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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Bunnahabhain

New Arrival of the Week: Douglas Laing Old Particular Master of Malt exclusives

We’re doing things a little differently this week because we’re highlighting four New Arrivals, independently-bottled rare whiskies from Caol Ila, Benrinnes, Bunnahabhain and Teaninich. So let’s give a big welcome…

We’re doing things a little differently this week because we’re highlighting four New Arrivals, independently-bottled rare whiskies from Caol Ila, Benrinnes, Bunnahabhain and Teaninich. So let’s give a big welcome to four Douglas Laing Old Particular whiskies – and they’re exclusive to Master of Malt. 

We’ve teamed up with one of our favourite independent bottlers, Douglas Laing, to bring you a cornucopia of rare single malts. And they’re only available from Master of Malt. Douglas Laing is a family-run business based in Glasgow which has been sniffing out rare malts for over 70 years. They’re the people behind delicious labels like Timorous Beastie, Scallywag, and Big Peat. In 2019, the family moved into the distillation business with the purchase of Strathearn distillery in Perthshire, and work on the Clutha distillery in Glasgow is ongoing. 

But back to those Master of Malt exclusives. They’re all single cask and cask strength single malts from Douglas Laing’s Old Particular range which shouldn’t be mixed up with Old Peculier which is a beer from Theakstons in Yorkshire. And very nice it is too, especially with a dram on the side.

Douglas Laing Cara Laing

Cara Laing, third-generation whisky merchant

Right without further ado, this is what we’ve landed:

Caol Ila Old Particular

Caol Ila 11 Year Old 2011 (cask 15555)

Caol Ila is seen as something of a workhorse perhaps because it’s the biggest but certainly not the prettiest distillery on Islay. It produces around 6.5 million litres of pure alcohol per year, most of which goes into blends. Single malt bottlings, however, are always worth trying and can be very special, like this one. It was distilled in January 2011 and then spent that last 11 years in a refill sherry butt. Only 314 bottles were filled at 58.1% ABV.

Tasting note from the Chaps at Master of Malt

Nose: Classically coastal with chalky grist, salty spray, peat, and tar.

Palate: Mouth-coating, oily malt leads the way for a hefty hit of spice. Medicinal peat smoke with smouldering embers and earthy ash are lifted by a touch of seaweed and lemon zest.

Finish: Drying charcoal, yet more seaside bonfire character with sooty salinity and wood smoke. Dried fruits, cinnamon, and mixed spice bring zesty, peppery warmth.

Teaninich Old Particular Douglas Laing

Teaninich 12 Year Old 2009 (cask 15437)

It’s another Diageo sleeping giant. Teaninich, located in the Highlands by Cromarty Forth, is one of the largest malt distilleries in Scotland producing over 10 million litres of pure alcohol per year. Most of this is needed for the Johnnie Walker Red label but occasionally single malt bottlings sneak out. Like this one which was distilled June 2009, aged in a refill hogshead and bottled in January 2022. Only 333 bottles were filled at 53% ABV.

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt

Nose: Nutty barley, fresh bread, and toasted woodchips with zesty wafts of lemon peel. Grassy hay rests beneath, though burnt caramel keeps things sweet.

Palate: Biscuity malt and earthy wafts of smoky black tea. Fruit cake spice builds, with creamy fudge balancing faint murmurs of peat.

Finish: Candied fruits and clove-studded linger alongside subtle peat smoke and crunchy ginger biscuits

OP FAF Benrinnes Old Particular Douglas Laing

Benrinnes 15 Year Old 2006 (cask 15419)

A final whisky from the Diageo stable, this time from Speyside’s Benrinnes. Until 2007, this distillery used a partial triple distillation process which you can read about here. This Master of Malt exclusive was distilled in 2006, so would have used this unusual technique. It spent 15 years in a refill hogshead before bottling 2022 at 51.1% ABV. 294 bottles are available. 

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt

Nose: Wafts of sourdough, with sweet, creamy barley lead the way to buttery oak and cask char. Delicately floral stone fruits and earthen vanilla balance a touch of pepper.

Palate: The creaminess continues on the palate with sweet shortbread, apple tart, and vanilla custard. Fresher notes of pressed apple, biscuity malt, and baked goods linger, with underlying hints of vegetal oak.

Finish: Sugar dusted pastry, almond, raisin, and yet more vanilla. Butterscotch softens a pinch of nutmeg and herbal, peppery spice.

Bunnahabhain Old Particular Douglas Laing

Bunnahabhain 15 Year Old 2006 (cask 15474) 

And finally, one that is sure to be of interest to Master of Malt customers as we know how much you love whisky from Bunnahabhain on Islay. This particular cask, a refill barrel, was filled in June 2006. It was left undisturbed until 2022 when it was awoken and bottled by Douglas Laing at 52.5% ABV. There are only 145 bottles in existence so, according to Cara Laing, it is “likely to be sought after.”

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt

Nose: Brimming with vanilla, buttered brioche, honeyed cereal, and charred oak.

Palate: Caramel flapjack, earthy notes of creamy vanilla, nutty barley, and baked walnut. Hints of liquorice and honey bring sweet balance to subtle wafts of smoky bonfire embers.

Finish: Smoke lingers faintly in the distance, crumbly chocolate biscuits and butterscotch continue with soft spice.

These are all limited edition whiskies so once they’re gone, they are gone. 

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Most-read posts of 2021

I am sure you’ll all agree that it’s been quite a year. But earth-shattering events like a continued global pandemic could not stop the booze news. We had a record…

I am sure you’ll all agree that it’s been quite a year. But earth-shattering events like a continued global pandemic could not stop the booze news. We had a record number of visitors to the blog and these were the most-read posts of 2021.

Looking back at 2021, we don’t want to blow our own trumpets but we published some pretty interesting things on the blog. But which ones did you like the best? Well, using the magic of Google Analytics, we’ve lined up the ones that got the most traffic, and a theme has emerged. It’s whisky. Master of Malt customers love reading about whisky whether it’s big whisky news, whisky comment, whisky features, whisky launches, or whisky cocktails. This makes sense as we are Master of Malt not Master of Crisps. Though we do love crisps.

So, thank you for reading, Happy New Year, and here are our most-read posts of 2021!

Nikka from the Barrell

1) New Japanese whisky regulations 

This was the most-read story by a country mile. There have been rumours flying around that many big-name Japanese blends contained Scotch and Canadian whisky. And finally, producers come clean (ish) on the matter. Big whisky news.

2) A warning about whisky investment

The whisky investment market exploded in 2021. You’ve probably been getting emails outlying how you can make a killing on investing in whisky. Well, read this article by Ian Buxton before you part with any hard-earned cash.

3) Lifting the lid on bulk Scotch whisky sales to Japan

You read the news story and now here’s a detailed look at how the Scottish and Japanese whisky industry have been intertwined for decades from former Diageo man Dr Nick Morgan.

4) New Arrival of the Week: Kilchoman Loch Gorm 2021 release.

A new whisky from Kilchoman is always an event for Master of Malt customers. This heavily-sherried limited edition release did not hang around for long so clearly it struck a chord.

5) Master of Malt tastes… Diageo Special Releases 2021

Another whisky event, the launch of Diageo’s Special Releases. This year’s releases came with packaging that was literally fantastic. The contents were nice too and we thoroughly enjoyed tasting via the internet with Ewan Gunn.

6) Cocktail the the Week: The Penicillin

A great whisky cocktail, the Penicillin, caught the imagination of readers this year. And no wonder because with its mix of peated and blended Scotch whisky, it’s really very special.

7) Blue Spot Irish whiskey returns after more than 50 years 

We were knocked out by the quality of this seven-year-old cask strength single pot still release from Irish Distillers. The online launch, which had whiskey lovers from around the world all comparing notes, was quite something and cheered us up at a difficult time.

8) Torabhaig Distillery’s first whisky!

The first release from Skye’s second working distillery clearly got Master of Malt customers excited because not only did the article get huge traffic but the whisky sold out in record time. 

9) Brendan McCarron to leave Glenmorangie for Distell 

Big whisky news doesn’t come any bigger than one of whisky’s best-loved characters Brendan McCarron (the chap in the header) leaving the Glenmorangie Company for Distell where he took the title of master distiller for Deanston, Tobermory, and Bunnahabhain.

10) RIP Douglas Ankrah

Our last most-read story was a sad one. One of Britain’s bartending greats, Douglas Ankrah, inventor of the Pornstar Martini, died suddenly in his sleep. We posted an obituary with tributes from the British drinks business. 

RIP Douglas Ankrah

RIP Douglas Ankrah

 

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The Nightcap: 19 November

Big news this week as Heineken buys Distell, Gordon’s Gin has a new look, and there’s been a Fok Hing mess for a Hong Kong gin brand whose brand name…

Big news this week as Heineken buys Distell, Gordon’s Gin has a new look, and there’s been a Fok Hing mess for a Hong Kong gin brand whose brand name was deemed offensive. It’s the Nightcap: 19 November!

November continues to speed along but we’re not racing to Christmas just yet because there’s plenty to enjoy. Getting to wear big coats again. Eating casserole after casserole. And learning what the world of booze is up to this week. It’s always something and it’s usually entertaining. This week is no different. Let’s get stuck in.

But first, we had #WhiskySanta back on the blog to give you the chance to Super Wish your way to a bottle of Bunnahabhain 40 Year Old, before we had our own giveaway for The Macallan 25 Year Old Sherry Oak. We then gave you the opportunity to take a virtual tour of Pernod Ricard’s new whisky distillery in China, heard Dr. Nick Morgan’s warning about whisky investment firms, and learned from Lauren Eads that bourbon is more dynamic than you might think. We also tasted the world’s first biodynamic whisky, mixed up a winter classic, cast an eye on the new Wine Cask series from That Boutique-y Whisky and That Boutique-y Rum, and enjoyed some warming whiskies with a distinctly smoky profile.

But we’re not done yet. Now it’s time for The Nightcap: 19 November edition!

Bunnahabhain Nightcap: 19 November

Soon this will be owned by Heineken

Heineken buys Bunnahabhain parent, Distell 

Big news came from Heineken this week who revealed plans to buy South African wine and spirits maker Distell Group Holdings in a €2.2 billion deal. If approved, the transaction will include an internal restructure of Distell to create two new businesses: Newco and Capevin. The former will combine Distell’s portfolio of spirits, wine, cider and ready-to-drink beverages with Heineken’s Southern Africa and export markets business, which includes Namibia Breweries and South African whisky distillery James Sedgwick. Capevin will include the company’s remaining assets, including its Scotch whisky business, consisting of the Deanston, Tobermory and Bunnahabhain brands. As part of the agreement, Heineken will own a minimum 65% stake in Newco, while Distell’s largest shareholder Remgro will retain control of Capevin. “Together, this partnership has the potential to leverage the strength of Heineken’s global footprint with our leading brands to create a formidable, diverse beverage company for Africa,” says Distell CEO Richard Rushton. “I am excited for what lies ahead as we look to combine our strong and popular brands and highly complementary geographical footprints to create a world class African company in the alcohol beverage sector.” We’re intrigued what effect this move will have on some of our favourite single malts.

“Know when to stop” warns Diageo this Christmas

Diageo’s latest campaign is a long way from the clever and witty adverts of the past (see some of our favourites here). It’s called “know when to stop” and it consists of a series of short animations warning people of the dangers of over indulgence over Christmas. Not just with booze but online activity, eating and home decorating. They were created by the exquisitely-named Cari Vander Yacht, an award-winning illustrator. She explained, “I wanted to visually capture the sort of manic nature of ‘too much of a good thing’ which was central to the overall idea of moderation.” Kate Gibson, global director of Diageo in society (where do they come up with these job titles?) added: “We know the holidays are an important time of year for people to be getting together and celebrating. This campaign is a fun, festive reminder that there’s a happy limit to everything and the holidays are best enjoyed in moderation, be that drinking, eating, or binge-watching.” The global campaign refers viewers to Diageo’s DRINKiQ site. It’s part of the company’s Society 2030 plan, to suck all the joy out of life, sorry, “to educate people on the risks of the harmful use of alcohol.” All very laudable, the trouble is the films are just not terribly memorable and become irritating after just one view, especially with the Peppa Pig-esque music. We worry they might have the opposite effect to the intended.

Kinahan's digital brand ambassadors

What will the future be like… in 1992

Kinahan’s brings you digital brand ambassadors

During lockdown, digital tastings proliferated. We all got used to tasting whisky and chatting with brand ambassadors like Boutique-y Dave or Georgie Bell from Bacardi, virtually. Now Kinahan’s has had the brain wave: since we don’t need to meet BAs IRL, then why not cut out the human entirely? Fiendishly clever and more than a little sinister. This week the Irish whiskey brand unveiled some “digital brand ambassadors”. These frankly rather rubbish-looking creations (see photo) will start appearing on digital platforms from this week. Irish whiskey writer Bill Linnane caught the look when he said “Lawnmower Man but whiskey.” At the moment, it all seems very much in the development stage but apparently they will become fully interactive thanks to the magic of AI. Director Zak Oganian tried to explain: “Building meaningful relationships with consumers is an integral part of our brand longevity. For Kinahan’s, implementing new technologies is going to be a journey of trial and error. Once we get it right, the next generation of whiskey drinkers will enjoy a new enriched reality”. But what we want to know is: will these digital BAs be able to go off on a tangent like Colin Dunn from Diageo? 

Nikos Sourbatis Head Bartender Clumsies

Head bartender Nikos Sourbatis. He doesn’t look very clumsy, TBH

The Clumsies pop-up coming to London this December

Do you fancy visiting one of the world’s great bars, The Clumsies, but can’t face the ever-changing rules about air travel? Well, you’re in luck because the award-winning Athens bar will be putting on a London pop-up at Hotbox Spitalfields on Wednesday 8 and Thursday 9 December. There you can try The Clumsies trademark “perfectly imperfect” cocktails such as ‘X-tasis’, a sweet and sour mix of buttered aged rum, passion (fruit we assume though it might just be raw Greek passion), pineapple, fermented milky oolong tea, or ‘Intimacy’ which features Tequila blanco, mezcal, beetroot kvass, pandan, turmeric, and London Essence Rosemary and Grapefruit Tonic. The team has also prepared its own interpretation of the Negroni called ‘Eden Garden’ containing London dry gin, sandalwood Campari, Mancino Sakura vermouth, and eden flower. In fact everything on the menu sounds delicious. Bookings are recommended though you may be in luck if you turn up on the off-chance. And if you can’t get in, then at least you haven’t travelled that far. That’s assuming London is closer to you than Athens. 

Gordons_bottle

New Gordon’s bottle! It’s a lot like the old one!

Gordon’s Gin reveals new bottle

Gordon’s Gin has a new look. The updated bottle design pays homage to the rich history of Gordon’s and emphasises the flavour experience of each variant with highlighted taste cues. It’s also made from up to 85% recycled glass as part of owner Diageo’s commitment to making its packaging widely recyclable by 2032. This is a big deal as 40% of gins purchased in Britain are Gordon’s core expression, at least according to the brand. Some things haven’t changed, however, the Royal Warrant, the same scripted Gordon’s font on a green glass bottle since the inception of the brand in 1769, and the classic boar’s head. “We are incredibly proud to launch the latest fresh and stylish design for Gordon’s gin, which builds on our rich history and familiarity whilst highlighting the taste cues and making the bottle even more attractive,” says Mark Jarman, global head of Gordon’s Gin. “On top of the eye-catching aesthetics, this bottle is also part of our journey towards our wider sustainability targets, ensuring all packaging is widely recyclable by 2030. So, we are incredibly proud of this latest development.” The brand new bottle design has already started to be rolled out globally, so expect to see it sooner rather than later. 

(Im)perfect Martini - Lyaness - 11NOV_Caitlin Isola

That’s an (Im)perfect Martini (credit: Caitlin Isola)

Lyaness launches brand new menu

London bar Lyaness has a habit of producing menus that are full of drinks that sound so good we want to try them all (not in one night, drink responsibly). Its new cocktail list, featuring five house-made ingredients and a culinary-driven approach, is no different. Named the ‘Lyaness British Cookbook’, it is the first new menu since the pandemic and has a particular focus on iconic flavours which have global resonance, looked at through a British lens. Ingredients such as green sauce liqueur, oyster honey, and blood Curaçao, an ingredient inspired by the fruity richness and body which blood can bring to a dish – think black pudding. The process behind each of them will take a cook’s approach to flavour and focus on ingredients rather than drinks themselves. The 15-serve menu was designed by the bar team, who are sure to wow guests with their usual brand of unusual and unique processes. Expect delightful creations like the (Im)perfect Martini (Discarded Grape Skin Vodka, grass amazake, Fierfield birch, overripe ‘nectarine’), the Chestnut Rabble (Hendrick’s Gin, green sauce liqueur, St Germain, beeswax, chestnut orgeat, pineapple leaf soda), and the Brackish Rickey (Martell VSOP Cognac, smoked passionfruit, oyster honey, ocean soda). It launches next week so we highly advise you to check it out.

Valentian Vermouth

Dominic Tait enjoying his own vermouth (credit: Kirsty Anderson)

Scottish vermouth brothers hit crowdfunding target in two days

Gone are the days when the choice of vermouth came down to French or Italian. There’s Regal Rogue in Australia, Asterley Bros. in England, and representing Scotland, Valentian. Now this award-winning Scottish brand is expanding. Thanks to the magic of crowdfunding, it has raised £120,000 from 170 investors in just two days. Valentian Rosso was created by the Dominic and David Tait (what is it with brothers and vermouth?) in 2019 and blends Scottish new make spirit with Italian wine and botanicals. The extra money will go to hiring a full-time staff member, launching new products, a secco and a bianco, and there are plans to open a brand home in the Borders region. Dominic Tait commented: “Our post-crowdfunding plans are well under way, and it’s incredibly exciting to be looking at locations for our HQ. We are looking forward to bringing our first full-time employee on board in January with a focus on the west of Scotland, where we see huge opportunities in Glasgow in particular. This will augment the significant strides we have already made in Edinburgh and the east. We are beyond pleased with the plans for our new brand home, and very optimistic about the sites we have identified. Once the feasibility study is complete, we will then look to move onto the next stage with planning. It’s too early to say exactly when it will open, but we will have an update soon.” Exciting times for Valentian.

Poppy Delevingne Batch & Bottle

“Oh this old thing?”, Poppy Delevingne casually enjoying a batched cocktail

Poppy Delevingne announced as the face of Batch & Bottle

Did you think you’d get through an edition of The Nightcap without a celebrity booze project? Think again! The latest famous face is Poppy Delevingne, British model, actress, and, according to the press bumf, ultimate dinner party hostess, who was announced as the face of the Batch & Bottle range of pre-bottled cocktails. “I love nothing more than having my friends over for cocktail parties or intimate dinners. Having hosted a few in my time, I know how daunting it is when all eyes are on you, which is why I am always looking for simple pleasures that can easily elevate any occasion and make your guests feel special,” Delevingne said. “That’s why I’m so excited to be partnering with Batch & Bottle, the cocktails are delicious and add a bit of glamour to any party. Each offers something slightly different – from the sweet Reyka Rhubarb Cosmopolitan to the dry but elegant Hendrick’s Gin Martini, it’s almost impossible to pick a favourite. It’s like having your very own bartender in a bottle. What cocktail dreams are made of.” The range is made of four pre-bottled cocktails, completed by the Glenfiddich Scotch Manhattan and Monkey Shoulder Lazy Old Fashioned. Now you too can truly party like the stars – though we reckon we probably won’t be waiting until an extravagant dinner party to crack these out.

a-bottle-of-fok-hing-gin-1024x696_646w

It’s a Fok Hing funny story

And finally… Hong Kong gin name ruled offensive

A Hong Kong gin has been forced by the Portman Group to change its name after it was deemed offensive. It was previously called Fuk Hing Gin. Stop giggling at the back. According to the brand, the name pays homage to Fuk Hing Lane, a street in Causeway Bay, on Hong Kong Island. Nevertheless, the producer, Incognito Group, changed the name to Fok Hing Lane after consultation with the industry watchdog. But the story doesn’t end there because a member of the public complained about the new name, stating: “Personally I wouldn’t want to see this product on family supermarket shelves or being promoted in an environment where children have access — such as most social media sites.” The complaint was made in relation to rule 3.3 – that a drink’s name, its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not cause serious or widespread offence, according to a statement on the Portman Group website. The brand went on the attack on its social media pages, addressing “the Karen who got offended by our name …” It continued: “We have agreed to update the reverse label to be more descriptive of the details that inspired our brand, and look forward to introducing our UK fans to a little bit of Hong Kong history whilst they enjoy Fok Hing Gin during the forthcoming festive season and beyond.” Too Fok Hing right.

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#WhiskySanta’s Bunnahabhain 40 Year Old Super Wish

Another week has come around which brings us ever closer to Christmas. Which means another #WhiskySanta Super Wish. And it’s a stonker: Bunnahabhain 40 Year Old. Stonk. Ho, ho, ho!…

Another week has come around which brings us ever closer to Christmas. Which means another #WhiskySanta Super Wish. And it’s a stonker: Bunnahabhain 40 Year Old. Stonk.

Ho, ho, ho! I’m back, and this time it’s personal. I am so enjoying Christmas this year. Before we get into this week’s Super Wish, I want to offer my congratulations to baz_dale who was the winner of last week’s amazing Midleton Method & Madness Single Pot Still 28 Year Old worth £1,550. Or over 6,000 premium mince pies. 

Bunnahabhain 40 year old super wish

But my big sack isn’t empty yet. Not by a long way as this week’s Super Wish is the gorgeous Bunnahabhain 40 Year Old single malt whisky from Islay worth nearly £1,700! Or 6,800 premium mince pies. We know that Master of Malt customers will love this Bunnahabhain. After all, the distillery was chosen over all the producers and brands in the entire world to be crowned our Whisky Icons Champion. This 40 year old has all the Bunnahabhain magic you’d expect, but turned up to 11. This is a Super Wish and a half. 

Bunnahabhain 40 Year Old

If you’re not sure how to make your Super Wish, it’s easy! Just head to the page and hit the snazzy button which is red like my outfit and has the word “Wish” on it. A box will pop up ready to send you onwards to a pre-populated Twitter or Facebook post and, as long as you remember to hit ‘publish’ then you’ve completed your wish! If you’re one of those Instagrammers, then you can pop a post on your feed with the #WhiskySanta hashtag.

Now, I’m a busy supernatural being so do be sure to get those wishes in by 23:59 GMT Thursday 18 November. That leaves plenty of time to send it out on my sleigh (or a reputable courier service) and safely under your tree! It just doesn’t stop round here. Of course, it will stop, at Christmas, but until then, get wishing!

#WhiskySanta

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The Nightcap: 5 November

Remember, remember, the 5 November – because it’s when another tremendous edition of The Nightcap arrives! This week there’s Johnnie Walker, Bunnahabhain, Captain Morgan, and a story that really takes…

Remember, remember, the 5 November – because it’s when another tremendous edition of The Nightcap arrives! This week there’s Johnnie Walker, Bunnahabhain, Captain Morgan, and a story that really takes the piss…

He’s here! Yes, earlier than ever, and with a record £500k+ worth of boozy goodies to give away, this week we welcomed the return of our favourite supernatural being: #WhiskySanta! The benevolent beardo has kindly reminded you all how to make the most of this comeback on our blog, so be sure to have a read and then get those wishes in! 

That wasn’t the only way to get your hands on tremendous treats this week, however, as we launched two of our most impressive competitions yet with our 30 Days of Bunnahabhain giveaway and the chance to win a year’s supply of Tomatin whisky! Elsewhere, Henry looked at one of Scotland’s smallest and prettiest distilleries, got us ready for Old Fashioned Week and reported on Diageo’s plan to build a $75 million whisky distillery in China. Adam, meanwhile, went to gin school and enjoyed a singular sundowner, and there was still room to squeeze a helpful gift guide into the mix. 

So, we hope you’re ready for the cherry on top of the cake, it’s The Nightcap: 5 November edition!

The Nightcap: 5 November

It’s a bottle that raises a number of interesting questions, like when can taste it already?

Johnnie Walker creates a high rye whisky

Johnnie Walker has more news, everyone. Seriously. Even more news. I hope the PRs it works with get good holiday allowance, because their fingers must be red-raw from writing press releases. Anyway, this one is actually very interesting, because the brand has announced Johnnie Walker High Rye this week, its first high rye profile whisky. Described as continuing the JW tradition of “pushing the boundaries for what a Scotch whisky can do,” by outgoing master blender Jim Beveridge, the whisky has a mash bill of 60% rye aged which was matured in American oak barrels. According to the press release, the malt components come from Cardhu, Glenkinchie, and Caol Ila which are “blended with rye and grain whiskies distilled at the Cameronbridge and Teaninich”. This begs the question, is Teaninich, a single malt distillery, now producing pot still rye whiskey? We asked Diageo for clarification, no comment yet, but we did speak to a former insider who told us: “Teaninich doesn’t surprise me. They have had a hammer mill and mash filter there for many years, and that might well have made it a much better place to try and make a rye whisky at scale. Rye of course isn’t like distilling malt, the mash filter probably made it a lot easier to get the extraction they needed rather than a mash-tun.” Interesting! But back to High Rye, sadly we won’t get the opportunity to try it in Manhattan any time soon as it’s currently US only with a RRP of $34.99. Let’s hope it makes it back home to Britain sometime soon. 

The Nightcap: 5 November

We just know you’re excited about this. Good thing it will be here soon…

Bunnahabhain launches cask strength 12-year-old

Bunnahabhain has announced a new whisky that should really excite fans of the Islay distillery. A cask-strength 12 Year Old inspired by tastings in the distillery’s ‘Warehouse 9’, where visitors have been enjoying drams straight from the cask. Now fans from all over the world will be able to recreate this experience at home with the new 55.1% ABV whisky. The undiluted celebration of the distillery’s hugely popular Bunnahabhain 12 Year Old is set to be an annual release to celebrate the distillery’s spirit’s character. “When people embark on a journey to Islay and try our whiskies straight from the cask, it creates so much joy. But we understand that not everyone is able to make the trip,” says Brendan McCarron, Bunnahabhain’s master distiller. “With this annual Cask Strength 12 Year Old Cask release, we can give people around the world the chance to experience it themselves.” The brand describes the spirit as being “robust and complex”, which are the stock descriptors of a lot of cask strength whisky, to be honest, and also promise the dram will deliver unpeated, oily notes of dried fruits, cereal, caramel, and vanilla. We’d recommend you try it neat first but at that strength a few drops of water wouldn’t do any harm to encourage more floral aromas. If this is making you very excited to try the new release, then you’ll be pleased to know that Bunnahabhain’s 2021 edition Cask Strength 12-Year-Old will be available from MoM Towers very soon…

The Nightcap: 5 November

We all just want to enjoy great bourbon in peace, is that too much to ask?

EU drops US whiskey tariff

The spirits industry has welcomed a new trade agreement between the US and the European Union (EU) that marks the end of the damaging tariff on American whiskey. A certain amount of EU-produced steel and aluminium is allowed to enter the US without tariffs, though the duties on these products will technically remain in place and, in return, the EU will drop its retaliatory tariffs on American whiskey and other goods, effective from 1 January 2022. The next month, the governments agreed to a five-year suspension on tariffs for products such as vodka and Cognac. American whiskey was not covered in the deal. The UK, which has implemented similar duties on American whiskey, has yet to lift its tariffs and Martha Dalton, co-founder of the Bourbon Alliance, said the UK government needs to focus on reaching a similar resolution. “When the UK left the Customs Union, we were promised the freedom to establish an independent trade policy – the time has come to realise the opportunities of Brexit and to cut the tariff for good,” she said. Sounds good to us. And then we can stop running tariff stories.

The Nightcap: 5 November

Nc’nean is one of Scotch whisky’s most sustainable distilleries

Scotch whisky halves greenhouse gas emissions

In light of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), we’re all thinking about our environmental responsibilities, the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) is no different. The good news is its latest data shows the Scotch whisky industry reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 53% between 2008 and 2020. In 2018 alone, greenhouse gas emissions were cut by 34% and the SWA also found that 39% of energy in the Scotch industry came from the use of non-fossil fuels in 2020, up from 3% in 2008. In 2018, the result was 28%, which actually beats the target industry set of 20% for 2020. Earlier this year, the SWA revealed its new sustainability strategy, which included the goal of reaching net-zero emissions by 2040, while it also became the UK’s first food and drink trade association, to be recognised as a partner of the United Nations Race to Zero initiative in September. As part of its green strategy, the SWA is also aiming for all new product packaging used by the Scotch industry to be reusable, recyclable, and compostable by 2025. Karen Betts, outgoing chief executive of the SWA, said says the trade association is determined to reach the 2040 net-zero target across the whole industry, “not least as the future of one of Scotland’s most historic and successful industries depends on it, as do the people we employ and the communities in which we are based”. She added the next decade is a decisive one with Scotch whisky distillers redoubling collaborative efforts not only to reverse the impacts of climate change, “but to ensure that our industry makes an overall positive impact on the environment around us.”

The Nightcap: 5 November

Expect this to sell like hot cakes. Filled with apple.

Captain Morgan launches Apple Spirit Drink

Captain Morgan is introducing a brand-new flavoured spirit, Captain Morgan Sliced Apple this autumn, which is set to be fully rolled out in spring 2022. The launch, which will be supported with over £1m of marketing investment in its first year, follows the successful launch of Captain Morgan Tiki in March 2020. With 87% of spirits volume growth over the last 10 years coming from flavours, as well as Captain Morgan being the number one driver of growth in rum-based flavour innovations, Captain Morgan Sliced Apple Spirit Drink is well-positioned for success with lemonade, simply neat over ice or as a hot toddy serve for those colder days. “We know that consumers are still keen to explore new flavours within spirits,” says Samantha Newby, category director, Captain Morgan GB comments. “The launch of Captain Morgan Sliced Apple provides an opportunity to truly disrupt the category with great tasting spirit options whilst widening the reach of Captain Morgan to a broader group of people, moments and occasions.”

The Nightcap: 5 November

Tequila is becoming increasingly dapper, isn’t it?

Ultra rare DOBEL 50 series continues in style

For Day of the Dead (which was on Monday) Maestro Dobel launched the second edition from its rare, limited edition Dobel 50 series. It’s an Extra Añejo Tequila made with single estate agave, and aged in American and French white oak barrels before being finished in Sauternes casks by eleventh generation master blender Juan Domingo “Dobel’ Beckmann. Maestro Dobel 50 1969 follows the 1967 edition and was inspired by the year of the moon landing, Woodstock, and President Gustavo Díaz Ordaz opened the first native factory for Mexican banknotes. But we should make clear, it isn’t the year the Tequila was distilled. Maestro Dobel 50 1969 was bottled at 40% ABV and comes in the typical stylish decanter and presentation box you imagine for a Tequila that has just 40 bottles and retails for £895. Our marketing campaigns manager Zak Newmarch attended the launch, where the Tequila was paired with a dish of pork pibil and mushroom tacos, and found the bottle to be thoroughly enjoyable with a herbal, almost Fernet-esque nose, which builds into a palate of rich oak and sweet liquorice. He felt the Tequila had a digestif feel that could be enjoyed after dinner with a cigar. It’s interesting to see how much the Tequila world is changing, bottles like this that make for an alternative to whisky or brandy are becoming more commonplace and there’s a price tag to match. 

The Nightcap: 5 November

Does the Cotswolds Distillery ever miss?

Cotswolds releases bourbon single cask malt

We love a limited edition release from the Cotswolds distillery. In the past, the English whisky pioneer has produced various sherry and other cask releases but now it has gone back to basics with its latest creation. It’s entirely aged in sweet ex-bourbon casks to create the smoothest single malt you can imagine, even at 59.1% ABV. Imagine custard prepared by David Niven and Roger Moore, both wearing matching velvet smoking jackets, and you’re nearly there. It’s made from Cotswold barley, fermented using two yeasts for 90 hours before double distillation, before ageing in first-fill American oak bourbon barrels for the full term. No STR here. No siree Bob! Founder, Dan Szor, explained, “We always planned to launch a Bourbon Cask Single Malt ever since 2014 when we founded the distillery. It’s been a while in the making but it’s definitely been worth the wait. Our house style is to produce spirits with big flavours and by using first-fill ex-bourbon casks, which arrive at the distillery with their staves soaked in bourbon whisky, we ensure a full and rich flavour for this wonderful cask strength expression.” A bottle will set you back £64.95 and it’s only available from the distillery.

The Nightcap: 5 November

If anyone’s going to get this right, it’s the lads from Homeboy

Homeboy unveils The Bottle Cocktail Shop

Specialists in Irish hospitality Homeboy shop have opened an online store dedicated solely to pre-bottled cocktails. Adding a new string to their bow, founders Aaron Wall, Ciarán Smith, and Conor Bartley are known for their bar sites in Islington, which opened in 2018, and a second outlet in Nine Elms that debuted in April. Now the team is selling alcoholic and non-alcoholic iterations of ready-to-drink (RTD) cocktails made by Smith and Wall for retail and hospitality outlets. The main focus of the new shop will be nine original-recipe bottled cocktails and the branded bottled drinks, while five classic and four ‘inspired’ serves will rotate annually. The plan is to eventually team up with ‘world-class, international cocktail bars’, to bottle the signature serves of bars including Little Red Door in Paris and Two Schmucks in Barcelona. Local craft beers will also feature alongside a selection of wines, spirits, mixers, hard seltzers, and bitters, while customizable, bespoke cocktails and labels are available for weddings, social gatherings, and gifting. Best of all, there’s complimentary nationwide delivery to customers when they sign up for a monthly cocktail subscription.

The Nightcap: 5 November

An exciting and reasonably priced range will always get our attention

Mossburn Distillers launches Caisteal Chamuis whisky

Mossburn Distillers, who you may know as the folks that own the lovely Torabhaig Distillery, is launching a new range of whiskies called ‘Caisteal Chamuis’. Named after the mysterious medieval ruin which lies on the headland of the eastern flank of Knock Bay, on the Isle of Skye, the series is kicking off with two expressions. The first is Caisteal Chamuis Blended Malt Scotch Whisky, made up of whisky from Skye, Orkney, and Islay that was blended together and finished in first-fill bourbon casks, before being bottled at 46% ABV without colouring or chill-filtration. It’s said to be a whisky to unlock the door to the world of peated whiskies and at £39 it’s incredible value for a dram of its profile. The other is Caisteal Chamuis 12 Year Old Blended Malt Scotch Whisky which also features whisky from Islay and Orkney aged for an initial 12 years before being finished in custom-made fresh Oloroso sherry butts. At £49, you have to say it’s another reasonable price tag for an exciting-sounding whisky. Good thing they’re both on their way to MoM Towers…

The Nightcap: 5 November

Someone is taking the piss here. We’ve heard of an illicit stash, but an illicit slash?

And finally…. Just having a wee dram? 

In one of the most bizarre stories we’ve had on the blog, we learned from The Times this week that a William Grant employee Kerry Wilson has been granted £11,264.76 for unfair dismissal. His employer found a wet patch and a can of urine deodoriser by some barrels where Wilson had recently been spotted at Girvan grain distillery, and sacked him for “gross misconduct.” Wilson in his defence claimed that he was a keen ornithologist and had been following a robin rather than taking a leak. You can read the full case here. Judge Ian McPherson expressed his doubts about Wilson’s explanation, perhaps by stroking his chin as if he had a gigantic beard and saying “Jimmy Hill”, but stated that Grant’s hadn’t proved that Wilson produced the puddle. It’s one of those stories that leaves you scratching your head in bafflement. Why did William Grant sack an employee of 31 years for allegedly taking a pee, why did Wilson not use the lavatory, and who has the forethought to buy urine deodoriser before going for an illicit slash? And just what the hell is urine deodoriser, anyway? 

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30 Days of Bunnahabhain giveaway!

Hey, guess what? If you buy a bottle of Bunnahabhain then you could be in with a chance of receiving a bottle of its Fèis Ìle whisky! Every year thousands…

Hey, guess what? If you buy a bottle of Bunnahabhain then you could be in with a chance of receiving a bottle of its Fèis Ìle whisky!

Every year thousands of whisky enthusiasts attend Fèis Ìle (or The Islay Festival of Music and Malt) for a celebration of music, special events, and, of course, whisky. Arguably the feature of Fèis Ìle that makes people most excited, however, is the exclusive bottles the distilleries on Islay create to mark the occasion. Every year big queues will form wherever these treasures are sold. And because these limited-edition offerings sell for a pretty penny and sell out fast, it’s easy to miss out.

But what if there was a way that you could get your hands on the Fèis Ìle bottling of one of Islay’s finest distilleries? Let’s say you could simply buy a bottle from our first MoM Whisky Icon champion, Bunnahabhain, and automatically be entered into a random draw to win a 70cl bottle of its special release this year: Fèis Ìle 2021: 2013 Mòine Bordeaux Finish. Wouldn’t that be neat?

Well, as you might have guessed, that’s exactly what you can do thanks to our 30 Days of Bunnahabhain giveaway! Here’s how it works. Head here to pick up some whisky from the Bunnahabhain range (excluding independent bottlings) and you’ll become part of the draw. 

30 Days of Bunnahabhain

Then from each day between 1 November 2021 to 30 November 2021, one winner will be chosen. So there will be a winner out of all the people who buy Bunna on 1 November 2021, and then a second winner on 2 November 2021, and so on and so forth. Hence, 30 days of Bunnahabhain!

Each winner will get their own 70cl bottle of Fèis Ìle 2021: 2013 Mòine Bordeaux Finish, which eagle-eyed readers will have noticed was finished in Bordeaux wine casks, adding a touch of French flair to the Scottish single malt.

So, the only question that remains is, what are you waiting for? T&C’s are below if you need any more info. And if you need a bottle of Bunna, which we’re guessing you do, then this is the place to go. Good luck everyone!

MoM 30 Days of Bunnahabhain 2021 open to entrants 18 years and over. UK only excluding Northern Ireland. Entries accepted from 12:00:00 GMT on 01 November to 30 November 2021. Winners chosen at random after close of competition. Shipping restrictions apply. Postal route available. Prizes not transferable and cannot be exchanged for cash equivalent. See full T&Cs for details.

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Bunnahabhain is our first MoM Whisky Icon champion!

Rejoice, fans of Bunnahabhain, because it has just won our first Whisky Icon championship! We find out what it is about this Islay distillery that appeals so much to whisky lovers. …

Rejoice, fans of Bunnahabhain, because it has just won our first Whisky Icon championship! We find out what it is about this Islay distillery that appeals so much to whisky lovers. 

Recently we held a competition to find out which whisky distillery or brand was the favourite among our customers. The process was simple, a World Cup-style knockout in which you simply clicked on the distillery you felt should make it to the next round. But, in a world where so many drinks awards are decided on who has the biggest wallet, our Whisky Icon championship was purely about you, real human beings, using your vote on Twitter and Instagram. Democracy in action!

Despite the fierce talent on display, only one distillery could be crowned our Whisky Icons champion. And, as you might have seen, the votes have all been tallied and we have an ultimate victor, which narrowly bested stiff competition from the ever-popular Lagavulin.

Bunnahabhain Whisky Icon

It’s Bunnahabhain Distillery!

It’s Bunnahabhain!

To celebrate the good news, we’re offering a 10% discount on Bunnahabhain 12 Year Old (from £37.40 – £33.40, or £4 off). So if you fancy finding out why so many people love the brilliance of Bunnahabhain, or if you’re already a fan and fancy celebrating this momentous occasion, rejoice in the savings. And, as a further thank you for showing support to the various brands that featured in the Whisky Icons Championships, some of them would love to offer some free gifts with your next purchase, like Lagavulin 16 Year Old with a free Glencairn glass, Dalmore Cigar Malt with a free cigar cutter, or a free mug with Talisker 10 Year Old. Check even more whisky freebies here.

But, today is all about Bunnahahbain and so we thought we’d get the reaction from people who voted for the distillery as well as some key distillery figures to find out why Bunna beat the competition and just what it means to be the Whisky Icon for 2021.

Brendan McCarron, master distiller

“I’m absolutely made up for us to have won. It was a bit of Sophie’s Choice for me having worked at Ardbeg and Lagavulin and they’re both incredible single malts, so it wasn’t an easy competition to win. This feels like recognition for a distillery that, when I joined everyone said was going to be an incredible whisky to work for but that’s always been a wee bit under the radar because even though it’s Islay, it’s unpeated. I think that’s why it stands out. Everyone can drink it, smoke is for some people, not for others. But everyone can get behind great made, unpeated, all sherried whisky that’s big and complex, and incredible. That’s why I think it won”.

“It’s great to see more people loving it and for it to win the Whisky Icon award shows the direction we’re going in and that more and more people are aware of how great Bunnahabhain is. We’re laying more single malt down and making it more available for people to try. Master of Malt is a great place to show off amazing whiskies and for Bunna to come out on top feels amazing!”

David Brodie, brand ambassador

“Thanks to Master of Malt for running their inaugural Icons of Whisky Championship. Here at Bunnahabhain Distillery, we were delighted to emerge as the overall winners, particularly as the outcome was decided by public vote. Minor personal cajoling of our whisky friends aside, it was lovely to receive so many votes from whisky fans everywhere. It is also a pleasing endorsement of our commitment to make seriously good whisky whilst also making the drinking of it seriously good fun. Thank you everyone for your votes!”

Bunnahabhain Whisky Icon

A whisky icon at a bargain price

Views from the voters

Go to the announcement post on Twitter and you’ll see plenty of reaction and good cheer from people who voted for Bunnahabhain and those who were happy to see the winner. We spoke to a couple of them, including @WhiskyLee232, who thought Bunnahabhain was a worthy winner due to its “excellent whisky range and the engagement on Twitter, particularly David Brodie and his ‘view from the verandah tweets’ alongside his Warehouse 9 tour pictures”. 

@WhiskyoftheWeek, meanwhile voted in favour of the Islay distillery because some of her favourite drams come from Bunnahabhain, saying she loves “the richness and the fruity sweetness” that characterises its whisky and its ability to “consistently produce drams that are memorable and complex”. 

Bunnahabhain Whisky Icon

Will Bunnahabhain be our Whisky Icon next year?

We’ll be back…

So, if any distillery wants to steal the crown next year, then they know what to do. Make sure they have memorable and complex whisky, engage with fans and hire David Brodie. Seems like a reasonable checklist.

Oh, yes, you read that correctly. We will be back next year with even more Whisky Icon excellence. So if you’d like to see Bunna defend its victory or want another distillery to take the title, then do make sure to take part. 

And don’t forget about that 10% discount on Bunnahabhain 12 Year Old! If you bought ten bottles right now, you’d essentially be getting the eleventh for free. And that’s not something to be passed up on lightly.

Congratulations again to our first MoM Whisky Icon champion: Bunnahabhain!

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Whisky icons – we have a winner!

Whether they’re bourbons, single malts or blended whiskies, some brands are so famous that they’re iconic. But which is the biggest whisky icon? We’re running a poll on social media…

Whether they’re bourbons, single malts or blended whiskies, some brands are so famous that they’re iconic. But which is the biggest whisky icon? We’re running a poll on social media to find out, and this is the page to follow the results.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word ‘icon’ as: “A person or thing regarded as a representative symbol or as worthy of veneration.”

So, what makes a whisky an icon? Well, it has to be a great whisky to start with. One that’s revered across the world. But more than this, it has to have a strong memorable image. Say the name of a particular distillery or brand, and it should instantly resonate. 

Worthy of veneration

Now this could be a globally famous brand like Johnnie Walker or Jack Daniel’s. Many people who have never even drunk whisky will have heard of these brands. Jack Daniel’s for its association with music, and Johnnie Walker because it’s an icon of consumer capitalism (as well as a great whisky). Then there’s Macallan, a symbol of luxury up there with Rolls Royce or Cartier. 

But lesser-known names can be iconic among the whisky cognoscenti. Take Springbank, for example. You have to know a bit about whisky to have heard of it but it’s undoubtedly “worthy of veneration.” We’ve seen grown men and women go all tearful at the thought of a rare bottle of Springbank. 

But your whisky icon might be Lagavulin from Islay, Four Roses from Kentucky or even a newer distillery like Mackmyra from Sweden. So to decide this once and for all, we’re giving Master of Malt customers the opportunity to shout about their favourite brands. 

Vote for your whisky of icon

Social polls will be posted on a @masterofmalt Instagram story Monday to Friday this week (simply view our story and tap on the distillery/brand you wish to vote for). Or alternatively you can vote over on the @MasterOfMalt Twitter page where a poll will be posted to our feed.

The tournament will end on Monday 27 September with the winner announced that day. This is how it will work:

Monday 20 September – first round with 32 whiskies

Tuesday 21 September – second round with 16 whiskies

Wednesday 22 September – quarter finals 

Thursday 23 September – semi finals 

Friday 24 September – finals

Saturday 25 September – voting closes

Monday 27 September – announcement of the winner

Get voting so we can say once and for all what the greatest icon of whisky is! And then we find something else to argue about. 

UPDATE, 27 September:

The winner was… Bunnahabhain with Lagavulin as the runner-up.

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Win a trip to Islay during Fèis Ìle 2022 with Bunnahabhain!

We’re giving you and a plus-one the chance to head to Islay and to enjoy some Fèis Ìle 2022 festivities with the wonderful folk at Bunnahabhain Distillery. You don’t want…

We’re giving you and a plus-one the chance to head to Islay and to enjoy some Fèis Ìle 2022 festivities with the wonderful folk at Bunnahabhain Distillery. You don’t want to miss out.

Spending the last two years not attending Fèis Ìle in person has been hard for us whisky lovers. We miss the sights, the sounds, the smells. Frankly, you’ll have to forgive some of us here at MoM Towers who have been experiencing some slight withdrawal symptoms. Jake has taken to standing underneath a sprinkler while blasting Celtic tunes. I’m making travel arrangements for ferries and flights and then cancelling all of them at the last minute. I think I even saw Sam scribbling his own label on a mock TBWC exclusive bottle. It was very clearly bourbon. The poor soul.

There’s only one cure for all of this. We simply must go next year. We have to experience the island, the food, the music, the wilderness and, of course, the whisky. We’re sure you’re of a similar mindset. This is why we came up with a brilliant idea. Why don’t we send a couple of you to the island while the festival is going on behalf of us and our friends over at Bunnahabhain Distillery

That’s right, it’s competition time. And this one is a doozy. We’re jetting you off to Scotland for three nights from 2-5 June 2022 to enjoy an array of activities and boozy delights. And it’s all happening while Fèis Ìle 2022 is taking place (27 May – 4 June). Want to know exactly what you could win? Of course you do. Here’s the list in full:

Win a trip to Fèis Ìle 2022 with Bunnahabhain!

Fancy heading here? Enter now!

The grand prize

-Flights from a UK airport to Scotland, and onward travel to Islay (flights and ferry)
-Accommodation at the cottage at Bowmore from the 2nd to the 5th June 2022 with breakfast included.
-Complimentary evening meal, with a tutored tasting from someone at the distillery
-A morning masterclass with master blender Julieann Fernandez and distillery manager Andrew Brown
-As well as a backstage pass to have a chat with them after the tasting
-Two tickets for the incredibly popular dramming sessions at Warehouse 9
-Two tickets for the Bunnahabhain at Sea boat trip
-Two tickets for one complimentary lunch at the Bunnahabhain Distillery
-A complimentary Fèis Ìle bottling of whisky
-£25 allowance per person per day

It’s worth saying at this point that, if the much-feared does happen and Fèis Ìle is postponed, the dates and details of the trip will be adjusted to match. For full details check the T&Cs, as always.

Win a trip to Fèis Ìle 2022 with Bunnahabhain!

Whisky-soaked adventure awaits!

“How do I enter?! Tell meeeeeee!!!”

Simple. Just purchase a bottle of whisky from this range of Bunnahabhain delights for a chance to win. You can buy as many bottles as you want from the following selection, which includes some great special offers, and even if you don’t win you’ll still have a terrific bottle of whisky to call your own. We do look after you.

You have until 30 June to enter, so don’t hang around. The chance to win a trip of a lifetime doesn’t come around often, so when it does you really want to take it. Best of luck everyone!

MoM Bunnahabhain Competition 2021 open to entrants 18 years and over. Entries accepted from 12:00:01pm 16 June to 23:59 30 June 2021. Date and important travel restrictions apply. Winners chosen at random after close of competition. Postal route available. See full T&Cs for details. 

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Master of Malt Islay Festival 2021 Day 8: Bunnnahabhain

It’s the Master of Malt Islay Festival 2021 Day 8: Bunnahabhain time! It’s the eighth day of our celebration of all things Islay and we’re looking at what’s going on…

It’s the Master of Malt Islay Festival 2021 Day 8: Bunnahabhain time! It’s the eighth day of our celebration of all things Islay and we’re looking at what’s going on at Bunnahabhain while Ian Buxton shares with us some of his memories of the distillery. 

Today, we’re moving the virtual party to Bunnahabhain, famed for its unpeated whisky though it does produce some smoky bottling. So let’s take a look at what the distillery is laying on before handing over to Ian Buxton for some Islay reminisces. But first, here’s a rain-drenched video we made in 2019 with distillery manager Andrew Brown. And if you want some music, why not listen to our Islay memories playlist on Spotify?

What’s going on today:

It’s all taking place on Facebook on Friday 4th June. Go here for more information:

4pm – A warehouse tasting of drams straight from the cask. 

8pm – A masterclass featuring a veritable class of masters including master blender Julieann Fernandez, master distiller Brendan McCarron, Andrew Brown, visitor centre manager Billy Sinclair and whisky writer Dave Broom. They will be tasting the 12 year old before moving on to the Fèis Ìle 2021 bottlings.

The distillery is also hosting a virtual tour of Islay, which will give viewers a chance to choose where the distillery visitor centre manager, Billy Sinclair, visits. He’ll speak with some of the island’s most famous residents, sharing tales about everything it has to offer and explain why we’re so taken by Islay’s landscapes, Gaelic heritage, whisky bars and nautical past. The distillery has also made Islay Roam Around and Spotify playlists to enjoy and will today unveil a third Fèis Ìle release live during its evening tasting – a super-exclusive bottling which one lucky fan will have the chance to win by taking part in Billy’s voyage around the island. All of the distillery’s events will be broadcast live on Facebook.

What are the distillery exclusives to look out for:

There are two whiskies, bottled just for the festival: a 2013 Moine (peated expression) finished in Bordeaux casks and bottled at 59.5% ABV for £85, and a 2001 Marsala Cask Finish, bottled at 53.6% ABV, which cost £199 but it is sadly already sold out. A third is also due to be announced…

Master blender Julieann Fernandez

Master blender Julieann Fernandez

Ian Buxton’s Bunnahabhain memories:

I have fond memories of Bunnahabhain.

I first visited around 35 years ago when it, like most of Islay, was in a sorry state. Production was at a very low ebb or had possibly stopped completely. The buildings, stark and functional at the best of times, felt almost abandoned, looking drab, unkempt and uncared-for. There was a somnolent air about the place, lacking even a Hebridean sense of urgency.

Bunnahabhain’s heyday

It was not always thus. Visiting shortly after its construction, that indefatigable Victorian whisky hack Alfred Barnard thought it “a fine pile of buildings … and quite enclosed”, noting also “a noble gateway”.  Much later his spiritual successor Michael Jackson went so far as to compare it, not unfavourably, to a Bordeaux château. But in Barnard’s day Bunnahabhain was second only to Ardbeg in output and Michael, ever the extravagant romantic and ready to embrace lost causes, saw only the best in places that a colder eye might have found harsh, almost brutal.

It’s the concrete, of course. The original builders, who landed here to create from the heath and bare rock a distillery and a community, made free use of it. The tiny puffers (small coastal tramp vessels, vital to the economy of all Hebridean islands until pushed aside by the larger ferries in the 1960s) could run up onto Bunnahabhain’s stony beach and land men and materials and, once the distillery was operational, bring barrels and barley (and tea and like necessities for the men and their families) leaving with barrels and whisky. Eventually, a pier was built, functional yet graceful and larger ships would call. Today most supplies and visitors come by lorry or car along the tortuous, twisting road that starts just above Caol Ila immediately before its precipitous drop into Port Askaig.

Bunnahabhain

No shortage of concrete at Bunnahabhain

Summers on Islay

I recall long summer breaks, staying first in the old manager’s house high above the distillery itself and later in one of the rows of cottages to the left of the main building. It was the perfect spot for a holiday with small children – safe and quiet and with access to rock pools to explore, shipwrecks to discover and a deserted beach on which to build a makeshift barbeque. 

And it was cheap – tourism to Islay had yet to be invented. In my memory, the sun shone, though I am surely putting a generous gloss on the weather. Most days, we could at least glimpse the Paps of Jura and the fast-running waters of the Sound of Islay.

Once I traded with some fishermen and acquired two fine partens (edible brown crabs) which I intended to cook later that evening. The children had other ideas: having made firm friends with the doomed crustaceans, they argued long and passionately for their release. And so it came about that I threw my dinner in the sea, an enduring memory of this place. On better days we enjoyed Loch Gruinart oysters – with just a splash of Bunna and sea air to taste.

The wreck of the Wyre Majestic

I should think we visited the Wyre Majestic almost daily.  Walk just past the cottages and round the point and you’ll see her: a 338-ton trawler, looking slightly less majestic since October 1974 when she ran aground on the rocky shoreline, perhaps seduced by hints of whisky on the breeze. Here’s the thing: if you time your visit for low tide it’s perfectly possible to hit the rusting hulk with a well-aimed stone (there is no shortage of suitable missiles). It makes a very satisfactory noise and if you have small children with you, especially boys, they will be impressed by your manly skills.

Since 2014, Bunnahabhain’s ultimate owner is Distell, a major South African drinks company and owner of Burn Stewart whose name is on the door. But, with Heineken circling Distell and a takeover bid rumoured to be imminent, it’s unclear who will end up with the keys to Barnard’s noble gateway.

Bunnahabhain holds a special place in my whisky memories, its austere and apparently forbidding walls a part of my whisky soul. It’s unclear when I will return. But return I shall and take in the peace and recall the crabs and the sea trout I took off the beach – or nearly took, for it slipped the hook only inches from my over-eager grasp – and throw stones at the old Majestic in search of lost time and memories.

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