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Master of Malt Blog

Author: Adam O'Connell

The Balvenie Stories launches with three special whiskies

Three key figures at the classic Speyside distillery have each created a whisky to celebrate human tales of endeavour, craft and surprise. These are their stories. We love a great Scotch…

Three key figures at the classic Speyside distillery have each created a whisky to celebrate human tales of endeavour, craft and surprise. These are their stories.

We love a great Scotch whisky. We also love a good story. So it’s always a pleasure to witness when the two are combined. That’s the case with The Balvenie Stories, a range of three expressions made to bring tales from the distillery’s illustrious history to life.

The selection includes The Sweet Toast of American Oak, a whisky Kelsey McKechnie matured in Kentucky virgin oak to make a fruitier Balvenie, a story of a new apprentice malt master innovating and making her mark. The Week of Peat and A Day of Dark Barley, meanwhile, are two expressions that tell the stories behind two classic whiskies you may have enjoyed before, from former distillery manager Ian Millar’s introduction of Speyside peat or malt master David Stewart MBE using dark roasted malted barley.

The Balvenie Stories

Three tales of character written in whisky: The Balvenie Stories

As well as new liquid to enjoy, The Balvenie has also provided whisky enthusiasts with a chance to experience these tales outside the glass. Specially-recorded audio conversations and guided whisky tasting content will be available via an NFC-enabled neck tag, that people connect to using their smartphones, as well as in podcast format.

An accompanying book ‘Pursuit – The Balvenie Stories Collection’, a collection of short tales by acclaimed writers from around the world was edited by award-winning author and journalist Alex Preston, will also be published in the autumn by Canongate. The notion of storytelling informs the design of The Balvenie Stories packaging too. Each tale is represented on the whisky’s tube and label in bespoke illustrations from British artist and printmaker Andy Lovell.

David Stewart MBE summarised: “Stories are the lifeblood of The Balvenie distillery. They make up the fabric of who we are and what we do. The Balvenie Stories collection tells these tales in liquid form, giving whisky drinkers across the globe a special glimpse into the unique and very human nature of how we produce our whisky. Each expression in the collection reflects this by telling its own story via first-hand accounts and recollections of the many people involved.”

But that’s enough storytime, let’s take a look at these three expressions:

The Balvenie Stories

The Sweet Toast of American Oak

The Sweet Toast of American Oak

What’s the story?:

A whisky conceived to demonstrate what happens when ancient techniques and fresh ideas are blended. Appropriately, this was recently-appointed apprentice malt master Kelsey McKechnie’s experiment. The 12-year-old whisky was matured in twice-toasted virgin white American oak casks from Kelvin Cooperage in Louisville, Kentucky to produce an even fruitier, sweeter tasting Balvenie that was bottled at 43% ABV.

Producer Tasting Notes:

Nose: Lusciously malty with some sweet fudge, followed by citrussy and oak vanilla aromas with layers of spicy oak notes of ginger and cinnamon.

Palate: Candied orange and lemon peel, vanilla toffee and butterscotch, layers of blossom honey, some melted brown sugar and oak spices at the end.

Finish: Rich and malty with gentle waves of oak vanilla and subtle spices.

The Balvenie Stories

The Week of Peat

The Week of Peat

What’s the story?:

As you might have guessed already, The Week of Peat is an evolution of The Balvenie Peat Week Aged 14 Year Old, which was launched back in 2017 to add a touch of smoke to the Speysider’s selection. This expression remembers when Stewart and former distillery manager Ian Millar trialled drying barley with peat for the first time after a week’s gap in the distillery’s production schedule provided an opportunity back in 2002. The resulting dram, which was bottled at 48.3% ABV, has all the hallmarks of a classic Balvenie expression with an extra layer of delicate smokiness.

Producer Tasting Notes:

Nose: Gentle sweet peat smoke, lighter floral notes and delicate butterscotch honey

Palate: Velvety and round to taste with the peat smoke balancing citrus flavours, oaky vanilla and blossom honey

Finish: Gentle smoke with a lingering and creamy vanilla sweetness.

The Balvenie Stories

A Day of Dark Barley

A Day of Dark Barley

What’s the story?:

A 26-year-old dram, A Day of Dark Barley is the oldest expression in the range and is another familiar face. An edition of this whisky was released in 2006 as the Balvenie 14 Year Old Roasted Malt. However, casks were retained for extra maturation and the result is a sublime aged Balvenie that was bottled at 47.8% ABV. The story here references Stewart’s and The Balvenie distillery team experiment with a heavily roasted dark barley back in 1992 and celebrates two Balvenie legends, mashman Brian Webster and maltman Robbie Gormley.

Producer Tasting Notes:

Nose: Big malty notes, soft brown sugar, vanilla toffee, blossom honey and a mild oaky spiciness.

Palate: Syrupy with a toffee sweetness, some citrussy notes of tangy orange peel, followed by oak vanilla and a touch of cinnamon and ginger spices at the end.

Finish: Enduring gentle waves of vanilla and oak spices.

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New Arrival of the Week: Big Peat Fèis Ìle 2019 Edition

Selfies and Scotch Whisky are the focus of our New Arrival of the Week. Oh, and a little event called Fèis Ìle… As we’re sure you’re all well aware, Fèis…

Selfies and Scotch Whisky are the focus of our New Arrival of the Week. Oh, and a little event called Fèis Ìle…

As we’re sure you’re all well aware, Fèis Ìle 2019 begins on Friday (whoop!). With it comes all kinds of merriment and festivities. But the excitement of the event isn’t contained to the isle of Islay, oh no. Whisky fans all around the world know that Islay’s finest like to mark the occasion with limited edition releases. Whether it’s Bruichladdich with Octomore’s oldest bottling, Event Horizon, or Laphroaig releasing the Càirdeas 2019 edition, there’s lots of liquid loveliness to get your teeth  into each year.

Which brings us on to our New Arrival of the Week, Big Peat Fèis Ìle 2019 Edition. Making his annual appearance courtesy of independent Scotch whisky bottlers and blenders Douglas Laing. In 2018, Big Peat was released with a sheet of stickers that could be used to customise the presentation tube, but for 2019 Douglas Laing took the idea of personalisation to a whole new level. Using people’s actual faces, over 400 of them. It doesn’t get more personal than that.

Big Peat Fèis Ìle 2019 Edition

Big Peat Fèis Ìle 2019 Edition, in all its glory

Through an online competition, the brand was able to select a lucky few to feature on Big Peat Fèis Ìle 2019 Edition, who will now be able to tell their friends excitedly that they’ve taken a selfie that actually matters. Cara Laing, director of whisky and third generation in the family-owned business, said it was to “pay homage to his friends the world over”, and Big Peat has many of those. The feisty Ileach fisherman has built quite a following over the last decad e.

Speaking of which, Big Peat isn’t just celebrating another wonderful Fèis Ìle in 2019, but also his 10th anniversary in existence. Douglas Laing has big plans for Peat’s birthday including a special 10 year old whisky release, and an online tasting hosted on Big Peat’s Facebook profile during the Feis Ile Festival: selected members of the community will be invited to join a virtual masterclass and enjoy samples of the classic Big Peat, Big Peat Fèis Ìle 2019 Edition, the 10 Years Old Limited Edition and the oldest ever bottling released to date, the 26 Years Old Platinum Edition. ! According to Cara Laing, all this excitement “will ensure our big Islay pal celebrates in style all over the world”.

Big Peat Fèis Ìle 2019 Edition

One familiar face and lots of delightful new ones!

Big Peat was made to be “the ultimate taste of Islay”, as Cara Laing put it, so you can expect much the same from this latest Fèis Ìle expression. Created from a blend of single malts from Ardbeg, Bowmore, Caol Ila and Port Ellen, Big Peat Fèis Ìle 2019 Edition was bottled without chill-filtration or any additional colouring, as always, at 48% ABV.

So, does it deliver the usual goods? In a word, yes. The most striking aspect of Big Peat Fèis Ìle 2019 Edition is its coastal character, which is expressed through notes of sea-washed pebbles and an enjoyable seaweed salinity. Those who are here for a fair share of peat and meat will be pleased, while plenty of ripe citrus keeps it fresh. The overall impression is that the combination of shoreline serenity, tart fruit and muscular notes means there’s a hearty dose of pure Big Peat pleasure in every mouthful. Hurrah!

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Championing absinthe at Croque Monsieur

Absinthe has a reputation that means it can be a difficult sell. However, Croque Monsieur, a new bar in Camden, wants to help change this. We spoke to its bar…

Absinthe has a reputation that means it can be a difficult sell. However, Croque Monsieur, a new bar in Camden, wants to help change this. We spoke to its bar manager Jenny Griffiths about how bespoke cocktails, education and silly hats can help.

Have you ever considered going to a bar to enjoy absinthe? You might have been put off by tall tales of astronomical ABVs, potential blindness and harrowing hallucinations. Such myths, legends and soft science have certainly misled people in the past. Gradually, however, absinthe’s reputation is being restored by creative craft producers, educated consumers and bars like Camden’s Croque Monsieur.

Downstairs from the world’s only vampire-themed pizzeria, Lost Boys Pizza (it’s a wild start, but stick with me here), Croque Monsieur opened in December 2018 aiming to spearhead the absinthe revival in the capital. Despite the name, there are no ham and cheese toasties, before any of you ask.

Championing absinthe at Croque Monsieur

Bar manager Jenny Griffiths in her element

“It’s a spirit that has a lot of misconceptions. We wanted to show people why these aren’t true and give a proper insight into such a misunderstood spirit”, bar manager Jenny Griffiths explains, “Absinthe is absolutely delicious and we wanted to share that with our corner of London!”

Croque Monsieur is equipped with absinthe fountains on each table, funky hats, church pews as seating, Art Deco prints on the wall and a newly-launched cocktail menu, transforming a restaurant basement into a bohemian drinking den. For Griffiths, it was too good an opportunity to miss.

“When Pete and Alex (founders of Lost Boys Pizza) mentioned they’d had plans to open a tiny absinthe/dive bar. My eyes lit up and I knew I had to be in,” Griffiths explained. “I’ve been working as the brand ambassador for Chartreuse for two years in the UK, and I actually got into drinking this by being suggested it by a fellow absinthe fan. Chartreuse and absinthe have similar flavour profiles, and anything herbal and punchy has always been my true love.”

Championing absinthe at Croque Monsieur

Camden’s Croque Monsieur

Even those passionate about absinthe will admit it’s a risky spirit to back, however. There’s still work to be done separating truth from pseudoscience and propaganda. “If you want to see the lengths the people who banned absinthe went to, Google absinthe and guinea pigs,” Griffiths remarks, alluding to an 1864 experiment in which guinea pigs were most definitely harmed in the making of (another reason to dislike those who fought absinthe).

The lore around thujone, a chemical compound in absinthe, is one of the reasons why it was successfully demonised. But the truth is absinthe contains such a tiny amount of this compound that it’s about as frightening as Kylie Minogue singing The Sound of Music to you while dressed as The Green Fairy. Griffiths summaries, “As with all alcohol, of course, you should drink it in moderation and responsibly, but absinthe will not drive you crazy.”

The task for Griffiths then is to use her passion and position help educate and change perceptions. However, she has no interest in providing dry history lessons. “You go to Croque Monsieur to be educated and have fun,” Griffiths exclaims. “We at Croque Monsieur are here first and foremost to educate everyone who comes through the door. I’ve always been a bit of a booze nerd myself, so being able to share the knowledge I have is great. But we also want people to have fun, which is why the music is always set to party bangers and we encourage everyone to take their pick from our array of silly hats. For me going to a bar should be about learning but fun should always be at the forefront!”

Championing absinthe at Croque Monsieur

Griffiths and the Lost Boys founders enjoying their labour of love

It’s difficult to deliver a dry lecture while your guests are wearing cowboy hats listening to Prince’s 1999 as a waiter brings them black charcoal pizza from a vampire-themed restaurant that was named after a 1987 American horror comedy film. Seriously. What more can ask for from a bar?

Well, how about a tailored guest experience? One method Griffiths employs at Croque Monsieur to demystify absinthe is a masterclass in which unlimited hot snacks and three drinks of either of absinthe or a cocktail are provided while you learn about the spirit (though you had me at unlimited hot snacks).

“This experience offers our guests a full masterclass on all things absinthe, from its vast history to the different liquids we offer and how to serve them,” Griffiths says. “We serve all of our absinthes louched with iced water at your table, where your fairy [as she calls her staff members] shows you the precise amount of water to add, explains the chemical reactions you see happening and answers any questions that may pop into your head.”

Championing absinthe at Croque Monsieur

The delicious and playful Sneaky Vimto cocktail

Then there’s the cocktail menu: designed to make absinthe approachable, it aims to ensure that no matter what your experience is with the spirit, there will be a drink to suit your palette. “The menu is divided into three distinct parts; ‘Beginner’, ‘Intermediate’ and ‘Advanced’. All of the drinks contain absinthe in some shape or form (duh!) but this allows our guests to choose how much absinthe flavour they want in their drink,” Griffiths explains. “Beginner drinks simply have a spritz or two of absinthe above the glass, intermediate contains around 10ml absinthe per drink and are a little boozier. The advanced drinks use absinthe as the base (around 25ml) and are for our guests who are already into the flavour.”

The menu includes some unique fruity numbers such as the Sneaky Vimto (my favourite cocktail name of all time) and punchy offerings such as Death in the Afternoon, a potent combination of absinthe and Champagne, as well as some reworked classics like the Chocolate Old Fashioned (a personal highlight) and the Grasshopper, which is Griffiths’ stand-out on the menu.

Championing absinthe at Croque Monsieur

The superb Chocolat Old Fashioned, a personal favourite

“For me disco drinks have always been a guilty pleasure I’ve embraced, so our Grasshopper #245 is my proudest drink creation to date” she explains. “We use a split base of Combier L’Entêté Absinthe Supérieure and Green Chartreuse, mix it with a chocolate and absinthe liqueur, Giffard menthe pastille and shake it up with vegan dairy. It’s creamy and delicious, with the right hits of chocolate and mint you expect from a grasshopper without the heaviness some dairy can have.”

For those new to absinthe, Griffith recommends the Parisienne Spritz, made with a splash of Combier L’Entêté Absinthe Supérieure, gentian liqueur, citrus, cucumber bitters and tonic. “It’s light and refreshing and a great aperitif”.

Championing absinthe at Croque Monsieur

Cocktails and capers are par for the course at Croque Monsieur

Griffiths and co. have certainly made a good case for a dedicated absinthe bar. “There are hundreds of whisky bars and gin palaces in the UK and we love what they do, but we wanted to show some love to something a bit different,” says Griffiths. There’s surely always a market for that in the world of booze.

To help you on your absinthe journey, we’ve rounded up a smashing selection of some of the absinthes we adore, including a recommendation from Griffiths. Or you could always enjoy this wonderful Absinthe Tasting Set!

Championing absinthe at Croque Monsieur

Maison Fontaine Blanche

“Maison Fontaine Blanche is a great place to start for any absinthe novice. The Blanche doesn’t have a secondary maceration of herbs after distillation (this is what gives naturally coloured absinthes their green colour) so it is a bit lighter and milder, with loads of cacao and sweet peppermint,” says Griffith. Tried next to the Maison Fontaine Verte it is also wonderful, this is a great way to explain to people the difference a few hours of maceration can make to the final flavour of an absinthe.

Championing absinthe at Croque Monsieur

Sebor Absinth

Sebor Absinth is a Czech take on the historic spirit and one that has proved incredibly popular. Made by blending 13 herbs to a century-old Swiss recipe, this is a rich, mellow and spicy absinthe that was bottled at a reasonable 55% ABV.

Championing absinthe at Croque Monsieur

St. George Absinthe Verte

The Californian distillery St. George Spirits has made all manner of delicious booze, so it’s not surprising to find out that great absinthe was in its wheelhouse. Created with ingredients such as star anise, fennel, lemon balm, hyssop and stinging nettles, this was actually the first legal American absinthe to be released after the ban was lifted in 2007!

Championing absinthe at Croque Monsieur

La Fée Blanche Absinthe

Popular among punters and award shows alike, La Fée Blanche Absinthe is a wonderfully sweet, herbal, old-fashioned white absinthe that was based on an old French recipe from the 1800s. Produced in conjunction with the French Absinthe Museum, its white colour is a reference to the days of bootlegging when green spirit could be spotted a mile off.

Championing absinthe at Croque Monsieur

Morveren Absinthe

Ok, so Cornwall might not cross your mind initially when you think of absinthe, but this expression from Pocketful of Stones might just change all of that for you. Made from wormwood and additional botanicals from the local area, this bottling was named from a legendary mermaid of yore…

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Get ready for Fèis Ìle 2019!

Looking forward to Fèis Ìle 2019? Can’t get a ticket? Whatever your situation, our selection of some of Islay’s most sublime Scotch means that all can indulge and enjoy! The…

Looking forward to Fèis Ìle 2019? Can’t get a ticket? Whatever your situation, our selection of some of Islay’s most sublime Scotch means that all can indulge and enjoy!

The Islay Festival of Music and Malt approaches. The highlight of the whisky calendar. Probably the reason we even still bother putting up with May as a month (that and all the bank holidays, come to think of it.)

A hive of whisky-based geekdom awaits. From official distillery days to delightful drams, celebrity dogs and all manner of ridiculously wonderful people, Fèis Ìle really has got everything, and 2019 promises more of the same. If you’re one of the lucky attendees this year, then be sure to keep your eyes peeled, as members of the MoM team will be on Islay for Fèis Ìle 2019!

However, if you’re not able to make the trip this year, then don’t panic. Not only will there be all kinds of content, video footage and social posts from the week to come from MoM, but you’ve still got an opportunity to get your hands on plenty of Islay whisky – like this lovely lot that we rounded up, for example. So go on then, get stuck in and enjoy!

All Islay – Islay Blended Malt (That Boutique-y Whisky Company)

This brilliant blended malt was created by us! That’s right, this year we decided to team up with That Boutique-y Whisky Company to celebrate our trip to Fèis Ìle 2019, and what better way to that than with whisky sourced exclusively from Islay distilleries? The “All Islay” name is something of a giveaway as to which distilleries contributed to this blend, as are those yellow markers on the label that appear to mark with the locations of every distillery on Islay releasing whisky today, including one iconic closed one…

What does it taste like?:

Buttered crumpets, coal fires, cut grass, some waxy peels, peat smoke richness, cooked apple, apricot, floral heather, peppery heat, damp oak and just a hint of leather.

Lagavulin 16 Year Old

If deliciously rich, intriguing and complex whiskies are your kind of thing, then Lagavulin 16 Year Old may be the dram for you. The pungent, peated and beloved expression is often held up as a benchmark of an Islay dram, for good reason. Oh, and if you’re on Islay, then be sure to order a Smokey Cokey (winner of Best Fèis Ìle Cocktail from last year’s awards). It might sound crazy to some, but you’ll just have to trust us.

What does it taste like?:

Lapsang Souchong tea, very concentrated smoke, iodine, sweet spices, mature Sherry, creamy vanilla, fruity sweetness, powerful peat, figs, dates and oak.

Ardbeg An Oa

An Oa became the first addition to Ardbeg’s core range in over a decade when it was introduced in 2017 to provide a more mellow, sweet and approachable dram to the distinctive distillery’s selection. Fans need not worry, however. An Oa (pronounced ‘an oh’ and named after the Mull of Oa) has still got plenty of that characteristic Ardbeg style we’ve all come to know and love.

What does it taste like?:

Butterscotch, fennel seed, tobacco leaf, Honey Nut Clusters, Everton mint, flourless orange cake, cigars, golden syrup flapjacks, sweet black tea, chocolate limes, smoky treacle and a little peanut brittle.

Port Charlotte 10 Year Old

A heavy-hitting, peaty powerhouse of a dram, Port Charlotte 10 Year Old has become a go-to for fans who desire a smoky Scotch. Introduced as the flagship Port Charlotte expression by Bruichladdich in 2018, this 10-year-old single malt was peated to 40ppm and drawn from a combination of casks including first-fill American whiskey, second-fill American whiskey and second-fill French wine casks.

What does it taste like?:

Salted caramel brownie, flamed orange peel, seaweed, oak-y smoke, salty sea air, Custard Cream biscuits, white grape, ginger snaps, rye toast and drying peat smokiness.

Kilchoman Loch Gorm 2019 Release

Every spring we look forward to Kilchoman’s annual Loch Gorm single malt release, and it’s safe to say the 2019 edition is another belter from what was Islay’s youngest distillery. This year, Kilchomah has drawn spirit from 20 oloroso sherry butts, resulting in big helpings of sweet and dark notes that blend well with its peat smoke core.

What does it taste like?:

Spicy smoke, sherried peels, cinnamon cookies, dried fruit, salted butter, grilled citrus fruits, jammy damson and lingering dark chocolate bitterness.

Caol Ila 18 Year Old

Caol Ila 18 Year Old is a refined, balanced and delightful Islay single malt that doesn’t pack an overpowering peaty punch and makes for one of our favourite aperitifs. It was matured in a mixture of refill casks so the impact of the wood is tempered which allows all of that distillery and Island character to shine.

What does it taste like?:

Well-integrated oily oak, peat smoke, vegetal, herbal notes, gentle smoke and creamy malt.

Laphroaig Quarter Cask

An interesting and superb value bottling from Laphroaig Distillery, this whisky was aged for around five years before being finished in a quarter cask for several months, hence the name. Since its release in 2004, Laphroaig Quarter Cask has built a considerable and loyal following for its remarkably complex and punchy profile.

What does it taste like?:

Toffee, nuttiness, hickory, bicarbonate of soda, rum and raisin ice cream, fiery chilli heat, TCP, sweet cereals, custard, cigar smoke and a touch of cola syrup.

Bunnahabhain 12 Year Old

The entry-level Bunnahabhain bottling is the perfect expression for those who want an outstanding, approachable Islay single malt without the trademark peat. In fact, it’s one of the least peated whiskeys produced on the island with just 3 ppm of peat (Ardbeg expressions tend to be peated to 55 ppm, by comparison). Instead Bunnahabhain 12 Year Old is a gentle, sweet and exceptionally pleasing dram that’s received plenty of plaudits over the years and its fair share of fans.

What does it taste like?:

Seaweed, sherry, almonds, juicy sultanas, mochaccino, herbal and with a balanced salty tang.

Bowmore 18 Year Old

If you want to know what the wonderful Bowmore Distillery is all about, then the sublime Bowmore 18 Year Old will prove well worth your time. An ever-popular dram, this well-structured whisky boasts an impressive harmony of sweet and savoury flavours from dark fruits to classic Islay smoke.

What does it taste like?:

Stewing fruit, plum jam, Seville marmalade, summer blossom, dark peat, hints of damp wood and very soft smoke.

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Win a VIP trip to the Cotswolds Distillery

WIN the trip of a lifetime to the Cotswolds Distillery! One winner and their lucky plus-one will enjoy a tailored distillery tour and blending masterclass, an overnight stay and more!…

  • WIN the trip of a lifetime to the Cotswolds Distillery!
  • One winner and their lucky plus-one will enjoy a tailored distillery tour and blending masterclass, an overnight stay and more!

There are so many reasons to visit the charming Cotswolds, from its rolling hills to its thatched medieval villages. But our favourite reason to journey to its scenic countryside is to pay our friends at the magnificent and multi-award-winning Cotswolds Distillery a visit. Which is exactly what we’re offering you the opportunity to do. We’ve joined forces with the makers of delicious English booze to offer an incredible overnight VIP stay for one lucky person and their plus-one!

The Cotswolds Distillery

It’s the wonderful Cotswolds Distillery!

“So what exactly do I win?!”

The winner of this competition will earn a VIP visit to the Cotswolds Distillery and their shiny new visitor centre, including an overnight stay at The Bell in Alderminster, with dinner up to the value of £75 and breakfast included.

But that’s not all. If you’re fortunate enough to win this amazing prize, you’ll also be treated to a gin* OR whisky** blending masterclass, plus the brand’s award-winning tour at the distillery and a 20cl bottling of Cotswolds Dry Gin with 2 fancy Copa glasses. Oh, and you’ll also receive a Cotswolds Cloudy G&T on arrival. As if you haven’t been spoiled enough already!

So whether you’re a lover of all things brilliant and boozy and would jump at the chance to visit one of the country’s finest distilleries or you’re the adventurous type who’s keen to explore one of the many fantastic features of the beautiful English countryside then taking part in this competition is a must. You never know who’s name could be on that ticket…

The Cotswolds Distillery

One of these will be yours to enjoy on arrival.

“How do I enter this magnificent competition?!”

It’s so easy. You will be *automagically* entered into the competition if you buy any whisky or gin from the Cotswolds distillery range from Master of Malt between the 1 May and the 15 May 2019. (For the nitty gritty details, see the competition terms below.) You’ll receive an entry for every delicious bottle you buy!

So, whether you’re partial to the sublime Cotswolds Single Malt Whisky, a fan of the Founder’s Choice or gaga for the brand’s tasty Dry Gin, you’ll not only get to sample their delights as usual, but for a limited time you could win big with your indulgence! If not, you’ve still got some delicious booze to enjoy. It’s a win-win, whatever way you look at it.

This is probably a good time to mention that the Cotswolds Distillery has received a number of awards for its range of spirits, and were named Craft Producer of the Year at both the Icons of Whisky and the Icons of Gin in 2018! Its Single Malt Whisky was a San Francisco Spirits Competition 2019 Double Gold winner, while its Founder’s Choice won Best English Whisky at World Whiskies Awards 2019. The Dry Gin, meanwhile, has been acknowledged by the International Wine & Spirit Competition (IWSC) and World Gin Awards with a Gold Outstanding in the category of London Dry in 2017 and Best London Dry Gin in 2016 respectively. Plus we really like them. Which is the real prize. Also the actual prize on offer in this competition. Don’t forget about that.

The Cotswolds Distillery

The delicious Cotswolds Single Malt Whisky

Good luck, all!

*Gin masterclass includes a tour of the distillery and tour of Research and Development Lab
**Whisky masterclass includes a detailed tour of the distillery and the warehouse.

MoM Cotswolds 2019 Competition open to entrants 18 years and over. Entries accepted from 1 May to the 15 May 2019. Winners chosen at random after close of competition. Travel only provided from a UK location. Prizes not transferable and cannot be exchanged for cash equivalent. Entry also available with no purchase. See full T&Cs for details.

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Noteworthy Eurovision-Themed Drinks

The Eurovision Song Contest kicks off next week, with the final on Saturday 18 May, so we’ve selected some super European tipples for your enjoyment. Eurovision is pretty much the…

The Eurovision Song Contest kicks off next week, with the final on Saturday 18 May, so we’ve selected some super European tipples for your enjoyment.

Eurovision is pretty much the best thing in the world. Other people might insist on watching shows with dragons, superheroes or Keeley Hawes, but honestly how could that compare to a night of cheesy, camp fun with an endless array of bangers, ballads and the downright bizarre. From dancing Russian grandmas, Viking corpse costumes, drag queens and Jedward, TWICE somehow, Eurovision really has got everything.

To honour this year’s edition of the world’s biggest music entertainment show, we’ve rounded up some incredible booze from some of the competing countries so you can indulge yourself on an evening of unrivalled entertainment.

From French fancies to exciting English expressions, a couple of stunners from Spain and Switzerland and more, we’ve got some major treats for you. I’d tell you to enjoy, but it’s Eurovision. Of course you’re going to enjoy yourself.

Hepple Gin

The United Kingdom’s hopes this year rest on the shoulders of Michael Rice, a native from Hartlepool, County Durham, England, so it’s fitting that you’d cheer him on with a delicious and wonderfully Northern gin! Distilled by the Moorland Spirit Company using a rather intricate production method, which includes pot stills, vacuum distillation and a super-critical CO2 extraction process, Hepple Gin is full-bodied, balanced and simply begging to be put to good use in a G&T.

What does it taste like?:

Lemon peels, peppery juniper, coriander, pine and sherbet lemon sweeties.

Milk & Honey Young Single Malt Aged Spirit

From this year’s host city of Tel Aviv comes a young single malt spirit which isn’t quite old enough to be called whisky yet from Milk & Honey Distillery. This tipple was matured in ex-red wine, bourbon and ex-Islay whisky casks and boasts a tasty and complex flavour profile.

What does it taste like?:

Floral sweetness followed by smoky peat and maritime notes, orange peel, dried fruit and honeydew melon, with woody notes appearing on the finish.

Maxime Trijol VSOP

For those who enjoy all things French, why not combine the joy of Bilal Hassani’s song ‘Roi’ with this classic VSOP Cognac from Maxime Trijol? The family (the Trijols, not the Hassanis) has been distilling quality Cognac since 1859 and are now one of the largest and most consistent distillers in the region, so you know you won’t be going wrong with this beauty.

What does it taste like?:

Smoke, over-ripe fruits, sandalwood, marmalade, mixed peels, honeyed, peppery finish with sweet spices.

Stork Club Straight Rye Whiskey

What’s this? Rye whiskey from Germany?! That’s right. Eurovision is well known for springing a surprise or two, so we thought we’d follow suit and champion this straight rye whiskey from the wonderful Stork Club. Produced just south of Berlin using German rye, this tipple is a worthy celebration of the country whose hopes are pinned on S!sters this year. I wonder if anyone has let them know they’ve spelt that wrong. Someone really should.

What does it taste like?:

Brown bread with Nutella, cane sugar, punchy black pepper, nutmeg, clove, red apples and blackberries.

Malfy Gin Con Rosa

Perhaps some of you will be enjoying Italian gin witnessing an Italian win on Saturday 18 May? Even if Italy doesn’t bring home the big prize, you can be sure that you’ll be singing this ace gin’s praises, which was built around the delicious Sicilian pink grapefruit and a hint of rhubarb too.

What does it taste like?:

Tangy pink grapefruit at the fore, balanced well by peppery juniper and a touch of thyme.

XECO Fino

While Miki is on a mission to wow Europe’s heart with his entry ‘La Venda’, this Spanish brand on a mission to make sherry accessible again. XECO Fino, which was aged for a minimum of four years in American oak, is a crisp and refreshingly dry fino that makes for a great introduction to fortified wine, so it’s fair to say XECO has succeeded in its goal. It’s really tasty served straight up or over ice with tonic or lemonade.

What does it taste like?:

Dainty and floral on the nose, building to the refreshing umami-esque palate. Thirst-quenching stuff, and ideal for aperitifs.

Säntis 10 Year Old (That Boutique-y Whisky Company)

The Swiss really do make some delicious single malt, and if you weren’t aware of that than you should immediately familiarise yourself with the wonderful whisky distilled by Säntis. The Swiss brand produced this rich and complex 10-year-old expression which was independently bottled by That Boutique-y Whisky Company. Which was a very smart thing to do. This is a very, very tasty whisky.

What does it taste like?:

Toasted brown sugar, sticky treacle, Bramley apple, dried fruit, cacao, macaroons, drying barley, winter spice and brandy snaps.

La Trappe Blond

While Duncan Laurence represents The Netherlands with his song ‘Arcade’, you could show your appreciation for The Netherlands by enjoying some of its delicious beer, namely this excellent Trappist Blond ale from the Dutch La Trappe selection.

What does it taste like?:

Crisp and refreshing, with sliced banana, clove-studded orange and creamy honey. Big yeast influence on this one, too. Hop bitterness stays way in the background, but it certainly is there.

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Port Ellen rebirth moves one step closer

Diageo has reached a new milestone in its bid to bring back Port Ellen, the iconic Islay distillery that has been silent since 1983. Hurrah! We don’t know about you,…

Diageo has reached a new milestone in its bid to bring back Port Ellen, the iconic Islay distillery that has been silent since 1983. Hurrah!

We don’t know about you, but any news about the return of famous ‘silent distilleries’ reopening gets us pretty excited. So it’s fair to say that ever since Diageo announced a £35 million investment programme to bring back Port Ellen and Brora distillery* back in October 2017, we’ve been all ears at MoM Towers waiting for updates. And we’ve got one, just as Fèis Ìle 2019 approaches. They do know how to spoil us on Islay, don’t they?

Diageo has revealed this week that Argyll & Bute Council has received detailed planning application following community engagement and pre-application consultation with key stakeholders, setting out proposals that will see Port Ellen reopened more than 35 years after its sad closure.

 

So, what can we expect from the revived Islay legend? Well, Diageo’s plan is for Port Ellen to utilise both traditional and innovative approaches to distilling under one roof, with two pairs of copper pot stills and two separate distillation regimes.

Primary distillation will take place in two stills that exactly replicate the Port Ellen originals, with the aim to recreate the original spirit character of the distillery that has made its single malt Scotch whisky among the most sought-after in the world.

The distillers at Port Ellen will also have the freedom to experiment with new whisky styles, however, thanks to the second, smaller pair of stills which will produce alternative spirit characters. It’s a best of both worlds situation, and we’re very much in favour of it. Port Ellen experimental bottlings? C’mon, people!

The second pair of stills will also pay homage to the former owner of the distillery, John Ramsay, who led Port Ellen in its formative years. Ramsay is credited with establishing its reputation as an innovative distillery in the 19th century, pioneering techniques and equipment that would become mainstays of the industry.

Port Ellen Distillery

A sketch image of what Port Ellen could look like

Distillation will take place in a combination of modern and heritage buildings, although following its most recent closure in 1983, very few of the original structures remain. What will be present is the original kiln building, with its classic pagoda roofs, and the traditional sea-front warehouses. Both will be restored as integral parts of the revived distillery, while a beautiful new stillhouse will be created to house distillation.

Georgie Crawford, the master distiller leading the Port Ellen project, commented on the news: ‘This is another hugely significant milestone on our journey to bring Port Ellen Distillery back to life. This is no ordinary distillery project, we are bringing a true whisky legend back to life and we believe our plans do justice to the iconic status of Port Ellen and will capture the imagination of whisky fans from all over the world.”

Let’s all hope the plans are approved, we want more Port Ellen!

*Both of which closed in 1983, which is also when M*A*S*H ended. Tough year.

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Celebrating Speyside!

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

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

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

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

The Macallan 12 Year Old Sherry Oak

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

What does it taste like?:

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

Balvenie 14 Year Old Caribbean Cask

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

What does it taste like?:

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

Scallywag

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

What does it taste like?:

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

Tomintoul Tlàth

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

What does it taste like?:

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

Mortlach 12 Year Old

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

What does it taste like?:

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

Tamdhu 10 Year Old

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

What does it taste like?:

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

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

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

What does it taste like?:

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

Glenfarclas 25 Year Old

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

What does it taste like?:

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

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English spirits for St. George’s Day

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

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

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

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

Happy St. George’s Day everyone!

Cotswolds Single Malt Whisky

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

What does it taste like?:

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

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

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

What does it taste like?:

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

Salcombe Gin – Start Point

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

What does it taste like?:

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

The English – Original

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

What does it taste like?:

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

Brockmans Intensely Smooth Gin

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

What does it taste like?:

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

Adnams Triple Malt Whisky

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

What does it taste like?:

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

The Wrecking Coast Cornish Clotted Cream Gin

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

What does it taste like?:

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

Wicked Wolf Exmoor Gin

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

What does it taste like?:

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

Silent Pool Gin

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

What does it taste like?:

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

Sir Robin of Locksley Gin

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

What does it taste like?:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The English – Virgin Oak Cask

The St George’s Distillery in sunny Norfolk

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

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

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

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

The English – Virgin Oak Cask

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

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

Tasting Note for The English – Virgin Oak Cask:

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

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

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

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