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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Advent Calendars

Whisky Advent 2020 Day #9: Balvenie 14 Year Old Caribbean Cask

Behind today’s little cardboard door of the Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar is a fruity Speysider that brings together Scotland and the Caribbean. It’s Balvenie 14 Year Old…

Behind today’s little cardboard door of the Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar is a fruity Speysider that brings together Scotland and the Caribbean. It’s Balvenie 14 Year Old Caribbean Cask!  

You will never again make the choice between rum and whisky with Balvenie 14 Year Old Caribbean Cask. But this single malt wasn’t just finished in any old rum casks. Oh, no. Balvenie malt master David C. Stewart made his very own blend of West Indian rums, filled it into casks, waited patiently and then finished Balvenie whisky in these delicious rum-seasoned casks after an initial maturation in American oak.  Tropical fruit and toffee awaits…

Who better to grab a moment with than UK brand ambassador Alwynne Gwilt? She’s on hand to have a festive chat with us about cask finishes and Christmassy drams! 

whisky advent 2020 balvenie

Say hello to Alwynne Gwilt!

Master of Malt: What do you think it is about rum casks and Balvenie whisky that works so well together?

Alwynne Gwilt: When you nose a number of aged rums, you’ll note similar aroma characteristics to what you find in whisky: brown sugar, toffee, spice. And our malt master David Stewart MBE is a big fan of rum, so when he noticed those synchronicities he was keen to experiment with how to continue bringing out the best of our whisky, while adding on some nuances to it through the rum-cask finish.

MoM: How do you drink this whisky?

AG: I think Caribbean Cask 14 is my favourite for experimenting with in the range. I like to drink it neat, of course, because it is fruity, sweet, spicy and incredibly well balanced. But I also love it in a Highball in the summertime, and a Caribbean Cask 14 Piña Colada is something else! Absolutely delicious! 

whisky advent 2020 balvenie

The stunning Balvenie distillery!

MoM: What does 2021 have in store for Balvenie?

AG: We are all looking forward to getting back to doing more events and activations – COVID-19 permitting – and we will be continuing the ‘story’ of Stories, as well as hero-ing our dedication to craft in some new and unique ways, so definitely watch this space!

MoM: What’s your favourite type of cask finish? (You don’t have to say rum!)

AG: My favourite type is one which still allows the main DNA of the whisky to shine through – so, for The Balvenie, malty, honeyed sweetness from a long maturation in American oak is key – while just adding a slight hint of something ‘extra’ through a short finish. It should be there to add an extra layer, rather than dominate. So, while I cannot say I have a favourite, this is definitely what I look for in our whisky and others that I try. 

MoM: What will you be drinking on Christmas day?

AG: I recently discovered a dram of Port Wood 21 leftover from a tasting event, so I’ve saved that up for Christmas – after all, it is David Stewart’s favourite! That and some gorgeous South African wine that I’ve been looking forward to opening up after a long year!

whisky advent 2020 balvenie

Tasting note from the Chaps at Master of Malt

Nose: Rich with notes of tropical fruits, namely passion fruit, and creamy toffee.

Palate: Sweet vanilla forms a creamy palate with notes of apples and mangoes with a hint of orange in the background.

Finish: The finish lingers with a vanilla focussed character.

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Whisky Advent 2020 Day #8: Mackmyra Svensk Rök / Amerikansk Ek

A new week of deliciousness has begun! The dram hiding behind window #8 of the Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar takes us on a taste adventure all the…

A new week of deliciousness has begun! The dram hiding behind window #8 of the Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar takes us on a taste adventure all the way to Sweden – it’s Mackmyra Svensk Rök / Amerikansk Ek! 

You might reckon it’s a little early to start plotting your Christmas Day evening leftovers sandwich, but we would disagree. Now is the optimum time to put some thought into it. Will you be making less food this year due to not having guests because of the whole COVID situation? It might be a smart decision to keep a few Tupperware containers near the table and tactically tuck away a few morsels in anticipation of fewer leftovers. Will there loaf of bread handy for the sandwiches? Appoint a Bread Chief to make sure this happens, and let everyone in your household know who the Bread Chief is and their responsibilities. Can cranberry sauce be used as a festive replacement for butter on the sandwiches? Yes, but don’t make a habit of it. Now, with that all squared away, we have another important topic to attend to…

It’s 8 December, and that means we’re ready to take a peek at what lies behind the eighth window of the Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar! Today, we’re being treated to a tremendous single malt whisky from Sweden’s very own Mackmyra! The specific whisky in question is Mackmyra Svensk Rök / Amerikansk Ek, which means Swedish Smoke / American Oak (if you haven’t brushed up on your Swedish for this sort of situation). It was inspired by the old Swedish tradition of seasoning and preserving food by infusing it with juniper smoke, and as such, peat and some juniper twigs are used to give this expression its smoky profile. You might have also clocked the “Amerikansk Ek” bit of the name, and surmised that it was aged in new American oak casks. That would have been very astute of you to have figured out, and we commend you if this was the case. To give us a bit more info on this whisky, and the goings-on at Mackmyra, we were lucky enough to ask Mackmyra’s very own brand ambassador Richard McKeand a few questions!

Mackmyra Distillery

The Mackmyra Distillery in all its glory!

Master of Malt: Mackmyra Svensk Rök / Amerikansk Ek brings together Swedish peat-smoked malt with American oak. What makes that combo so tasty?

Richard McKeand: Sweet and smoky? What a match! By combining both our smoked and heavily smoked malt together with virgin American oak casks, you get the best of both worlds. Rich, thick, and earthy smoke from the malt, perfectly complementing the sweet caramels, vanillas and gentle spices from the casks.

MoM: Mackmyra released a couple of tasty whiskies that have developed from collaborations in 2020, like Grönt Te with Yuko Ono Sthlm and Jaktlycka with Grythyttan Vin. How exciting are these for you and the team?

RK: We love being able to collaborate with other people and brands. Establishing successful and mutually beneficial relationships with others, allows us to increase our scope for innovation in our own products, as well as helping to support those who we work with.

MoM: What has been your favourite whisky released this year?

RK: Grönt Te, which was our Spring/Summer 2020 seasonal release.

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

RK: It’s so hard to say! It will depend on how I feel at the time, but I expect my top two options would be the Vinterglöd or this one, the Svensk Rök / Amerikansk Ek. Both are perfect for the festive season.

Mackmyra Svensk Rök / Amerikansk Ek

It was Mackmyra Svensk Rök / Amerikansk Ek behind window #8!

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt

Nose: Toasted oak, earthy peat and a little minerality balance against gingerbread, orchard fruit and a wave of pine-y juniper.

Palate: Salted caramel and toasted oak form a core that apricot pastry, white pepper and vanilla.

Finish: A very long and sweet finish is tempered by lingering smoke.

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Whisky Advent 2020 Day #7: Teeling Small Batch

We’ve reached the end of the first week of the Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar, and we’re wrapping it up with a jaunt over to Dublin for Teeling…

We’ve reached the end of the first week of the Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar, and we’re wrapping it up with a jaunt over to Dublin for Teeling Small Batch!

Right, it’s the 7 December, which is just about the perfect time for planning an important Christmas thing. Of course, I am talking about: what flavour of crisp are you going to have out for the whole of Christmas Day to peck at while doing the presents and cooking the dinner and watching the same movie you’ve watched for the last four Christmases? Yeah, getting gifts and all that figured out early is pretty vital (especially so this year when you’re looking to do all your shopping safely socially-distanced online), but those crisps set the tone for the day. Ready Salted is a bit plain for the general festivity theme. You don’t want something acidic, as that can get almost painful by about 2pm, so that’s Salt & Vinegar out. Cheese & Onion does well later on in the day, but early morning oniony notes are a bit much. For me, personally, I’m going for a Sea Salt & Cracked Black Pepper flavour crisp. It feels fancy, it’s got a nice touch of flavour to it, but it’s not going to feel out of place at any time of day. The ideal Christmas Day crisp.

The 7 December also means we’re opening the seventh window of the Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar! Behind the window sits a dram of Teeling Small Batch, a brilliant Irish whiskey which is initially aged in ex-bourbon barrels, before being moved over to Central American rum casks for a finishing period of up to 12 months. This helps to bring forward some of the fantastic fruit notes, along with a helping of warming spice. To bring us up to speed with the goings-on at Teeling, we were lucky enough to ask Teeling Distillery co-founder, Stephen Teeling, a couple of questions…

Stephen Teeling

Behold, Stephen Teeling!

Master of Malt: We saw some innovative releases coming from Teeling in 2020, including your first peated single malt and a ginger beer cask finished whiskey. Any hints at what’s coming in 2021?

Stephen Teeling: The final instalment in our Brabazon single malt series will be launching in the UK in January 2021 and it is an exquisite 13 Year old that we have finished for 24 months in Portuguese Carcavelos wine casks. This will be quickly followed by our Renaissance Series III at the end of February that is an 18 year old single malt that we have finished for an additional 12 months in a Muscat cask. We feel the Irish single malt category has a lot of catching up to do so watch this space!

MoM: What has been your favourite whiskey released this year?

ST: Our release of ‘The Blackpitts’ the first ever triple-distilled Dublin peated single malt is hugely rewarding for me as a new milestone that we have achieved in 2020.

MoM: You’ve collaborated with all sorts of cool producers for some of your whiskeys, like Galway Bay Brewery and Kyrö Distillery Company. Are there any dream producers you’d love to work with on a whiskey?

ST: We have been lucky to work with some of the world’s most innovative and entrepreneurial producers in the drinks industry. We love to seek out like-minded progressive local producers and see if we can collaborate together to excite whiskey drinkers. We tend to work on long term relationships so in 2020 we are looking at doing a few more collaborations with people we have worked with before but also looking at more localised country specific projects for 2021 like an Aquavit project for the Nordics.

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

ST: I will be drinking a large double measure of our Blackpitts Peated Single Malt to celebrate bringing back an old tradition of Irish whiskey production and making it relevant to the whiskey drinkers of today.

Teeling Small Batch

Teeling Small Batch was hidden behind window #7!

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt

Nose: Cut grass and orange blossom. Allspice, hints of vanilla, apple pie and blackberries.

Palate: Spiced, rich palate with rose petal jelly and lemon curd. Creamy vanilla, hints of dried herbs and cinnamon.

Finish: Floral, herbal finish. Caramel on the tail.

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Whisky Advent 2020 Day #6: WhistlePig 10 Year Old

The first Sunday of Advent is upon us! And there’s an absolute treat behind today’s door. The dram in question comes all the way from Vermont. It’s… WhistlePig 10 Year…

The first Sunday of Advent is upon us! And there’s an absolute treat behind today’s door. The dram in question comes all the way from Vermont. It’s… WhistlePig 10 Year Old!

Like rye whiskey? Then you should be well on board with today’s dram! The team behind WhistlePig are absolutely obsessed with the grain. And with good reason. The lively, warming, complexity of rye has won the hearts and palates of many around the world. And today we get to revel in a 10-year-old expression!

WhistlePig is becoming increasingly familiar across the UK, but if it hasn’t crossed your tasting glass yet, here’s a 101. The team set up operations in 2010, ‘rescuing’, maturing, blending and bottling Canadian spirit as the distillery ramped up production and its own liquid came of age. The vision is for a total grain-to-glass operation, spanning Vermont-grown grain, local water, and even barrels made from forests nearby.

It’s a bold mission, and here to tell us more about it is Christian Tirel, WhistlePig’s UK steward of the brand!

Whisky Advent 2020 Day #6: WhistlePig 10 Year Old

Joining us today is the wonderful Christian Tirel!

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

Christian Tirel: WhistlePig opened in 2010 on an old dairy farm in Shoreham, Vermont. It was the brainchild of our iconic distiller, Dave Pickerell, his search for the perfect rye, and his vision to bring ultra-premium craft rye to the forefront of American whiskey. 

MoM: Why rye whiskey?!

CT: While America may not have a monarchy, pre-Prohibition rye was pretty much both king and queen of America. It was this bleak time that caused the downfall of rye for bourbon. Although history and palates were changing, in more recent times there has been increased demand from bartenders to be reaching for the authentic recipes for the much-loved classics such as the Manhattan and Sazerac, which call for high-rye whiskies. Palates becoming more sophisticated and exploratory gave further momentum to the desire for a 100% rye offerings with hefty statements. This left a huge gap to be filled for an authentic 100% rye, 10-year minimum, 100-proof whiskies, and the legendary Dave Pickerell more than filled that gap with WhistlePig.

Whisky Advent 2020 Day #6: WhistlePig 10 Year Old

Whistlepig is a is grain-to-glass distillery

MoM: Why is grain-to-glass so important to you and the team?

CT: Being a ‘zero generation’ distillery, we have cut our teeth in the whiskey world predominantly through the revered art of blending and maturation. As with most distilleries, we have a goal to make a grain-to-glass whiskey, not only to showcase a truly exceptional standard of rye, but to begin our legacy here. Unlike many distilleries in the world, we have the luxury of having the water source, rye crops and the Rolls-Royce of wood on-site, Vermont oak.

MoM: WhistlePig 10 Year Old is the dram behind the door today! How has it been made?

CT: Our flagship whiskey came from a Holy Grail of Rye mission that Dave Pickerell set out on to find the perfect 100% rye pot-distilled whiskey that followed the stipulated rules of straight rye whiskey, in charred virgin oak barrels, too. He discovered this hoard of gold…coloured liquid in Canada. It is still sourced from there to this day. It is then brought to the pastoral WhistlePig Farm in Shoreham, Vermont, where it is further matured in new charred virgin American oak casks with every last drop being aged for a minimum of 10 years. The final and arguably most important step is the expert small-batch blending to achieve the signature WhistlePig 10 Year profile. 

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

CT: My Christmas dram? Simply BossHog V: The Spirit of Mauve. It was eloquently described by Dave Pickerell as “a tiny atomic apple pie bomb going off”, and this could not be more true! It’s got warm spice and rye on the tongue, with a mushroom cloud of baking spices that coat and warm the roof of the mouth, all the while there is a baked apple flavour radiating throughout. It’s perfect for Christmas, decadent, warming and barrel-strength to help with the in-laws!

Whisky Advent 2020 Day #6: WhistlePig 10 Year Old

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 2020 Day #5: The Glenrothes 12 Year Old – Soleo Collection

What’s the best way to make the most of the first weekend of Advent? With a delicious Scotch whisky from one of the finest distilleries around! Luckily that’s exactly what…

What’s the best way to make the most of the first weekend of Advent? With a delicious Scotch whisky from one of the finest distilleries around! Luckily that’s exactly what you’ve got behind window #5…

It’s the first weekend of Advent, which is typically the time when the Christmas tree is hoisted down from the attic and the decorations go up! After all that you deserve a treat. We make that time to crack open the fifth door of Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar. And behind it is…

The Glenrothes 12 Year Old – Soleo Collection!

One of the most respected single malt Scotch distilleries, Glenrothes is located in the heart of Speyside. Despite its popularity among whisky drinkers now, the distillery’s excellent spirit has often been used in blends like Cutty Sark and The Famous Grouse until London wine merchants Berry Brothers & Rudd began releasing single malt expressions as vintages rather than standard age statements. Today it’s noted for its full-bodied, fruity and nutty single malts, which you’ve got a fine example of today. 

We got hold of Laura Rampling, master whisky maker up at The Glenrothes, to tell us more…

The Glenrothes 12 Year Old - Soleo Collection

Say hello to Laura Rampling!

Master of Malt: What sets The Glenrothes apart in your view?

Laura Rampling: Our entire whisky-making process is underpinned by our Four Corners: water, distillation, wood and maturation. We start with our particularly soft water that is sourced on our distillery estate. Our new make spirit is distilled in our very tall copper stills nice and slowly, creating a lighter, fruitier and more delicately flavoured spirit. Maturation in oak casks plays a big part in creating great whisky especially for The Glenrothes as unlike many, our whiskies are always 100% natural in colour and that can only be achieved by investing in high-quality casks. The rich natural colour of our whisky is produced only by our casks – nothing is ever added. It is this unique blend of science and alchemy which sets us apart.

MoM: Talk us through your slow distillation process and why it’s the basis of the famous The Glenrothes house style

LR: We distil at a relatively slow “flow rate” compared to many, but it is the combination of this slow distillation and the height of our tall copper stills which helps create our distinctive character. The combination of overall more copper contact and the greater height of our stills means that we remove the heavier flavour compounds, creating a lighter, fruitier and more delicate spirit. It is the balance of this elegant flavour profile with the rich and rounded flavours from our sherry casks that give us our signature taste.

The Glenrothes 12 Year Old - Soleo Collection

The beautiful Glenrothes Distillery, a bucket-list location for when we can travel properly again!

MoM: What’s the key to effectively maturing whisky in sherry casks?

LR: The key is attention to detail, both from the sourcing of casks through to the selection for blending. We commission all of our sherry seasoned casks to be made and seasoned for us in our bodegas in Spain, so we can control the quality. I also nose each and every cask individually and hand-select those ready to go into a blend.

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

LR: We are always innovating and creating new whiskies but we will never walk away from what we feel defines us: natural water sources, an unusually slow distillation in tall stills, high-quality sherry seasoned oak casks, 100% natural colour and the whisky craft of our local community. I’m afraid I can’t give away more than that… you’ll have to keep an eye on our Spirit of Rothes newsletter for the latest news from the brand.

MoM: It’s Christmas Eve and you’ve just remembered you need to buy a present for that whisky-obsessed friend of yours. What are you running out to the shops to pick up?

LR: I really enjoy a dram of The Whisky Maker’s Cut – the sherry cask flavours really come to the fore and it mixes perfectly into an Old Fashioned. My friend is in for a treat!

The Glenrothes 12 Year Old - Soleo Collection

The Glenrothes 12 Year Old – Soleo Collection Tasting Note:

Nose: Gingerbread, stewed apple and earthy vanilla, then soft tropical fruit notes and a hint of sherried funk.

Palate: Creamy hazelnut, dried fruit and a hint of cinnamon. Hints of chocolate, old leather, dried herbs and tobacco add depth among Galia melon and honeyed oak.

Finish: Long and sweet with a touch of baking spice and more stewed fruits.

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Whisky Advent 2020 Day #4: Darkness 8 Year Old

Time to wind down the week with another delicious dram as we open door number four of the Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar. Today, we have a delightfully…

Time to wind down the week with another delicious dram as we open door number four of the Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar. Today, we have a delightfully sherried single malt…

We’re a sixth of the way through our calendar already! As always, the first week of advent is whizzing by. Today we have Darkness, a delicious sherried single malt and not the guys we hear every year blaring through the radio at a rather high pitch… Anyway, back to the whisky,  Darkness seems an apt inclusion this time of year, as daylight continues to lose ground as we head toward the winter solstice, and of course, Christmas, because this whisky boasts such an array of warming festive flavours. 

For those of you familiar with Darkness you may remember that it began life as a range of quality limited edition whiskies. Darkness 8 Year Old builds upon this quality, delivering a fantastically dark coloured, unapologetic sherried single malt, which, best of all, is a permanent expression. That rich sherry character is the result of octave sherry casks, which as their name suggests are an eighth of the size of a regular-sized cask.

We spoke to Darkness’ brand manager Jen Ghosh so she could explain more. 

Master of Malt: Where does the name Darkness come from? 

Jen Ghosh: The connotation of a whisky’s colour is a well-versed conversation. For some whiskies, darkness can be deceptive (thanks to the SWA sanctioned use of e150 caramel colouring) whilst truth can be found in the darkness of others. Our Darkness is a high definition sherried single malt; it’s non-chill filtered and a deep, rich, dark natural colour that is truly worthy of its name. 

MoM: Tell us why Darkness focuses on Octave Sherry casks. 

JG: Darkness has a long history, an obsession almost, of experimentation with octave cask maturation. Maturing in these smaller vessels meant more wood contact but also more evaporation and losses but we discovered the resulting intensity of flavour a fair trade-off for sacrificing 8% to the angel’s share. We believe there’s an unrivalled depth and richness to savour here that can only be achieved by the alchemy of oxygen and oak that occurs in the octave cask.

MoM: Darkness used to be limited edition, will we see those types of bottles again? 

JG: Yes, you can see them right now on Master of Malt. We’ve just released a new collection of limited editions. Some, like our two Ardbegs (one 14, one 24 year old) or our delicious youthful surprise Benriach 6-year-old, were instant sellouts. Every limited release has been carefully selected and achieved all we expected and hoped with the intense period of octave maturation.

MoM: What does 2021 hold for Darkness?

JG: We’ll be bringing drinkers on our maturation journey with us through unique tasting experiences, exploring the richness and depth of flavour that only the octave cask can provide. You can expect more limited editions, we’ve been giving our signature octave cask maturation to some delicious single malts – from the return of our sold-out-success Benriach and new bottlings on the horizon with an Irish single malt, Dalmore and more.

MoM: What’s your favourite Christmas song?

JG: Shakin’ Stevens is ageing well – Merry Christmas Everyone!

MoM: Santa or Father Christmas? 

JG: Father Christmas brings cosy nights by the fire. Santa screams mess and mayhem. It will depend on how Christmas Eve goes!

Whisky Advent 2020 Day #4: Darkness 8 Year Old

Tasting note from the Chaps at Master of Malt:

Nose: Candied orange peels, chocolate peanuts, cooking spice warmth and some dried cherry.

Palate: Amaretti biscuits, subtly toasty hints, powerful raisin and prune, just a touch of earthy oak lingers.

Finish: Slightly oily with a hint of smoke, though chocolatey hints persist.

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Whisky Advent 2020 Day #3: Bunnahabhain 12 Year Old

A new day dawns in December which means that it’s time to open another door of your Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar. Behind door three you’ll find an Islay…

A new day dawns in December which means that it’s time to open another door of your Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar. Behind door three you’ll find an Islay malt with a difference… no smoke! 

To help with our festive countdown, we’re delighted to have master distiller Stephen Woodcock who oversees operation at the three Scottish single malt distilleries in the Distell group Bunnahabhain, Deanston, and Tobermory. It’s the former distillery that we’re concentrating on today. 

Located on Islay, it’s something of an anomaly on the island in producing mainly unpeated for its single malt, though this wasn’t always the case. It used to produce a smoky new make but in 1963 production was doubled but the on-site maltings were closed meaning that malt now came from the mainland unpeated. This new Bunnahabhain was designed to go in the light Cutty Sark blend. Since then the classic single malt style, like the 12 Year Old we’re featuring today, has been unpeated though the distillery does produce some peated expressions. Since 2014, it’s been part of the South African Distell group.

Master distiller Stephen Woodcock

And now, we’ll hand over to the expert, Stephen Woodcock, to tell us more. 

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

Stephen Woodcock: Bunnahabhain 12 was the beginning of our range, so it holds a special place in our hearts. First launched in 1979, our 12 Year Old has endured almost 40 years, thanks to the passion and dedication of our distillery team, not to mention the love and support from our fans and friends around the world. It has set the tone and the benchmark for the rest of the range – only the best will do. It is double matured in ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks, this whisky is beautifully rich and full-bodied, achieving the perfect balance of the characteristic nutty and sherry flavours of Bunnahabhain.

MoM: What makes Bunnahabhain so special as a distillery?

SW: The sense of community, the remote location and the people all combine to produce our exceptional whisky. There has been change over time and although the village houses have gone, there is still a strong sense of a community and link to our past, which relied on the sea to deliver and take away the goods we depended on. This connection to the sea allowed the distillery to thrive for nearly 100 years before a road connected us to the rest of the island – all of which is encapsulated in the image of The Helmsman. A trip to Bunnahabhain provides visitors with a real sense of our history, community and of course great whisky.

Bunnahabhain looking beautiful on a clear day

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

SW: We had been planning for a busy year at Bunnahabhain and it certainly was that, just in a very different way than expected. As the team will attest, living on Islay has its challenges so we’re used to adapting – whether that be from stormy conditions or something more unexpected like the virus. This year has allowed us to connect more with the Bunnahabhain community online through shows, virtual tastings and of course re-thinking our Feis Ile plans. For now, we are busy working behind the scenes and look forward to a brighter 2021 where we will hopefully be able to welcome everyone back to our home on Islay.

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

SW: 2020 has asked serious questions of a liquid which is synonymous with social situations and gatherings, whether they be festivals, tastings or simply drinks with friends. The industry and consumers have responded with online versions of these events, which now seem like our new normal – they have been tremendously successful given the global circumstances surrounding COVID and the challenges it has brought with it.

From the challenges of this year, a real opportunity has stemmed to enjoy international festivals and tastings. Traditionally these events would be localised affairs, however, they have opened up and we can now enjoy company from the four corners of the globe in a single sitting and join the mix of conversation, observation and chat in an online world without the extended carbon footprint.

2021 will hopefully see a transition from the new normal back to something more familiar, with the added benefit of applying our learnings from this year – allowing us to enjoy whisky in more traditional settings, as well as harnessing technology to build a larger online audience to share Scotland’s gift to the world.

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

SW: Bunnahabhain of course! It’s difficult for me to see beyond the beautiful sherried influence in a Stuireadhair or a Bunnahabhain 18 if I really want to spoil myself. Having said that, I really can’t ignore our other distilleries… the peated warmth of a Ledaig 18 is a fantastic way to enjoy a cold winter evening and a Deanston 12 with a single cube of ice is a great welcome to a happy and healthy 2021.

Behind door number three is the classic Bunnahabhain 12 Year Old

Tasting note from the Chaps at Master of Malt:

Nose: Fresh, sweet. Seaweed, malt.

Palate: Soft, supple. Sherry, nutty. A little sweetness, malty, juicy sultana. Slightly coastal.

Finish: Sherried, mochaccino, herbal, balanced salty tang.

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Whisky Advent 2020 Day #2: BenRiach 12 Year Old – Sherry Wood

If you’ve opened window #2 of your Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar you’ll find you got a sherry-tastic Scotch whisky to enjoy… One of the great things about…

If you’ve opened window #2 of your Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar you’ll find you got a sherry-tastic Scotch whisky to enjoy…

One of the great things about your Whisky Advent Calendar is that it lets you tour the world of whisky from the comfort of your own home. Sometimes you’ll visit new exotic locations, other times you’ll get to explore one of Scotland’s many whisky regions, like Speyside, which is home to a huge number of fantastic distilleries. One of those is Benriach Distillery, which is known for creating fruity, malty and sometimes smoky spirit that matures beautifully in a wide variety of casks. And a whisky that demonstrates that exact point is what we’ve got behind window #2. It’s…

BenRiach 12 Year Old – Sherry Wood!

A delightful dram that was matured in a combination of Pedro Ximénez and Oloroso sherry casks, this Benriach bottling has got more sherried deliciousness than you can shake a stick at. Michael Brown, Brown-Forman’s Irish & Malts brand ambassador, joins us to tell more all about today’s dram and the distillery that made it.

Master of Malt: How would you describe the character of Benriach whisky?

Michael Brown: Benriach’s character comes from all over the world thanks to the selection of the eclectic casks that we use. It is very fruit-forward with layers of luscious orchard fruit but also with malt sweetened and spiced oak. Our master blender Dr. Rachel Barrie often says that the Benriach The Original Ten for instance is “Speyside in a glass” and the beautiful creaminess you taste in it makes her think of a “Speyside Patisserie”. We also have Smoky Single Malts in Benriach’s range which represent a smooth introduction to sweet smoke. Benriach brings a true world of flavour and there is a Benrich for everyone’s taste!

MoM: What sets Benriach apart in your view?

MB: At Benriach distillery, we have an unconventional whisky-making heritage producing three styles of whisky: classic unpeated, Highland peated and triple-distilled. Along with our varied cask profiles, it has enabled our whisky makers since 1898 to explore the full flavour possibilities of single malt, creating some of the richest, most multi-layered whiskies in Speyside. This long-standing tradition continues today under the guidance of our Master Blender. Dr Rachel Barrie who has over a quarter of a century’s experience and a love of creative whisky which means that Benriach is the perfect place to practise her art!

Whisky Advent 2020 Day #2: BenRiach 12 Year Old - Sherry Wood

Dr Rachel Barrie is one of the most renowned master blenders in the whisky world.

MoM: This year the brand’s core range was refreshed and you adopted a new look. How has it been received?

MB: We have been thrilled to see the very positive feedback from consumers we met in recent virtual shows and live streamings as well as the warm welcome from our trade partners and media. Benriach has huge potential with endless flavour possibilities to still unleash and we cannot wait to release very soon new expressions to complete the core range already available. So more to come, keep your eyes peeled!

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

MB: Trends are something I tend to steer away from as they come and go and at Benriach we always make our choices based on what casks work with our style of new make spirit. However, what I see happening in the Scotch whisky world as a whole, is a move towards simplifying language and information and talking about whisky in terms of flavours that are more familiar to people, rather than more specific whisky language. For instance, at Benriach, we bring it back to flavour references of a patisserie, from fruit jams and creme patisserie to custards and rich buttery pastries. For me these flavour references allow people to be transported to a time in their life where they remember jam roly-poly and custard or another pudding that really sticks in your mind.

MoM: What will you be drinking this Christmas?

MB: You really can’t go wrong with a lovely neat whisky on a cold winter’s night and this year for me, I will be reaching for one of my favourites in the new Benriach range, Benriach The Smoky Twelve. It really takes me to the smells of Christmas desserts being prepared, smoked vanilla and orange, rich brown sugar and chocolate notes and a whisky that is such a Christmas treat, the finish just keeps delivering waves of flavour after the first sip. But for a Christmas Highball to serve to family, I will reach for a few easily got ingredients to make an Allspice Highball using Benriach 10 Year Old and spicy ginger beer at its most simple or follow the recipe below and make them as good as your bartender: Combine 50ml of Benraich 10 Year Old, 5ml of Bitter Truth Pimento Dram Liqueur, 5ml of lemon juice, 5ml of sugar syrup and top it with 140ml of ginger beer.

Whisky Advent 2020 Day #2: BenRiach 12 Year Old - Sherry Wood

Tasting note from the Chaps at Master of Malt:

Nose: Cooked apple drizzled in crème de cassis, brown sugar and zesty orange.

Palate: Fig, blackcurrant jam, apricot, slowly building Christmas spice and continued vanilla.

Finish: Soft ginger root spiciness.

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Pre-order your delightful booze-filled Advent Calendars now!

Whether you’re the super-organised type who has everything ticked off their Christmas list by Halloween or the kind of person who just can’t wait to get their hands on a…

Whether you’re the super-organised type who has everything ticked off their Christmas list by Halloween or the kind of person who just can’t wait to get their hands on a selection of delicious drams, you’ll be thrilled to hear that Drinks by the Dram’s Advent Calendars are available to pre-order now!

I think we can all agree that we’d like 2020 to end better than it started. Thankfully, we can be the bearer of good news. Drinks by the Dram’s incredible boozy Advent Calendars are almost here! We’re delighted to reveal the new collection for this year which is so good you’ll be putting up decorations and singing for #WhiskySanta in September. 

If you’re new to this, here’s the deets. You can now put your order in for Advent Calendars from MoM Towers that are filled to the brim with 24 different 30ml drams of brilliant booze, one for each day in the Christmas run-in. You can choose from whisky produced all over the world as well as gin and rum editions. Plus the exciting Explorer calendars have returned and once again we’ve collaborated with That Boutique-y Gin Company and That Boutique-y Whisky Company. Whatever your tipple of choice, we can provide in style (look how pretty they are. They’re very pretty.). It’s the perfect gift for the drinks geek in your life, although don’t forget how important it is to treat yourself every now and again… 

Pre-order your delightful booze-filled Advent Calendars now

Look, Drinks by the Dram’s Advent Calendars have returned!

Don’t take our word for it, though, see for yourself! Check out the full team line-up of the 2020 Advent selection and pre-order* yours now!

Main Collection

Pre-order your delightful booze-filled Advent Calendars now

The Whisky Advent Calendar – £149.95 

Pre-order your delightful booze-filled Advent Calendars now

The Premium Gin Advent Calendar – £84.95 

Pre-order your delightful booze-filled Advent Calendars now

The Bourbon & US Whiskey Advent Calendar – £134.95 (Currently down from £149.95!)

Pre-order your delightful booze-filled Advent Calendars now

The Rum Advent Calendar – £149.95 

Pre-order your delightful booze-filled Advent Calendars now

The Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar – £149.95

Pre-order your delightful booze-filled Advent Calendars now

The World Whisky Advent Calendar – £149.95 

Pre-order your delightful booze-filled Advent Calendars now

The Single Cask Whisky Advent Calendar – £199.95 

Pre-order your delightful booze-filled Advent Calendars now

The Japanese Whisky Advent Calendar – £199.95

Pre-order your delightful booze-filled Advent Calendars now

The Premium Whisky Advent Calendar – £249.95

Pre-order your delightful booze-filled Advent Calendars now

Old & Rare Whisky Advent Calendar – £999.95

Explorer Editions

Pre-order your delightful booze-filled Advent Calendars now

Whisky Explorer Advent Calendar – £99.95

Pre-order your delightful booze-filled Advent Calendars now

Vodka Explorer Advent Calendar – £99.95

That Boutique-y Gin and Whisky Advent Calendars

Pre-order your delightful booze-filled Advent Calendars now

That Boutique-y Gin Company Advent Calendar – £49.95

Pre-order your delightful booze-filled Advent Calendars now

That Boutique-y Whisky Company Advent Calendar – £99.95

* Estimated despatch is 8 October.

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Check out our winter spirits sale!

From Boxing Day to Burns Night you’ll be able to save some serious dough on this sensational selection of spirits thanks to our winter sale… Everybody loves a good bargain…

From Boxing Day to Burns Night you’ll be able to save some serious dough on this sensational selection of spirits thanks to our winter sale…

Everybody loves a good bargain and January is filled with them. For those not doing Dry January (we salute you), you’re probably scouring the web looking for the best deals on delicious booze. Consider your search concluded. Just head on over to our winter spirit sale page and you’ll find rafts of delicious products available for stonking good prices. To get an idea of the kind of the delights that await you, we’ve highlighted some of the best deals in this neat little round-up.

Enjoy!

Boozy Advent Calendars

It’s no longer Advent or Christmas. Which is bad. But that means that Advent Calendars filled with delicious booze are available for low, low prices! Which is good. Due to their popularity, some have sold out. Which is bad. But there are still calendars available that contain whisky, from Japanese, Irish, American, That Boutique-y, Premium, as well as gin, rum, vodka and Tequila. Which is good. They don’t come with any frozen yoghurt. Which is bad. They do come with 24 individual 30ml drams for your pleasure. Which is good. You can move on now.

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

A Master of Malt exclusive bottling, this 12 year old rye whiskey from WhistlePig was finished exclusively in Oloroso sherry casks, and was released as part of the Old World series. It’s rich, spicy and extremely delicious and available with a serious discount. Tell me there’s a better way to kick off 2020 then with a whiskey this good.

What does it taste like?:

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

Salt Marsh Gin Greensand Ridge (That Boutique-y Gin Company)

This is sure to be another year where we indulge in all kinds of tasty gins, so why not take the opportunity as 2020 starts to enjoy one of the more intriguing bottlings you’ll find at MoM Towers? Greensand Ridge created this beautiful gin featuring an array of unique botanicals for That Boutique-y Gin Company using the salt marshes of Whitstable as inspiration.

What does it taste like?:

There’s plenty of salt – and a little marsh. The juniper is floral, teeming with lavender, bay leaves, a mossy earthiness persists, warming cardamom, creamy angelica, orange blossom, black pepper, vibrant grapefruit peel and liquorice root.

Laphroaig Lore

Said to be the richest ever expression from the Islay distillery, Laphroaig Lore is one for fans of peated whisky to enjoy. Created by distillery manager John Campbell, Lore was matured in a combination of casks including first-fill sherry butts and quarter casks and is said to contain some of Laphroaig’s “most precious stock”. Which sounds beyond tempting, frankly.

What does it taste like?:

Rich and smoky with seaside minerals, vanilla, chestnuts, fudge, creamy clotted cream, malty sweetness, rich peat, spicy chilli, a hint of ash and bitter chocolate drops. 

Larios 12 Botanicals Premium Gin

Gin is massive in Spain. If you thought England was the only country in Europe that goes gaga for the good stuff, you’d be mistaken. So it’s no surprise that our friends in Spain make some seriously delicious bottlings, like Larios 12 Botanicals Premium Gin. As you might have guessed, it was created using 12 botanicals including wild juniper, nutmeg, angelica root, coriander, Mediterranean lemon, orange, tangerine, mandarin, clementine, grapefruit, lime and orange blossom, which were distilled five times.

What does it taste like?:

Tangy, aromatic and herbal, with huge citrus notes, fresh flowers, coriander, juniper, potpourri and cardamom.

Maker’s Mark 46

If the first new Maker’s Mark recipe for at least 50 years doesn’t get fans of American whiskey excited, then nothing will. Maker’s 46 is an alternative to the standard expression that was created for those that like spicier bourbon. The Kentucky distillers inserted seared French oak staves into the barrels (with the stave profile “number 46” – hence the name) to make the spice-forward profile.

What does it taste like?:

Toffee sweetness, sawdust from freshly cut wood, nutmeg, mulled wine spices, allspice, cinnamon, hot apple juice and a slight grassy note.

Novo Fogo 3 Year Old (That Boutique-y Cachaça Company) 

Cachaça is such a fantastic and sadly often overlooked spirit but this aged expression produced by Brazil’s Novo Fogo Distillery and bottled by That Boutique-y Cachaça Company should please connoisseurs and newcomers alike. What makes this beauty stand out is that it was matured in a combination of Amburana and American oak, whereas most cachaças are aged in purely the latter cask type. 

What does it taste like?:

Butterscotch, caramel, liquorice allsorts, cardamom, pine needles, dark jammy blackcurrant, fresh mango sweetness, floral honey, spice and intense woody notes.

 

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