This week’s New Arrival from Bunnahabhain was originally a distillery-only expression but we’ve snaffled the lot so it’s now available only from Master of Malt. But probably not for long….
This week’s New Arrival from Bunnahabhain was originally a distillery-only expression but we’ve snaffled the lot so it’s now available only from Master of Malt. But probably not for long.
The gap left by the cancellation of Fèis Ìle left a huge hole in the life of many whisky lovers. Islay fans are a particularly fanatical bunch and the Covid crisis has meant that this year most won’t get their yearly island fix which also means that they won’t be able to buy certain releases that are only available from distillery doors. Well, our buyers have seen an opportunity by bringing Islay to you in the form of this former distillery-only release from Bunnahabhain which is now only available from Master of Malt.
It’s a 15 year old release that was distilled in February 2003 and filled into refill hogsheads. Then in 2016 it was transferred into amontillado hogsheads for a further two years ageing before it was bottled at cask strength, 57.4% ABV. 1710 bottles have been produced. The flavour is rich with dried fruit and chocolate without a trace of smoke. It’s very different from the typical Islay dram.
You might not be able to go to Bunnahabhain, but we can bring a little bit of Bunnahabhain to you
Bunnahabhain is something of an anomaly on the island in producing mainly unpeated for its single malt. This didn’t used to be the case. The distillery was built between 1881 and 1883 by the Islay Distillery Company. The name means ‘Mouth of the river’ in Gaelic; the river in question being the Margadale. According to Moss & Hume in The Making of Scotch Whisky, when it was built it was the largest distillery on the island with a capacity to produce 200,000 gallons (900,000 litres approximately) a year of highly-flavoured whisky for blending. Its owners merged in 1887 with Glenrothes to become Highland Distilleries Ltd.
In 1963, production was doubled but the style changed with the closure of its maltings. From now on malt came unpeated from the mainland. Most of this new lighter Bunnahabhain went into Cutty Sark blended whisky. In 1999, Highland Distilleries was acquired by the Edrington Group which then sold Bunnahbhin to Burn Stewart Distillers in 2003. Bunnahabhain new owners kept the light style for the single malt but also used the distillery to make heavily peated malt for the Black Bottle blended whisky. Burn Stewart in turn was bought by South African spirits conglomerate Distill in 2014. It can be hard to keep up with who owns what in Scotch whisky.
The set-up consists of two large onion-shaped wash stills and two smaller pear-shaped spirits stills. Washbacks are traditional Oregon pine. Production now stands at 2.5 million litres a year. A little peated single malt is released under the Mòine label but ours is in the classic post-1963 Bunnahabhain style. Very nice it is too though perhaps not for real Islay headbangers.
Tasting note from the Chaps at Master of Malt:
Nose: Toasty oak and caramelised nuts, with dusty cocoa, earthy vanilla pod and jammy berries.
Palate: Plump raisin and melted dark chocolate, with mocha, dark treacle and oily nuts alongside forest berries.
Finish: Chocolate-covered raisins linger.
Bunnahabhain 15 Year Old 2003 Amontillado Cask Finish is only available from Master of Malt.
Just because we won’t be heading to Islay this year, doesn’t mean we can’t keep the festival spirit alive! Thanks to the magic of Instagram Live we’ve organised a series of…
Just because we won’t be heading to Islay this year, doesn’t mean we can’t keep the festival spirit alive! Thanks to the magic of Instagram Live we’ve organised a series of interviews with the island’s distilleries that features tastings, chats and Q&As.
This is usually the time of year where we would pack our travel bags, camera kit and 10-litre bottles of midge insect repellent to head north to the beautiful Scottish island of Islay to revel in one of the highlights, if not the highlight of the whisky calendar. The week-and-a-bit from 22-30 May was sure to provide all the whisky-dipped merriment you could shake Dave Worthington’s pipe at.
But we have no intention of letting this period pass by without some recognition of an island that is home to some of Scotch whisky’s finest distilleries. Which is why we’ve put together the next best thing. Through the wonderful medium of Instagram Live, we’ve created our own virtual festival by teaming up with the island’s distilleries (and the fab folk at Jura, of course). We’ve put together a programme of tastings, chats and Q&As with your questions, comments and tasting notes to keep the Islay spirit alive and your tasting glass full from the comfort of your own home.
We thoroughly hope you enjoy our virtual Islay celebration. The schedule for the Instagram Live shows is listed below, complete with accompanying dram. Don’t forget, you can always embrace the Islay spirit whenever you like with Drinks by the Dram’s Islay Whisky Tasting Set! Why not order one for you and a pal and set up your own Zoom tasting?
Head distiller Adam Hannett will join us for a tasting and Q&A
Who’s joining us?Bruichladdich and its head distiller Adam Hannett for a tasting and Q&A. Bruichladdich also has its own Laddie Lock-In, while its ballot system to decide who can get their hands on its alternative festival bottling, Port Charlotte 16, has now concluded.
Kilchoman founder Anthony Wills will stop by to kick-off our Thursday with a bang
Who’s joining us?Kilchoman and its founder Anthony Wills will be kicking off the day with us. The distillery also has quite the online festival Programme, complete with live tastings and a distillery tour.
Who’s joining us?Bunnahabhain and its global brand director, Derek Scott, who will host a tasting with a very delicious dram, usually distillery-exclusive dram (it will also host its own 8pm tasting, ‘Fèis at home‘).
Who’s joining us?Ardbeg and Brendan McCarron, head of maturing whisky stocks for Ardbeg (and sister distillery Glenmorangie) ,for an Ardbeg Day tasting. You can also join the distillery at 7pm on Facebook for its first-ever online Ardbeg Day!
We recently sat down with Jake Sharpe, founder of The Whisky Baron, to talk through his first year as an independent bottler. Here’s what he had to say. Last year…
We recently sat down with Jake Sharpe, founder of The Whisky Baron, to talk through his first year as an independent bottler. Here’s what he had to say.
Last year a new independent bottler emerged on the scene: The Whisky Baron launched in April 2019 with single cask expressions from Fettercairn, Glenrothes and Bunnahabhain. The Infinite bottle has followed, while an upcoming premium line called Renaissance is on the cards, along with an exclusive bottling made in collaboration with The Summerton Whisky Club. Founder Jake Sharpe, who bears a resemblance to the ‘baron’ on the labels of the bottles, has always had a keen interest in whisky. His love of the good stuff started as most people do, with classics such as Johnnie Walker and Highland Park.
He got involved in the whisky industry in 2015 by selling casks and eventually he helped set up an independent bottling company. “I started learning a lot more about the number of distilleries out there and came across people who would say they didn’t like whisky. I would think ‘what do you mean you don’t like whisky, there are so many different types of whisky out there!” Sharpe explains. “I was learning so much that it became a passion of mine to champion a style of drinking that was about searching for different experiences. Whisky seemed to fit that approach, and I’ve never looked back!”
Say hello to Jake Sharpe, founder of The Whisky Baron!
A drive to take his passion to the next level meant that Sharpe soon decided to step out and do his own thing. “I’ve always wanted to have my own business. I was that guy who at nine years old would sell sweets at school, I’ve always had little side hustles,” he says. “I had built up a network of clientele who were very supportive and who trusted me. The opportunity arose and I had the idea for the brand, The Whisky Baron, and I had almost an epiphany moment, this very clear idea in my mind where I knew I needed to create this thing”.
The inspiration for his brand, the ‘whisky barons’ were a group of men, including James Buchanan, John and Tommy Dewar, Sir Alexander Walker, James Baron Stevenson, Sir Peter Mackie, Douglas Haig, Captain William McCoy, Francis Berry, Walter Berry and Hugh Rudd. They were innovators and entrepreneurs whose expertise and vision helped lay down the foundations for what the Scotch industry is today. “They were fascinating gents who essentially revolutionised the spirit. They made so that if you were anyone, you should be drinking whisky. They brought in a lot of marketing techniques that are still used today,” Sharpe explains. “They sold whisky in America during Prohibition, they created brands that we know and love, that we see in supermarkets and that are still around today. I was really motivated to base a brand around them and their contribution”.
Starting your own drinks brand appeals to lots of us who love this industry, but the actual process of turning that idea into a reality is one fraught with difficulty. “It’s not easy, I’ll tell you that. It took me 13 months to get fully licensed. Ultimately it also comes down to who you know. It’s all very well and good to want to start a brand but if you can’t have access to spirit you’ve obviously got to make your own which is a huge investment and a big old wait,” Share explains. “As an independent bottler, it’s about figuring out the market, learning the best place to buy casks from and being able to lay down stock for the future. You need investment. I’m lucky enough to have some fantastic private clientele who invest in casks with me. Ultimately it is self-funded, so to have private clientele help me invest in casks and build up that stock has been a big part of it”.
The inspiration behind the brand was innovators like Tommy Dewar
The Whisky Baron launched with a core range, The Founders Collection, comprised of single-cask, unchill-filtered bottlings from Fettercairn, Glenrothes, Bunnahabhain. They’re not at cask strength because Sharpe added a splash of water to open up the spirit to what he considered was the best the spirit has to offer. “I called it The Founder’s Collection because they were casks that essentially allowed me to set up the business. The Founder’s Collection was really about presenting what the distilleries have done and the best of what they offer. What I also wanted to do was to present three different styles of whisky with as many different elements in there as possible,” says Sharpe. “We’ve got three different regions: Islay, Speyside and Highland. We’ve got three different casks: bourbon barrel, hogshead, sherry butt. Ultimately it was focused around the quality of the spirit but that variety helps with that conversation and helps expand people’s vocabulary. The Fettercairn is light, it’s easy, it’s a great entry-level dram so somebody who maybe wouldn’t drink whisky can get involved. The Glenrothes is rich, it’s bold, it’s everything I love about sherry cask expressions. The Bunnahabhain is a very classic expression that showed the distillate’s real character and everything that’s so elegant about the distillery”.
The most recent launch is the new Infinite bottle, a 200ml foundation blend that consists of 35 different expressions including family favourites such Jameson and limited edition releases such as The Macallan Easter Elchies Black 2018 and Springbank’s 12 Year Old Burgundy which you then top up with anything you fancy to create your own unique blend. Sharpe explains: “What we wanted to do was really create the first ever truly infinite infinity bottle. Each bottle is individually hand-numbered and has a unique code. You log into our database through our app or online and type in your code. It gives you all of the whiskies that we started with as a foundation. Then you can add your whiskies, their age, how much you’ve added, when you’ve added it and keep a log. Provided you never finish it, there’s always a little bit of that first whisky that you added. I’m a bit of a romantic when it comes to whisky and I love the chemistry of it and the idea that you get to become a blender and have your own bottle that nobody else has in the whole world”.
As much as he enjoys acting as a blender, Sharpe is first and foremost an independent bottler, a role that he believes is fundamentally about educating consumers and championing the range of delightful distilleries. “It’s also about starting a conversation and helping people to understand and to learn a little bit more about what they’re drinking. When it comes to the point that you’re buying an independently-bottled whisky, you’re probably interested and want to know more,” says Sharpe. “An independent bottler to me is somebody who humbly presents other people’s spirits, in the best form that they can for the market. We love the distilleries we’re paying homage to them. I make no bones about it, I’m not making my own whisky. I don’t pretend that I do this alone, I’ve got a fantastic team, I work alongside some very highly educated, highly revered people in the industry who help me taste my samples, who give me advice. I’m still very much learning about whisky and I’m at the foot of the mountain.”
Sharpe has also embraced technology as a tool to inform consumers and offer insights into their whisky with distillery information, cocktail recipes, food pairings and more through an AR app that brings labels to life. “The way it works is that you can download the Whisky Baron app for free whether you’re on Android, iPhone etc and it essentially reads the bottle as the marker. You do need a bottle to make it work, people have said that they’ve printed off a picture of your bottle and it doesn’t work, but that’s not what it’s made for!’ You need to have your camera pointed at the bottle and the Whisky Baron figure on the bottle will jump off the bottle, onto the table in front of you and he will give you a guided tour of the whisky, the distillery and the tasting notes,” Sharpe explains. “It’s very futuristic and quite techy, which I love. A problem with whisky is that people will often look at a well-stocked shelf and if you’re not a whisky drinker it’s very intimidating, it’s hard to know where to begin. Why is that bottle £20 and this one £100? What are all these Scottish names and what do they mean? I wanted to give people a way to interact with the bottle so you’re not trying to go through Google and find the information that’s actually relevant. We give you all the information. It’s all at your fingertips”.
One of the key aspects of this AR app is the cocktail recipe and food pairing stations. Sharpe is someone who has embraced the culture of enjoying whisky in numerous ways and rejecting the more traditional approach. “It’s a big part of what we’re about. I don’t tell people how to enjoy their whisky. I would ask that they try it neat just to understand what it’s about. But not everybody wants to drink neat whisky, certainly not all the time. So if you want to make a nice cocktail, we have got a bespoke cocktail made for each one of our expressions, to bring out the best of the character but to offer you a different experience,” Sharpe explains. “For the food pairings, I compare it to wine. We drink wine with food all the time and it brings the character of the wine and the food out and becomes a whole experience. Why can’t whisky be that? That’s the thing with the AR app. It’s really about getting people to learn a little bit more and enjoy it how they want and offer as many different opportunities and experiences as we can, to give you the most. It’s not just a bottle of whisky, it’s a whole experience”.
The Whisky Baron also offers investment opportunities for those fancy having a barrel of whisky to call their own. Sharpe has seen a rise in investments since he began in the industry and feels this trend is only going one way. “ Since I started, five years ago, a lot of people are becoming more involved and we’re going to continue to see large amounts of investment, particularly in markets like Germany and Poland which are already heavily saturated,” says Sharpe. “Towards the end of last year, it became a more accepted alternative investment. What are the banks offering? The markets, because of Brexit and all sorts of factors, are in flux. People don’t know where to put their money so they turn to real assets like gold, property and wine. Whisky shows strong returns and there is a tax efficiency to it for private individuals. We’re going to see that grow a large amount in 2020”.
Investments in casks look set to increase
Sharpe has had a lot of interest, but it’s a market of risk and being informed and methodological in your approach is key. “Do your homework. You need to work with companies that are licensed to do cask sales and cask investments. You need to be advised by somebody who knows what they’re talking about, not somebody who’s just trying to make a sale and a quick buck. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people in the industry, with the boom, with all this media attention, that have come in to make that quick buck,” says Sharpe. “We’ve seen in the bottle market that it can become oversaturated and people that don’t know what they’re buying into are now left with a lot of rotten eggs. Get secondary independent consultation. I’ve been talking to the Scotch Whisky Association recently. They will be releasing information about cask investment and the things to take into consideration, so I’d urge people to look out for that. If you buy a cask you’ve got to consider that the intrinsic value of that is only as good as the bottles you’re going to get out of it. There’s duty to be paid, bottling costs to be paid, distribution costs. You’ve got to create a brand which has to be sustained. I can tell you as somebody who’s started a brand, it’s not cheap!”
As well as an increased investment market, Sharpe also believes that 2020 will see people move from gin to become new whisky drinkers. “Ultimately, the old school whisky drinkers need to learn to embrace it, otherwise they’re going to be left behind. To say you can’t enjoy it the way you want to enjoy it is ludicrous and it’s just going to drive people away! We need to be welcoming,” he explains. “We need to get people into the category and find out what they like and what they don’t like and how we can grow as a whole. So I think in the UK, in particular, we’re going to see that wave of non-whisky drinkers come over”.
The Whisky Baron’s bottlings are available at Master of Malt
As for The Whisky Baron brand, its 2020 will entail continuing launching the Renaissance line (I can’t reveal much at this stage other than they’re delicious) and embarking upon various collaborations. “We’ll hope to do some collaborations with Milroy’s new bar The Dram House in Spitalfields, which is kind of like my second office. They’re exactly like me as they want to teach people about whisky. We’ve already done a collaboration with the Summerton Club, a subscription box run by a very good friend of mine, Dan which again is about getting people to try different things and learn about whisky and so as soon as met Dan we just hit it off. We did their December bottling and will hope to do another bottling later this year,” Sharpe says. “We’re working on a lot of different things in the background. I’m currently trying to get our bottles over to China and America. I’m confident with what we’ve bottled, the quality of our product, the experience that we provide, that we are very unique. We just want to keep growing on that and the more people we can get involved the better”.
It’s another wonderful week and #WhiskySanta is on a roll, so get ready for his third fabulous Super Wish. Well, well, if it isn’t my third #SuperWish! In between giving…
It’s another wonderful week and #WhiskySanta is on a roll, so get ready for his third fabulous Super Wish.
Well, well, if it isn’t my third #SuperWish! In between giving away £250,000-worth of delectable drinks, for this particular treat I managed to find the time to pop over to Islay to scout out something exceptionally tasty. If your mind has jumped to peaty treats galore, then spoiler alert! This one is fruity and creamy, which should narrow down which distillery the delicious liquid has come from. We’ll save the coal and ash for a certain someone’s stocking (not yours, obviously…).
Behold the marvellous Bunnahabhain 40 Year Old! It’s matured for an entire four decades in the Islay warehouses by the sea, which is a long old time….
It’s the magnificent Bunnahabhain 40 Year Old!
Sorry, I’m just imagining being holed up in the same place for 40 years. I know I only get out of the house for one day a year, but still. This particular whisky was actually in the casks for so long that they were forgotten about (they should make lists like me to help them remember), until the master blender stumbled across them whilst reviewing the warehouse ledgers. Before it’s bottled and boxed up, it’s blended with pure spring water from the peaty moorlands.
It’s pretty impressive. Flavour-wise, think berries and cream, toasted nuts, caramel and tropical fruit. Normally, this liquid gold would cost any regular whisky-loving human a whopping £1,750! Though, thanks to me, this marvellous week one lucky person is going to get it absolutely free.
If your mouths are watering like a reindeer’s around a carrot, then scoot on over to the Bunnahabhain 40 Year Old product page, and hit the ‘Wish’ button! You can’t miss it. There’s one more step. When you do this, a box will appear with a pre-populated Twitter or Facebook post. Publish that, and you’re all set! If you’re more of an Instagram fan (Insta-fan?) yourself, you can wish on there too, but just make sure you use the #WhiskySanta hashtag.
Make haste, you have until Friday to wish for this tasty bottle!
Though the whisky spent a leisurely 40 years maturing, this is time-sensitive stuff, and you have until the end of Thursday to get those wishes in. What are you waiting for?!
While you’re busy wishing away, I’ll be unpacking from my travels. I wonder what the MoM minions will think of my new ‘I ♥ Islay’ t-shirt…
UPDATE: And just like that, I’ve gone and granted this spectacular Super Wish to Phillip Scott! Hope you enjoy incredible Islay whisky!
Join us as we put your questions about Bunnahabhain to distillery manager Andrew Brown during Fèis Ìle 2019! Bunnahabhain was another Fèis Ìle distillery day to see a LOT of rain –…
Join us as we put your questions about Bunnahabhain to distillery manager Andrew Brown during Fèis Ìle 2019!
Bunnahabhain was another Fèis Ìle distillery day to see a LOT of rain – but spirits were not dampened! As part of our video series we chatted to distillery manager Andrew Brown – for the full video complement, keep an eye on the Fèis Ìle tag on the blog or follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram (@masterofmalt!). We’ll be posting videos every day until Friday!
Time for some unpeated fun at Bunnahabhain’s and Jura’s open days – and some peated fun too, because why not?! – as well as more boats, dogs and rain! We…
Time for some unpeated fun at Bunnahabhain’s and Jura’s open days – and some peated fun too, because why not?! – as well as more boats, dogs and rain! We had a blast.
It’s been a busy day at Fèis Ìle, with the team getting down to Bunnahabhain nice and early before splitting up so we could be at Jura’s open day too! We’ve also lost Kristy. She loves whisky, of course, and was gutted to miss the fun that’s yet to come tomorrow, but like many of us she has other passions. In her case that takes the form of a musical group called the Spice Girls, and even a cancelled flight wasn’t going to stand between her and their gig in Manchester tomorrow night!
Godspeed Kristy, we miss you already!
Grey sky at day, whisky maker’s delight. Or something like that.
Before we delve into today, however, there’s the (not) small matter of last night’s activities. After the blog post went live we headed back over to Ardnahoe for Hunter Laing‘s Kinship Collection evening with the one and only Jim McEwan. Those who’ve been following our Instagram stories may already know that we found the range – which is made up of a Bruichladdich 27 year old, Bunnahabhain 30, Caol Ila 40, Bowmore 30 (all soap and violets as you may hope/fear, depending on your tastes), Ardbeg 26 and Laphroaig 18 – very impressive indeed.
A very special tasting of Hunter Laing’s Kinship Collection of Islay malts
Friday morning at Bunnahabhain then brought rain. More rain! Last year was glorious sunshine throughout the festival, *BUT* this year the grey skies are actually welcome. As mentioned earlier in the week water sources had been getting worryingly low across the island, with some distilleries having to cease production, so it’s all for the greater good! (We are all whisky fans, after all!)
Cue taking cover in the distillery’s office, where we caught up with distillery manager Andrew Brown and Distell International master blender Dr. Kirstie McCallum. Kirstie talked us through the first two festival bottlings, which you can check out riiight… here:
Another place it doesn’t rain is in the cabin of a tall ship, and we were back on the Flying Dutchman for the first official tasting of the day. Some great drams, memorable yarns and even a couple of songs later, and it was time to split up. Well, once we managed to get off of the ship. Some of us took longer than others negotiating the (admittedly treacherous) soaking wet ladder up to the pier as the ship lurched up and down.
Kristy, Laura and Kenny then headed off to Jura, while I was able to enjoy the Bunnah Warehouse No. 9 Experience. Which was a bit good. 5 cracking casks – an ex-bourbon 6 year old, Manzanilla 10 year old, Palo Cortado 11, Pedro Ximénez 12 and a peated Mòine 15 – all available as hand-filled 20cl distillery exclusives. I impulse bought a PX shortly after, but would have happily taken any of the sherry cask options off their hands. It was also great fun, Colin (affectionately known as ‘Butthead’, or so I’m told), I salute you!*
“It’s all about the dram!” It is, you know.
Meanwhile, over in Jura, the team attended a tasting with blender and whisky maker Gregg Glass, taking in its new make, a couple of 21 year-olds from its Tide and Time series (keep an eye out for the fruity, ex-peated Jura cask Tide on the site soon…) and a distillery exclusive peated sherry cask number with a big charcoal finish.
Time ‘n’ Tide
As with last year, this wasn’t any ordinary tasting though. There were atomisers, scents trapped in bubbles, popcorn pairings and even prizes! We didn’t win anything, but photographic evidence suggests we were quite taken by the chocolate and honey scented bubbles.
My final masterclass of the day (the awesome folks at Bunnahabhain looked after us extremely well) was a chocolate and whisky pairing event with Kirstie and Julieann Fernandez that afforded an opportunity to taste the distillery’s third festival release. A 1988 Champagne cask, which was ridiculous in the best way possible. Think Champagne, actual Champagne, but a spirit – with people who don’t like Champagne loving it. Notes of brioche, melon, zesty real lemonade, cashew, green apple skin, some toffee – a weird note that I’ve somehow categorised as ‘silver birch’ in my brain over the years – just great, unique stuff. Hats off to those who queued up overnight and managed to bag one.
We got tees and drams into some new friends’ hands too, of course!
So, what have I missed? Ah, yes. A distillery poochie, of course! Apparently we can’t do one of these without one. Did I start this? It no longer matters, the whisky people need their doggos and who am I to deny them?! Meet Alfie. This pic came from @Belsnickel222 with the message “We will accept this one in the blog.” As will we my friend, as will we.
A Bunnah good boy.
Another awesome day on Islay and some more much needed water for the distilleries. They have enough now though, right…? Fingers crossed for some clear skies as we head to Ardbeg‘s Caribbean flavoured day tomorrow!
Looking forward to Fèis Ìle 2019? Can’t get a ticket? Whatever your situation, our selection of some of Islay’s most sublime Scotch means that all can indulge and enjoy! The…
Looking forward to Fèis Ìle 2019? Can’t get a ticket? Whatever your situation, our selection of some of Islay’s most sublime Scotch means that all can indulge and enjoy!
The Islay Festival of Music and Malt approaches. The highlight of the whisky calendar. Probably the reason we even still bother putting up with May as a month (that and all the bank holidays, come to think of it.)
A hive of whisky-based geekdom awaits. From official distillery days to delightful drams, celebrity dogs and all manner of ridiculously wonderful people, Fèis Ìle really has got everything, and 2019 promises more of the same. If you’re one of the lucky attendees this year, then be sure to keep your eyes peeled, as members of the MoM team will be on Islay for Fèis Ìle 2019!
However, if you’re not able to make the trip this year, then don’t panic. Not only will there be all kinds of content, video footage and social posts from the week to come from MoM, but you’ve still got an opportunity to get your hands on plenty of Islay whisky – like this lovely lot that we rounded up, for example. So go on then, get stuck in and enjoy!
All Islay – Islay Blended Malt (That Boutique-y Whisky Company)
This brilliant blended malt was created by us! That’s right, this year we decided to team up with That Boutique-y Whisky Company to celebrate our trip to Fèis Ìle 2019, and what better way to that than with whisky sourced exclusively from Islay distilleries? The “All Islay” name is something of a giveaway as to which distilleries contributed to this blend, as are those yellow markers on the label that appear to mark with the locations of every distillery on Islay releasing whisky today, including one iconic closed one…
What does it taste like?:
Buttered crumpets, coal fires, cut grass, some waxy peels, peat smoke richness, cooked apple, apricot, floral heather, peppery heat, damp oak and just a hint of leather.
If deliciously rich, intriguing and complex whiskies are your kind of thing, then Lagavulin 16 Year Old may be the dram for you. The pungent, peated and beloved expression is often held up as a benchmark of an Islay dram, for good reason. Oh, and if you’re on Islay, then be sure to order a Smokey Cokey (winner of Best Fèis Ìle Cocktail from last year’s awards). It might sound crazy to some, but you’ll just have to trust us.
An Oa became the first addition to Ardbeg’s core range in over a decade when it was introduced in 2017 to provide a more mellow, sweet and approachable dram to the distinctive distillery’s selection. Fans need not worry, however. An Oa (pronounced ‘an oh’ and named after the Mull of Oa) has still got plenty of that characteristic Ardbeg style we’ve all come to know and love.
What does it taste like?:
Butterscotch, fennel seed, tobacco leaf, Honey Nut Clusters, Everton mint, flourless orange cake, cigars, golden syrup flapjacks, sweet black tea, chocolate limes, smoky treacle and a little peanut brittle.
A heavy-hitting, peaty powerhouse of a dram, Port Charlotte 10 Year Old has become a go-to for fans who desire a smoky Scotch. Introduced as the flagship Port Charlotte expression by Bruichladdich in 2018, this 10-year-old single malt was peated to 40ppm and drawn from a combination of casks including first-fill American whiskey, second-fill American whiskey and second-fill French wine casks.
Every spring we look forward to Kilchoman’s annual Loch Gorm single malt release, and it’s safe to say the 2019 edition is another belter from what was Islay’s youngest distillery. This year, Kilchomah has drawn spirit from 20 oloroso sherry butts, resulting in big helpings of sweet and dark notes that blend well with its peat smoke core.
What does it taste like?:
Spicy smoke, sherried peels, cinnamon cookies, dried fruit, salted butter, grilled citrus fruits, jammy damson and lingering dark chocolate bitterness.
Caol Ila 18 Year Old is a refined, balanced and delightful Islay single malt that doesn’t pack an overpowering peaty punch and makes for one of our favourite aperitifs. It was matured in a mixture of refill casks so the impact of the wood is tempered which allows all of that distillery and Island character to shine.
An interesting and superb value bottling from Laphroaig Distillery, this whisky was aged for around five years before being finished in a quarter cask for several months, hence the name. Since its release in 2004, Laphroaig Quarter Cask has built a considerable and loyal following for its remarkably complex and punchy profile.
What does it taste like?:
Toffee, nuttiness, hickory, bicarbonate of soda, rum and raisin ice cream, fiery chilli heat, TCP, sweet cereals, custard, cigar smoke and a touch of cola syrup.
The entry-level Bunnahabhain bottling is the perfect expression for those who want an outstanding, approachable Islay single malt without the trademark peat. In fact, it’s one of the least peated whiskeys produced on the island with just 3 ppm of peat (Ardbeg expressions tend to be peated to 55 ppm, by comparison). Instead Bunnahabhain 12 Year Old is a gentle, sweet and exceptionally pleasing dram that’s received plenty of plaudits over the years and its fair share of fans.
What does it taste like?:
Seaweed, sherry, almonds, juicy sultanas, mochaccino, herbal and with a balanced salty tang.
If you want to know what the wonderful Bowmore Distillery is all about, then the sublime Bowmore 18 Year Old will prove well worth your time. An ever-popular dram, this well-structured whisky boasts an impressive harmony of sweet and savoury flavours from dark fruits to classic Islay smoke.
What does it taste like?:
Stewing fruit, plum jam, Seville marmalade, summer blossom, dark peat, hints of damp wood and very soft smoke.
Pinch, punch, the first of the month, March is here! Happy St. David’s Day if you’re celebrating, and happy weekend, too! But before you crack on with the festivities, we’ve…
Pinch, punch, the first of the month, March is here! Happy St. David’s Day if you’re celebrating, and happy weekend, too! But before you crack on with the festivities, we’ve got all the booze news stories you need from the week that was.
Spring has sprung! Birds are singing, the daffodils are out… and this week MoM HQ has been sweltering in temperatures most usually seen in July. We’ve cracked out the Highballs, the floral gins, the light mark rums, and we’ve had a lovely time (global warming concerns aside). But it’s not all been high-jinks – there have been news and features aplenty, too!
But what else has happened in the world of booze? LOADS, that’s what. Don’t believe us? Just read on, my friend.
We can’t wait to see the transformed Bunnahabhain distillery
Bunnahabhain gets £10.5 million distillery revamp
Islay fans: we have big distillery news. Bunnahabhain, tucked away on the island’s north coast, is in the throes of a significant expansion project! The £10.5 million transformation, funded by parent company Distell International, will see the creation of a ‘brand home’ and visitor centre complete with a shop and café overlooking the stunning Sound of Islay. Also new will be a shiny filling store, while the production building and cottages will be restored, creating on-site holiday accommodation. A number of original distillery buildings will be also be revived, while others, notably old warehouses, will be removed to make room for the new buildings, and improve operational flow. Work is already underway, with an impressive 99% of materials removed already repurposed for use on-site. “The plans aim to make the navigation of the site much easier for the visitor and to, in simple terms, declutter it,” said Derek Scott, Distell’s brand director for malts. He continued: “As the most remote and northerly distillery on the island, our transformation will give those who have made the journey time to pause, forget about the rest of the world and enjoy the serene surroundings.” The visitor centre should be ready in time for the 2020 season – we can’t wait.
Hopefully things will begin to look up for the Gautier Cognac parent
La Martiniquaise owner to take over most of Marie Brizard
French drinks group Marie Brizard Wine & Spirits looks likely to be taken over by main shareholder COFEPP, hopefully concluding a troubled couple of years for the Gautier Cognac and Sobieski vodka parent. In a statement, the company said the French authorities had approved the COFEPP bid, as long as certain conditions are met. These include selling off Porto Pitters and Ticaz Tequila to meet competition concerns. It’s an interesting move for COFEPP, which already owns both La Martiniquaise and Bardinet (think: Glen Moray single malt Scotch, Label 5 blended Scotch, Saint James rum and Poliakov vodka). Could France be about to see a new super-power drinks group take shape?
One of Port Ellen’s oldest, and most exciting, releases.
Port Ellen releases a 39 year old single malt In a move that will get Scotch whisky lovers salivating, Diageo has announced that it will release a 39 year old single malt from Port Ellen in April. This is one of the oldest ever releases from the distillery that closed in 1983 (but is scheduled to start distilling again in 2021). The new release is grandly called Port Ellen: Untold Stories The Spirit Safe, and is the first in a new series of releases called the Untold Stories Series. It has been matured in both American oak ex-bourbon and European oak ex-sherry refill casks. “This release has been selected from a small number of casks, it is very different to other Port Ellen releases,” said Tom Jones, global prestige brand ambassador. It’s being released at 50.9% ABV and only 1,500 bottles have been filled. As you’d expect from perhaps the most in-demand ghost distillery in the world, it’s expensive, weighing in at £4,500 (although something of a bargain compared with some recent Macallan bottlings…).
Too much paperwork means less time to spend on wine
Spare a thought for wine inspectors set to ‘drown in paperwork’
Yep, more Brexit news, folks. The Wine & Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) has issued yet more warnings as part of its #NoToNoDeal campaign. The association is claiming that wine inspectors will be left ‘drowning in paperwork’ in the event of a no-deal Brexit, with red tape expected to result in 600,000 additional forms. The cost of all this extra admin? £70 million, according to WSTA stats. Why? Importers will need oodles more boxes to be ticked, from laboratory tests to potential tariffs. V1 forms – currently required for wines coming in from outside the EU – cost £20 per form, and must be filled in by hand. Best stock up on ink cartridges, as 55% of wine consumed in the UK comes from the EU. “The additional form filling and laboratory tests required for a no deal scenario will come as a real blow to exporters and importers alike,” said Miles Beale, WSTA chief exec. “Wine inspectors will find themselves drowning in paperwork and – unless they can double their workforce – wine consignments are going to be held up by unnecessary additional red tape. The reality is that if we leave the EU without a deal, wine businesses, big and small, will be facing a catalogue of extra costs which will ultimately be passed onto the British consumer.” But there’s no need to panic – by all accounts, importers are already stocking up. The wine should keep flowing.
Say hello to the wonderful Method and Madness Gin!
First release of Method and Madness Gin
Irish Distillers has unveiled Method and Madness Gin, the micro-distillery’s inaugural gin release! The bottling pays homage to the historic links to gin in Cork, while also pushing the modern boundaries of (g)innovation. The spirit was predominantly based around Irish Distillers’ pot still Cork Crimson Gin in 2005, which also took inspiration from traditional recipes dating back to 1798, found in a notebook kept in the distillery. It is distilled in ‘Mickey’s Belly’, Ireland’s oldest gin still, first commissioned at the site in 1958. The equipment is named after Michael Hurley, who was a distiller at Midleton for 45 years. Both he and the still came from Cork to Midleton, and so it was christened. The earthy citrus gin marries 16 botanicals, and Henry Donnelly, apprentice distiller, commented that to “combine the knowledge and tools of the past with the skills of the present to create a gin for the future has been a real honour”. The range is a fine use of Shakespeare’s iconic line, we’d say. Method and Madness gin is available in Ireland and global travel retail from March, and will be released globally from July.
Campbell Brown, who shouldn’t have any trouble finding a dram to toast this success
Double-win for Brown-Forman at the 2019 Icons of Whisky America Awards
What’s better than one award? Two awards, of course! The Brown-Forman Corporation will know all about that after Whisky Magazine has named the company Distiller of the Year and Juan Merizalde Carrillo of Old Forester Distilling Co. as Distillery Manager of the Year at the 2019 Icons of Whisky America Awards! Brown-Forman will now hope they can repeat the trick at Global Icons of Whisky presented in London this spring, where competition will come from contemporaries in Whisky Magazine’s other regions; Australia, India, Ireland, Rest of World and Scotland. “We are honoured to receive this award in recognition of our almost 150-year history as distillers and for our contributions and commitments to the spirits industry,” said Lawson Whiting, Brown-Forman CEO. “We continue to craft American whiskeys the best way we know how – with care, patience, and pride.” Campbell Brown, president of Old Forester added. “We are proud to celebrate Juan who is a great contributor to the success of Old Forester. Juan’s balance of technical expertise and passion for crafting great bourbon ensures that the Old Forester promise is as it has always been – to produce bourbon of the finest quality and utmost consistency.” Congratulations guys! I think a celebratory dram is in order…
Penderyn celebrates Welsh whisky ancestors on St David’s Day
Patriotic Penderyn has made a habit of honouring the patron saint of Wales with great whisky, and that’s not about to stop this year. The first distillery in Wales for 100 years has created a new Penderyn ‘Icons of Wales‘ single malt expression, the sixth edition in the series. Named Penderyn Royal Welsh Whisky as a nod to its distilling predecessors, the previous Welsh Whisky Company, it’s a peated whisky with a port wood finish that was bottled at 43% ABV. It was modelled on an original 19th century bottle that became the Royal Welsh Whisky after it received a royal warrant on 26 July 1895 (Queen Vic was obviously impressed on her 1891 visit). However, the company was wound up in 1903 after period of difficulty and little is now known about the original whisky. Adverts state that it was a five-year-old peated malt and, rather fancifully, was “the most wonderful whisky that ever drove the skeleton from the feast, or painted landscapes in the brain of man”. Little wonder bottles of Royal Welsh Whisky now sell for several thousand pounds! Stephen Davies, managing director of Penderyn, commented: “This is a great chance to celebrate Wales’ whisky heritage and the original Welsh Whisky company at Frongoch. Creating a global brand is a massive challenge, and we are proud to create award-winning whiskies which travel from Wales to the world, and this bottle pays homage to those early Welsh whisky pioneers.” Penderyn Royal Welsh Whisky is priced at £45 and sounds royally delicious – Dydd Gŵyl Dewi Hapus, everyone!
Diageo just can’t get enough of this stuff!
Diageo gets taste for baijiu, wants more of Shui Jing Fang
Last year we reported that Diageo wanted in on the baijiu action, upping its stake in producer Shui Jing Fang from 39.7% to 60%. This week, the company confirmed it is after more, and has made an offer to increase its shareholding to 70%. And given baijiu’s popularity, it’s an interesting move. The Chinese white spirit is the most widely-consumed liquor in the world – and is the most valuable (yes, even beating whisky!). According to the 2018 Brand Finance Spirits 50 report, baijiu brand Moutai alone is worth a whopping US$21.2 billion. By comparison, Johnnie Walker, the world’s most valuable Scotch brand, is worth US$4.3bn. The time for baijiu has come!
Books and booze are a brilliant combination
The Bloomsbury Club Bar unveils literary cocktails for World Book Day
A good book plus a delicious dram? We’ve fallen in love all over again with that simple joy recently. So when news reached us that London’s The Bloomsbury Club Bar has created a literary-themed cocktail menu for World Book Day on 7 March, we were all ears. To honour the Bloomsbury Set of writers, philosophers and artists, the bar is encouraging guests to bring in a paperback book which they can trade for a complimentary cocktail. The books will then be donated to a local charitable bookshop! The four cocktails on the special menu include the mysteriously smoking JK Rowling, make with Chivas Regal 12 Year Old, ginger, honey, lemon, and Lapsang tea aroma; and the Roald Dahl, crafted with Havana Club Seleccion de Maestros, peach liqueur, dry vermouth, and grenadine, and comes complete with a giant chocolate ear. Other authors in the line-up include TS Eliot and Charles Dickens. The whole thing was developed by newly-appointed head bartender Scott Gavin in partnership with drinks group Pernod Ricard. Can’t bear to give up a beloved book? You can still enjoy a serve, you’ll just have to part with £12 instead.
BrewDog takes to the skies
And finally… BrewDog Airlines takes off
Not content with making beer, running pubs and launching a hotel, self-effacing Scottish brewer BrewDog has now taken to the skies. This week, the inaugural flight of BrewDog Airlines took off from London Stansted to Columbus, Ohio. On board, a group of paying customers along with a smattering of journalists were treated to a selection of brews, including an IPA especially designed to taste good at altitude. One of the lucky few was award-winning beer writer Adrian Tierney-Jones who told us it was a very jolly experience: “everyone was very well behaved. I’ve seen more pissed people on a flight to Tenerife.” The only slight problem was that the lavatory tanks on the Boeing 767 weren’t designed to cope with all the, ahem, liquid produced by 200 British beer lovers. Tierney-Jones tweeted on landing: “Loos had to close two hours before landing such was the volume of micturition…” Apparently there were some serious queues for the toilets when they landed. We can picture the debrief at BrewDog HQ: “We’re going to need a bigger plane.”
We’ve got a whole new batch of Master of Malt Single Cask Series whiskies, people! 10 of them, to be specific. Are you very excited? You should be. Whisky fans,…
We’ve got a whole new batch of Master of Malt Single Cask Series whiskies, people! 10 of them, to be specific. Are you very excited? You should be.
Whisky fans, rejoice. We’ve done it again! You know the drill by now. We introduce a brand new selection of Master of Malt Single Cask Serieswhiskies, you enjoy the spoils of our labour. What a system.
As always, we’ve managed to get our hands on some truly sublime single malts from a host of fantastic distilleries, including: Laphroaig, Bunnahabhain, Mortlach, Craigellachie and more. The single cask expressions range from 8 to 37 years matured and every single edition is presented at cask strength, without any chill-filtration or added colourings. All you find in these MoM-tastic bottles is very, very tasty whisky.
Now go check out our brand new selection below and enjoy!
It’s easy when we think of Scotch whisky from Islay, to picture a certain style of tipple. One with provenance, personality – and plenty of peat. But distilleries such as Bunnahabhain have demonstrated that you can create some stunning spirits without the smoke. Want an example? Well, that’s handy. Because there’s one behind door #23 of your Advent calendar.