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Master of Malt Blog

Author: Jess Williamson

Behold, the World Gin Awards 2020 winners!

It’s official: the World Gin Awards are out! Now you can grab yourself a bottle, make yourself a Gin & Tonic, settle down and tell yourself that you’re drinking the…

It’s official: the World Gin Awards are out! Now you can grab yourself a bottle, make yourself a Gin & Tonic, settle down and tell yourself that you’re drinking the world’s best gin. Now that’s something to brag about. From aged expressions to best Old Tom, we’ve rounded up the best of the best right here. 

world gin awards

It may be easy to see awards as vacuous and unimportant, but with numerous rounds of blind tasting, Gin Magazine’s World Gin Awards is sure to single out spirits that are truly outstanding and worthy of your time as well as your taste buds. Gin-thusiasts, read on!

world gin awards

Drinks by the Dram World Gin Awards Winners 2020 Tasting Set

Want to taste the winners without committing to an entire bottle? Drinks by the Dram has gone and created a handy tasting set boasting five 30cl drams of award-winning gin from this year’s World Gin Awards! You’ll find Bathtub Gin, Lubuski Aged Gin, Marylebone Orange & Geranium Gin, Hayman’s Spiced Sloe Gin and Sky Wave Gin, all in one nifty box. Who says convenience can’t be delicious too?

https://www.instagram.com/shreddy/?hl=en

 

World’s Best Matured Gin: Lubuski Aged Gin

Poland’s Lubuski distillery secured World’s Best Matured Gin this year with its Aged Gin! A combination of oak and chestnut casks gives this one silky caramel alongside green oak notes. One to test twists of classic cocktails with, we reckon.

world gin awards

World’s Best Old Tom Gin: Hernö Old Tom Gin

Sweden’s Country Winner here, with the wonderful Hernö just continuing to scoop up awards! With the same base botanicals as Hernö Dry Gin, though with a dialled up amount of meadowsweet, honey and sugar are also added post distillation for that hallmark Old Tom sweetness.

world gin awards

World’s Best Flavoured Gin: Marylebone Orange & Geranium Gin

It turns out that geraniums aren’t just for the garden thanks to Marylebone Orange & Geranium Gin, the work of London’s Pleasure Gardens Distilling Co.! As you’d expect, it’s all about the floral and citrus notes in this one.

world gin awards

World’s Best Compound Gin: Bathtub Gin

Don’t be fooled by the bootlegger name, Bathtub Gin is a far cry from the Prohibition spirits of old. From England’s very own Ableforth’s comes this year’s World’s Best Compound Gin, named for the 1920s Prohibition method of infusing botanicals in a bathtub. The highly aromatic gin sees the infusion of six botanicals through cold compounding resulting in a rich, viscous mouthfeel boasting orange citrus, fragrant spices and a good core of juniper. 

world gin awards

World’s Best Sloe Gin: Hayman’s Spiced Sloe Gin

How to make sloe gin even more warming? Give it a good kick of spice! The wonderful Hayman’s steeped its own Sloe Gin in sloe fruit flowers and a whole host of seasonal spices to create this Spiced Sloe Gin, which will do rather well as a fruity evening sipper. 

world gin awards

World’s Best Contemporary Gin: Ki No Tea Gin

From the city’s first dedicated gin distillery comes the Kyoto Distillery’s Ki No Tea Gin! Japan’s Country Winner, it was the second release from the distillery and the tasty result of a partnership with local tea grower and blender Hori-Shichimeien. Tencha and Gyokuro teas are among the botanicals used, so it’s full of floral tea notes alongside prominent juniper.

world gin awards

World’s Best London Dry Gin: Manly Spirits Co Australian Dry Gin

If you want to sip on a taste of Australia’s east coast, Australia’s Manly Spirits Co. has bottled up just that with its Australian Dry Gin, Australia’s Country Winner this year. It’s jam-packed full of sustainably foraged Australian botanicals such as sea lettuce, finger lime and mountain pepperberry. A refreshing, savoury and peppery affair, this one.

world gin awards

World’s Best Navy Gin: Conniption Navy Strength Gin

We journey to Durham, North Carolina for America’s Country Winner in the World’s Best Navy Gin category, with the spicy and sweet Conniption Navy Strength Gin! Juniper, cardamom and rosemary are vapour infused in a pot still, while citrus and fig are vacuum distilled at room temperature before being blended together and bottled up at 57% ABV.

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New Arrival of the Week: Central Galactic Spiced Rum

It takes a certain amount of pizzazz to go and create a spirit that tastes like the centre of the galaxy. What’s perhaps even more surprising is that it’s accurate!…

It takes a certain amount of pizzazz to go and create a spirit that tastes like the centre of the galaxy. What’s perhaps even more surprising is that it’s accurate! Our New Arrival this week is the aptly-named Central Galactic Spiced Rum, and we’re sure you can guess where the inspiration came for this one…

Cast your minds back to 2009, when The Black Eyed Peas ruled the charts and the very first episode of Glee was aired (gosh, we feel old). 2009 was a momentous year for many reasons, not least because it was the very year that astronomers discovered that the centre of the Milky Way tastes of raspberries and, wait for it… smells of rum! 

We know what you’re thinking. How?! We don’t want to get too sciencey about it, but basically what happened was when astronomers peered their massive telescope into space, they hoped to find complex molecules that would prove life on other planets. While they failed to do this, luckily they found something much, much better. Ethyl formate! Aka, the chemical that gives raspberries their flavour, and also (rather conveniently in this case) smells of rum.

central galactic spiced rum

Mmm, we can almost taste it…

There was only one thing for it: to create a spirit that captured the very essence of the universe. And so, Central Galactic Spaced Spiced Rum was born! Well, the idea for it was born, we’ve had to wait ten years for the actual liquid. But it was worth it! With a base of  wonderfully aromatic Caribbean spiced rum, the creative chaps behind the spirit added copper-distilled fresh raspberry distillate, as well as star anise (in keeping with the space theme) and cold-distilled lime peel for some extra citrus zing.

The idea and inspiration behind the spirit is all well and good (okay we admit it, it’s insanely cool), but when it comes down to it, what we all really want is awesome-tasting liquid. Luckily, that’s exactly what we have here. The symphony of warming, tingling spices is livened up by authentically juicy raspberry and zesty lime. Plus, we’re sure that the retro comic book strip-style label is going to be a definite standout in anyone’s drinks cabinet. 

central galactic spiced rum

Central Galactic Spiced Rum, defying gravity!

At 43.5% ABV, this is certainly a rum that you can sip simply over ice with a generous handful of raspberries. For those of you who like to get out your shakers, we’d recommend a Daiquiri, because you don’t want to drown out the complexity of the spirit itself. Plus, so long as you can count, it couldn’t be easier to make with the 3:2:1 method, with three parts rum, two parts fresh lime juice and one part sugar syrup. Oh, and don’t forget to garnish with raspberries and a twist of lime peel. 

This isn’t just a gimmick, but is genuinely delicious whilst also letting us nerd out on the awesomeness of space. Space was cool before, but then it went and tasted like raspberries and rum? Give someone else a chance! We can’t wait to see what tasty spirits will come to light next time scientists peer a telescope into the unknown… 

Tasting note by The Chaps at Master of Malt:

Nose: Suitably spicy boasting heaps of ginger, cinnamon and cardamom, with oily orange peel and a lick of liquorice in support. Top notes of tantalisingly juicy raspberry sweetness keep it vibrant.

Palate: Sweet, fruity raspberry hits the back palate while those tingling spices return bringing warmth, with orange marmalade (without the bits) alongside a sprinkling of rich brown sugar and toffee notes.

Finish: Raspberry jam lingers alongside zingy lime peel and cinnamon, with a scattering of vanilla pod.

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New Arrival of the Week: Hampden Great House Distillery Edition

We’re getting excited about a fabulous rum this week from the Hampden Estate, one of the oldest sugar estates in Jamaica. Known for its punchy, flavourful heavy pot still rums,…

We’re getting excited about a fabulous rum this week from the Hampden Estate, one of the oldest sugar estates in Jamaica. Known for its punchy, flavourful heavy pot still rums, our new arrival this week certainly doesn’t disappoint.  

Hampden Estate has been in the business of delicious rum since  1753. Tropical fruit, funk and high ester pot still rums are the distillery’s thing. If you’re not familiar with Hampden Estate, then there’s no better place to get a feel for the distillery’s style than Hampden Great House Distillery Edition, because it was literally crafted to showcase what the distillery is renowned for.

Since 2009, the estate has been owned by the Hussey family, who are invested in preserving the traditions and values of Hampden. For example, the boiling house is covered in old wooden walkways, where fermentation takes place for up to three weeks (which is pretty darn lengthy in the fermentation game), with 89 fermentation tanks each holding between 9,000 and 13,500 litres. The distillery makes use of the unique wild yeasts that live and reproduce in the fermentation rooms. No commercial yeast to be seen here! There are four stills, which is where the magic happens. The oldest is a John Dore, from the oldest distillery engineering business in the world, installed back in 1960. The very first stocks were aged on the estate in 2010 after the acquisition by the Hussey family in 2009, and these stocks were used in the very first Hampden Estate releases.

Hampden Great House Distillery Edition

It’s Hampden Estate everyone!

Now, onto the rum! Hampden Great House Distillery Edition was created by the master distiller, blending the most representative marques (or marks) of the distillery. To get technical, this is made from a blend of tropically-aged 2012 OWH and 2016 <>H marques (all Jamaican rum distilleries make a variety of distillates, from light to heavy rums, and each batch falls within one of their marques). ‘OWH’ has an ester level of 40 to 80 gr/hL AA (grams per hectoliter of absolute alcohol), standing for ‘Outram W. Hussey’, while ‘<>H’ has an ester level of 900 to 1,000 gr/hL AA, which stands for ‘Hampden’. For perspective, the highest ester level allowed for export by Jamaican regulations is 1,600 gr/hL AA, so this one is pretty powerful stuff.

Hampden Great House Distillery Edition

The Hampden Great House Distillery Edition, looking fancy.

It’s blended with local spring water and bottled up at a burly 59% ABV, packed full of funk and flavour. The result is a truly authentic and unique Trelawny rum, full of everything we know and love from Hampden Estate. Initially, the release of 1,200 bottles was only sold at the distillery in Jamaica and at a few special events around Europe. Luckily, we got our mitts on the awesome bottle, and we’re rather big fans.

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt

Toasted brioche, pineapple, BBQ lemon, cigar box, oily smoke and a little hint of chocolate sauce.

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Five minutes with… Fabiano Latham from Reyka Vodka

We grabbed five minutes with Fabiano Latham, UK Brand Ambassador for Reyka Vodka, and learnt about the wild side of the ambassador lifestyle! The first time I met Fabiano Latham…

We grabbed five minutes with Fabiano Latham, UK Brand Ambassador for Reyka Vodka, and learnt about the wild side of the ambassador lifestyle!

The first time I met Fabiano Latham was at William Grant & Sons Brand Ambassador UK tour, ‘Unwrapped, The Other Side of Bartending’. What was set to be a (somewhat) regular day of fun-filled bartending talks turned into, thanks to Latham (and the wonderful Reyka team), an escapade across London, whizzing around in a speedboat on the Thames, all in the name of adventure. That seems like a pretty fitting introduction, but don’t take my word for it. We managed to grab a chat with the man himself to talk us through all things Reyka, glacier bars and puffins!

Fabiano Latham Reyka

Fabiano Latham enjoying a Reyka vodka on a glacier… as you do.

Master of Malt: Chat us through what makes Reyka Vodka so special?

Fabiano Latham: Well, first of all its super tasty which is always a plus. But it’s our Icelandic roots which make us stand out. Our production allows us to say that we’re truly made of Iceland and not just in Iceland. Geothermal energy powers our distillery, glacial water from a local spring brings Reyka Vodka down to 40% after being distilled in a unique Carter Head still, which has locally-found lava rocks sitting in botanical baskets which filter our spirit during distillation. It’s also said that the tiny village of Borgarnes where we’re made is full of mischievous mythological hidden folk…

MoM: Have you always been a vodka lover?

FL: Hailing from Amazonian roots, my spirit interests were always focused on things like pisco and cachaça but I interacted with Reyka throughout my bartending career and always had a soft spot for the brand. Also I puffin love Iceland having visited a friend there many moons ago.

MoM: And have you always been an outdoors lover?

FL: Yes! My mum always dragged me on holidays to the middle of nowhere in the British countryside – (and still does!) – from wandering in Suffolk, to hiking up mountains in Wales, to cycling to Paris and spending weeks in the Outer Hebrides. From a young age I’ve been frequently immersed in nature and developed a keen interest in wildlife, but I only started really appreciating it once thrust into the rigours of hospitality. I discovered its unique rejuvenating powers against the nocturnal lifestyle of bartending and now I can’t get enough.

Fabiano Latham Reyka

Running low on ice? You know what to do.

MoM: How did you come to be the brand ambassador for Reyka?

FL: I harnessed my innermost Icelandic fan girl dweeb and went hell for leather once the job became available! Having won the 24 hour Reyka cocktail competition a few years back and being lucky enough to visit Iceland twice, I felt like I had some good credentials to go at it like a heathen Viking beast. I didn’t always want to be an ambassador at all, it was always something that other people did and I never thought I’d get the job but I really identified with the whole Icelandic adventure thing!

MoM: You created a word, which is pretty awesome. Explain the idea of Adventurivity for us!

FL: Adventurivity = adventure + creativity. It’s a mashup. Just like a moody puffin might be a muffin or a cheeky elf might be a … chelf. Essentially it’s the word I’ve given to a mindset which is all about immersing oneself in nature and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone in really fun ways like climbing mountains or cycling long distances or even just spending some time with yourself in the morning on a stroll through a park. The reason behind this is to help balance and rejuvenate the stresses of hospitality, but also to build confidence in order to help frame and smash personal ambitions and goals. We all know that spending time outdoors is beneficial but this concept goes into the scientific detail of our evolution in nature and how it can benefit us today. I believe that by giving it a little structure, we can increase the gains because we simply understand more.

Remember, enjoy your tipple after your adventuring.

MoM: How do you link drinking and adventuring? Some people might say they’re not a natural pairing!

FL: Aha such a valid question! The idea of Adventurivity is geared towards bartenders and it’s designed to be used as a tool for the trade to help balance out their hectic lifestyles. We never drink whilst on the adventures, it’s only ever after that we might share a Reyka cocktail and share our experiences of the day. We always state: never drink and adventure! Adventure within nature is also about building confidence and positivity – attributes which can help boost creativity which can be used to develop concepts and recipes and that’s the key link.

MoM: We’re sure there are a few, but what’s the most memorable spot you’ve ever enjoyed a drink?

FL: Tough one that! I guess the most memorable spot has to be the Glacier Bar in October 2019. The sun was high and the views across the glacier were incredible. The silence was unreal. Our guests were an hour away, barrelling over the other-worldly terrain in a super jeep and it was just the ideal time to rustle up a Reyka Martini. We found a small hole on the glacier that had filled up with water and frozen overnight so we cracked the top layer and used a small chunk of the ice to stir down a bone-dry Martini. Yum!

Fabiano Latham Reyka

Behold, the Glacier Bar!

MoM: How did the idea for the Glacier Bar come about?

FL: Far, far away (in an office) one day someone said…. What if we made a bar…. And put it… on a glacier. Luckily all of us who work on Reyka share the same feverish excitement when it comes to epic activations and so it was just a case of blasting through the bible of logistics that comes with such an undertaking. Our epic brand manager Caitlin spearheaded the expedition and pulled off a magnificent feat of organisation. Our audience shares a keen interest in adventure and the outdoors, yet don’t often manifest these wishes into actual adventurous experiences as it’s tough to break the daily grind, so the idea is that we wanted to give them an amazing once in a lifetime opportunity!

MoM: What’s your favourite Reyka serve?

FL: A Puffin Collins was one I used for my interview three years ago – Reyka, pink grapefruit, elderflower, fresh cherry tomato and soda. It takes inspiration from the geothermally grown tomatoes in Iceland but also my love for puffins… It’s a bit ridiculous really… from a multitude of puffin paraphernalia to a taxidermy puffin called SugarPuff McStuffin and even a puffin tattoo… (pattoo).

MoM: Can we expect anything new from Reyka in the (near) future?  

FL: Yes! We’ll be starting up a Reyka running club in London at the end of January. Something epic will happen again next year just like the glacier bar…. but not the glacier bar. I’ll be hosting numerous adventures around the UK, the biggest being the Reyka Expedition cocktail competition in June. Keep a-puffin-breast of what’s going on by following me @fabsting (shameless self-promo…. Not even sorry).

Thanks a-puffin, Fabs! 

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What we learned at Armagnac Academy

We were lucky enough to be invited over to the fourth London Armagnac Academy, a yearly one day masterclass telling all about the somewhat-overlooked brandy. Here’s what we learned… We…

We were lucky enough to be invited over to the fourth London Armagnac Academy, a yearly one day masterclass telling all about the somewhat-overlooked brandy. Here’s what we learned…

We popped up to London for an entire day of deliciously educational Armagnac fun. Our hosts were Hannah Lanfear, founder of The Mixing Class and UK Armagnac educator, and Amanda Garnham, who has spent more than 16 years as press attachée and educator for the Bureau National Interprofessionnel de l’Armagnac (B.N.I.A.). Together, the dynamic duo taught us (nearly) everything there is to know, and, best of all, we tasted more than 40 Armagnacs. But there was a serious side too, at the end of the day there was a 100 question exam, with the highest scorer winning a trip to Armagnac itself as a reward. Talk about motivation! Spoiler, it wasn’t me…

Armagnac Academy

All of the wonderful Armagnacs we tasted during the day! We may have lost count.

Garnham, who lives in the region, jokily bestows upon herself the title of ‘the granny of Armagnac’, sets the scene of what Armagnac is like as a place before we delve into the details of the spirit. It is a region in Gascony, south-west France, filled with vineyards, castles and geese. Lots of geese. Which also means lots of foie gras. In Gascon, the average life expectancy is five years longer than that of the rest of France, despite all the decadent food and brandy. This phenomenon even has a name: the Gascon paradox. While recounting her travels over to the region, Lanfear nostalgically tells us that “Armagnac melts away the London mindset.” I have to admit, it does sound wonderfully romantic, and I already feel warmer in our little room in a fairly gloomy London.

The basics

Armagnac has had quite the time of it. There’s evidence of production as far back as the 14th century, though it was by the end of the 16th century that it became commonplace at local French markets. Back in the 17th and 18th century, Armagnac was originally exported through Bordeaux, with the aim to then blend it with water to rehydrate it after. We know, imagine that! Madness. Soon enough, the consumers realised that it was delicious without dilution, and the rest is history.

Armagnac Academy

A sunny shot of Armagnac. Spot the foie gras…

Armagnac is understandably often talked about in the same circles as Cognac, though culturally they couldn’t be more different. For one, the difference in the size of each region and, consequently, its market, is huge. Perhaps the best way to demonstrate this is by pointing out that, over the course of a year, Cognac loses more to the angel’s share than Armagnac produces in the entire year, which is around 6.6 million bottles.

Armagnac vineyards cover just 2,420 hectares, while Cognac has 75,000 hectares. Because it is much smaller, Armagnac isn’t commercial in the same way, and has no desire to compete with Cognac. Success of that level would lose what makes it unique. Garnham tells us that, though the word is banded around without meaning these days, “Armagnac has always been craft, but never really talked about it.” It stays small because of the size of the AOC, and even at its maximum production it couldn’t satisfy a market anywhere near the size of Cognac.

Armagnac Academy

A big ol’ bottle of Armagnac

Thanks to its smaller size, Armagnac has kept its biodiversity. There are ten main grape varieties that can be used to make it, whereas almost all Cognac is made from only one, Ugni Blanc. There are trees and shrubs surrounding the vineyards which encourage insects and bats, and other crops breaking up what would otherwise be a monoculture.

Distillation season

Garnham notes that, although the region is charming all year round, distillation is the most romantic time of year, called La Flamme de l’Armagnac. Producers will hold parties for entire villages (though sometimes that’s only 50 or so people), and traditionally children will light the alembic still. The still becomes the social hub of the community thanks to its warmth, and also because it must be tended to 24 hours a day. Although, only 48 houses in Armagnac own their own copper still, so to support the rest of the houses, there are five travelling distillers. Essentially, this is a large tractor with a copper still on the back of it, going from house to house over the course of distillation, which runs from harvest in October until 31 March, though generally distillation is completed by the end of January. You wouldn’t want to get stuck behind one of those on a single track road.

Armagnac Academy

Check it out, it’s a still on wheels!

Though some houses use double distillation as with Cognac, most Armagnac producers use the region’s traditional alembic. This is a simple continuous still, sometimes with as few as four plates, very different to the sort of high efficiency columns used to make grain whisky. They are often wood-fired and the spirit comes off at between 60 and 70% ABV so there are lots of congeners.

In Armagnac, the spirit is almost like a form of currency. Traditionally, Garnham tells us, a family will distil Armagnac each year and keep it in the cellar, much like money in a bank though with better rates of interest. Over time as it gets older it becomes more valuable, and say the family needs a new car, or has to prep for a wedding, they’ll dig out the Armagnac and sell it. Ditch your savings account and start investing in brandy, though if our lack of self-restraint with a contactless card is anything to go by, not drinking our savings would be even harder.

Armagnac Academy

Straight from the barrel to the glass

How do I drink it?

The mystery that surrounds Armagnac means that people aren’t quite sure how to drink it. Garnham notes that it doesn’t make much sense to add water or ice to your Armagnac, the reason being that the blend has been married and balanced to (hopefully) perfection before bottling, and water will undo that balancing act. Like with an older whisky, older Armagnacs are designed for sipping. However, younger Armagnacs are totally delicious with tonic and ice, or even alongside desserts. Armagnac-stewed prunes is a particularly tasty combo, and pair this with foie gras to live like a real Gascon local. Armagnac suffers from the same holdbacks as many aged spirits (looking at you, whisky), and mixing it shouldn’t be seen as a sin. Cocktails are a fun way to introduce people to the brandy.

Garnham leaves each of us a Gascon oak acorn on our table, so we can take a bit of Armagnac with us. Though, after a day of learning and tasting this delicious spirit, I’m pining to visit in person…

Pop over to the Armagnac Academy website for all the latest updates!

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Whisky Advent 2019 Day #12: Mackmyra Äppelblom

It’s nearly time to open door number 12 on your Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendars! This dram hails from a Nordic spot known for the Northern Lights, Ikea,…

It’s nearly time to open door number 12 on your Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendars! This dram hails from a Nordic spot known for the Northern Lights, Ikea, ABBA and, most importantly, lip-smacking whisky.

Well, that’s it. We’re officially half-way through Advent! If you’ve still got Christmas shopping to do, this is your call to arms. What have you been doing all this time? Go, go! If you’re one of those uber organised folk, then you can reward yourself with opening the 12th door of your Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar, and treat yourself to some tasty Swedish whisky with a pretty… apple-ing cask finish (sorry).

Today’s dram is… Mackmyra Äppelblom!

Mackmyra is a pretty awesome Swedish distillery, breaking new ground all the time. Did you know it’s even got its very own super futuristic gravity distillery, built in 2011 at 35 metres tall. Like the name suggests, the eco-friendly distillery uses gravity throughout the whisky making process, with the raw ingredients entering at the top, and the new make collected at the bottom. The heat generated during production is even used to heat the premises, which is pretty nifty. 

Mackmyra Appelblom

It’s the fruit bomb that is Mackmyra Äppelblom!

It’s no surprise then that the folks over at the distillery have been known to try out some cool cask finishes, namely in the form of Mackmyra Äppelblom! Äppelblom means apple blossom, which makes more sense when you find out that, after ageing in bourbon and new American oak casks, the Swedish single malt was finished in oak casks which previously held Calvados. 

This wasn’t just any old Calvados, but spirit from one of the world’s leading Calvados producers, none other than Christian Drouin. Prepare yourselves for a whole load of spiced orchard fruits over here. Get your hot toddy glasses out and pair this one with warm apple juice for a winter warmer, or follow UK sales manager Alex Johnson’s advice on the perfect Äppelblom serve. We managed to grab a chat with Johnson to tell us more about all things Mackmyra.

Master of Malt: A Calvados cask-finished whisky! What can we expect flavour-wise?

Alex Johnson: Apples abound with strudel and custard, then cedar, soft spices, vanilla, pear and a touch of citrus.  

MoM: What’s your favourite way to drink Äppelblom?

AJ: Chill a glass and pour in a good measure. Serve with banana bread dipped in sea-salted extra virgin olive oil – you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it!

Mackmyra Äppelblom

Check out Alex Johnson’s favourite serve, with a hefty slice of banana bread.

MoM: What was a Mackmyra highlight of 2019?

AJ: The creation and launch of Intelligens, the world’s first A.I. whisky was a very special event and another first for Mackmyra.

MoM: Can we expect more fun cask finishes from Mackmyra in 2020?

AJ: Of course, innovation is at our core. Angela’s not revealed what they’ll be just yet but we know they’ll be our best yet.

MoM: What’s your favourite Christmas cocktail?

AJ: A Margarita is a perfect way to get the day going but in the evening that try stirring some Äppelblom down with Angostura bitters, a pinch of sea salt and a dash of crème de banane. Serve on the rocks with slices of dried banana – it’s essentially an apple and banana Old Fashioned, but we call it a Bonita Äppelblom.

Mackmyra Äppelblom Tasting note:

Nose: Toasted oak and orchard fruits galore, namely apple and pear with a hint of lemon, delicate floral notes with sweet vanilla and toffee.

Palate: Well rounded fruity and spicy notes continue with the marriage of pear and citrus. Cedar wood emerges alongside aniseed, caramelised almonds, white pepper and ginger spiciness.

Finish: Spicy tones linger with gentle oak and zesty lemon and apple.

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Whisky Advent 2019 Day #11: BenRiach 10 Year Old

The 11th door of Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar holds something exceptionally tasty from a certain Speyside distillery which is named for the Gaelic for ‘speckled mountain’…  Well,…

The 11th door of Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar holds something exceptionally tasty from a certain Speyside distillery which is named for the Gaelic for ‘speckled mountain’… 

Well, well, it’s the 11th day of Advent. We’re not half way just yet, but gosh darn it’s not far off either! You’ll know that though of course, because you can see how many doors you’ve opened on your Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar, and it’s got a treat for you on this special day.

We all know you’re here for the whisky, so we’ll get down to it.

Today’s dram is… BenRiach 10 Year Old!

This particular expression was first launched in April 2015, and is the flagship expression from the Speyside distillery after it changed hands in 2004 from Pernod Ricard to Billy Walker (it was subsequently bought by Brown-Forman in 2016). So, this was the first core range expression to be predominantly crafted from whiskies distilled at BenRiach since Walker took over. And it’s still going strong! 

The Speysider is drawn from both bourbon and sherry casks after a decade of ageing, so you have all those sweeter, creamy notes from the bourbon cask sitting wonderfully alongside the spicier notes from the sherry cask. 

Benriach 10 year old

It’s the wonderful Dr Rachel Barrie, everyone!

We got to chat to the awesome master blender Dr Rachel Barrie, to talk us through all things BenRiach! It’s been quite the year for the Dr Barrie, as among many other achievements, after 27 years in the industry she was inducted as a ‘Keeper of the Quaich’

Master of Malt: Wow, here we have the flagship expression from BenRiach! Can you talk us through what we should be expecting flavour-wise?

Dr Rachel Barrie: Benriach 10 Year Old glides on the palate like a delicious patisserie, with layers of succulent orchard fruit on a base of pastry-like malt and vanilla cream, topped with toasted almond and a touch of spice. 

MoM: What’s your favourite way to drink BenRiach 10 Year Old?

RB: I enjoy BenRiach 10 Year Old neat or with a splash of water for the perfect multi-layered balance of fruit, malt and oak. 

Benriach 10 year old

Behold, Benriach 10 Year Old.

MoM: What’s been a BenRiach highlight of 2019?

RB: In 2019, the launch of the latest BenRiach Cask bottling Batch was a highlight, after selecting 24 casks from Warehouse 13, including Benriach unpeated and peated matured in oak casks previously filled with Tokaji wine, oloroso sherry, Pedro Ximénez, Port, claret, Madeira, Sauternes, virgin oak, South African red wine, Jamaican rum, Rioja, Sicilian Marsala, and bourbon! The drinker now has the chance to select from the same eclectic collection of casks I have the pleasure of nosing every day.

MoM: What’s your favourite Christmas cocktail?

RB: A smooth, spiced fruit cocktail with cloudy apple juice, ginger beer, cinnamon and cloves, and a slice of red apple perched on glass, to crunch between sips. The perfect balance of sweet and dry, warm and spicy yet refreshingly smooth and fruity.

MoM: What can we expect from BenRiach in 2020?

RB: BenRiach will really come alive in 2020 with many exciting developments when it comes to our pursuit of flavour and pushing the creative boundaries of whisky-making in our three styles – classic, peated and triple-distilled.

Tasting note:

Nose: Citrus-forward, with gingerbread and cinnamon in support.

Palate: Fried banana, brown sugar, powerful barley notes driving it all along.

Finish: Lasting hints of peppery malt and vanilla custard.

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Whisky Advent 2019 Day #10: The GlenDronach 12 Year Old

On the 10th day of Advent, Drinks by the Dram declared that we should drink delicious Highland whisky, from a wonderful distillery situated at the Dronach Burn. Go on people,…

On the 10th day of Advent, Drinks by the Dram declared that we should drink delicious Highland whisky, from a wonderful distillery situated at the Dronach Burn. Go on people, get that Advent door open already!

It’s the 10th day of advent! That’s a nice round number. As such, day 10 deserves a suitably well-rounded whisky (see what we did there). Luckily Drinks by the Dram’s 2019 Whisky Advent Calendar is on hand with all the goods.

Today’s dram is… The GlenDronach 12 Year Old!

For five sad years, the Highland distillery was mothballed from 1996 until 2001. Thankfully whisky stock was still maturing over that time, and the distillery reopened, and with it the 12 Year Old was born! It was first released in 2009, and the fruity single malt is aged in a combination of oloroso and Pedro Ximénez casks from Spain. 

The year that was 2019 saw The GlenDronach release the seventeenth batch of its Cask Bottling series, as well as a smashing 1993 Master Vintage! It’s not like we really need a reason to raise a dram of The GlenDronach 12 Year Old, though those endeavours are certainly worthy of one!

Glendronach 12 year old

Say hello to Stewart Buchanan!

We were lucky enough to grab a minute (and a chat) with GlenDronach brand ambassador Stewart Buchanan, to learn more about the wonderful Highland distillery.

Master of Malt: Can you talk us through the flavour profile of the sherry bomb that is GlenDronach 12 Year Old?

Stewart Buchanan: It really is a single malt for everyone. So many times I hear from consumers that it was the first whisky that sent them on their single malt journey; the harmony and balance of sherry maturation, oak spice and the rich Highland character combine perfectly together. From the first sip to the last it shows all off a richly sherried whisky at its absolute best – from the notes of sweet, creamy vanilla and ginger on the nose to spiced mulled wine and pear flavours, to the warming finish of rich oak and sherry sweetness bursting with raisins and soft fruits in the palate. Delicious!

MoM: What’s been a GlenDronach highlight of 2019?

SB: Goodness, that’s a tough one…! I suppose the most exciting release to launch and take round the world has been the 1993 Master Vintage – from Stockholm to Singapore and Tokyo to Taipei the reception was fantastic. GlenDronachs from 1993 have always captivated palates and with this particular Master Vintage, our Master Blender really has done it again – it truly is an extraordinary limited edition. Expect profound layers of depth and complexity, leading to an exceedingly long, voluptuous and memorable finish through its vibrant profile.

MoM: What’s your favourite way to drink GlenDronach 12 Year Old?

SB: The GlenDronach 12 Year Old is, I suppose, my most social occasion single malt of the range. Enjoying with friends whether at home or in a bar, its rich but simple flavours working in perfect harmony make it a great single malt to simply enjoy and savour without having to overthink – that for me makes a perfect social Scotch whisky.

Glendronach 12 year old

The Glendronach 12 Year Old looking suitably snug.

MoM: Can you give us any hints as to what we can expect from GlenDronach in 2020?

SB: As ever, our master blender Dr Rachel Barrie is constantly nosing, tasting, assessing and creating – we do have some special gems tucked away so watch this space.

MoM: It’s Christmas Eve, and you’re sitting down with a GlenDronach dram. Which one is it?

SB: I will be doing what I do every Christmas Eve – my mother brings out the Christmas cake which she has been preparing since September. She slices through the sugar icing and marzipan into the boozy, dark fruit-laden masterpiece and I pour everyone a warming measure of the GlenDronach 21 Year Old Parliament – it’s a match made in heaven!

Tasting notes

Nose: Rich cereals, struck match, raisin, cinnamon, caramelised sugar. Opens with some sweeter PX and lots of delicious raw ginger before becoming creamier with hazelnuts.

Palate: Fruits, peels, buttery. Pain au chocolat, a little marmalade on toast before becoming firmer and nuttier with spiced raisins.

Finish: Smoky toffee and nut brittle.

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Whisky Advent 2019 Day #6: Mackmyra Vinterglöd

Roll up, roll up, it’s the sixth day of Advent, which means that door number six on your Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar is eagerly awaiting to be…

Roll up, roll up, it’s the sixth day of Advent, which means that door number six on your Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar is eagerly awaiting to be opened! What’s in store for us today?

The first week of Advent is just flying by, don’t you think? With a different dram to look forward to every day, it’s hard not to wish away the whole 24 days! Today, we’re in for a real treat, with a whisky from a place which, over the last couple of decades, has now been put on the tasty whisky map. Yes, it’s a thing. Yes, it also looks a lot like a regular map, except… this one’s full of places which produce tasty whisky. Duh. 

Today’s dram is… Mackmyra Vinterglöd!

Once the friends behind Mackmyra started looking to create a Swedish whisky distillery back in 1998, it seemed ridiculous that nobody had thought of this before! There’s pure water running past the distillery, with Swedish barley growing in the fields, to the Swedish oak which can be used to make barrels for ageing. It’s like this is what the country was born to do!

Mackmyra Vinterglod

Mmm, maturing Mackmyra whisky…

Vinterglöd means ‘winter glow’ in Swedish, and the whisky was inspired by the Swedish tradition of drinking mulled wine during winter (though we wouldn’t say that’s an exclusively Swedish tradition, we don’t want to know how many ladles of mulled wine we get through during the festive period here at MoM Towers). To achieve this fruity, wine-y flavour, Vinterglöd is matured in casks that previously held Pedro Ximénez sherry and Swedish mulled wine. That should do it.

To learn a bit more about this fun-loving Swedish distillery, we chatted to UK sales manager Alex Johnson!

Master of Malt: What memories come to mind when you nose/taste Vinterglöd?

AJ: It’s all those lovely evocative Christmas flavours – Christmas cake, marzipan, fragrant spices, dried fruits, candied peel, sweet sherry and panettone.

MoM: What’s your favourite way to drink Vinterglöd?

AJ: With a slice of ginger cake or a bowl of Christmas Pudding. A roaring fire is not obligatory but it helps, however good company is essential.

Mackmyra Vinterglöd

It’s Mackmyra Vinterglöd!

MoM: What can we expect from Mackmyra in 2020?

AJ: More innovative finishes and more people experiencing their own personal 30L casks.

MoM: It’s Christmas Eve, and you’re sitting down with a Mackmyra dram. Which one is it?

AJ: It would have to be a bottle from my own Mackmyra Reserve 30L Peated Oloroso cask.

MoM: Okay, and besides mulled wine and (obviously) whisky, what’s your favourite Christmas tipple?

AJ: Sherry, sherry and more sherry – Manzanilla in the morning, Amontillado in the afternoon and PX with pudding!

Mackmyra Vinterglöd Tasting Note:

Nose: Christmas cake spice cuts through blood orange and red berries. Aromas of burnt toffee popcorn, caramel fudge and a little marzipan develop throughout.

Palate: Blackcurrant, pink grapefruit and a little floral barley blend with caramelised almonds and tobacco leaves.

Finish: Oak spice and ginger linger with a little cherry.

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We taste the new Royal Salute 29 Year Old Pedro Ximénez cask finish in Seville

Royal Salute is back with another exciting new release! To celebrate the new 29 Year Old Pedro Ximénez cask finish, we headed to Seville with master blender Sandy Hyslop and…

Royal Salute is back with another exciting new release! To celebrate the new 29 Year Old Pedro Ximénez cask finish, we headed to Seville with master blender Sandy Hyslop and creative advisor Barnabé Fillion to learn all about the history and processes behind the blend.

“I think we’ve been pretty humble with Royal Salute for years and years,” Sandy Hyslop tells me. His pride is evident and, after a few days in Seville learning all about the brand, I can see why. It’s the only whisky brand which has consistently has a 21 year old expression since its origins in 1953, which is also the youngest blend in the brand’s portfolio. Royal Salute was first created as a gift for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, the inspiration for the latest release, a 29 Year Old blended malt finished in Pedro Ximénez casks, came from the Queen’s first royal visit to Spain in 1988, hence the sherry wood. Rather appropriately, the new expression is presented in a deep red ornate porcelain bottle, rather than the blue we’ve seen before. 

royal salute 29 year old

The Royal Salute 29 Year Old PX finish, in all its glory!

The whisky

This is a first for Royal Salute, which hasn’t finished a whisky exclusively in sherry casks before. “With this release, we’ve done everything as it should be done,” says Hyslop. The blend was finished in sherry casks for 18 months or so, though the processes to source the casks began around four years before the whisky entered the wood. The casks used for this expression are custom-made from Spanish oak to hold Royal Salute. PX is so viscous that if it’s filled straight into new oak, it won’t be able to permeate the wood. So, after the cask has been dried for around 18 months, it’s first filled with Oloroso sherry for two years to prep it for the PX. Hyslop and Fillion even popped over to Spain to choose exactly which PX they wanted.

Royal Salute 29 Year Old

The Ave Maria orange grove, not a bad spot for lunch…

We make our way to the Ave Maria orange grove just outside of Seville. Wandering through the orange trees and scent of orange blossom, we come to a clearing that is to be where we have lunch. Next to a glass of the 29 Year Old there is an incredibly dark, viscous liquid, revealed to be the PX sherry used to season the whisky casks. No wonder they chose this one: it’s like nectar, dried fruits galore, choc full of cherries and liquorice. There are murmurs around the table, many people are saying that this has converted them to sherry, and that they can’t wait to try some when they get back home. Hyslop later tells me, “they’re going to be so disappointed.” This PX is over and above exceptional.

Royal Salute 29 Year Old

Sandy Hyslop tasting us through the awesome PX sherry.

Then it’s time to try the whisky. “The first time, seven years ago that I tried Royal Salute, Seville orange was the first thing I picked up,” Fillion tells me. What better spot to try the whisky than here? On the nose, there is indeed that classic Royal Salute chunky orange marmalade, along with sandalwood, treacle toffee, ginger spice, liquorice and loads of plump sultanas. It’s incredibly rich and complex on the palate, and tried next to the PX, the sherry influence shines. There’s plum, honey, dark chocolate-coated almonds, and more treacle toffee. Vanilla and syrupy fruits appear, with prickles of spice around the edge. The finish just goes on and on, taking an age to disappear thanks to the use of top quality casks. 

Royal Salute 29 Year Old

Barnabé Fillion and some Seville orange. On the nose of the whisky, on the trees, it’s everywhere!

Olfactory 

“A 29 Year Old in a sherry cask… It was a dream for me,” professional nose Barnabé Fillion tells me. Fillion has been in the perfume business for most of his adult life, having created scents for brands like Aesop while also working as an independent perfumer, joining Royal Salute as creative advisor for the brand in 2016. Evening draws in, and a sensory dinner (which is really more of a banquet) hosted by Fillion awaits us for our final evening in Seville. He begins by telling us the 95% of your sensory experience comes from your nose; now there’s no excuse for not nosing your whisky first. He wants to flood our senses, giving us new experiences and olfactory memories. “You may end up feeling a bit overwhelmed, but this is sort of the point,” Fillion says. To help us dissect the nose of the 29 Year Old, Fillion has deconstructed it scent by scent. Various oils are dipped onto paper, there’s incense, and some scents are presented on 3D printed ceramic, which more accurately replicates how a scent appears on your skin.

Royal Salute 29 Year Old

Incense, flowers and whisky – Fillion’s sensory dinners have it all!

Sandalwood incense is passed around the table, leaving a trail of aromatic smoke, as well as sandalwood oil, which has an almost milky scent while still remaining dry. Then there’s the rare scent of vanilla orchid, which is creamy and intensely floral. Then, vanilla extract obtained through Co2 extraction comes around, which captures it in its purest form, and at first nobody is quite sure what it is. Usually vanilla is associated with sweetness, though this is so earthy and raw. The point of this is to pick up these subtle notes in the whisky, which we have to nose alongside these various scents. 

If you were to hold your nose while eating or drinking something, then you wouldn’t be able to taste anything. It’s why having a cold is totally rubbish. So, scent has a huge impact on our taste, and they are completely intertwined. Having said that, smell and olfactory is pretty subjective as it relies on your past experiences, smells and memories. So how does somebody like Fillion ensure that each person gets the same experience out of a certain scent? Well… he doesn’t. “I don’t want to standardise your experience, I don’t even want to guide it,” Fillion tells me. “I just want to plant some little seeds that will make your tasting even more interesting.” For Fillion, the whole idea of this olfactory is to “celebrate your subjectivity and life experience,” and give us the vocabulary to describe our sensory experience, rather than create it.

Royal Salute 29 Year Old

Hyslop and Fillion, the dream team!

What’s next?

“I think this is a bit of a golden period for us,” Hyslop tells me, referring to the explosion of new releases for the brand. Throughout his tenure Hyslop has made history, bringing three new expressions into the range where only one stood before for decades, with the Malts Blend and Lost Blend released earlier this year, and now the 29 Year Old. He’s not done yet either, and is now laying down casks that he will never see come to fruition, the responsibility of future stock on his shoulders. So, what’s next for the brand? Quite simply, more experimentation, namely in the form of cask finishes. “We need to start saying, ‘this is what else we can do’,” says Hyslop. “If we want to do Port, we’ll try and do Port.” Of course, whatever cask finish comes next will go through the same rigorous process to seek perfection. “Consumers want different things now,” Hyslop continues. “If it’s not right, we’re not doing it.” That in itself sums up why Royal Salute has had such success, as well as only a small handful of core releases throughout its 66 years.

Royal Salute 29 Year Old

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