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Master of Malt Blog

What’s going on with whisky, according to three Johnnie Walker execs

Last year, we zipped off to Madrid to check out Johnnie Walker’s first flagship store. While we were there we quizzed three of the brand’s top executives to get their…

Last year, we zipped off to Madrid to check out Johnnie Walker’s first flagship store. While we were there we quizzed three of the brand’s top executives to get their take on the fortunes of Scotch whisky, from the accessibility of Scotch to that ‘B’ word…

“The world of whiskies is fascinating – not only because we work in it,” said Cristina Diezhandino, global category director of Scotch and Reserve Brands at Diageo, as she opened the first Johnnie Walker flagship store last November. “We see a whisky renaissance, truly, globally.”

When someone like Diezhandino gives her assessment on the state of Scotch, you sit up and listen. And it’s far from a throwaway sentiment: Scotch whisky exports soared by 8.9% in volume terms to reach £4.36 billion in 2017 (the latest figures currently available), and it’s a trend that looks set to continue. The number of distilleries in Scotland is at a record level (the Scotch Whisky Association reckons there are now 128 in the country, the most since 1945). It really does look like boom time for whisky!

But challenges persist, especially around accessibility. Too many people still think whisky isn’t for them. What’s being done to roll out the metaphoric red carpet and welcome in new drinkers? Why are people starting to explore the category? And should we collectively be worried about the impact of things like Brexit? I commandeered Diezhandino, as well as Duncan Elliott, Johnnie Walker global marketing and innovation director, and Greg Klingaman, global head of retail and strategic partnerships, to get their take on the current state of Scotch.

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Cocktail of the Week: the Brooklyn

Introducing a new Master of Malt blog series (trumpets sound): every Wednesday we will present our cocktail of the week. It might be a new serve from a swanky bar…

Introducing a new Master of Malt blog series (trumpets sound): every Wednesday we will present our cocktail of the week. It might be a new serve from a swanky bar or something more familiar. First up, we have a forgotten classic from the golden age of cocktails: the Brooklyn!

You’ve probably had a Manhattan, and maybe a Bronx. But did you know that there are cocktails named after other boroughs of New York City, the Queens and the Brooklyn*?

The Brooklyn was invented around the beginning of the 20th century. It is first mentioned in J.A. Grohusko 1908 bartender’s handbook, Jack’s Manual. The Brooklyn is part of the great family of whiskey-based cocktails that includes the Old Fashioned, the Sazerac and, of course, the Manhattan. But whereas the Manhattan is made from ingredients that most cocktail enthusiasts will have in their cabinets, the Brooklyn requires more specialist kit. The secret ingredient is Amer Picon, a bitter French drink made with gentian, quinine and oranges.

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That’s amaro! The best and bitterest liqueurs from Italy and beyond.

Amari (plural of amaro) are traditional Italian bitter liqueurs which are madly fashionable among the cocktail cognoscenti. No wonder, as they make versatile mixers as well as being delicious on…

Amari (plural of amaro) are traditional Italian bitter liqueurs which are madly fashionable among the cocktail cognoscenti. No wonder, as they make versatile mixers as well as being delicious on their own.

Italians love bitterness. You can taste it in the coffee, in the wine (there’s a Puglian grape called negroamaro – black and bitter) and, most notably, in a class of liqueurs called amari, meaning ‘bitter’. They are made all over the peninsula by steeping herbs, spices, fruit and vegetables in alcohol, then sweetening and diluting the concoction. The best known is Campari but each part of Italy has its own amaro, like Fernet Branca from Milan, or Amaro Montenegro from Bologna. These brands have their roots in the 19th century, but Italian families and monasteries have been making versions for much longer.

Until recently, they were seen as a bit old-fashioned, the sort of things drunk by old men in cafes alongside an espresso. But in recent years they have become fashionable with bartenders all over the world. This has inspired people outside Italy to make their own. There are now a number of boutique producers in America and Britain, and even specialist amari bars like Amor y Amargo in New York.

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The best January refreshments!

The annual season of overindulgence has ended. You’re probably in need of some good refreshment. These fab tipples ought to do the trick. It’s time to face up to facts….

The annual season of overindulgence has ended. You’re probably in need of some good refreshment. These fab tipples ought to do the trick.

It’s time to face up to facts. We overdid it last festive season. Again. There’s no point denying it. We spent most of December non-stop consuming. We put away more pigs in blankets than a fairytale wolf. Our plates were more potato than ceramic. Cheese boards and selection boxes trembled in our wake. It was the best of times. But it could never last.

Now we need some refreshment. To swap indulgence for invigoration. The kind of booze we treat ourselves to is a fine place to start. So, feast your eyes upon these fresh and fun tipples, a list of drinks we think make up some of the best January refreshments around!

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The winners of the VIP trip to The Ardbeg Distillery are…

Three individuals will soon gaze upon the breathtaking views from the Seaview Cottage. The warmth and smell of peat bonfires filling their noses. They are the victors. Our competition has…

Three individuals will soon gaze upon the breathtaking views from the Seaview Cottage. The warmth and smell of peat bonfires filling their noses. They are the victors. Our competition has concluded and a VIP trip to Ardbeg Distillery is their prize!

Islay. Ardbeg Distillery. Distillery tours. Tastings. An enhanced Ardbeg activity. Two nights’ accommodation at the distillery with meals and more. All of this awaits the lucky three victors (and their plus-ones).

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How sound affects flavour… with Silent Pool Gin

How does your environment alter what you choose to drink, without you even knowing it? This is what happened when sensory experts from the University of London’s Centre for the…

How does your environment alter what you choose to drink, without you even knowing it? This is what happened when sensory experts from the University of London’s Centre for the Study of the Senses gave MoM a taste of sonic seasoning (try saying that five times fast…).

We tend to view our senses – touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste – as separate entities, don’t we? We think that what you touch, for example, can’t possibly have much influence on what you taste.

Turns out we aren’t giving biology enough credit, as we discovered throughout the course of an evening hosted by Silent Pool in partnership with British philosopher Barry Smith, director of the at the Institute of Advanced Studies at University of London and co-director for the Centre for the Study of the Senses (rather cleverly shortened to CesSes).

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Our take on booze trends for 2019!

New year, new drinks. Here’s what we reckon we’ll be debating, writing about and, most importantly, sipping in 2019. Tasting glasses at the ready… There’s nothing we enjoy more here…

New year, new drinks. Here’s what we reckon we’ll be debating, writing about and, most importantly, sipping in 2019. Tasting glasses at the ready…

There’s nothing we enjoy more here at MoM Towers than a good old chinwag about delectable spirits. And with the earth completing another full circuit round the sun, what better excuse to surmise, debate and generally theorise about the state of booze in 2019? Read on for the lowdown on ten drinks trends we think will influence what and how we consume in the coming 12 months. Enjoy!

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Fortified wine, not just for Christmas

Don’t let your bottles of Port, sherry or Madeira gather dust. Our guide to getting the most out of these underrated classics will keep you drinking through the winter and…

Don’t let your bottles of Port, sherry or Madeira gather dust. Our guide to getting the most out of these underrated classics will keep you drinking through the winter and into spring and summer.

What’s Christmas Day without a decent drop of Port with your stilton? For me, it’s the highlight of the festive season, so much more delicious than bland old turkey. But like turkey, for most of us, fortified wines are a once a year thing. Which is a shame as they are some of the best value and most versatile wines known to mankind. Fortified wines are great with food including difficult flavours like blue cheese and chocolate, they make useful cocktail ingredients, and the richer ones are a great lighter alternative to brandy or whisky for post-meal sippage. So here’s a guide to keep you fortified throughout the year with three recommendations at the end.

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Gins with wonderfully winter-y botanicals

Make the most of the most of your nights wrapped up warm this winter with this selection of gins with appropriately wintery botanicals! Christmas has concluded. But winter is still…

Make the most of the most of your nights wrapped up warm this winter with this selection of gins with appropriately wintery botanicals!

Christmas has concluded. But winter is still very much here, folks. The shorter, darker days. The seemingly endless cold. The dreaded heating bills.

But winter has its upsides, too. It’s the time of year for thick, cosy clothes, roaring fires and who-cares-if-it’s-healthy comfort food. It’s also the perfect excuse to indulge yourself with a few seasonal spirits. Some of the finest gins around are packed with ingredients that appear as the cold sets in, or warming botanicals that are ideal for those frosty evenings.

That’s why we’ve created this gin-tastic round-up of tipples that will keep you feeling jolly in the post-Christmas winter months.

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10 genuinely epic single grains from across the globe

If you’re of the opinion that single grain whisky is ‘all mouth, no trousers’ – as in, multiple cereals but zero flavour – you’re very sadly mistaken. Here, we’ve picked…

If you’re of the opinion that single grain whisky is ‘all mouth, no trousers’ – as in, multiple cereals but zero flavour – you’re very sadly mistaken. Here, we’ve picked out 10 of the most sumptuous single grains the world has to offer. Tasting glasses at the ready…

It’s quaffable, affordable, and forms the backbone of many a blended whisky: could it be time to cut single grain some slack? David Beckham obviously thinks so, and we’re inclined to agree (though this list is, we assure you, Haig-free).

In reality, the things that many would consider to be grain whisky’s biggest weaknesses – light in character, industrial, no grain off-limits – have been transformed into the category’s greatest strengths by diligent distillers.

Now, I’m pretty nosy, so I wanted to find out a little bit more about the kinds of grains you can expect to find in each bottling. Easier said than done, because this information generally isn’t readily available.

So, where possible I’ve included the variety of grain each distillery primarily dabbles in (or dabbled, should it now be silent), so you can draw your own conclusions if you so wish…

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