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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Glenmorangie

The Nightcap: 15 October

Delicious new whiskies from The Macallan, Glenmorangie and the Clydeside Distillery, grape leftovers that are good for your skin and Hendrick’s wins the ginternet. These are just some of the…

Delicious new whiskies from The Macallan, Glenmorangie and the Clydeside Distillery, grape leftovers that are good for your skin and Hendrick’s wins the ginternet. These are just some of the delightful things that have grabbed our attention in the Nightcap: 15 October.

It seems half the news these days is all about people running out of stuff. Short supply is an issue across a lot of industries. But one thing that you can guarantee will be here every seven days is a nice healthy dollop of The Nightcap, as boozy and brilliant this week as it was last.

Speaking of which, let’s take a look at the week that was on the MoM blog. Adam put on his thinking beret and asked, ‘what is peat?’, Henry was in a bubbly mood and Lauren took a trip to Venice with the delicious combination of vodka, sorbet and Prosecco that is the Sgroppino. Meanwhile, our favourite grizzled industry veteran Ian Buxton reflected on how the world whisky category has come on in less than decade while elegantly plugging his new book 101 Craft and World Whiskies which is well worth a read. But that’s not all! Our ex-editor returned with a trip to Westward Whiskey in Portland, Oregon, we sampled the sheer magnificence of Johnnie Walker Blue Label, and danced around like giddy schoolchildren at the arrival of the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection 2020. What a week! 

Now, let’s crack on. It’s the Nightcap: 15 October edition!

Patron XO Cafe

Farewell old friend

Patrón XO Café will soon be no more

Bacardi has announced that it is ceasing the production of one of its most popular drinks: Patron XO Cafe, a 35% ABV liqueur infused with a kick of coffee, Patrón Tequila president Mauricio Vergara said that the business wanted to focus on growing and protecting the supply of their “super and ultra-premium Tequilas”. Priority is going to Patrón Silver, Reposado, and Añejo drinks instead, with Vergara describing now as an “incredibly exciting time” to be in the Tequila business. He continued: “We are thrilled to see consumer demand for Tequila continuing to explode around the world. Tequila is seeing rapid growth and incredible momentum – not just in the United States, but it is the second fastest-growing category in value across the globe.” Bacardi had acquired Patron back in January 2018 in a £3.66bn deal and, while Patron XO Café seemed a popular addition to its roster, a drinks industry source told The Grocer that the drink was discontinued most likely due to a lack of profit. Despite the fact that retail sales grew over the course of the pandemic, rising £550k to £1.9m over the year to 15 May 2021, the source was quoted as saying: “Because it’s not obvious to the consumer what [the drink] is, it will take a lot to investment to scale,” the source said. “Without scale it’ll be a very small profit contributor and not worth the effort.” A shame to see it go though we have heard rumours that Vivir Tequila has stepped in the breach with its own coffee liqueur. Isn’t capitalism great?

Congratulations to Dr Erna Blancquaert (left) and Angela Elizabeth Scott

Golden Vines wine diversity scholarships announced worth £55,000

The great and good of the wine world, and Kylie Minogue, descended on top London nightspot Annabel’s for the inaugural Golden Vines awards. Yes really! Apparently the pint-sized pop princess was there though we were too engrossed in the ridiculous quality of the wines served which included Dom Perignon, Château d’Yquem and Domaine de la Romanée Contée, and missed her. But we weren’t just there to swill fine wine. The evening saw the announcement of two Taylor’s Port Golden Vines Diversity Scholarships, worth £55,000 each. The winners were Angela Elizabeth Scott from Pennysvlvania who is training to be the first black Master of Wine, and Dr Erna Blancquaert, a lecturer at Stellenbosch University in South Africa. Scott commented: “Receiving The Golden Vines Diversity Scholarship, Internship and Mentorship programme means that I will be able to connect with key figures and gain experience to which I would otherwise lack access. I hope to help others do the same,” and Dr Blancquaert said: “This Golden Vines Diversity Scholarship will enable me to expand my knowledge on the entire wine value chain, implement it in my teaching, and address global vitiviniculture problems through my research.” Adrian Bridge from the award’s sponsor Taylor’s Port added: “Taylor’s Port is delighted to be involved with this initiative to foster diversity in the wine industry. We are excited to see two very worthy winners have been chosen by the judges.” Congratulations to both winners and to Taylor’s Port for getting behind such a worthy cause. 

Stobcross

It’s Stobcross – which sounds like an anagram of something rude

Clydeside Distillery releases first-ever single malt whisky

Introducing Stobcross, the first-ever single malt whisky from one of Scotland’s newest and most exciting whisky distilleries, Clydeside in Glasgow. Bottled (and what a striking bottle it is) at 46% ABV and made from 100% Scottish barley and water from Loch Katrine, the inaugural Stobcross was named after the street on which it was made. Whisky production returned to the banks of the River Clyde for the first time in a century when the innovative new distillery opened in 2017. Andrew Morrison, commercial director at Morrison Glasgow Distillers, said: “Today marks a culmination of many years of hard work. Stobcross pays tribute to Glasgow’s industrial heritage and the spirit of innovation which forged its position on the global stage”. Clydeside is Located in the former Queen’s Dock, the transformed Pump House includes an impressive visitor centre, interactive tourism experience, shop, and cafe.  Fittingly, the distillery’s chairman Tim Morrison is the great-grandson of John Morrison, who originally built The Queen’s Dock in 1877. The distillery is definitely worth a visit if you’re in the area, and we’ve been waiting on this release for a while, so we’re very excited to see how it will do. Let us know your thoughts if you manage to get a taste.

Glasses of light and dark beer on a pub background.

Support your local, or it might not be there tomorrow

Almost 1,000 hospitality venues shut in two months this year

Britain’s hospitality sector lost 980 sites between July and September 2021, according to new data. The latest Market Recovery Monitor from CGA and Alix Partners showed the closure of an average of 16 sites per day. We, of course, have the effects of and responses to the Covid-19 pandemic to blame, leading to problems like supply issues, rising costs and, most keenly felt, labour shortages. There will also be a fair amount of debate regarding Brexit’s impact here too, but one thing that’s for certain is the sad inevitably that independently-run pubs, bars, restaurants and other licensed venues were always going to be hit hardest. According to the report, they account for nearly three quarters of all closures during the period, while a report from the Night Time Industries Association revealed around 86,000 people working in the night-time industry have lost their jobs because of the pandemic earlier in the week. Compounding the issue further is new research from the Wine & Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) which shows sales of gin in the UK on-trade plunged by nearly 50% in the 12 months to July 2021, while a YouGov poll has revealed 66% of adults believe pandemic-led closures led to a decline in their mental health. Karl Chessell, CGA’s business unit director for hospitality operators and food, EMEA, says the numbers are a “reminder – if it were needed – that the crisis in hospitality is far from over”, adding that targeted government support on these major challenges like the crisis in recruitment, as well as VAT relief, is needed to help prevent “hospitality’s recovery from stalling”. It might all sound bleak, but not all insights are negative. Lumina Intelligence, for example, expects an industry return to pre-pandemic levels by 2024, according to its UK Pub & Bar Market Report 2021.

Glenmorangie Winter

Another delicious-looking Glenmorangie is on its way

Glenmorangie unveils new winter warmer whisky

Glenmorangie is seemingly on a mission to ensure it has a dram for all occasions after it unveiled a 13-year-old single malt created specifically for the winter season. A Tale of Winter, produced by head of whisky creation, Dr Bill Lumsden and his team, was inspired by ‘the joy of cosy moments indoors’ during Scotland’s snowy months. The innovation- hungry whisky makers took a batch matured in ex-bourbon barrels and finished it in ex-Marsala casks, giving the 46% ABV whisky aromas of orange toffee, lavender honey and sweet rose, and flavours of red pepper flakes, cocoa powder, Brazil nut toffee and sweet barley malt, apparently. You might remember it was around this time last year that Glenmorangie launched A Tale of Cake, and like that edition this bottling will be available from Master of Malt soon. To celebrate the launch, the distillery has made a selection of seasonal cocktails, including a Winter Old Fashioned and a Quinta Ruban Hot Chocolate. There’s even a Pumpkin Scotch Latte perfect for the forthcoming festival of spookiness.

Macallan Harmony

Do they ever stop at Macallan? No, no they don’t

Macallan makes chocolate-inspired whisky

The Macallan’s relentless pursuit to be in the news every week continues, mostly thanks to the distillery’s insane ability to conjure up new single malt ranges. This time it’s the Harmony Collection, which kicks off with a whisky that combines the worlds of whisky and chocolate. To create the new bottling, The Macallan whisky maker Polly Logan visited Girona, Spain, to learn about the flavours behind the chocolate-making process. She teamed up with pastry chef Jordi Roca from three Michelin-starred restaurant El Celler de Can Roca and chocolatier Damian Allsop to learn the art of chocolate, then searched sherry-seasoned oak casks maturing at The Macallan Estate to identify “rare, indulgent chocolate notes”. The whisky is made from a combination of European and American oak casks, and is said to pair perfectly with rich chocolate, you might expect. The Macallan Harmony Collection Rich Cacao comes in a fully recyclable and biodegradable presentation box, made using natural by-products in the chocolate-making process. A limited 200 pairing tasting sets, including a bottle of The Macallan Harmony Collection Rich Cacao, a 10-piece box of custom-made chocolate, a pairing guide and two Macallan Glencairn glasses, are being made available to pre-order the Reserve Bar on 8 November 2021. We’ll have plenty of the whisky here too soon, if you’re worried about not getting your hands on that.

The Lucky Drinker

Ciprian Zsrag is the Lucky Drinker

St James Bar bartender launches cocktail book, The Lucky Drinker

We last visited St James Bar to sample the delights of the drinks from the talented team, but last night we popped over once again for a very different kind of event – a book launch! There were drinks to be had (of course), but all were simple classic cocktails made from The Lucky Drinker, the new book from Ciprian Zsrag, former head bartender of St James Bar (with experience at Artesian and The Savoy’s American Bar under his belt, too). The Lucky Drinker started as a blog in 2017, though it’s the culmination of many years of experience before. The book covers recipes, yes, but also barware, food pairings, and a history of industry personalities – it even takes into account the cost of a cocktail. During the evening Zsrag’s excitement is palpable, as he recounts over a decade of planning, and how, in contrast to the usual offerings from the St James Bar menu, the serves in the book are based on minimalism – though each recipe comes with a way to ‘twist’ your drink, should you be feeling on the flamboyant side. A beautiful book for anyone wanting to nail the classics, without splurging on crazy ingredients and contraptions. Congratulations Ciprian!

pelegrims.ProductSet.WEB

Pelegrims, good for your skin and good for the environment

Pelegrims skin care is grape for your complexion 

You may be wondering why the Master of Malt content team’s skin is looking so youthful and glowing despite the demanding circuit of tastings, parties and late nights we have to endure to bring you all the news from the world of booze. Well, it’s because of a new skincare range called Pelegrims, an old English name inspired by Pilgrims Way to Canterbury. The secret of the Pelegrim magic is grape extract. These are leftovers from the wine making process and come from Ortega and Pinot Noir grapes grown not far from MoM towers at Westwell in Kent. The polyphenols in the seeds, skins and stems have antioxidant properties. The range consists of a facial oil, facial balm, a hand cleanser and hand pomade. And not only are they made from a waste product but the packaging is recyclable. The range is a collaboration between skincare expert Alex Verier, wine lover and tech type, and Jerome Moisan. Remarkably Moisan isn’t even the most entrepreneurial one in his family. His son put together a charity cookery book earlier this year called In Conversation With which outsold Mary Berry, Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver in its first week on sale. And he was only 12 at the time! Watch out Dad.

GIN-fographic_IWOOT_GIN BRANDS

Gin is a wonderful thing but it isn’t good for your liver

Hendrick’s is the most searched for gin on social media

You’ve probably been wondering what the most searched for gin on the internet is. No? Just us? Well, Homeware retailer IWOOT (stands for I Want One Of Those) has crunched the numbers and the results are in, perfect timing what with Gin & Tonic day coming up on 19 October. Based on hashtags on Instagram and monthly search volumes the winner is…. Hendrick’s, followed by Tanqueray, Gordon’s, Beefeater and Bombay Sapphire, which isn’t surprising. The most searched for type of gin was apparently pink gin followed by sloe and rhubarb. Though we imagine that just plain old gin was quite popular too. The infographic produced by the firm shows that searches for gin were up 80% year on year probably because of all those lockdowns (go here to see a full breakdown of the date). The press release we received then took a wild turn by claiming: “There are many reasons why drinking gin may have increased in popularity during this time; it’s a natural remedy for your joint woes, helps fight kidney and liver disease.” Sounds like someone’s had one too many G&Ts.

And finally… Remember kids, motorbikes and booze don’t mix

We’re a bit sceptical here of motoring/booze collaborations here on the Nightcap. Are whisky and fast cars really such a great combination? But two Italian icons have cleverly squared the circle by emphasizing that they don’t go together. The old switcheroo! A new campaign launched by legendary motorbike manufacturer Ducati and its sponsor Amaro Montenegro features a rugged Italian biker deciding not to take his beloved bike out, and instead spend the evening with his friends drinking, yes you guessed it, Amaro Montenegro. Almost as much fun as riding your Ducati and a lot more sociable. It’s called ‘Don’t Drink and Ride’ and naturally comes with its own hashtag #DONTDRINKANDRIDE. The aptly-named Marco Ferrari, CEO of Gruppo Montenegro, explained: “As a spirit brand, it was imperative to be vocal about responsible drinking and we wanted to send a clear message in a compelling and engaging way. We feel our ‘Don’t Drink and Ride’ campaign is the perfect response to it.”  Just in case you needed to be reminded that high performance motorbikes and cocktails are not a good combination. 

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The Nightcap: 24 September

Lots of big whisky news this week with rare releases from Bowmore, Macallan and Bushmills. Plus a beer so strong that it’s actually illegal (in some states in America.) They’re…

Lots of big whisky news this week with rare releases from Bowmore, Macallan and Bushmills. Plus a beer so strong that it’s actually illegal (in some states in America.) They’re all in the Nightcap: 24 September edition! Oh, and Pernod Ricard has just bought the Whisky Exchange. We told you there was big whisky news this week. 

This week at Master of Malt it was all about whisky icons. No, not elaborate devotional paintings of Bill Lumsden or Rachel Barrie – though they sound amazing – but distilleries and brands that are iconic. So we’ve been asking customers on social media which whiskies are worthy of veneration and, at the time of writing, it’s come down to a four-way all-Scottish dust-up between Ardbeg, Bunnahabhain, Lagavulin and Talisker. All distinctive island whiskies with a particularly strong showing from Islay. MoM customers clearly love a bit of Islay. It’s all taking place on Twitter so get voting. We’ll announce the winner on Monday. There can only be one!

The week got off to an expensive start as we talked to Richard Paterson about the super-fancy Dalmore Decades collection which has just landed at MoM. It was delivered in a special Whyte & Mackay armoured car which the company uses only for it’s most elite whiskies. Good whisky doesn’t have to be expensive though, as Aber Falls has proved with the second release of its Welsh single malt. Then Adam got taste of the first release from Midleton’s micro distillery, the Method & Madness Rye and Malt Irish Whiskey, and we launched our Whisky Icons competition. Lauren Eads returned to show us how to make a Singapore Sling, and Henry tried Waterford Cuvee and pondered the future of whisky *strokes chin*. Right, that’s enough chin stroking, it’s on with the Nightcap: 24 September edition!

Sukhinder Singh

Sukhinder Singh, now very rich indeed

Pernod Ricard buys The Whisky Exchange 

There was no doubt what was the biggest story of the week. On Monday we learned that Pernod Ricard had acquired The Whisky Exchange from its owners Sukhinder and Rajbir Singh. The brothers said in a statement: “The Whisky Exchange and our customers have always felt like a family, and we are looking forward to maintaining this ethos with a partner that shares our values. Our mission remains the same: to offer the finest range of whiskies and spirits from the best producers around the world, educate and engage with consumers, and support the top on-trade establishments around the UK”. Alexandre Ricard, chairman and CEO of Pernod Ricard, added: “We are thrilled to work with industry pioneers such as Sukhinder, Rajbir and the whole team to bring The Whisky Exchange to a new step of its development.” There was no mention of how much Pernod Ricard paid but industry analyst Jefferies on the Business Wire estimated it to be between: £360m and £420m. That’s a lot of Pernod. The deal includes the Whisky Exchange website, shops, Whisky.Auction and trade arm Speciality Drinks. However, it does not include agency Speciality Brands or Elixir distillers. So the brothers are holding onto their Islay distillery. Very canny. 

Colum Egan

Colum Egan from Bushmills stroking a cask

Bushmills releases its second rare ‘Causeway Collection’

It’s been a big week on the blog for Irish whiskey with Method and Madness Malt and Rye, and Waterford Cuvee. Now it’s Bushmills turn with three rare releases called ‘the Causeway Collection.’ It’s the second such offering from Northern Ireland’s most famous distiller. The 2021 release consists of three bottlings: a 2011 finished in Banyuls casks (a Port-style wine from the South of France); a 1995 finished in Marsala casks; and a 32 year old matured in a Port cask. The latter is one of the oldest ever whiskeys from Bushmills. Master distiller Colum Egan commented: “All the whiskeys used in The Causeway Collection have been expertly created and cared for by craftsmen steeped in a unique whiskey-making tradition passed from generation to generation for more than 400 years here at The Old Bushmills Distillery. The Causeway Collection celebrates our extremely rare and unique cask finishes, our passion for single malts and honours our rich heritage. It’s a privilege to work with such rare liquid, these special cask-finished whiskeys really are our greatest treasures. We were delighted with how the Bushmills Causeway Collection was received globally in 2020, with some even selling out in minutes – and we can’t wait to share this year’s collection with the world.” Prices start at 55 for the 2011, great value for such a distinctive whiskey, up to a punchy 950 for the 32 year old. We’ll have some in soon, but as Egan warns, they’re unlikely to hang about. 

Glenmorangie 18 YO x Azuma Makoto 1.jpg

It’s flower power time over at Glenmorangie

Glenmorangie goes floral with limited edition 18 year old

Glenmorangie has partnered with Japanese flower sculptor Azuma Makoto to create a fabulously floral limited edition design for its 18 Year Old. We skipped up to the Saatchi gallery this week to check it out and were treated to a private view of the RHS Botanical Art and Photography Show. The Glenmorangie team served up some fabulous cocktails, cleverly named using anagrams of Glenmorangie. First up we had A Ginger Lemon – a Glenmorangie Original highball with lemon bitters and a splash of ginger ale, most refreshing whilst we wandered the botanical illustration rooms. Secondly we were treated to a Gleaming Reno, shaking up passion fruit and pineapple – a tremendously tropical treat whilst we took in the photography finalists and winners. Special mention from us goes to Faye Bridgwater, with some super colourful artwork in the show, and some serious alliteration skills. We loved the name of this painting: A Bloody Great Big, Ballsy and Bountiful Buncha Bodacious, Buoyant and Bewitching Blooms. Well said Faye! 

Bowmore 30 YO Vaults

Super fancy Bowmore incoming!

Bowmore goes big with ultimate rare collection for 2022

Over on Islay, the Bowmore Distillery has got something big planned for 2022. Earlier this week it announced that it’ll be launching a collection of extraordinarily rare expressions at the start of next year, with a 50-year-old 1969 vintage single malt in the spotlight. The final release in Bowmore’s 50-year-old vaults series, following on from a brace of other vintages from the ’60s, it was matured in a combination of American oak ex-bourbon barrels and hogsheads for half a century before being bottled up. It’s set to retail at £35,000, so start digging through your sofa cushions now. Clearly not content with one with just the one well-aged whisky, the collection will also feature the 2021 releases of Bowmore 30 Year Old and Bowmore 40 Year Old, priced respectively at £2,000 and £6,750. Again, prepare to ransack those sofa cushions.

Macallan 30

Macallan Double cask 30, great with honey and radishes

The Macallan unveils Double Cask 30 Year Old 

The Macallan’s Double Cask range grows once more, this time with the addition of a particularly impressive 30 year old. Its three decades have been spent in sherry-seasoned new American and European oak casks, the former sourced from Ohio, Missouri, and Kentucky, and the latter sourced from northern Spain and southern France. Both wood types are toasted in Jerez, filled with sherry and seasoned for up to 18 months before finally holding the whisky. “The Macallan Double Cask 30 Years Old is a modern take on our classic 30-year-old and is an exceptional aged single malt,” says Kirsteen Campbell, master whisky maker. “With a rich combination and depth of flavour and a complex character, it is a whisky to be savoured, exhibiting notes of cinder toffee, fresh honeycomb, rich vanilla and red apples.” As you’d probably expect, the RRP is by no means small, clocking in at $4,000 – though it does come presented in a solid oak presentation box for that price tag. Who doesn’t love a solid oak presentation box?

Craft Distilling Expo

Craft Distilling Expo – pink hair and flat caps encouraged

Craft Distilling Expo is back, Back, BACK!

Are you a craft distiller or are you craft distilling curious? Then you need to get a ticket to the Craft Distilling Expo which runs from 30 September to 1 October at the Old Truman Brewery in East London. Yes, in real life. None of this Zoom nonsense. Co-founder David T Smith commented: “As with the whole industry the last 18 months have been a challenge, despite the success of our online offerings. We are really looking forward to seeing friends and colleagues, both old and new in-person this year; we’ve put on an exciting range of talk with an increasing focus on sustainability.” Highlights include Ian Wisniewski on tasting, Peter Holland with a guide to botanical and spiced rum and Julia Nourney looking at barrel finishes. We’re also intrigued by ‘ultrasonic spirits’ with Ben Marston of Puddingstone Distillery – does that mean they move really fast? Well, there’s only one way to find out. Go to the website for more information.

Sam Adams Utopias

Sam Adams Utopias, it’s beer but not as we know it

And finally… a beer so strong it’s illegal

What do you think is strong for a beer? 6% ABV? 8% ABV? Well, how about 28% ABV? No, that’s not a typo. The latest release of Sam Adams Utopias from the Boston Beer Co. is stronger than Port and getting on for whisky territory. It’s so strong that it’s illegal in 15 states in America. Apparently, it’s made with special ‘Ninja yeasts’ which can work at very high alcohol levels. The release is made up of aged beers dating back decades and aged like whisky in old bourbon, Port, Madeira and sherry barrels. It’s released every two years and for the first time this latest batch contains beer from Sauternes casks. All this magnificence doesn’t come cheap, around $240 retail, but if you live in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, or West Virginia, you’re out of luck.

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Inside the Lighthouse, Glenmorangie’s innovation hub

“Come with me, and you’ll be, in a world of pure imagination…” Whisky’s Willy Wonka has a new factory of fun to create the drams of the future and we…

“Come with me, and you’ll be, in a world of pure imagination…” Whisky’s Willy Wonka has a new factory of fun to create the drams of the future and we got a chance to see it before the experiments begin. Here’s what to expect from Glenmorangie’s new distillery: The Lighthouse!

Dr Bill Lumsden’s first-ever sip of whisky was Glenmorangie 10 Year Old in 1984 at a party on Marchmont Road, Edinburgh, while Let’s Hear it For The Boys played on the radio.  Since then, he has spent almost four decades in whisky innovating and creating exceptional drams like the world’s first made with high-roast chocolate malt, exploring the benefit of various cask styles and even sending the odd tipple into the final frontier. You can see where the Willy Wonka comparisons come from.

This week we got a first-hand glimpse at how Lumsden’s experimental days are far from behind him as Glenmorangie invited us to visit its new on-site innovation distillery called The Lighthouse. A spectacular multi-million-pound creation, the new landmark on the site where Glenmorangie has been creating its single malt since 1843 stands tall like an actual lighthouse, a 20m-high beacon in its rural highland home that promises to give Lumsden and co. true flexibility at all stages of whisky-making. 

Designed by Barthélémy Griño, known for creating premises for Berluti, Dior, and Louis Vuitton, those who attended from the luxury magazines will appreciate all the reclaimed stone and slate, the stunning views and the wood aluminium hybrid cladding made with wood from bourbon and sherry casks that sits behind the Lighthouse’s glass façade. But this is MoM, so we were there to get our geek on. Because Lumsden tells us this is where Scotch whisky innovation is going to get seriously funky.

Glenmorangie Distillery Lighthouse

Dr. Bill in front of his new pride and joy

Inside the Lighthouse

“The ambition is to look at every aspect of primary production. Experimentation in terms of maturation is well established, as is Glenmorangie’s reputation for it. But dabbling in primary production isn’t easy when you’ve got your main distillery set up and running smoothly. So, you name it: raw materials, malting, milling, mashing, fermentation, and all sorts of things with distillation. There’s nothing on or off the table,” says Lumsden. He will spend a week of every month here doing things that were never possible before because the old distillery was too busy or lacked the required equipment. 

As our tour demonstrated, that’s very much not the case anymore. Beginning on the bottom floor, a Briggs of Burton-designed malt intake and mill can process array of cereals, so for the first time in Glenmorangie’s history, you can expect whisky made from things other than malted barley. Wheat, maize and oats are all tipped, as is spirit from things that aren’t cereals at all… On the next floor, the two mash tuns capable of processing one-and-a-half to two tonnes of mash (compared with 12 in the main distillery) can create different clarities of wort, from crystal clear to cloudy. 

A cereal cooker is fixed to each, a piece of equipment that Lumsden says he “hasn’t used in anger in many years” which breaks down the husk of grains to get to the starch. This is useful because in Scotch you can’t add chemical enzymes (or jungle juice as Lumsden calls it) and if you’re using non-malted barley, for example, there are no naturally occurring enzymes to break things down for you. Two temperature-controlled fermentation vessels, common in brewing but not in Scotch, meanwhile, give Lumsden control in his specialist subject.

Glenmorangie Distillery Lighthouse

What does the future hold? Bold, original and distinctive drams are surely on the way

The possibilities are endless…

Armed with a PhD in biochemistry, the workings of yeast and fermentation is very much his bag, baby, and he laments the fact that in Scotch whisky, fermentation is typically a two or three-day process that’s very vigorous and violent. “There’s got to be a reason why our colleagues in the wine industry allow fermentations to run for two weeks, or beer for five or six days,” Lumsden explains. “I’m deeply intrigued by how those two industries focus on the flavour from primary production, whereas in Scotch we rely a lot more on maturation to drive the shape of our products”. 

Lengthy fermentations are to be expected then, as are different yeasts. According to Lumsden these are “magical microorganism” which are sadly just treated like a commodity. “When I first joined DCL (now Diageo), I was aghast that they were just emptying bags of yeast into water. You never do that as a yeast physiologist! It’s simply used to reach an end, but there’s so many different avenues you can go down. I know others like my old friends at Diageo have tried things, but a lot of experimentation in the industry is never really published”.

From outside, the glass tower offers a glimpse at the two gleaming Forsyth’s copper stills, modelled on the 12 giraffe-high stills in the main stillhouse, and they’re even more impressive up close. While the wash still is fairly conventional, the spirit still (or “the little beauty” as Lumsden calls it) is full of additional modifications. A glass man door allows the distillers to see what’s being distilled, while an optional purifier like the one at Ardbeg is there to recycle vapours and increase reflux. 

Glenmorangie Distillery Lighthouse

These might look like regular stills, but they’re anything but

Worth the wait

Look up at the lyne arm and you’ll see it splits to go into either a standard copper condenser (to create the lighter, elegant signature style) or a stainless steel condenser designed to mimic the effect of a worm tub, exposing the vapours to less copper to create meatier, more full-bodied whisky like Ardbeg. The neck of the still is covered with temperature-controlled cooling jackets, which metaphorically double the height of the still to allow the vapours to condense and reflux. “Many of these bells and whistles exist in other distilleries, but this is the only place where they ALL exist,” Lumsden says, beaming with pride.

On the fourth and top floor, our tour concludes with the Sensory Laboratory, a space in which the team will be able to study raw spirit and assess their experiments after every six-hour spirit run. It’s not finished yet, but soon it will be complete with a tasting room, while a terrace offering truly spectacular views of the neighbouring Dornoch Firth. Although Lumsden does add he would have been happy with a shed, it’s hard not to think that such a vibrant space won’t be inspiring. 

He has had to wait to play with his new toys, as the launch has been postponed since April 2020 due to COVID. This delay has the benefit of giving him the time to plan, however, and Lumsden knows the dozen or so things he’s going to do when things kick off properly next month. Which includes the freedom and capacity to bottle things that aren’t Scotch whisky, which might not even be presented as Glenmorangie. “The first thing will be to make a normal spirit, and then after that I will never make a normal spirit again here,” Lumsden says.

Glenmorangie Distillery Lighthouse

The Lighthouse

Nothing holds them back

Glenmorangie fans need not fear, however, as the whisky maker stresses that this will not distract him from the core whisky that makes the distillery what it is. “People don’t realise that at least 50% of my working time and effort goes into maintaining the quality and integrity of our core offerings. It just doesn’t generate press coverage. If we don’t have that foundation we don’t have anything else. Innovation is the cherry on top of the icing on top of the case”. 

Lumsden is also a supporter of the current Scotch whisky regulations, saying they are “stifling in a good way” and that they make you take a step back and be really creative. “I wouldn’t want the regulations to be loosened again. When they were last changed, my question was ‘why would you want to use a Tequila cask anyway? Is it going to give you a good flavour?’ It’s easy to lose sight of that fact. I won’t sit down and think about using a wild yeast, I think about what product I want to create and then work back from that”. 

The maverick malt master also goes out of his way to credit the LVMH group for backing his visions, saying that many of its brands are run as if they are independent, which is also true of its modest but mighty Scotch portfolio: Glenmorangie and Ardbeg. “We’re very much left to our own devices, which allows us to be nimble and experiment with ease,” he explains. “A lot of things I’ve worked on I never told anyone what I was doing until I thought there was a product ready to be talked about, which I could never do in any previous role.”

Glenmorangie Distillery Lighthouse

We can’t wait to see what’s to come

The whisky of the future

While the Lighthouse part of the distillery won’t be open to the general public day-to-day, there will be a special limited edition ‘Lighthouse’ whisky release available to purchase from the distillery to mark the occasion. Limited to 4,782 bottles, the 12‑year‑old malt has been aged in the very same bourbon and sherry casks that are now embedded in the Lighthouse distillery’s walls. In addition to this, Glenmorangie House, the brand home in the Highlands, has undergone a large renovation and now looks completely and brilliantly bonkers. 

It’s all part of an approach to rebrand Glenmorangie as a vibrant producer, welcoming a world of colour and innovation to take on the difficult, dark, masculine and often closed-off world of whisky and the “sea of sameness”, as Lumsden puts it. Even the packaging is currently being reviewed.

What we can expect from the Lighthouse is truly exciting. The brand promises new ways to make whisky, new ways to drink it and everything in between. The fourth-biggest single malt in the world doesn’t need to rock the boat and, at 61, Lumsden is aware he won’t even see some of the products he creates. But the ambition is here to embrace modernity, and creative, original and category-defying booze lies in the distance. The future of Scotch is bright. And The Lighthouse promises to be one of its leading lights.

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Master of Malt tastes… Glenmorangie Cognac Cask Finish 13 Year Old

New Glenmorangie whisky is here! And as this swanky single malt was finished in an ex-Cognac cask, we thought we’d have a quick look at why it’s a rare choice…

New Glenmorangie whisky is here! And as this swanky single malt was finished in an ex-Cognac cask, we thought we’d have a quick look at why it’s a rare choice of barrel for whisky makers and review its impact on the dram.

I’m sure it hasn’t escaped the notice of many of you that an intriguing new Glenmorangie release turned up on our site. The snappily-titled Glenmorangie Barrel Select Release 13 Year Old Cognac Cask Finish arrived this week, radiant with its exciting promise of an interesting cask finish you don’t see that much. 

For those who haven’t spotted the clue in the name yet, the Glenmorangie Barrel bla bla bla was initially aged in ex-bourbon casks for over eight years, before being finished in those unusual Cognac casks for a further four years, and then bottled up at 46% ABV.

Glenmorangie is not the first Scotch whisky brand to turn to France’s most famous spirit export for casks. The Glenlivet, Glenfarclas, Chivas, Arran, Douglas Laing, The Balvenie, and more have used Cognac casks in the past. But it’s still not exactly a common choice. At the time of writing, the only other dram available on our site that was matured for any time in an ex-Cognac cask was The Irishman Single Malt Cognac Cask Finish

Glenmorangie Cognac Cask Finish

Cognac casks are not a common sight in Scotch, yet…

Old frenemies

Cognac and Scotch are better known as old rivals than boozy bedfellows for much of their history, vying for the status of go-to brown spirit in Britain, American and globally since the 19th century. The two have gone through the phylloxera crisis, Prohibition, the golden age of cocktails, world wars, various boom-bust cycles, and more in that time. Both vying for the same customers forging something of partisan drinking environment where folks made the choice between being Cognac drinker or a whisky drinker. Oddly in France, whisky is much more popular than Cognac. 

While Scotch sits prettier than Cognac in raw sales these days, the air of competition is gradually subsiding to leave more room for collaboration and coexistence. Both are taking pages from each other’s books now, with Cognac dipping its toes in the world of cask finishes while Scotch increasingly embraces terroir and prestige (or lets face it, bling).

But that hasn’t translated into routine cask trading. For starters, the rules of Cognac prohibit the use of ex-whisky casks. Furthermore, you can’t get casks once filled with Cognac on the scale or for the value you can an ex-bourbon or sherry. Access is improving as many of the biggest drinks companies produce both, like Pernod Ricard (Martell and Chivas Brothers, among others), Beam Suntory (Courvoisier and Laphroaig), and, of course, LVMH (Hennessy and Glenmorangie). But ex-Cognac casks are not exactly a go-to choice yet.

Glenmorangie Cognac Cask Finish

Dr. Bill is experienced at dealing with tricky casks

A tricky customer

Even if you can get your hands on a barrel you are dealing with the prospect of marrying two distinct spirit styles in order to create something greater than the sum of its parts. As such, Cognac is a tough cask to get right and few whisky makers are capable of striking the perfect balance. It’s all too easy to overpower the whisky, particularly when your spirit is light and elegant like Glenmorangie’s.

Naturally, Glenmorangie’s head of whisky creation Dr. Bill Lumsden has done his fair share of experiments with Cognac casks before. But, surprise surprise, he says previous incarnations resulted in Cognac overshadowing the whisky’s character. The remedy was to utilise Cognac casks that had been filled several times, resulting in a more subtle wood influence on the whisky. 

Sometimes it’s the simple solutions that do the trick. Although, we’d imagine there’s a little more to it than that and there was some trial and error involved. Dr. Bill does, of course, have a history of getting cask innovations right, with expressions like Nectar d’Or, Spìos, and the 12 Year Old Malaga Cask Finish demonstrating his expertise. So an ex-Hennessy cask (we presume, because why wouldn’t it be?) was never going to prove beyond him.

Glenmorangie Cognac Cask Finish

Get your hands on the dram now!

The review

That’s assuming, of course, this cask finish does work. This brings us nicely to the review. And it’s safe to say Dr. Bill has succeeded in measuring this right. The lush fruit and refined sweetness that makes up the Glenmorangie DNA comes through but it’s more decedent here without veering into dangerous saccharine or cloying territory. Glenmorangie Barrel Select Release 13 Year Old Cognac Cask Finish makes for a pleasant sipper and for a good alternative for those wanting a change from the classic wine and sherry cask finishes.

Glenmorangie Barrel Select Release 13 Year Old Cognac Cask Finish Tasting Notes:

Nose: Through notes of passion fruit, white grapes, lemon french fancies, and cooked apples there’s soft cedar, fresh leather, vanilla sugar, cassis, orange chocolate, and a hint of flaked almonds atop warm pastries.

Palate: Soft and a little oily, the palate begins with orange boiled sweets and helpings of dried tropical fruit and nectarines in support. Vanilla shortbread, clove, and some well-rounded oaky spice adds depth among hints of marzipan, dark chocolate, caramel, and a slightly earthy tobacco element.

Finish: A little clove and lingering juicy fruit sweetness.

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New Arrival of the Week: Glenmorangie X

Glenmorangie has just released a brand new single malt specifically designed for cocktail use. It’s called Glenmorangie X, and we put it through its paces behind the (home) bar. Makers…

Glenmorangie has just released a brand new single malt specifically designed for cocktail use. It’s called Glenmorangie X, and we put it through its paces behind the (home) bar.

Makers of single malts nowadays will trip over themselves to show how cocktail friendly their products are. They’re trying to give Scotch whisky a fresh urban down-with-the kids image in contrast to the tweed, spaniels and slippers marketing of yore. Though, on a cold winter night, don’t those three things sound very appealing?

The Nightcap

Groovy new image

Single malt cocktails

There’s no doubt that single malts can be great in cocktails. Recently, I had a Espresso Martini at Boisdale restaurant in Belgravia made with Ardbeg Uigeadail that was pretty much unbeatable. 

But, I wonder, how many people spending £50 or more on a bottle of single malt are going to mix it. It would be interesting to read some market research on this but I’d wager that at least 90% of malts are still sipped reverentially with some water on the side, and perhaps some tweed, spaniels and slippers.

When people do make cocktails with Scotch, most people will reach for a blend, which is a problem for a whisky company that wants to tap into the cocktail market, like Glenmorangie. It’s already got the hip new image, now it just needs a mixable whisky. 

The company used to market a wonderful blend called the Bailie Nicol Jarvie which contained a high malt percentage, around 60%. I remember it being the whisky of choice for the impecunious connoisseur when I worked in Oddbins in the late ‘90s. 

Sadly, it was discontinued in 2014 though there were rumours of a revival in 2016, which came to nothing. Glenmorangie’s head of whisky creation Dr Bill Lumsden told me a few years ago that he was very fond of the blend and would love to revive it, but at the moment Glenmornagie could not spare the stock. 

Glenmorangie X

A mixable Glenmorangie

Now, however, the company has whisky that might be able to fill that BNJ-sized hole. It’s a NAS single malt called Glenmorangie X, and it’s specifically designed for mixing. 

Dr Bill explained: “X by Glenmorangie came from our dream of creating even more flavour possibilities, with a single malt that’s made to mix. Consulting with top bartenders, we crafted this sweeter, richer single malt for all those enjoying mixing at home.”

The PR team sent me a little sample to play around this and really enjoyed it. It’s light, sweet and fruity with flavours of peach, honey. vanilla and orange. In fact, it’s very much the 10 year old’s baby brother with similar flavours but without the depth or complexity, and with a little youthful spirityness. In short, perfect for mixing.

I was planning to give it a thorough road test in an Old Fashioned, Rob Roy etc. but it was only a little sample so I ended up just drinking it with soda, orange bitters and a slice of orange in a Highball. A test it passed with flying colours. GM also sent me a delightful batched cocktail called Glenmorangie X Grapefruit.

I have one reservation, however, the price. It’s only £5 less expensive than the 10 year old. From experience, I know that the 10 is a good mixer too but it’s also got the complexity to sip on its own. If I was spending around £30 on a Glenmorangie, I know which one I’d take home. Also, it’s bottled at 40% ABV and when mixing a little more alcohol would stop it getting lost when diluting. 

But, if you’re running a bar and getting through cases of the stuff, then £5 will make a huge difference. And that is, ultimately, who Glenmorangie X is aimed at; it should be a huge hit with the pros. 

For us home bartenders, though, please bring back the BNJ, Dr Bill!

Tasting notes from the Chaps at Master of Malt

Nose: Honeyed malt with underlying lemon and apple, plus a touch of nutmeg bringing oaky warmth.

Palate: Lots of vanilla and apricot notes, with more apple coming along too. A hint of flaked almond later on.

Finish: The honeyed orchard fruit theme continues on the finish, with a pinch of peppercorn.

Glenmorangie X is available from Master of Malt. Click here to buy.

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Brendan McCarron to leave Glenmorangie for Distell

Brendan McCarron, head of maturing whisky stocks at The Glenmorangie Company, has announced he will leave the role to take up the mantle of master distiller at Distell.  Pretty huge…

Brendan McCarron, head of maturing whisky stocks at The Glenmorangie Company, has announced he will leave the role to take up the mantle of master distiller at Distell

Pretty huge news emerged on Instagram yesterday as Brendan McCarron revealed that his time with The Glenmorangie Company is drawing to a close after seven years. The former head of maturing whisky stocks will be moving to Distell to become the brand’s new master distiller, where he’ll work with its considerable Scotch whisky cohort. This includes Bunnahabhain, Tobermory and Deanston distilleries as well as Black Bottle whisky.

It’s a striking revelation as it appeared that he would be the natural successor to Dr Bill Lumsden, Glenmorangie’s director of whisky creation and because he’s enjoyed so much success with the brand. Both Glenmorangie and Ardbeg Distillery have released all kinds of wonderful new expressions over the years under the duo’s stewardship. We’ve also heard that the news came as a surprise to Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH), the owner of The Glenmorangie Company.

In a post on his personal Instagram account, McCarron commented “So I have a bit of news. I’ve just accepted an offer to be the master distiller for Distell. I’m going to work with the team responsible for Bunnahabhain, Tobermory and Deanston distilleries as well as blends such as Black Bottle and my first time working on gin too”. McCarron added that he is “beyond excited to get started”, and has been enjoying his “research“ recently, in particular tasting Tobermory 12 Year Old. He signed off by stating that he was very sad to leave the Glenmorangie company after “7 great years”, but that he can’t wait to get started in the new role.

Brendan McCarron has announced he will take up the mantle of master distiller at Distell. 

McCarron is one of the most respected whisky producers in the industry

We reached out to McCarron and he informed us that he’ll likely start working in his new role next month. He’s based near Deanston and will split his time between there, Tobermory and, of course, Islay, as well as Distell’s new multi-million-pound blending and disgorging centre in East Kilbride. “I am becoming like a proper west coast distiller,” McCarron remarked to us. He also says the role he’s taking will mean more time working in distilleries. “One thing I do miss is production, the hiss and singing of the stills as the steam goes through them. There’s an energy to production which I haven’t had in this role which has been nosing, blending and travelling. I’ve always missed the connection to the distilleries. So this ticks every box. I’ll be directly in charge of production.”

Ultimately, the allure of the new gig and what it entails is what has sold McCarron. “I’ve done stuff I wouldn’t have imagined being a working-class boy from Coatbridge, I’ve drunk Krug in five-star hotels, drunk amazing whiskies with incredible people in China, Russia and various parts of the States. And got to work on incredible whiskies. But it’s been seven years. Bill’s still got lots that he wants to achieve. I could continue to work under Bill but I love the idea of Distell saying, here’s what we want to do, here’s what our plans are, here are our liquids,” he explains. “I’ve always loved Deanston, Bunnahabhain and Tobermory. It was the distilleries, the liquids, and seeing the investment that’s going into the company. All this appealed to me. My boss, Julian Patton, told me about his plans, how much he believed in the whiskies. And I do too. Being the master distiller of three distilleries you love, it’s hard to say no.”

McCarron was also keen to thank everyone for the response he’s had, commenting. “My phone was dead this morning, I had so many missed calls and messages that it drained the battery. There have been lots of lovely messages coming in.” He also said that Bill is sad to see him go, but is excited for him too, saying that it’s “an amazing role but they are lucky to have you”. McCarron added that he “didn’t anticipate me leaving. I didn’t anticipate me leaving. But, when a role like this appears, you can feel the energy in the company. It’s impossible to say no.”

Brendan McCarron has announced he will take up the mantle of master distiller at Distell. 

McCarron will split his time across the distilleries he’ll work with, which will include trips to his beloved Islay

Before working for The Glenmorangie Company, McCarron had managed Oban Distillery, was the group manager of Lagavulin, Caol Ila, and Port Ellen Maltings on Islay, and helped to design Roseisle Distillery – the first distillery to be built in Speyside for 30 years. His new employer Distell is a South African-based producer and marketer of spirits, wines, ciders and ready-to-drink products (RTDs). The company was formed in 2000 by the merger of Stellenbosch Farmers’ Winery (SFW) and Distillers Corporation. In 2013, Distell purchased the Scotch whisky business of Burn Stewart Distillers from CL Financial for £160m and took on its impressive portfolio, which includes the aforementioned distillery giants as well as brands like Black Bottle and Scottish Leader

We wish him all the best and can’t wait to see what he does at Distell. Slainte, Brendan!

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Our top drinks trends for 2021!

From agave spirits to the advent of at-home cocktails, 2021’s drinking trends look set to cement this year’s seismic shifts, rather than usher in a spirits revolution. It’s that time…

From agave spirits to the advent of at-home cocktails, 2021’s drinking trends look set to cement this year’s seismic shifts, rather than usher in a spirits revolution.

It’s that time again – time to get out the [Glencairn] crystal ball and look ahead to what we’ll be drinking in 2021! And if this year taught us anything, it’s that you literally cannot predict what will happen… but in terms of what will be in our glass, we’ll give it a good go..!

We’ve picked out our forecast based on sales patterns here at MoM HQ, plus we’ve kept an eye on social media hubbub, and checked out Google Trends’ search analysis. If you could sum it up in one, we reckon we’ll see more of the same: 2020 largely forced us away from bars, meaning if we wanted a cocktail fix we had to get it at home. At the same time, we all got a little more comfortable with shopping online for spirits (wine and spirits have lagged behind other eCommerce sectors for a while now – think about fashion or electronics). And with a far wider range to shop from than the traditional supermarket aisle, smaller brands and lesser-known categories have got more of their fair share of airtime. 

With all that in mind, here’s what we reckon we’ll see in 2021. Onwards and upwards, folks! 

We made a lot of cocktails at home in 2020

More at-home cocktails

Remember when we were all afraid of getting it a bit wrong when it came to mixing cocktails at home? Now, we’ll literally try anything! From Instagram Live tutorials to dedicated TikTok accounts, we’ve become emboldened when it comes to mixing our own drinks. It’s something we’ve seen in bottle sales, too – vermouth was one of our fastest-growing categories this year to date. Sales of mixers have soared, too. Even the less adventurous among us are buying into pre-bottled cocktails for at-home treats. We think this trend will continue on into 2021 (although let’s face it, as soon as we can, we’re heading back to bars. We miss you!).

The Nightcap

Gin boom – not over yet!

Don’t write off gin – yet

For the last three years it’s been the same question: is the gin boom over? In word, no. But growth is flattening significantly. Could 2021 be gin’s last hurrah? We think there’s still a little more longevity than that. Instead of seeing a proliferation of outlandish flavours, we’re seeing a small but significant return to classic styles, and a few much-loved flavours. This is partly driven by a change in shopping habits – why brave the supermarket for longer than necessary if you can order your favourite gin online instead? A pattern we noticed from Google Trends that’s worth highlighting is a sharp uptick for ‘gin’ searches in the UK as the first lockdown was announced. In tough times we apparently turn to juniper – and long-live classic gins!

bargain rum

Rum was big this year

The continued rise of rum

If flavour fans are deserting gin, where are they heading? The answer continues to be rum. Our rum sales more than tripled in 2020 – driven in large part by the continued taste for spiced and flavoured concoctions. Some of the biggest sellers for the year included Chairman’s Reserve Spiced Rum, Two Swallows Cherry & Salted Caramel Rum, and sister company Atom Labs’ Jaffa Cake Rum. Sweet stuff indeed. The question for us is, will the wider rum category benefit, and do we need some tighter definitions for what makes a rum a rum? Even if they exist in terms of labelling, do we as drinkers understand them? One thing’s for sure, rum is set to get even hotter in 2021.

Storywood Tequila

Blue Weber agave (photo courtesy of Storywood Tequila)

All hail agave spirits!

Here’s an interesting one. We’ve talked a lot about the fast-growing mezcal category, and asked whether it could ultimately upend Tequila. Turns out, in 2020 Tequila’s growth slightly outpaced that of its smoky cousin! We think Tequila has finally outgrown its shots-led reputation, and is growing into itself as a serious sipping and mixing drink. And about time, too – Tequila is thoroughly delicious! It also makes sense in line with wider drink-less-but-better consumption trends. 2021 looks to be Tequila’s year as this trend continues to develop, and we are here for it. 

The Nightcap

Glenmorangie’s striking new campaign

A new age of single malt Scotch

For some time now, single malt Scotch whisky has been trying to reinvent itself. With one eye on the developments of world whisky, American whiskey, and the growing interest in other categories, there’s been a sense of needing to up its game to stay relevant and attract new drinkers. Some of our favourite recent moves in this direction include Glenmorangie’s gorgeous It’s Kind of Delicious and Wonderful ad, and Glenlivet’s Original Since 1824 spot. Marketing is increasingly featuring women, people who aren’t white, and single malt being enjoyed long and in cocktails. There’s genuine excitement around whisky again. Just check out Instagram to see who’s posting about the category, and the imagery put out by this new generation of drinkers. We’re excited to see what 2021 holds for the category.

Stop trying to make hard seltzers happen

… And did our 2020 predictions come true?

As we do each year, twelve months ago we posted our trend predictions for 2020. Did they come true? After a quick glance, we’d give ourselves a solid 8/10 (while cutting ourselves some slack – it’s hardly been a regular year!). Rums were just getting started, world whisky has increased its airtime, vodka continues to grow here at MoM HQ, American whiskeys beyond bourbon are proving popular, we’ve seen more unusual cask finishes come through, and liqueurs have turned a little more traditional. Calvados sales have even soared by almost 300%! However, hard seltzers didn’t make the huge breakthrough promised (although summer parties were off… maybe next year), and while Aquavit and mezcal sales are in significant growth, they didn’t fly quite as predicted. There’s always next year…

What do you think? What are your trends for 2021? What will you be drinking? Let us know on social @masterofmalt, or leave a comment below!

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Our most-read posts of 2020!

It’s the time of the year to look back to see what you the reader was most interested in on the blog. Spoiler alert: it was mainly whisky. With 2020…

It’s the time of the year to look back to see what you the reader was most interested in on the blog. Spoiler alert: it was mainly whisky.

With 2020 almost over, and thank heavens for that, we decided to look back at what posts garnered the most amount of interest. So, we fired up our old analytics computing device – it’s very similar to the machine used by Turin traffic management in classic caper flick The Italian Job. Yes, we could just use Google or WordPress analytics, but where would be the fun in that? We just love watching those old reels of magnetic tape roll, listen to the random bleeps, and then after a couple of hours, it spews the answers out on computer paper with a satisfying whirring noise. 

What was interesting about this year’s results compared with 2019, is how cocktails have invaded the top ten. Because we couldn’t go out, 2020 was the year the home bar really took off. Right, in ascending order of popularity, here’s what you were most interested in this year: 

boulevardier

10 – Cocktail of the Week: The Boulevardier 

Searches for cocktails went through the roof in 2020 as seemingly everybody tried their hand at home bartending. We were delighted to see one of favourites in the top ten (above).

9 – Out of Africa, Procera gin 

The quest to make the world’s best gin in Kenya clearly caught your imagination. It helps that the gin really is superb. 

8 – New Arrival of the Week: Bombay Bramble 

No surprise here, take one of the world’s biggest gin brands, add a modern classic cocktail and people are going to be interested. 

7 – Cocktail of the Week: Dark ‘n’ Stormy 

It was 40 years ago this year that Gosling’s rum in Bermuda took the bold step of trademarking the island’s drink, the Dark ‘n’ Stormy.

6 – Hurry… popular Nikka whiskies to be discontinued 

News that two Japanese favourites including an age statement 12 year old would be disappearing really had people reaching for their wallets. 

5 – Diageo Special Releases 2020 

It’s always one of the biggest events in the whisky calendar for us, and clearly for you too. We were not surprised to see this one in the top ten.

4 – Macallan unveils Red Collection 

Macallan is a contender for the world’s most famous distillery, so when it unveils a collection including a 78 year old expression, people will sit up and take notice. 

3 – Master of Malt tastes… Glenmorangie a Taste of Cake 

This was great fun and a delicious dram, a Glenmorangie finished in sweet Tokaji casks to give it a cakey taste plus some great pics of Dr Bill Lumsden covered in icing (see header).

2 – Ardbeg releases its first ever beer 

More fun from the LVMH stable as Adam tries a beer brewed by the Islay distillery. Well, they do a thing or two about brewing as well as distilling.  

And the most read post of 2020 was. . .

1 – Master of Malt tastes. . . Ardbeg Blaaack 

Another great dram and funny story from Ardbeg, with a bottling inspired by the sheep of New Zealand and aged in Pinot Noir casks. Delicious!

The Nightcap

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The Nightcap: 18 December

It’s the final Nightcap of the year and to round-off 2020 we’ve put together one last batch of bonkers boozy news, a fitting tribute to the year that was. There’s…

It’s the final Nightcap of the year and to round-off 2020 we’ve put together one last batch of bonkers boozy news, a fitting tribute to the year that was.

There’s just one week until Christmas and only two weeks left in the whole year. How, exactly, has that happened? This truly has been the strangest, suckiest and most surreal collection of 12 months most of us have ever experienced. The good news is that this decade can only get better. Right? Well, we can confirm that The Nightcap will return in 2021, so that’s at least one positive thing in the bag already. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. 2020 still has some time on the clock and it’s chosen to spend some of its last moments making the world of booze a whole fresh batch of news to report on.

As we get ever closer to the big day #Whisky Santa has been ramping things up with his super wishes, giving away a bottle each of Dalmore 35 Year Old and Port Ellen 35 Year Old 1983, while those of you working your way through your Whisky Advent Calendars will have helped yourself to a feast of Scotch, American and World whisky thanks to the selection of drams that were hidden behind doors number #12, #13, #14, #15, #16, #17 and #18.

Elsewhere on the blog, we welcomed a new range of tasty spirits from, well… us! Then we reported on the incredibly exciting return of whisky distilling to Karuizawa in Japan, learned from Nate Brown what it’s like to launch a cocktail company during COVID and tasted the first whisky from Copper Rivet Distillery. We also found time for a quick chat with David Turner, Bowmore distillery manager, managed to pick out some delightful fortified wines to drink across the festive season, sample a peated Irish whiskey and make a delicious steaming hot cocktail

Now, onto the last Nightcap of 2020. We hope all our lovely readers have a safe and Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

The Nightcap

If the trials are successful we could be seeing a lot more of Blondie

Johnnie Walker to launch new whisky: Johnnie Blonde

News on Johnnie Walker is rarely in short supply but this week’s announcement is particularly exciting. The Diageo-owned Scotch whisky brand has revealed its plans to launch a new whisky in 2021 called Johnnie Blonde. The new expression was made to “appeal to current and new whisky drinkers alike” and is designed to be consumed in long serves, with the brand suggesting lemonade as its go-to mixer. Johnnie Blonde, which is a blend of bright wheat whiskies matured in sweet American oak and fruity malt whiskies, is very much a response to the evolving way Scotch is being consumed, with Michael Ward, head of innovation at Diageo commenting, “Johnnie Walker has always been built on progress, on a desire to constantly push boundaries and explore new flavours, experiences and serves. Johnnie Blonde is borne out of that same philosophy”. The expression, which has already won an International Spirits Challenge Gold Medal, isn’t getting a full rollout and instead will be piloted in a small number of cities around the world, including Monterey (Mexico), Curitiba (Brazil), Bangkok (Thailand), Sofia (Bulgaria), and Houston (USA) as well as with a number of partners throughout Germany, in March 2021, priced at RRP US$24.99. We look forward to seeing how it does. While we wait, we might as well make a nice long drink with one of the brand’s other delicious whiskies, right?

The Nightcap

The last we thing we need to be doing is making things harder for this amazing industry

 Tariffs on Scotch whisky move closer to removal

Things appear to be going in the right direction for those of us who want to see an end to the damaging 25% tariff on single malt Scotch whisky that was set by the U.S. over a year ago as part of a wider trade war between the U.S. and European Union. Following last week’s update on the study, new reports suggest that the U.K. government and the outgoing Trump administration are currently in negotiations to secure a ‘mini’ trade deal. In an interview with the BBC, US trade representative Robert Lighthizer said: “It’s extremely likely that we have an FTA, free-trade agreement, with the United Kingdom before long,”  and, when asked specifically about lowering tariffs on certain products including Scotch whisky, added “we have the advantage in that both the US and the UK – particularly the current government of the UK – are not big subsidisers, where some other countries are more inclined to subsidise. So it would be helpful if we could come to some kind of agreement. We are in discussions, we’ll see how that works out.” Trade body the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) said it was “encouraging” to hear Lighthizer indicate that a UK-US ‘mini deal’ could be achieved to remove Scotch whisky tariffs. Karen Betts, chief executive of the SWA, also remarked that she would like to see the US reciprocate by suspending tariffs, commenting: “Suspension on both sides would, we believe, create a positive environment for intensified settlement talks to take place. A settlement would enable everyone – aircraft manufacturers, Scotch whisky and other industries caught up in this – to focus on economic recovery rather than losing revenue to punitive tariffs”.

Guinness releases first new TV ad in 12 years

It’s always an event when Guinness releases a new television advert. This brand is synonymous with wonderful advertising, just think of those ‘80s adverts featuring Rutger Hauer or, of course, the ‘Surfers’ advert from 1999, judged the greatest TV advert of all time in a poll conducted by The Sunday Times and Channel 4. The new advert highlights the beauty of Draught Guinness in a can, something we’ve all been having more of us since the pubs were closed. Neil Shah, head of Guinness GB explained: “People love to savour delicious Guinness Draught and we wanted to remind people that they can enjoy the smooth and refreshing taste whether they choose to drink it in a pub or at home. The popularity of Guinness Draught beer in a can has naturally increased in recent months, and we wanted to celebrate that despite Christmas being different this year, Guinness Draught  doesn’t have to be.” The 20-second film titled “Pull. Pour. Settle. Enjoy.” was created by agency AMV BBDO with director Scott Lyon, and is rather functional. Yes, it makes you want to have Guinness, so it works, but it also makes you long for the sheer artistry of its forebears. Must try harder. 

The Nightcap

Let’s hope this move helps more people enjoy the distillery’s delicious whiskey

Whistlepig sells minority stake

Whistlepig has revealed that it has sold a minority stake to Moët Hennessy in a bid to help the brand expand internationally. While financial terms of the agreement have not been disclosed, we do know that the Vermont-based rye whiskey producer has been exploring options to help build its whiskey brand outside of North America, so it would be safe to assume we’ll be seeing more of Whistlepig thanks to the new partnership. “The arrangement with Moët Hennessy marks a significant moment for Whistlepig,” said Jeff Kozak, Whistlepig CEO. “We could not be more pleased to align our brand with the leader in luxury wines and spirits and are excited about future collaboration with Moët Hennessy’s team in the international market.” According to IWSR 2019 data, Whistlepig holds the top position in the ultra-premium and luxury rye whiskey category (sold at US$45 or over) in North America, so it’s a move that comes with a lot of for Moët Hennessy, the wine and spirits division of LVMH. “We are convinced that Whistlepig fits well within Moët Hennessy’s portfolio,” said Philippe Schaus, president and CEO of Moët Hennessy. “This rye whiskey house has done a remarkable job distinguishing itself among the emblematic and iconic craft distilleries in the United States with an ultra-premium standing in terms of identity, quality and price positioning.”

The Nightcap

Look at it. Just beautiful.

Bushmills unveils its oldest single malt whiskey

When Bushmills launched its Causeway Collection earlier this month we were very excited. Firstly, because it comprises of 10 cask-finished single malt whiskies that vary in age from nine to 30 years old. But also because the Irish whiskey brand is only releasing details of one bottling at the time. Which makes it even more exciting. Particularly when Bushmills follows up the debut of a single malt matured in Oloroso sherry butts and bourbon barrels for 17 years before being finished for two years in a rare Burgundy cask with the launch of its oldest single malt whiskey. The second expression in the range, the 30 Year Old New American Oak Cask single malt was initially matured in Oloroso sherry butts and bourbon barrels, and finished in new American oak casks for an ‘unprecedented’ 16 years. The non-chill-filtered single malt was bottled in September 2020 at cask strength (48.4% ABV) and is said to have notes of honey malt with the virgin oak providing ‘intense flavours of vanilla, chocolate and warm wood’. “It’s a privilege to work with such rare whiskeys in The Causeway Collection. This 30 Year Old New American Oak Cask, our oldest single malt to date, is a truly special Irish single malt,” says Bushmills master blender Helen Mulholland. “I’m immensely proud of how we’ve been able to create such sensational waves of flavour in a 30-year-old whiskey. Like the whole Causeway Collection, it’s a celebration of our passion for single malts, our rare and unique casks and our 400 years of whiskey-making heritage.” Sadly, getting your hands on this is going to be pretty tricky. Firstly, because only 100 bottles of the single malt have been released (the remaining 332 bottles are coming next year.). Secondly, because it’s available exclusively at The Irish Whiskey Collection at The Loop in Dublin and Cork airports in Ireland. Still, it’s a welcome boost for travel retail and a window in the kind of delights that lie in Bushmill’s warehouses…

The Nightcap

Shades are advised for this one

Glenmorangie’s new ad campaign is very colourful

Dig out your sunglasses because Glenmorangie has unveiled a new brand campaign and it’s not what you would call subdued. It was created by DDB Paris agency with top photographer Miles Aldridge and features six scenes of people enjoying Glenmorangie with the tagline, “It’s kind of delicious and wonderful”. And did we mention the colours? Holy moly, they are bright, awash with the boldest oranges and vivid blues. These technicolour dreams will be appearing on social media and various billboards across London this month. Alexander Kalchev, chief creative officer at DDB Paris, explained: “We set out to reimagine everyday experiences – a camping trip or a train journey – all made more wonderful, to reflect Glenmorangie’s perspective. Inspired by the brand’s signature orange colour, we decided to use colour as a metaphor to open up the whisky’s world. And of course, as a master of colour, Miles Aldridge was the obvious talent to bring our vision to life.” Louise Dennett, global head of brand at Glenmorangie, added: “We make whisky because we want people to enjoy it. There are many technicalities as to how we make it taste so good. But ultimately, what matters is that our single malt is delicious, and we think there’s a simple joy in that. Through our collaboration with Miles Aldridge and DDB Paris we have created a visual feast of a campaign. We hope it will welcome more people into our delicious and wonderful world.” But that’s not all: as well as being striking, the images contain little jokes including references to giraffes (the distillery’s mascot) and anagrams of the word Glenmorangie, like ‘A Ginger Lemon’ in the train and ‘Mango Reeling’. Endless fun! 

The Nightcap

The gin numbers for the off-trade were something to smile about, at least

British gin sales hit hard by lockdown

For the final news round-up of the year, it seems fitting to include the man who has graced more Nightcaps than anyone… Miles Beale! According to Beale, CEO of the WSTA, “Gin has proven to be a real tonic for shoppers wanting to enjoy a bit of downtime at home during a turbulent 2020. It’s fantastic to hear that some distillers will have benefited from a boost in retail sales, but we have to look at the bigger picture which shows overall gin sales are down by £400 million following the hit taken by the hospitality sector due to the pandemic this year.” He was commenting on news that because of the enforced closure of much of the on-trade, gin sales declined from £2.6 billion in 2019 to £2.2 billion this year. Retail was up 22%, worth £1.2 billion, but it wasn’t enough to make up for the lost business. As you would expect from Beale, he had words for the British government: “British spirit makers, many of whom are SMEs, need greater support from government to continue to grow and recover from the loss of hospitality sales. That is why, as a first and easy step, we are calling on the Chancellor to cut duty and boost British business at the spring Budget.” You tell ‘em, Miles.

The Nightcap

British people enjoying the odd drop of drink on a lunch break? Scandalous!

And finally. . . Shock horror! People enjoying alcohol during the day

Data produced by the health and safety software company Protecting.co.uk shows that more than 90% of workers say that they have been consuming alcohol while working from home. Hardly surprising, many of us enjoy a glass of wine or a pint with our lunch. The problem with the survey is that it doesn’t differentiate between responsible and heavy drinking, seeing both as problematic. Mark Hall from Protecting.co.uk commented: “It ranges from just a glass for two with lunch, to getting through a whole bottle of wine a day, but the health implications are clear.” He goes on to say: “It’s alarming to employers to hear that staff feel like they can get away with all kinds of behaviour while they are out of office.” It’s health and safety gone mad! We would hardly describe having a drink on a lunch break as ‘alarming’. Before lockdown, if you visited any town or city in the country you would see people enjoying an alcoholic drink with their lunches before returning to work. The press release from Protecting.co.uk goes on to say: “Most workplaces will have a robust alcohol and substance abuse policy to keep staff in check when they are at work.” Perhaps, but this is irrelevant in this instance. Unless you’re operating heavy machinery or conducting brain surgery, then a small amount of alcohol, a pint or a Gin & Tonic, is not a problem for most employers or employees. Lockdown has been hard for everyone, and if you are worried about your drinking, then you should seek professional help (DrinkAware is a really great place to start). But we see nothing wrong with some responsible daytime imbibing. Cin cin!

No Comments on The Nightcap: 18 December

Top ten: Scotch whiskies under £50

From smoky single malts to the ultimate Highball blend, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get some seriously good Scotch whisky. Here are ten of our…

From smoky single malts to the ultimate Highball blend, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get some seriously good Scotch whisky. Here are ten of our favourites.

We love whisky at Master of Malt. Which means that everyone in the office has strong opinions on the subject so it was tricky to narrow this list down to just ten bottles. People are going to be upset that we didn’t include their favourite drams, especially Talisker 10, Laphroaig 10 or Bowmore 12. But we thought it would be a good idea to include alongside the old favourites some lesser-known whiskies as well as expressions that are so well-known you probably don’t notice them anymore. So without further ado, delay or general beating around the bush. Here are (some of) our favourite Scotch whiskies under £50. Tell us in the comments or on social why we should have included your dram of choice.

ardbeg-uigeadail-whisky

Ardbeg Uigeadail

Well, we had a bit of a discussion that got quite heated about which Ardbeg to include. The Ten would have been the obvious choice but instead we’ve gone with the spectacular Uigeadail ( pronounced “Oog-a-dal”) that melds the smoky lime-scented Ardbeg character with sweet sherry casks. And how!

What does it taste like?

There’s plenty of peat and smoke but it’s all wrapped up in muscovado sugar, honey and espresso coffee. Rich and pungent, Uigeadail is quite an experience.

arran-10-year-old-whisky

Arran 10 Year Old

This distillery was founded by former Chivas MD Harold Currie, the first on the isle of Arran on the West Coast since 1837. It might be the entry level whisky but this ten year old aged entirely in bourbon casks tastes pretty special, showing off the fruity, floral distillery character.

What does it taste like: 

Nutty and biscuity with fresh apple and lemon fruit plus floral summer hedgerow and honey notes. It’s packed full of character and really over delivers for the money.

balblair-12-year-old-whisky

Balblair 12 Year Old

Last year Balblair switched from vintage releases to a suitably impressive new range of age statements expressions. This is the baby of the bunch, aged in ex-bourbon and double-fired American oak casks, and it’s superb.

What does it taste like? 

The soft mango and peach distillery character really shines through, supported by spicy cedar and nutmeg, honey and barley. A great introduction to a great distillery. 

compass-box-spice-tree-whisky

Compass Box Spice Tree 

Originally made with oak staves which attracted the ire of the SWA, Spice Tree is now aged in especially-made casks with new French oak heads. It’s a stunning blend of Highland malts with the French oak adding masses of spice, hence the name. 

What does it taste like? 

Dried apricots, vanilla, cinnamon and toffee with pungent tobacco, cloves and pepper, it’s not called Spice Tree for nothing. Long, complex and totally harmonious. 

glenfarclas-10-year-old-whisky

Glenfarclas 10 Year Old

Glenfarclas is one of the very few family-owned distilleries in Scotland. That combined with its excellent sherry-soaked Speyside drams is why it is one of the the country’s best-loved distilleries. 

What does it taste like? 

On the nose there’s honey, toffee and Oloroso sherry. While the palate is full of baking spices with fruitcake, apples, nuts and even a little smoke.

glenmorangie-10-year-old-the-original-whisky

Glenmorangie 10 Year Old

We love the whole Glenmorangie range but it’s the 10 Year Old Original we keep coming back to. Entirely aged in ex-bourbon casks, it’s smooth, sweet and fruity but deceptively complex. No drinks cupboard should be without a bottle. 

What does it taste like? 

Full of lemons, nectarines and apples with vanilla, digestive biscuits and gentle baking spices. And honey! Lots and lots of honey. 

j-and-b-rare-whisky

J&B Rare 

J&B Rare is one of those whiskies so ubiquitous, you probably don’t even notice it behind the bar. Which is a shame because this is probably the ultimate Highball whisky. Just blend with soda, ice and maybe a dash of orange bitters for a refreshing pre-dinner drink. One sip and you’ll never go back to G&Ts.

What does it taste like? 

Yes, it’s light but there’s depth here too with appley fruit joined by richer notes of malt, cedar, vanilla and walnut with a lift of orange zest. Perfect with soda.

johnnie-walker-green-label-15-year-old-whisky

Johnnie Walker Green Label 15 Year Old

Well, we had to include something from Johnnie Walker. But rather than the Red or Black, we’ve gone with Green Label, a spectacular 15 year old all malt blend that combines whiskies from around Scotland. One to offer to people who say they only drink single malts.

What does it taste like? 

This is packed full of dark chocolate, oak spice, malty cereal notes, and coffee and walnut cake. An after-dinner whisky, if there ever was one. 

kilkerran-12-year-old-whisky

Kilkerran 12 Year Old

In 2004, Springbank reopened Glengyle distillery taking the number of working distilleries in Campbeltown to three. But Glen Scotia owns the Glengyle brand which is why this whisky is called Kilkerran. The quality is exceptional for the money and this expression has become something of a cult. 

What does it taste like? 

It melds citrus, cherries and orange peel with creamy vanilla, honey and butterscotch, with a saline note running through it. If you love the oily Springbank style, then you’ll adore this.

seaweed-and-aeons-and-digging-and-fire-10-year-old-whisky

Seaweed & Aeons & Digging & Fire 10 Year Old

An Islay single malt from an undisclosed distillery. The name makes sense as soon as you take a sip, it’s a smoky peaty Islay malt with 25% aged Oloroso sherry cask. This has proved an extremely popular malt with MoM customers.

What does it taste like? 

Does exactly what it says on the bottle: there’s woodsmoke, seaweed and charred meat combined with sweet sherry notes, red apple and vanilla. 

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