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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Blended Malt

New Arrival of the Week: Compass Box Orchard House

Our New Arrival this week is Orchard House, the newest core offering from Compass Box and the first to be made with whiskies entirely laid down by the bottler/blender. We…

Our New Arrival this week is Orchard House, the newest core offering from Compass Box and the first to be made with whiskies entirely laid down by the bottler/blender. We tasted it with founder John Glaser, and found out how it earned its name.

It’s as idyllic as a Zoom tasting could be – held on the autumnal equinox, and John Glaser is sitting in what was to be the last of the summer (or is it autumn?) sun in his garden, chatting us through a momentous new release for Compass Box called Orchard House. 

Whisky Exploder

Glaser likens what he’s doing to the Song Exploder podcast, where each episode a musician takes apart their song, and piece by piece, tells the story of how it was made. He wants to create Whisky Exploder, and get whisky-makers to take you through the inception and creation of a whisky – you heard it here first. This won’t surprise those of you who are already familiar with Compass Box however, as it’s long been a champion for transparency within the whisky industry. 

The origins of Orchard House began in 2018, when Oak Cross, a long-standing blended malt, was going to lose one of its key ingredients due to stock issues. Glaser and fellow whiskymaker James Saxon couldn’t lay down the whiskies in time to create an exact replacement for Oak Cross. “It’s not trying to be Oak Cross,” Glaser is quick to note, but it was in trying to replicate Oak Cross that Orchard House was born. Eventually, the team gave up on trying to get a replacement, and instead ran with the fruity spirits they were finding along the way.

Compass Box Orchard House

Orchard House, appropriately surrounded by orchard fruit

It’s all about distillery character

Orchard House is a “spirit-forward, fruity style” with the vanilla pastry cream, light oak character that you get from American oak allowing each spirit’s distillery character to evolve over time, too. New oak maturation and sherry bombs are all over the place now, Glaser notes, but he believes that distillery character ought to be at the forefront of the flavour profile. 90% of the whisky is matured in first-fill ex-bourbon barrels, which allow exactly that.

It’s a big step for Compass Box because Orchard House is the first release from the bottler to be wholly made with whiskies that were laid down and entirely matured by Glaser and the team. The core is made up of “perfumed, what the industry calls waxy” Clynelish and fruity Linkwood. Benrinnes comes in as a hefty support, “adding a bit of weight”. There’s also a decent percentage from a distillery in the town of Aberlour – he’s not allowed to say exactly which distillery, but it’s completely sherried, and described by Glaser as ‘meaty’, so you can probably work it out. There’s also a minimal amount (just 2%) of Caol Ila bringing a smoky depth to an otherwise very bright, fresh spirit. 

Compass Box Orchard House label

Orchard House, ready for a close up

We can see this being a brilliant whisky to introduce people to the spirit, as it’s approachable while still packing in a lot of flavour – though that’s not to say seasoned sippers won’t enjoy it too. Unsurprisingly, given its orchard-forward flavour profile, it’s apparently a wonder with cheese.

In classic Compass Box style, the label is something to behold. It was inspired by the work of a pair of Californian artists who go by the name Fallen Fruit, and is a pretty accurate visual representation of what you can expect from the whisky within the bottle. Stranger & Stranger created the finished packaging, a firm that Compass Box has been collaborating with for around 13 years now. 

This marks the start of an exciting future for Compass Box. Glaser is thinking long term into the next 10 and 15 years, laying down whiskies with future core products in mind – Orchard House is just the beginning!

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt

Nose: Fresh green and red apples almost hit you in the face, living up to its name. Underneath there’s notes of grainy pear skin, bright lychee, and a faint hint of aromatic smoke.

Palate: Sweet and bright. Tart apple is balanced by pineapple, golden syrup, buttery pastry, with that subtle peat smoke appearing underneath. 

Finish: Creamier on the finish, with vanilla buttercream and fresh fruit lingering.

You can buy a bottle of Compass Box Orchard House here.

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Cocktail of the Week: The Woodsman

This week’s cocktail is called the Woodsman and it features a new blended malt called the Gladstone Axe from Biggar & Leith. It was inspired by founder Elwyn Gladstone’s illustrious…

This week’s cocktail is called the Woodsman and it features a new blended malt called the Gladstone Axe from Biggar & Leith. It was inspired by founder Elwyn Gladstone’s illustrious ancestor. And his axe. 

Blended whisky until recently was something of a staid category dominated by brands that had been around for decades like Johnnie Walker, Dewar’s and J&B. But things began to change at the turn of the century with the arrival of Compass Box making blends exciting and innovative blended whiskies. And then came brands such as Monkey Shoulder, Copper Dog and others. These were high quality blended malts that were as happy mixed or drunk neat.

Gladstone Axe - American OakMalts for mixing

Elwyn Gladstone worked at William Grant & Sons as new development director during the launch of Monkey Shoulder though, he told me, he didn’t work on that particular brand. He was, however, involved with Hendricks’s gin, Reyka vodka and Sailor Jerry rum. It was clearly a very fertile period for Grant’s. From there he went independent with Malfy Gin which was such a success that he sold it to Pernod Ricard. Since then with his company Biggar & Leith, he’s launched the Hotel Starlino range of aperitifs and vermouths, and others. 

Now he’s dug into his family’s history with a blended malt brand called The Gladstone Axe. It’s named after his great great grandfather William Gladstone, four times Liberal prime minister of Great Britain during the late Victorian period. The brand is aimed squarely at the cocktail market, and this week we’re using it to make a Highball-style cocktail called the Woodsman.

Scottish blood, Scouse upbringing

First a bit of history. William Gladstone was born and raised in Liverpool of Scottish stock. He said: “I am a man of Scotch blood only, half Highland and half Lowland, near the Border.” The family’s name came from a village near Biggar in South Lanarkshire. They were even involved in distilling. The family owned Fettercairn next to their big house in Scotland in Farsque,” Elwyn Gladstone said.

William Gladstone was influential in whisky in other ways. “The Spirits Act of 1860 allowed for blending of Scotch whisky from different places. It coincided with Scotch whisky booming and took over from Irish whiskey,” Gladstone said. According to a little book that Biggar & Leith has produced to promote the whisky, Gladstone was “instrumental in abolishing burdensome taxes and introducing legislation that allowed Scotch to be sold in glass bottles for the first time.” In 1861, Gladstone liberalised the selling of wine with the Single Bottle Act allowing for the first time for wine to be sold by the bottle. This created the system we have today of off-licenses and laid the foundation for Britain to become a wine drinking country.

Gladstone and his Axe, Gladstone Axe

William Gladstone with one of his many axes

A gap in the market

But back to the whisky. The range currently consists of two pure malt whiskies: American Oak, a Highland blend, including Fettercairn, naturally, and the Black Axe, a blend of Highland and Islay. The aim was to simplify Scotch whisky into what Elwyn Gladstones sees as its two most recognizable styles: sweet and honeyed; smoky and peaty. 

According to Gladstone (not the PM, this is getting confusing): “Scotch whisky has gone in two directions, really cheap and very commodified, or it’s getting complicated and rarefied like Cognac, which is hard for consumers to understand and indeed afford.” So he thinks with the Gladstone Axe that he has spotted a gap in the market. There’s no reason why a blend shouldn’t be as interesting as a single malt. “Blended things are often more delicious than individual components,” Gladstone said.

They’re both my kind of whiskies, full of flavour and built for drinking rather than gingerly sniffing out of Glencairn glasses. I found the American Oak particularly nice in an Old Fashioned, especially when sweetened with PX sherry, and it’s also pretty handy in a Whisky and Soda.

Gladstone’s axe?

The name, the Gladstone Axe, comes from the former PM’s penchant for cutting down trees. Apparently only the rotten ones got the Gladstone treatment. He had a collection of axes and used to give special ones to people as gifts. They became his symbol, a metaphor for cutting out the corrupt dead wood in society. Rather like the ‘broom of reform’ in O Brother Where Art Thou?

So this week’s cocktail is aptly named, the Woodsman. It’s of the Highball family with refreshing lemon juice balanced with a simple syrup. You could substitute plain sugar for the syrup from Maraschino cherries which takes it into hedonistic territory.

Take a sip and raise a glass to Gladstone and his axe.

The Woodsman, Gladstone Axe

How to make the Woodsman

40ml Gladstone Axe American Oak 
25ml lemon juice
12ml simple syrup
50ml club soda 

Pour the whisky, lemon juice, and syrup into a Highball glass or tumbler filled with ice cubes. Give it a good stir, top with club soda. Garnish with a Hotel Starlino Maraschino Cherry and a slice of orange.

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New Arrival of the Week: Old Perth Cask Strength

This week we are delighted about the return of one of the grand old names of Scotch whisky, Old Perth, with a beautiful sherry-aged blended malt and a mighty cask…

This week we are delighted about the return of one of the grand old names of Scotch whisky, Old Perth, with a beautiful sherry-aged blended malt and a mighty cask strength version.

If you walk around Perth today, you’ll see evidence of its proud whisky heritage. It’s there in the grandeur of the town’s architecture which seems quite out of scale for a city of 50,000 people and you’ll see ghost signs advertising Old Perth whisky. Well, these are ghost signs no longer as the family firm Morrison Scotch Whisky Distillers has brought whisky back to the town and resurrected this great brand. 

First, a bit of history

Known as the Gateway to the Highlands, the city of Perth was ideally placed for merchants to buy characterful malt whiskies from the north and blend them with the lighter spirits of the Lowlands to create a consistent product to sell in Edinburgh, Glasgow, London and export around the world. 

Scotch whisky as we know it was to a large extent a Perth creation and with the coming of the railways, Perth’s first station was built in 1848, the city boomed. Giants warehouses were built providing employment for thousands whilst the whisky barons spent their leisure time in the city’s fashionable gentlemen’s clubs.

The city was home to some of the biggest names in Scotch whisky including Matthew Gloag, Arthur Bell and John Dewar. There’s a fourth name that’s not so well known but deserves to be put alongside them: Peter Thomson.

Peter Thomson whisky van

Peter Thomson whisky van (photo courtesy of Morrison Distillers)

Enter, Peter Thomson

The youngest of three brothers, Peter Thomson set up his business in 1908 at 202 High Street Perth but the family had been in the whisky trade for much longer.  Peter’s father Alexander Thomson ran a grocery and whisky shop. Going further back, in 1837 John Thomson acquired the Grandtully distillery which remained in family hands until it closed in 1914. And further back still, according to family legend the Thomsons were too busy distilling and drinking whisky to take part in the Highland Rebellions of 1715 and 1745.

He was a canny businessman and the firm weathered the economic storms following the first world war. In the 1920s it launched Beneagles blended whisky containing a sizable proportion of Macallan single malt as well as high-quality grain whisky from the North British distillery in Edinburgh which the Thomson family had shares in. They also launched a premium whisky called Old Perth.

Peter Thomson died in 1939 and his son David Kinnear Thomson took over but the following year he was captured by the Germans at Dunkirk and saw out the war in a POW camp. Fortunately, the firm was in the more than capable hands of his secretary, Miss Cameron, who managed the firm until the war ended. In fact, it’s said she carried on the day to day running of the firm even after the war whilst David networked, socialised and promoted the business around the world. We’d probably use the term ‘Brand Ambassador’ today. 

A pioneering firm

The firm became known for its innovative marketing including ceramic whisky miniatures in the shape of curling stones, the Loch Ness monster, a golden eagle and, most magnificent of all, a Thistle and the Rose chess set portraying Scotland’s great rivalry with England. The pieces are figures from British history including Mary Queen of Scots, Elizabeth I and Robert the Bruce filled with Beneagles whisky. The empty vessels come up quite often on Ebay.

Peter Thomson was innovative in other ways. In the 1960s, the family took the bold decision to sell Macallan on its own. It’s hard to imagine now when Macallan is a globally-renowned luxury goods brand but most malt distilleries had no reputation amongst consumers. Peter Thomson obtained exclusive rights to sell Macallan and by 1985 they were selling 10,000 cases a year. So successful were they that Macallan eventually decided to handle sales themselves. 

Old Perth Cask Strength is its natural habitat

Old Perth Cask Strength in its natural habitat

Decline and revival

By this time, however, the family no longer controlled the firm. It was sold to a Cypriot businessman and later became incorporated into Whyte & Mackay. One by one, the great names of Perth whisky left the town of their birth. 

But some of that life returned in 2005 with the creation of Morrison & Mackay by Kenny MacKay, a former employee of Peter Thomson, Rob Starling, and Brian and Jamie Morrison, formerly of Morrison Bowmore. They opened a single malt distillery, Aberargie, outside the city in 2017. Last year, the company rebranded as Morrison Scotch Whisky Distillers.

They also acquired the Old Perth brand name from Whyte & Mackay and relaunched it as a blended malt whisky inspired by the original. Just landed at Master of Malt, we have two new expressions: a 46% ABV sherry cask, and a 58.6% ABV cask strength version. Both are truly superior blends that pay tribute to Perth’s rich whisky heritage. If you like a luxurious sherry cask malt packed with dried fruit and spices, you’ll love Old Perth. Here’s the tasting note for the cask strength version:

Tasting note from the Chaps at Master of Malt

Nose: Toffee penny, cherry jam, and bundles of dried fruit.

Palate: Earthy root ginger spice, cinnamon stick, and toasted barley.

Finish: Brandy-soaked raisins and burnt brown sugar on the finish.

Old Perth Original and Cask Strength are available from Master of Malt.

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Whisky Advent 2018 Day #7: Smokey Monkey

It’s the first Friday of Advent! Got that weekend feeling? You will once you discover the dram squirrelled away behind Door No.7 of Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar……

It’s the first Friday of Advent! Got that weekend feeling? You will once you discover the dram squirrelled away behind Door No.7 of Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar…

Much excite in these parts today. Not only is it Friday, but there’s a right treat awaiting discovery in the Whisky Advent Calendar today.

But first! Some background. Scotch whisky cocktails are DELICIOUS. But historically (and this is an attitude that can linger in some circles today), single malts have been seen as ‘too good’ for mixing. What’s that all about?! A great drink needs flavour, character and balance, and single malt Scotches tend to have that dream trio in the bucket-load.

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Win a VIP trip to Speyside with Copper Dog!

WIN a magnificent trip to Speyside, including two nights at the famous home of Copper Dog – The Craigellachie Hotel! The winner will also receive a tour of a Speyside…

  • WIN a magnificent trip to Speyside, including two nights at the famous home of Copper Dog – The Craigellachie Hotel!
  • The winner will also receive a tour of a Speyside distillery, a bottle of Copper Dog signed by master blender Stuart Morrison and an engraved copper dog dipper!
  • Everyone’s a winner – enjoy £4 off Copper Dog until 2nd October!
  • If you’re a particularly lucky dog, you could be in for a very special jaunt up to Speyside for a two nights stay in The Craigellachie Hotel! We’ve teamed up with the folks from Copper Dog to send the winner and their plus one on a VIP trip to this spectacular hotel, including dinner and drinks at the Copper Dog pub both nights and a tour of a local Speyside distillery. The winner will also receive a bottle of Copper Dog signed by Diageo master blender Stuart Morrison, along with their own engraved copper dog dipper! (For the nitty gritty details, see the competition terms below.)

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    The Result of Battle of the Blends Challenge No. 3!

    Discover who came out on top in Whisky Magazine’s third Battle of the Blends: will it be George Keeble or new challenger Lyndsey Gray…? Back in March we announced the…

    Discover who came out on top in Whisky Magazine’s third Battle of the Blends: will it be George Keeble or new challenger Lyndsey Gray…?

    Back in March we announced the return of Battle of the Blends and that we needed your help to decide how it would be settled.

    The fates of reigning champion George Keeble, of Soho Whisky Club fame, and new challenger Lyndsey Gray, manager at The Quaich Bar at the Craigellachie Hotel, were in your hands. The task was simple: enjoy two delightful drams of blended whisky, one crafted by each competitor, and determine which effort was superior.

    Fast forward to now and you’ve made your collective choice. The votes are in, the tie is decided. It’s time to find out who has claimed all glory…

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    The Result of Battle of the Blends Challenge No. 2!

    Discover who has come out on top in Whisky Mag’s second Battle of the Blends in association with Master of Malt: is it Neil ‘General Mashtun’ Ridley or George ‘Aegir’…

    Discover who has come out on top in Whisky Mag’s second Battle of the Blends in association with Master of Malt: is it Neil ‘General Mashtun’ Ridley or George ‘Aegir’ Keeble…?
     

    Back in January we told you all about Battle of the Blends Challenge No. 2, another battle for the ages that you could help settle in the most delicious way possible!

    The fates of reigning champion Neil ‘General Mashtun’ Ridley and Soho Whisky Club’s George ‘Aegir’ Keeble were in your hands and now it’s time to find out who has claimed all glory…

    6 Comments on The Result of Battle of the Blends Challenge No. 2!

    Become a Judge in the Battle of the Blends Challenge No. 2!

    It’s time once again for a victor to be crowned in Whisky Magazine’s epic Battle of the Blends and you can be one of the judges! Simply pop a 1p(!)…

    It’s time once again for a victor to be crowned in Whisky Magazine’s epic Battle of the Blends and you can be one of the judges! Simply pop a 1p(!) Judging Set into your Master of Malt order now.
     
    Those of you who read Whisky Magazine will already be up to speed with their exciting second Battle of the Blends, and many of you will of course remember last year’s heavyweight bout. For those of you who haven’t followed its progress, we’re currently in the midst of another heroic blending tussle, this time between the reigning champion Neil ‘General Mashtun’ Ridley and George ‘Aegir’ Keeble to produce the perfect blended whisky and claim all glory!
     
    Their whiskies have now been lovingly constructed and once again we’ve been working alongside Whisky Mag to find a winner in this fantastic contest. This means that there’s a chance for you to join the illustrious judging panel!

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    That Boutique-y Whisky Company Adds Age Statements

    That Boutique-y Whisky Company has announced that they’re introducing age statements to all future releases with immediate effect and, right on cue, they have a raft of new and exciting…

    That Boutique-y Whisky Company

    That Boutique-y Whisky Company has announced that they’re introducing age statements to all future releases with immediate effect and, right on cue, they have a raft of new and exciting releases on the way!

    All the new releases are listed below and are also available to buy or pre-order from Master of Malt now.

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    World Whiskies Awards and World Drinks Awards Winners

    Yesterday saw the World’s Best whiskies and spirits crowned at the World Drinks Awards, including the World Whiskies Awards. Before we get into the results though, some good news! Drinks…

    World Drinks Awards World Whiskies Awards 2016

    Yesterday saw the World’s Best whiskies and spirits crowned at the World Drinks Awards, including the World Whiskies Awards.

    Before we get into the results though, some good news! Drinks by the Dram have once again teamed up with the World Drinks Awards to create an easy way to taste a whole bunch of these award winners! Head over to our World Drinks Awards 2016 page to browse their selection of 8 different World Whiskies Awards and World Drinks Awards Winners Tasting Sets.

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