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Tag: Bowmore

New Arrival of the Week: The Darkness Sherry Collection

The team at the Darkness has put together a phenomenal collection of sherry cask whiskies from distilleries including Bowmore, Glenrothes, and the Dalmore plus a mystery bourbon from Tennessee that’s…

The team at the Darkness has put together a phenomenal collection of sherry cask whiskies from distilleries including Bowmore, Glenrothes, and the Dalmore plus a mystery bourbon from Tennessee that’s exclusive to Master of Malt. It’s the Darkness Sherry Collection!

They’ve been at the sherry over at the Darkness. No, we don’t mean knocking back the Harvey’s Bristol Cream with their elevenses. They’ve just landed some fascinating whiskies from Scotland and two from Tennessee. All of them have been finished in octave casks which are an eighth of the size of a standard sherry butt – around 64 litres. This means more wood and, most importantly, more sherry! The casks used include ones seasoned with PX, Oloroso and Moscatel – a rare kind of sherry that’s generally used for sweetening blends. 

So, if you love a sherry bomb, you’re going to love the Darkness Sherry Collection. These are all limited editions in 50cl bottles. Once they’re sold out, they’re gone, never to return. Here’s what you can buy. If you’re quick enough.  

The Darkness Sherry Collection

DARKNESS Tennessee rye

Tennessee Rye 5 Year Old Pedro Ximénez Cask Finish (Darkness) 

Sherried rye whiskey isn’t something you see every day, but that’s exactly what we’ve got here. This is a five-year-old rye from an undisclosed distillery in Tennessee, which has been given a finishing period in Pedro Ximénez sherry octave casks before bottling at 49.6% ABV. The PX brings notes of chocolate and molasses to those classic spicy American rye flavours of chilli, mint and caraway.  

DARKNESS Tennessee bourbon

Tennessee Bourbon 12 Year Old Oloroso Cask Finish (Darkness) (Master of Malt Exclusive) 

Another mystery distillery! They do love a mystery over at the Darkness. It’s a 12-year-old Tennessee bourbon finished in Oloroso sherry octave casks! This has introduced a huge dollop of rich, intense sherried notes to the spirit while keeping its distinctive vanilla and baking spice at the core. Always fascinating to see whisky from the USA go through similar finishing processes as expressions from closer to home. 52.4% ABV. This is a Master of Malt exclusive!

Dalmore 14 sherry cask

Dalmore 14 Year Old Oloroso Cask Finish (Darkness)

Dalmore is another famously sherried single malt but this is a Dalmore with bells on after finishing in Oloroso sherry octave casks and bottled at a punchy 49.1% ABV. Expect flavours of stewed apples, fresh ginger, loads of dried fruit notes with a dusting of cinnamon and waves of chocolatey sweetness, toffee, orange peel rum, and raisin.  

Bowmore Darkness Sherry

Bowmore 18 Year Old Moscatel Cask Finish (Darkness) 

There’s something magical about the mixture of smoke and sherry, and for our money, nobody does it better than Bowmore, and this is a particularly special offering from the Islay distillery. It’s an 18-year-old single malt finished in sweet floral Moscatel casks, and bottled at 54.9% ABV. With its flavours of salted lemons, toasted almonds, tobacco and sea breeze, this is a malt worth saving for special occasions. 

Whitlaw Darkness Sherry

Whitlaw 16 Year Old Moscatel Cask Finish (Darkness)

Whitlaw is the name used for an undisclosed Orkney distillery. Seeing as until very recently there were only two distilleries on Orkney, then you don’t have to be Charlie Maclean to take a guess at where this comes from. It was aged in Moscatel casks and bottled at 55% ABV. We think you will enjoy its combination of delicate coastal peatiness with orange peel, vanilla and Christmas pudding. 

Benrinnes Sherry Darkness

Benrinnes 14 Year Old Pedro Ximénez Cask Finish (Darkness)

Benrinnes is based in Aberlour in the heart of Speyside. It’s in the Diageo stable and most of its whisky goes into blends like Johnnie Walker though there is a classic 14 year Flora & Fauna bottling. This Darkness offering is the same age but finished in Pedro Ximénez sherry octaves and comes in at a punchy 55.3% ABV. Expect to find notes of vanilla, biscuits, chocolate peanuts, dried cherry, and mince pie filling.

Blair Athol Darkness sherry

Blair Athol 14 Year Old Oloroso Cask Finish (Darkness)

The picturesque Pitlochry-based distillery is owned by Diageo and lies close to Edradour. It is unconnected with the similarly spelt town, Blair Atholl. This expression matured for 14 years, and enjoyed a finishing period in Oloroso sherry octave casks, which bring flavours of chocolate with flashes of tangy red fruit, plums, pine cones and softly earthy malt. It’s bottled at 52% ABV.

Glenrothes Darkness sherry cask

Glenrothes 12 Year Old Oloroso Cask Finish (Darkness)

And finishing up The Darkness Sherry collection, it’s a single malt from Glenrothes. Whisky from this Speyside distillery does go particularly well with sherry casks. This particular 12-year-old single malt was given a finishing period in Oloroso sherry octave casks, offering a whole host of rich dried fruit and festive spice notes to the whisky. It was bottled at 61.1% ABV. 

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The golden ratio: inside Bowmore and Aston Martin’s latest collaboration

Aston Martin and Bowmore’s latest collaboration is a single malt inspired by the golden ratio. And a limited number of bottles have just arrived at Master of Malt. To tell…

Aston Martin and Bowmore’s latest collaboration is a single malt inspired by the golden ratio. And a limited number of bottles have just arrived at Master of Malt. To tell us more we spoke with master whisky blender Ron Welsh.

We reported earlier this month about a new collaboration between Bowmore and Aston Martin. And now stock of Bowmore 21 Year Old Aston Martin – Masters’ Selection has arrived at our Fort Knox-esque rare spirits vault deep beneath MoM Towers. Click here to find out how you can get hold of a bottle. 

This is the first release in the Masters’ Selection, and it’s inspired by something called ‘the golden ratio’. This is a mathematical ratio found in nature that creates aesthetically pleasing compositions. Apparently, it’s something that the design team at Aston Martin have long worked with. And just from looking at cars from the DB5 in the ‘60s to the current DBS, it seems to work.

But just how do you apply this to whisky? The limited edition release is a combination of 61.8% 21 year old Bowmore matured in first fill PX and Oloroso sherry casks, while the remaining parts are made up of exact ratios, including some Bowmore whisky matured for over 35 years. To explain more, we spoke to master whisky blender Ron Welsh. 

Ron Welsh

Ron Welsh in the tasting room

Master of Malt: How did you and Aston Martin designer Marek Reichman collaborate on this whisky?

Ron Welsh: Since lockdown, myself and Marek have collaborated over Zoom and I’ve been sending Marek samples of Bowmore to try. Throughout the process, we both put forward our favourites – the combination of these put together became the final product you see today.

MoM: Is Reichman a big whisky fan?

RW: Very much so. Every time we had a session – around four online tastings in total – his passion was evident. Everyone involved in the project was invested in creating something truly incredible

MoM: Can you explain the concept of the ‘golden ratio’?

RW: “The golden ratio is a principle very much adhered to by Aston Martin in their car design. When creating cars with such an iconic British design heritage, Aston Martin has to ensure the ratio is consistent throughout the entire design process. The golden ratio concept was completely new to me at the beginning and something I’ve never thought about before when creating whiskies.

MoM: And how does it apply to this whisky?

RW: We started off by talking about the possibilities of embedding the golden ratio at the heart of the blend, and when the initial pilot whiskies were created during the collaboration, this is then where myself and the team started to input the golden ratio. Each part of the whisky – there are six parts in total – is in ratio to the other part of the liquid. This meant we have been able to get different flavours from each cask type included in Masters’ Selection. I had free reign to use the Bowmore stock and ages how I wanted to. This meant using our 35 and 36 year old whiskies in the final liquid, albeit in small portions.There were a lot of people involved across the whole process and together, we probably tried over 30 different whiskies. Throughout, we found different ways to put together each whisky and gradually, built up the flavours to find ‘the one’.


The super fancy Black Bowmore DB5

MoM: How would you describe the flavour?

RW: When taking the first sip, it coats your mouth initially, then the taste explodes. When I try to explain the vision I had in mind, Aston Martin creates beautiful, powerful cars and I wanted the whisky to have the same impact and feel – a powerful and enjoyable taste, while creating a memorable experience from start to finish. This was the initial thought and my own personal desire, especially after driving an Aston Martin for the first time in August 2019 – what an experience!

MoM: Is the sherry character quite heavy?

RW: I wouldn’t say so. Although it does have more sherry influence than a standard whisky, this element is very matured, meaning it’s not a sherry bomb when you sip it.

MoM: What next for Aston Martin and Bowmore?

RW: “The first-ever collaboration between Bowmore distillery and Aston Martin was the Black Bowmore DB5, unveiled in 2020. Distilled in 1964, this whisky was presented in a unique decanter, made with a genuine Aston Martin DB5 piston. Only 27 bottles were produced, due to the rarity of both the whisky and the car. Earlier this year, we also collaborated on three limited edition bottle designs for global travel retail as part of our collaboration with Aston Martin. Every Aston Martin has its own character, and we want our whiskies to feel the same, so no doubt there will be more to come in the future as part of our ongoing partnership. I’m certainly excited to see where we end up next on our journey together.

MoM: Will Aston Martin be producing a car inspired by Islay?

RW: Aston Martin has created a special edition DBX Bowmore Edition Bowmore Q Car. Just 18 special edition Bowmore DBX’s will be built before they are delivered to customers at a private lifestyle experience in Scotland. The car is finished in a striking Bowmore Blue made with copper touches from an original whisky still from the distillery and elements of Bowmore tweed.

Aston Martin Bowmore

To enter the lottery to get your hands on a bottle of Bowmore 21 Year Old Aston Martin – Masters’ Selection, click here

Tasting note for Bowmore 21 Year Old Aston Martin – Masters’ Selection

Nose: Sweet and nutty with notes of Manuka honey and maple syrup with praline and grilled hazelnuts; combined with rich aromas of freshly tanned leather, cigar tobacco, liquorice roots, dried thyme and heather blossom.

Taste: Richly elegant sherry merges with raw Islay peat, whilst bitter dark chocolate, black pepper, butterscotch sauce unites with vanilla and coffee beans, whilst a fruity flair is defined by Morello cherries and a touch of papaya.

Finish: Sweet, spicy and mouth warming, with notes of oak spices, chestnut cream and coconut lingering.


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Top ten smoky whiskies for winter

We all love a good fire at this time of year. But a cracking smoky whisky is like a fireplace in a dram. So here are our top ten smoky…

We all love a good fire at this time of year. But a cracking smoky whisky is like a fireplace in a dram. So here are our top ten smoky whiskies for winter. Even better, why not drink your peaty dram by a roaring fire. Double smoke!

As the weather outside becomes a touch more frightful now seems like the perfect time to cosy up. One of our favourite ways to keep out the cold is with smoky whisky, which we think of as being like a fireplace in a dram. The perfect winter warmer.

That’s why we’ve rounded up a range of smoky treats, from the mild and sweet to the full-on dragon’s breath peat monsters from across Scotland as well as America, Denmark, England, and more. Hint: they also make great gifts…

Top ten smoky whiskies for winter

smoky whiskies

Green Isle

Kicking things off we have a delightful a blend that does some serious heavy lifting for a bottle at its price. Green Isle is a blended Scotch whisky with the emphasis on the smoke from the people behind The Character of Islay Whisky Company. It features Speyside malt and Lowland grain whiskies chosen to complement the Islay core. The effect is a dram that can do it all: enjoy it neat, mix it up, enjoy as you please. It won’t let you down.

What does it taste like?

An approachable blend, boasting smoky depth as well as light fruit, fragrant toasted barley, warming oak, honey glazed apples, cut grass, vanilla pod earthiness, coastal peat, pear drops and crushed peppercorns.

smoky whiskies

Bowmore 12 Year Old

If you want great smoky whisky, then the first place you should head is Islay, and a good place to start is this 12 year old from Bowmore. A classic for good reason and the heart of the Bowmore range, this is one of the most impressive core bottlings in Scotch thanks to its affordability and expert balance of smoke, spice and sweetness. 

What does it taste like?

Exhibits some beautiful coastal notes with a gentle peat, citrus from bergamot, orange zest, lemon and an oily sweetness. The balance that the floral element of heather smoke brings makes this a great entry bottling for Bowmore.

smoky whiskies

Stauning Peat

A peated whisky from Denmark might surprise you, but don’t underestimate the prowess of Stauning. One of the most exciting distilleries in the world by my book, the Danes made this beauty using local peat and matured the results in first-fill Maker’s Mark casks before bottling without chill-filtration at 47% ABV. It’s comparable to Highland Park whisky with its light and sweet smoky profile, with great balance that doesn’t overwhelm the beautiful distillery character (nutty and fruity).

What does it taste like?

Robust, but refined smoke blends with Granny Smith apples, salted caramel, cinnamon pastries, sea breeze, bittersweet orange marmalade, vanilla and the floral freshness of chamomile.

smoky whiskies

Cotswolds Peated Cask Single Malt Whisky

Not every whisky gets its smoky tones from peated barley, some use casks that previously held peated whisky instead. That’s what the excellent Cotswolds Distillery did, and ramped up the effect using quarter casks for lots of wood contact. But the brand was also careful to ensure that the effect was a delicate smokiness, so as not to overpower the spirit made using floor-malted Odyssey barley, along with Anchor and Fermentis yeasts. Impressive stuff and ideal for someone who would love to see an English whisky under their tree this year.

What does it taste like?

Refined, almost spicy smoke floats through toffee pennies, toasted sesame seeds, honeyed malt, floral barley cinnamon sticks, soft hints of sea salt and cedar.

smoky whiskies

Millstone Peated Pedro Ximénez Sherry Cask 

Ever had peated Dutch single malt whisky? Well, now’s your chance. From the marvellous Millstone comes a whisky matured in casks that previously held intensely sweet Pedro Ximénez sherry. Combine that with the powerful salinity of peated malt and you’ve got yourself a jumble of flavours that are not only delicious, but actually quite festive too.

What does it taste like?

Smoky and salty tones balance the sweetness of sultanas, Chocolate sauce, sherried orange peels and honey.

smoky whiskies

Octomore 12.1 5 Year Old

For the folks who don’t want to mess around. Octomore does peat at its most powerful and the 12.1 edition is no exception. Distilled at Bruichladdich on Islay, this peat monster was matured for five years in first-fill American whiskey casks and bottled at a hefty 59.3% ABV to ensure that 100% Scottish barley that was peated to 130.8PPM has plenty of room to shine – and shine it does. Most impressively, the smoke doesn’t overpower the juicy fruitiness and more subtle side of the spirit. Bruichladdich gets it just right.

What does it taste like?

Sometimes it’s heathery, sometimes it’s dry, but the smoke is ever-present and always welcome. Complementing it are green apples, chocolate orange, vanilla pod, and toasted teacake.

smoky whiskies

The Glenturret 10 Year Old Peat Smoke (2020 Maiden Release)

The Glenturret, Scotland’s oldest working distillery, has been revamping its range in recent times and one of the highlights is this 10 Year Old Peat Smoked expression. This is made in exactly the same way as the unpeated spirit but using lightly-peated malt, so it’s a good one for beginners to the delights of peat rather than confirmed smokeheads.

What does it taste like?

A smouldering sipper with notes of flamed lemon peel, bittersweet chocolate, toasted malt and singed heather shrouded by bonfire embers and oily smoke.

smoky whiskies

FEW Triple Smoke 

Not all smoke is peat, don’t you know? Take those clever craft distillers over at FEW Spirits in Evanston, Illinois, who made whiskey smoked with not one, not two, but three different types of wood. The base spirit is made with 100% malted barley, and it’s smoked with cherry wood, applewood and mesquite wood, giving it plenty of smoky goodness, just not what you’d be used to if you’re an Islay whisky lover. One to broaden your horizons with.

What does it taste like?

Powerful, oily, and smoky with roasted apricot, hints of burnt sugar, BBQ char, and vanilla pod.

smoky whiskies

Black Bottle Island Smoke – Alchemy Series

Black Bottle has always been a firm favourite of whisky fans for its versatile, affordable offerings. This year the brand proved it’s able to innovate and keep those values intact with the Alchemy Series which includes this blended Scotch whisky titled Island Smoke. As you might be able to infer from the name, this is a rather smoky dram with a beautiful coastal vibe. A beach bonfire in a glass. Perfect for a rainy night in, when you’d like to dream of being somewhere else…

What does it taste like?

This offers up whiffs of coastal air, scorched oak, seaweed and more, alongside familiar vanilla-rich sweetness and flashes of spice.

smoky whiskies

Super-Peaty Whisky Tasting Set 

And if you just can’t decide on one bottle because they all sound so delicious (damn my powers of description!), then a whisky tasting set should tick the box. For lovers of massively smoky, peaty whiskies, the Super-Peaty Whisky Tasting Set offers five 3cl samples to showcase some of the world’s most fantastically fiery beasts!

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The Nightcap: 12 November

This week’s Nightcap is drenched in whisky goodness. From Jameson to Bowmore, Waterford to Bruichladdich, this edition has it all. Even a man who built a £35,000 collection without even…

This week’s Nightcap is drenched in whisky goodness. From Jameson to Bowmore, Waterford to Bruichladdich, this edition has it all. Even a man who built a £35,000 collection without even liking the stuff. It’s all here!

Christmas, Black Friday, New Year… It’s all on the way and each brings its own dollop of stress. Well, we reckon you make all that tomorrow’s problem. It’s Friday for goodness sake. Grab a drink, something warm to wrap in and help yourself to a big greedy portion of weekly news from the world of booze. 

Speaking of which, there was plenty going on the blog this week, with #WhiskySanta coming back to introduce another stunner of a Super Wish, us launching a competition offering you the chance to win a VIP trip to Glenturret Distillery, and Ian Buxton returning to take a look at how Scotch whisky stepped out of the shadows. Elsewhere, Millie was recalling her visit to Glen Garioch to tell us about its exciting new upgrade, Jess was shining our spotlight on our favourite boozy gift sets, Henry was making a delightful Mezcal Espresso Martini, and Adam was enjoying the fruits of Bushmill’s recent impressive labours.

But there’s still more to come from us. It’s The Nightcap: 12 November edition!

The Nightcap: 12 November

It’s the week of biodynamic whiskies!

Bruichladdich and Waterford release biodynamic whisky

Bloody typical, you wait years for a biodynamic whisky and then two only go and come along at once. Yes, this week both Waterford in Ireland and Bruichladdich on Islay have announced the release of whiskies distilled from biodynamically-grown barley. Biodynamics is a system of agriculture developed by Austrian eccentric Rudolph Steiner, who also dabbled in education. It’s a bit like organics but with added woo woo, like brewing homoeopathic teas to treat vines and burying cow horns in the soil. Despite sounding like something made up after one too many whiskies, it’s taken very seriously in the wine world, some of the world’s top estates are biodynamic. Bruichladdich’s ‘The Biodynamic Project’ was produced from barley harvested from Richard Gantlett’s Yatesbury House Farm in 2010, which at Bruichladdich’s request obtained biodynamic accreditation, not an easy process. It was distilled in 2011. Head distiller Adam Hannett explained: “The flavour of the biodynamic, from when it was first distilled through to maturation is superb. There is a wonderful elevation of the fruity character of Bruichladdich with the biodynamic malt.” He continued: “texturally there is an extra depth which carries the flavours beautifully.” 5,000 bottles have been filled at 50% ABV and they are only available from the distillery at £100 each. Waterford’s whisky, however, dubbed Biodynamic: Luna is coming to Master of Malt. We’ll have more information on Monday.

The Nightcap: 12 November

Just look at it. A thing of beauty.

Jameson launches limited-edition 21 Year Old whiskey

Jameson is seeing off this year in some style. This week it came to the attention of everyone in the whiskey world that a delightful looking 21-year-old was on the way and now we know exactly what to expect. A limited-edition release of just 2,301 bottles, Jameson 21 Years is a blend of rare single pot still and single grain Irish whiskeys that were initially matured in a range of ex-bourbon and Oloroso sherry-seasoned casks at the Midleton Distillery for 18 years. After that initial period of maturation, the whiskeys were then blended and re-casked into freshly emptied ex-bourbon barrels for an additional three years. The casks were then finally married with additional pot still whiskeys that had fully matured for over 21 years in first-fill Oloroso sherry-seasoned wine casks. The whiskey was bottled at an impressive cask strength 57.2% ABV and is said to be a spicy and full-bodied whiskey, but unfortunately, few will get to experience that themselves. It’s exclusively available to consumers through two separate online ballots at an RRP of €310. To those who do enter the ballot, note that Barrel Club members get dibs…

anCnoc 2009

They even tell you how to pronounce it on the label. How helpful

Limited-edition anCnoc 2009 is coming!

Limited-edition whiskies don’t have to be expensive, or hard to get hold of. The brand that looks like a typo, anCnoc, has just released a 2009-vintage single malt and it’s coming soon to Master of Malt. As we are sure readers are aware, it comes from Knockdhu distillery but to avoid confusion with fellow Speysider Knockando, it releases its single malts under a different name. The name is pronounced ‘a-nock’. Anyway! This new bottling is aged in first-fill Spanish oak butts and ex-bourbon barrels, but from our little sample it’s the American oak that stands out. There’s lots of vanilla, toffee and coconut, with fresh orchard fruits and orange peel. Extremely tasty. Distillery manager Gordon Bruce commented: “We’ve been waiting twelve years for this vintage and it has definitely been worth the wait. This is a dram that has all the light, fresh qualities of anCnoc that are so loved by our drinkers, but there’s also a rich spiciness and complexity from its time in the casks”. Naturally it’s bottled at a good high strength, 46% ABV with no chill filtering. And as we said, it’s not expensive with an RRP of £50, and it’s coming soon.

Chris O’Dowd teams up with Redbreast to protect “common birds”

“I love common birds”, admits Chris O’Dowd in a new film produced by Redbreast. But before you write in to complain to Irish Distillers about inappropriate language, we should point out that top Irish funny man O’Dowd is talking about birds such as robins which aren’t as common as they once were. On 12 November, that’s today, the Irish whiskey brand is launching Robin Redbreast Day, which will be an annual event to celebrate and protect the little birds that we take for granted, and will take place on the second Friday of November each year. The short film features O’Dowd sitting at a bar drinking some Redbreast and chatting with Robin Redbreast (“the brand’s iconic mascot”) as if it’s the most normal thing in the world. It’s definitely funny, both funny peculiar and funny ha ha, though not perhaps deliberately. O’Dowd commented: “Common birds all over the world are facing serious issues that we need to come together and solve, so I’m encouraging everyone to watch and share the video across social media to get as many eyes on it as possible.” For every view, Irish Distillers will donate 25 cents to BirdLife International. So get watching and help protect those common birds.

Aston Martin Bowmore

Goldfinger! Sorry, golden ratio!

Bowmore and Aston Martin collaborate again

Bowmore appears to be really enjoying its collaborations with Aston Martin, because the Islay distillery has gone as far as to create a whole new range. The Masters’ Selection will kick off with the first single malt whisky to be made by Bowmore and Aston Martin, influenced by the dual input of master whisky blender Ron Welsh and Aston Martin executive vice president and chief creative officer Marek Reichman. The latter believes in the concept of the ‘Golden Ratio’, which refers to the mathematical ratio found in nature that creates aesthetically pleasing compositions and sits at the heart of the design of every Aston Martin. The theory is that absolute beauty can be created when you achieve a perfect relationship between each proportion of the car. Welsh took on this concept himself, saying he adopted the ‘Golden Ratio’ to “inspire each of the elements bringing their own unique flavours and selecting the optimal casks to forge the desired character, taking inspiration from Marek and his team”. Welsh also revealed that working with Reichman gave him a new lens from which to explore whisky making and that first release serves as a “celebration of our unified knowledge and experience; our shared passions, values and ideas”. The whisky itself is a combination of 61.8% 21-year-old Bowmore matured in first-fill Pedro Ximenez and Oloroso sherry casks, while the remaining parts are made up of exact ratios of each other, including some Bowmore whisky matured for over 35 years. If you’re curious to see how effective the ‘Golden Ratio’ is in whisky making, you’ll be pleased to know that the first Bowmore Masters’ Selection is on its way to MoM Towers now. The price is a surprisingly un-golden £300.

The Nightcap: 12 November

Alex Thomas doing that thing with the glass that blenders do

Bushmills appoints new master blender

Irish whiskey maker Bushmills has announced the appointment of a new master blender: Alex Thomas. The Sexton creator and master blender will take over the role at the Old Bushmills Distillery in Co Antrim, being responsible for cask selection and management, and new product development. Thomas, who was born close to the distillery, has always been tight-knit with the Irish whiskey makers, joining the Bushmills team in 2004 and honing her craft over the years. She worked with them closely to develop The Sexton back in 2017. Colum Egan, Bushmills master distiller, says that over the years Thomas has demonstrated “exceptional skills in the art of blending”, and that her “passion and pursuit of excellence has truly made her one of the rising stars in Irish whiskey”. Thomas herself said she felt privileged by her new appointment, saying the distillery is a very special place and that she’s excited to explore her passion for developing new whiskeys and experimenting with different casks and flavours, “while still maintaining the iconic Bushmills taste and quality.” No word yet on where the outgoing Helen Mulholland will be heading to, but wherever she goes the distillery will be getting someone with 30 years experience in Irish whiskey. We think you’ll agree both are deserving of a toast. Sláinte! 

The Nightcap: 12 November

That looks a bit precarious

Rare 1978 Talisker cask set for auction

The first of two big auction stories in this week’s Nightcap concerns a 43-year-old cask of Talisker whisky, which is expected to fetch up to £500,000 at a charity auction next month. The cask was donated by Diageo, the world’s largest Scotch whisky producer, to The Distillers’ Charity, with the latter including the cask as the headline item in its One of One auction, managed by Sotheby’s and set to take place on 3 December at Barnbougle Castle, Edinburgh. The auction will also feature bottlings from William Grant & Sons, Beam Suntory, and more. It’s quite a coup for the charity, because the selected barrel is part of Diageo’s Cask of Distinction ownership programme, which makes rare casks available to private clients. And this will be the first time a Cask of Distinction will go under the hammer. The successful bidder will also win a visit to the home of Casks of Distinction in Royal Deeside, where they can see their cask maturing. “We are delighted to support the Distillers One of One auction with a rare cask of Talisker Scotch whisky,” commented Javier Ferrán, Diageo chairman. “We look forward to seeing our contribution to the auction generate significant funds for the Distillers’ Charity and to help enhance the life-chances of young people in communities the length and breadth of Scotland.”

The Nightcap: 12 November

Spirit could be running off the stills here as soon as 2024

New Scotch grain distillery gets the go-ahead

Scotch whisky will soon welcome its first new grain distillery in a decade after planning was approved for construction of the St Boswells Distillery at Boswell near Melrose. Work on what is claimed to be the country’s lowest-carbon grain distillery will begin in 2022 and is expected to last 18 months, with production starting by 2024. The new development, which will be designed to reduce carbon emissions and maximise recycling with its zero waste landfill, will produce 20 million litres of pure alcohol a year to use in Scotch whisky blending, and as a neutral spirit for both gin and vodka. The site will source local cereals from the surrounding area of Tweed Valley, and process them into a spirit with renewable energy, while spent cereals will pass to an adjacent anaerobic digestion plant to be converted into methane, with the remaining material being used as soil conditioner for the crops. The approved planning application will facilitate a £46m investment in the local economy, creating approximately 200 construction jobs, along with 20 permanent jobs, which will support the rural community. “This is another significant step forward in the process to create the Scottish borders’ first major grain distillery”, says Trevor Jackson, founder and CEO of Jackson Distillers, the company behind St Boswells. “We have had great support for our proposals from local stakeholders across the region and have worked closely with Scottish Borders Council to ensure we created plans that fit into the landscape, present climate change mitigation opportunities and support the local community”. 

The Nightcap: 12 November

Galia and Adrian Pike from Westwell

England takes on France at the judgement of Nine Elms 

There have been a lot of competitive blind tastings over the years where the might of Champagne has been pitted against the scrappy sparkling wine Johnny-come-latelies of England. Most of these have been judged by wine types which is all very well, but what we want to know is: what do non-pros think? Well, wonder no more because the results are in. We attended a blind tasting organised by Jérôme Moisan from Pelegrims beauty products, who we have written about before on the Nightcap. He brought together a group of beauty journalists and PR people, ie. the core Champagne market, to taste six sparkling wines blind at Sven-Hanson Britt’s (off Masterchef the Professionals) new restaurant Oxeye in Nine Elms, London. Champagne was represented by Veuve Clicquot, Laurent Perrier and Moet et Chandon, and England by Nyetimber, Hambledon and Westwell (which supplies Moisan with the leftover grape products to make his potions). All the wines were non-vintage. And the results were…. non-decisive. Joint first were Nyetimber and Laurent Perrier with Westwell second, though it was Master of Malt’s favourite by quite some way. So no patriotic tub-thumping but further proof that the big names of England stand up against their French rivals. We finished off the day with a legendary wine, Nyetimber Blanc des Blanc 1992, the first-ever release from the estate that put English wine on the map. And it didn’t disappoint. Truly, it was one of the best sparkling wines we’ve ever had.

The Nightcap: 12 November

I bet he likes whisky now

And finally… Man who hates whisky collects 4,000 miniatures worth £35,000

“I don’t like whisky, it’s horrible”. No, those aren’t the words of my mum, but Brian Marshall from Kettering, Northamptonshire. That wouldn’t usually constitute news, but it turns out Marshall has been picking up miniature bottles since the late 1980s and has now amassed a collection of more than 4,000 worth up to £35,000. The collection, which is for sale over two auctions this month, has been priced well above his own estimate of about £8,000 and is mostly made up of whisky miniatures from Scotland, although it also includes bottles from America, Iraq, Uruguay, and Australia. Highlights include a miniature Macallan 1961 commemorating Private Eye magazine’s 35th anniversary estimated at between £200 and £300. There is also a 1887 edition of Alfred Barnard’s The Whisky Distilleries of the United Kingdom, which auctioneers believed could exceed £300. But the real question is, why would someone who doesn’t even like whisky collect it? Well, Marshall says his collection started when a colleague came back from holiday with three whisky miniatures and said “you can start collecting those”. Marshall decided to finally sell after moving in with his partner and it was only then that he realised the sheer size of the unopened stash. So there you have it. Whisky: it’s brilliant even if you don’t love the taste.

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Spooky whisky ghost stories to tell this Halloween

There are some terrifying tales lurking in whisky distilleries around the world. For Halloween, we decided to round-up some of the industry’s most famous ghost stories. Prepare to be spooked. …

There are some terrifying tales lurking in whisky distilleries around the world. For Halloween, we decided to round-up some of the industry’s most famous ghost stories. Prepare to be spooked. 

We all enjoy a good ghost story, don’t we? They cross cultures and eras for a reason. From childhood, we never lose the love for the anticipation, drama, and adrenaline they create. The danger brings us closer together as we appreciate the nostalgia, the silliness, and the fear of it all.

Halloween is, of course, the perfect time of year to tell new tales and, as we’re all whisky fans, we thought you’d enjoy taking a moment to turn off the screens, gather together, pour a dram and spin a creepy yarn. We’ve also ranked how each story scores on our spooky scale, from time to run and never look back, to laugh and tempt all the fates in the world. Are you sitting comfortably (preferably with a torch pointed at your face)? Good, then let’s begin…

whisky ghost stories

Leave a dram out unless you want the headless horseman to visit…

Bowmore’s headless horseman

First, we head to the oldest distillery on Islay, Bowmore, for a scarcely believable tale. No, this isn’t the one about the resident ghost said to inhabit the distillery’s vaults and or even about the time the Devil himself got in a spot of bother hiding in the local church, which was round and so had “no corner for the Devil to hide in” (I expect better from Lucifer, to be honest) and was chased out. He’s said to have escaped in a barrel, and this tale inspired the The Devil’s Casks bottling. This means it could just be marketing bumf. That’s actually scarier than most ghosts, in our opinion.

Instead, we’ll tell you the tale of a phantom patron. One dark and stormy night, crofter Lachlan Bàn sees the ghostly silhouette of a headless horseman galloping away from his house. He walked in to find a bottle of Bowmore on the table, and noticed a large dram was missing (you’d have to imagine every measure is big when you have no head) and, utterly petrified, did something truly horrific. He threw away the bottle. Are you horrified yet? Now any true Ileach will always open a fresh bottle for guests and throw the cork in the fire, just in case the headless horseman returns to join them for a tipple… 

MoMs spooky scale: 5/10. This would be a lot higher, but Bowmore says that Bàn’s brother later revealed he had brought round the mystery bottle to share but had to run, so he knocked back a dram and rode home, pulling his cloak tight over his head as it was stormy. Bàn was simply too embarrassed to reveal the truth, however, (I get it, to be honest) and so said nothing, allowing the story to live on. Still, if you’d like to retell the story you can always leave that bit out.

whisky ghost stories

If the wallpaper starts to peel, head for the exits…

The White Lady of Glenmorangie Distillery

If you’re brave enough to step into the decommissioned floor maltings at the Glenmorangie distillery, then you might just be visited by the ghost of ‘the White Lady’. A mysterious phantom, she is said to be the cause for wallpaper peeling without explanation. No tearing was found and former distillery manager Graham Eunson said that the walls “were bone dry” and that nobody could account for it, which “inevitably led to talk of the White Lady having been at work”. 

MoMs spooky scale: 8/10. Sceptics claim that ‘The White Lady’ was a clever tale told to ensure the maltsters didn’t doze off during the long night shifts. But that doesn’t explain the peeling wallpaper now, does it? Spoooooky!

whisky ghost stories

This is a very old distillery with a lot of stories and memories…

The revenge of the executed son of Kilbeggan Distillery

The Kilbeggan distillery, or Lockes distillery as it was originally known, dates back to 1757 making it one of the oldest licensed distilleries in the world. For some time now, locals and staff have told of close encounters and strange noises around the grounds. But all that was just hearsay, until the Irish distillery became so well known for its spooky reputation that it attracted the attention of the absolutely legitimate Derek Acorah (‘psychic’ and star of Most Haunted). He said previous owners of the distillery continue to roam the grounds, including Kilbeggan founder Matthew McManus, and his son John, who was executed in 1798 for breaking curfew and for alleged membership of the United Irishmen…

MoMs spooky scale: 7/10. Acorah recited several little-known facts that he said the ghosts told him, which did surprise distillery manager Brian Quinn. So there. That’s proof, isn’t it?

whisky ghost stories

Contractors beware…

Glen Scotia Distillery’s resident ghost

On 23 December 1930, distillery owner Duncan MacCallum died in ‘mysterious circumstances’, allegedly drowning himself in Crosshill Loch, Glen Scotia’s water supply, after losing a fortune in a crooked business deal. Ever since, contractors have claimed that they feel like ‘they’re being watched’ when working at the distillery and employees won’t lightly venture into the less illuminated areas of the distillery when it’s dark. 

MoMs spooky scale: 9/10. It’s a genuinely creepy, quite sad tale and, as a bonus, it keeps corporate types on their toes.

whisky ghost stories

The stills at Glenrothes upset one phantom patron…

Toasting the ghost at Glenrothes Distillery

There are no chances taken at the Glenrothes distillery after its particular phantom run-in. The ghost was said to be that of Biawa ‘Byeway’ Makalaga, one of two African boys rescued from famine in Matabeleland (now a province of Zimbabwe) at the turn of the 20th century by Major James Grant, owner of Glen Grant. Byeway served as a page boy and then butler, living at Glen Grant House until his death in 1972 (outliving the Major by more than 40 years in the process). 

When a new pair of stills were then installed at the nearby Glenrothes, the ghost of Byeway was spotted on two different occasions. University professor Cedric Wilson investigated and found the new stills unwittingly disturbed a leyline. He’s then said to have gone to the neighbouring graveyard to chat to Byeway’s gravestone, amicably resolving the issue. Still, many ‘toasts to the ghost’ have taken place since in order to avoid any more trouble.

MoMs spooky scale: 4/10. Byeway doesn’t mess around. Saw a problem, did some scaring, got it sorted.  But he appears to have left for now, so not currently very spooky.

whisky ghost stories

There’s so many ghosts here it’s hard to keep count

The many phantoms of Buffalo Trace 

Don’t visit the Buffalo Trace distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky, at night. It’s had so many reports of ghosts that paranormal investigators from US TV show Ghost Hunters turned up, identifying 27 ghostly presences at the distillery. Buffalo Trace embraced its spooky side, offering ghost tours beginning at Warehouse C, where workers were once allegedly saved by a mysterious voice yelling “get out”, just as the building collapsed around them. Then at Stony Point Mansion, the home built in 1934 by Albert B. Blanton and the most haunted area of the distillery according to Ghost Hunters, employees will tell you they hear footsteps, feel an icy chill, and even recognise some ghostly humming or singing thought to be from the ghost of Blanton’s housekeeper Sarah…

MoMs spooky scale: 6/10. Some classic, old-school ghostly goings-on here, but not enough give me shivers. A further point deducted because 27 ghosts is just showing off.

whisky ghost stories

Keep your eyes peeled for the Spanish ghost…

The Spanish ghost of Glendronach Distillery

One day back in the ’70s at Glendronach Distillery a shipment of Oloroso sherry casks was being unloaded, a stowaway was spotted fleeing the scene from an empty cask. She was described as being small and dark, dressed in scarlet and black, wearing a full mantilla. This led to the legend of the beautiful, Spanish woman inhabiting the distillery, with numerous sightings and the noise of rustling skirts alerting workers to her presence. She’s said to frequent the nearby Glen House, specifically the GlenDronach room, and it’s also apparently easier to sense her after a few whiskies, especially if you are a single man. 

MoMs spooky scale: 2/10. Hmmm. Yeah, the more I tell this story the more I realise it isn’t that spooky. “Oh poor me, a beautiful exotic woman visited me after a night of drinking whisky”. My heart bleeds, mate. You want to see something truly disturbing and Spanish, watch me practising my “dos cervezas, por favour” on holiday. I shiver just thinking about it. 

whisky ghost stories

Enjoying telling your ghostly tales this Halloween, like these folks are doing on the beaches of Jura…

Jura’s Twin Phantoms 

For our final ghost story, we’re going back in time to 18th century Jura. In 1781, Laird Archibald Campbell outlawed distilling (that’s not the scary part). 29 years later, Campbell woke in the middle of the night to see a ghostly old woman hovering over his bed. She gave him such a strong telling off that it was said to persuade Campbell to reverse that decision and open a distillery at an old smuggler’s cave in 1810. To ensure that no more ghosts appear to chastise politicians, it’s said that a bottle of 16-year-old whisky is still left in a secret cave somewhere on the island.

The ghostly goings-on didn’t stop there, however. Fast-forward to 2010 and two journalists visited Jura on a ghost hunt, attaching a collar with a webcam to Elvis to see if they could catch any out. As you might have guessed, Elvis is the distillery cat, and with his cat-cam, he caught a ghostly woman. Psychic Joan Charles was called to investigate and she revealed the presence of Elizabeth Quinn, an authoritative and kind spirit. Former distillery manager, Willie Cochrane, confirmed there had been a teacher called Elizabeth who lived on the island many years before. We don’t know what she wanted. Probably whisky. Our kind of ghost!

MoMs spooky scale: 10/10. The cat-cam never lies.

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The Nightcap: 24 September

Lots of big whisky news this week with rare releases from Bowmore, Macallan and Bushmills. Plus a beer so strong that it’s actually illegal (in some states in America.) They’re…

Lots of big whisky news this week with rare releases from Bowmore, Macallan and Bushmills. Plus a beer so strong that it’s actually illegal (in some states in America.) They’re all in the Nightcap: 24 September edition! Oh, and Pernod Ricard has just bought the Whisky Exchange. We told you there was big whisky news this week. 

This week at Master of Malt it was all about whisky icons. No, not elaborate devotional paintings of Bill Lumsden or Rachel Barrie – though they sound amazing – but distilleries and brands that are iconic. So we’ve been asking customers on social media which whiskies are worthy of veneration and, at the time of writing, it’s come down to a four-way all-Scottish dust-up between Ardbeg, Bunnahabhain, Lagavulin and Talisker. All distinctive island whiskies with a particularly strong showing from Islay. MoM customers clearly love a bit of Islay. It’s all taking place on Twitter so get voting. We’ll announce the winner on Monday. There can only be one!

The week got off to an expensive start as we talked to Richard Paterson about the super-fancy Dalmore Decades collection which has just landed at MoM. It was delivered in a special Whyte & Mackay armoured car which the company uses only for it’s most elite whiskies. Good whisky doesn’t have to be expensive though, as Aber Falls has proved with the second release of its Welsh single malt. Then Adam got taste of the first release from Midleton’s micro distillery, the Method & Madness Rye and Malt Irish Whiskey, and we launched our Whisky Icons competition. Lauren Eads returned to show us how to make a Singapore Sling, and Henry tried Waterford Cuvee and pondered the future of whisky *strokes chin*. Right, that’s enough chin stroking, it’s on with the Nightcap: 24 September edition!

Sukhinder Singh

Sukhinder Singh, now very rich indeed

Pernod Ricard buys The Whisky Exchange 

There was no doubt what was the biggest story of the week. On Monday we learned that Pernod Ricard had acquired The Whisky Exchange from its owners Sukhinder and Rajbir Singh. The brothers said in a statement: “The Whisky Exchange and our customers have always felt like a family, and we are looking forward to maintaining this ethos with a partner that shares our values. Our mission remains the same: to offer the finest range of whiskies and spirits from the best producers around the world, educate and engage with consumers, and support the top on-trade establishments around the UK”. Alexandre Ricard, chairman and CEO of Pernod Ricard, added: “We are thrilled to work with industry pioneers such as Sukhinder, Rajbir and the whole team to bring The Whisky Exchange to a new step of its development.” There was no mention of how much Pernod Ricard paid but industry analyst Jefferies on the Business Wire estimated it to be between: £360m and £420m. That’s a lot of Pernod. The deal includes the Whisky Exchange website, shops, Whisky.Auction and trade arm Speciality Drinks. However, it does not include agency Speciality Brands or Elixir distillers. So the brothers are holding onto their Islay distillery. Very canny. 

Colum Egan

Colum Egan from Bushmills stroking a cask

Bushmills releases its second rare ‘Causeway Collection’

It’s been a big week on the blog for Irish whiskey with Method and Madness Malt and Rye, and Waterford Cuvee. Now it’s Bushmills turn with three rare releases called ‘the Causeway Collection.’ It’s the second such offering from Northern Ireland’s most famous distiller. The 2021 release consists of three bottlings: a 2011 finished in Banyuls casks (a Port-style wine from the South of France); a 1995 finished in Marsala casks; and a 32 year old matured in a Port cask. The latter is one of the oldest ever whiskeys from Bushmills. Master distiller Colum Egan commented: “All the whiskeys used in The Causeway Collection have been expertly created and cared for by craftsmen steeped in a unique whiskey-making tradition passed from generation to generation for more than 400 years here at The Old Bushmills Distillery. The Causeway Collection celebrates our extremely rare and unique cask finishes, our passion for single malts and honours our rich heritage. It’s a privilege to work with such rare liquid, these special cask-finished whiskeys really are our greatest treasures. We were delighted with how the Bushmills Causeway Collection was received globally in 2020, with some even selling out in minutes – and we can’t wait to share this year’s collection with the world.” Prices start at 55 for the 2011, great value for such a distinctive whiskey, up to a punchy 950 for the 32 year old. We’ll have some in soon, but as Egan warns, they’re unlikely to hang about. 

Glenmorangie 18 YO x Azuma Makoto 1.jpg

It’s flower power time over at Glenmorangie

Glenmorangie goes floral with limited edition 18 year old

Glenmorangie has partnered with Japanese flower sculptor Azuma Makoto to create a fabulously floral limited edition design for its 18 Year Old. We skipped up to the Saatchi gallery this week to check it out and were treated to a private view of the RHS Botanical Art and Photography Show. The Glenmorangie team served up some fabulous cocktails, cleverly named using anagrams of Glenmorangie. First up we had A Ginger Lemon – a Glenmorangie Original highball with lemon bitters and a splash of ginger ale, most refreshing whilst we wandered the botanical illustration rooms. Secondly we were treated to a Gleaming Reno, shaking up passion fruit and pineapple – a tremendously tropical treat whilst we took in the photography finalists and winners. Special mention from us goes to Faye Bridgwater, with some super colourful artwork in the show, and some serious alliteration skills. We loved the name of this painting: A Bloody Great Big, Ballsy and Bountiful Buncha Bodacious, Buoyant and Bewitching Blooms. Well said Faye! 

Bowmore 30 YO Vaults

Super fancy Bowmore incoming!

Bowmore goes big with ultimate rare collection for 2022

Over on Islay, the Bowmore Distillery has got something big planned for 2022. Earlier this week it announced that it’ll be launching a collection of extraordinarily rare expressions at the start of next year, with a 50-year-old 1969 vintage single malt in the spotlight. The final release in Bowmore’s 50-year-old vaults series, following on from a brace of other vintages from the ’60s, it was matured in a combination of American oak ex-bourbon barrels and hogsheads for half a century before being bottled up. It’s set to retail at £35,000, so start digging through your sofa cushions now. Clearly not content with one with just the one well-aged whisky, the collection will also feature the 2021 releases of Bowmore 30 Year Old and Bowmore 40 Year Old, priced respectively at £2,000 and £6,750. Again, prepare to ransack those sofa cushions.

Macallan 30

Macallan Double cask 30, great with honey and radishes

The Macallan unveils Double Cask 30 Year Old 

The Macallan’s Double Cask range grows once more, this time with the addition of a particularly impressive 30 year old. Its three decades have been spent in sherry-seasoned new American and European oak casks, the former sourced from Ohio, Missouri, and Kentucky, and the latter sourced from northern Spain and southern France. Both wood types are toasted in Jerez, filled with sherry and seasoned for up to 18 months before finally holding the whisky. “The Macallan Double Cask 30 Years Old is a modern take on our classic 30-year-old and is an exceptional aged single malt,” says Kirsteen Campbell, master whisky maker. “With a rich combination and depth of flavour and a complex character, it is a whisky to be savoured, exhibiting notes of cinder toffee, fresh honeycomb, rich vanilla and red apples.” As you’d probably expect, the RRP is by no means small, clocking in at $4,000 – though it does come presented in a solid oak presentation box for that price tag. Who doesn’t love a solid oak presentation box?

Craft Distilling Expo

Craft Distilling Expo – pink hair and flat caps encouraged

Craft Distilling Expo is back, Back, BACK!

Are you a craft distiller or are you craft distilling curious? Then you need to get a ticket to the Craft Distilling Expo which runs from 30 September to 1 October at the Old Truman Brewery in East London. Yes, in real life. None of this Zoom nonsense. Co-founder David T Smith commented: “As with the whole industry the last 18 months have been a challenge, despite the success of our online offerings. We are really looking forward to seeing friends and colleagues, both old and new in-person this year; we’ve put on an exciting range of talk with an increasing focus on sustainability.” Highlights include Ian Wisniewski on tasting, Peter Holland with a guide to botanical and spiced rum and Julia Nourney looking at barrel finishes. We’re also intrigued by ‘ultrasonic spirits’ with Ben Marston of Puddingstone Distillery – does that mean they move really fast? Well, there’s only one way to find out. Go to the website for more information.

Sam Adams Utopias

Sam Adams Utopias, it’s beer but not as we know it

And finally… a beer so strong it’s illegal

What do you think is strong for a beer? 6% ABV? 8% ABV? Well, how about 28% ABV? No, that’s not a typo. The latest release of Sam Adams Utopias from the Boston Beer Co. is stronger than Port and getting on for whisky territory. It’s so strong that it’s illegal in 15 states in America. Apparently, it’s made with special ‘Ninja yeasts’ which can work at very high alcohol levels. The release is made up of aged beers dating back decades and aged like whisky in old bourbon, Port, Madeira and sherry barrels. It’s released every two years and for the first time this latest batch contains beer from Sauternes casks. All this magnificence doesn’t come cheap, around $240 retail, but if you live in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, or West Virginia, you’re out of luck.

1 Comment on The Nightcap: 24 September

The Nightcap: 6 August

Settle in for the latest edition of our weekly news round-up featuring Tanqueray’s Summer Garden, regrettably drier Antarctic research stations, and a crafty, vodka-loving festival-goer plus some big news from…

Settle in for the latest edition of our weekly news round-up featuring Tanqueray’s Summer Garden, regrettably drier Antarctic research stations, and a crafty, vodka-loving festival-goer plus some big news from Johnnie Walker. It’s all in the Nightcap: 6 August edition. 

Since we last went Nightcapping seven days have passed and that means a whole fresh batch is required. Luckily we’ve just upgraded our boozy news oven so we’ve got a particularly tasty set of stories for you to get your teeth stuck into this week. We find that a dram of something delicious makes for the perfect pairing too, so why not pour yourself something tasty and enjoy. 

This week the MoM blog became home to TWO new competitions giving you the chance to bag some Japanese or American whiskey goodies courtesy of Suntory and Jack Daniel’s. Meanwhile, our guest contributors had a busy week as Lucy looked into the history of Campari, Millie caught up with some of the drinks industry’s most avid glassware collectors and Dr. Nick Morgan joined us for the first time to pen an explosive article on the murky relationship between the Scotch and Japanese whisky industries. Elsewhere, there was still time for Adam to enjoy some rule-breaking Cognac and for Henry to sample an intriguing gin flavoured with Tokaji grapes as well as the delightful Rebujito cocktail.

Now on with the Nightcap: 6 August edition!

The Nightcap: 6 August

We’ll be heading to the opening event and will report back soon!

Tickets on sale for Johnnie Walker Princes Street

It’s been a long time coming but finally, Johnnie Walker’s swanky new brand home on Edinburgh’s Princes Street is open. Well, nearly, the building will open to the public on 6 September, but tickets are already on sale now (go here for more information.) The building was meant to open last year in time for Johnnie Walker’s 200th anniversary. Barbara Smith, managing director of Diageo’s Scotland brand homes, explained the reason for the delayed opening: “Over the past year we have faced unprecedented challenges brought by the Covid-19 pandemic but now we can finally start the countdown to the opening of Johnnie Walker Princes Street”. Spread over 71,500 sq feet of prime New Town real estate, the building features the 1820 bar with views across the city and the Label Studio which will offer live events. Meanwhile, you can learn the 200-year-old story of Johnnie Walker, from its beginnings in a grocer’s shop in Kilmarnock, to being the biggest whisky brand in the world! Smith elaborated: “Johnnie Walker Princes Street will offer something unlike any other visitor experience in Scotland. It will be a venue for everyone, whether that’s visitors to Scotland or local people in Edinburgh, Scotch whisky lovers, or those savouring Scotch whisky for the first time. We can’t wait for you to join us.” We’ll be reporting from the opening on 6 September, so watch this space for more Johnnie Walker news. 

The Nightcap: 6 August

It’s another incredibly impressive range

Diageo announces new Prima & Ultima whiskies

More news from Diageo as the whisky giant announces the arrival of a new batch of Prima & Ultima releases. This exclusive set of eight whiskies from various distilleries are sure to get enthusiasts excited. How exclusive? Well, there are two bottles from ‘ghost’ distilleries: a 1984 Convalmore, and 1980 peated Brora. Then there’s a Linkwood 1981 aged in a mixture of PX, Oloroso and new American Oak, an unusual experimental Singleton of Glendullan 1992 aged first in refill casks before maturation in two small ex-Madeira barriques for further fourteen years, plus a 1979 Talisker, 1992 Lagavulin, 1974 Auchroisk and 1995 Mortlach. If you have to ask the price, you probably can’t afford a set, RRP is £23,500 for the collection. It was put together by master blender Maureen Robinson who commented: “This is a selection of very special single malts – some that have never before seen the light of day and others that are the fleeting and final examples of their kind. Each bottling shares a glimpse into the history of Scotch and one that I am honoured to have witnessed in person. I remember choosing to hold back the cask filled at Auchroisk knowing it would be special for the future and the anticipation and excitement of the maturation trials we undertook with Linkwood and The Singleton, now realised in these releases. Some of these casks I helped to lay down, and have taken great pleasure in tending to them since, so I chose them with rich memories in mind. Each has its own unique style, which you can now explore for yourself.” We’ll be tasting some of these whiskies shortly and will report back. Yeah, it’s a tough life. 

The Nightcap: 6 August

The house whisky can be bought online

Fife Arms launches whisky with Dave Broom & Adelphi

This May, The Fife Arms hotel in the Highland village of Braemar opened a new whisky bar called Bertie’s, inspired by the famous Royal bon viveur, King Edward VII, also known as ‘Bertie’. This is very exciting because Dave Broom helped curate the 365-strong-selection (one for each day of the year!) which will be arranged by flavour profiles such as Fragrant, Fruity, Rich & Smoky. But what’s even more exciting is that The Fife Arms has marked the opening by commissioning its own whisky! The Fife Arms Braemar Whisky was made in collaboration with Broom and Alex Bruce, managing director of independent bottler and distiller Adelphi. The Fife Arms celebrates Scottish history and culture, so the team set out to create a whisky reminiscent of the signature styles enjoyed in the era when the hotel first opened in 1856. That’s why they used sherry butts, the cask type most widely used during this time, and smoky whisky from Ardnamurchan Distillery to create a classic 19th century-style blend. The hotel’s house whisky will launch on 13th September and will be available to purchase from the hotel’s shop and its online shop, retailing at £95 a bottle. Plus, there’s more to come as later this year, as the hotel will launch a collection of single cask whiskies in partnership with Broom and Bruce.

The Nightcap: 6 August

It’s all international summer vibes courtesy of Tanqueray

Tanqueray Gin’s Summer Garden lands in London 

Tanqueray Gin’s Summer Garden has just opened in Flat Iron Square, London, giving us a chance to visit Seville, France and India through the different Tanqueray gins and botanicals. In classic British style, it was  wet and rainy when we attended, but we just renamed it the English Summer Garden and drank our cocktails under a bit of shelter – we’re all used to the weather by now. Thankfully the rain did clear up and we were able to sit on a fetching swing bench covered in orange flowers and orange trees, wander around the fountain flowing with actual Negroni, and try some delicious food.  These included a chicken bao bun, pumpkin boa buns, and pink(!) pasta. But we were really there for the gin. You can treat yourself to a gin masterclass where you taste the Tanqueray range, including five cocktails and snack pairing. You can also get stuck into a magnificent gin tree, taking you all around the world through different Tanqueray & Tonics: Tanqueray Rangpur, Blackcurrant Royale, and Flor de Sevilla all feature, or you can build your own. There is even the chance to win weekly prizes if you can find the hidden QR codes dotted around the garden. We particularly enjoyed playing a spot of boules, which is the perfect way to spend your day while sipping on a cocktail. You can book a visit here – it’s running until 30 August.

Bowmore and Aston Martin’s new collaboration

You might remember back in 2019 Bowmore and luxury British car maker Aston Martin teamed up to create Black Bowmore DB5 1964 whisky which was presented in a bottle incorporating a genuine Aston Martin DB5 piston. This was followed by the first automotive offering, the DBX Bowmore. Now the duo is launching a new range, the Designed by Aston Martin collection. It has given three classic Bowmore whiskies a new look, inspired by some of Aston Martin’s rarest and most influential cars. The new-look limited-edition collection features Bowmore 10, 15, and 18 Years Old single malts which will be released annually exclusively in global travel retail outlets. The Bowmore 10 Years Old is paired with the Aston Martin factory Team Car, the LM10, which first raced at Le Mans in 1932; the 15 Years Old takes inspiration from the Aston Martin Atom, and the 18 Years Old celebrates the Aston Martin DB Mk III. “These limited-edition releases not only celebrate our partnership but also give some of our wonderful whiskies a whole new look which I know will excite Bowmore fans and collectors around the world,” says David Turner, Bowmore distillery manager. “By bringing together our skills and passions, we are inviting drinkers to explore our stunning and exclusive GTR collection whilst also showcasing how our shared commitment to heritage and craftsmanship can truly come to life.” Travelers can find the collection in Duty-Free stores from this month. 

The Nightcap: 6 August

Glen Grant is one of the distilleries that benefit from Forsyth’s expertise

Forsyths opens Irish division 

Forsyths has big news this week as the Moray copper still maker and fabrication firm has opened a division in Ireland. Meeting increasing demand from the distilling industry, the Rothes-based group is involved in a number of projects in the country, including the construction of a new distillery in which U2 rock star Bono is a shareholder. Richard Forsyth, managing director of the family-run business, said it had launched a facility north of Dublin, where a coppersmith and pipefitters are based. “Business has been very buoyant for us in Ireland,” he added. “The famous Bushmills Distillery has just been doubled in production and we are also building a distillery called Monasterevin”. Forsyths’ international operations have been in full flight recently, having just shipped a distillery to China not long ago, with Mr. Forsyth confirming activities in the Far East market were “continuing to flourish.” It’s a demonstration of how much the Irish whiskey industry continues to thrive and grow and it’s fantastic to hear that the category will be welcoming the copper works experts, who have been supplying the whiskey world with copper stills and distillation equipment since the mid-1850s. 


Frazer Thompson (left) and Mark Harvey from Chapel Down

Frazer Thompson leaves Chapel Down after 20 years

Big news in the world of wine as Frazer Thompson who has helmed England’s largest wine producer Chapel Down for two decades announced this week that he is retiring. He said: “Over the last twenty years we have started to change the way people think about English wines forever. There is still much to do, but there has never been a more exciting time for our young industry and our business in particular.” Thompson will be replaced by Andrew Carter who is currently MD of Chase Distillery in Herefordshire, which was acquired earlier this year by Diageo. Thompson was full of praise for Carter: “I know he will bring the energy, enthusiasm, experience and the skills to drive the business to even greater heights.” He has some big shoes to fill as it was under Thompson stewardship that Chapel Down became England’s largest wine producer and, according to chairman Martin Glenn: “helped put English wine on the map.” But it hasn’t all been glorious, the team never managed to make the Curious Beer and Cider work, and ended up selling off the brands and the Curious Brewery and Restaurant earlier this year. Meanwhile, the Kent-based company is currently conducting a crowdfunding campaign to raise £7 million. So far they have raised 90% of the total, £6.3m, from around 3,600 investors. So it’s an interesting time for Carter to take over. 

The Nightcap: 6 August

Cold, harsh, and unforgiving. The new policy will not be popular.

Antarctic research stations alcohol allowance halved

For those living and working in remote Antarctic research locations, making homemade beer has been something of a tradition. A new policy change, however, means that the alcohol allowance has been slashed at Australia’s four stations as the dangerous conditions have prompted representatives in the region to strike a cautious note. The controversial new ruling bans homebrewing outright and halves the amount of alcohol that people living and working in the research stations are allowed to drink, citing the division’s inability to “safely manage consumption, hygiene standards and alcohol content” as the reason behind it. This amounts to a pretty measly sum of seven cans of beer, one and a half bottles of wine, or half a bottle of distilled spirits per person per week. “Antarctica is a unique environment, and very small mistakes can lead to very big consequences,” AAD division director Kim Ellis told American television channel ABC. She pretty bluntly added that, while it is perfectly possible to sit out in the yard and stargaze after having a drink in Australia, “If you do that in Antarctica – you’re drunk and you go stare at the stars – we will find your body in the morning.” Regardless, it’s going to be an unpopular decision, particularly given Italy’s neighbouring station offers beer, wine, and spirits alongside food items.

And finally… Man digs up hidden bottle of vodka at festival

A Lollapalooza festival-goer is being hailed as the star act of the weekend. Why? Because he went through the effort of burying a bottle of vodka in the field weeks before the event and then digging it up once inside the festival. The video of him demonstrating his creative side went viral, understandably. There is something truly wonderful about somebody rallying so hard against paying marked-up prices that they went through the trouble of burying a bottle of Tito’s Vodka and digging it up a reported three weeks later. One tweet showing the man in action has currently racked up over 22k likes, commenting “Guy buried a bottle of vodka at Grant Park a week before Lollapalooza and dug it up when he got inside…..gotta give it up to the man it’s a straight up pro move”. It’s a straight-up pro move, indeed. Although, we do like to think we can put booze in your hands at least slightly more efficiently than this.

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The Nightcap: 9 July

It’s Friday, work is over (or nearly), which means it’s time for another round-up of all the news from the world of booze. We’ve got sustainable cocktails, sustainable Bentleys, and…

It’s Friday, work is over (or nearly), which means it’s time for another round-up of all the news from the world of booze. We’ve got sustainable cocktails, sustainable Bentleys, and a row over Russian Champagne. They’re all in the Nightcap: 9 July edition!

Apparently there’s some sort of sporting jamboree going on this weekend. Something about football coming home?? So we imagine that many of our readers will be glued to the telly on Sunday night. Luckily, there’s still time to order a selection of tasty beverages to heighten your viewing pleasure. For those with no interest in the Euros, there’s always Wimbledon, the Tour de France, and cricket. Or if you don’t like sport, you could go for a walk, read a book, learn a foreign language, or just pour yourself a drink and settle in with another edition of the Nightcap.

On the blog this week

It was another rocking week on the Master of Malt blog. First off, we got very excited about the arrival of a new exclusive whisky from the Lakes Distillery called Miramar. And so did you, seemingly, as it all sold out in under an hour. Whoosh! Then Lucy Britner looked at what you can do with white Port beyond adding tonic water. Ian Buxton gleefully looked at great whisky marketing disasters like the ill-fated launch of Bailey’s whiskey and Cardhu Pure Malt. Meanwhile, Millie Milliken screamed ‘spring break!’ and showed us to make the Sex on the Beach cocktail. We enjoyed a candid chat with Stephen Davies from Penderyn about Jim Swan, Jim Murray, and how everyone laughed when he wanted to make whisky in Wales. They’re not laughing now. And finally, because getting abroad is far from easy at the moment, we rounded up the 10 best drinks to transport you to faraway lands. 

Meanwhile over on Clubhouse

If you’re a fan of Tequila and mezcal, then head over to the Clubhouse app on your portable telephone device at 3pm today, Friday 9 July. Kristy Sherry, Alejandro Aispuro, Richard Legg, and Michael Ballantyne will be discussing whether 2021 is going to be the year of agave. What do you think? Yes? No? A little bit?

Now, it’s on with the Nightcap: 13 July edition!

The Macallan X Bentley Motors - Image 4[13]

Macallan and Bentley team up for some reason which will become clear at some point, probably

Macallan announces “sustainable” partnership with Bentley

First Bowmore teamed up with Aston Martin, and now there’s more whisky/ automotive synergy as this week Macallan announced a new collaboration with Bentley. Because cars and booze go so well together. It’s all a bit vague at the moment but according to the press bumf, the two companies share more than rich histories and even richer customers. Both are, apparently, big on sustainability and are going to help each other become carbon neutral. MD at Macallan Igor Boyadjian explained: “A key focus of the partnership will be our commitment to a more sustainable future. The breath-taking natural landscape at The Macallan Estate provides the perfect platform for us to embark together on this exciting and extraordinary journey.” Bentley’s chairman and chief executive Adrian Hallmark added: “Transforming Bentley into the world’s most sustainable luxury car company is an exciting journey, and I’m delighted to be working with The Macallan with one common goal – to both lead our fields as we work towards a more sustainable future.” We’ll let you know when there are more specifics but from this week’s press release, it’s clear that neither brand is short of wind power. 

Taittinger Cork

The famous Taittinger cork

Taittinger cork sold as NFT for 69 Bitcoin SV, or £6,200 in old money

If you thought the worlds of Taittinger and Bitcoin wouldn’t collide, then you clearly weren’t at the CoinGeek conference in Zurich a few weeks ago. A bottle of the Champagne was popped by Kurt Wuckert Jr, CoinGeek’s chief bitcoin historian (a real job title, we’ll have you know) at the closing of the conference live on CoinGeek TV – rather handily, it was caught on film. The NFT (non-fungible token) version of this cork (which is basically just a photo, as far as we can tell) then sold for 69 Bitcoin SV. Oh, you don’t know what that means in legal tender? Thank goodness, neither did we – it equals around $8,500. That’s also known as around £6,200, which is how we measure things over here at MoM Towers. Yes, that’s a lot of money for a digital file of a photo of a cork, but the net proceeds are being donated to PROPEL, a charity which helps support children’s education. That’s all rather heartwarming, except now the new owner of ‘The Cork’ (as it’s now known) is trying to resell it here for 2,180 Bitcoin SV. We’ll leave you to work out the inflation on that… Alternatively, if you don’t have big money to blow, you could just treat yourself to a bottle of the good stuff right here!


You could win a cask of rum from North Point Distillery in Scotland

Win a whole cask of rum with CaskShare

It’s World Rum Day on 10 July. It’s also Piña Colada day and Teddy Bear Picnic Day. Why not combine the three by making Piña Coladas for your teddies and serving them on a blanket al fresco? And soon, if you take part in Caskshare’s new competition, you could have plenty of rum to share with all your bears. The online spirits marketplace has teamed up with Scotland’s North Point Distillery to offer a whole cask of rum for one lucky customer. All you need is purchase a share of rum (prices start from £40) between 7-31 July, and then bang on about it on social media (full details here). You’ll be entered into a draw to win a one year old firkin of rum containing about 72 bottles worth £2,400. Think how many Piña Coladas you could make with that. And if you’ve got any left over, it’s National Mojito Day on 11 July. So much to celebrate!

The Beaufort Bar (Bar) Lewis Wilkinson.jpg RS


The Savoy launches eco-friendly Co-Naissance cocktail

Drinks are often shouting about which far-flung corners of the world their ingredients are from, but the newest cocktail from The Savoy does the opposite. The Co-Naissance cocktail, developed by senior mixologist Cristian Silenzi, is all about local flavours and ingredients, and we were lucky enough to give it a taste at the Beaufort Bar (above). A combination of Portobello Road Gin, and locally-foraged elderflower from Little Venice and fig leaves from Embankment Gardens, is topped off with re-carbonated Champagne that would otherwise have gone down the drain. These local ingredients don’t just show off London’s flora – the cocktail eliminates packaging and waste, and removes single use glass, thus eliminating more than 1.8kg of C02 emissions per cocktail through both waste reduction and reforestation. The Savoy is also planting one native tree in the endangered Kalimantan rainforests of Borneo for each Co-Naissance cocktail served. Needless to say there’s no garnish, though the sublime glassware hardly needs it. As you’d expect from The Savoy, the cocktail itself is a delight, and much more herbaceous than we expected it to be, carried on waves of light florals. If you find yourself on the Strand and fancy doing some good while enjoying a delicious drink, you know where to head.

BBR-SPIRITS-SUMMER_Label_BBR-Small-Batch-Linkwood-2.jpg RS


Berry Bros. & Rudd unveils its first ever bespoke spirits bottle 

London-based Berry Bros. & Rudd, Britain’s oldest family-owned wine and spirits merchant, has launched its summer 2021 spirit range, revealing its first ever bespoke bottle in its 323 years! Designed by Stranger & Stranger, the new bottle will be used across the entire range moving forward. Indeed, some new bottles have already landed at Master of Malt. So, what’s new? The shop windows at its home in No.3 St. James’s Street are the inspiration for the label design – easy enough to recognise if you’ve been lucky enough to visit the charming shop. What’s more, each label boasts different levels of detail as customers move through (well, up) the price range. Lizzy Rudd, Berry Bros & Rudd chairperson commented “I’m delighted that after over 300 years, we are opening another new chapter for our prestigious spirits range. The new packaging and advertising draws upon and respects our heritage, whilst celebrating who we are and what we stand for today.” A snazzy new campaign full of lifestyle films and images accompany the launch as the brand looks towards world domination expanding its appeal in the China, Germany, USA, and UK markets.

The Churchill Arms, Notting Hill

Churchill Arms in Notting Hill, hopefully there will be some free nibbles on 18 September

Inaugural National Hospitality Day to run on 18 September 

Here’s a good idea to help Britain’s pubs, bars and, restaurants which have been having a hell of time recently: A National Hospitality Day. Rather like Record Store Day but with more booze. It’s taking place on 18 September and those taking part will put on special events, menus, entertainment and even free nibbles. Free nibbles? We are there. Hospitality Action is the force behind this new initiative. Chief executive of the charity, Mark Lewis explained: “On one amazing day, we’re going to spark the mother of all parties – and all to help the businesses that have been thrown to their knees by Covid-19, and the people who work in them.” Go to the National Hospitality Day website for more information. By supporting, you’ll not only be helping your local, but also raising money for four charities: The Drinks Trust, Hospitality Action, The Licensed Trade Charity, and The Springboard Charity. Let’s hope some of Britain’s brewers get behind this worthwhile initiative and, most importantly, it gets people back down their local. Though remember, a pub isn’t just for National Hospitality Day, it’s for life, so make sure you keep going back, even when there aren’t any free nibbles. 


Proper Russian Champagne, none of that French muck

And finally… Real Champagne comes from Russia 

You might think Champagne (the wine) comes only from Champagne (the place in France) but the Russians have other ideas. A new law passed by Vladamir Putin’s government says only Russian producers can label their products ‘shampanskoye’ (worth reading this explainer on the background to the story). Makers of the original French stuff can keep the word ‘Champagne’ on the front label but on the back can only call their product ‘sparkling wine.’ As you can imagine, the French are not happy with protests from French agriculture minister Julien Denormandie and, at one point Moët Hennessy, announced it was suspending exports to Russia. However, someone high up in the company, probably, pointed out how lucrative the Russian market is because the (French) Champagne giant changed its mind and announced: “The Moët Hennessy Champagne houses have always respected the law in place wherever they operate and will restart deliveries.” Money talks, that’s one thing they can agree on in Moscow and Paris. 

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Does very old whisky taste better?

There’s been a spate of very old whiskies released recently such as a 54 year old Singleton of Dufftown, and from Gordon & MacPhail, an 80 year old Glenlivet,  but does…

There’s been a spate of very old whiskies released recently such as a 54 year old Singleton of Dufftown, and from Gordon & MacPhail, an 80 year old Glenlivet,  but does old necessarily mean better, asks Ian Buxton.

“You are old, Father William,” the young man said,

“And your hair has become very white;

And yet you incessantly stand on your head –

Do you think, at your age, it is right?”

Lewis Carroll’s verse came to mind when reading a recent press release from renowned independent bottlers Gordon & MacPhail. The company has plundered is Elgin warehouses and will shortly release what’s claimed to be the “world’s oldest single malt Scotch” – an 80 year old Glenlivet if you’re interested. Don’t bother to ask the price because, even though it hasn’t been revealed, it’s safe to assume you can’t afford it.

Whisky Advent 2020 Day #21: The Dalmore Cigar Malt

The nose behind Dalmore Trinitas, master blender Richard Paterson

Old and expensive

Now, not to be unduly pedantic, but I seem to recall that the October 2010 release of Dalmore’s Trinitas featured spirit from 1868 but as this had been vatted with other whiskies, some dating from as *recently* as 1939 it could *only* be marketed as a 64 year old. At the time, this seemed an incredible age and the launch price – a mere £100,000 – raised more than a few eyebrows.

However, like the infamous taxis in the rain, it seems that hardly a week passes without some exceptionally old whisky being launched, often at prices less than the cost of a three bedroom house in Grimsby – which, if you can’t be bothered to look it up, is around £55,000.

You’d actually have to sell two properties from Grimsby to enjoy something like the Glenfarclas Family Trunk, though there are 50 (albeit small) bottles of whisky from every year between 1954 and 2003. At 20cl each, that’s just over 14 full bottles, making this Speyside beauty something of a bargain at the 70cl equivalent of £7,000 each. Mind you, with just a couple of minutes on any decent property website it’s possible to find a selection of one and even the occasional two bed flats or terraced houses for less than that.

Back in October last year, a complete set of Macallan Red sold for more than three-quarter of a million pounds, albeit in a charity auction and today, assuming you could find one, just one bottle of Macallan Red 78 years old would set you back around a cool £100,000.  Alternatively, a 54 years old Singleton could be yours for £28,850 or perhaps three half litre bottles (a 1972, 1977 and a 1982) from the Brora Triptych at £30,000 would appeal. Or £50,000 for a Black Bowmore DB5. Unfortunately you’ve missed the chance of the Black Bowmore Archive Cabinet which auctioned in April for a cool £405,000. Not bad for a whisky which proved slow to sell at the original launch price of around £100 a bottle.

Brora Triptych

Brora Triptych, note fancy packaging

The investment boom

Right, that’s enough silly whisky prices. Like old Father William the whisky business seems to be standing on its head because it wasn’t so very long ago that whisky more than 25 years old was thought next to undrinkable (we’ll come back to this), and warehouse managers would have been chastised for letting any cask reach this excessive age.

What, you might well ask, is going on? Well, we can lay some of the blame at the door of the whisky ‘investment’ boom which I’ve been banging on about for some while. The claims just get bigger and wilder, all fueled by the cheap money that’s washing around the world, inflating asset prices and helping the rich get richer. You can thank the world’s central banks’ various quantitative easing (aka ‘helicopter money’) programmes for that but, understandably, if a distillery can see the chance of a windfall profit from one last venerable cask they can hardly be blamed for taking the money. They’re businesses after all.

And we have to face the uncomfortable fact that a large part of the price is accounted for by the increasingly lavish trappings that dress these whiskies – that Gordon & MacPhail 80 year old Glenlivet will come in a decanter and oak case designed by leading architect Sir David Adjaye OBE. No pictures yet but I’m betting it won’t feature a tall round bottle with a screw-top closure. Elsewhere, we see one-off custom-made cabinets, hand-blown crystal decanters, leather-bound tasting ledgers and other exquisitely crafted but frankly increasingly vulgar packaging designed to conceal the elephant in the room.

Taylor's Single Harvest 1896

Compared with some whiskies, this £4k Port is a steal, And it’s delicious

Does very old whisky taste better?

Which is that the vast majority of these whiskies are for display not drinking. Which, as it happens, I find something of a relief. And now I’m going to let you into a curious secret: that’s because they’re often not very nice. Those that I have sampled are simply over the hill – over-woody or bitter, lifeless and one-dimensional.

Perhaps it’s a grape vs. grain thing. I don’t have the science to back this up but give me a dignified and stately Madeira or vintage port, or even a very old brandy, be it Armagnac or Cognac and the liquid seems vibrant and even fresh tasting by comparison. Not to mention that prices seem a relative bargain – Louis XIII at under £3,000 for example or an 1870 Tawny Port (with companion 1970 bottle for comparison) at £4,000.

I fear the whisky industry has a bad case of the Emperor’s New Clothes though, note to PR industry, do keep sending those tiny little samples. One day I’ll find one that I like.

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Master of Malt Islay Festival 2021 Day 6: Bowmore

It’s Master of Malt Islay Festival 2021 Day 6: Bowmore time! Today, we’re taking a look at all the online excitement going on at the distillery while Millie Milliken delves…

It’s Master of Malt Islay Festival 2021 Day 6: Bowmore time! Today, we’re taking a look at all the online excitement going on at the distillery while Millie Milliken delves into the dark art of mixing smoke with sherry.

For the sixth day of our Master of Malt Islay Festival 2021, we’re heading to the west coast of the island to visit Bowmore, the home of some of Scotland’s most revered whiskies. You can’t be there in person but you can get into the spirit of things by visiting some of the online events below, watching our video from Feis Ile 2019, listening to our Islay memories Spotify playlist and, of course, drinking some tasty Bowmore single malts. And we’ve got Millie Milliken below finding out how distillers balance smoke with sherry casks. What a line-up!

What’s going on today:

Visit the Bowmore Feis Ile page for the full itinerary.

11:30am A Warm Welcome – opening event

12:30pm Bowmore Distillers Art tour – learn how the whisky is made

1:30pm Cook along with Pete McKenna – top Scottish chef shows you how it’s done.

5pm Our Island Home – join the team for a tour of Islay

6pm Malting with the Manager – distillery manager David Turner talks about how malt affects the flavour of the whisky.  

7pm Live tasting – panel including master of spirits Iain McCallum, David Turner and others taste and discuss some fine Bowmore malts. 

There will also be a festival bottling. Sign up here to enter the ballot for a chance to buy it. 


Bowmore distillery on a glorious summer’s day

Smoke and sherry 101

What happens when you bring the flavours of smoke and sherry together in a whisky? Turns out, quite a lot. Millie Milliken spoke to the people in the know about how to marry the two together harmoniously.

As far as alliterative double acts in whisky production go, smoke and sherry is an intriguing one. Peat levels, sherry origin, barley strain, ageing time and cask wood all play their parts when it comes to that final liquid – be it Bowmore 15 Year Old, Talisker 2010 Distillers Edition or Ardbeg Uigeadail.

“Most of our expressions are a combination of bourbon and sherry casks,” David Miles, Bowmore’s brand ambassador, tells me. It is the 15 year old though that really stands out when it comes to smoke and sherry. “We do something different there. We do 12 years maturation in bourbon barrels then transfer everything to sherry casks for the final three years.” That final three years, Miles says, transforms the smokiness into something that more resembles cinder toffee.

It ain’t cheap though, he points out, but the reward for the whisky maker of having more opportunity to play around – and the added layer of flavour – make it worth it.

For Jason Clark, Talisker brand ambassador, he sees the addition of aging in sherry casks as “a subtle seasoning to enhance complexity without dominating our signature distillery character”.

Easier said than done. So, what key elements of the whisky making process do makers need to focus on when it comes to balancing the two?

Bowmore's floor malting

Bowmore’s floor malting

For peat’s sake

Peat, the source of the smoke, can come in many forms. “Mainland peat does have a more woody quality to it when you burn it, whereas Islay peat is more heather and seaweed,” explains Miles. When it comes to Bowmore, the team combines the two types of peat. They also have the advantage of having their own floor malting meaning they can peat about 30% of their Laureate barley using Islay peat, while what they bring in from the mainland (Concerto barley) will be peated using mainland peat.

Over at Talisker, the team uses a mixture of both peated and non-peated barley. “This means that the smoke is a layer of flavour and aroma amongst many others rather than being the dominant character,” explains Clark.

Get your fill

Sherry cask is, it goes without saying, a key factor too. For Bowmore, it’s nearly always Oloroso sherry casks (with a couple of exceptions) which are sourced from a ‘seasoning bodega’ in Jerez and have been used by the brand for over 20 years.

Talisker tends to use refill casks, “for a gentle maturation process that allows our distillery character to shine through, particularly the savoury salt, the spicy pepper and that classic maritime smoke,” says Clark.

And while the type of sherry, whether its super sweet like a PX or bone dry like an Amontillado, plays its part, so does the wood the barrels are made of. Something Miles is keen to impress: “More often than not, those flavours are probably more to do with the fact that it is European oak being used,” he explains of the dried fruit and spice notes of Bowmore’s sherry cask bottlings. “Lots of sherry casks are made with American oak and that will give you very different flavours. We as an industry just tend to talk about ‘sherry cask’, but we should probably be paying attention to the subspecies of oaks.”

Bowmore 15

Bowmore’s magnificent sherry-soaked 15 Year Old

Age is but a number… or is it?

While the time spent in barrel gives flavour, it can also taketh away. Miles points out that around the 16-18 year mark, the peat influence in Bowmore starts to decline. This fact is true for nearly all peated whisky, meaning everything past those years will mainly be coming from the wood.

When it comes to that Bowmore 15 Year Old, then, it is just at that tipping point: “because the smoke has started to decline it allows that sweetness to come through”.

For Clark, while the casks bring those wonderful winter spice and dry nuttiness notes to the liquid, In some instances, the influence of sherry can be overdone. Balance, he says, is key.

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