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Master of Malt Blog

Author: Henry Jeffreys

Buyer found for Scotland’s oldest distillery, Glenturret

Good news for whisky lovers and for whisky workers, Glenturret distillery has found a buyer! We reported back in June that The Macallan owner, Edrington, was selling Glenturret, Scotland’s oldest…

Good news for whisky lovers and for whisky workers, Glenturret distillery has found a buyer!

We reported back in June that The Macallan owner, Edrington, was selling Glenturret, Scotland’s oldest working distillery, as well as the Cutty Sark brand. Last month, Cutty Sark was bought by French spirits group La Martiniquaise-Bardinet, the owner of Glen Moray. Now Glenturret has gone to high-end wine distributor Art & Terroir as it makes its first foray into whisky. It’s like its Scotch transfer season.

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Whisky Advent 2018 Day #20: Peat’s Beast

Not long to go now until Santa Claus comes sliding down the chimney. To enjoy while you wait, we have a seriously smoky malt behind door #20 of Drinks by…

Not long to go now until Santa Claus comes sliding down the chimney. To enjoy while you wait, we have a seriously smoky malt behind door #20 of Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar

On the 20th day of Advent, we have whisky that’s peatier than Peter the Great, smokier than Bill Hicks, and has more TCP than a 1980s boarding school. It’s a single malt from Fox Fitzgerald Whisky Trading, an independent bottler and blender. The boys at FF are being very secretive about it. They won’t tell which distillery or even part of Scotland it comes from.

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Whisky Advent 2018 Day #18: Glenfarclas 105

Behind the 18th door of Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar lies a classic sherried Speyside single malt bottled at cask strength… In this ever-changing world of whisky, where…

Behind the 18th door of Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar lies a classic sherried Speyside single malt bottled at cask strength…

In this ever-changing world of whisky, where it seems that not a week goes by without the announcement of a new distillery, and drinks companies are constantly consolidating, amalgamating, and mutating, Glenfarclas is an anomaly. Just look at those labels, they haven’t been anywhere near a Shoreditch-based graphic designer. What worked in the 1940s works now. Visiting the distillery is a similar experience. It’s not glitzy and polished, the equipment is neither antique nor brand new. It’s the same attitude: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Glenfarclas is one of the last distilleries in Scotland to use direct-fired stills, and all its whiskies are aged the traditional way in ex-oloroso casks in a dunnage warehouse.

This immunity from the whims of fashion has a lot to do with being in the hands of one family, the Grants, since 1865. The current chairman, John Grant, is the fifth-generation family member in charge. This continuity extends to stocks as well. The family are able to offer very old whiskies as well as vintage-dated expressions dating back to the 1950s.

These whiskies are some of the most highly-regarded in Scotland. Along with Macallan, Glenfarclas is the apotheosis of the sherried Speyside style. And despite all that tradition, the family isn’t immune to a spot of innovation. In the 1960s it was one of the first distilleries to shift business away from supplying blends to bottling its own single malts.

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An Ardbeg masterclass with Brendan McCarron

We try Ardbeg’s core range with Brendan McCarron while he tells us about making raw, rugged whisky, the similarities between Bill Lumsden and Gordon Ramsay, and whether there are any…

We try Ardbeg’s core range with Brendan McCarron while he tells us about making raw, rugged whisky, the similarities between Bill Lumsden and Gordon Ramsay, and whether there are any plans to make a blend.

The team at Master of Malt were invited to Moët Hennessy’s swanky headquarters in London to try the core Ardbeg range with Brendan McCarron, head of maturing whisky stocks at the Glenmorangie Company. Lucky us. Ardbeg inspires fierce loyalty among whisky fans. Not least because it very nearly didn’t survive. The distillery was only working sporadically for most of the ’80s and ’90s, and by 1996, according to McCarron, “the bulldozers were at the gates”. But happily, in 1998 Ardbeg was saved when it was bought and refurbished by the Glenmorangie Company (who are now part of LVMH).

Back to the situation at hand. McCarron joined the team in 2014. He was a chemical engineering graduate who, after a stint making penicillin, joined Diageo. He had various jobs including blending at Johnnie Walker before, at 28 years old, he became the youngest distillery manager in Scotland at Oban. From there he moved to Islay to run Caol Ila, Lagavulin and the Port Ellen Maltings. Enough intro, let’s get the interview out of the way so that we can try some whisky!

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Whisky Advent 2018 Day #16: Rock Oyster Malt Whisky

It’s the 16th day of the Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar. Behind today’s door you will find a marvellous maritime malt from independent bottler Douglas Laing. It’s tempting,…

It’s the 16th day of the Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar. Behind today’s door you will find a marvellous maritime malt from independent bottler Douglas Laing.

It’s tempting, especially at Christmas, to see whisky as an after-dinner drink. You know the sort of thing: curl up by the fire, ask your faithful spaniel to bring your slippers (thank you, Waffles), put on a smoking jacket, light up the old pipe and settle down with a dram. Or perhaps that’s just me. But if you’re saving your whisky for after dinner then you are missing out because Scotland’s finest spirit goes superbly with food.

Richer sherried malts can be great with puddings especially dark chocolate. But probably my best whisky and food experience was at a seafood shack on Skye slurping down scallops with a glass of the local whisky (alright, it was Talisker.) Peated whiskies go brilliantly with all kinds of fish (especially the smoked kind), crustacea and molluscs. Which brings me neatly on to today’s whisky. The name is a clue to the perfect way to serve it…

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Whisky Advent 2018 Day #14: Kavalan Single Malt Whisky

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…

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…

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

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. . ….

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…

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

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…

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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