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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Highland Park

The Nightcap: 26 March

50-year-old whisky from Highland Park, a new distillery on Whisky Galore island and David Beckham. It’s all on The Nightcap: 26 March edition. Get stuck in!  A whole week has…

50-year-old whisky from Highland Park, a new distillery on Whisky Galore island and David Beckham. It’s all on The Nightcap: 26 March edition. Get stuck in! 

A whole week has passed since we last filled our Nightcapping sack full of stories. Which means we get to do it all again this week. You might think that at some point not enough interesting things will happen in this lovely industry of ours and we won’t have anything to write about. But we’ve never had to find out. Because people keep doing cool, interesting or baffling things, like rebuilding a demolished pub brick by brick or putting whisky in mulberry wood casks. And we salute them for doing so. It means we’ve got another cracker of a Nightcap to enjoy this week. So, what are you waiting for? Read on!

If you like winning stuff by doing very little then the MoM blog was the place for you this week as we launched a bottle lottery for a shiny new Macallan whisky and a #BagThisBundle competition with Botanist Islay Dry Gin. If you enjoy smoky blends with plenty of history, fiery zero ABV drinks or bargain vodka you’ll also love this week’s work. There was also room on our blog for plenty of debate with Ian Buxton considering the potential of a whisky bust that could be coming soon and Henry asking if the G&T is a cocktail. Lucy, meanwhile, did some digging into the history of Hennessy Cognac as Adam’s attention was taken by Irish independent bottling and the Curious Bartender popped by to give us some top tips for making cocktails at home.

On The Nightcap: 26 March edition we take a look at the new 50-year-old whisky launched by Highland Park

The new dram certainly looks every bit as old and rare as it is

Highland Park launches 50-year-old whisky

Highland Park is flexing its considerable muscles this week by unveiling a new 50-Year-Old single malt. It’s just the third time a half-century whisky has been released in the distillery’s 223 year history, which should give you an idea of how significant this launch is. The 50 Year Old is the creation of a selection of nine refill casks laid down in 1968 that were married together in 2008 then re-racked into a handful of the finest first-fill sherry seasoned oak casks. Then, after a further 12 years of maturation, one of these limited casks was selected and married with a small quantity of the whisky from the 2016 release of 50 Year Old which in turn contained some whisky from the 2010 batch. Highland Park is describing this as a ‘solera’ as used in the sherry industry, which isn’t quite accurate, but certainly sounds colourful. Gordon Motion, Highland Park master whisky maker, described it as “spectacular”. He reveals the spirit has both the rich sherried flavours from its final first-fill cask maturation, as well as all the delicate fragrance and flavours driven by the original refill casks. The whisky comes in a hand-made walnut box courtesy of John Galvin and the design has all the hallmarks of the Norse heritage Highland Park likes to reference nowadays. Of course, all of this comes with a considerable price tag of £20,000, so it’s unlikely any of us will get to taste it. Still, there’s plenty of tasty Highland Park expressions to enjoy right here, which is a solid consolation. 

On The Nightcap: 26 March edition we take a first look at a new distillery on Whisky Galore island

Yes it looks like every other computer-generated distillery design

Whisky Galore island getting its own whisky distillery

The island where author Sir Compton Mackenzie set his classic novel Whisky Galore is about to welcome its first-ever whisky distillery. The team behind the Isle of Barra Gin brand plans to create a new purpose-built whisky and gin distillery and visitor centre on Barra, where the original movie was filmed. The £5m project will serve as the new home to the existing 300-litre Barra gin still, ‘Ada’ and have a plant for bottling and bonded warehousing, a small café/bar and a retail area, all while creating at least 30 new local jobs. Whisky veteran Alan Winchester (of Glenlivet fame) has been brought on board to put his 40+ years of experience to good use, guiding Isle of Barra Gin founders Michael and Katie Morrison and helping to establish a flavour profile. The plan is for the site to be powered by renewable energy and for it to be built with sustainable materials, while a green travel plan that will limit the number of visitors driving to the site is also in development. Once completed, the distillery will be capable of producing over 300,000 bottles of single malt per year, with the firm planning to use spirit matured in a mix of ex-bourbon barrels, Cabernet Sauvignon casks and Oloroso sherry casks. The founders say the idea is to create a spirit that represents its island home and also reveals that ever since the launch of Isle of Barra Distillers, they’ve consistently been asked if they produce whisky because of the instant connection people make with the much-loved film and the book. If all goes well they should break ground in the middle of next year. Though you’ll have to wait a good while before it’s whisky galore on Barra.

Method and Madness creates world’s first mulberry wood whiskey

One of the many interesting things about the Irish whiskey industry is that it allows producers to mature their spirit in casks other than oak. And that leads to all kinds of cool and curious creations. Like the latest Method and Madness expression. No strangers to experimental ageing, the brand is launching a new single pot still Irish whiskey finished in virgin white mulberry wood. It’s thought to be the first time anyone has used this wood type for maturing whisky. It’s sourced from Hungary, where its air-dried for two years at the Kádár sawmills in Tokaj before being transferred to a cooperage in Budapest. The Irish Distillers brand reveals the casks are just 50-litres which, combined with high porosity and medium toasting, imparts elevated flavours of wood spices and toffee sweetness. Before it was finished in the mulberry wood casks (for around three to eight months), the single pot still whiskey was matured in a combination of first-fill and re-fill American oak barrels. Finbarr Curran, Midleton’s wood planning and maturation team lead, says the innovation is the third world’s first in the Method and Madness range and that the brand’s commitment to wood experimentation and maturation has “taken us all over the world and led to the development of some of the most exquisite Irish whiskeys”. Adding: “It’s been a joyous journey of discovery and we look forward to continuing this exploration as we keep pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in Irish whiskey.” Oh, and while we’re talking about Irish Distillers, congratulations are in order for Brendan Buckley, the company’s international marketing director, who has been inducted into the Whisky Magazine Hall of Fame to recognise his contribution to the growth of the Irish whiskey category on the global stage. Slainte, Brendan!

On The Nightcap: 26 March edition we hear about the wonderful tale of a pub revival

The Carlton Tavern before demolition

Demolished London pub rebuilt brick by brick

It sounds like something from the plot of a feel-good film. Developer bulldozes historic pub illegally, locals rally round and the council orders developer to rebuild the pub. And they actually do, brick-by-brick in an exact recreation of the pub’s glory days. But this is exactly what happened to the Carlton Tavern in Maida Vale, west London. The pub closed in April 2015. Just before being granted Grade II listed status, the owner, a company with the perfectly sinister name of CTLX, demolished it having previously been denied permission to convert it into flats. Following a campaign by locals led by Polly Robertson, Westminster Council ordered the pub rebuilt, and against all expectations, it happened. Cleverly Robertson and Historic England took plaster casts of every tile because “we had a suspicion before the demolition that they would do something,” she said to the Guardian. Apparently, though, CLTX did a great job of rebuilding the pub which is now in the safe hands of Tom Rees and Ben Martin of Homegrown Pubs and will be opening soon. We just can’t wait for the film version starring Julie Walters, and Steve Coogan as one of the slippery property developers. 

On The Nightcap: 26 March edition we welcome the revived White Heather Scotch whisky brand

White Heather is back, everyone!

The GlenAllachie revives blended whisky brand White Heather

You may know the brand for its considerable range of tasty single malts often aged in intriguing cask types, but GlenAllachie now has its own blended Scotch. It’s called White Heather, you know, like that whisky brand which was discontinued in the 1980s. The rights to it were acquired by The GlenAllachie Distillers Company in 2017, along with the distillery itself and MacNair’s Lum Reek. The blend was concocted in the GlenAllachie Distillery lab by master distiller Billy Walker, whose recipe has a high single malt content, with whiskies coming from the Highlands, Islay and Speyside. Of course, some vintage GlenAllachie is in there too. The whiskies spent an initial 18 years maturing in a combination of first-fill American barrels, sherry butts and second-fill barrels and hogsheads, before an additional three years in a mix of Pedro Ximénez puncheons, Oloroso puncheons and Appalachian virgin oak casks. This means the youngest whisky in this blend is 21-years-old. This factor, as well as there just 2,000 bottles available worldwide and the fact that it’s bottled at 48% ABV with no added colouring or chill-filtration explains the £120 price tag. Walker, who celebrates 50 years in the whisky industry next year (and joining Brendan in the Hall of Fame), says White Heather is particularly close to his heart as it took him back to when he began his career at Hiram Walker, where learned the art of blending. “With White Heather, I poured everything I’ve learned on my whisky journey into crafting a truly memorable small batch aged blend that sits proudly alongside even the very best single malts”. You can see for yourself how he’s done, as White Heather will be available from MoM Towers soon…

On The Nightcap: 26 March edition we've got the lovely David Beckham and his new shiny new whisky.

Blend it like Beckham

Mediterranean Orange Haig Club coming soon

There’s a new Haig Club on the way! Don’t all rush at once. It’s fair to say that Haig Club since it was released in 2016 has taken a bit of a battering, as you can see from the ratings on the Master of Malt website. With its, if we’re being very polite, discrete flavour profile, it hasn’t caught the imagination of whisky fans. We reckon, however, that a new expression might be rather nice. It’s called Mediterranean Orange and according to the press bumf, it was “created in collaboration with brand partner, David Beckham.” Actual David Beckham himself commented: “Developing Haig Club Mediterranean Orange has been in the works for some time now and I’ve enjoyed helping select the final liquid. The orange perfectly complements the signature Scotch notes of Haig Club and it’s a great long drink for summer.” This new expression is not a whisky but a spirit drink flavoured with orange, sweetened and weighing in at 35% ABV which we think plays to Haig Club’s strengths, that discrete flavour profile. Violeta Andreeva, whisky marketing director, Diageo described it as an exciting step forwards for dark spirits,” (dark spirits, lol!) and continued: “We see this as a huge opportunity to recruit a new generation of drinkers as more and more consumers are choosing flavours and sweeter drinks.” We have to admit, in a long drink with lemonade or tonic water, it sounds delicious. Just don’t offer it to your mate with the Ardbeg tattoo.

On The Nightcap: 26 March edition we learn not to mess with the SWA

It does look quite Scotchy

SWA files lawsuit against Canadian whisky producer over ‘Caledonian’ name

Vancouver’s Caledonian Distillery makes much of its Scottish heritage. Well, there’s the name for example. And it was set up in 2016 by a team of Scots including founder Graeme Macaloney and former Diageo master distiller Mike Nicolson with the late Jim Swan as a consultant. Products include Scotch-style single malts as well as Irish-style pot still whiskies. Now, as reported in the Spirits Business, the SWA has weighed in: “We have objected to the company’s use of certain words and terms that are strongly associated with Scotland on their whisky products,” a spokesperson said. Those words being  ‘Caledonian’, ‘Macaloney’, ‘Island whisky’, ‘Glenloy’, and ‘Invermallie.’ The SWA claim that they violate Scotch whisky’s GI and has filed a lawsuit against Macaloney. The firm issued a statement: “We are proud to celebrate our heritage including the Scottish ancestry of our founder and the story of his family, and firmly believe we have the right to do so in a way that celebrates both that history and reputation as a leading Vancouver Island craft distillery.” It will be interesting to see whether the two sides can come to a compromise. The SWA lost a lawsuit in 2009 against another Canadian Distillery, Glen Breton. We’ll keep you updated. 

On The Nightcap: 26 March edition we feared we might win a competition you don't want to win...

Just remember all the good times before you go submitting us…

And finally… the search is on to find the worst tasting note 

Have you ever read a drink description that has left you amused, bemused or tearing your hair out with rage? Now, and not before time, satirical drinks website Fake Booze has launched a competition to find the worst tasting note. Whether it’s wine, beer, whisky or baijiu, according to Fake Booze, “if it’s crap it’s a contender.” The #thecrappies will feature a number of categories including ‘most pompous’, ‘crappiest food match suggestion’, and ‘most sexist.’ We have a top tip for that last category. You can enter with the #crapnotes hashtag on Twitter or send a DM to @fakebooze on Twitter/ fake.booze on Instagram. The winner will be announced at a star-studded ceremony in June, or maybe just on the Fake Booze website. It’s all highly amusing, but what if someone at Master of Malt wins? It won’t be so funny then.

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The Nightcap: 15 January

In this week’s edition of The Nightcap, we lament tariffs again, celebrate the arrival of some charming new booze and try to comprehend how delicious Bordeaux wine made it to…

In this week’s edition of The Nightcap, we lament tariffs again, celebrate the arrival of some charming new booze and try to comprehend how delicious Bordeaux wine made it to space and back without being drunk…  

Welcome everyone, we hope you’re keeping safe and warm during Lockdown III: Lockdowner and enjoying the outdoors when you can. We’re trying to stay chipper ourselves, although we were irked when we noticed in our dictionary that the definition of the word ‘nightcap’ was somewhat lacking. There were references to an alcoholic drink taken at the end of the day, a cloth cap worn with nightclothes and the final race or contest of a day’s sports. But what there wasn’t any word of was this perfectly suitable definition: a charming weekly round-up of all things boozy and newsy, best enjoyed with a dram in-hand. Clearly an oversight. Step-up your game Merriam-Webster. Anyway, here’s another edition of the Nightcap. Perhaps you could pop a jaunty little cloth cap on while you read it?

On the blog this week we announced some good news regarding shipping to Northern Ireland as well as two new competitions: one being our magnificent Burns Night poetry competition, back by popular demand, and the other offering you the chance to win a VIP trip to Benriach Distillery. Ian Buxton returned to cast an eye on a new generation of distillers who are creating whisky with all sorts of uncommon grains, while Adam also embraced the weird and wonderful by enjoying some tasty new baijiu. Elsewhere, we rounded up some of the most delicious low- and no-alcohol drinks on the market for Dry January, showed you how creating your own cocktail ingredients is easier than you might think and enjoyed the marvels of vermouth by welcoming a new expression that honours the father of mixology, Mr Jerry Thomas and using another impressive creation in our delightfully simple and sublime Cocktail of the Week

Now, on to The Nightcap!

The Nightcap

Karen Betts from the SWA was on hand to sum up the mood

US tariffs to remain on Scotch whisky

We reported last month that the UK would be dropping the tariffs on American whiskey now that it was out of the EU. We finished by anticpating that the Americans would reciprocate by dropping their 25% tariffs on Scotch but it seems that this won’t be happening in the foreseeable future. It was hoped that a deal could be pushed through in the last days of the Trump administration but it seems that the president has more pressing concerns. According to a story in The Times, the British team don’t hold out much hope that Katherine Tai, the incoming US trade representative, will be prioritising ending the tariffs. Karen Betts from the SWA commented:Tariffs remain on Scotch whisky: A missed opportunity to straighten out subsidies to aerospace and lift hugely damaging tariffs on Scotch Whisky. There’s certainly deep disappointment across the industry. Over £400m in losses and counting.” And there was us hoping that 2021 would begin on a positive note.

The Nightcap

The distillers signed the bottles. All nine of them!

Torabhaig to auction two rare whiskies for charity

There’s already plenty of excitement around the launch of Torabhaig’s first whisky, but that hasn’t stopped the brand from generating even more anticipation by announcing that it will auction two rare signed bottles of Torabhaig Single Malt ahead of its general release in February. The auction, which will start on the 31st January on Whisky Auction, includes a single cask bottle from the Torabhaig Family Reserve (future expressions from the Family Reserve will remain in a private collection and unavailable to purchase normally) as well as a bottle of the ‘Legacy Series 2017’ peated single malt, both of which have been signed by all nine Torabhaig distillers. All proceeds of the sale will go to the National Centre for Gaelic Language and Culture, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig and the Dr MacKinnon Memorial Broadford Hospital. Given the upcoming launch is from the first whisky distillery to be built on Skye in 190 years and only the second legal whisky distillery ever to operate on the island (after Talisker), many of us whisky lovers are understandably very excited to get our hands on its inaugural whisky. Good thing we can reveal that the Legacy Series 2017 will be available from MoM Towers, but keep in mind that this is a limited single distillation vintage issue with just over 3,000 bottles available for distribution in the UK and 6,000 in the USA so demand is likely to outstrip supply.

The Nightcap

The hospitality industry has welcomed the government’s vote

UK government votes in favour of hospitality minister

Given the state of things right now we’re always delighted to welcome some good news in our industry and we got some this week after MPs voted in favour of creating a minister of hospitality in the UK. The notion was debated by the UK government after an online petition secured more than 200,000 signatures and following a 90-minute debate in Westminster on Monday 11 January, the vote gained the support it needed. While this doesn’t guarantee the role will be created, the hospitality industry has welcomed the government’s recognition of the sector’s importance, with issues like extending the VAT cut and the business rates holiday and often forgotten parts of the sector like nightclubs, wedding venues, conference centres and the industry’s critical supply chain receiving attention. This has raised hopes the debate will prompt senior leadership within the Conservative Party to seriously consider the proposal. “It was incredibly positive to hear so many MPs being vocal advocates of the hospitality sector. There was unanimous recognition of our importance economically and socially. It is striking that, in the end, the petition got more than 200,000 signatures,” Kate Nicholls, UKHospitality chief executive, said, in her second Nightcap appearance in as many weeks. “We all understand the importance of what we do and it is good to see the government recognise the importance of working closely with the sector to ensure that we are properly supported, not just during this crisis but more generally.”

The Nightcap

Over £36k for a great cause has been raised. Thanks to all who took part!

Our Macallan auction raises £36k for Hospitality Action 

We always knew that the Macallan Red collection, consisting of whiskies of up to 78 years old, would be seriously in demand with Master of Malt customers. That’s why when we received our allocation, we decided to sell them through a charity auction, as we do for all in-demand whiskies. Well, the whiskies went quickly, no surprise there, and we’re delighted to announce that we have raised £36,510.00 for Hospitality Action, which offers a crucial lifeline to people of all ages, working and retired, from the hospitality industry. Justin Petszaft, Atom Group CEO, commented: “It’s been a hard year for everyone, but particularly those in the hospitality sector, so we’ve been looking for ways to help them weather the storm until they can fully re-open in the summer. Macallan is always highly collectable, so we knew demand for this collection would be high, and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to help raise some much needed funds for our friends in the on-trade. When we set this live none of us could have imagined how much it would raise: £36,000 is a huge amount of money and will make a real difference to so many people’s lives who desperately need our help right now. I’d like to thank both Macallan for providing such a fantastic set of bottles for us to auction, and our incredible customers for being so amazingly generous in their bids. As ever, you guys rock.”

The Nightcap

Orkney Distillery is one of many embracing its environmental responsibilities (image credit to Colin Keldie)

Distilleries go green with government initiative

The winners of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Green Distilleries Competition were announced on Friday 8th January 2021, with 17 distilleries receiving the first phase of £10 million government funding to go green, including Bruichladdich, The Orkney Distillery and Highland Park. The government initiative aims to find ways of decarbonising the distilling sector and the fund will assist distilleries in the search for lower-carbon alternatives to generate heat for processes such as malting and distilling. Bruichladdich revealed last week that more than £70,000 has been awarded to its project partner, Protium Green Solutions, in order to complete a feasibility study on incorporating innovative hydrogen combustion technology as part of ambitious plans to decarbonise its production process by 2025. Highland Park and The Orkney Distillery, in Kirkwall, are also set to take part in a £58,781 research project led by the Stromness-based European Marine Energy Centre (Emec), along with industrial decarbonisation experts from Edinburgh’s Napier University. The HySpirits 2 project in Kirkwall follows research completed last year by Emec at The Orkney Distillery, which investigated the feasibility of using a hydrogen-fuelled thermal fluid heating system there. “We understand that there is real potential for a  hydrogen‐based solution to decarbonise our industry,” says Allan Logan, production director of Bruichladdich. “We are thrilled to have the support of Protium, Deuterium and ITPEnergised to help us assess the feasibility of employing a green hydrogen fuel switching solution for our distillery – a move we hope benefits the broader industry”. It’s terrific to see that, despite everything that’s going on, there are those who are focused on planning for a better future.

The Nightcap

Smoky French Martinis, anyone?

Thomas Lowndes creates RTD cocktail range

The ready-to-drink (RTD) market is booming at the moment, which is understandable given you can’t turn to bartenders to provide delicious and convenient complex serves at the moment. In fact, RTDs are forecast to remain the fastest‐growing alcohol sector over the next five years, according to the IWSR Drinks Market Analysis. As the category widens and develops new products naturally follow and this week learned that Edrington-Beam Suntory UK has made a serious step into this market with the launch of the Thomas Lowndes 1826 range of RTD products. The Glasgow-based firm Thomas Lowndes has been part of EBS UK since 2015 and has named its new range after the year Mr Lowndes founded the business. It comprises four bottled cocktails: an Old Fashioned and a Mint Julep made with Maker’s Mark bourbon, a Cognac Espresso Martini that features Courvoisier and a Smoky French Martini made using Laphroaig whisky instead of vodka or gin, all of which are available from us (just give those links a click). “This exciting new range by 1826, associated with premium whiskies, Cognacs and bourbons gives us the perfect opportunity to showcase how easily bar-quality cocktails can be created in the home,” Moira Jacques, general manager of Thomas Lowndes, said. “We want to show customers that you can create premium, top-quality drinks in the comfort of your own home.”

The Nightcap

Beefeater’s new look will save 410 tonnes of plastic every year

Beefeater gin unveils sustainable bottle

Beefeater London Dry Gin has announced this week a plan to reduce the amount of plastic it uses by unveiling a more sustainable packaging design. The new bottle is made entirely from recyclable glass and is said to save the Pernod Ricard-owned brand 410 tonnes of plastic every year. The previous plastic cap has been replaced with an embossed, aluminium cap and the label has been changed from PVC to paper and the bottle, the shape of which you might have noticed was inspired by London bricks, was also designed with bartenders in mind as it makes pouring the gin easier. “Whilst our packaging has evolved our award-winning gin remains the same, with every drop distilled in the heart of London. The design of the bottle, from its shape to its label, paints a picture of what the liquid inside will taste like,” said Murielle Dessenis, global brand director of Beefeater. “The new design has performed well with bartenders and consumers alike, and we’re proud to have designed this new iteration of Beefeater’s iconic bottle with sustainability in mind, taking the brand on to the next step in its journey with a natural evolution for today’s gin enthusiasts.” The new design will be rolled out globally from this month and will cover the whole Beefeater range, with the exception of Beefeater 24.

The Nightcap

How you can resist cracking open a bottle of wine in space, we’ll never know.

And finally… Bordeaux wines return from space, undrunk!

If you were floating around on the International Space Station and there was a case of wine lying around, you’d crack open a bottle, wouldn’t you? Well, miraculously a case of Bordeaux that spent a year in space landed in the sea this week off the coast of Florida, completely intact. Not a drop had been drunk. The package also contained 160 canes each of Cabernet and Merlot. No, this wasn’t a psychological experiment in resisting temptation, it was part of a research project by a company called Space Cargo looking into the effects of extreme conditions on vines and wine to understand the stress they might endure from climate change. This isn’t the first time Bordeaux has been into space, a bottle of Chateau Lynch Bages 1975 went up on the space shuttle in 1985, and also came home intact because nobody had drunk it. Amazing willpower these astronauts.

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Whisky Advent 2020 Day #17: Highland Park Valfather 

Behind the 17th door of the Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar is a mighty malt from the most northerly distillery in Scotland, Highland Park. Did you ever study…

Behind the 17th door of the Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar is a mighty malt from the most northerly distillery in Scotland, Highland Park.

Did you ever study Norse mythology at school? It’s some crazy stuff. The sound of thunder was actually Thor, the lightning god and inventor of Thursdays, riding across the heavens on a chariot pulled by goats. Actual goats! But he wasn’t even the mightiest, that was Odin, king of the gods and inventor of Wednesdays. Yes, without the Vikings, we’d just skip from Tuesday to Saturday because Friday was invented by a Norse goddess, Freya. But back to Odin, he’s the inspiration for the dram behind today’s door which awkwardly is a Thursday rather than a Wednesday. Someone hasn’t thought this through properly. Anyway, today’s whisky is:

Highland Park Valfather!

Odin was also known as the Valfather and this whisky is appropriately mighty being the most peated in the range but it still possesses that classic Highland Park sweetness and balance. To tell us more about it we are pleased to welcome everyone’s favourite Viking brand ambassador, Martin Marvardsen. He might look ferocious, but he’s actually lovely.

Martin Markvardsen, he really loves Highland Park

Master of Malt: Can you tell us a bit about Highland Park Valfather and how it is matured?

Martin Markvardsen: Valfather is our most peated whisky to date and is matured in refill casks. The use of refill casks allows the peat to come through much better, giving it a great balance of flavour and depth. Valfather is also inspired by Norse mythology and named after Odin, father of Gods. Our master whisky maker Gordon Motion used refill casks to create a lighter, ethereal character for our whisky to reflect this while the additional peat reflects power.

MoM: What makes Highland Park so special as a distillery?

MM: Highland Park is a special distillery due to many things. It’s the northern-most whisky distillery in Scotland. We still use the traditional art of floor malting and we use local Orkney peat, cut from our very own Hobbister Moor. The climate up in Orkney is very different to the rest of Scotland which influences the way we make our whisky and the end result. We are the only distillery to use Orkney peat which is very different due to the heather which grows on it and the lack of trees on the island. This provides us with a beautiful balance of light peat and heather honey flavour. Founded back in 1798 making Highland Park Distillery one of the oldest distilleries still to produce single malt whisky in Scotland.

The distillery looking lovely on a cold winter’s night

MoM: How has the distillery adapted to the unusual events of this year?

MM: Like all distilleries in Scotland, Highland Park followed the government guidelines around lockdown restrictions throughout the year meaning our visitor centre was closed for a number of months throughout the summer. Both production and the visitor centre is now open again and we have implemented a series of new safety procedures to keep our staff and visitors safe. We were still able to launch our exciting new Cask Strength whisky this year with the majority of our launch activity taking place online.  

MoM: What do you think the world of whisky is going to look like in 2021?

MM: I think we will see a slightly different whisky world: smaller fairs, fewer events and for us ambassadors a bit more work online. I don’t see sales dropping too much. Well, of course, we will see travel retail coming back, but not at full speed yet. I also hope that 2021 will be the year, where we see a few new distilleries being ready to sell their first bottlings. So all in all, I think and hope that 2021, will slowly bring us closer to a normal day of life in the world of whisky. I’m very positive about the future.

MoM: What will you be drinking over the festive period?

MM: During the festive period I’ll be enjoying the new Highland Park Cask Strength. I’m pretty sure Highland Park 18 Year Old will find its way towards my glass too. One thing for sure, the colder it gets, the more cosy and relaxed I’ll be in front of the fireplace with a dram of Highland Park.

Tasting note from the Chaps at Master of Malt

Nose: Robust, but refined smoke fills the nose initially followed by delicate vanilla, Conference pears, green apple skins and a heady, heavy floral richness. Underneath there’s cedarwood, honeycomb, spice from black pepper and nutmeg, as well as salted caramel before the heathery peat makes itself known. A sprightly sea breeze note emerges with time.

Palate: Simultaneously huge and yet elegant, the palate is beautifully integrated. Layers of creamy vanilla, apricot yoghurt and a helping of crème brûlée interplay with notes of incense burners, iron and salted almonds. Then there’s bitter orange marmalade, charred wood and dried earth among touches of cacao powder, toffee apples and smoked paprika.

Finish: Long and confident. The floral smoke lingers for an age but is offset by tropical fruit and black pepper.

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New Arrival of the Week: Highland Park Cask Strength

There’s never been a cask strength Highland Park in the core range… until now. As a load of 63.3% ABV Orkney single malt arrives at MoM towers, we caught up…

There’s never been a cask strength Highland Park in the core range… until now. As a load of 63.3% ABV Orkney single malt arrives at MoM towers, we caught up with brand ambassador Martin Markvardsen to find out more.

Martin Markvardsen has had an interesting journey into whisky. He was in the Danish Navy when he was bitten by the whisky bug and decided that he had to move to Scotland to learn more: “The only way I could learn more about whisky was actually to take some time off from the navy and then I went over to Scotland to work at different distilleries.” He eventually left the navy, managed World of Whiskies in Copenhagen Airport and then took over the whisky bar at the legendary The Craigellachie Hotel up in Speyside.  By this time he was already a massive Highland Park fan: “When I was working at Craigellachie Hotel, it was probably the only bar in Scotland that had the same ‘malt of the month’ for four or five months because that was the Highland Park 18 and I loved it!”

Martin Markvardsen, bet the Scots are glad he didn’t turn up 1200 years ago

Someone at the Edrington Group noticed Markvardsen’s enthusiasm and 15 years ago he became a brand ambassador for Highland Park. It makes perfect sense for a Dane to get the job because the Orkney Islands, the home of Highland Park, have such a strong Nordic culture, as he explained: “I think it was very easy for me to fit into the role about being the face of Highland Park, being a Dane, and having the natural Viking soul as we talk about at Highland Park. But also I think it was probably easier for me to understand the culture in Orkney than most other people.” 

The distillery is firmly rooted in the islands’ culture and landscape as Markvardsen explained: “We are one of the last remaining distilleries in Scotland still to do the floor malting. The climate up there when we do the maltings, the humidity and these kinds of things have an effect on the barley. The Orkney peat from Hobbister, where we get our peat from, is nowhere else to be found in Scotland at the same quality and the same content in the peat. We tried many, many years ago to use peat from the mainland but it didn’t really work for us. It changed the flavour in the whisky.” 

The climate also affects the maturation of the whisky according to Markvardsen: “When you look at the climate on Orkney compared to the rest of Scotland, we never have very, very low temperatures, like frost or snow but we definitely don’t have warm summers either, like they can have in Speyside and so on. That makes a difference in the maturation as well, very slow and very paced maturation.”

The distillery at dusk

Then we came on to the reason for our phone call, the new cask strength expression: “It’s something we wanted to do for a long time and we had a few cask strengths on the market in the past but we’ve never had cask strength in our core range,” Markvardsen explained. “The strength might change from batch to batch but the first batch that will come out now is 63.3% ABV and it’s an absolute cracker. It’s a non-aged statement but if you know the spirits of Gordon Motion, our master whisky maker, we know that it’s not a young whisky, it’s full flavour. I’m actually sitting here with a sample in front of me and it’s amazing how it develops after a few minutes in the glass”.

It’s aged predominately in American oak, a mixture of sherry and refill casks. Markvardsen told us: “It’s extremely easy to drink and even at full strength, which I’m probably not allowed to say, it’s extremely gentle to the palate and I would say the American oak sherry casks that we’ve used here will give it this fruitiness and smoothness that that Highland Park is known for. It’s definitely not a heavy sherry product.”

Talking to Markvardsen, you can see why Highland Park snapped him up, his enthusiasm is infectious. He finished up by saying what he loves most about this new cask strength bottling: “Here we can give people a choice to enjoy the whisky exactly the way they want. If they want to have a huge kick with the high alcohol, we will let them do that. And for a lot of people that never made it to Orkney, this is the closest they can get to come in and take a sample from the cask.” A whisky that transports, just what we need in these peculiar times. 

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt:

Nose: Wafts of sweet peat and brown sugar simmering in a pan, with jammy sultana and buttered crumpet in the background.

Palate: Ginger, nutmeg, heather honey, apricot and orange oil. Continued smoke builds, introducing earthy spices later on.

Finish: Warming peppery notes and a lingering hint of caramelised nuts.

Highland Park Cask Strength is available from Master of Malt

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Don’t miss these Deals of the Day!

We’re doing more great deals on all kinds of delicious drinks, which is just what you want to hear if you’re shopping for a (very) late Father’s Day gift. Do…

We’re doing more great deals on all kinds of delicious drinks, which is just what you want to hear if you’re shopping for a (very) late Father’s Day gift.

Do you know what you can find if you click here? That’s right. Deals. Savings and bargains and discounts and delights abound. In the market to try something new and interesting? In need of an old favourite? Simply a lover of a big price with a slash through it and a lower price positioned cheerily next to it? Then you’re in the right place.

If you’re really stuck and don’t know what to get someone, gift vouchers are an easy alternative. “But wait, don’t gift vouchers suck?” I hear you ask. Well, no, not if you buy excellent gift vouchers like MoM gift vouchers. What makes our ones better? Well, a) they never expire, and b) they pay our own particular brand of interest at 5% (compounded) per year. Yep. You read that right. Told you they were better.

Anyway, here are some of the best deals you’ll find this weekend.

Don’t miss these Deals of the Day!

Highland Park 16 Year Old Twisted Tattoo

This is one of those whiskies that was just made to be a gift. Look how cool that bottle is! The inspiration for this one came from the Viking legend of the Midgard Serpent, which got itself twisted around the world to bite its own tail. That serpent is on the bottle’s label, designed by tattoo artist Colin Dale. Huh, that must be where they got the name from. Clever. So was combining whisky aged in Spanish Rioja wine-seasoned casks with whisky aged in first-fill bourbon casks, which is what Highland Park did here. Very clever.

What’s the deal?

It was £67.60, now it’s £49.60.

Don’t miss these Deals of the Day!

Hepple Gin

The award-winning Hepple Gin is very delicious. So delicious in fact, that while you’re enjoying its particular brand of deliciousness you’ll find yourself staring at the bottle and wondering how on earth Hepple achieved such deliciousness. Well, it’s thanks to a rather intricate production method. First, the base spirit is distilled in a pot still using a selection of botanicals including Italian juniper. Then botanicals including locally-picked juniper, Amalfi lemon and lovage are vacuum-distilled. A supercritical CO2 extraction process is then employed to make a spirit flavoured with Macedonian juniper. Finally, all these spirits are expertly blended together. Wonderful stuff.

What’s the deal?

It was £35.95, now it’s £28.95. 

Don’t miss these Deals of the Day!

Deanston 18 Year Old

In my opinion, Deanston simply does not get enough credit or attention as a distillery, despite the fact it makes some absolutely tremendous whiskies. Help correct this wrong by indulging in arguably the standout of the Deanston range, the delightful 18-year-old. This beauty was finished in first-fill Kentucky bourbon casks before it was bottled without chill-filtration at 46.3% ABV. Expect oodles of rich honey, luxurious vanilla, sugary shortbread and a touch of fresh ginger. 

What’s the deal?

It was £74.41, now it’s £59.91.

Don’t miss these Deals of the Day!

Cloven Hoof Spiced Rum 

We were never going to do a round-up of brilliant booze and not include some rum. This week Cloven Hoof Spiced Rum is on sale and that’s very good news because it’s really tasty. You can drink it neat. You can drink it with a mixer. You can make cool cocktails with it. This is one versatile treat. It was made using a tasty blend of Guyanese and Trinidadian rum, along with a selection of spices like cassia, anise, and clove and the result is something that’s enjoyably hot, like jalapeños or Hugh Jackman, that’s filled with notes of baking spice, caramelised fruit and brown sugar.

What’s the deal?

It was £25.96, now it’s £20.96.

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Master of Malt tastes… whiskies made with different peat varieties

Peat is frequently used as a catch-all term for ‘smoke’, but this essential whisky ingredient is far more nuanced than we give it credit for. Here David Miles, senior whisky…

Peat is frequently used as a catch-all term for ‘smoke’, but this essential whisky ingredient is far more nuanced than we give it credit for. Here David Miles, senior whisky specialist at Edrington-Beam Suntory, talks MoM through three distinctly different drams made with peat sourced from all over Scotland…

The trinity of partly-decomposed vegetation, dank weather, and a layer of rock close to the earth’s surface are the natural phenomena responsible for creating peat – the soil-like deposits that impart a deliciously smoky flavour into our favourite Scotch whiskies. With the country’s weather on the cooler, wetter end of the spectrum, it’s little surprise that Scotland’s many bogs, mires and moors are packed with the stuff.

“Most of the peat used by the whisky industry is somewhere between 1,000 to 6,000 years old,” says Miles. “The vegetation that creates the peat will have an influence on the flavour of the finished whisky. If you go back that far in time on mainland Scotland, it was basically covered by the Caledonian forest. This means mainland peat has a woody quality; it’s decomposed trees and huge bushes.”

David Miles in action resplendent in a burgundy jacket

Jump north to Orkney or head south-west to Islay and the peat has a very different quality indeed. The Orkney Islands are located at a point where two huge weather systems collide, Miles explains. This means the weather is pretty consistent all year round, with little fluctuations in temperature between winter and summer and near-constant rain. Oh, and the wind blows at around 40mph.

“This means nothing grows tall,” says Miles. “There are no trees or big bushes, the only thing that really grows there is heather.” As such, Orkney’s heather-rich peat gives off very different flavours and aromas when burned. And like Orkney, there are very few trees growing and quite a lot of heather on Islay too – but here, seaweed is the largest influence. “It makes up a much bigger part of the rotting vegetation that becomes our peat,” says Miles. 

To demonstrate his point Miles gave us three very different drams that showcase the uniqueness of mainland Scotland, Orkney and Islay peat respectively using their very own floor maltings:

Highland Park Twisted Tattoo 16 Year Old

Every bit of peat burned at Orkney’s Highland Park is sourced from the island’s RSPB-protected Hobbister Moor, resulting in “a very distinctive peat smoke reek” in its whisky, Miles says. “It’s the only whisky in the world that is peated with Orkney peat,” says Miles. “Every expression of Highland Park has this distinctive quality.”

The distillery produces partially-peated whisky – that is, it only peats 20% of the barley it uses; the remaining 80% is unpeated. Being the sister whisky of the Macallan, Highland Park typically ages its whisky in sherry casks. “They’re what give Highland Park a huge amount of its characteristics and flavour,” says Miles. 

This is where Twisted Tattoo deviates from the norm, having spent its first 14 to 15 years of maturation in old bourbon barrels, before being transferred to Rioja casks. “It gives a very different twist to a classic Highland Park,” he continues. “Red berry fruits on the nose; there’s a dryness to this whisky – it doesn’t have that heather honey sweetness we so often associate Highland Park with. 

“It has a lovely warmth to it, and there’s a creaminess to the mouthfeel. That peat note is quite restrained – it usually is with Highland Park anyway – but it’s almost as if the wine cask has smoothed a few more of those notes out of it. [Peat] is one ingredient in the whole recipe here, and not dominant at all in any way.”

Bowmore 15 Year Old

Established in 1779, making it the oldest distillery on Islay, Bowmore produces fully peated whisky. “We peat 20 to 25% of the barley at the distillery ourselves using Islay peat,” says Miles. “The other 75 to 80% comes from the mainland and it peated on the mainland, so that woody influence has more of an impact on the flavour of Bowmore.”

Owing to this heavy mainland peat influence, the distillery’s whiskies aren’t a homage to Islay terroir. “That classic Islay peat reek – medicinal notes, TCP, Iodine – is a result of the seaweed being part of the equation,” says Miles. With Bowmore, because [Islay peat] is only one fifth to a quarter of the peat influence, it’s a background note. It’s a subtlety and a nuance.” As for the briney, salty quality found in Bowmore? It’s a result of its location, he says.

“The distillery is right on the waterfront in the village of Bowmore in Lochindaal,” Miles explains. “Our No.1 vaults, the oldest continuously-working warehouse in a distillery in the world, sits right on the seafront. Of course, not all of our casks and barrels are maturing in there, but a number are. When the wind’s kicking up, the waves are breaking right over the walls of the vault. The air has a briney quality, so with quite a lot of Bowmore you do get a slightly salty note to it.” 

Bowmore 15 is matured for 12 years in bourbon barrels before being transferred to oloroso sherry casks for a further three years. While this approach isn’t unheard of, it’s unusual for the distillery. “Every Bowmore expression is a combination of bourbon barrels and sherry casks, but they mature separately for the whole time period and then get blended together [at the end],” says Miles. 

This process contributes to the unique character of the 15 Year Old, “a glorious expression of what Bowmore can do”, he adds. “It combines the sherry cask richness, the smoke influence, vanilla sweetness from the bourbon barrels – it’s all in there but it’s balanced and held together. It’s not going off like crazy in different directions.”

Laphroaig Lore

The self-confessed love-it-or-hate-it dram of the whisky world, Laphroaig is all about that Islay peat influence. The distillery cold smokes 20 to 25% of its own barley – the remaining 75 to 80% is peated at neighbouring Port Ellen maltings – all using Islay peat. “You do not see a flame in the Laphroaig kiln,” says Miles. “When a flame appears, it’s damped down. That cold smoking process helps to give Laphroaig its very distinctive flavour and aroma.”

When you get past Laphroaig’s initial smokiness, it’s actually quite a delicate whisky in some ways – and this is because of its distillation process. One of its seven stills has a unique size and shape, and this brings a different flavour and quality to the new make distillate. The distillers also take “relatively-speaking, a very late cut”, says Miles. “The peaty smoky flavour in the distillate comes through later on in the distillation process.”

Lore is described by the distillery as ‘the richest expression Laphroaig has ever produced’. Where Laphroaig’s flagship bottlings are very much bourbon barrel-matured, Lore incorporates a variety of casks. “There are sherry butts, sherry hogsheads, puncheons…,” says Miles. “We’re using a much wider range of casks than we would use for anything else, and the sherry cask influence on this is much more noticeable, much stronger than in any other Laphroaig bottling.”

There are also a huge variety of ages in each batch, ranging from six to 23 years old. “Those older casks give us the weight, the gravitas, the dryness, while the younger casks give vibrancy and lightness,” he continues. “On the nose, there’s a very distinctive Laphroaig smokiness but it doesn’t have the bite you’d associate with, say, a 10 Year Old. There’s creaminess first, then you get smoke on the roof of your mouth. You’re almost thinking, ‘where’s the Laphroaig?’ and then bang: there’s the Laphroaig!”

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New Arrival of the Week: Highland Park Valfather

Our New Arrival of the Week is the most peated whisky to date from Highland Park. Meet Valfather! You might have noticed things have changed at Highland Park in the…

Our New Arrival of the Week is the most peated whisky to date from Highland Park. Meet Valfather!

You might have noticed things have changed at Highland Park in the last couple of years. Since 2017, the Island distillery has spent a fair bit of time, and presumably money, popping a jaunty Viking helmet on everything it does. You see, things went from nice to Norse on the distillery’s Orkney home back in 800AD, when the Viking kingdoms of Denmark and Norway invaded and set up shop. Once you’ve seen how many puffins there are on Orkney, it is hard to pull yourself away, in fairness.

Classic expressions were given a makeover and some swanky new Scotch whisky ranges were introduced, such as the Viking Legend series, a collection of special-edition bottlings made to highlight the journey to Ragnarök, the battle at the end of the world (there’s a Brexit joke here that I’m too tired of it all to make). First, there was Valkyrie, a smoky, rich and aromatic bottling that was matured in predominantly European sherry seasoned oak, then Valknut, a woody, smoky and spicy expression aged in American sherry seasoned oak and crafted from Orkney’s tartan barley. Now the series has come to its conclusion with Valfather, the expression that’s got our attention this week.

It was named after Odin, the head honcho of Aesir (the other gods), as well as the god of wisdom, poetry, death, divination and magic in Norse mythology. You might alternatively know Odin as Thor’s dad from those Marvel films, but Highland Park is old school and honours the classic interpretation of the one-eyed deity. There’s no trace of Anthony Hopkins in Valfather’s distinctive packaging.

Valfather

Highland Park Valfather

Instead, the inspiration was the ancient picture stones from Stora Hammars in Gotland, Sweden. The aesthetic once again features input from Danish designer Jim Lyngvild, who has enjoyed a long working partnership with Highland Park. It’s easy to see why the distillery went with him. Lyngvild can trace his family tree all the way back to the 8th century and boasts a Viking lineage that includes his 36th great grandfather Ragnvald Eysteinsson, the 1st Earl of the Orkney Islands. He also lives in a Viking-inspired castle which he designed himself in the Danish village of Faaborg. Some people have it all.

It’s certainly a beautiful bottle. But let’s face it – you’re more interested in what’s inside it. Valfather is like every other bottle from Highland Park in that it was bottled with no additional colouring. Where it differs is how peaty it is. Which is very. In fact, it’s Highland Park’s Most. Peated. Whisky. Ever. The considerable phenolic level was supposedly intended to mirror Odin’s power, which also presumably explains the 47% ABV strength. But this isn’t an overpowering smoke-bomb of a dram.

As fans of the distillery will know, peat on Orkney is unique. The 4,000-year-old supply, cut from Hobbister Moor just seven miles from the distillery, is completely woodless and filled with fragrant heather. It has a complex, floral and sweet profile, and is markedly different from peat sourced from Islay, for example. This means Valfather has plenty of pleasantly peaty notes, without tasting like it was plucked straight from an Orkney bog.

Valfather

The 4,000-year-old peat is cut from Hobbister Moor just seven miles from the distillery

The expression also benefits from the experience of its creator, Highland Park whisky maker Gordon Motion, who used refill casks to mature the spirit. The marketing will tell you that this lighter style of whisky was chosen to reflect the ethereal and lighter feel of Valhalla, Odin’s hall, which is a nice story. But it’s clear that Motion was careful not to create an unbalanced, overbearing whisky. Using this type of cask meant less wood interaction and consequently less cask character to compete with all that extra peat.

“Valfather and the whiskies in the Viking Legend series use more of our heavily peated malt, making the series more like cousins, rather than a brother or sister to the core range,” explained Motion. “Overall, this whisky is the richest and smokiest in taste profile compared to the rest of the series and our classic whiskies. As well as our hallmark aromatic peat smoke, it tastes of creamy vanilla, toasted cedar wood with a long floral aromatic finish offset by notes of crisp apple and sweet fragrant pear.”

So does it achieve the required balance? In a word, yes. In two words, hell yes. In three words… well, you get the idea. Valfather a fitting end to a stellar collection of whiskies. Swanky bottles and boxes along with stories about Viking legends might worry some that Highland Park’s focus is now marketing over quality. But the Viking Legend series has boasted some delightful drams, particularly Valkyrie and Valfather (sorry Valknut, it’s nothing personal) that go back to the distillery’s esteemed roots. A whisky of exceptional balance, the refill casks add depth, but not so much flavour that they dominate or distract. Distillery character is king here: vibrant orchard fruit and heathery smoke abound among the kind of hedonistic richness you’d expect from a whisky that honours a god.

If Valfather has caught your eye, then check out our full tasting notes below, as well as our recent chat on all things Highland Park with senior brand ambassador Martin Markvardsen.

Highland Park Valfather tasting note:

Nose: Robust, but refined smoke fills the nose initially followed by delicate vanilla, Conference pears, green apple skins and a heady, heavy floral richness. Underneath there’s cedarwood, honeycomb, spice from black pepper and nutmeg, as well as salted caramel before the heathery peat makes itself known. A sprightly sea breeze note emerges with time.

Palate: The palate is beautifully integrated. with layers of creamy vanilla, apricot yoghurt and a helping of crème brûlée that interplay with notes of incense burners, iron and salted almonds. Then there’s bitter orange marmalade, charred wood and dried earth among touches of cacao powder, toffee apples and smoked paprika.

Finish: Long and confident. The floral smoke lingers for an age but is offset by tropical fruit and black pepper.

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Discover Highland Park with Martin Markvardsen!

Love Highland Park? So do we! We grabbed some time with brand ambassador Martin Markvardsen while he was in London to find out more about what sets the Orkney distillery…

Love Highland Park? So do we! We grabbed some time with brand ambassador Martin Markvardsen while he was in London to find out more about what sets the Orkney distillery apart, and of course, have an all-important taste…

One of just two distilleries to call the Orkney Islands home, Highland Park has a pretty compelling sense-of-place story. We met Martin Markvardsen at Strongroom Bar in Shoreditch for an in-depth chat, exploring peat, floor maltings, the brand’s Viking heritage and more. And have a taste, of course! Join us as we check out Highland Park 12 Year Old, Valknut, and the 18 year old expression in detail. Enjoy!

Delicious Highland Park

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The Nightcap: 21 June

Record-breaking distillery visits, 100 years of the Negroni, and Sex on the Beach – it’s all here in the latest edition of The Nightcap! It’s sunny outside. Not that fake…

Record-breaking distillery visits, 100 years of the Negroni, and Sex on the Beach – it’s all here in the latest edition of The Nightcap!

It’s sunny outside. Not that fake ‘sunny but when to step outside you’ll curse the sky for tricking you into leaving a jacket indoors’ kind of sunny. It’s actually warm. Frankly, it’s taking all the power in our hearts to not distractedly write “MILPOOL” on the blog and scamper off into the sun, ice-cream in hand. Do you know why we’re so determined? Because it’s Nightcap day, and you people deserve to know all the stories that happened this week in the booze world. But just know that some of us may have been wearing big, floppy sun hats while putting this blog post together.

On the blog this week our Fèis Ìle 2019 coverage continued as we put your questions to Port Ellen, Lagavulin, Bruichladdich, Caol Ila and Laphroaig. Elsewhere, we announced the winner to our Teeling #BagThisBottle competition, while Nate Brown used his guest column to champion the art of slow drinking. Annie had a busy week, discovering the joys of urban foraging with Bushmills, kegged cocktails and Tequila and tonic. Adam then made J.J. Corry The Battalion, an Irish whiskey with mezcal and Tequila cask influence, the New Arrival of the Week, before Henry chose The Bronx to be our Cocktail of the Week.

Now, let’s take a look at the news!

The Nightcap

There are now 68 Scotch whisky visitor centres open to the public and you had plenty of fun checking them out!

Scotch whisky distillery visits top record 2 million

Did you visit a Scotch whisky distillery last year? If so, you’ve officially helped to set a new record! The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has just released its annual report which shows distillery visitor numbers soared by 6.1% year on year, pushing the total count to more than two million for the first time. That’s a lot of us seeking out Scotch! It’s good news for distilleries, too: the average spend at each one climbed by 12.2% to a combined total of £68.3 million – that’s a lot of whisky, branded Glencairns, hats, cheeses and the like. More than 20 different nationalities were Scotchland-bound last year, with the most whisky tourists coming from Germany and the US. Numbers were up from France, Spain, the Netherlands, India and China, too. As a whole, Scotch distilleries are the third most-visited attraction in all Scotland. “We’re delighted that Scotch whisky distilleries have become such popular places to visit,” said Karen Betts, the SWA’s chief exec. “The growing number of visitors to distilleries reflects in part the growth in tourism in Scotland in general, and people coming to Scotland want to see our local crafts and sample our local food and drink.” She continued: “Distilleries offer something of an antidote to today’s fast-paced world, where visitors can see the slow, careful craft, rooted in a distinct sense of place, that creates Scotch whisky. The growth in whisky tourism is also playing a crucial role in Scotland’s rural economy, with more stays at hotels, more bookings at restaurants, and more customers for local businesses, helping communities to grow and prosper.” Which is your favourite distillery to visit? Where’s top of your dream travel itinerary? Let us know in social or in the comments below!

The Nightcap

Scott McCroskie, Edrington chief executive

Highland Park-owner Edrington celebrates “strong” year

Edrington, which produces and sells the likes of The Macallan, Highland Park, The Glenrothes and The Famous Grouse whiskies, as well as Brugal rum, has released its financial results for the year. And the bean counters are happy! Core revenues from its products climbed by 9% to £679.8 million, while it spent an extra 7% on brand investments (to the tune of £137.3m). The all-important profits were up 4% on 2018 (quite a big deal really when you consider the £140 million cost of that distillery build). Most brands are doing well, with Highland Park and The Glenrothes recognised for their “strong” growth. While The Famous Grouse posted some declines, Edrington said in a statement it increased its market share in a number of places, including the UK. But Brugal was really the star performer, posting “double-digit” growth, mostly through successes in its native Dominican Republic. “The business has delivered strong international growth that reflects continuing consumer demand for our products, particularly in China, South East Asia and the USA, which is the world’s largest market for premium spirits,” noted Scott McCroskie, Edrington chief executive. All systems go at Edrington!

The Nightcap

Congratulations, Cameron!

Cameron Attfield named Diageo Reserve World Class GB

This week, Diageo bestowed the title of Diageo Reserve’s World Class Bartender of the Year 2019 upon Cameron Attfield of Disrepute, London. The competition spanned two days, and the first challenge saw competitors showcase a British ingredient through techniques of flavour extraction or manipulation, creating a serve with Ketel One Vodka as the base spirit. The second challenge required a Singleton whisky serve taking inspiration from a chosen country, using ideas of travel and adventure for the drink. Moving onto the second day, competitors had the chance to take over the World Class bar at Taste of London for the final challenge, the speed round. Let us tell you, it is speedy indeed, with the task of making a round of five cocktails for the judges in just four short minutes. Just imagine if it was always that quick to secure a cocktail! Each serve was drawn from fifteen bespoke World Class classics, ranging from a Don Julio Blanco Paloma to a Bulleit Bourbon Boulevardier. Just to mix things up, one of the five drinks was also selected by an audience member, while the bartenders were asked to tailor the drink to them. Now that’s a true test of audience engagement and hospitality. “We’re absolutely delighted to crown Cameron World Class GB Bartender of the Year 2019 and have every faith in a fantastic performance at this year’s Global Final in Glasgow,” said Jack Sotti, World Class GB Brand Ambassador at Diageo Reserve. Attfield himself added: “I’m over the moon to be crowned this year’s 2019 World Class GB winner. But, it’s not over yet and now my focus will turn to preparing to represent Great Britain in the global final in Glasgow – game on!” Huge congrats, Cameron!

The Nightcap

Swift Bar’s Bobby Hiddleston creating a wood smoke cocktail

Ardbeg launches Masters of Smoke programme

Islay distillery Ardbeg has kicked off a new global campaign to spread the good word about the “delicious possibilities” of smoke. Named Masters of Smoke, the bartender education initiative will deliver training designed to break down the science of smoke with help from a whole range of experts, from barley maltsters to barbecue chefs. We were lucky enough to attend the launch event, which was really something (and, obviously, held in a room filled with smoke). Each component part of the smoke was broken down into a category, including medicinal, coal, herbal, savoury and wood, with each getting their own stand to show off a prepared cocktail and food pairing. It was delightful stuff; you might even go as far to say it was ‘smokin’’ The Mask style (we stand by this joke). “Whisky lovers have long appreciated the peaty power of Ardbeg, but we think there’s an opportunity to further explore the intricacies of smoke as a flavour,” said Ludo Ducrocq, Ardbeg education and advocacy director. “Through Masters of Smoke, we hope to spread the word about the delicious possibilities of smoke through rich, in-depth training which is really rooted in science. From Port Ellen, to Portland, we want to unleash the power and potential of smoke in the on-trade, working with bartenders worldwide to lead a glorious smoky revolution.” Masters of Smoke training sessions will begin from September 2019 and bartenders can register their interest at ardbeg.com/en-gb/mos.

The Nightcap

An artist’s impression of the revamped Clynelish Distillery

Planning permission granted for Clynelish visitor centre

Exciting times at Clynelish as planning permission has been granted for the expansion of visitor facilities at the distillery. This is part of Diageo’s £150m investment in Scottish whisky tourism and as a key part in the Johnnie Walker blend, Clynelish is a natural choice to grow visitor numbers. It sits next to the legendary Brora distillery that Diageo is bringing back into production, so a visit to this part of Scotland will soon be a must for whisky lovers. Jacqueline James-Bow from the distillery said: “This announcement is very exciting and we wish to thank the Highland Council and all our neighbours for their continued support.” Other parts of Diageo’s master plan for whisky tourism include a flagship Johnnie Walker experience in Edinburgh and upgraded facilities at 12 distilleries in total. Clynelish, along with Cardhu, Caol Ila, and Glenkinchie, has been chosen to represent “the four corners of Scotland”, Highland, Speyside, Islay and Lowland. That’s some responsibility.

The Nightcap

London’s Coral Room created an exclusive Negroni menu

The on-trade marks 100 years of the Negroni

In case you haven’t heard, Monday 24 June begins the most exciting week of the year: it’s Negroni Week, of course! What were you thinking? Celebrations are taking place all over the world – unfortunately, we can’t cover them all, so we’ve picked three of our favourites. Firstly, London’s Coral Room has teamed up with Italian dry gin VII Hills to create an exclusive Negroni menu, complete with seven serves. Of course, you can grab a Negroni Classico, or if you’re fancying a twist then perhaps the Negroni Tropicale is for you (it combines coconut and dried pineapple-infused VII Hills Gin with Italicus Rosolio di Bergamatto and Chazalettes Extra Dry). Meanwhile, L’oscar’s The Baptist Bar is launching the Homage to Negroni cocktail menu based around L’oscar’s attributes: Passionate, Theatrical, Bohemian, Seductive and Lavish. The five serves include the Bohemian Americano, made with yoghurt-washed Classic Bitter, Seedlip Spice, Cocchi Vermouth di Torino, soda and bay leaves; as well as the Lavish Cardinale, with VII Hills gin, Campari, Procrastination (you can bottle that stuff?), and Cardinale wine finished off with a beet rim. They are the creation of head bartender Luca Rapetti, and the even better news is that these cocktails aren’t just available for Negroni Week but until the end of 2019! Finally, Giuseppe Gallo’s Italspirits has created the Negroni Experience, a four day pop up at Six Storeys in Soho, London, from 23-26 June. Names such as Martini Riserva Speciale, Italicus Rosolio di Bergamotto, Amaro Montenegro, VII Hills Gin (again!) and Peroni have come together for the event, complete with cocktails masterclasses. There’s also a tasting flight inspired by the Italian flag, sporting a classic, a white and a green version of the cocktail. An entire seven days dedicated to the iconic Negroni, aren’t we lucky?

The Nightcap

There’s plenty to see, including the new Bulleit Visitor Experience Cocktail Bar

Bulleit opens newest visitor experience on The Kentucky Bourbon Trail

Next week will see the opening of a brand spanking new visitor centre for Kentucky’s Bulleit Distilling Co.. From 25 June, it will be the 17th stop on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, and the 11,570-square-foot site will boast an immersive and intense multi-sensory tasting experience, complete with olfactory balls and a timed light-and-soundscape to enhance the whiskey flavours. Reassuringly, the new centre is also heavily focused on sustainability, having partnered with Oceanic Global to ensure the tasting experience and cocktail bar aligns with The Oceanic Standard (TOS), committed to eliminating single-use plastics. There’s also an organic cocktail garden developed in partnership with The University of Kentucky, to integrate local and sustainable ingredients and garnishes for the in-house cocktail bar. What’s more, the distillery has committed to sourcing 100% renewable electricity by 2030 and is home to the first industrial solar array in Shelby County, which runs most on-site exterior lighting. It even boasts an eco-friendly, green fuel-powered graffiti bus for the Visitor Experience Tour. “We wanted the Bulleit Distilling Co. Visitor Experience to be reflective of our approach to flipping the script on the whiskey category by curating an immersive, personalised consumer journey steeped in design, technology and of course, our delicious family of high rye whiskeys,” said Sophie Kelly, Sr. Vice President of Whisk(e)y at Diageo North America. What exciting news, an interactive visitor centre which is kind to the environment!

The Nightcap

Ruth Spivey, the founder of Wine Car Boot

Take your dog wine tasting as Wine Car Boot returns to London

Think wine tastings are all about spittoons, white tablecloths and red trousers? Well, think again because Wine Car Boot is back this summer. Now in its seventh year, Wine Car Boot was invented by wine impresario Ruth Spivey in 2013 as a way of introducing interesting wines and merchants to the general public in an informal manner. This summer there are three events, Saturday 29 June, Saturday 17 August (both at Coal Drops Yard near King’s Cross Station) and Saturday 14 September (at the Bloomberg Arcade in the City of London). There’s not just wine from quality merchants such as Berry Bros. & Rudd and the Sampler, but also beers from London breweries like Redchurch and exciting liqueurs from south London’s finest, Asterley Bros. Entry is free, though you do have to pay for tasters. Children and especially dogs are welcome.

The Nightcap

The swanky new Macallan Boutique at Dubai International Airport

The Macallan launches distillery-inspired Boutique series in Dubai

Fancy heading to The Macallan distillery but not up in Scotland? Well, something similar could be coming to an airport near you (or your holiday destination). The single malt Scotch brand has kicked off a programme of fancy new Boutiques with a shiny store at Dubai International Airport, in partnership with Le Clos. It’s the first in a “multi-million-pound investment” that will see the brand open a number of stand-alone stores and experiences around the globe. Everything from the architecture to the materials used in the construction and even in-store features are inspired by the mega £140 million new distillery that opened in Speyside last year. But back to Dubai. There’s an oak lattice centrepiece which echoes the distillery roof, display cases that give a museumy vibe, and it’s all super-sleekly done. And, as well as all the posh bottlings you might expect, there are Boutique-exclusive expressions, too. “It has been a year since we opened the doors of our new distillery and visitor experience, which was one of the most exciting moments in our history as a brand,” said Suzy Smith, Edrington Global Travel Retail managing director. “The next chapter in our story is the launch of our Boutique programme, which will bring whisky-lovers across the world even closer to our home on Speyside. Each store will be a gateway to the world of The Macallan, from the stunning cinematography of the Easter Elchies estate to the exceptional whisky available to taste.” Dubai not on your itinerary? We’ve got a whole bunch of Macallans right here!

The Nightcap

SEMrush provided the world with this vital data. Sex on the Beach? C’mon people!

And finally. . . the British are searching for Sex on the Beach, the cocktail that is

Data analytics company SEMrush has released figures for the most searched for cocktails last month and they make interesting reading. Tied in first place are the Manhattan and the Cosmopolitan with 135,000 searches each. Sounds like the ‘Sex and the City’ favourite is back (or maybe it never went away; it’s been joint number one all year). Looking at those yearly figures, the Old Fashioned spikes in December and January but then drops out of the top five in May, suggesting that it’s a winter cocktail. Whereas more summery serves, like the Americano and the Sex on the Beach, have moved up the league table in May. In fact, when you look at the stats for the UK on its own, Sex on the Beach moves up to the number one slot in May. We are so classy!

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Explore Scotland’s whisky regions!

This week you’ll journey with us through the wonderful whisky regions of Scotland, stopping for a delicious dram or two along the way… I think it’s pretty obvious to everyone…

This week you’ll journey with us through the wonderful whisky regions of Scotland, stopping for a delicious dram or two along the way…

I think it’s pretty obvious to everyone by now that we do enjoy a dram or two of Scotch whisky here at MoM Towers. Some who share our passion may prefer to indulge in expressions from the same region, be it the Lowlands, the Highlands, Campbeltown, Islay, the Islands or Speyside. We, however, love all of them like children and, just like every parent you’ve ever met, we can’t wait to talk your ear off about how much we do.

So, whether you prefer the peaty powerhouses typically found on Islay, the sherried and sweet often associated with Speyside, the malty, fruity whiskies you’ll regularly see in the Highlands or all the above and more, then you’ll be happy to join us on a journey that marvels at the huge range of different styles of whisky that are produced all over Scotland.

Before we start, it’s worth checking out this Drinks by the Dram Tasting Set, which contains five 30ml samples that showcase the Regions of Scotland. Now, on with our adventure!

Bladnoch 17 Year Old California Red Wine Cask Finish

Region: Lowland

We start our journey at the fabulous Bladnoch Distillery, which started up production once again in 2017 following some periods of difficulty. Since its return, the brand has created some delicious and intriguing drams, such as the 17 Year Old California Red Wine Cask Finish. Originally matured into ex-bourbon barrels, this 17 year old single malt was then finished in Californian red wine casks to create a rich, rewarding and wonderfully fruity profile.

What does it taste like?:

Dried fruit, orange marmalade, coffee, cherries, toffee, vanilla, liquorice, shortbread, black pepper and sweet oak.

Glenkinchie 12 Year Old

Region: Lowland

Glenkinchie 12 Year Old is not only the flagship expression from the Glenkinchie distillery, but it makes for a fine introduction to all things Lowland Scotch. A creamy, sweet and smooth expression that’s ever-popular and incredibly versatile, it’s no surprise this expression was named the winner of the Best Lowland Single Malt at the World Whiskies Awards in 2016.

What does it taste like?:

Light and aromatic with hints of barley malt, almonds, hazelnuts, stewed fruits, dessert wine, apple peels and manuka honey/beeswax.

Springbank 10 Year Old

Region: Campbeltown

We journey now to Campbeltown and its famed Springbank distillery, which is known for its distinctive, powerful whiskies and loyal following of enthusiastic, passionate fans. The brand’s 10 Year Old expression, a blend of both bourbon and sherry matured whiskies, is the kind of dram that makes you understand why. Quite simply a sublime introduction for those not familiar with the distillery or the Campbeltown region in general.

What does it taste like?:

Oaked aridity, rich peat, earthen rootiness, exotic fruits, salinity, cereal sweetness, dark nuttiness and whirling smoke.

The Glenrothes 12 Year Old – Soleo Collection

Region: Speyside

We venture now to arguably the most famous and certainly most productive of all Scotch whisky regions: Speyside! Glenrothes has been providing great whisky in this part of the world since 1878, but it’s only recently eschewed its famous vintages to make for age statements. This 12 year old single malt, released as part of the Soleo Collection, is one such example and you’ll find that this teaming with the kind of sherried deliciousness people love from a Speyside Scotch.

What does it taste like?:

Floral vanilla, galia melon, shortbread cookies, honey, banana, white chocolate, black pepper and cinnamon.

Strathisla 12 Year Old

Region: Speyside

This fruity, floral and sherry-rich single malt was distilled at Strathisla, which is not only the oldest continuously operating distillery in Scotland, but also one of the most beautiful. It’s currently owned by Chivas Brothers and much of the whisky is used for its blends, however, given its significance to Scotch whisky and the brand, it’s little surprise Chivas Brothers decided to honour the distillery with its own expression.

What does it taste like?:

Soft oak, candied peel, Danish pastries, cooked apple, malt, sultanas, cinnamon and allspice.

Caol Ila 2004 (bottled 2016) Moscatel Cask Finish – Distillers Edition

Region: Islay

We now find ourselves on the Isle of Islay, which is pretty much the closest we’ve got to a holy land for us Scotch whisky fans (don’t forget to make your pilgrimage for Feis Ile 2019 from 24 May-1 June). We know that some of you will have immediately scrolled when you saw this blog for the first thing that could be classed as Islay awesomeness in a bottle. Good thing you did, as the Caol Ila Distillers Edition bottlings are not to be missed. This edition is the 2004 vintage Distillers Edition, which was bottled in 2016 after it was finished for a period in a Moscatel cask. Expect smoke, expect sweetness and most of all, expect a truly sublime Scotch.

What does it taste like?:

Honey, subtly floral malt, a crash of sea spray, peat smoke, golden syrup, orange oil, jasmine tea, brown sugar, red grapes, cinnamon, cassia and a few touches of spearmint.

Kilchoman Machir Bay

Region: Islay

We’re now at Islay’s farm distillery Kilchoman for a delicious dram of Machir Bay, the flagship of the Kilchoman range. Named after the scenic beach on Islay, this excellent single malt Scotch whisky that was matured in both bourbon and Oloroso sherry casks and boasts a wonderful balance of peat, sweetness and zesty citrus. One to savour.

What does it taste like?:

Citrus zests, crumbly vanilla biscuits, elegant peat smoke, tropical fruit, dried raisin and cracked black pepper.

Deanston 18 Year Old

Region: Highland

Our next stop is the wonderful Highland region for a delightful dram of Deanston. All of the distillery’s whisky is distilled with Scottish-grown barley and the 18 Year Old expression served its finishing period in first-fill Kentucky bourbon casks. With just a hint of drying smoke and plenty of creamy, sweet characteristics, Deanston 18 Year Old is a fine expression that should not be overlooked.

What does it taste like?:

Earthy vanilla, Golden Grahams, honeydew melon, flint, lemon cheesecake, orange boiled sweets, oily walnut, stem ginger and beeswax.

Highland Park Valknut

Region: Island

The Islands, which are often classed as being part of the Highlands, are home to some classic names like Talisker, Tobermory and, of course, Highland Park, the latter of which is our final stop. It’s located on the island of Orkney, where you’ll find puffins, plenty of great Scotch and also puffins (did I mention Orkney has puffins, guys?). The brand’s expression Valknut is part of the Viking Legend series and features a small portion of Orkney-grown Tartan barley. This is a more smoky customer than you may be used to from Highland Park, but it’s still got plenty of that typical rich, succulent profile you’ve come to love from Scotland’s most northerly distillery.

What does it taste like?:

Warming peat smoke, fresh vanilla, thyme honey, toasted barley, fennel seed, flamed orange peel, gingerbread, BBQ char, nutmeg and sandalwood.

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