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Master of Malt Blog

Author: Jess Williamson

MoM visits… The Glenlivet’s new visitor centre

After much excitement and 18 months of renovations, we finally made our way up to Speyside to see The Glenlivet’s newly-refurbished visitor centre in all its glory. Back in June,…

After much excitement and 18 months of renovations, we finally made our way up to Speyside to see The Glenlivet’s newly-refurbished visitor centre in all its glory.

Back in June, we reported that The Glenlivet’s new visitor centre would be opening its doors on 1 July, and hoped that we would be able to see it in the flesh. Folks, that’s called manifestation, because just a few weeks ago we got on a plane for the first time in over 18 months, and scooted up to the Scottish Highlands to check it out for ourselves. 

Spoiler alert: it’s incredibly well done. Though it’s obviously brand new, rather than something sterile and untouched – like a new toy that you’re afraid to play with – we were amazed at how warm and homely it felt. The Glenlivet is clearly striking a balance between leaning into its smuggling history and legacy, while looking forward to appealing to a younger set of whisky drinkers.

Glenlivet Distillery Visitor Centre

Greeted at the reception area with a flower ceiling

History of The Glenlivet

George Smith began as one of many illicit distillers during the 1800s in the Livet valley. As the story goes, those who travelled up to the area realised that his Speyside whisky was miles ahead of the spirits that were being produced in the Lowlands, which were also more expensive because they were being produced at licensed distilleries. In August 1822, King George IV on his visit to Scotland specifically requested George Smith’s whisky – even though it was illegal.

Nonetheless, the trailblazer that he was, in 1824 Smith decided that he couldn’t evade the threat of excisemen forever, and decided to open up the first legal distillery in the parish of Glenlivet – to many people’s disdain. Given that this was practically like sending a written invitation to excisemen to search his neighbour’s bothies, it didn’t go down very well. Death threats soon followed, so Smith began carrying a pair of pistols with him at all times, which are proudly displayed in the new reception room after being kindly donated by the family. Apparently he never used them – apart from this one time he fired a shot into a coal fire, simply to create dust as a diversion. Make of that what you will… 

Glenlivet Distillery Visitor Centre

The marvellous bottle wall

The tour

We’re hosted by Lyndsey Gray, whose knowledge seemingly knows no bounds. Beginning at a magnificent golden wall of bottles, we learn the history of the distillery and its owners while gazing upon The Glenlivet 12 Year Old throughout the decades – each  bottle a snapshot in time. 

Next up, and one of my favourite segments, is an indoor field of barley, harvested and preserved at one of the local farms that supplies The Glenlivet. We’re presented with short videos from people all along the whisky’s journey; from the local barley farmers and coopers, to master distiller Alan Winchester. Humanising the people behind the liquid makes for a lovely touch, and coupled with the glorious smell and sight of the barley, it’s a mesmeric room.

Glenlivet Distillery Visitor Centre

Yep, that’s an indoor field of barley alright

Now, time for some more of the geeky stuff: the milling, mashing, fermentation, and distillation processes. We gather inside an actual washback for this part of the tour, and it’s a wonderful touch, make you realise just how big these wooden structures are! Sadly, because of the pandemic the production areas aren’t included as part of the tours at present – though the team are feeling hopeful that by 2022 that will be able to change. Until we can marvel at the shiny pot stills once more (rather than peeking at them through the windows), this is the next best thing.

This part of the tour finishes, naturally, in the warehouse. Gray admits this is the most difficult room to get people to leave – people want to stay in here because of the smell. Well, you are literally breathing in whisky, so perhaps that’s unsurprising.

Glenlivet Distillery Visitor Centre

Hone in your senses in the tasting room

What better way to end a tour than with a tasting? We sip on the core trio: the 12, 15, and 18 Year Old expressions. The darkened tasting room envelops your senses, with a shining beacon of whiskies taking centre stage in the middle. It’s a great way to explore the impact of various maturations, with the 12 and 18 boasting the same cask combinations, though tasting radically different. 

Whisky and food – but not as you know it

Back into the main area, we pass through the bar and into the Smuggler’s Hideout room for a whisky tasting and food pairing. The walls of this cosy den are lined with eighty-three hand-crafted clay flagons, replicas of the vessels that were historically used to smuggle The Glenlivet through the Scottish hillside back in George Smith’s day. It’s here that Gray guides us through two twists on the well-trodden path of pairing whiskies with cheese and chocolate.

Glenlivet Distillery Visitor Centre

Check out whisky, popcorn, and chocolate in the Smuggler’s Hideout

First up is a 25-year-old Glenlivet from the Single Cask Collection, paired with Bare Bones 60% milk single origin chocolate. Gray acknowledges that “naturally you’d probably go with at least a 75% dark chocolate, but the milk chocolate brings out all that creaminess” from the second-fill ex-sherry butt where the whisky spent its days. The team wanted to concentrate on provenance, with the provenance of the cacao bean echoing The Glenlivet’s use of Scottish barley.

The second pairing is The Glenlivet’s take on whisky and cheese. This time, the Illicit Still 12 Year Old (a limited-edition available only at the distillery) is paired with cheddar popcorn from Popcorn Shed. Should it work? I’m not sure. Does it work? Yes – it brings out the bundles of ripe banana flavours in the whisky. Fans of salty/sweet combinations, this is a treat. 

Glenlivet Distillery Visitor Centre

Left: 60% milk chocolate. Centre: Mai Tai Cocktail Capsule. Right: Cheddar popcorn.

Of course, we have to round off with the famed Cocktail Capsule Collection – since launching at London Cocktail Week 2019, I’ve read the good, the bad, and the ugly about these little flavour bombs. Finally, a chance to form my own opinion. It’s worth mentioning that they’ve been revised, and are now half the size they were before (from 25ml to 7ml), at a reduced strength, too (from 28% down to between 15-20%). 

I’m presented with the Mai Tai version, and seeing as the collection is all about challenging perceptions of whisky, I’d say it’s a job deliciously well done. You can only try them at the distillery these days, which is a double-edged sword – it makes them all the more exclusive, but all I wanted to do was bring back a whole case for my friends.

Bottle your own 

A highlight of this new experience is the chance to fill your very own bottle of whisky at the end! You can choose from distillery-exclusive cask strength editions of The Glenlivet’s 12 Year Old (£50), 15 Year Old (£70), and 18 Year Old (£125) expressions. You pull the lever, fill it up, and write your name on the label which you stick on yourself. A drinkable, personalised souvenir? Don’t mind if we do.

Glenlivet Distillery Visitor Centre

You can fill your own bottle of whisky!

From a range of geeky tastings, unusual pairings, and delicious cocktails, The Glenlivet has made sure there’s something for every stage, age, and budget of whisky drinker in this new refurb. The tours range from an accessible £15, which includes a tasting of the core trio, to a swanky £100, which includes a visit to the warehouse and a taste of ​​some of The Glenlivet’s oldest and rarest whiskies – namely The Glenlivet 30 Year Old Cellar Collection. You can check out the various tour options here.

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Ice ice baby – why ice is the vital element in your drink

Not all ice is created equal, as it turns out. So we turned to the experts at London’s Crossroads bar to help explain why ice is the vital element in…

Not all ice is created equal, as it turns out. So we turned to the experts at London’s Crossroads bar to help explain why ice is the vital element in your drink.

If you had told me before I joined the world of drinks that I would care at all about the quality of an ice cube, I would probably have taken a sip of my vodka and squash (forgive me) and laughed you out the door. Now, a near-invisible, slow-melting ice cube brings me unparalleled joy, and vodka and squash remains exactly where it should – deep, deep in the past. But my knowledge of what makes ‘proper’ ice proper, why it’s better, and how on earth to recreate it at home, was limited. So I turned to the experts for help.

ice behind a bar

The ice station at Crossroads

What makes good ice?

Ice isn’t just frozen water. (Well, it technically is, but bear with me.) You’d do better to think of it as a cocktail ingredient in its own right. You’ve invested in fabulous spirits and mixers – why scrimp on the final stage? “A cocktail is only as good as the weakest ingredient, and ice is one in the vast majority of them,” Bart Miedeksza of Camden’s Crossroads bar tells me. 

The one thing you absolutely do not want in your ice is air. Well, there are lots of other things you don’t want in your ice, but air is the most likely foe to sneak its way in there. The clearer the ice, the less air it has in it, which is why a good ice cube will be almost invisible when it’s in your drink. “It’s like the bass player of your drink,” he says, “rarely noticed, but keeps the whole band together.”

Ice: the bass player of your drink

Something Miedeksza mentioned was that your ice straight out of the freezer might actually be too cold. It sounds counterintuitive, but ice behind a bar actually sits waiting to get to exactly the right temperature (between -2ºC and 0ºC) and acquires a certain amount of surface water, which will then dilute and cool the drink it’s put into. “In bars we not only consider the amount of ice, but also it’s temperature, shape, purity and volume.”

ice cubes

Clear ice – the dream

Yes, ice helps with dilution, but Miedeksza makes an interesting point for the contrary, too. “The amount of ice in a Highball helps regulate the ratio between your gin and your tonic – if you put less ice, you tend to top up the glass with a mixer all the way to the top resulting in a glass of gin-flavoured tonic.” And, obviously, the more ice you have, the cooler it stays and the slower it melts. Stronger drinks all around!

Bad news: the ice you’ve been grabbing from your local supermarket is less than ideal. “Common bagged ice that we find at supermarkets tends to also be impure, with plenty of cloudiness and cracks,” Miedeksza confirms. It’ll melt before you can say “cheers”!

Shaken or stirred?

It’s not just the ice itself, but how to use it. We hope you haven’t been shaking your Old Fashioned, or stirring your Daiquiri. Miedeksza gave me some helpful tips. “As a general rule of thumb a drink containing fresh juice – such as lime juice in a Margarita – will be shaken while one consisting of only (or mostly) alcoholic components is stirred.” Yes, there are always exceptions to the rule – Gimlets and Vesper Martinis just love to make things complicated. 

When ice is shaken, it cracks and dilutes “balancing the acidity of juices versus sweetness of syrups, liqueurs,” he tells me. Shaking a cocktail brings the temperature down to a lower temperature much faster, as well as aerating it. Generally, if you want a creamy or a frothy, fluffy cocktail, you’ll want to shake it. But bubbles in a Manhattan or Negroni? No, thank you. 

crossroads cocktail bar ice

These shorter spirit-forward serves don’t benefit from being too cold, or from the extra dilution of shaking, either. You want to stir these because “you still want your cocktail cold, but not as cold as to dull all the flavours of a beautiful bourbon.” That’s why the temperature for each serve differs: around -6.75°C for shaken cocktails and -4°C for stirred.

Going back to the idea that not all ice is created equal, Miedeksza gave some intriguing insight into the inner ice workings of Crossroads. “We’re quite geeky about our ice and we use different ice as our service ice (the one we use to make drinks) and as our dispense ice (the one that ends up in your drink).” Smaller ice cubes from a machine are used to bring the ice down to the right temperature (depending on whether it’s shaken or stirred), and then block ice cubes almost double the size are used to actually serve it. 

ice block bar

Serious kit for serious ice cubes

Ice at home

This is all well and good, but it’s unlikely that you’ll have any snazzy ice machines in your kitchen. Back in 2014, we even wrote a step by step guide on how to create that wonderful clear ice at home, so if you have some time on your hands you can give it a whirl. Once you have your ice, Miedeksza is here to give us some home-friendly tips on how to use it! Turns out, it’s all about balance. “In a drink, glass should be so full of ice that it’s resting on the bottom at all times. It prevents the ice movement and stops the drink from being overdiluted.” On the flipside, “putting too much ice in your shaking or stirring vessel has the effect of under-diluting a cocktail.” If it’s packed in too tightly, it won’t be able to move around in the shaker and dilute the drink. Simple thermodynamics, duh. 

Of course, if this all sounds like too much faff, you can always pop into your favourite bar and get the professionals to do all the hard work for you.

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Classic Bars – Quaglino’s

We’re back in the swing of indoor drinking again so it’s time for the return of our Classic Bars series. Today, we’re looking at Quaglino’s in Mayfair, haunt of royalty…

We’re back in the swing of indoor drinking again so it’s time for the return of our Classic Bars series. Today, we’re looking at Quaglino’s in Mayfair, haunt of royalty of all sorts. 

When we kickstarted our Classic Bars series back in September 2020, the future looked bright – until a month later, when our beloved watering holes were closed once more, that is. So when the opportunity came up to not only go to a bar (inside, no less), but to visit the one and only Quaglino’s, we jumped at the chance.

Quaglino’s comes with a lot of expectation. Famous clientele has previously included not just pop royalty such as Sir Elton John, George Michael, and Kanye West, but actual royalty – yes, the royal family. In fact, in 1956 it became the first public restaurant to be visited by a reigning monarch, when the Queen and Prince Philip paid a visit.

It’s not just a top-notch cocktail bar, but a restaurant, too, founded in 1929 by Giovanni Quaglino (a talented restaurateur from Italy, in case you hadn’t guessed) – though the motivation to open the bar was actually born out of spite. 

Quaglino's Cocktail Bar

The view from the grand, famed Quag’s staircase

A bittersweet history

Quaglino followed his colleague and friend Giovanni (clearly a popular name at the time for Italians) Sovrani from The Savoy to work at Sovrani’s own newly-opened restaurant. Things turned sour, however, when Sovrani started getting a bit too close to his friend’s wife. As stated the Quaglino’s website recalls: “Quaglino returned the favour by moving on and taking charge of the restaurant at the St James’s Palace Hotel, just around the corner in Bury Street, and competing for Sovrani’s customers.” 

Long story short, Quaglino won this feud through talent, charisma, and delicious cocktails. From the 1930s up until it was sold in the 1960s, it was where you’d find London’s high society drinking and dancing the night away. It was affectionately known as “Quag’s”, a nickname that prevails to this day (though we wonder how often you’d have to visit for that to become necessary…). Vogue magazine wrote in 1936: “To have a famous maître d’hôtel greet you respectfully by your surname, to greet him in turn familiarly is a strong tonic for your ego”. 

Quaglino stepped back from his restaurant after World War II, and in the 1960s it was sold – this didn’t bode well for the bar and restaurant, as it eventually closed in 1977. In 1993, it was bought by the late, great Sir Terence Conran and reopened after 16 years of silence, “aiming to revive the spirit of the original”. The relaunch gave it a new lease of life, decked out with temptingly stealable, trophy-like ash trays, and even ‘cigarette girls’ (though the indoor smoking ban of 2007 put an end to that). 

The Duke's Strength Cocktail Quaglino's

The Duke’s Strength cocktail, in honour of the late Prince Philip

A new cocktail menu: ‘The Glamour Is Back’

The bar really leans into its history, still boasting its famed winding staircase, with art deco splashes throughout the venue. Its new cocktail menu is inspired by the elegance of those glory years by offering classic cocktails (though in updated form), appropriately titled ‘The Glamour Is Back’ – and what a treat it is. Alongside the official menu, there’s another new serve titled ‘The Duke’s Strength’, crafted to honour the life of Prince Philip. The blend of Plymouth Gin Navy Strength washed with Greek olive oil, Belsazar dry vermouth, clarified tomato consommé, and pickled cherry tomato all nod to the Prince’s Royal Navy past, Greek heritage, and favourite cocktails (Bloody Mary and dry Martini). The creation itself is indeed like a cross between the two – a Bloody Martini, if you will – and balances that ripe tomato sweetness with the more savoury nuances brilliantly.

White Truffle Negroni Quaglino's Cocktail Bar

Behold, the White Truffle Negroni

Twists on classic cocktails can often be gimmicky, and it’s far too easy to make a twist that’s worse than the original – they’re classic for a reason, right? But Quaglino’s managed to pull off these variations through sheer deliciousness, because each twist made sense. Not a gimmick in sight. 

Some favourites of ours on the new menu were the White Truffle Negroni, which brings together Tanqueray No. Ten, Luxardo Bitter, and Cocchi Americano-washed truffle oil, and the Cuban Fashioned, a rum-based take on the serve with Havana Club 7-washed peanut butter, banana oleo skin, and Angostura bitters. These two couldn’t be more different; the former, a subtly savoury, earthy twist on the usually citrusy cocktail, while the latter was all about that peanut butter richness and tropical vibrancy. 

Bramblerry Quaglino's Cocktail Bar

Bramb(L)erry, a firm favourite of ours

But the one that truly blew our socks off was Bramb(L)erry – Olmeca Blanco Tequila, Vida mezcal, three-berry shrub, and Tio Pepe dry sherry made for a smoky, jammy, and super refreshing take on the classic gin-based cocktail. We were also lucky enough to catch some live music from Juke Joints later in the evening, with the blues band playing brassy versions of all our favourite songs, from Oasis to The Piña Colada Song.

Live music, exceptional service, and classic cocktails with elegant twists – we’re so glad Quaglino’s wasn’t lost to history. 

 

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Top 10 delicious drinks for Mother’s Day!

Mother’s Day is fast approaching! Don’t forget to treat your mum with something tasty – luckily we’ve rounded up a whole range of gift-worthy tipples right here… This is your…

Mother’s Day is fast approaching! Don’t forget to treat your mum with something tasty – luckily we’ve rounded up a whole range of gift-worthy tipples right here…

This is your friendly reminder to get your hands on something delicious for Mother’s Day (it’s on 14 March, FYI). Nothing beats cracking open a bottle together, though this year it’s probably going to be a little different – let the Zoom drinks commence! Nonetheless, you can rest easy knowing that you picked out a top bottle for her to enjoy for the occasion. 

Brilliant bottles await! 

Lind & Lime Gin

Lind & Lime Gin

Your mum will love a gorgeous bottle of delicious gin, and that’s exactly what we have here – Lind & Lime Gin is the first release from Edinburgh’s Port of Leith Distillery! The zesty spirit was inspired by Dr. James Lind of Edinburgh, who first made the link between citrus fruits and scurvy. Alongside a good dose of lime citrus there’s pink peppercorn and juniper spice, too. Plus, after it’s been drunk, you could use the bottle for all sorts of other purposes. Candle holder. Vase. Lamp. The list goes on!

What does it taste like? Bright citrus, fresh and authentic. Juniper is oily and subtly spicy, bolstered by pink pepper and cardamom warmth.

Jaffa Cake Rum

Jaffa Cake Rum

Orange and chocolate. A dynamic duo, and flavours you’ll often find in aged rum. The folks behind Jaffa Cake Rum went one step further, a blended Caribbean rum with real life Jaffa cakes, alongside oranges, fresh orange peel and cocoa powder! Make sure to whip your mum up a Rum Old Fashioned, garnished with a Jaffa cake – failing that, a ribbon of orange peel will do. Mother’s Day drinks, done!

What does it taste like? Zesty orange, cake-y vanilla, and tropical fruit tang, with dark chocolate and bittersweet coffee bringing balance.

Dalwhinnie 15 Year Old

Dalwhinnie 15 Year Old

Whether your mum is a seasoned sipper or looking to explore the world of whisky, Dalwhinnie 15 Year Old is a superb choice. The delicate and flavoursome Highland single malt was aged in a combination of ex-bourbon and ex-Oloroso sherry casks, with just a smidge of smoke running through it. Sublime stuff, and maybe she’ll even share a dram with you if you’re nice enough to give it to her!  

What does it taste like? Oily and nutty, with almond and butterscotch alongside heather honey, malt biscuits, and oaky vanilla. 

Chapel Down Sparkling Bacchus 2019

Chapel Down Sparkling Bacchus 2019

Our Kentish neighbours at Chapel Down know exactly how to make the most out of their Bacchus grapes, and this sparkling wine is one such example! This is a wonderfully refreshing English wine, brimming with vibrant fruit and gentle vanilla notes, all carried by fine bubbles. The perfect bottle to pop open on 14 March!

What does it taste like? Elderflower, pineapple, mango, citrus, cut grass, and nectarine.

Mermaid Pink Gin

Mermaid Pink Gin

Remember what we said literally just now about beautiful bottles and delicious gin? Well, not to hammer the point home, but we’ve got another brilliant example here from the Isle of Wight Distillery! It’s a blushing variant of its gorgeous Mermaid Gin, infused with strawberries from the aforementioned isle. Think bright berry fruitiness balanced by savoury rock samphire and herbaceous Boadicea hops, and you’re there. Pair with a splash of elderflower tonic and handful of fresh strawberries, and serve it straight to your mum. A sure way to become the favourite!

What does it taste like? A burst of bright berries initially, with citrus and piney notes, balanced by subtly coastal samphire.

Starward (New) Old Fashioned

Starward (New) Old Fashioned

Mother’s Day calls for cocktails! Though if you’re not familiar with the ol’ shaker or stirrer, a pre-bottled serve might be the best option. This is the (New) Old Fashioned from Starward in Australia, made with its very own whisky, house-made bitters, and, for an extra Australian touch, wattleseed demerara syrup. If you have ice and a glass, then you’re ready to serve this tasty tipple!

What does it taste like? Sharp orange, stewed berries and strawberry jam, oak, a hint of mint leaf.

Project #173 Pineapple Rum

Project #173 Pineapple Rum

A tropical treat for you from the Project #173 range, made with a delicious top-quality rum base which has been flavoured with the tangy delights of pineapple! It’s totally gift-worthy too, because it’s presented in a bottle adorned with actual 23 karat gold leaf. Go on and make Mother’s Day Daiquiri with this. It’s like a normal Daiquiri, except you’ve made it on Mother’s Day without being asked!

What does it taste like? Vibrant pineapple, and tangy tropical fruit, with fried banana, runny caramel, and a crackle of peppery spice.

Dr. Squid Gin

Dr. Squid Gin

Yes, this is unusual, but that’s what makes this Cornish tipple amazing! Dr. Squid Gin is from the Pocketful of Stones Distillery in Penzance, and it’s made with real squid ink – we know you saw that one coming, you read the name, right? As such, there’s a coastal touch to the spirit, balanced by those classic notes of juniper, citrus, and spice. As if it wasn’t cool enough, it even turns bright pink when mixed with tonic water! And it’s presented in a copper flask! See? Cool!

What does it taste like? Juniper and citrus kick it off, with a subtly savoury sea breeze running through, along with a helping of sweeter florals.

Caoruun Gin

Caorunn Small Batch Gin

First things first, if you’re going to give Caorunn Gin to your mum, you’re going to have to know how to pronounce it. It’s ‘ka-roon’. You’ll also probably want to know what’s in the Scottish spirit, and it’s local botanicals galore! Hand-picked rowan berry, heather, coul blush apple, and dandelion feature in here, and its signature serve is with a good quality tonic and slice of apple to garnish.

What does it taste like? Floral heather, woody juniper, and green, leafy notes, with a burst of citrus and spice.

Drinks by the Dram 12 Dram Premium Gin Collection

Drinks by the Dram 12 Dram Premium Gin Collection

Drinks by the Dram has taken all the hard work out of choosing by doing it for you, rounding up 12 of its favourite gins in this gorgeous collection. Within you’ll find 12 wax-sealed 30ml drams from all over the world – we’re talking England, Australia, Finland, and more! It’s the perfect shape for easy wrapping (should you be so inclined), though covered in florals it’s pretty just as it is.

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#BagThisBundle – Win a delicious bundle from Pangolin Gin!

Want to win a delicious bundle of gin and tonic water, all while raising awareness for an endangered animal? Better enter our latest #BagThisBundle competition, then!  Great gin with an…

Want to win a delicious bundle of gin and tonic water, all while raising awareness for an endangered animal? Better enter our latest #BagThisBundle competition, then! 

Great gin with an even better cause is something we love to get behind here at MoM Towers. And Pangolin Gin is one such example. Found across Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, pangolins (also known as scaly anteaters) are a very cute animal with a very sad story. It is the most trafficked animal in the world because of demand for its scales and meat. The former is often used as alternative medicine, despite having no medicinal properties.

Pangolin Gin was founded to help the animal while giving people something delicious to sip at the same time. The gin itself boasts African botanicals like baobab, rooibos, and honeybush. While each bottle sold sees a donation to Pangolin conservation charities working across Africa and Asia to protect it from extinction.

Pangolin searching for ants

One of our scaly little friends searching for some ants.

Here’s what you can win:

In honour of World Pangolin Day (which is 20 February, get it in your diaries!), the folks behind Pangolin Gin have released a special limited Pink edition. Not only does it boast the addition of pink peppercorn, pink grapefruit, and orange peel to the botanical list, but 50% of the profits from each bottle are donated to the Born Free Foundation, supporting its international Pangolin conservation projects!

To celebrate this exciting release (and very worthy cause), we thought we’d give you the chance to win a tasty bundle. What exactly is in this bundle? We’re glad you asked…

#BagThisBundle Pangolin Gin and Double Dutch Tonic Water

This could be yours!

How to #BagThisBundle of Pangolin Gin:

Sounds pretty good, right? Now you’re probably wondering how to enter. Just complete the following steps: 

Oh, and what’s even more exciting is that we’re choosing not just one, but two lucky winners! That’s just doubled your chances. 

Best of luck to you all! We’re off to watch pangolin videos on YouTube now – we just can’t get enough of the little critters. 

MoM Pangolin Gin Bag This Bundle Competition 2021 open to entrants 18 years and over and in the UK only. Entries accepted from 12:00 GMT on 16 February 2021 to 23:59:59 20 Feb 2021. Winners chosen at random after close of competition. Prizes not transferable and cannot be exchanged for cash equivalent. See full T&Cs for details.

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Whisky Advent 2020 Day #24: Balvenie 14 Year Old – The Week of Peat

It’s Christmas Eve! But also, sadly, the last day of #WhiskyAdvent. One door closes, another opens and all that. But today we’re mainly opening doors, specifically #24. For our final…

It’s Christmas Eve! But also, sadly, the last day of #WhiskyAdvent. One door closes, another opens and all that. But today we’re mainly opening doors, specifically #24. For our final whisky of the countdown, we’ve got a rather unique smoky Speysider… It’s Balvenie 14 Year Old – The Week of Peat!

Back in 2019, Balvenie released The Balvenie Stories range, a trio of whiskies crafted to tell tales of the distillery’s history to its drinkers. The Week of Peat was one of such three, and is actually based on The Balvenie Peat Week Aged 14 Year Old, which was launched in 2017. So, what’s the story? A peated Speysider isn’t something you see every day, so you know it’s going to be a good one…

Cast your minds back to 2002. The very first film instalment of Spider-Man (and arguably the best – Tobey Maguire reigns the arthropod king, and I will take this outside) had just been released, and Balvenie distillery manager at the time Ian Millar had found a rare gap in the distillery’s production schedule. There was a whole week free! So, he decided to give drying barley with peat a go. Why not, eh? There’s a first time for everything, and it certainly wasn’t the last. This smoky dram was inspired by the fruits of that experimental week, with classic Balvenie florals and butterscotch supported by a delicate layer of smoke. But don’t take our word for it, we’ve got Balvenie’s global brand ambassador Gemma Patterson on hand to tell us all about it! 

whisky advent balvenie week of peat

It’s Gemma Patterson!

Master of Malt: Tell us about the history of The Week of Peat releases!

Gemma Patterson: The Week of Peat started back in 2002 when we cleared the production schedule for a week at Balvenie and ran a heavily peated batch of malt through the distillery. This is a tradition that continued and we have maintained an annual Peaty Week ever since. Ian Millar, distillery manager at the time was the brains behind the operation, he inspired a number of trials that ran through The Balvenie maltings in the years leading up to the first full week of peat. It was maltman/poet/songwriter Robbie Gormley who was responsible for experimenting with the malt, using Highland-grown barley that had been peated to around 28PPM. Brian Webster, mashman/raconteur, was responsible for milling, mashing, and fermenting the stuff and he lovingly refers to this variant as “that stinkin’ stuff!”. In the end, after 14 years resting in an American oak bourbon barrel the peat has mellowed to around 5PPM. The dram is still characteristically Balvenie with smooth honey undertones, only laced with a wisp of peat. Oh, and it is bottled at 48.3% ABV so it has a nice kick to it. I like to add a wee splash of water to this one. If you want to hear more from the people who made this whisky then head here and have a listen to our podcast.

whisky advent 2020 balvenie

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

GP: It depends on the dram, hand me a Caribbean Cask and I love a wee splash of water with it. If you’re generous enough to pour me a PortWood then I would sip this one slowly neat.

MoM: Has there been a Balvenie highlight of 2020?

GP: The highlight of 2020 was launching the next variant in our Stories Series, The Edge of Burnhead Wood. We did this virtually via Zoom, Teams, and live distillery tours. This involved connecting with our Balvenie families across the world, from our local ambassadors, the distillery team, and malt master David C. Stewart MBE from his home in Glasgow. Like the rest of the world, we’ve had a lot of ups and downs over the course of the year getting to grips with new technology and different ways to communicate, but overall it has been an enjoyable journey, keeping connected has been incredibly important for us all to keep sane. One day we may show you our blooper reels…

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

GP: The Week of Peat of course! You can’t beat a wee smoky dram in front of the fire at this time of year. 

MoM: Do you have a go-to Christmas cocktail?

GP: I’m going to experiment with making a Balvenie Caribbean Cask Eggnog, let’s see how that turns out…

whisky advent 2020 balvenie

Tasting note by The Chaps at Master of Malt:

Nose: Gentle sweet peat smoke, lighter floral notes and delicate butterscotch honey

Palate: Velvety and round to taste with the peat smoke balancing citrus flavours, oaky vanilla and blossom honey

Finish: Gentle smoke with a lingering and creamy vanilla sweetness.

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Whisky Advent 2020 Day #20: Glenfarclas 15 Year Old

Door number nine holds behind it… Glenfarclas 15 Year Old! George Grant joins us once again for #WhiskyAdvent, and if it’s heavy reading you’re after, this… isn’t it. A man…

Door number nine holds behind it… Glenfarclas 15 Year Old! George Grant joins us once again for #WhiskyAdvent, and if it’s heavy reading you’re after, this… isn’t it. A man of few words, as always.

If it’s a sherried Speysider you’re looking for, Glenfarclas is right up there as a go-to. The distillery only uses sherry-seasoned casks to mature its whisky in, and for good reason. It’s absolutely delicious, and it’s a combination that’s worked since 1836! If it ain’t broke, and all that…

Glenfarclas 15 Year Old is what some might call one of the ultimate Christmas drams, as it is almost literally Christmas cake in liquid, malt-based form. It’s also bottled at 46% ABV, for no other reason that because that’s the strength that George Grant’s grandfather preferred it at. 

Speaking of, we grabbed a few (literally) words from George Grant himself, head of sales and the 6th generation of the family behind the whisky. If you’re in a rush then no worries, this won’t take long! 

whisky advent glenfarclas

Master of Malt: Describe Glenfarclas 15 Year Old in three words. 

George Grant: Big, bold, delicious.

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

GG: A double.

MoM: What can we expect from Glenfarclas in 2021? 

GG: It’s our 185th Anniversary of legal distilling.

MoM: It’s Christmas Eve, and you’re sitting down with a Glenfarclas dram. Which one is it? GG: Glenfarclas 25 Year Old. It’s Christmas, in a glass.

MoM: Besides classics like mulled wine and (obviously) whisky, what’s your favourite Christmas tipple

GG: Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill 2009, in magnum, of course.

whisky advent glenfarclas

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt

Nose: Intense, powerful sherry. Pedro Ximenez, perhaps? Almost… a touch of peppermint? An almost rancio quality to this. Smells older than 15.

Palate: Raisins, more sherry, orange peel, walnuts, dates.

Finish: Incredibly long, complex, more of the Walnuts again.

Overall: Water draws out sweetness. This is Christmas cake, not whisky. Simply astonishing.

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Whisky Advent 2020 Day #11: Glenfiddich Experimental Series – IPA Cask Finish

On the 11th day of Advent, Drinks by the Dram decided to treat us with a category-crossing whisky that brings together the humble brew with the water of life. It’s…

On the 11th day of Advent, Drinks by the Dram decided to treat us with a category-crossing whisky that brings together the humble brew with the water of life. It’s Glenfiddich Experimental Series – IPA Cask Finish!

It’s Friday! Or ‘Fri-yay’ if you’re posting on Instagram, which you may well be – and don’t forget to tune into #WhiskyAdvent if you are. Anyway, there’s lots of reasons today is a ‘yay’ rather than just simply a ‘day’. But the main one is that there’s yet another delicious dram squirrelled away in your Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar! Beer lovers, whisky lovers, it’s time for you to put your differences aside and come together with this top release from Glenfiddich, finished for three months in casks which previously held IPA. Is that a ‘yay’ we can hear? Of course it is.

Called Glenfiddich Experimental Series – IPA Cask Finish, it was released as part of the Speyside distillery’s Experimental Series – it’s not every day you see beer and whisky coming together so literally. We turned to brand ambassador Mark Thomson (whose official title is ‘ambassador to Scotland – Glenfiddich Single Malt Whisky’, which is awesome but must be hard to fit on a business card) to chat about this unique release, the year that was, and his favourite Christmas sipper!

whisky advent glenfiddich ipa cask

It’s Mark Thomson, everyone! Where can we get a tasting glass like that?

Master of Malt: An IPA-finished whisky! Can you talk us through this release?

Mark Thomson: Sounds strange doesn’t it? Well, we’ve had a long history of experimenting with whisky at Glenfiddich and this particular release fitted into our Experimental range launched in 2016. It came around from a conversation between a brewer and Brian Kinsman, our malt master. Rather than taking a beer cask, we infused a cask at Glenfiddich which had already contained our whisky with a bespoke-brewed hoppy ale. Then removed it from the cask and added back Glenfiddich whisky to allow a conversation between the two creations to begin. It’s a light style of Glenfiddich in general, being fully matured in American oak, there is sweetness with classic fruit notes. However, the influence of the ale is not lost with a hoppy, zesty overtone and delicious lingering aftertaste. It’s perfect enjoyed on its own, but I often find myself pairing it with a beer on the side. A traditional serve known as a Hauf ‘n Hauf in Scotland.  

MoM: You can only pick either beer or whisky – which one is it?

MT: Whisky of course, because it’s always appealing to me, can be mixed into cocktails or lengthened into a highball. Far more flexible than beer if I was to be forced down such a path – you have to play the long game. 

MoM: What was a 2020 highlight for Glenfiddich?

MT: I suppose in any other normal year it would be difficult to choose because we are always forging ahead with new releases, activations or events. As we all know, this year wasn’t anything close to “normal”. So I’d say our highlight was the charity drive we did over the year with fundraising events, challenges and auctions. Our own Standfast programme which was set up to support the hospitality workers of the UK to raise £300k and we are still coming up with other initiatives to support charities such as the Benevolent in Scotland and the Drinks Trust elsewhere in the UK. In addition to this, the ambassadors of William Grant & Sons all made a huge effort to support hospitality workers wherever possible. Even if that was simply having a coffee (safely) and letting them voice their concerns and worries. 

whisky advent glenfiddich ipa cask

Gaze upon the actual Glenfiddich distillery.

MoM: Can we expect more releases along these beer-y lines from Glenfiddich?

MT: Perhaps not so much beer related, but you never know. Brian has a number of experiments maturing in the warehouses of Glenfiddich and the Experimental Series was always a playground for us to try new things. We aim to always have three releases available in the series -there have been four so far, however Winter Storm, a 21 year old finished in Canadian ice wine casks, was a limited edition. There should have been a new release in the series for 2020, but we’ve popped that back in the warehouse for now until things return or settle to a new normal. Keep an eye out over the next year to 18 months for some new and exciting Glenfiddich releases. But I’m afraid my lips are sealed for now on what those may be.

MoM: Which Glenfiddich dram will we find you enjoying at Christmas?

MT: I’ll be celebrating Christmas this year with an indulgent drop of our luxurious Grand Cru whisky. A 23 yr old Glenfiddich allowed to rest for a time in French cuvée wine casks before being bottled. It’s fast becoming one of my favourite available whiskies in our range. The character is quite unlike anything else we have out at the moment. The whisky, before hitting those final French oak casks, is already delightful with a subtle sweet/salty note, delicate floral elements and classic Glenfiddich white fruit. Then it is elevated into an incredibly complex yet approachable whisky by those fabulous French casks. Quite simply, a perfect whisky for any celebration, not just Christmas.

whisky advent glenfiddich ipa cask

Tasting Note from the Chaps at Master of Malt

Nose: An elegant harmony of fresh green apple, William’s pear and spring blossom. Complimented with aromatic hops and fresh herbs.

Palate: Vibrant with a zesty citrus note followed by creamy vanilla and a hint of fresh hops.

Finish: Enduring sweetness with an echo of green hops.

 

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Whisky Advent 2020 Day #9: Balvenie 14 Year Old Caribbean Cask

Behind today’s little cardboard door of the Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar is a fruity Speysider that brings together Scotland and the Caribbean. It’s Balvenie 14 Year Old…

Behind today’s little cardboard door of the Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar is a fruity Speysider that brings together Scotland and the Caribbean. It’s Balvenie 14 Year Old Caribbean Cask!  

You will never again make the choice between rum and whisky with Balvenie 14 Year Old Caribbean Cask. But this single malt wasn’t just finished in any old rum casks. Oh, no. Balvenie malt master David C. Stewart made his very own blend of West Indian rums, filled it into casks, waited patiently and then finished Balvenie whisky in these delicious rum-seasoned casks after an initial maturation in American oak.  Tropical fruit and toffee awaits…

Who better to grab a moment with than UK brand ambassador Alwynne Gwilt? She’s on hand to have a festive chat with us about cask finishes and Christmassy drams! 

whisky advent 2020 balvenie

Say hello to Alwynne Gwilt!

Master of Malt: What do you think it is about rum casks and Balvenie whisky that works so well together?

Alwynne Gwilt: When you nose a number of aged rums, you’ll note similar aroma characteristics to what you find in whisky: brown sugar, toffee, spice. And our malt master David Stewart MBE is a big fan of rum, so when he noticed those synchronicities he was keen to experiment with how to continue bringing out the best of our whisky, while adding on some nuances to it through the rum-cask finish.

MoM: How do you drink this whisky?

AG: I think Caribbean Cask 14 is my favourite for experimenting with in the range. I like to drink it neat, of course, because it is fruity, sweet, spicy and incredibly well balanced. But I also love it in a Highball in the summertime, and a Caribbean Cask 14 Piña Colada is something else! Absolutely delicious! 

whisky advent 2020 balvenie

The stunning Balvenie distillery!

MoM: What does 2021 have in store for Balvenie?

AG: We are all looking forward to getting back to doing more events and activations – COVID-19 permitting – and we will be continuing the ‘story’ of Stories, as well as hero-ing our dedication to craft in some new and unique ways, so definitely watch this space!

MoM: What’s your favourite type of cask finish? (You don’t have to say rum!)

AG: My favourite type is one which still allows the main DNA of the whisky to shine through – so, for The Balvenie, malty, honeyed sweetness from a long maturation in American oak is key – while just adding a slight hint of something ‘extra’ through a short finish. It should be there to add an extra layer, rather than dominate. So, while I cannot say I have a favourite, this is definitely what I look for in our whisky and others that I try. 

MoM: What will you be drinking on Christmas day?

AG: I recently discovered a dram of Port Wood 21 leftover from a tasting event, so I’ve saved that up for Christmas – after all, it is David Stewart’s favourite! That and some gorgeous South African wine that I’ve been looking forward to opening up after a long year!

whisky advent 2020 balvenie

Tasting note from the Chaps at Master of Malt

Nose: Rich with notes of tropical fruits, namely passion fruit, and creamy toffee.

Palate: Sweet vanilla forms a creamy palate with notes of apples and mangoes with a hint of orange in the background.

Finish: The finish lingers with a vanilla focussed character.

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The Best UK Cocktail Delivery Services in 2021

Our beloved hospitality industry is taking quite the hit during lockdown, and obviously we’re all gutted we can’t go and support them… Except wait, we can! Here are a few…

Our beloved hospitality industry is taking quite the hit during lockdown, and obviously we’re all gutted we can’t go and support them… Except wait, we can! Here are a few ways you can get your cocktail fix without even leaving your home. 

We know that nothing will quite beat the ambiance of our favourite watering hole, glancing over at the bar and seeing your drink being shaken (or stirred) by a bonafide professional. But, at the same time, enjoying a bar-quality cocktail in the comfort of your own home brings quite a bit of solace and downright enjoyment in times like these. If you can’t go to the bar, bring the bar to you! Plus, now you won’t have to queue or anything… 

cocktail delivery
Speakeasy At Home

It’s triple trouble with Speakeasy At Home, as three of the World’s 50 Best bars have joined forces for this one! You’ll find cocktails from Swift, Nightjar and Oriole all in one place, which is pretty awesome. Will you choose Swift’s famed Irish Coffee, Nightjar’s Barrel Aged Zombie or Oriole’s Jalisco Negroni? If you simply can’t pick which bar you feel like visiting (through the wonder of taste, of course), you can get yourself a box featuring one cocktail from each. Handy! Cocktails come in 220ml pouches and 500ml bottles, starting at £15 and delivering throughout the UK. 

cocktail delivery
Milroy’s The Proofing Room

The ever-wonderful Milroy’s treated us to a new Spitalfields-based site this year, and underneath you’ll find The Proofing Room, its basement cocktail bar. Now it’s bringing the cocktails to us, and they’re all inspired by the humble Highball. The six-serve menu treats us to a whole host of different variations on the classic cocktail, from bourbon, chestnut, peach and ginger to Tequila, coconut rum, chill, caraway and orange. What’s more, there’s delivery across the UK within 48 hours! So you won’t be thirsty for long. Each bottle costs between £12 to £14 and holds three servings. ‌ 

Easy Social Cocktail Co.

Bartender and Master of Malt contributor Nate Brown, had big plans for 2020 including a Highball Bar called Soda, a pizza and cocktail venue named Nebula and had an idea that at-home cocktails might be a thing. Well, for various reasons, not all of them Covid-related, Soda didn’t open, Nebula is open and doing takeaways, and a cocktails delivery service seems like a really good idea. So Brown has teamed up with Imie Augier, formerly of Fitz’s Bar and Shrub and Shutter, and Hebe Richardson of Drinks with Hebe fame (and also Brown’s wife), to launch the Easy Social Cocktail Co (photo credit above: Milly Fletcher). The menu includes classic cocktails in bottles or pouches as well as Hard Seltzers. We were given a little taste of some of the deliciousness on offer including a Cracking Christmas Cosmo and a Super Strawberry Negroni which might be the best Negroni we’ve ever tried (both £25 for 500ml). 

cocktail delivery services
Coupette

Coupette is bringing its delicious cocktails to the masses, because it’s delivering its drinks worldwide! Get your all-important Calvados fix or give the Parmigiano- and bourbon-inspired Ain’t Easy Being Cheesy a go. Heartbreakingly, Champagne Piña Coladas don’t do well in transit. Sad faces all around. Though we’re sure we’ll cope, because there are heaps of other options from its outstanding menu to choose from. If you dim the lights, get some music on and cook yourself some gratin dauphinoise, it’ll be like you never left the East London bar! Cocktails come in three sizes, 125ml, 250ml and 500ml, starting at £10. 

cocktail delivery
Hacha

Agave lovers, we didn’t forget about you! London’s Hacha is here to get us our fix, having bottled its famed Mirror Margarita. Each 700ml bottle holds four serves, and you’ll find Tequila or mezcal versions of the cocktail along with seasonal infusions like clementine and cinnamon, or even a mulled variant! The bar has even reworked the classics, with pre-bottled agave twists on Negronis and Martinis too. A top feature of the bar was its ever-changing spirit selection, complete with bespoke weird and wacky food pairings (mezcal and Monster Munch, anyone?). With Hacha’s agave tasting flights, you can recreate this at home! The flights are designed for two people, holding two serves of three different spirits, along with full tasting notes and even pairing suggestions. If you weren’t an agave aficionado already, you will be soon! Bottles start from £35, delivering all over the UK.

cocktail delivery
Liana Cocktail Co. 

Liana Cocktail Co. is the tasty result of a bad situation (which was lockdown, in case you hadn’t guessed). It goes one step further than just sending you a delicious cocktail, because each serve has one of those fancy QR codes. Say hello to the Interactive Cocktail Experience! From an Apple Old Fashioned to Margaritas, every cocktail has a corresponding video featuring a bartender talking you through how the drink was created. Each box is £19.99 (while £1 from every box will be donated by Liana Cocktail Co. to The Drinks Trust) and holds three cocktails, with delivery across the UK mainland.

cocktail delivery

Bring Your Bar Home

And last but not least, a very shiny new feat of technology from a fellow bar-lover – say hello to Bring Your Bar Home! As much as we hate to admit it, it’s basically a better version of what we’ve just done with this blog, because instead of rounding up a few favourites for you (brilliant though they are), you simply whack in your postcode (only works in the UK) and shows you a long ol’ list of bars which can deliver straight to your doorstep. Genius! Just the sort of thing we wish we’d come up with ourselves… 

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