fbpx
£

We're just loading our login box for you, hang on!

Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Bushmills

#BagThisBundle – win whiskey from Bushmills Distillery!

Why buy Christmas presents when you can win them for free? It’s competition time thanks to the generous folks at Bushmills Distillery! You could win a whole bundle of Irish…

Why buy Christmas presents when you can win them for free? It’s competition time thanks to the generous folks at Bushmills Distillery! You could win a whole bundle of Irish whiskey.

We’ve reached the time of year where we’re all waiting for Noddy Holder to scream “It’s Christmasssss!!!” like a mad festive rooster announcing the beginning of the most wonderful time of the year. And we’ve got a way to make this season even more jolly. We’ve teamed up with Bushmills to create a #BagThisBundle competition that promises so much great booze you’ll feel guilty if you don’t give some of it away as presents. 

#BagThisBundle – Win whiskey from Bushmills Distillery!

Who wants to win some whiskey from Bushmills Distillery?!

In full, here’s what you could win:

And all you have to do to enter is the following:

  • Follow @masterofmalt Facebook account.
  • Follow @bushmillsuk Facebook account.
  • Tag two friends you’d like to share the bundle with on our Competition post.
  • Like this post!

Complete those simple steps and you’re in it to win it. Best of luck! 

MoM ‘Bushmills Social Bag This Bundle’ Competition 2021 open to entrants 18 years and over. Entries accepted from 13:00:00 GMT on 17 December to 17:00:00 GMT on 20 December 2021. Winners chosen at random after close of competition. Prizes not transferable and cannot be exchanged for cash equivalent. See full T&Cs for details.

No Comments on #BagThisBundle – win whiskey from Bushmills Distillery!

The Nightcap: 12 November

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

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

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

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

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

The Nightcap: 12 November

It’s the week of biodynamic whiskies!

Bruichladdich and Waterford release biodynamic whisky

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

The Nightcap: 12 November

Just look at it. A thing of beauty.

Jameson launches limited-edition 21 Year Old whiskey

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

anCnoc 2009

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

Limited-edition anCnoc 2009 is coming!

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

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

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

Aston Martin Bowmore

Goldfinger! Sorry, golden ratio!

Bowmore and Aston Martin collaborate again

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

The Nightcap: 12 November

Alex Thomas doing that thing with the glass that blenders do

Bushmills appoints new master blender

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

The Nightcap: 12 November

That looks a bit precarious

Rare 1978 Talisker cask set for auction

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

The Nightcap: 12 November

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

New Scotch grain distillery gets the go-ahead

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

The Nightcap: 12 November

Galia and Adrian Pike from Westwell

England takes on France at the judgement of Nine Elms 

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

The Nightcap: 12 November

I bet he likes whisky now

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

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

1 Comment on The Nightcap: 12 November

New Arrival of the Week: Bushmills 2000 (bottled 2021) – The Causeway Collection

Irish whiskey of the finest quality is something of a theme on our blog today, and that trend continues as our new arrival is Bushmills 2000 (bottled 2021) – The…

Irish whiskey of the finest quality is something of a theme on our blog today, and that trend continues as our new arrival is Bushmills 2000 (bottled 2021) – The Causeway Collection.

There was a period when you didn’t really hear much from Bushmills. While its rivals in the south were seemingly developing new products and launching campaigns almost weekly, the other stalwart Irish whiskey maker seemed to be giants without much cause for a period. 

The whiskey has never relented in quality, by my reckoning, and the 10 Year Old, 16 Year Old, and Black Bush continue to represent great value. But there was a need for fresh impetus and some liquid innovation. 

Happily, things are beginning to move in the right direction, a trend exemplified most with the excellent Causeway Collection. The first series launched in 2020 and its offerings of rare whiskey and unique cask finishes housed in slick designs made it an instant hit, with some bottles selling out in minutes. 

We previously covered the global launch back in September, but since then there was a dedicated launch for the bottles that were exclusive to Great Britain that I was fortunate enough to attend.

Colum Egan

Master distiller Colum Egan has been getting a chance to flex his creative muscles of late

The Causeway Collection continues

One of the two whiskeys we tried was a stunning Marsala cask-matured dram that was so fruity it was like chewing on a whole bag of Maynards Sports Mixture while someone sprayed Um Bongo in your face. The other is our new arrival, Bushmills 2000 (bottled 2021) – The Causeway Collection.

This is really quite a special whiskey. Firstly, because it’s spent its entire life in rare first-fill ruby Port casks. This means it’s had an incredible 20-year full-term maturation in those barrels, imbuing the liquid with all those big, bold and luscious red fruit flavours you’d expect from that cask profile. 

The Port 2000 Cask expression is also bottled at a cask strength of 54.1% ABV without chill-filtration, so we’re getting the full, undiluted Porty experience. Sadly, only 2,322 bottles came out of those casks but we can’t be too greedy now, can we? 

The Causeway Collection, as you might have guessed, is inspired by the natural wonder and mythical tales of the Giant’s Causeway. It’s a short drive (or a stone’s throw if you’re an actual giant) from the Old Bushmills Distillery in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, and, along with Dunluce Castle, helps solidify the spot as a great day out for tourists. I know the next time I’m in town I’ll be picking up a bottle of Bushmills and heading down there for a sip by the seaside.

The cause behind the drams

The distillery has made reference in the past to the UNESCO World Heritage site being a source of inspiration to its distillers for centuries, reasoning that both are shaped by their surroundings and “interact with the alchemy of nature”. In a more literal sense, every drop of spring water from the River Bush drawn by the distillery will have lapped the same mineral-rich basalt rock as the Causeway itself. It also makes for a tremendous backshot for your lifestyle images, as the one in this very blog demonstrates.

For this year’s series, Bushmills hasn’t just lent on its local landmark for marketing, but also teamed up with storytellers to add some narrative to the whiskies. At the Great Britain launch I went to, George the Poet was in attendance and read out the poem he was commissioned to write. It’s called Singular Tales and features in the short film above that brings together words, music, and images to reflect the home of the Causeway Collection.

He was a magnetic presence at the event, talking about the parallels of storytelling and whiskey-making, how the best stories are right in front of us, and how important the little moments are. When the little moments are spent drinking Port cask Bushmills whiskey in good company, it’s hard to disagree.

Bushmills 2000 (bottled 2021) - The Causeway Collection

Bushmills 2000 (bottled 2021) – The Causeway Collection

Bushmills at its best

This brings us back to the dram itself, which is very impressive. Bushmills spirit has a wonderful backbone of lush tropical fruits and biscuity malt that I find stands up really well to full-term maturation in fortified wine casks, whether that’s sherry or Port. 

That means that, while there’s lots to appreciate here from the cask, it’s the integration of the maturation with Bushmills DNA and the way the liquid is allowed to stand on its own two feet without interference that really makes it shine. If you’re lucky enough to try this beauty then the way those Port notes blend with the fruity spirit will make you want to do an actual chef’s kiss. And there’s no judgement here.

It’s an exciting time to be a Bushmills fan. All the talk of the great booze that was tucked away in those warehouses for so long you’d be forgiven for thinking it was the stuff of legend like the Giant’s Causeway itself. But now they’re making their way into the world and they’re being presented in a style tailor-made for the whiskey geek who will appreciate them. Bushmills is well and truly back, baby.

You can buy The Bushmills Causeway Collection 2000 Port Cask here

1 Comment on New Arrival of the Week: Bushmills 2000 (bottled 2021) – The Causeway Collection

The Nightcap: 24 September

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

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

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

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

Sukhinder Singh

Sukhinder Singh, now very rich indeed

Pernod Ricard buys The Whisky Exchange 

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

Colum Egan

Colum Egan from Bushmills stroking a cask

Bushmills releases its second rare ‘Causeway Collection’

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

Glenmorangie 18 YO x Azuma Makoto 1.jpg

It’s flower power time over at Glenmorangie

Glenmorangie goes floral with limited edition 18 year old

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

Bowmore 30 YO Vaults

Super fancy Bowmore incoming!

Bowmore goes big with ultimate rare collection for 2022

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

Macallan 30

Macallan Double cask 30, great with honey and radishes

The Macallan unveils Double Cask 30 Year Old 

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

Craft Distilling Expo

Craft Distilling Expo – pink hair and flat caps encouraged

Craft Distilling Expo is back, Back, BACK!

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

Sam Adams Utopias

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

And finally… a beer so strong it’s illegal

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

1 Comment on The Nightcap: 24 September

Top ten malt whiskies for Father’s Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

glenfiddich-15-year-old-solera-whisky

Glenfiddich 15 Solera

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

What does it taste like?

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

balvenie-doublewood-12-year-old-whisky

Balvenie DoubleWood 12 Year Old

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

What does it taste like?

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

bushmills-10-year-old-whiskey

Bushmills 10 Year Old 

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

What does it taste like?

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

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

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

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

What does it taste like?

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

cotswolds-single-malt-whisky

Cotswolds Single Malt Whisky

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

What does it taste like?

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

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

Highland Park 12 Year Old – Viking Honour

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

What does it taste like?

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

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

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

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

What does it taste like?

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

nikka-coffey-malt-whisky

Nikka Coffey Malt Whisky

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

What does it taste like?

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

masthouse-single-malt-whisky

Masthouse Single Malt

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

What does it taste like?

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

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

Bruichladdich Scottish Barley – The Classic Laddie

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

What does it taste like?

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

No Comments on Top ten malt whiskies for Father’s Day

The Nightcap: 18 December

It’s the final Nightcap of the year and to round-off 2020 we’ve put together one last batch of bonkers boozy news, a fitting tribute to the year that was. There’s…

It’s the final Nightcap of the year and to round-off 2020 we’ve put together one last batch of bonkers boozy news, a fitting tribute to the year that was.

There’s just one week until Christmas and only two weeks left in the whole year. How, exactly, has that happened? This truly has been the strangest, suckiest and most surreal collection of 12 months most of us have ever experienced. The good news is that this decade can only get better. Right? Well, we can confirm that The Nightcap will return in 2021, so that’s at least one positive thing in the bag already. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. 2020 still has some time on the clock and it’s chosen to spend some of its last moments making the world of booze a whole fresh batch of news to report on.

As we get ever closer to the big day #Whisky Santa has been ramping things up with his super wishes, giving away a bottle each of Dalmore 35 Year Old and Port Ellen 35 Year Old 1983, while those of you working your way through your Whisky Advent Calendars will have helped yourself to a feast of Scotch, American and World whisky thanks to the selection of drams that were hidden behind doors number #12, #13, #14, #15, #16, #17 and #18.

Elsewhere on the blog, we welcomed a new range of tasty spirits from, well… us! Then we reported on the incredibly exciting return of whisky distilling to Karuizawa in Japan, learned from Nate Brown what it’s like to launch a cocktail company during COVID and tasted the first whisky from Copper Rivet Distillery. We also found time for a quick chat with David Turner, Bowmore distillery manager, managed to pick out some delightful fortified wines to drink across the festive season, sample a peated Irish whiskey and make a delicious steaming hot cocktail

Now, onto the last Nightcap of 2020. We hope all our lovely readers have a safe and Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

The Nightcap

If the trials are successful we could be seeing a lot more of Blondie

Johnnie Walker to launch new whisky: Johnnie Blonde

News on Johnnie Walker is rarely in short supply but this week’s announcement is particularly exciting. The Diageo-owned Scotch whisky brand has revealed its plans to launch a new whisky in 2021 called Johnnie Blonde. The new expression was made to “appeal to current and new whisky drinkers alike” and is designed to be consumed in long serves, with the brand suggesting lemonade as its go-to mixer. Johnnie Blonde, which is a blend of bright wheat whiskies matured in sweet American oak and fruity malt whiskies, is very much a response to the evolving way Scotch is being consumed, with Michael Ward, head of innovation at Diageo commenting, “Johnnie Walker has always been built on progress, on a desire to constantly push boundaries and explore new flavours, experiences and serves. Johnnie Blonde is borne out of that same philosophy”. The expression, which has already won an International Spirits Challenge Gold Medal, isn’t getting a full rollout and instead will be piloted in a small number of cities around the world, including Monterey (Mexico), Curitiba (Brazil), Bangkok (Thailand), Sofia (Bulgaria), and Houston (USA) as well as with a number of partners throughout Germany, in March 2021, priced at RRP US$24.99. We look forward to seeing how it does. While we wait, we might as well make a nice long drink with one of the brand’s other delicious whiskies, right?

The Nightcap

The last we thing we need to be doing is making things harder for this amazing industry

 Tariffs on Scotch whisky move closer to removal

Things appear to be going in the right direction for those of us who want to see an end to the damaging 25% tariff on single malt Scotch whisky that was set by the U.S. over a year ago as part of a wider trade war between the U.S. and European Union. Following last week’s update on the study, new reports suggest that the U.K. government and the outgoing Trump administration are currently in negotiations to secure a ‘mini’ trade deal. In an interview with the BBC, US trade representative Robert Lighthizer said: “It’s extremely likely that we have an FTA, free-trade agreement, with the United Kingdom before long,”  and, when asked specifically about lowering tariffs on certain products including Scotch whisky, added “we have the advantage in that both the US and the UK – particularly the current government of the UK – are not big subsidisers, where some other countries are more inclined to subsidise. So it would be helpful if we could come to some kind of agreement. We are in discussions, we’ll see how that works out.” Trade body the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) said it was “encouraging” to hear Lighthizer indicate that a UK-US ‘mini deal’ could be achieved to remove Scotch whisky tariffs. Karen Betts, chief executive of the SWA, also remarked that she would like to see the US reciprocate by suspending tariffs, commenting: “Suspension on both sides would, we believe, create a positive environment for intensified settlement talks to take place. A settlement would enable everyone – aircraft manufacturers, Scotch whisky and other industries caught up in this – to focus on economic recovery rather than losing revenue to punitive tariffs”.

Guinness releases first new TV ad in 12 years

It’s always an event when Guinness releases a new television advert. This brand is synonymous with wonderful advertising, just think of those ‘80s adverts featuring Rutger Hauer or, of course, the ‘Surfers’ advert from 1999, judged the greatest TV advert of all time in a poll conducted by The Sunday Times and Channel 4. The new advert highlights the beauty of Draught Guinness in a can, something we’ve all been having more of us since the pubs were closed. Neil Shah, head of Guinness GB explained: “People love to savour delicious Guinness Draught and we wanted to remind people that they can enjoy the smooth and refreshing taste whether they choose to drink it in a pub or at home. The popularity of Guinness Draught beer in a can has naturally increased in recent months, and we wanted to celebrate that despite Christmas being different this year, Guinness Draught  doesn’t have to be.” The 20-second film titled “Pull. Pour. Settle. Enjoy.” was created by agency AMV BBDO with director Scott Lyon, and is rather functional. Yes, it makes you want to have Guinness, so it works, but it also makes you long for the sheer artistry of its forebears. Must try harder. 

The Nightcap

Let’s hope this move helps more people enjoy the distillery’s delicious whiskey

Whistlepig sells minority stake

Whistlepig has revealed that it has sold a minority stake to Moët Hennessy in a bid to help the brand expand internationally. While financial terms of the agreement have not been disclosed, we do know that the Vermont-based rye whiskey producer has been exploring options to help build its whiskey brand outside of North America, so it would be safe to assume we’ll be seeing more of Whistlepig thanks to the new partnership. “The arrangement with Moët Hennessy marks a significant moment for Whistlepig,” said Jeff Kozak, Whistlepig CEO. “We could not be more pleased to align our brand with the leader in luxury wines and spirits and are excited about future collaboration with Moët Hennessy’s team in the international market.” According to IWSR 2019 data, Whistlepig holds the top position in the ultra-premium and luxury rye whiskey category (sold at US$45 or over) in North America, so it’s a move that comes with a lot of for Moët Hennessy, the wine and spirits division of LVMH. “We are convinced that Whistlepig fits well within Moët Hennessy’s portfolio,” said Philippe Schaus, president and CEO of Moët Hennessy. “This rye whiskey house has done a remarkable job distinguishing itself among the emblematic and iconic craft distilleries in the United States with an ultra-premium standing in terms of identity, quality and price positioning.”

The Nightcap

Look at it. Just beautiful.

Bushmills unveils its oldest single malt whiskey

When Bushmills launched its Causeway Collection earlier this month we were very excited. Firstly, because it comprises of 10 cask-finished single malt whiskies that vary in age from nine to 30 years old. But also because the Irish whiskey brand is only releasing details of one bottling at the time. Which makes it even more exciting. Particularly when Bushmills follows up the debut of a single malt matured in Oloroso sherry butts and bourbon barrels for 17 years before being finished for two years in a rare Burgundy cask with the launch of its oldest single malt whiskey. The second expression in the range, the 30 Year Old New American Oak Cask single malt was initially matured in Oloroso sherry butts and bourbon barrels, and finished in new American oak casks for an ‘unprecedented’ 16 years. The non-chill-filtered single malt was bottled in September 2020 at cask strength (48.4% ABV) and is said to have notes of honey malt with the virgin oak providing ‘intense flavours of vanilla, chocolate and warm wood’. “It’s a privilege to work with such rare whiskeys in The Causeway Collection. This 30 Year Old New American Oak Cask, our oldest single malt to date, is a truly special Irish single malt,” says Bushmills master blender Helen Mulholland. “I’m immensely proud of how we’ve been able to create such sensational waves of flavour in a 30-year-old whiskey. Like the whole Causeway Collection, it’s a celebration of our passion for single malts, our rare and unique casks and our 400 years of whiskey-making heritage.” Sadly, getting your hands on this is going to be pretty tricky. Firstly, because only 100 bottles of the single malt have been released (the remaining 332 bottles are coming next year.). Secondly, because it’s available exclusively at The Irish Whiskey Collection at The Loop in Dublin and Cork airports in Ireland. Still, it’s a welcome boost for travel retail and a window in the kind of delights that lie in Bushmill’s warehouses…

The Nightcap

Shades are advised for this one

Glenmorangie’s new ad campaign is very colourful

Dig out your sunglasses because Glenmorangie has unveiled a new brand campaign and it’s not what you would call subdued. It was created by DDB Paris agency with top photographer Miles Aldridge and features six scenes of people enjoying Glenmorangie with the tagline, “It’s kind of delicious and wonderful”. And did we mention the colours? Holy moly, they are bright, awash with the boldest oranges and vivid blues. These technicolour dreams will be appearing on social media and various billboards across London this month. Alexander Kalchev, chief creative officer at DDB Paris, explained: “We set out to reimagine everyday experiences – a camping trip or a train journey – all made more wonderful, to reflect Glenmorangie’s perspective. Inspired by the brand’s signature orange colour, we decided to use colour as a metaphor to open up the whisky’s world. And of course, as a master of colour, Miles Aldridge was the obvious talent to bring our vision to life.” Louise Dennett, global head of brand at Glenmorangie, added: “We make whisky because we want people to enjoy it. There are many technicalities as to how we make it taste so good. But ultimately, what matters is that our single malt is delicious, and we think there’s a simple joy in that. Through our collaboration with Miles Aldridge and DDB Paris we have created a visual feast of a campaign. We hope it will welcome more people into our delicious and wonderful world.” But that’s not all: as well as being striking, the images contain little jokes including references to giraffes (the distillery’s mascot) and anagrams of the word Glenmorangie, like ‘A Ginger Lemon’ in the train and ‘Mango Reeling’. Endless fun! 

The Nightcap

The gin numbers for the off-trade were something to smile about, at least

British gin sales hit hard by lockdown

For the final news round-up of the year, it seems fitting to include the man who has graced more Nightcaps than anyone… Miles Beale! According to Beale, CEO of the WSTA, “Gin has proven to be a real tonic for shoppers wanting to enjoy a bit of downtime at home during a turbulent 2020. It’s fantastic to hear that some distillers will have benefited from a boost in retail sales, but we have to look at the bigger picture which shows overall gin sales are down by £400 million following the hit taken by the hospitality sector due to the pandemic this year.” He was commenting on news that because of the enforced closure of much of the on-trade, gin sales declined from £2.6 billion in 2019 to £2.2 billion this year. Retail was up 22%, worth £1.2 billion, but it wasn’t enough to make up for the lost business. As you would expect from Beale, he had words for the British government: “British spirit makers, many of whom are SMEs, need greater support from government to continue to grow and recover from the loss of hospitality sales. That is why, as a first and easy step, we are calling on the Chancellor to cut duty and boost British business at the spring Budget.” You tell ‘em, Miles.

The Nightcap

British people enjoying the odd drop of drink on a lunch break? Scandalous!

And finally. . . Shock horror! People enjoying alcohol during the day

Data produced by the health and safety software company Protecting.co.uk shows that more than 90% of workers say that they have been consuming alcohol while working from home. Hardly surprising, many of us enjoy a glass of wine or a pint with our lunch. The problem with the survey is that it doesn’t differentiate between responsible and heavy drinking, seeing both as problematic. Mark Hall from Protecting.co.uk commented: “It ranges from just a glass for two with lunch, to getting through a whole bottle of wine a day, but the health implications are clear.” He goes on to say: “It’s alarming to employers to hear that staff feel like they can get away with all kinds of behaviour while they are out of office.” It’s health and safety gone mad! We would hardly describe having a drink on a lunch break as ‘alarming’. Before lockdown, if you visited any town or city in the country you would see people enjoying an alcoholic drink with their lunches before returning to work. The press release from Protecting.co.uk goes on to say: “Most workplaces will have a robust alcohol and substance abuse policy to keep staff in check when they are at work.” Perhaps, but this is irrelevant in this instance. Unless you’re operating heavy machinery or conducting brain surgery, then a small amount of alcohol, a pint or a Gin & Tonic, is not a problem for most employers or employees. Lockdown has been hard for everyone, and if you are worried about your drinking, then you should seek professional help (DrinkAware is a really great place to start). But we see nothing wrong with some responsible daytime imbibing. Cin cin!

No Comments on The Nightcap: 18 December

Talking Irish single malt with The Sexton’s Alex Thomas

The Sexton Single Malt is an Irish single malt that has done a good job of establishing itself in a competitive market. We talk to creator Alex Thomas to find…

The Sexton Single Malt is an Irish single malt that has done a good job of establishing itself in a competitive market. We talk to creator Alex Thomas to find out how she did it, why it was important to make a distinctly Irish spirit and how she relates to the last person to see our bodies before they are laid to rest…

“Growing up my grandfather and father always kept a bottle of single malt whiskey in the house. It came out on special occasions, like 21st birthdays and weddings. But it also mainly came out when people had passed away. All the friends and family got together and they celebrated the life of that person that had passed and told their stories,” says Alex Thomas, founder of The Sexton Irish whiskey brand. “That’s what I wanted The Sexton to represent; living life well and having those memories you’ll share with your loved ones.”

Thomas is one of the few female master blenders in the Irish whiskey industry. We meet at an event thrown by The Sexton called ‘Own The Night’, which features plenty of very tasty cocktails (more on them later), a sensory experience based on the whiskey’s profile and a live photography exhibition. She is there to spread the word about her creation, The Sexton Single Malt, and its launch in London, Belfast and Dublin in December 2018 following a promising debut in America.

Thomas landed her first job in the industry at Bushmills Distillery. Her husband had come home from a shift at the distillery in 2004 to tell her about a new job opening. “Growing up with the distillery on your doorstep, it was a dream come true for many of us to be able to work there. When an opening came up, I jumped at the chance,” says Thomas. “I started working in the maturation and distillation part of the business with the great Colum Egan and fell in love with the process of turning something raw into something so delicate and rich that people can enjoy. I decided to do my exams and become qualified, and in 2012 I finished my exams and received my distilling diploma. From there I founded The Sexton, and everything that followed has just been a dream come true.”

The Sexton

Alex Thomas, founder of The Sexton

As Thomas speaks, photos are projected on the screens across each room showing images of people enjoying themselves with a dram in hand. The event space has a distinctive, macabre and gothic aesthetic influenced by The Sexton’s branding, which extends to the name. Anyone who’s big on Medieval Latin (where my people at?!) will know that ‘Sexton’ derives from the word ‘sacristanus’, meaning custodian of sacred objects, and is used to describe the person who prepared the grave, the last to witness the body before being laid to rest. “I wanted a name that would represent what I do. As a master blender and distiller, I am the caretaker of this amazing whiskey while it’s in the cask. The Sexton is about living life well before you meet the man that lays your body to rest, so that’s why I kind of came round the idea of naming it ‘The Sexton’. I wanted it to be something different, something approachable.”

That ambition obviously extended to the bottle design, which is unlike most you’ll see. It features The Sexton himself, a well-dressed skeleton (there’s even a skeleton horse and skeleton coachman). But the squat black hexagonal bottle is a striking image on its own, although it’s clearly going to be a challenging pour for a bartender with average size hands. “The distillery is up in the north coast of Antrim where there’s nothing more famous than the Giant’s Causeway stones, so that’s where the shape comes from,” says Thomas. “It’s dark, specifically because there’s a rich sherry colour to the whiskey so you’re getting that hint of what the darkness is going to be. I wanted people to get a little bit of that experience when they release it from the bottle… I’m sure the glass designer loved me!”

Thomas wanted it to stand out as she understands she’s working in an incredibly competitive market. “When I started in the industry there were only three distilleries. I knew that the branding needed to be bold and make a statement. Hopefully, those people who try it for the first time because of how it looks come back a second time for what’s in the bottle,” explains Thomas. “That’s the most important part. It’s the whiskey that is the main feature of The Sexton but the bottle attracts the attention to get you to try it first. It’s ultimately about the quality. From start to finish everything I use in that bottle is high-end quality, from the barley to the distillate, to the cask – everything.”

The Sexton

The ‘Own The Night’, featured cocktails, a sensory experience and a live photography exhibition

For all the fun and intrigue of The Sexton’s branding, the process behind creating this whiskey is where things get interesting. News has emerged recently that sources in the Irish grain industry claim that less than a quarter of the grain used to produce Irish whiskey is indeed from Ireland. This is not the case with The Sexton, which was made from 100% Irish malted barley. “The barley I use comes from the south east coast of Ireland, in Wexford and Tipperary. It’s a two-row barley, low on protein because I need to get at the sugar to be able to produce alcohol,” Thomas explains. Her use of Irish barley shows her commitment to provenance. But it’s more than this: “Ireland is my home, it’s where I’ve grown up all of my life and one thing I believe we do in Ireland well is make whiskey. Personally, I think we’re the best in the world and I wanted to represent Ireland as a whole.”

The Sexton is a brand without a distillery, a common sight in Irish whiskey. Thomas, however, hasn’t simply bought in the spirit. Instead, she was granted access to use the stills at Bushmills and runs her own distillation. “It’s wonderful, there’s no other industry that would allow that to happen, that would share their secrets. They taught me from the beginning to make Irish whiskey the best possible way I could so that I could represent the category well,” Thomas says. “My warehouse is on their premises as well. Hopefully, the future is big for The Sexton and who knows what will happen. But, for now, they allow me to do my work.”

Unsurprisingly Sexton Single Malt is triple-distilled, like Bushmills whiskey. Thomas opted to go down the same route because she enjoys the “smooth distillate it produces, a really sweet, fruity flavoured delicate spirit. Triple distillation also allows me to remove all of the things in the whiskey that I wouldn’t want,” she added.

The Sexton

Thomas sourced the barley and casks herself

The final defining characteristic of Sexton Irish Single Malt is its oloroso cask finish. Thomas established a relationship with the Antonio Paez Lobato family, who have over 70 years experience, in Jerez in Spain and the barrels are processed to her own specifications, from oak type, toast level, type of wine used and length of time of the seasoning. “I sourced the European oak in France, moved it over to Spain where it was air-dried for 16 months, toasted from the inside to a medium-high level and then seasoned for two years with oloroso sherry that I picked along with the family,” Thomas explains. “It’s then moved over to Ireland with around five to ten litres inside so the cask is really fresh”. Her approach to maturation mirrors her meticulousness with her selection of raw material and distillation process. Distillers and blenders working with cooperages to this extent are not uncommon, but there are plenty who aren’t as involved to this extent.

The Sexton is matured in first, second and third fill oloroso sherry casks, an approach Thomas settled on after a lot of trial and error. “At first I only wanted first-fills, but these are really heavily coated with the sugar coming in from the sherry and it was too sweet, which may have brought in new palates but I’m a whiskey maker so I wanted people who drink whiskey,” Thomas explains. “So I introduced a little second fill, but there was still something ever so slightly missing. I then introduced a couple of third fills and that nuttiness started to come back in from the European oak and it was like a day made in heaven! It was a eureka moment for me, the flavour profile just changes so much having that little bit of the second and third fill in there.”

The Sexton

Thomas at the ‘Own the Night’, walking guests through the sensory experience

The booze

The big question that remains is, how does The Sexton Single Malt taste? Well, it’s safe to say I was impressed. But before we get to that, Thomas was kind enough to let us sample her new make and the sherry used to season her oloroso casks as well as The Sexton itself, so here are our thoughts:

The Sexton

The Sexton Single Malt new-make sample

The Sexton Single Malt New-Make Tasting Note:

Nose: Homemade blackberry jam, crisp fresh malt and a little floral honey. Desiccated coconut, soft vanilla, marmalade and spearmint emerge underneath, as well as a hint of anise and soft marshmallow.

Palate: Hot white pepper spice initially, then a wave of fresh tropical fruit, buttery pastries and damp hay.

Finish: Banana foam sweets linger.

The Sexton

The Sexton Single Malt sherry sample

The Sexton Single Malt Sherry Tasting Note:

Nose: Savoury salty notes with some dried fruit, caramel and rich walnuts, then a touch of minerality and bittersweet herbs.

Palate: Refreshingly dry, with bright citrus, dried stone fruits, pecans and rounded sherry spice, then a touch of oak.

Finish: Good length with sherried peels and a touch of salinity.

The Sexton Single Malt Tasting Note:

Nose: The nose is rich, sherried and highly resinous, with oily walnuts, thick slabs of dark chocolate and plenty of dried and dark fruits such as stewed plums, cooked blackcurrant and raisins. A light maltiness emerges underneath with marzipan, caramel and a pinch of drying baking spice.

Palate: Robustly elegant, with prunes, Manuka honey and a little tropical fruit while the mid-palate is filled with stone fruit, oak spice, marmalade with zest, polished furniture and a hint of dried herbs. Treacle toffee, cocoa and a little menthol note add depth.

Finish: Mulberry jam, coffee icing and some woodiness lingers and dries into more maltiness.

Overall: An approachable, affordable and very tasty dram. The flavours are balanced, there’s some depth there and, to be honest, I helped myself to a second dram. I can’t help but think this whiskey also has a profile that lends itself to mixing and cocktail creation. Speaking of which…

The Sexton

The cocktail bar at the ‘Own the Night’ event

Cocktails

Thomas has something in common with many modern whiskey producers, in that she’s keen for the spirit to be disassociated from the tired image of it being an old man’s drink. “I had a real strong belief that if people got to experience single malts at a younger age, they would fall in love with whiskey,” she says. Thomas wants people to enjoy The Sexton Single Mal, whether they drink it neat, with a mixer or in a cocktail. “My father is a very traditional whiskey drinker: you either drink it neat with ice or with a little bit of water. But he embraces the fact that I’m the next generation and I want to drink it my way. We don’t eat in the same restaurants, we don’t live the same lives, so it’s about being unique and experiencing it your way.”

After trying a cocktail, or two, at the ‘Own the Night’ event (what? It was important research), it was clear that The Sexton mixes beautifully, as Thomas has found through her own personal research. “To be honest, it’s a perk of the job getting to try the different takes on what the mixologists work with and I must admit, I haven’t found one that I haven’t liked!”

The following examples, Bury the Hatchet, Love it to Death and Laid to Rest were all on show during the event and are easy enough to make at home. Enjoy!

The Sexton

Bury the Hatchet

Bury the Hatchet

Combine 50ml of The Sexton Single Malt, 25ml of lemon juice, 12.5ml of sugar syrup) in a glass, then top with soda water and add a 15ml sweet sherry float. Garnish with a wedge of lemon.

The Sexton

Love it to Death

Love it to Death

Combine 50ml of The Sexton Single Malt, 25ml of fresh lime juice, 12.5ml of Aperol, 2 dashes of absinthe, 20ml of sugar syrup in a glass, then serve garnished with thyme and orange peel.

The Sexton

Laid to Rest

Laid to Rest

Combine 25ml of The Sexton Single Malt, 5ml of Pedro Ximenez sherry, 20ml of manzanilla sherry, 12.5ml of spiced claret syrup in a glass serve over crushed ice. Garnish with mint leaves and dried spices.

No Comments on Talking Irish single malt with The Sexton’s Alex Thomas

Irish whiskey shifts 100 million bottles a year!

The world has got a taste for Irish whiskey! With 2016 sales soaring by 11.3%, we explore the state of the market, from the new distilleries, to who is actually…

The world has got a taste for Irish whiskey! With 2016 sales soaring by 11.3%, we explore the state of the market, from the new distilleries, to who is actually drinking it all…

The Irish Spirits Association has issued the results of its first-ever market report. And it makes for very interesting reading. Even though alcohol consumption itself in Ireland has been steadily falling (take that, lazy stereotype) exports of Irish spirits are growing at an ever-increasing rate.

“This is the first-ever industry and market report issued by the Irish Spirits Association and it comes at a time when our sector is undergoing vibrant growth and has a lot to be proud of,” said John Harte, chairman of the Irish Spirits Association. “Overall, the Irish spirits industry is delivering more exports, more jobs and unprecedented GDP growth. We are on target to exceed the Government’s FoodWise 2025 targets.”

As you can see from this empirical evidence, people are drinking Irish.

There’s no place like home…

Irish people are not just spectators in the great Irish spirits revival. The report reveals that the majority of spirits consumed in Ireland were made there. Purchases in the off-trade made up two-thirds of all sales. The stats also show that 1.3 million people in the Republic of Ireland consumed a spirit drink in 2016 (welcome back, lazy stereotype). That’s a lot of money us Irish are putting back into our own economy.

The strength of Irish agriculture has also been a key component of this story. Irish farmers sold 85,000 tonnes of Irish malted barley and 316 million litres of fresh cream to the Irish whisky industry in 2016. Sourced from 46,000, patriotic, green, white and gold dairy cows.

Despite this, over the past 10 years the overall consumption of spirits in Ireland has fallen by 19.2%. Is anyone keeping score with that lazy stereotype? Ireland’s current success is ultimately due to the world’s appetite for Irish-made spirit. A trend that seemingly shows no signs of dissipating…

Irish spirits sales are booming

There’s no place like abroad…

The Irish Spirits Association report revealed that, in 2016, the total value of Irish spirits exports increased by 6.1%. Gin is currently the spirit taking the Irish market by storm. It’s the fastest-growing spirit category among Irish consumers, growing by 31.6% in 2016. Similar levels of growth are being reported for the first half of 2017. But it’s the value of Irish whiskey exports to all international markets which remains unparalleled.

According to the report, sales of Ireland’s GI spirits – Irish whiskey, Irish cream and poitín – totalled nearly 16 million cases (200 million bottles) globally in 2016. Irish cream had a torrid last decade, but 2016 saw a slight return to growth. Volumes increased to 7.241m in 2016, compared to 7.197 in 2015.

Global sales of Irish whiskey increased by 11.3% alone in 2016, reaching a huge 8.7 million cases, (that’s more than 100 million bottles). Exports accounted for 8.2 million cases of that figure, itself an 11.8% annual increase. Premium Irish whiskey recorded growth of 135% in the last five years. And the combined value of sales of all premium, super- and ultra-premium Irish whiskey grew by a similar percentage, exceeding €330 million in 2016.

Gaining ground

Ireland, however, is not the current leaders of the whiskey export market. That distinction belongs to the United States. Its overseas case sales shot up more than 17.6% by 3.66 million. Yet Ireland placed second on this particular leader board, selling an extra 521,000 cases abroad – an improvement of 3.4%. They’re closing in!

All jokes aside, this rate of total overall growth means Irish whiskey remains the world’s fastest expanding spirits category. The current export target, set by The Irish Whiskey Association’s ‘Vision for Whiskey’, is 12 million cases by the year 2020. But the current growth rates suggest it will comfortably exceed expectations.

Pour another one, then…

Whiskey tourism is the best tourism

The Irish whiskey trade shows no signs of letting up. And the increase in the total number of distilleries in Ireland demonstrates this point. This is a key contributor to the industry’s success. It not only expands the range and type of Irish whiskey available to the consumer. But simultaneously provided jobs, infrastructure and tourism potential.

It wasn’t that long ago that Ireland had only four operational whiskey distilleries. Bushmills, Cooley, Kilbeggan and Midleton. Since then, 14 new distilleries have been built. Including the likes of Dingle, Blackwater, Teeling, Tullamore, Slane Castle and Rademon Estate. That takes the total number of operational distilleries throughout Ireland to 18. And plans are afoot for another 14.

Whisky-lovers have taken full advantage of the change in fortunes. In what will inevitably be termed at some point an ‘Irish Holiday’, whiskey distillery visitor centres in Ireland reported a total of 733,000 visitors in 2016. Up an incredible 12.2% from 2015. That’s already the equivalent of one-sixth of the population. And The Irish Whiskey Tourism Strategy aims to grow this figure to 1.4 million by 2020.

Exciting times ahead for Irish whiskey…

With the fastest-growing spirit in the world, the future of Irish whiskey is looking very bright. The excitement is genuinely palpable. And the potential for new and current producers to implement change and produce a variety of volumes and styles is limitless. Ireland doesn’t have the litany of established distilleries Scotch has. This means there is space – space to build, to innovate, and to enjoy!

William Lavelle summarises that the report “paints a bright picture of a dynamic industry with a vast economic footprint,”. Adding, “the spirits sector is a major employer and a significant supporter of Irish farmers. It is an industry that can deliver even more exports, more jobs and more domestic sourcing if we’re allowed”.

No Comments on Irish whiskey shifts 100 million bottles a year!

The Lakes Distillery – A Delightful Weekend In The Country

“Are you a sponge or a stone? Do you like to experience all facets of life, or do you shut yourself off from new experience?” With whisky distilleries opening right…

The Lakes Distillery

“Are you a sponge or a stone? Do you like to experience all facets of life, or do you shut yourself off from new experience?”

With whisky distilleries opening right around the world, you must quite reasonably ask yourself questions such as this. We live in an age where a wide variety of excellent whiskies are being made outside of the traditional and well-established whisky producing counties, and if you’re not open to them, you’re missing out. In England, for example, the latest English whisky distillery to come on stream is The Lakes Distillery near Cockermouth.

2 Comments on The Lakes Distillery – A Delightful Weekend In The Country

Find a Four-Leaf Clover And Win In Our St. Patrick’s Day Competition!

If you take a glance up at the sky, you might notice that the rolling blanket of grey clouds that we’ve become acquainted with for the past 6 months is…

St Patrick's Day 2015 Irish Whiskey Tasting Set

If you take a glance up at the sky, you might notice that the rolling blanket of grey clouds that we’ve become acquainted with for the past 6 months is sometimes briefly replaced with a flaming ball of hot plasma. That fact that we can catch a glimpse of it means the cosmic grip of winter is waning and spring is on its way to thaw us out.

This also means that St. Patrick’s Day is almost upon us! To celebrate the Feast of Saint Patrick (and the fact that the Sun hasn’t left us and ran off with some other planet like COROT-7b), we’re running a little competition which could result in you getting your hands on some fabulous Irish whiskey!

No Comments on Find a Four-Leaf Clover And Win In Our St. Patrick’s Day Competition!

Type on the field below and hit Enter/Return to search