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Master of Malt Blog

Author: Kristiane Sherry

Top 10 brilliantly boozy Mother’s Day gifts!

Make sure you’re her favourite this Mother’s Day – these are the most delicious gifts to put a smile on her face (and cement your position as top child) on…

Make sure you’re her favourite this Mother’s Day – these are the most delicious gifts to put a smile on her face (and cement your position as top child) on 22 March!

Choosing the perfect Mother’s Day gift can be a tricky game. You want to make her day. You want to be the generous one round the table. But, if you’re like us, you probably don’t want to spend a fortune either. Well, you’re in luck! We’ve scoured the warehouse shelves to pick out some of our favourite liquid pressies guaranteed to delight both your mum’s palate and your wallet. Hurrah! 

(Pssst… for the latest deals and even more gift ideas, check out our dedicated Mother’s Day page!)

Top 10 brilliantly boozy Mother’s Day gifts!

Silent Pool Gin Gift Pack, £62.95

If your mum adores all things juniper and is also partial to the prettier things in life, we can think of no better pressie than Silent Pool’s gorgeous Gift Pack. Not only is there a full-size bottle of delicious gin (botanicals include chamomile, lavender and honey locally sourced from the Surrey Hills), but there’s a pair of striking glasses, too! She’ll just have to share that G&T with you…

Top 10 brilliantly boozy Mother’s Day gifts!

Two Swallows Cherry & Salted Caramel Rum, £23.95

This flavoured rum is right up our street – and it could well be perfect for your mum, too! The rum base comes from Guyana’s Diamond Distillery (a MoM Towers’ fave), and with cherry and salted caramel too, it’s almost like a Bakewell Tart in a bottle! We also adore the 20s vibes the label is serving us. Winning all round!  

Top 10 brilliantly boozy Mother’s Day gifts!

Glenmorangie Lasanta 12 Year Old, £41.75

An absolute classic from the world of Scotch whisky, this 12 year old, sherry cask-finished Glenmorangie single malt is a joy to behold. The influence from the Oloroso and PX casks used in the latter stages impart delectable dark chocolate, honey and dried raisin notes – a highly giftable bottle, especially if your mum likes her whisky on the luxuriously creamy side…

Top 10 brilliantly boozy Mother’s Day gifts!

Manchester Gin – Raspberry Infused £33.95

If your ma likes to try her hand at mixing drinks, this is a marvellously versatile gin. Infused with oodles of raspberries, Manchester Gin’s fruity concoction works splendidly in a Bramble, a Gin Smash, a twist on a Martini, or even splashed into a glass of fizz. A perfect gift, or one to snap up now so you can make her a drink on Mother’s Day…

Top 10 brilliantly boozy Mother’s Day gifts!

Premium Gin Tasting Set, £19.95

What if your mum’s a bit of a drinks chameleon? Perhaps exploring a world of different tipples is her favourite pastime? We’ve got all sorts of solutions! This Premium Gin Tasting Set looks the part, and comes with five deliciously different 30ml expressions to keep her entertained. But what if she likes whisky, rum, Tequila, vodka, something else? We’ve got all bases covered with our Tasting Sets range. You could even build your own for something truly tailored!

Top 10 brilliantly boozy Mother’s Day gifts!

Bowmore 15 Year Old, £52.90

Perhaps your mum is of a peated whisky persuasion and you’re stuck for what to get her. We’re big fans of Bowmore 15 Year Old, a classic Islay expression that balances that signature smoke with the rich dried fruit sweetness from its sherry cask finish. She’d have to share a dram with you – which means she’d get the gift of a catch-up, too. Two pressies in one! 

Top 10 brilliantly boozy Mother’s Day gifts!

J.J. Corry The Sonas, £59.95

Ok, ok, we’re a bit biased on this one. But it’s our very own Irish whiskey, so how could we not be! Our editor Kristy actually blended this one with our buyer Guy, under the watchful eye of J.J. Corry founder Louise McGuane. A proper sunshine dram (‘Sonas’ means ‘happiness’ in Irish Gaelic), full of fresh fruitiness, creamy vanilla and caramelised pecan notes. And, if you buy a bottle from the J.J. Corry range, you could win a trip to Ireland to blend your very own bottling, too! That would make an epic Mother’s Day gift…

Top 10 brilliantly boozy Mother’s Day gifts!

Bathtub Gin, £28.95

A multi-award-winner, Bathtub Gin is made using a traditional cold compounding method which sees the likes of juniper, orange peel, coriander, cassia, cloves and cardamom-infused in copper pot-spirit for up to a week. The botanicals are depicted on the gift tin as well, which makes it as pretty as a bunch of flowers, but with the added bonus that you can actually drink it. What more could your mum possibly want?!

Top 10 brilliantly boozy Mother’s Day gifts!

Aske Stephenson Garden Bramble, £28.83

We’re well on-board with this pre-mixed cocktail delight. Take the traditional blackberry-based cocktail and add in a host of florals, including elderflower and clary sage, and you get this delectably refreshing sipper that you can simply serve over ice, or give it a go with tonic. Another one that makes a cracking gift, or alternatively it’s an easy solution for pre-Mother’s Day dinner apéritifs. We think of everything. 

Top 10 brilliantly boozy Mother’s Day gifts!

That Boutique-y Gin Company Fruit-y Gin Gift Set, £19.95 

Another splendid solution to Mother’s Day gifting dilemmas if your mum is into all things gin. This brightly colourful gift set features four 50ml bottles of four fabulously flavoursome expressions (Cherry Gin, Chocolate Orange Gin, Strawberry & Balsamico Gin and Spit-Roasted Pineapple Gin) from That Boutique-y Gin Company! It’s a taste extravaganza that’s highly giftable and we’re here for it. 

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Top 10 New York bars to visit

New York bars have a reputation for greatness. We spent some time sipping our way through the city, and behold! Here are our findings. We present 10 great bars to…

New York bars have a reputation for greatness. We spent some time sipping our way through the city, and behold! Here are our findings. We present 10 great bars to check out on your next trip!

Eating, and in this context, drinking, your way around a city can be the best way to get a feel for the heart and soul of a place. And if that place is New York, your palate is in for an absolute treat. We had a few days in the city in between visiting distilleries and taking part in the American Distilling Institute’s annual Judging of Craft Spirits (we know it’s on the west coast, but we made it happen). The best way to kill time? Sampling some of the world’s best bars, which just so happened to be on our doorstep.

We stayed part of the trip in Midtown, making a good few of these names in walking distance (it was a little bit of a stretch on occasion). We then hightailed it over to Greenpoint, taking in two delightful Brooklyn drinking holes en route.

Full disclosure: New York has hundreds of bars on offer, and a chunk of those have become internationally renowned for creative menus, ace hospitality, and simply put, damn good drinks. We could have stayed in the city for a year and not hit them all up. So we narrowed it down to 10 that we loved for various different reasons. 

We know there are LOADS of other excellent bars in NYC. Have you visited? Which were your favourites? Any bars on your New York bucket list we should know about? Let us know in the comments below, or on social!

A Manhattan in Manhattan!

Lot 15

At The Kixby, 45 West 35th Street

A relatively recent addition to the New York scene, this cosy ground-floor Midtown lounge-style haunt is seductively lit and swathed in murals by Fumero, an international graffiti artist inspired by the city’s subway art. The 360-degree bar is the focal point, and we recommend grabbing one of the 12 seats there to chat to the wonderfully engaging bar team (don’t panic if it’s full, there’s loads of table space, too!). The current menu is based around the classics, and can be tricky to navigate if you’re not up to speed on cocktail families. But don’t panic – folks are on-hand to help. We went for a Classic Manhattan (it was our first drink in actual Manhattan; it needed to be done) and it was a fabulously balanced, delightfully robust serve. 

The Private Eye (L) and Dusk Till Dawn

The Modern

At MoMA, 9 West 53rd Street

Whether you’re arted out and in need of refreshment, or just in the area and fancy something literally very fancy, Michelin-starred The Modern, located at The Museum of Modern Art, is a dreamy spot to stop and sip. (And eat. We really recommend the carrot rillettes on the Bar Room menu.) Sit at the bar and you’ll be in good hands; the service is impeccable, and the vibe is actually pretty lively during the afternoon. We tried (and adored) the Dusk Till Dawn, made with pisco and genever, a twist on the Sour that really works, and the Private Eye, a boozy number made with baijiu, rum, cachaça, pineapple and chilli. It’s one of the first baijiu serves we’ve really adored, and it really demonstrates the potential the category has in cocktails.

Much more Chuck Bass than anything in a flute

The Empire Lobby Bar

44 West 63rd Street

XOXO… yes, we headed to The Empire with one iconic (yes, I said it) TV programme in mind: Gossip Girl. This is a hotel made famous by highly flawed character Chuck Bass, a ladies’ man with an off-the-charts ego who loves boozy serves. In honour of the show, we rocked up and swiftly ordered a Chuck Bass cocktail – which arrived in a flute and felt… well, not very Chuck at all. But this was our first and only criticism. The bar was incredibly fun, the team was brilliant, the serves incredibly tasty, and the environment felt really rather sumptuous. Plus, The Empire is only a stone’s throw from Central Park, so an ideal stop after an afternoon of touristing.

The Katana Kitten interior

Katana Kitten

531 Hudson Street

Now this is a fun one. On first appearance, Katana Kitten* genuinely gives off dive bar vibes, albeit with a kitschy spin. It’s a two-level space filled with lights (it looks incredible after dark) and is filled to the brim with stylish types (definitely make a reservation if you are in a group). The Japanese-US hybrid food and drink menu is impressive, but everything remains familiar enough to be easily navigable. Highballs are a speciality – we especially enjoyed the Aki Paloma (Tequila and grapefruit, obvs, with jasmine tea, fig leaf and smoked pomelo salt, too), and the Belle Epoque (heavier, with Irish whiskey, vermouth, miso-sesame orgeat, creme de cacao, lemon, ginger, and absinthe). Oh, and the whole thing is highly Instagrammable, in case that’s important to you.

Good vibes and the Billionaire Cocktail at EO

Employees Only

510 Hudson Street

Almost opposite Katana Kitten (it would be rude not to stop in at both if you’re in the West Village), lies Employees Only. Some say it’s not what it once was. We say it’s a riot of fun with a fabulous classics-heavy menu, and is possibly the best spot to people-watch. The bar space was filled to the brim, mostly with what appeared to be folks on first dates (hence the joy in observation), and despite being incredibly busy, the floor and bar team were happy to have a little chat and provide recommendations. The Ginger Smash was a perfect pick-me up and mega refreshing (muddled ginger root and kumquat, gin, apple liqueur and lemon juice), while the brash and boozier Billionaire Cocktail (bourbon, lemon juice, and homemade grenadine and absinthe bitters) was splendidly potent. Remind you of a Gossip Girl character..?

That view though…


At The William Vale, 111 North 12th Street 22nd floor, Brooklyn

Where to go for both an incredible view of Manhattan, and a genuinely exciting drinks programme? Outside Manhattan, it transpires! The trip over to Williamsburg is absolutely worth it for this one. Chef Andrew Carmellini’s NoHo Hospitality Group is the brains behind the 22nd floor rooftop operation, which, while cocktail-focused, also offers some delectable bites (if you don’t adore the butternut squash hummus, we probably can’t be friends). And the drinks are so good, you almost forget about the devastating view. Almost. There’s a mix of classic and signature serves; we adored the Vicious Circle (essentially a Martini with gin, vermouth and Green Chartreuse), and The Battleship (reposado Tequila, sherry, agave, lemon and bitters) was also heavenly. Obviously it’s a popular spot, so making a reservation is highly recommended.

Drink in an actual distillery

The Shanty

79 Richardson St, Brooklyn

Fancy something a little more down to earth, and set in an actual distillery? This unpretentious spot at New York Distilling Company (NYDC) packs a punch with its full-service bar, sizeable cocktail offering and impressive craft beer spread in a cosy, welcoming and relaxed setting. There’s the full complement of NYDC booze, as you’d expect, but the team genuinely wants to nurture a neighbourhood bar vibe, so there is a plethora of other options, too. We had a dram of something very special (whiskey from the first-ever NYDC cask!) and while we can’t guarantee the likes of that, there’s all kinds of tastiness. And complimentary distillery tour options at the weekend, too! Can’t say fairer than that.  

It’s a beauty

The Dead Rabbit

30 Water St

The big one. The one that’s won all the awards. The Irish bar gone superstar from Jack McGarry and Sean Muldoon. Downstairs is The Taproom, where we mostly hung out, home of the renowned Dead Rabbit Irish Coffee, hearty food, and a cocktail menu that delights, even if it’s not the main focus (we rocked up in the afternoon so The Parlour, with its celebrated menu, wasn’t open yet). That said, the drinks ROCKED. A word of warning though – Google (and Lyft, for that matter) have The Dead Rabbit pin in the wrong place. Use both with caution to get you to the Lower Manhattan vicinity, then actually walk along Water until you get to number 30. The bar is NOT in the office building with Le Pain Quotidien, however much the apps insist!

The glories of Mace


505 East 12th St

A minimalist, unassuming brick-lined spot in East Village that offers surprise and delight in huge helpings through its unexpected, spice-based drinks menu. At first, it’s tricky to tell whether you should navigate by cocktail number or spice name. But the team will chat you through, and dietary requirements the cocktails meet are clearly displayed (a huge bonus that many bars could learn from). The eponymous Mace itself is a joyous concoction with its Aperol and aquavit base, and we also liked the Corn Husk, an unusual medley of corn husk-infused mezcal (name makes sense), Campari, sweet vermouth, more corn husk (charred this time) and cayenne. A must-visit if you like your cocktails on the weird and wonderful side. 

Parade of the Fairies!

Pouring Ribbons

225 Avenue B

A joyful spot not all that far from Mace, but with a very different vibe. We were there on a quietish Tuesday; there was a cocktail class taking place in the bar area, groups of friends were chilling, and a couple of people were having a quiet drink on their own. The team were engaging and easygoing, with a sixth sense for when a guest wanted a chit-chat, and when they wanted to be on their own. It’s a breezy space, almost with a sixth-form common room vibe, but for actual grown-ups. And the drinks! The menu came with a handy navigation guide, helping you choose from something refreshing or spirit-led, comforting or adventurous, with a little sliding scale detail under each serve. So easy to understand! Our favourites were the Parade of the Fairies, made with mezcal, Cocchi Americano, Green Chartreuse, Galliano, and a good helping of rosemary, as well as the delicious Gladys Bently, with bourbon, black eyed peas, rum, maple and cacao. Both on the boozier side, and both brilliant.

*Sadly nothing to do with top 90s girl band Atomic Kitten.


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Our top drinks trends for 2020!

The start of a new year means one thing at MoM Towers: time to crack out the crystal ball and predict what will be in our glasses throughout the year….

The start of a new year means one thing at MoM Towers: time to crack out the crystal ball and predict what will be in our glasses throughout the year. Read on for our top drinks trends for 2020!

It’s not just a new year – 2020 brings with it a box-fresh decade, too. But what will be drinking this year? We’ve had a good chinwag in the office, looked at sales trends from the last few years and kept our ears to the ground for word of the Next Big Thing in booze. 

Before we crack on with our top ten trends, a quick note on two topics. First up: sustainability in terms of both production and packaging. We reckon every single producer should have this on their radar by now. We’re working hard to make our own ops here are as lean and green as they can possibly be. It’s not a trend, just the right way to do things. We’ve not included this in our list as it’s a societal shift that’s here to stay. Similar with low- and no-alcohol products. 2019 saw the segment explode – but it’s not going anywhere. Brands that give us the option to drink less alcohol while keeping things delicious are a welcome and permanent part of the drinks industry.

So. What else does the year have in store? This is what we reckon we’ll be drinking for the next 12 months!

spiced rum drinks trends for 2020

Spiced rums will continue their dominance into 2020

Spiced and flavoured rums are just getting started

One of the runaway successes of 2019 has been spiced and flavoured rums. In fact, over the whole of 2019, 15 of our top 20 rum best sellers were spiced or flavoured. It’s a trend that accelerated over the course of the year, and while you’d expect an uptick in November and December (hello Christmas!), sales of the likes of Bombo, Cloven Hoof and Pirate’s Grog rums are in year-on-year growth for the start of January, too. One shift we think we’ll see? A move towards more ‘grown-up’ flavours and bottle designs. Spiced and flavoured rums don’t have to be all about the party; they can hold their own as respectable cocktail ingredients, too. 

world whisky drinks trends for 2020

No need for a passport – explore the world through whisky!

Genuinely world whisky

Move over, Scotland. Hang back, America. You too, Ireland and Japan. Yes, you make delicious whiskies. But 2020 looks set to be the year that world whisky meaningfully comes to the fore for more of us. Take Israel, for example. There are three distilleries already up and running (Milk & Honey, Golan Heights, Pelter), but there’s the Jerusalem Distillery, Legends Distillery and Eder’i Malthouse and Distillery all hot on their heels. Up in Finland, you’ve got Kyrö, Teerenpeli, The Helsinki Distilling Co, and Panimoravintola (and no doubt numerous others at the development stage). Australian whisky continues to gain momentum (Starward, Sullivans Cove, and Hellyers Road, anyone?), and we’re excited by what distillers are doing across New Zealand, Sweden and France, too. And there’s India, South Africa, England, Wales, The Netherlands… you get the picture. We’re also thrilled by the geographic diversity of whisky production and the different approaches and flavours inherent in that. We reckon loads of you will be, too. 

vodka drinks trends for 2020

Get set for a vodka revival

Viva vodka!

A slightly unexpected one, now. Did you know our vodka sales in 2019 soared by 30% year-on-year? It’s a bit of a surprise for us, too. Bottle sales ramped up gradually but noticeably over the course of the year, and it initially had us scratching our heads. After a pretty break time in the 2000s and 2010s, why is vodka falling back into favour? We looked at our top-sellers and noticed a couple of things. It’s generally not flavoured vodka that’s hitting the mark (a couple of notable exceptions: Thunder Toffee Vodka and Whitley Neill Blood Orange Vodka). Instead, it’s the classic, neutral, big names that seem to have appeal. But that’s not all. Smaller brands playing on their legitimate flavour differences derived from their raw materials are doing especially well. We think the likes of Black Cow Vodka (made from leftover whey from cheese-making), East London Liquor Company 100% Wheat Vodka and Konik’s Tail (made with three different grains: spelt, rye and wheat) will drive this trend forward into 2020.

hard seltzers drinks trends for 2020

Hard seltzers will be A Thing

Hard seltzers and sodas

Call them what you like (the seltzer vs. soda debate could go on), but this sparkling, low-ABV mix of flavoured water and booze isn’t going anywhere. Hard seltzers have been big news Stateside for some time now, and we reckon 2020 is the year they’ll make their presence really felt this side of the Pond. Why? Beer sales are down, people are embracing low- and no-, and we’re all rather partial to a train tinnie, which, if you think about what cocktails in a can actually are, we’re barely a swift step from a hard seltzer anyway. Last year saw the UK launch of Mike’s Hard Sparkling Water, and native names DRTY Hard Seltzer and Bodega Bay are already in the market. Plus, White Claw, the US hard seltzer hero, has already registered its trademark here, too. We’re ready

Beyond bourbon drinks trends for 2020

American single malts for the win!

Beyond bourbon

Hands up who loves American whiskey? Us too. And it’s hardly new. So why does it feature on our list of drinks trends for 2020? Bourbon has long been seen as a synonym for American whiskey, but when you think about its legal definition (in short, it’s made in the US; its mashbill recipe contains a minimum of 51% corn; it’s matured in new, charred oak) it becomes clear there’s a whole load more to American whiskey than perhaps we collectively understand. Step in rye. Come in, American single malt. Oh hello, wheat whiskeys. And of course, there’s a whole host of category-defying whiskeys coming out of the US that can’t be called bourbon. Rules are there to be broken, and when distillers shrug off the bourbon confines, deliciousness can spring forth, and we think 2020 is the year we’ll get to grips with these expressions. Want in now? Check out Balcones Texas Single Malt, Uncle Nearest 1856 Premium Whiskey, St. George Baller Single Malt, and WhistlePig 12 Year Old – Old World.

calvados drinks trends for 2020

Appley goodness right there

Calvados returns

If you’re unfamiliar with this historical French brandy, you are not alone. Calvados is made from apples and pears in Normandy, distilled in either traditional alembic or column stills, and is aged for at least two years. And it’s mighty tasty. We’re waking up to its mixing and sipping potential: last year our Calvados sales soared by an enormous 40% in 2019 over 2018. One of the key drivers was the launch of Avallen in June, a more modern expression that is all about sustainability and boosting biodiversity. Calvados Coquerel has undertaken a re-brand, bringing more energy to the category. And the likes of Berneroy and Château du Breuil are also seeing renewed momentum. 2020 is the time for Calvados to shine.

mezcal drinks trends for 2020

How mezcal gets its smoke

The advent of Mezcal

Tequila’s smoky cousin made its presence felt in 2019, when we saw sales climb by 31%. But what will 2020 have in store for Mezcal? Quite a lot, we think (especially when you consider its 2017-18 growth stood at just 5%). The biggest-selling brands are increasingly well-recognised (Del Maguey, Pensador and Montelobos are rapidly becoming familiar names), and customers in bars and in shops (on and offline) have a deeper understanding of the Mexican spirit. So, what’s next? More at-home mixing and sipping, and a deeper appreciation for all things Mezcal out and about. Bring. It. On.

scotch whisky casks drinks trends for 2020

Bit cold out there

Unconventional cask finishing in Scotch

In June 2019, the Scotch Whisky Association widened the list of permitted cask types in Scotch whisky production. In short, as long as what was previously held in that cask wasn’t made with stone fruits, and hasn’t had flavourings or sweetening added, you’re good to go. It wasn’t an unexpected decision, and loads of Scotch distillers already had experiments under way (Glen Moray Rhum Agricole Cask Finish Project, we’re looking at you). So what? In 2020 we reckon we’ll see loads more esoteric expressions, perhaps some agave finishes, and maybe even some Calvados casks. And probably some stuff we’ve not even thought of yet. Get set for a new wave of flavour in Scotch whisky. (At this point, we’d also like to add a nod to Irish distilleries, who have been playing with different casks for some time.)

aquavit drinks trends for 2020

Delicious dill

An age of aquavit 

Similar to Calvados, aquavit is a traditional category with strong local ties that flies way too low under the radar for our liking. We’re going to stick our necks out and say 2020 is going to be the year that starts to change. To kick off, last year our aquavit sales blossomed by 27%. More people are seeking out the dill- or caraway-flavoured Scandi spirit than ever. What’s also interesting is that some producers in international markets are looking to aquavit for inspiration and are crafting their own expressions, most notably Svöl Danish-Style Aquavit, from Brooklyn, and Psychopomp Aqvavit, hailing from Bristol, UK. This comes hot on the heels of the botanical spirits trend – tried all manner of gins and want something new? Eschew the juniper and look to aquavit instead. It’s a narrative that could well play out this year. 

liqueurs unicorns drinks trends for 2020

RIP, unicorns

Liqueurs ditch the unicorns

2019 was a bumper year for liqueurs, growing 31% to rank as our third-largest drinks category by bottle sales. It’s a notoriously diverse category, defined really only by sugar levels rather than style or flavour. Good job really, three of our top 10 most popular liqueur products are ‘unicorn’ flavoured, whatever that means. There has been a slight shift already though: for the last three months of the year, whisky, coffee, herbal and caramel varieties proved far more popular. Yes, it could be Christmas. But we reckon there’s an underlying trend of a return to more conventional liqueur flavours. Yes, they’re still going to be sweet (that’s kind of the point). But 2020 looks likely to be the year more traditional liqueur variants reclaim the realm from mythical beasts.

Over to you! What do you think will be the biggest drinks trends for 2020? Have we missed something out or got it wildly wrong? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below, and on social! 

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Did our 2019 drinks trends predictions come true?

As the year (nay, decade) draws to a close, it’s time to fire up the old MoM computer, look at the data and see whether our January 2019 forecasts for…

As the year (nay, decade) draws to a close, it’s time to fire up the old MoM computer, look at the data and see whether our January 2019 forecasts for all things booze came true…

One of our favourite January activities is to dust off the crystal ball (AND the fancy crystal tasting glasses) and have a bit of a think about what might make waves in drinks in the coming months. 2019’s trend musings were one of our most-read features on the site this year. But how accurate were they? 

Boom time for liqueurs

Our prediction that liqueurs were set for a bit of a boom certainly came to fruition. The number of bottles we sold soared by 30% year-on-year, and there were some interesting flavours going on. Three of our top 10 best-sellers try and replicate the essence of unicorn (if you know what unicorns are supposed to taste like, let us know. And we don’t mean in burger form…) while other popular variants were coffee, herbal, caramel and all kinds of other puddingy-type concoctions. Long live the liqueur!

Teeling aside, 2019 wasn’t the year when Ireland’s new distilleries took off

Irish whiskey

We predicted we would see a whole load of new expressions from Ireland’s shiniest distilleries hit the market and liquid came of age. Actually, this didn’t really happen – but we did see even more distilleries get the green light and/or start production. Could next year be the one where we start to taste the fruits of their labour?

Botanical spirits

Back in January we reckoned botanical spirits would be a ‘thing’ this year. And we think we were mostly right! One of the biggest launches to back this up was Ketel One’s Botanical series where the vodka was infused with natural botanicals, then re-distilled. Not a juniper berry in sight. Others started to play in this space, but really what we saw was the launch of even more gins with a questionable level of ‘predominant’ juniper. Perhaps it’s time for some actual legislation?

Category-defying ‘spirits’

Another prediction where we reckon we were sort-of right. Category-defying spirits are products that don’t neatly fit into the rules of one category – think a grain spirit made in Scotland but not from malted barley so it can’t be called a single malt, as one very simple example. But it literally could be anything. While we certainly saw new products from some fresh producers (Circumstantial Mixed Grain from Bristol’s Circumstance Distillery, we’re looking at you, and Affinity, Compass Box’s whisky/Calvados hybrid, too). But we weren’t overrun with these hard-to-define expressions. Another smaller trend set to bubble away in 2020, perhaps.

2019, however, was the year of low/zero products like Three Spirit

Alcohol-free imbibing

Here’s a trend where we were bang on the money. Low- and no-alcohol product sales soared by 89% year-on-year, and there were a whole host of new launches to delight those who for whatever reason are off the sauce (or looking to reduce their intake). At London Cocktail Week, revellers sipped on Nogronis alongside full-ABV serves, and Hayman’s made waves on social media and beyond with the launch of its Small Gin. Other launches that caught our eye? Nine Elms No. 18, Three Spirit, Whyte & Mackay Light (kind of another category-blurrer, too) and Atopia. There’s never been a more delicious time to eschew the booze.

Cognac and Armagnac

We were expecting a bit of a French resurgence this year, and while it wasn’t immediately perceptible, dig a bit deeper and we can see the big names all performed really well. As a whole, however, things weren’t quite as emphatic. Cognac bottle sales climbed 18% as a whole, while Armagnac saw 22% gains. The surprise French spirit to break through? Calvados! Sales soared by almost 40% year-on-year. Can newer players to the market, like Avallen, keep up the momentum? 2020 could be a stellar year for the lesser-known apple- and pear-based French spirit. 

Yeast conversations

After lots of chit chat in Scotch whisky about terroir and cask types, we thought the conversation would shift over the course of the year to the role yeast strains play in production. Apart from the launch of Glenmorangie’s Allta, we didn’t really see much of that. But what we did see in June was the Scotch Whisky Association relax its rules on permissible cask types in Scotch. This brought a new energy to how drinkers and makers think about maturation, and it’s a theme we could see continue on into 2020 as more esoteric finishes hit the market. 

Johnnie Walker highball collection

The Highball, still very much a drinks industry thing

Blended and blended malt Scotch

A tricky one to quantify, this. While we did see more conversation around good blended Scotches (and there was a LOT of lingo around the whisky Highball) we’re not sure it had any mega meaningful impact on what we’re buying. Perhaps it was a prediction too soon – but we do think Highballs rule. 

Could agave beat rum in the premiumisation stakes?

Here’s one where we can now say yes and no. How do you define premiumisation? Is it drinking less but better? Is it spending more on a product for better quality? In many ways, both rum and Tequila and mezcal all made great premiumisation strides this year. Then you factor in spiced and flavoured rums. While rum bottle sales literally skyrocketed (48%! It was emphatic!), so much of this came from spiced and flavoured rums. Now, this is no slight on the sub-category. Good expressions can be the absolute dream. But they tend to cost less per-bottle, and don’t represent meaningful premiumisation to most. In that regard, agave spirits win hands down, even if they represent a far smaller slice of the overall spirits pie. One to keep an eye on – it certainly looks like the race is on. 

Caution from the big players
Brexit, elections, trade tariffs… 2019 was a challenging year for the business types in booze. We predicted companies would operate with caution, and it’s a forecast that has come entirely true. Sizeable spirits acquisitions were few and far between (Diageo snapping up a ‘significant’ majority stake in Seedlip, Campari nabbing a trio of rhum agricole brands including Trois Rivières, and Hill House Capital taking over Loch Lomond were probably the biggest stories), and there weren’t really any huge new launches to shout about. With the exception of CBD-infused products, which while totally legal, still have a disruptive air about them, the drinks industry seemed to like it quiet in 2019. 

The verdict

We’d give ourselves a 6/10. In some areas, our trends forecast was completely spot-on. In other regards, some categories just weren’t quite ready yet. But we’re going to give it another go for 2020! Keep your eyes peeled for what we think could dominate all things booze in the coming months, live on the blog in the New Year. 

What did you think about 2019 in drinks? Were there any big surprises for you? Or did anything play out as planned. Perhaps we missed something entirely? Let us know in the comments below or on social

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Whisky Advent 2019 Day #16: Isle Of Jura 18 Year Old

The grand countdown to Christmas Day has entered single digits – and today there’s a dram from a suitably epic location to celebrate. It’s Isle Of Jura 18 Year Old!…

The grand countdown to Christmas Day has entered single digits – and today there’s a dram from a suitably epic location to celebrate. It’s Isle Of Jura 18 Year Old!

Many a distillery plays on its remote location in its marketing. But Jura may just be able to make that claim stick. To visit the island distillery you first need to get to the Glasgow area. Then it’s either a ferry or a flight to Islay, followed by a teeny tiny ferry over the small but mighty Sound of Jura, then you’re on the island. But it’s another eight miles or so down a single track round until you reach the village of Craighouse and the warmest of welcomes.

Jura is a Hebridean island made famous for its sizeable deer population (6,000 or so), it’s tiny human headcount (approximately 200), and because it’s where George Orwell marooned himself to write 1984. It’s also home to the Jura Distillery, which is where today’s dram comes from: Isle Of Jura 18 Year Old! 

It’s a treat of a dram, matured in American oak barrels before it was finished in Premier Grand Cru Classé Bordeaux barrels for a full-on fruity vibe. A perfect sipper on a dark December evening. 

As we tuck into the dram, we catch up with distillery manager Graham Logan, to get his take on island life, the distillery’s history, and what he’ll be drinking this Christmas…

Isle Of Jura 18 Year Old

It’s Graham Logan (on the right)!

Master of Malt: Jura Distillery is set in a stunning but incredibly remote location. Talk us through a typical day on the island…

Graham Logan: As with most on the island, I have a dual role in the community so my first job of the day isn’t actually at the distillery! I live on a croft, so at the crack of dawn, I am up and out feeding all the animals. Then it’s a five-minute ‘commute’ down to Craighouse, the heart of the island and home to the Jura Distillery and most of the community. Believe it or not, there is the occasional traffic jam en route, but I’m not talking about cars, I’m talking about the red deer or pheasants who like to take the run of our single-track road from time to time! When I make it to the distillery, I like to take a few minutes taking in the view from my office window – palm trees, small isles bay, Kintyre peninsular and even over to Ben Cruachan and Ben Lomond in the distance. The sunrises on Jura are spectacular, and a brilliant way to set yourself up for the day ahead. 

I will then spend the next few hours touring the distillery, I will talk to all the site team and do some testing. Usually, gravities of washbacks, mash tun temperatures and doing a shake test on the malt grist. On Jura the pace is a little slower, so we’re never without our 10 am tea break! Then it’s on to catching up on emails and all my regulatory paperwork. In the afternoons, you might see me doing guest tours, talking to visitors who take the effort to come to our remote shores or spending time in a warehouse checking on some of our 30,000 casks.

MoM: How does remote island life affect the character of the whisky or the whisky-making process?

GL: Jura is blessed that the Gulf stream, all the way from the Caribbean, passes up our west coast and keeps Jura very mild in the winter. Snow is a once in a ten-year phenomenon, so our warehouses are a pretty constant temperature which allows our maturation cycles to last longer. The wood grains of the staves on our first-fill ex-bourbon barrels never quite close, which allows maturation to take place all through the winter. The warehouses are only 100 yards from the sea, allowing the salt air to penetrate our casks, leaving a very slight salt note. What makes some of this possible are our exceptionally tall, lantern-shaped stills (25ft 4 inches); only the lightest floral noted spirit makes it to the head of the still. This light spirit is the perfect partner for maturation with the American white oak ex-bourbon casks that each Jura whisky starts its life in.

Isle Of Jura 18 Year Old

The beautiful Jura Distillery

MoM: Jura has a pretty storied history, both the distillery and the island. Share a little tale from the distillery’s past…

GL: I have been at Jura distillery for 28 years and have had some escapades in that time! I had the misfortune to mash some heavy peated barley by mistake one day and because I had a cold at the time, I didn’t notice. Our then manager Willie Tait had a hairy fit and suffice to say, I wasn’t brave enough to do it again! The distillery also had a tractor and trailer for delivering the casks from the filling store to the warehouses. I got to drive it and managed to crash it within 30 seconds. A cask fell off the trailer and went speeding towards the hotel and only the nimbleness of Iain Cameron (our warehouseman) saved the day as he diverted the cask before it was sitting in the bar and whisky really was whisky galore! Surprise, surprise, I was banned from driving the tractor.

MoM: What will you be drinking this Christmas?

GL: My tipple of choice this winter will be the Jura Tide. It’s our new 21 Year Old and started its life in American White oak ex-bourbon barrels before being enhanced with a finish in virgin American oak white oak casks. I am also inclined to enjoy a dram of Jura 18 Year Old; Jura whisky enhanced in any red wine cask is excellent but this is really special with a finish in Premier Grand Cru Classé Bordeaux barrels. Delicious, especially on a crisp day! 

Isle Of Jura 18 Year Old

Isle Of Jura 18 Year Old

Isle Of Jura 18 Year Old Tasting Note:

Nose: Cinnamon, dried berries, Wine Gums, hickory.

Palate: Brandied cherries, Turkish delight, milky coffee and blackcurrant jam.

Finish: Chocolate chip cookies, a touch of hay, orange oil.

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Whisky Advent 2019 Day #15: Dalwhinnie 15 Year Old

Time for a Sunday treat! And it’s a good’un for day 15 in Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar. We’ve taken a trip up… and up… and up some…

Time for a Sunday treat! And it’s a good’un for day 15 in Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar. We’ve taken a trip up… and up… and up some more to Scotland’s highest working distillery. Today’s drop is… Dalwhinnie 15 Year Old!

If you’ve taken the A9 in Scotland all the way from Perth to Aviemore, you’ll know a number of things. Firstly – it’s a breathtakingly beautiful part of the world. And we mean seriously. The mountains, the views… It’s a dream. You’ll also know it really is high. There are actual snow gates – at over 1,000ft altitude, the weather gets inclement pretty quickly. You’ll also have likely caught a glimpse of Dalwhinnie, the single malt distillery renowned for its gentle drams. And that’s exactly what we’ve got behind door number 15 in the Whisky Advent Calendar! It’s…

Dalwhinnie 15 Year Old!

Visit Dalwhinnie and you’ll get to breathe in the expanse of space across the valley between mountains. It’s all trees, fresh air, and, of course, that distinct aroma of maturing whisky. The environment plays a pivotal role in the spirit’s character – and it really is fascinating. Here to tell us more is Catriona Mackenzie, brand home manager up at the distillery!

Dalwhinnie 15 Year Old

Say hello to Catriona Mackenzie!

Master of Malt: Dalwhinnie is the highest distillery in Scotland! What impact does this have on the style of whisky you produce?

Catriona Mackenzie: Our elevation of 1164ft above sea level contributes to an average temperature of 6°C here at Dalwhinnie. Because it’s so cold, our worm tub condensers are outside, with cold water running through them. Our spirit vapour can condense very quickly with minimal copper contact, giving our spirit a heavier mouthfeel yet gentle character.

MoM: Bring us up to speed on visitor centre developments at Dalwhinnie…

CM: We’ve launched a Fill Your Own Bottle experience at the distillery, so visitors who make the journey can draw from a single cask of cask strength liquid on site. Visitors can also write their own personalised label and record their bottle in our HMRC ledger which is such a unique opportunity, so has proved really popular. Our final tasting room has been refurbished and now there is a lovely space to enjoy a dram at the end of a tour.

Dalwhinnie 15 Year Old

Dalwhinnie Distillery looking particularly festive

MoM: What have been your 2019 highlights at the distillery?

CM: It has been a very busy year for us and we have enjoyed meeting lots of new visitors from all over the world. However, the biggest highlight has to be that we’ve retained our 5* Tourist Attraction status from Visit Scotland which we are incredibly proud of.

MoM: What trends or developments do you think we’ll see in the world of whisky in 2020?

CM: 2020 is going to be incredibly exciting for Edinburgh with the new Johnnie Walker Princes Street opening, along with the ongoing upgrade program across many of the Distillery Brand Homes. Scotch in cocktails will continue to be a trend, with more and more bars innovating and surprising whisky lovers with exciting new serves and flavour combinations.

MoM: What will you be drinking this Christmas?

CM: I will be drinking our Dalwhinnie Distillers Edition as it is a firm favourite, and I will be giving one of our Fill Your Own bottles to my father (I hope he will be sharing it).

Dalwhinnie 15 Year Old

Dalwhinnie 15 Year Old

Dalwhinnie 15 Year Old Tasting Note:

Nose: It’s all about the orchard fruits here. Dalwhinnie isn’t called the gentle dram for anything! There’s apple, pear, nectarines, honeysuckle, custard and perhaps a whisper of smoke.

Palate: It’s mega malty with lashings of honey and Victoria sponge cake. There’s the waft of smoke again, along with the sweet spices.

Finish: Long, gentle and nutty

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Whisky Advent 2019 Day #13: Caol Ila 12 Year Old

Friday 13th is unlucky for some… but not if you’ve got your mitts on a Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar. Today’s delectable drop is Caol Ila 12 Year…

Friday 13th is unlucky for some… but not if you’ve got your mitts on a Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar. Today’s delectable drop is Caol Ila 12 Year Old!

Tucked away in one of the most picturesque corners of the UK lies Caol Ila. It’s the largest of the Islay distilleries by output, but you’d never guess from its quaint, waterfront position, all white-painted warehouses and traditional buildings, only accessible by snaking, single-track road. The distillery clings to the steep hillside; the Paps of Jura tower from across the Sound of Jura. It might produce 6.5 million litres of alcohol a year, and it might be a significant player in the blended behemoth that is Johnnie Walker, but when you visit Caol Ila, there’s an incredible sense of tranquillity.

This could be about to change. As part of a £150 million investment across its network of distilleries, parent company Diageo is in the process of updating the visitor centre at Caol Ila. It’ll be the Johnnie Walker’s Islay embassy, if you will. There’s to be a stunning aerial walkway and state-of-the-art facilities. Get set for a transformation.

We might need to be a little patient before we can explore the new visitor centre, but there are drams aplenty we can enjoy right now. And coincidentally, Whisky Advent’s Day 13 dram hails from Caol Ila. It’s a sumptuously smoky drop, with delicious texture and incredible character. It’s…

Caol Ila 12 Year Old!

Caol Ila 12 Year Old

Say hello to Pierrick Guillaume!

Here to tell us more is Pierrick Guillaume, Caol Ila site operations manager.

Master of Malt: Caol Ila is a remote distillery even by Islay standards! Tell us a little bit about a typical day in that setting…

Pierrick Guillaume: A typical day would consist of walking down to the distillery from home. In the winter you face the sun rising over the Jura hills with the sea between us. Well… when you see the sun! I’m lucky enough to regularly see wildlife through my office’s window such as seals, otters, guillemots or dolphins! Then after work, in the summer you can walk three minutes away from the distillery and catch a fish for dinner or if you are lucky, stop a fishing boat from the pier to get lobsters straight off the water! There are a lot of amazing spots to go for a run or a walk around the distillery too and there are a few sports activities that you can go to at night, rugby, football, netball, swimming, kayaking.

MoM: Talk us through the signature Caol Ila character…

PG: Caol Ila is a fruit market in a smoky hall. Caol Ila 12-year-old is the perfect entry door to the peaty world. When you take away this gentle peat wrapping the aromas, you are facing a whole range of fruitiness going from exotic notes to richer and darker fruits.

Caol Ila 12 Year Old

The beautiful Caol Ila Distillery

What trends or developments do you think we’ll see in the world of whisky in 2020?

PG: I think we will see an increased focus on sustainability in whisky-making – we are constantly innovating in this field to reduce the water usage at our distilleries and looking at ways of reducing our environmental impact, and this will, of course, continue to be a priority into 2020 and beyond.

What will you be drinking this Christmas?

PG: It will be Caol Ila Distiller’s Edition back home in the South West of France with my family whilst eating our home-made Yule log cake.

Caol Ila 12 Year Old Tasting Note:

Nose: It’s lively, fresh and herbal, with a distinct smoke wafting through. There are hints of cooked ham, too, along with cigar leaves and an aromatic citrus vibe. 

Palate: The rich, oily texture is immediately apparent, along with the tar and smoke notes. There’s a confectionery sweetness along with orchard fruits. 

Finish: The smoke goes on and on, framed with a gentle pepper warmth. 

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Whisky Advent 2019 Day #9: Dalmore Cigar Malt

There’s no Monday blues here with Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar Day 9. Hidden away behind today’s door is Dalmore Cigar Malt! We get the scoop from Richard…

There’s no Monday blues here with Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar Day 9. Hidden away behind today’s door is Dalmore Cigar Malt! We get the scoop from Richard Paterson himself.

The Dalmore is as much a brand in its own right as a Highland single malt distillery. Its highly recognisable 12-point stag has become an iconic motif, and some of its expressions are highly prized. Old and rare bottlings even command record prices, both on the primary and secondary markets.

Today’s dram from our Whisky Advent Calendar carries that same pedigree – and was specifically blended to be enjoyed with a cigar. It’s a no-age-statement dram, but don’t let that put you off. It’s rich, flavourful, and has that signature Dalmore doughy texture. It’s Cigar Malt!

This dram was discontinued to much uproar in 2009 – but thankfully it’s back, in full bottle size, and in Advent calendar form. We understand this new blend is made with slightly older liquid and it’s a right treat.

And here to tell us more about it is The Nose himself – Dalmore’s Richard Paterson.

Dalmore Cigar Malt

The Nose himself, Richard Paterson!

Master of Malt: The Dalmore is one of the most recognisable brands in single malt Scotch. What do you think sets you apart? 

Richard Paterson: The Dalmore is enduringly recognisable, in part due to our unique bottle shape, and striking packaging, but not least because of the iconic silver ‘Stag’ marking a royal heritage for the distillery that dates to 1263. We are fortunate too that our founding fathers and chain of custodians through the years had a wonderful vision, and we have many aged expressions up to the rare Dalmore 64 Years Old and others that we have released over the years. This is coupled with our consistent ‘wood enhancement’ programmes in which we use only the finest exclusive Sherry, Port and wine casks to provide the highest quality possible, and of course the relentless passion of our dedicated quality team.

MoM: Cigar Malt was originally discontinued but you brought it back! What makes it such a good match with cigars? 

RP: The rich full body of The Dalmore Cigar Malt, with its chocolate orange spice flavours, makes it the perfect accompaniment to the finest Cigars, in particular, “Partagas number 4 & Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure No 2. Taken along with hot Colombian or Java coffee you will soon be in heaven!

Dalmore Cigar Malt

Bottura and Paterson, who raised over £108k for charity this year!

MoM: What have been your 2019 highlights for The Dalmore? 

RP: This year marks the beginning of celebrations marking the 180th anniversary of The Dalmore. I’ve hosted many special tastings around the world, in particular, highlighting the rare Dalmore 45 years old and many more different expressions. I cannot forget, our wonderful partnership with Massimo Bottura, raising over £108k for his charity Food For Soul.

MoM: What trends or developments do you think we’ll see in the world of whisky In 2020? 

RP: With there being so many discerning consumers around the world today particularly in the Far East, the thirst for Scotch whisky especially, Single Malt whisky is set to continue for many years to come. However, we in the Scotch whisky industry must never be complacent, we must continue to innovate, evolve and excite our consumers with the finest quality whiskies and superb packaging.

MoM: What will you be drinking this Christmas? 

RP: Many different wines but there will always be an aged Dalmore, Jura, Fettercairn, Tamnavulin and a Whyte & Mackay close at hand! Slainte Meath.

Dalmore Cigar Malt

Dalmore Cigar Malt

Dalmore Cigar Malt Tasting Notes:

Nose: Loads of shortbread, rich tea biscuit notes, caramel, and chocolate orange. It’s highly tempting for the sweet-toothed.

Palate: toffee and more caramel, with some delicious marmalade-on-burnt-toast in there, too. Lashings of sherry-cask notes.

Finish: Relatively straightforward, but sweet Christmas spices come through towards the finish.

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Whisky Advent 2019 Day #8: Fettercairn 12 Year Old

Squirrelled away behind door number 8 of Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar is a distillery you may not have heard of, but offers a deliciously sweet treat. Say…

Squirrelled away behind door number 8 of Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar is a distillery you may not have heard of, but offers a deliciously sweet treat. Say hello to Fettercairn 12 Year Old!

Head up to deepest, darkest Aberdeenshire, not far from the stunning Grampian mountains, and you’ll discover a perhaps lesser-known distillery that is ready to make its mark on the whisky-drinking world. Sister to the likes of The Dalmore and Jura, Fettercairn has a rich history and intriguing production processes but hasn’t really ever shouted about it.

But that’s about to change. Last year, Fettercairn for the first time unveiled a core range of single malts, bringing the distillery to a broader audience than ever before. And more innovation has followed!

Here to tell us more about Fettercairn as we tuck into a dram of the 12 Year Old expression is distillery manager, Stewart Walker!

Fettercairn 12 Year Old

Look, it’s distillery manager, Stewart Walker!

Master of Malt: Fettercairn has had a pretty exciting time of late! Bring us up to date with developments at the distillery and with the brand…

Stewart Walker: We’ve had a brilliant year at Fettercairn with plenty of upgrades at the distillery to keep me and the team busy, while also crafting and laying down thousands of barrels for future generations to enjoy. At the distillery itself, we have installed a new malt intake and milling equipment, we’ve also rebuilt the tun room which is stunning, adding two huge windows that look onto the Grampians behind the distillery. Our visitor centre has also had a makeover, and we welcomed Claire Sabiston to the team. We’re looking great and have had the pleasure of meeting hundreds of new and old Fettercairn fans from around the world at the distillery. This year we released a Fettercairn 12 Year Old PX cask finished single malt into travel retail. It is delicious!

MoM: One of the features of the distillery that sets it apart is the cooling ring on the still. Talk us through how this works, and the impact it has on the character of the whisky…

SW: At Fettercairn we have a unique cooling rings fitted to each of our spirit spills. The drench our stills in crystal clear water from the Cairngorms, and ensure we capture the purest expression of our whisky’s character. They also create a beautiful green patina to our copper stills, and are simply mesmerising to watch in action. The feature was installed in 1952 when the manager of Fettercairn was looking for a way to create a floral, fruity nose on his new make spirit. He discovered that by allowing cold water to run down the head of still he could create something rather special. I like to imagine how they might have come up with this, and can imagine the distillery workers spraying water onto the stills with hoses to test the results before creating the actual cooling rings! Today the original cooling rings still take pride of place on our stills, and I’m glad they made this discovery as it really does allow us to create a lovely floral tropical fruit nose that is found throughout the Fettercairn Range.

Fettercairn 12 Year Old

Walker at Fettercairn Distillery

MoM: Talk us through a typical day at Fettercairn!

SW: It’s always an early start at Fettercairn, with a shift change at 6.00 am as the weary night workers head home, the day shift team prepare for mashing to begin at 7.00 am. Depending on where we are in production the spirit still might also be running – the cooling rings and warmth of the stills in action are always a welcome sight in the morning, especially in the winter months. We then take in a load of malt, checking the quality before off-loading to one of the malt bins before checking that everything is running as planned across the distillery. Then it’s time for a cup of tea and chat with the team. On days that we are filling casks, we take a charge and nose the spirit before reducing the ABV to 63.5% ABV, fill 60 casks and then roll them to their resting place in the warehouse where they’ll spend years asleep. We run tours seasonally so I like to say hello to our visitors as they walk around the site, and we regularly welcome special guests and press so I can often be found hosting tours and tastings too. I love my job – it’s busy, varied and no two days are the same. 

MoM: What trends or developments do you think we’ll see in the world of whisky in 2020?

SW: Around the world consumers thirst of whisky is growing! I think this will continue with people exploring more styles and experimenting with ways to enjoy their whisky – neat, with ice, in a cocktail – whisky is for everyone. For Fettercairn, we’ll be introducing more consumers across the world to our fantastic whiskies, and hopefully sharing some new expressions that will excite people’s taste buds! 

MoM: What will you be drinking this Christmas?

SW: Winter is a beautiful time of year at Fettercairn, with snow on the Cairngorms and frost in the fields. We tried a beautiful hot chocolate recently, made with chocolate drinking powder, coconut milk, a dash of PX sherry and Fettercairn 12 Year Old PX. A real treat that I can see enjoying around the fire with the family on Christmas Eve. On Christmas Day itself, it will be a nice dram of Fettercairn 12 Year Old.

Fettercairn 12 Year Old

Fettercairn 12 Year Old

Fettercairn 12 Year Old Tasting Note:

Nose: Loads of stone fruit, florals and even some white chocolate coming through. With time, earthier coffee emerges as a bit of a base note.

Palate: The apricot vibes turn more tropical fruit, with ginger coming through, too. Vanilla pods and some drier herbs add a pleasing complexity.

Finish: Back to those orchard fruits, with more sweet spices!

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Whisky Advent 2019 Day #3: Talisker 10 Year Old

On the third day of Advent, my Whisky Advent Calendar gave to me… an enticingly smoky dram indeed! Discover what Drinks by the Dram has hidden away for us today……

On the third day of Advent, my Whisky Advent Calendar gave to me… an enticingly smoky dram indeed! Discover what Drinks by the Dram has hidden away for us today…

Feeling the festive vibes yet? If not… WHY?! We’ve already had two liquid treats this Advent. And now we’re ready to crack open the third door of Drinks by the Dram’s 2019 Whisky Advent Calendar.

And the dram behind window #3 is…

Talisker 10 Year Old!

One of Diageo’s most-loved single malt Scotch distilleries, Talisker is located on the Isle of Skye, off Scotland’s stunning west coast. Its history stretches all the way back to 1830, when brothers Hugh and Kenneth MacAskill kicked off distillation. Today, the distillery takes a thoroughly modern approach to all things whisky, encouraging us to drink the stuff in whatever form we like, championing whisky cocktails, and even hosting a Race to Skye bartender competition.

We got hold of Diane Farrell, senior site manager, up at Talisker, to tell us more…

Talisker 10 Year Old Dianne Farrell

Say hello to Talisker’s Dianne Farrell!

Master of Malt: Talisker is located on the Isle of Skye! What impact does this have on the style of whisky you produce?

Diane Farrell: Talisker is such a fantastic representation of place – you taste it and you are transported right here; sitting by a campfire by the sea with your dram of Talisker. We are able to capture a lot of the flavour and character of our environment through our production process. It’s prevalent in our new make spirit and continues to shine through after its maturation period and into your glass. Talisker has been battered by the elements on the windswept cost which means our whisky has a uniquely maritime flavour that means we are uniquely ‘Made by the Sea’.

MoM: Tell us a bit about island life. What challenges does this hold for whisky-making?

DF: Talisker is one of the most remote distilleries in Scotland, located on the west coast of the Isle of Skye. Since it was founded in 1830 it has been in near-constant operation which truly shows the resilience of our people, past and present. In the early 1900s our own pier was built along with a purpose-built tramway to make bringing supplies to the distillery easier. Of course, now that we have the Skye Bridge it makes bringing supplies to the distillery much more straightforward than ever before!

Talisker 10 Year Old Distillery

The gorgeous Talisker Distillery

MoM: What have been your 2019 highlights at Talisker?

DF: 2019 has been an incredible year with so many highlights, including the second release in the Talisker Bodega Series, Talisker 41-year-old Single Malt Scotch Whisky, one of the oldest from Skye’s oldest distillery. We hosted the finalists of the Diageo World Class Competition in September where the four elements of the wild were truly embraced during the Talisker Mystery Box Challenge. The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, the premier event in ocean rowing, starts on 12 December which is set to be the biggest and best to date, and we cannot wait to follow the action – we wish all of the rowers the very best of luck out there in the Atlantic facing the elements!

MoM: What trends or developments do you think we’ll see in the world of whisky in 2020?

DF: The increasing number of new serves for Scotch in bars. Whisky cocktails on menus are becoming more and more popular, reaching the next generation of Scotch whisky drinkers. This is a big evolution and it’s exciting!  

MoM: What will you be drinking this Christmas?

DF: Most definitely a Talisker Old Fashioned! Being warm and cozy indoors, sipping a Talisker Old Fashioned and spending time with loved ones – you can’t beat it!

Talisker 10 Year Old Tasting Note:

Nose: Lively and aromatic, there’s all sorts going on. Alongside the pronounced bonfire smoke there’s pear and apple too, seaweed, and almost a brine note, too. 

Palate: The bonfire smoke leaps from the glass, with a malty barley note, too. Dashes of black pepper give a warmth, but it’s balanced well with orchard fruit sweetness. 

Finish: Long and lush. The sweetness and bonfire embers go on and on.

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