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Master of Malt Blog

The Golden Dram: A new whisky film coming soon

Master of Malt was lucky enough to attend a preview of new documentary The Golden Dram, set to hit cinemas from 8 March. So, what’s it all about? If you…

Master of Malt was lucky enough to attend a preview of new documentary The Golden Dram, set to hit cinemas from 8 March. So, what’s it all about?

If you like your whisky on screen, then you are spoiled for choice at the moment. A couple of years ago the BBC made Scotch! The Story of Whisky, there’s The Three Drinkers Do Scotch Whisky, which we wrote about recently, and Dave Broom has a crowdfunded film in the pipeline which sounds great. Now there’s The Golden Dram, and it’s directed by a man called Andrew Peat. How perfect is that?

The film features some of the biggest names in whisky including Charles MacLean, Richard Paterson (on magnificently hammy form) and Dr. Bill Lumsden. But at the heart of the film is Jim McEwan. Peat has been clever in constructing the film around this industry legend on the verge of retirement. This gives the story an elegiac, end-of-an-era quality.

Jim McEwan

Jim McEwan, standing in a barley field, thinking about whisky (probably)

McEwan was born on Islay near the Bowmore Distillery. The distillery was the heart of the town, and from an early age all he wanted to do was work there. He began as an apprentice in 1963. It was a different world. Bill Lumsden, who began his career in the 80s, tells the story of how, on his first day as a fresh-faced graduate, the distillery manager flicked his cigarette butt into a fermentation vat, just to show the college boy who was boss. There are stories about taking a dram of cask-strength whisky at 8am and another a lunchtime. Oh, for the days before health and safety!

Today, many in the business are university graduates but in McEwan’s day you worked your way up from the floor. He did shifts in all parts of Bowmore, including  coopering, malting and distilling. He quickly rose through the ranks and, after a spell blending whisky in Glasgow, in 1986 he was named Bowmore distillery manager.

Under McEwan, Bowmore became one of the most highly-regarded distilleries in Scotland. When Suntory took over in 1994, head office in Japan realised what a treasure they had in McEwan and sent him off around the world spreading the word about whisky. And you can see why – when he’s on screen, you can’t take your eyes off him. To hear him talk is to hear a master storyteller with a deep love and knowledge of whisky.

Tired of all the travelling and missing his family– there are some moving contributions from his daughters – McEwan surprised everyone by leaving Bowmore in 2000 to take over a dilapidated distillery nearby, Bruichladdich. “When Bruichladdich died the community died,” McEwan tells us at one point in the film. This is the best part of the production, seeing how McEwan and the team rebuilt the distillery and reemployed all the old team who had been laid off. No, that’s just something in my eye. His relationship with distillery manager Duncan McGillivray is particularly warm and amusing.

Lynne McEwan

Lynne McEwan who works at her father’s old distillery, Bruichladdich

It is all beautifully shot with shimmering barley, sparkling water and lambs gamboling in the fields. As well as an intimate portrait of McEwan and Islay, the film also tells us some of the history of Scotch whisky and shows us how that barley is turned into the golden dram. Here, I think, it is less successful. If you don’t know how whisky is made you are probably going to be none the wiser after watching. The history element is similarly rushed. There’s stuff about the wild days of distilling before it went legal with the passing of the Excise Act in 1823, but then it jumps straight to the present day. I think something on the booms and busts that plague the industry would have been helpful in explaining why Bruichladdich and other distilleries on Islay closed. The directors could have cut many of the talking heads; there were so many that at times it reminded me a little of those 80s nostalgia shows featuring Stuart Maconie. A long segment about glass blowing also added nothing to the story.

But whenever McEwan is on screen, the film is nothing less than spellbinding. It ends with McEwan shutting the gates at Bruichladdich, we assume for the last time, to go into retirement. His work is done; Bruichladdich is back to its former glory and distilling on Islay is booming. But then, just before the credits roll, we are told that McEwan has been lured out of retirement for one final caper, building Islay’s newest distillery, Ardnahoe, which opens next month. You can’t keep him away from the business he loves.

To find out about screening for The Golden Dram go to: www.scotchthegoldendram.co.uk/cinemas/



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Cocktail of the Week: The Espresso Martini

27 February was the third anniversary of the death of British bar legend Dick Bradsell. So this week, as a belated tribute, we are looking at one of his most…

27 February was the third anniversary of the death of British bar legend Dick Bradsell. So this week, as a belated tribute, we are looking at one of his most famous creations, the Espresso Martini.

The story goes that the Espresso Martini was invented by Bradsell in 1983 after a supermodel came into the Soho Brasserie and asked for a drink that would “wake me up, and then fuck me up” (responsibly, of course). He christened it the Vodka Espresso, but it soon became known as the Espresso Martini because of the shape of the glass. Despite being a recent invention, it’s a cocktail that has inspired much debate as to the proper way to make it. Should it just be coffee, sugar syrup and vodka, or should you use a coffee liqueur like Tia Maria or Kahlúa? Another problem is that it proved so popular that soon bars began cutting corners, using stale, bad-quality coffee, and even pre-making the whole thing and just shaking them to order. If you’re not careful with an Espresso Martini, you can end up with something perilously close to sweetened iced coffee.

Dick Bradsell

The late, great Dick Bradsell (credit: Diffordsguide.com)

What you want is a drink that looks like an espresso complete with crema on top. In order to achieve this, I spoke with Rod Eslamieh from Chapter 72 on Bermondsey Street, a coffee and cocktail bar which modestly claims to make “the best Espresso Martini in town”. He uses only three ingredients: coffee, vodka and Tia Maria in equal parts. So no sugar syrup. “One of the mistakes people make is that they think any vodka will do,” he said. “We use a really good premium vodka.” Next, don’t make your coffee too far in advance: “Once you extract the coffee, oxidation starts taking place and it’s very bitter.” I find that coffee from a stove-top mocha works well in place of an proper espresso; just be careful that you don’t over-boil it or the coffee will turn out bitter. And finally, shake with lots of ice like your life depended on it.

“You have to shake hard because you have to get that iconic cream at the top,” Eslamieh told me. “Sometimes we actually do a reverse shake. We would dry shake it first, then shake it with ice as well, and then pour it. So when you pour it, there’s just this nice caramel look.”

Espresso Martini

Now that’s a proper Espresso Martini

Thanks to people like Eslamieh, the Espresso Martini has been rescued from the bargain basement and is now extremely fashionable. Once you have mastered the basic recipe, you can start playing around with it. Eslamieh likes to add Disaronno Amaretto to give it a nutty taste. You could try adding a little Sambuca as a nod to that Italian classic, the Caffè Corretto. And finally, I’ve been playing around with Asterley Bros London Fernet, which has a bitter chocolate flavour may as well be custom-made to go with coffee. Lots of fun to be had. Here’s the classic recipe:

30ml ice-cold Reyka Icelandic vodka
30ml freshly-made espresso
30ml Tia Maria

First make your espresso and let it cool. Fill the shaker with ice, add the vodka and Tia Maria, stir, and then add the coffee. Shake very hard and double strain into a frozen Martini glass. Garnish with a coffee bean or three.


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IWD 2019: Meet our head of service, Emma Golds!

Our International Women’s Day 2019 interviewee today is Emma Golds, our head of service! Emma leads our trade and retail service teams, is partial to a Japanese G&T, and was…

Our International Women’s Day 2019 interviewee today is Emma Golds, our head of service! Emma leads our trade and retail service teams, is partial to a Japanese G&T, and was also recently featured on a very exciting bottle of gin indeed…

Friday 8 March is International Women’s Day! To mark the occasion, all week we’re giving you a behind-the-scenes peek into the inner workings of MoM Towers and introducing you to different people across the team. Today, meet our head of service, Emma Golds.

Emma joined Team MoM more than six years ago – and you’d be hard-pressed to find a human who cares more about the customer experience than she does. She’s part of the senior management team at Master of Malt, and has an incredibly varied role spanning service (of course!) product, and operations. Over to Emma!

Tell us about you and your role at Master of Malt.
I am head of service for Master of Malt, which means that I’m responsible for managing the Service teams (Retail and Trade) and ensuring that our amazing customers always receive the support and service that they deserve. I have worked at MoM for six years and absolutely love it! I truly believe that our customers are the best in the world and the fact that I get to spend my days coming up with different ways to improve our service delivery and make even more people happy is the greatest.

Talk us through a typical day…
First thing, I’ll have a catch up with our Trade and Retail Customer Service managers to get updates about how their teams are looking and what type of things we have been helping our customers with recently. I want to understand what our customers are asking for and how we can help them better in the future. Listening to our customers and taking their feedback to other areas of the business is something that I absolutely love to do! It really is our customers that drive and shape our business, and I’m incredibly fortunate to work with some amazing colleagues and teams that also love to listen and respond to the challenges that are asked of us.

Then, after a coffee, I’ll continue to test out some of the new systems that we are trialling which will make the customer experience even more seamless. The rest of the day might include more meetings, or knuckling down and working on some upcoming projects. I work very closely with all other areas of the business to make sure that we have complete cohesion in our strategy – from our Fulfilment Centre, to make sure that all of our orders are packed beautifully, to our Stock Replenishment team, to ensure that we have enough stock for an upcoming promotion that our Digital Marketing team will be running over the weekend. The overarching goal is always to make our customer experience the absolute best it can be. 

International Women's Day Master of Malt Emma Golds

It’s Emma!

How did you get into customer service?
I had always worked in customer service but had never really thought about it as a career path – I just knew it was something that I really enjoyed and was good at (I think, really, I just like to chat with people and do what I can to help and make their lives a little easier!). After taking myself off to university and travelling for a few years, I returned home and began working directly with customers again. I found that I was not alone in being shocked and dissatisfied with the customer service I was receiving from companies that I interacted with, and that I was extremely passionate about improving service levels across the board. Fortunately, I found myself joining a business (MoM!) that felt the exact same way, and I began to build and shape a team that puts customers at the absolute forefront of our decision-making.

What makes the drinks industry such an interesting place to work?
I think the fact that it attracts so many different types of people, all with such varied skills but passionate about the same thing. It really breaks down barriers and the opportunities are endless! It is such a fast-paced industry and is constantly evolving. It keeps you on your toes and is so exciting – who knows what trends are just around the corner?!

Tell us about a career highlight…
Being featured on the MoMer’s Web Page Gin label recently has to be a very proud moment!

Recommend a drink!
Easy peasy – Ki No Bi Gin & Tonic with a sprig of rosemary to garnish. Absolutely beautiful (and if you can guarantee sunshine and good company, that is even better!).

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Say hello to some spring spirits!

Spring has finally arrived and there’s no better way to ring in the warmer months than with a seasonal spirit in hand. Shed your layers and rejoice: spring is here!…

Spring has finally arrived and there’s no better way to ring in the warmer months than with a seasonal spirit in hand.

Shed your layers and rejoice: spring is here! The grass is green, there are new baby animals to coo over, and surely the heating bill is about to reduce (adulting truly sucks). So, why not put off the spring cleaning for another day and indulge in a tipple, or two. Whether you’ve got a penchant for Prosecco, a love of liqueurs, a soft spot for Scotch or a taste for Tequila, this is a time of year when the refreshing and rewarding really come into their own.

Here at MoM Towers, we love a bit of flower power when spring arrives. That why we’ve chosen to celebrate the coming of spring with a host of gins featuring fantastically floral botanicals, like rose petals, violets, lavender, lotus blossom and more. Enjoy!

Kyrö Napue Gin

This particular gin has two very exciting properties. 1) It was distilled using rye grain. 2) It features meadow sweet among its botanical selection. Alongside the aforementioned meadow sweet, Napue Gin was also crafted at the Kyrö Distillery in Isokyrö using citrus, cumin and juniper. Plus, it was named as the inaugural winner of the IWSC Gin & Tonic Trophy in 2015!

What does it taste like?:

Creamy vanilla, angelica, juniper, pink peppercorn, orange blossom, a herbal twinge of coriander root and cardamom seed, as well as plenty of floral and perfumed qualities.

Spring-tastic serve: Gin and Tonic

Classic, easy and, in this case, award-winning – it’s the Kyrö Napue G&T! To create, simply add 40ml of Kyrö Napue Gin to a highball glass filled with ice cubes. Top with 100ml of tonic water, stir well, garnish with a sprig of rosemary and a few cranberries. Serve while reminding any guests that this is an award-winning cocktail, thank you very much.

Alkkemist Gin

A wonderfully-presented gin that shines in a number of cocktails, Alkkemist Gin features among its 21 botanicals one of the classics of the floral genre: rose petal. Used to add depth and delicate sweetness, it was distilled (apparently under the light of the moon, no less) among other ingredients such as Muscat grape, orange and lemon peel, samphire, fennel, thyme and mint.

What does it taste like?:

Lemon peel, lavender, apple blossom, grape sweetness, fennel, clove, peppery juniper and a floral waft of rose.

Spring-tastic serve: Tom Collins

Add some Spanish style to this classic gin cocktail by stirring 50ml of Alkkemist Gin, 25ml of lemon juice and 15ml of simple syrup in a highball glass. Then fill the glass with ice cubes and top up with soda water. Garnish with a slice of lemon and serve while howling at the moon like the big badass wolf you are.

Harahorn Norwegian Gin

Sunndal wild marjoram is the star floral botanical is this interesting Norwegian gin. Mind you, you’d be forgiven for not noticing that thanks to the very distinctive label. While Harahorn is named after a mountain in Norway, the gin was actually inspired by the story of a hare with horns. Is it rad? Yes. Is it quite scary? Certainly. Does the gin taste delicious thanks to a botanical selection of Røros juniper berries, Nordmarka blueberries, Grimstad rhubarb, bladderwrack, Oppdal angelica and the highlighted Sunndal wild marjoram? Obviously.

What does it taste like?:

Juniper and blueberry always go together handsomely. The subtle tartness of rhubarb plays well with the pairing too.

Spring-tastic serve: Nordic Martini

See in spring with some Scandinavian style in this wonderful Martini. To create, combine 60ml of Harahorn Norwegian, 1 tbsp of Noilly Prat Original Dry and a little ice together in a cocktail shaker and strain into a chilled Martini glass. Garnish with candied rhubarb and serve while impressing your guests by correctly pronouncing all those botanicals!

Dorothy Parker American Gin

We’re always happy to celebrate Dorothy Parker, whether that’s the legendary writer, poet and satirist, or this delicious gin from the New York Distilling Company! A fine example of some of the great gins we’re seeing come out of America, this tipple was crafted with a mix of traditional botanicals, juniper, citrus, cinnamon, and more contemporary examples such as elderberries and the floral highlight here, hibiscus petals.

What does it taste like?:

Sweet floral notes, muscular juniper, elderberry, citrus, cinnamon and hibiscus petals.

Spring-tastic serve: The Aviation

A classic gin sipper with a spring in its step and a beautiful purple-bluish hue. You can make this variant of the Aviation cocktail by adding 60ml of Dorothy Parker American Gin, 15ml of Maraschino liqueur, 7.5ml of Crème de violette and 20ml of fresh lemon juice into a shaker with ice. Simply shake this mix and then strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a brandied cherry and serve while saluting the great Parker – “I’d rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.”

Forest Gin

What a success story Forest Gin has been for its creators, Lindsay and Karl Bond. Forest Gin is the only gin to have ever been awarded two separate Double-Gold Medals at the San Francisco World Spirit Awards, a feat it achieved in 2016. In this family-created small batch gin you’ll find classic botanicals, such as organic juniper berries and coriander seeds, as well as local ingredients foraged from Macclesfield Forest and processed with a pestle and mortar. This includes the gorse flowers, the floral fancy that means Forest Gin made our list, as well as wild bilberries, raspberries and local moss.

What does it taste like?:

Sweet berries, dewy, forest floor, moss, fresh spring water, rooty liquorice, cassia and cinnamon.

Spring-tastic serve: Negroni

Add a dose of forest funk to the Italian classic by combining 25ml of Forest Gin, 25ml of Campari and 25ml of Martini Rosso vermouth together in a cocktail shaker. Shake well with cracked ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a handful of raspberries and a cinnamon stick. Serve and marvel at that maverick weasel you’ll notice on the label of the distinctively English porcelain bottle.

Silent Pool Gin

The fragrant and delicately sweet lavender is the floral botanical you’ll find in the sublime Silent Pool Gin, which is produced on the Albury Estate in the Surrey Hills. This is right next to the Silent Pool, a beautiful, mysterious spring-fed lake that was the inspiration for a gin which features 23 other botanicals, including makrut lime, chamomile and local honey among others.

What does it taste like?:

Violet, lavender, lime leaf, elderflower, chamomile, orange blossom, vanilla-rich honey, cardamom, a spark of black pepper and juniper give it a spicy edge.

Spring-tastic serve: The French 75

The French 75 is an excellent celebratory cocktail, the perfect choice to toast the arrival of spring. To make, add 45ml of Silent Pool gin, 15ml of lemon juice and 7.5ml of sugar syrup to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake and strain into an empty glass, then top up with Champagne. Garnish with lemon peel and raise a glass to gin, springtime and, why not, gin again!

Sharish Blue Magic Gin

Sharish Blue Magic Gin is probably known best for its ability to transform in your glass from blue to pink with the addition of tonic. This is all down to the magic of the blue pea flower extracts which are used as a botanical. They not only provide that magnificent blue colour you can see in the bottle above, but also the colour changing properties that make this Portuguese gin so popular. Botanicals also include juniper, coriander, angelica root, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, lemon peel, strawberry and raspberry.

What does it taste like?:

Raspberry, strawberry, stem ginger, leafy coriander, lemon and angelica and soft juniper.

Spring-tastic serve: Like Magic Gin and Tonic

Let’s face it, we all want to make the colour changing G&T. So, what you’ll need to do is take a large glass (a Copa de Balon glass is ideal) and fill it with ice cubes and a 50ml measure of Sharish Blue Magic Gin. Then slowly pour 150ml of tonic water down a bar spoon onto the ice. Garnish with a slice of fresh orange, then play Eiffel 65’s Blue (Da Ba Dee) and Prince’s Purple Rain, in that order.

Roku Gin

When it came time for Suntory to create its first gin, there was little surprise it opted to include some wonderfully Japanese botanicals. These include the fabulously floral sakura flower and cherry blossom, as well as sakura leaf, sencha tea, gyokuro tea, sansho pepper, yuzu peel and traditional gin botanicals such as juniper, orange peel, lemon peel, coriander and cinnamon, among others.

What does it taste like?:

Earthy and vegetal, with a light whisper of fruity sweetness hiding underneath. Peppery notes develop on the finish.

Spring-tastic serve: Roku & Soda

The highball is a Japanese institution, so making a gin-based equivalent seems particularly appropriate. To create, pour 30ml of Roku Gin into the highball glass and fill with ice to the brim. Then slowly and gently pour 150ml of soda water along the edge of the glass and stir. Garnish with sticks of fresh ginger and, if possible, sakura flower petals to keep the floral theme going.

Boë Violet Gin

Boë Gin is delicious enough as it, but the recipe has been revamped here with the fantastically floral addition of violets! Delicate, refreshing and beautiful to look at, Boë Violet Gin is a smashing tipple, Enjoy it with tonic or any number of mixers, or use it to bring colour and sweetness to a variety of cocktails.

What does it taste like?:

Hugely floral, with classic citrus-forward notes cutting through cleanly.

Spring-tastic serve: The Amethyst Aviation

Fabulous and floral, this beautiful cocktail celebrates its violet spirit. To create, add 40ml of Boë Violet Gin, 25ml of lemon juice and 10ml of Maraschino liqueur into a shaker with ice. Shake this mix and strain it into a cocktail glass, then top with premium grapefruit tonic or soda water. Garnish with a twist of fresh pink grapefruit, serve and enjoy – it’s spring and you’re drinking delicious gin for goodness sake!

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IWD 2019: Meet our campaign exec, Laura Carl!

With International Women’s Day fast approaching, we thought we’d celebrate some of our behind-the-scenes team here at MoM Towers. Today we chat with Laura Carl, our campaign executive, about #WhiskySanta,…

With International Women’s Day fast approaching, we thought we’d celebrate some of our behind-the-scenes team here at MoM Towers. Today we chat with Laura Carl, our campaign executive, about #WhiskySanta, diving, and the joy of bourbon.

Friday 8 March is International Women’s Day! Last year we marked the occasion by interviewing some of the drinks industry’s most exciting luminaries. For 2019, we thought we’d turn our attention to our very own office. Get set to meet more of Team MoM!

As well as getting to know some of the women who work here at Master of Malt, I hope a little behind-the-scenes peek will highlight some of the many varied careers the drinks industry offers. We met PR manager Mariella yesterday, today it’s the turn of campaign exec Laura Carl to talk us through life in the marketing team. She joined Master of Malt in June 2018, and works across all kinds of projects, from #WhiskySanta to our weekly emails. Enough from me, over to the woman herself…

Tell us about you and your role at Master of Malt.
I’m a campaign executive at Master of Malt, our team (big up Jake Mountain and Lois Jõe!) manage the marketing campaigns and all the challenges that go with running them. This includes everything from headline competitions and social media campaigns such as #WhiskySanta, to product selection for the website and managing day-to-day marketing requests.

Talk us through a typical day…
The best thing about this role is that every single day is different for me. We have on-going projects which require constant attention, such as the weekly product email, and then brand new campaigns or ideas which can be turned around in a couple of days. My role includes coming up with design ideas, putting together strategic planning for public holidays or events, analysing results, and acting as a communicator between the many wonderful teams and people we have here at MoM, who make it possible to get the job done.

Laura Carl International Women's Day

Laura spends much of her year liaising with #WhiskySanta while he’s on his holibobs

How did you get into marketing?
My career path seems pretty convoluted; I actually have a degree in marine biology – so obviously marketing was the clear career choice after graduation! I worked in sales for a PR company before running away for two years travelling. In that time, I had a range of roles; most notably I became a dive instructor in Thailand and Indonesia (yeah, I’m pretty cool), and then I moved over to Australia. Over there, I worked in a few bars and managed events for a small craft brewery in Brisbane (check out Aether Brewing with its amazing craft beer and even better people), where I gained a true passion for drinks. Upon my return, I knew I wanted to focus on marketing and I managed to find this amazing role which allowed me to use both the creative and analytical aspects of my personality (as well as my love for all things alcoholic!).  

What are the particular challenges your role?
Clear communication is always key. The easiest way I would explain my role is project management marketing. Making sure every aspect of the campaign is running smoothly and on-time can be a challenge, especially at busy times of the year such as Christmas.

What’s one of the most surprising things about your role?
The opportunity to be as creative as I want when it comes to new social campaigns is amazing; we really do have the freedom to run with what we believe will be effective. MoM has a wonderfully jovial ‘voice’ and working with that kind of marketing image for a company gives you the scope to have a lot of fun when it comes to new campaigns.

What makes the drinks industry such an interesting place to work?
I really am lucky to work in an industry which I’m truly passionate about. It’s constantly evolving, there is such a rich history involved in spirits and, best of all, there’s always something new to learn or try. Everyday people are pushing the boundaries in spirits production, cocktail making and drinks trends, which makes the whole industry innovative, exciting and endlessly interesting.

Tell us about a career highlight…
We recently attended the Gin Magazine Awards (where MoM snapped up Online Retailer of the Year!). We spent the evening sipping the world’s best gins and generally celebrating how awesome we are, which was pretty cool! Also, getting to attend the launch of the ‘A Miscellany of Inventions’ cocktail menu at GŎNG Bar at the top of The Shard was pretty frickin’ awesome. Can I have two? I’m putting two.

What advice would you give to someone looking to get into drinks marketing?
You may not feel like you’re always on the right path but seize every opportunity that falls your way, no matter what your current role. You never know when the skills you pick up may come in useful.

Recommend a drink!
Bourbon is the love of my life, so it has to be an Old Fashioned.

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Milk and Honey: Israel’s first single malt whisky distillery

We talk extreme climate ageing, Israeli terroir and Jim Swan’s influence on world whisky with the team at Milk & Honey (or M&H to its friends). When is a single…

We talk extreme climate ageing, Israeli terroir and Jim Swan’s influence on world whisky with the team at Milk & Honey (or M&H to its friends).

When is a single malt not a whisky? When it’s the snappily-titled M&H Young Single Malt Aged Spirit, that’s when. Later this year, there will be a whisky release from Israel’s first single malt distillery, but the spirit is so delicious at about six months ageing that the team has decided to bottle some now. This is the Triple Cask release, and it’s aged in a combination of ex-bourbon, Islay and STR (shaved, toasted and re-charred) casks that previously held Israeli wine.

I tried some last year; firstly in its component parts, and then put together where it had notes of honeycomb and cherry, all with an underlying smokiness coming through strongly on the finish. The liquid is so rich, harmonious and golden in colour, that it’s hard to believe it is only six months old.

Milk & Honey

M&H Triple Cask

Dana Baran, head of marketing, explained to me why it had so much flavour already. “It’s very hot and humid in Tel Aviv, and the climate helps with fast maturation,” she says. “It’s like Kavalan in Taiwan. The negative side is the evaporation rate, which is about 8-10% yearly.” Head distiller Tomer Goren added: “Whiskies over three-to-four years old, which we already have, are well-matured. We will not reach more than five or six years of maturation.” The Triple Cask bodes well for the distillery’s first full release of whisky, due out later this year. There was a very limited release of 391 bottles in 2017, the first of which went for £2,400 at auction.

Milk & Honey (from the biblical name for ancient Israel, the land of milk and honey) has something else in common with Kavalan: the involvement of Jim Swan, distiller extraordinaire, who died in 2017. “Dr Jim Swan was our consultant,” said Baran. “He helped us to build the distillery from scratch, chose the casks, the yeast, and designed our pot stills.” According to Goren, Jim Swan found Israel’s climate fascinating from a maturation point of view. “We are such a small country, but we have three or four different climate zones. All the zones see whisky mature at different rates.”  

The team have been experimenting with ageing casks in the ultra-salty environment of the Dead Sea. ”The air is very dry and salty,” said Baran. “Temperatures can run up to 50°C in the summer there, so obviously the evaporation rates will be sky-high. But we might get some interesting flavours from there as well.”

The climate isn’t the only unique thing the team has to play around with. “Our ‘terroir’ is trying to use locally-based interesting things,” Baran told me. Israel has a burgeoning wine scene. At the moment, Israeli wineries use mainly French grape varieties like Syrah or Cabernet Sauvignon, but some are experimenting with indigenous grapes. M&H is ageing some spirit in casks that previously held these grapes for added local flavour. The team also uses casks that contained wine made from fermented pomegranates, “a very biblical and very Israeli fruit”, according to Baran.

Milk & Honey

It’s a barrel of laughs working at M&H

Sadly, Israeli barley is not suitable for distillation so the grain comes from Muntons, a British company. Most of the M&H distillation runs are unpeated, but every six months Goren does a two-week run of peated barley. The yeast comes from Fermentis in Belgium, and the team ferments for between 60 and 70 hours. There is a 9,000 litre wash still and a 3,500 litre spirit still producing around 170,000 litres of pure spirit per year, enough to fill 800 casks. So it’s a small operation, at least by Scottish standards. For comparison, Ardbeg produces around 1.25 million litres per year.

M&H filled its first cask in 2015. At the time there were no other whisky distilleries in the country. But, according to Goren, “the whisky industry is booming, so there is now one more that is up and running, and there’s one or two that are in the construction stages.” There are no Israeli regulations for whisky. Goren told me that distillers largely use those of the Scotch Whisky Association, so the first whisky will be aged for a minimum of three years.  

As well as whisky and nearly whisky, M&H also makes gin and other liqueurs using the house malt spirit. Being based in the tourist hot spot of Tel Aviv means that the distillery gets a lot of visitors, around 10,000 a year according to Baran. “But we’re actually not aiming for the Israeli market, we’re thinking global,” she said. Welcome, Israel, to the world whisky club.

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IWD 2019: Meet our PR manager, Mariella Salerno!

8 March marks International Women’s Day, so this week we’ve gone behind the scenes at MoM Towers to introduce you to some of our dream team. First up: PR manager,…

8 March marks International Women’s Day, so this week we’ve gone behind the scenes at MoM Towers to introduce you to some of our dream team. First up: PR manager, Mariella Salerno!

It’s always fun to have a peek at other people’s lives. I don’t know about you, but this extends to browsing property websites, Instagram, and very definitely drinks cabinets. In a similar vein, Take Your Friend To Work Day should absolutely be A Thing. And with International Women’s Day on Friday, it seemed like a good opportunity to have a nose into the lives and jobs of some of my colleagues here at Master of Malt! (Confused/annoyed by all things IWD? Have a read of this post from last year and then come back. We’ll still be here.)    

International Women’s Day is, at its heart, a celebration of women from all backgrounds in all walks of life. And there are a whole bunch of amazing people at MoM Towers who just happen to be women! From our marketing and service teams to digital, trade and beyond, the drinks industry is full of brilliant people in ace roles (beyond Master of Malt, just check out some of the women who we spoke to last year!)

Whether you’re looking for a bit of career inspo or just feeling nosy, this mini-series is for you. First up, we speak to Mariella Salerno, our PR manager who joined our marketing team at the end of last year, who chats Margaritas, sharing stories and celeb encounters. Over to Mariella!

Meet Mariella!

Tell us about you and your role at Master of Malt.
I am the PR Manager at Master of Malt, which means that I look after all external relations and publicity for the company. Historically, Master of Malt hasn’t really had a PR function, and this is the first year we’ve had an in-house team. This makes me so excited as I have the chance to steer our communications strategy in line with what the whole company is up to!

Talk us through a typical day…
The first thought of the morning is to check social media and see what our brilliant readers and customers are saying about us! People talk about all kinds of drinks and share our blog stories and videos. Then I grab a coffee and sit down in front of my laptop ready to spread MoM joy! The rest of the day I might be meeting with brands or events partners, or visiting venues for future events. Or catching up with journalists, or getting a press release ready to send out. The role is a mix of strategy and creativity, so each day is different.

How did you get into PR and communications?
I landed my first communication job as marketing assistant at sports network ESPN, and my boss at the time said he liked my eagerness to chat so much that he thought I would have plenty to say when the channel launched in the UK and Southern Europe. I then went to gain qualifications from the Chartered Institute of Public Relations in PR Strategy Management and Psychology in Campaign Design, just to make sure I was doing things right!

What’s one of the most surprising things about your role?
You really do have endless opportunities to create stories that can inspire readers and audiences regardless of demographics, background or affiliations. As long as there is a shared passion, you are really free to create new stories that people can engage with.

Tell us about a career highlight…
Dame Vanessa Redgrave walked towards me, asked for my name and toasted to my hard work at the Moët British Independent Film Awards 2011. That was an incredible moment!

What makes the drinks industry such an interesting place to work?
I think the most interesting aspect for me is that the drinks industry really is free from clichés, strict rules and stereotypes – it attracts an enormous variety of people all with different backgrounds and from different walks of life. It means the drinks industry keeps evolving all the time – in doing so, it remains relevant and it’s so exciting to be involved in. In PR you’re always trying to connect with people, and because everyone is welcome, the possibilities really are endless!  

Recommend us a drink!
Simple – a classic Margarita. It never, ever, ever goes out of fashion!

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The bars of the future are already here

Curious about what the cocktail bars of the future might look like? No need to gaze into crystal balls – the clues are all around you. Here, we take a…

Curious about what the cocktail bars of the future might look like? No need to gaze into crystal balls – the clues are all around you. Here, we take a look at the progressive venues re-shaping the modern bar landscape in 2019 (and beyond)…

“In 1986, there was a little boy at his first job in the Grand Hotel Bayerischer Hof in Munich who saw his first serious bartender with a huge moustache, tie and white jacket,” recalls Klaus St Rainer. “The coolest person in the whole building. ‘That must be the best job in the world,’ I thought to myself. And I was right.”

Since St Rainer, the owner of Munich’s Goldene Bar, had his life-changing encounter all those years ago, the industry has transformed. The legendary barman – who recently joined Jim Meehan for a guest shift during Banks Rums’ Please Do Tell tour – credits Charles Schumann’s 1992 book American Bar for painting bartending as serious profession: paving the way for what he calls “the new golden age of cocktails”.

Klaus St Reynier

Klaus St Reynier thinking about the future

But despite the incredible technological advancements we’ve witnessed over the course of the last few decades – using a rotovap to extract delicate aroma compounds, for example – very little has actually changed behind the bar. The industry is a stickler for tradition, and there’s an argument, I suppose, that until now, very little has had to.

At its heart, “a bar is a place for people to gather and escape from their daily lives,” says Simone Sanna, bar manager at Lyan Cub in Hoxton. But while the bar’s most basic function hasn’t changed, the attitudes and expectations held by its guests and owners have. As a ‘sustainable drinks-led dining experience’ that approaches food and drink as a ‘united entity’, Cub is a shining example.

“Our main focus is to educate guests about what you can get from your surroundings and take them on a flavour journey,” explains Sanna. “We have all become more conscious of the environmental cost of what we consume, and the ethics behind ingredients will only become more and more important.”

A new project with similar ideals, called Tayēr and Elementary, will join Cub in Old Street this Spring. The brainchild of Monica Berg and Alex Kratena; the venue features two bar concepts and a creative workspace called Outthink that “will encourage collaboration beyond the culinary arts’.

In Elementary, the menu will be dictated by available produce and drinks will be served via a bar system created in collaboration with Oslo bar Taptails for efficient service, while Tayēr – derived from the Spanish word ‘Taller’, meaning workshop – will, like Cub, focus on what is inside the glass and on the plate.

Tayēr’s bar will be stocked not only with selection of products from wine and sake producers, breweries and distillers, but spirits, beer and soft drinks of Berg and Kratena’s own creation. But more interesting is its adaptable station, which has been designed so that ‘the equipment, tools and produce can be placed anywhere based on concept, season, ingredients or any other individual needs’.

Together Berg and Kratena spent more than three years developing the concept, re-evaluating the efficiency and functionality of each aspect of the traditional bar set-up to refine the experience for both the bartender and the guest.

“Several things could be done to make [bartending] more viable [as a] long term profession,” says Berg. “It’s a physical job, so some wear and tear is to be expected, but at the same time, making sure the designs are more ergonomically suitable would help immensely.

“Our stations for example, are higher than what’s been the norm, because much of the bar station design has not been updated for decades. People today are taller than generations before, so it makes sense that they also need higher stations.”

While experience has surely shaped Berg and Kratena’s approach to Tayēr and Elementary – “we have both been very fortunate to work with great people along the way,” Berg says – a love of being behind the bar is the “single most important part”. Making drinks is fun, she adds, but the reward really lies in the interaction with guests. The one aspect of the bar, after all, that can’t be reimagined.

Cha-Chunker Genuine Liquorette

Ch-ch-ch-cha Chunker (sung to the tune of Changes by David Bowie) from Genuine Liquorette

With that said, some venues are certainly playing with the parameters of the ‘bartender’ role. Take bar-slash-off-license hybrid Genuine Liquorette which opened in Fitzrovia last year. It may be headed up by some of the capital’s finest bartenders, but the concept puts the power firmly in the hands of its guests.

You can craft your own bottled cocktail from a host of ingredients usually tucked away behind the bar, dispense one of six ready-made cocktails on tap, invent your own Cha-Chunker – a can of soft drink with a hole cut into the top and a miniature spirit upended into it – or create a personalised drink choosing from spirits labelled by price per gram (the bottle is weighed before and after).

Is this, perhaps, what we should expect from tomorrow’s venues? For the most part, today’s bartenders expect there will be change – but not too much. And maybe robots. “There will be still a mix of everything: high quality classic bars, experimental bars, dive bars, hotel bars, pubs and maybe some robot bars with bionic drinks,” St Rainer reckons.

“I sincerely hope bars will continue to be a social meeting place where strangers, friends, locals and travellers all meet up and have fun,” adds Berg. When it comes to what’s inside the glass, drinks will continue to evolve and adapt; “if we maintain our supply chains, producers, farmers and makers and ingredients, we will continue to drink great cocktails in the future.”

But as ingredient choices shift according to our palate preferences and societal necessities, Sanna remains “truly convinced that people will still order a Dry Martini even if they’re on Mars”. A Martian Martini sounds good to us.


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The Nightcap: 1 March

Pinch, punch, the first of the month, March is here! Happy St. David’s Day if you’re celebrating, and happy weekend, too! But before you crack on with the festivities, we’ve…

Pinch, punch, the first of the month, March is here! Happy St. David’s Day if you’re celebrating, and happy weekend, too! But before you crack on with the festivities, we’ve got all the booze news stories you need from the week that was.

Spring has sprung! Birds are singing, the daffodils are out… and this week MoM HQ has been sweltering in temperatures most usually seen in July. We’ve cracked out the Highballs, the floral gins, the light mark rums, and we’ve had a lovely time (global warming concerns aside). But it’s not all been high-jinks – there have been news and features aplenty, too!

First up, our Annie met Jim Meehan, co-founder of Banks Rums, and she also checked out Muyu, a new Amazon-inspired liqueur for liquid luminaries Monica Berg, Alex Kratena and Simone Caporale. Then Henry shared an Ardbeg tasting sesh – he put his palate through its paces with Brendan McCarron, who looks after the maturing whisky stocks at both Glenmorangie and Ardbeg. But that wasn’t enough for Henry – he then limbered up his nose with The Balvenie’s Alwynne Gwilt. What a week!

But we’re not done yet. Adam travelled to London to get the lowdown on Glen Grant from superfan Jim Murray (yes, the Mr Murray), and Our Cocktail of the Week was the Elderflower Collins. Oh, and we investigated the most delicious gins on the globe following the announcement of the World Gin Awards 2019. And we revealed what this month’s Dram Club members will be discovering in their boxes! We are good to you.

But what else has happened in the world of booze? LOADS, that’s what. Don’t believe us? Just read on, my friend.

We can’t wait to see the transformed Bunnahabhain distillery

Bunnahabhain gets £10.5 million distillery revamp

Islay fans: we have big distillery news. Bunnahabhain, tucked away on the island’s north coast, is in the throes of a significant expansion project! The £10.5 million transformation, funded by parent company Distell International, will see the creation of a ‘brand home’ and visitor centre complete with a shop and café overlooking the stunning Sound of Islay. Also new will be a shiny filling store, while the production building and cottages will be restored, creating on-site holiday accommodation. A number of original distillery buildings will be also be revived, while others, notably old warehouses, will be removed to make room for the new buildings, and improve operational flow. Work is already underway, with an impressive 99% of materials removed already repurposed for use on-site. “The plans aim to make the navigation of the site much easier for the visitor and to, in simple terms, declutter it,” said Derek Scott, Distell’s brand director for malts. He continued: “As the most remote and northerly distillery on the island, our transformation will give those who have made the journey time to pause, forget about the rest of the world and enjoy the serene surroundings.” The visitor centre should be ready in time for the 2020 season – we can’t wait.

Hopefully things will begin to look up for the Gautier Cognac parent

La Martiniquaise owner to take over most of Marie Brizard

French drinks group Marie Brizard Wine & Spirits looks likely to be taken over by main shareholder COFEPP, hopefully concluding a troubled couple of years for the Gautier Cognac and Sobieski vodka parent. In a statement, the company said the French authorities had approved the COFEPP bid, as long as certain conditions are met. These include selling off Porto Pitters and Ticaz Tequila to meet competition concerns. It’s an interesting move for COFEPP, which already owns both La Martiniquaise and Bardinet (think: Glen Moray single malt Scotch, Label 5 blended Scotch, Saint James rum and Poliakov vodka). Could France be about to see a new super-power drinks group take shape?

One of Port Ellen’s oldest, and most exciting, releases.

Port Ellen releases a 39 year old single malt

In a move that will get Scotch whisky lovers salivating, Diageo has announced that it will release a 39 year old single malt from Port Ellen in April. This is one of the oldest ever releases from the distillery that closed in 1983 (but is scheduled to start distilling again in 2021). The new release is grandly called Port Ellen: Untold Stories The Spirit Safe, and is the first in a new series of releases called the Untold Stories Series. It has been matured in both American oak ex-bourbon and European oak ex-sherry refill casks. “This release has been selected from a small number of casks, it is very different to other Port Ellen releases,” said Tom Jones, global prestige brand ambassador. It’s being released at 50.9% ABV and only 1,500 bottles have been filled. As you’d expect from perhaps the most in-demand ghost distillery in the world, it’s expensive, weighing in at £4,500 (although something of a bargain compared with some recent Macallan bottlings…).

Too much paperwork means less time to spend on wine

Spare a thought for wine inspectors set to ‘drown in paperwork’

Yep, more Brexit news, folks. The Wine & Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) has issued yet more warnings as part of its #NoToNoDeal campaign. The association is claiming that wine inspectors will be left ‘drowning in paperwork’ in the event of a no-deal Brexit, with red tape expected to result in 600,000 additional forms. The cost of all this extra admin? £70 million, according to WSTA stats. Why? Importers will need oodles more boxes to be ticked, from laboratory tests to potential tariffs. V1 forms – currently required for wines coming in from outside the EU – cost £20 per form, and must be filled in by hand. Best stock up on ink cartridges, as 55% of wine consumed in the UK comes from the EU. “The additional form filling and laboratory tests required for a no deal scenario will come as a real blow to exporters and importers alike,” said Miles Beale, WSTA chief exec. “Wine inspectors will find themselves drowning in paperwork and – unless they can double their workforce – wine consignments are going to be held up by unnecessary additional red tape. The reality is that if we leave the EU without a deal, wine businesses, big and small, will be facing a catalogue of extra costs which will ultimately be passed onto the British consumer.” But there’s no need to panic – by all accounts, importers are already stocking up. The wine should keep flowing.

Say hello to the wonderful Method and Madness Gin!

First release of Method and Madness Gin

Irish Distillers has unveiled Method and Madness Gin, the micro-distillery’s inaugural gin release! The bottling pays homage to the historic links to gin in Cork, while also pushing the modern boundaries of (g)innovation. The spirit was predominantly based around Irish Distillers’ pot still Cork Crimson Gin in 2005, which also took inspiration from traditional recipes dating back to 1798, found in a notebook kept in the distillery. It is distilled in ‘Mickey’s Belly’, Ireland’s oldest gin still, first commissioned at the site in 1958. The equipment is named after Michael Hurley, who was a distiller at Midleton for 45 years. Both he and the still came from Cork to Midleton, and so it was christened. The earthy citrus gin marries 16 botanicals, and Henry Donnelly, apprentice distiller, commented that to “combine the knowledge and tools of the past with the skills of the present to create a gin for the future has been a real honour”. The range is a fine use of Shakespeare’s iconic line, we’d say. Method and Madness gin is available in Ireland and global travel retail from March, and will be released globally from July.

Campbell Brown, who shouldn’t have any trouble finding a dram to toast this success

Double-win for Brown-Forman at the 2019 Icons of Whisky America Awards

What’s better than one award? Two awards, of course! The Brown-Forman Corporation will know all about that after Whisky Magazine has named the company Distiller of the Year and Juan Merizalde Carrillo of Old Forester Distilling Co. as Distillery Manager of the Year at the 2019 Icons of Whisky America Awards! Brown-Forman will now hope they can repeat the trick at Global Icons of Whisky presented in London this spring, where competition will come from contemporaries in Whisky Magazine’s other regions; Australia, India, Ireland, Rest of World and Scotland. “We are honoured to receive this award in recognition of our almost 150-year history as distillers and for our contributions and commitments to the spirits industry,” said Lawson Whiting, Brown-Forman CEO. “We continue to craft American whiskeys the best way we know how – with care, patience, and pride.” Campbell Brown, president of Old Forester added. “We are proud to celebrate Juan who is a great contributor to the success of Old Forester. Juan’s balance of technical expertise and passion for crafting great bourbon ensures that the Old Forester promise is as it has always been – to produce bourbon of the finest quality and utmost consistency.” Congratulations guys! I think a celebratory dram is in order…


Penderyn celebrates Welsh whisky ancestors on St David’s Day

Patriotic Penderyn has made a habit of honouring the patron saint of Wales with great whisky, and that’s not about to stop this year. The first distillery in Wales for 100 years has created a new Penderyn ‘Icons of Wales‘ single malt expression, the sixth edition in the series. Named Penderyn Royal Welsh Whisky as a nod to its distilling predecessors, the previous Welsh Whisky Company, it’s a peated whisky with a port wood finish that was bottled at 43% ABV. It was modelled on an original 19th century bottle that became the Royal Welsh Whisky after it received a royal warrant on 26 July 1895 (Queen Vic was obviously impressed on her 1891 visit). However, the company was wound up in 1903 after period of difficulty and little is now known about the original whisky. Adverts state that it was a five-year-old peated malt and, rather fancifully, was “the most wonderful whisky that ever drove the skeleton from the feast, or painted landscapes in the brain of man”. Little wonder bottles of Royal Welsh Whisky now sell for several thousand pounds! Stephen Davies, managing director of Penderyn, commented: “This is a great chance to celebrate Wales’ whisky heritage and the original Welsh Whisky company at Frongoch. Creating a global brand is a massive challenge, and we are proud to create award-winning whiskies which travel from Wales to the world, and this bottle pays homage to those early Welsh whisky pioneers.” Penderyn Royal Welsh Whisky is priced at £45 and sounds royally delicious – Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus, everyone!

Diageo just can’t get enough of this stuff!

Diageo gets taste for baijiu, wants more of Shui Jing Fang

Last year we reported that Diageo wanted in on the baijiu action, upping its stake in producer Shui Jing Fang from 39.7% to 60%. This week, the company confirmed it is after more, and has made an offer to increase its shareholding to 70%. And given baijiu’s popularity, it’s an interesting move. The Chinese white spirit is the most widely-consumed liquor in the world – and is the most valuable (yes, even beating whisky!). According to the 2018 Brand Finance Spirits 50 report, baijiu brand Moutai alone is worth a whopping US$21.2 billion. By comparison, Johnnie Walker, the world’s most valuable Scotch brand, is worth US$4.3bn. The time for baijiu has come!

Books and booze are a brilliant combination

The Bloomsbury Club Bar unveils literary cocktails for World Book Day

A good book plus a delicious dram? We’ve fallen in love all over again with that simple joy recently. So when news reached us that London’s The Bloomsbury Club Bar has created a literary-themed cocktail menu for World Book Day on 7 March, we were all ears. To honour the Bloomsbury Set of writers, philosophers and artists, the bar is encouraging guests to bring in a paperback book which they can trade for a complimentary cocktail. The books will then be donated to a local charitable bookshop! The four cocktails on the special menu include the mysteriously smoking JK Rowling, make with Chivas Regal 12 Year Old, ginger, honey, lemon, and Lapsang tea aroma; and the Roald Dahl, crafted with Havana Club Seleccion de Maestros, peach liqueur, dry vermouth, and grenadine, and comes complete with a giant chocolate ear. Other authors in the line-up include TS Eliot and Charles Dickens. The whole thing was developed by newly-appointed head bartender Scott Gavin in partnership with drinks group Pernod Ricard. Can’t bear to give up a beloved book? You can still enjoy a serve, you’ll just have to part with £12 instead.

BrewDog takes to the skies

And finally… BrewDog Airlines takes off

Not content with making beer, running pubs and launching a hotel, self-effacing Scottish brewer BrewDog has now taken to the skies. This week, the inaugural flight of BrewDog Airlines took off from London Stansted to Columbus, Ohio. On board, a group of paying customers along with a smattering of journalists were treated to a selection of brews, including an IPA especially designed to taste good at altitude. One of the lucky few was award-winning beer writer Adrian Tierney-Jones who told us it was a very jolly experience: “everyone was very well behaved. I’ve seen more pissed people on a flight to Tenerife.” The only slight problem was that the lavatory tanks on the Boeing 767 weren’t designed to cope with all the, ahem, liquid produced by 200 British beer lovers. Tierney-Jones tweeted on landing: “Loos had to close two hours before landing such was the volume of micturition…” Apparently there were some serious queues for the toilets when they landed. We can picture the debrief at BrewDog HQ: “We’re going to need a bigger plane.”

Have a marvellous weekend, folks!

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Master of Malt Dram Club – March 2019

Spring has kicked down the door a little early this year, politely ushering winter out and re-introducing us to our old friend March! Let’s see what this month has in…

Spring has kicked down the door a little early this year, politely ushering winter out and re-introducing us to our old friend March! Let’s see what this month has in store for Master of Malt Dram Club members…

It’s once again time to see what delicious drams members of our very own Master of Malt Dram Club will be receiving in the post this month. If you’re unfamiliar with all this awesomeness, here’s the 411. You sign up for Dram Club, picking whether you’d like to receive Whisky, Premium Whisky, Old & Rare Whisky, Gin or Rum, and each month we’ll launch a Tasting Set contains five different 30ml drams of your chosen tipple to your door. You can even gift subscriptions to people if you know someone would love finding some new about their favourite drink. It’s pretty nifty, even if we say so ourselves.

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