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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Bruichladdich

The Nightcap: 3 December

A €13 million Midleton Distillery upgrade, $400K worth of spilled Jack Daniel’s whiskey, and Bruichladdich makes a sour beer. They’re all in The Nightcap: 3 December edition.  It’s December and…

A €13 million Midleton Distillery upgrade, $400K worth of spilled Jack Daniel’s whiskey, and Bruichladdich makes a sour beer. They’re all in The Nightcap: 3 December edition. 

It’s December and that means Christmas is officially here. Deck those halls, put the Michael Bublé on, and enjoy The first Nightcap of the festive season. It’s jam-packed with great stories, boozy news, and, of course, Christmas cheer. 

Something else that was jam-packed this week was the MoM blog, which went full blogmaggedon. We launched two VIP distillery trip competitions, one to Highland Park and the other to Aberfeldy, kicked off our Advent celebrations (we hope you’ve enjoyed the first three days!), and released some single cask Master of Malt exclusives. We also asked the lovely folk who work here for Christmas present recommendations, made a modern take on ‘70s classic with Christmas Pudding Rum, and welcomed Bathtub Grapefruit & Rosemary Gin, exclusively to our humble towers. #WhiskySanta also returned to grant a Courvoisier Heritage de Louis Renard Super Wish, while Adam enjoyed all kinds of premium whiskies, including some perfect for Christmas presents, and others from two seriously exciting distilleries, Rabbit Hole and The East London Liquor Company

The Nightcap: 3 December edition!

The Nightcap: 3 December

What the €13 million tourism upgrade will look like

€13 million Midleton visitor upgrade announced

Big news just in from Irish Distillers. The whiskey giant has announced the redevelopment of the visitor experience at the Midleton Distillery near Cork. It will include new shops, a bar, café, and a restaurant, and will turn the old distillery into “a world-class, multi-sensory whiskey experience destination.” Conor McQuaid, chairman and CEO, commented: “Over the past 30 years, Midleton Distillery has become synonymous with Irish whiskey tourism, welcoming more than three million visitors from countries all over the world to our home in East Cork. At Irish Distillers, we are always looking towards the future of Irish whiskey, which is why we are delighted to announce our plans for the redevelopment of the distillery experience at Midleton. Our ambition is to deliver an exceptional, world-class experiential offering which will bring whiskey lovers closer to the production process than ever before.” The aim is to attract 200,000 visitors a year. The design of the visitor experience is being handled by New York-based Ralph Appelbaum Associates (RAA) which has worked with museums all over the world including the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. The firm has a tricky line to walk in modernising the rather dated experience while not interfering too much with the incredibly atmospheric old distillery which dates back to 1794. The work is due to be finished by 2025. We await the results eagerly. 

The Nightcap: 3 December

This photo was sent to us by a man called Hamish. Yes, really!

Tamdhu puts on jamón and whisky night

Probably our two favourite things here at the Master of Malt blog are Tamdhu and Jamón Ibérico, so we were extremely excited to hear about a series of evenings at Brindisa Spanish deli in Borough Market in London. Tamdhu’s brand ambassador Gordon Dundas will be joined by James Robinson from Brindisa for a series of nights devoted to sherried single malts and sweet porky goodness. Disappointingly, they’re not calling the evening ‘Hamdhu.’ Nevertheless, it sounds pretty special. Robinson will be your guide to the wonderful world of Iberian hams offering such delicacies as Guijuelo, Dehesa de Extremadura, Jabugo, and Los Pedroches. They are traditionally served with sherry but, the idea goes, why not a sherry-infused whisky? To prove the point, Dundas will be bringing the big guns down with a flight of single malts including the sherrytastic Tamdhu Quercus Alba Distinction, aged in first-fill American Oak cask. The events will take place on 6/7/8 December from 6-7pm and 7-8pm. Tickets cost £95 (go here) and as well as the experience, guests will get to take home a 70cl bottle of Quercus Alba Distinction, two copita tasting glasses, and a jamón serving board made from oak whisky cask ends. So what are you waiting for? Jamón down!

The Nightcap: 3 December

RIP sweet whiskey

$400K worth of Jack Daniel’s spilled in Tennessee

We’ve all heard the expression “don’t cry over spilled milk”, right? It seems like good advice. It’s just milk, after all. That logic doesn’t quite apply when $400k worth of whiskey spills onto the road, however. When that happens, cry away. Ugly cry. Call your mum and cry down the phone to her. That’s presumably what folks did in Tennessee last week when a semi-truck transporting $400,000 worth of Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey overturned as the driver was making a left turn onto an interstate. The main thing is that the driver was not injured, which on a whiskey blog we really must remind you is the most important thing, because we know people will be thinking about the “several gallons” of booze that spilled onto the pavement. According to a Facebook post from the Murfreesboro Police Department, the whiskey leak started when the trailer was being pulled upright by a wrecker. As you can imagine, the post was filled with responses along the lines of “I’m volunteering on THIS cleanup!” And thankfully it’s a huge brand who can take the loss on the chin. Besides, we’ve got plenty of Jack Daniel’s whiskey right here. So maybe there’s no need to cry over spilled whiskey after all? 

The Nightcap: 3 December

Congratulations, John.

John Campbell joins Lochlea Distillery

Laphroaig legend John Campbell has a new gig. He is joining the independent family-owned Lochlea Distillery as its new production director and master blender. Campbell, who dropped a shock announcement that he was moving to pastures new this year, has left his native Islay after 27 years working there in whisky. The former Laphroaig distillery manager will head up the production team ahead of the release of its inaugural liquid, set to launch in early 2022 (which we will have some of…) Campbell described the move as an “opportunity to develop a whisky that is innovative and distinctive, with a distillery that shares my ethos on quality, environment, and sustainability”. He added that getting involved in the process from this early stage means he can help to define “what Lochlea becomes”. Lochlea’s commercial manager, David Ferguson commented that it was clear that Campbell’s values aligned closely with Lochlea, and the most exciting part is that he brings “new ideas, an emphasis on quality and an entrepreneurial streak which shone through with the Cairdeas bottlings he was responsible for”. We look forward to seeing what he does there. Best of luck, John.

The Nightcap: 3 December

Redbreast has brought it back!

Limited-edition Redbreast bird feeder is back for another year

Redbreast just can’t stop helping the birds! After teaming up with Chris O’Dowd to protect “common birds” last month, the Irish whiskey brand is now shouting about the release of its limited-edition bird feeder bottle for the second year running. We have to admit, it’s pretty snazzy. Within an intricate copper shell you’ll find a bottle of Redbreast 12 Year Old single pot still whiskey. Out comes the bottle, and then you can repurpose the case as the fanciest bird feeder you’ve ever seen – even the common birds will be feeling like royalty snacking from this thing. You can get your hands on it here, and €3 from each sale is donated by Redbreast to Birdlife International with an aim of raising €80,000, as well as protecting the species you’ll find in your garden throughout the winter months. “After the success of last year, we are extremely excited to re-launch our beautifully crafted whiskey casing that has been specially designed to double up as a bird feeder”, says Billy Leighton, master blender at Irish Distillers. “We worked closely with BirdLife International to ensure the bird feeder continues to honour our mission of helping to protect not only robins, but all common birds, as we move into the colder months and food begins to become scarce.” Got a mate who loves birds and Irish whiskey? It’s nearly Christmas – you know what to do.

The Nightcap: 3 December

Changing the game by… doing the same thing we’ve seen before

Wee Smoky adman blasts whisky industry for not being ‘culturally relevant’

Watch out, the whisky industry is about to get ‘disrupted’. Again. Creative director Barrington Reeves, who has worked with global brands including Nike and Red Bull, has teamed up with Wee Smoky, a single grain aged in peated whisky casks launched last year by Rory Gammel. According to Reeves: “Many brands have postured to try and be different, but nobody has actually truly disrupted whisky – it’s still inaccessible and elitist.” Some of his criticisms seem to have been beamed in from 2002, blasting the industry for trading on “twee” perceptions of Scottishness, something most brands abandoned years ago. Also isn’t the name Wee Smoky more than a little twee? He continued: “If Scotland is to be on the cultural map, we need to break through those out-dated, unhelpful stereotypes perpetuated by whisky.” Reeves thinks the potential is there to turn Wee Smoky into a global brand. But they are starting small: the second batch of only 5,000 bottles will be released in time for Christmas. Reeves went on to say: “I’m not a whisky drinker, and that’s because I’ve never felt any affinity to it. I always felt there was never a brand that engaged people like me. Whisky brands try to be diverse but I don’t think sticking a black person in your campaign is enough to be honest. Wee Smoky can be something that no other Scottish whisky is – culturally relevant.” Let the disruption commence!

The Nightcap: 3 December

Good luck, guys! Glad it’s not us rowing across the Atlantic

Mermaid Gin founder plans to row across the Atlantic

Mermaid Gin co-founder Xavier Baker (centre above) has just announced he will be taking part in the 2023 Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. Chris Mannion and Paul Berry (a well-seasoned rower) from the Isle of Wight will join him to row across the Atlantic in their boat Mermaid Atlantic to raise awareness of ocean habitats and to raise funds for marine-focused charities. The team will be using sustainable suppliers and will seek out and refurbish an older Rannoch boat to minimise their impact, all while raising funds for The Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, Surfers Against Sewage, and the Seahorse Trust. “We are all focused and determined chaps with a good understanding of the sea and certainly know not to underestimate her,” Baker says. “While we each have our personal reasons for undertaking such an exciting and challenging adventure, we’re united in our passion for preserving the oceans and we’re thrilled to have the opportunity to undertake the Atlantic challenge to spotlight these causes.” Embarking on ‘the world’s toughest row’, the team will leave La Gomera in the Canary Islands in December 2023 and will need to row 3000 miles around the clock to arrive in Antigua within 35 days to break the record in their class. To find out more about donation and sponsorship head here. Best of luck, guys!

The Nightcap: 3 December

Guess who has joined the sustainable Scottish whisky sour beer game?

Bruichladdich creates sustainable Scottish whisky sour beer 

Bruichladdich has gotten into the beer game with fellow B Corp Brewgooder and sour brewery Vault City to create a tasty tipple that does some good. The limited-edition barrel-aged whisky sour beer was brewed in Portobello, Edinburgh, using a mixed fermentation base sour before being barrel-aged in Bruichladdich casks for nine months to infuse it with the character of the distiller’s unpeated Islay single malt. The result? According to the press release the depth of flavour from the casks provides “delicate notes of sweet oak and barley”, while the addition of hand-picked lemon balm, foraged locally from Islay, and Scottish heather honey create a “balance of tart acidity and smoky sweetness”. Sounds tasty, but there’s more. In a combined effort to strive for a better future, every litre of beer sold will fund 1,000 litres of clean water to communities around the world through Brewgooder’s ‘Billion Pint Pledge’ which aims to produce one billion pints of clean water in the next three years. So many booze brands trying to do their bit to do a little good in the world. We love to see it.

The Nightcap: 3 December

When something like this happens you’ve just got to roll with it…

And finally…. Snowasis!

Last week a pub gig went on a bit longer than expected when the band and the entire audience were snowed in. Top Oasis tribute band Noasis played in front of 60 people at the Tan Hill Inn in the Yorkshire Dales on Friday 26 November. But when it came time to leave, Storm Arwen had wreaked havoc making the roads leading to the isolated pub impassable. So the band and the entire audience had to remain until Monday morning. Tough gig! Somehow, everyone made the best of it, with the pub providing food and drink, and the band played an acoustic set. In fact, it was so much fun that there’s talk of doing it all again next year. Just goes to show, if you have to snowed in, the best place to be is a pub. 

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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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Top ten Scotch whiskies for autumn

Whether it’s a blend or single malt, smoky or sherried, everyday or for a special occasion, we’ve got the perfect ten Scotch whiskies for autumn. How do you feel about…

Whether it’s a blend or single malt, smoky or sherried, everyday or for a special occasion, we’ve got the perfect ten Scotch whiskies for autumn.

How do you feel about autumn? We have to come out and say that it might be our favourite time of the year. The trees are turning golden, and the days are getting shorter, but there’s still a little warmth in the air. It’s the sweet spot from a sartorial point of view too, no more sweating in shorts, but the bulky layers of winter haven’t come in yet. 

But the nights are getting cold, making it the perfect season to enjoy a warming dram to take the edge off the evening chill. So, we’ve rounded up some of our favourite Scotch whisky including a classic blend, a couple of sherry bombs, some fruity mellow bottlings, Islay smokies, and two highly-aged limited editions for those feeling fancy.

So here’s to autumn, “season of malts and mellow fruitfulness” as Keats might have put it if he worked in the content team at Master of Malt.

Ten Scotch whiskies for autumn

J&B rare

J&B Rare 

J&B Rare is one of those whiskies so ubiquitous, you probably don’t even notice it behind the bar. Which is a shame because this is probably the ultimate Highball whisky. Just blend with soda, ice and maybe a dash of orange bitters for a refreshing pre-dinner drink. One sip and you’ll never go back to G&Ts.

What does it taste like? 

Yes, it’s light but there’s depth here too with appley fruit joined by richer notes of malt, cedar, vanilla and walnut with a lift of orange zest. Perfect with soda.

glenrothes-18-year-old-soleo-collection-whisky

Glenrothes 18 Year Old Soleo Collection 

The Soleo Collection was named after the process of sun-drying grapes for the production of sherry in Jerez, and as such you should expect plenty of sherry notes throughout the range. This 18 year old single malt features a very high proportion of first-fill sherry seasoned oak cask matured whisky at its core

What does it taste like?

On the nose there’s peaches and pears with dried fruits, honey and tobacco, and the palate is sumptuous and creamy. Definitely a malt full of “mellow fruitfulness”.

dalmore-15-year-old-whisky

Dalmore 15 Year Old 

The Dalmore gets its character from a heavy new make aged first in bourbon and then sherry casks. But not just any sherry casks, this 15 year old is aged in barrels that previously held luxurious Matusalem, Apostoles and Amoroso wines from Gonzalez Byass for a rich unctuous taste.

What does it taste like? 

Think Terry’s Chocolate Orange with fruitcake, baking spices, stem ginger in syrup, coffee and orange peel. It makes a cracking fireside dram.

A perfect Burns Night dram!

Darkness 8 Year Old 

If you like a sherry bomb then you’ll love the Darkness 8 Year Old. It’s a single malt from an undisclosed distillery aged in ex-bourbon casks before spending a few months in custom-made Oloroso sherry octave casks. Small casks make for a vastly increased surface area to volume ratio, leading to more cask influence. In other words: sherry city!

What does it taste like? 

More sherry than a vicars convention in Jerez. Candied orange peel, dried cherry and chocolate peanuts on the nose, with powerful raisin, prune and oak on the palate. 

tomatin-14-year-old-port-wood-finish-whisky

Tomatin 14 Year Old Port Cask Finish 

Located on the edge of Speyside, Tomatin is a distillery that deserves to be better known especially as it’s turning out whiskies as good as this one. This is a 14 year old expression aged first in bourbon barrels before finishing in Port casks which impart a wine-like sweetness to the whisky.

What does it taste like? 

Dark chocolate dipped in strawberries with white pepper, crushed almonds, walnuts, Victoria sponge and a centre of oak.

Top ten: peated whisky under £50

Caol Ila 12 Year Old 

An Islay classic that we just can’t get enough of. Caol Ila 12 Year Old has beautifully measured and mellow smokiness that allows all kinds of complex flavours to come together beautifully. Its fresh, coastal and briney elements will transport you to the sea while the fruity, citrus notes add great depth. 

What does it taste like?

Rubbed peppermint leaves, damp grass, lemon peels at the harbour, boiled sweets and elegant smoke.

kilchoman-saligo-bay-whisky

Kilchoman Saligo Bay

A new bottling from Kilchoman on Islay is always something to celebrate. This was previously travel retail only but we’ve managed to snaffle a few bottles. It’s an enjoyably smoky single malt which has been matured in bourbon casks before being bottled up at 46% ABV. The name comes from one of the rocky bays on the west coast of the Hebribean isle

What does it taste like? 

One the nose there’s roasted almonds, rock pools, oak, and honey. Take a sip, and there’s a sea breeze quality to it, with apple and caramel.

arran-10-year-old-whisky

Arran 10 Year Old

This distillery was founded by former Chivas MD Harold Currie, the first on the isle of Arran on the West Coast since 1837. It might be the entry level whisky but this ten year old aged entirely in bourbon casks tastes pretty special, showing off the fruity, floral distillery character.

What does it taste like: 

Nutty and biscuity with fresh apple and lemon fruit plus floral summer hedgerow and honey notes. It’s packed full of character and really over delivers for the money.

balblair-12-year-old-whisky

Balblair 12 Year Old

Another massive favourite with the team here at Master of Malt. This Highland distillery, which featured in the film The Angel’s Share, makes cracking malts across the range. This 12 year old is the baby of the bunch, aged in ex-bourbon double-fired American oak casks, and it’s superb.

What does it taste like? 

The soft mango and peach distillery character really shines through, supported by spicy cedar and nutmeg, honey and barley. A great introduction to a great distillery. 

singleton-of-dufftown-21-year-old-whisky

Singleton of Dufftown 21 Year Old 

And finally… we’ve included two fancy ones in case you’re pushing the boat out. The first is from Dufftown and was chosen by master blender Maureen Robinson and aged in a combination of Oloroso-seasoned European oak and ex-bourbon casks. The result is a gloriously rich and mesmerising dram with exceptional balance.

What does it taste like? 

Gorgeously rich with notes of dates, dried apricots, orange peel, honey, toffee, honey and ginger, with an incredibly long finish. 

bruichladdich-that-boutiquey-whisky-company-whisky

Bruichladdich 28 Year Old (That Boutique-y Whisky Company) 

A 28 year old single malt from the Bruichladdich Distillery, which means that it was distilled before the great Laddy revival of 2000 when the future of this great distillery was looking very uncertain. It was made in the classic unpeated style and slumbered nearly three decades in oak before it was bottled by the boffins at TBWC.

What does it taste like? 

It’s a powerful drop, make no mistake. There dark chocolate and cherry jam coming together rather like a Black Forest gâteau with baking spices and toasty oak. 

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The Nightcap: 3 September

It’s Friday, The Nightcap is back and the Tequila is on Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and his doppelgänger, unless us Brits spill it all coming back from the bar of…

It’s Friday, The Nightcap is back and the Tequila is on Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and his doppelgänger, unless us Brits spill it all coming back from the bar of course… What are we talking about? Read on to find out…

How hard is it to get a saying going, do you think? For example, if we wanted to replace ‘Thank God it’s Friday’ (or TGI Friday if you’re rad/a restaurant chain) with ‘Thank God it’s The Nightcap’, how long would it take to popularise the new and improved version? We know we can count on everyone who reads this to get on board, and that must be at least six people. We just need a weekly round-up of boozy news to become so synonymous with the beginning of the weekend and Friday itself that it’s a natural move for people. It can’t be that hard. Hoover is synonymous with the vacuum cleaner and I don’t know anyone who owns a Hoover. Let’s aim for Christmas.

Anyway, those of you who take a gander at our lovely little blog every now and then will have noticed there were some very exciting things happening this week. Like us celebrating Boutique-y Whisky’s birthday by shouting all about the Home Nations Series, or reviewing the very first Benriach Malting Season release. Elsewhere, Adam had a taste of some intriguing Irish whiskey, Lauren spoke to the remarkable woman behind Montanya Rum, and Millie uncovered the world of whisky auctions. Oh, and if you’re in the mood to whip something up tonight, then perhaps try our Cocktail of the Week: The Dominican Double!

And yet there’s still even more drinks stories to tell this week. So let’s get on with it. Here’s The Nightcap: 3 September edition!

The Nightcap: 3 September

Jameson is the toast of 2021 for Pernod Ricard

Pernod Ricard “rebounding very strongly” from Covid

Pernod Ricard announced some very promising results this week with organic sales up 9.7% on pre-Covid levels and profits up by 18.3%. “The business rebounded very strongly during FY21 to exceed FY19 levels,” said CEO Alexandre Ricard. Much of this success was driven by the irresistible rise of Jameson, seeing a 15% growth globally. The Irish whiskey brand is now bigger than Absolut in the US. Looking at other brands in the portfolio there was a strong performance from the Chivas Brothers side of the business with Glenlivet, Chivas, and Ballantine’s all enjoying growth, as well as Martell and Malibu. On the other hand Royal Salute, Beefeater, and Havana Club all lost ground. Looking at markets individually: Europe was up 4%, with the UK, Germany, and Eastern Europe all performing strongly, in contrast to Spain and Ireland. Globally, China (up a massive 34%), Russia, India, and the US (up 6%) all performed well. As expected, travel retail was a disaster, down 50%. Ricard continued: “I would like to take this opportunity to praise the exceptional commitment of our teams during this difficult time and express my support to those who have been or continue to be impacted by this pandemic. We will stay the strategic course, accelerating our digital transformation and our ambitious sustainability & responsibility roadmap. Thanks to our solid fundamentals, our teams, and our brand portfolio, we are emerging from this crisis stronger.” Trebles all around!

The Nightcap: 3 September

Congratulations, Kirsten!

Brown-Forman Scotland welcomes new assistant blender, Kirsten Ainslie

Congratulations to Kirsten Ainslie who has just landed the job of assistant blender for Brown-Forman’s Scotch distilleries, working with the master herself, Dr. Rachel Barrie. Ainslie, who spent three years as distiller at Edinburgh’s John Crabbie & Co, will join Barrie looking after Benriach, The GlenDronach, and Glenglassaugh. The job will involve new product development, cask management, and assessing spirit quality. As you can imagine she’s quite pleased: “I feel very privileged to be taking on the role of assistant blender and working alongside Rachel Barrie who is renowned in the whisky industry. Working closely with Rachel, I hope to build on the legacy of maturing and marrying different casks, and crafting whiskies to be enjoyed by newcomers and connoisseurs alike,” she commented. Barrie added. “Kirsten will be a great addition to the team. Nurturing young talent is an important part of what we do at Brown-Forman and Kirsten has certainly proven she has the best nose for the job.” Sounds like she’s going to be a Scotch whisky star of the future. 

The Nightcap: 3 September

Real talk. The new-look Chivas is no cap. Yas queen. That’s how young people talk, right?

Chivas Bros gets down with the kids

My 10-year-old daughter has come up with a portmanteau word, ‘dadbarrassing.’ It’s for those moments when fathers try to get down with the kids. This new word sprang to mind when we received a press release announcing a redesign for Chivas 12 Year Old. Apparently the biggest in the brand’s 112-year history. Global marketing director of Chivas, Nick Blacknell explained (if that’s the right word) the thinking behind the change: “Social media has introduced a new, broader audience to the wonder of whisky – ‘flex’ consumers with a hustle-first ethos that seek out upmarket brands to align themselves with.” We’re not quite sure what this means but the colour scheme has changed to “vibrant burgundy” and the packaging has changed to be more environmentally friendly with a new lighter bottle that will apparently save 1,000 tonnes of glass annually. Meanwhile, the liquid will remain the same. Blacknell continued: “I’m particularly proud of the central role sustainability has played in reconceptualising Chivas 12 for a new generation. With this redesign, we have once again reinforced our belief that sustainable luxury is not an oxymoron.” Expect to see the hip cats drinking Chivas 12 in fashionable discotheques this autumn.

The Nightcap: 3 September

Free whisky cocktails is a deal we’ll never turn down

Whisky pop-up giving out free drinks

London pubs The Culpeper and The Duke of Cambridge are doing the Lord’s work, it has been revealed this week, by launching ‘Whisky Six Wednesday’. This means that to celebrate the teaming up of Nc’nean and the sustainable pubs, a pop-up is being made that will give out free whisky, soda, and mint cocktails every Wednesday throughout September from 6-7pm at the two locations. The Scotch whisky distillery and eco-conscious London establishments will offer the former’s signature Whisky Six serve free of charge for anyone who can make a pledge for what they’re going to do differently in life, via Nc’nean’s website here. Whether it’s going zero waste for a month, cycling to work, or simply not checking emails outside work hours – this partnership wants to encourage positive change. The Whisky Six is intended to be a fresh take on a G&T (as in, it’s a Highball) and mirrors the approach the partnership encourages, which celebrates the ‘golden hour’, an early evening moment to reflect and encourage new experiences and fresh takes on old ones. If you want to make the serve yourself, just combine 50ml of Nc’nean Organic Single Malt Whisky and 100ml of soda water in a glass filled with ice. Gently stir then garnish with a fresh sprig of mint. Otherwise, you can get it at all four Culpeper venues across London outside of the promotion. But you’ll have to pay. Our advice would be to get the free ones if you can.

The Nightcap: 3 September

The distillery is looking to harness its environment to become more sustainable

Bruichladdich Distillery aims for net-zero whisky

Great whisky doesn’t come without cost. It’s estimated that Islay’s nine distilleries burn 15 million litres of oil each year, which means a lot of CO2 emissions. Good thing a lot of effort has been made by various distilleries and companies to recognise the importance of sustainability, with Bruichladdich Distillery becoming the latest to make a commitment. The Islay maker says that, by 2025, its distillation process will be net-zero. The production of malted barley and the hot mash to create the wort, whisky’s source fluid, will follow. Innovative types of green hydrogen production using green electricity and water electrolysis are planned, but for now, Bruichladdich is depending on a green tariff. Renewables will hopefully be installed over the next few years with Douglas Taylor, Bruichladdich’s chief executive, hoping that the technique could then be applied to Islay’s other distilleries, businesses, and homes, transforming the island, which is also the site of experimental tidal energy pilot projects, from fossil fuel dependency into renewables self-sufficiency. “We have this view of ‘think big, start small, but start today’,” Taylor says. “And that’s one of the things you need in the industry: to take a brave and courageous step to represent what change could look like,” he said. “What you have to do is start with what you can control.” For more info on Scotch whisky’s quest for sustainability, this Guardian article goes into some great detail.

The Nightcap: 3 September

This is a distillery we’re very excited by

Aber Falls releases its latest whisky

Aber Falls continues to show off its whisky prowess following the launch of its Single Malt Inaugural Release in May, with a new 2021 bottling. The three-year-old expression was made using 100% Welsh malted barley and rock-filtered water taken from the Aber Falls Waterfall, so it’s delightfully local for those who love a bit of provenance. Whisky fans who like intriguing processes will also appreciate that the bottling was distilled in an intriguing mix of copper pot and stainless-steel stills before being matured in a mix of ex-Oloroso and PX sherry casks, ex-bourbon casks, and virgin oak casks, before being bottled at 40% ABV. The Welsh distillery says to expect an aroma of sweet fruits with a hint of clove and delivers a rich and full-bodied palate, with sweet sherry notes, dark chocolate and espresso. It stimulates a long and lingering finish of dried fruit and subtle spice. Welsh bartender Alex Mills has also made a signature serve, an Old Fashioned with a Welsh twist that’s loosely based on the flavours of a Bara Brith, a spiced tea cake common in North Wales. The signature serve consists of ingredients from the four corners of Wales, including 15ml of honey from Nature’s Little Helpers in Cardiff, a pinch of black Welsh tea from Tea Traders in Carmarthen, five drops of coffee bitters from Dyfi Coffee in Machynlleth and, of course, 50ml of Welsh whisky. The 2021 bottling is on its way to MoM Towers and you’ll be delighted to know the price point is insanely reasonable (the RRP is £26). Lots to like about this distillery, folks.

The Nightcap: 3 September

Apparently, one of these isn’t Dwayne Johnson.

Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson wants to drink Tequila with his doppelgänger

The man who is definitely, totally and unequivocally most famous for owning Teremana Tequila, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, wants to share some of his greatest work with police officer Eric Fields, who happens to be the most remarkable doppelgänger. A picture of patrol lieutenant Fields’ was posted by the sheriff’s office on Facebook with the caption: “This gentlemen recently ran into Sgt. Mason and informed him he wanted to meet our Deputy that people say looks like “The Rock”. Sgt. Mason passed that along and Lieutenant Fields was happy to swing by the Hartselle Wal-mart to see him. Tyler is one of their many hard workers and it was great to meet him and some of his coworkers!” On Monday, the movie star responded by reposting a tweet comparing the two men side-by-side along with the caption: “Oh s**t! Wow. Guy on the left is way cooler. Stay safe brother and thank you for your service. One day we’ll drink @Teremana and I need to hear all your ‘Rock stories’ because I KNOW you got ’em #ericfields.” As for Fields himself, he’s surprisingly taken the news he looks like an international star and sex symbol in good spirits, telling AL.com “I’ve been called The Rock and Vin Diesel’s love child. I go along with it. It’s humorous. It’s flattering. It could be worse people, I guess.” 

The Nightcap: 3 September

RIP to all the lost pints.

And finally… data reveals Brits spill 11m pints per round

The return to busy bars and pubs means the old challenges are back. Getting the attention of bar staff. Nabbing a table that isn’t by the kitchen door. And trying to not spill everything you’ve just bought to huge ironic cheers from the other punters (this is actually a strangely loving response if you’re not from the UK and Ireland). According to hospitality app, OrderPay, Britons collectively spill an average of 11 million pints per round, and with the average pint in the UK costing £3.94 that’s the equivalent of over £43,340,000 each time! A whopping 40% of Brits confess to regularly dropping their drinks, with the average amount spilled per round just under a quarter of a pint. Disparities inevitably exist across the regions and the different age groups. The obviously lying over 55’s painted a cautious picture, with only 30% saying they lost beer to the floor, compared to 55% of honest 25 to 34-year-olds. Londoners typically seem to be in a rush the whole time as spillages were most prevalent in the capital, with almost half of people (49%) saying they regularly lost beer en-route. This perhaps is a good time to take stock and rethink. It’s an awful lot of drink wasted, folks. Our beloved booze deserves better. 

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Master of Malt Islay Festival 2021 Day 3: Bruichladdich 

For Day 3 of our Master of Malt Islay Festival 2021, we’re celebrating 20 years of the rebirth of Bruichladdich and looking in detail at its special Bruichladdich Laddie Origins Fèis Ìle…

For Day 3 of our Master of Malt Islay Festival 2021, we’re celebrating 20 years of the rebirth of Bruichladdich and looking in detail at its special Bruichladdich Laddie Origins Fèis Ìle 2021 bottling. 

We’re at Day 3 of our Master of Malt Islay Festival 2021 and the next stop of our whistle tour around the Inner Hebrides is Bruichladdich. This distillery inspires some serious loyalty among whisky fans since it was revived by Jim McEwan, Mark Reynier et al in 2001. So this the 20th anniversary of the new Bruichladdich, and also its 140th anniversary as the distillery was originally founded in 1881. So many anniversaries. 

Today, it’s famed for doing things just a little bit differently such as experimenting with different types of barley – something Reynier has taken even further with his new venture Waterford in Ireland. But that’s another story. It’s also unusual on Islay for making unpeated whisky but it’s no stranger to smoke either, saving the peat for the Port Charlotte and Octomore brands. 

We try something special from the distillery below, but first here’s a look at the fun going on at the distillery today. And to get you in the island mood, don’t forget to listen to our Islay memories playlist on Spotify and watch our interview above with head distiller Adam Hannett from Fèis Ìle 2019.  Oh, and be sure to check out our daily deals! We’ve got discounts on Octomore 10 Year Old (That Boutique-y Whisky Company)Port Charlotte 14 Year Old (That Boutique-y Whisky Company)Bruichladdich Scottish Barley – The Classic Laddie and Bruichladdich 1985/32 – Hidden Glory.

What’s going on today

Well, it’s all a bit mysterious, but seeing as this year marks 20 years of the revived distillery, it’s sure to be a lot of fun. Bruichladdich is promising “one big virtual party to celebrate a whole swathe of anniversaries.” The event is called Times Travellers and you need to register here to find out more. But we do know there are two special bottles: a 10-anniversary cask-aged Botanist gin and a special 57% ABV bottling called Laddie Origins which we’re looking at in detail below. 3,000 bottles have been filled. Both are only available via a ballot from the Bruichladdich site. 

Bruichladdich Feis Ile 2021 - 30th May 2021 Poster Announcement

What is going on at Bruichladdich?

Bruichladdich Laddie Origins Fèis Ìle 2021 release

Here’s a bit of fun. We’ve been sent a sample of 2021’s Laddie Origins alongside six samples that go into this special expression. We aren’t allowed to say exactly what’s in the samples but will say that there’s an interesting mixture of casks, ages, barley types and even distillation techniques. We can’t say anymore. All will be made clear at Adam Hannett’s masterclass which is taking place at 2pm. It’s all booked up but we’ll update when we are allowed. 

So without further ado here’s what we thought:

Bruichladdich Laddie Origins Fèis Ìle 2021 tasting notes

ABV: 57%

Colour: Mid-gold.

Nose: Sweet-smelling, heavy on the toffee, with porridge-like cereal notes, ginger biscuits, baked apple, dried fruit and orange peel.

Palate: Lots of peppery alcohol but this is smooth considering the high ABV, creamy texture with salted caramel. Second sip and a drop of water brings out cloves, cardamom, citrus peel, fruitcake and some brazil nuts. 

Finish: Honey and lingering baking spices.

Overall: Deliciously complex. Needs a drop of water to be fully appreciated but this is a magnificent whisky. 

Now we’re going to taste through six mystery samples. Yeah, it’s all a bit of a mystery at Bruichladdich at the moment.

Bruichladdich Laddie Origins Feis Ile 2021

Delicious and mysterious

Sample no. 1:

ABV: 57.1%

Colour: Very pale gold

Nose: Vanilla, fresh, lemon peel, clean and fruity.

Palate: Lots of spice, creamy vanilla texture, toasted almonds.

Finish: Toasted nuts with more vanilla and black pepper. 

Sample no. 2:

ABV: 58.4%

Colour: Pale gold

Nose: Touch of cheese rind, vanilla, and waxy notes, with white peaches.

Palate: Peppery, creamy texture, that waxy note persists. There’s a nutty almond flavour here too.

Finish: Creamy, quite short. 

Sample no. 3

ABV: 59.8%

Colour: Gold

Nose: Very fruity, peaches, apples and orange peel, there’s a herbal note here too, plus vanilla, cardamom and cinnamon. 

Palate: Wow, super spicy! Hot chillies and then all the baking spices but particularly cardamom, some wood tannin here too and then fruity green apple and pears.

Finish: Creamy vanilla.

Bruichladdich Laddie Origins Feis Ile 2021 - glass

It’s a fine drop

Sample no. 4:

ABV: 60.9% 

Colour: Pale green gold

Nose: Toffee, vanilla, waxy notes, touch of burnt caramel, fresh peaches, lemon peel.

Palate: Custard tarts dusted with cinnamon, sweet and fruity, has a nice refreshing citrus fruit lift to it. Lovely mixture of sweetness and spice. 

Finish: Peppery and spicy. 

Sample no. 5:

ABV: 61.5%

Colour: Pale green gold

Nose: Burnt caramel, more custard, cinnamon and other baking spices, 

Palate: Lively, lots of fruity new make character backed up with a delicious creaminess, spices present but less prominent than in other samples. 

Finish: That dark toffee note returns on the finish.

Sample no. 6

ABV: 69.3%

Colour: Deep gold gold

Nose: Highly aromatic, spicy/ herbal quality, camphor perhaps, and then lots of toffee, coffee and chocolate.

Palate: Salted caramel and milk chocolate, hedonistic sweetness here, mingling with big spices, both hot and mellow. Citrus fruit here too keeping it all nice and fresh. 

Finish: Sweet mocha coffee with a shot of rum in it.

Well that’s the Laddie Origins and some, though not all of its component parts. All will be revealed at around 3pm today, Sunday 30 May. Go to Bruichladdich’s website for more information, or we’ll update when we can.

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Top ten malt whiskies for Father’s Day

If your old man is a whisky fan, he’s going to love one of these bottles turning up on his doorstep on Sunday 20 June. In our top ten malt…

If your old man is a whisky fan, he’s going to love one of these bottles turning up on his doorstep on Sunday 20 June. In our top ten malt whiskies for Father’s Day, there’s a bottle for every dad, as long as he likes whisky. 

Father’s Day is coming, and it’s an especially big Father’s Day as some of us haven’t seen our dads for months. In some cases years. 

We know that it can be hard to find gifts for awkward dads. Now, you could send him some socks or a mug that says ‘world’s best dad’ on it. But what we reckon he’ll really enjoy is a nice bottle of whisky. So for all your Father’s Day gifting requirements we’ve picked some of our favourite malt whiskies. 

And we’re not just sticking to Scotland either, we’ve ventured to Ireland, Japan, and even south of the border, to England! Just remember, a whisky isn’t just for Father’s Day, it’s for life, or at least until you’ve finished the bottle.

Here are our to ten malt whiskies for Father’s Day

glenfiddich-15-year-old-solera-whisky

Glenfiddich 15 Solera

Hats off to Glenfiddich, it pretty much invented the modern market for single malt whiskies in the 1960s, when everyone else was betting on blends. It’s so ubiquitous that whisky aficionados often overlook it, which is a shame because the distillery produces some great bottlings. We’re particularly partial to this sherry-soaked 15 year old. 

What does it taste like?

Unmistakable sherry notes on the nose with fruitcake and orange peel, and then on the palate it’s all about candied fruit and raisins. 

balvenie-doublewood-12-year-old-whisky

Balvenie DoubleWood 12 Year Old

Balvenie is Glenffiddich’s shy sibling. While its brother is a global celebrity, Balvenie just gets on quietly turning out some of the best whiskies in Speyside. The DoubleWood is a long time favourite  of ours matured first in refill American oak casks before it was treated to a finish in first fill European oak Oloroso sherry butts for an additional nine months.

What does it taste like?

Perfect blend of bourbon and sherry. Vanilla and nutmeg notes mingle with dried fruit and nuts. A classic. 

bushmills-10-year-old-whiskey

Bushmills 10 Year Old 

Bushmills has been distilling a long time. Since 1784 to be precise though the site’s whiskey heritage stretches back to 1608. Along with Midleton in Cork, it kept the flame burning for Irish whiskey during the dark times turning out delicious triple-distilled single malts. The 10 year old is a great place to start. 

What does it taste like?

Sweet notes like banana and chocolate pudding with plenty of orangey and floral notes, and gorgeous creamy texture. 

caol-ila-12-year-old-that-boutiquey-whisky-company-whisky

Caol Ila 12 Year Old (That Boutique-y Whisky Company) 

We love the classic Caol Ila 12 year old but instead we’ve gone for something a bit different. It’s a special bottling from That Boutique-y Whisky Company, bottled at cask strength and with quite a bit of sherry character which mingles deliciously with the smoke from the whisky. Only 468 bottles have been filled of batch 20 of this whisky.

What does it taste like?

Jammy red berries and rich coffee, with a generous helping of phenolic smoke. Almonds, dates, and yet more sweet peat smokiness. 

cotswolds-single-malt-whisky

Cotswolds Single Malt Whisky

The late Jim Swan consulted for the Cotswold distillery and you can taste it in how they managed to get so much flavour into what is a young whisky. It’s aged ex-bourbon and STR (shaved, toasted and recharred) red wine casks.  Since it was released in 2018, this NAS expression just keeps getting better and better as the distillery builds up its mature blending stock.  

What does it taste like?

The first thing you notice are spicy cereal notes, then comes the fruit, orange peel and lemon. On the palate it’s creamy and round with sweet citrus fruit and black pepper.

highland-park-12-year-old-viking-honour-whisky

Highland Park 12 Year Old – Viking Honour

Once just known as Highland Park 12 Year Old, now it’s called Viking Honour. Fearsome! The whisky, happily, is the same as it ever was with that classic honey, floral and wood smoke profile. The Orkney distillery does things the time-honoured ways with floor maltings, peat, sherry casks and cool climate maturation. If it ain’t broke and all that. 

What does it taste like?

Honey and floral notes abound on the nose with some wood smoke. On the palate it’s peppery with notes of orange and wood shavings. 

seaweed-and-aeons-and-digging-and-fire-and-sherry-casks-and-cask-strength-10-year-old-whisky

Seaweed & Aeons & Digging & Fire & Sherry Casks & Cask Strength 10 Year Old (Batch 01)

Yes, the name is a bit of a mouthful but it’s worth taking the time to pronounce because this is a very special whisky. It’s a 10 year old Islay from an undisclosed distillery, finished in sherry casks and bottled at cask strength. If you like your smoke sherried, then you’re in for a treat. 

What does it taste like?

Coffee beans, madeira cake and chocolate on the nose with seaweed and cigars. Sweet dried fruit on the palate lifted by a smoky sea breeze. 

nikka-coffey-malt-whisky

Nikka Coffey Malt Whisky

In Scotland this would not be allowed to be called a single malt because though it is made from 100% malted barley, it’s distilled  in a Coffey still rather than a pot. A technique usually used for grain whisky. Happily, it’s made in Japan not Scotland at Nikka’s Miyagikyo distillery. It was launched in 2014 and has proved a firm favourite ever since.  

What does it taste like?

There’s toffee, fruitcake, orange and milk chocolate on the nose, and the palate is sweet and spicy with that citrus note keeping it fresh.

masthouse-single-malt-whisky

Masthouse Single Malt

We were very excited to try this first single malt from the Copper Rivet Distillery in Chatham, Kent as we’d tasted some aged new make. It’s fair to say that we were more than impressed as it manages to be vibrant, smooth and packed full of flavour despite only being three years old. It’s made only from Kentish barley, distilled and aged in ex-bourbon and virgin American white oak barrels.

What does it taste like?

The fruit on the nose jumps out of the glass with apple and peaches followed by creamy cereal, sweet spices and vanilla. 

bruichladdich-scottish-barley-the-classic-laddie-whisky

Bruichladdich Scottish Barley – The Classic Laddie

If you think Islay is all about smoke and TCP, then you must try the Classic Laddie. It was created by the great Jim McEwan when Bruichladdich was brought back from the dead in 2001 to showcase the distillery’s unique unpeated style. It’s made from 100% Scottish barley and aged in American oak casks. For those who crave smoke, the distillery also makes peated whisky under the Port Charlotte (quite peaty) and Octomore (very extremely peaty) labels.

What does it taste like?

This is all about elegance with honey, barley and orange blossom joined on the palate by apples with a dusting of cinnamon and brown sugar, all with a faint sea breeze lurking in the background. 

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MoM Loves: The Botanist

For The Botanist Islay Dry Gin, there really is no place like home. We chat with brand ambassador Abi Clephane about foraging, second-hand stills, and cocktail ideas for Mother’s Day….

For The Botanist Islay Dry Gin, there really is no place like home. We chat with brand ambassador Abi Clephane about foraging, second-hand stills, and cocktail ideas for Mother’s Day.

Paid partnership

The crystal-clear water in front of Bruichladdich Distillery is the perfect place to skim stones. Visit on a calm day and you can make the smooth slate-like shingle from the little beach defy physics and bounce off into the blue. If the sun’s shining, you can take a stroll up the road past the distillery, past its barley crop experiments and look back at the water, gleaming teal and azure in the light. This is Islay, and this is the home of The Botanist, a gin with the island at its heart. 

Making The Botanist inside Bruichladdich Distillery

Making The Botanist inside Bruichladdich Distillery

Gin from a whisky distillery

“Jim wanted to reflect the flavour of the island and the terroir,” says The Botanist brand ambassador Abi Clephane when we met via video call. She’s referring to Jim McEwan, the whisky luminary who was the master distiller at Bruichladdich from when it was brought back to life again in 2000 up until 2015. The distillery had spent decades changing ownership, and was eventually closed back in 1994. Once spirit was flowing from the whisky stills, he did something which at the time was quite radical: he decided to make a gin.

Step in Dr. Richard and Mavis Gulliver, the husband and wife duo who helped create the gin’s recipe. He was a plant scientist; she was a headmistress and children’s book author. Together they knew the island like the back of their hands. The pair came up with the 22-botanical recipe that gives The Botanist its signature savoury, earthy character. In addition to the more ‘conventional’ gin botanicals (The Botanist is a London dry style, so there’s a classic juniper-forward vibe), you’ve also got the likes of chamomile, creeping thistle, elder, gorse, and meadowsweet. Each one was selected not only for its flavour, but because it could be sustainably foraged each season, leaving no detrimental impact on the island (on sustainability: Bruichladdich Distillery secured B-Corp status in May 2020, a testament to its commitment in this area). The Gullivers have retired now, but their passion for both plants and Islay has set The Botanist in good stead; today is the main forager James Donaldson and he continues sourcing with the same values expertise. 

Some lovely foraged cocktails made with The Botanist gin

Some lovely foraged cocktails made with The Botanist gin

The foraging philosophy

“Foraging is at the heart of everything we do,” Clephane explained. “Even the still we use sort of came from that.”

Anyone who has visited Bruichladdich and taken a distillery tour will likely recall the still used for The Botanist. And it has a fascinating story of its own. It was found at the now-demolished Inverleven distillery which stood in the Scottish Lowlands until the early 1990s. It was part of the much bigger Dumbarton grain distillery, but itself was never used. It’s a really quirky shape, angular and somehow part cuboid. It’s a Lomond still, the only other of its type in use is up at Scapa Distillery on Orkney. Affectionately known as Ugly Betty, the still was modified with the addition of a carterhead, or a sort of botanical basket. “I call her ‘Frankenstill,” Clephane added with a chuckle. 

There are two parts to The Botanist production. First, there’s a maceration of the more traditional gin botanicals in neutral grain spirit. The rest, the island-sourced plants, are placed in the carterhead for a vapour infusion during the distillation process. The spirit comes off at 82% ABV, before being reduced to 42% ABV bottling strength using local spring water. “It’s crystal clear,” Clephane describes, reminiscent of the water in front of the distillery. This is different from the water used in Bruichladdich’s whisky, which comes from a nearby dam. It’s fascinating how different water sources impact flavour, but that’s a discussion for another time. 

Abi Clephane, brand ambassador for The Botanist

The Botanist cocktails

I first tasted The Botanist on Islay. I was in a little pub in Port Ellen, the other side of the island from Bruichladdich. This time it was cold and grey, there was a sharp breeze that blew in bands of rain from the Atlantic. It was not a day for skimming stones. 

Instead of a pint, I opted for an ‘Islay G&T’, and it was made with The Botanist. It was crisp, refreshing, and with its green, herbal notes, a welcome respite from some of the sweeter gins that were just coming onto the market. This must have been six years ago, and it’s become a firm personal favourite. 

“We don’t have a signature serve; we just encourage people to do what they want,” Clephane says, when I ask her about recommended cocktail recipes. And it’s true: there’s no need to get fussy with this gin. But if you are feeling inspired (and with Mother’s Day coming up, why not get a little bit decadent for yourself or your mum), here are some of her ideas.

Botanist Grapefruit & Thyme G&T.

Foraged Botanist & Tonic

Foraged B&T

50ml The Botanist
Tonic

Add ingredients to a ice-filled Highball glass. Stir and garnish with a piece of grapefruit and sprig of thyme.

The Botanist Bees’ Knees

50ml The Botanist
25ml lemon juice
15ml honey 

Shake and strain into chilled cocktail glass

Elderflower Collins

50ml The Botanist
20ml lemon
15ml elderflower cordial
Soda top 

Build in an ice-filled highball, give a good mix and then top with soda. Garnish with lemon zest

Making a Wild Gibson Martini with the Botanist Gin

Making a Wild Gibson Martini

Wild Gibson Martini

75ml The Botanist
10ml Fino sherry
Homemade seasonal pickled onions (or any pickles)

Stir over ice and strain into and frozen/chilled coupe

Elder Bramble

50ml The Botanist
25ml lemon
15ml honey
Drizzle Aelder liqueur

Shake the gin, lemon juice and honey with ice in a shaker, double-strain into a tumbler filled with crushed ice. Drizzle Aelder liqueur on the top and garnish with a bramble that you have foraged yourself.

Enjoy!

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The Nightcap: 15 January

In this week’s edition of The Nightcap, we lament tariffs again, celebrate the arrival of some charming new booze and try to comprehend how delicious Bordeaux wine made it to…

In this week’s edition of The Nightcap, we lament tariffs again, celebrate the arrival of some charming new booze and try to comprehend how delicious Bordeaux wine made it to space and back without being drunk…  

Welcome everyone, we hope you’re keeping safe and warm during Lockdown III: Lockdowner and enjoying the outdoors when you can. We’re trying to stay chipper ourselves, although we were irked when we noticed in our dictionary that the definition of the word ‘nightcap’ was somewhat lacking. There were references to an alcoholic drink taken at the end of the day, a cloth cap worn with nightclothes and the final race or contest of a day’s sports. But what there wasn’t any word of was this perfectly suitable definition: a charming weekly round-up of all things boozy and newsy, best enjoyed with a dram in-hand. Clearly an oversight. Step-up your game Merriam-Webster. Anyway, here’s another edition of the Nightcap. Perhaps you could pop a jaunty little cloth cap on while you read it?

On the blog this week we announced some good news regarding shipping to Northern Ireland as well as two new competitions: one being our magnificent Burns Night poetry competition, back by popular demand, and the other offering you the chance to win a VIP trip to Benriach Distillery. Ian Buxton returned to cast an eye on a new generation of distillers who are creating whisky with all sorts of uncommon grains, while Adam also embraced the weird and wonderful by enjoying some tasty new baijiu. Elsewhere, we rounded up some of the most delicious low- and no-alcohol drinks on the market for Dry January, showed you how creating your own cocktail ingredients is easier than you might think and enjoyed the marvels of vermouth by welcoming a new expression that honours the father of mixology, Mr Jerry Thomas and using another impressive creation in our delightfully simple and sublime Cocktail of the Week

Now, on to The Nightcap!

The Nightcap

Karen Betts from the SWA was on hand to sum up the mood

US tariffs to remain on Scotch whisky

We reported last month that the UK would be dropping the tariffs on American whiskey now that it was out of the EU. We finished by anticpating that the Americans would reciprocate by dropping their 25% tariffs on Scotch but it seems that this won’t be happening in the foreseeable future. It was hoped that a deal could be pushed through in the last days of the Trump administration but it seems that the president has more pressing concerns. According to a story in The Times, the British team don’t hold out much hope that Katherine Tai, the incoming US trade representative, will be prioritising ending the tariffs. Karen Betts from the SWA commented:Tariffs remain on Scotch whisky: A missed opportunity to straighten out subsidies to aerospace and lift hugely damaging tariffs on Scotch Whisky. There’s certainly deep disappointment across the industry. Over £400m in losses and counting.” And there was us hoping that 2021 would begin on a positive note.

The Nightcap

The distillers signed the bottles. All nine of them!

Torabhaig to auction two rare whiskies for charity

There’s already plenty of excitement around the launch of Torabhaig’s first whisky, but that hasn’t stopped the brand from generating even more anticipation by announcing that it will auction two rare signed bottles of Torabhaig Single Malt ahead of its general release in February. The auction, which will start on the 31st January on Whisky Auction, includes a single cask bottle from the Torabhaig Family Reserve (future expressions from the Family Reserve will remain in a private collection and unavailable to purchase normally) as well as a bottle of the ‘Legacy Series 2017’ peated single malt, both of which have been signed by all nine Torabhaig distillers. All proceeds of the sale will go to the National Centre for Gaelic Language and Culture, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig and the Dr MacKinnon Memorial Broadford Hospital. Given the upcoming launch is from the first whisky distillery to be built on Skye in 190 years and only the second legal whisky distillery ever to operate on the island (after Talisker), many of us whisky lovers are understandably very excited to get our hands on its inaugural whisky. Good thing we can reveal that the Legacy Series 2017 will be available from MoM Towers, but keep in mind that this is a limited single distillation vintage issue with just over 3,000 bottles available for distribution in the UK and 6,000 in the USA so demand is likely to outstrip supply.

The Nightcap

The hospitality industry has welcomed the government’s vote

UK government votes in favour of hospitality minister

Given the state of things right now we’re always delighted to welcome some good news in our industry and we got some this week after MPs voted in favour of creating a minister of hospitality in the UK. The notion was debated by the UK government after an online petition secured more than 200,000 signatures and following a 90-minute debate in Westminster on Monday 11 January, the vote gained the support it needed. While this doesn’t guarantee the role will be created, the hospitality industry has welcomed the government’s recognition of the sector’s importance, with issues like extending the VAT cut and the business rates holiday and often forgotten parts of the sector like nightclubs, wedding venues, conference centres and the industry’s critical supply chain receiving attention. This has raised hopes the debate will prompt senior leadership within the Conservative Party to seriously consider the proposal. “It was incredibly positive to hear so many MPs being vocal advocates of the hospitality sector. There was unanimous recognition of our importance economically and socially. It is striking that, in the end, the petition got more than 200,000 signatures,” Kate Nicholls, UKHospitality chief executive, said, in her second Nightcap appearance in as many weeks. “We all understand the importance of what we do and it is good to see the government recognise the importance of working closely with the sector to ensure that we are properly supported, not just during this crisis but more generally.”

The Nightcap

Over £36k for a great cause has been raised. Thanks to all who took part!

Our Macallan auction raises £36k for Hospitality Action 

We always knew that the Macallan Red collection, consisting of whiskies of up to 78 years old, would be seriously in demand with Master of Malt customers. That’s why when we received our allocation, we decided to sell them through a charity auction, as we do for all in-demand whiskies. Well, the whiskies went quickly, no surprise there, and we’re delighted to announce that we have raised £36,510.00 for Hospitality Action, which offers a crucial lifeline to people of all ages, working and retired, from the hospitality industry. Justin Petszaft, Atom Group CEO, commented: “It’s been a hard year for everyone, but particularly those in the hospitality sector, so we’ve been looking for ways to help them weather the storm until they can fully re-open in the summer. Macallan is always highly collectable, so we knew demand for this collection would be high, and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to help raise some much needed funds for our friends in the on-trade. When we set this live none of us could have imagined how much it would raise: £36,000 is a huge amount of money and will make a real difference to so many people’s lives who desperately need our help right now. I’d like to thank both Macallan for providing such a fantastic set of bottles for us to auction, and our incredible customers for being so amazingly generous in their bids. As ever, you guys rock.”

The Nightcap

Orkney Distillery is one of many embracing its environmental responsibilities (image credit to Colin Keldie)

Distilleries go green with government initiative

The winners of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Green Distilleries Competition were announced on Friday 8th January 2021, with 17 distilleries receiving the first phase of £10 million government funding to go green, including Bruichladdich, The Orkney Distillery and Highland Park. The government initiative aims to find ways of decarbonising the distilling sector and the fund will assist distilleries in the search for lower-carbon alternatives to generate heat for processes such as malting and distilling. Bruichladdich revealed last week that more than £70,000 has been awarded to its project partner, Protium Green Solutions, in order to complete a feasibility study on incorporating innovative hydrogen combustion technology as part of ambitious plans to decarbonise its production process by 2025. Highland Park and The Orkney Distillery, in Kirkwall, are also set to take part in a £58,781 research project led by the Stromness-based European Marine Energy Centre (Emec), along with industrial decarbonisation experts from Edinburgh’s Napier University. The HySpirits 2 project in Kirkwall follows research completed last year by Emec at The Orkney Distillery, which investigated the feasibility of using a hydrogen-fuelled thermal fluid heating system there. “We understand that there is real potential for a  hydrogen‐based solution to decarbonise our industry,” says Allan Logan, production director of Bruichladdich. “We are thrilled to have the support of Protium, Deuterium and ITPEnergised to help us assess the feasibility of employing a green hydrogen fuel switching solution for our distillery – a move we hope benefits the broader industry”. It’s terrific to see that, despite everything that’s going on, there are those who are focused on planning for a better future.

The Nightcap

Smoky French Martinis, anyone?

Thomas Lowndes creates RTD cocktail range

The ready-to-drink (RTD) market is booming at the moment, which is understandable given you can’t turn to bartenders to provide delicious and convenient complex serves at the moment. In fact, RTDs are forecast to remain the fastest‐growing alcohol sector over the next five years, according to the IWSR Drinks Market Analysis. As the category widens and develops new products naturally follow and this week learned that Edrington-Beam Suntory UK has made a serious step into this market with the launch of the Thomas Lowndes 1826 range of RTD products. The Glasgow-based firm Thomas Lowndes has been part of EBS UK since 2015 and has named its new range after the year Mr Lowndes founded the business. It comprises four bottled cocktails: an Old Fashioned and a Mint Julep made with Maker’s Mark bourbon, a Cognac Espresso Martini that features Courvoisier and a Smoky French Martini made using Laphroaig whisky instead of vodka or gin, all of which are available from us (just give those links a click). “This exciting new range by 1826, associated with premium whiskies, Cognacs and bourbons gives us the perfect opportunity to showcase how easily bar-quality cocktails can be created in the home,” Moira Jacques, general manager of Thomas Lowndes, said. “We want to show customers that you can create premium, top-quality drinks in the comfort of your own home.”

The Nightcap

Beefeater’s new look will save 410 tonnes of plastic every year

Beefeater gin unveils sustainable bottle

Beefeater London Dry Gin has announced this week a plan to reduce the amount of plastic it uses by unveiling a more sustainable packaging design. The new bottle is made entirely from recyclable glass and is said to save the Pernod Ricard-owned brand 410 tonnes of plastic every year. The previous plastic cap has been replaced with an embossed, aluminium cap and the label has been changed from PVC to paper and the bottle, the shape of which you might have noticed was inspired by London bricks, was also designed with bartenders in mind as it makes pouring the gin easier. “Whilst our packaging has evolved our award-winning gin remains the same, with every drop distilled in the heart of London. The design of the bottle, from its shape to its label, paints a picture of what the liquid inside will taste like,” said Murielle Dessenis, global brand director of Beefeater. “The new design has performed well with bartenders and consumers alike, and we’re proud to have designed this new iteration of Beefeater’s iconic bottle with sustainability in mind, taking the brand on to the next step in its journey with a natural evolution for today’s gin enthusiasts.” The new design will be rolled out globally from this month and will cover the whole Beefeater range, with the exception of Beefeater 24.

The Nightcap

How you can resist cracking open a bottle of wine in space, we’ll never know.

And finally… Bordeaux wines return from space, undrunk!

If you were floating around on the International Space Station and there was a case of wine lying around, you’d crack open a bottle, wouldn’t you? Well, miraculously a case of Bordeaux that spent a year in space landed in the sea this week off the coast of Florida, completely intact. Not a drop had been drunk. The package also contained 160 canes each of Cabernet and Merlot. No, this wasn’t a psychological experiment in resisting temptation, it was part of a research project by a company called Space Cargo looking into the effects of extreme conditions on vines and wine to understand the stress they might endure from climate change. This isn’t the first time Bordeaux has been into space, a bottle of Chateau Lynch Bages 1975 went up on the space shuttle in 1985, and also came home intact because nobody had drunk it. Amazing willpower these astronauts.

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Master of Malt tastes… Octomore 11 Series

A host of new Octomore whisky made its way to our doorstep, so we did what any honest whisky lover would do and cracked them open and feasted on what’s…

A host of new Octomore whisky made its way to our doorstep, so we did what any honest whisky lover would do and cracked them open and feasted on what’s inside.

According to the folks behind Octomore, their process of creating whisky shouldn’t work. If you wanted to make delicious booze, you wouldn’t look at its production and exactly be rushing to take notes. Its whisky is bottled between five and ten years old, typically on the lower end of that scale, often at cask strength with an ABV in the range of 55-60%. Then there’s the phenol content. A designation of ‘heavily peated’ means a whisky with a ppm (parts per million, a measure of phenol content) above 30. The first Octomore was made with barley peated to 80.5ppm and it’s gone well above that in subsequent expressions. Bruichladdich master distiller Adam Hannett has joked that it’s undrinkable whisky. It’s too young, too strong and too peaty.

But somehow they manage to balance these disparate elements to create something that’s greater than the sum of its parts. Partly this is because it is made with the tall and narrow stills, which create a very light and elegant spirit. The heavier phenols fail to climb that high and so don’t make it into the heart cut. In another distillery’s stills, a malt peated to higher than 80ppm malt would be overwhelming. The distillate is also carefully matured for just enough time to let oak mellow the alcohol, which means you get something peaty, yes, but a spirit that still retains that fruity, floral and maritime distillery character. 

Octomore has been defying expectations ever since it was created by Mark Reynier and master distiller Jim McEwan in 2002. The story goes that McEwan was sourcing peated malt from Bairds Maltings in Inverness and witnessed them malting using an open-air outdoor peat fire. The old-fashioned technique has many benefits but it is hard to maintain consistency, so Bairds blended heavily-peated barley with unpeated malt in order to achieve the desired ppm. Ever the innovator, McEwan was drawn to the uncut stuff and intrigued by the prospect that it was unusable. So, instead of picking up the 40ppm malt he needed for the Port Charlotte brand, he came home with 131ppm barley. 

Octomore 11 Series

Harnessing several potentially volatile elements is how Hannett creates great Octomore whisky

Bruichladdich soon learned that once you create charming, rustic and burly whisky bottled with headline-grabbing peating levels, you’re onto a winner. However, this can be a double-edged sword. The ‘world’s most heavily peated single malt’ became a tagline for everything the brand released. The methods and marketing used by the brand in recent times suggest it has no interest in being pigeonholed. Hannett revealed recently he’s focused on looking for differences in every series. The desire is to communicate that Octomore is created using an experimental, open-minded approach with a penchant for provenance and a willingness to explore cask profiles.

Which brings us to its new series: The 11s (they’re clearly more inventive with barley strains and ppm than names at Octomore). It’s made up of three expressions, the 11.1, 11.2 and 11.3, and features some raw material experimentation in the .1 and .3 expressions, with some intriguing cask choices explored through the .2 bottlings, which this year is sadly only available here or in global travel retail. The 11.1 was distilled in 2014 from the 2013 harvest of 100% Scottish grown Concerto and Propino barley and malted to 139.6ppm. It then spent a total of five years in first-fill casks from Jim Beam, Heaven Hill and Jack Daniel’s before being bottled at 59.4% ABV.

The 11.3, by contrast, was malted to 194ppm and bottled at 61.7% ABV, although it was also matured for five years in the same cask profiles, plus Buffalo Trace for good measure. Why? Because the distillery was interested in showcasing terroir. For the 11.3, the brand used barley grown on the local Octomore farm, just two miles from the distillery, which unlike barley on the mainland, is exposed to the climatic conditions and the salt spray from the wild Atlantic swells. This barley is also harvested, malted and distilled separately from other barley strains Octomore has to create single field, single vintage single malt. 

Octomore 11 Series

Introducing: The Octomore 11 Series

A quote from the press release explains: “Comparing Octomore 11.1 and 11.3 gives one of our finest lessons in stratospheric smoke and barley terroir. While both editions are malted to a Brobdingnagian 100+ ppm reading, the differences in barley character from the respective growing region are ever-present”. Aside from the outstanding use of the word Brobdingnagian, the other thing to note about these expressions is the sole use of ex-American whiskey and/or virgin oak casks. The former is the ultimate vessel for preserving distillery character, while the latter is fresh, potent wood that adds personality and colour at a very young age. Typically virgin oak is a tricky customer. Balance is the name of the game, and Octomore’s robust spirit seems a good match on paper. 

Alongside these three releases, Octomore also launched the fourth edition of its 10 Years Old bottling which was malted to a mighty 208ppm and bottled at 54.3% ABV. The whiskies that make up this elder Octomore were drawn from a total of 77 casks which included a mix of virgin oak and first- and second-fill ex-American whiskey casks from Jim Beam, Heaven Hill, Buffalo Trace and Jack Daniel’s. “Sitting alongside its 11s series counterparts, this Ten Year Old brings a subtler, more mature dimension to the otherwise youthful exuberance of the .1, .2 and .3 spirits. While we deliberately keep the barley influence forward in the .1 and .3 editions, our .2 and Ten Year Old editions introduce cask influence at varying ends of the Octomore age spectrum,” the distillery revealed.

Now that we’ve familiarised ourselves with how the whiskies were made, we should get right to it and find out how they taste. I had tremendous fun doing this because I love them. The subtlety of the 11.1 blew me away. There’s a fair chunk of peat, sure, but it’s the structure rather than the star and it rolled down an ashy carpet to present a litany of fruit and fun. As for the 11.3, the full, malty hit on the nose offers the stark contrast the brand wanted in a deeper, meatier bottling that’s not as refined but has a charming wild element to it. Although, I do think the palate is a touch overwhelmed. The Ten Year Old lacked the adventure of the 11s, but it was delightful in its own right as a fruity, mellow and refined sipper. For a more in-depth look, the tasting notes are below and include a bonus ball review. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

The Octomore 11 Series is available from Master of Malt now.

Octomore 11 Series

Octomore 11.1 5 Year Old

Nose: The initial sweetness is very striking, as is the customary peat smoke – a combination of cigar ash and charcoal. There’s tinned peaches, Granny Smith apples, golden barley, vanilla custard and shortbread biscuits present, as well as hints of wet grass, tropical fruit, floral honey and homemade stem ginger.

Palate: More smoke and some peppery spice rolls around butterscotch, vanilla and demerara sugar with Conference pears, lychee and a tropical medley of mango, pineapple and papaya in support.

Finish: The fruity notes linger with baking spice and oily tar before the finish becomes slightly menthol. 

Octomore 11 Series

Octomore 11.3 5 Year Old Islay Barley 

Nose: Wood smoke and lots of Bruichladdich maltiness is at the core of this nose, with tinned fruit salad in syrup, green apples and lemon peel in support as well as touches of seaweed, burnt heather and cured bacon. Underneath there are hints of apricot yoghurt, butterscotch, honey and marzipan.

Palate: Sweet, delicate and with plenty of ashy smoke, this palate is full of treacle, sour apple sweets, vanilla, stone fruits, black pepper and marmalade on burnt toast, with some earthy, almost mossy tones and light floral notes throughout.

Finish: Tropical fruit, drying smoke and sweet citrus.

Octomore 11 Series

Octomore 10 Year Old – Fourth Edition

Nose: Nectarines, charred pineapple, mango smoothie and orange peel lead with vanilla shortbread, some stony minerality, rock pools, heathery peat and ginger in support. The smoke takes its time and something of a backseat, smouldering in the backdrop like damp bonfire wood.

Palate: Floral honey pours out of the palate accompanied by sea salt, exotic fruit, fudge, coconut macaroons, sweet tobacco, red chilli chocolate and more measured smoky tones.

Finish: Toasted oak, roasted apricots, campfire embers and malted milk biscuits.

Octomore 11 Series

Bonus ball: Octomore 11.2 

Ok, so we decided to review this one anyway, because we got a sample and frankly, what the hell. 11.2 is malted to 139.6 PPM and matured in two separate casks. A quarter of the final product was matured full term in ex-European oak casks from a winemaker from Pauillac in Bordeaux. The other 75% parcel was first filled into ex-American oak before being transferred into ex-Cabernet Sauvignon wine barriques from the St Julien, also in Bordeaux, from May 2018 to January 2020. The two parcels were brought together for a final few months, meaning that, all in all, the whisky was aged for five years on Islay before being bottled at 58.6% ABV.

Nose: Through gentle, drying smoke and sweet toasted oak comes a winter fruit salad (prunes, pears, apricots, figs and cranberries) drizzled with honey, as well as sweet tobacco, rich malt, almonds, smoked oysters, coffee grounds and earthy vanilla pod.

Palate: A plummy palate begins with strawberry jam, blackcurrant and dark cherry with a little orange blossom in support and dark chocolate, ginger, creme brûlée and toasted nuts underneath. Wisps of ashy smoke permeate the sweeter notes creating a dry, savoury backdrop alongside damp oak.

Finish: An almost medicinal smoke smoulders away among some coal dust, peppery spice and red fruit. 

Overall: The peat is understated and integrated well in this indulgent and slightly drying expression. The cask pulls the whisky into tart, intense and luxurious territory that perhaps accentuates the dryer notes too much but ultimately brings new dynamics without overplaying its hand.

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