In the news this week Powers releases 100% rye Irish whiskey, GlenAllachie creates Cuvée cask whisky, whatever that is, and sad news from London as Simo parts ways with Milroy’s of Soho. They’re all in the Nightcap: 3 February edition.
Dry January is finally over so for many across the world the 1 February was party night. Let’s hope not too much of that good work was undone. We don’t really go in for it at Master of Malt so this Wednesday we were enjoying fine single malts and boutique vermouth in a responsible manner – as we do most nights. But to all those who were abstaining, welcome back, pour yourself a drink and let’s get on with the Nightcap: 4 February edition!
But first a round-up of what went down on the Master of Malt blog this week. We kicked things off with a look at two North American whiskies: Maple Syrup & Toasted Oats & Orange Zest & Vanilla 7 Year Old and New Riff Single Barrel Bourbon (MoM exclusive). Jess was back with another match made in heaven and tasted Tamdhu 15 Year Old. Meanwhile, Henry knocked up a tasty French Metropolitan with St-Remy brandy and tried a bitter liqueur that might be better than Campari! Shocking. Oh and we had a competition to win a signed bottle of top racing driver Jenson Button’s new Coachbuilt whisky.
Now it’s on with the Nightcap: 3 February edition!
Simo and Milroy’s part ways
Sad news for London whisky lovers as we learned this week that Martyn ‘Simo’ Simpson will be leaving Milroy’s of Soho. The shop has been a whisky destination since it opened on Greek Street in 1964. But by the 2000s it was owned by Jeroboams and was really more of a wine merchant than a specialist whisky shop. That all changed when bar impressario and motorbike enthusiast Simo took it over in 2015. Turning the basement into a bar, he quickly made Milroy’s the hottest whisky shop in town. In 2019 he opened a Spitalfields outpost and during Covid kept the business afloat by concentrating on Milroy’s independent bottling arm. But now he’s out. He said on Instagram: “Unfortunately, the new board of directors have a different vision on where to take the brand. I’m unable to go into details about why I chose to leave Milroy’s at this time but please know this was an incredibly difficult decision to make”. We trust, however, that the irrepressible Simo will be back with another whisky-based venture soon. He finished on a hopeful note: “I will be back with something amazing to carry on the revolution that myself and the original Milroy’s family started. Watch this space.”
Powers makes first 100% Irish rye whiskey
Powers Irish Whiskey is ready to ‘shake up’ the Irish whiskey category in Ireland by releasing the first 100% Irish rye whiskey. The creation comes from the freedom to experiment at the vast Midleton Distillery in Cork which allows Irish Distillers to commit to farming and processing an often difficult crop. As Eric Ryan, Powers distiller explains, to make a 100% rye whiskey meant a reduced brewhouse throughput, longer fermentation times, and finding the right cask profile. But he explained, “if it was only about efficiency, we would never have used rye. But it proved a worthy endeavour.” American oak casks, including virgin oak, first-fill, and refill barrels, were used to bring a sweet balance to the more earthy, peppery characteristics of the rye grain. Carol Quinn, archivist at Irish Distillers, revealed that Irish rye is rooted in the heritage of the Powers brand and that she has old mash bills and recipes that demonstrates experimentations with the grain in the past. “Throughout the history of the famous Powers John’s Lane Distillery there was a willingness to challenge the old ways of doing things and experiment with new ideas, from urban farming on the distillery roof in the 1940s, to bottling in-house, and the introduction of the world’s first miniature Irish whiskey, the ‘baby Power’,” says Quinn. “This has fed very much into the DNA of Powers Irish Rye today, both in the use of rye and in the method of distillation.”
The Scotch Malt Whisky Society celebrates 40th anniversary
Back in 1983 a whisky club was started in 1983 by then Edinburgh-based accountant Pip Hills. His love of Scotch whisky drawn straight from a cask and belief that using wine-tasters’ terminology to describe flavours inspired the creation of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Over the last four decades it has grown to include around 30 branches across the world including China, Australia, and the USA, and is closing in on the 40,000-member milestone. “I started the whole thing for a lark. At the time, most of the Scotch whisky industry was very dull and most of the whisky wasn’t up to much. I had no great liking for whisky, but when I first tried whisky drawn straight from a cask, it was an epiphany – this whisky tasted astonishing and quite unlike any whisky I’d drunk before. I shared some with my friends and they loved it too, so it seemed like a good idea to share it with more people,” says Hill. The SMWS celebrate with commemorative bottles, special releases, and anniversary activities including a chilli-tinged whisky, collaborations with a ‘thrill engineer’, and a top-secret world-record attempt. The Society will also launch a new podcast series featuring maverick and game changing characters from around the world and assemble a first-ever female-only tasting panel to select future releases.
GlenAllachie creates Cuvée cask whisky
The GlenAllachie does love a bit of cask innovation but its latest is by far the most complex yet, as it comprises of no less than four different types of red wine cask. The 2012 Vintage Cuvée Wine Cask Finish is a nine-year-old single malt Scotch whisky that was aged initially in American oak bourbon barrels before undergoing over 20 months of finishing in casks that previously held four types of premium European red wine: Languedoc, Recioto Della Valpolicella, and two Premier Cru Classé estates from Bordeaux. The French term, ‘Cuvée’, is sometimes used to refer to a blend that comprises more than one variety of grape. The Languedoc casks are said to impart notes of “red fruits, sweet spices, and garden herbs”; whilst the Recioto Della Valpolicella, contributes “ripe cherries, coconut shavings, liquorice, and raspberry coulis”; and the Premier Cru Classé wood brings “blackcurrant, espresso coffee, and wild truffle” to the table. Bottled at 48% ABV, the 2012 Vintage Cuvée Wine Cask Finish is presented without added colouring or chill-filtration, and you can pick up a bottle right here.
Giant whisky maturation plant planned in former Royal Navy rum store
Plans to create a whisky maturation plant in a former Royal Navy rum store in Scotland have been approved. The sizeable refurb will convert 800,000 square feet of space into new, fully racked and sprinklered accommodation that could house up to one million Scotch whisky casks, as well as a filling and disgorging facility, empty cask storage barns, offices, lab facilities, and a visitor suite. Royal Elizabeth Bond has been granted planning consent for its development at South Queensferry to the north-west of Edinburgh, a 50-acre site that was once home to the Royal Navy victualling yard including the Royal Navy rum store. Not every distillery has the luxury of housing all its maturing stock on site, so plants like this are a crucial part of the industry. “This much-needed facility will provide a key piece of infrastructure to the Scotch whisky industry within easy reach of blending and bottling halls in the Central Belt and principal UK and overseas distribution routes,” explains Jonathan Sutton, of Lewis Sutton acting on behalf of Royal Elizabeth Bond.
Empirical launches ‘uncategorised’ spirits
Empirical loves a bit of status quo defiance. After announcing that it was trading Copenhagen for New York, the brand has now released two new products in its latest move away from conventional categories and the music of Francis Rossi. SOKA and Symphony 6 join the new Uncategorised range concept, with Empirical co-founder Lars Williams describing them as the “further evolution of the hard work and creative process that has been at the heart of Empirical”. He adds that “each in their own way connects a sense memory or a landscape to a flavour experience.” SOKA uses the stalks from sorghum cane, a grain from the grass family sometimes used in baijiu, as the main ingredient. They are crushed and made into a juice and syrup, with the former showcasing the flavour of its terroir and notes of spring with melon, cucumber and green apple, and latter bringing forward darker aromas of hay and toasted honey. Symphony 6, meanwhile, explores six fragrant leaves to create a vibrant, citrusy, and musky spirit. It plays with the fragrant flavour profiles of mandarin, lemon, coffee, blackcurrant, and fig leaves elevated by deep notes of ambrette seeds and vetiver roots. Sounds interesting as always, we will definitely be trying these.
And finally… What is Italy’s favourite cocktail?
What is Italy’s favourite cocktail? The answer might surprise you. Yes, we’ve gone classic mid 2010s clickbait today thanks to data just in from Amazing Grace, a London bar. Looking at European internet searches for various cocktails, the boffins at Amazing Grace discovered that Italy’s favourite cocktail isn’t an Italian classic like an Aperol Spritz or a Negroni, it’s a Mojito. Meanwhile the Germans and the French are also partial to a Mojito of an evening, as if it’s the 1990s or something. Meanwhile, the UK’s champion cocktail remains the Pornstar Martini. Stay classy Britain.