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Master of Malt Blog

Author: Master of Malt

The Nightcap: 30 October

It might be the spookiest time of year, but that can’t stop us from rounding up the latest happenings from the world of booze. It’s The Nightcap! Happy Halloween, folks!…

It might be the spookiest time of year, but that can’t stop us from rounding up the latest happenings from the world of booze. It’s The Nightcap!

Happy Halloween, folks! However you’re choosing to mark it this strangest of years, we hope you’re able to make the most of the sweet treats, pageantry and gothic pomp of it all as safely as possible. And for those who have absolutely no interest in Halloween, we’d like to think you’ve found some alternative entertainment in the form of The Nightcap. It’s filled with all the best kinds of spirits.

This week on the MoM blog some of the finest names in whisky featured, with the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection 2019 and Ardbeg Wee Beastie making their way to MoM Towers (eek!), Chris Morris filling-us-in on all things Woodford Reserve and Nicholas Morgan giving us a glimpse of the story behind the world’s no. 1 Scotch whisky. We also captured our time at The Lakes Distillery on video and spoke to Victoria Eady Butler about her incredible family legacy, but not before we made sure you can indulge in style for Halloween and Bonfire Night, make the most of overproof spirits and imbibe mindfully.

The Nightcap

See the Chase Distillery for yourself with our amazing VR tour!

Diageo acquires Chase Distillery

Spirits giant Diageo loves nothing more than adding brands to its swelling portfolio, so it was little surprise to see that Chase Distillery has become its latest acquisition. The premium British vodka and gin distillery based in Herefordshire was founded by potato farmer William Chase in 2008, after he created and sold upmarket crisp company Tyrrell’s. Unsurprisingly, the distillery’s spirits are made from scratch using British-grown potatoes, as well as apples and botanicals on the Chase Farm, which also employs steam energy to power the distillery thanks to a biomass boiler fueled by apple orchard prunings. The portfolio is made up of seven gins, four vodkas and an elderflower liqueur, including the very popular Chase GB Gin, Pink Grapefruit & Pomelo Gin and Aged Marmalade Vodka. William Chase said the acquisition, which is tipped to close in early 2021, is “inspiring” and that Diageo “believe in the potential of our field to bottle spirits and will build on our mission to develop our sustainable distillery in Herefordshire.” Diageo certainly believes in gin, given that it’s already bought Ryan Reynold’s Aviation Gin and invested in German craft gin maker Rheinland Distillers GmbH this year. As for William Chase, he’s kind of running out of potato-based business ventures. Maybe I can interest him in an experiment I did at age six when I powered a lightbulb with a humble potato. It’s sustainable energy, after all…

The Nightcap

Rum was the drink of choice for many of you, and a fine choice it is!

WSTA figures reveal rum is the drink of lockdown 

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) has crowned rum the “drink of lockdown”, as the latest figures show it enjoyed the biggest growth across all spirits during the lockdown. In the three months from April to June 2020, 38% more rum was sold than in the same period in 2019, while total rum sales were worth £119 million in the quarter alone. Rum now places behind only whisky, vodka and gin in value terms. The flavoured & spiced rum category was the biggest mover and shaker, growing 53% by volume between April and June, and outselling white rums over a three month period for the first time. Even though pubs and bars couldn’t open, total alcohol sales in supermarkets and shops are up 8% over 12 months and 35% over the lockdown period. The figures show, however, that the growth in off-trade sales did not off-set the losses seen by the closure of the on-trade – total alcohol sales slumped 20% by volume, showing that, despite all the stories, the British did not booze their way through the lockdown. “Our latest numbers show that rum is lockdown’s champion, as the experimentation Brits liked to enjoy in pubs and bars carried over to their homes. However, this also underlines the importance of on-trade venues as the shop window for new innovations in the spirits category,” explains Miles Beale, chief executive of the WSTA. “With news just last week of further restrictions being placed on the hospitality sector, the climate for our distillers, many of whom are SMEs and have come to represent such a great British success story of recent years, continues to get tougher”. 

Our favourite feature of the new-look Glenkinchie? The psychedelic Johnnie Walker

Revamped Glenkinchie Distillery reopens

We’ve reported before on Diageo’s £185 million investment in whisky tourism in Scotland. With perhaps not the best timing, it has just been announced that phase one of the plan has been completed and the refurbished Glenkinchie distillery near Edinburgh is once open to the public. The elegant Victorian brick warehouses have been turned into a visitor experience with a landscaped garden and a distinctly psychedelic statue of Johnnie Walker complete with dog. Visitors will be able to purchase a special commemorative release called the first in the Four Corners of Scotland collection, a 16 year old Glenkinchie bottled at 50.6% ABV with just 2,502 available at £150. Barbara Smith, managing director of brand homes (they do love a grand job title at Diageo) commented: “We are acutely aware of the difficult times many people are going through, particularly our colleagues in the tourism and hospitality sector across Scotland. We know there’s a long way to go and a lot of uncertainty ahead. Still, we believe in the resilience of our business and our communities, and we will be doing all we can through our investment to sow the seeds of recovery and future growth.” Distillery manager Ramsay Borthwick added: “Glenkinchie will give people a thrilling first taste of the new visitor experiences we are creating across Scotland. We will be offering people an experience like no other distillery in Scotland at Glenkinchie and that will be followed as we transform Clynelish, Cardhu and Caol Ila over the coming months, and as we build towards the opening of our global Johnnie Walker Princes Street attraction in Edinburgh next summer.” Let’s hope they all open as planned.

The Nightcap

Book Two, ‘Building an Icon’, will be available here soon…

Laphroaig expands the Ian Hunter series

Following the huge success and popularity of Ian Hunter Book One, Laphoraig has launched the second instalment in the Ian Hunter Story, which consists of five annual releases and honours the legacy of the last founding member of the Johnston family to run the distillery. Book Two, which is entitled ‘Building an Icon’ and is limited to just four hundred cases, was matured in sherry casks for 30 years before it was bottled at 48.2% ABV without chill-filtration. Hunter, who joined the distillery in 1908, had a lasting legacy, doubling production and managing to sell Laphroaig to America during Prohibition by leveraging the spirit’s unique character, which meant that it could be sold for medicinal purposes. “You cannot enjoy Laphroaig’s exquisitely smokey and complex liquid, without paying homage to the legendary Ian Hunter,” says John Campbell, Laphroaig distillery manager. “His influence in our whisky production techniques and our iconic brand as a whole is undeniable. The second book in our Ian Hunter Story celebrates his legacy in shaping Laphroaig to what it is today.” The limited-edition whisky will be available from MoM Towers soon…

The Nightcap

It’s been quite the week for impressive expressions!

Gonzalez Byass releases sherry from 1878

Tio Pepe isn’t just the world’s bestselling fino sherry, he was also a real person, a winemaker and uncle of the company’s founder Manuel Maria Gonzalez Anger. Now, Gonzalez Byass has released a wine made by Uncle Joe (for some reason Pepe is the diminutive of José) himself. It’s a very special Pedro Ximinez laid down in 1878 to celebrate the investiture of a new pope, León XIII. It was recently uncovered in the company’s vast cellars (think that last scene in Raiders of the Last Ark) by current head blender Antonio Flores. It comes from a single butt containing, after all these years, only 80 litres of super-sweet wine.  It’s unusual because it was made in the days before sherry was routinely fortified so it comes in at only 9% ABV, yet because of all that sugar, it’s has lasted all these years. Mauricio González Gordon, current chairman and fifth-generation family member, said, “This wine was created in the mid-19th century: a Pedro Ximénez, made before phylloxera arrived in Jerez. We are delighted to be able to release this jewel of a wine as part of our rare Finite Wines Collection, but there will only be 78 bottles for sale – the remaining 20 will be stored in the González family’s bottle archive, El Aljibe.” The price is suitably papal at €1800 a bottle. 

The Nightcap

Once you start thinking of Spocktail ideas, it’s hard to stop. Captain Kirsch, anyone?

And finally. . .  Jim Beam me up, Scotty

If you made a Venn diagram of cocktail lovers and fans of Star Trek (Trekkingtons, we believe they’re called), we wonder how big the overlap between the two categories would be. Well, the people behind a new book called Star Trek Cocktails: A Stellar Compendium clearly think there’s a large market. It’s been put together by cartoonist and writer Glenn Dakin in conjunction with ‘mixology consultants’ David Burton and Jess Esposito. It’s full of fairly standard cocktails given a Star Trek twist with names like Ferengi Wallbanger or Guinan Fizz. We’re sure they will go down a treat with hardcore fans but we can’t help feeling that the whole thing is something of a missed opportunity in the punning department. So the team here at Master of Malt had a lot of fun coming up with our own Spocktails (see what we did there?) like Star Trek: the next Gineration, Deep Space Wine or the irresistible Captain Kirsch. Live long and Vesper!

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Halloween booooos!

Don’t worry if you can’t hit the town this Halloween, we’ve rounded up five of the spookiest cocktails to get you in the spirit of things (sorry!) at home. You could…

Don’t worry if you can’t hit the town this Halloween, we’ve rounded up five of the spookiest cocktails to get you in the spirit of things (sorry!) at home. You could even serve them in a pumpkin! How scary would that be? 

It looks like it’s going to be a night-in for most of us on the 31 October this year. Never mind trick or treat, we’ve got some delicious Halloween-themed cocktails you can make at home this year. So put down the mulling syrup and pick up your shaker for some easy to make cocktails, all perfect served in the dark with a scary movie! 

And whatever cocktail you plan to create on Halloween night, one way to up your mixology game is to exchange your glass for a pumpkin bowl! To make, simply grab a small pumpkin and carefully chop around the top. Next, remove all of the flesh from inside. Finally, give the whole pumpkin a good rinse and you’re ready to go! Fill it with the cocktail of your choice – make sure you’ve got yourself a straw or things can get rather messy… Oh and don’t carve a face out of it first or you’ll have booze all over your costume. 

Halloween cocktails

Jaisalmer Pumpkin Cocktail 

This warming Spiced Pumpkin Cocktail was made using Jaislamer’s Indian craft Gin. It’s deliciously sweet and sour, and scarily simple to make! 

50ml Jaisalmer Gin
25ml Monin Pumpkin Spice syrup
20ml lemon juice
Cinnamon sticks to garnish 

Add all of the ingredients into a cocktail shaker and shake well. Then double strain into a Martini glass and garnish with cinnamon sticks for an extra whack of warming spice! 

Halloween cocktails

Bathtub Blackberry Fizz

This delicious cocktail made with Bathtub Gin is light, fruity and fresh, and with a good muddle the blackberries give you all the right colours for Halloween! Chances are you’ve already got everything you need to make it too! 

50ml Bathtub Gin
Fever Tree tonic water
Blackberries
Orange slice and more blackberries to garnish

Grab yourself five of the blackberries and muddle at the bottom of a Highball glass. Next, fill half the glass tonic water and stir. Fill your glass with ice and top with tonic water. Garnish with more blackberries and an orange slice. 

Halloween cocktails

Red or Dead

This is a great smoky sipper from Cut Smoked Rum, a smoked three year old Jamaican rum infused with coffee. Plus, those distinct layers of cranberry juice and soda give it a ghoulish and gory appearance! 

25ml Cut Smoked Rum
100ml cranberry juice
Dash of soda water
3 lime wedges 

Start by filling a tumbler halfway with ice. Next, add the cranberry juice and then carefully pour on the soda to ensure a clear layer. Follow with the Cut Smoked Rum, add the lime wedges and serve. Give it a stir before drinking.

Halloween cocktails

The Witch Doctor 

If you’re looking for a cocktail that makes you go “Ooh ee ooh ah ah ting tang walla walla bing bang” Cazcabel has got you covered. Cazcabel Honey, a Tequila-based honey liqueur, adds a lovely sweetness to this cocktail, a little more complex in terms of ingredients for this one, but it is called the Witch Doctor after all! 

20ml Honey Cazcabel 
20ml Smokehead Islay single malt
20ml pineapple juice
25ml lime juice
15ml Orgeat syrup 
2 dashes of Angostura Bitters 

Fill a Nick and Nora glass with ice to chill. Place all of your ingredients into a shaker, and shake. Remove ice from your Nick and Nora glass and strain the mix into it. Garnish with a dried orange wheel and a sprig of fresh rosemary. 

Halloween cocktails

Bloody Rob Roy

A smoky version of the classic Rob Roy, just in case you were unsure what a Scottish outlaw had to do with Halloween… Anyway outlaws aside, this cocktail is made using Ardbeg’s new Wee Beastie, one incredibly smoky dram, with nothing really ‘wee’ in its flavour… Expect smoke and lots of it! 

50ml Ardbeg Wee Beastie
20ml Gonzalez Byass La Copa sweet vermouth
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
Orange twist and cherry to garnish

Add your ice and all of your liquid ingredients into a mixing glass, and stir until mixture is suitably diluted to your taste. Strain into your favourite coupe glass, garnish and indulge in a Bloody (smoky) Rob Roy!

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The Nightcap: 23 October

Friday has finally arrived, and you know what that means! It’s time to pour yourself a dram and catch up on another busy week of boozy news with The Nightcap….

Friday has finally arrived, and you know what that means! It’s time to pour yourself a dram and catch up on another busy week of boozy news with The Nightcap.

This week we received some devastating news. Fungie, the world’s oldest solitary dolphin, has not been seen in his 37-year Dingle Harbour home for over a week. The unlikely local celebrity appeared in the seaside town in Kerry, Ireland, in 1983 and he’s been a mainstay of Dingle ever since, becoming a major tourist attraction who even has his own Wikipedia page. News like this really makes you appreciate how quickly things can change and why we take comfort in the things that are always there for us. Like a weekly round-up of news from the drinks industry. Never leave us, sweet Nightcap. Speaking of which, let’s get on with it, there’s plenty to get your teeth into this week!

The MoM blog was jam-packed with boozy goodness, as usual, this week, including the launch of a new #BagThisBundle competition, this time with five bottles of delicious James Eadie whisky, aged up to 26 years, up for grabs. Ian Buxton then returned to outline how your taxes help small distillers, Henry learnt about why it’s been a difficult vintage in the Douro valley and Annie marked 20 years of Compass Box. Adam then continued our Sober October coverage by casting a spotlight on the mimic masters, Lyre’s, tasted the first single malt from the Milk & Honey distillery and recommended some devilishly delicious drinks for Halloween. Jess, meanwhile, welcomed Silent Pool’s shiny new Rare Citrus Gin, while our Cocktail of the Week is a real labour of love which  Aaron Wall, co-owner of London bar Homeboy, talks us through.

The Nightcap

Congratulations on your new role, Richard!

Wolfcraig Distillery appoints Richard Paterson as master blender

Fresh from announcing the plans for its upcoming £15m distillery, Wolfcraig has dropped another huge news bomb: Richard Paterson has been appointed as its master blender. Whyte & Mackay fans need not panic, however, as he will continue his commitments to the brand he recently celebrated his 50th anniversary with. The press reveals that it was Paterson’s “continued passion for Scotch Whisky” that drew him to the Wolfcraig project, which will allow him to play “a leading role in the foundation of a new distillery, in the heart of Scotland”. Paterson, a third-generation master blender who followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, is one of the most highly regarded greatest whisky makers of his generation, even being nicknamed “the nose” for his olfactory skills, so it’s quite a signing for Wolfcraig. How did they do it? Well, Wolfcraig co-founder Michael Lunn is the former chairman and chief executive of Whyte & Mackay Group, so maybe this appointment wasn’t so out of the blue after all. “This will be an opportunity for me to use all the knowledge I have learned over 55 years in the business to create a truly exceptional Highland single malt, one that can be enjoyed the world over,” Paterson said. We look forward to seeing what you create, sir. If you need anyone whose free for taste tests, you know where we are…

The Nightcap

Guinness 0.0 is described as “the Guinness with everything, except alcohol”

Guinness launches non-alcoholic beer

Ever longed for the taste of a fresh (properly poured) pint of Guinness but didn’t want to consume alcohol. Well, you’re in luck, because Diageo’s colossus Irish stout brand has announced the launch of a new expression this week: Guinness 0.0, “the Guinness with everything, except alcohol”. Apparently, it was made using the same ingredients as the original; water, barley, hops and yeast, except that the alcohol is then removed using cold filtration. This process is said to avoid the pitfalls of presenting thermal stress to the beer, “protecting the integrity of its taste and character”. You’d like to think the brewers at St. James’s Gate got this one right because the press release says this zero-alcohol beer was made following a four-year process led by the technical and innovation teams at the brand’s home. “Guinness has always had an unwavering commitment to quality and our entire brewing team is hugely proud of the care and effort that has been put into the four-year development process for Guinness 0.0,” says Aisling Ryan, innovation brewer (sweet job title) at St James’s Gate. “We have created a taste experience that we believe is truly unrivalled in the world of non-alcoholic beer and we can’t wait for people to finally be able to try it!” Guinness 0.0 will be available in pubs across Ireland and Great Britain from Spring 2021 and in more markets throughout the world later in 2021.

The Nightcap

We were given a little taste of the special 30-year-old Rosebank whisky. We enjoyed it

Rosebank releases 30-year-old whisky from 1990

We’ve been eagerly following the revival of the legendary Rosebank distillery in the Lowlands so we were very pleased to be given a sample of a very special single malt from before the distillery closed in 1993. Called Release One, it’s a 30-year-old single malt with only 4,350 bottles made. Every year, Ian MacLeod, the distillery’s now owners, will release a vintage until the whisky from the revived Rosebank is available. As you can imagine, it’s quite expensive, £1,600, but is it any good? Well, in a word, yes. It’s very pale and for such an old whisky, the wood is in no way overpowering. There are delicate peach and lemon fruit all wrapped up with crème brûlée, cinnamon and almonds, with a finish you can taste ten minutes later. Truly, a dram to savour. Robbie Hughes, group distillation manager explained a little further: “It was matured in 62% refill sherry butts and 38% refill bourbon hogsheads for decades, patiently waiting to be awoken, and delivers layers of incredible flavour that you won’t find in other whiskies.” Furthermore, the first 200 buyers to scan a QR code on Release One will be able to enjoy a dram of Release Two at certain outlets (to be confirmed) as well as an early chance to buy a bottle of it. And that’s not all! To celebrate this release, Ian MacLeod has produced a video of top whisky writers including Felipe Schrieberg and Alice Lascelles talking about Rosebank. You are really spoiling us now! At the moment, Release One is only available directly from the distillery but we will let you know if MoM is lucky enough to get any in. 

The Nightcap

English wine producers are very excited about this year’s harvest (photo courtesy of Chapel Down)

2020: a quality year for English wine

This year English wine has snatched triumph from the jaws of defeat. In spring it looked like the vintage would be a disaster with severe frosts damaging delicate buds. But the day was saved by an unusually warm summer (remember that?) and a September heatwave leading to one of the earliest harvests on record. While there hasn’t been a repeat of the bumper grape crops seen in the last two years, there’s an air of excitement among producers with a harvest described as “corking”. Ian Edwards, co-owner of Furleigh Estate in Dorset said: “The quality of the grapes this year is excellent. It’s the ripest fruit we have had in 15 years of growing.” This quality harvest has coincided with a huge increase in visitor numbers to English wineries which, in the midst of difficult economic conditions, has given producers a much needed dose of positivity. Adam Williams, sales director at the Hush Heath Estate in Kent commented: “The increase in visitors to our cellar has been extremely encouraging… all our tours, tastings and dinners remain fully booked. A positive story amongst all this doom and gloom! One can only hope all this adds up to a big boom in English wine!” We are pretty sure it will.

The Nightcap

The face paint comes separately.

Rock band Kiss releases debut rum

Get set to rock and rum all nite – iconic and heavily made-up brand Kiss has released its first expression! Kiss Black Diamond Premium Black Rum is made using Caribbean liquid aged for up to 15 years and references the closing song on the band’s eponymous debut 1974 album. Swedish spirits producer Brands for Fans is behind the release and says the bottling offers apricot, date, vanilla fudge, cinnamon and chocolate notes, along, interestingly, with arrack vibes. The zazzy label references the band’s costumes and aforementioned make-up from the early days, making it a nostalgic treat as well as a tasty one. “It’s an amazing match for a band who were pioneers both musically and visually in the world of rock ’n’ roll,” said Brands for Fans’ Sari H. Wilholm. “When I taste this rum by KISS and look at the bottle, I feel proud of what we’ve achieved with this product. It’s damn good. Listening to Black Diamond still gives me the chills, and the rum makes me just as excited!” It’s available in Sweden now for the equivalent of £33, and it should land at MoM Towers soon!

The Nightcap

A paradise where beautiful rum is made. Why aren’t we living there?!

Takamaka Rum announces distillery expansion

Takamaka Bay Rum will unveil a slick new look in November as it completes a major expansion of its Seychelles-based distillery. The family-owned brand, which has also launched a brand redesign, new bottle and an increase in its international distribution, has added new stainless steel and copper column stills to facilitate the production of molasses rum. Takamaka already makes traditional pure cane sugar pot still rum at its facility in La Plaine St Andre, but can now make 250,000 litres per annum of molasses rum. Given there’s no sugar industry in the Seychelles, the molasses is sourced from East Africa. A new visitor centre will also allow visitors the chance to learn about the rum’s production and the 228-year-old heritage site the distillery is located in, “This expansion is a pivotal part of our plans as a business,” says Richard D’Offay, Takamaka co-founder. “Not only will it allow us to showcase our amazing rum, and how it is produced, to guests visiting the Seychelles, it has also been designed to be scalable to allow for larger production as we increase our international distribution and emerge into new territories.” 

The Nightcap

A 100% sherry-aged, cask strength so rich you can stand a spoon up in. Now we’re talking

Cotswolds latest whisky is sherry heaven  

Cotswolds Distillery has just announced its richest whisky yet. How rich is it? Well imagine Bill Gates marrying the Queen, and you’re nearly there. It’s fully aged in sherry casks, both American and Spanish oak hogsheads and butts, seasoned with both Oloroso and PX sherry. It’s then bottled at a mighty 57.4% ABV. So how does it taste? Pretty rich, as you’d expect. The nose is all about muscovado sugar, dark cherries and chocolate, and the palate is so thick you could stand a spoon up in it, but, paradoxically, that big ABV keeps the richness under control. The finish is all sticky toffee pudding, dark chocolate and pungent gingery spice. Head of production Nickolas Franchino commented: “I love a sherry cask whisky as it is one of the truly iconic single malt whisky styles. Good sherry casks give rich, fruity, spicy and nutty flavours that marry perfectly with the underlying malt character and are a joy to savour.” Available only direct from the distillery, you don’t need to be an oligarch to buy a bottle, all this richness comes in at a very reasonable £64.95.

The Nightcap

We won’t be stocking any sherry as big as the one pictured, before any of you ask (Image credit: Rob Johnson)

And finally… Fake news is so 2016. This year, it’s all about Fake Booze

You may have seen some rather surprising headlines doing the rounds on drinks social media: “Shock find at Jerez dig proves that dinosaurs ‘invented sherry’”, “Bacardi Bat latest victim of Coronavirus” or “Rum celebrates 100 years as ‘next big thing”, and thought that the world has gone mad. Well, it has, but these headlines are in fact creations of a new site that describes itself as the “world’s first satirical drinks magazine”. Called, naturally, Fake Booze, and with the motto “Like Truth But Better”, it is dedicated to mocking an industry that can sometimes take itself a bit too seriously. It’s the creation of former Imbibe editor, booze enthusiast and all-round amusing human Chris Losh. He told us: “It’s basically a chance to raise an eyebrow at the world of drinks the inconsistencies, the misplaced ego and the well-intentioned plans that go awry. Sometimes it’s sharp, sometimes it’s whimsical but I’d hope that it comes from a place of affection not anger”. Thank you, Chris! In these dark times, what we need is a good dose of Fake Booze. 

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The Nightcap: 16 October

Video games, new whisky, the UK’s first Bloody Mary doughnut and more all await you in this week’s edition of The Nightcap. Get stuck in. Did you know that the…

Video games, new whisky, the UK’s first Bloody Mary doughnut and more all await you in this week’s edition of The Nightcap. Get stuck in.

Did you know that the Met Office has said that Saturday 3 October was the wettest day for UK-wide rainfall since records began in 1891? These aren’t the kinds of records we want to be setting. ‘Woman eats the most amount of hot dogs in a minute’ or ‘man sets the record for owning the highest number of cats’ is the type of story we want to read. Aside from the latest news from the world of booze, of course. We’re always excited to see what’s going on and, hopefully, you are too. Which is why you’re here. So, let’s get on with it. It’s The Nightcap!

On the MoM blog this week we were delighted to launch another incredible #BagThisBundle competition, this time with plenty of delightful Mermaid Gin expressions up for grabs. Adam revealed the news that The Macallan has launched one of the most astonishing ranges of whisky we’ve ever seen before continuing our Sober October coverage by profiling the category-defying Three Spirit Drinks before suggesting some delicious, hearty, comforting drinks for Autumn. Our Cocktail of the Week is a silky serve that needs some shakin’, The Silver Fizz, while our New Arrival is one of the world’s great brandies. Elsewhere, Annie spent five minutes in the company of wonderful Rich Woods from Scout London and Henry had a taste of a particularly intriguing Cuban rum.

The Nightcap

The name ‘Ao’, means blue and is a reference to the oceans that connect the distilleries together.

Beam Suntory announces “first-ever world blended whisky”

There might not be much travel going on at the moment but, as well as a chance to see something other than the inside of your home, holidaymakers will receive another treat in the future thanks to Beam Suntory’s latest innovation, the “first-ever world blended whisky”. ‘Ao’, a global travel retail exclusive, was made using whisky from five distilleries in Japan, Scotland, Ireland, Canada and the US. There’s no official word on which distilleries were used, but given the brand owns one Irish distillery, one Canadian distillery, and has an American and Japanese distillery in its name, you’ll only really be guessing which Scotch it’s opted for (Laphroaig, Bowmore, Auchentoshan, Glen Garioch and Ardmore are the contenders). Beam Suntory has revealed that fifth-generation Suntory chief blender, Shinji Fukuyo, selected each liquid based-on “Suntory’s globally-recognised Monozukuri craftsmanship” and that this innovative blended whisky “embodies the spirit of Suntory and is a tribute to the liquid’s long history”. Fukuyo added, “Ao is an exceptional whisky which, through the art of Suntory blending, allows you to enjoy the unique characteristics of all five major whisky-making regions.”  The distinctive climate, fermentation and distillation processes in each whisky-making region should lead to quite the profile. But then, we would know, given That Boutique-y Whisky Company has already created a World Whisky Blend. Not to brag or anything… 

The Nightcap

New Compass Box whisky is always a treat

Compass Box releases “experiment in oak and smoke”

Some people really know how to celebrate occasions. Take Compass Box, for example. The maverick Scotch whisky brand has marked its 20th anniversary year by announcing the release of  more intriguing new whisky. That’s how you do it, folks. Hot on the heels of  Hedonism Felicitas and Rogues’ Banquet, Peat Monster Arcana is described as the “result of a long-running experiment into the secrets and mysteries of oak and smoke”. Basically, a cask strength version of The Peat Monster was further matured in three French oak custom casks for more than two years and then blended with malt whiskies from the Talisker, Miltonduff and Ardbeg Distilleries. It was bottled at 46% ABV without any additional colouring or chill-filtration and there’s 8,328 bottles produced globally, so if you want one I’d suggest you act quickly. “We have been experimenting with French oak since the early days of our company,” says Compass Box founder and whisky maker John Glaser. “Peat Monster Arcana is the first Compass Box to feature smoky whiskies matured in French oak. We’re delighted to be able to build on this experiment in our 20th anniversary year and we hope dedicated fans of The Peat Monster discover a new side to this charismatic whisky.”  The new dram, which goes well with soda water or blue cheese, will be discussed during a virtual tasting hosted by Glaser, who will also talk about the past, present and future of his brand on Sunday 22 November at 20:00. You can sign up here. If you miss out, don’t worry, Peat Monster Arcana is on its way to MoM Towers…

The Nightcap

The Coastal Cask Collection were all distilled after the distillery was reborn in 2008

Glenglassaugh celebrates its rebirth with the Coastal Cask Collection

We love stories about distilleries brought back from the dead here at Master of Malt so we were delighted that Glenglassaugh is releasing some very special whiskies distilled after the Highland distillery was reborn in November 2008. Prior to this date, it had been out of action for 20 years and few thought they’d ever see it distilling again. But it was revived by Stuart Nickerson and a team including Ian Buxton, who wrote a very good book on the subject. The distillery is now safely in the Brown Forman stable. Anyway, back to those limited-edition releases, master blender Dr Rachel Barrie explained the idea behind them: “No matter what is happening in the world around us, each day the surf rolls in on Sandend Bay and the invigorating North Sea air passes through our coastal distillery and warehouses. That’s the beauty of Glenglassaugh’s coastal casks, each truly a distillation of nature’s elements, come wind, rain or shine. Over a decade since the spirit reawakened in 2008, Coastal Casks is the first global release of a selection of Glenglassaugh cask bottlings at 10 and 11 years old. Like the surf in Sandend Bay, each cask brings rolling waves of flavour that intensify and evolve in each and every sip. Nurtured by the coast, each Glenglassaugh Coastal Cask shares a unique and luscious sweetness. With tasting notes ranging from raspberry fruit jam to salted caramel; tropical fruit syrup to chocolate profiterole and clotted cream,  this collection is a celebration of Glenglassaugh’s coastal malt journey, which I hope you will savour to the full.” There are ten bottlings, each exclusive to a particular market. We’re hoping to get some of Cask 559, the UK release, in at Master of Malt soon, so watch the New Products page.

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Exciting times ahead at Echlinville Distillery!

Echlinville Distillery undergoes £9m expansion

Echlinville Distillery, the producer of Dunville whiskey and creator of Weavers Dry Gin and Echlinville Single Estate Irish Pot Still Gin, has announced this week that the distillery is set to be transformed thanks to a huge £9m expansion project. The plan, which Invest NI contributed £659k towards, is to increase the distillery’s production capacity and create a new visitor centre which will create 36 new jobs in operational and administrative roles. “Irish whiskey is recognised as the world’s fastest-growing spirits category, which is giving us a great foundation upon which to build our export business with the help of this funding from Invest NI,” Shane Braniff, the owner of Echlinville Distillery. “Every bottle that leaves our distillery features our address in Kircubbin and tells of our roots in the Ards Peninsula. Alongside increasing exports around the world, we also hope to raise awareness of what this part of Ireland has to offer and attract more visitors to the area with the development of a dedicated visitor centre.”

Kraken Rum launches Halloween game with Rockstar

If you need a way to make the most of Halloween from the comfort and safety of home then The Kraken Rum might just have the thing for you. The brand has announced it’s teaming up with legendary Rockstar Games director and writer, John Zurhellen (the creative force behind Grand Theft Auto IV, Manhunt 1 & 2 and Red Dead Redemption) to launch an online video game. Right now the working title is Screamfest 4 The Kraken’s Revenge and the game will see fans control an actual human being, via a smartphone or laptop, using on-screen game commands (‘forward’, ‘back’, ‘hide’, that sort of thing), trying to escape the Kraken’s nemesis, The Balthazoid (I have no idea what that is either, it sounds like a type of vermouth). The online game will run from Wednesday 28 October until Friday 30 October, with slots running from 5pm each day. Tickets will be available via The Kraken’s online hub The League Of Darkness from 9am on Monday 12 October. In exchange for tickets, fans will also receive The Kraken’s Survival Pack, including a game-guide, ingredients and just enough delicious rum to create an exclusive Halloween cocktail. “The brief for Kraken Screamfest was simple: come up with a concept more terrifying and warped than anything 2020 has to offer,” says Zurhellen. “So, I delved deep into our primal fears – being hunted, tight spaces, dark shadows, hate-filled creatures – and I’m pretty confident I’ll deliver one of the most terrifying experiences to be seen in UK homes this year”. 

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Simon Robinson (left) with Rhona Cullinane and Steve Spurrier

Classic Method campaign unveiled for English Sparkling Wine 

English and Welsh wine is booming at the moment with sales and vineyard area increasing every year. There’s now a proliferation of styles and grape varieties which though exciting can be confusing to the consumer. Riding to the rescue is industry organisation Wine GB which has come up with a term to differentiate sparkling wines that are bottled-fermented as in Champagne from sparkling wines that might be carbonated or made like Prosecco. From now on the words “Classic Method” and a snazzy hallmark will appear on bottles made in this way, and the plan is for all bottles in future to clearly label how they became fizzy.  Only wines with the Quality Sparkling Wine PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) will be eligible which have to be made with the classic Champagne grape varieties. Simon Robinson, chairman of Wine GB and owner of Hattingley Valley Wines, commented: “We have long recognised the need to positively differentiate and protect our flagship category – wines produced from the classic method. This is the hero style that has put Great Britain on the wine map and led us to more extraordinarily exciting developments in our industry. We now boast a broad range of diverse and high-quality wines in all styles. Our sparkling wines, however, remain at the forefront of our industry and are driving sales both here and overseas. This campaign has set us on the path to ensure that our classic method wines are more positively recognized among the finest wine regions of the world. This is the first such initiative from what is an extremely young trade body, Wine GB was only formed in 2017, and it will be interesting to see whether “Classic Method” means anything to customers. 

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Want to sip on some sustainably-shaken cocktails? Head over to Camden’s shiny new Crossroads!

Crossroads takes over Camden’s Ladies & Gentlemen site

What was the old Camden Ladies & Gentlemen site has been giving new life in the form of Crossroads, which sits beneath the pavement in an old Victorian WC right under the Camden Town bridge. It only opened back in August, and this week team MoM finally made it over! Run by husband and wife duo Bart and Monika Miedeksza, what’s special about it is that it’s fully committed to its zero waste principles. There’s no citrus on the menu as it’s notoriously wasteful – where many bars will go through around four cases of limes each week, Crossroads doesn’t even use 20 individual fruits (mostly for Daiquiris, Bart tells me). Spare Champagne? They’ll whip up a Champagne vinegar to add some delicious acidity to the gin-based, rickey-inspired Oregami cocktail! Bay cuttings from Bart’s own tree at home sit along the bar, along with other various potted plants and herbs, which then end up in my delightful Bay cocktail with white rum, vermouth and tonic. A smoky Calvados-based serve called Jack & Jill battles to steal the show with Pepper, multi-faceted spicy rye- and black pepper-based take on an Old Fashioned. We’re even presented with a small bowl of pickled veg to snack on, which would otherwise have gone to waste from the cocktail production. In the spirit of sustainability, flamboyant garnishes are nowhere to be found here: giant ice cubes and a singular leaf as a garnish (if any) paired with delicate glassware are quite enough. At its core though, Crossroads is just your friendly neighbourhood bar, so while the ingredients may sound complicated the bar itself is far from pretentious. Bart’s passion is infectious, though if you’re worried you may not be able to make it down soon, we also heard that there’s a collection of pre-bottled cocktails on the way…

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The world’s first Bloody Mary doughnut is finally here. What took you so long?

And finally… did somebody say Bloody Mary doughnut?

There are two guaranteed pick-me-ups when you’re feeling a bit peaky in the morning, a Bloody Mary and a box of doughnuts. So it seems crazy that nobody has thought to combine the two. Until now….yes, “gourmet” doughnut shop Longboys has teamed up with Bloody Drinks to create what they claim to be the world’s first Bloody Mary doughnut. Dubbed the Bloody Longboy, it’s made from dough flavoured with real Bloody Mary and then filled with, according to the press release: “Bloody Mary créme, confit tomato, lemon celery confiture and Bloody Mary gel. It’s then garnished with tomato and celery crisps and dusted with tomato sugar.” Sounds pretty tasty. Just in time for Halloween, you can buy one from Longboys in London, which also delivers, but we reckon it should be available on the NHS. 

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The Nightcap: 9 October

If news about new Scotch whisky distilleries, Hendrick’s Gin’s surreal celebratory film and heavy metal giants KISS entering the spirits game sounds like a great read to you, then you’re…

If news about new Scotch whisky distilleries, Hendrick’s Gin’s surreal celebratory film and heavy metal giants KISS entering the spirits game sounds like a great read to you, then you’re in the right place. It’s The Nightcap!

I don’t know about you, but the lack of real parties or trick-or-treating has really hampered my costume ideas for Halloween. How much effort is required for a virtual get-together? More than usual? Less? Assuming you want to do better than just go as COVID or Donald Trump or the Joker/Harley Quinn, again. This year it falls on a Saturday, which would usually mean all sorts of mayhem, but now our biggest fear is probably a broadband outage. And that would make a rubbish costume. Makes you appreciate the things that don’t change: like the climate in the UK making a mockery of whatever weather you try to dress for, or neat little round-ups of all the happenings in the world of booze. Ah, The Nightcap. What would we do without you?

What a week we had on the blog. First thing’s first, we’ve got a new competition for you to enter and this one’s a knockout: a VIP Trip to Dublin to visit Slane Distillery is up for grabs. Excited? You should be. Click the link to find out how to enter. Elsewhere, Ian Buxton penned a beautiful tribute to the late, great Dr Jim Swan, Annie tasted some super-premium aged Venezuelan rum and shared the secret to making great low-to-no alcohol cocktails and Henry spoke to Mark Ward about his wonderfully intriguing vermouth brand, Regal Rogue. A 20-year-old gin was also on the menu, as was the new Highland Park Cask Strength bottling and the most relaxed cocktail ever, The Boulevardier.

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Will they make whiskey? Rum? Or perhaps Cold Gin…

KISS becomes latest rock band to release spirits 

Heavy metal band KISS (the ones who use all elaborate face paint) has announced that it has partnered with Swedish drinks company Brands for Fans to create a new line of booze. The American group, which is made up of Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer, already has two products in the pipeline to be released in Europe, Japan and Australia before the end of 2020, with more info due to be “revealed shortly”. It’s not the first time KISS has ventured into the world of booze, back in 2011 they partnered with wine distributor Rewine to release KISS-themed Zin Fire wine and Destroyer beer. Brands for Fans should be up to the task of delivering whatever the band desires as it’s no stranger to working with rock giants, following collaborations with Motörhead, Slayer, Ghost, Judas Priest and Scorpions. “The first money I earned was spent on a Kiss record. To find myself 40 years later having them as Brands for Fans clients, I don’t even know where to begin,” said Sari H Wilholm, marketing director and co-founder of Brands for Fans. “It feels so fun and exciting to finally take KISS into the premium alcohol beverage segment, and they have chosen the right partner for this.”

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I can picture us doing a VR tour and tasting already…

Plans revealed for £15 million Wolfcraig distillery

Sound the ‘new distillery’ siren folks, because Scotland could be about to welcome a new whisky maker! A proposal from Wolfcraig Whisky was submitted this week to create a whisky experience near Stirling that will incorporate a distillery, interactive visitor attraction, tasting room and bistro restaurant and bar. Subject to planning approval, construction of the £15 million project will kick off in the spring of 2021 and the doors are tipped to open in the summer of 2022. The distillery will have the capacity to produce up to 1.5 million litres of spirit per year and produce Wolfcraig Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky in addition to a range of other spirits, while a Founder Membership package will allow fans to become a part of the Wolfpack from the outset. The project was founded by Michael Lunn, former chairman and chief executive of Whyte and Mackay Group and co-directors John Moore and Jamie Lunn, who will work alongside a team including Dr Alan Rutherford OBE, former production director at Diageo, and renowned master distiller Ian Macmillan. The investment will seek to tap into Stirling’s heritage by showcasing the stunning vista across to the Wallace Monument and Stirling Castle, and will also ensure production is sustainable.

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Kerry and Derek Campbell have big ambitions for 8 Doors

Introducing 8 Doors, mainland Scotland’s most northerly distillery

The new Scotch whisky micro-distillery set to open in John O’Groats in 2021 has now revealed its name: 8 Doors Distillery! The brand, whose founders, local husband and wife team Kerry and Derek Campbell, were granted planning permission for its £1 million project in March this year, will be the first whisky producer in the Caithness village since 1837. When it opens, it will be Scotland’s most northerly mainland distillery, so spare a thought for poor Wolfburn which is about to be knocked off the top spot. The new distillery will have the capacity to produce up to 60,000 litres of whisky each year and it will all be matured in an on-site bonded warehouse. Whisky master John Ramsay, who has created whisky for The Famous Grouse, The Macallan and more, will help create the Highland single malt, which will be produced using water extracted from a borehole on the distillery site. 8 Doors Distillery has also announced the launch of the 874 Founders Club and the 874 Club. The former offers members the chance to buy a limited number of 50-litre and 250-litre Founders Casks, while those who join the 874 Club will receive a collection of three bottles from some of the first casks laid down and can purchase these packages directly from the distillery. Anyone interested should click here. “The creation of our 8 Doors Distillery in John O’Groats and our limited edition launch is part of a dream come true for Derek and me,” Kerry Campbell said. “We love whisky, and for us it’s more than just having an exceptional liquid in the glass. It’s the stories that go alongside it, the memories of special occasions and get-togethers with family and friends. If we can be part of creating not only a fantastic whisky but also great memories for people who drink our whisky that would be amazing”. Oh and the name? According to the press bumf, it comes from Jan de Groot ie. John O’ Groats, a Dutchman who ran the ferry to the Orkneys, whose “seven descendants quarrelled about succession, so he decided to build an octagonal house with eight doors – one for him and each of his seven sons – and an eight-sided table so that nobody could sit at the ‘head of the table’”. So now you know.

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The Milagro Tequila Distillery is now part of the Grant family

William Grant buys Tequila distillery 

William Grant & Sons has been working on acquiring its own Tequila distillery in Mexico for the last two years and this week the family firm revealed it has succeeded. The Milagro Tequila Distillery, which was founded in 1998, was acquired as part of William Grant & Sons’ “multi-million-pound investment plan to build its brands globally and upgrade its infrastructure to support the company’s growth ambitions”. Milagro Tequila is produced using 100% blue agave from the Jalisco highlands in both pot and column stills and the brand employs a 36-hour slow roasting process in traditional brick ovens. The range, which consists of six expressions: silver, reposado and añejo bottlings across the Core collection and the Select Barrel Reserve lines has helped it become the fifth largest premium Tequila brand in the US, according to William Grant & Sons. “Milagro has always been an exciting brand within our award-winning portfolio, and with this distillery, it is now a clear long-term priority for our global business, alongside such iconic premium brands as Glenfiddich single malt Scotch, Hendrick’s Gin and Tullamore Dew Irish whiskey,” said Jonathan Yusen, William Grant & Sons’ president and managing director, Americas. “This acquisition allows us to manage our production more closely, ensuring the long-term quality and consistency of our silver, reposado and añejo offerings, while bringing our innovation expertise to agave-based spirits.”

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Balvenie Tun 1509 – Batch 7 is available now, right here!

New whisky round-up: Bowmore, The Balvenie and Gordon & MacPhail

It’s certainly been a busy week of whisky releases, which we’re always delighted to see. First, we learned that The Balvenie has unveiled the latest release in its Tun 1509 series – because we have some! Behold, Balvenie Tun 1509 – Batch 7! This particular edition was made using whisky drawn from 21 hand-picked casks, including ten sherry butts, seven sherry hogsheads and four American oak barrels before it was bottled at 52.4% ABV. Islay distillery Bowmore wasn’t going to be left out, however, and also launched a limited edition single malt: Bowmore 30 Year Old. Distilled in 1989, the whisky was matured in Sherry hogsheads and bourbon barrels before it was bottled at a cask strength of 45.3% ABV. The brand has said it will release a new edition of the 30-year-old bottling every year in limited quantities and that the liquid used to make the single malt will be selected from just two casks each year. Gordon & MacPhail rounded-off the good news by launching the second of four commemorative whiskies to celebrate its 125th anniversary. The 35-year-old Gordon & MacPhail 1984 from Glenury Royal is another ultra-rare delight made with spirit from the closed distillery in Stonehaven in the eastern Highlands and was matured in cask number 2335, a first-fill sherry butt before it was bottled at 49.1% ABV. Just 397 bottles are available worldwide of this elegant 35-year-old whisky, which joins the 1972 Coleburn whisky launched in September. Quite the line-up, wouldn’t you say folks? And did we mention we’ve got the Balvenie bottling here at MoM Towers now

Hendrick’s Gin Palace marks two years with new film

Hendrick’s Gin is never one to shy away from the weird and the wonderful, as regular readers of The Nightcap will attest to. So it should be no surprise to learn the gin giants plan to celebrate the second anniversary of the opening of the Hendrick’s Gin Palace with the release of a 4-minute film that takes viewers on a “whirlwind tour of the unlikely sights, people and tastes within the Hendrick’s Gin Palace distillery”. With COVID-19 preventing guests visiting the distillery, the brand decided to create a cinematic tour of the distillery with Saturday Studios, which is intended to educate and entertain and stars The Gazebo Effect’s Max Berendt and Hendrick’s global brand ambassador, Mr. Ally Martin. “When I first joined Hendrick’s Gin, acting was nowhere to be seen on the job spec but given the highly theatrical nature of how we bring Hendrick’s Gin to life, it now seems to be an essential part of my day job,” said Martin. The film, which will be released to coincide with International Gin & Tonic Day on October 19, sees a fictional reporter jump down from a hot air balloon into the walled garden in front of the Gin Palace and then whisked away on a tour of the palace. Scenes include “fights with foliage in one of the distillery’s hothouses” and a “surreal dream scene reminiscent of American Beauty”. We didn’t expect any less.

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Congratulations, Chris!

Jack Daniel’s announces new master distiller

One of the biggest drinks brands on the planet has announced who will produce its world-famous Tennessee whiskey this week. Jack Daniel’s has revealed that it’s keeping it in the family, appointing Chris Fletcher to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps to lead the production of whiskey at the distillery. Frank Bobo served in the role for more than two decades until retiring in 1989 and Fletcher’s boyhood home was about three miles from the distillery in Lynchburg. Fletcher said Bobo “will always be my vision of a true distiller” and that “I couldn’t be more excited to be in this role. It’s such a special place from a distilling and whiskey-making standpoint.” Jack Daniel’s sells more than 17 million cases globally of its spirits lineup, which includes its best-selling core bottling as well as flavoured expressions and limited-edition offerings, so it’s a considerable task to oversee the production process. However, Fletcher has been with the distillery since 2001 when he worked as a part-time tour guide while attending college and has previously held roles as a Brown-Forman chemist in research and development for eight years before finally spending six years as an assistant master distiller to Jeff Arnett, who recently departed after 12 years leading the distillery. It seems Jack Daniel’s is in safe hands, folks.

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It’s here and it tastes every bit as good as it looks!

Peatheart Batch 2 from anCnoc is here

The second peated batch from the whisky formerly known as Knockdhu has just arrived at MoM towers. We were treated to special tasting with no-nonsense distillery manager Gordon Bruce. Peatheart Batch 2 is quite heavily smoky using peat with 40ppm but what we loved about it is that the sweet fruity new make shines through with bright lemon and pineapple notes. It’s a NAS expression, aged in ex-bourbon casks and bottled at 46% ABV with no chill-filtering. Bruce commented: “Despite having the same ppm as Batch 1, slight variations in maturation mean that our second Peatheart bottling offers something a little bit different, with a more refined smoky character. The combination of fresh, fruity anCnoc notes with these more mellow peat flavours creates a wonderful modern whisky that will be enjoyed by whisky fans across the spectrum. The peaty range now sits alongside our signature anCnoc whiskies to give drinkers two very distinctive sides to our whisky. Whether it’s a dram from our ‘dark’ or ‘light’ side, both represent our commitment to using the best traditional techniques and craftsmanship to make a very modern single malt whisky”. And did we mention that the Batch 2 is now in the warehouse?

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¿Quien es un buen chico?

And finally…. Jerez honours its bodega dogs

In Jerez in southern Spain, there is a special breed of dog called a Ratonero Bodeguero Andaluz, meaning, roughly, Andalucian rat-catching bodega dog. As you might be able to deduce from its name, it’s a working dog whose job is to hunt rats and mice that plague the city’s enormous wine warehouses. Now, according to news site The Local, the city has decided to honour its most loyal workers. An announcement on 30 September from Jerez’s town hall said: “In Jerez, we have declared to the rat-catching bodega dog as part of the fundamental cultural heritage of the city” (or something like that, translation by MoM buyer and top linguist Guy Hodcroft.)” The breed was created when fox terriers brought to the city by English wine merchants in the 18th and 19th century crossed with local dogs known as Raterillo Andaluz. But they were only formally recognised as a distinct breed in 2000. Apparently, they are extremely brave and fierce but also good with the children. So next time you open a bottle of sherry, raise a glass to the magnificent rat-catching dogs of Jerez. ¡Salud!

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The Nightcap: 2 October

On the Nightcap this week there’s a CGI robin, the “most awaited whisky launch in a generation” and a gin housed in a genuine snowglobe. The brilliant and bonkers world…

On the Nightcap this week there’s a CGI robin, the “most awaited whisky launch in a generation” and a gin housed in a genuine snowglobe. The brilliant and bonkers world of booze never fails to disappoint.

Apparently, there was all sorts going on in US politics this week, but to be honest something even more troubling caught our attention. It’s October. Ten whole months have somehow passed and the year that will be forever known as that year is almost over. We’re not really sure how to feel about all this, so when the working day draws to a close today we’re going to settle in with some home comforts. A tasty dram of something boozy and some light reading is just what the doctor ordered. Good thing The Nightcap is here, as always.  

On the blog this week we were delighted to announce the launch of another delightful #BagThisBundle competition, this time with that small craft distillery Jack Daniel’s. You probably haven’t heard of them. We also kicked-off our Sober October coverage by selecting seven delicious low and no alcohol drinks for you to try before having a taste of Tamdhu’s latest Batch Strength bottling and making a dynamite Martini with Palo Cortado sherry. If you’re a lover of all things rum you probably enjoyed our breakdown of the wonderful world of Jamaican rum, while fans of our Five Minutes with… series will have noticed we had two big names join us this week, Johnny Neill, of Whitley Neill fame, and Dr Nick Savage, master distiller at Bladnoch Distillery.

Redbreast whiskey launches new look and partnership

Redbreast may be one of the most well-known Irish whiskeys in the world, with IMPACT recently naming it as one of the top five-selling Irish whiskeys in the US, but the brand has announced a new strategy this week to broaden its audience and “drive discovery with more whiskey fans by creating a distinctive and memorable character for the beloved range”. That character in question is a CGI robin called Robin (no shock there) who has made his debut in a number of videos on the Redbreast YouTube channel, explaining how Redbreast got its name, recommending how you should enjoy Redbreast whiskey and blushing at awards. The move brings the brand’s trademark robin to life as a plucky, witty character with plenty of irreverent Irish humour, very much in the vein of Sipsmith’s excellent Wes Anderson-style ‘We Make Gin Not Compromises’ advert or Ryan Reynolds’ marketing of Aviation Gin. As well as introducing Robin, Redbreast has also unveiled a new look carved from wood, paying homage to casks, and a global partnership with leading bird conservation charity, BirdLife International. “With the Robin being one of the world’s most recognisable birds, Redbreast Irish Whiskey is delighted to take the opportunity of the launch of its new character to announce its commitment to supporting BirdLife International and the welfare of not only Robins but all birds,” explains Laura Hanratty, head of prestige and speciality brands at Irish Distillers. Expect to see more of the little scamp in the future.

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Lyaness will welcome Angel’s Envy ahead of the brand’s launch in the UK

Check out London Cocktail Week’s month-long schedule

You might have heard that, in order to support the recovery of the hospitality industry, London Cocktail Week has decided to expand upon its usual boozy extravaganza by hosting events across the capital for a whole month! Among the experiences are an immersive tasting masterclass with Santa Teresa rum and specialist rum bar Burlock where guests will enjoy food, cocktails and live music, while Craigellachie and Milroy’s have collaborated to ‘Share the Rare’, an event in which measures of the rare and spectacular Craigellachie 31 Year Old are available to win! Lyaness will welcome Angel’s Envy for a ‘Tasting & Finishing School’, meanwhile, the Sun Tavern will host the eagerly awaited ‘Return of the Hatch’ courtesy of Aberfeldy with takeaway hot and cold honey-infused cocktails. We can personally recommend you check out the bars and pay tribute to your favourite haunts throughout October as we were lucky enough to head to Swift Shoreditch last night to sample drinks from the Noilly Prat and St Germain spritz trolley, accompanied by food from Masterchef finalist Yan Florio. You don’t need to ask us twice if we’re willing to have a great time and help out the hospitality industry. If you’re of a similar mindset, then find out more at londoncocktailweek.com.

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Exciting times ahead for Torabhaig, whose whisky will soon be available here!

“Most awaited whisky launch in a generation” announced

Torabhaig, the second legal distillery ever to be built on the Isle of Skye (you know, the one with Talisker on it), has revealed that it plans to join the peated single malt market by releasing some whisky. It’s Torabhaig Legacy Series 2017 and what we know about it at the moment is that it’s a limited-edition expression bottled at 46% ABV. Oh, and the brand has described it as the “most awaited whisky launch in a generation”. So that’s something. Production started at the island distillery, which is owned by Mossburn Distillers, back in January 2017 with a local team of nine distillers, many new to the industry. Torabhaig is also launching a member’s club called The Peat Elite complete with a subscription service, set to launch in November 2020. It will include two exclusive bottlings per year, the first being a cask strength pre-release 70cl bottle drawn from single casks. More details on how to sign up to The Peat Elite will follow closer to launch date. “By opening the second-ever licensed Single Malt Scotch Whisky distillery on the Isle of Skye we have from the start been mindful of the legacy we are leaving, it was never enough to make ‘just another whisky’,” says Neil Mathieson, chief executive at Mossburn Distillers. “We have created a characterful whisky with real depth and complexity, and an elegance and refinement which belies the extremely high phenol levels in the barley. It is a distinctive take on peat, and it is the first expression of our distillery’s signature style, a flavour profile we call Well-Tempered Peat, which we hope will help define the future of Torabhaig.” Sounds lovely. Good thing Torabhaig whisky will be available at MoM Towers in the future…

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The English Whisky Festival will feature the likes of the Cotswolds Distillery, The Lakes Distillery and more!

The first-ever English Whisky Festival is coming 

The Whisky Show isn’t the only whisky-based fun you can have online this month. The first-ever English Whisky Festival will be taking place on 16-17 October. A few years ago the idea of a festival devoted to English whisky would have seemed peculiar but now with a vibrant scene producing a dizzying variety of styles including rye whiskies, Irish-style malted and unmalted barley pot stills and single malts, it’s sure to be an unmissable experience. Distilleries from all over the country are taking part including the Cotswolds Distillery, Kent’s own Copper Rivet Distillery, from Norfolk the English Whisky Company, Adnams of Suffolk, the Lakes Distillery in Cumbria and representing London, Bimber. Panel hosts include TV presenter Matthew Wright, whisky judge Amy Seton and writer, musician and all-round smoothie Felipe Schrieberg. Organiser Richard Foster, the founder of the English Whisky Society, commented: “This is a golden age for English whisky-making, with distillers making a name for themselves around the globe. We may not be able to gather in person, but the Virtual English Whisky Festival will be the first-of-its-kind celebration of the best English whisky has to offer.” Andrew Nelstrop, founder of The English Whisky Company added: “15 years ago when we built England’s first registered whisky distillery for over a century, we could never have imagined that such a vibrant and expansive English whisky scene would emerge as quickly and successfully as it has done. The English Whisky Festival will be a true moment to champion the success stories so far and contemplate a very exciting future for us and our fellow distilleries.” Get involved here. 

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When you see a line-up likes this you know it’s going to be a good auction

Macallan headlines Sotheby’s Inaugural Halloween Spirits Sale

Nearly a year to the day that Sotheby’s made history when its sale of The Ultimate Whisky Collection achieved £7.6 million, the highest total for any whisky collection ever offered at auction, Part II has been announced. Set to take place on Saturday, 31 October in London, or Halloween as it is also known, the collection will feature whiskies from renowned distilleries in Scotland, Ireland and Japan. The headline offering, however, will once again be from The Macallan, fresh off setting an auction record for any bottle of wine or spirit last year when a bottle of The Macallan Fine & Rare 60-Year-Old 1926 sold for £1.5 million. To mark the launch of a new classic aged collection of single malts from the Speyside distillery, the Sotheby’s sale will open with a complete set of six whiskies from age 40 Years Old to the oldest whisky ever released by the brand. The proceeds generated from this one-off offering at auction will be donated to global food charity, City Harvest, which redistributes surplus from the food industry to vulnerable people internationally. Full details will be revealed on 15 October, to coincide with The Macallan’s official launch.

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Which colour is your favourite? Let us know in the comments below

Glencairn Glass celebrates 20 years with a riot of colour

The official glass of the Scottish Whisky Association is 20 this year. To celebrate this auspicious anniversary, the Glencairn Glass is being released in a set of five different colours: black, green, blue, red, and as Spandau Ballet once sang, ‘gold!’. Scott Davidson, new product development director and son of founder, Raymond Davidson, commented: “We were blown away by the massive success of our limited edition black Glencairn Glass last year which sold out almost immediately. So in response to public demand, our 20th-anniversary gift to loyal fans of the Glencairn Glass across the world is the introduction of this colourful new range, which is here to stay. Not only are the coloured glasses a fun addition to any drinks cabinet, tasting your dram blind is the perfect way to develop your senses and to learn all about the wonderful world of whisky”. Yes, these glasses don’t just look snazzy, they help with tasting as your senses won’t be deceived but the sometimes misleading colour of your dram. Glasses cost £8 each or £60 for the set (go to The Glencairn Crystal online store) which will also include a classic clear glass for those old fuddy-duddies who actually like to see their whisky’s colour. 

The Nightcap

New Lowland whisky could well be in the pipeline…

Jedburgh whisky distillery plans back on track

We’re one step closer to having two new whisky distilleries in the Borders, which is part of the Lowland region. Despite fears that the project could be dead in the water after plans to build the £40m complex – close to the former Jedforest Hotel near Jedburgh – expired in January, fresh planning approval has been sought this week. Developers have now lodged a repeat application with Scottish Borders Council with the promise of up to 70 full-time jobs and a report to councillors has recommended they approve the plans as a “significant economic investment”. Backing had been given to the scheme back in December 2016 by the local authority and the proposals remain unchanged. Fresh permission is required, however, since the previous one has now lapsed. The first phase of the development is touted to include a small distillery built to educate visitors in the “craft of making spirit”, while a larger-scale distillery, capable of producing millions of bottles per year, would be completed after that. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that we receive more good news on this front.

The Nightcap

We were very happy to taste the latest instalment in the Dictador 2 Masters series this week

Dictador releases new 2 Masters expression with Royal Tokaji

On Tuesday, we were treated to an evening of perhaps epic proportions – and not even just due to the current pandemic times. Colombian rum brand Dictador hosted a cunningly socially distanced but no less fancy dinner at London’s 67 Pall Mall to reveal the next instalment of its always-intriguing 2 Masters series. What’s the proposition? Age wonderful rum for up to 40 years, pass some of these precious casks over to partners from different spirits categories for them to finish, and voila! Previous incarnations include a Glenfarclas expression, plus Hardy Cognac- and Barton 1792 bourbon-finished bottlings. This week, we got to experience Dictador 2 Masters Royal Tokaji! Hernan Parra, Dictador master blender, worked with his Royal Tokaji counterpart Zoltán Kovács for a truly luxurious, unctuous spirit, oozing with elegant rancio notes. To be more precise, a 1977 vintage Dictador rum travelled all the way to Poland (more adventure than most of us have seen recently…) where it matured for seven months more in Royal Tokaji’s 12-year-old, 300-litre Zemplén oak barrels that had previously aged the delightful 2016 Royal Tokaji Aszú 6 puttonyos. (And it really is a delectable wine!) “In the depths of the 13th century Royal Tokaji wine cellar, our rum has developed a new and extraordinary finish,” said Parra. “Its palate is elegant and balanced, smooth and rich, with a good attack and a persistent finish.” He continued: “The Tokaji Aszú aroma has made a remarkable mark too. Dictador 2 Masters Royal Tokaji is complex and rich, with hints of tropical fruits and a nice honey touch on the nose.” At £670, it’s not your average rum – it’s much more special than that. Keep your eye on the New Arrivals feed if you’re interested – could the age of prestige rum be here?!

The Nightcap

This year’s Whisky Show will feature That Boutique-y Whisky Company and our very own editor Kristiane Sherry!

Behold, the virtual Whisky Show is here!

Now in its 12th year, the Whisky Show has to be the highlight of the London or London-adjacent whisky lover’s calendar. It’s normally two days of whisky and rum intensity packed into the Fishmonger’s Hall but obviously, that can’t happen this year. So, it’s going online, and how! Now spread over seven days, 2-9 October, there’s something for everyone (as long as you like whisky and rum). There will be talks and panels on all aspects of whisky plus plenty of rum and some other spirits. We particularly like the sound of: a talk subtitled ‘Why is Blanton’s So Delicious?’; a tour of Sukhinder Singh’s legendary whisky collection and, one for the geekiest of whisky geeks, ‘Good Sulphur v Bad Sulphur’. You can buy tasting sets so can really join in with the fun. All your favourite whisky personalities will be there including Dave Broom, Georgie Bell, Dr Whisky and, of course, Billy Abbot. MoM will be represented in the form of Kristiane Sherry chairing three events with the East London Liquor Company, Teeling Irish Whiskey and That Boutique-y Whisky Company. While Henry Jeffreys will be reading from Empire of Booze: British History Through the Bottom of the Glass on the Whisky Auction stage. Find out more here. Come along and say hello using the magic of high-speed broadband. 

The Nightcap

Decorative and delicious, presumably.

And finally… Nothing says Christmas like a snow globe gin…

There was a time on The Nightcap when it felt like every week we were reporting on some weird and wonderful new gin, so this story coming into our inboxes this week had us tinged with nostalgia. Harvey Nichols has kicked-off the ‘holy crap, is it Christmas already?!’ season of news by announcing the launch of an Orange and Gingerbread Snow Globe Gin Liqueur. As in a gin liqueur presented in an Italian-made Snow Globe Bottle, you didn’t read that wrong. The expression, which contains an edible 23kt gold leaf and comes in a gold-foiled gift box, includes a lamp switch on the base for illumination, so if you give the globe a gentle shake and turn on the lamp you can see the gold leaf cascade around the Christmas scene inside. Harvey Nichols says the spirit has notes of “real zesty Seville orange, warmth from gingerbread and notes of cinnamon and dried cloves which perfectly capture the spirit of Christmas”, and recommend you enjoy it with either Prosecco or tonic water or as part of a festive cocktail or simply neat over ice. So, if you’re in the market for a boujee bottling that could become part of your Christmas decorations, you’re in luck!

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The Nightcap: 25 September

New Macallan, Jura, Tobermory and Glenturret whisky,  and how to celebrate Oktoberfest at home. Another delightful Nightcap has arrived! So, it turns out we’re no longer allowed to go outside…

New Macallan, Jura, Tobermory and Glenturret whisky,  and how to celebrate Oktoberfest at home. Another delightful Nightcap has arrived!

So, it turns out we’re no longer allowed to go outside again. Well, that was fun while it lasted. Time to pretend you love a virtual quiz, desperately try to remember your Zoom password and resist the urge to look longingly at the local boozer across the road. If you need a bit of cheering up or distraction, or if you’re in your element indoors surrounded by screens (no judgement, we respect the game) then you’ll be delighted to hear that all the doom and gloom hasn’t stopped us putting together another cracking edition of The Nightcap. Read on!

This week in the blog-o-sphere we announced the first Master of Malt Day! What is a Master of Malt Day? Well, you’ll have to click on the blog to find out. Ian Buxton returned to investigate what distilleries are doing to combat the lack of visitors in 2020, while Henry cast an eye on some overlooked joys, including a cocktail that combines bourbon and red wine and a delightful Irish whiskey brand. Annie, meanwhile, turned her attention to Britain’s diverse, dedicated and highly experimental rum brands, three-ingredient classic cocktail recipes and the very first single malt from the 100% organic Scotch whisky distillery Nc’Nean before Adam got his teeth into Glenmorangie’s new cakey delight and learned from Corte Vetusto what makes mezcal so great.

The Nightcap

Sadly, this is the final expression in the excellent Edition series

The Macallan launches sixth and final release in Edition series 

We received mixed news this week as we learned that we were going to get to enjoy a new expression from The Macallan, but also that the sixth release from the Edition Series will be the final one. The Speyside giants have announced that Edition No.6 was created to “tell the story of unique land and an extraordinary river, where whisky making, agriculture and nature all live in total harmony” and “capture the River Spey’s energy, the extraordinary life of the Atlantic salmon on the beat and the warm, welcoming personality of Macallan’s ghillie, Robert Mitchel”, who is responsible for monitoring fish stocks and hosting fishing trips on the River Spey. Macallan whisky maker, Steven Bremner, chose five styles of American and European oak sherry-seasoned casks for this one, which is said to have aromas of fresh fruits, nutmeg and toffee merged with oak and flavours of ripe plum, vibrant sweet oranges and cinnamon, developing into spicy fresh fruits and creamy chocolate and toasted oats at the finish. The brand also marked the news by launching a charitable partnership with The Atlantic Salmon Trust, who help to conserve at-risk fish salmon and sea trout whose numbers have declined so rapidly in places like the River Spey. “This complex single malt provides the perfect conclusion to the Edition Series as there is so much to discover in this whisky,” said Bremner. “The natural colour of antique brass derived from The Macallan’s exceptional oak casks indicates the richness of flavour that awaits and there is a structure and depth that is uncovered more and more over time.” And the best news of all? Edition No. 6 is on its way to MoM Towers.

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You can pre-order this beauty now!

New Tobermory 23 Year Old is sherry heaven

We’re taking orders for a very special Tobermory that will be landing at MoM towers soon. It’s a 23-year-old expression finished in sherry casks. When we say finished, it’s not a matter of months but six years in Oloroso sherry casks from Gonzalez Byass. Just enough time to take on masses of sherry without, according to master blend Julieann Fernandez, “taking on too much sherry and masking the Tobermory.” Previously the liquid, from the famed 2008 release of Tobermory 15-year-old, spent 17 years in refill hogsheads. It was bottled this year at 46.3% ABV. We were the first outside the distillery to taste it and were very impressed. It’s a deep copper colour with the nose alive with ginger cake, dried fruits, cinnamon and barley with that classic citrus Tobermory note, on the palate it’s thick and sweet with salted caramel, butterscotch, vanilla and best of all a finish like candied walnuts. In fact, the finish tastes just like Gonzalez Byass’s premium sweet Oloroso, Matusalem. All this magnificence doesn’t come cheap, £320, but we think it’s worth every penny. Best of all, it’s not a limited edition but a permanent addition to the Tobermory range.  

The Nightcap

Singapore’s Atlas picked up the trophy for World’s Best Cocktail Menu

Spirited Awards reveal 2020 winners

For obvious reasons, the renowned bar industry gathering Tales of the Cocktail couldn’t continue in New Orleans as normal this year – which meant the Spirited Awards ceremony was a virtual affair. Assessed by a highly regarded panel of experts, the bar and personality accolades are considered to be some of the most robust in the category. And we’re celebrating a few of the international winners here! The Connaught scooped Best International Bar Team, while Scarfes Bar at the Rosewood London was named Best International Hotel Bar. The wonderful Kwānt was rewarded with Best New International Cocktail Bar, and Singapore’s Atlas picked up the trophy for World’s Best Cocktail Menu. When it came to individual categories, Alex Kratena was named Best International Bar Mentor, with Kelsey Ramage awarded International Bartender of the Year. HUGE congrats to all the nominees and winners – check out talesofthecocktail.org for the full list.

The Nightcap

The island distillery is supporting a fantastic cause

Jura whisky exclusive auctioned for charity

The Jura has also announced that new whisky is on the way, but this expression was bottled to raise funds in aid of SAMH (Scottish Association for Mental Health). The incredible gesture (for a mighty important cause) will see 470 individually numbered bottles of exceptionally rare whisky be auctioned online via Whisky Auctioneer as part of a wider effort led by Whyte & Mackay employees to fundraise for mental health charities around the world. The challenge – Whyte & Mackay Cares – was inspired by the heroic feats of Captain Tom Moore in the UK and since June, the team has clocked up enough miles to virtually run, walk, cycle or row around the world twice. As for the whisky itself, the distillery’s latest release is 19-Year-Old whisky that was distilled in May 2001 and placed into Jura cask No 1708 (a sherry butt) before being bottled at a cask strength 55% ABV in August 2020. The Jura Distillery Cask is said to have notes of liquorice toffee, ginger biscuits, subtle vanilla with a subtle touch of sea spray. “I have been so impressed by my colleagues’ passion to support communities where our colleagues, friends and consumers live during the pandemic,” said Daryl Haldane, head of whisky experience at Whyte & Mackay. “The speed and creativity which has allowed this new whisky to reach public auction is outstanding and I am incredibly proud of the team’s efforts to get us here. All of the funds raised from the auction will go directly to SAMH, a charity which has been instrumental in providing vital mental health support to people throughout the pandemic.” To find out more about the auction and register your interest, click here

The Nightcap

Exciting times at Scotland’s oldest working distillery

Glenturret reveals new core range and swanky new rebrand

We reported back in December 2018 that Glenturret, Scotland’s oldest working distillery, no less, had been bought by French luxury wine company Art + Terroir. Seeing as the company is run by Silvio Denz who also owns Lalique, you won’t be surprised to hear that the brand is moving upmarket. One of his first new signings was ex-Macallan whisky maker Bob Dalgarno, a real statement of intent. Last week, Dalgarno revealed the new range he’s been working on along with the swanky new rectangular downward tapering bottle featuring the Glenturret crest, inspired by the coat of arms of the Murray family, the founders of the distillery. We then tried the four core expressions: Triple Wood, 10-year-old Peat Smoked, 12-year-old and 15 year old. We were particularly taken with the honeyed 12-year-old expression. Plus there will be two limited editions, a 25-year-old and an “Extremely Scarce” 30-year-old. Dalgarno spoke about: “the challenge of creating a new range of whiskies with a different cask and character profile. And went on to say that: “Building on previous experiences and having the freedom to influence and develop, respecting the history whilst writing new chapters was a perfect fit”. Ian Renwick, the distillery manager, added: “Having Bob on board is a recognition of the scale of our ambition and a testament to our transformative work over the past eight months. We cannot wait to share the new expressions with the world.” Nor can we. 

The Nightcap

1698 and IPA have become the order of the day in Guadalajara

Shepherd Neame sales are booming… in Mexico

Guadalajara resident Fernando de Obeso had a happy surprise when he visited his local supermarket in Mexico’s second city: strong Kentish ales. In place of local beers, there were bottles of Shepherd Neame 1698 and IPA. He told us “because of COVID, local large breweries like Corona and Modelo were forced to shut down. So supermarkets scrabbled to get beer from every place in the world, so for some time we have had beer from many small breweries in Europe.” Olly Scott, head of export sales at Shepherd Neame, confirmed the story: “The feedback from importer is that there has been more demand for imported beers during the lockdown and we have noticed where we would expect two orders across four months there have been three.” Mr de Obeso went on to say that discovering Kent’s finest beers has been a “silver lining to the pandemic and let the brewery know that they now have a Mexican fan.”

The Nightcap

Cheese and beer is a tried and tested combo that we’re big fans of

And ninally… Missing Oktoberfest? Crack out the cheese!

Oktoberfest is a staple of the season. Alas, this year celebrations will have to take place in a somewhat different format. And one suggestion especially caught our eye at MoM Towers this week. Wisconsin (also apparently known as the State of Cheese), is encouraging beer-loving folks to indulge in a spot of cheese-pairing. “Beer is the perfect palate cleanser for cheese, and frankly, it’s hard to go wrong when pairing beer with cheese,” said Molly Browne, education manager at Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin and American Cheese Society Certified cheese professional (how do we get that title?!?). Top suggestions include Butterkäse – a mild, buttery option – and Kolsch; Limburger – a Wisconsin-made punchy rind cheese – and Belgian Ale; and Brick and Weiss Beer. The semi-soft, nutty cheese is said to pair delectably with a wheat-based sipper. Great stuff. Now all you need to do is crack out the pretzels, put on the polka tunes, fashion a beer tent, and Eureka! You may as well be in Germany.

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Welcome to Master of Malt Day 2020!

Featuring giveaways, discounts and all kinds of spectacular booze… this is Master of Malt Day 2020! Margaritas have their own day (22 February), Star Wars has its own day (4…

Featuring giveaways, discounts and all kinds of spectacular booze… this is Master of Malt Day 2020!

Margaritas have their own day (22 February), Star Wars has its own day (4 May) and now, finally, so do we. Mark it in your calendars, folks. 24 September shall forever be known as Master of Malt Day!

What does this mean? Well, what we do best here at MoM Towers is to help you get your hands on delicious booze as quickly and easily as possible. So we’ve decided to thank all our supporters (some of you have been around a while!) by hosting an annual flash sale. To celebrate the new occasion, we’ve slashed our prices on delicious whiskies, gins, rums and more, saving you up to 25% in the process. 

What’s more, we’ve also got some incredible giveaways too! If you purchase any qualifying bottle on sale as available and listed here between now and the 25 September 2020, you’ll be entered into a draw to win some truly incredible prizes, including:

Master of Malt Day 2020

Look at all these incredible prizes just waiting to be won!

The terms and conditions, as well as a list of products that you can now get incredible deals on, are below. Best of luck everyone, and happy Master of Malt Day 2020!

Master of Malt Day 2020

Rumbullion!

Ableforth’s original rum, this blend of Madagascan vanilla, orange peel, cassia, clove, cardamom and high-quality Caribbean rum is a best seller for good reason. A versatile, complex and moreish spiced rum, Rumbullion! is perfect for a number of rum cocktails but is also delicious neat.

What’s the deal?

It was £34.90, now it’s £27.90.

Master of Malt Day 2020

Seaweed & Aeons & Digging & Fire 10 Year Old 

If you like Islay single malt and are on the lookout for a new go-to dram, then this right here is everything you’re looking for. A 10-year-old expression from an undisclosed distillery on the island, 25% of this beauty was finished in first-fill Oloroso sherry octaves creating a smoky, complex and coastal dram that’s ideal for fans of whiskies with bold personalities.

What’s the deal?

It was £32.95, now it’s £29.95.

Master of Malt Day 2020

Saignée – Rosé Gin

Most garden-variety pink gins are made with berries and sweeties and the like, but Saignée bucks this trend. This tasty Rosé Gin was made with juniper, rose petals, violet flowers and fine Barolo (made from Nebbiolo grapes), resulting in a floral and drying though subtly fruity tipple that’s marvellous in a Negroni.

What’s the deal?

It was £33.95, now it’s £28.95.

Master of Malt Day 2020

Highland Park Valfather

The final bottling from the Viking Legend series, Valfather is the most peated whisky to date from the legendary island distillery. The Highland Park bottling was named after Norse god Odin and its powerful profile was designed to mimic Odin’s strength. This is one to take your time with and appreciate.

What’s the deal?

It was £54.95, now it’s £44.95.

Master of Malt Day 2020

McQueen Raspberry & Vanilla Gin 

Few things sound more delicious than raspberry ripple and Victoria sponge cake, so it’s no surprise McQueen has brought together those two classic flavours in one tasty gin. Expect creamy vanilla sweetness, undertones of juniper and notes of both tart and sweet raspberry.

What’s the deal?

It was £21.95, now it’s £15.95.

Master of Malt Day 2020

Angostura 5 Year Old 

A versatile and terrific-value Trinidadian rum, Angostura 5 Year Old was created from a blend of light and heavy molasses-based rums aged for five years in charred American oak bourbon barrels. The results are fruity, caramel rich and delicious.

What’s the deal?

It was £23.95, now it’s £19.95.

Master of Malt Day 2020 Competition open to entrants 18 years and over. Entries accepted from 23 September to 25 September 2020. Winners chosen at random after close of competition. Prizes not transferable and cannot be exchanged for cash equivalent. See full T&Cs for details.

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The Nightcap: 18 September

This week on the Nightcap: Octomore and Lagavulin launch new whisky, Bob Dylan brings back the Theme Time Radio Hour and dog-themed cocktails… A whole week has been and gone…

This week on the Nightcap: Octomore and Lagavulin launch new whisky, Bob Dylan brings back the Theme Time Radio Hour and dog-themed cocktails…

A whole week has been and gone since we last went Nightcapping, which means that a brand new Nightcap is required. Fortunately, the world of booze is always churning out all kinds of news stories. We’re not sure what we’d do if it stopped. Perhaps we’d just write about some of the drinks we’ve enjoyed recently or post a series of amusing photos of cats. Thankfully this week there’s been plenty of excitement to write about, so the funny feline pictures will have to wait. Although one of the stories this week does feature a cracking photo of a dog, so if we’ve got you in the mood for pet-based content you won’t be disappointed. Onto The Nightcap!

If you’re a fan of big whisky news stories then the MoM blog was the place for you this week. Jim Murray announced his 2021 World Whisky of the Year and Richard ‘the Nose’ Paterson confirmed that he would step back from Whyte & Mackay to focus his energies on The Dalmore. Elsewhere, we spoke with Dr Rachel Barrie, Benriach master blender, about the brand’s recent makeover before Annie tasted one of the good doctor’s finest creations, a well-sherried 29-year-old single malt released to coincide with the upcoming release of The King’s Man. Other delightful drinks we tried this week include a very special new range of Cognacs from Delamain, a category-defying spirit from Belvedere and a cocktail made with one of the world’s unique spirits, Metaxa. Internationally-renowned bartenders Joe and Daniel Schofield also popped by for a chat, while Jess kicked off our Classic Bar series with the wonderful Coupette, which has just launched a new menu.

The Nightcap

New Octomore is terrific news for peated whisky fans

New series of Octomore whisky unveiled

We’ve got good news for fans of peated whisky this week as Islay-based distillery Bruichladdich has announced the imminent arrival of some new Octomores. First is the Octomore 11s series, which is set to launch on 1 October and includes three expressions, Octomore 11.1, Octomore 11.2 and Octomore 11.3, all of which retain the ultra-peated style that the brand is known for. Octomore 11.1 was malted to 139.6 PPM and matured for five years in first-fill ex-American whiskey casks from Jim Beam, Heaven Hill and Jack Daniel’s before it was bottled at 59.4% ABV without any chill-filtration or additional colouring. Octomore 11.2 was malted to the same PPM and also aged for five years on Islay, but it was matured in two separate casks: 25% of the whisky was aged in Pauillac ex-wine casks, while the remaining 75% was aged in ex-American whiskey casks before being transferred into St Julien wine casks for 18 months. This expression was bottled at 58.6% ABV without added colouring or chill-filtration. The third whisky in the new series, Octomore 11.3, was malted to a massive 194 PPM before it was aged for five years in first-fill American whiskey casks from Jim Beam, Heaven Hill, Buffalo Trace and Jack Daniel’s. The whisky was bottled at 61.7% ABV without caramel colouring or chill-filtration. Bruichladdich will also release a bonus bottling alongside the range. It’s a 2020 edition of Octomore 10 Years Old which was malted to 204 PPM and matured in a mix of virgin oak, and first- and second-fill ex-American whiskey casks from Jim Beam, Heaven Hill, Buffalo Trace and Jack Daniel’s before it was bottled at 54.3% ABV without chill-filtration or additional colouring. We will write more fully on the Octomore 11.1 and 11.3 soon when they arrive at Master of Malt. Octomore 11.2, however, will only be available direct from the distillery here and in global travel retail. Not fair!

The Nightcap

Monkey Shoulder wants to see you back in bars. Responsibly, of course.

Monkey Shoulder spends £250k to entice you back to the bar 

Monkey Shoulder is so keen to get you back to the bar (responsibly, natch), that it has spent £250,000 on an advertising campaign called ‘The New Rules for Mixing.’ The blended whisky brand won the money as part of OCEAN’s Crucial Creative Competition and decided to put it to good use. The campaign will take the form of a series of local ads with partner bars in cities around the country that will go live on 24 September as well as generic national posters. The press bumf described the campaign by ad agency Tommy as “a playful take on the brand’s ‘made for mixing’ tagline; using Monkey Shoulder’s cheeky tone and distinctive branding style to bring to life the social distancing measures in a fun and memorable way.” Social distancing is fun! To further entice people to venture out of their homes, each venue will be offering a free drink to customers. The participating bars are Glasgow’s The Dam, Edinburgh’s Uno Mas and Kin, Liverpool’s Present Company, Newcastle’s Mother Mercy, Manchester’s Cane & Grain and Science & Industry, Birmingham’s Theatrix, Nottingham’s Brass Monkey and Leeds’ Watermark Bar. Let’s hope another lockdown doesn’t muck things up. The best-laid plans and all that.

The Nightcap

This year’s Islay Jazz Festival might be online, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get your hands on delicious whisky!

New limited edition Lagavulin Jazz bottling is here, or rather, there.

We all know that there’s no better way to enjoy your bourbon than with a blast of rock and roll, but what should you listen to with a Scottish single malt? Some might say folk music, but we’ve conducted totally scientific tests here at Master of Malt and discovered that jazz is, in fact, the perfect accompaniment. Especially with a smoky Islay dram, you can’t beat a bit of John Coltrane or Miles Davies, hence the long-running Islay Jazz Festival. Ever since 2011, Lagavulin has released a special jazz bottling and now the latest edition is here. Or rather, there, it’s a distillery only release with only 2004 bottles available at a meaty £405. It’s matured in mainly refill American and European oak, with some active casks, for a minimum of 22 years and bottled at 52.6% ABV. Distillery manager Pierrick Guillaume had this to say: “The Islay Jazz Festival has become a pilgrimage for many whisky and jazz lovers around the globe and we hope our friends will join us for the online event to celebrate 22 years of the festival. This will be my first festival having taken over as distillery manager of Lagavulin and although we are unable to host the event in Islay, we wanted to continue to honour the occasion by creating a remarkable bottling. This year’s 22-year-old bottle is a glorious and unique Lagavulin from an interesting mix of casks that have given an extra twist of rich, smooth and sweet fruitiness to the palate and finish.” On 3 October at 7pm BST, go to the  Lagavulin and Friends of the Classic Malts where Guillaume and global whisky master Ewan Gunn will be hosting a jazz and whisky odyssey. Nice!

The Nightcap

Great news music lovers! Bob Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Hour is back

Bob Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Hour is back thanks to Heaven’s Door Spirits

Bob Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Hour is back, this time with added whiskey. For those who don’t know, Theme Time Radio Hour was a series of shows on NPR hosted by his Bobness where he would play records and riff around certain themes such as ‘fruit’ or ‘weather.’ The music was always an education, but the real fun was just listening to Dylan talk, dispensing wisdom, offering recipe tips or being totally baffling. Equally amusing and baffling, were the celebrities such as Tom Petty or Marianne Faithful who would call up to join in the fun. There’s never been like it before, or since. 100 shows were recorded with the last one airing in 2009, and now thanks to Heaven’s Door Spirits, Bob’s bourbon brand, it’s back. There will be a special one-off episode airing on Monday 21 at 12pm EST on SiriusXm. It will then be available on Heaven’s Door website and social channels, Bob Dylan’s website and social channels, as well as other streaming services from 25 September. And the theme of this one-off special? Whiskey, of course. 

The Nightcap

It’s quite the coup for Last Drop Distillers

Colin Scott joins Last Drop Distillers

Back in June, we raised a glass to Colin Scott, former Chivas Regal master blender, as he waved goodbye to the brand after an enormous 47 years at the nosing glass helm. News reached us this week that he’s back at it, and is now consultant master blender at high-end bottler The Last Drop Distillers! According to the company, Scott’s appointment is the first stage of becoming ‘not only curators but also creators’. And it’s not the first time they’ve worked together. Back in the 1990s, The Last Drop founders James Espey and Tom Jago teamed up with Colin on a number of projects, including the creation of the now-iconic Chivas Regal 18 Year Old. “We are absolutely delighted that Colin Scott will be joining The Last Drop as master blender,” said Rebecca Jago, managing director at The Last Drop. “One of the many attractions for both Colin and The Last Drop is that he will have the widest palette to paint from.” Scott himself added: “The Last Drop is very much a luxury brand in a very niche market. They have a global reach but have maintained their integrity and vision since they began, which is hugely important to me. This is a new chapter that I am very much looking forward to: carrying on the story that began with Tom and James some decades ago. As my much-missed friend Tom Jago said, “If you can’t have fun in the drinks industry, and in what you create, you can’t have fun anywhere!” Rebecca and the team do just that!” We can’t wait to see what comes next.

The Nightcap

The week-long programme will unite professionals from around the world

Imbibe Live goes global with BCB Berlin, BCB Brooklyn and BCB São Paulo

If you like boozy worldwide networking and education events, then you’re in luck. There’s a biggie on the way. Imbibe Live Online has joined forces with BCB Berlin, BCB Brooklyn and BCB São Paulo to create Global Bar Week uniting the international drinks industry at the first-ever global, online drinks exhibition. From 12–18 October topics such as how hospitality venues can rebuild, drive customer footfall and loyalty, build a sustainable business, tap into consumer trends and improve diversity and inclusion will be discussed by a selection of experts such as Lynnette and Ivy from Speed Rack, award-winning bartender Chelsie Bailey, and Diogenes the Dog founder Sunny Hodge. Drink-focused masterclasses and tastings will also feature in the week-long digital programme, which you can check out here. While it will never be the same as the classic Imbibe Live, the on-trade magazine’s inaugural digital event back in June saw hundreds of drinks brands and on-trade professionals come together to share insights, trends and much more in what we’d say was a pretty successful experiment so it makes sense that it’s gone global. Drinks brands have until the end of September to sign up for this virtual event, while UK drinks industry professionals can now sign up to Imbibe Live Online to access a range of educational and inspirational content and be part of a worldwide celebration of the people, brands and businesses who are shaking up the drinks industry. Registration for the week-long virtual event is free and tickets are available at https://live.imbibe.com/.  

The Nightcap

Kane and Rawcliffe impressed the judges in the Bottled Cocktail Challenge

Diageo’s World Class competition returns 

New people, new partnerships and new competitor challenges await as Diageo’s World Class competition comes back after taking a brief pause due to recent events. Featuring a revised approach that adapts to a new competition environment, the internationally recognised competition has announced a series of activations at this year’s London Cocktail Week (now extended to the full month of October), at Whisky House in Kings Cross’ Goods Way. Three masterclasses a week will be hosted by the World Class team with Johnnie Walker, Tanqueray and Ketel One ambassadors sharing cocktail recipes and tips. Diageo has also revealed who the winners of the Bottled Cocktail Challenge are: James Rawcliffe, Tigerlily (Edinburgh); Kuba Korzynski, Black Rock (London) and Stevie Kane, Baccarat Bar (London).The GB Top 100 were split into three groups – Ketel One, Johnnie Walker Black Lable and Tanqueray No. Ten – and tasked with creating cocktails based on three classic serves: Espresso Martini, Tom Collins and the Highball. The winners have secured a spot in the GB Top 15 and will have their cocktails produced in a cocktail kit for consumers to buy via Cocktail Porter, featured here. Finally, the World Class family has been bolstered by a trio of new appointments. Pippa Guy (previously senior bartender at the Savoy’s American Bar) is now the new Tanqueray brand ambassador; Jo Last (formerly of the Savoy’s Beaufort Bar) has been given the title of whisky brand ambassador and Mimi Schofield is now TLA account executive. “We are incredibly excited to bring World Class back to GB, with a new and adapted program to champion bartender creativity in the face of adversity,” said Jack Sotti, head of advocacy GB at Diageo. “Most notably World Class is about people, and so it gives me the utmost pride to welcome Pippa, Jo and Mimi to our diverse and passionate team.” 

The Nightcap

Is this the best idea ever? It might just be.

And finally… Dog-themed cocktails for Skylight’s Charity Dog Day

Picture this. You’re at a gorgeous rooftop bar, you’ve got great company, delicious drinks – what more could you want? Oh right, dogs! Next Sunday (27 September), Skylight over at Tobacco Dock is combining all of those things on Dog Day! The annual event is run in collaboration with UK charity Dogs On The Streets (DOTS), which supports rough sleepers and the homeless community with dogs. Not only will you be able to bring your actual dog, but there will also be dog-themed cocktails – for human consumption, of course. No, really. With serves like the Pugtail and the Frenchie 75 this is just too good to miss, and between midday and 4pm the cocktails are all 2-4-1. If you’re wondering if your pooch will feel left out, fear not because there’ll be some treats on offer for each dog-bringing guest (and their pup, of course). Proceeds from the cocktails will go towards DOTS, so grab your furry friends and get down there! 

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A world of flavour: Behind Benriach’s new look

Speyside Scotch whisky distillery Benriach has undergone something of a makeover, with a refreshed core range and revamped presentation. We chat to Dr. Rachel Barrie, Benriach master blender, to get…

Speyside Scotch whisky distillery Benriach has undergone something of a makeover, with a refreshed core range and revamped presentation. We chat to Dr. Rachel Barrie, Benriach master blender, to get the inside scoop.

Paid partnership

Benriach is a distillery with a storied history. It dates back to 1898 when it was founded towards the north of Speyside by a chap called John Duff. Over the following decades, and like many distilleries, it faced periods of closure and changed hands multiple times. Since 2016, Benriach has been part of the Brown-Forman’s family, marking the Jack Daniel’s- and Woodford Reserve-maker’s first foray into the world of Scotch. At the time, the deal made the whisky headlines. But now, with its new look, a refocusing on flavour, and a compelling narrative around innovative cask combinations, Benriach is making waves all on its own.

Dr. Rachel Barrie has developed the range

“I’ve been with the company three-and-a-half years now, and I’ve really got to know all of the whiskies,” said Dr. Rachel Barrie, Benriach’s master blender. We’re speaking on the day of the relaunch. The line-up has been unveiled to the world, and drinks social media is in a chatter about the news. And it’s been a while in the works. Even within six months of taking on whisky development at Benriach, Dr. Barrie said she was thinking ‘what’s next?’.

“I had thousands of casks,” she said, outlining the process. “I’ve described it like discovering all these paint pots; it’s like painting with flavour.”

She mentioned she’d always admired Benriach from afar. “I’ve always loved the balance of the fruit and the malt,” and this balance is at the heart of the new core range. 

So what have we got in the line-up? Dr. Barrie took it back to Benriach’s Speyside home (Did you know it gets 40 more days of sunshine a year than anywhere else in Scotland?” She quipped.). A key source of inspiration was the 1994 Benriach 10 Year Old expression, the first bottling that really cemented the distillery as a brand in its own right. It’s balance, body and mouthfeel underpin the philosophy behind each new expression.

All about the cask: the new core range lines up

At the heart of it all, there’s The Original Ten, The Smoky Ten, The Original Twelve, and The Smoky Twelve, all bottled at natural colour. Two fundamentals thread through the quartet: production (essentially peated versus unpeated), and the cask make-up. These are all a blend of three different cask maturations. Move higher up the range to The Twenty One, The Twenty Five and The Thirty, and you’ll find four different cask types. The entire line-up was crafted to offer accessibility to whisky newcomers, and established enthusiasts alike. And the clear positioning does just that.  

When it comes to the malt specification itself, it’s useful to look at the calendar. Each September is devoted to ‘smoke season’, where malt processed to 55ppm using local Highland peat prior to distillation tracks its way through the distillery. Then malting season (yes, Benriach has its own malting floor), takes place each spring. There will be dedicated Smoke Season and Malting Season limited editions to come in due course, too. 

“My job was to create this perfect world of flavour, a journey of taste, many different layers all perfectly integrated,” Dr Barrie continues. “There’s a rainbow of flavour as the spirit comes off the still, which you can then amplify with casks.” 

And why such an overt focus on smoke? “It’s such a sweet smoke with Benriach, it opens the door to new consumers,” she explained. “Just saying ‘peated’ is too simple, it’s a different character.” 

The core quartet

In the tasting glass first is The Original Ten. “It’s like sunshine on Speyside,” Dr. Barrie described it. “A fruit orchard, ripening peaches, a patisserie.” Interestingly, while it’s barely perceptible, there is still a wisp of that Benriach smoke running through. “It’s less than 5ppm,” she said, adding that it adds more of a depth, a textural quality, rather than contributing flavour as such. Going into the Original Ten is liquid from bourbon barrels and sherry casks, plus virgin oak. “It’s got layers of perfect balance,” she continued. 

Benriach is embracing its smokier side

Next up was The Smoky Ten with an intriguing cask mix indeed: bourbon barrels, toasted virgin oak, and Jamaican rum casks. She confirmed the latter previously held high-ester, pot still liquid. “It amplifies the esterification that happens with the maturation,” she got technical for a moment. “It brings out the vanilla, coconut, lactones, the sweetness.” The result? “Exotic fruits charred on a barbeque.” Delicious!

The Twelve is a “new to world” expression, Dr. Barrie continued. “Everything changes with maturation. You’re going to have more oxidation, and therefore more of those top notes.” She reckoned the esterification reaches a “sweet spot” at this age for Benriach. Plus the addition of Port pipes to the bourbon and sherry make-up “lifts and lengthens”, with a “dark chocolate note on the end”.   

Rounding off the four at the heart of the range is The Smoky Twelve. “This is unexpected in its cask combination,” Dr. Barrie said, referencing the bourbon, sherry and sweet Marsala cask recipe. “It’s a collision of the rugged side of Benriach with the sweet side,” she added. “Plus, I love Italian food, I love Sicily. You can see how I was drawn to this.”

An experimental approach

It’s true that there are some unusual cask combinations across the four expressions we explored. How does that come about, and will there be more experimentation to come?

“There’s like a ‘eureka!’ moment with all of the whiskies,” she detailed. “It’s a constant quest. You have all the casks, you blend, you go back and think, ‘imagine…’. Eventually to get to the point where you’re, 80%, 90% there, and then you raise the bar even further.”

Announced alongside the new range was an intention to release esoteric limited editions in the future. Are there any experiments or cask types she’d like to play with yet but hasn’t?

“Oh, there’s so much experimentation,” she said, referencing what’s going on in American whiskey with mashbills and developments within wine. “And within our group [Brown-Forman], there are so many different types of spirit… Tequila with Herradura. Now, that would be interesting. Never say never!”

The range takes on the character of the distillery and the surrounding Speyside region

Other ongoing projects include working with the R&D team at Brown-Forman’s Louisville HQ to investigate the impact of different types of oak on flavour, another area of interest. It makes the whisky lover incredibly excited to see what might come next from Benriach as part of this new programme. 

“There’s plenty to try, and then different combinations to try!” There’s an energy to her statement that makes you long for a sneak peek around her blending lab, just to see what’s there. There’s lots to taste in the new range, and there’s certainly deliciousness to come. Dr. Barrie best sums it up: “There’s an everlasting world of flavour.” 

Benriach’s new-look line-up

The Original Ten, 43% ABV

Bourbon, sherry and virgin oak casks with a trace smoke level for orchard fruit, honeyed malt and marmalade on toast notes. 

The Smoky Ten, 46% ABV

Bourbon barrels, virgin oak and Jamaican rum casks combine for smoky sweetness with barbecued fruit notes. 

The Twelve, 46% ABV

Sherry rich maturation and layers of dark berry fruit encapture the flavours of Benriach in the autumn.

The Smoky Twelve, 46% ABV

Made with an unusual combination of bourbon, sherry and sweet Marsala casks for a rich smoky sweetness with dark chocolate, almond and charred orange notes. 

Plus coming soon, three older bottlings which we were given a sneak preview of:

The Twenty One, 46%

Bourbon, sherry, virgin oak and red wine cask liquids with elegant smoke. Lashings of orchard fruit, pinewood and honey smoke. 

The Twenty Five, 46% ABV

Sherry, bourbon, virgin oak and Madeira wine casks combine for an intensely rich mouthfeel with baked fruit, cinnamon spice and caramelised smoke. 

The Thirty, 46% ABV

The oldest peated Speyside ever bottled. Sherry, bourbon, virgin oak and Port casks result in chocolate raisin, smoked walnut and cinnamon cocoa notes. 

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