We're just loading our login box for you, hang on!

Master of Malt Blog

Cocktail of the Week: The Toasted Nut Boulevardier

This week we delve into the fascinating world of vermouth with a man who knows his artemisia absinthim from his artemisia pontica (they’re both types of wormwood), Jack Adair Bevan,…

This week we delve into the fascinating world of vermouth with a man who knows his artemisia absinthim from his artemisia pontica (they’re both types of wormwood), Jack Adair Bevan, and show you how to make a deliciously nutty bourbon and vermouth cocktail.

Jack Adair Bevan (what a great name BTW, it sounds like he should be played by a young Bruce Willis) hasn’t always been so keen on vermouth. In his new book, A Spirited Guide to Vermouth, he writes, “I shared most people’s perceptions of vermouth of ancient bottles that gathered dust in corners of drinks cabinets and kitchen cupboards with faded labels and bottle tops fused shut with crystallised sugar.” Yup, that’s my parents’ drinks cupboard. It was a Negroni drunk in Haus Bar (since closed) in Bristol that made him change his mind.

Bevan got the vermouth bug real bad: whereas you and I might just experiment with some different brands, Bevan went the whole hog and started making his own. In 2012 with the team at the restaurant where he worked, The Ethicurean just outside Bristol, he created a brand of vermouth called The Collector made with Italian wines and spirit distilled from Somerset cider apples. It became a cult hit among British bartenders.

Jack Adair Bevan

Jack Adair Bevan, looking nothing at all like a young Bruce Willis

When he left the restaurant, The Collector project finished, but Bevan’s vermouth fire is burning brighter than ever hence the book which has just been published. A Spirited Guide to Vermouth (Headline Home, £16.99) traces the long history of aromatised wine: the Romans were flavouring wines with bitter ingredients like wormwood (vermouth gets its name from the German word for wormwood, wermut). But vermouth really went global in the 19th century when it was commercialised in France and Italy by firms like Noilly Prat, Dolin, Cinzano and Martini. The book takes an in-depth look at production methods: in Martini the botanicals are steeped in neutral spirit before blending whereas at Noilly Prat they use wine.

Vermouth went into a decline in the 80s and 90s, but in the last six years things have picked up with increasing sales, small brands and new releases from the old guard. The vermouth world is now truly international. In the book, Bevan picks out some of his favourite labels; he even tells you how to make your own. His enthusiasm is so infectious that, you know what, I must just give it a try.  

“I regard making vermouth as an art form.” he writes, “It’s as close to cooking as the drinks world gets. It’s about a careful balancing of a huge array of contrasting herbs, roots and spices, wines and sweetness.” And indeed, there’s a great affinity between vermouth and food. I recall earlier this summer, near Barcelona, eating a dish of boquerones, anchovies in vinegar that would destroy a normal wine, but the Las Vermudas vermouth just sailed through, the sweetness and bitterness of the drink chiming with the acidity of the little fish.  

Best of all are the cocktail recipes; I can see A Spirited Guide to Vermouth becoming one of the most well-thumbed books in my collection alongside David A. Embury’s The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks. I am definitely going to try his version of the Gin and It, half gin, half vermouth, pre-mixed and served straight from the fridge into frozen sherry copitas with a little ice at the bottom.

Toasted Nut Boulevardier,

Toasted Nut Boulevardier, note very large ice cube

The cocktail I’ve chosen this week, however, requires a bit more preparation. To make a Toasted Nut Boulevardier, you need to steep your bourbon with nuts for four days. Bevan writes: “The flavour of toasted pecans and walnuts is rich, sweet and superb combined with bourbon. The flavour almost sits like another botanical or ingredient with the Martini Rubino.”

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Right, let’s get cracking.

35ml Toasted nut bourbon*
25ml Martini Riserva Speciale Rubino
15ml Campari

A strip of orange peel and a toasted pecan to garnish.

Combine the toasted nut bourbon, vermouth and Campari in a chilled ice-filled shaker, stir and strain into an Old Fashioned glass containing, ideally, one large cube of ice (if not just use four or so conventional ones). Twist the orange peel over the drink, drop in and rest the pecan on the giant ice cube.

* Toast 150g of pecans and 100g walnuts in a preheated 180°C oven for about 10 minutes, turning a couple of times to ensure even toasting. Allow to cool and then put them in a Kilner jar with 700ml of Heaven Hill bourbon. Leave to infuse for four days and then strain through a coffee filter into a sterilised bottle.  

Spirited Guide to Vermouth

Spirited Guide to Vermouth

No Comments on Cocktail of the Week: The Toasted Nut Boulevardier

Should Macallan raise prices to deter speculators?

In this week’s column, Ian Buxton looks at The Macallan Archival Series on which speculators are making a killing and ask whether the company is doing its duty to shareholders…

In this week’s column, Ian Buxton looks at The Macallan Archival Series on which speculators are making a killing and ask whether the company is doing its duty to shareholders by pricing the releases too low.

A free holiday with every bottle! 2,000 vacations must be won!

Chose from a week for two in Orlando (yours from just £413 per person) or, for under two grand you and a friend could jet off to Turkey and enjoy a fortnight’s all-inclusive stay in the Club Adakoy Marmaris. According to the Thomas Cook website it’s “designed for a new generation of travellers who want fun, lively holidays in hotels that have great design, casual but great quality dining, and a bar to match; surrounded by like-minded people and accompanied by the perfect soundtrack”. Sounds amazing.

And this fabulously generous offer comes courtesy of The Macallan Archival Series. Not familiar with this range? Well, it’s a somewhat self-congratulatory set of releases, which commemorate “the legendary Macallan advertising campaigns of the 1970s, 80s and 90s that took The Macallan name to a wider audience for the first time”.

There are four so far but a remarkable 24 are promised to complete the full set. Essentially, what you get is a slim but admittedly handsome hardback book containing old Macallan adverts; a USB stick (more ads) and a bottle of NAS Macallan, all packaged in a large presentation tin tricked up to look like a book. Almost any other brand (assuming it could bear to look back at its old ads) would produce a suitably lavish coffee-table volume but, being Macallan, they just had to be different.

The Macallan Archival Series

The Macallan The Archival Series – Folio 4

The Archival Series was first launched in 2015 and, according to the ever-reliable Andy Simpson of RareWhisky101, it was sold back then as being “for collectors”. At least, that’s what he says he was told. Each edition is limited to 2,000 bottles and you got one either by turning up at the distillery shop at just the right moment or being lucky in their email ballot. If you ‘won’ you had the right to buy a bottle.

And, at £195 plus shipping for the first three bottles (the fourth release is £250), the punters plunged right in. Those 2,000 bottles were gone before you could recite the sacred Six Pillars. And, big surprise, just as fast, lots of them were immediately flipped on the various whisky auction sites that now service the collector and investor market.

Though at first prices were slow to rise, the market soon cottoned on. If you lucked into a bottle and timed it right, there were big profits to be made – on just one site, for example, more than 650 bottles have been offered, with Folio 1 reaching £2,100 (all prices shown as hammer prices, i.e. before auction commission and charges); Folio 2 a slightly disappointing £1,300 (rather a lot of bottles offered all at once) but Folio 3 bouncing back to a handsome £1,900. That’s a cool £1,705 clear profit – far, far more than Macallan are making. Lanzarote here I come!

The Macallan Archival Series

Folio 3 fetched fees of £1,900 at auction.

Early sales of the current release, Folio 4, seem well set to smash the £1,000 mark – quite enough for a decent short break somewhere agreeable and, at risk of labouring the point, a considerable multiple on the distiller’s profit. Without, let’s not forget, the tedious bother of distilling, ageing and bottling the whisky; producing the book and tin; promoting the whole endeavour; dealing with lucky punters and disappointed fans and the sheer bother of packing and shipping bottles all around the world.

Now, back in 2012, when Diageo had woken up to much the same thing happening with its Port Ellen and Brora Special Releases, they simply hiked the price to something considerably closer to what the market was telling them the whisky was worth. If anyone was going to profit from their work, they reasoned, better it was them than some spivvy speculators. Cue predictable outrage on social media but Diageo stuck to its guns and doubtless, their shareholders were happy.

Now, this is where this gets interesting. What, we might inquire, do Macallan think they are doing? After all, there are 8,000 Archival bottles out there already and if very conservatively, we allow an average after-market bump of just £500 per bottle, that’s a secondary profit of at least £4 million that they seem content to hand over to whisky’s Arthur Daley types.

The Macallan Archival Series

The Macallan made its name through clever ad campaigns, something The Archival Series celebrates.

Macallan is part of the Edrington Group which, ultimately, is owned by a charitable body The Robertson Trust. This owes its existence to the remarkable foresight and altruism of the three last direct family owners, the Misses Robertson who, in 1961, transferred all their shares to a newly-established charitable trust in order that their family legacy would continue and ownership remain in Scotland. Today, The Robertson Trust aims to improve the quality of life and realise the potential of Scotland’s people and communities with a particular focus on health, social and educational inequalities. It’s important work and, with annual disbursements of more than £16 million, The Robertson Trust is Scotland’s largest independent funder.

I pause at this point to offer a self-congratulatory, virtue-signalling disclosure: I got a ballot bottle of Folio 3 which is now in the possession of an impecunious family member, to do with what he will. Charity, in this case, begins at home.

But I can’t ignore the fact that with another £4 million The Robertson Trust could increase their great and noble efforts by a quarter. I’ve emailed Macallan and requested their thoughts on the matter – if they reply, I’ll add to this post.

However, for the moment, ask yourself: would you pay more for an Archival bottle? Should you? Or where, I wonder, do you think the profit should go?

Though he has neither a beard nor any visible tattoos or piercings, Ian Buxton is well-placed to write about drinks.  A former Marketing Director of one of Scotland’s favourite single malts, his is a bitter-sweet love affair with Scotland’s national drink – not to mention gin and rum, or whatever the nearest PR is pouring. Once, apparently without noticing, he bought a derelict distillery. Follow his passionate, authentic hand-crafted artisanal journey on the Master of Malt blog.  Or just buy his books.  It’s what he really wants.

1 Comment on Should Macallan raise prices to deter speculators?

Fantastic Father’s Day Gifts

Father’s Day is coming; you need a gift. But there’s no need to panic. We’ve got all kinds of fantastic booze-based presents right here! On 16 June we have a…

Father’s Day is coming; you need a gift. But there’s no need to panic. We’ve got all kinds of fantastic booze-based presents right here!

On 16 June we have a welcome opportunity to show our dads how much we appreciate them. Father’s Day is when we say thanks and give a little bit of love to the father figures in our life. But man can they be hard to buy for.

That’s why we’re here to make it easier. From tasting sets to gift vouchers, our snazzy Father’s Day gift ideas page complete with our shiny new gift finder – we’ve got it all. It’s so simple you’ll be wondering why you ever thought you’d need to leave the house. You should never want to leave the house. Inside is warm and has Netflix.

We’ve also rounded-up a spectacular range of drinks in one handy little blog post just to give you an idea of the kind of treats you can buy for your old man. It beats socks, right?

Happy Father’s Day, all!

The Father’s Day Whisky Tasting Set 2019

Yer da loves whisky, right? But which whisky? What style does he like? Do they have a preference of distillery? What if you get it wrong? These are all questions that can go through the mind of someone trying to buy their dad whisky. But in the The Father’s Day Whisky Tasting Set 2019 (an exclusive made for us by our good friends Drinks by the Dram), none of this matters. That’s because each set contains five different 30ml drams of terrific whisky from world-class producers, so there’s bound to be something he loves inside.

What’s inside?:

The contents of the The Father’s Day Whisky Tasting Set 2019 includes: Tamdhu 10 Year Old, Lagavulin 8 Year Old, 1792 Small Batch, Cotswolds Single Malt Whisky and Johnnie Walker Green Label 15 Year Old.

The Father’s Day Gin Tasting Set 2019

Drinks by the Dram have created, just for us, the perfect Father’s Day gift for any gin lover. This tasting set features five different 30ml drams of delicious gin from a range of superb producers, exactly the kind of thing you’d want if you were looking to find a new favourite juniper-based libation…

What’s inside?:

The contents of the The Father’s Day Gin Tasting Set 2019 includes: Hernö Gin, Salcombe Gin – Start Point, Elephant Gin – Elephant Strength, Japanese Gin and Rhubarb Triangle Gin (That Boutique-y Gin Company).

Glengoyne 12 Year Old

An especially approachable bottling for newcomers and a welcome dram for experienced whisky drinkers alike, Glengoyne 12 Year Old is a wonderfully-made whisky with a clean, fresh profile and plenty of depth of flavour. You just can’t go wrong with this one.

What does it taste like?:

Toffee apples, a little acacia honey, nectarine in syrup and spice, over-ripe grapes, coconut milk, oak spice and coffee supported by toasted barley and chocolate ice-cream in the background. Yum!

Peaky Blinder Spiced Dry Gin

One for the Tommy Shelby fans out there. For those not in the know, the Peaky Blinders were a street gang from the late 19th/early 20th Century that became the basis for a very popular TV show. This spicy gin is no gimmick, however, as its medals at both the San Francisco World Spirits Competition and the International Spirits Challenge in 2018 demonstrate.

What does it taste like?:

Ginger and black pepper make for a spicy opening, though well balanced by ample helpings of ripe orange, oaky cassia, oily juniper, and hints of eucalyptus and coffee bean.

Rumbullion!

If rich, full-bodied rums are what you’re looking for this Father’s Day, then look no further than the proudly maritime Rumbullion! Part of the fantastic Abelforth’s range, this spiced rum was created using a blend of high proof Caribbean rum, creamy Madagascan vanilla, zesty orange peel, a handful of cassia and cloves and just a hint of cardamom.

What does it taste like?:

Intense, sweet vanilla, flamed orange zest, cardamom, old-fashioned cola, Manuka honey, molasses, candy floss, toffee apples, crème brûlée and a fabulous mix of thick cut bitter orange marmalade and tingling, zinging spices from cloves and cinnamon.

Forest Gin

A family-made small-batch gin, Forest Gin is a real labour of love. Karl and Lindsay Bond made it using their own copper condenser with local spring water as well as a blend of classic gin botanicals (think organic juniper berries and coriander seeds) and bundles of foraged botanicals (wild bilberries, gorse flowers, raspberries and local moss) from Macclesfield Forest which were processed using a pestle and mortar. That’s dedication.

What does it taste like?:

Plenty of earthy forest floor notes, sweet berries, moss, rooty liquorice and spice from cassia and cinnamon.

WhistlePig 12 Year Old Oloroso Cask – Old World (Master of Malt)

Why not make your father feel really special this year by getting him a gift he can’t find anywhere else, like this Master of Malt exclusive bottling of 12-year-old rye whiskey from WhistlePig! Finished exclusively in Oloroso sherry casks and released as part of the Old World series, this is a sublime sherried rye whiskey.

What does it taste like?:

Bucketfuls of dried fruit, with sweet caramel and vanilla, new leather, wonderful rich sherry notes and a pinch of tobacco alongside prominent warming spicy notes and orange oil.

Manchester Gin

Emblazoned with the bee from Manchester’s coat of arms and featuring the dandelion and burdock root, Manchester Gin is a delightful celebration of the North. It was created with 12 botanicals in total, including juniper, ground almond, coriander, angelica and citrus peels, all of which were distilled in Wendy (a copper pot still, just to be clear) by couple Jen Wiggins and Seb Heeley (who aren’t copper pot stills, just to be even clearer). A string of awards has followed since its release, which should come as no surprise to anyone who’s tasted it.

What does it taste like?:

Earthy and creamy with a pleasant sweetness and balancing juniper and citrus.

Rémy Martin 1738 Accord Royal Gift Pack with x2 Glasses

If you want to really spoil the father in your life this year, then why not get him a delightful gift pack? This particular edition features a beautiful pair of glasses perfect for enjoying a 70cl bottle of Rémy Martin’s stunning 1738 Accord Royal, a Cognac created to celebrate Louis XV’s decision to grant a young Rémy Martin the right to plant new vines on his land (banned in France at the time) with the Accord Royal in, yes, you’ve guessed it, 1738.

What does it taste like?:

Ripe fruit and vanilla with a slightly herbal vinous note and pronounced, but not overpowering, oak finish.

Fortaleza Añejo

A family occasion should be celebrated with a good bottle of booze created using generations of knowledge passed down through a rich family history. That’s exactly what Guillermo Sauza had on his side when he launched Fortaleza in 2005, bringing back the traditions of previous generations at the family distillery to make expressions like this delicious añejo, which was aged for 18 months in American oak casks.

What does it taste like?:

A beautiful combination of agave and butterscotch, sultanas and mixed peels. Oily, complex, outstanding.

No Comments on Fantastic Father’s Day Gifts

Booze branding buzzword bingo

Today the choice of what we drink has never been greater, from gins made with unusual botanicals to whisky from far-out places like, err, Norfolk. Why then, asks bartender Nate…

Today the choice of what we drink has never been greater, from gins made with unusual botanicals to whisky from far-out places like, err, Norfolk. Why then, asks bartender Nate Brown, is marketing often so formulaic? 

Making a product is only half the bottle (sic). Often, the real work starts when it comes to selling it. Thus, distillation complete, in steps the branding team (funding permitting), fresh with their focus group pie charts, jealous competitor analysis and creepy demographic detailing. It’s their job to create a connection with potential consumers amid a myriad of new releases. They try to put flavour and lifestyle into words. Sadly, they often employ a limited lexicon to appeal to as many people as possible. Rather than risk offence or isolating a portion of their audience, they use a homogeneous factory line of copy cats and safe bets.

‘Retail is detail’

So, here’s a fun game: read the back label from an anonymous spirits bottle and try and guess what it is. Chances are you’ll be met with a bingo scorecard of buzzwords. In order to help you through the word soup, I’ve provided this handy guide:

Artisan: This product has been made by someone with zero qualifications but it makes them feel better about themselves after a career in finance

Craft: Like graft, only without the attention to detail and the love. Craft means made. We know it’s made. It’s in our hand. Don’t celebrate craft, celebrate graft.

Foraged: We weren’t planning on using these botanicals but they’re free.

Founded by: Somebody whose fabricated story tentatively embodies what we want our product to be. We think that by having a face on the label you’ll find us more likeable. The founder is not real. Unless it’s your mate.

Fruity: A deliciously lazy catch all. It could be passion fruit, it could be tomato, or it could be that lovely pear top note you get from poorly-distilled spirits.

Handcrafted: Just like hand-cut chips, which are chips cut by machine with an on button pressed by a real life human. Handcrafted, when you think about it, is a little bit seedy and creepy.

Innovative: We came up with this idea almost all by ourselves. Almost. Besides, someone was already doing what we planned to do.

Smooth: Lacking bite, or possibly flavour. Or maybe structure. Or the finish. Or we’ve added sugar to compensate for its horridness. Or we have literally nothing else to say about this spirit.

Nate Brown

Nate Brown, hand-crafting a cocktail

Bonus points awarded for:

Water source: We have a reverse osmosis machine to demineralise and reduce our water to pure H2O (so does literally everyone else but we’ll just ignore that).

X years experience: We’re going to pretend that practice makes perfect, and that all the years we’ve served in this industry have somehow been building to this point.

These buzzwords suggest a dumbing down of our industry, but actually the opposite is true. We as customers are becoming more and more aware of the liquid in the glass, the words on the label should follow suit.

Nate Brown has owned and operated spirit specialist cocktail bars in London for the better part of a decade. He’s a regular speaker on industry panels, a judge for various spirit awards and has been known to harbour an opinion or two.  

No Comments on Booze branding buzzword bingo

Talisker video masterclass with malt whisky ambassador TJ

One of only two whisky distilleries on the Isle of Skye, Talisker, has a loyal following. In this masterclass malt whisky brand ambassador TJ shows us how to get the…

One of only two whisky distilleries on the Isle of Skye, Talisker, has a loyal following. In this masterclass malt whisky brand ambassador TJ shows us how to get the most out of its distinctive smoky salty taste.

The rugged maritime setting of coastal Skye is echoed in the taste of Talisker whisky.

One sip of the 10 Year Old expression, and you can smell the sea air and almost hear the squawk of seagulls. It’s one of Scotland’s best-loved and most distinctive single malts. If you’re lucky enough to visit the distillery, you mustn’t miss out on the nearby shack selling fresh and smoked seafood caught in the surrounding waters. A dram of Talisker and a Scottish oyster is a match made in heaven. But you don’t have to drink it neat, Talisker is also delicious in cocktails, hot and cold. 

Talisker Campfire Hot Chocolate

Talisker Campfire Hot Chocolate

To tell us more about Talisker, its affinity with seafood and how to use it in cocktails, we were lucky enough to spend some time with TJ. A former Edinburgh bartender, TJ now works as a malt whisky ambassador for Diageo, spreading the word about the joys of Scotch whisky.

Got your Talisker ready? Take it away TJ!

Here TJ tells us a little about himself and his journey from behind the bar to Diageo whisky brand ambassador.

In this video TJ shows how well Talisker 10 goes with raw oysters.

Talisker Campfire is the ultimate hot chocolate drink.

Talisker Port Ruighe also tastes amazing with seafood.

 

No Comments on Talisker video masterclass with malt whisky ambassador TJ

New Arrival of the Week: Real Kombucha’s Dry Dragon

Our new arrival this week is a fermented tea drink hailing from Asia – that’s right, it’s kombucha! We’re specifically looking at Real Kombucha’s Dry Dragon, made with fermented pan-fried…

Our new arrival this week is a fermented tea drink hailing from Asia – that’s right, it’s kombucha! We’re specifically looking at Real Kombucha’s Dry Dragon, made with fermented pan-fried green tea leaves.

But first, a little about the somewhat mysterious drink. It turns out tea isn’t just for your morning cuppa. Kombucha is made by brewing loose leaf tea in water, adding sugar, and then adding a mother culture (known as a ‘scoby’, which stands for ‘symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast’) to kickstart the all-important fermentation. Even though, like many boozy treats, kombucha is fermented, it generally only weighs in at less than 0.5% ABV. So it’s hardly surprising that, with current low and no-alcohol trends, the drink is seeing something of a resurgence.

Now, this here is a tipple with some history, as the first recorded use of kombucha was in China in 221 BC when it was also known as ‘The Tea of Immortality’. That would appear to be the beginning of kombucha’s many health claims, which still continue today. We won’t be dwelling on that though, we’re here to talk about the deliciousness of the drink.

So, this week we’re enjoying Real Kombucha’s Dry Dragon, one of the three expressions from the brand. Real Kombucha was founded in early 2016 by non-drinker David Begg. He desired a sophisticated non-alcoholic drink to pair with food, much like you would a wine. A friend introduced him to a certain fermented tea, and Begg immediately began brewing it himself. After almost two years of development and over 150 teas later, Real Kombucha was finally ready.

Dry Dragon is brewed with pan-fried Dragonwell tea leaves from Zhejiang Province in China. Unlike the grassier Japanese green teas, Dragonwell boasts more of a nutty and straw-like flavour. Dry Dragon has been compared to a sparkling citrus-forward wine, which means it’s a brilliant pairing with light salads and particularly with fresh Asian dishes. Or, to be enjoyed simply as a refreshing tipple, if that’s what you fancy. Alternatively, kombucha is now becoming a pretty popular cocktail component, so it may even be the next addition to your home bar to experiment with.

Real Kombucha’s Dry Dragon

Will kombucha soon be part of your home bar?

To taste, Dry Dragon starts off with vibrant and delicate citrus, with notes of bittersweet grapefruit juice and sweeter citrus peels balanced by dry and grassy tea. The finish is refreshingly acidic, followed by a full and nutty finish.

If we’ve got you hooked on the ‘booch hype, why not take a gander at Annie’s wonderful blog post which goes into some nitty gritty detail, while even chatting to Begg himself!

No Comments on New Arrival of the Week: Real Kombucha’s Dry Dragon

The right glassware is important. Here’s why…

Picking the right glassware is crucial – it can be the difference between an average drink and a memorable one – but not for the reason you might think. Here,…

Picking the right glassware is crucial – it can be the difference between an average drink and a memorable one – but not for the reason you might think. Here, MoM discovers why designing the perfect glass requires a combination of science, psychology and culture….

“Sometimes we can alter the wall thickness of a glass by a millimetre and dramatically change the nosing experience, it can be that fine,” explains Scott Davidson, new product development director at Glencairn Crystal. “If there’s too much straightness in the walls, aromas escape too quickly, but if we make [the glass] bowl-shaped, they build up. You get all the flavours into your nose and onto your tongue while you drink the liquid – so you mix what you’re smelling and what your palate is tasting. That mix is the experience master blenders want you to have.”

You might recognise Glencairn for the company’s tasting glass, an essential bit of kit for whisky geeks (ourselves included) the world over. When the family-owned business first developed the glass at the turn of the century, it set out to create a nosing glass for the casual drinker. Today the team crafts all kinds of bespoke tumblers – for brands like Johnnie Walker, Glenmorangie and Woodford Reserve, as well as entire categories, such as Canadian Whisky – and the design cues and aesthetics can vary hugely from project to project.

glassware

The Glencairn tasting glass, an essential for whisky geeks

“Some of them want a tumbler, some of them want a tasting glass,” says Davidson. “They all want a tasting and nosing function coupled with different applications.” The glass Glencairn created for the Canadian whisky industry, for example, had to be large enough to accommodate ice and mixer. Other brands might prefer the glass to be heavy, with almost paper-weight stature, or made with traditional cut crystal, to fulfil existing customer perceptions. Regional preferences aside, there’s a shedload of shape-specific physics to consider.

Trying the same wine from three different shaped glasses often results in three very different experiences, says Chix Chandaria, owner of Brixton-based wine bar and shop The Wine Parlour. “Certain shapes direct wine aromas towards the nose, whilst keeping the harsher ethanol notes contained,” she explains. “The size of the bowl determines how much oxygen can reach the surface area of the wine. The difference in diameter from bowl to rim affects the intensity of aroma. The rim of a glass will affect how much fluid is taken into the mouth and at what angle.”

The latter is particularly interesting – there’s no doubt that the shape of the glass alters the angle at which the liquid inside hits your tongue, but why? “Imagine you have a Martini in your hand – or better yet, make yourself a Martini,” says Chandaria. “Take a sip and take note of how your head moves slightly forwards. You are minimising the risk of spillage from that wide, cut rim, and as such you are sipping, skimming from the surface and pulling the fluid over your tongue front to back in small quantities.”

glassware

Respect your glassware, they make a big difference…

Now repeat the taste test, but with a red wine glass. Notice any changes? The rim is narrower and rolls inwards, forcing you to tilt your head back slightly, and the liquid enters your mouth in a completely different fashion. “The science of what is happening here is complex and multifaceted – it has to do with temperature, speed, texture, body, ratio of saliva to liquid and the amount of room left in your mouth for air to circulate,” she explains. “It’s about the aromas that are leaving the liquid as it passes from the glass, under your nose and into your mouth, and the less desirable ethanol notes that are left within the glass.”

Harking back to primary school science lessons and the ‘taste map’ of the tongue, this must mean that the Martini tastes sweet – since those taste receptors sit up front – while wine, hitting the back and side of the tongue, tastes bitter and sour? Well, no actually. “The cells are not arranged in block formations with bitter at the back, salt on the sides and sweet at the tip,” explains Chandaria. “In actuality, these cells have a more or less equal distribution over the tongue. Need proof? Stick a flake of sea salt on the very tip of your tongue and feel the misconception dissolve on your palate.”

While the shape, size, rim thickness, and diameter of any glass are responsible for improving and enhancing your imbibing experience, there’s a better reason for using specific glassware, she adds. In fact, there are three: respect, ritual and presentation. “When I pour a glass of wine for a customer often the first thing they will comment on is how lovely the glass is,” says Chandaria. “They see me handle the wine with respect and present it to them as something beautiful and interesting. It sets the tone, increases anticipation and heightens awareness.”

glassware

The right glass can prime you for a more enhanced drinking experience

Glass is glass is glass, as Davidson points out. “If you have a similar shaped glass made in all the different materials, there’ll be no difference in the flavour,” he explains. “But a glass that you covet enhances your experience and changes your perception of the taste.” If you decant your favourite dram into a heavy-cut crystal glass, your brain is primed for a more enhanced experience. It’s the same as “taking the time to make an Old Fashioned rather than pouring bourbon over ice, or playing your favourite album on vinyl rather than simply hitting play on Spotify,” adds Chandaria.

FYI, the goal is not to eliminate ethanol vapours entirely. “They carry the aromas up into the glass,” she explains – “the process of creating alcohol creates many of the flavour compounds we are detecting in the first place. A well-made glass should encourage desirable aromas while suppressing undesirable aromas. It is a matter of balance and nuance.”

2 Comments on The right glassware is important. Here’s why…

Fèis Ìle 2019: Day Eight, Ardbeg

The carnival finale of Fèis Ìle was at Ardbeg today! We caught up with Mickey Heads and got stuck into all the tropical fun and games. Also, don’t miss our special…

The carnival finale of Fèis Ìle was at Ardbeg today! We caught up with Mickey Heads and got stuck into all the tropical fun and games. Also, don’t miss our special Deal of the Day: Save 15% on Ardbeg 10 Warehouse Pack, Ardbeg Uigeadail and Ardbeg Corryvreckan until midnight tonight!

The theme for this year’s Ardbeg Day was built around their Drum festival release, matured initially in ex-bourbon casks before being “rested” in ex-rum casks (a first for the distillery). It made for a tropical-tastic event with live steel drum bands, a carnival atmosphere and plenty of fun as always!

We also spoke to distillery manager – and “drum major” for the day – Mickey Heads about the Islay and Caribbean flavour fusion that is Ardbeg Drum (which is available on the site now!)

It wasn’t all plain sailing for us today though! As the MoM team left the house – sans Kristy, who was already en route to Spice (Girls) up her life – we discovered a flat tyre! Not what you need when you’re on your way to a distillery day on the other side of the island!

Could the person who answered the hire car’s emergency number understand that the likelihood of them “being there in a minute” from the mainland was fairly low? Could we get hold of anybody from either a taxi firm or the local tyre fitters on an Ardbeg Day Saturday? No. Could we find a neighbour with a hand pump and then reach somewhere that stocked puncture repair spray sealant? Yes. On to Ardbeg!

Welcome to Ardbeg Day!

Once inside, many familiar sites could be found from bars to the pizza van we’ve visited almost every day, and live music from the trailer of a lorry. Ardbeg always go all out with their theme for the year, though, so all the distillery workers were in fancy dress with maracas and huge smiles, and the place was full of games including a pineapple shy and everybody’s favourite 2018 sensation: hoopla! (The first time we saw it this year!) They even managed to make the sun come out, and it really did feel tropical compared to the rest of the week. Of course, there was still space for Iain Spink’s famous Arbroath smokies, and the queue for those went right around the lawn.

It’s not just the staff who took it seriously (by not taking themselves too seriously) though, the number of appropriately colourful shirts on display was impressive. Not least from the Jesteśmy Boat City Whisky Club from Łódź, who were out in force all week, as they are every year!

We’ve seen these “unpaid whisky soldiers” every day and they were getting into the carnival spirit today!

If you’ve been following any of our social channels, or perhaps been on our shiny new Father’s Day page, you should also be aware that we’ve been offering a special Ardbeg Deal of the Day!

Save 15% on Ardbeg 10 Warehouse Pack, Ardbeg Uigeadail and Ardbeg Corryvreckan until midnight tonight, and check back for more Daily Deals in the lead up to Father’s Day!

And so, another action-packed Fèis Ìle has come to an end. It’s been an amazing week and we’ve loved meeting so many friends, old and new, throughout. Also, keep your eyes peeled for all the Q&A interview videos where we put your questions to distillery managers each day, which we’ll start publishing soon!

Better end on the last distillery doggos of the week.

The one on the right has little protective booties.

Until next time Islay!

No Comments on Fèis Ìle 2019: Day Eight, Ardbeg

Master of Malt Dram Club – June 2019

June. It’s June. Somehow, right now, it is June! 2019 is speeding past! With that in mind, let’s take a look a what Master of Malt Dram Club members will…

June. It’s June. Somehow, right now, it is June! 2019 is speeding past! With that in mind, let’s take a look a what Master of Malt Dram Club members will be receiving this month…

We’re halfway through 2019, which often comes as a shock. It feels like just yesterday we were toasting to the new year, crossing our fingers and hoping that 2019 was going to be cooler than 2018. That was many yesterdays ago, and now it is today, the first day of June 2019 already. If you fancy taking a moment to slow down and reflect with a tasty tipple, and you’re a Master of Malt Dram Club member, then you’re in luck – we’ve got the scoop on what you’ll be receiving in your Tasting Sets this month! Let’s have a gander…

No Comments on Master of Malt Dram Club – June 2019

Fèis Ìle 2019: Day Seven, Bunnahabhain and Jura

Time for some unpeated fun at Bunnahabhain’s and Jura’s open days – and some peated fun too, because why not?! – as well as more boats, dogs and rain! We…

Time for some unpeated fun at Bunnahabhain’s and Jura’s open days – and some peated fun too, because why not?! – as well as more boats, dogs and rain! We had a blast.

It’s been a busy day at Fèis Ìle, with the team getting down to Bunnahabhain nice and early before splitting up so we could be at Jura’s open day too! We’ve also lost Kristy. She loves whisky, of course, and was gutted to miss the fun that’s yet to come tomorrow, but like many of us she has other passions. In her case that takes the form of a musical group called the Spice Girls, and even a cancelled flight wasn’t going to stand between her and their gig in Manchester tomorrow night!

Godspeed Kristy, we miss you already!

Grey sky at day, whisky maker’s delight. Or something like that.

Before we delve into today, however, there’s the (not) small matter of last night’s activities. After the blog post went live we headed back over to Ardnahoe for Hunter Laing‘s Kinship Collection evening with the one and only Jim McEwan. Those who’ve been following our Instagram stories may already know that we found the range – which is made up of a Bruichladdich 27 year old, Bunnahabhain 30, Caol Ila 40, Bowmore 30 (all soap and violets as you may hope/fear, depending on your tastes), Ardbeg 26 and Laphroaig 18 – very impressive indeed.

Kinship Collection

A very special tasting of Hunter Laing’s Kinship Collection of Islay malts

Friday morning at Bunnahabhain then brought rain. More rain! Last year was glorious sunshine throughout the festival, *BUT* this year the grey skies are actually welcome. As mentioned earlier in the week water sources had been getting worryingly low across the island, with some distilleries having to cease production, so it’s all for the greater good! (We are all whisky fans, after all!)

Cue taking cover in the distillery’s office, where we caught up with distillery manager Andrew Brown and Distell International master blender Dr. Kirstie McCallum. Kirstie talked us through the first two festival bottlings, which you can check out riiight… here:

Another place it doesn’t rain is in the cabin of a tall ship, and we were back on the Flying Dutchman for the first official tasting of the day. Some great drams, memorable yarns and even a couple of songs later, and it was time to split up. Well, once we managed to get off of the ship. Some of us took longer than others negotiating the (admittedly treacherous) soaking wet ladder up to the pier as the ship lurched up and down.

Kristy, Laura and Kenny then headed off to Jura, while I was able to enjoy the Bunnah Warehouse No. 9 Experience. Which was a bit good. 5 cracking casks – an ex-bourbon 6 year old, Manzanilla 10 year old, Palo Cortado 11, Pedro Ximénez 12 and a peated Mòine 15 – all available as hand-filled 20cl distillery exclusives. I impulse bought a PX shortly after, but would have happily taken any of the sherry cask options off their hands. It was also great fun, Colin (affectionately known as ‘Butthead’, or so I’m told), I salute you!*

Colin Bunnahabhain

“It’s all about the dram!” It is, you know.

Meanwhile, over in Jura, the team attended a tasting with blender and whisky maker Gregg Glass, taking in its new make, a couple of 21 year-olds from its Tide and Time series (keep an eye out for the fruity, ex-peated Jura cask Tide on the site soon…) and a distillery exclusive peated sherry cask number with a big charcoal finish.

Jura Time Tide whisky

Time ‘n’ Tide

As with last year, this wasn’t any ordinary tasting though. There were atomisers, scents trapped in bubbles, popcorn pairings and even prizes! We didn’t win anything, but photographic evidence suggests we were quite taken by the chocolate and honey scented bubbles.

Jura Gregg Glass bubbles

So bubbles.

My final masterclass of the day (the awesome folks at Bunnahabhain looked after us extremely well) was a chocolate and whisky pairing event with Kirstie and Julieann Fernandez that afforded an opportunity to taste the distillery’s third festival release. A 1988 Champagne cask, which was ridiculous in the best way possible. Think Champagne, actual Champagne, but a spirit – with people who don’t like Champagne loving it. Notes of brioche, melon, zesty real lemonade, cashew, green apple skin, some toffee – a weird note that I’ve somehow categorised as ‘silver birch’ in my brain over the years – just great, unique stuff. Hats off to those who queued up overnight and managed to bag one.

We got tees and drams into some new friends’ hands too, of course!

So, what have I missed? Ah, yes. A distillery poochie, of course! Apparently we can’t do one of these without one. Did I start this? It no longer matters, the whisky people need their doggos and who am I to deny them?! Meet Alfie. This pic came from @Belsnickel222 with the message “We will accept this one in the blog.” As will we my friend, as will we.

good boy

A Bunnah good boy.

Another awesome day on Islay and some more much needed water for the distilleries. They have enough now though, right…? Fingers crossed for some clear skies as we head to Ardbeg‘s Caribbean flavoured day tomorrow!

*“Is this available in the shop?!”

No Comments on Fèis Ìle 2019: Day Seven, Bunnahabhain and Jura

Type on the field below and hit Enter/Return to search