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Master of Malt Blog

Author: Adam O'Connell

Royal Salute adds two whiskies; revamps look

Royal Salute is toasting a couple of delightful additions to its signature 21 Year Old range with its first ever blended malt and permanent peated whisky, as well as a…

Royal Salute is toasting a couple of delightful additions to its signature 21 Year Old range with its first ever blended malt and permanent peated whisky, as well as a fancy new makeover.

Back in May, I was fortunate enough to be invited to Aynhoe Park, a Grade I listed, 17th-century country house in the Cotswolds, by Royal Salute, who promised big news. But before we get to that, we need to discuss the venue. It’s like the Mad Hatter’s summer house. There are stuffed giraffes with bow ties and bowler hats. A herd of (unstuffed) white stags roam in the fields outside. There’s even an underground nightclub. Somehow, none of this was the most exciting part of our adventure, however. That was to come in the form of delicious Scotch whisky, as Royal Salute revealed the reason why we were all assembled was so it could show off its brand new look and two delicious drams: The Lost Blend and The Malts Blend.

We’ll get to the makeover later, but we know you really want to hear all about the two additions to the signature 21 Year Old range. Master blender Sandy Hyslop was visibly excited about them himself at the event. “As master blender for Royal Salute, there is no greater honour than protecting the continuity of the blend that was first created in 1953 and has remained exceptional ever since,” he explained. “But to have the opportunity to create something entirely new for this sensational portfolio – an elevated Scotch evoking the signature Royal Salute style but with its own unique characteristics – that’s truly the dream.”

Without further ado, let’s take a look at them…

Royal Salute

Aynhoe Park: it’s wild.

Royal Salute The Lost Blend

Our first newcomer is The Lost Blend, which includes scarce whiskies from distilleries no longer in production such as Caperdonich and Dumbarton (much like the Lost Distilleries Blend). Whisky from the Imperial Distillery is said to be at the heart of the blend, which is a fitting choice for Royal Salute, a brand that has obvious connections to royalty. Imperial was named in honour of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, while the distillery itself topped with a gilded cast iron crown in tribute to the momentous event. Available exclusively at Duty Free stores around the world, the Lost Blend is the first permanent peated whisky to join the Royal Salute range alongside The Signature Blend. The expression is, of course, presented in Royal Salute’s new-look packaging and housed in a crafted porcelain flagon. “Including some of the scarcest whiskies in our inventory, The Lost Blend celebrates the legacy of some of the best whisky distilleries in Scotland which I am proud to immortalise in an exceptional new 21 Year Old blend”, Hyslop said of the whisky. In the press notes we were told to expect notes of sweet, juicy pears, orange rind, hazelnuts and aromatic peat from The Lost Blend. Here’s what we thought of it:

Royal Salute

Royal Salute 21 Year Old The Lost Blend

Royal Salute 21 Year Old The Lost Blend

Nose: Bergamot, banana milkshake and crème brûlée initially, then ripe barley, some drying ginger and sharp Granny Smith Apples. An aroma of incense and charred pineapple add depth underneath.

Palate: Through bonfire embers, cinder toffee and conference pear there’s light oak char, freshly baked gingerbread and earthy vanilla. There’s a note of lemon and orange sherbets present in the backdrop.

Finish: Caramelised tropical fruit and aromatic peat linger.

Royal Salute The Malts Blend

The second addition is The Malts Blend (my personal highlight), which was crafted with more than 21 single malts aged for a minimum of 21 years from the five whisky regions of Scotland. Royal Salute’s hot new makeover is also present in The Malts Blend’s packaging, which is housed in a crafted porcelain flagon. Because consistency is key. “Like a symphony, each of the single malts ‘performing’ in this blend complement and enhance one another’s unique flavours and together create the final composition,” commented Hyslop. “Working with the finest single malts to create The Malts Blend was extremely special, and from the moment you taste the super-sweet richness of this blend, with its hints of spice, it’s clear that this whisky is nothing short of magic. Royal Salute says that The Malts Blend is an “indulgent and profound Scotch whisky” that’s bursting with notes of orchard fruits and enriched by subtle spices. Once again, here’s what we think:

Royal Salute

Royal Salute 21 Year Old The Malts Blend

Royal Salute 21 Year Old The Malts Blend

Nose: Ripe nectarines, homemade blackberry compote and crème brûlée, then stem ginger and cardamom ponds. The nose then develops into notes of apricot yoghurt, marzipan icing and vanilla ice cream with golden syrup drizzled on top. It’s a deeply beautiful, nostalgic nose.

Palate: More baking spice, ginger powder this time and a rush of tannin oak initially, followed by sticky sultanas, toffee apples and sponge cake drenched in honey. Delicate florals and a little black pepper heat are present underneath.

Finish: Stone fruit in syrup, which lasts an age, with a hint of cooked banana.

Royal Salute

Royal Salute showed off its new look at Aynhoe Park

The new-look Royal Salute

The makeover, meanwhile, was created in collaboration with artist Kristjana S. Williams. “We wanted to create something special for our Signature 21 Year Old. This is, after all, a whisky first created for royalty. The result is a fun, vibrant take on our rich heritage that brings to life our royal legacy with a colourful depiction of the British Royal Menagerie at the Tower of London, and it’s unlike anything we’ve seen from a Scotch whisky,” commented Mathieu Deslandes, Royal Salute’s marketing director. “There has never been a more exciting time for our brand. With a bold new look across our packaging that speaks to our unique quality, craft and personality, we’re raising the bar for Scotch whisky. And we’re only just getting started.” The packaging really is something, especially the Royal Salute lion, crooked crown and all, looking over his colourful kingdom. It’s quite the scene. There are patriotic fluttering tartan butterflies, one very fashionable owl and plenty of nods to the production process of Royal Salute whisky like oak casks, a rushing river and Speyside distillery. It’s a quite a departure from the classic Royal Salute look. It also has to be said, the more you look at the design, the more Aynhoe Park makes sense as a venue. It literally had a lion with a crown in the dining room. I want to go back.

Things are certainly looking good for Royal Salute, in and out of the bottle. We’re looking forward to seeing what they do next.

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Talking Irish single malt with The Sexton’s Alex Thomas

The Sexton Single Malt is an Irish single malt that has done a good job of establishing itself in a competitive market. We talk to creator Alex Thomas to find…

The Sexton Single Malt is an Irish single malt that has done a good job of establishing itself in a competitive market. We talk to creator Alex Thomas to find out how she did it, why it was important to make a distinctly Irish spirit and how she relates to the last person to see our bodies before they are laid to rest…

“Growing up my grandfather and father always kept a bottle of single malt whiskey in the house. It came out on special occasions, like 21st birthdays and weddings. But it also mainly came out when people had passed away. All the friends and family got together and they celebrated the life of that person that had passed and told their stories,” says Alex Thomas, founder of The Sexton Irish whiskey brand. “That’s what I wanted The Sexton to represent; living life well and having those memories you’ll share with your loved ones.”

Thomas is one of the few female master blenders in the Irish whiskey industry. We meet at an event thrown by The Sexton called ‘Own The Night’, which features plenty of very tasty cocktails (more on them later), a sensory experience based on the whiskey’s profile and a live photography exhibition. She is there to spread the word about her creation, The Sexton Single Malt, and its launch in London, Belfast and Dublin in December 2018 following a promising debut in America.

Thomas landed her first job in the industry at Bushmills Distillery. Her husband had come home from a shift at the distillery in 2004 to tell her about a new job opening. “Growing up with the distillery on your doorstep, it was a dream come true for many of us to be able to work there. When an opening came up, I jumped at the chance,” says Thomas. “I started working in the maturation and distillation part of the business with the great Colum Egan and fell in love with the process of turning something raw into something so delicate and rich that people can enjoy. I decided to do my exams and become qualified, and in 2012 I finished my exams and received my distilling diploma. From there I founded The Sexton, and everything that followed has just been a dream come true.”

The Sexton

Alex Thomas, founder of The Sexton

As Thomas speaks, photos are projected on the screens across each room showing images of people enjoying themselves with a dram in hand. The event space has a distinctive, macabre and gothic aesthetic influenced by The Sexton’s branding, which extends to the name. Anyone who’s big on Medieval Latin (where my people at?!) will know that ‘Sexton’ derives from the word ‘sacristanus’, meaning custodian of sacred objects, and is used to describe the person who prepared the grave, the last to witness the body before being laid to rest. “I wanted a name that would represent what I do. As a master blender and distiller, I am the caretaker of this amazing whiskey while it’s in the cask. The Sexton is about living life well before you meet the man that lays your body to rest, so that’s why I kind of came round the idea of naming it ‘The Sexton’. I wanted it to be something different, something approachable.”

That ambition obviously extended to the bottle design, which is unlike most you’ll see. It features The Sexton himself, a well-dressed skeleton (there’s even a skeleton horse and skeleton coachman). But the squat black hexagonal bottle is a striking image on its own, although it’s clearly going to be a challenging pour for a bartender with average size hands. “The distillery is up in the north coast of Antrim where there’s nothing more famous than the Giant’s Causeway stones, so that’s where the shape comes from,” says Thomas. “It’s dark, specifically because there’s a rich sherry colour to the whiskey so you’re getting that hint of what the darkness is going to be. I wanted people to get a little bit of that experience when they release it from the bottle… I’m sure the glass designer loved me!”

Thomas wanted it to stand out as she understands she’s working in an incredibly competitive market. “When I started in the industry there were only three distilleries. I knew that the branding needed to be bold and make a statement. Hopefully, those people who try it for the first time because of how it looks come back a second time for what’s in the bottle,” explains Thomas. “That’s the most important part. It’s the whiskey that is the main feature of The Sexton but the bottle attracts the attention to get you to try it first. It’s ultimately about the quality. From start to finish everything I use in that bottle is high-end quality, from the barley to the distillate, to the cask – everything.”

The Sexton

The ‘Own The Night’, featured cocktails, a sensory experience and a live photography exhibition

For all the fun and intrigue of The Sexton’s branding, the process behind creating this whiskey is where things get interesting. News has emerged recently that sources in the Irish grain industry claim that less than a quarter of the grain used to produce Irish whiskey is indeed from Ireland. This is not the case with The Sexton, which was made from 100% Irish malted barley. “The barley I use comes from the south east coast of Ireland, in Wexford and Tipperary. It’s a two-row barley, low on protein because I need to get at the sugar to be able to produce alcohol,” Thomas explains. Her use of Irish barley shows her commitment to provenance. But it’s more than this: “Ireland is my home, it’s where I’ve grown up all of my life and one thing I believe we do in Ireland well is make whiskey. Personally, I think we’re the best in the world and I wanted to represent Ireland as a whole.”

The Sexton is a brand without a distillery, a common sight in Irish whiskey. Thomas, however, hasn’t simply bought in the spirit. Instead, she was granted access to use the stills at Bushmills and runs her own distillation. “It’s wonderful, there’s no other industry that would allow that to happen, that would share their secrets. They taught me from the beginning to make Irish whiskey the best possible way I could so that I could represent the category well,” Thomas says. “My warehouse is on their premises as well. Hopefully, the future is big for The Sexton and who knows what will happen. But, for now, they allow me to do my work.”

Unsurprisingly Sexton Single Malt is triple-distilled, like Bushmills whiskey. Thomas opted to go down the same route because she enjoys the “smooth distillate it produces, a really sweet, fruity flavoured delicate spirit. Triple distillation also allows me to remove all of the things in the whiskey that I wouldn’t want,” she added.

The Sexton

Thomas sourced the barley and casks herself

The final defining characteristic of Sexton Irish Single Malt is its oloroso cask finish. Thomas established a relationship with the Antonio Paez Lobato family, who have over 70 years experience, in Jerez in Spain and the barrels are processed to her own specifications, from oak type, toast level, type of wine used and length of time of the seasoning. “I sourced the European oak in France, moved it over to Spain where it was air-dried for 16 months, toasted from the inside to a medium-high level and then seasoned for two years with oloroso sherry that I picked along with the family,” Thomas explains. “It’s then moved over to Ireland with around five to ten litres inside so the cask is really fresh”. Her approach to maturation mirrors her meticulousness with her selection of raw material and distillation process. Distillers and blenders working with cooperages to this extent are not uncommon, but there are plenty who aren’t as involved to this extent.

The Sexton is matured in first, second and third fill oloroso sherry casks, an approach Thomas settled on after a lot of trial and error. “At first I only wanted first-fills, but these are really heavily coated with the sugar coming in from the sherry and it was too sweet, which may have brought in new palates but I’m a whiskey maker so I wanted people who drink whiskey,” Thomas explains. “So I introduced a little second fill, but there was still something ever so slightly missing. I then introduced a couple of third fills and that nuttiness started to come back in from the European oak and it was like a day made in heaven! It was a eureka moment for me, the flavour profile just changes so much having that little bit of the second and third fill in there.”

The Sexton

Thomas at the ‘Own the Night’, walking guests through the sensory experience

The booze

The big question that remains is, how does The Sexton Single Malt taste? Well, it’s safe to say I was impressed. But before we get to that, Thomas was kind enough to let us sample her new make and the sherry used to season her oloroso casks as well as The Sexton itself, so here are our thoughts:

The Sexton

The Sexton Single Malt new-make sample

The Sexton Single Malt New-Make Tasting Note:

Nose: Homemade blackberry jam, crisp fresh malt and a little floral honey. Desiccated coconut, soft vanilla, marmalade and spearmint emerge underneath, as well as a hint of anise and soft marshmallow.

Palate: Hot white pepper spice initially, then a wave of fresh tropical fruit, buttery pastries and damp hay.

Finish: Banana foam sweets linger.

The Sexton

The Sexton Single Malt sherry sample

The Sexton Single Malt Sherry Tasting Note:

Nose: Savoury salty notes with some dried fruit, caramel and rich walnuts, then a touch of minerality and bittersweet herbs.

Palate: Refreshingly dry, with bright citrus, dried stone fruits, pecans and rounded sherry spice, then a touch of oak.

Finish: Good length with sherried peels and a touch of salinity.

The Sexton Single Malt Tasting Note:

Nose: The nose is rich, sherried and highly resinous, with oily walnuts, thick slabs of dark chocolate and plenty of dried and dark fruits such as stewed plums, cooked blackcurrant and raisins. A light maltiness emerges underneath with marzipan, caramel and a pinch of drying baking spice.

Palate: Robustly elegant, with prunes, Manuka honey and a little tropical fruit while the mid-palate is filled with stone fruit, oak spice, marmalade with zest, polished furniture and a hint of dried herbs. Treacle toffee, cocoa and a little menthol note add depth.

Finish: Mulberry jam, coffee icing and some woodiness lingers and dries into more maltiness.

Overall: An approachable, affordable and very tasty dram. The flavours are balanced, there’s some depth there and, to be honest, I helped myself to a second dram. I can’t help but think this whiskey also has a profile that lends itself to mixing and cocktail creation. Speaking of which…

The Sexton

The cocktail bar at the ‘Own the Night’ event


Thomas has something in common with many modern whiskey producers, in that she’s keen for the spirit to be disassociated from the tired image of it being an old man’s drink. “I had a real strong belief that if people got to experience single malts at a younger age, they would fall in love with whiskey,” she says. Thomas wants people to enjoy The Sexton Single Mal, whether they drink it neat, with a mixer or in a cocktail. “My father is a very traditional whiskey drinker: you either drink it neat with ice or with a little bit of water. But he embraces the fact that I’m the next generation and I want to drink it my way. We don’t eat in the same restaurants, we don’t live the same lives, so it’s about being unique and experiencing it your way.”

After trying a cocktail, or two, at the ‘Own the Night’ event (what? It was important research), it was clear that The Sexton mixes beautifully, as Thomas has found through her own personal research. “To be honest, it’s a perk of the job getting to try the different takes on what the mixologists work with and I must admit, I haven’t found one that I haven’t liked!”

The following examples, Bury the Hatchet, Love it to Death and Laid to Rest were all on show during the event and are easy enough to make at home. Enjoy!

The Sexton

Bury the Hatchet

Bury the Hatchet

Combine 50ml of The Sexton Single Malt, 25ml of lemon juice, 12.5ml of sugar syrup) in a glass, then top with soda water and add a 15ml sweet sherry float. Garnish with a wedge of lemon.

The Sexton

Love it to Death

Love it to Death

Combine 50ml of The Sexton Single Malt, 25ml of fresh lime juice, 12.5ml of Aperol, 2 dashes of absinthe, 20ml of sugar syrup in a glass, then serve garnished with thyme and orange peel.

The Sexton

Laid to Rest

Laid to Rest

Combine 25ml of The Sexton Single Malt, 5ml of Pedro Ximenez sherry, 20ml of manzanilla sherry, 12.5ml of spiced claret syrup in a glass serve over crushed ice. Garnish with mint leaves and dried spices.

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2019: The year that low-and-no alcohol stormed Imbibe

On 1 and 2 July flocks of folk from this boozy industry of ours descended on London Olympia in Kensington for Imbibe 2019. Drink, as always, flowed liberally from every…

On 1 and 2 July flocks of folk from this boozy industry of ours descended on London Olympia in Kensington for Imbibe 2019. Drink, as always, flowed liberally from every bar and stand. But, this year, much of it was somewhat lacking in alcohol. What is going on?

Anyone who was at Imbibe 2018 will remember that it was a year defined by gin. Juniper reigned supreme that summer, like World Cup fever or parody Elon Musk accounts. You couldn’t move for botanical booze. In 2019, however, this was noticeably not the case. Gin was still present, of course, as were whisky, rum and pretty much every kind of alcohol imaginable. But there was a new star of the show this year.

You might have heard people talking about the rise of low- and no-alcohol drinks. We’ve mentioned it a couple of times on the MoM blog ourselves, from predicting it as a trend for this year, to looking at some of its standout expressions, like Kombucha. But it was striking to see it out in such force this year. ‘The Zero Option’, a new wholesale venture specialising in the supply of low- and no-alcohol drinks, had its own section at Imbibe 2019 which highlighted the up-and-comers of the category. Alongside the growing CBD trend (which Ian Buxton goes into detail on here), brands such as Lyre’s, Ceder, Borrago, Caleño Drinks, STRYYK, Xachoh, Silk Tree, Percival and Co., Three Spirit, LA Kombucha, Go Kombucha, Small Beer Co. and many more all made a stand for a new way to imbibe from their respective, err… stands. There was even artisanal soda courtesy of Dalston’s (which was delicious).

low-and-no alcohol

The Zero Option’ stand, which specialised in low-and-no alcohol drinks

“No-and-low alcohol brands and drinks options were undoubtedly a stand-out theme of Imbibe Live this year,” Dan Harrower, sales director at LA Kombucha, believes. “It demonstrates the growing demand from consumers and the increasing need for the trade to offer credible, great tasting choices for those wanting non-alcoholic drinks options.” Craig Hutchison, co-founder and managing director of Ceder’s Drinks, agreed. “There are undoubtedly more low/no spirit brands at trade events, and we can expect many more in the future. This is driven by consumer demand, great support from the off and on-trade, and both entrepreneurs and corporates entering the market.”

It’s clear there’s an appetite for this category as consumers become more health conscious, and pretty much every side of the industry has stood up to take note. From Whyte & Mackay’s recent light edition, to the huge influx of botanical-based products, to the growth of Kombucha and the seemingly endless stream of alcohol-free beer, low- and no-alcohol appears to be enjoying a real moment.

This growth is backed by the numbers. Diageo-backed Distill Ventures recently released a study which found that the number of non-alcoholic spirits on the UK market currently stands at 41, back in April 2018 it was just 4. The findings also revealed consumer’s attitudes, explaining that 59% of people order non-alcoholic drinks as well as alcohol on a night out, while only 29% order just alcohol. Web searches for the word ‘mocktail’, meanwhile, have increased by 42%, while 42% of the wider London on-trade expects non-alcoholic spirits to play a key role in its next 12-month sales mix.

low-and-no alcohol

Three Spirits were one of many brands showing off tasty low-and-no alcohol expression

And with good cause. It’s about time that those who want a good non-alcoholic drink can actually find what they’re looking for. “Adults who don’t drink alcohol, or who are reducing their intake, still deserve a refined and sophisticated drink experience, with many options to choose from,” Hutchison commented. “A fifth of adults in the UK is now teetotal, and increasing, so we can expect very dynamic growth in this fledgeling category, for many many years to come.”

There are still concerns. Taste can be a problem for low-and-no alcohol. But companies such as, Small Beer Brew Co., for example, have demonstrated that flavour doesn’t have to be sacrificed in the name of ABV when it comes to beer, while Hayman’s Small Gin, one of the most interesting expressions at Imbibe 2019, also demonstrates an innovative solution to the problem.

low-and-no alcohol

Hayman’s Small Gin was a standout bottling at Imbibe 2019

Miranda Hayman, co-owner at Hayman Gin, explained that “while there seemed to be lots of low-and-no alcohol gin ‘alternatives’ available, we didn’t feel there was anything that really delivered on the flavour side of things. So we set out to make one that would! There are times when all of us want to have a grown-up drink, that has all the flavour and ritual associated with mixing a G&T – but with a lot less alcohol. For us, Small Gin is the answer – a real gin with all the flavour but just 0.2 units per serve.”

Texture is another area where low- and no-alcohol substitutes struggle. A few that we sampled at Imbibe were simply too watery. Mirroring the viscosity of alcohol, in a way that Three Spirits have done exceptionally well, for example, is a must. The biggest issue so far, however, is price. People aren’t stupid. If they can get a tasty bottle of gin for £30, or a tasty bottle of ‘I can’t believe it’s not gin!’ for £30, it’s going to be tempting just to stump for the former. Even if they do plump for the latter, many are going to resent how much it set them back. The category has to get its pricing right.

low-and-no alcohol

Imbibe 2019, the year of low-and-no alcohol

Overall, however, it feels like the future looks bright for low-and-no alcohol. Hayman concurs, “I think the future for releases such as Small Gin that provide ways to mix low alcohol drinks that are indistinguishable from existing well-loved alcoholic serves is particularly strong. The opportunity here lies in allowing consumers to lower their alcohol consumption without making any compromise. Ultimately it’s about enabling choice – if you can give consumers the power to decide whether they want their real gin and tonic to be at classic strength or low ABV who wouldn’t want that?”

Harrower is also firm in his belief that low- and no-alcohol will help the industry, because “with more and more smaller producers now making great drinks with unique ingredients and production methods, the established players have also been forced to up their game and this was visible at the show this year. Ultimately this is great news for both consumers and bar owners, as there has never been more choice and the opportunity to revamp old and tired drinks menus.”

So, what you think of low- and no-alcohol drinks? Is it a trend that will pass? Do you enjoy the increased availability and innovation within the category? Please let us know in the comments below.

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New Arrival of the Week: Spice Hunter Boldest Spiced Rum

To kick off Rum Month in style we see if an expression that claims to be ‘the boldest spiced rum in the world’ lives up to its name… The world…

To kick off Rum Month in style we see if an expression that claims to be ‘the boldest spiced rum in the world’ lives up to its name…

The world of spiced rum is a confusing place. It wasn’t long ago that it seemed it was condemned as just a party drink. The black sheep of the rum family. It has even been debated if the category can even be classified a rum. Which is not a great start. It’s generally useful if people believe that you are what you claim to be (hot dogs being a notable exception).

But the last few years have demonstrated that there’s more to spiced rum than poorly made, vanilla-drenched and pirate-infested nightmares. Blenders, bottlers and distillers are increasingly keen to capitalise on a market hungry for innovative flavoured booze. Even spiced rum haters should be able to find an agreeable bottle they like if they look hard enough.

In steps Berry Bros. & Rudd distribution arm Fields, Morris & Verdin., which released its own attempt at a premium spiced spirit with Spice Hunter Boldest Spice Rum, a Mauritian rum blended with 13 spices.

Spice Hunter

Spice Hunter, surrounded by spices. It’s probably going to be spicy.

The first thing that stands out about Spice Hunter is its title, which contains an ambitious claim. Fittingly the vivid orange, white and black colour scheme, enlarged block capital text and overall presentation is also bold. Behind all of that, you’ll see a man on a boat. His name is Pierre Poivre and he was the inspiration for Spice Hunter. You know Pierre, right? The 18th-century botanist turned spice smuggler? Jeez. Read a book.

Poivre began his career after he noticed there was an abundance of spices growing on the Dutch-owned islands of Indonesia, where he was recovering after losing his arm while fighting the British (a wooden arm isn’t quite as iconic, is it?). Back then, spices fetched more than gold and the death penalty was imposed on any ‘spice hunter’. That didn’t stop our Pierre, oh no. His smuggling career was so successful that it is said he single-handedly broke the Dutch monopoly.

Between this rum’s name and the story, there’s a billing to be lived up when it comes to the spice blend. Fortunately, Fields, Morris & Verdin didn’t let us down there. A total of 13 spices feature in Spice Hunter, including allspice, caraway, cardamom, chilli, cinnamon, clove, cubeb, elemi, ginger, nutmeg, pepper, pimento and, of course, vanilla. That’s one packed blend. Quite a bold spice blend, you might even say.

Of course, a truly great spiced rum doesn’t just have a great spice blend, the base rum needs to be up to scratch too. In this case, the rum used in Spice Hunter is a column distilled single-estate rum from the Medine Distillery in Mauritius. For all the marketing bumf and playful claims, FMV isn’t messing about here.

At the time of release, Jack Denley from FMV said: “Spice Hunter is designed for the modern drinker; complex, approachable and undeniably bold.” It’s still very much expected that you play with this spiced rum and Denley wanted to make it clear that this is a rum that “doesn’t get lost in the mix”.

It also “challenges you to make a bold move”. There’s even a cheesy video (above) that cements this message. But don’t let it put you off, this spirit stands up to scrutiny. Fiery spices are certainly there and make their presence known without hesitation, but there is enough sweetness to act as a counterpoint. Most pleasingly, that sweetness is not saccharine or cloying. The spicing itself appears to have been infused, so it comes across as authentic and not at all artificial.

Is it ‘the boldest spiced rum in the world’? No, instead, rum fans should enjoy Spice Hunter as the intriguing, warming and satisfying drink that it is, especially at the price. It’s custom made for cola, cutting through the sticky sweetness and lifting the whole drink. But there’s also a number of cocktails it would shine in like a Cubanita (rum Bloody Mary), for example. Luckily the brand has a few suggested serves so you don’t have to do the hard work yourself, and we’ve them listed below our customary tasting note. Make a bold move, or something.

Spice Hunter Boldest Spice Rum Tasting Note:

Nose: Fresh ginger initially, then long pepper, cardamon and heaps of aromatic cloves. More spice comes in the form of green peppercorns, allspice and a couple of drying dashes of nutmeg and pimento before cinnamon pastries, cola cubes and vanilla pods add a balanced sweetness. A hint of spent firework adds something interesting underneath.

Palate: More cinnamon, clove and an earthy twist of black pepper, then root beer, gingerbread and mulled fruit.

Finish: Short and delicately sweet, with earthy and dry spice lingering underneath.

Spice Hunter & Cola

Ingredients: 25ml of Spice Hunter and 150ml of cola.

Method: Build in a glass over cubed ice and garnish with an orange wedge. If you mess this one up, I suggest letting someone else handle the cocktails for the time being.

The Smuggler

Ingredients: 30ml of Spice Hunter, 30ml of orange juice, 22.5ml of agave syrup, 22.5ml of Grand Marnier, 15ml of lime juice and a dash of grapefruit bitters.

Method: Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake that bad boy up. Strain into your glass and then garnish with an orange wheel. If you’re a total badass, make the dehydrate the orange and add a spritz of mezcal spray over the glass.

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Jim Beam loses 45,000 whiskey barrels in warehouse fire

Unfortunate news came from Kentucky this week: Jim Beam suffered a major warehouse fire that needed multiple fire service crews to bring it under control. 40 firefighters from five counties…

Unfortunate news came from Kentucky this week: Jim Beam suffered a major warehouse fire that needed multiple fire service crews to bring it under control.

40 firefighters from five counties were called to help battle the blaze that erupted around 11:30pm on Tuesday. The fire totally destroyed one of Jim Beam’s warehouses, estimated to hold around nine million litres of ageing whiskey. A second warehouse also caught fire, but that fire was quickly dealt with. It’s been reported that the flames generated so much heat that fire truck lights melted.


First things first: no one was injured in the incident, so that’s a huge relief.

The bad news is that about 45,000 barrels filled with whiskey were lost, potentially costing the brand millions of dollars in lost stock. Parent company Beam Suntory has not yet specified the exact financial loss and was quick to explain in an email that the spirit that went up in flames was “relatively young whiskey”. The company added that “given the age of the lost whiskey, this fire will not impact the availability of Jim Beam for consumers”. The losses are also insured, and total just 1.4% of spirit maker’s product in the state, so it’s not a total disaster.

The world’s top-selling bourbon brand said it was grateful to the “courageous firefighters” who brought the blaze under control and kept it from spreading. The cause of the fire has not been confirmed, although weather may well have been a factor, with some suggesting that a lightning strike was responsible.

The focus has turned to the environmental impact of the leaking bourbon, with state officials worried that whiskey running off from the site could seep into nearby waterways and kill fish. The distiller has hired an emergency clean-up crew, and state environmental officials were coordinating efforts to control bourbon runoff.

major fire at Jim Beam

Jim Beam is the world’s best-selling bourbon brand

The Beam fire was the latest warehouse loss suffered by Kentucky distillers, who collectively produce 95% of the world’s bourbon, according to the Kentucky Distillers’ Association. A warehouse belonging to OZ Tyler collapsed on 17 June, while back in June 2018 half of a warehouse collapsed at the Barton 1792 Distillery in Bardstown. The other half came down two weeks later.

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New Arrival of the Week: J.J. Corry The Battalion

A blended Irish Whiskey with mezcal and Tequila cask influence is our timely New Arrival of the Week… In a week where The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) announced that it…

A blended Irish Whiskey with mezcal and Tequila cask influence is our timely New Arrival of the Week…

In a week where The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) announced that it has broadened the list of allowable cask types to mature Scotch whisky in, it felt only right for us to feature a whiskey that has an unusual ageing process. But it’s not from Scotland. . .

While the door is now open for Scotch to welcome more experimental expressions, Ireland has already got something of a history of making whiskey with interesting cask finishes. From Method and Madness’ Virgin Hungarian Oak Finish, West Cork’s Bog Oak Charred Cask Finish and Tullamore D.E.W.’s Cider Cask Finish, there’s plenty of options for those who want to try something outside the box. Not to mention Lambay Single Malt (Cognac), Green Spot Château Léoville Barton (the first ever single pot still Irish whiskey finished in Bordeaux casks), Kinahan’s The Kasc Project (hybrid casks from Portuguese, American, French and Hungarian oak, as well as chestnut) and Glendalough 13 Year Old Irish Whiskey – Mizunara Oak Finish (it’s in the title, c’mon people). Some interesting casks there, but there hasn’t been much in the way of Tequila and/or mezcal casks. Until now.

Our New Arrival of the Week, J.J. Corry The Battalion, features both. From Chapel Gate whiskey bonders, the expression is made up of 60% 9-year-old grain and 40% 13-year-old malt whiskey, which were initially aged in ex-bourbon casks. The grain then continued its maturation in a combination of Tequila and mezcal casks for seven months, while the malt spent seven months in just mezcal casks. “We decanted grain into Mezcal & Tequila casks and malt into mezcal casks to mature for seven months,” Chapel Gate Founder Louise McGuane said. “We then vatted a grain Tequila/mezcal blend we felt best expressed the agave notes we wanted to pull out of those casks. This was then blended with 40% of the 2006 malt mezcal influenced whiskey.”

J.J. Corry

J.J. Corry founder Louise McGuane

The Battalion was called as such to mark the sacrifices made by the Battalion San Patricos, (Saint Patrick’s Battalion) a group of Irish men who fought for Mexico in the Mexican/American War of 1846-1848. “We named it in honour of the men of Saint Patricos Battalion because independence has always mattered around here”, McGuane explained. But Chapel Gate itself has an interesting story.

It has been sourcing and blending Irish whiskey since 2015, making it the first new whiskey bonder in Ireland for over 50 years. Hence why the brand describes itself as “Ireland’s first modern whiskey bonder.” The company named its whiskey J.J. Corry after a local whiskey bonder from the 1800s. Chapel Gate doesn’t always plan to be solely a bonder, but like many of Ireland’s recently-founded distilleries, it is waiting for its own distillate to mature. So, in the meantime, it’s taken advantage of a purpose-built bonded rackhouse on the McGuane family farm in Cooraclare, County Clare, Ireland to experiment with ageing and blending ideas, as well as lay the foundations to build a future house style.

McGuane explained that the ambition for Chapel Gate is to “respect tradition but embrace change.” As modern whiskey bonders, J.J. Corry’s idea of change is not surprisingly expressed through its use of the many casks it has at its disposal, much like Corry himself would have done with the rum, Bordeaux & sherry casks that were available to him. The inspiration to go as far afield as Mexico came from McGuane’s respect for the work of artisanal Tequila and mezcal producers. “The best mezcal & Tequilas are, at their heart, produced in rural locations by families, with whom we share a significant affinity with given our approach to whiskey making on our family farm on the west coast of Ireland”, she explained.

What does it taste like then? McGuane felt that in The Battalion (which was bottled at 41% ABV), she had created “a really unique whiskey with green herbal notes and the slightest touch of agave.” There’s also a pleasant salinity and the bittersweet qualities of dried herbs, which could well have been influenced by the cask. The maturation doesn’t dilute the distillate’s profile, however. Tropical fruit, creamy nuttiness and a bite of citrus zest add depth to this whiskey’s character, which ultimately makes for an intriguing dram. Only 700 bottles have been produced.

So, while you wait for a deluge of experimental cask finishes from Scotland, you could do a lot worse than to enjoy a dram of J.J. Corry The Battalion.

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt

Nose: Fresh leafy notes, apple skin, lemon curd and a slight oily nutty note.

Palate: Tangy pineapple and a hint of ripe pear, walnut and green grassy notes with a touch of vegetal agave.

Finish: Oak spice and a sprinkle of sea salt, with a small pinch of dried herbs.

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Five minutes with Eddie Russell from Wild Turkey

We were fortunate enough to enjoy the company of Eddie Russell, master distiller at Wild Turkey. We talked about innovation, Matthew McConaughey, and rye whiskey’s renaissance. When you hear that…

We were fortunate enough to enjoy the company of Eddie Russell, master distiller at Wild Turkey. We talked about innovation, Matthew McConaughey, and rye whiskey’s renaissance.

When you hear that four of the biggest names in global distilling are going to be in one place at the same time, that’s something you have to take advantage of. That’s exactly what we did when Eddie Russell, Patrick Raguenaud of Grand Marnier, Dennis Malcolm of Glen Grant and Joy Spence from Appleton Estate in Jamaica attended Gruppo’s Campari Meet the Masters event at Carlton House Terrace in London.

Naturally, we took the time to talk all things bourbon and beyond with Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame inductee Russell, who joined the family trade in June 1981 at the Wild Turkey Distillery in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. Russell started from the bottom, working as a relief operator, a supervisor of production, a warehouse supervisor and manager of barrel maturation and warehousing before he became master distiller in January 2015. By doing this he followed in the footsteps of his father, Jimmy Russell, who has having clocked up over 60 years of service to the dram and is currently the longest-tenured active master distiller.

Wild Turkey has been distilling delicious whiskey since 1869 after it was founded by the Ripy brothers, although it did close between 1919 and 1933 because of Prohibition. Originally known as the Ripley Distillery, Wild Turkey got its name in 1940 thanks to Thomas McCarthy, a distillery executive, who brought some whiskey on a wild turkey hunt and shared it amongst his friend. They enjoyed it so much that they requested he bring some more ‘Wild Turkey’ bourbon on the next hunt and the name stuck. The distillery, which was purchased by the Campari group in 2009, is known best for its flagship bottling, Wild Turkey 101, a bourbon bottled at a weighty 101 proof (50.5% ABV) with a mash bill that includes a higher-than-standard rye content and whiskey that was aged for at least six years in heavily charred barrels.

To learn more, we spoke to the man himself, Eddie Russell.

Eddie Russell

McConaughey and Russell collaborated on Wild Turkey’s new release, Longbranch

Master of Malt: You’re just about to release Longbranch with Matthew McConaughey. What effect do you think celebrities have on brands?

Eddie Russell: It’s very mixed for us. It was good that he could get out and reach a lot more people, but in the US when I’m meeting with bartenders, I never talk about Matthew McConaughey, because for them when you have somebody like that you’re this corporate giant. So it’s more about the Russell family and Wild Turkey than it is about Matthew, but corporate thinks a different way. With Matthew though, it has been a very fun deal. He fits our brand perfectly and we’ve come out with a good product. But you have to be very careful about how you deal with that, especially with a younger generation, which is growing in our industry. They help some but for our industry, it’s not as important. For vodka, it’s a lot more important, or even Tequila, but for our industry, it’s more about the generation of the family that’s made the whiskey. It can be a slippery slope, in America definitely.

MoM: Speaking about the importance of family, how do you manage to innovate when you work for a distillery with such a long tradition and family legacy?

ER: It’s always been a tough deal for me because my dad’s been such a traditionalist. Innovation was a bad word for him. But that was what it was about it for his generation. They had one product and if you didn’t like it that was fine with them! So for me, coming in, I thought ‘change everything’. But then I realised ‘don’t change what my dad built’. There are ways to innovate without changing that. I don’t do the trendy stuff. But I do try to do things that are different and unique, based on our principle of having a very premium type bourbon. So it’s been one of those deals where I had to be very careful on how far I’d go on any type of innovation. But we still bring out good products, like Longbranch which will be showing up here in the next month.

Eddie Russell

The legendary Jimmy Russell at Wild Turkey Distillery

MoM: What’s the one memory or lesson that really stands out for you from working with your dad?

ER: From my industry what stands out to me is before Prohibition there was a couple of hundred distilleries in Kentucky. After Prohibition, there was 57. When I started there was only eight. Our industry is probably still the only one that we all are good friends. It’s very competitive out in the market but my dad’s best friend was Booker Noe (former Jim Beam master distiller), Elmer T. Lee (former Buffalo Trace master distiller) and Parker Beam ((former Heaven Hill master distiller). Because there were only eight of them and they were all best friends trying to keep this industry alive as it was dying. Today it’s still the same way. I mean Fred Noe (current Jim Beam master distiller) and I grew up together, we’re best friends. You just don’t see that too much in any other industry, it’s too competitive. But for us it’s such a small industry. That was probably the most surprising thing because if Heaven Hill was having problems my dad would jump in the car with Booker Noe and drive down there and help Parker Beam out. Or if we were having problems they’d come and help my dad out. That was so surprising to me growing up because you’re basically competitors, you’re in the same industry! But they wanted to make sure everybody was going to survive.

MoM: The industry has changed a lot since then and America has led a micro-distilling boom. How has that experience been for you being part of such a traditional distillery? Has it affected your sense of what craft is?

ER: In America craft is over-used a lot. We’re all craft; from making the whiskey to blending whiskey. Craft now seems to signify small. But a lot of small distilleries buy their whiskey from a big distillery, bottle it and call it craft. I do small limited editions, like Master’s Keep, where there are only 15,000 to 30,000 bottles. In America craft is a word that’s thrown a lot but it’s not paid too much attention too, it’s almost been ruined as a word.

Eddie Russell

Patrick Raguenaud, Eddie Russell, Joy Spence and Dennis Malcolm at Campari’s Meet the Masters

MoM: You touch on limited releases there, something you’ve been able to focus quite a lot on. What does that allow you to do as a distiller?

ER: Well it allows me to release things that pretty unique without changing Wild Turkey. In our industry nobody finished in cask, but now it’s big because everybody is buying their juice from the same distiller so they’re finishing in casks to make it taste different. I released an oloroso sherry-finished 12-15-year-old last year, and my dad he wasn’t for it at all. But it turned out great and what I’m trying to do is put things out there, 15-30,000 bottles. For people that want to get it, it’s there, but it’s not a permanent product. I think that’s a very good way to go. Now I’ve developed Russell’s Reserve and Longbranch that are different than 101, that are permanent products but they are strictly straight bourbon whiskey. So the limited edition, my Master’s Keep Series gives me a chance to do things that are different. But they are one-time deals.

MoM: Rye has experienced a renaissance in recent times. Why do you think there’s been an increase in demand and what do you see the future for it being?

ER: The demand has come from the bartending community because they realised all those classic cocktails were made from rye at the beginning because that’s what was first made in America. Then as bourbon come along, rye basically died. I mean us and Jim Beam were really the only two distilleries making it. I used to make rye two days a year. I’d make one day in the spring, and one day in the fall. Now I’m making rye up to four days a month. Back in 2009, I got involved with the bartending community and they started telling me they were going to start making cocktails with more rye, I started making more rye. My next Master’s Keep is going to be an aged straight rye whiskey, barrel-proofed, non-chill-filtered. I have some great rye; 101 Rye, Russell’s Rye, a single barrel rye, but this is going to be aged twice as long as anything we’ve ever put out.

Eddie Russell

The Boulevardier is Russell’s favourite cocktail

MoM: How does bourbon’s relationship with cocktail culture affect your process?

ER: The cocktail industry has changed my industry a lot, so I pay attention to it. It’s just changed my consumer base over the last 10 years. The cocktail industry is not going away and a lot of it has to do with a younger generation. Where I grew up in America my mom cooked every meal and everything was sort of sugar-based or sweet. Whereas my son grew up eating Mexican food and Indian food and we didn’t have that when I was growing up. So it’s a change in their taste profile, it’s a change in their attitudes. My generation didn’t want anything to do with the past, this generation is looking ‘What did grandad drink? What did great-grandad drink?’. So that’s been a big change also. I’m not going to change my liquid to suit them, but I can still come out with stuff that they might want. Wild Turkey 101 is great for a cocktail anyway because it has this bold taste.

MoM: We’ve heard you’re partial to a Boulevardier, how do you make it?

ER: I do two parts bourbon, one part Campari and one part sweet vermouth. A lot of people do one, one and one. I’m just used to a bigger, bolder taste. An Old Fashioned is probably the most requested drink in America but for me, I’m not used to the sweetness. It’s just not what I like. So the Boulevardier is a little bolder drink. It’s sort of surprising because I never liked the bitters that well but my sons taught me a lot about them and the bitterness just goes really well with that bourbon taste.

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Fantastic Father’s Day Gifts

Father’s Day is coming; you need a gift. But there’s no need to panic. We’ve got all kinds of fantastic booze-based presents right here! On 16 June we have a…

Father’s Day is coming; you need a gift. But there’s no need to panic. We’ve got all kinds of fantastic booze-based presents right here!

On 16 June we have a welcome opportunity to show our dads how much we appreciate them. Father’s Day is when we say thanks and give a little bit of love to the father figures in our life. But man can they be hard to buy for.

That’s why we’re here to make it easier. From tasting sets to gift vouchers, our snazzy Father’s Day gift ideas page complete with our shiny new gift finder – we’ve got it all. It’s so simple you’ll be wondering why you ever thought you’d need to leave the house. You should never want to leave the house. Inside is warm and has Netflix.

We’ve also rounded-up a spectacular range of drinks in one handy little blog post just to give you an idea of the kind of treats you can buy for your old man. It beats socks, right?

Happy Father’s Day, all!

The Father’s Day Whisky Tasting Set 2019

Yer da loves whisky, right? But which whisky? What style does he like? Do they have a preference of distillery? What if you get it wrong? These are all questions that can go through the mind of someone trying to buy their dad whisky. But in the The Father’s Day Whisky Tasting Set 2019 (an exclusive made for us by our good friends Drinks by the Dram), none of this matters. That’s because each set contains five different 30ml drams of terrific whisky from world-class producers, so there’s bound to be something he loves inside.

What’s inside?:

The contents of the The Father’s Day Whisky Tasting Set 2019 includes: Tamdhu 10 Year Old, Lagavulin 8 Year Old, 1792 Small Batch, Cotswolds Single Malt Whisky and Johnnie Walker Green Label 15 Year Old.

The Father’s Day Gin Tasting Set 2019

Drinks by the Dram have created, just for us, the perfect Father’s Day gift for any gin lover. This tasting set features five different 30ml drams of delicious gin from a range of superb producers, exactly the kind of thing you’d want if you were looking to find a new favourite juniper-based libation…

What’s inside?:

The contents of the The Father’s Day Gin Tasting Set 2019 includes: Hernö Gin, Salcombe Gin – Start Point, Elephant Gin – Elephant Strength, Japanese Gin and Rhubarb Triangle Gin (That Boutique-y Gin Company).

Glengoyne 12 Year Old

An especially approachable bottling for newcomers and a welcome dram for experienced whisky drinkers alike, Glengoyne 12 Year Old is a wonderfully-made whisky with a clean, fresh profile and plenty of depth of flavour. You just can’t go wrong with this one.

What does it taste like?:

Toffee apples, a little acacia honey, nectarine in syrup and spice, over-ripe grapes, coconut milk, oak spice and coffee supported by toasted barley and chocolate ice-cream in the background. Yum!

Peaky Blinder Spiced Dry Gin

One for the Tommy Shelby fans out there. For those not in the know, the Peaky Blinders were a street gang from the late 19th/early 20th Century that became the basis for a very popular TV show. This spicy gin is no gimmick, however, as its medals at both the San Francisco World Spirits Competition and the International Spirits Challenge in 2018 demonstrate.

What does it taste like?:

Ginger and black pepper make for a spicy opening, though well balanced by ample helpings of ripe orange, oaky cassia, oily juniper, and hints of eucalyptus and coffee bean.


If rich, full-bodied rums are what you’re looking for this Father’s Day, then look no further than the proudly maritime Rumbullion! Part of the fantastic Abelforth’s range, this spiced rum was created using a blend of high proof Caribbean rum, creamy Madagascan vanilla, zesty orange peel, a handful of cassia and cloves and just a hint of cardamom.

What does it taste like?:

Intense, sweet vanilla, flamed orange zest, cardamom, old-fashioned cola, Manuka honey, molasses, candy floss, toffee apples, crème brûlée and a fabulous mix of thick cut bitter orange marmalade and tingling, zinging spices from cloves and cinnamon.

Forest Gin

A family-made small-batch gin, Forest Gin is a real labour of love. Karl and Lindsay Bond made it using their own copper condenser with local spring water as well as a blend of classic gin botanicals (think organic juniper berries and coriander seeds) and bundles of foraged botanicals (wild bilberries, gorse flowers, raspberries and local moss) from Macclesfield Forest which were processed using a pestle and mortar. That’s dedication.

What does it taste like?:

Plenty of earthy forest floor notes, sweet berries, moss, rooty liquorice and spice from cassia and cinnamon.

WhistlePig 12 Year Old Oloroso Cask – Old World (Master of Malt)

Why not make your father feel really special this year by getting him a gift he can’t find anywhere else, like this Master of Malt exclusive bottling of 12-year-old rye whiskey from WhistlePig! Finished exclusively in Oloroso sherry casks and released as part of the Old World series, this is a sublime sherried rye whiskey.

What does it taste like?:

Bucketfuls of dried fruit, with sweet caramel and vanilla, new leather, wonderful rich sherry notes and a pinch of tobacco alongside prominent warming spicy notes and orange oil.

Manchester Gin

Emblazoned with the bee from Manchester’s coat of arms and featuring the dandelion and burdock root, Manchester Gin is a delightful celebration of the North. It was created with 12 botanicals in total, including juniper, ground almond, coriander, angelica and citrus peels, all of which were distilled in Wendy (a copper pot still, just to be clear) by couple Jen Wiggins and Seb Heeley (who aren’t copper pot stills, just to be even clearer). A string of awards has followed since its release, which should come as no surprise to anyone who’s tasted it.

What does it taste like?:

Earthy and creamy with a pleasant sweetness and balancing juniper and citrus.

Rémy Martin 1738 Accord Royal Gift Pack with x2 Glasses

If you want to really spoil the father in your life this year, then why not get him a delightful gift pack? This particular edition features a beautiful pair of glasses perfect for enjoying a 70cl bottle of Rémy Martin’s stunning 1738 Accord Royal, a Cognac created to celebrate Louis XV’s decision to grant a young Rémy Martin the right to plant new vines on his land (banned in France at the time) with the Accord Royal in, yes, you’ve guessed it, 1738.

What does it taste like?:

Ripe fruit and vanilla with a slightly herbal vinous note and pronounced, but not overpowering, oak finish.

Fortaleza Añejo

A family occasion should be celebrated with a good bottle of booze created using generations of knowledge passed down through a rich family history. That’s exactly what Guillermo Sauza had on his side when he launched Fortaleza in 2005, bringing back the traditions of previous generations at the family distillery to make expressions like this delicious añejo, which was aged for 18 months in American oak casks.

What does it taste like?:

A beautiful combination of agave and butterscotch, sultanas and mixed peels. Oily, complex, outstanding.

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The Macallan unveils new expression: The Macallan Estate

Sound the horns, we have new whisky from The Macallan! That’s right, people. The Macallan has launched a new single malt Scotch whisky today. It’s called The Macallan Estate and…

Sound the horns, we have new whisky from The Macallan!

That’s right, people. The Macallan has launched a new single malt Scotch whisky today. It’s called The Macallan Estate and it was made to be a celebration of provenance and heritage, which is why it was distilled using barley grown at the brand’s home on the 485-acre Easter Elchies estate in Speyside, where Macallan whisky has been produced since 1824. The barley fields are located on the banks of the River Spey, which is overlooked by The Macallan’s award-winning distillery that opened last year in June 2018.

The Macallan Estate

The Macallan Estate is a tribute to home and heritage

What makes this expression stand out is that it represents a rare opportunity to experience a Macallan Scotch whisky that contains spirit made from its own home-grown barley, which is distilled just once a year over the course of a single week. This spirit is usually limited to The Macallan’s most exclusive and sought-after releases. I told you it was rare.

“Our Easter Elchies estate lies within the legendary Speyside region of Scotland, a place of timeless natural beauty, and a place that we are proud to call home,” Sarah Burgess, whisky maker for The Macallan, says. “With its wonderful sweet citrus hints and warming wood spice, The Macallan Estate is a rich, satisfying and complex spirit that pays homage to the fertile Speyside lands where The Macallan is located and celebrates the unrivalled craftsmanship for which we have been known since 1824.”

The Macallan Estate

The Macallan Estate

Described as “a rich and complex whisky with a remarkably long finish,” The Macallan Estate is said to exude notes of wood spice, orange oil and the traditional sherried richness that has become associated with The Macallan’s single malt. As you can imagine, it’s presented in a very fancy gift box that reflects the natural stones found on the estate, with an inlay of slate. Inside you’ll find aerial photography which showcases the barley fields, as well as landscape-inspired designs.

But there are three things that you all you want to know above all else, so here are the answers:

1) It’s priced at £195.

2) It will be available from July.

3) We will be stocking it.

The Macallan Estate will also be available through an exclusive online ballot that the distillery is holding, which will close 23:59 UK time on 7th June 2019.

To anybody who does manage to get their hands on a dram, we sincerely hope you enjoy it and be sure to let us know what you think of it!

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Eight years of “really bloody tasty spirits” with Ableforth’s

To mark Ableforth’s eighth birthday, we pinned down global brand manager Jen Meredith to talk spirit production, ‘everyday success’, and challenging preconceptions both inside and outside the industry… “Our creative…

To mark Ableforth’s eighth birthday, we pinned down global brand manager Jen Meredith to talk spirit production, ‘everyday success’, and challenging preconceptions both inside and outside the industry…

“Our creative process stems from the desire to create something truly distinctively delicious – whether that’s rum, brandy, gin or something else!” Jen Meredith, Ableforth’s brand manager, is emphatic. Ableforth’s has just turned eight, and as well as celebrating, she and the team are reflecting. “Our founders wanted to create products they wanted to enjoy themselves – full of flavour and using the best ingredients,” she continues. “In that sense, we haven’t really changed at all.”

Yes, Ableforth’s has come a long way since it was established by four friends, Justin Petszaft, Ben Ellefsen, Joel Kelly and Tom McGuinness, in 2011. The plan at the outset was to create a range of “really bloody tasty spirits”, inspired by drinks and styles from the past with robust, fresh and unusual flavours.

From gins, rums, brandies, liqueurs and more, Ableforth’s has had in its fingers in many boozy pies, establishing a following for its signature products such as Bathtub Gin and Rumbullion!, and in the process collecting more awards than Meryl Streep. The secret to its success?

“We create tasty things! Really genuinely tasty things,” says Meredith. “Like a complex spiced rum rather than a pure vanilla and sugar bomb; a sweetly zesty gin, a Cherry Brandy which is made with actual real-life brandy and real cherries. It’s this approach which ensures we stand out from the crowd.”

And it’s now become quite the crowd. As of last year, England now has 166 registered distilleries. Stiff competition is part and parcel of the industry. But it’s also worth remembering that the landscape was quite different when Ableforth’s first started out. Back in 2010, England had just 23 distilleries. Ableforth’s made its mark right at the outset of the craft spirits boom.

Fundamentally, Ableforth’s approach to production has enabled it to stand out. This can be seen in its willingness to embrace time-honoured techniques such as cold compounding, which is utilised in the creation of Bathtub Gin. “The base gin is produced in a copper pot still with ten botanicals,” says Meredith. We take this, reduce it down to 45% ABV, and split it in half. One half we put to one side and the other half is where the cold-compounding, or botanical infusion, happens.”

This is the crucial bit. “Into this part of the gin, we infuse our six botanicals [juniper, dried orange peel, cardamom, cloves, coriander seeds, and cassia bark] and leave them in for at least one week. During this time the gin must be sampled and tasted repeatedly to ensure the right concentration of flavour is being achieved.” The aim is to create a gin that is highly botanically flavoured, where the flavours have been extracted at ambient temperatures to capture those which don’t survive traditional, high-temperature distillation.

There’s an obvious hue, too. “Imagine a tea bag left in room temperature water for a few hours,” Meredith explains. This gin can now be carefully blended back into the original, 10-botanical copper pot-distilled gin.”This process enables us to deliver perfect consistency on a suitable scale with the colour and exact flavour of finished Bathtub Gin. Once this is done we simply make sure that the abv is at the correct bottling strength of 43.3%, and fill the beautiful bottles”.


Bathtub Gin is created using the time-honoured technique, cold compounding.

An appreciation of distillation techniques is just one element, however. When it comes to ingredients, “it’s less about the ‘where’ and more about the ‘what’,” according to Meredith. “We only use exceptional ingredients, no matter where in the world they come from; from the fresh botanicals we lovingly infuse into our copper pot gin, to the XO Cognac that we put into our Cherry Brandy.”

Meredith also explains that Ableforth’s don’t make compromises during the production process. “It helps us be exact in our recipes and thorough in our quality control. We don’t cut corners, and we never take shortcuts. If it takes a little longer to make it properly tasty, that’s time well spent in our opinion,” Meredith says. “You saw an example of this with our Bathtub Gin. We don’t just pop a load of fruit in with gin and let it sit, we have a precise seven-day infusion process at ambient temperature which we use to make a flavourful concentrate which we then blend back into our copper pot distilled gin. This is tested throughout the seven days, so we never miss the sweet spot.”

The recent installation of a larger infusion tank is a result of the success this approach has brought. “Our infusion tank makes this process even more precise, but mostly it enables more to be made to meet the growing demand in global markets,” says Meredith. “The process, the infusion is still a full seven days, checked and tested to ensure the very best flavours are coming out.”


Ableforth’s employs a selective approach to its ingredients

Meredith does it make it clear that there’s a desire for Ableforth’s to remain grounded, explaining that the brand values ‘everyday success’. “It’s not just about reaching long term sales goals. We’ve seen success in our Global Award Wins, such as our recent Gold for Rumbullion! at the San Francisco International Spirits Competition. But we also absolutely love getting good feedback from the people who buy and drink our products in an email or on social media,” Meredith says. “For us, when someone takes the time to send us a little note to say they enjoyed an Ableforth’s drink that’s up there with the award wins because really, that’s what we’re all about!”

Challenges still rear their head. That faux brown paper bag wrapped around the bottle, hand pleated, twined and waxed by hand, has become increasingly recognisable, particularly on a back bar. But the style can lead to misconceptions, as Meredith explains. “Some people think that our packaging means we want to be seen as an ‘old fashioned’ brand, or that we have recipes which have been passed down for generations, which isn’t the case.” She adds, “our packaging is actually a little nod to methods of the past, back when ingredients were always the real deal and products were made with time and effort, which is exactly what we do today.”

Equally the perception of compound-style gin, which is used to create Bathtub Gin, can be a cause of frustration. “There’s a lingering misconception that this is an inferior way to make gin. Which is definitely isn’t,” Meredith says. “We’d love to be a brand that can help change people’s minds within and outside of the industry, and show that using the compounding method can create a sensational gin when done right, and we think we do it pretty damn well.”


The eclectic Ableforth’s range, complete with distinctive faux brown paper bag, black wax and twining.

As Ableforth’s celebrates its 8th birthday this week, it’s clear the drinks producer has no intention of slowing down. The demand for delicious, bespoke spirits isn’t going away, something Ableforth’s knows all too well. “One of the most exciting things we see happening at the moment is the shift in trends,” Meredith explains. “People are much more discerning with what they buy, they want higher quality products. And that’s exactly who we make our drinks for”.

“What’s even more exciting is that this is a global phenomenon, so the UK trend which inspired our founders in Kent eight years ago, is now part of the global zeitgeist,” says Meredith. It’s been quite the ascent for Ableforth’s. World domination does seem like the next logical step…

To help you celebrate its 8th birthday in style, we’ve listed a few suggested serves below so you can make the most of some of Ableforth’s most popular products. Enjoy!


The Bathtub Gin Southside

Bathtub Gin Southside

Ingredients: Bathtub Gin, fresh lemon juice, sugar syrup and mint leaves.

Method: Shake 50ml of Bathtub Gin, 20ml of fresh lemon juice, 10ml of sugar syrup and mint leaves over ice. Then fine strain into a coupe glass and top with soda.


The Rumbullion! Mai Tai

Rumbullion! Mai Thai

Ingredients: Rumbullion!, Triple Sec, lime juice, Orgeat and lime wedges.

Method: Shake 40ml of Rumbullion!, 20ml of Triple Sec, 25ml of lime juice and 20ml of Orgeat over ice. Then strain into an ice-filled rocks glass and garnish with squeezed lime wedges.


The Summer Cup Royale

Summer Cup Royale

Ingredients: Summer Fruit Cup, lemon juice, sugar syrup, orange bitters and Prosecco.

Method: Shake 40ml of Summer Fruit Cup, 20ml of lemon juice, 15ml of sugar syrup and 2 dashes of orange bitters over ice, then pour into a highball and top up with Prosecco. Garnish with an orange slice and a sprig of mint.

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