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Master of Malt Blog

The Nightcap: 17 April

Easter Monday might have made this a shorter working week but there’s still a good helping of boozy news to get stuck into. It’s The Nightcap! If you’re looking to…

Easter Monday might have made this a shorter working week but there’s still a good helping of boozy news to get stuck into. It’s The Nightcap!

If you’re looking to head into the weekend with a brain full of news from the world of booze, you’ve come to the right place – it’s The Nightcap! If you wanted to go into the weekend with a brain full of badger facts, you’ve also come to the right place: badgers are part of the Mustelidae family, meaning they’re related to wolverines. The word “badger” is thought to come from the French word for someone who digs, “bêcheur”. Probably because they’re good at digging. OK, enough badger facts. Time for the booze news!

On the MoM blog this week we were delighted to announce that Glenlivet Spectra has arrived exclusively at MoM HQ. Elsewhere, Annie took us inside the archives at Irish Distillers and then cast an eye on four botanical bottlings that capture the essence of their local area, Jess gave us some top tips on how to have the perfect virtual tasting and Henry mixed a cocktail that made its name back in the golden age. Adam, meanwhile, led us on VR tours of GlenDronach and BenRiach Distillery and recommended some incredible whiskeys from across the pond as well as five films that feature a drop of the good stuff. Oh, and don’t forget there’s still to enter our competition to win a VIP 2021 trip to The GlenDronach distillery!

Once again we’d like to thank all those who entered our virtual pub quiz last Friday and say congratulations to the winner, Richard Hales! He’s won himself a £25 gift voucher to put to good use at MoM Towers and if you like the sound of that, you’ll be pleased to know this week’s edition (link here) will go live at 5pm tonight. You can also find the answers to last week’s quiz if you scroll down to the bottom.

Now, let’s get on with The Nightcap!

The Nightcap

Happy International Kümmel Day!

Kümmel ye faithful!

Today is the big one, bigger than British Pie Week, more exclusive than World Whisky Day, it’s International Kümmel Day! The second-ever and it celebrates 170 years since Ludwig Mentzendorff decided to import his kümmel, which was made in Riga at the time, to the UK (it’s now distilled in France). The British seemed to have fallen for kümmel’s caraway-scented charms immediately. It was particularly popular among golfers who used to refer to it as ‘putting mixture’ but every drinks cabinet would have had a bottle, there’s no better cold weather-pick-me up. Now this classic schnapps is undergoing a revival as bartenders around the world discover it’s peculiar charms. Such luminaries of the drinks world as Simon Difford, Richard Godwin and Alice Lascelles have all come out as members of the Kümmel cognoscenti. You can mix it or just enjoy it neat with ice. So dig out a bottle or buy one and all this week give kümmel some online love with the #mentzendorffkummel hashtag. 

The Nightcap

Say hello to Jameson Hosts!

Jameson supports global bar community online with Jameson Hosts

Jameson has gone and launched an online platform to bring the international bar community together in these strange times. Say hello to Jameson Hosts, an online space where the bar community can come together to share their experiences and knowledge through the wonders of video! What’s more, Jameson is those who create videos for the platform financially, with the content covering all sorts of topics from cocktail masterclasses, wellbeing, career coaching and whiskey tutorials, as well as advice from bar teams around the globe about how they’re adapting to the new challenges imposed by the pandemic. It’s looking to the future too, covering how businesses can better equip themselves for when they (eventually) reopen. “The global bar community has dedicated its life and career to the service of others.  Now, more than ever, this community needs a new place to come together and share inspiring stories, real-world guidance and encouraging words to help each other overcome the challenges they face today and those that lie ahead,” says Brendan Buckley, international marketing director at Irish Distillers. “We hope this will offer both practical and emotional support through this challenging time and we very much look forward to celebrating with all our hosts at Midleton soon.”

The Nightcap

The awards take place on the 18th – 20th September, assuming we can do things by then

Glencairn sponsors Scottish crime writing awards

Everyone’s favourite whisky tasting glass company Glencairns has teamed up with the Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival to sponsor two awards. The big one is The McIlvanney Prize named after William McIlvanney who pretty much invented the hard-boiled Scottish detective genre in a brilliant trilogy of novels: Laidlaw, The Papers of Tony Veitch and Strange Loyalties. Without McIlvanney there would have been no Rebus and no Taggart. The winner will receive a prize of £1000, a Glencairn Crystal Decanter and nationwide promotion in Waterstones. Glencairn will also be sponsoring The Bloody Scotland Debut Prize consisting of £500 and a Glencairn Star Trophy. Kirsty Nicholson from Glencairn commented: “As a Scottish family-owned company we are excited and proud to be involved with such prestigious prizes that both celebrate and reward such a rich and talented tradition as Scottish crime fiction. Like Scottish crime writing, the Glencairn Glass is uniquely Scottish with a truly global appeal. We look forward to a great working relationship with Bloody Scotland and would like to wish all the authors who have entered the best of luck.” Festival director Bob McDevitt added: “It’s great to see that in this time of great uncertainty, the Bloody Scotland prizes have attracted another great crop of Scottish crime novels for readers to escape into. I’m also really pleased to welcome Glencairn Crystal on board as a sponsor of the prizes this year and look forward to working with them in the future.” The awards will take place during the festival 18th – 20th September. If we’re allowed out then.

The Nightcap

The cocktails are made with Bacardi spirits, including its signature rum, Bombay Sapphire Gin and more

Bacardi and Deliveroo Editions delivering cocktails to your door

Bacardi and Deliveroo Editions have joined forces in a bid to break lockdown boredom and support local bars in London and Manchester while their doors are closed. The ‘Cocktails at Home’ initiative will ensure that you can still enjoy your favourite cocktails by delivering them straight to your door. More than 120 bars in London and Manchester in the UK began to offer the service yesterday and new bars and cocktails will be added every two weeks over the next two months. To order you can simply head to one of the following links: Whitechapel, Bermondsey, Manchester. The initiative has focused on smaller, independent bars that have no corporate backing and the cocktails will be made with Bacardi spirits, including its signature rum, Bombay Sapphire Gin, Grey Goose Vodka, Martini vermouth and Patrón Tequila. “Our strong relationships with bars and bartenders in the UK is incredibly important to us and as we face the current challenges together, we’re doing all we can to provide the support they need,” says Amanda Almond, managing director for Bacardi, UK and Ireland. “We have 158 years’ experience of overcoming the crises and coming out fighting, and through our Raise Your Spirits initiative, we intend to do exactly that for our on-trade partners.” So, if you fancy a Cubano with Bacardi Ocho from Kwānt, a Rosy Life with Patrón Tequila from Artesian or Lychee Martini with Bombay Sapphire Gin from Filthy 13, you know what to do!

The Nightcap

Gin O’Clock has become a regular highlight of the lockdown for people

And finally… Gin, crisps and ready meals keep the nation’s spirits up during lockdown

As the UK collectively feels the effect of the government-imposed lockdown, you won’t be surprised to hear that people are finding collective comfort in gin, crisps and ready meals. According to proquo ai’s Covid-19 brand impact monitor, folks looking for ways to enjoy a ‘big night in’ have turned to brands like Hendricks, whose products have surged in popularity helped by the goodwill generated when it repurposed some of its production facilities to make hand sanitiser. Gin O’Clock has become a regular highlight, with one respondent saying: “I never used to drink gin but now I have a little on the weekend. Me and the neighbours have started buying different flavours, and we meet up and have a social-distancing gin tasting night.” Unsurprisingly, mixers have also benefited from the trend, with Fentimans, Fever-Tree and Schweppes all attracting new customers and as cocktails go hand in hand with a salty snack, premium crisp brands are also gaining in popularity with new users. “Our platform gathers people’s feelings towards brands 24/7 so it’s been fascinating to see the immediate impact of Covid-19 and related lockdown on public perception,” says Jim Brennan, managing director of proquo ai. “People are not only changing their daily routines, but are also interacting with brands they wouldn’t normally use outside of a crisis. Brands that understand what people need at this time – and work to meet these needs – will ultimately be the ones which succeed.” If you’re looking for a tasty new gin to indulge in, we have a few right here.

The Nightcap

Pub quiz answers

 

1) What is Beyoncé ‘sippin’ with no chaser’ in 2016 hit Formation

Answer: Cuervo

2) What was Jack Daniel’s real name? 

Answer: Jasper Newton Daniel

3) What was John Lennon’s favourite cocktail? 

Answer: Brandy Alexander

4) What is Dr Dre’s gin brand of choice? 

Answer: Hendricks

5) Which Craft Beer producer also produces Lone Wolf Gin?

Answer: Brewdog

6) Which late comedian shares his last name with the profession of fabricating barrels? 

Answer: Tommy Cooper

7) What drink does Carrie Bradshaw attempt to order at McDonald’s alongside her cheeseburger and large fries in Sex and the City?

Answer: Cosmopolitan

8) Jean Martell, the founder of the Cognac house, came from which island? 

Answer: Jersey

9) Which country is famous for making rum in wooden stills? 

Answer: Guyana

10) Do London dry gins have to be made in the UK capital?

Answer: No

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Tune in to our live tastings on Instagram!

Mark the diaries, folks! Team Master of Malt is taking to Instagram for a series of live tastings. And we want you to join us! Here at MoM Towers, there’s…

Mark the diaries, folks! Team Master of Malt is taking to Instagram for a series of live tastings. And we want you to join us!

Here at MoM Towers, there’s little we love more than exploring a flight of delicious spirits. But in the current challenging times, it’s not like we can saunter off to a good bar with some good friends and treat ourselves to a dram or three of something new. But! We can harness the power of Instagram Live and share some of our favourite tipples – whiskies, gins, rums, and more. So that’s what we’re doing on Monday and Wednesday evenings!

Here’s the crucial info. It is all going down over on our Instagram page, so make sure you’re following @masterofmalt. Unless otherwise specified, we’ll hit that Live button at 7:30pm. We’ll also pop a handy countdown timer up in our Story in the run-up, and you can tap that to set a reminder too. Watch out for the notification, or just head over to our Story at the specified hour where you’ll find us ready with the drinks (sometimes with a guest..!).

Here’s what we’ve got coming up. We’ll update this page as soon as we’ve got news of more tastings, so do keep checking back. Grab yourself a tasting set, drams or bottles, and play along!

May live tastings

Up until 30 May, we’re celebrating all things Islay with our Instagram Live tastings! Here’s a brief run-down, the full details of each session can be found over on our dedicated Islay tastings blog post.

Friday 22 May 7:30pm: Character of Islay Whisky Company

Grab a glass of something Islay and join us as we discover the whiskies across the full Character of Islay Whisky Company range!

Saturday 23 May 8.30pm: Lagavulin

Distillery manager Colin Gordon is joining us for a Q&A chat over a dram. Get your questions ready and get involved!

Sunday 24 May 6pm: Bruichladdich

Head distiller Adam Hannett is on-hand to answer all our Bruichladdich questions! We’ll have a dram of The Classic Laddie ready to accompany.

Monday 25 May 8.15pm: Caol Ila

Pierrick Guillaume, Caol Ila distillery manager, joins us for a catch-up over a dram. Get your questions ready for him!

Tuesday 26 May 1pm: Laphroaig

We’ve got a lunchtime Laphroaig 10 Year Old tasting with distillery manager John Campbell! He’ll be taking your questions and generally having a chat, too.

Wednesday 27 May 1pm: Bowmore

This time it’s David Turner taking the lunchtime guest slot when we talk all things Bowmore over a dram of the 12 Year Old.

Thursday 28 May 10.30am: Kilchoman

It’s an early doors full tasting with distillery founder Anthony Wills! The line-up features Kilchoman Machir Bay, Loch Gorm 2020, the new Am Burach, 100% Islay 9th Edition, and the official Festival Bottling!

Friday 29 May 5pm: Bunnahabhain

Global brand director Derek Scott has something special lined up for us. A tasting of Bunnahabhain Toiteach a Dhà, Bunnahabhain 25-Year-Old, and Bunnahabhain 2003 Amontillado Finish, usually only available from the distillery!

Friday 29 May 7:30pm: Jura

Gregg Glass takes us full a pretty comprehensive Jura complement: Jura 10 Year Old, the brand new Jura Red Wine Cask, Jura Seven Wood, Jura 212, and Jura Time and Tide.

Saturday 30 May 3pm: Ardbeg

It’s Ardbeg Day! Brendan McCarron, head of maturing whisky stocks for Ardbeg (and sister distillery Glenmorangie) is stepping in for Mickey Heads to take us through Ardbeg 10, An Oa and Blaaack.

June live tastings

On 1 June, we’re off on an agave adventure with Corte Vetusto Mezcal. 3 June sees us get innovative with all things Whisky Works when we’re joined by Gregg Glass. And then Friday 5 June it’s the turn of Deanston. All three take place at 7:30 BST. Mark the diaries – more details coming soon!

 

The Nightcap

Join us for some terrific tastings over on Instagram!

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Top 5 drinks films

We continue our series all about booze-based entertainment in this time of self-isolation and lockdown. This week we take a look at our favourite films that feature a drop of…

We continue our series all about booze-based entertainment in this time of self-isolation and lockdown. This week we take a look at our favourite films that feature a drop of the good stuff.

The best films capture our senses, so it’s little surprise that there is a long, rich history of booze on the silver screen. Here, we assembled five of our favourite drink-based films, from intriguing documentaries to absurd comedies. Our list is sure to provoke much debate so do let us know your favourites in the comments or on social.

Top 5 drinks films

“Do you have any Kahlúa?”

Much like we did last week, we do have a duty to remind you folks that these films don’t always feature responsible drinking. Remember that moderation is the key!

Sideways (2004)

Sideways is a wine-fuelled road trip film set in Santa Barbara County wine country that features brilliant central performances from Thomas Haden Church and Paul Giamatti, garnered critical acclaim and won an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. How could we not put it on the list? The humorous and thoughtful film provoked mainstream audiences to engage with wine in a major way and is said to have helped increase tourism to the Santa Ynez Valley region and cause Pinot Noir sales to rise, a phenomenon dubbed ‘The Sideways Effect’. You might have objections if you’re a fan of Merlot, though…

You can find Sideways on Amazon Prime.

The Angel’s Share (2012)

A moving and darkly comic story of redemption from the excellent British cinema legend Ken Loach, The Angel’s Share stars Paul Brannigan as a father who embraces the world of whisky tasting and collecting so he can make enough money to turn over a new leaf after numerous arrests. Fans of whisky, who will know the title refers to the percentage of whisky that evaporates in the cask each year, will have appreciated the distillery tour of Deanston, (Balblair and Glengoyne distilleries also feature) the numerous shots of delicious whisky being poured and a delightful cameo by acclaimed whisky writer Charles MacLean.

You can find The Angel’s Share on Amazon Prime.

The Big Lebowski (1998)

“Hey, careful man, there’s a beverage here!” is just one of the immortal lines spoken by Jeff ‘The Dude’ Lebowski in reference to his beloved White Russian. The Coen brothers cult classic, which features Jeff Bridges, John Goodman and Steve Buscemi on stellar form, may not strictly be a drinking movie, but it’s the best advert that delicious creamy cocktail has ever had. Cheers to you, ‘The Dude’. That rug really tied the whole room together.

You can find The Big Lebowski on Now TV.

The Amber Light (2019)

There are some truly excellent drinks documentaries out there, from  Ken Burns epic history lesson Prohibition, to Sour Grapes, an investigation into top wine forger Rudy Kurniawan that’s dripping in displays of hubris and greed. But our ultimate pick is The Amber Light, which follows the brilliant Dave Broom on a passionate and curious quest to gain a deeper understanding of Scotch whisky. It frames the spirit as part of the country’s culture and social identity in a manner akin to poetry, music and art in a compelling manner and features some truly great characters along the way, including Ian Rankin. Y’know, the guy who wrote the Rebus books!

You can find out where The Amber Light is screening here.

Lost in Translation (2003)

“For relaxing times, make it Suntory time”. Featuring perhaps the most iconic scene involving whisky of all time, as well as Bill Murray and a young, and relatively unknown, Scarlett Johansson, Lost in Translation is an absurdly funny, sweet and sad tale of two aimless Americans who strike up a friendship in a Tokyo hotel. While this is another film that’s not all about booze, it’s highlight is surely Murray’s character, Bob Harris, trying to film a commercial for Hibiki 17 Year Old, which suffers from a breakdown in communication between Harris, the Japanese director and interpreter.

You can find Lost in Translation on Netflix.

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Four spirits with a sense of place

From Cornish sea salt to Cotswolds lavender, distillers frequently utilise nature’s larder to bring a sense of place to their spirits. We speak with the brains behind a selection of…

From Cornish sea salt to Cotswolds lavender, distillers frequently utilise nature’s larder to bring a sense of place to their spirits. We speak with the brains behind a selection of botanical bottlings to discover how they captured the essence of their local area …

Distillers have a long history of flavouring their spirits with locally-sourced botanicals. This was mostly out of necessity rather than creativity in the early days of booze-making – 16th century producers could hardly nip down to B&Q and buy the seeds of some exotic fruit to flavour their eye-watering new-make – but today, distilling a botanical sense of place is a labour of love that requires time, know-how and patience. As such, MoM caught up with four spirited producers to chat about the native ingredients in their flagship recipes – here’s what they had to say:

Fishers Gin

She sells gin on the sea shore

Fishers Distillery

The spirit: Fishers Gin

Suffolk-made Fishers combines foraged local herbs and coastal botanicals to create a gin inspired by the Aldeburgh marshes on the River Alde, next to the North Sea – as founder Andrew Heald explains. 

“I wanted to capture what I love about this area in a bottle,” he says. “Part of this was using native and saline botanicals that grow in abundance on the Suffolk coast, but also introducing some wider coastal and British flavours that would help reflect the character of the area.”

Collecting and processing these ingredients can be time-consuming. For example, when handling wood avens – a perennial plant in the rose family – the Fishers team are interested in the fine roots. This involves a lot of care, says Heald, to brush away as much earth as possible.

“Native marsh samphire and bog myrtle have a short harvesting window and we need to freeze them immediately,” he continues. “Spignel, which we grow ourselves, takes three years to develop at the root; therefore it takes a lot of careful planning and forecasting.”

While head distiller Ben Bewley relishes time spent “harvesting samphire on a sunny day by the river”, he says that from a distillers’ perspective, spignel is the most rewarding botanical to work with.

“It has incredibly complex flavours and aromas that all add up to a very potent ingredient,” he explains. “Get it right and you bring out its best, get it wrong and you overpower everything else to the detriment of the spirit. Perhaps it’s the part of me that likes the jeopardy and the reward of getting it right.”

Pentire people foraging for botanicals on the Cornish coast

Pentire Drinks

The ‘spirit’: Pentire Adrift

Made from sustainably sourced or organically grown plants native to the Cornish coastline – including rock samphire, sea purslane, sea fennel, sage, Cornish sea salt and sea rosemary – Pentire is a non-alcoholic botanical spirit with a maritime twist.

Finding inspiration for Pentire’s flavour profile was simple, says founder Alistair Frost. “Our local headlands boast a vast botanical range which provided us a perfect playground for trial and error,” he says. “This allowed us to push towards our flavour profile, which really is shaped by the local landscape.”

While they all play a key role in the overall mix, I ask if there are any botanicals Frost likes working with more than others. “That’s a tricky one, they all complement each other so well,” he says. “We can tell you which ones aren’t so ‘fun’, and that’s the majority of our key ingredients which are seasonal.”

While this provides challenges and a lot of forward-planning, it makes the journey all the more exciting, he says. “From a maker’s perspective, the biggest challenge has been to create complex layers of flavour, which has taken trial and error,” Frost adds. “However [it’s also] the most rewarding thing to get right, as our team’s perseverance has resulted in a delicious and natural-tasting liquid.” 

Cotswolds Gin Botanicals

Cotswolds gin botanicals

Cotswolds Distillery

The spirit: Cotswolds Dry Gin

This countryside-inspired London Dry bottling from Cotswolds Distillery – based in Staffordshire hamlet Stourton – combines nine carefully-chosen botanicals, including lavender from nearby Snowshill.

“We wanted to create a gin that was a reflection of where we are based in Stourton, in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty,” explains head distiller Nick Franchino. “We put about 10 times the average volume of botanicals used to make most premium gins in our copper pot still. 

Juniper berries, coriander seed and angelica root are macerated for 24 hours in pure wheat spirit, with Cotswolds lavender, bay leaves, freshly-peeled lime, pink grapefruit zest, cardamom seed and black peppercorn added prior to distillation. 

“This entails peeling several hundred limes and grapefruits per week by hand,” Franchino continues. “This process creates the richest possible flavours and mouthfeel due to the high proportion of essential oils and botanical extract. It’s tough work, but it is totally worth it for the vibrant flavours and rich mouthfeel that make our gin stand out from the crowd.”

As the distillery adds a new floral creation to its portfolio – No.1 Wildflower Gin, inspired by the Cotswolds’ wildflower-rich grasslands – I ask Franchino if there’s any part of the production process that’s particularly tricky to get right.

“Maintaining a consistent, high-quality product through the numerous seasons of botanicals,” he says. “They always present a few challenges and variances, and bringing them back in line can be a challenge – but it’s always good fun and brings a gin alive.”

Nc’nean: if you’re going to have a sense of place, make it a place like this

Nc’nean Distillery

The spirit: Nc’nean Botanical Spirit

Bridging the gap between gin and whisky, this bottling sees the new-make Nc’nean whisky combined with ten botanicals – many of them wild herbs and flowers that grow at the distillery – including bog myrtle, sorrel, heather and thyme.

“We went out with a local plant expert [@westhighlandherbal] and she helped us identify what grew locally, what the flavours might be and, also, what the plants were traditionally used for,” explains founder and CEO Annabel Thomas. “From there, we did six months of experimenting with flavours, trying to get a balanced spirit that reflected local botanicals but also tasted great.”

When it comes to botanicals, are there any Thomas favours above the rest? “I particularly love bog myrtle,” she says. “It is the biggest local botanical we use, we pick it all by hand, and I just think it is the most wonderful plant. 

“It grows everywhere around the distillery – there are plenty of bogs! – and when you walk through fields of bog myrtle in the summer, you get this wonderful herby, citrusy aroma drifting up,” Thomas continues. “It is something I’ve been cooking with for years – I recommend using it to stuff a chicken – so the chance to distil with it was a dream.”

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Take a VR tour of GlenDronach Distillery with MoM!

Fans of sherried whisky will enjoy this week’s VR distillery tour as we peek behind the curtain at GlenDronach. Just because you’re self-isolating or on lockdown, it doesn’t mean you…

Fans of sherried whisky will enjoy this week’s VR distillery tour as we peek behind the curtain at GlenDronach.

Just because you’re self-isolating or on lockdown, it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a good distillery tour. How is this possible? Thanks to the power of VR, of course. In this series we’re going to take you around some of the finest distilleries across England, Wales and Scotland from the comfort of your own home. This week we visit an innovative Highland distillery that creates some truly smashing whiskies. Enjoy!

Ever since GlenDronach Distillery was founded by James Allardice in 1826 it has been maturing whisky in Pedro Ximénez and oloroso sherry casks. This profile was maintained even though the distillery changed hands multiple times, with the likes of Walter Scott of Teaninich, William Grant’s son Charles Grant, William Teacher and Pernod Ricard all acquiring the distillery over the last two centuries. For much of this time, GlenDronach’s whisky was mainly used in blends such as Teachers and Chivas Regal. In 1968, GlenDronach was released as a single malt brand for the first time. The GlenDronach distillery was purchased by BenRiach’s owners in 2008 for £15 million, who invested £7 million, relaunched its core range and opened a new visitors centre in 2010 before selling to Brown-Forman for £285 million in 2016. The distillery features a traditional rake and plough mash tun as well as wooden washbacks, while its four stills which were coal-fired until 2005, making it the last in Scotland to be heated in this way. The wash stills are an interesting shape and the plain sides of the spirit still cut back on reflux, helping to build a heavy and robust spirit ensures that GlenDronach distillery character still shines even after lengthy maturation in sherry casks.

VR tour of GlenDronach Distillery

If you’ve enjoyed the look of Glendronach, then you’re probably intrigued about how its whisky tastes. We’d suggest you give The GlenDronach 18 Year Old Allardice a try. Named after the distillery’s founder, it matured completely in oloroso sherry casks and is an exceptionally fruity and complex single malt. 

The GlenDronach 18 Year Old Allardice tasting note:

Nose: Sherry notes so thick you need a knife to cut them! There’s a hint of old rum in there too, with pineapple and brown sugar in tow.

Palate: Christmas cake, rum again, chocolate-coated hazelnut, runny honey and a hint of Sauternes.

Finish: Fresh blackcurrant, blueberry pancakes with a generous helping of maple syrup.

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Cocktail of the Week: The White Lady

Today we’re mixing a cocktail from the golden age drunk by a spy in a classic ’60s novel. No, it’s not a Martini, it’s the White Lady!  Have you ever…

Today we’re mixing a cocktail from the golden age drunk by a spy in a classic ’60s novel. No, it’s not a Martini, it’s the White Lady! 

Have you ever asked for a proper cocktail in an old-fashioned boozer? It’s best avoided. A friend of mine once ordered a Dry Martini in a place in Hackney and ended up with sweet vermouth on the rocks. You learn pretty quickly that it’s best to stick to beer or spirits in most pubs.

This is something that Fred Leiser, the main protagonist in John le Carré’s The Looking Glass War, never learns. He’s a Polish expat who used to work with British intelligence but now runs a garage in London, and his drink of choice is the White Lady, “It’s the only thing I drink,” he says at one point in the book. 

The White Lady is a cocktail from the golden age: a mixture of gin, Cointreau, sugar and lemon juice, and usually made with an egg white, like a take on the Sidecar. The drink is usually attributed to Harry McElhone of Harry’s Bar in Paris. It is said that he invented it in London when he was working at Ciro Club and it was originally made with crème de menthe. When he moved to Paris in the 1920s, he used gin instead and the classic White Lady recipe was born. Another version of the story tells how it was actually invented by Harry Craddock at the American Bar in the Savoy Hotel. There’s a further embellishment to this story that he named it after Zelda Fitzgerald who was a platinum blonde at the time hence White Lady, which sounds much too good to be true. 

Whoever invented it, the White Lady, a drink that requires precision and some hard shaking to emulsify the egg white, is not something you can imagine the bartender in a London pub happily doing nowadays let alone in the ‘60s when the book is set. In fact, at one point, a Paddington barmaid says to Leiser: “Can’t mix it for you now, dear, not til the rush dies down.” Instead, “he ordered a gin and Italian and got it warm with no cherry.” Should have stuck to beer, Fred.  

Why does le Carré give him such an odd drink? I think le Carré is saying that Leiser doesn’t fit in, he may have been in England for 20 years but he’s not ‘one of us’ as the people in British intelligence might say. Also that he’s a bit flash, Leiser says at one point: “I got a lot more money than you. White Lady’s an expensive drink.” But perhaps le Carré is having a bit of fun at the expense of James Bond with his vodka Martini. As if to say, how ridiculous it is having a signature drink in real life. 

If you only take away one thing from The Looking Glass War, it’s don’t order a cocktail in the pub. While reading the book, I imagined some of the horrors Leiser had been given when he ordered his favourite drink. No wonder when he makes one at home, it says: “He mixed himself a White Lady, carefully, like a man making up medicine.” And that’s just how you should make yours too. I’m using Cotswold gin, it’s a spicy characterful gin with a useful 46% ABV. The egg white finishes it off beautifully but you could leave it out. 

Right, here’s how to make the perfect White Lady:

50ml Cotswolds Dry Gin
25ml lemon juice
25ml Cointreau
12ml sugar syrup
1/2 an egg white 

Add all the ingredients to the shaker, dry shake hard for a minute. You need to shake hard to emulsify the egg white. Add ice and shaker quickly, until ice forms on the outside. Strain into a chilled Martini glass and garnish with a twist of lemon peel.

 

 

 

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Five must-haves for the perfect virtual tasting with friends

It’s time to get your friends together over, FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, whatever your preferred mode of video chat, and taste some delicious spirits together! Everything you need is right here……

It’s time to get your friends together over, FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, whatever your preferred mode of video chat, and taste some delicious spirits together! Everything you need is right here…

So, you’re virtual-pub-quizzed-out. You now have all of the general knowledge and you need a new activity for you and your pals. Well, virtual tastings are going to be the next big thing! No need to be a spirits connoisseur for this, it’s just a bit (okay, a lot) of fun and a great opportunity to get together with your friends and try some new tipples together. We’ve also done most of the hard work for you, because we’ve rounded up everything you need right here! 

5 must haves for virtual tasting

This could be you!

Tasting Set 

First things first, you’re going to need a drink. Obviously. Our ideal candidate would be an awesome tasting set from Drinks by the Dram! That way, you have five different spirits to taste through together, all wrapped up in a neat little box. They even come with tasting notes already, so you can compare and contrast, like an expert! You and your friends can order one each, and then do a little taste-along. Like those singalong versions of films, but with more drinks.

There’s the Premium Gin, for all you juniper heads out there, Premium Rum if darker spirits are more your cup of tea. Plus, we’ve gone and knocked 10% off these two! Whisky fanatics, taste round Scotland with Regions of Scotland Whisky Tasting Set, or if you’re wanting a bumper tasting, there’s a double whammy with Ian Buxton 101 Whiskies to Try Before You Die Tasting Set, complete with 10 drams and even a copy of Buxton’s book! 

five must haves virtual tasting

They literally have our name on them!

Tasting glasses 

Next thing you’ll need is something to put your drinks in. It turns out that the shape and whatnot of a tasting glass is rather important, with tapered glasses directing all those lovely aromas right to your nose. Well, luckily we have our very own Master of Malt Glencairn tasting glasses for you! You can either grab yourself a single glass, or treat yourself to a set of six so you don’t have to rinse one out every time you crack open a new dram, missing out on all the fun. We may have a lot of time on our hands, but it’s still precious! 

It’s time to get your friends together over, FaceTime, Zoom, Skype, whatever your preferred mode of video chat, and taste some delicious spirits together! Everything you need is right here...

Time to get mixing!

Mixers

Here’s where it’s time to get inventive! We don’t have any qualms about mixing spirits over here. What we rather like doing is having just one nose and taste of your spirit neat before you mix it, just to get a feel for it and compare… but no pressure! This is your tasting. Then it’s time to mix it with whatever you think is best. Keep it simple with a good ol’ tonic water from 1724, or perhaps branch out with The Artisan Drinks Co. Barrel Smoked Cola or Fiery Ginger Beer, ideal for dark spirits! If you’re feeling creative, fancy a garnish out of whatever you can find in your fridge or fruit bowl… 

five must haves virtual tasting

Pink sofa and plant not essential…

A comfy corner 

Somewhere for you to let your hair down and have some (delicious) fun! Get that sofa plumped, lights down, music on and maybe even some bar snacks. It can be your dram den. Your spirit sanctuary. Your tasting retreat! We ran out of alliteration, so we’ll stop.

five must haves virtual tasting

Pray for full bars!

Good wifi 

Okay, so we can’t help with this one. May the wifi gods be with you. Hopefully your flatmate won’t be downloading every episode of The Simpsons. Maybe try rubbing your phone on your head? Yeah, that definitely works…

And that’s it! So grab your phones and computers, get those spirits in your snazzy glasses and get ready for a deliciously fun evening with your pals. Who says staying in can’t still be fun? Happy tasting!

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Awesome whiskeys from across the pond!

There’s no shortage of choice when it comes to fantastic American whiskey. Let us help narrow down your options. When you’ve got time on your hands it’s the perfect opportunity…

There’s no shortage of choice when it comes to fantastic American whiskey. Let us help narrow down your options.

When you’ve got time on your hands it’s the perfect opportunity to try something new, which is why we’re  giving you a glimpse into what’s happening in the American whiskey scene. In our selection, we’ve got classic brands that have been doing the business for decades and younger distilleries firing up stills ready to make their mark. There’s bottlings that are best savoured by sipping them straight and those that make great whiskey cocktails. We’ve got spicy ryes and smooth bourbons, various mashbills and even a heavy-metal inspired expression. 

But they all have something in common: they’re delicious American whiskeys that we heartily recommend. Enjoy!

Awesome whiskeys from across the pond!

Slipknot No.9 Whiskey

Yes, this is a whiskey that was made in collaboration with heavy metal band Slipknot. In fact, it was actually blended by Slipknot’s very own Shawn “Clown” Crahan (he wears a clown mask when performing), with the help of the lovely folk at Cedar Ridge Distillery. Both the band and distillery hail from Iowa, so fittingly the whiskey was made from Iowa corn as well as a helping of rye. If you’re looking for the perfect pairing then you can’t get more appropriate than Slipknot’s Iowa album!

What does it taste like?:

Honey, toasted cornbread, smoked paprika, toffee apples, chocolate digestives, citrus blossom, cracked black pepper, caraway and fragrant florals.

Awesome whiskeys from across the pond!

Woodford Reserve Kentucky Bourbon 

A delightful Kentucky bourbon that represents fantastic value for money, Woodford Reserve Kentucky Bourbon is ideal for those who enjoy an Old Fashioned. It has a rich, spicy profile that’s partly down to a mash bill that features a high percentage of rye: 72% corn, 18% rye and 10% malt.  

What does it taste like?:

Honey, leather, cocoa, a little smoke, toasty oak, vanilla cream, butterscotch, espresso beans, winter spice, cereal sweetness, plenty of rye, ground ginger, almond oil and cereals.

Awesome whiskeys from across the pond!

Rittenhouse Straight Rye 100 Proof 

If you haven’t enjoyed the sweet, spicy and distinctive character of rye whiskey, then you should rectify this situation immediately. This award-winning expression, which commemorates Philadelphia’s famous Rittenhouse Square, was produced in the tradition of the classic rye whiskeys that dominated the industry pre-Prohibition and is fantastic in a number of cocktails.

What does it taste like?:

Dried fruits, soft spices, cocoa, butterscotch, orange peel, cinnamon, caramel, chocolate oranges, cassia bark, nutmeg and marmalade.

Awesome whiskeys from across the pond!

Smooth Ambler Old Scout American Whiskey 107 Proof

A full-bodied, punchy and powerful bottling from those fab folks over at Smooth Ambler Spirits in Greenbrier County, West Virginia, this is not for the faint-hearted. The fantastic variation of the brand’s classic Old Scout American Whiskey was bottled at 107 proof (or 53.5% ABV for those of us here in the UK). 

What does it taste like?:

Roasted coffee beans, burnt caramel, a good kick of cumin, floral vanilla, fresh ginger, fiery cinnamon, fudge, mango and sponge cake.

Awesome whiskeys from across the pond!

Michter’s US*1 Bourbon

A stylish and superb Kentucky bourbon with a mellow, earthy and delicately sweet profile, Mitcher’s US*1 Bourbon is made in small batches typically composed of no more than two dozen barrels. The brand is named after what some believe to be the oldest former distillery in the US, which dates back to 1753.

What does it taste like?:

Caramel, vanilla and fruit notes, alongside a pleasing earthy quality at its core.

Awesome whiskeys from across the pond!

Mellow Corn

Arguably the most intriguing bottling in our selection is the delightful Mellow Corn, which is made at the Heaven Hill distillery. Inside that distinctive bright yellow bottle, you’ll find a punchy, gold-coloured American corn whiskey made with a mash bill that’s at least 81% corn, with the rest being a combination of malted barley and rye.

What does it taste like?:

Buttery corn, toffee popcorn, vanilla, brown sugar and a flicker of woody spice.

Awesome whiskeys from across the pond!

Sazerac Straight Rye 

An expression named for the Sazerac Coffee House in New Orleans, birth-place of the famous Sazerac cocktail. While it was originally made with Cognac, the Sazerac is also delicious when it’s made with rye whiskey. Particularly very tasty rye whiskey, like this fine example from the Buffalo Trace distillery.

What does it taste like?:

Sweet spices, stem ginger in syrup, orange zest, freshly ground black pepper, mixed peels, Seville orange marmalade, peanut butter, toffee and barrel char.

 

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New Arrival of the Week: The Glenlivet Spectra

A new and mysterious limited edition Glenlivet has just arrived exclusively at MoM HQ. Or rather three new Glenlivets have arrived in one package with very little information attached. We…

A new and mysterious limited edition Glenlivet has just arrived exclusively at MoM HQ. Or rather three new Glenlivets have arrived in one package with very little information attached. We spoke with master distiller Alan Winchester to try to find out more. . .

Normally when we write about new releases from well-known distilleries, it’s all about the cask. Our customers want to know as much as possible about how their whisky has been aged: Were the casks first fill or refill? Were they made with European or American oak? What did the casks hold before? Bourbon? Rum? Marsala? Sherry? What kind of sherry? From which bodega? Were they recharred? And most importantly, how long did the whisky spend in barrel?

But Glenlivet with its series of  cryptic annual releases has decided to spoil things for all the whisky nerds out there by not telling us anything at all. Last year there was Enigma with Code, Alpha and Cipher preceding it. Do you detect a theme in the naming? According to master distiller Alan Winchester: “Each whisky in the series plays with the senses and challenges drinkers to go on a journey of exploration to uncover the tasting notes”. Very tantalising.

These bottles contain whisky, beyond that the team at Glenlivet won’t tell us any more

And now there’s Spectra, it sounds like something to do with James Bond but it’s actually a trio of Scotch whiskies in 20cl bottles filled at 40% ABV. Winchester commented: “The Glenlivet Spectra is the first limited edition we’ve created that comes as a trio of single malts. We wanted to craft a series of whisky expressions that stretch the smooth and fruity house style into three different directions.” The idea is that without knowing anything about them, you just appreciate the spectrum of flavours. Oh, that’s where the name comes from, it’s the plural of spectrum. Very clever Glenlivet.

To guide you on your journey through flavour there’s a digital experience-type thing that you can access via your portable telephone device. Winchester explained: “The Glenlivet Spectra builds on the digital experiences we started with The Glenlivet Code, a previous limited edition in this series, although I’m not a floating hologram in this one! The experience invites our fans to join a digital journey through a spectrum of flavours during which they will try and decode the mysterious tasting notes.” Sounds modern!

Fancy online thing

We then tried to get Mr Winchester to reveal a little about the oak treatment but he kept schtum. The company isn’t even publishing tasting notes at the moment. You’ll have to buy Spectra, and work them out for yourself. He commented: “We’re deliberately releasing The Glenlivet Spectra without any information so that we don’t give anything away. We want whisky drinkers to challenge their senses and really put their taste to the test when taking part in the digital experience. Tasting notes will be revealed towards the end of the year so keep your eyes peeled.”

It also sounds like just the kind of thing that will make those lockdown hours fly by. After all, you can’t drink whisky all day. Winchester agreed: “We know lots of people are looking for some light and levity right now amongst the dark.” He went on to say: “We’ve had this whisky planned for a while but debated long and hard about launching it now, and ultimately, although it may be a little bit quieter on our stills in Speyside these days, we didn’t want to let that delay us sharing some positive news with our whisky loving fans out there.”

Glenlivet Spectra is available exclusively from Master of Malt.

 

 

 

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Inside the archives at Irish Distillers

You might not be familiar with the name, but Irish Distillers – maker of Jameson, Powers, Redbreast and more – is an Irish whiskey linchpin, and not just because it’s…

You might not be familiar with the name, but Irish Distillers – maker of Jameson, Powers, Redbreast and more – is an Irish whiskey linchpin, and not just because it’s the country’s largest distiller. Without it, Ireland’s national spirit would’ve been consigned to the history books. Here, archivist Carol Quinn delves into the company’s history and shares insight into her own fascinating role…

Until the 1960s, never had a drink category’s future hung so heavily on the cooperation of three rival companies. It’s no exaggeration to say that without the ingenuity and flexibility of Cork Distilleries Company, John Jameson & Son and John Power & Son, Irish whiskey would’ve been toast. It certainly wasn’t part of a plan to monopolise the industry – the three family-owned producers pulled together as the category collapsed around them. 

“The 20th century had not been kind to Irish whiskey, and that’s an understatement really,” says Irish Distillers archivist Carol Quinn. “ In the 19th century it was sold all over the world – I have records from Cairo, Uruguay, Honolulu, Portugal, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Canada… you name it, Irish whiskey was sold there. And it was a very high-end, prestigious drink. It was sold in places where customers ordered Cognac, Champagne.”

The success of the category started to unravel with the arrival of the first world war. Irish whiskey trade was export-led, says Quinn, and there was a lot of submarine activity around Ireland, being the last stopping-off point before you cross the Atlantic to America, so shipping was restricted. It was a blow, but despite the turbulence, Ireland’s distillers simply knuckled down and carried on.

“I see this in the Jameson records,” she says. “In 1919 – when the war was over and the restrictions were lifted – they had their best distilling season ever. They were producing more whiskey than ever and were delighted with life. Which was unfortunate, because in 1920, Prohibition hit America. While they hadn’t been selling in America for a few years anyway because of the first world war, Prohibition meant they weren’t going to re-enter it for a long time.”

Carol Quinn in the archives

For a decade, this wasn’t too disastrous. Ireland’s distillers were still exporting to the likes of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and beyond. But that came to an end in the 1930s, says Quinn, when Ireland entered into an economic trade war with Britain and lost any territory associated with the British Empire.

“Now at this point, they’re frightened,” she says. “This has been 20 years of bad times. And then you go straight into the second world war, and that’s the killer blow. In the 1940s and 1950s you see distillery after distillery closing. They just didn’t have the money to recoup what they’d lost, even when the export markets opened back up. There were a number of years in the 1950s when Old Midleton was only distilling three weeks a year.”

By the 1960s, the only three distilleries left open were – you guessed it – John Jameson & Son and John Power & Son, both in Dublin; and Midleton, owned by Cork Distilleries Company. Irish whiskey had shrunk to the domestic market, says Quinn, and it was still an expensive drink. It became clear that the three distilleries would wipe themselves out if they remained in competition. 

“At the time, those three distilleries were owned, managed and run by the descendants of their founders,” she says. “Frank O’Reilly, of Powers, invited the other two companies – John Jameson representing Jameson and Norbert Murphy representing Midleton – to come together and discuss the situation. They met in secret at the home of Shane Jameson under the guise of a country house weekend and formulated this incredibly radical idea that they would merge; combining all their resources with the express intention of saving Irish whiskey.”

After two years of negotiations – there was a lot to work out, after all – Irish Distillers formed in 1966 (it’s now part of Pernod Ricard). From there, they set about rebuilding the category, starting with their own blends. In 1975 they refurbished and reopened Midleton Distillery as Europe’s most modern distillation plant, not only to distil their three very different styles of whiskey – Powers, Jameson and Midleton – but improve on them, too. 

“The idea was never simply to replicate the past, it was to build upon it and to look forward and to move forward,” says Quinn. “Irish Distillers has always been incredibly progressive and fostered innovation, because it was born out of necessity and dangerous times. The guiding principle was to create a situation where we wouldn’t be the only distiller – where there would be such an interest in the Irish whiskey category that new entrants could come on stream.”

Barrels of Jameson ready for export, circa 1950

Irish Distillers’ forward-thinking ethos is unrelenting to this day. Throughout the 1980s, head distiller Barry Crockett laid down single pot still stocks at a time when this signature style of whiskey wasn’t selling, while operations manager Brendan Monks set about implementing a cask management programme that’s seen in the company’s recent releases, from the resurrection of Green Spot, Yellow Spot and Red Spot to the development of its pioneering Method and Madness range. 

Fascinating stuff you’ll agree, and as Quinn continues her mammoth undertaking of cataloguing Irish Distillers’ vast archive, who knows how many more pieces of Irish whiskey history will emerge. Here, she shines a light on the everyday aspects of her incredible job, from archival training basics to historically significant finds…

Master of Malt: First of all, could you share a little about your own career and how it led to your role as Irish Distillers’ archivist?

Carol Quinn: I’m an archivist by training. It’s a very old profession, and there aren’t too many of us about. It’s a graduate qualification and you have to have your primary degree first. My BA was in history and archeology, so I always had an interest in the past, but not so much in dates or events – it was the more the stories of people and how the past could shine a light onto the lives of individuals. That’s why I like the archive. These letters, diaries and ledgers provide clues to the past, they’re literally the raw material of history. As an archivist, my job is to be a bridge between the items and the end user, which at the moment is Irish Distillers.

MoM: You mentioned letters, diaries and ledgers. What other records are kept in the Irish Distillers archive?

CQ: Everything relating to the production and the sale of our whiskies. Our distilleries were founded back in the 18th century, so there’s well over 200 years’ worth of records. One thing that’s very important are the employee wage books. At their most basic, they give you the name of the individual, the part of the distillery they were working in, the hours they worked and what they were paid. We don’t have a great tradition of record-keeping here in Ireland, and a lot of our official records were destroyed in the 1920s during the Civil War – so for a lot of people mentioned in Jameson’s wage books from the 1860s, there’s no other record of them living on this earth. Although the archive isn’t open to the public, if somebody contacts us I will have a look to see if I can find the name of their ancestor. Sometimes you can, sometimes you can’t, because we don’t have a complete set and it’s very time-consuming – it literally means taking a huge ledger off the shelf and going through it page-by-page – but I realise how valuable it is when people find that link. The Irish community is huge across the globe, so I get people from Canada, America, Australia, New Zealand, enquiring about grandfathers, great-grandfathers… It’s lovely.

It’s the actual notebook of John Jameson II

MoM: That is wonderful. How vast is the archive, what does it look like?

CQ: We have a purpose-built archival repository located in the distillers’ cottage in Midleton. The rooms are temperature controlled, humidity controlled, they’ve UV filters in all the lights and there’s no natural daylight allowed in. That’s where the records are kept. Some of them are digitised, but digitising records doesn’t preserve them, all that does is make access easier so you can search for things quicker. There’s nothing like a handwritten letter to really give you a connection with an individual. They’ve touched that page, they’re folded it with their hands. It’s a very different experience and I find it very visceral. 

MoM: That must feel overwhelming at times! I’d be terrified of damaging it…

CQ: That’s where the archival training comes in, in that we’re taught how to physically handle the material, how to catalogue it properly and how to preserve it. With some of our ledgers, I won’t even open them because I know if I do I’m going to damage them further, so I’ll send them to a man called Paul Curtis first. He’s based in Killarney at Muckross Bookbindery, and he’s trained as a book binder and paper conservator. When I did that for some of our items about six years ago, one of them was this little pocket notebook. It looked early 19th century to me, but again, I wasn’t going to go through it because I thought it was too fragile. When Paul took it apart he discovered that it was the actual pocket notebook of John Jameson II – the son of one of our founders – and it contained his mashbill recipes for Jameson whiskey from 1826, when he was  head distiller. When Paul took the binding apart to clean it down and re-sow it, out fell actual grains of barley from the Bow Street Distillery that John Jameson would’ve scooped up into his pocket as he was distilling.

Inside John Jameson’s notebook with those grains of barley

MoM: Fascinating! That certainly isn’t an everyday discovery  – what can we find you doing in a ‘typical’ week?

CQ: I often start the week in the distillers’ cottage in Midleton checking emails to see what’s come in over the weekend. Very often I’ll be on the train to Dublin mid-week – I might be giving a talk, doing some promotional work sharing our history or [liaising] with our marketing teams. Then, you’ll find me back in the archive doing the never-ending job of trying to catalogue such a vast collection! Sometimes I’ll take out a selection of items for our brand teams or the creative agencies who work with us to offer inspiration. Very often, a colour or font or some little nugget will spark the creative process. Recently we’ve had a repackaging of the Powers range; the design team came down – their brief was to give it a refresh – and when they looked through the records, this emblem absolutely jumped out at them. In the internal correspondence for Powers, instead of the name, they would write this diamond ‘P’, it was on everything. When you look at the new bottle, that’s what you see and it comes directly out of our history.

MoM: In your opinion, what are the most historically significant pieces in the archive?

CQ: What I really enjoy personally is the human element within the records. A few years ago, an elderly woman called up looking for a record of her grandfather, a man called James Leetch, who was a clerk in the spirits store in Jameson Bow Street. She remembered living with him as a young girl with her mother and sister. One day he went down to the cooperage and brought back a stave from a sherry butt, one of the largest of barrels, for her and her sister to use as a see-saw. I thought that was just lovely. The distilleries weren’t separate from the communities that they were located in; they were very much part of it. 

 

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