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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Islay Whisky

The Nightcap: 12 April

A meeting of master distillers and blenders, $1,000 Mint Juleps and secret whisky history – The Nightcap has all these stories and more! It’s Friday once again, and, like clockwork,…

A meeting of master distillers and blenders, $1,000 Mint Juleps and secret whisky history – The Nightcap has all these stories and more!

It’s Friday once again, and, like clockwork, we’ve got another batch of news stories from the world of booze ready and waiting in The Nightcap. In fact, it’s almost as if we assembled a team of engineers and bribed them with the tastiest cocktails they could ever imagine to build us Nightcap-bot 3000 to produce these stories. Of course, that’s simply hogwash. We definitely have not done that, and we absolutely don’t disguise Nightcap-bot 3000 as a fridge when people visit the editorial team’s realm within MoM Towers to make it look like we’re very busy. We’re also not scared that Nightcap-bot 3000 will one day replace and potentially eat us all.

On the blog this week, guest writer Ian Buxton pondered whether whisky could crash in his first post for us, while Annie explored cocktails that have a way with words, then talked to Talisker about its new bartender competition Wild Spirit. Henry’s Cocktail of the Week was the classic Gin & Tonic in celebration of National Gin & Tonic Day, and Martini & Rossi’s new super fruity vermouth Fiero caught his eye for New Arrival of the Week. Kristy explored a fancy new Scotch from Glenmorangie, while Adam tasted a 47 Year Old Mortlach expression, then looked at Littlemill’s historical claim. If that wasn’t enough, here’s the rest of the week’s news!

The Nightcap

Take a look at Islay’s first new distillery for nearly 15 years!

New Islay distillery Ardnahoe opens its doors

The opening of a Scotch whisky distillery is always an event, but there’s something particularly special about a new one on Islay. Today Ardnahoe, the first new distillery on the island since 2005, was officially opened by the Rt Hon Lord Robertson of Port Ellen. Stewart Laing, managing director of Hunter Laing, the family-owned company which has invested £12m in the project, commented: “Since working as a teenager at Bruichladdich Distillery over 50 years ago, I have had a huge affinity with Islay and its malt whiskies. When we decided to build our own distillery, there was only one possible location. We have built a great team to manage the distillery and run the visitor centre and in a few years’ time we will be able to drink a great whisky in the classic Islay style, staying true to the island’s heritage with a heavily peated malt.” The spirit should be full of character as it will be made using wooden washbacks, Scottish-made lamp glass stills and worm tub condensers (the only distillery on the island to use them), and it will be aged in ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks. The great master distiller Jim McEwan advised on the project. With such pedigree, it’s no surprise that Hunter Laing has already pre-sold 400 casks of spirit. Team MoM is flying out to Islay on Monday to bring you the full story. Watch this space.

Jameson unveils new commercial for Taste, That’s Why campaign

Jameson Irish Whiskey unveiled the next instalment of its sassy Taste, That’s Why advertising platform this week. New commercial The Bartenders’ Gathering is set in Dublin in 2016, and tells the true story of 200 global bartenders at the brand’s annual three-day immersive and educational summit of the same name. It all looks very trendy and fun, with shots of distilleries, whiskey, bars, food, music and some lovely Irish countryside, as well as an unexpected twist. Some of the bartenders interrupt a distillery trip to go to a library (we’re just kidding, that isn’t it). “As we unveil the next chapter in the Taste, That’s Why story, we wanted to highlight Jameson’s revered position among bartenders as they have been instrumental to our success in the USA and around the world over the past 29 years,” said Simon Fay, international marketing director at Irish Distillers. “The new spot conveys the true spirit of the annual Bartenders’ Gathering in a high octane but light-hearted manner with a twist of Irish humour – it’s exactly what you’d expect from Jameson, and will help us to further build the profile and personality of the brand supporting equity growth into the future.”

The Nightcap

The wonderful Joy Spence of Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum

Campari launches Meet the Master, bringing together four drinks luminaries

Where can you see the master distillers and blenders behind Wild Turkey, Appleton Estate, Grand Marnier and Glen Grant all in one place? At Carlton House Terrace in London’s Mayfair from 14-16 May, when Campari UK launches Meet the Masters. The event will bring together more than 140 combined years of talent and expertise in one location. The line-up includes Joy Spence of Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum, the first woman master blender in the spirits industry; Eddie Russell of Wild Turkey Bourbon, the third generation Russell to work at the distillery; Patrick Raguenaud of Grand Marnier, whose family has been involved in the Cognac industry since 1627; and Dennis Malcolm of Glen Grant, who has worked at the distillery for over five decades. The event will offer tasting sessions with each master, panel discussions, and an opportunity for guests from the drinks industry and beyond to get the masters’ view on the latest industry trends. “With over 140 years of shared experience in the spirits industry between them, Meet the Masters is a must-attend for those who are serious about spirits, the stories behind them, and hungry to know more, in a unique and intimate setting,” said Brad Madigan, managing director at Campari UK. Sounds enlightening!

The Nightcap

The Fèis Ìle 2019 Limited Edition!

Douglas Laing unveils 2019 Fèis Ìle Big Peat bottling

Here at MoM we’re getting very excited about Fèis Ìle, the Islay Festival of Music and Malt that runs from 24 May to 1 June. To celebrate this year’s bash, Douglas Laing will be releasing a very special whisky called Big Peat’s Pals. It’s a blended malt containing whiskies from Ardbeg, Bowmore, Caol Ila and even Port Ellen! So rare. Only 3,300 bottles will be available globally. It’s the 10th anniversary of the much-loved brand and so the packaging of this special edition features the photos of 400 “pals” from all over the world. “By marrying together a fine selection of our preferred single malts, only from Islay, we truly believe we have created the ultimate taste of Islay in Big Peat,” said Douglas Laing director of whisky Cara Laing. “His latest limited edition, the Fèis Ìle 2019 release, pays homage to his friends the world over, over 400 of whom feature proudly on the gift tube. This year, we celebrate 10 years since my father dreamed up Big Peat, and our extensive plans will ensure our Big Islay Pal celebrates in style all over the world!” These plans include a Facebook tasting during Fèis Ìle for members of the Big Peat community, so that fans who can’t get to the island can join in the festivities. Very modern.

The Nightcap

This man is basically Indiana Jones, as far as I’m concerned

Whisky distillery archaeology gets under way in Scotland!

It’s been quite the week when it comes to whisky history. First we heard evidence that Littlemill was Scotland’s ‘oldest’ distillery. Now we’ve got some archaeological goings on at Blackmiddens, an old steading on the border between Moray and Aberdeenshire. It was one of the first distilleries to nab a licence after the Excise Act of 1823. Now, The Cabrach Trust, which preserves the history of the area, is excavating the site to figure out exactly what went down when, with help from Forestry and Land Scotland and Historic Environment Scotland. “For decades local farmers secretly distilled whisky and smuggled it away under the noses of excisemen. Then, when the law was changed to make small-scale whisky production profitable, Blackmiddens was one of the first farms to take advantage of this,” said Anna Brennand, Cabrach Trust chief exec. “Despite the fact that farms like this were famous for their fine quality spirit, whisky production at Blackmiddens stopped just eight years after it began and the farm fell into ruin. We hope to uncover some of the secrets of early whisky making in the Highlands with this exciting dig.” We can’t wait to see what they discover!

The Nightcap

Small-batch Serata Hall gin, anyone?

Serata Hall comes to Old Street

Just a stone’s throw away from Old Street station, a new establishment called Serata Hall opened its doors this week, which we know because we attended the launch party! The new site is Albion & East’s fourth offering alongside sister sites Martello Hall in Hackney, and Canova Hall and Cattivo, both in Brixton. Like its siblings, Serata Hall will make all of its food on-site (we can personally recommend the pizzas), serve tap wine (the biggest selection outside the United States), and provide guests the option to either create their own cocktails or ‘Book a Bartender’, where mixologists conjure up inventive cocktails. There’s also a DJ booth, a daily bakery and hot-desk spaces. But the thing that stands out most for us here at MoM Towers? The in-house distillery. That’s right. Serata Hall features a bespoke still, called ‘Agnes’, which makes small-batch Serata Hall gin, available for visitors to drink at the venue and buy on-site. You can even sign up to gin blending masterclasses, where the master distiller will show you how to blend, bottle and hand-wax two gins, which you then get to name and take away. You also learn how to make three gin cocktails, too. Sounds like a good time to us!

The Nightcap

Move over coffee machines, at-home booze machines have arrived!

Can this at-home booze machine change how we drink?

The future is now, folks. Smart Spirits – a company that produces different types of spirits by mixing water, ethyl alcohol and flavour – has come up with an at-home dispenser designed to make more than 30 different drinks spanning all the major spirits categories using capsules. A bit like those coffee tabs but with actual booze. How does it work? The so-called ‘Taste Of’ flavour capsules mix with neutral grain spirit and/or water to mimic the flavours of different whiskies, gins, rums, vodkas and liqueurs. You can choose the alcohol content (0-40% ABV), and there’s even Bluetooth connectivity, so you can control the whole thing from your smartphone. “We’re delighted to introduce to the market an innovative new way to drink at home,” said Ian Smart, one of the Smart Spirits co-founders. “Smart Spirits taps into the desire of the increasingly sophisticated and tech-savvy consumer to have control of the alcohol in their drinks, at the same time also choice and convenience.” On the one hand, you’ve got an entire drinks cabinet in one. But we reckon we’d miss the sound of the cork popping out of the bottle… the jury’s out on this one. Let us know what you think!

The Nightcap

This is a $1,000 Mint Julep. No, really.

Woodford Reserve unveils $1,000 Julep for the Kentucky Derby

What’s the most you would spend on a cocktail? £9? £15? £21? Well, Woodford Reserve is hoping some punters will be prepared to spend significantly more. To celebrate the 145th Kentucky Derby on 3 and 4 May, the bourbon producer, which is also the race’s official sponsor, has unveiled a $1,000 Mint Julep. Yes, one thousand clams. For that money you’d expect it to contain unicorn tears or at the very least powdered griffin beak. But in reality it’s made with standard Woodford Reserve, a honey syrup that was aged in oak for 145 days, and mint grown at Churchill Downs racetrack where the Derby takes place. The packaging, however, is seriously swanky. For the money you get a silver cup alongside a flask of bourbon, and the whole thing is presented in a wooden box lined with jockey silks. If that’s not lavish enough, there’s a gold version available for $2,500. Only 125 silver and 20 gold will be made. You will be pleased to know that this is not just about conspicuous consumption, all the proceeds go to the John Asher Memorial Scholarship Fund to provide an education for deserving students at Western Kentucky University.

The Nightcap

I defy you not to imagine yourself drinking something wonderful and Japanese here

Nobu and Suntory team up for Hanami experience

How does a showcase of contemporary Japanese craftsmanship with a menu of exclusive cocktails, bespoke dishes and afternoon tea sound to you? Pretty great, right? Well, good, because that’s exactly what Nobu Hotel London Shoreditch and The House of Suntory have put together with Hanami. It’s a celebration of the annual bloom of the Japanese Cherry Blossom, or Sakura, inspired by the ancient practice of dining beneath the blossoming flower. Millions of people from all over the world travel to drink, dance and dine beneath the blossom, but Hanami will bring the spirit of this tradition to London at the newest Nobu restaurant. The bar team at Nobu, led by beverage manager Wilfried Rique, has worked closely with The House of Suntory to create an exciting original menu inspired by its range of premium Japanese spirits, including Toki and Chita Whisky, Roku Gin and the newly-launched Haku Vodka. These are presented with Japanese ingredients, teas and house-made infusions in a menu of seven bespoke cocktails, alongside Nobu-style bar snacks and world class sushi. Visitors to the terrace also have the opportunity to indulge in an exclusive Sakura-inspired Afternoon Tea menu, offering a twist on the classic British tradition. It’s open to the public now, so if this sounds like your cup of tea, then be sure to check it out.

The Nightcap

Marcos Ameneiros Zannone, who will presumably be looking to replace that sticky shaker…

And finally… Bartender gets stuck at Cointreau Margarita contest

There was a hairy moment at this week’s Cointreau Margarita competition at Century House in London, when one of the contestant’s cocktail shaker got stuck. Not an unusual occurrence when mixing cocktails, but after some frantic banging and jimmying from poor Marcos Ameneiros Zannone from Berners Tavern, it became clear that it was well and truly jammed. Meanwhile, the ice inside was slowly melting and diluting the cocktail. And so, the cream of British bartending stepped in and everyone in the room had a go at opening the bloody thing. But nobody could. It was like the sword in the stone from Arthurian Legend. Just in the nick of time, in stepped one of the barmen from Century who managed to prize the recalcitrant shaker open. Zannone poured out his Susanita (which was inspired by Crêpes Suzette), and won the competition. Our Henry was one of the judges, alongside Sandrae Lawrence from The Cocktail Lovers magazine, award-winning bartender Carl Anthony Brown, and Alfred Cointreau himself. The panel also picked a winner from outside London, with Nathan Larkin from Manchester’s plant-based bar Speak in Code taking the title with his Sicolo Mayahuel, a smoky complex drink with an Aztec twist. The two runners-up were Dean Railton from Feed in Leeds, and Leonardo Baggio from Mr Fogg’s Residence. The two winners won lots of Cointreau and a trip to Cannes. Congratulations to all who took part – the standard was sky high – and especially to Zannone for keeping his cool.

That’s it for The Nightcap this week, team. Have awesome weekends!

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Bruichladdich to build on-site maltings

As part of its sustainability efforts and commitment to investment in Islay, Bruichladdich has announced plans to build at an in-house maltings by 2023 and confirmed the purchase of a…

As part of its sustainability efforts and commitment to investment in Islay, Bruichladdich has announced plans to build at an in-house maltings by 2023 and confirmed the purchase of a farm, Shore House Croft.

One of Scotland’s most innovative distilleries, Bruichladdich will build a maltings, due to be operational by 2023. Plans are subject to change and planning permission, but the proposed facility will consist of Saladin boxes rather than floor maltings. It will be used predominantly to malt small batches, including barley grown on the island, organic grain from Elgin, and bere barley from Orkney. The aim is that it will provide about 50% of the distillery’s needs, and may expand to 100% in time.

Bruichladdich

Bruichladdich, local barley

Bruichladdich has been at the forefront of trialling different types of barley, as the innovative Bruichladdich Bere Barley bottling attests. To help with further experimentation, the distillery has purchased the 30 acre Shore House Croft where it can run barley trials. At the moment Bruichladdich uses 100% Scottish barley, with 42% of this grown on Islay.

The new maltings will enable this barley to be processed on the island rather than being sent to Inverness, cutting down on food, or rather booze, miles. It’s all part of the distillery’s drive to be more sustainable. The team is currently looking into using renewable energy sources such as tidal power, water turbine and biomass. It already uses electric vehicles and hot waste water to run the central heating.

“Running a business from an island makes us distinctly aware that our social, economic and environmental impact must be a positive one,” said CEO, Douglas Taylor.  

“We feel strongly about our responsibility to the island the people of Islay. In recent years, we have endeavoured to be more sustainable in our operations and more environmental in our actions. Some have been straightforward, like stopping using bottled water and introducing electric vehicles, or more complicated, like habitat protection, wildlife corridor agreements with landowners for barley growing and engineering a solution that reuses hot water-water from distillation.”

Douglas Taylor

Douglas Taylor!

Bruichladdich dates back to 1881 but has existed in its present form since 2001 when it was revived by Mark Reynier, Simon Coughlin and Jim McEwan. It was acquired by Rémy Cointreau in 2012. The distillery produces one million litres of pure alcohol per year, which goes into a range of spirits including The Botanist gin, and the Bruichladdich, Port Charlotte and Octomore whisky brands.

Expansion plans also include new warehouses.  There are four in the pipeline, meaning that all its casks can continue to be matured on Islay. You might be surprised to learn that the distillery is the largest private sector employer on the island. It employs 80 people (and a further 20 on the mainland), more than Diageo, and second only to the council. Good work, team laddy!

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Whisky Advent 2018 Day #23: Bunnahabhain Stiùireadair

We’ve arrived at the penultimate dram of Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar. But there is no need to be sad. An epic Islay tipple awaits… It’s easy when…

We’ve arrived at the penultimate dram of Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar. But there is no need to be sad. An epic Islay tipple awaits…

It’s easy when we think of Scotch whisky from Islay, to picture a certain style of tipple. One with provenance, personality – and plenty of peat. But distilleries such as Bunnahabhain have demonstrated that you can create some stunning spirits without the smoke. Want an example? Well, that’s handy. Because there’s one behind door #23 of your Advent calendar.

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An Ardbeg masterclass with Brendan McCarron

We try Ardbeg’s core range with Brendan McCarron while he tells us about making raw, rugged whisky, the similarities between Bill Lumsden and Gordon Ramsay, and whether there are any…

We try Ardbeg’s core range with Brendan McCarron while he tells us about making raw, rugged whisky, the similarities between Bill Lumsden and Gordon Ramsay, and whether there are any plans to make a blend.

The team at Master of Malt were invited to Moët Hennessy’s swanky headquarters in London to try the core Ardbeg range with Brendan McCarron, head of maturing whisky stocks at the Glenmorangie Company. Lucky us. Ardbeg inspires fierce loyalty among whisky fans. Not least because it very nearly didn’t survive. The distillery was only working sporadically for most of the ’80s and ’90s, and by 1996, according to McCarron, “the bulldozers were at the gates”. But happily, in 1998 Ardbeg was saved when it was bought and refurbished by the Glenmorangie Company (who are now part of LVMH).

Back to the situation at hand. McCarron joined the team in 2014. He was a chemical engineering graduate who, after a stint making penicillin, joined Diageo. He had various jobs including blending at Johnnie Walker before, at 28 years old, he became the youngest distillery manager in Scotland at Oban. From there he moved to Islay to run Caol Ila, Lagavulin and the Port Ellen Maltings. Enough intro, let’s get the interview out of the way so that we can try some whisky!

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The Islay moment competition winner is…

To mark another superb Fèis Ìle we asked the good public (that’s you!) to share a snap of your top Islay tipple and to flaunt your #MoMFeisIle t-shirt to be…

To mark another superb Fèis Ìle we asked the good public (that’s you!) to share a snap of your top Islay tipple and to flaunt your #MoMFeisIle t-shirt to be in with a chance of enjoying a bottle of our very own Bruichladdich 23 Year Old 1993 – Single Cask – and we’ve got our winner!

After all the spectacular sunshine, delightful drams and roaming data charges we’ve all finally recovered enough from another incredible Fèis Ìle to announce the two lucky whisky-lovers who have won our Islay moment competition!

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We’re going to Fèis Ìle 2018!

Drum roll please, folks… after too-long a hiatus we are packing our bags and heading to Fèis Ìle 2018! Good folks of whiskydom, we have news. After a four-year break…

Drum roll please, folks… after too-long a hiatus we are packing our bags and heading to Fèis Ìle 2018!

Good folks of whiskydom, we have news. After a four-year break (yes, and that parking, ahem, incident) we are returning to Islay for the dramming extravaganza that is Fèis Ìle. Team MoM is making final preparations for a voyage to the Islay Festival of Music and Malt! And we have many a treat in store for you whether you are likewise heading for the island or not…

From this Saturday (26 May) to the following one (3 June) we will be busily heading to the official distillery days, plus a selection of rather marvellous additional locations to keep us on our toes. And… the freebies are back!

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The Nightcap: 27 April

A record-breaking Macallan sale, a new Islay distillery, the star bartenders of the future and… the world’s finest cucumber specimens?! It can only be The Nightcap! We often get excited…

A record-breaking Macallan sale, a new Islay distillery, the star bartenders of the future and… the world’s finest cucumber specimens?! It can only be The Nightcap!

We often get excited about the goings on in The Nightcap. Booze is a bustling sector and there’s always a plethora of news and views to round up the week that was. But today… well! It’s the chunkiest Nightcap yet. Best pour yourself a dram, cosy up, and we’ll get stuck in.

So what’s been going down over on the blog? We wished Benromach a happy 20th anniversary and checked out its commemorative bottling, and then hightailed it up to London to mark St George’s Day with English whisky pioneer, Bimber. On Wednesday we took an in-depth look at GlenAllachie’s first releases under Billy Walker’s stewardship, and even got the man himself on the phone to chat distillery developments. Speaking of distilleries, we also checked in with Ian Stirling, co-founder of Port of Leith Distillery, one of the three in the race to become Edinburgh’s first single malt maker in over a century. Then there was the small matter of Jameson’s first cask-strength whiskey

And as The Nightcap shows, that’s a mere drop on the ocean when it comes to booze news this week! Here we go…

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Win a Bottle of Port Askaig 45 Year Old

To mark the start of Fèis Ìle 2017, we’re giving away a bottle of Port Askaig 45 Year Old Islay single malt worth £1,200!   Fèis Ìle, the yearly festival…

To mark the start of Fèis Ìle 2017, we’re giving away a bottle of Port Askaig 45 Year Old Islay single malt worth £1,200!
 
Fèis Ìle, the yearly festival of music and malt on the Isle of Islay, kicks off today! To those of you taking part in this year’s festival – we hope you have a smashing time (which we say jealously through gritted teeth while we sit at our desks many miles away from where all the fun is happening). If you’re not going to be on the Hebridean island this year, there’s nothing stopping you from enjoying some cracking Islay whisky at home – and doing so could net you a bottle of whisky worth £1,200!

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Spotlight on… Lagavulin + Win a Trip to the Distillery!

We’re having a good ol’ look at Lagavulin today, and we’re also giving you the chance to win a trip to the legendary distillery; including a tour, tasting, bottles and…

Spotlight on Lagavulin

We’re having a good ol’ look at Lagavulin today, and we’re also giving you the chance to win a trip to the legendary distillery; including a tour, tasting, bottles and even some peat cutting!

Throughout 2016, the Lagavulin distillery on the Isle of Islay has been celebrating its 200th Anniversary. If 200 years of delicious well-peated whisky production isn’t something worth a year-long celebration, we don’t know what is! Fancy a trip to the Lagavulin distillery to see where they’ve been distilling for all these years, along with a whisky tasting, peat-cutting experience and signed bottles? Then you’ll want to enter our competition to win all of that!!!

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That Boutique-y Whisky Company Adds Age Statements

That Boutique-y Whisky Company has announced that they’re introducing age statements to all future releases with immediate effect and, right on cue, they have a raft of new and exciting…

That Boutique-y Whisky Company

That Boutique-y Whisky Company has announced that they’re introducing age statements to all future releases with immediate effect and, right on cue, they have a raft of new and exciting releases on the way!

All the new releases are listed below and are also available to buy or pre-order from Master of Malt now.

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