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Master of Malt Blog

Lyre’s: masters of the no-alcohol alternative

Another one of low-and-no-alcohol’s finest features on our blog today as our Sober October coverage continues. This time it’s the mimic masters, Lyre’s the most awarded non-alcoholic spirit brand in…

Another one of low-and-no-alcohol’s finest features on our blog today as our Sober October coverage continues. This time it’s the mimic masters, Lyre’s the most awarded non-alcoholic spirit brand in the world. 

“We saw this consumer trend around people drinking more mindfully. People who still drink but might be looking to reduce or take a break – Sober October is a great example of that – or people who are looking to leave the alcohol category entirely. And we realised people still wanted their indulgences and thought there was an opportunity in the market for something to be developed”. 

Lyre’s CEO and co-founder Mark Livings is in his element breaking down the opportunities afforded in the world of low-and-no alcohol drinks. Despite only starting four years ago, the brand already has a 13-strong zero-alcohol spirit range, released to some acclaim. If you love a bit of medal action, Lyre’s is the brand for you. It’s picked up over 50 awards from across the globe and at the recent IWSC spirits awards won the trophy for overall victory across the no and low-alcoholic spirits category.

Despite its meteoric growth in recent years, the premise behind Lyre’s is deceptively simple: you don’t want to consume alcohol, but still want something that looks, smells and tastes like the original. This is where Lyre’s comes in. “Our hypothesis was that people wanted a facsimile of an already-known flavour or spirit. Something that allows you to retain the same measurements and serving size. We wanted it to have a better sort of proximity to the original than Diet Coke does to Coke,” Livings explains. “We decided to not release any products unless they could tick all of those boxes. We’ve managed to replicate 13 of the 15 that we set out to make facsimiles of and with those 13 we can create 42 of the world’s 50 best selling cocktails and mixed beverages. That was our goal”. 

Lyre’s

Say hello to Mark Livings!

It’s a remarkably extensive collection that covers all the bases. Need a bourbon alternative? They’ve got it. A gin substitute? No problem. A rum replacement? I think you know where this is heading. Amazingly, there’s more in the pipeline. “Our range is so large because we wanted to replace the back bar. To give the trade the ability to make the entirety of their cocktail menu in a non-alcoholic format. To do that you need a very, very broad selection of spirits,” Livings says. “We were also thinking global from day one. The world drinks really differently. In the UK, 30% of spirit sales in Britain is gin, but if you go to the US it’s less than 5% of total sales, it’s a dark spirits market for the most part. We needed a compelling range of products that appeal to a global audience”

Creating such effective, non-alcoholic impersonators wasn’t easy. Talking to a producer of zero-alcohol drinks, it does make you appreciate the amount of legwork good ol’ ethanol does. “First of all it’s a solvent, so it’s very good at carrying both perfume and flavour. It can pull them out of other sources, it can preserve them. This is why perfumes are primarily alcohol-based”, Livings explains. “It strips moisture from the mouth, amplifying the flavours that you are experiencing on the palate on the way through. It’s also an agitant, a harsh chemical which causes blood to flow to the tongue, to the palate and to the cheeks which also amplifies the experience of flavour. Plus, it’s a tremendous preservative”. 

Arguably, this is the biggest challenge the lack of ethanol poses for zero-alcohol drink producers. Livings believes there is still a fair amount of innovation to do in this regard. “The one part of the industry that no one has got a solution for yet is how do we deliver a non-alcoholic spirit without a preservative like potassium sorbate, which is what we use across our range. So development continues for the entire category. Consumers are demanding preservative-free beverages and so we continue to watch and look for natural preservative alternatives across the range as well,” Livings explains. “We keep driving our brand so if we can improve anything, we will change our recipes if new ingredients or technology becomes available that allows us to deliver a closer homage to the original. We’re not beholden to a hundred-year-old recipe or to one particular technique of making our product such as distillation”.

Lyre’s

Creating such a diverse and distinctive range isn’t easy

You might be surprised to learn how often distillation is used in the low-and-no-alcohol category, but there are a fair few brands who employ this method. Lyre’s, by contrast, avoided going down the route of a singular production method “The first movers in this field were distilling and then de-alcoholising. The problem with that method was that you are also pulling out an enormous amount of the flavour and some of the parts that make a spirit have that incredible mouthfeel. It’s romantic but not effective,” Livings explains. “We landed on something – there’s no real word for this –  but we call it ‘molecular reconstruction’. We identified and isolated the compounds and the molecules that give alcohol its taste, like fruity esters or the phenolics in whisky”. 

The process begins fairly simply, by tasting and nosing and spirit to break it down note by note, adding increasingly greater amounts of water and dilution to open it up along the way. “Once we’ve got our library of all of the things that we can identify using our senses, we then go and look for those ingredients from natural sources,” Livings explains. “But it requires a tremendous amount of research and experimentation. Take vanilla. There’s something like 230 different vanilla essences available. So we need to understand what sort of vanilla we want. Is it a smoky vanilla, or more spicy-peppery vanilla? Was it a smooth vanilla? Was it a custard-y or banana-y vanilla?” 

It took over three years of innovation and testing, but Livings and his colleagues, with the help of a team of sommeliers, were able to create a library of over 12,500 extracts, essences and distillates sourced from 39 different countries of origin to draw from. Lyre’s Non-Alcoholic Italian Orange, for example, was created using natural extracts from ruby grapefruit, blood orange and pomegranate. But that’s not the hard part, Livings explains. It’s all about balance. “You’re fighting solubility. If you crank the volume on the ingredients too high you can get them precipitating into solids in a water base or turning into a layer of oil that can float on the top of the beverage on the way through. Your drink needs to have the right profile while being shelf-stable and having colour”. 

Lyre’s

For those who desire zero-alcohol cocktails, Lyre’s can provide

This ambition was not only to recreate the aroma and palate of the alcoholic equivalent but also replicates the familiar mouthfeel and viscosity of alcohol. “For this, we turned to natural ingredients again. Things like black pepper, white pepper, ginger, capsicum, Schezuan pepper and menthol can give us the closest approximation to that burn of alcohol. Then to deliver that viscosity of alcohol we use a number of natural sources, things like pectin, gum Arabic or cellulose, even some cool new seaweed extracts coming onto the market that increases the viscosity of a non-alcohol based beverage,” Living explains. “They were the last parts of the puzzle that we looked at in order to create a convincing non-alcoholic spirit without leaning on sugar to do the heavy lifting for you, as has been done in the past, which ruins the flavour-profile but it does deliver that viscosity that you’re looking for”. 

Bringing consumers into the world of zero-alcohol alternatives doesn’t just require the liquid inside the bottle to be of sufficient quality, but your branding has to be on point too. Thankfully for Lyre’s, it understands how to market itself. The bottles are big, bold and colourful and the playful name comes from the Australian lyrebird, which is basically the world’s greatest impersonator and the brand’s logo. Birdsong, chainsaw, Mozart concertos – they can do it all. “It’s a bit of a tip-of-the-hat to where the spirits have come from. As a brand that was based on paying homage to well known and loved flavours, we felt that the lyrebird was perfect,” says Livings. There’s also something neat about asking a bartender for a Lyre’s Martini because it sounds like you’re asking for a Liar’s Martini, which, in a sense, you are. “It’s a beautiful little phonetic joke,” Livings adds. “Each label also features an anthropomorphic illustration, inspired by an animal which is native to each spirit’s country of origin, like the North American black bear on the American Malt”.

Through its award-winning range and effective marketing, Lyre’s has become one of the leading brands in this fledgling category. This year it raised £9m, the largest investment to date for the non-alcoholic ‘spirits’ category, to boost its range and efforts. This includes the launch of a number of new products across the next six months, including in the burgeoning ready-to-drink range. “It’s a natural progression. The same consumer driver that powers RTDs for the traditional spirits market is equally as prevalent in the non-alcoholic spirits market,” Livings says. “We’ll be launching with three variants but we certainly see some big potential to expand the range in the near future. So watch this space!” 

We’ll certainly be keeping an eye out. We’re concluding with my favourite Lyre’s zero-alcohol cocktails. I particularly recommend The Americano, which is light, refreshing but still bold and full-bodied enough that you wouldn’t notice there’s no alcohol involved. The same goes for the Jungle Bird, which also looks fantastic when properly garnished. The Amaretti Sour, which is probably the most popular creation of three I’ve listed, is also smashing. It’s a little sweet, a little sour, a little bitter and all-round delicious. 

Lyre’s Cocktails

Lyre’s

Lyre’s Americano

45ml Lyre’s Apéritif Rosso 
45ml Lyre’s Italian Orange 
90ml tonic water

Build over ice and stir in a highball, then garnish with a slice of orange.

Lyre’s

Lyre’s Amaretti Sour

75ml Lyre’s Non-Alcoholic Amaretti 
15ml lemon juice
5ml sugar syrup
10ml egg white/chickpea juice
3 dashes aromatic bitters

Pop all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice and give it a firm shake. Strain the mixture into an Old Fashioned glass with a fresh cube of ice and garnish with a lemon wedge and a Maraschino Cherry. This is nut-free, gluten-free, dairy-free and wheat-free, so you might as well go the full California and make it vegan by replacing the egg white with chickpea juice, which is apparently a thing.

Lyre’s

Lyre’s Jungle Bird

30ml Lyre’s Dark Cane Spirit
45ml Lyre’s Italian Orange
15ml lime juice
7.5ml white sugar syrup (1:1)
45ml pineapple juice

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker with plenty of ice and give it a good hard shake. Fill an Old Fashioned glass with fresh cubed ice and strain the mixture into it and then garnish with a lemon wedge, cherry and sprig of mint.

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Challenging times for Port

What with the hottest July since records began, Covid and wild boars rampaging through the vineyards, it’s been a difficult vintage in the Douro valley. Nevertheless, Adrian Bridge and David…

What with the hottest July since records began, Covid and wild boars rampaging through the vineyards, it’s been a difficult vintage in the Douro valley. Nevertheless, Adrian Bridge and David Guimaraens from Taylor’s are confident that the Port industry has the tools to weather the storm.

We’re all still getting to grips with Zoom meetings so we can sympathise with one attendee at a Taylor’s event recently who forgot to mute her mic before saying: “This is just the boring webinar I’ve ever been on in my life”. It certainly got a laugh from everyone and CEO of Taylor’s, Adrian Bridge, had the grace to realise it was the perfect moment to hand over to his winemaker David Guimaraens for a vintage report.

Yet, Bridge, an ex-army man and one of Port’s most influential characters, was being far from boring, explaining how Taylor’s was toughing out Covid. It’s a big business, taking in the Port brands Croft, Fonseca, Krohn and Taylor’s itself, plus hotels and a recently-opened World of Wine museum (WOW) in Oporto. According to Bridge: “Port sales are up in most markets with many people choosing to consume Port at home people.” But, people are drinking wines that they find in their local supermarket rather than the more expensive things from restaurants. Earlier this year, the company sent its first ever shipment to South Korea. The home market, however, highly dependent on tourism, is 50% down. 

Adrian Bridge rocking the pleated chinos look

In Britain, sales of Taylor’s White Port and Croft Pink, both great cocktail ingredients, are booming. The UK market makes up over 30% of the business so Bridge is making sure plans are in place for a complicated Brexit. The company is building up stocks over here, so don’t worry, there’s no need to panic buy Port. 

The industry continued throughout Covid but with social distancing restriction in place. Taylor’s opened a supermarket for staff so they could buy provisions without having to mingle or queue. The company used their downtown Porto hotel, the Infanta Sagres, to put up medical workers and supplied hospitals with hand sanitiser made from aguardiente. 

Covid also meant that the traditional foot-treading that many Port companies still use for their finest wines (the foot is a great medium for extracting flavour and colour without crushing pips and releasing bitter notes) wasn’t able to take place this year. In April, Taylor’s put in robotic treaders, effective but not quite so much fun.

It was a challenging vintage in other ways, according to winemaker Guimaraens. During the festival of São João on 22-23 June when the whole town usually turns out to hit each other with rubber hammers (not this year, sadly), temperatures hit 40°C. July was the hottest since modern records began with 13 nights where it did not drop below 20°C. On average, it was 3.5°C hotter than normal. There was some welcome relief with rain in August but then there was another heatwave and, according to Guimaraens: “Suddenly all the vineyards needed to be picked.” Normally, the grapes ripen in stages depending on altitude and situation but not this year. White grapes harvest began on 24 August with reds on 3rd September. Guimaraens said it was “a race against time” to harvest everything before grapes turned into raisins.  

Wine maker David Guimaraens rocking the Steve Irwin look

Some grape varieties struggled, shrivelling on the vine whereas others like Tinta Cão coped well. Paul Symington from great rivals, the Symington Family Estates which owns brands such a Graham and Cockburn, commented: “The good news is that our indigenous varieties are well adapted to hot and dry Douro summers and demonstrate a variety of natural responses to challenging conditions. However, consistently high temperatures (above 35°C), are – without a doubt – a problem for the region.”

Yields were down 30% but with massive sugar levels, the highest since proper records were kept. Guimaraens said that he’d never known a year like it though apparently the 1940s were similar. But he reached back even further in time, they have long memories in the Douro, comparing 2020 with the legendary 1820 vintage when the grapes were so ripe that they couldn’t ferment properly leaving most wines sweet. This is thought to be when Port changed from being a dry to a sweet wine.

Guimaraens commented: “Port as a fortified wine copes well with very high sugar levels, it’s not a drama as it is for table wines.” Taylor’s is one of the few Port groups not to move into table wines which struggle with too much sugar. He went on to say that, “I’m happy with the Ports we have produced.” The wines have lots of colour, something highly prized in the Douro, and unbalanced wines can be blended with wines from lighter vintages into tawny ports. In perfect years like 2011 or 2016, they can make vintage  ports but, Guimaraens said: “In variable years it is tawny ports, blending and ageing, turning imperfect Ports at harvest into perfect tawny Ports. Two different styles, both equally great. In the trade we have all the tools to adapt to a region like the Douro valley.” So, a vintage declaration, only done where the wines are exceptional all over the region is very unlikely, but the company may offer vintage releases from specific quintas (farms) with cooler vineyards. 

Taylor’s Quinta de Vargellas

The final problem in a year of difficulties was the wild boar population which through lack of hunting is increasing. Bridge said that “they have become quite a pest and do a lot of damage.” Traditionally, boar would have been turned into sausages etc. but Taylor’s put a stop to the practise on its properties. Bridge, however, muttered that it might be time to revise that decision. 

Here are three great wines from the Taylor’s stable to try:

Taylor’s Chip Dry White Port

It’s great to see the White Port and Tonic, the drink of Oporto take off in Britain. It makes a lighter alternative to the G&T but a nutty lemony off-dry White Port like this is also lovely drunk chilled on its own. 

Taylor’s Ten Year Old Tawny 

This is where much of the 2020 vintage will go, blended, and long-aged in wood. Ten years is an average so there’s younger and much older wines in here, giving very ripe strawberry fruit and long walnutty finish. 

Fonseca Guimaraens 2004

We might also see some wines like this from 2020: not a proper vintage Port but a single harvest wine made in lesser years. At the moment, it’s still bursting with youthful fruit like  black cherries and plums with distinct spicy fennel note and leathery finish. 

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Cocktail of the Week: The Ramos Gin Fizz

Now that you’ve mastered the Silver Fizz, we’re taking things a step further: creating the perfect Ramos Gin Fizz is a labour of love, requiring graft and grit in equal…

Now that you’ve mastered the Silver Fizz, we’re taking things a step further: creating the perfect Ramos Gin Fizz is a labour of love, requiring graft and grit in equal measure. Get it right, and you’ll be rewarded with a milkshake-like texture and frothy white head. Get it wrong, and you’ll be left with burning elbows and sore biceps. Aaron Wall, co-owner of London bar Homeboy, talks us through the process…

They say that if you want to strike up a conversation with a bartender, you should ask them how they’d make a Ramos Gin Fizz. And if you want to infuriate them, you should order it. While a straightforward drink at heart – the ingredients list isn’t particularly arcane requiring gin, lemon juice, lime juice, simple syrup, orange flower water, egg white, cream, soda water, and depending on who you ask, vanilla essence – the traditional methodology requires time and effort. Lots and lots of effort.

First created by Henry C. Ramos at his bar, the Imperial Cabinet Saloon in New Orleans, back in 1888, the drink is rumoured to have been shaken with ice for up to 12 minutes – some historical sources claim longer, others reason it was more like five – by an assembly line of 20 or more bartenders known as shaker men. Each would shake for a full minute to emulsify the drink before passing it along to the next employee. The Fizz is served straight up, so all that shaking “adds length to the drink,” Wall explains.

Thankfully, you don’t need a line of shaker men to recreate the Ramos Gin Fizz at home, nor do you need to shake for the best part of a quarter of an hour to get the same effects. “There’s a number of different things you can do to effectively create more dilution,” Wall continues. “You can add a little bit of crushed ice in the shaker if you want, or you can add just a bit more cold soda water when you’re making the drink.”

The Ramos Gin Fizz, it’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it

Another time-saving hack involves both dry shaking and wet shaking the ingredients (without the soda water, of course). “Some people debate about which order to do it,” says Wall, who opts to dry shake first. “My logic is, if you do it the opposite way around, you’ll get uneven bubbles in the top of your drink. But if you give it a quick shake without ice to break up the proteins in the egg whites and mix all together, and then shake it really hard for a while with ice, it’s spot on.”

Once you’ve shaken the cocktail for a suitable period of time – a minimum of 30 seconds dry, one minute wet – the next hurdle involves creating that glorious soufflé-like head at the top of the glass. “So highball glass, add two or three fingers of cold soda water, and then fine strain your Ramos on top of it,” says Wall. As you get to the top of the glass, stop. You have to let the head settle for a minute or two, so it sets slightly.” 

Using a straw or a bar spoon, poke a hole in the middle of the top of the head, and steady your hand. “Pour more soda water in the middle, so it goes through the drink and pushes the head up,” he continues. “You should be able to get two fingers above the top of the glass, at least. When you put your straw in the Ramos, it shouldn’t fall over to the side – the drink should be thick enough or foamy enough to hold it in place.”

We told you it was tricky, didn’t we? But persevere, and you won’t just have an Instagrammable tipple. You’ll have a super tasty one, too. “The drink has texture, aromatics, botanicals, a touch of fizz, length,” says Wall. “I suppose it’s like American cream soda. You’ve got a mix of that dairy mouthfeel, but the lemon and soda make it refreshing, and the gin and orange flower water make it aromatic.”

While the Ramos Gin Fizz is recognised as a classic across the globe, the most storied place to order the drink is The Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans. The venue trademarked the drink name in 1935 and still makes it today, as Wall can attest. “We were a bunch of geeky bartenders delighted to be there to have a Ramos,” he recalls. “This amazing lady made them for us, and she made them so effortlessly, like there was nothing to it.”

Just before she served them, he says, the head on one of them crashed over. Unfazed – and against the protests of Wall and his group, who were happy to enjoy the decapitated drink – she grinned and set about speedily making a new one. “It was her level of professionalism to make sure that everything went out looking absolutely perfect,” he says. “New Orleans is like nowhere else in America, their hospitality is so warm and genuine and fun.”

So, if your Ramos doesn’t quite go to plan on the first, or second, or fourth attempt, don’t sweat it. Just channel a little of that New Orleans energy, smile, and give it another go. Here, Wall shares his recipe for the ultimate Ramos Gin Fizz. 

50ml gin
15ml lime juice
15ml lemon juice
20ml vanilla sugar syrup*
1 egg white
4 dashes orange flower water
30ml double cream
Soda water to top

Chill your glassware and soda water in the fridge, Combine all the ingredients – bar soda water – in a shaker and dry shake for a minimum of 30 seconds. Add cubed ice to the shaker and shake again for a minimum of one minute. Add two or three fingers of soda water to your pre-chilled glass and fine strain the mixture into it. Leave the drink to set for a minute or more, and then poke a hole in the centre using a bar spoon or straw. Slowly add more soda water through the hole until the head of the drink is an inch or more higher than the rim of the glass. Add a straw and serve.

To make the vanilla sugar syrup, combine 1 part caster sugar and 1 part boiling water (1:1).

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Pick up a treat for Halloween!

Quench your (blood) thirst with our range of devilishly delicious Halloween drinks.  Halloween is going to look a lot different this year, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun….

Quench your (blood) thirst with our range of devilishly delicious Halloween drinks. 

Halloween is going to look a lot different this year, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have fun. Whether you’re planning to throw a socially-distant Halloween party, host a movie night or just vibe in your kitchen dressed as Dracula, one thing you can make sure doesn’t change is the quality of the drink in your hand.

That’s why we’ve created this round-up of spooky or autumnal drinks that are perfect for Halloween. Oh, and each comes with its own spooky serve so you can make the most of whatever you have planned.

Happy Halloween, everyone!

Halloween

Beware of the Woods Gin (That Boutique-y Gin Company)

Beware of the Big Bad Gin! From the folks at (That Boutique-y Gin Company), Beware of the Woods is an aromatic and intriguing expression that’s got the perfect aesthetic and profile for Halloween. Just look at that label!

Spooky serve: Dark Woods Negroni 

Our first creepy cocktail is a riff on the classic Negroni, which TBGC adjusted to make it scary enough for the season. It’s even got a cool name and everything. To create the Dark Woods Negroni (see?), squeeze an orange wedge into a rocks glass and then add 25ml of Beware of the Woods Gin, 15ml of Campari, 35ml of sweet rooibos tea and lots of ice. Stir to chill and garnish with an orange slice.

Mozart Pumpkin Spice Chocolate Cream Liqueur

You might already have an idea of what pumpkin spice is thanks to pretty much every café chain in existence, but they don’t have a monopoly on this flavour. Be part of the movement to reclaim its autumnal delights with this tasty treat from Mozart, a brand that knows all about making the finest chocolate liqueurs. Plus, if you want it to be extra spooky, you can always create this cocktail…

Spooky serve: The Gruesome Grasshopper

The ghoulish green colour of this classic cocktail always makes it a Halloween winner. To create it simply fill a shaker with ice cubes and add 25ml of vanilla vodka, 25ml of Monin Crème De Menthe Verte, 25ml of Mozart Pumpkin Spice Chocolate Cream Liqueur and 10ml of fresh cream. Shake and strain into a Martini glass and serve. 

Halloween

Peat Monster Compass Box

This Peat Monster is only to be feared if you’re not a fan of smoky, complex and powerful whisky. Otherwise, you should enjoy its fearsome presence! Its versatility makes it the kind of peated whisky you always want in your drinks cabinet and this makes it particularly handy for the big occasions, especially if you want to create some scary serves. Speaking of which…

Spooky serve: The Blood and Sand

Another cocktail with the winning combination of looking the part, sounding cool and tasting delicious, The Blood and Sand really has it all. Start by popping a coupe glass in the freezer for a few minutes before you start to get it nice and chilled. Then add 30ml of Peat Monster Compass Box, 25ml of Martini Rosso , 25ml of Ableforth’s Cherry Brandy (or Heering Cherry Liqueur) and 25ml of fresh orange juice to a shaker with ice and give your best hard shake for about 30 seconds. Take your chilled glass out of the freezer, pop a Luxardo Maraschino Cherry in the bottom of it and then strain the mix into the glass. Garnish with orange zest before you serve and enjoy!

Halloween

Dead Man’s Fingers Cornish Spiced Rum

For spiced rum lovers, we’ve got one of the most popular expressions around, which also happens to have a devilishly appropriate name. Made using a blend of Caribbean rums, plenty of spices and ZERO actual fingers, this Cornish spiced rum (it doesn’t sound as scary when you call it that) tastes great on its own and mixes beautifully, making it a winner in my book.

Spooky serve: Passion Is Dead

A bespoke serve made by the brand, to create this terrifyingly tropical treat combine 50ml of Dead Man’s Fingers Cornish Spiced Rum, 60ml of ginger beer, 40ml of mango juice, 25ml of lime juice and the flesh of two scooped out passion fruits in a highball glass with ice. Stir vigorously and then garnish with passion fruit and small pieces of ginger.

Halloween

Bathtub Gin 

For those who desire a classic juniper-forward gin that does the business, then we recommend the World’s Best Compound Gin. Seriously, Bathtub Gin was awarded this title at the last World Gin Awards, and for good reason. This aromatic, rich and versatile bottling makes a sublime G&T, but can also be used to make any number of cocktails.

Spooky serve: Bathtub Blackberry Fizz

A dark and delicious serve, the Blackberry Fizz is distinctly autumnal and looks fab. To make, add 50ml of Bathtub Gin to a highball glass along with 5 blackberries. Muddle them at the bottom of the glass, then add half a bottle of premium tonic water and stir. Fill the glass with ice and top with more tonic water then garnish with more blackberries and an orange slice.

Halloween

The Dead Rabbit Irish Whiskey

An excellent expression with an equally cool sounding name, this bottling is actually named after The Dead Rabbit Grocery & Grog in New York City, home to the largest collection of Irish whiskey in North America and where this whiskey was made. It’s sweet, spicy and smooth and just waiting to be experimented with in any number of spooky serves, like this one…

Spooky serve: The Rabbit’s Remains Boulevardier

Whisky’s answer to the sublime Negroni, The Boulevardier is easy to make and its dark red appearance makes it an ideal Hallows Eve serve. To make, combine 45ml of The Dead Rabbit Irish Whiskey, 25ml of Campari and 25ml of Martini Rosso in a mixing glass with ice (this doesn’t actually contain rabbit, it’s just a name, folks). Stir, then strain into a chilled tumbler over fresh ice. Garnish with an orange twist and serve.

Halloween

Crystal Head Vodka 

No, this vodka has nothing to do with terrible sequels to classic, beloved film franchises. In fact, we have a different Hollywood legend to thank for this delightful creation, the Dan Aykroyd. If you’re dressing up as a Blues Brother or Ghostbuster this year you’ll enjoy this, as will anyone who wants a big cool-looking skull in their home for Halloween!

Spooky serve: The Bloody Mary

Always a home-run at this time of year, the Bloody Mary is perfect for Halloween night, or the morning after… Start by adding ice into a shaker with 125ml of tomato juice, 50ml of Crystal Head Vodka, 1 tbsp of lemon juice and 25ml of Gonzalez Byass Nectar Pedro Ximénez. Then you’ll need to add a ¼ tsp of Worcestershire sauce, a few drops of hot sauce and a pinch each of salt, black pepper, celery salt and fennel seeds. Shake then strain into a tall glass with ice and garnish with a celery stick, lemon wedge and a cherry tomato.

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Master of Malt Tastes… Milk & Honey Classic Single Malt

It’s been a long wait, but Israel’s first single malt whisky from Milk & Honey has finally arrived. Does it live up to expectations? We find out. When I asked Milk & Honey’s…

It’s been a long wait, but Israel’s first single malt whisky from Milk & Honey has finally arrived. Does it live up to expectations? We find out.

When I asked Milk & Honey’s distiller Tomer Goren how he felt about launching Milk & Honey Classic Single Malt, the Israeli distillery’s first whisky, his response was exactly what you imagine. “It feels great, we have waited for a long time and it is great to finally be able to taste, share and talk about our whisky. We are very proud of our initial outcome and for sure climb higher mountains in the future”. 

It’s a proud moment for any distillery. Launching your first whisky is like watching your child leave for the first day of school. You’re excited and anxious in equal measure, desperate for everything to go well. However, this day could have come much sooner for Milk & Honey. Before it was founded, there were no whisky distilleries in Israel. That means no regulation or rules anything like what, say Scotch whisky, has to follow.

The brand, however, resisted naming any of its releases ‘whisky’ until now, opting to name its previous expression ‘Young Single Malt Aged Spirit’ instead. “We try to make the best quality single malt whisky we can and want it to sit alongside with other international brands, so we decided to follow the Scotch Whisky Regulations,” Goren explains. “It is a big challenge to be the pioneer of the industry in Israel with no knowledge or regulation to follow. So, even though the hot and humid climate causes fast maturation, we still waited at least three years before calling our expression whisky”.

Milk & Honey Classic Single Malt

Introducing: Milk & Honey Classic Single Malt

The climate (winter doesn’t dip below 16°C, summer highs can top 40°C and humidity is in the 50-90% range) poses quite the challenge. The extent of the angel’s share and the risk of the cask influence being too extreme means long maturation is pretty much out of the question for Milk & Honey. As such, most of the whiskies in Milk & Honey Classic Single Malt are 3-4 years old.

Maturation took place in ex-bourbon casks (about 75% of the whisky), shaved, toasted and re-charred red wine-seasoned STR casks (about 20%) and virgin oak casks (less than 5%). “The ex-bourbon casks that bring vanilla sweetness, caramel and honey and our special red-wine STR casks that bring spiciness and fruitiness and a lot of colour. There is also a touch of virgin oak that gives the whisky depth and oaky notes,” Goren explained.

We’re not going into the production process or history of Milk & Honey here, because we’ve already said pretty much everything there is to be said about the distillery. Both Henry and Kristy reached the same conclusion: Milk & Honey is a promising, intriguing and experimental distillery. Tasting the brand’s first single malt, you’d expect to taste a whisky that reflects this approach. We’re sampling the result of an extreme climate, which isn’t just affected by heat but also the location of the casks (some are matured on the shores of the Dead Sea) and witnessing how this impacts the new-make, which Kristy described as being “surprisingly soft, bursting with pear, apple and green grain notes”. We’re also tasting an unadulterated whisky, which was bottled without chill-filtration at 46% ABV.

Milk & Honey Classic Single Malt

Milk & Honey is Israel’s first and biggest whisky distillery

We’re also tasting history. Which makes this all rather exciting. While we love that there is a vast array on whisky to enjoy in the present day, the consequence of this is that there is a fair amount of spirit being created using similar production processes in similar conditions and matured in similar barrels. This is not one of those drams.

Goren says that stylistically, the brand wanted its first release to be a “whisky for everyone, something well-balanced and welcoming”. It’s certainly gone down well in the arena of award shows, picking up a multitude of medals already. While Goren says it’s great to get recognition, he remarks that it is just as good to get feedback from people in the industry and from worldwide consumers. “It is easy to fall in love with what you do, so it is better to get outside recognition to see that you are on the right track”. 

Which brings us nicely on to the review of Milk & Honey Classic Single Malt. It’s a very pleasant sipper. There’s a lot going on, with distillery and cask character in abundance. I recommend you give it a little time to breathe and you’ll be rewarded with an array of flavour. It does lack some integration, harnessing that swift maturation speed is going to be an on-going process, but it’s a drinkable, distinctive dram and a strong foundation to build on. I poured a couple more drams after I’d finished my tasting, which is always a good sign. I also realised I’d written down ‘honey’ as a description a couple of times, which is very pleasing. Here’s the full tasting note:

Milk & Honey Classic Single Malt

Milk & Honey Classic Single Malt Tasting Note:

Nose: There are aromas of caramel flapjacks, dark chocolate, lemon shortbread and vanilla initially, with notes of summer flowers, orange zest and Manuka honey drizzled on porridge in support. Some really interesting fruity notes add depth – predominantly gooseberries, melon and drying red grape skins – among hints of marzipan and a little nutmeg.

Palate: Oak and spice make much more of an impact on the palate, with barrel char, polished wood, black pepper and prickles of cinnamon and clove making their mark. It’s less integrated than the nose but full of interesting and enjoyable flavours: red apple, creamy barley, Werther’s Originals and milk chocolate then beeswax, salty and sweet popcorn, red berries. 

Finish: Some of the spice remains but the finish is a little sweeter, with hints of vanilla, boiled orange sweets and a bit of honey and almond granola.

Milk and Honey Classic Single Malt is available from Master of Malt

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#BagThisBundle – win a bundle of booze with James Eadie!

Who wouldn’t want to win five bottles of delicious Scotch whisky, aged up to 26 years? Nobody, that’s who. So read on to learn how you can get your hands…

Who wouldn’t want to win five bottles of delicious Scotch whisky, aged up to 26 years? Nobody, that’s who. So read on to learn how you can get your hands on this incredible bundle!

Back in the good ol’ days, blending was all the rage. The very foundation of the Scotch whisky industry we all know and love today was built upon the art of blending and it remains the leading style around the world. For many, they’re an affordable, dependable option and we owe blends for bringing so many people into the wonderful world of whisky.

James Eadie established his brewing and bottling business in 1854 and it soon became one of those household names that contributed to the popularity of blends back in the 19th century. The brand, and Eadie’s famous bottling James Eadie’s Trade Mark ‘X’, has been revived by Rupert Patrick, his great-great-grandson. With access to his ancestor’s ledger, Patrick has faithful recreation of the bottling, using only whiskies from distilleries Eadie personally bought from himself in this blend, matured in American oak or sherry wood as he specified. 

It’s this historical, family-made expression that we’ve made available to win in our latest #BagThisBundle, along with four whiskies from four different regions of Scotland that go into the blend and four glasses so you can share these whiskies with friends!

#BagThisBundle James Eadie

Fans of Scotch whisky will love this bundle!

So, here’s exactly what’s up for grabs:

  • One bottle of James Eadie’s Trade Mark “X”
  • One bottle of Cambus 26 Year Old (Single Grain)
  • One bottle of Caol Ila 11 Year Old (Palo Cortado Finish)
  • One bottle of Benrinnes 10 Year Old (Small Batch)
  • One bottle of Blair Athol 10 Year Old (Single Cask)
  • Four James Eadie Glencairn glasses

The only question remains, how do you enter such a delightful competition? Simple. Here’s what you have to do:

We’re not kidding, that’s all there is to it. So, get entering and best of luck!

MoM James Eadie Competition 2020 open to entrants 18 years and over. Entries accepted from 12:00:01 BST 20 October 2020 to 23:59:59 BST 24 October 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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How your taxes help small distillers

Ever fancied investing in a small distillery? Well, you might not realise it but you already have. Through various regional development funds, taxpayers’ money has been pouring into the drinks…

Ever fancied investing in a small distillery? Well, you might not realise it but you already have. Through various regional development funds, taxpayers’ money has been pouring into the drinks sector. Ian Buxton takes a closer look at what we are getting for our hard-earned cash.

Do you, in economic terms, favour more of a New Keynesian approach to government expenditure or do you lean towards Ayn Rand’s Objectivist view? Or, to put this in terms more immediately relevant to a drinks blog, do you believe that new distillery start-ups should be funded with taxpayers’ (i.e. yours and mine) money? Perhaps you’ve never thought about it, or perhaps you didn’t know but across the UK many of the new boutique distilleries that have been springing up in recent years have benefited from the largesse of our public sector. 

There are, of course, any number of ways of financing a distillery project. The promoters may be in the fortunate position of having all the necessary capital themselves in which case there’s no need for outside finance. Or they could seek angel investors, or borrow from a bank or other lender, or turn to crowdfunding. That’s been an increasingly popular route: from Burleigh’s Gin to Salcombe Distilling; Cotswolds to Glen Wyvis and Nc’nean to Sliabh Liag examples abound of enterprising entrepreneurs tapping a worldwide and growing community of drinks enthusiasts willing to back new distilling projects. And not just for small beer – some of these projects have raised over £1m from their backers, most of them hoping for a Sipsmith-style payday sometime in the future when the nascent brand attracts the greedy attention of an industry giant seeking some craft credibility.

Nc’nean distillery – you helped pay for this

But there’s another route open to the ambitious promoters of a new business, particularly in Scotland or some of England and Wales’ less prosperous areas. Here the secret is to find the relevant local economic development agency and plead your case for support. Their backing could come in the form of equity (i.e. a share of the business) or more probably a soft loan, outright grant or support for specialist consultants to help develop your business. There’s quite a lot of free money out there if you know where to look and if you don’t, an army of consultants are all too willing to help.

Unlike a venture capitalist, such an agency is not risking its own money. On the contrary, the business enterprise network is funded by the public purse; that’s to say from the taxes, on both income and consumption, which you (hopefully) have been paying, more or less willingly. Most, of course, pays for the schools, hospitals, roads, welfare system, defence and so on that we all rely on but a modest percentage finds its way to the enterprise agency network and a smaller part of that builds distilleries.

So what is the case that they can make for the cash? It’s hardly a capacity argument. The UK has more than adequate production volumes to make all the gin and whisky we need and it would be hard to argue a strategic requirement for making spirits – they’re hardly a coronavirus vaccine, tempting though the thought might be.

No, the magic words that unlock the loot appear to be job creation, tourism or exports – or, better still, a combination of all three. As their name suggests, development agencies are seeking to promote economic regeneration in their local area. Thus the boom in craft spirits and distillery tourism is seen as a lever to create sustainable businesses that attract visitors, creating employment for local people who spend their new wages locally, thus creating more employment in the immediate area. It’s a classic Keynsian multiplier effect and considerable numbers of new distilleries have benefited.

Holyrood Distillery manager Jack Mayo peers into a still

To take a few examples at random, Scottish Enterprise has put funding of various types into Isle of Harris Distillers, Nc’nean, The Clydeside Distillery, Holyrood Distillery and a number of others. The recently opened Annandale Distillery was helped to get off the ground with financial assistance from Historic Scotland and the Scottish Government through a Regional Selective Assistance grant and later enjoyed additional support from Interface, another agency funded by the public sector. As a leading Scottish accountancy practice Johnston Carmichael puts it, the “Scottish Government [is] very supportive, [via] Scotland Food & Drink [and] Scottish Enterprise Investor Ready assistance with business planning costs and other costs”. Their professional recommendation: “Max out on free money!” [That’s an actual quote from Johnston Carmichael.]

But the support doesn’t stop at Hadrian’s Wall. Situated in the Peak District National Park the tiny Forest Distillery were backed by Cheshire East Council’s Economic Development Service and went on to collect two separate double-gold medals at the San Francisco Spirit Awards. And from England’s south coast another example: a beneficiary of the Isle of Wight Rural Fund, HMS Victory Navy Strength Gin recently collected the ‘Best in Category International Navy Strength Gin’ accolade in the American Distilling Institute’s Spirit Competition.

However, it can be tough surviving in the global drinks industry and prospering is even more demanding. So, as it’s our money they’re handing out, let’s hope our civil servants are backing winners. Regardless of where you might place yourself on the political spectrum we can all drink to that!

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New Arrival of the Week: Silent Pool Rare Citrus Gin

This week we’re looking at only the second core expression to come from a Surrey-based distillery since it opened in 2014 – it’s the shiny new Rare Citrus Gin from…

This week we’re looking at only the second core expression to come from a Surrey-based distillery since it opened in 2014 – it’s the shiny new Rare Citrus Gin from Silent Pool!

Ian McCulloch and James Shelbourne are the creative minds behind Silent Pool, and like all good stories, it began in a local pub. Here the pair met and, to cut a long story short, with McCulloch in marketing and Shelborne in distribution, they started planning their distilling adventure. One thing both firmly agreed on was that they had to find a site with a good story. 

They found just such a site when they came across a dilapidated farm on the Albury Estate. Here chamomile had taken over the decrepit building that became the first still room, so naturally that went into the gin. Elderflower grows in abundance surrounding the site, so that’s in there too, along with linden, lavender and rose. All the florals are what makes their gin unique. 

Silent Pool Rare Citrus Gin

Silent Pool gin by the Silent Pool!

Then there’s the all-important Silent Pool and the myth from which the distillery gets its name. If you don’t already know, the story goes that a young woodcutter’s daughter was pursued by the evil Prince John, and drowned in the pool in a bid to escape, which is said to have been haunted (and silent) ever since. Most brands begin with happier tales, though this one does ground it in a sense of place!

Eerily beautiful and blue, it is true, the top pool is much quieter than the one below, which is bustling with bird life. I (somewhat cynically) ask Tom Hutchings, head of distillery operations, why the pool is really so quiet. “Because it’s haunted, obviously!” he says. Or could it be because it’s just much colder? We’ll never know. With Silent Pool, the story is the brand. The bottle captures it all, with the colour of the pool, the myth and botanicals all reflected in the packaging.

Silent Pool Rare Citrus Gin

Rare citrus galore

But onto Rare Citrus! Excitingly, this is only the distillery’s second core expression since it opened. The clue is in the name for this one. The team came across a brilliant duo over in Portugal, Jean Paul and Anne, who are citrus fanatics and experts. No, really, they have a smashing 500 different varieties of citrus growing in their garden! Monoculture? Never heard of it.

“Having felt that passion and their craft, we always wanted to do a project with them, so this felt like the perfect opportunity,” Hutchings tells me. They have a library of rare fruit, mainly citrus, and these rare varieties make excellent gin botanicals.

Let’s get one thing out of the way: this is not a flavoured gin. All the botanicals are distilled with as much thought as went into the first bottling. Whacking a load of flavourings in wasn’t going to cut it. The team travelled over to Portugal (back when that was a thing you could do) and harvested the fruit themselves, bringing back 12 fruits and a few varieties of leaves. They eventually narrowed down the selection to four. 

Silent Pool Rare Citrus Gin

So, what are these rare citruses? First up is Buddha’s hand. If you haven’t seen one, I urge you to look it up right now! It gives flavours of pure sherbet and effervescent lemon, all those bright top notes. It’s pith all the way through, but the pith is what gives it its sweetness – unlike most citrus fruit. Then there’s Seville orange bringing those classic grassy, bright bitter notes we know and love from our marmalade. 

Next up is natsudaidai. Yeah, we hadn’t heard of that one before either. Hutchings describes this as a cross between pomelo and mandarin, “but with slightly sweeter grapefruit and orange flavours”. Last but not least there’s hirado buntan, which is a type of pomelo, tasting like a sweeter grapefruit with notes of honey. Apparently it’s one of the best citrus fruits Hutchings has ever tasted “with the perfect balance of sweet and sour”. High praise indeed!

Silent Pool Rare Citrus Gin

If you think Rare Citrus would be ace in a Negroni, you’re right…

Each citrus fruit was separately distilled and then blended together. While they wanted to keep the essence of the original gin, the same botanical base just didn’t work with the citrus additions. Lavender is the only remaining floral, and a few different peppers have been added – Timur pepper (which, despite its name, is actually a variety of citrus), wild forest pepper (used in perfume) and the musky voatsiperifery pepper.

Tasting the gin straight, the citrus is complex but not overwhelming. Juniper is still very much there, along with peppery spice. The citrus is evident though – bitter orange and zesty grapefruit appear throughout, lifted by those sherbet notes and grounded by the woody, musky peppers. 

Being a citrus-forward gin, we immediately started thinking about Negronis. To avoid losing the delicate citrus complexity of the gin, the Silent Pool folks have made their own version, tinkering with the ratios of gin, Campari and vermouth to 2:1:1, topped off with a pink grapefruit garnish. We took it upon ourselves to taste-test it and it was fabulous.

You can grab a bottle of Silent Pool Rare Citrus from MoM now!

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Compass Box celebrates 20 years in whisky

In the early 2000s, Compass Box turned industry heads with the launch of a 100% blended grain Scotch whisky called Hedonism, the first of its kind. Twenty years and more than…

In the early 2000s, Compass Box turned industry heads with the launch of a 100% blended grain Scotch whisky called Hedonism, the first of its kind. Twenty years and more than 100 whiskies later, the team has released Hedonism Felicitas – a tribute to the legendary bottling that launched the brand. Here, founder John Glaser reflects on two decades of whisky-making…

It’s hard to imagine the modern Scotch whisky industry without Compass Box. Ever since its inception, the company has sought to take the category in directions others daren’t – challenging Scotch whisky convention with different uses of oak, advocating for greater transparency in whisky, and, of course, reimagining what blended whiskies could be.

“Launching our business with Hedonism was widely seen at the time as unusual, because so few Scotch whisky companies bottle 100% grain whiskies,” Glaser said. “I am hopeful that over the years, we have shown people how delicious good quality Scotch grain whisky can be and as a result, Hedonism has become a signature whisky for us.”

This desire to think differently is reflected once again in their latest bottling, a combination of three grain whiskies – Port Dundas, Strathclyde and North British – each distilled in a different decade. “Hedonism Felicitas is intended to convey the good fortune, happiness and gratitude we feel having met and worked with so many remarkable people,” whiskymaker James Saxon, who led the project, commented.

John Glaser, looking pensive

On October 23, 2000, Glaser began blending whiskies at his west London home. Today, the business boasts two blending rooms in London, 20 international staff, independent stocks of maturing whiskies in Scotland, and more awards for innovation than any other Scotch producer. As Hedonism Felicitas hits shelves (and sells out almost instantly), we caught up with Glaser to chart the rise of Compass Box from the inside…

Master of Malt: Congratulations on two decades of Compass Box! Could you talk about what the company was like when you first launched Hedonism, and how that initial set-up compares to today?

John Glaser: Thank you! At times, I do struggle to believe it has been 20 years. When Hedonism Batch 1 emerged from the bottling line, ‘the company’ was just me. I’d create blends from my kitchen table in west London, writing my recipes in a little notebook. The ‘office’ moved to a basement property underneath a hairdresser in Marylebone before we created our blending rooms in Chiswick. From a team of one, there are now nearly 20 people lending their energy and creativity to Compass Box. Back in 2000, I’d be in contact with both brokers and distilling companies about stocks which isn’t so different from now. That being said, I was only making one whisky, whereas today we need to source supplies for eight regular releases. Many more casks go into each release, too, whereas the original Hedonism comprised just two casks. The idea that we can always improve appeals to me a great deal – that intention to make things better has very much stayed the same.

MoM: Across experimenting, finalising a blend and releasing the end result, is there any aspect of the development cycle you enjoy more than the rest?

JG: Every stage of making a whisky has its fascinating moments and is rewarding in its own way. I still love coming across a parcel of whisky which is truly delicious, one for which so many ideas arise. However, the biggest ‘thrill’ comes when we know we have found the recipe for a new product; there is nothing more we wish to do to make it better. It’s fantastic to taste the liquid at this stage and say, “We’re really going to make people happy with this. People are going to love it.”

Compass Box Hedonism (left), and the new Felicitas bottling which is sadly sold out

MoM: Hedonism Felicitas pays tribute to the whisky that originally launched the company. When you were developing it, did you set out to create a specific flavour profile? 

JG: We did not start with a specific flavour profile in mind, other than to keep it within our defined ‘tramlines’ of what a Hedonism-style grain whisky is (namely, a vanilla-driven style and a softness on the palate). For any limited edition Hedonism, we want to capture the compelling richness and sweetness of aged Scotch grain whisky so, for Felicitas, it was a question of sourcing stocks that would ensure we could achieve that. Parcels came in and were removed over the eight months it took us to agree the recipe. We were very happy with five barrels of aromatic and silky whisky from the Strathclyde Distillery, but it wasn’t until we included the sherry butts of whisky from Port Dundas Distillery that we struck on the necessary richness. Then it was about adjusting the bottling strength to ensure the whisky carried itself in the right way.

MoM: Looking in, the company has accomplished so much in those 20 years. Could you share one or two of your most memorable highlights?

JG: There have been so many. One of the early highlights was the famous whisky and beer writer Michael Jackson giving me our first award for whisky innovation in 2002. He called me the enfant terrible of the whisky world, which I took as a compliment. That was the first time I felt that the whisky ‘industry’ was taking Compass Box seriously. Years later, after a staff tasting at the original Milk & Honey bar in New York, Sam Ross used Compass Box whiskies I’d left behind to create the Penicillin cocktail. If Compass Box were somehow to go away tomorrow, the Penicillin cocktail would live on. It’s nice to know we played a small role in the creation of a contemporary classic in the cocktail canon.

The Compass Box range is available from Master of Malt

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The Nightcap: 16 October

Video games, new whisky, the UK’s first Bloody Mary doughnut and more all await you in this week’s edition of The Nightcap. Get stuck in. Did you know that the…

Video games, new whisky, the UK’s first Bloody Mary doughnut and more all await you in this week’s edition of The Nightcap. Get stuck in.

Did you know that the Met Office has said that Saturday 3 October was the wettest day for UK-wide rainfall since records began in 1891? These aren’t the kinds of records we want to be setting. ‘Woman eats the most amount of hot dogs in a minute’ or ‘man sets the record for owning the highest number of cats’ is the type of story we want to read. Aside from the latest news from the world of booze, of course. We’re always excited to see what’s going on and, hopefully, you are too. Which is why you’re here. So, let’s get on with it. It’s The Nightcap!

On the MoM blog this week we were delighted to launch another incredible #BagThisBundle competition, this time with plenty of delightful Mermaid Gin expressions up for grabs. Adam revealed the news that The Macallan has launched one of the most astonishing ranges of whisky we’ve ever seen before continuing our Sober October coverage by profiling the category-defying Three Spirit Drinks before suggesting some delicious, hearty, comforting drinks for Autumn. Our Cocktail of the Week is a silky serve that needs some shakin’, The Silver Fizz, while our New Arrival is one of the world’s great brandies. Elsewhere, Annie spent five minutes in the company of wonderful Rich Woods from Scout London and Henry had a taste of a particularly intriguing Cuban rum.

The Nightcap

The name ‘Ao’, means blue and is a reference to the oceans that connect the distilleries together.

Beam Suntory announces “first-ever world blended whisky”

There might not be much travel going on at the moment but, as well as a chance to see something other than the inside of your home, holidaymakers will receive another treat in the future thanks to Beam Suntory’s latest innovation, the “first-ever world blended whisky”. ‘Ao’, a global travel retail exclusive, was made using whisky from five distilleries in Japan, Scotland, Ireland, Canada and the US. There’s no official word on which distilleries were used, but given the brand owns one Irish distillery, one Canadian distillery, and has an American and Japanese distillery in its name, you’ll only really be guessing which Scotch it’s opted for (Laphroaig, Bowmore, Auchentoshan, Glen Garioch and Ardmore are the contenders). Beam Suntory has revealed that fifth-generation Suntory chief blender, Shinji Fukuyo, selected each liquid based-on “Suntory’s globally-recognised Monozukuri craftsmanship” and that this innovative blended whisky “embodies the spirit of Suntory and is a tribute to the liquid’s long history”. Fukuyo added, “Ao is an exceptional whisky which, through the art of Suntory blending, allows you to enjoy the unique characteristics of all five major whisky-making regions.”  The distinctive climate, fermentation and distillation processes in each whisky-making region should lead to quite the profile. But then, we would know, given That Boutique-y Whisky Company has already created a World Whisky Blend. Not to brag or anything… 

The Nightcap

New Compass Box whisky is always a treat

Compass Box releases “experiment in oak and smoke”

Some people really know how to celebrate occasions. Take Compass Box, for example. The maverick Scotch whisky brand has marked its 20th anniversary year by announcing the release of  more intriguing new whisky. That’s how you do it, folks. Hot on the heels of  Hedonism Felicitas and Rogues’ Banquet, Peat Monster Arcana is described as the “result of a long-running experiment into the secrets and mysteries of oak and smoke”. Basically, a cask strength version of The Peat Monster was further matured in three French oak custom casks for more than two years and then blended with malt whiskies from the Talisker, Miltonduff and Ardbeg Distilleries. It was bottled at 46% ABV without any additional colouring or chill-filtration and there’s 8,328 bottles produced globally, so if you want one I’d suggest you act quickly. “We have been experimenting with French oak since the early days of our company,” says Compass Box founder and whisky maker John Glaser. “Peat Monster Arcana is the first Compass Box to feature smoky whiskies matured in French oak. We’re delighted to be able to build on this experiment in our 20th anniversary year and we hope dedicated fans of The Peat Monster discover a new side to this charismatic whisky.”  The new dram, which goes well with soda water or blue cheese, will be discussed during a virtual tasting hosted by Glaser, who will also talk about the past, present and future of his brand on Sunday 22 November at 20:00. You can sign up here. If you miss out, don’t worry, Peat Monster Arcana is on its way to MoM Towers…

The Nightcap

The Coastal Cask Collection were all distilled after the distillery was reborn in 2008

Glenglassaugh celebrates its rebirth with the Coastal Cask Collection

We love stories about distilleries brought back from the dead here at Master of Malt so we were delighted that Glenglassaugh is releasing some very special whiskies distilled after the Highland distillery was reborn in November 2008. Prior to this date, it had been out of action for 20 years and few thought they’d ever see it distilling again. But it was revived by Stuart Nickerson and a team including Ian Buxton, who wrote a very good book on the subject. The distillery is now safely in the Brown Forman stable. Anyway, back to those limited-edition releases, master blender Dr Rachel Barrie explained the idea behind them: “No matter what is happening in the world around us, each day the surf rolls in on Sandend Bay and the invigorating North Sea air passes through our coastal distillery and warehouses. That’s the beauty of Glenglassaugh’s coastal casks, each truly a distillation of nature’s elements, come wind, rain or shine. Over a decade since the spirit reawakened in 2008, Coastal Casks is the first global release of a selection of Glenglassaugh cask bottlings at 10 and 11 years old. Like the surf in Sandend Bay, each cask brings rolling waves of flavour that intensify and evolve in each and every sip. Nurtured by the coast, each Glenglassaugh Coastal Cask shares a unique and luscious sweetness. With tasting notes ranging from raspberry fruit jam to salted caramel; tropical fruit syrup to chocolate profiterole and clotted cream,  this collection is a celebration of Glenglassaugh’s coastal malt journey, which I hope you will savour to the full.” There are ten bottlings, each exclusive to a particular market. We’re hoping to get some of Cask 559, the UK release, in at Master of Malt soon, so watch the New Products page.

The Nightcap

Exciting times ahead at Echlinville Distillery!

Echlinville Distillery undergoes £9m expansion

Echlinville Distillery, the producer of Dunville whiskey and creator of Weavers Dry Gin and Echlinville Single Estate Irish Pot Still Gin, has announced this week that the distillery is set to be transformed thanks to a huge £9m expansion project. The plan, which Invest NI contributed £659k towards, is to increase the distillery’s production capacity and create a new visitor centre which will create 36 new jobs in operational and administrative roles. “Irish whiskey is recognised as the world’s fastest-growing spirits category, which is giving us a great foundation upon which to build our export business with the help of this funding from Invest NI,” Shane Braniff, the owner of Echlinville Distillery. “Every bottle that leaves our distillery features our address in Kircubbin and tells of our roots in the Ards Peninsula. Alongside increasing exports around the world, we also hope to raise awareness of what this part of Ireland has to offer and attract more visitors to the area with the development of a dedicated visitor centre.”

Kraken Rum launches Halloween game with Rockstar

If you need a way to make the most of Halloween from the comfort and safety of home then The Kraken Rum might just have the thing for you. The brand has announced it’s teaming up with legendary Rockstar Games director and writer, John Zurhellen (the creative force behind Grand Theft Auto IV, Manhunt 1 & 2 and Red Dead Redemption) to launch an online video game. Right now the working title is Screamfest 4 The Kraken’s Revenge and the game will see fans control an actual human being, via a smartphone or laptop, using on-screen game commands (‘forward’, ‘back’, ‘hide’, that sort of thing), trying to escape the Kraken’s nemesis, The Balthazoid (I have no idea what that is either, it sounds like a type of vermouth). The online game will run from Wednesday 28 October until Friday 30 October, with slots running from 5pm each day. Tickets will be available via The Kraken’s online hub The League Of Darkness from 9am on Monday 12 October. In exchange for tickets, fans will also receive The Kraken’s Survival Pack, including a game-guide, ingredients and just enough delicious rum to create an exclusive Halloween cocktail. “The brief for Kraken Screamfest was simple: come up with a concept more terrifying and warped than anything 2020 has to offer,” says Zurhellen. “So, I delved deep into our primal fears – being hunted, tight spaces, dark shadows, hate-filled creatures – and I’m pretty confident I’ll deliver one of the most terrifying experiences to be seen in UK homes this year”. 

The Nightcap

Simon Robinson (left) with Rhona Cullinane and Steve Spurrier

Classic Method campaign unveiled for English Sparkling Wine 

English and Welsh wine is booming at the moment with sales and vineyard area increasing every year. There’s now a proliferation of styles and grape varieties which though exciting can be confusing to the consumer. Riding to the rescue is industry organisation Wine GB which has come up with a term to differentiate sparkling wines that are bottled-fermented as in Champagne from sparkling wines that might be carbonated or made like Prosecco. From now on the words “Classic Method” and a snazzy hallmark will appear on bottles made in this way, and the plan is for all bottles in future to clearly label how they became fizzy.  Only wines with the Quality Sparkling Wine PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) will be eligible which have to be made with the classic Champagne grape varieties. Simon Robinson, chairman of Wine GB and owner of Hattingley Valley Wines, commented: “We have long recognised the need to positively differentiate and protect our flagship category – wines produced from the classic method. This is the hero style that has put Great Britain on the wine map and led us to more extraordinarily exciting developments in our industry. We now boast a broad range of diverse and high-quality wines in all styles. Our sparkling wines, however, remain at the forefront of our industry and are driving sales both here and overseas. This campaign has set us on the path to ensure that our classic method wines are more positively recognized among the finest wine regions of the world. This is the first such initiative from what is an extremely young trade body, Wine GB was only formed in 2017, and it will be interesting to see whether “Classic Method” means anything to customers. 

The Nightcap

Want to sip on some sustainably-shaken cocktails? Head over to Camden’s shiny new Crossroads!

Crossroads takes over Camden’s Ladies & Gentlemen site

What was the old Camden Ladies & Gentlemen site has been giving new life in the form of Crossroads, which sits beneath the pavement in an old Victorian WC right under the Camden Town bridge. It only opened back in August, and this week team MoM finally made it over! Run by husband and wife duo Bart and Monika Miedeksza, what’s special about it is that it’s fully committed to its zero waste principles. There’s no citrus on the menu as it’s notoriously wasteful – where many bars will go through around four cases of limes each week, Crossroads doesn’t even use 20 individual fruits (mostly for Daiquiris, Bart tells me). Spare Champagne? They’ll whip up a Champagne vinegar to add some delicious acidity to the gin-based, rickey-inspired Oregami cocktail! Bay cuttings from Bart’s own tree at home sit along the bar, along with other various potted plants and herbs, which then end up in my delightful Bay cocktail with white rum, vermouth and tonic. A smoky Calvados-based serve called Jack & Jill battles to steal the show with Pepper, multi-faceted spicy rye- and black pepper-based take on an Old Fashioned. We’re even presented with a small bowl of pickled veg to snack on, which would otherwise have gone to waste from the cocktail production. In the spirit of sustainability, flamboyant garnishes are nowhere to be found here: giant ice cubes and a singular leaf as a garnish (if any) paired with delicate glassware are quite enough. At its core though, Crossroads is just your friendly neighbourhood bar, so while the ingredients may sound complicated the bar itself is far from pretentious. Bart’s passion is infectious, though if you’re worried you may not be able to make it down soon, we also heard that there’s a collection of pre-bottled cocktails on the way…

The Nightcap

The world’s first Bloody Mary doughnut is finally here. What took you so long?

And finally… did somebody say Bloody Mary doughnut?

There are two guaranteed pick-me-ups when you’re feeling a bit peaky in the morning, a Bloody Mary and a box of doughnuts. So it seems crazy that nobody has thought to combine the two. Until now….yes, “gourmet” doughnut shop Longboys has teamed up with Bloody Drinks to create what they claim to be the world’s first Bloody Mary doughnut. Dubbed the Bloody Longboy, it’s made from dough flavoured with real Bloody Mary and then filled with, according to the press release: “Bloody Mary créme, confit tomato, lemon celery confiture and Bloody Mary gel. It’s then garnished with tomato and celery crisps and dusted with tomato sugar.” Sounds pretty tasty. Just in time for Halloween, you can buy one from Longboys in London, which also delivers, but we reckon it should be available on the NHS. 

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