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Master of Malt Blog

Go foraging with Bushmills whiskey

Want to live off the land, but no idea where to start? We talk hogweed Old Fashioneds, preservation hacks, and the quickest route to becoming a botany expert with the…

Want to live off the land, but no idea where to start? We talk hogweed Old Fashioneds, preservation hacks, and the quickest route to becoming a botany expert with the UK’s leading urban forager John Rensten, ahead of his in-depth foraging and cocktail making masterclass in collaboration with Bushmills Black Bush Whiskey this coming Thursday…

If you live in London or any big city for that matter your idea of ‘foraging’ is probably heading down to the farmer’s market on a weekend to buy vegetables that (for once) aren’t wrapped in plastic. But what if we told you that there’s an abundance of elderflower, lime blossom, cherry, dandelion, clove root, hogweed, and all manner of plant produce to be found for free, right on your doorstep? That’s the message behind this week’s masterclass; the second event in Bushmills’ series of #BlackBushStories workshops, which celebrates the stories and crafts of independent and spirited talent across the UK.

In each workshop we team up with a pioneering talent, in this instance it is the craft of foraging with the urban forager, John Rensten,” explains Donal McLynn, Bushmills’ whiskey ambassador. “John will take our guests on a guided foraging tour in London, before they return to the bar and learn how to use foraged ingredients to create whiskey cocktails. The masterclass will be co-hosted by John, myself and Neil Ridley, the whiskey connoisseur and award-winning drinks writer and TV presenter.”

Bushmills Black Bush

You’ve hit foraging gold when you find a bottle of Black Bush

With more than 20 years of foraging know-how under his belt, Rensten says recognising the flora and fauna in urban parks was the “green epiphany” that led him to pen his book, The Edible City, in which he explains how to identify, source and cook delicious nutrient-rich plants found growing in our local parks, pathways, gardens and other wild spaces. “I was absolutely gobsmacked by what I found,” he says. “The countryside and the city doesn’t have the border we think it has – they just basically meld into one, and there’s an awful lot of the countryside in the city if you know how to look.”

Rensten wants to dismiss the idea that cities are, by default, ‘dirty’, and the countryside by contrast, is ‘clean’ – an assumption many of us are guilty of making. “There are lots of areas in urban environments that are historically-documented green spaces that pre-date the industrial revolution so they’ve got no history of industry or agriculture, they haven’t been systematically sprayed with loads of horrible chemicals over the last five decades, and so the soil quality is great,” he says.

Foraging can be off-putting for the uninitiated, coming off at best as complicated, and at worst, dangerous. In fact, the topic can be simple – what matters is your approach. The trick, says Rensten, is to learn a few plants inside-out, rather than adopting an encyclopedic approach to “masses of botany”.

“For something like dandelion, you’ve got three different edible crops that you can use at different times of the year,” he says. “You can use the leaves as a salad ingredient or sweat them [to use as] a cooked vegetable, albeit it a slightly bitter one – dandelion tastes a bit like chicory, which it’s related to.

“You can roast the root for sautéed vegetables, or – I like to roast it and make a caffeine-free coffee with the grounds. Or you can make syrups and sauces and vinegars and all sorts of different things with the flowers.” The only inedible part is the stem, and Rensten has a use for those too. “If you give it a little rinse, you could probably use it as a straw for wild cocktails,” he says.


The Bushmills range

When it comes to foraged cocktails, botanical spirits like gin and flavoured vodka tend to be the default option. We reckon it’s time our favourite barrel-aged spirits shared the limelight – and McLynn agrees. “If mixed correctly, there’s no reason why the foraged cocktail can’t also be successfully applied to Irish whiskey,” he says.

“If you take Black Bush for example our premium blend, and the whiskey we will be using to create foraged cocktails later this week the high proportion of sherry casks used in maturation gives the drink big, robust flavours of dried fruits and nuts,” McLynn continues. “When you combine this intense profile with the vast range of fresh, new ingredients which can be organically sourced in the wild, you can unlock an array of previously untapped new flavours.”

When it comes to easy-to-forage cocktail ingredients, the combination depends largely on the season and how native you want to make your tipple. Hogweed, for example, “ tastes like bitter orange, so it would go really well in an Old Fashioned”, says Rensten. “Rather than a commercially made bitters like Angostura, you could steep hogweed in vodka for three or four days to make a tincture. Instead of an orange peel [garnish], you’d use some crab apple.”

When it comes to preservation methods, you need to know your stuff. Some ingredients dry out well, maintaining or even intensifying in flavour, while others turn insipid or worse – like meadowsweet – become toxic if poorly handled. “Take cherry blossom,” says Rensten. “It’s a wonderful sweet almond oil-essence ingredient, but if you it dry it out all that’s left is bitterness.” His solution? Cook them up and create a cherry blossom syrup.

john rensten

John Rensten, born to forage

Oh, and go easy on the sugar. “I have a tendency to use far less sugar than recipes recommend,” he continues, “they often come from a time way before refrigeration, so the sugar acts as a preservative.” Instead, Rensten will use a quarter or a fifth of what the recipe advises, and then store the liquid in a plastic bottle and freeze it. “If you do that with, say, a rosehip spirit, it doesn’t just taste sweet; it tastes of mango and papaya and tomato – it’s got some really interesting flavours to it.”

Preserving stuff is great too, he adds, so long as you’re careful with the vinegar, which can kill the flavour. “For example, with elderberries, I’ll use half vinegar and half distilled water, add a little bit of sugar, and steep the fruit for about a week. How much sugar or honey I add to it depends how thick or sticky I want it. You could make a very thin vinegar that you could spray through an atomiser, or you could go to the extent of making something like a balsamic glaze.”

There’s no need to plan an expedition if you’re keen to start foraging, in fact Rensten suggests staying local. “Your closest green space is the place you’ll visit the most,” he explains – it can be as simple as your local bus stop. “Foraging makes people into ecological stewards; people champion the weirdest, scruffiest little bits of urban land because they become emotionally involved in them.”

Can’t make the masterclass? Here, Rensten shares his tips for foraging success…

  • Don’t nibble

Tasting something to try and out if it is edible or not is madness, he says. “It’s the equivalent to sticking a gun in your mouth to find out if it’s loaded or not.”

  • Use your common sense

If you’re pregnant or have allergies or other medical conditions, this is not the time to be ingesting new foods, wild or otherwise. Steer clear.

  • Don’t be greedy

At its heart, foraging is about sustainability. “People are very invested in being able to come back the following year and the year after that.”

  • Avoid busy roads

Because of pollution, “but also because it would be a real shame to get run over just because you’re trying to pick a mushroom or a flower.”

  • Start with what you know

… And build on that. “If you know what a stinging nettle looks like, if you know what dandelions and elderflowers and blackberries and crab apples look like, you’ve probably got 15 foods that you’ve never done anything with before and that’s tonnes,” he says. “Once you know 20 or 30 plants, that just keeps you going forever.”

Bushmills Black Bush Whiskey is hosting an exclusive foraging and cocktail making masterclass on Thursday 20th June, where you can learn how to forage in London and create cocktails using natural, foraged ingredients. Tickets are available here.


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We put your Lagavulin questions to Colin Gordon!

Join us as we put your questions about Lagavulin to distillery manager Colin Gordon during Fèis Ìle 2019! During Fèis Ìle, we quizzed someone from every single distillery with YOUR questions. We’ll…

Join us as we put your questions about Lagavulin to distillery manager Colin Gordon during Fèis Ìle 2019!

During Fèis Ìle, we quizzed someone from every single distillery with YOUR questions. We’ll be putting out the footage every day, up until Friday 28 June. So follow the Fèis Ìle tag on the blog, Twitter, Instagram Stories and Facebook Stories, and see if we asked your question!

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New Arrival of the Week: J.J. Corry The Battalion

A blended Irish Whiskey with mezcal and Tequila cask influence is our timely New Arrival of the Week… In a week where The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) announced that it…

A blended Irish Whiskey with mezcal and Tequila cask influence is our timely New Arrival of the Week…

In a week where The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) announced that it has broadened the list of allowable cask types to mature Scotch whisky in, it felt only right for us to feature a whiskey that has an unusual ageing process. But it’s not from Scotland. . .

While the door is now open for Scotch to welcome more experimental expressions, Ireland has already got something of a history of making whiskey with interesting cask finishes. From Method and Madness’ Virgin Hungarian Oak Finish, West Cork’s Bog Oak Charred Cask Finish and Tullamore D.E.W.’s Cider Cask Finish, there’s plenty of options for those who want to try something outside the box. Not to mention Lambay Single Malt (Cognac), Green Spot Château Léoville Barton (the first ever single pot still Irish whiskey finished in Bordeaux casks), Kinahan’s The Kasc Project (hybrid casks from Portuguese, American, French and Hungarian oak, as well as chestnut) and Glendalough 13 Year Old Irish Whiskey – Mizunara Oak Finish (it’s in the title, c’mon people). Some interesting casks there, but there hasn’t been much in the way of Tequila and/or mezcal casks. Until now.

Our New Arrival of the Week, J.J. Corry The Battalion, features both. From Chapel Gate whiskey bonders, the expression is made up of 60% 9-year-old grain and 40% 13-year-old malt whiskey, which were initially aged in ex-bourbon casks. The grain then continued its maturation in a combination of Tequila and mezcal casks for seven months, while the malt spent seven months in just mezcal casks. “We decanted grain into Mezcal & Tequila casks and malt into mezcal casks to mature for seven months,” Chapel Gate Founder Louise McGuane said. “We then vatted a grain Tequila/mezcal blend we felt best expressed the agave notes we wanted to pull out of those casks. This was then blended with 40% of the 2006 malt mezcal influenced whiskey.”

J.J. Corry

J.J. Corry founder Louise McGuane

The Battalion was called as such to mark the sacrifices made by the Battalion San Patricos, (Saint Patrick’s Battalion) a group of Irish men who fought for Mexico in the Mexican/American War of 1846-1848. “We named it in honour of the men of Saint Patricos Battalion because independence has always mattered around here”, McGuane explained. But Chapel Gate itself has an interesting story.

It has been sourcing and blending Irish whiskey since 2015, making it the first new whiskey bonder in Ireland for over 50 years. Hence why the brand describes itself as “Ireland’s first modern whiskey bonder.” The company named its whiskey J.J. Corry after a local whiskey bonder from the 1800s. Chapel Gate doesn’t always plan to be solely a bonder, but like many of Ireland’s recently-founded distilleries, it is waiting for its own distillate to mature. So, in the meantime, it’s taken advantage of a purpose-built bonded rackhouse on the McGuane family farm in Cooraclare, County Clare, Ireland to experiment with ageing and blending ideas, as well as lay the foundations to build a future house style.

McGuane explained that the ambition for Chapel Gate is to “respect tradition but embrace change.” As modern whiskey bonders, J.J. Corry’s idea of change is not surprisingly expressed through its use of the many casks it has at its disposal, much like Corry himself would have done with the rum, Bordeaux & sherry casks that were available to him. The inspiration to go as far afield as Mexico came from McGuane’s respect for the work of artisanal Tequila and mezcal producers. “The best mezcal & Tequilas are, at their heart, produced in rural locations by families, with whom we share a significant affinity with given our approach to whiskey making on our family farm on the west coast of Ireland”, she explained.

What does it taste like then? McGuane felt that in The Battalion (which was bottled at 41% ABV), she had created “a really unique whiskey with green herbal notes and the slightest touch of agave.” There’s also a pleasant salinity and the bittersweet qualities of dried herbs, which could well have been influenced by the cask. The maturation doesn’t dilute the distillate’s profile, however. Tropical fruit, creamy nuttiness and a bite of citrus zest add depth to this whiskey’s character, which ultimately makes for an intriguing dram. Only 700 bottles have been produced.

So, while you wait for a deluge of experimental cask finishes from Scotland, you could do a lot worse than to enjoy a dram of J.J. Corry The Battalion.

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt

Nose: Fresh leafy notes, apple skin, lemon curd and a slight oily nutty note.

Palate: Tangy pineapple and a hint of ripe pear, walnut and green grassy notes with a touch of vegetal agave.

Finish: Oak spice and a sprinkle of sea salt, with a small pinch of dried herbs.

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We put your Port Ellen distillery questions to Ewan Gunn!

Join us as we put your questions about the new Port Ellen distillery to Ewan Gunn, Diageo’s global Scotch whisky master, during Fèis Ìle 2019! What a week (and a…

Join us as we put your questions about the new Port Ellen distillery to Ewan Gunn, Diageo’s global Scotch whisky master, during Fèis Ìle 2019!

What a week (and a bit!) Fèis Ìle 2019 was! Not only did we check out every distillery day, get the lowdown on the festival bottlings AND have a thoroughly lovely time, we also asked the great and the good of the Islay whisky scene YOUR questions, as gathered via Twitter and Instagram!

We’ll be putting out the footage every day, up until Friday 28 June. So follow the Fèis Ìle tag on the blog, Twitter, Instagram Stories and Facebook Stories, and see if we asked your question!

First up: we quizzed Diageo’s Ewan Gunn about the revival of Port Ellen. Enjoy!

Feis Ile

It’s Port Ellen!

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Unusual Scotch ahoy! SWA widens permissible cask types

Good news if you like your Scotch on the esoteric side of things, or felt the rules on cask maturation were too restrictive. The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has announced…

Good news if you like your Scotch on the esoteric side of things, or felt the rules on cask maturation were too restrictive. The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has announced a broadening of allowable cask types, and the changes are already in law!

If you thought the days of ‘innovation’ in whisky solely referring to cask types were over, think again. The floodgates are about to open: the legal requirements for Scotch have been amended to include more cask types, and we sense there’s a wave of experimentation about to hit the warehouse shelves.

Essentially, there is now a list of casks that distilleries can’t use. Before, whisky-makers could only use casks types that came with evidence of ‘traditional use’ in the industry – a pretty vague definition that left many scratching their heads.

The rules now state that:

The spirit must be matured in new oak casks and/or in oak casks which have only been used to mature wine (still or fortified) and/or beer/ale and/or spirits with the exception of:

  • wine, beer/ale or spirits produced from, or made with, stone fruits
  • beer/ale to which fruit, flavouring or sweetening has been added after fermentation
  • spirits to which fruit, flavouring or sweetening has been added after distillation

and where such previous maturation is part of the traditional processes for those wines, beers/ales or spirits.

It’s an exciting development, and one that opens up possibilities for the likes of Tequila and mezcal cask finishing, and even experiments with things like Baijiu, Calvados and some fruit spirits (none of those with pesky stones, though). It means that previously unreleasable experiments (or those that simply couldn’t be labelled ‘Scotch’) may now see the light of day. It’s really is a big development.

There is a note of caution in the Technical File, however:

Regardless of the type of cask used, the resulting product must have the traditional colour, taste and aroma characteristics of Scotch whisky.

So no lurid colours or out-there aromas – the rules do still set out a standard expectation for Scotch whisky, which should keep more traditional folks happy, too.

SWA’s chief exec days the new rules provide ‘clarity and some additional flexibility’

The move comes after a consultation with the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (aka, DEFRA), the official Technical File has been updated, passed through the European Commission, and is now law.  

“This amendment provides clarity and some additional flexibility on the range of casks in which Scotch whisky can be matured,” said Karen Betts, SWA chief exec. “The change is consistent with Scotch whisky’s heritage and traditions, and strengthens our foundations into the future.”

Alan Park, legal director at the SWA, added: “The global reputation for the quality and origin of Scotch whisky has been built over many decades, aided by strong legal protection. The legal requirements are vital to protecting the reputation and quality of the world’s premier spirit which millions around the world know and love.

“A wide range of wine, beer and spirit casks have been used over the years to mature Scotch whisky and clarity about what is allowed under the law should be provided in the Scotch Whisky Technical File.

“The amendment is consistent with the continued use of all those categories of casks where there is evidence of longstanding traditional use in the industry. But it will also create more flexibility, particularly in the range of spirits casks which can be used, subject to a number of safeguards which protect the reputation of Scotch whisky.”

What do you think about the development? Is there a type of whisky maturation or finish you’d like to see? Are you worried that the traditions of Scotch whisky are being eroded? Let us know in the comments below, or on social.

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The Nightcap: 14 June

Cheesemongers, distillery expansions and cucumbers – all this and more in the latest edition of The Nightcap! Right, before we get to the usual incredibly tangential reference that somehow links…

Cheesemongers, distillery expansions and cucumbers – all this and more in the latest edition of The Nightcap!

Right, before we get to the usual incredibly tangential reference that somehow links our weekly round-up of booze news stories to something like aliens being late for a dentist appointment or whatever, we figured we’d just remind you yet again that Father’s Day is this weekend. You haven’t forgotten to get that father figure of yours a present like some of us, have you? (Don’t ask how we did that while continuing to shout about Father’s Day, we have no idea). If you’re in the UK, check our weekend delivery options for your address in the checkout if you have forgotten and send some superb spirits to your dad! Anyway, you ever meet an alien who’s late for a dentist appointment? Me neither. Aliens don’t have teeth. You know what they do have, though? An appreciation for the latest stories from the world of drinks!

On the blog this week we launched a new #BagThisBottle competition where the prize is the delightful and delicious Teeling 24 Year Old – Vintage Reserve Collection! Ian Buxton then talked whisky and honours in his guest column in light of Johnnie Walker master blender Dr Jim Beveridge receiving an OBE, while Kristy reported on the news that Diageo’s €25 million Roe & Co whiskey distillery has started production in Dublin. Annie had a busy week, starting by looking at booze from celebrities who are less ‘Who’s Who’ and more ‘Who? No, seriously, who?’, as well as ways to combine your cuppa with a cocktail and pair whisky with food. Elsewhere, Henry spoke to Karyn Noble about her Global Distillery Tour book, made Fortunella Golden Orange liqueur our New Arrival of the Week, and The Mellow Yellow our Cocktail of the Week, while Adam sat down for a chat with Wild Turkey’s master distiller Eddie Russell.

On with the news!

Buffalo Trace ‘marches ahead’ with huge distillery expansion

Did you know Buffalo Trace Distillery was investing an enormous US$1.2 billion in its distillery? Yep, to counter stock issues, the producer has been on it. The whopping project started back in 2016 and has already seen the construction of four new barrel warehouses and a $50 million bottling hall that’s almost finished. Next up? Three more warehouses (insulated and heated during winter months for prime maturation conditions); a new cooling tower to manage the temperature of the mash; four new 92,000 fermenters, and new handling equipment in the dry house. The visitor centre is also primed for expansion after a record 231,523 passed through the distillery gates in 2018. Phew. “We’ve been increasing production for many years now. We’ll fill more barrels this year than ever before in our 246-year history,” said senior marketing director, Kris Comstock. “Many of our bourbons are aged for eight years or more, so although we have far more than a decade ago, demand continues to outpace our supply of mature bourbon. There will be more available every year, but it will be a while before bottles are readily available on liquor store shelves. While we’re flattered these brands have become so popular, we do understand the frustration our fans are experiencing when they see empty store shelves. We promise we are doing everything we can, but we can’t speed up the ageing process, so we just ask for continued patience.” We reckon it’ll be worth waiting for.

The Nightcap

Fords Gin joins impressive range of spirits at Brown-Foreman

Brown-Forman to acquire Fords Gin

The Brown-Forman Corporation announced this week that it has reached a definitive agreement to purchase The 86 Company which will add Fords Gin to a growing portfolio that includes brands like Jack Daniel’s, Woodford Reserve and GlenDronach. The 86 Company’s Simon Ford and 8th generation master distiller Charles Maxwell of Thames Distillers created Fords Gin together using a blend of nine botanicals including juniper, coriander seeds, lemon, bitter orange, grapefruit, cassia, angelica, jasmine and orris root. Pleasingly, Ford and The 86 Company team will remain in key roles building and crafting of Fords Gin. “Brown-Forman is a great partner to bring Fords Gin to more bartenders and consumers in the U.S. and around the world while keeping our commitment to producing a unique, high quality, mixable gin,” said Simon Ford, “We’re extremely thankful to all our supporters who have been championing the brand since the beginning and look forward to seeing what the future holds with our new collaborators.” Lawson Whiting, president and CEO of Brown-Forman, added: “Fords Gin is a unique brand with terrific momentum in one of the fastest growing categories in spirits. We look forward to building Fords Gin into another iconic brand in our portfolio.” The purchase is subject to ‘customary closing conditions’ (if they don’t ask for a replica of Scrooge McDuck’s Money Bin from DuckTales it’s a wasted opportunity) and is expected to be completed within 30 days.

The Nightcap

Edrington-Beam Suntory’s Bowmore Distillery is one of many who will enjoy this news

Raise a dram! Whisky is set to grow by 6% by 2022

The Edrington-Beam Suntory UK soothsayers have been hard at work: the company has just published its Whisky Yearbook, and the numbers make compelling reading. According to those running the sums, the UK whisky category will be worth a whopping £2.44 billion by 2022, up by more than 6% on 2018 levels. More specifically, an increase in “accessibly priced” expressions will propel Scotch single malt growth by more than 11%, while American whiskey is expected to climb by almost 8%. But it’s “emergent” sub-categories that are primed to soar. The value of Irish whiskey as a whole is projected to advance by almost 21% to 2022, with single grain predicted to explode by a whopping 96%. Japanese whisky can expect a 44% boom, while Canadian whisky, from the smallest base of the four, is set to see a 36% increase. “Irish and single grain whiskies have been real success stories over the past twelve months – sharing rapid growth on an already strong base of both volume and value in the market,” said Mark Riley, Edrington-Beam Suntory UK MD. “We expect both to play a greater role in shaping the wider market in the coming years. The supply challenges that have arguably held back growth in Japanese and Canadian whiskies have eased. While there remains a challenge securing enough liquid from leading brands from both nations to satisfy UK demand, there is far greater supply forecast and we predict we will see growth as a result.” More whisky to go around? Tip top news indeed! Let’s hope the number of consumers continues to grow too.

The Nightcap

Eight Lands Organic Speyside Gin and Eight Lands Organic Speyside Vodka

Eight Lands organic Speyside Gin and Vodka launches

The newly-built Glenrinnes Distillery has announced the launch of its first products: Eight Lands Organic Speyside Gin and Eight Lands Organic Speyside Vodka, both made from 100% organic ingredients and Speyside spring water. Eight Lands, set at the foot of the Ben Rinnes mountain in Speyside and named after the eight different counties that are visible from its top on a clear day, is a family-owned and run business developed by the father and stepson team of Alasdair Locke and Alex Christou. The purpose-built 5,400 sq/ft distillery contains a bespoke 1,000-litre pot still and a two ten-plate rectifying columns built by local specialists, but there are currently no plans to make whisky as the team wants to focus on making quality white spirits. Speaking of which, Eight Lands’ first gin will be a London Dry with a juniper-forward profile which is complemented by locally-foraged botanicals, while its vodka was made using organic barley and wheat, a combination of pot and column stills and an unusual two-stage fermentation process. Both are available directly from the distillery and its website (www.eight-lands.com). “I genuinely believe that we have created something special with our organic vodka and gin, and I’m really proud of the team at the distillery for the hard work and passion that they have put into this,” Christou commented. “We have ambitious plans to build the Eight Lands brand globally in the months ahead and I know that my family and our production team are incredibly excited about sharing our spirits with both the UK and other markets.” Glenrinnes Distillery is open for tours and tastings with the distillery team, so go check it out for yourselves, folks! We’ll be doing the same thing very, very soon…

The Nightcap

Only ten bottles of this stuff are available outside Mexico,

World’s most expensive Tequila (probably) goes on sale in London hotels

Only ten bottles of Maestro Dobel 50 1•9•6•7 Extra Añejo Tequila are available outside Mexico, and Master of Malt got to try one. It might be the world’s swankiest Tequila, it is certainly extremely expensive. Just a measure will set you back around £200. The other nine bottles (sorry, we finished the tenth with help from assembled bartenders and journalists) will go to some of London’s choicest hotels: the Lanesborough, the Rosewood, the Mandarin Oriental and the Connaught where they will sit “the shelf just above the top shelf”, as brand ambassador Oliver Pergl put it. So why is it so expensive? Well, it is extremely rare but it’s not 50 years old. It was created for the 50th birthday of Juan Domingo Beckmann (born in 1967), from the family who own Jose Cuervo, who started the Maestro Dobel brand. It’s a blend of five to seven-year-old spirits aged in a mixture of new American and French oak, blended and finished in sherry casks, though heavy hints were dropped that it contains some much older spirits from Beckman’s private cellar. It certainly tasted extremely mature and opulent, very creamy and smooth with dried fruit sherry cask notes. At times it was like a Cognac, sometimes like an old Latin American rum, but always with that vegetal agave note as the spine. The Maestro Dobel 50 demonstrates a mastery of wood that would impress a Scotch whisky blender. We were lucky enough to drink it alongside a feast especially designed to go with Tequila by Brazilian chef Rafael Cagali from Da Terra in Bethnal Green. So, if you’ve just sold your screenplay to Steven Soderbergh, we’d recommend you give it a go. But if you haven’t, which is most of us, the Maestro Dobel Diamante is pretty delicious too.

The Nightcap

There are few sites more beautiful than this

St-Rémy Brandy launches collaboration with cheesemonger Rodolphe Le Meunier

We all know the joys of a classic cheese and wine pairing (if you don’t, remedy this situation immediately), but how many of us realise how well cheese goes with brandy? Well, we certainly do here at MoM Towers, thanks to the French brandy experts St-Remy, who kindly invited us to enjoy them both at Le Pont de la Tour in London last night in the company of Neil Ridley and Joel Harrison, St-Rémy’s master blender Cécile Roudaut and international cheesemonger (amazing job title) Rodolphe Le Meunier. He’s a big cheese in the world of, err… cheese, having received awards such as Meilleur Ouvrier de France (Best Craftsman of France) and Meilleur Fromager International (Best International Cheese Maker) in 2005 and 2007 for his milk-curdling work and recently setting a Guinness World Record for the largest ever cheeseboard (imagine the party that night). The gastronomic collaboration was brought to life by Roudaut and Le Meunier, who worked closely to distinguish the perfect pairings, developing delights such as St-Rémy XO paired with Old Mimolette (superb), St-Rémy XO with wood-smoked goat cheese (inspired) and St-Rémy VSOP with Swiss Gruyere (I would happily murder a human person for more of it). “France is well-known for its diversity of cheeses, but up until now, nobody has thought to associate them with brandy. It’s truly an entirely new tasting experience,” Roudaut said. “Working with a ‘World’s Best Cheesemonger’ as well as ‘One of the Best Craftsmen of France’ has been a fantastic experience. Rodolphe isn’t any ordinary cheesemonger. I’ve discovered in him someone extremely creative, and so full of ideas. It was really exciting to work on associating cheese with St-Rémy brandies.”

The Nightcap

It would have been rude not to have a sample, or two…

MoM tastes Bimber Distillery’s upcoming expressions

We had a little nose around London’s Bimber Distillery this week in the name of brand new whisky, with a tour from brand ambassador Lukasz. The distillery was founded in 2015 by Dariusz Plazewski, a third-generation Polish moonshiner; Bimber is actually the Polish word for moonshine. We arrived just in time to catch spirit coming straight off the two direct-fired copper pot stills, Doris and Astraea. We started off by trying both peated and non-peated new make spirit, both of which weighed in at around 60% ABV! Hardcore. Although it was surprisingly easy to drink, little surprise that Jim Murray scored it 96.5 in his bible. Then, very excitingly, we previewed three of the single malt whiskies which are expected to be released in September this year. There was the sweet, vanilla and toffee heavy Re-Charred Cask, super Christmassy Sherry Cask and tropical fruit-filled Bourbon Cask. Each expression was somebody’s favourite, and they were all delicious. We even got a sneaky taste of Fortunella liqueur and Da Hong Pao Tea Gin, just for good measure, and life is all about balance, right? This truly is a craft distillery with everything done by hand, including the labelling and bottling. Not an automated machine in sight. It’s an incredibly exciting time for this relatively small distillery, having recently launched its Founder’s Club and just months away from its first London single malt. Watch this space!

The Nightcap

Movies & Malts: a perfect combination

Laphroaig launches partnership with Picturehouse Cinemas

Picture this: Laphroaig has launched a collaboration with cinema network Picturehouse Cinemas. The partnership plans to push the Islay distillery’s profile to a host of new consumers as part of the brand’s ‘Opinions Welcome’ campaign, which invites people to discuss and share their opinions of the distinctive whisky. A very brave thing to do in this time of internet comment sections (everyone who writes on ours is lovely, of course). Previous opinions include “the perfect gift for someone you love or hate… or haven’t made your mind up about” and “smells like medicine. Tastes like soil. My whisky of choice”. The collaboration will entail #OpinionsWelcome content and advertisements shown on-screen. But the really cool part? Laphroaig will be available to be sampled by cinema-goers who visit the 25 Picturehouse venues across the UK and bar staff will receive training in all things Laphroaig so they can create cocktails like the Popcorn Old Fashioned or a Laphroaig & Ginger. A peaty dram/cocktail while watching a film? The people’s voice (or maybe just mine) has finally been heard. “Partnering with Picturehouse Cinemas is a fantastic opportunity for Laphroaig as it gives us the chance to put our much-loved but divisive whisky into the glasses of new consumers, encouraging them to share their unique thoughts,” Nick Ganich, head of Beam Suntory Brands at Edrington-Beam Suntory UK said. “Cinema always stokes healthy debate, so it felt the ideal match to include Laphroaig, which instils similarly strong but divided opinion. Luckily, we welcome them all and we can’t wait to hear what people think.” The partnership between Laphroaig and Picturehouse Cinemas will start in June 2019 and continue throughout the year.

The Nightcap

The flagship bottling is a 1994 vintage Springbank, aged in an antique ex-sherry hogshead

Douglas Laing unveils Super-Premium XOP ‘The Black Series’

Douglas Laing has been busy, as this week it revealed a brand spanking new extension to the Xtra Old Particular range. Behold, XOP The Black Series. The flagship cask in the series is a 1994 vintage Springbank, aged in an antique ex-sherry hogshead and bottled at cask strength, 47.7% ABV over 24 years later. According to Douglas Laing, the bottles house “dark fruited, subtly smoked, leathery and chocolatey spirit within”. It sports quite the decadent packaging too, with a monochrome scheme alongside gold foil detail. Each bottle is hand-filled with an embossed metallised label, glass stopper and even the signatures of Fred and Cara Laing, and, naturally, comes in a luxurious black moleskin case with a certificate of authenticity. Regarding the new series, Cara Laing, director of whisky, noted: “The maiden release in this new Single Cask Series certainly sets an exceptionally high benchmark for future bottlings, and we are poised to rise to that challenge!” Considering that, we eagerly await future bottlings. The 1994 Springbank is expected to retail for £800 throughout Europe and Asia, so definitely keep a lookout on your favourite online retailer. Mind you, there are only 148 bottles, so you’d better be snappy.

The Nightcap

You’ll have to get down there yourselves to see the brand ambassadors dressed in ‘cucumber collectors’ outfits

And finally… Hendrick’s goes bananas for World Cucumber Day

Whereas most gin brands get behind World Gin Day (8 June) or National Martini Day (19 June), for Hendrick’s it’s all about World Cucumber Day on 14 June, that’s today! At airports around the world including Changi, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Schiphol, Frankfurt, Munich, Barcelona, Madrid, Dubai, Dublin, Istanbul, Vienna, Brussels, São Paulo, JFK, Bogota, Rio and IGL Canada, Hendricks will be putting on eccentric displays to celebrate its signature botanical and garnish. There will be cucumbers specimens displayed in special jars, as well as gifts when you buy a bottle of Hendricks and interactive experiences. Oooh modern! The thing that really caught our eye, however, was the promise of Hendrick’s brand ambassadors dressed up in special ‘cucumber collectors’ safari outfits complete with ‘cucumber collector catchers’ ie. nets. Sounds completely bananas, sorry, cucumbers.

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Take a Global Distillery Tour with Lonely Planet

We visit a lot of distilleries here at Master of Malt, but not as many as Karyn Noble from Lonely Planet. She has put a book together taking in the…

We visit a lot of distilleries here at Master of Malt, but not as many as Karyn Noble from Lonely Planet. She has put a book together taking in the main spirit-producing countries plus a few places that are a bit more off the beaten track. . .

Whether it’s gin, Tequila, rum or whisky, spirits are booming at the moment, with new distilleries coming on stream the whole time, and old ones opening their doors to visitors. Fine whiskies, are now made in Taiwan, India and Sweden, for example. Distillery tourism is big business, and what better way to get to know a country or a region than by sampling its local spirit and finding out how it is made. But with so many distilleries to choose from, where do you start? Thankfully top Australian travel writer Karyn Noble and the Lonely Planet team have put together Global Distillery Tour, a guide that takes the hard work out of planning a booze-centred trip. From Lebanon to Nicaragua, the book profiles some of the world’s most interesting distilleries as well as containing guides to different spirits, some cocktail recipes and a list of interesting bars to try on your travels. Phew!

We were lucky enough to get some time with Karyn Noble (who wrote most of the entries on Australia, the UK, Ireland and Sweden) to find out a little more about the project…

Kilchoman Feis Ile

The beautiful stills at Kilchoman on Islay

Master of Malt:  Where did the idea for the book come from?

Karyn Noble: Global Distillery Tour is part of a series of books under the Lonely Planet Food sub-brand. It follows on from Global Beer Tour, which we published in 2017 and Global Coffee Tour, released in 2018, which have both been hugely popular. By then the drinkers of spirits and cocktails in the office were getting a little twitchy and so a pretty strong case was made for this book. (We have a separate series about wine called Wine Trails, to preempt that question!)    

MoM: What tips would you offer for people visiting a distillery?

KN: Talk to the people who work there. It really would be a wasted trip to walk in and order a drink or buy a bottle to take home and learn nothing about what you’ll be drinking. The distillers and people who work in distilleries are usually extremely passionate and proud about what they’ve painstakingly made and want to help guide you towards enjoying what you might like best or introduce you to a potentially new favourite drink. Don’t feel intimidated or be afraid to ask questions. Quite often, people visit distilleries because they’re dragged along by someone more obsessed about spirits, so say that up front like: ‘I usually don’t like whisky, I prefer rum, but is there something I should try?’. If you’re willing to be open-minded, many distillers will take on the challenge of trying to convert you.

MoM: What was the first distillery you ever visited?

KN: Memories are a little vague but I think it was somewhere near Edinburgh in 1996 and it was the first time I’d tried a dram. I let someone who said he was a descendant of Robert Louis Stevenson drive me there and he told me I’d be killed if I asked for water with my whisky. Whisky has felt somewhat reckless and romantic ever since.

Teeling Dublin

You can’t visit Teeling in Dublin and not have a drink.

MoM: Do you have a favourite distillery?

KN: Yes! When I went to Four Pillars gin distillery in Australia’s Yarra Valley, I had to remind them (and myself) I was there for research and not for pleasure, as I always visit when I travel to Melbourne. It’s a lovely excuse for a day trip to the country (about 90 minutes’ drive from the city). One of my editors lives nearby and gave me the hot tip when it opened in 2015. It’s well-located in a renowned wine region and you can sit in what feels like a modern interpretation of a barn with a killer cocktail list or a tasting paddle of gins with unique Australian botanicals and a plate of gin cheese and be very happy with life.

MoM: What was the smallest distillery you visited?

KN: It was Hartshorn Distillery in Tasmania in Australia. I got distiller Ryan Hartshorn at a really exciting time. He distils his sheep whey vodka in the basement of his family’s cheese farm (Grandvewe) and it had just won the World’s Best Vodka in 2018 and he was starting to realise he needed to hire people to help him. The winning vodka hadn’t even gone out to subscribers yet, it had only been tasted by Ryan and the judges and had homemade stickers plastered all over it cheekily saying ‘World’s Best, don’t even look at me’. That was one of my favourite interviews.

MoM: Do you think that spirits are going through something of a golden age?

KN: I think spirits are catching up with the food revolution in that drinkers are becoming more interested in the provenance of what they’re drinking. More people are going to bars and asking for brands now rather than generic spirits. Cocktails and (especially Instagrammable) cocktail bars are becoming more popular. I was chatting to a mixologist from the Maldives recently (unfortunately not in the Maldives) and he was saying that he would have liked to offer more whisky cocktails at his bar but women never ordered them, which led him to believe that women don’t like whisky. Maybe this is true for people holidaying in sunny locations, I’m not sure, but I promptly set about educating him about the Old Fashioned renaissance I’ve been seeing in London bars over the last few years.


Starward distillery in Melbourne

MoM: Will the gin boom ever end?

KN: I agree the gin market is fairly saturated at the moment, which is why a book like Global Distillery Tour is really handy to help direct people towards craft distillers with compelling stories and unique products. One insightful experience I had when researching this project was at Snowdonia Distillery in North Wales where distiller Chris Marshall got me to blind-taste some mass-market gins (he wouldn’t tell me what they were) before and after trying his small-batch Foragers Gin. They were awful, yet it’s all most people know.

MoM: Do you have a favourite spirit?

KN: I do have a soft spot for gin, especially Four Pillars because it’s so delicious, vibrant and pure, but my head has been turned recently by some complex rums and you can’t peat me too much with whisky: I love a smoky whisky.

MoM: And finally, what’s your favourite cocktail?

KN: Tough question but I’m going to go with what we’ve ranked number one in the book’s World’s Best Cocktails List: I love a Negroni like no-one’s business.

Thank you Karyn! You can buy Global Distillery Tour direct from Lonely Planet.

Domaine de Tourelles in Lebanon, distillers of Arak Brun

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Five minutes with Eddie Russell from Wild Turkey

We were fortunate enough to enjoy the company of Eddie Russell, master distiller at Wild Turkey. We talked about innovation, Matthew McConaughey, and rye whiskey’s renaissance. When you hear that…

We were fortunate enough to enjoy the company of Eddie Russell, master distiller at Wild Turkey. We talked about innovation, Matthew McConaughey, and rye whiskey’s renaissance.

When you hear that four of the biggest names in global distilling are going to be in one place at the same time, that’s something you have to take advantage of. That’s exactly what we did when Eddie Russell, Patrick Raguenaud of Grand Marnier, Dennis Malcolm of Glen Grant and Joy Spence from Appleton Estate in Jamaica attended Gruppo’s Campari Meet the Masters event at Carlton House Terrace in London.

Naturally, we took the time to talk all things bourbon and beyond with Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame inductee Russell, who joined the family trade in June 1981 at the Wild Turkey Distillery in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. Russell started from the bottom, working as a relief operator, a supervisor of production, a warehouse supervisor and manager of barrel maturation and warehousing before he became master distiller in January 2015. By doing this he followed in the footsteps of his father, Jimmy Russell, who has having clocked up over 60 years of service to the dram and is currently the longest-tenured active master distiller.

Wild Turkey has been distilling delicious whiskey since 1869 after it was founded by the Ripy brothers, although it did close between 1919 and 1933 because of Prohibition. Originally known as the Ripley Distillery, Wild Turkey got its name in 1940 thanks to Thomas McCarthy, a distillery executive, who brought some whiskey on a wild turkey hunt and shared it amongst his friend. They enjoyed it so much that they requested he bring some more ‘Wild Turkey’ bourbon on the next hunt and the name stuck. The distillery, which was purchased by the Campari group in 2009, is known best for its flagship bottling, Wild Turkey 101, a bourbon bottled at a weighty 101 proof (50.5% ABV) with a mash bill that includes a higher-than-standard rye content and whiskey that was aged for at least six years in heavily charred barrels.

To learn more, we spoke to the man himself, Eddie Russell.

Eddie Russell

McConaughey and Russell collaborated on Wild Turkey’s new release, Longbranch

Master of Malt: You’re just about to release Longbranch with Matthew McConaughey. What effect do you think celebrities have on brands?

Eddie Russell: It’s very mixed for us. It was good that he could get out and reach a lot more people, but in the US when I’m meeting with bartenders, I never talk about Matthew McConaughey, because for them when you have somebody like that you’re this corporate giant. So it’s more about the Russell family and Wild Turkey than it is about Matthew, but corporate thinks a different way. With Matthew though, it has been a very fun deal. He fits our brand perfectly and we’ve come out with a good product. But you have to be very careful about how you deal with that, especially with a younger generation, which is growing in our industry. They help some but for our industry, it’s not as important. For vodka, it’s a lot more important, or even Tequila, but for our industry, it’s more about the generation of the family that’s made the whiskey. It can be a slippery slope, in America definitely.

MoM: Speaking about the importance of family, how do you manage to innovate when you work for a distillery with such a long tradition and family legacy?

ER: It’s always been a tough deal for me because my dad’s been such a traditionalist. Innovation was a bad word for him. But that was what it was about it for his generation. They had one product and if you didn’t like it that was fine with them! So for me, coming in, I thought ‘change everything’. But then I realised ‘don’t change what my dad built’. There are ways to innovate without changing that. I don’t do the trendy stuff. But I do try to do things that are different and unique, based on our principle of having a very premium type bourbon. So it’s been one of those deals where I had to be very careful on how far I’d go on any type of innovation. But we still bring out good products, like Longbranch which will be showing up here in the next month.

Eddie Russell

The legendary Jimmy Russell at Wild Turkey Distillery

MoM: What’s the one memory or lesson that really stands out for you from working with your dad?

ER: From my industry what stands out to me is before Prohibition there was a couple of hundred distilleries in Kentucky. After Prohibition, there was 57. When I started there was only eight. Our industry is probably still the only one that we all are good friends. It’s very competitive out in the market but my dad’s best friend was Booker Noe (former Jim Beam master distiller), Elmer T. Lee (former Buffalo Trace master distiller) and Parker Beam ((former Heaven Hill master distiller). Because there were only eight of them and they were all best friends trying to keep this industry alive as it was dying. Today it’s still the same way. I mean Fred Noe (current Jim Beam master distiller) and I grew up together, we’re best friends. You just don’t see that too much in any other industry, it’s too competitive. But for us it’s such a small industry. That was probably the most surprising thing because if Heaven Hill was having problems my dad would jump in the car with Booker Noe and drive down there and help Parker Beam out. Or if we were having problems they’d come and help my dad out. That was so surprising to me growing up because you’re basically competitors, you’re in the same industry! But they wanted to make sure everybody was going to survive.

MoM: The industry has changed a lot since then and America has led a micro-distilling boom. How has that experience been for you being part of such a traditional distillery? Has it affected your sense of what craft is?

ER: In America craft is over-used a lot. We’re all craft; from making the whiskey to blending whiskey. Craft now seems to signify small. But a lot of small distilleries buy their whiskey from a big distillery, bottle it and call it craft. I do small limited editions, like Master’s Keep, where there are only 15,000 to 30,000 bottles. In America craft is a word that’s thrown a lot but it’s not paid too much attention too, it’s almost been ruined as a word.

Eddie Russell

Patrick Raguenaud, Eddie Russell, Joy Spence and Dennis Malcolm at Campari’s Meet the Masters

MoM: You touch on limited releases there, something you’ve been able to focus quite a lot on. What does that allow you to do as a distiller?

ER: Well it allows me to release things that pretty unique without changing Wild Turkey. In our industry nobody finished in cask, but now it’s big because everybody is buying their juice from the same distiller so they’re finishing in casks to make it taste different. I released an oloroso sherry-finished 12-15-year-old last year, and my dad he wasn’t for it at all. But it turned out great and what I’m trying to do is put things out there, 15-30,000 bottles. For people that want to get it, it’s there, but it’s not a permanent product. I think that’s a very good way to go. Now I’ve developed Russell’s Reserve and Longbranch that are different than 101, that are permanent products but they are strictly straight bourbon whiskey. So the limited edition, my Master’s Keep Series gives me a chance to do things that are different. But they are one-time deals.

MoM: Rye has experienced a renaissance in recent times. Why do you think there’s been an increase in demand and what do you see the future for it being?

ER: The demand has come from the bartending community because they realised all those classic cocktails were made from rye at the beginning because that’s what was first made in America. Then as bourbon come along, rye basically died. I mean us and Jim Beam were really the only two distilleries making it. I used to make rye two days a year. I’d make one day in the spring, and one day in the fall. Now I’m making rye up to four days a month. Back in 2009, I got involved with the bartending community and they started telling me they were going to start making cocktails with more rye, I started making more rye. My next Master’s Keep is going to be an aged straight rye whiskey, barrel-proofed, non-chill-filtered. I have some great rye; 101 Rye, Russell’s Rye, a single barrel rye, but this is going to be aged twice as long as anything we’ve ever put out.

Eddie Russell

The Boulevardier is Russell’s favourite cocktail

MoM: How does bourbon’s relationship with cocktail culture affect your process?

ER: The cocktail industry has changed my industry a lot, so I pay attention to it. It’s just changed my consumer base over the last 10 years. The cocktail industry is not going away and a lot of it has to do with a younger generation. Where I grew up in America my mom cooked every meal and everything was sort of sugar-based or sweet. Whereas my son grew up eating Mexican food and Indian food and we didn’t have that when I was growing up. So it’s a change in their taste profile, it’s a change in their attitudes. My generation didn’t want anything to do with the past, this generation is looking ‘What did grandad drink? What did great-grandad drink?’. So that’s been a big change also. I’m not going to change my liquid to suit them, but I can still come out with stuff that they might want. Wild Turkey 101 is great for a cocktail anyway because it has this bold taste.

MoM: We’ve heard you’re partial to a Boulevardier, how do you make it?

ER: I do two parts bourbon, one part Campari and one part sweet vermouth. A lot of people do one, one and one. I’m just used to a bigger, bolder taste. An Old Fashioned is probably the most requested drink in America but for me, I’m not used to the sweetness. It’s just not what I like. So the Boulevardier is a little bolder drink. It’s sort of surprising because I never liked the bitters that well but my sons taught me a lot about them and the bitterness just goes really well with that bourbon taste.

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The delicate art of tea cocktails

Much like alcohol, tea has been a vehicle for social interaction for millennia, but it wasn’t until the 17th century that booze and brews came together as one. MoM popped…

Much like alcohol, tea has been a vehicle for social interaction for millennia, but it wasn’t until the 17th century that booze and brews came together as one. MoM popped the kettle on with Davide Segat, manager of London bar Punch Room, who spilt the tea on combining your cuppa with a cocktail…

Believe it or not, tea cocktails originated on the high seas. Sailors working for the British East India Company combined rum, citrus and spices to make Punch as an alternative to beer in heat of the Indian Ocean – and when they brought the beverage back to Britain, the flavourful refreshment soon became a cocktail in its own right.

“It was during this time that people started discovering spirits and transitioning away from their usual choice of beer or wine,” says Segat. “But these newly discovered spirits were too strong on their own and needed dilution to make them a more palatable and safe ABV, which is where water and tea came in. Water diluted down the spirit, tea added complexity and flavour.”

Punch Room at the London Edition

Punch Room at the London Edition

Today there are approximately 1,500 types of tea in the world, and they all fall under four different categories: green tea, black tea, white tea, and oolong. Each brings its own unique benefits and specific qualities to the drink. “A great jasmine tea can add an amazing floral taste profile, while a good black tea can add body,” explains Segat. “Lapsang provides a smoky effect and hibiscus – which is not strictly a tea, but worth mentioning – can add acidity. I recently tried a milk oolong tea which had incredible texture and the dairy flavour really shone through.”

With such an adverse array of flavour profiles to experiment with, it can take time to pair a strain with a spirit to get the effect you want. One of Segat’s complex creations, the Henrietta Cocktail, combines Banks 5 Island Blend rum with crushed sunset oolong tea – “to bring out the biscuit and chocolate notes” – jasmine, to “emphasise the refreshing side of the rum” and a bespoke tea blend made in collaboration with Rare Tea Company founder Henrietta Lovell to “heightened the citrus and spicy flavour profile” of the rum. “I personally enjoy using Banks rum due to its exceptional depth, complexity and aroma, with layers of flavour perfect for serving in a cocktail infused with tea,” he adds.

Now be a veritable tea and alcohol-pairing wizard, it was through celebrated bartender Nick Strangeway at London’s Hawksmoor that Segat first started to understand how tea could be used to impart flavours in drinks. For The Five: Volume III, the new cocktail menu at Punch Room, he and the team experimented with different types of tea through an exploration of five fundamental elements of ancient philosophy – earth, water, fire, air and aether.

Take ‘Water’ cocktail the Igloo, which combines green tea with Champagne, seaweed gin, cloudberry liqueur, lemon sherbet, lemon juice, ambergris and lemon sorbet. “The seaweed gin brings out the umami flavour in the green tea and the lemon oil in the sherbet brings out acidity and grassiness from the tea,” Segat explains. “The ambergris adds a floral note to the back of the palate. Great balance, and really shows how good green tea is.” In ‘fire’ cocktail Prometheus, they combined pu-erh tea from China, Pierde Almas mezcal, butter-washed mastiha (Greek pine liqueur), Amaro Montenegro, fennel pollen syrup and lime juice, resulting “in a creamy mixture with rich bitter notes”.

Green tea punch (recipe below)

Green tea punch (recipe below)

The application of tea to cocktails has certainly evolved since those formative Milk Punch days. “With the rise of a more health-conscious generation, we are seeing kombucha – made from a sweetened tea – becoming more and more prominent across the bar scene in the UK,” outlines Segat. He points to London bartenders Stu Bale and Ally Kesley for their “great use of jasmine tea to recreate perfume notes”, along with Ryan Chetiyawardana and the wider Lyan team, “who do a great job at fermenting and discovering new ways to use tea in their drinks”.

The future of the tea cocktail lies in lighter low-alcohol cocktails, Segat predicts. “They have been around for a couple of years and their rise will only continue. The way I see it, this year we will see simpler drinks and cocktails with fewer combinations and more focus being placed on extracting the best flavour from one or two particular ingredients – which will hopefully lead to more sustainable practice in drinks creation.”

Green Tea Punch


1 bottle of Banks 5 Island Blend
375ml Sencha (Japanese green tea)
375ml Mint tea
200ml Lime Juice
200g Demerara Sugar

Brew the tea, then stir in the sugar until it dissolves. Add four cups of ice to chill and dilute the mixture, then add lime juice and rum. Chill before service. When it’s time to drink, add to a punch bowl filled with one large block of ice. Serve in punch cups filled with ice a garnish with grated nutmeg.

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Cocktail of the Week: The Mellow Yellow

This week we talk to Stephen Marsh, the man behind Pinkster, and try a summery cocktail especially designed to go with his pink gin. When Pinkster was launched in 2013,…

This week we talk to Stephen Marsh, the man behind Pinkster, and try a summery cocktail especially designed to go with his pink gin.

When Pinkster was launched in 2013, pink gin as a category did not exist. Fast forward six years, and according to the WSTA, flavoured and pink gins are now valued at £165m, up a staggering 751% on 2017. Stephen Marsh, Pinkster’s inventor, laughs when I suggest he created a monster. He describes it as “a hobby that’s grown wildly out of control.”  

It all began when Marsh began reacting badly to alcoholic drinks. A doctor told him that it was because sugar and yeast were upsetting his system and advised that he give up beer and wine. Neutral spirits like gin and vodka, though, were fine. Marsh switched to gin but encountered a problem: “juniper is a very bitter botanical and doesn’t go very well with food, except game”, he told me.

Stephen Marsh, Pinkster Gin copy

Stephen Marsh, the man behind the gin

So, he set out to create a gin that would be more versatile with food, mainly by trial and error; “I’m not a scientist, I’m an arts graduate,” he said. Nevertheless, Marsh has long been a fruit gin maker so he did have some experience. “I went through the fruit bowl, before having a eureka moment. Raspberries and juniper do something really special together.” Having made this discovery, it took four years to perfect the recipe.

According to Marsh, he had no plans to commercialise it. But friends told him how good the product was. So to make sure it “wasn’t just people being nice”, as he put it, he made up a load and took it to food festivals around the country. Rather than just giving out samples and asking people their opinions, he sold Pinkster drinks and made a note of the number of people who came back for seconds. It quickly became clear that he was on to a winner.

Not everyone was so keen. “We got a lot of push back from the trade. People were a bit sniffy about Pinkster because it wasn’t a classic London dry gin”, Marsh said. But customers loved it and began asking for it by name. Pinkster inspired legions of imitators. Marsh is diplomatic about his competitors, but concedes that many pink gins are gins only in name as they don’t really taste of juniper, and they can be incredibly sweet. Pinkster is made by taking a distilled dry gin, produced by G&J Distillers, and then adding raspberries and other botanicals, which is where it gets its pretty colour from.

Mellow yellow

The Mellow Yellow – it’s clearly orange

Marsh recommends drinking Pinkster in a Martini with elderflower cordial in place of vermouth. This week’s cocktail, however, is a little more elaborate. It was created especially for Pinkster by top bartender Joe Brayford when he was at the Worship Street Whistling Shop (since closed) in London. Marsh met him when his son dragged him for a night out in Shoreditch. It’s a refreshing summer drink (if we get a summer this year) and a good way of using up that bottle of limoncello your mother-in-law bought you from her holiday in Amalfi.

Right, without further ado, here is Mellow Yellow!

30ml Pinkster Gin
25ml Luxardo limoncello
3 basil leaves
Ginger ale

Shake the gin, limoncello and two basil leaves with ice. Double strain into a wine glass filled with ice, top up with ginger ale, stir and garnish with a sprig of basil.


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