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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Bourbon

Top ten bottles from independent distilleries

This week we’re celebrating the small fish, the mavericks, the start-ups and the long-established family businesses of the drinks industry. From single malt whisky to craft gin, here are our…

This week we’re celebrating the small fish, the mavericks, the start-ups and the long-established family businesses of the drinks industry. From single malt whisky to craft gin, here are our top ten bottles from independent distilleries.

It’s not easy being an indie in a drinks industry dominated by giants like Diageo, Pernod Ricard or Beam Suntory. These behemoths have marketing budgets bigger than some countries. How do you compete with that? Then there’s always the possibility that one of the big boys will make you an offer you can’t refuse. Pernod Ricard, in particular, seems to be constantly snapping up craft gin distilleries.

Yet, we’re glad that so many independent distillers are not only surviving but thriving. They are able to react more quickly than the giants, be more individual, or just do things as they’ve always done without having to worry about shareholders.

An independent could be a hungry start-up bursting with innovation, or a family business that’s been honing its craft for generations. Either way, you’re getting something a bit different when you go independent. So, we’ve rounded up some of our favourites from the world of whisky, gin, rum, Cognac and Tequila. Let’s raise a glass to the small fish of the drinks industry!

Top ten bottles from independent distilleries

edradour-10-year-old-whisky

Edradour 10 Year Old 

Edradour is one of Scotland’s smallest distilleries and at the heart of the range, this 10 year old Eastern Highlander is a highly distinctive single malt, a decidedly rum-like dram with a thick mouthfeel. The distillery’s methods of production remain virtually unchanged in the last 150 years, and we can see why. If it ain’t broke and all that. This single malt’s decade of ageing was spent in a combination of Oloroso sherry and bourbon casks. This is one sherry monster and we love it.

drumshanbo-single-pot-still-inaugural-release-whiskey

Drumshanbo Single Pot Still

The single malt still is Ireland’s great gift to the whiskey world. Until recently, if you wanted some of that creamy magic, there was only one game in town, Irish Distillers. Now though, independent distillers are beginning to release spirits like this splendid one from Drumshanbo. The mash bill is a mixture of malted and unmalted barley with 5% Barra oats. It’s triple distilled before being matured in a combination of Kentucky bourbon and Oloroso sherry casks, making for a glorious balance of cream and spice.

Wilderness Trail Bourbon

Wilderness Trail Single Barrel Bourbon

Many small American whiskey brands buy in spirits from larger distillers. Wilderness Trail, however, did things the hard way when the founders Shane Baker and Pat Heist (great name) built their own distillery at Danville, Kentucky in 2013. This Single Barrel release is made from a mash bill of 64% corn, 24% wheat and 12% malted barley, aged in toasted and charred barrels. It’s also bottled in bond, meaning that, as laid out in the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897, it must be aged between five and six years and bottled under the supervision of the U.S. Government at 100 proof, or 50% ABV in British English.

Hayman's London Dry Gin & Tonic

Hayman’s London Dry Gin

The Hayman family are descended from James Burrough, the founder of Beefeater Gin. They have been distilling for five generations but it’s only in recent years that the family name has appeared on bottles. These days, their gin is produced in Balham in South London (following the Hayman’s base of operations moving from Essex in 2018), only four miles from where the company was founded by Burroughs. This classic London Dry Gin is produced to a family recipe which is over 150 years old but the company also makes innovative products like the fiendishly clever Small Gin.

Masons-Gin

Masons Dry Yorkshire Gin

Mason’s is back from the brink. In April 2019, the distillery burnt to the ground in a freak fire. It was utterly destroyed. But founders Catherine and Carl Mason did not give up. They had their gin made at another distillery before rebuilding and reopening in 2020 (read more about the story here). Their distinctive London Dry Gin uses Harrogate spring water along with juniper, a proportion of which is from their own bushes, and a combination of secret botanicals including citrus, fennel and cardamom. Produced in small batches, each bottle has hand written batch and bottle numbers.

Botanivore Gin

St. George Botanivore Gin 

As you might be able to tell from our visit in 2019, we’re pretty keen on everything from California distilling pioneers St. George. The team makes whiskey, vodka, various types of gin, liqueurs, eaux-de-vie and more. But we can only pick one thing so we’ve gone for the Botanivore Gin. It’s made with 19 different botanicals, including angelica root, bay laurel, coriander, Seville orange peel, star anise and juniper berries, among others. It’s like a greenhouse in a bottle.  This would make a superb Martini with just a splash of vermouth and a green olive.

O Reizinho Rum

O Reizinho 3 Year Old (That Boutique-y Rum Company) 

This has proved a hit with customers and staff alike. It’s a rum from the Portuguese island of Madeira, located off the coast of West Africa, made by O Reizinho and bottled by our very own That Boutique-y Rum Company. The distillery uses fresh sugar cane rather than molasses so expect lots of vegetal funkiness with green banana, olive and red chilli, tamed somewhat by three years in oak barrels bringing toffee, vanilla and peanuts to the party. And what a party it is! This is now the second batch; only 1936 50cl bottles were filled at 52.6% ABV. 

Scratch Patience Rum

Scratch Patience Rum

British rum, distilled in Hertfordshire by one man spirits maverick Doug Miller. Read more about him here. A great deal of patience has gone into this one. The rum is double distilled, spending time in whisky casks between distillations, before further maturation in ex-bourbon and new oak casks. Finally, the matured rums are blended for perfect balance and bottled in small batches. Wonderful stuff, expect flavours of toffee and butter fudge, tropical hints of banana with rich, oaky vanilla, combined with dried fruits and soft wood spice prickle. It just goes to show that patience does pay off!

Frapin 1270

Frapin 1270 Cognac 

Whereas most Cognac is made from bought-in grapes, wine or eau-de-vie, Frapin only uses fruit from the family’s estates in the Grand Champagne region. They ferment and distill everything themselves too. After distillation, 1270 was matured for six months in new oak barrels and then moved to older casks for extended ageing. The name is something of a tribute to the long history of Frapin. A refined and fruity Cognac that was created by Frapin to work as an aperitif, served over ice, or as a base for cocktails. 

Tequila Fortaleza

Fortaleza Tequila Reposado 

The brand Fortaleza was launched comparatively recently, back in 2005, but Guillermo Sauza’s family have been making Tequila for five generations. Apparently his ancestor, Don Cenobio, was the first person to export “mezcal de tequila” to the United States, shorten the name to simply ‘Tequila’, use steam to cook the agave rather than an earthen pit, and specify blue agave as the best to use. Quite a legacy! This reposado bottling spends a short time in ex-bourbon barrels where it takes on popcorn, caramel and wood spice to go alongside those fruity, herbal agave flavours. 

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Ten bottles to transport you

It looks like most of us won’t be travelling very far in the near future because of that ongoing pandemic thing. But never fear, you can still travel through the…

It looks like most of us won’t be travelling very far in the near future because of that ongoing pandemic thing. But never fear, you can still travel through the magic of booze. From dry sherry to pungent cachaça, here are ten bottles to transport you to faraway lands. 

Nobody wants to go on holiday at the moment because it means that you might have to spend two weeks in quarantine stuck in a Travelodge at Gatwick airport. A bit like Alan Partridge, but less funny.

But it’s not all bad. There’s so much to see and do in Britain, from the mountains of Scotland to the sandy beaches of Kent. The summer holidays should be boom time for the country’s hospitality industry, which let’s face it, could do with the business. Next week, we’ll be looking at some of this country’s top boozy destinations.

And don’t forget that you can always take a holiday in a glass. Sip a Negroni in the sunshine, close your eyes and you could be in Rome. A glass of chilled sherry and some high quality ham, and you could be in a bar in Jerez. Who needs aeroplane travel when you’ve got next day delivery? 

Here are ten bottles to transport you to your favourite country

The Nightcap

Portugal: Taylor’s Chip Dry White Port

There’s no better place to watch the sun go down over Porto than on the terrace of the Yeatman Hotel, especially with a White Port & Tonic in your hands. This week on the blog, Lucy Britner looked at all the great things you can do with white Port, but you can’t beat an old classic. With its rich fruity and nutty taste, Taylor’s Chip Dry goes brilliantly with tonic, just make sure you use plenty of ice and add a sprig of rosemary and a slice of orange.

Tio Pepe Fino En Rama

Spain: Tio Pepe Sherry En Rama

Every year Gonzalez Byass releases a small quantity of Tio Pepe En Rama. This is dry Fino sherry pretty much as it tastes straight out of the barrel in Jerez, bottled with minimal filtering. It’s always a treat but this year’s release is absolute dynamite. It walks a bold line between big flavours of apples and hazelnuts, and the elegance that you’d expect from Tio Pepe. Just add some olives and cheese, and you’re in Andalucia. 

These delightful cocktails will transport you to your favourite holiday destination

Italy: Select Aperitivo

Aperol and Campari might be better known, but you can’t beat a drop of Select Aperitivo when you want some Italian magic. Select is the choice of Venetians, it’s been made in the city since the 1920s. The flavour profile is bitter and grown-up but a bit more delicate than Campari. We love drinking it in a Bicicletta – a mixture of ice, white wine and fizzy water. It’s the perfect lazing in the sun kind of drink.

Mijenta Tequila

Mexico: Mijenta Tequila Blanca

Well, we had to put a Tequila in there somewhere, we’re agave mad here at Master of Malt. We were particularly taken with this recently-launched brand. It’s made by Maestra Tequilera, Ana Maria Romero, and it’s a tasty drop laden with flavours of green olives, cinnamon spice and a delicious creamy texture. It does good, too, with some of the proceeds going to various charities in Mexico. Try it in a Blood Orange Margarita

Ricard Pastis

France: Ricard Pastis

Now this one is likely to be controversial because some people hate, really hate, the taste of aniseed. But for those who don’t, nothing is more evocative of the south of France than Ricard Pastis. Drink it slowly with ice and a jug of water on the side, and before you know it you’ll be contemplating buying a beret and one of those blue jackets that old French farmers wear, and whiling away the evening playing boule and discussing politics.  

Plantation XO

Barbados: Plantation XO rum

This has proved itself a favourite among Master of Malt customers over the years. It’s a well-aged Barbados rum from spirits master Alexandre Gabriel. It spends its first few years in ex-bourbon barrels in the Caribbean before being shipped to France for secondary maturation in Cognac casks. It’s then sweetened before bottling to make a mixing rum par excellence. We love it in a Mai Tai.

caipirinha Ableha Cachaca

Brazil: Abelha Cachaça

Brazil’s national drink, the Caipirinha, calls for cachaça, which is made from sugar cane juice rather than molasses to produce a pungent, grassy spirit that’s a bit like a rhum agricole. Much of the production is industrial but there are some smaller high quality producers like Abelha using organic sugar cane for something with a bit more character. 

Woodford Reserve Bourbon

America: Woodford Reserve bourbon

If you’re into cocktails, then you need at least one bottle of American whiskey in your drinks cabinet to make Manhattans, Old Fashioneds et al. Woodford Reserve is a great all-rounder. Unlike most bourbons it’s distilled in a pot rather than a column still. It also contains a high percentage of rye, 18%, with 72% corn and 10% malted barley, giving it a spicy, smooth and dry taste.

Inverroche Cocktail

South Africa: Inverroche Classic Gin

Many drinks claim to be a certain country in a bottle but Inveroche is literally South Africa in a bottle. It’s made by mother and son duo Lorna and Rohan Scott who use native South African plants called fynbos as botanicals to give you a gin that is infused with the taste of the Cape. This is the classic version, a dry gin, that makes a killer Martini, or a delicious Bramble.

Ming River

China: Ming River Sichuan Baijiu

If you really want to experience a different culture in a glass, there’s no better spirit than baijiu. It is one of the world’s most distinctive spirits, from the raw materials, sorghum, rice, millet and others, and production techniques involving fermentation over weeks and complex distillation methods. Some types can be a bit much for European taste buds, but Ming River produces a baijiu that is accessible and cocktail friendly.

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The Nightcap: 2 July

UFOs, gold beer cans, and a bourbon heist – they are all in our weekly round-up of the news from the world of booze. It’s the Nightcap: 2 July edition!…

UFOs, gold beer cans, and a bourbon heist – they are all in our weekly round-up of the news from the world of booze. It’s the Nightcap: 2 July edition!

What is going on with the weather? Sorry, we should be more specific, what is going on with the British weather? Readers in Burkina Faso or Wirra Wirra will probably have their own takes on the local weather. Earlier this week at MoM Towers at a secret location just off the A26 in Tonbridge, we had our slippers on and were seriously considering building a fire out of old pallets. Luckily we’ve got plenty of booze so when we get the shivers, we get the Chivas, if you know what we mean. And then today, the sun’s out and we’re lounging around in muscle vests sipping Tio Pepe. Anyway, whether it’s hot, cold or indifferent where you are, pour yourself a weather-appropriate drink, put your feet up and enjoy our weekly round-up of booze news. It’s the Nightcap: 2 July edition! 

On the blog this week

We had a fun-packed blog this week: Lucy Britner looked at big booze companies hoovering up smaller brands for pots of cash; talking of cash, Ian Buxton cast a sceptical eye over some extremely old whisky releases; while Millie Milliken went completely bananas. Our New Arrival was a new rum brand, Saint Benevolence, making a difference to the people of Haiti, while Henry claimed to have invented our Cocktail of the Week, the Blood Orange Margarita. But that’s not all – Jess visited Quaglino’s, we got in the spirit of the 4th of July with some delicious American whiskies, and even launched a competition that could see you head to Islay as a guest of Kilchoman. Pretty fun-packed, eh?

Meanwhile over on the Clubhouse App this week we’re talking all things low-and-no alcohol while enjoying the usual Nightcap goodness with guests Kristy Sherry, Camille Vidal, and Claire Warner. Be sure to join us if you’re on the app.

Now on with the Nightcap!

Glenglassaugh releases 50 year old “coastal treasure”

Look, it’s by the coast. It’s coastal treasure!

Glenglassaugh releases 50-year-old “coastal treasure” 

Well, it seems to be the season for very old Scotch whisky. Hot on the heels of Dufftown’s 54-year-old release and Gordon & MacPhail 80 year old Glenlivet, comes a venerable bottling from Glenglassaugh. It’s a 50-year-old from this fascinating little distillery that was silent from 1986 to 2008. The whisky comes from a single Pedro Ximénez sherry cask and only 264 bottles have been filled at 40.1% ABV. Looks like they caught that cask in the nick of time, if they’d left it another couple of years, it would no longer be legally classed as whisky. The PR company is really going for the maritime angle with this one describing it as a “coastal treasure” with lots of stuff about North Sea air and even a reference to Dr Rachel Barrie learning to surf near the distillery as a child. There’s a video about it here. The master blender herself commented on the flavour: “Offering a deep and seductive sweetness, the 50 Year Old’s flavour profile ranges from caramelised pear to soft exotic cherries; almond and refined oak beautifully intertwine to present a symphony of tropical notes on a gentle ocean breeze with rolling waves of flavour, which intensify and evolve with each sip.” But don’t take her word for it, the judges at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition were impressed too, awarding it a double gold. And our whisky sage Ian Buxton, who was involved with the distillery’s revival, thinks that these old Glenglassaughs are usually superb (full story to come.) All this for £5,500, or roughly six times cheaper than the 54 year old Singleton of Dufftown. Bargain!

Foursquare Shibboleth

Foursquare Shibboleth – not likely to hang about

Foursquare’s latest limited release rum, Shibboleth, is here! 

We always get a bit hot and bothered by a new Exceptional Cask Selection from Foursquare. The Barbados distillery’s core range is pretty tasty, but when the team pulls all the stops out, the effect is sensational. And MoM customers clearly agree because these often bafflingly-named (‘Empery’?, ‘Détente??’) rums don’t hang about. In fact, by the time you read this, the latest may well be gone. It’s called Shibboleth, and for once the name makes a bit of sense. You’ll certainly recognise that someone is in your tribe if they profess a love of Foursquare rum. It’s a 16-year-old blend of column and pot still spirits, aged in ex-bourbon casks and bottled at 56% ABV with none of that filtering, colouring or sweetening. Just pure Barbados goodness. And blimey it is good. We were sent a little sample by Foursquare’s Peter Holland, and we spent a good ten minutes just smelling it. The aroma is heady with toffee, buttered popcorn, and banana bread with cloves, ginger, cinnamon, and refreshing menthol notes. Taking a sip, it carries it’s alcohol beautifully, exploding in the mouth with black pepper, tropical fruit, fudge and chocolate. The finish is extremely long. Shibboleth goes live today, but as we said, it may already be gone. It’s gone

Pappy van Winkle bourbon

Pappy van Winkle bourbon – tempted?

Bourbon crime documentary ‘Heist’ coming to Netflix soon

There’s a new whiskey documentary coming. Don’t worry, it’s not called The Golden Mist or something, featuring Jim McEwan and Dave Broom wandering around Islay. This is a whiskey film with an ‘e’, and melds two of America’s greatest exports, bourbon and organised crime. It’s part of a new true crime series starting 14 July on Netflix called Heist. Two programmes will be devoted to the theft of some seriously expensive Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon. Dubbed ‘Pappygate’ by the US press, it took place in 2013 when Gilbert “Toby” Curtsinger, a Buffalo Trace employee, stole rare whiskeys valued at $26,000 from the distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky. It took until 2015 before he was finally apprehended by Sheriff Pat Melton. Cutsinger was sentenced to 15 years, though only served 90 days. The story is further complicated by Cutsinger claiming in this article that although he had stolen barrels of bourbon from the distillery, he did not steal the rare bottles of Pappy Van Winkle. The documentary includes interviews with both Cutsinger and Melton. Director Nick Drew commented: “We all worked together and said, ‘let’s make this a roller coaster ride. Let’s make every beat of it live and sing and match the other stories.’ It was a fun challenge… We leaned into a sort of Coen Brothers, slightly absurd vibe….” It sounds like it’s going to be unmissable for fans of bourbon and crime capers.

Beavertown UFO

Keep watching the sky

Beavertown Brewery teams up with UFO expert for World UFO Day ‘Ask Me Anything’

We don’t know about you, but World UFO Day (2 July) has been in our diaries for months – and it’s finally here! Thought beer would have no place during World UFO Day? Think again, folks. With its zany, out-of-this-world illustrations (Gamma Ray American Pale Ale being a prime example), Beavertown Brewery clearly has an affinity with outer space, too. Today at 4pm, you can catch Nick Dwyer, Beavertown’s creative director and illustrator, and self-confessed space-obsessive, chatting to UFO expert (also known as a ufologist – we want that job title!) Nick Pope on Instagram Live (@BeavertownBeer). The event was appropriately named ‘Nick on Nick, Ask Me Anything’. You don’t have to be called Nick to join, but a zest for beer and the extraterrestrial would probably be handy. Pope isn’t just any ol’ ufologist – he was the former head of UFO investigation at the Ministry of Defence, no less. So gather your thoughts, grab a can of your favourite Beavertown beer, and get ready to question everything you thought you knew. The truth is out there.

St James Bar London

Spot the unicorn cordial

St James Bar launches ‘Imagination’ cocktail menu 

When we last visited St James Bar at Sofitel St James in January 2020, life was very different. We tried the (then new) Passport cocktail menu, which was created unironically, back when our passports hadn’t been gathering dust for nearly 18 months. Anyway, that’s enough dwelling on the past – now it’s out with the old and in with the new for the zazzy London bar, because later this month it’s launching a brand new cocktail menu: Imagination. The talented team used molecular techniques and sustainable processes to create this one, looking to challenge our senses and drive into our olfactory bulb with these new drinks. Inspiration has been drawn from impressionism, dragons, Iron Man comics, and even Elton John lyrics, while big words like spherication, carbonation, and foaming are all processes being used. But we’re not scientists, we’re cocktail lovers, so let’s get to the good stuff. We’re rather intrigued by the serve named ‘Van Gogh’, a combination of Tanqueray No.Ten, yuzu butter, Italicus, white Port, effervescence, husk ash, and something called unicorn cordial. In keeping with the times, sustainability is also a big consideration for the bar, which is using lemon husks in multiple ways and even producing its own honey from hives located at the top of the hotel. We’ll see you there on 29 July to find out how these unicorns are making their own cordial… 

Ardbeg 8 Committee release.png RS

Join the Committee and you can join the discussion

Join the Ardbeg Committee to taste latest 8-year-old sherry cask release

Sound the smoky whisky klaxon! There’s a new Ardbeg on the loose this week. It’s an eight-year-old bottling dubbed ‘For Discussion.’ Master distiller Dr Bill Lumsden explained: “I like to think of it as the ‘alternative universe’ version of Ardbeg Ten Years Old. An aged ex-sherry whisky is new territory for us, so naturally, we want some thoughts! We’re sharing this with the Committee’s experienced palates to help us find that smoky sweet spot. With notes of bold peat smoke, creosote, charcoal and salted caramel, it’s more than guaranteed to provoke discussion among those privileged enough to taste it.” It’s bottled at 50.8% ABV, costs £57 and is only available to members of the Committee – a global organisation of Ardbeg nuts. So if you love Ardbeg, and you’re not a member, what are you thinking? It’s free to join. Distillery manager Colin Gordon will host a live tasting for members on 30 July 2021. He urged: “We look forward to hearing their thoughts on our latest expression.  And, to anybody not already part of the family, we invite you to join the Ardbeg Committee… and join in the conversation!” 

Beavertown Gold Can

Probably not worth £15,000

And finally… all that glitters is not gold for Brewdog

Spare a thought for the PR department at Brewdog who have been working overtime recently. First there was the letter from disgruntled former employees and the resultant media frenzy. Now, just when they were beginning to stop twitching every time the phone rings, another story hits the news. The brewer had hidden 10 special cans in cases of beer for lucky customers. Each can was said to be worth £15,000 and came with £10,000 worth of Brewdog shares. Pretty tasty, eh? The problem is that someone at Brewdog said on social media that the cans were “solid gold” but when one winner, Adam Dean from Shrewsbury, took his to a jeweller to be valued, it turned out the can was actual gold-plated brass and only worth £500. Though the brewer has apologised to one unhappy winner, Mark Craig, it is still claiming that though the can isn’t solid gold, it is still worth £15,000 adding that the value: “somewhat detached from the cost of materials”. Looks like it’s going to be another week of late nights for the Brewdog comms team. 

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Top ten whiskeys for BBQs

Today, we’re rounding up some of our favourite bottles from the US of A. They’re perfect to enjoy while eating outdoors, in cocktails on their own. Here are our top…

Today, we’re rounding up some of our favourite bottles from the US of A. They’re perfect to enjoy while eating outdoors, in cocktails on their own. Here are our top ten whiskeys for BBQs.

America is a booze superpower. The country’s influence on what we drink is vast. Without America, there would be no Manhattan, no Old Fashioned, no cocktails at all. The very word ‘cocktail’ is almost certainly an American invention.

And to make these quintessentially American concoctions, you need American whiskeys like rye or bourbon. So as Americans gear up to celebrate their Independence Day by doing baffling things like throwing tea in the river (they do do this, don’t they?) and watching their own peculiar type of football, we picked our favourite whiskeys from across the pond. 

So, let’s raise a glass and say cheers, and thank you for all the great whiskey

Top ten whiskeys for BBQs

Peaky Blinder Bourbon

Peaky Blinder Bourbon

Those crazy cats at Peaky Blinders (nothing to do with the hit TV series, nothing at all) have branched out from Irish whiskey into bourbon country. This is a sweet simple whiskey with plenty of big flavours of vanilla, toffee and buttered popcorn. If the sun comes out this 4 July, we’ll be drinking it in a Lynchbourg Lemonade – a mixture of bourbon, triple sec and, yes, you’ve guessed it, lemonade.

american-eagle-4-year-old-whiskey

American Eagle 4 Year Old 

This tasty bourbon is the work of American Eagle, distilled from a mash bill of 84% corn, so you can be sure there’s buttery notes galore in here. The whiskey has been matured in American oak barrels for four years, and was treated to charcoal-mellow filtration before it was bottled at 40% ABV. Superb sipped neat, but also great for mixing. Bourbon Sour, anyone?

Whisky - Charcoal & - Closeup

Charcoal & Cornmeal & Rickhouses & a Decade 10 Year Old

Bourbon matures quickly in the heat of Kentucky, so it’s unusual to find bottles with age statements, so we were delighted when our colleagues at Atoms Labs managed to get their hands on this liquid. From an undisclosed distillery, this is loaded with flavours of peanut brittle, liquorice, cooked apple and more spices than you can shake a stick at. This is a great one just to sip neat and appreciate all that age. 

Michters Whiskey

Michter’s US*1 Straight Rye

A straight rye whiskey from the Michter’s Distillery in Louisville, Kentucky. Every bottle of their excellent rye comes from a single barrel, highlighting the quality of their craft. It’s loaded with big spicy flavours like cumin, cinnamon and ginger balanced with a brown sugar sweetness. No wonder it’s such a huge hit with bartenders, this is a cocktail whiskey par excellence. We like it best in a Sazerac. 

Angel's Envy

Angel’s Envy

Angel’s Envy is the brainchild of former Brown Forman master distiller Lincoln Henderson and his son Wes. The idea was to take Henderson’s years of experience in bourbon, and shake up the category a little. So, they have taken a leaf out of the Scotch whisky handbook and got into cask finishes, in this case Port which brings a big helping of red fruit and dark chocolate to the bourbon party. Fancy bottle, too. 

Stateside Whiskey

Stateside Heaven Hill 11 Year Old 2009 (cask 152735 Heroes & Heretics)

The folks at Heroes & Heretics know how to sniff out a great whiskey, and this one they’ve bottled exclusively for Master of Malt. It was distilled back in 2009 at the great Heaven Hill in Kentucky. After 11 years ageing (old for a bourbon), they bottled it at a generous 51% ABV, without any chill-filtration or additional colourings, for a rich, powerful experience. 

Wilderness TRail range

Wilderness Trail Single Barrel Bourbon

This Single Barrel release from Wilderness Trail is made from a mash bill of 64% corn, 24% wheat and 12% malted barley, aged in toasted and charred barrels. It’s also bottled in bond, meaning that, as laid out in the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897, it must be aged between five and six years and bottled under the supervision of the U.S. Government at 100 proof, or 50% ABV in British English.

Balcones-Day-Single malt

Balcones Texas Single Malt (cask 17581)

And now for something completely different. This is a single malt whiskey, no corn or rye in sight, but it’s a single malt from the place where everything is bigger. Yes, it’s from Texas, yeh haw! So it’s going to be a bit different from something from Scotland or Japan. It’s also bottled at a mighty 61.1% ABV. Expect massive flavours of toasted oak, Demerara sugar, orange liqueur, roast chestnuts and fried banana. 

new-riff-straight-bourbon-whiskey

New Riff Straight Bourbon

A Kentucky Straight Bourbon from the ever-wonderful New Riff. There’s a fairly generous amount of rye in the mash bill, 65% corn, 30% rye, and 5% malted barley, so expect a good helping of spice alongside the sweeter, buttery notes. It’s aged in toasted and charred new oak barrels before bottling at 50% ABV. Perfect for when you can’t decide between rye and bourbon.

whistlepig-12-year-old-oloroso-cask-old-world-master-of-malt-whiskey

WhistlePig 12 Year Old Oloroso Cask

Another Master of Malt exclusive and another unusually old American whiskey. This is from WhistlePig, the masters of rye whiskey and unusual cask ageing. This 12-year-old bottling was finished in Oloroso sherry casks before bottling at 43% ABV. You get all the spice you want in a rye but it’s been joined by mature notes of dried fruit, leather and tobacco. Simple cocktails like an Old Fashioned suit this best. 

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They paid HOW MUCH?

From high profile celeb brands to multi-billion-dollar company buy-outs, the drinks industry is a hotbed of activity when it comes to mergers and acquisitions. This week, MoM takes a look…

From high profile celeb brands to multi-billion-dollar company buy-outs, the drinks industry is a hotbed of activity when it comes to mergers and acquisitions. This week, MoM takes a look at some of the whoppers from the past ten years and asks, ‘they paid HOW MUCH?’

First up, a trip back in time to 2014. Pharrell Williams’ ‘Happy’ was still top of the pops. And who else was happy? Well, the folks at Suntory probably were. In January that year, they announced a $16bn deal to buy Beam. The Beam company came with a goodie bag of spirits, including its namesake Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark and Courvoisier Cognac, to name a few. They joined Suntory’s powerhouse Japanese whisky brands Yamazaki, Hakushu and Hibiki. Suntory time, indeed.

campari-ceo-bob-kunze-concewitz_juggling

Campari CEO Bob Kunze-Concewitz  juggling oranges

They paid HOW MUCH?

In 2015, one of the biggest deals in corporate history – let alone the drinks industry – came in the form of Anheuser-Bush InBev’s move to acquire fellow global brewer SABMiller. The £79bn deal took a year to iron out and it gave ABInBev a truly global reach [including acquiring the Atom Group, Master of Malt’s parent company in 2018]. It finally closed on 10 October 2016. And Asahi picked up a few treasures from the deal, too, agreeing in early 2016 to buy SABMiller’s Grolsch, Meantime and Peroni Nastro Azzuro beer brands for about £2bn. 

Also in 2016, Campari Group lined up a EUR684m deal to buy Marnier-Lapostolle. Among the treasure trove was Cognac-based orange liqueur Grand Marnier. In full-year 2020, the brand accounted for 6% of the group’s sales and additions Cuvée Révelation and Quintessence concluded the full relaunch of Grand Marnier since the purchase.

CEO Bob Kunze-Concewitz said at the time: “With Grand Marnier, we add a premium and distinctive brand to our global priorities portfolio, thus driving richer product mix, and we further consolidate our position as the leading purveyor of premium liqueurs and bitter specialties worldwide.”

In fact, Campari might be one to watch in the coming months, too, as recent reports suggest Kunze-Concewitz is once again on the acquisition trail. 

2016 was a busy year for Sazerac Company, too, as the US firm took control of Southern Comfort, among other brands, in a $543.5m deal with Brown-Forman. The acquisition of Southern Comfort by Sazerac was hailed as a bit of a homecoming, since both hail from New Orleans.

George Clooney Casamigos

The two amigos, George Clooney and Rande Gerber

Clooney tunes

The following year, in a sunny June 2017, Hollywood mega star George Clooney amassed a bit more wealth, when he – along with bar and restaurant owner Rande Gerber and Discovery Land Company CEO Mike Meldman – sold the Casamigos Tequila brand to Diageo for up to $1bn.

The trio launched the brand in 2013 and at the time of the sale, Gerber said Casamigos “started from a friendship and an idea to create the best tasting, smoothest Tequila as our own house Tequila to drink with friends”.

Anyway, it also started getting pretty big – big enough to draw the attention of Diageo.

At the time of the sale, industry analysts questioned whether the deal was on the expensive side… However, in 2018, Casamigos Mezcal made an appearance and Casamigos became Casamigos Spirits Co. So, they didn’t pay $1bn just for a Tequila after all. MoM wonders what else will come out of the Casamigos Spirits Co stable…

Agave go-go

Sticking with all things agave, and in 2018, Bacardi took over Tequila giant Patrón. Reports suggested that the deal valued the brand at $5.1bn. Bacardi had played the long game with Patrón, having first bought a 30% stake in the business back in 2008.

“We are delighted to welcome the team from Patrón into the Bacardi family,” said Mahesh Madhavan, CEO of Bacardi Limited, at the time of the deal. “We continue to be inspired by their passion, culture of caring, attention to detail, and unwavering commitment to quality. Our promise is to uphold these qualities to ensure the product integrity, innovative marketing, and commercial success of Patrón tequila for years to come.”

In the same year, Pernod Ricard made moves in agave, too, with a smaller deal to buy the rest of Avión Tequila – it had held a significant majority stake in the brand since 2014.

It's Ryan Reynolds!

It’s Ryan Reynolds, gin salesman extraordinaire

Gin takes flight

In 2019, all things gin were in full swing, and Brown-Forman made a move for Fords Gin. Then, in 2020, Diageo made the headlines with another celebrity purchase – this time it was Aviation Gin, co-owned by Ryan Reynolds, who retains an interest in the brand. The deal was worth up to $610m – an initial payment of $335m, followed by up to $275m, depending on Aviation’s sales performance over the following decade.

The structure of the deal sparked a tongue-in-cheek ‘out of office’ email from Reynolds. It read: 

Thanks for your email. I am currently out of the office but will still be very hard at work selling Aviation Gin. For quite a long time, it seems. In related news, I just learned what an ‘earn-out’ is… And I’d like to take this opportunity to apologise to everyone I told to go f*** themselves in the last 24 hours. My lawyers just explained how long it takes to achieve an ‘earn-out’… so… turns out I’m not as George Clooney as I thought. The point is, to those listed below, I’m sorry… and I’ll indeed be needing your help in the coming months and years. Thanks in advance!”

The email went on to list several people, including Clooney, the CEO of Diageo and Reynolds’ wife Blake Lively.

This year’s big deals

So far in 2021, we’ve seen many-a drinks giant invest in alcopop-du-jour, hard seltzer. But the deal closest to MoM’s ageing millennial heart is the sale of perry brand Lambrini, to wine company Accolade. If you’re wondering why on earth why, here’s what company CEO Robert Foye said: “Lambrini has such a strong heritage and is loved by British consumers. We are excited about the role the brand will play in our broader strategic growth plans for the UK and Europe.”

Sadly, they declined to disclose financial details of the sale. We’re assuming not Casamigos money.

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Top ten whiskies for 2021

Ireland, Scotland and America are the powerhouses of global whisky, despite all the newer challenges. We’ve picked ten of our current top ten favourite bottlings as too much choice can…

Ireland, Scotland and America are the powerhouses of global whisky, despite all the newer challenges. We’ve picked ten of our current top ten favourite bottlings as too much choice can be overwhelming. Here are our top ten whiskeys/ whiskies for 2021. 

There are so many choices now when it comes to whisky. It can be a bit much, especially as there are so many new countries all producing delicious whisky. But for this round-up, we’ve stuck with the old gang, America, Ireland and, of course, Scotland, to pick some of our favourite bottlings, both old classics and newer releases.

Even from these three countries, the variety is wonderful. We’ve got single pot stills, single malts, rye, bourbon, a blended grain and a blended whisky. And none of them will break the bank. So, without further ado here are out top ten whiskies or should that be top ten whiskeys? Now that an end seems to be in sight to the long-running tariff dispute, perhaps the Scots, Irish and American can sit down and just agree how to spell whisk(e)y. Even if its just for typographical neatness.

That was a bit of a sidetrack. Sorry. Here they are:

Top ten Whiskies for 2021

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.

Awesome whiskeys from across the pond!

 

Rittenhouse Straight Rye 100 Proof Whiskey

Rye whiskey was a giant of the American drinks industry that was devastated by Prohibition, but thankfully things are changing and Heaven Hill’s Rittenhouse is one of the leading brands of this welcome rye renaissance. Possessing plenty of that classic spicy, chewy and full-bodied Pennsylvanian rye style, Rittenhouse Straight Rye 100 Proof Whiskey is a bartender’s favourite for good reason.

What does it taste like?

Dried fruits, soft spices, cocoa, butterscotch, marmalade, cinnamon and caramel.

autumn sippers

Redbreast 12 Year Old

One of the finest single pot still Irish whiskies ever created, what’s not love about Redbreast 12 Year Old? The rich and rewarding dram was made from malted and unmalted barley, and then matured in a combination of American oak bourbon barrels and Spanish oak Oloroso sherry butts. We can’t get enough of it.

What does it taste like?

Nutty, rich and oily, with notes of dried peels, ginger, linseed, cut fruits, marzipan and a hint of sherry. 

bargain Irish whiskey

Green Spot Single Pot Still 

Last year we announced the return of Blue Spot, now we’re showing some love to the best known of the range and a whiskey that has done so much to fly the flag for single pot still whiskey. We’re talking, of course, about the fabulous Green Spot, a whiskey that was matured in a combination of first and second fill bourbon casks as well as sherry casks to deliver a robust, fruity and rich profile. Savour this one.

What does it taste like?

Fresh green apple, sweet barley, sugary porridge, creamy vanilla, papaya, gentle bourbon oak, green woods, menthol, potpourri and citrus.

Springtime treats for Mother's Day

Compass Box Hedonism

Smooth, creamy and really very tasty, Hedonism represents Compass Box trying to create a decedent dram, as the name suggests. It’s a blended grain whisky featuring liquid (depending on batch variation) from Cameronbridge, Carsebridge, Cambus, Invergordon, Port Dundas or Dumbarton that was matured in 100% first-fill American oak barrels or rejuvenated American oak hogsheads. Equally delicious neat or in a multitude of classic cocktails, Hedonism is also amazing with a caramel-based dessert.

What does it taste like?:

Fraises des bois, sponge cake, red pepper, black cherry, milk chocolate, toasted oak and sweet spices with some cereal notes.

autumn sippers

Talisker 18 Year Old

There are few distilleries that can boast a range as good as Talisker and the 18 Year Old bottling is arguably its standout expression. Matured for nearly two decades in casks which previously held bourbon and sherry, this sweet and smoky malt has picked up multiple awards and won the plaudits of critics and fans alike.

What does it taste like?

Thick, rich and full-bodied with notes of spicy, peppery oak, espresso beans, wood smoke, allspice and there is a certain zesty character lurking somewhere.

balvenie-doublewood-12-year-old-whisky

Balvenie DoubleWood 12 Year Old

Balvenie is Glenffiddich’s shy sibling. While its brother is a global celebrity, Balvenie just gets on quietly turning out some of the best whiskies in Speyside. The DoubleWood is a long time favourite of ours matured first in refill American oak casks before it was treated to a finish in first fill European oak Oloroso sherry butts for an additional nine months.

What does it taste like?

Perfect blend of bourbon and sherry. Vanilla and nutmeg notes mingle with dried fruit and nuts. A classic. 

Master of Malt Day 2020

Seaweed & Aeons & Digging & Fire 10 Year Old

An Islay single malt from an undisclosed distillery. The name makes sense as soon as you take a sip, it’s a smoky peaty Islay malt with 25% aged Oloroso sherry cask. This has proved an extremely popular malt with MoM customers.

What does it taste like? 

Does exactly what it says on the bottle: there’s woodsmoke, seaweed and charred meat combined with sweet sherry notes, red apple and vanilla. 

highland-park-12-year-old-viking-honour-whisky

Highland Park 12 Year Old – Viking Honour

Once just known as Highland Park 12 Year Old, now it’s called Viking Honour. Fearsome! The whisky, happily, is the same as it ever was with that classic honey, floral and wood smoke profile. The Orkney distillery does things the time-honoured ways with floor maltings, peat, sherry casks and cool climate maturation. If it ain’t broke and all that. 

What does it taste like?

Honey and floral notes abound on the nose with some wood smoke. On the palate it’s peppery with notes of orange and wood shavings. 

Check out these bargain blended Scotch whiskies!

Green Isle 

If you’re an Islay whisky fan and are on the lookout for something with a little more smoke and sea, we’ve got just the thing. From the makers of The Character of Islay Whisky Company, Green Isle is a blend with a core of Islay malt alongside some complementary Speyside malt and Lowland grain whiskies. This is an approachable blend that mixes tremendously and would serve as a great introduction to those who would like to explore the smoker side of Scotch.

What does it taste like? 

Softly toasted barley, warming oak, honey glazed apples and cut grass. Then, vanilla pod earthiness, coastal peat, pear drops, dry smoke, buttery biscuits and crushed peppercorns.

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Family spirit: father and daughter/ son distillers

We’re keeping it in the family today as Millie Milliken takes a look at some of the father and daughter/ son distillers around the world – they’re braver than we…

We’re keeping it in the family today as Millie Milliken takes a look at some of the father and daughter/ son distillers around the world – they’re braver than we would be

One of my earliest memories is of my grandad (papa) showing me how to make beer in his garage, probably at a much younger age than I should have been. Luckily, there are some families who actually know what they’re doing when it comes to making drinks. Well-known brands from whisky like Teeling, Glenfarclas and Kilchoman trade on their family name, and there are plenty more out there from bourbon to brandy.

In celebration of this year’s Father’s Day, I’ve unearthed some of the father and daughter/ son distillers from around the wide world of drinks. From Florida to Manchester – and including a touching tribute to a recently lost father – they’re an eclectic bunch, and testament to the benefits of keeping their distilling and blending secrets in the family. Maybe it’s true: blood is thicker than whisky.

Jimmy and Eddie Russell at Distillery

Jimmy and Eddie Russell, Wild Turkey

First up is one of America’s most famous bourbons, Wild Turkey. Master distiller Eddie Russell and his father, the legendary Jimmy are a team with around 100 years of whisky making experience between them. And it was all down to Eddie’s mother, Joretta.

“I really wanted to move away as a young man, when I got the chance,” says Eddie. “I played football on scholarship at Western Kentucky University, but when I came home for my first summer break, my job options were the distillery or… the distillery. The mandate wasn’t Jimmy’s, but at my mother, Joretta Russell’s insistence.”

Eddie started at the bottom, rolling barrels, mowing lawns, painting houses before Jimmy moved him into the distillery to learn about yeast and mashing. Now Eddie sits alongside his father on the illustrious Bourbon Hall of Fame. Jimmy isn’t hanging his whisky making boots up any time soon either. “I’ve never thought of it as work. I’ve always said ‘the day it becomes work, I’ll retire.”

Where Eddie gets his father’s strong work ethic, Jimmy benefits from Eddie’s honesty: “When Eddie tells you something, it’s true. If he doesn’t like it, he will tell you!” Between the two of them, they’ve grown an empire that now Eddie’s son is getting in on, and there are now four generations working at Wild Turkey.

Until that day that working at Wild Turkey feels like work, though, Jimmy Russell will (for Eddie at least) always be the reigning patriarch: “For my dad, it took about 17 years before he became a master distiller. It was 34 years for me because my dad is still working – you should really only have one master.”

Father and son at Prestwich gin

Michael and Jack Scargill, Prestwich Gin

This Manchester born and bred gin was the result of a family dinner. “With my Dad approaching retirement, we were talking over dinner about what he was going to do with his spare time and the idea of starting our own gin cropped up,” explains Jack. “I didn’t think much of it but the next time I went round, Dad had bought a few books and a small still and started working on a few recipes and it went from there.”

With a background in chemistry, Michael takes on playing around with recipes and tweaking them as he sees fit, while Jack prefers tasting – as well as sales and marketing, which he has a professional background in.

The father/son duo’s love for gin came long before the gin boom, with birthday and Christmas presents often coming in the form of a bottle of the botanical spirit. Now, they can enjoy the fact that other people are giving theirs as gifts on special occasions – maybe a few fathers will receive one this Father’s Day.

Kristy and Billy Lark

Bill Lark and Kristy Lark-Booth, Killara Distillery

“Working with my Dad can be super amazing and at times very exasperating!” So says Kristy Lark-Booth, founder of Killara Distillery in Tasmania. Having spent years working at the family whisky business, Lark Distillery, with her father Bill, she branched out on her own in 2016 to set up her own venture.

Despite not working together as regularly day-to-day, Bill’s tutelage of Kristy on all this whisky distillation is testament to their working relationship: “I have learnt so much from him, not only how to distil amazing whisky but also a great work and personal ethic. Things like how to relate to people and to see the best in others, to follow your dreams and never give up. Working with him has given me the opportunity to explore and develop my own distilling style and certainly develop my palette.” 

Kristy’s integration into the family business wasn’t always a given. She had her eyes on a career in Air Traffic Control – and while she got a coveted place at the ATC school, having spent some time working at the distillery, she changed her mind: “They were, of course very supportive of that so I began learning whisky making from my Dad, and gin/liqueur making from my Mum. We worked closely together right up until Lark was taken over by investors.”

Looking to the future, Kristy and Bill will be working on a few projects that will see them come together again in a father/daughter – or daughter/father – capacity, including bringing back the old distillery school. Anything about distilling you don’t learn in there, ain’t worth knowing.

Wayne&Holly Bass & Flinders Distillery

Holly and Wayne Klintworth, Bass & Flinders Distillery

From the Bass & Flinders Distillery in Mornington Peninsula, Australia, head distiller Holly Klintworth produces gin, liqueurs and brandies, including a recent Maritime Gin with locally-foraged samphire, salt bush and kelp, as well as  Heartbreak Gin infused with Pinot Noir. The distillery started its life in 2009, but it wasn’t until a few years later that Holly decided to join her dad.

“Over the years dad would ask my opinion on a product or packaging, and here and there I would help out on weekends with bottling, or peeling oranges for our gins. I got a good feel for the passion my dad had for the craft spirits industry and I suppose it was pretty infectious.” Having previously spent time working in marketing in the wine industry, Holly joined her father’s distillery in 2016.

It didn’t come easy: Holly found getting up to speed so quickly a challenge without having a science background and not being initially too familiar with the production process. She was also one of few women working in the Australian distilling industry, although her father was keen to not let that deter her: “He would say to me, ‘Don’t let anyone tell you you aren’t as capable as a man in production’… He really empowered me to take ownership of the still, of the spirit and of the product from start to finish.”

Sadly, Wayne Klintworth passed away in early 2020, but his mentorship and inspiration have fuelled his daughter’s love and passion for producing fine spirits. “My dad was a real mentor and inspiration for me as I stepped into the distilling world. Having him mentoring me and him also being my dad, meant I learned the ropes extremely quickly as I had access to his knowledge and expertise at all hours of the day or night and he was always ready for a chat about the business.”

Rollins Distillery, father and son

Paul and Patrick Rollins, Rollins Distillery

If you look closely at the Rollins Distillery logo, you’ll notice it’s two rams butting heads. Florida isn’t known for its rams, so it’s probably more likely that those rams represent Patrick and Paul Rollins, the son and father who distil their 100% Floridian molasses rum.

It all started with father, Paul, whose time at the Naval Academy saw him studying chemistry and growing an interest in distillation. Several years later, the family was stationed in Scotland, where Paul spent some time studying operations at the Old Fettercairn Distillery. Back in Florida, with grown up kids, Paul decided to take the plunge, being sure to utilise Florida’s agriculture in the process.

Patrick was more interested in beer when his father approached him with the idea of setting up a distillery. Dreams of a brewpub slowly faded when he started learning more about distilling and rum – attending lectures and seminars – and he fell in love with the craft.

For Paul and Patrick, two heads are better than one: “Dad is a very inside-the-box technical thinker. He sees the trees. I am a very outside-the-box creative thinker. I see the forest. Together we are able to create so much more than we could separately.”

Paul agrees, with a slight caveat: “Let me be frank, I would have tried to make the distillery happen with or without Patrick, but I cannot say it would be as successful as it is today without him.”

 

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The Nightcap: 4 June

The week was only four days long but it was still jammed-pack full of boozy news. The Nightcap is back! Well it’s been a mighty fine week here at MoM…

The week was only four days long but it was still jammed-pack full of boozy news. The Nightcap is back!

Well it’s been a mighty fine week here at MoM Towers, and not just because the sun made a triumphant return to Kent (and burnt the ever-living hell out of half the population), but we’ve also had a whale of a time celebrating the Islay Festival. From learning about Lagavulin’s most iconic serve, to understanding how to pair food and malts festival-style with Laphroaig or hearing Ian Buxton’s Bunnahabhain memories, we’ve managed to ease some of those missing Islay blues. Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed all the coverage too. There’s still Ardbeg and Jura day to come, so be sure to look out for them over the weekend.

Elsewhere on our blog, we were enjoying our Cognac, picking out 10 terrific examples we think your dad will love for Father’s Day, and dreaming of a French countryside escape thanks to our latest competition with Hine. We also let our hair down and had an unapologetically garish, blue disco drink after learning all about a very special vintage English pear brandy from the Cotswolds. 

Before we get to the stories this week, we’d just like to remind you to join us this week on the Clubhouse App where our guests Blair Bowman and Kristiane Sherry will discuss all of the below, if the whisky world is too negative, and more!

The Nightcap: 4 June

Check it out: the oldest ever Singleton of Dufftown whisky!

Diageo releases 54-year-old The Singleton of Dufftown 

Master of Malt was invited to a very special whisky launch this week at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. It was for the 54-year-old Singleton of Dufftown and thanks to the magic of the internet we didn’t even have to leave MoM Towers. It’s the second and final release in The Paragon of Time Collection, and the oldest ever release from The Singleton. To chime with the age statement, only 54 people were invited to the event which was hosted by Ewan Gunn and went on for 54 minutes exactly. We were joined down the line from the Diageo archive by malt master Maureen Robinson. She told us about how the original refill European oak cask was filled in 1966. “It was the 1960s era, before expansion, with smaller batches and slower pace,” she said. After 53 years in this cask, she transferred it for around a year to a single PX cask to add another layer without masking the original whisky. Only 235 bottles at cask strength of 44.1% ABV have been filled. It’s a fascinating drop with the old Cognac, varnish, and furniture polish on the nose joined by strong molasses, chocolate, and Christmas cake from the PX cask. But don’t take our words for it, Charlie MacLean, for it is he, described it as “An astonishing dram. I have never encountered a whisky like this before. A rare and unusual malt that has gained richness, mellowness and complexity on its long journey to harmony, this very old whisky shows its age elegantly and rewards proper contemplation.” Naturally, it’s housed in a Baccarat crystal decanter. And the price for all this magnificence? £28,850. Oof!

The Nightcap: 4 June

The brand doesn’t just make great whiskey but supports vital initiatives too

Uncle Nearest launches $50 million fund

Not content with simply uncovering the important story behind the world’s biggest whiskey brand and founding the biggest-selling African-American-owned spirit brand in history, Fawn Weaver has once again demonstrated that her remarkable contributions to the spirits industry seemingly know no bounds. The Uncle Nearest Tennessee Whiskey founder has this week announced the creation of the Uncle Nearest Venture Fund, a $50 million fund that will invest in minority and women-owned spirits brands. The first two brands to benefit are Sorel Liqueur and Equiano Rum. Each company will receive US$2m. The fund is an outgrowth of the Nearest and Jack Advancement Initiative unveiled a year ago in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests. According to Weaver, this initiative helped highlight the need for something greater so on the 100 year anniversary of the destruction of Black Wall Street, Weaver, she took it upon herself to reboot history. “On 1 June 1921, an entire community of wealthy and successful African Americans was wiped out in a matter of hours. We are talking about 35 square blocks known as Black Wall Street. As an African American, learning about that history broke my heart because we, as a people, were really onto something in Tulsa, Oklahoma. We were lifting one another up and creating wealth within our own community, and then showing others how to do it for themselves. We cannot go back and undo the past, but I do believe we have full power over our future, and that recreating a Black Wall Street of sorts within the spirits industry is a great place to start.” It’s a vital and impressive initiative that demonstrates a promising future and that few put their money where their mouth is quite like Weaver. 

The Nightcap: 4 June

I’m sure that won’t be Peaky Blinders whiskey he’s got in his glass…

By order of a Los Angeles court – Peaky Blinder name OK

If you asked a member of the Birmingham street gang what kind of conflicts the Peaky Blinders would be getting into in the 21st century, you’d have been waiting a while before they ever guessed a trademark dispute between a TV show and a spirit brand. But that’s the story that was in the news this week as the company that produces the popular UK series Peaky Blinders was told it can’t block the maker of the booze range from using the name, at least for now, after a Los Angeles court ruling. US District Judge Consuelo B. Marshall rejected Caryn Mandabach Productions’ application for a preliminary injunction against Sadler’s Brewhouse, which owns the brand, and UK alcohol group Halewood, which in turn owns Sadler’s. Reports suggest Mandabach sued last November, alleging the whiskey, gin, rum, and dark beer products were likely to cause confusion. But the judge ruled Mandabach didn’t show it owned a protectable trademark in the name, that Sadler’s products were likely to confuse, or that the alleged confusion could cause irreparable harm. Sadler’s has always maintained it used the Peaky Blinder name because of its historical connections to the gang. The fact it only founded the brand after the runaway success of the show is just a coincidence. The brewhouse was presumably always interested in minor local street gangs. Still, this is a sensible result. You can’t claim a historical organization’s name all for yourself, TV. More good news for fans of Peaky Blinders whiskey is its owners are continuing to explore the possibility of building an Irish distillery for the brand, as its spirit is currently sourced from Great Northern Distillery. 

The Nightcap: 4 June

The three “extra special” casks will be sold by Monday!

Edinburgh’s Holyrood distillery auctions three “extra special” casks for charity

Edinburgh’s first single malt distillery in almost a century, Holyrood, will be auctioning three casks with the proceeds going to three charities: Vintage Vibes, tackling social isolation in Edinburgh, Edinburgh Food Project, and The Drinks Trust’s Covid relief fund. It’s all happening on Whisky Auctioneer with the auction ending on Monday 7 June. The auction house has agreed to waive selling fees and will donate the 10% buyer’s commission to charity. The three “extra special casks” are 200 litres filled with 60% ABV new make which has first been matured in a first-fill American ex-bourbon barrel. These are unusual as the commercial “Made in Edinburgh” output from Holyrood is sherry-cask aged. We were fortunate enough to be sent a wee sample of the deliciously flavoursome new make which comes from a local farm, and is made with a mixture of crystal and chocolate malt fermented with an Edinburgh ale yeast. Co-founder David Robertson said: “We’ve created a spirit that echoes what would have been done 100 years ago”. He went on to say “It was essential for us that we supported local Edinburgh charities, our whisky is made by local people and inspired by the city we’re in, so it was paramount to ensure that communities close to the heart of our distillery are supported during this time.” Joe Wilson, from Whisky Auctioneer added: “The sale presents the very unique opportunity for our global customer base to acquire a piece of liquid history from this trailblazing Edinburgh distillery, whilst giving back to the local community.” The auction ends this Monday!

The Nightcap: 4 June

Foursquare hopes the investment will pay dividends for Bajan rum

Foursquare Distillery backs rum history research

If you’re like a lot of us here at MoM Towers then both rum and history will be of great interest to you. Which naturally means you’ll love a bit of rum history. That’s something we share with the RL Seale & Company, which has agreed to fund scholarships in the University of the West Indies’ department of history and philosophy, through which students will investigate Barbados’ rum history. The owner of Foursquare Distillery plans to use the findings to support the island’s application for recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage site for sugar and rum, and will “naturally” help its application for a Barbadian rum GI, according to Foursquare proprietor Richard Seale. In an emailed statement to The Spirits Business, the outspoken rum producer said that “as the provenance of Barbados Rum becomes more recognised and more valuable, the time has come for professional, independent and scholarly work on the history of Barbados Rum and for that work to be done at home.” He added that he sees the investment, reported by Barbados Today as being BBD$320,000 (around £112,000) for three doctoral scholarships and six-year postdoctoral fellowships, as one which “will strengthen the category in the longer term”. The fact that receiving government approval for a rum GI is a complex enough issue that it requires such initiatives may seem surprising, but it’s not a straightforward process. Barbados’ four rum producers – Foursquare, Mount Gay, Saint Nicholas Abbey, and West Indies Rum Distillery – must all collectively agree on a proposal and, while the first three distillers decided on GI terms to put forward last year, the latter company did not agree

The Nightcap: 4 June

These four beauties will be with us soon!

William Grant & Sons launches bottled cocktail range

It appears that William Grant & Sons is the latest big brand to enter the bottled cocktail range after it announced the launch of Batch & Bottle. The line-up includes a Monkey Shoulder Lazy Old Fashioned, a Hendrick’s Gin Martini, a Reyka Vodka Rhubarb Cosmopolitan, and a Glenfiddich Scotch Manhattan. The range is being launched in the UK first, then in Australia from September 2021, and other markets from early 2022. For every bottle of Batch & Bottle sold in the UK until May 2022, William Grant & Sons will also donate £1 to leading hospitality charities The Drinks Trust and The BEN as part of its #STANDFAST CAMPAIGN, which is dedicated to supporting the On Trade, raising in excess of £110,000 to date. “Consumers are adopting a ‘less but better’ mentality and are becoming more discerning about the brands they drink. For decades we have continually produced premium and luxury spirits, but for the consumer who wants to indulge in an upgraded at-home experience, they can now do so without the fuss or cocktail accouterments” said Karen Murphy, William Grant & Sons global innovation marketing manager, on the launch. “Batch & Bottle provides an opportunity to showcase the world-class brands in our portfolio, while also providing an uncomplicated solution to perfect cocktail serves created and produced using our industry expertise.” You’ll be pleased to know that all four expressions will be available from Master of Malt soon.

The Nightcap: 4 June

This is your chance to own a bit of history

1889 Tokaji Essencia to go under the hammer in July

Two very special bottles of Tokaji Essencia from 1889 will be auctioned by Dreweatts on 8 July. Essencia is the rarest, sweetest, and long-lived form of Tokaji, Hungary’s legendary sweet wine. It’s made only from a sugary liquid that drips from the grapes before they are crushed. Mark Robertson from the auction house commented: “This supernatural concentration of sweetness is beautifully married with an unusual level of acidity creating a wine that can age effortlessly across the centuries”. It was produced by a family of Jewish landowners, the Zimmermans, whose wines won awards across Europe. This history was brutally cut short in 1944 when the German army occupied Hungary and the family was deported to Auschwitz. Following the war, their lands were seized by the communist state and the quality of Tokaji took a nosedive. Following the fall of communism, Tokaji’s reputation was slowly rebuilt partly thanks to investors like Hugh Johnson of the Royal Tokaji Company. There are two plaques at the company’s offices unveiled by six descendants of the Zimmerman family’s holocaust survivors celebrating the link between the region’s wines and the Jewish community that was destroyed during the war. The special bottles are expected to go for between £500 and £1,000 for 500ml bottles which seems like very little to own a bit of history. Robertson concluded: “These are important bottles and I hope they are enjoyed with a chink of the glass to the man and his family who made them”. L’chaim!

The Nightcap: 4 June

We sure that you, like us, have always wanted to play as a pronghorn

Play as a pronghorn to aid conservation

There are presumably numerous ways to engage in meaningful philanthropy for distilleries and we’ve seen all kinds of initiatives, projects, and fundraisers over the years. A limited-time mobile game is new to us, however. For Great Outdoors Month (apparently a thing), High West Distillery is launching Prairie Dash so whiskey drinkers and gaming enthusiasts alike can help conserve the natural habitat of Montana’s Great Plains in a fun, interactive way. You play a pronghorn who has to face a collection of quick-time challenges like clearing debris and slaloming through herds of bison. Made in support of long-time partner and non-profit organization, American Prairie, for every game played, High West will donate $1, up to $50,000. You can also purchase the distillery’s American Prairie Bourbon on highwest.com with a portion of the proceeds also going to the bottle’s namesake organization. The game, which is available to play for the month of June only, will also have a grand winner. So one lucky person and their travel companion will win a once-in-a-lifetime Western adventure to the distillery’s homeland, Park City, Utah. To be in with a chance and to help raise some dough for a great organisation, head to race.highwest.com to play.

The Nightcap: 4 June

It’s going to take a lot more than an unfortunate association to topple this crown

And finally… Corona remains world’s most valuable beer brand, despite name association

Some people’s chances in life are immediately made harder by their parents giving them truly ridiculous names. But they at least have the opportunity to remedy the situation as an adult and have them changed. When you’re a huge company with brand recognition, a legacy, and a vast network of packaging, advertising and more you can’t just adapt as soon as there’s some name-based crisis. So, for the last 18 months or so Corona has had to deal with the reality that it shares a name with a virus that caused a devastating global pandemic. You may have seen the pictures of bottles languishing on supermarket shelves. You’ve probably heard the jokes or the exaggerated dirty looks someone gives you if you order a Corona at a bar. It’s truly ridiculous that anybody would actually associate the two, but this is people we’re talking about here. Despite all of this, the brand has endured. Findings from the new Brand Finance Alcoholic Drinks 2021 report show that Corona has retained the title of the world’s ‘most valuable’ beer brand. It did record a 28% drop in brand value to the tune of $2.243 billion, however, bringing its current brand value in at $5.8billion. But, overall, the world’s top 50 beer brands lost 16% of cumulative value last year due to Covid-19 so everyone is in the same boat. It demonstrates that the Mexican beer makers are pretty resilient. The name actually means ‘crown’ in Spanish, so there’s something neat about Corona retaining its status as king of the beer world.

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Cocktail of the Week: The Stone Fence

Bourbon and cider come together to create one of the cocktail world’s more simple but obscure serves. From Connecticut to east London, we explore the hazy life of the Stone…

Bourbon and cider come together to create one of the cocktail world’s more simple but obscure serves. From Connecticut to east London, we explore the hazy life of the Stone Fence.

Breton Cider is a powerful beast. The hazy, fermented apple juice can make you do interesting things. For me, it was the catalyst for an unexpected evening at a Slipknot gig in Ally Pally; for Kevin Armstrong of Satan’s Whiskers, it forms part of his Stone Fence cocktail.

During lockdown, the Bethnal Green bar got together with Maker’s Mark bourbon to create a bottled limited edition version. Combining Maker’s Mark, cider, lemon cordial, ginger and orange bitters, I found it the perfect 2pm livener for a lazy Easter Sunday.

Chasing history

Despite having reportedly been around since the 18th century, the Stone Fence is still a relatively unknown cocktail. “It’s like an obscure classic,” says Noel Venning of fellow east London bar Three Sheets, where the cocktail has been on and off the menu since its opening in 2016.

Indeed, its origins are opaque. According to the intrepid drinks historian David Wondrich in an article for Esquire: “The name ‘Stone Fence’ alludes to the effect produced by getting outside too many of these, which is not unlike that produced by running downhill into one.”

He goes on to explain how the drink also called the ‘Stone Wall’ has its origins in the volatile atmosphere of revolutionary America when in 1775 a group of New Hampshire colonists known as the Green Mountain Boys decided to seize Ticonderoga fort from its well-armed British garrison. To prepare, the gang needed a little Dutch courage.

Wondrich writes: “What do you drink before taking on a garrison of well-entrenched professional soldiers, a garrison that has 100 cannon to your none, with nothing more than a gang of high-spirited part-timers? According to the Green Mountain Boys, you drink cider. Hard cider. In fact, hard cider with a hefty shot of rum in it. A lot of it.” And so the Stone Wall was born. Over time, the drink evolved to include whiskey and became the now-known Stone Fence.

Rock solid recipes

It’s appeared in various forms ever since. In 1872’s Cooling Cups and Dainty Drinks by William Terrington, it features in the ‘Cobblers and Smashes’ section with a simple recipe of a gill (quarter pint) of whiskey, half pint of cider and half pint of shaved ice. 

However, in Louis Fouquet’s 1896 Mixellany’s Annotated Bariana the cocktail calls for Cognac and sweet cider; while Harry Johnson in his famous 1900 Bartender’s Manual instructs the reader to gather a whiskey glass for serving, one wine glass of whiskey, two or three lumps of broken ice and to: “‘Fill the glass with cider, stir up well, and serve; as a rule it is left to the drinker to help himself to the whiskey if he so desires.” A cider and whiskey chaser, if you will.

More modern iterations include that of Jim Meehan in his 2017 book Meehan’s Bartender Manual combines cider, bourbon whiskey, grade A dark amber maple syrup, and the option of adding a dash or two of Angostura bitter, the latter becoming more mainstream in modern serves.

Stone Fence

It’s a Stone Fence!

Devil’s play

The first time Armstrong put a Stone Fence on the menu was during his time in charge of the bars at Match Bar Group. “I looked after all the recruitment training menus for Milk and Honey, Trailer Happiness, etc and one of the people that was working as a consultant was Dale DeGroff [American master mixologist, award winner and ‘King of Cocktails’]. Whenever we did a Matchbar menu we would do a ‘Dale’s page’ which had some of his originals. At one stage we put an entire page of Stone-related drinks, using the same recipe but different base spirit.”

During the pandemic, Armstrong wanted a bottled bourbon drink that wasn’t a Manhattan or an Old Fashioned (“high booze content, a little bit boring”) and was looking for something lighter: “Everything we did was about creating a range of drinks that could be drunk at midday, 2pm or 1am, 2am. There aren’t that many long carbonated good cocktails so the Stone Fence is comfortably more accessible. We have a brilliant in-house recipe so we thought, ‘let’s work on that and see if we can make it work in a bottled cocktail’.”

Ginger juice was replaced with a clarified ginger syrup; fresh lemon was dried and then rehydrated into a sugar syrup; followed by lemon, ginger and orange essences; pressed apple juice was added as was a blend of Breton cider and West Country ciders for extra dryness; and a healthy slug of Maker’s Mark topped it off. “Maker’s Mark was really excellent with getting the balance right and it also comes in at a lower ABV than some other bourbons,” says Armstrong.

The riffs keep on coming

Over at Three Sheets, the recipe for its Stone Fence cocktail has evolved over the years while also keeping regulars happy. “We always have the ability to serve it,” explains co-owner Venning who credits his brother Max with creating the original bar recipe. “We always keep a batch of the drink on hand because we have regulars who drink it exclusively.”

Describing it as a good summer-to-autumn drink, Venning reckons it’s changed three times since 2016. A recipe in a previous bar he was at the helm of used pear with Calvados. Now the Three Sheets recipe calls for 25ml bourbon, 5ml Merlet Peche, 5ml 2:1 sugar syrup, 25 ml lemon juice, 5ml egg white, two dashes Angostura bitters, 50ml soda water and a Breton cider top. Served in a chilled water or fizz glass, the first six ingredients are shaken with ice until diluted. Soda water is added to the bottom of the glass, then the shaken ingredients are double-strained over it, left to settle and topped with the Breton.

Hopefully the rise in popularity of American whiskeys – will see the Stone Fence become somewhat less obscure than it has been in recent years. Venning is hopeful too: “It’s a bit left field, but I think bars are trying to increase knowledge of it.”

How to make a Stone Fence (from Meehan’s Bartender’s Manual)

90ml good quality still dry cider*
60ml Maker’s Mark bourbon
7ml grade A dark amber maple syrup
Dash or two Angostura Bitters (optional)

Build together in a Collins glass, fill with ice and garnish with an apple fan.

*Recipe calls for unfiltered hard apple cider which is usually dry and still. If your cider is sweeter then cut back on the maple syrup; if it sparkles, then it’s probably fine to use. It’s the quality that matters.

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Cocktail of the Week: The Suffering Bastard

This week there’s been a whisky focus at Master of Malt what with World Whisky Day coming up, whereas next week it’s all about gin. So for our Cocktail of…

This week there’s been a whisky focus at Master of Malt what with World Whisky Day coming up, whereas next week it’s all about gin. So for our Cocktail of the Week, we’ve combined the two with a Suffering Bastard. Oh, and it’s World Cocktail Day tomorrow. Will the fun never end?

The great thing about cocktails is that you can sling all kinds of things together and if they taste good, then that’s all that matters. I mean who could have predicted that Campari, vermouth and gin would work such magic together in the Negroni? The flipside is that it’s easy to make something revolting. Today’s drink is in the former category combining some seriously strong, disparate flavours: gin, bourbon and ginger beer. It’s one of those drinks that shouldn’t work but somehow it does. Unlike most cocktails whose origins are lost in the mists of time the Suffering Bastard has a fixed who, when and where.

Shalom!

The who was a man called Joe Scialom, who was bartender at the Long Bar in the legendary Shepheard’s Hotel in Cairo. And the when was 1942. Scialom was an Egpytian Jew of Italian extraction, his surname is an Italianised version of the Hebrew word “shalom”, meaning peace.

The hotel was a popular haunt of British officers and assorted hangers-on during the war. As you might expect, quite a bit of drinking went on with the resultant hangovers and one day Scialom was inspired to create a cure.

Anyone who has had a hangover will know that ginger has magical palliative properties. Or seems to anyway. When I worked at Oddbins in Leeds, a bottle of Fentimen’s Ginger Beer and a couple of paracetamol was all too often the breakfast of champions.

Joe Scialom

Joe Scialom, in the white DJ

Brandy or bourbon?

To that ginger beer, Scialom added lime cordial, brandy and gin, not something we’d recommend as treatment for a hangover but delightful as a long drink. All those strong flavours were partly a way of disguising that by 1942, good quality booze would have been in short supply. This is from a 1957 New York Times interview with Scialom:

When liquor was short during the war, he had to concoct “something to quench the boys’ thirst.” He combined equal parts gin and brandy with a dash of Angostura bitters, a teaspoon of Rose’s lime juice, and English ginger ale. He garnished the drink with a sprig of fresh mint, a slice of orange and a cucumber peel. The bartender advised Americans to substitute ginger beer for the ginger ale because the British version of the soft drink is more heavily seasoned with ginger than ours.

Or was it bourbon? In an interview with Collier’s Magazine from 1953 – it’s worth reading the whole thing on this wonderful blog Egypt in the Golden of Travel – it reads:

“I always thought that gin, which I had, and bourbon, which I had, don’t marry,” Joe says. “But I stuck some gin and bourbon into the vase, and looked about for something to take the curse off. There was some Angostura and some lime cordial and some dry ginger ale for fizz. I shook it all up with some ice and decorated it with mint.

“I was most surprised at the result. The customers did not drop dead. They recovered, and clamoured for more. Been clamouring ever since.

So the story isn’t quite so straightforward after all.

Shepheard's Hotel Cairo

Shepheard’s Hotel in its heyday

Two revolutions later 

Sadly, in 1952 Shepheard’s Hotel was destroyed during the revolution that overthrew the monarchy and brought President Nasser to power. Nasser’s aim was to free the country of foreign influences which involved nationalising industries including the Suez canal. Most non-Arabs including the country’s ancient Jewish community took the hint and left but not Scialom who moved across town to open Joe’s Bar at another hotel, the Semiramis. That is until he was imprisoned under suspicion of espionage.

On his release he left Egypt, worked for Hilton hotels in Puerto Rico and then later Cuba, where again he had to flee a revolution. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde: to be caught up in one revolution may be regarded as a misfortune, to be in two looks like carelessness. If you want to know more, it’s worth reading this post on Scialom which hints that he may well have been involved in espionage in some way.

From its birth in wartime Cairo, the Suffering Bastard, sometimes known as the Suffering Bar Steward for those who don’t like a bit of good old fashioned swearing, became a staple of tiki bars. It was on the menu at Trader Vic’s though made with rum instead of brandy, and it was served in a special mug that looked like a particularly lugubrious chap holding his head in his hands following a hard night – see below.

Suffering Bastard - Image courtesy of Difford's Guide.

Oh my head! Image courtesy of Difford’s Guide.

How to make Suffering Bastard

The version in Difford’s Guide is made with Remy Martin Cognac, though nowadays it’s usually made with bourbon. The version we’ve got below is based on David Wondrich’s Esquire Drinks: An Opinionated and Irreverent Guide to Drinking with 250 Drink Recipes.

It eschews the lime cordial which was probably there in the first place to cover up bad booze and seeing as this is the Master of Malt blog, we’re not likely to use such a thing. For bourbon, we’re using Woodford Reserve, plus a good London dry gin, Fords. And then Fentimans ginger beer to finish the whole thing off.

Down the hatch or rather l’chaim!

Suffering Bastard

Suffering Bastard, surprisingly delicious

30ml Woodford Reserve bourbon
30ml Fords London Dry Gin
1tsp lime juice
1 dash of Angostura Bitters
Chilled Fentimans or any good strong ginger beer

Add the gin, bourbon, lime juice and bitters to an ice-filled Highball glass. Top up with ginger beer, stir gently and garnish with an orange slice and a sprig of mint.

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