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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Bourbon

A closer look at Tennessee whiskey

When you hear the words ‘Tennessee whiskey’, we’ll bet your mind jumps straight to Jack Daniel’s. But the state is home to a host of whiskey producers large and small…

When you hear the words ‘Tennessee whiskey’, we’ll bet your mind jumps straight to Jack Daniel’s. But the state is home to a host of whiskey producers large and small who pride themselves on doing things the Tennessee way. Speaking with Jim Massey, co-founder of Nashville-based Fugitives Spirits, we dig down into the DNA of Tennessee whiskey and reveal what sets it apart from bourbon…

The two largest Tennessee whiskey producers are Lynchburg-based Jack Daniel’s and  Cascade Hollow’s George Dickel, but there are a wealth of smaller producers throughout the state – Chattanooga Whiskey Company of, naturally, Chattanooga, Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery of Nashville, and Tenn South of Lynnville to name just three – who are dedicated to making whiskey the Tennessee way.

The term ‘Tennessee whiskey’ doesn’t apply to all whiskeys produced in Tennessee, since the liquid has to undergo a certain production process before it can wear the term on its label, but it does have to be made in the state. When it comes to regulations, Tennessee whiskeys are held to the same legal definition as bourbon – at least 51% corn, aged in new, charred oak, etc – but they benefit from an additional filtering process through maple charcoal, known as the Lincoln County Process.

Just some of the Fugitive range

“The effect of these constraints has kept ‘paper tiger’ brands from hijacking and repackaging hundreds of variation brands on industrial bourbon and calling it ‘Tennessee Whiskey’,” says Jim Massey, co-founder of Nashville-based Fugitives Spirits, which uses sustainable heirloom grains to make its signature bottlings. “While the marketplace is flooded with repackaged bourbon brands all carrying the same juice, Tennessee Whiskey has held steadfast and true. There are only a handful on the market, so we’ve ended up being the true rare find.”

The process – which sees all new make distillate filtered through (or steeped in) charcoal chips prior to being aged in cask – is named for Lincoln County, Tennessee, which was the location of Jack Daniel’s when it was first established there. Interestingly, it’s no longer used in Lincoln County – the only remaining distillery is Kelso-based Benjamin Prichard’s, which is the only distillery exempt from using charcoal filtration.

For the rest – well, each distillery has its own method. Jack Daniel’s chars sugar maple staves with its own unaged distillate before grinding the remains into chunks, filtering its new make through a 10ft filter bed using gravity. George Dickel, meanwhile, chills its new make to around 5 degrees celsius before steeping it in 13ft of charcoal (as opposed to filtering it through). By contrast, Collier and McKeel pumps its whiskey through 10-13 feet of sugar maple charcoal made from trees cut by local sawmills.

While ‘filtering’ gives the impression that flavour is being removed as opposed to added, in reality the opposite is true. “Maple charcoal filtering certainly smooths the spirit, but it also adds dramatically to the flavour profile,” says Massey, who admits he was initially hesitant to introduce the process. “My heirloom grain distillate was so beautiful, I thought, ‘Why change this?’,” he explains. “But I was committed to making the best Tennessee Whiskey and that meant I had to do the maple charcoal filtering. The result overwhelmed me, it was indeed smoother and yet more complex.” 

Don’t mess with Jim Massey

This, Massey explains, is because of the additional congeners found in the charcoal, which he makes from storm-damaged sugar maple limbs at his family farm, which were planted by his great-grandfather more than 100 years ago. “I did this out of necessity – it’s not like you can go to the store and buy food-grade maple charcoal – but I realise this is probably the way it was originally done,” he says. “We get hints of smoke and certainly maple, but there is a wild fruit note that comes through as well.”

The spirit is certainly all the more compelling for it. I ask Massey for his opinion on existing practices regarding the production and labelling of Tennessee whiskey. Are there any changes he’d advocate for? “I’d like to see a designation for Tennessee Whiskey sourced from heirloom Tennessee-raised corn,” says Massey. “Other than that, it needs to be distilled and aged and bottled in Tennessee, and, of course, honour the Lincoln County Process. 

“With the varieties of soil types and heirloom corn and distillation methods and skills and charcoal production possibilities, there are thousands of flavours to be explored for Tennessee Whiskey as it is defined,” he continues. “Those who say it’s too limiting are simply ignorant, have ulterior motives, or they don’t want to do the work.”

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New Arrival of the Week: Yellow Rose Outlaw Bourbon

There has been much wearing of chaps and yee-hawing at MoM HQ because this week we’ve chosen bourbon from the Lone Star state for the coveted New Arrival slot. You…

There has been much wearing of chaps and yee-hawing at MoM HQ because this week we’ve chosen bourbon from the Lone Star state for the coveted New Arrival slot.

You may have heard of nominative determinism: people doing jobs that are amusingly well-suited to their names. There are top urologists A. J. Splatt and D. Weedon, Israeli tennis player Anna Smashnova and, best of all, a Dutch architect called Rem Koolhaas. Perhaps not quite in this league but still pretty funny is that the head distiller at Houston’s Yellow Rose distillery is called Houston Farris. A Texan native, he wasn’t born in Houston, but something drew him to the city. Can’t think what.

Outlaw Bourbon

Outlaw Bourbon, it’s completely legit

Houston moved to Houston in 2002 and joined the Yellow Rose Distillery in 2014 as ‘brand mixologist’. He learned the intricacies of distillation before assuming his current role in 2017. There’s some serious booze heritage in the Ferris family: “My great-grandfather, Vance Raimond, ran the first legal moonshine still in the state of Texas since Prohibition,” Ferris writes on the website. “This was at the Texas Centennial Expo in 1936. He set up on the Midway of the state fairgrounds and attracted a great deal of attention. Unfortunately, that included the IRS, who wasted little time in shutting his operation down!”

You will be relieved to know that the Yellow Rose distillery, despite making a bourbon called Outlaw, is completely legit.  Founded in 2010, it claims to be the first legal distillery in Houston since Prohibition. The first whiskey was released in 2012 and the distillery opened its doors to the public in 2014. You won’t be surprised to hear that it is named after the 19th century American folk song: “The Yellow Rose of Texas” (which, oddly enough, we used to sing in music class in my primary school in Buckinghamshire).

Houston Farris

Houston Farris, born to do it

The set up consists of 600 gallon (2700 litre) mash tun, two 600 gallon fermenters and a 600 gallon whiskey still. It produces over 10,000 cases a year. Currently the company produces three products, a rye, made with 95% rye in the mash bill, a blended whiskey and the award-winning Outlaw Bourbon which is double pot-distilled. The bourbon could not be more Texan if it was wearing a cowboy hat and firing a couple of revolvers in the air Yosemite Sam-style: it’s made from Texas yellow corn and aged in Texas in American oak. Anyone who has been to Houston will know how hot and humid it can get so the whiskey matures quickly. The distillery loses about 15% a year to those pesky angels demanding their share. Following maturation, it’s bottled at a punchy 46% ABV.

Yellow Rose is just the sort of smaller player who is being badly affected by the trade war between the US and EU that Ian Buxton wrote about recently. So help out an independent distillery and fill your cowboy boots.

Tastings note from The Chaps at Master of Malt:

Nose: A hint of floral oak, with a drizzle of caramel and oak char in there too.

Palate: Buttery caramel, toffee popcorn and vanilla with a hint of marshmallow.

Finish: Treacle and more of that lingering oak char.

 

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New Year, New Boozes!

A new year, a new decade, in fact, means there’s more new delicious booze for us to enjoy and so we’ve rounded up a few of the finest to make…

A new year, a new decade, in fact, means there’s more new delicious booze for us to enjoy and so we’ve rounded up a few of the finest to make life easier for you.

There are few things more joyful then the rewarding feeling you get when you take a chance on something you haven’t tried before and find a new favourite. It could be a film you’ll spend the rest of your life watching, a meal you’ll forever be tempted to order or a drink you’ll always have room for on your shelf. 

The beginning of a new year is the ideal time to try something different, particularly as there’s plenty of great events on the horizon that are perfect for a little boozy indulgence, from Burns Night to Chinese New Year. The following drinks are ideal for those who want to kick-off the new year by broadening their horizons and enjoying some of the finest new arrivals at MoM Towers.

That Boutique-y Whisky Company Chinese New Year Tasting Set

As we touched on in the intro, Chinese New Year is on the horizon (25th Jan, meaning it’s sharing some celebration space with Burns Night). That Boutique-y Whisky Company has decided to mark the occasion the best way it knows how: with delicious whisky! You’ll find five different 30ml wax-sealed sample drams from the indie whisky bottler’s stunning range in this set, the packaging of which was modelled on the red envelopes gifted during Chinese New Year festivities. There’s also an expanded 12 Dram Gift Set for those who want to really see in the Chinese New Year in style.

Chinese New Year Red Envelope Whisky Tasting Set Contents:

Macduff 10 Year Old; Glengoyne 9 Year Old; Cameronbridge 27 Year Old; Teaninich 11 year Old and Linkwood 10 Year Old.

Heaven’s Door Double Barrel Bourbon

Heaven’s Door Double Barrel Bourbon is a blend of three whiskeys which were finished in hand-toasted, new American oak barrels from the Louisville-based Kelvin Cooperage. Wait, I haven’t mentioned yet that Heaven’s Door was co-founded by Bob Dylan. That’s right. It’s a Bob Dylan whiskey, folks. 

What does it taste like?:

Honey on rye toast, apricot, liquorice, apple, peach, lemon, pepper, grilled pineapple, burnt brown sugar and a hint of strawberry. 

The Wrecking Coast Kea Plum Rum Liqueur

Rum is said to be the go-to spirit of 2020, which is good news for tasty rum liqueurs like this beauty from The Wrecking Coast. It’s a modern twist on the Rum Shrub, a traditional Cornish drink that dates back to the 17th century made from mixing fruit with rum. In this example, Kea plums, which are only found in a single valley in Cornwall, were foraged and then rested in white rum for around two months with orange and ginger too.

What does it taste like?:

Sharp plum notes, with warming ginger, sweeter orange peel, and a tart, jammy finish.

Peerless 3 Year Old Single Barrel – Modjeska

Given that this booze was bottled for the British Bourbon Society, you’d be forgiven for thinking Peerless 3 Year Old Single Barrel – Modjeska is a tasty bourbon. But you’d be wrong. Instead, this is a particularly delightful and young rye whiskey that got its name after a type of confectionery first created in Louisville, Kentucky that’s made by dipping marshmallow in caramel. Which sounds awesome. Much like this whiskey. 

What does it taste like?:

White grape skin, clove spice, fresh cream, prickly pepper heat, crème brûlée, toasted marshmallow, white chocolate, buttery vanilla pod and butterscotch.

Teeling 18 Year Old Renaissance Series

The Renaissance Series celebrates the ongoing Renaissance of Irish whiskey, Dublin whiskey and Teeling themselves, which we’re happy to raise a glass to! The 18 Year Old single malt is the first expression from the series and was matured first in ex-bourbon barrels before enjoying a finishing period in ex-Madeira casks.

What does it taste like?:

Ripe red fruits, figs, cinnamon, clove spice, toffee apple, dried fruits, maraschino cherry and rosewater.

Colombo Navy Strength Gin

A Navy Strength gin from Sri Lanka concludes our round-up, one from the fine folks at Colombo! Made from a similar botanical recipe as the original Colombo London Dry, which includes juniper, angelica, coriander seed, liquorice root, Sri Lankan cinnamon bark, ginger root and curry leaves. In the Navy Strength, which was bottled at 57% ABV, there’s an extra helping of curry leaves to add an aromatic, spicy kick.

What does it taste like?:

A kick of candied ginger, with refreshing menthol, aromatic curry leaf and peppery coriander.

 

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Our top drinks trends for 2020!

The start of a new year means one thing at MoM Towers: time to crack out the crystal ball and predict what will be in our glasses throughout the year….

The start of a new year means one thing at MoM Towers: time to crack out the crystal ball and predict what will be in our glasses throughout the year. Read on for our top drinks trends for 2020!

It’s not just a new year – 2020 brings with it a box-fresh decade, too. But what will be drinking this year? We’ve had a good chinwag in the office, looked at sales trends from the last few years and kept our ears to the ground for word of the Next Big Thing in booze. 

Before we crack on with our top ten trends, a quick note on two topics. First up: sustainability in terms of both production and packaging. We reckon every single producer should have this on their radar by now. We’re working hard to make our own ops here are as lean and green as they can possibly be. It’s not a trend, just the right way to do things. We’ve not included this in our list as it’s a societal shift that’s here to stay. Similar with low- and no-alcohol products. 2019 saw the segment explode – but it’s not going anywhere. Brands that give us the option to drink less alcohol while keeping things delicious are a welcome and permanent part of the drinks industry.

So. What else does the year have in store? This is what we reckon we’ll be drinking for the next 12 months!

spiced rum drinks trends for 2020

Spiced rums will continue their dominance into 2020

Spiced and flavoured rums are just getting started

One of the runaway successes of 2019 has been spiced and flavoured rums. In fact, over the whole of 2019, 15 of our top 20 rum best sellers were spiced or flavoured. It’s a trend that accelerated over the course of the year, and while you’d expect an uptick in November and December (hello Christmas!), sales of the likes of Bombo, Cloven Hoof and Pirate’s Grog rums are in year-on-year growth for the start of January, too. One shift we think we’ll see? A move towards more ‘grown-up’ flavours and bottle designs. Spiced and flavoured rums don’t have to be all about the party; they can hold their own as respectable cocktail ingredients, too. 

world whisky drinks trends for 2020

No need for a passport – explore the world through whisky!

Genuinely world whisky

Move over, Scotland. Hang back, America. You too, Ireland and Japan. Yes, you make delicious whiskies. But 2020 looks set to be the year that world whisky meaningfully comes to the fore for more of us. Take Israel, for example. There are three distilleries already up and running (Milk & Honey, Golan Heights, Pelter), but there’s the Jerusalem Distillery, Legends Distillery and Eder’i Malthouse and Distillery all hot on their heels. Up in Finland, you’ve got Kyrö, Teerenpeli, The Helsinki Distilling Co, and Panimoravintola (and no doubt numerous others at the development stage). Australian whisky continues to gain momentum (Starward, Sullivans Cove, and Hellyers Road, anyone?), and we’re excited by what distillers are doing across New Zealand, Sweden and France, too. And there’s India, South Africa, England, Wales, The Netherlands… you get the picture. We’re also thrilled by the geographic diversity of whisky production and the different approaches and flavours inherent in that. We reckon loads of you will be, too. 

vodka drinks trends for 2020

Get set for a vodka revival

Viva vodka!

A slightly unexpected one, now. Did you know our vodka sales in 2019 soared by 30% year-on-year? It’s a bit of a surprise for us, too. Bottle sales ramped up gradually but noticeably over the course of the year, and it initially had us scratching our heads. After a pretty break time in the 2000s and 2010s, why is vodka falling back into favour? We looked at our top-sellers and noticed a couple of things. It’s generally not flavoured vodka that’s hitting the mark (a couple of notable exceptions: Thunder Toffee Vodka and Whitley Neill Blood Orange Vodka). Instead, it’s the classic, neutral, big names that seem to have appeal. But that’s not all. Smaller brands playing on their legitimate flavour differences derived from their raw materials are doing especially well. We think the likes of Black Cow Vodka (made from leftover whey from cheese-making), East London Liquor Company 100% Wheat Vodka and Konik’s Tail (made with three different grains: spelt, rye and wheat) will drive this trend forward into 2020.

hard seltzers drinks trends for 2020

Hard seltzers will be A Thing

Hard seltzers and sodas

Call them what you like (the seltzer vs. soda debate could go on), but this sparkling, low-ABV mix of flavoured water and booze isn’t going anywhere. Hard seltzers have been big news Stateside for some time now, and we reckon 2020 is the year they’ll make their presence really felt this side of the Pond. Why? Beer sales are down, people are embracing low- and no-, and we’re all rather partial to a train tinnie, which, if you think about what cocktails in a can actually are, we’re barely a swift step from a hard seltzer anyway. Last year saw the UK launch of Mike’s Hard Sparkling Water, and native names DRTY Hard Seltzer and Bodega Bay are already in the market. Plus, White Claw, the US hard seltzer hero, has already registered its trademark here, too. We’re ready

Beyond bourbon drinks trends for 2020

American single malts for the win!

Beyond bourbon

Hands up who loves American whiskey? Us too. And it’s hardly new. So why does it feature on our list of drinks trends for 2020? Bourbon has long been seen as a synonym for American whiskey, but when you think about its legal definition (in short, it’s made in the US; its mashbill recipe contains a minimum of 51% corn; it’s matured in new, charred oak) it becomes clear there’s a whole load more to American whiskey than perhaps we collectively understand. Step in rye. Come in, American single malt. Oh hello, wheat whiskeys. And of course, there’s a whole host of category-defying whiskeys coming out of the US that can’t be called bourbon. Rules are there to be broken, and when distillers shrug off the bourbon confines, deliciousness can spring forth, and we think 2020 is the year we’ll get to grips with these expressions. Want in now? Check out Balcones Texas Single Malt, Uncle Nearest 1856 Premium Whiskey, St. George Baller Single Malt, and WhistlePig 12 Year Old – Old World.

calvados drinks trends for 2020

Appley goodness right there

Calvados returns

If you’re unfamiliar with this historical French brandy, you are not alone. Calvados is made from apples and pears in Normandy, distilled in either traditional alembic or column stills, and is aged for at least two years. And it’s mighty tasty. We’re waking up to its mixing and sipping potential: last year our Calvados sales soared by an enormous 40% in 2019 over 2018. One of the key drivers was the launch of Avallen in June, a more modern expression that is all about sustainability and boosting biodiversity. Calvados Coquerel has undertaken a re-brand, bringing more energy to the category. And the likes of Berneroy and Château du Breuil are also seeing renewed momentum. 2020 is the time for Calvados to shine.

mezcal drinks trends for 2020

How mezcal gets its smoke

The advent of Mezcal

Tequila’s smoky cousin made its presence felt in 2019, when we saw sales climb by 31%. But what will 2020 have in store for Mezcal? Quite a lot, we think (especially when you consider its 2017-18 growth stood at just 5%). The biggest-selling brands are increasingly well-recognised (Del Maguey, Pensador and Montelobos are rapidly becoming familiar names), and customers in bars and in shops (on and offline) have a deeper understanding of the Mexican spirit. So, what’s next? More at-home mixing and sipping, and a deeper appreciation for all things Mezcal out and about. Bring. It. On.

scotch whisky casks drinks trends for 2020

Bit cold out there

Unconventional cask finishing in Scotch

In June 2019, the Scotch Whisky Association widened the list of permitted cask types in Scotch whisky production. In short, as long as what was previously held in that cask wasn’t made with stone fruits, and hasn’t had flavourings or sweetening added, you’re good to go. It wasn’t an unexpected decision, and loads of Scotch distillers already had experiments under way (Glen Moray Rhum Agricole Cask Finish Project, we’re looking at you). So what? In 2020 we reckon we’ll see loads more esoteric expressions, perhaps some agave finishes, and maybe even some Calvados casks. And probably some stuff we’ve not even thought of yet. Get set for a new wave of flavour in Scotch whisky. (At this point, we’d also like to add a nod to Irish distilleries, who have been playing with different casks for some time.)

aquavit drinks trends for 2020

Delicious dill

An age of aquavit 

Similar to Calvados, aquavit is a traditional category with strong local ties that flies way too low under the radar for our liking. We’re going to stick our necks out and say 2020 is going to be the year that starts to change. To kick off, last year our aquavit sales blossomed by 27%. More people are seeking out the dill- or caraway-flavoured Scandi spirit than ever. What’s also interesting is that some producers in international markets are looking to aquavit for inspiration and are crafting their own expressions, most notably Svöl Danish-Style Aquavit, from Brooklyn, and Psychopomp Aqvavit, hailing from Bristol, UK. This comes hot on the heels of the botanical spirits trend – tried all manner of gins and want something new? Eschew the juniper and look to aquavit instead. It’s a narrative that could well play out this year. 

liqueurs unicorns drinks trends for 2020

RIP, unicorns

Liqueurs ditch the unicorns

2019 was a bumper year for liqueurs, growing 31% to rank as our third-largest drinks category by bottle sales. It’s a notoriously diverse category, defined really only by sugar levels rather than style or flavour. Good job really, three of our top 10 most popular liqueur products are ‘unicorn’ flavoured, whatever that means. There has been a slight shift already though: for the last three months of the year, whisky, coffee, herbal and caramel varieties proved far more popular. Yes, it could be Christmas. But we reckon there’s an underlying trend of a return to more conventional liqueur flavours. Yes, they’re still going to be sweet (that’s kind of the point). But 2020 looks likely to be the year more traditional liqueur variants reclaim the realm from mythical beasts.

Over to you! What do you think will be the biggest drinks trends for 2020? Have we missed something out or got it wildly wrong? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below, and on social! 

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16 bartenders’ most reached-for bottles of 2019

Ever find yourself gazing at a backbar in total awe? Yeah, us too. With such tantalising spirits towering over them 24/7, how bartenders manage to peel their eyes away long…

Ever find yourself gazing at a backbar in total awe? Yeah, us too. With such tantalising spirits towering over them 24/7, how bartenders manage to peel their eyes away long enough to serve thirsty customers is beyond us. We asked 16 creative minds which bottling they’ve found themselves reaching for time and time again over the course of 2019…

Given that pouring delicious liquids is all in a day’s work for the world’s leading bartenders, finding out which bottles they’re getting excited about makes for fascinating reading. Perhaps their top pick comes from the emergence of a trend – the influx of agave distillates that have graced shelves, for example – or the arrival of a sustainable new product that has revolutionised the way they approach their drinks. Whatever it might be, we asked 16 bartenders to share an interesting bottling they’ve found themselves coming back to over the course of this year. Here’s what they had to say…

Oskar Kinberg, Hide Below, London

Bottle: Cocchi di Torino

Cocchi, or “Old Faithful”. It’s been my most reached for bottle for a number of years now and its mystical powers over me haven’t weakened. Recently it’s been Cocchi di Torino, but the Americano is also a firm favourite. Cocchi has this magic quality of bringing flavours together without intruding too much, and leaving the cocktail with real feng shui. A splash of either can fix pretty much any drink. They are all really nice on their own too, over ice or in a spritz. You really can’t go wrong with them. 

Sother Teague

Sother Teague and his amazing levitating glass

Sother Teague, Amor y Amargo, Williamsburg

Bottle: Dale DeGroff’s Pimento Bitters

It’s probably no surprise to anyone that the item I’ve reached for the most this past year has been a bottle of bitters, specifically Dale DeGroff’s Pimento Bitters. Pimento is the allspice berry, and that’s the genius of this expression – it simultaneously tastes of ginger, nutmeg and mace. It makes a stand-out Old Fashioned as well as finding itself right at home in a Buck or Mule. Combined with rum in your favourite Daiquiri, it elevates all the parts and creates a harmonious tipple. Don’t get me started on how easily it lends itself to tiki-influenced drinks. Cheers!

Will Meredith, Lyaness, London 

Bottle: Martell VSOP

Regarding my most picked up bottle of 2019, it must be Cognac. I know that may seem an odd choice, but Cognac has such a distinctive profile, and it actually lends itself perfectly to being both a base flavour as well as a modifier. I’ve spent a lot of this year drinking Cognac-based Sazeracs from around the continent and I think the diversity that Cognac brings to a cocktail is second to none. Due to its natural sweetness and full body, it lends itself perfectly as a product that is both malleable and distinctive. We use Martell VSOP at Lyaness but Cognac in general is what I’ve reached for the most. If you want to push the boat out then Armagnac offers even more diversity as a substitute for your traditional whisky base in cocktails.

Zoe Van Der Grinten, FAM Bar, London

Bottle: 8Brix Red Verjus

Throughout the year I’ve found myself constantly adding verjus to a good deal of cocktails. It’s delicious and versatile, as it works in stirred, shaken, alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. Whether a dash or a bit more of a hefty measure, this verjus imparts a unique mouthwatering acidity with full bodied tart fruit flavours that you can’t achieve by using just citrus or acids such as citric, malic, and tartaric. When in doubt, sometimes just a splash of verjus does the trick! 

Andrei Talapanescu, Pulitzer’s Bar, Amsterdam

Bottle: Muyu Chinotto Nero

When it comes to creating drinks off-menu or brainstorming for future serves, the bottles I kept reaching for were the new range of Muyu Liqueurs. Especially the Chinotto Nero. The reason behind this comes from a need to simplify the serves we build and also pack a punch in terms of flavour. When one ingredient can deliver the desired spectrum of aroma and taste, it allows us to downgrade the number of elements in set drinks and also takes away the hassle of creating a homemade ingredient to satisfy this need. So, the more complex and unique a commercially available product is the easiest it becomes for us to build a drink around it. This is my reason for constantly reaching for Muyu Liqueurs.

Bartenders love the Michter’s range

Ryan Gavin, Gran Tivoli and Peppi’s Cellar, New York 

Bottle: Michter’s US#1 Bourbon

This year I’ve found myself making a lot more Old Fashioned cocktails than usual. I strongly believed that the only way to create great cocktails is to use outstanding ingredients. Whenever I am asked for a recommendation about which spirit to use in an Old Fashioned, I find myself invariably reaching for the Michter’s US#1 Bourbon and Rye. I’ve been a long time supporter of Michter’s since my first taste. I love the rich flavour profile and versatility in a range of other classic cocktails. I love that they have an amazing ‘cost be damned’ approach to creating the best full-flavoured whiskies – due in part to the low barrel entry proof, which causes the entire liquid to mature to greater effect. I have the utmost respect for their master distillers. Their dedication to quality makes this one of my all time favourite whiskies.

George Austin, Blakes Hotel, London

Bottle: Everleaf and Cadello 88 

I feel 2019 has had both hands reaching in different directions to make for a really interesting change in the way we are drinking and what we are reaching for. On the one hand with the launch of products such as Everleaf we see an evolution in the rise of high quality and unique non-alcoholic drinks. There is a significant increase in the demand for complex and unique bottles such as Everleaf whether they are used in non-alcoholic or alcoholic cocktails. Equally with the other hand as the days get shorter and the nights colder bottles of new products such as Cadello 88 are being loved by clients and teams alike. Warm, wintery and well-balanced and, like Everleaf, a distinct spirit that fills a niche beautifully.

Simone Forconi, The Malt Lounge & Bar, London

Bottle: Kinahan‘s The Kasc Project

The Kasc Project pushes whiskey-making methods to the next level. I had the pleasure to meet Zak Oganian, managing director of Kinahan’s, and The Kasc Project surprised me a lot. The flavours are something like a mix of aromas from a candy store – very different whiskey flavours to anything I’d tried before. If you are a traditional whiskey drinker, this is not the whiskey for you. The makers told me that one of the oak types used to age this whiskey is a ‘dying species’. I really love this new release because it has an unconventional mix of flavours, the flavours are very unexpected. 

Michele Venturini, Cahoots, London

Bottle: Russian Standard Original Vodka 

Russian Standard Original vodka is my first choice as it is a spirit full of character with a bold flavour and smooth finish, that is easily recognisable within cocktails – so naturally I’ve found myself drawn to it when creating new cocktails at Cahoots this year. Not only do I love the versatility of the spirit, but the style of bottle and its history makes the product even more interesting, which I had the privilege of learning more about this year on a trip to Manchester, where I presented a masterclass. Because the taste is so pure and distinctive, I think it works best of classic cocktails, such as a Russian Standard Martini served very simply with a green olive, or in a fresh Russian Standard Gimlet, made with discarded lime, lemon and grapefruit peel.

Mr Paradise

Could you just pick one bottle from behind the bar at Mister Paradise?

Will Wyatt, Mister Paradise, New York 

Bottle: Suze

This past year I have found myself reliably coming back to Suze, whether it is for my own consumption or someone else’s. It is a very bright, citrusy French aperitif that is heavily bittered with gentian root. It can fit into the balance of a cocktail similarly to something such as Campari, but lends a very different type of bitterness. My personal favourite application is just a simple Suze and Tonic with a grapefruit twist. Both the Suze and the tonic water – either Fever Tree or Thomas Henry – balance their own bitterness very nicely with sweetness, and the flavour combination of the two is bright, complex, and refreshing.

Marshall Minaya, Valerie, New York

Bottle: Giffard Caribbean Pineapple

On our menu at Valerie, we have a cocktail called Ten Thousand Words – i.e. Bartenders Choice. We ask what spirit the guest prefers, and if they would like it stirred or shaken. I think the bottle(s) that I have been reaching for the most is the Giffard line of liqueurs, specifically their Caribbean Pineapple. Now that it is the season, and people still want a taste of tropical, this liqueur is perfect. I tend to pair it with 5 spice, fresh citrus, and really, one can make it work with any base spirit. We also utilize the Caribbean Pineapple Giffard Liqueur in our Meet & Greet cocktail where we pair it with London dry gin, amontillado sherry, Benedictine, and Angostura Bitters. 

Marcin Ciułkowski, Radisson BLU, Warsaw

Bottle: Żubrówka Bison Grass Vodka

Żubrówka is the most recognisable and oldest vodka brand in the world – its history is over 500 years old, and it’s the third best-selling vodka across the globe. Its main flavour notes, vanilla, almonds and cinnamon, perfectly match the trends around the world. We’ve always been working with this vodka in our bar, it’s part of our history. We prepare drinks with it and combine it with dishes. The Scots have whisky, the French have Cognac, and Poles have the world’s best vodka. Żubrówka Bison Grass Vodka is our reason to be proud.

Deano Moncreiffe, Hacha, London

Bottle: Don Julio 70

Don Julio 70 has the complexity of an aged spirit, having been aged for 18 months, so it can be used for a lot of classic cocktails that would normally be associated with a dark spirit – anything from an Old Fashioned to a Manhattan. It also has the youthful characteristics of a young unaged spirit or blanco Tequila which enables it to work well in a Negroni twist, such as the White Negroni we serve at Hacha, which has proved to be our second most popular cocktail. 

Manhattan Duke

My Friend Duke uses Michter’s Rye in his Manhattan

Zachary Pease, My Friend Duke, New York

Bottle: Michter’s US#1 Rye

For me it’s always Michter’s Rye. There are plenty of cheaper options but nothing anywhere close to the quality. I judge rye by how it holds up in a Manhattan, and Michter’s stands out against a bolder vermouth like Carpano Antica. It’s a bottle that belongs on every back bar.

Dan Garnell, Super Lyan, Amsterdam

Bottle: Porter’s Tropical Old Tom Gin

My go-to bottle on the back bar has to be Porter’s Tropical Old Tom Gin. For me, it balances perfectly between being fruity and rounded while still keeping the juniper backbone you look for in a gin. This makes it stand up in pretty much all styles of drink including Martinis, Tom Collins or you can really use it to elevate a new creation to the next level.

Giacomo Guarnera, The Churchill Bar & Terrace, London

Bottle: Zucca Rabarbaro Amaro

For me personally, Zucca Rabarbaro Amaro is coming back to the bar scene and is one of my most reached-for bottles, especially within cocktail creation. We used to use it in our cocktail The President from the summer menu which was called ‘Casa de Cuba’. It is one of the most reached-for bottles for me because it reminds me of when I first started my career behind the bar. 

Did your favourite get a mention? Do scroll down and let us know in the comments below – and share your personal top bottle of 2019 while you’re there…

 

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New Arrival of the Week: Heaven’s Door Tennessee Bourbon

Our New Arrival of the Week is a Tennessee bourbon from the Heaven’s Door brand that was co-created by Bob Dylan (yes, the Bob Dylan).  Something is happening here, and…

Our New Arrival of the Week is a Tennessee bourbon from the Heaven’s Door brand that was co-created by Bob Dylan (yes, the Bob Dylan). 

Something is happening here, and we know exactly what it is. It’s another celebrity booze, folks! Ryan Reynolds is breaking through walls all over the place to promote his involvement in Aviation Gin. George Clooney made waves and the serious big bucks with Casamigos Tequila. David Beckham associated his frankly distractingly good looks with Haig Club Scotch. Now Bob Dylan has a Tennessee whiskey brand. 

It’s called ‘Heaven’s Door’, a reference to Dylan’s little-known ditty, Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door. The project started back in 2015 when Marc Bushala, the CEO of Spirits Investment Partnership and a former partner in Angel’s Envy bourbon, discovered that Dylan had registered a trademark application for a “bootleg whiskey”. He approached the legendary singer-songwriter about realising the idea. Ryan Perry and Jordan Via were brought on board as director of whiskey development and master distiller respectively, and together they established the character and taste of Heaven’s Door whiskey.

The core range features three expressions: a Straight Rye, a Double Barrel Bourbon and our New Arrival of the Week: the Tennessee Bourbon.

Heaven's Door

Bob Dylan. I shouldn’t need to caption this. It’s Bob Dylan.

The Tennessee Bourbon was made with a mash bill of 70% corn and 30% ‘small grains’ (tasting it there’s definitely rye, I’d guess a touch of wheat too), and was matured for at least eight years in American oak barrels. The Double Barrel Bourbon is a blend of three whiskeys which are then finished in hand-toasted, new American oak barrels from Louisville-based Kelvin Cooperage, while the Straight Rye has a particularly interesting maturation story, as it was finished in toasted oak cigar barrels (as in cigar shaped, they’re not barrels that previously held cigars). from Vosges in France.

As of yet, there’s no distillery, so there’s been some debate about where the liquid for these bottlings was sourced from. Some say George Dickel. Others reckon Davidson Reserve from Pennington Distilling Co. What we do know is that the whiskeys are directly tied to Tennessee either via distillation, ageing, barrel finishing or bottling. 

But, rather excitingly, The Heaven’s Door Distillery and Center for the Arts is slated to open in 2020 in a church, built in 1860, in downtown Nashville. where Dylan recorded four albums. While it’s going to be home to Heaven’s Door whiskeys, the site itself sounds more like a Dylan centre of excellence, complete with an art centre of all of his paintings and metalwork, as well as a concert venue, a restaurant and whiskey library. I simply must go there.

Heaven's Door

An artist’s impression of what the Heaven’s Door Distillery will look like

You might have spotted in that last paragraph the mention of metalwork, so let me confirm your suspicions. Bob Dylan is a metal artist. And the iron gate artwork depicted on each bottle? Designed by the man himself in his studio, Black Buffalo Ironworks. The Tennessee Bourbon sports a metallic crow, while the rye features a heel spur and a shovel adorns the double-barrel whiskey. It makes for striking artwork and gives the bottles, which I have to say are quite beautiful, a unique aesthetic.

It’s interesting to note the scope and effort that is being put into Heaven’s Door as a brand. It would have been very easy to buy some whiskey, slap Dylan’s name on it and watch the money pour in. But the impression I get is that this is not that kind of operation. There was clearly a lot of time and effort put in to creating the three core expressions. According to Perry, “It took over 100 different blends to find the desired tastes for Heaven’s Door”, and some interesting maturation processes were explored that a more cynical brand wouldn’t have bothered with. The plans for the distillery are extensive and read like a shrine to Dylan. And the man himself appears to genuinely be a full partner, not just a pretty face.

So it appears that we have an intriguing new brand in our midst. But do the whiskey’s stand up to scratch? Upon the launch of the whiskeys, Dylan was quoted as saying: “I’ve been travelling for decades, and I’ve been able to try some of the best spirits that the world of whiskey has to offer. This is great whiskey.” I’m cautiously inclined to agree.

Heaven's Door

The Heaven’s Door range

Today’s highlighted spirit, the Tennessee Bourbon, is my personal highlight of the range. Its corn-forward mash bill creates the kind of light, supple and sweet profile you’d expect, but there’s more going on here. It’s varied, elegant, and often pleasantly surprising in its complexity. I’d generally prefer it neat as I wouldn’t want to drown its subtle qualities, but bartender Jason Yu did create a Whiskey Smash recipe that I’m intrigued to try (I’ve included the recipe below so you can experiment yourself).

It’s worth pointing out that across the brand’s website and various social media platforms there are numerous cocktail recipes and suggestions to mix and play with Heaven’s Door whiskeys. It’s good to see they’re not taking themselves too seriously and have veered away from defining its whiskey by dated stereotypes.

Heaven’s Door Double Barrel Bourbon is darker and spicier, with more candied fruit, but the poorest of the three for my money. It’s a little thin and lacks the intrigue of the Tennessee Bourbon. The same cannot be said for the rye, which is completely unexpected. It’s incredibly delicate and measured and avoids the trap of being a one-dimensional spice-bomb. It might not satisfy those who prefer a more conventional rye profile, but this is Dylan, after all, so you should expect something that takes you down a different path.

 

Heaven’s Door Tennessee Bourbon Tasting Note:

Nose: Maple syrup and pecan pie sweetness initially, before the aroma of warm baked bread rushes through with hints of dried earth, sweet tobacco, and new leather in support. Root beer, apples and brandied cherries emerge with time, while herbal tea and a subtle lick of marzipan reside in the backdrop.

Palate: Manuka honey, rye spice and cedarwood emerge through a beautifully measured vanilla note, which is sweet and slightly earthy. Toffee popcorn, butterscotch and apple pie add more sweetness which oaky tannins and sharp blueberries temper. Blackberry jam on soda bread develops with water, as does a little dusty oak and creamy nuttiness. Some orange peel, too. And nougat. Also gingerbread. This one just kept going. 

Finish: Thick, long and spicy, with a big hit of black pepper keeping notes of dark fruit and caramel sundae in good company.  

Serving suggestion: Whiskey Smash (Muddle 20ml lemon juice, mint leaves and 20ml simple syrup in a cocktail shaker. Add 45ml Heaven’s Door Tennessee Straight Bourbon and ice, shake well. Pour into a rocks glass over mint and ice).

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New Arrival of the Week: WhistlePig Ten Year Old – Pitt Cue Exclusive

Today we have a Master of Malt exclusive, a 59.7% ABV single cask WhistlePig bottled for the now-defunct Pitt Cue BBQ joint. We talk to Pitt Cue founder, Jamie Berger,…

Today we have a Master of Malt exclusive, a 59.7% ABV single cask WhistlePig bottled for the now-defunct Pitt Cue BBQ joint. We talk to Pitt Cue founder, Jamie Berger, about rye whiskey, his Southern roots and the possible return of his much-loved restaurant. 

You wouldn’t guess it from his accent which is 100% English, but Jamie Berger is 50% American. His mother is from Atlanta, Georgia. On visits to the States, he picked up a love of BBQ. No, not burning things in your garden over hot coals, but the slow cooking technique used in parts of the US, particularly the South. “It’s blue collar food”, Berger told me, “it’s long slow cooking times using smoke to break down collagen, and taking cheaper cuts and rendering them delicious through cooking process.” Berger started a company, Pitt Cue, selling BBQ to Londoners from a food van in 2011. At the time, he said, “nobody had heard of pulled pork. Now, it’s in supermarkets.” The van became a restaurant in Soho and successful cookbook. Along with BBQ, Berger had a taste for American whiskey. He joked that he picked this up from his mother “who drinks a lot.”

Jamie Berger, 50% American, 100% BBQ (photo credit: Paul Winch-Furness)

As with the pulled pork, American whiskey, beyond the big brands, was something of a novelty back in 2011. “It was hard to find anyone who knew anything about American whiskey. I was particularly interested in rye which you couldn’t find”, Berger said. So he would go to America, taste whiskey and buy a barrel to sell in his restaurant, “I’ve done one with Evan Williams, a 10 year old, and Eagle Rare, also a 10 year old, and two with WhistlePig, labelled as a 10 but the liquids inside were older. We would use it as house whiskey, if you wanted a rye Old Fashioned, it would be Pitt Cue own label”. One time, he told us, “I got snowed in Vermont at WhistlePig”, which sounds like every whiskey lover’s dream. 

Meanwhile, Berger was made an offer he couldn’t refuse by Tavern Restaurants. “We sold the business in late 2015,” he said, “for three years I worked for the acquirers to stop me setting up rival business.” The new owners closed the Soho restaurant and moved the business to Devonshire Square in the City. Sadly, things did not go according to plan, and in June this year, Pitt Cue was no more.  

Pit Cue

Berger’s cask, it’s even got his name on

This meant, however, that there was some whiskey left unsold which Master of Malt has acquired. It’s a special single cask 10 year old (though Berger says the true age is closer to 12) bottled at a healthy 59.7% ABV. “I’m looking for  a unique expression”, Berger said, “I like spicy whiskey.” As you’d expect from a BBQ restaurant, it’s all about big flavours. 

Despite the demise of Pitt Cue, Berger is still barbecuing. We spoke to him just before Thanksgiving where he put some of the old team back together for a one-off event. Apparently it sold out in three hours. He’s also bought back the intellectual property so, at some point, the Pitt Cue name will return (see website for more details). Though at the moment, it’s likely to be limited to pop-ups: “I’m in no rush to open another brick and mortar site in the current climate,” Berger said, “the restaurant market is not going through bumper boom period.” But at least while we wait, there’s always this special WhistlePig Rye to keep us amused. 

Pitt Cue WhistlePig, 59.7% ABV, 100% rye

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt

Nose: Marzipan and mint chocolate, with spicy oak, butterscotch and candied orange.

Palate: Warming and spicy, with a hefty dose of allspice, dark chocolate and melted brown sugar, with honeycomb alongside spicy rye.

Finish: Cherry jam, buttery caramel and toasty oak.

 

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Drink books of the year 2019

Whether you’re a wine buff, a whisky aficionado or a lager lout, this year’s crop of drink books has something for everyone. We pick our favourites to curl up by…

Whether you’re a wine buff, a whisky aficionado or a lager lout, this year’s crop of drink books has something for everyone. We pick our favourites to curl up by the fire with this Christmas. 

Well, it’s been a bumper year for drink books. There’s new offerings from old pros like Jancis Robinson and Tristan Stephenson, as well as debuts from Felix Nash and Eddie Ludlow. In fact, it was such a good year that we had trouble narrowing the list down so apologies if your favourite is missing. 

All of them will make great gifts for the drink lover in your life. And we can’t think of a better way to spend the holidays than with a roaring fire, a dram/ glass/ pint of something delicious and one of these books, and that includes watching Casablanca on Christmas Day with a belly full of Port and Stilton. 

A Brief History of Lager Mark Dredge

Lager is so ubiquitous, it’s the beer the world drinks, that it’s hard to imagine how 200 years ago it was a Bavarian speciality. At that time, beer in the rest of Europe was essentially ale. But slowly lager spread and along the way mutated from a sweet, brown beer to the crisp golden brew we know today. It’s a great story told with a real sense of fun by award-winning beer writer and TV regular Mark Dredge. 

Sample line: “Lederer kept contact with Sedlmayr and Dreher, and there’s a wonderful photo taken in 1939 of the three of them all wearing top hats and overcoats, each with a thick moustache, and all holding hands.”

The Curious Bartender’s Whiskey Road Trip Tristan Stephenson

Tristan Stephenson aka the Curious Bartender is the author of many excellent cocktails books. In this latest outing, he takes a journey across America sampling whiskeys from 44 distilleries both large and small including some real MoM favourites like Balcones 44, St George, and Michter’s  nice work if you can get it.

Sample line: “Tuthilltown is home to a huge cat call Bourbon (there another cat called Rye that we didn’t get to meet.”

Fine Cider Felix Nash 

You probably haven’t realised it yet but we are living through a golden age of cider. It hasn’t quite hit the mainstream yet, but all over England, Wales and the cider-producing world (which is much bigger than you think), producers are waking up to the potential of apple-based goodness. Felix Nash, a cider merchant, has written a heartfelt, in-depth hymn to his favourite fruit and drink.

Sample line: “I wouldn’t be able to tell you about all the apples used to make cider or the pears used to make perry, and no one could. It’s not simply that so many varieties exist in the world, but that they can very localised”.

Sherry: Maligned, Misunderstood, Magnificent! Ben Howkins

We’ve written a fair bit on the blog about how much we like sherry, so this was a book after our own hearts. Written by a man with more experience in the wine trade that he would like to admit, this is a love letter to one of the world’s great wines. Reading this, you can almost smell the bodegas of Jerez. Warning, it’s almost impossible to read this book without developing a serious sherry habit. 

Sample line: “Olorosos are the wines that will emulate rugby players, rather than ballet dancers.”

Spirited: How to create easy, fun drinks at home Signe Johansen

You might know Johansen (the lady in the header) as Scandilicious, evangelist for all things Scandinavian and delicious. Originally from Norway, now living in London, she’s just as good on drinks as food. This book makes a great introduction to cocktails, tips for non-alcoholic drinks and all round guide to stress free non-nerdy entertaining. 

Sample line: “Life is too short to worry about what anoraks and bores think so now I happily enjoy whichever drinks I’m in the mood for.”

The Whisky Dictionary Ian Wisniewski

Someone who is certainly a bit of an anorak but never a bore is Ian Wisniewski. He’s the one on distillery tours who will always be asking more questions than anyone else. We know as we’ve been round a few with him and we always learn a lot. This book, which we have already found an invaluable reference guide, is a testament to that insatiable curiosity. 

Sample line: “Do enzymes ever get the applause they deserve? Rarely. If ever. It’s time to make up for that with a standing ovation.”

Whisky Tasting Course  Eddie Ludlow

Like many of the best people in the drinks business, Ludlow began his career at Oddbins. Since then he’s become an expert at opening up the often confusing world of whisky. In this book, Ludlow breaks it down into easily digestible segments, explains why whiskies taste as they do, and talks the reader through the most common styles of whisky such as single pot still Irish, small batch bourbon and Islay single malt. Before you know it, you’ll be saying “bonfires on the beach” or muttering “mmm, Jamaica cake” like an old pro.

Sample line: “Your mouth and tongue are actually quite inefficient at detecting all but the most basic flavours.”

The World of Whisky – Neil Ridley, Gavin D. Smith and David Wishart

Lavishly-produced guide to the every-expanding world of whisky by three of the best writers in the business. And you do really need three to cover what is now such an enormous topic. Inevitably the majority of the book is on Scotland with a page devoted to each malt distillery, but the Irish, US and Japan sections are also impressive.

Sample line: “Would even the most discerning of palate be able to detect a differences made using barley grown in Mr McTavish’s bottom field and the one, over yonder hill, behind the tree and the babbling burn?”

The World Atlas of Gin Joel Harrison and Neil Ridley

Another book part-written by Neil Ridley! How does it do it? We suspect that he has actually cloned himself to spread the workload. There’s a lot of gin out there and it’s expanding all the time, meaning that this book can only be a snapshot of what’s available but you know with these two that everything in here is going to be worth drinking. Also extra points for not being afraid to put in the big names, like Beefeater, rather than going for hipster obscurity points.

Sample line: “France has embraced the gin revolution with a charismatic style and charm of its own.”

The World Atlas of Wine Jancis Robinson and Hugh Johnson

This is the 8th edition of an all time classic book, first published in the 1970s and updated every few years. Originally just written by Johnson, Robinson joined the team in 2003. It’s hard to think of a better looking book with its lavish photos and intricate maps of the world’s greatest wine regions. The words are pretty nifty too as you’d expect from (probably) the world’s top two wine writers. 

Sample line: “For centuries, Hungary has had the most distinctive food and wine culture, the most varied grape varieties, and the most refined wine laws and customs of any country east of Germany.”

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The Nightcap: 29 November

Need to decompress after all the Black Friday sales hubbub? We’ve got just the thing – it’s The Nightcap! If you find yourself exclaiming out loud “How on earth did…

Need to decompress after all the Black Friday sales hubbub? We’ve got just the thing it’s The Nightcap!

If you find yourself exclaiming out loud “How on earth did it get to be 3 o’clock?!” almost every day, you might be very surprised to find out November is almost over. You were probably getting ready to go to the beach or hide chocolate eggs in the toaster or something. Go dig out a Santa hat and glue it to your forehead so you’re constantly aware of what’s going on. And to keep your noggin warm. It’s quite chilly out there if you’re dressed for a spring morning stroll. We’re also ready to help bring you up to date. Behold, it’s another edition of The Nightcap, our round-up of booze news from the week that was!

On the MoM blog this week you probably noticed that #WhiskySanta announced that he was giving away an Old and Rare Whisky Advent Calendar worth nearly £1,000. That wasn’t only the bargain on the blog, however, as we rounded-up some of our best Black Friday deals. Ian Buxton returned to investigate a curious phenomenon while Adam caught up with Billy Walker, owner and master blender at Glenallachie Distillery. Elsewhere, Annie looked at a blended Scotch you’ll want for your next Highball, and talked over 400 years of distillation with Sandie van Doorne at Lucas Bols. Henry’s week involved a lot of Martini-based fun, from enjoying its predecessor The Martinez, to interviewing Alessandro Palazzi from the esteemed Dukes Bar, although he did find time to make a Kentucky whiskey aged in barrels that are toasted rather than charred our New Arrival of the Week.

Now, onto the Nightcap!

The Nightcap

Congratulations to you David!

The Balvenie’s David Stewart MBE nabs top gong at IWSC

Last night saw the glittering International Wine & Spirit (IWSC) Awards Banquet take place at London’s Guildhall (the most Harry Potter-esque venue you ever did see). It was the 50th anniversary of the awards, which celebrate all kinds of things, from tip-top wine and spirits producers and their wares (obvs), but also communicators, and outstanding achievers, too. And step forward The Balvenie malt master David Stewart! He was honoured for his Outstanding Achievement in Scotch Whisky over his whopping 57-year career, garnering praise from peers and whisky drinkers right across the globe. Other big winners include Ryan Chetiyawardana who scooped Spirits Communicator of the Year, and William Grant, which bagged the Outstanding Spirits Producer 2019 gong. Congrats all!

The Nightcap

You can find out what your ‘perfect dram’ is now!

Diageo sets AI What’s Your Whisky quiz

We’re sure many of you whisky-lovers have a selection of favourite expressions, from go-to bottles to desert-island drams. But have these preferences been verified by the wonders of technology? Because Diageo has created a ‘digital experience’, said to help people find their perfect whisky based on their preferences for certain flavours. What’s Your Whisky uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to analyse a user’s personal palate, asking eleven questions to understand their preferences, such as “how often do you eat bananas?” and “how do you feel about chillies?”. The data collected is then used to create a ‘Flavour Print’, which matches the user with a single malt whisky that the AI thinks they will love. “We are using our extensive consumer knowledge, whisky expertise gathered over hundreds of years and cutting-edge AI to help consumers discover, explore and enjoy Scotch in new and exciting ways,” said Dr Adeline Koay, principal scientist, research and development for Diageo. Andy Parton, senior regional manager for Diageo, added: “We’re excited to roll this out at scale and help many thousands of people find their perfect Whisky based on the innovative FlavorPrint AI technology.” I took the test and found the questions amusing, but slightly limiting. It did recommend Talisker, which I admittedly do love. So maybe it does work. Although if your dream dram isn’t made by Diageo I wouldn’t hold out too much hope of it coming up… What’s Your Whisky launched on 28 November in nine countries (UK, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Spain, Greece, Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands) – check out the website or scan a QR codes in participating bars, restaurants and shops. 

The Nightcap

The inimitable Ronnie Cox, as drawn by Alasdair ‘Loon’ Hilleary, red socks and all!

Berry Bros. & Rudd launches Ronnie’s Reserve

Ronnie Cox has worked in this industry for 43 years, spending more than three decades of that at Berry Bros. & Rudd (BBR). He’s a Master of the Quaich and a member of the Worshipful Company of Distillers. He’s also part of the seventh generation of the Cumming family, which previously owned Cardhu distillery. Now, as BBR’s legendary brands heritage director “edges towards retirement”, he’s been tasked with curating a range of single malt Scotch whiskies. The seven single cask bottlings are all from one undisclosed distillery (it’s very easy to figure out if you know the brand’s history). Two of the bottlings are from casks laid down in the 1990s, one is from the ‘80s, two are from the ‘70s and two are from the ‘60s, including the remarkable Tempus Fugit 1968 Cask No. 13497, which produced 65 bottles and is priced at £3,800 (this is the one that you’ll have to wait until June 2020 to purchase). Cox explained that he had his eye on these for many years, and he counted himself “incredibly fortunate to be able to select these whiskies to bottle under my name”. The first six bottlings will be launched on St. Andrew’s Day (30 November), available from Berry Bros. & Rudd. The illustrations on the bottle were drawn by Alasdair ‘Loon’ Hilleary, a lifelong friend, who depicts Cox wearing his classic red socks, which he’s made something of a trademark. If you do happen to get your hands on a bottle or two, do be sure to don your best scarlet stockings as you imbibe. 

The Nightcap

It’s a wintery dose of Swiss-esque bliss in London

Möet opens Alpine Lodge in Soho

Many people like the idea of apres-ski. Think cosy cabins, Last Christmas I Gave you my Heart knitwear and wintery drinks, without all the palaver with snow, salopettes and chair lifts. Möet has cleverly spotted this by opening an Alpine lodge, not in Gstaad or Whistler, but in London. Located in 100 Wardour in Soho, it’s open now and runs until the end of January. We popped in this week and can confirm that it’s just like being halfway up a mountain in Switzerland, only much easier to get to from Tottenham Court Road Underground station. On arrival, we wrapped ourselves in blankets and got stuck into the cocktails; as you might expect from the world’s largest Champagne company, they were pretty good. We were particularly taken with the Snowed Under which combines Tanqueray Export Strength, Möet & Chandon Impérial, lavender syrup, lemon juice, and icing sugar; and the Ice Ice Baby, made with Antica Formula, Campari, Möet & Chandon Impérial, plum bitters, crusta sugar, and a dried orange. Nothing says ‘Christmas is coming’ like a dried orange. And then rather than having to cross country ski home, like they do in the Alps, we took a train. Much more civilised. 

The Nightcap

Things are getting festive at the German Gymnasium!

Maker’s Mark reveals gingerbread pop-up at German Gymnasium

Sticking with Christmas for a moment, and we’re spotting a micro-trend for all things gingerbread this season. After Fentimans unveiled a life-size gingerbread house at London’s Skylight, bar and restaurant German Gymnasium has opened its very own tasty terrace, this time in partnership with bourbon brand Maker’s Mark. Described as a “sugar-filled wonderland”, the space features wooden huts, lights and lanterns galore, cosy blankets, and, of course, a mouthwatering, sweet-themed cocktail list. Serves include a Gingerbread Old Fashioned (made with Maker’s Mark and gingerbread syrup, topped with toasted marshmallow), and Maker’s Milk (Maker’s Mark, Kahlua, rum, vanilla, double cream and egg white, served in a milk bottle). Hot serves will also be on-hand in case of chilliness. Head to King’s Cross with haste if you’ve got a sweet tooth this December and January!

The Nightcap

This should put a stop to people judging a dram by its colour…

Glencairn releases black glass for Black Friday

In honour of Black Friday (which for better or worse, is now very much a thing), top Scottish glassmakers Glencairn has released a limited-edition glass that might be the blackest thing on the planet. It’s blacker than Darth Vader’s helmet, blacker even than Back in Black by AC/DC, the previous holder of this title. The colour not only looks very metal, but will stop you judging your dram by its colour, putting your olfactory system firmly in charge. Each glass costs £7 and comes in a black box, naturally. Only 1,000 have been produced and they go on sale first thing on Black Friday (so may be already gone by the time you read this). This season, black is very much back. 

The Nightcap

Good things come in small pubs

Guinness opens pint-sized pub for a cosy Christmas

Guinness is opening a tiny pub in Flat Iron Square in London from Thursday 5 till Sunday 8 December. From 1pm until 11.30pm, punters will be able to enjoy food, fire and more Christmas tunes than you can shake a stick at. There will also be a certain famous Dublin stout on tap. Here’s the best thing: it won’t cost you a penny. That’s right, free Guinness! Before you book your travel to central London though, we should let you know that it’s a very small space indeed so there’s only room for five people (not including the bartender) and you have to book.  Simply sign up via Design my Night and you can reserve the entire pub for you and a few friends. Oh, and you’re only allowed two pints each. Still, it sounds pretty ace. So gather your nearest and dearest, huddle into a tiny pub, and enjoy free beer. If you can think of a better way to keep out the cold, we’d like to hear it.

The Nightcap

The GlenDronach Traditionally Peated will be at MoM Towers soon…

The GlenDronach reveals its new release, Traditionally Peated

GlenDronach is showing us its smoky side with a brand new peated single malt! The GlenDronach Traditionally Peated harks back to the days in 1826 when the distillery was founded, and it was common practice in the Highlands to burn peat in the kiln towards the end of the barley malting. For the whisky, the distillery has kept it traditional sherried style, marrying liquid from a range of Pedro Ximénez, oloroso sherry and Port casks, all bottled up at 48% ABV. “The GlenDronach Traditionally Peated offers connoisseurs a rare opportunity to explore the distillery’s rich depths of sherry cask maturation, while paying homage to the robust peat-smoked earthy character of the early 19th century, that James Allardice himself would likely have enjoyed,” says master blender Dr. Rachel Barrie. “This wonderfully complex single malt presents notes of Highland toffee, dark honey and coal-smoked barley. Burnt orange and treacle glide over the palate, on a base of cloves and smoked bramble. Liquorice and dark fruits linger and intensify into the rich and earthy finish.” Sounds like a smoky Highland lip-smacker to us! Keep an eye out, it should be landing on our shores very soon…

The Nightcap

Getting your haircut so often you’re basically bald for the free Metaxa is most certainly a ‘mood’

Come for a shave, stay for a drink

There are few things more pleasurable than getting your haircut while enjoying a drink. Now, this could be some Wray & Nephew overproof rum drunk out of a teacup at Kyrie’s in Kensal Rise, or a single malt Scotch at Blades in Soho. Both we would highly recommend. But there’s a new contender in London town for best drink/cut combo. From now until the end of December, you will receive a free Metaxa Ginger Rock, a combination of ginger ale and Metaxa 12 Stars, when you book a haircut or a shave at Sharps Barber Shop in Great Windmill Street. For those who have never been to Greece where no meal is complete without a little glass, Metaxa is a blend of brandy, Muscat wine and botanicals, and, especially in 12 Stars form, is utterly delicious. We can see ourselves going for repeat utterly unnecessary haircuts just for the free Metaxa. 

The Nightcap

Sobar. Sober. So-bar… Oh, yep. I get it. Nice one, guys.

And finally… A snack bar claims it can make you less drunk

It’s not that we’re sceptical here at MoM Towers, but a piece of news reached us from across the pond this week that had our eyebrows raised pretty much to the roof. Sobar, a brand of snack-sized protein bars, is claiming it’s found a magic formula that will make us less giddy after one too many drams. Sort of. Apparently a study has found it reduces alcohol absorption, and, in comparison to other similar foods, it was about twice as effective per calorie. Each Sobar weighs in at 210 calories, and apparently it works because a thing called Alco-HOLD keeps the booze in your stomach for longer so it can be “inactivated”. “This research project started after I had too much to drink on an empty stomach at a wedding,” said SOBAR inventor Joseph Fisher, MD PhD.  “After that experience I thought that there was a huge need for a specialised, low-calorie snack that could efficiently and effectively reduce alcohol absorption.” Or you could. . . sip not gulp in the first place? Just a thought. 

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New Arrival of the Week: Michter’s US*1 Sour Mash Toasted Barrel Finish

This week we’re drinking a Kentucky whiskey with an unusual twist, it’s been aged in barrels that are toasted rather than charred! What’s all that about? Michter’s whiskey has something…

This week we’re drinking a Kentucky whiskey with an unusual twist, it’s been aged in barrels that are toasted rather than charred! What’s all that about?

Michter’s whiskey has something of a convoluted history. It was originally founded in Schaefferstown, Pennsylvania in 1753 by John Shenk who began distilling rye. He was a Mennonite, a religious sect like the Amish, think beards without moustaches, putting up wooden houses quickly and strictly no motor cars. Especially in 1753.

This was pre-independence when the 13 original colonies of British America were still part of the mother country. During the War of Independence, George Washington is said to have purchased Shenk’s whiskey for his troops to keep their morale up. It seems to have worked as the rebellious colonists won the war and thus the United States of America was born.

Shenk’s distillery was bought by Abraham Bomberger in the 1860s and became known as Bomberger’s. Then in the 1950s, the name was changed again by the distillery’s then owner Lou Forman by combining the names of his sons Michael and Peter: ta da, Michter’s!  Pennsylvania was once famous for its rye whiskey but by the 1980s rye as a category was dying and the venerable old distillery closed in 1989. It’s now a National Historic Landmark but sadly in a state of severe dilapidation. Ominously, according to Wikipedia: “The distillery closed in 1989 and may have since been demolished.” 

Happily the brand was revived by a company called Chatham Imports. There’s been some legal argie bargie over the name Bomberger’s since but we won’t go into that now.  The Michter’s magic now happens at the Fort Nelson distillery (see image in header) in the heart of bourbon country Louisville, Kentucky under the watchful eyes of master distillery Dan McKee and head of maturation Andrea Wilson. Last year it opened a visitor centre on the famous Whiskey Row. 

The standard rye whiskey is a benchmark, particularly popular with bartenders, while there are all kinds of bourbons and whiskeys produced too. Which brings us on to this week’s New Arrival. Because of its unusual grain bill, it can’t be categorised as either a rye or a bourbon (which would have to be at least 51% rye or corn respectively.) In the sour mash process a portion of the last ferment is added to the next to get things going rather like with sourdough bread, only better because you end up with whiskey. This is produced as with the standard Sour Mash but then it undergoes secondary maturation in, according to Michter’s: “a second custom made barrel. This second barrel is assembled from 18-month air-dried wood and then toasted but not charred.” It’s bottled at a nice punchy 43% ABV and only produced in limited quantities. You’ll probably want to sip this neat to appreciate those fancy casks but you can also channel your inner Mennonite with an Old Fashioned

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt:

Nose: Golden Grahams, orange peel, soft oaky smoke and a hint of menthol.

Palate: Honey on toast, salted butter, vanilla pod earthiness and white pepper heat.

Finish: Cinnamon, floral grains and another waft of smoke.

Michter’s US*1 Sour Mash Toasted Barrel Finish is now available from Master of Malt.

 

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