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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Advent Calendars

Whisky Advent 2019 Day: #14 Hudson Baby Bourbon (70cl)

It wouldn’t be the Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar without a delicious bourbon, which is exactly what you’ll find in your calendar today… Following on from yesterday’s punchy…

It wouldn’t be the Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar without a delicious bourbon, which is exactly what you’ll find in your calendar today…

Following on from yesterday’s punchy and peaty treat, the wonderful Caol Ila 12 Year Old, you might be in the mood for a dram that’s equally as delicious but a change of pace stylistically. Behind window #14, you’ll find just that, a whiskey from a young, vibrant distillery that is creamy, sweet and very, very tasty…

It’s Hudson Baby Bourbon (70cl)!

Tuthilltown Spirits had the honour of producing the first legal pot-still whiskey in New York since Prohibition and did so using 100% New York corn. But why listen to us when you could hear from the wonderful David Powell, national brand ambassador for Hudson Whiskey.

Hudson Baby Bourbon

Look, it’s David Powell!

Master of Malt: Why was it important to you to create a whiskey with 100% New York corn?

David Powell: In the early days of Hudson Whiskey, our founders, Ralph Erenzo and Brian Lee, were eager entrepreneurs who were still wrapping their minds around the mechanics of making whiskey and building a distillery. Neither of them had an extensive level of distilling experience, so when they made their first batches of whiskey, their instinct was to use the dominant grain. As a result, they leaned on those dominant grains (corn and rye) rather than diluting them with other grains – as is the style in other whiskey producing regions. Simultaneously, the newly created license required that 75% of all raw materials be New York state grown agricultural products. As a result of the growth of Hudson Whiskey over our 16 years of existence, the impact on our neighbouring farms has been tremendous. We wouldn’t have it any other way!

MoM: You maturation process is interesting, from maturing in 2-gallon barrels to playing music through bass speakers to agitate the cask and liquid and impact the flavour. What was the inspiration behind these ideas?

DP: Over the years, our Spirit Supply team has evolved tremendously. The methods described were experiments that were undertaken in the early days of the brand in order to accelerate the flow of spirit from distillery to market. Sonic Maturation was one such experiment, which we received quite a bit of attention for in the early days of the brand, but over the years, as the distillery has evolved, so have our ageing practices. Small barrels were initially used in order to accelerate the ageing process, by creating a higher level of surface area contact between spirit and wood. Given that there were no rickhouses on the property until the last 5 years, smaller barrels allowed us to have a continuous flow of spirit to market to satisfy the growing demand for our whiskies. As of this year, there are now 6 rickhouses on the property, and our barrels have increased in size to 15g, 26g and 53g barrels. Production efficiencies have been increased to a level where we no longer need to rush a product to market, and as such, the experiments described have been phased out as we have grown.

Hudson Baby Bourbon

Co-founder Ralph Erenzo in the Tuthilltown Spirits warehouse

MoM: What can we expect to see from the distillery in the future?

DP: With all of the recent upgrades to the distillery, which have increased production efficiencies, we’ve had a bit more bandwidth to start experimenting with concepts for new variants. While we’re not currently ready to announce any specifics regarding any of those innovation expressions, the first is slated to be in market in mid to late 2020.

MoM: What does the future hold for the American craft scene?

DP: American craft distilling is still a relatively young industry. Over the course of the last 20 years, we have seen the proliferation of distilleries in regions that were rendered dormant in the aftermath of Prohibition. In New York alone, there was a 70-year gap between the shuttering of the last distilleries in accordance with that failed experiment and the opening of our distillery in 2003. In the 20 years to come, I think we’ll see a bit more regionalized standardization such as the Empire Rye Collective in New York that has set out to regulate the style of Rye that New York distillers produce. Just as Kentucky Bourbon and Tennessee Whiskey have created distinctive identities over the years, I think we’ll see the same in New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Illinois, California, and beyond. Compared to other region-specific spirits, we are still in the late adolescence of the American craft scene, and I’m excited to see how our industry matures as it continues to grow.

MoM: Is there a festive cocktail or serve you recommend for Hudson Baby Bourbon?

DP: One of my favourite late fall/early winter cocktails is called Sweater Weather. It’s designed to be served cold (shaken), but I have a feeling it would be just as delicious served warm. Here’s the recipe, created by Meaghan Dorman, head bartender at The Raines Law Room in NYC: 

– To prepare cold: Build 15ml fresh lemon juice, 15ml Orgeat, 15ml Palo Cortado Sherry, 45ml apple cider and 45ml Hudson Baby Bourbon in a shaker tin, and shake vigorously with ice for 10 seconds. Strain into a double old fashioned glass over fresh ice. Garnish by expressing and discarding an orange peel, and grating cinnamon on top of the cocktail

– To prepare warm, build 15ml fresh lemon juice, 15ml Orgeat, 15ml Palo Cortado Sherry, 45ml apple cider and 45ml Hudson Baby Bourbon in a large mug, and add 45ml of hot water. Stir for about 10 seconds to fully incorporate all ingredients, and garnish by expressing and discarding an orange peel, and grating cinnamon on top of the cocktail.

Hudson Baby Bourbon

Hudson Baby Bourbon

Thank you very much to David for speaking to us. The only thing left to do is crack open this dram of Hudson Baby Bourbon (70cl) and feast on what’s inside!

Hudson Baby Bourbon (70cl) Tasting Note:

Nose: Robust vanilla, new oak warmth, popcorn and a lingering whiff of sugared almond.

Palate: Marzipan and candied ginger, with a thick layer of caramel on top. A touch of rye spiciness develops.

Finish: Chocolate peanuts, buttered corn-on-the-cob and a light glaze of honey.

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Whisky Advent 2019 Day #13: Caol Ila 12 Year Old

Friday 13th is unlucky for some… but not if you’ve got your mitts on a Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar. Today’s delectable drop is Caol Ila 12 Year…

Friday 13th is unlucky for some… but not if you’ve got your mitts on a Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar. Today’s delectable drop is Caol Ila 12 Year Old!

Tucked away in one of the most picturesque corners of the UK lies Caol Ila. It’s the largest of the Islay distilleries by output, but you’d never guess from its quaint, waterfront position, all white-painted warehouses and traditional buildings, only accessible by snaking, single-track road. The distillery clings to the steep hillside; the Paps of Jura tower from across the Sound of Jura. It might produce 6.5 million litres of alcohol a year, and it might be a significant player in the blended behemoth that is Johnnie Walker, but when you visit Caol Ila, there’s an incredible sense of tranquillity.

This could be about to change. As part of a £150 million investment across its network of distilleries, parent company Diageo is in the process of updating the visitor centre at Caol Ila. It’ll be the Johnnie Walker’s Islay embassy, if you will. There’s to be a stunning aerial walkway and state-of-the-art facilities. Get set for a transformation.

We might need to be a little patient before we can explore the new visitor centre, but there are drams aplenty we can enjoy right now. And coincidentally, Whisky Advent’s Day 13 dram hails from Caol Ila. It’s a sumptuously smoky drop, with delicious texture and incredible character. It’s…

Caol Ila 12 Year Old!

Caol Ila 12 Year Old

Say hello to Pierrick Guillaume!

Here to tell us more is Pierrick Guillaume, Caol Ila site operations manager.

Master of Malt: Caol Ila is a remote distillery even by Islay standards! Tell us a little bit about a typical day in that setting…

Pierrick Guillaume: A typical day would consist of walking down to the distillery from home. In the winter you face the sun rising over the Jura hills with the sea between us. Well… when you see the sun! I’m lucky enough to regularly see wildlife through my office’s window such as seals, otters, guillemots or dolphins! Then after work, in the summer you can walk three minutes away from the distillery and catch a fish for dinner or if you are lucky, stop a fishing boat from the pier to get lobsters straight off the water! There are a lot of amazing spots to go for a run or a walk around the distillery too and there are a few sports activities that you can go to at night, rugby, football, netball, swimming, kayaking.

MoM: Talk us through the signature Caol Ila character…

PG: Caol Ila is a fruit market in a smoky hall. Caol Ila 12-year-old is the perfect entry door to the peaty world. When you take away this gentle peat wrapping the aromas, you are facing a whole range of fruitiness going from exotic notes to richer and darker fruits.

Caol Ila 12 Year Old

The beautiful Caol Ila Distillery

What trends or developments do you think we’ll see in the world of whisky in 2020?

PG: I think we will see an increased focus on sustainability in whisky-making – we are constantly innovating in this field to reduce the water usage at our distilleries and looking at ways of reducing our environmental impact, and this will, of course, continue to be a priority into 2020 and beyond.

What will you be drinking this Christmas?

PG: It will be Caol Ila Distiller’s Edition back home in the South West of France with my family whilst eating our home-made Yule log cake.

Caol Ila 12 Year Old Tasting Note:

Nose: It’s lively, fresh and herbal, with a distinct smoke wafting through. There are hints of cooked ham, too, along with cigar leaves and an aromatic citrus vibe. 

Palate: The rich, oily texture is immediately apparent, along with the tar and smoke notes. There’s a confectionery sweetness along with orchard fruits. 

Finish: The smoke goes on and on, framed with a gentle pepper warmth. 

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Whisky Advent 2019 Day #12: Mackmyra Äppelblom

It’s nearly time to open door number 12 on your Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendars! This dram hails from a Nordic spot known for the Northern Lights, Ikea,…

It’s nearly time to open door number 12 on your Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendars! This dram hails from a Nordic spot known for the Northern Lights, Ikea, ABBA and, most importantly, lip-smacking whisky.

Well, that’s it. We’re officially half-way through Advent! If you’ve still got Christmas shopping to do, this is your call to arms. What have you been doing all this time? Go, go! If you’re one of those uber organised folk, then you can reward yourself with opening the 12th door of your Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar, and treat yourself to some tasty Swedish whisky with a pretty… apple-ing cask finish (sorry).

Today’s dram is… Mackmyra Äppelblom!

Mackmyra is a pretty awesome Swedish distillery, breaking new ground all the time. Did you know it’s even got its very own super futuristic gravity distillery, built in 2011 at 35 metres tall. Like the name suggests, the eco-friendly distillery uses gravity throughout the whisky making process, with the raw ingredients entering at the top, and the new make collected at the bottom. The heat generated during production is even used to heat the premises, which is pretty nifty. 

Mackmyra Appelblom

It’s the fruit bomb that is Mackmyra Äppelblom!

It’s no surprise then that the folks over at the distillery have been known to try out some cool cask finishes, namely in the form of Mackmyra Äppelblom! Äppelblom means apple blossom, which makes more sense when you find out that, after ageing in bourbon and new American oak casks, the Swedish single malt was finished in oak casks which previously held Calvados. 

This wasn’t just any old Calvados, but spirit from one of the world’s leading Calvados producers, none other than Christian Drouin. Prepare yourselves for a whole load of spiced orchard fruits over here. Get your hot toddy glasses out and pair this one with warm apple juice for a winter warmer, or follow UK sales manager Alex Johnson’s advice on the perfect Äppelblom serve. We managed to grab a chat with Johnson to tell us more about all things Mackmyra.

Master of Malt: A Calvados cask-finished whisky! What can we expect flavour-wise?

Alex Johnson: Apples abound with strudel and custard, then cedar, soft spices, vanilla, pear and a touch of citrus.  

MoM: What’s your favourite way to drink Äppelblom?

AJ: Chill a glass and pour in a good measure. Serve with banana bread dipped in sea-salted extra virgin olive oil – you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it!

Mackmyra Äppelblom

Check out Alex Johnson’s favourite serve, with a hefty slice of banana bread.

MoM: What was a Mackmyra highlight of 2019?

AJ: The creation and launch of Intelligens, the world’s first A.I. whisky was a very special event and another first for Mackmyra.

MoM: Can we expect more fun cask finishes from Mackmyra in 2020?

AJ: Of course, innovation is at our core. Angela’s not revealed what they’ll be just yet but we know they’ll be our best yet.

MoM: What’s your favourite Christmas cocktail?

AJ: A Margarita is a perfect way to get the day going but in the evening that try stirring some Äppelblom down with Angostura bitters, a pinch of sea salt and a dash of crème de banane. Serve on the rocks with slices of dried banana – it’s essentially an apple and banana Old Fashioned, but we call it a Bonita Äppelblom.

Mackmyra Äppelblom Tasting note:

Nose: Toasted oak and orchard fruits galore, namely apple and pear with a hint of lemon, delicate floral notes with sweet vanilla and toffee.

Palate: Well rounded fruity and spicy notes continue with the marriage of pear and citrus. Cedar wood emerges alongside aniseed, caramelised almonds, white pepper and ginger spiciness.

Finish: Spicy tones linger with gentle oak and zesty lemon and apple.

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Whisky Advent 2019 Day #11: BenRiach 10 Year Old

The 11th door of Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar holds something exceptionally tasty from a certain Speyside distillery which is named for the Gaelic for ‘speckled mountain’…  Well,…

The 11th door of Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar holds something exceptionally tasty from a certain Speyside distillery which is named for the Gaelic for ‘speckled mountain’… 

Well, well, it’s the 11th day of Advent. We’re not half way just yet, but gosh darn it’s not far off either! You’ll know that though of course, because you can see how many doors you’ve opened on your Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar, and it’s got a treat for you on this special day.

We all know you’re here for the whisky, so we’ll get down to it.

Today’s dram is… BenRiach 10 Year Old!

This particular expression was first launched in April 2015, and is the flagship expression from the Speyside distillery after it changed hands in 2004 from Pernod Ricard to Billy Walker (it was subsequently bought by Brown-Forman in 2016). So, this was the first core range expression to be predominantly crafted from whiskies distilled at BenRiach since Walker took over. And it’s still going strong! 

The Speysider is drawn from both bourbon and sherry casks after a decade of ageing, so you have all those sweeter, creamy notes from the bourbon cask sitting wonderfully alongside the spicier notes from the sherry cask. 

Benriach 10 year old

It’s the wonderful Dr Rachel Barrie, everyone!

We got to chat to the awesome master blender Dr Rachel Barrie, to talk us through all things BenRiach! It’s been quite the year for the Dr Barrie, as among many other achievements, after 27 years in the industry she was inducted as a ‘Keeper of the Quaich’

Master of Malt: Wow, here we have the flagship expression from BenRiach! Can you talk us through what we should be expecting flavour-wise?

Dr Rachel Barrie: Benriach 10 Year Old glides on the palate like a delicious patisserie, with layers of succulent orchard fruit on a base of pastry-like malt and vanilla cream, topped with toasted almond and a touch of spice. 

MoM: What’s your favourite way to drink BenRiach 10 Year Old?

RB: I enjoy BenRiach 10 Year Old neat or with a splash of water for the perfect multi-layered balance of fruit, malt and oak. 

Benriach 10 year old

Behold, Benriach 10 Year Old.

MoM: What’s been a BenRiach highlight of 2019?

RB: In 2019, the launch of the latest BenRiach Cask bottling Batch was a highlight, after selecting 24 casks from Warehouse 13, including Benriach unpeated and peated matured in oak casks previously filled with Tokaji wine, oloroso sherry, Pedro Ximénez, Port, claret, Madeira, Sauternes, virgin oak, South African red wine, Jamaican rum, Rioja, Sicilian Marsala, and bourbon! The drinker now has the chance to select from the same eclectic collection of casks I have the pleasure of nosing every day.

MoM: What’s your favourite Christmas cocktail?

RB: A smooth, spiced fruit cocktail with cloudy apple juice, ginger beer, cinnamon and cloves, and a slice of red apple perched on glass, to crunch between sips. The perfect balance of sweet and dry, warm and spicy yet refreshingly smooth and fruity.

MoM: What can we expect from BenRiach in 2020?

RB: BenRiach will really come alive in 2020 with many exciting developments when it comes to our pursuit of flavour and pushing the creative boundaries of whisky-making in our three styles – classic, peated and triple-distilled.

Tasting note:

Nose: Citrus-forward, with gingerbread and cinnamon in support.

Palate: Fried banana, brown sugar, powerful barley notes driving it all along.

Finish: Lasting hints of peppery malt and vanilla custard.

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Whisky Advent 2019 Day #10: The GlenDronach 12 Year Old

On the 10th day of Advent, Drinks by the Dram declared that we should drink delicious Highland whisky, from a wonderful distillery situated at the Dronach Burn. Go on people,…

On the 10th day of Advent, Drinks by the Dram declared that we should drink delicious Highland whisky, from a wonderful distillery situated at the Dronach Burn. Go on people, get that Advent door open already!

It’s the 10th day of advent! That’s a nice round number. As such, day 10 deserves a suitably well-rounded whisky (see what we did there). Luckily Drinks by the Dram’s 2019 Whisky Advent Calendar is on hand with all the goods.

Today’s dram is… The GlenDronach 12 Year Old!

For five sad years, the Highland distillery was mothballed from 1996 until 2001. Thankfully whisky stock was still maturing over that time, and the distillery reopened, and with it the 12 Year Old was born! It was first released in 2009, and the fruity single malt is aged in a combination of oloroso and Pedro Ximénez casks from Spain. 

The year that was 2019 saw The GlenDronach release the seventeenth batch of its Cask Bottling series, as well as a smashing 1993 Master Vintage! It’s not like we really need a reason to raise a dram of The GlenDronach 12 Year Old, though those endeavours are certainly worthy of one!

Glendronach 12 year old

Say hello to Stewart Buchanan!

We were lucky enough to grab a minute (and a chat) with GlenDronach brand ambassador Stewart Buchanan, to learn more about the wonderful Highland distillery.

Master of Malt: Can you talk us through the flavour profile of the sherry bomb that is GlenDronach 12 Year Old?

Stewart Buchanan: It really is a single malt for everyone. So many times I hear from consumers that it was the first whisky that sent them on their single malt journey; the harmony and balance of sherry maturation, oak spice and the rich Highland character combine perfectly together. From the first sip to the last it shows all off a richly sherried whisky at its absolute best – from the notes of sweet, creamy vanilla and ginger on the nose to spiced mulled wine and pear flavours, to the warming finish of rich oak and sherry sweetness bursting with raisins and soft fruits in the palate. Delicious!

MoM: What’s been a GlenDronach highlight of 2019?

SB: Goodness, that’s a tough one…! I suppose the most exciting release to launch and take round the world has been the 1993 Master Vintage – from Stockholm to Singapore and Tokyo to Taipei the reception was fantastic. GlenDronachs from 1993 have always captivated palates and with this particular Master Vintage, our Master Blender really has done it again – it truly is an extraordinary limited edition. Expect profound layers of depth and complexity, leading to an exceedingly long, voluptuous and memorable finish through its vibrant profile.

MoM: What’s your favourite way to drink GlenDronach 12 Year Old?

SB: The GlenDronach 12 Year Old is, I suppose, my most social occasion single malt of the range. Enjoying with friends whether at home or in a bar, its rich but simple flavours working in perfect harmony make it a great single malt to simply enjoy and savour without having to overthink – that for me makes a perfect social Scotch whisky.

Glendronach 12 year old

The Glendronach 12 Year Old looking suitably snug.

MoM: Can you give us any hints as to what we can expect from GlenDronach in 2020?

SB: As ever, our master blender Dr Rachel Barrie is constantly nosing, tasting, assessing and creating – we do have some special gems tucked away so watch this space.

MoM: It’s Christmas Eve, and you’re sitting down with a GlenDronach dram. Which one is it?

SB: I will be doing what I do every Christmas Eve – my mother brings out the Christmas cake which she has been preparing since September. She slices through the sugar icing and marzipan into the boozy, dark fruit-laden masterpiece and I pour everyone a warming measure of the GlenDronach 21 Year Old Parliament – it’s a match made in heaven!

Tasting notes

Nose: Rich cereals, struck match, raisin, cinnamon, caramelised sugar. Opens with some sweeter PX and lots of delicious raw ginger before becoming creamier with hazelnuts.

Palate: Fruits, peels, buttery. Pain au chocolat, a little marmalade on toast before becoming firmer and nuttier with spiced raisins.

Finish: Smoky toffee and nut brittle.

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Whisky Advent 2019 Day #9: Dalmore Cigar Malt

There’s no Monday blues here with Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar Day 9. Hidden away behind today’s door is Dalmore Cigar Malt! We get the scoop from Richard…

There’s no Monday blues here with Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar Day 9. Hidden away behind today’s door is Dalmore Cigar Malt! We get the scoop from Richard Paterson himself.

The Dalmore is as much a brand in its own right as a Highland single malt distillery. Its highly recognisable 12-point stag has become an iconic motif, and some of its expressions are highly prized. Old and rare bottlings even command record prices, both on the primary and secondary markets.

Today’s dram from our Whisky Advent Calendar carries that same pedigree – and was specifically blended to be enjoyed with a cigar. It’s a no-age-statement dram, but don’t let that put you off. It’s rich, flavourful, and has that signature Dalmore doughy texture. It’s Cigar Malt!

This dram was discontinued to much uproar in 2009 – but thankfully it’s back, in full bottle size, and in Advent calendar form. We understand this new blend is made with slightly older liquid and it’s a right treat.

And here to tell us more about it is The Nose himself – Dalmore’s Richard Paterson.

Dalmore Cigar Malt

The Nose himself, Richard Paterson!

Master of Malt: The Dalmore is one of the most recognisable brands in single malt Scotch. What do you think sets you apart? 

Richard Paterson: The Dalmore is enduringly recognisable, in part due to our unique bottle shape, and striking packaging, but not least because of the iconic silver ‘Stag’ marking a royal heritage for the distillery that dates to 1263. We are fortunate too that our founding fathers and chain of custodians through the years had a wonderful vision, and we have many aged expressions up to the rare Dalmore 64 Years Old and others that we have released over the years. This is coupled with our consistent ‘wood enhancement’ programmes in which we use only the finest exclusive Sherry, Port and wine casks to provide the highest quality possible, and of course the relentless passion of our dedicated quality team.

MoM: Cigar Malt was originally discontinued but you brought it back! What makes it such a good match with cigars? 

RP: The rich full body of The Dalmore Cigar Malt, with its chocolate orange spice flavours, makes it the perfect accompaniment to the finest Cigars, in particular, “Partagas number 4 & Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure No 2. Taken along with hot Colombian or Java coffee you will soon be in heaven!

Dalmore Cigar Malt

Bottura and Paterson, who raised over £108k for charity this year!

MoM: What have been your 2019 highlights for The Dalmore? 

RP: This year marks the beginning of celebrations marking the 180th anniversary of The Dalmore. I’ve hosted many special tastings around the world, in particular, highlighting the rare Dalmore 45 years old and many more different expressions. I cannot forget, our wonderful partnership with Massimo Bottura, raising over £108k for his charity Food For Soul.

MoM: What trends or developments do you think we’ll see in the world of whisky In 2020? 

RP: With there being so many discerning consumers around the world today particularly in the Far East, the thirst for Scotch whisky especially, Single Malt whisky is set to continue for many years to come. However, we in the Scotch whisky industry must never be complacent, we must continue to innovate, evolve and excite our consumers with the finest quality whiskies and superb packaging.

MoM: What will you be drinking this Christmas? 

RP: Many different wines but there will always be an aged Dalmore, Jura, Fettercairn, Tamnavulin and a Whyte & Mackay close at hand! Slainte Meath.

Dalmore Cigar Malt

Dalmore Cigar Malt

Dalmore Cigar Malt Tasting Notes:

Nose: Loads of shortbread, rich tea biscuit notes, caramel, and chocolate orange. It’s highly tempting for the sweet-toothed.

Palate: toffee and more caramel, with some delicious marmalade-on-burnt-toast in there, too. Lashings of sherry-cask notes.

Finish: Relatively straightforward, but sweet Christmas spices come through towards the finish.

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Whisky Advent 2019 Day #8: Fettercairn 12 Year Old

Squirrelled away behind door number 8 of Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar is a distillery you may not have heard of, but offers a deliciously sweet treat. Say…

Squirrelled away behind door number 8 of Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar is a distillery you may not have heard of, but offers a deliciously sweet treat. Say hello to Fettercairn 12 Year Old!

Head up to deepest, darkest Aberdeenshire, not far from the stunning Grampian mountains, and you’ll discover a perhaps lesser-known distillery that is ready to make its mark on the whisky-drinking world. Sister to the likes of The Dalmore and Jura, Fettercairn has a rich history and intriguing production processes but hasn’t really ever shouted about it.

But that’s about to change. Last year, Fettercairn for the first time unveiled a core range of single malts, bringing the distillery to a broader audience than ever before. And more innovation has followed!

Here to tell us more about Fettercairn as we tuck into a dram of the 12 Year Old expression is distillery manager, Stewart Walker!

Fettercairn 12 Year Old

Look, it’s distillery manager, Stewart Walker!

Master of Malt: Fettercairn has had a pretty exciting time of late! Bring us up to date with developments at the distillery and with the brand…

Stewart Walker: We’ve had a brilliant year at Fettercairn with plenty of upgrades at the distillery to keep me and the team busy, while also crafting and laying down thousands of barrels for future generations to enjoy. At the distillery itself, we have installed a new malt intake and milling equipment, we’ve also rebuilt the tun room which is stunning, adding two huge windows that look onto the Grampians behind the distillery. Our visitor centre has also had a makeover, and we welcomed Claire Sabiston to the team. We’re looking great and have had the pleasure of meeting hundreds of new and old Fettercairn fans from around the world at the distillery. This year we released a Fettercairn 12 Year Old PX cask finished single malt into travel retail. It is delicious!

MoM: One of the features of the distillery that sets it apart is the cooling ring on the still. Talk us through how this works, and the impact it has on the character of the whisky…

SW: At Fettercairn we have a unique cooling rings fitted to each of our spirit spills. The drench our stills in crystal clear water from the Cairngorms, and ensure we capture the purest expression of our whisky’s character. They also create a beautiful green patina to our copper stills, and are simply mesmerising to watch in action. The feature was installed in 1952 when the manager of Fettercairn was looking for a way to create a floral, fruity nose on his new make spirit. He discovered that by allowing cold water to run down the head of still he could create something rather special. I like to imagine how they might have come up with this, and can imagine the distillery workers spraying water onto the stills with hoses to test the results before creating the actual cooling rings! Today the original cooling rings still take pride of place on our stills, and I’m glad they made this discovery as it really does allow us to create a lovely floral tropical fruit nose that is found throughout the Fettercairn Range.

Fettercairn 12 Year Old

Walker at Fettercairn Distillery

MoM: Talk us through a typical day at Fettercairn!

SW: It’s always an early start at Fettercairn, with a shift change at 6.00 am as the weary night workers head home, the day shift team prepare for mashing to begin at 7.00 am. Depending on where we are in production the spirit still might also be running – the cooling rings and warmth of the stills in action are always a welcome sight in the morning, especially in the winter months. We then take in a load of malt, checking the quality before off-loading to one of the malt bins before checking that everything is running as planned across the distillery. Then it’s time for a cup of tea and chat with the team. On days that we are filling casks, we take a charge and nose the spirit before reducing the ABV to 63.5% ABV, fill 60 casks and then roll them to their resting place in the warehouse where they’ll spend years asleep. We run tours seasonally so I like to say hello to our visitors as they walk around the site, and we regularly welcome special guests and press so I can often be found hosting tours and tastings too. I love my job – it’s busy, varied and no two days are the same. 

MoM: What trends or developments do you think we’ll see in the world of whisky in 2020?

SW: Around the world consumers thirst of whisky is growing! I think this will continue with people exploring more styles and experimenting with ways to enjoy their whisky – neat, with ice, in a cocktail – whisky is for everyone. For Fettercairn, we’ll be introducing more consumers across the world to our fantastic whiskies, and hopefully sharing some new expressions that will excite people’s taste buds! 

MoM: What will you be drinking this Christmas?

SW: Winter is a beautiful time of year at Fettercairn, with snow on the Cairngorms and frost in the fields. We tried a beautiful hot chocolate recently, made with chocolate drinking powder, coconut milk, a dash of PX sherry and Fettercairn 12 Year Old PX. A real treat that I can see enjoying around the fire with the family on Christmas Eve. On Christmas Day itself, it will be a nice dram of Fettercairn 12 Year Old.

Fettercairn 12 Year Old

Fettercairn 12 Year Old

Fettercairn 12 Year Old Tasting Note:

Nose: Loads of stone fruit, florals and even some white chocolate coming through. With time, earthier coffee emerges as a bit of a base note.

Palate: The apricot vibes turn more tropical fruit, with ginger coming through, too. Vanilla pods and some drier herbs add a pleasing complexity.

Finish: Back to those orchard fruits, with more sweet spices!

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Whisky Advent 2019 Day #7: WhistlePig 10 Year Old

For the first time this year, we venture to North America for some rye whiskey as we continue to make our way through the Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent…

For the first time this year, we venture to North America for some rye whiskey as we continue to make our way through the Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar

Christmas can often be a time of fierce debate. Why do we persist with Brussel sprouts? Is Die Hard a Christmas film? Who invited the weird uncle again?

But some things are a matter of fact. Rye whiskey is delicious, for example. That’s a fact. Its revival in recent years is most welcome. There’s another. Whistlepig makes superb rye whiskey that should be celebrated and is more than worthy of a place in a whiskey-based Advent Calendar. All facts. 

Speaking of which, behind window #7 of you Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar is… WhistlePig 10 Year Old!

WhistlePig 10 Year Old is straight rye whiskey which was distilled and initially matured in Canada before being aged further, at the WhistlePig Farm in Vermont. To tell us more about the dram behind window #7 is the wonderful Peter Lynch, master blender for WhistlePig.

WhistlePig 10 Year Old

Say hi to Peter Lynch!

Master of Malt: Tell us why you love WhistlePig 10 Year Old.

Peter Lynch: The 10 Year Old is the quintessential rye for so many reasons. There’s a lot of spice character, which has typically been the hallmark of rye whiskey, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Thanks to the time it spent resting in new, charred American oak, we’ve pulled a lot of wonderful barrel notes: caramels, vanillins, clove, and plenty of oak spice. The distillate character still shines through quite strongly, with that spice, a nice grassy character, some soft, floral notes, and a great mild sweetness that works beautifully with the wood sugars and tannin pulled from the cask. The ten year is an age stated whiskey, but for us, age statements are something of a minimum entry-level requirement for our whiskey to get into the bottle. It has to hit all the right flavours, first and foremost. When we look for casks when we produce a batch of 10 year, we’re looking for the proper mix to hit all these sides of the spectrum that the 10 year presents. With such a range of flavours, it’s that much more important to be vigilant with stewarding the maturation of casks, ensuring they don’t pull too much from the oak, as well the marrying of barrels prior to bottling, to hit that flavour profile perfectly.

MoM: Talk us through the signature Whistlepig character…

PL: WhistlePig’s identity is that of premium rye… but what the hell does that mean? For one, we’re giving you the best that rye has to offer in terms of flavour in bottle, period. That’s been our mission from day one. However, equally important to us is educating our fans on exactly what rye whiskey can be. We’ve typically only seen a few ryes in the back bar, all with a classic spice forward profile, but rye can be so much more than that. Rye is inherently fruity, grassy, herbaceous, floral, sweet, and yes, spicy – but not just peppery spice; we’re talking baking spices: cinnamon, cardamom, allspice and even baking chocolates. The world of whiskey hasn’t had the opportunity to taste this variety in rye until recently and, as we do, we learn, and as we learn, we want to try new, exciting, and different styles of rye. In our portfolio, you’ll see all these sides, from our flagship 10, to our sweet, fruity, elegant 12, to our spicy, oaky, robust 15 year, and our lighter, grassy, herbal Farmstock Rye. It’s a wonderful thing to see individuals eyes light up as they taste through our whiskeys, and truly begin to grasp what rye can be. Innovation can bring about some delicious results. 

WhistlePig 10 Year Old

The WhistlePig Distillery

MoM: Give us some ideas/serving suggestions for how WhistlePig 10 Year Old could be enjoyed… 

PL: We’re lucky to have a wonderful network of industry personnel in bars and restaurants across the world that love our products just as much as we do. Fortunately for me, they are much better at the craft of cocktails than I ever will be, and I’ll share a few classics I enjoy as often as I can. The maple old fashioned is one you’ll want to try the 10 year in. Using a classic old fashioned recipe, substitute your sugar component for equal parts maple syrup. If you’re lucky enough to have a bottle of the WhistlePig Barrel Aged Maple on hand, then you’re about to make the perfect cocktail for any occasion. I’ve been hot on the highballs this summer as well, and you’ll be surprised at how well the bold flavours of the 10 mingle with just the right amount of soda and ice, it really serves to brighten things up and bring out flavours you may not have noticed. Lastly, if you want something beautifully balanced, with some sweet, bitter, and herbal, the ten year in a Boulevardier is an absolute must-try.

MoM: What trends/developments do you think we’ll see in the whisky industry in 2020?  

PL: We’re going to see a lot more craft guys really staking their claim and coming into their own, as we have been for some time now. Some of the things that excite me the most are: 

– American Single Malt, and the potential for the category to bring some truly amazing, different, and lasting whiskies into our glasses and our cabinets.

– Finishing whiskey in new and innovative ways – the industry has only pushed this boundary further and further every year, and with great results.

– Ready to drink cocktails (RTD) are really coming into their own, with a few people really getting things right. It’s not easy to make these elevated drinks in a way that stays true to the flavours experienced at the bar for a lot of reasons, especially considering that a cocktail is made to drink asap. So when a brand puts something in a bottle that wows me, it’s even more impressive, and I’ve seen a few across the world the past year or two.

MoM: What will you be drinking this Christmas?

PL: The better question is what won’t I be drinking? Something tells me things might go a little something like this: Piggyback and eggnog (I may or may not have R&D’d this one already in anticipation of the holidays), 10 year in a maple old fashioned,15 Year with a cigar, and Boss Hog 6 with the folks to top it all off. 

WhistlePig 10 Year Old

WhistlePig 10 Year Old

Thank you so much, Peter. Now onto that delicious rye!

WhistlePig 10 Year Old Tasting Note:

Nose: Fresh peppermint and herbal thyme initially, with sweet vanilla and marzipan developing. Creamy butterscotch, raspberry jam and orange rind round it off.

Palate: Warm baking spices, nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice burst to life and are tempered by sweet muscovado sugar, bright oak and dark chocolate. Vanilla cola and caramel shortbread linger.

Finish: Medium-length, with warm rye spices, sweet malt and sour cherries.

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Whisky Advent 2019 Day #3: Talisker 10 Year Old

On the third day of Advent, my Whisky Advent Calendar gave to me… an enticingly smoky dram indeed! Discover what Drinks by the Dram has hidden away for us today……

On the third day of Advent, my Whisky Advent Calendar gave to me… an enticingly smoky dram indeed! Discover what Drinks by the Dram has hidden away for us today…

Feeling the festive vibes yet? If not… WHY?! We’ve already had two liquid treats this Advent. And now we’re ready to crack open the third door of Drinks by the Dram’s 2019 Whisky Advent Calendar.

And the dram behind window #3 is…

Talisker 10 Year Old!

One of Diageo’s most-loved single malt Scotch distilleries, Talisker is located on the Isle of Skye, off Scotland’s stunning west coast. Its history stretches all the way back to 1830, when brothers Hugh and Kenneth MacAskill kicked off distillation. Today, the distillery takes a thoroughly modern approach to all things whisky, encouraging us to drink the stuff in whatever form we like, championing whisky cocktails, and even hosting a Race to Skye bartender competition.

We got hold of Diane Farrell, senior site manager, up at Talisker, to tell us more…

Talisker 10 Year Old Dianne Farrell

Say hello to Talisker’s Dianne Farrell!

Master of Malt: Talisker is located on the Isle of Skye! What impact does this have on the style of whisky you produce?

Diane Farrell: Talisker is such a fantastic representation of place – you taste it and you are transported right here; sitting by a campfire by the sea with your dram of Talisker. We are able to capture a lot of the flavour and character of our environment through our production process. It’s prevalent in our new make spirit and continues to shine through after its maturation period and into your glass. Talisker has been battered by the elements on the windswept cost which means our whisky has a uniquely maritime flavour that means we are uniquely ‘Made by the Sea’.

MoM: Tell us a bit about island life. What challenges does this hold for whisky-making?

DF: Talisker is one of the most remote distilleries in Scotland, located on the west coast of the Isle of Skye. Since it was founded in 1830 it has been in near-constant operation which truly shows the resilience of our people, past and present. In the early 1900s our own pier was built along with a purpose-built tramway to make bringing supplies to the distillery easier. Of course, now that we have the Skye Bridge it makes bringing supplies to the distillery much more straightforward than ever before!

Talisker 10 Year Old Distillery

The gorgeous Talisker Distillery

MoM: What have been your 2019 highlights at Talisker?

DF: 2019 has been an incredible year with so many highlights, including the second release in the Talisker Bodega Series, Talisker 41-year-old Single Malt Scotch Whisky, one of the oldest from Skye’s oldest distillery. We hosted the finalists of the Diageo World Class Competition in September where the four elements of the wild were truly embraced during the Talisker Mystery Box Challenge. The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, the premier event in ocean rowing, starts on 12 December which is set to be the biggest and best to date, and we cannot wait to follow the action – we wish all of the rowers the very best of luck out there in the Atlantic facing the elements!

MoM: What trends or developments do you think we’ll see in the world of whisky in 2020?

DF: The increasing number of new serves for Scotch in bars. Whisky cocktails on menus are becoming more and more popular, reaching the next generation of Scotch whisky drinkers. This is a big evolution and it’s exciting!  

MoM: What will you be drinking this Christmas?

DF: Most definitely a Talisker Old Fashioned! Being warm and cozy indoors, sipping a Talisker Old Fashioned and spending time with loved ones – you can’t beat it!

Talisker 10 Year Old Tasting Note:

Nose: Lively and aromatic, there’s all sorts going on. Alongside the pronounced bonfire smoke there’s pear and apple too, seaweed, and almost a brine note, too. 

Palate: The bonfire smoke leaps from the glass, with a malty barley note, too. Dashes of black pepper give a warmth, but it’s balanced well with orchard fruit sweetness. 

Finish: Long and lush. The sweetness and bonfire embers go on and on.

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Whisky Advent 2019 Day #2: Starward Nova

An awesome Australian whisky awaits those who open window #2 of their Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar… Christmas is at the beginning of the summer holidays for Australians….

An awesome Australian whisky awaits those who open window #2 of their Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar

Christmas is at the beginning of the summer holidays for Australians. You may have previously heard of folks enjoying Boxing Day barbecues* and trips to the beach. Frankly, I don’t know how we convince #WhiskySanta to spend so much of the season around MoM Towers. He does love a surf, our festive friend. 

Anyway, the reason why I brought all of that up is that today there’s an Australian whisky behind window #2 of your Advent calendars… Starward Nova!

Who else? Starward has been flying the Australian whisky flag as proudly as it can for the last few years and given the quality of spirit it bottles, it’s not hard to see why. Don’t forget, the opportunity to see how they do it can be yours by winning this delightful VIP trip to the distillery!

Back to Nova, which is an expression that should appeal to those who consider provenance important. It was made entirely from Australian malted barley and spent three years maturing in Melbourne in a mixture of wine casks from some of Australia’s greatest wineries including Yalumba, Penfolds and Wynns. The barrels are a mixture of American, French and a little East European oak that previously held mainly Shiraz, Cabernet and Pinot Noir.  

But don’t take our word for it. Here’s founder and maker of Starward whisky, David Vitale, to tell us more:

Starward Nova

Look, it’s David Vitale!

Describe the flavour of Starward Nova. What casks have you used in its maturation?

We use Australian red wine barrels for our full maturation, which has given it an aroma of bright red fruit, chocolate and baking spices with a lingering finish of berries and vanilla.

Starward is located in Australia. What impact does this have on the style of whisky you produce?

All great whiskies talk to the place they’re made and Starward is no different. We have access to some of the best barley, wheat and wine barrels to make Starward. But, more than that, we have a vibrant city in Melbourne which inspires us to think differently about whisky and bring it to life in easy to enjoy cocktails.

Talk us through the signature Starward character…

If I had to describe Starward in three words, it would be: fruity, smooth and balanced.

Starward Nova

Vitale feels the future is bright for Starward, and it’s hard to disagree…

What have been your 2019 highlights at Starward?

This has been our best year yet. Not only in terms of sales, but huge milestones like launching Two-Fold and Nova in the US, UK, France and Japan. It’s always been our dream to take a bit of Melbourne to the world and we are on our way.

What’s next for Starward?

We’ve only just started on our launch plans in these key export markets. So we have a big job to do to get Starward in the hands of curious whisky drinkers who are interested in delicious modern Australian Whisky.

Starward Nova

Starward Nova

Thank you very much to David for speaking to us. A delightful dram of Nova awaits!

Starward Nova tasting note:

Nose: Positively bursting with red fruit like strawberries with a Port-like mixture of fruit and nuts.

Palate: Honey, cinnamon and more red fruit on the palate, creamy nutty texture, luxurious mouthfeel with a touch of tannin.

Finish: Toffee with walnuts. 

*Where prawns, not shrimps, are enjoyed. Shrimp is what Americans say. Don’t believe everything you read.

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