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Master of Malt Blog

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Cocktail of the Week: the Bobby Burns

It’s Burns Night on Tuesday 25 January, so we’re making a cocktail named after the bard himself using a blended Scotch that you might not have tried before. It’s the Bobby…

It’s Burns Night on Tuesday 25 January, so we’re making a cocktail named after the bard himself using a blended Scotch that you might not have tried before. It’s the Bobby Burns!

Sadly, Robert Burns never got to try the cocktail named after him. He died in 1796, before the word ‘cocktail’ was even coined. According to Simon Difford, the first mention of the Bobby Burns cocktail is in Harry Craddock’s 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book. It’s a variation on the Rob Roy, a cocktail named after Scotland’s second most famous writer, Irvine Welsh. No, sorry Walter Scott. The Rob Roy, a Manhattan made with Scotch in place of bourbon or rye, was named after a musical version of Scott’s novel that ran in late 19th century New York.

Craddock’s Bobby Burns calls for half Scotch whisky and half Italian vermouth with three dashes of Benedictine. Very nice it is too, but also very sweet and rather overpowers the whisky. It’s much better made with two parts whisky to one part vermouth. Other recipes call for different additions: some people use absinthe or absinthe-substitute ie. pastis; David A. Embury in The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks recommends using Drambuie which has the benefit of making an already very Scottish drink even more Scottish. 

‘You want to get that seen to’

Hankey, what?

The big question is, what kind of whisky to use? Scotch can be difficult in cocktails, especially the smoky varieties, but I think I may have found the perfect blend for mixing. It’s called Hankey Bannister. An odd name, it sounds like the sort of thing an Aberdonian builder might say when looking round your old house. You can imagine him sucking his teeth and saying, “it’s going to be expensive, you’ve got a hankey bannister.” But like Cutty Sark and J&B, it was actually created by a London firm of wine and spirits merchants, which was founded in 1757 by Beaumont Hankey and Hugh Bannister.

Despite having a low profile, at least in this country, it has in its long life picked up some illustrious fans including such famous booze enthusiasts as Evelyn Waugh and Winston Churchill. The brand is now in the safe hands of Inver House which owns Pulteney, Balblair, Speyburn and Knockdhu distilleries. There’s certainly some quality spirits in Hankey Bannister – it’s fruity, with flavours of toffee and vanilla with a voluptuous mouthfeel. It tastes like there’s some well-matured grains in with the malt. In short, it’s just the sort of blend that isn’t either going to dominate or get swamped in a cocktail. Best of all, it’s not expensive either. 

Bobby Burns

It’s the Bobby Burns!

How to make a Bobby Burns

Now we’ve found our perfect whisky, back to the Bobby Burns. After some experimentation, I found that just a dash of pastis made it spicy without overpowering it with aniseed, while if you’re using Drambuie add a little more, a teaspoon full, to give it a herbal sweetness. Both are delicious. The final question is what to garnish it with: a strip of lemon or orange peel would be nice but a maraschino cherry is even better.

So, there we have the Bobby Burns, not a lot to do with the great bard, but a delicious cocktail nonetheless. Here are the ingredients:

50ml Hankey Bannister whisky
25ml Martini Riserva Speciale Rubino vermouth
A dash of Ricard pastis, or more to taste (or a teaspoon of Drambuie)

Add all the ingredients to an ice-filled shaker, stir well and strain into a coupe or Nick & Nora. Garnish with a maraschino cherry. 

 

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GlenDronach launches £20,000 50 year old whisky

We were delighted to sit down with master blender Dr Rachel Barrie and taste through some bottles from one of our favourite distilleries including a very special £20,000 GlenDronach Aged…

We were delighted to sit down with master blender Dr Rachel Barrie and taste through some bottles from one of our favourite distilleries including a very special £20,000 GlenDronach Aged 50 Years, the distillery’s oldest ever release.

Last year there was something of a furore among whisky fans when it was discovered that the words “‘non-chill-filtered’ had been removed from GlenDronach’s packaging.” Ralfy, the great whisky Youtuber, spoke out about this on his channel, and later followed up after the distillery’s PR team had got in touch.

High emotions

It’s worth watching both posts, and reading our article on chill filtering to see what all the fuss is about. What is apparent, however, is that the high emotions show the sheer love amongst the whisky community for GlenDronach’s single malts. Ralfy himself commented that on the evidence of the 15 and 18 year old expressions, GlenDronach was “frontrunning contender” for the crown of “best single malt in Scotland.” 

So when we were invited to an online event to taste through the GlenDronach range culminating in a tiny sample of the soon-to-be-released GlenDronach Aged 50 Years, you could say we were pretty keen. And yes, we will be getting some in, keep an eye on our New Arrivals page. The other expressions, you can just buy now.

The event included master blender Rachel Barrie (below), distillery manager Alan Mcconnochie and was hosted by FT drinks columnist Alice Lascelles, and beamed live from GlenDronach via the medium of modern satellite communications. Lascelles, who had spent the day at the distillery, commented on the unusual wine-like smell from the washbacks. According to Barrie, this “richness of dark fruit” is the GlenDronach signature along with European oak Oloroso and PX sherry casks.

Dry Rachel Barrie - GlenDronach

Look at the colour on that!

Before we got onto the GlenDronach Age 50 Years, we tried some of the core range:

GlenDronach 12 Year Old Original

This is aged in a combination of Oloroso and Pedro Ximénez casks. According to Barrie “this is the whisky that I spend most time on.” Each batch is made from around 65 casks with PX the majority. It’s bottled at 43% ABV and all natural colour. 

Nose: Butterscotch and toffee, peach and cherry, great fruit.

Palate: Lovely fruitiness here, that dark cherry note really comes through. Despite the high PX quotient, it’s not a sherry bomb. There’s a creamy, full texture, toffee, orange peel, 

Finish: Toffee and almond. Lovely dram.

GlenDronach 18 Year Old Allardice

The GlenDronach 18 year old Allardice is named after the distillery’s founder, James Allardice. It is matured completely in Oloroso sherry casks and bottled at 46% ABV. According to the distillery manager, Alan Mcconnachie, this is his favourite. 

Nose: Very rich, fruitcake, orange, dried apricot,  and spice, you can smell the casks. Plus there is ginger, toffee, and fudge with those cherry and peach notes coming through. Great nose. 

Palate: Dry, much drier than 12 year old, some wood tannin, tobacco, slightly bitter nutty edge, with chocolate and an almost Bordeaux-esque fruitiness. 

Finish: Brazil nuts, blackcurrants and dark chocolate. 

GlenDronach 50 years old

Remember there is no right or wrong way to drink this. Try it in an Old Fashioned, or with coke

GlenDronach Aged 50 Years

This was distilled in 1971 using direct-fired casks, the distillery switched to steam in 2006. It’s made up of two casks, a PX and an Oloroso, aged in GlenDronach’s dunnage warehouse. According to Barrie, they would have been filled for blends with no plan to keep them for longer than 10-12 years. Alcohol at 43.8% ABV was “dangerously close to not being classed as whisky” Barrie said. It’s the oldest expression ever released by the distillery as Barrie explained: 

“The GlenDronach Aged 50 Years is the most prestigious expression of what this timeless, richly-sherried Highland single malt Scotch whisky has to offer. It has been a privilege to be the final custodian of our oldest expression to date, passed down through generations. The result is a hand-crafted Highland single malt that tells a story of rare dedication, of which The GlenDronach Aged 50 Years is the rarest of them all.”

Tasting GlenDronach Aged 50 Years

So what did we think? Well, it’s quite an experience. The colour is something to behold, like a treacle. It looks more like a very old sherry than a whisky. The smell is incredible, and the taste is pretty uncompromising, dry and almost salty, again like a very old dry sherry. It’s very different to some other old whiskies we have tried like the Singleton of Dufftown 39 Year Old which was finished in first-fill casks. This, in contrast, is a no holds barred uncompromising very old single malt. Here’s the full tasting note:

Nose: Smells old, think ancient warehouses and damp wood. Then there’s balsamic notes, like a really old tawny Port, dark chocolate, touch of marzipan and waxy notes, 

Palate: So dry and intense, uncompromisingly dry. It’s a whisky you can feel as much as taste. Then come the nuts plus vanilla, creme brulee, and bitter dark chocolate. Very very complex. With time, sweeter notes start to appear. You do really get that dark cherry note strongly. 

Finish: Burnt toffee, dark chocolate and that cherry note persisting. 

As I said, it’s quite an experience.

Only 198 bottles have been filled and RRP is £20,000. . We will be getting stock in so sign up to our mailing list and keep an eye on our New Arrivals page.

 

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Top ten whiskies for Burns Night 2022

Want some bonnie booze to celebrate Burns Night (25 January) this year? You’ll find everything you need to toast Scotland’s national bard in this sublime Scotch-filled line-up! Burns Night is…

Want some bonnie booze to celebrate Burns Night (25 January) this year? You’ll find everything you need to toast Scotland’s national bard in this sublime Scotch-filled line-up!

Burns Night is just a week away and that means you’ll need to stock up on Scotch to do the night justice. Celebrating Burns Night with a good dram is a tradition we’re happy to help keep alive this year, so to help you out we’ve rounded up a remarkable range to mark the occasion. Each has an accompanying Burns poem or song and themed cocktail to boot. Happy Burns Night all!

Burns Night 2022

1) The Sassenach Blended Scotch Whisky

Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies:
But, if ye wish her gratefu prayer,
Gie her a Haggis

Do you know that great sci-fi TV show Outlander? Well, star Sam Heughan isn’t pretending, the Dumfries and Galloway man is a true Scotsman and patriot as his whisky brand The Sassenach demonstrates. And it’s been an absolute smash hit, winning award after award and getting five stars across 223 reviews on our site. Get it while you can, because this beauty sells like hotcakes.

What does it taste like?:

Caramel latte, tangy orange, walnut, cereal, coconut, fruit salad, a hint of savoury spice, with a touch of nutty bread too.

Scots serve: The Robbie Burns Roy

Celebrate three Scotch heroes for the price of one (Robert Burns, Rob Roy and Sam Heughan, if you’re keeping count) at once with the Rob Roy cocktail. To make it you’ll need a mixing glass, to which you add 60ml of The Sassenach Blended Scotch Whisky, 25ml of Lustau Vermut Rojo and 3 dashes of Angostura Bitters. Stir well, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a Luxardo Maraschino Cherry. Serve, preferably at supper while reciting the Address to a Haggis. This means you’ll need to get yourself some haggis (or whatever the vegetarian/vegan equivalent is, I can’t even imagine) and, please forget any negatives you’ve heard, it is smashing.

Burns Night 2022

2) Robert Burns Single Malt

O Whisky! soul o’ plays and pranks!
Accept a bardie’s gratfu’ thanks!

If you’re on the lookout for a good bottle of Scotch for Burns Night, then you could do far worse than to pick up one that was actually created in his honour. In fact, this single malt from the Isle of Arran distillery was officially endorsed by the World Burns Federation. And has his face on the bottle. That’s pretty perfect, right? 

What does it taste like?:

Apple strudel, a little pear juice, hints of coconut, vanilla, pannacotta, and cinnamon.

Scots serve: The Scotch Drink Sour

A sensationally sour tribute to the Scotch drink, this Whisky Sour is made by adding 50ml Robert Burns Single Malt, 25ml lemon juice, 2 tsp orange marmalade, 2 tsp maple syrup and one egg white to your shaker and dry shake vigorously for 15 seconds. Fill with ice and shake hard again, then double strain into a chilled tumbler and garnish with a piece of orange zest. Serve and proudly recite the Scotch Drink poem in your best 18th-century Scottish to your entertained/slightly embarrassed guests.

Burns Night 2022

3) Cù Bòcan Signature

Inspiring bold John Barleycorn!
What dangers thou canst make us scorn!
Wi’ tippeny, we fear nae evil;
Wi’ usquabae, we’ll face the devil!

Tomatin’s smoky series of single malts are a reliably consistent bunch and Signature is a fine example, with a sweet, fruity profile balanced by light peated edge. It’s aged in a trio of casks; bourbon, Oloroso sherry, and North American virgin oak. No chill-filtration or additional colours in this one, just fine whisky presented at its best.

What does it taste like?:

Dry and fragrant, with woodsmoke, dried lemon peel, Conference pear, espresso vanilla, then orchard fruit and heather honey, with a touch of liquorice.

Scots serve: Tam Collins

A Jock Collins with a Burns-ian spin, all you have to do to make this one is mix the 60ml of Cù Bòcan Signature, 30ml of lemon juice and 1 tsp sugar in a shaker. Then shake and pour into a Collins glass half-filled with ice. Top with soda water, garnish with an orange slice and serve. Simple, sophisticated and oh-so Scottish. And comes with a built-in challenge: to recite the epic Tam O’ Shanter off-by-heart.

Burns Night 2022

4) Berry Bros. & Rudd Sherry Cask Matured – The Classic Range

Ye banks and braes o’ bonie Doon,
How can ye bloom sae fresh and fair?
How can ye chant, ye little birds,
And I sae weary fu’ o’ care!

Legendary independent bottler Berry Bros. and Rudd doesn’t tend to get it wrong and this classic example of a well-sherried Scotch whisky demonstrates why. Part of The Classic Range, it’s great value for money and should be a treat for those who want a big sherry bomb for Burns Night.

What does it taste like?:

Blood orange juice, brown sugar, herbal tea, bitter dark chocolate, Seville orange marmalade, and dried fruit with a hint of charred pineapple and perhaps some rancio.

Scots serve: The Rusty Banks o’ Doon

A Rusty Nail inspired by The Banks o’ Doon’, make this super simple serve by stirring 60ml Berry Bros. & Rudd Sherry Cask Matured – The Classic Range and 30ml Drambuie on a tumbler over ice. Garnish with a lemon twist. The traditional version is half and half or if you have a sweeter tooth you can reverse the ratio. Or halve the amount of Drambuie if you like it drier.

Burns Night 2022

5) Aerolite Lyndsay 10 Year Old – The Character of Islay Whisky Company

O gin my love were yon red rose,
That grows upon the castle wa’;
And I myself a drap o’ dew,
Into her bonie breast to fa’!

When winter’s here there’s nothing better than a warm, sweet and smoky dram. Pair this with a good fire and a tartan blanket and you’ve got the cosiest Burns Night imaginable. According to the folks at The Character of Islay Whisky Company, everything you need to know about this dram is in the name, Aerolite Lyndsay. Any guesses? 

What does it taste like?:

Maritime peat, iodine, honey sweetness, paprika, salted caramel, old bookshelves, mint dark chocolate, espresso, new leather, soy sauce, liquorice allsorts, bonfire smoke and toffee penny, with a pinch of salt.

Scots serve: The Drap O’ Dew Penicillin

A Burns-tastic adaptation of the classic Penicillin cocktail, probably the finest of all peated whisky cocktails. Combine 50ml blended whisky (Johnnie Walker Black Label 12 Year Old or Compass Box Great King Street – Artist’s Blend), 20ml freshly squeezed lemon juice and 20ml honey & ginger syrup into your cocktail shaker. Fill it with ice and give it a good hard shake, then strain into a chilled rocks glass over a large piece of ice. Then gently pour the 15ml of Aerolite Lyndsay 10 Year Old slowly over the back of a spoon so it floats delicately on the top of the drink. Garnish with candied ginger on a skewer and enjoy, while reciting, Ron Swanson-style, the beautiful O Were My Love Yon Lilac Fair to whoever your heart burns for.

Burns Night 2022

6) Crabbie’s Yardhead Gift Pack with 1x Tumbler

O Lord, Thou kens what zeal I bear,
When drinkers drink, an’ swearers swear,
An’ singing here, an’ dancin there,
Wi’ great and sma’

A tasty single malt bottled up by Crabbie’s that’s perfect for using in cocktails and mixed drinks. This is what you want for a party setting where you need a versatile, approachable and reliable whisky. Plus, it comes with a handsome branded tumbler for serving said cocktails and mixed drinks in. How handy!

What does it taste like?:

Custard Cream biscuits, lemon peel, a touch of savoury wood, mint leaf, toffee apple, white grape, and soft cinnamon.

Scots serve: Holy Willie’s Presbyterian

A delicious variation of a whisky Highball that pays tribute to Holy Willie’s Prayer, a poem in which Burns fittingly attempts to uncover what he sees as the absurdity of the Presbyterian doctrine of predestination. Pretty neat, huh? To create, start by adding 45ml of Crabbie’s Yardhead to a Highball glass filled with ice. Then top with 55ml each of ginger ale and soda water and stir. Garnish with a lemon twist, then serve and delight/bore everyone in sight with your newly acquired knowledge of the defiant Holy Willie’s Prayer.

Burns Night 2022

7) Timorous Beastie

Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!”

Named after the Burns poem To a Mouse, this Scotch whisky was created by Douglas Laing. It’s a blended malt made entirely of Highland whiskies from distilleries such as Dalmore, Glen Garioch, Glengoyne and more, so you know it’s made of purely good stuff. Plus, there’s the Burns connection again. An all-round winner.

What does it taste like?:

Acacia honey, creamy boiled sweeties (the strawberry flavour), dried apricots, green apple, fresh bread, sherry, a whiff of coastal air and classic Highland heather, too.

Scots serve: The Beastie Boulevardier

Essentially a whisky equivalent of a Negroni, The Boulevardier is a beautiful, rich and complex serve. To make, combine 45ml of Timorous Beastie, 25ml of Campari and 25ml of Martini Rosso in a mixing glass with ice. Stir, then strain into chilled tumbler over fresh ice. Garnish with an orange twist, serve and pay tribute to your creation with a rendition of To a Mouse.

Burns Night 2022

8) Glen Scotia 12 Year Old Seasonal Release

O my Luve’s like a red, red rose
That’s newly sprung in june;
O my Luve’s like the melodie
That’s sweetly play’d in tune:

The Glen Scotia Distillery in Campbeltown is one of those distilleries that gets people incredibly excited as this 12-year-old from the Seasonal Release series is a great example of why. Matured combination of first-fill bourbon and American oak casks for 11 years and then finished for 12 months in a combination of first-fill Oloroso sherry hogsheads and heavily charred American oak barrels, this combo of combos will be a firm favourite at Burns Night bash you attend.

What does it taste like?:

Pear, red apple, layers of toffee, orange oil, ginger, oak, and a hint of seashell salinity.

Scots serve: A Red, Red Blood and Sand

The Blood and Sand looks as good as it tastes and, luckily, it’s easy to make. Begin by popping a coupe glass in the freezer for a few minutes before you start to get it nice and chilled. Then add 25ml of Glen Scotia 12 Year Old Seasonal Release, 25ml of Martini Rosso, 25ml of Ableforth’s Cherry Brandy (or Heering Cherry Liqueur) and 25ml of fresh orange juice to a shaker with ice and give your best hard shake for about 30 seconds. Then take your chilled glass out of the freezer, pop a Luxardo Maraschino Cherry in the bottom of it, and then strain the mix into the glass. Garnish with an orange zest before you serve and recite the beautiful A Red, Red Rose to what I can only imagine will be a room of people struggling to hold back the tears.

Burns Night 2022

9) Teaninich 11 Year Old 2010 (cask 356846) – James Eadie (Master of Malt Exclusive)

Farewell to the Highlands, farewell to the north,
The birth-place of Valour, the country of Worth;
Wherever I wander, wherever I rove,
The hills of the Highlands for ever I love.

A single cask single malt from the terrific Teaninich Distillery, independently bottled by James Eadie exclusively for Master of Malt! An intriguing finishing period in a first-fill Amontillado sherry cask for 16 months was given to this beauty before it was bottled up at cask strength, and with just 321 bottles produced you’ll want to make sure you grab a bottle before they’re all gone!

What does it taste like?:

Roasted almond, chewy apricot, maple syrup, fresh cedar, fudge and buttered scones. 

Scots serve: My Heart’s in the Toddy

The perfect winter warmer and an ideal treat if you’re staying in this year, this Hot Toddy is made by filling a heat-proof glass with boiling water and letting it stand for 1-2 mins to warm. Empty the mug and half-fill with 150ml of boiling water. Add 50ml Teaninich 11 Year Old 2010 (cask 356846) – James Eadie (Master of Malt Exclusive), the juice of half a lemon, ¼ tsp ground cinnamon, ¼ tsp ground nutmeg, 1 cinnamon stick and 2 cloves (slightly ground using pestle and mortar) to the glass and stir. Garnish with a slice of lemon and a cinnamon stick. Serve with the words of My Heart’s in the Highlands warming your heart in tandem with the Toddy.

Burns Night 2022

10) Balvenie DoubleWood 12 Year Old 

For auld lang syne, my jo,
for auld lang syne,
we’ll tak’ a cup o’ kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.

A genuine classic, Balvenie DoubleWood’s mixed maturation of refill American oak casks followed by first-fill European oak Oloroso sherry butts changed the game when it was launched in 1993 and the rich and complex dram has been wowing folks ever since. If you want no-risk and all-reward, this is the one for you.

What does it taste like?:

Supple nuttiness intertwined with spices as well as vanilla, nutmeg, honeyed sultanas and grapes.

Scots serve: The Auld Fashioned

The Auld (Old) Fashioned is a classic for a reason and this is a surefire recipe perfect to taste the Bard himself. Start by putting a level teaspoon of brown sugar into an Old Fashioned glass, then add a splash of hot water and two dashes of Fee Brothers Orange Bitters. Stir vigorously so that the sugar dissolves, then add 80ml of Balvenie DoubleWood 12 Year Old. Stir a bit more, add ice cubes, stir a bit more and garnish with a piece of orange peel. Serve while belting out a resounding edition of Auld Lang Syne.

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New Arrival of the Week: GinBey

We’re celebrating triumph over adversity and the indomitable human spirit with our New Arrival this week. It’s a gin from Lebanon called GinBey. The Lebanese are famously resilient, especially when…

We’re celebrating triumph over adversity and the indomitable human spirit with our New Arrival this week. It’s a gin from Lebanon called GinBey.

The Lebanese are famously resilient, especially when it comes to alcohol. The tiny Mediterranean country may have suffered a brutal civil war between 1975 and 1990, but it still managed to produce first-class wines such as Chateau Musar.

Spirit masters

Since those days, Lebanon’s wine has gone from strength to strength. One of the best ambassadors for the industry is Faouzi Issa from Domaine des Tourelles. His family own the country’s oldest commercial winery as well as producing a delicious aniseed spirit, Arak Brun, which is beloved in Lebanon. There’s nothing better with the country’s amazing food.

Sadly, Lebanon is once again going through a period of extreme instability caused by a corrupt political and economic system exacerbated by the global pandemic. Then in 2020, just when things couldn’t get any worse, a massive explosion rocked the Port of Beirut, caused by a cargo of ammonium nitrate that had been sitting in a warehouse since 2013. Since then rumours and conspiracy theories have spread about this disaster.

The economy is in a terrible state. Issa told us: “The Lebanese currency has lost 80% of its value against the US dollar, so imported goods such as spirits brands are now beyond the reach of many consumers.” The ever-resourceful Issa, however, saw an opportunity: “We have launched a high-quality gin, in beautiful packaging and at a great price and so have gained a good slice of the market in a short time.” 

GinBeyIntroducing GinBey

It’s called GinBey and it’s now arrived in Britain. According to Issa, it had long been a dream of his: “I have wanted to make a gin for a long time – apart from arak it’s my go-to spirit. I have spent a lot of time researching different gins, visiting distilleries, tasting different styles.” 

However, unlike arak, he didn’t use grape brandy as the base for his gin. “I found that it didn’t give the purity I was looking for in the gin. So I tested various different spirits and eventually settled on very high-quality wheat alcohol from France,” he said.

Local botanicals

He explained a little about the botanicals used: “I tried Lebanese juniper which I really wanted to use, but disappointingly it didn’t give a good flavour so I have imported this from Macedonia. The other botanicals are local to us and sourced from the mountains around the winery and the local souks, and even the garden at Domaine des Tourelles where we collect the petals from our famous tilia tree.” The full line-up consists of juniper, coriander, angelica, citrus and mandarin peels, cassia, rose and tilia petals, pomegranate and liquorice. 

He steeps the more robust botanicals for 24 hours in the spirit before distillation in a 400-litre copper still. While the more delicate ones such as rose petal and pomegranate seeds he places them in a basket in the still. The final touch is something that Tourelles has long done for its arak, the gin is rested in clay jars for six months to let the flavours meld and smooth the spirit. 

The result is something that for me tastes distinctly Lebanese, perhaps it’s the liquorice reminding me of the aniseed in Arak Brun, or the pomegranate used in Lebanese cookery, but at the same time with a profile that isn’t going to frighten Tanqueray drinkers. I’ve been drinking my sample with tonic water but it’s definitely a good all-rounder and that smoothness means that it’s one of those rare gins that you can sip neat.

It’s an excellent and distinctive gin even before you take into account the conditions in which it was made. Issa told us: “The inflation situation and volatile exchange rates present daily headaches. People are really suffering and there is a lot of uncertainty.” They have been helping out their workers and their families with: “food parcels and fuel when things have been really difficult.”

Faouzi Issa in the vineyards

Faouzi Issa in the vineyards of the Bekaa valley

Issa’s unquenchable optimism 

Yet he is ever the optimist: “It’s a cliché to say we are resilient people, but it’s true. We have faced so many challenges over the last 50 years and we always find ways to overcome them. As a nation, we are natural traders so we always find a solution to difficult situations to ensure we can survive. I think the current situation is creating lots of new ideas. Many people are leaving the country, but those that have chosen to stay are making the best of it and developing ideas to secure their future here.”

Talking of new ideas, GinBey isn’t the only spirit, Issa is working on. He’s currently collaborating with Whyte & Mackay on a Scotland meets Lebanon whisky. He explained: “We import the liquid from Whyte & Mackay and blend and finish it here in Lebanon. Again, this was another idea borne out of the crisis. It is now the market-leading brand in Lebanon, being less than a third of the cost of imported brands but without compromising on quality.” And the name, GlenBey, of course. Wait ’till the SWA finds out about that.

Tasting note from the Chaps at Master of Malt

Piney juniper on the nose, lemon, warm spices, and rose petal. Take a taste and there’s a beautifully-creamy spirit, the predominant taste is juniper joined by floral, spicy and a sweet liquorice note. 

GinBey is available from Master of Malt. Click here to buy.

GinBey in a Negroni

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Cocktail of the Week: The Zelda

Today, we’re mixing up a cocktail inspired by one of the legends of the jazz age. We’re combining fizz, Bardinet VSOP, and apricot brandy to make… the Zelda! Ah, Paris…

Today, we’re mixing up a cocktail inspired by one of the legends of the jazz age. We’re combining fizz, Bardinet VSOP, and apricot brandy to make… the Zelda!

Ah, Paris in the 1920s! Full of Americans taking advantage of the weak French franc to act out their bohemian fantasies. There was Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, and Gertrude Stein. But most of all there was F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. He was a promising young novelist from Minnesota, she was a southern belle from Alabama. Dorothy Parker commented on the pair: “They did both look as though they had just stepped out of the sun; their youth was striking.” 

An icon of the Jazz Age

The Fitzgeralds came to symbolise the glamour and hedonism of the Jazz Age. Who better then to name a cocktail after than Zelda Fitzgerald? Especially as her husband was apparently the first person to use ‘cocktail’ as a verb. He was also the first person to use the word ‘wicked’ in a positive sense in print. So now you know.

The Zelda cocktail is the creation of award-winning drinks blogger Susan L. Schwartz for Bardinet French brandy. It combines Bardinet VSOP, apricot brandy, orange juice, and sparkling wine. Along with the Zelda, Schwartz has come up with cocktails inspired by Josephine Baker and Coco Chanel.  She commented: “The Roaring ‘20s (known as Années Folles in France) in my opinion epitomised French joie de vivre, so I have drawn inspiration for each of my creations from an iconic woman from the flapper era. As we step softly out of the Covid pandemic, our ‘20s might have the potential to become our own Roaring ‘20s. We will have to wait until the decade is over to discover how events have changed us, but one thing is for sure, our collective desire to enjoy oneself is palpable right now.”

Bardinet French brandy

At the heart of the Zelda is Bardinet, the French brandy. It’s not something to linger over after a meal with cigars, but it is simple and delicious – just the thing for mixing. The company was founded in 1857 by Paul Bardinet making brandy in southwest France. His son Edouard took the business to Bordeaux but also expanded to produce syrups, fruit punches, and cocktails. In 1975 the firm moved to the Domaine de Fleurenne estate near the city of Bordeaux. It’s now part of the La Martinquaise group that also owns various other drink brands including Glen Moray whisky 

Unlike Cognac or Armagnac, the grapes that go into Bardinet don’t have to come from a specific area. Distillation takes place in a column still before maturing in oak casks. Blending is overseen by Bénédicte Bertet.

While you’re not going to get the complexity of Cognac, it’s a great spirit for mixing. It’s perfect in a Brandy and Soda, Brandy and Tonic, and in classic brandy cocktails like the Sidecar. 

The Zelda is roughly speaking a Sidecar crossed with another golden age cocktail, the French 75. It gets its sweetness from Bols Apricot brandy and a sugared rim of the glass, and an orangey hint from a tiny bit of orange juice. You could use Champagne to top it up if you’re feeling fancy but Prosecco will do just fine.

Here’s to the new Roaring ‘20s!

Zelda cocktail with Bardinet brandy

How to make a Zelda cocktail

50 ml Bardinet VSOP Brandy
25 ml Bols Apricot Brandy
¼ teaspoon orange juice or orange blossom water
Chilled Prosecco or Champagne to top  

Wet the rim of the glass with apricot brandy, then dip into caster sugar. Add the Bardinet, apricot brandy, orange juice (or blossom water) in a shaker, add ice, and shake until chilled. Pour into the glass then top up with prosecco or champagne and stir gently. Peel a long strip of orange peel and place in glass.

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New Arrival of the Week: Ron Zacapa Reserva Limitada 2019

A new week has begun, and as usual, we’re kicking things off by shining the New Arrival spotlight on a bottle that we’re particularly excited about. Today it’s a very…

A new week has begun, and as usual, we’re kicking things off by shining the New Arrival spotlight on a bottle that we’re particularly excited about. Today it’s a very special rum from Guatemala: Ron Zacapa Reserva Limitada 2019!

Ron Zacapa does things a little differently to most Latin American rums. For a start, the team uses only the first press of sugar cane juice rather than the molasses commonly used in the industry. This is then concentrated to make what is known as sugar cane honey. They use over 20 different varieties of cane all grown in Guatemala. That’s the country just below Mexico, just in case your Central American geography is a little shaky.

History of Ron Zacapa

The family-run company behind it, originally known as Industria Licorera Guatemalteca, dates back to the early 20th century but the Zacapa brand itself was launched in 1976 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of the town of Zacapa, about 70 miles east of Guatemala City. Currently, Diageo has a 50% stake in the brand and looks after distribution and marketing.

The process to turn that sugar cane honey into aged rum takes place under the watchful eye of master blender Lorena Vásquez, a former chemist and food technologist from nearby Nicaragua. Fermentation takes place over 120 hours using a proprietary yeast strain that is, according to this article, extracted from pineapples. Ron Zacapa is made in a column still with the alcohol coming off at between 88 and 92% ABV.

Lorena Vasquez from Ron Zacapa

Lorena Vásquez from Ron Zacapa has a passion for maturation

Solera ageing

But it’s maturation that gets Vásquez particularly excited: “The fermentation and distillation are more of a mechanical process, the ageing process is where the passion comes in. The former is analytical whereas the latter is very creative and personal. Every day we blend rums and we have to try them halfway through the morning and halfway through the afternoon.”

Ageing takes place at a different facility high up in the mountains, 2,300 metres above sea level. Here you have warm days and cool nights which means the rum ages more slowly. The new make is diluted down to 60% ABV before going into cask. Zacapa uses a solera-style system, which Vásquez explains is similar to making sherry, but with some slight differences.

“We start by ageing [new make] in ex-bourbon American oak barrels. After that, we take it out of the cask and mix it with old rums. In this second ageing process, we use the same type of barrel but char it first for more vanilla, chocolate and toffee flavours. Then we take that rum out and mix it again with older rums,” she says. “For the final ageing process, we use barrels that held aromatic sherry, specifically Oloroso. And then we do a final mix in barrels that previously aged Pedro Ximénez wines. It makes the rum much more complex.” The rums, therefore, are blends of various ages, usually between about six and 23 years, though longer for the XO bottling.

Ron Zacapa Reserva Limitada 2019

It’s one of those rums best tried neat or in simple cocktails

Ron Zacapa Reserva Limitada 2019 is here!

Ron Zacapa also makes limited editions that are highly sought-after by rum fans. The Ron Zacapa Reserva Limitada 2019 is finished in sweet Moscatel wine casks which impart a glorious balance of sweet, floral fruit and rich oak. It’s bottled at 45% ABV, a little stronger than the core expressions. 

This is the bottle that has just landed at Master of Malt today. As its name suggests, it’s strictly limited edition. When it’s gone, it’s gone. It’s very much a sipping sort of rum though would be delicious in simple cocktails like a Palmetto or, Vásquez’s choice, an Old Fashioned.

Salud!

Ron Zacapa Reserva Limitada 2019 is from Master of Malt. Click here to buy. 

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt

Delicately balanced with plenty of sweet caramel and warming oak, hints of berries and floral orchard fruits poke through, with woody vanilla chewy butterscotch.

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Top ten no and low ABV drinks for Dry January

Whether you’re doing Dry January, or Dryish January, there is now a delicious range of drinks that either contain no alcohol or significantly less than with standard spirits. Now we’ve…

Whether you’re doing Dry January, or Dryish January, there is now a delicious range of drinks that either contain no alcohol or significantly less than with standard spirits. Now we’ve rounded up some of our favourites: here are our top ten low and no ABV drinks!

As we mentioned earlier this week, we’re not cutting the booze out entirely this January. Instead, we’re looking at ways to moderate and mix things up. So in this round-up, we’ve got the full range of non-alcoholic ‘spirits’ a la Seedlip which you can mix in all sorts of ways and you might not even guess that there’s no booze in them at all. We’ve also got some great zero ABV aperos – think Campari without the booze.

But there’s more than one way to skin a cat as my Austrian grandmother used to say (don’t worry, she never actually skinned a cat, maybe a rabbit or two, but never a cat). If you’re prepared to deal with a bit of alcohol, then a whole world of flavour can be yours. You can either use lower alcohol gin-style drinks like Portobello’s Temperance, or use something like Peter Rose gin concentrate which is high ABV but you only need to use a tiny bit.

The other option for those who want to cut down on ABV but are happy to consume some alcohol is fortified wines. This week we show you how to make a cocktail that’s high in flavour but with less than half the alcohol of a spirit-forward concoction. It’s called the Adonis.

Here are our favourite no and low ABV drinks to celebrate this Dryish January. Or if you’re looking for more inspiration, click here

everleaf-mountain-spirit

Everleaf Mountain

This new bottling from Everleaf is full of aromatic and fruity notes, having been made with botanicals including cherry blossom, rosehip and strawberry. Everleaf is the brainchild of top London bar wonder and all-round good egg Paul Mathew and now consists of a whole range of non-alcoholic aperitifs

How does it taste?

Juicy and subtly sweet with summer berries, balanced by earthy herbs and spring blossom.  Pair with a good light tonic and pop in a few fresh strawberry slices.

aecorn-dry-spirit

Æcorn Bitter

From the team behind Seedlip, Æcorn is a range of non-alcoholic aperitifs. The bitter version is made from Pinot Noir, Meunier and Chardonnay grapes flavoured with citrus fruits, bay leaf, oak and quassia. Think of it as like a sort of non-alcoholic vermouth. The Aecorn Dry version makes a great wine substitute drunk chilled.

How does it taste?

Bitter peels and juicy grapefruit, balanced by earthy herbs and a touch of pine resin. Try it in a Nogroni with Seedlip and Aecorn Aromatic.

tuscan-tree-blood-orange-non-alcoholic-aperitivo-spirit

Tuscan Tree Blood Orange Non-Alcoholic Aperitivo 

A non-alcoholic aperitivo here from Tuscan Tree, made with Tuscan blood oranges, Sicilian lemons, Italian juniper, and lavender, infused in sparkling wine – all at 0% ABV. This works really well mixed with soda or tonic especially if you add a little freshly-squeezed grapefruit, lemon or orange juice. 

How does it taste?

A touch piney, with pithy citrus leading into juicy blood orange sweetness, supported by a waft of florals. This is perfect for making zero ABV Italian Spritzes. 

atopia-spiced-citrus-spirit

Atopia Spiced Citrus 

This was created by Hendrick’s Gin master distiller Lesley Gracie as an ultra low alcohol spirit, featuring the likes of orange, lemon, juniper, wormwood, angelica, and coriander. And with that pedigree, no wonder it’s one of the best non-alcoholic gin substitutes on the market.

How does it taste?

With masses of citrus and juniper, it tastes a lot like gin especially when mixed with tonic and served with a slice of fresh orange. 

portobello-road-temperance-spirit

Portobello Temperance

The team behind Portobello Road Gin created this lower-ABV spirit with the same botanicals as the original but at 4.2% ABV! This gives it a bit more oomph than most gin substitutes. So yes it works well with tonic water, as you’d expect, but it’s also got the power to work in a Tom Collins or a Gin Fizz. Well worth trying. 

How does it taste?

Orange, cinnamon, nutmeg, a crackle of peppery juniper, softly floral at points. Mix one-third Temperance to two-thirds tonic for a great low ABV G&T.

bax-botanics-verbena-spirit

Bax Botanics Verbena

A vibrant non-alcoholic spirit from Bax Botanicals over in Yorkshire, making the most of natural botanicals. Sufficiently herbal, this Verbena expression takes the plant and distils it alongside other botanicals. The brand is heavily focused on sustainability too, with the labels made from leftover sugar cane. 

How does it taste?

Pleasingly bitter, with complex herbal and green grassy notes bringing a certain freshness. Add a slice of cucumber when mixing to bring out those flavours.

gin-concentrate-peter-rose-gin

Peter Rose Gin Concentrate

This 50% ABV gin is so concentrated that you only need to use 5ml in your G&T for the equivalent flavour of a double measure, 50ml, of standard gin. So you’re using tens times less gin. Not only will your G&T be lower ABV but it’s excellent value too, there’s enough gin in here for 40 drinks, the equivalent of three 70cl bottles of standard gin.  

How does it taste?

Well, whatever you do, don’t drink this neat because it is INTENSE. Mixed with tonic, you will not be able to notice the substantially lower ABV. Juniper heaven.

seedlip-garden-108-spirit

Seedlip Garden 108

The original gin substitute and for many, judging by sales, the best. It’s the product that launched a hundred imitators. Made using copper stills and botanicals including hay, pea, rosemary, spearmint, and thyme, it’s a drink that the trade has really got behind with most bars now offering a Seedlip serve on the menu. 

How does it taste?

Peas, mainly, followed by minty herbaceous notes. Seedlip recommends drinking it with elderflower tonic and a slice of cucumber.

anon-bittersweet-aperitif-spirit

ANON Bittersweet Aperitif

This is a non-alcoholic take on the classic Italian bitters like Campari and Aperol used to make timeless classics such as Spritzes and Negronis. Made with natural botanicals such as wormwood, orange, gentian, and quassia, ANON Bittersweet Aperitif is full of herbaceous, bittersweet flavour.

How does it taste?

Bitter woody spice and aromatic herbs mingle with zesty citrus and sweet orange. Mix with your favourite gin substitute for a booze-free Negroni.

caleno-dark-and-spicy-spirit

Caleño Dark & Spicy

The Caleño range of non-alcoholic spirits was inspired by the vibrant flavours of Colombia, perfect if you’re taking a break from booze but still want to drink something delicious. This particular expression from the collection is built around tangy, toast notes of pineapple, black cardamom, coconut, ginger, lime, kola nut, and vanilla.

How does it taste?

With its juicy pineapple and hints of toasted brown sugar, fresh ginger, and cardamom, it tastes great mixed with Coca-Cola and a wedge of lime.  

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Cocktail of the Week: The Adonis

As part of our Dryish January coverage, we’ve got a delicious cocktail with around half the alcohol but all the flavour of a traditional spirit-forward drink. A blend of sherry…

As part of our Dryish January coverage, we’ve got a delicious cocktail with around half the alcohol but all the flavour of a traditional spirit-forward drink. A blend of sherry and sweet vermouth, it’s called the Adonis!

One of the joys of cocktails is also one of the main drawbacks: they are just so damned drinkable. Traditional spirit-forward cocktails are essentially ways of making high strength alcohol go down easily through the magic of chilling and sweetening. You have to sip a glass of rye, whereas a Manhattan is gone before you know it. A cocktail is a booze delivery system; perfect for when you want that jolt of alcohol.

Sherry, the bartender’s secret weapon

But what about when you don’t? Happily, there is an answer, sherry. A good aged sherry, whether it’s a Fino, Amontillado, Palo Cortado, Oloroso or PX, will have much of the complexity of whisky. Both get their flavours from barrel ageing and, indeed, many whiskies are aged in ex-sherry casks so they actually taste of sherry.

Combine your sherry with a decent bottle of vermouth, especially one from the sherry region, and you have a recipe for extreme cocktail deliciousness but with less than half of the alcohol. You can make a great Dry Martini substitute by stirring one part Fino with one part dry vermouth with ice and strain into a coupe with a dash of orange bitters. This is known as a Bamboo.

Strong name, not so strong drink

But today, we’re making something more like a Manhattan called the Adonis. The recipe comes from a book called Schofield’s Fine and Classic Cocktails. It’s written by two brothers from Manchester, Joe and Daniel Schofield. Between them, they have won many many awards, worked in cocktail bars all over the world, including the American Bar at the Savoy, and collaborated with another pair of brothers, Asterley Bros, on a vermouth. Now, all that learning and experience can be found in one place. The book contains advice on making cocktails as well as classic and modern recipes. 

The Adonis is named not after the figure from Greek mythology nor the Labour peer and educational reformer, Lord Adonis, but after a musical. Adonis was a long-running Broadway show in the late 19th century. It’s part of the long line of cocktails named after shows like the Rob Roy, and the Pink Lady. Sadly this habit of naming cocktails after musicals seems to have died out. One can almost imagine a Miss Saigon or an Oliver! though I wouldn’t fancy a Les Miserables.

The Adonis cocktail

The Adonis, not as strong as you’d expect from the name

How to make the Adonis

Traditionally the Adonis is made with Fino sherry but the Schofield brothers have suggested using an Oloroso instead to make it richer. The Alfonso from Gonzalez Byass offers amazing richness and power for the money. The Schofields recommend their collaborative vermouth (well, they would, wouldn’t they?) but I have defied them and kept it 100% Jerez with La Copa, also from Gonzalez Byass. 

The other non-trad element is sugar syrup; the brothers write: “sugar is a great flavour carrier and works well here, enhancing the relatively subtle sherry and vermouth. You won’t find this extra touch of sweetness in traditional versions of the drink, but we like how it underscores all the flavour notes”. If you like a fresher drink, feel free to leave out the sugar syrup. Or, even better, if you have some PX sherry knocking around, then add a little of that instead. 

The result is something with all the depth of flavour of a Manhattan or Rob Roy, but with much less alcohol. A classic two parts rye to one part vermouth Manhattan will be around 35% ABV; the sherry version weighs in at less than 17% ABV. And it’s cheaper too. Your doctor and bank manager will be pleased.

Right, let’s make an Adonis. 

30ml Gonzalez Byass Alfonso Oloroso
30ml Gonzalez Byass La Copa vermouth
2 dashes of Fee Brothers orange bitters
½ teaspoon of sugar syrup or PX sherry (optional)

Add all the ingredients into a mixing glass or shaker with ice, and give it a good stir. Strain into a coupette and garnish with an orange coin.

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Explore new whiskies this year… and next

If you’re stuck in a whisky rut, we’ve got some unusual, off-beat and under the radar recommendations to give your palate a workout. Let’s explore new whiskies in 2022! When…

If you’re stuck in a whisky rut, we’ve got some unusual, off-beat and under the radar recommendations to give your palate a workout. Let’s explore new whiskies in 2022!

When shopping for clothes, it can be very easy to rely on old favourites. This is why I have a cupboard full of almost identical blue shirts with button-down collars. It’s the same with whisky. The choice available at Master of Malt can be overwhelming even to those of us who work here. It’s very easy when buying for ourselves or recommending bottles to friends and customers to go for old favourites like Glenmorangie 10, Lagavulin 16, or Johnnie Walker Black Label.

So, we’ve rounded up some excellent bottlings which aren’t quite so well-known. There’s offerings from non-traditional whisky countries, underrated Scotch whiskies distilleries, lesser-known expressions from some of the big boys, an unusual blend, and a single grain whisky that’s really a malt.

Go on, try something different this year, and next.

Explore new whiskies this year

jura-the-loch-whisky

Jura The Loch

Poor old Jura. While Islay gets all the attention from whisky lovers, it’s near Hebrides neighbour is often overlooked. This is a shame as if you love sweet sherry and smoke, then you’ll love Jura The Loch. It was initially matured in American oak casks before being finished in casks that previously held 30 year old Pedro Ximénez sherry, and bottled at 44.5% ABV. Originally this was travel retail only, but we’ve managed to snaffle some. 

What does it taste like?

Smells like rich oak and milky coffee, with a burst of juicy raisin sweetness. In the mouth, there’s thick caramel and treacle, balanced by a hint of peat smoke.

the-cardrona-growing-wings-solera-sherry-and-bourbon-cask-whisky

Cardrona Growing Wings Solera – Sherry & Bourbon Cask

Last week Adam was raving about the quality of the whisky coming out of this New Zealand distillery. Now you can see what all the fuss is about with this 35cl bottle. Part of the Growing Wings collection by Cardrona Distillery, it was matured for five years in a combination of Oloroso sherry and bourbon casks and bottled at 65.6% ABV.

What does it taste like?

It’s packed with heaps of glorious syrupy fruit and nut character from the sherry butt, balanced by creamy bourbon oak vanilla.

tobermory-12-year-old-whisky

Tobermory 12 Year Old

We love the orchard fruit-laden flavour profile from this Isle of Mull distillery and think it deserves to be better known. We’ve been lucky enough to try some older releases this year from Tobermory and have been knocked out by the quality. But this 12 year old aged in American oak and bottled at 46.3% ABV is pretty special. We think it’s one of the great bargains of the whisky world. 

What does it taste like?

Pear, peach and apple, with a dusting of brown sugar. Greek yoghurt, barley and a hint of cinnamon pastries.

loch-lomond-peated-single-grain-whisky

Loch Lomond Peated Single Grain

Due to SWA regulations, this has to be labelled as a single grain but it’s actually made from 100% malted barley. So what the hell is going on? Well, the crazy cats at Loch Lomond used a Coffey still instead of pot stills so it can’t be called a single malt. Following this unusual distillation method, it was aged in first-fill and refill American oak ex-bourbon casks to produce one of the most idiosyncratic malts on the market.

What does it taste like?

Berry jam, orchard fruit, oaky vanilla, and a dusting of baking spices and liquorice, with a layer of fragrant smoke underneath it all.

compass-box-glasgow-blend-single-marrying-cask-pour-and-sip-whisky

Compass Box Glasgow Blend – Single Marrying Cask (Pour & Sip Exclusive)

Compass Box bottled a limited edition of its Glasgow Blend Single Marrying Cask just for Pour & Sip subscribers (so sign up here). It brings together malt whisky from Craigellachie and grain whisky from Cameronbridge, alongside Clynelish and Laphroaig, as well as a Highland malt blend. The blend was married in an ex-Clynelish cask for 15 months before being bottled at 49% ABV. If you think blends are all about big brands, well think again.

What does it taste like?

On the nose you’ll find peach and plum, polished oak, Crunchie bars, waxy citrus peels, with caramelised nuts, coconut ice, a smidge of snuffed-out candle, crisp red apple on the palate.

glenfiddich-grand-cru-23-year-old-whisky

Glenfiddich Grand Cru 23 Year Old

And finally, let’s go beyond the classic 12 Year Old or, our favourite, the 15 Year Old Solera, and explore the upper echelons of the Glenfiddich range like the Grand Cru 23 Year Old. This single malt initially ages in American and European oak casks, before being moved over to rare French cuvée oak casks – which previously held a seriously fancy wine. 

What does it taste like?

Melted butter on rye toast, sandalwood, peach, soft peppery hints drifts in later on, with just a pinch of mint.

If you’re looking to expand explore new whiskies, you should sign up with our whisky subscriptions service Pour & Sip. It’s offering a tasting pack containing the Cardrona Growing Wings Solera Sherry & Bourbon Cask, an exclusive bottling of Compass Box Marrying Cask, Tobermory 12 Year Old, Jura The Loch, and Loch Lomond Peated Single Grain. Click here for more details.

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Whisky Advent 2021 Days 22, 23, and 24

It’s our final Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar blog for the year! What tasty drams were behind doors 22, 23, and 24? We’re about to find out. Along…

It’s our final Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar blog for the year! What tasty drams were behind doors 22, 23, and 24? We’re about to find out.

Along with a few last minute presents, we’re wrapping up our Advent updates because it’s finally Christmas Eve! So before you leave a mince pie and a glass of sherry out for you know who, let’s catch up on the final three drams that you’ve been sipping.

Oh, and if you’re after some drinking inspiration we’ve even included a cocktail recipe at the bottom. Smoky Cokeys are go, people! 

Day 22: Glenfiddich 15 Year Old Solera

This fruity Speyside dram was matured in a trio of casks: American oak ex-bourbon, Portuguese sherry, and virgin oak, before all three spirits are married in a solera vat. A solera is something historically used in the sherry industry, whereby whenever any spirit is drawn from the cask (which is never emptied), it’s continuously topped up again.

What does it taste like?

Well-sherried, with spiced fruitcake and candied citrus followed by honey sweetness and oaky warmth on the finish. 

Day 23: Lagavulin 8 Year Old

This beloved expression was only added to the Lagavulin core range in 2016, after a special edition initially released to celebrate the distillery’s 200th anniversary was received very well by whisky drinkers. A classic Islay malt for a reason, it’s got savoury smoke and bursts of fruity sweetness all in one.

What does it taste like?

Smoky and savoury. Smoked kipper and ashy bonfire are balanced by frangipane, baking spices, and apple crumble.

Day 24: Mortlach 16 Year Old

Mortlach added a trio of tasty whiskies to its range in 2018, and this 16 Year Old is one of them. Drawn from ex-sherry casks, all that delicious dark fruit and warming spice works deliciously well with the full-bodied spirit that Mortlach is known for – it’s not called the Beast of Dufftown for nothing!

What does it taste like?

Gloriously chewy, with oily nuts (think walnut), dried fruit, and oak furniture, supported by clove and ginger warmth. 

How to make a Smoky Cokey with Lagavulin

The Smoky Cokey a firm favourite of industry legend Colin Dunn, and a brilliant way to make what can be an intimidating dram more approachable. Plus, it’s incredibly easy. Don’t be afraid to mix Lagavulin, no matter what people say!

Add the Lagavulin to a glass filled with lots of ice, and then top with the cola. Stir, then add a wedge of lime if desired. Then all that’s left to do is enjoy.

Have a wonderful Christmas, folks! May your day be filled with roast potatoes and a glass of something delicious.

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