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Master of Malt Blog

Author: Kristiane Sherry

Master of Malt tastes: Bowmore 27 Year Old – Timeless Series

This week we’re revelling in a gloriously aged single malt from an Islay exemplar. Say hello to Bowmore 27 Year Old – Timeless Series! It’s a truth universally acknowledged that…

This week we’re revelling in a gloriously aged single malt from an Islay exemplar. Say hello to Bowmore 27 Year Old – Timeless Series!

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that the mail is a highlight of any given lockdown day. Last week, a truly intriguing parcel arrived. I’d put my name down for a Bowmore Twitter Tasting (keep your eyes peeled this Thursday evening!), but what I held in my hands was a whole host of deliciousness from the Islay distillery all bundled up in one box. One jewel that especially stood out? Bowmore 27 Year Old – Timeless Series.

The biggest challenge was keeping the news, the sample and its tastiness quiet until today. And then saving some of the liquid for Thursday’s tasting. Damn you, embargo! TL;DR: this whisky is gorgeous, and I can’t quite believe I get to taste it.

Bowmore ditillery from the air

The beautiful Bowmore Distillery

After all this promise and hyperbole, what actually is it? Bowmore is one of Scotland’s oldest distilleries with a recorded heritage stretching back to 1779. And it’s become something of an Islay icon; its signature balance of tropical fruit, approachable smoke, and a coastal influence has won it fans all over the world. The team at the distillery often talk about how its Warehouse No.1, which sits right against the glimmering expanse of sea known as Loch Indaal, is one of the longest standing maturation warehouses. With the distillery’s storied history such a key theme, it makes sense to group together a range of much older expressions under one banner, and here we have a new expression in the Timeless Series. 

Pleasingly, we get quite a lot of detail about this bottling. The single malt comprises liquid that spent 15 years in both ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks (although at this point we don’t know exactly what type of sherry). Then it was transferred into first-fill Oloroso butts for the remaining 12 years – and this shines through via the gorgeous heap of dried fruit and almond on the nose. It’s then been bottled at cask strength – here that means 52.7% ABV. There are 3,000 bottles available globally, and we’ve got some here at MoM Towers! (Though it may have sold out by the time you read this. In which case, sorry!) At £1,500 a bottle it’s not cheap, but it really is something wonderful. (There’s also a 31yo travel retail exclusive, but you’ll have to keep an eye on Twitter on Thursday evening for more on that!).

The longer you age a whisky, the trickier it can be to achieve that balance between spirit and cask. As Ron Welsh, Bowmore’s master blender puts it: “With Bowmore Timeless Series, the key is the careful selection of the right casks, at the right time.  This enables us to determine when the spirit has reached its peak, or if it should be left longer to develop its character further. This careful balance is vital to ensuring we allow the character of our whiskies to be optimised and can, therefore, promise exceptional flavour delivery.”

Bowmore’s also teamed up with French film director and artist Thomas Vanz to create an audiovisual digital immersion to support the launch of Bowmore 27 Year Old – Timeless Series. You can check it out here at bowmore-experience.com!

Tasting Bowmore 27 Year Old – Timeless Series

Bowmore 27 Timeless Series and its fancy box

Bowmore 27 Timeless Series and its fancy box

Crucial stuff now: what does it actually taste like? Here are my thoughts:

Appearance: Deep amber 

Nose: Opens with oodles of raisins, sultanas and prunes all wrapped up in marzipan. Then comes the gentle beach bonfire smoke, balanced out with cinnamon and toffee apple vibes. There’s a reminder of the traditional Bowmore tropical fruit too, a suggestion of mango and papaya. Then the smoke gets a smidge more medicinal with time. 

Palate: Hugely mouth-filling, pretty viscous, gently warming. The dried fruit cake elements continue, and they’re joined by just-crushed coffee bean, honey, and cigar smoke elements. Old leather, orange oil, proper vanilla pod, and black cherry come through, too.

Finish: It’s all about that cigar-bonfire hybrid smoke, cracked black pepper, and is reminiscent of seaweed. It’s long and just keeps developing on the palate. 

Overall: Gloriously complex and like smoking the most decadent cigar on a seriously sumptuous sofa in a library filled with dusty books. 

And if that’s not enough, it comes in a really rather fancy sand timer-shaped box. Complete with an actual sand timer. It’s set for three minutes, which is apparently how long you should savour the nose for. I say sit with it for as long as you can. It’s really rather lovely, and getting to taste it has been an enormous luxury, and a true highlight in these monotonous lockdown times. 

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Our top drinks trends for 2021!

From agave spirits to the advent of at-home cocktails, 2021’s drinking trends look set to cement this year’s seismic shifts, rather than usher in a spirits revolution. It’s that time…

From agave spirits to the advent of at-home cocktails, 2021’s drinking trends look set to cement this year’s seismic shifts, rather than usher in a spirits revolution.

It’s that time again – time to get out the [Glencairn] crystal ball and look ahead to what we’ll be drinking in 2021! And if this year taught us anything, it’s that you literally cannot predict what will happen… but in terms of what will be in our glass, we’ll give it a good go..!

We’ve picked out our forecast based on sales patterns here at MoM HQ, plus we’ve kept an eye on social media hubbub, and checked out Google Trends’ search analysis. If you could sum it up in one, we reckon we’ll see more of the same: 2020 largely forced us away from bars, meaning if we wanted a cocktail fix we had to get it at home. At the same time, we all got a little more comfortable with shopping online for spirits (wine and spirits have lagged behind other eCommerce sectors for a while now – think about fashion or electronics). And with a far wider range to shop from than the traditional supermarket aisle, smaller brands and lesser-known categories have got more of their fair share of airtime. 

With all that in mind, here’s what we reckon we’ll see in 2021. Onwards and upwards, folks! 

We made a lot of cocktails at home in 2020

More at-home cocktails

Remember when we were all afraid of getting it a bit wrong when it came to mixing cocktails at home? Now, we’ll literally try anything! From Instagram Live tutorials to dedicated TikTok accounts, we’ve become emboldened when it comes to mixing our own drinks. It’s something we’ve seen in bottle sales, too – vermouth was one of our fastest-growing categories this year to date. Sales of mixers have soared, too. Even the less adventurous among us are buying into pre-bottled cocktails for at-home treats. We think this trend will continue on into 2021 (although let’s face it, as soon as we can, we’re heading back to bars. We miss you!).

The Nightcap

Gin boom – not over yet!

Don’t write off gin – yet

For the last three years it’s been the same question: is the gin boom over? In word, no. But growth is flattening significantly. Could 2021 be gin’s last hurrah? We think there’s still a little more longevity than that. Instead of seeing a proliferation of outlandish flavours, we’re seeing a small but significant return to classic styles, and a few much-loved flavours. This is partly driven by a change in shopping habits – why brave the supermarket for longer than necessary if you can order your favourite gin online instead? A pattern we noticed from Google Trends that’s worth highlighting is a sharp uptick for ‘gin’ searches in the UK as the first lockdown was announced. In tough times we apparently turn to juniper – and long-live classic gins!

bargain rum

Rum was big this year

The continued rise of rum

If flavour fans are deserting gin, where are they heading? The answer continues to be rum. Our rum sales more than tripled in 2020 – driven in large part by the continued taste for spiced and flavoured concoctions. Some of the biggest sellers for the year included Chairman’s Reserve Spiced Rum, Two Swallows Cherry & Salted Caramel Rum, and sister company Atom Labs’ Jaffa Cake Rum. Sweet stuff indeed. The question for us is, will the wider rum category benefit, and do we need some tighter definitions for what makes a rum a rum? Even if they exist in terms of labelling, do we as drinkers understand them? One thing’s for sure, rum is set to get even hotter in 2021.

Storywood Tequila

Blue Weber agave (photo courtesy of Storywood Tequila)

All hail agave spirits!

Here’s an interesting one. We’ve talked a lot about the fast-growing mezcal category, and asked whether it could ultimately upend Tequila. Turns out, in 2020 Tequila’s growth slightly outpaced that of its smoky cousin! We think Tequila has finally outgrown its shots-led reputation, and is growing into itself as a serious sipping and mixing drink. And about time, too – Tequila is thoroughly delicious! It also makes sense in line with wider drink-less-but-better consumption trends. 2021 looks to be Tequila’s year as this trend continues to develop, and we are here for it. 

The Nightcap

Glenmorangie’s striking new campaign

A new age of single malt Scotch

For some time now, single malt Scotch whisky has been trying to reinvent itself. With one eye on the developments of world whisky, American whiskey, and the growing interest in other categories, there’s been a sense of needing to up its game to stay relevant and attract new drinkers. Some of our favourite recent moves in this direction include Glenmorangie’s gorgeous It’s Kind of Delicious and Wonderful ad, and Glenlivet’s Original Since 1824 spot. Marketing is increasingly featuring women, people who aren’t white, and single malt being enjoyed long and in cocktails. There’s genuine excitement around whisky again. Just check out Instagram to see who’s posting about the category, and the imagery put out by this new generation of drinkers. We’re excited to see what 2021 holds for the category.

Stop trying to make hard seltzers happen

… And did our 2020 predictions come true?

As we do each year, twelve months ago we posted our trend predictions for 2020. Did they come true? After a quick glance, we’d give ourselves a solid 8/10 (while cutting ourselves some slack – it’s hardly been a regular year!). Rums were just getting started, world whisky has increased its airtime, vodka continues to grow here at MoM HQ, American whiskeys beyond bourbon are proving popular, we’ve seen more unusual cask finishes come through, and liqueurs have turned a little more traditional. Calvados sales have even soared by almost 300%! However, hard seltzers didn’t make the huge breakthrough promised (although summer parties were off… maybe next year), and while Aquavit and mezcal sales are in significant growth, they didn’t fly quite as predicted. There’s always next year…

What do you think? What are your trends for 2021? What will you be drinking? Let us know on social @masterofmalt, or leave a comment below!

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Whisky Advent 2020 Day #22: Isle of Jura 18 Year Old

Just three sleeps until Christmas! By this point you really should have got that shopping sorted, food procured, and drinks menu planned. So kick back with a dram of something…

Just three sleeps until Christmas! By this point you really should have got that shopping sorted, food procured, and drinks menu planned. So kick back with a dram of something delicious! And right on cue, here to chat us through today’s Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar tipple is Jura distillery manager, Graham Logan.

Ok, ok, that introduction may have been a tad optimistic. If, like many of us here at MoM Towers, you’re still in the panic zone, fret not! We’ve got all kinds of last-minute gifts to sort you out (think, gift vouchers, Pour & Sip subscriptions… all is not lost!).

With that in hand, now you really can sit back with a dram! And today’s whisky is a good one. It started life on the Isle of Jura, a picturesque island off Scotland’s west coast, and was aged for a whopping 18 years! No guessing needed today, it’s Isle of Jura 18 Year Old!

Time to find out more about this dreamy drop with Jura distillery manager, Graham Logan.

Whisky Advent 2020 Day #22: Isle of Jura 18 Year Old

Meet Graham Logan, Jura distillery manager!

Master of Malt: Jura is a stunning island. Tell us about what makes it special for you…

Graham Logan: Many things make Jura for me. The first is my wife, who I met on my first foray to the pub 33 years ago after being on the island for 12 hours. Then there’s the scenery, the wildlife, the remoteness, the community, my second job as a crofter (or a small farm) where I have two cows, eight sheep, and a goat, and my third job as a volunteer firefighter. If I hadn’t been a distiller, I would have been a firefighter. Also, the distillery staff. Who make my job a dream job.

MoM: How does its remote setting impact whisky-making on Jura?

GL: Jura distillery brings everything in and out via two ferries. Malted barley, yeast, casks, spare parts, and boiler oil in; and sending out spirit, spent grains and filled casks. That means we have to keep a stock of everything required, and if ferries go off to bad weather we can keep going. It usually means all the cows on Jura are happy as they get free draff (spent grains).

Whisky Advent 2020 Day #22: Isle of Jura 18 Year Old

The distillery is located on a beautiful, remote island

MoM: How would you describe the Jura distillery character?

GL: Jura has really tall stills. The wash stills are 26ft 1in (7.95 metres), and the spirit stills are 25ft 4in (7.72m) tall with the Lyne arms slowly rising to the condensers. As they are so tall only the lightest spirit vapours reach the condenser, and as we have so much copper in the still neck, the copper helps with reflux (or redistillation). All the heavy vapours that don’t get to the top of the still fall back down, and get re-distilled when they meet the new vapours that are rising. This makes your spirit strength slightly stronger and lighter in character with floral/cereal notes.

MoM: Jura 18 Year Old is today’s dram! Can you tell us how it was made?

GL: As I have been at Jura for 29 years, I have very much had a hand in making this. I was a mash and still operator for 24 years! All Jura spirit is made the same way, and is filled into first-fill ex-bourbon casks, even the peated spirit which gives the 18 Year Old a subtle smoke finish. Then the spirit is finished in a premier cru classe red wine cask for 18-24 months. It’s a beautiful dram with pear, marzipan, tropical fruits and baked apple on the nose, and vanilla, coffee, ginger syrup and black forest fruits to taste. A real Christmas winter warmer.

MoM: Money and availability no object, what would be your dream Christmas dram?

The distillery team had a tasting with Richard Paterson in the early 2000s and we were lucky enough to taste a 50-year-old Dalmore. If money was no object, it would definitely be anything of Dalmore over 50 years old. Sitting with a dram of that, next to an open roaring fire and watching the Queen’s speech would be heaven.

Whisky Advent 2020 Day #22: 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 2020 Day #21: The Dalmore Cigar Malt

Can you believe it?! It’s the Monday before Christmas, and the festive spirit is REALLY kicking in. The whisky behind door 21 of Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar…

Can you believe it?! It’s the Monday before Christmas, and the festive spirit is REALLY kicking in. The whisky behind door 21 of Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar will particularly appeal to those partial to a cigar. Here to tell us more is Stephen Martin, Whyte & Mackay’s global single malt whisky specialist!

Right. Christmas is almost here. Whatever the big day is going to look like for you this year, it’s time to pause, sit down, and take a moment just for yourself. Yourself and a really rather tasty dram.

Today’s number was blended with cigar lovers in mind, to complement their smoke of choice. But fear not! It’s a delicious drop whether or not you’re planning on sipping while lighting up. It hails from the iconic Dalmore distillery in the Scottish Highlands, and it was actually brought back due to popular demand after being discontinued in 2009. So you know it’s got the backing of the masses! Today’s dram is…

The Dalmore Cigar Malt!

But that’s enough from us. Here to tell us more about it is Stephen Martin, Whyte & Mackay’s global single malt whisky specialist!

Whisky Advent 2020 Day #21: The Dalmore Cigar Malt

Give a big Advent welcome to Stephen Martin!

Master of Malt: The Dalmore is an iconic brand. What do you think sets the distillery apart?

Stephen Martin: Whisky is all about people and place and The Dalmore is such an amazing example of this. This is true from the Mackenzies, who arrived at the distillery in 1867 and introduced the Royal Stag to every bottle to remind us of their royal heritage dating back to 1263, right through to our current decorated master blender, Richard Paterson, who celebrated 50 years with us in September this year. We’ve always had a meticulous and innovative approach to making whisky and you need to have the right people in place to make this work.  

MoM: Lots of different cask maturations go on with Dalmore. What finishes work especially well with the spirit?

SM: The Dalmore matures exceptionally well in a number of different casks due to the body and weight of the new-make spirit. In particular, Matusalem sherry butts from Gonzalez Byass are incredible! These gems have held Matusalem sherry, a combination of oloroso and PX wines, for 30 years. A lot of the chocolate orange and sweet spice characteristics that we expect from The Dalmore come from these casks. Tawny port pipes from W&J Graham are a favourite of ours also!

Whisky Advent 2020 Day #21: The Dalmore Cigar Malt

Dalmore’s Richard Paterson is regarded as one of the true great master blenders

MoM: Any whisky and food- or cigar-pairing tips? What should we look for?

SM: Absolutely! Sherry plays such an important role in our whiskies and I love pairing the Dalmore with Andalusian cuisine. A bottle of The Dalmore 15 alongside some Iberico, manzanilla olives and manchego Iniesta is a real crowd pleaser and a bit out of the ordinary! In terms of cigars, I’m really enjoying the Davidoff Winston Churchill Late Hour just now. Medium to full-bodied, this cigar contains tobacco that has been aged for six months in single malt whisky casks, so it works really well The Dalmore Cigar Malt. 

MoM: What about Cigar Malt means it pairs particularly well with cigars?

SM: Flavour and body for me! The Cigar Malt is profoundly influenced by Matusalem sherry and red wine barriques, so there’s an abundance of deep, rich flavours that work well with the right cigar. The red wine barriques also contain a lot of tannins that contribute to a silky, velvety texture that dances with the cigar smoke on your palate as you draw. When you get the pairing just right there are not many better things in life!

MoM: What whisky will you be pairing with the Christmas festivities this year?

SM: Cheese is a big thing in my house at Christmas so I’ll be pulling out a bottle of the Port Wood Reserve after dinner! Delicious with a strong cheddar, creamy brie or salty Lanarkshire blue! I’ll also be making Christmas eggnog for the family with the Dalmore 12 Year Old, which works really well. 

Whisky Advent 2020 Day #21: The Dalmore Cigar Malt

The Dalmore Cigar Malt Tasting Note:

Nose: Caramel, shortbread, biscuits, coffee and chocolates. Simple, clean and moreish.

Palate: Yet more toffee, caramel edging towards the burnt cinder-toffee side of things. Flamed orange-zest, and perfectly integrated sherry.

Finish: Reasonably simple, Christingles (orange Zest and clove with a touch of cinnamon), more mid-palate than palate-coating.

Overall: Definitely meets the criteria of pairing with a ‘BIG’ cigar.

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Master of Malt Tastes… Teeling BlackPitts

Something delicious this way comes! Irish whiskey turned its back on peat in the late 20th century. Now the Teeling team is breathing new life into all things smoky with…

Something delicious this way comes! Irish whiskey turned its back on peat in the late 20th century. Now the Teeling team is breathing new life into all things smoky with the arrival of BlackPitts.

Stephen Teeling is audibly thrilled. We’re chatting on the phone; I’ve got a bottle of Teeling Whiskey’s latest release in my hands. It’s a big moment. “It’s something so unusual in a category dominated by certain styles,” the sales and marketing director says, his voice dancing. 

And without straying too far into hyperbole, this launch really marks a landmark moment for the Irish whiskey category. We’re talking about Teeling BlackPitts, the latest release from the pioneering Dublin distillery that set up operations in 2012, before the Irish whiskey resurgence that we’re enjoying now took hold. It’s a triple-distilled (fully at the new distillery!) ex-bourbon and ex-Sauternes wine cask-matured single malt expression, bottled without chill filtration at 46% ABV. So far, so Teeling. Except it’s peated. 

“Peated malts can be very divisive,” says Teeling. “We wanted to step away from that and do something pretty cool.” He explains the desire to produce something modern, relevant, and unconventional, and kick-start the Irish peated scene in the process. “We didn’t want to copy something done over in Scotland.”

Stephen Teeling

Behold, Stephen Teeling!

A question of peat

Why is peated Irish whiskey so unusual? There are a handful of other examples, but compared to its Scotch counterpart, peat is found far less frequently. This wasn’t always the case. One sixth of the landmass was Irish peat bog at one time, Teeling tells me. “The style just got left behind when coal became more available, at least for the Dublin distillers.”

With so little demand, he had to look to Scotland to source his peated malt for BlackPitts. But this is something he is optimistic will change if releases like this one resonate strongly. And it’s why this launch feels so significant. “I’m hoping in the years to come some of the malting houses will go back to it. They were peating in Ireland in the 1970s and 1980s.” 

But just how pronounced are we talking? The malt is peated to 55ppm (phenol parts per million), but this drops down to 15ppm once fermentation and distillation has taken place. “We’re going for a turf, rather than the more iodine style,” Teeling adds, stressing that the finished product isn’t intended to copy whisky styles already in the market. 

And how does it stack up? After our call I get my nose stuck into that tasting glass. And it’s pretty wonderful! It’s absolutely not the smack-you-round-your-face gusts of peat that have become synonymous with the production technique. It’s much more refined. And actually pretty elegant. I’m a big fan of the nose, which is caramel- and orchard fruit-dominated, with a whisper of earthy smoke. The peat character is more apparent on the palate when it becomes more bonfire-like. It’s still well-integrated, wrapped up nicely in pear tart, almost jammy notes. It’s medium-bodied, pleasantly ashy, and its honey vibes make it feel quite soft and velvety. The finish goes back to that gentle smoke of the nose, with an impression of salted popcorn. It’s an accessible entry point into peat, but also has the complexity and character to keep the geekiest whiskey fans entertained. In short: it’s really rather tasty. 2,000 cases were released in the first batch, but don’t panic. More is en route next year!

The pot stills at Teeling in Dublin

The pot stills at Teeling in Dublin

What’s in a name?

With that out the way, where does the name even come from? It’s the district right beside the distillery, Teeling explains. “It’s about celebrating the area with something so different,” he says. It was historically home to the tanning industry, which stained the streets dark, giving the spot its name. It was also home to some maltsters, according to Teeling. It’s pleasing how things have gone full circle. 

Why was now the right time to release BlackPitts? “There’s a huge interest in people discovering different flavours,” he muses. And it’s true. Just look at the plethora of finishes available today.  “Maybe the explosion in Irish whiskey means people are more open,” he adds. With Irish whiskey getting more air-time than perhaps ever before, it’s time to push the boundaries.  

‘Have a bit of fun’

BlackPitts isn’t the only newness to flow from Teeling in 2020. While the rest of us have been nurturing sourdough starters or battling banana bread, Stephen Teeling and the team have been innovating. “We’re lucky enough in the Irish whiskey category that you can have a bit of fun, not just with the barrels but with the intake,” he says. Rye experiments are in the works, and there was the Teeling Ginger Beer Cask Finish collaboration with London’s Umbrella Brewery (definitely worth checking out if unusual-but-excellent bottlings are your thing). 

“Single-use bourbon barrels are a really great canvas for us to layer other things on,” Teeling continues. It’s true for the Ginger Beer Cask Finish, but also BlackPitts, which makes use of those Sauternes wine casks. “You’re only as good as the output of your distillery.”

The end result, Teeling BlackPitts

The conversation comes back to BlackPitts, and the reality of producing the expression. “It was a labour of love,” he laughs. “If you ever run peated malt in a distillery it’s very disruptive!” The extra measures to avoid the peat tainting future batches seems quite daunting. “But hopefully we’ve just started the trend. We’d love to get to the stage where there’s a commercial angle [to peating]. I hope it’s something that comes back. The tradition has fallen away.”

And that’s one of the most meaningful concepts of mixing tradition and innovation we’ve heard for a while. 

Teeling Blackpitts Peated Single Malt is available from Master of Malt while stocks last.

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Whisky Advent 2020 Day #16: Fettercairn 12 Year Old

A mere nine days to go until the big man departs MoM HQ and embarks on his epic present-flinging voyage around the globe! It’s time to continue our own journey…

A mere nine days to go until the big man departs MoM HQ and embarks on his epic present-flinging voyage around the globe! It’s time to continue our own journey with Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar. And on Day 16, we’re taking a trip up to the Highlands of Scotland with Andrew Lennie, brand specialist at Fettercairn Distillery.

And, just like that, we’re on the single-digit countdown to Christmas! It’s still not entirely clear what celebrations will look like this year (tiers, bubbles, households…), but one this is certain. Today’s dram hidden behind Door 16 is a treat indeed. It hails from a distillery that once slightly lesser-known is now often found at a pub or bar near you (when they’re open). But it’s still something of a discovery dram, and it’s got our mouths watering. Behold: Fettercairn 12 Year Old!

Here to share more about the dram and its distillery is Andrew Lennie, Fettercairn’s brand specialist! 

Fettercairn 12 Year Old

Say hello to Andrew Lennie!

Master of Malt: Tell us a little bit about Fettercairn’s history…

Andrew Lennie: Fettercairn is a beautiful distillery on the east coast of the Scottish Highlands. The name literally translates as ‘Foot of the Mountain’, which will give you an indication as to where our distillery is in relation to the Cairngorm mountain range, which provides a stunning backdrop. The distillery is truly picturesque: whitewashed walls, an iconic pagoda roof, and the rolling Grampian Hills in the background. If you asked anyone to paint or imagine a typical Highland distillery, I’m sure it wouldn’t look too dissimilar to Fettercairn.

North of the distillery is an old drovers route known as the Carin O Mount where, historically, farmers would march their cattle down into the market towns of the south. They were a thirsty bunch as you could imagine, and this area became infamous with illicit distilling. Fettercairn was the second legally registered distillery in Scotland. Founded in 1824 by Sir Alexander Ramsay who converted Nethermill cornmill into the distillery. Ramsay also brought with him the iconic unicorn, Scotland’s national animal, which was part of his family crest and now proudly adorns each bottle of our single malt whisky. Sir Alexander Ramsay capitalised on the popularity of illicit distilling in the area and employed a well-known illicit distiller named James Stewart to be the first whisky maker at Fettercairn.

MoM: Fettercairn has the most amazing stills! Give us the lowdown on the cooling rings…

AL: The cooling rings were invented in the 1950s by the distillery manager at the time, Alistair Menzies. He fitted a ring of copper around the head of the spirit still which would drench it with cold mountain water during distillation. This was his way of creating a lighter and cleaner version of the spirit. Today we have two spirit stills both fitted with copper cooling rings which are seen nowhere else in the industry. When I show guests around Fettercairn, this is a real focal point. The cold water slowly flowing down the stills and the hot steam rising upwards is quite hypnotic. It has also turned the copper almost black with beautiful hints of teal, cream and gold shining through.

Fettercairn 12 Year Old

Fettercairn is one of Scotland’s most unique distilleries

MoM: Can you describe the signature Fettercairn distillery character?

AL: I would describe our house style as funky tropical fruits. The new make spirit is vibrant and fresh with notes of ripe banana, mango, pineapple, and a malty spice which is derived through the ingenuity of the copper cooling ring distillation process. We predominantly mature this spirit in ex-bourbon American white oak casks. This helps retain and enhance as much of the distillery character as possible, and adds layers of vanilla, white chocolate, and soft spice.

MoM: Fettercairn 12 Year Old is today’s dram! How has it been produced? 

AL: Fettercairn 12 Year Old was released in 2018 as part of a new collection of single malts from the distillery. It is a celebration of our new house style: fresh, vibrant, and approachable. This is a non-peated whisky and is fully matured in ex-bourbon American white oak barrels. On the nose, the first thing that comes across for me is a fresh pear and green apple followed by dried pineapple and soft spice. If you hold this dram on the palate for 10-15 seconds there are loads of tropical fruit flavours dancing around, which begin to turn slightly creamy like passion fruit cheesecake or mango Panna Cotta. The finish brings in sweet vanilla and coconut with a lingering hint of cinnamon.

MoM: What will be in your tasting glass this Christmas Day?

AL: This Christmas I am very much looking forward to a few glasses of sherry or a wee Port in the evening. As long as Home Alone is on in the background, I’ll be happy with anything.

Fettercairn 12 Year Old

Tasting note from the Chaps at Master of Malt

Nose: Refreshing nectarine, white flowers and milk chocolate emerge initially. Black toffee and subtle roasted coffee provide darker notes underneath,

Palate: Tropical fruit and sticky Jamaican ginger cake add a sweet and spicy depth which a flicker of bitter herbs and vanilla complement.

Finish: Orchard fruits and soft spices linger.

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Five minutes with… David Turner, Bowmore

He grew up on Islay, worked at the distillery for over 30 years, and is partial to a spot of whisky collecting. Who better to spend five minutes with than…

He grew up on Islay, worked at the distillery for over 30 years, and is partial to a spot of whisky collecting. Who better to spend five minutes with than David Turner, Bowmore distillery manager?

What has a delectable mix of history, peat, and a fabulous seaside outlook? Islay’s Bowmore distillery! We take five minutes (well, more like 20) to have a chat over the phone with distillery manager David Turner. Why not pour a dram, sit back and enjoy?

MoM: Bowmore is a truly historic distillery. What sets it apart from other producers? 

David Turner: I think the location sets us apart. We’re on Islay, right in the middle of the Island. Islay is well-known for the peated whiskies. The north is very lightly peated, the south is very heavily peated, and we’re in between. We sit between on peating level, and geography. We call ourselves the perfectly balanced Islay whisky.

David Turner Bowmore

David Turner in the stillhouse at Bowmore

MoM: Tell us about your career at Bowmore. You’ve done almost every job at the distillery over the years!

DT: I came here when I was 16 years old, straight from school, on 4 June 1990. I started in the warehouses, and I worked there until April 1992. When I was 18 years old I went on shifts in the malt barns, and I covered the stillhouse as a relief operator as well until April 2000. And from the malt barns I went to the mash house for 3, 4 years. Then I moved to the stillhouse in 2006, permanently, and became head distiller in 2007. Eddie [MacAffer, the former Bowmore distillery manager] was here as distillery manager; he did the visitor centre, tourism side. On 1 August 2016 I became the distillery manager. I like both production, and visitor-facing sides, to be fair. I like hands on. The malt barns are really special. For Bowmore, that’s where the tropical fruit notes come from. But I like speaking to visitors too, and travelling around the world. 

MoM: You recently added Bowmore 30 Year Old to the core line-up. Why was it released, and what’s it like?!

DT: We’ve got good aged stocks dating back to 1970 maturing in our warehouses, so we’ve always looked at the single malt side, we’ve got aged stock. It’s an annual release, and we do have the stock for a release of that age every year. It’s 45.3% ABV, distilled in 1989, with sherry hogsheads and bourbon barrels in it. The number of bottles will vary from year to year, just depends on what casks are used and how many. It’ll be what the casks yield, to be honest. 

MoM: Bowmore recently started rolling out its The Art of Time campaign. What does time, and the luxury of it, mean to you, and what does it mean in whisky-making?

DT: Well it really is about the art of time. We’ve got our own malt barn. It takes a wee bit longer to produce, our own spirit – other distilleries will buy in the commercial malt. We don’t rush things, and we leave the whisky to mature for as long as we need to and keep an eye on it. And it speaks to the ageing stocks we’ve got. And, of course, we’re the oldest on Islay, and the second oldest distillery in Scotland. We just see ourselves as caretakers of time. We do what the generation before us has done, and you just hope the next generation will do what we do. 

Bowmore

The heart of Bowmore, the stills

MoM: What’s coming up for Bowmore in 2021? Are there any cask experiments, distillery developments, or anything else you can share?

DT: Well, honestly, with the Covid situation… We’ll have distillery exclusives next year. We’ve also got the DB5 getting released at the end of Q1 2021, the 1964 31 year old. There are only 25 bottles going on sale. Beyond that, we need to see what the situation is. We’ve not got expansion plans just now. We’re a single malt specialist. We work 24/7, but we aren’t pushed. We’ve still got room to increase production for future growth in sales. And we have been putting extra stock down. We’ve got a lot of good stuff to come. 

MoM: 2020’s been quite the year! There have been lots of negatives, but also lots of opportunities to share drams and chat in the virtual space. What have been highlights for you?

DT: I think it’s been doing the online tastings. We’ve probably reached… I don’t know how many people! I probably do three weeks at shows throughout the year. I haven’t lost out of time engaged with consumers. I’ve been doing online virtual tastings and chats with people. It opens it up for the future as well – stuff we weren’t doing in the past. We know we can do things virtually now. It works really well. People have video on their laptops, iPads, it’s really good. 

MoM: You grew up on Islay. How does it feel to be managing such an iconic Islay distillery

DT: Yeah, it’s pretty amazing to be fair. It’s amazing to see how many people from around the world appreciate Bowmore. We’re on a small island off the west coast of Scotland. It’s amazing to see people from all around the world and that they know us. I didn’t think I’d ever do this job.  

Bowmore’s magnificent sherry-soaked 15 year old expression

MoM: Peated whisky continues to grow in popularity. Why do you think it holds such appeal?

DT: I think drinking whisky is part of a journey. Many years ago, people started drinking blends and moving on to single malts. People are educated to start drinking a Lowland, Highland, Speyside, then Islay. I think it’s part of the journey. But peated whisky can be totally accessible, for all genders as well. Some people’s palates prefer sweeter bourbon, some people who’ve never drunk whisky before like Bowmore 15 Year Old with the sherry influence. Every palate is different. 

MoM: Tell us a little bit about your life outside whisky. What excites and inspires you?

DT: I like to travel on holiday, I like to play golf, I like to walk on the beach on the weekends, I like to drink and collect old whisky. Distillery exclusives are good, small numbers. And, most importantly, it’s good if you get the opportunity to try it; the quality matters as well. 

MoM: What dram will be in your tasting glass this Christmas?

DT: I’m going to have a Bowmore 15 Year Old. I think it’s perfect – the sherry gives off the rich Christmas cake flavours, the dark caramel toffee. It’s a good winter dram, a good Christmas dram, and great value for money as well. 

Enter our Laphroaig and Bowmore competition to win a VIP trip to Islay here until 31 December 2020.

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Meet MoM’s Own! Your drinks cabinet essentials made simple

Stocking up on the basics? Looking for a wallet-friendly way to cover all booze bases? We can help with MoM’s Own, our quartet of tastiness – London Dry Gin, Rum,…

Stocking up on the basics? Looking for a wallet-friendly way to cover all booze bases? We can help with MoM’s Own, our quartet of tastiness – London Dry Gin, Rum, Vodka, and, of course, Blended Scotch Whisky! 

The perfect cheese selection pack. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The stylish capsule wardrobe. Right across life, grouping things together is very pleasing. Especially when they help make your life easier or bring you immense joy (hello, cheeseboard. ‘Tis almost the season after all!). It seemed high time that we got in on the act of arranging things together, this time in the drinks world. So, give a fabulously warm welcome to MoM’s Own, your new go-to for all things spirits!

Spanning Blended Scotch Whisky, London Dry Gin, Rum, and Vodka, MoM’s Own is our vision of drinks simplicity. You want a constantly stocked up drinks cabinet with all manner of cocktail options. You need it to be delicious. You also don’t want it to break the bank. So we teamed up with our pals at Atom Labs to craft the first of four bottlings that do just that!

We chose MoM’s Own to tick as many boxes as possible. It’s your go-to, easy peasy selection whatever you fancy drinking. It’s also got hosting wrapped up (ready for when we can have dinner parties again..!). Whether it’s for yourself or someone else, we reckon these four expressions will have you well on your way to a useful, versatile and – vitally important! –  delicious drinks cabinet. 

MoM’s Own Blended Scotch, 42% ABV 

Looking for a tasty sipper that you could also mix (if the fancy took you), that’s delectable enough to be a treat but affordable to share with friends? Say hello to MoM’s Own Blended Scotch! It’s made with peated Islay single malt blended with a soft, buttery single grain, so you’ve got enough weight and complexity to delight your palate, while being decidedly accessible. Also useful if you’re introducing your pals to the world of whisky.

MoM’s Own London Dry Gin, 40% ABV

Hands up, juniper fans! This one’s for you. We love classic London dry gins, and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. All we’ve done to a classic recipe is cold-distil citrus peels for a fabulously refreshing and slightly elevated sipper. We’re a fan of it in G&Ts, Martinis and Negronis alike – oh, and it’s an absolute bargain, too.

MoM’s Own Rum, 40% ABV

Dark rum is having more than just a moment – we’ve collectively got a taste for the stuff that’s delightfully delish and exactingly blended. And that’s what you’ve got right here with MoM’s Own Rum! There’s unaged and aged Caribbean liquid, plus higher ester stuff blended in. Wonderful liquid indeed! 

MoM’s Own Vodka, 40% ABV

Great vodka is essential for any drinks cabinet (how could you indulge in that weekend Bloody Mary without it?), so we knew we needed a top-quality option in the line-up. This one’s made with both wheat and molasses as a base, so it’s soft and smooth, with a gentle mouthfeel. Equally good with soda, other mixers, and in things like Moscow Mules

We reckon that’s a pretty good line-up to kick things off. Between those four bottlings, you’ve got almost all drinking occasions covered – and a whole bunch of classic cocktails, too. But we’re not done there! We’ll release more MoM’s Own products as trends develop and we spot a need. If you’re after something specific, let us know. We might just make it for you!

Enjoy the line-up!

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Whisky Advent 2020 Day #6: WhistlePig 10 Year Old

The first Sunday of Advent is upon us! And there’s an absolute treat behind today’s door. The dram in question comes all the way from Vermont. It’s… WhistlePig 10 Year…

The first Sunday of Advent is upon us! And there’s an absolute treat behind today’s door. The dram in question comes all the way from Vermont. It’s… WhistlePig 10 Year Old!

Like rye whiskey? Then you should be well on board with today’s dram! The team behind WhistlePig are absolutely obsessed with the grain. And with good reason. The lively, warming, complexity of rye has won the hearts and palates of many around the world. And today we get to revel in a 10-year-old expression!

WhistlePig is becoming increasingly familiar across the UK, but if it hasn’t crossed your tasting glass yet, here’s a 101. The team set up operations in 2010, ‘rescuing’, maturing, blending and bottling Canadian spirit as the distillery ramped up production and its own liquid came of age. The vision is for a total grain-to-glass operation, spanning Vermont-grown grain, local water, and even barrels made from forests nearby.

It’s a bold mission, and here to tell us more about it is Christian Tirel, WhistlePig’s UK steward of the brand!

Whisky Advent 2020 Day #6: WhistlePig 10 Year Old

Joining us today is the wonderful Christian Tirel!

Master of Malt: Tell us a bit about WhistlePig’s history…

Christian Tirel: WhistlePig opened in 2010 on an old dairy farm in Shoreham, Vermont. It was the brainchild of our iconic distiller, Dave Pickerell, his search for the perfect rye, and his vision to bring ultra-premium craft rye to the forefront of American whiskey. 

MoM: Why rye whiskey?!

CT: While America may not have a monarchy, pre-Prohibition rye was pretty much both king and queen of America. It was this bleak time that caused the downfall of rye for bourbon. Although history and palates were changing, in more recent times there has been increased demand from bartenders to be reaching for the authentic recipes for the much-loved classics such as the Manhattan and Sazerac, which call for high-rye whiskies. Palates becoming more sophisticated and exploratory gave further momentum to the desire for a 100% rye offerings with hefty statements. This left a huge gap to be filled for an authentic 100% rye, 10-year minimum, 100-proof whiskies, and the legendary Dave Pickerell more than filled that gap with WhistlePig.

Whisky Advent 2020 Day #6: WhistlePig 10 Year Old

Whistlepig is a is grain-to-glass distillery

MoM: Why is grain-to-glass so important to you and the team?

CT: Being a ‘zero generation’ distillery, we have cut our teeth in the whiskey world predominantly through the revered art of blending and maturation. As with most distilleries, we have a goal to make a grain-to-glass whiskey, not only to showcase a truly exceptional standard of rye, but to begin our legacy here. Unlike many distilleries in the world, we have the luxury of having the water source, rye crops and the Rolls-Royce of wood on-site, Vermont oak.

MoM: WhistlePig 10 Year Old is the dram behind the door today! How has it been made?

CT: Our flagship whiskey came from a Holy Grail of Rye mission that Dave Pickerell set out on to find the perfect 100% rye pot-distilled whiskey that followed the stipulated rules of straight rye whiskey, in charred virgin oak barrels, too. He discovered this hoard of gold…coloured liquid in Canada. It is still sourced from there to this day. It is then brought to the pastoral WhistlePig Farm in Shoreham, Vermont, where it is further matured in new charred virgin American oak casks with every last drop being aged for a minimum of 10 years. The final and arguably most important step is the expert small-batch blending to achieve the signature WhistlePig 10 Year profile. 

MoM: Money and availability no object, what would be your dream Christmas dram?

CT: My Christmas dram? Simply BossHog V: The Spirit of Mauve. It was eloquently described by Dave Pickerell as “a tiny atomic apple pie bomb going off”, and this could not be more true! It’s got warm spice and rye on the tongue, with a mushroom cloud of baking spices that coat and warm the roof of the mouth, all the while there is a baked apple flavour radiating throughout. It’s perfect for Christmas, decadent, warming and barrel-strength to help with the in-laws!

Whisky Advent 2020 Day #6: WhistlePig 10 Year Old

Whistlepig 10 Year Old Tasting Note:

Nose: Fresh peppermint and herbal thyme initially, with sweet vanilla and marzipan developing. Creamy butterscotch, raspberry jam and orange rind round it off.

Palate: Warm baking spices, nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice burst to life and are tempered by sweet muscovado sugar, bright oak and dark chocolate. Vanilla cola and caramel shortbread linger.

Finish: Medium-length, with warm rye spices, sweet malt and sour cherries.

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Five minutes with… Mark Bruce, Jura brand home manager

We pour a dram and catch up with Jura’s brand home manager Mark Bruce, chatting through favourite drams, bottles for Christmas, and why the island itself is just so enchanting……

We pour a dram and catch up with Jura’s brand home manager Mark Bruce, chatting through favourite drams, bottles for Christmas, and why the island itself is just so enchanting…

Most whisky geeks around the world will know about Islay. A trip to the island is something of a pilgrimage. A fewer, but definitely increasing, number know about the hidden gem just to the north and but a short ferry hop: the Isle of Jura.

The island is simply spectacular. It spans the same land area as London but is home to just 200 people (and a casual 6,000 deer). It’s wildly mountainous, but it’s also got sweeping white beaches. It’s where George Orwell wrote 1984. It’s even got palm trees, thanks to the warm air swept across the Atlantic by the jet stream. And it’s home to a whisky distillery!

Jura has become known in recent years for its cask finishing balanced with a gentle peat influence. But its island home has a huge impact on the distillery, too. We find out just how from Mark Bruce, Jura’s brand home manager, who lives on the island.

Jura whisky distillery

6,000 deer, 200 people, mountains, beaches and one brilliant distillery – welcome to Jura

Master of Malt: Jura is a little-known Scottish island, but it is truly stunning – white beaches, mountains, deer! What are your favourite things about the island?

Mark Bruce: My favourite thing about life on Jura is that I get to live and work within a community that’s dedicated to making great whisky. Jura Whisky and our tiny island community go hand in hand, therefore without one, the other wouldn’t be what it is today. But it isn’t always about whisky. Come the weekends and longer days you’ll often find me out walking the hills after work and enjoying Small Isles Bay on paddleboards and canoes.

MoM: Jura is also incredibly remote – it takes quite the journey to get there! How does this impact island life and whisky production?

MB: I would say our location impacts every aspect of life, but it wasn’t until I moved here I began to fully appreciate that. With just one shop (our community store), one pub and a handful of island businesses, Jura relies entirely on the ferries between us and Islay, as well as those running from Islay to the mainland. The problems tend to occur when the wild weather kicks in and high winds force the ferries to stop running. 

Our whisky production also finds itself at the mercy of the ferries during bad weather. Our distillery manager Graham Logan and his team are able to maintain 24-hour production for two or three days before we desperately need the ferries up and running again.

MoM: The whisky a distillery makes is as much a product of its location and community as the production methods. How does Jura’s tiny but close-knit community impact the character of Jura whisky?

MB: I couldn’t agree more. Our location itself doesn’t just make Jura a difficult island to get to, but makes every part of life and whisky-making that bit harder. This brings our community together and ensures anyone in need of help gets it. It also translates directly into our whisky and team here at the distillery. There are 17 of us working in our distillery, and all of us live here on Jura. It’s very much the community helping to make each and every drop of spirit!

Jura whisky distillery

The amazing view of the distillery from the water

MoM: One of my favourite memories of Jura is swimming off the coast in front of the distillery – what are your personal highlights from your first visits to the island?

MB: One of my most memorable experiences was on my first visit to Jura, which was part of an immersion experience with Whyte & Mackay. I was fortunate enough to visit for four days and experience all the best parts of what this wonderful island has to offer. We got to climb The Paps [the island’s mountains], experience Jura’s east coast from a fast boat, and walk up to the distillery’s water source, The Market Loch. We also explored the north end of the island, which has some of its most remote beaches. And we enjoyed the freshly-caught seafood! Of course, we also had an in-depth tour of the distillery, and tasted Jura whiskies with our distillery manager, Graham Logan. 

MoM: Talk us through the core Jura range. How do you celebrate the island of Jura through each expression?

MB: I think the entire range of whiskies within our Signature Series is worth celebrating. Exploring them all is a journey in itself, but most importantly, there’s a whisky in there for everyone. We begin with Jura Journey, a great example of how our new-make spirit works perfectly well with American white oak ex-bourbon casks. The 10 and 12-year-old single malts then expand on this with 18-14 months in Oloroso sherry casks. Our Seven Wood is a beauty because it’s different for me every time I try it. American white oak and six different types of French Oak are brought together to create a truly exciting dram of whisky. Jura 18, an island favourite, is best described as armchair whisky for me. It’s very complex, a whisky that can be nurtured on its own and paired perfectly with your main course or dessert. It’s the enhancement period in very special Bordeaux red wine casks that makes Jura 18 an absolute favourite!

MoM: If someone’s thinking of gifting a bottle of Jura for Christmas, where would you suggest they start?

MB: I’d suggest trying one (or both) of our new cask edition releases. Whether it’s the Jura Red Wine cask or the Jura Winter Edition, you simply can’t go wrong. Both of these are perfect for sharing with your friends and family, pairing with food, and mixing in your favourite cocktail.

Jura whisky distillery

A dram on one of the island’s remote beaches. I can think of worse ways to pass the time…

MoM: What dram will you be toasting Christmas with this year?

MB: A sample we’ve just drawn from a cask destined for next year’s Fèis Ìle. You’ll hear all about it soon enough!

Like the sound of Jura? You could win a trip to the island! Check out our blog post for more. 

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