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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Balcones

Top ten: American whiskeys under £50

We’ve picked out some beauties from across the pond that are so cheap you’ll think we forgot to convert the price from dollars to pounds! The United States tends to…

We’ve picked out some beauties from across the pond that are so cheap you’ll think we forgot to convert the price from dollars to pounds!

The United States tends to do everything bigger so it’s no surprise that, when it comes to American whiskey, we’re pretty spoilt for choice. But with so many options it can be hard to know where to start when it comes to picking up the finest bottle of bourbon or rye whiskey. That’s why we’d like to help out. This selection is full of some of our favourite expressions and the best part is, they all cost less than £50. Perfect, really, if you’re still on the lookout for presents…

American whiskies for under £50

Jim Beam Double Oak Gift Pack with 2x Glasses 

As it’s Christmas time we thought we’d kick things off with a terrific little gift set from Jim Beam! It not only includes a bottle of the delicious Double Oak bourbon, which was initially matured in freshly charred American oak barrels before being moved over to a fresh set of freshly charred American oak barrels, but also two very swanky looking branded tumblers. Perfect for enjoying with a pal (potentially virtually). Isn’t that what this season is all about?

What does it taste like?

Full-bodied vanilla, milk chocolate, a kick of cardamom, fruity malt and charred oak toastiness.

American whiskies for under £50

Buffalo Trace

A classic example of what a Kentucky straight bourbon should be, this is the kind of bourbon you need to have in your home bar. The award-winning core Buffalo Trace expression is a personal favourite of mine thanks to its incredible value, delicious taste and versatility, which has also made it a go-to for many bourbon lovers over the years. It’s also a great one for beginners if you’re new to the category.

What does it taste like?

Spicy and sweet with caramel, creamy toffee eclairs, hints of cinnamon, rum spice, cereal sweetness, brown sugar, toffee apple, sweet oak, custard, oily espresso beans, a touch of chocolate-covered raisins and toasty wood.

American whiskies for under £50

Woodford Reserve Kentucky Bourbon

The official bourbon of the Kentucky Derby and the only bourbon which is triple-distilled in copper pot stills, Woodford Reserve is a firm favourite of American whiskey fans for good reason. It’s also notable for being made with a mash bill that features a high percentage of rye (72% corn, 18% rye and 10% malt) and for having the lowest proof upon entering the barrel, which creates a creamy, refined and full-bodied whiskey that’s delicious neat and in an Old Fashioned.

What does it taste like?

There are notes of honey, leather, a touch of cocoa, a little smoke, toasty oak, vanilla cream, butterscotch, espresso beans, winter spice, cereal sweetness, plenty of rye, ground ginger, almond oi and a little rum.

American whiskies for under £50

Sazerac Straight Rye 

You can’t have a round-up of American whiskey without a great rye bottling and this is one truly tasty rye whiskey. It’s a category that’s synonymous with the cocktail and, while you might have enjoyed some of these serves with bourbon, the likes of the Manhattan, the Old Fashioned and the Sazerac were all created with rye whiskey. It seems fitting, then, to recommend an expression that was named for the Sazerac Coffee House in New Orleans, the birthplace of the famous cocktail.

What does it taste like?

Sweet with spices and stem ginger in syrup, orange zest, freshly ground black pepper, Seville orange marmalade, allspice, peanut butter, toffee and barrel char develop later on.

American whiskies for under £50

Black & Gold 11 Year Old Bourbon Whiskey

Bourbon with an age statement is not something you see much of, neither is bourbon from Tennessee for that matter. But Black & Gold is no ordinary bourbon. This showstopper was distilled from a corn-forward mash bill, (84-8-8, corn-rye-barley) and aged in slowly-charred barrels to create a rich, complex and slightly savoury profile, with enough of that classic American oak sweetness to keep it honest. As the bottle says, “Fire made it good”. 

What does it taste like?

Dense vanilla, toasted brown sugar atop apple pie, gingersnaps, cinnamon sticks, caramelised nuts, cask char, earthy cigar box, a touch of maple syrup, forest floor richness and chocolate sweetness.

American whiskies for under £50

Maker’s Mark 46

The classic Maker’s Mark is an all-time favourite for any sound-of-mind bourbon lover, but today we thought we’d draw your attention to the brand’s first line extension since the ’50s. Maker’s 46 is essentially the original bumped up a notch, with a bolder, spicier profile that was attained by inserting seared French oak staves into the barrels (with the stave profile “number 46” – thus the name). We can confirm it worked a treat.

What does it taste like?

Dense vanilla, toasted brown sugar atop apple pie, gingersnaps, cinnamon sticks, caramelised nuts, cask char, earthy cigar box, a touch of maple syrup, forest floor richness and chocolate sweetness.

American whiskies for under £50

Balcones Baby Blue Corn 

Corn Whiskeys are one of the oldest styles of American whiskey and for a good while, they took a backseat and had to watch as their cousin bourbon stole the show (the difference between the two is that the mash bill for corn whiskey must be at least 80% corn, whereas for bourbon it’s 51% , if you were wondering). Recently, however, their production has enjoyed a renaissance and one of the finest examples is this beauty, which is not only the first Texan whiskey, but the first whiskey to be distilled from blue corn! If you want to understand this historical style and what all the fuss is about, then this is a great place to start.

What does it taste like?

Soft vanilla, candied peel, caramelised bananas, toasted oak, dark caramel, baked apple, salted apple, baking spices and a little creamy cereal sweetness.

American whiskies for under £50

Rebel Yell French Oak

We love a bit of Rebel Yell, almost as much as Billy Idol, and it was hard to pick out a favourite from its range. But, given you don’t often see bourbon finished in toasted French oak barrels which previously held wine for six months, we thought this made for an interesting inclusion.  Expect dark fruits, spice and chocolate galore.

What does it taste like?

Cherry jam, cinnamon swirls, mocha, treacle toffee, vanilla sponge, caramelised nuts, very dark chocolate, cooked plum, grated nutmeg, golden syrup and toasty oak spices, with a touch of espresso and forest fruits.

American whiskies for under £50

James E. Pepper 4 Year Old – Ale Cask Finish (That Boutique-y Whisky Company)

Another one for fans of intriguing cask finishes, this is a rye whiskey that spent some time in barrels that used to hold delicious ale. Distilled by the fabulous James E. Pepper and bottled by our good friends at That Boutique-y Whisky Company, this is the perfect dram for those who want to explore the spirit beyond bourbon.

What does it taste like?

Fudge, toasted barley. floral honey, malty vanilla notes, dense brown sugar, buttery corn, sawdust, oak spice, orange zest and black peppercorn.

American whiskies for under £50

Wild Turkey Longbranch

From one of the finest old school bourbon distilleries around comes a collaboration between master distiller Eddie Russell and Matthew McConaughey. You might know him from such films as Dallas Buyer Club and Magic Mike. This bottling has more than star power though, thanks to its production process, which entailed filtering eight-year-old Wild Turkey whiskey through charcoal made of both Kentucky white oak and Texas mesquite. Which is where Russell and McConaughey are from, respectively. Pretty neat, huh?

What does it taste like?

A sweet blend of buttery caramel, creamy vanilla, orchard fruits, lemon zest, smooth toffee and honey lifted by spicy notes of nutmeg, black pepper and drying oak.

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Balcones: Where tradition meets innovation

As Master of Malt’s exclusive Balcones Barrel Pick lands, we look back at our 2019 trip to the Texas distillery, remarking at how much can change in a decade… If…

As Master of Malt’s exclusive Balcones Barrel Pick lands, we look back at our 2019 trip to the Texas distillery, remarking at how much can change in a decade…

If anything could capture the disorientation felt by a time traveller arriving in a new sphere, stepping inside the original Balcones distillery must come close. About an hour and a half south of Dallas, Texas, the brand’s Waco hometown takes its form from a mesh of residential streets and independent bars and restaurants, sliced neatly in two by the Brazos River, and dissected again by multi-lane highways. Pulling off the sun-baked carriageway, we entered the network, cutting back through industrial streets, dusty and decked with graffiti. It’s next to an underpass and across from some apparently abandoned garages that you discover the single-storey, brick-clad cream and white building. It is identifiable as a distillery only by the red Balcones logo stamped on a weathered side, reminiscent of a faded lipstick stain.

Balcones is a bit of an outlier when it comes to American whiskey. Built from an idea conceived in 2008, the brand blends ingenuity with time-honoured traditions. It started with a love for Scotch, coupled with a desire to develop taste experiences not found anywhere else. And remember, this all happened before the big distilling boom we’re seeing across the US now. 

Balcones

Balcones head distiller, Jared Himstedt, in his office

“I really adore and respect the tradition,” states head distiller, Jared Himstedt, an individual who is creative and considered in equal measure. He started his drinks career in beer, as a homebrewer and in the on-trade. “We were ready to make stuff,” he recalls. “Whiskey was what we loved. We tried the beer thing, and we were ready to move on and try our hand at this. It wasn’t really about surveying the landscape like, ‘Oh, this is a great time to get into whiskey.’”

He acknowledges some of those players held in high regard as US craft pioneers: St George Spirits, Anchor (now Hotaling), and Hudson. “There were just a few and they were tiny, and they were hard to find. But just knowing somebody was doing it, then your brain is like, ‘Oh, that’s an option’.”

Inside the old Balcones distillery

Step inside the cool, dark space of the old distillery, and you’re now in 2009, the year Balcones started distilling what would go on to become its whisky (note: the brand drops the ‘e’. Like for Scotch.). Once a welding store, the 2,500sq ft production site might be silent, but the cobweb-covered pot stills and hand-stirred mash tun show just how far Balcones has come – and speaks to the philosophy that remains at the heart of the brand today. We were there with Himstedt and distillery manager, Tommy Mote, who also hails from a beer background, and is as flavour-obsessed as his head distiller.

“For me, being a beer guy, single malt is the most obvious, just because of the barley connections,” Himstedt continues. “And with whisky, I think there’s kind of some romanticism. You feel a loyalty [to the first one you loved], it’s part of your personal story and history.”  

Balcones

Behind the scenes in the lab. It tastes as good as it looks

In many ways, once you’re out from under the Texan sun and in the tiny distillery, you could be in Scotland. It’s not just time-bending, but geography-splicing, too. The light carves its way through the dust, falling on still shapes that were for sure inspired by Scotch. Like much of the kit, they were made or adapted by the team. Barley was shipped across the Atlantic – although today more is Texas-grown as the brand explores more grain-to-glass production. Small-batch and craft, in the very essence of the word. 

“We started not really knowing as much about the processes as we should have, we weren’t trained,” Himstedt explains. “It was just very intentional, try something new, some sensory things. Then adjust and do a little research.” At that stage, almost everything was controlled – and indeed carried out – by hand. And the results spoke for themselves. Balcones Texas Single Malt started picking up medals at international spirits competitions in 2013.

Back in the car and it was time to get back into the grid and head to the other side of town. On the way, Mote points out bars, eateries and independent stores. It’s a colourful, bustling town, with people out and about enjoying its fayre, wares and scenery, ambling along the river and through the green spaces. For its harrowing past, Waco has emerged as a vibrant, creative place, with optimism bubbling up everywhere, from its striking Suspension Bridge, to Baylor University’s cavernous McLane Stadium. 

Balcones

Himstedt loves to experiment, and we love his creations!

Balcones: A bold distilling world

Turn the corner into the Balcones parking lot in Downtown Waco, and we are in a bold new whisky distilling world. A huge Balcones logo on the roof of the 1920s four-storey concrete, steel and brick warehouse blocks out the fierce sun, casting no doubt as to where you are. The former Texas Fireproof Storage Co. building was initially purchased by Balcones in 2011 to provide barrel storage – now, it’s a sleek, stylish and inspiring, bar, office and production space. It’s an impressive HQ, about 25 times the size of that original distillery tucked away next to the tired garages on the other side of town.

First impressions are made in the glossy bar, a lustrously industrial hub with copper and turquoise accents and sleek seating. There are cocktails and whisky flights on offer, but it’s as much a community space as a brand haven. Flyers announce future events, and you could imagine the vibe on a busy Friday evening. 

Some of the most impressive copper pot stills you’ll ever lay eyes on. We couldn’t get them all in shot!

We move through the distillery and find enormous 58-tonne hoppers, a traditional 24,600-litre mash tun for barley (and a cooker for other grains), and seven state-of-the-art, temperature-controlled 26,500-litre external fermenters. The scale is extraordinary, and in stark comparison to the rustic kit at the old site. 

The contrast is even more apparent in the vast distillation space, which houses some of the most impressive copper pot stills I’ve ever seen. The necks turn into slinky-like lyne arms, a visually dramatic way to max out reflux. The older still (both are made by Forsyths in Scotland) boasts around 75 metres of coil, while the newer one still has around 35 metres of turns. They tower above us, resplendent and majestic in their polished surrounds. 

The move must have been quite the undertaking. “Yeah, we were worried about it,” Himstedt admits, looking back to 2014 when work began to transform what was essentially a storage unit into what it is today, while taking care not to lose the history of the building. “Even the stills, moving to bigger stills and running stream instead of direct fire, learning how to run them.” He says it took a good “four to six months” to be happy with the distillate. “We like to make samples; we have a whole library from back [before], and we kept checking what was coming off compared to old ones.” Adjustments were made, and now he’s living the history.

Balcones

Balcones barrel samples are here, there and everywhere!

Beyond ‘Scotch’

As well as significantly increasing capacity, building a brand home, and creating a stunning space for visitors, the new Balcones distillery has allowed the team to up the experimentation stakes like never before. As well as the Scotch-inspired single malt, Balcones produces bourbons, other corn expressions, and ryes, smoky bottlings like Brimstone, and even a rum. Mote estimated that the team plays with as many as 18 different mashbill recipes across the range, and that’s before you even start tweaking with fermentation, or the influence of oak.

“I think all of these could be done differently,” Himstedt muses. “All we’ve been doing for the last 10 years is try to do other styles, and make them appealing. It’s believing that we could achieve that if we did something differently to how it’s normally done.”

We head up to his lab, and we’re surrounded 360-degrees by barrel samples, distillates, and all manner of other liquid experiments. Suddenly Himstedt’s desire just to try stuff makes perfect sense. He and the wider team are dedicated to exploring flavour, pushing boundaries, while simultaneously honouring the tradition that’s got the whisk(e)y industry to the place it is now.

After such a decade of such growth and achievement, what drives him to keep going? “It’s a really exciting thing when you see someone and the light goes on,” he says, talking about sharing the whisky love. “It’s getting people out of their shell, getting them discussing, encouraging them that there’s no wrong answer here.” He likens talking about whisky to food flavour memory. “People get more comfortable, less afraid.” And that’s one of the biggest differences he’s seen over his ten years with Balcones. “The education of the amount of information that people come to whisk(e)y with today versus a decade ago is drastically different.” People know what they like. And they like Balcones.

A taste of Texas

Fancy a taste of Texas? Here are three must-try Balcones expressions, balancing heritage and innovation.

Balcones

Balcones Texas Single Malt (cask 10011) – Master of Malt & British Bourbon Society, £89.95

We couldn’t go all the way to Texas and not pick out a cask to bottle as our very own! Technically we had some help from our pals at the British Bourbon Society, who chose from four samples. One of just 240 bottles, this single malt boasts notes of banana fritters and toffee apple on the nose, tobacco and black pepper on the palate, and a Mars Bar-esque finish. Delicious stuff (even if we do say so ourselves).

Balcones

Balcones Baby Blue Corn, £49.95

The first whisky distilled from blue corn! This is deliciously different compared to a traditional bourbon, and makes for an excellent addition to the drinks cabinet. It’s got toasty cereal on the nose, and has a dark caramel palate with a velvety thick mouthfeel. Luscious sweet spices come through on the finish. One to add to the American whiskey bucket list for sure. 

Balcones

Balcones Texas Rye 100 Proof , £67.25

A delectable rye released to celebrate Balcones’s 10th anniversary! It’s a 100% rye mashbill – but don’t be fooled. There are loads of different varieties in here, from raw elbron and roasted varietals, to crystal and even chocolate types. The result is a sweet treat: think cinnamon and hot cocoa with added marshmallows, hints of tobacco and orange zest to lift it. Rye fans, get involved! 

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Whisky Advent Day #23: Balcones Texas Single Malt

Only a couple more sleeps until Christmas, which means only a couple more drams left in the Whisky Advent Calendar! Let’s see what’s behind window #23… Whether you consider today…

Only a couple more sleeps until Christmas, which means only a couple more drams left in the Whisky Advent Calendar! Let’s see what’s behind window #23…

Whether you consider today to be Christmas Eve Eve or simply just the 23rd of December, it really is very hard to deny that Christmas is a stone’s throw away. Santa is probably making a last-minute case to the HR department in the North Pole right now, arguing that he really should get a few more miniature Christmas puddings and an extra serving of roast potatoes in his lunch tomorrow, considering he’ll be working late. He might even be able to claim some time off in lieu as well, we reckon…

Oh great, now we’re thinking about Christmasy food again… Roast chestnuts, in particular… And cooked apples… And hints of softly smoky spices… Perhaps these flavours are on our mind because they’re all present in the dram that’s hiding behind window #23 of the Whisky Advent Calendar – it’s Balcones Texas Single Malt! This is a powerfully flavoursome American single malt whisky from Waco, Texas, and it’s exactly the kind of thing we want to be sipping on at this time of year.

We wanted to find out more about what’s going on with Balcones, so we asked a few questions to Balcones Distilling Head Distiller Jared Himstedt to see what are the haps in Texas!

Ta-da, it’s Jared Himstedt!

Master of Malt: What fun things have happened in the world of Balcones in 2019?

Jared Himstedt: Coming off our Tenth Anniversary in 2018, we had a lot to live up to in terms of releases. The first release of a Single Malt made from Texas-grown and malted barley happened this summer. We named it High Plains, for the region of Texas the barley is grown. It was a lot of fun to see and share the Texas-grown barley against our usual Golden Promise single malt. We have a lot more laid down from a couple of different maltsters and both drum and floor malted, so that will be fun to watch develop. We got to see our Peated expression from 2018 become a new regular annual malt expression. It is custom peated Golden Promise from Simpsons, and we have laid down 35, 65 and 95 ppms versions in both new casks and ex-bourbon so we have a lot of colours to blend with going forward. We have started selling our first white spirit with our white Texas Rum. Lots of fun esters and aromatics going on there.

MoM: You’ve recently been using interesting casks to age your whisky (including Brimstone and Tequila casks, released by TBWC). Are there any casks out there that you’d love to try maturing your whisky in that you haven’t yet?

JH: I am a huge fan of lighter dessert wines, and we are on the lookout for things like Lupiac, and have our eyes on some Ratafia casks, which is a Champagne based dessert wine. We are also looking into some larger sized casks to begin exploring how to make older whisky in Texas without ended up with an unbalanced and over-wooded product.

MoM: What’s next for Balcones? Any 2020 plans you can give us a hint about?

JH: Mirador, which is our all refill cask Single Malt will be making a return and becoming a regular annual release for us at higher volumes. The peated single malt that we have laid down in ex-bourbon barrels is coming along really nicely, and we’ll likely have a small release of that sometime this year. We will likely have another sherried release, and well as an expression finished in Madeira casks from a Texas winery. There are a couple of other projects that are likely to come to fruition this year.

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

JH: I am personally excited and invested in the continued growth of the American Single Malt category as well as the growth and success of Texas Whiskey. Both categories have a lot to offer and I only hope to see the awareness in the industry and among consumers keep increasing. Globally, we hope to see all the international tariff situation resolved in a way that benefits the industry and whisky drinkers everywhere.

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?

JH: Most likely a single barrel bottling of Glendronach, in the 19yr old range!

Balcones Texas Single Malt

Balcones Texas Single Malt Tasting Note:

Nose: Freshly baked banana bread with undertones of honey and vanilla and just the faintest hint of cedarwood at the back. Suggestions of roasted chestnuts and heavy cream.

Palate: Ester-y with apple and orchard fruits. Brown sugar makes an appearance and transforms into molasses.

Finish: Warm, woody spices and some breadiness, but not necessarily maltiness, completes this luscious single malt.

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The winner of our Jarrod Dickenson competition is…

A couple of weeks ago we asked you to tell us your dream Balcones and music pairing to win tickets to a London leg of country star Jarrod Dickenson’s sold-out…

A couple of weeks ago we asked you to tell us your dream Balcones and music pairing to win tickets to a London leg of country star Jarrod Dickenson’s sold-out UK tour. And we have a winner!

We all know there’s great joy to be had in a fine whisky pairing. Some opt for chocolate. Others cheese. We’re on board with both. But the finest pairing known to humans? Whisky and music. There’s an option for all moods. You can even create your own. AND music doesn’t require a list of dietary requirements. How pleasing.

So, when we got word that Waco-born country artist Jarrod Dickenson was gracing these shores with his presence, supported by whisky brand Balcones (also Waco based! What a match) we wanted in. We headed down one Friday, we cheered, we clapped, we marvelled at his voice. And we also had some VERY delicious Balcones drams. What a night. And then we gave you the chance to head over, too!

How fabulously Texas

All you needed to do was comment on the competition blog telling us your dream Balcones and music pairing. We chose a winner at random, and they are…

Louise Spencer and her plus one! The pairing in question? Texas single malt annual release with George Strait ‘All my exes live in Texas’.

Hurrah!

We hope you had the most incredible evening with Jarrod Dickenson and Team Balcones!

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Win! A pair of tickets to see Jarrod Dickenson with Balcones!

Listen up, fans of all things Texas. Whisky brand Balcones has two pairs of tickets to see Lone Star State-based country singer-songwriter Jarrod Dickenson in London as part of his…

Listen up, fans of all things Texas. Whisky brand Balcones has two pairs of tickets to see Lone Star State-based country singer-songwriter Jarrod Dickenson in London as part of his sold out Unplugged & Distilled tour. And our blog readers have an exclusive chance to snap them up!

We all know whisky and music go hand-in-hand. One of the finer things in life is kicking back with a dram in hand while enjoying a favourite album. This dream pairing is not lost on Texan whisky brand Balcones, which, as eagle-eyed Nightcap readers will know, has teamed up with fellow Waco native and singer-songwriter Jarrod Dickenson for a UK tour. Even better – we’ve got two pairs of tickets to give away to blog readers, courtesy of Balcones! 

Two lucky winners (and a lucky plus-one each) will scoop tickets to Unplugged and Distilled – An Intimate Evening of Songs & Spirits show on 29 November 2019. It all kicks off at 19.30 at The Cavendish Arms, 128 Hartington Rd in South West London. And it’s a sold-out evening – you’ll be in for a treat!

What to expect? An atmospheric, acoustic set – two voices, a flurry of instruments, and just one microphone. And you’ll be able to savour a dram (or two) of Balcones, too. Baby Blue, Texas Rye 100 and Texas Single Malt will all be on-hand!

It’s set to be a Texas-tastic one!

Supporting Dickenson is folk singer Darrin Bradbury, while Irish artist Mark Reihill has designed all the artwork for the show. He’s perhaps best known for his work at renowned New York cocktail bar The Dead Rabbit – the booze links are strong with this one!

Fancy an evening of music and drams with Jarrod Dickenson, courtesy of Balcones? Then simply comment on this here blog post with your dream Balcones and music pairing. Let us know your top Balcones pour, and the song you’d match with it, to take you to your happy place. (It could be anything. It’s tough. We can’t pick one, but a Baby Blue/Spice Girls mix would be up there. Baby Blue/Baby Spice… it works!). T&Cs apply, see below.

Comment before 13:00 on Friday 22 November, we’ll pull two names out of a hat, and hurrah! The tickets are yours (we’ll drop the lucky duo a line by email, and you’ll have two days to get back to us. Time is tight, y’know. Jarrod waits for no one). It’s not quite a trip to Texas, but with that much Texas in London, it’s as close as you’ll get without the transatlantic flight!

Good luck, folks – and enjoy!

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The Nightcap: 25 October

Record-breaking whisky, intriguing rums and wine tasting in the dark – it’s all here in this week’s Nightcap! OK, look, the way the days have fallen this year, this will…

Record-breaking whisky, intriguing rums and wine tasting in the dark – it’s all here in this week’s Nightcap!

OK, look, the way the days have fallen this year, this will be the closest we get to an edition of The Nightcap falling on Halloween – next week Friday is the 1st of November, at which point we’ll have set aside our zombie costumes for another year and will be busy stockpiling sparklers and jacket potatoes in anticipation of Bonfire Night. With that in mind, you’re just going to have to put up with an early spooktacular here. Ahem. WoooOOOooo! It’s (almost) Halloween! The haunted ghouls of the underworld have crept into MoM Towers and they’re knocking over printers and… Oh, our hearts aren’t really in it. Let’s just get on with the booze news from the week that was.

It’s been a blog-maggedon kind of week here at MoM Towers. Firstly, congratulations are in order to the respective winners of the Lakes Distillery (#BagThisBundle) and Kingsbarns Distillery competitions! There was then some delightful video-based adventures with Ardbeg and Penderyn, while Adam also rounded-up some spooky spirits for Halloween. Then there was the exciting news that Douglas Laing had bought Strathearn Distillery as Annie talked Sullivans Cove with head distiller Patrick Maguire and rare pepper cordials with Monin and Alex Kratena. Henry had discussions of his own, from mezcal with Dr Iván Saldaña, to cocktails with Joe and Daniel Schofield, but still found time to make the intriguing Gin Rummy our New Arrival of the Week.

Phew! Now, to The Nightcap!

The Nightcap

£1,452,000. One bottle of whisky. £1,452,000. Wow.

Macallan and Brora break records at Sotheby’s in London

Hammers were banged, money was waved and records were broken at the latest wine and spirits auction at Sotheby’s in London this week. Some 460 bottles of rare Scotch from an American collector went under the hammer. The star was inevitably a Macallan, a 60 year old from 1926 which went for £1,452,000 ($1,873,951). Jamie Ritchie, chairman of Sotheby’s, said: “There was an electric atmosphere in the room today for our first-ever single-owner spirits auction. This sale marks a historic moment for the spirits market, with new benchmark prices and a fresh approach to selling whisky.” According to Sotheby’s, the strongest interest came from Asian buyers. In total, the collection went for £7,635,619 ($9,854,530), out of which a whopping £3m ($4m) was accounted for by just four bottles of Macallan. But it wasn’t all about Macallan. Other exciting bottles included a 50 year old Springbank distilled in 1919 which went for £266,200 ($343,558); bottle number one of 54 year old Bowmore Crashing Waves went for £363,000 ($468,488); and a Dalmore Eos 59 year old, one of only 20 bottles, achieved £99,220 ($128,053). All this excitement makes the £54,450 ($70,273), a new record, paid for a bottle of Brora 40 year old seem like pocket change. Perhaps you could mix it with ginger beer.

The Nightcap

Balcones master distiller Jared Himstedt, who won’t be singing

Balcones teams up with Texan singer-songwriter Jarrod Dickenson for UK tour

We all know that whisky and music go together: from Keith Richards with his Jack Daniel’s to, erm, Billy Idol with Rebel Yell. Now Texas whisky pioneer Balcones will be bringing the spirit of the Lone Star state to Britain in more ways than one by sponsoring the tour of top Texan singer-songwriter Jarrod Dickenson. Balcones and Dickenson have so much in common. Not only are they both from Waco, Texas but Dickenson and Balcones’ head distiller have almost the same first name, Jarrod and Jared. They’re made for each other. The tour titled Unplugged & Distilled will run from 22 November to 7 December 2019, and consist of Dickenson playing 13 acoustic dates around the country (details here). And while you listen, and perhaps dance, if you get the urge, you can sip delicious Balcones whisky. It’ll be just like being in Texas, except when you leave the gig, it’ll probably be cold and wet.

The Nightcap

Introducing: the Samurai Scientist!

New Boss Hog from WhistlePig finished in Japanese umeshu casks

A new Boss Hog from rye distiller WhistlePig is always something to be excited about but this latest edition sound particularly epic. It’s called the Samurai Scientist and it’s a sixteen-year-old whisky named after a chemist called Jōkichi Takamine who brought a Japanese form of alcohol production, koji, to American whiskey in the 19th century. The Samurai Scientist is a collaboration with a Japanese company, Kitaya who produce sake, shōchū and umeshu. It was created using koji fermentation (in Canada) and aged for 16 years before being finished in a cask that previously held an aged umeshu – a Japanese fruit liqueur. Pete Lynch, master blender, explained: “We finished one of our oldest whiskeys in barrels that held Kitaya’s eleven-year-old umeshu. With umeshu being an intensely aromatic spirit, it does not take long to impart deeply complex flavours. Only 90 barrels exist and each bottle notes the barrel number and proof, ranging between 120 – 122 [60-61% ABV]”. Jeff Kozak, CEO of Whistlepig added: “Dave Pickerell committed to five promises for The Boss Hog, including being distinctly unique from anything we’ve done before. He had a thirst for exploring and trialling techniques from around the world, and Takamine was like-minded in propelling whiskey innovation across continents.” The Samurai Scientist complete with pewter samurai on the stopper should roaring into MoM towers sometime in December. Now we know what we’re going to ask #whiskysanta for.

The Nightcap

Is this the world’s first Afro-Caribbean rum?

Burrell and Seale launch Equiano, the world’s first Afro-Caribbean rum

Two distilleries. Two different continents. Two key figures within the rum industry. That’s the story behind Equiano, which is believed to be the world’s first Afro-Caribbean rum. Created by global rum ambassador Ian Burrell and master distiller Richard Seale, Equiano is described as an “east and west” collaboration and is said to be the first rum crafted from liquid from two different distilleries based on two different continents. The name is a tribute to Olaudah Equiano, a Nigerian-born writer, abolitionist, traveller and freedom fighter, as it follows his journey, from Africa to the Caribbean and the UK. It’s a blend of molasses rums from Mauritius-based Gray’s Distillery that was aged for 10 years in a combination of French Limousin oak casks and ex-Cognac casks and Foursquare rum that was matured in ex-bourbon casks. It has no added sugar, spices or colourants, was bottled at 43% ABV and is said to deliver notes of dried fruits, sweet toffee, butterscotch, orange peel, vanilla, oak, anise, sweet pepper and buttered wood. “Equiano is a first for a centuries-old craft,” said Seale. “We have created an entirely unique blend through a collaboration between two rum distilleries on two different continents.” Burrell added: “Premium rum is on the rise, and more importantly the consumer that wants quality is demanding clarity, authenticity and intrinsic value in their rum. Equiano is a new style of rum; one that combines two rum cultures: African and the Caribbean.” A percentage of the profits from every bottle of Equiano sold will be donated to an equality-focused charity annually.

The Nightcap

It’s a blow for those who like to flip bottles like this on the auction market…

New Daftmill will only be available by the dram

Watching great whiskies disappear into collections or bounce around auction markets is something we’ve all become used to seeing. Lowland distillery Daftmill isn’t interested in taking part with its latest release, however. In an effort to side-step ‘bottle flippers’, it will offer Daftmill Single Cask 2008 #68 by the dram in select Scottish bars in collaboration with Berry Bros & Rudd. The duo has teamed up to sell the 2008 vintage single cask expression in 25ml measures for the price of £10 (US$13). It will be available at venues operated by Scottish chain The Independent Whisky Bars of Scotland from the 1 November, including The Ardshiel (Campbeltown), Artisan (Wishaw), The Bon Accord (Glasgow), Dornoch Castle Hotel (Dornoch), Fiddlers Inn (Drumnadrochit), The Highlander Inn (Craigellachie) and The Malt Room (Inverness). That’s right. Bottles will not be available to buy. Described as a first for the industry, the move was taken to ensure that the spirit can only be sampled by “genuine whisky lovers”. Bottles of the 2008 single cask released earlier this year sold out in minutes and then began appearing on auction sites at hugely inflated prices. “As much as we appreciate the high demand for our whisky, we’ve always distilled with the goal of it being opened and drunk by people that really enjoy a dram,” said Francis Cuthbert of Daftmill. “Releasing this single cask with The Independent Whisky Bars of Scotland is a great way to ensure that every bottle we release will be opened and drunk over the next few months.” Daftmill Single Cask 2008 #68 is the first single cask to be released from this vintage. The whisky was matured in a first-fill ex-bourbon barrel and selected by the bar chain to be bottled at a natural strength of 55.5% ABV.

The Nightcap

Brewdog is the latest brand to experiment with ‘botanical rum’

Brewdog launches Five Hundred Cuts botanical rum

To the Physic Garden in Chelsea for the launch of Brewdog’s new botanical rum, Five Hundred Cuts. And first off, who knew there was a walled botanical garden right in the heart of London? This sweet-smelling oasis was the perfect setting for the launch. There was even a ‘herbal storyteller’, Amanda Edmiston, on hand to give us an insight into the inspiration for the rum, an Aberdonian botanist called Elizabeth Blackwell. And what of the rum itself?  We’ll be running an interview with distillery Steven Kersley next week but here’s our first impressions: the rum is based on a high ester spirit distilled from Algerian molasses (the best according to Kersley) and flavoured by distillation and infusion with a variety of spices including cardamom, ginger, orange peel, cloves and tonka beans before sweetening with muscovado sugar. The result (RRP £24) is quite remarkably aromatic and tasted excellent in a series of cocktails created by Laki Kane’s Georgi Radev but it also worked wonders sipped neat as a seasonal cold cure. It just breezes through that blocked nose.

The Nightcap

Feliz Día de los Muertos!

Patrón Tequila celebrates Día de Muertos

This November, Patrón Tequila will launch a series of events in celebration of Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead). The traditional Mexican celebration will be marked by immersive art exhibitions and bar takeovers all over Europe by Patrón Tequila. In London, a three-day immersive event will take place at the six-storey 19 Greek St in Soho from 1st to 3rd November 2019 featuring the works of Mexican artists Lourdes Villagomez and Lola Argemi. But if you want to kick off the celebrations earlier, Patrón will be offering themed cocktails within a colourful setting that evokes the key symbols of the Día de Muertos in a number of bars, such as The Den (100 Wardour Street), Swift, Hovarda, Thirst and Soho Residence in Soho, Raffles and Callooh Callay in Chelsea, the Harvey Nichols 5th Floor Bar in Knightsbridge, Eve Bar in Covent Garden, Red Rooster in Shoreditch, Playa in Marylebone and the London Cocktail Club in Oxford Circus. To all of our Mexican friends, we wish you a Feliz Día de los Muertos!

The Nightcap

It’s the oldest whisky ever released from the Campbeltown Distillery

Glen Scotia releases its oldest and rarest expression

Get ready for Glen Scotia’s oldest ever expression! The Campbeltown distillery has only gone and released a 45-year-old single malt. Distilled back in December 1973, it was aged in refill bourbon casks, where it rested until 2011. Then the liquid was transferred to first-fill bourbon casks until 2019, when it was bottled at 43.8% ABV. “Glen Scotia 45 year old is one of the most magnificent expressions to be produced by our Campbeltown distillery and we are excited that after 45 years we are now able to unveil it to the world,” said master distiller Michael Henry. “It embodies all of the unique elements which Glen Scotia is known for, delivering a long mouth-watering finish with notes of sea salt and lime citrus. On the palate, the liquid presents caramel sweetness at first, then juicy fruit with pineapple, mango and watermelon rounded by vanilla and honey.” Each bottle comes in a handmade British walnut case, with an engraved tile featuring the individual bottle number and tasting notes. If that wasn’t enough, inside the case you’ll find embossed leather lining. That all sounds pretty dandy, doesn’t it? Here’s the catch: only 150 bottles have been released worldwide, priced at £3,795. If you do fancy on getting your hands on one, then we recommend keeping a very, very close eye on your favourite online retailer…

The Nightcap

The ‘Kingdom of Light’ cocktail

Mr Fogg’s Winter Festival Of Lights lands in Covent Garden

Mr Fogg’s Gin Parlour and Tavern is a quintessentially British spot for a tipple or two in Covent Garden. However, the bar has teamed up with House of Suntory for the Winter Light Festival, a magical Japanese-inspired illuminated festival. It’s a sensory experience inspired by Japanese nature, a delight of sight, taste and sound, launched this week on 23 October. Of course, there are also Japanese-inspired cocktails, made with Roku gin, Haku vodka and Toki whisky. You’ll be met at the entrance to the tavern with a red torii gate framed with pink cherry blossom. There are two menus to choose from. The first you’ll find downstairs, inspired by different locations throughout Japan, with cocktails such as ‘Kyoto’, marrying Toki whisky, elderflower cordial and lemon juice, topped with ginger ale. If you follow the lantern trail upstairs you’ll find the second menu. This is no ordinary menu, with the cocktails listed on Roku bottles filled with fairy lights. The serves here are named after Japanese festivals such as ‘Kingdom of Light’, made with Roku gin, Luxardo Bitter Bianco, umeshu plum sake and rhubarb bitters. If you were umming and ahhing about going, we should probably let you know that the bar will even be streaming the Rugby World Cup straight from Japan. Whether that’s a good thing or not is up to you…

The Nightcap

Lidl wants to challenge your preconceptions

And finally. . . . wine tasting in the dark with Lidl

When conducting a wine tasting most professionals agree on what you need, wine, obviously, you can’t have a wine tasting without wine, clean glasses, white tablecloths and plenty of light so that you can appreciate the colour. Well, Lidl is throwing all this out the window with its new pop-up wine tasting tour. It begins in London on 8 November before continuing to Manchester and Glasgow. Tastings will be hosted by Master of Wine Richard Bampfield and take place in a Cellar Noir where wine will be served in the pitch black by waiters wearing night-vision goggles, and in a nightmarish-looking Discombobulation Chamber. The idea is to shake off people’s preconceptions about labels and wine colour, and trust in their senses of taste and smell. It all this sounds much too confusing for you, to finish up there’s Salle de Noel featuring Christmas trees, mince pies, a cheeseboard, and, most importantly, some light so you can see what you’re doing.

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New Arrival(s) of the Week: That Boutique-y Whisky Company X Balcones Distilling

This week, we’re tempting you with not one but three (soon to be four) extraordinary bottlings from Texas’ trailblazing Balcones Distilling, released in collaboration with our good friends at That…

This week, we’re tempting you with not one but three (soon to be four) extraordinary bottlings from Texas’ trailblazing Balcones Distilling, released in collaboration with our good friends at That Boutique-y Whisky Company. You’ll want to taste them to believe them, but until then, we’ve captured their essence in four words: upside-down cask maturation…

Hello, curious whisky drinker. We thought the words ‘upside-down cask maturation’ might just lure you in. Those clever folks at That Boutique-y Whisky Company are back at it again – and by ‘it’, we mean bottling the contents of compelling, rare, and/or downright bizarre casks from across the globe, this time from the Lone Star state: Texas. 

Now, the team behind Balcones Distilling aren’t shy about “testing the waters of what’s possible”, as head distiller Jared Himstedt so eloquently puts it. They’re the creators of the first Texan whisky since Prohibition, the pioneers of blue corn whisky, and the only distillers bold enough to create a smoky whisky by smoking the distillate, rather than the grain. If they can’t find a space for these barrels in their existing range, the contents must be – and we mean this as the highest possible compliment – extraordinarily weird.

Of the four Boutique-y releases, three are single malts made from Golden Promise malted barley from Scotland – aged for various timescales in Tequila, oloroso sherry, and Balcones’ own Brimstone casks – while the final spirit is made from blue corn and finished in Pedro Ximénez barrels. Each one spent more time in the finishing cask than it did in the original – hence ‘upside-down cask maturation’.

“We haven’t really released anything like these on our own,” says Winston Edwards, brand ambassador at Balcones Distilling. “We haven’t done a Tequila cask single malt at the distillery, we haven’t done a Brimstone cask at the distillery – we have done a sherry release, but not with our blue corn spirit. They’re unique to Boutique-y.”

Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

 

Balcones 3 Year Old Batch 2 (That Boutique-y Whisky Company)

Well, well, well, what have we here? A Tequila cask-aged Texan single malt whisky; bold and vegetal, with a glorious dried fruit sweetness. “I don’t know what distillery this Tequila cask came from,” says Himstedt. “[Cask] Brokers can be weird – sometimes they don’t want you to know because then you can just start calling the distilleries and bodegas on your own. 

The team has always used Tequila casks, right from the beginning, in the mix for Baby Blue Corn Whisky, he continues. “We’d buy all the Tequila casks that were about to break down and they would make them into smaller barrels for us – they’d get shaved and re-charred and all that. I wanted to see what big Tequila casks would do for Baby, and when we got our first truckload in, we probably had 14 or 15 different isolated spirits recipes, so we threw everything in one – just to see.”

After 12 months ageing in a virgin French oak barrel, the single malt was scooted across to the ex-Tequila barrel, where it remained for 37 months. “I don’t know what you call it when you reverse the process,” says Himstedt. “We didn’t ‘finish’ it – we started it in one barrel and then it really matured in another.”

Balcones 2 Year Old Batch 1 (That Boutique-y Malt Company)

The more astute among you might’ve noticed something unusual. That Boutique-y Malt Company? Eh? “We’re not allowed to call it whisky in the UK if it’s under three years old,” Dave Worthington, global brand ambassador at That Boutique-y Whisky Company explains. “This is just two years old, so we’ve put a little flag over the whisky logo and renamed it ‘That Boutique-y Malt Company’.” 

After 14 and a half months ageing in an ex-bourbon barrel, this single malt was switched to a Balcones Brimstone cask for a further 16 and a half months’ ageing. The name Brimstone refers to a corn whisky of the same name, which is smoked using scrub oak. “It’s actually not a different species of oak, but in Texas where it’s really dry the tree grows twisted, almost like a Bonsai version of what an oak tree would be,” Edwards explains. “It’s so dense, we’re talking about something that has spent 60 to 80 years just to grow four feet tall, so lot of the compounds and aromas are really concentrated.” Think: smoky bacon and campfire deliciousness.

Balcones 2 Year Old Batch 2 (That Boutique-y Malt Company) 

The third single malt – again, bottled as a malt spirit rather than a whisky – spent 11 months in ex-bourbon casks before maturing for a further 14 months in an oloroso sherry cask, with all the rich plum fruit and mouthwatering spicy treacle you’d expect. Fun fact: This will be the joint-third Balcones release that has spent time in a sherry cask – the other two being the distillery’s 10th anniversary single malt and a dark rum finished in a Pedro Ximénez cask. *Italian chefs kiss* 

We say joint third, because soon (quite how soon is still under wraps) there will be another spirit joining this experimental line-up: a 100% blue corn spirit finished in Pedro Ximénez casks. If your whistle has been thoroughly wetted, you’ll need to get a move on – a very limited number of bottles are available, priced at £69.95 per 500ml bottle. Hey, we told you they were extraordinary. 

 

 

 

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Five essential tips for making the most of your distillery tour

Whether it’s your first time getting up close and personal with a pair of stills – or you’ve already checked off the HQ of your entire drinks trolley – you’ll…

Whether it’s your first time getting up close and personal with a pair of stills – or you’ve already checked off the HQ of your entire drinks trolley – you’ll want to make the most of your distillery visit. From unusual questions to tips and tricks, we tapped three distillers for their esteemed insider knowledge…

Take it from us, there’s never been a better time to be a full-on spirits geek. Whether through distillery tours, blending workshops, tailored tasting experiences or cocktail masterclasses, the masterminds behind our favourite sips have flung open their doors, filling both our minds and our glasses with spirited brilliance.

For most distillers, provenance is a huge part of what makes their liquid so unique. Native botanicals, regional production methods, local water, warehouse climate; whatever it might be, these unique factors form part of its DNA. There’s nothing quite like experiencing that sense-of-place first hand. It’s a lesson in history, science and art, all rolled into one.

To really get the best of this unique experience, we quizzed the people for whom distillery tours are their day-to-day. Heed their do’s and don’ts to make the most of your big day out (and remember to scope out the gift shop’s distillery exclusive bottlings while you’re there! It’s the best place to nab a gem…).

Glenrinnes Distillery

Oh, hello there Glenrinnes!

#1 Introduce yourself

Perhaps you’re a huge fan of the distillery and it’s been a lifelong dream to visit? Or maybe the local hotel receptionist recommended you drop by, and this will be your first time tasting neat gin. Whatever the reason you’re there, make it known to your guide. The best tour experiences are always the most interactive ones, says Meeghan Murdoch, operations manager at Glenrinnes Distillery in Speyside, since engaging in visitors’ knowledge helps them tailor the experience to the interests of the group.

#2 Come with the right mindset

For starts, arrive punctual and sober, says Andrew Anderson, head of distillery tours at Balcones Distilling in Texas. For the sake of your tour guide, mainly, but you’ll also enjoy the experience more if both your mind and palate are fresh. By all means, hit the bar up – there’s a certain magic about enjoying a dram on its home turf – but do so on your way out. Remember to turn your phone off (or set it to silent) so your guide has your full attention, and don’t answer it during the tour.

Shh… They’re snoozing…

#3 Soak up the atmosphere

Distilleries are often beautiful buildings with hundreds of years’ worth of history, says Greg Hughes, managing director of Jameson Brand Homes and Education at Irish Distillers, and Jameson’s Bow Street and Midleton sites are a fine example. So, give yourself enough time to take in your surroundings. “Make an afternoon of it rather than coming in, having a quick tour and dashing off,” he says. “You lose some of the magic of these historical sites.” And don’t forget, your guide is a local, so make the most of their travel tips. “We’ve a really friendly team and they loved being asked where to go next, whether it’s a hotel, a bar or restaurant or another whiskey attraction.”

#4 Ask *all* of the questions

Any question that pops into your head. Even the one you feel embarrassed about asking. “We are here to interact, engage, and teach you about our craft,” says Anderson, “[your guide] will not think you’re stupid.” ‘Do you own the distillery?’, ‘Can I drink the dump bucket?’, ‘How many miles of pipe is in the distillery?’, and ‘Can we try the wort?’ are all legitimate questions he and the team have received. While some questions are trickier to answer than others, Hughes adds, “we love to see it, there’s a real enthusiasm there. When people are asking questions you can tell they’re really enjoying the experience – you don’t need to be a whiskey expert to have passion.” So, ask away.

Glenrinnes Distillery

Chances are, the distillers know what they’re doing with those stills

#5 Don’t ‘give it the biggen’*

Perhaps your uncle worked at the distillery three decades ago, or your best friend is involved with marketing the distillery. Regardless of what you already know about spirits production, local history, the brand, and so on, be gracious to your guide. “Don’t try to catch out the tour guide on your own knowledge,” says Katrina Stewart, Glenrinnes’ distiller. “Respect their experience and understanding and have an open discussion.” In the same vein, be open to learning about new ways to approach the production process, says Anderson. “Do not answer questions as if you’re the tour guide unless prompted or opened up to contribute – be attentive, and do not speak while the tour guide is speaking”.

* Urban Dictionary defines this as “When someone attempts to make themselves appear tougher or cooler than they really are”. So now you know.

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The Nightcap: 2 August

Mega-old Macallan, virtual pipelines and g-g-g-ghosts! The Nightcap this week really is all over the shop… It’s Friday. But it’s also not just any Friday. It’s the first Friday of…

Mega-old Macallan, virtual pipelines and g-g-g-ghosts! The Nightcap this week really is all over the shop…

It’s Friday. But it’s also not just any Friday. It’s the first Friday of August. But it’s also not just any first Friday of August. It’s International Beer Day. I mean, yeah, technically any first Friday of August is International Beer Day, because that’s when it is, but the point still remains. Kinda. Look, what we’re trying to say is that maybe today, instead of enjoying your regular scheduled edition of The Nightcap with a dram, you enjoy it with a tasty drink of the beer variety.

So what were the haps with our very own blog this week? Annie was ahead of the curve and clued us in on five beer trends to keep an eye on, and then caught up with Ervin Trykowski from The Singleton to talk about chucking out the whisky ritual rulebook. Jess headed to the Highlands to celebrate Caorunn Gin’s 10th birthday, then set her sights even further afield with a rundown of flavours from far-off lands. Guest columnists galore: Ian Buxton took a swing at genealogy by looking at the illustrious families of the drinks industry, while Victoria Sayers spotted a fantastic New Arrival of the WeekClouded Leopard Gin. Henry helped us cool off in the heatwave with a refreshing Moscow Mule for Cocktail of the Week.

And so, on to the news!

Holyrood distillery

The Holyrood team and their shiny new stills.

Single malt returns to Edinburgh after almost 100 years

Previously, if you wanted to visit a malt whisky distillery from Edinburgh, you had to travel 15 miles to Glenkinchie. But no longer, because this week single malt returned to the capital for the first time since 1925! The Holyrood Distillery, located within walking distance of Edinburgh Castle, is housed in an elegant 19th century railway shed. It cost £6.7m with £1.5m worth of investment coming from the taxpayer-funded Scottish Investment Bank. The team headed up by distillery manager Jack Mayo will be doing some interesting stuff with different yeasts, varieties of barley and levels of malting to produce initially four types of whisky: smoky, sweet, spicy and fruity/floral. At seven metres, the stills are some of the tallest in Scotland. “After all the hard work of the team, it’s a really special moment to now see Holyrood Distillery open, and we’re looking forward to creating a range of delicious whiskies, gins, liqueurs and other spirits,” said co-founder Rob Carpenter. “I’d like to thank everyone who has contributed to this project throughout its evolution for their hard work and passion – and especially all our local neighbours for bearing with us during the construction process.” The distillery is now open for tours. We can’t wait to visit.

ardross distillery

The now-whisky-producing Ardross Distillery from the skies.

Ardross Distillery kicks off whisky production!

More distillery news, this time from the Scottish Highlands – Ardross Distillery, which already make Theodore Pictish Gin in a dedicated on-site gin house, has started whisky production! Details are pretty scarce, but we have had it confirmed that the first batch flowed from the stills last week. And we’re excited! The £18 million distillery had planning permission granted in February 2017, and construction started shortly after. Located just north of Inverness, the former farm now boasts two large copper pot stills, and once finished, there will be a small whisky experience centre, too. There’s no word yet on the intended character of the future Scotch, but as soon as we know more, we’ll let you know!

british bourbon society

Just look at all the delicious Balcones bourbon!

British Bourbon Society marks third anniversary

Last weekend we hightailed it up to Leeds to join the British Bourbon Society (BBS) for some pretty lively birthday celebrations. The largest American whiskey group outside North America was in a collectively rambunctious mood when 100 or so members arrived at the Northern Monk brewery to mark its third anniversary. On-hand to help with the festivities were a bunch of delicious brands, from Maker’s Mark and Whistlepig to Uncle Nearest and the likes of Few Spirits, Smooth Ambler, New York Distilling Company and Balcones. And on Balcones… one of our tasks of the day was selecting the liquid for a British Bourbon Society/Master of Malt bottle pick. It was deliciously hard work, but someone’s gotta do it. Keep your eyes peeled for the results over the next few weeks. And an enormous thank you to BBS members for making the whole afternoon so fun!

Exceptional Cask (3)

Macallan Exceptional Cask 1950 in all its glory

The Macallan releases 68 year old whisky

Last year it was the £38,000 52 year old release. This week The Macallan has gone that little bit further with the release of the £44,000 Exceptional Single Cask 1950 expression, that was bottled in 2018. That’s a 68 year old whisky. Blimey! The cask in question is a sherry butt found in the Macallan warehouse, and only 336 bottles have been filled at a healthy 53.4% ABV. The tasting notes tantalisingly refer to “subtle hints of peat in the background”, so it sounds like this is that rarest thing, an old peated Macallan. The press release goes on to say: “The single malt is the centrepiece of the 2018 release from the unprecedented range which invites consumers to explore the world’s most valuable whisky through a rare insight from the legendary whisky makers’ bench at The Macallan Distillery and Visitor Experience on Speyside.” Nope, doesn’t mean anything to us, either. Anyhow, it’s no doubt an exceptional whisky, and seeing as last year’s release is already selling for double its release price, likely to be a good investment, too.

gordon and macphail

Gordon & MacPhail’s three tasty, ghostly whiskies…

Gordon & MacPhail releases whiskies from ghost distilleries

There’s nothing like a silent or ghost distillery for getting whisky fans hot under the collar, so we expect Gordon & MacPhail will be installing a new phone line to deal with enquiries about its latest ‘Private Collection’. The first release comes from the Dallas Dhu Distillery, which closed in 1983. This particular one was distilled in 1969 and matured in a sherry hogshead. The second is from the St. Magdalene Distillery. It was distilled in 1982, a year before the distillery closed its doors, and has been sitting in a refill American hogshead ever since. The final whisky in the collection isn’t actually a ghostie, but it is pretty bloody special: a 1966 from Longmorn matured in a first-fill sherry butt. All collars at Master of Malt are getting a bit warm just thinking about it. Stephen Rankin, director of prestige at Gordon & MacPhail, commented: “My grandfather, George Urquhart, recognised an opportunity to match new make spirit with carefully selected casks at a time when the vast majority of production went into blends. Over the decades he was able to master this art which has become his legacy. He could never be persuaded to bottle a whisky before he believed it had reached its ultimate peak in terms of quality – a tradition we’re proud to continue today.” The RRP for the Longmorn and the Dallas Dhu is £6950 each with the St. Magdalene at £1000. We probably don’t need to tell you that packaging will be lavish, numbers extremely limited and demand high. That’s rare whisky for you. 

glenmorangie

The famed Glenmorangie stills, now doing their bit to reduce carbon emissions.

Glenmorangie to cut emissions by 30% using a ‘virtual pipeline’

Glenmorangie will be switching its (famously-tall) stills over to natural gas from oil, a move set to cut carbon emissions by 30%. The Highland distillery is too remote to be on the pipeline, so a ‘virtual pipeline’, consisting of a tanker and storage facility, is being used to provide gas. We’ve written before about the Highland distillery’s admirable environmental initiatives, such as the anaerobic digester to purify water emitted into the Dornoch Firth (which handily also produces biogas, so the distillery has been able to cut fossil fuel use by 15%), and initiatives to restore oyster reefs in the Firth. “We are committed to preserving and improving the world around us, as we meet rising demand for our exceptional single malt whisky around the globe,” said Thomas Moradpour, president and CEO of The Glenmorangie Company. “Cutting our CO2 emissions by 30% is another important step in our quest to become a fully sustainable business.” 

fentimans eric

Eric Tinca and his winning cocktail!

Satan’s Whiskers’ Eric Tinca nabs Fentimans title

Congratulations to Eric Tinca from Bethnal Green’s Satan’s Whiskers cocktail bar in East London, who was this week crowned winner of Fentimans’ Summer of Rose competition! Eric’s winning cocktail, a combination of Fentimans Rose Lemonade, fresh raspberries, Campari and Koko Kanu coconut rum, sounds like just the thing to get you in the holiday spirit. Over 100 bartenders from around the country took part in the challenge. The brief was to create a cocktail that could be replicated swiftly in bars that included, naturally, Fentimans Rose Lemonade. This year is looking like the pinkest since records began; you can’t move for rosé wine, pink gin, and Fentimans Rose Lemonade, in shops, bars and all over Instagram. If you’re not holding a pink drink this summer, what are you doing? Hurrah again for Tinca!

isle of raasay gin

Behold, the very first Isle of Raasay Gin.

Isle of Raasay Distillery releases first gin

With International Scottish Gin Day officially a thing on 3 August (keep your eyes peeled on the blog and our social channels for more!), it seems fitting that this week’s Nightcap features just that: a new Scottish gin! Step forward Isle of Raasay Distillery, which last weekend unveiled its very first gin expression. The Isle of Raasay Gin is made using a Frilli copper pot still, ten botanicals (including rhubarb root, cubeb pepper and lemon peel; some from the island itself), water from a local well, and triple-distilled spirit. Its development was supported by local botanist Dr Stephen Bungard, along with MSc scholar at Heriot Watt Fiona Williamson, who actually worked at the distillery in 2018. “Raasay’s remarkable geology and our modern island distillery inspired both the creation and presentation of our exciting new Scottish gin that we look forward to sharing with the growing number of visitors to Raasay and gin lovers alike,” said distillery co-founder, Alasdair Day. With tasting notes including aromatic juniper, zesty citrus and hints of rhubarb, we’re looking forward to having a sample. 

oban old teddy

The inspiration for Oban’s distillery-exclusive, Old Teddy himself.

Oban releases new distillery exclusive single malt!

North west Scotland’s Oban distillery has a shiny new release – and it’s a distillery-exclusive called Old Teddy! Named in honour of the Maclean family, the expression celebrates three generations of whisky-making, dating back to 1953 with master distiller Old Teddy. His son Young Teddy (natch) joined the firm in 1985, followed in 2017 by, sadly not Even Younger Teddy, but Derek. Oh well! The youngest Maclean still works at the distillery today and he commented: “This unique bottling is a celebration of our heritage and pays homage to my grandfather, whose fine craftsmanship has been preserved in the heart and soul of the distillery at Oban. This bottling is inspired by Old Teddy’s warm and gentle nature, physical strength and pride as dedicated maltster. It is a dram he would be proud of.” This special family single malt was released this month, less than 4,000 bottles will be available, and it can only be purchased from the distillery for £150. If you’re lucky enough to try it, make sure you raise a glass to the two Teddies, and Derek.

hendricks kings cross

Kings Cross station after its Hendrick’s makeover.

And finally… King’s Cross comes up smelling of roses thanks to Hendrick’s

It’s a mark of how King’s Cross in London has been regenerated in recent years that, from this week, one of the tunnels in the Underground station smells not of effluence, vandal-strength lager and broken dreams, but roses and cucumber. Yes, Hendrick’s Gin has taken over the tunnel that links the Piccadilly and Victoria lines to the Northern line ticket hall and bedecked it with rose-and-cucumber-scented posters from floor-to-ceiling. It’s all the work of ad agency Space. Not only does it look spectacular but it smells delicious too. In fact, just the thought of it is making us thirsty for a G&T. Damn clever advertising.

That’s all, folks!

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Win a delicious bundle with our Spirit of America competition!

Gather round, American spirit lovers, we have another wonderful MoM competition for you! It’s our Spirit of America competition, because although we don’t celebrate 4th of July across the pond,…

Gather round, American spirit lovers, we have another wonderful MoM competition for you! It’s our Spirit of America competition, because although we don’t celebrate 4th of July across the pond, we certainly do enjoy the alcoholic fruits of the USA.

In true celebratory fashion, we thought we’d do a round up of some of our favourite American spirits to honour the occasion, and you could win them all! Yep, all six of them. But what is in this fabulous round up, we hear you ask? 

Spirit of America

Just look at that all-American haul!

FEW Bourbon

Tasty bourbon from FEW Spirits, which calls Evanston, Illinois its home. In a cruel and frankly hilarious stroke of irony, the craft distillery takes its name from the initials of Frances Elizabeth Willard, a key figure in the Temperance Movement against the consumption of alcoholic beverages. Something to have a little chuckle about while you sip.

Balcones Baby Blue Corn

You would be absolutely correct in thinking that this whiskey from Balcones is actually distilled from blue corn! It was also the very first Texan whiskey since Prohibition, and the first whiskey to be distilled from blue corn, as a bonus. Those Balcones folks in Waco really know what they’re doing when it comes to delicious craft spirits. This spirit isn’t actually blue, though. That really would be crazy.

Bluecoat American Dry Gin

This dry gin was dubbed Bluecoat after the uniforms worn by the militia in the American Revolution, and it’s distilled in Philadelphia by, unsurprisingly, Philadelphia Distilling! It captures the spirit of America in a juniper-based tipple, named in celebration of the American spirit of independence and rebellion. What’s more, the botanicals used are kept super secret. Mysterious…

Ragtime Rye Whiskey

A fabulously spicy rye whiskey from the ever wonderful New York Distilling Company based in Brooklyn, inspired by the ragtime music of the early 20th century. They only use grain produced in New York for their rye whiskey, which is pretty cool. 

St. George Terroir Gin

The folks over at St. George Spirits have been doing their thing since 1982, producing very fine spirits just like this craft Terroir Gin! A little taste of the forests of California in a bottle from a pioneering and forward-thinking artisan distillery.

 Widow Jane 10 Year Old

A tasty bourbon from Widow Jane Distillery (named after the widow of a limestone mine owner in Rosendale) distilled in Kentucky.  A fun and quirky brand which uses corn varieties that are unique to the distillery. The actual distillery was built using restored bricks from the neighbourhood, and is called home by a brood of chickens and a peacock. We’re not sure if they help with the distilling, though.

How do I enter?!

So long as you have Instagram (and it’s 2019, so who doesn’t?) and three friends (who also have Instagram) then you’re all set! All you need to do is follow @MasterofMalt, ‘like’ our Instagram photo of all the boozy American goodies, and tag three friends you’d want to share this delicious bundle with. That’s right, you’d have to share it. Sharing is caring, right? Just complete those three simple tasks and you’ll be in with a chance to win six tasty bottles! 

So go forth and ‘gram, good people! We wish you the best of luck.

MoM ‘Spirit of America’ Competition 2019 open to entrants 18 years and over. Entries accepted from 1 July to 4 July 2019. Winners chosen at random after close of competition. Prizes not transferable and cannot be exchanged for cash equivalent. See full T&Cs for details.

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