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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Bourbon

The Nightcap: 9 August

Artificial tongues that can taste whisky? Vodka made from Chernobyl rye? The gin boom is still going?! These aren’t tales from 2054 – these stories all appear in this week’s…

Artificial tongues that can taste whisky? Vodka made from Chernobyl rye? The gin boom is still going?! These aren’t tales from 2054 these stories all appear in this week’s Nightcap!

Behind the scenes sneak peek at how The Nightcap comes together right here: sometimes this intro is written after the all the stories have been finished. Having a look at all the futuristic stuff in this edition of The Nightcap, you might think that time travel is real and MoM Towers has slipped through a dimensional rift and ended up in the year 2054. Stranded and working purely on instinct, we notice on the future calendar it’s a Friday, so we write up a new edition of The Nightcap, regaling the masses with tales of artificial tongues that can taste whisky and spirits made from crops in Chernobyl stories that these future folk see as perfectly normal, but to our minds are wildly out of this world. But it’s not. It’s today and stuff is just becoming more impressive by the day!

So, good people of 2019, what’s been happening on the MoM Blog? Henry kicked off the week with a gem of a rum from the Diamond Distillery for New Arrival of the Week, made a Pink Lady for Cocktail of the Week and spoke to Peter Lynch from WhistlePig about an oloroso-finished rye exclusive to MoM. Annie chatted to Bimber’s founder Dariusz Plazewski about where people can go wrong (and right) when starting a craft distillery, and then asked a very important question to us all: how do you make alcohol-free beer delicious? Guest columnist Nate Brown has opinions about drinks industry folk who RSVP for events then don’t turn up.

We also launched a new competition where you could win a trip down to Deven to visit Salcombe Distilling Co.! Take a look, pick up a bottle of excellent gin, and cross your fingers!

And now, the news of the future today!

Cardhu

How Cardhu will look when it’s been refurbished

Johnnie Walker gets the green light for Cardhu redevelopment

The final piece in the jigsaw is now in place. That jigsaw being Diageo’s £150m plan for whisky tourism in Scotland based around four key distilleries. As we have reported previously, developments at Glenkinchie, Caol Ila, Clynelish, and a Johnnie Walker HQ in Edinburgh have all been granted planning permission. Now it’s the turn of Cardhu in Speyside. This was the first distillery acquired by Johnnie Walker in 1893 and since then has been a key component in the blend. David Cutter, chairman of Diageo in Scotland, said: “Together these locations will create a unique Johnnie Walker tour of Scotland, encouraging visitors to the capital city to also travel to the country’s extraordinary rural communities.” Laura Sharp, brand home manager at Cardhu, added: “This announcement is very exciting and we want to thank Moray Council and all our neighbours for their continued support.” We love it when a plan comes together.

That’s what an artificial tongue looks like

Boffins baffle counterfeiters with artificial whisky-tasting tongue

Who can forget the story from 2017 when a Chinese businessman spent $10,000 on a glass of Macallan that turned out to be fake? Well, such occurrences might be a thing of the past thanks to a team of Scottish engineers from the universities of Glasgow and Strathclyde. A paper titled ‘Whisky tasting using a bimetallic nanoplasmonic tongue’ published this week in the Royal Society of Chemistry’s journal Nanoscale describes a metal ‘tongue’ that can be used to analyse whisky. The ‘taste buds’ are made up of gold and aluminium in a checkerboard pattern. It identifies whiskies from the statistical analysis of minute differences in how the metals absorb light. The device was tested on a series of single malts – Glenfiddich, Glen Marnoch and Laphroaig – and was able to tell the difference between them, as well as different expressions of the same malt with greater than 99% accuracy. The paper’s lead author, Dr Alasdair Clark (above), of the University of Glasgow’s School of Engineering, said:  “We call this an artificial tongue because it acts similarly to a human tongue – like us, it can’t identify the individual chemicals which make coffee taste different to apple juice but it can easily tell the difference between these complex chemical mixtures. In addition to its obvious potential for use in identifying counterfeit alcohols, it could be used in food safety testing, quality control, security – really any area where a portable, reusable method of tasting would be useful.” So next time you’re splashing out on the Macallan, don’t forget your artificial tongue. 

Clouded Leopard Gin bottle

This is gin, it’s still very popular in Britain

Gin still booming according to the WSTA 

There have been articles recently in the Spectator and the Financial Times saying that the gin boom is over, but figures just released by the WSTA seem to contradict this. As a trade body, the WSTA has an interest in bolstering the industry but nevertheless the stats make interesting reading. Retail sales up to March 2019 were up 43% by value on the previous year, worth nearly £1 billion. The off-trade is up 56% by volume on last year’s sales with nearly 6 billion bottles sold between March 2018 and 2019. Combining domestic and export sales, the British gin market is worth over £3 billion. WSTA chief executive Miles Beale commented: “It’s been another phenomenal 12 months for gin and, despite recent reports suggesting the gin bubble may have burst, our numbers suggest the exact opposite. Gin’s continued domestic popularity, and the growth in the spirits category overall, has no doubt been helped by the decision to freeze duty on spirits in the last Budget. We need further supportive action from the Government as we approach Budget time once more. Looking at the popularity of British gin overseas is also cause for celebration. £350 million, or around 46% of all British gin exports head to the EU, and so it is imperative that the Government works with the European Union to secure trade that is as seamless in the future as it is now.” What could possibly go wrong?

Firestone & Robertson TX whiskey, now just a tiny bit Frencher

Pernod Ricard bets on American whiskey with Firestone & Robertson buy

French drinks group Pernod Ricard, which owns the likes of Beefeater Gin, Absolut Vodka, The Glenlivet Scotch and Jameson Irish Whiskey, this week bolstered its presence in American whiskey by snapping up Firestone & Robertson Distilling Co. The Texas-based producer makes TX-branded whiskey and bourbon, and the deal includes its Whiskey Ranch distillery too. “This is an exciting day for all of us at Firestone & Robertson,” said Leonard Firestone and Troy Robertson, who co-founded the business. “Building our company and producing award-winning whiskeys has been a truly remarkable experience. We are so proud of our team, and grateful to the many people that supported our efforts over the years. It is an extraordinary opportunity to partner with Pernod Ricard, and we are confident this relationship will accelerate the growth of our brands while preserving our roots and shared core values.” Pernod chairman and CEO, Alexandre Ricard, said the (undisclosed) transaction was a “very promising venture” that “strengthens our portfolio and footprint in the United States”. If it means more tasty American whiskey to go round, we’re all for it. 

You can swap a tin of beans for one of these!

The Alchemist tackles food poverty with cocktail exchange

Foodbank use is soaring in the UK (charity the Trussell Trust recently reported a 19% increase in food supplies it’s donated in the last year). Loads of us are both donating to and accessing our local food banks (there’s a list on the Trussell Trust’s site), so when news reached us that UK bar group The Alchemist is encouraging people to bring supplies in return for a cocktail, we whooped and cheered. On 29 August, any customers who bring non-perishable donations (unopened and in date; tinned, dried and packaged foods) into one of the bars with them will get vodka-based serve The Colour Changing One for free! All collections will be donated to local food banks. “These are truly fantastic local charities tackling food poverty across the UK, which is an issue we’re particularly passionate about at The Alchemist,” said Hannah Plumb, head of restaurants at The Alchemist. “This activity is a fun and engaging way to encourage customers to donate to their local food banks, who are in need of donations now more than ever.” You can find The Alchemist in Birmingham, Cardiff, Chester, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Oxford. You know what to do on 29 August!

Bruichladdich's Bere Barley

Bruichladdich’s bere barley

Bruichladdich reinforces barley focus with Exploration Series trilogy

Remember earlier this year when we checked out Bruichladdich’s trial barley plots? Well, the Islay distillery’s long-running focus on the grain has continued with new flavour-focused expressions, which will form a Barley Exploration series. Its focus on barley has become a bit of a USP for the distillery, which works with different local producers, and is currently trialling up to 60 different varieties. There are also plans to open its own maltings by 2023. So what does this new range look like? First up, Bruichladdich The Organic 2010 was distilled in 2010 (obvs) and made using barley from Mid Coul Farms harvested in 2009. It was matured in ex-bourbon American oak casks for at least eight years, and was bottled sans chill-filtration or caramel colouring at 50% ABV. Bruichladdich Bere Barley, made from Orkney-grown Bere, a variety considered “obsolete” by many distillers, was likewise distilled in 2010 and bottled at 50% ABV just as it is. Rounding off the trio is Bruichladdich Islay Barley 2011, made from Islay-grown barley, which spent 75% of its six-year maturation life in American ex-bourbon casks, and 25% on European ex-wine casks. “We want to support people who grow for flavour, those champions of heritage and natural crops,” said Bruichladdich head distiller, Adam Hannett. “By partnering with them we can find new and forgotten flavours, reconnecting our whisky with its vital raw ingredients.” Sounds great to us! 

Doesn’t it look jolly in Fentimans’ Secret Spritz Garden?

Fentimans kicks off Secret Spritz Garden

If The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett was one of your favourite books as a child, AND you now like refreshing summer sippers, then we have news. The Venn circles have officially crossed, courtesy of tonic brand Fentimans. Tucked away behind ivy-covered walls, away from the hustle and bustle of nearby Farringdon is (for the next three weeks, anyway) a little oasis of tranquility, aromatic plants, and a Spritz menu of dreams! The garden itself is overflowing with trailing greenery, herbs, and a 200-year-old olive tree, while Fentimans has added a lemon-filled fountain, highly-Instagrammable swing seat and the all-important bar into the mix. The menu (developed with the likes of Lillet and Martini Fiero) was created by Dino Koletsas (from The Langham, Bourne & Hollingsworth and Callooh Callay) and showcases the wonder of low- and no-alcohol cocktails, including the Rose Spritz, made with Fentimans Rose, lemonade, Martini Prosecco and fresh strawberries; and the Valencian Spritz, with Fentimans Valencian Orange Tonic Water, with Belsazar White Vermouth and peach liqueur. Head on down (you might even find yourself in a free guided workshop, from the Art of the Aperitivo to watercolour classes) Wednesday to Saturday up until 29 August to enjoy!

Aecorn range

Aecorn, a range of non-alcoholic aperitifs, has just been launched by Seedlip

Diageo acquires majority stake in Seedlip

In a move that will surprise no one, it was announced this week that Diageo has taken a majority stake (mmm, majority steak) in alcohol-free ‘spirit’ manufacture Seedlip. The brand was launched by Ben Branson in 2015 and created a new category of non-alcoholic drinks flavoured, packaged, and priced to rival premium gin. Distill Ventures, Diageo’s venture capital arm, took a minority investment in June 2016. Since then, Seedlip has gone global: it’s sold in top bars and restaurants in 25 countries, and comes in three varieties. It has also inspired legions of imitators such as Ceder’s from Pernod Ricard. Earlier this year, Seedlip launched Aecorn, a range of non-alcoholic vermouth-style aperitifs. We have been informed that Branson will still be involved with business. He commented: “We want to change the way the world drinks and today’s news is another big step forward to achieving this. Distill Ventures’ and Diageo’s shared belief in our vision has enabled us to build a business that’s ready for scale and I’m excited to continue working with Diageo to lead this movement.” John Kennedy from Diageo said: “Seedlip is a game-changing brand in one of the most exciting categories in our industry. Ben is an outstanding entrepreneur and has created a brand that has truly raised the bar for the category. We’re thrilled to continue working with him to grow what we believe will be a global drinks giant of the future.” And Shilen Pate from Distill Ventures added: “Supporting the vision of founders is what Distill Ventures was set up to do, and we’re proud of the impact Ben has had on our industry in such a short period of time.” With all that Diageo cash behind it, expect Seedlip’s upward trajectory to continue. 

GlenDronach

Mouth-watering malts

The GlenDronach’s new Cask Bottling releases will have whisky lovers salivating 

Prepare yourselves, The GlenDronach has just announced the seventeenth batch of its Cask Bottling series! It contains whisky drawn from fourteen casks ranging from the years 1990 to 2007, all of which have been selected by none other than master blender, Dr Rachel Barrie. What to expect? Each Highland expression has been bottled from a single cask from a selection of the distillery’s signature Pedro Ximénez and oloroso sherry casks alongside two Port pipes. Particularly special is a bottling from a rare vintage 1995 cask, one of the last remaining casks from that year still at the distillery. “The batch seventeen cask selection truly celebrates The GlenDronach house style; robust, elegant, fruity and full-bodied,” said Barrie. “Each cask individually explores the sophistication, powerful intricacy and rich layers of Spanish sherry cask maturation found in every GlenDronach expression; from layers of crème brûlée, treacle toffee and over-ripe banana in 1990 […] to toasted pain au raisin and butterscotch simmering beneath the surface in 2007.” Is your mouth watering as well? Then keep your eyes peeled for your favourite online retailer (us, duh) over the next few weeks.

Atomik Vodka

Don’t worry, it isn’t radioactive

And Finally… anyone fancy a Chernobyl Martini?

We’re no strangers to far-out spirits at Master of Malt, after all, we sell a gin distilled using botanicals that have been into space, but a new spirit might be the strangest thing yet. It’s called Atomik Vodka and it’s distilled using rye and water from the contaminated area around Chernobyl, site of the world’s worst nuclear energy disaster in 1986. Just this week, London bar Swift on Old Compton Street made the very first Atomik Martini with it. But before you start calling for Soho to be cordoned off, and send in the men in yellow suits, this vodka, despite its name, isn’t radioactive. The man behind it, Professor Jim Smith from the University of Portsmouth, told the BBC that though the rye was “slightly contaminated”, distillation has removed any impurities, and radioactivity levels are “below their limit of detection.” Only one bottle has been made so far but the Chernobyl Spirit Company, consisting of Smith, Ukrainain scientist Dr Gennady Laptev and others, plans to make 500 bottles per year. The team still has some legal hoops to jump through before production can start but when it does, 75% of the profits will go to help people in the region. Smith commented: “I think this is the most important bottle of spirits in the world because it could help the economic recovery of communities living in and around the abandoned areas. Many thousands of people are still living in the Zone of Obligatory Resettlement where new investment and use of agricultural land is still forbidden.” Sounds very worthwhile and, according to Sam Armeye, the vodka tastes good too. Atomik Martinis all round!

No Comments on The Nightcap: 9 August

5 minutes with. . . Peter Lynch from WhistlePig

We talk to the master blender at WhistlePig about a very special oloroso cask whiskey exclusive to MoM, a cocktail so secret that we can’t diverge the ingredients and how…

We talk to the master blender at WhistlePig about a very special oloroso cask whiskey exclusive to MoM, a cocktail so secret that we can’t diverge the ingredients and how nobody can fill Dave Pickerell’s enormous shoes.

The drinks world lost one of its greats last year when Dave Pickerell from WhistlePig died at the age of 62. Pickerell set up WhistlePig in 2009 and was instrumental in the revival of the original American style of whiskey – rye. We feel very fortunate to have met and tasted with him last year when he was over in London. Pickerell has left behind quite a legacy in WhistlePig, not least in the form of barrels and barrels of delicious maturing rye whiskey.

The buyers here at Master of Malt persuaded WhistlePig to sell us one of these barrels: an exclusive oloroso butt of 12 year old whiskey, which has been bottled recently and is on sale now. To tell us a bit more about it, we managed to get some time with master blender Peter Lynch.

Whistle-Pig-landscape

Behold! The WhistlePig 12 Year Old oloroso cask finish, exclusive to MoM

Master of Malt: Hello! What can you tell us about this oloroso-finished rye whiskey?

Peter Lynch: It’s one of my favourite projects that I’ve been working on. It’s an extension of our 12 Year Old Old World, aged in Port, Madeira and sauternes casks. We took that one step further and at the moment we’re trialling 15-20 different finishing casks which could range from a specific wood or, on the other side of things, a couple of different olorosos from different soleras. Last summer you guys purchased an old oloroso sherry butt [around 550 litres] that had been in a solera for 10-15 years. As it didn’t see that much life in there it has kept keep those sweeter, fruitier, more vibrant notes with a little less of that rancio character, and some oak extracts too. When it comes to finishing barrels with American whiskey, I’m worried about extracting the fresh oak component. Because the way these casks are heat-treated for wine, less aggressively than for whiskey, I’m at risk of pulling all these tannin and other compounds, which isn’t a worry for the winemaker. These sherry butts are about three times the size of a regular cask, so we were able to let it sit for longer, so it finishes for about two months. Typically with regular barrels we would finish for two to four weeks. It has sweet fruity notes but it’s very much a rye whiskey. You’ll see that with all our whiskeys, we are trying to push the boundaries but we’re not trying to turn it into something different. We’re just adding a top note. 

MoM: How long have you been working with WhistlePig for?

PL: I started with them back in 2015. I started as a distiller. I then moved into distilling and blending in about 2016.

MoM: How did you get into distilling?

PL: I had been a home brewer for a while. A love of whiskey has been instilled in me for quite a few years. I was working on sales and retail side of things and got to know spirits quite well. Then I saw an ad on Craigslist, of all places, for the position at WhistlePig.

MoM: Did you learn on the job then?

PL: Effectively speaking, yes, plus all the resources you can find in books and online publications. I was learning everyday. I have spent quite a bit of money on whiskey throughout my life but the amount I have spent on literature pertaining to whiskey and spirits dwarfs that. One of the things about building a distillery is there will always be growing pains, no matter what. A great way to learn is when things break down, you learn how to fix them. Whether it’s new machinery having issues or different yeast strains giving you trouble, you learn as you go. When it comes to something like premium rye whiskey, you are almost, if not quite making it up as you go, we’re defining this category. We’re trying to set the stage here quite deliberately, so all eyes are on us. 

Peter Lynch WhistlePig

Peter Lynch helping himself to some whiskey

MoM: What’s it been like trying to fill Dave Pickerell’s enormous shoes?

PL: I’m not trying to fill the shoes because they are very big shoes. People wonder what the line of succession is. They think, ‘oh my God, Dave’s gone, there’s a void’ but in reality that’s because people see Dave, they’ve met Dave, Dave had a huge personality, but they don’t see the everyday people on the farm, the warehouse guys who are grabbing the actual barrels, the distillers trouble-shooting on a day-to-day basis. We have a team who work on new products. It’s not something that we ever thought we had to prepare for, of course, but at the same time, we’ve got the infrastructure in place. But we definitely don’t have that kind of larger-than-life personality anymore. They’re definitely going to be tough shoes to fill. 

MoM: Which other distilleries do you think are doing interesting things with whiskey?

PL: That’s a tough one. I could give you 50 examples. People like Balcones or Corsair, pushing the boundaries with grains that we wouldn’t think of as whiskey grains. Balcones using different corn varieties: who cared ten years ago that 99% of bourbon whiskey was made from the same corn variety? If we change that one simple ingredient which is making up the bulk of that whiskey, you can get a totally different flavour profile. Balcones corn-forward whiskeys are going to be earthier than you might imagine, spicier with more herbaceous notes. That idea of terroir, and speaking of terroir, look at my buddies over in New York at Hillrock. They’re breaking it down even further, and focusing on different fields. They distill and mature it all in the same way, how is it going to taste in four years time? 

MoM: And finally, do you have a favourite rye cocktail?

I have a favourite cocktail but if I told it to you you would a) laugh in my face b) the person who told it to me would kill me for revealing the secret. It’s a two ingredient cocktail that has Farm Stock Crop 001 and another ingredient that I can’t tell you but it’s a very silly ingredient. Because it’s summer, I’m grabbing a highball right now. Nice and refreshing, it brings out a lots of different notes in the whiskey. If you try a highball with Whistlepig 10 Year Old or 12 Year Old or 15 Year Old, if you put them side by side you will notice incredible differences. It’s really the perfect summer drink. 

Thank you Peter! And we promise we won’t divulge the secret cocktail recipe only to say that it is surprising, and delicious too.

 

No Comments on 5 minutes with. . . Peter Lynch from WhistlePig

The Nightcap: 2 August

Mega-old Macallan, virtual pipelines and g-g-g-ghosts! The Nightcap this week really is all over the shop… It’s Friday. But it’s also not just any Friday. It’s the first Friday of…

Mega-old Macallan, virtual pipelines and g-g-g-ghosts! The Nightcap this week really is all over the shop…

It’s Friday. But it’s also not just any Friday. It’s the first Friday of August. But it’s also not just any first Friday of August. It’s International Beer Day. I mean, yeah, technically any first Friday of August is International Beer Day, because that’s when it is, but the point still remains. Kinda. Look, what we’re trying to say is that maybe today, instead of enjoying your regular scheduled edition of The Nightcap with a dram, you enjoy it with a tasty drink of the beer variety.

So what were the haps with our very own blog this week? Annie was ahead of the curve and clued us in on five beer trends to keep an eye on, and then caught up with Ervin Trykowski from The Singleton to talk about chucking out the whisky ritual rulebook. Jess headed to the Highlands to celebrate Caorunn Gin’s 10th birthday, then set her sights even further afield with a rundown of flavours from far-off lands. Guest columnists galore: Ian Buxton took a swing at genealogy by looking at the illustrious families of the drinks industry, while Victoria Sayers spotted a fantastic New Arrival of the WeekClouded Leopard Gin. Henry helped us cool off in the heatwave with a refreshing Moscow Mule for Cocktail of the Week.

And so, on to the news!

Holyrood distillery

The Holyrood team and their shiny new stills.

Single malt returns to Edinburgh after almost 100 years

Previously, if you wanted to visit a malt whisky distillery from Edinburgh, you had to travel 15 miles to Glenkinchie. But no longer, because this week single malt returned to the capital for the first time since 1925! The Holyrood Distillery, located within walking distance of Edinburgh Castle, is housed in an elegant 19th century railway shed. It cost £6.7m with £1.5m worth of investment coming from the taxpayer-funded Scottish Investment Bank. The team headed up by distillery manager Jack Mayo will be doing some interesting stuff with different yeasts, varieties of barley and levels of malting to produce initially four types of whisky: smoky, sweet, spicy and fruity/floral. At seven metres, the stills are some of the tallest in Scotland. “After all the hard work of the team, it’s a really special moment to now see Holyrood Distillery open, and we’re looking forward to creating a range of delicious whiskies, gins, liqueurs and other spirits,” said co-founder Rob Carpenter. “I’d like to thank everyone who has contributed to this project throughout its evolution for their hard work and passion – and especially all our local neighbours for bearing with us during the construction process.” The distillery is now open for tours. We can’t wait to visit.

ardross distillery

The now-whisky-producing Ardross Distillery from the skies.

Ardross Distillery kicks off whisky production!

More distillery news, this time from the Scottish Highlands – Ardross Distillery, which already make Theodore Pictish Gin in a dedicated on-site gin house, has started whisky production! Details are pretty scarce, but we have had it confirmed that the first batch flowed from the stills last week. And we’re excited! The £18 million distillery had planning permission granted in February 2017, and construction started shortly after. Located just north of Inverness, the former farm now boasts two large copper pot stills, and once finished, there will be a small whisky experience centre, too. There’s no word yet on the intended character of the future Scotch, but as soon as we know more, we’ll let you know!

british bourbon society

Just look at all the delicious Balcones bourbon!

British Bourbon Society marks third anniversary

Last weekend we hightailed it up to Leeds to join the British Bourbon Society (BBS) for some pretty lively birthday celebrations. The largest American whiskey group outside North America was in a collectively rambunctious mood when 100 or so members arrived at the Northern Monk brewery to mark its third anniversary. On-hand to help with the festivities were a bunch of delicious brands, from Maker’s Mark and Whistlepig to Uncle Nearest and the likes of Few Spirits, Smooth Ambler, New York Distilling Company and Balcones. And on Balcones… one of our tasks of the day was selecting the liquid for a British Bourbon Society/Master of Malt bottle pick. It was deliciously hard work, but someone’s gotta do it. Keep your eyes peeled for the results over the next few weeks. And an enormous thank you to BBS members for making the whole afternoon so fun!

Exceptional Cask (3)

Macallan Exceptional Cask 1950 in all its glory

The Macallan releases 68 year old whisky

Last year it was the £38,000 52 year old release. This week The Macallan has gone that little bit further with the release of the £44,000 Exceptional Single Cask 1950 expression, that was bottled in 2018. That’s a 68 year old whisky. Blimey! The cask in question is a sherry butt found in the Macallan warehouse, and only 336 bottles have been filled at a healthy 53.4% ABV. The tasting notes tantalisingly refer to “subtle hints of peat in the background”, so it sounds like this is that rarest thing, an old peated Macallan. The press release goes on to say: “The single malt is the centrepiece of the 2018 release from the unprecedented range which invites consumers to explore the world’s most valuable whisky through a rare insight from the legendary whisky makers’ bench at The Macallan Distillery and Visitor Experience on Speyside.” Nope, doesn’t mean anything to us, either. Anyhow, it’s no doubt an exceptional whisky, and seeing as last year’s release is already selling for double its release price, likely to be a good investment, too.

gordon and macphail

Gordon & MacPhail’s three tasty, ghostly whiskies…

Gordon & MacPhail releases whiskies from ghost distilleries

There’s nothing like a silent or ghost distillery for getting whisky fans hot under the collar, so we expect Gordon & MacPhail will be installing a new phone line to deal with enquiries about its latest ‘Private Collection’. The first release comes from the Dallas Dhu Distillery, which closed in 1983. This particular one was distilled in 1969 and matured in a sherry hogshead. The second is from the St. Magdalene Distillery. It was distilled in 1982, a year before the distillery closed its doors, and has been sitting in a refill American hogshead ever since. The final whisky in the collection isn’t actually a ghostie, but it is pretty bloody special: a 1966 from Longmorn matured in a first-fill sherry butt. All collars at Master of Malt are getting a bit warm just thinking about it. Stephen Rankin, director of prestige at Gordon & MacPhail, commented: “My grandfather, George Urquhart, recognised an opportunity to match new make spirit with carefully selected casks at a time when the vast majority of production went into blends. Over the decades he was able to master this art which has become his legacy. He could never be persuaded to bottle a whisky before he believed it had reached its ultimate peak in terms of quality – a tradition we’re proud to continue today.” The RRP for the Longmorn and the Dallas Dhu is £6950 each with the St. Magdalene at £1000. We probably don’t need to tell you that packaging will be lavish, numbers extremely limited and demand high. That’s rare whisky for you. 

glenmorangie

The famed Glenmorangie stills, now doing their bit to reduce carbon emissions.

Glenmorangie to cut emissions by 30% using a ‘virtual pipeline’

Glenmorangie will be switching its (famously-tall) stills over to natural gas from oil, a move set to cut carbon emissions by 30%. The Highland distillery is too remote to be on the pipeline, so a ‘virtual pipeline’, consisting of a tanker and storage facility, is being used to provide gas. We’ve written before about the Highland distillery’s admirable environmental initiatives, such as the anaerobic digester to purify water emitted into the Dornoch Firth (which handily also produces biogas, so the distillery has been able to cut fossil fuel use by 15%), and initiatives to restore oyster reefs in the Firth. “We are committed to preserving and improving the world around us, as we meet rising demand for our exceptional single malt whisky around the globe,” said Thomas Moradpour, president and CEO of The Glenmorangie Company. “Cutting our CO2 emissions by 30% is another important step in our quest to become a fully sustainable business.” 

fentimans eric

Eric Tinca and his winning cocktail!

Satan’s Whiskers’ Eric Tinca nabs Fentimans title

Congratulations to Eric Tinca from Bethnal Green’s Satan’s Whiskers cocktail bar in East London, who was this week crowned winner of Fentimans’ Summer of Rose competition! Eric’s winning cocktail, a combination of Fentimans Rose Lemonade, fresh raspberries, Campari and Koko Kanu coconut rum, sounds like just the thing to get you in the holiday spirit. Over 100 bartenders from around the country took part in the challenge. The brief was to create a cocktail that could be replicated swiftly in bars that included, naturally, Fentimans Rose Lemonade. This year is looking like the pinkest since records began; you can’t move for rosé wine, pink gin, and Fentimans Rose Lemonade, in shops, bars and all over Instagram. If you’re not holding a pink drink this summer, what are you doing? Hurrah again for Tinca!

isle of raasay gin

Behold, the very first Isle of Raasay Gin.

Isle of Raasay Distillery releases first gin

With International Scottish Gin Day officially a thing on 3 August (keep your eyes peeled on the blog and our social channels for more!), it seems fitting that this week’s Nightcap features just that: a new Scottish gin! Step forward Isle of Raasay Distillery, which last weekend unveiled its very first gin expression. The Isle of Raasay Gin is made using a Frilli copper pot still, ten botanicals (including rhubarb root, cubeb pepper and lemon peel; some from the island itself), water from a local well, and triple-distilled spirit. Its development was supported by local botanist Dr Stephen Bungard, along with MSc scholar at Heriot Watt Fiona Williamson, who actually worked at the distillery in 2018. “Raasay’s remarkable geology and our modern island distillery inspired both the creation and presentation of our exciting new Scottish gin that we look forward to sharing with the growing number of visitors to Raasay and gin lovers alike,” said distillery co-founder, Alasdair Day. With tasting notes including aromatic juniper, zesty citrus and hints of rhubarb, we’re looking forward to having a sample. 

oban old teddy

The inspiration for Oban’s distillery-exclusive, Old Teddy himself.

Oban releases new distillery exclusive single malt!

North west Scotland’s Oban distillery has a shiny new release – and it’s a distillery-exclusive called Old Teddy! Named in honour of the Maclean family, the expression celebrates three generations of whisky-making, dating back to 1953 with master distiller Old Teddy. His son Young Teddy (natch) joined the firm in 1985, followed in 2017 by, sadly not Even Younger Teddy, but Derek. Oh well! The youngest Maclean still works at the distillery today and he commented: “This unique bottling is a celebration of our heritage and pays homage to my grandfather, whose fine craftsmanship has been preserved in the heart and soul of the distillery at Oban. This bottling is inspired by Old Teddy’s warm and gentle nature, physical strength and pride as dedicated maltster. It is a dram he would be proud of.” This special family single malt was released this month, less than 4,000 bottles will be available, and it can only be purchased from the distillery for £150. If you’re lucky enough to try it, make sure you raise a glass to the two Teddies, and Derek.

hendricks kings cross

Kings Cross station after its Hendrick’s makeover.

And finally… King’s Cross comes up smelling of roses thanks to Hendrick’s

It’s a mark of how King’s Cross in London has been regenerated in recent years that, from this week, one of the tunnels in the Underground station smells not of effluence, vandal-strength lager and broken dreams, but roses and cucumber. Yes, Hendrick’s Gin has taken over the tunnel that links the Piccadilly and Victoria lines to the Northern line ticket hall and bedecked it with rose-and-cucumber-scented posters from floor-to-ceiling. It’s all the work of ad agency Space. Not only does it look spectacular but it smells delicious too. In fact, just the thought of it is making us thirsty for a G&T. Damn clever advertising.

That’s all, folks!

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World spirits: fabulous flavours from far off lands

This week, we’re gathering a whole host of delicious spirits from all over the globe, so you can get a taste of far flung lands and intriguing botanicals wherever you…

This week, we’re gathering a whole host of delicious spirits from all over the globe, so you can get a taste of far flung lands and intriguing botanicals wherever you are!

Travelling the world is fun. This is something we generally all agree on. However, quite frankly we just don’t have time to visit each and every continent and try the local boozy delicacies, however much we’d like to. Enter our fabulous compilation of spirits from many lands, including gin, rum and whisk(e)y! We’ve gathered this wonderful selection to tickle your tastebuds and transport you to all corners of the globe, all without leaving the safety of your sofa. Because sofas are nice, and sometimes they have cats on them, and cats are always a good thing. Anyhow, we digress. Onto the spirits!

Angostura 7 Year Old

Where’s it from?

Trinidad and Tobago

What is it?

A classic, tasty molasses-based rum from the Angostura company, produced in a continuous still. The liquid is aged in bourbon barrels for seven years before it’s filtered. The ideal dark rum for whacking into a cocktail, be it a Mai Tai, Daiquiri or even a Rum Old Fashioned! If you fancy it neat, definitely serve this one with a good wedge of juicy orange to balance the richer creamy notes.

What does it taste like?

Bittersweet dark chocolate balanced by cinnamon, burnt caramel, mocha, creamy crème brûlée, vanilla fudge and a hit of spice on the finish.

St Germain Elderflower Liqueur

Where’s it from?

France

What is it?

An iconic elderflower liqueur made with fresh elderflowers hand-harvested only once a year, for a few weeks in the late spring. Each bottle contains around 1,000 elderflower blossoms! The flowers are macerated, and the infusion is then strained and blended with eau-de-vie de vin, water, sugar, and neutral grain spirit. Splash it in a glass of Prosecco for a floral fizzy treat.

What does it taste like?

Sweet and floral notes of elderflower (of course), supported by lychee, tart lemon, a hint of buttery sweetness and a lengthy elderflower-filled finish.

Nikka Whisky From The Barrel

Where’s it from?

Japan

What is it?

An incredibly delicious, award-winning blended whisky from Nikka! It marries single malt and grain whiskies from the Miyagikyo and coastal Yoichi distilleries. The liquid is aged in a massive range of casks, including bourbon barrels, sherry butts and refill hogsheads.

What does it taste like?

Full of chai spice, buttery caramel and vanilla cream, with sweet cereal notes, raspberry, orange peel and drying oak spice alongside a spicy, warming finish.

Basil Hayden’s

Where’s it from?

Kentucky, America

What is it?

Distilled in Clermont, Kentucky, Basil Hayden’s Bourbon really was created by master distiller Basil Hayden himself, all the way back in 1796. He added rye into a traditional corn-based mashbill, and this innovative risk certainly paid off. The sweetness of corn balances brilliantly with the spiciness of rye, making for a brilliant Whiskey Bramble.

What does it taste like?

Fairly light and spicy, with vanilla and honey balanced by pepper and peppermint, with corn and dark berries on the finish.

Le Tribute Gin

Where’s it from?

Barcelona, Spain

What is it?

From the family-run distillery in Vilanova, a tiny fishing village close to Barcelona comes Le Tribute Gin. It’s a tribute (shocker) to the pioneers, processes and the heritage behind the spirit, and is inspired by the distillery’s history. There are seven botanicals, all distilled separately: juniper, lime, kumquat, lemon, pink and green grapefruit, tangerine, cardamom, bitter and sweet oranges and lemons, and the seventh is lemongrass. Wow, that was a lot. All are distilled in wheat spirit except lemongrass, where water is used in place of spirit to maintain freshness. 

What does it taste like?

Citrus and sherbet sweets, with an amalgamation of vibrant and loud fresh fruity notes. Juniper takes something of a backseat, but still plays a major role here.

Konik’s Tail Vodka

Where’s it from?

Poland

What is it?

It’s 20 years in the making and the vision of one man, Pleurat Shabani, who single-handedly harvests and bottles the vodka himself. Inspired by the elusive Polish Konik horses which, if they are spotted, will promise a good harvest (according to Polish superstition). Shabani had plenty of setbacks and harsh nights sleeping rough, but found a sense of purpose after buying a one-way ticket to escape the conflicts back home in Croatia. Determined to create something people would appreciate, he chose three grains to create this delicious vodka, Spelt (the happy grain), Rye (the dancing grain) and wheat (the smiling grain) – suggesting that the aim in life is to laugh, dance and smile.

What does it taste like?

Nutty, with burnt black pepper, spice and a sweet finish.

Lot 40 Rye Whisky

Where’s it from?

Canada

What is it?

A no-age statement rye whisky from Lot 40. The expression is in fact a revival of a whisky from the 1990s, and is named for the plot of land which used to belong to Joshua Booth, grandfather of the now-retired master distiller, Mike Booth, who created the whisky. In the 2000s, the expression was discontinued, but luckily it returned to us! The mashbill is 90% rye and 10% malted rye, so you can be sure this is sufficiently spicy.

What does it taste like?

A gentle floral start builds into all of those warming spicy notes, with black pepper, cardamom and oak spice, followed by roasted coffee bean and brown sugar on a finish of cigar box. 

 

Dancing Sands Dry Gin

Where’s it from?

Takaka, New Zealand

What is it?

This is the flagship gin from the Dancing Sands Distillery! The brainchild of husband and wife duo Ben and Sarah Bonoma, the gin takes eight hand-crushed botanicals, including manuka, almond, cardamom and liquorice, which are vapour infused. After it’s blended with water sourced from the Dancing Sands Spring over in Golden Bay, which the founders refer to as the ninth botanical, the spirit is bottled. The colours on the bottle represent each of the different botanicals. It also just looks amazing. 

What does it taste like?

Juniper straight away, followed by delicately floral manuka, warming cardamom and a subtle hint of chocolate, creamy nuttiness and a spicy peppery finish. 

Westerhall No.10 

Where’s it from?

Grenada, Caribbean

What is it?

Westerhall No.10 is, would you believe it, a 10 year old rum from the Westerhall Estate! We did not see that one coming. The estate is located on what’s called the ‘Spice Isle’ of Grenada, and this is certainly reflected in its flavour profile. If you happen to get your hands on any, try it with fresh coconut juice for a more local serve.

What does it taste like?

Spiced apple, waxy honey and rich maple syrup, creamy oak and fudge. 

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Drinks billionaires – keeping it in the family

Today Ian Buxton takes a closer look at some of the illustrious families of the drinks industry such as the Haigs, Bacardis and Ricards, and reveals which great brands are…

Today Ian Buxton takes a closer look at some of the illustrious families of the drinks industry such as the Haigs, Bacardis and Ricards, and reveals which great brands are still in family hands.

Do you ever wonder who might raise a glass to you when you, to coin a phrase, raise a glass yourself? It’s an intriguing question. After all, drinks companies are fond of maintaining the façade of family owners. Think Bulleit Bourbon – it’s actually a Diageo brand (which arguably was mainly developed under Seagram’s) but a very high profile is maintained by Tom Bulleit and, until recently, his daughter Hollis. They’re speaking via their lawyers now. The story behind their acrimonious break-up is a rather unfortunate one and perhaps for another day, but sadly illustrative of the potential problems lurking in any family.

The Nightcap Drinks billionaires

Bulleit bourbon, a family business?

But back to Diageo. In its Scotch portfolio we’ll also find the Johnnie Walker, Buchanan’s and Haig brands. Now, once upon a time, there were real-life actual people answering to Walker, Buchanan and Haig who owned the distilleries that made these products – but no longer.

Today Diageo is a publicly-quoted company. That means you can buy a share in the business and be a part-owner. Actually, if you have any kind of a pension plan (whether through your employer or direct) you probably already own a share in some shares. Diageo is one of the UK’s largest and most successful businesses, and most well-balanced pension portfolios will have a holding in the company.  To declare an interest, I certainly do (I checked), and I’m very happy with its recent performance.

Many large industries have evolved in this way. But the drinks trade is something of a curiosity as a number of important brands remain in the hands of the descendants of the founding family.  Though some, like the Walkers, Buchanans and Haigs have long since cashed in, other companies remain determinedly independent and make great play of the long-term planning required in the spirits business. This, they suggest, means the industry is well suited to family ownership rather than being driven by the short-term demands of the financial community.

Some of the smaller examples are well known. Glenfarclas, for example, is happy to stress the fact that the distillery has remained in the Grant family since 1865 with chairman John Grant and son George directly and actively involved in every aspect. Grant Snr even lives on site, and you can’t get more hands-on than that.

Whisky Advent 2018 Day #18 Drinks billionaires

George Grant from Glenfarclas

Glenfiddich too is a family concern so, along with the various brands they own – think Balvenie, Hendrick’s Gin, Tullamore D.E.W. and Sailor Jerry rum among others – the forty-odd descendants of the founder William Grant thank you for every bottle you buy.  Oddly, though, while the public face of the company is largely represented by the Gordon branch (Peter Gordon and Grant Gordon in recent years) the major shareholder is believed to be the intensely private Benedicta Chamberlain. If her reputed 29.9% of the business is anywhere close to accurate, she’s comfortably in the billionaire class. Think of that next time you pour a dram of the world’s best-selling single malt.

As you’d expect, the family take the whole business very seriously. So much so in fact that Peter Gordon has even published a book on the subject. Family Spirit: Stories and Insights From Leading Family-Owned Enterprises looks at the strategies of eleven other family-owned businesses, though mainly not in the drinks industry. One of the companies he might have studied is Bacardi.  Yes, every drop of Dewar’s or Aberfeldy single malt or William Lawson’s (a million case-plus blended Scotch you’ve probably never heard of) adds a few coppers to the eponymous descendants of Don Facundo Bacardi.  A Bacardi and Coke puts a smile on their face, as does your call for Grey Goose, Martini, St-Germain or Patrón tequila.

Alexandre Ricard Drinks billionaires

Alexandre Ricard

Now the Bacardi family is very disciplined, borrowing if necessary to fund its acquisitions (over US$2 billion in 2004 for Grey Goose, then reputedly the largest purchase price in spirits business history for a single brand, and now a cool $5.1 billion for Patrón), but the equity isn’t sold. Much the same story could be told about Suntory Holdings, still controlled by the Saji and Torii families.

Elsewhere, public listing to raise capital hasn’t entirely removed family control as the tight grip of the founding dynasties at Davide Campari SpA, Brown-Forman and Rémy Cointreau SA clearly demonstrates. The Ricard family still retain 16% of the giant Pernod Ricard operation. It’s no coincidence that one Alexandre Ricard is both chairman and CEO, even if activist US investors Elliott Management are pushing to shake things up.

So, the reality and scale of family control is something to ponder as you part with your hard-earned cash. As you raise their brands to your lips, the question can’t be avoided: ‘what are the drinks billionaires sipping tonight?’

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The winner of our Spirit of America competition is…

Just over a week ago we announced our Spirit of America competition in honour of 4th of July, because even if we don’t celebrate it over on this side of…

Just over a week ago we announced our Spirit of America competition in honour of 4th of July, because even if we don’t celebrate it over on this side of the Atlantic, we can celebrate delicious American spirits! Now’s the time to announce the winner…

Our all-American haul contained some of our favourite spirits from the USA, with FEW Bourbon, Balcones Baby Blue Corn, Bluecoat American Dry Gin, Ragtime Rye Whiskey, St. George Terroir Gin and last but not least, Widow Jane 10 Year Old. That’s right, six fabulous spirits! What’s more, all you had to do to enter was get yourself on Instagram (if you’re not already – come on people, it’s 2019!), follow @MasterofMalt, like this picture and tag the three friends you wanted to share the bundle with. 

Spirit of America

Time to get into the (American) spirit

Now, of course, 4th of July has been and gone, as has our exciting competition. The winner is…

Emma Kaye from Newport!

Congratulations Emma (and your three lucky friends, who let’s be honest, you have to share this with now) and thanks to everyone who took part. We hope your 4th of July was fabulous, however you spent it!

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Jim Beam loses 45,000 whiskey barrels in warehouse fire

Unfortunate news came from Kentucky this week: Jim Beam suffered a major warehouse fire that needed multiple fire service crews to bring it under control. 40 firefighters from five counties…

Unfortunate news came from Kentucky this week: Jim Beam suffered a major warehouse fire that needed multiple fire service crews to bring it under control.

40 firefighters from five counties were called to help battle the blaze that erupted around 11:30pm on Tuesday. The fire totally destroyed one of Jim Beam’s warehouses, estimated to hold around nine million litres of ageing whiskey. A second warehouse also caught fire, but that fire was quickly dealt with. It’s been reported that the flames generated so much heat that fire truck lights melted.

 

First things first: no one was injured in the incident, so that’s a huge relief.

The bad news is that about 45,000 barrels filled with whiskey were lost, potentially costing the brand millions of dollars in lost stock. Parent company Beam Suntory has not yet specified the exact financial loss and was quick to explain in an email that the spirit that went up in flames was “relatively young whiskey”. The company added that “given the age of the lost whiskey, this fire will not impact the availability of Jim Beam for consumers”. The losses are also insured, and total just 1.4% of spirit maker’s product in the state, so it’s not a total disaster.

The world’s top-selling bourbon brand said it was grateful to the “courageous firefighters” who brought the blaze under control and kept it from spreading. The cause of the fire has not been confirmed, although weather may well have been a factor, with some suggesting that a lightning strike was responsible.

The focus has turned to the environmental impact of the leaking bourbon, with state officials worried that whiskey running off from the site could seep into nearby waterways and kill fish. The distiller has hired an emergency clean-up crew, and state environmental officials were coordinating efforts to control bourbon runoff.

major fire at Jim Beam

Jim Beam is the world’s best-selling bourbon brand

The Beam fire was the latest warehouse loss suffered by Kentucky distillers, who collectively produce 95% of the world’s bourbon, according to the Kentucky Distillers’ Association. A warehouse belonging to OZ Tyler collapsed on 17 June, while back in June 2018 half of a warehouse collapsed at the Barton 1792 Distillery in Bardstown. The other half came down two weeks later.

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The Nightcap: 21 June

Record-breaking distillery visits, 100 years of the Negroni, and Sex on the Beach – it’s all here in the latest edition of The Nightcap! It’s sunny outside. Not that fake…

Record-breaking distillery visits, 100 years of the Negroni, and Sex on the Beach – it’s all here in the latest edition of The Nightcap!

It’s sunny outside. Not that fake ‘sunny but when to step outside you’ll curse the sky for tricking you into leaving a jacket indoors’ kind of sunny. It’s actually warm. Frankly, it’s taking all the power in our hearts to not distractedly write “MILPOOL” on the blog and scamper off into the sun, ice-cream in hand. Do you know why we’re so determined? Because it’s Nightcap day, and you people deserve to know all the stories that happened this week in the booze world. But just know that some of us may have been wearing big, floppy sun hats while putting this blog post together.

On the blog this week our Fèis Ìle 2019 coverage continued as we put your questions to Port Ellen, Lagavulin, Bruichladdich, Caol Ila and Laphroaig. Elsewhere, we announced the winner to our Teeling #BagThisBottle competition, while Nate Brown used his guest column to champion the art of slow drinking. Annie had a busy week, discovering the joys of urban foraging with Bushmills, kegged cocktails and Tequila and tonic. Adam then made J.J. Corry The Battalion, an Irish whiskey with mezcal and Tequila cask influence, the New Arrival of the Week, before Henry chose The Bronx to be our Cocktail of the Week.

Now, let’s take a look at the news!

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There are now 68 Scotch whisky visitor centres open to the public and you had plenty of fun checking them out!

Scotch whisky distillery visits top record 2 million

Did you visit a Scotch whisky distillery last year? If so, you’ve officially helped to set a new record! The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has just released its annual report which shows distillery visitor numbers soared by 6.1% year on year, pushing the total count to more than two million for the first time. That’s a lot of us seeking out Scotch! It’s good news for distilleries, too: the average spend at each one climbed by 12.2% to a combined total of £68.3 million – that’s a lot of whisky, branded Glencairns, hats, cheeses and the like. More than 20 different nationalities were Scotchland-bound last year, with the most whisky tourists coming from Germany and the US. Numbers were up from France, Spain, the Netherlands, India and China, too. As a whole, Scotch distilleries are the third most-visited attraction in all Scotland. “We’re delighted that Scotch whisky distilleries have become such popular places to visit,” said Karen Betts, the SWA’s chief exec. “The growing number of visitors to distilleries reflects in part the growth in tourism in Scotland in general, and people coming to Scotland want to see our local crafts and sample our local food and drink.” She continued: “Distilleries offer something of an antidote to today’s fast-paced world, where visitors can see the slow, careful craft, rooted in a distinct sense of place, that creates Scotch whisky. The growth in whisky tourism is also playing a crucial role in Scotland’s rural economy, with more stays at hotels, more bookings at restaurants, and more customers for local businesses, helping communities to grow and prosper.” Which is your favourite distillery to visit? Where’s top of your dream travel itinerary? Let us know in social or in the comments below!

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Scott McCroskie, Edrington chief executive

Highland Park-owner Edrington celebrates “strong” year

Edrington, which produces and sells the likes of The Macallan, Highland Park, The Glenrothes and The Famous Grouse whiskies, as well as Brugal rum, has released its financial results for the year. And the bean counters are happy! Core revenues from its products climbed by 9% to £679.8 million, while it spent an extra 7% on brand investments (to the tune of £137.3m). The all-important profits were up 4% on 2018 (quite a big deal really when you consider the £140 million cost of that distillery build). Most brands are doing well, with Highland Park and The Glenrothes recognised for their “strong” growth. While The Famous Grouse posted some declines, Edrington said in a statement it increased its market share in a number of places, including the UK. But Brugal was really the star performer, posting “double-digit” growth, mostly through successes in its native Dominican Republic. “The business has delivered strong international growth that reflects continuing consumer demand for our products, particularly in China, South East Asia and the USA, which is the world’s largest market for premium spirits,” noted Scott McCroskie, Edrington chief executive. All systems go at Edrington!

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Congratulations, Cameron!

Cameron Attfield named Diageo Reserve World Class GB

This week, Diageo bestowed the title of Diageo Reserve’s World Class Bartender of the Year 2019 upon Cameron Attfield of Disrepute, London. The competition spanned two days, and the first challenge saw competitors showcase a British ingredient through techniques of flavour extraction or manipulation, creating a serve with Ketel One Vodka as the base spirit. The second challenge required a Singleton whisky serve taking inspiration from a chosen country, using ideas of travel and adventure for the drink. Moving onto the second day, competitors had the chance to take over the World Class bar at Taste of London for the final challenge, the speed round. Let us tell you, it is speedy indeed, with the task of making a round of five cocktails for the judges in just four short minutes. Just imagine if it was always that quick to secure a cocktail! Each serve was drawn from fifteen bespoke World Class classics, ranging from a Don Julio Blanco Paloma to a Bulleit Bourbon Boulevardier. Just to mix things up, one of the five drinks was also selected by an audience member, while the bartenders were asked to tailor the drink to them. Now that’s a true test of audience engagement and hospitality. “We’re absolutely delighted to crown Cameron World Class GB Bartender of the Year 2019 and have every faith in a fantastic performance at this year’s Global Final in Glasgow,” said Jack Sotti, World Class GB Brand Ambassador at Diageo Reserve. Attfield himself added: “I’m over the moon to be crowned this year’s 2019 World Class GB winner. But, it’s not over yet and now my focus will turn to preparing to represent Great Britain in the global final in Glasgow – game on!” Huge congrats, Cameron!

The Nightcap

Swift Bar’s Bobby Hiddleston creating a wood smoke cocktail

Ardbeg launches Masters of Smoke programme

Islay distillery Ardbeg has kicked off a new global campaign to spread the good word about the “delicious possibilities” of smoke. Named Masters of Smoke, the bartender education initiative will deliver training designed to break down the science of smoke with help from a whole range of experts, from barley maltsters to barbecue chefs. We were lucky enough to attend the launch event, which was really something (and, obviously, held in a room filled with smoke). Each component part of the smoke was broken down into a category, including medicinal, coal, herbal, savoury and wood, with each getting their own stand to show off a prepared cocktail and food pairing. It was delightful stuff; you might even go as far to say it was ‘smokin’’ The Mask style (we stand by this joke). “Whisky lovers have long appreciated the peaty power of Ardbeg, but we think there’s an opportunity to further explore the intricacies of smoke as a flavour,” said Ludo Ducrocq, Ardbeg education and advocacy director. “Through Masters of Smoke, we hope to spread the word about the delicious possibilities of smoke through rich, in-depth training which is really rooted in science. From Port Ellen, to Portland, we want to unleash the power and potential of smoke in the on-trade, working with bartenders worldwide to lead a glorious smoky revolution.” Masters of Smoke training sessions will begin from September 2019 and bartenders can register their interest at ardbeg.com/en-gb/mos.

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An artist’s impression of the revamped Clynelish Distillery

Planning permission granted for Clynelish visitor centre

Exciting times at Clynelish as planning permission has been granted for the expansion of visitor facilities at the distillery. This is part of Diageo’s £150m investment in Scottish whisky tourism and as a key part in the Johnnie Walker blend, Clynelish is a natural choice to grow visitor numbers. It sits next to the legendary Brora distillery that Diageo is bringing back into production, so a visit to this part of Scotland will soon be a must for whisky lovers. Jacqueline James-Bow from the distillery said: “This announcement is very exciting and we wish to thank the Highland Council and all our neighbours for their continued support.” Other parts of Diageo’s master plan for whisky tourism include a flagship Johnnie Walker experience in Edinburgh and upgraded facilities at 12 distilleries in total. Clynelish, along with Cardhu, Caol Ila, and Glenkinchie, has been chosen to represent “the four corners of Scotland”, Highland, Speyside, Islay and Lowland. That’s some responsibility.

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London’s Coral Room created an exclusive Negroni menu

The on-trade marks 100 years of the Negroni

In case you haven’t heard, Monday 24 June begins the most exciting week of the year: it’s Negroni Week, of course! What were you thinking? Celebrations are taking place all over the world – unfortunately, we can’t cover them all, so we’ve picked three of our favourites. Firstly, London’s Coral Room has teamed up with Italian dry gin VII Hills to create an exclusive Negroni menu, complete with seven serves. Of course, you can grab a Negroni Classico, or if you’re fancying a twist then perhaps the Negroni Tropicale is for you (it combines coconut and dried pineapple-infused VII Hills Gin with Italicus Rosolio di Bergamatto and Chazalettes Extra Dry). Meanwhile, L’oscar’s The Baptist Bar is launching the Homage to Negroni cocktail menu based around L’oscar’s attributes: Passionate, Theatrical, Bohemian, Seductive and Lavish. The five serves include the Bohemian Americano, made with yoghurt-washed Classic Bitter, Seedlip Spice, Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, soda and bay leaves; as well as the Lavish Cardinale, with VII Hills gin, Campari, Procrastination (you can bottle that stuff?), and Cardinale wine finished off with a beet rim. They are the creation of head bartender Luca Rapetti, and the even better news is that these cocktails aren’t just available for Negroni Week but until the end of 2019! Finally, Giuseppe Gallo’s Italspirits has created the Negroni Experience, a four day pop up at Six Storeys in Soho, London, from 23-26 June. Names such as Martini Riserva Speciale, Italicus Rosolio di Bergamotto, Amaro Montenegro, VII Hills Gin (again!) and Peroni have come together for the event, complete with cocktails masterclasses. There’s also a tasting flight inspired by the Italian flag, sporting a classic, a white and a green version of the cocktail. An entire seven days dedicated to the iconic Negroni, aren’t we lucky?

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There’s plenty to see, including the new Bulleit Visitor Experience Cocktail Bar

Bulleit opens newest visitor experience on The Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Next week will see the opening of a brand spanking new visitor centre for Kentucky’s Bulleit Distilling Co.. From 25 June, it will be the 17th stop on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, and the 11,570-square-foot site will boast an immersive and intense multi-sensory tasting experience, complete with olfactory balls and a timed light-and-soundscape to enhance the whiskey flavours. Reassuringly, the new centre is also heavily focused on sustainability, having partnered with Oceanic Global to ensure the tasting experience and cocktail bar aligns with The Oceanic Standard (TOS), committed to eliminating single-use plastics. There’s also an organic cocktail garden developed in partnership with The University of Kentucky, to integrate local and sustainable ingredients and garnishes for the in-house cocktail bar. What’s more, the distillery has committed to sourcing 100% renewable electricity by 2030 and is home to the first industrial solar array in Shelby County, which runs most on-site exterior lighting. It even boasts an eco-friendly, green fuel-powered graffiti bus for the Visitor Experience Tour. “We wanted the Bulleit Distilling Co. Visitor Experience to be reflective of our approach to flipping the script on the whiskey category by curating an immersive, personalised consumer journey steeped in design, technology and of course, our delicious family of high rye whiskeys,” said Sophie Kelly, Sr. Vice President of Whisk(e)y at Diageo North America. What exciting news, an interactive visitor centre which is kind to the environment!

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Ruth Spivey, the founder of Wine Car Boot

Take your dog wine tasting as Wine Car Boot returns to London

Think wine tastings are all about spittoons, white tablecloths and red trousers? Well, think again because Wine Car Boot is back this summer. Now in its seventh year, Wine Car Boot was invented by wine impresario Ruth Spivey in 2013 as a way of introducing interesting wines and merchants to the general public in an informal manner. This summer there are three events, Saturday 29 June, Saturday 17 August (both at Coal Drops Yard near King’s Cross Station) and Saturday 14 September (at the Bloomberg Arcade in the City of London). There’s not just wine from quality merchants such as Berry Bros. & Rudd and the Sampler, but also beers from London breweries like Redchurch and exciting liqueurs from south London’s finest, Asterley Bros. Entry is free, though you do have to pay for tasters. Children and especially dogs are welcome.

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The swanky new Macallan Boutique at Dubai International Airport

The Macallan launches distillery-inspired Boutique series in Dubai

Fancy heading to The Macallan distillery but not up in Scotland? Well, something similar could be coming to an airport near you (or your holiday destination). The single malt Scotch brand has kicked off a programme of fancy new Boutiques with a shiny store at Dubai International Airport, in partnership with Le Clos. It’s the first in a “multi-million-pound investment” that will see the brand open a number of stand-alone stores and experiences around the globe. Everything from the architecture to the materials used in the construction and even in-store features are inspired by the mega £140 million new distillery that opened in Speyside last year. But back to Dubai. There’s an oak lattice centrepiece which echoes the distillery roof, display cases that give a museumy vibe, and it’s all super-sleekly done. And, as well as all the posh bottlings you might expect, there are Boutique-exclusive expressions, too. “It has been a year since we opened the doors of our new distillery and visitor experience, which was one of the most exciting moments in our history as a brand,” said Suzy Smith, Edrington Global Travel Retail managing director. “The next chapter in our story is the launch of our Boutique programme, which will bring whisky-lovers across the world even closer to our home on Speyside. Each store will be a gateway to the world of The Macallan, from the stunning cinematography of the Easter Elchies estate to the exceptional whisky available to taste.” Dubai not on your itinerary? We’ve got a whole bunch of Macallans right here!

The Nightcap

SEMrush provided the world with this vital data. Sex on the Beach? C’mon people!

And finally. . . the British are searching for Sex on the Beach, the cocktail that is

Data analytics company SEMrush has released figures for the most searched for cocktails last month and they make interesting reading. Tied in first place are the Manhattan and the Cosmopolitan with 135,000 searches each. Sounds like the ‘Sex and the City’ favourite is back (or maybe it never went away; it’s been joint number one all year). Looking at those yearly figures, the Old Fashioned spikes in December and January but then drops out of the top five in May, suggesting that it’s a winter cocktail. Whereas more summery serves, like the Americano and the Sex on the Beach, have moved up the league table in May. In fact, when you look at the stats for the UK on its own, Sex on the Beach moves up to the number one slot in May. We are so classy!

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Five minutes with Eddie Russell from Wild Turkey

We were fortunate enough to enjoy the company of Eddie Russell, master distiller at Wild Turkey. We talked about innovation, Matthew McConaughey, and rye whiskey’s renaissance. When you hear that…

We were fortunate enough to enjoy the company of Eddie Russell, master distiller at Wild Turkey. We talked about innovation, Matthew McConaughey, and rye whiskey’s renaissance.

When you hear that four of the biggest names in global distilling are going to be in one place at the same time, that’s something you have to take advantage of. That’s exactly what we did when Eddie Russell, Patrick Raguenaud of Grand Marnier, Dennis Malcolm of Glen Grant and Joy Spence from Appleton Estate in Jamaica attended Gruppo’s Campari Meet the Masters event at Carlton House Terrace in London.

Naturally, we took the time to talk all things bourbon and beyond with Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame inductee Russell, who joined the family trade in June 1981 at the Wild Turkey Distillery in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. Russell started from the bottom, working as a relief operator, a supervisor of production, a warehouse supervisor and manager of barrel maturation and warehousing before he became master distiller in January 2015. By doing this he followed in the footsteps of his father, Jimmy Russell, who has having clocked up over 60 years of service to the dram and is currently the longest-tenured active master distiller.

Wild Turkey has been distilling delicious whiskey since 1869 after it was founded by the Ripy brothers, although it did close between 1919 and 1933 because of Prohibition. Originally known as the Ripley Distillery, Wild Turkey got its name in 1940 thanks to Thomas McCarthy, a distillery executive, who brought some whiskey on a wild turkey hunt and shared it amongst his friend. They enjoyed it so much that they requested he bring some more ‘Wild Turkey’ bourbon on the next hunt and the name stuck. The distillery, which was purchased by the Campari group in 2009, is known best for its flagship bottling, Wild Turkey 101, a bourbon bottled at a weighty 101 proof (50.5% ABV) with a mash bill that includes a higher-than-standard rye content and whiskey that was aged for at least six years in heavily charred barrels.

To learn more, we spoke to the man himself, Eddie Russell.

Eddie Russell

McConaughey and Russell collaborated on Wild Turkey’s new release, Longbranch

Master of Malt: You’re just about to release Longbranch with Matthew McConaughey. What effect do you think celebrities have on brands?

Eddie Russell: It’s very mixed for us. It was good that he could get out and reach a lot more people, but in the US when I’m meeting with bartenders, I never talk about Matthew McConaughey, because for them when you have somebody like that you’re this corporate giant. So it’s more about the Russell family and Wild Turkey than it is about Matthew, but corporate thinks a different way. With Matthew though, it has been a very fun deal. He fits our brand perfectly and we’ve come out with a good product. But you have to be very careful about how you deal with that, especially with a younger generation, which is growing in our industry. They help some but for our industry, it’s not as important. For vodka, it’s a lot more important, or even Tequila, but for our industry, it’s more about the generation of the family that’s made the whiskey. It can be a slippery slope, in America definitely.

MoM: Speaking about the importance of family, how do you manage to innovate when you work for a distillery with such a long tradition and family legacy?

ER: It’s always been a tough deal for me because my dad’s been such a traditionalist. Innovation was a bad word for him. But that was what it was about it for his generation. They had one product and if you didn’t like it that was fine with them! So for me, coming in, I thought ‘change everything’. But then I realised ‘don’t change what my dad built’. There are ways to innovate without changing that. I don’t do the trendy stuff. But I do try to do things that are different and unique, based on our principle of having a very premium type bourbon. So it’s been one of those deals where I had to be very careful on how far I’d go on any type of innovation. But we still bring out good products, like Longbranch which will be showing up here in the next month.

Eddie Russell

The legendary Jimmy Russell at Wild Turkey Distillery

MoM: What’s the one memory or lesson that really stands out for you from working with your dad?

ER: From my industry what stands out to me is before Prohibition there was a couple of hundred distilleries in Kentucky. After Prohibition, there was 57. When I started there was only eight. Our industry is probably still the only one that we all are good friends. It’s very competitive out in the market but my dad’s best friend was Booker Noe (former Jim Beam master distiller), Elmer T. Lee (former Buffalo Trace master distiller) and Parker Beam ((former Heaven Hill master distiller). Because there were only eight of them and they were all best friends trying to keep this industry alive as it was dying. Today it’s still the same way. I mean Fred Noe (current Jim Beam master distiller) and I grew up together, we’re best friends. You just don’t see that too much in any other industry, it’s too competitive. But for us it’s such a small industry. That was probably the most surprising thing because if Heaven Hill was having problems my dad would jump in the car with Booker Noe and drive down there and help Parker Beam out. Or if we were having problems they’d come and help my dad out. That was so surprising to me growing up because you’re basically competitors, you’re in the same industry! But they wanted to make sure everybody was going to survive.

MoM: The industry has changed a lot since then and America has led a micro-distilling boom. How has that experience been for you being part of such a traditional distillery? Has it affected your sense of what craft is?

ER: In America craft is over-used a lot. We’re all craft; from making the whiskey to blending whiskey. Craft now seems to signify small. But a lot of small distilleries buy their whiskey from a big distillery, bottle it and call it craft. I do small limited editions, like Master’s Keep, where there are only 15,000 to 30,000 bottles. In America craft is a word that’s thrown a lot but it’s not paid too much attention too, it’s almost been ruined as a word.

Eddie Russell

Patrick Raguenaud, Eddie Russell, Joy Spence and Dennis Malcolm at Campari’s Meet the Masters

MoM: You touch on limited releases there, something you’ve been able to focus quite a lot on. What does that allow you to do as a distiller?

ER: Well it allows me to release things that pretty unique without changing Wild Turkey. In our industry nobody finished in cask, but now it’s big because everybody is buying their juice from the same distiller so they’re finishing in casks to make it taste different. I released an oloroso sherry-finished 12-15-year-old last year, and my dad he wasn’t for it at all. But it turned out great and what I’m trying to do is put things out there, 15-30,000 bottles. For people that want to get it, it’s there, but it’s not a permanent product. I think that’s a very good way to go. Now I’ve developed Russell’s Reserve and Longbranch that are different than 101, that are permanent products but they are strictly straight bourbon whiskey. So the limited edition, my Master’s Keep Series gives me a chance to do things that are different. But they are one-time deals.

MoM: Rye has experienced a renaissance in recent times. Why do you think there’s been an increase in demand and what do you see the future for it being?

ER: The demand has come from the bartending community because they realised all those classic cocktails were made from rye at the beginning because that’s what was first made in America. Then as bourbon come along, rye basically died. I mean us and Jim Beam were really the only two distilleries making it. I used to make rye two days a year. I’d make one day in the spring, and one day in the fall. Now I’m making rye up to four days a month. Back in 2009, I got involved with the bartending community and they started telling me they were going to start making cocktails with more rye, I started making more rye. My next Master’s Keep is going to be an aged straight rye whiskey, barrel-proofed, non-chill-filtered. I have some great rye; 101 Rye, Russell’s Rye, a single barrel rye, but this is going to be aged twice as long as anything we’ve ever put out.

Eddie Russell

The Boulevardier is Russell’s favourite cocktail

MoM: How does bourbon’s relationship with cocktail culture affect your process?

ER: The cocktail industry has changed my industry a lot, so I pay attention to it. It’s just changed my consumer base over the last 10 years. The cocktail industry is not going away and a lot of it has to do with a younger generation. Where I grew up in America my mom cooked every meal and everything was sort of sugar-based or sweet. Whereas my son grew up eating Mexican food and Indian food and we didn’t have that when I was growing up. So it’s a change in their taste profile, it’s a change in their attitudes. My generation didn’t want anything to do with the past, this generation is looking ‘What did grandad drink? What did great-grandad drink?’. So that’s been a big change also. I’m not going to change my liquid to suit them, but I can still come out with stuff that they might want. Wild Turkey 101 is great for a cocktail anyway because it has this bold taste.

MoM: We’ve heard you’re partial to a Boulevardier, how do you make it?

ER: I do two parts bourbon, one part Campari and one part sweet vermouth. A lot of people do one, one and one. I’m just used to a bigger, bolder taste. An Old Fashioned is probably the most requested drink in America but for me, I’m not used to the sweetness. It’s just not what I like. So the Boulevardier is a little bolder drink. It’s sort of surprising because I never liked the bitters that well but my sons taught me a lot about them and the bitterness just goes really well with that bourbon taste.

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Cocktail of the Week: The Toasted Nut Boulevardier

This week we delve into the fascinating world of vermouth with a man who knows his artemisia absinthim from his artemisia pontica (they’re both types of wormwood), Jack Adair Bevan,…

This week we delve into the fascinating world of vermouth with a man who knows his artemisia absinthim from his artemisia pontica (they’re both types of wormwood), Jack Adair Bevan, and show you how to make a deliciously nutty bourbon and vermouth cocktail.

Jack Adair Bevan (what a great name BTW, it sounds like he should be played by a young Bruce Willis) hasn’t always been so keen on vermouth. In his new book, A Spirited Guide to Vermouth, he writes, “I shared most people’s perceptions of vermouth of ancient bottles that gathered dust in corners of drinks cabinets and kitchen cupboards with faded labels and bottle tops fused shut with crystallised sugar.” Yup, that’s my parents’ drinks cupboard. It was a Negroni drunk in Haus Bar (since closed) in Bristol that made him change his mind.

Bevan got the vermouth bug real bad: whereas you and I might just experiment with some different brands, Bevan went the whole hog and started making his own. In 2012 with the team at the restaurant where he worked, The Ethicurean just outside Bristol, he created a brand of vermouth called The Collector made with Italian wines and spirit distilled from Somerset cider apples. It became a cult hit among British bartenders.

Jack Adair Bevan

Jack Adair Bevan, looking nothing at all like a young Bruce Willis

When he left the restaurant, The Collector project finished, but Bevan’s vermouth fire is burning brighter than ever hence the book which has just been published. A Spirited Guide to Vermouth (Headline Home, £16.99) traces the long history of aromatised wine: the Romans were flavouring wines with bitter ingredients like wormwood (vermouth gets its name from the German word for wormwood, wermut). But vermouth really went global in the 19th century when it was commercialised in France and Italy by firms like Noilly Prat, Dolin, Cinzano and Martini. The book takes an in-depth look at production methods: in Martini the botanicals are steeped in neutral spirit before blending whereas at Noilly Prat they use wine.

Vermouth went into a decline in the 80s and 90s, but in the last six years things have picked up with increasing sales, small brands and new releases from the old guard. The vermouth world is now truly international. In the book, Bevan picks out some of his favourite labels; he even tells you how to make your own. His enthusiasm is so infectious that, you know what, I must just give it a try.  

“I regard making vermouth as an art form.” he writes, “It’s as close to cooking as the drinks world gets. It’s about a careful balancing of a huge array of contrasting herbs, roots and spices, wines and sweetness.” And indeed, there’s a great affinity between vermouth and food. I recall earlier this summer, near Barcelona, eating a dish of boquerones, anchovies in vinegar that would destroy a normal wine, but the Las Vermudas vermouth just sailed through, the sweetness and bitterness of the drink chiming with the acidity of the little fish.  

Best of all are the cocktail recipes; I can see A Spirited Guide to Vermouth becoming one of the most well-thumbed books in my collection alongside David A. Embury’s The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks. I am definitely going to try his version of the Gin and It, half gin, half vermouth, pre-mixed and served straight from the fridge into frozen sherry copitas with a little ice at the bottom.

Toasted Nut Boulevardier,

Toasted Nut Boulevardier, note very large ice cube

The cocktail I’ve chosen this week, however, requires a bit more preparation. To make a Toasted Nut Boulevardier, you need to steep your bourbon with nuts for four days. Bevan writes: “The flavour of toasted pecans and walnuts is rich, sweet and superb combined with bourbon. The flavour almost sits like another botanical or ingredient with the Martini Rubino.”

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Right, let’s get cracking.

35ml Toasted nut bourbon*
25ml Martini Riserva Speciale Rubino
15ml Campari

A strip of orange peel and a toasted pecan to garnish.

Combine the toasted nut bourbon, vermouth and Campari in a chilled ice-filled shaker, stir and strain into an Old Fashioned glass containing, ideally, one large cube of ice (if not just use four or so conventional ones). Twist the orange peel over the drink, drop in and rest the pecan on the giant ice cube.

* Toast 150g of pecans and 100g walnuts in a preheated 180°C oven for about 10 minutes, turning a couple of times to ensure even toasting. Allow to cool and then put them in a Kilner jar with 700ml of Heaven Hill bourbon. Leave to infuse for four days and then strain through a coffee filter into a sterilised bottle.  

Spirited Guide to Vermouth

Spirited Guide to Vermouth

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