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Master of Malt Blog

New Arrival of the Week: Barbaresco Asili Riserva 2015 Produttori del Barbaresco

This week we’re shining a spotlight on a delicious single vineyard Barbaresco from the excellent 2015 vintage. It would be perfect for Easter lunch, if you’re feeling fancy. It’s not…

This week we’re shining a spotlight on a delicious single vineyard Barbaresco from the excellent 2015 vintage. It would be perfect for Easter lunch, if you’re feeling fancy.

It’s not all Margaritas and Macallan here at Master of Malt HQ, we have some very enthusiastic wine lovers on the team. None more so than our head buyer Guy Hodcroft which means that though we don’t stock a huge selection of wine, what we do have is always interesting. This week buyer Hodcroft (that’s what we call him) is particularly excited about a parcel of single vineyard Barbarescos that have just landed at MoM HQ. 

Barbaresco is one of the three ‘B’s of Italian wine along with Barolo and Brunello. Like Barolo, Barbaresco is  produced in Piedmont from the Nebbiolo grape (the name comes from the fog that often blankets the hills, nebbia) but whereas Barolo is famous throughout the world as the ‘king of wines’, it’s very close relative is not so well known. So much so that in olden days a lot of grapes from Barbaresco went into generic Barolo. Poor overlooked Barbaresco! This is now beginning to change as wine drinkers around the world wake up to the quality lurking in its vineyards, usually at a better price than Barolo. This new awareness is being driven by single vineyard bottlings, so rather than all the grapes going into one wine labelled simply Barbaresco, you can taste the different patches of land. They’re been doing this in Burgundy, of course, for hundreds of years but it’s relatively new in Piedmont. 

We have five bottlings altogether, Asili, Montefico, Montestefano, Ovello and Rabajà, all from Produttori del Barbaresco. This firm which was founded in 1958 has been producing single vineyard wines, only in the best vintages, since 1967. It is a co-operative, owned and run by a group of farmers who pool their grapes and resources. Usually such enterprises make cheaper wines, but not the PdB which has been described as the ‘The Wine World’s Most Amazing Cooperative’. It’s probably not the easiest job marshalling 54 Italian farmers with over 105 hectares of vines between them but MD Aldo Vacca whose family were founder members is clearly a master of organisation and diplomacy. Stephen Brook writing in Decanter said: “Aldo Vacca probably knows more about the region than anyone else alive”. All the growers must contribute 100% of their Nebbiolo to the co-op avoiding the common problem where growers keep their best grapes to bottle under their own labels. 

The wine making is in the hands of Gianni Testa, who has been with the firm since he graduated from college in the 1980s. He uses traditional processes, long fermentation times and three years ageing in large oak botti which soften the wines without contributing woody flavours. Nevertheless, these wines are accessible sooner than in the past. Though Barbaresco tends to be lighter than Barolo, traditionally you wanted to wait at least ten years before broaching them; Nebbiolo can be fiercely tannic but more gentle handling allows the fruit to shine from a younger age especially in a warm vintage like 2015. 

Nice botti

You can really taste the difference of the vineyards from the fleshy and powerful Rabajà to this week’s New Arrival, the elegant Asili which is already showing classic flavours of red cherry, Turkish delight and earthy mushroom notes. Despite the more accessible style, it’s definitely not an aperitif sort of wine, but sipped slowly with the right food, roast lamb or wild mushroom risotto, you will see why Barbaresco is one of Italy’s greatest wines.

Barbaresco Asili 2015 Produttori del Barbaresco is available now from Master of Malt.

 

 

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Win a VIP 2021 trip to The GlenDronach distillery!

We’ve got a prize today that will have lovers of sherried whiskies pricking up their ears with interest… a visit to The GlenDronach Distillery! While you should definitely not be…

We’ve got a prize today that will have lovers of sherried whiskies pricking up their ears with interest… a visit to The GlenDronach Distillery! While you should definitely not be travelling to any distilleries right now, in times like these it’s best to focus on things to look forward to. We reckon a whisky trip in 2021 should do a pretty good job. 

Nestled in the beautiful Aberdeenshire countryside and surrounded by shimmering fields of barley, it’s hard to think of a more perfectly-sited distillery than The GlenDronach. The distillery dates back to 1826 and then was expanded greatly in the 1960s. It was mothballed from 1996 to 2002, but it’s now safely in the hands of Brown-Forman with Rachel Barrie as master blender and Alan McConnochie as distillery manager. The whiskies, heavy on the sherry influence, are highly-prized by Scotch whisky lovers and there was much rejoicing when the 15 year old Revival expression returned last year after a hiatus. 

Win a trip to The GlenDronach distillery

One lucky winner will be here in 2021!

A visit to The GlenDronach must be high up on everyone’s whisky bucket list, so we’re delighted to be offering a VIP 2021 trip to the distillery for three lucky winners (plus one guest per winner). Final dates will be confirmed closer to the time due to the current global pandemic.  Day one will consist of travel from the UK to Aberdeen Airport, a visit to Speyside Cooperage, a whisky tasting, dinner and an overnight stay at nearby Glen House. The following day there will be a tour of the distillery where you will get to fill a bottle of whisky from the cask, and then return clasping your treasure tightly to Aberdeen Airport.

What a prize! “How do I get my hands on it?”, we hear you cry. Well, it’s quite straightforward. All you have to do is buy a bottle of The GlenDronach 12 Year Old and  you’re automatically entered. (For full details, see competition terms below). 

Win a trip to The GlenDronach distillery

It’s the scrumptiously sherried GlenDronach 12 Year Old!

‘Postponed’ may become the buzzword of 2020. Glastonbury, the Euros, and even Eurovision have all been delayed because of the current state of events (the last of which caused quite the heartbreak in MoM Towers). Now, our wonderful GlenDronach trip can be added to that list of awesome postponed events. Of course, when you will be able to take the trip is somewhat uncertain and the prize won’t be available until 2021, though rest assured that the winners will be making their way to the Highlands once it is considered safe.

Not only will three people (and three equally lucky plus ones) be in with a chance to win this amazing trip, but with a bottle of The GlenDronach 12 Year Old to see you through isolation, everyone’s a winner!

MoM GlenDronach Competition 2020 is open to entrants 18 years and over. Entries accepted from 6 April 2020 until 20 April 2020. Winners chosen at random after close of competition. UK travel only. Prizes not transferable and cannot be exchanged for cash equivalent. No purchase necessary. See full T&Cs for details. 

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Virtual pub quiz: 3 April

Think you know your booze? Then you should enter our increasingly popular virtual pub quiz. All entries will get a discount code and one winner a £25 off voucher. All…

Think you know your booze? Then you should enter our increasingly popular virtual pub quiz. All entries will get a discount code and one winner a £25 off voucher. All must have prizes!

It’s the return of the Master of Malt pub quiz. Last week was enormously popular: here is a link to the answers. Remember, strict pub quiz rules, no looking at Google.

Fancy your chances?! Go to the quiz by hitting ‘click here’!

CLICK HERE

The Nightcap

 

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The Nightcap: 3 April

This week on The Nightcap you can look forward to stories about Easter eggs, Hollywood stars and… reaction to the lockdown. Obviously. Lockdown has not stopped the booze news from…

This week on The Nightcap you can look forward to stories about Easter eggs, Hollywood stars and… reaction to the lockdown. Obviously.

Lockdown has not stopped the booze news from making its way to… Well, I was going to say MoM Towers, but we’re currently writing this from our homes. Metaphorical MoM Towers? The MoM Towers of the Cloud? Electronic MoM Towers? Whatever. Booze news ain’t stopped, and neither has The Nightcap. Go on, get stuck in.

On the MoM blog this week, Annie returned to provide some pro tips to make bar-quality cocktails at home, and then demonstrated the kind of deliciousness you can make with minimal fuss with our Cocktail of the Week. Henry, meanwhile, was on-hand to recommend some terrifically tasty drinks, including a new pink gin with a difference, and a delicious Colombian rum, before Adam got in on the act by shining a spotlight on some of the finest new and trending tipples (Jaffa Cake Gin, anyone?). Elsewhere, our virtual reality tour series took us to Craigellachie Distillery and Chase Distillery, we suggested some quality podcasts to keep you amused when you’re self-isolating, and Ian Buxton paid tribute to Scotch whisky industry expert Alan Gray.

Also, a big thank you to all who entered our virtual pub quiz last Friday. This week’s edition is en route, so pour yourself a drink and remind yourself there’s no glory in Google. Good luck!

With no further ado, here’s The Nightcap for this week!

The Nightcap

Join us for some terrific tastings over on Instagram!

Join us for live tastings!

First up this week is a little plug for how you can join us for some tastings over on Instagram! Yes, the vast majority of Team MoM is too in isolation, and we miss tasting with our pals. We also love sharing some of our classic favourites (now known as isolation sippers) and shiny new things, so we figured the best course of action was to take to the socials! Fancy joining us? Here’s the line-up for the next few weeks. We’ll go live on Mondays at Wednesdays at 7:30pm over on our Instagram  – and here are the drinks to get your mitts on if you fancy joining!

Monday 6 April: How delicious gins are made

We explore how production techniques influence flavour. On the line-up we’ve got Sipsmith London Dry Gin, Hernö Old Tom, and Bathtub Gin!

Wednesday 8 April: Essential isolation whisky sippers

The best accompaniment to an evening book, film, or Netflix documentary (Tiger King, obvs) during this time? A dram, of course! We’ve picked our isolation essentials for this tasting: Lagavulin 16 Year Old, Balvenie 14 Year Old Caribbean Cask, Auchentoshan The Bartender’s Edition, Auchentoshan American Oak, and Glen Scotia Victoriana!

Wednesday 15 April: Sherry Monsters Tasting Set

We’re joined by Sam Simmons (aka Dr. Whisky) to explore some of the most mouth-watering sherry bombs from the world of whisky! Tasting sets available now. We’re excited!

Monday 20 April: World Gin Award Winners 2020

Come and discover the best gins in the world! Grab your tasting set in advance, and join us to taste through these delectable award winners!

Wednesday 22 April: That Boutique-y Whisky Company does Scotch!

Brand ambassador Dave Worthington will take us through That Boutique-y Whisky Company’s Scotch Whisky Collection Gift Set – a delish treat to mark mid-week!

And there’s more to follow… check back each week for further details!

 

Actor Mark Strong narrates Kraken audiobook

As the UK enters its second week of lockdown, Kraken rum continues to do its bit to relieve cabin fever with the second instalment of Krakenory. Inspired by CBBC’s Jackanory, the weekly series features famous faces retelling some of literature’s greatest nautical tales. The first episode featured The Libertines’ front man Carl Barat, who donned a smoking jacket to read from the Jules Verne classic 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. This week features three readings from Mark Strong, who you probably recognise from his work in 1917, The Imitation Game, and an episode of EastEnders from 1989 where he played a telephone engineer. He’ll lend his voice to The Kraken by Alfred Lord Tennyson, Dover Beach by Matthew Arnold and Part II of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Coleridge.  “I’ve played some villains in my time, but when it comes to bad guys, nothing compares to the mighty Kraken, as viewers of Krakenory will soon find out,” Strong said. “So come join us on a voyage to the unknown. Once you’re lost in the pages, you never know where you’ll end up.” The Kraken is also commissioning a team of UK bartenders to create bespoke rum-based cocktail each week, releasing ingredients for each cocktail ahead of each episode to give followers enough time to stock up on supplies ahead of each reading. Episodes of Krakenory are released every Friday at 12pm, with viewers able to watch on the brand’s Instagram and Facebook pages.

The Nightcap

The egg is filled with bespoke Talisker whisky sea salted caramels

Talisker Whisky launches first-ever Easter Egg 

It’s the little things that get us through tough times, and at MoM Towers, those little things are generally whisky and chocolate. For the festive season (also known as Easter), Talisker has gone and teamed up with Edinburgh based chocolatier COCO to create its first-ever Easter egg! Let us be clear, the whisky isn’t in an egg (although we’d certainly be behind that idea), rather you’ll be treated to an egg of sea-salted dark chocolate, filled with bespoke Talisker whisky sea salted caramels. You’ll never guess where the sea salt comes from… the Isle of Skye! “As a whisky fan first and foremost, and a chocolate fan a very close second, this has been a great collaboration to work on,” says Jason Clark, British Talisker brand ambassador. “The use of the sea salt from the Isle of Skye in both the egg itself and the sea salted caramels connects them with Talisker’s homeland, and its deliciously distinct made by the sea character.” If like us, you’re uncontrollably salivating at the thought of smoky whisky and decadent dark chocolate combined, you can grab yourself an egg right here! Should make for a… cracking pressie. (Sorry.)

The Nightcap

Wine merchants such as Yapp Brothers have never been busier

Online booze sales surge during lockdown

The 20 March was a black day in history as the Prime Minister announced the closure of all pubs and bars. The great British public has responded in the only way they know how, by ordering loads of booze online. Across the land, people are reporting soaring sales for at-home consumption. Wine merchants such as Yapp Brothers have never been busier. Jason Yapp commented: “Our online business is certainly booming. There has been a huge spike in sales since the lockdown was announced on 23rd March. We have subsequently experienced our largest ever volume of wines dispatched by carrier in a single day and our busiest month in our 50-year trading history.” Charles Lea from Lea & Sandeman agreed: “Web and shop sales are significantly up, despite operating curtailed hours and non-contact delivery and collection.” Rebellious Goods, an online beer and wine merchant, has reported 11 times the number of orders in March compared with February, according to City AM. Supermarkets are also selling more booze than normal, up 22% according to figures released by Kantar. Things are certainly extremely busy here at Master of Malt with volumes up almost 200%! According to our numbers boffins, it seems that Britons aren’t necessarily drinking more to deal with isolation, it’s just sales that would have gone to the hospitality trade and supermarkets (which, in some cases, are limiting how much people can buy). So it seems that the country isn’t actually going on an isolation-induced bender. If you need [sensible volumes of] supplies, folks, we’re here for you!

The Nightcap

Look, it’s sparkling red wine!

Lockdown fun: DIY sparkling wine

Drinking (responsibly, naturally) isn’t the only fun wine-based activity you can do while self-isolating. You can try making it, too! Well, maybe not making wine from start to finish, but definitely helping. London-based urban winery Renegade is offering you the chance to riddle and disgorge your very own sparkling wine. ‘Rhythm and what?’, we hear some readers say. This is the process where dead yeast cells are removed from a sparkling wine to create a clear, bright finished product. It was invented in Champagne by Veuve Clicquot herself. Now you can do it at home. Renegade will send you a bottle of its sparkling grenache made in London from Spanish-grown grapes. Yes, it’s a sparkling red wine. Groovy! In order to finish it off, turn the bottle upside down and wait for all the sediment to collect by the cap (that’s your riddling) and then quickly remove the cap and a small amount of wine will be ejected along with the sediment (disgorgement). At least that’s the theory (see video here). It’s probably best done in the garden as it can be a messy process. Don’t forget to post your attempt not matter how pitiful on Instagram tagging @renegadeurbanwinery . Finally, drink the wine with an enormous sense of achievement. 

The Nightcap

And that’s a wrap on The Nightcap this week. Now, it’s time to reveal the answers to last week’s pub quiz. Thanks again to all who entered and congratulations to Mark OPray, the winner of the grand prize last week!

1) What cocktail would F. D. Roosevelt offer to every head of state who visited him?

Answer: Martini

2) On The Simpsons, what is the biggest beer brand in Shelbyville?

Answer: Fudd Beer

3) Which country has a grape variety known as ‘dog strangler’?

Answer: Portugal

4) What is The Dude’s go-to drink in The Big Lebowski? 

Answer: White Russian

5) Which whisky personality is famous for insuring his nose for £2 million? 

Answer: Richard Paterson

6) What is the Lincoln County Process? 

Answer: Filtering whiskey through sugar maple charcoal prior to ageing

7) Which Scottish region was once known as the Whisky Metropolis? 

Answer: Campbeltown

8) The Black Velvet cocktail was created in 1861 to mourn the death of which English royal? 

Answer: Prince Albert

9) What is Ron Swanson’s favourite drink on Parks and Recreation? 

Answer: Lagavulin 16

10) What is the most popular spirit in China?

Answer: Baijiu

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Take a VR tour of Craigellachie Distillery with MoM!

Go behind the scenes at one of Speyside’s most intriguing distilleries thanks to VR technology. Welcome to Craigellachie Distillery! Just because you’re self-isolating or on lockdown, it doesn’t mean you…

Go behind the scenes at one of Speyside’s most intriguing distilleries thanks to VR technology. Welcome to Craigellachie Distillery!

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

It used to be a rather rare sight to see an official bottling of Craigellachie single malt. Since it was built in 1891, Craigellachie has primarily been used for Dewar’s blended whisky. The distillery, which was designed by the legendary Charles Doig, has two wash and spirit stills and still utilises worm tubs, which are increasingly rare in Scotch whisky. They contain a smaller amount of copper than more modern condensers which helps promote the distinctive Craigellachie character, as does its preference for long fermentation. Bacardi now operates the distillery, along with Royal Brackla, Aberfeldy, Aultmore, and Macduff, and has released a core range of expressions, which means there’s now plenty of sulphurous, muscular and fruity whiskies to enjoy.

VR tour of Craigellachie Distillery

Craigellachie 13 Year Old is the perfect introduction to the delights of the distillery. One of the three official Craigellachie bottlings released in 2014, this 13-year-old single malt Scotch whisky handsomely shows off the bold, robust character of the distillery’s output.

Craigellachie 13 Year Old Tasting Note:

Nose: Apple orchards in bloom, slightly meaty, burnt popcorn, treacle tart.

Palate: Oily malt arrives first, followed by BBQ pineapple and summer berries. Pine nuts and almonds.

Finish: A very soft hint of sulphur hides behind biscuit and apple notes.

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Top 5 drinks podcasts 

From whisky to wine, and all things boozy, here are our favourite podcasts to keep you amused when you’re self-isolating. All are best enjoyed with a dram in your hand….

From whisky to wine, and all things boozy, here are our favourite podcasts to keep you amused when you’re self-isolating. All are best enjoyed with a dram in your hand.

With so much time on our hands, there’s never been a better time to become engrossed in a podcast. As great as the radio is, we find that it isn’t, well, boozy enough for us. Now it can be a daunting prospect finding the right podcast for you and there’s a lot of them floating around.  That’s where we come in. We have picked our top five drinks podcasts you can stream right now. So whether you’re a podcast newbie or fully fledged podcast addict, exchange the doom and gloom for some chatter about booze! 

Uncorked, beards not compulsory

Uncorked Whisky Sessions

If you’re after whisky conversation garnished with the odd laugh out loud, then look no further than Uncorked Whisky Sessions – a podcast show all about the wondrous world of whisky from our friends at That Boutique-y Whisky Company. Boutique-y Dave and Dr Whisky take the reins to contribute to the biggest whisky conversations of the past, present and future alongside icons and industry experts. Every episode is jam-packed with quirky games for the listener to play along with, outrageous rants, and whisky laughs galore! 

James Atkinson, about to embark on another drink adventure

Drinks Adventures 

From the land Down Under comes a journey through the world of fine drinks with the Drinks Adventures podcast. As people drink less but spend more on that special tipple, host and drinks writer James Atkinson interviews production experts from around the world. From Champagne and craft beer, to whisky and beyond, what sets fine drinks apart from the rest? Let the Drinks Adventure begin!

Olly Smith getting the party started with Pink

A Glass With…

Wine expert and columnist Olly Smith invites you to drink a glass with celebrities in the A Glass With… podcast. A glass of what, we hear you ask? Mainly wine, but hey, if the celeb fancies something else, you can be sure they’ll drink it! With an incredible array of famous faces (or voices…) including Michael Parkinson, Pink and Mick Hucknall, from industries ranging from food to film, there’s plenty of A-list chatter to sink your ears into! 

You could drink this while listening to Whiskycast

WhiskyCast 

No boozy podcast list would be complete without Mark Gillespie’s WhiskyCast, the godfather of all podcasts that have anything to do with whisky. In fact, host Gillespie started WhiskyCast in 2005, before anyone really knew what a podcast was… 15 years later, WhiskyCast continues to deliver timely whisky news, interviews with whisky experts, and the upcoming whisky calendar. With two episodes released each week, best pour a double measure!

Or one of these while listening to Craft Beer Radio

Craft Beer Radio 

For those of you who think that the universe of craft beer is somewhat of a young phenomenon, it might surprise you that it has been the focus of Craft Beer Radio for 15 years, making it the longest running beer podcast on the internet. That means over 500 episodes of tasting the best, weirdest and most wonderful beers the world has to offer. So sit back, relax and let hosts Jeff Bearer and Greg Weiss take you through the incredibly diverse world of craft beer. 

And there you have it, five of the best boozy, time busting podcasts for you to enjoy. Happy streaming! 

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La Hechicera rum: the Colombian enchantress

La Hechicera makes some of the best Spanish-style rum out there with nothing added: no sugar, no flavourings, no nothing. We caught up with managing director Miguel Riascos for a…

La Hechicera makes some of the best Spanish-style rum out there with nothing added: no sugar, no flavourings, no nothing. We caught up with managing director Miguel Riascos for a few drinks.

La Hechicera as a brand is a recent creation; it was launched in London in 2012. However, the Riascos family’s involvement in the rum business goes back to 1994.  They learned how to make rum in Cuba, Miguel Riascos explained: “After deciding to leave the banana business due to instability and insecurity in Colombia at the time (early ‘90s), my father, Miguel Riascos Noguera, decided to travel to Cuba in search of new business opportunities and alternatives to agriculture, which at the time carried an inherent risk. In Cuba, my father quickly fell in love with the promise of rum and sought a deal with the Cuban Ministry of Sugar with the purpose of establishing a rum factory in Barranquilla with the Cuban establishment’s technical support. As part of this arrangement, several qualified chemical engineers and master blenders were sent from Cuba to Colombia”, including master blender Giraldo Mituoka Kagana who is still with the company.  

Master blender Giraldo Mituoka Kagana looking very cool in white

Barranquilla, a city on the Caribbean coast, near Cartagena, was the perfect place to do this because it had been designated a Free Zone. In the rest of the country alcohol above 20% ABV was a state monopoly. Unlike in Venezuela, there were no private brands, which is perhaps why Colombian rum doesn’t have the same reputation as its neighbour. The family bought in Colombian cane spirit and aged it in ex-bourbon barrels to their own exacting standards meaning no sugar or other additives. The rum would then be sold on to be blended into Colombian or generic Caribbean rums. Which seems a shame. 

So, the decision was taken to bottle some of their own. The result was La Hechicera, the name means Enchantress in Spanish, a reference to the magical fecundity and diversity of Colombia. Riascos said: “Colombia has more species of flora and fauna than any other country in the world.” Appropriately, I was meeting with Riascos in the jungle-inspired splendour of Amazonico in Mayfair. 

The project goes back to when the family got into the rum business , Riascos said: “When we initially created La Hechicera, it was by far the oldest rum that our family had aged. This is the epitome of everything we want to produce”. He went on to tell me a little about the rum: “The idea was to bottle something absolutely pure. It’s a typical Hispanic-style rum in that it is molasses-fermented, column-distilled and aged in ex-Jack Daniel’s American white oak for a minimum of 12 years.” The oldest component is 21 years old. The rum comes off the column at between 88 and 96% ABV so, according to Riascos, “it’s light in its congenic make-up, and yet it’s very characterful in its woodiness. It’s spent so long in the barrel. That is quite simply the way we like to make our rum and I do feel this almost epitomises our rum making style in Barranquilla.” Though at the moment they buy in the spirit, the family has plans to build their own distillery in the near future though will continue to buy in spirit even when it’s up and running as they like the diversity of flavours, according to Riascos. 

Colombia, once a byword for a failed state, is now one of Latin America’s success stories. I asked Riascos if the country was more stable now and he replied with obvious pride: “It’s firmly stable, today it’s one of the fastest growing economies in Latin America. It’s the third largest already after Mexico and Brazil. It’s got an unbelievably diversified economy which is obviously a source of growth and future growth for sure.”

Family banana plantation in Magdalena, 1955

Nevertheless, he’s surprised by how his home country has taken to La Hechicera, it’s now the biggest market. “Colombians generally are not big consumers of Colombian products,” he said. In the past sophisticated drinkers went for Scotch brands, especially Grand Old Parr which is a cult drink in the country. Now though, people are taking pride in home-grown products: “Today La Hechicera is almost synonymous with Colombia”, Riascos said. 

The family expected La Hechicera to be an export-led product so they launched it in London in 2012. “ In the UK and in London specifically you do have all the expert bartenders, the awards, the publications, and the master blenders, so it’s a great platform to position the brands in the on-trade,” Riascos said. “We are constantly working with bartenders. A classic cocktail is always a great anchor to create a new idea.” Over our interview, we tried two takes on the Old Fashioned: firstly the so-called Gold Fashioned, made with a gold-coated (yes real gold!) cube of panela (unrefined cane sugar). Then the Banana Republic, made with banana liqueur, bitters and a piece of dehydrated banana. It’s a nod to the family’s involvement in the banana business. “What we try to do with our cocktails is to tell the story about Colombia, about provenance, about who we are, “ Riascos said. 

Michael Fink from Amazanico had also been hard at work coming up with cocktails (yes, it was quite a boozy interview.) First off an Old Fashioned made with Antica Formula vermouth and strawberry and tobacco bitters which really brought out the chocolate in the rum. This was followed by a sort of Daiquiri meets Sidecar cocktail with lime juice, sugar, Italian vermouth and Cointreau. It worked so well because like the best Spanish-style rums, there’s more than a little of Cognac about La Hechicera. It’s a beautifully-poised rum, perfumed and wine-like with intense notes of nuts and vanilla; the long ageing in no way overpowers the spirit. And all the time with that purity, there’s none of the sugar that you get in some Venezualan rums.

Miguel Riascos enjoying some rum

The company currently produces around 20,000 cases a year with plans to raise that to 100,000 in three years. It currently holds around 12,000 casks of rum so there’s plenty in stock. It’s been such a success, that the family has just released a new version called Serie Experimental #1 which is finished in casks that held Spanish Muscat for around 13 years so the oak was heavily impregnated with wine. They had 16 casks yielding 7200 bottles. Riascos said, “it shares the same DNA, but it’s got that added body from that finish.” The Muscat adds sweetness (perceived sweetness that is, not actual sugar) and brings out the rum’s floral side with some added dried fruit and tobacco notes. It’s a great sipping rum, as is the standard bottling. 

You’ll notice that it’s called Serie Experimental #1, so expect others to follow. “We’re currently working on dos, tres and cuatro,” said Riascos. “And we’ll see if one of those hits the market later this year. We’ve been working with wines from Napa Valley. We’ve been working with Canadian rye whisky. We’ve been working with different natural fruits and infusions, things that tell the story of Colombia as the most biodiverse country in the world. We are working together with Colombia’s largest independent brewery to kind of do a barrel exchange. So they’re working with our barrels for their beer and they’re sending them back with a few added notes and then we’re ageing our rum in there to see if that works. I’m very sceptical about it, but if it works it will be very, very good.” We think it will too.

 

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Dram Club – April 2020

April has finally arrived, and there are new Tasting Sets for Dram Club members to be had. Let’s see what drams are hiding within these cardboard cuboids… It might have…

April has finally arrived, and there are new Tasting Sets for Dram Club members to be had. Let’s see what drams are hiding within these cardboard cuboids…

It might have felt like four or five months squashed together haphazardly, but March is over and we’re into April. With this new month brings another round of Tasting Sets for Dram Club members to get their hands on, all filled with lip-smacking tipples. Reckon it’s about time we see which aforementioned drams await the aforementioned members inside the aforementioned Tasting Sets.

Dram Club Whisky for April:

Dram Club Premium Whisky for April:

Dram Club Old & Rare Whisky for April:

Dram Club Gin for April:

Dram Club Rum for April:

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Cocktail of the Week: The Foraged Martini

One drink, three ingredients, and absolutely no prep required: This week we’re championing stripped-back simplicity with the delightful Foraged Martini, a cocktail menu mainstay at intimate east London bar Three…

One drink, three ingredients, and absolutely no prep required: This week we’re championing stripped-back simplicity with the delightful Foraged Martini, a cocktail menu mainstay at intimate east London bar Three Sheets. Here, co-owner Noel Venning walks you through the drink…

Much like the wider cocktail menu at Three Sheets, the light, fresh Foraged Martini is proof that when it comes to ingredients, less really is more. Ever since Venning brothers Noel and Max first flung open the doors on Kingsland Road back in 2016, the bar has been known for its minimalist ethos – from the contents of the back bar to its marble-topped counters – and this is reflected not only in the way they developed each drink, but also in the design of their menu.

There are nine cocktails in total, split across three key sections. Three Sheets, if you will. While each sheet is characterised by strength and flavour, all of the drinks on the menu are designed to be approachable in nature. Over on the left, you’ll find the lightest cocktails – such as the Almond Flower Sour, which combines Bombay English Estate, almond flower, egg white and lemon. Heavier-going drinks – like Café Français, which combines Seven Tails XO Brandy, salted coffee butter and madeleine cream – tend towards the right of the menu. 

Three Sheets Dalston

Three Sheets, so minimalist

“At Three Sheets, we aim to put drinks on the menu that we think our guests will enjoy,” Noel Venning explains. “Moving away from using popular bartender products that might not be enjoyable for guests. This has led to a lighter style of drink and the Foraged Martini is a great example of that – taking a classic vodka Martini but making it more approachable for a wider audience.”

In the spirit of keeping things simple, the base structure is similar to that of a classic Martini, says Venning. Indeed, just three ingredients are required to make the Foraged Martini: Absolut Elyx, dry Italian vermouth, and Thorncroft’s Wild Nettle cordial. “The great thing about the Foraged Martini is that everything is available to buy in a shop,” he continues. “It is a wonderful example that making great drinks doesn’t necessarily have to come with fancy equipment or esoteric, obscure ingredients.”

It’s fair to say that one of the traditional Martini’s most defining features – its out-and-out ‘booziness’ in terms of flavour – is what tends to put most newcomers off. But you won’t find that brashness in the Venning brothers’ Foraged iteration. Thanks to the addition of the nettle cordial, this serve is made accessible for the non-Martini drinker, while packing enough of a punch to satisfy the drink’s usual devotees. 

“The idea behind this Martini was to have a lighter, more approachable version of a classic Martini that would appeal to a wider audience – while also being enjoyable for a guest who drinks Martinis all the time,” Venning adds. “The nettle cordial softens off the punchy nature of the Martini with some grassy, citrusy notes, and the vermouth ties it all together.”

That’s gypsophila (yes, we had to Google it)

Democratising the Martini is all in a day’s work for the Three Sheets duo. If you’re ready to take the Foraged Martini for a spin, you’ll find the recipe below. Now, aside from the liquid ingredients, you’ll also need ice, a twist of lemon (for the zest only), and a Nick and Nora, Coupette or Martini glass – the team usually opts for the latter, but at home you call the shots.

Oh, and if you really want to set the drink off in true Three Sheets style, source a small sprig of gypsophila for the garnish. Arty Instagram shots are not only welcomed but wholeheartedly encouraged.

Right, let’s forage up a Martini!

50ml Absolut Elyx
10ml Martini Extra Dry vermouth
5ml Thorncroft’s Wild Nettle Cordial

Add all the ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice, and stir to dilute and chill. Double strain into a chilled Martini glass. Express a piece of lemon zest (discard the twist afterwards) and garnish with a sprig of gypsophila (if you have one).

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Meet the Master of Malt editorial team

Today, we take a peak behind the padded leather doors at Master of Malt’s secret HQ (just off the A26, follow signposts for Tonbridge industrial estate) and meet the people…

Today, we take a peak behind the padded leather doors at Master of Malt’s secret HQ (just off the A26, follow signposts for Tonbridge industrial estate) and meet the people who fit words together to make this blog.

Don’t you just love that bit when you go and see a band and the lead singer stops and introduces everyone on stage? “And finally, on bongos, rhythm is his middle name, give it up for Reggie ‘rhythm’ Jenkins!!” No? You just want them to play the hits? Oh well, we like the introducing the band bit which is why we thought we’d do something similar with the Master of Malt editorial team. These are the people tasting those rare whiskies so you don’t have to, visiting distilleries, making cocktails and generally immersing ourselves (responsibly, of course) in booze, and then turning those experiences into words. It’s not an easy life but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

So, without further ado, here is the MoM editorial team. Then we promise we’ll play the hits and not in a jazz fusion style. Take it away Reggie!

Kristiane Sherry, editor and head of content

Kristiane adores whisky, gin, Tequila, cocktails (pretty much anything delicious and spirited!), and loves geeking out at distilleries around the world. She has written about drinks since 2011, served as a judge at numerous tasting competitions including the American Distilling Institute’s Judging of Craft Spirits, The Spirits Masters and the World Gin Awards, and is an accredited WSET Spirits Educator.  Kristiane is a former editor of The Spirits Business, a leading global trade title, and has been featured as a commentator in The Spectator, The Grocer, RedOnline, and on BBC Radio 5 Live. She lives in glorious Sussex by the sea.

Henry Jeffreys, feature editor

Henry began his career at Oddbins where he worked for two years and picked up a taste for fine wine. After a stint in publishing, he returned to the world of booze by starting a blog called World of Booze in 2010. Following its success, he was made wine columnist for The Lady. He has appeared on BBC Radio 4 and 5 and contributes to The Spectator, The Guardian and BBC Good Food. He won Best Debut Drink Book for Empire of Booze in 2017. This was followed by The Home Bar in 2018 and the forthcoming Cocktail Dictionary (September 2020).  His favourite drink is a whisky and soda. He lives in Faversham, Kent with his wife and daughter. Oh, and that photo is really out of date, he now looks like an elderly W. H. Auden.

Adam O’Connell, writer

Adam graduated from the University of Sussex with a BA in History and an MA in Intellectual History, which came in handy when he then went on to work as a bartender. There he made a name for himself as the person who wouldn’t shut up about how much he liked whisky. He subsequently joined Master of Malt as a writer in 2017, where he was encouraged to talk about how much he liked whisky. Adam is passionate about all things distilled and delicious, not just the water of life, and has passed the WSET Level 2 Award in Spirits with Distinction. He currently lives in the highest room of the tallest tower in Maidstone.

Jess Williamson, content assistant 

Jess graduated from the University of Bristol having studied English Literature, and stumbled (happily) straight into the world of drinks! She began writing outside her degree for music publications while at university, but working in a rather extensive gin bar for a while sparked her curiosity in the more refined end of the alcohol spectrum. Since then, it’s been a non-stop learning curve for her in the drinks industry, and her mind has been opened to pretty much every spirit she thought she didn’t like, namely whisk(e)y. Now, she’s a big fan of anything with rye whiskey in it, and loves trying all manner of new and weird cocktails. 

Sam Smith, content executive

Sam lugged boxes around a booze warehouse in Somerset for a year after finishing his Creative Writing degree at the University of Winchester, and then found a way to combine elements of those two activities as part of the Master of Malt content and editorial team. When not writing about drinks, Sam spends his time going to see gigs and making salsa. He lives on the west coast of Ireland, and is fond of a Sazerac. This is a different Sam Smith to the famous singer. Our Sam Smith can’t sing.

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