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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Blended Scotch

The Nightcap: 14 February

It’s 14 February, so you know what that means – it’s time for The Nightcap! Yep, that’s it. Nothing else. People all across the country got out of their beds…

It’s 14 February, so you know what that means – it’s time for The Nightcap! Yep, that’s it. Nothing else.

People all across the country got out of their beds this morning, took a look at their calendars on the wall and said “Oh look, it’s 14 February! That means there’s another edition of The Nightcap today!” As you can clearly tell, this is meant to be a joke. It’s obviously a joke because no one has a physical calendar on the wall anymore. We have phones to remember the date and what’s going on for us. For example, I’m looking at the calendar on my phone for the first time today right now and it’s telling me that it’s a Nightcap day, as well as being Valent… Oh, I have to go to the shop. For no reason. I’ll go after The Nightcap.

Over on the MoM blog this week Ian Buxton championed English fruit brandies with Capreolus Distillery while Annie was particularly inspired this week by a perfume-inspired liqueur and a Bordeaux-inspired cocktail. Adam then tasted a 51-year-old Dalmore single malt (no, really), talked Tequila with VIVIR and made a case for you to explore the world of London dry gin before Henry shone a spotlight on a Cuban rum and Nordic-Aussie gin.

Now, on to the Nightcap!

 

The Nightcap

The two single cask whiskies were distilled the very same year the distillery closed!

Rosebank Distillery returns with two rare single cask expressions

Prepare yourselves, whisky lovers. In huge news, this week the much-loved Rosebank Distillery announced the release of two limited edition, vintage single cask whiskies, distilled the very same year the distillery closed, 1993. Though both cask strength bottlings spent their days in a refill bourbon hogshead, that’s where the similarities end. For Cask Number 433, at 53.3% ABV with a release of 280 bottles, you can expect cranachan and lemon, with gentle floral notes, marzipan, ripe fruit and oak. Contrastingly, Cask Number 625 boasts warm banana loaf, shortbread, chamomile tea, dried herb and citrus, tropical fruit, lime and gentle spice finish, at 50.4% ABV and an outturn of 259 bottles. The most exciting part is, you have a chance to get your hands on the liquid! With only 100 bottles of each expression available, the folks over at Rosebank want to keep things fair, so you can apply for a bottle direct from the website via a ballot process. The ballot launched today (14 February) for Rosebank subscribers, while general release will have to wait until 18 February, and will remain open for two weeks. Whichever expression you go for, a bottle will set you back £2,500. Robbie Hughes, Rosebank distillery manager said: “We are incredibly excited and proud to be releasing our first official bottlings of Rosebank since the distillery’s closure in 1993 – a pivotal milestone for us in bringing back to life this quintessential Lowland malt.” If you manage to get your hands on a bottle (as if that wasn’t lucky enough), you’ll be invited to collect it at a private event in London on 18th March, with the chance to meet Robbie Hughes himself, and even sample the single casks. What a way to get back in the game from the iconic distillery ahead of its long-awaited reopening!

The Nightcap

All hail the Grouse!

Famous Grouse now no. 1 whisky in Britain

Britain has a new champion whisky. The invincible-looking Jack Daniel’s has been unseated from its no. 1 spot and knocked back to no. 2 (though it would be fitting if it was the seventh best-selling brand, think about it). The new winner is a home-grown little blend you may have heard of called. . . the Famous Grouse! The Edrington Group’s flagship blend had a great Christmas in the off-trade with sales over £71m, up 2.6% on the previous year. Whereas its rival from Tennessee dropped by a shocking 9.3%, perhaps a reflection of the so-called Trump tariffs from the US/ EU trade war. Overall the mighty Grouse is bucking the trend for the blended Scotch category which was down 4.1% by value after Christmas (figures are from Nielsen ScanTrack based on off-trade sales for 12 weeks up to 4 January 2020). Mark Riley, managing director at Edrington-Beam Suntory UK commented: “The Famous Grouse for years has been the UK’s favourite whisky and driving force behind the blended Scotch category, so we are delighted to have reclaimed our number one spot in the UK’s largest spirits category. It’s fantastic to see a Scotch back in the top spot.” The Grouse is back!

The Nightcap

The ongoing EU/US trade war isn’t doing wonders for the American whiskey business

Tariffs cause US spirits exports to drop 27% to EU 

That’s right, we bring you more bad tariff news, folks. According to figures just released by Distilled Spirits Council of the US (Discus), the ongoing EU/US trade war is hitting the American whiskey business hard. In 2019, global exports of American whiskey fell by 16%, to $996 million. What’s more, American whiskey exports to the EU plummeted a whopping 27%, falling to $514m. This crash also comes after years of strong growth in the market. Discus president and CEO Chris Swonger noted that, “while it was another strong year for US spirits sales, the tariffs imposed by the European Union are causing a significant slump in American whiskey exports.” It’s easy to see this when we look at export declines for American whiskey in specific EU countries, with the UK falling 32.7%, France 19.9%, Germany 18.2% and Spain 43.8%. Swonger continued, “if this trade dispute is not resolved soon, we will more than likely be reporting a similar drag on the US spirits sector, jeopardising American jobs and our record of solid growth in the US market.” Politicians, sort it out!

The Nightcap

Better than tap? The jury’s out. At least they were. Then they said it was better.

Larkfire Wild Water triumphs in whisky taste test

This week Master of Malt was invited to the launch of a new water which is meant to be enjoyed with whisky called Larkfire at Boisdale of Belgravia in London. It’s the softest water imaginable as it is collected from Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. The local rock, Lewisian gneiss, is incredibly hard and insoluble meaning that the water doesn’t pick up any minerals. It’s about as pure as water can be. The company was so confident in its purity that it put on a little test. A panel of drinks people, experts, journalists and someone from Master of Malt tried a selection of whiskies supplied by LVMH: Ardbeg 10 Year Old, Ardbeg Corryvreckan, Glenmorangie 10 Year Old and Glenmorangie Lasanta with two types of water. One row was Larkfire and the other was Belgravia’s finest tap water. But which was which? There was much sipping, gurgling, swallowing and pontificating, it was totally scientific. Then it was time to hand in our papers. After a slap-up Scottish lunch of haggis and venison, the results were revealed: 14 votes for Larkfire wild water; 7 votes for Belgravia tap. So Larkfire the clear winner. Sadly, Master of Malt’s reputation was in tatters as our representative preferred the tap water.

The Nightcap

Congratulations guys!

Family-run pub named the best in the country for the second time

The Bell Inn in Aldworth, Berkshire, which has been run by the same family for 250 years, has been crowned the Campaign for Real Ale’s (CAMRA) Pub of the Year. The Bell Inn previously won the award in 1990 when it was run by current landlord Hugh Macaulay’s parents. “Since my grandfather retired nothing has changed about the pub at all, I think that might be one of the things that impressed,” says Macaulay, who added that it was “a wonderful thing to be recognised for driving quality year after year” at the Grade-II listed hostelry. Macaulay also attributed the success to the fact The Bell Inn is a free house, meaning it is not owned by a particular brewery and it is free to sell a variety of beers. “The judges were impressed with how a stranger entering the pub was treated like a regular straight away,” said Pub of the Year competition organiser Ben Wilkinson. “It’s clear that the local customers use the pub as a community centre as well as a place to drink, and the warm welcome and knowledgeable staff made us feel right at home. Nothing can beat the combination of good beer, great food and a warm, heritage pub”. Each year volunteers from more than 200 CAMRA branches select their Pub of the Year, before a winner is chosen in each region and they are whittled down to three runners-up and one winner. Runner-ups to the award, which has been running since 1988, include the Swan With Two Necks in Pendleton, Lancashire, the George and Dragon in Hudswell, North Yorkshire, and the Red Lion in Preston, Hertfordshire. Congratulations to everyone at The Bell Inn!

The Nightcap

Cognac and hip-hop – a combination that never fails

Courvoisier and Pusha-T partner to open US pop-up

The Maison Courvoisier activation, an immersive experience that “pays homage to the brand’s château in France”, is set to open in Chicago this weekend. Those who visit the event will be able to sample the latest offerings from Courvoisier, while experiencing live performances, interactive art galleries, fashion exhibits and a capsule collection from fashion designer, Rhuigi Villaseñor, and contemporary artist, Al-Baseer Holly. Oh, and also the first instalment of Maison Courvoisier was curated by multi-platinum rapper Pusha-T. “Beyond music, I am passionate about fashion and art, so I’m proud to collaborate with Courvoisier to highlight two of my favourite creators,” he said. “I’ve been a fan of Rhuigi and Al-Baseer for years, and I’m excited to be able to highlight their success through Maison Courvoisier.” This is the first in the series of activations taking place throughout 2020 at US cities including Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Miami, Atlanta, Washington, Houston and Philadelphia. The next experience is planned for New York Fashion Week in September. “We’re excited to open the doors to Maison Courvoisier, as it brings our château in France and portfolio of award-winning liquid to our fans in a modern and interactive way,” said Stephanie Kang, senior marketing director for Courvoisier. “The event also embodies our core value that success is best shared and allows us to give these creative innovators the opportunity to honour their favourite artisans and their work.”

The Nightcap

Happy birthday, Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Happy 21st birthday, Kentucky Bourbon Trail!

In the words of Charli XCX, we do occasionally want to go back to 1999. It was a good year! Toy Story II, Britney Spears, the millennium bug fear… what a time to be alive. It was also the year the Kentucky Distillers’ Association kicked off the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, and for that we are truly grateful. And we shall celebrate its 21st birthday in fine form! The timetable of festivities was announced this week, getting underway with an 18-stop pop-up party tour in May and culminating in September with a closing do at the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Welcome Center at Whiskey Row’s Frazier History Museum in Louisville. A whole bunch of distilleries are participating, including Bulleit, Evan Williams, Heaven Hill, Jim Beam, Woodford Reserve, and more. “We invite everyone to come out and celebrate with us.” said Adam Johnson, senior director of the KDA’s Kentucky Bourbon Trail experiences. “This is a momentous occasion and we wouldn’t be here without the millions of devoted fans who have made the pilgrimage to the various KBT destinations and the birthplace of bourbon.” And in 2019, the number of visits stood at almost two million – that’s a significant number of whiskey pilgrims. Happy birthday, Kentucky Bourbon Trail – we’ll be raising many glasses to you this year!

 

Tullamore D.E.W. debuts new short film in Beauty of Blend campaign 

Tullamore D.E.W.’s ‘Beauty of Blend’ campaign, which began in 2017, continues with a new short film! Ever wondered what motivates people to craft the perfect blend? Well, the world’s second largest Irish whiskey is giving us an insight into the answer, and in short, it’s to bring people together (we assume delicious liquid is also a byproduct of this). Beauty of Blend was shot by the acclaimed director Valentin Petit, enlisting the help of up and coming MCs and poets such as Genesis Elijah, a UK-based spoken word artist, asking them to express their own interpretation of the power of blend. The film shows a single bottle of Tullamore D.E.W. being passed between people throughout different places and cultures, to demonstrate the “connective thread that exists in us”. Very heartwarming indeed. “Tullamore D.E.W. is on a mission to encourage the world to blend. What is true of our whiskey, we are a blend of three types of different Irish whiskeys, we also believe is true of humanity,” global brand director, Chin Ru Foo said. “When we blend with other people and ideas, then we become richer as individuals and in turn, the world becomes a wiser, richer and more open place”. If you happen to be passing through Times Square, you’ll find it there on a giant billboard (is there any other kind in New York?), though seeing as it’s the 21st century, the internet is your first port of call if you’re elsewhere.

The Nightcap

Jameson sales have hit a new high

Jameson whiskey hits 8 million cases sold in 2019

The Jameson juggernaut shows no sign of slowing down. Figures just released by Irish Distillers shows that it sold 4.6 million cases of Jameson in the last six months of 2019 taking total sales for the year up to 8 million. Over the Christmas period, the company sold an astonishing 940,000 cases in one month. Sales are up 9% on the previous year. Growth in the last 25 years has been rapid: 1996 was the first year the company sold more than a million cases a year, by 2010 it was triple that. The US market dominates, as you might expect, taking 2 million cases of Jameson in 2019 but there’s growth across the board: UK up 10%, Germany up 34%, and Canda up 13%. The emerging markets are rocking too with China up 76%, India up 37% and Nigeria up a massive 185% (probably from quite a low base, it has to be said.) It’s not only Jameson though, Irish Distillers reports that Redbreast sales grew by 24% and visitor numbers are booming at Bow Street in Dublin and Midleton in Cork. It will be interesting to see what 2020 will bring.

The Nightcap

It’s a 75-minute journey through a century of cocktails. Fingers crossed the flux capacitor can handle it.

And finally. . . Are you telling me you built a time machine. . . out of a bar?

Think of the great time machines from popular culture like the DeLorean in the Back to the Future films, the time machine in HG Wells’ The Time Machine or, greatest of all, the phone box from Bill and Ted’s adventures. All great time machines, no doubt, all useful for messing with the space-time continuum but one thing was missing from all of them: booze. Everything is better with a drink in your hand, right*? Well, at the Timeless Bar in East London, this has been remedied. The team will be firing up their very own Cocktail Time Machine on the day that comes but once every four years, 29 February (that’s a Saturday.) The experience has been created by Funicular, creators of amazing immersive experiences, and consists of a 75-minute journey through a century of cocktails (see video here for a flavour of what to expect) from the Hanky Panky in the 1920s to the Appletini in the ‘00s. Food will be provided by Masterchef finalist Louisa Ellis. To travel on the Cocktail Time Machine, you need to book. All sounds enormous fun as long as you don’t get stuck in the 70s with nothing to drink but Tequila Sunrises. 

*Disclaimer: many things such as driving a car, operating heavy machinery, flying an aeroplane or delivering babies should be done sober.

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Cocktail of the Week: The Bobby Burns

It’s Burns Night on Saturday, so we’re making a cocktail named after the bard himself using a blended Scotch that you might not have tried before.  First of all, we…

It’s Burns Night on Saturday, so we’re making a cocktail named after the bard himself using a blended Scotch that you might not have tried before. 

First of all, we have to say that Robert Burns never got to try the cocktail named after him. He died in 1796, before the word ‘cocktail’ was even coined. According to Simon Difford, the first mention of the Bobby Burns cocktail is in Harry Craddock’s 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book. It’s a variation on the Rob Roy, a cocktail named after Scotland’s second most famous writer, Irvine Welsh. No, sorry Walter Scottt. The Rob Roy, a Manhattan made with Scotch in place of bourbon or rye, was named after a musical version of Scott’s novel that ran in late 19th century New York.

Craddock’s Bobby Burns calls for half Scotch whisky and half Italian vermouth with three dashes of Benedictine. Very nice it is too, but also very sweet and rather overpowers the whisky. It’s much better made with two parts whisky to one part vermouth. Other recipes call for different additions: some people use absinthe or absinthe-substitute ie. pastis; David A. Embury in The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks recommends using Drambuie which has the benefit of making an already very Scottish drink even more Scottish. 

‘You want to get that seen to’

The big question is, what kind of whisky to use? Scotch can be difficult in cocktails, especially the smoky varieties, but I think I may have found the perfect blend for mixing. It’s called Hankey Bannister. An odd name, it sounds like the sort of thing an Aberdonian builder might say when looking round your old house. You can imagine him sucking his teeth and saying, “it’s going to be expensive, you’ve got a hankey bannister.” But like Cutty Sark and J&B, it was actually created by a London firm of wine and spirits merchants, which was founded in 1757 by Beaumont Hankey and Hugh Bannister.

Despite having a low profile, at least in this country, it has in its long life picked up some illustrious fans including such famous booze enthusiasts as Evelyn Waugh and Winston Churchill. The brand is now in the safe hands of Inver House which owns Pulteney, Balblair, Speyburn and Knockdhu distilleries. There’s certainly some quality spirits in Hankey Bannister – it’s fruity, with flavours of toffee and vanilla with a voluptuous mouthfeel. It tastes like there’s some well-matured grains in with the malt. In short, it’s just the sort of blend that isn’t either going to dominate or get swamped in a cocktail. Best of all, it’s not expensive either. 

Bobby Burns

It’s the Bobby Burns!

Now we’ve found our perfect whisky, back to the Bobby Burns. After some experimentation, I found that just a dash of pastis made it spicy without overpowering it with aniseed, while if you’re using Drambuie add a little more, a teaspoon full, to give it a herbal sweetness. Both are delicious. The final question is what to garnish it with: a strip of lemon or orange peel would be nice but a maraschino cherry is even better.

So, there we have the Bobby Burns, not a lot to do with the great bard, but a delicious cocktail nonetheless. Here are the ingredients:

50ml Hankey Bannister whisky
25ml Martini Riserva Speciale Rubino vermouth
A dash of Ricard pastis, or more to taste (or a teaspoon of Drambuie)

Add all the ingredients to an ice-filled shaker, stir well and strain into a coupe or Nick & Nora. Garnish with a maraschino cherry. 

 

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Missing in action? The forgotten blends

When was the last time you read about Label 5 Scotch whisky? Or William Peel? Or Teacher’s? Ian Buxton looks at the blends that still bring in the money, if…

When was the last time you read about Label 5 Scotch whisky? Or William Peel? Or Teacher’s? Ian Buxton looks at the blends that still bring in the money, if not the column inches. 

Imagine if you will that you live in a fine country house. It’s well-appointed with many delightful rooms, a range of useful outbuildings and extensive grounds. All in all, it’s perfectly agreeable. What’s more, thanks to your aunt’s endowment and some shrewd investments, there’s a steady flow of income to keep the whole place running. The problem is that the old girl’s more than slightly batty so you have to keep her out of the public’s curious view. It’s the classic problem of the mad aunt in the attic and I’ve been thinking about her quite a lot recently. That’s because I’ve been drinking some blended Scotch whiskies and, for an article I’m writing, trying to get the distillers to talk about them. To summarise: they don’t have a lot to say.

Now my email in-box overflows on a daily basis with news of different single malts.  A constant stream of eager PR agencies and their clients vie for your attention with ever more exotic, expensive and esoteric releases of rare single malts. Often they’re limited to a few hundred bottles and, all too frequently, with a price tag running into four figures.

Dewar's White Label

They don’t make adverts like this any more.

They do, of course, provide easy copy for whisky magazines and bloggers and the proud brand manager is more than happy to see the column inches that result. They don’t, however, really mean terribly much in the grand scheme of things – while they’re the glamorous Spitfire pilots of whisky, the blends (the crews from Bomber Command if you want to keep this rather tenuous analogy going) do the grunt work.  They still account for more than 90% of all the Scotch sold around the world and without them, as I never tire of reminding folk, quite a number of single malt distilleries would have shut years ago.

The volumes of some of these brands are quite remarkable.  You know about Johnnie Walker, of course, and probably realise that blends such as Ballantine’s, Grant’s and Chivas Regal still sell impressive quantities (for the record, they each move considerably more than 4 million cases annually – that’s a lot of hooch).  But what about Passport, Buchanan’s, White Horse or Sir Edward’s? Well, any one of those sells more than 1½ million cases, leaving even the best-selling single malt gasping in their wake. 

In fact, brands that have been more or less forgotten on the UK retail scene such as VAT 69 and even Teacher’s still comfortably break the 1 million club barrier. And the ‘value’ brands that grace French supermarket shelves can clock up some remarkable numbers. Label 5 for example, which you’d be forgiven for not calling to mind, is a powerhouse performer selling close to 3 million cases.  Even more remarkably, the William Peel brand does even better.

So what’s the problem?  Why don’t we hear more about these whiskies? Well, some of it is pure snobbery – especially in the UK and US markets, blends are rather looked down on (not least, it has to be said by whisky writers and bloggers). The rot started with one of my personal whisky heroes, the author Aeneas MacDonald, who back in 1930 with his marvellous polemic Whisky (still in print, incidentally, and still well worth reading) chastised blended whisky drinkers as “the swillers, the drinkers-to-get-drunk who have not organs of taste and smell in them but only gauges of alcoholic content, the boozers, the ‘let’s-have-a-spot’ and ‘make it a quick one’ gentry and all the rest who dwell in a darkness”. Other writers have followed his lead.

Dr Jim Beveridge

Softly-spoken and unassuming, Dr Jim Beveridge from Johnnie Walker

Then there’s the undeniable fact that selling lots and lots of the same whisky day after day makes for rather less compelling copy than a stream of new releases.  There’s only so often that story can be written.

But there are stories to tell about blends and blending, even if blenders by inclination seem to be quite a modest breed, preferring the quiet sanctuary of their blending room to the stage at a large public whisky event. To their credit, Diageo did try some years ago to bring blending to the fore, holding a series of educational seminars for trade and media and releasing late in 2012 an elegant and erudite little pamphlet on The Art of Blending.

What’s more, their signature Johnnie Walker blend has proved adept at stealing malt whisky’s PR clothing. For proof, look no further than the recently released John Walker Last Cask.  There are just 330 bottles available worldwide (that’s if the Chinese leave us any, as it’s released there first) at approximately £2,500 each. 

So come on whisky marketers!  Let’s hear it for the engines of whisky’s success!  Let’s hear it for the mad aunt in the attic!

Though he has neither a beard nor any visible tattoos or piercings, Ian Buxton is well-placed to write about drinks.  A former Marketing Director of one of Scotland’s favourite single malts, his is a bitter-sweet love affair with Scotland’s national drink – not to mention gin and rum, or whatever the nearest PR is pouring. Once, apparently without noticing, he bought a derelict distillery. Follow his passionate, authentic hand-crafted artisanal journey on the Master of Malt blog.  Or just buy his books.  It’s what he really wants.

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New Arrival of the Week: Compass Box No Name No 2

Today we have a smoky blended malt so special that it doesn’t even have a name! It could only be a release from those crazy cats at Compass Box. Until…

Today we have a smoky blended malt so special that it doesn’t even have a name! It could only be a release from those crazy cats at Compass Box.

Until recently, the components of most blended whiskies were a closely-guarded secret. It was all about the brand, one didn’t want to confuse the customer with too much information. But this is changing: just look at Johnnie Walker’s new Black Label Origins, a series of blends based around regions and distilleries. Part of the credit for this opening up has to go to Compass Box.

This small scale blender was founded in 2000 by John Glaser, an American who had previously worked with Johnnie Walker. Since then his company has won Whisky Magazine’s Innovator of the Year prize six times by pushing the boundaries of what is possible or even legal with Scotch whisky. You know you’re doing something right when you get into trouble with both the EU and the SWA.

John Glaser Compass Box

‘You can find the perfect blend’, John Glaser

The company buys a mixture of aged stock, and new make spirit which is then aged. To spice things up, Glaser and his team also acquire casks of ready-aged blends which are genuine mysteries, not even the people selling them know what they were made up of. Whereas some blends might contain more than 40 component parts, Compass Box bottlings tend to be much simpler. 

The company tries to be as transparent as possible but in the past they have run up against EU regulations that forbid whisky producers from advertising the age of the component parts. You’re only allowed to state the age of the youngest part. And with the Spice Tree blend they incurred the displeasure of the SWA because it used new French oak staves placed within the cask. Compass Box managed to get around the regulations by fitting new oak ends to an old cask. 

But this was nothing compared with Affinity released earlier this year which indulged in some cross-category canoodling by blending whisky with Calvados. And it worked beautifully. Compass Box products look striking too, with packaging by Stranger & Stranger, and names inspired by art and literature, or sometimes no name at all! Which brings us on to our New Product of the Week. 

The first No Name was a limited edition released in 2017 and so-called because no name could do justice to the smoky character of the whisky. Or perhaps Compass Box just ran out of ideas. Now the follow-up is here, No Name No 2! It’s a blend of  Caol Ila aged in sherry casks, Talisker aged in charred hogsheads, some Clynelish and then a mysterious element, a blend of Highland malts finished in new French oak. It’s bottled at 48.9% ABV. So what does all this add up to? Pretty much everything we have ever tried from Compass Box has been delicious and this is no exception. It’s a combination of the smoky and salty with the custard, clove spices, and both dried fruit and fresh fruit like apples and cherries, and it’s absolutely gorgeous. See full tasting note below. Now all it needs is a name.

No Name No 2, nice label

Tasting notes from The Chaps at Master of Malt:

Nose: Lots of smoky peat with some salty saline notes, vanilla and custard with cloves, sweet floral notes and orange peel.

Palate: Really creamy, crème brûlée, with bonfire smoke, black pepper and salt, all the time with fresh apples and dried apricots.

Finish: Lingering wood smoke with red cherries and a touch of tannin. 

 

 

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BBR unveils photography-inspired Perspective Series

Berry Bros. & Rudd (BBR) has released The Perspective Series, a collection of blended Scotch whiskies, in collaboration with award-winning Scottish photographer Lindsay Robertson. We were invited to the brand’s…

Berry Bros. & Rudd (BBR) has released The Perspective Series, a collection of blended Scotch whiskies, in collaboration with award-winning Scottish photographer Lindsay Robertson. We were invited to the brand’s famous home at 3 St. James’ Street, London to check it out.

If you know us at all, you’ll be aware that a collectable range of limited edition blended Scotch whiskies with serious age was always going to be of interest to us. But, London wine and spirits merchant Berry Bros. & Rudd (BBR) didn’t just have sublime Scotch to present last night, but some remarkable photography, too.

The Perspective Series, Berry Bros. & Rudd master blender Doug McIvor explained, “is all about the use of our senses”. That’s where Robertson comes into the picture. He was approached by BBR with a task: to adorn each bottle in the range with images of majestic Scottish landscapes. Having seen these images in person, it’s fair to say he met his brief.

Robertson himself began life as an advertising photographer, where he often found himself snapping promotional shots for Bell’s. Now, all these years later, he’s gone full circle, creating images that portray a visual metaphor of each whisky’s flavour. Combine this with McIvor’s experience in expertly blending Scotch, and you’ve got yourself a range that’s all about artistry, inside and out.

Perspective Series

The lone cottage on Rannoch Moor, the striking image that was chosen to pair with the 35-year-old expression.

“Photography is to see,” Robertson explained. “The art of being aware of our natural surroundings which are the raw ingredients to compose the image – that image is then captured within a moment in time. Whisky is similar in that it is the taste which is the art… using the same raw natural ingredients, composing and distilling these ingredients in time, then patiently awaiting the day of maturity with anticipation.”

McIvor added: “Absorbing the spectacular images on the label whilst taking a sip of the amber dew provides a powerful combination that can amplify and instil joyful memories of a time and a place. Visual beauty is emotive, and I look for balance and complexity, maturity and texture in the whisky. It is the task of the blender to bring all these elements together to create extraordinary landscapes of aroma and flavour.”

The Perspective Series will be available from Master of Malt soon. In the meantime, let’s check out the range:

Perspective Series

The 21-Year-Old Blended Scotch Whisky

21-Year-Old Blended Scotch Whisky

First in the selection is a 21-Year-Old Blended Scotch Whisky, bottled at 43% ABV and set to retail for £89.00. We were seriously impressed by this one, which could prove quite the bargain for a spirit of its age.

Producer Tasting Note: Fresh, vibrant fruit is undercut by delicate oak and spice, gracefully interwoven with vanilla and honey. A lingering finish caps the experience.

Label image: Sandwood Bay, a natural bay on the north-west coast of mainland Scotland best known for its remote mile-long beach.

Robertson says: “The last shot of the day. I can still hear the cliffs resounding with the timeless echo of the waves. The combination of the creamy, subtle tones of the ocean crashing onto the fine, granular structure of the sand capture the soulful and beautiful peace exuded by the area.”

Perspective Series

The 25-Year-Old Blended Scotch Whisky

25-Year-Old Blended Scotch Whisky

Next up is 25-Year-Old Blended Scotch Whisky, bottled at 43% ABV and priced at £145.00. An intriguing blend, the 25-year-old features a stunning snap of The Cuillins as its label art.

Producer Tasting Note: The nose exudes soft, ripe autumnal fruit and fresh citrus with waves of honey and prickles of spice. The palate is full, viscous, fresh and lively, leading to a long, satisfying finish.

Label image: The Cuillins, a range of rocky mountains located near Talisker’s home on the Isle of Skye.

Robertson says: “The light danced around the mountains, creating interesting shapes and textures over the rugged terrain, and eventually all the elements came together for that one moment. Pure in its simplicity, it captures the vastness, ruggedness and subtlety of nature.”

Perspective Series

The 35-Year-Old Blended Scotch Whisky

35-Year-Old Blended Scotch Whisky

We felt the standout of the range (narrowly edging out the 21-year-old), was this 35-Year-Old Blended Scotch Whisky, bottled at 43% ABV and priced at £250.00. It’s absolutely sublime, and also features our favourite image of the image of the night as its label art.

Producer Tasting Note: Rich, mature notes of fruit and malt are augmented by a lively crispness from the grain. Candied fruit emerges, carried on waves of honey and balanced by judicious hints of oak. The finish is long and relaxed.

Label image: Rannoch Moor, an expanse of around 50 square miles of boggy moorland notable for its wildlife.

Robertson says: “Below the distant Grampian mountains, silence and solitude reigns, with the deer, heather and bog myrtle all contributing to this desolate no-man’s land fashioned by nature. One thousand feet above sea-level, the light and shadow play against the lone cottage on Rannoch Moor.”

Perspective Series

The 40-Year-Old Blended Scotch Whisky

40-Year-Old Blended Scotch Whisky

The final expression in the range is the impressive 40-Year-Old Blended Scotch Whisky, bottled at 40.1% ABV and set to retail for £450.00. This is the only bottling with a peat-forward profile, so if that’s your kind of thing don’t miss out on this beauty.

Producer Tasting Note: Plentiful soft, ripe tropical fruit combines with hints of vanilla, coffee beans and subtle yet uplifting spice. A rich, textured, lively palate builds in luxuriance towards a deliciously long, lingering and rewarding finish.

Label image: Buichaille Etive Mòr, a mountain at the head of Glen Etive in the Highlands of Scotland.

Robertson says: “The sentinel of Glen Coe displays its majestic dominance over the landscape in a striking yet sympathetic way. The early morning light, coupled with the winter morning air, rendered an absolute clarity and sharpness not normally seen.”

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How J&B Scotch charmed Hollywood’s Rat Pack

Created by London wine merchants Justerini & Brooks, J&B Rare Scotch whisky was the drink of choice for world-famous casino crooners The Rat Pack, travelling more than 5,000 miles to…

Created by London wine merchants Justerini & Brooks, J&B Rare Scotch whisky was the drink of choice for world-famous casino crooners The Rat Pack, travelling more than 5,000 miles to make it into their tumblers. Here, writer Damian Barr explains just how Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and company got their mitts on the liquid…

Before tux-clad entertainers Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Junior, Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop took the Las Vegas casino scene by storm in the 1950s and ‘60s, the city was little more than “a patch in the Nevada Desert,” Barr explains, speaking at London bar Oriole during J&B’s Rat Pack Redistilled event.

“The Rat Pack turned it into what it is now – for better and for worse,” he continues. “They liked to gatecrash one another’s shows, and often if you were going to a show for one of the members it would say over the marquee, ‘Dean Martin, maybe Frank, maybe Sammy’, because they just never knew who was going to turn up.”

J&B and America, a special relationship

So, how did the high rollers of Hollywood wind up quaffing what was, in fact, a wine merchant’s whisky? It all started with the ‘J’ in J&B – an Italian master distiller, blender, and creator of what were then referred to as ‘foreign cordials’, Giacomo Justerini, when he arrived in London from Italy back in 1749.

“He didn’t have much money, but he had lots of charm and a recipe which he copied on the back of a notebook and brought from his uncle in Bologna,” says Barr. “He needed a business partner so he set about finding one, and found Dr Samuel Johnson.”

Justerini set up as a wine merchant with Johnson’s nephew, George, at 76 Haymarket – the business remains nearby today – until eventually George sold his share of the business to Albert Brooks, paving the way for the J&B recognisable today.

“By the early nineteenth century, a huge interest increased in the number of private members clubs and they all opened up around St James’s,” says Barr. “Great whisky barons like [creator of Old Vatted Glenlivet] Andrew Usher and Tommy Dewar noted the increased demand and decided to improve their recipes. Every other whisky maker on the block – including Justerini and Brooks – decided to up their game.”

Brooks approached Usher – the first person to commercially blend whisky – and tasked him with creating a smoother blend. Usher, together with his business partner James Anderson, developed J&B Club, the precursor to J&B Rare. The duo was so enamoured with it, they decided to buy the business from Justerini and Brooks.

The Duke of Windsor J&B

The Duke of Windsor enjoying a glass of J&B

Not long later, during world war one, Anderson’s son met a exceedingly charismatic young man called Eddie Tatham in the trenches. He joined the company immediately after the war ended, and soon became a director. With the advent of cinema, film actors became friends with Tatham, who was “very outgoing and well-dressed… a party boy”.

“Eddie was a charmer, he was the kind of man that you’d want to be on out with on a night that might take unexpected turns,” says Barr. “His tactic was to choose top restaurants, top bars, top hotels, what became known as the tip of the trade. He received a bonus not long after joining of £200, which equates to £12,000 in today’s money, and set sail for America.”

There he met blender Charlie Julian, who is responsible for creating Chivas Regal among other whiskies. Together, they begin the blending process for what would eventually become J&B Rare: a blend of at least 42 single malt and grain Speyside whiskies, including liquid from Knockando, Auchroisk, Strathmill and Glen Spey. After Prohibition was repealed, Tatham set about “importing the good stuff from Scotland for the thirsty of America”.

With the help of distributor Abe Rosenberg, Tatham decided to target the national markets; Las Vegas, Palm Springs, Palm Beach, New Orleans, Newport. “Of these, the biggest was Las Vegas; big gamblers, big singers, big comedians, all playing the casinos,” says Barr. Performers like the Rat Pack, who he became very good friends with.

“Abe Rosenberg had this trick – he would send half a gallon of J&B to the dressing room of a star who had a show on and say, ‘I enjoyed your show very much, have one on me’,” says Barr. “Even if he was in New York or Rome or Paris! Apparently he was trying to give away up to 1,000 cases of Scotch every single year.”

The most loyal of J&B’s Rat Pack admirers was Dean Martin, the ‘amiable drunk’ persona, which he honed at the Sands Hotel in Vegas. “Introduced with the words ‘…and now, direct from the bar’, he would bound on stage, taking a Scotch from somebody’s table on the way,” says Barr. “There was often a bar on stage, and he’d ‘top-up’ his glass before launching into the final rendition of That’s Amore. He used to tell his audiences, “I don’t drink any more… I don’t drink any less, either’.”

Entertaining as it was, Martin’s intoxication was a little more than a stage act. “His son Ricky said that while it was true [his] Dad drank, the drunky routine was an act,” explains Barr. “On stage, and later on his TV show, he did have a J&B Scotch and soda but it was almost always a weak one – and sometimes it was just an apple juice.”

Dean Martin J&B

Dean Martin, that’s actually apple juice in his glass. No, really!

 

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Our take on booze trends for 2019!

New year, new drinks. Here’s what we reckon we’ll be debating, writing about and, most importantly, sipping in 2019. Tasting glasses at the ready… There’s nothing we enjoy more here…

New year, new drinks. Here’s what we reckon we’ll be debating, writing about and, most importantly, sipping in 2019. Tasting glasses at the ready…

There’s nothing we enjoy more here at MoM Towers than a good old chinwag about delectable spirits. And with the earth completing another full circuit round the sun, what better excuse to surmise, debate and generally theorise about the state of booze in 2019? Read on for the lowdown on ten drinks trends we think will influence what and how we consume in the coming 12 months. Enjoy!

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Diageo to transform Glenkinchie Distillery

Lowland malt distillery Glenkinchie, an important component in Johnnie Walker blended Scotch, has just been granted planning permission for a new visitor centre. Located just over 15 miles from Edinburgh,…

Lowland malt distillery Glenkinchie, an important component in Johnnie Walker blended Scotch, has just been granted planning permission for a new visitor centre.

Located just over 15 miles from Edinburgh, Glenkinchie is one of very few Lowland malt whisky distilleries. Being so close to the capital means that the distillery has huge potential as a tourist attraction, something that Diageo is now looking to build upon. We have just received news that East Lothian Council has granted permission for development work on the distillery.

There has been a distillery on the site since 1837, but the current Glenkinchie set-up dates back to 1890. As part of Diageo’s plans, its Victorian red brick warehouse will become a new all-singing, all-dancing visitor experience which including a shop, a bar, a cocktail classroom, and tastings rooms. The new visitor centre will also show off Glenkinchie’s unique asset, a scale model of the distillery built for the 1925 Empire Exhibition (watch this short film to see the model in all is magnificence.) Work will begin on the expansion early next year.

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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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Glen Moray parent buys Cutty Sark blended Scotch whisky brand

La Martiniquaise-Bardinet, the company that owns Glen Moray single malt, has boosted its Scotch portfolio with the acquisition of blended whisky Cutty Sark from Macallan parent Edrington. In a statement…

La Martiniquaise-Bardinet, the company that owns Glen Moray single malt, has boosted its Scotch portfolio with the acquisition of blended whisky Cutty Sark from Macallan parent Edrington.

In a statement released this morning, Edrington said it was ‘pleased’ that it had sold the brand to La Martiniquaise-Bardinet, but didn’t disclose how much the French drinks group had paid for the whisky.

It’s set to be a pretty swift transaction, with all the legal and regulatory stuff expected to be complete within a month. As part of the deal, Edrington says it will continue to help with bottling, blending and other practicalities during a transition period.

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