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Master of Malt Blog

Author: Master of Malt

Master of Malt Dram Club – May 2019

Oh hey, it’s May! I say, on this Wednesday, without delay… Right, doing that rhyming has become tiresome. Let’s look at this month’s Master of Malt Dram Club Tasting Sets! Since…

Oh hey, it’s May! I say, on this Wednesday, without delay… Right, doing that rhyming has become tiresome. Let’s look at this month’s Master of Malt Dram Club Tasting Sets!

Since everyone on the internet is heavily concerned about spoilers right now, whether they’re about great swaths of super powered celebrities or people fighting over a regal chair or something along those lines, we feel like we need to say that there will indeed be spoilers in this blog post… Spoilers about what our Master of Malt Dram Club members will be receiving in their Tasting Sets this month! What an elaborate ruse we played on you there. Quite the gambit, we’re sure you agree.

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Poitín is the star at new Dublin bar 1661

Poitín is a spirit usually associated with shebeens, rebels and criminal activity, not fancy cocktails and swanky decor. But that is now changing: Nate Brown investigates a Dublin bar that…

Poitín is a spirit usually associated with shebeens, rebels and criminal activity, not fancy cocktails and swanky decor. But that is now changing: Nate Brown investigates a Dublin bar that is taking Ireland’s original spirit upmarket.

Dublin is no stranger to the concept of revolution. Yet, with hindsight, the peaceful corner of Green Street and Little Britain Street in the unpopular Smithfield area of the city seems like an unlikely place to make a start. It is here, in an old dingy drinking den that Dave Mulligan is looking to transform not just the venue, not just the area, but to redefine industry views of Dublin as a cocktail powerhouse.

“This used to be what you might call an unsavoury bar. We found like 250 spent heroin packets in the basement,” pronounces Mulligan, “and you see that building across the street? That’s a dry hostel. Loads of people warned me off the area. It’s the wrong side of town.”

Needless to say, this didn’t stop Mulligan from acquiring the site for his latest bar venture, and his first permanent offering in Dublin. 1661 is a cocktail bar with a strong penchant for the nation’s own spirit poitín, which alongside the likes of Irish Single Pot Still was recently granted GI status by the EU.

Poitin

Bán Poitín! Actually, on second thoughts, don’t

“But I look around and I see the park, the church that will forever be our backdrop, the fruit markets what an amazing thing to have the doorstep of a cocktail bar daily, seasonal shopping. We got so much press from our pop-up that it confirmed to me there was an appetite for what we’re bringing. Dublin needs a bar like this.”

The name refers to the year when Ireland’s colonial rulers placed a market ban on the production of homemade spirits, or ‘poitín’. Since then, the spirit had descended into folklore. Every Irish expat could get their hands on a bottle, often of dubious quality, without ever knowing anyone directly involved in the production.

Recently however, Mulligan and handful of others have sought to bring poitín back into the spirits fold. Today, Dave’s own brand, Ban, can be found on the menu at the American Bar in the Savoy among a whole host of other prestigious menus. Big players Teeling have released their own ‘Spirit of Dublin’, and are accompanied by an increasing number of smaller producers from all over the island.

“Nobody’s ever given poitín a proper platform. Some bars here might have two, but they don’t do anything about them, people are always asking me ‘where can I drink it in Dublin?’”

Fast forward to this weekend and 1661 is preparing to open its doors to the public for the first time. Mulligan has taken a step away from the purely poitín offering of his pop-up in 2017; the bar is a cocktail bar first and foremost, whilst hoping to deliver a unique showground for poitín.

Poitin on the Ritz

Poitín on the Ritz

Stepping into the space itself feels like entering into a classic cocktail bar in New York or further afield. The walls are dark with clever, gold accentuations, the wooden table tops have been carved from Irish oak and sycamore the natural cracks filled in with traditional carpenter’s bows. The deep green of the seating is the only obvious nod to the Irishness in the concept. The bar counter is raised to poser height, which combined with the drinks shelves in the windows outside give 1661 an unmistakably continental vibe. The centrepiece of the room is a huge sharing table belying the community feel that Mulligan wants 1661 to evoke.

Unsurprisingly therefore, one of his traits is an eagerness to heap praise on those around him. He repeatedly tells us that he “wouldn’t have been able to do this without Oakheart Joinery.” There are real touches of finesse throughout the space, an upmarket feel that is not expected in a shrine to Ireland’s underbelly spirit. Even Mulligan notes his surprise at the levels of sophistication: “We’ve created the type of bar I’m usually not allowed into”.

The impressive back bar is testament to this sharing ethos: 1661 has a large collection of poitíns, not just Mulligan’s own brand, and many of which feature as strongly as Ban on the cocktail list. These sit alongside some real gems in other categories. Where most Dublin venues align strongly with either Diageo or Pernod Ricard listings, 1661 is fiercely independent.

The cocktails themselves are a collection of whiskey highballs, poitín-based creations and a signature Belfast Coffee made with in-house cold brew and Ban. Luckily for Dave, execution of these is in the well-travelled hands of one of Dublin’s (and London’s) most respected bartenders, Gillian Boyle. Expect lots of wild Irish ingredients, hedgerow fruits and orchard flavours.

Making poitin cocktails

Making poitín cocktails

The aforementioned basement has been cleared up, and Mulligan has big plans for the space. He says away from calling it a lab, and instead offers the label of R & D space. There will be vacuum stills to create new spirits, not just deviations on the poitín he so adores.

“I want to be the first bar to transcend Dublin, to feature on the global scene.”

Is Dublin ready? It better be.

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: 26 April

Another short week, but that has not stopped the deluge of booze news occurring – get ready for another edition of The Nightcap! The super-long weekend continued into this week…

Another short week, but that has not stopped the deluge of booze news occurring – get ready for another edition of The Nightcap!

The super-long weekend continued into this week for us here at MoM Towers, meaning Monday was spent as far away from office desks as possible. However, by Tuesday, we were eager to get back to it – and clearly so was everyone else in the world of booze, as there is plenty of news to go through in The Nightcap! Let’s get to it, shall we?

On the MoM Blog this week, Ian Buxton was back to ask the difficult questions once again, this time concerning investment in whisky, before Adam championed English-made booze to mark St. George’s Day. Then he explored Scotch whiskies from Speyside, as we look forward to the upcoming Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival. Annie was busy checking out the new Super Lyan bar in Amsterdam, but still made time to acknowledge Earth Day and Patrón Tequila’s contribution to it. Henry looked into how we can tackle the Malaria crisis with gin, while his Cocktail of the Week was The Iceberg Slim. Kristy also demonstrated an affinity to a Compass Box release for our New Arrival of the Week.

That’s a whole lot of news for a shorter week, but hold on to your hats because we’ve got even more – it’s The Nightcap!

The Nightcap

Samples are flowing off the stills!

Lagg Distillery kicks off whisky production

Some very exciting news came our way this week via Isle of Arran Distillers. Distillation has begun at Lagg Distillery! The very first middle cut of spirit was recorded back on Tuesday 19 March at 14.35, to be precise. The commissioning phase has now been completed and Cask Number One, a sherry butt reserved exclusively for members of the Lagg Cask Society, was filled on Wednesday 10 April with a heavily-peated (50ppm) spirit at 63.5% ABV. So, what can we expect from the eventual Lagg Single Malt? Well, the distillery hopes it will become a rich, earthy and smoky dram, making it something of a departure from the character of whisky currently produced at the original distillery in Lochranza. James MacTaggart, master distiller, said: “It’s incredibly exciting to be taking the very first steps in producing what will eventually be a magnificent Lagg whisky and something truly unique to anything we’ve produced previously.” The news comes as construction of the new distillery and visitor centre enters its final stages, with the outer structure now complete and many of the elements of internal design starting to come together. Lagg Distillery is expected to open fully in early summer, with the brand projecting that the distillery and visitor centre will increase total visitor numbers at both sites to over 200,000 by 2020. It’s all coming together, folks!

The Winchester Distillery’s range – for now…

Winchester Distillery reveals expansion (and crowdfunding!) details

As fifth birthday celebrations go, this is a pretty exciting one. Winchester Distillery has unveiled plans to expand its Hampshire-based production facilities! There’s a new higher-volume still going in, so the team can continue to explore new categories (it’s already got rum and whisky in the pipeline). It’s also looking into using locally-grown malted barley for its gin, vodka and whisky, too! But these adventures all need money, which is where the new Crowdcube crowdfunding campaign comes in. “With Winchester Distillery’s fifth birthday in May we are delighted to be in the position, with our annual average sales growth of 82% year on year, to take the business to the next level,” said Paul Bowler, the distillery’s managing director. “Having more capacity will mean we can make more of our well-loved spirits so we can enter new markets both here in the UK and overseas. We also intend to upgrade the current space here among the watercress beds in Old Alresford so that we can host more visitors for tours and tastings, and open a gift shop.” Thrilling stuff, indeed!

The mouthwatering result of globe-spanning teamwork

Diageo teams up with baijiu producer for ‘east-meets-west’ whisky

Exciting news if you’re a fan of intriguing whiskies: Diageo, the world’s biggest spirits player, has formed a joint venture with Jiangsu Yanghe Distillery, China’s third-largest baijiu-maker, to launch something brand-new in the country. It’s a whisky called Zhong Shi Ji, and while production details are scarce, it sounds like a curious thing indeed. Diageo’s Scotch master blender, Craig Wallace, and China Alcoholic Drinks Association’s baijiu master, Zhou Xinhu, worked on the project, which included some maturation in Chinese ceramic pots. We’ve not found out much else, except the result is said to be “unique, full-flavoured” and “exceptionally smooth”. “We believe that Zhong Shi Ji can play an important role in the Chinese dining occasion, launching a new era for whisky drinkers in China,” said C.H. Chu, MD at Diageo Greater China. Zhu Wei, vice president of Yanghe, added: “I firmly believe Zhong Shi Ji will quickly become Chinese consumers’ new favourite, with its ultra-smooth taste and superior quality, created through unique processes and craftsmanship from both China and the West.” If you come across it in the wild, let us know what it tastes like!

The Nightcap

It’s about time we got to enjoy whisky on the high seas!

The Dalmore sets sail on Queen Mary 2 cruise ship

Batten down the hatches, this week The Dalmore revealed an exclusive ‘whisky flight at sea’ on board the world’s only ocean liner, Queen Mary 2! This takes whisky to a whole new level (although we suppose it’s only sea level), as the Highlander can be sipped and savoured on board the ship between Southampton and New York. At the same time, an exclusive whisky experience will be offered on board during the Transatlantic crossing. To round off the whisky experience, master distiller Richard Paterson will be giving a presentation on board the ship. “The Dalmore is celebrated in iconic locations around the world,” Paterson said. “We see celebrations of The Dalmore at Baccarat Hotel New York, at 40,000 feet on board Emirates First Class, and now a unique opportunity to savour the Cunard whisky flight at 28 knots.” Also aboard the Queen Mary 2 will be two rare expressions from The Dalmore Constellation Collection, a limited edition collection of individual rare casks released by the distillery. We’ll certainly say ‘aye aye’ to that.

The Nightcap

Delicious booze and a good cause? We’re in!

Hedgepig gives a helping hand to hedgehogs with new gin liqueur

Hedgepig has increased its range of small batch gin liqueurs to four with the launch of a new flavour, Zesty Elderflower. The reveal coincides with and will benefit Hedgehog Awareness Week (5-11 May). By donating 50p for every bottle sold to the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, the brand is doing its bit to alleviate the plight of the tiny, spiny mammals, who really don’t have it easy. Hedgepig was created by the team behind Pinkster gin, and crafts all its liqueurs from locally-grown or foraged fruits – Zesty Elderflower was made from wild elderflower. It’s said to have a ‘delicate’ flavour with subtle citrus notes and is best enjoyed cold with pudding or as a cocktail topped up with Prosecco. “We’re thrilled to be supporting the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, especially during their awareness week,” said Hedgepig founder, Stephen Marsh. “The plight of the hedgehog makes for desperate reading. In rural areas, numbers have fallen by half over the past two decades. We’re delighted to be supporting the fine work of the unsung heroes at this cracking little charity. Every little counts.” Don’t forget to check out The British Hedgehog Preservation Society, which offers help and advice to those with sick, injured and orphaned hedgehogs, if you’d like to do your bit to help those snuffly little fellows.

The Nightcap

Congratulations to Nick Savage, the new master distiller of Bladnoch!

Macallan master distiller joins Bladnoch

Lowland distillery Bladnoch has a new master distiller! Nick Savage will join the team from 1 July. This is big news, not only because the brand has replaced Ian MacMillan, who left the distillery to establish his own whisky consultancy firm in January, but because Savage has stepped down as master distiller of The Macallan to work with Bladnoch. Savage, who prior to his three-year tenure at Macallan was a distilling technical leader at Girvan Distillery and had a four-year stint at Diageo, will work alongside newly-appointed distillery manager Neil Bulloch. He explained his decision was down to “the vision and ambition shown by David Prior and the team at Bladnoch distillery”. He continued: “The opportunity also allows me a new challenge in single malt Lowland Scotch whisky from a 200-year-old distillery.” Prior, Bladnoch CEO and owner, added: “It’s a great privilege to welcome Nick Savage to the Bladnoch business. His youthful, positive and energetic approach will add great value to our team and business, as will his technical and operational skills.” As for Macallan, this announcement follows the departures of whisky maker Bob Dalgarno and former creative director Ken Grier to lead the team at Glenturret Distillery. There could be some interesting times ahead for the Speyside brand, which celebrated the opening of a state-of-the-art distillery in 2018 and seems to break numerous auction whisky records on a weekly basis. As of yet, there is no word on who will be replacing Savage in the role of the master distiller, but we’re sure it won’t take them too long to… make the call.

What time is it? It’s time to get tropical!

Laki Kane’s Georgi Radev launches tiki tome

Love tiki cocktails? Then you’ll probably already know of Georgi Radev. After managing London’s tiki outpost Mahiki for more than a decade, he opened his own rum embassy, Laki Kane, in 2018. It’s even got its own rum microdistillery upstairs (head on down and you can even re-distil your own!). Now he’s evangelising about all things rum through the written word with Let’s Get Tropical, a recipe book detailing over 60 delicious serves. The best bit? They’re all curated so we can make them easily at home! It starts with super-easy how-tos, from how to make a sugar syrup to learning to swizzle properly. Then Radev cracks on to the good stuff. He’s packed in the classics (the likes of Daiquiris and Mai Tais, with optional twists and reinventions) and then he’s treated us to some ‘Modern Tropical’ cocktails form his own imagination. There are punches, if you need to impress the masses, and even treats from the current Laki Kane menu, including the mouth-watering watermelon-based Wiki Tiki (we tasted it at the book launch. It was wonderful). If you’re prepping for a summer party, Let’s Get Tropical is essential reading. It’s priced at £9.99, and hits UK shelves in May!

The Nightcap

Introducing: Benromach Cask Strength Vintage 2008 Batch 1

Benromach launches new cask strength expression

We do love a story about more new whisky, and that’s exactly what Benromach Distillery has given us this week. The family-owned distillery has a new addition to its Classic Range, Benromach Cask Strength Vintage 2008 Batch 1. The limited-run single malt whisky was laid down in 2008 and matured in a combination of first-fill sherry and bourbon casks. It was then bottled in 2019 at a cask strength 57.9% ABV with an outturn of 5,500 bottles. According to Benromach, the rich and full-bodied dram has notes of cracked black pepper, fruits and milk chocolate, with a delicate smoky edge on the palate. The bottle itself was created to mirror the shapes and textures of the Speyside distillery and will detail the vintage year, batch number and age. “By offering the opportunity to own and enjoy batch releases, we are able to further showcase the expertise of our distilling team while determining the right time to bottle each batch to take full advantage of the remarkable single malt whiskies we produce,” said Keith Cruickshank, Benromach distillery manager. “We believe this expression will allow Benromach drinkers to understand more about the provenance of the whisky they are drinking.” We’ve got some on the way to MoM Towers so keep an eye out, folks!

The Nightcap

We think it’s safe a bottle of this beauty wouldn’t be Money for Nothing

Sultans of Gin! Former Dire Straits frontman teams up with Portobello Road

London dry gin brand Portobello Road has partnered with the legendary Mark Knopfler OBE (if you haven’t heard of him or Dire Straits, then get your act together) to make a distinctive, special edition ‘rock ‘n’ roll’ gin, Local Heroes No.3. It’s a move that’s as awesome as it was inevitable. (He had a song called Portobello Belle, folks. It was only ever a matter of time.) Local Heroes No.3 was created by Knopfler and Portobello Road Gin’s co-founder, Jake F. Burger using the nine botanicals from its Portobello Road Gin with the addition of lime zest, fresh cucumber peel and olive oil, which were distilled in the 400-litre copper alembic still King Henry, then bottled and labelled by hand. The label design is understandably guitar-themed, and each bottle even comes with a miniature version of Knopfler’s iconic sweatband from his Dire Straits gigs. “As a gin fan, it is a wonderful opportunity to work with a prestigious brand like Portobello Road Gin to craft my own blend,” said Knopfler. “It is robust in flavour and strong in spice – exactly the kind of gin that I enjoy and I hope my fans will too.” Burger added: “It is a huge honour to be able to work with Mark to create a London Dry Gin with a rock n roll edge. As expected, the flavours are totally unique and we believe the result is extremely exciting. So why not mix yourself a cocktail, turn the stereo up and listen to one of Mark’s many classic albums?”

The Nightcap

Founder Annabel Thomas wants to encourage more women to work in whisky

Ncn’ean offers whisky-making internships for women

Scotland’s first 100% organic whisky distillery is offering two women the opportunity to learn to make whisky, from mashing and distilling through to maturation, with two all-expenses-paid summer internships. Ncn’ean Distillery, situated in converted farm steadings on the grounds of the historic Drimnin Estate on the Morvern peninsula, will also teach interns how to forage for the local plants that are used in Ncn’ean’s Botanical Spirit and how to make cocktails. Annabel Thomas, founder of Ncn’ean, launched the initiative to raise the profile of distilling as a career option among women. “I wanted to challenge the outdated views a lot of people still have,” she explained. “The number of times people ask me ‘do you actually like whisky?’ just because I am a woman, and the lack of gender balance in the industry in Scotland, suggests we all still have more work to do.” She said she hopes women from all walks of life will apply. So, if you fancy trying your hand as a distiller then you should probably get applying! The internships are open to all women aged 18 or over and will take place from 15-20 July. All travel, accommodation and food are included. It sounds like it could be the opportunity of a lifetime!

Hannah Lanfear, Phil Duffy, and plenty of Cognac

Culture Cognac champions Cognac cocktails – we approve

This week, we hot-footed it over to East London for an educational Cognac immersion with the UK’s brand of the Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac – and it was brilliant! The UK Cognac Bureau put on the Culture Cognac workshop for the trade to highlight the spirit’s role in contemporary cocktails. Phil Duffy and Hannah Lanfear chatted through production choices (think: terroir, grapes, barrels, ageing and more) and how they influence flavour – clearly vital when it comes to cocktails. “It’s so positive to see the Cognac category continuing to grow in popularity, now more than ever, which is of course due to London’s love of cocktails being at an all-time high,” said Duffy. “Cognac is no doubt one of the most versatile spirits and is one of the hottest cocktail ingredients going.” The team from The Devil’s Darling bar helped out with the serves. Feeling inspired? Why not check out the Brandy Sour and give it a go this weekend?

Think about playing Monopoly with your Tequila-loving friends? Maybe think again…

And finally… Science suggests we shouldn’t trust Tequila drinkers

This week a mighty intriguing press release crossed our desks. Apparently, you can tell how likely someone is to cheat by their booze preference. This is from ghost-writing company EduBirdie, and is clearly Highly Scientific. Ahem. Anyway, it surveyed 18-24 year olds in the US and from more than 2,000 responses, somehow concluded that wine drinkers are by far the most reliable: only 16% admitted to cheating at school, with just 8% fessing up to cheating romantically. Whisky drinkers were less angelic; just over a third said they had cheated on a partner, and 78%(!) cheated at school. Beer drinkers were (slightly) more honest academically, with 68% saying they’d cheated at school – but almost half had cheated in a relationship. Then, we have the Tequila fans. While a third said they’d cheated at school, a whopping 81% said they’d cheated on a partner. We’re an office of whisky and agave lovers, and we’re shook.

On that revelatory note – that’s it for The Nightcap this week. Have a great weekend (and if you’ve got a date, give the Tequila a wide berth).

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FYI – we do next-day weekend drinks delivery!

Saturday night soiree and missing something critical? Got a Sunday birthday gathering and forgot the all-important gift? Fret not – we can save the day with our next-day weekend drinks…

Saturday night soiree and missing something critical? Got a Sunday birthday gathering and forgot the all-important gift? Fret not – we can save the day with our next-day weekend drinks delivery!

Our mission in life is to create amazing drinks experiences and get all manner of delicious things out into the world. And we love doing it. So much so that a while ago we introduced Sunday shipping, on top of our weekend Saturday service. All for just £8.95!

And it’s super speedy, too! If you’re on most of the UK mainland and order before 9pm on Friday night we’ll reach you on Saturday. If you want your boozes on a Sunday, just order before 3pm on Saturday afternoon. (Sorry, Highland and Island-dwellers. We can still reach you but we’ll need a little more time. We’ll need to summon the ferries, extra delivery folks and the like, they’re not always nippy. Not sure? Pop your postcode in at the checkout.)

This isn’t anything particularly shiny and new. But now spring has finally sprung and barbecue weekends might actually be A Thing again in the UK, we thought we’d give it a mention. Consider it a public service announcement, if you will. If you need next-day deliciousness, we can help. Even at the weekends!

If you’re not the sort to plan ahead, it now literally doesn’t matter. Weekend drinks delivery is here! Although that does mean you’ve got one less excuse for turning up at Sunday lunch empty-handed…

Weekend drinks delivery

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Is investment money bad for whisky’s soul?

In the last few years prices for the world’s top whiskies have gone through the roof. Whisky is now an asset like fine wine, art and classic cars. Ian Buxton…

In the last few years prices for the world’s top whiskies have gone through the roof. Whisky is now an asset like fine wine, art and classic cars. Ian Buxton does not approve. In fact, he’s downright furious.

I’ve been banging on about the ‘investment in whisky’ trend for quite a while – and for some while I’ve got it wrong, as least as far as the prices of certain whiskies go. The sky, it would seem, is the limit and my doom-laden prognostications of a crash in prices have yet to be fulfilled.

So that’s that, then.  Fill yer boots and make money while you can would seem to be the moral.

Never mind whisky’s soul.

Lovely box, but will it ever be drunk?

However, if you care about whisky, really sincerely care, then you will readily appreciate that ‘investment grade’ whisky such as limited edition Macallans, virtually all Port Ellens these days and anything in a ‘collectable’ box is not simply a specious concept but a damaging one. Whisky that is never going to be drunk, whisky whose future is to be traded like an ingot of bullion, whisky forever condemned to be the slave of the spreadsheet is whisky that will never fully live. It’s whisky devoid of meaning, whisky without a soul, reduced to a barren commodity. There may as well be cold tea in the bottle, no matter the lavish packaging.  Remember the fable of the Emperor’s New Clothes and you may look on the most elegant of bottles and see a rotting corpse beneath the silk.

Whisky attains its highest state when it is consumed; its apotheosis poignantly coinciding with the moment of its destruction. Only then is its destiny fulfilled. Whisky is disputation, conviviality, a metaphor for a nation’s identity and sense of self-belief. Whisky is romantic, metaphysical and phantasmagorical. As Burns relates, whisky is “the poor man’s wine”.

‘Investment grade’ bottles are the vampire squid wrapped around whisky’s face, relentlessly jamming their blood funnels into anything that smells like money careless of the consequences and conscious only of the sterile arithmetic of the profit and loss account.  Leave these trophies, the fevered creation of huckstering spinmeisters and their band of useful idiots, to the Gollum-like investor, poring over soulless spreadsheets and taking joy only in the bloodless contemplation of a paper return on investment. “My precious,” indeed.

Here we see the triumph of packaging over content. All too often these whiskies are lavishly draped in the most luxurious wrapping that the ingenuity of the design world can conceive – hand-blown bottles, silver stoppers, exquisitely-crafted oak cabinets and leather-bound volumes filled with ever more baroque and far-flown tasting notes. All of which costs money, lots of it, which leads me to suggest that this market is driven as much by presentation as product.

whisky crash

Ian Buxton about to drink some whisky

If you doubt my word, consider the following intriguing tale.  Back in June 2013, The Macallan released a pack of two 35cl bottles to commemorate HM Queen Elizabeth II’s 60th anniversary.  There were a mere 1,953 packs produced (to mark the 1953 Coronation – geddit?). What you got was two half bottles in a handsome box with a colour leaflet, released at £350.  While the strength of the whisky was indicated, there was no age statement – but as this was designed to sit in a vault, why would anyone care?

Naturally, they were all snapped up as fast as you could sing the national anthem and, equally quickly, they appeared on auction sites where they changed hands for up to £2,300 (before commission). But, interestingly, in the November 2018 on-line auction of a well-known Glasgow site an orphan bottle appeared all on its own, only to be knocked down for £400. Given this was a 35cl bottle, that suggests the market valued the whisky content of a standard bottle at £800. In the same sale a complete pack reached £1,900.  Or, to put it another way, someone paid £1,100 for an admittedly lovely box and a brochure. It’s an interesting set of priorities.

By all means collect whisky and enjoy it as you will but do not succumb to the siren calls of self-serving false prophets.  If you want an investment, buy Diageo shares (up around 27% in the past 12 months and 65% over the last five years; easily traded and paying a dividend). Remember, as Shakespeare tells us “All that glisters is not gold” or, as they say in Edinburgh, “all fur coat and nae knickers!”

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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The Nightcap: 18 April

Tomorrow is a Bank Holiday here for your friends at MoM Towers, so The Nightcap is coming to you a whole day early! Wait a minute. It’s not Friday. This…

Tomorrow is a Bank Holiday here for your friends at MoM Towers, so The Nightcap is coming to you a whole day early!

Wait a minute. It’s not Friday. This is an imposter Friday. A pseudo-Friday. A fake Friday. Does that mean that all the booze news in this edition of The Nightcap will be “fake news”? No, of course not! It’s simply just arriving in your eyes a day early as we won’t be here tomorrow due to the bank holiday. Expect to see us on the beach, surfboard and parasol in hand.

On the blog this week, Annie talked desert island drams with Joe Hall of Satan’s Whiskers, while Adam looked at sweet treats for Easter and imbibed some delicious English whisky for our New Arrival of the Week. Henry’s Cocktail of the Week was a Martiki, a delicious blend of the exotic and the classic. Kristy then looked at Pernod Ricard’s latest purchase, Malfy Gin and guest writer Nate Brown pondered why so many bars don’t serve good coffee.

Right. Let’s get on with the show!

The Nightcap

Look – it’s the ‘world’s first’ Scotch cross bun!

Now you can enjoy Scotch cross buns this Easter!

Reading this in London or New York? Then you are in for a right treat. Noted chef Rory Macdonald, off of NYC’s Patisserie Chanson has teamed up with The Dalmore to create a ‘world-first’ Scotch cross bun! “We’ve used a nutriglaze, which means the whisky is heated but not to the point where the alcohol evaporates,” Macdonald himself explained. “This means the buns aren’t whisky flavoured – it’s a pure whisky glaze – so these Scotch Cross buns are the real deal.” The whisky in question? Dalmore 12 Year Old. A spokesperson from Whyte & Mackay, which owns the Scotch brand, added: “When Patisserie Chanson came to us with the idea of elevating the humble hot cross bun, we knew that they would produce something really special.” Due to the booze content, you do have to be over 18 (21, we presume in New York) to enjoy them. They’re available in the cities from 19-21 April – baked goodies and Scotch? Count us in.

The Nightcap

An artist’s impression of a swanky new visitor centre

English Spirit plans a boozy visitor centre in Cornwall

Live in Cornwall or got it on your travel list? If English Spirit gets its way, there will soon be another essential stop for visitors to the county. The distillery has submitted plans for a swanky new visitor centre at Treguddick Manor in Launceston. The new space, which will open in Spring 2020 if the team gets the green light, will give guests an insight into spirits productions. Plans also include a café bar, an event space, and a shop. The idea is that other local businesses will get involved and showcase their wares. Most of the details are still under wraps, but we’re excited about this one!

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We’ve had a century of delicious Aperol!

Aperol celebrates 100 years of joy

1919 was a momentous year, World War One was over and the Barbieri brothers, Luigi and Silvio launched a new drink called Aperol at the Padua International Fair. The drink quickly became popular in the nearby city of Venice in the form of the Spritz Veneziano but it’s only in the last 10 years that the drink has gone truly global: according to Drinks International magazine the Aperol Spritz is the 9th bestselling cocktail in the world. To celebrate the anniversary, naturally Aperol has a few things up its sleeves (if drinks can be said to have sleeves). These include the not entirely grammatical Together We Joy global campaign featuring a video; limited edition bottles with labels based on works by Italian artists Lorenzo Mattotti; a graphic novel by Tito Faraci with illustrations by Sergio Gerasi; and a summer tour around the Med with DJ’s, pop-up bars and amphibious vehicles. Finally, there will be something called ‘Grazie Veneto’ where Aperol thanks the region where it was born with three artists, one from Italy, England and America, who will be creating artwork to be exhibited in the town square in Padua. In short, this summer’s colour will be orange.

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A selection from the new High Coast range

FMV brings High Coast Swedish whisky to UK

Fields, Morris & Verdin (Berry Bros’s wholesale arm) announced this week that makers of delicious Swedish whisky High Coast has been added to its extensive spirits portfolio. Which in layman’s terms means more delicious Swedish whisky, folks! One of a handful of Swedish distilleries to be founded in recent years, you might know the brand from its original name, Box Distillery, it was renamed High Coast after Compass Box raised concern. Fresh from its rebrand, High Coast has launched a range of whiskies to show off all aspects of what the distillery is capable of. The first whisky in the selection is Älv, a single malt whisky crafted from 100% unpeated malt and matured in bourbon casks for 6 years. There’s also Hav, a blend of 20% peated, 80% non-peated malt whisky aged initially in 40-litre virgin American, Hungarian and Swedish oak casks for 3-4 months before it was transferred into bourbon barrels for 3-6 years. Timmer is the only 100% peated malt whisky in the selection and was matured in bourbon casks for 5-6 years. The last drink in the range is Projekt 63, an experimental dram that was aged for 63 months in 63-litre first-fill bourbon casks on the 63rd parallel, 63 decimetres above ground. We’re looking into why it was named Projekt 63. Berg, a 100% unpeated single malt matured in bourbon casks for 2 years then finished in PX casks for another 2 years, will join the range from September 2019. Berry Bros & Rudd’s spirits buyer Doug McIvor commented on the news: “I have been following the emergence of High Coast over the past few years after tasting new make spirit from the distillery a while back. My thoughts on tasting the spirit back then were that this was a world-beating whisky for the future. Everything I’ve tasted from High Coast since then has confirmed this to be true.” They will be coming to MoM Towers, so get excited Swedish whisky fans!

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The scenic Smoke & Mirrors, which boasts a pretty good view we’d say…

Smoke & Mirrors presents new head bartender and menu

Singapore bar Smoke & Mirrors has certainly been busy this week. Not only has the rooftop establishment got a new head bartender, Jorge Conde, but it has also launched a cocktail menu, ‘Illusion of Flavours’. Conde previously worked in bars in Spain and London over the last fourteen years and has experience in graphic design, which has come in handy already in menu influenced by Dalí, Picasso and Van Gogh. ‘Illusion of Flavours’ is divided into six categories: Fizzy & Elegant, Sour & Neat, Long & Refreshing, Strong & Neat, Fruity & Punchy and Savoury & Umami, and features Conde’s first creation for Smoke & Mirrors, La Fumata Bianca, which means ‘the White Smoke.’ This is a twist on the Negroni, smoky agave-based raicilla replaces gin, gentian liqueur stands in for Campari and, a blend of Bianco and quinine vermouth takes the place of sweet vermouth in his debut drink. “For this menu, my goal was to reimagine classic cocktails, focusing on traditional flavour profiles and exploring new ways to create them,” says Conde, “I find that people often have preconceptions about how a drink will taste, and I wanted to challenge those expectations with our drinks. While the presentation may appear to be simple, the flavour profiles are quite complex and layered, evolving as you enjoy the drink. As you may expect from the name, there is more than meets the eye.” So if enjoying creative cocktails while taking in spectacular panoramic views of Singapore’s skyline sounds like your thing, you know what to do. And if it doesn’t, have a word with yourself for goodness sake.

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Founder Deano Moncrieffe has plenty of experience with agave spirits

New agave spirits bar Hacha opens in London

Fans of all things agave will be delighted to know that a specialist agave spirits bar (or ‘agaveria’) has opened on Kingsland Road, Dalston, London. Hacha, pronounced ‘acha’ and named after the axe used to cut agave pinas, was founded by Deano Moncrieffe, the luxury Tequila ambassador for Diageo Reserve who has worked on its Tequila and mezcal portfolio for over a decade. Moncrieffe’s bar will serve an evolving menu of 25 different Tequilas, mezcals and lesser-known agave spirits, including fine and rare bottles that would otherwise be hard to find in the UK. Each drink will be available to order individually or as part of a tasting flight, which will pair the chosen spirit with a flavour enhancer, for example, añejo Tequila and rum-soaked grilled pineapple. Of course, no good bar would be worth its salt without a good selection of cocktails, which Hacha has in abundance. The bar’s signature drink is the Mirror Margarita, which is served on tap from a striking glass piña on the bar. Latin-inspired small plates, decor and music also feature. Any new establishment that champions agave-based spirits in an innovative, accessible way sounds like a winner in our books.

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The delicious Anna Pavlova cocktail at Swingers

Swingers: where golf and cocktails meet

We swung on down to Swingers West End crazy golf club for a fabulous evening of cocktail tasting with the head bartender Leo Glé. We were treated to six outstanding cocktails, including three creations that are completely unique to Swingers, named Anna Pavlova, Put The Lime In The Coconut and Elderflower Spritz. When he presented us with Put The Lime In The Coconut, which marries Havana Especial, coconut syrup, lime, passionfruit, mint, Glé told us that if we closed our eyes it would be just like we were on a beach somewhere. Of course we obliged, and, of course, he was right! Then, there were three which threw a twist on a classic, including a tonka bean Espresso Martini, a Clover Club, and an XXX Martini, which was basically a Pornstar Martini with the nutty addition of frangelico. All of the cocktails were absolutely beautiful and outrageously delicious, so a huge thanks to the talented guys behind the bar at Swingers. Glé has been working with Swingers pretty much since the original site opened back in 2016, and it is an understatement to say that his creations are well above par. Unlike our golfing skills.

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Glen Moray master distiller Graham Coull and Scottish rugby star Jamie Ritchie enjoyed a dram

Glen Moray masterclass at Murrayfield

Last week Speyside distillery Glen Moray released a special rugby-inspired whisky called the Edinburgh Rugby Private Edition. Just 312 bottles of this 52.8% ABV whisky have been produced. Each will cost £100 with all profits going to a charity, Hearts and Balls, which raises money for injured rugby players. The whisky comes from a cask chosen by Scotland internationals, John Barclay (the captain, no less) and Damien Hoyland. And what better way could there be to launch this whisky than with a masterclass at the home of Scottish rugby, Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh. It was hosted on Friday 12 April by Glen Moray’s master distiller Graham Coull and Scottish international player, Jamie Ritchie, popped in for a wee dram.

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Cocktails with just two ingredients are all the rage at Artesian Bar now

Artesian Bar launches new minimalist cocktail menu

The Artesian Bar at the Langham Hotel in London has won more awards (including World’s Best Bar) than you can shake a stick at. We know because we’ve tried to shake a stick at all the awards and failed. It used to be famous for its elaborate cocktails but no longer because now at the Artesian less is more. A new minimalist menu has been created by bar manager Anna Sebastian and head bartender Remy Savage, who both joined the Artesian in 2017. The new menu which was introduced this week consists of a series of cocktails containing only two ingredients. And to make things even harder for themselves, these new cocktails aren’t exactly what you would call classic pairings: there’s Perrier Jouët Champagne and cream, Star of Bombay Gin with golden beetroot, and St Germain Elderflower Liqueur and red carrot. Elderflower and carrot? It all sounds a bit mad but if anyone can pull it off it’s this team. We’ll be visiting soon and will report back. Watch this space.

 

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A Brad Pitt-ed olive would go nicely with this. Right? Because… Oh never mind.

And finally… Waiter! There’s a George Clooney in my drink

How much do you like George Clooney? Do you think he’s a good actor but hasn’t done anything really great since Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? in 2000? Well, then you probably won’t be ordering a special new cocktail at Bassment bar in Chicago. This drink could not be any Cloonier: not only is it called The Clooney but it contains Clooney-brand Tequila, Casamigos Reposado, and a giant ice cube featuring the face of Clooney himself smiling up at you as if to say: ‘you really love me, don’t you?’. It’s part of a series of cocktails based on famous people including Beyoncé, Elton John and Adele. The other ingredients in The Clooney are Carpano Antica vermouth, crème de banana, vanilla bean simple syrup, honeyed apricot and smoked hickory. Actually, that sounds rather nice. I wonder if they’ll do one but with a Jeff Goldblum ice cube instead.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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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