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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Game of Thrones

The Nightcap: 8 November

Greetings, one and all! Another week has been and gone, so that means there’s a fresh harvest of stories for The Nightcap! OK, so Halloween is done. Bonfire Night has…

Greetings, one and all! Another week has been and gone, so that means there’s a fresh harvest of stories for The Nightcap!

OK, so Halloween is done. Bonfire Night has passed. Pancake Day was ages ago. I wonder if there are any other events coming up that people are very excited about and won’t stop posting about on the internet and making us slightly panic…? If only we could see past the piles of mince pies and giant sock-shaped boxes of chocolate bars in the shops, we might be able to see if they’re advertising something (as that is where we look to find out what’s happening in the world – the displays in shops).Well, I’m sure we’ll know soon enough. In the meantime, let’s see what’s been going on in the world of boozes this week – it’s The Nightcap!

On the MoM blog this week we excitedly announced the launch of The Three Drinkers Cask Selection No. 1, the first official whisky bottling released by the Amazon Prime TV show released exclusively with, well, us! Elsewhere you’ll have noticed the return of Dram Club and Ian Buxton, who celebrated a true whisky hero in his guest feature this week. Annie then talked with Kirsteen Campbell, the new master whisky maker at The Macallan, and then created a handy little guide to sherry. We also marked Old Fashioned Week by making the classic serve our Cocktail of the Week, while Adam round-up some sublime whiskies that feature intriguing cask-finishes. Oh, and don’t forget to check out video tour of Glenrinnes Distillery!

Now, onto the Nightcap!

The Nightcap

Six Kingdoms, the new 15 Year Old Mortlach expression

Diageo reveals bonus ninth Game of Thrones single malt Scotch

Now, deep down we all knew that when Game of Thrones ended back in May that this wasn’t really going to be the end. The worlds of Westeros will live on through prequels (if they don’t all get cancelled) and, more importantly, through whisky! You guessed it, there’s another Game of Thrones expression out. Diageo announced the ninth and final bottling in the Game of Thrones Single Malt Scotch Whisky Collection, and it’s a 15 Year Old Mortlach dubbed Six Kingdoms. If your memory is a bit hazy, Westeros’ Seven Kingdoms, mentioned many times throughout the show, became six in the finale. Remember the independence of the North and all that? Anyway, the single malt was matured in first-fill sherry casks, with a finish in American oak bourbon casks. Flavour-wise, we can expect those hallmark beasty notes with “vanilla and spice befitting of those with a noble palate”. “Eight fantastic scotches toasted the coming of the final season of the show, and we now look back on the most captivating television show of all time and raise a ninth glass in celebration,” said Jeff Peters, vice president, licensing and retail, at HBO. It comes in a metallic gold presentation tube, decorated with an intricate pen and ink drawing of the three-eyed raven, who we’re sure would be great company to share a dram with. If this all sounds right up your street, then keep an eye (or three) on our New Arrivals page!

The Nightcap

Be sure to have an Old Fashioned yourself!

The UK celebrates five years of Old Fashioned Week

A landmark of the international cocktail year stirred up some action once again as Old Fashioned Week returned to bars around the world. It was the fifth anniversary of the event and in such a short amount of time it’s become quite the success. Last year 1,300 bars participated across 60 countries, an estimated 205,000 Old Fashioned cocktails were sold and the likes of Cambodia, Czech Republic, Netherlands, South Africa, Sudan and Vietnam took part for the first time. But what was on offer to enjoy this year? Aside from the obvious answer, sponsors Woodford Reserve hosted an array of experiences, events and limited edition menus with 285 bars from London, Manchester, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Bristol and Cardiff. Working alongside some of its leading bartenders, the American whiskey brand created a map across the UK, featuring the likes of Swift, Murder Inc, Discount Suit Company, Three Sheets and Homeboy. “Woodford Reserve really is the perfect base for all kinds of twists on the Old Fashioned, our most popular serve,” said Mia Johansson, co-owner of Swift, Soho. We’ve taken inspiration from the ‘sweet aromatics’ flavour segment of Distiller’s Select – the backbone of the complex whiskey flavour – to craft a complex, wholesome Old Fashioned with notes directly from the award-winning mashbill. We’re delighted to have partnered with Woodford Reserve for Old Fashioned Week and look forward to welcoming cocktail lovers from across the country.”

The Nightcap

The new-look Blue Label

Timorous Beasties reveals limited edition Johnnie Walker Blue Label

Last night we attended the launch of a new-look Johnnie Walker Blue Label entitled the Rare Side of Scotland. It features a limited-edition bottle and pack designed by the Timorous Beasties, an award-winning Glasgow-based textile design studio. The aspect of the design you’ll notice first is the image of Aurora Borealis (the Northern Lights), shining theatrically over the Scottish Highlands, which serves as a backdrop for three of Scotland’s rare large birds: the white-tailed eagle, the curlew and the rapid eider duck (best bird name ever). These aren’t the only ‘beasties’ you’ll find, there’s also the narrow-bordered bee hawk-moth, and Scotland’s smallest butterfly – the Small Blue, as well as floral depictions of machair, saxifrage and mountain havens. “Exploring the rarest spirits from the four corners of Scotland has been a remarkable privilege and a personal passion throughout my four decades at Johnnie Walker,” says Johnnie Walker master blender Dr. Jim Beveridge. “The celebration of rare, exceptional Scotch whiskies – paired with the rare craftsmanship of our team of expert whisky makers – will always be at the very heart of Johnnie Walker Blue Label. We know that our devotion to our craft is mirrored by Timorous Beasties, and this is highlighted by these beautiful bottle designs.” Johnnie Walker Blue Label Rare Side of Scotland will be available from MoM Towers soon.

The Nightcap

Winter rooftop terraces are all the rage this year, darling.

It’s festive rooftop winter terrace season!

You may be thinking that, as we descend into the cooler months, it’s time to stay inside and wrap up warm. You’re mistaken! This year it looks like winter rooftop terraces are all the rage, so we thought we’d give you a sneak-peek roundup of what to expect. Firstly, Fentimans has an exciting new release, Pink Ginger, a lightly spiced botanically-brewed soft drink combining pear juice, orange and herbal extracts. To celebrate, the brand is taking over the ninth floor of London’s Skylight, which will now be home to a life size, pink gingerbread house! We’re not joking. It will be decorated with icing, candy canes, and inside you’ll find edible sweet-filled walls. (Okay, so the sweets are edible, the walls aren’t. Just to be clear.) Hansel and Gretel, eat your heart out (literally). It’s available to book in three-hour slots for groups of eight throughout the festive season, with each group receiving a cockle-warming Fentimans hot Pink Ginger cocktail on arrival. You can also just visit Skylight itself and treat yourself to a whole menu of festive Fentimans ginger drinks. Get ready to fill your boots with pink, gingery goodness from Thursday 14 November until January. Secondly, the iconic Madison’s in St Paul’s is teaming up with Belvedere Vodka and being transformed into a winter haven, dubbed The Enchanted Woods, filled with fairy lights, warm cocktails and blankets to boot. We particularly like the sound of ‘Drop It Like It’s Hot’, which sees a warming blend of Hennessy VS, Quaglia Chamomile Liquore and Italicus, with lemon and chamomile tea. It’s certainly a panoramic spot to snuggle up at and enjoy the festive views of London, and opened this week on 6 November and is running all the way through to February. So go on, get out there and get into the Christmas spirit(s)!

The Nightcap

At Balthazar London you’ll find a unique bottling of Maker’s Mark

Balthazar London launches whiskey in collaboration with Maker’s Mark

Not many restaurants can boast its own signature whiskey, but Balthazar, the New York-style brasserie in Covent Garden, is one of the few that can, following its partnership with Maker’s Mark Private Select. A first-of-its-kind barrelling programme, Private Select allows brands to purchase a barrel from the Kentucky distillery and create a truly bespoke spirit that encapsulates the restaurant’s distinct character. Two of Balthazar’s team spent a day at the distillery creating eight different blends, eventually settling on a mix of French and American oak finishing staves, as a nod to the inspiration behind the restaurant. Essentially a variation of Maker’s Mark 46, the whiskey was then aged for an additional nine weeks and bottled in bespoke-labelled Balthazar whiskey bottles. Expect notes of sweet butterscotch, honey, cinnamon, coffee, wood oak smoke, tobacco and dark bitter chocolate. “Balthazar was the ideal partner to work with on this new whiskey. The restaurant already boasts such an impressive collection of American whiskies so we were pleased to work with them on a unique blend,” commented Amanda Humphrey, brand ambassador for Maker’s Mark. “Its flavours of vanilla and butterscotch, mixed with bitter chocolate and cured tobacco, make it the perfect drink for both seasoned whiskey drinkers as well as the uninitiated.” Guests can enjoy the whiskey as part of a cocktail or on its own, while the chefs have also created two specially-paired dishes: a Chestnut Tortellini with Smoked Delica pumpkin and vanilla beurre noisette as well as a Gingerbread soufflé and whiskey ice cream for dessert. We can say from personal experience that they’re both delicious, as is the whiskey. You can purchase the bottling from the restaurant itself, or online for £100.

The Nightcap

The Chosen – due to land at MoM Towers soon!

JJ Corry unveils 27 year old The Chosen

In a really rather exciting treat for our taste buds, JJ Corry has teamed up with J. Hill’s Standard Crystal and John Galvin Design for something really rather special: The Chosen. Just 100 hand-cut decanters of the 27 year old Irish single malt single cask have been released. We checked it out at the official launch this week, and can confirm each decanter is both slightly different and as beautiful as they look, evoking the grasses on the beaches on the Wild Atlantic Way, close to the JJ Corry brand home. The ash wood cabinet is pretty swanky, too. “The Chosen is a celebration of excellence in Irish whiskey and contemporary Irish design,” said Louise McGuane, JJ Corry founder. “Irish whiskey has not been celebrated for its quality and rarity, as perhaps other categories have. We have some of the finest mature stock of whiskey in the world and yet I feel the industry undersells itself. I wanted to change that. Our approach to making Irish whiskey celebrates tradition, embraces change and has the modern whiskey drinker front of mind. All of this is reflected in The Chosen.” Each 52% ABV decanter is priced at £6,500 – keep your eyes peeled on our New Arrivals feed, they’re due in soon!

The Nightcap

The sign. The sign has wisdom.

On Tuesday evening, we hot-footed it up to London for one of the liveliest and most affirming bar takeovers of 2019. For one night only, Artesian bar manager Anna Sebastian brought together a dream team/army of talented women bartenders from across the industry for an evening called Celebrate Her. There were too many epic faces behind the bar to possibly name everyone, but with the likes of Pippa Guy, Sophie Bratt, Megs Miller, Cami Vidal and Sebastian herself crafting an array of signature drinks, the packed room was treated to delicious serve after delicious serve. The evening even ended with sparklers. And £1 from every drink spent went to industry wellness platform Healthy Hospo! “Celebrate her every day, celebrate this industry, celebrate each other, celebrate yourself, but above all, build a community and make the industry better,” Sebastian wrote on social after the event. Cheers to that!

The Nightcap

Nightcap favourite Miles Beale

Boris Johnson promises to review alcohol taxation

Boris Johnson has pledged to review Britain’s alcohol taxation system if the Conservative government win the next election. On a visit to Diageo’s Roseisle Maltings near Elgin, he said that he would conduct a “review into excise on Scotch whisky”. This is partly to alleviate the effect of the 25% tariffs that have been imposed by the US administration on Scotch whisky imports. Britain currently has some of the highest taxation on spirits in the world with an average of £3 in every £4 spent going to the state. Karen Betts from the Scotch Whisky Association commented: “A simplified alcohol duty regime in the UK to better reflect alcohol content would be fairer for consumers, increase competitiveness and remain an important driver of tax revenue.” Nightcap favourite Miles Beale, from the Wine and Spirit Trade Association, also had something to say: “The current excise duty regime doesn’t work for UK business, consumers or the Exchequer. The EU framework is unnecessarily complex and has created a distorted market and an uneven competitive playing field. Once the UK has left the EU, it would be appropriate to review the operation of excise duty. A thorough review will, however, take time. In the short term, and in order to maintain the UK position at the heart of the world wine and spirit trade, the next Chancellor should take the opportunity to take immediate action and cut excise duty ahead of any review. This would benefit UK consumers, business and increase revenue to the Exchequer.” We can but hope.

The Nightcap

It’s like the Terminator. But with booze.

Coming soon, a gin created by AI

The team at Circumstance Distillery in Bristol are not afraid to do things differently, whether it’s issuing their own cryptocurrency or experimenting with yeast and cereal (triticale anyone?). But this time they’ve really taken the biscuit with a gin created by artificial intelligence. Yes, just like in the Terminator, but with booze. The gin is a collaboration with technology scientists Tiny Giant and Rewrite Digital who have created a neural network that they have christened Ginette which was fed information on botanicals, recipes, labels etc. with some of the data coming from Master of Malt (that’s us!). She even came up with the gin’s name, Monker’s Garkel, from analysing 500 different brands. Oh well, at least it tastes good. Liam Hirt, co-founder of Circumstance Distillery, commented: “AI and machine learning are exciting new tools. We do a lot of contract distilling and wanted to know if these tools could make a meaningful contribution to new product development. At present they are not a substitute for the skill of the distiller, but we have clearly shown that they can make a valuable contribution to all aspects of the development process, from the recipe to the naming and labelling. We trained Ginette well, and with a little human help and guidance, her product is interesting, attractive and, most importantly, delicious.” Kerry Harrison, co-founder of Tiny Giant, added: “The creation of Monker’s Garkel has demonstrated that it’s perfectly possible to align machine predictive power and human creativity to make something delicious, valuable and commercial”. The gin will only be available from Master of Malt or direct from the distillery for £42 for a 50cl bottle.

The Nightcap

Graham’s 1977 was the Queen Mother’s favourite

And finally… Queen Mum’s undrunk Port goes up for auction

The Queen Mum had quite a reputation for being fond of the sauce, so when she visited The Winter Gardens Theatre in Margate in 1983, the team got in plenty of her favourite Port, Graham’s 1977. It seems they rather over-catered because 36 years later, there are still 40 bottles of the stuff left. Apparently it’s been counted in stock takes all this time, but when the last food and beverage manager retired, the new one had the brilliant idea to auction it. It goes under the hammer at Chiswick Auctions in London on 5 December. The three sealed cases of 12 are expected to go for £700-800, with an odd lot of four bottles expected to go for £100-150. Back in 1983, this wine would have been much too young to drink, perhaps why the dear old Queen Mum didn’t get through much of it. But now it should be perfectly mature. Sam Hellyer, head of Chiswick Auctions wine department, described the wines as: “Luscious, smooth, with the last hurrah of thick tannins lining the tongue and laying down a plush carpet for the chewy fig and lingering acidity to mingle on. With them came a hint of smoky and chocolately notes, the smell of cigar boxes and freshly sanded wood.” Cor!

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Tell ’em about the honey: How mead became the latest thing

Before there was beer, whisky or gin, people from northern climates turned to honey for all their alcohol needs. Since then, mead, has been out of fashion for over half…

Before there was beer, whisky or gin, people from northern climates turned to honey for all their alcohol needs. Since then, mead, has been out of fashion for over half a century. But now, it’s back…

Last month, I went to a pop-up bar in Peckham, south east London, and everyone was drinking not craft beer or yuzu smoothies, but mead. Yes, mead, the drink that we associate with Vikings and chubby medieval friars is now, whisper it, a bit cool. We’ve noticed the mead effect here at Master of Malt. It is flying off the shelves. So, we thought it would be a good idea to look a bit further into the category and find out what it’s all about.

Tom Gosnell in trendy Peckham

The bar in question was called Gosnells Upstairs at the Coal Rooms, and it will be open for the next six months. It’s designed to showcase Gosnells Mead which is produced just around the corner. The founder Tom Gosnell used to make cider, but picked up a love for good quality mead in the US. “I was travelling along the East Coast of the US when I was first exposed to mead that was crafted with real, love, care, and respect for the honey,” he said. “This really lit a fire in me, and I was determined to start making a modern mead in London.”

And so, in his own words, Gosnell opened “the first London meadery in over 500 years”. Being based in Peckham means that he’s in the heart of London’s craft brewing scene. “It’s so vibrant and diverse, there’s a real energy here that you can’t help but get caught up in,” he told me.

James Lambert from Lyme Bay down in Devon also started with cider, then wine, and now makes an extensive range of mead including the bestselling Moniack brand that was previously based in Scotland. “We own the Highland Wineries brand and make all their products at our Devon winery,” he explained. “This change took place when the Fraser family, who used to own Moniack, closed it and sold the business.”

Lyme Bay

Lyme Bay, they make cider, wine and mead here

In order to make alcohol, all you need is a sugary liquid and yeast. So it’s understandable that honey was one of the first products that people made into alcohol. Tom Gosnell explained the process: “We simply take honey, mix it with water and pitch a yeast, which turns the sugars into alcohol.” But it’s important to use top quality raw ingredients. “Great mead starts with great honey,” He continued. “When you ferment, you strip away some of the sweetness and get access to the amazing tertiary flavours that the bees have been collecting from all the flowers.”

Gosnells London Mead is made from Valencian orange blossom honey. According to the company’s mead maker, Will Grubelnik, this is to ensure consistency. Grubelnik is an Australian brought up in a wine producing part of Victoria. “Wine and mead are very close in fermentation style and they’re both very much about terroir,” he told me. Gosnells’ bestselling 5.5% ABV original is pasteurised to retain some sugar, carbonated and then sold in 750ml bottles to rival Prosecco or good quality sparkling cider.

The team also produces limited edition meads made from single flower varieties, single areas or individual beekeepers. A current offering from Biggin Hill in Bromley is fully fermented to about 8% ABV, so it is bone dry. Grubelnik enthused about meads barrel-aged for 18 months that taste a bit like dry sherry.

James Lambert agrees on the importance of good honey. He uses a “unique blend of English, Mexican and Chinese honey which combines the most aromatic of indigenous flower species to create the rich, floral and pungent characteristics that our meads are famous for.” You can also add flavours and spices, as they do at Lyme Bay. “We combine honey with hand-picked spices and ferment them with water to create our award-winning range.” Lyme Bay offer a huge range of flavoured products including Garden Mead (made with fresh mint); Tournament Mead (ginger); Rhubarb Mead; and Yore, “a dry, light mead with a sparkle and a delicious honey kick which makes a refreshing alternative to beer and cider”.

In proper mead all the alcohol should come from honey. However, there are no regulations for the category, so many meads get some alcohol from apple juice or beer, or may even be merely honey-flavoured. Grubelik told me that they are currently campaigning for a regulatory framework.

So, how to drink all that honeyed goodness? Lambert recommends drinking her Rhubarb Mead “served chilled or on the rocks but this tangy mead also has the sweetness and fruitiness to pair it perfectly with blue cheese and terrines, as well as ice cream and fruit-based desserts.” According to Gosnell, the sparkling product is “perfect as an aperitif, an alternative to Prosecco, but I really like the way that it holds up well to spicy food, and cuts through fattier dishes like pork belly.”

Mead also works superbly as a cocktail ingredient. Gosnell gave me a drink to try called a Peckham Lemonade. It sounds like old-school gangster slang: ‘he ain’t gonna snitch no more, Vern’s given him a dose of Peckham Lemonade’. But it’s actually a delicious long drink made with gin, honey, lemon juice and sparkling mead.

Gosnells Mead

It’s all about the honey

Lambert agrees: “Mead’s flavour combinations make it an ideal addition to cocktails. We’ve collaborated with Sam Boulton, owner of The Vanguard mead bar in Birmingham, who has come up with six mead cocktail recipes.” These include a Rhubarb Negroni, made with Rhubarb Mead, Aperol and Cotswold Gin, and a delicious-sounding low-ABV one called English Gardening, made with Garden Mead, Seedlip Garden, elderflower liqueur, apple juice and soda water.

What’s driving mead’s new-found popularity? Could it be something to do with Game of Thrones? James Lambert had some thoughts. “Across the pond, mead is having a full-blown revival and is one of the fastest growing alcoholic beverages in the country. It has captured the hearts of a new generation of discerning drinkers and there is also, of course, a certain HBO series that is putting mead in the spotlight. Over in the UK these effects are being felt and we are seeing the beginning of a long and sustainable growth.”

Grubelnik reckoned about a third of the people who came to the bar were already into mead, particularly customers from Scandinavia, and wanted to try flights of different meads. But Gosnell told me that many customers are completely clueless. “There often isn’t the fundamental understanding around mead,” he said. “It’s not just a new product to the market, it’s a whole new category!” All we can say is, give it a go and maybe you too will acquire the need for mead.

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