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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Drinks by the Dram

Master of Malt Dram Club – January 2020

Just like we predicted, 2020 did in fact appear right after 2019 ended. And with that, another batch of Master of Malt Dram Club Tasting Sets is ready – what…

Just like we predicted, 2020 did in fact appear right after 2019 ended. And with that, another batch of Master of Malt Dram Club Tasting Sets is ready – what a way to start the New Year!

Like clockwork, a new year has arrived. This time it’s called 2020, following the same sequel naming format of ‘adding one to the number on the end’ that movies and video games pioneered. Predictable, but pleasing none the less. What wonders does 2020 hold? Will someone finally invent better crisps? Will there be hot new memes? Only time will tell. However, right now is the time for the first mystery of 2020 to be unveiled – let’s find out what drams are in January’s Master of Malt Dram Club Tasting Sets!

Dram Club Whisky for January:

Dram Club Premium Whisky for January:

Dram Club Old & Rare Whisky for January:

Dram Club Gin for January:

Dram Club Rum for January:

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Whisky Advent Day #24: Bourbon Whiskey #1 24 Year Old (That Boutique-y Whisky Company)

We’ve reached the final window of the Whisky Advent Calendar (meaning Christmas is totally tomorrow)! Let’s take a look at what’s hidden behind it… Well, this is it. The day…

We’ve reached the final window of the Whisky Advent Calendar (meaning Christmas is totally tomorrow)! Let’s take a look at what’s hidden behind it…

Well, this is it. The day before The Big Day, but really it’s Also Quite A Big Day in its own right. It’s Christmas Eve. A day of final preparations for Santa, who will likely be in the despatch depot right now, doing some last-minute checks – and there are a lot of them. He’ll be making sure all the toys have been correctly loaded into the sleigh to strict health and safety standards, checking all the electric reindeer are charged up, ensuring the sack trucks and pallet trucks are in working order and secured to the side of the sleigh, plugging in the Santa-Nav… The list goes on.

While that list may go on and on for Santa, we have reached the end of the Whisky Advent Calendar. It’s time to open the final window and see what will be our nightcap this Christmas Eve… Behind window #24 is Bourbon Whiskey #1 24 Year Old independently bottled by That Boutique-y Whisky Company! A 24 year old whiskey for the 24th of December! Not much we know about this one, other than it’s very well-aged for a bourbon…

Do you know who may know a touch more about this? That Boutique-y Whisky Company’s very own brand ambassador Dave Worthington! Let’s see if we can pry something out of him…

It’s Dave Worthington – again!

MoM: So, this is a rather mysterious bourbon. What’s going on with the label?

Dave Worthington: It’s one of our secrets. We like secrets at Boutique-y Whisky and have a number of mysterious malts and whiskeys in our catalogue. As we’re unable to name this long-aged Bourbon Whiskey we’ve covered our label in a few of America’s well-known mysteries. How many can you spot in our Area 51?

– Crop circles, including one that looks remarkably like a Boutique-y Whisky bottle. Others have pointed out that it looks a little more like a well known Bourbon bottle, and the four crop circles around the bottle could be roses (a clue, a red herring, or just a happy accident?

– That looks a little like a Bigfoot running into the cornfields.

– The aeroplane represents American aviation pioneer and author Amelia Earhart who mysteriously disappeared somewhere over the central Pacific Ocean near Howland Island during an attempt to make a circumnavigational flight of the globe in 1937.

– A Black Dahlia representing the mysterious death of Elizabeth Short, an American woman who was found murdered in Los Angeles, California. Her case became highly publicized due to the graphic nature of the crime, and she later became known as the Black Dahlia.

– Mysterious dead birds, or are they old crows (another clue or a red herring?)

– Oh and there’s an alien hiding behind the Area 51 sign.

MoM: Were you involved with the storming of Area 51 which happened earlier in the year?

DW: I could tell you, but that’s highly classified information… No, not really. I was far too busy waxing lyrically about our whisky at an event somewhere in the world.

MoM: What’s next for That Boutique-y Whisky Company? Any 2020 plans you can give us a hint about?

DW: There’s a lot of great whisky coming your way! There are still a few of the ‘old school’ Scottish distilleries we’d love to bottle, and we’re working our way through casks to find the right release for these. There’ll also be some really interesting ‘new world’ whisky coming to our bottling line too.

MoM: What’s the ultimate way to make roast potatoes for Christmas dinner?

DW: The ultimate way is to get an invite to a friend’s Christmas lunch, I’ll turn up with whisky and glasses for a post lunch whisky tasting. I’m waiting for the invites to start rolling in now. In the meantime, I’ll parboil my spuds and then ‘rough them up’ a bit by shaking them in the pot before putting them in hot oil. I’ll use sprigs of Rosemary, black peppercorns, and a handful of garlic cloves in the roasting tray too… All lies… Straight to Aunt Bessie’s frozen roasties…

MoM: What will you be drinking this Christmas?

DW: I always used to have a pint of Guinness with a cooked breakfast on Christmas morning, but for the last umpteen years I’ve celebrated Christmas lunch with friends so this ‘tradition’ has been moved to Boxing Day. With friends we’ll start with some fizz before moving on to wine with lunch. The whisky, and cards will come out once we’ve finished eating and we’ll play Blackjack for pennies, while making our way through a flight of whiskies that I put together – you can be sure of some Boutique-y belters in this lineup!

Bourbon Whiskey #1 24 Year Old (That Boutique-y Whisky Company)

Bourbon Whiskey #1 24 Year Old (That Boutique-y Whisky Company) Tasting Notes:

Nose: Rich, earthy vanilla pod and coffee bean notes arrive first, supported by vibrant notes of orange oil, brandy-soaked raisins and dark chocolate.

Palate: The vanilla notes continue on the palate, now with jammy red berries, maple syrup and freshly made pancakes.

Finish: A good kick of baking spices appear on the finish. Still enjoyably buttery.

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Whisky Advent Day #23: Balcones Texas Single Malt

Only a couple more sleeps until Christmas, which means only a couple more drams left in the Whisky Advent Calendar! Let’s see what’s behind window #23… Whether you consider today…

Only a couple more sleeps until Christmas, which means only a couple more drams left in the Whisky Advent Calendar! Let’s see what’s behind window #23…

Whether you consider today to be Christmas Eve Eve or simply just the 23rd of December, it really is very hard to deny that Christmas is a stone’s throw away. Santa is probably making a last-minute case to the HR department in the North Pole right now, arguing that he really should get a few more miniature Christmas puddings and an extra serving of roast potatoes in his lunch tomorrow, considering he’ll be working late. He might even be able to claim some time off in lieu as well, we reckon…

Oh great, now we’re thinking about Christmasy food again… Roast chestnuts, in particular… And cooked apples… And hints of softly smoky spices… Perhaps these flavours are on our mind because they’re all present in the dram that’s hiding behind window #23 of the Whisky Advent Calendar – it’s Balcones Texas Single Malt! This is a powerfully flavoursome American single malt whisky from Waco, Texas, and it’s exactly the kind of thing we want to be sipping on at this time of year.

We wanted to find out more about what’s going on with Balcones, so we asked a few questions to Balcones Distilling Head Distiller Jared Himstedt to see what are the haps in Texas!

Ta-da, it’s Jared Himstedt!

Master of Malt: What fun things have happened in the world of Balcones in 2019?

Jared Himstedt: Coming off our Tenth Anniversary in 2018, we had a lot to live up to in terms of releases. The first release of a Single Malt made from Texas-grown and malted barley happened this summer. We named it High Plains, for the region of Texas the barley is grown. It was a lot of fun to see and share the Texas-grown barley against our usual Golden Promise single malt. We have a lot more laid down from a couple of different maltsters and both drum and floor malted, so that will be fun to watch develop. We got to see our Peated expression from 2018 become a new regular annual malt expression. It is custom peated Golden Promise from Simpsons, and we have laid down 35, 65 and 95 ppms versions in both new casks and ex-bourbon so we have a lot of colours to blend with going forward. We have started selling our first white spirit with our white Texas Rum. Lots of fun esters and aromatics going on there.

MoM: You’ve recently been using interesting casks to age your whisky (including Brimstone and Tequila casks, released by TBWC). Are there any casks out there that you’d love to try maturing your whisky in that you haven’t yet?

JH: I am a huge fan of lighter dessert wines, and we are on the lookout for things like Lupiac, and have our eyes on some Ratafia casks, which is a Champagne based dessert wine. We are also looking into some larger sized casks to begin exploring how to make older whisky in Texas without ended up with an unbalanced and over-wooded product.

MoM: What’s next for Balcones? Any 2020 plans you can give us a hint about?

JH: Mirador, which is our all refill cask Single Malt will be making a return and becoming a regular annual release for us at higher volumes. The peated single malt that we have laid down in ex-bourbon barrels is coming along really nicely, and we’ll likely have a small release of that sometime this year. We will likely have another sherried release, and well as an expression finished in Madeira casks from a Texas winery. There are a couple of other projects that are likely to come to fruition this year.

MoM: What trends or developments do you think we’ll see in the world of whisky in 2020?

JH: I am personally excited and invested in the continued growth of the American Single Malt category as well as the growth and success of Texas Whiskey. Both categories have a lot to offer and I only hope to see the awareness in the industry and among consumers keep increasing. Globally, we hope to see all the international tariff situation resolved in a way that benefits the industry and whisky drinkers everywhere.

MoM: It’s Christmas Eve and you’ve just remembered you need to buy a present for that whisky-obsessed friend of yours. What are you running out to the shops to pick up?

JH: Most likely a single barrel bottling of Glendronach, in the 19yr old range!

Balcones Texas Single Malt

Balcones Texas Single Malt Tasting Note:

Nose: Freshly baked banana bread with undertones of honey and vanilla and just the faintest hint of cedarwood at the back. Suggestions of roasted chestnuts and heavy cream.

Palate: Ester-y with apple and orchard fruits. Brown sugar makes an appearance and transforms into molasses.

Finish: Warm, woody spices and some breadiness, but not necessarily maltiness, completes this luscious single malt.

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Whisky Advent Day #21: Teeling Small Batch

The final Saturday before Christmas is here! After braving the shops, perhaps you’ll want to sit back and relax with the dram sat behind window #21… We are just a…

The final Saturday before Christmas is here! After braving the shops, perhaps you’ll want to sit back and relax with the dram sat behind window #21…

We are just a few days from Christmas, so we’re sure the Marketing department at the North Pole is running at full power. They might have even spent a few bob on social media advertising so that pictures of Santa flying his sleigh end up on your Twitter feed. To what end? We reckon it’s so that you remember to leave out a mince pie and a glass of something nice on the 24th. That right there is the power of marketing.

While it’s usually sherry that gets left out for Santa, perhaps he’d like something a little different this year? What if he’s partial to a drop of Irish whiskey? Well, you’d have to really love Santa to give up the dram you’ll find behind window #21 of the Whisky Advent Calendar – it’s Teeling Small Batch! Whoever gets to enjoy this one is in for a marvellous blended Irish whiskey that has been finished in rum casks, which should bring some tropical fruit warmth to a chilly winter evening!

To find out more about the terrific Teeling, we got in touch with one of the distillery’s co-founders, Stephen Teeling, to ask him a few questions…

Behold, Stephen Teeling!

Master of Malt: What fun things have happened in the world of Teeling in 2019?

Stephen Teeling: On March 28th 2019 we won the World’s Best Whiskey award at the 2019 WWAs in London. First time ever an Irish whiskey had been shortlisted for the award and first time in history that Ireland has been crowned the best whiskey in the world! It was also the same day I welcomed my second child into the world so will always be ingrained in my mind as one of the best days of life!

We have also recently welcomed our 500,000th visitor to the distillery in Dublin which is pretty phenomenal given there were no distilleries in the city for nearly 50 years prior to us rebuilding our family distillery in the heart of the city. The first new distillery in 125 years.

MoM: What’s next for Teeling? Any 2020 plans you can give us a hint about?

ST: We are incredibly passionate about innovation so 2020 will see us continue to push the boat out for Irish Whiskey. We will be launching an 18 Year Old Single malt called the Renaissance which will be a follow on from the Revival Series 1-5. This will be a Madeira cask finished non-chill filtered single malt limited to 9,000 bottles and also our vintage reserve range will be welcoming a 28 Year Old which is the bigger brother of the 2019 World’s Best Single Malt having spent an extra 4 years in the Sauternes cask. We also have been experimenting with some different mash bills at the distillery with a Dublin distilled Peated single malt looking to be released in the second half of 2020. No shortage of fun on the horizon so watch this space.

MoM: The Teeling Single Pot Still was a very exciting release, being the first whiskey completely distilled in Dublin for nearly 50 years! How was the reception to it?

ST: There is a huge amount of pride in the fact we have put the city back on the map as a whiskey producer. Dublin Single Pot Still was the gold standard in the Irish whiskey category back in the last golden era 150 years ago. It was the fastest-selling Irish whiskey we had ever produced with our first 3 batches sold out in record time! Luckily now moving into 2020 we won’t have the same supply constraints so our Dublin Single Pot Still can go a bit wider and be available ongoing in the UK. Single Pot Still is a completely unique style of whiskey that can only be produced in Ireland.

MoM: What trends or developments do you think we’ll see in the world of whisky in 2020?

ST: People are going to continue to drink less but better. We are seeing a huge shift in consumption habits moving away from functional/binge drinking into a better space of enjoyment. Whiskey in particular Irish Whiskey is being enjoyed in much more social occasions which has opened it up to a much wider demographic through pairing it with food, enjoying it in a craft cocktail or neat consumption. We see it in our distillery every day. Whiskey is meant to be fun or good craic (as we say in Ireland) and I think this trend is going to continue with a new generation of people discovering brown spirits in different ways!

MoM: It’s Christmas Eve and you’ve just remembered you need to buy a present for that whisky-obsessed friend of yours. What are you running out to the shops to pick up?

ST: Lucky for me running my own distillery I have a whiskey vault in my house with some of the world’s best Irish whiskeys locked in it so won’t have to travel too far to please my whiskey obsessed friend! Depending on how nice this friend has been to me and for the year that’s in it I might just wrap him up a bottle of our 24 Year Old Single Malt aka ‘The World’s Best Single Malt for 2019.

Teeling Small Batch

Teeling Small Batch Tasting Note:

Nose: Cut grass and orange blossom. Allspice, hints of vanilla, apple pie and blackberries.

Palate: Spiced, rich palate with rose petal jelly and lemon curd. Creamy vanilla, hints of dried herbs and cinnamon.

Finish: Floral, herbal finish. Caramel on the tail.

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Whisky Advent 2019 Day #19: Balvenie 14 Year Old – The Week of Peat

The Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar features something a little different from a familiar name today… There’s a lot of stress and mayhem that seems to come with…

The Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar features something a little different from a familiar name today…

There’s a lot of stress and mayhem that seems to come with Christmas. But, underneath it all, it really is a very comforting, familiar celebration. The iconography, the food, the soundtrack – it’s pretty much the same year on year. You know exactly where you are with Christmas, and this has its merits. Change can be jarring.

However, change can bring out about new wonderful discoveries, as The Balvenie found out not long ago. The Speyside spirit-makers, renowned for making sublime Scotch whisky filled with those classic honey, vanilla and fruit notes, decided to trail drying its barley with peat for the first time in 2002. Not iodine-heavy, hardcore Islay peat, mind. The Balvenie favoured an earthier, more subtle peaty profile. The result was ruddy delicious. 

Which is good news, because behind window #19 is Balvenie 14 Year Old – The Week of Peat!

As you might have guessed already, The Week of Peat is an evolution of The Balvenie Peat Week Aged 14 Year Old and was launched as part of the Stories range in May 2019. This expression remembers when Stewart and former distillery manager Ian Millar experimentation with the smokier style for the first time after a week’s gap in the distillery’s production schedule provided the opportunity to use peat. 

We caught up with Gemma Paterson, global brand ambassador for The Balvenie, to talk more about this tale and more…

Balvenie 14 Year Old - The Week of Peat

Say hello to Gemma and Ian Miller (more on him coming up…)

So, we understand that this is a whisky with quite a story…

Yes! Back in 2002 our distillery manager at the time was Ian Millar. After having worked in the industry managing distilleries for a number of years already he was very excited to take the helm at Balvenie with our floor maltings (a big toy as he calls them…) and begin a series of experiments at the point of distillation. He went on a bit of a journey around Scotland visiting distilleries and garnering inspiration. This journey led him to Islay where he spent a bit of time thinking about peat. On his return to Balvenie he introduced a peat burner to the kiln (the large black metal burner to the side of the brick kiln for those who have visited us). This allowed the team to segregate the peat from the anthracite and so the peat trials began. There was quite a buzz on site. This was September 2002 and we hadn’t seen thick black peat smoke billowing out of the kiln like that since the 1950s. Everyone came down to check out the peat reek. Mashman Jim told us his wife complained about the peat reek lingering on his clothes at the end of a shift! Here we are now 17 years later and we still have an annual Week of Peat at the distillery. And the team still complain about the peat reek every year! All thanks to Ian’s legacy…

What happens to the profile of Balvenie whisky when it is peated?

We’ve experimented with a few different methods. Malt master David Stewart’s first foray into introducing a peated Balvenie was the 17yo Islay cask released in 2001 using an ex peated Islay hogshead to drive in that peated character, then in 2009 the 17yo peated cask we saw the first experiments using our own peated whisky, again another finish with that whisky having spent the first 17 years in a traditional American oak barrel to then be transferred to a barrel that had been seasoned with 7yo peated Balvenie. We find the profile of Balvenie in the American oak really still shines through – characteristically honeyed, malty and sweet with just a wee wisp of smokiness lingering there. The malt itself was peated to 28ppm but once in the bottle it’s mellowed right down to 5ppm.

Balvenie 14 Year Old - The Week of Peat

It was Ian’s experiment all those years ago that led to this delightful creation.

The Balvenie operates a working floor maltings, what impact does this have on the style of whisky you produce?

Every batch of Balvenie has a small percentage of our homegrown and malted barley blended into the mash bill, paying tribute to the legacy of generations of farmers and maltmen who have nurtured the barley in the fields and tended the malt on the floors from one generation to the next. When it comes to style we have a number of special casks that have been laid down over the years resulting from many experiments originating from the floor maltings. A few of these have been released and a few we will hopefully be able to share in the years to come!

What have been your 2019 highlights at The Balvenie?

What a year! The most exciting thing about 2019 has been the launch of our Stories Range. A year of discovery, working with our craftsmen, listening to their stories and having the opportunity to travel across the world and share them with our whisky community. We recorded podcasts for each of the whiskies, each one taking the listener on the journey of the whisky and meeting with the people who made the dram. So if you want to hear all about this whisky from Ian himself and the team who have nurtured the spirit in cask over the years then I would recommend seeking out the podcast online either via our website or searching your favourite podcasting platform.

What will you be drinking this Christmas?

I’ll be spending Christmas back home on the Isle of Lewis where the days this time of year are short and the nights are long. I’m looking forward to sitting around the table with friends and family and sharing stories with each other until the wee hours. Top of my list for dramming has to be the Balvenie 26 Year Old – A Day of Dark Barley. I also love some eggnog. Maybe I’ll try my hand at making some this year with some Balvenie DoubleWood….

Thank you very much to Gemma for taking the time to join us. Now go and enjoy your dram!

Balvenie 14 Year Old - The Week of Peat

Balvenie 14 Year Old – The Week of Peat

Balvenie 14 Year Old – The Week of Peat Tasting Note:

Nose: Gentle sweet peat smoke, lighter floral notes and delicate butterscotch honey.

Palate: Velvety and round to taste with the peat smoke balancing citrus flavours, oaky vanilla and blossom honey.

Finish: Gentle smoke with a lingering and creamy vanilla sweetness.

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Whisky Advent Day #18: Brenne Cuvée Spéciale

There’s only a week left until Christmas, so let’s make sure to savour these remaining drams in the Whisky Advent Calendar – particularly the one behind window #18… It’s a…

There’s only a week left until Christmas, so let’s make sure to savour these remaining drams in the Whisky Advent Calendar – particularly the one behind window #18…

It’s a week until Christmas. Officially. If you look at a calendar (the regular kind, not the kind filled with boozes), look at today’s date and then the one directly underneath it, that’s Christmas Day. All sorts of alarm bells are probably ringing at Santa’s workshop. Santa’s probably running into a meeting right as we speak (with his lunch – he’s just that dedicated) to discuss last-minute orders for different toys to be built, based off of various pivot tables on spreadsheets. Busy day indeed.

After a busy day like that, perhaps a fantastic drink is on the cards. As luck would have it, opening window #18 of the Whisky Advent Calendar reveals a wonderfully vibrant and fruity whisky that’ll suit being enjoying while relaxing at home – it’s Brenne Cuvée Spéciale! Brenne is a French single malt built from barley grown in the Cognac region, twice-distilled in an alembic Charente still and aged in a unique combination of new French Limousin oak and Cognac casks. The spirit of its hometown shines through every drop of this.

While you enjoy those delicious drops, perhaps you’d like to find out a little more about Brenne – and who better to than its very own founder, Allison Parc!

It’s Allison Parc, folks!

Master of Malt: What fun things have happened for Brenne in 2019?

Allison Parc: We released our new packaging!!! Brenne Estate Cask (or Cuvée Spécial as that expression is called in your Advent Calendar today!) now comes in our new signature glass bottle with an updated label and, might I add, a gorgeous gift box, making it even easier to give Brenne to your friends and families!

MoM: Have you felt any changes in the French whisky world as of late?

AP: Absolutely! The whisky-drinkers of the world now are now excited to try French Single Malts, like Brenne, where before, there was a decent dose of scepticism. Also, the category as a whole is rapidly expanding with new distilleries and old distilleries in France deciding to get into the whisky game. I’ll be really curious to see what’s being made in France for whisky over the next 5-10 years!

MoM: What’s next for Brenne? Any 2020 plans you can give us a hint about?

AP: Haha, no hints, but definitely some special things are coming! Be sure to follow us on social media at @BrenneWhisky for the latest and greatest!

MoM: What trends or developments do you think we’ll see in the world of whisky in 2020?

AP: I think we’ll see more whiskies focus on what Brenne has been saying since the beginning: use local ingredients to show terroir in Single Malt whiskies. This is not only exciting from a taste perspective but also a way to reduce our carbon footprint.

MoM: It’s Christmas Eve and you’ve just remembered you need to buy a present for that whisky-obsessed friend of yours. What are you running out to the shops to pick up?

Brenne!!! Obviously. 🙂

Brenne Cuvée Spéciale

Brenne Cuvée Spéciale Tasting Note:

Nose: Vanilla flowers arrive on the nose first, paired with pear drops and dried mango.

Palate: Brandied cherry and red rope liquorice. More vanilla, a hint of cinnamon spiciness and Nutella.

Finish: Chocolate raisins, pineapple and coconut ice.

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Whisky Advent 2019 Day #17: Longmorn 10 Year Old (That Boutique-y Whisky Company)

Another day, another dram within the Whisky Advent Calendar to discover! Let’s see what’s hiding behind window #17… At this point in December, you know Santa must have his Naughty/Nice…

Another day, another dram within the Whisky Advent Calendar to discover! Let’s see what’s hiding behind window #17…

At this point in December, you know Santa must have his Naughty/Nice List finalised. If not, he’s probably sending slightly panicky follow-up emails to his analysts about how he needs that list so he can plot his route. Makes me wonder if they’re able to make adjustments to the list, or if there’s a cutoff where after a certain point you can start jumbling up people’s alphabetised CD collections and touching paintings at museums without risking your Nice List standings…

Now, if we were making a Nice List for whisky, the one behind window #17 of the Whisky Advent Calendar would definitely make it on there – it’s a 10 year old Longmorn single malt independently bottled by That Boutique-y Whisky Company! A fruity and cakey single malt from the Speyside region, this one makes for a tasty after-dinner dram.

Now, if you wanted to find out more about an expression from That Boutique-y Whisky Company, brand ambassador Dave Worthington is the person to go to. Which is exactly what we did!

It’s Dave Worthington, everyone!

Master of Malt: We’ve unearthed a tasty That Boutique-y Whisky Company Longmorn in the Whisky Advent Calendar today! What kind of whisky should we be expecting here?

Dave Worthington: A Speyside distillery, Longmorn has been a favourite amongst blenders for many years. A long fermentation, combined with the broad shouldered stills give a weighty new make spirit which ages well resulting in a sweet and fruity component. The late whisky writer Michael Jackson described the house style as ‘tongue coating, malty, and complex’ in his Malt Whisky Companion. This 10 Year Old fits that bill perfectly!

MoM: What comes to mind when you think about Longmorn?

DW: You don’t tend to see a great deal of Longmorn single malt around. It’s one of those Speyside workhorse distilleries quietly going about their business making single malts for the blended Scotch whisky market, being the backbone of many of the famous blends. Amongst whisky geeks it’s often described as the best hidden gems in Scotland, and we’ve had some cracking releases.

MoM: What’s been your favourite Boutique-y bottling you’ve tried this year?

DW: We’ve had so many new releases this year, and with every tranche of new whisky entering the market I find a new favourite! I tend to lean towards the Speyside malts these days, and am always keen to find releases from those distilleries that you don’t often find bottled as a single malt, Longmorn included. Whisky from Dailuaine and Glentauchers always makes me smile, but my favourite bottling this year has got to be our seventh batch from the Clynelish distillery, a 21 Year Old. It was everything I love about Clynelish.

MoM: What trends or developments do you think we’ll see in the world of whisky in 2020?

DW: I’m expecting, and looking forward to seeing a lot of new world whisky come to market. Interest in whisky has been steadily growing around the globe and distilleries have been popping up everywhere over the last five years. I was reading Malt Whisky Yearbook recently and counted 40 distilleries making single malt whisky in Germany alone. Many of these new distilleries are not trying to imitate Scotch whisky, but are looking to bring their own local style to the market.

MoM: It’s Christmas Eve and you’ve just remembered you need to buy a present for that whisky-obsessed friend of yours. What are you running out to the shops to pick up?

Running last minute to the shops is really not something I’d relish, however I do have a local independent retailer in my home town of Bedford, so it’s here I’d head to see if they had something to pique my pals interest. If I’d really left it too late to get into town then I think tickets for a Whisky Festival would be a great idea.

Longmorn 10 Year Old (That Boutique-y Whisky Company)

Longmorn 10 Year Old (That Boutique-y Whisky Company) Tasting Note:

Nose: Sponge cake with honey and strawberry jam initially, then a bit of floral barley and toasted oats. A hint of orchard fruit and wood spice underneath.

Palate: Baking spice, toffee and dark fruits, with some minty herbal notes, orange zest and drying oak.

Finish: Black pepper heat develops alongside white grapes and shortbread.

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Whisky Advent 2019 Day #16: Isle Of Jura 18 Year Old

The grand countdown to Christmas Day has entered single digits – and today there’s a dram from a suitably epic location to celebrate. It’s Isle Of Jura 18 Year Old!…

The grand countdown to Christmas Day has entered single digits – and today there’s a dram from a suitably epic location to celebrate. It’s Isle Of Jura 18 Year Old!

Many a distillery plays on its remote location in its marketing. But Jura may just be able to make that claim stick. To visit the island distillery you first need to get to the Glasgow area. Then it’s either a ferry or a flight to Islay, followed by a teeny tiny ferry over the small but mighty Sound of Jura, then you’re on the island. But it’s another eight miles or so down a single track round until you reach the village of Craighouse and the warmest of welcomes.

Jura is a Hebridean island made famous for its sizeable deer population (6,000 or so), it’s tiny human headcount (approximately 200), and because it’s where George Orwell marooned himself to write 1984. It’s also home to the Jura Distillery, which is where today’s dram comes from: Isle Of Jura 18 Year Old! 

It’s a treat of a dram, matured in American oak barrels before it was finished in Premier Grand Cru Classé Bordeaux barrels for a full-on fruity vibe. A perfect sipper on a dark December evening. 

As we tuck into the dram, we catch up with distillery manager Graham Logan, to get his take on island life, the distillery’s history, and what he’ll be drinking this Christmas…

Isle Of Jura 18 Year Old

It’s Graham Logan (on the right)!

Master of Malt: Jura Distillery is set in a stunning but incredibly remote location. Talk us through a typical day on the island…

Graham Logan: As with most on the island, I have a dual role in the community so my first job of the day isn’t actually at the distillery! I live on a croft, so at the crack of dawn, I am up and out feeding all the animals. Then it’s a five-minute ‘commute’ down to Craighouse, the heart of the island and home to the Jura Distillery and most of the community. Believe it or not, there is the occasional traffic jam en route, but I’m not talking about cars, I’m talking about the red deer or pheasants who like to take the run of our single-track road from time to time! When I make it to the distillery, I like to take a few minutes taking in the view from my office window – palm trees, small isles bay, Kintyre peninsular and even over to Ben Cruachan and Ben Lomond in the distance. The sunrises on Jura are spectacular, and a brilliant way to set yourself up for the day ahead. 

I will then spend the next few hours touring the distillery, I will talk to all the site team and do some testing. Usually, gravities of washbacks, mash tun temperatures and doing a shake test on the malt grist. On Jura the pace is a little slower, so we’re never without our 10 am tea break! Then it’s on to catching up on emails and all my regulatory paperwork. In the afternoons, you might see me doing guest tours, talking to visitors who take the effort to come to our remote shores or spending time in a warehouse checking on some of our 30,000 casks.

MoM: How does remote island life affect the character of the whisky or the whisky-making process?

GL: Jura is blessed that the Gulf stream, all the way from the Caribbean, passes up our west coast and keeps Jura very mild in the winter. Snow is a once in a ten-year phenomenon, so our warehouses are a pretty constant temperature which allows our maturation cycles to last longer. The wood grains of the staves on our first-fill ex-bourbon barrels never quite close, which allows maturation to take place all through the winter. The warehouses are only 100 yards from the sea, allowing the salt air to penetrate our casks, leaving a very slight salt note. What makes some of this possible are our exceptionally tall, lantern-shaped stills (25ft 4 inches); only the lightest floral noted spirit makes it to the head of the still. This light spirit is the perfect partner for maturation with the American white oak ex-bourbon casks that each Jura whisky starts its life in.

Isle Of Jura 18 Year Old

The beautiful Jura Distillery

MoM: Jura has a pretty storied history, both the distillery and the island. Share a little tale from the distillery’s past…

GL: I have been at Jura distillery for 28 years and have had some escapades in that time! I had the misfortune to mash some heavy peated barley by mistake one day and because I had a cold at the time, I didn’t notice. Our then manager Willie Tait had a hairy fit and suffice to say, I wasn’t brave enough to do it again! The distillery also had a tractor and trailer for delivering the casks from the filling store to the warehouses. I got to drive it and managed to crash it within 30 seconds. A cask fell off the trailer and went speeding towards the hotel and only the nimbleness of Iain Cameron (our warehouseman) saved the day as he diverted the cask before it was sitting in the bar and whisky really was whisky galore! Surprise, surprise, I was banned from driving the tractor.

MoM: What will you be drinking this Christmas?

GL: My tipple of choice this winter will be the Jura Tide. It’s our new 21 Year Old and started its life in American White oak ex-bourbon barrels before being enhanced with a finish in virgin American oak white oak casks. I am also inclined to enjoy a dram of Jura 18 Year Old; Jura whisky enhanced in any red wine cask is excellent but this is really special with a finish in Premier Grand Cru Classé Bordeaux barrels. Delicious, especially on a crisp day! 

Isle Of Jura 18 Year Old

Isle Of Jura 18 Year Old

Isle Of Jura 18 Year Old Tasting Note:

Nose: Cinnamon, dried berries, Wine Gums, hickory.

Palate: Brandied cherries, Turkish delight, milky coffee and blackcurrant jam.

Finish: Chocolate chip cookies, a touch of hay, orange oil.

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Whisky Advent 2019 Day #15: Dalwhinnie 15 Year Old

Time for a Sunday treat! And it’s a good’un for day 15 in Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar. We’ve taken a trip up… and up… and up some…

Time for a Sunday treat! And it’s a good’un for day 15 in Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar. We’ve taken a trip up… and up… and up some more to Scotland’s highest working distillery. Today’s drop is… Dalwhinnie 15 Year Old!

If you’ve taken the A9 in Scotland all the way from Perth to Aviemore, you’ll know a number of things. Firstly – it’s a breathtakingly beautiful part of the world. And we mean seriously. The mountains, the views… It’s a dream. You’ll also know it really is high. There are actual snow gates – at over 1,000ft altitude, the weather gets inclement pretty quickly. You’ll also have likely caught a glimpse of Dalwhinnie, the single malt distillery renowned for its gentle drams. And that’s exactly what we’ve got behind door number 15 in the Whisky Advent Calendar! It’s…

Dalwhinnie 15 Year Old!

Visit Dalwhinnie and you’ll get to breathe in the expanse of space across the valley between mountains. It’s all trees, fresh air, and, of course, that distinct aroma of maturing whisky. The environment plays a pivotal role in the spirit’s character – and it really is fascinating. Here to tell us more is Catriona Mackenzie, brand home manager up at the distillery!

Dalwhinnie 15 Year Old

Say hello to Catriona Mackenzie!

Master of Malt: Dalwhinnie is the highest distillery in Scotland! What impact does this have on the style of whisky you produce?

Catriona Mackenzie: Our elevation of 1164ft above sea level contributes to an average temperature of 6°C here at Dalwhinnie. Because it’s so cold, our worm tub condensers are outside, with cold water running through them. Our spirit vapour can condense very quickly with minimal copper contact, giving our spirit a heavier mouthfeel yet gentle character.

MoM: Bring us up to speed on visitor centre developments at Dalwhinnie…

CM: We’ve launched a Fill Your Own Bottle experience at the distillery, so visitors who make the journey can draw from a single cask of cask strength liquid on site. Visitors can also write their own personalised label and record their bottle in our HMRC ledger which is such a unique opportunity, so has proved really popular. Our final tasting room has been refurbished and now there is a lovely space to enjoy a dram at the end of a tour.

Dalwhinnie 15 Year Old

Dalwhinnie Distillery looking particularly festive

MoM: What have been your 2019 highlights at the distillery?

CM: It has been a very busy year for us and we have enjoyed meeting lots of new visitors from all over the world. However, the biggest highlight has to be that we’ve retained our 5* Tourist Attraction status from Visit Scotland which we are incredibly proud of.

MoM: What trends or developments do you think we’ll see in the world of whisky in 2020?

CM: 2020 is going to be incredibly exciting for Edinburgh with the new Johnnie Walker Princes Street opening, along with the ongoing upgrade program across many of the Distillery Brand Homes. Scotch in cocktails will continue to be a trend, with more and more bars innovating and surprising whisky lovers with exciting new serves and flavour combinations.

MoM: What will you be drinking this Christmas?

CM: I will be drinking our Dalwhinnie Distillers Edition as it is a firm favourite, and I will be giving one of our Fill Your Own bottles to my father (I hope he will be sharing it).

Dalwhinnie 15 Year Old

Dalwhinnie 15 Year Old

Dalwhinnie 15 Year Old Tasting Note:

Nose: It’s all about the orchard fruits here. Dalwhinnie isn’t called the gentle dram for anything! There’s apple, pear, nectarines, honeysuckle, custard and perhaps a whisper of smoke.

Palate: It’s mega malty with lashings of honey and Victoria sponge cake. There’s the waft of smoke again, along with the sweet spices.

Finish: Long, gentle and nutty

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Whisky Advent 2019 Day: #14 Hudson Baby Bourbon

It wouldn’t be the Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar without a delicious bourbon, which is exactly what you’ll find in your calendar today… Following on from yesterday’s punchy…

It wouldn’t be the Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar without a delicious bourbon, which is exactly what you’ll find in your calendar today…

Following on from yesterday’s punchy and peaty treat, the wonderful Caol Ila 12 Year Old, you might be in the mood for a dram that’s equally as delicious but a change of pace stylistically. Behind window #14, you’ll find just that, a whiskey from a young, vibrant distillery that is creamy, sweet and very, very tasty…

It’s Hudson Baby Bourbon!

Tuthilltown Spirits had the honour of producing the first legal pot-still whiskey in New York since Prohibition and did so using 100% New York corn. But why listen to us when you could hear from the wonderful David Powell, national brand ambassador for Hudson Whiskey.

Hudson Baby Bourbon

Look, it’s David Powell!

Master of Malt: Why was it important to you to create a whiskey with 100% New York corn?

David Powell: In the early days of Hudson Whiskey, our founders, Ralph Erenzo and Brian Lee, were eager entrepreneurs who were still wrapping their minds around the mechanics of making whiskey and building a distillery. Neither of them had an extensive level of distilling experience, so when they made their first batches of whiskey, their instinct was to use the dominant grain. As a result, they leaned on those dominant grains (corn and rye) rather than diluting them with other grains – as is the style in other whiskey producing regions. Simultaneously, the newly created license required that 75% of all raw materials be New York state grown agricultural products. As a result of the growth of Hudson Whiskey over our 16 years of existence, the impact on our neighbouring farms has been tremendous. We wouldn’t have it any other way!

MoM: You maturation process is interesting, from maturing in 2-gallon barrels to playing music through bass speakers to agitate the cask and liquid and impact the flavour. What was the inspiration behind these ideas?

DP: Over the years, our Spirit Supply team has evolved tremendously. The methods described were experiments that were undertaken in the early days of the brand in order to accelerate the flow of spirit from distillery to market. Sonic Maturation was one such experiment, which we received quite a bit of attention for in the early days of the brand, but over the years, as the distillery has evolved, so have our ageing practices. Small barrels were initially used in order to accelerate the ageing process, by creating a higher level of surface area contact between spirit and wood. Given that there were no rickhouses on the property until the last 5 years, smaller barrels allowed us to have a continuous flow of spirit to market to satisfy the growing demand for our whiskies. As of this year, there are now 6 rickhouses on the property, and our barrels have increased in size to 15g, 26g and 53g barrels. Production efficiencies have been increased to a level where we no longer need to rush a product to market, and as such, the experiments described have been phased out as we have grown.

Hudson Baby Bourbon

Co-founder Ralph Erenzo in the Tuthilltown Spirits warehouse

MoM: What can we expect to see from the distillery in the future?

DP: With all of the recent upgrades to the distillery, which have increased production efficiencies, we’ve had a bit more bandwidth to start experimenting with concepts for new variants. While we’re not currently ready to announce any specifics regarding any of those innovation expressions, the first is slated to be in market in mid to late 2020.

MoM: What does the future hold for the American craft scene?

DP: American craft distilling is still a relatively young industry. Over the course of the last 20 years, we have seen the proliferation of distilleries in regions that were rendered dormant in the aftermath of Prohibition. In New York alone, there was a 70-year gap between the shuttering of the last distilleries in accordance with that failed experiment and the opening of our distillery in 2003. In the 20 years to come, I think we’ll see a bit more regionalized standardization such as the Empire Rye Collective in New York that has set out to regulate the style of Rye that New York distillers produce. Just as Kentucky Bourbon and Tennessee Whiskey have created distinctive identities over the years, I think we’ll see the same in New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Illinois, California, and beyond. Compared to other region-specific spirits, we are still in the late adolescence of the American craft scene, and I’m excited to see how our industry matures as it continues to grow.

MoM: Is there a festive cocktail or serve you recommend for Hudson Baby Bourbon?

DP: One of my favourite late fall/early winter cocktails is called Sweater Weather. It’s designed to be served cold (shaken), but I have a feeling it would be just as delicious served warm. Here’s the recipe, created by Meaghan Dorman, head bartender at The Raines Law Room in NYC: 

– To prepare cold: Build 15ml fresh lemon juice, 15ml Orgeat, 15ml Palo Cortado Sherry, 45ml apple cider and 45ml Hudson Baby Bourbon in a shaker tin, and shake vigorously with ice for 10 seconds. Strain into a double old fashioned glass over fresh ice. Garnish by expressing and discarding an orange peel, and grating cinnamon on top of the cocktail

– To prepare warm, build 15ml fresh lemon juice, 15ml Orgeat, 15ml Palo Cortado Sherry, 45ml apple cider and 45ml Hudson Baby Bourbon in a large mug, and add 45ml of hot water. Stir for about 10 seconds to fully incorporate all ingredients, and garnish by expressing and discarding an orange peel, and grating cinnamon on top of the cocktail.

Hudson Baby Bourbon

Hudson Baby Bourbon

Thank you very much to David for speaking to us. The only thing left to do is crack open this dram of Hudson Baby Bourbon (70cl) and feast on what’s inside!

Hudson Baby Bourbon Tasting Note:

Nose: Robust vanilla, new oak warmth, popcorn and a lingering whiff of sugared almond.

Palate: Marzipan and candied ginger, with a thick layer of caramel on top. A touch of rye spiciness develops.

Finish: Chocolate peanuts, buttered corn-on-the-cob and a light glaze of honey.

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