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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Glenfiddich

The Nightcap: 6 September

Super cereal, whisky drawn from sparkling wine casks, and… Brussels sprout gin?! All this and more, this week on The Nightcap! When September rolls around, there’s something in the back…

Super cereal, whisky drawn from sparkling wine casks, and… Brussels sprout gin?! All this and more, this week on The Nightcap!

When September rolls around, there’s something in the back of our heads that says we should be stockpiling things. Maybe it’s a leftover from when humans used to be squirrels (pretty sure that’s how evolution works), but the urge to stockpile summery gubbins is in the air – otherwise we won’t get to enjoy them until June next year! You should see the stack of flip-flops, salad that inexplicably contains more grapes than leaves, and those tiny paper cocktail umbrellas we have amassed at MoM Towers. What we’re not stockpiling is booze news – we share all the stories from the world of drink with you in The Nightcap each week! Let’s get to it!

On the blog this week we launched a new competition with Mackmyra that gives you chance to win your own maturing cask of soon-to-be-whisky! We then gave you an exclusive video tour around Glenfiddich Distillery, including the Robbie Dhu Spring water source, the still house, the bottling process, as well as the maltings and the role of copper at The Balvenie Distillery. Elsewhere, Kristy regaled us with tales from Kyrö Distillery, Ian Buxton put on his sceptic’s hat and pondered the future of Chinese single malt and Annie returned to give us five essential tips to make the most of our distillery tours. Henry, meanwhile, chose the intriguing Hayman’s Small Gin to be our New Arrival of the Week before doing his best Fancy Dan impression by making The Made in Chelsea Coupe our Cocktail of the Week. For Dram Club members, we also revealed what to expect from September 2019.

But there’s still more boozy news to cover, and there’s no time to lose! It’s The Nightcap…

The Nightcap

Dr Peter Morris and Dr Ross Alexander working on the potential miracle barley

Gene for drought-resistant cereal discovered in Scotland

Scientists at Heriot-Watt University have uncovered a gene that helps drought resistance in crops which could be of huge benefit to the Scotch whisky industry. According to the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) which funded the research, 90% of the barley used in Scotch whisky comes from Scotland. The results which were published in Plant Physiology and Biochemistry showed that a particular gene, HvMYB1, controls stress tolerance in barley. Dr Peter Morris from Heriot-Watt University said: “This is a significant finding that will allow more drought resistance crops to be bred in the future. Drought is already impacting yields with the European cereals harvest hit particularly hard in 2018. A prolonged, dry and hot summer significantly impacted yields and quality. As climate change gathers pace and we experience more extreme seasons, it is essential that we can maintain continuity of supply. This is significant for key industries like Scotch whisky, one of the UK’s leading export items.” It was the result of over five years work, because, Morris went on to say, “barley has over 39,000 genes, almost double the number for humans, so characterising one particular gene which promotes drought resistance has been a considerable challenge.” Dagmar Droogsma, director of industry at the Scotch Whisky Association, commented: “The SWA works closely with specialists at Heriot-Watt University, and others in the sector, to ensure that the industry is equipped to adapt to any changes that may arise from a changing climate. We, therefore, welcome this research which helps to provide resilience against the effects of climate change and to sustain the diversity of barley varieties used for Scotch whisky.” So as the planet warms up, at least there will still be Scotch whisky, which is a comfort.

The Nightcap

Glenfiddich Grand Cru will be arriving at MoM Towers very soon!

Glenfiddich’s new premium malt has a sparkling heritage

Some companies launch a new whisky. Not Glenfiddich, its latest release “redefines celebrations.” How does it do that, you might ask? Well, it’s got pedigree, that’s for sure. Called Grand Cru, it is 23 years old, matured in European and American oak, and then finished in “rare French cuvée oak casks”. These casks “contained the liquid that goes on to become some of the world’s most extraordinary sparkling wines.” We think they mean Champagne. Only very few houses, including Bollinger, Roederer and Krug, still use oak so these casks are likely to have held some exceptional liquid. Why is Glenfidicch being so coy then? Well, the wine in the barrels was still and therefore not legally allowed to be called Champagne. Glenfiddich malt master, Brian Kinsman, commented: “Breaking category conventions once more, this unusual collaboration presented an exciting opportunity to create a spirit that further elevated our unique Glenfiddich style. We experimented with the maturation time and hand-selected the right balance of 23-year-old Glenfiddich casks out of our unique collection of old age malts. The further influence from the oak of the French cuvée casks added an extra layer of complexity thanks to the liquid they once held”. So this is a premium malt meets Grand Cru Champagne which, if not exactly “redefining celebrations”, certainly sounds swanky. RRP is £220; stock should be landing at your favourite online retailer 20 September.

The Nightcap

This geographical protection is huge for Irish whiskey and brands like Tullamore D.E.W.

Irish whiskey secures geographical protection for the Indian market.

Good news for Irish whiskey as it has secured geographical protection for the Indian market. This is the world’s largest whisky market with over 2.3 billion bottles sold last year (though much of what is called whisky would be labelled rum in Britain as it’s distilled from molasses). Thanks to this agreement, now only whiskeys from Ireland can bear the legend “Irish Whiskey” on the label. This is great news for the Indian whiskey drinker and, of course, for the rapidly-expanding Irish whiskey industry. Carleen Madigan, legal advisor to the Irish Whiskey Association said: “Securing the geographical indication for Irish Whiskey in India is another landmark for the Irish Whiskey category. Like similar registrations achieved earlier in the year in Australia and South Africa, this is another major success in our efforts to protect the integrity of Irish Whiskey on a worldwide basis. We will now be able to take much tougher enforcement action against fake Irish whiskey products on sale in India. This protection will also enable us to maximise opportunities to increase sales in this crucial whiskey market as it is an important selling point for the Indian consumer knowing they can enjoy Irish Whiskey confident in the quality and authenticity of the product”. India is still a relatively untapped market for Irish whiskey, only 34,000 cases were sold in India, double the previous year but a long way behind Scotland at nearly 10 million cases sold. This geographical protection should see sales take off.

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Larissa Marrichi, Finbarr Curran and the two new experimental whiskeys

This year’s Method and Madness whiskeys from Irish Distillers are the maddest yet

The Method and Madness series of releases from Irish Distillers is a chance for the team at Midleton to let their hair down and go a bit mad in the on-site microdistillery. This year’s two releases are particularly envelope-pushing, game-changing and mind-blowing as they are part-aged in wood that isn’t oak. Utter madness! Both are single pot still whiskeys, one finished in cherry wood and one in acacia. Cherry wood, sourced from France, is particularly porous resulting in some big bold flavours. Kevin O’Gorman, master of maturation at Midleton Distillery, commented: “The rare, porous wood is different to anything that we have handled before, so it has been a real achievement to create the perfect balance of flavour – the result is a world-first in Irish whiskey, with a nose of coconut fibre and ginger, a palate of fresh green herbs, black tea and unmistakable pot still spices and a long, fresh finish with prickly spice and hazelnut.” Acacia is quite the opposite, having a tight grain. Finbarr Curran, from the maturation research team explained: “The density of the acacia wood presented a challenge in contrast to the wild cherry wood as the maturation process was much slower and required a close eye and nose to achieve the perfect balance. But it was well worth the wait. This stunning single pot still Irish whiskey has a nose of sugared almonds and wood spice, a palate of coffee beans, dark chocolate and chilli and a finish with fading spice, charred wood and barley husk.”The releases will be on sale for RRP of €92. We’ll let you know when they come in.

The Nightcap

Trois Rivières and La Mauny are produced on the island paradise of Martinique

Campari purchases Trois Rivières and La Mauny

The Campari Group has signed an agreement with Chevrillon Group to buy French firm Rhumantilles for a cool $66 million USD. Rhumantilles owns 96.5% of Martinique-based Bellonnie & Bourdillon Successeurs (BBS) Group, which produces the Trois Rivières and Maison La Mauny brands, as well as Duquesne rum, which is made for the local market. The deal not only includes those brands, but also the landholdings, the distilleries, the visitor centres and the inventory of high-quality aged rum, adding to the Italian spirits giant’s already considerable rum portfolio which includes the fantastic Appleton Distillery in Jamaica. The company, who said the deal was expected to close during the fourth quarter of this year in a statement released this week, clearly believe in the future of rhum agricole, which already boasts a strong reputation among spirits fans, but still occupies a tiny share of global rum production. The injection of Campari’s financial and marketing could prove a huge boost for the category. Campari said the move would “add prestigious agricole rum brands to its offering and enhance its exposure to rum, a premiumizing category currently at the heart of the mixology trend and growing cocktail culture.”

The Nightcap

We sail, for rum and country more rum!

Captain Morgan brings the highs seas to Birmingham

Ahoy there rum lovers! We bring you news of a rather exciting nautical adventure. Over in Birmingham, Bompas & Parr has joined forces with Captain Morgan to curate the Lost Lagoon, an immersive and boozy treasure hunt inspired by none other than the buccaneer Captain Henry Morgan himself. Those who choose to explore this mysterious land (or sea) can expect cocktails while they sail through an indoor ocean past a series of islands. In true naval style, at each island they’ll be given rum rations and instructions on how to make a swashbuckling punch. The ultimate goal? To use your wits to eventually find Captain Morgan’s hidden bounty, which (spoiler) is a tiki bar full of delicious rum and nibbles. The aquatic adventure is based at Bullring & Grand Central, running from 26 September to 22 December. “Expect a mix between your best desert island fantasy with punch quests and neo-tiki party vibes,” says Bompas & Parr’s Harry Parr. We hope your nautical navigation skills are up to scratch.

The Nightcap

Littlemill 29 Year Old

Littlemill and Glencairn join forces for latest Private Cellar Collection bottling

Littlemill’s Private Cellar collection has produced some stellar expressions and this latest bottling should prove no exception. Littlemill 29 Year Old, the third release from the series, was crafted by master blender Michael Henry from liquid selected from some of the last remaining casks to be laid down at the Littlemill Distillery, which was recently recognised as the oldest licensed distillery in Scotland. The distillery fell silent in 1994 and was destroyed by fire in 2004, making this liquid rare and highly collectable. Only 600 bottles will be released across the world. The bottling, which is said to possess the traditional Lowland floral profile, is also notable for its presentation, a limited edition bespoke Glencairn decanter. Glencairn worked closely with Littlemill on every detail, which includes an etched illustration of the River Clyde and a silver star signifying the Littlemill distillery’s location. Each decanter is one of a kind and is individually-numbered. The presentation box also includes a 5cl miniature of the liquid, a piece of an original Littlemill cask, and a booklet sharing the history of the Littlemill distillery with tasting notes from Henry, who commented on the release: “The latest expression in the Private Cellar collection helps to tell another piece of the Littlemill story. Littlemill has always represented the traditional Lowland ‘floral’ style, and over the years the distillation and maturation processes evolved to maintain this flavour profile”. He added: “Littlemill 29 year old, our 2019 release, focuses on the influence of wood. The original liquid was laid down in refill bourbon casks in 1990. Seven of these were selected and combined, then finished in first-fill oloroso sherry and Limousin oak casks. The oloroso sherry adds further floral notes, similar to the traditional sherry casks used at the Littlemill distillery, while the Limousin oak provides the European oak influence. The result is unmistakably Littlemill, with delicious caramel sweetness layered with spice.”

The Nightcap

The Coral Room is celebrating Sete de Setembro in style!

The Coral Room celebrates Brazilian Independence Day with Capucana Cachaça

Brazilian Independence Day has made its way over to London, more specifically, The Coral Room! The Brazilian national holiday, commonly referred to as Sete de Setembro (for those of you who aren’t so familiar with Portuguese, also known as Seventh of September) commemorates Brazil’s independence, won in 1815 after three years of war against Portugal. Hence why, on 7 September, the bar has teamed up with Capucana Cachaça to put on a lavish celebration of cocktails, DJs and sambaing (yes, it’s a word). The selection of drinks takes its inspiration from the vibrant colours of the Brazilian flag, so expect a thoroughly colourful and delicious evening. It’s not all just fun and games, as The Coral Room will also be donating £1 from every Brazilian Independence Day cocktail to Rainforest Alliance. Good times and good causes. Make sure you don’t miss out on the after party at The Bloomsbury Club either. Dia Da Independence is sure to be a night to remember!

The Nightcap

Jagermeister Cold Brew Coffee is the first new permanent addition to the brand in 80 years

Introducing Jagermeister Cold Brew Coffee

Jägermeister just can’t seem to keep itself away from caffeinated drinks! The latest release from the German brand is perhaps somewhat more refined than the iconic Jägerbomb, but also (hopefully) won’t be replacing your morning brew. Enter Jägermeister Cold Brew Coffee. The first new permanent addition to the brand in 80 years, the new liqueur sees the original secret Jägermeister recipe paired with cold-brewed Arabica coffee and a dash of cacao. In classic Jägermeister style, the recommended serve is straight from the freezer at a frosty -18°C. “Coffee has become such a huge part of everyday consumer culture,” says UK innovation controller (someone’s got to control the innovation, don’t want it getting out of hand), Tim Hawley. “Jägermeister Cold Brew Coffee is perfect for moments of celebration in or out of the home, offering an intricate coffee flavour profile complemented by the classic Jägermeister taste – served perfectly as an ice-cold shot.” Did you know the translation of the Italian word ‘barista’ is ‘barman’? Seems pretty fitting!

The Nightcap

There is no caption that can do this picture justice. I retire.

And finally. . . . Brussels sprout-flavoured gin? Don’t all rush at once

We’ve seen some strange spirits here at MoM, like whiskey flavoured with beaver glands or vodka distilled from milk, but the latest release from Pickering’s Gin might be the strangest yet. Looking to cash in on the Christmas market the distillery has launched six festive gins including one flavoured with Brussels sprouts. Yes really, everyone’s least favourite part of Christmas (apart from the now traditional Brexit discussion) is one of the botanicals. Over 10,000 of the little blighters have been used to create this batch limited edition. Matt Gammell, head distiller and co-founder said: “It was an interesting challenge trying to balance the unmistakable flavour of Brussels sprouts to get the taste just right – and the distillery had a very distinct aroma while the gin was being distilled!” Apparently the resulting gin has a uniquely “sprouty” flavour. Gammel added: “We love the end result and it is the ideal tipple for friends and family to share together this Christmas”. Well perhaps, if you don’t want them to visit next year.

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Discover the role of copper at The Balvenie Distillery!

Copper plays a vital role in whisky-making. As part of the European Bartender School’s Scotch Whisky Expedition, we explore just how influential the element is up at The Balvenie Distillery!…

Copper plays a vital role in whisky-making. As part of the European Bartender School’s Scotch Whisky Expedition, we explore just how influential the element is up at The Balvenie Distillery!

Denis McBain has spent an incredible 60 years working as a coppersmith at The Balvenie. We check out the importance of his craft and get all kinds of geeky with the European Bartender School’s Scotch Whisky Expedition programme. 

Want to know more about the next EBS Scotch Whisky Expedition? Check out the educator’s website for all the deets!

Balvenie Distillery

The Balvenie Distillery

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Discover the bottling process at Glenfiddich!

We join the European Bartender School’s Scotch Whisky Expedition for a behind-the-scenes tour around the bottling plant at Speyside’s Glenfiddich Distillery! It may not be the most glamorous part of…

We join the European Bartender School’s Scotch Whisky Expedition for a behind-the-scenes tour around the bottling plant at Speyside’s Glenfiddich Distillery!

It may not be the most glamorous part of the whisky-producing process, but we’d struggle to get our mitts on the good stuff if there were no bottling lines. As part of the European Bartender School’s Scotch Whisky Expedition, we check out the operations up at Glenfiddich Distillery, with dry good coordinator Steven Leighton.

Want to fully immerse yourself in the wonderful world of whisky with the EBS Scotch Whisky Expedition? Head to the website now!

Glenfiddich Distillery

Glenfiddich Distillery

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Discover the still house at Glenfiddich Distillery!

It’s where the magic happens: wash turns into spirit in the Glenfiddich still house! We explore the magnificent distillation space as part of the European Bartender School’s Scotch Whisky Expedition!…

It’s where the magic happens: wash turns into spirit in the Glenfiddich still house! We explore the magnificent distillation space as part of the European Bartender School’s Scotch Whisky Expedition!

We join the European Bartender School’s Scotch Whisky Expedition to go behind the scenes at Glenfiddich Distillery, including inside the majestic still house. The distillery’s archivist James Roberts spills all the deets. 

Like what you see and want to secure your spot on the next EBS Scotch Whisky Expedition? Check out the educator’s website!

Glenfiddich Distillery (1)

The still house at Glenfiddich

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Discover the maltings at The Balvenie Distillery!

In the spring, we joined the European Bartender School (EBS) to go behind the scenes at Speyside’s Glenfiddich Distillery, including the maltings at the neighbouring Balvenie! With only seven distilleries…

In the spring, we joined the European Bartender School (EBS) to go behind the scenes at Speyside’s Glenfiddich Distillery, including the maltings at the neighbouring Balvenie!

With only seven distilleries in Scotland operating their own maltings, it’s always a treat to check out the process. We join EBS’s Scotch Whisky Expedition and get geeky about all things barley up at Glenfiddich and Balvenie with archivist James Roberts!

Want in? Check out the EBS website to secure your place on the next Scotch Whisky Expedition!

Malt shovel in action

Malt shovel in action

 

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Discover the Robbie Dhu Spring water source at Glenfiddich!

Earlier this year we joined the European Bartender School (EBS) for a good nose around Glenfiddich Distillery. First stop? That all-important water source… Water is a critical Scotch whisky ingredient…

Earlier this year we joined the European Bartender School (EBS) for a good nose around Glenfiddich Distillery. First stop? That all-important water source…

Water is a critical Scotch whisky ingredient – along with malted barley and yeast. We joined the European Bartender School’s Scotch Whisky Expedition to check out Glenfiddich Distillery for a week of whisky-making and learning, starting with that all-important water source. For Glenfiddich, it’s the Robbie Dhu Spring. Lorna Woodcock, environmental chemist for Glenfiddich, Balvenie and Kininvie Distillery, showed us around!

Fancy joining the next EBS Scotch Whisky Expedition? Check out the educator’s website to secure your place!

Glenfiddich Distillery at night.

The Glenfiddich Distillery looking all lovely by night

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Drinks billionaires – keeping it in the family

Today Ian Buxton takes a closer look at some of the illustrious families of the drinks industry such as the Haigs, Bacardis and Ricards, and reveals which great brands are…

Today Ian Buxton takes a closer look at some of the illustrious families of the drinks industry such as the Haigs, Bacardis and Ricards, and reveals which great brands are still in family hands.

Do you ever wonder who might raise a glass to you when you, to coin a phrase, raise a glass yourself? It’s an intriguing question. After all, drinks companies are fond of maintaining the façade of family owners. Think Bulleit Bourbon – it’s actually a Diageo brand (which arguably was mainly developed under Seagram’s) but a very high profile is maintained by Tom Bulleit and, until recently, his daughter Hollis. They’re speaking via their lawyers now. The story behind their acrimonious break-up is a rather unfortunate one and perhaps for another day, but sadly illustrative of the potential problems lurking in any family.

The Nightcap Drinks billionaires

Bulleit bourbon, a family business?

But back to Diageo. In its Scotch portfolio we’ll also find the Johnnie Walker, Buchanan’s and Haig brands. Now, once upon a time, there were real-life actual people answering to Walker, Buchanan and Haig who owned the distilleries that made these products – but no longer.

Today Diageo is a publicly-quoted company. That means you can buy a share in the business and be a part-owner. Actually, if you have any kind of a pension plan (whether through your employer or direct) you probably already own a share in some shares. Diageo is one of the UK’s largest and most successful businesses, and most well-balanced pension portfolios will have a holding in the company.  To declare an interest, I certainly do (I checked), and I’m very happy with its recent performance.

Many large industries have evolved in this way. But the drinks trade is something of a curiosity as a number of important brands remain in the hands of the descendants of the founding family.  Though some, like the Walkers, Buchanans and Haigs have long since cashed in, other companies remain determinedly independent and make great play of the long-term planning required in the spirits business. This, they suggest, means the industry is well suited to family ownership rather than being driven by the short-term demands of the financial community.

Some of the smaller examples are well known. Glenfarclas, for example, is happy to stress the fact that the distillery has remained in the Grant family since 1865 with chairman John Grant and son George directly and actively involved in every aspect. Grant Snr even lives on site, and you can’t get more hands-on than that.

Whisky Advent 2018 Day #18 Drinks billionaires

George Grant from Glenfarclas

Glenfiddich too is a family concern so, along with the various brands they own – think Balvenie, Hendrick’s Gin, Tullamore D.E.W. and Sailor Jerry rum among others – the forty-odd descendants of the founder William Grant thank you for every bottle you buy.  Oddly, though, while the public face of the company is largely represented by the Gordon branch (Peter Gordon and Grant Gordon in recent years) the major shareholder is believed to be the intensely private Benedicta Chamberlain. If her reputed 29.9% of the business is anywhere close to accurate, she’s comfortably in the billionaire class. Think of that next time you pour a dram of the world’s best-selling single malt.

As you’d expect, the family take the whole business very seriously. So much so in fact that Peter Gordon has even published a book on the subject. Family Spirit: Stories and Insights From Leading Family-Owned Enterprises looks at the strategies of eleven other family-owned businesses, though mainly not in the drinks industry. One of the companies he might have studied is Bacardi.  Yes, every drop of Dewar’s or Aberfeldy single malt or William Lawson’s (a million case-plus blended Scotch you’ve probably never heard of) adds a few coppers to the eponymous descendants of Don Facundo Bacardi.  A Bacardi and Coke puts a smile on their face, as does your call for Grey Goose, Martini, St-Germain or Patrón tequila.

Alexandre Ricard Drinks billionaires

Alexandre Ricard

Now the Bacardi family is very disciplined, borrowing if necessary to fund its acquisitions (over US$2 billion in 2004 for Grey Goose, then reputedly the largest purchase price in spirits business history for a single brand, and now a cool $5.1 billion for Patrón), but the equity isn’t sold. Much the same story could be told about Suntory Holdings, still controlled by the Saji and Torii families.

Elsewhere, public listing to raise capital hasn’t entirely removed family control as the tight grip of the founding dynasties at Davide Campari SpA, Brown-Forman and Rémy Cointreau SA clearly demonstrates. The Ricard family still retain 16% of the giant Pernod Ricard operation. It’s no coincidence that one Alexandre Ricard is both chairman and CEO, even if activist US investors Elliott Management are pushing to shake things up.

So, the reality and scale of family control is something to ponder as you part with your hard-earned cash. As you raise their brands to your lips, the question can’t be avoided: ‘what are the drinks billionaires sipping tonight?’

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Was Glenfiddich really the first ever single malt whisky?

An email making bold claims about Glenfiddich arrived at Master of Malt HQ last week. We had our doubts about its veracity so we turned it over to whisky writer…

An email making bold claims about Glenfiddich arrived at Master of Malt HQ last week. We had our doubts about its veracity so we turned it over to whisky writer and industry veteran Ian Buxton for his take. And here it is!

In what I laughingly refer to as my line of ‘work’ I’m exposed to a fair amount of nonsense from over-exuberant PR agencies (one day, I must offer you a selection of their better howlers).  Mostly this can be put down to inexperience or an excess of enthusiasm but this week my inbox positively glowed with some nuclear-weapons-grade spinmeistering from Glenfiddich’s agency Porter NovelliBack in 1969, they would have you know, “Glenfiddich was changing the world of whisky as we know [it, sic], launching the first ever SINGLE MALT WHISKY – they were all blends before the summer of ’69!” (their bold face and block caps).

Well, that got my attention, as did the claim that Glenfiddich opened the world’s first ever distillery visitor centre (I hope you’ve noticed the bold face and block capitals, by the way).  Let’s deal with that first: distilleries have been welcoming visitors since the 19th Century as Alfred Barnard would testify and, while they may not have had purpose-built facilities, Tobermory was actively welcoming visitors from the early 1920s (look closely at the bottom two lines on the door).  Glenfarclas opened their doors at much the same time as Glenfiddich – so closely in fact that they could hardly be accused of ‘copying’ their Speyside rivals. As so often, two people independently had the same great idea at much the same time, though it was hardly revolutionary. These, in fact, are mere striplings: the Palais Bénédictine was opened in 1888, beating Glenfiddich by a mere 81 years, and as Scotch whisky began life in the 15th Century at Lindores Abbey we can be sure that the hospitable monks were welcoming medieval visitors more than 500 years ago.  

Tobermory

Tobermory has been welcoming visitors for a long time

So that’s a pretty daft claim that ill becomes a brand with a great track record of innovation but one that we could probably ignore if it hadn’t been offered with the remarkable assertion that all Scotch was blended prior to 1969.  Really? Who knew? 

Where to start?  Well, Macallan’s then Chairman George Harbinson, was able to assure his presumably happy shareholders in 1963 that “the sale of Macallan in bottle is gaining momentum with a steadily increasing demand for the over 15 year old from the south of England”. Or perhaps with Professor George Saintsbury who in his hugely-influential Notes on a Cellar Book (1920, but still in print), disparages grain whisky as “only good for blending” and points the reader to Glendronach, Clynelish (now known as Brora) and Smith’s Glenlivet as single whiskies of note.  His admirer Aeneas MacDonald in his Whisky (1930, but also still in print) devotes the whole of his book – a genuine first, by the way – to singing the praises of single malt.

But for writers in the early part of the twentieth century to be championing single malt it had to have been around for some time.  Well, of course it was: blending greatly boosted Scotch whisky’s fortunes from the late 19th century at the expense of single malt but it never went away.  Connoisseurs such as Saintsbury, MacDonald and Sir Robert Bruce Lockhart (Scotch, published 1951) make that abundantly clear. Earlier writers too, sang its praises.  I call to the witness stand Robert Louis Stevenson who in his poem The Scotsman’s Return from Abroad apostrophises Talisker, Isla or Glenlivet as one of his three “king o’ drinks”. And that, of course, brings us to Glenlivet of which Sir Walter Scott was to write “it is the only liquor fit for a gentleman to drink in the morning”.

Bowmore advert

Advert for Bowmore whisky from before 1969

Now, Chivas Brothers’ The Glenlivet may have dropped its claim that it was “the single malt that started it all” but the Glenlivet name was highly prized.  Did not King George IV on his famous Brigadoon-style visit to Scotland in August 1822 demand a glass of Glenlivet whisky, then technically illegal and most certainly not blended? So valuable was the Glenlivet name that in 1884 J. G. Smith had to go to law to obtain the sole right to use the definite article in marketing his whisky as The Glenlivet.  As soon as Prohibition was repealed in 1933 his successors were exporting to the USA with such success that just twenty years later some 27 other brands had applied Glenlivet as a suffix to their drams. But even before Prohibition certain Islay whiskies, notably Laphroaig and Bowmore were well known in North America.  Bowmore were even advertising in Canada in the late nineteenth century. Need I go on – well, just one more example.  Royal Brackla was advertising its whisky and the Royal Warrant it received from King William IV in the 1830s.

Oh, and just for Porter Novelli’s benefit, Glenfiddich was being sold in Scotland well before the Second World War and Glenfiddich Pure Malt dates from 1903 at least.  How do I know – well, I found this picture on their website! Perhaps the PR team should take a look!  

Though he has neither a beard nor any visible tattoos or piercings, Ian Buxton is well-placed to write about drinks.  A former Marketing Director of one of Scotland’s favourite single malts, his is a bitter-sweet love affair with Scotland’s national drink – not to mention gin and rum, or whatever the nearest PR is pouring. Once, apparently without noticing, he bought a derelict distillery. Follow his passionate, authentic hand-crafted artisanal journey on the Master of Malt blog.  Or just buy his books.  It’s what he really wants.

Glenfiddich

Glenfiddich malt whisky bottle c. 1903-1908

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Celebrating Speyside!

The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival kicks off next Wednesday, but even if you don’t have a ticket you can still enjoy the spoils of the historic region. Speyside is…

The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival kicks off next Wednesday, but even if you don’t have a ticket you can still enjoy the spoils of the historic region.

Speyside is home to some of the best distilleries in all of Scotland and to some of our favourite drams. From Glenfiddich, Macallan, Glenlivet and more, the region boasts some of the industry’s biggest names as well as a variety of styles – not just the classic honeyed and sherried single malts (though it does have plenty of those, and they are mightily marvellous, of course).

With The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival on the horizon, it seemed only right that we took the time to celebrate the most prolific whisky-producing region in Scotland with a selection of some of its most magnificent whiskies. Enjoy!

The Macallan 12 Year Old Sherry Oak

Macallan produces some of the most revered, sought-after Scotch whiskies in the world that can sell for eye-watering sums. The Macallan 12 Year Old Sherry Oak might not grab the headlines like some its older, rarer drams, but it’s one of the most impressive bottlings around in its age group and makes for a perfect introduction into what has become the modern Macallan style.

What does it taste like?:

Sultanas, fresh apple blossom, tropical fruits, golden syrup, hot pastries, barley sugar, marmalade and a solid oaked notes.

Balvenie 14 Year Old Caribbean Cask

A terrifically tasty and well-rounded single malt from The Balvenie, the distillery perhaps best known for its use of secondary maturation (or finishing). This bottling was initially aged in traditional oak casks before it was finished in casks which previously held a select blend of Caribbean rums chosen by malt master David C. Stewart MBE, imparting additional notes of toffee, spice and dried fruit.

What does it taste like?:

Tropical fruits, creamy toffee, sweet vanilla, apples, baking spice and mangoes.

Scallywag

Scallywag from Douglas Laing is a blended malt made from a host of whiskies sourced from some of Speyside’s finest, including Mortlach, Macallan and Glenrothes, many of which were matured in Spanish sherry butts. Some bourbon cask whisky is also in the blend for balance, making this a go-to expression for many Scotch whisky lovers. Also lovers of dapper little Fox Terriers. It’s wearing a monocle for goodness sake!

What does it taste like?:

Icing sugar, sultanas, candied ginger, vanilla, cinnamon, oak spice, nutmeg and cereal.

Tomintoul Tlàth

Tlàth (pronounced “Tlah”) means gentle or mellow in Gaelic, which gives you a clue as to what to expect from this non-age statement whisky which was matured in ex-bourbon barrels. The Speyside distiller’s Scotch is often described as ‘the gentle dram’ and this expression boasts plenty of distillery character and makes for a perfect introduction into all things Tomintoul.

What does it taste like?:

Sweet toffee, toasted vanilla, shortbread citrus peel, hints of mint leaf, lively white pepper and some oak-driven spiciness.

Mortlach 12 Year Old

The Mortlach distillery is known for its robust, muscular malts which proves a delightful reminder that Speyside is as varied as it is spectacular. Its 12-year-old expression, drawn from bourbon and sherry casks, features the subtitle The Wee Witchie, which comes from the name of the tiny still that distils a portion of the whisky.

What does it taste like?:

Warming oak, damson, soft raisins, toasted almond, cinder toffee and heavy barley with some lingering citrus oils cutting through.

Tamdhu 10 Year Old

Since its return to the Scotch whisky scene, Tamdhu has established a principle of ageing all of its whisky exclusively in Oloroso sherry seasoned oak casks. That distinctive, well-sherried profile, and the fact that it’s rather lovely, makes Tamdhu 10 Year Old the perfect go-to dram for those who desire a classic sherried Speysider.

What does it taste like?:

Dried orange peel, red wine, pecan, soft red fruit, brown sugar, chocolate-covered Brazil nut, crystallised ginger, cacao, spicy clove and raspberry jam.

Speyside 26 Year Old (That Boutique-y Whisky Company)

That Boutique-y Whisky Company independently bottled this 26-year-old single malt from the Speyside distillery in the Speyside region. Imagine celebrating The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival with a dram of Speyside Scotch from a distillery actually named Speyside. That’s commitment, people. Oh, and it’s a seriously delicious whisky, in case you were wondering.

What does it taste like?:

Lemon peel, chocolate, oily barley, honey, strawberry jam, clove, ginger and apple strudel, topped with brown sugar and cinnamon.

Glenfarclas 25 Year Old

Last, but certainly not least, is a classic of the genre. You say Speyside and many will immediately think of this long-time family-owned distillery and its magnificent 25-year-old single malt. Glenfarclas 25 Year Old, which spent its entire maturation period in 100% Oloroso sherry casks, is a refined, complex and delicately peated dram that’s sure not to disappoint.

What does it taste like?:

Sherry and creamy barley, hints of gingerbread and nutty chocolate, oak rich, smoke and cocoa.

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The Nightcap: 5 April

It’s been a big week for Irish whiskey, BrewDog, and our very own blog. The Nightcap is here with all the stories from the week! April has arrived, and with…

It’s been a big week for Irish whiskey, BrewDog, and our very own blog. The Nightcap is here with all the stories from the week!

April has arrived, and with it came news both real and fake. Of course, the storied tradition of ‘spend the first morning in April lying through your teeth at every opportunity’ continued this year, but that’s not what we’re here to talk about. We’re here for the news. The newsiest of news! The news built upon facts, but also built upon booze. The Nightcap is held up by those two pillars: facts and booze. Like Stonehenge, except not big rocks.

Anyway, it was a busy week on the MoM Blog, which we colloquially referred to as Blogmageddon here at MoM Towers (we know how to have fun). Henry celebrated the news of Bruichladdich’s plan to build on-site maltings, treated us to a Daiquiri for Cocktail of the Week, and then found out the buzz around mead. Jess showed off Mackmyra Äppelblom for New Arrival of the Week, looked at the announcement of a new distillery in Donegal, Ireland, and finally met batman. Not that one, the other one, the one with the mezcal. Adam took a booze-based tour of Scotland’s whisky regions, and chatted with The Whisky Works’ Gregg Glass. Annie got us all hyped up about the upcoming Scotch whisky distilleries that we can’t wait to visit. We had a guest blog from Nate Brown about how not to launch a new drink, we announced the winner of our Yellow Spot competition, and we launched Google Pay as a payment option. Then we got involved with the whole ‘lying through our teeth thing’ (but then came clean about it). Blogmageddon indeed!

After all that, it’s probably time to bring you what else went down this week!

masons

We wish the team at Masons Gin a speedy recovery

‘Still explosion’ causes fire at Masons Gin distillery

Sad news came from Yorkshire this week. Masons Gin, set up in the Dales six years ago by husband and wife team Cathy and Karl Mason, suffered an explosion. According to numerous reports, one of the stills blew out, causing a major fire. The Masons team put a statement on social media shortly afterwards. “We’d like to thank everybody for their concern and well wishes following a fire at the distillery today,” it read. “We can report that all staff are unharmed and there are no injuries sustained. We’d like to express our thanks to the emergency services and staff at SPAR for their support this morning.” We’re thinking of everyone at the distillery and hope things are back up and running soon.

Dublin-Liberties

A ‘momentous achievement’, says The Irish Whiskey Association

Irish spirits get GI recognition

Top news, folks! Irish whiskey, Irish cream liqueurs and Irish Poitín have all secured geographical indication (GI) status in the EU. What does this mean? Basically, both in the EU and markets that the EU has trade agreements with, a product can only be labelled as Irish whiskey, gin or Poitín if it was made on the island of Ireland to set production methods and standards. Single malt Irish whiskey, pot still Irish whiskey, blended Irish whiskey and grain Irish whiskey were all included in the GI agreement, which the country’s drinks industry first submitted in 2014. It essentially means it will be much harder for people to fake Irish drinks or make misleading statements on non-compliant products. The Irish Whiskey Association called the development a “momentous achievement”, giving the drinks the “strongest possible protection”. Best raise a dram of something Irish!

Pernod Ricard to ban single-use promo plastics by 2025

Global drinks group Pernod Ricard, which owns the likes of Beefeater, Chivas Regal, The Glenlivet and Havana Club, has published its 2030 Sustainability & Responsibility roadmap (see video above). The document sets out eight “ambitious and concrete” targets, each developed to support the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Under Biodiversity, Pernod Ricard has pledged to have a dedicated project with evert affiliate, and as part of Regenerative Agriculture, there will be projects to improve topsoil, watershed and ecosystems in eight wine regions. As part of its Equal Pay and Future Leadership banner, the group has pledged to ensure equal pay by 2022 and gender-balanced top management teams by 2030. Shared Knowledge and Learning will see 10,000 bartenders trained in being anti-waste and plastic-free, and on the topic of Packaging and Waste, all promotional single-use plastic items will be banned by 2025. A Water Balance and Carbon Footprint focus will see the company’s total carbon footprint cut by 50%. Pernod Ricard’s Alcohol Misuse focus will see every affiliate have at least one programme to fight problem drinking; while under the Responsible Party pillar, more than one million young adults will learn about responsible consumption. “These 2030 commitments provide us with a focused framework across our business in helping to address some of the biggest sustainability issues, so consumers can enjoy our products in a convivial and sustainable way,” said Vanessa Wright, VP Sustainability & Responsibility. Go Pernod!

Scotch Whisky collection

The most extensive and famous private whisky collection in the world is set to stay!

Diageo Claive Vidiz Scotch collection to stay in Edinburgh

Anyone who has visited the Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh will remember the Diageo Claive Vidiz collection. The 3,384 bottle-strong haul includes some seriously rare and covetable expressions, including a Buchanan’s whisky bottle dating from 1897! It was Brazilian businessman Claive Vidiz who gathered the collection over 35 years before it was acquired by Diageo in 2009. It’s been on display at the visitor attraction ever since, attracting a whopping 1.5 million whisky fans. And a deal has been struck to keep it in situ for another 10 years! “The Diageo Claive Vidiz Collection is uniquely eclectic, with brands from across the whole industry and ranging from extremely rare bottlings to everyday drams from years gone by. It really gives visitors a fascinating insight into our whisky history,” said Christine McCafferty, Diageo’s chief archivist. The Scotch Whisky Experience has just revamped its display units for the collection, to make sure the bottles are kept in prime condition for the next decade. Susan Morrison, chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Experience, added: “After 10 years of seeing the collection every day we still have the privilege of seeing the reaction of surprise and delight on the faces of each of our visitors as they enter the collection vault for the first time.” We’ll be up again soon!

brewdog

The BrewDog Distilling Co. has arrived (complete with scary wolf)!

BrewDog reveals more spirits, plans a beer hotel

Sound the klaxons, The BrewDog Distilling Co. is here! Yes, BrewDog, responsible for your favourite craft beer, has launched some quite incredible spirits. Although it’s still fairly shrouded in secrecy, here’s what we know. Flagship gin LoneWolf has been on our radar for a while, and is juniper heavy with a touch of lavender. But there’s now another gin, Zealot’s Heart, a small-batch expression “made by zealots for zealots”. Then, we are also treated to Rogue Wave, “a vodka you won’t forget”, dedicated to the co-founder’s cousin, One-Armed Alex, who you can spot on the label. Finally, the distilling team has collaborated with a trio of leading spirit-makers to create the Boilermaker Series, sporting three limited-edition whiskies that are actually designed to be paired with BrewDog craft beer. What a spread! If you think BrewDog has forgotten a certain spirit, fear not. Next on the cards is an authentic spiced rum aged in oak, though you’ll have to wait a little longer for that one. But there’s more! The team has certainly been busy, because this week it also revealed it’s planning the UK’s first craft beer hotel. Known as DogHouse London, it will have its own craft beer museum, fresh craft beer you can pour for yourself in each room, and something called a shower-beer fridge. At least being in the dog house won’t be such a bad thing now. We’ll wag our tails to that, BrewDog!

Glenfiddich

Say hello to the new Glenfiddich UK ambassador: Alex Walker

Meet new Glenfiddich UK brand ambassador, Alex Walker!

We have a new national brand ambassador at Glenfiddich, folks! Independent family distiller William Grant & Sons has confirmed Alex Walker has taken on the role with immediate effect. Walker, who began his career in Australia before working in prestigious hotels bars The Beaufort Bar at The Savoy and Artesian at The Langham, will be tasked with talking all things Glenfiddich Distillery as often as possible (or ‘elevating brand awareness’, to use the industry term). He’ll also keep up comms between the brand and whisky drinkers, bars and restaurants, retailers and the press. Stephen Rutherford vacated the role after taking up the Glenfiddich UK brand manager position. “Alex has proved himself to be an exceptional candidate and a passionate whisky enthusiast, ticking all of the boxes for the role,” he said. Walker added: “I am extremely excited to be joining the William Grant & Sons UK family. It is a huge honour and privilege to work for a brand that represents over 130 years of history, heritage, and experimentation. I can’t wait to be part of this journey and help craft future success for Glenfiddich!” Congratulations, Alex!

Dewar’s releases film starring Game of Thrones’ Iwan Rheon

To celebrate the launch of its new Double Double range of whiskies, Dewar’s has teamed up with a whole bunch of glitzy actors to produce Four: four short films set in the Savoy Hotel in London. First up is Tuppence Middleton (you might remember her from TV series such as War and Peace and Black Mirror), alongside the likes of Iwan Rheon, who plays the baddest of all the baddies from Game of Thrones, and Jack Farthing from Poldark. The film is named after the four-stage ageing process used in these whiskies (step 1: ageing individual grains and malts separately; step 2: blending malts together and ageing, blending grains together and ageing; step 3: marrying the two; step 4: finishing in sherry casks). The Double Double (2+2=4, geddit?) range consists of three luxury age-statement whiskies: a 21 year old finished in oloroso casks; a 27 year old finished in palo cortado wood; and a 32 year old finished in PX barrels. We had a sneak preview with master blender Stephanie Macleod (at the Savoy, natch) and were extremely impressed. According to Macleod, the special ageing process is all about “the pursuit of smoothness”. It’s not unusual these days for drinks brands to make starry promotional films but, Macleod reminded us, Dewar’s was the first. Tommy Dewar commissioned a cinema advert for his whisky way back in 1898. Now there was a man ahead of his time.

talisker

It’s the Wild Spirit tour and bartender competition!

Talisker kicks off Wild Spirit tour and bartender competition

Isle of Skye’s Talisker Distillery has launched a fancy new bartender training programme and competition – the Wild Spirit Whisky Tour! That’s right, no more Race to Skye. Instead, we’ve got a new initiative which kicks off with a 20-stop UK-wide Wild Spirit Whisky Tour inspired by Talisker’s ‘Made by the Sea’ campaign. It runs until 19 April, and events will be delivered by Talisker brand ambassador Jason Clark. He’ll educate bartenders on the distillery’s history and production, and will explore Wild Spirit cocktail techniques. Once that’s wrapped up, bartenders will be invited to submit a Wild Spirit serve, from 20 April to 15 May, on behalf of their bar. The three bars chosen by a judging panel will win a Talisker Wild Spirit adventure for three members of staff! “For two years running, Talisker’s Race to Skye competition was a huge success and we’ve been delighted with the support and excitement received from the nation’s bartenders,” said Clark. “This year, we’ve mixed things up a little and have advanced the event into an all-new training programme and competition, the Talisker Wild Spirit Whisky Tour, which aims to reach and engage as many bartenders as possible.”

Tempus Fugit Spirits

The Tempus Fugit Spirits range was on show at Ziggy’s Bar at the Hotel Cafe Royal

Tempus Fugit Spirits eyes up cocktail bars

We found ourselves at Ziggy’s Bar at Hotel Cafe Royal last week for an extra-special tasting of Tempus Fugit Spirits. Founded in 2007 by John Troia, the brand’s birth coincided with the reintroduction of absinthe into America. Troia and his partner collected old absinthes and paraphernalia, so when the ban was lifted in 2007 they decided to corner the market. And now time has come for a push into cocktail bars! Tempus Fugit has an expansive portfolio of liqueurs and digestifs, as well as many absinthes. The range of spirits are all made from historic recipes, dating back to the 19th century. Including Gran Classico Bitter, Creme de menthe and Fernet del Frate. Jack Hanlon made some fabulous cocktails with the spirits, including a 20th-century cocktail using Creme de Cacao, Kina L’Aero D’Or and gin, and a Banana Bliss from the Cafe Royal Cocktail Book 1937 using Creme de Banane and Cognac. Yum.

hangover free alcohol

You can always avoid a hangover by drinking responsibly, of course

And finally… could hangover-free alcohol actually become A Thing?

While we always intend to drink responsibly, many people have, on occasion, slightly over-indulged. The resulting hangover is NOT fun. So we read a story from Food & Wine this week with interest. A chap called David Nutt from Imperial College London has been working on something called ‘alcosynth’ for some time. It’s billed as a synthetic form of alcohol that gives you all the fun effects but none of the nasties. Up until now, he’s not been too optimistic about the timeline, suggesting it could replace regular alcohol by 2050. But there’s been a development! Apparently, he’s consumed the stuff himself already, and has cut the projected pipeline to a mere five years! The bad side? Nutt says he has to mix it with fruit juices to mask the taste. We’re not sure what the alternative is if you’re into Martinis or Negronis, but if a super-sweet Piña Colada floats your boat, you could be hangover-free before you know it. But remember, folks – sip, don’t gulp.

And that’s a wrap for this week, folks. We hope you enjoyed The Nightcap – have a tip top weekend.

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