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Master of Malt Blog

Five minutes with… Sandie van Doorne, creative and communications director at Lucas Bols

Dating back to 1575, Amsterdam-based Lucas Bols has earned its place in the history books as the world’s oldest distilled spirits brand. Here, creative and communications director Sandie van Doorne…

Dating back to 1575, Amsterdam-based Lucas Bols has earned its place in the history books as the world’s oldest distilled spirits brand. Here, creative and communications director Sandie van Doorne shares insight into those early days of distilling – and the dynamic company’s future plans…

With more than 400 years of distilling know-how under its belt, and recipes that have been handed down over centuries, Lucas Bols is one of the oldest Dutch companies still active today – a remarkable feat, you’ll agree. But the company has not stood the test of time by sitting still or resting on its laurels. 

While the processes of distillation, percolating and macerating are practised as they have been for the last four centuries, Lucas Bols has its sights set firmly on the future, working closely with bartenders across the globe to develop new products and flavours as well as exploring and adapting old recipes according to the latest cocktail trends.

We sat down with Sandie van Doorne, creative and communications director at Lucas Bols, to find out more about the past, present, and future of the Dutch spirits-maker…

Sandie

It’s Sandie van Doorne!

MoM: Thanks so much for chatting with us, Sandie! First of all, could you explain a little about your job and how long you have been in the role?

Van Doorne: I’ve been with the company since 1999 and in this role since 2006, which was the year our CEO, our CFO and myself completed a management buyout. We came back to Amsterdam and re-established ourselves in The Netherlands again after a couple of years of the company being in French hands. It was then that I stepped into the role of creative and communications director to tell the beautiful story of over four centuries of craftsmanship and history of Lucas Bols, and make sure that we are innovative and that whatever we do in the market is special – and giving tender loving care to this company and these beautiful brands. 

MoM: What’s 2019 been like for Bols – what are some of the highlights so far?

SvD: The work that we’re doing on low-alcohol cocktails and the revival of using liqueurs as a base spirit. It’s something we started working on about two years ago, and we’ve really seen this picking up in 2019. When you pair, for example, Bols Cucumber liqueur with tonic, it’s a classic low-alcohol Gin and Tonic alternative. Sometimes you want a really flavourful drink with an alcohol bite but without the alcohol effect – when you take a liqueur that has the natural flavours of a fruit or a botanical and mix that with tonic or soda, or, for example, Bols Watermelon with bitter lemon, it’s a fantastic drink. You have an adult drink without having a high alcohol content.

MoM: Lucas Bols has a long and storied history – could you talk about how the family business first set up and what those early days of distilling might’ve looked like?

SvD: In 1575 – I still think it’s amazing that we go back that far – the Bols family established on the outskirts of Amsterdam, which at that point was very small. Where the distillery would have been is now in the centre, because the city emerged around it. They started by distilling liqueurs for medicinal purposes and festive occasions, and later, in 1664, they also started making genever. Genever had been around for a long time for medicinal purposes, but in the 17th century it became popular with the wider population and there became a recreational demand for it. The Bols family, who were very good at distilling, picked up on this and started making genever and it became the second pillar of their company, next to liqueurs. The company is named after the grandson of the family, Lucas Bols, because he transformed this small distillery into an international company. 

Lightbulb moment at Bols

Innovative cocktails are a big part of Bols’ business

MoM: Amazing! How did Lucas Bols turn the business into a global brand?

SvD: In 1700 he became a majority shareholder in The Dutch East India Trading Company, and with that, he received exclusive rights to all the new herbs and spices coming into Amsterdam, which was the centre of the world for trading at the time. With those herbs and spices Lucas Bols was able to create over 300 different liqueur recipes and started the international distribution of the brand, which today is in over 110 countries. So he really made what was a small distillery into a big company with a wide product range and an international footprint. After he died in 1719, the Bols family carried on for about another 100 years until the last male heir died in 1816. The widow and her two daughters sold the company off. It has always remained the Lucas Bols company because she made the buyer sign a promissory note saying that the name would be forever used on the product. By doing that, she created the world’s oldest distilled spirits brand. 

MoM: Could you talk about Dutch drinking culture and how it has changed over the years?

SvD: In the 17th century, people were drinking beer and genever a lot, and they have stayed with us for a long time. Genever is still the biggest spirits category in the Netherlands – the aged genevers especially are in favour, and a lot of people like to pair them with a nice craft beer which we call a ‘headbutt’ or kopstoot. Beer and genever share a lot of the same ingredients, with the grains and the hops, so they go very nicely together. And then in the last decade or so we’ve seen strong cocktail development in the Netherlands. We opened the Bols Bartending Academy in 2006, where we train about 3,000 bartenders every year, and we really see the growth of cocktail-making and cocktail drinking and of course the Gin & Tonic trend has helped that a lot as well. 

MoM: Today, Bols has more than 20 brands in its portfolio, including Damrak Gin, Galliano and Passoã. What’s the main challenge for you when creating a global strategy?

SvD: Bols is the main brand that we focus on, so the hard part is that you want to give tender loving care to all the other brands in our portfolio. But the upside is that since we are distributed in over 110 countries, having all these different brands gives us the opportunity to really match every market with a different product, because they all have different needs – especially the emerging markets. 

Bols Amsterdam

Traditional methods and modern technology sit side-by-side at Bols

MoM: On the flipside, what’s the most fun aspect of the company?

SvD: We are a small player in a huge market, and that is so much fun. We’re a small team, so we are able to do things how we like to do them, and do them in a different and special way. That’s why we created the House of Bols Cocktail and Genever Experience and the Bols Bartending Academy, that’s why have the opportunity to bring genever back around the world. It’s very difficult to bring a category back and it’s a huge and long project that takes investment but we can do this because we are agile and flexible.

MoM: Finally, on a personal note – on a Friday night, what’s your go-to drink or cocktail?

SvD: Definitely the Amsterdam Mule, which is ginger beer and Bols Genever. Ginger beer mixes really well with genever because of the maltiness; the ginger goes very well with that.

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New Arrival of the Week: Michter’s US*1 Sour Mash Toasted Barrel Finish

This week we’re drinking a Kentucky whiskey with an unusual twist, it’s been aged in barrels that are toasted rather than charred! What’s all that about? Michter’s whiskey has something…

This week we’re drinking a Kentucky whiskey with an unusual twist, it’s been aged in barrels that are toasted rather than charred! What’s all that about?

Michter’s whiskey has something of a convoluted history. It was originally founded in Schaefferstown, Pennsylvania in 1753 by John Shenk who began distilling rye. He was a Mennonite, a religious sect like the Amish, think beards without moustaches, putting up wooden houses quickly and strictly no motor cars. Especially in 1753.

This was pre-independence when the 13 original colonies of British America were still part of the mother country. During the War of Independence, George Washington is said to have purchased Shenk’s whiskey for his troops to keep their morale up. It seems to have worked as the rebellious colonists won the war and thus the United States of America was born.

Shenk’s distillery was bought by Abraham Bomberger in the 1860s and became known as Bomberger’s. Then in the 1950s, the name was changed again by the distillery’s then owner Lou Forman by combining the names of his sons Michael and Peter: ta da, Michter’s!  Pennsylvania was once famous for its rye whiskey but by the 1980s rye as a category was dying and the venerable old distillery closed in 1989. It’s now a National Historic Landmark but sadly in a state of severe dilapidation. Ominously, according to Wikipedia: “The distillery closed in 1989 and may have since been demolished.” 

Happily the brand was revived by a company called Chatham Imports. There’s been some legal argie bargie over the name Bomberger’s since but we won’t go into that now.  The Michter’s magic now happens at the Fort Nelson distillery (see image in header) in the heart of bourbon country Louisville, Kentucky under the watchful eyes of master distillery Dan McKee and head of maturation Andrea Wilson. Last year it opened a visitor centre on the famous Whiskey Row. 

The standard rye whiskey is a benchmark, particularly popular with bartenders, while there are all kinds of bourbons and whiskeys produced too. Which brings us on to this week’s New Arrival. Because of its unusual grain bill, it can’t be categorised as either a rye or a bourbon (which would have to be at least 51% rye or corn respectively.) In the sour mash process a portion of the last ferment is added to the next to get things going rather like with sourdough bread, only better because you end up with whiskey. This is produced as with the standard Sour Mash but then it undergoes secondary maturation in, according to Michter’s: “a second custom made barrel. This second barrel is assembled from 18-month air-dried wood and then toasted but not charred.” It’s bottled at a nice punchy 43% ABV and only produced in limited quantities. You’ll probably want to sip this neat to appreciate those fancy casks but you can also channel your inner Mennonite with an Old Fashioned

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt:

Nose: Golden Grahams, orange peel, soft oaky smoke and a hint of menthol.

Palate: Honey on toast, salted butter, vanilla pod earthiness and white pepper heat.

Finish: Cinnamon, floral grains and another waft of smoke.

Michter’s US*1 Sour Mash Toasted Barrel Finish is now available from Master of Malt.

 

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#WhiskySanta’s Old and Rare Whisky Advent Calendar Super Wish!

#WhiskySanta has already granted one extraordinary wish, but he was only just getting started. The second Super Wish is here and it’s pretty amazing As I’m sure you all know,…

#WhiskySanta has already granted one extraordinary wish, but he was only just getting started. The second Super Wish is here and it’s pretty amazing

As I’m sure you all know, it’s not easy getting your hands on rare and remarkable booze, even if you are a marvellously omniscient and handsome festive fellow. Sometimes you wish all these tasty treats could be in one easy location, preferably some kind of seasonal box of treats. One that delivers you a daily dose of deliciousness, perhaps in dram form. You don’t want to overdo it. I once had too many mince pies in one sitting and the thought of another one… oh, who am I kidding? Anyway, while I tuck into another pack of Mr. Kipling’s finest, you can get wishing for the beauty I’ve just described. How is that possible? Because it’s The Old and Rare Whisky Advent Calendar. That’s how.

Old and Rare Whisky Advent Calendar

The amazing Old and Rare Whisky Advent Calendar!

The Advent calendar includes 24 different wax-sealed glass drams of magnificent malts and exceptional blends by 21 distilleries from America, Japan and, of course, Scotland. What whisky fan wouldn’t love this? Ordinarily, this beauty would set you back £999.95, but for a lucky someone, it will cost absolutely nothing!

How can I be in with a chance to win all this loveliness?? Simple. Head to The Old and Rare Whisky Advent Calendar product page and you should see a shiny ‘Wish’ button. Click on that and a box will appear with a pre-populated Twitter or Facebook post. Press publish and voila, just like that you’ve made your wish! How does this work? Through complex technology befitting the current age we live in? Don’t be ridiculous. It’s magic, silly. Christmas magic. You can also wish on Instagram too if that especially appeals (just make sure you use the #WhiskySanta hashtag to make it easier for those delightful minions at MoM Towers). The deadline is the end of Thursday, folks!

Make your wish by Friday if you’d be into this sort of thing…

Now, I have a six-pack to tuck into (#pielife) while I stare at the windows of my own Advent calendar and resist tearing them open to see what delights are hidden behind them. Get wishing!

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Top 10 most delicious Black Friday booze deals!

It’s that time of year again – the mega shopping extravaganza that is Black Friday has landed at MoM Towers! Here are some of our favourite bargains to nab now……

It’s that time of year again – the mega shopping extravaganza that is Black Friday has landed at MoM Towers! Here are some of our favourite bargains to nab now…

Alright. We know you’re being bombarded with all things Black Friday. It’s kind of a thing now. So think of this more as a PSA: we’ve got oodles of incredible bottlings at deliciously low prices, so if you’re looking to stock up your drinks cabinet, or bag a bargain Christmas pressie, now is the time!

There are heaps of awesome bottles at mouthwatering prices set to be on sale right the way through until 1 December. But, that’s not all. On top of those mega offers, we’ll also have our surprise Deal of the Day bargains, with epicness spanning whisky, gin and all manner of tastiness right up until Friday. Or actual Black Friday itself, as it’s otherwise known.

How to keep track of it all? Well, keep your eyes glued to our social channels and your inbox for the Deal of the Day deliciousness. Our Black Friday page is where you can keep up with all the action. But feeling a bit Black Fridayed out and CBA already? Here are our top 10 Black Friday bargains to save you rifling through them all, from whisky and gin to rum and beyond!

Aberlour A'Bunadh Batch 63 Black Friday

Aberlour A’Bunadh Batch 63 – sherried deliciousness!

Aberlour A’Bunadh Batch 63 – Was £79.80, NOW £64.80

An enormous sherry bomb, this cask-strength batch packs all the flavours you’d want from an Oloroso sherry-matured Scotch single malt – and more besides. Delicious stuff, and an absolute bang-for-buck dram at its Black Friday price.

Caol Ila 12 Year Old Black Friday

Caol Ila 12 Year Old – smoky delights!

Caol Ila 12 Year Old – Was £43.95, NOW £34.95

A dream of a dram from Islay’s magnificent Caol Ila distillery! It’s perhaps lighter and fresher than some of the core expressions, but don’t fear – there’s still that characteristic and oh-so-tasty waft of smoke. Great stuff. 

Darkness! Tobermory Heavily Peated 20 Year Old Oloroso Cask Finish Black Friday

Delicious Darkness!

Darkness! Tobermory Heavily Peated 20 Year Old Oloroso Cask Finish – Was £117.95, NOW £74.95

Bloody delicious stuff right here – with a whopping £43 off! Those folks at Darkness! took peated Tobermory single malt (usual, we know – not called Ledaig!) and popped it in a little, specially-coopered Oloroso sherry cask. Mega!

Colonel EH Taylor Small Batch Black Friday

Colonel EH Taylor Small Batch – awesome liquid Americana

Colonel EH Taylor Small Batch – Was £94.95, NOW £74.95

Delectable small-batch bourbon named after Colonel Edmund Haynes Taylor, who pioneered a load of production techniques in the 1800s that are still used today! If you’re an American whiskey fan, or know someone who is, snap this up with haste!

Midleton Method and Madness Single Grain Black Friday

There’s method to their madness

Midleton Method and Madness Single Grain – Was £43.75, NOW £38.75

A fun one from experimental Irish whiskey brand, Method and Madness! Take an Irish single grain, pop it in a virgin Spanish oak cask, and voila! Smooth, creamy, and delectably well-balanced. And at £38.75, it’s incredible value!

Aviation Gin Black Friday

Aviation Gin – a modern classic!

Aviation Gin – Was £31.95, NOW £26.95

One for the juniper lovers! A Ryan Reynolds-owned, Portland-made rye-based gin, that is perfect for cocktails – including its namesake Aviation serve. It’s crisp, precise, juniper-forward, and really rather tasty.

Estate-Foraged Gin - Shortcross (That Boutique-y Gin Company) Black Friday

Foraged gin!

Estate-Foraged Gin – Shortcross (That Boutique-y Gin Company) – Was £37.95, NOW £19.95

A gin bargain to end all bargains – snap up this berry-forward tipple for just £19.95! It’s delectably oily, and keeps a pleasing level of juniper throughout. An essential addition to the gin wardrobe for sure. 

Diamond (Port Mourant Still) 9 Year Old (That Boutique-y Rum Company) Black Friday

Double wooden pot still rum!

Diamond (Port Mourant Still) 9 Year Old (That Boutique-y Rum Company) – Was £49.95, NOW £24.95

Pretty much half off a genuinely incredible Guyanese rum? Yes please! This expression was made in Diamond’s Port Mourant the double wooden pot still – genuinely intriguing, and all-round awesome rum right here. 

You lot loved the Diamond 9 Year Old so much it is now sold out! You can check out more That Boutique-y Rum Company right here

Hine Rare VSOP Cognac Black Friday

Tasty stuff from Hine

Hine Rare VSOP Cognac – Was £46.30, NOW £41.30

A delectable blend of Grande (60%) and Petite Champagne Cognacs! It’s made with liquid aged for between six and 12 years, and it’s a smooth, velvety treat. We’re sharing the love with a fiver off this Black Friday!

Hennessy VS Black Friday

Hennessy VS is one of our top deals!

Hennessy VS – Was £31.45, NOW £27.45

A classic Cognac expression from the much-loved house of Hennessy. It’s made from as many as 40 different eaux-de-vie for a rounded, nutty, vanilla spice-led tipple. Top Cognac, with a whole load lopped of the price! 

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The Nightcap 22 November

This week on the Nightcap: The Macallan turns its distillery into a festive wonderland, register to vote and you’ll get a free drink, and stop worrying about your hangover: you’re…

This week on the Nightcap: The Macallan turns its distillery into a festive wonderland, register to vote and you’ll get a free drink, and stop worrying about your hangover: you’re only making it worse. 

We don’t know about you, but we’ve spent most of this week scavenging for firewood around the Master of Malt warehouse. At the first sign of a broken pallet out came the kindling vultures to squabble over scraps of pine and medium-density fibreboard to be hoarded and turned into life-giving heat later in the day. What a life! This is just a roundabout way of saying that it’s been properly cold this week. But it’s also the perfect weather to curl up by the fire with a dram of something rich and smooth, and revel in this week’s Nightcap. 

The blog went competition crazy this week with a chance to win tickets to see singer songwriter Jarrod Dickenson with Balcones whisky and with #WhiskySanta is giving away a bottle of Hennessy Paradis worth nearly £1,000. In non-competition news, our Jess tried The World Whisky Blend from That Boutique-y Whisky Company, and went to Seville to discover the Royal Salute 29 Year Old Pedro Ximénez. Meanwhile, Annie got acquainted with Dutch spirit genever, and spent five minutes with Dr Kirstie McCallum, the new head of whisky creation at Glen Moray. Adam tried a bourbon with a Japanese twist courtesy of Beam Suntory, and, clearly in a Kentucky frame of mind, spoke to Jackie Zykan, master taster for Old Forester. Kristy peered into her crystal ball to look at rum’s future with Lucy Cottrell from Dead Man’s Fingers; and Henry brought us news on the revival of Rosebank distillery and cooked up a hot cider cocktail to keep the cold out. 

That’s the week that was. On with The Nightcap!

Macallan60old

Some very rare Macallans like those in the Vietnamese collection

Whisky collection smashes record with £10m valuation

How much is your whisky collection worth? A few hundred quid? Maybe into the thousands? This week, Guinness World Records confirmed a Vietnamese collector was the delighted owner of the most valuable whisky collection in the world – weighing in at a mighty £10,770,635! The haul belongs to Mr Viet Nguyen Dinh Tuan of Ho Chi Minh City, and it was valued by the team at Rare Whisky 101. They reckon the figure could top £13,032,468, when you add on the 21% buyers’ premium if it was sold through a UK auctioneer. The collection features 535 bottles, including the only known complete Macallan Fine & Rare set, complete with three 1926 bottlings. Only forty were ever released! There are also 12 bottles of the oldest and most expensive Bowmore ever released (it fetched £300,000 at auction recently), and one of only 24 bottles of the 1919 vintage Springbank. Phew. Mr Viet has been building his collection for over 20 years. “For me, whisky collecting has been my life’s passion,” he says. “Every spare I moment I get, I’m searching auction sites and trading websites to find famous and rare whiskies from around the world. Clearly this requires a lot of patience and no shortage of tenacity, but I’m proud of my efforts. As for my collection, I have no intention of selling any of it. Not one bottle. In fact, I’ll continue to hunt for more old and rare bottles and add to and enrich it.” Wowzers!

Warehouse X Experiment 2 Barrels resize

“Careful Jed, it’s one of those experiential casks!”

Buffalo Trace Distillery completes second Warehouse X experiment

Cask ageing is still a perplexing business, but the team at the Buffalo Trace Distillery is attempting to break the process down using the specially-designed and mysteriously-monikered Warehouse X. The second experiment at the facility, which began in 2016, has just been completed. It focused on how temperature affects the ageing process. The warehouse’s four chambers were used to determine how barrel activity correlates with temperature changes, keeping two chambers constant and varying the other two chambers and leaving the breezeway unchanged. Buffalo Trace tracked temperature fluctuations, monitored barrel pressures and collected a total of 9.1 million data points. As a result, the distillery was able to confirm how temperature affects pressure, colour and flavour over a period of three years. After leaving Warehouse X, the barrels were rolled into a traditional warehouse to continue ageing, as was done with the first experiment. Built in 2013, Warehouse X was created to study the many variables that affect the bourbon maturation process, and Buffalo Trace is now almost a third of the way through a 20-year project to monitor numerous atmospheric elements, including natural light, temperature, humidity and air flow. The first experiment, which ended in 2016, focused on natural light. The next two-year experiment will begin soon to expand on the most recent findings, focusing on how temperature swings affect whiskey activity in the barrel. We’re intrigued to see what they find.

It’s David C. Stewart or DCS to his friends

The Balvenie unveils final DCS Compendium instalment

In brilliant but bittersweet news, Chapter Five of The Balvenie DCS Compendium has been unveiled. Why bittersweet? Because it’s the last of the series, so for one final time we all have the opportunity to gaze longingly at five unique and intriguing single-cask Balvenie expressions that none of us will ever taste. Titled ‘Malt Master’s Indulgence’, the rare vintages were selected by David C. Stewart MBE (hence DCS) for their significance to his career. Aged between 16 and 56 years, the selection includes The Balvenie’s oldest-ever bottling, the fragrant and sweet 1962 expression taken from a European oak oloroso hogshead, which commemorates Stewart’s very first year at the distillery. The longest-serving malt master in the whisky industry, who started the role back in 1974, commented on Chapter Five: “It takes a good deal of time to understand how each cask differs and how whisky maturation is affected by various wood types. You need confidence to select casks and know which are likely to achieve greatness. Working for a family company, I’ve been lucky enough to have been given the freedom to make stock decisions based on my preference and vision, with the free rein to pick casks and hold on to whisky, not always knowing what I’m going to do with it, for no other reason than thinking one day it will be extraordinary. For me, this is indulgence in its truest form.” As with past Chapters, Chapter Five is presented in a handcrafted, individually-numbered frame, with just 50 sets available worldwide. It also features The Balvenie DCS Compendium book depicting rare archive imagery from the distillery, along with information on each of the five chapters, which documents Stewart’s thought process in curating the Compendium. The Balvenie is also planning a series of celebratory events throughout 2020 to mark the completion of the project.

£2500 and you have to bottle it yourself.

Bottle your own 40-year-old at Aberfeldy Distillery

Heading up to the charming Aberfeldy Distillery? You can now hand-bottle the delightful Aberfeldy 40 Years Old! Directly from the cask. In the warehouse. Yes, that’s the oldest whisky the Highland whisky-makers have released to date. If that doesn’t get you excited, nothing will. In total, three single cask editions will be launched, all of which were first filled on 22nd August 1978 and matured in American oak, ex-bourbon hogsheads. “To find one cask at this venerable age, is extraordinary but to find three, is exceptional. Just think of the four decades of history these casks have slumbered through,” said malt master Stephanie Macleod. “The single cask is something that we at Aberfeldy bottle rarely – to have the honour of filling your very own bottle of our oldest and most exclusive whisky yet, is a truly special opportunity. The golden hallmarks of the distillery are evident; beautifully-balanced, elegant and well-mannered with peerless texture, perfectly expressed by these 40-year-old bottlings.” The whisky will be on sale for £2,500 a bottle, exclusively from the Aberfeldy Distillery.

Just some of the mouth-watering rums drunk on World Foursquare Day at Trailer Happiness in London

Barbados distillery honoured with inaugural World Foursquare Day

Rum lovers of London descended on Trailer Happiness in Notting Hill last Sunday (17 November) for the inaugural World Foursquare Day. The day was the idea of Facebook group Foursquare Rum Appreciation Society to celebrate the much-loved Barbados distillery. According to Foursquare brand ambassador Peter Holland, they chose 17 November because it “was the day that Foursquare Distillery and Heritage Park was officially opened by Sir David Seale [father of the owner, Richard], and the Prime Minister of Barbados Mr. Owen S. Arthur in 1996.” Holland organised the London event; there were rum cocktails, bottles from Holland’s own collection (including the ultra-rare Foursquare Triptych), and even a surprise appearance from the Seales themselves. There was also a well-attended event in Milton Keynes. Holland told us: “Next year, I think we will look to grow the event, and, perhaps in conjunction with the UK importers, see if we can get a few more bars involved across the UK. Increase the celebration, but try not to make it crass and commercial.” So put 17 November 2020 in your diary now.

Annabel Meikle, one of the judges at the Spirit of Speyside Awards

Top whiskies shortlisted for Spirit of Speyside Awards

Awards and whisky go together like bread and butter, and Speyside is about to get its fair share! Eight Speyside single malts have been shortlisted as finalists in the international Spirit of Speyside Whisky Awards. The initial judging process took place earlier this month in the heart of Speyside (well, where else could it be?), where a panel of leading whisky experts carried out a blind tasting of 41 entries. A tough job, but somebody’s got to do it. However, it’s not the experts who get the final say. The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Awards are the only industry awards in the world to give consumers the final vote. Over the next six months, the two finalists in each category will be put forward for judging by whisky drinkers all over the place, from the UK and Europe to India and Canada. Spanning four categories, this year’s finalists are Aberlour 10 Year Old and Cardhu 12 Year Old, Benromach 15 Year Old and Glenallachie 15 Year Old, Glenfiddich Grand Cru 23 Year Old and Glenfarclas 25 Year Old, and finally Tamnavulin Sherry Cask Edition and Cardhu Amber Rock. “It was almost impossible to pick just two finalists in each Awards category this year – the standard of whisky produced here in Speyside by our local craftsmen and women is truly exceptional,” said James Campbell, Chairman at The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival. “We’re very much looking forward to opening up the judging to consumers over the next six months before celebrating the winners at what we believe is the finest whisky festival in the world.” You’ll have to wait a few months for the results, as the category winners will be announced at the opening of the 2020 Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival in late April.

Fairy lights from Robert Dyas at The Macallan

The Macallan Distillery goes festive

The team at the Macallan are pulling out all the stops to turn the award-winning distillery into a festive wonderland this Christmas. As you’d expect from such a luxury brand, this will be a little more lavish than neon Santas, plastic holly, and M&S mince pies. Instead, the decorations have been inspired by the character of the single malt with golden acorns, dried berries and a palette of sienna, gold, copper and black, colours traditionally associated with The Macallan”, no less. At the centre will be a “towering” 15 ft Christmas tree. But that’s not all. There will also be a special Christmas menu in the restaurant, seasonal Macallan cocktails like the Speyside Flip and the Clootie to be sipped, and a special after-hours dinner on Thursday 5 December. Stuart Cassells, general manager, commented: “We are incredibly proud of the success our new distillery experience has enjoyed since opening 18 months ago. But we want to be more than a fantastic visitor attraction. Our ambition is to become a key Speyside destination, a place where people from the local community and further afield want to return to again and again. We’re extremely excited about the exclusive experiences we are offering, from unique gifting options to our new brasserie and bar menus. We hope to attract visitors old and new and look forward to providing a warm welcome to The Macallan Estate this festive season.” Sounds magnificent, though we’d have been just as happy with M&S mince pies as long as there was some Macallan to wash them down with. Don’t tell #WhiskySanta…

Remember kids, don’t drink and vote

Free drink if you register to vote

Here’s a good way to combat voter apathy (and we are being asked to vote a lot more than normal). A free drink when you vote. Brilliant! Why did no one think of this before? Well, of course they did. In elections past, unscrupulous politicians would ply the electorate with booze to get them to vote the ‘right’ way. But this new initiative from the Lollipop group of venues around London, is not trying to corrupt, just get people to vote. Simply turn up at a Lollipop bar, like Journey on the King’s Road or Dear Sunny in Hackney, prove that you have registered to vote before 26 November (the closing date), and a free drink will be yours (full details and list of venues here).  Founder Seb Lyall had this to say: “We know how important it is for people of all ages and backgrounds to get out there and vote on December 12. These elections will have a significant impact on our industry and we want as wide a group of voices to be heard as possible.” Make sure, however, that you vote sober, or you never know who we might end up with.

We could be saying, ‘goodbye Joe to baijiu” (sorry)

Are we heading for a baijiu shortage?

Kweichow Moutai is one of the biggest baijiu brands on the planet – and this week, at its overseas distributors conference, the company suggested that the Chinese spirit is gaining such a following internationally that stock shortages are becoming a reality for the first time. “It’s one of the most significant changes we have seen in overseas markets since Moutai rebounded in the domestic market in 2016,” said Moutai Group chairman and party committee secretary Li Baofang. Baijiu is the most consumed spirit category in the world, although the vast, vast majority is drunk in China. This looks to be slowly shifting though – and from 2017-18, we saw a 650% uptick in sales here at MoM Towers, albeit from a teeny base. Keep an eye out for more baijiu in 2020 – if international supply can keep up with demand!

Don’t worry, be happy

And Finally… Worrying about your hangover ‘makes it worse’

We’re all about responsible drinking here at MoM Towers. Remember – sip, don’t gulp! But sometimes, a little overindulgence can happen. And new research from the University of Salford this week appears to confirm something we’ve had a little inkling about: worrying about a hangover makes it worse. It’s all linked to whether someone is likely to “catastrophise pain” or not. What’s that, we asked. Apparently it’s when you worry too much about the threat of pain, which makes you feel like you can’t manage it, and then dwell on how much something hurts. 86 people ages from 18 to 46 were quizzed about a recent time they’d had a drink (more gulping than sipping. Just don’t). The results showed a “significant relationship” between all that catastrophising and the severity of the hangover. Turns out there are actual dehydrated-related symptoms, but also stress-related ones, too – and the stress ones were more likely to get on that catastrophising. “These findings suggest the importance of cognitive coping strategies in how people experience hangovers after drinking alcohol,” said lead researcher, Sam Royle. “This may have implications in understanding behavioural responses to hangovers, and also for addiction research.” Good work, Sam. But the best way to avoid that hangover? Keep the booze consumption sensible in the first place! 

And with that in mind… Happy weekend, folks!

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We taste the new Royal Salute 29 Year Old Pedro Ximénez cask finish in Seville

Royal Salute is back with another exciting new release! To celebrate the new 29 Year Old Pedro Ximénez cask finish, we headed to Seville with master blender Sandy Hyslop and…

Royal Salute is back with another exciting new release! To celebrate the new 29 Year Old Pedro Ximénez cask finish, we headed to Seville with master blender Sandy Hyslop and creative advisor Barnabé Fillion to learn all about the history and processes behind the blend.

“I think we’ve been pretty humble with Royal Salute for years and years,” Sandy Hyslop tells me. His pride is evident and, after a few days in Seville learning all about the brand, I can see why. It’s the only whisky brand which has consistently has a 21 year old expression since its origins in 1953, which is also the youngest blend in the brand’s portfolio. Royal Salute was first created as a gift for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, the inspiration for the latest release, a 29 Year Old blended malt finished in Pedro Ximénez casks, came from the Queen’s first royal visit to Spain in 1988, hence the sherry wood. Rather appropriately, the new expression is presented in a deep red ornate porcelain bottle, rather than the blue we’ve seen before. 

royal salute 29 year old

The Royal Salute 29 Year Old PX finish, in all its glory!

The whisky

This is a first for Royal Salute, which hasn’t finished a whisky exclusively in sherry casks before. “With this release, we’ve done everything as it should be done,” says Hyslop. The blend was finished in sherry casks for 18 months or so, though the processes to source the casks began around four years before the whisky entered the wood. The casks used for this expression are custom-made from Spanish oak to hold Royal Salute. PX is so viscous that if it’s filled straight into new oak, it won’t be able to permeate the wood. So, after the cask has been dried for around 18 months, it’s first filled with Oloroso sherry for two years to prep it for the PX. Hyslop and Fillion even popped over to Spain to choose exactly which PX they wanted.

Royal Salute 29 Year Old

The Ave Maria orange grove, not a bad spot for lunch…

We make our way to the Ave Maria orange grove just outside of Seville. Wandering through the orange trees and scent of orange blossom, we come to a clearing that is to be where we have lunch. Next to a glass of the 29 Year Old there is an incredibly dark, viscous liquid, revealed to be the PX sherry used to season the whisky casks. No wonder they chose this one: it’s like nectar, dried fruits galore, choc full of cherries and liquorice. There are murmurs around the table, many people are saying that this has converted them to sherry, and that they can’t wait to try some when they get back home. Hyslop later tells me, “they’re going to be so disappointed.” This PX is over and above exceptional.

Royal Salute 29 Year Old

Sandy Hyslop tasting us through the awesome PX sherry.

Then it’s time to try the whisky. “The first time, seven years ago that I tried Royal Salute, Seville orange was the first thing I picked up,” Fillion tells me. What better spot to try the whisky than here? On the nose, there is indeed that classic Royal Salute chunky orange marmalade, along with sandalwood, treacle toffee, ginger spice, liquorice and loads of plump sultanas. It’s incredibly rich and complex on the palate, and tried next to the PX, the sherry influence shines. There’s plum, honey, dark chocolate-coated almonds, and more treacle toffee. Vanilla and syrupy fruits appear, with prickles of spice around the edge. The finish just goes on and on, taking an age to disappear thanks to the use of top quality casks. 

Royal Salute 29 Year Old

Barnabé Fillion and some Seville orange. On the nose of the whisky, on the trees, it’s everywhere!

Olfactory 

“A 29 Year Old in a sherry cask… It was a dream for me,” professional nose Barnabé Fillion tells me. Fillion has been in the perfume business for most of his adult life, having created scents for brands like Aesop while also working as an independent perfumer, joining Royal Salute as creative advisor for the brand in 2016. Evening draws in, and a sensory dinner (which is really more of a banquet) hosted by Fillion awaits us for our final evening in Seville. He begins by telling us the 95% of your sensory experience comes from your nose; now there’s no excuse for not nosing your whisky first. He wants to flood our senses, giving us new experiences and olfactory memories. “You may end up feeling a bit overwhelmed, but this is sort of the point,” Fillion says. To help us dissect the nose of the 29 Year Old, Fillion has deconstructed it scent by scent. Various oils are dipped onto paper, there’s incense, and some scents are presented on 3D printed ceramic, which more accurately replicates how a scent appears on your skin.

Royal Salute 29 Year Old

Incense, flowers and whisky – Fillion’s sensory dinners have it all!

Sandalwood incense is passed around the table, leaving a trail of aromatic smoke, as well as sandalwood oil, which has an almost milky scent while still remaining dry. Then there’s the rare scent of vanilla orchid, which is creamy and intensely floral. Then, vanilla extract obtained through Co2 extraction comes around, which captures it in its purest form, and at first nobody is quite sure what it is. Usually vanilla is associated with sweetness, though this is so earthy and raw. The point of this is to pick up these subtle notes in the whisky, which we have to nose alongside these various scents. 

If you were to hold your nose while eating or drinking something, then you wouldn’t be able to taste anything. It’s why having a cold is totally rubbish. So, scent has a huge impact on our taste, and they are completely intertwined. Having said that, smell and olfactory is pretty subjective as it relies on your past experiences, smells and memories. So how does somebody like Fillion ensure that each person gets the same experience out of a certain scent? Well… he doesn’t. “I don’t want to standardise your experience, I don’t even want to guide it,” Fillion tells me. “I just want to plant some little seeds that will make your tasting even more interesting.” For Fillion, the whole idea of this olfactory is to “celebrate your subjectivity and life experience,” and give us the vocabulary to describe our sensory experience, rather than create it.

Royal Salute 29 Year Old

Hyslop and Fillion, the dream team!

What’s next?

“I think this is a bit of a golden period for us,” Hyslop tells me, referring to the explosion of new releases for the brand. Throughout his tenure Hyslop has made history, bringing three new expressions into the range where only one stood before for decades, with the Malts Blend and Lost Blend released earlier this year, and now the 29 Year Old. He’s not done yet either, and is now laying down casks that he will never see come to fruition, the responsibility of future stock on his shoulders. So, what’s next for the brand? Quite simply, more experimentation, namely in the form of cask finishes. “We need to start saying, ‘this is what else we can do’,” says Hyslop. “If we want to do Port, we’ll try and do Port.” Of course, whatever cask finish comes next will go through the same rigorous process to seek perfection. “Consumers want different things now,” Hyslop continues. “If it’s not right, we’re not doing it.” That in itself sums up why Royal Salute has had such success, as well as only a small handful of core releases throughout its 66 years.

Keep an eye on our New Arrivals page for Royal Salute 29 Year Old PX finish!

Royal Salute 29 Year Old

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Five things to look for in rum in 2020

Will 2020 really be rum’s time to shine? We’ve got a hunch it just might be – and so does Lucy Cottrell, brand manager for Dead Man’s Fingers. Here’s her…

Will 2020 really be rum’s time to shine? We’ve got a hunch it just might be – and so does Lucy Cottrell, brand manager for Dead Man’s Fingers. Here’s her hot takes for the year to come in rum.

It’s official: rum is on the up. It’s a sprawling category, defined, perhaps more than anything else, by its immense flavour and aroma spectrum. From fun, lively, often sweet, spiced and flavoured bottlings, to seriously delicious, highly luxurious, oak-aged sippers that challenge the status of even the fanciest of Scotch whiskies, there literally is a rum for everyone. And it seems we’re collectively waking up to the tastiness: volume sales here at MoM Towers have soared by a whopping 55% year-on-year. 

Someone else looking to harness our collective hankering for the wonder that is rum is Lucy Cottrell, the brand manager for Dead Man’s Fingers. The Halewood-owned brand has had a stellar year itself, not only launching its latest flavour expression, Hemp Rum, but opening a brand new distillery, too. The Bath & Bristol Distillery will predominantly focus on rum, giving rum geeks and bartenders alike the kind of experience you’d usually have to travel to the Caribbean for. 

“It’s not just looking ahead to 2020; 2019 already is a huge milestone for the growth of the rum category,” Cottrell told me over the phone shortly after the distillery opened its doors in October. With that in mind, and after years and years of being told now is rum’s time, has the category really stepped forward? Here are her top five reasons we’ll all be looking to rum in 2020.

It’s Lucy Cottrell

Rum in 2020: It’s no longer about just white rum

Mojitos, Daiquiris, Punches, or simply with cola, white rum has, in recent history at least, owned the mixed drink space. Gold and dark styles just… didn’t quite work. Maybe we were just all used to clear spirits in drinks after vodka’s 90s heyday. But things are changing – and there’s been a collective realisation that there’s more to rum. “In terms of the on-trade, after gin, rum is the fastest growing category at 7% growth,” Cottrell outlines. “Then in the off-trade, flavoured and spiced rums are up 8% in volume and value, and are now bigger than white rum in the off-trade. What we’ve seen over the last few years is this real evolution of consumer perception, from rum being just white rum to now being much more diverse. I really think it’s a big milestone in a category that flavoured and spiced rum has now overtaken the value of white rum.”

More than just Mojitos: rum cocktails of all sorts are coming to the fore

Rum cocktails are stirring up interest

Cottrell reckons that cocktails in general have a lot to answer for when it comes to this new-wave rum boom. “If you look at the top 10 mainstream cocktails in the on-trade, four of them contain rum, and only two contain gin [CGA data],” she says. “We hear non-stop about gin, and obviously it’s huge, but when you go back to the bare bones of cocktails, rum is inherent. It’s been there for a long time, it’s arguably the most versatile spirit of all, and as the brand manager on a rum, I was super happy to read that [data]. It’s very much a staple ingredient.” Forget rum in 2020, it’s here already!

Sweet and bitter drinks will lead the way

Our palates are shifting in two seemingly incompatible directions, Cottrell says, and rum can bridge the gap between both. “We’re almost seeing a polarisation in terms of trends within drinks,” she muses. “We’re seeing the success of very sweet drinks; the number one cocktail in the UK is the Porn Star Martini, and look at the number of sweeter profile gins. But then we’re also seeing the rise of more bitter serves, so Aperol, Campari, and even in soft drinks you’ve got vitamin shots, kombucha. They’re very different, but equally both are really growing.” She adds that rum’s established reputation is for slightly sweet serves, and sweetness levels can be dialled up even further. But some flavoured rums, like Dead Man’s Fingers Hemp Rum, can help in the other direction, too. “We have something with a slightly more bitter profile, a bit more complex.” Can we expect rum in 2020 to follow a similar pattern?

At the Dead Man’s Fingers Hemp Rum launch

Expect more flavoured and spiced expressions

The short answer to that question is yes! “We’re seeing statistics that show from a consumer point of view, a quarter of rum drinkers are disappointed with the lack of choice, and that’s actually the highest out of all spirits categories,” Cottrell continues. “There’s evidently a gap in the market.” She says it’s clear from the gin boom, and flavoured vodka before that, that we’re an experimental bunch and happy to try different flavour combinations. “So why aren’t dark spirits categories doing that to attract new and slightly younger consumers?” It’s not just in booze that we’re seeing the demand for new flavours. “Ten years ago, you could only get three or four cuisines from a supermarket. Now you can get such a variety,” she says. “Consumers’ palates are changing as well as their expectations, so there’s a wider confidence piece – they want to explore and try new things.” For rum in 2020, expect a lot more in this space. 

Inside the Bath & Bristol Distillery

Get set for a host of rum experiences

It’s not just flavour experiences: we want hands-on, drinks adventures, too! In the same way that pop-ups, blend-your-own workshops, schools and distillery visits for gin have hit the mainstream, 2020 should see rum come to the fore IRL, too. This is something Halewood definitely has its eye on. “As a business we understand the importance of white spirits, but also that trends come and go, and that we need to start investing in dark spirits,” Cottrell states. “You’ll be aware that we’re building a whisky distillery in Leith, for Crabbie Whisky, we’re building a distillery in North Wales at Aber Falls, and The Bath & Bristol Distillery is kind of the third prong to that in terms of investing in dark spirits. Because of the geographical challenge with rum mostly being made in the Caribbean, you can’t just pop over and make your own rum like you can with gin. This is a bit of a hybrid solution for us that gives us the opportunity to educate people about how rum is made, and also get them involved and become almost advocates for it as well, because rum is still very much misunderstood.” A distillery to visit that will result in an army of rum ambassadors? Sign us up!

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Creating Legent: a blend of Beam and Suntory

It’s not every day that you get to sit down with the master distiller of Jim Beam and the fifth-ever chief blender at House of Suntory. But that’s exactly what…

It’s not every day that you get to sit down with the master distiller of Jim Beam and the fifth-ever chief blender at House of Suntory. But that’s exactly what we did to discuss the launch of the innovative Legent whiskey with the legendary Fred Noe and Shinji Fukuyo.

When Beam and Suntory merged in 2014, it was fairly obvious that it mean the two enormous whiskey brands would do a fair amount of collaboration. You could expect to see an exchange of casks, for example,  and the sharing of expertise. Perhaps even a nice bottling of something exotic as a Christmas bonus.

What nobody predicted was the creation of the first-ever bourbon-Japanese whiskey crossover, which is what we got in March 2019 when Legent (pronounced ‘lee-gent’) debuted. It’s been billed as a genuine first-of-its-kind product, a combination of styles that has essentially created a new, and as of yet, undefined category. It’s the first new standalone bourbon brand to come from the company in 27 years: a blended bourbon that’s brought together East and West, as well as two masters of their art, Fred Noe (the great-grandson of Jim Beam) and Shinji Fukuyo. 

“Shinji and I were tasked to work together to create a product that would combine bourbon-making and blending by the senior leadership of the company. We were trying to bring the two cultures together. We put our heads together and that’s how it got started,” says Noe. “Bringing our company together, bringing East and West together was a very important thing as we’re one big family now from all over the world. We’re lucky we can do it within that one Beam Suntory family. 

Legent

Fred Noe and Shinji Fukuyo

Legent was created using one of Noe’s historic recipes, a mashbill of corn, rye and malted barley that is initially matured in charred virgin white oak for four years. Portions of this aged Kentucky straight bourbon are then finished in California red wine casks (for approximately one extra year) and sherry casks (for approximately two extra years), and the three are finally blended by Fukuyo. “From my experiences, the wine cask finish gives a sweeter profile and the sherry cask finish gives it a tannic element and spice. These were the flavours and aromas that weren’t necessarily in the base bourbon itself, so I thought it would probably be a good combination,” says Fukuyo. 

It’s an experimental process that many will have never seen the like of before, but, as Noe points out himself, the profile of Legent is still bourbon-forward. “The big thing was we didn’t want to change the bourbon, we just wanted to add to it and take it to another level. What it’s done really is it adds more layers to the aroma and the finish when you taste it. So it’s a labour of our love and it was fun to take bourbon in different places,” says Noe. 

It might sound as if this bottling is more Beam than Suntory, but it’s worth noting that Noe and Fukuyo very much see each other as equals and are keen to heap praise on the other. For Noe, it was a thrill to witness the master blender at work. “There was a lot of art that Shinji brings to blending to Kentucky, taking different liquid streams and bringing them together. We’ve done some finishing before, but we’ve never finished and then blended those finished liquids together. That’s kind of a new technique for us in Kentucky,” says Noe. 

Legent

Legent was created through the shared knowledge across whisky styles and nations

For the immensely modest Fukuyo, the joy was learning first-hand the production process of a style of whiskey he was less acquainted with. “I had to learn what bourbon whiskey really is. Japanese whisky was inspired by Scotch whisky, so we are very familiar with Scottish production, but not so familiar with bourbon itself,” explains Fukuyo. The climate of Kentucky was also a learning curve. “After the first summer, I was so surprised by the progress. We had to so be careful with our observations of what was happening during the finishing process.”

The duo present a united front when together and the mutual respect is palpable. When discussing what challenges arose during the collaboration, the two are honest in admitting that initially it took time for them to be working from the same page. Fukuyo’s English is outstanding. Noe concedes his Japanese could do with some work. But these guys have been in this game a long time. The respective knowledge of the craft was always going to shine through eventually. “We figured it out through the language of whiskey,” says Noe. “You could tell when we were getting closer and when we were getting farther away, just by the look in each other’s eyes. You know you don’t have to talk a lot of times to know if you’re going in the right direction or not. There was a lot of trial and error”.

Noe and Fukuyo are aware that Legent represents a risk. But the early signs are very much that it was one worth taking. The reception it’s received excites them both. “It was really cool and to watch people experience it for the first time. Especially with people who were very sceptical. We gave them a little pour, and then they would look at their friends and say ‘Oh, that’s pretty good!’ It’s great to know there’s more of that to come because we’re just getting it out there and more and more people are discovering it,” says Noe. “It worked. We did something right.” 

Legent

It’s rare to see two masters of their craft come together like this

So, what collaborations can we expect in future? Will Fukuyo bring something more Japanese whisky-based to the table? Will the duo continue to experiment with the Legent brand? They’re surprisingly forthright. “Well Legent is a stand-alone, but will we collaborate more? I’m sure we will. We’ll come up with something new.” says Noe.  “We enjoyed working together. Who knows, we may bring some of our other compadres in from one of our other distilleries or my son as he’s taking over from me, he’s the future of the bourbon side of our company. I’m sure going down the road Shinji and Freddie (Noe’s son) will have a long career together creating great whiskies for the world, and I’m sure other folks in the industry will be doing things similar if this product is successful.”

It’s interesting to consider the implications of Legent. Noe is right, if this continues on its promising path then it’s surely only a matter of time before we see more innovations like this. It’s also interesting to see this level of collaboration involving a major figure from Japan’s whisky industry, which is notoriously siloed. Given that Japanese whisky is becoming increasingly expensive and rare, perhaps this kind of project offers one solution for ensuring Japanese expertise remains well-represented.

Legent may well then be an indication of what’s to come. It was only a matter of time before the multinational companies that dominate the industry would bring  together the depth of resources and expertise at their fingertips. Noe recognises the strength of Beam Suntory’s position: “With all the different spirits we produce in all different parts of the world, we can all come together and use products that are from within our family. Other bourbon producers would have to go outside of their company to be able to do something like this. We’re the only bourbon producer that has ties to Japan, Cognac, Irish whiskey, Scotch whisky, Canadian whisky, tequila, rum, and all of us are very passionate about what we make,” he says. “But not only are we creating a new product, but each process like fermentation, distillation, maturation – we can share that information with each other and influence each other, which leads to progress,”  adds Fukuyo. 

Legent

Legent could have interesting implications for the industry

But for now, only one big question remains: how does Legent taste? Is this the result of a welcome marriage of meticulous Japanese blending and traditional Kentucky bourbon-making, or a marketing-laden gimmick that’s best avoided? It’s certainly not like a bourbon I’ve ever tasted. But it works. Very well, in fact. It’s quite lovely. Its success is that it hasn’t shoe-horned two styles together in a vague attempt to seem complex or innovative. This doesn’t taste as if Jim Beam bourbon was lazily chucked into a Yamazaki cask or like some concoction made by a mad scientist who distilled KFC and green tea together. Legent has subtly, character and a profile that suggests that a good Old Fashioned is very much on the cards. In fact, the brand has put together some interesting cocktail recipes, including the Kentucky Kyushiki a twist on the aforementioned classic serve.  

The cask influence might frustrate those who want big notes typical of wine and sherry casks, but personally I enjoyed the delicate manner in which these elements present themselves. The balance is very impressive, it’s rich, spicy, creamy and bold and none of those characteristics overwhelms the other. I wanted another glass, which is really the only compliment any good whisky needs.  

Legent

Legent bourbon

Legent Tasting Note:

Nose: Plenty of classic bourbon character is at the forefront of the nose but the cask influence adds balance and depth. Brown sugar, toasted almonds, jammy fruits, butterscotch, vanilla and orange peel combine initially, with delicate warmth and spice provided from ginger root underneath. A hint of Pinot Noir and stewed black cherry emerge as the nose develops, with milk chocolate, sandalwood and hints of leather.

Palate: An initially deliciously silky delivery leads with rich caramel, floral notes and a suggestion of marmalade before chewy rye spice initially makes things more complex among savoury notes of roasted peanuts and a slightly bitter quality from charred wood, coffee beans and unsweetened dark chocolate. Dark cherry jam and stewed plums then burst through adding vibrant fruitiness alongside the sweetness of vanilla, cake batter, muscovado sugar and a hint of cola. Warmth from freshly-ground black pepper is present in the backdrop.  

Finish: Chocolate-covered cherries, black fruits, sugary cereals (Sugar Puffs, mostly) and a hint of liquorice fade ever so gradually; while the nutmeg and oak spices play about for longer.

Overall: In all the intrigue and innovation, Noe and Fukuyo clearly didn’t forget that the most important thing to ensure about Legent is that it’s delicious. Which it is. Very much so. 

Legent will be available at MoM Towers soon.

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Cocktail of the Week: Spiced Hot Apple Punch

Brrrrr, it’s freezing! At least it is around MoM HQ. So this week we thought we’d make something to warm you up, a hot Spiced Apple Punch spiked with some…

Brrrrr, it’s freezing! At least it is around MoM HQ. So this week we thought we’d make something to warm you up, a hot Spiced Apple Punch spiked with some WhistlePig Rye. If that won’t keep out the cold, then you need a new coat.

Hands up who likes mulled wine? I mean really likes mulled wine. Yes, when made properly it can be a fine thing but it’s usually much too sweet, made with terrible wine and over-boiled so that it loses its alcohol and the spices have turned bitter. Not very nice. Hot cider is much more my cup of tea. Partly because if someone is serving you a mulled cider, it is usually a sign that they have put some thought into it.

My wife, who is American, introduced me to the joys of hot cider. It’s something of a holiday season tradition over there. Beginning with Halloween and taking in Thanksgiving and going up until Christmas, in the colder states there will always be hot cider on offer. But it’s not exactly what it sounds like because in the US cider means apple juice, if you want proper cider you have to ask for hard cider. The recipe my wife makes involves taking lots of apple juice, good quality cloudy stuff, and mulling it gently with lots of spices, fruit juice, etc, and then adding alcohol in the form of bourbon or rum at the end. She also adds butter which sounds a bit mad but it gives the cider a lovely creamy quality. 

What’s more fun though, is to use proper honest-to-god English cider. The stuff that contains real booze and then spike it at the end for added merriment. The big question is what cider to use. It’s sad but true that cider in this country is often a pale imitation of the real thing. To be legally called cider you only need to have 35% apple content, the rest can be sugar, water and flavourings. And that 35% can be concentrate made from apples grown anywhere. You’ll be very lucky if your cider contains any English fruit. Of the widely available brands, Old Rosie from Westons, Dunkertons and Orchard Pig are all good. If you’re lucky enough to live in a cider producing part of the country like the West Country or Kent, visit your local ciderist. And please avoid flavoured ciders which are essentially alcopops.

Whistlepig-Autumn-JustinDeSouza-1

Couple of these will keep the cold out

The recipe below is an approximation. It will depend on how sweet your cider is. The most important thing is don’t boil it or it will become bitter and lose alcohol. And finally don’t forget the pièce de résistance, a good slug of Whistlepig 10 Year Old Rye Whiskey. 

It’s time to get mulling. Here’s what you need:

3 litres of good quality cider

150ml (or more) WhistlePig 10 Year Straight Rye
Juice of 3 lemons
Juice of 3 oranges
1 tablespoon of orange zest
½ tablespoon of lemon zest
1 tablespoon of sugar
6 cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1 knob of butter

Put all the ingredients except the whiskey and the butter in a large saucepan. Simmer gently for 30 minutes. Do not boil. Taste, it might need some more sugar. Leave to infuse for as long as you can. Gently reheat. Add the butter and the whisky. Serve in Toddy or wine glasses, garnish with an orange slice and a cinnamon stick to use as a stirrer.

 

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Five minutes with… Dr Kirstie McCallum, head of whisky creation at Glen Moray

At the end of October, Glen Moray announced industry legend Dr Kirstie McCallum as its head of whisky creation – a brand new role that encompasses the Speyside distillery’s production operation…

At the end of October, Glen Moray announced industry legend Dr Kirstie McCallum as its head of whisky creation – a brand new role that encompasses the Speyside distillery’s production operation and its vast existing stocks. We caught up with Dr McCallum as she acquaints herself with an eye-watering number of casks..

As a senior blender at Distell International, for the last three years McCallum has been responsible for Bunnahabhain, Deanston and Tobermory as well as the company’s blended whiskies (think Three Ships, Scottish Leader, Black Bottle…). A cracking CV, you’ll agree. Her new role sees her take the reins from master distiller Graham Coull, who oversaw the expansion of the distillery in 2012.

The appointment is huge news for the Elgin-based distillery, which celebrated its 120th anniversary in 2017, and the team are understandably stoked. “We are very much looking forward to this next chapter in the long history of Glen Moray and look forward to learning from Kirstie’s extensive knowledge and experience across a wide spectrum of the industry,” Glen Turner general manager, Ian McLaren, said in a press release.

Glen Turner isn’t a typo, by the way. It’s the operations company for the wider La Martiniquaise-Bardinet whisky portfolio – Glen Moray’s parent company – located in Bathgate near Edinburgh. In fact, as part of her new role, McCallum is at the helm of their blended whisky portfolio, which includes Cutty Sark, Label 5 and Sir Edward’s. Here’s what she’s been up to so far…

Glen Moray

Perks of the the job

MoM: Huge congrats on the role, Kirstie! Tell us, where did it all start for you – how long have you been distilling and blending, and what made you choose it as a career?

Kirstie McCallum: Coming up to 20 years now, I’m a chemist by qualification and when I left university I was offered a temporary position in a distillery. I fell in love with the industry and I’ve not left since.

MoM: We can understand why – working in whisky sounds like the dream! What’s your favourite part of the job?

KMcC: It has to be the creating process. Blending is my main love, looking at different casks, different flavours, putting things together. You know the character you’re looking for, and you have an idea of what your inventory is, so it’s about deciding what to use out of those stocks to get there. And when you get something that tastes absolutely amazing and you go about sharing it with everybody. I like the fact that what you produce goes out [into the world], people drink it and they can tell you what they think of it. 

MoM: You’ve taken on the newly-created role of head of whisky creation. What does that mean on a day-to-day basis?

KMcC: Right now I’m going through the inventory to see what treats we have in cask – what kinds of whiskies, what the characters are, looking at how we could go forward, different editions, bits and pieces like that. I’m like a kid in a sweet shop running around taking samples and trying things. 

Kirstie McCallum

Kirstie McCallum tasting casks, only another 729,999 to go

Mom: Glen Moray has released some interesting cask finishes in the past – what can you tell us about the inventory?

KMcC: We’re very fortunate that we have got a lot of good wood, and a lot of good casks maturing in the warehouses. I’m pretty sure there’s more than 30,000 [casks] up at Glen Moray, and at Bathgate we’ve got over 700,000, so there’s a lot. Graham has done a lot of experimental casks in the past which are sitting there just waiting to be found, and we’ve got some absolutely beautiful bourbon and sherry casks too. 

MoM: Graham was Glen Moray’s master distiller for 14 years, which is a long time to be laying down liquid. How do you hope to put your own stamp on production?

KMcC: I’ve got a few ideas, but I should probably talk to Glen Moray about them first!

MoM: The suspense! We’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime, what’s on the agenda for 2020 – what projects are you working towards?

KMcC: We’re working on quite a few things at the moment – different expressions for Glen Moray, but also looking at what we can do with all the brands. How we can extend them and make them bigger and better.

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