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Master of Malt Blog

London Cocktail Week: 10 things to look out for

We’ve rounded up some of the standout events from the upcoming London Cocktail Week (4-14 October) so you can focus your energy on enjoying its many delightful boozy offerings. What…

We’ve rounded up some of the standout events from the upcoming London Cocktail Week (4-14 October) so you can focus your energy on enjoying its many delightful boozy offerings.

What was already one of the biggest dates in the drinks industry calendar is even bigger this year. London Cocktail Week has returned and has chosen to mark its 10th anniversary by broadening its showcase of the capital’s best bars, mixologists and drinks with an extended ten-day celebration. Because what’s better than a week of cocktails? Ten days of cocktails, that’s what.

Ten years already. Where does the time go? It’s been quite the journey since DrinkUp.London’s Hannah Sharman-Cox and Siobhan Payne founded LCW (as we in the ‘biz’ call it) as a pop-up in Selfridge’s to showcase London’s cocktail scene in 2010. Great oaks from little acorns grow: there are now over 300 bars taking part, tons of quirky pop-ups making temporary homes across London, and endless masterclasses where you can improve your shaking and stirring skills. There’s even a cocktail-meets-doughnut van courtesy of Maker’s Mark and Crosstown Doughnuts, for goodness sake.

As such, many of you will be looking forward to making yourself at home in the Cocktail Village at the Old Truman Brewery, Brick Lane between 4-14 October. But, you also might be feeling slightly overwhelmed by the significant number of events on offer. That’s why we’re here to offer a helping hand by highlighting some of the most intriguing, exciting and engaging opportunities London Cocktail Week has presented for 2019.

London Cocktail Week: the events

Ten options are listed below, but before we start it’s worth noting that you will need to purchase your £10 festival pass and download the DrinkUp.London app to activate it to enjoy London Cocktail Week. This will give you access to £6 drink deals at participating bars as well as entry to the Cocktail Village, so even if you don’t have the chance to make it to the good times below, there’s still plenty to be had all around this fair capital city of ours.

Now, let’s check out some events!

London Cocktail Week

All kinds of whisky-based shenanigans are to be expected

The Whisky House take over at Black Rock

Where?: Black Rock Tavern, 9 Christopher Street, London, EC2A 2BS

When?: Friday 4 October to Saturday 12 October

What’s it all about?: The fabulous Black Rock Tavern hosts brands like Bulleit Frontier Whiskey, Talisker, Copper Dog, Johnnie Walker and Roe & Co for a series of amazing events. The blend of pop-up whisky takeovers, experiences and late-night DJs across nine days will take place within the newly furbished first floor Blending Room and ground floor Tavern at East London’s specialist whisky bar.

Why would I like this, Adam?: There’s endless whisky-based fun to be had and a 185-year old interactive cocktail ageing tree trunk. Yes, you read that right.

London Cocktail Week

An award-winning G&T in a sauna? We’re in.

Kyrö Gin Sauna

Where?: The Cocktail Village, 146 Brick Lane, London, E1 6RU

When?: Wednesday 9 October to Monday 14 October (Wed-Sat 12-11pm, Sun 12-7pm)

What’s it all about?: Kyrö Distillery conceived in a Finnish sauna by a group of friends with a shared love of rye. That’s the kind of back-story that deserves to be celebrated, and that’s exactly what this feature is all about! Plenty of rye gin and, yes, an actual sauna, will be present in the Cocktail Village once again this year, as well as an opportunity to blend your own gin in a gin-blending masterclass. Tickets for the blending workshops can be found here.

Why would I like this, Adam?: Because there’s a sauna involved, for goodness sake. Plus plenty of Kyrö’s award-winning G&Ts.

London Cocktail Week

Refreshment is guaranteed

That Boutique-y Gin Company’s Instant Refreshment Service

Where?: The Cocktail Village, 146 Brick Lane, London, E1 6RU.

When?: Wednesday 9 October to Sunday 13 October (Wed-Sat 12-11pm, Sun 12-7pm).

What’s it all about?: That Boutique-y Gin Company’s Instant Refreshment Service means one thing: lots of delicious and easily accessible cocktails. You can help yourself to the independent bottler’s range of Craft Cocktails via a brilliantly Boutique-y vending machine, which will also be available on draft.

Why would I like this, Adam?: That Boutique-y Gin Company has made it clear its dream is for every attendee of London Cocktail Week to be fully refreshed at all times. This is a noble goal, and it involves consuming delicious cocktails. Which is the whole point of the entire enterprise, people.

London Cocktail Week

Is this the death of the whisky tumbler? No, but it’s still lots of fun

The Glenlivet’s Capsule Collection

Where?: Tayér + Elementary, 152 Old St, London EC1V 9BW

When?: Friday 4 October from 4-6pm.

What’s it all about?: Ever had an edible cocktail capsule before? No? Well, here’s your chance. A partnership between co-owner of Tayēr + Elementary, Alex Kratena and Scotch whisky distillery The Glenlivet has resulted in this selection of glassless cocktails, which will attempt to redefine the way whisky is traditionally enjoyed. The edible capsules are 23ml in size, fully biodegradable and housed in a seaweed-extract casing courtesy capsule designers Notpla. Simply pop them in your mouth an enjoy three original cocktails inspired by the elements and flavours of The Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve: Citrus, Wood and Spice.

Why would I like this, Adam?: You get to eat cocktails. There’s no need for glass, ice or cocktail stirrers here.

London Cocktail Week

The ultimate Cointreau Margarita cocktail awaits

Alfred Cointreau at The K Bar in celebration of London Cocktail Week

Where?: The K Bar, 109 – 113 Queen’s Gate, South Kensington, London SW7 5LP.

When?: Thursday 10 October from 6-9pm.

What’s it all about?: A celebration of both the week and Cointreau’s 170th Anniversary, this event sees Alfred Cointreau (the clue is in the name) taking the reins behind the wonderful K Bar in Kensignton to mix up classic and twists on the iconic Margarita while telling the story of Cointreau.

Why would I like this, Adam?: You get to meet some drinks industry royalty and learn how to make the ultimate Cointreau Margarita cocktail.

London Cocktail Week

Go wild in the isles, folks!

Supermarket Sweep

Where?: London Cocktail Club Shoreditch, Unit 12, 29 Sclater Street, London, E1 6HR

When?: Wednesday 9 October to Sunday 13 October (3.30-9pm)

What’s it all about?: If you’re somebody who’s looking for any excuse to get their 90s game show vibe on, then London Cocktail Club Shoreditch’s pop-up is the one for you. Inside the re-creation of a miniature supermarket you’ll get an opportunity to make a cocktail from JJ Goodman’s book ‘Kitchen Cocktails’ and sample cocktail recipes made from everyday ingredients like angel delight to Coco Pops. Best of all, you can whizz around the aisles Supermarket Sweep-style. So, choose your teams, grab your basket and indulge in some nostalgia! To book your ticket you’ll need to email reservations@londoncocktailclub.co.uk.

Why would I like this, Adam?: You can channel your best Dale Winton impression while enjoying some unorthodox cocktails.

London Cocktail Week

Karaoke and cocktails is a good night by anybody’s estimation

The House of Suntory Masterclass & Cocktail Karaoke

Where?: Shochu Lounge, Roka Charlotte Street, 37 Charlotte Street, London, W1T 1RR

When?: Monday 7 October to Tuesday 8 October (6-11.30pm)

What’s it all about?: An evening of learning about Japanese culture while imbibing Suntory’s Roku Gin, Haku Vodka and Toki Whisky in the company of UK ambassador James Bowker sounds pretty great. But the Japanese distillery has turned a great night into an unforgettable one by also hosting ‘Cocktail Karaoke’. Simply you choose your base spirit (gin/vodka/whisky) and your favourite classic track then the team at Roka will create a Japanese riff on your song choice. How good does that sound? You can book your ticket here.

Why would I like this, Adam?: Two words: Cocktail. Karaoke.

London Cocktail Week

How often do you get to create your own whisky?

The Blend by Chivas Regal

Where?: Mac & Wild, 9A Devonshire Square, London, EC2M 4YN

When?: Monday 7 October to Thursday 10 October (various slots from 6.30pm)

What’s it all about?: A chance to create a whisky you can call your own should never be passed up. That’s exactly what Chivas Regal is offering at a special masterclass at Mac & Wild, Devonshire Square, to celebrate the launch of The Blend campaign. The guided tasting sessions will provide a window into the life of a master blender as you learn the history of Chivas Regal and how to make your own whisky highball twists with UK brand ambassador Phil Huckle. But best of all, you’ll leave this event 200ml of your very own whisky, blended from a combination of floral, citrus, fruity, creamy and smoky flavours. Book your ticket here.

Why would I like this, Adam?: You literally get to make a whisky of your own. What are you waiting for?

London Cocktail Week

Science is finally put to good use

The Essence House by the London Essence Company

Where?: 5 Great Newport Street, London, WC2H 7JB

When?: Thursday 3 October to Saturday 5 October (12-10pm)

What’s it all about?: If there’s one thing you want from London Cocktail Week, it’s amazing cocktails. Thanks to The London Essence Company you can do just that as it treats you to a bespoke cocktail, matched to your palate using real science by some of the world’s top bartenders. The Essence House, described as an “interactive journey of flavour discovery”, is an experience curated by Dr Rachel Edwards-Stuart, an expert in gastronomy and flavour perception, who will help you to get hands-on with botanicals, flavours and aromas over the course of a 45 minute session that includes that personal palate profiling experience and two cocktails (alcoholic and non-alcoholic options available). Tickets are available here.

Why would I like this, Adam?: You know you want tasty cocktails, and The London Essence Company know what you find tasty…

London Cocktail Week

Over the last century, the Negroni has stood the test of time

The Experimental Negroni Club

Where?: Henrietta Hotel, 14-15 Henrietta St, London, WC2E 8QG

When?: Friday 4 October to Sunday 13 October (12pm-close)

What’s it all about?: It’s been 100 years since the Negroni first entered our lives and we haven’t looked back. The Experimental Group, however, will actually be looking back to celebrate this illustrious history through the Experimental Negroni Club a partnership with Campari at the Henrietta Hotel. Vintage ingredients selected in partnership with the Old Spirit Company will ensure the recreation of cocktails served in the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s and to make the perfect vintage Negroni, which will be accompanied by a light show created by Frankie Boyle (not the Scottish comedian, thankfully).

Why would I like this, Adam?: We love Negronis. You love Negronis. Go forth and toast its brilliance the only way how. With a Negroni.

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Single malt Scotch hit with US tariffs

Well, the feared retaliation has happened: yesterday the US Government announced that from 18 October, certain EU products will be hit with a 25% tariff, including Scotch whisky.  On Tuesday,…

Well, the feared retaliation has happened: yesterday the US Government announced that from 18 October, certain EU products will be hit with a 25% tariff, including Scotch whisky. 

On Tuesday, our columnist, Ian Buxton, wrote: “reports suggest his [Trump’s] administration is preparing to slap tariffs of up to 100% on $1.8 billion-worth of European spirits and wine, with potentially dire consequences for Scotch whisky and British gin”. Sadly, Buxton’s prediction has come to pass with yesterday’s announcement that a 25% import duty will be levied on products, including single malt Scotch whisky. At least it isn’t the 100% he suggested.

Whisky, and indeed whiskey, has proved “collateral damage”, in the words of Chris Swonger from US distilling industry trade body DISCUS, in the dispute over EU subsidies for Airbus. You can read Buxton’s full story here. Following a WTO ruling this week, the US will be imposing tariffs worth $7.5bn (£6.1bn) on certain goods from the EU.

Exceptional Cask (3)

Americans! This is about to get 25% more expensive

The legislation document refers to “single-malt (or straight) Irish and Scotch whiskies”, which means that blended whiskies may be excluded from the tariff (though as the US and Scotch/Irish categories are not defined in the same way, we can’t be certain). If it does, perhaps we’re going to see a lot more premium blends aimed at the US market. Karen Betts, chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association, commented: “This is a serious situation for the industry”. Previously there were zero tariffs on whisky from the EU.

It’s not just whisky that has been hit. Along with lots of other goods including  “sweaters, pullovers, sweatshirts, waistcoats (vests) and similar articles, knitted or crocheted, of Kashmir goats, wholly of cashmere” from the UK, other luxury drinks products will be affected. But again, the legislation seems a bit confused. It reads: “Products of France, Germany, Spain or the United Kingdom described below are subject to additional import duties of 25 percent ad valorem”. It then goes on to list products including “wine other than Tokay (not carbonated), not over 14% alcohol”. Tokay is from Hungary so wouldn’t be included anyway. Also does ‘not carbonated’ mean that sparkling wine is exempt? One could argue that the traditional Champagne process is a form of carbonation. It’s interesting that other wine-producing EU countries such as Italy and Portugal seem to be in the clear. You can have a read of the full document here; see if you can make head or tail of it. 

What also isn’t clear is whether these tariffs will still apply to Scotch when (or if) the United Kingdom leaves the EU on the 31st October. We’ll keep you updated, and American readers, your favourite single malts and Scottish cashmere are about to get a lot more expensive.

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Cocktail of the Week: The Hemp Highball

Today, we’re talking to booze hero William Borrell, the man behind the Ladies & Gentlemen bars in London, Vestal Polish vodka and now a CBD-infused rum, Dead Man’s Fingers, the…

Today, we’re talking to booze hero William Borrell, the man behind the Ladies & Gentlemen bars in London, Vestal Polish vodka and now a CBD-infused rum, Dead Man’s Fingers, the base of this week’s cocktail.

You may have read a few things recently (here, here and here, for example) about the rise of CBD-infused spirits. CBD is an active ingredient in cannabis, not the one that gets you all confused and hungry (that’s THC, apparently), but may have some generally groovy effects. Or it might not. By law producers aren’t allowed to make any claims for general grooviness. We tried CBD rum Dead Man’s Fingers at Imbibe this year (very nice it was too though we can’t report any unusual effects), now we’re delighted to speak to the man behind it, William Borrell.

“The idea was first conceived at the Ladies and Gentlemen bar distillery and working kitchen in Camden. This is where we try new ideas during the day before the hoards of punters descend,” he told us. The process involved, according to Borrell “a lot of trial and error”. Things moved very quickly: “we had begun experimenting with the flavours you get from a basic hemp in May and then quickly moved to a range of specialist CBD hemp strains,” he said. We tried the finished version in July. It wasn’t all plain sailing though: Borrell was worried that “we would never be able to replicate the exciting flavours we stumbled on to at the beginning of the journey when it was just our team in the Ladies & Gentlemen bar but I think we got there in the end.”

William Borrell

Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr William Borrell!

Borrell has been working in the booze business for nearly ten years now. His first venture was with a series of “terroir-focused” potato Polish vodkas, Vestal. A bar followed, Ladies & Gentlemen in Kentish Town, and then earlier this year he opened a new venue down the road in Camden Town. Both are housed in converted Victorian toilets, hence the name. Don’t worry, Borrell and the team gave them a good clean first. This summer, a new non-lavatorial venture set sail, a Ladies & Gentlemen rum boat for cruisin’ n’ boozin’ on the Regent’s Canal.

Back to this week’s cocktail: the Hemp Highball, according to Borrell was inspired by “Joerg Meyer who at his highly acclaimed bars in Germany is reclaiming the Highball as the go-to drink at the moment.” And finally, the big question is which sort of music should you listen to while sipping your CBD drink. Borrell recommends: Bill Withers Live at Carnegie Hall (on vinyl, natch). He went on to tell us that at his bar, “we have a BYOV night every Sunday where customers receive a taste of Dead Man’s Fingers for free if they bring their own vinyl, why not pop down.” Why not, indeed. Or you can make a Hemp Highball at home. Here’s how:

40ml Dead Man’s Fingers Hemp Rum
20ml Giffard Triple Sec 
20ml Lime Juice
5ml sugar syrup
100ml Sekforde Rum Mixer (or tonic water if you can’t get hold of it) 

Add first four ingredients to an ice-filled Highball glass. Give them a good stir, top up with Sekforde Rum Mixer, stir again gently and garnish with a lemon wedge, a mint sprig and a basil leaf. Now take it away Bill Withers!

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Master of Malt Dram Club – October 2019

The spookiest month of the year is here, but there’s no reason for Master of Malt Dram Club members to be scared opening up their Tasting Sets – they’re full…

The spookiest month of the year is here, but there’s no reason for Master of Malt Dram Club members to be scared opening up their Tasting Sets – they’re full of tasty spirits (the liquid kind, not… Oh, forget it).

The parcel arrives on your doorstep, and you have no idea what is inside. You pick it up with trepidation and carry it inside, holding the parcel at arm’s length, as if it was dachshund-sized lobster. You place the parcel on a table and slowly begin to open it, the anticipation growing with every passing second. Finally, the last bit of packaging is removed, and you can’t help but scream. It’s… It’s… It’s some absolutely delicious drams in your latest Master of Malt Dram Club Tasting Set!

Dram Club Whisky for October:

Dram Club Premium Whisky for October:

Dram Club Old & Rare Whisky for October:

Dram Club Gin for October:

Dram Club Rum for October:

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Not whisky, not gin – an introduction to Nc’nean Aged Botanical Spirit

If you want to know what the future holds for Scotch whisky, look no further than Highlands distiller Nc’nean. We sat down with Annabel Thomas to chat about her latest…

If you want to know what the future holds for Scotch whisky, look no further than Highlands distiller Nc’nean. We sat down with Annabel Thomas to chat about her latest creation – a trio of cocktail-inspired aged botanical spirits – and unearth the story behind Scotland’s first 100% organic distillery…

“My mission when we founded Nc’nean* was twofold,” Thomas says, addressing the room at the distillery’s Aged Botanical Spirits launch. “One was around sustainability: to create a Scotch distillery that pioneered the very highest environmental standards to show what could be done in that area. The second was to bring some fresh thinking to the Scotch whisky industry, both in terms of the products we create and also the way we communicate and behave.”

The distillery was established in 2013 on the Morvern peninsula, after a life-changing trip to Islay prompted Thomas to take action. “There are lots of distilleries in a small space so it’s easy to do a quick recce,” she explains, “after a few tours, a theme emerged: we’re doing things the traditional way – the way they’ve always been done. I have no problem with that, tradition is the rock upon which Scotch as an industry has been built, but we also have to move with the times.”

Inside the Ncn’ean, sorry Nc’nean, Distillery

Building a distillery from the ground up meant the entire site could be engineered for sustainable production, from the biomass boilers that generate renewable energy to the waste products that feed local cows and fertilise the nearby land. That’s not to say it’s been a walk in the park. Far from it. “Getting a 40-ft by 60ft biomass boiler – that’s like two shipping containers stacked on top of each other – down a narrow single track road with bridges that go around corners, taking it off the lorry, and getting it into a barn, was one of the challenges,” she says.

Then there was the small matter of buying, processing and distilling organic barley. “We were told horror stories when we were thinking about doing it – that it would be hard to find or impossible to work with and give us terribly low yields, but it’s been absolutely fine,” Thomas says. “There are 10 organic malting barley farmers in Scotland and all of their harvest is collected together and malted for us by Muntons. They send us five tonnes a week.”

In 2018, Nc’nean released its inaugural Botanical Spirit, which sees its light, fruity new make redistilled with 10 botanicals, including juniper, coriander, sorrel, heather, and bog myrtle. The three new aged iterations that recently followed – which sees the liquid matured in bourbon, vermouth and Mondino casks – came about quite by chance. 

“I was chatting to a bartender in London about our Botanical Spirit, and he asked me if I’d ever thought about ageing it,” Thomas explains. “And the answer was no. Despite the fact we’ve got over 1,000 casks of whisky maturing in the warehouse, it hadn’t actually occurred to us. We had a little bit left over from the last batch that hadn’t yet been bottled, so we took one of the bourbon casks that we normally mature our whisky in, filled it with Botanical Spirit, and left it for four months to see what would happen.” 

The aged botanical spirits in all their glory

The resulting liquid was so delicious, they decided to experiment further using different casks. “That was where the cocktail link came in,” she continues, “we were trying to decide what barrels to start with and the cocktails that we like drinking the Botanical Spirit in seemed like a good place to start. Mondino, a German organic bitter liqueur, is a favourite pairing of ours, and they happen to do an aged variety so they had some casks. The Botanical Spirit also makes an amazing Martini, so we got a vermouth barrel. Each barrel brings out different aspects of the spirit, it’s quite fascinating to see.”

You’d forgive the team for resting on their laurels, but these products mark the beginning of what promises to be an exciting chapter for Nc’nean and also Scotch whisky. “We’ll have our first whisky out in June, so we are working very hard on that: designing the bottle, creating the recipe, all those things,” Thomas says. “It’s very exciting after what will have been seven years of work. We have some other ideas up our sleeves too, other products based on our new make. But they’re not very far progressed at the moment – just a twinkle in the eye.” 

*A little note – Nc’nean is the correct spelling, it was previously ‘Ncn’ean’ but apparently everyone found it too hard to pronounce, so the apostrophe has moved. If that’s still no help to you, it’s pronounced something like ‘nuck-nee-an.’

 

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Small distillers are the real losers in the EU/ US trade dispute

If you think the trade dispute between the Trump administration and the European Union has hit you hard, wait until you hear how craft distillers in the US have been…

If you think the trade dispute between the Trump administration and the European Union has hit you hard, wait until you hear how craft distillers in the US have been affected. Industry expert Ian Buxton looks into the rights and wrongs, winners and losers in the battle of the tariffs. 

Now I don’t know if you’ve noticed but the price of some American whiskeys has been going up. And some craft whiskeys which we hear about on this side of the Pond seem unduly hard to find. What’s going on? 

It’s all Donald Trump’s fault. Well, the Donald would blame someone else, of course, and he’s been quick to point the finger at Airbus Industries and the European Union. But he may have a point.

Just over a year or so ago the World Trade Organisation (WTO – an acronym you’ll hear a lot more frequently if the UK does indeed finally execute a no-deal Brexit) determined that EU aid to Airbus constituted an illegal subsidy that disadvantaged Boeing, its main competitor.  So, seeking to Make America Great Again and punish the EU, President Trump imposed stiff tariffs on imported steel and aluminium.

Rather than backing down, the EU retaliated with its own new tariffs, including a stinging 25% rate on American whiskies. As some cynical commentators observed, this may not have been unrelated to the fact that much US distilling takes place in the Southern states that tend to vote Republican.  Politics, eh – it’s a dirty game.

As a result, prices have risen and major European importers have cut back their orders. In fact, for the 12 months to July, US whiskey exports to the EU fell by a massive $160m as around one-fifth of the sales just dried up. The folks at Brown-Forman, who make around 60% of the US whiskey we drink, have been especially hard hit. We’re talking about Jack Daniel’s, Woodford Reserve, Old Forester and Early Times – all fine products and justly popular. In their most recent financial results, Brown-Forman reckon they’ve lost around $125m in sales. Even for an industry giant that’s got to hurt. 

This dispute has been grumbling along for nearly 15 years but, under Trump, the American response has been increasingly robust. In fact, reports suggest his administration is preparing to slap tariffs of up to 100% on $1.8 billion worth of European spirits and wine, with potentially dire consequences for Scotch whisky and British gin (never mind Cognac; the French can look after themselves!)  The US distilling industry trade body DISCUS is urging restraint, fearing tit-for-tat European retaliation. “American whiskeys have become collateral damage,” said Chris Swonger, DISCUS’ head honcho.

major fire at Jim Beam

The big boys will probably be ok

Brown-Forman is big and profitable, it’ll get over it. It’s a rather larger problem for small craft distillers who add such variety to the scene, especially when they’ve invested in new bottles and packaging. Well, according to Mountain Laurel’s owner Herman Mihalich (they make Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Rye, but his European distributor has stopped ordering) “we went from a marginally profitable business to breaking even.” Prior to the new tariffs, Europe accounted for around 10% of his sales but these dried up almost overnight.

That feels bad enough, but consider the plight of Catoctin Creek Distilling Co. in Virginia, who have thousands of unfilled bottles just waiting for their tasty rye whiskey. What’s the problem: just fill ‘em up and sell them in your own backyard, you say. Well, there’s the rub – they can’t. Owner Scott Harris was all geared up for a European sales drive and, just ahead of the tariff spat, invested in 70cl bottles for Europe.  Sadly, they’re useless in the USA where the law says spirits must be sold in 75cl containers The difference is only the size of a mini but means a mountain of expensive glass that he can’t use.

As he told the Reuters news agency: “We had one distributor we signed a deal with. He just stopped returning our phone calls. We’ve been trying very hard to get into the UK and France, and we can’t get any distributor to talk to us right now.”

Well, as the poet would have it,
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

For you and me all this means little more than not getting our favourite craft bourbon or rye this Christmas, or having to pay more. For employees of US distilleries affected by this trade war, it could get worse – DISCUS are warning of thousands of job losses if the dispute continues. But I have a plan. As I note in the recently-released latest edition of my 101 Whiskies to Try Before You Die, Canadian whiskies are a steal. You can thank me later.

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New Arrival(s) of the Week: That Boutique-y Whisky Company X Balcones Distilling

This week, we’re tempting you with not one but three (soon to be four) extraordinary bottlings from Texas’ trailblazing Balcones Distilling, released in collaboration with our good friends at That…

This week, we’re tempting you with not one but three (soon to be four) extraordinary bottlings from Texas’ trailblazing Balcones Distilling, released in collaboration with our good friends at That Boutique-y Whisky Company. You’ll want to taste them to believe them, but until then, we’ve captured their essence in four words: upside-down cask maturation…

Hello, curious whisky drinker. We thought the words ‘upside-down cask maturation’ might just lure you in. Those clever folks at That Boutique-y Whisky Company are back at it again – and by ‘it’, we mean bottling the contents of compelling, rare, and/or downright bizarre casks from across the globe, this time from the Lone Star state: Texas. 

Now, the team behind Balcones Distilling aren’t shy about “testing the waters of what’s possible”, as head distiller Jared Himstedt so eloquently puts it. They’re the creators of the first Texan whisky since Prohibition, the pioneers of blue corn whisky, and the only distillers bold enough to create a smoky whisky by smoking the distillate, rather than the grain. If they can’t find a space for these barrels in their existing range, the contents must be – and we mean this as the highest possible compliment – extraordinarily weird.

Of the four Boutique-y releases, three are single malts made from Golden Promise malted barley from Scotland – aged for various timescales in Tequila, oloroso sherry, and Balcones’ own Brimstone casks – while the final spirit is made from blue corn and finished in Pedro Ximénez barrels. Each one spent more time in the finishing cask than it did in the original – hence ‘upside-down cask maturation’.

“We haven’t really released anything like these on our own,” says Winston Edwards, brand ambassador at Balcones Distilling. “We haven’t done a Tequila cask single malt at the distillery, we haven’t done a Brimstone cask at the distillery – we have done a sherry release, but not with our blue corn spirit. They’re unique to Boutique-y.”

Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

 

Balcones 3 Year Old Batch 2 (That Boutique-y Whisky Company)

Well, well, well, what have we here? A Tequila cask-aged Texan single malt whisky; bold and vegetal, with a glorious dried fruit sweetness. “I don’t know what distillery this Tequila cask came from,” says Himstedt. “[Cask] Brokers can be weird – sometimes they don’t want you to know because then you can just start calling the distilleries and bodegas on your own. 

The team has always used Tequila casks, right from the beginning, in the mix for Baby Blue Corn Whisky, he continues. “We’d buy all the Tequila casks that were about to break down and they would make them into smaller barrels for us – they’d get shaved and re-charred and all that. I wanted to see what big Tequila casks would do for Baby, and when we got our first truckload in, we probably had 14 or 15 different isolated spirits recipes, so we threw everything in one – just to see.”

After 12 months ageing in a virgin French oak barrel, the single malt was scooted across to the ex-Tequila barrel, where it remained for 37 months. “I don’t know what you call it when you reverse the process,” says Himstedt. “We didn’t ‘finish’ it – we started it in one barrel and then it really matured in another.”

Balcones 2 Year Old Batch 1 (That Boutique-y Malt Company)

The more astute among you might’ve noticed something unusual. That Boutique-y Malt Company? Eh? “We’re not allowed to call it whisky in the UK if it’s under three years old,” Dave Worthington, global brand ambassador at That Boutique-y Whisky Company explains. “This is just two years old, so we’ve put a little flag over the whisky logo and renamed it ‘That Boutique-y Malt Company’.” 

After 14 and a half months ageing in an ex-bourbon barrel, this single malt was switched to a Balcones Brimstone cask for a further 16 and a half months’ ageing. The name Brimstone refers to a corn whisky of the same name, which is smoked using scrub oak. “It’s actually not a different species of oak, but in Texas where it’s really dry the tree grows twisted, almost like a Bonsai version of what an oak tree would be,” Edwards explains. “It’s so dense, we’re talking about something that has spent 60 to 80 years just to grow four feet tall, so lot of the compounds and aromas are really concentrated.” Think: smoky bacon and campfire deliciousness.

Balcones 2 Year Old Batch 2 (That Boutique-y Malt Company) 

The third single malt – again, bottled as a malt spirit rather than a whisky – spent 11 months in ex-bourbon casks before maturing for a further 14 months in an oloroso sherry cask, with all the rich plum fruit and mouthwatering spicy treacle you’d expect. Fun fact: This will be the joint-third Balcones release that has spent time in a sherry cask – the other two being the distillery’s 10th anniversary single malt and a dark rum finished in a Pedro Ximénez cask. *Italian chefs kiss* 

We say joint third, because soon (quite how soon is still under wraps) there will be another spirit joining this experimental line-up: a 100% blue corn spirit finished in Pedro Ximénez casks. If your whistle has been thoroughly wetted, you’ll need to get a move on – a very limited number of bottles are available, priced at £69.95 per 500ml bottle. Hey, we told you they were extraordinary. 

 

 

 

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The Nightcap: 27 September

New Balvenie single malt, gin from a heart-throb, and headsets that predict your favourite cocktail – all this and more in the latest edition of The Nightcap! September has almost…

New Balvenie single malt, gin from a heart-throb, and headsets that predict your favourite cocktail – all this and more in the latest edition of The Nightcap!

September has almost concluded. Soon it will be October, which means Halloween. We all know what follows that. It’s all moving too fast, isn’t it? You need something to take your mind off things, something to relax you. Ten bite-sized pieces of boozy news, for example. All rounded up in one handy location. With a snazzy drink-inspired name. That should do it. You need The Nightcap, folks.

So, what’s occurred already this week at MoM Towers? Well, the blog welcomed the return of Nate Brown, who took a rather dim view of cocktail competitions, before Adam championed a delightfully sherried English single malt whisky for our New Arrival of the Week, as well as the good work done by the Gorilla Spirits Co. on World Gorilla Day (24 September). Elsewhere, Annie talked all things Irish whiskey at London’s smallest Irish pub and then looked at how the worlds of coffee and alcohol collide now more than ever ahead of World Coffee Day (1 October), while Henry’s Cocktail of the Week was a cold, fruity little number that features a unique Polish vodka.

But the world of booze has even more to offer. It’s The Nightcap!

The Nightcap

The sixth batch from the popular series will be available here soon…

The Balvenie Releases Batch 6 of Tun 1509 Series

The Balvenie’s mighty fab and highly collectable Tun 1509 series has returned with Batch 6, a non-chill filtered whisky that comprises liquid from sherry refill butts, ex-bourbon American oak barrels and DoubleWood refill sherry butts (which were used once to finish previous DoubleWood) before being filled with new make and aged. The latest addition to The Balvenie Tun 1509 continues malt master David Stewart MBE’s exploration of the Speyside distillery’s aged stocks. He brought together a total of 21 unique casks to marry in the Tun, where it was left for three months before being bottled at the distillery at 50.4% ABV. Every bottle of Tun 1509 Batch 6 will come complete with a breakdown chart showing in-depth detail of the whisky, with visual representations of the flavour profile of each of the 21 casks and the overall character of the resulting single malt. “The liquid presents a beautiful depth on the palate with a touch of maple syrup, candied orange and runny honey,” Stewart said. “It is delightfully rich on the nose with soft brown sugar, toffee, blossom honey and ginger oak spices, and presents a sweet and malty finish featuring swathes of oak vanilla alongside a spicy layer. Batch 6 is a truly remarkable liquid that showcases gorgeous character and rich depth produced during the marrying process. This expression is sure to have whisky enthusiasts excited, much like the last Tun 1509 series we released a year ago.” Batch 6 of Tun 1509 is available at MoM Towers right now, so hop to it!

The Nightcap

Congratulations, folks!

Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame inducts new members and bestows lifetime achievement award

The Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame has had a busy week. Not only did it induct six individuals into its hallowed ranks, but it also presented a certain icon with the Parker Beam Lifetime Achievement Award. This year’s inductees are, in alphabetical order, Katrina Egbert, visitor centre marketing coordinator at Wild Turkey; Wesley Henderson, co-founder and chief innovation officer at Louisville Distilling Co.; Larry Kass, the former director of trade relations, Heaven Hill Distillery; Charles W. Medley, master distiller at the Medley Distilling Co.; and Peggy Noe Stevens, founder and president of Peggy Noe Stevens & Associates. Congratulations are in order for all those lovely folk, but a glass or two should also be raised in particular in the direction of the recipient of the lifetime achievement award, Even G. Kulsveen, the executive director of Willett Distillery. The award was attributed to his work resurrecting one of the state’s most historic distilleries and helping to return the family-owned brand to global prominence. “Even has demonstrated disciplined leadership, strategic decision-making and bold forward-thinking,” said Rick Robinson, chairman of the Kentucky Distillers Association’s board of directors. “He has built a family legacy that will last for generations to come, and we thank him for his significant contributions to Kentucky’s booming Bourbon industry”. In accepting the award, Kulsveen observed, “How many of us would have thought, 30 years ago, that we would be here today”, but daughter and Willett president Britt Kulsveen added that “We have always said that he is lifetimes ahead of his time with all of the innovative, genius creations he has imagined and brought to fruition. This award is a long time coming.” The induction ceremony was held on the grounds of My Old Kentucky Home in Bardstown, one of the state’s most revered historic sites and each inductee was presented with an engraved miniature copper still. Their names will also be added to the Hall of Fame display at the Oscar Getz Museum of Whiskey History in Bardstown.

The Nightcap

There’s plenty of options for those who want to celebrate World Sake Day

Celebrate World Sake Day

We know you’ve probably got a big red circle around the date in your calendars already, but here’s a reminder that it’s World Sake Day on Tuesday 1 October! Recent years have seen sake become increasingly popular, though if your knowledge isn’t quite up to scratch you can check out our blog. To celebrate the occasion, we decided to give you a little round-up of where to celebrate the day in style. If you’re in London, then Dinings SW3 over in Knightsbridge places sake right at the heart of its cocktail menu (which we went and tried out back in June). Take the Dinings SW3 Negroni for example, which switches things up with the addition of juniper and yuzu sake. If East London is more your scene, then there’s Nobu Shoreditch, with its landscaped terrace and Kampai happy hour from 4pm-6pm every day, which showcases the team’s favourite Japanese tipples and nibbles. Finally, if you happen to be near Manchester, the wonderful Peter Street Kitchen is hosting an exclusive World Sake Day masterclass on 5 October, so you can really get stuck in! Held in the Rikyū Bar, you’ll get a taste of hot, cold, sweet and sparkling sake, along with some tasty Japanese cocktails and canapes of course. Mind you, if you can’t make it to these spots, then we might know of a certain online retailer who could help you out with some lip-smacking sake right to your door…

The Nightcap

It’s quite the accolade for Matteo Monotone to receive

Matteo Montone wins World’s Best Young Sommelier

Being the best at something in the world is a pretty big deal. Having your best-ness be confirmed by a panel of judges is just next level. That’s what it’s like being in Matteo Montone’s shoes, Head Sommelier at Berners Tavern at The London EDITION hotel, who was crowned Best Young Sommelier in the World at the International Final of the Chaine Des Rotisseurs competition in Seoul! Of course, this achievement didn’t come out of nowhere. Having moved to London in 2013, Montone has had an impressive career in restaurants such as Aqua Shard, the Ritz London and Locanda Locatelli before he joined Berners Tavern. Then in March this year, Montone was also crowned Great British Young Sommelier of the Year. Now, just six months later and he’s achieved world domination! A huge congratulations from everyone at MoM Towers!

The Nightcap

More delicious English whisky is always a good thing…

East London Liquor Company launches three new whiskies

East London Liquor Company has proven once again why we love it so much with not one, but three new distinct whiskies! There’s the East London Single Malt, the first single malt from the English distillery, a double-pot distilled expression which was matured in a combination of ex-bourbon and rye casks from Sonoma and ex-bourbon casks from Kentucky for a minimum of three years. It said to have notes of milk chocolate, peanut butter, fresh hay, biscuits, bitter almond and a slightly vegetal finish of green tomatoes and light tar. It’s joined by another newcomer, ELx Sonoma, a blended whisky made in collaboration with owner and whiskey maker Adam Spiegel of the aforementioned California distillery, Sonoma. It features the delightful London Rye, the first-ever whisky release from the distillery, which was aged in a variety of casks, including ex-peated and ones that held its barrel-aged gins and finished in ex-Pedro Ximénez and oloroso casks. This was then married with Spiegel’s own unique blend of Sonoma bourbons. Expect notes of toffee, brandy-soaked cherries, almond butter, hay, clover, black peppercorn, dried apricots and honeysuckle. The final bottling of the three is the second release of London Rye, which was matured first for a year in virgin oak before it rested in ex-Sonoma and Kentucky bourbon casks for two years before spending six months in an ex-peated cask and then finished in ex-Pedro Ximénez. Toffee, sarsaparilla, dark chocolate, dried cherries, tahini, sea salt, leather, peat, bouillon, porridge and peanut butter notes are to be expected. “We’re unbelievably excited for not one, but three new whiskies to be hitting people’s glasses at the same time,” said Andy Mooney, whisky distiller at the East London Liquor Company. “Working with Adam Spiegel of Sonoma Distilling Company, I really appreciated his sentiment of ‘making whiskeys in a small way for a big world’. I like to say that, as a distillery, we’re incredibly lucky to be making whiskies that we want to drink ourselves, and then getting to share them with the rest of the world so people can find their own perfect dram.”

The Nightcap

Apparently there’s gin in this photo. We’re yet to spot it. Look at him, ffs.

David Gandy joins the juniper fray with Savile Row Gin

Just when you think you’d seen every gin launch imaginable, one comes along that genuinely catches your eye. Yes, of course, it was the liquid that… ahem. Yes. New gin. Last night, our Mariella headed up to London Town for the launch of Savile Row Gin! It’s made with 12 botanicals – including the signature kumquat – by Rob Dorsett (the chap behind the likes of Palmers 44 Gin and a host of others via the Langley Distillery). Oh yeah, and actual David Gandy (model, writer, driver and all-round beautiful human) was revealed as an investor in the brand – and its ambassador, too! He’s involved in the gin on a “day-to-day” basis, apparently. “I look to invest in British start-ups that I believe to be of superior quality with inspirational teams,” he said. “As a lover of gin, Savile Row Gin stood out from the crowd with its smoothness and flavour. I loved the fact it is a quintessentially British product, produced in the UK and curated on one of Britain’s most iconic streets, one that stands for craftsmanship and quality. I’m excited to be part of the team to help expand and grow the brand.” Founder Stewart Lee (not that one) seems chuffed: “David embodies the refined elegance and style of Savile Row and I am delighted to have his support, both as an ambassador and investor for the brand.” The best news? You can snap up Savile Row Gin right here!

The Nightcap

It may not be Guinness, but it’s still dark and beautiful.

Guinness launches limited-edition coffee 232 Brew

Inspired by a shared passion for rugby, the creators of the famous pints of the black stuff have teamed up with coffee company Tiki Tonga, which was founded by current Saracens captain and former British and Irish Lions player, Brad Barritt, to create a called ‘232 Brew’. The delicately balanced, full-bodied coffee should make those early morning kick-offs at the 2019 Rugby World Cup a little easier to handle (it’s held in Japan this year). The name comes from the fact that the coffee was roasted at 232°C, which is the same temperature as the barley used to brew Guinness, which is pretty neat. It should be made very clear, this not an alcoholic drink. Nothing is stopping you from making that coffee truly Irish, however. 232 Brew is said to have notes of fruit and nut chocolate leaving you with a rich mouthfeel and a long-lasting distinguished chocolate finish, and will also make a delightful Americano, cappuccino or flat white. The delicious blend will be available at selected venues across the country including Flat Iron Square (London), Oasthouse (Manchester) and Brigadiers (London). “The next six weeks are set to be some of the most exciting weeks of the year for fans of rugby, but we know that for many the early morning starts are far from ideal,” said Niall McKee, head of Guinness Europe. “That’s why we’ve partnered with Brad and the team at Tiki Tonga to create the ultimate coffee. We want to be there with rugby’s biggest fans for those early morning starts – bringing belief and team spirit.”

The Nightcap

Even adventurous spirits need to be enjoyed responsibly.

McQueen Gin gets told off by ASA

It wasn’t a great week for McQueen Gin’s parent company Trossachs Distillery. It was scolded by advertising watchdog the ASA for airing a TV ad that was declared “irresponsible”. The ad in question shows a group of three mates having a jolly good time in the Scottish Highlands, climbing mountains, swimming in lochs and taking in the view at the top of a rocky peak. The only trouble is that they celebrated the climb with a cheeky G&T – which very much implied that the return journey would be undertaken post-booze. Tricky, when you’re not allowed to suggest that physical activities are a good idea after alcohol (legal types would refer you to BCAP Code rule 19.13 (Alcohol)). “In this case, we considered the ad suggested that the activities would be undertaken after the consumption of alcohol and were therefore irresponsible,” an ASA statement reads. Best leave the gin back at the ranch and toast the day’s achievements after both legs of the journey are complete.

The Nightcap

Now that’s what we call autumn!

Dalloway Terrace Transforms for Autumn 2019 with Æcorn Aperitifs

The wonderful Dalloway Terrace (yes, that’s a Virginia Woolf reference) over at The Bloomsbury Hotel has gone through quite the seasonal transformation embracing all things autumn! To do this it’s rather appropriately teamed up with Æcorn Aperitifs. Expect oodles of golden leaves, brushed gold butterflies and a wonderful flower-filled terrace, to evoke the feeling of dining under a magnificent oak tree. Everyone’s dream. It’s not just the visuals that have been autumn-fied; the drinks menu has had a seasonal reboot, too. Expect wonderful aperitifs such as the Æcorn Elderflower Spritz, with Æcorn Dry, elderflower cordial and English sparkling wine. There’s also a unique Afternoon Tea menu inspired by Æcorn’s three alcohol-free aperitifs, and it’s totally autumn-inspired. I mean come on, there’s ‘Conkers on a String’, which isn’t really a conker, but chestnut and milk chocolate cream laced with Æcorn Aromatic. So seasonal! If the colder months are your thing, then Dalloway Terrace is definitely the spot for you.

The Nightcap

The future is here, and it’s boozy!

And finally… Spotify soundtracks cocktails while Diageo headsets predict your fave

Fifty-four of the world’s best bartenders and industry luminaries gathered this week for the Diageo Reserve World Class Bartender of the Year Global Final 2019 in Glasgow’s West End, which was won by the amazing Bannie Kang from Singapore! But that’s not the only thing that caught the eye as the drinks giant has announced a couple of startling new initiatives. The first, a collaboration with Spotify, led to the creation of six data-driven playlists curated for signature cocktails. Using social data and keywords related to specific Diageo Reserve brand cocktails, the world’s most popular audio streaming subscription service was able to identify key tracks and music that best encapsulated the mood and spirit of the cocktail. Rak Patel, head of UK sales at Spotify said: “Together with Diageo, we’re tapping into these insights to set the mood as they sip their favourite cocktails while creating a delightful and impactful connection with the brands they love.” Also on show was a headset linked to a sensory experiment that could be the answer for gin lovers unsure what to mix with their Tanqueray No. Ten. The Head vs Heart activation recommends personalised serves based on the results from the EEG sensors, essentially reading your mind to find the perfect cocktail. “Consumers are increasingly seeking out personalised and immersive experiences in our category,” Benjamin Lickfett, said Diageo’s head of futures, who has clearly never watched any films with AI or advanced mind-reading robots before. “Head vs Heart is just one example of an emerging technology enabling consumers to explore their own taste preferences and the flavours of our award-winning Tanqueray No. 10 as part of an engaging, sensory and surprising experience”. Stu Bale, director of London’s experimental creative bartending hub ‘Crucible’ also demonstrated the use of ‘weird machines’ like rotavaps, centrifuges, and ultrasonics to express different aspects of flavour and texture. World Class really sounds like a who’s who of ‘what the hell?!’ this year. You can visit www.theworldclassclub.com for more info.

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A lesson in blended whiskey at London’s smallest Irish pub

If there are two things Ireland is exceptional at, it’s whiskey and hospitality. And when it comes to combining the two, nowhere on earth does it better. We squeezed into…

If there are two things Ireland is exceptional at, it’s whiskey and hospitality. And when it comes to combining the two, nowhere on earth does it better. We squeezed into London’s smallest Irish pub, tucked away in Islington-based neighbourhood bar Homeboy, where co-owner Aaron Wall gave us a masterclass on the Emerald Isle’s greatest exports…

You really, really ought to see it for yourself. With seating for just eight, Hop House 13 on tap, and its very own miniature snug, London’s smallest Irish pub is every bit as magical as it sounds. You’ll find it nestled in the back of Homeboy in Islington, which opened its doors back in December 2018 with one overarching mission: to become the home of modern Irish hospitality in London.

But Dublin-born co-owner Wall – who the bar is named after; his passion for his home country earning him the nickname ‘homeboy’ – has another, more ambitious mission up his sleeve. And to achieve it, he’s taking a fresh approach to the category. An approach that involves whiskey highballs.

“We want to make Irish whiskey exciting and fun, and for me, that starts with the blended Irish whiskey category,” he says. “There’s so much diversity there, the sky really is the limit. Irish whiskey was once the top-selling spirit in the world, and if it’s shown in the right light, marketed right, and brought to people’s attention in the right way, then it can be again.”

Homeboy

Homeboys Ciarán Smith and Aaron Wall

Homeboy’s new Irish Whiskey masterclass series brings the two together: combining convivial hospitality together with Wall’s enthusiasm for and extensive knowledge about the wider Irish whiskey category. After a welcome Guinness in the main bar, we’re led to the pub for a preview of the blended masterclass, which begins – from a historical perspective – pre-temperance, accompanied with a welcome tot of Tullamore D.E.W.

“Me and my business partner opened the bar up with the change in our pocket, and we couldn’t have all the whiskey we wanted at first – we could only have the whiskey that we could afford,” explains Wall. Much of that, he says, was blended Irish whiskey. “Having that conversation was fantastic, it gave a great foundation for where Irish whiskey is now and how it can build, in particular where these flavour profiles sit when it comes to cocktails.

“There are a million and one gins out these days – we decided when we opened the bar that we’d stock six and we’ve got 17 at the moment – but when I sit down with [brand owners] and say ‘tell me about your product, tell me why it’s better [in a cocktail] than another gin’, a lot of people don’t really know where to go with that conversation.”

Homeboy

Homeboy, London’s smallest Irish pub

Wall, who has tended the bar for years at London stalwarts London Cocktail Club and Callooh Callay, decided to take that approach with his Irish whiskey offering – exploring how each flavours pair with other ingredients and cocktails. Tullamore D.E.W., he says, suits drinks that might usually contain a medium-aged rum. “Drinks that can handle robust flavours, even down to coconut and pineapple, Coca-Cola. It doesn’t overpower the drink, it doesn’t cut through everything else, but isn’t overshadowed by it either.”

This attention to detail is reflected across the entire menu. Even Irish cocktail classics have been given a carefully-considered reboot. “People think your Irish coffee is such a basic drink, and it is at its essence, but it can be messed up so easily,” says Wall. “If you use espresso or instant coffee, or really good craft coffee in a drip coffee machine, the whiskey just cuts through.” Instead, the team combines commercially roasted coffee with Dead Rabbit Irish Whiskey – “because it’s a bit punchier” – and a Demerara syrup, “which has all these biscuity notes and gives a lot of richness and body”.

To inject the fruiter flavours found in coffee from craft roasters, the team created their own Irish coffee bitters “made with a neutral grain spirit from the Teeling Distillery,” says Wall, “loads of spices, cacao, star anise but also orange peel, lemon peel, to give it a little bit of brightness”. The cream on top, he says, is whipped in very minimal batches. “Irish coffee shouldn’t be about eating through the cream to get to the coffee – it should be sipped through, like you would a pint of Guinness, I suppose. Good Guinness is like good coffee.”

Homeboy

The bar is home to rebooted classic Irish cocktails

You won’t find many stirred-down drinks on the menu at Homeboy. “Whiskey doesn’t get too many of those light, crisp drinks,” says Wall, who points to a drink on the menu called Emerald Collins. “We use Slaine Irish Whiskey because that Sherry cask finish brings out that sweetness from the American virgin oak casks, a little bit of Cynar to give it a bit of earthiness, a little bit of St Germain for floralness, lemon, a touch of sugar, and then it’s topped with soda,” he explains. “It’s just a great-tasting highball – Irish whiskey can live in so many different spaces.”

As we ricocheted through the past, present and future of Irish whiskey, it soon becomes clear why Wall’s industry peers have nicknamed him “the Irish ambassador”. The man is Irish hospitality in human form. He knows more about Irish whiskey than we could ever hope to know. And, perhaps more importantly, he’s excellent at sharing his expertise. As we depart, we’re handed an envelope containing, among other things, two teabags. They’re Barry’s, an Irish brand, he explains.

“About a year and a half ago I was back in Dublin, and myself and my father went out for a few pints,” says Wall. “In Ireland, when you get back from a night out, it’s more likely the kettle goes on than a bottle of whisky comes out, so we stayed up and had a couple of cups of tea. It was amazing to have that time with my dad and I wanted to give that opportunity to our guests, so we always give two teabags with every bill, so when you get home you can have a cup of tea and talk about the night you had. For me that night was special, he gave me the encouragement to [open Homeboy] and ended up coming over and helping us build the bar, so it’s been a massive journey.”

Homeboy

A fab Irish whiskey masterclass awaits!

The next Irish whiskey masterclasses will take place at Homeboy on 15 and 16 October and 12 and 13 November. For more information, visit the website.

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Cocktail of the Week: The Mango Mule 

This week’s cocktail is a cold, fruity little number that highlights a very special Polish vodka made with old oak-aged fruit brandy.  Cast your mind back to the steamy days…

This week’s cocktail is a cold, fruity little number that highlights a very special Polish vodka made with old oak-aged fruit brandy. 

Cast your mind back to the steamy days of late July. Temperatures in London were in the mid-30s but it was the humidity that was taking its toll on our spirits. It felt like monsoon season in the tropics. Fortunately, we found the answer, ice-cold cocktails courtesy of new vodka brand Kavka. While the air got thicker and the sky darker, we just sipped and chatted on the terrace at Ognisko restaurant in South Kensington.

The Polish Hearth Club (Ognisko Polskie), a grand stucco townhouse in Exhibition Row, has served as a home from home for London’s Polish community since 1939. During the Second World War, it housed the Polish government in exile. Jan Woroniecki, who has run the venue’s bar and restaurant since 2012, remembers the club’s heyday in the 1960s when the wartime generation were still in their prime. Woroniecki himself is an Anglo-Pole, his father was in the Polish army during the War and took part in the D Day landing. Following the Soviet occupation of his country, he decided to remain in London and married an Englishwoman.

According to Woroniecki, the club began to decline as that generation aged and their children weren’t so interested in looking after the place. The building, which must be worth a fortune, was nearly sold to property developers in 2012. When Woroniecki took over the bar and restaurant, he modernised the menu and decor (though there are still plenty of paintings of fierce-looking Polish heroes), and now, he told me, “the restaurant is generating lots of income, it’s financially very stable.” The place was certainly heaving when we were there. 

Woroniecki originally worked as a photographer but moved into the restaurant business because, in his words, “it was just too much fun.”He’s the man behind Wodka (now closed) on Kensington High Street and Baltic (still thriving) in Borough. His latest venture is Kavka, a vodka brand which has just landed at Master of Malt. It came about following an investigation into how vodka was made in 19th century Poland. “Every distillery made a different spirit as a point of difference”, he told me, “I came across a method where you take rye and wheat spirit, and blend in small quantities of fruit spirits.” Jan Woroniecki discovered some 50 plus-year-old apple and plum pot still brandies in wooden barrels and adds a tiny amount, less than 1%, to column-distilled rye and wheat spirits. This then undergoes a very light filtration: “We can’t legally call ourselves a Polish vodka as we don’t know where fruit spirits came from,” he added. 

Kavka Mango Mule

Kavka Mango Mule, liquid air conditioning

The taste is smooth, spicy and sweet, with a subtle fruitiness. Kavka makes about the best vodka Martini I’ve ever tried but the cocktail that really refreshed on that hot night in July was the Mango Mule. Mule cocktails are usually based on the Moscow Mule and the common ingredient are vodka, ginger beer and, usually, lime juice. They are then usually served in a copper mug. This one is nothing like that but it is delicious and in the end, that’s all that matters. We’re not going to quibble about a man’s mule. The subtle fruitiness of the vodka going beautifully with the mango sorbet and lemon juice with a little bit of Campari providing bitterness. The tropical weather might be a distant memory, but one sip of the Mango Mule and you’ll be transported to sweltering South Ken. 

Right, let’s Mule!

50ml Kavka vodka
15ml Campari
5ml lemon juice
1 scoop of mango sorbet

Shake the ingredients hard in a shaker and then strain into an ice-filled Nick and Nora glass. Garnish with a piece of orange peel. 

 

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