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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: English Whisky

New Arrival of the Week: Cotswolds Sherry Cask Single Malt

Just landed at Master of Malt towers: very special sherry-soaked single malt from those pioneers of English whisky, the Cotswolds Distillery. The Cotswolds Distillery released its first single malt back…

Just landed at Master of Malt towers: very special sherry-soaked single malt from those pioneers of English whisky, the Cotswolds Distillery.

The Cotswolds Distillery released its first single malt back in 2017. Not that long ago but a lifetime in the world of English whisky. Since then single malts from Copper Rivet and Anno have both gone on sale, and that’s just in Kent. When the Cotswolds Distillery was founded in 2013, only the English Whisky Co. in Norfolk and Adnams in Suffolk had whisky to sell. Now there’s an English whisky scene.

Daniel Szor, founder of the Cotswolds Distillery

Daniel Szor, founder of the Cotswolds Distillery

Spirit guides

The Cotswolds Distillery was the dream of New York financier Daniel Szor. The aim was to create world class single malt whisky using traditional techniques and Cotswolds barley. 

To help bring some money in, Szor launched a gin, and was somewhat surprised when it became such a hit. He writes in his recently-published book, Spirit Guide, “Since gin can be distilled one day and sold the next, I knew it was likely to help our young whisky distillery’s cash flow problem to a certain extent.” And what a cash flow problem he had, in the book he’s candid about the amount he spent on the distillery, £1.2 million including stills from Forsyths.

When it came to consultancy, Szor also went to the best, the late Jim Swan (you can read a great appreciation of Swan’s legacy by Ian Buxton here). Szor writes: “Jim had a profound understanding of the alchemy that takes place between whisky and wood in a way that no one else has since managed to match.” 

He goes on to explain Swan’s innovative techniques for ageing whisky: “Jim knew the best coopers in the world and, together with one of them, he would take a red wine cask, shave it on the inside, taking off the stained wood to expose that beneath it, which they would then toast over a heat source for half an hour, caramelising the wood, before setting it on fire and creating a charred layer on the inside. The result was a whisky which had the best elements of a fine French brandy, a hearty American bourbon and a delicately-balanced Scottish single malt.” 

Which is a great description of the taste of the standard Cotswolds single malt. This NAS bottling was received warmly on its release and since then has become something of a classic. It’s smooth creamy flavour makes it a great cocktail whisky as well as a good sipper. 

Cotswolds Sherry Cask Single Malt

Cotswolds Sherry Cask Single Malt

Restless creativity

The team of master distiller Nickolas Franchino (recently awarded title of master distiller by the Institute of Brewing and Distilling) and Alice Pearson in charge new product development clearly has a restless creative side judging by the number of limited releases the distillery produces. There are seasonal gins, liqueurs including an amaro and, of course, some special cask single malts. 

Many of these are only available direct from the distillery, so we were very pleased to get some bottles of this latest limited release. As always, it’s made from barley grown within 10 miles of the distillery, and double-distilled. But it’s then matured in a combination of Oloroso and Pedro Ximénez-seasoned American and Spanish oak butts and hogsheads and bottled at a punchy 57.1% ABV.

Franchino commented: “I love a sherry cask whisky as it is one of the truly iconic single malt whisky styles. Good sherry casks give rich, fruity, spicy and nutty flavours that marry perfectly with the underlying malt character and are a joy to savour.”

There’s a full tasting note below but we have to say that we absolutely loved this. It’s a mixture of the aromatically spicy, think cardamom, mint and black pepper, with the sweet, rum, raisin, chocolate, toffee and vanilla plus savoury wood tannins and masses of fruit, dark cherries and apples. It manages to be very rich and fresh at the same time and it’s absolutely gorgeous at that high ABV. 

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt

Nose: Toasted (and slightly burnt) fruitcake, with stewed, spiced apple, brown sugar, and candied ginger.

Palate: Flamed orange peel, fruit and nut dark chocolate, cherry jam, and a touch of vanilla ice cream.

Finish: Black pepper balances heaps of dried berries.

Cotswold Sherry Cask Single Malt is available from Master of Malt, while stocks last. See the whole Cotswolds range here.

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Realising Devon’s whisky potential with Dartmoor Whisky Distillery

A few years ago a group of friends visited Islay to learn all about whisky and asked why no one ever made whisky in Devon. That idea eventually turned into a…

A few years ago a group of friends visited Islay to learn all about whisky and asked why no one ever made whisky in Devon. That idea eventually turned into a brand. This is the story of Dartmoor Whisky Distillery.

If you’re interested in founding a distillery in England, there’s plenty of great places to choose from. But few areas tick quite as many boxes as Devon. While sandy beaches, medieval towns and national parks will appeal to tourists, whisky lovers will note the abundance of high-quality barley, pure spring water and a coastal climate perfect for maturation. Devon native Greg Miller realised all of this back in 2009. He and a group of friends had ventured to Islay to take part in an intensive distillation course at Bruichladdich. The experience made him realise his home county had everything needed to make great whisky. So he teamed up with partner Simon Crow to found the Dartmoor Whisky Distillery.

The first thing they needed was a still. The duo immediately hit a roadblock, however, after visiting Forsyths of Rothes in Scotland only to return with a sizable quote and a potential spot on a two-year waiting list. Old connections and happenstance provided the solution. A lifelong friendship established with a French exchange student as a child caused Miller’s love-affair with France, where he owns a house. While there in the summer of 2014 it occurred to him that there’s an awful lot of distillation going on in Cognac. He wondered if he could find a still down there. 

As luck would have it, there was a tiny advert for one posted on a French agricultural website by Miguel D’Anjou, a third-generation Cognac master distiller. His still was built in 1966 and was in operation until 1994 when the family upgraded to two larger stills and it was mothballed. Miller and Crow were able to purchase and refurbish the still, even establishing a relationship with D’Anjou who ended up teaching the duo a lot about distillation.

The Dartmoor Distillery's unique Cognac still

The Dartmoor Distillery’s unique Cognac still

Making Devonshire drams at Dartmoor Whisky Distillery

While Dartmoor Whisky Distillery is not the first or only whisky distillery to use a Cognac still, it’s certainly rare and there are some significant differences between it and a traditional whisky pot still. The shape of the head on the 1400-litre Alembic still is very bulbous, while the swan neck is very narrow. This creates a very high level of reflux. Crow explains: “Before the vapours get up the swan neck they fold back on themselves an awful lot. Then the swan neck is very narrow so it distils our spirit very slowly, probably about a quarter to a third the speed of a traditional whisky pot still. This creates an incredibly smooth, sweet new make”. Then there’s the central copper ‘wash warmer’ which sits between the still and the condenser. While the first charge of beer wash is distilling, this holds and preheats the next charge, both saving energy and doubling the time that the wash is in contact with copper.

Despite inspiration striking on Islay, it was never Miller and Crow’s intention to make peated whisky. Partly because the local barley traditionally wasn’t peated and Crow says the duo is determined that the whisky is a product of Dartmoor. All of its barley, 50 tonnes a year, is sourced from Preston Farm, which supplies a lot of Devonshire breweries too. The barley is malted at the legendary Warminster Maltings, then it goes to Dartmoor Brewery who make a 9% ABV beer wash. Post distillation that 9% ABV beer is a 70% ABV spirit which is reduced with water down to the barrel strength of 63% ABV. That’s pure Dartmoor spring water sourced from a 200-foot deep borehole up on the moor at Holne that’s been filtered over the course of two centuries through peat, granite and more. 

The first releases are expressions matured in ex-bourbon, ex-Oloroso sherry and ex-Bordeaux red wine casks, which make up the bulk of Dartmoor Whisky Distillery’s wood programme. There are some Port and Madeira casks that are being used to finish some ex-bourbon expressions, however, and Miller’s love of smokier drams means some new make has been popped into ex-Laphroaig casks. The first 50 casks are stored underneath the distillery, but the majority are housed in a local warehouse to make the most of that Dartmoor climate. The plan was to vat whisky from the three primary casks together, but after master distiller Frank McCardy tasted each spirit after a year of ageing he advised Miller and Crow that each expression was too interesting and should stand on their own.

The Dartmoor Distillery

The Dartmoor Distillery

A beautiful building and a bright future

If you’re wondering, yes that it is the Frank McCardy of Springbank and Bushmills Distillery, who brought his 50+ years of experience to Dartmoor. An old friend of Miller and Crow, the Cognac still and integrity of the process was intriguing enough to McCardy to tempt him to lend expertise, despite being in semi-retirement. “We consult him on everything we are doing”, Crow says. With D’Anjou and McHardy guiding them, Miller and Crow currently handle the bulk of the distillation. This year they will be employing a distiller, however, who will have the pleasure of working out of one of England’s most scenic distilleries.

You’ll find Dartmoor Whisky Distillery in the Old Town Hall in Bovey Tracey. It became available when the council moved to a new building. “It would be easier to have a more logistical space with a big modern warehouse. But it’s such a beautiful building. It dates back to the 1860s and for us to be able to give that lovely historic building a new lease of life was great,” Crow says. The striking still sits on a stage while the rest of the hall is a visitors centre complete with a bar. A retail shop is now open and when tourism picks back up, you can bet the Dartmoor Distillery is handily placed to take advantage.

Crow tells us that a gin distilled in another old copper Cognac still, this one from 1890, with some local Dartmoor botanicals is on the way. But for now, we’re most interested in Dartmoor’s three core expressions and tasting them we found plenty of reasons to be optimistic. The Bourbon Cask is delicate, refined and balanced, with plenty of distillery character (sparkling orchard fruit, warm biscuit crumble and a honeyed element) and some solid cask integration. The Bordeaux Cask melds pleasantly with the new make and adds some intriguing elements. But the Sherry Cask is the standout dram so far. Those dense, sweet and rich Oloroso notes mask any immaturity and you can tell the quality of the cask itself is first-rate from how complex its flavours are. All three have had not enough time in their respective casks yet and demonstrate some raw spirit qualities (particularly in the Bourbon Cask). But it’s promising to taste a forming distillery character and to see another emerging producer resisting the urge to overload the oak in an effort to mask its youth.

There’s a lot of potential here. And thanks to the local barley, water, floor maltings, it’s whisky that’s Devon through and through. To grab yourself a bottle head to the Dartmoor Whisky Distillery page.

The Dartmoor Distillery range

The Dartmoor Distillery range

Tasting Dartmoor Whisky Distillery’s whisky

Dartmoor Bourbon Cask Matured Whisky

Nose: There’s a big malty backdrop (almost into beer/shandy territory) to this one which combined with some heat and raw touches reveal its youth. But it also showcases plenty of Dartmoor distillery character, green apples, Rich Tea biscuits and acacia honey in this case. Among those notes, you’ll find heaps of vanilla, as well as Scotch tablet, flour and a little black pepper. With time comes hints of milk chocolate, nectarines, orange blossom and white wine grapes. Then also a faint nutty quality as well as pencil shavings and a hint of strawberries and cream.

Palate: More of that biscuity, malty goodness at the core, alongside toffee, vanilla, baking spices and a little toasted oak as the cask presence makes itself more known. There’s also a little more of that citrus character from lemon zest. Also some dried grass, toasted almond and cacao powder. Throughout there are more honeycomb and crisp green apple flavours. Underneath there’s touches of marshmallow, melon, apricot yoghurt and cream soda to make themselves known.

Finish: A tad dry and carrying some peppery heat, but plenty of honey, fruit and a little gingerbread keeps things pleasant.

Dartmoor Bordeaux Cask Matured Whisky 

Nose: The wine cask makes itself known from the off with a mixed summer berry compote (blackcurrants, blueberries, raspberries, redcurrants, strawberries) at the forefront alongside tannic red apple skins, plum, clove and some stony minerality. Notes of Manuka honey, caramel shortbread and a hint of sweet tobacco then develop. With more time comes orange peel, crunchy brown sugar, black peppercorn and cinnamon. There’s also some dried earth, melted chocolate and red chilli heat. Throughout that raw new make threatens to derail things slightly but never gets a firm grip on the nose.

Palate: Kellogg’s Fruit and Fibre, drying wood tannins and red berries lead, with walnut oil, posh dark chocolate and apple chutney in support. Among hints of candied orange there’s crème caramel, gingernuts, black pepper and damsons. Touches of peppermint, tomato puree and flint are present in the backdrop.

Finish: Medium finish with soft nutmeg, red and black Wine Gums and cocoa powder.

Dartmoor Sherry Cask Matured Whisky

Nose: Classic rich and nutty Oloroso goodness kicks things off with Corinth raisins, figs and stewed plums supported by sticky toffee, marmalade, manuka honey and walnut. There’s notes of damp earth, sherry-stained oak and tobacco leaves in the backdrop, as well as brown sugar, caramelised orchard fruit, stem ginger and brandy butter.

Palate: Through treacle, juicy dark fruits and some woody tannins there’s coconut, vanilla pod sweetness and thick caramel. Toasty cereals, sherried spice and the slightest menthol heat add depth. Underneath there’s dark honey, malt extract, rum and raisin ice cream and a little marzipan.

Finish: Some cinnamon and cacao powder keeps more summer berries company.  

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Five minutes with… John McCarthy, head distiller at Adnams

We spoke with head distiller John McCarthy about Adnams’ the grain-to-glass process, being a pioneer British craft distiller and the crucial difference between wash and beer. Oh, and he has…

We spoke with head distiller John McCarthy about Adnams’ the grain-to-glass process, being a pioneer British craft distiller and the crucial difference between wash and beer. Oh, and he has some quite strong views on pink gin.

Created within the Adnams brewery grounds in the picturesque English seaside town of Southwold, the Adnams Copper House Distillery opened in 2010. According to Adnams, it was the first brewery to be legally allowed to install a distillery in the UK. Today, Adnams counts gin, vodka, whisky, cream liqueur and distilled Broadside beer among its spirits. Head distiller John McCarthy has been there since (before) the start so who better to explain the whole thing to us?

Master of Malt: How did you go from an engineer to a head distiller, John?

John McCarthy: I started at Adnams 20 years ago now, in 2001, as an engineer from an electrical background. I came here to look after the electrical stuff that keeps the brewery running. As an engineer, I run projects and a project came along to put a distillery in.

We started talking about it in 2009 and I was deemed the best engineer for the job because I had done some brewing exams. So, I looked into how a distillery works and what you need to do. I did a five-day course in the States, set up by the German stills company, Carl. They were pretty busy in the US at the time, because the craft distillery movement was really taking off. Jonathan Adnams came along with me because it was his idea for the distillery and on the plane home, I asked him who would run it. He said he hadn’t thought about it, so I said, ‘I’ll give it a go’. That was my job interview.

Adnams Copper House Distillery

The lavish stills set-up at the Copper House Distillery

MoM: What was the craft distilling scene in the UK like back then?

JMcC: It was new and exciting. The English Whisky Co. was going, Chase had started. There were very few of us and after that, distilleries were popping up everywhere, within a few years. A lot of people said to me at the time, ‘do you really like all these other distilleries popping up?’ And I thought it was great because the gin category exploded when there was an explosion of gin producers. If there hadn’t been 50 gin distillers, there wouldn’t have been the gin craze. It’s the variety of products that actually caused the craze to happen.

MoM: So, is that what you set out to make first? Gin?

JMcC: Gin first, but Jonathan’s angle, always, is that because we’re a brewer, it’s going to be grain to glass, we’re not going to buy neutral grain spirit. I have used NGS in the past, but only for contract gins, which we make for a couple of different people. We buy NGS for that because the vodka I make to make our gins is quite precious to us, it’s quite labour intensive to make.

MoM: Tell us about the grain to glass process…

With our grain to glass approach, the brewers had to learn to make a distillery wash. There are differences that happen in the brewhouse. When you mix your malted barley or whatever grains you’re using with warm water, you’re getting enzymes to break down the starches into sugars. When you brew beer, you want that to be at a certain temperature so you get a make-up of sugars that are fermentable and non-fermentable, you want long chain sugars like dextrin, because you want sweetness. And you want sugars that are smaller, like maltose and glucose, which will ferment into alcohol. You want alcohol, but you also need to retain some sugars that will not ferment. That’s beer. When you make a distillery wash, you want it all to be fermentable because you can’t distil sugar – you’re just wasting starch.

Barrels at Adnams Copper House Distillery

Wood experimentation in an important part of McCarthy’s job

MoM: Speaking of beer, how’s Spirit of Broadside doing? Have you made spirits from any of the other beer brands?

JMcC: We haven’t. Lots of people love Spirit of Broadside but the problem we have is it’s a hard sell. We basically did it as a stepping stone to making whisky. It helped us to have a brown spirit early on. We’ve still got some, we still make it. The big advantage of having our own shops is we can get people to try it before they buy it.

MoM: Rumour has it you use a pretty interesting yeast strain…

JMcC: Adnams yeast is two different strains, which we’ve had since about 1940. They are called class one and class three and we like to have 50% of each. If we have 50% of class one and class three, we get good, steady, vigorous fermentation – a good performance. We get the right amount of alcohol, everything’s lovely. If it gets out of 50/50, then we get problems: stuck fermentations, cloudy beer, all sorts. The problem we have is class one is a chain-forming yeast – it is very vigorous, and dominant. Class three (you can see the difference under a microscope) is ones and twos [as opposed to chains] and it is not so strong, it tends to get dominated by the other one. So, we have to propagate class three and do regular yeast counts. That’s the yeast we use for everything. And it’s free!

John McCarthy head distiller Adnams

John McCarthy in action at the Adnams Copper House Distillery

MoM: Adnams is also known for its wine business – are you doing anything exciting in the distillery with wine casks?

JMcC: We filled some Port and sherry casks with new make. They’ve been laid down for five years now. We have our three whiskies – our rye, a triple malt and a single malt. The single malt has gone into the sherry and Port casks, which I’m keeping. I’m into the idea that we need to do special releases. I want to do distiller’s choice-type releases, where I’ll just pick a single cask and bottle it. The sherry and Port might go for that.

I did buy some TGS (tight grain selection) barrels. They cost an awful lot of money but the tight grain, apparently, in the fine wine industry, gives a more refined wine, it just takes a lot longer to get there. So, I bought some of those to see what they did with spirits. I’ve got an experiment that’s been going with those for about seven years now. I’ve not even tried it. I will soon.

I’d say over 90% of the barrels I buy have never been used – freshly made and freshly toasted, straight from the cooperage in France. We do fill some ex-bourbon because our single malt is a blend of French oak and ex-bourbon, 66:33. If this distiller’s choice idea kicks off, I will buy some wine barrels to do some finishes in.

We’ve also made one barrel, about eight years ago now, of brandy from locally grown grapes. There’s a vineyard about 14 miles away from here and I bought a couple of thousand litres of wine off them and distilled that into brandy. Suffolk grapes making Suffolk brandy. It is a mix of Seyval Blanc and a bit of Müller-Thurgau.

Adnams Copper House Distillery

Southwold’s famous lighthouse reflected in a still window

MoM: Any other future plans you want to share?

JMcC: I’d like to grow whisky. I think English whisky is going to be a thing. There are around 20 people making whisky in England and Wales. So, it would be nice to get together and become a category. We’ll continue with gin, we’re doing seasonal gins. To come up with another great gin is always a good thing.

MoM: Do you think gin has still got legs?

JMcC: I think it’s on the wane. I don’t think that’s an issue, I think that’s probably a good thing. There are some gins that I don’t agree with – pink gin.  Hold my hands up, I make a pink gin but I try to make a pink gin that still tastes like a gin. There are a lot of gins out there that don’t. You can’t really call them gins but they’ve got gin on the label. I know the WSTA and the Gin Guild are working very hard to get rid of some of those.

MoM: Do you do any alcohol-free spirits?

I have played with it. I thought I ought to find out because someone is one day going to say, ‘John, make an alcohol-free spirit’, and I need to know how to do it. But we did some research and there really isn’t much money in it. It’s not a big category. There’s a lot of shouting about it, though.

MoM: What has been the biggest surprise when it comes to distillery life?

JMcC: How much fun it has been. When you’re an engineer, you just get called to install stuff and fix stuff. Going from that to actually being someone who makes something and gets good feedback for things I’ve made, or a recipe – that’s one of the highlights.

MoM: What would you be doing if you weren’t doing this?

JMcC: I’d probably still be an engineer. I’d be fixing someone else’s distillery, on my hands and knees in a puddle.

The Adnams spirits range is available from Master of Malt.

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Master of Malt visits… The Lakes Distillery

Just before lockdown we squeezed in one last trip to the stunning Lakes Distillery – although we didn’t know it was going to be the last. Luckily we captured our…

Just before lockdown we squeezed in one last trip to the stunning Lakes Distillery – although we didn’t know it was going to be the last. Luckily we captured our wonderful time through the magic of video, so you can enjoy it too!

From the glorious landscapes to the wonders of the whisky studio, Lakes whisky maker Dhavall Gandhi showed us all the sites when we made our way up to Cumbria to take a nose around the distillery. If you’ve ever wanted to know more about sherry casks or the burgeoning English whisky category, or both at the same time, then you’re in the right place.

If you like words as well as videos, then you can check out our blog on what we learned at the distillery here!

First up, we chat with Gandhi about how he ended up in the whisky business, having started in the finance industry!

In Part 2 of our interview with Gandhi, we learn more about his unique holistic whisky making process and get an insight into a day in the life of The Lakes whisky maker.

Time for a sneak peek into each of the production processes at The Lakes, including a special insight into the importance of fermentation, with Gandhi as our guide.

Let’s talk all things cask maturation! It’s time to learn about the brilliance of sherry casks and different types of oak.

Blending is a huge part of Gandhi’s process, and here in his shiny whisky studio he explains about how blending whisky is a lot like art.

Tasting time! First up is Whiskymaker’s Reserve No.3, tasted by the whisky maker himself.

Gandhi tastes us through The ONE Signature Blend, taking us through how the Lakes own single malt works alongside Scotch grain and malt whiskies.

Time for some juniper, as Gandhi tastes and talks us through why The Lakes Classic Gin is indeed a classic.

Last, but certainly not least, The Lakes Pink Grapefruit Gin tasted by Gandhi, including his perfect serve.

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Master of Malt visits… Anno Distillers

Kent’s first whisky, science and new products (look out for MoM exclusive…) were all topics of discussion when we visited the wonderful Anno Distillery back in January. Which you can…

Kent’s first whisky, science and new products (look out for MoM exclusive…) were all topics of discussion when we visited the wonderful Anno Distillery back in January. Which you can see for yourself. We got it all on film.

I don’t know if you get on with your neighbours, but at MoM Towers, we’re delighted to have Anno Distillery just down the road from us. Among all the hop fields, sandy beaches and medieval castles of Kent are distilleries, many of them quite new and releasing all kinds of tasty booze at break-neck speed. Anno, the county’s first gin distillery in 200 years, has certainly been busy in the last decade creating a range of gins, vodkas and even Kent’s first whisky along the way.

We were invited for a visit to learn about its history, how the founder’s background in science impacts distillation and more. Which we did. But we went one better and filmed our tour so you can enjoy it as well. Particularly useful given many of you won’t have been able to visit any distilleries for the time being.

We begin at the beginning because we’re mavericks like that. Dr. Any Reason joins us to tell us about how he founded the brand in 2011 with Dr Norman Lewis (hence the name: it’s a combination of the first two letters of Andy and Norman). Dr Reason outlines how the brand created its distillery in Marden, where his love of spirits began, what the ambition for Anno Distillers was and even offers us a little glimpse into its future…

While whisky may be produced all over the world now until recently you couldn’t buy a whisky that was produced in the garden of England. In this video, Dr Reason tells us the story behind Kent’s very first whisky, how the brand partnered with Westerham Brewery to create this unique bottling and why it was matured in a medium-charred ex-bourbon cask that had previously held Speyside whisky.

As a former PhD research and development chemist, Dr Reason (by the way, amazing name. Sounds like an X-Men character) already had a keen understanding of the process of distillation. In this interview, he outlines how this background in science gave the brand an edge to make delicious booze, what kind of profile of gin he wanted to create and more. Bonus fact:  The logo, a registered trademark, demonstrates this influence as it was found in a 17th-century German text, and was recorded as the alchemical sign for distillation.

Assistant distiller Jake Sedge joins us now to give us a guided tour of the distillery and walk us through the production process. We meet Patience, Anno’s 300-litre copper pot still (Anno has come a long since experimenting in Dr Reason’s kitchen with a 2 litre still) which got its name thanks to an arduous 18-month wait for a licence. Sedge then explains how each set of botanicals are distilled in order for the brand to make its award-winning gin.

Sedge returns to underline the importance of water in distillation and how Anno filters its ultra-pure water in-house and then introduces us to Defiance, a smaller still the brand has on-site to conduct experiments with. Currently, Anno is looking to create its first rum. Is that a Master of Malt exclusive?! I think it is. There’s even talk of brandy. How very exciting.

Fancy blending you own gin and taking home a personalised bottle? Our good friend Jake Sedge is back again to talk us through the Marden distillery’s blending experience. He offers his expert advice, presents the many flavour options available to you and makes his own tasty example (which changed colour when he added tonic. Neat.). Did you know that you get to make your own unique label and keep a record of your recipe in the blending notebook so you can reorder the blend in future, direct from the distillery? Awesome.

Finally, we taste the Anno range with Anno sales and marketing director Kim Reason. If you’re thinking of picking up a bottle of its Kent Dry and 60² gins or a flavoured expression like its Orange and Honey Gin, B3rry Pink Gin or Elderflower Vodka then you’ll want to watch this. Best of luck picking one. They’re all very tasty.

Anno Distillers

We hope you enjoyed the tour!

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Whisky making at the Lakes Distillery with Dhavall Gandhi 

The Lakes Distillery doesn’t do things by halves, as we found out when we spent a couple of days up in Cumbria with whisky maker Dhavall Gandhi. We were even…

The Lakes Distillery doesn’t do things by halves, as we found out when we spent a couple of days up in Cumbria with whisky maker Dhavall Gandhi. We were even allowed into the inner sanctum of the whisky studio… 

Surrounded by whisky and a field of alpacas doesn’t seem like such a shabby spot for an office. At the Lakes Distillery, Dhavall Gandhi is lucky enough to call this space his whisky studio, where big decisions and tastings take place. Having spent a couple of days at the distillery with Gandhi and his team, we were lucky enough to sneak a peek into every step of the whisky making process.

whisky Lakes Distillery

The picturesque Lakes Distillery

Dhavall Gandhi, whisky maker 

First of all, leaving your job in corporate finance to go and work for a whisky distillery seems like a pretty rogue move, even if that distillery is Macallan. But then Gandhi decided to call it quits at Macallan when he got an offer to work at a small, unknown craft distillery in the Lake District. Gandhi also has experience in the brewing industry having worked at Heineken, which is what really sparked his interest in fermentation.

whisky lakes distillery

Dhavall Gandhi and some fabulous English whisky!

I imagine the move not just from a large, established distillery to a smaller one, but from the Scotch whisky industry to the much lesser-known English must be something of a culture shock. “The size is a big difference,” Gandhi agrees. “You’re working with millions of litres of alcohol a year down to 130,000 litres.” 

Even so, Gandhi took what he had learnt from a large distillery and applied it on a much smaller scale to the Lakes. The best thing about coming to a brand new, unknown distillery? “The freedom and opportunity to create a house style of Lakes single malt,” Gandhi tells me. That’s pretty priceless for somebody with a vision. 

Whisky making 

There is something unique about each stage of the whisky making process at the Lakes, from the fermentation to the oak to the blending. To start with, most distilleries would have a different person (or team) in charge of each of these stages, Gandhi oversees the entire process from start to finish giving him complete creative control. He calls this his “holistic approach to making whisky.” 

lakes distillery whisky

Whisky making in the process

So, what is Gandhi’s whisky making method? “I start at the very end,” he tells me. Gandhi envisions the style of whisky he wants to create, and then works backwards. What kind of casks will help him achieve this style? Then, what new make will suit these casks best, and be robust enough to handle the cask type? How will he achieve this new make through fermentation and yeast types? Each stage is meticulously planned, and ensure that Gandhi knows exactly what he is looking for.

Fermentation

After the mashing to obtain a clear, fruity wort, it’s time for fermentation. Three different styles of yeast are used, Scotch yeast, French yeast and heritage yeast, with each yeast strain giving top, base and middle notes. The wort goes through a lengthy 96 hour fermentation period. Why so long? It results in a lighter, creamier spirit. 

whisky Lakes Distillery

Time to get mashing

Gandhi talks a lot about his “three tier spirit architecture”, and architecture is a good way to describe what he is doing with the whisky, building it from the ground up from his blueprints. The three tiers refers to the three different yeast strains, with different yeasts used on different days in different combinations. There’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach here. 

Distillation

As well as a long fermentation, the spirit also goes through a slow distillation, allowing the spirit more contact with the still. Gandhi takes a very narrow cut to produce a fruity but robust new make of around 67% ABV. 

whisky Lakes Distillery

Meet Susan the still

The condensers are of particular interest to whisky geeks like us. The distillery boasts both copper and stainless steel condensers, allowing Gandhi to create two different new make spirits. We’ll call them type A and type B. Type A is the light to medium bodied spirit yielded from the copper condenser, while type B is heavier bodied, coming from the stainless steel condenser. Ding ding! This is yet another point in the process which allows Gandhi to tailor his spirit. We’ve lost count! 

Everything at the Lakes is allowed ample time including the slow reduction process at six litres of pure water a minute, where the spirit is diluted to around 58% ABV. It turns out that the spirit can go into a kind of shock if it’s diluted too quickly, so this helps keep it nice and mellow. 

Maturation

The Lakes is all about the sherry influence, which may not surprise you knowing Gandhi’s previous Macallan experience. So, why sherry? “Write the books you want to read,” Gandhi tells me. He isn’t out to create a sherry bomb, rather more of a refined, subtle sherry character. 

It would be easy to simplify the cask maturation into the types of sherry, with fino, oloroso and Pedro Ximénez. But the reality is much more complex than that. American whiskey, Port and red wine casks are also used, but sparingly, sherry casks are Gandhi’s forte. He is also experimenting with amontillado, palo cortado and manzanilla, though oloroso forms the backbone of the single malts.

whisky Lakes Distillery

There’s also the oak type to consider, with American, Spanish and French oak all used. This in itself isn’t unusual, but the fact that both sherried Spanish and American oak are used is (often, European oak is reserved for sherry, while American oak is reserved for American whiskey). Then there’s the size: butts are the most common (seeing as that’s what sherry is usually housed in), but hogsheads, barriques and barrels are all used as well. To generalise, American oak is more creamy and tropical, full of vanillins, while European oak is often responsible for those peppery, spicy notes, so the combination results in something wonderfully complex and rounded. 

Blending

This is where Gandhi’s passion truly lays. The whisky industry seems to have a problem with the word blend, and he wants to banish any inferior associations. Unless you’re sipping single cask expressions chances are you’ll be drinking a blend, even if it’s a single malt, seeing as different malts from the same distillery are blended together to create different expressions. But people rarely associate the word ‘blend’ with single malts.

whisky Lakes Distillery

A hard day’s work of tasting ahead

We enter the whisky studio, and it’s like a whisky lover’s dream come true, with sample upon sample prepared in the futuristic, glistening space. Gandhi noses and tastes 125 samples in front of us in minutes, quickly deciding on which can stay and which don’t make the cut. Sounds like a lot, right? He tells me that he can regularly nose and taste around 300 samples in a session!

Sitting on the fence isn’t something that Gandhi does, and snap decisions define this part of the whisky making process. Crafting a whisky can take anything from hours to months, he tells me, and gut feelings are crucial. 

Cask Influence 

Gandhi picks out random samples and dissects them for us. He pulls up a rather light sample, and at first guess I would have thought it was aged in a refill cask. He tells me that it’s actually drawn from an oloroso American oak butt. He pulls up a much darker bottling, what most people probably expect a sherried whisky to look like, and reveals that this is drawn from an oloroso Spanish oak hogshead. Simply saying knowing something was matured in an oloroso cask reveals little about it, and hammers home the notion that colour can often tell us very little.

whisky Lakes Distillery

50 shades of whisky…

What really stuck with me was Gandhi’s metaphor of whisky as a painting. The new make spirit acts as the canvas (hence why Gandhi wants it to be as clean as possible), while casks and flavours are the colours, and blending is the act of painting. Delving deeper into the metaphor, Gandhi notes that each cask is like a shade of colour. Just like you have lime, forest or emerald rather than just green, you don’t just have an oloroso cask. “For me, whisky making is all about creative expression,” says Gandhi. “A whisky, when you drink it, needs to stir emotion in you. If that happens, my job is done.”

New releases

When we visit, two exciting new whiskies are in the pipeline; Whiskymaker’s Reserve No.3 and The One Orange Wine Cask Finish. Well, reader, in the time it took to get these words down, the releases are now ready. 

whisky Lakes Distillery

The shiny new Whiskymaker’s Reserve No.3!

But we’re shining a spotlight on The Whiskymaker’s Reserve No.3. As the name of the series suggests, these releases are Gandhi’s chance to really show his artistic exploration of oak and blending. The trio of single malts in the series all have the same DNA, though each expression is unique in its own way with different nuances. For No.3, a combination of oloroso, cream and Pedro Ximénez sherry casks work alongside a small number of red wine casks.

Gandhi described Whiskymaker’s Reserve No.1 as more “intense and bold” with more sherry character. Whiskymaker’s Reserve No.3 on the other hand, is a bit more “seductive”, with more of that incense and chocolate character thanks to the French and Spanish oak influence.

If all this talk of whisky has got you thirsty by now, then you should try Whiskymaker’s Reserve No.3 yourself. Now that you know the labour and love that goes into it, we’re sure it’ll taste just that much sweeter.

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St. George’s Distillery, English whisky’s trailblazer

In honour of St. George’s Day, we’re visiting a distillery named after England’s patron saint in the heart of the Norfolk countryside. It’s home to those pioneers of English whisky,…

In honour of St. George’s Day, we’re visiting a distillery named after England’s patron saint in the heart of the Norfolk countryside. It’s home to those pioneers of English whisky, the aptly-named English Whisky Company. And we’ve produced some videos so that you too can visit from the comfort of your favourite armchair. 

Driving north to the St. George’s Distillery in Norfolk, you can see where the inspiration came from for the whisky because as far as the eye can see across the flat countryside there is barley, acres and acres of barley. It’s the nearest that England gets to the great fertile plains of America or Ukraine. According to Andrew Nelstrop, his late father James Nelstrop always had the dream to make whisky. He describes his father as a “restless spirit.” The family were originally farmers in Lincolnshire but they moved around a lot with a stint in New South Wales and later his father farmed at Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave on the Baltic. It wasn’t easy, according to Andrew, “people kept stealing the light bulbs”.

Eventually the family settled into the farming life in Norfolk and that’s when the distillery dream became reality. Andrew filled me in: “originally the plan was to build a micro distillery and just make enough whisky to drink himself and supply friends.” But back in 2005, the minimum size allowed by HMRC was 1800 litres, “so we had to build a big one”, he said. The Nelstrops were in the fortunate position of not needing external investors or to borrow money from the bank. Consequently, they could do things in their own time. “We’re a farming family so we have a long term mentality,” said Andrew. 

At the time Andrew ran a building company, so they were able to draw up plans themselves. They received planning permission on 5 January 2006, and began work that very day. Stills came from Forsyths of Rothes and the head distiller came from Scotland too, Iain Henderson came down after finishing at Laphroaig for, as Andrew puts it, “a last hurrah.” The idea was to create a classic Lowland style single malt. The first release was in 2009. It got a lot of attention. “We were surprised by the level of interest in our first whisky,” Andrew said, “We got lucky and were picked up by BBC newswire which led to world wide coverage. “ There was a queue of customers two miles down the road, waiting to buy a bottle. 

The other surprise is what a tourist attraction the distillery has been. They originally budgeted for 1500 visitors a year. “By year four we had 30-40,000 visitors,” Andrew said. They opened new visitor facilities in 2017. Here the Nelstrop family have shown their rural cunning. The glass was built for the University of Greenwich but it faced the wrong way so was useless. Andrew told me that he picked it up for a song. They now get about 80,000 visitors who just come to the shop and cafe, which has excellent food and local beers, including one from St. Peter’s in Suffolk aged in English whisky casks. The shop doesn’t just sell the distillery’s own products but probably has the best selection of whisky in East Anglia. Around 20,000 people a year take the tour.

Sadly, James Nelstrop died in 2014 but at least he got to taste his own whisky. The site is called the St. George’s Distillery but the bottles were rebranded four years ago as the English Whisky Company to differentiate themselves from St. George’s Distillery in America. Andrew credits his wife Katy who looks after the marketing side of the business with this strong new look. 

David Fitt in action (credit: Tom Bunning)

Since 2008, distillation has been in the safe hands of David Fitt. Originally from Woolwich in south London, he was working at Greene King brewery in Suffolk before taking up his role at St. George’s. He worked with Ian Henderson for five months to learn how it was done. “If you can make beer, you can distill whisky. Operating equipment is operating equipment,” joked Fitt. He brings a brewer’s sensibility to whisky making, as we’ll find out.

The distillery was making peated whisky when we visited (it makes up about 10-15% of production) and the whole site smelt wonderfully like bacon. Fitt went through some of the technical side of his job. They have a one tonne mash tun and do a seven hour mash between 65 and 85°C (mashing video here). It is cooled and then it’s into the 3 x 7500 litre washbacks. They pitch the distillers yeast in early, the idea is to get the fermentation going quickly before any wild yeasts get a chance to work some mischief, something that’s a risk in Norfolk’s warm climate. They want quite a rapid ferment to create estery flavours of bananas and pear drops. It takes about 48 hours to produce a wash of 7-8% ABV but then David leaves it on the lees (dead yeast cells) for a day or two. This is like they do in Burgundy and other wine regions creating complex flavours like almond and hazelnut. This is another area where the distillery can take its time. There’s no hurry to create more spirit. 

There’s a wash still of 2750 litres and a spirit of 1800, the smallest that was allowed at the time the distillery was built. The idea is to create a light fruity new make so there’s plenty of reflux from the bulge above the base of the spirit still, and the shell and tube condensers (distillation video here). Even with the peated spirit, the cut is taken early so that, as Fitt puts it, “you lose heavy iodine notes and just get bonfire. What’s the point of replicating Laphroaig?” Indeed. They produce around 50,000 litres of pure alcohol per year, or “what Glenfiddich makes in 2.5 days,” as Andrew put it. 

From those two stills, Fitt produces an extraordinary array of whiskies (as well as a selection of liqueurs). Most of the ageing is in ex-bourbon casks though they do have some sherry, wine, rum and also use some virgin American oak (maturation video here). These various whiskies are divided into two ranges: single malts known as The English, and grain whiskies called The Norfolk. There are also various limited edition whiskies like the Poppy produced for Remembrance Sunday or the Triple-Distilled released last year, many of which are available only from the distillery. I’ve picked out a few whiskies to try below. Now that they have old stocks, the Original single malt was on fine form with fruit to fore but also the richness of more mature whiskies. I was also particularly taken with the Virgin Smokey, aged in new American oak and bursting with flavours of tobacco, orange peel, and bonfire smoke. 

But, I think the Norfolk range of grain whiskies are the distillery’s true calling card. This is where Fitt’s experience as a brewer is telling, the flavour coming from the cereal more than the cask. Andrew said: “David has extraordinary taste buds. He has a deep understanding of how different barleys behave. Look at what he does with different cereals in the Farmer’s which is made with crystal malt, oats, wheat and rye.” I particularly loved the Parched, a tribute to an Irish single pot still made from around 35% unmalted to 65% malted barley. It majors on green apple, rather like Green Spot, but in a lighter zestier style. Then there’s the Malt and Rye, perhaps the best non-North American rye I have tried. Norfolk Manhattan, anyone?

Since the Nelstrop family began in 2006, English whisky has become a proper category which, according to Andrew, helps them enormously when marketing abroad. There’s now a shelf in a whisky shop for English whisky. But where most English distilleries are still finding their feet, St George’s feels like it has very much found them and they’re taking increasingly large strides. They have gone from making excellent Lowland-style single malts in England to developing a distinctive home-grown style. 

Here are three to try:

The English Original

Nose: Zesty orange, vanilla custard, grassy malt.

Palate: Nuttier than the nose, with notes of almond and hazelnut. Milk chocolate, more orange.

Finish: Rich barley and a handful of spices.

The English Virgin Smoky

Nose: Rich bonfire smoke, with a touch of oak spice, blueberry loaf cake and vanilla.

Palate: Medjool dates, caramelised nuts and burnt toast, with lots of wood smoke in support alongside milk chocolate.

Finish: A drizzle of honey and dry smoke, with oily citrus peel coming through at the end.

The Norfolk Parched

Nose: Melon and honey. Brown sugar, nutmeg and stewed pears.

Palate: Zesty green apple, mint and creamy vanilla with a touch of baking spice. 

Finish: Juicy white grapes and lemon meringue.

 

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The Nightcap: 10 January

The Nightcap has returned for 2020, and with it a fresh batch of boozy news, including an alcohol-free bar, a £1m crowd-funding campaign, and the UK’s ‘highest’ whisky distillery. After…

The Nightcap has returned for 2020, and with it a fresh batch of boozy news, including an alcohol-free bar, a £1m crowd-funding campaign, and the UK’s ‘highest’ whisky distillery.

After a few weeks in a regenerative cocoon made out of Stilton and Yule log, The Nightcap has emerged with wings and those weird bug antlers that are actually eyes, ready to chow down on all the news from the booze world. That was a long-winded way to say that The Nightcap is back after a bit of a Christmas break, but the enthusiasm remains the same. We’re excited to see what drinks news this new year (and new decade) will behold – and it all kicks off… Now!

The blog was still full of fabulous features even throughout the festive period. We announced the winner of our Where’s #WhiskySanta 2019 competition the same week our supernatural, omniscient, festive, heavily-bearded sadly went on his holibobs. We then looked back at 2019: the delightful drinks we enjoyed (bartenders also had their say), the most read posts on our blog and an honest review of our trend predictions, before cracking out the crystal ball and to do it all again for 2020. Not always that seriously.

Our Dry January coverage kicked off at the Small Beer Brew Co., before Fiona Beckett and Claire Warner dropped by for a chat. Annie then explored the world of no-ABV cocktails, embraced #veganuary and the use of plant milk in cocktails and even looked to the future of AI in booze. Elsewhere, Adam enjoyed some warming rums, cast a spotlight on Micil and then Luxardo Distillery, while Jess brushed up on her Armagnac knowledge, and Henry reported on the developments at Port Ellen Distillery. Even among all that content, there was still time for a couple of new arrivals, including Bob Dylan’s own whiskey and a single malt from Yorkshire, as well as a fruity little number for Cocktail of the Week. Oh, and Dram Club returned for 2020.

Phew, talk about blog-mageddon! Now, for the first time in 2020, let’s enjoy the Nightcap!

The Nightcap

The Cat and Fiddle Inn opened in 1813 and is 1,689 ft (515m) above sea level

Funding secured for UK’s ‘highest’ whisky distillery

There’s another new distillery on the way, folks! This one’s got a pretty cool story, too. Take one historic pub, The Cat & Fiddle, situated 1,689ft above sea level in the Peak District. It’s beautiful but didn’t do so well as a pub (the whole driving a long way to it thing wasn’t really working…). It opened in 1813, but ‘reluctantly’ closed its doors in 2015. Business was far from booming. But step in the Forest Distillery team! Eager to expand production, and to find a space for casks to mature, it teamed up with the pub’s Robinson family to kick off a crowdfunder to refurbish and transform the pub into a whisky distillery. An initial crowdfunding exercise raised £55,000, and now the team says it’s well on the way to reaching its eventual £250,000 goal. The site will be renamed The Cat & Fiddle & Weasel, after the adorable motif on the Forest Gin bottle. As well as the pub and distillery, there will also be an onsite shop with takeaway options for picnics and a visitor centre. And the best bit? The Forest Distillery team reckon the new site will be ready to open come August! We’re VERY excited. Wondering the elevation of the current highest whisky distillery in the UK? That title goes to Dalwhinnie, perched at an altitude of 1,164ft. The only way is up!

The Nightcap

The AF Bar features 15 taps of pure draft zero-ABV goodness

BrewDog launches ‘world’s first’ alcohol-free beer bar

Sound the ‘Dry January’ sirens, folks, we’ve got a big one here. BrewDog has launched a bar dedicated to alcohol-free beer. A whole bar. 15 taps of pure draft zero-ABV goodness. Launched this week in Old Street, London, it’s the first time the independent Scottish craft brewer has featured a line-up solely devoted to drinks without alcohol at a bar where visitors will be able to enjoy activities such as Hip Hop Karaoke, Dabbers Bingo, Famous First Words, and more. But, perhaps most excitingly for the thrifty among us, BrewDog will also be running the ‘Drink All You Can Jan’ programme across all its bars, which will offer drinkers unlimited refills of its alcohol-free beers for the entire month. BrewDog previously dipped its toes into low-ABV waters with the release of Nanny State in August 2009, which is now the UK’s best-selling alcohol-free craft beer. It followed that up with an alcohol-free version of the flagship Punk IPA, Punk AF, and two new additions, Wake Up Call, a coffee stout, and Hazy AF, an alcohol-free take on its existing New England IPA, Hazy Jane. BrewDog referenced a UK Beer Market Report from Mintel in 2018 that said that 24% of beer drinkers are choosing more low- or no-alcohol options, and that 28% of beer drinkers are cutting back on consumption because of health concerns, so the brand clearly feels this is a timely initiative. “Drinkers opting for low- or no-alcohol are in danger of compromising on quality, taste and experience. And that’s just the beer – forget about places in which to enjoy it,” said James Watt, who is apparently the ‘captain’ of BrewDog (lame). “We are going to change that. We exist to be a point of difference, and our first BrewDog AF Bar is just that. It is a beacon for anyone in London after an alcohol-free alternative. Alcohol-free does not need to be synonymous with taste-free. ‘Drink all you can Jan’ is our anti-Dry January. Whether you have cut alcohol out or are cutting back, we want to show that alcohol-free doesn’t mean compromising on quality or taste.”

The Nightcap

The new-look Powers range

Powers Irish Whiskey unveils new look

Powers Irish Whiskey has revealed a new bottle design for its range of premium Irish whiskeys, which will debut on core expression Powers Gold Label in the USA from March 2020. The makeover was undertaken to reach a new generation of drinkers to the classic Irish whiskey brand, which is made by Irish Distillers at Midleton Distillery, and follows the launch of Powers Old Fashioned, the brand’s first-ever pre-mixed cocktail and the Powers Quarter initiative, a collaboration between six Dublin bars to tell the story of Powers and its history. The updated design for the bottle shape is inspired by the distinctive pot still silhouette from the brand’s historical home at John’s Lane Distillery and the label is styled on the Powers ‘diamond P’, which was one of the first-ever trademarks registered in Ireland. Each whiskey will also have a different colour label, with Powers Gold Label in red as an homage to the original red Powers diamond marque, Powers Three Swallow in blue as a nod to the bird’s feathers and Powers John’s Lane Release in metallic ink, to reflect the industrial nature of the original distillery established in 1791 on John’s Lane, Dublin. “Powers sense of identity has always focused on the diamond P; that became very clear to me as I worked my way through the historical archive. The diamond P was everywhere; on the casks, stationery, on bills and receipts, emblazoned on everything that left the distillery, and notably on the wonderful Powers mirrors that still hang in Ireland’s pubs today,” says Carol Quinn, archivist at Irish Distillers. “Workers at the old John’s Lane distillery even took to wearing a diamond P pin on their lapel, such was their pride to be part of the Powers family.  For me it’s wonderful to see the diamond P front and centre on this new label, symbolising all the history of this great whiskey since 1791.” Conor McQuaid, chairman and CEO of Irish Distillers, added: “We are excited to introduce this new look to the world and inspire a new generation with the unique history and personality of Powers.”

The Nightcap

The future is bright in the Cotswolds

Cotswolds Distillery raises £1m in crowdfunding campaign

The award-winning Cotswolds Distillery has been feeling the love this week at it delightedly reported that its recent fundraising had already raised £1 million. In early December 2019, the producer of delicious English spirits (we’re big fans of its whisky) launched the campaign through its Angel’s Share 2 fundraising platform in order to “maximise whisky production and continue its brand-building programme”. It’s little surprise that the initiative attracted such interest from investors, as back in 2018 the distillery successfully raised £3m of equity which was subsequently invested in building the brand and senior management team. “We pride ourselves on creating award-winning English whiskies that are enjoyed across the world, and, are always looking for new investors to join us on this journey,” says Dan Szor, founder and CEO of the Cotswolds Distillery. “It is a very exciting time for them to be involved with the company and we’re hoping that this new investment will carry us through the next chapter in the distillery’s evolution and help support us in creating even more delicious whisky!” If you fancy investing yourself, you can do so here before 13 January 2020.  

It’s Alissa!

The Balvenie kicks off Stories tour

Single malt Scotch whisky brand The Balvenie is poised to take its Stories tour of bar takeovers on the road, with stops including London’s Lyaness (Sunday 12 January) and The Artesian (13 January), as well as Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Café (15 January). And there’s an antipodean twist: six of Australia’s leading bartenders are coming along for the ride. Alicia Clarke of Jangling Jack’s in Sydney; Jessica Arnott of Foxtrot Unicorn in Perth; Nicola Dean of Maybe Mae in Adelaide; Kayla Reid of Nick and Norah’s in Melbourne; Chelsea Catherine of The Black Pearl in Melbourne; and, Alissa Gabriel of Mjolner in Sydney will all make drinks using The Sweet Toast of American Oak 12 Year Old. Serves have been based on stories shared with the group of bartenders by Kelsey McKechnie, The Balvenie’s apprentice malt master, and creator of the expression. “I’m thrilled to be welcoming such an incredible cohort of bartenders onto UK shores to share stories and these special drinks with UK consumers,” said Alwynne Gwilt, UK ambassador. “Our new whisky series, The Balvenie Stories, is all about connecting through storytelling and I’ve no doubt this latest event series at these leading bars will give us some great tales to tell as the year goes on!” It’s not just about the booze – 10% of drinks sales from the tour will be donated to charities fighting the devastating bushfires in Australia. So what are you waiting for? If you’re in London or Glasgow, head on down!

The Nightcap

The Impact Fund is a commendable cause

Symington Port launches environmental initiative 

2020 has seen Port producer Symington Family Estates off to a flying start, celebrating some rather impressive milestones with the 200th anniversary of Graham’s Port and the 350th anniversary of Warre’s Port. To celebrate, the Symington family didn’t just throw a massive party and sip on the delicious fruits of their own labour (who wouldn’t?), but created a force for good in the world! The family has created a new Impact Fund with an initial pledge of a whopping €1 million euros. The purpose of the fund? It’s threefold: community wellbeing and health, environmental protection and conservation, and cultural heritage and education, all in the Douro and Greater Porto regions as well as the Alto Alentejo. They’re currently working with Volunteer Emergency Services of the Douro region (they’ve donated 13 ambulances so far) and Bagos d’Ouro, a charity that provides education and opportunities for underprivileged children in the Douro. “We have always sought to run our family business in a way that benefits people – be they our employees or the wider community. We are also committed to protecting the beautiful natural environments where we produce our wines,” said Rupert Symington, CEO of Symington Family Estates. “We have consistently reinvested in the Douro region and have a long history of supporting social initiatives in the areas where we work. The Symington Impact Fund is a way of formalising this commitment and ensuring we support projects which are most aligned with our values and where we can have the maximum positive impact.” What a way to celebrate! 

The Nightcap

George Duboeuf, the man who turned Beaujolais into an international sensation, died this week at 86.

The King of Beaujolais dies at 86

This week the wine world lost one of its greats: George Duboeuf, known as the King of Beaujolais. Duboeuf was a marketing genius who took the annual release of the young wine, generally enjoyed only in local bars, and made it a global news story in the 1970s and ‘80s. On the day the wine was released, always the third Thursday of November, there were races to be the first to bring that year’s vintage back where it was sold with the slogan: ‘Le Beaujolais nouveau est arrivé!’. At a time when in Britain wine was still seen as something elitist, Duboeuf made it unpretentious and fun. He was born in 1933 into a vine-growing family in Burgundy and set up his own merchant business in 1964. It came to dominate the region through its own-label wines, with the pretty flowery labels, and by producing wines for retailers. Dominique Piron, head of Inter Beaujolais, commented: “Through his vision and his work, he gave life, colour, aromas and joy to the wines of Beaujolais. He was a catalyst, taking with him other merchants and other winemakers which made Beaujolais the first vineyard in France to make the headlines in newspapers and televisions, in France and around the world.” He went on to say: “The family business is in good hands with his son, Franck Duboeuf, at the helm and the adventure will continue.” Au revoir, Monsieur Duboeuf, and thank you for all the wine.

The Nightcap

Congratulations to WASE!

English start-up chosen for final of $1m Chivas Venture Fund

A London-based company WASE, which makes wastewater treatment systems, has won the England & Wales heat of this year’s Chivas Ventures. This annual competition run by the Scotch whisky company gives away $1 million to help with worthwhile businesses around the world. So far, Chivas has given away $5 million and, according to its figures, benefited over two million lives. WASE will now compete with 25 other companies in the global final in June. Before that, all 26 competitors will go to London for an intensive three-day training programme with experts and industry professionals. Founder Thomas Fudge commented: “I’m super excited and honoured to be representing England and Wales in The Chivas Venture global finals. Can’t wait to show the rest of the world what WASE has to offer and fight for my spot in the finals. Watch this space!” According to the press release: “WASE develops decentralised wastewater treatment systems that embrace a circular economy to recover energy, nutrients and water in wastewater  providing sanitation and energy in under-served communities.” Sounds very worthwhile. Good luck to WASE for the grand final in June!

The Nightcap

The Calming Coral cocktail

The Coral Room and MEDA kick-off 2020 with CBD-infused zero-alcohol cocktails

The Coral Room is getting its zeitgeist on in 2020 by kicking off the new year with a range of cocktails made by head mixologist Stefan Pohlod that are CBD-infused and non-alcoholic. The core ingredient in each serve is a drink from lifestyle brand MEDA’s range, GLOW, CALM, RECOVER and Espresso Medatini SKUs, which were created by blending of 5-15mg of liposomal CBD (cannabidiol) with synergistic ingredients. The offerings include the Glow Spritz which combines lime juice, cardamom bitter and elderflower syrup, the Calming Coral which features lemon juice, peppermint cordial and strawberry purée, the Recover & Revive which mixes Seedlip grove with grapefruit and lime shrub and the Wake Up Call which sees caramel cream, chilli bitters and coffee tonic paired together. The cocktails are priced at £10 each and the brand claims that they are “the perfect way to detox after the prolonged festive celebrations whilst restoring the balance of both body and mind through the inimitable benefits that CBD has to offer”. Apparently. Essentially they should appeal to anybody partaking in an alcohol-free start to the new year and those who are buzzed about CBD cocktails.

 

And finally…  Tottenham Hotspur and Beavertown launch collaboration beer

Tottenham Hotspur’s ‘Official Craft Beer Supplier’ (I didn’t even know that was a thing. Is this a thing now?) Beavertown has launched a new beer in collaboration with the club just in time for the first home game of 2020. Fans of the club (ok, my dad) have described the development as “much needed”, given the team’s performance so far this season. The beer is called One Of Our Own, a name chosen by Tom Rainsford, a Spurs fan who recently joined Beavertown as marketing director, presumably inspired by the North London side’s chant for star player Harry Kane. A Tottenham fan (again, my dad) has described the timing as “typical”. Jokes aside, One Of Our Own is a significant launch as the classic British IPA was crafted with purely European hops (Callista, Mandarina Bavaria and Barbe Rouge) in the microbrewery operated by Tottenham-based Beavertown inside the Club’s new home – a world-first for any football stadium. The beer is said to have notes of stone fruit and malt-sweetness, matching the flavours thirsty supporters have favoured since the stadium opened last April. “Beavertown’s Neck Oil is already a half-time favourite, and we wanted to add to this by offering something new at the start of 2020,” says Rainsford. “Supporting a club is in your bones, and this beer feels the same. It’s familiar, yet distinct. A satisfying pint that makes you feel at home. We see Spurs as the beating heart of the Tottenham community, a central hub for football fans and residents alike. We both share values of bringing people together, creating revolutionary experiences and even world firsts like our microbrewery inside the stadium.”  One Of Our Own will be sold exclusively at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, and will be available at tomorrow’s huge Premier League clash against Liverpool. Will it bring them luck?!

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New Arrival of the Week: Filey Bay Single Malt Whisky (Second Release)

This week we’re celebrating our first Monday back at work with a single malt whisky from Yorkshire that has just arrived at MoM towers. The Spirit of Yorkshire Distillery began…

This week we’re celebrating our first Monday back at work with a single malt whisky from Yorkshire that has just arrived at MoM towers.

The Spirit of Yorkshire Distillery began distilling back in 2016. We visited in 2017 and were very impressed by the quality of the set-up and the embryonic whiskies. So we’re very excited that its first single malt whisky is finally here. Well, actually it’s the second, the first release landed in November and sold out so quickly that we didn’t have time to write about it properly.

The distillery was founded by farmer and brewer Tom Mellor from Wold Top Brewery in North Yorkshire and business partner David Thompson, with a little help from the late Jim Swan. It’s a true farm to glass set-up with all the barley used coming from Mellor’s farm around Hunmanby, south of Scarborough. The barley goes to Bridlington for malting before going to Wold Top for mashing and fermentation. This sort of set-up, though not allowed under SWA rules, is common in the burgeoning English whisky category. I mean, if you own a brewery already, then why not do the brewing there?

Filey Bay

David Thompson (left)  and Tom Mellor next to their innovative still set-up

The still arrangement would also cause some head scratching at the SWA. There’s a 5,000 litre wash still with boil ball and a 3,500 lantern-shaped spirit, made by Forsyths of Rothes. So far so conventional, but at the pull of a lever, the spirit vapour can be sent through a four plate column for further distillation. The distillery can thus create two kinds of single malt, a heavier pot still spirit and a lighter column still distillate. David Thompson commented: “Our production allows us to create two different spirit styles, using a pot and column still configuration to create a flavour profile that is unlike any other malt whisky.”

This second single malt release is made from a combination of the two distillation methods aged in ex-bourbon barrels with a solitary sherry cask going in the mix. The warehouse inventory is 90% ex-bourbon but alongside a few sherry casks there’s some STR (shaved, toasted and recharred) wine barrels, this is a Jim Swan distillery after all, and also some casks that previously held vino de Naranja (wine made from oranges, an Andalusian speciality.)

Whisky director Joe Clark (who readers might recognise from the Whisky Lounge) commented on this second release: “It was great to spend the time in the warehouse and discover how well our spirit is maturing. It means we’ve been able to launch our second release a little earlier than planned, which was fortunate as our first release has sold quicker than expected! With Filey Bay Second Release, you’ll find that it’s a true evolution of our First Release. The ‘inputs’ are very similar, leading to a house style that is light and fruity – this is something that we’ve worked hard and purposefully to create. The difference comes from that extra maturation time. There’s a little more depth to this second release and for me that not only makes it a delicious whisky, but it’s also an incredibly exciting indicator as to what’s to come in the warehouse…” 

Foley Crop

You’ll have to hurry to get your hands on the second release

This second release is not only a little older and deeper in flavour than the first release but it’s also slightly cheaper. Hurrah! Just as with the first release, only 6,000 bottles have been filled at 46% ABV. It’s available to buy here. We’ll see how quickly it sells out. 

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt:

Nose: Some orange peel, blueberry muffin and lemon meringue pie, with a side of barley sugar.

Palate: Citrus ice cream, cooked apple and honey, with vanilla cream, and a drizzle of maple syrup.

Finish: Floral honey, toasted nuts and cinnamon.

 

 

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The winner of our #BagThisBundle of English whisky from The Lakes Distillery is…

Recently we launched a fancy Lakes #BagThisBundle competition. Now the time has come to reveal our very first winner! Four delicious whiskies. One winner. That was the stakes for our…

Recently we launched a fancy Lakes #BagThisBundle competition. Now the time has come to reveal our very first winner!

Four delicious whiskies. One winner. That was the stakes for our latest competition, in which we teamed up with the fabulous folk at The Lakes Distilery. On offer were The ONE, the brand’s very first whisky, The ONE Port Cask Finished, Steel Bonnets, a blend of Scotch and English whiskies and The Lakes Whiskymaker’s Reserve No.1, a delicious dram that certainly caught our eye. It’s quite the haul.

BagThisBundle

Four delicious English whiskies were the prize

Entry was easy peasy lemon squeezy. All you had to do was slay the dragon that was terrorising… no wait, wrong competition. The awesome power of social media was all you needed here. By simply following both the Master of Malt and Lakes Distillery Instagram accounts, tagging three pals you’d share these exciting whiskies with on our competition post and then liking that same post, you put yourself in contention for the big prize.

But there can only be one victor. The winner is…

Debbie Hawkins from Cumbria!

Huge congratulations to Debbie and a massive thank you to all who took part! We’re sure you and the three friends you tagged will enjoy your many tasty whiskies!

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