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Master of Malt Whisky Blog

Category: Features

Handy tips to nose and taste, with Denver & Liely glassware

Denver & Liely

We all know spirits are fundamentally there to be enjoyed, right? But what if your enjoyment takes the form of detailed nosing and tasting? How can you get the best out of a spirit? And does glassware even matter? We talk all things sensory with Denver & Liely’s Denver Cramer…

How do you drink your spirits? Are you one to sit, sip, and just enjoy the experience? Or are you more likely to takes notes and deconstruct every aroma and flavour note? Perhaps, like me, you’re a mix of the two. But if you sit in the latter camp, you’ll find that the right approach and (of course) the right tasting glass can enhance the experience.

Denver Cramer, co-founder of Australian glassware brand Denver & Liely, has given the nosing and tasting experience a lot of thought. The mechanical engineering graduate turned designer set up the venture with friend Liely Faulkner after meeting in a bar and then considering how different spirits could be experienced.

“You always make better decisions when you have more information,” he tells me as we chat over the phone. “For example, having your nose in the glass when you taste means your brain ends up getting more information.” He acknowledges that there are many successful brands on the market, but he still felt more could be done, especially when it comes to the specific intricates of different spirits. That’s why Denver & Liely designs allow the drinker to have their nose in the glass as they taste, for example.

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Peat-smoked spirits that aren’t Scotch whisky

Peat-smoked spirits

Scottish distillers may be the undisputed masters of the peat fire, but there are plenty of plucky distillers across the world making their own smoky creations, and with interesting and varied results. MoM invites you to drink outside the box with eight peat-smoked spirits that most definitely aren’t Scotch whisky.

Considering peat is literally a mix of decaying moss, shrubs, grasses, tree roots, dead animals and soil that has become compacted over thousands of years, it can be used to make various boozes pretty damn tasty.

You don’t need to descend on Scotland to source a little peat smoke for your spirits. Indeed, peatlands have been identified in at least 175 countries and make up 3% of the entire world’s land space (that’s 1.5 million square miles, FYI).

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Move over, US! British distillers set their sights on rye whisky

It’s arguably the most punk rock cereal of all time, and now rye is causing anarchy in the UK. Here, MoM chats with a handful of British distillers who have managed to tame whisky’s most rebellious grain…

For at least as long anyone reading this has been alive, rye-heavy mash bills have been the domain of US producers. Here in the UK, we’re a nation of single malt lovers – we always have been – but lately, British distillers are increasingly turning their attention to the bad boy of the crop world.

“Rye is gritty, real, and a bit punk,” says Cory Mason, master distiller at The Oxford Artisan Distillery (TOAD), which has focused on rye since it opened its doors back in July 2017. “As a comparison, I’ve always seen single malt as a Cognac, and rye more as an Armagnac, rough around the edges, a bit more hardcore, but still a stunning product in its own right.”

The question perhaps is not ‘why rye?’, but ‘why now?’. Mason highlights growing interest and demand for craft spirits, which he believes is prompting “a real willingness to step outside of traditional UK and European categories”. Specifically, aged rye whisky.

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What’s going on with whisky, according to three Johnnie Walker execs

Last year, we zipped off to Madrid to check out Johnnie Walker’s first flagship store. While we were there we quizzed three of the brand’s top executives to get their take on the fortunes of Scotch whisky, from the accessibility of Scotch to that ‘B’ word…

“The world of whiskies is fascinating – not only because we work in it,” said Cristina Diezhandino, global category director of Scotch and Reserve Brands at Diageo, as she opened the first Johnnie Walker flagship store last November. “We see a whisky renaissance, truly, globally.”

When someone like Diezhandino gives her assessment on the state of Scotch, you sit up and listen. And it’s far from a throwaway sentiment: Scotch whisky exports soared by 8.9% in volume terms to reach £4.36 billion in 2017 (the latest figures currently available), and it’s a trend that looks set to continue. The number of distilleries in Scotland is at a record level (the Scotch Whisky Association reckons there are now 128 in the country, the most since 1945). It really does look like boom time for whisky!

But challenges persist, especially around accessibility. Too many people still think whisky isn’t for them. What’s being done to roll out the metaphoric red carpet and welcome in new drinkers? Why are people starting to explore the category? And should we collectively be worried about the impact of things like Brexit? I commandeered Diezhandino, as well as Duncan Elliott, Johnnie Walker global marketing and innovation director, and Greg Klingaman, global head of retail and strategic partnerships, to get their take on the current state of Scotch.

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That’s amaro! The best and bitterest liqueurs from Italy and beyond.

Italian bitter liqueurs

Amari (plural of amaro) are traditional Italian bitter liqueurs which are madly fashionable among the cocktail cognoscenti. No wonder, as they make versatile mixers as well as being delicious on their own.

Italians love bitterness. You can taste it in the coffee, in the wine (there’s a Puglian grape called negroamaro – black and bitter) and, most notably, in a class of liqueurs called amari, meaning ‘bitter’. They are made all over the peninsula by steeping herbs, spices, fruit and vegetables in alcohol, then sweetening and diluting the concoction. The best known is Campari but each part of Italy has its own amaro, like Fernet Branca from Milan, or Amaro Montenegro from Bologna. These brands have their roots in the 19th century, but Italian families and monasteries have been making versions for much longer.

Until recently, they were seen as a bit old-fashioned, the sort of things drunk by old men in cafes alongside an espresso. But in recent years they have become fashionable with bartenders all over the world. This has inspired people outside Italy to make their own. There are now a number of boutique producers in America and Britain, and even specialist amari bars like Amor y Amargo in New York.

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How sound affects flavour… with Silent Pool Gin

Silent Pool

How does your environment alter what you choose to drink, without you even knowing it? This is what happened when sensory experts from the University of London’s Centre for the Study of the Senses gave MoM a taste of sonic seasoning (try saying that five times fast…).

We tend to view our senses – touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste – as separate entities, don’t we? We think that what you touch, for example, can’t possibly have much influence on what you taste.

Turns out we aren’t giving biology enough credit, as we discovered throughout the course of an evening hosted by Silent Pool in partnership with British philosopher Barry Smith, director of the at the Institute of Advanced Studies at University of London and co-director for the Centre for the Study of the Senses (rather cleverly shortened to CesSes).

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Our take on booze trends for 2019!

booze trends for 2019

New year, new drinks. Here’s what we reckon we’ll be debating, writing about and, most importantly, sipping in 2019. Tasting glasses at the ready…

There’s nothing we enjoy more here at MoM Towers than a good old chinwag about delectable spirits. And with the earth completing another full circuit round the sun, what better excuse to surmise, debate and generally theorise about the state of booze in 2019? Read on for the lowdown on ten drinks trends we think will influence what and how we consume in the coming 12 months. Enjoy!

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Fortified wine, not just for Christmas

Fortified wine

Don’t let your bottles of Port, sherry or Madeira gather dust. Our guide to getting the most out of these underrated classics will keep you drinking through the winter and into spring and summer.

What’s Christmas Day without a decent drop of Port with your stilton? For me, it’s the highlight of the festive season, so much more delicious than bland old turkey. But like turkey, for most of us, fortified wines are a once a year thing. Which is a shame as they are some of the best value and most versatile wines known to mankind. Fortified wines are great with food including difficult flavours like blue cheese and chocolate, they make useful cocktail ingredients, and the richer ones are a great lighter alternative to brandy or whisky for post-meal sippage. So here’s a guide to keep you fortified throughout the year with three recommendations at the end.

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How Neptune became 2018’s most awarded rum

Neptune Rum

Neptune Rum was only launched in 2017, yet it already boasts over 40 prestigious global awards. How did the brand do it? We find out.

“I actually, physically, dreamt Neptune Rum, which is the most bizarre experiences I’ve ever had. I was walking down a beach in Florida after a hurricane, with large waves crashing and dark clouds. Then a beam of sunlight broke through the clouds and hit something shiny. I picked it up, and it was bottle of Neptune. I then immediately woke up.”

The name of Richard Davies’ rum brand, Neptune, came to him in a dream. The former hot air balloon pilot, bartender and restaurateur had been struggling to find the right name and angle for his new rum. It seemed too good be true, however. Rum has such an obvious association with sailors (not just pirates, people). Neptune is the Roman god of the ocean. Neptune’s trident is on the flag of Barbados. Davies wasn’t optimistic. Surely somebody had already trademarked it?

He was pleasantly surprised when he uncovered, after much Googling and research that began post-dream at 3am, that this was not the case. There were bars. There were cocktails. But there was no Neptune Rum brand. Davies was confident he had stumbled upon something. He consulted with James Molloy, now Neptune’s commercial operations director, who agreed. The two trademarked the name at the end of 2016 and launched Neptune in the UK market in 2017. The Neptune brand was born.

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The Home Bar: Our Henry’s book is here!

Our very own features editor Henry Jeffreys has released a book! The Home Bar is full of all kinds of envy-inducing, Insta-worthy abodes, but also some really rather straightforward cocktail ideas, too. We chat to him about all things at-home drinking.

If you’re anything like us, mixing cocktails for friends at home goes one of two ways. Something miraculous could happen where you actually have the ingredients, ice, enough kit and the time, and the Negroni comes out almost as it’s supposed to. Everyone appreciatively oohs and aahhs, but there’s that lingering, sneaking suspicion that a pre-bottled offering might have been better. Then there’s option 2. The most likely option. It looks like a sticky mess, questionable glassware and a total lack of balance. And that’s the best you can hope for even when you’ve got enough ice in.

But it doesn’t have to be that way! Henry’s book The Home Bar presents a third option: cocktail recipes you can actually make at home along with glorious images of other people’s home bars. It balances aspirational with our inherent need for nosiness, while actually giving some top tips for at-home cocktail success. And it looks the part, too. (We also reckon it would make a fabulous last-minute Christmas gift if you’re listening, #WhiskySanta!).
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