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Master of Malt Blog

Author: Master of Malt

Why don’t bars serve good coffee?

Nate Brown loves a good cocktail and he loves a good cup of coffee. So why, he asks, do so few bars in Britain do both well? A great coffee…

Nate Brown loves a good cocktail and he loves a good cup of coffee. So why, he asks, do so few bars in Britain do both well?

A great coffee served alongside a Whisky Highball, a bitter espresso in the same sitting as a clean Negroni, an americano and an Americano. Little moments of heaven. Or so I imagine. Because as delightful as these sound, the chance of me getting a decent coffee where I can get a decent drink is frankly slim to none. There are exceptions, of course. However, on the whole, the coffee that bars serve is so usually embarrassingly, insultingly terrible.

It shouldn’t be like this. After all, coffee is a mixed drink, prepared to order and delivered. A few rounds of Martinis followed by a bright, bitter espresso can be the shortcut to why we go to bars in the first place.  And if that’s a bit too much for you, the rise of low-ABV drinking walks hand-in-hand with the coffee world. In theory, they’re the same thing. In practice, the bar world has all but turned its back on the bean. Which is a bloody error. If I meet a colleague, we shouldn’t have to choose between going for a coffee or a for a drink.

Espresso

Wouldn’t that look even better with a Negroni on the side?

And don’t talk to me about margins. I’m not advocating replacing drinks with coffee, I’m talking about additional quality offerings. There is something contemptuous about the token hot drinks offering. If you’re going to do it, do it well; your guests deserve better. I asked one of the precious few who has migrated from booze into coffee and back again what his thoughts were. “Bars cannot be fucked,” was his response. This is more depressing than it first appears, because bars should be there for the guest, not for the ego of the bartender.

Is it a culture clash? Do those baristas that embrace the pull of espresso exist in the energy of the morning, and the shot-slugging bartender crew arise only for the glamour and sex of the evening? If so, then they’re missing a trick because guests no longer define their days in this on-duty/off-duty dichotomy. Why do bars and coffee shops?  Last month’s Coffee Festival showed some of these cultural differences in the cruel light of day. The general atmosphere between the dozens and dozens of competing soft drinks brands, espresso machineries, roasters, and merchandisers was jovial, friendly and positive. The booze additions, however, brought scandal. Mr Black’s juvenile attempt to undermine Tia Maria was ill-judged, especially considering that Tia Maria was one of the main sponsors for the event. The brandishing of spiteful stickers was at least appropriately childish. It was a stunt that may have impressed bartenders, but to a coffee crowd it was generally seen as darn right bitchy. Shame on us.

Moreover, coffee is growing up. The processes involved in bringing bean to cup have clear parallels with distillation. Washed processing, like column distillation, creates cleaner flavours; in contrast, natural processing is the pot distillation of the coffee world, producing bolder funkier flavours..And then there’s terroir: try beans from Ethiopia for berry-like fruit, like, say Pinot Noir; or beans from El Salvador for a richer, maltier flavour. See where I’m going with this? Perfect fodder for today’s more aware guest.

Sure, to some, the coffee and alcohol crossover manifests itself as the increasingly popular Espresso Martini and no further. This is hardly surprising, given the general disregard given to the coffee by bartenders. Just once, I’d love to have an Espresso Martini that celebrates and showcases the coffee. Nespresso Ne-no-no.

Nate Brown

Nate Brown, don’t make him choose between coffee and booze

Bars have a duty to provide a third-place world for their guests. And yes, they are guests, not customers. We are in hospitality, not retail. It makes a difference. And when we position the emphasis on providing a welcoming, affordable place for our guests to enjoy, to escape into, to mingle in and connect, the drinks we serve become mere vehicles for this hospitality.

Indeed, the drinks we serve have to excite and entice, to create conversations and provide intrigue and value. This is exactly what coffee can do just as well as booze. Hell, the word ‘Barista’ even means ‘bar-tender’. It’s about time bars realised this. Time to wake up and smell how crap your coffee is.

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 April

A meeting of master distillers and blenders, $1,000 Mint Juleps and secret whisky history – The Nightcap has all these stories and more! It’s Friday once again, and, like clockwork,…

A meeting of master distillers and blenders, $1,000 Mint Juleps and secret whisky history – The Nightcap has all these stories and more!

It’s Friday once again, and, like clockwork, we’ve got another batch of news stories from the world of booze ready and waiting in The Nightcap. In fact, it’s almost as if we assembled a team of engineers and bribed them with the tastiest cocktails they could ever imagine to build us Nightcap-bot 3000 to produce these stories. Of course, that’s simply hogwash. We definitely have not done that, and we absolutely don’t disguise Nightcap-bot 3000 as a fridge when people visit the editorial team’s realm within MoM Towers to make it look like we’re very busy. We’re also not scared that Nightcap-bot 3000 will one day replace and potentially eat us all.

On the blog this week, guest writer Ian Buxton pondered whether whisky could crash in his first post for us, while Annie explored cocktails that have a way with words, then talked to Talisker about its new bartender competition Wild Spirit. Henry’s Cocktail of the Week was the classic Gin & Tonic in celebration of National Gin & Tonic Day, and Martini & Rossi’s new super fruity vermouth Fiero caught his eye for New Arrival of the Week. Kristy explored a fancy new Scotch from Glenmorangie, while Adam tasted a 47 Year Old Mortlach expression, then looked at Littlemill’s historical claim. If that wasn’t enough, here’s the rest of the week’s news!

The Nightcap

Take a look at Islay’s first new distillery for nearly 15 years!

New Islay distillery Ardnahoe opens its doors

The opening of a Scotch whisky distillery is always an event, but there’s something particularly special about a new one on Islay. Today Ardnahoe, the first new distillery on the island since 2005, was officially opened by the Rt Hon Lord Robertson of Port Ellen. Stewart Laing, managing director of Hunter Laing, the family-owned company which has invested £12m in the project, commented: “Since working as a teenager at Bruichladdich Distillery over 50 years ago, I have had a huge affinity with Islay and its malt whiskies. When we decided to build our own distillery, there was only one possible location. We have built a great team to manage the distillery and run the visitor centre and in a few years’ time we will be able to drink a great whisky in the classic Islay style, staying true to the island’s heritage with a heavily peated malt.” The spirit should be full of character as it will be made using wooden washbacks, Scottish-made lamp glass stills and worm tub condensers (the only distillery on the island to use them), and it will be aged in ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks. The great master distiller Jim McEwan advised on the project. With such pedigree, it’s no surprise that Hunter Laing has already pre-sold 400 casks of spirit. Team MoM is flying out to Islay on Monday to bring you the full story. Watch this space.

Jameson unveils new commercial for Taste, That’s Why campaign

Jameson Irish Whiskey unveiled the next instalment of its sassy Taste, That’s Why advertising platform this week. New commercial The Bartenders’ Gathering is set in Dublin in 2016, and tells the true story of 200 global bartenders at the brand’s annual three-day immersive and educational summit of the same name. It all looks very trendy and fun, with shots of distilleries, whiskey, bars, food, music and some lovely Irish countryside, as well as an unexpected twist. Some of the bartenders interrupt a distillery trip to go to a library (we’re just kidding, that isn’t it). “As we unveil the next chapter in the Taste, That’s Why story, we wanted to highlight Jameson’s revered position among bartenders as they have been instrumental to our success in the USA and around the world over the past 29 years,” said Simon Fay, international marketing director at Irish Distillers. “The new spot conveys the true spirit of the annual Bartenders’ Gathering in a high octane but light-hearted manner with a twist of Irish humour – it’s exactly what you’d expect from Jameson, and will help us to further build the profile and personality of the brand supporting equity growth into the future.”

The Nightcap

The wonderful Joy Spence of Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum

Campari launches Meet the Master, bringing together four drinks luminaries

Where can you see the master distillers and blenders behind Wild Turkey, Appleton Estate, Grand Marnier and Glen Grant all in one place? At Carlton House Terrace in London’s Mayfair from 14-16 May, when Campari UK launches Meet the Masters. The event will bring together more than 140 combined years of talent and expertise in one location. The line-up includes Joy Spence of Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum, the first woman master blender in the spirits industry; Eddie Russell of Wild Turkey Bourbon, the third generation Russell to work at the distillery; Patrick Raguenaud of Grand Marnier, whose family has been involved in the Cognac industry since 1627; and Dennis Malcolm of Glen Grant, who has worked at the distillery for over five decades. The event will offer tasting sessions with each master, panel discussions, and an opportunity for guests from the drinks industry and beyond to get the masters’ view on the latest industry trends. “With over 140 years of shared experience in the spirits industry between them, Meet the Masters is a must-attend for those who are serious about spirits, the stories behind them, and hungry to know more, in a unique and intimate setting,” said Brad Madigan, managing director at Campari UK. Sounds enlightening!

The Nightcap

The Fèis Ìle 2019 Limited Edition!

Douglas Laing unveils 2019 Fèis Ìle Big Peat bottling

Here at MoM we’re getting very excited about Fèis Ìle, the Islay Festival of Music and Malt that runs from 24 May to 1 June. To celebrate this year’s bash, Douglas Laing will be releasing a very special whisky called Big Peat’s Pals. It’s a blended malt containing whiskies from Ardbeg, Bowmore, Caol Ila and even Port Ellen! So rare. Only 3,300 bottles will be available globally. It’s the 10th anniversary of the much-loved brand and so the packaging of this special edition features the photos of 400 “pals” from all over the world. “By marrying together a fine selection of our preferred single malts, only from Islay, we truly believe we have created the ultimate taste of Islay in Big Peat,” said Douglas Laing director of whisky Cara Laing. “His latest limited edition, the Fèis Ìle 2019 release, pays homage to his friends the world over, over 400 of whom feature proudly on the gift tube. This year, we celebrate 10 years since my father dreamed up Big Peat, and our extensive plans will ensure our Big Islay Pal celebrates in style all over the world!” These plans include a Facebook tasting during Fèis Ìle for members of the Big Peat community, so that fans who can’t get to the island can join in the festivities. Very modern.

The Nightcap

This man is basically Indiana Jones, as far as I’m concerned

Whisky distillery archaeology gets under way in Scotland!

It’s been quite the week when it comes to whisky history. First we heard evidence that Littlemill was Scotland’s ‘oldest’ distillery. Now we’ve got some archaeological goings on at Blackmiddens, an old steading on the border between Moray and Aberdeenshire. It was one of the first distilleries to nab a licence after the Excise Act of 1823. Now, The Cabrach Trust, which preserves the history of the area, is excavating the site to figure out exactly what went down when, with help from Forestry and Land Scotland and Historic Environment Scotland. “For decades local farmers secretly distilled whisky and smuggled it away under the noses of excisemen. Then, when the law was changed to make small-scale whisky production profitable, Blackmiddens was one of the first farms to take advantage of this,” said Anna Brennand, Cabrach Trust chief exec. “Despite the fact that farms like this were famous for their fine quality spirit, whisky production at Blackmiddens stopped just eight years after it began and the farm fell into ruin. We hope to uncover some of the secrets of early whisky making in the Highlands with this exciting dig.” We can’t wait to see what they discover!

The Nightcap

Small-batch Serata Hall gin, anyone?

Serata Hall comes to Old Street

Just a stone’s throw away from Old Street station, a new establishment called Serata Hall opened its doors this week, which we know because we attended the launch party! The new site is Albion & East’s fourth offering alongside sister sites Martello Hall in Hackney, and Canova Hall and Cattivo, both in Brixton. Like its siblings, Serata Hall will make all of its food on-site (we can personally recommend the pizzas), serve tap wine (the biggest selection outside the United States), and provide guests the option to either create their own cocktails or ‘Book a Bartender’, where mixologists conjure up inventive cocktails. There’s also a DJ booth, a daily bakery and hot-desk spaces. But the thing that stands out most for us here at MoM Towers? The in-house distillery. That’s right. Serata Hall features a bespoke still, called ‘Agnes’, which makes small-batch Serata Hall gin, available for visitors to drink at the venue and buy on-site. You can even sign up to gin blending masterclasses, where the master distiller will show you how to blend, bottle and hand-wax two gins, which you then get to name and take away. You also learn how to make three gin cocktails, too. Sounds like a good time to us!

The Nightcap

Move over coffee machines, at-home booze machines have arrived!

Can this at-home booze machine change how we drink?

The future is now, folks. Smart Spirits – a company that produces different types of spirits by mixing water, ethyl alcohol and flavour – has come up with an at-home dispenser designed to make more than 30 different drinks spanning all the major spirits categories using capsules. A bit like those coffee tabs but with actual booze. How does it work? The so-called ‘Taste Of’ flavour capsules mix with neutral grain spirit and/or water to mimic the flavours of different whiskies, gins, rums, vodkas and liqueurs. You can choose the alcohol content (0-40% ABV), and there’s even Bluetooth connectivity, so you can control the whole thing from your smartphone. “We’re delighted to introduce to the market an innovative new way to drink at home,” said Ian Smart, one of the Smart Spirits co-founders. “Smart Spirits taps into the desire of the increasingly sophisticated and tech-savvy consumer to have control of the alcohol in their drinks, at the same time also choice and convenience.” On the one hand, you’ve got an entire drinks cabinet in one. But we reckon we’d miss the sound of the cork popping out of the bottle… the jury’s out on this one. Let us know what you think!

The Nightcap

This is a $1,000 Mint Julep. No, really.

Woodford Reserve unveils $1,000 Julep for the Kentucky Derby

What’s the most you would spend on a cocktail? £9? £15? £21? Well, Woodford Reserve is hoping some punters will be prepared to spend significantly more. To celebrate the 145th Kentucky Derby on 3 and 4 May, the bourbon producer, which is also the race’s official sponsor, has unveiled a $1,000 Mint Julep. Yes, one thousand clams. For that money you’d expect it to contain unicorn tears or at the very least powdered griffin beak. But in reality it’s made with standard Woodford Reserve, a honey syrup that was aged in oak for 145 days, and mint grown at Churchill Downs racetrack where the Derby takes place. The packaging, however, is seriously swanky. For the money you get a silver cup alongside a flask of bourbon, and the whole thing is presented in a wooden box lined with jockey silks. If that’s not lavish enough, there’s a gold version available for $2,500. Only 125 silver and 20 gold will be made. You will be pleased to know that this is not just about conspicuous consumption, all the proceeds go to the John Asher Memorial Scholarship Fund to provide an education for deserving students at Western Kentucky University.

The Nightcap

I defy you not to imagine yourself drinking something wonderful and Japanese here

Nobu and Suntory team up for Hanami experience

How does a showcase of contemporary Japanese craftsmanship with a menu of exclusive cocktails, bespoke dishes and afternoon tea sound to you? Pretty great, right? Well, good, because that’s exactly what Nobu Hotel London Shoreditch and The House of Suntory have put together with Hanami. It’s a celebration of the annual bloom of the Japanese Cherry Blossom, or Sakura, inspired by the ancient practice of dining beneath the blossoming flower. Millions of people from all over the world travel to drink, dance and dine beneath the blossom, but Hanami will bring the spirit of this tradition to London at the newest Nobu restaurant. The bar team at Nobu, led by beverage manager Wilfried Rique, has worked closely with The House of Suntory to create an exciting original menu inspired by its range of premium Japanese spirits, including Toki and Chita Whisky, Roku Gin and the newly-launched Haku Vodka. These are presented with Japanese ingredients, teas and house-made infusions in a menu of seven bespoke cocktails, alongside Nobu-style bar snacks and world class sushi. Visitors to the terrace also have the opportunity to indulge in an exclusive Sakura-inspired Afternoon Tea menu, offering a twist on the classic British tradition. It’s open to the public now, so if this sounds like your cup of tea, then be sure to check it out.

The Nightcap

Marcos Ameneiros Zannone, who will presumably be looking to replace that sticky shaker…

And finally… Bartender gets stuck at Cointreau Margarita contest

There was a hairy moment at this week’s Cointreau Margarita competition at Century House in London, when one of the contestant’s cocktail shaker got stuck. Not an unusual occurrence when mixing cocktails, but after some frantic banging and jimmying from poor Marcos Ameneiros Zannone from Berners Tavern, it became clear that it was well and truly jammed. Meanwhile, the ice inside was slowly melting and diluting the cocktail. And so, the cream of British bartending stepped in and everyone in the room had a go at opening the bloody thing. But nobody could. It was like the sword in the stone from Arthurian Legend. Just in the nick of time, in stepped one of the barmen from Century who managed to prize the recalcitrant shaker open. Zannone poured out his Susanita (which was inspired by Crêpes Suzette), and won the competition. Our Henry was one of the judges, alongside Sandrae Lawrence from The Cocktail Lovers magazine, award-winning bartender Carl Anthony Brown, and Alfred Cointreau himself. The panel also picked a winner from outside London, with Nathan Larkin from Manchester’s plant-based bar Speak in Code taking the title with his Sicolo Mayahuel, a smoky complex drink with an Aztec twist. The two runners-up were Dean Railton from Feed in Leeds, and Leonardo Baggio from Mr Fogg’s Residence. The two winners won lots of Cointreau and a trip to Cannes. Congratulations to all who took part – the standard was sky high – and especially to Zannone for keeping his cool.

That’s it for The Nightcap this week, team. Have awesome weekends!

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Tears before bedtime: are we heading for a whisky crash?

Today we are honoured to introduce Ian Buxton who is going to be writing a series of columns for us. In this his first article he looks back at whisky’s…

Today we are honoured to introduce Ian Buxton who is going to be writing a series of columns for us. In this his first article he looks back at whisky’s turbulent past and asks when the next bust is coming. 

According to Mark Twain, “too much good whiskey is barely enough.”  Well, uncomfortably soon, we might find out if that’s true. Whisky – be that Scotch, American or Irish – has, with monotonous regularity, a very bad habit of shooting off its own foot.  Bear with me: short and grossly simplified history lesson coming up.

whisky crash

Ian Buxton at Glenfiddich

At the end of the 19th century, the Irish whiskey industry, which was heavily invested both financially and emotionally in its large pot stills and regarded grain spirit as ‘sham whisky’ and blending as adulteration, turned its back on the future.  While other factors then came into play, it’s taken the industry more than a century to recover. Our American friends, having just got over the self-inflicted wound of Prohibition, decided that rye was finished and bourbon belonged on the bottom shelf.  That’s taken a while to sort out.

And the Scots, contrary to their national reputation for caution and parsimony, are overly fond of some boom and bust, be it the Pattison crisis of the late 1890s or the closures of the 1920s, which – lesson not learned – were neatly repeated in the mid-1980s when the industry finally confronted the consequences of over-production. Not to be outdone, shortly afterwards, the Japanese industry thought seppuku a smart move. Reacting to economic recession and dropping sales, a series of cutbacks and closures explain why Japanese whisky of any age is so very expensive today.

So, that’s one thing the world of whisky has in common.  Here’s another: we may be on the brink of repeating the same mistake because, wherever you look, distilleries are being expanded and new ones built as if the current good times will never end. The thing is, top-line numbers don’t tell the whole story. While there may be literally thousands of boutique distilleries being built anywhere you can cast a quaich, they don’t actually matter all that much.  Sure, they do if you’re an investor. Furthermore, they add to the gaiety of life and people like me get to write articles about them, but in terms of the volume they add to total production they’re insignificant.

whisky crash

Macallan’s spanking new distillery

If you doubt that, here’s a sum: it would take 125 (that’s one hundred and twenty-five, count ‘em) tiddlers of 100,000 litres annual capacity to equal the output of one Roseisle.  By the way, 100,000 litres is a perfectly decent little distillery: more, for example, than the projected individual outputs of Daftmill, Abhainn Dearg, Strathearn, Eden Mill or Dornoch .  And, while a lot of new boutique distilleries are being built in Scotland, the total doesn’t approach 125.

So, I’m not that worried about the small fry, fascinating though they are.  The problem (if there is one) comes with the less heralded fact that the big are getting very much bigger: Inchdairnie (up to 4 million litres); Ailsa Bay (12.5m); Roseisle (12.5m); Dalmunach (10m); Macallan (15m) and Borders (2m). That’s without considering expansion at Glenfiddich (to 20m), The Glenlivet, Glen Moray (now a 5m-litre plant), Glen Ord, Glenmorangie and the re-opening of Glen Keith.  I could go on.

In fact, I shall.  Exactly the same thing is happening in Kentucky and elsewhere in the USA.  That’s without mentioning the States’ reputed 1,500 plus craft distillers which, however small any one of them may be, does eventually add up to an awful lot of liquor. Expansion in Ireland, chiefly at Tullamore and Midleton, but not forgetting Waterford and Bushmills, has also seen a headlong rush into micro-distilling – which is interesting, given how Jameson continues to dominate the category.  Does the world need twenty or more tiny Irish distilleries? In Japan, following years of under-production and a sudden dramatic rise in demand (and hence those prices), they’re scrambling to catch up.

whisky crash

Artist impression of the new Port Ellen distillery

Now, while you can, of course, keep whisky in cask almost indefinitely, that requires barrels and warehouses, scarce and expensive resources that tax the patience of the most saintly accountant. Because a lot of this expansion has happened within a short period of time, a tsunami of newly-mature spirit can be expected on the market within the next five years.  

In fact, the world has never seen so much whisky. Where will it all go? Who is going to drink it all?

I would like to conclude with the thought that the last time whisky grew this fast it all ended badly. Which is true, but I can’t because whisky has never grown this fast. The size of some of these giant distilleries is unheard of for single malt, and, for the industry as a whole, the scale of expansion is unprecedented. That’s worth thinking about, because it means an unprecedented level of risk of a very messy end to our current golden age.

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.

 

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Google Pay is officially in the building!

Browsing on an Android device right now? We have news for you. Google Pay is live on the site, which means it’s even easier to grab something delicious at Master…

Browsing on an Android device right now? We have news for you. Google Pay is live on the site, which means it’s even easier to grab something delicious at Master of Malt!

What does this mean? Gone is the need to mess about with address and payment deets at check-out. Just let your device do the work! Simply hit the pay button and you’re good to go. Your boozes will be en route to you before you know it!

All you need to do is make sure you’re signed in to your device with your Google account, and then set up your payment options. Once that’s done, just browse Master of Malt and pop what takes your fancy in your basket as per usual (if you want the super-fast experience, instal the Google Pay app). Head to the checkout, tick the Google Pay option and BOOM! It’s cocktail hour.

Google Pay

Google Pay is here!

This is something we’re incredibly excited about. Last month, we got Apple Pay up and running, and now Google Pay is here, too. More and more of you use smartphones to browse the site, check out New Arrivals and read the blog, so we wanted to make it even easier to shop, too!

With Google handling all your details, there’s less typing and more time getting on with your day. You could check out cocktail ideas for your new bottle. Or go down the Buzzfeed quiz rabbit hole. Don’t let anybody tell you that knowing what type of cactus you are is ridiculous.

So. What are you waiting for? Happy shopping!

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The Nightcap: 5 April

It’s been a big week for Irish whiskey, BrewDog, and our very own blog. The Nightcap is here with all the stories from the week! April has arrived, and with…

It’s been a big week for Irish whiskey, BrewDog, and our very own blog. The Nightcap is here with all the stories from the week!

April has arrived, and with it came news both real and fake. Of course, the storied tradition of ‘spend the first morning in April lying through your teeth at every opportunity’ continued this year, but that’s not what we’re here to talk about. We’re here for the news. The newsiest of news! The news built upon facts, but also built upon booze. The Nightcap is held up by those two pillars: facts and booze. Like Stonehenge, except not big rocks.

Anyway, it was a busy week on the MoM Blog, which we colloquially referred to as Blogmageddon here at MoM Towers (we know how to have fun). Henry celebrated the news of Bruichladdich’s plan to build on-site maltings, treated us to a Daiquiri for Cocktail of the Week, and then found out the buzz around mead. Jess showed off Mackmyra Äppelblom for New Arrival of the Week, looked at the announcement of a new distillery in Donegal, Ireland, and finally met batman. Not that one, the other one, the one with the mezcal. Adam took a booze-based tour of Scotland’s whisky regions, and chatted with The Whisky Works’ Gregg Glass. Annie got us all hyped up about the upcoming Scotch whisky distilleries that we can’t wait to visit. We had a guest blog from Nate Brown about how not to launch a new drink, we announced the winner of our Yellow Spot competition, and we launched Google Pay as a payment option. Then we got involved with the whole ‘lying through our teeth thing’ (but then came clean about it). Blogmageddon indeed!

After all that, it’s probably time to bring you what else went down this week!

masons

We wish the team at Masons Gin a speedy recovery

‘Still explosion’ causes fire at Masons Gin distillery

Sad news came from Yorkshire this week. Masons Gin, set up in the Dales six years ago by husband and wife team Cathy and Karl Mason, suffered an explosion. According to numerous reports, one of the stills blew out, causing a major fire. The Masons team put a statement on social media shortly afterwards. “We’d like to thank everybody for their concern and well wishes following a fire at the distillery today,” it read. “We can report that all staff are unharmed and there are no injuries sustained. We’d like to express our thanks to the emergency services and staff at SPAR for their support this morning.” We’re thinking of everyone at the distillery and hope things are back up and running soon.

Dublin-Liberties

A ‘momentous achievement’, says The Irish Whiskey Association

Irish spirits get GI recognition

Top news, folks! Irish whiskey, Irish cream liqueurs and Irish Poitín have all secured geographical indication (GI) status in the EU. What does this mean? Basically, both in the EU and markets that the EU has trade agreements with, a product can only be labelled as Irish whiskey, gin or Poitín if it was made on the island of Ireland to set production methods and standards. Single malt Irish whiskey, pot still Irish whiskey, blended Irish whiskey and grain Irish whiskey were all included in the GI agreement, which the country’s drinks industry first submitted in 2014. It essentially means it will be much harder for people to fake Irish drinks or make misleading statements on non-compliant products. The Irish Whiskey Association called the development a “momentous achievement”, giving the drinks the “strongest possible protection”. Best raise a dram of something Irish!

Pernod Ricard to ban single-use promo plastics by 2025

Global drinks group Pernod Ricard, which owns the likes of Beefeater, Chivas Regal, The Glenlivet and Havana Club, has published its 2030 Sustainability & Responsibility roadmap (see video above). The document sets out eight “ambitious and concrete” targets, each developed to support the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Under Biodiversity, Pernod Ricard has pledged to have a dedicated project with evert affiliate, and as part of Regenerative Agriculture, there will be projects to improve topsoil, watershed and ecosystems in eight wine regions. As part of its Equal Pay and Future Leadership banner, the group has pledged to ensure equal pay by 2022 and gender-balanced top management teams by 2030. Shared Knowledge and Learning will see 10,000 bartenders trained in being anti-waste and plastic-free, and on the topic of Packaging and Waste, all promotional single-use plastic items will be banned by 2025. A Water Balance and Carbon Footprint focus will see the company’s total carbon footprint cut by 50%. Pernod Ricard’s Alcohol Misuse focus will see every affiliate have at least one programme to fight problem drinking; while under the Responsible Party pillar, more than one million young adults will learn about responsible consumption. “These 2030 commitments provide us with a focused framework across our business in helping to address some of the biggest sustainability issues, so consumers can enjoy our products in a convivial and sustainable way,” said Vanessa Wright, VP Sustainability & Responsibility. Go Pernod!

Scotch Whisky collection

The most extensive and famous private whisky collection in the world is set to stay!

Diageo Claive Vidiz Scotch collection to stay in Edinburgh

Anyone who has visited the Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh will remember the Diageo Claive Vidiz collection. The 3,384 bottle-strong haul includes some seriously rare and covetable expressions, including a Buchanan’s whisky bottle dating from 1897! It was Brazilian businessman Claive Vidiz who gathered the collection over 35 years before it was acquired by Diageo in 2009. It’s been on display at the visitor attraction ever since, attracting a whopping 1.5 million whisky fans. And a deal has been struck to keep it in situ for another 10 years! “The Diageo Claive Vidiz Collection is uniquely eclectic, with brands from across the whole industry and ranging from extremely rare bottlings to everyday drams from years gone by. It really gives visitors a fascinating insight into our whisky history,” said Christine McCafferty, Diageo’s chief archivist. The Scotch Whisky Experience has just revamped its display units for the collection, to make sure the bottles are kept in prime condition for the next decade. Susan Morrison, chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Experience, added: “After 10 years of seeing the collection every day we still have the privilege of seeing the reaction of surprise and delight on the faces of each of our visitors as they enter the collection vault for the first time.” We’ll be up again soon!

brewdog

The BrewDog Distilling Co. has arrived (complete with scary wolf)!

BrewDog reveals more spirits, plans a beer hotel

Sound the klaxons, The BrewDog Distilling Co. is here! Yes, BrewDog, responsible for your favourite craft beer, has launched some quite incredible spirits. Although it’s still fairly shrouded in secrecy, here’s what we know. Flagship gin LoneWolf has been on our radar for a while, and is juniper heavy with a touch of lavender. But there’s now another gin, Zealot’s Heart, a small-batch expression “made by zealots for zealots”. Then, we are also treated to Rogue Wave, “a vodka you won’t forget”, dedicated to the co-founder’s cousin, One-Armed Alex, who you can spot on the label. Finally, the distilling team has collaborated with a trio of leading spirit-makers to create the Boilermaker Series, sporting three limited-edition whiskies that are actually designed to be paired with BrewDog craft beer. What a spread! If you think BrewDog has forgotten a certain spirit, fear not. Next on the cards is an authentic spiced rum aged in oak, though you’ll have to wait a little longer for that one. But there’s more! The team has certainly been busy, because this week it also revealed it’s planning the UK’s first craft beer hotel. Known as DogHouse London, it will have its own craft beer museum, fresh craft beer you can pour for yourself in each room, and something called a shower-beer fridge. At least being in the dog house won’t be such a bad thing now. We’ll wag our tails to that, BrewDog!

Glenfiddich

Say hello to the new Glenfiddich UK ambassador: Alex Walker

Meet new Glenfiddich UK brand ambassador, Alex Walker!

We have a new national brand ambassador at Glenfiddich, folks! Independent family distiller William Grant & Sons has confirmed Alex Walker has taken on the role with immediate effect. Walker, who began his career in Australia before working in prestigious hotels bars The Beaufort Bar at The Savoy and Artesian at The Langham, will be tasked with talking all things Glenfiddich Distillery as often as possible (or ‘elevating brand awareness’, to use the industry term). He’ll also keep up comms between the brand and whisky drinkers, bars and restaurants, retailers and the press. Stephen Rutherford vacated the role after taking up the Glenfiddich UK brand manager position. “Alex has proved himself to be an exceptional candidate and a passionate whisky enthusiast, ticking all of the boxes for the role,” he said. Walker added: “I am extremely excited to be joining the William Grant & Sons UK family. It is a huge honour and privilege to work for a brand that represents over 130 years of history, heritage, and experimentation. I can’t wait to be part of this journey and help craft future success for Glenfiddich!” Congratulations, Alex!

Dewar’s releases film starring Game of Thrones’ Iwan Rheon

To celebrate the launch of its new Double Double range of whiskies, Dewar’s has teamed up with a whole bunch of glitzy actors to produce Four: four short films set in the Savoy Hotel in London. First up is Tuppence Middleton (you might remember her from TV series such as War and Peace and Black Mirror), alongside the likes of Iwan Rheon, who plays the baddest of all the baddies from Game of Thrones, and Jack Farthing from Poldark. The film is named after the four-stage ageing process used in these whiskies (step 1: ageing individual grains and malts separately; step 2: blending malts together and ageing, blending grains together and ageing; step 3: marrying the two; step 4: finishing in sherry casks). The Double Double (2+2=4, geddit?) range consists of three luxury age-statement whiskies: a 21 year old finished in oloroso casks; a 27 year old finished in palo cortado wood; and a 32 year old finished in PX barrels. We had a sneak preview with master blender Stephanie Macleod (at the Savoy, natch) and were extremely impressed. According to Macleod, the special ageing process is all about “the pursuit of smoothness”. It’s not unusual these days for drinks brands to make starry promotional films but, Macleod reminded us, Dewar’s was the first. Tommy Dewar commissioned a cinema advert for his whisky way back in 1898. Now there was a man ahead of his time.

talisker

It’s the Wild Spirit tour and bartender competition!

Talisker kicks off Wild Spirit tour and bartender competition

Isle of Skye’s Talisker Distillery has launched a fancy new bartender training programme and competition – the Wild Spirit Whisky Tour! That’s right, no more Race to Skye. Instead, we’ve got a new initiative which kicks off with a 20-stop UK-wide Wild Spirit Whisky Tour inspired by Talisker’s ‘Made by the Sea’ campaign. It runs until 19 April, and events will be delivered by Talisker brand ambassador Jason Clark. He’ll educate bartenders on the distillery’s history and production, and will explore Wild Spirit cocktail techniques. Once that’s wrapped up, bartenders will be invited to submit a Wild Spirit serve, from 20 April to 15 May, on behalf of their bar. The three bars chosen by a judging panel will win a Talisker Wild Spirit adventure for three members of staff! “For two years running, Talisker’s Race to Skye competition was a huge success and we’ve been delighted with the support and excitement received from the nation’s bartenders,” said Clark. “This year, we’ve mixed things up a little and have advanced the event into an all-new training programme and competition, the Talisker Wild Spirit Whisky Tour, which aims to reach and engage as many bartenders as possible.”

Tempus Fugit Spirits

The Tempus Fugit Spirits range was on show at Ziggy’s Bar at the Hotel Cafe Royal

Tempus Fugit Spirits eyes up cocktail bars

We found ourselves at Ziggy’s Bar at Hotel Cafe Royal last week for an extra-special tasting of Tempus Fugit Spirits. Founded in 2007 by John Troia, the brand’s birth coincided with the reintroduction of absinthe into America. Troia and his partner collected old absinthes and paraphernalia, so when the ban was lifted in 2007 they decided to corner the market. And now time has come for a push into cocktail bars! Tempus Fugit has an expansive portfolio of liqueurs and digestifs, as well as many absinthes. The range of spirits are all made from historic recipes, dating back to the 19th century. Including Gran Classico Bitter, Creme de menthe and Fernet del Frate. Jack Hanlon made some fabulous cocktails with the spirits, including a 20th-century cocktail using Creme de Cacao, Kina L’Aero D’Or and gin, and a Banana Bliss from the Cafe Royal Cocktail Book 1937 using Creme de Banane and Cognac. Yum.

hangover free alcohol

You can always avoid a hangover by drinking responsibly, of course

And finally… could hangover-free alcohol actually become A Thing?

While we always intend to drink responsibly, many people have, on occasion, slightly over-indulged. The resulting hangover is NOT fun. So we read a story from Food & Wine this week with interest. A chap called David Nutt from Imperial College London has been working on something called ‘alcosynth’ for some time. It’s billed as a synthetic form of alcohol that gives you all the fun effects but none of the nasties. Up until now, he’s not been too optimistic about the timeline, suggesting it could replace regular alcohol by 2050. But there’s been a development! Apparently, he’s consumed the stuff himself already, and has cut the projected pipeline to a mere five years! The bad side? Nutt says he has to mix it with fruit juices to mask the taste. We’re not sure what the alternative is if you’re into Martinis or Negronis, but if a super-sweet Piña Colada floats your boat, you could be hangover-free before you know it. But remember, folks – sip, don’t gulp.

And that’s a wrap for this week, folks. We hope you enjoyed The Nightcap – have a tip top weekend.

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We’re Icons of Whisky’s Online Retailer of the Year!

MUCH excitement, folks. Last week we were named Icons of Whisky’s Online Retailer of the Year 2019 – and we’re still not over it! On Thursday we donned our glad…

MUCH excitement, folks. Last week we were named Icons of Whisky’s Online Retailer of the Year 2019 – and we’re still not over it!

On Thursday we donned our glad rags and headed up to London for the Whisky Magazine Awards. As did a whole host of distillers, brand ambassadors and bartenders – just being there was super exciting.

The likes of Teeling Whiskey 24 Years Old Vintage Reserve, Four Roses 130th Anniversary 2018 Limited Edition Small Batch, and Hibiki 21 Years Old all took home major awards (for World’s Best Single Malt, World’s Best Bourbon and World’s Best Blended Whisky respectively). Tobermory and Bunnahabhain parent Distell won Distiller of the Year, and Angela D’Orazio of Mackmyra and Mike Miyamoto from Suntory were inducted into Whisky Magazine’s Hall of Fame. It was a cracking evening of great whiskies and wonderful company. What more could you want?

Online Retailer of the Year 2019 Icons of Whisky

(L-R) Justin Petszaft, group managing director; Kristiane Sherry, editor; and Jake Mountain, campaign manager, pick up the Online Retailer of the Year award from Rob Allanson, Whisky Magazine editor

THEN we were named Icons of Whisky’s Online Retailer of the Year 2019!

This means so much to us. The Icons of Whisky accolades are voted for by the drinks trade, and it’s incredibly special to be recognised by our peers. And it’s the seventh time in eight years we’ve won Online Retailer of the Year. The whole team is still buzzing days on!

Icons of Whisky Online Retailer of the Year trophy

Most importantly though, a HUGE thank you to you, our epic customers. We love bring delicious, delicious drinks to the world, and we literally couldn’t do it without you. Thank you for supporting us, sticking with us, and making us your booze purveyor of choice. Here’s to you!

 

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How (not) to launch a drinks product

Today, we are delighted to announce a new series of columns from writer and former bar owner Nate Brown. This week he takes a not entirely serious look at how…

Today, we are delighted to announce a new series of columns from writer and former bar owner Nate Brown. This week he takes a not entirely serious look at how to launch a new drinks brand…

There has been an explosion of new products launched over the last couple of years. Every week we are introduced to something ‘new’. From so-called craft distilleries to the big boys, any excuse to launch a new expression will be hunted down and executed. We’re bombarded with whisky from TV shows (we definitely needed those), more pink gin expressions (really?) and so many cask finishes it’s a wonder there are any trees left standing.

There is one thing all these newbies have in common, and that’s the launch night. Get it right and the entire industry will be abuzz. Get it wrong and the entire industry, well, will be abuzz also. With so many launches to ‘enjoy’, you’d think the industry would have arrived at a fairly formulaic process: invite guests, show off, have a nice time. Everyone leaves a little wiser and a little happier. But oh no. No, no, double no. Again and again, a product launch party rolls around that makes my jaw drop, and not because someone is pouring something delicious. You’d think the hospitality industry would be better at hospitality. You’d be wrong.  

To illustrate this, I have collated a few steps of how not to launch a product. All of these have happened. Most of these have happened more than once. Some are repeated again and again and for the love of Christ, I have no idea why. Please don’t try this at home.

Nate Brown

Nate Brown in his natural habitat

Step 1

Choose a suitable location for the launch. Chances are you won’t have bothered with your own distillery, and instead contracted out production. Without a distillery, the world is your oyster. How freeing! Choose your favourite zeitgeist bar, preferably somewhere in whatever suburb of London you live. Just make sure that it’s a blank canvas, or at least has an identity of its own that has nothing whatsoever to do with yours. You know how confused journalists get, must be all that drinking! A cunning trick is to send the stock as late as possible, or maybe not at all, to make sure those pesky bartenders don’t drink any beforehand. Sure, you could partner with someone whose brand story overlaps with yours, and they could bring a host of folks to your party, but this is your party, why let them steal your limelight? Exposure is measured in seconds, people!

Step 2

It’s important to remind everyone of how cool you are, and how hard you’ve worked. This should be a party, and when do parties happen? Why, Friday nights of course! It’s not as if people will have anything better to do.

Step 3

With your raison d’être, a date and neutral location sorted, next is the guest list. There are two schools of thought: one is to invite industry players, although bar managers, bartenders, bar owners are all too flaky to come to things like this. I mean, if they can’t be trusted to sack off the bar for a Friday party celebrating how hard you’ve worked and how cool your brand is, then to hell with them. What do they know? The second, time-honoured approach is to invite the stalwarts of the trade press. It’s their job to report on what you do, which makes it a doddle. They won’t even need explanations, hosting or entertaining, and they’ll still pop a lovely little mention of how cool you are and how hard you’ve worked online. Everyone’s a winner, especially you. Now that’s value.

One thing we can agree on is do not, under any circumstances, invite those with a social media presence. Sure, they may have thousands of eager followers who hang on their every word and buy the most ridiculous skincare placebos for buckets of cash, but they don’t work in the industry, so you’d have to spend your entire evening curating some sort of explanation of the processes behind your wonderful brand. If they don’t know how exactly a Coffey Still works they’re beyond help.  Nah, just ignore them. This social media fad has no power and will never catch on anyway.

Having a great time!

They’re lovin’ it!

Step 4

That’s the guest list sorted. Now the easy bit the running of the evening. It’s a product launch; all your guests know the score and each other. Just have them turn up around 7pm and your work here is done. Better make sure they get some drinks, but this spirits game is an expensive business, so don’t go crazy. If you have a cheaper expression, offer them that instead. Bespoke cocktails are overrated. And bartenders all of a sudden seem to know their worth, so any Tom or Dick will do. Better still, just put an arbitrary cash tab behind the bar, that way your guests don’t even have to drink your brand. Remember, the slower the drinks flow, the longer the free bar lasts, the cooler this party looks. Simples.

Step 5

It is wise to avoid looking like you (or anyone for that matter) are in charge. Keep people guessing, it’ll give the guests something to talk about. Otherwise, you’ll spend the entire evening answering questions and putting out fires. It’s your job to start the fires. Look hot. Maybe get your flirt on. Alternatively, have that one member of your team you dislike the most wearing a branded tee (you can get these done super cheap online). That way they can act as question fodder for the annoyingly curious attendees, leaving you free to chat up the cool kids and the hotties.

Step 6

Do not even consider hiring a photographer. You want people to loosen up and let their hair down. Who wants that on record? No, in fact, don’t do anything that stands in the way of a boozy one. Think about instead confiscating people’s phones. We don’t want any embarrassing pictures online.

Step 7

If you really must, make some sort of speech to introduce the brand. But personally, I wouldn’t bother. Who likes to have their evening interrupted with a speech? This isn’t a wedding. Besides, these hermit-like journalists probably haven’t seen each other since yesterday’s launch, and will have plenty of catching up to do without you sticking your nose in. Just get drunk, get your team drunk, and have well-deserved blow-out. Lead by example. Better for everyone to talk about that totally epic party you had than to walk away sober.

Nate Brown

You want opinions? Nate Brown’s got ’em

Step 8

If things go according to plan, your guests will be so drunk that they’ll struggle to remember their own coats, so I wouldn’t bother with any takeaways or gift bags, they’ll only get left in the Uber.

Step 9

By which stage, you’ve achieved what you set out to do. You’ve unleashed your product to the world. Leave the journalists to do whatever it is journalists do, then wait for the orders to come rolling in. You’re a game changer. It’s time to enjoy yourself. Get your friends to come, just make sure they get there before the bar tab has run dry. Maybe even get on the old winking app and swipe right a few times. You’ll never look so glamorous to a stranger as when you’re hosting your own product launch. Guaranteed lay.

And there you have it. At least until next week’s launch.

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 truth about the Master of Malt Luxury Trilogy…

This morning we revealed our incredible new range of innovative single malt Scotch whiskies with its accompanying Sven Nekyan film. Since then we’ve received plenty of feedback across social media….

This morning we revealed our incredible new range of innovative single malt Scotch whiskies with its accompanying Sven Nekyan film. Since then we’ve received plenty of feedback across social media. Now it’s time to come clean.

The Master of Malt Luxury Trilogy, comprising of the eminently covetable Limitless, Opulence and Kryptós expressions, will not be available to buy later this month. We’re extremely sorry for the inevitable disappointment this must cause you and whisky lovers around the world.

Fry

The whisky-craving masses just this morning.

As hard as it may be to believe, for example, we’re not going to release a whisky with a palate that’s “Full and buoyant, akin to a private party submarine drifting beside the Lucayan Archipelago on the way to a festival on the island of Great Exuma”.

In fact, isn’t Sven Nekyan an anagram of Kenny Evans, the Master of Malt Digital Media Manager?! We’re sure some aspects of these whiskies “like no others” are giving us deja-vu, too…

All we can say for sure is that Limitless, Opulence and Kryptós are as real as Handsome Clive’s Ginder profile.

(And that we had a lot of fun in the lead up to 1 April! Huge thanks to the good people at The Warren in Tunbridge Wells where the ‘Opulence’ scene was shot.)

The gang hard at work. [left to right: Jack (procurement buyer), Laura (campaign exec), Jake (campaign manager), Kenny (digital media manager) and Phillippa (digital creative planner)]

Tom Ball, goods in supervisor and part-time birdperson

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Master of Malt Dram Club – April 2019

The customary shenanigans of the 1st of April have no place here. This is all about stone cold facts. This is what our Master of Malt Dram Club members will…

The customary shenanigans of the 1st of April have no place here. This is all about stone cold facts. This is what our Master of Malt Dram Club members will be receiving this month!

Look, we know everyone is going to be wary of everything posted on the internet today. We’ve all looked at Twitter this morning and seen some brand doing something silly. We’ve all gone on Facebook and seen that one relative posting something that barely counts as a prank followed by countless laughing-face emoji. No horseplay here, though. Not with your monthly update about what deliciousness you’re going to find in your Master of Malt Dram Club Tasting Sets.

So, here’s what to expect in April’s Dram Club Tasting Sets…

Dram Club Whisky for April:

Dram Club Premium Whisky for April:

Dram Club Old & Rare Whisky for April:

Dram Club Gin for April:

Dram Club Rum for April:

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Introducing the Master of Malt Luxury Trilogy

It’s with enormous pride that we’re able to bring you an incredible new range of single malt Scotch whiskies, like no others that have come before. Meet the Master of…

It’s with enormous pride that we’re able to bring you an incredible new range of single malt Scotch whiskies, like no others that have come before. Meet the Master of Malt Luxury Trilogy.

*UPDATE: It’s time for you all to know the truth about Limitless, Opulence and Kryptós.*

Today represents the start of a journey, one that will lead drinkers to new worlds and new possibilities. Leave all your preconceptions at the door and join us…

It was important to us to bring the concept for each of these new whiskies to life and to convey its meaning in a coherent manner. By working with acclaimed filmmaker Sven Nekyan, we hope you’ll agree the video above does just that and more.

The Master of Malt Luxury Trilogy is made up of three innovative whiskies, each representing a different story. Be brave and invite a little glamour, or perhaps some mystery, into your life and into your glass.

Limitless

Your destiny is in your hands. Be who you want to be in your limitless life with this majestic single malt Scotch whisky. Aged patiently in carefully selected American and European oak casks for at least three long years, this expression is beautifully presented in a decanter bottle complete with sterling silver stopper and matching wings. We leave it up to you to embrace the infinite.

Opulence

Eau de Vie de grain vieillie en fûts de chêne. Pour Homme ou Femme. Or simply for everyone, actually. Everyone to whom style and grace speaks. Adroitly assembled for this very purpose by a perfumier par excellence and leading aromachologists, this is an expression that’s certainly not to be missed. You only get one life, make it opulent.

Kryptós

The most enigmatic expression of all is saved until last. The excitement in life is often in the unknown, thusly we offer fewer details for Kryptós than for any of the rest of the Luxury Trilogy. The elegant, opaque bottle, adorned with its greek name (meaning ‘secret’), contains a liquid inspired by the science of cryptography. Based on an incredibly ancient recipe that’s been reinterpreted for a thoroughly modern experience, we’re committed to not revealing any more information about this whisky until this time next year.

So there you have it. Three extraordinary whiskies borne of the desires of now. Although currently produced through unprecedented exclusive partnerships with the very finest distilleries, within a couple of years the already celebrated Master of Malt Luxury Trilogy will become the first releases from our cutting-edge 3D-printed distillery.

Limitless, Opulence and Kryptós will be available to purchase later this month. You will, of course, also be able to experience these whiskies digitally through our multi-sensory Joculus Snift eDramming headset.

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