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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Johnnie Walker

The Nightcap: 15 February

Had quite enough love-themed media to last the rest of 2019? Good, because there is no room for emotions here – time to get down to cold, hard, newsy facts…

Had quite enough love-themed media to last the rest of 2019? Good, because there is no room for emotions here – time to get down to cold, hard, newsy facts with The Nightcap!

Valentine’s Day has been and gone. All the vibrant pink balloons and ribbons in the shops have all been replaced by some very early Easter displays. While the shape of the novelty chocolate may have changed from hearts to eggs in your local supermarket, one thing doesn’t change – The Nightcap and its dedication to bringing you weekly bundles of booze news! This may have been one of the most tenuous ways to introduce The Nightcap yet, and honestly, I’m OK with that.

So, what’s been going down on the MoM Blog this week? Well, Kristy gave us some insight into what happens when you take part in American Distilling Institute’s 2019 Judging of Craft Spirits. Henry chatted to one of the Asterley Bros. about his upcoming Britannica London Fernet, delivered good news from HMRC on the growth of British gin exports, and showed us how to make a great punch with a kick of orange for the Cocktail of the Week. Annie looked at the big, wide world of minimalist cocktail bars from across the globe. Tequila was the order of the day on Wednesday for Adam, and he also found out about a new batch of cask strength Jameson

Phew! Best crack on with The Nightcap.

MBWS had a difficult 2018

MBWS waves goodbye to turbulent 2018 with 6% sales decline

French drinks group Marie Brizard Wine & Spirits (MBWS) has had a sorry time of late, as regular readers of The Nightcap will know. After a 25% profits slump and ongoing troubles in its home market, we’re sure the company won’t be sad to see the back on 2018. A sentiment surely underlined by its full-year results, released this week, which showed that sales fell 6.3% over the course of the year to €389 million (about £342 million). But while the French market continued to slow, there was at last some good news in the fourth quarter: sales climbed 17.1% in Poland, signalling a “progressive recovery”, and there was “solid sales growth” in Spain. Let’s hope the tide has now turned for the Sobieski, William Peel and Gautier Cognac-maker.

An artist’s impression of the Johnnie Walker Edinburgh store

A fancy Johnnie Walker store is coming to Edinburgh!

Earlier this week, Diageo formally submitted plans for a flagship Johnnie Walker visitor centre in Edinburgh, the focal point of Diageo’s £150 million investment in Scotch whisky tourism. Well, we’ll certainly drink to that. Johnny Walker’s new home will be a rather remarkable seven-floor space on Princes Street. The project will see the grand building renovated, with heritage features preserved wherever possible. David Cutter, chairman of Diageo in Scotland, stated that they hope to “restore it to its former glory as a cornerstone of the city”. The exciting space is set to include a multi-sensory immersive experience across three floors, allowing visitors to experience the 200-year history of the brand. As well as a flexible events area for music, theatre, arts and more, at street level there will be a retail space. Its interior is inspired by the stunning Johnnie Walker retail flagship in Madrid, which opened in November. Meanwhile, there will also be rooftop bars (yes, plural) so you can enjoy some of the best views of Edinburgh while you sip your Scotch. Excuse us, we’re just off to book some flights…

Say hello to Big Peat 10 Year Old!

Big Peat celebrates 10 years with commemorative bottling

Independent bottler Douglas Laing & Co had a big birthday this week. Big Peat is now a decade old. Where does the time go? The family firm behind the blended malt from Islay, made with whiskies from Caol Ila, Bowmore, Ardbeg and Port Ellen, marked this occasion with a new, commemorative 10 Year Old bottled without colouring or chill-filtration at a punchy 46% ABV. According to the brand’s tasting notes, you can expect “peat smoke, damp earth, smoked barley, BBQ ash, streaky bacon, tobacco, toasted marshmallows and a sea-salt tang balanced by a leathery sweetness”. The label features a collection of emblems, stamps and hand-drawn illustrations inspired by a vintage scrapbook in honour of Big Peat’s Islay home. A platinum-foiled (no expense spared here) book telling the legend of Big Peat and his whisky adventures will accompany each bottle. Fred Laing, chairman at Douglas Laing, said: “Back in 2009, I dreamt up a feisty Ileach fisherman who would later become Big Peat, a brand that would grow at an average of 29% year on year, and subsequently be joined by Scallywag, Timorous Beastie, Rock Oyster, The Epicurean and The Gauldrons to deliver what we so modestly designate our ‘Remarkable Regional Malts: The Ultimate Distillation of Scotland’s Malt Whisky Regions’.” Just 850 cases of Big Peat 10 Year Old will be available globally, priced at around £65.

Congratulations Alessandro Palazzi!

Legendary Duke’s bartender Alessandro Palazzi, honoured at CLASS Awards

On Tuesday night, the cream of the British booze world met for the annual CLASS Bar Awards. The winners were chosen by the CLASS Collective, a group of over 70 bar experts from all over the country. Lots of well-known venues scooped awards including Callooh Callay, Three Sheets, the American Bar at the Savoy, Coupette and Dandelyan. Individuals honoured included Max Venning, who won Bartender of the Year, and Declan McGurk from the Savoy, who picked up Bar Manager of the Year. But the biggest cheer of the evening went to Alessandro Palazzi from Duke’s Bar in London who won the Lifetime Achievement Award. Anyone who has experienced the Palazzi magic knows what a fine bartender he is, mixing great drinks, but also making one feel like the most important person in the world, if only for half an hour. His fearsomely strong Martinis were described by the San Francisco Chronicle as the “best in England”. We hope that he let someone else make the drinks on Tuesday night. Congratulations Alessandro!

The Future 50 initiative champions the next big things in wine and spirits.

WSET and IWSC seek out awesomeness in booze with The Future 50

Are you an incredible human-type under the age of 40 who works in booze? Know someone who is? If so, the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) and the International Wine & Spirit Competition (IWSC) want to hear from you! To celebrate their coinciding 50th anniversaries, the organisations have palled up to create The Future 50, an initiative that champions the next big things in wine and spirits. The list, set to be revealed in November, aims to recognise people from across the industry, from product development, design and distribution to marketing, journalism, hospitality, and everything else. As such, WSET and IWSC are calling on folk to nominate themselves and their talented colleagues! The judging panel includes the likes of Joe Fattorini (off of The Wine Show), Stephanie Macleod (Dewar’s master blender), Christine Parkinson (group head of wine at Hakkasan), Richard Paterson (Whyte & MacKay master blender), and Xavier Rousset MS (restaurateur), so there are some big names to impress. “As 2019 marks 50 years of success for each of our organisations, it offers the perfect opportunity to emphasise the importance of developing new talent through education and awards to secure an equally prosperous future for the industry,” said WSET chief executive Ian Harris. “At WSET we are delighted to be looking to the future and showcasing the next generation of talent in the wines and spirits industry through our joint Future 50 project.” For more information or to submit a nomination, head to future50.wsetglobal.com.

Sotheby’s enjoyed a fruitful 2018

Asia continues to dominate wine auctions according to Sotheby’s

Auction house Sotheby’s has just released its 2018 market report which shows the auction market for fine wine is in robust health. It was a record-breaking year for Sotheby’s, with auction sales up 50% on the previous year. Total sales of wines and spirits topped $100 million for the first time. The Asian market continues to expand, up from a 58% share in 2017 to 63% of the market this year, followed by North America and Europe. This is reflected in Hong Kong’s dominance with 53% of sales, followed by New York at 29% and London at 18%. Of the big names in wine, the number one producer by value was Burgundy’s Domaine de la Romanée-Conti at $24 million with 21% of sales. Indeed, one bottle of Romanée-Conti sold for $558,000 last year at auction in New York. Wine is all very well but Master of Malt readers will be pleased to hear that the most expensive bottle sold was a whisky, a Macallan 1926 with a label by Sir Peter Blake which went for $843,200. Yeah, whisky!

The initiative includes a fiery Flambé Masterclass!

D&D London Launches My Hospitality World

Starting on Monday 25 February, restaurant group D&D London will launch a two-week initiative called My Hospitality World, to encourage young people into the industry and demonstrate that opportunities are not confined to front of house or kitchen staff. This is in response to the industry’s growing skills gap. The initiative aims to encourage talented youngsters to see hospitality as a viable career path by offering a series of events in D&D London restaurants. There will be a full restaurant takeover of the Blueprint Café by students from London South East College, giving students an authentic taste of what goes on in the professional kitchen. There is even a dedicated event in support of International Women’s Day (8 March), to inspire more young women to become professional chefs! D&D London chairman & CEO Des Gunewardena commented: “Working in restaurants is viewed by many people as not being an occupation to aspire to and we want to change that.” Good luck to them!

Keep an eye out for The Hendrick’s LOVE Campaign

Hendrick’s seduces travellers with LOVE Campaign

Love is in the air! Well, almost – love is in the airport! The Hendrick’s LOVE Campaign is taking place throughout February and, in some places, into March in bars and shops at airports in the UK, Europe and across the Middle East and Asia. Under the headline, ‘Sublimely SIMPLE, yet curiously COMPLICATED – a gift much like LOVE’, Hendrick’s is charming travellers with a giant sharing teacup, a heart glorifier (thing that shows off the bottle), and copious amounts of rose petals and cucumbers. A surefire way to anyone’s heart. However, the most exciting part of the campaign is the exclusive airport serve named ‘A Rose Story’: a delightful combination of Hendrick’s gin with rose and elderflower syrup, and tonic, garnished with – to nobody’s surprise – rose petals and a cucumber slice. And there’s more potential Hendrick’s-themed fun on the horizon because on the 14th June, it’s World Cucumber Day. We’re rather intrigued to see how Hendrick’s will celebrate its favourite green salad fruit.

I beg your pardon, I never promised you a gin garden

Visit Britain’s first Gin Garden

Gin distillery tours are two-a-penny these days. You know the drill: admire the gleaming copper, try the gin and then buy a bottle. One distillery though, The Old Curiosity in Edinburgh, has come up with something a little different. From 23 March, you can visit its Gin Garden, located by the Pentland Hills to the south west of the Scottish capital. There you will be able to smell all those wonderful living botanicals that go into gin, witness the entire process from picking to distillation, and, of course, try the gin (it would be a pretty poor gin garden if there was no gin to drink). Not only is it a fun day out, but for gin nerds, it’s a great way to train your palate. The distillery has produced a video with distillery owner and top herbologist Hamish Martin that explains everything. It sounds like this Scottish distillery has raised the bar for gin-based experiences in Britain.

Bitters, Boulevardiers and big left entorhinal cortexes is how we roll at MoM Towers

And finally… Bitter-loving people are cleverer, say scientists

We lovers of bitter things like Campari or IPA have always felt ourselves to be somewhat superior, but now research by actual scientists shows that our tastes might not only show sophistication, they might also be linked to intelligence. Research into tonic water by Dr Daniel Hwang from the University of Queensland and published in New Scientist suggests that how people perceive bitterness is linked to brain size: “Researchers scanned the brains of 1,600 people and asked them to rate the bitterness of a quinine solution. Those who found the drink less bitter tended to have a bigger left entorhinal cortex”. In other words, if you like bitter things, you probably have a bigger brain. So next time someone tells you that adding Fernet Branca to your Negroni is neither big nor clever, point them to this study, and assume your genius face.

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Brilliant Burns Night whiskies

One of the biggest dates in the year for Scotch whisky fans approaches – Burns Night! Supply your supper with some of the best around with this sublime selection! Commemorating…

One of the biggest dates in the year for Scotch whisky fans approaches – Burns Night! Supply your supper with some of the best around with this sublime selection!

Commemorating the anniversary of Robert Burns on his birthday, 25 January, is a tradition upheld all over the world. Libation, literature and laggis – I mean haggis – will be enjoyed by many as we toast a man who loved a good Scotch himself.

A notable feature of his poems, Burns often spoke of his love of whisky, even scalding the English for raising whisky duty. It would surely please one of Scotland’s favourite sons to know people celebrate his life to this day with plenty of the water of life, or ‘usquabae’, as it was known back then.

Whether you’re a seasoned Burns supper pro or you fancy experiencing one for the first time (you really should do it at least once in your life, it’s great fun), you’ll need to stock up on Scotch to do the night justice.

So, we’ve rounded up a remarkable range to mark the occasion, from sublime single malts to brilliants blends, and a great grain whisky for good measure. Each has an accompanying Burns poem or song and themed cocktail to boot. And for those who simply can’t get enough of all things Robert Burns, be sure to check out our Burns Night poetry competition, where you could win a bottle of Robert Burns Single Malt!

Happy Burns Night all!

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What’s going on with whisky, according to three Johnnie Walker execs

Last year, we zipped off to Madrid to check out Johnnie Walker’s first flagship store. While we were there we quizzed three of the brand’s top executives to get their…

Last year, we zipped off to Madrid to check out Johnnie Walker’s first flagship store. While we were there we quizzed three of the brand’s top executives to get their take on the fortunes of Scotch whisky, from the accessibility of Scotch to that ‘B’ word…

“The world of whiskies is fascinating – not only because we work in it,” said Cristina Diezhandino, global category director of Scotch and Reserve Brands at Diageo, as she opened the first Johnnie Walker flagship store last November. “We see a whisky renaissance, truly, globally.”

When someone like Diezhandino gives her assessment on the state of Scotch, you sit up and listen. And it’s far from a throwaway sentiment: Scotch whisky exports soared by 8.9% in volume terms to reach £4.36 billion in 2017 (the latest figures currently available), and it’s a trend that looks set to continue. The number of distilleries in Scotland is at a record level (the Scotch Whisky Association reckons there are now 128 in the country, the most since 1945). It really does look like boom time for whisky!

But challenges persist, especially around accessibility. Too many people still think whisky isn’t for them. What’s being done to roll out the metaphoric red carpet and welcome in new drinkers? Why are people starting to explore the category? And should we collectively be worried about the impact of things like Brexit? I commandeered Diezhandino, as well as Duncan Elliott, Johnnie Walker global marketing and innovation director, and Greg Klingaman, global head of retail and strategic partnerships, to get their take on the current state of Scotch.

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Master of Malt’s most read stories of 2018

As 2018 draws to a close, we reflect on the news and features that caught your eye the most this year. Well, we’ve reached the end of another year. The…

As 2018 draws to a close, we reflect on the news and features that caught your eye the most this year.

Well, we’ve reached the end of another year. The Earth has put in another hell of a shift in its orbit around the Sun. Now is the time where we reflect on all that happened in 2018.

It has been another 12 months filled with standout stories, all manner of incidents, and of course highs and lows. Among the articles you read most on our award-winning blog were round-ups of great booze, limited-edition whisky launches, and a sorry tale of a collapsing warehouse. We shed a tear for all that bourbon.

Without further delay, these are the top 10 stories that you read, shared and talked about the most in 2018.

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Diageo to transform Glenkinchie Distillery

Lowland malt distillery Glenkinchie, an important component in Johnnie Walker blended Scotch, has just been granted planning permission for a new visitor centre. Located just over 15 miles from Edinburgh,…

Lowland malt distillery Glenkinchie, an important component in Johnnie Walker blended Scotch, has just been granted planning permission for a new visitor centre.

Located just over 15 miles from Edinburgh, Glenkinchie is one of very few Lowland malt whisky distilleries. Being so close to the capital means that the distillery has huge potential as a tourist attraction, something that Diageo is now looking to build upon. We have just received news that East Lothian Council has granted permission for development work on the distillery.

There has been a distillery on the site since 1837, but the current Glenkinchie set-up dates back to 1890. As part of Diageo’s plans, its Victorian red brick warehouse will become a new all-singing, all-dancing visitor experience which including a shop, a bar, a cocktail classroom, and tastings rooms. The new visitor centre will also show off Glenkinchie’s unique asset, a scale model of the distillery built for the 1925 Empire Exhibition (watch this short film to see the model in all is magnificence.) Work will begin on the expansion early next year.

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Whisky Advent 2018 Day #13: Cardhu Gold Reserve

The thirteenth might be unlucky for some – but not if you’re following Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar! Continuing with the theme, there’s another delectable whisky hidden away…

The thirteenth might be unlucky for some – but not if you’re following Drinks by the Dram’s Whisky Advent Calendar! Continuing with the theme, there’s another delectable whisky hidden away behind today’s window…

Phew! After all the smoke of yesterday’s Kilchoman, you’d think it might be time to chill those taste buds out. Not so. While it doesn’t pack a peaty punch, today’s dram is a much-loved expression, bursting with Speyside charm and all-round honeyed, fruity, luscious loveliness. The whisky in question?

It’s Cardhu Gold Reserve!

Cardhu is a key component in blended Scotch behemoth Johnnie Walker, and in recent times hasn’t been all that active on releasing its own single malts. This was partly due to being a victim of its own success – back in the early 2000s, so much single malt from the distillery was being consumed by our thirsty neighbours in continental Europe that demand put pressure on Johnnie Walker supplies! A period of confusion followed when Cardhu became what’s today recognised as a blended malt (with single malt liquid from multiple distilleries), but that’s all been and gone. Today, Cardhu has a core range of age statements in its portfolio and this tasty little number, Cardhu Gold Reserve, is a no-age statement expression celebrated for its smooth grassiness and honeyed fruit richness.

Enough from us. We caught up with Ewan Gunn, Diageo’s global whisky ambassador, to get the Cardhu particulars in full.

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The Nightcap: 7 December

Another week, another round-up of all the news that’s fit to drink. Yes, it’s the Nightcap! Or c’est le Nightcap as our cousins across la Manche might say. So pour…

Another week, another round-up of all the news that’s fit to drink. Yes, it’s the Nightcap! Or c’est le Nightcap as our cousins across la Manche might say. So pour yourself a snifter and have a nose around.

This week on the blog there can be little doubt that Christmas is coming. To get any more Christmassy, you’d need Noddy Holder to pop up and shout “it’s Christmaaasssss!” We’ve been counting down the days in some style with our office Drinks by the Dram Whisky Advent Calendar. And what treats there have been: Day One was the Lost Distilleries Blend from the Blended Whisky Company, followed by Starward from Australia, something special from Dufftown, a French single malt, a BenRiach, and finally, the mighty Hudson Baby Bourbon. To get you in the mood, we brought you exclusive interviews with the people behind these very special drams!

If that’s not Christmassy enough, Adam came up with some boozy gifts for guaranteed Yuletide satisfaction. Oh, and #WhiskySanta’s Super Wish was something quite spectacular: a bottle of Talisker Bodega Series 40 Year Old, worth £2,750! Blimey.

But it wasn’t all festive fun on the blog. On Monday, we had a closer look at the last Dram Club Tasting Sets of 2018. Annie delved into the mad world of spirits maverick Rebel Rabbet, maker of drinks that defy easy categorisation (and nothing to do with fluffy bunnies.) And Henry met with Cognac sniffer-outer extraordinaire David Baker and tried some brandies distilled during the Second World War.

Some quality booze writing there, and talking of booze and writing, here are the top drinks stories of the week. Bon weekend!

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Whisky Advent 2018 Day #3: The Singleton of Dufftown Malt Master’s Selection

Forget the Monday blues. Drinks by the Dram has a right tasty treat hidden behind door number 3 of the Whisky Advent Calendar! Welcome to the first working day of…

Forget the Monday blues. Drinks by the Dram has a right tasty treat hidden behind door number 3 of the Whisky Advent Calendar!

Welcome to the first working day of Advent 2018! And what a fine pair of drams there were to discover over the weekend. After a corker of a Lost Distilleries Blend on Day 1, there was Starward New World Malt Whisky all the way from Australia on Day 2!

Want to avoid spoilers? Waiting until this evening before you tear open that Advent calendar window? Then consider this fair spoiler alert warning. Because tucked away waiting to be discovered on Advent Day 3 is…

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The Nightcap: 9 November

We’ve got another edition of The Nightcap ready – time for your brain to hungrily digest these delicious morsels of drinks news! It’s Friday, fair folks that read the MoM…

We’ve got another edition of The Nightcap ready – time for your brain to hungrily digest these delicious morsels of drinks news!

It’s Friday, fair folks that read the MoM Blog! While this of course means that it’s time for your regularly scheduled instalment of The Nightcap, it’s also the day of the week that new CDs get released. So why not enjoy The Nightcap while listening to some fresh new jams – like a jazz album by Jeff Goldblum? Yes, that Jeff Goldblum. Jeff “Life finds a way” Goldblum. What does that have to do with booze? Nothing, we just think Jeff Goldblum is cool.

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Johnnie Walker opens proper posh flagship store in Madrid

If you love blended whisky and happen to be in Madrid, listen up. There’s a new Johnnie Walker flagship where you can take a tasting class, mix cocktails, test your…

If you love blended whisky and happen to be in Madrid, listen up. There’s a new Johnnie Walker flagship where you can take a tasting class, mix cocktails, test your olfactory sense, and more! We had a nose about at the opening and can confirm it is worth the hype.

There’s a new Scotch whisky destination to add to your bucket list, and it’s not even in Scotland. Yes, folks – it’s the new Johnnie Walker flagship on a fancy high-end shopping street in the centre of the Spanish capital, Madrid.

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