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Master of Malt Blog

Author: Master of Malt

A lip-smacking round up for Rum Month

It’s been a busy ol’ Rum Month, so we thought we’d take some time to have a look at a few of our favourites to round the month off deliciously….

It’s been a busy ol’ Rum Month, so we thought we’d take some time to have a look at a few of our favourites to round the month off deliciously.

Some people know July as “I’m going to see that one big movie and maybe I’ll go to a park to kick a ball” month. Others know it as “my boss won’t look at me funny for coming to the office wearing shorts” month. Ice cream van owners probably know July as “aw beans, I’m going to need to order more flakes” month. While these all may be correct, they are all missing one important thing. July is Rum Month. That important fact is the catalyst for this blog post’s existence, because we’re taking a moment to show off some of our favourite rums that we enjoyed during Rum Month!

Pusser’s ‘Gunpowder Proof’ Black Label

Pussers Gunpowder Proof Black Label

Pussers Gunpowder Proof Black Label

The last day of July is Black Tot Day, which commemorates the last ever daily rum ration issued by the Royal Navy on 31 July 1970. Though the bosun’s call of ‘Up Spirits’ no longer rings out, Navy rums are still very much a thing. As such, it’s only right that we kick off this rum round up with the incredible Pusser’s ‘Gunpowder Proof’ Black Label, produced in accordance with the Admiralty’s recipe and bottled at a generous 54.5% ABV. You can expect all sorts of dark fruit, brown sugar and dry spice notes running through this one.

Pineapple Grenade Spiced Rum

Pineapple Grenade

Pineapple Grenade

If you’re looking for a particularly punchy rum for… Well, for punches and the like, then Pineapple Grenade is exactly what you’re after. Built around a molasses-based rum from the ever-excellent Diamond Distillery in Guyana, Pineapple Grenade is flavoured with a secret mix of spices as well as salted caramel and the eponymous pineapple. It’s bottled at 65% ABV, which we agree, is rather strong indeed. You’ll want to dilute it well in your mixed drinks – speaking of which, this stuff goes excellently with ginger ale.

Issan (That Boutique-y Rum Company)

Issan That Boutique-y Rum Company

Issan That Boutique-y Rum Company

When you think of countries where rum is produced, Thailand probably doesn’t spring to mind. Which is too bad, because it turns out that tucked away in the north-east of Thailand, there’s a distillery making some fascinating rum with an eco-friendly approach. This rum from the Issan Distillery was bottled by That Boutique-y Rum Company, and made using the juice from red sugar cane (as seen on the label). It’s full of classic rhum agricole funkiness, with hints of fresh berries and vanilla coming through later on.

Havana Club Máximo Rum Extra Añejo

Havana Club Máximo Rum Extra Añejo

Havana Club Máximo Rum Extra Añejo

Got a hefty wodge of cash that you’re looking to turn into a very special bottle of rum? Havana Club can certainly help with that endeavour. Máximo is an extra añejo Cuban rum expertly crafted by maestro ronero Don José Navarro using some incredibly well-aged stocks, with only 1,000 bottles produced each year. You might be thinking “Gosh, that sounds nice, I bet it comes in a very fancy bottle…”, and you’d be absolutely right. Máximo is presented in a handmade crystal decanter alongside a sufficiently weighty crystal stopper.

Rumbullion!

Rumbullion!

Rumbullion!

We’re finishing things off here with another reference to Black Tot Day – this time it’s a shout-out to the grog tub, the robust vessel from which tots were dispensed up until 1970. You’ll see one of these on the label of Rumbullion!, a marvellous spiced rum featuring the likes of Madagascan vanilla, orange peel, cassia, clove and cardamom alongside the high-quality Caribbean rum. A terrific cockle-warmer, but more than suitable for enjoying on a warm evening with ice and a good whack of lime.

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Drinks billionaires – keeping it in the family

Today Ian Buxton takes a closer look at some of the illustrious families of the drinks industry such as the Haigs, Bacardis and Ricards, and reveals which great brands are…

Today Ian Buxton takes a closer look at some of the illustrious families of the drinks industry such as the Haigs, Bacardis and Ricards, and reveals which great brands are still in family hands.

Do you ever wonder who might raise a glass to you when you, to coin a phrase, raise a glass yourself? It’s an intriguing question. After all, drinks companies are fond of maintaining the façade of family owners. Think Bulleit Bourbon – it’s actually a Diageo brand (which arguably was mainly developed under Seagram’s) but a very high profile is maintained by Tom Bulleit and, until recently, his daughter Hollis. They’re speaking via their lawyers now. The story behind their acrimonious break-up is a rather unfortunate one and perhaps for another day, but sadly illustrative of the potential problems lurking in any family.

The Nightcap Drinks billionaires

Bulleit bourbon, a family business?

But back to Diageo. In its Scotch portfolio we’ll also find the Johnnie Walker, Buchanan’s and Haig brands. Now, once upon a time, there were real-life actual people answering to Walker, Buchanan and Haig who owned the distilleries that made these products – but no longer.

Today Diageo is a publicly-quoted company. That means you can buy a share in the business and be a part-owner. Actually, if you have any kind of a pension plan (whether through your employer or direct) you probably already own a share in some shares. Diageo is one of the UK’s largest and most successful businesses, and most well-balanced pension portfolios will have a holding in the company.  To declare an interest, I certainly do (I checked), and I’m very happy with its recent performance.

Many large industries have evolved in this way. But the drinks trade is something of a curiosity as a number of important brands remain in the hands of the descendants of the founding family.  Though some, like the Walkers, Buchanans and Haigs have long since cashed in, other companies remain determinedly independent and make great play of the long-term planning required in the spirits business. This, they suggest, means the industry is well suited to family ownership rather than being driven by the short-term demands of the financial community.

Some of the smaller examples are well known. Glenfarclas, for example, is happy to stress the fact that the distillery has remained in the Grant family since 1865 with chairman John Grant and son George directly and actively involved in every aspect. Grant Snr even lives on site, and you can’t get more hands-on than that.

Whisky Advent 2018 Day #18 Drinks billionaires

George Grant from Glenfarclas

Glenfiddich too is a family concern so, along with the various brands they own – think Balvenie, Hendrick’s Gin, Tullamore D.E.W. and Sailor Jerry rum among others – the forty-odd descendants of the founder William Grant thank you for every bottle you buy.  Oddly, though, while the public face of the company is largely represented by the Gordon branch (Peter Gordon and Grant Gordon in recent years) the major shareholder is believed to be the intensely private Benedicta Chamberlain. If her reputed 29.9% of the business is anywhere close to accurate, she’s comfortably in the billionaire class. Think of that next time you pour a dram of the world’s best-selling single malt.

As you’d expect, the family take the whole business very seriously. So much so in fact that Peter Gordon has even published a book on the subject. Family Spirit: Stories and Insights From Leading Family-Owned Enterprises looks at the strategies of eleven other family-owned businesses, though mainly not in the drinks industry. One of the companies he might have studied is Bacardi.  Yes, every drop of Dewar’s or Aberfeldy single malt or William Lawson’s (a million case-plus blended Scotch you’ve probably never heard of) adds a few coppers to the eponymous descendants of Don Facundo Bacardi.  A Bacardi and Coke puts a smile on their face, as does your call for Grey Goose, Martini, St-Germain or Patrón tequila.

Alexandre Ricard Drinks billionaires

Alexandre Ricard

Now the Bacardi family is very disciplined, borrowing if necessary to fund its acquisitions (over US$2 billion in 2004 for Grey Goose, then reputedly the largest purchase price in spirits business history for a single brand, and now a cool $5.1 billion for Patrón), but the equity isn’t sold. Much the same story could be told about Suntory Holdings, still controlled by the Saji and Torii families.

Elsewhere, public listing to raise capital hasn’t entirely removed family control as the tight grip of the founding dynasties at Davide Campari SpA, Brown-Forman and Rémy Cointreau SA clearly demonstrates. The Ricard family still retain 16% of the giant Pernod Ricard operation. It’s no coincidence that one Alexandre Ricard is both chairman and CEO, even if activist US investors Elliott Management are pushing to shake things up.

So, the reality and scale of family control is something to ponder as you part with your hard-earned cash. As you raise their brands to your lips, the question can’t be avoided: ‘what are the drinks billionaires sipping tonight?’

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New Arrival of the Week: Clouded Leopard Gin

This week’s shiny new recruit is so new to the market that we just couldn’t wait to get our paws on it… and it’s all in a good cause, too!…

This week’s shiny new recruit is so new to the market that we just couldn’t wait to get our paws on it… and it’s all in a good cause, too! Say hello to Clouded Leopard Gin! Words: Victoria Sayers

We’re generally cat people here at MoM Towers. From the teeniest tabby up, we’re all on-board for feline-related content. Gastropub owner and chef Will Phillips seems to be no different, except his kitty of choice is the endangered clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa to be sciencey). He loves the cat so much, he’s launched an actual gin to raise money in its honour! 

Clouded Leopard Gin

Behold, the clouded leopard (aka Neofelis Nebulosa)

Clouded Leopard Gin doesn’t just do good, though; it’s pretty tasty, too. Botanicals are sourced from Southern Asia, home to the cautious leopardy one, and distilled in Bristol. This gin is produced from British wheat spirit using one-shot distillation in 30-litre copper pot stills. 15% of the profit will be donated to the Born Free Foundation, which works to protect the clouded leopard (if you do the sums, that means at least £1 from each bottle will go to the fund). It is important to Phillips that the quality of the product’s botanicals is as powerful as the message that the gin will deliver. 

Typically a rainforest resident, the clouded leopard can be found in Southeast Asia, just like the botanicals in this lively, energetic spirit. We have the classic London dry juniper (obviously), with coriander seeds, angelica root, cassia bark, tropical mango, fragrant black pepper and lemon zest. The recipe is then macerated in the wheat spirit for 24 hours pre-distillation. Basically, this gin is glorious with a slice of fresh mango if you can, and meets with a paw-some cause. 

Clouded Leopard Gin

In all its glory

We need to address the design of the bottle, too. Its frosted (or cloudy) glass features a silhouette of a leopard striding across a branch, designed by Sarah Rock and illustrated by Jonathan Gibbs. The wax seal is particularly pretty, with a print of leaves fluttering down. It would very happily star in a gin shelfie. Purrfect.

But what of the clouded leopard itself? It is a tiny carnivore, only measuring around 6ft from nose to the tip of its tail, weighing up to 50lbs. Named for its stunning spotted coat, it’s rarely even seen in the wild due to its mysterious habits. The cat is listed as vulnerable with populations decreasing rapidly due to habitat loss from industrial logging and land development. It’s also illegally hunted for its beautiful coat, and some wrongly believe clouded leopard bones and teeth have healing powers… Heartbreaking.

“The clouded leopard is a fantastic and elusive animal rarely seen in the wild, and in grave danger of extinction,” said Phillips “I really want to help save this fantastic animal in its natural habitat and riding the crest of the gin wave sounds like an ideal place to start.” We love gin.  We love leopards. Combine them, and you’re winning!

A fun fact to round off on: Malaysians call this cute cat the ‘tree tiger’. Possibly because of the unique markings, or the fact it’s double jointed, allowing for easy tree climbing mayhem. Bit envious, TBH.

Clouded Leopard Gin and mango

Clouded Leopard Gin – a treat with mango

Clouded Leopard Gin tasting notes:

Nose: Soft fruit, lots of tropical mango transitioning to spicy pepper with zesty lemon.

Palate: Juniper berries, citrusy lemon, Love Hearts sweets, mango and peppery spicy notes.

Finish: Medium-length and pleasantly warming.

Clouded Leopard Gin bottle

Get yours right here!

Clouded Leopard Gin is priced at £34.95, and a Phillips-approved serve involves Fever-Tree Indian Tonic, garnished with fresh mango and black pepper. You can even grab some now in time for 4 August, which is of course International Clouded Leopard Day!

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The Nightcap: 26 July

You know what Friday means by now, it can only be the Nightcap! This week we’ve got all the digs on The Macallan’s newest release, Coupette’s mouthwatering Summer menu, the…

You know what Friday means by now, it can only be the Nightcap! This week we’ve got all the digs on The Macallan’s newest release, Coupette’s mouthwatering Summer menu, the rise of the Tequila cocktail and even a Jack Daniel’s shoe.

Happy Friday, folks! But before we get into the thick of all the wonderful booze news of the week that was, we thought we’d have a quick chat about the weather. Because, we don’t know about you, but nobody has mentioned the weather this week. At all. Was it warm? Was there sun? We tried to enjoy a refreshing Spritz here at MoM Towers, but apparently the whole of the UK had run out of ice. All we know is that it’s now raining again and the quintessential British summer is back on. Thank goodness for that. It was a steamy few days. Step away from the SPF 50 and settle down with a drink, the Nightcap is here!

On the blog this week, we kicked off Monday with a recap of all the Fèis Ìle 2019 fun, while Kristy chose a sherry-tastic single malt for our New Arrival of the Week, took a peek at the mysterious 2019 Diageo Special Releases, and reported back on a magic trip to Tel Aviv’s Milk & Honey Distillery! Meanwhile, Henry mixed up a Tequila Sunrise for his Cocktail of the Week, chatted rum with Alexandre Gabriel from Plantation, and found out what on earth Uncle’s Day is with Uncle Nearest’s Fawn Weaver. Last but not least, Annie gave the 411 on where to grab a drink in Amsterdam, Nate Brown scooted over to Dublin’s Roe & Co, and our Jess carried on the Tequila and mezcal fun with a round up of agave spirits. Phew. But that’s not all – on with the news!

Beam Suntory

Behold, The Fred B. Noe Distillery!

Beam Suntory breaks ground James B. Beam distillery

In big American whiskey news, Beam Suntory announced this week that it’s investing a whopping $60 million to build a new craft distillery and bring back The James B. Beam Distilling Co. name to Clermont! The James B. Beam Distilling Co. was the company’s name immediately after Prohibition, and will now serve as the name of Beam Suntory’s Clermont operations, as well as encompassing the production operations for the Jim Beam brand and small-batch brands such as Booker’s and Knob Creek. This investment will also build the Fred B. Noe Craft Distillery on the Clermont site, named after seventh generation master distiller Fred Noe, which will house the exploration of exciting new fermentation and distillation techniques. “Beam Suntory is excited to honour our roots by investing in the James B. Beam Distilling Co., and setting ourselves up for a bright future in Kentucky and around the world,” commented Albert Baladi, President and CEO for Beam Suntory. “With nearly 225 years behind us, we are proud of our history of entrepreneurialism, craftsmanship and innovation. As the world leader in bourbon, we are thrilled to be laying the foundation for the next 225 years.” Goodbye Beam Suntory, hello The James B. Beam Distilling Co.!

Campari Rum

Campari takes on rum/rhum

Campari Group eyes up Rhum Agricole brands

Got a taste for the vegetal pronouncedness of Rhum Agricole? You are not alone. Campari Group, one of the world’s biggest drinks players, wants in, too. This week it was announced that the owner of the likes of Campari (obvs), Aperol, Wild Turkey and Bulldog Gin entered into “exclusive negotiations” with the parent company of Trois Rivières and Maison La Mauny (and Duquesne rum, too) to acquire the Martinique-based brands. While no price was revealed, the deal would include the brands themselves, the land they sit on, the distilleries and visitor centres, plus the aged rhum stocks. Yes please. In the press release, Campari Group said that if the deal goes through, it will “enhance its exposure to rum, a premiumising category currently at the heart of the mixology trend and growing cocktail culture”. It already owns Appleton Estate and Wray & Nephew, so it would make Campari a significant force for all things rum (and rhum). Ready the Ti Punches, folks!

Diageo

Cheers to a bumper year for Diageo!

Tanqueray and Don Julio drive Diageo sales

It’s that time of year again – financial results are in! And for Diageo, they make for pretty buoyant reading. Sales for the full year to 30 June hit £12.9 billion, up 5.8%, with profits hitting £4bn, (+9.5%). Why such strong results? Two words: gin and Tequila. Gin as a whole grew by 23% in value, with Tequila soaring by a whopping 37%. Brand-wise, Don Julio was a total stand-out, with sales climbing by an incredible 30%, while Tanqueray posted 21% gains. Which brands didn’t do quite so well? The biggest name to see a drop was Cîroc Vodka (-5%), although vodka as a whole actually saw 4% growth, a big deal seeing as the category has fared pretty poorly in recent times. And Scotch? All-in-all, things are going well! The category grew by 6%, with Johnnie Walker seeing values climb 7% on the previous year, and the Scotch malts collectively making 12% gains. Winning!

The Macallan Estate

The Macallan Estate, delicious and super popular

The Macallan unleashes home-grown Estate to the world

We had a thoroughly lovely Wednesday this week. Not only did The Macallan get its new Estate edition ready to ship, the brand also treated us to an utterly delightful lunch! We gathered at the incredible Hide in Piccadilly with Sarah Burgess, The Macallan’s whisky maker, and David Sinclair, brand ambassador to learn about (and of course, taste) the new expression. Burgess told us all about the production process – one week a year, mashing, fermentation and distillation is given over to barley grown exclusively on The Macallan estate. And the sensibly-named The Macallan Estate is the result! It’s an addition to the core range, and more bottles will be released each year (although Burgess stressed to us that she’s working to keep the flavour profile consistent over time). So, what’s it like? Tremendously autumnal, filled to the brim with appley, orchard fruit notes, plus lashings of marmalade on burnt toast, and a wash of sweet spices. Tasty.

Coupette Shimmer

Coupette’s mesmerising Shimmer cocktail

Coupette launches new menu ‘Summer’

Ah, Coupette. Something of a hole in the wall, to the uninitiated the award-winning bar may seem rather unsuspecting from the outside. We excitedly made our way down as just this week, founder Chris Moore launched the new menu in collaboration with local sign writer, Ged Palmer, titled ‘Summer’! One such epitome of the season was Strawberries & Cream, taking inspiration from Wimbledon and seasonal picnics. With strawberry eau de vie, rosé vermouth, wine and a vanilla-scented, clarified milk punch finish, served with a brush of white chocolate around the rim of the glass, it’s totally delicious without being overly sweet. This serve was just flying out from behind the bar, and no wonder in 34-degree heat! There’s a story behind each serve, and an intriguing one was Shimmer, marrying 30&40 Eau de Vie, green apple and sage, wine, genepi and sage soda, served in a mesmerising blue ceramic vessel on a blue geode coaster. Designed to be reminiscent of holidays and blue oceans it certainly accomplishes that, in flavour and aesthetic. Other delicious serves included the Bloody Martini with vodka, vin jaune, a clear tomato consommé and chive oil, part of a series of cocktails which mashes together two iconic drinks. There’s also a take on a Kir Royale, which sees a fabulous serving of blackcurrant sorbet in the cocktail glass. Slightly heavier serves include Obsidian, channelling a Rum Old Fashioned with the addition of cocoa and tangy passion fruit. We’ll certainly be back to try out the rest. Leave any expectations at the door, and prepare to be absolutely blown away with this stunningly complex and yet unpretentious menu. Bravo, Coupette.

Dalloway Terrace

Dalloway Terrace has cocktails on tap… from a flower wall!

Dalloway Terrace unveils new look for summer ’19

On Wednesday, we got to visit what is described by Vogue as “one of London’s most Instagrammable restaurants”. The Dalloway Terrace is now offering a taste of summer with the launch of its Summer Estate, in partnership with Ramsbury Distillery. Master florist, Nikki Tibbles, recreated the English countryside, transforming the Terrace with wild meadow flowers, blending silk daisies, cosmos, larkspur, delphiniums and foliage with embellishments of coral quince blossom. Flower walls are massive right now, and she created possibly the best one ever for the occasion:  a flower wall complete with botanical cocktails on tap. There’s also a bar for G&T drinkers where they can garnish drinks themselves with produce fresh from Ramsbury Estate. The seasonal cocktail menu will offer a selection of summer serves priced at £13. No reservations allowed at the Terrace, so be sure to get in quick – it’s open from 08:00am to11:00pm every day until mid-September.

Slane Irish Whiskey

Delicious and sustainable Slane Whiskey

Slane Irish Whiskey announces trio of winners in sustainable cocktail comp

Earlier this summer, Slane Distillery’s UK brand ambassador, Michael Brown, set a challenge to bartenders to create the most ‘suSLANEable’ cocktails. And this week, not one, not two but THREE winners were selected! Slane is located in the heart of Boyne Valley in Ireland and, inspired by Earth Day, had tasked bartenders across the UK to follow in its green footsteps. And they are big shoes to fill:  the distillery has already installed a “catchment system” to collect rainwater off the roofs of the distillery buildings to reduce the volume of water needed for production drawn from the Boyne River. Cool stuff! Joint winner Jack Riley from Present Company, Liverpool, says, “We should all be taking small steps to help the impact on the environment.” He worked with local coffee shops to create his nameless ‘suSLANEable’ cocktail: 45ml Slane Irish Whiskey, 20ml Spent Coffee-infused Martini Bitter, 15ml Tropical Cordial and 2 dash Bitter. Fellow champ Tom Sutton from H.M.S.S challenged himself to find and use leftover produce to create his “Castaway”, from just 40ml Slane Irish Whiskey, 30ml reclaimed cordial and stir into a frozen embassy. Simples. Finally, we have Leon Back and his recipe for “Little Winner”; 50ml Slane Irish Whiskey, 40ml ghetto cold brew (spent coffee grinds), coconut syrup, 10ml Martini ambrato, 10ml P.X. Sherry and 2 dashes Angostura bitter with some tonic water over ice.  Delicious. Evolving and improving every year, Slane is working to become one of the most environmentally-friendly whiskey distilleries in Europe… Check out this video for more inspo to make eco-friendly drinks.

Patron Tequila

Goodbye Tequila shots, hello Paloma!

Shots are out: Brits now prefer Tequila cocktails, according to Patrón

Step away from the salt and lime: Tequila is now officially preferred in cocktail form, rather than as a shot, in new research from Patrón. In a study that suggests Tequila has finally shaken off its hard-partying image, more than 65% of drinkers said they enjoy Tequila cocktails on a night out, over slammers. It makes sense: Tequila is the fastest growing spirit in the UK, according to Euromonitor. Despite the upgraded drinking habits, Tequila knowledge is at a bit of a low. Only 23% of those questioned knew Tequila was made from agave, while just 10% showed knowledge of aged Tequilas. One response? To get tasting! You can find an array of Tequila drams for that purpose right here. What’s your Tequila of choice? Let us know in the comments below!

Nelsons distillery

Nelson’s carbon neutral distillery from the skies

Nelson’s Distillery bags eco award

More green news! Word reached us this week that Nelson’s Distillery & School in Uttoxeter, Staffordshire, won a Green Impact Award for its eye-popping efforts to reduce, reuse and recycle. The award itself is the Signal 1 Radio Green Award, given out to recognise and celebrate local businesses making great strides in sustainability. Striving to be totally “off-grid” since 2016, Nelson’s is based at a flashy, futuristic and carbon neutral site with numerous green energy sources, including a wind turbine and super-snazzy anaerobic digester power plants. The site sells energy back to the grid, the team live in the local village to reduce traffic and pollution, they have their own natural water source, and use the reed beds to filter the water used in gin and rum. If this doesn’t sound amazeballs enough, then what about the 10% customer discount you get if you returning or repurposing the bottles?! More distilleries take note.  

Flor de Caña

No lunch, but lots of Flor de Caña!

Boisdale celebrates Nicaraguan rum

Last Friday, we were invited by Ranald MacDonald from Boisdale for an intimate lunch at his Belgravia restaurant with her excellency Guisell Morales-Echaverry, Nicaraguan Ambassador to the United Kingdom, in honour of Ron Flor de Caña. How could we refuse? When we arrived, the intimate lunch was a room heaving with dignitaries including the Bulgarian ambassador. So many ambassadors. It was like a Ferraro Roche advert. Only with less to eat. Of lunch there was no sign. We were whisked upstairs by Matro Ortiz Lima, the Chilean brand ambassador with a strong Scottish accent, to sample three rums, a 12 year old, 18 year old and a 25 year old. According to Lima, Flor de Caña these are minimum ages, as with Scotch whisky and indeed Jamaican rum. Apparently, the company has unparalleled stocks of mature spirit because during the revolutionary period from 1970 to 1990, the family who own the brand hid rum all over the country. We finished with the coffee and tobacco-scented 25 year old, which went beautifully with a big cigar. Something else this country does superbly. But of the promised lunch, there was no sign. 

Jack Daniel's Shoes

Jack Daniel’s takes on footwear

And finally… Jack Daniel’s-inspired… shoes?

Jack Daniel’s has made its first foray into the world of footwear! The whiskey giant has teamed up with the awesomely-named Shoe Surgeon, aka Dominic Chambrone, and together they’ve created seven Jack Daniel’s-inspired trainers (or rather, ‘sneakers’, as they’re calling them across the pond). “Craftsmanship is the ultimate common detonator between what I do and those who make Jack Daniel’s,” Chambrone commented. Each of the seven shoe designs was inspired by an iconic element of the Jack Daniel’s brand. These are grain, Cave Springs, the distillery, charcoal, the barrel, honey, and the Jack Daniel’s bottle. If you want in, then you’ll have to vote online in August, with only 10 lucky voters in to win a pair. We don’t like those odds… Our only question is, can you drink out of them?

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Roe & Co, a Dublin distillery reborn

Last week saw the next step in the revival of a great name from Irish whiskey as the new Roe & Co distillery opened in Dublin. Our in-house bartender Nate…

Last week saw the next step in the revival of a great name from Irish whiskey as the new Roe & Co distillery opened in Dublin. Our in-house bartender Nate Brown paid a visit, tried the new make, and spoke with Diageo master blender Caroline Martin from Diageo. 

Some two and a half years after the release of the whiskey, Diageo launched the Roe & Co distillery in the Liberties area of the city. The distillery is the fourth whiskey producer to open in the area, further adding to the rebirth of the distilling heritage of Dublin 8. In the 1800s, George Roe & Co distillery was one of the big players in the Irish whiskey scene, with the distillery occupying some 17 acres, and home to nine massive stills making the traditional Irish Pot Still style of spirit. The whiskey crash of the early twentieth century called time on the brand, as it did on so many. Today, all that remains from the original company is a copper-domed tower, from which the Roe & Co bottle draws inspiration, and a centuries-old pear tree, which, appropriately, still bears fruit.

The still room at Roe & Co

The new Roe & Co is situated in the red brick 1930s power station that had previously powered the Guinness storehouse next door. Speaking of which, the Guinness plant is Europe’s most visited tourist attraction, and the folks at Roe & Co are hoping to capitalise on the trade. As part of the tour, visitors will be treated to a Highball cocktail experience, with the opportunity to mix their own drink using whiskey, a cordial of their choosing and lengthened with soda. At the end of the tour, guests can enjoy a drink in the lavish Power House bar. The emphasis throughout is on how to enjoy Roe & Co, not just how it will be made, which is a welcome sign of where the whiskey market is moving. The appeal is clearly to a younger, trendy crowd, and a step away from the more traditional Scotch distilleries in Diageo’s portfolio. Much of the design work was done by Drinksology, whose contemporary stamp is all over the distillery, from a mind-map made from copper wire, to the stylish cocktail menu in the bar.

The three pot stills are visible from the street thanks to an enormous glass-panelled window. These will be used to create the triple-distilled malt, and are named Vision (a 14,000 litre wash still), Virtue (a 6,600 litre ex-Tanqueray still) and Valour (3,300 litre spirit still). They are accompanied by a three tonne mash tun and six wooden washbacks. 

Refreshingly, Roe & Co does not shy away from the fact that its current bottling is not distilled at the new distillery. Instead, the focus is on the art of blending, as executed by superstar master blender, Caroline Martin. Martin has worked on Johnnie Walker, Bell’s and a host of other blends in her 33 year Diageo career. “A big factor [on creating the blend] was the need for a depth of flavour. I wanted something robust, that could stand up in cocktails,” says Martin. Throughout the development process, she consulted with Irish bartenders on what they wanted to see. One such change was the increased ABV to 45%. “We wanted transparency from the start, with no nasty surprises,” she says of the ethos.

Caroline Martin, Diageo

Caroline Martin enjoying the fruits of her labour

Indeed, Martin sent various samples to the helping bartenders, and it was version 106 that scored the highest. This commitment to developing the liquid has been honoured in a blending room called Room 106, where guests will be able to explore the art of blending and bring a blend of their making home. As a way of thanking the bartender crowd, and as an homage to the whole of Ireland, Roe & Co have released an Ireland-only blend, with the ratios of malt to grain reversed. This malt-heavy spirit is aged in a combination of Port and bourbon barrels, and is to be the first in a long line of limited release expressions.

As for the regular liquid, we tried the new make and true to the brand’s history, it is jam-packed with pear notes. Powerful fruit flavour, already synonymous with Irish Whiskey, is certainly the goal. Currently, the new make liquid is laying in cask awaiting the first release of Roe & Co distilled at the new Dublin site. In the future, it’ll be up to Martin to blend the final product to match today’s releases, although she certainly has all the right ingredients to hand. 

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Relive all the fun of Fèis Ìle 2019!

Nine days, 12 distilleries and open events, and one magical island. It can only be Fèis Ìle! Join us as we relive all the Islay (and Jura!) whisky fun. Back…

Nine days, 12 distilleries and open events, and one magical island. It can only be Fèis Ìle! Join us as we relive all the Islay (and Jura!) whisky fun.

Back in May, an intrepid team of five headed north from MoM HQ to the island of Islay for Fèis Ìle. The annual spirits extravaganza (there was a lot more gin around than you might expect) takes in all nine distilleries, plus open days at the Port Ellen Maltings and Islay Ales, as well as a focus on neighbouring Jura. It really is a bucket-list trip for whisky-lovers!

Every day we packed the car (with a designated driver, obviously) and decamped with full film kit at each location. We got fully involved in distillery, tours, tastings, and even putting YOUR questions to the great and the good of the island distilling scene.

Missed the action? You can catch-up on our day-by-day reports, videos and more here. But why not get a taste for all things Fèis with our supercut?!

MoM HQ at the Port Ellen Maltings. Safety first!

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The Nightcap: 19 July

It’s a bumper week for The Nightcap, with stories about Lizzo, Champagne, crystal, Snoop Dog and millennials. What a time to be alive. Welcome to yet another Friday! No, it’s…

It’s a bumper week for The Nightcap, with stories about Lizzo, Champagne, crystal, Snoop Dog and millennials. What a time to be alive.

Welcome to yet another Friday! No, it’s not a surprise sequel to the classic ‘90s flick Friday, though that would be pretty great. However, another Friday means another edition of The Nightcap, our weekly round-up of all the booze news stories. It’s almost like a movie, except much shorter. Which, honestly, probably a good thing. Did you see that superhero movie from earlier in the year? It was like nine hours long and didn’t even have an intermission to let me go get an ice cream. Take all the breaks you want reading The Nightcap this week. Grab me a Cornetto if you think about it.

So, on the MoM Blog this week we had Annie in charge of Cocktail of the Week, mixing up a Piña Fumada, and then she chatted to Ron Zacapa master blender Lorena Vásquez. Adam checked out the upcoming releases from Royal Salute – a blended malt and a peated treat. Henry took on a fun New Arrival of the Week which doesn’t even have a name, had a good nosey at some new Ocho Tequilas and continued the agave theme by having a natter with Björn Kjellberg.  Guest columnist Nate Brown turned his eye to the word ‘terroir’ and what it means for spirits marketing. Kristy met with Highland Park’s Martin Markvardsen and filmed a pretty detailed video interview with him, getting the scoop on all things Orkney. 

Oh, and then there was all this…

Yayyyyy Team MoM!

MoM marketing team scoops digital award!

We got all glammed up and headed to the big smoke on Wednesday night. Not just for cocktails (although we did head to the wonderful Swift afterwards) but to the UK Digital Growth Awards! And it was a particularly exciting evening. We picked up the In-House Team of the Year trophy for our marketing squad! It’s fair to say we were over the moon, and so proud of each other’s achievements. From the editorial and content teams to campaigns, film, email and proper geeky stuff like PPC, we genuinely love what we do. And it all loops back to sending the good people their booze! Hurrah!

Francois Saurel (The Serious)

Macallan parent company picks new leader for Asia Pacific region

Some big news just in from Edrington, The Macallan’s parent company. Frenchman Francois Saurel will be the new regional marketing director for Asia Pacific. The vacancy was created in March when the previous occupant, Igor Boyadjian, became managing director of The Macallan. Saurel who previously worked with beauty company Coty has spent over 20 years with luxury brands in both Europe and Asia. He will report to Boyadjian who commented: “I am pleased to welcome Francois to Edrington as the next regional managing director, Asia Pacific. His leadership skills, global luxury brands experience and his proven commercial track record, make him an excellent addition to an already talented team. Saurel said: “It is an honour to be leading the Edrington teams across Asia Pacific, a key strategic region for the business with many exciting opportunities and where Edrington is ideally placed to capitalise on premiumisation trends. Edrington is set up for significant long term growth, thanks to its unrivalled portfolio of brands, great people and unique culture.” Bon chance, Francois!

Seafood-specific Champers? Go on, then.

Piper-Heidsieck launches special seafood-friendly Champagne with Wright Brothers

Champagne house Piper-Heidsieck has created a special cuvée in conjunction with Wright Brothers. No, not the aviation pioneers from Ohio, that would be strange. No, these Wright Brothers are the London fishmongers. Glad we’ve cleared that one up. Anyway, this extra brut Champagne is called Essentiel by Wright Brothers. It’s drier than most Champagnes (only 5g of sugar per bottle) and it’s specifically designed to go with seafood, especially oysters and other shellfish. “We believe together we have created the perfect accompaniment for seafood and shellfish,” said Robin Hancock, co-founder of Wright Brothers. Emilien Boutillat, chef de cave at Piper-Heidsieck added: “A shared vision of sustainability and excellence made Wright Brothers the natural choice to visit us and take part in the creation of a bespoke Champagne to suit their seafood-focused restaurants. Champagne and oysters both strongly express their place of origin, and when enjoyed together make for a memorable moment.” Not so keen on seafood? We expect Essentiel probably tastes delicious with vegetarian options, too.

The Glencairn glass: taking over the world.

Glencairn now sells 65,000 whisky glasses a week

Award-winning Glasgow glassware firm Glencairn Crystal has just released some impressive figures. The company which supplies the likes of the Houses of Parliament, Liverpool Football Club, Diageo and the SWA with whisky tasting glasses, has been growing without a pause for 15 years. Sales have doubled sales every five years since 2004; in the latest figures Glencairn turned over £11.3m, up from £858k in 2004; now more than 65,000 Glencairn glasses are now sold per week globally. The world whisky boom has been great news for this family-owned business. Scott Davidson, new product development director said: “We are so proud of the success we have achieved in this past year. Our hardworking team and the worldwide growth of the spirits market, specifically whisky, has meant that we have been able to capitalise on what we do best – provide clients with a high-end customer service they can’t get anywhere else.” So let’s raise a glass, a Glencairn Tasting Glass, to this great Scottish success story. 

Happy 5th birthday, team ELLC!

Happy fifth birthday, East London Liquor Company!

On Monday we headed to deepest, darkest Bow to join some very special celebrations: East London Liquor Company just turned five! The distillery, bar and restaurant made the most of the weather, with guests spilling out across the courtyard, enjoying a barbeque, G&Ts and, in true ELLC style, Negronis on tap. It was a delight! An additional highlight? A gorgeous cake with sparklers for candles, and a really cute dog pottering about the place. Yes please. We highly recommend a visit: there’s a cocktail bar complete with seasonal menu, the food has a strong Italian emphasis, and you can check out the gorgeous stills while you sip! The distillery is open for tours, too. Check out the ELLC site for more details, or snap up a gin, vodka or rum right here. More whisky to follow!

I mean, fizz always makes travel better

Searcys Art of Travel launch with Sipsmith and Veuve Clicquot 

If your Eurostar trip feels like it’s missing that final touch, we might have just the ticket! Searcys Champagne Bar at St Pancras station is kicking off the summer with its brand new The Art of Travel Afternoon Tea, a collaboration with Veuve Clicquot, GlobeTrotter and Sipsmith Gin. Each of the 12 booths (it’s the longest Champagne bar in Europe, don’t you know) represents a different European destination, while the table has been transformed into a map alongside rather aesthetic pastel seating. Meanwhile, the tea itself brings together tasty delicacies from different European cities, from passion fruit Swiss meringue pie to smoked salmon crumpets. There’s even an avocado and quinoa wrap for the more health-conscious. The best part is, it’s even served in a suitcase! No kidding. To sip on, of course there’s a selection of delicious Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label, Rosé and other cuvées, or a whole host of cocktails showcasing Sipsmith Gin. Best of both worlds is the scrumptious ‘Take on the French 75’, which marries both gin and fizz! It’s available now until 9 September, and while you’re there just don’t forget to push the ‘Press for Champagne’ button. You’re welcome.

Drop it like it’s hot

The Coral Room brings actual Gin & Juice to Snoop collab

Have you heard the news? The Coral Room will be channelling its inner Snoop. How, you wonder? Well, the team will be serving Gin & Juice slushies at Soho’s Dogg House. It’s all in aid of one of the summer’s biggest footwear collaborations – Duke + Dexter and Snoop Dogg’s Limited edition loafers and sliders. There’s a delicious colour palette too:  leafy and acid greens against coral – that’s the shoes and the drinks. The Coral Room team will be bringing the West Coast lifestyle with its Gin & Juice serves. To add to the atmosphere, a DJ will play some of the iconic artist’s most famous work, while screening his best music videos. It’s the perfect backdrop to the limited-run collaboration. The Coral Room and its Gin & Juice will take up residence at 40 Berwick Street until 21 July, where the artists will be showcasing all 15 styles from the collection.

She like chardonnay, get better over time

Absolut teams up with Lizzo for a juicy summer

The new drink of the summer? According to Absolut, Absolut Juice is set to be the must-have spirit of the season. A new base for spritzy serves, it’s available in two delicious flavours: Strawberry and Apple. There are no artificial flavours, each drink is made with 5% real fruit juice, and at 99 calories per serving, it’s a lighter option, too. The most exciting thing? It’s in partnership with actual Lizzo! “When I heard Absolut was launching a new product called, ‘Absolut Juice’ it was like they made it just for me,” the Juice and Cuz I Love You singer said.  “It’s an honour to celebrate the success of my first single with Absolut’s new product launch and the synergy is almost too perfect.” The drinks you could make with the new ‘juicy surprises’ include the Absolut Juice & Soda (you’ll need 1 part Absolut Juice and 2 parts Club Soda) and the Absolut Juice Spritz (1 part Absolut Juice, 1 part Club Soda and 1 part Sparkling wine). If you’re feeling more adventurous, there’s also the Absolut Juice Strawberry Punch, with 1 ½ parts Absolut Juice Strawberry, 1 part lemonade, ½ part cranberry and a splash of club soda, garnished with a lemon peel. Another plus? They have a recommended price of US$19.99. We’re hoping both Strawberry and Apple will arrive at MoM Towers later in the summer!  

What cycling in 40°C looks like

Mentzendorff cycling team braves heatwave to raise £35,000 for The Benevolent

From 24-28 June, Equipo Mentzendorff slipped into their skin-tight cycling gear, got on their bikes and rode around Tuscany to raise money for The Benevolent Charity, an organisation that provides help and support to members of the UK drinks industry and their families. During the so-called ‘Giro di Toscana’, the team, made up of Mentzendorff staff members, customers and consumers, covered 300km during the recent heatwave with the thermometer hitting 40°C every day. Tough work – but they raised £35,000 for the charity! Mentzendorff is the agent for Bollingers Champagne, Taylor’s Port and many other big names, as well as producing a legendary brand of kummel. Team leader Andrew Hawes said: “I would like to thank the twelve riders, our support team and our incredible hosts, Ciacci Piccolomini and Fertuna, for their amazing efforts. Thank you also to everyone who has supported us and donated to this great cause.” Ross Carter, CEO of The Benevolent added: “We are incredibly thankful to Team Mentzendorff for their on-going support of The Benevolent and a huge congratulations for nearly doubling their fundraising target and for doing so in such intense climatic conditions!” Well done to everyone concerned. 

Join the Zero Likes revolution

And finally… Kahlúa reckons millennials are missing out on life’s key moments because phones

Kahlúa brings us some hilarious and somewhat concerning news this week, as the brand took it upon itself to survey a group of millennials about social media. The stats are… interesting. Over 90 percent believe it’s important to live in the moment, while, rather conversely more than half have also missed an important moment because they were too busy trying to capture it on social media! Perhaps even more alarmingly, one third of those surveyed said they would miss social media more than sex if they were stranded on an desert island. Geez. So, Kahlúa teamed up with actress Jackie Cruz (who you’ll likely recognise as Flaca from Orange is the New Black) to put on the Zero Likes Given exhibition in New York! Fabulous pictures without a single like on Instagram will be displayed, to ease the pressure of likes. Speaking of which, the coffee liqueur brand also created the Bottom Nine website, which generates your nine least liked pictures on Instagram! Go on, try it. We promise it’ll be funny.

Have a wonderful, phone-free weekend, folks!

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Terroir in spirits: the myths and the marketing

Nate Brown says that the word ‘terroir’ is becoming increasingly meaningless as producers and marketers deploy it to describe a whole range of inappropriate products. It’s time we stopped using…

Nate Brown says that the word ‘terroir’ is becoming increasingly meaningless as producers and marketers deploy it to describe a whole range of inappropriate products. It’s time we stopped using it.

Terroir is like quantum mechanics. Nobody can fully understand or explain it, though we are all aware of its existence. And much like the refusal of a quantum particle to be independently measured, as soon as I hear the word terroir in spirits, I know it isn’t at play. It vanishes at the sound of its name, like the opposite of Beetlejuice.

But for the purposes of this article, I’ll offer my own interpretation. Terroir is the flavour imparted by the idiosyncrasies of the location of its production. It’s a word owned by the wine world. It speaks not only of microclimates, polycultures, soils and sunlight, but also of tradition, culture, history and identity. Terroir is introspective. Terroir is retrospective. 

All very lofty. Perhaps I should explain what terroir is not. Terroir is not foraged local botanicals thrown in with sourced imports. Terroir is not a meaningless buzz-word employed by uncreative creatives. Terroir is not synonymous with small batch. Or ethos. Or foraged. Or local. Or mountainside. Or handmade.

Grace O’ Reilly from Waterford in Ireland

“The terroir, [is not] the process and the people ensure passion, innovation and tradition are poured into every bottle of Caorunn Gin”, according to a certain master distiller. There. I fixed it. 

Just for the record, claiming terroir in gin is pretty much always nonsense. Chances of you growing your own source material, fermenting it with wild yeast, then undoing all that hard work by distilling to 96%+ ABV, before sourcing juniper form Macedonia and orange peel from Seville pretty much makes a mockery of your idea of terroir. Because let’s face it, you’ve bought in your spirit, and your handful of locally-foraged botanicals aren’t going to cut it.

Similarly, rum has little claim to the word. I shan’t argue that some distilleries display characteristic styles, but where does the molasses come from? Some may be local. Most of it is shipped in bulk from Guyana. A rum company that imports spirit from a plethora of islands, making no reference to the molasses source, and part ages the product in Europe in French oak, should not be using the term terroir, grand or otherwise. 

As for whisky? Not likely. The overwhelming majority of Scotch produced uses barley from outside Scotland. There are those, like the chaps at Bruichladdich who source individual fields grown by local farmers, and as these ferment there’s a case for terroir. But if the distillation wasn’t destructive enough, the distillate is then aged in mostly American casks, or ex-sherry butts, all of which are most likely made from quercus alba, which isn’t even grown on this continent. Don’t tell me there’s terroir after all of that. 

That’s why vodka can probably use the term. There’s so little of anything else, that if the source starch is from a unique place, then its shadow grows long and reaches the bottle. Vestal does this well with some niche expressions made from individual potato varieties. Belvedere does it too. The other 99.9999% of vodka does not. As for Tequila & mezcal? Well, OK, maybe they have a claim, the blancos at least. 

Terroir can exist in spirits, barely, like fading colours of a painting left in decades of the afternoon sun, but until the likes of Waterford start delivering it in whiskey, it just doesn’t yet.

Not that any of that matters. It doesn’t take a genius (or a well-funded PR campaign) to see that a change in the source material will indeed change the resulting product. Stills aren’t that efficient (thank goodness or we’d all be drinking vanilla flavoured vodka). But, terroir exists in wine because there we have fermentation, followed perhaps by some subtle ageing, (and the low ABV of the ferment minimises cask influence) followed by bottling. Sure, there may be some filtration and other manipulations, but in a good wine there should be no greater influence than the grapes and the fermentation, without distillation to eviscerate terroir’s legacy. 

Nate Brown

Nate Brown in action behind the bar

So yes, talk about local provenance, sure. Incorporate your heritage and your surroundings by all means, but don’t use terroir. Try ‘sense of place’. Or ‘parochial’. Wouldn’t parochial spirits be a nicer term to band around? Because we really have to draw the line at a terroir-inspired (glass, blue highlighted) bottle design. Give me a break. 

I personally believe that terroir in spirits is possible, but I cannot reconcile this scale and commercialisation. I can fantasise about a poitin maker in the hills of Galway, growing his own grains and spuds for his tea, putting a bushel aside to ferment with wild yeasts, a rough, basic single distillation to ‘up the burn’ to ‘make something worth drinking, boy’, all done on a homemade still made from scrap parts and an old bucket. This is how his Daddy did it. And his Daddy before him. This is how he’ll teach his nephew to do it. This is terroir, it’ll be found in the place where the word has never been mentioned. See? It’s quantum. 

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.  

 

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The Nightcap: 12 July

It’s Friday which means it’s time for the news. This week we’ve go a celeb booze special with Jon Bon Jovi, Breaking Bad, Charlie Sheen and cocktails named after your…

It’s Friday which means it’s time for the news. This week we’ve go a celeb booze special with Jon Bon Jovi, Breaking Bad, Charlie Sheen and cocktails named after your favourite Tory politicians. Plus two Johnnie Walker stories. Double trouble.

As the country gets steamier, the need for high quality refreshment increases. So, we hope you’ve prepared a suitably delicious drink to accompany this week’s Nightcap. Without wishing to blow our own trumpets, there’s some particularly interesting, amusing and surprising stories, so do read to the end. Maybe make yourself another drink. But first, let’s have a recap of the week on the blog:

We announced the winner of our Spirit of America competition! Elsewhere, Ian Buxton was on hand to ask some questions over a recent claim by Glenfiddich Distillery, while Annie enjoyed some British apple brandy and looked at the science behind the dreaded hangover. Meanwhile, Adam reported back from a a sobering Imbibe 2019, then talked the Sexton Single Malt whiskey with its creator Alex Thomas before kicking off our Rum Month coverage by picking a bold, spicy rum as our New Arrival of the Week! Henry then made the delightfully refreshing Slingshot his Cocktail of the Week.

Johnnie Walker Blue Label

The snappily-titled Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost and Rare Glenury Royal will be available soon

New Johnnie Walker Ghost & Rare release revealed

The third release in Johnnie Walker’s  Blue Label Ghost & Rare series highlighting lost distilleries is here (well, nearly, you’ll have to wait until October to get your hands on it). This latest edition celebrates Glenury Royal, a distillery that was founded in 1825, by Captain Robert Barclay (for some reason there are a lot of Captains in Scotch whisky history), but closed in 1985. It’s not the only lost distillery in the blend, there’s Cambus, a grain distillery that closed in 1993, and Pittyvaich, a Speyside malt distillery that was demolished in 2003, too and five non-ghostly distilleries, Glen Elgin, Inchgower, Glenlossie, Cameronbridge and Glenkinchie. Master blender Jim Beveridge said: “We have waited patiently for that moment when we turn our thoughts to this exceptionally rare whisky, carefully watching over our maturing casks until the time was right to explore its uniquely indulgent character”. Some single malt purists might think it a crime to blend such rare whiskies but having tried a little sample, we have to disagree; it’s absolutely sumptuous with layers of dark chocolate, dried apricot, orange peel and fudge. All this for £275 for a 70cl bottle.

Bendict Ainsworth

Benny Ainsworth at the head of the table declaiming a little Shakespeare

Shall I compare thee to Santenay? 

Wine and food matching is old hat and putting drink with music so last year; the latest thing is booze and poetry. Coin Events and Shelved Wine are putting on a series of events called ‘Shakespeare and Wine’ which unsurprisingly consists of someone reading Shakespeare while you drink specially-chosen wine. Not just anyone though, at each event the lines will be declaimed by a trained actor alongside wines chosen by a top sommelier, for example Valentino Minotti from the Hakkasan Restaurant and Benny Ainsworth (who you will be pleased to know, has played the Dane.) The creator of the series of events Adam Burak said: ““We recognised with disappointment that all the wine tasting experiences are almost the same. They have their essential elements and sophisticated art, but we were eager to give more. We aimed to explore a brand new multi-sensory experience. ‘Shakespeare and Wine’ is a joyful conversation between actor, sommelier, and the guests about love, wine, passion, and poetry.” The evenings start in August and will take place twice a month in a variety of “secret locations” around London. Oooh mysterious! Perhaps after Shakespeare, the company could turn its attention to other poets such as Burns: “my love is like a red red rosé ” has a certain ring to it.

Breaking Bad

Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul from Breaking Bad

Celebrity agave rush with Charlie Sheen and Breaking Bad 

Move over Chris Noth and Clooney and co, there’s a new Tequila player in town – and it is none other than celebrity bad boy Charlie Sheen. The tee-total actor surprised us all when he announced he’d taken a stake in Don Sueños and joined the team as co-owner. Founded in 2017, the brand offers a range of Tequilas, all made from Blue Weber agave. Sheen joins Kumiko Zimmerman as co-owner.“As a native of Japan, where fine spirits are quite popular, I’m well aware of what goes into making a superior product, as well as the importance of having a strong team to promote the brand and tell our story.” she said.  “We believe Charlie will be a great addition to team Don Sueños.” said Zimmerman. Sheen himself added: “When the company reached out to me with an opportunity to get involved with their organisation, I was instantly interested and excited, as, in the past, Don Sueños’ Tequila Blanco was one of my favorite sipping spirits due to its superior taste and quality. While I am proud of my sobriety for over 19 months now and am firmly committed to living a clean and sober lifestyle, I chose to become a part owner of Don Sueños because I know their tequila is of the highest quality. I’m excited to be able to work with Kumiko and the team to help Don Sueños continue to grow and to bring awareness, both to its outstanding products and to the charitable organisations it supports.” There we go. But that’s not the only celebrity agave story this week, as we have just learned the Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul from Breaking Bad have launched their own brand of mezcal called Dos Hombres. Those Hollywood types sure do love Mexican spirits.

Look how tall the Cambridge agave flower is!

Cambridge agave plant flowers for the first time in 57 years

Forget Mexico, nowadays if you want to go and see a flowering agave you only have to travel as far as Cambridge! Cambridge University Botanic Garden has been nurturing an agave plant since 1962, and it began flowering on 19 June. The flower is already three feet tall, growing 12cm in just 24 hours at one point last week, and is showing no signs of stopping. Wild agave can grow up to six feet tall when flowering. The folks tending the plant are even planning to take out the top glass panels from the greenhouse. Its growth rate is literally through the roof! The bad news is once the plant has flowered it will die, though horticulturalists over in Cambridge reckon it could be another month before it fully blooms. Of course the real question is, can we make mezcal from it? Nobody can be sure exactly what species it is until it flowers, they believe it may be the Agave heteracantha species, but alas, the garden did confirm that this particular agave can’t be used to produce any tasty spirits. Even so, that’s one impressive plant.

Macallans

Rare Macallans go under the hammer tonight!

Rare Macallans go under the hammer

Starting from 5pm today a bumper quantity of rare whiskies will be up for auction on the Just Whisky website. This includes a 72 year old Macallan in a Lalique crystal decanter that was released to celebrate the opening of the company’s new distillery last year. Other notable Macallans include the aptly-named ‘The New Range Rover’ which was bottled in the 1990s to commemorate the launch of a new Range Rover; a 50 year old 1949 in a Caithness Glass Millennium decanter; the 1948 Select Reserve and a 52 Year Old, which recently went for £58,000 on Just Whisky, a record for the company. Graham Crane, director at Just Whisky, said: “Every now and then an auction line-up comes along that has collectors and aficionados on the edge of their seats with excitement. This is one of those times. We are delighted to offer such high quality lots in July’s auction and includes some incredibly rare bottles which you won’t find at retail or in the resale market for years. The price for Macallan has gone through the roof with demand resulting in new, age statement releases being sold for tens of thousands of pounds more than the original retail price and non age statement selling for up to 800% more that the retail price within a month.” The auction runs until Sunday 21st July. Better start collecting those pennies now.

The Clean Vic

A Seedlip cocktail

An alcohol free pub, whatever next?

In a move that is sure to have booze traditionalists muttering into their real ale, a new pub has been announced that will sell no or low alcohol drinks, and nothing else. On the 24 and 25 July the Old Crown in Holborn, London will only be serving drinks containing less than 0.5% ABV. It’s a takeover by Sainsbury’s who are calling it the ‘Clean Vic’, geddit?, and will be serving drinks by Seedlip, and the world’s first alcoholic ‘whiskey’ Celtic Soul. Anne Cooper, buyer at Sainsbury’s, said: “We’re seeing a really exciting spike in the no and low alcohol category, which has been growing since 2001. From speaking to customers, we know there is still some uncertainty about what these no and low alcohol products taste like and how they are made. So, our specially curated workshops in the Clean Vic will help customers learn more about these drinks, providing key tasting notes given by the experts.” So put on your most sensible trousers and get down to Holborn this July. You know it makes sense.

Jon Bon Jovi

Jon Bon Jovi and son enjoying some rosé

Jon Bon Rosé launches in the UK

Top soft metaller Jon Bon Jovi’s pink wine produced in collaboration with his son Jesse Bongiovi and Gérard Bertrand launches in the UK this week. And for some unfathomable reason it’s not called Jon Bon Rosé nor is it called Bed of  Rosés (after the band’s 1993 power ballad). Instead it’s been named Hampton Water, apparently that was Jesse Bongiovi’s idea, after the Hamptons where rich New Yorkers go on holiday. So the name is a bit rubbish but the wine, as you might expect from one of France’s top winemaker’s is excellent. It’s a blend of Grenache, Cinsault and Mourvèdre from the Languedoc and has already picked up some rave reviews in the States. MoM were given some to try and we give the contents a big thumbs up. Though someone should tell the Bongiovi family what a Hampton is in Cockney rhyming slang so Hampton Water sounds a bit like. . .  oh, never mind. You can work it out for yourself.

Johnnie Walker highball collection

Serving suggestion

Are Highballs the future? Johnnie Walker thinks so

Refreshing, easy-sipping and oh-so delicious – the Highball is certainly a versatile serve. And now Diageo’s blended Scotch behemoth Johnnie Walker is hoping to ‘elevate’ the drink through a new global campaign. “The popularity of the whisky highball is soaring right now – and it’s easy to see why,” said John Williams, Johnnie Walker global brand director. “It’s where the ease and refreshing taste of a cool beer meets the colourful, visceral world of cocktails. And for those who think they ‘won’t like whisky’ it’s a real game-changer.” So what is the brand going to be doing in its quest for Highball domination? There’s a focus on mixing the whisky with five key flavours: peach, lemon, green tea, elderflower and ginger, in the Johnnie Walker Highball Collection. It’s designed to appeal to non-Scotch drinkers, but, to be fair, they all sound pretty good to us, too. Expect to see loads of ads across, digital activity and experiential goings on, alongside in-bar and in-store activations. And if you live in a “trendsetting neighbourhood”, to quote the release, you’ll be first in line to see the campaign. “We’ve celebrated the highball at Johnnie Walker for the last few years, but with the trend for longer drinks on the rise, it feels like now is the right time to really explode the amazing possibilities which this category can offer,” Williams added. Highball, anyone?

The winning bidder Rogan Chester with his prize

Gin created at the top of Mount Snowdon becomes one of the UK’s most expensive

The award-winning Aber Falls Distillery has made history this week with the first gin to be distilled at the top of Mount Snowdon after it was sold at a charity auction for a staggering £1,085 (which, fittingly, is the same height in metres as Mount Snowdon). The sale has made it one of the UK’s most expensive gins, and given that of the three bottles made there was only bottle made available for the public, it is also one of the rarest gins in the world. The first distillery of its kind in North Wales for more than 100 years produced the bottle of Summit Gin: Mountaineers Cut using botanicals picked from the side of Mount Snowdon, which had to be specially approved by the local government given the area’s protected status. “It’s not my usual thing to spend this much money on a rare bottle of alcohol but I was fortunate to have a little win on the Grand National and was looking for an investment,” said the winning bidder, Rogan Chester, a 29-year-old man from Porthmadog. “To be the owner of the most expensive bottle of Welsh gin, and one of the most expensive in the UK is a surreal feeling, but I’m a proud Welshmen and hopefully it will be worth a bit more in the future.” Congratulation to Mr. Chester, who we are not even remotely jealous of. Nope. Not at all. Not one bit. Nada.

Dark'n Tory

This is a Dark N’ Tory, looks rather nice actually

And finally, Dark n’ Tory anyone? 

For those who like a little satire in their drink, the Blue Boar Bar at the Conrad London St. James’ is offering cocktails inspired (that’s not quite the right word, is it?) by the Conservative party. The menu will be launched on Thursday 18 July with a special evening with cartoonist David Lewis in the house to do caricatures of guests. Customers at the bar, a well-known politicos hangout, will be able to choose between a Maygarita, a Boris on the Rocks and a Dark n’ Tory. Hurry, they won’t be around for long. The cocktails that is, what did you think we meant?

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The winner of our Spirit of America competition is…

Just over a week ago we announced our Spirit of America competition in honour of 4th of July, because even if we don’t celebrate it over on this side of…

Just over a week ago we announced our Spirit of America competition in honour of 4th of July, because even if we don’t celebrate it over on this side of the Atlantic, we can celebrate delicious American spirits! Now’s the time to announce the winner…

Our all-American haul contained some of our favourite spirits from the USA, with FEW Bourbon, Balcones Baby Blue Corn, Bluecoat American Dry Gin, Ragtime Rye Whiskey, St. George Terroir Gin and last but not least, Widow Jane 10 Year Old. That’s right, six fabulous spirits! What’s more, all you had to do to enter was get yourself on Instagram (if you’re not already – come on people, it’s 2019!), follow @MasterofMalt, like this picture and tag the three friends you wanted to share the bundle with. 

Spirit of America

Time to get into the (American) spirit

Now, of course, 4th of July has been and gone, as has our exciting competition. The winner is…

Emma Kaye from Newport!

Congratulations Emma (and your three lucky friends, who let’s be honest, you have to share this with now) and thanks to everyone who took part. We hope your 4th of July was fabulous, however you spent it!

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