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Master of Malt Whisky Blog

Author: Henry Jeffreys

Whisky Advent 2018 Day #14: Kavalan Single Malt Whisky

Whisky Advent 2018 Day #14

The wait is over. You are now allowed to open the 14th door in your Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar! Inside you’ll find a whisky from Taiwan, I wonder if you can guess what it is…

Like the Three Wise Men, only much tastier, this whisky comes from the east. Taiwan to be specific. It could only be. . . .

Kavalan, and Kavalan Single Malt Whisky to be specific!

Since it was founded in 2005, Kavalan has won awards left, right and centre including the International Wine & Spirit Competition Worldwide Whisky Trophy in 2017 and the International Spirits Challenge Trophy in 2016 and 2017.

And no wonder because the late, great Jim Swan, distiller and blender extraordinaire, was involved at every stage in Kavalan’s development (more on that later). The sub-tropical climate in Taiwan means that the spirit matures four times faster than in Scotland and it loses twice as much to the angels’ share. The climate, the fruity new make and the use of sherry and bourbon casks give the whisky its signature style which is rich, sweet and crowd-pleasing.

It’s no boutique operation; the distillery produces around five million litres of spirit per year. Kavalan is owned by an enormous Taiwanese conglomerate, King Car, which also makes Taiwan’s most popular coffee brand, Mr. Brown (that’s a great fact to share with the family at Christmas).

To tell us more, we spoke with Jim Swan’s protege, Ian Chang, master blender and distiller at Kavalan.

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The great Negroni Bundle is here!

Need an excuse for festive Negronis? How about a whopping £20 off all three key ingredients and a fancy Riedel tumbler to sip from, with our super-duper Bathtub Gin, Martini Rosso and Campari Negroni Bundle?!

This is the late great Anthony Bourdain on the pleasures of the Negroni: “I’m not a gin drinker. I don’t like sweet vermouth, I don’t like Campari, but together they form a sinister yet lovely and inspired hell broth. Like a marriage, it’s a true everlasting love. This is not a cheap date; this is not a one night stand.”

Bourdain is right, the Negroni is a drink that really shouldn’t work. Mixing three strongly-flavoured alcoholic drinks in equal proportions sounds like a recipe for disaster. But, somehow, something wonderful emerges from the wreckage. Or perhaps it’s not that strange after all. I’ve been reading Cocktail Codex, a new book by the team behind legendary New York bar, Death & Co. It shows how various drinks are related to each other. According to the Codex team, the Negroni fits into the Martini/ Manhattan family being spirit + vermouth + some sort of bittering agent (lemon peel, bitters, Campari.) The Negroni isn’t such a maverick after all.
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Whisky Advent 2018 Day #12: Kilchoman Machir Bay Single Malt

Whisky Advent 2018 Day #12

Time to take a peek behind the 12th door of the Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar where you will find a dram from Islay’s youngest distillery. . .

If you like a bit of elegant smokiness (and let’s face it, who doesn’t?) then you’ll love this next dram. It comes from Kilchoman, the first new distillery built on Islay in more than 120 years (another new distillery Ardnahoe, is just about to start production). It was founded in 2005 by Anthony Wills and family, and is based at Rockside Farm not far from Bruichladdich. The team produces a “barley to bottle” single malt whisky called 100% Islay where the entire process from the growing of the barley to malting, maturing and bottling, is carried out on the farm. Kilchoman also distills whiskies from bought-in malted barley like its bestseller, Machir Bay, our dram of the day.

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2018’s best booze books

From exploring beer that smells of bins to evaluating the finest wines known to humanity, this year’s booze books have something for everyone. Here’s what to read this Christmas if you like to drink.

There has been a bumper crop of booze books this year. Ideally, we would have at least three posts to get all of them in. But we just don’t have the time! So as we’ve already covered the excellent Aperitif by Kate Hawkings and Japanese Whisky by Brian Ashcraft, I won’t talk about them again. Then there’s the game-changing Home Bar by, errm, me. Anyway, after that shameless plug, here are my top ten drink books of the year.

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Whisky Advent 2018 Day #10: Kirkwall Bay

Whisky Advent 2018 Day #10

Behind the 10th door of the Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar lies a mysterious single malt from the island of Orkney…

Some of the most interesting whiskies in Scotland aren’t famous brands, nor do they have the names of distilleries on them. Instead, they come from small bottlers and blenders who sniff out interesting whiskies and sell them under their own labels. One such company is Morrison and MacKay. It is based in Perth, a place with a rich whisky heritage. This [incredibly beautiful, you should visit] city on the banks of the river Tay was ideally located between the Highlands, home of strong-tasting malt whiskies, and the Lowlands, home of more delicate spirits, to produce, market and sell blended whisky around the world. Such great firms as Matthew Gloag & Son (of Famous Grouse fame), Arthur Bell & Sons, and John Dewar & Sons were all founded in Perth.

By the 1990s, most had left the city as the whisky industry consolidated. But Perth’s whisky tradition has been kept alive by Morrison and MacKay. The company was created by Brian Morrison from Morrison Bowmore, and Kenny Mackay, who worked with Morrison and previously for another old Perth firm, Peter Thomson. The Morrison and MacKay range includes Bruadar and Columba Cream whisky liqueurs (Scotland’s answer to Bailey’s), Old Perth blended malt (a revival of a Peter Thomson brand), rare cask bottlings and its own-brand single malts.

Which brings us on to the dram behind the 10th door of the Whisky Advent Calendar…

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Super rare Cognacs land at Master of Malt!

There’s so much more to Cognac than the big names. We talk to David Baker, Cognac sniffer-outer extraordinaire, about how he finds rare expressions, and then persuades the owners to sell.

It was a taste of 1840 A.E Dor at a hotel in Monaco that turned David Baker on to the magic of Cognac. Well, you might as well start with the best. It was the beginning of a great love affair. In 1987 he set up his own business, Hermitage Cognacs, to showcase the finest, rarest and oldest brandies that the region has to offer.

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Chase Distillery: Turning potatoes into liquid gold since 2008

On Chase Distillery’s 10th anniversary, we paid a visit and discovered how to make the ‘World’s Best Tasting Vodka’ (and excellent gin) from the humble spud.

Chase Distillery is located on Rosemaund Farm in Herefordshire. This part of England is a food and drink-lover’s paradise: there are cider apple orchards, Hereford beef cattle, and potato fields as far as the eye can see. The Chase family have been farming here for generations. In the early 2000s they weren’t getting a good price from the supermarkets, so William Chase cunningly decided to fry his potatoes before selling them. The result was Tyrells crisps. Then, according to William’s son James, “we started the distillery because we had a huge surplus of potatoes too small to make the crisps”. It was such a success that the family sold the crisp brand in 2008 to concentrate on making vodka.
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Dandelyan releases its last cocktail menu… ever!

Since it opened in 2015, Dandelyan at the Mondrian Hotel has become a London institution, winning awards and fans for its experimental but always delicious cocktails. Sadly it closes at the end of the year. We take a peek at the final menu which is available now.

And now the end is near and we have reached the final curtain, or something like that. Yes, it’s the very last cocktail menu at Dandelyan at the Mondrian London: a bar that has won more awards than Mariah Carey has wardrobe changes (which is a lot) including World’s Best Cocktail Bar at the Spirited Awards 2017.

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Copper stills ‘reawakened’ at Brora

The legendary Brora Distillery moves a step closer to reopening as the original copper pot stills have just been removed for refurbishment.

Whisky lovers know that the shape of the still is a crucial factor in creating the unique flavour of their favourite drams so it is a relief that the old Brora stills have been pronounced in sound condition. The pair were removed from the closed distillery and have been taken 200 miles to Diageo Abercrombie coppersmiths in Alloa where they were checked over using ultrasound. The careful restoration process can now begin.

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Red Spot Whiskey relaunch – the top spot in Dublin

To celebrate the rebirth of Red Spot whiskey, we descended into Mitchell & Son’s cellars deep beneath the streets of Dublin for a trip back into Irish distilling history (and we got to try the whiskey, obviously.)

Jonathan Mitchell from the family-owned wine merchant described the relaunch as “the biggest day of all, we’ve had orders for Red Spot for two years.” We were at the historic Shelbourne Hotel and from there we walked to Mitchell & Son’s old cellars beneath Fitzwilliam Lane to try the long-awaited whiskey. The family has been in business since 1805 but their whiskey story starts in 1887 when they began sending empty casks of port, sherry, Malaga and Marsala to the John Jameson and Sons distillery at nearby Bow Street to be filled with spirit. This would have been made from a mixture of malted and unmalted barley, triple-distilled in a giant pot still.

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