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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Bunnahabhain

Vote for your favourite whisky icon!

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. 

The Macallan The Red Collection

It’s certainly an iconic brand, but will it be crowned MoM whisky icon?

Worth 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. 

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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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Brendan McCarron to leave Glenmorangie for Distell

Brendan McCarron, head of maturing whisky stocks at The Glenmorangie Company, has announced he will leave the role to take up the mantle of master distiller at Distell.  Pretty huge…

Brendan McCarron, head of maturing whisky stocks at The Glenmorangie Company, has announced he will leave the role to take up the mantle of master distiller at Distell

Pretty huge news emerged on Instagram yesterday as Brendan McCarron revealed that his time with The Glenmorangie Company is drawing to a close after seven years. The former head of maturing whisky stocks will be moving to Distell to become the brand’s new master distiller, where he’ll work with its considerable Scotch whisky cohort. This includes Bunnahabhain, Tobermory and Deanston distilleries as well as Black Bottle whisky.

It’s a striking revelation as it appeared that he would be the natural successor to Dr Bill Lumsden, Glenmorangie’s director of whisky creation and because he’s enjoyed so much success with the brand. Both Glenmorangie and Ardbeg Distillery have released all kinds of wonderful new expressions over the years under the duo’s stewardship. We’ve also heard that the news came as a surprise to Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH), the owner of The Glenmorangie Company.

In a post on his personal Instagram account, McCarron commented “So I have a bit of news. I’ve just accepted an offer to be the master distiller for Distell. I’m going to work with the team responsible for Bunnahabhain, Tobermory and Deanston distilleries as well as blends such as Black Bottle and my first time working on gin too”. McCarron added that he is “beyond excited to get started”, and has been enjoying his “research“ recently, in particular tasting Tobermory 12 Year Old. He signed off by stating that he was very sad to leave the Glenmorangie company after “7 great years”, but that he can’t wait to get started in the new role.

Brendan McCarron has announced he will take up the mantle of master distiller at Distell. 

McCarron is one of the most respected whisky producers in the industry

We reached out to McCarron and he informed us that he’ll likely start working in his new role next month. He’s based near Deanston and will split his time between there, Tobermory and, of course, Islay, as well as Distell’s new multi-million-pound blending and disgorging centre in East Kilbride. “I am becoming like a proper west coast distiller,” McCarron remarked to us. He also says the role he’s taking will mean more time working in distilleries. “One thing I do miss is production, the hiss and singing of the stills as the steam goes through them. There’s an energy to production which I haven’t had in this role which has been nosing, blending and travelling. I’ve always missed the connection to the distilleries. So this ticks every box. I’ll be directly in charge of production.”

Ultimately, the allure of the new gig and what it entails is what has sold McCarron. “I’ve done stuff I wouldn’t have imagined being a working-class boy from Coatbridge, I’ve drunk Krug in five-star hotels, drunk amazing whiskies with incredible people in China, Russia and various parts of the States. And got to work on incredible whiskies. But it’s been seven years. Bill’s still got lots that he wants to achieve. I could continue to work under Bill but I love the idea of Distell saying, here’s what we want to do, here’s what our plans are, here are our liquids,” he explains. “I’ve always loved Deanston, Bunnahabhain and Tobermory. It was the distilleries, the liquids, and seeing the investment that’s going into the company. All this appealed to me. My boss, Julian Patton, told me about his plans, how much he believed in the whiskies. And I do too. Being the master distiller of three distilleries you love, it’s hard to say no.”

McCarron was also keen to thank everyone for the response he’s had, commenting. “My phone was dead this morning, I had so many missed calls and messages that it drained the battery. There have been lots of lovely messages coming in.” He also said that Bill is sad to see him go, but is excited for him too, saying that it’s “an amazing role but they are lucky to have you”. McCarron added that he “didn’t anticipate me leaving. I didn’t anticipate me leaving. But, when a role like this appears, you can feel the energy in the company. It’s impossible to say no.”

Brendan McCarron has announced he will take up the mantle of master distiller at Distell. 

McCarron will split his time across the distilleries he’ll work with, which will include trips to his beloved Islay

Before working for The Glenmorangie Company, McCarron had managed Oban Distillery, was the group manager of Lagavulin, Caol Ila, and Port Ellen Maltings on Islay, and helped to design Roseisle Distillery – the first distillery to be built in Speyside for 30 years. His new employer Distell is a South African-based producer and marketer of spirits, wines, ciders and ready-to-drink products (RTDs). The company was formed in 2000 by the merger of Stellenbosch Farmers’ Winery (SFW) and Distillers Corporation. In 2013, Distell purchased the Scotch whisky business of Burn Stewart Distillers from CL Financial for £160m and took on its impressive portfolio, which includes the aforementioned distillery giants as well as brands like Black Bottle and Scottish Leader

We wish him all the best and can’t wait to see what he does at Distell. Slainte, Brendan!

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Whisky Advent 2020 Day #3: Bunnahabhain 12 Year Old

A new day dawns in December which means that it’s time to open another door of your Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar. Behind door three you’ll find an Islay…

A new day dawns in December which means that it’s time to open another door of your Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar. Behind door three you’ll find an Islay malt with a difference… no smoke! 

To help with our festive countdown, we’re delighted to have master distiller Stephen Woodcock who oversees operation at the three Scottish single malt distilleries in the Distell group Bunnahabhain, Deanston, and Tobermory. It’s the former distillery that we’re concentrating on today. 

Located on Islay, it’s something of an anomaly on the island in producing mainly unpeated for its single malt, though this wasn’t always the case. It used to produce a smoky new make but in 1963 production was doubled but the on-site maltings were closed meaning that malt now came from the mainland unpeated. This new Bunnahabhain was designed to go in the light Cutty Sark blend. Since then the classic single malt style, like the 12 Year Old we’re featuring today, has been unpeated though the distillery does produce some peated expressions. Since 2014, it’s been part of the South African Distell group.

Master distiller Stephen Woodcock

And now, we’ll hand over to the expert, Stephen Woodcock, to tell us more. 

Master of Malt: Can you tell us a bit about Bunnahabhain 12 Year Old and how it is matured?

Stephen Woodcock: Bunnahabhain 12 was the beginning of our range, so it holds a special place in our hearts. First launched in 1979, our 12 Year Old has endured almost 40 years, thanks to the passion and dedication of our distillery team, not to mention the love and support from our fans and friends around the world. It has set the tone and the benchmark for the rest of the range – only the best will do. It is double matured in ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks, this whisky is beautifully rich and full-bodied, achieving the perfect balance of the characteristic nutty and sherry flavours of Bunnahabhain.

MoM: What makes Bunnahabhain so special as a distillery?

SW: The sense of community, the remote location and the people all combine to produce our exceptional whisky. There has been change over time and although the village houses have gone, there is still a strong sense of a community and link to our past, which relied on the sea to deliver and take away the goods we depended on. This connection to the sea allowed the distillery to thrive for nearly 100 years before a road connected us to the rest of the island – all of which is encapsulated in the image of The Helmsman. A trip to Bunnahabhain provides visitors with a real sense of our history, community and of course great whisky.

Bunnahabhain looking beautiful on a clear day

MoM: How has the distillery adapted to the unusual events of this year?

SW: We had been planning for a busy year at Bunnahabhain and it certainly was that, just in a very different way than expected. As the team will attest, living on Islay has its challenges so we’re used to adapting – whether that be from stormy conditions or something more unexpected like the virus. This year has allowed us to connect more with the Bunnahabhain community online through shows, virtual tastings and of course re-thinking our Feis Ile plans. For now, we are busy working behind the scenes and look forward to a brighter 2021 where we will hopefully be able to welcome everyone back to our home on Islay.

MoM: What do you think the world of whisky is going to look like in 2021?

SW: 2020 has asked serious questions of a liquid which is synonymous with social situations and gatherings, whether they be festivals, tastings or simply drinks with friends. The industry and consumers have responded with online versions of these events, which now seem like our new normal – they have been tremendously successful given the global circumstances surrounding COVID and the challenges it has brought with it.

From the challenges of this year, a real opportunity has stemmed to enjoy international festivals and tastings. Traditionally these events would be localised affairs, however, they have opened up and we can now enjoy company from the four corners of the globe in a single sitting and join the mix of conversation, observation and chat in an online world without the extended carbon footprint.

2021 will hopefully see a transition from the new normal back to something more familiar, with the added benefit of applying our learnings from this year – allowing us to enjoy whisky in more traditional settings, as well as harnessing technology to build a larger online audience to share Scotland’s gift to the world.

MoM: What will you be drinking over the festive period?

SW: Bunnahabhain of course! It’s difficult for me to see beyond the beautiful sherried influence in a Stuireadhair or a Bunnahabhain 18 if I really want to spoil myself. Having said that, I really can’t ignore our other distilleries… the peated warmth of a Ledaig 18 is a fantastic way to enjoy a cold winter evening and a Deanston 12 with a single cube of ice is a great welcome to a happy and healthy 2021.

Behind door number three is the classic Bunnahabhain 12 Year Old

Tasting note from the Chaps at Master of Malt:

Nose: Fresh, sweet. Seaweed, malt.

Palate: Soft, supple. Sherry, nutty. A little sweetness, malty, juicy sultana. Slightly coastal.

Finish: Sherried, mochaccino, herbal, balanced salty tang.

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Master of Malt tastes… new whiskies from Tobermory, Deanston and Bunnahabhain

Sound the whisky klaxon! International spirits kingpin Distell has just released eight exceptional limited-edition bottlings across its single malt Scotch whisky portfolio, which spans Tobermory, Deanston and Bunnahabhain distilleries. And…

Sound the whisky klaxon! International spirits kingpin Distell has just released eight exceptional limited-edition bottlings across its single malt Scotch whisky portfolio, which spans Tobermory, Deanston and Bunnahabhain distilleries. And guess what? We were lucky enough to sample three of them during an online tasting with master blender Julieann Fernandez, distillery manager Andrew Brown and visitor centre manager Dr Billy Sinclair. Here’s the scoop…

Little can top the thrill of pouring a dram of whisky you’ve never tasted before, except, of course, sharing the experience with the folks who made it – which is exactly what we did last week during an online tasting hosted by Julieann Fernandez, master blender across Distell’s single malt Scotch whisky distilleries; Andrew Brown, distillery manager at Bunnahabhain; and Dr Billy Sinclair; visitor centre manager at Bunnahabhain. The occasion? To toast the 2020 edition of Distell’s limited edition range, which this year boasts a combined age of nearly 150 years across eight expressions from Tobermory, Deanston and Bunnahabhain. And they’re here!*. 

Tobermory is the Isle of Mull’s only whisky distillery and – having been established in 1798 – one of the oldest commercial distilleries in Scotland. It’s here that both unpeated Tobermory and peated Ledaig single malts are produced. This year, the Hebridian distiller has crafted three limited-edition drams, the first being Tobermory 2007 Port Pipe Finish, bottled at 55.8% ABV. Peat fans will be pleased to hear we’ve been treated to two Ledaigs: 1998 Marsala Finish, bottled at 58.6%; and 2007 Pedro Ximenez Finish, bottled at 55.5%.

new whiskies from Tobermory Deanston Bunnahabhain

There’s nothing more exciting than new whisky from the likes of Bunnahabhain

Over on the mainland, perched on the banks of the River Teith, lies Deanston. This former cotton mill was lovingly transformed into a whisky distillery in 1966, and bottled its first whisky eight years later in 1974. This years’ collection welcomes a 2002 Organic Pedro Ximenez Finish, bottled at a cask strength of 49.3% ABV – Deanston became one of the first Scottish sites to start producing organic whisky back in 2000 – along with a 1991 Muscat Finish, which comes in at 45% ABV, and a 2002 Pinot Noir Finish at 50% ABV. 

Rounding off the collection is Bunnahabhain, which has been situated on Islay’s most northerly point since it was established in 1881, and remains the island’s most remote distillery to this day. There are two glorious bottlings to choose from: Bunnahabhain 2008 Manzanilla Matured, which unlike the others, is a full maturation as opposed to a finish (bottled at 55.4% ABV); and Bunnahabhain Moine 1997 Pedro Ximenez Finish, bottled at a respectable 50% ABV. All eight expressions are of natural colour and non-chill filtered. Lovely stuff.

new whiskies from Tobermory Deanston Bunnahabhain

Deanston 2002 Pinot Noir

Our first pour was Deanston 2002 Pinot Noir, which started its journey back in December 2002. It was initially filled into refill casks and then transferred into pinot noir casks in June 2018. Deanston is a very light and adaptable spirit, Fernandez says, and this is due to a quirky production design. 

“The stills are very tall and they have an inclining lye pipe, which is quite unusual,” she explains. “Because of the shape, we get a lot of reflux, which creates a really light spirit.” For that reason, Deanston’s new make lends itself to a huge array of different cask types and different finishes. “With a Pinot Noir coming from the Champagne region it is very special, and I think it pairs beautifully with the Deanston,” she says.

On the nose, this whisky is crisp, with hints of vanilla and oak and plenty of green apples, says Brown. “The palate is quite dry, quite acidic but it still reminds me of Deanston – the crisp apple that I associate with Deanston is still coming through,” adds Fernandez. “Lovely maltiness and hints of tannins, and quite a long finish on this – the acidity lingers with a malty creaminess.”

“I definitely get the apples on the nose, but it’s almost like the bottom of the box of the apples – slightly musty, a wee earthy quality to it, but still got the sharpness,” Dr Sinclair continues. “The finish is incredible, it comes in waves. You get the sharpness, then it dies down and the creaminess comes in, and it just ripples off into the distance to the back of your throat. It’s absolutely beautiful.”

new whiskies from Tobermory Deanston Bunnahabhain

Tobermory 2007 Port Pipe Finish

Next stop, Tobermory. As we referenced earlier, the Isle of Mull-based operation produces two single malts: Tobermory, which is unpeated, and Ledaig, which is peated. “The distillation process for both of them is exactly the same – just slightly different cut points for the Ledaig just to get all the phenols over,” says Fernandez.

Today we’re tasting Tobermory 2007 Port Pipe Finish, which was distilled and filled into refill hogsheads in October 2007 before transferring to Port pipes in June 2016 for a further four years’ maturation. Tobermory’s new make spirit is quite complex, says Fernandez, and more robust compared to Deanston.

“Tobermory’s new make is packed full of citrus, especially orange, and this really comes through in this Tobermory limited edition,” says Fernandez. On the nose, “there’s a lot of sweet citrus, poached pears, Turkish delights, rose petals, and a hint of cold espresso. On the palette, really creamy, beautiful sweetness with pears and oranges coming through. Rich oak, vanilla, caramel and warming spice.”

Dr Sinclair agrees. On the nose, “jasmine and liquorice, and then that vanishes and you get that creamy rich sweet flavour coming through from the port influence,” he says. “At the end, it’s warm and rich with five-spice, and when you add a couple of drops of water into it, the finish seems to last even longer – it’s as though you’ve turned the volume down from 10 to seven, and it’s just continuing like that off into the distance.”

“The finish is just amazing on this,” Brown agrees. “The balance between Tobermory spirit and the Port wood cask is just spot on. Sometimes port overpowers whisky, but in this, it complements the Tobermory spirit so beautifully. An absolutely stunning dram.”

new whiskies from Tobermory Deanston Bunnahabhain

Bunnahabhain 2008 Manzanilla Matured

Our final Scotch whisky stop for the day is Bunnahabhain on Islay. The first bricks were laid down in 1881, and it first went into production in 1883, says Brown. The distillery exclusively produced peated whisky until 1963, where the production pivoted to unpeated only. Since 2003, the site has produced both unpeated and peated whiskies, and as such has released both styles in this years’ collection. 

The one we’re tasting – Bunnahabhain 2008 Manzanilla Matured – is unpeated, and has been matured entirely in former Manzanilla sherry casks for 11 years, having been filled on 2 July 2008. “On the nose, you get salted caramel, creamy berries, rich oak, honeyed cashew nuts, dried fruit, and there’s a subtle spice,” says Brown. “With a wee bit of water in it, the berries come out more and more – it’s an absolutely beautiful nose.”

On the palate, you’ll find “lovely dried fruit and fig with sweet malt, candied fruit, and a nice oak toffee taste,” he continues. “I get a salty, briny note, I don’t know if it’s just because the cask has been beside the sea since 2008. On the finish, more dried fruit and salted caramel – a bit of water in it and you get more spiciness coming through; a drier finish with more oak. For me, it’s an absolutely cracking whisky.”

“This finish is so long and so full,” agrees Fernandez. “The flavours just coat your mouth and linger there, all the dried fruits you mentioned, that salted caramel. Completely with you on the salty note. I think this is absolutely exceptional.” 

And Dr Sinclair agrees. “Adding a drop of water at the end, the saltiness just goes right up,” he says. “It’s dry, it’s clean, it’s crisp, and then you get that lovely caramel coming through towards the end. For me, Bunnahabhain and Manzanilla just work. This is a really good example of that pairing coming together in harmony.”

The new Distell bottlings are available to buy from Master of Malt. 

*Excluding the Ledaig 2007 Pedro Ximenez Finish, bottled at 55.5%, which is currently a visitor centre exclusive. We’ll let you know if this situation changes.

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Be ready for the Bank Holiday weekend with our boozy sale!

The last Bank Holiday of 2020 until Christmas is less than a week away (Monday 31 August) and we want to help you make the most of it. How? With…

The last Bank Holiday of 2020 until Christmas is less than a week away (Monday 31 August) and we want to help you make the most of it. How? With these epic savings on delicious booze! 

The Summer Bank Holiday is here and people all over England and Wales will be looking to take advantage of the extra day of rest. And of all the sales online. The extra weekend day is the perfect excuse to indulge in some much-needed me-time and treat yourself with some bargain self-care goodies to go alongside it. Whether you want a classic Scotch whisky to toast the extra time off or a deliciously flavoured gin to accentuate those summer vibes, we’ve got just the thing for you. To help you find everything you need with ease, we’ve rounded up some of our best offers below. Enjoy!

Bank Holiday weekend boozy sale

Wolfburn Batch No.375 

Who doesn’t love a small-batch series of delicious Scotch whisky? The Wolfburn Distillery might be a relative newcomer in the industry but it’s already got an impressive core range and a super selection of small-batch expressions including this tasty number. Batch No.375 was matured in a combo of 100-litre first-fill bourbon barrels and second-fill Oloroso sherry hogsheads and packs notes of floral barley, fragrant vanilla, chewy dried fruits and a kick of oaky spices.

What’s the deal?

It was £78.95, now it’s £48.95.

Bank Holiday weekend boozy sale

Tapatio Anejo Tequila

For those who are enlightened and see beyond the nonsense party reputation Tequila has, a quality bottling of Mexico’s national spirit will sound like the perfect way to make the most of the Bank Holiday weekend. Tapatio Anejo Tequila was made from 100% blue agave and was double-distilled to the desired strength and then bottled without the need for any water to be added. Margaritas, anyone?

What’s the deal?

It was £34.95, now it’s £27.45.

Bank Holiday weekend boozy sale

Chivas Regal 18 Year Old

If you need a serious sipper then look no further than this go-to bottling for bartenders and connoisseurs alike. Chivas Regal 18 Year Old, which was created by the legendary Colin Scott, is a serial award-winner for good reason and includes over 20 single malts from around Scotland.

What’s the deal?

It was £59.83, now it’s £49.83.

Bank Holiday weekend boozy sale

The Oxford Artisan Distillery Rye Organic Dry Gin

Those of you who appreciate spirits crafted with a sense of provenance and sustainability will love The Oxford Artisan Distillery. Its Rye Organic Dry Gin, for example, was distilled from local rye grown just 50 miles from the site in handmade, purpose-built stills. With a trio of citrus peels and meadowsweet among the botanicals, expect heaps of juniper, rye spice and citrus in here.

What’s the deal?

It was £38.95, now it’s £28.95.

Bank Holiday weekend boozy sale

Anno Orange and Honey Gin

If you’re on the lookout for a gin but would prefer a flavoured option, then we highly recommend this delight from our neighbours at Anno Distillers. The Kent-based booze makers created this sweet, citrusy gin by infusing orange zest and locally sourced honey alongside ginger and nutmeg. A portion of the profit from each bottle goes to Bee Friendly Trust, so you can support a good cause while you imbibe.

What’s the deal?

It was £38.14, now it’s £33.14.

Bank Holiday weekend boozy sale

Doorly’s 5 Year Old

If rum is more of your thing, then you’ll want the best. That’s why we’ve recommended a bottling from the exceptional Foursquare Distillery. The Bajan rum experts have created a number of great expressions and ranges over the years, including the delightful Doorly’s brand, which is full of balanced and beautiful spirits that are great in cocktails and neat. Doorly’s 5 Year Old is no exception.

What’s the deal?

It was £27.13, now it’s £21.63.

Bank Holiday weekend boozy sale

Bunnahabhain Stiuireadair 

Pronounced ‘Stew-rah-dur’, meaning ‘helmsman’ in Scots Gaelic, Stiùireadair pays homage to the Bunnahabhain helmsman and the sea that surrounds Islay, so naturally, you can expect this one to have some serious seaside vibes. In fact, Bunnahabhain Stiuireadair, which was matured in first and second fill sherry casks, is unpeated so the sweet coastal character of the distillate can shine.

What’s the deal?

It was £59.83, now it’s £49.83.

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New Arrival of the Week: Bunnahabhain 15 Year Old 2003 Amontillado Cask Finish

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.

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Join our Islay celebrations on Instagram Live!

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?

Fèis Ìle on Instagram Live

Aerolite Lyndsay 10 Year Old

Day One

Who’s joining us? The Character of Islay Whisky Company and its head of whisky, Sam Simmons for a tasting. What a way to kick off proceedings!

What whisky will we be tasting? Aerolite Lyndsay 10 Year Old, Green Isle, Grace Île and Fiona Macleod.

When is it? Friday 22 May at 7:30pm

Fèis Ìle on Instagram Live

Lagavulin will be joining us on day two

Day Two

Who’s joining us? Lagavulin and its distillery manager Colin Gordon for an evening dram and a chat. Grab a tasting glass and get your questions ready for Colin!

What whisky will we be tasting? Lagavulin 8Lagavulin 16.

When is it? Saturday 23 May at 8:30pm.

Fèis Ìle on Instagram Live

Head distiller Adam Hannett will join us for a tasting and Q&A

Day Three

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.

What whisky will we be tasting? The Classic Laddie.

When is it? Sunday 24 May at 6pm.

Fèis Ìle on Instagram Live

Caol Ila Distillery, as seen from the skies.

Day Four

Who’s joining us? Caol Ila and its distillery manager for an evening dram and a chat with Pierrick Guillaume.

What whisky will we be tasting? Caol Ila 12.

When is it? Monday 25 May at 8:15pm. 

Fèis Ìle on Instagram Live

We’ll be spending lunchtime with Laphroaig

Day Five

Who’s joining us? Laphroaig for a lunchtime taste and learn session with distillery manager John Campbell. It will also be hosting its own celebration, #LaphroaigLive from 18:15pm.

What whisky will we be tasting? Laphroaig 10.

When is it? Tuesday 26 May at 1pm. 

Fèis Ìle on Instagram Live

The beautiful Bowmore Distillery who will join us on day six

Day Six

Who’s joining us? Bowmore for another lunchtime Live, with time with distillery manager, David Turner. We’ll have a chat about all things whisky, so ready your questions!

What whisky will we be tasting? Bowmore 12.

When is it? Wednesday 27 May at 1pm.

Fèis Ìle on Instagram Live

Kilchoman founder Anthony Wills will stop by to kick-off our Thursday with a bang

Day Seven

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.

What whisky will we be tasting? Kilchoman Machir Bay, Loch Gorm 2020, the new Am Burach, 100% Islay 9th Edition, and the official Festival Bottling!

When is it? Thursday 28 May at 10.30am.

Fèis Ìle on Instagram Live

Bunnahabhain Toiteach a Dhà

Day Eight

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‘). 

What whisky will we be tasting? Bunnahabhain Toiteach a Dhà, Bunnahabhain 25-Year-Old, and the very exciting Bunnahabhain 2003 Amontillado Finish, which is usually only available from the distillery.

When is it? Friday 29 May at 5pm.

Fèis Ìle on Instagram Live

The scenic Jura Distillery makes delicious and subtle smoky whisky

Who’s joining us? Jura and Whyte & Mackay’s Gregg Glass, who will be online with us for an evening tasting. 

What whisky will we be tasting? Jura 10 Year Old.

When is it? Friday 29 May evening.

Fèis Ìle on Instagram Live

The stunning Ardbeg Distillery at night

Day Nine

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!

What whisky will we be tasting? Ardbeg 10An Oa and Blaaack. 

When is it? Saturday 30 May at 3pm.

 

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The Whisky Baron: life as an independent bottler

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 ClubFounder 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!”

The Whisky Baron

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 Whisky Baron

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”. 

The Whisky Baron

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

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”. 

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