fbpx
£

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

Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Glenfiddich

NFTs and whisky explained

Intrigued by the growing trend for NFT’s in the world of spirits, but bamboozled by terms like Ethereum, non-fungible tokens and cryptocurrency? You aren’t alone. But never fear, Lauren Eads…

Intrigued by the growing trend for NFT’s in the world of spirits, but bamboozled by terms like Ethereum, non-fungible tokens and cryptocurrency? You aren’t alone. But never fear, Lauren Eads will your guide to the future of NFTs and whisky. 

NFTs operate in a parallel world powered by digital currency, acronyms, blockchains and investment lingo that can make your head spin if you think about it too much. 

But there’s no doubt they are big business, with the NFT market valued at US$41 billion in 2021. The first NFT sold in 2014 for $1.4 million. A piece of digital art called ‘Quantum’ by Kevin McCoy, if you’re wondering. The most expensive NFT sold to date is also a  piece of digital art, called The Merge by NFT artist Pak, which sold for $91.8 million in 2021. NFTs are now common in the art world, but 2021 saw the concept go mainstream. Now, multiple industries are getting in on the boom, including spirits. What could this mean for collectors of ultra premium spirits? Who’s buying them, and more importantly, what the deuce is an NFT?

What the fung?

NFT stands for ‘non-fungible token’. A non-fungible asset is one that can’t be transferred or exchanged for a similar product. It’s unique and permanent, like a piece of art. An NFT token is simply a digital receipt recording authenticity and ownership of a non-fungible asset. NFTs aren’t worth anything until an asset is attached to them. NFTs can be bought with conventional money, but are commonly purchased with cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin (BTC) or Ethereum (ETH), also known as Ether. Ether is to Ethereum what pound sterling is to the Bank of England. Cryptocurrencies allow transactions to operate outside of a traditional banking system, beyond government control. Their value can rise and fall in relation to real world currency, but it’s a separate system. At the start of 2017, one Bitcoin (BTC) cost around £800. Today, one BTC is worth close to £30,000.

What has this got to do with spirits? Increasingly spirits producers are signing up to crypto-platforms and selling ultra-rare expressions as NFTs, specifically via Block Bar. The platform was founded in 2018 and is the world’s first (and currently only) direct-to-consumer NFT platform for luxury wine and spirits. BlockBar’s cryptocurrency of choice is Ether. You can make purchases with conventional money too, but any secondary sales will be credited to you in Ether.

The Dalmore - whisky and NFTs

‘Mmmm, non-fungible’, Richard Paterson from The Dalmore

NFTs and whisky

Kieran Healey-Ryder, head of whisky discovery for Whyte & Mackay, which owns The Dalmore, likens the NFT market to the dawn of the world wide web. “NFTs today are the latest technological innovation,” he says. “It is not the first. For me, it is reminiscent of the early days of digital, the first websites led many to question who would want to discover a whisky on the ‘world-wide-web’. Today, we don’t question it.”

Last year The Dalmore offered its first 25 NFTs via BlockBar, each tied to a limited edition set of its Decades No.4 Collection comprising four whiskies (1979, 1980, 1995, 2000). Each set sold for US$137,700 (around 50 ETH). “This is a space that offers an elevated digital experience,” adds Healey-Ryder. “Presentation is key. As more and more brands play in this space, what it takes to stand out will require a commitment to exceptional presentation and the imagination to communicate a truly special story.”

Crucially, BlockBar is responsible for storing the physical product and its cryptographic NFT certificate on its block chain as proof of authenticity and ownership. A blockchain is a digital ledger of transactions that is duplicated and distributed across a network of computer systems in a way that makes it nearly impossible to change or hack. You could redeem your NFT token for the physical product. In that instance BlockBar would destroy the NFT attached to it. But that’s not really in the spirit of NFT trading. This is about collecting and investing, with buyers able to resell their NFTs via the BlockBar platform.

21-year-old Reserva Rum cask single malt Scotch 2

Glenfiddich dips its toe into the NFT water

Glenfiddich gets on the NFT bandwagon

Last year Glenfiddich offered its first 15 NFTs, each representing a rare bottle of 46-year-old single malt Scotch, finished for 21 years in an Armagnac cask. At US$18,000 (4.7 ETH) each they sold out in 4 seconds, and the next day were being flipped for between $189,000 and $288,000. “For the spirits industry, it opens up a new consumer segment and provides existing consumers with another means of managing and trading their whisky assets,” says Will Peacock, global luxury director at William Grant & Sons. “It opens doors for both brands and consumers to know each other directly.” Glenfiddich’s latest NFT release was 200 bottles of 21-year-old Reserva Rum cask single malt on 1 February. They sold out immediately and are already available on BlockBar’s secondary market.

Is it fraud-proof? Any system can be manipulated and any NFT platform needs to be trustworthy. But NFTs offer a novel solution to tackling counterfeits. Buying from an auction house means putting your faith in a third party to assure authenticity. Buying on a platform like BlockBar allows consumers to buy direct from brands with a full record of ownership. NFTs have an implicit ability to authenticate assets, with physical bottles retained within one sphere of influence, perhaps indefinitely. So the potential for assuring the authenticity of future super rare and old expressions is obvious. “The premise of BlockBar lends confidence to collectors and provides transparency in a secondary market, adds Peacock. “From our perspective the main security within this type of investment is that the NFT backed purchase allows individuals to build direct relationships directly with the brand. As well as this, the number of individuals who are buying asset-backed NFTs has grown exponentially, so it is becoming a more widely tried and accepted form of holding assets.”

You are still putting your trust in BlockBar, but it’s a digitally-minded, simple solution to tackling fraud. Penfolds, Dictador Rum and Hennessy have also signed up to sell super rare expressions via BlockBar – luxury brands with little need to branch into a potentially problematic space unless it was worth it.

Caveat emptor

Is this the future of spirits investment? Perhaps. There’s lots to love about NFTs. Guaranteed authenticity, assured storage, direct brand-to-consumer sales, slick, digital platforms. As with any leap forward the brave and bold go first. For the “technologically savvy consumer who is crypto-literate” there’s an expectation for luxury brands to have a presence in the NFT space, says Healey Ryder. “This is not your traditional whisky connoisseur necessarily. They are interested in exceptional products, progressive brands and technological change.”

There’s plenty to be wary of too, not least the volatility of cryptocurrencies. It’s not for the faint-hearted and financial diligence is strongly advised. Do the rewards outweigh the risks? That’s what every investor has to weigh. Either way, you’ll need deep pockets, and an iron disposition.

 

3 Comments on NFTs and whisky explained

Explore new whiskies this year… and next

If you’re stuck in a whisky rut, we’ve got some unusual, off-beat and under the radar recommendations to give your palate a workout. Let’s explore new whiskies in 2022! When…

If you’re stuck in a whisky rut, we’ve got some unusual, off-beat and under the radar recommendations to give your palate a workout. Let’s explore new whiskies in 2022!

When shopping for clothes, it can be very easy to rely on old favourites. This is why I have a cupboard full of almost identical blue shirts with button-down collars. It’s the same with whisky. The choice available at Master of Malt can be overwhelming even to those of us who work here. It’s very easy when buying for ourselves or recommending bottles to friends and customers to go for old favourites like Glenmorangie 10, Lagavulin 16, or Johnnie Walker Black Label.

So, we’ve rounded up some excellent bottlings which aren’t quite so well-known. There’s offerings from non-traditional whisky countries, underrated Scotch whiskies distilleries, lesser-known expressions from some of the big boys, an unusual blend, and a single grain whisky that’s really a malt.

Go on, try something different this year, and next.

Explore new whiskies this year

jura-the-loch-whisky

Jura The Loch

Poor old Jura. While Islay gets all the attention from whisky lovers, it’s near Hebrides neighbour is often overlooked. This is a shame as if you love sweet sherry and smoke, then you’ll love Jura The Loch. It was initially matured in American oak casks before being finished in casks that previously held 30 year old Pedro Ximénez sherry, and bottled at 44.5% ABV. Originally this was travel retail only, but we’ve managed to snaffle some. 

What does it taste like?

Smells like rich oak and milky coffee, with a burst of juicy raisin sweetness. In the mouth, there’s thick caramel and treacle, balanced by a hint of peat smoke.

the-cardrona-growing-wings-solera-sherry-and-bourbon-cask-whisky

Cardrona Growing Wings Solera – Sherry & Bourbon Cask

Last week Adam was raving about the quality of the whisky coming out of this New Zealand distillery. Now you can see what all the fuss is about with this 35cl bottle. Part of the Growing Wings collection by Cardrona Distillery, it was matured for five years in a combination of Oloroso sherry and bourbon casks and bottled at 65.6% ABV.

What does it taste like?

It’s packed with heaps of glorious syrupy fruit and nut character from the sherry butt, balanced by creamy bourbon oak vanilla.

tobermory-12-year-old-whisky

Tobermory 12 Year Old

We love the orchard fruit-laden flavour profile from this Isle of Mull distillery and think it deserves to be better known. We’ve been lucky enough to try some older releases this year from Tobermory and have been knocked out by the quality. But this 12 year old aged in American oak and bottled at 46.3% ABV is pretty special. We think it’s one of the great bargains of the whisky world. 

What does it taste like?

Pear, peach and apple, with a dusting of brown sugar. Greek yoghurt, barley and a hint of cinnamon pastries.

loch-lomond-peated-single-grain-whisky

Loch Lomond Peated Single Grain

Due to SWA regulations, this has to be labelled as a single grain but it’s actually made from 100% malted barley. So what the hell is going on? Well, the crazy cats at Loch Lomond used a Coffey still instead of pot stills so it can’t be called a single malt. Following this unusual distillation method, it was aged in first-fill and refill American oak ex-bourbon casks to produce one of the most idiosyncratic malts on the market.

What does it taste like?

Berry jam, orchard fruit, oaky vanilla, and a dusting of baking spices and liquorice, with a layer of fragrant smoke underneath it all.

compass-box-glasgow-blend-single-marrying-cask-pour-and-sip-whisky

Compass Box Glasgow Blend – Single Marrying Cask (Pour & Sip Exclusive)

Compass Box bottled a limited edition of its Glasgow Blend Single Marrying Cask just for Pour & Sip subscribers (so sign up here). It brings together malt whisky from Craigellachie and grain whisky from Cameronbridge, alongside Clynelish and Laphroaig, as well as a Highland malt blend. The blend was married in an ex-Clynelish cask for 15 months before being bottled at 49% ABV. If you think blends are all about big brands, well think again.

What does it taste like?

On the nose you’ll find peach and plum, polished oak, Crunchie bars, waxy citrus peels, with caramelised nuts, coconut ice, a smidge of snuffed-out candle, crisp red apple on the palate.

glenfiddich-grand-cru-23-year-old-whisky

Glenfiddich Grand Cru 23 Year Old

And finally, let’s go beyond the classic 12 Year Old or, our favourite, the 15 Year Old Solera, and explore the upper echelons of the Glenfiddich range like the Grand Cru 23 Year Old. This single malt initially ages in American and European oak casks, before being moved over to rare French cuvée oak casks – which previously held a seriously fancy wine. 

What does it taste like?

Melted butter on rye toast, sandalwood, peach, soft peppery hints drifts in later on, with just a pinch of mint.

If you’re looking to expand explore new whiskies, you should sign up with our whisky subscriptions service Pour & Sip. It’s offering a tasting pack containing the Cardrona Growing Wings Solera Sherry & Bourbon Cask, an exclusive bottling of Compass Box Marrying Cask, Tobermory 12 Year Old, Jura The Loch, and Loch Lomond Peated Single Grain. Click here for more details.

No Comments on Explore new whiskies this year… and next

#WhiskySanta’s Glenfiddich 40 Year Old Rare Collection Super Wish

#WhiskySanta and his Super Wishes are making Monday’s magic. If you’re not convinced yet, after this week’s prize you will be. It’s Glenfiddich 40 Year Old Rare Collection! Ho, ho, ho!…

#WhiskySanta and his Super Wishes are making Monday’s magic. If you’re not convinced yet, after this week’s prize you will be. It’s Glenfiddich 40 Year Old Rare Collection!

Ho, ho, ho! I don’t mean to toot my own trumpet, but I really feel like I’m in the swing of Super Wish season now. With every week comes a new delight to giveaway and, best of all, a deserving winner. Take @pswhisky, for example, who is getting a Baccarat decanter filled with Courvoisier Heritage de Louis Renard worth £2,999.95 delivered right to their door.

If you want to know what the joy of getting a bottle that great feels like, then you’ll want to see my latest Super Wish: Glenfiddich 40 year old Rare Collection (Release Number 17)!

Glenfiddich 40 Year Old Rare Collection

From a classic distillery, this 40 year old is made by the malt master who selects individual casks before marrying them together with what was leftover from the previous 40 year old vatting. It’s a fancy-Dan continuous process known as ‘remnant vatting’ and, fun fact: Glenfiddich is the only single malt Scotch whisky in the industry to do this! Oh, and each bottle is wrapped in hand-stitched calf leather and accompanied by a leather-bound book telling its 40-year-old story, with certification and hand signed by the distilleries longest-serving craftsmen.

Now, I’m sure most of you know how to make your Super Wish by now, but if you’re new (welcome!) then start by heading to the Glenfiddich 40 year old Rare Collection (Release Number 17) page. You’ll see a slick red button that says “Wish” on it. Once you click it, a box will pop up that will send you to a pre-populated Twitter or Facebook post. Hit ‘publish’ and viola! You’ve completed your wish. Oh, and for Instagram you’ll want to pop a post on your feed with the #WhiskySanta hashtag. No selfies required.

If you get those wishes in by 23:59 GMT 9 Thursday then you’re in the running. It’s that simple. Like making gingerbread men. I like to decorate mine as characters from Lord of the Rings, personally. I’d like to say Gandalf the Ginger shall not pass these lips, but I can’t abide this clean eating nonsense. I’m only human (I’m not, but ‘I’m a supernatural being’ doesn’t have the same ring to it). Now, get wishing!

#WhiskySanta

Whisky Santa Super Wish Glenfiddich 40 year old

No Comments on #WhiskySanta’s Glenfiddich 40 Year Old Rare Collection Super Wish

The Nightcap: 26 November

This week’s Nightcap is wall-to-wall amazing Scotch from the likes of Glenfiddich, Johnnie Walker, Lagavulin and more. Plus a whiskey barrel Christmas tree and chilli bacon vodka… Do you know…

This week’s Nightcap is wall-to-wall amazing Scotch from the likes of Glenfiddich, Johnnie Walker, Lagavulin and more. Plus a whiskey barrel Christmas tree and chilli bacon vodka…

Do you know what today is? The day when it really hits home how close Christmas is. December, and Advent with it, is next week. This time next month it will be over. We have officially entered the season to be jolly. But you don’t need to panic and suddenly force yourself to feel the Christmas spirit. It’s Friday, relax and take in a nice bundle of stories from the world of booze first.

Other stories we covered this week include our guide to Black Friday 2021, word on Aston Martin and Bowmore’s latest collaboration, the reforming of Delamain Pale and Dry XO, and shining a spotlight on Brandy de Jerez. We also stirred up a seasonal drink inspired by the ancient Druids rounded up our top 10 Christmas drinks, and found out what #WhiskySanta’s latest Super Wish is.

The Nightcap: 26 November edition!

The Nightcap: 26 November

The first of our amazing whiskies this week

Glenfiddich auctions 42-year-old Scotch whisky

Glenfiddich and Goodwood are teaming up for a pretty special whisky release, which we’re lucky enough to taste. Just three decanters of a 42-year-old Glenfiddich have been released to be auctioned by Bonhams to raise funds for Race Against Dementia at 11:00 on 7 December 2021. The whisky is taken from cask #11136 from Warehouse 8, which is a refill American oak hogshead barrel that has been maturing since 13 April 1979. It’s a celebration of Goodwood’s historic whisky connection, which can be traced back to 1836 when a chance inheritance handed Gordon Castle and its estate to the fifth Duke of Richmond, who was alarmed by his tenant’s illicit distilling and used political influence and commercial nous to ensure distilling became legal; paving the way for  William Grant to build the Glenfiddich Distillery. Each decanter is paired with a VIP experience at a renowned Goodwood motorsport event and a photograph taken and signed by renowned Formula 1 photographer Rainer Schlegelmilch as well as motor racing legend Sir Jackie Stewart OBE.  Master distiller Brian Kinsman says about the dram that cask #11136 is “a stunning example of Glenfiddich, with an oaky, sweet and long-lasting taste. It has reached a perfection that few casks will ever achieve and is the ideal whisky to celebrate our long-standing relationship with Goodwood.” Each liquid is contained in a hand-blown crystal decanter by renowned French crystal maker Baccarat, and Bonhams have given a low estimate for each lot of £6,500. It’s a great cause and we can confirm the whisky is worthy of the plaudits. Its elegance and balance are astounding. We do hope whoever buys it actually drinks it.

The Nightcap: 26 November

Master of Flavours is made up of whiskies aged for at least 48 years from distilleries like Brora and Glenury Royal.

Johnnie Walker ends series in style with Master of Flavour

In one of his final releases before he retires at the end of the year, Johnnie Walker master blender Jim Beveridge has put together the final edition of the cracking Masters range. Johnnie Walker Masters Of Flavour has an ABV of 41.8% and was made with whiskies aged for at least 48 years from ghost distilleries like Glyn Albyn, Port Dundas, Brora, and Glenury Royal, which was balanced together with whisky from Cameronbridge, Blair Athol, and Dalwhinnie. No wonder there’s only 288 bottles priced at £20,000. To create the special release, Beveridge teamed up with previous collaborators Donna Anderson, malt master, James Carson, cask master, and Douglas Murray, distillation master, to pay tribute to the skill of whisky-making. It’s the third and final whisky in the Johnnie Walker Masters series, which includes Ruby Reserve, a celebration of Jim Beveridge’s 30 years working in whisky, and the John Walker Masters’ Edition, a whisky crafted using Scotch aged for a minimum of 50 years from distilleries that were operational during the lifetime of Johnnie Walker founder John Walker. Much like both of them, Masters of Flavour is presented in a Baccarat crystal decanter within a bespoke oak cabinet. Although, it has to be said it does look like a bottle of Haig Club made especially for the Green Goblin. Still, we imagine the whisky itself is outstanding, and excitingly we’ll have a chance to find that out soon…

The Nightcap: 26 November

The new mezcal cask Islay Jazz Festival bottling is sure to get whisky fans chattering

Lagavulin new Jazz Festival bottling is aged in mezcal casks!

The world does slowly seem to be getting back to normal but sadly this year’s Islay Jazz Festival will once again be online only this year. But never fear because sponsor Lagavulin’s annual festival bottling is happening and you can drink it IRL. It’s one that fans won’t want to miss because after initial maturation in refill bourbon casks it then spends an unspecified time in American oak barrels that previously held mezcal! Highly unusual. It’s bottled at a cask strength of 54.8% with a 13-year-old age statement, and will cost you £160. Distillery manager Pierrick Guillaume described it as “The first Lagavulin to be finished in mezcal casks with a distinctive and unusual flavour profile is sure to intrigue and excite Lagavulin fans and beyond.” “Distinctive and unusual” is just right. You probably wouldn’t guess that it had been aged in ex-mezcal casks, but it is hugely spicy and meaty with a strong lingering saline seaweedy finish. There’s also creamy toffee and vanilla lurking beneath stopping it all from getting too much. It’s a fascinating, highly complex dram, that’s sure to get whisky fans chattering. At the moment it’s a distillery-only release but we will let you know if we can get hold of a bottle or two.   

The Nightcap: 26 November

We tried this $30,000 51-year-old whisky. It’s pretty tasty.

Royal Salute releases $30k 51-year-old limited edition

We’ve had some packaging on whisky samples at Master of Malt but still, the arrival of Royal Salute 51 Year Old managed to cause a stir at the office. The 50ml sample came in a solid wooden box wrapped in gold (not real gold, sadly) chains with a combination padlock. It’s the second release in Royal Salute’s ‘Time Series Collection’ made up of casks filled before 1970 including some from ghost distilleries. Only 101 crystal decanters are available. Master blender Sandy Hyslop described it as “an undeniably special expression that blends exceptional style with high-aged whisky. Crafting a Scotch of that age requires intense care and attention to ensure the cask characteristics are perfectly absorbed without being overpowering, and the moment I tested the final blend will stay with me forever; the masterful role that time has played over a minimum of five decades of slow maturation really blew me away. This release is a one-of-a-kind expression, and I am honoured to contribute to the legacy that the outstanding Royal Salute Time Series Collection is making in the world of rare and collectable whisky.” There’s no doubt that it’s a special drop of quite jaw-dropping complexity. On the nose, there’s toffee, peaches, dark chocolate, cinnamon and cardamom with a distinct waxy note like you find in Brora (could this be one of the ghost distilleries in the blend?). The palate is spicy and lively with menthol, manuka honey, Jamaica cake, and a lingering waxy texture. We feel lucky to have had a wee taste especially as at $30,000 a pop we are very unlikely to ever taste it again. Well, we suppose that explains the packaging. 

The Nightcap: 26 November

It’s a masterclass from Ian worth seeing

Ian Burrell takes Equiano on UK rum tour

Global rum ambassador and co-founder of The Equiano Rum Co Ian Burrell is taking to the road this winter with A Tale of Two Rum Islands, a fascinating presentation of the rum-producing histories of Barbados and Mauritius. The event also gives guests the opportunity to taste Equiano Original and Equiano Light and learn the story behind its name, honouring the legacy of African-born writer, entrepreneur, abolitionist and freedom fighter Olaudah Equiano, as well as learn about the brand’s philanthropic endeavours. The session concludes with a Q&A, a rare chance to get geeky with one of the industry’s leading authorities. Burrell’s first UK tour in five years kicked off in London on 22 November, and we attended and had a blast. He then headed to Brighton (23 November) and will visit Nottingham (30 November) and Manchester (1 December) next, before continuing the tour in January 2022 in Liverpool, Sheffield, Leeds, Bristol, Cardiff, London, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Oxford, and Birmingham. We highly recommend it. Equiano is also marking International Day for the Abolition of Slavery (2 December) by teaming up with London bar Duchess of Dalston (from the team behind Callooh Callay) to create an exclusive cocktail and raise money for Anti-Slavery International

The Nightcap: 26 November

No need to panic yet but we do want to see some progress here

Wine and spirits firms warn of Christmas alcohol shortage in UK

There’s no need to panic but… a group of 48 wine and spirits companies have told transport secretary Grant Shapps that Britain will suffer a Christmas alcohol shortage unless the government does more to address the lack of HGV drivers. Businesses including Pernod Ricard, Moët Hennessy, and the Wine Society raised concerns over rising costs and supply chain “chaos”, raising the risk that supermarkets will run dry and festive deliveries arrive late. Members of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA), which coordinated the letter, reported that importing products is taking five times longer than a year ago and that small businesses are struggling to compete as delivery firms have had to raise HGV drivers’ wages. Unpredictable arrival times are also resulting in goods being either not ready or are left waiting for collection. The call is for Shapps to extend a temporary visa scheme for HGV drivers, which expires in February 2022, to a year, and for the government to smooth congested freight routes from ports, as well as providing regular updates on how many HGV driver licences are being processed by the DVLA. “Government needs to be doing all it can to ensure British business is not operating with one hand tied behind its back over the festive season and beyond,” Miles Beale, the WSTA chief executive, summarised. Let’s hope the resolution is forthcoming, and if you do need any booze for Christmas, we might have an idea of where to get some….

The Nightcap: 26 November

Want to serve draught pints at home right in time for Christmas? Now you can

Guinness launches £750 home beer tap

Guinness is launching a limited-edition at-home tap to serve draught pints right in time for Christmas. Following the successful rollout of the technology in pubs, bars and restaurants across the UK earlier this year, the system should help you attain a better pint in your own home, although we all know how hard it is to get Guinness right regardless. The new technology is thankfully simple. Just pop a Guinness Microdraft into the pint puller, and the technology itself guides the user on how to conduct the perfect two-part pour. “Guinness Microdraft enables people to enjoy a beautiful looking and delicious tasting Draught Guinness on tap in a completely new setting for the first time ever,” said head of Guinness GB, Neil Shah. “Whether it’s to pour the perfect drink at a festive gathering, a Christmas gift for a friend or family member, or simply to enjoy an iconic drink of the black stuff at home with loved ones, Guinness Microdraft is sure to be a hit among beer lovers.” The Guinness Microdraft Bar Tap will be available to purchase for £750 from 6 December and arrives with four Guinness Microdraft cans and two Guinness pint glasses.

The Nightcap: 26 November

Should we be doing more to enjoy the vast array of different wines available?

The most popular wines in the UK revealed

A new survey, which looked at the preferences in wine varieties of adults of drinking age has revealed the top 10 most popular wines in the UK. Winemaking simulator game Hundred Days, which allows players to “embark on a journey of winemaking,” found the favourite varieties, although there’s not much in the way of surprises. Coming in first place is Pinot Grigio, then Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Merlot and Rosé rounded up the top five, with Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Malbec, and Rioja having to settle for places in the top 10. “Britain is one of the largest importers of wine, taking in over $4 billion worth of crates, bags and bottles in 2020. Yet, our research shows that the nation is largely shying away from expanding their wine repertoire and are stuck in a wine rut – making the same purchases over and over again,” says Yves Hohler, lead designer and co-founder of Broken Arm Games. Typically, they feel their game can make a difference by showcasing the vast array of different wines available. Of course, you could save yourself the effort and just click here

The Nightcap: 26 November

The Christmas tree from 150 repurposed Irish whiskey barrels

Hinch Distillery makes barrel Christmas tree

Getting truly into the festive spirit is Hinch Distillery, which has unveiled a 24ft Christmas tree made from up-cycled whiskey barrels. Topped off with sparkling lights and a big bow, the one-of-a-kind ‘tree’ was made from 150 repurposed Hinch Irish whiskey barrels and took 48 painstaking hours to do. It took a team of eight under the helm of Co Down decoration installer to create the structure, which pays homage to the whiskey distilling process at Hinch, including a globe made from strips that hold the barrels in place. After Christmas, the plan will be to repurpose it for furnishings including chairs and plant pots to make it a year-round installation. Hinch Distillery, which will celebrate its one year anniversary this month, lies between Belfast and Ballynahinch on the Carryduff Road and is nestled in the grounds of the beautiful Killaney Estate, so if you want to see it for yourself, you know where to go. Be sure if you’re interested to see The Whiskey Barrel Christmas Tree light switch-on, which we imagine will be quite a sight. The distillery, which has not yet got its own whiskey, has also bottled a 12-year-old Amarone Cask Finish expression. But that’s just not as impressive as a big barrel tree, is it?

The Nightcap: 26 November

Ever tried Chilli Bacon Vodka before? Now you can. Huzzah.

And finally… Baller launches chilli bacon vodka 

The ‘And finally…’ section of The Nightcap has featured many a mad product before, from the strangest of gins to the most confusing of creations. This week we’ve got a chilli bacon vodka to cast a suspicious eye on, straight from London-based distillery Doghouse. The creators of Baller Vodka, which claims to be the capital’s only vodka made from scratch, dreamt up the new flavour to “disrupt the category” thanks to its “first-of-its-kind” chilli and bacon combination. It’s produced using the brand’s wheat vodka as a base, with Mexican-grown Habanero chillies and a secret ingredient, which apparently isn’t actual bacon, to give it a bacon sweet smokiness. Could be vegan then. Not that I’d imagine that’s the target market. The distillery says to enjoy Baller Chilli Bacon Vodka with dry ginger ale and a squeeze of lime juice, or in a Bloody Mary cocktail – which in fairness I can see working. Mostly this will be bought by people needing a joke present or something to shot on stag-dos you’d think. And more power to them. We are, after all, the folks behind this monstrosity

No Comments on The Nightcap: 26 November

The art of the cooper

Good quality casks are vital to every single bottle of whisky, making the role of the cooper, the person expertly in their care and creation, absolutely essential. Distillers tend to…

Good quality casks are vital to every single bottle of whisky, making the role of the cooper, the person expertly in their care and creation, absolutely essential. Distillers tend to get the glory, but behind every great distiller is a master cooper.

Coopering is an ancient craft. The earliest clues to its origin begin with an Egyptian wall painting in the tomb of Hesy-Ra, which dates to 2600 BC. It shows a wooden tub made of staves held together with wooden hoops, used to store wheat. But it wasn’t until 350 BC when the Celts and Northern Europeans began making watertight wooden containers that resemble the casks we know today. 

It later became understood that oak was not only the best wood to store a liquid, but that it made a wine (or whisky) taste better. More machines are now used in the cooperage, but every cask remains hand assembled by a cooper, carefully plied into a watertight vessel.

The Balvenie Ian McDonald.jpg RS

Hanging with Mr Cooper, it’s The Balvenie’s Ian McDonald

In charge of one million barrels

Ian McDonald is head cooper at William Grant & Sons, where he oversees one million barrels for The Balvenie and Glenfiddich. He started at the distillery in 1969, drawn to the industry by a love of wood and metalwork.

When McDonald started out, he was one cooper among some 1,000 in Scotland. At that time, barrels used to arrive from America in “shook form” – a barrel knocked down into a bundle of staves and shipped to Scotland to be reassembled. Now most barrels arrive complete. A downturn in whisky production in the late 80s, and at the turn of the millennium, also forced large numbers out of the trade.

Today there are around 300 skilled coopers in Scotland and the art of coopering is going through a “revival”, says McDonald. Whisky is booming and many cooperages are increasing capacity and training. But it’s not easy to become a cooper. A four-year apprenticeship and rigorous trade test is required. Only then can recruits receive the honour of being ‘tarred and feathered’ – covered in gunge and rolled around inside a barrel – making them a fully fledged cooper in the eyes of their colleagues. In October, McDonald advertised for two apprentices at Balvenie and received more than 100 applicants. “There is and has always been people wanting to become coopers,” he said.

L-R Angela Cochrane and Kirsty Olychick are the UK's first coopering apprentices

Angela Cochrane and Kirsty Olychick, Diageo’s first women coopering apprentices

What does a cask do?

A cask is responsible for the maturation of a whisky, with all Scotch aged for at least three years. While there are a lot of elements that make up a whisky’s flavour, some suggest that around 60% of a malt’s flavours and aromas come from the barrel. Every whisky will interact with the wood differently, imparting different characteristics depending on the cask, or casks, used and length of ageing.

Think toast, coffee, cedar or sawdust – powerful, sensory aromas that fill your nostrils and immediately transport you to a barrel room. I get the same sensation when nosing sherry, where the impact of barrel ageing is tangible.

How do you make a cask?

Oak selection is crucial. Why oak? It’s strong, but bendable, tightly grained, so watertight. There are hundreds of species of oak, but the most commonly used are quercus alba (American white oak), quercus robur and quercus petraea (European oak). Others include quercus crispula (Japanese mizunara). Each imparts its own signature.

Wood is first ‘quarter cut’ (against the grain) and kilned or air-dried to ensure 100% moisture evaporation and elimination of any nasties. It is then planed and smoothed into staves and the barrel is raised, held with temporary steel hoops. Staves are steamed, or heated, to allow them to be bent into place.

Before the heads and ends are secured toasting and charring occurs, which can intensify or release another layer of flavour. Toasting is where the cask is slowly heated, penetrating deep inside the wood. It breaks down lignin, which creates vanillin – the source of a whisky’s vanilla notes. A light toast will add some vanilla and nuttiness, with a heavier toast creating richer notes of toffee and caramel. Charring is a secondary process where the inside of a cask is set alight, but it impacts only the surface of the wood. It could be lightly or heavily charred, creating flavours and aromas of smoke, toast and tobacco.

For McDonald, much of his team’s work involves rejuvenating and repairing casks for further use, removing the old surface inside a cask and then re-toasting and charring depending on the distillery’s requirements. “Most of the experiments we do now are ways of improving wood maturation qualities,” he adds. “We try toasting at different temperatures to see what works best and have also experimented in end toasting.”

The cask is then fitted with permanent steel hoops and a bung hole is drilled in the widest stave.

The Balvenie_Dennis McBain, David Stewart, Ian McDonald.jpg RS

It’s a barrel of laughs at the Balvenie (from left Dennis McBain, David Stewart, and Ian McDonald)

Size does matter

The smaller the cask, the more of the liquid will be in contact with the wood, so its impact will be greater. This impact lessens the larger the cask becomes. Common casks, from small to large, include: quarter cask (45-50 litres); American standard barrel (190-200 litres); hogsheads (225-250 litres); barrique (250-300 litres); puncheon (450-500 litres); butt (475-500 litres); Port pipe (550-650 litres); and Madeira drum (600-650 litres).

A word on virgin and first-fill casks. Virgin casks are those that have never matured any liquid ever before. It’s a legal requirement for bourbon to be aged in virgin oak virgin casks. First-fill casks have never aged Scotch before, but may have aged sherry, Port of bourbon, for example. When used to age whisky subsequent times, it becomes a refill cask. Flavour and colour extraction lessens each time a cask is used, with second and third refill casks imparting a progressively lighter character.

The bourbon industry can’t reuse its casks, so first-fill ex-bourbon barrels are routinely shipped to the UK to age Scotch. Bourbon barrels must be charred by law. They are responsible for some of the vanilla, caramel, coconut and toffee aromas present in Scotch.

Cask finishes are a big deal

Most Scotch is aged in ex-bourbon or ex-sherry casks. But distillers will often ‘finish’ a whisky by transferring it to another barrel, previously used to age a different liquid, for a period of time, adding another layer of flavour. Experimentation in this field has grown immensely over the past decade. Some of the most common cask finishes include ex-Madeira, Marsala, Cognac or rum casks. Experimentation with (non-fortified) wine casks is also growing, with ex-Bordeaux, Sauternes and Moscatel barrels becoming popular.

A cask isn’t merely a vessel – it’s crucial to a spirit’s tapestry of flavours and aromas. A distiller might wield the paintbrush, but it’s the cooper who creates the canvas.

No Comments on The art of the cooper

The wonders of wine casks and whisky

As the popularity of ageing or finishing in wine casks continues to grow in the whisky industry, Millie Milliken takes a look at some of the latest experimental bottlings out…

As the popularity of ageing or finishing in wine casks continues to grow in the whisky industry, Millie Milliken takes a look at some of the latest experimental bottlings out there.

On a recent trip to the Spirit of Yorkshire Distillery alongside Master of Malt’s Adam O’Connell, I had the pleasure of trying York’s first single malt whisky finished in STR (shaved, toasted and re-charred) ex-red wine barriques from Rioja vineyards in sunny old Spain. Oak, spice, vanilla ice cream and chocolate were the resulting nosing and tasting notes – accompanied by vigorous nods and satisfied oohs and ahhs from my fellow tasters.

Wine casks and whisky are becoming more frequent bedfellows. As this article goes to press, Aberfeldy is set to release its new 18 year old finished in Côte Rôtie casks as part of its Red Wine Cask Collection (more on that later); while The Oxford Artisan Distillery has made its third Oxford Rye batch which has undergone a second maturation in Moscatel casks; and Tel Aviv’s Milk & Honey has launched its Apex White Wine Cask using Chardonnay casks from local winery Domaine du Castel.

The use of wine casks in whisky isn’t new, but it’s certainly a phenomenon that has grown over the last few decades. And while we might be increasingly au fait with ex-sweet wine casks being used in whisky production (PX sherry, Sauternes, Port), whisky distilleries are increasingly playing with red wines, white wines – and even orange wines – in their quest to produce liquids with a hybrid of whisky-and-wine characteristics.

Casks at the Lakes Distillery

Casks at the Lakes Distillery

Whole new world

“Over the last few years we’ve seen lots of new wine casks coming in because we’ve got young distilleries and while your house style might take years to develop lots of these younger distilleries are using these casks for a different flavour,” explains Mark Thomson, Glenfiddich brand ambassador. “We’ve all tried ex-bourbon, rum, sherry, but wine casks seem to be a real trend.”

So, why are we all lapping them up? And what’s the difference between ageing and finishing? For Thomson, a change in consumers’ palates is a factor when determining their growing taste for wine casks, with people moving away from those sherry bombs and peated whiskies towards lighter styles. “People also know wine – there’s a familiarity there,” he adds.

Stephanie MacLeod, master blender at Dewar’s Aberfeldy distillery, agrees: “Increasingly our whisky drinkers are not only interested in the flavour of the whisky that results from a wine cask finish, but also the provenance of the wine and our whisky drinkers also tend to be knowledgeable wine drinkers – a wine finish can satisfy both passions.”

Stephanie Macleod, master blender at Dewar's

Stephanie Macleod, master blender at Dewar’s

Ageing or finishing?

When it comes to ageing and finishing, you’re more likely to see the latter. This technique involving a second stage of ageing in a different cask often for just a matter of months came to the fore in the 1990s.

Which brings us back to that Aberfeldy 18 year old. It has spent 18 years in a combination of re-fill and re-char ex-bourbon casks, before being finished for six months in French red wine casks from Côte Rôtie – a Syrah-based wine from the Northern Rhone. 

“The process always begins with the casks – we often come across parcels of wine casks and other types of casks that we think might be interesting, and think how the character of the wine cask will interact with the character of the whisky,” explains MacLeod of how she begins the process.  “Once the casks arrive we nose each one to ensure that there are no off odours and then fill the casks with the chosen spirit. This is when sampling begins: at least once a month the casks are sampled and assessed – we look at colour, aroma and maturation related compounds. Once the aroma and colour starts to have an effect on the aroma and the appearance of the whisky, we either increase sampling or stop the finishing process because the purpose of finishing is always to complement and not to dominate the character of the whisky.”

The resulting liquid is red berries on the nose, like raspberry and redcurrants, followed by the softening of vanilla and butterscotch – what the team describe as being “deeply evocative of an Eton Mess”.

The Nightcap

Glenfiddich Grand Cru

Outside the cask

White wine casks are also used. In 2019 Glenfiddich’s first release in its Grand Series was the 23 year old single malt matured in sherry casks and finished for four months in French oak casks used for fermentation of wines that will become Champagne. Glenfiddich refer to them as ‘rare French cuvée oak casks’ because the wine was still so cannot legally be called Champagne. 

Thomson elaborated: “With the Grand Cru it is important to note that no sparkling wine was involved in any stage… When the Champagne industry makes their assemblage they take a selection of still wines from their growers and leave those wines for a period of time in cask… very few these casks were offered up to us from a cask broker, and have only ever contained still wine but the quality of the wine has been exceptional.”

For Thomson, the main difference between red and white cask finishing is unsurprisingly the level of tannins (with red wine casks producing more tannins in the whisky), followed closely by a drier note in the whisky as well. With white wine casks however, “you’ll get orchard fruits, or strawberry flavours which is interesting (although not all the time).”

Meanwhile, 2020 saw The Lakes Distillery release its The One Orange Wine cask, taking its The One blend (a blend of grain and malt Scotch whiskies from Speyside and Islay with The Lakes Single Malt at the centre), using first-fill American oak casks seasoned with Vino de Naranja – a white wine macerated with orange peels from Huelva in Andalucia. The result? Marmalade, butterscotch and dried tobacco on the nose, followed by candied oranges, tropical fruits with peat smoke and a buttery finish.

Bright future

So, what does the future of wine-cask ageing and finishing look like? “I have no idea,” Thomson says while also admitting that Glenfiddich has a number of experiments on the go involving wine – “but I couldn’t say”. What he is keen to impress though is that the distillery’s interest in wine casks is nothing to do with its growing trend but is an ongoing discovery for the brand.

For the team at Aberfeldy, while red wine casks from the old world have been their modus operandi to date, they are starting to experiment with new world styles. MacLeod also divulges that they are running trials at the moment on white wine, using the same approach to determine the perfect finishing period. And that’s all before the endless possibilities they have when it comes to the type of oak they use too. One style of wine will however, she thinks, remain on top: “I’m not convinced that sherry will ever be replaced in the hearts of whisky drinkers, but wine gives another dimension to the flavour of whisky – something which we are more than happy to explore.”

 

1 Comment on The wonders of wine casks and whisky

Top ten malt whiskies for Father’s Day

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

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

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

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

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

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

glenfiddich-15-year-old-solera-whisky

Glenfiddich 15 Solera

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

What does it taste like?

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

balvenie-doublewood-12-year-old-whisky

Balvenie DoubleWood 12 Year Old

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

What does it taste like?

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

bushmills-10-year-old-whiskey

Bushmills 10 Year Old 

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

What does it taste like?

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

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

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

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

What does it taste like?

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

cotswolds-single-malt-whisky

Cotswolds Single Malt Whisky

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

What does it taste like?

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

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

Highland Park 12 Year Old – Viking Honour

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

What does it taste like?

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

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

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

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

What does it taste like?

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

nikka-coffey-malt-whisky

Nikka Coffey Malt Whisky

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

What does it taste like?

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

masthouse-single-malt-whisky

Masthouse Single Malt

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

What does it taste like?

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

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

Bruichladdich Scottish Barley – The Classic Laddie

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

What does it taste like?

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

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

MoM Loves: Our exclusive Glenfiddich Tasting Collection!

Missing whisky tastings? Hankering after a distillery visit? We teamed up with Glenfiddich to put together a rather delectable, limited edition Glenfiddich Tasting Collection packed with some of its fanciest…

Missing whisky tastings? Hankering after a distillery visit? We teamed up with Glenfiddich to put together a rather delectable, limited edition Glenfiddich Tasting Collection packed with some of its fanciest expressions, including the new Glenfiddich Grande Couronne 26 Year Old! There will even be a series of virtual tastings, too…

We love a whisky tasting. And we love tasting sets! That’s why we have a whole load of them available (a way to experience a whole bunch of samples for less than the price of a bottle? Winning!). So when our pals at Scotch whisky distillery Glenfiddich got in touch about teaming up to create a really very special – and exclusive! – tasting set… Well, we were hardly going to decline!

Cracking Glenfiddich Tasting Collection contents

This one is especially cool (and, while we would say that, we do actually mean it). Not only is it filled to the brim with five different 30ml whiskies from the distillery, but it’s packed with tasty newness, too. You might have heard about a very special new release from the iconic Speyside producer. Last month, we got wind of a new addition to The Grand Series. Say hello to Grande Couronne!

It’s a 26 year old single malt that brings together Scotland and France through its production. And this is where we get super geeky, as Brian Kinsman, Glenfiddich’s malt master (what a job title!), explains.

“The Grand Series perfectly encapsulates Glenfiddich’s spirit of innovation and our ability to experiment with aged liquid and intriguing finishes,” he says.. “Grande Couronne is the latest to exemplify that approach. It is the only Glenfiddich single malt that has matured in American and European oak casks and finished in rare French Cognac casks. 

“The length of the finish, two years, is highly unusual and adds extra layers of sweet toasted oak and velvety aromas of café crème, brown sugar and soft spice.”

So far, so delectable. But it doesn’t stop there! The Glenfiddich Tasting Collection also features the other two drams in The Grand Series: Glenfiddich 21 Year Old Reserva Rum Cask Finish, and Glenfiddich Grand Cru 23 Year Old.

Glenfiddich Tasting Collection Set with drams

We love our exclusive Glenfiddich Tasting Collection!

A taste of Glenfiddich

We’re all about bringing the distillery to life as best as we can (seeing as we can’t actually visit right now), so there’s the classic Glenfiddich 18 Year Old in there, too, with the set completed by Glenfiddich Virgin Oak 2010. From innovative finishes to that classic distillery character, if you’re into your Speyside whiskies (or know someone who is!) we reckon it’s worth checking out. 

What’s also worth checking out are Glenfiddich’s live tastings, where brand ambassador Struan Grant Ralph will chat you through each dram in detail via the wonderful medium of Zoom. Tastings are set to take place on 8, 15, 22 and 29 April at 8pm UK time. Dial-in deets are in the box, along with your five drams!

Want in? The Glenfiddich Tasting Collection is available now, exclusively from us, while stocks last. (Once they’ve gone, they’ve really gone!)

No Comments on MoM Loves: Our exclusive Glenfiddich Tasting Collection!

Whisky Advent 2020 Day #11: Glenfiddich Experimental Series – IPA Cask Finish

On the 11th day of Advent, Drinks by the Dram decided to treat us with a category-crossing whisky that brings together the humble brew with the water of life. It’s…

On the 11th day of Advent, Drinks by the Dram decided to treat us with a category-crossing whisky that brings together the humble brew with the water of life. It’s Glenfiddich Experimental Series – IPA Cask Finish!

It’s Friday! Or ‘Fri-yay’ if you’re posting on Instagram, which you may well be – and don’t forget to tune into #WhiskyAdvent if you are. Anyway, there’s lots of reasons today is a ‘yay’ rather than just simply a ‘day’. But the main one is that there’s yet another delicious dram squirrelled away in your Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar! Beer lovers, whisky lovers, it’s time for you to put your differences aside and come together with this top release from Glenfiddich, finished for three months in casks which previously held IPA. Is that a ‘yay’ we can hear? Of course it is.

Called Glenfiddich Experimental Series – IPA Cask Finish, it was released as part of the Speyside distillery’s Experimental Series – it’s not every day you see beer and whisky coming together so literally. We turned to brand ambassador Mark Thomson (whose official title is ‘ambassador to Scotland – Glenfiddich Single Malt Whisky’, which is awesome but must be hard to fit on a business card) to chat about this unique release, the year that was, and his favourite Christmas sipper!

whisky advent glenfiddich ipa cask

It’s Mark Thomson, everyone! Where can we get a tasting glass like that?

Master of Malt: An IPA-finished whisky! Can you talk us through this release?

Mark Thomson: Sounds strange doesn’t it? Well, we’ve had a long history of experimenting with whisky at Glenfiddich and this particular release fitted into our Experimental range launched in 2016. It came around from a conversation between a brewer and Brian Kinsman, our malt master. Rather than taking a beer cask, we infused a cask at Glenfiddich which had already contained our whisky with a bespoke-brewed hoppy ale. Then removed it from the cask and added back Glenfiddich whisky to allow a conversation between the two creations to begin. It’s a light style of Glenfiddich in general, being fully matured in American oak, there is sweetness with classic fruit notes. However, the influence of the ale is not lost with a hoppy, zesty overtone and delicious lingering aftertaste. It’s perfect enjoyed on its own, but I often find myself pairing it with a beer on the side. A traditional serve known as a Hauf ‘n Hauf in Scotland.  

MoM: You can only pick either beer or whisky – which one is it?

MT: Whisky of course, because it’s always appealing to me, can be mixed into cocktails or lengthened into a highball. Far more flexible than beer if I was to be forced down such a path – you have to play the long game. 

MoM: What was a 2020 highlight for Glenfiddich?

MT: I suppose in any other normal year it would be difficult to choose because we are always forging ahead with new releases, activations or events. As we all know, this year wasn’t anything close to “normal”. So I’d say our highlight was the charity drive we did over the year with fundraising events, challenges and auctions. Our own Standfast programme which was set up to support the hospitality workers of the UK to raise £300k and we are still coming up with other initiatives to support charities such as the Benevolent in Scotland and the Drinks Trust elsewhere in the UK. In addition to this, the ambassadors of William Grant & Sons all made a huge effort to support hospitality workers wherever possible. Even if that was simply having a coffee (safely) and letting them voice their concerns and worries. 

whisky advent glenfiddich ipa cask

Gaze upon the actual Glenfiddich distillery.

MoM: Can we expect more releases along these beer-y lines from Glenfiddich?

MT: Perhaps not so much beer related, but you never know. Brian has a number of experiments maturing in the warehouses of Glenfiddich and the Experimental Series was always a playground for us to try new things. We aim to always have three releases available in the series -there have been four so far, however Winter Storm, a 21 year old finished in Canadian ice wine casks, was a limited edition. There should have been a new release in the series for 2020, but we’ve popped that back in the warehouse for now until things return or settle to a new normal. Keep an eye out over the next year to 18 months for some new and exciting Glenfiddich releases. But I’m afraid my lips are sealed for now on what those may be.

MoM: Which Glenfiddich dram will we find you enjoying at Christmas?

MT: I’ll be celebrating Christmas this year with an indulgent drop of our luxurious Grand Cru whisky. A 23 yr old Glenfiddich allowed to rest for a time in French cuvée wine casks before being bottled. It’s fast becoming one of my favourite available whiskies in our range. The character is quite unlike anything else we have out at the moment. The whisky, before hitting those final French oak casks, is already delightful with a subtle sweet/salty note, delicate floral elements and classic Glenfiddich white fruit. Then it is elevated into an incredibly complex yet approachable whisky by those fabulous French casks. Quite simply, a perfect whisky for any celebration, not just Christmas.

whisky advent glenfiddich ipa cask

Tasting Note from the Chaps at Master of Malt

Nose: An elegant harmony of fresh green apple, William’s pear and spring blossom. Complimented with aromatic hops and fresh herbs.

Palate: Vibrant with a zesty citrus note followed by creamy vanilla and a hint of fresh hops.

Finish: Enduring sweetness with an echo of green hops.

 

No Comments on Whisky Advent 2020 Day #11: Glenfiddich Experimental Series – IPA Cask Finish

The Nightcap: 27 November

On the Nightcap this week we applaud some forward-thinking brands, celebrate 750 years of Frapin and look at some intriguing new releases, including one made to honour Her Majesty… This…

On the Nightcap this week we applaud some forward-thinking brands, celebrate 750 years of Frapin and look at some intriguing new releases, including one made to honour Her Majesty…

This week there was presumably plenty happening in the worlds that exist outside of booze, no doubt misery-filled and relentless bits of news about how terrible everything is. But here at MoM Towers, this was a good week. A great week, in fact. Because he’s back: Whisky Santa has returned! That’s right, the dram-loving do-gooder is here once again to give away £250,000 worth of booze in the name of Christmas cheer! You know the drill, get wishing now and you could get everything you want this year with just the click of a button. 

Being the lovely omniscient, festive, heavily-bearded thing he is, he’s already popped up on the MoM Blog this week to name his first Super Wish: a £1,500 bourbon from Woodford Reserve! And there are even more bargains to be found in our Black Friday 2020 sale. Was November always this busy?  Elsewhere, Adam virtually ventured to Mexico to the country’s first whisky distillery and then turned our MoM-branded spotlight on Satryna Tequila, while Annie also cast her eye on another fine Central American brand, the family-owned Flor de Caña. Jess then explored how you can get your cocktail fix without even leaving your home as Henry enjoyed the rumification of a burger joint classic, a new Springbank whisky so good it sold out before you could say ‘Hey, look everyone, new Springbank!’ and then put together a list of ten of his favourite budget-friendly bottles of Scotch. Hey, speaking of Scotch… 

The Nightcap

Michelle Dockery “being both feminine and strong, while enjoying whisky.” Photo credit: Misan Harriman

Glenfiddich challenges stereotypes in campaign with Michelle Dockery

Giants of the category Glenfiddich has announced this week that it plans to use its prominent position to “progress the perception of whisky to new audiences” and break the mould to “encourage greater gender inclusivity”, which we like the sound of very much. The Speyside distillery has launched a new campaign featuring the award-winning actress Michelle Dockery, star of Downton Abbey and The Gentlemen in a shoot that attempted to reimagine the whisky imagery through a contemporary lens, with each image chosen to reflect a modern woman making her own choices. The whisky featured was Glenfiddich Grand Cru 23-Year-Old, which you can find here. “I am thrilled to be a part of Glenfiddich’s new campaign which celebrates mavericks. That’s what drove me to be a part of this latest campaign,” Dockery said. “The shoot is authentic, it reflects a modern woman making her own choices: being both feminine and strong, while enjoying whisky.” While more and more women are making whisky their drink of choice and working in the industry, the sad truth is that too many still see it as a man’s drink, which marketing companies and campaigns can address. It’s good to see Glenfiddich do that here.

The Nightcap

Cheers to another 750 years!

Frapin celebrates 750 years with vintage Cognac

Cognac house Frapin is celebrating 750 years in the business. 750 years! The first Frapin recorded was a vine grower called Albert Frapin way back in 1270. At the time the Cognac region would have been part of the Duchy of Aquitaine, a possession of the English crown. Ah, happy days! Anyway, Frapin is celebrating in the most appropriate way possible by releasing some fine Cognacs. These include the Château Fontpinot XO 750, and a special vintage Cognac. No, not from 1270, that would be ridiculous. No, it’s a 40-year-old from 1979. This is the first vintage that the house ever released, in 1988. One cask, however, was kept back to be bottled at a later date. Cellar master Patrice Piveteau commented: “A limited edition of only 180 bottles coming from one cask jealously kept since four decades in our dry cellars…” He went on to describe the taste as “going off like a firework. Pow!” We were fortunate enough to be given a sample and can only concur. It’s an impossibly complex Cognac and we’re delighted to have some in stock. But that’s not all, we also have the 1992, 1990, and 1988. Why not collect the set? 

The Nightcap

The rum has just arrived at MoM Towers and we’re happy to say we’re big fans

La Hechicera releases rum aged in banana casks 

We sampled a delightfully distinctive rum this week with La Hechicera for the launch of the second expression in its ‘Experimental’ range. Led by co-founder and managing director Miguel Riascos, we enjoyed the playful new limited-edition bottling, which is a blend of rums aged up to 21 years in American white oak barrels that were infused with organic sun-dried banana flesh before being bottled at 41% ABV. It pays homage to the brand’s history as three generations of the Riascos family’s original traded bananas, before moving in to the rum business. “Serie Experimental No. 2 is an amazing liquid that we are proud to share with the world,” said Riascos. “Rum is a category that is continuing to gain popularity and Serie Experimental No. 2 is a unique product that will help drive interest in the category by recruiting new consumers to the category and offering rum consumers something new.” We very much enjoyed our tasting, it’s a beautifully balanced rum, mixing refined sweetness of vanilla, toffee and hazelnut with notes of freshly baked banana bread, coffee, tobacco, dark chocolate and some salty minerality. If you fancy trying it for yourself, Serie Experimental No. 2 is available from MoM Towers now!.

Diageo launches ten-year sustainability action plan 

Diageo has announced this week a range of 25 bold goals as part of its ‘Society 2030: Spirit of Progress’ plan. Designed to make a positive impact on the world by 2030, Diageo has broken down its ambitions into several achievable key goals. The first is to reach 1 billion people with messages of moderation, partly through ‘SMASHED’, its award-winning alcohol education awareness programme, and to increase representation by ensuring that, by 2030, 45% of its leaders are from ethnically diverse backgrounds and 50% are women. Diageo has also committed to working towards a low-carbon future by harnessing 100% renewable energy to achieve net-zero carbon emissions across direct operations, making sure 100% of its packaging will be widely recyclable and making every drink it produces with 30% less water to make than it does today to achieve a net positive water impact. Alongside the ‘Society 2030: Spirit of Progress’ plan, Diageo has also introduced Sustainable Solutions, a global platform that will provide non-equity funding to start-up and technology companies in order to help Diageo continue to embed sustainability in its supply chain and brands. “As a global business, we are committed to playing our part to protect the future of our planet and to leading the way for others to follow,” CEO Ivan Menezes said. “I am immensely proud of Diageo’s sustainability and responsibility achievements to date, and this new, ambitious action plan will challenge us even further to deliver more over the critical decade to 2030.” 

The Nightcap

Is this the go-to gin glass?

Glencairn presents the gin goblet

You probably know Glencairn as the brand behind the official glass for whisky, which sells over 65,000 units every week around the world, but the family-owned crystal glassware company has now set its sights on the world of gin too. Responding to the huge rise in the popularity of the spirit in recent years and consumer demand for a dedicated gin glass, Glencairn used its Mixer Glass, originally developed in consultation with the Canadian whisky industry, as a starting point and adapted it make something that considered the needs of the gin drinker, bar staff and distillers. The result? The Gin Goblet. The new glass has plenty of classic Glencairn features you’d expect, it’s made from crystal to enhance the clarity of the drink, it’s curvy in shape to help focus and enhance aroma and it was designed to require less ice, meaning that your gin doesn’t become too diluted. “At Glencairn we are proud of our innovative history, having been at the forefront of ground-breaking crystal design and creation for nearly forty years,” says Scott Davidson, new product development director. “We always strive to listen and respond to customer demand with the ultimate aim of enhancing the spirit lover’s drinking experience. We hope that we have delivered the perfect glass for gin lovers worldwide.” Sounds like the perfect present. If only there was some gift-giving occasion coming up…

The Nightcap

We love this gorgeous new drink and travel magazine. Great work, guys!

New drink magazine is just the Tonic

A couple of weeks ago we announced the sad news of the demise of Imbibe, so we were especially pleased when we received a copy of a brand new magazine called Tonic. It’s a drinks magazine with a difference, you won’t find articles about Glenmorangie’s newest expression or quotes from Miles Beale from the WSTA. Instead, it combines travel and drinks writing with gorgeous photography and very high production values. As well as hardened drink professionals like Imbibe founder Chris Losh, Will Hawkes, Claire Dodd and our very own Henry Jeffreys, there’s more off-beat stuff such as Douglas Rogers on how his parents tried to start a vineyard in Zimbabwe, Father Thomas Plant on holy wine, and Juliet Rix on boozing in North Korea.  It’s edited by travel writer Tristan Rutherford, and the publishing team are Robert Ellison and Benita Finanzio. They wrote: “The genesis of Tonic is our fondness for convivial, communal experiences with friends and strangers alike, sharing drinks and stories.” Just what we need in these difficult times when many of us can’t even go to the pub. We can’t wait for the next issue.

The Nightcap

Look out for this beauty, it will be at MoM Towers soon…

Coming soon: Glen Moray Sauternes Cask expression

It just doesn’t stop over at Elgin distillery Glen Moray. Head of whisky creation Dr Kirstie McCallum is always hunting around the warehouses for rare and unusual barrels to release as limited editions. Now it’s the turn of some Sauternes casks. This latest release is made up of five special sweet Bordeaux French oak barrels, filled in 2006 and left for 14 years. It’s bottled at cask strength with none of that chill-filtering or colour added. McCallum commented: ‘We’re very proud to be releasing our Sauternes Cask Matured expression in time for the festive season – and as the first whisky in our new Warehouse 1 Collection. This is an absolute cracker of a dram, and a perfect marriage of Glen Moray’s spirit with all the rich, deliciously sweet flavours you would enjoy in a glass of Sauternes. It’s a real celebration of flavour and Glen Moray’s passion for unusual cask maturation.” We have to agree with the good doc, the marmalade and spice character from the Sauternes casks is indeed a happy fit with the fruity Glen Moray style. Just 1248 bottles have been filled and as usual with these rare Glen Moray releases, it’s a bit of a bargain with an RRP of £79.95. Watch the New Arrivals page for its imminent arrival at Master of Malt.

The Nightcap

The brand says the plans will ensure The Old Mill is at “the heart of the Kilmacthomas community once again”

Another new Irish whiskey distillery is on the way

It appears that not even a global pandemic can slow down the growth of the Irish whiskey industry as another new distillery is reported to be in the works. Gortinore Distillers, which was co-founded by Aidan Mehigan, along with two friends and his father and markets the Irish whiskey brand Natterjack, has revealed in a post on the brand’s Facebook that it has been granted planning approval for the construction of the €8 million project, which will entail renovating The Old Mill in Kilmacthomas, County Waterford. Gortinore Distillers acquired the lease of the building, which started life as a woollen mill in the 1850s and was later the home to Flahavan’s Irish porridge, back in 2016 and plan to install three copper pot stills and create warehouse space to store whiskey casks. A visitor centre, also said to be in the works, will add further value to the local tourism industry. Once complete, the distillery will have the capacity to produce one million bottles every year and will create 15 full-time jobs. “We are delighted to say that we have been granted planning approval for a distillery to be built at the site of The Old Mill in Kilmacthomas, Co. Waterford. It has been a long process, but big plans deserve big consideration and we are honoured to be taking this stunning piece of history on its next adventure,” Gortinore Distillers announced in the Facebook post. “We may have big plans, but the premises, sitting on the banks of the River Mahon in County Waterford already has a story all of its own.”

The Nightcap

Congratulations, Michael!

Michael Urquhart appointed as 2021 president of IWSC

Former Gordon & MacPhail managing director Michael Urquhart has taken up a high-profile industry position after being named the 2021 president of the prestigious International Wine & Spirit Competition (IWSC). He replaces 2020 president Tamara Roberts, CEO of English wine producer Ridgeview, and is tasked with promoting the production of quality wines and spirits throughout the world. Urquhart retired as managing director of Elgin-based Gordon & MacPhail, the fourth-generation business owned by the Urquhart family, in 2014 and stepped down from the board in 2017 after serving over 36 years in the company. In 1999 when he was made a Keeper of the Quaich and in 2012 a Master of the Quaich in recognition of services to the promotion of Scotch whisky worldwide. “It’s a real privilege, and I’m humbled, to be chosen as president of such a prestigious organisation as the IWSC. “I’ve always had the greatest respect for the IWSC and the excellent work it does in maintaining and developing the high-quality reputation of the global wine and spirits industry,” Michael Urquhart said. “I’m very much looking forward to getting behind the IWSC and ensuring it continues to work in the best interests of the entire industry.”

The Nightcap

The Queen is known to be a gin lover, but this is getting a bit much

And finally… the Royal Family gets another gin!

The Royal Family really do love their gin. Not only is Charles partial to a Martini and the Queen a Gin & Dubonnet, but both launched their own brands this year, Highgrove Gin and Buckingham Palace Gin (see Nightcap 17 July) Well, now it seems that two gins are not enough because we have just learned about the arrival of a Sandringham Celebration Gin. It’s made on the Norfolk estate by local distiller Whatahoot using botanicals from the gardens including sharon fruit and myrtle. Apparently, it is “a full-bodied gin with rich juniper tones and a lingering citrus finish” and the price is suitably regal too, £50 for a 50cl, available direct from the estate. So what next for the gin-loving Royal Family? A Balmoral gin? Or perhaps Harry and Meghan will ape their LA celebrity pals with the release of a Sussex Tequila. Watch this space!

No Comments on The Nightcap: 27 November

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