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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Advent Calendars

Whisky Advent 2020 Day #23: The Perspective Series 21 Year Old – Berry Bros. & Rudd

Are you giddy with festive glee? Because there’s just two more sleeps until Christmas! This calls for a dram. Luckily there’s a particularly excellent one behind window #23… It’s Christmas…

Are you giddy with festive glee? Because there’s just two more sleeps until Christmas! This calls for a dram. Luckily there’s a particularly excellent one behind window #23…

It’s Christmas Eve Eve (definitely a thing) and we’re so close to the big day you can almost smell it. And taste it. And hear it. Man, Christmas is a feast for the senses, isn’t it? But outside of all the food, songs and other festivities, there’s another tradition that whisky lovers get to enjoy, for a couple of more days at least, and that’s finding out what their Whisky Advent Calendar has in store for them. Behind today’s window is…

The Perspective Series 21 Year Old – Berry Bros. & Rudd!

There are only a couple more drams left in the Whisky Advent Calendar so naturally, our friends at Drinks by the Dram wanted to take things up a notch, which it certainly has done here. We’re big fans of this range, so much so we wrote a whole blog about it. And you know who else is a fan? Berry Bros. & Rudd assistant reserve spirits manager Jonny McMillan, who kindly agreed to tell us more about the brand and dram!

The Perspective Series 21 Year Old - Berry Bros. & Rudd

Merry Christmas Jonny McMillan!

Master of Malt: Berry Bros. & Rudd has a pretty storied history. Can you share a little tale from the brand’s past…

Jonny McMillan: For me, the best stories are those implied by the artefacts we have lying around in No.3 St James’s. We have some old ‘vest pocket price lists’ showing that in 1907 we were selling our own bottlings of 1885 Talisker!  Legend has it that these casks were kept in the cellars of St James’s and were bottled steadily as customers ordered them, but they seem to have been available for at least 3 years so I like to think perhaps we had a large stock of them, bought by some intrepid spirits buyer who made an expedition up to Skye to secure some casks from the wild Gaelic distillers! On the same list, we have 1897 Macallan, which was available by the gallon for 25 shillings…

MoM: What fun things have happened in the world of Berry Bros. & Rudd in 2020?

JM: Like most other whisky companies we’ve had to embrace the world of online tastings via Zoom and Streamyard etc… I must admit that at first I was pretty sceptical about how the comradery inherent in a physical tasting session can translate to a digital platform, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how much I’ve enjoyed tasting whisky with people on the other side of the planet.  Though, the time difference when hosting a tasting in Australia can be a challenge – it took true stoicism for the greater good of whisky to stick my nose in a glass of Caol Ila at 0730 GMT.

The Perspective Series 21 Year Old - Berry Bros. & Rudd

In the Berry Bros. & Rudd vaults, there’s all kinds of fascinating boozy history

MoM: What trends or developments do you think we’ll see in the world of whisky in 2021?

JM: I suspect the trend for online tastings will continue, ultimately I think a lot of people enjoy the ease and comfort of being able to taste drams in their own home while also getting expert advice via a live stream – it can be a better environment to really analyse a whisky too rather than a loud, beer charged tasting room. Beyond online tastings, I think the new distillers experimenting with different yeasts and barleys are going to start having more mature stock in the next couple of years, most of these being from outside of Scotland – the results from these casks could really shake things up.

MoM: What did you try to achieve with The Perspective Series and how was it received?

JM: There’s really nowhere better to enjoy a dram than in the great rugged wilderness of the Scottish Highlands, but alas we can’t take all our customers out to sip 40 year old whisky in Glencoe, so we opted to work with acclaimed landscape photographer Lindsay Robertson instead. We gave him samples of some glorious aged blends we’d be developing and asked him to pair them with photos of Scotland at her most majestic, and I think some of the images he chose work perfectly. The image of the beautifully desolate Sandalwood Bay up in Sutherland works wonderfully with the understated elegance of the 21-year-old.

MoM: What will you be drinking this Christmas?

A magnum of Berry’s Good Ordinary Claret… I might even share it.

The Perspective Series 21 Year Old - Berry Bros. & Rudd

The Perspective Series 21 Year Old – Berry Bros. & Rudd Tasting Note:

Nose: Sherried dried fruits, rich chocolate and a hint of leather, with a generous helping of baking spices.

Palate: Creamy vanilla builds into distinct oaky tones, alongside both fresh orchard fruit and dried fruit with a drizzle of honey.

Finish: Creamy notes continue into a lengthy finish with a hint of tannic oak and sherry.

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Whisky Advent 2020 Day #22: Isle of Jura 18 Year Old

Just three sleeps until Christmas! By this point you really should have got that shopping sorted, food procured, and drinks menu planned. So kick back with a dram of something…

Just three sleeps until Christmas! By this point you really should have got that shopping sorted, food procured, and drinks menu planned. So kick back with a dram of something delicious! And right on cue, here to chat us through today’s Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar tipple is Jura distillery manager, Graham Logan.

Ok, ok, that introduction may have been a tad optimistic. If, like many of us here at MoM Towers, you’re still in the panic zone, fret not! We’ve got all kinds of last-minute gifts to sort you out (think, gift vouchers, Pour & Sip subscriptions… all is not lost!).

With that in hand, now you really can sit back with a dram! And today’s whisky is a good one. It started life on the Isle of Jura, a picturesque island off Scotland’s west coast, and was aged for a whopping 18 years! No guessing needed today, it’s Isle of Jura 18 Year Old!

Time to find out more about this dreamy drop with Jura distillery manager, Graham Logan.

Whisky Advent 2020 Day #22: Isle of Jura 18 Year Old

Meet Graham Logan, Jura distillery manager!

Master of Malt: Jura is a stunning island. Tell us about what makes it special for you…

Graham Logan: Many things make Jura for me. The first is my wife, who I met on my first foray to the pub 33 years ago after being on the island for 12 hours. Then there’s the scenery, the wildlife, the remoteness, the community, my second job as a crofter (or a small farm) where I have two cows, eight sheep, and a goat, and my third job as a volunteer firefighter. If I hadn’t been a distiller, I would have been a firefighter. Also, the distillery staff. Who make my job a dream job.

MoM: How does its remote setting impact whisky-making on Jura?

GL: Jura distillery brings everything in and out via two ferries. Malted barley, yeast, casks, spare parts, and boiler oil in; and sending out spirit, spent grains and filled casks. That means we have to keep a stock of everything required, and if ferries go off to bad weather we can keep going. It usually means all the cows on Jura are happy as they get free draff (spent grains).

Whisky Advent 2020 Day #22: Isle of Jura 18 Year Old

The distillery is located on a beautiful, remote island

MoM: How would you describe the Jura distillery character?

GL: Jura has really tall stills. The wash stills are 26ft 1in (7.95 metres), and the spirit stills are 25ft 4in (7.72m) tall with the Lyne arms slowly rising to the condensers. As they are so tall only the lightest spirit vapours reach the condenser, and as we have so much copper in the still neck, the copper helps with reflux (or redistillation). All the heavy vapours that don’t get to the top of the still fall back down, and get re-distilled when they meet the new vapours that are rising. This makes your spirit strength slightly stronger and lighter in character with floral/cereal notes.

MoM: Jura 18 Year Old is today’s dram! Can you tell us how it was made?

GL: As I have been at Jura for 29 years, I have very much had a hand in making this. I was a mash and still operator for 24 years! All Jura spirit is made the same way, and is filled into first-fill ex-bourbon casks, even the peated spirit which gives the 18 Year Old a subtle smoke finish. Then the spirit is finished in a premier cru classe red wine cask for 18-24 months. It’s a beautiful dram with pear, marzipan, tropical fruits and baked apple on the nose, and vanilla, coffee, ginger syrup and black forest fruits to taste. A real Christmas winter warmer.

MoM: Money and availability no object, what would be your dream Christmas dram?

The distillery team had a tasting with Richard Paterson in the early 2000s and we were lucky enough to taste a 50-year-old Dalmore. If money was no object, it would definitely be anything of Dalmore over 50 years old. Sitting with a dram of that, next to an open roaring fire and watching the Queen’s speech would be heaven.

Whisky Advent 2020 Day #22: Isle of Jura 18 Year Old

Isle of Jura 18 Year Old Tasting Note:

Nose: Cinnamon, dried berries, Wine Gums, hickory.

Palate: Brandied cherries, Turkish delight, milky coffee and blackcurrant jam.

Finish: Chocolate chip cookies, a touch of hay, orange oil.

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Whisky Advent 2020 Day #21: The Dalmore Cigar Malt

Can you believe it?! It’s the Monday before Christmas, and the festive spirit is REALLY kicking in. The whisky behind door 21 of Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar…

Can you believe it?! It’s the Monday before Christmas, and the festive spirit is REALLY kicking in. The whisky behind door 21 of Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar will particularly appeal to those partial to a cigar. Here to tell us more is Stephen Martin, Whyte & Mackay’s global single malt whisky specialist!

Right. Christmas is almost here. Whatever the big day is going to look like for you this year, it’s time to pause, sit down, and take a moment just for yourself. Yourself and a really rather tasty dram.

Today’s number was blended with cigar lovers in mind, to complement their smoke of choice. But fear not! It’s a delicious drop whether or not you’re planning on sipping while lighting up. It hails from the iconic Dalmore distillery in the Scottish Highlands, and it was actually brought back due to popular demand after being discontinued in 2009. So you know it’s got the backing of the masses! Today’s dram is…

The Dalmore Cigar Malt!

But that’s enough from us. Here to tell us more about it is Stephen Martin, Whyte & Mackay’s global single malt whisky specialist!

Whisky Advent 2020 Day #21: The Dalmore Cigar Malt

Give a big Advent welcome to Stephen Martin!

Master of Malt: The Dalmore is an iconic brand. What do you think sets the distillery apart?

Stephen Martin: Whisky is all about people and place and The Dalmore is such an amazing example of this. This is true from the Mackenzies, who arrived at the distillery in 1867 and introduced the Royal Stag to every bottle to remind us of their royal heritage dating back to 1263, right through to our current decorated master blender, Richard Paterson, who celebrated 50 years with us in September this year. We’ve always had a meticulous and innovative approach to making whisky and you need to have the right people in place to make this work.  

MoM: Lots of different cask maturations go on with Dalmore. What finishes work especially well with the spirit?

SM: The Dalmore matures exceptionally well in a number of different casks due to the body and weight of the new-make spirit. In particular, Matusalem sherry butts from Gonzalez Byass are incredible! These gems have held Matusalem sherry, a combination of oloroso and PX wines, for 30 years. A lot of the chocolate orange and sweet spice characteristics that we expect from The Dalmore come from these casks. Tawny port pipes from W&J Graham are a favourite of ours also!

Whisky Advent 2020 Day #21: The Dalmore Cigar Malt

Dalmore’s Richard Paterson is regarded as one of the true great master blenders

MoM: Any whisky and food- or cigar-pairing tips? What should we look for?

SM: Absolutely! Sherry plays such an important role in our whiskies and I love pairing the Dalmore with Andalusian cuisine. A bottle of The Dalmore 15 alongside some Iberico, manzanilla olives and manchego Iniesta is a real crowd pleaser and a bit out of the ordinary! In terms of cigars, I’m really enjoying the Davidoff Winston Churchill Late Hour just now. Medium to full-bodied, this cigar contains tobacco that has been aged for six months in single malt whisky casks, so it works really well The Dalmore Cigar Malt. 

MoM: What about Cigar Malt means it pairs particularly well with cigars?

SM: Flavour and body for me! The Cigar Malt is profoundly influenced by Matusalem sherry and red wine barriques, so there’s an abundance of deep, rich flavours that work well with the right cigar. The red wine barriques also contain a lot of tannins that contribute to a silky, velvety texture that dances with the cigar smoke on your palate as you draw. When you get the pairing just right there are not many better things in life!

MoM: What whisky will you be pairing with the Christmas festivities this year?

SM: Cheese is a big thing in my house at Christmas so I’ll be pulling out a bottle of the Port Wood Reserve after dinner! Delicious with a strong cheddar, creamy brie or salty Lanarkshire blue! I’ll also be making Christmas eggnog for the family with the Dalmore 12 Year Old, which works really well. 

Whisky Advent 2020 Day #21: The Dalmore Cigar Malt

The Dalmore Cigar Malt Tasting Note:

Nose: Caramel, shortbread, biscuits, coffee and chocolates. Simple, clean and moreish.

Palate: Yet more toffee, caramel edging towards the burnt cinder-toffee side of things. Flamed orange-zest, and perfectly integrated sherry.

Finish: Reasonably simple, Christingles (orange Zest and clove with a touch of cinnamon), more mid-palate than palate-coating.

Overall: Definitely meets the criteria of pairing with a ‘BIG’ cigar.

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Whisky Advent 2020 Day #19: Mackmyra Vintersol 2019

Gosh, Christmas really is approaching rather fast, isn’t it? We’re already at December 19, meaning it’s time to open up window #19 of the Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent…

Gosh, Christmas really is approaching rather fast, isn’t it? We’re already at December 19, meaning it’s time to open up window #19 of the Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar and enjoy a dram of… Mackmyra Vintersol 2019!

Christmas is a time for giving, but it’s also a time for not giving an inch when it comes to arguments about basically anything to do with food. It’s the only time of year when “What’s the best herb to put roast potatoes?” could be the catalyst for an arm wrestling match, and that is something to treasure. There are a few options for that one, by the way. Thyme is reliable, but a bit boring. Parsley can be hit or miss, but when it’s a hit, it’s smashing. Rosemary is a funny one that sounds like it shouldn’t work, but it’s usually pretty good. However, there is an obvious answer, and that’s garlic. Is garlic a herb? No. Does that matter when it makes roast potatoes taste amazing? Also no. Eschew the squabbles and garlic up your roast potatoes.

As you write down the complex calculations for how much garlic you’re going to need for your roasted potatoes (it’s always more than you think), you might like to enjoy a little tipple, and there’s just the thing behind window #19 of the Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar – it’s a dram of Mackmyra Vintersol 2019! Yes, we’re heading back to Sweden for another fantastic Mackmyra single malt, though this one is quite a bit different. This time, you’re tucking into a fruit-forward whisky, which has been finished in casks that previously held Port from Quinta do Vallado. A delicious way to bring some Portuguese sunshine to a chilly December eve! To tell us a little more, we we’re lucky enough to get to ask Mackmyra’s very own brand ambassador Richard McKeand some more questions!

Mackmyra Distillery

The Mackmyra Distillery looks rather impressive, doesn’t it?

Master of Malt: Can you tell us a bit about the marvellous Mackmyra Vintersol 2019?

Richard McKeand: Mackmyra Vintersol (Winter sun) is a Swedish single malt whisky created in collaboration with the Port wine producer Quinta do Vallado, one of the oldest and most famous Quintas in the Douro Valley. The Swedish winter sun rarely visits as often as we like it to, and so we wanted the flavour of sun-soaked grapes to keep this whisky company.

The aromatic profile of the whisky comes from finishing in casks that previously held Port wine with notes of vanilla, chocolate and pepper. The resulting whisky is elegant With a light spiciness and notes of warm raisins, sun ripe fruits, tropical berries, buttery pear fudge, vanilla and toasted oak.

MoM: Looking forward to 2021, is there anything we should be looking out for from Mackmyra?

RK: More innovative whiskies with our two seasonal releases, as well as at least one from our Moment range. Find and follow us on our social media channels for updates and clues as to what they may be!

MoM: I thought the Mackmyra Intelligens whisky created by AI was incredibly cool (and very delicious indeed). Are there any plans to fire up the AI again for more releases?

RK: Cheers! All I can say is watch this space. There aren’t any concrete plans in place, but we do have the ability to do so.

MoM: If you remembered you needed to get a whisky-loving friend a Christmas present on Christmas Eve, what would you be rushing to pick up?

RK: On Christmas eve you say… a tough one! It would depend on the friend and their needs, but the things which spring to mind would be a nice bottle of something, a book about whisky, or a bottle in a gift box with glassware included.

Mackmyra Vintersol 2019

Tucked away behind window #19 was Mackmyra Vintersol 2019!

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt

Nose: Oaky vanilla, with liquorice, grape skins, pear tart and vanilla custard, gingerbread and lots of dried fruit, with a subtle note of pine.

Palate: Gently spiced, with peppery oak and warmer root ginger spice, with custard creams, fruitcake, tinned pear and subtle sherry influence.

Finish: Toasted hot cross buns, with spicy oak and orchard fruit on the finish.

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Whisky Advent 2020 Day #18: Uncle Nearest 1856 Premium Whiskey

You might have noticed that there’s just a week left until Christmas, which means there aren’t many drams left in your Whisky Advent Calendar. Better savour the remaining ones, particularly…

You might have noticed that there’s just a week left until Christmas, which means there aren’t many drams left in your Whisky Advent Calendar. Better savour the remaining ones, particularly what’s behind window #18…

By now you’ve probably had your fair share of Christmas tales (I’ve watched The Muppets Christmas Carol every day since November 1st and have loved every minute of it) so today we’re going to tell you a different story in celebration of the dram behind window #18, which is…

Uncle Nearest 1856 Premium Whiskey!

The man the brand honours Nathan Green, known as Uncle Nearest to friends and family, who was the first African-American master distiller and taught a certain Jack Daniel how to distil. He was also instrumental in the evolution of the Lincoln County Process, and by association the creation of Tennessee Whisky itself. Cheers to you, Uncle Nearest!

We wanted to find out more about what’s going on with the brand, so we asked a few questions to Matt Neal, UK brand ambassador to see what’s going on in Tennessee!

Uncle Nearest 1856 Premium Whiskey

The wonderful Fawn Weaver, the founder of Uncle Nearest whiskey

Master of Malt: How would you describe the character of Uncle Nearest whiskey?

Matt Neal: What I find in our 1856 Premium Whiskey is toffee, vanilla and a touch of cinnamon on the nose, followed by a corn sweetness wrapped in oak spice with a healthy dose of orange stone fruit on the mid pallet, it has an oily creamy mouthfeel that coats the mouth and finally finishes with baking spice, nutmeg, cinnamon and clove and a dose of mint, and for me sage. It also has what our CEO calls a ‘Tennessee Hug’. An alcohol warmth that continues down into your chest. At 50% and 8 plus years old I guess that is to be expected.

MoM: What sets Uncle Nearest whiskey apart in your view?

MN:  The age is the first thing that stands out. It’s made up of 8-14 years old which is OLD for a whiskey aged in a climate like Tennessee. Next is the fact we ‘proof down’. We try to control the loss of water and alcohol in the ageing process making sure our spirit loses more alcohol than water. This means when it comes out of the barrel we can add as little water as possible to bring it to 100 proof, 50% ABV, which means we keep as much flavour in the bottle as we can.  Finally, there is the story behind the brand. I could talk for hours on the Friendship between Nearest Green and Jack Daniel that basically created the category of Tennessee whiskey. It’s an incredible history and one that is hard not to admire. 

Uncle Nearest 1856 Premium Whiskey

Uncle Nearest is the fastest-growing independent American whiskey brand in history

MoM: Can you share a little bit of that story? 

MN: Our Story is two-fold at Uncle Nearest. We have our history, the story of Nathan Green teaching Jack to distil back in the mid-1800s and his influence on Tennessee Whiskey, and American Whiskey in general. Then we have our current history. We were the most awarded whiskey of 2019 and 2020. We appointed the first female African-American master blender, Victoria Butler, a direct descendant of Uncle Nearest. We have done so much charity work this year I can barely keep up and have been at the centre of a lot of the big conversations at the heart of our industry. In fact, it’s got to the point where I’m torn between which ‘history’ excites me most.

MoM: What fun things have happened in the world of Uncle Nearest in 2020?

MN: 2020 has been a strange year all over, but there have been some great things happening for us at uncle nearest. Firstly our 1820 single barrel picked up double gold in San Francisco, Uncle Nearest 1856 Premium Whiskey was named in Oprah’s list of her ’Favourite Things’ of 2020 and we won Wine Enthusiasts Magazine Spirits Brand Of The Year Award. I thought it would be hard to stay positive during this time but with a team like ours, it’s been hard not too. That said I do miss drinking a dram with friends and ranting at strangers in bars about American whiskey over cocktails.

MoM: What’s next for Uncle Nearest? Any 2021 plans you can give us a hint about?

MN: Our Uncle Nearest 1884 Small Batch small-batch whiskey, blended by Victoria, should make its way to the UK as soon as the Americans stop drinking it all! We are also doing some innovative things with grains and messing about with production. We are a relatively new company and whiskey takes time, so when these things might hit the market is never certain. I am really excited though.

Uncle Nearest 1856 Premium Whiskey

Uncle Nearest 1856 Premium Whiskey Tasting Note:

Nose: Buttery vanilla and brown sugar, mixed with soft sultana and cinnamon sweetness.

Palate: Caramelised nuts, oat cookies, more brown sugar, sandalwood, authentic corn hints and a hint of cut grass.

Finish: Lingering mint leaf and milk chocolate notes, with a final touch of spicy oak.

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Whisky Advent 2020 Day #17: Highland Park Valfather 

Behind the 17th door of the Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar is a mighty malt from the most northerly distillery in Scotland, Highland Park. Did you ever study…

Behind the 17th door of the Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar is a mighty malt from the most northerly distillery in Scotland, Highland Park.

Did you ever study Norse mythology at school? It’s some crazy stuff. The sound of thunder was actually Thor, the lightning god and inventor of Thursdays, riding across the heavens on a chariot pulled by goats. Actual goats! But he wasn’t even the mightiest, that was Odin, king of the gods and inventor of Wednesdays. Yes, without the Vikings, we’d just skip from Tuesday to Saturday because Friday was invented by a Norse goddess, Freya. But back to Odin, he’s the inspiration for the dram behind today’s door which awkwardly is a Thursday rather than a Wednesday. Someone hasn’t thought this through properly. Anyway, today’s whisky is:

Highland Park Valfather!

Odin was also known as the Valfather and this whisky is appropriately mighty being the most peated in the range but it still possesses that classic Highland Park sweetness and balance. To tell us more about it we are pleased to welcome everyone’s favourite Viking brand ambassador, Martin Marvardsen. He might look ferocious, but he’s actually lovely.

Martin Markvardsen, he really loves Highland Park

Master of Malt: Can you tell us a bit about Highland Park Valfather and how it is matured?

Martin Markvardsen: Valfather is our most peated whisky to date and is matured in refill casks. The use of refill casks allows the peat to come through much better, giving it a great balance of flavour and depth. Valfather is also inspired by Norse mythology and named after Odin, father of Gods. Our master whisky maker Gordon Motion used refill casks to create a lighter, ethereal character for our whisky to reflect this while the additional peat reflects power.

MoM: What makes Highland Park so special as a distillery?

MM: Highland Park is a special distillery due to many things. It’s the northern-most whisky distillery in Scotland. We still use the traditional art of floor malting and we use local Orkney peat, cut from our very own Hobbister Moor. The climate up in Orkney is very different to the rest of Scotland which influences the way we make our whisky and the end result. We are the only distillery to use Orkney peat which is very different due to the heather which grows on it and the lack of trees on the island. This provides us with a beautiful balance of light peat and heather honey flavour. Founded back in 1798 making Highland Park Distillery one of the oldest distilleries still to produce single malt whisky in Scotland.

The distillery looking lovely on a cold winter’s night

MoM: How has the distillery adapted to the unusual events of this year?

MM: Like all distilleries in Scotland, Highland Park followed the government guidelines around lockdown restrictions throughout the year meaning our visitor centre was closed for a number of months throughout the summer. Both production and the visitor centre is now open again and we have implemented a series of new safety procedures to keep our staff and visitors safe. We were still able to launch our exciting new Cask Strength whisky this year with the majority of our launch activity taking place online.  

MoM: What do you think the world of whisky is going to look like in 2021?

MM: I think we will see a slightly different whisky world: smaller fairs, fewer events and for us ambassadors a bit more work online. I don’t see sales dropping too much. Well, of course, we will see travel retail coming back, but not at full speed yet. I also hope that 2021 will be the year, where we see a few new distilleries being ready to sell their first bottlings. So all in all, I think and hope that 2021, will slowly bring us closer to a normal day of life in the world of whisky. I’m very positive about the future.

MoM: What will you be drinking over the festive period?

MM: During the festive period I’ll be enjoying the new Highland Park Cask Strength. I’m pretty sure Highland Park 18 Year Old will find its way towards my glass too. One thing for sure, the colder it gets, the more cosy and relaxed I’ll be in front of the fireplace with a dram of Highland Park.

Tasting note from the Chaps at Master of Malt

Nose: Robust, but refined smoke fills the nose initially followed by delicate vanilla, Conference pears, green apple skins and a heady, heavy floral richness. Underneath there’s cedarwood, honeycomb, spice from black pepper and nutmeg, as well as salted caramel before the heathery peat makes itself known. A sprightly sea breeze note emerges with time.

Palate: Simultaneously huge and yet elegant, the palate is beautifully integrated. Layers of creamy vanilla, apricot yoghurt and a helping of crème brûlée interplay with notes of incense burners, iron and salted almonds. Then there’s bitter orange marmalade, charred wood and dried earth among touches of cacao powder, toffee apples and smoked paprika.

Finish: Long and confident. The floral smoke lingers for an age but is offset by tropical fruit and black pepper.

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Whisky Advent 2020 Day #16: Fettercairn 12 Year Old

A mere nine days to go until the big man departs MoM HQ and embarks on his epic present-flinging voyage around the globe! It’s time to continue our own journey…

A mere nine days to go until the big man departs MoM HQ and embarks on his epic present-flinging voyage around the globe! It’s time to continue our own journey with Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar. And on Day 16, we’re taking a trip up to the Highlands of Scotland with Andrew Lennie, brand specialist at Fettercairn Distillery.

And, just like that, we’re on the single-digit countdown to Christmas! It’s still not entirely clear what celebrations will look like this year (tiers, bubbles, households…), but one this is certain. Today’s dram hidden behind Door 16 is a treat indeed. It hails from a distillery that once slightly lesser-known is now often found at a pub or bar near you (when they’re open). But it’s still something of a discovery dram, and it’s got our mouths watering. Behold: Fettercairn 12 Year Old!

Here to share more about the dram and its distillery is Andrew Lennie, Fettercairn’s brand specialist! 

Fettercairn 12 Year Old

Say hello to Andrew Lennie!

Master of Malt: Tell us a little bit about Fettercairn’s history…

Andrew Lennie: Fettercairn is a beautiful distillery on the east coast of the Scottish Highlands. The name literally translates as ‘Foot of the Mountain’, which will give you an indication as to where our distillery is in relation to the Cairngorm mountain range, which provides a stunning backdrop. The distillery is truly picturesque: whitewashed walls, an iconic pagoda roof, and the rolling Grampian Hills in the background. If you asked anyone to paint or imagine a typical Highland distillery, I’m sure it wouldn’t look too dissimilar to Fettercairn.

North of the distillery is an old drovers route known as the Carin O Mount where, historically, farmers would march their cattle down into the market towns of the south. They were a thirsty bunch as you could imagine, and this area became infamous with illicit distilling. Fettercairn was the second legally registered distillery in Scotland. Founded in 1824 by Sir Alexander Ramsay who converted Nethermill cornmill into the distillery. Ramsay also brought with him the iconic unicorn, Scotland’s national animal, which was part of his family crest and now proudly adorns each bottle of our single malt whisky. Sir Alexander Ramsay capitalised on the popularity of illicit distilling in the area and employed a well-known illicit distiller named James Stewart to be the first whisky maker at Fettercairn.

MoM: Fettercairn has the most amazing stills! Give us the lowdown on the cooling rings…

AL: The cooling rings were invented in the 1950s by the distillery manager at the time, Alistair Menzies. He fitted a ring of copper around the head of the spirit still which would drench it with cold mountain water during distillation. This was his way of creating a lighter and cleaner version of the spirit. Today we have two spirit stills both fitted with copper cooling rings which are seen nowhere else in the industry. When I show guests around Fettercairn, this is a real focal point. The cold water slowly flowing down the stills and the hot steam rising upwards is quite hypnotic. It has also turned the copper almost black with beautiful hints of teal, cream and gold shining through.

Fettercairn 12 Year Old

Fettercairn is one of Scotland’s most unique distilleries

MoM: Can you describe the signature Fettercairn distillery character?

AL: I would describe our house style as funky tropical fruits. The new make spirit is vibrant and fresh with notes of ripe banana, mango, pineapple, and a malty spice which is derived through the ingenuity of the copper cooling ring distillation process. We predominantly mature this spirit in ex-bourbon American white oak casks. This helps retain and enhance as much of the distillery character as possible, and adds layers of vanilla, white chocolate, and soft spice.

MoM: Fettercairn 12 Year Old is today’s dram! How has it been produced? 

AL: Fettercairn 12 Year Old was released in 2018 as part of a new collection of single malts from the distillery. It is a celebration of our new house style: fresh, vibrant, and approachable. This is a non-peated whisky and is fully matured in ex-bourbon American white oak barrels. On the nose, the first thing that comes across for me is a fresh pear and green apple followed by dried pineapple and soft spice. If you hold this dram on the palate for 10-15 seconds there are loads of tropical fruit flavours dancing around, which begin to turn slightly creamy like passion fruit cheesecake or mango Panna Cotta. The finish brings in sweet vanilla and coconut with a lingering hint of cinnamon.

MoM: What will be in your tasting glass this Christmas Day?

AL: This Christmas I am very much looking forward to a few glasses of sherry or a wee Port in the evening. As long as Home Alone is on in the background, I’ll be happy with anything.

Fettercairn 12 Year Old

Tasting note from the Chaps at Master of Malt

Nose: Refreshing nectarine, white flowers and milk chocolate emerge initially. Black toffee and subtle roasted coffee provide darker notes underneath,

Palate: Tropical fruit and sticky Jamaican ginger cake add a sweet and spicy depth which a flicker of bitter herbs and vanilla complement.

Finish: Orchard fruits and soft spices linger.

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Whisky Advent 2020 Day #15: Laphroaig Triple Wood

With less than ten days to go until Christmas, it’s time to open door 15 of the Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar, and welcome John Campbell from Laphroaig…

With less than ten days to go until Christmas, it’s time to open door 15 of the Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar, and welcome John Campbell from Laphroaig onto the blog. Again. 

Right, getting a bit panicky now. There’s still so much to do before the big day: presents to buy, food to order, and decorations to put up. What if we leave buying the tree too late and they’ve all gone? This nearly happened last year. The only tree left in all of East Kent was enormous, taking up about half the space in our dining room. It was like a very large relative had come to stay. We won’t make that mistake again. Anyway, let’s put all the Christmas stress to one side as it’s time to open the 15th door of our advent calendar. What’s inside?

It’s Laphroaig Triple Wood!

This consists of the classic super peaty medicinal Laphroaig new make which then goes through a triple ageing process. Hence the name! First it is matured in bourbon barrels, then quarter casks before finishing off in European oak Oloroso sherry casks. To tell us more we have a man who is no stranger to this blog. In fact, he’s probably a bit sick of us cos we keep asking him questions when he really wants to get on with his main job of managing the distillery. It could only be the laconic John Campbell!

It’s John Campbell, again

Master of Malt: Can you tell us a bit about Laphroaig Triple Wood and how it is matured?

John Campbell: Laphroaig Triple Wood has a consecutive maturation profile whereby we get new spirit into fresh bourbon cask and mature for ages of 5-11 years. We decant the bourbon barrels and marry the liquid together and then fill into quarter casks and mature for 6-7 months. We then decant the quarter  casks and marry this liquid together and put into Oloroso sherry-seasoned hogsheads for two years. Then it’s ready and so we decant the 7.5-13.5 year old liquid and marry before bottling.

Master of Malt: What makes Laphroaig so special as a distillery?

JC: The location on Islay and the process that we use at the distillery makes Laphroaig unique.

Master of Malt: How has the distillery adapted to the unusual events of this year?

JC: We have completed more online events to engage our consumers in 2020.

Master of Malt: What do you think the world of whisky is going to look like in 2021

JC: Hopefully get to see first-hand what it’s looking like, I miss travelling. Virtual events will be here to stay short term.

Master of Malt: What will you be drinking over the festive period?

JC: I fancy cracking something special open at Christmas to savour the festive period. Maybe an older vintage of Laphroaig 25 year old or maybe a 30 Cairdeas. This year needs to end with something special.

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt

Nose: Molasses and oily toffee. Dates, walnuts, notes from the Maker’s Mark barrels (vanilla, toastiness, sweetness etc). We got oodles of butter, zest, cool wood smoke, almond, and passion fruit.

Palate: Dry and medicinal, with exotic spices, perhaps even some turmeric. The palate is surprisingly savoury at first, with what John described as “dry dampness” (taste and it’ll make sense!) – think musty wood sheds and hints of moist autumnal forest floor. The sherry notes are there too, but rather than being the big Christmas pudding flavour one often expects from Oloroso-aged whisky, we are instead treated to a much more restrained iced fruitcake, graced with hints of Laphroaig’s classic smoke.

Finish: Oaked. The mustiness carries into the finish, which lasts for a good while, with oily spices and dried fruit.

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Whisky Advent 2020 Day #14: Macallan 12 Year Old Double Cask

We’re two weeks into advent, so it’s time to open door #14 of the Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar. And to tell us more we have David Sinclair…

We’re two weeks into advent, so it’s time to open door #14 of the Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar. And to tell us more we have David Sinclair from Macallan…

Before we get on to today’s whisky, I just want to tell you about a conversation I had with my daughter recently. She’s much too young for a whisky calendar so she has a chocolate one. I was trying to explain to her that when I was growing up advent calendars didn’t have treats in. There were just pictures behind the doors, and yet we would get all excited over what was behind the door. Oh look it’s a donkey! My brother and I would get so excited that we would fight for the chance to open that door. My daughter didn’t get it at all, and frankly I’m a bit mystified. Imagine getting all excited over a picture of a donkey. I suppose there wasn’t much else to do in the early ‘80s.

Anyway, there’s no donkey behind the 14th door of the Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar, you’ll be pleased to hear. Instead we’ve got an expression from a distillery that needs no introduction to Master of Malt customers:

It’s the Macallan 12 Year Old Double Wood!

It gets its name because it’s aged in both American and European oak sherry casks. Makes sense. To tell us more we have brand ambassador and all round lovely fellow David Sinclair. 

It’s David Sinclair, in a swanky hotel, having a glass of Macallan. You’re living the dream, David!

Master of Malt: Can you tell us a bit about The Macallan 12 Year Old Double Cask and how it is matured?

David Sinclair: The Macallan Double Cask 12 Years Old forms part of our Double Cask range which marries the classic Macallan style and the unmistakable sweetness of American oak. This is a fully rounded single malt in perfect balance, with flavours of honey, citrus and ginger.

MoM: What makes The Macallan so special as a distillery?

DS: The Macallan distillery and visitor experience marries our whisky making heritage with the innovative vision that sits at the heart of The Macallan and guides our future. Designed by internationally-acclaimed architects, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, the iconic evolution of the home of The Macallan embodies the care, passion and superior craftsmanship that goes into every bottle of our single malt.

MoM: How has the distillery adapted to the unusual events of this year?

DS: An experience at The Macallan Distillery provides a truly immersive brand experience for our guests; bringing our brand to life and enabling us to tell the remarkable story. To ensure the safety of our staff and guests, we have adapted our guest experiences to create a safe environment and while there will be some changes, we have not compromised on the quality of the experience. In light of these changes, The Macallan has been accredited by the industry standard ‘We’re Good To Go’ – an official UK body which marks compliance with Covid-19 guidelines for hospitality and tourism businesses, along with the AA Covid-19 Confident certification. 

The Nightcap

Macallan’s Tellytubby-inspired new distillery opened in 2018

MoM: What do you think the world of whisky is going to look like in 2021?

DS: The world of whisky continues to thrive despite the many challenges the world is experiencing, we are seeing new distilleries starting to come of age bringing new innovations and excitement to the category whilst consumers demand for transparency and forensic detail on the values behind the labels will continue to become more important.

MoM: What will you be drinking over the festive period?

DS: After a long winter walk a hot toddy is always welcomed and I always make sure we have a good supply of maple syrup, bitters, oranges and “insert your favourite whisky here” to whip up an Old Fashioned if conversations are needing a change of direction.

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt

Nose: Classic dried fruit territory, if less intense than the Sherry Oak expression. Aromatic butterscotch too.

Palate: Creamy and honeyed with some thick-cut marmalade, cinnamon and warm pastries.

Finish: Fruity with vanilla and sultana.

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Whisky Advent 2020 Day #13: Brenne Cuvée Spéciale

We’re past the halfway mark of the Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar, but the deliciousness isn’t slowing down at all – behind window #13 is Brenne Cuvée Spéciale! You hear…

We’re past the halfway mark of the Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar, but the deliciousness isn’t slowing down at all – behind window #13 is Brenne Cuvée Spéciale!

You hear a lot of arguments about what belongs on the Christmas dinner table, but frankly, what dessert you’re going to eat feels more contentious, as you can only really get away with eating one. Christmas dinner is about getting all sorts of different things on your plate, so you’re always going to get a few morsels you’re stoked about. Christmas dessert has to be a tactical choice. Which one are you going to try and sneak in? A warm mince pie with brandy butter is classy, but I’ve usually eaten at least three mince pies in the lead up to Christmas, so it doesn’t feel as special. Christmas pudding is an obvious choice, but sometimes you can’t be bothered to go through the rigmarole of setting it on fire, and if that’s the case, what’s the point? Trifle is bad. Stop making trifle. It’s not good. The clear choice is the mighty yule log. It’s decadent. It goes with brandy butter or ice cream, dependent on your palate. It’ll stay good for over a week with minimal effort as you work your way through it. Yule log for everyone!

Now that you’re thinking about postprandial treats, it seems like a good time to open up window #13 of the Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar and see what dram is tucked away behind it for us to enjoy after dinner… Today, it’s Brenne Cuvée Spéciale French Single Malt Whisky! This expression is very much a spirit of its environment, being made with malted barley grown in Cognac, matured in new French Limousin oak and Cognac casks, and brought down to bottling strength with water from the Charente river. A wonderful demonstration of terroir within whisky, and simply a wonderful whisky in general. To give us some insight into the goings-on on with Brenne, we were lucky enough to ask its founder and president, Allison Parc, a few questions!

Allison Parc

Brenne’s very own founder and president, Allison Parc!

Master of Malt: Having a look at the wonderful Brenne Instagram page, it was awesome to see so much community spirit happening around Brenne even through 2020. Have you been enjoying that?

Allison Parc: More than simply enjoying our community, I use their passion as the fuel to keep us moving forward – especially during the really hard times as so many of us have faced this year. Brenne Whisky is not the most well known whisky brand so those who engage with us have to work a little harder to find us. We do not take that lightly and truly love each and every one of our Brenne friends. It’s been quite special to see how generously our community has worked to stay connected to each other through social media and virtual events during 2020.

MoM: Not only was there loads of community spirit on the Brenne Instagram, but there were plenty of cocktail videos and recipes! What cocktail do you think Brenne works best in?

AP: I think Brenne works best in the classics: Old Fashioned, Manhattan, Boulevardier, and Highballs. That said, it’s really a matter of personal tastes so whatever the person who will do the consuming finds most appealing is the most important!

MoM: What’s next for Brenne? Anything exciting we should be looking out for in 2021?

AP: We have a few things that we’ve been working on this year and can’t wait to share! Do follow us @BrenneWhisky on Instagram for the latest!

MoM: Will you be having a post-Christmas dinner dram this year? And if so, what will it be?

AP: Oh absolutely! I love to mark special moments with a glass of Brenne and at the end of a meaningful meal like Christmas dinner, I will likely reach for a bottle of Brenne Ten!

Brenne Cuvée Spéciale

What was behind window #13? The brilliant Brenne Cuvée Spéciale!

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt

Nose: Vanilla flowers arrive on the nose first, paired with pear drops and dried mango.

Palate: Brandied cherry and red rope liquorice. More vanilla, a hint of cinnamon spiciness and Nutella.

Finish: Chocolate raisins, pineapple and coconut ice.

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