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Master of Malt Blog

Author: Adam O'Connell

Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2021 winner announced

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

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

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

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

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

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

Second place: Stagg Jr Barrel Proof (64.2%)

Third place: Paul John Mithuna

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

Jim Murray's Whisky Bible 2021 winner

The 2021 Edition will be available here very soon

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

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

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

Jim Murray's Whisky Bible 2021 winner

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

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

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

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

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

What’s the deal with Belvedere’s new and intriguing rye-based expression? We get the low-down and learn all about history of rye in spirits, how Scotch whisky was an inspiration to Polish…

What’s the deal with Belvedere’s new and intriguing rye-based expression? We get the low-down and learn all about history of rye in spirits, how Scotch whisky was an inspiration to Polish distillers and why the brand is looking to the past to create the flavours of the future.

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

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

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

Belvedere Heritage 176

Historical malting techniques were used to create Heritage 176

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

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

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

Belvedere Heritage 176

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

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

Steeping

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

Germination

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

Belvedere Heritage 176

The Żyrardów Polmos distillery where Belvedere is made

Kilning

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

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

Belvedere Heritage 176

Belvedere Heritage 176 will be coming to MoM Towers soon

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

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

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

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

Belvedere Heritage 176

Belvedere Heritage 176 Tasting Note:

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

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

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

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Master of Malt tastes… new Glengoyne whiskies

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

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

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

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

Hoodies All Summer

Glengoyne Legacy Series: Chapter Two (48% ABV)

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

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

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

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

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

Hoodies All Summer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Glengoyne Distillery launches new whisky and revamped look

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

How fans came to choose Glengoyne’s latest whisky

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

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

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

Glengoyne Distillery launches new whisky and revamped look

The tasting kit featured four completely different samples

Cask A 

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

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

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

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

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

Cask B

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

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

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

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

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

Glengoyne Distillery launches new whisky and revamped look

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

Cask C

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

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

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

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

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

Cask D

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

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

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

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

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

Glengoyne Distillery launches new whisky and revamped look

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Glengoyne Distillery launches new whisky and revamped look

Cask B in bottle form!

Cask B!

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

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

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Introducing Pour & Sip: a new subscription club for whisky lovers

Hey, look! There’s a new monthly whisky subscription service in town. And it’s powered by us! It’s called Pour & Sip, and we’d love to tell you all about it….

Hey, look! There’s a new monthly whisky subscription service in town. And it’s powered by us! It’s called Pour & Sip, and we’d love to tell you all about it.

Do you ever wake up and decide you’re going to do things differently? Like convincing yourself that you’re going to start running 5 miles every morning (I’d take making it to the kitchen without pulling a muscle at this rate) or that you’re going to stop staying up until 2am every night arguing with strangers online that Girls Aloud’s Biology is a masterpiece of pop music composition (it is, and I regret nothing).

Well, here at MoM Towers we decided to change things up and have actually gone through with our big idea. Which is how we’ve arrived at Pour & Sip. It’s a new monthly whisky subscription service we created to change the way whisky lovers engage with and share the spirit while still providing the newest, most exciting and much-loved expressions around.

Pour & Sip was built to be a flexible platform for drinks discovery, tailored to customers and with community, accessibility and inclusion at its core. The founding team recognises that whisky can be intimidating, and has worked to develop a club that is welcoming for all (apart from those under the legal drinking age, obviously). Whisky is for anyone who enjoys flavour experiences, regardless of gender, ethnicity, background, or anything else. It’s basically one big happy family that welcomes connoisseurs to novices alike, all enjoy tasting and talking about the water of life. Sounds neat, right? 

Pour & Sip

Welcome to Pour & Sip. It’s as badass as it looks

Here’s how it works. Each month, customers who subscribe will receive five different 30ml measures of very tasty whisky. How do we know it’s so delicious? Because the selection has been curated by our passionate expert buyers and writers who boast years of experience in the whisky industry. Yay for us! Members are encouraged to join twice-monthly online tastings which provide an opportunity to explore each taster in detail, ask questions, and generally immerse themselves in all things whisky. 

They can also enjoy bespoke blog content, and will even receive access to exclusive discounts on full-price bottles at Master of Malt. Pour & Sip boxes ship monthly, with members at complete control of their subscription. Deliveries can be paused and resumed at any time at no cost, and set two- and three-month gift options are also available. Oh, and new customers receive a welcome pack containing a pair of tasting glasses, a ‘how to taste whisky’ card, detailed tasting notes, plus the first five 30ml whisky samples. 

“I am absolutely thrilled to announce the launch of Pour & Sip. We’re so excited to share our new whisky finds and passion with everyone, making this an experience less intimidating,” Giovana Petry, Pour & Sip lead, said of the launch. “Every monthly box is distinct, different, and filled to the brim with flavour. All our members have to do is sit back, Pour & Sip!”

Pour & Sip

Sit back, relax and let us do the hard work for you. All you need to do is pour and sip!

Pour & Sip is now open to new members, with the first welcome packs shipping in September. So, check it out: https://pourandsip.com/

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Cocktail of the Week: The Southside

Some people know it as Al Capone’s go-to cocktail, others as gin’s answer to the Mojito or the signature serve of New York’s famed 21 Club. This week we’re making…

Some people know it as Al Capone’s go-to cocktail, others as gin’s answer to the Mojito or the signature serve of New York’s famed 21 Club. This week we’re making the Southside, folks!

There are plenty of prohibition-era cocktails that have enjoyed a resurgence renewed in the last few years. But one classic serve that is still hardly ever seen: I’m talking about The Southside, a delicious combination of gin, simple syrup, freshly squeezed citrus juice and mint leaves. You can think of it as a minty Tom Collins and it has plenty in common with The Mojito, but even in an era where gin is all the rage, The Southside hasn’t received the kind of love its exotic, rummy cousin gets. Which is crazy. It’s incredibly refreshing, looks great and is easy to make. What’s not to love?

Well, back in the day, in all likelihood, the gin. Hence why this cocktail was made in the first place. Like the Bronx and the Bees Knees, the Southside was an elegant solution to the lack of quality gin. So, where exactly did it come from? I’m going to shock you with what I’m about to say next. Its origins are subject to speculation. Where have we heard that one before? Seriously, if we did a documentary on cocktail history it would mostly be Henry looking down the camera and shrugging. I know I aired this gripe a couple of weeks ago but for goodness sake, it’s not like it was the Dark Ages. 

At least Harry Craddock was on the ball (like he was for the Blood and Sand, shout out to you Mr Craddock). His Savoy Cocktail Book (1930) featured a recipe for the Southside in his book which included soda, which suggests the first edition of this drink was actually what we now consider to be a variation, the Southside Fizz. However, there are plenty of other origin stories that challenge this narrative. The most notable of which traces the drink’s history to the Southside of Chicago in the 1920s where bootleggers ruled supreme, using lemon juice and sugar to mask the harsh taste of black-market alcohol. Al Capone was said to be a big fan of the drink (though you’d think he’d have had no problems getting hold of some decent gin.)

The Southside

Legend has it the drink was a favourite of Al Capone’s

Others suggest the cocktail was invented at the Southside Sportsmen’s Club in Long Island, a private members’ club for the hunting, fishing and drinking set frequented by such notables as Ulysses S. Grant. The Southside is still a common sight at similar establishments today. Probably the most commonly shared history of the cocktail, however, involves New York’s 21 Club, which during prohibition was a speakeasy. The bar’s ingenious design meant all of the alcohol and the bar itself could be quickly hidden via an intricate maze of levers and chutes should the police show up (it’s basically like this iconic Simpsons scene). The 21 Club is still running today and continues to serve a mean Southside.

The debates around the Southside don’t just extend to its origins. There’s little consensus regarding which is the correct citrus fruit to use. Depending on which bar you go to, you might get a lemon or a lime-based Southside. The 21 Club traditionally makes their Southside with lemon juice and we’re actually going with the latter in this one, mostly because I had a lemon to hand. Make yours according to your own preference. One thing everyone can agree on is that your mint needs to be fresh and that you’ll want to ensure you muddle the leaves gently so you don’t bruise them. When you’re garnishing, spanking a mint sprig against your hand to release the oils is customary. And terrific fun.

As for your choice of gin, feel free to try some different options and go for the style that suits you. Bathtub Gin works beautifully and keeps the prohibition theme going, while a vibrant, clean and classic London dry expression like 6 O’clock Gin really allows the other elements of the cocktail to shine. Here’s a recipe for a simple syrup. Don’t be afraid to experiment with alternative versions as well. Add soda water and you get the Southside Fizz, a longer cocktail ideal for summer days. If you’re in the mood to celebrate, top up your drink with Prosecco or Champagne and you’ve got yourself a Southside Royale. Here’s the classic recipe to get you started:

The Southside

It’s The Southside!

50 ml 6 O’clock Gin or Bathtub Gin
25 ml fresh lemon juice
15 ml simple syrup
1 handful of fresh mint leaves

In a cocktail shaker, gently muddle mint leaves with simple syrup. Add all other ingredients and then ice and give it a good firm shake until chilled. Double strain into a chilled glass and garnish with a sprig of mint.

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Bag a Boutique-y birthday bargain!

It’s That Boutique-y Whisky Company’s birthday and to celebrate we’re treating to you some incredible bargains! Did you know that the wonderful That Boutique-y Whisky Company turns eight years old…

It’s That Boutique-y Whisky Company’s birthday and to celebrate we’re treating to you some incredible bargains!

Did you know that the wonderful That Boutique-y Whisky Company turns eight years old on the 12 September? Time really does fly when you’re bottling amazing spirits. To mark this delightful occasion, we’ve decided to do something wonderful for the fans of not only TBWC but also That Boutique-y Gin Company and That Boutique-y Rum Company who have supported the brands over the years. How? By slashing the prices on all kinds of delicious Boutique-y booze! In this blog, we’ve rounded up a selection of some of the finest deals on offer, including expressions from Bowmore and Foursquare. Oh, and happy birthday TBWC!

Bag a Boutique-y birthday bargain!

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

Lowland’s very own Auchentoshan distillery is home to all kinds of delicious whisky, from Three Wood to American Oak, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise when That Boutique-y Whisky Company bottled up some for itself. Expect notes of yellow plum, white grape, subtle baking spice and lemongrass from this beauty and be sure to play around it because it’s delicious mixed as well as neat. If you don’t believe us, check out cocktail genius Ryan Chetiyawardana putting together something special on the bottle’s label, complete with the recipe!

What’s the deal?

It was £58.95, now it’s £48.95.

Bag a Boutique-y birthday bargain!

Chocolate Orange Gin (That Boutique-y Gin Company)

Everyone knows chocolate and orange go hand-in-hand, so it was only a matter of time before they brought together in perfect harmony in a tasty bottle of gin. That Boutique-y Gin Company made this treat using a mix of classic gin botanicals, orange peel, and cocoa nibs, giving it a profile that we think would make a great base in an interesting Negroni…

What’s the deal?

It was £29.95, now it’s £21.95.

Bag a Boutique-y birthday bargain!

Foursquare 12 Year Old (That Boutique-y Rum Company)

The first offering from Foursquare Distillery to make an appearance as part of That Boutique-y Rum Company’s line up, this blend of pot and column distilled rum lives up to the high standard the Barbados-based producer sets with its independent bottlings. It’s also got one of the most mysterious Boutique-y labels, featuring a specific number of a specific variety of birds, delicious crisps and a famous face. What does it all mean?

What’s the deal?

It was £64.95, now it’s £54.95.

Bag a Boutique-y birthday bargain!

Bowmore 19 Year Old (That Boutique-y Whisky Company)

This is a 19-year-old single malt Scotch whisky from the Bowmore distillery, independently bottled by That Boutique-y Whisky Company. Do I really need to say anything else? You all know how good this is going to be. Who wouldn’t want a well-aged expression from the oldest distillery on Islay? Nobody I know.

What’s the deal?

It was £172.95, now it’s £152.95.

Alamedapocalypse Gin – St. George Spirits (That Boutique-y Gin Company)

That Boutique-y Gin Company’s collaboration with California’s St. George Spirits was made using botanicals that include juniper berries, angelica, and coriander, but you don’t care, do you? You want to know what’s going on with that label. Well, it shows the post-apocalyptic Alameda Island (that’s San Francisco smouldering in the background), an explosive mushroom cloud from a recently dropped atomic bomb and some kind of holy ninja knights, fighting an anthropomorphic shark with a laser cannon. Any questions?

What’s the deal?

It was £31.95, now it’s £16.95.

Secret Distillery #3 10 Year Old (That Boutique-y Rum Company)

This bottle of rum is from an undisclosed distillery, which basically means that all we know about it is that it’s a 10-year-old expression from Jamaica that was snapped up by That Boutique-y Rum Company. Oh, and that it’s utterly delicious with notes of charred tropical fruit, spiced molasses, salted vanilla ice cream, Madeira cake and red cola cubes. Plus it’s got a really cool label with dogs on it. That’s all I need to know!

What’s the deal?

It was £44.95, now it’s £34.95

 

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Cocktail of the Week: The Ayuuk Margarita

This week we’re putting a deceptively simple spin on a classic. If you like a smoky and refreshing summer sipper, this one is for you. One of the eternal joys…

This week we’re putting a deceptively simple spin on a classic. If you like a smoky and refreshing summer sipper, this one is for you.

One of the eternal joys of making cocktails is there is always room for experimentation. You can take any quintessential serve and put your own stamp on it by simply changing an ingredient or altering the process. Right now there are more category-defying and intriguing expressions entering the market than ever before. There’s also more ingredients, equipment and expertise readily available to the average consumer than ever. This means the potential to alter and create has never been greater. And when you have a spirit with a great story behind it to use as your base, it would be rude not to put it to good use.

Take our chosen serve this week, the Ayuuk Margarita. Typically, when you order a Margarita from a bar you can expect (or at least hope for) a combination of fresh lime juice, Cointreau, salt and a good quality Tequila. In this version, every element other than the latter is present. The base spirit has been changed to Empirical Spirits Ayuuk, which is not a Tequila or mezcal. It’s a truly individual expression that was created using a particularly special ingredient and an intriguing production process. 

Ayuuk Margarita

The Pasille Mixe chilli

Although Empirical Spirits makes its category-defying booze at its Copenhagen-based distillery, the DNA of Ayuuk is Mexican. Its core ingredient is the Pasilla Mixe chilli. Technically it is a variety of Capsicum annuum, the most common species of domesticated chiles. Yet Pasilla Mixe is anything but common. They are grown at 2,700 meters above sea level by the Mixe people who reside in the Sierra Norte mountains outside of Oaxaca, Mexico. In their native tongue, they call themselves Ayuuk (or Ayüükjä’äys), meaning ‘people who speak the mountain language’ and the Pasilla Mixe chilli is an important part of the communal life and identity for them. 

Naturally, they use a traditional production process to create Pasilla Mixe, which entails placing fully ripened chillis on wicker racks over gnarled hardwood smoke to attain their signature smoky, earthy and red-fruit flavour. They’re used in a variety of ways in local cuisine, typically to make chintextle, a flavourful paste of garlic, salt and other spices, or salsas and the large ones are often used for filling with various ingredients. It’s even used as incense for funeral ceremonies and piles of Pasilla Mixe are burned to cleanse the burial sites of the deceased.

Ayuuk Margarita

Empirical Spirits co-founder and Pasille Mixe super-fan Lars Williams

But as soon as Empirical Spirits co-founder Lars Williams was made aware of Pasilla Mixe, they were always destined to find their way into delicious booze. Williams first saw them at a bustling market in Oaxaca City back in 2019. He was taken aback by their character and tried to find an equivalent in his travels and once he returned to Copenhagen, sampling numerous other types of smoked chilis to no avail. Willaims found that Pasilla Mixe had the most interesting, complex flavour and an obsession began.

“Ayuuk is our most cherished flavour story. The flavour came first. We had no idea when we first encountered Pasilla Mixe at the central market of Oaxaca, Mexico that it was the start of something greater. I only began to realize the potential after we had distilled the first Pasilla Mixe blend and tried to get more,” says Williams. “There is so much more than just smokiness: there is an earthy roundness and a distinct, deep red orchard fruit note that distinguishes it from all the others. It also has a palatable spice that allows you to truly taste it, and not just be blown away by heat.”

Ayuuk Margarita

The chillies aren’t easy to grow but are certainly worth the effort

Empirical Spirits initially bought in Pasilla Mixe from the market to create its spirit but decided that it would be better to partner with the Ayuuk people directly to source the chillis, which are not an easy thing to get your hands on. Cultivation is extremely labour-intensive thanks to high altitudes, erosion, lack of pesticides or fertilizers, and rugged terrain. It’s difficult to turn a profit. There are 5,000 people in the village, and one-fifth of them used to farm Pasilla Mixe. Now, there are only eight. This means that production had diminished over the years and so the Ayuuk people shifted to subsistence farming, producing only what they need for themselves and their families.

A supply of Pasilla Mixe was secured thanks to the help of Efraín Martínez, one of a few academics to have studied the Ayuuk through fieldwork and a local of the area. In order to make the production worthwhile for the Ayuuk people, Empirical Spirits arranged to pay three or four times more than the price Pasilla Mixe fetch in Oaxaca markets. In fact, Williams was so enamoured by the history and profile of the chilli that he became keen to preserve its cultivation and tradition and sought out the help of another local academic, Adan Jimenez, an agronomist, who set up workshops to pass on his understanding and insights to help the farmers of Ayuuk in their endeavours.

Ayuuk Margarita

The drink is crafted at Empirical Spirits’s impressive Copenhagen distillery

“With this spirit, we’ve developed a way to work directly in partnership with these farmers to support this beautiful tradition and ingredient. There’s a parallel between this relationship and my background as a chef: On my days off, I would often visit farmers and purveyors to better understand their methods and how to use their products,” Williams explains. “Being more connected to our producers—to their stories, their experiences, and their processes—is an extremely positive thing. There’s a natural symbiosis that keeps us all pushing forward.”

To make Ayuuk, Empirical Spirits macerates the Pasilla Mixe chillies in low wines before it’s distilled with a combination of pilsner malt and purple wheat. This spirit is then blended with kombucha made from Pasilla Mixe pulp before it is allowed to rest for five days in Oloroso casks before being bottled. The result is a smoky, earthy, sweet and fruity expression that’s difficult to compare to another style, although I’d say it is probably closest to mezcal in profile. What I can say for certain is that it works beautifully in this Margarita. There’s some bitterness from the earth and smoke that plays off the refreshing citrus sharpness and a complex blend of spice and heat that the salt cuts through pleasantly. 

So, there you have it. Now it’s time to make our twist on the classic Margarita.

Ayuuk Margarita

The Ayuuk Margarita

40ml of Empirical Spirits Ayuuk

20ml of Cointreau

20ml of fresh lime juice

Begin by pouring your Empirical Spirits Ayuuk, orange liqueur and lime juice into a shaker filled with plenty of ice. Give that a nice hard shake. Then rub a lime quarter along the rim of the glass and dip it into a salt mix (Empirical recommends a salt and black lime mix, but regular salt does work fine). Pop some ice into your chosen glass and fine strain the Margarita in. If you need a hand, the brand has put together this neat little instructional video, which should help. All there’s left to do now is to raise a glass to the Ayuuk people and enjoy your cocktail!

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Be ready for the Bank Holiday weekend with our boozy sale!

The last Bank Holiday of 2020 until Christmas is less than a week away (Monday 31 August) and we want to help you make the most of it. How? With…

The last Bank Holiday of 2020 until Christmas is less than a week away (Monday 31 August) and we want to help you make the most of it. How? With these epic savings on delicious booze! 

The Summer Bank Holiday is here and people all over England and Wales will be looking to take advantage of the extra day of rest. And of all the sales online. The extra weekend day is the perfect excuse to indulge in some much-needed me-time and treat yourself with some bargain self-care goodies to go alongside it. Whether you want a classic Scotch whisky to toast the extra time off or a deliciously flavoured gin to accentuate those summer vibes, we’ve got just the thing for you. To help you find everything you need with ease, we’ve rounded up some of our best offers below. Enjoy!

Bank Holiday weekend boozy sale

Wolfburn Batch No.375 

Who doesn’t love a small-batch series of delicious Scotch whisky? The Wolfburn Distillery might be a relative newcomer in the industry but it’s already got an impressive core range and a super selection of small-batch expressions including this tasty number. Batch No.375 was matured in a combo of 100-litre first-fill bourbon barrels and second-fill Oloroso sherry hogsheads and packs notes of floral barley, fragrant vanilla, chewy dried fruits and a kick of oaky spices.

What’s the deal?

It was £78.95, now it’s £48.95.

Bank Holiday weekend boozy sale

Tapatio Anejo Tequila

For those who are enlightened and see beyond the nonsense party reputation Tequila has, a quality bottling of Mexico’s national spirit will sound like the perfect way to make the most of the Bank Holiday weekend. Tapatio Anejo Tequila was made from 100% blue agave and was double-distilled to the desired strength and then bottled without the need for any water to be added. Margaritas, anyone?

What’s the deal?

It was £34.95, now it’s £27.45.

Bank Holiday weekend boozy sale

Chivas Regal 18 Year Old

If you need a serious sipper then look no further than this go-to bottling for bartenders and connoisseurs alike. Chivas Regal 18 Year Old, which was created by the legendary Colin Scott, is a serial award-winner for good reason and includes over 20 single malts from around Scotland.

What’s the deal?

It was £59.83, now it’s £49.83.

Bank Holiday weekend boozy sale

The Oxford Artisan Distillery Rye Organic Dry Gin

Those of you who appreciate spirits crafted with a sense of provenance and sustainability will love The Oxford Artisan Distillery. Its Rye Organic Dry Gin, for example, was distilled from local rye grown just 50 miles from the site in handmade, purpose-built stills. With a trio of citrus peels and meadowsweet among the botanicals, expect heaps of juniper, rye spice and citrus in here.

What’s the deal?

It was £38.95, now it’s £28.95.

Bank Holiday weekend boozy sale

Anno Orange and Honey Gin

If you’re on the lookout for a gin but would prefer a flavoured option, then we highly recommend this delight from our neighbours at Anno Distillers. The Kent-based booze makers created this sweet, citrusy gin by infusing orange zest and locally sourced honey alongside ginger and nutmeg. A portion of the profit from each bottle goes to Bee Friendly Trust, so you can support a good cause while you imbibe.

What’s the deal?

It was £38.14, now it’s £33.14.

Bank Holiday weekend boozy sale

Doorly’s 5 Year Old

If rum is more of your thing, then you’ll want the best. That’s why we’ve recommended a bottling from the exceptional Foursquare Distillery. The Bajan rum experts have created a number of great expressions and ranges over the years, including the delightful Doorly’s brand, which is full of balanced and beautiful spirits that are great in cocktails and neat. Doorly’s 5 Year Old is no exception.

What’s the deal?

It was £27.13, now it’s £21.63.

Bank Holiday weekend boozy sale

Bunnahabhain Stiuireadair 

Pronounced ‘Stew-rah-dur’, meaning ‘helmsman’ in Scots Gaelic, Stiùireadair pays homage to the Bunnahabhain helmsman and the sea that surrounds Islay, so naturally, you can expect this one to have some serious seaside vibes. In fact, Bunnahabhain Stiuireadair, which was matured in first and second fill sherry casks, is unpeated so the sweet coastal character of the distillate can shine.

What’s the deal?

It was £59.83, now it’s £49.83.

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Breaking the mould with Brough Brothers Bourbon

Victor Yarbrough, the co-founder of Brough Brothers Bourbon joins us to talk about race, family, making a positive impact in the community and more.  “Booze is a good old boy…

Victor Yarbrough, the co-founder of Brough Brothers Bourbon joins us to talk about race, family, making a positive impact in the community and more. 

“Booze is a good old boy industry. It goes back 150-200 years in the US, to a time when African Americans weren’t free. There was no way we could establish any ownership or legacy, and this is a legacy industry. A fair number of businesses, particularly in the Kentucky spirits industry, started off as family businesses and most of them are still owned by the family. That means that people work with people who look like them. And there aren’t many people that look like me in this business. It’s very difficult to get in.”

Victor Yarbrough’s experiences have fed his desire to make a mark on this industry. This year, he made his first big impression. As the CEO of Brough Brothers Bourbon, he co-founded the first African American-owned distillery in Kentucky with his brothers, Christain (CMO) and Bryson (COO). The fact that it has taken so long for there to be an African American-led brand in Kentucky demonstrates the challenge we face in our industry to combat institutional racism. The issue, which was violently brought back into public consciousness following the death of George Floyd in police custody in May, is one Yarbough is happy to speak openly about. 

His words above were a response to incidents raised in a recent article published in Esquire featuring Jackie Summers, the creator of the liqueur brand Sorel. He was speaking on his experience being the only Black person in America to hold a license to make liquor in 2011 and recalled many instances of racism that he experienced in the article, including regularly showing up at liquor events where he was a sponsor, only to be told, “Deliveries are in the back.” Yarbrough chuckled wryly at this quote and revealed he had a similar experience in London recently. “I was attempting to sell our bourbon and the guy gave that same kind of ‘Deliveries are in the back’ attitude. I had a good conversation with him to let him know my stance on his thoughts”. 

Brough Brothers Bourbon

Say hello to Christian, Victor and Bryson Yarbrough!

Such attitudes cannot be meaningfully challenged while there is still a lack of diverse voices represented at an ownership or management level without our industry, or indeed within any. If people of colour are to have any power when it comes to economic stability and self-determination, ownership is key. Summers concluded his interview in Esquire by saying “If you don’t own it, it owns you. And in this country, where a lot of drink culture is owed to blackness, very little of it is owned by blackness. We are (and have been) ready to be owners.” Yarbrough recognises the importance of what he and his family have achieved and is keen to use the brand’s status as the first African American-owned distillery in Kentucky as a force for good.

“We feel that responsibility. We want to make it easier for people of colour to enter the industry. We see Brough Brothers Bourbon as a meaningful opportunity to make a positive and lasting impact on both local and global communities,” he says. “We want to educate people. In our local area, we have major alcohol brands. But most of the people in the neighbourhoods around them don’t really understand what they do. Our goal is to educate the community so we can create positive pathways for them. We can let them know what kind of training they need and what kind of jobs are available”.

The family grew up in Louisville’s West End in Kentucky and the brothers are passionate about their home. The brand’s first bourbon bottle itself is a testament to that, picturing the Louisville skyline, Muhammed Ali’s boxing gloves, bourbon barrels and more. “We’re located in an area where there’s an economically depressed community. Our goal is to create economic opportunity to revitalise the local community. Alcohol is such a huge part of Kentucky’s economy. That means there are so many supplementary industries, from people making barrels or stills, to jobs in marketing, sales or insurance,” explains Yarbrough. “If we can create those jobs within the community then we can bring more prosperity and self-reliance. On a global level, we plan to launch some nonprofits to provide a path into the industry, particularly for people of colour, who don’t have that access”.

Brough Brothers Bourbon

Creating a groundbreaking brand with your entrepreneurial siblings? All in a days work.

Yarbrough’s worldly view was in part informed by his experiences travelling and his time in the UK where he and his brothers ran an import/export company called Victory Global. They lived there for 10 years, becoming British citizens in the process, and their position provided them with the perfect opportunity to study which brands became successful and how they achieved this. “When we imported bourbon into the UK and other markets we saw there was a tremendous growth opportunity. We learned a great deal about the process of distribution and gained an understanding of retailers and pricing,” says Yarbrough. “For example, we had some bourbons that were great but priced too high so they didn’t sell too well.” That explains the incredibly reasonable price point of Brough Brother’s Bourbon. Considering it’s easy to pay an awful lot of money for not a lot in the whiskey world today, there’s something to be said about getting a bourbon for this price from an upstart craft distiller committed to doing things the right way. 

Speaking of which, the Yarbrough brothers will be doing their thing at a swanky new 850-square-foot microdistillery on Dixie Highway, Louisville, Kentucky. Even though it has only just opened, the brothers are an incredibly ambitious team and have already discussed plans to expand. Currently, the bourbon they bottle is sourced, but very soon it will be produced in a 190-litre column-still which will be joined by a dedicated 100-litre still for the purposes of producing gin and vodka. Yarbrough says he made contacts while in England that will offer their expertise to create London dry gin, a style that they developed a love for while living this side of the pond.

Brough Brothers’ initial product is a Kentucky bourbon that has been matured for at least six months in new American white oak before being bottled at 41% ABV. The mash bill is 75% corn, 21% rye and 4% malted barley and the grain is sourced from both Indiana and Kentucky. The bourbon also goes through a proprietary filtration process that Yarbrough kept close to his chest, but he does reveal that they opted to make their bourbon using sweet mash, as opposed to the industry standard sour mash, so fermentations last from five to seven days. “It’s a more complex process but we think it created a better product,” said Yarbough of the decision. Currently, its whisky is matured in a couple of different locations in Kentucky and there are plans to buy more space imminently

Brough Brothers Bourbon

More warehouse space and expanding the distillery are already on the cards for Brough Brothers Bourbon

Yarbrough says the brothers wanted to create a bourbon would accessible enough to lure people into the wonderful world of whiskey and also describes it as a “party bourbon” thanks to its mixable profile. “We wanted this to be a bourbon that was smooth and approachable enough that people who aren’t fans of bourbon can enjoy. It’s not just connoisseurs, our target was a wider demographic and we hoped to convert people who weren’t bourbon drinkers and preferred gin or vodka,” says Yarbrough. “Our goal was to be true to our Kentucky origins, but create a product that could be sold worldwide. It’s versatile. You can use it in an Old Fashioned or Mint Julep, it’s great with ginger ale and tonic water. Personally I like it with sweet tea or peach tea.” 

The brothers are not resting on their laurels, however, and plan to follow the release of their signature product with another bourbon in the coming months, this one styled as a more serious sipper. “We’ll release another range with a different profile that’s aimed more at the connaisseurs. It’s already in the barrel and we’re looking at potentially releasing it as soon as November”, says Yarbrough. “Right now with everything going on things are crazy, but we’re comfortable being patient. We’re hard-working people, we’ve come from humble origins and we’ve jumped a lot of hurdles to get to where we are. Everything is about ensuring we’ve put together the best plan to make sure longevity is going to be there for us. The future for Brough Brothers right now is about ensuring that our bourbon gets enough time in the spotlight.” For my money, it deserves it.

Brough Brothers Bourbon

Brough Brothers Bourbon Tasting Note:

Nose: It’s a fresh, clean and sweet nose. Top notes of vanilla fudge play against ripe Granny Smith Apples and ground nutmeg. A little peppermint, milk chocolate, cherry and just a drop of freshly-squeezed lemon juice are present in the backdrop.

Palate: Similar to the nose the palate is clean and pure and starts out with more sweet notes, this time maple syrup, vanilla and doughnut. More red fruit, some woody tannins, a touch of earthy chilli heat and a hint of black tea add depth.

Finish: Toffee apples and baking spice round things off.

Overall: There’s lots to enjoy here. This is a crisp, light and lean expression that still has plenty of punch and complexity. An inaugural release is a foundation to build upon and this is a promising start. I’d recommend this for Mint Juleps as it’s got some really lovely herbal and citrus notes that complement the bright, fresh mint flavour.

You can buy Brough Brothers Bourbon from Master of Malt now.

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Cocktail of the Week: The Blood and Sand

One of the best answers to the naysayers who claim Scotch doesn’t mix well, the Blood and Sand has stood the test of time for good reason. Here’s how to…

One of the best answers to the naysayers who claim Scotch doesn’t mix well, the Blood and Sand has stood the test of time for good reason. Here’s how to make one…

We love Scotch whisky cocktails, as fans of this series will well know. We’ve already spoken about our love for the likes of the Old Fashioned or The Bobby Burns, but so far we’ve overlooked the delightful Blood and Sand and today we’re correcting that oversight. We start, as always, with a little history. Happily digging through a cocktail’s past is easy. There’s a raft of information available at the click of a finger, properly sourced and verified with dates and everything. Ha. Ha. Ha. As any drinks writer will tell you, a big chunk of cocktail history is a confusing mess of anecdotes, fanciful tales and just straight up nonsense. I know people were busy enjoying their drinks but is it too much to ask for anyone to write anything down? 

In the case of the Blood and Sand, there appears to be some consensus that it emerged in Britain in the 1920s. The name was said to be inspired by the film Blood and Sand (1922), which starred Rudolph Valentino as a downtrodden Spaniard who eventually becomes a great matador (a more recent version was released in 1989 with Sharon Stone if you’re not a fan of retro flicks). Why did a Scotch-based cocktail paired with orange juice and Italian vermouth become associated with the rags-to-riches tale of a Spanish matador? The drink’s colour, apparently, with the red cherry element from either cherry brandy or liqueur said to represent the ‘blood’ and orange juice, the ‘sand’. Whether it’s true or not, you have to admit it does make for a good story, at least.

One thing we do know for sure is that a recipe appeared in Harry Craddock’s The Savoy Cocktail Book (1930), consisting of equal parts Scotch whisky, cherry brandy, Italian vermouth and orange juice. This has become the accepted classic Blood and Sand formula and for good reason. There’s a beautiful simplicity to a recipe that requires all of its ingredients to be added in equal parts. It’s easy to remember, easy to assemble and often ensures you get a balanced serve. Just ask any Negroni fan.

Blood and Sand

The drink’s name was inspired by the film Blood and Sand

But the Blood and Sand sadly hasn’t reached the same level of popularity or adoration as this gin-laden boozy red icon. I’ve talked to a few fellow fans of the serve who put this down to one ingredient in particular. Some bartenders have a tendency to wince at the very notion of orange juice as a key ingredient. Avoiding Screwdriver territory is a must for the trendy and top-knotted. I can certainly understand that if the orange juice isn’t freshly squeezed, as that’s a surefire way to ensure you create a cocktail that’s too sweet and sharp for whisky drinkers and too punchy for those who prefer lighter serves.

But, if you play your cards right, you’ll get a deeply delicious and layered serve that is still approachable and, above all else, tastes greater than the sum of its parts, which is what every good cocktail should do. It’s also wonderful for converting those people who haven’t seen the light and wrongly believe they don’t like Scotch. Which brings us on to the matter of which Scotch to use. Blended whiskeys such as Dewar’s White Label, Chivas Regal 12 Year Old and Johnnie Walker Black Label 12 Year Old all make fine choices. I like the hint of smoke in the latter and if you’re a big fan of all things peaty you can tablespoon in a touch of Islay whisky.

Part of the joy of a Blood and Sand is that it is the kind of cocktail you can play around with a bit. I like to bump the Scotch up a notch and will sometimes tone down the cherry a smidge. That particular element is now often provided by Heering Cherry Liqueur, rather than the traditional cherry brandy, but both work well. You can try different varieties of oranges (blood oranges are often favoured) and there are so many delightful vermouths on the market now it’s easy to have some fun there. You can even lengthen your drink like Gaz Regan did in the 2018 version of The Joy of Mixology by making a brunch-worthy Blood and Sand with 3 oz. (about 90ml) of orange juice.

Blood and Sand

Behold: The Blood and Sand!

At the risk of sounding boring, when it comes to the orange juice the most important thing is that it is freshly squeezed. You know it’s going to make all the difference and shouldn’t take too much effort. Especially if you have a juice loosener. I’ve opted to go traditional in this recipe and use the classic Martini Rosso as well as a Cherry Brandy, in this case a particularly delicious one from Ableforth’s that’s actually made with high-quality cherries and brandy (you’d think that would be a basic requirement for a cherry brandy but amazingly, it’s not). 

So, there you have it: The Blood and Sand!

30ml of Johnnie Walker Black Label
25ml of Martini Rosso 
25ml of Ableforth’s Cherry Brandy (or Heering Cherry Liqueur)
25ml of fresh orange juice

Begin by popping a coupe glass in the freezer for a few minutes before you start to get it nice and chilled. Then add all of your ingredients to a shaker with ice and give your best hard shake for about 30 seconds. Seriously. The key to a good Blood and Sand is to shake the crap out of it until you get that nice froth. If you’re not breaking a sweat, you’re not doing it right. Then take your chilled glass out of the freezer, pop a Luxardo Maraschino Cherry in the bottom of it and then strain the mix into the glass. Garnish with an orange zest before you serve and enjoy!

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