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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Islay Whisky

Burns Night poetry competition – win a bottle of Aerolite Lyndsay Single Malt

It’s back, the Master of Malt Burns Night poetry competition. If you fancy yourself as something of a bard, why not enter for the chance to win a bottle of…

It’s back, the Master of Malt Burns Night poetry competition. If you fancy yourself as something of a bard, why not enter for the chance to win a bottle of Islay single malt whisky?

Last year, we put on our first ever Burns Night poetry competition. Frankly, dear reader, we were amazed, not just by the number of entries but by the quality. Who would have guessed that Master of Malt customers would be so talented? You can read Richard Foster’s winning entry and the runners-up here. 

So we’re doing it all again this year in the run up to Burns Night on Saturday 25 January. All you have to do is write a poem about whisky. You can take your inspiration from the Bard himself but don’t feel constrained. If you want to do it in the style of Omar Khayyam (wine-loving Persian poet of 11th century), then we’d love to see how you get on. There are no restrictions on length or style, all we say is that the poem must be in English or Scots. To enter simply email us at marketing@masterofmalt.com or comment on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or below. Entrants must be of legal drinking age and based in a country that we ship to. We will be accepting entrants from 13 until 22 January (see full terms and conditions below). 

Aerolite Lyndsay

Chocks away!

All entries will be judged by the (extremely discerning and well-read) team here at MoM. The winner will receive a bottle of Aerolite Lyndsay, a single malt from the Character of Islay Whisky Company. The name might make it sound like the sort of aeroplane flown by a man called Ginger during World War One but it’s actually an anagram of ten year old Islay. Three runners up will receive drams of Aerolite Lyndsay.

So, what are you waiting for? Time to sharpen those quills, get out your finest vellum and channel your inner Orpheus.

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These were the most read posts of the year

By popular demand, it’s time to look back at our most-read blog posts of 2019. Well, maybe there hasn’t been that much demand, but we’re interested, so here they are,…

By popular demand, it’s time to look back at our most-read blog posts of 2019. Well, maybe there hasn’t been that much demand, but we’re interested, so here they are, the posts that grabbed your attention this year. 

It’s that time of the year when we look back at the year in booze. And what a year it’s been with trade wars, ghost distillery revivals and the SWA getting all funky with new cask types. There’s four words you never expect to see in one sentence, Scotch Whisky Association and funky. From crunching the numbers, it’s clear that what you, dear reader, love is whisky. Whether it’s whisky news, whisky comment or whisky snark, all the top posts this year are about whisky. So here they are in ascending order of popularity:

Jim Murray

You can bet that dear old Jim will be in here somewhere

Number 10:

The Macallan unveils new expression: The Macallan Estate  – A new Macallan expression is always of interest. And this latest release is particularly special being made from barley grown on the Macallan estate. 

Number 9:

Unusual Scotch ahoy! SWA widens permissible cask types – In June the Scotch Whisky Association revised it rules to allow new types of casks for maturing Scotch whisky including Tequila, mezcal, Calvados and Baijiu barrels. 

Number 8: 

Was Glenfiddich really the first ever single malt whisky? – Here our columnist Ian Buxton pulls apart some rather outlandish PR claims from Glenfiddich.

Number 7: 

Diageo Special Releases 2019 details are here! – It’s that wondrous time of the year when Diageo releases some rare and unusual whiskies from its unparalleled portfolio of distilleries. 

Number 6: 

Our take on booze trends for 2019! – Here MoM editor Kristiane Sherry peers into her crystal ball to see what we would be drinking in 2019. You can see here how much she got right. 

Number 5: 

1792 Full Proof is Jim Murray’s World Whisky of the Year 2020 – Another perennial popular event, the release of Jim Murray’s new guide and the crowning of a new World Whisky of the Year.

Number 4:

Behold: Fancy Brora 40-Year-Old 200th Anniversary incoming! – With Brora due to come back on stream in 2020, we had an opportunity to try a very special old expression to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the distillery.

Number 3:

The Balvenie Stories launches with three special whiskies – Three key figures at Balvenie have each created a whisky to celebrate human tales of endeavour, craft and surprise.

Number 2:

Ardbeg adds 19 year old expression to core range – A new core addition to the Ardbeg range is always going to be of interest so no wonder that this is the second most read post of the year.

And at number 1 

Tears before bedtime: are we heading for a whisky crash? – It’s Ian Buxton again, and apparently “we’re dooooomed!”

 

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Planning permission given for Port Ellen

It’s all go at Port Ellen as the local authorities have agreed to plans for the rebuilding of the great lost distillery on Islay. The famous, no legendary, Port Ellen…

It’s all go at Port Ellen as the local authorities have agreed to plans for the rebuilding of the great lost distillery on Islay.

The famous, no legendary, Port Ellen distillery on Islay last produced whisky in 1983 but, as we’ve reported before, Diageo is planning to bring it back from the dead. Now news has just come in of an important milestone in the process: the local authorities have agreed to the plans including a traditional pagoda-roofed kiln house alongside modern production buildings. Very little of the original distillery is still standing so the team at Diageo are essentially building a new distillery from scratch.The set-up is going to be a bit unusual with two pairs of traditional copper stills, exact replicas of the original stills, alongside two smaller stills for experimental runs producing different styles of spirit. 

whisky crash

Traditional meets modern, an artist impression of the new Port Ellen distillery

Master distiller Georgie Crawford commented: “We are delighted to have reached this important milestone in our journey to bring Port Ellen back into production.We are grateful to Argyll & Bute Council and to the local community who have engaged positively with us during the planning process. We are incredibly excited to begin the next phase of the project and to make our long-cherished dream of restoring Port Ellen distillery a reality.”

Port Ellen has had a turbulent history. It was first opened in 1825 by Alexander Ker MacKay as a malt mill before being developed as a distillery by John Ramsay between 1833 and 1892. The distillery later went into a decline, and closed and was mostly demolished in the 1930s. Then it rose again in the 1960s to meet the global demand for blended Scotch whisky before finally closing its doors in 1983 as the market dipped. It was never released commercially as a single malt in the modern age while the distillery was open and it was only as mature cask bottlings came on the market after it had closed that Port Ellen developed a cult following. Then in 2017 Diageo announced that it was planning to reopen the distillery along with Brora (production is due to start at both in 2021). Let’s hope this time Port Ellen stays open for good. 

 

 

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The fundamentals of five key whisky flavours

As whisky bars go, London’s Black Rock is pretty out there. The team filled a three-tonne tree trunk with whisky and installed it in the basement. They built a whisky…

As whisky bars go, London’s Black Rock is pretty out there. The team filled a three-tonne tree trunk with whisky and installed it in the basement. They built a whisky vending machine. Now, they’re fitting out London’s first whisky hotel for January 2020. Their mission? To make the liquid accessible to everybody. We talk flavour fundamentals with co-founder Matthew Hastings as the team fling open the doors to their brand new blending suite…

“Flavour is absolutely paramount to everything we do,” says Hastings, as he welcomes our group in Black Rock’s light and airy blending room. “It makes learning about whisky significantly easier than trying to learn about regions and different styles and exceptions to rules. It’s convoluted. Great if you’re really into whisky, but if you just want to enjoy a dram you don’t necessarily need to know all of that.”

Black Rock

Just some of the enormous range of whiskies to choose from Black Rock

As such, each bottle in Black Rock’s 250+ bottle library is grouped by flavour (rather than region) and labelled with the price, so you know how much a dram will set you back before you order. “We’re removing barriers to entry,” he continues. “No one wants to get stung. It might be that you can afford a £20 dram, but you might not have wanted to spend that on this occasion. Having to have that conversation is not hospitality.”

There’s also the brand spanking new blending suite, where you can blend your very own bottle of whisky so long as you book ahead. After a welcome drink comprising one of Black Rock’s signature whisky highballs – a Smokey Cokey in our case – you’ll delve into the origins of blended whisky and explore the team’s flavour-forward approach through a vertical single malt tasting comprising sweet, fruit, fragrant, spice and smoke.

“While we arrange by flavour, there are certain rules that tend to hold fast,” Hastings says, “so most of ‘smoke’ is still Islay whisky, most of ‘sweet’ is full of bourbon, most of ‘spice’ is full of rye. But there are obviously outliers. Bunnahabhain is an Islay whisky that’s never been peated in its life, there’s no smoke in it whatsoever.”

whisky blending at Black Rock

Young people love whisky blending

Advice worth remembering, because after you’ve soaked up as much knowledge as possible from Hastings and co, it’s time to blend your own 500ml bottle. And once you’ve settled on the exact specifications, the team will record the recipe on Black Rock’s blending room file so you can re-order it whenever you like.

Whatever your personal whisky preferences, it might help to know which part of the distilling process those notes emerge from. Here, Hastings runs you through the fundamentals of five flavour groups…

Sweet

Here you’ll mostly find grain whiskies, along with single malts that display lighter characteristics, says Hastings – for example Auchentoshan, a single malt which triple-distills. “You need a little bit of sweet because it helps carry flavours – even if you’re not after a particularly sweet dram, it just helps to mellow things.  The amount you use will change the intensity of the final spirit.”

Fragrance

The majority of the fragrant notes found in whisky come from the specific shapes and angles within the still, Hastings advises, which are unique to each distillery. “If you want to make a light, fragrant, floral-style whisky, you want to increase reflux – which is essentially the vapour falling back down into the still and distilling again – as much as possible,” he explains. “Generally, if you want a lighter whisky you’ll have relatively long stills because you’re making it travel further. Jura has the second tallest stills in Scotland and it produces a very light style of whisky.”

Your finished whisky at Black Rock

Your finished whisky at Black Rock

Fruit

By contrast, there are a number of ways to introduce fruit flavours. “You’ve got pretty much the entire production process to play with,” says Hastings, “starting with the yeast strain and fermentation period. Generally, longer fermentations produce more tropical fruit flavours.”
More prominent, though, is the influence of cask ageing and finishing. “Different types of oak from different continents and regions will also produce different flavours,” he adds. “And then there’s the fill – a sherry cask will produce a radically different flavour to a Port cask. Different types of sherry, being the world’s most diverse wine, will produce different flavours on top of that. Whisky in fino will be fresh and apple-y, Pedro Ximenez will give raisins and chocolate.”

Spice

Spice tends to be produced either at the end of the distillation process – decreasing reflux means heavier, thicker flavours, which tend to be spicy – or in the casks, Hastings says. “Different casks can help develop those spicy flavours,” he says. “Casks that have had more than one fill tend to produce spicier qualities, because you’re getting past the initial sweet vanillins you see in newer wood and any residual liquid from a first fill sherry or a first-fill bourbon cask.”

Smoke

The peating process occurs right at the beginning of the process, when you’re essentially smoking the malted barley dry. The smokiness of a whisky is measured in ‘phenolic parts per million’ (known as PPM), which starts high and decreases rapidly throughout the rest of the distillation process. “You’ll lose some in the mashing stage, distillation loses a tonne depending on the type of stills, and then during maturation – especially in older whiskies – you’re constantly losing smoke,” Hastings explains.

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Whisky Advent 2019 Day #13: Caol Ila 12 Year Old

Friday 13th is unlucky for some… but not if you’ve got your mitts on a Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar. Today’s delectable drop is Caol Ila 12 Year…

Friday 13th is unlucky for some… but not if you’ve got your mitts on a Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar. Today’s delectable drop is Caol Ila 12 Year Old!

Tucked away in one of the most picturesque corners of the UK lies Caol Ila. It’s the largest of the Islay distilleries by output, but you’d never guess from its quaint, waterfront position, all white-painted warehouses and traditional buildings, only accessible by snaking, single-track road. The distillery clings to the steep hillside; the Paps of Jura tower from across the Sound of Jura. It might produce 6.5 million litres of alcohol a year, and it might be a significant player in the blended behemoth that is Johnnie Walker, but when you visit Caol Ila, there’s an incredible sense of tranquillity.

This could be about to change. As part of a £150 million investment across its network of distilleries, parent company Diageo is in the process of updating the visitor centre at Caol Ila. It’ll be the Johnnie Walker’s Islay embassy, if you will. There’s to be a stunning aerial walkway and state-of-the-art facilities. Get set for a transformation.

We might need to be a little patient before we can explore the new visitor centre, but there are drams aplenty we can enjoy right now. And coincidentally, Whisky Advent’s Day 13 dram hails from Caol Ila. It’s a sumptuously smoky drop, with delicious texture and incredible character. It’s…

Caol Ila 12 Year Old!

Caol Ila 12 Year Old

Say hello to Pierrick Guillaume!

Here to tell us more is Pierrick Guillaume, Caol Ila site operations manager.

Master of Malt: Caol Ila is a remote distillery even by Islay standards! Tell us a little bit about a typical day in that setting…

Pierrick Guillaume: A typical day would consist of walking down to the distillery from home. In the winter you face the sun rising over the Jura hills with the sea between us. Well… when you see the sun! I’m lucky enough to regularly see wildlife through my office’s window such as seals, otters, guillemots or dolphins! Then after work, in the summer you can walk three minutes away from the distillery and catch a fish for dinner or if you are lucky, stop a fishing boat from the pier to get lobsters straight off the water! There are a lot of amazing spots to go for a run or a walk around the distillery too and there are a few sports activities that you can go to at night, rugby, football, netball, swimming, kayaking.

MoM: Talk us through the signature Caol Ila character…

PG: Caol Ila is a fruit market in a smoky hall. Caol Ila 12-year-old is the perfect entry door to the peaty world. When you take away this gentle peat wrapping the aromas, you are facing a whole range of fruitiness going from exotic notes to richer and darker fruits.

Caol Ila 12 Year Old

The beautiful Caol Ila Distillery

What trends or developments do you think we’ll see in the world of whisky in 2020?

PG: I think we will see an increased focus on sustainability in whisky-making – we are constantly innovating in this field to reduce the water usage at our distilleries and looking at ways of reducing our environmental impact, and this will, of course, continue to be a priority into 2020 and beyond.

What will you be drinking this Christmas?

PG: It will be Caol Ila Distiller’s Edition back home in the South West of France with my family whilst eating our home-made Yule log cake.

Caol Ila 12 Year Old Tasting Note:

Nose: It’s lively, fresh and herbal, with a distinct smoke wafting through. There are hints of cooked ham, too, along with cigar leaves and an aromatic citrus vibe. 

Palate: The rich, oily texture is immediately apparent, along with the tar and smoke notes. There’s a confectionery sweetness along with orchard fruits. 

Finish: The smoke goes on and on, framed with a gentle pepper warmth. 

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2019 Diageo Special Releases masterclass videos

Earlier this year when the sun was shining, we spent a very jolly day tasting through the 2019 Diageo Special Releases with brand ambassadors TJ Littlejohn and Colin Dunn, with…

Earlier this year when the sun was shining, we spent a very jolly day tasting through the 2019 Diageo Special Releases with brand ambassadors TJ Littlejohn and Colin Dunn, with the MoM film crew there to record everything for posterity.

The arrival of the Diageo Special Releases is one of the highlights of the whisky lover’s calendar. Every year we are knocked out by this series of rare and unusual single malts (and sometimes grains) from some of Scotland’s greatest distilleries. We think this year’s crop, titled ‘Rare by Nature’ and bottled at cask strength, tasted superb, but we have to admit that they tasted even better in the company of a couple of Diageo’s finest brand ambassadors. Newcomer TJ and veteran Colin Dunn have their own unique way of talking about whisky, and both really brought these expressions to life.

Diageo Special Releases 2019

The full line-up of the Diageo Special Releases 2019

 

Without any further ado, here are our 2019 Diageo Special Releases videos:

Cardhu 14 Years Old:

Cragganmore 12 Years Old:

Dalwhinnie 30 Years Old:

Lagavulin 8 Years Old:

Mortlach 26 Years Old:

Pittyvaich 29 Years Old:

The Singleton of Glen Ord 18 Years Old:

Talisker 15 Years Old:

 

 

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The Nightcap: 15 November

Celebrity booze, a motorcycle built in collaboration with Smokehead whisky and the goodest of boys (#dogbassador). It’s another wild and wonderful week for The Nightcap. We all have our personal…

Celebrity booze, a motorcycle built in collaboration with Smokehead whisky and the goodest of boys (#dogbassador). It’s another wild and wonderful week for The Nightcap.

We all have our personal moments when we start to feel just a little bit festive. For some, it might be when the town lights come on, for others it might be that first bag of turkey and stuffing-flavoured crisps. At Master of Malt, however, there’s a very clear sign that it’s safe to get out the reindeer jumpers, start stocking up on mince pies and trying to think of amusing puns based on the word Yule: it’s the first sighting of #WhiskySanta! And lo, he has been spotted, and verily he’ll be giving away all kinds of boozy goodness. Yule be mad not to get involved (see what we did there, first yule-based pun of the season). Right, that’s enough Christmas dad jokes, nothing is going to hold back this week’s Nightcap!

On the MoM blog this week we heard the sound of sleigh bells jingling, ring tingle tingling too as he returned. That’s right, #WhiskySanta is back at MoM Towers! Elsewhere, we launched another fantastic competition, this time with the fab folks at Starward! Henry then managed to pin down Dave Broom to chat about his new whisky film The Amber Light, before he enjoyed a sacrilegious gin liqueur, and made the classic The Corpse Reviver No.1 our Cocktail of the Week! Annie, meanwhile, looked at the future of flavour and cask whisky investment, before Adam talked Comte de Grasse with its founder Bhagath Reddy and uncovered the magic behind the latest bar menu at The Savoy’s Beaufort Bar.

Now, onto the Nightcap!

The Nightcap

Congrats to you, David!

Isle of Arran Distillers names Lochranza distillery manager

Lochranza Distillery, the second spirits-maker of the Isle of Arran, has a shiny new distillery manager! Say hello to David Livingstone, who is set to touch down on the island to take on the top job. He’s hot-footed it over the water from Islay, where he was previously assistant manager at Laphroaig before he helped in the set-up of Ardnahoe distillery. Sounds like the ideal candidate to oversee Lochranza operations, a site that will produce around 600,000 litres of spirit per year when it’s fully up and running. James MacTaggart, who has been master distiller at Isle of Arran Distillers since 2007, will take on a new role as director of production and operations, overseeing both the Lochranza and Lagg Distillery sites. “It’s an especially exciting time to take on this role at such a remarkable whisky company and I’m very proud to be given the opportunity to look after the future of these great spirits,” Livingstone said. “Being from the islands myself, I recognise how important distilleries are to island communities and that’s something I’ve always been passionate about.” MacTaggart added: “As the company continues to grow and develop, it’s necessary that we have the best whisky people around us. We’re delighted to have David on board for the next part of our journey and know that we can learn plenty from his wealth of knowledge and experience.” Bring on the whisky!

The Nightcap

The special Ducati motorcycle built in collaboration with Smokehead whisky

Man rides motorbike into whisky tasting, nobody hurt

“I’m getting TCP, I’m getting wood smoke, I’m getting petrol.” Petrol? From a whisky? No, from that enormous throbbing motorbike being ridden indoors. Don’t worry our whisky event hadn’t been invaded by Hell’s Angels, we were at the Bike Shed Motorcycle Club in London’s fashionable Shoreditch district for the unveiling of a special Ducati motorcycle built in collaboration with Smokehead whisky. We were sipping delicious Smoker cocktails made with Smokehead, lemon juice, honey syrup, ginger liqueur, and activated charcoal (so much nicer than deactivated charcoal) when the beast arrived. Also called The Smoker, it’s a Ducati twin built by Edinburgh-based bike customiser Tyler Lunceford. From the sound of the machine, the crowd were expecting Meat Loaf crossed with Beelzebub to get off, but in fact, the bike’s builder is a mild-mannered American, who after switching off the noise, quietly told us about his creation. For those struggling to see the connection between a motorcycle and an Islay single malt, Lunceford explained: “Smokehead whisky is not for everyone and neither is The Smoker – it’s bold, it’s intimidating and it’s loud. It’s really loud. It attracts a certain crowd. It’s certainly not for everyone.” Makes sense.

The Nightcap

The wonderful St. Vincent will be hosting the bar

Veuve Clicquot launches Souvenir Bar with St. Vincent

Give us great music and a good glass of Champagne, and we’re happy. If that sounds good to you, then you’ll want to head over to Veuve Clicquot’s very own bar in Covent Garden, Souvenir, opening from 22 to 23 November. The Champagne house has teamed up with American musician St. Vincent (aka Annie Clark), who will be hosting the bar, though this isn’t any run-of-the-mill establishment. The bar is described as a part speakeasy, part sensory space, aiming to transport visitors far away from reality with a glass of Veuve Clicquot in their hand. The bar will be filled with a unique mix of sounds, specifically designed to trigger memory, and feeling of past, present and future. Consider our interest piqued. To create the space, St. Vincent collaborated with a collective of creators, designers, and mixologists. Every detail has been thought through, with St. Vincent determining what people will eat, drink, see and hear. It also looks like there will be a few unexpected twists and turns throughout the night, as she will also play with the notion of unexpected characters and appearances… It’s all very mysterious, though we’re thoroughly intrigued. What’s the souvenir then, we hear you ask? It’s the memories created when you’re in the space, of course! Plus maybe a slight headache the next morning. Remember folks, sip don’t gulp.

The Nightcap

The great whiskies will raise money for a great cause.

Islay whisky collected on 110 miles row up for auction

This weekend, 16/17 November, you can take part in a very special auction to get your hands on some Islay whiskies and raise money for the RNLI. The Islay Sea Collection is a collection of whiskies from each other island’s coastal distilleries gathered by a team of enthusiasts who rowed from Northern Island, stopping off at each distillery to pick up the goods. Yes, rowed, talk about commitment to the cause. It took over nine hours to row the 110 miles to Islay and three days to collect all the whiskies. We imagine they probably stopped for a dram or two to keep out the cold. A film has been made about their amazing voyage. The collection is made up of Bowmore 15 Years Old Feis Ile 2018 bottling, Caol Ila 12 Years Old, Bruichladdich Scottish Barley The Classic Laddie, Bunnahabhain 12 Years Old Small Batch Distilled, Laphroaig 10 Years Old, Ardbeg An Oa, and Lagavulin 16 Years Old, plus a special cask created with wood from each distillery. Graham Crane from the auction site Just Whisky commented: “This is a really exciting collection and we are honoured to have been asked to auction it in support of the RNLI. We are in awe of the journey these men took and hope to fetch £XXXX for the charity. We look forward to seeing the bids rolling in.” Keith Gilmore lifeboat operations manager at Portrush Station added: “This is a really exciting and novel way to raise funds for the two stations. We often have to work with Islay, and this is a great way to work with one of our neighbours and local supporters to raise funds for the RNLI.” So a worthwhile cause and a unique collection of whisky. Auction closes on Sunday 17 November at 8pm.

The Nightcap

Ryan Chetiyawardana and co’s swanky new menu has launched at Lyaness

Seven-ingredient new Lyaness menu is pretty damn tasty

Last week we hightailed it up to London to check out Ryan Chetiyawardana and co’s shiny new menu at Lyaness. Taking a cook’s approach to bartending, it’s the result of playful experimentation – you can try a twist on a classic, or you can go “off piste” and base a drink around a favourite flavour profile. And it’s all focused around seven core ingredients, each prepared in the Lyaness kitchen: Infinite Banana, Lyaness Tea-mooth, Peach Emoji, Vegan Honey, ONYX, Golden Levain, and Purple Pineapple. The whole shebang is very much designed as a guide book, not a rule book, or as the team describes it, “a mechanism, to help people think differently about cocktails”. And the hours that go into the prep for each is unreal: the Peach Emoji, for example, is designed to “pull a peach apart, dissect it and put it back together again”. The stones are roasted then steeped, the flesh is rested in enzymes until it becomes a liquid, while the rest is lacto-fermented. Fancy. Lyaness recognises that drinking can be creative, fun and unique, and that success should be in the palate of the beholder, rather than in the eyes of someone dictating the rules. Go check it out!

The Nightcap

Get involved, guys!

The Benevolent launches 2019 Online Silent Auction

Following the success of the “Thanks for Giving” Online Silent Auction in 2017, the wonderful folk at The Benevolent are launching a new silent auction to raise £10,000, and they need your support! The online auction will start on Friday 22nd November at 9am and run until 5pm on Friday 6th December. The charity seeks to help those within the UK drinks industry who are in need of support. The auction also provides an ideal opportunity to buy some exceptional Christmas presents, as items available range from Michelin starred restaurant vouchers, coveted sporting memorabilia, tickets to prestigious events as well as several incredible items generously donated by members of the trade. You will be able to browse the lots before the auction goes live in order to plan your bids. Whilst this auction is primarily aimed at people in the drinks trade, nonetheless, it is certainly available to anyone, whether involved in the trade or not so there’s no excuse not to get involved. In order to bid, you will need to register first. To do so, as well as browse and prepare to place your bids, click here. Good luck!

The Nightcap

Porto Protocol is taking action against climate change and environmental degradation.

Drink Port, plant trees

Here’s a charitable initiative we can all get behind, drink Port and help fund a reforestation project in the Douro Valley. When you buy a bottle of Taylor’s Select Reserve Port from the Co-Op, some of the money will go to a charity that plants trees. It’s part of Porto Protocol, an organisation mentored by Taylor’s to take action against climate change and environmental degradation. Adrian Bridge, Taylor’s CEO commented, “we are delighted to have Co-op’s support for this important project. By allowing us to plant more trees, Co-op’s investment will significantly increase the positive impact of the reforestation. As custodians of the unique environment and landscape of the Douro Valley, we understand the importance of extending our environmental initiatives beyond the vineyard itself.” Co-op wine buyer, Sarah Benson, added: “We’re thrilled to be exclusively supporting Taylor’s on this important project through the sales of this brilliant Port, which will help bring new life to the Douro Valley.” The Co-Op expect to sell enough Port to plant 2,500 trees, that the size of four football pitches so the more Port you buy, the better it is for the environment. Everybody wins.

The Nightcap

The vodka was inspired by events Hudson hosted at her former home on King Street in New York

Welcome to the celeb booze club, Kate Hudson!

All aboard the celebrity booze bandwagon! The latest passenger to jump aboard? Actor and entrepreneur Kate Hudson, who this week launched her King St. Vodka in the US. The spirit has been ‘distilled seven times’ in Santa Barbara, California, is gluten-free (like all spirits), and is made with alkaline water, said to result in an ‘insanely smooth and clean’ tipple. Hmmmmm. According to Hudson herself, it was inspired by the evenings she used to host at her former home on King Street in New York. “I have always found the spirits industry fascinating, and I love Dirty Vodka Martinis,” she said. “The creative side of me thought it would be a fun challenge to develop a vodka for my palate, and in a beautiful package that I would love to have on my bar and share with friends. The business person in me is now looking forward to the challenge of building a brand in an entirely new industry.” She’s previously co-founded Fabletics activewear, and recently launched her own clothing label, Happy X Nature – so booze really is a new venture. She should be in safe hands though; also involved in King St. Vodka is David Kanbar, the spirits entrepreneur behind the likes of Skyy Vodka and Bulldog Gin.

The Nightcap

Keep an eye out on the MoM Blog for the full story on this one…

Sir Ranulph Fiennes gets his very own rum

In the week that Kate Hudson launched her very own vodka, top explorer Ranulph Fiennes has unveiled his very own rum made in conjunction with English Spirit. You’d think that they would have checked the celebrity product launch calendar. Sir Ranulph Fiennes’ Great British Rum, as it’s called, is a bit unusual. It’s distilled from molasses but rather than being aged in casks, different woods representing Fiennes’s adventures such as sequoia from Canada, pine from Norway and date palm from Oman have been added during distilled. What strange alchemy is this? Distiller Dr John Waters explained: “This launch represents a milestone for British rum production. We are putting a marker into the ground that Britain can produce a premium, quality rum and it’s the perfect testament to a legendary British expedition leader.” Sir Ranulph commented: “Rum has always been associated with exploration and adventure, but I only wanted to work with a distillery that was daring and determined. When Dr John told me of the world’s doubt that Britain could make a truly great rum, well, that sealed the deal. From that moment, we aimed to tread new ground”. We have the full story coming soon in an interview with Sir Ranulph (Kate Hudson, though, has not returned our calls).

The Nightcap

Is this the best story we’ve ever had on the Nightcap? Yes. Yes it is.

And finally… Early Times’s dogbassador Earl ‘graduates’ service dog programme

Yes, we love whisky. And yes, cats are our collective first love of the animal kingdom. But there’s always going to be space for a good dog or two, too. And goodest boys don’t come much better than Earl, the ‘dogbassador’ for Early Times whiskey! The one-year-old hound just graduated from the K9s For Warriors programme, which sees dogs trained up to become service animals for military veterans in the US. The specialist pooches don’t just look cute – they also help those who have served post-9/11 and are suffering from PTSD, brain injuries and other trauma. The programme is part of a four-year partnership in which Early Years has donated more than US$225,000 to K9s for Warriors. “The minute our team met Earl, we knew he was special and we had high hopes he would graduate and be matched with a veteran,” said Dallas Cheatham, Early Times senior brand manager. “50% of the dogs who begin training do not complete the programme due to medical or behavioural incompatibilities. It takes a specific personality to become a service dog.” Not only does Earl respond expertly to verbal cues (the typical ‘sit’ and ‘down’), but the training also improved his focus and sensitivity to touch. He’s now been paired with a veteran and, after three weeks of side-by-side training, the new pair will head home for their happily ever after. Just look at Earl’s face. We’re not crying, you are.

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Master of Malt tastes… Ardbeg Traigh Bhan 19 Year Old!

Check out our swanky new video of us tasting a new Ardbeg expression and having a chat with Brendan McCarron… Back in September, we sent a team from MoM Towers…

Check out our swanky new video of us tasting a new Ardbeg expression and having a chat with Brendan McCarron…

Back in September, we sent a team from MoM Towers north to Edinburgh. We had received word that a certain Islay distillery had something special to show us. It wasn’t wrong. We were covering the launch of Ardbeg Traigh Bhan 19 Year Old.

New Ardbeg is always exciting. But this expression was a whole other level of awesome. It’s the distillery’s first permanent age-stated whisky in nearly 20 years, joining Ardbeg 10 Year Old, a booze which has become a must-have for fans of all things peated. It’s fair to say we jumped at the chance to give it a try and find out more.

Our host was Brendan McCarron, head of maturing stocks at The Glenmorangie Company. He talked us through the creation of Ardbeg Traigh Bhan 19 Year Old, why the Traigh Bhan beach on Islay, also known as the Singing Sands, was an inspiration, how the dram retained that quintessential Ardbeg profile and more.

So, what are you waiting for? Click on the video below and enjoy! Oh, and in case you were struggling, it’s pronounced something like ‘Tri-Van’.

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The Nightcap: 23 August

In this every-changing world, few things are certain. One thing, however, you can rely on is that as long as there’s news about booze, there will always be the Nightcap!…

In this every-changing world, few things are certain. One thing, however, you can rely on is that as long as there’s news about booze, there will always be the Nightcap!

As another week comes to an end, it’s time to take off your workaday loose-fitting trousers and slip into your spandex weekend leggings. Don’t do this in the office in front of everyone or you might get a sternly-worded email from HR. Perhaps spandex legging like those worn by hair metal bands from the 1980s aren’t really your thing but it is important to mark the transition from work to play in some way. You could put on a pink stetson or adopt a comedy weekend accent. Actually, don’t do either of those things, just pour yourself a drink, we’ll have a Whisky Sour if you’re offering, sit back and read this week’s news from the world of booze.

On the blog this week we reported on the exciting news that Ardbeg has added a 19-year-old expression to its core range. It’s not a limited release. It’s new Ardbeg and it’s here to stay. We resisted the urge to go out all week and celebrate, however, and published more stories. Take Nate Brown, for example, who returned to ask why drinks have to be so hellish just because your at a festival, theatre or airport. Annie then provided a handy guide to decoding the seemingly endless marketing bumf that sadly is part and parcel of this industry of ours and got the low-down on some intriguing savoury liqueurs. Adam, meanwhile, rounded up a selection of booze for you all to enjoy this upcoming bank holiday before Henry made the delightful Le Rebelle Aperitif our New Arrival of the Week and then decided to mark the upcoming National Whiskey Sour Day over in America (Sunday 25 August) by making it our Cocktail of the Week. Not that we need an excuse to enjoy a good cocktail.

But there’s more going on in the world of drink than people drinking Whisky Sours in airports. There’s all kinds of boozy news to catch up on…

The Nightcap

The new shiny Kilchoman stills

Kilchoman doubles its production on Islay

Back in June, during the crazy days of Feis Ile, we spoke with Andrew Wills, founder of Kilchoman, about expansion plans. Well now they are official: the distillery has doubled its spirits production to 480,000 litres of pure alcohol per year. A wall was knocked out in the existing production space to create, in Wills’ words, “a mirror image of the original stillhouse” with a new mash tun, two fermenters and two new stills. He went on to say: “Without an increase in capacity we would be heading towards a situation where all Kilchoman would be sold purely on allocation. With my three sons heavily involved in the business we want to continue building on the success of the last 15 years without the risk of running out of whisky.” Expansion plans, however, are not yet done as a new shop, cafe and visitor centre is due for completion within the next four months. Never a dull moment at Kilchoman!

The Nightcap

The first two expressions from the Signature Blends series

That Boutique-y Rum Company launches Signature Blends

That Boutique-y Rum Company (TBRC) is ready to change your rum cocktail game with a new series of Signature Blends. The company’s first selection of continuous rums (ie. not one off batches), which also make for delicious standalone sippers, were developed by TBRC’s ‘Rum-guy’, Pete Holland (of The Floating Rum Shack fame). The first expression is Signature Blend #1 – Bright-Grass, a predominantly unaged blend of funky rum from Jamaica and fresh, fruity rhum from Martinique, with a touch of 4 year-old Jamaican rum for added depth. As you can imagine from its name, the profile is bright and grassy and should make a killer Daiquiri. Signature Blend #2 – Elegant-Dried Fruits, meanwhile, was created with the intention of making Holland’s Mai Tai’s (Pete that is, not the Netherlands). Combining rich molasses-vibe Guyana rum with heavier, funkier rum from Jamaica and a small amount of high-ester rum, this is a bold and full-bodied blend. For both expressions, you can check out our own tasting notes to get an idea of what you’re in for (spoiler alert: they’re both delicious). As with the rest of the TBRC range, the labels for the Signature Collection have been developed by Microsoft Paint artist and Twitter legend Jim’ll Paint It. “When tasked with creating rums that would be predominantly used in cocktails, I, firstly, had to think of the style of drinks that I’d like to enjoy, then set about working a blend that stood up to my idea of what the cocktail would taste like,” Holland said. “I don’t like the idea of trying to balance many different rum styles, a situation that overly complicates things. I much prefer the simplicity of two distinct styles working harmoniously together. Each displaying their strengths and contributions to the cocktail.”

The Nightcap

Plumpton College has hit back at claims made in the Daily Mail

Wine business course not Mickey Mouse, says Plumpton College

Feathers were ruffled at Plumpton College in East Sussex when Chris McGovern from the Campaign for Real Education branded its £9,000 a year wine business foundation course a ‘Mickey Mouse’ degree in an article in the Daily Mail. Dr Gregory M Dunn, curriculum manager of the wine division, hit back: “Plumpton’s wine business course allows students the opportunity to work closely with industry on various projects and initiatives and access to many wineries and wine-related businesses. This improves the employability of the students. We believe the content of the course is relevant, current and intellectually challenging”. Paul Harley, programme manager for wine business at Plumpton, went on to outline how in-demand graduates of the course are in the wine trade: “Last year our employment rate upon graduation from the FdA in 2018 was 60% with only one graduate without a job by the autumn. For 2019 we have 100% employment.” Plumpton graduates are currently working at such prestigious businesses as Berry Bros & Rudd, LVMH and Liberty Wine Merchants with none, as far as we can ascertain, wearing Mickey Mouse or Elsa costumes at Disneyland Paris.

The Nightcap

The inaugural meeting of the London Armagnac Club is the 4th September

Armagnac Club lands in London

London’s jolliest-named restaurant, Monsieur le Duck near Farringdon, has just launched the London Armagnac Club. Events will take place at the bar above the restaurant, the Duck’s Nest, on the first Wednesday of the month and concentrate on different aspects of this fascinating but little-known spirit eg. cask ageing, grape varieties or brandies from a particular house. The inaugural event on Wednesday 4 September from 7pm to 9pm features Château de Laubade, one of the region’s top producers. Naturally, Gascon snacks, probably featuring lots of duck, will be served alongside but a vegetarian option will be available. There’s something you don’t get in Gascony. So whether you’re an Armagnac aficionado or just love dark spirits, then head to Monsieur le Duck. You won’t be disappointed.

The Nightcap

There’s a lot of money in the beautiful landscapes

Cognac exports continue to grow for the fifth consecutive year (but UK sales down)

Good news for fans of all things French and fiery as the National Interprofessional Bureau of Cognac (BNIC) has announced that Cognac exports have continued to grow for the fifth consecutive year in 2018-2019, reaching their highest level in volume and value. Favourable conditions and trade in the NAFTA Zone (Canada, Mexico, and the United States) and the Far East are noted as the major reasons: 97.7 million bottles were shipped during this period (+8.8% in volume and +17.6% in value) in the US alone and shipments to the Far East stabilising at 60.0 million bottles, representing 28% of shipments (a small decline of -1.5% by volume and increase of 1.8% by value). In total, there were 211.1 million bottles shipped in 2018-2019, with exports accounting for 98% of sales, to the tune of €3.4 billion. That’s a lot of Sidecars. Cognac isn’t resting on its laurels, though. To support this growth, an additional 10,000 hectares (24,710 acres) of vineyards have been purchased over the course of three years, so thankfully there’s still more than enough to go around. However, shipments within Europe are down by -4.6% in volume and -6.4% in value, for a total of more than 39.4 million bottles and the United Kingdom is down by -6.0% and -6.7%, although it still leads the European Union market. Still, the lesson here is clear. We need to do our bit in the UK and buy more brandy. Now if only there was a good online retailer of booze around here that we could use…

The Nightcap

It’s a delicious celebration of all things Art Deco

Singapore’s Atlas unveils stunning Art Deco menu

Glorious cocktails alert! Singapore’s sumptuous watering hole Atlas has revealed its new menu Interbellum, and we’re in full drinks lust. Developed by head bartender Jesse Vida and his team, the menu celebrates all things Art Deco, taking elements from historical cocktails popular at the time, and Atlas’s Parkview Square home, which is mighty in-keeping with the theme. ‘Interbellum’ takes its name from the period between the two World Wars, a time of enormous change, and of course, the birth of the Art Deco movement. Split into five chapters, the menu plays a lot with gin and Champagne, showcasing all kinds of cocktails from the time. “Using fresh and house-made ingredients, each drink has been inspired by this most seductive of eras, while showcasing a blend of traditional European influences with an updated touch,” said Vida. “We look forward to welcoming guests to journey with us through the stories.” Serves include classics such as the French 75, as well as more modern twists such as the lower-ABV Art & Influence, and The Boy King, a Highball-style drink made with oloroso sherry, sweet vermouth and Aperol, which taps into all things “Tut-Mania” when Tutankhamun’s tomb was discovered. Beautiful all round.

The Nightcap

Only 6,000 bottles of Glenkinchie Tattoo were filled and you” have to go to Edinburgh to buy one

Glenkinchie releases special Edinburgh Military Tattoo single malt

No, it’s nothing to do with skin art, the Edinburgh Military Tattoo is an annual extravaganza of bagpipes, drums and marching performed by armed forces bands from around the world. It’s one of Edinburgh’s premier attractions so it’s a good fit with nearby Glenkinchie which is known as the capital’s very own single malt. Ramsay Borthwick, manager of Glenkinchie, filled us in on this new whisky: “This highly-prized release has been specially selected by our team at the distillery as a celebration of our heritage as ‘Edinburgh Malt’ and the unique partnership between two of the city’s greatest icons.” Glenkinchie Tattoo was matured in rejuvenated hogsheads and American oak barrels, and from the tastings notes of butterscotch, dried fruits and baking spices, sounds to us like a classic Glenkinchie. It’s bottled at 46% ABV and costs £65. A limited-edition of 6,000 bottles will be available only from the distillery, the Military Tattoo shop, or you can enjoy a dram or two while watching the Tattoo itself. So you’ll have to visit Edinburgh if you want to try it.

The Nightcap

No need to go in store, the Whisky Discovery experience comes to your doorstep

Waitrose launches at-home whisky tasting experience

UK supermarket Waitrose has attempted to follow up the success of its Gin O’clock initiative by introducing a two-hour Whisky Discovery experience to be enjoyed in the comfort of your own home. The guided masterclass will be led by a Waitrose whisky specialist who will invite guests to taste through five different whiskies neat: Maker’s Mark, The Chita, Highland Park 12, Jim Beam Double Oak and Laphroaig. The specialist host will then demonstrate how to make three cocktails, pair spirits with soft drinks, and give guests the chance to taste Jim Beam Double Oak with dark salted caramel chocolate and see how Laphroaig pairs with a range of cheeses. A complimentary Highball glass and a rocks glass is also yours to keep. The at-home whisky tasting experience, which was created by Waitrose Wine Tasting at Home, is available to book now and is priced at £400 (US$488) for a group of six to 10 people. “We’re thrilled to be bringing a truly memorable experience to people’s homes. Whisky is a drink that is often enjoyed with a fizzy accompaniment, with some finding the drink overpowering,” Andrew Riding, drinks experience manager at Waitrose Wine Tasting at Home. “This tasting shows just how versatile whisky can be by showing guests simple and delicious cocktails and delicious food pairings.” We always love to see people getting into whisky, so let us know if you’re thinking of signing up with your friends or family in the comments below.

The Nightcap

The Discount Suit Company’s El Pajaro cocktail, which we can confirm is most delicious

Ocho goes Subterranean for summer

Who doesn’t love a cocktail safari?! Exploring multiple settings, different approaches to drinks, all with one uniting theme… we’re sold. So when Ocho Tequila invited us down to Discount Suit Company in London’s Spitalfields to check out the first of five serves as part of its very own series, we were there in a flash. The Subterranean Summer Series brings together five of London’s best-loved underground bars in a collaboration to serve Ocho-based cocktails, all at the tasty price of just £5. The drinks and bars in question? Discount Suit Company’s El Pajaro (we thoroughly rate its Paloma-esque qualities), Bar Three’s Raspberry & Tequila, Hawksmoor Spitalfield’s Cherry Blossom Margarita, Ruby’s Bar & Lounge’s Corn ‘n’ Toil, and Nine Live’s #1 Jimador’s Remedy. Collect a stamp from all five bars and you get a bonus sixth cocktail at the bar of your choice entirely on Ocho! Plus you get to revel in the personality of five of London’s most characterful vibes. You’ve got until the end of the month to get involved – go, go, GO!

The Nightcap

The Dundee distillers pipped some tough competition to be awarded this opportunity

And finally . . . Dundee distiller to supply House of Commons gin

After all the hard work MPs do, sorting out Brexit and the like, they really deserve a nice glass of restorative gin. So we were pleased to discover that the contract to produce the official House of Commons Gin has gone to the award-winning Verdant Spirits of Dundee. Andrew Mackenzie, founder and managing director at Verdant, said: “We spent two years researching and finessing the perfect dry gin and we firmly believe in our product, but it still felt fantastic to win out in the taste test. To really show our commitment to the process, we didn’t want to simply add a logo or brand to the bottle, we wanted to create a truly co-branded product.” Apparently, it was a closely-fought contest to win the contract with five gins including Sipsmith in the running for this prestigious and, we imagine, lucrative listing. After all, politicians love their gin. . . allegedly.

No Comments on The Nightcap: 23 August

Ardbeg adds 19 year old expression to core range

Sound the Exciting Malt Klaxon (we do actually have one at MoM HQ), a new Ardbeg has (nearly) arrived! It’s called Traigh Bhan, it’s 19 years old, and, best of…

Sound the Exciting Malt Klaxon (we do actually have one at MoM HQ), a new Ardbeg has (nearly) arrived! It’s called Traigh Bhan, it’s 19 years old, and, best of all, it’s here to stay.

A new whisky from Ardbeg is always an occasion, but the new Traigh Bhan (pronounced ‘Tri-Van’, we’ve been reliably informed) is doubly exciting. Firstly because of its age (it’s 19 years old. NINETEEN), and secondly because it joins 10 Year OldAn OaUigeadail and Corryvreckan as a permanent addition to the range. In the past we’ve been told that though Ardbeg would like to offer a permanent older age statement whisky, it simply does not have the stock. The plan is to make up a batch of Traigh Bhan each year which will be available in limited quantities. Each batch will be slightly different and have a unique code so that Arbeg aficionados can find out more about the liquid in their bottle. 

Dr Bill Lumsden, director of distilling, whisky creation & whisky stocks, said: “A new, permanent aged Ardbeg is a rare occurrence, and cause for celebration. We hope that, by slightly tweaking the batch recipe year-on-year, Ardbeggians can have some fun exploring the finer details of this ever-changing dram. As far as taste goes, this 19 year old whisky plunges the palate into notes of smoky pineapple and aromatic wood smoke, with a sweet mouthfeel of smoked chilli chocolate and paprika. The intense notes then peter out through a long, smoky finish.”

Traigh Bhan, the name comes from a beach on Islay known by locals as The Singing Sands, is aged in a mixture of American oak and oloroso sherry casks, and is bottled at 46.2% ABV. The tantalising tasting notes from Ardbeg make it sound like quite the event: “its exquisite taste crescendo is a rush like a surf of salt, smoke, sweet and sour” and “newly-planed oak and supple dark leather sing to your soul as sweet toffee and liquorice draw you in.” Blimey! We can’t wait to try it. 

RRP is £169. Master of Malt’s allocation will go on pre-sale shortly with delivery to customers in mid-September. We have more information about Traigh Bhan as well as interviews with the Ardbeg team coming up. Watch this space.

Traigh Bhan 19 Years Old, the newest addition to the Ardbeg family

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