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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Feis Ile

The Nightcap: 22 January

In the Nightcap this week we cover the cancellation of some of our favourite whisky festivals (boo!), plenty of great work from The Drinks Trust (yay!) and the US Supreme…

In the Nightcap this week we cover the cancellation of some of our favourite whisky festivals (boo!), plenty of great work from The Drinks Trust (yay!) and the US Supreme Court’s verdict on a parody dog toy that upset Jack Daniel’s (???).

Hello again everyone. We hope you’re all staying safe and managing the seemingly endless lockdown ok. We found a useful way of doing that is to appreciate those small moments of joy we can overlook. Like hearing a new song you love or making yourself a plate of delicious carbohydrates to inhale. Plus, there’s vaccines and dogs and all kinds of exciting and wondrous things happening in the world of booze to enjoy. Which is why we do The Nightcap. This industry never fails to amaze. Did you ever think you’d see Fatboy Slim, pre-French Revolution Cognac, pirate-themed whisky, CBD gin and the US Supreme Court in one article?

On the blog this week, we introduced our solution to the blandness of the season with Try January! Then, we looked forward to a different but still delightful Burns Night by checking out the most exciting virtual events taking place and recommending some cracking whiskies to enjoy on the night. We also had our fill of tasty cocktails, from a classic gin-based pre-Prohibition serve to serves that can transport you across the world. Expressions that caught our eye included a terrific dram from Aberlour was our New Arrival of the Week, a non-alcoholic spirit inspired by the historical distinction of London Dry gin and a selection of bargain white wines.

Now, on to The Nightcap!

On The Nightcap this week: Fèis Ìle,

It’s heartbreaking to know we won’t be going back again, but safety is the priority.

Fèis Ìle and Campbeltown Malts Festival cancelled

In unsurprising, but still terribly sad news, there will be no Fèis Ìle or Campbeltown Malts Festival this year. Much like in 2020, the organisers of the two internationally-renowned events were moved to axe them in the face of huge uncertainty over the impact of coronavirus restrictions. Planning a programme, buying/selling tickets and booking accommodation in advance as normal hasn’t been possible due to the ongoing curbs on travel, social gatherings and events. Virtual versions of  both festivals will take place instead. Springbank Distillery announced last night on Instagram that the Campbeltown distilleries felt it was the only option, “as the UK is currently in the midst of lockdown restrictions and it is unlikely that mass gatherings will be allowed by May”. Islay’s hugely popular music and malt festival released a similar statement. “With deep regret, we announce that this year’s festival is cancelled. We have discussed this with our distillery partners, and we have come to this decision together,”. The organisers went on to say, “We know you won’t like hearing this news. We don’t like saying it. But please just keep Islay in your hearts for a little longer: hold on to the love of the island, the music, the whisky and the company, and the embraces when we see you again will be all the sweeter.”

On The Nightcap this week: Arrrrrrrdbeg

It’s a most fitting tribute. Arrr!

Ardbeg reveals new whisky: Arrrrrrrdbeg

There can’t be many jobs that reward you with leaving presents as cool as the drinks industry provides. Just ask Mickey Heads. As regular Nightcap readers will know, the well-regarded distillery manager announced his retirement last year from his role at Ardbeg (although he will be continuing in his role as chairman of the Ardbeg Committee). So the Islay-based distillery has created a new whisky to celebrate his time there. How cool is that? The new whisky is a pirate-themed expression called Ardbeg Arrrrrrrdbeg (hell yeah) and is the distillery’s first-ever whisky matured in ex-rye casks. The brand’s tasting notes describe flavours such as gunpowder, smoked banana, rye bread, sweet vanilla toffee, an aniseed breeze, Brazil nuts and gentle smoke. Sounds delicious. But, sadly, this is an Ardbeg Committee exclusive bottling. That means if you want to get your hands on a bottle you’ll have to head on over to the Ardbeg website and join the committee before it is released in the UK on the 2 February 2021. Members are due to receive an email that morning with a link giving them the chance to buy a bottle. Dr Bill Lumsden, director of whisky creation at Ardbeg, described the dram as a “perfectly peaty parting gift” and thanked Heads for his time there, commenting: “Working with Mickey has been an absolute joy. He’s somebody with a genuine passion for Ardbeg and we hope that this bottling will take pride of place in his collection. He’s presided over many momentous Ardbegs over the years, but this ‘end of an era’ edition is a special one”. You can still pick up all kinds of tasty Ardbeg whisky from us, however, and raise a glass of that to the man who led Ardbeg to three IWC ‘Distillery of the Year’ titles in a row and was named Distillery Manager of the Year 2014 instead. Slange var! 

On The Nightcap this week: Fèis Ìle,

The Drinks Trust welcomes Troy Christensen, Jaega Wise, Ian Burrell and Becky Paskin.

The Drinks Trust welcomes new chair and patrons

We got some good news courtesy of The Drinks Trust this week as it appointed a new chair of its board of trustees, Troy Christensen and welcomed three new patrons, Ian Burrell, Becky Paskin and Jaega Wise. Christensen, who first joined the charity in 2018,  brings 15 years’ experience in the drinks trade with Constellation Brands and as CEO of Accolade Wines from 2011 until 2013. He was appointed CEO of Enotria Wine Cellars in June 2014 and oversaw the acquisition of Coe Vintners in 2015. “This remarkable charity has represented and defended employees of the wine and spirits industry for over a hundred years. After the unbelievable challenges 2020 presented to our industry through the impact of Covid and government policy, this is a very relevant time for The Drinks Trust,” he commented. Helping Christensen and co. to raise awareness and increase the charity’s reach and impact are new patrons Ian Burrell, rum ambassador; Becky Paskin, spirits journalist and co-founder of Our Whisky; and Jaega Wise, TV and radio presenter and head brewer at the Wild Card Brewery. They will join existing patrons Matthew Rhys, Jancis Robinson MW OBE and Olly Smith as well as Founder Patron, Tom Yusef who said, “The help and time from our new patrons to further our causes whilst helping The Drinks Trust to reach new audiences is greatly appreciated. We are excited to be working with such dynamic and inspirational people in the drinks industry”.

On The Nightcap this week: rare Macallan

This beauty is sure to fetch an eye-popping price

World’s most expensive whisky tipped to set new records

The second half of an incredible collection of whisky will go under the hammer next month in a sale that is set to enter the record books. From 12-22 February 2021, over 1,900 bottles of the rarest single malts in existence, will feature in the sale hosted by Whisky Auctioneer. Leading the auction is The Macallan 1926 Fine and Rare 60 Year Old, which is expected to beat the current world record hammer price of £1.2m, which is held by a Macallan from the same original bottling batch. Other standout whiskies include The Balvenie 1937 50 Year Old, Bowmore’s legendary 1964 vintage and a 1921 private cask bottling of Dallas Dhu which has not been seen on the secondary market for over 25 years. The Perfect Collection Part Two, which initially launched last April, was postponed following a major cyber attack. Part one took place in February 2020, fetching a total hammer price of £3.2million as Whisky Auctioneer became the first online auction house to sell a million-dollar bottle. The collection was amassed by late American businessman and philanthropist, Richard Gooding and is one of the largest and most significant ever to go to public auction. “Mr Gooding’s Collection is nothing short of extraordinary and we are honoured and delighted to bring it to auction,” says Iain McClune, founder of Whisky Auctioneer. “Collectors, investors and whisky lovers alike will have their interest sparked by the truly astonishing array of whiskies on offer”. 

On The Nightcap this week: rare Cognac

Want to own Cognac distilled when Napoleon was eight years old? Now you can.

Pre-French Revolution Cognac goes under the hammer

We got quite excited last year at getting hold of some 1895 Cognac from Hermitage but new lots going up on Whisky.Auction on Sunday 31 January make that venerable liquid look positively sprightly. The collection belonging to Jacques Hardy, from a well-known Cognac family, contains bottles from 1802 and 1777. The last one a pre-Revolutionary vintage distilled when Napoleon was just an eight-year-old boy with big dreams. It boggles the mind that you might be able to taste such a piece of history. The grapes came from Domaine de la Vie in Grand Champagne and after distillation, the liquid spent around 100 years in oak before being transferred to a demijohn and finally bottled in 1936. It was given to Jacques’ uncle, James Hardy, on his wedding day by his new family-in-law. Much better than new linens. It’s one of only five such bottles in existence. Sukhinder Singh from Whisky. Auction commented: “I am pleased to have tried this around 10 years ago when it was available at The Lanesborough Hotel in London. What a privilege it was to taste such old liquid that was still fresh and full of life with the lingering rancio flavour that you find in pre-phylloxera Cognac.” The rest of the collection is equally mind-blowing as alongside the 1777 and 1802, there’s an 1812, a 1906 and a mere baby, the 1914. The bottles are being sold as individual lots, and the auction will go live on Sunday 31 January 2021, running for ten days until Tuesday 9 February. Happy bidding!

On The Nightcap this week: The Drinks Trust,

The money goes to a great cause, so do check it out

Fatboy Slim signed prints up for auction for The Drinks Trust

How’s your living room looking? A bit bare, perhaps? What you need are some gorgeous limited edition prints which have just gone on sale called A Shot in Time. These five pictures celebrate five emotions associated with hospitality: togetherness, happiness, resilience, family and, not forgetting, shenanigans. Remember shenanigans? The creator of these prints is drinks photographer Addie Chinn. Each one costs £50, is A3 size and part of a limited run of only 50. Best of all, all the profits go to The Drinks Trust, to raise essential funding to those needing critical social, medical and financial help for them and their families in the hospitality sector.  Go to Our Future Proof Website to buy yours. But that’s not all! Mr Fatboy Slim himself, Norman Cook, has signed and captioned a set of prints which will be auctioned at Whisky.Auction of 31 January 4pm. It’s all happening there this week. Follow @OurFutureProof for more information. 

On The Nightcap this week: spaniels

It’s not a story of Jack Daniel’s getting into a fight with actual dogs, but it’s no less ridiculous.

And finally… Bad Spaniels beat Jack Daniels

In a long-running legal battle between a small dog, VIP Products, and a big animal, Brown Forman, it looks like the little dog will, at last, have its day. It all started with the launch of a dog chew toy called Bad Spaniels that looked a lot like a bottle of Jack Daniels, with the words ‘Old No. 7 Tennessee sour mash whiskey’ replaced with ‘The Old No.2 on your Tennessee carpet’. Clever! Following cease and desist letters from the whiskey firm, VIP products sued Jack Daniel’s in 2014. Initially, a court found that the toy did infringe on Jack Daniel’s trademarks but then in 2020 the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled in favour of Bad Spaniels. The big boys at JD weren’t done yet, so they petitioned the Supreme Court but this month the highest court in the US declined to hear the case. So it looks like, finally, the spaniel has won. Moral of the story: don’t get in a fight with a dog over a chew toy. Not only will you lose, but you’ll be left looking foolish.  

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

This week’s New Arrival from Bunnahabhain was originally a distillery-only expression but we’ve snaffled the lot so it’s now available only from Master of Malt. But probably not for long….

This week’s New Arrival from Bunnahabhain was originally a distillery-only expression but we’ve snaffled the lot so it’s now available only from Master of Malt. But probably not for long.

The gap left by the cancellation of Fèis Ìle left a huge hole in the life of many whisky lovers. Islay fans are a particularly fanatical bunch and the Covid crisis has meant that this year most won’t get their yearly island fix which also means that they won’t be able to buy certain releases that are only available from distillery doors. Well, our buyers have seen an opportunity by bringing Islay to you in the form of this former distillery-only release from Bunnahabhain which is now only available from Master of Malt.

It’s a 15 year old release that was distilled in February 2003 and filled into refill hogsheads. Then in 2016 it was transferred into amontillado hogsheads for a further two years ageing before it was bottled at cask strength, 57.4% ABV.  1710 bottles have been produced. The flavour is rich with dried fruit and chocolate without a trace of smoke. It’s very different from the typical Islay dram.

You might not be able to go to Bunnahabhain, but we can bring a little bit of Bunnahabhain to you

Bunnahabhain is something of an anomaly on the island in producing mainly unpeated for its single malt. This didn’t used to be the case. The distillery was built between 1881 and 1883 by the Islay Distillery Company. The name means ‘Mouth of the river’ in Gaelic; the river in question being the Margadale. According to Moss & Hume in The Making of Scotch Whisky, when it was built it was the largest distillery on the island with a capacity to produce 200,000 gallons (900,000 litres approximately) a year of highly-flavoured whisky for blending. Its owners merged in 1887 with Glenrothes to become Highland Distilleries Ltd. 

In 1963, production was doubled but the style changed with the closure of its maltings. From now on malt came unpeated from the mainland. Most of this new lighter Bunnahabhain went into Cutty Sark blended whisky. In 1999, Highland Distilleries was acquired by the Edrington Group which then sold Bunnahbhin to Burn Stewart Distillers in 2003. Bunnahabhain new owners kept the light style for the single malt but also used the distillery to make heavily peated malt for the Black Bottle blended whisky. Burn Stewart in turn was bought by South African spirits conglomerate Distill in 2014. It can be hard to keep up with who owns what in Scotch whisky.

The set-up consists of two large onion-shaped wash stills and two smaller pear-shaped spirits stills. Washbacks are traditional Oregon pine. Production now stands at 2.5 million litres a year. A little peated single malt is released under the Mòine label but ours is in the classic post-1963 Bunnahabhain style. Very nice it is too though perhaps not for real Islay headbangers. 

Tasting note from the Chaps at Master of Malt:

Nose: Toasty oak and caramelised nuts, with dusty cocoa, earthy vanilla pod and jammy berries.

Palate: Plump raisin and melted dark chocolate, with mocha, dark treacle and oily nuts alongside forest berries.

Finish: Chocolate-covered raisins linger.

Bunnahabhain 15 Year Old 2003 Amontillado Cask Finish is only available from Master of Malt.

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Join our Islay celebrations on Instagram Live!

Just because we won’t be heading to Islay this year, doesn’t mean we can’t keep the festival spirit alive! Thanks to the magic of Instagram Live we’ve organised a series of…

Just because we won’t be heading to Islay this year, doesn’t mean we can’t keep the festival spirit alive! Thanks to the magic of Instagram Live we’ve organised a series of interviews with the island’s distilleries that features tastings, chats and Q&As.

This is usually the time of year where we would pack our travel bags, camera kit and 10-litre bottles of midge insect repellent to head north to the beautiful Scottish island of Islay to revel in one of the highlights, if not the highlight of the whisky calendar. The week-and-a-bit from 22-30 May was sure to provide all the whisky-dipped merriment you could shake Dave Worthington’s pipe at.

But we have no intention of letting this period pass by without some recognition of an island that is home to some of Scotch whisky’s finest distilleries. Which is why we’ve put together the next best thing. Through the wonderful medium of Instagram Live, we’ve created our own virtual festival by teaming up with the island’s distilleries (and the fab folk at Jura, of course). We’ve put together a programme of tastings, chats and Q&As with your questions, comments and tasting notes to keep the Islay spirit alive and your tasting glass full from the comfort of your own home.

We thoroughly hope you enjoy our virtual Islay celebration. The schedule for the Instagram Live shows is listed below, complete with accompanying dram. Don’t forget, you can always embrace the Islay spirit whenever you like with Drinks by the Dram’s Islay Whisky Tasting Set! Why not order one for you and a pal and set up your own Zoom tasting?

Fèis Ìle on Instagram Live

Aerolite Lyndsay 10 Year Old

Day One

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

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

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

Fèis Ìle on Instagram Live

Lagavulin will be joining us on day two

Day Two

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

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

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

Fèis Ìle on Instagram Live

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

Day Three

Who’s joining us? Bruichladdich and its head distiller Adam Hannett for a tasting and Q&A. Bruichladdich also has its own Laddie Lock-In, while its ballot system to decide who can get their hands on its alternative festival bottling, Port Charlotte 16, has now concluded.

What whisky will we be tasting? The Classic Laddie.

When is it? Sunday 24 May at 6pm.

Fèis Ìle on Instagram Live

Caol Ila Distillery, as seen from the skies.

Day Four

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

What whisky will we be tasting? Caol Ila 12.

When is it? Monday 25 May at 8:15pm. 

Fèis Ìle on Instagram Live

We’ll be spending lunchtime with Laphroaig

Day Five

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

What whisky will we be tasting? Laphroaig 10.

When is it? Tuesday 26 May at 1pm. 

Fèis Ìle on Instagram Live

The beautiful Bowmore Distillery who will join us on day six

Day Six

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

What whisky will we be tasting? Bowmore 12.

When is it? Wednesday 27 May at 1pm.

Fèis Ìle on Instagram Live

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

Day Seven

Who’s joining us? Kilchoman and its founder Anthony Wills will be kicking off the day with us. The distillery also has quite the online festival Programme, complete with live tastings and a distillery tour.

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

When is it? Thursday 28 May at 10.30am.

Fèis Ìle on Instagram Live

Bunnahabhain Toiteach a Dhà

Day Eight

Who’s joining us? Bunnahabhain and its global brand director, Derek Scott, who will host a tasting with a very delicious dram, usually distillery-exclusive dram (it will also host its own 8pm tasting, ‘Fèis at home‘). 

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

When is it? Friday 29 May at 5pm.

Fèis Ìle on Instagram Live

The scenic Jura Distillery makes delicious and subtle smoky whisky

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

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

When is it? Friday 29 May evening.

Fèis Ìle on Instagram Live

The stunning Ardbeg Distillery at night

Day Nine

Who’s joining us? Ardbeg and Brendan McCarron, head of maturing whisky stocks for Ardbeg (and sister distillery Glenmorangie) ,for an Ardbeg Day tasting. You can also join the distillery at 7pm on Facebook for its first-ever online Ardbeg Day!

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

When is it? Saturday 30 May at 3pm.

 

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Fèis Ìle 2020 officially cancelled

We’re sorry to report that Fèis Ìle 2020 and other whisky festivals around the country will not take place this year as the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic spreads.  We sadly received confirmation…

We’re sorry to report that Fèis Ìle 2020 and other whisky festivals around the country will not take place this year as the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic spreads. 

We sadly received confirmation today that Fèis Ìle 2020 has been cancelled. The organisers released the following statement in The Ileach, an independent newspaper for Islay and Jura, “Following Scottish Government guidelines, with deep regret, we announce that Fèis Ìle 2020 has been cancelled. We are devastated to have to announce this. We love our festival and welcoming people from around the world. We have considered the impact on islanders, local businesses and visitors alike.” 

The statement continued: “We have made this decision after lengthy discussions between the committee and our distillery partners, and have concluded no other option was viable. Please continue to support our island and we look forward to seeing you for Fèis Ìle 2021. To those who have bought tickets direct from Fèis Ìle, you will be contacted by our volunteers in the next 14 days. Please be patient and we will be in touch. Thank you”.

Fèis Ìle 2020

The coronavirus pandemic, unfortunately, made the Fèis Ìle 2020 inevitable

The directors of the Islay Festival of Malt & Music had organised an emergency meeting to discuss the status of this year’s Fèis Ìle (scheduled for 22-30 May) according to WhiskyCast and in light of current events the news, while devastating, it’s no surprise this decision was made. Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon had previously called for the cancellation of events with 500 more people in order to free up emergency services workers, while UK prime minister Boris Johnson warned the British public to avoid pubs, clubs and social venues in a bid to mitigate the impact of coronavirus. At the moment, we don’t know whether this will mean no special Fèis Ìle 2020 expressions from Islay’s distilleries.

The news follows a number of closures and cancellations across the industry. The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival 2020 that was due to take place from 29 April -4 May has also been cancelled. “In response to the escalating situation with Covid-19, the board of directors have decided that this year’s Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival is cancelled as a preventative measure,” said James Campbell, chairman of the festival. “We very much regret the inconvenience that this will cause our visitors, event providers, members, partners and local communities, and trust that everyone will fully understand why we have had to make this decision.”

In addition, organisers of the Campbeltown Malts Festival have announced the cancellation of their event scheduled for 19-22 May, while The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has released a list (that will be updated daily) of Scotch whisky distilleries that have closed or suspended tours.

Fèis Ìle 2020

The island is home to some of the world’s most famous and beloved distilleries

A number of other events have been postponed, including Whisky Live London and its sister festival Gin Live London. It was announced this week that both events will go ahead “later in the year”, according to the organisers. The Wine & Spirits Show, set to take place in London next month, has also been postponed, while Think Spirits has confirmed that its event will no longer take place on April 28th and instead has been pushed back to the 15th September 2020 at the same venue, St Mary’s, Marylebone.   

It’s an awful shame. The festival’s blend of open events, music and merriment makes it a bucket-list trip for whisky-lovers everywhere and it’s an occasion we at Master of Malt love to visit and cover for the blog. Ultimately, public safety must take precedent, however. There will be plenty of time to enjoy delicious whisky in each others’ company in the future. For now, you can still get the best Islay and others have to offer straight to your home as we remain open for business. For more information on that, this handy blog post should answer any questions.

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Master of Malt tastes. . . Ardbeg Blaaack

Today we had an advance sniff of a special limited edition Ardbeg inspired by the enormous number of sheep in New Zealand so it’s aged in Pinot Noir casks. How…

Today we had an advance sniff of a special limited edition Ardbeg inspired by the enormous number of sheep in New Zealand so it’s aged in Pinot Noir casks. How bizarre! 

Some distilleries have fan clubs. Ardbeg has the Ardbeg Committee which was founded in 2000 and now has 120,000 members in 140 countries around the world. It functions as a testing board for new expressions as well as a highly engaged organisation with members who attend tastings, give feedback, visit the distillery and generally spread the word. Last year when we spoke with Brendan McCarron, head of maturing whisky stocks for the Glenmorangie Company, he said: “the purpose of the Ardbeg Committee is to make sure that the distillery never closes its doors again. It’s had a complicated turbulent history, opening and closing its doors. It’s the Committee that will keep the doors open way into the future.”  

Brendan McCarron Ardbeg

Brendan McCarron. always on brand

To celebrate 20 years of the Committee, Ardbeg is launching a new limited-edition expression. It’s inspired by the country that’s about as far away from Scotland as it’s possible to get, a country where there’s seven sheep for every one person: New Zealand. And what else is New Zealand famous for? Rugby! Yes, but also wine. So this latest limited edition is finished in Pinot Noir casks. It’s called Ardbeg Blaaack in honour of all those sheep though why didn’t they call it Ardbeg All Blaaaack and get the rugby in there too? Missing a trick there Ardbeg. 

Mickey Heads, Ardbeg distillery manager, said: “In every corner, of every far-flung place, you’ll find an Ardbeg Committee member. For 20 years they’ve been proudly demonstrating their black-sheep behaviour. Ardbeg Blaaack is the best possible way to pay tribute to our tearaway fans who, like us, are shorn to be wild!” 

McCarron wouldn’t share the exact cask make-up of this new expression when we contacted him, only to say that the core is aged in Pinot Noir casks for a good long time. This isn’t no short dip. Dr Bill Lumsden, Ardbeg director of whisky creation, commented: “Ardbeg Blaaack knits together velvety summer fruit pudding and bitter cherry, with a deeper edge of soot and Ardbeg’s hallmark smoke. It’s the perfect dram for toasting our legendary committee.” 

That’s the Committee edition. Fancy!

Two versions have been made, a Committee version bottled at 50.7% ABV, and a general public one at 46% ABV. Both will retail for around £94. Initially, it will only be available from 3 March for Committee Members (there is still time to join before this date). Everyone else will have to wait until Ardbeg Day, 30 May, when it will be launched at Fèis Ìle and available from Master of Malt. So, you’ll have to wait to taste it, we’re afraid (UPDATE: Ardbeg Blaaack is now available here!). But lucky us, we were given a tiny wee sample to taste, so here to tantalise you is what we thought:

Ardbeg Blaaack Tasting Note:

Nose: You can really smell the cask influence. The first thing that comes off are dark cherries with some peachy notes underneath followed by classic Ardbeg aromas of smoked meat and old fireplaces. A splash of water brings out cedar and some volcanic notes.

Palate: Fiery and spicy initially, then those cherries again with limes lurking underneath with wood smoke underlying it all.

Finish: Lick of dark chocolate, single espresso and wafts and wafts of wood smoke. 

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The Nightcap: 23 August

In this every-changing world, few things are certain. One thing, however, you can rely on is that as long as there’s news about booze, there will always be the Nightcap!…

In this every-changing world, few things are certain. One thing, however, you can rely on is that as long as there’s news about booze, there will always be the Nightcap!

As another week comes to an end, it’s time to take off your workaday loose-fitting trousers and slip into your spandex weekend leggings. Don’t do this in the office in front of everyone or you might get a sternly-worded email from HR. Perhaps spandex legging like those worn by hair metal bands from the 1980s aren’t really your thing but it is important to mark the transition from work to play in some way. You could put on a pink stetson or adopt a comedy weekend accent. Actually, don’t do either of those things, just pour yourself a drink, we’ll have a Whisky Sour if you’re offering, sit back and read this week’s news from the world of booze.

On the blog this week we reported on the exciting news that Ardbeg has added a 19-year-old expression to its core range. It’s not a limited release. It’s new Ardbeg and it’s here to stay. We resisted the urge to go out all week and celebrate, however, and published more stories. Take Nate Brown, for example, who returned to ask why drinks have to be so hellish just because your at a festival, theatre or airport. Annie then provided a handy guide to decoding the seemingly endless marketing bumf that sadly is part and parcel of this industry of ours and got the low-down on some intriguing savoury liqueurs. Adam, meanwhile, rounded up a selection of booze for you all to enjoy this upcoming bank holiday before Henry made the delightful Le Rebelle Aperitif our New Arrival of the Week and then decided to mark the upcoming National Whiskey Sour Day over in America (Sunday 25 August) by making it our Cocktail of the Week. Not that we need an excuse to enjoy a good cocktail.

But there’s more going on in the world of drink than people drinking Whisky Sours in airports. There’s all kinds of boozy news to catch up on…

The Nightcap

The new shiny Kilchoman stills

Kilchoman doubles its production on Islay

Back in June, during the crazy days of Feis Ile, we spoke with Andrew Wills, founder of Kilchoman, about expansion plans. Well now they are official: the distillery has doubled its spirits production to 480,000 litres of pure alcohol per year. A wall was knocked out in the existing production space to create, in Wills’ words, “a mirror image of the original stillhouse” with a new mash tun, two fermenters and two new stills. He went on to say: “Without an increase in capacity we would be heading towards a situation where all Kilchoman would be sold purely on allocation. With my three sons heavily involved in the business we want to continue building on the success of the last 15 years without the risk of running out of whisky.” Expansion plans, however, are not yet done as a new shop, cafe and visitor centre is due for completion within the next four months. Never a dull moment at Kilchoman!

The Nightcap

The first two expressions from the Signature Blends series

That Boutique-y Rum Company launches Signature Blends

That Boutique-y Rum Company (TBRC) is ready to change your rum cocktail game with a new series of Signature Blends. The company’s first selection of continuous rums (ie. not one off batches), which also make for delicious standalone sippers, were developed by TBRC’s ‘Rum-guy’, Pete Holland (of The Floating Rum Shack fame). The first expression is Signature Blend #1 – Bright-Grass, a predominantly unaged blend of funky rum from Jamaica and fresh, fruity rhum from Martinique, with a touch of 4 year-old Jamaican rum for added depth. As you can imagine from its name, the profile is bright and grassy and should make a killer Daiquiri. Signature Blend #2 – Elegant-Dried Fruits, meanwhile, was created with the intention of making Holland’s Mai Tai’s (Pete that is, not the Netherlands). Combining rich molasses-vibe Guyana rum with heavier, funkier rum from Jamaica and a small amount of high-ester rum, this is a bold and full-bodied blend. For both expressions, you can check out our own tasting notes to get an idea of what you’re in for (spoiler alert: they’re both delicious). As with the rest of the TBRC range, the labels for the Signature Collection have been developed by Microsoft Paint artist and Twitter legend Jim’ll Paint It. “When tasked with creating rums that would be predominantly used in cocktails, I, firstly, had to think of the style of drinks that I’d like to enjoy, then set about working a blend that stood up to my idea of what the cocktail would taste like,” Holland said. “I don’t like the idea of trying to balance many different rum styles, a situation that overly complicates things. I much prefer the simplicity of two distinct styles working harmoniously together. Each displaying their strengths and contributions to the cocktail.”

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Plumpton College has hit back at claims made in the Daily Mail

Wine business course not Mickey Mouse, says Plumpton College

Feathers were ruffled at Plumpton College in East Sussex when Chris McGovern from the Campaign for Real Education branded its £9,000 a year wine business foundation course a ‘Mickey Mouse’ degree in an article in the Daily Mail. Dr Gregory M Dunn, curriculum manager of the wine division, hit back: “Plumpton’s wine business course allows students the opportunity to work closely with industry on various projects and initiatives and access to many wineries and wine-related businesses. This improves the employability of the students. We believe the content of the course is relevant, current and intellectually challenging”. Paul Harley, programme manager for wine business at Plumpton, went on to outline how in-demand graduates of the course are in the wine trade: “Last year our employment rate upon graduation from the FdA in 2018 was 60% with only one graduate without a job by the autumn. For 2019 we have 100% employment.” Plumpton graduates are currently working at such prestigious businesses as Berry Bros & Rudd, LVMH and Liberty Wine Merchants with none, as far as we can ascertain, wearing Mickey Mouse or Elsa costumes at Disneyland Paris.

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The inaugural meeting of the London Armagnac Club is the 4th September

Armagnac Club lands in London

London’s jolliest-named restaurant, Monsieur le Duck near Farringdon, has just launched the London Armagnac Club. Events will take place at the bar above the restaurant, the Duck’s Nest, on the first Wednesday of the month and concentrate on different aspects of this fascinating but little-known spirit eg. cask ageing, grape varieties or brandies from a particular house. The inaugural event on Wednesday 4 September from 7pm to 9pm features Château de Laubade, one of the region’s top producers. Naturally, Gascon snacks, probably featuring lots of duck, will be served alongside but a vegetarian option will be available. There’s something you don’t get in Gascony. So whether you’re an Armagnac aficionado or just love dark spirits, then head to Monsieur le Duck. You won’t be disappointed.

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There’s a lot of money in the beautiful landscapes

Cognac exports continue to grow for the fifth consecutive year (but UK sales down)

Good news for fans of all things French and fiery as the National Interprofessional Bureau of Cognac (BNIC) has announced that Cognac exports have continued to grow for the fifth consecutive year in 2018-2019, reaching their highest level in volume and value. Favourable conditions and trade in the NAFTA Zone (Canada, Mexico, and the United States) and the Far East are noted as the major reasons: 97.7 million bottles were shipped during this period (+8.8% in volume and +17.6% in value) in the US alone and shipments to the Far East stabilising at 60.0 million bottles, representing 28% of shipments (a small decline of -1.5% by volume and increase of 1.8% by value). In total, there were 211.1 million bottles shipped in 2018-2019, with exports accounting for 98% of sales, to the tune of €3.4 billion. That’s a lot of Sidecars. Cognac isn’t resting on its laurels, though. To support this growth, an additional 10,000 hectares (24,710 acres) of vineyards have been purchased over the course of three years, so thankfully there’s still more than enough to go around. However, shipments within Europe are down by -4.6% in volume and -6.4% in value, for a total of more than 39.4 million bottles and the United Kingdom is down by -6.0% and -6.7%, although it still leads the European Union market. Still, the lesson here is clear. We need to do our bit in the UK and buy more brandy. Now if only there was a good online retailer of booze around here that we could use…

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It’s a delicious celebration of all things Art Deco

Singapore’s Atlas unveils stunning Art Deco menu

Glorious cocktails alert! Singapore’s sumptuous watering hole Atlas has revealed its new menu Interbellum, and we’re in full drinks lust. Developed by head bartender Jesse Vida and his team, the menu celebrates all things Art Deco, taking elements from historical cocktails popular at the time, and Atlas’s Parkview Square home, which is mighty in-keeping with the theme. ‘Interbellum’ takes its name from the period between the two World Wars, a time of enormous change, and of course, the birth of the Art Deco movement. Split into five chapters, the menu plays a lot with gin and Champagne, showcasing all kinds of cocktails from the time. “Using fresh and house-made ingredients, each drink has been inspired by this most seductive of eras, while showcasing a blend of traditional European influences with an updated touch,” said Vida. “We look forward to welcoming guests to journey with us through the stories.” Serves include classics such as the French 75, as well as more modern twists such as the lower-ABV Art & Influence, and The Boy King, a Highball-style drink made with oloroso sherry, sweet vermouth and Aperol, which taps into all things “Tut-Mania” when Tutankhamun’s tomb was discovered. Beautiful all round.

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Only 6,000 bottles of Glenkinchie Tattoo were filled and you” have to go to Edinburgh to buy one

Glenkinchie releases special Edinburgh Military Tattoo single malt

No, it’s nothing to do with skin art, the Edinburgh Military Tattoo is an annual extravaganza of bagpipes, drums and marching performed by armed forces bands from around the world. It’s one of Edinburgh’s premier attractions so it’s a good fit with nearby Glenkinchie which is known as the capital’s very own single malt. Ramsay Borthwick, manager of Glenkinchie, filled us in on this new whisky: “This highly-prized release has been specially selected by our team at the distillery as a celebration of our heritage as ‘Edinburgh Malt’ and the unique partnership between two of the city’s greatest icons.” Glenkinchie Tattoo was matured in rejuvenated hogsheads and American oak barrels, and from the tastings notes of butterscotch, dried fruits and baking spices, sounds to us like a classic Glenkinchie. It’s bottled at 46% ABV and costs £65. A limited-edition of 6,000 bottles will be available only from the distillery, the Military Tattoo shop, or you can enjoy a dram or two while watching the Tattoo itself. So you’ll have to visit Edinburgh if you want to try it.

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No need to go in store, the Whisky Discovery experience comes to your doorstep

Waitrose launches at-home whisky tasting experience

UK supermarket Waitrose has attempted to follow up the success of its Gin O’clock initiative by introducing a two-hour Whisky Discovery experience to be enjoyed in the comfort of your own home. The guided masterclass will be led by a Waitrose whisky specialist who will invite guests to taste through five different whiskies neat: Maker’s Mark, The Chita, Highland Park 12, Jim Beam Double Oak and Laphroaig. The specialist host will then demonstrate how to make three cocktails, pair spirits with soft drinks, and give guests the chance to taste Jim Beam Double Oak with dark salted caramel chocolate and see how Laphroaig pairs with a range of cheeses. A complimentary Highball glass and a rocks glass is also yours to keep. The at-home whisky tasting experience, which was created by Waitrose Wine Tasting at Home, is available to book now and is priced at £400 (US$488) for a group of six to 10 people. “We’re thrilled to be bringing a truly memorable experience to people’s homes. Whisky is a drink that is often enjoyed with a fizzy accompaniment, with some finding the drink overpowering,” Andrew Riding, drinks experience manager at Waitrose Wine Tasting at Home. “This tasting shows just how versatile whisky can be by showing guests simple and delicious cocktails and delicious food pairings.” We always love to see people getting into whisky, so let us know if you’re thinking of signing up with your friends or family in the comments below.

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The Discount Suit Company’s El Pajaro cocktail, which we can confirm is most delicious

Ocho goes Subterranean for summer

Who doesn’t love a cocktail safari?! Exploring multiple settings, different approaches to drinks, all with one uniting theme… we’re sold. So when Ocho Tequila invited us down to Discount Suit Company in London’s Spitalfields to check out the first of five serves as part of its very own series, we were there in a flash. The Subterranean Summer Series brings together five of London’s best-loved underground bars in a collaboration to serve Ocho-based cocktails, all at the tasty price of just £5. The drinks and bars in question? Discount Suit Company’s El Pajaro (we thoroughly rate its Paloma-esque qualities), Bar Three’s Raspberry & Tequila, Hawksmoor Spitalfield’s Cherry Blossom Margarita, Ruby’s Bar & Lounge’s Corn ‘n’ Toil, and Nine Live’s #1 Jimador’s Remedy. Collect a stamp from all five bars and you get a bonus sixth cocktail at the bar of your choice entirely on Ocho! Plus you get to revel in the personality of five of London’s most characterful vibes. You’ve got until the end of the month to get involved – go, go, GO!

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The Dundee distillers pipped some tough competition to be awarded this opportunity

And finally . . . Dundee distiller to supply House of Commons gin

After all the hard work MPs do, sorting out Brexit and the like, they really deserve a nice glass of restorative gin. So we were pleased to discover that the contract to produce the official House of Commons Gin has gone to the award-winning Verdant Spirits of Dundee. Andrew Mackenzie, founder and managing director at Verdant, said: “We spent two years researching and finessing the perfect dry gin and we firmly believe in our product, but it still felt fantastic to win out in the taste test. To really show our commitment to the process, we didn’t want to simply add a logo or brand to the bottle, we wanted to create a truly co-branded product.” Apparently, it was a closely-fought contest to win the contract with five gins including Sipsmith in the running for this prestigious and, we imagine, lucrative listing. After all, politicians love their gin. . . allegedly.

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Relive all the fun of Fèis Ìle 2019!

Nine days, 12 distilleries and open events, and one magical island. It can only be Fèis Ìle! Join us as we relive all the Islay (and Jura!) whisky fun. Back…

Nine days, 12 distilleries and open events, and one magical island. It can only be Fèis Ìle! Join us as we relive all the Islay (and Jura!) whisky fun.

Back in May, an intrepid team of five headed north from MoM HQ to the island of Islay for Fèis Ìle. The annual spirits extravaganza (there was a lot more gin around than you might expect) takes in all nine distilleries, plus open days at the Port Ellen Maltings and Islay Ales, as well as a focus on neighbouring Jura. It really is a bucket-list trip for whisky-lovers!

Every day we packed the car (with a designated driver, obviously) and decamped with full film kit at each location. We got fully involved in distillery, tours, tastings, and even putting YOUR questions to the great and the good of the island distilling scene.

Missed the action? You can catch-up on our day-by-day reports, videos and more here. But why not get a taste for all things Fèis with our supercut?!

MoM HQ at the Port Ellen Maltings. Safety first!

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What’s going on with barley at Bruichladdich?

Islay’s Bruichladdich has built a bit of a reputation for its obsession with barley types and terroir. We hung out at the recently-purchased croft next to the distillery to get…

Islay’s Bruichladdich has built a bit of a reputation for its obsession with barley types and terroir. We hung out at the recently-purchased croft next to the distillery to get an exclusive update on the barley trials. 

Last September, Islay distillery Bruichladdich bolstered its barley focus when it bought a neighbouring croft to accelerate its work in whisky terroir. Part of its vision? To explore new and heritage barley varietals and ultimately amp up the flavour in whisky.

The croft is now being used to test how as many as 60 different varietals take to the Islay soil and climate – and what their resulting flavour and yield might be. We take a walk up to the croft with Bruichladdich’s communications manager – malts, Christy McFarlane.

Filming up at Bruichladdich

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We put your Ardbeg questions to Mickey Heads!

Join us as we put your questions about Ardbeg to distillery manager Mickey Heads during Fèis Ìle 2019! Hurrah for Ardbeg Day! We marked the occasion by heading to the…

Join us as we put your questions about Ardbeg to distillery manager Mickey Heads during Fèis Ìle 2019!

Hurrah for Ardbeg Day! We marked the occasion by heading to the distillery and asking Mickey Heads YOUR questions! Want to see all the Q&As from the island? Check out the Fèis Ìle tag on the blog or follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram! (@masterofmalt, if you didn’t know.)

Ardbeg Mickey Heads

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We put your Jura questions to Gregg Glass!

Join us as we put your questions about Jura to blender and whisky-maker Gregg Glass during Fèis Ìle 2019! Fèis Ìle isn’t entirely about Islay – Jura puts on a distillery day, too!…

Join us as we put your questions about Jura to blender and whisky-maker Gregg Glass during Fèis Ìle 2019!

Fèis Ìle isn’t entirely about Islay – Jura puts on a distillery day, too! We hopped on the ferry to put your questions to Gregg Glass – did we ask yours?

You can see all our Fèis Ìle videos using the blog tag, or check out our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter!

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