We're just loading our login box for you, hang on!

Master of Malt Blog

Author: Master of Malt

We put your Caol Ila questions to Pierrick Guillaume!

Join us as we put your questions about Caol Ila to distillery manager Pierrick Guillaume during Fèis Ìle 2019! We headed to Fèis Ìle armed with your questions, and tracked down…

Join us as we put your questions about Caol Ila to distillery manager Pierrick Guillaume during Fèis Ìle 2019!

We headed to Fèis Ìle armed with your questions, and tracked down a distillery manager or blender at every distillery to quiz them! The results will be posted on the blog and social every day up until 28 June. Did we ask your question? Follow the action via the Fèis Ìle tag on the blog, or keep an eye on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

Caol Ila Pierrick Guillaume

No Comments on We put your Caol Ila questions to Pierrick Guillaume!

We put your Bruichladdich questions to Adam Hannett!

Join us as we put your questions about Bruichladdich to head distiller Adam Hannett during Fèis Ìle 2019! During Fèis Ìle, we quizzed someone from every single distillery with YOUR questions. We’ll…

Join us as we put your questions about Bruichladdich to head distiller Adam Hannett during Fèis Ìle 2019!

During Fèis Ìle, we quizzed someone from every single distillery with YOUR questions. We’ll be putting out the footage every day, up until Friday 28 June. So follow the Fèis Ìle tag on the blog, Twitter, Instagram Stories and Facebook Stories, and see if we asked your question!

Bruichladdich Feis Ile Adam Hannett

Sunshine on Bruichladdich

 

No Comments on We put your Bruichladdich questions to Adam Hannett!

The art of slow drinking

Bartender Nate Brown asks why we try to cram our drinking into certain designated time slots but shun alcohol at all other times. That’s not how they do things on…

Bartender Nate Brown asks why we try to cram our drinking into certain designated time slots but shun alcohol at all other times. That’s not how they do things on the continent. . .

Hemingway once said that drinking was a way to end the day. Clearly, old Ernest didn’t spend enough time in 21st century Europe, where Croatian fishermen begin their daily routines with a tall Karlovačko, or where French farmers drink Picpoul like water under the afternoon sun. To true Europeans, the ‘it’s 5 o’clock somewhere’ mentality is a grotesque excuse: the clock is not the gatekeeper of the gullet.

Ricard pastis

Savoir faire, innit? (photo credit: Pernod-Ricard)

Besides, it isn’t much of a stretch to feel that Champagne was made for mornings and Martinis for lunchtime. When, if ever, is a Negroni an unwelcome addition to your day? A Highball in the afternoon, or a pastis at sundown, this laissez-faire timetable is when drinking is at its best, not crammed into a few blurry nighttime hours like Claphamites on the tube.

We’ve got to hand out to our continental friends, they know what to drink and when. A recent trip to southern Spain confirmed our differences. Not only do they actually have weather (as opposed to dreary old England’s perpetual grey), but they also know how to handle it. Siestas, two-hour lunch breaks, cafes that spill out onto the town square, and best of all, bucket loads of the grape and the grain to stave off the heat noon and night.

Alas, to the modern Brits anything more than a ‘cheeky’ glass at lunch is obscene. The sight of a lonely chap nursing his afternoon Boddingtons evokes feelings of pity and dread. There but for the grace of God drink I. Don’t believe me? Suggest a chilled Beaujolais over breakfast to your nearest and dearest and await the intervention.

It wasn’t always this way. The restrictive licensing structure as we recognise today was brought in to allegedly aid the war effort (I trust the terrible irony of Dutch Courage is not lost here). The Defence of the Realm act (which is not actually from Game of Thrones, who knew?) restricted the sale of alcohol in public houses to ‘luncheon’ and ‘suppertime’ as if the feast mentality of the barbarians still held true. David Lloyd George, the teetotal Chancellor of the Exchequer reportedly said that Britain was fighting “Germans, Austrians and Drink, and as far as I can see the greatest of these foes is Drink.” And so he more or less brought to an end the afternoons of whisky sodas that had lubricated decades of social affairs. The taboo is a recent fancy, I don’t think the men and women of Victorian England had any qualms with an afternoon’s tipple, mother’s ruin or no.

Nate Brown

Nate Brown, making his usual breakfast cocktail

But since then we’ve learned to cram our drinking into designated time periods. No wonder most of us drink too quickly. I say it’s time to return to the past and slow down a bit. When in Rome, do as the Romans do: have a Negroni at 11.30am before embarking on a four hour lunch. And by slowing down, we can learn to recognise that what’s in your glass has been patiently grown, crafted, and rested (if it’s been rushed, don’t drink it).

Think about this. The years that it takes for an agave plant to reach maturity before catalysing into a spirit can be an astounding 10 years, often more. And we shoot it down like a penance to be paid en route to delight. The minimum three years of solitary silence endured by the Palomino grape in a sherry butt can only command prices of less than £15 per bottle. It’s madness. Fermentation can be aided, but there is no fast-forward button. These things take time, time that we cannot get back, time that is so rarely appreciated. The patience practised in alcohol creation is a virtue beyond parallel. Who’d be a producer, eh?

After all, time is the one vital ingredient that is almost always overlooked in the world of drinking. I dare say that if the hospitality industry began a campaign of education surrounding the time that goes into creating a spirit, a wine, or a beer, the world would be a better place; a place where we can drink cans of Mojito (or preferably something tastier) on the tube home, or where a glass of something sparkling can welcome the day, or where the awkwardness of meetings can be dissolved in a glass of gin. That’ll be the day.

Nate Brown has owned and operated spirit specialist cocktail bars in London for the better part of a decade. He’s a regular speaker on industry panels, a judge for various spirit awards and has been known to harbour an opinion or two.  

No Comments on The art of slow drinking

We put your Lagavulin questions to Colin Gordon!

Join us as we put your questions about Lagavulin to distillery manager Colin Gordon during Fèis Ìle 2019! During Fèis Ìle, we quizzed someone from every single distillery with YOUR questions. We’ll…

Join us as we put your questions about Lagavulin to distillery manager Colin Gordon during Fèis Ìle 2019!

During Fèis Ìle, we quizzed someone from every single distillery with YOUR questions. We’ll be putting out the footage every day, up until Friday 28 June. So follow the Fèis Ìle tag on the blog, Twitter, Instagram Stories and Facebook Stories, and see if we asked your question!

No Comments on We put your Lagavulin questions to Colin Gordon!

We put your Port Ellen distillery questions to Ewan Gunn!

Join us as we put your questions about the new Port Ellen distillery to Ewan Gunn, Diageo’s global Scotch whisky master, during Fèis Ìle 2019! What a week (and a…

Join us as we put your questions about the new Port Ellen distillery to Ewan Gunn, Diageo’s global Scotch whisky master, during Fèis Ìle 2019!

What a week (and a bit!) Fèis Ìle 2019 was! Not only did we check out every distillery day, get the lowdown on the festival bottlings AND have a thoroughly lovely time, we also asked the great and the good of the Islay whisky scene YOUR questions, as gathered via Twitter and Instagram!

We’ll be putting out the footage every day, up until Friday 28 June. So follow the Fèis Ìle tag on the blog, Twitter, Instagram Stories and Facebook Stories, and see if we asked your question!

First up: we quizzed Diageo’s Ewan Gunn about the revival of Port Ellen. Enjoy!

Feis Ile

It’s Port Ellen!

No Comments on We put your Port Ellen distillery questions to Ewan Gunn!

The Nightcap: 14 June

Cheesemongers, distillery expansions and cucumbers – all this and more in the latest edition of The Nightcap! Right, before we get to the usual incredibly tangential reference that somehow links…

Cheesemongers, distillery expansions and cucumbers – all this and more in the latest edition of The Nightcap!

Right, before we get to the usual incredibly tangential reference that somehow links our weekly round-up of booze news stories to something like aliens being late for a dentist appointment or whatever, we figured we’d just remind you yet again that Father’s Day is this weekend. You haven’t forgotten to get that father figure of yours a present like some of us, have you? (Don’t ask how we did that while continuing to shout about Father’s Day, we have no idea). If you’re in the UK, check our weekend delivery options for your address in the checkout if you have forgotten and send some superb spirits to your dad! Anyway, you ever meet an alien who’s late for a dentist appointment? Me neither. Aliens don’t have teeth. You know what they do have, though? An appreciation for the latest stories from the world of drinks!

On the blog this week we launched a new #BagThisBottle competition where the prize is the delightful and delicious Teeling 24 Year Old – Vintage Reserve Collection! Ian Buxton then talked whisky and honours in his guest column in light of Johnnie Walker master blender Dr Jim Beveridge receiving an OBE, while Kristy reported on the news that Diageo’s €25 million Roe & Co whiskey distillery has started production in Dublin. Annie had a busy week, starting by looking at booze from celebrities who are less ‘Who’s Who’ and more ‘Who? No, seriously, who?’, as well as ways to combine your cuppa with a cocktail and pair whisky with food. Elsewhere, Henry spoke to Karyn Noble about her Global Distillery Tour book, made Fortunella Golden Orange liqueur our New Arrival of the Week, and The Mellow Yellow our Cocktail of the Week, while Adam sat down for a chat with Wild Turkey’s master distiller Eddie Russell.

On with the news!

Buffalo Trace ‘marches ahead’ with huge distillery expansion

Did you know Buffalo Trace Distillery was investing an enormous US$1.2 billion in its distillery? Yep, to counter stock issues, the producer has been on it. The whopping project started back in 2016 and has already seen the construction of four new barrel warehouses and a $50 million bottling hall that’s almost finished. Next up? Three more warehouses (insulated and heated during winter months for prime maturation conditions); a new cooling tower to manage the temperature of the mash; four new 92,000 fermenters, and new handling equipment in the dry house. The visitor centre is also primed for expansion after a record 231,523 passed through the distillery gates in 2018. Phew. “We’ve been increasing production for many years now. We’ll fill more barrels this year than ever before in our 246-year history,” said senior marketing director, Kris Comstock. “Many of our bourbons are aged for eight years or more, so although we have far more than a decade ago, demand continues to outpace our supply of mature bourbon. There will be more available every year, but it will be a while before bottles are readily available on liquor store shelves. While we’re flattered these brands have become so popular, we do understand the frustration our fans are experiencing when they see empty store shelves. We promise we are doing everything we can, but we can’t speed up the ageing process, so we just ask for continued patience.” We reckon it’ll be worth waiting for.

The Nightcap

Fords Gin joins impressive range of spirits at Brown-Foreman

Brown-Forman to acquire Fords Gin

The Brown-Forman Corporation announced this week that it has reached a definitive agreement to purchase The 86 Company which will add Fords Gin to a growing portfolio that includes brands like Jack Daniel’s, Woodford Reserve and GlenDronach. The 86 Company’s Simon Ford and 8th generation master distiller Charles Maxwell of Thames Distillers created Fords Gin together using a blend of nine botanicals including juniper, coriander seeds, lemon, bitter orange, grapefruit, cassia, angelica, jasmine and orris root. Pleasingly, Ford and The 86 Company team will remain in key roles building and crafting of Fords Gin. “Brown-Forman is a great partner to bring Fords Gin to more bartenders and consumers in the U.S. and around the world while keeping our commitment to producing a unique, high quality, mixable gin,” said Simon Ford, “We’re extremely thankful to all our supporters who have been championing the brand since the beginning and look forward to seeing what the future holds with our new collaborators.” Lawson Whiting, president and CEO of Brown-Forman, added: “Fords Gin is a unique brand with terrific momentum in one of the fastest growing categories in spirits. We look forward to building Fords Gin into another iconic brand in our portfolio.” The purchase is subject to ‘customary closing conditions’ (if they don’t ask for a replica of Scrooge McDuck’s Money Bin from DuckTales it’s a wasted opportunity) and is expected to be completed within 30 days.

The Nightcap

Edrington-Beam Suntory’s Bowmore Distillery is one of many who will enjoy this news

Raise a dram! Whisky is set to grow by 6% by 2022

The Edrington-Beam Suntory UK soothsayers have been hard at work: the company has just published its Whisky Yearbook, and the numbers make compelling reading. According to those running the sums, the UK whisky category will be worth a whopping £2.44 billion by 2022, up by more than 6% on 2018 levels. More specifically, an increase in “accessibly priced” expressions will propel Scotch single malt growth by more than 11%, while American whiskey is expected to climb by almost 8%. But it’s “emergent” sub-categories that are primed to soar. The value of Irish whiskey as a whole is projected to advance by almost 21% to 2022, with single grain predicted to explode by a whopping 96%. Japanese whisky can expect a 44% boom, while Canadian whisky, from the smallest base of the four, is set to see a 36% increase. “Irish and single grain whiskies have been real success stories over the past twelve months – sharing rapid growth on an already strong base of both volume and value in the market,” said Mark Riley, Edrington-Beam Suntory UK MD. “We expect both to play a greater role in shaping the wider market in the coming years. The supply challenges that have arguably held back growth in Japanese and Canadian whiskies have eased. While there remains a challenge securing enough liquid from leading brands from both nations to satisfy UK demand, there is far greater supply forecast and we predict we will see growth as a result.” More whisky to go around? Tip top news indeed! Let’s hope the number of consumers continues to grow too.

The Nightcap

Eight Lands Organic Speyside Gin and Eight Lands Organic Speyside Vodka

Eight Lands organic Speyside Gin and Vodka launches

The newly-built Glenrinnes Distillery has announced the launch of its first products: Eight Lands Organic Speyside Gin and Eight Lands Organic Speyside Vodka, both made from 100% organic ingredients and Speyside spring water. Eight Lands, set at the foot of the Ben Rinnes mountain in Speyside and named after the eight different counties that are visible from its top on a clear day, is a family-owned and run business developed by the father and stepson team of Alasdair Locke and Alex Christou. The purpose-built 5,400 sq/ft distillery contains a bespoke 1,000-litre pot still and a two ten-plate rectifying columns built by local specialists, but there are currently no plans to make whisky as the team wants to focus on making quality white spirits. Speaking of which, Eight Lands’ first gin will be a London Dry with a juniper-forward profile which is complemented by locally-foraged botanicals, while its vodka was made using organic barley and wheat, a combination of pot and column stills and an unusual two-stage fermentation process. Both are available directly from the distillery and its website (www.eight-lands.com). “I genuinely believe that we have created something special with our organic vodka and gin, and I’m really proud of the team at the distillery for the hard work and passion that they have put into this,” Christou commented. “We have ambitious plans to build the Eight Lands brand globally in the months ahead and I know that my family and our production team are incredibly excited about sharing our spirits with both the UK and other markets.” Glenrinnes Distillery is open for tours and tastings with the distillery team, so go check it out for yourselves, folks! We’ll be doing the same thing very, very soon…

The Nightcap

Only ten bottles of this stuff are available outside Mexico,

World’s most expensive Tequila (probably) goes on sale in London hotels

Only ten bottles of Maestro Dobel 50 1•9•6•7 Extra Añejo Tequila are available outside Mexico, and Master of Malt got to try one. It might be the world’s swankiest Tequila, it is certainly extremely expensive. Just a measure will set you back around £200. The other nine bottles (sorry, we finished the tenth with help from assembled bartenders and journalists) will go to some of London’s choicest hotels: the Lanesborough, the Rosewood, the Mandarin Oriental and the Connaught where they will sit “the shelf just above the top shelf”, as brand ambassador Oliver Pergl put it. So why is it so expensive? Well, it is extremely rare but it’s not 50 years old. It was created for the 50th birthday of Juan Domingo Beckmann (born in 1967), from the family who own Jose Cuervo, who started the Maestro Dobel brand. It’s a blend of five to seven-year-old spirits aged in a mixture of new American and French oak, blended and finished in sherry casks, though heavy hints were dropped that it contains some much older spirits from Beckman’s private cellar. It certainly tasted extremely mature and opulent, very creamy and smooth with dried fruit sherry cask notes. At times it was like a Cognac, sometimes like an old Latin American rum, but always with that vegetal agave note as the spine. The Maestro Dobel 50 demonstrates a mastery of wood that would impress a Scotch whisky blender. We were lucky enough to drink it alongside a feast especially designed to go with Tequila by Brazilian chef Rafael Cagali from Da Terra in Bethnal Green. So, if you’ve just sold your screenplay to Steven Soderbergh, we’d recommend you give it a go. But if you haven’t, which is most of us, the Maestro Dobel Diamante is pretty delicious too.

The Nightcap

There are few sites more beautiful than this

St-Rémy Brandy launches collaboration with cheesemonger Rodolphe Le Meunier

We all know the joys of a classic cheese and wine pairing (if you don’t, remedy this situation immediately), but how many of us realise how well cheese goes with brandy? Well, we certainly do here at MoM Towers, thanks to the French brandy experts St-Remy, who kindly invited us to enjoy them both at Le Pont de la Tour in London last night in the company of Neil Ridley and Joel Harrison, St-Rémy’s master blender Cécile Roudaut and international cheesemonger (amazing job title) Rodolphe Le Meunier. He’s a big cheese in the world of, err… cheese, having received awards such as Meilleur Ouvrier de France (Best Craftsman of France) and Meilleur Fromager International (Best International Cheese Maker) in 2005 and 2007 for his milk-curdling work and recently setting a Guinness World Record for the largest ever cheeseboard (imagine the party that night). The gastronomic collaboration was brought to life by Roudaut and Le Meunier, who worked closely to distinguish the perfect pairings, developing delights such as St-Rémy XO paired with Old Mimolette (superb), St-Rémy XO with wood-smoked goat cheese (inspired) and St-Rémy VSOP with Swiss Gruyere (I would happily murder a human person for more of it). “France is well-known for its diversity of cheeses, but up until now, nobody has thought to associate them with brandy. It’s truly an entirely new tasting experience,” Roudaut said. “Working with a ‘World’s Best Cheesemonger’ as well as ‘One of the Best Craftsmen of France’ has been a fantastic experience. Rodolphe isn’t any ordinary cheesemonger. I’ve discovered in him someone extremely creative, and so full of ideas. It was really exciting to work on associating cheese with St-Rémy brandies.”

The Nightcap

It would have been rude not to have a sample, or two…

MoM tastes Bimber Distillery’s upcoming expressions

We had a little nose around London’s Bimber Distillery this week in the name of brand new whisky, with a tour from brand ambassador Lukasz. The distillery was founded in 2015 by Dariusz Plazewski, a third-generation Polish moonshiner; Bimber is actually the Polish word for moonshine. We arrived just in time to catch spirit coming straight off the two direct-fired copper pot stills, Doris and Astraea. We started off by trying both peated and non-peated new make spirit, both of which weighed in at around 60% ABV! Hardcore. Although it was surprisingly easy to drink, little surprise that Jim Murray scored it 96.5 in his bible. Then, very excitingly, we previewed three of the single malt whiskies which are expected to be released in September this year. There was the sweet, vanilla and toffee heavy Re-Charred Cask, super Christmassy Sherry Cask and tropical fruit-filled Bourbon Cask. Each expression was somebody’s favourite, and they were all delicious. We even got a sneaky taste of Fortunella liqueur and Da Hong Pao Tea Gin, just for good measure, and life is all about balance, right? This truly is a craft distillery with everything done by hand, including the labelling and bottling. Not an automated machine in sight. It’s an incredibly exciting time for this relatively small distillery, having recently launched its Founder’s Club and just months away from its first London single malt. Watch this space!

The Nightcap

Movies & Malts: a perfect combination

Laphroaig launches partnership with Picturehouse Cinemas

Picture this: Laphroaig has launched a collaboration with cinema network Picturehouse Cinemas. The partnership plans to push the Islay distillery’s profile to a host of new consumers as part of the brand’s ‘Opinions Welcome’ campaign, which invites people to discuss and share their opinions of the distinctive whisky. A very brave thing to do in this time of internet comment sections (everyone who writes on ours is lovely, of course). Previous opinions include “the perfect gift for someone you love or hate… or haven’t made your mind up about” and “smells like medicine. Tastes like soil. My whisky of choice”. The collaboration will entail #OpinionsWelcome content and advertisements shown on-screen. But the really cool part? Laphroaig will be available to be sampled by cinema-goers who visit the 25 Picturehouse venues across the UK and bar staff will receive training in all things Laphroaig so they can create cocktails like the Popcorn Old Fashioned or a Laphroaig & Ginger. A peaty dram/cocktail while watching a film? The people’s voice (or maybe just mine) has finally been heard. “Partnering with Picturehouse Cinemas is a fantastic opportunity for Laphroaig as it gives us the chance to put our much-loved but divisive whisky into the glasses of new consumers, encouraging them to share their unique thoughts,” Nick Ganich, head of Beam Suntory Brands at Edrington-Beam Suntory UK said. “Cinema always stokes healthy debate, so it felt the ideal match to include Laphroaig, which instils similarly strong but divided opinion. Luckily, we welcome them all and we can’t wait to hear what people think.” The partnership between Laphroaig and Picturehouse Cinemas will start in June 2019 and continue throughout the year.

The Nightcap

The flagship bottling is a 1994 vintage Springbank, aged in an antique ex-sherry hogshead

Douglas Laing unveils Super-Premium XOP ‘The Black Series’

Douglas Laing has been busy, as this week it revealed a brand spanking new extension to the Xtra Old Particular range. Behold, XOP The Black Series. The flagship cask in the series is a 1994 vintage Springbank, aged in an antique ex-sherry hogshead and bottled at cask strength, 47.7% ABV over 25 years later. According to Douglas Laing, the bottles house “dark fruited, subtly smoked, leathery and chocolatey spirit within”. It sports quite the decadent packaging too, with a monochrome scheme alongside gold foil detail. Each bottle is hand-filled with an embossed metallised label, glass stopper and even the signatures of Fred and Cara Laing, and, naturally, comes in a luxurious black moleskin case with a certificate of authenticity. Regarding the new series, Cara Laing, director of whisky, noted: “The maiden release in this new Single Cask Series certainly sets an exceptionally high benchmark for future bottlings, and we are poised to rise to that challenge!” Considering that, we eagerly await future bottlings. The 1994 Springbank is expected to retail for £800 throughout Europe and Asia, so definitely keep a lookout on your favourite online retailer. Mind you, there are only 148 bottles, so you’d better be snappy.

The Nightcap

You’ll have to get down there yourselves to see the brand ambassadors dressed in ‘cucumber collectors’ outfits

And finally… Hendrick’s goes bananas for World Cucumber Day

Whereas most gin brands get behind World Gin Day (8 June) or National Martini Day (19 June), for Hendrick’s it’s all about World Cucumber Day on 14 June, that’s today! At airports around the world including Changi, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Schiphol, Frankfurt, Munich, Barcelona, Madrid, Dubai, Dublin, Istanbul, Vienna, Brussels, São Paulo, JFK, Bogota, Rio and IGL Canada, Hendricks will be putting on eccentric displays to celebrate its signature botanical and garnish. There will be cucumbers specimens displayed in special jars, as well as gifts when you buy a bottle of Hendricks and interactive experiences. Oooh modern! The thing that really caught our eye, however, was the promise of Hendrick’s brand ambassadors dressed up in special ‘cucumber collectors’ safari outfits complete with ‘cucumber collector catchers’ ie. nets. Sounds completely bananas, sorry, cucumbers.

No Comments on The Nightcap: 14 June

#BagThisBottle – Win a bottle of Teeling 24 Year Old – Vintage Reserve Collection!

Win a free bottle of the Teeling 24 Year Old – the World’s Best Single Malt – on Twitter! Good news, folks! Our ever-popular, ever-wonderful #BagThisBottle Twitter competition has returned,…

Win a free bottle of the Teeling 24 Year Old – the World’s Best Single Malt – on Twitter!

Good news, folks! Our ever-popular, ever-wonderful #BagThisBottle Twitter competition has returned, and boy did we miss it. With just a few simple clicks and scrolls, a 70cl bottle of the wonderful Teeling 24 Year Old Irish whiskey, part of the Vintage Reserve Collection, could be yours. That’s right, the very same whiskey that was named the World’s Best Single Malt at the World Whiskies Awards 2019!

It literally couldn’t be easier, here’s all you have to do:

1) Follow the Master of Malt Twitter account.

2) Follow the Teeling Whiskey twitter account.

3) Retweet our Competition Tweet by midday on Friday 14 June.

And that’s it! Isn’t technology great? Almost as great as a certain Irish whiskey…

#BagThisBottle Teeling

It could be yours!

We’ve done all we can now, so spread your (virtual) wings and take to Twitter if you don’t want to miss out.

Good luck, all!

MoM Teeling #BagThisBottle 2019 open to entrants 18 years and over. Entries accepted from 11 June to 14 June 2019. Winners chosen at random after close of competition. Prizes not transferable and cannot be exchanged for cash equivalent. See full T&Cs for details.

2 Comments on #BagThisBottle – Win a bottle of Teeling 24 Year Old – Vintage Reserve Collection!

Whisky and honours

Today Ian Buxton toasts Dr Jim Beveridge from Johnnie Walker who has just received an OBE and looks into the occasionally murky world of whisky and honours. As you may…

Today Ian Buxton toasts Dr Jim Beveridge from Johnnie Walker who has just received an OBE and looks into the occasionally murky world of whisky and honours.

As you may have read recently, Dr Jim Beveridge, master blender for Johnnie Walker has been appointed an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the latest Queen’s Honours list.  It couldn’t happen to a nicer or more modest chap – and he joins an exclusive group of whisky notables. In 2016 David Stewart, the long-serving malt Master at the Balvenie, was awarded the MBE while his opposite number at Glen Grant, Dennis Malcolm received an OBE – one rung up the awards ladder.  More recently, Nigel Mills, co-founder and chairman of The Lakes Distillery was appointed a CBE (a couple of steps up the awards hierarchy) while, at the same time, David Gosnell of Bushmills received the OBE.

Dr Jim Beveridge

Dr Jim himself!

So I expect by now you’re wondering, what are these awards, who else in whisky has received one and, most interesting of all, how are they decided?  There is no particular mystery about the British awards system. The aim is to recognise people who have made achievements in public life, or committed themselves to serving and helping Britain: “they’ll usually have made life better for other people or be outstanding at what they do.” as it says on the www.gov.uk/honoursThere’s nothing obscure about that and, other than the staunch republicans among us, we can probably agree that it is appropriate to recognise exceptional achievement or national service.  But who decides and how do they know who is worthy?

Though these are the Queen’s Awards, it’s not actually Her Majesty who decides. Specialist committees, comprising senior civil servants along with people who are independent of government, recommend awards to a main committee who then forward them to the Prime Minister’s office and then to the Queen. If you know someone particularly deserving, you can nominate them on the website. 

This system was introduced by John Major as Prime Minister but previously the basis for an award was, at best, opaque and, at worst, corrupt. There may have been some skulduggery surrounding the so-called ‘Whisky Barons’ of the 1920s ennobled by Prime Minister David Lloyd George, most notably the creation of Lord Woolavington (formerly James Buchanan). It is said that he paid handsomely for his peerage – allegedly, the sum of £50,000, or about £2m today – but signed the cheque with his new title and dated it for one day after the announcement was due, to ensure that the wily Lloyd George would honour the new honour!  But rest assured Messrs Beveridge, Stewart and Malcolm haven’t written any dodgy cheques! Their awards are strictly on merit.

Jim Beveridge

Dr Jim in action

Though there have been some involved with whisky production who have received gongs, like Ronald Martin from United Distillers (1931-2005, awarded OBE in 1991) or Professor Geoffrey Palmer from Heriot Watt University who received an OBE in 2003, the most senior awards, including knighthoods tend to come from the commercial side of the business.  Examples include Sir Anthony Tennant (1930 – 2011), knighted in 1992 for his work at IDV and at Guinness following the ignominious departure of Ernest Saunders, and Sir George Bull, knighted 1998, having been one of the principal architects of the then-largest merger in UK corporate history with the union of Grand Metropolitan with Guinness to create Diageo. A more recent business knight is Sir Ian Good, chairman of the Edrington Group from 1994 to 2013.  He was knighted in 2008. Interestingly, his predecessor John Macphail (1923-2004) received the lesser award of CBE, despite his obituary describing him as “one of the most inspirational and influential figures in the Scotch whisky industry”.

So here’s to all the distinguished individuals mentioned here, and all the others that I should have saluted but have omitted. Let’s raise a glass to their contribution to whisky, along with the hope that the new generation of distinguished whisky women will shortly have their special place in history.  

Who will be the first women in whisky to be honoured?  I leave it to you to speculate…..

Though he has neither a beard nor any visible tattoos or piercings, Ian Buxton is well-placed to write about drinks.  A former Marketing Director of one of Scotland’s favourite single malts, his is a bitter-sweet love affair with Scotland’s national drink – not to mention gin and rum, or whatever the nearest PR is pouring. Once, apparently without noticing, he bought a derelict distillery. Follow his passionate, authentic hand-crafted artisanal journey on the Master of Malt blog.  Or just buy his books.  It’s what he really wants.

 

No Comments on Whisky and honours

The Nightcap: 7 June

As we recover from another outstanding Fèis Ìle, the influx of booze news flowed in as usual – it’s The Nightcap! It’s Friday again, and, like always, we’ve got a…

As we recover from another outstanding Fèis Ìle, the influx of booze news flowed in as usual – it’s The Nightcap!

It’s Friday again, and, like always, we’ve got a fresh batch of news stories from the world of booze ready for you to drink up as we enter summer. That’s right, it’s summer already and, of course, it’s raining. But we won’t let that dampen our spirits, it’s the weekend for goodness sake! And we’re going to start this weekend the same way we always do. With another smashing edition of The Nightcap!

On the blog this week Jake regaled us with tales from Ardbeg, Bunnahabhain and Jura as Fèis Ìle 2019 concluded, while our June 2019 dram club also launched. Adam then found some fab treats to spoil the old man with on Father’s Day, Jess explored the world of fermented tea drinks with her New Arrival of the Week and Nate Brown played a game of booze-branding buzzword bingo in his guest column. Annie explained why the right glassware matters before casting her eye over 10 bottlings created with a chef’s sensibilities, while Henry met with the queen of rum, Joy Spence, enjoyed a Talisker video masterclass and picked The Toasted Nut Boulevardier as his Cocktail of the Week.

Now, to the news!

The Nightcap

Interesting times for Loch Lomond

Loch Lomond sold to Asian investment firm in $500m deal

Big Scotch whisky news! The Loch Lomond Group will be sold to Hillhouse Capital Management, an investment firm with offices in Beijing, Hong Kong, Singapore and New York. The distillery is unique in Scotland in producing its own single malt and single grain whiskies; it also produces the Glen Scotia whisky, Glen’s vodka and Ben Lomond gin. The distillery, which had been in the hands of the Bulloch family since 1834, was acquired in 2014 by UK-based Exponent Private Equity who very successfully concentrated on the export market. Overseas sales went up from 10% to 70% of business. The new owners are now looking to capitalise on this especially in the Asian market. Wei Cao, partner at Hillhouse Capital, said: “We are so excited to help Loch Lomond realise the potential of its outstanding brands in huge new consumer markets, such as Asia.” The deal is still to be finalised but is said by Scottish Field to be worth somewhere in the region of $500m. The current distillery’s management headed up by Colin Matthews will stay in place and will keep a minority stake in the business. Matthews commented: “Over the past five years we are proud to have transformed the Loch Lomond Group into a premium international spirits business with a strong focus on innovation and a portfolio of award-winning brands.” We look forward to seeing what comes next from one of Scotland’s most idiosyncratic distilleries.

The Nightcap

The US allowing these little guys is great news for small European distillers

America may allow 70cl bottles – huge news for small European distillers

Good news from America! You don’t often hear that one. The TTB (Tax and Trade Bureau), the people who regulate alcohol among other things, are proposing to change the rules on bottle sizes for spirits. In a move that smacks of good old-fashioned common sense, the release says, “TTB is proposing to eliminate all but minimum and maximum standards of fill for distilled spirits containers in order to provide industry members greater flexibility in production and sourcing of containers, and provide consumers broader purchasing options.” At the moment full-size spirit bottles have to be 75cl as opposed to 70cl in the European Union, so producers have to produce two separate bottlings. No problem, of course, for Diageo but prohibitively expensive for smaller producers. If this proposal goes through, and that’s a big if, then it could potentially open up the American market to some boutique spirits. If the EU would reciprocate to allow 75cl spirit bottles, or maybe just agree on a common standard, what a wonderful world it could be.

The Nightcap

No fancy packaging here

Glenlivet 1946 goes under the hammer in Chiswick

In these days of hand-blown decanters, boxes inlaid with mother-of-pearl and specially-commissioned books, it’s nice to be reminded of a simpler time when whisky just came in a bottle with a plain label on. Take the Glenlivet 1946 that’s going under the hammer at Chiswick Auctions wine and spirits sale on 11 June. It was distilled when rationing was still going on after the war, only a tiny amount was allowed to be made for the export market. Most would have been sold as soon as possible but some were kept in cask and bottled by Gordon & MacPhail of Elgin in the 1980s, so this is a roughly 40-year-old whisky. It’s been sourced by the new wine and spirits team at Chiswick Auctions Sam Hellyer, Chris Burr and Christopher Cooper. Look at that admittedly not terribly good label and compare it with the recent 50 Year Old Winchester Collection release from The Glenlivet. The latter will set you back $25,000 whereas this 1946 is only expected to sell for £800-1000. You don’t get a fancy box, but you do get a slice of history and at that price, someone might even drink it.

The Nightcap

A delightfully pink taste of history

Drink the original Pink Gin this World Gin Day with Angostura Bitters

Unless you’ve been living under a very large rock, you’ve probably noticed a little trend called pink gin. However, in reality, these sweet and fruity tipples are a far cry from the very first pink gin to pass our lips, which was created courtesy of Angostura bitters. As the story goes, back in 1824, Dr J.G.B Siegert created Angostura bitters as a kind of healing elixir for soldiers fighting in Venezuela. At the time, it was safer to drink alcohol on ships, as stagnant water was a rather perilous affair. Would you believe it, it took a whole 24 years for someone to mix these bitters with gin! It was in the year 1848 when a Royal Navy surgeon added the bitters to try and help with seasickness. Luckily, this happy accident of mixology also coincided with the rise of cocktail culture in the 1850s. The sailors returned from sea, and brought with them Pinkers, as they now affectionately called this pink gin. Health concerns went out the window and people simply loved the taste of it. Seeing as it’s World Gin Day this weekend, why not have a taste of history and make your own Pinkers? Tastes even better if you can find a ship to drink it on, though it’s not essential.

The Nightcap

Caskshare allows whisky lovers to reserve ‘shares’ of whisky casks from their favourite distilleries

Craft Whisky Club launches Caskshare

It goes without saying that anything which makes whisky more accessible is most definitely a Good Thing. So, great news for whisky geeks this week, as Craft Whisky Club (part of Edinburgh based whisky-technology company Uisge Tech Ltd) announced the launch of Caskshare. In a nutshell, Caskshare allows whisky lovers to reserve ‘shares’ of whisky casks from their favourite distilleries, and once matured the single cask bottlings will be sent directly to the lucky recipient – or as Caskshare calls them, ‘shareholders’. This is a brilliant new initiative, described as Crowdfunding for whisky casks, which will hopefully allow consumers to explore and buy a whole host of cask variations without breaking the bank. The first casks to feature on the platform are from the Raasay Distillery, and you can choose to age either your peated or unpeated spirit in ex-bourbon, Chinquapin (a type of oak native to North America) virgin oak, or Bordeaux red wine casks. Such choice! The first bottling will be ready in 2022, after its required three years of ageing. “Caskshare offers whisky fans a way to get closer to their favourite distilleries and wood types”, says co-founder David Nicol. “What’s more, you don’t need to part with the vast sums of money required to purchase a full cask.” It’s said that a few new distilleries are set to join Caskshare in the next few months, and these won’t just be limited to Scotland, so keep your eyes peeled!

The Nightcap

A record-breaking rum!

Wray & Nephew President’s Reserve breaks rum auction record fetching £31,500

A very rare Wray & Nephew rum has set a new world record for an individual bottle of rum sold at auction after it fetched £31,500 (just under $40,000). “We had high hopes for this stunning bottle but with so little sales history to reference it was difficult to predict how it might perform,” said Iain McClune, director at Whisky Auctioneer. “I think it is fair to say that it has exceeded expectations, however, the price achieved is more than deserving considering the historical significance and incredible rarity of this rum”. J. Wray & Nephew President’s Reserve rum, the fourth of 12 bottles created, went on sale in Whisky Auctioneer’s inaugural Rum Auction last month. The rum, which contains liquid from 1906, honours US president Ronald Reagan and his first and only visit to Jamaica in April 1982. The label bears the late president’s seal, and it is believed that two bottles were presented to Reagan with further bottles given to dignitaries and industry professionals in attendance during the visit. This particular bottle is thought to be the only known example to have come into the secondary market, with another bottle previously selling for £1,213 (US$1,542) at a Bonhams auction in New York in 2013. A representative from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum said: “The first family received this wonderful gift commemorating their trip to Jamaica in April 1982. The bottle that we have is #1 and bears the Great Seal of the United States. The current locations of the remaining bottles are not known.” More than 50 bids from across the world were made for the historic bottling, with the winning bid coming from Italy. It’s sickening, isn’t it? There’s a person out there who gets to drink rare rum and live in Italy. Life isn’t fair. Anyway, we digress. . . The President’s Reserve was one of more than 600 rums sold in the auction and wasn’t the only big hitter. A pair of casks from the closed Caroni distillery in Trinidad fetched £25,000 (US$31,793) each.

The Nightcap

It’s hard to say what was better, the cocktails or the view!

London in the Sky with Cocchi

We headed down – or should we say up – to North Greenwich to London in the Sky for a spritz masterclass with Team Cocchi. London in the Sky is, in essence, a great big table on a crane which rises 100 feet into the air, giving you truly some stellar views of the Big Smoke while you sip. For those of you who think that may sound slightly hellish, fear not, as you’re securely strapped into a seat which looks a little like one you would find in a racing car – super safe. Once we had risen above the O2 Arena, we made (and tasted) four cocktails. First up was the Cocchi Rosa Spritz, made with Cocchi Rosa, tonic, fresh strawberries and basil, full of bittersweet pink berry notes. Next, a Cocchi Rosa Negroni, a take on the classic made with Cocchi Rosa, Pink Pepper Gin and Campari. Then, we moved (metaphorically) into the evening with the Vermouth di Torino Spritz, combining Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, rosemary and olive tonic water and a fresh sprig of rosemary. This was less fruity, and brought more of a spicy note, hence why it was more of an evening drink. Finally, a classic Negroni graced the floating table, made with Sipsmith gin, Campari and, of course, Cocchi Vermouth di Torino. If a spritz in the sky sounds good to you, then you’ll be thrilled to hear that Cocchi Spritzes are permanently on the menu for all of London in the Sky’s flights. However, the best part is, that with each cocktail only containing three ingredients, these are simple drinks to make, whether you’re 100 feet in the air over Canary Wharf, or just relaxing in your garden.

The Nightcap

A week of Negronis? We’re in

Campari unveils #N100, a week devoted to the Negroni

This year it’s the hundredth anniversary of that fateful day when a barman in Florence accidentally poured gin into Count Camillo Negroni’s Americano (a mixture of Campari and vermouth) instead of soda water, and created a classic. Or so the story goes (we’ll be looking into the drink’s history very soon). As you can imagine we’re quite excited, but not as excited as Campari: the Milanese company is launching #N100, over a week of events around Britain to celebrate the Count and his creation. It begins at the Vinyl Factory in London on 20 June and continues into Negroni Week beginning 22 June with events in Edinburgh, Manchester and London. To spice things up a little, the venues won’t just be offering the standard Negroni. At Hoot the Redeemer in Edinburgh, for example, you’ll be able to try the tastefully-named Skagliato made with Campari, Irn Bru and Buckfast! Sounds fierce. It looks like June is going to be sweet this year, and really really bitter.

The Nightcap

Gold has just opened on Portobello Road and we’re all very excited to see how they do

Notting Hill bar Gold opens in a blaze of talent

A swanky new bar and restaurant that goes by the name of Gold opened on Portobello Road this week. The new venture has drawn quite the host of talent, with head chef Theo Hill of The River Café, and front of house team Alex Ghalleb of Pizza East and Arez Akgundogdu of Soho House. The drinks don’t look bad either: Gold’s unique cocktail menu has been put together by Weapons and Toys, aka. Matt Whiley and Rich Woods, the fellas behind Hackney’s Scout. It’s already off to a flying (and talented) start. So, what to expect? Raw bohemian decor, with exposed brickwork, lots of indoor trees and the like, colourful seasonal sharing plates inspired by local produce and uncomplicated, delicious cocktails. All the cocktails look delicious, but we’re pretty sure we’d be hard pressed to choose between the Market Stall Spritz, comprised of raspberry-infused Hennessey brandy, crème de cacao, sweet tomato shrub, rosé and soda, or the Baklava Fizz, combining Don Julio Tequila, fig shrub, London honey, almond milk and soda. Gold will span over four floors, and will even boast a garden room with a retractable roof, perfect as we began our descent into summer. With such a great team in place, we can’t wait to see what other seasons will bring.

The Nightcap

Yep. That’s a shoe. With a cocktail inside

And finally. . . . a cocktail served in a shoe

Cocktail silly season has arrived in London early this year as the Ace Hotel announces a new cocktail menu at the Lobby Bar. The two that caught our eye were the Bangers and Daq’s, a Daiquiri with a salami (yes real salami, not some sort of dried fruit fangled to look like salami) and red wine twist, and the Drella’s Milk Punch, made from cornflake milk and vodka which sounds like the sort of thing Ozzy Osborne would have had for breakfast. However, these beverages are paragons of classical good taste in comparison with what the people from Filipino joint, Romulo Cafe in Kensington, are serving. It’s called the Imelda and it’s been designed in honour of former first lady of the Philippines, Imelda Marcos, who was famed for having a lot of shoes when most of her people didn’t have a lot to eat. The cocktail contains Stolichnaya vodka, crème de framboise, crème de mure and strawberry puree, and served, naturally, in a shoe. It’s all done in the best possible taste!

No Comments on The Nightcap: 7 June

Should Macallan raise prices to deter speculators?

In this week’s column, Ian Buxton looks at The Macallan Archival Series on which speculators are making a killing and ask whether the company is doing its duty to shareholders…

In this week’s column, Ian Buxton looks at The Macallan Archival Series on which speculators are making a killing and ask whether the company is doing its duty to shareholders by pricing the releases too low.

A free holiday with every bottle! 2,000 vacations must be won!

Chose from a week for two in Orlando (yours from just £413 per person) or, for under two grand you and a friend could jet off to Turkey and enjoy a fortnight’s all-inclusive stay in the Club Adakoy Marmaris. According to the Thomas Cook website it’s “designed for a new generation of travellers who want fun, lively holidays in hotels that have great design, casual but great quality dining, and a bar to match; surrounded by like-minded people and accompanied by the perfect soundtrack”. Sounds amazing.

And this fabulously generous offer comes courtesy of The Macallan Archival Series. Not familiar with this range? Well, it’s a somewhat self-congratulatory set of releases, which commemorate “the legendary Macallan advertising campaigns of the 1970s, 80s and 90s that took The Macallan name to a wider audience for the first time”.

There are four so far but a remarkable 24 are promised to complete the full set. Essentially, what you get is a slim but admittedly handsome hardback book containing old Macallan adverts; a USB stick (more ads) and a bottle of NAS Macallan, all packaged in a large presentation tin tricked up to look like a book. Almost any other brand (assuming it could bear to look back at its old ads) would produce a suitably lavish coffee-table volume but, being Macallan, they just had to be different.

The Macallan Archival Series

The Macallan The Archival Series – Folio 4

The Archival Series was first launched in 2015 and, according to the ever-reliable Andy Simpson of RareWhisky101, it was sold back then as being “for collectors”. At least, that’s what he says he was told. Each edition is limited to 2,000 bottles and you got one either by turning up at the distillery shop at just the right moment or being lucky in their email ballot. If you ‘won’ you had the right to buy a bottle.

And, at £195 plus shipping for the first three bottles (the fourth release is £250), the punters plunged right in. Those 2,000 bottles were gone before you could recite the sacred Six Pillars. And, big surprise, just as fast, lots of them were immediately flipped on the various whisky auction sites that now service the collector and investor market.

Though at first prices were slow to rise, the market soon cottoned on. If you lucked into a bottle and timed it right, there were big profits to be made – on just one site, for example, more than 650 bottles have been offered, with Folio 1 reaching £2,100 (all prices shown as hammer prices, i.e. before auction commission and charges); Folio 2 a slightly disappointing £1,300 (rather a lot of bottles offered all at once) but Folio 3 bouncing back to a handsome £1,900. That’s a cool £1,705 clear profit – far, far more than Macallan are making. Lanzarote here I come!

The Macallan Archival Series

Folio 3 fetched fees of £1,900 at auction.

Early sales of the current release, Folio 4, seem well set to smash the £1,000 mark – quite enough for a decent short break somewhere agreeable and, at risk of labouring the point, a considerable multiple on the distiller’s profit. Without, let’s not forget, the tedious bother of distilling, ageing and bottling the whisky; producing the book and tin; promoting the whole endeavour; dealing with lucky punters and disappointed fans and the sheer bother of packing and shipping bottles all around the world.

Now, back in 2012, when Diageo had woken up to much the same thing happening with its Port Ellen and Brora Special Releases, they simply hiked the price to something considerably closer to what the market was telling them the whisky was worth. If anyone was going to profit from their work, they reasoned, better it was them than some spivvy speculators. Cue predictable outrage on social media but Diageo stuck to its guns and doubtless, their shareholders were happy.

Now, this is where this gets interesting. What, we might inquire, do Macallan think they are doing? After all, there are 8,000 Archival bottles out there already and if very conservatively, we allow an average after-market bump of just £500 per bottle, that’s a secondary profit of at least £4 million that they seem content to hand over to whisky’s Arthur Daley types.

The Macallan Archival Series

The Macallan made its name through clever ad campaigns, something The Archival Series celebrates.

Macallan is part of the Edrington Group which, ultimately, is owned by a charitable body The Robertson Trust. This owes its existence to the remarkable foresight and altruism of the three last direct family owners, the Misses Robertson who, in 1961, transferred all their shares to a newly-established charitable trust in order that their family legacy would continue and ownership remain in Scotland. Today, The Robertson Trust aims to improve the quality of life and realise the potential of Scotland’s people and communities with a particular focus on health, social and educational inequalities. It’s important work and, with annual disbursements of more than £16 million, The Robertson Trust is Scotland’s largest independent funder.

I pause at this point to offer a self-congratulatory, virtue-signalling disclosure: I got a ballot bottle of Folio 3 which is now in the possession of an impecunious family member, to do with what he will. Charity, in this case, begins at home.

But I can’t ignore the fact that with another £4 million The Robertson Trust could increase their great and noble efforts by a quarter. I’ve emailed Macallan and requested their thoughts on the matter – if they reply, I’ll add to this post.

However, for the moment, ask yourself: would you pay more for an Archival bottle? Should you? Or where, I wonder, do you think the profit should go?

Though he has neither a beard nor any visible tattoos or piercings, Ian Buxton is well-placed to write about drinks.  A former Marketing Director of one of Scotland’s favourite single malts, his is a bitter-sweet love affair with Scotland’s national drink – not to mention gin and rum, or whatever the nearest PR is pouring. Once, apparently without noticing, he bought a derelict distillery. Follow his passionate, authentic hand-crafted artisanal journey on the Master of Malt blog.  Or just buy his books.  It’s what he really wants.

1 Comment on Should Macallan raise prices to deter speculators?

Type on the field below and hit Enter/Return to search