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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Bourbon

Virtual pub quiz: 27 March

Think you know your booze? Then you should enter our new and improved virtual pub quiz. All entries will get a discount code and one winner a £25 off voucher….

Think you know your booze? Then you should enter our new and improved virtual pub quiz. All entries will get a discount code and one winner a £25 off voucher. All must have prizes!

It’s the return of the Master of Malt pub quiz. We’ve made it slightly easier this week as well as put it in a snazzy format so it’s easier to enter. We do like to make your life easy. For those bamboozled by last week’s quiz, here is a link to the answers. Remember, strict pub quiz rules, no looking at Google.

 

Fancy your chances?! Go to the quiz by hitting ‘click here’!

CLICK HERE

(And remember, no cheating. We might not know, but it is not in the spirit of quizzing!)

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Cocktail of the Week: The Improved Whiskey Cocktail

What’s better than a Whiskey Cocktail? A Fancy Whiskey Cocktail. And better than that? Why, the Improved Whiskey Cocktail, of course. It’s an Old Fashioned but slightly better.  Back in…

What’s better than a Whiskey Cocktail? A Fancy Whiskey Cocktail. And better than that? Why, the Improved Whiskey Cocktail, of course. It’s an Old Fashioned but slightly better. 

Back in the good old days, a cocktail was a specific type of drink rather than a generic term for an iced mixed drink. The Cocktail Book from 1900 lists pages of drinks called ‘cocktails’ that are variations on the spirit (or wine) plus bitters, sugar and ice theme. But you can also see new drinks creeping in involving vermouth like the Manhattan and early versions of the Martini. Therefore, in the book, an old timey Whiskey Cocktail is called a Whiskey Cocktail Old-Fashioned to differentiate it. There’s also something called a ‘Fancy’ version made with maraschino liqueur as a sweetener. So fancy!

The Old Fashioned may have been old fashioned but doesn’t mean that it stopped evolving in 1845. It’s an endlessly versatile drink, which is why bartenders love coming up with new versions of it. Jerry Thomas, of the Eldorado Hotel in San Francisco, is usually credited with the invention of the Fancy Old Fashioned. Though more likely it was something that was around at the time and he was the first person to write it down in his Bartenders Guide: How to Mix all Kinds of Plain and Fancy Drinks (1887). There’s that word again, fancy.

Adding maraschino liqueur to a drink that was often garnished with a bittersweet cherry is not such a leap. It’s just a twist on a classic. But Thomas’s next step was more extreme: to turn a ‘Fancy’ into an ‘Improved’, he added absinthe taking the Old Fashioned dangerously into Sazerac territory. For the many who loathe aniseed this is not so much improved as ruined. 

Woodford Reserve Bourbon

Looks fancy. Sorry, I mean improved

Even as an aniseed lover, I will concede that a little goes a long way, so rather than add a teaspoon as with most recipes, you can add a few drops as a wash to the glass and shake it out before adding the rest of the ingredients. I’m using Ricard instead of absinthe as it’s what I’ve got in the house. It provides just a background note of aniseed. If you’re using proper absinthe which is drier instead of pastis then you might want to add more sugar. Then it’s a question of which whiskey to use. Well, it’s got to be American. Thomas would probably have used a rye but I’ve chosen a classic all-rounder bourbon, Woodford Reserve. It’s a really complex, well-balanced drop made, unusually for Kentucky, in a pot still. I’m serving it on the rocks but you could stir it over ice and serve it straight up. Oh and don’t forget the bitters. I’m using a mixture of Angostura and just a drop of orange which really lifts the whole thing.

Right, let’s improve a whiskey cocktail!

60cl Woodford Reserve bourbon
1 tablespoon Luxardo maraschino liqueur
1 tablespoon sugar syrup
1 tsp Ricard pastis (or absinthe)
2 dashes Angostura bitters
1 dash Fee Brothers orange bitters

Add a teaspoon of pastis to an Old Fashioned glass, swirl it around and then shake it out. Add lots of ice cubes, all the other ingredients and give it a good stir. Express a piece of orange over the top and then serve. 

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New Arrival of the Week: Boondocks 11 Year Old Cask Strength whiskey

This week we’re highlighting an American whiskey that’s very close to a bourbon in style but with one crucial difference, created by former Woodford Reserve supremo Dave Scheurich. Whisky distillers…

This week we’re highlighting an American whiskey that’s very close to a bourbon in style but with one crucial difference, created by former Woodford Reserve supremo Dave Scheurich.

Whisky distillers are like master criminals, no, not in terms of morals, well, some of them are, but that’s another story. What they have in common is that both announce their retirements, only to be lured out by one final job. Think of Jim McEwan who retired from Bruichladdich in 2015 only to be made an offer he couldn’t refuse by the Hunter Laing mob when they were setting up a new distillery on Islay, Ardnahoe

Then there’s Dave Scheurich, who retired from Brown-Forman in 2010 after over 21 years at the bourbon giant.  He was instrumental in setting up the Woodford Reserve brand and making it one of the most admired whiskeys in America. Before that he had stints with Wild Turkey, and 14 years man and boy at Seagram, the now-defunct Canadian giant who dominated the international spirits business before collapsing in 2000. In 2012 he was given a Lifetime Achievement Award by Whiskey Advocate magazine. After that sort of career, most of us would be happy to take up fishing and long-winded anecdotes, but not Scheurich.

In 2016, it was announced that he had teamed up with the Royal Wine Company (a New York-based business that specialises in kosher wine) to create a new American whiskey brand, Boondocks. The name is inspired by a slightly-pejorative word used by fancy city types for the countryside. What we might call it ‘the back of beyond’. 

The aim was to create fine American whiskeys that were a bit different from the bourbon norm. Despite its corn-heavy mash bill (80% corn with the rest rye and malted barley), our New Arrival can’t be called bourbon because it’s not put in new oak casks. Instead like much Scotch, it’s aged in used casks. It’s also significantly older than most American whiskeys, which to be sold as such in the EU only have to be three years old (and can be much younger in the home market). This is also bottled at cask strength, 63.5% ABV, something that will appeal to aficionados. There’s also a 47.5% ABV version as well as an 8 year old bourbon.

With a name like Boondocks, you’d probably imagine it’s made in a tiny distillery in the woods, miles from the nearest town of any size, that hasn’t changed much since prohibition was repealed and staffed mainly by men called Jedediah. Sadly, nothing so romantic as the brand doesn’t have its own distillery and buys in its whiskey. Nothing wrong with that, lots of brands in whiskey, especially in the US and Ireland, don’t make their own spirit, it’s just not such a good story.

Still what matters most is what’s in the glass. And it’s good, really good, with a depth of flavour you don’t often find in American whiskeys. Previous releases have won awards like a Gold Medal at the Los Angeles International Spirits Competition 2016 and Best of Category in the Ultimate Spirits Challenge 2016. It’s a great sipper either with a splash of water, with ice or I can’t think of a better whiskey for an Old Fashioned. Drink it slowly, let the ice dilute the high strength and see how it changes.

Tasting note from the Chaps at Master of Malt:

Nose: Strong coffee with just a splash of milk, rich cherry sweetness and a subtly floral hint.

Palate: Toasted almonds and spicy rye, underneath layers of brown sugar and cookie dough.

Finish: Lingering buttery corn and stem ginger.

Boondocks Cask Strength 11 Year Old American Whiskey is available from Master of Malt.

 

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The Nightcap: 6 March

If it’s booze news in bite-sized pieces you’re looking for, you have done very well indeed in finding The Nightcap, because that’s what it’s all about! We’ve recovered from our…

If it’s booze news in bite-sized pieces you’re looking for, you have done very well indeed in finding The Nightcap, because that’s what it’s all about!

We’ve recovered from our leap day-proved existential confusion with only minor frets of being trapped in a time warp, and we’ve made it to another Friday. No, that’s not the name of the next film in Ice Cube’s Friday film franchise… Wait, have we used that joke before? Wait, are we actually trapped in a time loop incurred by the leap day?! You’d better read the rest of The Nightcap to check and see if all this news is new to you – if not, we may indeed be living this week over and over again until someone somehow breaks the cycle…

On the blog this week we excitedly launched a VIP trip to the home of J.J. Corry, where you’ll get the chance to create your very own bottling with founder Louise McGuane. She wasn’t the only outstanding woman to feature on the blog this week, however. Annie caught up with Jill Boyd of Compass Box and Miranda Dickson from Absolut Elyx before Henry championed the legacies of pioneering bartender Ada Coleman and the Grande Dame herself in the build-up to #InternationalWomensDay. Elsewhere, Jess enjoyed a spiced rum that’s out of this world as Adam tasted the oldest permanent Redbreast expression, had a chat with the man behind The Whisky Baron and suggested some stunning sippers for the new season. Oh, and we also told Dram Club members what to expect from March.

But now’s the time for Nightcapping, so scroll away and get stuck into this week’s helping of boozy news!

The Nightcap

Is that Alexei Sayle on the right? No, it’s Marcin Miller with the team at the Kyoto Distillery

Pernod Ricard takes stake in Kyoto Distillery

Hot gin news has just arrived in our in-tray: Pernod Ricard has bought into the award-winning Kyoto Gin Distillery for an undisclosed sum. Founder Marcin Miller told us: “We remain fully invested in and will continue to run the distillery.” He went on to say: “Our gin has been well received and exceeded our expectations, and at this rate, we’ll exceed capacity at the current site soon. To build a new distillery, especially in Japan, takes time and we needed investment to help us fulfil this ambition. We were approached by a number of interested parties but decided to go with Pernod Ricard. I’ve had a lot of contact with the company over my 20 years in the industry. Everyone I have met has been great. The company culture is wonderful from the head down. Alexandre Ricard, in particular, took an interest in the distillery from the beginning. Looking to the future there are excellent distribution and marketing opportunities in this partnership.” Miller has had an interesting career in the drinks business as a publisher, with his own PR agency Quercus Communications, and the Number One Drinks company, which was set up with David Croll in 2005 to distribute Japanese whiskies. “We were fortunate enough to buy the full inventory of Karuizawa,” he said. A tidy investment when you see how much a bottle goes for today. In 2015, he set up the Kyoto gin distillery with Croll and his wife Noriko, quickly winning plaudits with its ultra-premium gin made with Japanese botanicals. Looks like we won’t be running out of Kyoto gin any time soon. Phew!

The Nightcap

Dewar’s Ilegal Smooth, the first mezcal cask Soctch whisky we’ve tried, it won’t be the last

Dewar’s releases mezcal cask whisky

In June last year, we reported that the new SWA rules now allow for ageing in unconventional casks such as Tequila or mezcal. Well, someone at Dewar’s clearly noticed as well as the firm has just released a mezcal cask whisky. It’s an 8-year-old blend called Dewar’s Ilegal Smooth. No, that isn’t a typo because the casks used formerly held Ilegal Mezcal. Brian Cox, vice president of Dewar’s North American, commented: “We’ve been considering experimenting in the mezcal space for a while and are thrilled to partner with Ilegal for this exciting world first. It’s a fortuitous collaboration as there are many parallels between Tommy Dewar, one of the Dewar’s founders, and John Rexer, founder of Ilegal. They both have grit, wit and passion for creating something new on an ambitious scale – the very best ultra-premium, smooth spirits. Dewar’s Ilegal Smooth pays homage to both of their successful legacies by dispelling myths about what’s possible between whisky and mezcal and ultimately breaking new ground in both categories. The end product says it all,” added Cox. We were given a little sample to try, initially, it smells like a blend with a high-peated percentage but then the vegetal taste of the mezcal comes through strongly. It’s highly distinctive and won’t be for everyone but it’s good to see Dewar’s experimenting. Sadly, at the moment it’s only available in North America. We will let you know when/ if it arrives on these shores.

The Nightcap

Happy International Women’s Day everyone!

Mama Shelter London and Isle of Harris host IWD whisky tasting

This Sunday (8 March) is International Women’s Day (you may have noticed a fair few features about ace women in booze over on the blog this week). A whole bunch of brands, distilleries and venues are hosting celebrations (check out Lyaness and The Artesian if you’re at a loose end on the day itself), and our very own editor Kristiane was thrilled to join Mama Shelter London and Isle of Harris Distillers for Whisky as Told by Women this week! The concept: four women in whisky each give a bit of insight into their careers, life in drinks and why they love whisky, while sharing one of their favourite drams with a room filled to the brim with fellow geeks! We were on board. Also sharing their stories were The Glenlivet’s Kirsty Thomson (accompanied by The Glenlivet 12), The Balvenie’s Alwynne Gwilt (The Balvenie Sweet Toast of American Oak), and The Whisky Lounge co-founder Amanda Ludlow (Jameson Black Barrel). And our Kristiane shared That Boutique-y Whisky Company’s Cambus 29 Year Old! A stellar line-up, even if we say so ourselves. The general consensus was how much the whisky industry has changed, even over the past two years. Women now hold senior positions right across the sector – and folks no longer seem surprised that women (gasp!) enjoy whisky. Has full gender parity happened? Not quite, especially when you think about the harassment many women in hospitality encounter all too often. But we’re proud of the progress that’s happened – let’s raise a dram to that, while pushing for even more equality, right across the board, in drinks and beyond. 

The Nightcap

One of the US’s biggest cocktail competitions has returned!

Stoli gets set for LGBTQ+ Key West Cocktail Classic

One of the US’s biggest cocktail competitions is back for its seventh outing! This week Stoli Vodka announced its bartender contest Key West Cocktail Classic is returning for 2020, honouring the legacy of gay bars and celebrating LGBTQ+ bartenders and their allies. And the prize is pretty epic. As well as scooping US$15k for a hometown charity of their choice, the winner will nab a holiday to anywhere in the world. That’s a pretty sweet deal. The theme for this year is ‘The Stolimpics’, and bartenders initially enter by creating a cocktail that celebrates their hometown. One winner from 14 different cities will bag themselves a ticket down to Key West at the beginning of June for the eight-day final/shindig! “For more than 35 years, Stoli has celebrated gay bars as the original safe spaces for the LGBTQ+ community,” said Patrik Gallineaux, Stoli Vodka national LGBTQ+ ambassador and manager. “We are committed to championing these community centers and the individuals who are central to advancing them. I am thrilled to report that through this initiative, Stoli has had the opportunity to positively impact LGBTQ+ supportive non-profits across North America, with more than $120,000 awarded to LGBTQ+ charities to date.” Good luck to everyone taking part!

The Nightcap

Ahbi Banik standing by his patented Banik Still

Copper Rivet awarded patent for Gin Still 

It’s been quite the week for Kent’s Copper Rivet Distillery! After a three and a half year application, the distillery (of Dockyard Gin fame) has finally been awarded a patent for its Banik Still, named for head distiller Abhi Banik. In the Banik Still, the maceration is performed away from the heat source, with the botanicals’ flavour infused at a lower temperature than most traditional distillations. This, combined with a vapour infusion basket, allows distillers to have more control over how the flavour is extracted depending on the type of botanical, rather than a one size fits all approach. “It was when I was studying distilling, nearly 10 years ago, that I began to wonder why no one had tried to change or improve distillation processes for hundreds of years,” says head distiller Banik. “It took me seven years to design the still, a concept all in theory and CAD drawings, and with no experimental proof that it would work. When the Russell family and I were designing a still for Dockyard Gin, I showed the team my concept and they believed in it enough to give it a try!” What’s more, the new still is also focused on efficiency with increased charge alcohol recovery between 80 to 85% of total charge, compared to 60 to 75% in other more traditional distillation techniques, as well as really getting the most out of the botanicals so, in theory, less will need to be used to achieve the same result. Huge congrats to the Copper Rivet team!

The Nightcap

The Queen’s favourite hotel is going back in time to the 1920s!

The 1920s arrive at the Goring, finally

If you could go back to any time when would it be? It would be hard to beat the 1920s, jazz music, glamorous open-topped cars and more cocktails than you can shake a stick at (though we’d probably miss modern dentistry.) Now you can travel back in time as from 6pm every Sunday starting on 8 March, the bar at the Queen’s favourite hotel, the Goring, will be transformed into The Roaring Goring. Not such a vast change for an institution where the last 100 years could easily have not happened. There will be live music and classic cocktails made by bar manager Tiago Mira including the Hanky Panky (see our latest Cocktail of the Week), Air Mail (Havana Club 3 Year Old Rum, lime, honey, Ayala Champagne and Green Chartreuse) and the Scofflaw (Lot 40 Canadian Rye, Mancino Secco Vermouth, lemon, grenadine and orange bitters). So put on your baggiest trousers, brush up on your jazz age slang, and get down to the Goring for a night to remember. 

The Nightcap

A 3D render of the new micro-distillery set to open in John O’Groats

Planning permission secured for Scotland’s most northerly whisky distillery 

When you think of John O’Groats, you probably think of people doing crazy cycle rides or long walks to there from Land’s End. Well, now the wonderful world of whisky has made its way to the most northerly part of Scotland, with a new micro-distillery set to open in John O’Groats in 2021! The first Scotch whisky distillery in John O’Groats since 1837, planning permission was secured on 2 March for a 32,670 square foot site which will be home to a distillery, visitor centre and bonded warehouse. The distillery is the brainchild of husband and wife duo Derek and Kerry Campbell, and it’ll claim the title of Scotland’s most northerly mainland whisky distillery. Brought to life with the help of £198,000 of funding secured from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), with a capacity to produce up to 60,000 litres of whisky each year. “We believe the whisky we will produce will be unlike that from any other distillery, due to our coastal location in John O’Groats and the impact the local climate will have on our spirit as it matures,” says founder Kerry Campbell. “With traditional methods at the heart of our plans and an ambition to showcase whisky distilling in John O’Groats to the world, we are looking forward to opening the doors to our micro-distillery in due course. The support we have received from the local community and business owners to date has been fantastic and we can’t wait to welcome them to our distillery in 2021.” Now those mad folk travelling from Land’s End to John O’Groats will be rewarded with a local dram when they arrive!

The Nightcap

This is incredibly important news and vital work

Early Times is searching for ‘All-American Dogs’ for advertising campaign

Now, we’re a self-proclaimed gaggle of cat-lovers (at least most of us are) here at MoM Towers, though having said that we’re also partial to the occasional office dog (then we find it really hard to concentrate). Our ears pricked up when we caught wind of a fur-tastic advertising campaign from Kentucky whiskey maker Early Times, which has put out a call to arms to find “All-American Dogs” to serve as the faces for its 2020 advertising campaign. “When we started talking about what  being “All-American” means, we immediately thought of the loyalty and dependability that dogs bring to our own lives,” Early Times senior brand manager Dallas Cheatham. “It felt natural to connect with our Early Times drinkers by celebrating their amazing dogs.” Whiskey lovers (over 21) can share a photo of their beloved canine and explain why their pup embodies the “All-American” spirit, and Early Times will select 10 winning doggos. The competition is live until 12 April, and this is actually the second year that the competition is running. Last year there were more than 10,000 entries, but don’t let that deter you and your pooches!

The Nightcap

GlenDronach’s new visitor centre is open for business and looking good

GlenDronach gets a new visitor centre

For our money, Glendronach makes some of the finest whisky on Speyside, and we know you agree judging by the demand for its expressions like the 15 Year Old Revival. Now the distillery has a visitor centre worthy of such magnificent drams. There is a new bar and visitors will have the opportunity to fulfil their wildest dreams by filling their very own bottle of GlenDronach. Don’t worry though, this isn’t some space-age aberration stuck on the side of an old building, the design pays homage to the distillery’s founder James Allardice and the original buildings with natural stone walls with brass, marble and leather detailing. It’s the work of designer agency 1751 working with Ross McNally from Scarinish Studio. Jennifer Proctor from the distillery commented: “James Allardice was both a visionary entrepreneur and a warm and welcoming host. Our vision was to carry forth his hospitality and to bring the traditional craftsmanship of The GlenDronach to life, creating the perfect experience for our visitors to immerse themselves in the distillery’s rich heritage and our Highland single malts. Everything has been designed around the guest experience, from the striking circular table in our tasting room to the comfortable leather lounge area. With a range of tours also available, we look forward to welcoming everyone from the whisky curious to experienced aficionados. . . .” As you can see from the picture, they’re done a great job. 

The Nightcap

The comedian may need to change the name of Joe Lycett’s Got Your Back, on Channel 4 now…

And finally…  Comedian Joe Lycett changes his name to Hugo Boss

The artist formerly known as Joe Lycett pulled off quite the stunt this week by legally changing his name to Hugo Boss by deed poll as part of a comedic revenge mission against the giant fashion brand. Hugo Boss (the brand) has previously taken legal action against small firms using word boss in names, including Boss Brewing, a Swansea-based craft brewery, who were left with a £10,000 legal bill after the luxury designer brand sent it a cease and desist letter when the brewer applied to trademark its name, a process that usually costs £300. A further rebranding process cost upwards of £20,000 after the items had been relabelled and old stock discarded, according to founder Sarah John. She said the comedian’s move was “such a brilliant way of showing support”. A charity called DarkGirlBoss had also supposedly received a legal letter from Hugo Boss when it tried to trademark its name. Hugo Boss (the man), whose Twitter and Wikipedia have been updated to reflect the change, tweeted an image of the deed poll letter, complete with a new signature with an unusually phallic structure along with the following statement: “So Hugo Boss (who turnover approx $2.7bn a year) have sent cease & desist letters to a number of small businesses & charities who use the word ‘BOSS’ or similar, including a small brewery in Swansea, costing them thousands in legal fees and rebranding. It’s clear that Hugo Boss HATES people using their name. Unfortunately for them this week I legally changed my name by deed poll and I am now officially known as Hugo Boss. All future statements from me are not from Joe Lycett but Hugo Boss. Enjoy.” The comedian added that he would be “launching a brand new product as Hugo Boss” and would reveal the details on the new series of Joe Lycett’s Got Your Back, on Channel 4, which takes on big corporations to fight for the rights of British consumers. The German luxury fashion house has responded and said that they welcome the comedian as a member of the Hugo Boss family, but it would appear the pr damage has already been done. Anyone for a Boss beer?

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What the blazes: a history of distillery fires

Making whisky is not without its hazards, distillation can be a dangerous business. Then there’s the challenge of storing thousands of wooden casks of flammable liquid safely while they mature….

Making whisky is not without its hazards, distillation can be a dangerous business. Then there’s the challenge of storing thousands of wooden casks of flammable liquid safely while they mature. Inevitably, things sometimes go wrong. Ian Buxton looks into the explosive history of distillery fires. 

If you’ve ever visited a distillery warehouse of recent construction, you’ll have noticed that it’s festooned with all kinds of safety precautions in the event of fire: smoke sensors; sophisticated monitoring and alarm systems (frequently linked to the local fire station) and substantial fire walls to prevent the flames taking control of the whole building. There’s generally a significant gap between modern buildings, both to prevent the fire spreading and to allow firefighters access to all sides of the structures. Different vintages of production are spread across a number of warehouses to prevent the possibility of the total loss of a specific age of whisky.

Not the aftermath of the Blitz but Watson’s Whisky Bond following a fire

All permanent staff will have had training and there will be fire-fighting equipment on site, though possibly out of sight of the visitors. Health & safety legislation quite properly lays great stress on mitigating risks and training staff in good practice or, if the worst should happen, evacuation procedures. For all the care, though, there are still accidents (and sometimes accidents with a still), such as the recent fire at Masons in Yorkshire. For some reason, the USA has in recent years been particularly prone to significant conflagrations: Heaven Hill (1996), Wild Turkey (2000), Jim Beam (2003 and again in 2019) and, tragically, Silver Trail in Kentucky where in 2015 a young distiller was killed and a colleague severely injured.

Fortunately, fatalities are rare these days and usually only whisky is lost.  Sadly, it has not always been so. Glasgow was the scene of one of Britain’s worst ever peacetime fire services disaster when, on 28 March 1960 the Cheapside Street whisky bond caught fire and collapsed, killing 11 firemen. The blaze took a week to fully extinguish and, at its peak, required 450 firemen, 30 pumping appliances, five turntable ladders, four support vehicles, and a fire boat on the River Clyde. There were six bravery awards, including two awards of the George Medal.

At this time, Glasgow still had a considerable number of operational warehouses in the city itself though. Following the fire, most were relocated (the buildings still presented hazards, though.  Failure to remove security bars from the windows at an old bond in James Watt Street led to the death of 22 employees of an upholstery workshop just eight years later.)

Postcard commemorating the fire at the North of Scotland Distillery in Aberdeen

Clearly earlier lessons had not been learned. Prior to world war one there were disastrous fires in both Aberdeen and Dundee. In September 1904, the North of Scotland Distillery in Aberdeen was totally destroyed by fire and some 700,000 gallons of whisky (around two year’s production) was lost. Though the distillery did reopen it proved hard to recover and it eventually closed in 1913, ironically just as Port Dundas Distillery in Glasgow, which had lain dormant since a fire ten years earlier, was recommissioned. 

A little further down Scotland’s east coast, in Dundee, a devastating fire broke out in July 1906 in the James Watson & Co. bond at the junction of Seagate and the aptly-named Candle Lane. Then one of the largest distillers in the country and a major force in the industry, Watson’s never really recovered from the disruption to their business and the company and remaining stocks were eventually acquired by the DCL (forerunners of today’s Diageo). The neighbouring blending house of John Robertson & Son was also badly affected by the fire as flaming alcohol was seen raining down on surrounding streets and buildings, setting light to a sugar warehouse, jute factory and printers. 

So bad was the inferno that firemen had to be called from Edinburgh to help fight it. The fire, which burned for 12 hours, has been described as the most destructive in the history of Dundee. An eyewitness recorded it sending “rivers of burning whisky” through the city, the spectacle attracting a thousand strong crowd of spectators. According to the Dundee Courier, the glow was visible from Brechin and Montrose (about 30 miles away) and people on Dundee’s outskirts could read newspapers out of doors at midnight.

major fire at Jim Beam

There was a major fire at Jim Beam in 2019

While the six storey bond, several other buildings and around 1,000,000 gallons of spirits were lost, there were mercifully no fatalities recorded – and local postcard company Valentines were quickly on the scene to record the damage in a series of rare and now collectable postcards.

So, next time you visit a distillery and your guide prohibits flash photography try to remember these tragic events in Scotland’s distilling history and confine the mixture of fire and whisky to a Blue Blazer cocktail when you return home!

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

 

 

 

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Durham Gin: masters of the cask

We talk beards, barrels and botanicals with Jon Chadwick at the Durham Distillery, the firm that makes (some of) the best cask-aged gin in England. Mixing gin with oak takes…

We talk beards, barrels and botanicals with Jon Chadwick at the Durham Distillery, the firm that makes (some of) the best cask-aged gin in England.

Mixing gin with oak takes skill and patience. Jon Chadwick, founder of the Durham Distillery, has some strong views on companies that don’t do it very well: “You’ve got a lot of cask-aged gins who’ve only been in the cask for a month or two and there’s caramel added to up the colour.” he told us. He went on to describe one, more in sorrow than anger, “the worst thing I saw for a cask-aged gin was an industrial bulk container (IBC) full of gin. They got the barrel, dismantled it and dropped the wooden staves into the IBC, so that the gin was physically in contact with the wood. They hadn’t put the gin into a barrel, they put a barrel into the gin! They left it there for about six weeks, added a bit of caramel and then bottled that as a cask-aged gin and knocked it out at about £45 a bottle.”

Durham distillery

At the Durham Distillery, they put the gin in the cask, not the other way round

There are no such shortcuts at the Durham Distillery though, oddly enough, it was a not particularly good oaked gin that inspired him in the first place. “I first drank a cask-aged gin in Boston five or six years ago and I’ve got to tell you, it wasn’t great.” Following a career in the civil service, he was taking a break exploring American micro-distilleries on the East Coast while his wife worked at MIT in Boston. The seed of an idea was planted. “The original concept was to take the same sort of business model that Bully Boys had done in Boston. It works well in college towns, next to Harvard, Yale, Stanford, or Brown, for example,” he told us. Being from the north east, Chadwick went for Durham: “Durham is like the Harvard or Yale of England,” he said, “big university, very posh, very old, striped scarves, you know, rowers on the river, things like that.”

The distillery, however, isn’t quite so Brideshead Revisited. The firm has just moved to a new premises: “It’s nearly 6000 square feet in central Durham City, about 250 yards down from the cathedral” said Chadwick. “I’m sure you’ve got an image in your head of some historic building [see photo in header]. In fact, it’s almost entirely underground and it’s a former McDonalds.” But it’s an improvement on the last space which was two miles out of the city. 

The team has been distilling for six years now and began putting gin (the standard dry gin) in cask just over four years ago, a single bourbon barrel where it remained for around nine months. “We released our first batch about four years ago, it was literally only about 500 or 600 bottles and it went in a blink of an eye,” he said. And so it became an annual thing. Each release since has been different. “We like the idea that people might buy a bottle every year and follow the journey as it develops just as with whisky,” Chadwick said. The current batch is made up of three barrels: “We used two second-fill Jack Daniel’s barrels and a first-fill oloroso sherry cask,” Chadwick said. “And the batch that went into the sherry cask was in for about eight or nine months, but the second-fill Jack Daniels we left in for about 18 months, because it was second-fill. And then we blended them at the end.”

Jess Tomlinson, head distiller and not a beard in sight

The taste is quite wonderful with toasty nutty notes from the barrel and an amazing body and finish. The oak never dominates or masks the botanicals. It’s really very impressive. Chadwick gives all the credit to distiller Jess Tomlinson. “We’ve got a distiller who’s got an exceptionally good palate,” he said. She’s only 30 and has a masters in distilling from Heriot-Watt. “It’s just very different for this industry to have somebody heading up this kind of thing who isn’t a bloke with a beard. The craft spirits industry is still dominated by men with beards,” he added. 

Chadwick and Tomlinson are clearly buying great quality casks and they have another advantage over competitors: Lanchester Wines is on their doorstep. “The largest category A bonded warehouse in Western Europe. They bottle more wine than Chianti!” said Chadwick. So they can keep their gin without having to pay duty on it and only need to sell it when it’s ready. 

With this mastery of casks, the obvious next step is whisky: “The gin market is very saturated right now and there’s far too much sugary, fruity flavoured gins which we don’t particularly like. The time is right for us to kind of move into making whisky,” said Chadwick. 

The gin still

It’s all being done steadily and slowly: “We’re a sensible commercial business growing organically, we’re not a multi-millionaire who is building a whisky distillery and is just going to hire a guy who’s going do it all for them and bill them for 2.5 million quid.” So rather than beating a path to Forsyths, he’s having the stills build in Slovenia. “We’re going to keep our current gin still and we’re going to add two big whisky stills, six fermenters and a big mash tun” Chadwick told us. The wash still will be 1000 litres so still quite small by Scottish standards. The gin still is a  400 litre Hoga with a gin basket run by a Fulton steam boiler. 

The equipment is yet to arrive so whisky is a long way off. Fortunately, there’s the cask-aged gin to drink while you wait, a drop that really bridges the gin and whisky categories. How does Chadwick have his? “Either I drink it neat over ice, it’s smooth enough that you can get away with drinking it that way,” he told us, “Or I’ve got some sherry cask-aged vermouth and some Rioja barrel-aged vermouth. An aged vermouth with the cask-aged gin in a Martini I mean that’s about as good as it gets.” Having tried a Durham cask/ Noilly Prat Martini, I can vouch for that.

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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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