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Master of Malt Blog

Agave cask Scotch whisky: what fresh madness is this?

In June 2019, the SWA issued a statement outlining changes to the Scotch whisky rules allowing, among other things, ageing in casks that previously held agave spirits. Now the first…

In June 2019, the SWA issued a statement outlining changes to the Scotch whisky rules allowing, among other things, ageing in casks that previously held agave spirits. Now the first agave-aged whiskies are here (or nearly here , the UK market will have to wait a while), and Ian Buxton wants to know: what came first, the new rules or the whiskies? 

Well, that didn’t take long.

Back in January 2018, you might recall excited commentary around a story that Diageo had a ‘secret working party’ suggesting new rules expanding the types of casks that could be used to finish Scotch whisky. The Wall Street Journal broke the story but it soon led to much speculation on social media, with some commentators having a minor fit of the vapours at a proposal considered shocking, radical or heretical (insert your adjective of choice – you get the general idea). If you believed some of the responses, the whole future of Scotch was at stake.

Diageo’s secret jungle HQ. . . allegedly

At the time industry leader Diageo played the predictable dead bat. Speaking quite possibly from a hidden lair in an extinct volcano while stroking a white cat, an anonymous spokesman offered these priceless words to a breathlessly waiting world:

“Scotch is the most important category for Diageo and we have an unwavering commitment to the integrity, long-term success, history and tradition of the category. As champions of Scotch, we are always looking at ways to innovate to both protect and secure the future success of the category. In doing so, we work with the Scotch Whisky Association [SWA] on a range of ideas that seek to strike a balance between tradition and innovation, in a way that ensures consumers get the great products they want. We will never compromise on the quality and integrity of Scotch.”

And so matters remained until June 2019 when the SWA, previously reported to be unenthusiastic about the changes, quietly announced an amendment to the prosaically-named Scotch Whisky Technical File.  This permitted Scotch whisky to be matured in casks previously used to age agave spirits (such as Tequila and mezcal), Calvados, barrel-aged cachaça, shochu and baijiu, as well as some other fruit spirits. Discreet industry lobbying had evidently persuaded the SWA to revise its position. However, as an industry-funded body, it had little choice if larger members insisted on the change which had been duly approved by the SWA Council in the previous December.

In any event, it’s now clear that much surreptitious activity had been going on anyway in warehouses across Scotland.  Unsurprisingly, Diageo was very quick off the mark with the low-profile announcement of Buchanan’s Two Souls in Mexico in May 2019 (before the SWA amendment). The blend is finished in Don Julio Tequila casks, a brand that Diageo owns, and which happens to sell a Tequila finished in old Lagavulin barrels.  

With this timing a pedant might consider that in its enthusiasm – how shall we put this politely – Diageo’s Mexican team were sailing close to the wind in promoting a still illegal whisky. Mexican press coverage refers to a “launch” on 16 May, yet the rules did not come into force for another three weeks. On investigation though, it transpires that this was a media pre-launch briefing for influencers and Two Souls was not publicly available until 1 July.  That could have been embarrassing but we may, of course, safely assume that not a drop was served.

However, we’re now seeing a number of new cask finishes joining the party. As of this month Diageo’s Buchanan’s offering has been matched by Chivas Extra 13 finished in Tequila casks and Dewar’s Ilegal SmoothIlegal being a fashionable Mezcal brand in which Dewar’s ultimate owner Bacardi has a share. The Chivas Extra 13 forms part of a small range, also including Oloroso Sherry, Rum and American Rye finishes.  Not to be outdone, Dewar’s brought its Caribbean Smooth (it’s a rum finish, as if you hadn’t guessed) to North American markets in September last year though it should be noted that these other finishes had been permitted for some years prior to the new regulations.

Ewan Gunn in action on Islay

Wondering what Diageo will do next? Predictably, they’re pretty tight lipped about future plans. This is what senior global brand ambassador Ewan Gunn (above) had to say:

“Whilst we never reveal any of the hundreds of ongoing experiments our whisky makers are constantly engaged in, you can rest assured that we will continue to be at the forefront of making great whisky and pioneering new and exciting expressions. Watch this space…”

Nothing, thus far, on how Buchanan’s have got on in Mexico, so it remains to be seen how markets will accept products such as Two Souls, Dewar’s Ilegal Smooth and Chivas Extra. Traditionalists should hold onto their hats though as the marketing folks undoubtedly aren’t done monkeying around with Scotch whisky. One thing I suppose is clear. We may not have seen cachaça, shochu or baijiu finished whisky yet (though we assuredly will) but the world hasn’t ended. Scotch will survive which, given we’re all likely to be in lockdown soon, is a reassuring thought.  (Note to self: better lay in a few bottles).

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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Cocktail of the Week: The Improved Whiskey Cocktail

What’s better than a Whiskey Cocktail? A Fancy Whiskey Cocktail. And better than that? Why, the Improved Whiskey Cocktail, of course. It’s an Old Fashioned but slightly better.  Back in…

What’s better than a Whiskey Cocktail? A Fancy Whiskey Cocktail. And better than that? Why, the Improved Whiskey Cocktail, of course. It’s an Old Fashioned but slightly better. 

Back in the good old days, a cocktail was a specific type of drink rather than a generic term for an iced mixed drink. The Cocktail Book from 1900 lists pages of drinks called ‘cocktails’ that are variations on the spirit (or wine) plus bitters, sugar and ice theme. But you can also see new drinks creeping in involving vermouth like the Manhattan and early versions of the Martini. Therefore, in the book, an old timey Whiskey Cocktail is called a Whiskey Cocktail Old-Fashioned to differentiate it. There’s also something called a ‘Fancy’ version made with maraschino liqueur as a sweetener. So fancy!

The Old Fashioned may have been old fashioned but doesn’t mean that it stopped evolving in 1845. It’s an endlessly versatile drink, which is why bartenders love coming up with new versions of it. Jerry Thomas, of the Eldorado Hotel in San Francisco, is usually credited with the invention of the Fancy Old Fashioned. Though more likely it was something that was around at the time and he was the first person to write it down in his Bartenders Guide: How to Mix all Kinds of Plain and Fancy Drinks (1887). There’s that word again, fancy.

Adding maraschino liqueur to a drink that was often garnished with a bittersweet cherry is not such a leap. It’s just a twist on a classic. But Thomas’s next step was more extreme: to turn a ‘Fancy’ into an ‘Improved’, he added absinthe taking the Old Fashioned dangerously into Sazerac territory. For the many who loathe aniseed this is not so much improved as ruined. 

Woodford Reserve Bourbon

Looks fancy. Sorry, I mean improved

Even as an aniseed lover, I will concede that a little goes a long way, so rather than add a teaspoon as with most recipes, you can add a few drops as a wash to the glass and shake it out before adding the rest of the ingredients. I’m using Ricard instead of absinthe as it’s what I’ve got in the house. It provides just a background note of aniseed. If you’re using proper absinthe which is drier instead of pastis then you might want to add more sugar. Then it’s a question of which whiskey to use. Well, it’s got to be American. Thomas would probably have used a rye but I’ve chosen a classic all-rounder bourbon, Woodford Reserve. It’s a really complex, well-balanced drop made, unusually for Kentucky, in a pot still. I’m serving it on the rocks but you could stir it over ice and serve it straight up. Oh and don’t forget the bitters. I’m using a mixture of Angostura and just a drop of orange which really lifts the whole thing.

Right, let’s improve a whiskey cocktail!

60cl Woodford Reserve bourbon
1 tablespoon Luxardo maraschino liqueur
1 tablespoon sugar syrup
1 tsp Ricard pastis (or absinthe)
2 dashes Angostura bitters
1 dash Fee Brothers orange bitters

Add a teaspoon of pastis to an Old Fashioned glass, swirl it around and then shake it out. Add lots of ice cubes, all the other ingredients and give it a good stir. Express a piece of orange over the top and then serve. 

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Announcing the ‘Save the Pubs’ Alliance

Master of Malt and Beer Hawk to place £1 for every order into a fund to help support those in the hospitality industry suffering from the COVID-19 crisis, and invite…

Master of Malt and Beer Hawk to place £1 for every order into a fund to help support those in the hospitality industry suffering from the COVID-19 crisis, and invite all others to join the scheme. 

Over the past few days, we’ve been thinking about how we can best help our brothers and sisters in the hospitality industry who have been severely impacted by the events of the last week.

Today, we’re launching the Hospitality Support Alliance to help those left in dire financial need because of the impact of COVID-19.

Over the next month Master of Malt and our friends at Beer Hawk will be putting £1 for every order placed through any of our sites into a fund to help people who have lost their jobs because of this crisis. We’re partnering with hospitalityaction.org.uk to administer the fund, and make grants to impacted individuals.

Together, we’re going to try and support as many people as we can through this challenging time, and we’re going to do it in the way which people need most by providing cold hard cash so they can buy the things they need and pay rent.

Our goal here is to help people from the hospitality industry meet their basic needs until national governments are able to step in and provide more long term support.

We invite all other online retailers to join our alliance, and help support our friends in the hospitality industry when they most need it. Please drop us a line at JoinTheAlliance@masterofmalt.com and be part of the fight back against COVID-19.

I would like to thank the good people at Budweiser Brewing Group for their support in making this happen so quickly.

Together, we will get through this.

Cheers,

Justin
CEO

PS: You can also donate directly to Hospitality Action by going to hospitalityaction.org.uk/donate/ (although you can’t currently buy any whisky from them).

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Take a VR tour of Glenglassaugh Distillery!

Take a tour of the delightful Glenglassaugh Distillery, thanks to the wonders of virtual reality! Just because you’re self-isolating or on lockdown, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a good…

Take a tour of the delightful Glenglassaugh Distillery, thanks to the wonders of virtual reality!

Just because you’re self-isolating or on lockdown, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a good distillery tour. How is this possible? Thanks to the power of VR, of course. In this series we’re going to take you around some of the finest distilleries across England, Wales and Scotland from the comfort of your own home. We begin at a distillery with a real phoenix-from-the-flames tale. Enjoy!

The history of Glenglassaugh distillery has been tumultuous, to say the least. It was founded by James Moir and Thomas Wilson in 1875, who sold it to Highland Distillers 18 years later. A downturn in the market forced it to close in 1907 for 53 years (aside for a couple of years in the ‘30s). In 1960 it reopened to cater for increased demand for Scotch whisky before another downturn in the market forced it to close again in 1986. At this point, it may have looked condemned to many, but not to former William Grant & Sons distillery manager Stuart Nickerson, who purchased the distillery with Russian-backed firm Scaent Group in 2006. Two years later the takeover was complete and they got the distillery back on its feet. So much so that Billy Walker’s The BenRiach Distillery Co. bought it in 2013, before he sold all three of his distilleries (Glenglassaugh, BenRiach and Glendronach) to Jack Daniel’s producer Brown-Forman in 2016. Its loyal following, pioneering marketing and delicious and intriguing spirit should ensure we get to enjoy Glenglassaugh for some time.

Has all this given you a taste for Glenglassaugh? Then let us deliver a bottle (or indeed a dram) right to your door! How about Glenglassaugh Revival, the first chance to try whisky made at the re-opened distillery?  All three core expressions from the distillery, including Torfa and Evolution, are now available with a 10% discount!

Glenglassaugh Revival

It’s Glenglassaugh Revival!

 

Glenglassaugh Revival Tasting Note:

Nose: Loads of sweet caramel, a sherry nuttiness, honey, chocolate, toffee, red berries, and fresh orange. There’s a charred oak earthiness, too.

Palate: Big and mouth-filling with a creamy texture, the honey becomes more mead-like, along with red cherries, walnut and a soft spice.

Finish: Medium-length with more of that sherry character, plus caramel and some mulled wine-like spice.

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Behold, the World Gin Awards 2020 winners!

It’s official: the World Gin Awards are out! Now you can grab yourself a bottle, make yourself a Gin & Tonic, settle down and tell yourself that you’re drinking the…

It’s official: the World Gin Awards are out! Now you can grab yourself a bottle, make yourself a Gin & Tonic, settle down and tell yourself that you’re drinking the world’s best gin. Now that’s something to brag about. From aged expressions to best Old Tom, we’ve rounded up the best of the best right here. 

world gin awards

It may be easy to see awards as vacuous and unimportant, but with numerous rounds of blind tasting, Gin Magazine’s World Gin Awards is sure to single out spirits that are truly outstanding and worthy of your time as well as your taste buds. Gin-thusiasts, read on!

world gin awards

Drinks by the Dram World Gin Awards Winners 2020 Tasting Set

Want to taste the winners without committing to an entire bottle? Drinks by the Dram has gone and created a handy tasting set boasting five 30cl drams of award-winning gin from this year’s World Gin Awards! You’ll find Bathtub Gin, Lubuski Aged Gin, Marylebone Orange & Geranium Gin, Hayman’s Spiced Sloe Gin and Sky Wave Gin, all in one nifty box. Who says convenience can’t be delicious too?

https://www.instagram.com/shreddy/?hl=en

 

World’s Best Matured Gin: Lubuski Aged Gin

Poland’s Lubuski distillery secured World’s Best Matured Gin this year with its Aged Gin! A combination of oak and chestnut casks gives this one silky caramel alongside green oak notes. One to test twists of classic cocktails with, we reckon.

world gin awards

World’s Best Old Tom Gin (Sweden Country Winner): Hernö Old Tom Gin

Sweden’s Country Winner here, with the wonderful Hernö just continuing to scoop up awards! With the same base botanicals as Hernö Dry Gin, though with a dialled up amount of meadowsweet, honey and sugar are also added post distillation for that hallmark Old Tom sweetness.

world gin awards

World’s Best Flavoured Gin: Marylebone Orange & Geranium Gin

It turns out that geraniums aren’t just for the garden thanks to Marylebone Orange & Geranium Gin, the work of London’s Pleasure Gardens Distilling Co.! As you’d expect, it’s all about the floral and citrus notes in this one.

world gin awards

World’s Best Compound Gin: Bathtub Gin

Don’t be fooled by the bootlegger name, Bathtub Gin is a far cry from the Prohibition spirits of old. From England’s very own Ableforth’s comes this year’s World’s Best Compound Gin, named for the 1920s Prohibition method of infusing botanicals in a bathtub. The highly aromatic gin sees the infusion of six botanicals through cold compounding resulting in a rich, viscous mouthfeel boasting orange citrus, fragrant spices and a good core of juniper. 

world gin awards

World’s Best Sloe Gin: Hayman’s Spiced Sloe Gin

How to make sloe gin even more warming? Give it a good kick of spice! The wonderful Hayman’s steeped its own Sloe Gin in sloe fruit flowers and a whole host of seasonal spices to create this Spiced Sloe Gin, which will do rather well as a fruity evening sipper. 

world gin awards

World’s Best Contemporary Gin (Japan Country Winner): Ki No Tea Gin

From the city’s first dedicated gin distillery comes the Kyoto Distillery’s Ki No Tea Gin! Japan’s Country Winner, it was the second release from the distillery and the tasty result of a partnership with local tea grower and blender Hori-Shichimeien. Tencha and Gyokuro teas are among the botanicals used, so it’s full of floral tea notes alongside prominent juniper.

world gin awards

World’s Best London Dry Gin (Australia Country Winner): Manly Spirits Co Australian Dry Gin

If you want to sip on a taste of Australia’s east coast, Australia’s Manly Spirits Co. has bottled up just that with its Australian Dry Gin, Australia’s Country Winner this year. It’s jam-packed full of sustainably foraged Australian botanicals such as sea lettuce, finger lime and mountain pepperberry. A refreshing, savoury and peppery affair, this one.

world gin awards

World’s Best Navy Gin (America Country Winner): Conniption Navy Strength Gin

We journey to Durham, North Carolina for America’s Country Winner in the World’s Best Navy Gin category, with the spicy and sweet Conniption Navy Strength Gin! Juniper, cardamom and rosemary are vapour infused in a pot still, while citrus and fig are vacuum distilled at room temperature before being blended together and bottled up at 57% ABV.

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New Arrival of the Week: Boondocks 11 Year Old Cask Strength whiskey

This week we’re highlighting an American whiskey that’s very close to a bourbon in style but with one crucial difference, created by former Woodford Reserve supremo Dave Scheurich. Whisky distillers…

This week we’re highlighting an American whiskey that’s very close to a bourbon in style but with one crucial difference, created by former Woodford Reserve supremo Dave Scheurich.

Whisky distillers are like master criminals, no, not in terms of morals, well, some of them are, but that’s another story. What they have in common is that both announce their retirements, only to be lured out by one final job. Think of Jim McEwan who retired from Bruichladdich in 2015 only to be made an offer he couldn’t refuse by the Hunter Laing mob when they were setting up a new distillery on Islay, Ardnahoe

Then there’s Dave Scheurich, who retired from Brown-Forman in 2010 after over 21 years at the bourbon giant.  He was instrumental in setting up the Woodford Reserve brand and making it one of the most admired whiskeys in America. Before that he had stints with Wild Turkey, and 14 years man and boy at Seagram, the now-defunct Canadian giant who dominated the international spirits business before collapsing in 2000. In 2012 he was given a Lifetime Achievement Award by Whiskey Advocate magazine. After that sort of career, most of us would be happy to take up fishing and long-winded anecdotes, but not Scheurich.

In 2016, it was announced that he had teamed up with the Royal Wine Company (a New York-based business that specialises in kosher wine) to create a new American whiskey brand, Boondocks. The name is inspired by a slightly-pejorative word used by fancy city types for the countryside. What we might call it ‘the back of beyond’. 

The aim was to create fine American whiskeys that were a bit different from the bourbon norm. Despite its corn-heavy mash bill (80% corn with the rest rye and malted barley), our New Arrival can’t be called bourbon because it’s not put in new oak casks. Instead like much Scotch, it’s aged in used casks. It’s also significantly older than most American whiskeys, which to be sold as such in the EU only have to be three years old (and can be much younger in the home market). This is also bottled at cask strength, 63.5% ABV, something that will appeal to aficionados. There’s also a 47.5% ABV version as well as an 8 year old bourbon.

With a name like Boondocks, you’d probably imagine it’s made in a tiny distillery in the woods, miles from the nearest town of any size, that hasn’t changed much since prohibition was repealed and staffed mainly by men called Jedediah. Sadly, nothing so romantic as the brand doesn’t have its own distillery and buys in its whiskey. Nothing wrong with that, lots of brands in whiskey, especially in the US and Ireland, don’t make their own spirit, it’s just not such a good story.

Still what matters most is what’s in the glass. And it’s good, really good, with a depth of flavour you don’t often find in American whiskeys. Previous releases have won awards like a Gold Medal at the Los Angeles International Spirits Competition 2016 and Best of Category in the Ultimate Spirits Challenge 2016. It’s a great sipper either with a splash of water, with ice or I can’t think of a better whiskey for an Old Fashioned. Drink it slowly, let the ice dilute the high strength and see how it changes.

Tasting note from the Chaps at Master of Malt:

Nose: Strong coffee with just a splash of milk, rich cherry sweetness and a subtly floral hint.

Palate: Toasted almonds and spicy rye, underneath layers of brown sugar and cookie dough.

Finish: Lingering buttery corn and stem ginger.

Boondocks Cask Strength 11 Year Old American Whiskey is available from Master of Malt.

 

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Early payment programme for smaller suppliers

We understand how difficult things are for many of our smaller suppliers right now, so we’re implementing an early payment programme to help you out with your cash flow. If…

We understand how difficult things are for many of our smaller suppliers right now, so we’re implementing an early payment programme to help you out with your cash flow.

If we owe you money, even if it isn’t due for a month or two, and getting paid sooner would make a significant difference to your ability to operate, please drop us an email at earlypayments@masterofmalt.com and we will get whatever we owe you across in the next few days.

Together, we’ll get through this.

Cheers,

Justin Petszaft
CEO

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10 different ways to customise your G&T

The shelves of your local supermarket may be leaving a little to the imagination right now, but that’s no reason to sip a lacklustre G&T in isolation – go beyond your…

The shelves of your local supermarket may be leaving a little to the imagination right now, but that’s no reason to sip a lacklustre G&T in isolation – go beyond your typical tonic and garnish variation with a few smart and simple additions. Here, we’ve collected 10 pointers from the pros about how to DIY your favourite juniper serve…

If nothing else, having a little extra spare time allows us to flex our creative muscles a little more than usual – and as we’ve seen in our favourite bars in the world over, no cocktail recipe is more readily adaptable than the Gin and Tonic. 

Usually, this might mean changing our tonic water or experimenting with a new garnish. But let’s be real for a second: half of us are struggling to buy loo roll at the minute. Now is not the time to forage the fresh produce section for exotic fruits.

Luckily, you don’t need wild Himalayan pears to level up your G&T. In fact, you don’t even need to set foot in a supermarket. Whether you’re a fan of flavoured gin or simply adore London dry, you’ll find 10 different expert-approved ways to customise your G&T below…

1) Flavour your ice

With ice being a key element of the serve, it’s an added opportunity to elevate your G&T for both visual and taste benefits, explains Laura Bonner, founder of The Muff Liquor Company. Try freezing your tonic or mixer into ice cubes with botanicals that compliment the tasting notes, such as fruit, herbs, spices, and even edible flowers. Alternatively, you could freeze fruit juice or tea into cubes, or even fresh produce like grapefruit, watermelon or cucumber.

Bombay Bramble, inspired Dick Bradsell’s classic cocktail

2) Introduce a liqueur

Why not add a splash of flavour and colour with a liqueur? Bombay Sapphire has just launched Creations, a colourful gin liqueur range, specifically for this purpose. “Our four trend-based floral and fruity blends all expertly pair with the balanced juniper and citrus notes of our world-famous gin, adding a subtle pink hue from the Rose, a sweet hint of summer from the Strawberry or Raspberry or a more aromatic touch from the Hibiscus,” explains Bombay’s UK brand ambassador Renaud de Bosredon.

Alternatively, pick out the key tasting notes of your gin and experiment with any liqueurs you have at home. “Marylebone London Dry Gin has a very classic base with a great, delicate accent from the lemon balm, lindon and camomile,” says brand ambassador Chris Dennis. “I like to think these give a floral and citrus note. Small additions can go a long way in accentuating these flavours, such as 10ml St.Germain, 10ml Italicus, or 10ml Merlet Pear.

3) Add a dash of bitters

For a subtler approach, try using bitters to intensify certain flavour notes within the gin, say Andrew Kearns and Alex Palu, directors of modern Italian bar Hey Palu in Edinburgh. As a general rule of thumb, they suggest using orange or grapefruit bitters to highlight citrus notes, peach or rhubarb bitters to target fruit flavours, and celery bitters for savoury notes.

Eddie Brook, Cape Byron

Eddie Brook from Brookie’s Gin

4) Pick a fruit-forward gin

Experiment with different styles of gin to enhance the experience, suggests Eddie Brook, the founder of Brookie’s Gin. “Our Brookie’s Byron Slow gin makes for an interesting take on the classic mix,” he says. “We use half tonic and half soda with a strawberry and mint leaf garnish – we call it the Take It Slow.”

Or you can explore other fruit-forward gins. Bombay Sapphire is about to introduce Bombay Bramble, a blackberry and raspberry flavoured gin inspired by the classic Bramble cocktail – “a sophisticated option for those that enjoy a touch of fruit in their G&T,” says de Bosredon.

5) Switch up your glassware

A balloon glass – or copa de balon – is a great choice for bringing out the flavour profile of a gin and tonic, especially gin with a strong citrus or floral fragrance, suggests Bonner. “The bowl shape allows the flavours to be trapped in the glass whilst the carbon in the tonic expands,” she says. “You get a hit of aroma on the nose before drinking the G&T, which gives a more rounded flavour profile experience.”

6) Spritz a mist

Liquid garnishes are all the range, didn’t you hear? You could fashion your own if you have an atomiser bottle, or buy one ready-to-go, à la gin brand Silent Pool. “Our mist garnishes work like a citrus twist garnish as they release the oils and provide that same amazing aroma, but using more unusual botanicals,” explains Silent Pool brand ambassador India Blanch. “Flavour mainly comes from aroma, so this really works to lift certain notes in your G&T.” They’ve just launched a psychedelic CBD-spiked mist. Trippy.

Spritz your G&T to make it up to 20% more delicious

7) Rinse your glass

We don’t mean in the dishwasher (although, make sure you do that too). For an intense herbal aromatic layer, you could try spraying the glass with absinthe first, suggest Kearns and Palu.

8) Flavour your own tonic syrup

Sure, you could make your own tonic tincture from cinchona bark, but being admitted to A&E with accidental quinine poisoning is quite literally the last thing any of us need. However, you could buy (ready-made, safe-to-consume) tonic syrup and use it to flavour your own tincture. “You can make a simple syrup at a 1:1 ratio of sugar to water,” suggests Yusif Al Baggou, bar manager at London’s Tavla. “Once it’s made, add 50ml of the tonic tincture to 500ml of the simple syrup and you have a tonic syrup.” The great thing about making your own syrup is you can add in other flavours to infuse it further, he says, such as cloves and lemongrass. “It’s all about experimenting and finding what flavours suit your palate and gin.”

The magnificent back bar at Hey Palu in Edinburgh

9) Add a splash of cordial

You could also try adding a small measure of cordial, like elderflower, pear or rhubarb, to sweeten and add flavour. “One of the most important things you shouldn’t do when making a G&T is lose the DNA of it,” says Dan Garnell, head bartender at Super Lyan in Amsterdam. “It’s quite a delicate drink when you think about it, as it’s just two ingredients. So you always have to make sure you are amplifying notes either in the gin or a certain spice in the tonic you would love to champion.”

10) Repurpose flat tonic water

Turn your classic G&T into a M&T (that is, a G&T Martini) by boiling flat tonic water and reducing it by half, suggests Tiago Mira, bar manager at The Goring Cocktail Bar in London. “If you want to be more creative, you can simply add aromatic herbs or perhaps some berries to the mix,” he explains. “Once reduced, let it cool, then keep in the fridge.” To make the G&T Martini, add 50ml of your favourite gin and 25ml of the tonic reduction to a mixing glass with plenty of ice. Stir and serve.

 

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The Nightcap and virtual pub quiz: 20 March

For fans of our weekly update on all matters boozy and brilliant, you might notice that things are looking a little different on this edition of The Nightcap… This week…

For fans of our weekly update on all matters boozy and brilliant, you might notice that things are looking a little different on this edition of The Nightcap…

This week it’s an abridged Nightcap, a Nightcapini, if you will, as there aren’t any launches, activations or gins with amusing botanicals to report on because of that other thing that is dominating the news. Instead, we have five stories looking at how the drinks industry is dealing with this unprecedented crisis, and then on a lighter note, we have a fiendishly difficult booze quiz (scroll to the end).  Answer the questions (pub quiz rules, ie. no looking at Google), send in your answers to us and we’ll give you a discount voucher to spend on selected drinks at Master of Malt with one lucky winner receiving a £25 voucher. The answers will be published next Friday.

But first, this is what was on the blog this week: Beer Hawk and ourselves announced the ‘Save the Pubs’ Alliance, while our CEO sent out a short message about the measures we’re taking to protect staff and continue trading throughout the current Coronavirus crisis. Adam then sadly had to report that Fèis Ìle 2020 and other whisky festivals were cancelled in response to the pandemic before he rounded-up some delicious boozes to keep your spirits up at home. Annie then recommended some places to visit in L.A. when we’re allowed out of the house again and introduced Martini’s new alcohol-free aperitivo. Henry, meanwhile, enjoyed a rather refreshing gin-based cocktail while he cast a spotlight on an often under-appreciated Scotch whisky distillery: Glen Elgin. We also launched a new competition and have two whole bundles full of wonderful spirits from The Lakes Distillery to give away, so get your entries in!

Right, on with the Nightcapini!

The Nightcap

Chief executive and Nightcap regular Miles Beale says that the government needs to go further

WSTA calls for duty suspension to save hospitality industry

Pubs, bars and restaurants still haven’t been formally closed, the government has just advised us to avoid them, but the hospitality industry is already taking a hammering with millions of jobs at risk. To help, the WSTA (Wine and Spirit Trade Association) has proposed the suspension of taxes for at least six months. Chief executive and Nightcap regular Miles Beale welcomes what the government has done already but says that it needs to go further: “On 25 March UK wine and spirit companies will be landed with their duty bills, followed six days later on 31st March with their VAT demands. Swift government action to waive excise duty payments for at least six months, starting from next week, would have an immediate impact and can make a real difference. This would allow all hospitality businesses to keep back vital company cash and support their efforts to pay employees and stay afloat.” Alex Wolpert, the founder of East London Liquor Company, added: “Around 40% of the money paid for a bottle of our spirits goes on duty. If the government agreed to put a stop to these tax burdens, for at least six months, it would free up vital cash and give businesses like ours some breathing space and a chance of survival.” 

The Nightcap

You can now click and collect beer, food and spirits from your nearest UK BrewDog

BrewDog Drive Thru and Pub in a Box helping keep self-isolators well-stocked

Pubs are doing everything they can right now to keep morale up and helping us enjoy a good brew. Firstly, BrewDog has launched BrewDog Drive Thru, so you can click and collect beer, food and spirits from your nearest UK BrewDog either by car, bike or on foot. You’ll need the Hop Drop app to order, and there’s a 30% discount for everyone using it (with a 50% discount for NHS workers). “These are uncertain times. But we are committed to looking after our crew, our customers and our company,” said James Watt from BrewDog. “BrewDog Drive Thru is a way in which you can keep fully stocked with the beer you love but in the best way possible. At the moment the only thing we can do is batten down the hatches and get through the storm together.” Obviously wait until you get home to consume your delicious brews (don’t drink and drive/ cycle/ skateboard, folks). What’s more, East London brewery Signature Brew is tackling two problems at once with Pub in a Box, delivered by musicians who have had their tours cancelled. To quote Brad Pitt: what’s in the box? You’ll find a delightful selection of beers with glassware, snacks, beer mats (for the full pub experience), a music quiz and even playlists curated by music journalists to accompany the beers themselves! A big thanks to all the pubs making self-isolation that little bit more bearable.

The Nightcap

#TheVirtualHappyHour partakers are encouraged to grab a drink and virtually catch-up with friends

#TheVirtualHappyHour, pub quizzes and whisky festivals

The hospitality industry is going virtual! Here are just a few ways you can get involved. Alcohol-free beer aficionado Big Drop Brewing Co is hosting a mega virtual pub quiz on Tuesday 24 March from 7.30pm to 10.30pm. Big Drop’s quizmasters will ask questions live on YouTube and at the end of each round, the answers will be revealed. Obviously this is relying on good ol’ honest fun, no cheating! It’s totally free, just tune in on YouTube Live. There are no prizes, though if you stay tuned then there may be a giveaway or two via the live chat… Meanwhile, Australia is holding an entire whisky festival online! Melbourne-based Whiskey! The Show will now send ticket holders a box of whisky samples for them to all taste together (virtually), encouraging them to share their tasting notes and reviews through an app. Additionally, in a bid to provide some social stimulation as well as supporting the hospitality industry financially, a group of friends have launched #TheVirtualHappyHour campaign. Partakers are encouraged to grab a drink, (virtually) link up with friends and have a catch-up. The idea is that at the end, everyone in the group will donate the price of a drink to their favourite bar, to help see it through these tough times. Each venue will have different donation preferences, so a group ‘leader’ will liaise with the bar after the happy hour to discuss how to best donate. “#TheVirtualHappyHour team want to encourage people to reconnect safely, whilst ensuring we are doing as much as we can to help the bars, pubs & restaurants we love, survive the next few weeks and months ahead,” says Steph DiCamillo May, part of the team behind the concept. Let’s do the best we can to pub from our own homes, folks! 

The Nightcap

Dayalan Nayager says we all need to come together to support the drinks trade

Industry rallies to support bar and pub workers

With many bar staff facing an uncertain future, Diageo has pledged £1 million to help. The fund will help British bars and pubs to pay their staff wages during the measures designed to stop the spread of the Coronavirus. “The British drinks trade is facing one of its most challenging times ever and we want to help our communities when they need us most,” said Dayalan Nayager, Diageo managing director, Great Britain, Ireland and France. “We all need to come together to support the trade and I would urge all my fellow drinks producers to do what they can to help our British pubs, bars and retailers and restaurants over the next few months.” The company is also offering free online Diageo Bar Academy training courses to anyone in the industry. Meanwhile, the Drinks Trust (the charity formerly known as The Benevolent) is looking to raise money to help members of the trade through these difficult times. As well as financial assistance the charity is planning to increase the capacity of its helpline fivefold to help those suffering mentally. To find out more go to the Drinks Trust website. It’s a worthwhile cause. 

The Nightcap

Psychopomp has raised about £800 for Bristol’s Children’s Hospital

Distilleries make and donate hand sanitiser

In these difficult and troubling times where goods such as toilet paper, pasta and hand sanitiser have been in short supply due to panic buying relating to the spreading Covid-19 pandemic, distilleries across the globe have stepped up to do their bit. After all, hand sanitiser is essentially high strength alcohol plus moisturiser. LVMH (Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton) led the way by retooling its perfume and cosmetic factories to make hydroalcoholic gel to be distributed to health authorities and hospitals free of charge, while Bristol’s Psychopomp has asked for donations for 100ml of hand sanitiser and this week has raised about £800 for Bristol’s Children’s Hospital. Pernod Ricard, Bacardi and Absolut Vodka have pitched in with similar efforts, as well as BrewDog, 58 Gin, Beinn an Tuirc, Cairngorm Gin, Deeside Distillery, Dunnet Bay Distillers, Loch Ness Spirits, Redcastle Spirits, Fen Spirits, Forest Distillery and Silent Pool Distillers in the UK. However, these good intentions are complicated by tax laws. Currently, British distillers have to pay £23 of duty on each litre of pure alcohol making the production of hand sanitiser prohibitively expensive. The WSTA has called on the British government to allow distilleries to turn waste alcohol into hand sanitiser without going through a complex technical and bureaucratic process. HMRC says it is prioritising applications to produce denatured alcohol, a type of spirit that is not for human consumption and exempt from excise duty. We at Master of Malt are getting requests from local organisations to provide hand sanitiser and we’re currently blocked from doing so by HMRC. We’ve applied for permission to denature alcohol and are waiting for their response.

The Nightcap

MoM virtual pub quiz 20 March 2020

That’s enough booze news, pour yourself a drink and let’s get on with the quiz. Remember, no cheating. To enter simply email your answers to pubquiz@masterofmalt.com. Don’t comment below. All entrants will receive a voucher offering 10% off certain products and there will be one winner who will get a £25 voucher. 

1) Which much-admired Islay distillery manager announced his retirement last week?

2) How many distilleries are there on Skye?

3) How many times is Mortlach single malt distilled?

4) Where would you find boisé? 

5) Which cocktail does the Polish agent drink in John Le Carre’s The Looking Glass War?

6) What’s bigger, a British pint or an American?

7) What sport is the carraway-flavoured schnapps kümmel commonly associated with?

8) What whiskey does Sylvester Stallone’s character Jimmy Bobo request in the 2012 movie Bullet to the Head?

9) What do both the glass Gatsby raises and Tom Buchanan’s car have in common in The Great Gatsby film? 

10) Which bourbon whiskey brand inspired a Billy Idol single?

11) Evan Williams originally hailed from which country?

12) Which drink brand did the first-ever cinema advert?

13) There are more barrels of bourbon than people in the state of Kentucky, true or false?

14) In which wine region would you find ‘the dogs’ teeth’?

15) How many monkeys are there on a bottle of Monkey Shoulder?

MoM Competition 2020 open to entrants 18 years and over. Entries accepted from 20 March to 26 March 2020. Winners chosen at random after close of competition. Prizes not transferable and cannot be exchanged for cash equivalent. See full T&Cs for details.

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10 delicious boozes to keep your spirits up at home

We’ve rounded up ten delightful drinks for those who still want to indulge in some boozy brilliance while stuck at home. I hope you’ve been working on your social distancing…

We’ve rounded up ten delightful drinks for those who still want to indulge in some boozy brilliance while stuck at home.

I hope you’ve been working on your social distancing game, folks. I’m something of a pro myself. Staying indoors wearing sweatpants, feigning disappointment at cancelled plans and watching so much Netflix I think it’s stopped bothering with the ‘are you still watching?’ prompt is a life I’m well attuned to. I’ve also got a hell of a drinks cabinet for when I fancy a small indulgence.

If you’re anything like us here at MoM Towers, then a period of self-isolation means time to refine your cocktail-making skills, an opportunity to sample an intriguing new dram and to restock the home bar with exciting new expressions. That’s why we’ve created this selection especially for those who could use a bit of retail therapy right now (#treatyoself). Enjoy the list and please stay safe.

10 delicious boozes to keep your spirits up at home

Negroni Bundle

If you’re looking for a simple and tasty cocktail to make at home, then we humbly recommend the classic Negroni. Thankfully we’ve made the whole process even easier with this handy little bundle, which brings together the holy trinity of great gin, tasty vermouth and wonderfully bitter Campari in one convenient place. We’ve even chucked in [carefully] a crystal Master of Malt Riedel tumbler to add to the super savings. 

Negroni recipe:

Combine 25ml of Bathtub Gin, 25ml of Campari and 25ml of Martini Rosso sweet vermouth. Stir over ice and strain into your shiny new ice-filled Riedel tumbler. Garnish with an orange peel (‘express’ over top by giving it a little squeeze, and then simply plonk it in).

10 delicious boozes to keep your spirits up at home

Beavertown Neck Oil Bundle (6 Pack)

Having a few cans on hand is something many a booze-lover will want to ensure during this period of self-isolation, but there’s no need to settle for less. The bundle of Beavertown’s sublime session IPA – Neck Oil doesn’t just guarantee you terrific beer, it will also save you 10% versus buying them individually. Who doesn’t love a discount?

What does it taste like?

Light and crisp but full of flavour – citrusy and hoppy, slightly floral, very moreish.

10 delicious boozes to keep your spirits up at home

Dead Man’s Fingers Pineapple Rum

Pineapple and rum just belong together, unlike pineapple and pizza. I don’t make the rules. But I do know that Dead Man’s Fingers make a seriously good flavoured rum. This terrific tropical treat boasts notes of both candied and roasted pineapple, alongside simmering spices and a helping of brown sugar. Superb served over ice, but also goes great with lemonade or ginger ale.

What does it taste like?

Bright and almost tangy at first with fresh pineapple and ginger, followed by homemade caramel, nutmeg, cassia and mango.

10 delicious boozes to keep your spirits up at home

The Macallan 12 Year Old Sherry Oak

If you’re not familiar with the delights of the Macallan distillery, then this expression is the perfect way to acquaint yourself. Released as part of Macallan’s ever-wonderful Sherry Oak range, this delicious dram spent its entire maturation in sherry-seasoned oak casks which impart that rich, fruity and full-bodied profile we’ve come to know and love from a sherried Macallan.

What does it taste like?

Sultanas, fresh apple blossom, Calvados, tropical fruit, golden syrup, hot pastries, marmalade and barley sugar.

10 delicious boozes to keep your spirits up at home

Jaffa Cake Gin

At a time like this, there’s nothing better than a few home comforts, like comfy pyjamas, a cup of tea and a box of jaffa cakes. Sounds like bliss. How about if you added a tipple, like a delicious and fun gin? Even better. What if that gin was made to taste like jaffa cakes and even included the timeless treat in its botanical selection? Perfection. Good thing such a drink exists. Now, go forth and make an insanely delicious Negroni. Full marks if you stick a Jaffa Cake on your glass like a citrus wheel garnish.

What does it taste like?

Zingy orange (marmalade-esque), rich and earthy chocolate, vanilla-rich cake, a touch of almondy-goodness and a solid backbone of juniper. Also, Jaffa Cakes! 

10 delicious boozes to keep your spirits up at home

Tanqueray No. Ten

A bartender’s favourite for a reason, Tanqueray No. Ten is simply one of the most delicious, versatile and iconic gins on the market. Named after the still of its origin, pot still number 10, which is quite endearingly nicknamed Tiny Ten, this expression was crafted using whole fresh citrus fruits, such as oranges, limes and grapefruit, along with chamomile flowers and other traditional botanicals. Quarantini, anyone?

What does it taste like?

Tangy grapefruit zest, creamy custard, clean juniper, hints of Earl Grey tea and cardamom. 

10 delicious boozes to keep your spirits up at home

Caol Ila 12 Year Old

A staple Islay whisky, the perfect introduction into the smokier side of things and one of our all-time favourites, we’ll happily champion this peaty, fruity and fresh tipple whenever the opportunity presents itself. The entry-level bottling from the Caol Ila distillery is phenomenal (or should that be phenonenal. You know, because of all the phenols… oh, shut up) neat, but if you’re a fan of a Penicillin Cocktail it should do the trick too.

What does it taste like?

Fresh herbs, rubbed peppermint leaves, damp grass, cigar leaves, smoked ham, hickory, elegant smoke, boiled sweets and lemon peels at the harbour.

10 delicious boozes to keep your spirits up at home

Woodford Reserve Double Oaked

If you’ve ever enjoyed the delightful Woodford Reserve but craved something a little deeper, darker and richer, then you’re in luck. Double Oaked is made the same way as its classic sister expression but is then further matured in barrels which have been heavily toasted and lightly charred. A killer Old Fashioned awaits.

What does it taste like?

Lots of sweet oaken character, as well as rich fruit, vanilla and caramel notes.

10 delicious boozes to keep your spirits up at home

The Lakes Vodka

If you’re a vodka fan and you’re on the lookout for a reliably clean and crisp bottling, then you’re not going to do much better than the winner of the World’s Best Vodka at the World Vodka Awards 2019. The Lakes Vodka was made with water from the River Derwent (the very same River Derwent which was mentioned in William Wordworth’s book, The Prelude!) and triple distilled for the desired clarity and flavour profile. It’s sublime in a number of cocktails, like the simple and sublime Moscow Mule.

What does it taste like?

Very soft and a touch drying, with light hints of peppery wheat coming through.

10 delicious boozes to keep your spirits up at home

Signature Blend #2 (That Boutique-y Rum Company)

For those who intend to make good use of their time indoors by perfecting the art of the Mai-Tai, then look no further than the second Signature Blend from That Boutique-y Rum Company for your base spirit. It was specifically developed with Pete Holland (who you’ll know from The Floating Rum Shack) with the classic cocktail in mind and was made from a combination of particularly rich Guyanese rum and some wonderfully funky Jamaican rums.

What does it taste like?

Oily walnuts, rich molasses, dark chocolate, oaky tannins, spicy nutmeg, pitted Medjool dates, raisins, papaya, banana bread, engine oil, sweet tobacco, coconut husk, juicy pineapple, sugarcane, game meat, coffee beans, black tea, dark chocolate and roasted apricot. 

 

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