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Master of Malt Blog

#BagThisBundle part 2 – win more Dry January 2022 goodies!

The second bundle from our two-part competition for Dry January 2022 is now up for grabs, so if you want to kick off the new year with a win you…

The second bundle from our two-part competition for Dry January 2022 is now up for grabs, so if you want to kick off the new year with a win you know what to do… 

Hey, remember last week when we gave you the chance to win loads of terrific bottles of no-and-low booze and we said that there was more to come? Well, we weren’t just having you on, there really is a second lot of goodies to be won. This week we’ve got everything you need to make cracking cocktails with High Point!

Dry Jan

Want to make some great cocktails without booze? This should help…

In full, here’s what is up for grabs:

And all you have to do to enter is the following:

Do that and you’re in it to win it. Good luck!

MoM ‘Dry January Bag This Bundle’ Competition Part Two 2022 open to entrants 18 years and over. Entries accepted from 10:00:00 GMT on 10 January to 17:00:00 GMT on 16 January 2022. 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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The Nightcap: 7 January

Why has Taiwan bought 20,000 bottles of rum? Have Bono and the Edge found what they’re looking for? And can you cure a hangover? We ask the big questions in…

Why has Taiwan bought 20,000 bottles of rum? Have Bono and the Edge found what they’re looking for? And can you cure a hangover? We ask the big questions in our first news round-up of the year. The Nightcap: 7 January 2022 has landed!

Hey folks, long time no see. We hope you had a lovely Christmas, a wonderful Chanukah, and a Happy New Year. We did too, thanks for asking, and are now looking forward to getting back into the swing of things. And what better way to do that than with a classic round-up of boozy news. Who’s ready to do some new year Nightcapping?

Since our last edition a fair amount has happened on the blog, so let’s run through it quickly. We made a list of our top ten favourite and most-read posts as well as our funniest stories from 2021. We also launched our famous Burns Night poetry competition and kicked off our Dry January coverage with a guide on how to do it the MoM way, as well as giving you a recipe for a delicious low-alcohol cocktail, some cracking options for which bottles to buy, and even a chance to win big. We also talked about terroir in rum, helped you find a new favourite dram, saw how New Zealand is getting on the whisky map, learned the story behind Fable whisky, and showed you which distilleries to keep an eye on in 2022.

Phew! Lots to catch up on. But for now let’s crack on with The Nightcap: 7 January edition!

The Nightcap: 7 January

These two from U2 have put some serious cash into the beer biz

Bono, the Edge, and Hozier invest in brewery

The Wicklow Wolf Craft Brewing Company has added some star power to its ranks. U2 stars Bono and the Edge, as well as fellow Irish musician Hozier, a part of a group of investors backing the craft brewery. Founded by Mountmellick native Quincey Fennelly and Simon Lynch in 2014, The Wicklow Wolf Craft Brewing Company has issued new shares for almost €2.4 million. Reports suggest Bono and the Edge put up €327,000 between them, and Wicklow native Hozier invested almost €110,000, while the largest investor was Zatrix Holdings, a company controlled by Mary Ann O’Brien, the founder of Irish chocolate maker Lily O’Brien’s. It’s not the first time the brewery has made headlines for big sums, with the company investing €4 million in a brewery in Newtown Mount Kennedy in 2019, the funding for which came from a €2 million equity raise. It’s good to see a company thriving in these difficult times, and hopefully Bono and the Edge have found what they’re looking for. We make no apologies.

The Nightcap: 7 January

We’ve all got our own methods, but let’s face it – none of them truly work

Hangover cures don’t work, say scientists 

On New Year’s Day, did you rub your aching head and reach for the ginseng? If so, we have bad news. According to the scientific journal Addiction (reported in UPI), there’s no evidence that so-called ‘hangover cures’ have any effect. Dr. Emmert Roberts and his team at King’s College London published a study based on over 20 trials of various products containing red ginseng, artichoke extract, prickly pear, and other popular hangover remedies. The doc commented: “Our study has found that evidence on these hangover remedies is of very low quality and there is a need to provide more rigorous assessment.” He continued: “For now, the surest way of preventing hangover symptoms is to abstain from alcohol or drink in moderation.” However, the study did not contain data on the effects of common painkillers like aspirin nor on that old standby, a can of ice-cold full fat Coca-Cola and a bacon sandwich. More research needed, we think.

The Nightcap: 7 January

Lithuanian rum, now very popular in Taiwan

Taiwan buys 20,000 bottles of Lithuania rum destined for China

Taiwan is sharing tips with the public on how to drink and cook with rum after it bought 20,400 bottles of Lithuanian rum bound for China. According to local media, Taiwan Tobacco and Liquor Corp (TTL) purchased the rum after learning that it could be blocked from entering China. It comes after Lithuania established a de facto embassy in Taiwan using the name ‘Taiwan’ rather than ‘Chinese Taipei’, the name preferred by the Chinese government (yes it’s a bit complicated, well worth reading this on the China-Taiwan relationship). In retaliation, China downgraded diplomatic relations with Lithuania days after. The state-owned TTL said it had been notified by Taiwan’s finance minister and head of the Taiwanese Representative Office of Lithuania (great job title mate) Eric Huang that a batch of rum could be up for grabs, as past shipments of beer had been blocked. Taiwan’s National Development Council later said in a post on Facebook that the rum “could not pass through Chinese customs” and has urged locals to buy rum at the end of January when the shipment would be on sale. Recipes that have been shared include ones for a Dark ‘n’ Stormy cocktail (classic), and rum-infused French toast (nice), steak (tell me more) and hot chocolate (all great ideas). Of course, we’ve got plenty of rum recipes ourselves if anyone wants any more inspiration. 

The Nightcap: 7 January

A Caribbean-infused Burns Night feast!

Dewar’s will deliver a Caribbean Burns Night feast 

Dewar’s has the perfect answer if you’re planning on celebrating Burns Night at home this year. The Scotch whisky brand has teamed up with creative consultant Mark Low, who also works with Mr Lyan Studio, and food delivery people All in a Box to deliver you a Burns Night supper with a twist. It’s not your standard haggis, neeps, and tatties fare, as it’s inspired by Dewar’s Caribbean Smooth so there’s a West Indian vibe about the whole thing. The box features haggis Scotch eggs, jerk chicken with neeps, tatties, and plantain mash, and an Irn-Bru-infused take on a Manhattan and a Cranachan-inspired Highball cocktail, all made with Caribbean Smooth, an eight-year-old Dewar’s finished in rum casks. It even comes with a special playlist, The Proclaimers covering Chaka Demus and Pliers, perhaps. Boxes cost £70 and you can order from 10 January (go here for more information) for an unforgettable Caribbean-infused Burns Night.

The Nightcap: 7 January

Drinks from the likes of Adnams, Big Drop and Lucky Saint are available

Alcohol-free off-licence comes to London

Can you imagine running down to the offie and finding out that they only have alcohol-free drinks? Surely a nightmare for some, but not for Laura Willoughby who is putting on a pop-up ‘off-license’ just off Regent Street in London with no alcoholic drinks whatsoever. Willoughby (MBE, no less) who runs Club Soda, an alcohol-free drinks site, commented: “More UK drinkers than ever are putting their health first by choosing low and no alcohol products. Substituting alcohol-free drinks for alcoholic ones is a tried-and-tested approach to cutting down or stopping drinking, and having good quality choices makes that easier.” Thankfully these days going without booze doesn’t mean going without flavour. There are over 70 brands on sale including Master of Malt favourites Everleaf and Lyre’s plus excellent zero and low ABV beers from Adnams, Big Drop, and Lucky Saint. So whether you’re doing Dry January, dry curious or just don’t drink alcohol, then head down to 59 Great Portland Street until 20 January. Deliciousness awaits. 

The Nightcap: 7 January

Your Dry January options have just increased

Bacardi releases non-alc spirit Palette

If you’re looking for non-alcoholic deliciousness, Bacardi may have the answer. It has collaborated with bartenders in Amsterdam on two spirit substitutes made with all natural flavours called Palette Roots and Palette Bold. Master of botanicals Alessandro Garneri and his team put cutting-edge technology and three different methods to good use to extract flavour. Of the two varieties, Roots is more your white spirit imitation, made with juniper berries, ginger, and the essential oils of nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon, while Bold mimics an aged spirit using the likes of American oakwood and gentian root. At the moment it’s on-trade only, the brand will launch in bars and restaurants across London including Lyaness, L’Escargot, and Christopher’s. Suggested serves include the Pink Clove which combines Roots with grapefruit soda, lime juice, and tonic, finished with a grapefruit garnish, or Bold Rush, made with Bold, lemon juice, agave syrup, and mint. “We’re calling time on sweet, tasteless ‘mocktails’,” says Marine Rozenfeld, innovation development lead for Bacardi Europe, Australia & New Zealand. “With the launch of Palette coming hot on the heels of our new Martini Non-Alcoholic Aperitivo with its groundbreaking quality and taste, we are definitely taking mindful drinking to new heights.” Exciting stuff, and right in time for Dry January. That was probably deliberate.

The Nightcap: 7 January

One of the finest Highballs in London

Swift Soho shows off swanky new menu

Did you know that Swift Soho, the award-winning bar and home of the Irish Coffee I think about at least once a week, has just turned five years old? Well, it has, and to celebrate the news the bar has put together a brand new menu: Legends. Inspired by famous drinkers throughout history and their favourite tipples, including drinks industry icons such as Dick Bradsell and his daughter Bea, Peter Dorelli and Salvatore Calabrese, historic figures like Van Gogh and Hemingway, up to present-day celebrities including Snoop Dogg and Sir Ian McKellen. The menu includes 19 fun and elegant cocktails, with new innovations as well as some classic Swift serves, all illustrated by hospitality industry artist Dan Collins, who has drawn a portrait of each of the famous faces and their respective inspired cocktails. We had the opportunity to try a couple and, typically, Swift did not disappoint. There’s a smoky Highball made with Port Charlotte 10 Year Old called the Hummingbird that is so drinkable I’d like to install a tap of it in my flat, while the Pisco Sour-inspired Shanghaied is spectacular. Right now we desperately need to support the hospitality industry, so if you need an excuse we can think of worse ones than sampling the Legends menu. Now I really fancy an Irish Coffee…

The Nightcap: 7 January

Farewell, fellow whisky lovers

And finally… monks expelled for drinking whisky at New Year

Three Buddhist monks were caught boozing at a temple in Thailand on New Year’s Day, claiming they were only drinking whisky to “deliver” the alcohol to ancestors. Police from the Mueang Kamphaengphet District Office at a temple in Kamphaengphet found the senior monks were violating the rules of monkhood after breathalyser tests confirmed suspicions. Local residents who had heard the monks drinking and partying tipped them off and the odour of alcohol was, according to the officers, very strong in the area when they entered the temple. Monk Arpat was the one who confessed, reportedly telling officials, “We don’t usually drink, only in festivals. We were drinking local rice whisky from local residents who wanted to give the spirits to their ancestors as a blessing. So we drank this whisky in order to deliver alcohol to those dead people. We were doing a good thing by blessing their ancestors and thought this would not violate the rules of being a monk.” As excuses go, it’s more creative than anything I’ve ever come up with. Unfortunately, it didn’t wash with the authorities and all three monks were expelled from the monkhood for breaking one of the major rules of conduct for Buddhist Monks in Thailand. If you think they’re bad, just wait till you see the amount of sherry Irish nuns put away at Christmas. Igniting the pudding is a high-risk endeavour. 

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Whisky distilleries to watch out for in 2022

2022 should be another landmark year in whisky with new distilleries opening and first releases from new players hitting the market. Here’s our pick of some of the most exciting…

2022 should be another landmark year in whisky with new distilleries opening and first releases from new players hitting the market. Here’s our pick of some of the most exciting ones to watch.

It’s not exactly been the most encouraging couple of years for the drinks industry but whisky is doing pretty well, all things considered. Just look at all the distilleries that will open this year, and all the first releases we have to look forward to. The path to getting back on track is paved with good drams, from all over the world. Here, we shine our big ‘MoM’ branded spotlight on just five distilleries that we’re particularly excited about.

Whisky distilleries to watch out for in 2022

Whisky distilleries 2022

On our recent visit, we were very impressed by Bankhall’s approach

Bankhall Distillery, Blackpool, England

The team at Bankhall have been busy re-imagining the traditional whisky process in Britain with a star-spangled twist. The Halewood Artisanal Spirits (the people behind Aber Falls, Whitley Neil, Vestal Vodka and many others) owned project was founded in 2018 and has spent the last few years working to create a bourbon-like spirit in the UK. Master distiller Vince Oleson (previously of the Widow Jane Distillery in New York) uses a single batch process to make a spirit that’s American in, well, spirit, as well as experimenting with single malt and rye whiskies. Two young sweet mash spirits have already been released to acclaim, but this year we should see its first official whisky, and we can’t wait. What we’ve tried so far is full of promise, reasonably priced and so intriguing. Plus, the distillery is in Blackpool. Which is an amazing city.

Whisky distilleries 2022

Not just a beautiful place, this is home to some already impressive whisky

Killara Distillery, Tasmania, Australia

This is one of the most highly anticipated new distilleries in the world for good reason. Headed up by Kristy Booth-Lark, daughter of Australian whisky guru Bill Lark and the creator of many of the Lark distilleries’ most loved expressions, she’s now running the show as something of a ‘one woman band’. We love people keeping the family tradition alive, but when they do so by making whisky with locally-sourced grain, a focus on supporting neighbouring businesses and a process that prioritises quality, that’s when you really start talking our language. Early expressions have been extremely good for their age, like this lovely Boutique-y bottling, and the only problem with whatever comes next will be getting your hands on a bottle, because they sell out quickly.

Whisky distilleries 2022

Progress is coming along nicely and we can’t wait to see the finished distillery

The Port of Leith Distillery, Edinburgh, Scotland

We’ve spoken about The Port of Leith Distillery before, because it’s an extremely exciting project. While whisky is still a few years away yet, we wanted to flag this Edinburgh distillery because it should open this year and, once it does, you’ll have to get in line behind us for a visit. The ‘vertical distillery’ rises 40 metres above the quayside, and will feature a top floor double height whisky bar (with views to Edinburgh Castle, no less) and the capacity to produce up to million bottles of single malt a year. It doesn’t take Nostradamus to predict that this will become a tourist attraction in no time, but the level of detail that co-founders Paddy Fletcher and Ian Stirling have put into this distillery demonstrates that it won’t be a case of style over substance.

Whisky distilleries 2022

Japanese whisky is about to welcome an influx of newcomers and we’re very excited

Kanosuke Distillery, Kagoshima, Japan

Quite a few Japanese distilleries are gonna come of age this year so it’s hard to pick just one to get fired up about, but the Kanosuke Distillery is already making so many waves it’s hard not to take notice. Even though it only opened in 2018, the company behind it Komasa Jyozo has been producing traditional spirits such as shochu since 1883. This might explain why its hit the ground running with its first releases including young spirits showing the whisky’s progression and then a single malt first edition and second edition, as well as a distillery exclusive. There’s a real sense of originality here, with three pot stills, each with a different shape and neck inclination, allowing for diversity of production of whiskies and a unique climate impacting maturation. Early signs are great, and this distillery is just getting started.

Whisky distilleries 2022

A humble but outstanding young distillery

Killowen Distillery, Co. Down, Northern Ireland

There’s just so much to like about Killowen Distillery. This is a really honest, pure operation that’s all about creating interesting, tasty whisky. From the worm tub condensers to the direct-fire-heated alembic stills, the long fermentations, experimental mash bills and bottling everything at cask strength with no filtration or additional colouring, head distiller Brendan Carty is making whisky for the purist. Expect some of the most distinctive Irish whiskies you’ve ever tasted. I’m actually slightly regretting telling you them as I want all the whisky to myself. But that very much goes against what my actual job is. So, you’re welcome.

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Top ten no and low ABV drinks for Dry January

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

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

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

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

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

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


Everleaf Mountain

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

How does it taste?

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


Æcorn Bitter

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

How does it taste?

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


Tuscan Tree Blood Orange Non-Alcoholic Aperitivo 

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

How does it taste?

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


Atopia Spiced Citrus 

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

How does it taste?

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


Portobello Temperance

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

How does it taste?

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


Bax Botanics Verbena

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

How does it taste?

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


Peter Rose Gin Concentrate

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

How does it taste?

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


Seedlip Garden 108

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

How does it taste?

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


ANON Bittersweet Aperitif

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

How does it taste?

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


Caleño Dark & Spicy

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

How does it taste?

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

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Cocktail of the Week: The Adonis

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

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

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

Sherry, the bartender’s secret weapon

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

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

Strong name, not so strong drink

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

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

The Adonis cocktail

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

How to make the Adonis

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

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

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

Right, let’s make an Adonis. 

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

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

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The stories that make Fable Whisky

How do you stand out from the crowd as an independent bottler? Fable Whisky did it by embracing storytelling, animation, and illustration to create an approachable, modern brand. It was…

How do you stand out from the crowd as an independent bottler? Fable Whisky did it by embracing storytelling, animation, and illustration to create an approachable, modern brand.

It was at a duty-free show in Cannes that drinks industry veterans Calum Lawrie and Andrew Torrance decided it was time to branch out and create their own brand. Lawrie had held various roles at companies including Diageo, while Torrance had done a stint at Morrison Bowmore, and was at one time MD of the Whisky Shop. But they wanted to be independent bottlers of great whisky. They knew the game well enough that simply sourcing tasty booze wouldn’t be enough to sustain a business, however, so the question was: how to cut through in an industry that’s already got a lot of great brands.

At the Whisky Shop, Torrance worked with an agency called GP Studio and a brainstorming session with them provided the answer. The duo wanted to create a brand rooted in storytelling, utilising animation, illustration, creative writing, and even ceramics to tell those tales.

“We felt in this subcategory of single cask and independent bottlings, there was a space to do things a bit differently,” Lawrie recalls “It’s one steeped in heritage, provenance, family names. We’ve been in the industry for a long time but we don’t have any links in that way. We had to come up with a USP, something different from everyone else. Andrew spent time in travel retail and was always impressed by the packaging of the perfume industry versus Scotch whisky, feeling it was more inspirational and beautiful. Obviously, that liquid has to be good, but we thought if we can create a beautiful aesthetic and convey the right tone, then we’ve got a chance to standout”.

A different approach

The stories weren’t simply going to be about the whisky in the glass or the distillery, however, but lesser-known stories, myths of Scotland with a whisky association. For the first collection of whiskies, the brand expanded on the legend of ‘The Ghost Piper of Clanyard Bay’, working with artist Hugo Cuellar to make an enchanted world of gothic-style illustration and macabre imagery. In order to convey a sense of place, drone footage of Clanyard Bay was shot, videos with narration and a character-rich story were made, and each of the eleven whiskies in the series were named after its own aspect of the fable.

Cuellar’s input was supported by creative writer Des Waddy, narrator and actor Jeff Rawle, and even potter Bella Jones, who makes Fable’s black volcanic clay whisky tumblers and water jugs, all helping bring the story of Clanyard Bay to life. This is all just for one collection, don’t forget, the life cycle of which will be about 18 months to two years. “We’ll have a new illustrator, animator,  narrator, etc. for the next one and keep things exciting and evolving over time. That’s the beauty of it. It can get repetitive to regurgitate an iconic brand in a different way. Whereas we have the scope to really do anything,” Lawrie says.

People from all walks of life

There’s a clear ambition here to attract more than just your traditional, dyed-in-the-wool whisky drinker. The kind of people who would usually support independent bottlers can be seen as a restricted demographic traditionally, so it’s not lost on the team at Fable how significant it is that people from all walks of life have engaged. 

“It goes from one end of the spectrum; to the other. From millennials and women, to the guys that you might think are very staid in their choices. The stories actually become collectables, not for the kind of person who collects priceless prestige bottlings that never comes out of the cabinet, but amateurs who are interested in the brand and want to participate,” Creative director Daryl Haldane explains. “A lot of classic bottlings are heather and weather, all the classic malt whisky cues. Here we have Fable which is doing something in a very different way. We see this as an opportunity for single cask, indie bottlings to become more mainstream”. 

Fable Whisky

Fable Whisky is getting it right inside and outside the bottle

Not just a pretty label

It’s not an easy task putting together a brand like this, though. Every label, package, chapter is different, as is the liquid inside each bottle. There might have been easier roots for the founders, but they say becoming independent bottlers wasn’t a debate for them, they love the work and the whisky. “Sometimes there are sleepless nights, but it’s exciting. We can try lots of new whiskies and different styles,” Lawrie says. “We know how important the quality is. The whole idea is that, if we can pull people in from a creative angle, then we can have that conversation about whisky, how it is produced, and why it’s great”. 

For the first collection, each of the eleven chapters share a style. “They’re raw, unadulterated. Whisky, it’s as it should be. We want to showcase distillery character, not disguise them with casks,” Lawrie explains. “Certainly where I’ve come from in the past, we’ve talked a lot about casks and didn’t talk enough about distillery character, We feel that’s a great place to start with the first Fable for sure. The feedback we’ve been getting is how refreshing it is to try these distilleries and really get their true style coming through”. 

One way to win over whisky purists is to bottle the whisky you source with no added colouring, chill-filtration, and at cask strength, and Fable’s approach respects this holy trilogy. “We know this is what whisky nerds love and it’s a credibility thing, but when you’re talking about distillery character and letting that shine through, that’s just how you do it,” Haldane says. “We’re passionate about showcasing distilleries that don’t always get enough love, so when you get whisky from places you don’t get to taste every single day you have a responsibility to present them at their best”.

Fable Whisky

The Fable style is distinctive and engaging

A fable worth knowing

It’s a system that’s working, at least if you look at our stock. Fable whisky sells out quickly for a reason. I love whiskies that showcase distillery character anyway, and tasting a few of the Fable drams it’s clear that the first collection has met the mark. Getting to peel back the curtain and get to know producers I haven’t had the chance to enjoy as much as I’d like, such as Mannochmore and Dailuaine, is also very rewarding. Entrepreneurism, creativity, and branding are all well and good, but Fable also manages to do the really important work and makes sure the quality of the whiskies adds depth to the stories.

I love the look and feel of the brand too. It’s fun to see Scotch being fun, and to see brands be brave and creative to try to create something new. It’s not the only bottler to embrace story or interesting aesthetic, but Fable typifies how Scotch whisky is becoming more open to different approaches and doesn’t need to lean on purely traditional imagery. People engage with brands like Fable, not just new drinkers, but old whisky fans too, who aren’t a monolith. Everybody appreciates a good story. You pair that with great whisky and you’ve got yourself something that will stand out from the crowd. 

Glen Elgin 7 Year Old 2014 – Piper (Fable Whisky), Blair Athol 12 Year Old 2009 – Crows (Fable Whisky), and Teaninich 13 Year Old 2008 – Fairies (Fable Whisky) have all just arrived at MoM Towers, with more Fable whisky to come…

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Dryish January: a guide

While a lot of people give up alcohol entirely in January, we’re doing things a bit differently with a month devoted to drinking less, drinking lower ABV, and celebrating all…

While a lot of people give up alcohol entirely in January, we’re doing things a bit differently with a month devoted to drinking less, drinking lower ABV, and celebrating all that’s great about the drinks industry. It’s not Dry January, it’s Dryish January!

Judging by the mood on social media, it doesn’t look like Dry January is going to be quite the event it usually is. If the people you’re following are anything like mine, there’s a lot of ‘seriously fuck Dry January’ going on. One of our local restaurants has a sign up saying “We’re doing Dry January here: Dry Martini, London Dry Gin, dry white wine.” 

Dry January has become such a fixture on the drinks trade calendar that you might be surprised that it’s a recent coinage. According to The Week magazine, it was registered in 2014 as a trademark by Alcohol Concern. Since then it’s been followed by all kinds of other ‘giving-up’ months like Stoptober, Go Sober for October, and Veganuary (dread word!).

Dryish January

But, of course, following a period of excess with one of abstinence isn’t exactly a new idea. Most religions involve a bit of fasting, like the 40 days of Lent which commemorates Jesus’s 40 days in the wilderness. Dry January is essentially the secular equivalent.

It has proved particularly popular in the drinks trade where Christmas can start some time in early December and go on until New Year’s Day. It’s great to give your body a well earned rest. But there seem to be few takers this year. This might be because so many of those festive events did not take place because of fears of the Omicron variant. Or just that after two years of restrictions, the idea of giving up something that provides a lot of pleasure during the coldest and most depressing month of the year seems like a really bad idea. 

The back bar at the Gibson

Photo credit: The Gibson in London

Go out to help out

Furthermore, all those Christmas cancellations means that the beleaguered hospitality industry is in an extremely precarious position. If everybody stays in this January, there might not be anywhere to go out when February comes around. We like the sound of a campaign that brewers and drinks writers have got behind called Tryanuary (dread word, again!) This encourages people to experiment with their drinks choices.

So this year at Master of Malt our ‘Dry January’ is going to look a bit different. We’re calling it Dryish January and we will still be looking at some fully alcohol free options with examples of cocktails and new products that you can try if you’re cutting out the booze completely, and even running a competition to win a bundle of zero ABV goodies to be won. But for Dryish January we will also be looking at ways you can make delicious drinks with less alcohol using liqueurs, fortified wines like Port or sherry, and vermouth, for example, in place of full strength spirits. There are also very clever high strength spirits which are packed so full of flavour that you only need to use a tiny bit.

We will also be visiting producers, meeting distillers and trying exciting new spirits as usual. But most of all, we’ll be celebrating the diverse wonders of the drinks industry and encouraging you to get out there, visit bars, pubs and restaurants, and taste new things, whether they contain alcohol or not. Let’s raise a glass to Dryish January!

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#BagThisBundle – win Dry January 2022 goodies!

Dry January 2022 doesn’t have to be boring. We’re here to bring some excitement with the first of a two-part competition…  Are you one of the millions of people across…

Dry January 2022 doesn’t have to be boring. We’re here to bring some excitement with the first of a two-part competition… 

Are you one of the millions of people across the world who has taken the vow to shun alcohol for January following weeks of festive overindulgence? Of course you are, that’s why you’re here. That or morbid curiosity. For the former, we’d here to remind you that choosing to take part in a month of no or reduced drinking doesn’t mean ordering a Diet Coke and playing with your car keys while everyone else has fun.

Especially given that every year even more fantastic low-and-no alcoholic options are launched to provide you with options and not compromises. There’s no excuse not to drink well while drinking less. And also to not go out and support your local hospitality business. Remember how hard they’ve had it the last couple of years. Don’t let them down now.

To help you on your path to low-and-no excellence, we’ve given you the opportunity to get your hands on some terrific bottles. Even more excitingly, this is just part one. In total, our Dry January competition will run for two weeks but the prize is going to be different from week one to week two. So, be sure to keep an eye out for even more amazing prizes in the future. To kick us off, we’ve got the perfect Dry January cocktail kit featuring Atopia Citrus!

Atopia Bundle competitionIn full, here’s what is up for grabs:

And all you have to do to enter is the following:

  • Follow @masterofmalt Instagram account.
  • Like this post!
  • Tag a friend you’d like to share the bundle with on our competition post.

Just successfully complete those steps and your ‘new year, new me’ bundle could soon be en route. Exciting times.

MoM ‘Dry January Bag This Bundle’ Competition 2022 open to entrants 18 years and over. Entries accepted from 12:00:00 GMT on 4 January to 17:00:00 GMT on 9 January 2022. 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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Burns Night Poetry Competition 2022 – win Glengoyne 21 Year Old!

Are you a secret poet? Do you know it? Well, hide your light under a bushel no longer because it’s time for our Burns Night Poetry Competition 2022. You could…

Are you a secret poet? Do you know it? Well, hide your light under a bushel no longer because it’s time for our Burns Night Poetry Competition 2022. You could win a bottle of Glengoyne 21 Year Old. Runners up will receive Darkness Islay 12 Year Old and a Regions of Scotland whisky tasting set, or an Aerolite Lyndsay 10 Year Old Islay single malt.

You know those moments in meetings when the sensible people run out of things to say? That’s normally the opportunity for the others to propose outlandish ideas which will be tactfully shot down or crack jokes that nobody quite gets. Well, that’s how our Burns Night Poetry Competition started back in 2019. There was a lull in a meeting to discuss how we should cover Burns Night, a big event in the whisky calendar, somebody said ‘poetry competition’, and much to everyone’s surprise, we went ahead and did it.

Even more surprising is how successful it’s been. Every year we get dozens of entries, and, though some of them are awful – rhyming ‘whisky’ with ‘frisky’ is a giveaway – there’s always some that show real talent. Just take a look at the winning entries from 2019,  2020, and 2021.

Burns Night Poetry Competition 2022

Prizes for poetry, but only if you wow us…

Enter our Burns Night Poetry Competition 2022

This year we’ve upgraded the prizes so we’re expecting an even higher standard than previous years. The winner will receive a bottle of  Glengoyne 21 year old single malt worth over £140. The second place prize is a bottle of Islay 12 Year Old Oloroso Cask Finish (Darkness) and a Regions of Scotland Whisky Tasting Set. And there’s a very nice bottle for the third-place entry, a bottle of Aerolite Lyndsay 10 Year Old – The Character of Islay Whisky Company

Some tasty whiskies there. All you have to do is write a poem in either English or Scots of 25 lines or less. No epics, please. Apart from those rules, you can do what you like: write in blank verse, use iambic pentameters, or come up with something totally experimental. Again, just don’t rhyme ‘whisky’ with ‘frisky.’ 

To get you in the mood, here’s a little something from the Bard himself, Robbie Burns:

‘My heart’s in the Highlands, my heart is not here;
My heart’s in the Highlands, a-chasing the deer;
A-chasing the wild-deer and following the roe,
My heart’s in the Highlands, wherever I go.’

Stirring stuff!

The 2021 MoM Burns Night poetry competition is open to entrants 18 years and over with postage to UK addresses only. Entries accepted from 12:00 GMT on 3 January to 12:00 GMT 17 January 2022. Full T&Cs are below, but to enter simply email us at [email protected], or comment on Facebook, Instagram, or below with your poem by 17 January. The winner will be announced on Burns Night, Tuesday 25 January.

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Most-read posts of 2021

I am sure you’ll all agree that it’s been quite a year. But earth-shattering events like a continued global pandemic could not stop the booze news. We had a record…

I am sure you’ll all agree that it’s been quite a year. But earth-shattering events like a continued global pandemic could not stop the booze news. We had a record number of visitors to the blog and these were the most-read posts of 2021.

Looking back at 2021, we don’t want to blow our own trumpets but we published some pretty interesting things on the blog. But which ones did you like the best? Well, using the magic of Google Analytics, we’ve lined up the ones that got the most traffic, and a theme has emerged. It’s whisky. Master of Malt customers love reading about whisky whether it’s big whisky news, whisky comment, whisky features, whisky launches, or whisky cocktails. This makes sense as we are Master of Malt not Master of Crisps. Though we do love crisps.

So, thank you for reading, Happy New Year, and here are our most-read posts of 2021!

Nikka from the Barrell

1) New Japanese whisky regulations 

This was the most-read story by a country mile. There have been rumours flying around that many big-name Japanese blends contained Scotch and Canadian whisky. And finally, producers come clean (ish) on the matter. Big whisky news.

2) A warning about whisky investment

The whisky investment market exploded in 2021. You’ve probably been getting emails outlying how you can make a killing on investing in whisky. Well, read this article by Ian Buxton before you part with any hard-earned cash.

3) Lifting the lid on bulk Scotch whisky sales to Japan

You read the news story and now here’s a detailed look at how the Scottish and Japanese whisky industry have been intertwined for decades from former Diageo man Dr Nick Morgan.

4) New Arrival of the Week: Kilchoman Loch Gorm 2021 release.

A new whisky from Kilchoman is always an event for Master of Malt customers. This heavily-sherried limited edition release did not hang around for long so clearly it struck a chord.

5) Master of Malt tastes… Diageo Special Releases 2021

Another whisky event, the launch of Diageo’s Special Releases. This year’s releases came with packaging that was literally fantastic. The contents were nice too and we thoroughly enjoyed tasting via the internet with Ewan Gunn.

6) Cocktail the the Week: The Penicillin

A great whisky cocktail, the Penicillin, caught the imagination of readers this year. And no wonder because with its mix of peated and blended Scotch whisky, it’s really very special.

7) Blue Spot Irish whiskey returns after more than 50 years 

We were knocked out by the quality of this seven-year-old cask strength single pot still release from Irish Distillers. The online launch, which had whiskey lovers from around the world all comparing notes, was quite something and cheered us up at a difficult time.

8) Torabhaig Distillery’s first whisky!

The first release from Skye’s second working distillery clearly got Master of Malt customers excited because not only did the article get huge traffic but the whisky sold out in record time. 

9) Brendan McCarron to leave Glenmorangie for Distell 

Big whisky news doesn’t come any bigger than one of whisky’s best-loved characters Brendan McCarron (the chap in the header) leaving the Glenmorangie Company for Distell where he took the title of master distiller for Deanston, Tobermory, and Bunnahabhain.

10) RIP Douglas Ankrah

Our last most-read story was a sad one. One of Britain’s bartending greats, Douglas Ankrah, inventor of the Pornstar Martini, died suddenly in his sleep. We posted an obituary with tributes from the British drinks business. 

RIP Douglas Ankrah

RIP Douglas Ankrah


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