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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Bourbon

How to get the best out of overproof spirits

From barrel proof bourbon to navy strength gin, it’s hard to know how – and when – to use punchy overproof spirits in cocktails and mixed drinks. Here, we explain the…

From barrel proof bourbon to navy strength gin, it’s hard to know how – and when – to use punchy overproof spirits in cocktails and mixed drinks. Here, we explain the different ways you can incorporate these high-octane sippers into your cocktail repertoire without overpowering your palate (or doing yourself a mischief)…

Before we get into the spirits, let’s tackle the etymology of overproof. The term was coined in the 18th century, when sailors would mix their spirits with gunpowder and light it with a match. If the booze caught alight and burned steadily, it was ‘proof’ the spirit was of adequate strength and hadn’t been watered down. They were often paid partially in alcohol rations, and after all, no one likes being short-changed. 100% proof corresponds to around 57% ABV in new money.

We may no longer feel the need to set our spirits on fire before accepting a booze delivery, to the relief of postmen and women everywhere. But potency pyrotechnics aside, our obsession with ABV remains otherwise unchanged since the 18th century. Whether we’re sipping cask strength Cognac, overproof rum, or navy strength gin – or exploring the emerging no- and low-alcohol category – the potency of booze remains a key talking point among drinkers, distillers and bartenders to this day.

The just-released Highland Park Cask Strength was bottled at a mighty 63.3% ABV

The vast majority of our favourite spirits are diluted with water before they’re bottled, settling somewhere around 40% ABV. This isn’t necessarily a negative – if you have a preference for cask strength Scotch, there’s a solid case for diluting the dram with a touch of water before you drink it – but it does mean boozier bottlings, typically from 50% ABV upwards, are fewer in number. Beyond upping the alcohol content in the bottle, less dilution with water means a greater concentration of esters, fusel oils and other compounds – collectively known as congeners – in the final spirit, which carry through as flavour and complexity.

Not only does a great overproof spirit bring flavour by the bucketload, but it also makes the other flavours in the drink “more concentrated and intense”, says Georgi Radev, owner of London bar Laki Kane. “When you add high-ABV spirit to a cocktail, you are adding more flavour and viscosity to it,” he says. Up to a point, of course. Overproof spirits are notoriously difficult to enjoy neat, and can be extremely challenging to work into short cocktails, “because the high volume alcohol numbs our taste buds, so we can feel only the strength of the alcohol,” he says. “The flavours are there, but we can’t enjoy them.”

However, overproof spirits are perfect for “long drinks with more ingredients using multiple strong syrups,” says Radev, with “Tiki-style tropical cocktails,” being a prime example. For example, the Piña Colada. “Overproof rum makes a perfect Piña Colada,” he says. “The cream balances the high alcohol content. In a normal Piña Colada, the rum is almost undetectable. The main flavours are pineapple and coconut. With overproof rum, it’s a different game.” These kinds of drinks need flavourful spirits to stand out, and they’re one of the few circumstances where such powerful sippers ought to be used as a base.

The Piña Fumada

The Piña Colada tastes even better when made with overproof rum

If you’re set on shorter drinks, though, you don’t necessarily have to steer clear of overproof spirits. You can use such tipples as a modifier by incorporating a little into the body of the recipe, rinsing the glass before you pour, or floating a small amount on top of the finished cocktail. Adding just a few meagre millilitres will turbocharge the flavours in the drink and also add texture, as Radev alluded to earlier when he mentioned viscosity. A higher ABV cuts through citrus and syrups to bring a rich, almost oily mouthfeel to a cocktail that’s near-impossible to replicate with any other ingredient (just ask any lab-weary alcohol-free producer). 

Indeed, the difference a handful of extra ABV percentage points can make, even to the same spirit, is fascinating. “On a trip to Guatemala I was introduced to an aged rum that was 46% ABV, in comparison to its regular counterpart at 40% ABV, and it completely transformed the experience,” says James Shearer, global beverage director for London restaurants Oblix, Zuma and Roka. “In my opinion, a higher ABV is the distiller’s way of perfecting the product for the drinker.”

However, what overproof giveth, poor bar technique taketh away. In exchange for flavour by the bucketload and money-can’t-buy mouthfeel, you have the challenge of adapting your drink to accommodate the extra punchiness. Overproof spirits – especially at the higher end of the ABV spectrum – redefine the character of a cocktail, so it’s not just as simple as subbing your usual gin choice for a Navy strength sipper. You’ll likely need to rethink the proportions of the drink, and potentially your ingredients. For example, if you’re making a Manhattan with barrel proof rye whiskey, choose a robust, powerful vermouth to pair with it and drop the pour size of both.

A Negroni is a great foil for navy strength gin

If you’re stuck for classic recipe recommendations, Shearer recommends balancing navy strength gin in a Negroni, “to bring out the citrus and bitter notes”. Overproof Tequila “can add a slap of flavour to a Zombie,” he says, while high-strength Cognac works well when utilised with overproof rum in a Between the Sheets. Overproof rum shines in a Nuclear Banana Daiquiri or classic Mai Tai, and cask strength whisk(e)y goes down a treat in a Prescription Sazerac.

With a bit of planning, overproof booze is nothing to shy away from, providing you treat it carefully and use a delicate hand. “You need to start working with overproof spirits to get to understand them,” says Radev. “Most people think that overproof is mainly for lighting up cocktails, but it’s so much more than that. Start using it in drinks and you will grow to love it.”

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Three-ingredient classic cocktail recipes

The quest for a half-decent home cocktail doesn’t have to involve elaborate equipment, onerous tinctures or fiddly garnishes. Led by the expertise of David Indrak, operations manager at The Cocktail…

The quest for a half-decent home cocktail doesn’t have to involve elaborate equipment, onerous tinctures or fiddly garnishes. Led by the expertise of David Indrak, operations manager at The Cocktail Service, we’ve pulled together a fine selection of three-ingredient classic cocktails you can whip up at home with relatively little fuss…

As anyone who has attempted a home-made Irish Coffee can attest, making bar-standard cocktails in the kitchen typically requires untold prep work, time, effort, and a certain level of skill. Let’s face it, sometimes it’s easier to leave the tricky drinks to the experts. “Making cocktails is similar to creating good food,” agrees Indrak. “It takes practice and an understanding of techniques, flavour combinations and what ingredients are available to enhance your drinks. Cocktail bartenders in top bars are students of cocktail culture and dedicate their lives to the craft. For the best cocktails, there is no other place to enjoy but a cocktail bar.”

The Nightcap

You don’t need all the kit to make a good cocktail

Creating infusions, sherbets, and clarified cocktails frequently requires long preparations, says Indrak – up to two weeks in some instances – and often requires ingredients or equipment you wouldn’t normally have at home. As well as requiring lots of planning ahead, buying fancy produce is often expensive and wasteful. By keeping home cocktail-making simple and using familiar ingredients, you’ll find it far easier to repurpose anything you don’t use. Besides, visiting your favourite watering hole – adhering to social distancing guidelines, of course – may just help the owners weather the ongoing coronavirus crisis. “We are living in more difficult times now, and supporting your local bars helps the businesses to get through this period,” says Indrak. 

With that being said, ‘simple’ doesn’t mean ‘boring’. There are plenty of ways to dress up a three-ingredient cocktail – for example, adding fruit to the equation. “Strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries – these can be all kept in the freezer and can be used as a garnish, dropped in a glass of fizz to maintain the temperature, or added in the blender to create delicious fruity frozen cocktails,” says Indrak. On the other end of the spectrum, why not dehydrate your own citrus fruit? “Cut your lemon, lime, orange in slices and keep on the window sill until completely dehydrated,” he says. “This can be stored in sealed containers and will last for some time.” Alternatively, stick to tradition and fashion citrus twists with a potato peeler. 

Another easy way to add a ‘professional bartender’ air to simple drinks is by pre-freezing your glasses to give them a delightful opaque mist effect on the outside. You could also use crushed ice to crown drinks in rocks and highball glasses, Indrak suggests. When it comes to the liquid inside, you don’t need a ridiculously well-stocked home bar to make a diverse array of cocktails. If you’re looking for guidance, keeping a bottle each of vodka, gin, white rum, bourbon and Tequila will pretty much guarantee you cover all classic cocktail bases, along with Angostura Bitters, vermouth, Cointreau, and perhaps a coffee liqueur if you’re feeling extra.

For the remaining ingredients, raid your larder (or your fridge), suggests Indrak. Fresh herbs such as mint, basil, coriander and rosemary make cracking garnishes, while spices such as chilli, nutmeg, cinnamon, and star anise can add an warming element to certain drinks where recipes call for them. Honey and agave syrups are an ideal sweetener – to make cocktail syrup, combine 1:1 honey or agave and hot water – as are cordials, such as elderflower and raspberry.

In terms of making the drink, there are plenty of kitchen-friendly substitutes for cocktail equipment, as Indrak explains. If you don’t have a boston shaker, use a Kilner jar (with lid!) or a protein shaker. No jigger? Stick with the measuring jugs, cups or spoons you have in your kitchen. Instead of a Hawthorne strainer, use a slotted spoon, and if you don’t have access to a muddler, use a wooden spoon or rolling pin. A fine mesh strainer can be subbed out for a tea strainer or sieve, and a bar spoon can be switched for a long tea spoon if you have one, or just a regular teaspoon with some adjustments. “A bar spoon holds 5ml of liquid,” says Indrak. “The standard imperial teaspoon holds around 15ml of liquid.”

As we’ve hopefully illustrated, you don’t need a Michelin star back bar to craft these tasty drinks. They’re a step up from your typical spirit and mixer combo, without resulting in a mountain of washing up. Here, we present an extremely quaffable selection of three-ingredient classic cocktails for every occasion…

Margarita

Ingredients:

50ml VIVIR Reposado Tequila
25ml Lime juice
15ml Cointreau
Garnish: lime wedge

Method:

Fill a cocktail shaker – or kitchen substitute – with ice, then add all liquid ingredients. Shake until the outside of the shaker feels cold, then fine strain into a pre-chilled glass. Serve with a wedge of lime. 

Aperol Spritz

Ingredients:

30ml Aperol
60ml Prosecco
30ml Soda water
Garnish: orange slice

Method:

Build the ingredients into glass over ice in the order listed above, and then garnish with an orange slice. 

Negroni

Ingredients:

25ml Bathtub Gin
25ml Martini Rosso Vermouth
25ml Campari (order a Negroni bundle here)
Garnish: dehydrated orange wheel

Method:

Build the ingredients into glass over ice – in any order – and then garnish with a dehydrated orange wheel. If you don’t have one, use an orange peel.

Moscow Mule

Ingredients:

50ml Reyka Vodka
15ml Lime juice
150ml Fever Tree Ginger Ale
Garnish: lime wedge

Method:

Build the ingredients into glass over ice – in any order – and then garnish with a lime wedge. Don’t like vodka? Try subbing in rum, whisky or gin.

Dark & Stormy

Ingredients:

50ml Gosling’s Black Seal Rum
15ml Lime juice
Top up with Gosling’s Ginger Beer
Garnish: lime wedge

Method:

Build the ingredients into glass over ice in the order listed above and garnish with a lime wedge.

Bees Knee’s

Ingredients:

50ml Bathtub Gin
20ml Lemon juice
15ml Honey syrup

Method:

To make the honey syrup, combine equal parts honey and hot water and stir until the honey has dissolved. Fill a cocktail shaker – or kitchen substitute – with ice, then add all liquid ingredients. Shake until the outside of the shaker feels cold, then fine strain into a pre-chilled glass. 

Manhattan

Manhattan 

Ingredients:

50ml Rittenhouse Straight Rye 100 proof
20ml Lustau Vermut Rojo
1 dash of Angostura Bitters
Garnish: cocktail cherry

Method:

Fill a large glass or cocktail shaker with ice, then add the liquid ingredients. Using a bar spoon  – or alternative – stir for 20-30 seconds. Fine strain into a pre-chilled glass and garnish with a cherry.

Top 5 drinks films

White Russian 

Ingredients:

25ml Absolut Vodka
25ml Mr Black coffee liqueur
75ml Half and half

Method:

To make half and half, combine equal parts whole milk and cream. Combine the ingredients in a cocktail shaker – or equivalent – stir briefly, and then pour over a glass filled with ice.

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Cocktail of the Week: The New York Sour

Today’s we’re making a rather forgotten-about cocktail made with bourbon and red wine. Yeah, it sounds a bit crazy, but trust us, you’ll love the New York Sour. There’s a…

Today’s we’re making a rather forgotten-about cocktail made with bourbon and red wine. Yeah, it sounds a bit crazy, but trust us, you’ll love the New York Sour.

There’s a lot of cocktails named after parts of New York, the Manhattan, obviously, but also the Red Hook, the Harlem Nights and the Staten Island Ferry. This week we’re making a drink named after the entire city, the New York Sour. It’s essentially a whiskey sour made with bourbon but with red wine floating on the top. 

What? Red wine and bourbon? Sounds a bit disgusting, doesn’t it? Red wine and bourbon aren’t what you’d call a classic cocktail pairing like, say, gin and vermouth. But actually red wine and whisky have a long history together. Queen Victoria herself used to enjoy Scotch mixed with claret. No one was going to tell her she was doing it wrong. Stop and take it apart for a moment and it makes sense. Whiskies are increasingly aged in different casks including one that formerly held red wine. Think of the delicious Starward Nova from Australia or the recent Aberfeldy aged in Pauillac casks. We’re happy with fortified wines, like Port and sherry, in cocktails. So why not red wine? 

The sour is the cocktail stripped back to its basic parts: alcohol, sweet and, of course, sour. Adding the red wine adds a bitter element, rather like adding bitters or vermouth. According to Difford’s Guide, the New York Sour probably dates back to the 1880s and was first made in Chicago, not New York. It’s been through a number of names like the Claret Snap and the Brunswick Sour before settling on its current name. There have been other New Yorky cocktails: Harry Craddock has a drink called a New York Cocktail in The Savoy Cocktail Book, a sour made with Canadian Club whisky and grenadine but no red wine; David Embury writes about a similar cocktail called a New Yorker also made with grenadine but he writes “a spoonful of claret may be floated on top if desired.” The only problem with this is that as grenadine is also red, you don’t really get the pretty two layer effect which is half the fun.

Careful pouring the wine so that it floats on top

Neither call for egg white but it’s a nice addition as it looks pretty and makes your drink taste all fluffy and lovely. The recipe below is served on the rocks in an Old Fashioned glass but you could serve it straight up. For bourbon I’m using Woodford Reserve because a) it’s delicious b) it’s what I have in the cupboard. And then the big question is what sort of red wine to use. The traditional accompaniment would have been claret, red Bordeaux, which would have been even more tannic back in the early 20th century when it was colder and grapes weren’t picked so ripe. Whatever you decide, it’s worth using something which has a bit of bite to it. A jammy Californian Merlot just won’t cut the mustard or anything that’s too oaky. Instead, try something bitter and interesting from Piedmont (the home of Italian vermouth) in northern Italian like a Barbera, Dolcetto, or even if you’re feeling fancy, Barolo or Barbaresco would turn this drink into a special occasion.

So here’s to New York Sour. If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere, even Tonbridge:

60ml Woodford Reserve bourbon
25ml lemon juice
25ml sugar syrup
Half an egg white
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 measure Barbera d’Asti Casareggio (or any red with a bitter edge to it) 

Add all the ingredients except the red wine to your cocktail shaker and “dry shake” without ice for 10 seconds, then take the shaker apart and add cubed ice. Shake vigorously and double strain into an old-fashioned glass filled with cubed ice, then slowly pour the red wine carefully down the side of the glass and with any luck it will float on the top.

Recipe from The Cocktail Dictionary: An A–Zof cocktail recipes, from Daiquiri and Negroni to Martini and Spritz by Henry Jeffreys published by Mitchell Beazley, £15.99.

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Breaking the mould with Brough Brothers Bourbon

Victor Yarbrough, the co-founder of Brough Brothers Bourbon joins us to talk about race, family, making a positive impact in the community and more.  “Booze is a good old boy…

Victor Yarbrough, the co-founder of Brough Brothers Bourbon joins us to talk about race, family, making a positive impact in the community and more. 

“Booze is a good old boy industry. It goes back 150-200 years in the US, to a time when African Americans weren’t free. There was no way we could establish any ownership or legacy, and this is a legacy industry. A fair number of businesses, particularly in the Kentucky spirits industry, started off as family businesses and most of them are still owned by the family. That means that people work with people who look like them. And there aren’t many people that look like me in this business. It’s very difficult to get in.”

Victor Yarbrough’s experiences have fed his desire to make a mark on this industry. This year, he made his first big impression. As the CEO of Brough Brothers Bourbon, he co-founded the first African American-owned distillery in Kentucky with his brothers, Christain (CMO) and Bryson (COO). The fact that it has taken so long for there to be an African American-led brand in Kentucky demonstrates the challenge we face in our industry to combat institutional racism. The issue, which was violently brought back into public consciousness following the death of George Floyd in police custody in May, is one Yarbough is happy to speak openly about. 

His words above were a response to incidents raised in a recent article published in Esquire featuring Jackie Summers, the creator of the liqueur brand Sorel. He was speaking on his experience being the only Black person in America to hold a license to make liquor in 2011 and recalled many instances of racism that he experienced in the article, including regularly showing up at liquor events where he was a sponsor, only to be told, “Deliveries are in the back.” Yarbrough chuckled wryly at this quote and revealed he had a similar experience in London recently. “I was attempting to sell our bourbon and the guy gave that same kind of ‘Deliveries are in the back’ attitude. I had a good conversation with him to let him know my stance on his thoughts”. 

Brough Brothers Bourbon

Say hello to Christian, Victor and Bryson Yarbrough!

Such attitudes cannot be meaningfully challenged while there is still a lack of diverse voices represented at an ownership or management level without our industry, or indeed within any. If people of colour are to have any power when it comes to economic stability and self-determination, ownership is key. Summers concluded his interview in Esquire by saying “If you don’t own it, it owns you. And in this country, where a lot of drink culture is owed to blackness, very little of it is owned by blackness. We are (and have been) ready to be owners.” Yarbrough recognises the importance of what he and his family have achieved and is keen to use the brand’s status as the first African American-owned distillery in Kentucky as a force for good.

“We feel that responsibility. We want to make it easier for people of colour to enter the industry. We see Brough Brothers Bourbon as a meaningful opportunity to make a positive and lasting impact on both local and global communities,” he says. “We want to educate people. In our local area, we have major alcohol brands. But most of the people in the neighbourhoods around them don’t really understand what they do. Our goal is to educate the community so we can create positive pathways for them. We can let them know what kind of training they need and what kind of jobs are available”.

The family grew up in Louisville’s West End in Kentucky and the brothers are passionate about their home. The brand’s first bourbon bottle itself is a testament to that, picturing the Louisville skyline, Muhammed Ali’s boxing gloves, bourbon barrels and more. “We’re located in an area where there’s an economically depressed community. Our goal is to create economic opportunity to revitalise the local community. Alcohol is such a huge part of Kentucky’s economy. That means there are so many supplementary industries, from people making barrels or stills, to jobs in marketing, sales or insurance,” explains Yarbrough. “If we can create those jobs within the community then we can bring more prosperity and self-reliance. On a global level, we plan to launch some nonprofits to provide a path into the industry, particularly for people of colour, who don’t have that access”.

Brough Brothers Bourbon

Creating a groundbreaking brand with your entrepreneurial siblings? All in a days work.

Yarbrough’s worldly view was in part informed by his experiences travelling and his time in the UK where he and his brothers ran an import/export company called Victory Global. They lived there for 10 years, becoming British citizens in the process, and their position provided them with the perfect opportunity to study which brands became successful and how they achieved this. “When we imported bourbon into the UK and other markets we saw there was a tremendous growth opportunity. We learned a great deal about the process of distribution and gained an understanding of retailers and pricing,” says Yarbrough. “For example, we had some bourbons that were great but priced too high so they didn’t sell too well.” That explains the incredibly reasonable price point of Brough Brother’s Bourbon. Considering it’s easy to pay an awful lot of money for not a lot in the whiskey world today, there’s something to be said about getting a bourbon for this price from an upstart craft distiller committed to doing things the right way. 

Speaking of which, the Yarbrough brothers will be doing their thing at a swanky new 850-square-foot microdistillery on Dixie Highway, Louisville, Kentucky. Even though it has only just opened, the brothers are an incredibly ambitious team and have already discussed plans to expand. Currently, the bourbon they bottle is sourced, but very soon it will be produced in a 190-litre column-still which will be joined by a dedicated 100-litre still for the purposes of producing gin and vodka. Yarbrough says he made contacts while in England that will offer their expertise to create London dry gin, a style that they developed a love for while living this side of the pond.

Brough Brothers’ initial product is a Kentucky bourbon that has been matured for at least six months in new American white oak before being bottled at 41% ABV. The mash bill is 75% corn, 21% rye and 4% malted barley and the grain is sourced from both Indiana and Kentucky. The bourbon also goes through a proprietary filtration process that Yarbrough kept close to his chest, but he does reveal that they opted to make their bourbon using sweet mash, as opposed to the industry standard sour mash, so fermentations last from five to seven days. “It’s a more complex process but we think it created a better product,” said Yarbough of the decision. Currently, its whisky is matured in a couple of different locations in Kentucky and there are plans to buy more space imminently

Brough Brothers Bourbon

More warehouse space and expanding the distillery are already on the cards for Brough Brothers Bourbon

Yarbrough says the brothers wanted to create a bourbon would accessible enough to lure people into the wonderful world of whiskey and also describes it as a “party bourbon” thanks to its mixable profile. “We wanted this to be a bourbon that was smooth and approachable enough that people who aren’t fans of bourbon can enjoy. It’s not just connoisseurs, our target was a wider demographic and we hoped to convert people who weren’t bourbon drinkers and preferred gin or vodka,” says Yarbrough. “Our goal was to be true to our Kentucky origins, but create a product that could be sold worldwide. It’s versatile. You can use it in an Old Fashioned or Mint Julep, it’s great with ginger ale and tonic water. Personally I like it with sweet tea or peach tea.” 

The brothers are not resting on their laurels, however, and plan to follow the release of their signature product with another bourbon in the coming months, this one styled as a more serious sipper. “We’ll release another range with a different profile that’s aimed more at the connaisseurs. It’s already in the barrel and we’re looking at potentially releasing it as soon as November”, says Yarbrough. “Right now with everything going on things are crazy, but we’re comfortable being patient. We’re hard-working people, we’ve come from humble origins and we’ve jumped a lot of hurdles to get to where we are. Everything is about ensuring we’ve put together the best plan to make sure longevity is going to be there for us. The future for Brough Brothers right now is about ensuring that our bourbon gets enough time in the spotlight.” For my money, it deserves it.

Brough Brothers Bourbon

Brough Brothers Bourbon Tasting Note:

Nose: It’s a fresh, clean and sweet nose. Top notes of vanilla fudge play against ripe Granny Smith Apples and ground nutmeg. A little peppermint, milk chocolate, cherry and just a drop of freshly-squeezed lemon juice are present in the backdrop.

Palate: Similar to the nose the palate is clean and pure and starts out with more sweet notes, this time maple syrup, vanilla and doughnut. More red fruit, some woody tannins, a touch of earthy chilli heat and a hint of black tea add depth.

Finish: Toffee apples and baking spice round things off.

Overall: There’s lots to enjoy here. This is a crisp, light and lean expression that still has plenty of punch and complexity. An inaugural release is a foundation to build upon and this is a promising start. I’d recommend this for Mint Juleps as it’s got some really lovely herbal and citrus notes that complement the bright, fresh mint flavour.

You can buy Brough Brothers Bourbon from Master of Malt now.

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The joy of distillery pets

From man’s best friend to an ostentation of peafowl, many distilleries are home to more than just the people behind the brands. Today, we talk tail feathers, snooze spots and…

From man’s best friend to an ostentation of peafowl, many distilleries are home to more than just the people behind the brands. Today, we talk tail feathers, snooze spots and botanical snacks with the proud owners of several distillery pets

Once upon a time, distilleries would employ mousers fearless, often semi-feral cats with the job of keeping the mice out of the barley. These days, all kinds of creatures can be found sleeping by warm stills, entertaining visitors or patrolling the grounds. Some even have their own Instagram accounts. MoM found five distillers willing to share the stories of their four-legged or feathered friends.

Darcy from the Cambridge Distillery, England

You could say that Darcy is the brains behind the entire operation: it was walks with her owners, (Cambridge Distillery founders) William and Lucy Lowe, through Grantchester Meadows that sparked the idea for the business. “There wouldn’t be a Cambridge Distillery without Darcy,” explains Will. “We made the decision to start making gin whilst out on a walk with her and it was out on a walk that we discovered the amazing array of botanicals that surround us, which inspired us to create the world’s first truly seasonal gin. Everything went from there.”

Darcy the black lab even has her favourite botanicals, including nettles, apple and pear blossom, blackberries and blackcurrants. She can usually be found overseeing operations by following the sunny spots around the distillery and then cooling off with a swim in the river Cam, which flows behind the site. It really is a dog’s life. 

Chicken from FEW Spirits, Chicago, Illinois

Don’t be fooled by the name, chicken is a dog. Though he is also a bit of a chicken: “He is a very good boy but he hates the noise and smells at the distillery,” says FEW founder and Chicken’s human, Paul Hletko. “It’s a very scary place for him and he just wants to sit in my lap when he’s there.” Chicken enjoys hanging out with his brother, Elvis, and naturally the pair have their own Insta – @chicken_and_elvis (chicken is the foreground above, Elvis behind).

The big question is how did the family end up with a dog called Chicken? “I have three kids, two wanted a dog. One wanted a chicken. She’s still mad and thinks she got ripped off,” explains Hletko. Elvis’s name choice was a bit more conventional – he came home when Hlekto’s oldest child was in a big Elvis Presley phase. “My wife and I wanted Egbert (or Egg, for short) to answer the ‘chicken/egg which came first’ question forever, but we lost to the kids.

“Elvis is also a very good boy.” MoM wonders how often he leaves the building…

Ginny from Manifest Distilling, Jacksonville, Florida 

Ginny the cat walked into the distillery right off the street. “She hid in our ‘high-proof room’ for the first couple days before she realised that we were her friends,” says general manager Jim Webb. 

It wasn’t a great start for Manifest’s new feline friend – she needed a trip to the vet to get her jabs as well as get rid of what Webb describes as “FLEAS FROM HELLFIRE”. They also discovered she had a broken leg, right at the knee, that couldn’t be fixed. Luckily, it healed on its own and restored Ginny with the majesty and mischief of a good distillery cat: “She can climb and jump and set off the motion detector alarm at all hours of the evening and early morning,” says Webb.

In less unusual times, Ginny’s favourite job was to go on tours and meow to get all sorts of attention from new people. Now, though, tours are on hold so Webb and the team have a new full-time job, paying Ginny attention. “She likes finding confined places to nap and currently is in our front-of-house stock closet snuggled up in a case of plastic shot glasses (safely wrapped for their future shooter’s protection),” says Webb. 

Ginny’s also on the ‘gram: @manifesting_ginny

Otis from Badachro Distillery, Scotland

Otis, the long-haired Weimaraner, joined the Badachro menagerie just before lockdown. “We already have two Labradors, Ellis, our old lady (13) and Timo (10) who were only mildly amused – to be honest, we think Ellis wanted to give him back straight away, but Timo quite enjoys having a little brother to go out for walks with,” says Badachro co-founder Vanessa Quinn.

Izzy the cat “tolerates” Otis, while the chickens are having to take a temporary break from being free range and the ponies believe him to be crazy. “One of the highlights of Otis’s life at the distillery are the delivery drivers and the posties, always prepared with a dog biscuit. They are more than welcome and he will let us know when they come up the drive,” says Quinn.

As lockdown life eases, visitors have started to return to the distillery and many are keen to meet Otis, who has become a hit on the Badachro Insta (@badachrodistillery).

Otis is nearly six months old now and Quinn says he might be trained as a gun dog, though he hasn’t yet decided what he wants to be when he grows up.

Rowan from Lux Row Distillers, Bardstown, Kentucky

Most distilleries have cats or dogs. Rowan, however, is a peacock. In fact, Lux Row inherited a handful of peacocks from the property’s former owners, the Ballard family. When the distillery opened in 2018, the folk at Lux Row say there were about half a dozen birds. “Now we’ve got at least 17 four new babies this year.”

While most are tricky to tell apart, Rowan boasts the longest tail feathers and so the ambassadors named him after a prominent historical Bardstown figure, who also gives his name to the road on which the distillery is located. Handy. Rowan enjoys strutting his stuff for the visitors and allows himself to be photographed after all, every side is his best side.

“No other distillery on the Bourbon Trail (that we know of) has such unique animals,” the team at Lux says. Mr Ballard still comes to feed the peacocks two or three times a week, but every now and then they may snack on some spilled leftover grain.

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The Nightcap: 3 July

It’s a bumper week for The Nightcap, with stories about The Macallan, Diageo, competition winners, the artist formerly known as Plantation rum and a new Swift bar. Lovely stuff. It’s…

It’s a bumper week for The Nightcap, with stories about The Macallan, Diageo, competition winners, the artist formerly known as Plantation rum and a new Swift bar. Lovely stuff.

It’s been another busy week and a whole heap of boozy news has occurred. With so many stories floating around it can be hard to keep up. It’s not as if you have some kind of contraption to corral it up into one place to hand, like a big booze news net or one of those massive gloves they have in that American sport with the baseball hats. Lucky for you, we’ve got just the thing. Our delightful round-up of all the drinks industry happenings from the last seven days – it’s The Nightcap!

On the MoM blog this week Kristy recalled her trip to Texas distillery Balcones as our exclusive Balcones Barrel Pick landed at MoM Towers, Adam spoke to John Quinn about the journey to restore Tullamore D.E.W Distillery and Jess broke down why garnishes are so great with the help of some industry experts. Annie then shone our MoM-branded spotlight on Cornwall’s first distillery and then had some advice on how you can upgrade your BBQ beverages, while Henry asks what it takes for a Cognac to be singled out for the vintage treatment while enjoying a new Frapin expression, made one of the world’s most delicious cocktails the way it should be made and celebrated some of our favourite places in London to drink whisky.

For the very last time, we’d like to thank all of you who entered last week’s virtual pub quiz. It’s been a pleasure teasing you with all kinds of weird and wonderful boozy trivia and hopefully, you all had fun. Thomas Knockaert certainly enjoyed himself, as he has the distinction of being the final winner! You can check out the answers to the last quiz (*sob*) below.

The Nightcap

The rum formerly known as Plantation

Maison Ferrand rename Plantation Rum brand 

Plantation Rum announced this week that its brand name will change. While we don’t know what the new name will be yet, we do know that its production methods and the liquid inside the bottle will remain the same. It’s also clear that the move was prompted by the global protests for social justice and racial equality spearheaded by the Black Lives Matter movement. “As the dialogue on racial equality continues globally, we understand the hurtful connotation the word plantation can evoke to some people, especially in its association with much graver images and dark realities of the past,” says Alexandre Gabriel, Plantation Rum master blender. “We look to grow in our understanding of these difficult issues and while we don’t currently have all the details of what our brand name evolution will involve, we want to let everyone know that we are working to make fitting changes.” Global brand manager Stephanie Simbo added that the rum brand “wants to be on the side of actions and solutions”. This case is a reminder of rum’s complex history and the fact that it is inextricably linked to slavery. But this is so rarely acknowledged, which is why we think this is great news and a meaningful step in the right direction.

The Nightcap

The full Double Cask range. It’s a beautiful sight.

The Macallan adds to Double Cask range

The Macallan has bolstered its Double Cask range with two new aged expressions, the Double Cask 15 Years Old and Double Cask 18 Years Old. The former is said to impart aromas of dried fruit, toffee and vanilla, and delivers a warming finish with a creamy mouthfeel, while the latter is said to be filled with notes of dried fruits, ginger, toffee and a warm oak spice finish that’s balanced by sweet orange. Fans of the distillery will remember The Macallan Double Cask 12 Years Old was first introduced in 2016 as part of a series that celebrates the union of American and European oak sherry-seasoned casks. The Speyside distillery sources its European oak in northern Spain and the French Pyrenees, and American oak from Ohio, Missouri and Kentucky. Both types are transported to Spain, where they are made into casks, seasoned with sherry and then shipped to The Macallan Estate where they are filled. “Bringing together American and European oak sherry-seasoned casks to achieve the perfect balance of flavours is incredibly exciting for the whisky mastery team, and we are proud to offer two new expressions to this distinctive range for The Macallan Double Cask fans to explore,” says Kirsteen Campbell, master whisky maker of The Macallan. “Oak influence is the single greatest contributor to the quality, natural colour and distinctive aromas and flavours at the heart of The Macallan’s single malts.”

The Nightcap

Each expression is the ‘first and last of its kind’, according to Diageo.

Diageo launches Prima & Ultima and plans carbon-neutral distillery in Kentucky

Diageo has had a busy week! First up is its shiny new whisky alert, announcing the launch of a very luxurious set of single malts, named Prima & Ultima. The first and last. Because each is the ‘first and last of its kind’, according to the press release. See what they did there? There are eight cask strength whiskies in the series selected by none other than Dr Jim Beveridge OBE. “Each of the eight whiskies I’ve selected for Prima & Ultima tells a tale of heritage and craftsmanship and I’ve chosen them from distillers of great personal importance to me,” says Dr Beveridge. You’ll find whisky from Cragganmore, Lagavulin, Mortlach, Port Ellen, Clynelish, Caol Ila, Talisker, and The Singleton of Dufftown, and each bottling marks a significant period of whisky-making for its distillery, with each one accompanied by a limited edition book of personal stories from Dr Beveridge himself, along with a 20ml sample. If you have a spare £20,000 you can get your hands on the entire set, though you’ll have to register first (which opens on 22 July). There are only 238 sets though, so better be snappy! 

 

The other big news is physically much bigger, because Diageo has revealed its plans to construct Bulleit Bourbon brand’s new Kentucky whiskey distillery, and it’s going to be carbon neutral! It’ll run on 100% renewable electricity (even the on site vehicles), using electrode boilers and a combination of renewable energy sources. It’s costing a cool $130 million and is set to be up and running by 2021, with the capacity to produce just over 34 million litres each year. Get ready to say hello to one of the largest carbon-neutral distilleries in North America!

The Nightcap

Congratulations to you, Stephanie Macleod!

International Whisky Competition 2020 winners announced

The results are in. The 11th edition of the International Whisky Competition whiskies has concluded after drams from around the world were judged side by side at the event in Estes Park, Colorado from 10-14 June. The top recognition, Whisky of the Year, was awarded to John Dewar and Sons – Double Double 32 Year Old (Blended Scotch), which scored 96.4 points, the highest-scoring whisky of the competition. This meant Stephanie Macleod, the brand’s master blender, became the first woman to win this prize and it was also the second year running that Macleod has won the accolade of Master Blender Of The Year, after she made history in 2019 as the first woman to win the award. John Dewar and Sons also won the Golden Barrel Trophy. “At Dewar’s we aim to push the boundaries of what is expected from the whisky category and have a long-standing commitment to innovation, so we are delighted with our success in the 2020 competition and it is an honour to be named Master Blender of the Year,” says Macleod. “I accept this award on behalf of the whole team at Dewar’s who have shown relentless hard work and dedication to achieving the very best quality and taste for our beautifully crafted whisky, despite the challenges this year has held. It is incredibly rewarding indeed to see these efforts appreciated.” Other winners were Glenmorangie’s Dr Bill Lumsden who won Master Distiller of the Year, while Ardbeg won Distillery of the Year. You can check out the full list here.

The Nightcap

How Soho may look as it goes pedestrian-only in the evenings this summer.

Soho gets a pedestrian makeover

As Britain wakes up from its lockdown slumber, bars, pubs and restaurants have been working out how to reopen safety. Westminster Council has hit on a great way to help, pedestrianise Soho. So this summer from 5pm to 11pm, London’s original nightlife capital will be out of bounds to motor vehicles as part of the new Summer Street Festival. The pedestrian-only area covers Dean Street, Frith Street, Greek Street and Old Compton Street (map including street closure timings and details can be found here.) We spoke with Simo from Milroy’s yesterday about his plans for reopening which includes 16 tables outside the whisky shop on Greek Street. Other famous venues due to reopen include Cafe Boheme, Dean Street Townhouse, and Bar Italia. Many places are also offering incentives to visit such as one free drink with dinner bookings and discounts for NHS workers. The best thing is, that if this experiment is judged a success, then there’s potential for full or part pedestrianisation to become permanent. So no more diesel fumes in your al fresco cocktail.

The Nightcap

We can’t wait to have those delicious Irish coffees at the new venue…

Swift to open all-day venue in Shoreditch 

Swift, you are really spoiling us! Not only will the award-winning Old Compton Street institution be opening again on Saturday 4 July but the couple behind it, Mia Johansson and husband Bobby Hiddleston, have announced a new location to open at the end of the month. Located on Great Eastern Street in Shoreditch, it will serve from 8am during the week and 11am on weekends, offering breakfast, coffee etc. alongside the sort of cocktails that made the original Swift such a destination (though not at 8am presumably.) The team issued a statement saying: “Whilst we’re all still in uncertain times and have a long road ahead of us on our way to recovery, we have faith in the British public’s love of coming together for great food and drink and are hopeful that London’s world-class cocktail scene will rebuild itself to come back stronger than ever. Sticking to our plan to open our second site is just the embodiment of our faith in this and we are so excited to start hosting guests again.” A bit of optimism, that’s what we like to hear. 

The Nightcap

Gordon & MacPhail has gone for the classic Teletubbies look with its new distillery

Gordon & MacPhail distillery gets the green light

Gordon and MacPhail (G&M) is edging ever closer to having a shiny new multi-million-pound distillery near Grantown. The whisky distiller and bottler has given the contractors, Morrison Construction, the green light to begin contruction at the site on the banks of the River Spey in Craggan in Scotland’s Cairngorm National Park. The facility will be the first new malt whisky distillery to be built in the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) area since its creation in 2003. The building was supposed to be already well underway by now, but because of Covid-19 crisis restrictions, the project had to be pushed back. The distillery, which G&M has said will become a “significant local employer,” will have the capacity to produce around 440,000 gallons of whisky a year. Forsyths of Rothes will supply and install the distilling equipment, while the visitor centre, tasting rooms, retail space and coffee shop are projected to attract 50,000 tourists annually. “These appointments are the next major milestone in delivering this long-term project for the company. We look forward to working with these established businesses who are both highly experienced in their own field,” says Ewen Mackintosh, managing director of Elgin-based G&M. “We’ve been really heartened by the warm welcome we have received locally. As a family-owned business located in the north of Scotland, we are very much rooted in our communities, and we are keen to develop strong relationships in Grantown and the surrounding area.”

The Nightcap

Why pour beer down the drain when you can feed it to cattle?

And finally. . . .  Wimbledon Brewery feeds cows with beer

Some of the most heartbreaking stories to come out of lockdown were about pubs having to pour beer that was going out of date down the drain. Oh, the humanity! When Wimbledon Brewery found itself with a lot of unsaleable beer destined for pubs, however, someone had a brainwave: why not feed it to cows? And not just any cows, the excess stock went to the beer-loving cattle at Trenchmore Wagyu Beef Farm in Sussex. The beer helps make Wagyu the tenderest and sweetest-tasting beef on the planet. In return, the brewery will receive its very own Wagyu burgers. This is not the only way the brewery has adapted. According to founder Mark Gordon, the company lost 90% of business when the hospitality industry closed but managed to survive by concentrating on “local home deliveries and increased sales to supermarkets and bottle shops. This went from a very low base to the equivalent of 80% of our pre-lockdown turnover.” He went on to say: “Soon after the lockdown was announced, we initially closed the brewery but quickly took the decision to reopen because beer can be very good for morale.” It certainly is, and that reminds us, it’s probably time for beer. Have a great weekend everyone!

The Nightcap

Pub Quiz Answers

1) In ‘Diary of a Nobody’, what brand of Champagne does Charles Pooter order from his local shop?

Answer: Jackson Freres

2) What’s the nearest single malt distillery to Edinburgh?

Answer: Holyrood

3) What’s the name of the famous copperworks at Rothes?

Answer: Forsyths

4) Who invented the spirit safe?

Answer: Septimus Fox

5) Which brand of whisky does Karen Hill (Lorraine Bracco) smuggle into prison for her husband (Ray Liotta) in ‘Goodfellas’?

Answer: J&B

6) Which cocktail was supposedly named after Zelda Fitzgerald?

Answer: White Lady

7) In the Jeeves & Wooster stories, what is the “secret” ingredient of the former’s hangover remedy?

Answer: Worcestershire Sauce

8) Which gin does Amy Whitehouse mention in the song ‘You Know I’m No Good’?

Answer: Tanqueray

9) Bernard de Voto’s book ‘The Hour’ is a paean to which cocktail?

Answer: Martini

10) In which of Shakespeare’s history plays is one of the characters drowned in a barrel of Malmsey wine?

Answer: Richard III

 

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The Nightcap: 19 June

It’s Friday and that means it’s time to pour yourself a dram, ignore any incoming emails and relax. Might we recommend some delightfully boozy news to accompany your drink? It’s…

It’s Friday and that means it’s time to pour yourself a dram, ignore any incoming emails and relax. Might we recommend some delightfully boozy news to accompany your drink? It’s the Nightcap!

Did you know that the “Here’s looking at you, kid” quote from Casablanca (1942) was improvised by Humphrey Bogart? So was “Heeeere’s Johnny!” from The Shining (1980), “You’re gonna need a bigger boat!” from Jaws (1975) and “Like tears in rain…” from Blade Runner (1982). All made up on the spot. When you realise that it puts a lot of pressure on you to come up with a good intro to the Nightcap. How profound or witty can you be introducing a round-up of boozy news? Maybe you lovely folk don’t need anything that grandiose. Maybe I could just say, “Here’s The Nightcap” and you’d all be fine with that. Well, here’s hoping. Because it’s all I’ve got. Here is. . . The Nightcap!

On the MoM blog this week we launched another terrific #BagThisBundle competition, this time with a whole heap of delicious Rebel Yell whisky up for grabs. Ian Buxton then returned to talk about how Scotch whisky coped with the global pandemic and what the future holds, while Adam talked delicious vermouth with Vermò and pointed you in the direction of another fresh batch of bargains. Annie spent this week enjoying some Nine Elms, a range of alcohol-free drinks specifically designed to complement food before Henry introduced a previously distillery-only expression from Bunnahabhain that’s now available only from Master of Malt and tasty whiskies from a lesser-known Japanese producer, all with a White Port and Tonic in hand.

A huge thank you again to all who entered last week’s virtual pub quiz and kudos to Jonathan Stoller, who we can confirm is our glorious victor! You can check out the answers to last Friday’s quiz below and this week’s edition of MoM pub quiz will be on our blog from 5pm as always.

The Nightcap

Five lucky dads will be sent the fully-stocked bar

Win a barful of Buffalo Trace for Father’s Day

What do you think your old man would like this Father’s Day? Some socks? A card? Or how about a whole bar stacked full of bourbon? Yes, please! Well, for five lucky fathers, their wildest whiskey dreams will come true this Sunday courtesy of Buffalo Trace. The prize is a wooden bar filled with delicious whiskeys from one of the world’s greatest distilleries. This includes Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Benchmark Bourbon, Eagle Rare Bourbon and Sazerac Rye Whiskey. For your dad to be in with a shout, all you have to do is nominate him on Instagram or Facebook, tag who you wish to nominate and make sure you both follow @buffalotraceuk. Pretty simple. But hurry as the competition ends tonight, Friday 19 June at 23:59. Kris Comstock, senior marketing director, commented: “We’ve found that in these uncertain times the need to maintain a connection to family and friends has become more important than ever. Here at Buffalo Trace, fellowship and sharing a drink with loved ones is at the heart of our core beliefs. Providing a bar for people to enjoy in the comfort of their own homes is our way of ensuring that despite social distancing, the tradition and meaning of Father’s Day is not lost.” The five lucky dads (sounds like an 80s comedy with Ted Danson) will be sent the fully-stocked bar along with someone to put it together so there will be no DIY sense of humour failures this Father’s Day.

The Nightcap

Du Nord Craft Spirits owner, Chris Montana

Du Nord Craft Spirits organises riot recovery fund

Earlier this month, Minneapolis’ Du Nord Craft Spirits suffered some pretty terrible damage as a result of riots in the city. The warehouse was engulfed in flames and 26,000 gallons of water was needed to put out the fires over four-and-a-half hours, along with much more damage to the surrounding area and businesses. But all is not lost, and luckily, there is something we can do to help! The Du Nord Riot Recovery Fund was set up by founders Chris and Shanelle Montana. However, this isn’t to raise money for the distillery itself. As it states on the Go Fund Me page, the distillery is “establishing this fund to support black and brown companies affected by the riots” and dedicated “to rebuilding Minneapolis in a way that ensures our cultural beacons are restored.” Initially, the target was set at $50,000 but the support has been immense, and at the time of writing just over half of the new $1,000,000 target has been achieved. It’s always wonderful to see the community come together in times of adversity, so please help if you can!

The Nightcap

Half price super fancy whiskies at Boisdale. Buy now, drink later.

Boisdale ‘war bonds’ the ‘best whisky deals of all time!’

It’s an incredibly rough time for the restaurant and bar industry but we’ve been impressed with some of the schemes that embattled businesses have come up with in order to survive. Boisdale, a small chain of restaurants in London specialising in steak, whisky and cigars, has come up with something particularly clever, ‘war bonds.’ They are the brainchild of owner Ranald MacDonald. The way they work is that you buy certain drinks or experiences now at a discount and cash them in when things reopen (we hear rumours that might be as soon as the 4 July). For example, a flight of whiskies from mothballed distilleries, Rosebank 1981, St. Magdalene 1964, Brora 30 year old, Port Ellen 1978, and Glenury Royal 36 year old, would normally set you back £230 but as a war bond, it’s only £115. MacDonald described them as “the best whisky deals of all time.” It’s not just whiskies, however, there are deals on Champagne, First Growth claret and music events that Boisdale is famous for. Find a full list here. But you’ll have to hurry because as soon as the restaurants reopen, then the bonds will come off the market. MacDonald commented: “To garner spirits during these testing times we thought that having a special treat to look forward to when our wonderful customers return to Boisdale would be a very good thing. The Boisdale War Bonds have been amazingly successful and we look forward to a non-stop victory celebration at Boisdale when we reopen!”

The Nightcap

Your cocktail must include no more than four ingredients, one being either Eight Lands Gin or Vodka.

Eight Lands launches mixology competition 

Eight Lands is celebrating its first anniversary with an experimental cocktail competition through social media. The prize? An Eight Lands cocktail masterclass for two with Harry Nikolaou, director of mixology at Four Season Hotel London at Ten Trinity Square, and a meal for two at the hotel’s restaurant, La Dame de Pic (it’s got two Michelin stars, folks). All entrants to the competition will receive a 10% discount code to purchase their own bottles of Eight Lands from the brand’s website and two runners-up will each receive a bottle of Eight Lands Organic Speyside gin and vodka. For all you amateur mixologists out, here’s what you need to do: create a unique cocktail, which must include no more than four ingredients, one being either gin or vodka. Bear in mind that you’ll have to impress Nikolaou and award-winning drinks writers and broadcasters Neil Ridley and Joel Harrison, who will front the competition as well as judging the entries. The winning cocktail will be announced during the first week of July online.  “It’s been an incredible year for us and we would have loved to celebrate with a big party for our friends and partners. However, in the circumstances we thought it would be fun to find a way to engage with our nation of locked-down amateur mixologists,” said Alex Christou, founder of the award-winning organic spirits brand from Speyside. “I am also really pleased to be working with Harry and our friends at Ten Trinity Square, as well as Neil and Joel in creating this competition. They all have a great passion for great drinks and will be fantastic judges.” The competition closes this Sunday 21st June, so get those entries in! For more info, head to www.eight-lands.com/competition

The Nightcap

When life gives you pineapples, make Piña Coladas!

And finally… Duppy Share Rum drops 1,000 pineapples to Londoners

On Saturday 27 June premium rum brand The Duppy Share will be embracing all things tropical and tasty by dropping off 1,000 pineapples to homes across London? Why? Because the 27th is National Pineapple Day, of course! Each household to receive a regular pineapple will also receive a code to redeem one free 5cl bottle of The Duppy Share Spiced Rum, which will be delivered directly to a chosen London address and you can share a snap of your pineapple on Instagram (be sure to hashtag #PineappleExpress and tag @theduppyshare) to potentially win an entire case of The Duppy Share Spiced. Be on the lookout for the special 50 golden pineapples, as anyone lucky enough to get their hands on one will receive a Home Piña Colada kit containing a 70cl bottle of The Duppy Share Spiced, two gold metal ‘Duppy’ Cups, a can of Coco Lopez and one Frobisher’s Pineapple Juice (250ml). So basically everything you need to make delicious Spiced Pineapple Coladas (you can purchase via The Duppy Share website if you miss out on the limited edition fruit). 

The Nightcap

Pub Quiz Answers

1) Which alcoholic drink is essential in making zabaglione? 

Answer: Marsala

2) Which of these is not a Speyside distillery?

Answer: Glenmorangie

3) What is Snoop Dogg’s favourite gin brand?

Answer: Tanqueray

4) What did Vladimir Putin give to David Cameron when they met 2012?

Answer: Armenian brandy

5) Which beer has Britain’s oldest trademark?

Answer: Bass

6) Which American whiskey brand was created in collaboration with Canadian rapper and actor Drake?

Answer: Virginia Black

7) Which aperitif do you need to make a Vesper according to Ian Fleming’s original recipe?

Answer: Kina Lillet

8) In ‘The Lord of the Rings’, which of these do hobbits not drink?

Answer: Whisky

9) Which Japanese whisky does Beyoncé reference on Lemonade track 6 Inch?

Answer: Yamazaki

10) Last month, Sarah Jessica Parker (off of Sex and the City) added a new wine to her Invivo X range. But what style of wine is it?

Answer: Southern French rosé

 

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#BagThisBundle – Win a bundle from Rebel Yell!

We’re back with another terrific #BagThisBundle; this time, there’s a whole heap of delicious Rebel Yell whisky up for grabs. Would you consider yourself a rule-breaker, a renegade, a rebel?…

We’re back with another terrific #BagThisBundle; this time, there’s a whole heap of delicious Rebel Yell whisky up for grabs.

Would you consider yourself a rule-breaker, a renegade, a rebel? I once walked on a patch grass once despite there being a sign that clearly said ‘Keep off the grass’. I felt terrible. Sometimes embracing the outlaw in you isn’t always the best idea. Unless you make all kinds of delicious bourbon, like Rebel Yell. Then you’ve earned that slice of sass. If Keith Richards is a fan and Billy Idol likes your whiskey so much he wrote a song inspired by the name, you’re doing something right.

If you haven’t tried any of its whiskey, you need to remedy this situation immediately to find out what I mean. Allow us to help you out, by offering you the chance to win a whole load of Rebel Yell whiskey you could enjoy, without spending a penny.

By now you’ve worked out that this is another fantastic MoM competition and will be dying to know what the prize is. Well, it’s the big one. The full Rebel Yell family. Yep, all of its whiskies, plus some quality merch. Here’s the list: 

a bundle from Rebel Yell

Basically you’ll receive a bounty that Keith Richards and Billy Idol would be more than happy to see turn up on their respective doorsteps. That’s how good this prize is. All you need to do now is enter the competition. How? Simple. Just follow these steps:

That was easy, isn’t it? Just complete those steps by midnight on Sunday 21 June, and you’re in with a chance to win! 

MoM ‘Bag This Bundle’ Competition 2020 open to entrants 18 years and over. Entries accepted from 16th June to 21st June 2020. Winners chosen at random after close of competition. Prizes not transferable and cannot be exchanged for cash equivalent. See full T&Cs for details.

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What we’re buying for Father’s Day

Today we ask a few people from around the office which bottle they are buying this Father’s Day for their dads. Some of the answers might surprise you… For many…

Today we ask a few people from around the office which bottle they are buying this Father’s Day for their dads. Some of the answers might surprise you…

For many of us this will be the first Father’s Day in years that we won’t be able to raise a glass to our fathers in person because of lockdown restrictions. It’s a particularly difficult time with grandparents unable to see their children and grandchildren, and the pubs are closed! But we don’t want the old man to feel unloved so we will be sending a card and something from Master of Malt such as a nice bottle of wine or two, a single malt whisky, or some unusual gin. What better way to say ‘Happy Father’s Day!’ than with booze. Here’s a selection of what a few people from Master of Malt and the wider Atom family will be buying their fathers.

Stevie Heyes – head of engineering

Fiona Macleod 33 Year Old – The Character of Islay Whisky Company

I’m treating my dad as he is hitting a milestone age later in the year (no more details for fear of meeting an untimely demise when I see him next). He loves Islay whisky, but he’s a frugal chap and wouldn’t dream of buying the Fiona Macleod 33 for himself, so I will. Well you’re only 70 once oops.

Jess Williamson content assistant

Jaffa Cake Gin

Since I introduced my dad to Negronis there’s literally nothing else he’d rather drink (so long as someone else is making them), and I’m yet to find a better gin for the cocktail than Jaffa Cake Gin! It’s super zesty, plus he loves finding new spirits to show his friends, and this is definitely a unique one. Negronis all around this Father’s Day!

Cal MeGuinness – trade service advisor

Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva

It’s safe to say that my dad is not the easiest man to buy for… A copy of ‘A Beginners Guide to Birdwatching has gone unread, and last years ‘World’s Greatest Dad’ mug has turned into a rather nifty pen pot. So this year I’ve decided to go for something a little different and picking up a bottle of Diplomático Reserva Exclusiva rum from Venezuela. It’s full of flavour on it’s own but also makes a rather delicious Rum and Ginger! Surely I can’t go wrong with rum?! 

Charlotte Gorzelak – social media and email assistant 

Caorunn Small Batch Gin

My dad has had a thing for gin ever since my sister introduced it to him seven years ago. Now we have a regularly updated bar shelf which has at least five types of gin. To add to his collection this Father’s Day, I am giving him a delightful Scottish gin made with dandelions, Caorunn Small Batch Gin. We’re going to drink it with a slice of red apple and plenty of ice.

Henry Jeffreys features editor

Father’s Day Whisky Tasting Set

My father likes his single malts but he’s more of a wine drinker. So what better way to broaden his whisky horizons than with the aptly-named Father’s Day Tasting Set. There’s a classic ten year old Islay, a 12 year old Loch Lomond, a small batch bourbon and just to confuse him, a blend of whiskies from around the British isles. 

Adam O’Connell  writer.

Tobermory Gin

My dad remembers drinking the occasional gin and tonic in his youth in Ireland, but for much of his life he’s had two go-to drinks: lager and Guinness. But recently he’s embraced all things botanical again and likes to pair his gin with ginger ale instead of tonic. A savoury gin with plenty of warming citrus and delicate sweetness, like Tobermory’s flagship gin, makes a great base for this cocktail. 

Peter Holland – rum consultant 

Foursquare 12 Year Old 2007 – Exceptional Cask Selection

My father is hardly a drinker, so I am thinking about something you really could spend your time with, a single pour that evolves and takes you on a journey. Foursquare 2007 is one of those spirits that covers a lot of bases. Perfect for those looking to explore cask strength rum; It offers so much without being overtly challenging but will not disappoint the experienced sipper either.

There’s more gift ideas and special offers to be found on our Father’s Day page. 

 

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Five minutes with… John Little from Smooth Ambler

Almost by accident, John Little built a business around his ability to sniff out great mature whiskey for his award-winning Old Scout brand. But what happened when other people got…

Almost by accident, John Little built a business around his ability to sniff out great mature whiskey for his award-winning Old Scout brand. But what happened when other people got in on the act and those sources dried up? We find out. . . .

John Little never intended to go into the whiskey business. He ran a number of ventures in West Virginia with his father-in-law Tag Galyean before founding Smooth Ambler in 2009 to make craft gin and vodka. But when they came across casks of quality mature bourbon that nobody else wanted, they saw an opportunity. According to Little: “A lot of people start businesses and they start sourcing and they create a brand, and if it goes really well maybe they build a distillery. Ours was the opposite story”. The result was Old Scout, a range of sourced mature whiskeys. They quickly built a reputation, winning awards and selling in unexpectedly large quantities. But success brought its own problems as good mature whiskey became harder and harder to source, and the Old Scout brand nearly disappeared. In 2016, Pernod Ricard took a majority stake in the company, with Little staying on as CEO. Since then the company has stabilised, producing a range of whiskeys from bought-in new make and spirits distilled by the team at Smooth Ambler. We talked to Little to find out more. . .

John Little nosing out some quality whiskey

Master of Malt: How are things in West Virginia?

John Little: They’re pretty good. Well, as well as can be expected during this crazy craziness. We’re still bottling but mashing and distillation has switched over to bottling hand sanitiser. So right now we’ve committed to 19,000 bottles of hand sanitiser so we’re getting those out. We’ve taken the crew that was doing mashing and distillation over to hand sanitiser.

MoM: When did you set up your distillery?

JL: We had the idea in 2008, my father-in-law and I were in a separate business together. We were trying to showcase what we love about living here in West Virginia: clean water, clean air, really wonderful people. It’s a cheap place to buy land so putting some sort of facility here was great. We’re an eight hour drive from 70% of the US population because we’re so close to all these big cities. We looked at making clothes and doing a customer service centre and making furniture. One day my father-in-law saw an article in Time magazine that talked about the growth of the distilling business. Ten days later there was a conference in Louisville Kentucky and that kind of set us on a path to where we are today. 

MoM: Were both of you keen whiskey drinkers before?

JL: At the time I was drinking a lot of vodka and some red wine and that was pretty much it at the time, and a little bit of whiskey. Our original business we started off was making vodka and gin. All those craft folks, everybody was trying to figure out how to do the shortest amount of time without any sort of profitability! With vodka and gin you can make it today and sell it tomorrow. When we first started we were making vodka and gin and making whisky whenever we had time; whisky wasn’t the focus. We did that for a while and then realised that vodka sells for one of two reasons: it’s either priced very well or marketed very well and ours was neither.

Smooth Ambler warehouses in West Virginia

MoM: How did you get into buying casks of mature whiskey? 

JL: In 2010 we realised that we needed another still to be efficient. We went to buy a still in Kentucky and I met Richard Wolf. He is a broker, he sells barrels for a living. At the time, late 2010/ early 2011, the bourbon business was much different than it is right now. There was bulk inventory available from probably six or seven different places. And we tasted through some of that. I think the tenth or eleventh sample that we tried was this high-rye mash bill from MGP [Midwest Grain Products of Indiana]. As soon as I nosed it I thought ‘yeah, this is what I’m looking for’.

MoM: Where did the name Old Scout come from?

JL: Everything up until that time had been about grain-to-glass. Then I found this juice and I called one of our distributors and I said ‘We have this chance to buy some bourbon that is really good and it’s affordable and we’re going to do different than what some other people have done, which is to say that they made it, we’re going to tell people that we didn’t make it’. That’s where the name ‘Old Scout’ came from, we’re going to say that we scouted this out. I said ‘can you sell it?’ and he said ‘yeah, I think so’ and so we bought 40 barrels. And then we bought 80 barrels. And then we bought 120 barrels. And then my partner said ‘I’ve seen enough, let’s buy all of them that we can!’  

MoM: How important is it to be honest about where your whiskey comes from?

JL: I want to make sure that we’re being open and honest in running our business, whether it’s about this or anything. That’s the way we try to live our lives and certainly that’s the way we’re going to run the business. I remember we won World’s Best Single Barrel in 2016 [at the World Whiskies Awards] with a single barrel of MGP and people were upset because we didn’t make it. A reporter, Mark Gillespie, asked me about it and I said ‘look, let’s be honest, MGP did the heavy lifting, I just made it available’. We have never lied about it, we have always told people the truth.

Inside one of the warehouses

MoM: And now that the American whisky boom has happened is it harder to get these whiskies or are they just a lot more expensive?

JL: Well, both! The ability to be able to buy whisky from other people, that went away quickly, in two years, maybe from 2011 to 2013. There just wasn’t stuff out there, people saw what was happening so fast. Investors were buying barrels and trying to flip ‘em. And that’s really what screwed us, right? Well, a lot of things. We made a lot of mistakes early on right, we just didn’t know. Like we bought a bunch of whisky, at one point in time we had about 3,800 barrels, early on. We were tiny our first still was 175 gallons and we had a little bitty business and we have 3,800 barrels and I thought ‘God, this is going to take a lifetime to sell!’ Turned out it took about three or four years! Our business was booming Old Scout was just going crazy and the plant was expanding and we were adding people and it was enabling us to do all sorts of other things. We kept thinking there were some deals out there, or strategic partnerships that we were going to make that would give us access to more whiskey. They never really materialised. 

MoM: How did this shortage affect the business?

JL: The ability to buy those barrels had gone away. We grew that business explosively from 2011 to 2016, and in 2016 we stopped selling Old Scout Ten, Old Scout Rye and Old Scout Bourbon. We took our three biggest sellers off the market because we just didn’t have the inventory. In 2014, we started buying whisky from MGP but instead of buying it in an aged format we bought it as new-made contract. That whisky that we bought is now just coming available for us at the end of last year. When we first started sourcing Old Scout it was all five years old. Then we went for three years without selling it. From 2016-19 we didn’t have any Old Scout except for a little bit of American Whiskey. And then just last September we bought out some more Old Scout (Revenant) Five Years Old. 

MoM: Have you noticed any difference between the stuff that you were buying in ready-aged and the stuff that you’ve aged yourself?

JL: No, I can’t taste any difference. When we started selling Old Scout it was five years old, the same age as what we’re selling it right now. The problem is that it aged up. So it was five years old and then it was six years old and then it was seven years old. Well then at the end, when we stopped selling it, some of that whisky was eight, nine, ten years old. We changed it from ‘Five’ to ‘Six’ to ‘Seven’ but by the time we got to ‘Seven’ we were big and we had a lot of distribution so we didn’t want to change it to an ‘Eight year Old’ and we’d have some Seven and some Eight so we just understated the age. We were putting eight, nine, ten year old juice in a seven year old bottle. So if you drank Old Scout in 2016, or whatever was leftover from 2016-17 you were drinking an eight, nine or ten year old product. And if you taste that aside the Old Scout that we’re putting out you say ‘well, it’s good but it’s as good’ because it’s a five year old whisky compared to an eight or nine year old whisky. That’s one of the issues that we have but with Old Scout I didn’t really see a way around it right, unless we waited another four years which is something that we just couldn’t do.  

The Smooth Ambler range

MoM: Have you been distilling your own whisky as well and maturing it alongside Old Scout?

JL: Yeah, we do it for Big Level, which is 100% house-made. We think of our business now in three ways: the stuff we make, Big Level and some other products that aren’t even out yet; the things that we don’t, which is Old Scout; and then in 2013/14 we created a brand called Contradiction, and it’s a blend of things that we make and things that we don’t. That’s where the name came from. We used to primarily make a wheated bourbon, that’s what Big Level is. It’s about a third of what we make and two-thirds sourced. So a wheated bourbon mixed with a bourbon made from rye. 

MoM: How has it been working with Pernod Ricard?

JL: There have been some growing pains, mostly from figuring out how a small brands fits in among the big brands. But they have made us a better business, that makes better whiskey, is safer, and more efficient. And they are as much like family as any corporate business can be. We’re proud of our relationship with them.

MoM: And do you still do a vodka or was that left behind?

JL: We stopped selling vodka in 2015-16, and stopped selling gin in 2017. If you go into a store and you have ten minutes of their time, and you only have three things to show them, what do you show ‘em? You show them the three biggest sellers and they were always whisky. So gin was sort of forgotten about. But our gin was delicious and we still have people all the time begging us to make it again. Our response is always ‘well if you had been buying a whole lot more back in the day we wouldn’t have stopped making it!’ 

MoM: How has the EU/US trade tariffs affected your business?

JL: We’ve had to change our prices on everything, in order to be competitive in the EU and UK. Trade wars, as far as I can tell, are bad for everybody. But you know, I love the market there. London is one of my favourite cities to go to. The best bars in London just also happen to be some of the best bars in the world.

MoM: What are your favourite ways to drink your whiskey?

JL: I’m pretty simple, at home I’ll make bourbon and ginger ale. In a bar I’m going to be pretty basic too. I’ll probably drink it in an Old Fashioned. One of my favourites is a drink called the Brown Derby. A mixture of bourbon, grapefruit and honey, it’s named after a Los Angeles diner that was shaped like a hat, a brown derby [take a look at the picture on Wikipedia].  

Smooth Ambler whiskeys are available from Master of Malt.

 

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