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Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Lagavulin

The Nightcap: 26 November

This week’s Nightcap is wall-to-wall amazing Scotch from the likes of Glenfiddich, Johnnie Walker, Lagavulin and more. Plus a whiskey barrel Christmas tree and chilli bacon vodka… Do you know…

This week’s Nightcap is wall-to-wall amazing Scotch from the likes of Glenfiddich, Johnnie Walker, Lagavulin and more. Plus a whiskey barrel Christmas tree and chilli bacon vodka…

Do you know what today is? The day when it really hits home how close Christmas is. December, and Advent with it, is next week. This time next month it will be over. We have officially entered the season to be jolly. But you don’t need to panic and suddenly force yourself to feel the Christmas spirit. It’s Friday, relax and take in a nice bundle of stories from the world of booze first.

Other stories we covered this week include our guide to Black Friday 2021, word on Aston Martin and Bowmore’s latest collaboration, the reforming of Delamain Pale and Dry XO, and shining a spotlight on Brandy de Jerez. We also stirred up a seasonal drink inspired by the ancient Druids rounded up our top 10 Christmas drinks, and found out what #WhiskySanta’s latest Super Wish is.

The Nightcap: 26 November edition!

The Nightcap: 26 November

The first of our amazing whiskies this week

Glenfiddich auctions 42-year-old Scotch whisky

Glenfiddich and Goodwood are teaming up for a pretty special whisky release, which we’re lucky enough to taste. Just three decanters of a 42-year-old Glenfiddich have been released to be auctioned by Bonhams to raise funds for Race Against Dementia at 11:00 on 7 December 2021. The whisky is taken from cask #11136 from Warehouse 8, which is a refill American oak hogshead barrel that has been maturing since 13 April 1979. It’s a celebration of Goodwood’s historic whisky connection, which can be traced back to 1836 when a chance inheritance handed Gordon Castle and its estate to the fifth Duke of Richmond, who was alarmed by his tenant’s illicit distilling and used political influence and commercial nous to ensure distilling became legal; paving the way for  William Grant to build the Glenfiddich Distillery. Each decanter is paired with a VIP experience at a renowned Goodwood motorsport event and a photograph taken and signed by renowned Formula 1 photographer Rainer Schlegelmilch as well as motor racing legend Sir Jackie Stewart OBE.  Master distiller Brian Kinsman says about the dram that cask #11136 is “a stunning example of Glenfiddich, with an oaky, sweet and long-lasting taste. It has reached a perfection that few casks will ever achieve and is the ideal whisky to celebrate our long-standing relationship with Goodwood.” Each liquid is contained in a hand-blown crystal decanter by renowned French crystal maker Baccarat, and Bonhams have given a low estimate for each lot of £6,500. It’s a great cause and we can confirm the whisky is worthy of the plaudits. Its elegance and balance are astounding. We do hope whoever buys it actually drinks it.

The Nightcap: 26 November

Master of Flavours is made up of whiskies aged for at least 48 years from distilleries like Brora and Glenury Royal.

Johnnie Walker ends series in style with Master of Flavour

In one of his final releases before he retires at the end of the year, Johnnie Walker master blender Jim Beveridge has put together the final edition of the cracking Masters range. Johnnie Walker Masters Of Flavour has an ABV of 41.8% and was made with whiskies aged for at least 48 years from ghost distilleries like Glyn Albyn, Port Dundas, Brora, and Glenury Royal, which was balanced together with whisky from Cameronbridge, Blair Athol, and Dalwhinnie. No wonder there’s only 288 bottles priced at £20,000. To create the special release, Beveridge teamed up with previous collaborators Donna Anderson, malt master, James Carson, cask master, and Douglas Murray, distillation master, to pay tribute to the skill of whisky-making. It’s the third and final whisky in the Johnnie Walker Masters series, which includes Ruby Reserve, a celebration of Jim Beveridge’s 30 years working in whisky, and the John Walker Masters’ Edition, a whisky crafted using Scotch aged for a minimum of 50 years from distilleries that were operational during the lifetime of Johnnie Walker founder John Walker. Much like both of them, Masters of Flavour is presented in a Baccarat crystal decanter within a bespoke oak cabinet. Although, it has to be said it does look like a bottle of Haig Club made especially for the Green Goblin. Still, we imagine the whisky itself is outstanding, and excitingly we’ll have a chance to find that out soon…

The Nightcap: 26 November

The new mezcal cask Islay Jazz Festival bottling is sure to get whisky fans chattering

Lagavulin new Jazz Festival bottling is aged in mezcal casks!

The world does slowly seem to be getting back to normal but sadly this year’s Islay Jazz Festival will once again be online only this year. But never fear because sponsor Lagavulin’s annual festival bottling is happening and you can drink it IRL. It’s one that fans won’t want to miss because after initial maturation in refill bourbon casks it then spends an unspecified time in American oak barrels that previously held mezcal! Highly unusual. It’s bottled at a cask strength of 54.8% with a 13-year-old age statement, and will cost you £160. Distillery manager Pierrick Guillaume described it as “The first Lagavulin to be finished in mezcal casks with a distinctive and unusual flavour profile is sure to intrigue and excite Lagavulin fans and beyond.” “Distinctive and unusual” is just right. You probably wouldn’t guess that it had been aged in ex-mezcal casks, but it is hugely spicy and meaty with a strong lingering saline seaweedy finish. There’s also creamy toffee and vanilla lurking beneath stopping it all from getting too much. It’s a fascinating, highly complex dram, that’s sure to get whisky fans chattering. At the moment it’s a distillery-only release but we will let you know if we can get hold of a bottle or two.   

The Nightcap: 26 November

We tried this $30,000 51-year-old whisky. It’s pretty tasty.

Royal Salute releases $30k 51-year-old limited edition

We’ve had some packaging on whisky samples at Master of Malt but still, the arrival of Royal Salute 51 Year Old managed to cause a stir at the office. The 50ml sample came in a solid wooden box wrapped in gold (not real gold, sadly) chains with a combination padlock. It’s the second release in Royal Salute’s ‘Time Series Collection’ made up of casks filled before 1970 including some from ghost distilleries. Only 101 crystal decanters are available. Master blender Sandy Hyslop described it as “an undeniably special expression that blends exceptional style with high-aged whisky. Crafting a Scotch of that age requires intense care and attention to ensure the cask characteristics are perfectly absorbed without being overpowering, and the moment I tested the final blend will stay with me forever; the masterful role that time has played over a minimum of five decades of slow maturation really blew me away. This release is a one-of-a-kind expression, and I am honoured to contribute to the legacy that the outstanding Royal Salute Time Series Collection is making in the world of rare and collectable whisky.” There’s no doubt that it’s a special drop of quite jaw-dropping complexity. On the nose, there’s toffee, peaches, dark chocolate, cinnamon and cardamom with a distinct waxy note like you find in Brora (could this be one of the ghost distilleries in the blend?). The palate is spicy and lively with menthol, manuka honey, Jamaica cake, and a lingering waxy texture. We feel lucky to have had a wee taste especially as at $30,000 a pop we are very unlikely to ever taste it again. Well, we suppose that explains the packaging. 

The Nightcap: 26 November

It’s a masterclass from Ian worth seeing

Ian Burrell takes Equiano on UK rum tour

Global rum ambassador and co-founder of The Equiano Rum Co Ian Burrell is taking to the road this winter with A Tale of Two Rum Islands, a fascinating presentation of the rum-producing histories of Barbados and Mauritius. The event also gives guests the opportunity to taste Equiano Original and Equiano Light and learn the story behind its name, honouring the legacy of African-born writer, entrepreneur, abolitionist and freedom fighter Olaudah Equiano, as well as learn about the brand’s philanthropic endeavours. The session concludes with a Q&A, a rare chance to get geeky with one of the industry’s leading authorities. Burrell’s first UK tour in five years kicked off in London on 22 November, and we attended and had a blast. He then headed to Brighton (23 November) and will visit Nottingham (30 November) and Manchester (1 December) next, before continuing the tour in January 2022 in Liverpool, Sheffield, Leeds, Bristol, Cardiff, London, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Oxford, and Birmingham. We highly recommend it. Equiano is also marking International Day for the Abolition of Slavery (2 December) by teaming up with London bar Duchess of Dalston (from the team behind Callooh Callay) to create an exclusive cocktail and raise money for Anti-Slavery International

The Nightcap: 26 November

No need to panic yet but we do want to see some progress here

Wine and spirits firms warn of Christmas alcohol shortage in UK

There’s no need to panic but… a group of 48 wine and spirits companies have told transport secretary Grant Shapps that Britain will suffer a Christmas alcohol shortage unless the government does more to address the lack of HGV drivers. Businesses including Pernod Ricard, Moët Hennessy, and the Wine Society raised concerns over rising costs and supply chain “chaos”, raising the risk that supermarkets will run dry and festive deliveries arrive late. Members of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA), which coordinated the letter, reported that importing products is taking five times longer than a year ago and that small businesses are struggling to compete as delivery firms have had to raise HGV drivers’ wages. Unpredictable arrival times are also resulting in goods being either not ready or are left waiting for collection. The call is for Shapps to extend a temporary visa scheme for HGV drivers, which expires in February 2022, to a year, and for the government to smooth congested freight routes from ports, as well as providing regular updates on how many HGV driver licences are being processed by the DVLA. “Government needs to be doing all it can to ensure British business is not operating with one hand tied behind its back over the festive season and beyond,” Miles Beale, the WSTA chief executive, summarised. Let’s hope the resolution is forthcoming, and if you do need any booze for Christmas, we might have an idea of where to get some….

The Nightcap: 26 November

Want to serve draught pints at home right in time for Christmas? Now you can

Guinness launches £750 home beer tap

Guinness is launching a limited-edition at-home tap to serve draught pints right in time for Christmas. Following the successful rollout of the technology in pubs, bars and restaurants across the UK earlier this year, the system should help you attain a better pint in your own home, although we all know how hard it is to get Guinness right regardless. The new technology is thankfully simple. Just pop a Guinness Microdraft into the pint puller, and the technology itself guides the user on how to conduct the perfect two-part pour. “Guinness Microdraft enables people to enjoy a beautiful looking and delicious tasting Draught Guinness on tap in a completely new setting for the first time ever,” said head of Guinness GB, Neil Shah. “Whether it’s to pour the perfect drink at a festive gathering, a Christmas gift for a friend or family member, or simply to enjoy an iconic drink of the black stuff at home with loved ones, Guinness Microdraft is sure to be a hit among beer lovers.” The Guinness Microdraft Bar Tap will be available to purchase for £750 from 6 December and arrives with four Guinness Microdraft cans and two Guinness pint glasses.

The Nightcap: 26 November

Should we be doing more to enjoy the vast array of different wines available?

The most popular wines in the UK revealed

A new survey, which looked at the preferences in wine varieties of adults of drinking age has revealed the top 10 most popular wines in the UK. Winemaking simulator game Hundred Days, which allows players to “embark on a journey of winemaking,” found the favourite varieties, although there’s not much in the way of surprises. Coming in first place is Pinot Grigio, then Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Merlot and Rosé rounded up the top five, with Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Malbec, and Rioja having to settle for places in the top 10. “Britain is one of the largest importers of wine, taking in over $4 billion worth of crates, bags and bottles in 2020. Yet, our research shows that the nation is largely shying away from expanding their wine repertoire and are stuck in a wine rut – making the same purchases over and over again,” says Yves Hohler, lead designer and co-founder of Broken Arm Games. Typically, they feel their game can make a difference by showcasing the vast array of different wines available. Of course, you could save yourself the effort and just click here

The Nightcap: 26 November

The Christmas tree from 150 repurposed Irish whiskey barrels

Hinch Distillery makes barrel Christmas tree

Getting truly into the festive spirit is Hinch Distillery, which has unveiled a 24ft Christmas tree made from up-cycled whiskey barrels. Topped off with sparkling lights and a big bow, the one-of-a-kind ‘tree’ was made from 150 repurposed Hinch Irish whiskey barrels and took 48 painstaking hours to do. It took a team of eight under the helm of Co Down decoration installer to create the structure, which pays homage to the whiskey distilling process at Hinch, including a globe made from strips that hold the barrels in place. After Christmas, the plan will be to repurpose it for furnishings including chairs and plant pots to make it a year-round installation. Hinch Distillery, which will celebrate its one year anniversary this month, lies between Belfast and Ballynahinch on the Carryduff Road and is nestled in the grounds of the beautiful Killaney Estate, so if you want to see it for yourself, you know where to go. Be sure if you’re interested to see The Whiskey Barrel Christmas Tree light switch-on, which we imagine will be quite a sight. The distillery, which has not yet got its own whiskey, has also bottled a 12-year-old Amarone Cask Finish expression. But that’s just not as impressive as a big barrel tree, is it?

The Nightcap: 26 November

Ever tried Chilli Bacon Vodka before? Now you can. Huzzah.

And finally… Baller launches chilli bacon vodka 

The ‘And finally…’ section of The Nightcap has featured many a mad product before, from the strangest of gins to the most confusing of creations. This week we’ve got a chilli bacon vodka to cast a suspicious eye on, straight from London-based distillery Doghouse. The creators of Baller Vodka, which claims to be the capital’s only vodka made from scratch, dreamt up the new flavour to “disrupt the category” thanks to its “first-of-its-kind” chilli and bacon combination. It’s produced using the brand’s wheat vodka as a base, with Mexican-grown Habanero chillies and a secret ingredient, which apparently isn’t actual bacon, to give it a bacon sweet smokiness. Could be vegan then. Not that I’d imagine that’s the target market. The distillery says to enjoy Baller Chilli Bacon Vodka with dry ginger ale and a squeeze of lime juice, or in a Bloody Mary cocktail – which in fairness I can see working. Mostly this will be bought by people needing a joke present or something to shot on stag-dos you’d think. And more power to them. We are, after all, the folks behind this monstrosity

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Master of Malt tastes… Diageo Special Releases 2021

It’s one of the biggest dates in the Scotch whisky lovers’ calendars, the arrival of the latest batch of Special Releases from Diageo. Well, nearly. They should be with MoM…

It’s one of the biggest dates in the Scotch whisky lovers’ calendars, the arrival of the latest batch of Special Releases from Diageo. Well, nearly. They should be with MoM soon but you can pre-order bottles now. It’s Diageo Special Releases 2021!

Back in May we got a sneak preview of the labels for Diageo Special Releases 2021, the theme being ‘Legends Untold’. This is what we wrote: “someone’s been on the fantasy novels over lockdown and had a ‘brilliant idea’. Lagavulin has a flaming lion and Talisker is being marauded by a sea monster, while there’s all kinds of new age woo woo going on at the Singleton of Glendullan. They are wild.”

A portal into strange worlds

Well, now the whiskies are here so the big question is, are they as wild as the artwork? Before we dive in: a bit about those labels, they’re the work of digital artist Ken Taylor and inspired by real and imagined stories around each distillery hence the name Legends Untold. It seems that Diageo took one look at the success of the Game of Thrones-themed whiskies and thought, “we’ll have some more of that.”

But that’s not all. Each label has a QR code which with the aid of a portable telephone can take you into a strange world of augmented reality. We’re a bit sceptical of AR here at MoM. In a recent post, Adam wondered how many people actually use them but these are stylishly done with dramatic voiceovers by some pretty heavyweight Scottish acting talent in the form of Siobhan Redmond and Lorne Macfadyen.

According to brand ambassador Ewan Gunn: “They are a way of bringing distilleries to life”. As well as “whisky lovers and spirits enthusiasts” they should appeal to “fantasy lovers and perhaps people who haven’t tried Scotch before,” he continued. So very much in keeping with current whisky marketing orthodoxy though it is hard to imagine someone who isn’t already a whisky fan blowing over £1.5k on a bottle of sherry-cask Lagavulin or enjoying a fiery 8 year old Talisker. These are very much whiskies for converts.

Diageo Special Releases 2021

As usual they have been chosen by master blender Dr Craig Wilson who explained:

“We have delved into the core characteristics of several classic distilleries, exploring the elements and reimagining the liquids for the Legends Untold collection. The mythical creatures of this year’s collection represent the true expressions of the distilleries. Taking inspiration from them, we have revealed new depths of flavour and embraced the essence of each of the whiskies’ unique flavour profiles revealing the legend it brings to life.”

There have been mutterings among the Scotch whisky community that the Special Releases are no longer quite so exciting what with the extra-special Prima and Ultima series. And the mutterers would have a point, because there’s no Convalmore, Brora or Port Ellen here. But we have to work with what we’ve got and happily what we’ve got is pretty good indeed.

So without further ado, here are the 2021 Diageo Special Releases Legends Untold!

Diageo_Special_Release_21_Mortlach13_70cl_Bottle_IBC

Howlin Wolf

Mortlach 13 Year-Old

ABV: 55.9%
Cask: Virgin and refill American oak casks
RRP £135

Nose: Toffee, red berries with aromatic woody and sweet BBQ notes.

Palate: Thick texture, here’s a whisky you can chew. The big bold flavours are almost overwhelming.

Finish: Aromatic and minty.

Overall: Very unusual Mortlach. Not a sherry monster but still an absolute beast. Wasn’t so keen on this initially but it is growing on me.

Click here to pre-order. 

20210827_Diageo_Special_Release_21_TheSingleton19_70cl_Bottle_IBC

All kinds of new age woo woo

Singleton of Glendullan 19 Year-Old

ABV: 54.6%
Cask: Refill American oak casks, finished in Cognac casks
RRP £140

Nose: You’d think sherry cask because of the dried fruits, then toffee, pastry, and a waxy, almost cheese rind note.

Palate: Spicy, black pepper and cinnamon, and aromatic with a gorgeous texture. Super creamy and waxy.

Finish: Very long with a lift of orange peel and a little dark chocolate. 

Overall: Delicious, one of the stand-outs. The Cognac doesn’t overwhelm, it just provides a little seasoning.

Click here to pre-order.

20210827_Diageo_Special_Release_21_Talisker8_70cl_Bottle_IBC_refract

It’s a monstrous dram

Talisker 8 Year Old 

ABV: 59.7%
Cask: Heavily peated refill casks – casks chosen with high PPM
RRP £90

Nose: Sweet notes initially, vanilla and spongecake and then bonfires on the beach with salty seaweed notes. There’s stone fruit fruitiness here too.

Palate: Lots of black pepper with smoke, heather and honey notes and a peaches.

Finish: Black pepper and chilli with a little caramel. Long and fiery.

Overall: When Talisker is this good young, why wait? Another standout whisky for me. 

Click here to pre-order

Lagavulin 26 Diageo Special Releases

Not another Lion King remake

Lagavulin 26 Year Old

ABV: 44.2%
Cask: Entirely aged in PX/Oloroso-seasoned first fill casks
RRP £1,650

Nose: Dried fruit, pungent smoke, cured meats and  touch of varnish. A truly mighty nose.

Palate: Sweet toffee, and Jamaica cake notes, layered with wood fires and coal dust. Quite prominent mouth-gripping tannins like a really old Cognac. 

Finish: Thick with salted caramel and cigar ash.

Overall: Massive whisky, hugely impressive. It’s amazing how the Lagavulin character shines through after 26 years in sherry wood.

Click here to pre-order.

20210827_Diageo_Special_Release_21_Lagavulin12_Bottle_IBC

Flaming Aslan’s mane!

Lagavulin 12 Year Old

ABV: 56.5%
Cask: Refill American Oak casks
RRP £130

Nose: The smoke is quite restrained, maritime with distant bonfires and lime. Just a little hint of bacon Frazzles.

Palate: Black pepper, saline and wood smoke, a little wood tannin and then some sweeter toffee notes.

Finish: Black pepper, smoke and salt with that citrus note coming back in.

Overall: Very untypical Lagavulin. It’s certainly interesting trying a stripped back Lag, especially next to the sherry bonanza that is the 26 year old. Ewan Gunn thought it tasted more like Caol Ila which is just right.

Click here to pre-order.

Cardhu Diageo Special Releases 2021

Did they run out of ideas with this one? Still, lovely whisky

Cardhu 14 Year Old

ABV: 55.5%
Casks: Refill American oak casks, finished in red wine casks
RRP £120

Nose: There are floral grassy notes, apples, honey, and sweet barley. A drop of water brings out the creaminess. 

Palate: Floral, orange blossom, peaches, cinnamon and honey with black pepper. Very elegant and harmonious. 

Finish: Sweet vanilla, and stone fruit. Long.

Overall: The red wine cask influence is very subtle, a good thing, as this is a gorgeous, subtle and fragrant drop.

Click here to pre-order.

Diageo_Special_Release_21_Oban12_70cl_Bottle_IBC_refract

Oban fox

Oban 12 Year Old

ABV: 56.2%
Cask: Freshly-charred American Oak casks
RRP £105

Nose: Quite restrained, subtly maritime with distant smoke, seaweed and iodine.

Palate: Spicy as hell initially: really gets up your nose with Szechuan pepper and cloves, but then the spice fades and fruit and subtle vanilla notes come through.

Finish: Long and creamy with a note of custard.

Overall: A dram that deserves a quiet moment to let the spice fade and then you can  really appreciate it. 

Click here to pre-order.

Diageo_Special_Release_21_RoyalLochnagar16_70cl_Bottle_IBC_refract

Wyld Stallyns!

Royal Lochnagar 16 Year Old

ABV: 57.5%
Cask: American Oak and European Oak refill casks
RRP £200

Nose: Creamy nose, touch of toffee, touch of brioche, touch of vanilla and some apple.

Palate: A little chilli and then warm baking spices, cooked apple like a tart tatin, creamy texture.

Finish: Some spice on finish, creaminess persists. Quite short.

Overall: Definitely the least startling whisky in the line-up. No fireworks here but it’s tasty and finely-balanced.

Click here to pre-order.

You can see the full range here. Estimated despatch from 25 October

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Whisky icons – we have a winner!

Whether they’re bourbons, single malts or blended whiskies, some brands are so famous that they’re iconic. But which is the biggest whisky icon? We’re running a poll on social media…

Whether they’re bourbons, single malts or blended whiskies, some brands are so famous that they’re iconic. But which is the biggest whisky icon? We’re running a poll on social media to find out, and this is the page to follow the results.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word ‘icon’ as: “A person or thing regarded as a representative symbol or as worthy of veneration.”

So, what makes a whisky an icon? Well, it has to be a great whisky to start with. One that’s revered across the world. But more than this, it has to have a strong memorable image. Say the name of a particular distillery or brand, and it should instantly resonate. 

Worthy of veneration

Now this could be a globally famous brand like Johnnie Walker or Jack Daniel’s. Many people who have never even drunk whisky will have heard of these brands. Jack Daniel’s for its association with music, and Johnnie Walker because it’s an icon of consumer capitalism (as well as a great whisky). Then there’s Macallan, a symbol of luxury up there with Rolls Royce or Cartier. 

But lesser-known names can be iconic among the whisky cognoscenti. Take Springbank, for example. You have to know a bit about whisky to have heard of it but it’s undoubtedly “worthy of veneration.” We’ve seen grown men and women go all tearful at the thought of a rare bottle of Springbank. 

But your whisky icon might be Lagavulin from Islay, Four Roses from Kentucky or even a newer distillery like Mackmyra from Sweden. So to decide this once and for all, we’re giving Master of Malt customers the opportunity to shout about their favourite brands. 

Vote for your whisky of icon

Social polls will be posted on a @masterofmalt Instagram story Monday to Friday this week (simply view our story and tap on the distillery/brand you wish to vote for). Or alternatively you can vote over on the @MasterOfMalt Twitter page where a poll will be posted to our feed.

The tournament will end on Monday 27 September with the winner announced that day. This is how it will work:

Monday 20 September – first round with 32 whiskies

Tuesday 21 September – second round with 16 whiskies

Wednesday 22 September – quarter finals 

Thursday 23 September – semi finals 

Friday 24 September – finals

Saturday 25 September – voting closes

Monday 27 September – announcement of the winner

Get voting so we can say once and for all what the greatest icon of whisky is! And then we find something else to argue about. 

UPDATE, 27 September:

The winner was… Bunnahabhain with Lagavulin as the runner-up.

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The Master of Malt Islay Festival 2021 Day 2: Lagavulin

It’s the Master of Malt Islay Festival 2021 Day 2: Lagavulin! To mark the occasion we’ve got news on the distillery’s activities, an exclusive bottling, and the story of how…

It’s the Master of Malt Islay Festival 2021 Day 2: Lagavulin! To mark the occasion we’ve got news on the distillery’s activities, an exclusive bottling, and the story of how the Smoky Cokey cocktail won over the hearts and minds of the whisky-drinking public.

It’s Day 2 of our Master of Malt Islay Festival 2021 and we’re virtually stopping by the legendary Lagavulin. It’s known for its picturesque distillery, celebrity fan base, and an array of intense, rich, and smoky drams that have won numerous accolades over the last two centuries or so. Lagavulin is  a fundamental part of Islay’s whisky heritage and attracts a huge number of visitors each year, not just at festival time. And while we can’t be there in person today, there’s still plenty happening at the distillery…

What’s going on today

Today it’s Lagavulin day and to celebrate from 7pm the Lagavulin Distillery warehouse will play host to an evening of performances by Scottish singers, Joy and Andrew Dunlop and the Niall Kirkpatrick Ceilidh Band. Attendees, who can tune in to the virtual event via the Lagavulin Facebook page, will witness an adventure on Islay’s surrounding sea, a hike around the island showcasing its scenery, and a behind-the-scenes look at a day in the life of warehouse manager Iain McArthur, as well an exclusive first look at the festival bottling. Speaking of which…

The distillery exclusive to look out for is:

Lagavulin Fèis Ìle 2021 – 13 Year Old. A bottling matured in refill American oak casks and finished in high char Port-seasoned casks, there’s just 6,000 of these being released with an ABV of 54.4% at £160 per 70cl. They’re available to purchase at Lagavulin Distillery and online on malts.com from 1 June with a pre-sale for subscribers at 2pm (BST) 31 May. 

Meanwhile, we’ve got a trio of daily deals to snap up. Lagavulin 16 Year OldLagavulin 8 Year Old, and Lagavulin 2005 ( bottled 2020 ) – Pedro Ximenez Cask Finish Distillers Edition are now all on sale. And while you’re reading be sure to check out our 2019 interview with former distillery manager Colin Gordon and our Islay memories playlist on Spotify to get you in the festival mood!

The Smoky Cokey: an unlikely success

Mixing booze with cola is nothing new. People have long paired rum or Jack Daniel’s with the classic fizzy drink. But a single malt like Lagavulin? 

Yes, we’re looking back at the surprising story of how Smoky Cokey became a fixture of Fèis. For those unfamiliar with it, the Smoky Cokey is essentially a Highball made with Lagavulin (8 or 16 Year Old, dealer’s choice) and cola. Given the whisky’s status as a serious drinker’s dram, a purist’s choice, it’s not a combination that you would ever expect to see. It sounds almost sacrilegious, like the kind of drink that would cause Nick Offerman to stare at you sternly if he saw you order one, reducing you to a blubbering mess begging for forgiveness for your transgression. 

Most people agree that the Smoky Cokey originated from an experiment Dave Broom conducted in his excellent 2014 book, Whisky: The Manual. In a quest to find the perfect mixer for each Scotch, he tried numerous different whiskies with drinks like green tea, soda, and cola, finding the latter paired perfectly with Lagavulin. It was a bold statement and a big deal. One of the most respected whisky writers in the world has just backed the strangest of horses. And people were forced to consider that he may just have a point.

Master of Malt Islay Festival 2021 Day 2: Lagavulin

You might not think to mix this beauty, but don’t be afraid to experiment!

Colin Dunn: cocktail pioneer

Diageo whisky ambassador Colin Dunn is probably the other figure most associated with the serve. He has been a regular at Feis Ile since 2000, which means he’s had plenty of festivals to prepare for. Every year he looks for something fresh to bring. He’d already begun experimenting with serving Lagavulin with food  and thought that mixing it would be the logical next step. After reading Whisky: The Manual, he had the ideal serve to test this theory.

While at Lagavulin Distillery with guests prior to the festival, Dunn did something of a trial run. He popped 35ml of Lagavulin 16 Year Old in a Martini glass and topped it up with cola he’d allow to turn semi-flat to lose some of the bubbles. He put them on a silver tray, went out to Lagavulin pier, and gave the cocktail to his guests. “The first gentleman said ‘wow, what do you have in this, Punt E Mes?’ That opened my eyes to its potential and how receptive people can be if they don’t know what they’re getting,” recalls Dunn. 

Sensing an opportunity, he enlisted the help of Alessandro Palazzi of Duke’s fame to help create a menu of Lagavulin drinks to demonstrate its mixing potential. “Introducing Lagavulin in cocktails was a big challenge back then. People wanted it neat. Acoustic. But Alessandro and I wanted it to make it electric,” he says. Their menu included a Negroni in which Lagavulin replaced the gin, a smoky Old Fashioned with Tabasco, and a Smoky Cokey, as it came to be known. 

Master of Malt Islay Festival 2021 Day 2: Lagavulin

One of the first places the drink was served was this pier

It took a while to take off

The reception was good, if a touch slow. When Dunn would go to bars and order the Smoky Cokey, many would insist on serving the cola and Lagavulin separately. But word spread, and in an age where playing with whisky was becoming increasingly popular it soon developed something of a cult following. Over the last few years its reputation has continued to grow and it’s now a common sight at Lagavulin Day. 

Which raises the question, why does it work? Dunn believes that cola’s slight bitterness, minerality, and sweet notes work in harmony with earthy, damp, and muscular whisky. Compared to a traditional whiskey and coke, usually made with bourbon or Jack Daniel’s, Lagavulin adds a layer of complexity and intensity as well as some savoury qualities to balance the sweet vanilla and spice of the soda. It’s an unlikely success and yet it totally makes sense. It’s Daphne and Niles. And like any good marriage, it becomes a thing of its own instead of two other things just plopped together. It’s sacrile-cious, and for every purist that’s outraged by it, there are many new drinkers who adore it. Dunn wouldn’t have it any other way. 

“Scotch is about innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship,” Dunn says. “Distilleries like Lagavulin have been evolving since its creation. Whisky is not supposed to stand still. You simply don’t know if something will work until you’ve tried it. I can tell you now the team who worked at the distillery absolutely loved it, as did some of their parents and grandparents who had worked at the distillery and made Lagavulin decades ago. If it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for you. It works because thousands of people tell me it works”.

Master of Malt Islay Festival 2021 Day 2: Lagavulin

Happy Lagavulin Day, folks!

Making whisky accessible

The unlikely duo now represents something of a triumph for broadening horizons and reconsidering the stuffy and backward notions that Scotch whisky, and in particular Islay whisky, can’t be playful and fun. We should celebrate the Smoky Cokey’s ability to make a powerful and occasionally challenging dram accessible to those new to Scotch.

And it’s so delightfully simple. You truly only need Lagavulin and cola to make it. A wedge of lime or orange would work nicely as a garnish, and if you’re a true maverick you can go all out and ice cream to make a Floaty Smoky Cokey. But other than that there’s really no rules. You can use Lagavulin 8 or 16 Year Old, you can play with different premium colas and you can adjust the measurements as you see fit.

Dunn says to experiment and see what works for you. “My suggestion is to get a glass of Lagavulin 16 and then make a Smoky Cokey in another glass. Nose the straight whisky, then nose the cocktail. Take a sip of each, but don’t just swallow, give them a moment to compare the two flavours. Then you can adjust based on what you like”. Personally, I find the below works well.

However you make it, it’s the perfect drink to toast a remarkable distillery. Slàinte mhath!

Master of Malt Islay Festival 2021 Day 2: Lagavulin

It’s easy, it’s tasty and it’s the perfect way to toast the festival!

How to make a Smokey Cokey

35ml of Lagavulin 8 Year Old or 16 Year Old
A bottle of high quality (or just your favourite) cola
Wedge of lime

Add the Lagavulin to a glass (again, go fancy or as simple as you like) filled with lots of ice and then top with cola. Stir, then add a wedge of lime if desired. Enjoy.

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The Nightcap: 11 December

The promise of returning whisky festivals, new distilleries and fewer tariffs already had us in a good mood this week, then we heard about the Islay KitKat and a piñata…

The promise of returning whisky festivals, new distilleries and fewer tariffs already had us in a good mood this week, then we heard about the Islay KitKat and a piñata bar… It’s The Nightcap!

There was inevitability going into Christmas it would be a bit different this year. The only thing for it was to embrace the change and not let it get us down. Virtual parties are in the diary, Christmas jumpers have been encouraged and an office Spotify playlist has done the rounds (I swear Domonic The Donkey is on there about 15 times, guys. I’ve started brushing my teeth to the rhythm of it ffs). It turns out all you need to make the most of the season is some festive spirit and a strong broadband connection. Who knew? #WhiskySanta, probably. That guy is always on the money.

Which is something you’ll have noticed if you kept tabs on the MoM blog this week, which certainly made us get all giddy when that omniscient, bearded and jolliest of fellows revealed two more sublime Super Wishes. I mean, c’mon, who wouldn’t want the chance to get their hands on a bottle of Balvenie 40 Year Old or Tobermory 42 Year Old?  The festive fun continued as we opened windows #5, #6, #7, #8, #9, #10 and #11 on our Whisky Advent Calendar before Adam put together a round-up of our favourite festive spirits ( look out for Christmas pudding spiced rum and a Brussels sprouts vodka).

Elsewhere, we showed off our swanky Black Bowmore DB5 1964 video, introduced you to a new kind of drinks company and managed to get the low-down on one of Scotland’s most iconic whisky producers. Henry, meanwhile, welcomed a delightful rum from an underappreciated distillery and made a classic cocktail with a reimagined old brand of Cognac, Adam recommended some of the best bargain American whiskeys on the market and Annie discussed what collective action is required to help eradicate sexism in the whisky industry.

The Nightcap

This is exactly the kind of news we all need right now. Fingers crossed it goes ahead!

Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival to return in 2021

News that almost seems too good to be true came from The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival this week, which announced it will be back in 2021, irl! The 21st edition of the six-day festival is tipped to return from 28 April to 3 May 2021 and the organisers have assured us that it will be adaptive to any COVID-19 measures. Lord knows all of us whisky lovers could do with a chance to celebrate our favourite tipple in good company and we’ll never turn down an opportunity to taste our way around this world-famous whisky-making region. Those who do attend (assuming this does go ahead, fingers crossed) will witness nearly 140 business members come together to be part of the biggest festival of its kind in the world. “We are very excited about being back in business for 2021. The positive news about the coronavirus vaccines has given everyone a boost and it’s great to see some light starting to emerge from what has been a long and very dark tunnel for everyone,” says James Campbell, festival chairman. “Even if social distancing is still in place in late April I am confident they will come up with solutions to provide numerous brilliant events and we look forward to giving a very warm Speyside welcome to all of our new and returning UK and international guests in 2021.” The full programme of events will be listed on www.spiritofspeyside.com and will be available for preview on Wednesday 24th February 2021, while tickets will go on sale online on Monday 1st March 2021. We sincerely hope that we’ll see you there… in real life! It’s almost too exciting.

The Nightcap

The Offerman-Lagavulin love story is showing no signs of slowing down and we’re here for it

Nick Offerman stars in new Lagavulin video

Actor and whisky lover Nick Offerman, you might remember him from such films as The Lego Movie and The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, returns for another Lagavulin: My Tales of Whisky‘ video. Called ‘A Dram Good Holiday’, it features Offerman enjoying some Lagavulin 8 year old while attempting to be a modern Youtube celebrity. “After many a holiday spent sipping Lagavulin by a blazing Yule Log, I have this year determined to venture into the world of the modern-day internet media tube,” he explained. “Well, I saw it. I can’t say I fully understand it, nor do I want to, so I will now return to my usual holiday plans and sip the wondrous elixir that is Lagavulin single malt Scotch whisky as intended.” Advice that we can all get behind this Christmas. You can watch Nick star in the festive clip here.

The Nightcap

We just want to see both whisky industries thrive. Is that too much to ask? It’s Christmas!

When the whisky levy breaks? UK suspends US tariffs

One story that caught our eye this week was the news that the UK intends to drop tariffs against the US over subsidies for aerospace firms, in a bid to reach a post-Brexit trade deal with Washington. Why is this of this interest to the drinks industry? Because the move could open the way for a punitive tariff on whisky to be removed. In November, the EU imposed tariffs on $4bn of US goods in the Boeing row, but these will be suspended in the UK from 1 January when the current post-Brexit transition period ends. One of the hopes of this strategy is that leads to a reciprocal move from the US to alleviate the damaging duties on goods like single malt Scotch whisky. The Scotch Whisky Association estimates the industry has lost £30 million a month on sales, and over £400m in total, thanks to the measures, so you can understand why chief executive Karen Betts described the announcement on Tuesday as “an encouraging step”. She went on to say: “It shows the UK government’s determination to de-escalate the damaging transatlantic trade disputes that have seen Scotch whisky exports to the US fall by over 30% in the past year”. Let’s hope sense prevails and our industry, which has faced a difficult enough year as it is, receives some respite here.

The Nightcap

No this isn’t an April fool.

Islay cask Kit Kat anyone?

In a week of funny stories, this one might just take the biscuit, or rather the chocolate-covered wafer snack. We have just learned about the arrival of a whisky cask-aged Kit Kat. And not just any cask but one that held Islay whisky. Chocolate and smoke, an interesting combination. It’s a product of the experimental division of Kit Kat Japan which in the past has come up with unusual versions made with matcha tea, soy sauce and sake. The chap in charge of this latest experiment is pastry chef Yasumasa Takagi. Rather than fill a barrel full of Kit Kats, which would just be silly, Takagi and his team took Ghanaian cacao nibs and aged them in the Islay barrels which were rotated once a week to ensure the chocolate became imbued with all that smoky goodness. Despite being made in Britain, this experimental Kit Kat is only available, for a very reasonable ¥300 (£2.16), in selected retailers over there including Kit Kat boutiques in Tokyo. Imagine, whole shops devoted to Kit Kats. Are we allowed to fly to Japan yet?

The Nightcap

The Walking Man is doing his bit to ensure his path is greener

Johnnie Walker gifts a million trees

Earlier this year we reported on Diageo’s sustainability initiatives and it seems the drinks giants are intent on putting things in motion sooner rather than later. This week the company outlined its vision to plant one million trees across the four corners of Scotland before 2025, as part of an ongoing commitment from Johnnie Walker to reduce its carbon footprint and restore the natural resources it uses when creating its Scotch whiskies. “A million trees we are planting with our partners across Scotland will create wonderful biodiverse woodlands that are havens for wildlife and accessible for people to visit and enjoy in the years and decades to come,” Ewan Andrew, Diageo’s chief sustainability officer, explained. To date, 389,000 of the one million trees have been planted near two of distilleries in the Scottish Highlands which, over the lifetime of this project, are anticipated to absorb over 69,000 tonnes of C02 – the equivalent of taking 10,500 flights around the world. At Ballygowan, near Oban distillery, native birch, oak, wild cherry, willow and hazel trees were planted, including a new tree dedicated to every one of Diageo’s 28,000 employees, while at Allt Ruadh, near Glen Ord distillery, Johnnie Walker has joined forces with Trees for Life to plant ancient and native trees to serve as a wildlife corridor and increase habitat availability for species including black grouse, crossbills and red squirrels. It’s exactly the kind of Christmas gift we like to see from major players within the industry, so kudos guys. For more info on Diageo 2030’s sustainability commitments click here.

The Nightcap

Ashley Lloyd, retail operations manager at Halewood Artisanal Spirits, is clearly as thrilled as we are!

Halewood opens £1m Peaky Blinder distillery

The good news keeps on coming this week as Halewood Artisanal Spirits has announced that its phenomenally popular Peaky Blinder brand’s new home is open. The new £1 million distillery is based in Birmingham, on the same site as Sadler’s brewery, home of the infamous gang from the hit show. The new facility is already producing Peaky Blinder Spiced Dry Gin and Black Spiced Rum in four ‘state-of-the-art’ Arnold Holstein stills, which got a makeover in August this year, to emphasise the provenance of the brand. A different character from the late 19th and early 20th-century Peaky Blinders gang and other gangs feature on the bottles, with authentic mug shots from police archives to boot. “After months of planning, we’re very pleased to share our plans for the Sadler’s site in Lye,” commented James Stocker, marketing director, Halewood Artisanal Spirits. “As we’ve continued to see strong sales for our Peaky Blinder spirits via our e-commerce channels, both in the UK and globally, this felt like the perfect time to bring production back to their rightful home”. Halewood has also revealed that we can expect to see the first spirits from the new distillery by the end of 2020 and, as we reported earlier in the year, plans are also in place to develop a distillery to produce Peaky Blinder Irish whiskey. Things are certainly looking bright for the brand. Now would be a good time to end with a quote from the show, but I haven’t seen it, so those of you who have can insert your own topical joke here.

The Nightcap

It’s a fitting end to a brilliant series

Gordon & MacPhail’s 125th Anniversary series concludes in style

Regular readers of The Nightcap will remember that we’ve covered the launch of a particularly special series of Scotch whiskies put together to commemorate 125 years of Gordon & MacPhail. Now, the much-anticipated final whisky in the collection has been revealed: The Gordon & MacPhail 1975 Glencraig! The last of the four extremely rare and unique whiskies was distilled in Lomond Stills, which operated within Speyside’s Glenburgie Distillery before production ceased after just 23 years. The whisky, which was matured in a single refill American hogshead for 44 years, was laid down on Thursday 30 October 1975 and bottled on Thursday 28 May 2020 at 54.2% ABV, with an outturn of just 110 bottles. It’s said to possess notes of honey, coconut, rich nectarines, white pepper, lime, cocoa beans and carry some floral and herbal elements. The majority of the Glencraig whisky was destined for blended malts, so this is a truly rare treat and, like the other expressions in the series, it was sourced from the last remaining casks from lost or closed distilleries matured within Gordon & MacPhail’s warehouse  “While it’s bittersweet to share the last remaining drops of these ultra-rare whiskies, they embody a fitting tribute to 125 years spent in pursuit of perfection,” Stephen Rankin, a fourth-generation member of Gordon & MacPhail’s owning family and the company’s Director of Prestige, said. “These four releases provide a personal legacy for all who have worked at Gordon & MacPhail over the decades culminating in these exquisite and unique drams found nowhere else.”

The Nightcap

Half this week’s stories could have been our And Finally… but just look at wonderful madness of this thing!

And finally… Jose Cuervo creates world’s first piñata bar

Global Tequila giant, Jose Cuervo, has unveiled the world’s first piñata bar and it’s going to one lucky fan. The one-of-a-kind creation has been designed in festive colours and comes complete with a shelf of Jose Cuervo Especial Gold, bartender’s essentials, mixers, garnishes and a variety of Jose Cuervo tequilas and flavoured fillings inside. Given that lots of you will have played the home mixologist this year, the bar should come in handy for dispensing delicious Tequila cocktails for the friends and family you’ll be spending the season with. Margaritas are on you, future winner! And the fun doesn’t stop there because, it’s piñata bar so to get your hands on the goodies inside, you have to indulge in a bit of creative destruction. Yes, you get to take out all the frustrations of 2020 by smashing it up, responsibly of course. So, if you’re over 18 years old and based in the UK you can enter the competition by following the Jose Cuervo UK Instagram page and tagging a friend who they’d enjoy a festive cocktail with. So, what are you waiting for? Get entering, and have a smashing weekend (sorry!)

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Brill bottles for Bonfire Night!

Here at MoM Towers, Bonfire Night means peaty treats and smoky spirits and so we’ve rounded up some of our favourites right here. Tempted? Of course you are. Like pretty…

Here at MoM Towers, Bonfire Night means peaty treats and smoky spirits and so we’ve rounded up some of our favourites right here. Tempted? Of course you are.

Like pretty much every event in 2020, Bonfire Night is going to be a little strange. But you can still make the most of the occasion by stocking up on warming, smoky and tasty spirits. And we’re happy to help you pick out some corkers, from peated whisky, to gin made with smoked botanicals and a sensationally smouldering mezcal.

Brill bottles for Bonfire Night

Seaweed & Aeons & Digging & Fire 10 Year Old 

This beauty has fire in the name, which is already a good start. A 10-year-old single malt from an undisclosed distillery on Islay, with 25% of it having been finished in first-fill Oloroso sherry octaves, Seaweed & Aeons & Digging & Fire 10 Year Old is a smoky, sherried, coastal dram perfect for those who love uncompromising Islay whisky.

What does it taste like?

Rich, powerful sherry, peat, red apple sweetness, oaken-vanilla goodness and chargrilled well-aged steak.

Brill bottles for Bonfire Night

Smoked Rosemary Gin (That Boutique-y Gin Company) 

Rosemary won’t just make your steak taste fantastic, it also makes a great gin botanical, particularly when smoked. If you love the idea of making all kinds of bonfire-based cocktails, then this herbaceous treat from That Boutique-y Gin Company is for you.

What does it taste like?

There’s a strong herbal note, plenty of juniper, saline seashore smells, lemon, cracked black pepper and a hint of smoked bacon.

Brill bottles for Bonfire Night

Burnt Ends Blended Whiskey 

If love burnt ends, which you should do, then you’re going to be salivating at the prospect of this whisky. Inspired by those charred, smoky morsels, Burnt Ends Blended Whisky marries Tennessee rye whiskey and sherry cask-finished peated single malt Scotch whisky to make one meaty, smoky, rich and satisfying expression.

What does it taste like?

Deliciously rich and spicy with peat, apple juice, rye, barbecue sauce and smoky sausage all the way. 

Brill bottles for Bonfire Night

Dangerous Don Joven 

Firstly, can we appreciate what an amazing name Dangerous Don is? Straight out of El Beano. Secondly, let’s acknowledge how awesome mezcal is. If you’re not familiar with it then here’s what you need to know: this is a smoky, zesty and smooth spirit that was made exclusively from Espadín agave using traditional production methods. Be sure to try this one in a mezcal Negroni or Old Fashioned.

What does it taste like?

Loads of green grass and fresh agave sweetness, with waves of aromatic smoke throughout and a touch of citrus on the finish.

Brill bottles for Bonfire Night

Lagavulin 16 Year Old

When you need a smoky single malt whisky for sippin’ on Bonfire Night, then look no further than Lagavulin 16 Year Old. Unless you don’t like the sound of a profile so rich and complex it stole the heart of Ron Swanson….

What does it taste like?

Lapsang Souchong tea, iodine, sweet spices, figs, dates, sherry and creamy vanilla.

Brill bottles for Bonfire Night

Mackmyra Svensk Rök (Swedish Smoke) 

Swedish distillery Mackmyra makes plenty of delicious whisky and this bottling demonstrates that it’s not just the Scots who know how to make cracking smoky, peaty dram. In fact, Svensk Rök actually means Swedish Smoke. Don’t expect an Islay powerhouse, though. This is a fragrant, sweet and fruity bottling.

What does it taste like?

Earthy peat, warm smoke, vanilla fudge, bright juniper and a whisper of citrus.

Brill bottles for Bonfire Night

Glenfiddich Experimental Series – Fire & Cane 

What happens when you take peated Glenfiddich single malt and finish it for three months in rum casks selected from a variety of South American countries? You get this delightful expression and the ideal Bonfire Night dram.

What does it taste like?

Billowing soft peat notes, rich sweet toffee, zesty fresh fruit, Highland peat campfire, sharp green fruit, sweet baked apple and soft smoke.

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The Nightcap: 18 September

This week on the Nightcap: Octomore and Lagavulin launch new whisky, Bob Dylan brings back the Theme Time Radio Hour and dog-themed cocktails… A whole week has been and gone…

This week on the Nightcap: Octomore and Lagavulin launch new whisky, Bob Dylan brings back the Theme Time Radio Hour and dog-themed cocktails…

A whole week has been and gone since we last went Nightcapping, which means that a brand new Nightcap is required. Fortunately, the world of booze is always churning out all kinds of news stories. We’re not sure what we’d do if it stopped. Perhaps we’d just write about some of the drinks we’ve enjoyed recently or post a series of amusing photos of cats. Thankfully this week there’s been plenty of excitement to write about, so the funny feline pictures will have to wait. Although one of the stories this week does feature a cracking photo of a dog, so if we’ve got you in the mood for pet-based content you won’t be disappointed. Onto The Nightcap!

If you’re a fan of big whisky news stories then the MoM blog was the place for you this week. Jim Murray announced his 2021 World Whisky of the Year and Richard ‘the Nose’ Paterson confirmed that he would step back from Whyte & Mackay to focus his energies on The Dalmore. Elsewhere, we spoke with Dr Rachel Barrie, Benriach master blender, about the brand’s recent makeover before Annie tasted one of the good doctor’s finest creations, a well-sherried 29-year-old single malt released to coincide with the upcoming release of The King’s Man. Other delightful drinks we tried this week include a very special new range of Cognacs from Delamain, a category-defying spirit from Belvedere and a cocktail made with one of the world’s unique spirits, Metaxa. Internationally-renowned bartenders Joe and Daniel Schofield also popped by for a chat, while Jess kicked off our Classic Bar series with the wonderful Coupette, which has just launched a new menu.

The Nightcap

New Octomore is terrific news for peated whisky fans

New series of Octomore whisky unveiled

We’ve got good news for fans of peated whisky this week as Islay-based distillery Bruichladdich has announced the imminent arrival of some new Octomores. First is the Octomore 11s series, which is set to launch on 1 October and includes three expressions, Octomore 11.1, Octomore 11.2 and Octomore 11.3, all of which retain the ultra-peated style that the brand is known for. Octomore 11.1 was malted to 139.6 PPM and matured for five years in first-fill ex-American whiskey casks from Jim Beam, Heaven Hill and Jack Daniel’s before it was bottled at 59.4% ABV without any chill-filtration or additional colouring. Octomore 11.2 was malted to the same PPM and also aged for five years on Islay, but it was matured in two separate casks: 25% of the whisky was aged in Pauillac ex-wine casks, while the remaining 75% was aged in ex-American whiskey casks before being transferred into St Julien wine casks for 18 months. This expression was bottled at 58.6% ABV without added colouring or chill-filtration. The third whisky in the new series, Octomore 11.3, was malted to a massive 194 PPM before it was aged for five years in first-fill American whiskey casks from Jim Beam, Heaven Hill, Buffalo Trace and Jack Daniel’s. The whisky was bottled at 61.7% ABV without caramel colouring or chill-filtration. Bruichladdich will also release a bonus bottling alongside the range. It’s a 2020 edition of Octomore 10 Years Old which was malted to 204 PPM and matured in a mix of virgin oak, and first- and second-fill ex-American whiskey casks from Jim Beam, Heaven Hill, Buffalo Trace and Jack Daniel’s before it was bottled at 54.3% ABV without chill-filtration or additional colouring. We will write more fully on the Octomore 11.1 and 11.3 soon when they arrive at Master of Malt. Octomore 11.2, however, will only be available direct from the distillery here and in global travel retail. Not fair!

The Nightcap

Monkey Shoulder wants to see you back in bars. Responsibly, of course.

Monkey Shoulder spends £250k to entice you back to the bar 

Monkey Shoulder is so keen to get you back to the bar (responsibly, natch), that it has spent £250,000 on an advertising campaign called ‘The New Rules for Mixing.’ The blended whisky brand won the money as part of OCEAN’s Crucial Creative Competition and decided to put it to good use. The campaign will take the form of a series of local ads with partner bars in cities around the country that will go live on 24 September as well as generic national posters. The press bumf described the campaign by ad agency Tommy as “a playful take on the brand’s ‘made for mixing’ tagline; using Monkey Shoulder’s cheeky tone and distinctive branding style to bring to life the social distancing measures in a fun and memorable way.” Social distancing is fun! To further entice people to venture out of their homes, each venue will be offering a free drink to customers. The participating bars are Glasgow’s The Dam, Edinburgh’s Uno Mas and Kin, Liverpool’s Present Company, Newcastle’s Mother Mercy, Manchester’s Cane & Grain and Science & Industry, Birmingham’s Theatrix, Nottingham’s Brass Monkey and Leeds’ Watermark Bar. Let’s hope another lockdown doesn’t muck things up. The best-laid plans and all that.

The Nightcap

This year’s Islay Jazz Festival might be online, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get your hands on delicious whisky!

New limited edition Lagavulin Jazz bottling is here, or rather, there.

We all know that there’s no better way to enjoy your bourbon than with a blast of rock and roll, but what should you listen to with a Scottish single malt? Some might say folk music, but we’ve conducted totally scientific tests here at Master of Malt and discovered that jazz is, in fact, the perfect accompaniment. Especially with a smoky Islay dram, you can’t beat a bit of John Coltrane or Miles Davies, hence the long-running Islay Jazz Festival. Ever since 2011, Lagavulin has released a special jazz bottling and now the latest edition is here. Or rather, there, it’s a distillery only release with only 2004 bottles available at a meaty £405. It’s matured in mainly refill American and European oak, with some active casks, for a minimum of 22 years and bottled at 52.6% ABV. Distillery manager Pierrick Guillaume had this to say: “The Islay Jazz Festival has become a pilgrimage for many whisky and jazz lovers around the globe and we hope our friends will join us for the online event to celebrate 22 years of the festival. This will be my first festival having taken over as distillery manager of Lagavulin and although we are unable to host the event in Islay, we wanted to continue to honour the occasion by creating a remarkable bottling. This year’s 22-year-old bottle is a glorious and unique Lagavulin from an interesting mix of casks that have given an extra twist of rich, smooth and sweet fruitiness to the palate and finish.” On 3 October at 7pm BST, go to the  Lagavulin and Friends of the Classic Malts where Guillaume and global whisky master Ewan Gunn will be hosting a jazz and whisky odyssey. Nice!

The Nightcap

Great news music lovers! Bob Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Hour is back

Bob Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Hour is back thanks to Heaven’s Door Spirits

Bob Dylan’s Theme Time Radio Hour is back, this time with added whiskey. For those who don’t know, Theme Time Radio Hour was a series of shows on NPR hosted by his Bobness where he would play records and riff around certain themes such as ‘fruit’ or ‘weather.’ The music was always an education, but the real fun was just listening to Dylan talk, dispensing wisdom, offering recipe tips or being totally baffling. Equally amusing and baffling, were the celebrities such as Tom Petty or Marianne Faithful who would call up to join in the fun. There’s never been like it before, or since. 100 shows were recorded with the last one airing in 2009, and now thanks to Heaven’s Door Spirits, Bob’s bourbon brand, it’s back. There will be a special one-off episode airing on Monday 21 at 12pm EST on SiriusXm. It will then be available on Heaven’s Door website and social channels, Bob Dylan’s website and social channels, as well as other streaming services from 25 September. And the theme of this one-off special? Whiskey, of course. 

The Nightcap

It’s quite the coup for Last Drop Distillers

Colin Scott joins Last Drop Distillers

Back in June, we raised a glass to Colin Scott, former Chivas Regal master blender, as he waved goodbye to the brand after an enormous 47 years at the nosing glass helm. News reached us this week that he’s back at it, and is now consultant master blender at high-end bottler The Last Drop Distillers! According to the company, Scott’s appointment is the first stage of becoming ‘not only curators but also creators’. And it’s not the first time they’ve worked together. Back in the 1990s, The Last Drop founders James Espey and Tom Jago teamed up with Colin on a number of projects, including the creation of the now-iconic Chivas Regal 18 Year Old. “We are absolutely delighted that Colin Scott will be joining The Last Drop as master blender,” said Rebecca Jago, managing director at The Last Drop. “One of the many attractions for both Colin and The Last Drop is that he will have the widest palette to paint from.” Scott himself added: “The Last Drop is very much a luxury brand in a very niche market. They have a global reach but have maintained their integrity and vision since they began, which is hugely important to me. This is a new chapter that I am very much looking forward to: carrying on the story that began with Tom and James some decades ago. As my much-missed friend Tom Jago said, “If you can’t have fun in the drinks industry, and in what you create, you can’t have fun anywhere!” Rebecca and the team do just that!” We can’t wait to see what comes next.

The Nightcap

The week-long programme will unite professionals from around the world

Imbibe Live goes global with BCB Berlin, BCB Brooklyn and BCB São Paulo

If you like boozy worldwide networking and education events, then you’re in luck. There’s a biggie on the way. Imbibe Live Online has joined forces with BCB Berlin, BCB Brooklyn and BCB São Paulo to create Global Bar Week uniting the international drinks industry at the first-ever global, online drinks exhibition. From 12–18 October topics such as how hospitality venues can rebuild, drive customer footfall and loyalty, build a sustainable business, tap into consumer trends and improve diversity and inclusion will be discussed by a selection of experts such as Lynnette and Ivy from Speed Rack, award-winning bartender Chelsie Bailey, and Diogenes the Dog founder Sunny Hodge. Drink-focused masterclasses and tastings will also feature in the week-long digital programme, which you can check out here. While it will never be the same as the classic Imbibe Live, the on-trade magazine’s inaugural digital event back in June saw hundreds of drinks brands and on-trade professionals come together to share insights, trends and much more in what we’d say was a pretty successful experiment so it makes sense that it’s gone global. Drinks brands have until the end of September to sign up for this virtual event, while UK drinks industry professionals can now sign up to Imbibe Live Online to access a range of educational and inspirational content and be part of a worldwide celebration of the people, brands and businesses who are shaking up the drinks industry. Registration for the week-long virtual event is free and tickets are available at https://live.imbibe.com/.  

The Nightcap

Kane and Rawcliffe impressed the judges in the Bottled Cocktail Challenge

Diageo’s World Class competition returns 

New people, new partnerships and new competitor challenges await as Diageo’s World Class competition comes back after taking a brief pause due to recent events. Featuring a revised approach that adapts to a new competition environment, the internationally recognised competition has announced a series of activations at this year’s London Cocktail Week (now extended to the full month of October), at Whisky House in Kings Cross’ Goods Way. Three masterclasses a week will be hosted by the World Class team with Johnnie Walker, Tanqueray and Ketel One ambassadors sharing cocktail recipes and tips. Diageo has also revealed who the winners of the Bottled Cocktail Challenge are: James Rawcliffe, Tigerlily (Edinburgh); Kuba Korzynski, Black Rock (London) and Stevie Kane, Baccarat Bar (London).The GB Top 100 were split into three groups – Ketel One, Johnnie Walker Black Lable and Tanqueray No. Ten – and tasked with creating cocktails based on three classic serves: Espresso Martini, Tom Collins and the Highball. The winners have secured a spot in the GB Top 15 and will have their cocktails produced in a cocktail kit for consumers to buy via Cocktail Porter, featured here. Finally, the World Class family has been bolstered by a trio of new appointments. Pippa Guy (previously senior bartender at the Savoy’s American Bar) is now the new Tanqueray brand ambassador; Jo Last (formerly of the Savoy’s Beaufort Bar) has been given the title of whisky brand ambassador and Mimi Schofield is now TLA account executive. “We are incredibly excited to bring World Class back to GB, with a new and adapted program to champion bartender creativity in the face of adversity,” said Jack Sotti, head of advocacy GB at Diageo. “Most notably World Class is about people, and so it gives me the utmost pride to welcome Pippa, Jo and Mimi to our diverse and passionate team.” 

The Nightcap

Is this the best idea ever? It might just be.

And finally… Dog-themed cocktails for Skylight’s Charity Dog Day

Picture this. You’re at a gorgeous rooftop bar, you’ve got great company, delicious drinks – what more could you want? Oh right, dogs! Next Sunday (27 September), Skylight over at Tobacco Dock is combining all of those things on Dog Day! The annual event is run in collaboration with UK charity Dogs On The Streets (DOTS), which supports rough sleepers and the homeless community with dogs. Not only will you be able to bring your actual dog, but there will also be dog-themed cocktails – for human consumption, of course. No, really. With serves like the Pugtail and the Frenchie 75 this is just too good to miss, and between midday and 4pm the cocktails are all 2-4-1. If you’re wondering if your pooch will feel left out, fear not because there’ll be some treats on offer for each dog-bringing guest (and their pup, of course). Proceeds from the cocktails will go towards DOTS, so grab your furry friends and get down there! 

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The Nightcap: 4 September

There’s a whole smorgasbord of big Scotch whisky news in this week’s Nightcap, as well as reports on new celebrity booze and Whisky Tea. Yes, really! Intrigued? Then read on……

There’s a whole smorgasbord of big Scotch whisky news in this week’s Nightcap, as well as reports on new celebrity booze and Whisky Tea. Yes, really! Intrigued? Then read on…

We hope you all enjoyed your Bank Holiday weekend. Whether you set off on an adventure, popped down to your local or enjoyed some well-earned R&R indoors, we’re sure you made the most of the opportunity to take a breath and enjoy a break. Fortunately for us, the world of booze never seems to stop churning out new products, projects and passions for us all to get all geeky and gleeful about so The Nightcap this week isn’t any lighter even with a day off. Take a look and see for yourself.

The MoM blog this week was also as busy as ever, and almost turned green thanks to the number of stories we had on Irish whiskey. First Ian Buxton examined its growing pains, then Annie learned why the progress of Sliabh Liag Distillers is proving cause for excitement. Certified organic distilleries also caught Annie’s eye, as Henry gave us a lesson in fortified wines casks to mark the arrival of The Epicurean Rivesaltes Finish. Elsewhere, Adam enjoyed a gin-based delight and one of the finest prohibition-era cocktails in The Southside, before wishing That Boutique-y Whisky Company a happy birthday by announcing another terrific new MoM sale.

Arguably the biggest news of all, however, was our announcement of the launch of Pour & Sip, our all-new, kick-ass whisky subscription service. Check out the blog post for more details. We’re also issuing one last call for you to tune in to our virtual whisky extravaganza Scotch & Sofa, which is taking place tomorrow. Oh, and don’t forget, Drinks by the Dram’s incredible booze-filled Advent Calendars are available to pre-order now!

Right, on with the news!

The Nightcap

CEO Jean-Christophe Coutures’ didn’t mince his words for the Scottish government.

Chivas Bros. criticises Scottish government over COVID response

It was a difficult results time for Chivas Brothers, which we’ll get on to in a moment, but the most interesting thing from this week’s press conference was CEO Jean-Christophe Coutures’ strong words for the Scottish government. He talked about a “bumpy period in March/April when we were not so clear about the direction the Scottish government wanted us to take. We know that we were not seen as an essential business to the economy even though Scotch whisky is the second-largest export for Scotland.” Happily (for everyone, not least Master of Malt customers), Chivas Brothers managed to keep the whisky flowing. Coutures praised the workforce and the unions for their helpful attitudes, and now the company is “almost back to full operations”. He added: “I still believe that the Scottish government needs to back us up and they need to understand that keeping this category operating is absolutely critical not only to the Scottish government but as well to the people of Scotland.” Meanwhile, on to those results: total organic sales were down 11%, in large part due to the lack of travel retail, with Ballantine’s shrinking by 8% and Chivas declining 17%. But there are grounds for optimism, with The Glenlivet cementing its position as number one single malt in the US, up 16%, Royal Salute expanding in Taiwan and South Korea, and Chivas growing in 34 markets including Turkey, Russia and Germany. Overall, there was confidence that Pernod Ricard had weathered the COVID storm as well as could be expected. Coutures added: “Our business and brands have responded with agility and resilience in the face of unprecedented market conditions, in many instances outperforming the category. We remain confident in the strength of our portfolio and the Scotch category as a whole, especially in its ability to withstand and overcome external challenges.” Now, if only the Scottish government could be a little more helpful… 

Long-time master distiller Jeff Arnett is to step down from his role at Jack Daniel’s

Jack Daniel’s master distiller to step down

Big news from Tennessee this week. Jeff Arnett, the man at the production helm of Jack Daniel’s for a whopping 12 years, announced he was leaving his role. This is significant stuff for Jack Daniel’s, the world’s biggest selling American whiskey. Arnett oversaw milling, fermentation, distillation, charcoal filtration and maturation, so these are some pretty sizeable shoes to fill. Parent company Brown-Forman hasn’t said why he’s leaving, or given word of his replacement. But Jack Daniel’s senior vice president, Larry Combs, did say: “Jeff has worked tirelessly on behalf of the distillery and brought with him the creativity and the expertise that makes Jack Daniel’s the most valuable whiskey brand in the world.” Arnett said his time with the brand had been “an incredible chapter”, but didn’t say what he’d be up to next. We’re thoroughly intrigued by the proceedings, and wish Arnett all the best!

The Nightcap

Is there anything he can’t do?

Snoop Dogg announces his latest creation: INDOGGO Gin

Not content with being a hip-hop legend and all-round entertainment icon, Snoop Dogg has once again turned his attention to conquering the booze industry. The creator of the classic hip-hop anthem ‘Gin and Juice’ has founded his own gin brand: INDOGGO Gin. Following a partnership with Treasury Wine Estates to release a California red blend under the 19 Crimes brand called Snoop Cali Red earlier in the year, Snoop Dogg teamed up with his friend and spirits veteran, Keenan Towns of Trusted Spirits and spirits importer Prestige Beverage Group this time to release INDOGGO Gin. The expression, which is housed in a purple bottle features a white logo with upturned ‘G’s in a hat tip to the fruit-infused gin being a remix on the classic juniper-dominant style, was distilled five times and features seven botanicals, including orange, coriander and cassia and is infused with “all-natural strawberry flavour” with no added sugar. “I can’t wait for the world to taste my remix on gin! When I wrote Gin & Juice back in ’94 it was about good feelings and real experiences, it just naturally became an anthem,” Snoop Dogg said. “When creating Indoggo, I wanted to give those feelings new life with an approachable juicy gin that’s smooth like the D.O. Double G.” INDOGGO Gin will first launch in Snoop’s home state of California in late September before it’s released throughout the rest of US through 2021, so if you can’t get your hands on it you can at least pour yourself something delicious and sing those seminal words: “Rollin down the street, smokin’ indo, sippin’ on gin and juice/ Laid back (with my mind on my money and my money on my mind.”

The Nightcap

It’s rare to see Ardbeg of this age so it’s particularly exciting news!

The second batch of Ardbeg Traigh Bhan is (nearly) here!

The second batch of Ardbeg Traigh Bhan is here! Or nearly here, it will be arriving at MoM towers soon. We liked the first release so much that we travelled up to Edinburgh with a film crew to listen to Brendan McCarron wax lyrical about it, video link here. The series is named after the beaches of Traigh Bhan (pronounced tri-van) on Islay which are known locally as ‘the singing sands’ because the noise the tide makes on the sand. This latest batch was matured in American oak and oloroso sherry casks for 19 years and bottled at 46.2% ABV with an RRP of £199. There’s a higher proportion of first-fill bourbon casks in the blend alongside refills and sherry casks. Dr Bill Lumsden commented: “To me, this whisky is the epitome of an aged Ardbeg. It somehow manages to balance the complex with the classic. It’s a truly unique bottling and we hope Ardbeggians everywhere look forward to comparing notes with the previous batch. I know I did!” Not only is the whisky special but the packaging is innovative too: each Traigh Bhan whisky carries its own unique batch code, batch symbol and signature from one of the Ardbeg team; this year it’s Jackie Thomson, the visitor centre manager. She said: “the small quirks and originalities on the bottle itself make it highly collectable – something we know our Ardbeg fans love.” They certainly do. Watch the New Arrivals page of the MoM website. It should be with us soon. 

The Nightcap

We can’t wait for this book to come out in October

Johnnie Walker book is coming

Have you ever wanted to know more about the man behind the world’s best-selling whisky, Mr John Walker? No? Well, we do. And now our curiosity is about to be sated with the imminent arrival of a new book called Johnnie Walker: A Long Stride. Its author, historian and Diageo’s grandly-titled head of whisky outreach Dr Nick Morgan, has been labouring in the company’s extensive archives for a good few years, and we can’t wait to find out what he has uncovered. It’s not just the story of the man, but also the brand up to the present day. According to the press release: “By doing things their own way, Johnnie Walker overturned the conventions of late Victorian and Edwardian Britain, survived two world wars and flourished despite the Great Depression to become the first truly global whisky brand, revolutionising the world of advertising along the way.” And you thought they just made delicious whisky. We’re hoping to host Dr Nick on the blog sometime soon to tell us more. 

The Nightcap

We’re very jealous of whoever gets their hands on this 47-year-old single cask whisky

Gordon & MacPhail launches 47-year-old whisky to mark 125th anniversary

Gordon & MacPhail has announced that it will launch four rare bottlings of single malt Scotch whisky to commemorate the company’s 125-year history. The independent bottler and distiller has been doing its thing since 1895, releasing all kinds of delicious single malts from over 100 celebrated, little-known, or closed distilleries. Each exceptionally rare whisky will come from casks from a closed distillery or made on Lomond stills that are no longer in production and will be released periodically during the rest of 2020. The first of which is the Gordon & MacPhail 1972 from Coleburn Distillery in Speyside, which is particularly fitting given the distillery is situated just four miles from the company’s Elgin home. The 47-Year-Old single cask whisky is said to be sweet, intense and complex with notes of butterscotch, apricot, cooked apples and mint, a profile it attained after spending its entire maturation in a refill sherry puncheon (cask 3511) before it was bottled at cask strength, 62.4% ABV. “The whiskies we have chosen to commemorate our 125th Anniversary are all truly unique and seldom seen in the market,” says Stephen Rankin, a fourth-generation member of Gordon & MacPhail’s owning family and the company’s director of prestige. “They are bottled from the last remaining casks we have from these distilleries, and marks an emotional moment for my family as they leave the Gordon & MacPhail warehouse after being left to mature by my grandfather many decades ago.”

The Nightcap

We’re delighted to see one of London’s finest bars return

Tayēr + Elementary opens its doors

Award-winning cocktail bar Tayēr + Elementary re-opened its doors following its closure during the lockdown period. Alex Kratena and Monica Berg will stagger the return in two phases, Tayēr will return in October and the venue’s front bar concept Elementary opening from at the beginning of this month from 3pm until midnight Tuesday and Wednesday, and 3pm-1am Thursday – Saturday. Its new outside terrace to help enable social distancing will make its debut and food from new chef partners Kitchen FM will be available, including the pig’s head croquette (mmmmm, pig’s head), served with kimchi and oyster mayo, deep fry chicken, with a smoked and spicy maple glaze and pickles and desserts such as the plum jam with ginger ice cream. Elementary’s drinks offering will feature the bar’s signature classics such as the One Sip Martini, Whey Sour and ēe Frozen Coffee alongside new highballs, beers, wines and seasonal cocktails. The Bottle Shop will be available for takeaway, serving all of the bar’s own ready-to-drink cocktails, which were launched by the team during lockdown, such as the Bergamot Margarita and Palo Santo Gimlet, as well as a selection of beers and wines to takeaway. 

The Nightcap

Congratulations Pierrick!

Lagavulin gets a new distillery manager

Big transfer news on Islay: Pierrick Guillaume is moving from Caol Ila to take up the role of distillery manager at Lagavulin. Frenchman Guillaume has been with Diageo for eight years with stints at Mortlach and Talisker before the move to Islay and Caol Ila in 2017. Having met and tasted with Guillaume we can vouch that not only is he a lovely chap but extremely knowledgeable. He commented: “It is a great honour to be asked to take on the role of Lagavulin distillery manager. Lagavulin is a whisky that is revered around the world and it’s a great privilege to be joining the outstanding team that makes this exceptional Scotch whisky and I can’t wait to get started.” Meanwhile, there are some big boots to fill at Caol Ila and stepping up is Samuel Hale who is currently the manager of Port Ellen Maltings. If you want to know more, why not tune into our Scotch and Sofa whisky festival tomorrow, 5 September? At 2pm both Guillaume and Hale will be taking a boat trip to Islay alongside Colin Dunn from Diageo and Henry Jeffreys from Master of Malt. 

The Nightcap

The Delevigne sisters are the latest celebs to embrace the world of booze

Celebrity booze continues with Pimm’s competition and Delevigne Prosecco

Celebrities and booze go together like caviar (the celebrity of the seafood world) and Champagne (the celebrity of the wine world). As such, we’ve got double trouble on the celebrity booze front for you this week. First up, we have the Delevigne sisters who have launched their own Prosecco! The sisters, Chloe, Poppy and Cara, called their creation Della Vite, which, although it sounds a lot like their last name, actually translates as ‘of the vine’. Having partnered with the Biasiotto family, two expressions are being launched this month, Della Vite Prosecco Superiore (DOCG) and Della Vite Prosecco Treviso (DOC). “Placing sustainability first and using agricultural methods that don’t rely heavily on the industry is at the core Della Vite’s values,” said Cara. “We spent four months looking for the perfect winery to align with our vision and are so proud to have created two exceptional Proseccos that are both sustainably produced and 100% certified vegan.” There’s no label, with the bottle sporting the brand signature created by Poppy Delevingne. Well, that’s one way of getting her autograph. From Prosecco to Pimm’s, the latter has launched a competition to try and make up for the strange summer Britain has had! Louise Redknapp is spearheading this one, giving the public the chance to win an afternoon with the Pimm’s O’Clock Truck! The winner will get to enjoy it at home for the day with a small gathering of friends and family (complying with COVID regulations, obviously). If you want to enter, snap a photo-sharing Pimm’s with your pals onto Instagram. Make sure you follow @Pimmsgb on Instagram, tag @Pimmsgb and use #TheOriginalTasteOfSummer. You have until 7 September to get your photos up, so get the pitcher out quick!

The Nightcap

Keep an eye out because this historic whisky is on its way to MoM Towers!

Isle of Raasay inaugural release sells out (yes, we will be getting some in)

If you were hoping to get your hands on a bottle of Isle of Raasay Distillery’s inaugural single malt, set to launch in November 2020, we have bad news. It’s already sold out. Before it’s even been bottled. Okay, let us explain. Out of its expected outturn of 7,500 bottles, the distillery set aside 4,350 bottles for an online pre-sale. Obviously these went like hotcakes, while the rest of the bottles have been snapped up by a selection of international markets, specialist retailers, restaurants and bars. It’s no wonder too, with the lightly peated whisky matured in first-fill American oak and set to be finished in 21 first fill Bordeaux red wine casks. “We are delighted to have sold out of our Isle of Raasay Single Malt Inaugural Release before it’s bottled in November,” said Isle of Raasay co-founder Alasdair Day. “This is the first legal whisky from an island rooted in centuries of illicit distilling, so it really is a piece of Scotch whisky history!” There is still hope for a bottle though! Make sure you keep an eye out on MoM new arrivals because we’ve got your back and will be stocking the historic whisky. Keep your other eye on its social channels (@RaasayDistillery), because we also heard that the distillery is launching a competition in October with the chance to win one of the prized bottles. 

The Nightcap

We recommend this tea made with whisky. It’s much nicer than it sounds.

And finally… WHISKY… TEA?

When we heard about Whisky Tea, we thought of the great Peter Kay and his cheesecake routine: “WHISKY…. TEA? Are my ears playing tricks on me?” Well, this is no joke, it’s the latest product from Edinburgh-based Pekotea. We were sent some samples and suitably impressed. These are quality teas, not a gimmick. One of the brains behind it, Jon Cooper, filled us in: “There are some close analogies between whisky and tea and we wanted to create something that would reflect this in tea blends. Just like the different regions of tea giving different flavours and aromas, we thought it would be great to make teas that reflected the main Scotch whisky regions. Each of the teas contains a different blend of base tea with added fruit and spices as well as the whisky and a little flavour oil to highlight the nose of each of the whiskies. We wanted to bring out the main aromas associated with each area.” For example, the Campbeltown expression is made from a blend of black tea with cacao nibs, currants and cornflower steeped in high strength whisky with essential oil and then dried. It tastes rich and fruity, the perfect after-dinner tea instead of coffee, or indeed a dram. 

No Comments on The Nightcap: 4 September

Diageo Special Releases 2020: Details are in!

It’s that time of year again – Diageo has just released the details of its Special Releases 2020 haul and we’ve had a taste! Here’s everything you need to know….

It’s that time of year again – Diageo has just released the details of its Special Releases 2020 haul and we’ve had a taste! Here’s everything you need to know.

It’s always a big day in the whisky calendar when the embargo lifts for Diageo Special Releases. A collection of unusual and generally pretty rare cask-strength single malt Scotch whiskies (no grain this year – obsessives of that style collectively stifle a sob), Special Releases celebrate distillery character, notable firsts, and often, pleasing quirks. 2020’s haul is no different!

The Rare by Nature theme returns, which is a deliberate throwback to 2019. And the eagle-eyed among us will note that the distillery line-up is a repeat from last year, too. The liquid, however, is all new. 

“The first selection we did of Rare by Nature was really well received,” explained Ewan Gunn, Diageo’s global Scotch whisky master, when he introduced the Special Releases 2020 line-up on a Zoom call. “People liked that they were all related to each other, the spread of piece points.” 

Diageo Special Releases 2020:

Eight delicious whiskies, the highlight of which for our money is that young Talisker…

Stand-out highlights? The first pot still Jamaican rum-finished Talisker expression – hello! – and a 20-year-old Cragganmore, the first release of that age from the distillery. It was also an absolute treat to get to sample a 30-year-old Pittyvaich, liquid from the ghost distillery. 

“For those who enjoy spicy flavours, my recommendation would be to try our Cardhu,” Dr Craig Wilson, Diageo’s master blender, who curated the collection, said in a statement. “For those who favour rich, intense and smooth flavours my choice would be Mortlach 21-year-old.”

But enough of the recommendations! Here’s the glorious line-up in full, complete with our tasting notes.

Cardhu 11 Year Old

ABV: 56.0%

Region: Speyside

Cask: From refill, new, and ex-bourbon American oak

Availability: Limited quantities worldwide 

RRSP: £85

On the nose, this is a pretty juicy, wood-forward wonder, rounded out with loads of green fruit (mouth-watering apple especially), and some boiled sweets – pear drops and rhubarb and custard. On the palate, it’s creamy, buttery and lifted by a smidge of pepper. The finish is long, lingering and warming.

Diageo Special Releases 2020:

Cragganmore 20 Year Old

ABV: 55.8%

Region: Speyside

Cask: From refill casks and new fresh-charred casks.

Availability: Limited quantities worldwide 

RRSP: £130

A pretty relaxed dram for the ABV, with banana, pear and vanilla pods on the nose, along with a cedar wood quality. The palate is more savoury than you might think with toasted bread, black pepper and some pecan nuttiness. On the finish, there’s sweet chilli and more toast.

Diageo Special Releases 2020:

Dalwhinnie 30 Year Old

ABV: 51.9%

Region: Highland

Cask: From refill hogsheads 

Availability: No. bottles available: 6,978

RRSP: £550

A mega-aged Dalwhinnie, often thought of as the gentle dram. And this continues its reputation! The nose is soft, herbal and shortbread-led, while the palate comes through with soft sweet spices – a smidge of cinnamon with a helping of orchard fruit. The finish plays up on the spices.

Diageo Special Releases 2020:

Lagavulin 12 Year Old

ABV: 56.4%

Region: Islay

Cask: From refill American oak casks

Availability: Limited quantities worldwide  

RRSP: £125

An earthy delight! This packs an ashy punch, with pronounced smoky notes, but with lashings of boiled sweets, too. It’s lively, packed full of sweet spices, and there’s a vanilla ice cream cone note in with all the medicinal qualities. The finish is super long, with waft after waft of smoke. 

Diageo Special Releases 2020:

Mortlach 21 Year Old

ABV: 56.9%

Region: Speyside

Cask: From Pedro Ximenez & Oloroso Sherry seasoned casks

Availability: No. bottles available: 7,692 

RRSP: £575

According to Dr. Wilson, this is “the Beast of Dufftown tamed”. But fear not – if you like robust whiskies, this still more than stands up. The PX and Oloroso casks preserve the meatiness, while on the palate there are loads of tannins to make the mouth water. The finish is bursting with savoury notes. 

Diageo Special Releases 2020:

Pittyvaich 30 Year Old

ABV: 50.8%

Region: Speyside

Cask: From first-fill ex-bourbon casks

Availability: No. bottles available: 7,056

RRSP: £400

An absolute gem, overflowing with tropical fruits on the nose, plus a linseed oil quality and forest-floor leaves. The palate holds up fruit-wise, with peppery vanilla and a mouth-filling oiliness keeping it complex. While the finish is on the shorter side, it gives a surprisingly spicy warmth. 

Diageo Special Releases 2020:

Talisker 8 Year Old

ABV: 57.9%

Region: Isle of Skye 

Cask: From pot-still Caribbean rum casks. 

Availability: Limited quantities worldwide 

RRSP: £90

The expression of Special Releases 2020 for us. And the first from the distillery to be matured in ex-pot still Caribbean rum casks! It’s aromatic and smoke-led, but with pear drop, seaweed and even a meatiness on the nose, too. The palate adds in tropical fruit hints and peppery spices, while the finish blends in chilli pepper, too. 

Diageo Special Releases 2020:

The Singleton of Dufftown 17 Year Old

ABV: 55.1%

Region: Highland

Cask: Matured only in refill American oak hogsheads.

Availability: Limited quantities worldwide  

RRSP: £110

A more chilled out expression, but still all-around delicious. The nose is waxy with honeycomb and magnolia vibes, while on the palate there’s a cream soda suggestion, along with British orchard fruits. The medium finish has hints of ginger, too.

What’s on your shopping list? Any expressions you can’t wait to try? Let us know in the comments – and keep an eye on the New Arrivals feed for availability!

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Join our Islay celebrations on Instagram Live!

Just because we won’t be heading to Islay this year, doesn’t mean we can’t keep the festival spirit alive! Thanks to the magic of Instagram Live we’ve organised a series of…

Just because we won’t be heading to Islay this year, doesn’t mean we can’t keep the festival spirit alive! Thanks to the magic of Instagram Live we’ve organised a series of interviews with the island’s distilleries that features tastings, chats and Q&As.

This is usually the time of year where we would pack our travel bags, camera kit and 10-litre bottles of midge insect repellent to head north to the beautiful Scottish island of Islay to revel in one of the highlights, if not the highlight of the whisky calendar. The week-and-a-bit from 22-30 May was sure to provide all the whisky-dipped merriment you could shake Dave Worthington’s pipe at.

But we have no intention of letting this period pass by without some recognition of an island that is home to some of Scotch whisky’s finest distilleries. Which is why we’ve put together the next best thing. Through the wonderful medium of Instagram Live, we’ve created our own virtual festival by teaming up with the island’s distilleries (and the fab folk at Jura, of course). We’ve put together a programme of tastings, chats and Q&As with your questions, comments and tasting notes to keep the Islay spirit alive and your tasting glass full from the comfort of your own home.

We thoroughly hope you enjoy our virtual Islay celebration. The schedule for the Instagram Live shows is listed below, complete with accompanying dram. Don’t forget, you can always embrace the Islay spirit whenever you like with Drinks by the Dram’s Islay Whisky Tasting Set! Why not order one for you and a pal and set up your own Zoom tasting?

Fèis Ìle on Instagram Live

Aerolite Lyndsay 10 Year Old

Day One

Who’s joining us? The Character of Islay Whisky Company and its head of whisky, Sam Simmons for a tasting. What a way to kick off proceedings!

What whisky will we be tasting? Aerolite Lyndsay 10 Year Old, Green Isle, Grace Île and Fiona Macleod.

When is it? Friday 22 May at 7:30pm

Fèis Ìle on Instagram Live

Lagavulin will be joining us on day two

Day Two

Who’s joining us? Lagavulin and its distillery manager Colin Gordon for an evening dram and a chat. Grab a tasting glass and get your questions ready for Colin!

What whisky will we be tasting? Lagavulin 8Lagavulin 16.

When is it? Saturday 23 May at 8:30pm.

Fèis Ìle on Instagram Live

Head distiller Adam Hannett will join us for a tasting and Q&A

Day Three

Who’s joining us? Bruichladdich and its head distiller Adam Hannett for a tasting and Q&A. Bruichladdich also has its own Laddie Lock-In, while its ballot system to decide who can get their hands on its alternative festival bottling, Port Charlotte 16, has now concluded.

What whisky will we be tasting? The Classic Laddie.

When is it? Sunday 24 May at 6pm.

Fèis Ìle on Instagram Live

Caol Ila Distillery, as seen from the skies.

Day Four

Who’s joining us? Caol Ila and its distillery manager for an evening dram and a chat with Pierrick Guillaume.

What whisky will we be tasting? Caol Ila 12.

When is it? Monday 25 May at 8:15pm. 

Fèis Ìle on Instagram Live

We’ll be spending lunchtime with Laphroaig

Day Five

Who’s joining us? Laphroaig for a lunchtime taste and learn session with distillery manager John Campbell. It will also be hosting its own celebration, #LaphroaigLive from 18:15pm.

What whisky will we be tasting? Laphroaig 10.

When is it? Tuesday 26 May at 1pm. 

Fèis Ìle on Instagram Live

The beautiful Bowmore Distillery who will join us on day six

Day Six

Who’s joining us? Bowmore for another lunchtime Live, with time with distillery manager, David Turner. We’ll have a chat about all things whisky, so ready your questions!

What whisky will we be tasting? Bowmore 12.

When is it? Wednesday 27 May at 1pm.

Fèis Ìle on Instagram Live

Kilchoman founder Anthony Wills will stop by to kick-off our Thursday with a bang

Day Seven

Who’s joining us? Kilchoman and its founder Anthony Wills will be kicking off the day with us. The distillery also has quite the online festival Programme, complete with live tastings and a distillery tour.

What whisky will we be tasting? Kilchoman Machir Bay, Loch Gorm 2020, the new Am Burach, 100% Islay 9th Edition, and the official Festival Bottling!

When is it? Thursday 28 May at 10.30am.

Fèis Ìle on Instagram Live

Bunnahabhain Toiteach a Dhà

Day Eight

Who’s joining us? Bunnahabhain and its global brand director, Derek Scott, who will host a tasting with a very delicious dram, usually distillery-exclusive dram (it will also host its own 8pm tasting, ‘Fèis at home‘). 

What whisky will we be tasting? Bunnahabhain Toiteach a Dhà, Bunnahabhain 25-Year-Old, and the very exciting Bunnahabhain 2003 Amontillado Finish, which is usually only available from the distillery.

When is it? Friday 29 May at 5pm.

Fèis Ìle on Instagram Live

The scenic Jura Distillery makes delicious and subtle smoky whisky

Who’s joining us? Jura and Whyte & Mackay’s Gregg Glass, who will be online with us for an evening tasting. 

What whisky will we be tasting? Jura 10 Year Old.

When is it? Friday 29 May evening.

Fèis Ìle on Instagram Live

The stunning Ardbeg Distillery at night

Day Nine

Who’s joining us? Ardbeg and Brendan McCarron, head of maturing whisky stocks for Ardbeg (and sister distillery Glenmorangie) ,for an Ardbeg Day tasting. You can also join the distillery at 7pm on Facebook for its first-ever online Ardbeg Day!

What whisky will we be tasting? Ardbeg 10An Oa and Blaaack. 

When is it? Saturday 30 May at 3pm.

 

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