Year Old Tasting Note:

Nose: Deep Oloroso sherry comes through, with stewed plums, raspberry jam and juicy sultanas initially followed by hints of Pinot Noir, orange peel and dried apricots. Vanilla, toasted brown sugar, milk chocolate and aromatic ginger spice appear underneath with sweet peat warmth throughout. 

Palate: Notes of stewed orchard fruit, chocolate-covered raisins and Seville orange marmalade are followed by hints of set honey, praline, red berries and gingerbread. In the backdrop, there’s cracked black pepper, tangy oak and smoke from a smouldering bonfire. 

Finish: Sherry tones lead the finish, with a hint of buttery toffee apples, oak spice and fruitcake.

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